Tuesday, November 25, 2008

XMind goes open source

XMind -- a powerful, Java-based mind mapping and charting application -- has been open-sourced (it's free!) with version 3.0. While it's not my absolute top pick for mind mapping, it ranks up there. I did have a license for the paid version, and I can tell you that it packs plenty of punch. It has all of the extra features I like: boundaries, relationships, summaries, notes, markers, outline view, floating topics and more, as well as intuitive keyboard navigation for rapid-fire brainstorming.
One of my favorite features was the drilldown; pressing F6 focuses in on the current topic, displaying only it and its descendants. Shift-F6 takes you back up. It's similar to MindManager's "Focus" feature, but faster (and more limited in scope). And for those who want (or need) to, just set all of the shapes to underline, turn on multiple branch colors and tapered lines and presto, you've got an honest-to-goodness Tony Buzan-style mind map ... or as close as you'll get without buying Buzan's software (which, despite it being relatively expensive and lacking in system integration, I am regularly tempted to do) or breaking out the colored pencils.
You can also create Org and Fishbone Charts with XMind. It imports FreeMind and MindManager maps as well as Marker Packages, and can export to HTML, image, Marker Package or Text. The HTML export is ... okay. FreeMind actually creates more useful HTML pages, but it works. Overall, it's great stuff, and it's exciting to see it open sourced.
So, how did software that once cost $299 end up being free? It appears to be a change in the business plan, with a subscription model for "XMind Pro" replacing retail sales. I'm a little sketchy on the details, but the Pro version seems to include online collaboration for XMind users, Gantt charts and a Presentation mode (among other features), with a range of subscription prices: $6USD for 1 user/1 month, $400USD for 10 users/1 year, and everything in the middle. It's not necessary to have a subscription, however, to use XMind. Just download a copy (or even the source code) and let the brainstorming begin. Oh, and tell your PC friends, too; like many Java apps, XMind also comes in Windows and Linux flavors.

Audacity 1.3.6 Beta [ MacOS ]

Audacity LogoOur buddies over at sister blog Download Squad gave us a heads-up this morning about a new release of Audacity, the open source, cross-platform audio recording / editing application.

Audacity 1.3.6 (Beta) for Mac has new features added by students during the Google Summer of Code 2008:
  • Support of WMA, M4A, and AC3 file formats
  • Import of audio from video files
  • On-demand loading of uncompressed files, eliminating the wait before files can be edited
  • Linked audio and label tracks, so labels move with their corresponding audio when cutting, pasting, or changing speed or tempo
  • A hierarchical plug-in grouping for built-in plugins
Experimental features include:
  • Sound activated recording
  • MIDI file import, edit, and export
As always, Audacity is free. Click here to head over to the download page, and remember that this is betaware.

Ambrosia's Uplink goes universal

Who among us didn't want to start a career in illegal computer hacking after watching the movie Wargames (and who actually did)? You can fulfill your cyber crime fantasies with Uplink, Ambrosia Software's corporate hacking game.

You play as a covert agent hired to gain information from rival companies' computers. As you go, you earn money to upgrade your own equipment, gain deeper access and more.

I only played briefly, but I had fun. Ambrosia released verison 1.6.0 earlier this week, which is a Universal Binary. Other changes include
  • Updated game content
  • Toggle fullscreen and change resolutions in-game without restarting Uplink
  • Various bug fixes and enhancements
If you like DEFCON, another Ambrosia title (we took a look at DEFCON here), you'll probably enjoy Uplink. A single license costs $25US. Uplink requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

Silverflow Quicksilver interface

Julius Eckert has made splashes at TUAW before, namely for his Bezel HUD and Showcase interfaces for Quicksilver. Now he's released a beta of his much-anticipated Silverflow interface (inspired by designer Jono). The Cover Flow thing may be played out for some, but I'm finding this interface to be both elegant and useful.
I'll admit that I've gone from a die-hard user to watching Quicksilver from the sidelines, mostly due to crashes I was experiencing with it since upgrading to Leopard. I'll also admit that I had high hopes for further development when the developers made it open source and have been a little disappointed. But Silverflow has rekindled my interest and after loading Quicksilver back up to try it out, I quickly remembered all of the extra reasons I had for preferring it to Spotlight. Whether you're a current Quicksilver user or you're in my boat as a previously rabid fan, this beta is worth checking out. Do note, though, that it is a beta and has some missing functionality and known (and possibly unknown) issues. I'm pretty enamored, nonetheless.

