Favorite Mac programs and news readers

Here is a list of my favorite, and in my opinion, among the most useful Mac shareware programs for OS X. This is just my opinion, based on my experience using these programs, sometimes for years, since the OS 9 days. Concluding I will talk a bit about rss and news reading programs for both Mac and PC.

First, there are two programs that I use almost everyday; they are the “do everything” programs in their categories: Tex-Edit Plus and Graphic Converter. As their names imply, Tex-Edit Plus is a text editor (and so much more!), and Graphic Converter is an image editing program.

Here is how I use Tex-Edit Plus on a daily basis, which doesn’t exploit half the uses. Right now I am writing this post on Tex-Edit Plus. Why? I could use Word, but I want a plain text editor that won’t add funky formating; for this job I don’t need a word processor. Also, since I am writing a post for the Web, and I know I am going to be adding hyperlinks to this post, I can use one of the many free AppleScripts out there to format the hyperlinks automatically. That is one of the great things about Tex-Edit Plus: its use of AppleScript. No matter what you might use Tex-Edit Plus for, I am sure you can find some AppleScripts to help you do the job. For example, if you are coding HTML, there are many scripts to help; if you are trying to clean up an email and want to strip those “>” you can. I often use Tex-Edit Plus to clean up text that I have grabbed from a Web page. That includes getting rid of weird characters, smarten quotes, strip soft returns, what ever. And with OS X, as opposed to its OS 9 version, Tex-Edit Plus now has spell checker.

Graphic Converter is the second shareware program that is dominant in its category. As with all these programs I am writing about, Graphic Converter has won many awards. While it is one of the more expensive programs on my list ($30), I have found that to be a bargain. The program does so much, is always improving with updates appearing about every 8 weeks or so, not including bug fixes, and rarely is there an update fee. In the six years or so that I have been using Graphic Converter, I have had to purchase it once and paid an update charge once (I think). What does the program do? Just about anything you might need done with images, including converting them, some basic editing (which can be expanded because the program can also use PhotoShop plug-ins), easily browse many directories of images, make slide shows . . . and so much more. The program imports about 175 file formats, exports to around 75 formats, does batch conversions, optimizes images for the Web, and suports AppleScript. I don’t exploit the program for all its uses because I have PhotoShop, but nevertheless, Graphic Converter is still an indispensable program.

My next group of shareware programs for OS X are system enhancers or utilities. There are many good programs out there to make life with your Mac that much more pleasant, so my two favorites are just these two. On a daily basis I use Default Folder and Launch Bar no less than 10-15 times, and in the case of Default Folder, depending on what I am doing that day, I may use it 30-50 times in a day. These programs save me a lot of time doing everyday things: opening programs, finding files, saving files, opening folders and generally navigating around my Mac. I have been using Default Folder for more than six or seven years, since the days of OS 9; while you may think it is expensive for shareware ($34.95), there are not many update fees; I think maybe three in the entire time I have used it. Default Folder very important to my mental health: it makes navigating around my computer easier when trying to open or save files. It does this by altering the open/save dialog box to include a favorites list (favorite folders which you define), a recent folders list (you define how many folders that list should extend to), and a utilities list, which includes throwing things in the trash from the open/save dialog, renaming folders, assigning default folders for certain programs (for example, my default folder for Graphic Converter is images). There’s more, but I don’t use all the features. Also, with OS X, there is an Default Folder icon in the Dock, which means you don’t need the open/save dialog to open your favorite or recent folders.

The second system utility I have found useful, which is relatively new (OS X only), is Launch Bar. This utility ($19.95) continually has me wondering, how does it do that? What it does: open applications, files, emails, bookmarks, just about anything you want it to on your computer, all with a couple of key strokes. Here is an example of how I might use it: hit apple key-space bar and Launch Bar is activated from the menu bar near the system clock (this works from within any application, not just Finder); I type “GO” and the list of possible files or applications gets smaller until Adobe GoLive is at the top; I hit return and the application starts opening. That’s it! Here is the neat thing with Launch Bar: the program gets smarter and smarter the more you use it. When I first opened GoLive I had to type almost the whole word before it appeared at the top of the list of possible things to open (because I didn’t begin with Adobe). The same is true when I want to open Adobe PhotoShop; now I just type “PH” and there it is, at the top of the list. Here is another great thing about Launch Bar: the application is not bloated, runs in the background, and doesn’t slow your system down. Launch Bar is a serious time saver, keeping you from always reaching for the mouse.

