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MacEdition Pro News : January 16, 2003: An open road or a warm bed

by MacEdition Staff (feedback)

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Call it the dilemma of the middle aged: the adventure of the open road versus the warmth and security of sleeping in your own abode. After the past two weeks, a home-cooked meal and a familiar face does warm the soul. And, like every traveler who’s been away a while, there’s this small pile of mail that needs sifting and sorting and not all of it addressed to my good buddy “occupant.”

Make the world a better place

Niemeijer Consult is looking for a few people to try out the group’s latest offering in the field of assistive technology. The Dutch group is putting the finishing touches on SwitchXS, a Mac OS X utility which gives complete access to Mac OS X to people who cannot use a keyboard.

SwitchXS works with any standard Mac application and offers full mouse and keyboard emulation by means of a so-called scanning mechanism. With each click on the switch the user selects an action, such as “move the cursor up” or “type B”, from a “scanning” menu. SwitchXS has many customizable settings to allow users or therapists to adapt the application to their needs. Release of the final application is expected before the end of the first quarter.

Those interested in SwitchXS are asked to send a request to Niemeijer’s product page to be notified of updates. The beta process will also involve a survey so that the company might be able to roll in some user requests into the final product.

A bunch to beam up

Hey, somebody out there has finally figured people might want to put those shiny xServes to work and do a little heavy lifting in the big iron room of your favorite megacorp.

Macromedia Inc. brought its JRun application server platform to Mac OS X and teamed it up with a developer release of ColdFusion MX for J2EE application servers. The targeted ColdFusion release adds ColdFusion scripting and the new release allows Web developers working with Studio MX to build and test their wares on OS X.

Macromedia notes JRun is the first commercial J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition) to be brought to Mac OS X and the new version already benefits from having the software in place at over 10,000 companies worldwide.

Macromedia JRun 4 takes advantage of the power and stability of Mac OS X to deliver a fast and reliable server platform for J2EE applications. JRun 4 simplifies and speeds Java application delivery with a focus on affordability, developer productivity, and easy management and administration.

JRun is available at Macromedia’s online store for US$899. The free developer tools can be downloaded from the JRun tools page and the ColdFusion tools can be obtained from a similar page on the Macromedia site.

What price energy?

Battery conservation is a watchword for all mobile computing users, but sometimes we mere mortals might feel we sacrifice too much in the name of energy efficiency.

Freeware developer Angelo Scicolone is definitely in that camp and created SoundOn! to address an annoyance he had with his G4 PowerBook.

To save battery power, Mac OS X turns the PBG4’s speakers off after a while if no sound is played. The negative side of this is when the computer plays a sound you see the spinning rainbow cursor and have to wait for two or three seconds (while the computer waits for the speakers to be turned on) before you can continue to use the computer.

SoundOn! plays a “silence” sound every ten seconds, so that your PowerBook’s speakers will be never turned off and will be ready to play when needed, so you’ll stop waiting at every damn sound!

SoundOn! is available at Angelo’s site. The program is free, but the author is open to donations for the use of the program.

And in a more serious vein...

If you are like most Mac users these days, there’s more than one browser on your machine and quite likely there will be another half-dozen or so new builds landing on your hardware before the month’s out, if you’re a real Net surfin’ geek.

While it may warm your geekie heart to play with all this new software, you may have noticed that getting all your favorite bookmarks on those browsers is a bit of a pain. If that’s your case, then you might want to check out iLink, from SoundOn!’s author, Angelo Scicolone.

iLink automatically searches for and imports every bookmarks of any web browser you installed on your Macintosh. But iLink’s imports these bookmarks at every startup or refresh, so that they reflect the real bookmarks present in each browsers. Safari and Mozilla, for example, import Internet Explorer bookmarks once only, so that if you’ll add a bookmark to Internet Explorer it will not appear in Mozilla or Safari, but it will be available on iLink!

The utility can also be used as a floating palette where the bookmarks can be dragged to the palette and stored for use by all browsers. The shareware program carries a US$20 fee.

So, you wanna be in pictures?

Well, if free is the right price for you then you’ll want to cozy up to Avid Technology Inc. in the not-too-distant future.

The video-editing company announced it will be giving away a free DV-only version of its software. The program, Avid Free DV, will be available for both Mac OS X and Windows XP.

”Now millions of new DV camera owners, students and aspiring filmmakers can benefit from access to the same kind of editing tools used by the pros and tap into eleven generations of innovation from Avid with absolutely no risk,” said Steve Chazin, manager of product marketing for Avid Technology.