My Little Tank [ iPhone ]

C'mon -- you know you've always wanted to go cruising around in a tank, blasting things to pieces. Now you can have the vicarious thrill of driving a little tank around in Handmark's latest game, a scrolling-screen arcade-style blaster called My Little Tank for iPhone (click opens iTunes). It's from the wizards at Astraware, Handmark's game studio.

You have your choice of seven tank colors (that whirring sound you hear is General George Patton spinning in his grave when you choose the pink tank). You can control My Little Tank with an onscreen virtual d-pad, by swiping the screen with your finger to move the tank, and accelerometer-based directional tilt. You can listen to the built-in soundtrack, or pick your own music to enjoy while playing.

My Little Tank for iPhone will keep you busy for a while with 80 increasingly difficult missions, five different enemy tank types, and six different power-ups to help you in your battle. The terrain on which you'll command your tank includes plains, deserts, snow, and swamps.

More details about the US$4.99 app can be found on the Astraware website or in the iTunes store. Be sure to watch the YouTube video below for five minutes of fun.

Versions out of beta

Since getting schooled in the comments on my last mention of Versions (a favorite of Robert's), I've reacquainted myself with Subversion ... and come to really enjoy using this polished and highly usable SVN client. Git may have its benefits, but for a lot of what I do (especially solo web design), Subversion (and Versions) make a lot of sense. Versions is, as of yesterday, officially out of beta and available for purchase. I even received a 10% discount for being in on the beta test.
Versions 1.0.1 is already out, which fixes the registration issues that some of us ran into. The initial 1.0 release included a lot of additional functionality, and Versions has become an amazing tool for handling all manner of Subversion-related revision control. Top on the list of new features, and of pretty major importance (at least to me), is the addition of an "Ignore [file/folder name]" option to the context menu. The full release notes are available at the Versions site, where you'll also find the download for the free demo. Versions is retailing at €39.00 (about $49USD), and users on the email notification list should have received a 10% discount coupon number.

TouchSports Tennis '09 [ iPhone ]

TouchSports Tennis '09The nonstop action of tennis is what makes it so appealing to legions of fans. Now Handheld Games is bringing that thrill to your iPhone or iPod touch with TouchSports Tennis '09 (click opens iTunes).

TouchSports Tennis '09 has incredible 3D graphics, and makes full use of the touch and tilt controls in the iPhone and iPod touch platforms. As you can see in the YouTube video below, you use touch to locate your tennis player and tilt to deliver your shots.

There are three levels of difficulty in the game, so you can enjoy playing TouchSports Tennis '09 from the start and take on challenges as your confidence and skills increase. You can play a single game or play a full tournament when time permits.

Early reviewers are reporting some app crashes, and the TouchSports support Web page addresses the issue by recommending a quick device restart before starting play

Curio 5.3 [ MacOS ]

I'm currently working on a piece detailing exactly why Zengobi's Curio has become a favorite of mine, especially in the area of project management and brainstorming, but also in general as a truly enjoyable-to-use application. In the meantime, though, I thought I'd better get an announcement out for version 5.3, released today. For those unfamiliar, Curio is a note-taking, brainstorming, to-do managing, file-gathering application which works in a (surprisingly productive) free-form manner. It's similar in concept to Circus Ponies Notebook, but I find it to be even more flexible and powerful.
Version 5.3 adds to an impressive feature list with customizable print headers and footers, the ability to convert lists to mind maps and vice versa, as well as an importer for AquaMinds NoteTaker. Detailed release notes are available here. Version 5.3 is a free upgrade for all Curio 5 users, and upgrade pricing is available at the Zengobi store. The regular version of Curio is $99USD, and a Pro version is available for $149USD (find out what the difference is here). Academic discounts are available, and a free 15-day trial can be downloaded on the Curio page.

