Review: Reference Tracker

Until now, many assignments have left college students with a pile of books stacked upon their desks; sticky notes popping out to mark places of importance. In the twenty-first century this really shouldn’t be an issue. And now for Mac it isn’t thanks to Reference Tracker by Maklinware.

Getting Started

To start using Reference Tracker you simply open it and click on the bright green “New Reference” button. From there you get a drop down menu which allows you to select the appropriate text that you are going to reference. There are a whole host of options to choose from varying from a chapter in a book to a article in a newspaper. Of course there is a generic “Book” option if you can’t find the exact template for your needs.

Bookmarks

Below all of the information that you enter is the cited text field. So if you have some quotes that you think you will use in the essay or paper that you are writing, you can drop them in such that they are easily accessible at a moment’s notice. Sticky notes are an added bonus as well. If you have something that you need to remember but have no special place to put it, just open up a sticky and place it wherever you want it in the window.

Look Up

One fantastic piece of technology that Reference Tracker employes is the ability to look up a book using it’s ISBN (That is, if you can’t find the book through the publication search). You just type it in and Boom! All the information about the book is filled in for you – including a picture of the cover!

Sorting

You can also sort your references into different groups. Once you are ready to print off your reference list, you hit the “Generate Reference List” button and you are given a tidy list to hand in with your paper.  Ultimately, this app cuts down your workflow, making it a lot easier for you to worry about what really matters – your writing.

Final Thoughts

Reference Tracker is a new piece of software for what is a very large market. However it manages to beat it’s competitors in one very important way that makes it stand above the crowd. Price. It’s $45. Good luck getting a nearly competent piece of software for the same price. Give it a try and I promise you’ll you’ll be tempted to buy it.

For a limited time, you can receive an exclusive $15 discount by using the following code.  It will only work for the first 50 people to use it, so don’t hesitate!

Coupon Code: NPES0DCUMCYDQ4O7

Malkinware – Reference Tracker

Review: Sonicum Iconic Speaker Set

ThinkGeek has always been a reliable source for your dose of geek. I ordered these speakers from them, and 3 days later they arrived on my door step. I was unsure of what to expect, as I had never heard of the company (Sonicum).  However, I had heard of the designer (Art Lebedev) who is well known for his work on the  Optimus Maximus Keyboard. After about 3 weeks of using these speakers, I am amazed.

Appeal

These are some of the best designed 2.1 speakers out there. They have their own look and feel unlike the majority of other speakers on the market. Their shape is meant to mimic the standard audio-volume symbol icons, hence the “Iconic” name. The two satellites and subwoofer are made of plastic, but they have a nice soft black rubber coating to them. The speakers are very small at 10.5 x 10 x 8 cm and the subwoofer is average sized at 24 x 21.5 x 12cm.

Sound/Connection

For their size, these speakers give out impressive sound quality. Using NXT flat panel technology, the relatively small speakers are capable of putting out much more sound, and the subwoofer gives out a good amount of bass to compliment.  The speakers connect with a standard 3.5mm jack, so it is possible to connect them to your iPod or CD player.  They can handle any type of genre from a deep bass hip-hip to some nice classical, and easily get loud enough for a good movie.

Specs

•Nominal output power of subwoofer: 15 Watt, speakers—2  5 Watt
•Peak output power of speakers: 15 Watt
•Frequency range of subwoofer: 50–250 Hz, speakers—200 Hz–18 kHz
•Signal-to-noise ratio: 80 dB

Final Thoughts

While many other speakers make up for appearance with sound, these speakers truly sound as good as they look.  Their unique shape, quality sound, and fairly reasonable price tag of $70 makes this speaker set stand out from the crowd. I recommend them to anyone looking at buying new speakers for their desktop.

Think Geek – Sonicum Iconic Speaker Set

The Mac Gap

With 3 desktop and laptop models to choose from, Apple has a computer to satisfy many users.  The Mac Mini makes an excellent second machine or the first Mac for a switcher.  The iMac brings power, some portability and a huge screen, while the Mac Pro satisfies the needs of heavy computing users.

