Quickly and easily create and modify text and HTML/XML files with TextWrangler

Quickly and easily create and modify text and HTML/XML files with this industry leading text editor for Mac.

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Today, many people write their own apps. Finding the right editor or tool to write the code in, can be a challenge. Some times you just want to code and not bring up the how IDE or you have an idea and just want to quickly jot it down without running a huge program. Its for this reason I really like TextWrangler. It’s a professional, but budget featured, HTML and text editor for Mac.

TextWrangler is a general-purpose text editor for light-duty composition, text file editing and manipulation of other text-oriented data. TextWrangler supports working with both plain-text and Unicode files. However, TextWrangler does not support files written using right-to-left writing systems, such as Hebrew or Arabic.

TextWrangler has some pretty cool features. It can do single and multi-file search and replace functions, with file filtering options. It has flexible grep-style pattern-based searching capabilities, based on PCRE (Perl-Compatible Regular Expression). You can also use the app to do a DIFF between two files and then merge the differences into a single file.

If you’re coding, then you need to take a look at TextWrangler. Aside from being free, the app has a number of programming functions that coders of all experience levels will appreciate. It has support for unlimited undo/redo as well as multiple clipboards so you can copy and paste a number of different code snippets from one or more files into others that you may be working on. The app also supports splittable editing windows so that you can view two different locations in a file at the same time. Again, this is an awesome app and one that I will likely be using as I learn to code.

 

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Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with Kindle

Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with some of the best software available on the internet.

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I’ve been an eBook advocate since 2002 when I began reading books with Microsoft Reader. It was one of the best main streamed options at the time, AND it worked well with PocketPC’s, which, in my opinion were the best kind of PDA on the market at the time. (Truth be told, I was never fond of PalmOS or Blackberries, the other two major mobile choices at the time).

Amazon is the king of eBooks, and has been since the modern smartphone came into being after the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. Their Kindle hardware was revolutionary Their Kindle software available for any number of smartphones as well as your Windows PC or Mac allows you to read your eBooks where and when you want; and the software, is a total must have.

Kindle is a free application that lets you read Kindle eBooks on your Windows PC or on you Mac. Kindle offers most of the features you would find on a Kindle, Kindle DX, or other Kindle applications for computers and mobile devices. The best thing about it is that it allows you to automatically save and sync your last read page and all of your annotations across all your Kindle devices and hardware. You can also browse Amazon’s huge eBook library and purchase as well as download and read thousands of books from the Kindle Store.

The software interface is customizable. You can change font sizes and adjust the number of words that appear on each line. You can also change the number of columns that appear on a single page. If you’re reading a book for school or some other academic project, you’ll be pleased to know that you can add and view notes and highlights in your books. You’ll also be able to sync your annotations to all your Kindle apps and devices. You can even view Kindle Print Replica books, which are exact replicas of physical textbooks.

Amazon’s Kindle app is, in my opinion, the best eBook reading app available today. It is powered by the Kindle Store, which has the biggest library of eBooks on the internet. The software is device agnostic, meaning you can put the software on just about any computing device you have – PC, Mac, iDevice, Android, Windows Phone, etc. – and it will sync your progress across all devices. The only issue I have with the app is that its not easy to put non-Kindle eBooks in the app. It will work with ePub, but you might have to convert older eBooks to ePub (or other compatible format), and that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

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Keep track of local and remote weather conditions with The Weather Channel Desktop

Keep track of local and remote weather conditions with this must have Windows Utility

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Having local and remote weather at your fingertips is part of what makes the internet the internet. I mean, how good would the internet be if you couldn’t find out if it was gonna rain today either at the places you live and work, or where you were going to travel to? Its actually kinda silly… Its for this reason that I find tools like the Weather Channel Desktop so important, and a must have on your Windows desktop.

The Weather Channel Desktop provides one-click access to current weather conditions, local temperature, severe weather alerts, hurricane updates, maps – including radar and other precipitation tracking tools – ad well as hourly and10-day forecasts. Your local temperature is placed in the system tray, and many functions are accessible via this tray icon. An always-on connection keeps you informed of weather changes and allows you to plan ahead.

The Weather Channel Desktop is one of my most favorite applications. I often have a long commute to work and knowing what weather conditions I will encounter during that commute is very important in preparing for the day. While I really like what the app does, its graphs and maps, the fact that its adware supported and comes with some apps that I didn’t necessarily want installed when I installed the Weather Channel Desktop is a bit frustrating. However, these apps are easily removed via the Programs and Features Control Panel App. This is the only real blemish on what otherwise is one of the best system tray apps I’ve ever used.

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Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac

Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have Mac utility.

