end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

Software Sumo: X-Chat Aqua vs. Linkinus vs. Colloquy

sumo.png

Yes indeedy, our first three-way match. Today, we’ll be looking at IRC apps (which for some reason have hard-to-spell named). IRC, in case you don’t know, is Internet Relay Chat and is basically a somewhat outdated (but still reasonably popular) group chat protocol. Wikipedia probably describes it best. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to say that I myself use Colloquy but if I wasn’t a penny-pincher I would use Linkinus. However, the owner of one of my most frequented channels is an avid X-Chat user (but, for the record, he is running Panther and isn’t big on the direction Apple is headed). Anyway, [insert wrestling announcer type phrase here].

Interface

Personally, the X-Chat interface makes me want to gauge my eyes out. It does not look like it belongs on a Mac, it’s nonstandard and non-graphical. My X-Chat loving friend claims you can “make it look like anything you want” but what he is really saying is “it can be any shade of ugly that you desire.” Unlike the other two, it does not allow for different styles (think message styles in Adium) but it does allow you to change the colors. Sadly, all the lipstick in the world won’t help this pig. X-Chat also has a horrible, text-based preference system that I find really hard to navigate.

x-chat-aquascreensnapz001.png

Linkinus is another story, it is attractive out of the metaphorical box and provides a number of message styles (the bulky but fancy Apt is shown) and a SDK to build your own (although I have not been able to find any more ready-made styles, which is a shame). One of my favorite interface elements is topic bar that scrolls if the topic is too long to be seen in one go. Otherwise the interface is nice and polished. (Also, the Linkinus icon makes me droll, I’ve even cannibalized it and am now using it as my Colloquy icon. Linkinus has a preference system very similar to System Preferences which I found somewhat out of place in an application but others may like. Finally, Linkinus is the only one of these apps with a menu item. I also believe that it may badge the dock icon with the messages remaining. These are both things I wish Colloquy did.

linkinusscreensnapz002.png

Like Adium, Colloquy has a customizable, polished (but still kinda rough-around-the-edges) interface. It has a variety of message styles (and an additional small selection online) and a handy tool for making minor changes to a style right in the app. The navigation sidebar is similar to Linkinus’s except room members are displayed below the room rather than on a separate pane on the other side of the window. The style in the screenshot is custom (but based off of Smooth Operator).

colloquyscreensnapz002.png

X-Chat: 3/10 – Ugly and cryptic with limited customizability.
Linkinus: 8/10 – Attractive and customizable.
Colloquy: 8/10 – See above.

Features

My X-Chat loving friend uses it because of the features. And I must admit, it does have the most features of all three. It displays IP addresses when people join (something that apparently is hand) and does all sorts of IRC power user-y stuff that I, being something of an IRC n00b, have no need for. X-Chat does support logging but the logs are horribly formatted and hard to read.

Linkinus is a midway. It also displays IPs on join and overall seems a little bit more powerful than Colloquy. However, since I squandered my 15 day trial, I wasn’t able to do much with an eye for reviewing. Linkinus also has logging and the logs are presented like regular messages, your chosen style and all (i.e., it does the same thing iChat does).

Colloquy lacks a lot of hardcore IRC features in favor of Mac-like simplicity. For instance, X-Chat friend has made fun of the /whois which instead of sending you an IRC message with the information, gives you a little inspector window (I personally like it). The IP is not shown upon join (and this has made me the butt of several practical jokes). Colloquy logging works the same way as Linkinus logging.

X-Chat: 7/10 – Most features, too many for me.
Linkinus: 8/10 – The features I need without a bunch of extra junk.
Colloquy: 5/10 – Needs a little more power!

Overall

All exactly three points apart, Linkinus took the cake and X-Chat came in last. Do you agree with this assessment? Do you use a different IRC client like Conversation? Weigh in.

X-Chat (Free): 10/20 – Being the aesthete that I am, X-Chat’s slew of features did not allow it to triumph over the very poor interface.