Laptops

On the laptop side you have the MacBook for nearly everyone, the MacBook Pro for professionals and the MacBook Air for those seeking extreme portability.

But there is a considerable gap in both lines, and one that could satisfy a large number of users with a new model. You’ll likely remember the 12″ PowerBook G4 (shown at right). Probably my favourite Apple product of all time, it packed an entire full featured laptop into a 12″ aluminum shell. It had a full DVD combo drive, discrete graphics, and a full compliment of ports. This differs from Apple’s current ultraportable laptop, the MacBook Air, because it doesn’t sacrifice power nearly as much.

I think it’s time that Apple brings back the 12″ PowerBook in the form of a 13.3″ or smaller aluminum shelled MacBook with an actual graphics card, backlit keyboard and DVD burner. I would sell my MacBook in a flash to have real graphics, an aluminum look and a full powered Core 2 Duo processor. If Apple wants to make gaming more prevalent on OS X, they need to give full graphics power to a laptop without forcing users to shell out the extra cash for a MacBook Pro.

Desktops

On the desktop side of things, there is a need for a model between the iMac and Mac Pro that blends power with upgradeability and price. Macworld calls it the mythical, midrange Mac minitower. It stems from the idea that there is no model that directly competes with the standard Windows box. Sure, you can get the Mac Pro, with 4 hard drive bays, 8 RAM slots and up to 8 cores, but if you don’t absolutely need all these things, you’re wasting money.

What would be an excellent compromise would be a computer that is somewhere between the Mac Mini and Mac Pro in size, but between the iMac and Mac Pro in power and upgradeability. With 2 or more hard drive bays, 4 RAM slots and no included monitor, it could be upgraded as needed without limitations. Companies looking for towers to use their current monitors or to build a server farm would have all the power they need, without spending extra on Mac Pros or Xserves.

Conclusion

With a new model inside the desktop and notebook lineup, Apple could cover even more of the computer market and draw in more users.

Would you trade your current machine for one of these?

Building an Enclosure: Spray Painting

These days everybody and their granny are hacking technology or building some new gizmo. The humble enclosure in which that shiny new piece of brilliance is to live is often overlooked, but as any good marketer knows, the money is in the design. Today, Desktop Vibes looks at some of the tools needed for successfully spray-painting your new gadget enclosure.

Enclosures come in all shapes, sizes and materials so the tools you need to color your build can largely depend on a number of factors which can vary quite extensively. No one wants to purchase a tool for every kind of paint job that they might encounter so what’s the best equipment to get to make sure that one is covered for most situations? A medium-sized air sprayer like the 1.5mm Neiko HVLP Air Spray Gun or similar air sprayer is the preferred ‘universal’ tool for spray painting. It has a fine nozzle that can be used for both large and small jobs with minimal wastage and mess, and the paint cup size and its air-adjustment valve are ideal for a range of enclosure sizes. Of course you are going to need an air compressor to power the air spray gun which can make the cost of purchase prohibitively expensive for some. However, air compressors can be useful in a variety of DIY and everyday household tasks so you have to balance whether it is worth the mula that you will need to fork out to get one. Air compressors (that can be used for spray painting) come in all shapes and sizes and it is important to make sure that the air compressor can handle the relatively high volume of air that it needs to generate to operate a spray gun effectively. We use a California Air Tools 10020 in the shop and it has been invaluable in producing some very stylish results.

Final Words

Take you time when setting up for spray-painting for the first time. Although it can be a hassle to organise and gather together everything you need for your spray-painting setup, you only have to do it once, and then painting enclosures will be easy as pie. And don’t be tempted to cheap out on the tools needed to create a stylish enclosure. Ultimately, the design of your final package will sell your amazing creation to your fans so it will be well worth the time and money spent on making it that extra bit cooler!

Microsoft’s SideWinder X6.

Microsoft’s new Sidewinder keyboard, the verdict…insanely awesome. Microsoft’s gaming products have been making a debut as of lately, most notibly with their new Sidewinder X6 keyboard and Sidewinder X5 gaming mouse. Microsoft isn’t exactly known for their gaming products, but it would seem that they’ve done their homework this time around.