VoodooPad 4.0 provides WebDAV sync

VoodooPad got a major upgrade today; after an intense beta period, version 4.0 is live. For those of you not familiar, VoodooPad is a personal wiki, a brainstorming and note-taking tool and the ultimate "geek's notebook" (my term, not theirs). With the ability to import a variety of files and link others, it also makes a great project management hub. I use it in combination with one of my other previously-mentioned favorites, Curio. It's had a fair number of mentions here in the past, and the 4.0 update is certainly something to talk about.
Among the new features is the ability to sync using WebDAV. You can sync pages or entire documents in both directions, allowing for collaboration or just providing the ability to work on multiple machines. There are instructions available for setup on the Flying Meat wiki. I've been testing the sync feature for a while, and it works superbly. The web-publishing capabilities have been expanded, including iPhone-optimized output. There's also a new feature called "The Bucket" for gathering text -- via a system-wide hotkey -- from any application. PDF output, faster speeds, and a new layout for palette windows all add up to a great release.
Organizing notes and files is simple, and linking together pertinent pages, snippets, Address Book contacts and more is a breeze. For those of a scripting persuasion, the reason I call it the "geek's notebook" is VoodooPad's ability to execute pages as scripts (Python ... Lua is being deprecated), and also the ability to extend via a plugin API. This can be used to work in HTML, Markdown and Textile support, set up GTD systems, even publish a blog.
VoodooPad 4 is going for $29.95USD, and version 3 users can upgrade for $14.95USD. The Pro version is $49.95USD, upgrade for $19.95USD. There are free demos of each on their respective pages, and there's also a "Lite" version available for free, no strings attached. VoodooPad customers who purchased version 3 after August 1st, 2008 get a free upgrade. Check the full release notes for version 4 (and prior releases), as well as the features page for more information on VoodooPad and the 4.0 update.

Microsoft Office 2008 updated to version 12.1.2

Earlier today, Microsoft released the 12.1.2 update to Microsoft Office 2008, downloadable via MS Software Update and from the MS website. The 160 MB update requires Office 12.1.1 and, in addition to security fixes, resolves several bugs. The hit list includes two of my personal annoyances: Word's sluggish launch speed and Entourage's insistence on truncating URLs after the ampersand character. The full list of changes is in the continuation of this post.

Improvements for all Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac applications
• Security is improved.
This update fixes vulnerabilities in Office 2008 that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer's memory with malicious code. For more information, see the security bulletin that is listed earlier in this document.
• AppleScript reliability is improved.
This update fixes an issue that prevents Office 2008 applications from running AppleScript scripts from the Script menu until after you restart the Office 2008 application.

Improvements for Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac
• Word opens more quickly.
This update fixes an issue that causes Word to open slowly.
• Display of text in tables is improved.
This update fixes an issue that causes some text in tables to appear bold, even when a bold style is not applied to the text.
• Reliability is improved when you use headers and footers.
This update fixes the following issues:
• Typed text does not appear in the footers. This issue occurs when you insert a section break in the document.
• The Close button does not appear in Header and Footer view.
• Display of form fields is improved.
This update fixes an issue that causes Word to draw a border around form fields.

Improvements for Microsoft Excel 2008 for Mac
• Security is improved.
To improve security and stability, Excel 2008 for Mac and Excel 2007 for Windows do not open files that are saved in the Excel chart (.xlc) file format.
• Files that have invalid characters in the sheet name open correctly.
This update fixes an issue that prevents Microsoft Excel 2008 for Mac Service Pack 1 (SP1) and later versions to open a workbook when some of the sheet names contain invalid characters such as the forward slash (/).
• Reliability is improved for formulas when the international format preference is set to New Zealand.
This update fixes an issue that causes formula errors when you use comma separators. The formula errors occur only when you select New Zealand as the geographic region in System Preferences to specify the date format, the time format, and the number format on your computer.
• Number formatting for some international languages is improved.
This update fixes an issue that causes number formatting errors when regional settings are set to some non-US regions.
• Reliability is improved.
This update fixes an issue that prevents Excel from opening workbooks that contain a range that spans more than one row and is sorted left-to-right. This issue occurs only when the workbook is saved in the Excel workbook (.xslx) format.
• Calculation performance is improved.
This update improves the overall performance of calculations in Excel 2008, especially when you work with large data sets and complex formulas.
• Stability is improved when you save workbooks that contain PivotTable reports.
This update fixes an issue that prevents Excel from saving a workbook in the Excel workbook (.xlsx) format after you copy a PivotTable report into the workbook. When this issue occurs, the following message appears:
Document not saved

