Archive for the ‘MacOS Utilities’ Category

Tail lets you watch logs in real time

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of MakeLogic Tail

Your computer's a busy place. Even when you're not banging away on the keyboard or clicking wildly with your mouse, it's doing all kinds of stuff behind the scenes. And while it's working away in the background, it's keeping track of what it's doing by recording all kinds of important information in various log files. You may never have occasion to look at those logs, but if you do, you'll quickly see that they're not the easiest thing in world to work with. Logs are all written in chronological order, which means that the most recent happenings are at the end of the file; but when you open that log file to look at it, you're dropped at the beginning, which means paging through lots of data before you get to the information about the most recent application crash or security details.

In the *nix world, you've got the tail command, which lets you look at the most recent lines written to those log files. And when you through the right command line arguments at it, tail will actually follow those files and show you what's happening in real time. Not on Linux? Check out MakeLogic's Tail program. It runs like tail, but with a pretty GUI. In addition, you can keep track of several different log files at once. Since it's a Java app, it will run on any machine with the appropriate Java runtime, which means that one size really does fit all.

MakeLogic's Tail is a free download.

Download MakeLogic Tail

Compare those files

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of FileCompare

So are those two files duplicates? You can't always depend on the names, because it's too easy to have multiple files in different places with the same names but not the same "stuff" inside. And while you may feel comfortable opening a couple of text files and doing a quickie visual compare, once those files get the least bit complicated, or you're faced with a pair of binary files, you're probably out of luck following some seat-of-the-pants approach like this. Now you're going to need a real tool.

Your Mac has tools like this built in, but unfortunately you need to be a command line jockey in Terminal to take full advantage of them. FileCompare is an app that makes it easy to compare files without having to get all Unix-y about things. Basically, it's a pretty front end to to the md5 utility, which generates a checksum value for a file based on the contents of that file. If two files have identical values here, then they're almost certainly identical to one another. Now you won't have to worry about whether you're deleting the wrong file when you're cleaning house on your machine.

FileCompare is a free download. It's a Mac application (OS X 10.4 or later), and comes as a Universal Binary, so you can use it with your PowerPC or Intel-powered Mac.

Download FileCompare

Remap your keyboard

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of DoubleCommand

You've got a Mac and you need to get a keyboard for it. Maybe you've got a machine that doesn't come with one, or you're adding an external keyboard to your MacBook. Either way, you look around, and all you find is an old Windows keyboard. Now that's going to work mostly okay, but there's still some Mac-ness that isn't going to be available to you. Like the all-important Command key.

DoubleCommand is a tool you can use to remap keys on your keyboard, either to tweak the keys on your Mac keyboard, or to completely revamp the keys on your Windows keyboard. Swap the Control and Option keys. Use the Enter key as the Command, Control, or Option key. Or choose from a bunch of other configurations. While your new keyboard may not work as smoothly as an official Apple model, functionally it'll be pretty close, and almost certainly it will be cheaper.

You can download DoubleCommand for free. It's compatible with systems running Tiger (OS X 10.4) and later.

Download DoubleCommand

Archiving made easy

Friday, April 1st, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Keka

Archiving tools are helpful in a couple of different ways. First, they can take a pile of files and directories that may be spread all over your system and stick them all in one place, which makes it a lot easier to move them around, save them, pass them along to someone else, and all that. In addition, creating that archive generally means compressing those files, which means that not only is that pile of files easier to move around, but they're all a lot smaller as well, which makes it almost the perfect combination.

Keka is an easy to use way to grab and archive your files. Once it's running in the Dock, all you need to do is to drag and drop folders and files onto it. Choose the archive format you want to use—7Z, ZIP, TAR, and others—and whether you want better compression or faster speed, and off you go. Choose to create one big archive file, or split it into bite-sized pieces, right for a floppy disk (a what?), a data CD, or even a big old DVD.

A Mac application, Keka is a free download. The current version runs under Leopard (OS X ver. 10.5), or you can grab an older down-rev release that still runs on your Tiger system.

Download Keka

See what's taking up your disk space

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of JDiskReport

As hard drives get bigger and bigger, they seem to fill up faster and faster. Sure, there's a lot of good stuff you want to hang on to, but it's also easy to let things get out of control. Next thing you know that terabyte drive you invested in is 90% full just like that 40 GB drive was last year. So where did all the space go? Or maybe more correctly, what did we save on there that filled it all up?

