Archive for the ‘MacOS Entertainment’ Category

A new look for your old ancestors

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PhpGedView

If you're into the whole genealogy thing, you've probably got piles of old documents, maybe a bunch of photos, and an inbox full of email sent by Cousin Susie and Uncle Fred. If you're totally old school, you've also got a bunch of forms and pieces of paper with notes and arrows scrawled across them, trying to keep track of who's related to whom, and how. Or maybe you're more high-tech than that and you're running some desktop app to try to make sense of it all. Once you get it all figured out and realize that Aunt Rose is also your second cousin, the only way to share all your hard work with everybody else is to once again print it all out, and hope it makes sense. Well, it turns out that your cousins have been doing the same work you have, so there's a huge duplication of effort out there. And maybe they found some important fact you missed, or vice versa. It would be nice if there were a collaborative way to work on this family tree stuff.

PhpGedView is an app that does exactly that. While you could probably run it on your desktop, it's really designed to be installed on a server out there where multiple folks can get at it at the same time. You can enter what you've found out, while other family members can add their information to it. When you're done, you've got the benefit of everybody's expertise and information, and it's easy for even non-contributors to see what you've put together, because the whole thing lives on the web. Realizing that there's some pretty personal stuff in there, security settings are a big part of this app. You can decide who gets to see what, and who can edit which kind of data. You can also add media files, like photos, voice recordings, and all to flesh your data out.

PhpGedView is a free download. To run it, you'll need a web server running PHP 5.2 or better, and a database like MySQL 3.23 or newer.

Download PhpGedView

Turn your screensaver into wallpaper

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of PaperScreen

So how do you like that fancy screensaver? You spent a fair amount of time and trouble finding just the right one. But while it's nice to look at, you don't get to spend much time with it, since the very nature of a screensaver is such that it does most of its work while you're not sitting there watching. Do you need to spend more time in front of your monitor not getting anything done just so you can enjoy the view?

Paper Screen is an application that takes your screensaver and uses it as your desktop wallpaper. Now instead of never getting to see all those swooping, swirling colors, you'll see them all the time, because they'll be right there behind the rest of what you're doing. The only problem now will be concentrating on your work instead of just looking at the pretty colors.

PaperScreen is a Mac application. It should run under OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.

Download PaperScreen

Grab web content for your eBook reader

Friday, August 26th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GrabMyBooks

Congratulations! You just grabbed yourself one of those fancy, newfangled eBook readers. Goodbye dog-eared pages, hello convenience. It's like sticking a whole library in your pocket or briefcase, perfect for that long trip, day at the beach, or just curling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa. Then there's the matter of filling it up with content. You can buy the electronic version of a new book, or grab some older public domain volume. What if you're looking for something a little different?

GrabMyBooks is an add-on for Firefox that lets you grab online content and convert it into ePub format, which is compatible with just about everybody's eReader (although apparently not your Kindle). Find the site or story you're interested in, push the magic button, and GrabMyBooks will reach out and grab the content off the page, avoiding menus and all the other stuff cluttering up the screen in the process. Once you're imported the content, you can go back and edit and tweak things to help make them easier to deal with. This could all be quite helpful with technical material or sales information that's available only online, or just stuff that nobody's bothered to compile for you to read.

GrabMyBooks is a free download. Since it runs on top of Firefox, it should work just fine on any platform that supports that browser.

Download GrabMyBooks

Control iTunes with mute key and headphone jack

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Breakaway

You know the drill: you're busily working away on some project with iTunes humming along in the background, minimized to the Dock. Somebody walks into your office / cubicle / broom closet and needs your attention, or the phone rings and you've got to pick up, or your coffee cup just hit empty and it's time for a refill. You don't want to miss the next cut on that album you're listening to, so you've got to pause iTunes. But that means you've got to find it, restore it, hit the pause button, and all that. Pretty complicated.

Breakaway is an app that makes it easier to break away without missing out on your tunes. Once it's up and running, just hit the mute button on your keyboard and you'll automatically pause iTunes. Or pull your headphones out of the jack and Breakaway will automatically pause iTunes. While it may be hard to find that iTunes icon, it's easy to find the keyboard or the other end of your headphone cord. Problem solved. Finish your conversation. Get that coffee. ABBA will be waiting for you when you get back.

Breakaway is a free download. It's a Mac application.

Download Breakaway

Pong Screensaver

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of PongSaver

Sometimes it's all about the latest and greatest—maybe it's the biggest, fastest, baddest system you can get your hands on. Other times, it's cool to go totally old school. So how did you spend the '70's?

