Category: Macs

It’s no secret that I’m a Mac fan; after all, on a website with the tagline Macs and more you’d think it’s pretty obvious. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use Windows at all, or that I despise it completely. For some jobs, I need to use Windows, often because of software requirements. Mostly this involves work with my engineering class, but sometimes it’s smaller programs that just aren’t available anywhere else.

After using Windows for a while, then returning to OS X, I have found a number of things that I truly miss when using software from Redmond.
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Adium is a terrific instant messaging program that I have talked about before. It offers robust features, reliability and a dedicated developer base that strives to make it the best possible IM program available.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the program is the large group of people who submit Xtras, little collections of dock icons, soundsets, Applescripts and message styles that add functionality. Even I got into the action, and here is a collection of the Xtras I have submitted.
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Automator is an under-rated application that shipped with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. It allows mere mortals to create small applications that simplify repetitive tasks; kind of like your own personal robot. Many people haven’t yet embraced the full potential of Automator, so here I present a few simple Automator workflows you may use. This is just a tip of the iceberg, of course, and you can find many more workflows at places like Automator World.

To use any workflow, download the .zip file and open with Automator (found in the Applications folder).
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Email may be a necessary evil. With so many messages being sent on a daily basis, it becomes very hard to get away from it all. But what if you really do need to maintain communication with people while you’re gone?

Setting up an auto reply is an easy way of notifying people that you’re gone, and when you’ll be returning. It can also be done in 3 main steps.

  1. Have the computer turn on on a regular basis.
  2. Have Mail open after startup.
  3. Configure Mail to send replies to emails you accept.

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After 3 years of using a D-Link wired router and Apple Airport Express to provide wireless network access in my house, I decided to upgrade to an Apple Airport Extreme with Gigabit. I thought that it was time to move into the future with a router that provides Wireless Draft N speed, along with compatibility for Wireless a, b and g.

Wireless Draft N is the new upcoming wireless standard. While not officially standardized, it is generally compatible with products from the same vendor. It has the ability to transfer data at a speed of 300 MB/s versus B’s 11 MB/s and G’s 54 MB/s. In the real world, though, transfer rates are typically less.

Receiving data from 10/100 Ethernet

Sending data to Gigabit Ethernet

The images on the left show iStat Nano’s display of network transfer speed. On the top is my MacBook receiving data from a Windows computer connected via 100 Mbps Ethernet. My MacBook is 4 feet from the Airport Extreme base station. On the bottom is my computer transferring to an iMac wired with Gigabit Ethernet from the same location. Big difference (remember that these are Mbps, so the actual megabyte speed is Mbps * 8 = 56 MB/s and 96 Mb/s, respectively).

The Airport Extreme also brings another advantage in that it can communicate using the 5 GHz band, as opposed to the 2.4 GHz used by everything from microwave ovens to cordless phones. This allows the router to have farther range and greater throughput, though your hardware will need to support it. All Core 2 Duo Macs have N capabilities, but you will need to upgrade to Leopard or purchase the $2 enabler.

Setting up this system is surprisingly simple, compared to the other routers I have set up in the past. The Airport Utility provides all the necessary data in an organized way, as opposed to many web based setup utilities.

Overall, this router offers a solid choice for future-proofing your wireless network. Through successive firmware updates, it will support the final N standard used by many other manufacturers.
[tags]Mac OS X, MacBook, Airport, Airport Extreme, gigabit, network[/tags]