“Avid Free DV is based on the same technology used to create feature films, television shows and commercials. It’s an easy, fun, and free way to experiment with video editing before scaling up to any one of Avid’s professional editing products, which offer much more advanced capabilities within the same familiar interface.”

Avid Free DV will have support for two video tracks, four audio tracks, basic trimming and editing tools and will support up to two real-time effects. Avid clearly hopes people will use the free version of its software as a stepping stone to the company’s more full-featured software.

While the software will not be available until the middle of this year, Avid will put people on a product mailing list to keep those interested up to date on the program’s progress. Those interested should contact Avid.

Avid is using the same marketing approach that its subsidiary, Digidesign, is using with its free Pro Tools offering. About 1.4 million people have downloaded that particular piece of software from the Digidesign site.

More free stuff!

And at that price, who can blame you if you want two? Hit this link and enjoy. Whad’ya mean you wanna know about it? Sheesh! The things I gotta do to give stuff away...

Well, if you really must know, it’s a link to Granite Digital’s free offering of SMARTVue Lite, a disk utility that benchmarks hard drive performance and checks data integrity.

The free “Lite” version is intended as a sampler to the company’s SMARTVue Pro offering. The Pro product will conduct a broader range of tests of SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and reporting Technology) drives in addition to being able to custom configure one of the company’s FireWire products.

“We believe there is a lack of hard disk tools for OS X and we think SMARTVue will help fill that void. Users will especially appreciate the disk benchmarking and data integrity testing tools in SMARTVue,” said Frank Gabrielli, President of Granite Digital. “By making SMARTVue Lite available for free we think it will quickly become the de facto standard for hard disk benchmarking on OS X.”

Other radical ideas

Doubtlessly you’ve all seen various products designed to broadcast FM signals from your Mac to a stereo in order to make your iTunes collection playable anywhere in your house.

Well, a St. Louis company, RadTech, has devised a nifty little gadget that is the epitome of simplicity in that department. RadTech has a little USB dongle under development – dubbed Wavejamr – which broadcasts audio coming out of your Mac across the FM range so you can tune in to your computer-based music on your stereo. The device has the advantage of being bus-powered so the user doesn’t have to rely on batteries or have more cable spaghetti dangling out the back of their system.

RadTech hopes to have Wavejamr out to market during the second quarter of this year. Pricing has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, RadTech released a slew of accessories that are bound to catch the eye of ’Book-toting road warriors everywhere.

Its tastiest product – Ice Creme – is a repair kit which removes scuffs and scratches from iBooks, iPods, towers and monitors. The kit contains two chemical agents and application cloths to put that showroom finish back in your ’Book. The kit costs US$19.99

RadTech also released PowerSleevz, a form-fitting case for 15" PowerBooks and both 12" and 14" iBooks. The case uses a special fabric which is designed to polish the surface of a ’Book whenever it is slid into the case. Pricing on the product is tagged at US$20.

And, not to leave desktop users totally out of the picture, RadTech also released an iMac screen cover based on the PowerSleevz case. The iMac ScreensavRz has the protective power of its portable counterpart but can be compressed small enough to be squirreled away in a shot glass when not in use. It too carries a US$20 price tag.

A well-connected cabin

Those people living far away from broadband connections enjoyed by the more urbane amongst us need no longer pine for those heady download speeds and finger-snappin’ page access rates, or look on with envy at the idea of sharing a high-speed connection among two or more computers.

StarBand Network announced it will be rolling out a satellite modem with a built-in four-port switch to complement its two-way satellite service in the US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“The StarBand 480 Pro is truly plug and play,” said StarBand Sales & Marketing Vice President Howard Lossing. “With no software to load and no drivers to install, the new StarBand 480 Pro delivers a robust gateway. We think the new features, the faster speed and the added value built in to the StarBand 480 Pro make it extremely attractive to small businesses and corporate teleworkers.”

The satellite modem, built by Gilat Satellite Networks, will be offered in conjunction with StarBand’s Internet access service and will not be platform dependent. The StarBand 480 Pro will ramp up to full production during the second quarter of this year.

Unlike a lot of satellite Internet services, StarBand does not rely on a long-distance land line to handle user page requests. Access rates for StarBand range from US$49.99/month to $159.99/month

Update City

Mireth Technology updated its Net security utility NetShred X to Version 3.1, giving the permanent deletion tool compatibility with Apple’s new Safari Web browser. Anybody interested in the latest version of the US$19.99 utility can hook up with Mireth’s download page.

Smile Software added an incremental update to its Page Sender fax program, moving it to Version 2.3.1. The update fixes a watermark issue the program had when sending document via AppleScript or from Filemaker Pro. A number of minor bugs were also addressed by the update. The update can be downloaded from Smile’s downloads page.

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