There are two programs that make using the Web much easier; one of the programs is useful in collecting and organizing links, and the other is great at getting information from the Web without opening your Web browser. These programs are URL Manager Pro and Watson.

URL Manager Pro is a program that helps collect, organize, and make accessing your Web page bookmarks easy. Like some of the other programs I am writing about, I have been using this one since the OS 9 days, and like these other programs, the price ($25) is quite reasonable for ease of use and power it gives you over your collection of bookmarks. Honestly, the more bookmarks you have, the more useful you’ll find URL Manager Pro. The program integrates with just about any Web browser you use, and lets you save your organized bookmarks to the browser. In addition, you can find a shared menu that includes favorites, and other Web tools like collect all links that are on a particular Web page.

Watson ($29), again like other other programs mentioned, has won many awards. But, that alone should not sell you on the program, because maybe it isn’t useful to you specifically. Here is how Karelia describes what Watson is:

bq. A time-saving Swiss Army Knife program that packs over 20 time-saving, productivity-enhancing interfaces to the most important web content and services. Making the Web Elementary!

bq. URLs are hard to remember. Web services are scattered across the vastness of the web. Bookmark management is an oxymoron. Watson eliminates these problems and reduces your time-to-everything on the web — Watson makes getting information from the Web simple and straightforward.

Watson searches the Web for information and brings it to you in a user friendly format. Remember Sherlock for the Mac? Watson is better (though Sherlock 3 is nice too) because you never have to leave the program, open a Web browser, to read the information you want. For example, if you want to see what the local movies are in your area, use the movie tool. You can search by movies or theaters; when you find the movie you want you can read the description, get the movie times, and even watch the movie trailer, all from within the Watson program interface. This is just an example of the power of Watson. And there are many other Watson tools that integrate with Web sites: UPS package info, cooking recipes, baseball and football scores, Goggle searches, Yahoo! searches, image searches, local TV listings, phonebook, Amazon.com searching, eBay searching, and more tools are always being developed because the folks at Karelia make that process transparent, thus a Watson tool developers community has sprouted.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly address what I has been my greatest time saver in reading information on the Web: the use of rss files and a news reader program to browse, read, and organize those news feeds. Other people have better explained what an rss file is and how it can be used (here, and here, and here), so I will briefly give my explanation in the context of how I have used this tool. I open my news reader application once or twice a day to check for updates from my favorite sites; I have my news feeds categorized into groups like newspapers, blogs, Mac news, and fun stuff, and create new groups as needed. Depending on how the sites have their rss feeds implemented, you can either get the full text of the update or just a summary. In the case of newspapers, it is just a summary, but even that saves me time, not having to look at the whole site to read just one or two articles that interest me. Daily, I scan through the news feeds from about ten different newspapers and magazines. Using my news reader application I use my time much more efficiently.

The program I use to process and read these rss feeds is a Mac freeware program called NetNewsWire Lite (there is a shareware version which I will probably purchase at some point). News reader applications are not just a Mac thing, there are some good PC programs, like FeedReader, NewzCrawler, and Syndirella. Collecting favorite news feeds is not a problem using NetNewsWire Lite because there are many already included with the program (I’m assuming the same is for the PC programs). Adding new feeds, like the many new Yahoo! feeds, is easy. If you are looking for new rss feeds, here are two big sites that index them: Syndic8 and NewsIsFree.

These are just my opinions based upon my experiences; I have not been paid by person or company to endorse their products. If you decide to take any of my advice in regards to these programs, hopefully your mental health will improve just a little bit, and you will be a less frustrated person when using your computer.