JDiskReport is a tool you can use to get a handle on where all your disk space went. Yes, you could just run directory listings and sort by size or date and such, but with JDiskReport you can look at a bigger picture. It helps you to identify what you've got out there, and presents it to you in easy to comprehend charts and graphs, as well as textually. Sometimes that pie chart or a bar graph can make sense where a big screen full of numbers just won't do. You can examine things not only by size, but also by size distribution—how many files you have that are 4- and 16 MB as opposed to between 16- and 64 MB, for example. Or look at modified date—how many older files do you have compared with the number of more recent files? It also breaks them out by file type, so you can prove you have more Word DOC files (all those important reports) than you do MP3 files.

JDiskReport is a Java application, so you can use it on any system with an appropriate Java runtime installed. That means it's right at home on your Linux system, your Mac, or your Windows box.

Download JDiskReport

Keep your Mac running like a top

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of IceClean

Like any other complex piece of machinery, your computer could use a good tune up now and then. Even though your Mac has some built-in self-repair functionality courtesy of its underlying Unix-y-ness, there are still areas that can remain untouched until you jump in and do something about it.

There are several scripts that OS X runs automatically at predetermined times to try to keep things humming along. Unfortunately, most of those happen in the middle of the night, and if your computer is asleep or shut down then, they just won't happen. And then there's the other stuff: repairing permissions, cleaning up cached files, and all that. Your car can't change its own oil (and no, leaking all the oil out on the driveway doesn't count), so you help it along. In the same way, with IceClean, you can give your Mac a hand.

IceClean features a whole bunch of tools to help keep your Mac happy. Empty caches, force empty the trash, quit creating those pesky .DS_Store files on remote volumes, and more. In addition, it's a quick and easy way to access many system utilities, to check on network status, performance information, and the like.

You can grab IceClean for free. It runs under OS X, with the current release running under 10.5 (Leopard) and later; in addition, they still offer a version compatible with Tiger (10.4).

Download IceClean

Reclaim your hard disk

Friday, February 11th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Sponge

If you've got a mess, one way to deal with it is to get out a bucket, some soap, and a big sponge. Wiping things down with that soapy sponge can take care of all kinds of problems. While that works great for the kitchen counter or the fender of your car, that's probably not a technique you want to use on your computer—especially not on the inside! For that, you need a different type of sponge.

Sponge is an application you can use to clean up your hard drive. While there's no water or detergent involved, you can still use it do quite a cleaning job on your system. This Sponge will help you to identify large but useless files that are eating up your disk space, and give you the option of getting rid of the worst offenders. It will also let you see which applications you have installed, and for the ones you want to delete, it will help you to remove all the pieces. It's also great for identifying duplicate files and helping you wipe them off your system. And it's gentle on your hands.

Sponge is a free Mac application. It runs under OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later.

Download Sponge

Block outgoing network traffic

Monday, February 7th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of TCPBlock

You've got a firewall to keep the Internet and all that flies around on it out of your machine. Or perhaps more properly, you use it to decide what to let in and what to keep out. But what about stuff moving the other direction? What about things on your machine that want to reach out and touch someone, especially when they decide to do that on their own? Maybe it's just something misconfigured on your system, or maybe it's some bit of malware with a mind of its own that has decided to phone home with your personal information.

TCPBlock is a tool that lets you decide which apps on your system you want to let have access to the world. Whitelist an app, or keep a particular program from connecting. Or if everything goes sideways, you can block all outgoing traffic. Now you're in control of both incoming and outgoing data from your machine. And maybe you'll be able to sleep a little better at night.

TCPBlock is a free download. It's a Mac application and runs on systems under OS X 10.5 and later.

Download TCPBlock

Apply different Terminal color schemes

Friday, January 28th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of TerminalDecorator

If you're the type of guy (or gal) who lets your geek flag fly, then you probably spend a fair amount of time in Terminal, the command-line interface for OS X. While there may be a lot of different reasons to be in there, probably one of the more frequent ones is to access another machine via SSH, the SecureSHell. If you're only talking to one machine at a time, you can probably keep track of what's going on. But on those days when you've got three or four (or more) Terminal windows open at the same time, it can get pretty complicated trying to remember which one points to what host.

TerminalDecorator lets you assign an arbitrary color combination to your Terminal windows, depending on which server you're accessing at any given time. Now you'll not have to depend on system prompts that include your username or the working directory, you can know that the red terminal is connected here and the blue terminal points there. It's not that complicated, and the app itself is just a little Python script, but somebody already sat down and wrote it, so why not take advantage of it? And the first time you don't delete a file on the wrong server, you'll be glad you did.

TerminalDecorator is a Mac application.

Download TerminalDecorator

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