The Ultimate Control

The new Sidewinder X6 is fully stocked.  With a backlit keyboard and a detachable number pad that can be programmed for up to 90 Macro’s, the X6 is always up to the task.  As you can see from the pictures, the final products looks awesome. Especially those volume & light controls, which set it apart from your average gaming keyboard. Microsoft said that they didn’t want people having two keyboards on their desks, just one for gaming and another for working.  The X6 is great for both of these tasks.

Precision At Your Finger Tips

The X5 may not have an LCD or adjustable weights, but it does an awesome job for gaming.  With a 2,000 DPI laser, five customizable buttons, and a Quick-Launch button for quickly opening your favourite applications, the X5 is easily one of the most capable mice on the market.  Microsoft is definitely taking a fresh attempt at gaming products, and their work is much appreciated.

Final Words

The SideWinder X6 Keyboard and SideWinder X5 Mouse are set to be released in Septermber 2008 (For the holiday season). Estimated retail is $79.95 (U.S.) and $59.95 (U.S), repsectively.

How To: Building A Digital Movie Collection

Media has become a centric part of our lifestyle.  As of recent, Apple has made it easy to collect, purchase, organize, and play media through iTunes. They’ve made it easy to access this content through the Apple TV on our High-Definition TV in our living rooms, and play it back in gorgeous 1080P resolution.  But what about your existing DVD collection?  Shouldn’t it get some of this attention as well?  Here is a guide on building your own digital movie collection, and making the most of iTunes and Apple TV.

To complete this process, you’ll need to arm yourself with your personal DVD collection, plenty of free time, Apple iTunes, and third-party application Handbrake. Oh, don’t forget a nice large external hard-drive to house these movies (typically 1.5GB each).

What you’ll be doing is inserting DVDs into your Mac, ripping them to your hard-drive with Handbrake, importing them into iTunes, and adding meta-data.

Step One: Move your iTunes Library to an external HDD

If you don’t want to or believe you have enough space on your internal drive, skip this step.

Connect your external drive to your Mac and create a folder “iTunes” on it. Launch iTunes and head to the preferences, when here, click on advanced tab then click “Change” to re-locate your iTunes library. Navigate to the iTunes folder you created on the external drive and set this as your libraries destination.

To complete the move of your library, click “Advanced” “Consolidate Library”. This will move your entire iTunes library to the folder you specified on your external drive, while leaving iTunes in a perfect state to continue using without making any further changes.

Step Two: Handbrake

Now that your collection has a nice storage tank to lie in, you can begin digitizing your DVD collection. Start a Google search for “Handbrake” and download the application. Once downloaded, install it.

Insert a DVD into your Mac, and launch Handbrake. You will be prompted to select the DVD location; this should show automatically. Click okay.

Now it’s time to select your ripping (or encoding) settings. My preferred settings for top quality media is H.264, 2500KBPS, 2-Pass encoding. The resulted file will end up around the 1.5GB mark, and encoding will take a while depending on what Mac you have. On a 1.83Ghz Core Duo MacBook, this process takes around 3 hours for an average length movie.

If you want smaller files and a quicker rip time, set up with MP4, 1-Pass Encoding, 200MBPS.

Step Three: Organinzing Your Collection

Once the encoding is complete, you can eject the DVD and place it back in its case. The movie is now stored digitally.

You should see the movie file on your desktop, double clicking this file will open Quicktime and allow you to watch the movie, but we want an organized collection, so open iTunes and drag the movie onto the “Movie” source pane. Doing this will move the movie into your iTunes Library – once completed, it’s safe to delete the original file from your desktop. That file is now safe inside your iTunes library.

Step Four: Adding Meta-Data

The final step is to tag the movie with the correct title, and add any other information to the file you’d like to. Typically I set the movie genre, and the Year is came out in – thats all the information I need on hand. Lastly, head over to Amazon and do an image search for “movie name”. You should be presented with a bunch of DVD images, copy one of these and paste it as the artwork on the movie file.

There is no final step, you’ve successfully imported a movie into your iTunes collection, tagged it, added art, and it’s now ready for consumption directly on your Mac, on your iPod, or via your Apple TV.

