Archive for January, 2011

Go lo-fi with Vinyl

Friday, January 21st, 2011

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Vinyl

There's something about listening to music on vinyl. Some people think it has a warmer sound; others are distracted by the ticks and pops that inevitably end up on the record's surface. And then there's all manner of distortion that can come in because of speed variations in the spin of your turntable platter, warps in the record, and such.

Vinyl is a tool that lets you take a decidedly lo-fi listen to your digital music. You get to choose how you want things to sound, by introducing electrical and mechanical noise to the playback, as well as tweaking the record surface by adding dust, scratches, and just plain old wear. You can even modify the sound by choosing an older date for your record player.

Vinyl works with Pro Tools, VST, MAS, Audio Unit, and DirectX audio applications. It's available for both Mac and Windows systems.

Download Vinyl

Design or re-design with Homestyler

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Homestyler

Designing the layout of a room can be fun. After you've moved the couch from that wall to over under the window across the room for the tenth time, however, the joy may have gone out of your project. It would be nice to cut down the hard work just a tad.

Homestyler is a free online service from the Autodesk folks that lets you do just that. Set up your room, resize it as necessary, and then start adding furniture, fixtures, and more. It's a easy as dragging and dropping from palettes of pre-designed pieces, and a whole lot easier than moving that couch—or the piano—back and forth until you get things set just right. Choose from generic furnishings and appliances, or even grab brand-name ones for added realism. You can also include exterior items, like grass, decks, and pools.

All you'll need to use Homestyler is a recent web browser with Flash installed. And a creative idea or two.

Download Homestyler

Browse websites while offline

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Fresh WebSuction

With all the innovations in Wi-Fi and 4G, it's almost possible to be online all the time. No longer tethered to the world by a network cable or modem cord (kids, ask your parents), the world is your oyster. Unless you're on a plane. Or out in the middle of nowhere. Where's your Internet now? Hopefully, you remembered to bring it with you—or at least those pieces you're interested in.

Fresh WebSuction is a tool you can use to grab your own little piece of the 'Net. Choose a site you're interested and turn this guy loose, and it will download the pages along with the supporting assets (images, etc.) so that you can browse through that site, even when the nearest connection is miles away. And because it's capable of downloading dozens of files concurrently, you'll get your files faster, or if you need to limit your connection time, you'll be offline quicker as well.

You can grab a copy of Fresh WebSuction for free for your Windows system. They do require that you register, but there's no obligation beyond that.

Download Fresh WebSuction

Easy way to set up new projects

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Structurer

When you start up a new project of any complexity, you probably have a standard directory and file setup that you like to start with. One way to get that project set up is to do it manually in Terminal. Another is to just clone an existing one. The former requires that you jump through a bunch of hoops, the latter that you go in and remove all the content and leave just the structure from the last project. Or you can use a tool like Structurer.

Structurer creates a new project workspace for you, complete with folders, placeholder files, and all the stuff you need to hit the ground running. You get to define the location for your new project, all the folders you'll want to use, and even fill them with empty files for all your code, whether it be HTML or PHP pages, stylesheet info, JavaScript files, and more.

You can grab Structurer for free. It's a Mac application, and runs under OS X version 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download Structurer

Find duplicate images with VisiPics

Monday, January 17th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of VisiPics

If you've got just a few pictures—maybe some web images, maybe some digital photos—it's easy to keep track of them all. But once you go beyond a certain point, it all pretty much spins out of control. That means that more likely than not, you've got duplicates of images. And with the size of digital photo files these days, even a few extra copies can take up an awful lot of extra space on your hard drive or memory card. It would be nice if you could go through all that stuff from time to time and get rid of the extras.

VisiPics is a tool that can help you do just that. While it can do a straight file comparisons looking for matching files and checksums, it's smart enough to look at your images in several different ways to see just how similar non-identical images are. That means that two versions of the same photo—maybe one cropped a certain way and the other not—are most likely going to show up as duplicates. Then you can decide whether you want to keep both of them or not. And to make it easy, all suspected duplicates are displayed side-by-side so you can make the final call.

You can run VisiPics on Windows machines under Win2000 and later.

Download VisiPics

Track your Mac

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of VigiMac

Sometimes life is just too hard. Relationships can be tricky, retail help can be downright unhelpful. And then somebody swipes your laptop. You really know you're going to have a bad day now.

