Yep, another MacHeist

MacHeist 3 is here.

There’s a lot of controversy about the pros and cons (for developers of Mac software) about steeply discounted bundles of Mac applications, and MacHeist is at the core of it. The controversy revolves around what these kind of steeply-discounted bundles portend for third-party Mac developers. Will it ruin their ability to make a decent profit? Will it kill or maim third party development? Well, it’s the third year of the MacHeist bundle, and I say the developers know well what they’re getting in to. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

What we, users of Mac apps, need to know is that bundles are great deals, and MacHeist is hard to pass up. This year, I initially thought I’d pass on MacHeist, but I ended up purchasing it…even though I had no interest in many of the apps. Why? Because I could re-gift the ones I didn’t want to my friends, and the few I did want justified the relatively small price. The price, by the way, is $39 for over $600 of apps, and if all applications are ‘unlocked’ (meaning they sell enough bundles) three more apps will be included to raise the total value to $950. Twenty-five percent of each bundle purchase goes to charity, which is an added incentive and a nice touch.

I decided to buy this bundle for Wiretap Studio so I could try this out as a replacement for my much-appreciated, but aging license of Audio Hijack Pro. What appeals to me about Wiretap is a much more simple interface and what looks to be a better (again, simpler) way to hijack audio. I also decided to spring for the bundle to get a Kinemac license. It looks like a promising app to create nice 3D animations, and at a retail price of $300, it’s software that I wouldn’t otherwise try.

Finally, I’m interested in Espresso 1.0 from MacRabbit, creator of my much-loved CSSEdit. I use TextMate, but I have to say…there haven’t been many updates over the past few years. Espresso, on the other hand, seems poised to mature rapidly. Most people say it’s a Panic Coda competitor, which I don’t use. I do, however, use Panic’s Transmit. If Espresso competently handles the chores that I rely on with TextMate and Transmit, then I’m all for it. I’m counting on the eventual unlocking of this app, I should add. It’s the last app in the bundle, and I’m not clear what it’ll take get unlocked. Still, every bundle I’ve purchased in the past has reached sale levels that permit unlocking of all apps, so I’m somewhat confident MacHeist will reach that goal. If not, I’m still content. It’s still a good deal.

P.S. After I bought the bundle, I was pleasantly surprised by two apps. I like the included game ‘World of Goo.’ It’s a lot fun and has great style. And I’m pleased with LittleSnapper, a screen capture utility from the makers of RapidWeaver, a great web development tool. As a user of SnapNDrag and Skitch for capturing and manipulating screenshots, I thought I wouldn’t get much from LittleSnapper. But I like it. I like the library management, the clean and professional look of added text and other accoutrements (including callouts) that I can easily add to screenshots, and the ability to blur parts of my screenshots. It’s still early in my testing phase, but this appears to be a promising tool that might just displace SnapNDrag and Skitch.

Mac Security

Just came across an interesting article on MacWorld. Here’s an excerpt:

Two well-known Mac hackers are updating a widely used hacking toolkit, making it easier to take control of a Macintosh computer…Although there are still many more exploits available for Windows software than for Macs, the new payload code means there is now “more or less the same functionality if you want to target a Mac box or a Windows box.”

No need to get too worried here, but it’s a good reminder that we are not immune from the problems that plague Windows users. And, as this article suggests, it may be only a matter of time before we face similar problems.

There’s a lot of brouhaha over the necessity of installing Mac antivirus software. I didn’t run AV software on the Mac for a long, long time, but now I do. Why? It doesn’t cost me anything. It only slows down system performance a tiny bit. And it makes me feel better. Here’s a full rundown of the steps I take to ensure a basic level of security:

I’ve used ClamXav (free) in the past and just started using iAntiVirus (free for noncommercial use) in the hopes that it’s a bit speedier. It’s not a bad idea to run an AV package, if only to prevent transmission of viruses to colleagues on Windows.

I think a good password vault is essential. The excellent 1Password is my choice. It generates complex passwords, ‘remembers’ them, and protects against phishing and keylogging.

I also use LittleSnitch to control and monitor outbound network traffic. I use this in the interest of privacy, but it will alert me if any unknown malware on my machine tries to phone home.

Next, I’ve set up my Linksys router with a kick-ass password and have set it to only accept connections from known MAC addresses that I’ve manually added (household Macs, my iPhone, my wife’s iPod Touch).

Finally, I use Apple’s built-in Firewall protection. It’s a good idea to make sure it’s turned on (go to System Preferences > Security > Firewall. Choose ‘Set access for specific services and applications.’ Also, I have both boxes checked in the ‘Advanced…’ preferences to enable logging and stealth mode). I also use NoobProof. Taken together, this establishes application and network firewall protection. See this article for more background on that.

If anyone has an alternative or better set-up, please share.

As an aside, if you use FinalCut Studio and keep getting an annoying prompt to allow incoming net traffic from ‘qmasterd‘ every time you boot (even though you’ve already added it to the ‘allowed’ list), try adding /Applications/Utilities/Batch Monitor to your list of applications that allow incoming connections. To do this, command+shift+g to paste in the file location.

OmniWeb is now free

OmniWeb is now a free browser. I’m a huge fan. I purchased OmniWeb long ago to take advantage of this browsers powerful features. It used to cost $15, but now cost nothing as of last Wednesday.

There are many features of this browser that make it special.

OmniWeb can manually store a set of pages in a ‘workspace’ so that you can easily recall them later. For instance, I have created a named workspace with five sites I use for work; a named workspace with sites related to house hunting; and named workspaces for two different projects I’m currently researching. Handy.

It also displays thumbnail previews of open pages in a fly-out window, which is a nice way to visually navigate between sites.

The best part is that it allows you to save unique settings for individual domains. This is useful for anyone, but particularly useful in terms of accessibility. My father-in-law, for example, has bad eyesight and is not computer saavy. So I set him up with an OmniWeb workspace. All he has to do is click on his workspace, and all his favorite financial sites load. For each site, I used OW’s per-domain settings to boost text size to the largest settings possible without breaking each respective site. I also set up each of his favorite sites to open at a particular place on the page so he doesn’t have to scroll around to get to the sections he most wants to read. And I set per-site ad blocking: this feature is fine-grained enough to select blocking of known ad sizes, pop-ups, third-party sites, and/or blocked URLs. OmniWeb allows you to optimize an individual domain so you get only what you really want to see. Again, handy.

There’s a whole lot I like about OmniWeb, so I was glad to read that the browser will continue to be updated by OmniGroup (at least through version 6.0 — it’s now at 5.9). I’d like to see it go open source some day, but that’s not going to happen in the short term. By the way, the browser runs on WebKit, the same engine used by Safari.

The Omni Group also made several other apps free last week, including the screen effects and presentation tool OmniDazzle, the memory optimization tool OmniObjectMeter, and the disk cleanup tool OmniDiskSweeper.

Xyle scope now free

Xyle scope for free. Not sure when this happened. Used to cost $20. I’m guessing this choice has a lot to do with the great success of Things. I wrote about Xyle scope in Jan. 2008. My conclusion then:

I almost bought this application but, in the end, I decided to stick with two free tools that perform most of the same feats as Xyle, even though I think they are much less elegant. I use Firefox when I’m working on websites, and have grown to rely on Chris Pederick’s Web Developer and Joe Hewitt’s Firebug.

I’m definitely adding Xyle scope to my toolbox now.