Linkinus ($20, $15 for students): 16/20 – Linkinus got top marks all around, now if only it were free.

Colloquy (Free): 13/20 – Colloquy is the best choice for the price, it has a good interface but lacks power.

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Filed under: Apple, Software Sumo, , , , , , , , ,

Software Sumo: Corrections

Recently, I have taken even more heat for my comparison of Journler and an outdated (but free) version of MacJournal.  Because Mariner has recently released a new version of MacJournal and Journler is (to my great chagrin) becoming shareware, I have decided that a rematch is in order.  However, I may wait until the first non-freeware version of Journler becomes available.

In another review I declared Vienna the better RSS reader.  However, several months ago I picked up the NNWL alpha/beta/something and really liked it.  So, imagine my delight when it was announced that the full version of NetNewsWire was going free.  Because of the much-improved (and Leopard-like) GUI and the full range of features available in the full version, I am now a convert.  Although I am considering it, I probably will not write another review of the two apps.

Also, expect rundowns on IRC clients (this one may have to be a three-way match) and  alarm apps (there may be four contenders for this one).  Stay tuned, these should be up soon.

Filed under: Apple, Software Sumo, , , , , , ,

11.x: The Only Course of Action?

So, I was thinking “what other big cats are there that Apple has not yet used as a version name in OS X?”. The answer is pretty simple: lion. But seriously, lion? L.A.M.E. And furthermore, try saying “Mac OS 10.7 ‘Lion'”. Does that sound stupid or what? If Apple knows what’s good for them, they ought to skip 10.7 altogether and just skip up to 11.x.

Of course, what should the theme for 11 be? There’s no such thing as “big dogs” (unless you’d buy 11.3 “Doberman”) and, quite frankly, dogs are about as silicone-chic as HUMMERs. But even if dogs are out, there are so many other options….

Flightless Birds

  1. Emu
  2. Ostrich
  3. Penguin
  4. Platypus

And sure, platypuses may not be real birds, but if Apple rolled out the next update quick enough, nobody would have time to figure it out.

Then, how about a little love for marine enthusiasts?

Sharks

  1. Great White
  2. Nurse
  3. Thrasher
  4. Whale

Am I the only one that would pay top dollar for 12.3 “Thrasher”? I think not.

Now, moving away from animals, how about my personal favorite….

Unusual Fruits

  1. Mangosteen
  2. Jackfruit
  3. Durian
  4. Kumquat
  5. Cherimoya

I mean, is that awesome or what? Would I wait in line for the Durian update? Hells yeah.

Apple never took me up on my alternative iMac slogan but maybe they’ll be will to feel the flightless love.

Filed under: Apple, , , , ,

TUAW: Ten Five Things I Hate (and Love) About You

Dear TUAW,

Here are five things I hate and five things I love about you…

</3 – It seems as if your hyperlinking is done by an senile 80 year-old chimp. I never know if I will find a useless page for the tag “OmniFocus” or an actual link to that demo video you’re touting.

❤ – Unlike your brother Engadget, you only post pertinent Apple news.

</3 – You have that ugly new Leopard-themed background.

❤ – Your writing style is so glib.

</3 – Your homepage is cluttered.

❤ – Your acronym is fun to say.

</3 – You don’t post as often as aforementioned brother.

❤ – Your graphics are so classy (or they’re intentionally overdone).

</3 – You seem to be sponsored by AOL.

❤ – You have lots of pictures.

Filed under: Apple, Kvetching, , , , ,

On Leopard

So, as I’m sure you’ve realized, I haven’t posted in a while. I’m going to try and get back into this, we’ll se how that goes.

Anyway, since I last wrote I have gotten 10.5 Leopard (if you don’t know what Leopard is, go. Just go). It has some really nice new visual things and some new features. So…let’s take a look.

Finder

Leopard Finder

Finder was one of the changes I was really excited about. I’m a fan of the iTunes sidebar (it just looks so cool!) so I was happy to see it was now permeating the rest of the system. The path bar at the bottom is also a nice thing to have.