Improvements for Microsoft Entourage 2008 for Mac
• Stability is improved when you use Microsoft Sync Services.
This update fixes the following issues:
• Events and other items in Entourage or in iCal are duplicated.
• All contacts in Entourage or in the Apple Address Book are deleted and re-created when you use Microsoft Sync Services.
• Reliability is improved for recurring calendar events.
This update fixes an issue with Entourage 2008 in which a canceled instance of a recurring meeting is re-added to the organizer's calendar when the organizer receives a response from an attendee.
• Reliability is improved.
This update fixes an issue that causes the following behavior in Entourage 2008:
• Embedded graphics or images are not displayed correctly in messages when you read or view the messages.
• HTML e-mail messages appear as blank messages.
• In Entourage 2008 SP1, some characters that follow the ampersand (&) in a hyperlink are truncated.
• The Japanese postal code dictionary is updated.
The Japanese postal dictionary is updated with information as of May 2008.
• Time zone information is updated.
This update provides updated time zone information.
• Reliability is improved when Entourage establishes a encrypted channel.
This update fixes an issue in Entourage 2008 SP1 that causes Entourage to establish SSL connections to invalid hosts. When an invalid connection is established, you receive the following error message:
Unable to establish a secure connection to hostname because the server name of IP address does not match the name or IP address on the server's certificate. If you continue, the information you view and send will be encrypted, but will not be secure.
• The junk mail filter is updated.
This update includes a new Junk E-mail Protection definition file.

Fastlane Street Racing [ iPhone ]

Fastland Street Racing for iPhone and iPod touch on TUAWWhen I showed this to my brother he remarked that it looked almost as good as any PSP game. Featuring a ton of cars, tracks and simple gameplay, Fastlane Street Racing (App Store link) is the best racer I've played on the iPhone. Each track is incredibly detailed and appears very large to boot. If there's only one weak point it's the audio. While passable, the engine noises could possibly be better. That said, they are dynamic (and change if you go into a tunnel or change speed, etc.) and it's likely this was the only way to make them so.

The key to the game is drifting -- either turning so your tires squeal and engine noise changes, or tapping the brakes as you turn. Each car handles a bit differently, and you will find some are better suited to how you steer. But once you get the hang of drifting, there's just enough challenge on each level to keep you coming back for more. As always, the gameplay balance is what makes a game replayable and fun over time. In other words: if it is just enough of a challenge to keep you playing and unlocking new stuff, it's probably balanced well. This is tricky, but Fastlane has done a great job here. It's currently available on the store for $5.99, and that's a good price for this much game. Check out the gallery for all the locked items plus a bunch of in-game shots. Or skip to the video and watch the fun.

Apple redesigns Support Downloads pages


If you've used the update website before, then you know what a challenge it was to find any useful information. Before, Apple just showed a list of updates (with the newest ones at the top); now you are able to browse by specific product. By clicking a product link at the top, you can see updates for iPhone, iPod, Desktop Computers, Portable Computers, Mac OS and Software, Peripherals, Servers and Enterprise Software, and Internet (.Mac, MobileMe, Safari, Photo Services).

Two interesting notes on the new design: First, Apple doesn't use the word "Mac" after Desktop and Portable, but instead uses "Computer." Second, Safari is categorized under their "Internet" group alongside MobileMe; they also still have updates for .Mac despite the branding change to MobileMe. You can see the new site, and get your new updates, by clicking here.

Pro Applications Update improves performance and stability

Apple has released Pro Applications Update 2008-04, which includes updates to Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Color, DVD Studio Pro, Cinema Tools, Motion, Soundtrack Pro and Shake. The update, according to Apple, "addresses general performance issues and improves overall stability."
No specific details were provided about what the update improved about each software component, other than to say each update "addresses specific customer issues and general performance issues." The updates are recommended for all users of the software.
The update includes the following versions:
  • Final Cut Pro 6.0.5
  • Compressor 3.0.5
  • Shake 4.1.1
  • DVD Studio Pro 4.2.1
  • Cinema Tools 4.0.1
  • Motion 3.0.2
  • Color 1.0.3
  • Soundtrack Pro 2.0.2
The update is available from Apple's website.

Maperture brings geotagging to Aperture


Maperture is a nifty little plugin for Aperture that lets you geotag photos in your library. We've covered quite a few different geotagging apps for the Mac, but this is the first one that works so well with Aperture as a plugin.

Basically, Maperture integrates an interface to Google Maps which allows you to easily place your pictures on a map, saving the location information as metadata in the photos. Since it's a front end for Google Maps, you get its built-in features like the satellite and hybrid views, etc. In addition, Maperture will automatically place images already containing location information on the map for you. Now the only problem is remembering exactly where you were when you took the picture!

Maperture is a free download from √úbermind and requires Aperture 2.

