Sunday, February 1, 2009

Install Windows 7 on a Mac

Raise your hand if you remember when a Mac was a Mac and a Windows machine was a Windows machine, and never the twain shall meet. I sure do.

Our own Christina Warren has written an exhaustive set of instructions for installing Windows 7 on a Mac over at our sister site, Download Squad. Windows 7 is in beta, so don't try and use it for any mission-critical tasks. Meant to be an incremental update to Vista (Snow Vista?), the current iteration of Windows 7 includes changes like a redesigned taskbar, enhanced touch performance and improvements when run atop multi-core processors.

While Intel Macs can run Windows 7 via Boot Camp, Christina points out that virtualization is probably the best bet for most users. She described how to set up an installation with VMWare Fusion 2.0, Parallels 4.0 and VirtualBox 2.1.2 (and the VMware team has posted a guide of their own for Win7 on Fusion).

If you're a Mac user who keeps Windows around for compatibility testing or that one proprietary Windows app you can't do without, and you're just itching to try Windows 7, this is the tutorial for you. If you're wondering what the fuss is about over on the Microsoft side, Engadget's deep dive on Windows 7 is a good place to start.

Walking with the stars

The popular astronomy application Star Walk [App Store link] $4.99 US, has been updated with some new features. You can now see meteor showers on screen, as well as connect to Wikipedia for more information on objects you have selected on the detailed star map.

Star Walk is probably the prettiest of the astronomy guides available for the iPhone and iPod touch. It nicely renders the dense clouds of the Milky Way, and has good visual details of the planets. It also has photos of the Messier objects, which are galaxies, star clusters and nebula.

Star Walk is location aware, so it can match what you see in the sky to what is on screen using the GPS, or you can select from 10,000 cities. You can change your location to anywhere on earth, and manipulate time to look forward and backwards. You could see what the skies were like on your birthday, or even what they looked like centuries ago or centuries ahead.

Things that could be improved would be on screen buttons that take you to the N, S, E, and W skies. The way things work now, you have to drag the map around. When you look up a Wikipedia item, it throws you out of the program. It would be better to build in a web-kit browser so you don't have to launch Star Walk again.

The app has no built in documentation. The company web site has a short PDF with more information. Although the skies in Star Walk are beautiful, most of the skies we see in real life are not. It would be nice to be able to dim the faint stars down to more accurately mimic what we see in the real world.

Nature lovers and amateur astronomers will like this program. Some of the other options at the app store include Distant Suns, [link] at $5.99 US which I have reviewed previously, and Starmap [link] $11.99 US.

Working with a robot: Drobo in action

The Drobo is a mass storage solution that takes advantage of RAID -- Redundant Array of Independent Disks -- to provide a single large volume by combining two to four "naked" (not in an separate enclosure) hard disk drives. Drobo uses a proprietary system called "BeyondRAID" to do this while eliminating a lot of the administrative headaches that are normally associated with setting up RAID arrays.

Drobo uses a combination of RAID 1 (mirroring) and RAID 5 (striping) to provide relatively fast response times and redundancy. If a drive fails, you simply pop it out of the array and pop in a new one. Drobo takes care of rebuilding the new disk while the array is in use. While many traditional RAID solutions require all drives to have exactly the same capacity, you can mix or match drive sizes with Drobo. This makes storage growth quite easy to manage -- as new, larger capacity hard drives appear in the future, you just need to pull out a smaller drive or two and replace them with the larger drives. Drobo takes care of integrating the new disk or disks into the array. Click the Read More link for the rest of this post.

While I had read about Drobo for the last year or so, I didn't have an opportunity to try one until now. One of my consulting clients was moving from an undersized Mac mini server to an Xserve, and I needed to provide them with a large amount of storage due to rapid expansion of their business. Doing my duty as an Apple Consultants Network member, I promptly worked up an estimate for an Xserve with the standard Promise V-Trak E-Class Fiber Channel RAID subsystem. The storage alone for this solution costs about US$7,499, and the client balked at the price tag.

I knew that the client needs up to 4 TB of storage in order to meet growth over the next three years. Their needs aren't for fast storage (i.e., they're not doing any video work), but they just need a big ol' empty bucket to store their files in. That's when I started thinking about Drobo.