PongSaver is an adaptation of the classic Pong video game, turned into a screen saver. As you remember (or your parents remember), there's nothing too fancy about Pong: a couple of white rectangles representing table tennis paddles, and a square ball that bounces endlessly back and forth between them. When you miss the ball, the onscreen score indicator is incremented and the game starts anew. With PongSaver, the game is fixed: the player on the left side wins a game each hour, and the right side player wins a game each second, meaning that the score cleverly shows the current time.

PongSaver is a free download. It's a Mac application and runs under OS X 10.3 (Panther) and later, even up through Lion (10.7).

Download PongSaver

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

Open source app manages lyrics, chords, all things musical

Friday, August 27th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of OpenSong

If you lead group singing, you can be up for some real challenges. If you're interested in old favorites, where everybody knows the words, it's relatively easy, but if you're teaching your group something new, it gets a lot more complicated. Now you've got to distribute books or songsheets, or use some other mechanism to make sure that everybody is literally on the same page. It's complicated, it's messy, and it isn't necessarily too fast. The folks who created OpenSong had the same troubles.

OpenSong is a free app you can use to lead groups in all things musical, and more. Think of it as a specialized PowerPoint-like tool. Present verses, choruses, or mix them all up. In addition to being able to use OpenSong as a presentation tool, you can also use it for keep track of your music. Create song sheets and lead sheets; include chords, and transpose your piece up or down as needed. And of course you can keep track of the title, composer, copyright information, and all that.

You can download OpenSong for Windows (Win2k+), Mac (OS X 10.3 and later), as well as various flavors of Linux.

Download OpenSong

Play Lady of Spain on your computer with Accordion

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Accordion

"Virtual reality" is an interesting concept: reality that isn't real. That's a tough one to wrap your head around. Even if you aren't completely plugged into that, there are little pieces of unreal-reality we deal with all the time. Like TV. Or radio. Watching or listening to things that we think of as real, even through we're really only looking at a box with a window on the front of it, or listening to another box with a bunch of holes in it.

The world of things that are virtually real extends to musical instruments as well. Like synthesizers. These are instruments that aren't really instruments, but they sure do sound like them. Or at least some of them do. Your computer's got the smarts to play that game. There are all kinds of apps out there that let you play piano on your keyboard, or tap out a rhythm on your laptop's touchpad. But what about that most maligned musical instrument of all: the accordion?

Whether its reputation as the instrument that anybody who's cool loves to hate is earned or not, it is kind of the laughingstock of musical instruments. Whether it's some stodgy old polka or the latest Weird Al send-up, you can't help but laugh when somebody fires on of these up (although we did have the opportunity several years ago to hear a 50-instrument accordion band play The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) to impressive effect at the Cotati Accordion Festival.

Well, now you can have all the fun of the accordion in the privacy of your home or office with Accordion, a free accordion emulator app for Windows and Mac. You don't need any special hardware; you just turn your keyboard sideways and wail away on the keys to polka your brains out.

Accordion is a free download. It's available for both Windows and Mac.

Download Accordion

Drag and drop file format conversion

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Dragoman

Did you ever get a file—probably an important one—in a format you couldn't open because you didn't have the right application? That FLAC audio file or RAR archive isn't going to do you any good if you can't open it. You need to be able to convert files from what you can't use into files you can use.

Dragoman is a Mac-based batch file conversion tool. It does the standard stuff—convert your images to PDFs or turn Word DOCs into text files—but also maybe some things you didn't expect, like converting between various archive formats. It's easy to use—the "drag" part of its name suggests the type of interface, although the Help file explains that the word is actually of Middle Eastern origin and means "translator".

Just drag your document or media file onto the app. It recognizes the type of file you've got and displays an appropriate list of file formats that you can choose from to do your conversion. It supports a pretty good sized list of archive, audio, image, and text file formats, and even though there are some popular formats it can't translate into, even some of those can serve as the source for translation into formats it can work with.

Dragoman is a free Mac application. It runs under OS X version 10.4 (Tiger) and later.

Download Dragoman

Tool helps you create frame animation movies

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of FrameByFrame

Since the days of Gumby, there has been a fascination with stop-action animation. Whether it's the travails of Mr Bill on Saturday Night Live, or more recent outings like Fantastic Mr Fox, there's a lot that can be done with this form of animation.

If you'd like to join the likes of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson you might want to take FrameByFrame out for a spin. You can use any webcam or video camera to take your shots, and then use this tool to stitch them together and before you know it, you'll be getting a call from the Academy. Or at least you'll be having fun animating your Legos and wind-up tin toys.

FrameByFrame is a free download for your Mac. The latest version runs under OS X 10.5 and later, and there's an earlier version that's still compatible with Tiger (10.4). It's a Universal Binary, so it's equally home on PowerPC and Intel Macs.

Download FrameByFrame