Sadly, I was disappointed by CoverFlow. Although documents look nice (however, I think CoverFlow was designed more for people who do lots of layout design or other things that would involve colourful documents rather than the black and white essays that are the staple of my computer), folders and applications look really weird (especially folders). For the record though, I believe the folder weirdness can be blamed on my non-standard iconset (Agua, which has been updated for Leopard, by David Lanham). Regardless, I don’t really think CoverFlow is a good way to navigate one’s files (I also don’t like it much in iTunes, but that’s beside the point).

As far as other features go, the built-in smart searches are nice but I wish we could edit them and add to the list. Like I said above, I really like the new real icon preview (e.g., a MS Word document doesn’t appear as the .doc icon but as an actual representation of the document) even if my French papers are a little dull.

Quick Look is very nice (it can even play music!) and I’m sure it will be a big timesaver once I get in the habit of using it.

iChat

iChat is another one I was pumped for. With the addition of tabbed chats I was hopping it would finally overtake Adium. I tried it out and I quickly remembered all those little iChat things that just bug me.

  1. Huge contact list (often more than one).
  2. No meta contacts.
  3. Tab bar cannot be shown when you only have one chat open.
  4. Limited range of message views.
  5. Bad notification system.
  6. Very little customization overall.
  7. You must look at the chat window (not the contact list) to see if a buddy is typing or has sent you a message.
  8. Only a couple networks are supported.
  9. It insists on using your address card names (or worse, screennames).

In the end it was #8 that truly drove me back to Adium. Why did I even leave in the first place?

Safari

safari.jpg

Safari 3 and I got off to a bad start back in my Tiger days. However, when I opened it up in Leopard I was pleasantly surprised. By far, the biggest improvement is the more Camino-esque behavior (in fact, it filled Camino’s shoes so well that I no longer saw any need to keep Firefox’s little brother around). I was surprised to see things like the chat bar in Gmail load (they didn’t in Safari 2) and I have noticed a lot of Web 2.0 type stuff works a lot better in this version.

Features like resizable text boxes and improved search are also nice.

My only complaint is the lesser degree of plug-inability. Google isn’t the same without Inquisitor.

Mail

mail.jpg

Mail was probably the feature I was most anticipating. Stationary, notes, to dos, what’s not to love. Also, my old version of mail had been having problems and I was hoping this would offer a fix. Not only does Mail work again, but it offers a very nice little “iCal on the go” type thing and contains misc. improvements.

I haven’t tried any plugins with it yet so I can’t speak to that.

However, my main issue is the lack of badge customizability. In the old version of Mail you could just replace the ugly red badge in the resources folder with a new one, but in this new version (and other Leopard apps) I cannot find a way to change the badges.

Time Machine

I must say, Time Machine is pretty effin’ sweet. I have it hooked up to a MyBook Home and it’s working without a hitch so far (let’s hope it performs as well as it has been to date when I really need it). Super simple backup, I don’t even know when it’s going on. (As a n00bish aside, I’ve always used USB drives and when I got my first FireWire one I was blown away by the speed. Well worth the extra money).

Spaces

Spaces can be pretty handy. In one you can piece together a desktop portrait of perfect academic devotion. Then, in another, you can open WOW or whatever your time-waster of choice is, and play away until the time comes to do a quick Ctrl+1 and appear to be the angelic student that you aren’t. Not that I do that…ever…

If you have the money around, Leopard is defiantly worth it, but as Walt Mossberg(/burg?) said, “It’s an evolution, not a revolution.” (Or something like that).

P.S. My English teacher would be appalled that I ended an “essay” with a quote. But, I mean, it’s kosher to do that in journalism, right?

Update: I have installed Inquisitor and Safari Block into Safari and they’re working great. Chalk one more up for Leopard.