Got Your BAC for iPhone/iPod touch

If you frequent the bar, or just like to have the occasional drink, then a new iPhone application has Got Your Back. As a matter of fact, that is the name of the application; except it is spelled BAC (as in Blood-Alcohol Concentration). With this application you will know exactly when you should call a taxi.

When you first launch the application, you'll enter some personal information, like age, weight, and gender, so the application can calculate your BAC correctly. The main display shows four drinks on a table. You can change the type of beverage by double-tapping and selecting a different one -- the icon will also change. Each time you drink a beverage, you drag the icon off the table and onto the screen. The BAC, Carbs, Calories, and number of drinks will be updated in the top-left corner of the screen. As you add drinks, these numbers will increase. The red line across the screen indicates the legal limit -- when you're above this line, a new button will appear called "call a taxi." When tapped, this button will launch the Maps app and search for taxis.

I love subtle UI features, and this application definitely has some: from the icon sets for beverages, to the sloshing liquid when you tilt the iPhone. The application is really great, and I would love to see the developer create a caffeine calculator that does the same thing. I would like to see the ability to input a number for a designated driver, that way you don't have to fumble through your contacts or call a taxi. Got Your BAC is available from the App Store for $2.99 (US). And, remember, the best thing to do is to not drink and drive.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Apple releases Safari 3.2, including security updates


The latest update to Safari was released earlier this afternoon. According to Software Update, Safari 3.2 "features protection from fraudulent phishing websites and better identification of online businesses." You should also note that this update includes the latest security updates.

You can find exactly what changed with the security update by visiting Apple's support note. You can download this update by opening Software Update (Apple menu > Software Update), or by visiting Apple's support website.

Firefox 3.0.4 patches security flaws [ MacOS ]

If your needle doesn't swing towards the compass when it comes to browsing the Web, there's an update out for you too: Firefox 3.0.4 dropped yesterday, patching four critical security vulnerabilities and several less-serious holes while improving stability and addressing other bugs. Localization is coming along too: the new version features official builds for Icelandic and Thai, and beta takes for the Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Occitan, Welsh and (tre bona!) Esperanto.
You can get the 17.2MB download from Mozilla or via the automatic Software Update checker in Firefox.

ShareTool [ MacOS ]

If you have an always-on Mac at home, a decent upstream connection and another Mac anywhere outside of your home network, you might find ShareTool to be as useful as I do. It allows you -- with an amazing degree of simplicity -- to access your Bonjour services on a remote machine as if you were still within your home network. It does this over an SSHHamachiX, but the simple fact that ShareTool "Just Works" makes it my favorite choice for everything from screen sharing to iTunes streaming. encrypted connection (and also automatically sets up a proxy for secure web-browsing over the tunnel). Yes, you can get some of these benefits with a simple SSH tunnel, or you could set up a VPN using

I use ShareTool on a Mac Mini, with an Airport Extreme Base Station on a connection that gets about 800k average upload speed. iTunes streaming is flawless, and remote drive access is as good or better than just using SFTP. Setup is as simple as choosing a port (defaults to 22, the standard SSH port) to share on and hitting "Share" on your home Mac. After that, you can set it to start at login, and begin sharing on launch. Then, on your remote machine, you just need to enter an IP or domain and the port, and the rest is automatic. You can select which Bonjour services to enable or just go for broke and enable everything. I've got a static IP these days, but services like No-IP and DynDNS work great if you have a dynamic IP address. ShareTool can even handle updating the dynamic IP service for you, so you don't have to run any daemons.
ShareTool is provided by YazSoft, and a free trial is available for download on the main page. The pricing structure requires a license for every computer, and a pair of licenses costs $30USD (5 for $75USD). YazSoft provides free updates within a major version number (1.x customers get all 1.x updates for free). If you're looking for an easy way to keep your entire home network handy anywhere you go, it might be worth a try.

VMware updates Fusion to 2.0.1 [ MacOS ]

It's not as big a jump as an upgrade from v3 to v4, but VMware's fetish for releasing upgrades late on Friday continues with the 2.01 build of VMware Fusion, now available for download. The new version's DMG sizes up at a healthy 246 MB, and the list of enhanced features and fixed bugs is reasonably long. Standouts include several improvements to mirrored folder performance and a safety check that pauses snapshot creation when your virtual machine is active.
Version 2.0.1 is a free upgrade for all VMWare Fusion owners. If you spend your Friday night upgrading it (we know you, and we know you will) please let us know how it goes. Note that there is still an incompatibility between Fusion and the CheckPoint SecureClient software noted on the release notes page.