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Keeping your data safe is important. I’ve had times when not only the source file, but the backups of the source data is corrupted and the only way to get anything back is to try to recover the data from a bad drive. I’ve been there, and its been painful. When you find yourself in a situation like this, its good to have tools like 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac. It just might be able to save your bacon.

321Soft Data Recovery is a full-featured data recovery solution for OS X that’s designed to recover lost, formatted and deleted files from hard drives, flash drives, Memory Cards, mobile devices, or any other type portable storage devices. Flexible parameter settings give you absolute control over data recovery. Regardless of how the data was lost 321Soft Data Recovery can still recover the data.

The app is VERY easy to use. You don’t need to have any previous data recovery experience in order to use the app effectively. The app’s File Preview will allow you to preview files before you recover or attempt to recover them.

In addition to being a full-featured recovery utility, 321Soft Data Recovery also includes a powerful RAID reconstruction utility that can repair lost or damaged RAID volumes. The tool also has a feature-rich hex editor, and a disk clone/imaging module that allows you to create disk image files to recover data from drives that have bad sectors.

Every computer owner should have an app like this around for emergencies. The biggest problem with it, however, is its price. Its expensive, and in normal use cases, you’re likely not going to use it very often. You’re going to have to really think about the importance of the lost data before you purchase. However, from a recovery and usability perspective, this is a must have, no brainer.

 

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Convert audio and video to any format you need with iDealshare VideoGo

Convert audio and video to any format you need with this multi-platform tool.

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If there’s one thing that I know, its that more and more of what people are doing on the internet today involves video. More than anything else (for most people… I’m a still-photo nut as I have an elaborate DSLR rig), people are taking video on their cellphones and posting it to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa and other social network sites.

Unfortunately, not every video is created equally and getting the video – or even audio – you want in the format you need it in, isn’t always easy. Its for this reason that tools like iDealshare VideoGo are so important. The app is a cross-platform tool and if you don’t have it, you really should give it a long hard look.

iDealshare VideoGo is an easy to use professional video converter. It helps you convert all kinds of audio and video formats with little to no loss in quality. You can use it to covert HD, 3D or SD video in any number of formats, including, but not limited to, WMV, ASF, ASX, AVI, DV, DivX, MKV, FLV, F4V, SWF, MXF, MVI, and OGM. It also supports mobile formats such as 3GP, 3G2, 3GPP, 3GPP2 and MP4. It also supports standard formats such as MPG, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MJPEG, MJPG, H.263, H.264, MOV, M4V, QT as well as many others. The app also supports conversion of audio formats such as MP3, WAV, WMA, M4A, Apple Lossless OGG, AAC, AC3, as well as many, many others.

If downloading video from any website is what does it for you, then you’re going to love iDealshare VideoGo. The app is an all-in-one video downloader and converter. It enables you to download videos instantly in HD 720p, HD 1080p, HD 2k, including ultra high definition (4K) and 3D video with a single click from popular video sharing websites like YouTube, Facebook, Google Videos, Metacafe, eHow, Vimeo, MTV, BBC, and Dailymotion. You can also convert the downloaded videos to almost all popular video or audio formats.

Conclusion: iDealshare VideoGo is a cool app. I really like that it converts both audio and video, and that it allows you to download video from popular video sharing sites. It also allows you to convert that downloaded video to the supported format you need it in. The only thing that you really have to worry about is copy protection on the source video. The app may be able to download it, but it won’t be able to convert that video to any other format you might need.

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Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with PicGIF

Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with this handy Mac tool.

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Some of the simplest movies that you can create are simply made from stills and stitched together with special tools. I’ve done this throughout my computing career for a number of different reasons. However, that’s mostly been on the Windows side of the house. Thankfully, you can do this just as easily on the Mac side of the world, and that’s one of the reasons why I really like PicGIF from PearlMountain Software. It’s an animated GIF tool for your Mac, and its really easy to use.

PicGIF for Mac is an easy to use and intuitive GIF maker that allows you to create animated GIFs from your photos and videos on your Mac. One of its really cool features also lets you edit existing animated GIFs. The program is simple and easy to use, and it makes animating your pictures a lot of fun.

One of the coolest things about PicGIF is that it doesn’t matter what format your source photos are in. If you’re Mac can open them, then Pic GIF can use them to make an animated GIF. The app also works with common video formats, allowing you to quickly and easily string videos together into a longer, larger movie that can be played over the web or by other computers. It’s a great way to quickly and easily share special moments with family members and friends who happen to live far away.

PicGIF is a great application. Not only can you take control of the entire animation process, but you can set the picture size, fill mode, frame delay and playing sequence. Because its on your Mac, you can do most of the things that you would expect you can do with pictures on a Mac. It supports full drag and drop, has a text editor that will allow you to add text to your animations as well as giving you complete font control. You also get a real time preview of the animation. The app is amazing.