Using the "Drobolator" application on the Drobo Web site, I dragged four virtual 1.5 TB SATA drives to an image of a Drobo. What I found is that using four 1.5 TB drives would provide just over 4 TB of actual storage (the other space is needed for protection and overhead). The total cost of this solution was fairly reasonable as well. The 2nd Generation Drobo with FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 sells for US$499 empty, and I was able to find 1.5 TB SATA2 7200 RPM bare drives for $129 each. The total cost of the solution? Just over US$1,000 plus tax and shipping. Needless to say, the client approved the estimate.

Someone at Drobo must have taken a cue from Apple in their design and packaging, because both have a very "Mac-like" feel. The product is incredibly easy to set up and use. After pulling the Drobo out of the box and removing the requisite plastic protective film, I popped the front cover off of the device, and then pushed the four 1.5 TB drives into their respective cubby holes (see photo below). The mechanism for doing this is very easy to use, and removing the drives is a simple matter of just moving the small lever gray lever on the left side of the drive and pulling the drive out.

The next step was installing the Drobo Dashboard software on the Xserve. Drobo Dashboard can be used to monitor the drives, even sending email alerts when a drive is about to fail or the array is running out of space. Once Drobo Dashboard had been installed, I was prompted to plug in the Drobo and attach the Firewire 800 cable between the Xserve and the Drobo (see photo below to see the how the plugs are arranged on the device). After a few seconds, the Drobo appeared on the Xserve desktop, completely ready to use. I formatted the array as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and I was on my way. The format took no time at all to complete.

I moved about a terabyte of data from the client's old drives to Drobo; the transfers were surprisingly fast over Firewire 800, although I had the occasional delay as Mac OS X Server refused to copy some files. Since I hadn't yet made the server available to my clients, I did some testing by opening up a 2.1 GB movie file on the Drobo, then yanking one of the drives. Just like Drobo advertises in the Cali Lewis video on their site, the playback continued without a hiccup.

Once the front cover is back on the front of the Drobo, all you see are some lights. Green lights next to installed drives indicate that the drives are working as they should. Yellow indicates that the array is about 85% filled, and you need to either add a drive or replace an existing drive with a larger capacity one. Red means the Drobo is at about 95% of capacity, so you'd better get that new drive now! Blinking red is even more of a worry, as it's telling you that a hard drive has failed. The blue lights along the bottom each show that 10% of the total storage space has been filled up with your data. All of this information is provided on the inside of the front cover, just in case you forget (see photo below).

RAID purists always seem to sneer at the Drobo as not being "true RAID", but since installing the device I've realized that it really brings RAID to the masses. I know that I could call one of my non-technical clients when the Drobo sends me an email saying that a drive is about to fail, tell them to get a spare drive from a box, pull out the old drive, and put the spare into the Drobo. That's all they'd have to do in order to start rebuilding the array.

Since 2 TB disk drives are starting to appear, the Drobolator tool has been updated and you can now simulate Drobo capacities with the 2 TB drives installed. With overhead and protection, the maximum capacity of a Drobo is now up to 5.5 TB when four 2 TB drives are installed. That maximum capacity will continue to grow to the theoretical maximum of 16 TB per Drobo as drive capacities increase.

Have I seen any issues with the Drobo? Not really. I did have some concerns over the fact that the device can't be used to perform over-the-network Time Machine backups when connected to a Mac or Xserve. You can do Time Machine backups for the machine that the Drobo is attached to, but not for Macs connected over the network. Data Robotics has a Linux-based NAS solution for Drobo called DroboShare (US$199) that can connect up to two Drobos to gigabit Ethernet. There are DroboApps available for DroboShare that allow it to back up remote Macs using Time Machine, so that's always a solution in case backing up all of those Macs in the office is required.

The Drobo is extremely small -- 6.3" x 6.3" x 10.7" (152.4 mm x 160 mm x 271.8 mm) -- and very quiet. I'd gladly trade my existing 1 TB drive with its noise for one of these. It's also fairly energy efficient, using only 40 watts when operating at full capacity with four drives installed. If I have any complaint about the design of the Drobo, it's that the case seems to be a dust magnet (see photo below). Of course, there was construction still going on in the office when I was installing the equipment.

