Devour

YouTube is great as is Vimeo and all the other video sites on the web, but finding the good stuff in amongst the dross isn’t easy. For example, 25 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute so what chance have you got? That’s where Devour steps in. They hand pick what they class as the best videos of the day and link to them from their site.

The site is simple to use – visit, click on a screenshot and watch the video. Customisation is limited in that you can change the background although in future you can tweak the layout to support lists or a full screen grid. All video’s selected are in HD too. This was an instant bookmark for me, not only on my desktop, but on the iPad and iPhone as all video’s work on iOS devices too. Awesome.

Quix

Some of our recent picks have been for online services that make use of bookmarklets. Google Reader, Boxee, ZooTools, Readability and Instapaper all make use of bookmarklets. This is all well and good but my browser bar is struggling under the weight of so many links. Thats where Quix step’s in.

Quix is an extensible bookmarklet. What’s that? It’s a bookmarklet (another one!) that allows you quick access to common internet commands and also allows you to extend it, adding in commands that you use often. So using Quix i remove many of the bookmarklets that I use day to day and access them via keyboard shortcuts. So how does it work.

At the most simple level, visit the Quix website, drag the Quix bookmarklet to your browser bar and your good to go. Want to do a google search for IMAX glasgow. Launch Quix and type:

g imax glasgow

Boom. A google search for IMAX and Glasgow will be run. I see that Avatar is on. To get some info Quix can help again

imdb Avatar

I now have the IMDB page for Avatar. This time I ran the search with a space in front of the command. This opened the search in a new tab in Safari. I want to save that page for reading later. Open Quix and type

evernote

The current page is saved into Evernote. The list of commands on the Quix site shows a full list of all the sites and services supported. It’s extensive and ever growing. One awkward step is launching the Quix bookmarklet. Having to select it with a mouse and then typing feels a bit sluggish. On Safari, there is a keyboard shortcut to launch shortcuts on the bookmark bar, so clicking CMD+1 will launch Quix if it’s the first bookmark in the bar. Very nice. Chrome and Firefox via an extension allow for shortcuts to launch Quix as well – see the Quix website on how to setup each browser.

So far so good. It’s easy to see what a time and space saver Quix can be. The feature I like the most though is the ability to add your own commands. The syntax page details how to add your commands but basically you create a text file that is hosted somewhere – Dropbox, MobileMe or your own webspace for example. You then add commands in the format “shortcut executable description”. The executable can make use of the following replacement tokens:

%s Replaced by any search terms that were entered after the command and / or any text that was selected when the command was issued. There’s a special case of this: %s_, this does the same except that it replaces spaces with underscores ( _ ) instead of plus signs, this is used in the Wikipedia command in the example file.
%r Replaced by the URL you were on when the command was issued.%rsReplaced by a bit.ly shortened version of the URL you were on when the command was issued.
%d Replaced by the domain you were on when the command was issued.
%t Replaced by the title of the page you were on when the command was issued.

So its very easy to add commands. Before you can use the commands you need to create a new bookmarklet that calls your custom file – visit the extend page to create the new bookmarklet. That’s it – your good to go. One issue I did have is that it can take a while for the bookmarklet to pick up new commands added to your custom file. To get around this open Quix and type ‘debug’ which clears the cache and reloads the custom file.

If your interested in my custom command, it can be found on Github. This is a fork of Merlin Mann’s original file which contained some very useful commands.

Hopefully you’ll read this an install Quix as it is incredibly useful especially when you start to customise what it can do. if your still in doubt, watch the screencast below demoing Quix from the developer himself.

An introduction to Quix from Joost de Valk on Vimeo.

Unison 2

When I moved to the Mac platform a few years ago one area of software that wasn’t well supported was newsgroup readers. There was a few but the one that stood out was Unison from Panic Software. Early in January they announced Unison 2 and I was surprised – what could they really do to justify an upgrade?

The first aspect they have addressed is making the textual world of newsgroups far more visual. Instead of seeing 1000’s of groups to browse with you can select a group o groups via the Directory. This then lists all music groups for example or all Mac groups. You can then a select a group and Unison will download the latest headers for you to browse and read. You can also subscribe to a group and each time you launch Unison it will update the groups with the latest content.

You can also use All Groups to step through the different groups available or just use the search facility. Type in a search string and all groups that match the string will be returned. Easy and fast. Newsgroups are really just lots of text messages but have been used for years to carry binary files as well. If you want to use newsgroups as a messaging platform then Unison helps with good support for threaded messages, messages updated on launching the app and a clean, clear interface. You can also reply in HTML (boo) or plain text (yah!) to messages so all formatting options should be covered.