Alternatively, there are a few different steps you can take to conquer a few common questions to do things such as rip a section of a movie.

FAQ

Q: Is there any way I can get rid of the ads at the start of a movie?

A: Indeed there is.  Not a specific option to choose when to start the rip from, however you can select which chapters you’d like ripped. For instance, the ads are typically located on the first chapter of the movie, so with a 20 chapter movie, I’d select chapters 2-20 for encoding leaving all the unnecessary ads out of my finished file.

Q: What if I just want to extract my favorite scene from the movie?

A: Simply select the appropriate chapter/s in from the chapter selection drop-down box. Only want movie chapters 12-15? No sweat, simply drop down the boxes and make this choice. When you hit start Handbrake will only extract this section of the movie.

Q: Is there any way to quickly prepare this movie to watch on my iPod?

A: If this is what you’re wanting to do, you’re in luck. Once your DVD is inside your machine, pop open Handbrake and hit the ‘presets’ tab in the top right hand corner of the Handbrake window. This will slide open another window where you should see the option called ‘HB-iPod.’ Click this then click rip, Handbrake will automatically change the settings to output an iPod friendly file.

Q: What does 2-pass encoding do?

A: 2-pass encoding is superior to 1-pass encoding. 2-pass encoding redistributes the available bandwidth which was determined by the bitrate setting and the quanitizer setting better. For example, a high motion scene may receive a greater share of the bandwidth than a low motion scene. All in all, this will ultimately distribute a higher quality finished file if you’re willing to give 50% more time that 2-pass encoding will take.

Final Words

I’ve currently imported 53 Movies into my iTunes collection, totaling 61.05GB. The hard work I’ve done in digitizing my collection will shine once my home media setup is completed with a HDTV and Apple TV.

Tutorial: Syncing Google Calendar With Your iPhone.

Need to sync your iPhone & iPod Touch with your Google Calendar? Now you can with NeuvaSync – it’s a new free service which currently in beta. You might be saying, oh – MobileMe can do this like fun. Not all of us have the disposable income to purchase MobileMe so this is a great alternative – after all, it’s free! So it can’t be bad.

This service uses a Microsoft Exchange account on your iPhone, and limitations of the iPhone is that you can only use one MExchange account at a time – so sorry for you hopeful business people with Exchanges.

Sign Up

First of all, we need to sign up for a Nuevasync account, and set up the link between your account and your Google calendar account.

After you’ve signed up and activated, you need to click set-up next to calendar, then select Google – then enter the Google id (email) that you have Google Calendar set up with. After this it will take you to Google and ask if you want allow Nuevasync into your calendar, accept, and your done with this side of things.

iPhone Setup

Now its time to set it up on your iPhone & Touch.

So go ahead, into settings > mail, contacts, calendars > add account >  Microsoft Exchange

Email: The one you used to set-up with Nuevasync, so enter it in there.

Username: Is the one you used on Nuevasync also

Password: Is the one you used on Nuevasync also.

Now, tap next and it’ll try to validate it. Now, because we aren’t technically using a exchange the email address that we’ve supplied will fail, so it’ll go back to the previous screen with a new field called Server. In here we need to put www.nuevasync.com and then go ahead and click save. It will check to make sure it’s working and we’re nearly done. If it doesn’t complete verification, go back and check your settings.

If you’re settings are working you should be presented with a screen with 3 flick switches, one for mail, contacts and calendars, we just want Calendars for this, so go ahead and flick off the other 2.

Test it!

Go ahead and try placing a event into the calendar app, and then checking your Google calendar just a couple of seconds later. Bingo!

Copy & Paste For The iPhone.

Surprisingly, this isn’t from Apple – so don’t get too excited. A company called OpenClip has released what looks to be a new and interesting framework. OpenClip is free, non-profit organisation working with developers to allow the user to copy and paste.

Unfortunately, the framework has only been implemented into a few apps, which include MagicPad, Twittelator and the official WordPress app. Here’s a demo that was shown at GeekBreif.tv.


Cut and Paste for iPhone from Cali Lewis on Vimeo.