There are some alternatives to Drobo; HP's MediaSmart Server EX485 (US$599 with 750 GB drive) works very well with Macs and has a similar price tag to the Drobo. However, it requires all four bays to be filled with the same size and speed of hard drive. LaCie has the 4big Quadra (US$799 for 2 TB) that also requires identical drives.

I've personally enjoyed working with the Drobo and have decided that I personally need one for my backup and storage needs. If you're a Drobo owner or use a different solution for mass storage, I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section. gets updated to 2.3, fixes iSight/iPhoto features

If you have been following Saltatory Software's, then you know how great it can be for easily creating family trees. Recently updated, this application allows you to easily track your family's genealogy. The new update fixes some bugs that occurred with Leopard, like the iSight/iLife integration. Some of the updates to Family include:
  • You can now export your Family file to PDF, and it will still be crisp if you zoom in.
  • The iSight and iPhoto/iLife integration work again in 10.5.
  • You can now zoom in 120% when in the main editor.
  • Updated Family bubbles to make Family files look better in general, especially in printing.
  • Minor bug fixes regarding text input.
  • There is a fun little fade out when you close windows.
  • Made it so that dragging a new connection is easier than before. Dragging a connection is not as particular about where you click like it was in 2.0.2.
If you want more information about this update, or would like to download, you can visit the Saltatory Software website. Family is $29.95US for a personal-use license and it requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher.

Health Cubby for iPhone / iPod touch

App Cubby announced that a new iPhone app, Health Cubby (click opens iTunes) arrived in the App Store today. Health Cubby (US$4.99) is a personal fitness tracking app with a difference -- it adds a social networking element for working with friends and family members to keep motivated to exercise more and eat less.

The social features connect you with up to 7 other people, share your progress in achieving fitness goals, and even send motivational messages. To do that, you set up a private account with App Cubby for data syncing and sending messages.

Health Cubby has a great online user manual complete with screenshots. Instead of tracking meals with points or calories, the app has you enter a 1 to 5 rating. Rating a meal a 1 means you put the all-you-can-eat buffet out of business, while a 5 is a low-calorie, healthy meal. You also set goals for strength, cardio and...vices! While the first two involve exercise, the third item makes you set goals to reduce the number of times you indulge in a vice. My goal is to reduce my beer drinking to one a day (yeah, right...).

I've put Health Cubby on my iPhone right next to Weight Watchers Mobile. It'll be interesting to see which app I use most often. Check the gallery below for screenshots of Health Cubby in action.

A Lethal app for your iPhone

OK, the headline is a bit misleading. This app won't kill you; in fact, it's designed to inform you about dangerous situations in your vicinity.

Lethal (click opens iTunes) from Elany Arts takes a location from either the iPhone's built-in location services or a list of 300 cities or parks throughout the USA, then provides you with a "lethal index" number. This number ranges between 0 and 400, with 400 being an extremely dangerous location.

The ranking comes from a composite of four scores based on lethal wildlife, crime, disease, and disaster probabilities in each area. The About screen for Lethal notes that the app is designed for informational and entertainment purposes only, so you should use common sense to guide your use of Lethal.

When I let Lethal determine the index for my home, I was surprised to see that it was 207 out of 400, or "somewhat dangerous". The wildlife index was rather high based on black bears and mountain lions in the area. Yes, we do see them on rare occasions in the area, but I'd be much more concerned about a neighbor taking a potshot at me than getting chewed on by a mountain lion.

Still, Lethal is fun (many comments are obviously tongue-in-cheek) and educational. Whether it's worth the US$1.99 introductory price is up to you. Check out the gallery below for screenshots of Lethal in action.

Slotz Racer now in the App Store

Freeverse Games has released their latest iPhone title, Slotz Racer, and it looks like a good one (I've been having a good time lately with their bowling game as well). Despite the name, it's not another tilt-to-turn racer -- this one has you playing slot cars instead of real cars, those little cars and tracks that you got for a birthday once when you were a kid but have never actually had the patience to set up since. The game features a "unique" control system that even allows up to four people to play on one iPhone at a time, and the big draw here is a track editor -- for a 99 cent introductory price (headed up to $2.99 in 72 hours, we're told), you can assemble as many tracks as you like, and you don't even have to buy any those gigantic boxes from KB Toys.

