Apps


FreshBackMac is a small utility written by Arkanath Pathak, a Computer Science student from eastern India, that refreshes your Mac desktop wallpaper at regular intervals using images from some of the best photo sites on the Internet.

You can choose from a range of categories such as Animals, Nature, Technology, Paintings and more and can set the refresh rate from as little as 2 minutes to 12 hours.

If you would like a fresh look to your Mac without the effort of searching for new images and setting up as desktop backgrounds this is the app for you.

 

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Itsycal is a tiny menu bar application for OS X that gives rapid access to a pop up view of the current month of the calendar.

Just click the menu bar icon (the current date by default) and a compact view of the current month is displayed. This is really handy  when you want to work out what day a particular date falls on for example. In addition you can configure it to show events from the next few days of your calendar rather than launching the Mac calendar app.

One of my favourite little time saver apps.

 

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One of my pet peeves is the number of plastic cards I have to carry in my wallet. Most of the time I tend to strip the contents to the essential debit cards that I use all the time but this sometimes means that I miss out on discounts or other benefits by not having a particular stores loyalty card with me.

Stocard solves this little problem by providing a simple way of importing store loyalty cards into your iPhone allowing you to leave the plastic at home without having to pass up on the discounts or loyalty points. Adding cards is very quick, just search for the store name from the extensive list then scan the card bar code using the iPhone camera and the cards details are captured. Now you can present the bar code on your iPhone to the cashier when making a purchase and they can scan this instead of the plastic. The app can also store card details for shops/companies not listed including adding a photo of the card for easy reference. I have used it to import my library cards for example.

Stocard do acknowledge that some older scanners aren’t able to read the iPhone screen but in these cases the bar code can be entered manually by the cashier.

The app is available for iOS and Android and is a free download.

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Duet Display is a slick app developed by ex-Apple employees designed to allow your iPad to function as a second monitor on your laptop or iMac using a lightning or iPad 30 pin cable ( for older iPads ). The application works extremely well with none of the lag or latency in display refresh experienced by some of the alternative apps that use the iPads WiFi connection to transfer screen updates.

As the Duet name suggests the intended use for the app is to create an easy to use portable secondary display for MacBook users ( or in fact Windows laptop users as there is a Windows version of the server application as well as one for OS X ) but it isn’t limited to this use case. My main use of Duet is as a primary monitor on my Mac Mini media server.

I have used my Mac Mini in a headless ( no monitor ) setup for a long time and use Screen Sharing from my MacBook to login and manage it, however it recently struck me that the Duet Display app that I had purchased some time ago would be perfect for creating a tiny compact keyboard/monitor setup. Combined with a small bluetooth keyboard from Anker and bluetooth mouse I now have full access to my Mini in a compact little setup that looks pretty slick on the shelf in my study.

Duet Display is £7.99 in the UK iOS App store which I admit is probably at the high side of many peoples acceptable budget for an app of this type, however this app is extremely good and provides amazing functionally and performance. For people who travel with a MacBook and iPad the benefit of being able to setup a usable dual monitor setup whilst on the move can be liberating, and for home media servers like mine it can create a slick, compact and usable alternative to a bulky VGA/HDMI monitor.

Duet Display

Duet Display on iPad and Mac Mini

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According to this article on TechCrunch Facebook have confirmed that they are aware of a problem with their iOS app causing excessive battery drain even when the app has background refresh disabled.

If you are experiencing issues with decreased battery life recently and have the Facebook app installed you could try deleting the app and using Safari to access the site until a fix is released.

 

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Unless you have a background in IT the chances are that the only time you have ever considered backups of your information was just after you found out you had lost something precious ? Perhaps it was a bunch of irretrievable photos lost when your hard drive suddenly and inexplicably died ? Or maybe it was your lifetimes collection of music or movies, carefully downloaded and collated onto that 4TB external hard drive connected to your desktop computer that you hadn’t noticed had been accidentally deleted ?

Whichever it was, when the day arrives and you suffer that unrecoverable data loss the chances are you will be asking yourself why you hadn’t taken the time to backup to another disk.

My preferred and recommended backup solution is an online service called Backblaze. Backblaze is cheap ( as little as $5 a month ), reliable and easy to setup and better yet, once configured you can forget it is there and relax in the knowledge that should the worst happen your data is safe and easily retrieved.

backblaze trialUnlike most Internet file storage solutions ( Dropbox, OneDrive etc ) the cost for Backblaze is the same whether you are backing up 100MB or 20TB ! The only difference will be the amount of time it takes to complete the initial backup, something that is getting easier as home broadband speeds steadily increase. This initial “seeding” of your backup may take some weeks to complete but it happens in the background and is carefully controlled by the Backblaze software to not interfere with your Internet access too much. Once the first backup is complete the software then only has to update the backup when anything changes to your local data, again a process that happens in the background without manual intervention.

Backblaze will backup any of your hard drives, not just the internal drive in your PC or Mac. Just plugin your external USB drives, configure the application settings and wait for the data to be secured. One thing to note here though is that if you do this Backblaze needs to “see” that drive at least once every 30 days or it will assume the data does not need to be retained and will delete it.

Obviously paying for backup services is not sexy, it doesn’t really give you anything other than piece of mind, but it is something that everyone who has any amount of data in digital form should consider putting in place.

If you would like to try out Backblaze you can sign up for a months free trial by clicking on this link.

This post is not sponsored by Backblaze it is purely my personal choice of backup service and something that I recommend to friends and relatives when the subject arises. Please try it out, you may thank me one day !

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