I just hope that OpenClip does get popular and that all developers take it on, so Apple has to say yes, and either purchase OpenClip just like they did with Coverflow. To many of us this doesn’t really matter. But to the likes of me and others, it really does.

Schedule Your Work With Cronnix

The wonderful thing about computers and electronic gizmos is that they do mundane, repetitive tasks quickly, efficiently and with much less lip than humans. In fact, that’s all they ever do. But how to use this power?

Enter Cronnix.

Cronnix is a GUI for OS X’s crontab server. Crontab is a system-level application that runs every minute and checks whether programs or scripts are set up to run at that time. It enables you to schedule programs at any time your computer is on, and accomplish tasks that would normally be time consuming to perform manually. Work like backing up websites and cleaning up your computer is prime for automation. Cronnix makes it very easy to schedule bash scripts or even regular applications.

I’m just starting to touch the possibilities of the crontab. Currently I have two programs set to run with Cronnix: one is a nerdy, complicated method for loading my MacBook’s uptime on my blog, the other is an Applescript to record the web stream of a local radio station. Both are too complicated to share here, but if you’re interested in the uptime system, head over to my personal blog.

Cronnix Usage


Using Cronnix is conveniently simple. As shown in the above image of the window, there are 4 tabs to give you options for editing and adding tasks. Every event is shown in the list, where you can make changes as necessary.


To add a new task, press New and fill in the options as shown above. The numbers and asterisks need to be in their right place for your task to execute successfully.

For example, the image above shows the correct options for running the application edge_record.app at 8 AM on weekdays. The * indicates that the time is irrelevant. This means if you wish to change the timing to 9:45 AM on the 5th day of every month, you would need to change the options to 45 Minute, 9 Hour, 5 Day of month, * Month, and check the box next to All days of the week.

With that style, you can set up any application to run at any time you wish.

The thing to remember is that the box marked Prepend “/usr/bin/open” should be checked if your application is not a command line script. Prepend “/usr/bin/open” means open the file with whatever application you have set as default. For example, if you’re running a bash script and leave the box checked, the file will simply open in your text editor, and not execute. If you want to run an Automator action, for example, you must remember to check the box.

Final Words

Cronnix is an easy to use application that has one purpose and excels at it. For scheduling your work without resorting to the command line, give Cronnix a try.

Get Organized with Evernote

Alright, let’s face it. Not everyone has time to use every feature in those GTD applications you see everywhere. Some people don’t even have time to use the basic features! And that’s where Evernote comes in.

So What Exactly is Evernote?

Evernote is a note-taking application that organizes and syncs your notes between numerous devices including your PC, Mac and Mobile Phone. Your notes are not only stored on your devices, but also up in the Evernote server ‘cloud’ for safe keeping.

Multi-platform Support

Evernote has native applications for Mac OS X, Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Windows Mobile 5/6 and the iPhone. For those using other platforms like Linux or Solaris, the web version will do just fine as it has just about all the features of the native applications, and you don’t have to store anything on your computer!

Capture, Sync, Find…

Evernote’s motto is Capture, Sync, Find, and it’s right on the ball. In other words, it does exactly what it says. Your Evernote account allows you to have multiple notebooks, so you can sort your notes into categories. Once you start adding and tagging notes, you can use the great built-in search function to search for keywords, images, and other things stored in your notes. This includes the text inside your images.

The Web Clipper

To clip text, images, and entire websites into Evernote is easy with the web clipper. Evernote provide native plugins for Firefox and Flock, but for other browsers like Internet Explorer or Opera, you can easily use the Web Clipper bookmarklet.

So How Much Does It Cost?

Evernote is free, but they do provide ‘Premium’ accounts that provide extra storage. With a free account, they provide you with 40MB per month whilst if you sign up to a Premium account, you’ll receive 500MB per month which can store around 250,000 notes. More than enough. Premium accounts cost $5.00USD per month or $45.00USD per year.

Conclusion

Personally, I use both Evernote and the basic note-taking functions in Apple Mail to organize myself. Evernote is great for clipping text, images and entire websites from the Internet using the web clipper bookmark, and is great for syncing information between devices.

For more information on Evernote, or to sign up for an account, visit http://www.evernote.com/.