Freeware for OSX

By Graham K. Rogers

Every year the UK issue of MacWorld includes with its CDROMs some of the best freeware available for OSX. Last year, several of the applications found their way onto my hard disk. This year is no different: only there are more programs.

With 75, to choose from, I am going to select some, with two criteria: they work on my iMac without causing any problems; and they are easy to download.

Every time I mention the Unix under OSX, some people are turned off. Those who regard themselves as Mac purists -- or those still stuck in System 9 -- think that the very idea of working at the command line defeats everything the Mac stands for. I do not; and I have enjoyed some of the challenges that Unix has provided. That said, why make life hard: you could have DOS as the underlying operating system.

Cocktail takes those commands that I like to run, and a whole lot more, and (using the Apple Developer kit -- I have to get my students working with this) builds an interface so that all those nasty commands are hidden by an Aqua interface. It really is good. There are a number of functions that are not really that easy in Unix, but here they are just a click away.

On startup, Cocktail reads the system and network, then asks for a System Admin password before allowing you to continue. As there is a time-limit (it will ask again), this is probably the "sudo" command, that allows temporary access to another user's (in this case Root) privileges.

The first thing I found was the ability to enable system journaling: if ever the iMac crashes, the system is able to see the state of the Art (installed applications, settings) and get back to a working environment without lots of messy uploading. That was turned on in an instant.

As well as deleting difficult files, the daily, weekly and monthly "cron" tasks can be run (I left this off as I already use Macaroni to do this); logs can be viewed and deleted; you can create symbolic links; change network settings; empty caches (system, user and Internet), which I did immediately; and do several other customizing tasks. And Cocktail was not even part of the "75 Software Bargains", so I got a bonus 76.

This application gave me no problems, either in installation or use. Although technically freeware, it is a type of software called "Donationware": if you like it, send the guys some cash. It may be downloaded from Version Tracker and this is one that is staying on my hard disk.

Baby Banger
I know I am going to get some mail on this one, but who could resists such a title? Let us get this perfectly clear: this is nothing about physical abuse OF the kiddywinks, but physical abuse BY: specifically to the keyboard.

You can set this up with either sound (beep) or voice, and as baby bashes the keys, so geometric shapes appear on the screen in different colours. With the voice setting, these shapes and colours are announced, although if too many keys are being banged, or they are being clobbered in quick succession, there is considerable overlap and you will not understand a word. Maybe this is part of a plan to get the rug-rat (thank you Wanda) to temper keyboard actions.

As a sort of protection, to get out of the program (or change settings) requires an odd key combination: Control, Option, Command, Shift, P. Not many babies will manage that with random hits.

All in all a wonderfully useless program that works with OSX 10.2.x and not 10.1.x. The writer, Paul Suh, admits that he works for Apple but is quick to deny any corporate guilt.

I use Macaroni, an inexpensive shareware utility, to perform regular maintenance tasks that Unix would otherwise do if the Mac were left on all the time. Many people in the Apple forums swear by MacJanitor. This is undoubtedly a sweet little utility that installs with no problem. It will do nothing until an Administrator password is entered; and to perform the "housework" simply click on each of the buttons -- daily, weekly, monthly -- or on a fourth button for "All tasks."

The version of MacJanitor I used was 1.2.1 and, like many other useful aplications, it can also be downloaded from Version Tracker. It was written by Brian R. Hill.

Like Cocktail (above) there were no conflicts even though I have Macaroni to do the same tasks. I would urge anyone without such regular maintenance software, to download one of these: if you have not done any of these tasks, there will probably be an immediate speed improvement.

CharlieX Screen Rulers
If you are doing design work -- particularly for web graphics -- trying to draw without lines, or estimating screen positions is risky. This little utility, starts by suggesting you cough up $15 or the time to activate will increase by 1 second each time, up to a maximum of 20. It does still qualify as freeware. Considering what some of the other utilities do, $15 seems a bit steep to me. It is available at Charlie X and the Version Tracker site.

Once activated, a small onscreen menu appears and this is always the top screen. No matter what you are working on, the menu is always visible unless you click the red button (the application can be reactivated from the Dock). There are several selections that can be used individually or in unison. The top item is edge, which places an unobtrusive ruler along the top of the screen and on the left giving measurements in pixels.

The "Drag" menu provides a 500 x 350 template that can be moved round the screen. Placed above an open image or a window, it allows you to measure the size (again in pixels). A slide adjusts transparency. The nest item provides a 640 x 480 template in the top left-hand corne of the screen.

The fourth menu item, designated X - Y shows a small yellow window just below the mouse cursor. This shows (in black) the exact position of the x and y coordinates of the cursor.

Finally, the "Lines" menu allows different X and Y lines to be positioned on the screen: two x and two y. These lines are movable and colours may be changed. Again, installation was straight forward and the use of this application caused no problems.

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

Back to eXtensions
Back to homepage