Poetry for Macs: Code Poetry

By Graham K. Rogers

I may be an English Lit. graduate, but I have little time for reading anything other than technical works these days. However, we do understand and use terms like "poetic justice" or "poetry in motion". Good code can also read beautifully to those who understand.

Enter Code Poetry, which has a number of nice little Mac utilities. I came across one a few weeks ago while going through the Apple forums. That prompted me to look at all the Mac software this company provides, much of it for free.

Password Assistant
We were taught never to write down passwords: always remember them for the sake of security. However, people who use passwords (many still do not) have one or two that they recycle. These are easy to remember and to crack. I now use passwords with random characters which I write down and lock away.

Have you ever tried to make up a random password? Sit down at the keyboard and try. This is why I like Apple's own Password Assistant as it can create a number of really strong passwords, from memorable to FIPS-181 compliant (a US Federal standard). However, it is so difficult to access this utility: we need to enter the Accounts preference pane and start the "Change Password" procedure.

password panel password panel

Code Poetry's free utility, also called Password Assistant circumvents that process and activates the assitant with a one-click operation. If it is easier to access that password utility, then users might be more inclined to use it, thus improving their security.

One of the many nice touches about OS X has been the ability, right from the start to create a PDF document with no additional software. Like the Password Assistant, however, this has meant going through a series of steps (with the Print menu) to do this.

The Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is incorporated into OS X, indeed Apple recently bought this out from Easy Software. It is possible to access the administration pages for CUPS on a Mac with OS X by entering into a browser and administration can be run from there.

CUPS panel installing printers

Code Poetry have a free utility that uses CUPS to print a PDF directly which saves a couple of steps once installed. The download creates a package and this installs the necessary software, but to activate, we must use the Printer Setup Utility and "Add" a printer.

installed printers print panel

Once that is done, CUPS-PDF appears in the printer list and print creates the file in a new folder on the desktop. If you work with keystrokes, as a lot of Mac users tend to, this is a two-command operation (command + P, then Enter) rather than using the mouse and accessing a button in the print panel. If a user creates a lot of pdf files, this will save time.

Text Reader
Text reader icon One of the Services listed in an application' menu is Speech. Highlight some text and the selected system voice will read it out. If you are a person in a hurry, you may want to take that with you. For example, I know a doctor who used to listen to CDs of conferences on his way to work, and the editor listens to voice podcasts on Bangkok's Skytrain.

In the past I have used a small program, iSpeakIt, from Michael Zapp to put text onto my iPod, but this now comes in a $45 package with iPDA and iPresent It, which I have not tried. An advantage, however, is that it will wplit longer text into chapters and save as separate sound files.

Code Poetry's free Text reader saves a file in AIFF format. This can either be as a sound file on the desktop, or directly into iTunes (when the original desktop AIFF file is deleted). As an example, the text up to the start of this paragraph was 10.9MB, although when I converted it to MP3, that file was reduced to just under 1MB. The voice itself, being computer-generated, is a little jerky and it takes careful selection to decide on the correct input and speed. OS X Leopard has improved voice output and this will smooth out some of the jerkiness associated with such files.

Also currently listed on the Code Poetry site is Notae 2, a utility that is useful for organizing information and has several ways to export: to files (the data is not locked to the application); to the iPod as plain text files to take advantage of the (perhaps underused) Notes facility; and to audio, as an AIFF file either to the desktop or direct to iTunes. As this is a $29 download, I am saving this for a longer look.

There is also a $5 utility called Launchd Editor that uses a Unix utility now installed with OS X 10.4 Tiger. This also requires a more careful examination.

Made on Mac

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