Back in the dark days of Macintosh Computer circa System 7.5.5 (were talking 1997 or so and, ok, the days weren’t that dark, it just sounds romantic) – if you needed a bit of software that does a very specific thing, an applet, if you will, you could find it, and use it, for $10. Or $20. Or $35. But usually never for free. It could be the most mundane of tasks. If you want Oscar the Grouch the come out of the trash can and sing a song when you delete files, you needed to fork over the cash. Seemed as if everybody had their hand out on your way to Mac nirvana back in the day. I understand the need to make money and earn a living off of your talents, but sometimes you were paying cash so you could mimic the built in features of Windows. Silly. The days were, now that I think about it, actually kind of, sort of darkish – romance be damned.
9 years later. Count them on your hand. 9. Comes after 8. The Mac OS is X + 4 + .7 and I can get some real work done without the outlay of cash. All the tools that should be a part of the operating system are a part of OS X. And there is a plethora, a cornucopia, a bunch, a helluvalot of free software out there.
I guess I should be thanking you, Mr. Programmer, because without you, nothing happens. The blue box that is my Macintosh can hold a door open or I can put my feet up in it, but not much else. And I should thank you , Mr. Open Source Idealist, who thinks that giving away your programming efforts would change the world. You really have. Don’t kid yourself. Thank you. Not only are computers cheaper but also what they can accomplish is now easy to get at with smallish funds. And I am cheap.
In 5 months on the new old Mac, I have already amassed a collection of applets and applications for audio, video, podcasting, boring office garbage, and better websurfing. To be honest, if you use a Mac, you have probably heard about some or most of these, but my hope is that you have not run across all of them, that way the time you spent reading this instead of looking for gurley pictures on the internet is not wasted. If you think there is nothing to see here and you would like to get to those pictures now, here is a link.
Also, I will put a big “Duh” next to the ones you should and probably do already know about, though there reasons why they are worth repeating. Again. And again. And…
Max – Max is an application for converting audio from one format to another. Works with CDs as well. If you want to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless to Monkey Audio to MP3 to AAC to WAV, you can.
Senuti – If you need to transfer music from your iPod back to your Mac – Bamo! This is the ticket.
Audacity – Free open source software for recording and editing audio. I would have given up a toe to have this program 9 years ago. Free. Easy to learn. Powerful.
Ardour – Ardour is a digital audio workstation (DAW). You can use it to record, edit and mix multi-track audio. This guy is deep and powerful. It takes some time to wrap you head around, but if you are a starving musician, devote some time to it and it will payoff in a big way. You can always go back to Garage Band.
Thunderbird – Duh. Email Program. It reminds me of Eudora circa version 3, which I really liked. Yes you have Mail on the Mac, but you have other options now, too.
Firefox – Duh. Fat ole Duh. But it is nice to float from OS to OS and still have a only one web browser interface to remember.
And now small rant…
(Note to Macintosh Internet Explorer users: Stop! Now! Please. If you are on a Mac and use IE bring yourself 4 years into the future and use Firefox or Safari or Opera or Camino. Pretty please. Pages will stop breaking. You will happier and your children will love you more.)
(Note to Windows Internet Explorer Users: Stop! Now! Please use Firefox. It is safer because it is dumber, meaning it does not have access to the deep internals of your system like IE does. I realize that there may be some of you who need to use IE because of your bank or some specialized application that only works with IE – Use IE when you have too and use Firefox – or something else – the rest of the time.)
(Note to Developers of Internet Explorer Only Applications: Stop! Now! Please. Go get a doughnut.)
…back to the list.
Optimized Firefox (Deer Park) – If you have an older Mac have a look at this version of Firefox. It definitely runs faster on older Macs. And the price is right.
Flock – A “hacked” Firefox that can share photos, browse the web and makes it much easier to make blog posts. It is also pretty. Nice work, flock team.
HandBreak – DVD to MPEG-4 ripper/converter. Handy for DVD backup and iPod video.
iSquint – iSquint is an iPod video conversion app for Mac OS X.
MPlayer – Video player. Plays most anything.
VLC – Video player on steroids. Plays most anything and makes video streams from computer to computer. Works great on older machines.
Avid Free DV – DV Video editor. I can’t actually run this program because my Mac does not have enough memory or power, but it is made by Avid and Avid has been making professional video editing suites for years.
And et. al:
Skype – Duh. Big freaking Duh.
TextWrangler – TextWrangler is a general purpose text editor. If you design for the web it is a cheapo no brainer.
OpenOffice – OpenOffice.org is an office suite and an open-source project. “Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute.” To buy from Microsoft or not? Duh.
And True Geek: (cover your eyes mom)
HamachiX – Hamachi is the most interesting virtual private networking concept to come about since, well, virtual private networking. Terribly secure and easy to set up. But if you are looking for an alternative VPN solution, listen to this from this.
I will probably have more later, but until then, the march of progress continues. To the future!