Our crime against humanity

I am going to float a proposal: let us now start proceedings against President George W. Bush for crimes against humanity, before some sharpie lawyer says that the statute of limitations has run its course. If the hounds of hell can’t find the creepy, creaky voiced Henry Kissinger — with the book by Christopher Hitchens and the documentary film — then we ought be able to find this bastard Bush! I know where the fucker lives!

The more that comes out about how this administration jobbed the intelligence community, and then used their faked intelligence (phony!) to sell Gulf War 2 to an easily duped american public, the more it is clear that Bush and cohort are war criminals. This article in The Independent, as newspaper in the UK, lays out the story about the fabrication of evidence and the distortion of intelligence reports, all for the purpose of goading the public into war. Krugman also presents the same facts, but adds the question, where was the media in all this? We knew Bush was misleading the country from day one, why did he get a free ride?

Santorum’s AP interview

What follows is an unedited section of the Associated Press interview, taped April 7, with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA. You remember him, the latest Republican to step in it with his opinions about homosexuality and the right to privacy. Oh, of particular note in this interview is when Santorum starts talking about “man on dog” sex, at which point the interviewer stops him and says that Santorum is starting to “sort of freak [her] out”.

bq. The Associated Press Tuesday, April 22, 2003

bq. (04-22) 15:51 PDT (AP) —

bq. AP: If you’re saying that liberalism is taking power away from the families, how is conservatism giving more power to the families?

bq. SANTORUM: Putting more money in their pocketbook is one. The more money you take away from families is the less power that family has. And that’s a basic power. The average American family in the 1950s paid (unintelligible) percent in federal taxes. An average American family now pays about 25 percent.

bq. The argument is, yes, we need to help other people. But one of the things we tried to do with welfare, and we’re trying to do with other programs is, we’re setting levels of expectation and responsibility, which the left never wanted to do. They don’t want to judge. They say, Oh, you can’t judge people. They should be able to do what they want to do. Well, not if you’re taking my money and giving it to them. But it’s this whole idea of moral equivalency. (unintelligible) My feeling is, well, if it’s my money, I have a right to judge.

bq. AP: Speaking of liberalism, there was a story in The Washington Post about six months ago, they’d pulled something off the Web, some article that you wrote blaming, according to The Washington Post, blaming in part the Catholic Church scandal on liberalism. Can you explain that?

bq. SANTORUM: You have the problem within the church. Again, it goes back to this moral relativism, which is very accepting of a variety of different lifestyles. And if you make the case that if you can do whatever you want to do, as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home, this “right to privacy,” then why be surprised that people are doing things that are deviant within their own home? If you say, there is no deviant as long as it’s private, as long as it’s consensual, then don’t be surprised what you get. You’re going to get a lot of things that you’re sending signals that as long as you do it privately and consensually, we don’t really care what you do. And that leads to a culture that is not one that is nurturing and necessarily healthy. I would make the argument in areas where you have that as an accepted lifestyle, don’t be surprised that you get more of it.

bq. AP: The right to privacy lifestyle?

bq. SANTORUM: The right to privacy lifestyle.

bq. AP: What’s the alternative?

bq. SANTORUM: In this case, what we’re talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We’re not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We’re talking about a basic homosexual relationship. Which, again, according to the world view sense is a a perfectly fine relationship as long as it’s consensual between people. If you view the world that way, and you say that’s fine, you would assume that you would see more of it.

bq. AP: Well, what would you do?

bq. SANTORUM: What would I do with what?

bq. AP: I mean, how would you remedy? What’s the alternative?

bq. SANTORUM: First off, I don’t believe _

bq. AP: I mean, should we outlaw homosexuality?

bq. SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who’s homosexual. If that’s their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it’s not the person, it’s the person’s actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.

bq. AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

bq. SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

bq. Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality _

bq. AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

bq. SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

bq. AP: Sorry, I just never expected to talk about that when I came over here to interview you. Would a President Santorum eliminate a right to privacy — you don’t agree with it?

bq. SANTORUM: I’ve been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don’t agree with that. So I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn’t want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn’t agree with it, but that’s their right. But I don’t agree with the Supreme Court coming in.

Brick house

Here is one of my all time favorite songs; I am sure it is yours too. “Brick House” by the Commodores:

bq. Chorus:
She’s a brick — house
She’s Mighty might just lettin’ it all hang out
She’s a brick — house
That lady’s stacked and that’s a fact,
ain’t holding nothing back.
She’s a brick — house

bq. We’re together everybody knows,
this is how the story goes.
She knows she’s got everything
that a woman needs to get a man, yeah.
How can she use, the things she uses
36-24-36, what a winning hand!

bq. Chorus

bq. She’s the one, the only one,
who’s built like a amazon
The clothes she wears, the sexy ways,
make an old man wish for younger days, yeah
She knows she’s built and knows how to please
Sure enough to knock a man to his knees

bq. Chorus

bq. Shake it down, shake it down now (repeat)

D.H. Rumsfeld poetry 4

Here is the latest gem from our Secretary of War, D.H. Rumsfeld, recited this past Tuesday.

bq.. *Inside And Outside The Tent*

What’s going to happen is,
as that happens,
they’ll have meetings.
And if you do something,
somebody’s not going to like it.

That’s certain in life.

It’s also true,
if you don’t do something,
somebody’s not going to like it.
But the fact is,
if you do do something
somebody’s not going to like it,
and that’s what happening.

So someone will come up and say something,
and something else,
as happens in democracies, in free systems,
somebody’s going to say,
“I don’t agree with that.”
And they’ll either say it from inside the tent
or outside the tent.

Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld number 3

D.H. Rumsfeld

Here is a new poem from our Secretary of War, D.H. Rumsfeld, which he recited on Friday.

*Henny Penny*

I picked up a newspaper today
and I couldn’t believe it.
I read eight headlines
that talked about chaos, violence, unrest.
And it just was Henny Penny —
The sky is falling.

I’ve never seen anything like it!

And here is a country that’s being liberated,
here are people who are going from being repressed
and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator,
and they’re free.

All this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines,
they showed a man bleeding,
a civilian, who they claimed we had shot — one thing after another.
It’s just unbelievable how people can take that away
from what is happening in that country!

Monster seats and pesky pole

In addition to the Pesky Pole, one of my favorite things about Fenway Park is the Green Monster. I am glad that the new owners see that Fenway is an asset, and that building a new park may not be the answer to increasing revenue. I am especially happy that there is the Save Fenway Park group. This year, in just a week or two, they are going to open the “Monster seats,” which are perched atop the Green Monster! This is going to be awesome; maybe it will reverse the curse of the Bambino? Some people take that curse pretty seriously: poems, books, blogs, musicals. Some people go so far as to say, that because of the curse that they “absolutely guarantee that Boston will continue to suck”.

Bill

This just has come to my attention. I am not really a Broadway musical type of person, but this sort of describes me. The song is called “Bill” from _Showboat_ (Music/Lyrics: Rogers and Hammerstein, 1927):

bq. I used to dream that I would discover
The perfect lover someday.
I knew I’d recognize him if ever
He came ’round my way.
I always used to fancy then
He’d be one of the god-like kind of men,
With a giant brain and a noble head,
Like the heroes bold
In the books I’ve read.
But along came Bill, who’s not the type at all.
You’d meet him on the street and never notice him.
His form, his face, his manly grace
Are not the kind that you would find in a statue.
And I can’t explain–
It’s surely not his brain that makes me thrill.
I love him because, he’s wonderful
Because he’s just my Bill.

bq. He can’t play golf or tennis or polo,
Or sing a solo, or row.
He isn’t half as handsome
As dozens of men I know.
He isn’t tall or straight or slim,
And he dresses far worse than Ted or Jim.
And I can’t explain whey he should be
Just the one, one, man in the world for me.
He’s just my Bill, and ordinary guy.
He hasn’t got a thing that I can brag about
And yet to be, upon his knee,
So comfy and roomy
Seems natural to me.
And I can’t explain–
It’s surely not his brain
That makes me thrill.
I love him because, he’s –I don’t know —
Because he’s just my Bill.