VigiMac is a tool that, while it can't prevent your computer from being taken, may well help you to recover it. Once you install this app on your Mac, it phones home on a regular basis: every three minutes it contacts VigiMac's server. When it's reporting from your home or work location, nobody really cares, but once it's gone missing, things change. Now once somebody goes online with it, it will send back its IP address and you and the authorities have something to go in in terms of trying to track your property down.

VigiMac is a free Mac application. You can install it and use it to track one or two machines, or with a donation you can watch additional computers. It runs under OS X on systems using Tiger (10.4) or later.

Download VigiMac

Generate contact sheets with Cas

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Cas

You've got a pile of pictures that you're trying to sort through. Back in the day, you could take all the negatives for those pictures–maybe a roll of film, maybe more–and produce a "contact sheet", basically thumbnail-size images of all those pictures. It made it relatively easy to visually scan those little pictures to see which ones you wanted to go further with, to enlarge and print them, or maybe to choose the images to feature in your new book. Now that you use a digital camera, it's not so easy to do that–where do they keep the negatives for all those JPEGs anyway?

Cas is a tool that can give you a hand here. Just drag a folder of images onto the app, and it will generate a single image that incorporates all those other pictures. Now you can easily scan your eyes over it and see just what you've got in there, and decide which photos or other images to use, or to go back to the drawing board and take some more pictures.

Cas is a free download, and runs under Windows.

Download Cas

Mac system monitor

Friday, January 14th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of atMonitor

From the outside, computers look to be fairly simple things: you've got a keyboard, a display, maybe a big box that all the "stuff" lives inside of. But behind the scenes, there's nothing but complexity. As you work merrily along, writing that report or tweaking last summer's vacation photos, the little gremlins inside are hard at work, and what they're doing and how it's all progressing is pretty much an unknown.

atMonitor is an application that lets you see how things are going behind the scenes. It keeps an eye on CPU usage, reporting on your three most power-hungry apps. It watches your memory usage, and reports on how much free RAM you've got left, and how much is currently being used. It's even keeping an eye on internal temperatures, so you'll know just how close you are coming to a total meltdown while you're recalculating that huge spreadsheet. Results are reported through atMonitor's own interface, or you can have it send you an email when things happen. Either way, you'll soon know everything that it finds out.

atMonitor runs on a Mac. It's a free download, although the publishers would be happy to receive a donation if you like their tool.

Download atMonitor

Free file undelete tool for Windows systems

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of FreeUndelete

Back in the day, when you deleted a computer file, it was gone. That's still true on Unix-y systems today. Then came Mac's Trash and Windows' Recycle Bin, two variations on the "it's not gone 'til it's gone" theme. But once you take out the garbage, or delete anything while working in a Terminal window, it's gone. Except it still really isn't. While systems vary in how they deal with deleted files, generally there is a way to get them back. And that's where a tool like FreeUndelete comes in.

When you put this app on the case, it will go out there and find all the deleted stuff on your system. Once it's identified them, you can decide which ones you want to bring back from the Bit Bucket in the Sky. That mostly-finished report can live again; those wedding photos you accidentally deleted because they had a non-obvious name will once again shine for all to see. A product like this isn't going to necessarily bring everything back, so you do need to pay attention to what you're doing on your system. And make sure you follow their instructions so that your recovery efforts don't make a bigger mess than what you started with.

A Windows application, FreeUndelete can help you with both NTFS and FAT file systems. It's free for personal use.

Download FreeUndelete

Create icons from images

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of SimplyIcon

Can you ever have enough icons? These little pictures are everywhere. If you're building websites or desktop apps, and happen to be an artist, then you're good to go. If, however, you're more focused on the coding or the business behind it all, then drawing those cute little pictures may be something outside of your comfort zone. That's where a tool like SimplyIcon comes in handy.

With SimplyIcon, you take an existing picture—an image created by someone else who has the time and talent to do these things—and turn it into an icon. Or several icons actually. Just drag your image and drop it on the application window, and it will convert it into an icon, in several popular sizes. It's going to work best for you if you start with a square picture, since that's where it's going to end up, but you've got to admit it's a lot easier to grab a square selection out of an image than to create the whole thing yourself.

SimplyIcon is a free download. It's a Windows application.

Download SimplyIcon