Filed under: Apple, , , , , , , , , , ,

Software Sumo: YummySoup! vs. MacGourmet

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As you can probably tell from my recent influx of Chef RPG-related posts and the fact that I was watching cooking shows at 3 last night, I am more into cooking than usual. So, seeing as how there are just about as many cooking apps are there are RSS readers for Mac I decided to review two of the more prominent ones. This Software Sumo will be a little different because I am not going into it with a clear preference. Also, rather than having Freeware vs. Lite version of shareware like usual, we will have two paid apps facing off.

Interface

Both apps have a fairly basic interface. We have the conventional three-pane view with a sidebar containing folders, a top pane with recipes and a bottom pane that displays the selected one.

macgor.png saved-screenshot.png

Although it seems like a silly thing to say, I must point out that I prefer the default proportions of YummySoup! better. Overall, the YS! interface seems more polished and modern. One thing I like about MacGourmet is the ability to choose different layout styles for the recipes (akin to message views in Adium). In YS! there is a “browse by image” option that is rather Cover Flow-esque. My main (and really, only) issue with the YS! interface is that damn seal thing. I appreciate that they let you change the default recipe image but it still lurks around. If MG did that I wouldn’t mind because I like their icon.

YummySoup!: 8/10 – Despite that stupid seal this is a very good interface.
MacGourmet: 7/10 – Good, but feels a little cluttered and rough.

Features

Both of these applications have all of the things you would expect from a recipe keeper. They have a full-screen (or large) view, ratings, difficulty, pictures, shopping and wine lists, etc. Most of these things I will never use, and may even consider as bloatage but its always nice to know that I can plan my wines in advance.

The recipe adding interface, arguably the most important part, is where I noticed the greatest difference. YS! has a very simple, one-paned design with handy autofill (configurable in the menu), MG, on the other had is a complicated jumble. In fact, the MG interface was so unintuitive that I wasn’t even sure where to put the actual name of the ingredient. I also don’t get why MG needs a whopping seven panes to get done only slightly more than what YS! can do in a single one (MG allows you to enter tools and nutritional information).

macgourmet.png

YummySoup!: 10/10 – The only feature it lacks is someone to cook the food for you.
MacGourmet: 8/10 – Same features, but many are poorly executed.

Overall

YummySoup!: 18/20 – A better application at a lower price. I’d go with this one. No doubt.
MacGourmet: 15/20 – Not only does it cost $5 more but its harder to use.

YummySoup! – $20
MacGourmet – $24.95 (Most popular software price)

Thank you, and join us next time when we’ll review assignment trackers, just in time for back to school!

Filed under: Apple, Software Sumo, , , , , , , ,

Apple Has Drawn Me Out of Hiatus


With all of Apple’s new product updates I’m unable to resist coming out of my unannounced hiatus.

So, first off I’ve gotta say I’m not too thrilled about the iMacs (I was really hoping they would look like this) with their weird black thing and whatnot (I guess environmental friendliness comes at a price– which I’m not willing to pay). And with the slogan “You can never be too thin. Or too powerful.” it seems like they’re just asking for some mother’s watchdog group to accuse Apple or brainwashing their little fanboys girls. (I came up with the slogan “The new iMac– more than just iCandy”.)

As for the software updates– four letters for you: h-a-w-t. I gotta love a better iMovie but I think they over-simplified it a little too much, it just looks too simple. iPhoto is looking nice with its new features but it’s all the same to me, seeing as how I don’t use iPhoto. And as for iWeb, Garage Band, et all– whatever.

I got pretty pumped about Numbers (the new Excel killer) even though it looks (much like Pages) to be more for making your documents pretty rather than powerful. Sadly, when I downloaded the free trial it informed me that I would have to upgrade to OS 10.4.10 which I’m just not willing to do (seeing as I’d have to redo all the icons I’ve applied). So I’ll just have to wait for TUAW to dish out the news.

(Oh yeah, and those new keyboards aren’t half bad either).

Filed under: Apple, Oldies, , , , ,