Looks like fun. Freeverse is only publishing here -- the game is developed by a company named Strange Flavour and they've put a nice manual together, along with plenty of tips and tricks to try out. The game is available in the App Store right now for 99 cents, but as we said, the price is heading up to $3 soon (which is still cheap, really, but if you're interested in the game, you might as well save two bucks now). Maybe this is your big chance to finally live your old slot car racing dreams out virtually on your iPhone or iPod touch.

Starting out with Objective-C

Objective C CodeI recently decided to embark on a personal challenge to learn Objective-C (the programming language behind Mac and iPhone applications) so that I could one day get applications into the App Store. I'm not looking to make millions with a fart machine app, but I do want to see some of my ideas come to fruition and end up on some iPhones. While we've previously mentioned how to delve into programming in Objective-C, there have been some recent releases of educational materials that can help those who want to learn the language:

Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (book, $44.99)

This is the latest release of Stephen Kochan's series which some consider to be the Objective-C bible. It has a wealth of information jammed into almost 600 pages, and it will take you from simple variable assignments to advanced class implementation. I'm over halfway through this book, and the text is easy to read (not too high level), and is broken up in a visually appealing style with sufficient whitespace to be gentle on your eyes. If you're only interested in programming for the iPhone, you may only want to rely on this book for its wealth of foundational Objective-C material as it only has one chapter devoted to the iPhone.

Learning Objective-C on the Mac/Beginning iPhone Development (books, $39.99 each)

This new series from Apress offers two options to would-be developers. If you're comfortable with Objective-C, grab their iPhone book and begin learning about the SDK and how to implement the iPhone features. If you're new to the language, pick up the first book to build a foundation so that if you decide to program for the iPhone, you'll be prepared.

Coding in Objective-C (screencasts, $5 per episode)

This is currently my favorite way to learn the language. While the company behind these high-quality screencasts, Pragmatic Programmers, has only released 2 episodes for Objective-C so far, they are a great way to learn thanks to the usage of audio and video. Being able to see the code change and grow and hearing the host's voice explain exactly what is going on is much more engaging than reading a book. The screencasts last about 45 minutes per episode.

These are only a few ways to learn Objective-C. Apple makes plenty of sample code available, and with the removal of the iPhone development NDA more and more blogs and books are coming available making it easier to learn and reducing the time to get creations finished. If you are already familiar with Object Oriented Programming (languages like Java and C++), learning Objective-C should be a snap.

Hellfire [ iPhone ]

Ahhh, there's nothing quite like taking your helicopter gunship out for a spin to wake you up first thing in the morning!

Astraware has announced the immediate availability of their newest action game for iPhone and iPod touch, Hellfire (click opens iTunes). This US$4.99 game puts you in the pilot's seat of a helicopter gunship, ready to take on one of 16 missions.

Control is provided through both the accelerometer (steering, speed) and touch-screen controls (throttle, weapons) as you fly US and Soviet-era helicopters through the missions. There are various levels of challenges, with missions in locations throughout the world. Some missions provide multiple objectives, such as taking out enemy defenses, then rescuing hostages and returning them to a base.

MotionX: Poker Quest

One of the first apps I downloaded when I inherited my brother's old iPhone was MotionX Dice. It was brilliant in its execution: 3D dice rendered with loving detail, lots of custom dice and perfect use of the accelerometer. MotionX games are variations on a theme, however, and they've taken their MotionX Poker system, wrapped it in an Egyptian theme, and cranked up the fun. The game is simple: roll the dice to get a hand, choose which you keep and which you put back, and repeat until the hand is over.

What's the big deal about a dice-based poker app? Well, for one, it's one of those games you can pick up and play within seconds. Dice poker, for whatever reason, feels less like "real" poker, and my brain tends to relax more than it would playing a "real" poker game (such as Apple's Hold 'Em game). It's mostly a casual game, but there are enough stats and surprises to keep you playing after the initial gee whiz factor wears off.

