Sunday, November 24, 2013

Airdrop and Launchpad Clones for your Tiger and Leopard Desktop

Over the last few itinerations of OS X, Apple has included several new features that would seem to leave PowerPC users in the dust, but if you go looking you can definitely find alternatives that can get things done in much the same way. The two features I'm focusing on today are Airdrop and Launchpad.

Airdrop is a much-ballyhooed super simple way to share files with other Macs that are also Airdrop-capable. You basically just drag and drop what you want to transfer into a special Airdrop folder inside the Finder. Launchpad is a new application launcher that displays all your app icons onscreen in a way similar to Gnome 3 and Unity, but Apple would never steal from those basket cases, right?

It turns out Airdrop isn't so new after all, at least to those who have been using DropCopy. DropCopy is very similar in that it places a small transparent circle on your desktop, and you simply drag and drop what you want to send to another Mac that's on your LAN and running DropCopy as well. The newest version supports Intel only, but an older version is available for Tiger and Leopard. A mobile app is available, too. DropCopy also lets you transfer files long distance if you know the public IP address of the Mac you're sending to.

Bevy on Tiger

Launchpad's doppelgänger is called Bevy (above), and it too throws all your application icons in front of you, only in this instance they're organized by folder (Applications, Utilities, and Developer, etc.). A lot of people seem to be annoyed with Launchapd, or at least ignore it, but having a visual representation of all your applications is sometimes useful, and Bevy offers a good alternative to do that. It's nagware, but it's only $9.95.

Now if we could only get Mavericks' dual monitor support, we could...Oh, wait. Dual monitor support was originally effed up in Lion, so we don't need that fix. Glad to see Apple's finally catching up to the Tiger era.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Putting the Christmas Spirit on your Mac Desktop

It's about that time of year again. Time to buy buy buy, and hope you better get something out of your investment at least in the form of a carton of cigarettes or something useful. Too cynical? Right. There's what we say we want for Christmas and what we really want. Anyway, in case that sounds too transactional for your delicate sensibilities, here are a few ways you can put the spirit and cheer and decoratáge of Christmas onto your OS X desktops.

Nothing says Christmas like Christmas lights, so to get those on your desktop you can get MacLampsX. It works on Tiger PowerPC on up, and you can also check their page of custom bulbs to download if you want to add to the default.

Falling animated snow is also doable, with Snö. It can use a lot of CPU, so you'll probably want to dial back from the defaults.

And to round it all off, there's a PowerPC screen saver conveniently called SnowSaver. This one doesn't use a ton of CPU, while managing a somewhat impressive 3-D look.

Here's what MacLampsX and Snö look like together on a Tiger desktop. The Badlands wallpaper probably isn't entirely appropriate, but this is America (in my part of the world).

I looked for some of this stuff on Linux, too, and there's something really cool looking called XSnow, but it's not compiled on Debian for PowerPC and I didn't know how to build it. I'll just have to imagine it, like Santa Claus and his lair, or whatever all that business is.

UPDATE: Thanks to Charles in the comments for pointing out X-MasTree, a blinking light Christmas tree for you desktop (also features a days till Xmas badge). The only download left on the internet seems to be on this Tucows ftp archive. Direct download is here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your iTunes Killer

As long time readers may know, I've been on a never-ending quest to find a music player that I like, or to put it another way, that I don't actively dislike. I mostly stuck it out with iTunes over the years, having found the alternatives lacking. This hasn't been a problem in Linux where there's much more choice, including the excellent Audacious, but in OS X things are a bit more constricted.

I did switch to Cog more recently, and I think I wrote about it, too. The deal breaker previously was its lack of an equalizer, but since I found how to enact a global equalizer, I switched. Still, though, Cog didn't support radio streaming and I had to rely on Mplayer from the command line or go back to iTunes for that feature.

Was this the end of the road? Was I to be forever denied local playback and internet streaming in one appealing package? Would I ever find audio nirvana?

Well, I have found my nirvana and it is called CMus.

CMus music player

That's right, CMus is a console player. No mouse, just key commands. It plays mp3, ogg vorbis, flac, aac, the works, and also streams internet radio. And for icing on the cake, it's cross platform. On both Linux and OS X, you just use your package manager to install, so if you're on OS X you'd use either Macports or Tigerbrew.

After installing, the easiest way to get started is by pressing 5 for the browser pane and navigating to your Music folder. Press "a" to add the songs to your library and then press 1 to go to your library in tree view (press 2 for your library in list view). Press return to start playing, or use the arrow keys to choose the artist, the spacebar to expand the albums tree, and then tab to switch the active cursor to the album pane.

To add a radio station to your library, type ":" without quotes to activate the command line section, then "add http://..." and press return. It should be the first item in your library, called "<Stream>". Alternately, you can use the browser pane to navigate to any .m3u files on your hard drive and add them with the aforementioned "a".

The resources CMus uses are practically nonexistent. It's also very fast to load libraries and playlists, and speed is the main advantage of console programs such as this. The downside is that they can be hard to master with many key commands to memorize, but music players aren't all that complex when you get down to it. Mostly, you play, stop, pause, skip, and shuffle, etc. After a quick read of the manual, I got the hang of it in about a minute.

I don't think I'll go full-on frugal computing and start using console apps for all my needs, but in case you're inclined to explore that option there are tons of console alternatives to your GUI apps. There's Alpine and Mutt for email, ELinks for web browsing, also Floodgap's more famous software title, TTYtter, as well as LFTP, SLRN, Pianobar, and more. If you use the functionality of any of these often, you should take a look. You might find yourself surprised.