 

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In-Flight Cellphone Calls to be Banned?

The US DoT is moving towards banning in-flight calls

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The use of electronic devices on plane flights has been banned for a number of years, not only in the US, but worldwide. Originally, the thought was that the electro-magnetic radiation or EMR from these devices would interfere with onboard aviation equipment. So the FAA banned their use on flights in the US. Recently, that policy has changed.

Last October, the FAA announced that it would permit the use of all electronic devices during all phases of flight. This meant that you didn’t necessarily have to turn off your iPad or iPod when the doors closed and you had your nose reducing headphones plugged in, turned on and pumping music through your ears during take off. No more crying and screaming children for you!

However, this also meant that you could conceivably spend the entire flight next to Chatty Cathy as she gabbed away on her cell phone at 35,000 feet. However, according to the DoT, the agency is preparing some rules that may prevent just that.

While the FAA hasn’t laid down any new rules, and the DoT hasn’t come out with anything definitive as yet, its clear that the airline carriers are considering making some rules of their own. Your time next to Chatty Cathy may be totally cut off if they get their way, so you may be saved from all of the grief.

As of this writing – 2014-08-11 – I am currently sitting in the O’Hare International Airport waiting on a flight to Pittsburgh, PA for a job interview. I’m flying the Friendly Skies, so United has my business on both legs of this trip. In my opinion, United has been one of the more restrictive carriers with passenger privileges and freedoms in Coach. It will be interesting to see how things go after I get on board.

UPDATE:
OK, well, this is already partially implemented…at least on United. They allow use of portable electronic devices at all times on the plane. When the doors close, they tell you smartphones and tablets with cellular have to be put in airplane mode. Wireless headsets are permitted, but no Wi-Fi. The flight I was on didn’t have in-flight Wi-Fi.

I fully expect that despite what the FAA or the DoT implement as rules or guidelines, that the airline carriers will do what they want. They will likely further limit the use of electronic devices on domestic and international flights originating in the US. Despite what the regulatory agencies specify, passengers will be required to follow the rules the carriers lay down. Failure to do so, will get you booted and likely banned (depending on how you behave). Its going to be an interesting time. I will continue to follow the issue and will report back with any new updates.

In the mean time, why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and let me know what you think the FAA and DoT should outline in any new regulations? I’d also like to hear what you think the airlines will do, too; so jump in and give me your thoughts!

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iOS 8 Beta 5 – Finally… PROGRESS!

iOS 8 Beta 5 has been released. Let’s take a look to see how (well) things have progressed…

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 Introduction

Over the past ten weeks or so, Apple has been releasing betas of iOS 8, their new mobile operating system. I’ve covered the first four betas with some rants that have left me (and I would assume other developers and testers) lamenting. You can read up on how things have progressed here:

Beta releases of iOS 8, to put it politely, have been a train wreck at best. They have been nearly unusable, crashing and causing issues and problems with nearly each and every core, as well as nearly every third party app I have had installed, too. Apple recently released iOS 8 Beta 5. Let’s take a look at how things are going and see if iOS 8 is (finally?) ready for a wider audience as well as some other third party app work by developers worldwide.

I’m also going to touch on a few OS X Yosemite Beta 5 issues, as I bumped into updates on them while looking at iOS 8 Beta 5. So much of what is cool about iOS 8 requires Yosemite and a Mac, that it’s hard to draw the line between the two devices and operating systems… at least when they are close by (and vice-versa)

 Installation

Installation of iOS 8 Beta 5 was only slightly smoother than previous versions of iOS 8. I did have problems with iTunes Match again (see Music, below), and almost had to blow the device and reinstall, but thankfully, have not… Yet.

There are still a number of know issues with iOS 8 Beta 5, and as always, caution should be used when deciding to install any kind of beta on any mission critical equipment. Generally, it’s not a good idea. For example in Beta 5, updating iCloud settings may appear to hang when you try to change them. The thought is that the device will eventually come back. Try to see if you can wait it out before you kill the app, or perform a hard reset (power + home button until the Apple logo appears), which will clear all settings and reboot the device.

While using Beta 4, I didn’t blow the device and rebuild it from scratch. I toughed it out and made it the entire two weeks. However, during the 2-3 days prior to the release of Beta 5, I REALLY did want to. I didn’t as I knew that I would be doing exactly that for Beta 5 soon. However getting to that release wasn’t a lot of fun (though it was mildly better than with Betas 1 – 3).

The question of stability of iOS 8 Beta 5 is still to be determined.

 Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

According to Apple’s release notes, there aren’t any known issues with Bluetooth in iOS 8 Beta 5. There weren’t any documented issues in Beta 4 either, but it was still a mess. I am pleased to say that things are a bit better here in Beta 5.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) seems to be working and communicating with my Pebble Steel smartwatch. However, the Pebble app does seem to be sending some corrupted data, as the watch doesn’t always vibrate at configured intervals and the display often gets corrupted. I haven’t had to hard reset the watch (return it to factory settings), but I’ve wanted to at least once since repairing it with my iPhone 5.

Now, the only issue I need to verify is the secret sauce connection (Continuity and Handoff) my iPhone shares with my MacBook Pro.

Speaking of secret sauce connectivity, little to nothing related to Handoff or connectivity (both relying on Wi-Fi and home network connectivity) worked well for me in the iOS 8 Beta 4 – Yosemite Beta 4/Consumer Preview 1 combination.

There are currently two huge known issues with Handoff

  1. Handoff will not work on systems configured with multiple user accounts.
  2. Handoff icons may not appear in the Dock after using the corresponding app on another device. Trying another Handoff-supported app may resolve this issue.

At this point, Handoff should be considered a work in progress. Though when it does work, it IS pretty cool, especially if you’re using apps that save to documents in iCloud Drive.

 FaceTime, Phone and Contacts

In previous versions of OS X as well as iOS, Apple had a clear line of separation between the Phone app and FaceTime. With Yosemite and iOS 8, that line is SERIOUSLY blurred. This is both good and bad. Now, you have a choice in how you communicate with someone given the type and speed of the network you are connected to. On your Mac, all of your calls regardless of type – FaceTime or cellular – all show up in FaceTime. It looks like it wants to function as the main phone app for your Mac, though you can dial from just about anywhere you can find or see a phone number, Calendar, Contacts and Safari included. In Beta 4 of both OS X and iOS 8, this was nothing more than a total train wreck.

I have no idea if this is because of development issues with Phone on my iPhone 5, with Contacts on either my device or my Mac or with FaceTime on either my iPhone or my Mac. There are too many possible integration points for me as a tester (without direct access to design docs, code and/ or developer resources) to determine. I’m going to have to give this a shot when I get a moment back at the house.

Besides the “progress” made, above, Apple has also fixed the ability for users to use FaceTime in landscape orientations on your iDevice. In earlier betas, this didn’t work. It does now, in Beta 5. Fixed – at least somewhat – is also the ability to determine which number to specify as a Favorite, though the Favorite chooser in Phone. Favorites now provides a contact method picker, but force quits the Phone app when a contact method is chosen. We’re close, but no kewpie doll yet. Unless Apple has gotten the iPhone integration working correctly with both Beta 5 releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite, it’s going to be a very long beta period for both operating systems.

UPDATE: While this article was being written, a new <a href=”http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/08/05/apple-to-hold-iphone-6-media-event-on-sept-9—report”>rumor was breaking</a> regarding a reported Apple media even scheduled for 2014-09-09. <a href=”http://recode.net/2014/08/05/codered-apple-to-hold-iphone-event-on-sept-9/”>Re/code</a> is reporting that both new iPhone 6 devices – the 4.7″ and the 5.5″ iDevices – will be announced with a projected order rate of 80M units. It is not known if the iWatch will be announced at the same event or not. However, you can expect new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina models to be announced with TouchID sensors.

UPDATE 2: The integration between iPhone with iOS 8 Beta 5 and OS X Yosemite Beta 5 is MUCH better than in the Beta 4 release of both operating systems. Previously, while a call could be established by your Mac through you iPhone, no audio would come across. In short, the feature was only partially implemented and didn’t work.

Now, not only is the connection established, but I was able to use my Mac as a speakerphone as intended without too many call quality issues. There does seem to be a volume issue for the person that you’re talking to. The caller I spoke with initially had trouble hearing me, though the call quality for them did improve over the length of the call.

Provided that audio quality and reliability improves on both sides of the call, I can see where this would be very usable as a way to conduct conference calls in a home office. I have my doubts however, how this kind of feature would work in the enterprise. Unless Apple builds some kind of partnership with, say, Cisco, Avaya or some other VoIP vender where the feature was totally integrated into their server(s), I’m not sure how this would be considered valuable or usable in any kind of corporate setting. The feature (even if mic and volume issues were totally resolved and call quality was continuously in the upper 90th percentile), as currently implemented doesn’t seem well suited for anyone else other than regular consumers or SOHO users.

However, it was really kinda cool to be able to get up away from the computer and still be able to converse with the caller without having to wear a Bluetooth headset. This is an area where I will need to do further testing, however, as its clear that this is a work in progress for Apple as well.

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