To keep games fresh, designers often add unlockable content and statistics. With Poker Quest, the unlockables come in the form of additional themed dice, levels and "my treasures." The treasures are triggered when you achieve a notable event, like "Win ten career hands." The stats are plentiful including how much you've played, how much you've won, and a detailed breakdown on what hands you've had when you play. I didn't unlock any levels, but the gameplay shouldn't change, just your surroundings.

Dice poker games are relatively easy to craft and they are very easy to play. It's nice to see MotionX bringing some style to the genre, however. Their trademark animated 3D dice and gorgeous textured backdrops add just enough flair to the poker dice game to make things really fun for repeat play. If you're still not sold, try the free version of MotionX Poker Quest [App Store link]. The full version costs $2.99 [App Store link], which is a fair price if you like dice, poker or quick, casual games.

First Look: Fliq Tasks

Mark/Space has added another member to their rapidly growing family of iPhone file transfer applications. The new baby in the family is Fliq Tasks, which joins Fliq for Mac and Windows, Fliq Notes, and Fliq for iPhone.

As with Fliq for iPhone and Fliq Notes, Fliq Tasks is available in the App Store for free (click opens iTunes). Mark/Space is providing their iPhone applications for free, while charging for the Mac and Windows "host" software. Fliq for Mac and Fliq for Windows are available for US$19.95 (US$49.95 for a 3-pack) each.

If you want to transfer files between iPhones over a Wi-Fi network, all you need are the free iPhone apps. When you add the functionality of transferring information to and from your Mac or PC, you'll have to purchase the desktop applications.

Fliq Tasks is a full-featured task manager with big, clear, and easy-to-use interface similar to that found in Fliq Notes. Tasks can be listed by name, date due, category, and priority. You can add categories to better match them to your requirements, and there's a simple setting to hide completed tasks. Using the soon-to-be-released Fliq 1.1 for Mac or Windows, you'll be able to send or receive tasks from your iPhone to your big computer.

Current Fliq users should be sure to give Fliq Tasks a try, and the price is definitely right. Check out the mini-gallery below for more screenshots.

Emoji on your iPhone

Emoji, Japanese for "picture" + "letter," is a set of picture characters used in Japan much in the same way as emoticons here in the US. The Emoji pictographs, however, offer a wider variety of images than emoticons which are typically limited to just expressing an emotion or facial expression such as winking.

Emoji pictographs include the usual suspects from the emoticon gang as well as many others. Such gems as the top hat, a diamond ring for "txting" your wedding proposal, and also some holiday goodies like Santa, and a ghost are all part of the fun! For the majority of cell phones, Emoji is a Japanese-focused feature that is not implemented much in the US. Some, however, have already enabled the use of Emoji through a process that requires jailbreaking the iPhone.

There is a simpler way, however. We touched on the enabling of Emoji in a recent iPhone 101 article. This post over at MacTalk provides a very detailed step-by-step walkthrough for enabling Emoji on iPhones with firmware 2.2. Justine also covered this procedure for enabling Emoji over at her site.

The process involves purchasing and briefly using an application called FrostySpace ($0.99, iTunes link). The result is that a new international keyboard, "Emoji," is available for your use. Please note: FrostySpace is a Japanese-languageTaiwanese RSS feed reader that may be of limited utility for some users.

If you get this working (or don't) we'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Adobe CS4 crack app has variant of iServices trojan

The folks over at Intego let the world know about a new trojan making the rounds along with copies of an application designed to crack Adobe Creative Suite 4. They consider the risk "serious."
If you don't download software using peer-to-peer tools like BitTorrent, then you're perfectly safe. You can stop reading this story, if you like. If you're one of the 5,000 people who recently downloaded and installed the serial crack, then you have a bad day ahead of you.
The malware, after asking for your administrator password, installs an executable with a random name in /var/tmp, a folder that isn't deleted when the computer restarts.
The randomly-named program will install itself in /usr/bin/DivX, create a startup item in /System/Library/StartupItems/DivX, and if it has root privileges, save a hash of your password in the file /var/root/.DivX.
The software then listens on a random TCP port and awaits instructions from its evil overlords. With an infected computer's root password, those in control of the software will be able to execute commands on the infected computer, including deleting files and performing malicious network tasks.
Late last week, pirated copies of iWork '09 were infected with similar malware.
Intego VirusBarrier X4 and X5, as you might imagine, protect you against the Trojan. Either looking for (and removing) the files mentioned above or using a virus removal utility is recommended.
Also recommended: Not downloading pirated software (and their associated tools) on peer-to-peer networks. If you do choose to get your software that way, you have nobody to blame but yourself if your system gets infected.

