Saturday March 8, 2014
SeisMac from Suitable Systems can turn a 2005 or later PowerBook, MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air into a portable seismograph. SeisMac makes use of the Sudden Motion Sensor that Apple built into Mac notebooks from 2005 on. The sensor was originally devised as a method of protecting a portable Mac's drive from drops and bumps, but developers quickly made use of the sensors for apps that Apple never dreamed of. One of those apps is SeisMac, your own personal seismograph and cat detector (more on the cat detector part later).
SeisMac uses a moving strip graph to display the three-axis accelerometer's output in real time. If you combine SeisMac with SeisMaCalibrate, a free calibration app, you end up with a more accurate seismograph, one that would make an excellent educational tool, or a fun app to show your friends.
As for the bit about SeisMac also being a cat detector, once I calibrated SeisMac, I left it running on a table by a window. When I went back to look at the graph data, there were quite a few readings that looked like something kept bumping into it. I knew SeisMac would easily detect me walking nearby, but I never thought it would also detect our 15-lb cat as he sauntered around the house.
So, if you're in an active earthquake area, live near a volcano, or have cats, dogs, or kids, turn your Mac into a seismograph and have some fun.
SeisMac is free.
See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.
Friday March 7, 2014
This weekend's Mac DIY guide is all about making space; free space on your drive, that is. One of the most common problems I hear about is a Mac that has started running a bit more slowly.
Courtesy of Apple
At first it's just a bit of sluggishness, sometimes only when starting an app or booting up the Mac. After it progresses a bit, the slowness can turn to outright stalls and spinning beach balls.
There are many possible culprits, but if I had to put one of them at the top of the list, it would be free drive space, or more accurately, the lack of it. The Mac needs free space on its startup drive; the more, the merrier. Keeping files that you haven't used in years, apps that you forgot were installed, or pictures that you have three copies of isn't really helping you or your Mac.
That's why this weekend's Mac DIY is all about how to get rid of files you don't need, as well as why to get rid of them.
Let's start with the why:
Mac Performance Tips - Keep Plenty of Free Disk Space
That's the easy part. The "how" can be very time consuming; it's also a lot of work. You can go through the drive folder by folder, paying particular attention to the /Applications folder and your user account's home folder, routing out the unneeded files. My biggest source of glut tends to be in the Downloads folder, but you may find your Pictures, Music, or Movies folder to be equally stuffed.
There are a number of apps that can help you find files that are taking up space. Over the years, I've added a few of these apps to Tom's Mac Software Picks. You may find some of them helpful for cleaning up your drive.
DaisyDisk: Tom's Mac Software Pick
OmniDiskSweeper: Tom's Mac Software Pick
WhatSize: Tom's Budget Software Pick
CleanMyMac: Tom's Budget Software Pick
CleanApp 3: Tom's Budget Software Pick
Thursday March 6, 2014
Does your Mac's desktop get a bit cluttered? I don't mean a few files on the desktop, but lots of files and folders, just hanging around, some of which you probably haven't accessed since last spring.
Messy desktop courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
Well, that is sometimes a good description of my desktop. It tends to get pretty messy, until I finally decide it's time to organize the mess into something slightly less, well, messy.
The benefits of a cleanup aren't limited to how your desktop looks or how quickly you can find a file. Cleaning up your desktop also boosts your Mac's performance, especially at startup when you first log in.
Those of us with a messy desktop (go ahead, raise your hands) may have noticed that when we log into our Macs, it takes a while for the desktop to display; sometimes it takes so long that we see a spinning beach ball. Turns out there's a good reason for this delay, and an easy way to speed things up:
Keep Your Desktop Clean or Risk Getting Bogged Down
Wednesday March 5, 2014
Apple's Mac lineup for 2014 is in pretty good shape. There's a new Mac Pro and recent versions of iMacs (September, 2013), and a Retina-based MacBook Pro (October, 2013). MacBook Airs are getting on a bit; the most current model dates from last summer. And the Mac mini is absolutely ancient, hailing from October of 2012.
Courtesy of Apple
The 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro probably won't be a viable model for Apple much longer, with rumors already predicting its demise in the next round of updates. That leaves new Mac minis and MacBook Airs as the most likely to receive updates soon, possibly by WWDC in early summer, if not sooner. And of course, the rumor mill is predicting that a new Apple TV will appear in late March or sometime in April.
The only surprise I'm expecting from Apple this year, at least in the Mac product line, is a brand new Mac mini, one that will probably follow in the footsteps of the 2013 Mac Pro and eschew hard drives in favor of PCIe-based SSD storage. The Mac mini may also get a redesigned case, perhaps something circular, so it can be the Mac Pro's mini me. It may also be assembled in the Austin, TX assembly plant, right alongside its big brother, the Mac Pro.
So, that brings me to this week's poll question: