26 Oct 2007 pipeman   » (Journeyer)

Mac essentials

A friend of mine has been bugging me to compile a list of Mac software so that he can start using his own Mac properly. So I thought I'll just jot down a few programs that I find make life with Mac bearable, in no particular order.

  • Adium X is the most elegant instant messaging software ever. Comes with Growl integration, of course.
  • For web browsing, Safari 3 is very usable and has all the essential features I need including tabbed browsing and type-as-you-find (Mac stylee) plus some other neat goodies such as a sweet DOM inspector and universally resizable text fields (so that I don't have to put up with Advogatos very very small textarea for writing this blog post), although I still have Firefox lying around for stupid sites that won't work with Safari (Gmail's chat, for example).
  • For Safari: Inquisitor turns the Safari search field into a real-time search/suggestion thingy
  • Also for Safari, be sure to install GrowlSafari to get Growl integration with Safari. This, for example, lets me have important RSS feeds in the bookmark bar, and get Growl notifications when they are updated
  • VLC for watching videos
  • QuickTime XviD Component - so that you can watch those downl^H^H^H^H^Hmovies ripped from legally obtained DVDs, in Front Row (tip: Front Row follows symlinks; so if you download your movies to a location - say /Volumes/BigDisk - other than ~/Movies, just ln -s /Volumes/BigDisk ~/Movies/ and you'll be able to navigate to them in Front Row)
  • On the same theme, you'll also most likely need A52Codec to get some audio stimuli from those movies as well
  • For BitTorrent, I use Azureus (with the classic UI). Yes, it is a resource hog, but it is also very feature-rich. In Azureus, I use the plugin RSSFeed Scanner to subscribe to RSS feeds with interesting torrents, so it will generally download everything I'm interested in automatically.
  • QuickSilver is another integral part of any modern Mac. It lets you launch applications with just Ctrl- Space and the first few letters of the application name. Sleek and handy. It can also do a gazillion of other things that I've never bothered to learn about.
  • Growl is one of these tiny additions that just extends OS X in a natural way. In itself it doesn't do much, but it gives other applications a method of giving notifications of important events in an elegant way.
  • If you like me use last.fm a lot, then you will want iScrobbler, that is a bit more lightweight than the official last.fm client. Also, it gives you neat Growl integration of iTunes
  • For the UNIX and Linux inclined, there is of course a whole world of good stuff. A good start is to install the X11 application that comes with Mac OS X, and then install Fink or MacPorts (personally, I prefer Fink because of apt-get goodness).
  • Google Earth is a good time waster (but why isn't there a full screen mode?)
  • For coding I use Aquamacs Emacs - however, since I moved over from my old PPC Mac Mini a new Intel iMac, it refuses to shut down properly, so I have to kill -9 it manually. I have yet to investigate it, though, since normally, once I launch Emacs, it stays up until it's time to reboot the computer some week later.
  • To keep track of my computer resource usage, I use MenuMeters
  • To keep track of my computer's IP adress, I use DynDNS and the corresponding DynDNS Dashboard widget
  • For backup, I've used Jungle Disk and Amazon S3, although I am currently considering other options due to a few bugs in the exclusion logic in the Jungle Disk backup feature

That was the ones I could come up with from the top of my head. Well, naturally I have lots of other programs installed (hundreds of them being regular Unix tools coming from Fink such as ethereal, nmap and tcpdump for network monitoring and troubleshooting), but these are the most important ones. The only game I play is basically the old Command & Conquer Generals, which Aspyr was nice enough to release an Intel update to, so it plays nicely also on my new iMac. Most of the time I spend in OS X's own Terminal application, running irssi or messing around with shell scripts or other coding stuff (another tip: command-double click on a URL in Terminal opens it in a browser).

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