Letter Opener: new life for winmail.dat files

If you live in a world where you get email from Outlook users, and I think most of us do, you probably see the dreaded winmail.dat file on occasion. Outlook compresses all of its attachments together into one .dat file, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads as to what's inside. I've used TNEF'S Enough, a free utility for the Mac (mentioned last year by Mat) which will crack the files open for you. This week, however, I discovered Letter Opener.
Letter Opener is a plugin which decodes the .dat files inline, so the process is transparent to you, the recipient. The attachments appear like any others, and life is that much easier. Letter Opener isn't cheap, and the utility vs. cost ratio is dependent on how many winmail.dat files you deal with on a daily basis. Prices range from $29.95US for a single license, to $179.95US for a 10-pack. More information and demo videos are available at the website.

Payback brings a GTA clone to the iPhone

Grand Theft Auto isn't out for the iPhone, but Payback is --it's basically a 3D version of the old top-down GTA gameplay, improved with better rendering and lighting. You control the game by pressing "buttons" on the screen, and tilting the iPhone around, and Touch Arcade says it works well. Some missions are apparently tough, but in terms of what GTA is really about -- driving around and generally causing mayhem -- Payback will deliver.

Unfortunately, textures (both visual and audio) are rough, as are the actual physics, so it seems Payback is more of a "GTA could work on the iPhone" demo rather than an actual game (though of course you can play it, it probably just won't be as fun). Still, we're in favor of any game reaching high on the iPhone, and this one definitely does.

Does Apple have a case against Palm?

There's been some growling and teeth-baring between Apple and Palm lately, but Engadget wanted to know: does Apple really have a case against Palm for their patented technology? They put their (and our) legal correspondent, Nilay Patel, on the case, and in this long but very interesting analysis piece, he answers: probably.

But things, as usual, aren't that simple. Apple's patents don't just cover "multitouch" -- they cover very specific behaviors using the multitouch feature, and if Palm's Pre phone doesn't use those behaviors, there's no infringement. Of course, Patel is only going off of video of the Pre -- they don't have it in hand yet -- so things could change before the unit is released, but they do find significant evidence that Palm may have stepped on some lines it shouldn't have.

Then again, as Patel and patent attorney Mathew Gavronski discovered, Palm's got some tricks of their own -- they've got a whole slew of easily findable patents that the iPhone appears to infringe upon, including using an ambient light sensor to define brightness, looking up contacts just by using initials, and a number of other functions. Then again again, Apple's got pending patents in the fire that it can revise in case they think Palm is really trying to hone in on their business.

So bottom line, this could be really messy or it could be really simple, and Engadget concludes that the ball is in Apple's court -- if there's going to be a war, they say, the first shot will be from them. Personally, I think it's all corporate posturing -- as Patel points out, Palm has much less to lose, not having sold a single unit yet, and Apple is just making sure they know what's what. But there is a lot of money here, and if one side decides it'll cost less to go after the other, the fur could fly.

Get paid for your time: On The Job 3.0

On The Job 3.0 was released today, and it's poised to give my long-standing favorite time-tracking app, Billings 3, a good run for its money. On The Job 3 represents a complete rewrite of the application. It's such a new and different beast from its previous incarnations that -- in the words of the developer -- it "really feels much more like a version 1.0 than a 3.0."
On The Job is designed for individuals -- freelancers, contractors, etc. -- who need to track their time and expenses, send invoices for multiple jobs with multiple clients, and handle payments. It, like Billings, is especially geared toward those who want the extra features which can make them look utterly professional in their invoicing and billing.