Despite the nice messaging features most people will want to download from binary groups and Unison 2 has some nice upgrades in that area. First of all, browsing group messages will actually display pictures and music files directly in Unison rather than seeing 10’s or 100’s of text messages. You can even play the music from within Unison but to be honest this isn’t the best way of using Unison. It supports NZB files which makes downloading files as easy as using a search engine. NZB is an xml based file that groups together message ID’s for a particular file or set of files. So if I wanted to download the latest episode of Lost, instead of searching for and selecting 1000’s of messages I search for and download one NZB file which unison use’s to grab the correct messages.

Once the messages have been downloaded, Unison 2 will now extract the files, use PAR files to repair any broken files and then clean up the PAR and ZIP/RAR files when the file has been extracted. No need for any helper app’s as Unison does it all. Another new feature is the Search Browser which connects to popular NZB search engines and allows you to search and download NXB files form within Unison rather than an external browser or search tool. You can customise the search engines used so if you have a favourite site or paid for access to one of the private search engines then you can use it as well.

In use I’ve found it to be fast and reliable and the new features have really added to the usability of the application. Unison 2 costs $29 for one licence or $18 for an upgrade form version 1. I think that’s a bargain for the functionality you get in return. If you are a heavy binary newsgroup user then another option is SABnzdb which is a cross platform binary newsgroup reader that doesn’t have a GUI but once setup is very powerful and offers a number of scriptable and customisable features but for my occasional toe dipping into newsgroups, Unison 2 is my tool of choice.

Readability

I read much of my web content in Google reader. However for an interesting or longer article I still prefer to click through to the articles website and read it in situ, mostly to read through any associated comments or make my own. More and more sites though are cluttered with links to other articles, tag clouds and adverts. Especially adverts that flash, move and distract from the actual article content. Step forward Readability. A summarised on their website:

Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you are reading.

To setup Readability, visit the website and select a Style, Size and Margin. Then drag the bookmarklet to your browser bar. When your on a website and the clutter is distracting click on Readability. Take this TUAW article for example.

Small text, distractions in the right hand column. One click with Readability and it’s clutter be gone.

I now have a clear distraction free article with images preserved. Much easier to read. The buttons to the left hand side allow me to swap back to the true website view of the article, and taking advantage of the cleaner page, I can print the article or e-mail the article on to friends and colleagues without the normal distracting content being e-mailed at the same time.

Another use of Readability is when it comes to note taking. I capture a lot of web content in Evernote for future reference. By default the snippet tool can capture a whole page or selected text. I prefer to use a bookmarklet that first sets up a Readability view of a web page and then invokes the Evernote web clipper to capture the article and sync it to my Evernote account. The result is a far cleaner set of notes.

If you want a bookmarklet to do both then take a look at this Evernote forum post. I hope you find Readability as useful as I do – certainly makes for a more readable web.

AppZapper 2


Appzapper 2 is my pick this week and is an uninstaller application for Mac OS X 10.6, with a number of extra features that make it well worth a look.
There are a number of other uninstallers available for OS X. I’ve been using the excellent AppCleaner on my mac for some time now, and when such a good utility is available for free why would anyone buy Appzapper at $12.95 ?
Appzapper is a lovely looking app, with a simple switch to toggle between the basic initial view to the main view.

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It not only shows all your installed applications, but has options to show only those apps that haven’t been used for a selected time period. Very handy when you’re trying to decide if you should keep an app or just zap it with the extremely satisfying sound effect. In addition to applications, Appzapper also tracks widgets, preference panes and plugins.

For me though, the great new feature in version 2 is the “My Apps…” window.

This is where you can drag apps onto the window, click the image and enter the licence info on the back. It would be great if you could import this info from a file as it can be a bit tedious to go through all your apps manually, and I did have some issues with some strange input methods for the date field, but these are minor gripes and ‘My Apps’ is an unexpected but welcome addition.

All in all it’s a great little utility.

Appzapper 2 is a free upgrade from version 1 and the Appzapper website is http://www.appzapper.com,

Dterm

One of the great things about Mac OS X from the Geek perspective, is the Terminal.app.  It’s a simple Command Line Interface that exposes the Unix like operating system underpinning the glorious eye candy which Apple are more famous for.

Your mac works perfectly well without you knowing a gnats dropping about the terminal, and Mac users unfamiliar with  *nix are often a little overawed when they first encounter it.  But many of the more technical users love the terminal and the things they can d that aren’t available to the uninitiated.

If you are a die-hard terminal lover, then you really need to download dterm from decimus.net. It’s very simply a context sensitive terminal window with the working directory set to your current window. It appears when you press a hotkey.

For a developer using a version control system like git, using Dterm this is a huge boost to productivity.