Learning foreign languages – Papapapaya

I have decided to refresh my French language skills. I already had French in school for seven years so I know the grammar and don’t want to go to class again. I just need to learn more words so I was looking for a vocabulary training app.

There are several applications that promise to help you. (Just ignore all those iPhone ports in the App Store – you know them by their names which usually are “Learn Chinese”, “Learn Inuit”, etc). I wanted something flexible and Mac like.

Finally I found Papapapaya (sic!) which is a quite powerful vocabulary trainer but easier to use than the competition (like ProVoc that I found way to complicated).

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Improve website loading time – PNG Compressor

This is a blog for non-professionals but I’m sure some of you have their own website. You probably know that search engines like google rate websites according to the keywords they contain as well as the number and quality of links that point to it. But there are some other aspects that will positively influence your position on google (some people would take a lot of money for these tips and call it “search engin optimization consulting” ūüôā ):

  • use correct html and css (validate with the w3c validator)
  • don’t use frames and redirections
  • don’t use flash because it can’t be indexed
  • keep your website loading times as low as possible
Actually everthing will raise your website score that your human readers would  find useful, too.
Improving page load times is espacially a matter of image sizes. Always use image files that have exactly the size in which they are displayed (not bigger) and compress jpg files as strong as it still looks good.
If you use png images on your site you should use a png compressor. Just a week ago a new png compressor for Mac was release in the Mac App Store called “PNG Compressor”. It is only $1.99 (current discount offer) ¬†and is very easy to use.
Just drag your images (or your entire website folder) on the App and it will amazingly fast compress all pngs.
You will be surprised that you can still compress them between 20-40%. I especially like the option to automatically replace the original images. So converting a complete website only needs one drag & drop action.
Of course there are other tools for png compression, too, and some are even free. Anyway they are not as easy and clean and some don’t presever the image quality so I won’t mention them here.
Product: PNG Compressor
Price:¬†$1.99 (‚ā¨1.59) current offer – will probably rise
Requirements: Mac OS 10.6.6 (Mac App Store)
Publisher: Shpakovski

Self Defense – Sophos Anti-Virus

I’ve been really busy these days so posts were a bit sparse, but I’m back again.

One reason why we use a Mac is that it is very secure and there are only a handful of viruses. But Apple does not take security very serious and there a lots of open holes in the system as well as in Safari and QuickTime. So if you want to be really safe you should use a virus scanner. And maybe you want to protect your Windows using friends from passing on windows-viruses with forwarded mail or USB-Sticks.

There are several free virus scanners available one is ClamXav that is open source but not updated so often.  Another is the lite version of VirusBarrier that is available from the AppStore. But this is very stripped down, though the full version is said to be quite good.

I’ve been using Sophos Anti-Virus for a while now and I’m very satisfied. It’s free and it runs in the menu bar without annoying you. It does not take up much RAM and does not slow down your system. Yet it does work and for instance found a windows virus on my friends USB-Stick when he plugged it into my Mac.

Anti-Virus not the most exciting topic so I keep it short: Sophos is small, simple, free and it works. If you are a bit paranoid or just have to use anti-virus (like in closed working networks) you should give it a try.

Product: Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition
Price: Free
Requirements: Mac OS 10.4
Publisher: Sophos

PPC support dropped – XCode 4

IBM PowerPC 750CXe, 533 MHz

Image via Wikipedia

Some weeks ago Apple released XCode 4, the newest version of their development tool. This is a quit normal an unexciting news. But quietly and mostly unnoticed Apple removed PPC (G3, G4, G5 processors) support from their developer tools.

That means the without having a separate machine running an older version of XCode developers can no longer compile their products for use on PowerPC Macs. So probably most developers (especially independent and freeware developers) will drop PPC support with upcoming versions.

To be fair, Apple introduced the Intel processors in 2006 therefore all remaining PPC Macs are at least 5 years old which is very old for a computer. And as you know since the release of Snow Leopard all new Apple Products require Intel anyway.

If you are still a proud owner of a G4 or G5 Mac, it is now time to get a new MacBook or wait some weeks for the rumored new iMacs (via: macrumors.com) and MacBook Airs (via electronista.com).

Easily edit audio – Macsome Audio Editor Review

Sometimes you need to edit audio files like when you want to split a recording from your iPhone or if you have some digital copies of your old vinyl records.

Macsome has several audio applications for all purposes like copying from your iPod, conversion of different formats or recording audio. I want to tell you about two products that are free: Audio Editor and Audio Splitter.

Audio Editor shows you the wave form of any audio file and allows you to crop or delete certain parts. You can also add fade in and out effects. This is usefull if you want to trim a recording.

Audio Splitter can split any audio file into several parts. You can either specify the length of the parts or the number of parts you want to get.¬†Unfortunately¬†there is no option to automatically split at silent locations so you can’t automatically split your old Beatles vinyl recording…

Anyway both tools are free and fine for quick and dirty editing. I do audio editing only about twice a year it’s not worth it but if you if you need something more professional you might want to try out ¬†Sound Studio (‚ā¨45) or Amadeus Pro ($40).

 

Product: Audio Editor / Splitter
Price: Free
Requirements: Mac OS 10.4 (Editor) Mac OS 10.5 (Splitter)
Publisher: Macsome

How to format a USB-Stick – exFAT

Quit possible that you own a USB-Stick (or USB-Hard-Drive) that is 4GB or larger (8GB seems to be standard now,right?).

If you’re not a nerd you probably just used it out of the box. By default all USB-Sticks are formatted as FAT (MS-DOS default) so they work on Windows, Mac and Linux. Yet you might know that there are different types of disk formats. There is also NTFS, (Windows default / does not work on Mac) and there is HFS+ which is the default for Mac OS X.

FAT is by far the oldest file system and has some weaknesses:

  • you can’t put any files larger than 4GB on a FAT disk
  • disks size is limitted to 2TB
  • you can easily lose your data (see footnote)

So maybe you would like to change the file system on your stick to something more modern. But what? Here what I do:

If you use your USB-stick only on Macs you will want to reformat it to HFS+ which allows (virtually) unlimited file sizes, longer file names and some Mac specific things. And it is also much saver in terms of data loss (see footnote).

If you use your stick also on Windows machines running XP SP2, Vista SP1 or Windows 7 you can use the very new file system exFAT. Unfortunately exFAT is only supported on Mac OS 10.6.5 and later. exFAT is very similar to FAT but allows larger file sizes and larger disks (and some other stuff).

So you wonder how to reformat a disk? Quite easy:
In your Applications folder there is a Folder “Utilities” and here you find a App called “Disk Utility”. Open it and you see something like this:

To reformat a disk select it and click the erase tab. Here you can set the disk name and the file system. If you’re ready click “Erase”. That’s it. But make sure you’re not deleting important data. Backup, backup and backup!

—————–
Footnote for the technical¬†smart-ass: Why is FAT less secure than others? In short words: HFS+ and NTFS keep track of the changes you make and can recover if an error occurs. FAT and exFAT cannot. If you’re interested in this I can recommend the wikipedia articles. If you’re really interested have a look at the book “Modern Operating Systems” by Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Here we come – Twitter

Just want to let you know:

SmilingMac is now on Twitter, too.

Follow me on http://twitter.com/SmilingMacBlog

I will post much more twitter messages than blog entries. So make sure to follow me if you want to get the full spectrum of Mac Software Reviews (even the not so noteworthy ones and the full news about crap-ware ūüôā )

By the way: you might want to know what Twitter Client I’m using. It’s the official “Twitter”. I like the design and actually I’m new to this. So if you have any recommendation about better alternatives, leave a comment…

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