Let's start with its looks: it's just plain gorgeous. From the main UI to the popup entry forms, and from the client editor to the template editor, the minute details of the interface have been treated with great care. I'll go ahead and say that the invoice template selector is eerily similar to Billings', but I'm not sure where the credit for the first such interface belongs. Let's just say it's a good one to pick up on. The default templates are definitely competition for Billings, whose selection is already above-par for time tracking and billing apps. Editing templates in either app is far more pleasurable than the first time I ever tried to edit a template in Quickbooks.
The first thing that struck me when I opened up the demo was the sheer simplicity of the interface. Everything you need is there, exactly where you want to look for it. The play/pause button for timing jobs is big but not overly obtrusive, and you can turn its default, obnoxious spinning to a pleasant throb in the preferences. That sounded dirtier than it is. There's a menubar control of the timer as well. The overall feature set is not as robust as Billings, but there's definitely something to be said for simplicity. If you don't need the additional features, such as Pro Forma invoices, full account tracking and statements, it's very possible that On The Job might be a great candidate to serve your time-tracking needs.
Other features in the new version include:
  • Invoices for a specific date range
  • New outstanding invoices panel
  • Custom hourly rates for specific tasks
  • Individual timing sessions are tracked, and can be "edited in post"
  • Expense types now include quantity and mileage
  • Per client currency settings
  • Automatic and fully customizable invoice number generation
On The Job is selling for $39.95US. I have to mention that the "Main Street Sale" of Billings is still going, and it's at $39.99 right now. Both have free demos, so if you're a freelancer or contractor in the market for a slick way to track time and send invoices, make your own comparison. Personally, I'm torn. I'll decide in the next 20 days which, coincidentally, is the length of the On The Job demo period.

Satellite Radio finally coming to iPhone

Ever since the iPhone could run applications people have been really excited about the possibility of streaming XM-Sirius on the go.

After a lot of buzz, it appears the uSirius StarPlayr will finally be submitted to the app store this weekend. Then Apple will decide when to release the player to eager consumers.

The player, developed by nicemac LLC has been getting positive reviews from beta testers.

The bad news is that streaming services will no longer be free. Despite a promise from Sirius-XM that prices would be capped for 3 years, as of March 11, 2009, streaming will be an additional US $2.99 a month. Additional radio charges will be US $2.00 extra monthly. Costs of the base service will stay the same. and subscribers can lock in their current rates by agreeing to a 3 year contract extension. People rushing to do that may help the beleaguered merged companies in the short run. On the other hand, a lot of customers may not be anxious to throw a lot of money at a service that may not survive 3 years.

As far as the streaming app goes, nicemac hasn't released a price yet, but says once it is purchased updates will be free until they bring out a major upgrade.

Sirius-XM haven't released their own player. That may happen, but this third party app will certainly be first on the scene.

Elixir offers new RapidWeaver theme and special bundle

Here at TUAW, RapidWeaver is our longstanding-favorite WYSIWYG web site creation tool. I personally like to to use RapidWeaver for rapid prototyping or for creating sites that don't need a CMS backend. One of the best parts of RapidWeaver is its extensive library of beautiful themes. Elixir makes some of the best looking RapidWeaver themes around and have just introduced a new design to the fold: Aqua.

The new theme is $12.95 US, but for the next three days, Elixir is bundling all of its themes together, including the new Aqua thme, for $54.95 US. Elixir has shied away from bundling themes together in the past so this is a great opportunity to get twenty great looking RapidWeaver themes (compatible with both 3.6 and 4.x) for a really reasonable price.

I like Elixir's themes because they are not only attractive, but they come with extras and multiple customization options. Couple that with RapdiWeaver's built-in theme-editing abilities and you can create something really slick without exerting a lot of effort.

If you purchase the Elixir Extreme Bundle, youll also get a 50% off coupon for use at Elixir's sister site the Icon Lab. The bundle will only be available for the next three days, so if you're looking to put a little more color in your (Rapid)weave, better get a move on.

Does Apple have a case against Palm?

There's been some growling and teeth-baring between Apple and Palm lately, but Engadget wanted to know: does Apple really have a case against Palm for their patented technology? They put their (and our) legal correspondent, Nilay Patel, on the case, and in this long but very interesting analysis piece, he answers: probably.

