Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Ringy Dingy...

Convenience. From the Oxford Dictionary widget: The state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty. I'm all about that, especially while I am working. Anything that helps me focus on my work. Often people call me and want me to look at a web page, or I need to look something up on Google while I'm talking, so I wear a wireless headset. It's great. However, I still have to have the phone by me to identify the caller or I have to swing around and get out of my chair to look at the base station when it's ringing. I know, you're saying "Geez, what a lazy guy." Maybe, but when I am in the middle of something, I don't want to be interrupted even for little things like that. So I went in search of a phone app that would notify me of the caller on the computer. And boy, did I find one! It's called, humbly enough, Jon's Phone Tool.

If there was ever a Bass-O-Matic in software form, this would be it. It slices, it dices, it juliennes (is that a verb?). You can make calls via Vonage, Skype, CallVantage, Phlink and your modem. Address Book, Entourage, Palm Desktop integration? Yup. Dial from any of these sources, or view caller's info sorted by Alpha, Companies, Geographical, Groups or Recent with the convenient menubar icon. Has reverse lookup (find contact info from number), convert text to number, call timer. Displays Caller ID info as a popup within a couple of rings (your phone service has to have this feature and your modem has to be compatible with it – most Apple internal modems are). Call logging, time logging, note pad, number pad dial – the only negative thing I could say about it is that it may have too many features. But for such a modest fee of $15, you can have them all! The interface is cool, it reminds me of an MP3 player skin for Audion, but in saying that, not all the icons are easy to understand or see. I love the rotating gear logo! It may be true that you can't judge a book by its cover, but I believe you can very often judge a program by the effort put into the design of the application's interface and the website.

Ring, ring! Jon's Phone Tool is for you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Keep on Trucking.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) has been around pretty much as long as HTTP as one of several internet services. But lately it has become a common part of the creative individual's software arsenal. It allows you to transfer files larger than can be easily attached to an email. Many printers and clients now offer FTP sites where files can be posted and downloaded. There are many FTP applications available for the Mac, each with its own take on features and interface. I have settled on the one developed by Panic software (how can you not love that name?). It's called Transmit. High points all around for the web site and program design, the look, feel, icons and more. And if they care that much about those details, the software must be equally great. And it is. In a light-hearted approach to computing, the main dialog opens to reveal two windows, "Your Stuff" and "Their Stuff."

You can enter the connection information and save it as a Favorite. The Favorite can save the password and local default directory. So if you always upload from a certain folder while connected to a specific client, you can automatically open that folder when you connect. You can organize Favorites into Folders. You can drag and drop file from the program or from the Desktop to transfer. You can link files to specific editors and edit files remotely without maintaining a local copy. You can Synchronize files between Your Stuff and Their Stuff. Compatible with iWeb, Automator, Dashboard, iDisk, Spotlight, geez these guys are well-connected. These along with all the standard FTP features available in most FTP apps certainly makes this a great choice. And again, the same thoughtfulness in designing an easy-to-use but powerful interface in the Macintosh tradition is why I give Transmit the nod. $29.95 from Panic. And check out their other apps, too!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Weather or not you care, this is cool product.

What's the first thing you do in the morning? Check the weather. For me, it's the sound of my daughter coming into the bedroom before school (sound only, because my eyelids are glued shut from the previous night's sleep) and asking, "Dad, what's it going to be like out today?" I could switch on the TV or the radio, but I would have to wait around for them to get to the forecast. Get on the computer? Sure, but then I have to boot up the browser, go to the site and enter my location. All before my morning coffee. And that just makes me irritable. What if I said that you could spend the equivalent of a couple of visits to Starbucks and be able to know what the weather would be as soon as the computer booted up and have it always available throughout the day? Enter Weather Pop Advance from Glucose Development.

Like the name suggests, it's a menubar application that displays the current weather condition and temperature. But it also allows you to control all of its features from a popup menu as well. Shows you a 5-day forecast, shows relative temperature, humidity, wind, barometer, visibility and more. You can have multiple locations and switch between them at will. It also maintains several sources so that if one is down, you aren't without the weather. Version 2.5 now supports radar imaging when available, so you can see the weather, too. I use it to track several of the places we mountain bike or travel to as well as some of places my relations live. Pretty cool. Can't beat it for $8.00. Give it a try.