But things, as usual, aren't that simple. Apple's patents don't just cover "multitouch" -- they cover very specific behaviors using the multitouch feature, and if Palm's Pre phone doesn't use those behaviors, there's no infringement. Of course, Patel is only going off of video of the Pre -- they don't have it in hand yet -- so things could change before the unit is released, but they do find significant evidence that Palm may have stepped on some lines it shouldn't have.

Then again, as Patel and patent attorney Mathew Gavronski discovered, Palm's got some tricks of their own -- they've got a whole slew of easily findable patents that the iPhone appears to infringe upon, including using an ambient light sensor to define brightness, looking up contacts just by using initials, and a number of other functions. Then again again, Apple's got pending patents in the fire that it can revise in case they think Palm is really trying to hone in on their business.

So bottom line, this could be really messy or it could be really simple, and Engadget concludes that the ball is in Apple's court -- if there's going to be a war, they say, the first shot will be from them. Personally, I think it's all corporate posturing -- as Patel points out, Palm has much less to lose, not having sold a single unit yet, and Apple is just making sure they know what's what. But there is a lot of money here, and if one side decides it'll cost less to go after the other, the fur could fly.

Flash coming to the iPhone after all?

The iPhone Flash saga is a long-running show. First Adobe said they were going to do it come hell or high water, then they backed off, then Uncle Steve seemed to put the kibosh on the thing permanently. Now, however, Bloomberg is quoting the Adobe CEO as saying that "It's a hard technical challenge, and that's part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating. The ball is in our court. The onus is on us to deliver."

The surprising part there is the admission that Apple is working with Adobe on the project. It didn't seem like Jobs was at all receptive to the idea back in March of last year, but maybe a new iPhone-specific Flash player could avoid the pitfalls of the resource-hogging desktop version on the Mac, while still maintaining enough power to surmount the objections to Flash Lite. I have to admit that I'd love to go straight to Hulu or Sling for streaming video on the iPhone, but given their record on the Mac desktop I'm a little skeptical that Adobe can deliver a good solution.

MacGourmet Deluxe sale about to expire

Getting this one in almost under the wire, MacGourmet Deluxe is currently on sale until the end of Saturday for $34.95 USD, about 30% off its normal retail price of $44.95.

We've covered MacGourmet Deluxe in the past, and it was actually Dave Caolo's post that motivated me to give the software a try. The software is touted as the "iTunes for your recipes," and it definitely doesn't disappoint in that area. I have a feeling if Julia Child was still alive, she'd be using this software to organize recipes, interface with iCal for planning meals and publishing cookbooks through the partnership with TasteBook. It's actually almost a bit overwhelming for someone whose cooking experience might be tossing together frozen pre-packaged meals from the grocery store and occasionally experimenting with Alton Brown recipes from Food Network's "Good Eats."

But the services that MacGourmet Deluxe is touting with this sale is the integrated nutritional resources. MacGourmet uses the USDA National Nutrient Database to analyze recipes and automatically updates the software as the USDA database is updated.

MacGourmet Deluxe requires Mac OS 10.4 or higher.

For those wavering on whether or not to purchase this software, the tipping point just might be the recently released MacGourmet app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. MacGourmet [link opens iTunes] will allow users to sync with the desktop version of the program to transfer recipes, shopping lists, and more in order to streamline meal planning. You can also create shopping lists from the recipes already on the app itself and comes with more than 200 recipes already built in. The MacGourmet app is $4.99 USD in the App Store and works with both MacGourmet Deluxe and the regular version of MacGourmet.

Twitterrific 3.2 squashes bugs, adds small features

Twitterrific, from our friends at the Iconfactory, has been updated to version 3.2: the first update for the desktop version of the small-footprint Twitter client in nearly a year.
This new version accurately marks old tweets as read when the software starts, and adds "in reply to" IDs to @ messages so conversations can be more easily tracked.
Also, Twitterrific now uses the more secure HTTPS protocol to communicate with the Twitter servers. Using a proxy server is now more reliable, along with other changes to the network and communication foundation. A complete list of the changes is available on the Iconfactory website.
Twitterrific comes in two flavors: one is free, but supported by ads from The Deck, and the second removes the ads, but is $15. Twitterrific requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and a Twitter account (obviously).