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Do you use podcasts to be informative on a big range of interests and topics? Well, if you are subscribed to a dozen of podcasts, managing all of those can prove to be a time consuming task. Many prefer the podcast manager of iTunes, however, that’s good enough only for a handful of podcasts. An advanced version of the same is Instacast which comes with better options for playing, managing, interacting with or synching the various podcast subscriptions between your devices.

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I remember trying out Instacast in its beta stage. The app is now available in its full version for a price of $19.99. However, you can opt for the 14-day free trial if you wish as well.

The main user interface of Instacast has three columns: you will find a list of all your podcast subscriptions in one, you will find the downloaded episodes for each of the subscriptions in the other and the larger column is for displaying the notes and some other relevant information as well.  You can sort the podcast subscriptions by episode, recently played, title, favored and unplayed. The episodes, just in the very same way, can be sorted by these criteria too.

There are 5 built-in smart folders inside the app as well and you can keep track of the most recent, most downloaded, unplayed, recently played or favorite podcasts through those. You can download the individual podcasts if you wish. Alternatively, it is possible to stream them to your MAC as well. I personally liked the streaming feature as it let me not store any unwanted videos/music files in my system.

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The playback controls of Instacast are similar to that of iTunes. However, the backward and forward buttons you see are not for skipping between episodes, but, it lets you skip forward or backward in a selected podcast.

I already wrote an article on how to set everything up in Minbox. Now, it’s time to get into some details of the same.

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You can access the app anytime from your system’s menu bar. Just click on the attachment icon button and then start adding files located with Finder. Alternatively, you can simply drag and drop the files onto the application icon. While making a test on the speed, I uploaded files of total size 1 GB. Minbox took around 15 minutes to convert and upload all the files to the server. Remember, the speed of uploading is pretty much dependent on your internet connection and hence, the time mentioned can vary as well. Though the uploading process continues on the background, you will get notified as soon as the process is completed.

Now, let me share a bit of information on a comparison that I made between Dropbox and Minbox. For a similar file size, the uploading took time of 44 minutes in Dropbox, whereas, for Minbox, the same was at below 21 minutes. Minbox visibly looks faster, but, I don’t know if it has anything to do with my system or internet connection.

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The uploaded files can be directly emailed from Minbox and the best part is that you can schedule those emails to be sent at a later time. All the uploaded files are assigned a unique link to a posted gallery. Once the files are posted and are available for download, you will receive an email confirmation, if you have things set up in settings.

Based on the default settings, Minbox will convert the files into a smaller size, however, it can be disabled as well and those can be uploaded in the original full size.

Minbox is completely free of use, as of today’s date. I find Minbox to be extremely useful for MAC users as the user interface is so minimalistic.

If you are interested in sending large files over the internet, let me give you all a suggestion. Register for the super-fast Minbox service and the process of sending large files gets even easier for you. You’ll see that most of the email clients, servers and cloud services such as Dropbox have file size limits and the process is often slow to upload files and send.

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Minbox is available as a MAC lightweight app that rests in the menu bar of your system. The makers behind Minbox have made claims that the service is twice as fast as Dropbox. Incidentally, they are behind another popular digital web application named as Penzu.

First of all, there are no file size limits or any limitation on the file type either, when it comes to Minbox. The files are stored on the server for 30 days as well.

Minbox has an incremental registration process and this is to prevent the initial overload to their server. The Minbox app works on Snow Leopard or a later version and the first step is to download the app. When you launch the app on your MAC, you’ll need to complete the sign up process (The process is quick) and this entails requesting an access code.

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To get the access code, you may need to wait for around 72 hours. However, if you decide to promote Minbox through your Twitter account or share the link to the service, the time period for which you need to wait for getting the access code gets smaller.

There are numerous features that Minbox has. However, the process starts with importing your address book to the Contacts list of Minbox. The import has to be enabled through the preferences settings available for Minbox.

In case you are a user of MAC OS X, you don’t require any specialized third part security software for keeping the important data out of the intruders. If you use the FileVault option found in System Preferences with a strong user account password, the entire disk of yours will be encrypted automatically.

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Most of the time, MAC OS X has been proved to be doing a great job in keeping the data protected. However, the most sensitive time for my data is when the computer is used by me actively. No, I am not talking of any Trojans or other digital intruders. It does not matter how secure my system is, if others can look at all the files of my system just by looking over my shoulder. Hence, I feel that the most important files with sensitive information should always be hidden from sight and today, I’ll talk about a tool that helps you in achieving this – MacHider.

MacPaw is the developer behind MacHider and the software costs $9.99. MacPaw incidentally, is behind many other popular software such as CleanMyPC, CleanMyDrive and CleanMyMac. The user interface of MacHider is really nice, just like the other products of MacPaw.

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Hiding a file is important because others in that case, won’t even know that the sensitive files ever existed. You need to drag and drop files onto the main panel of the application and thereby those are added to the overarching collection of All Files. Each of the files can individually be hidden; otherwise, you can toggle the big Hide switch that can be found in the top right corner.

You can even create custom groups of your choice and thereby have fine control over the hiding activities. Some of the custom groups can be Private Files and Secret Pictures. The custom groups can be edited and you can create other custom groups with a name of your choice as well.

Hazel – a Few Other Stuffs

May 24th, 2013 | Posted by Costea Lestoc in Mac - (0 Comments)

I already discussed the basics of Hazel in a previous article and in this, I’ll go into more advanced features of Hazel and how does it excel in automating stuffs for you.

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Remember that Hazel does nothing but watching the folders where you have assigned rules. For an example, you can create a rule that whenever a new PDF file is downloaded in your download folder, the same will be opened by Adobe Reader by default.

The best way of getting accustomed to the functionality of Hazel is to download the trial version of the same and nurture it. There are a few sample rules which come along with Hazel, however, it will be easier for you to understand things once you create and use a few of your own.

Let’s start with a possible action that you can take on the Downloads folder of your system. You should see a “+” sign at the bottom of the left side of the interface of Hazel. There should be a dropdown window as well through which you can navigate to the Downloads folder and select the same. Now, make a click on the “+” button that you see under Rules and create the conditions that you will like to use.

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I think that the toughest part of using Hazel is setting up all the rules and then testing out those. A rule may not only be applicable to a folder, but, you can create some for sub folders and files as well.

Make sure to watch out all the rules you create and also carefully assign if a rule should be applicable to all, any or none of a specified folder or file. There are several conditions to choose from while creating a rule and those are mostly the ones that we generally do in our system.

In a previous article, I discussed about a couple of calculator apps for MAC users. In this article, I will discuss a couple more which I feel deserve a place in this discussion.

Magic Calculator

Magic Calculator

This app costs $3.99 and will help you to save some of the intermediate results to a memory location. This will remain over there for being pursued at a later time. But, the feature list does not just end up there. This is an advanced calculator and through the same, you can use variables and functions as well. You can save not only a number, but, a formula evaluation as well. Thus, it will be possible for you to juggle between the intermediate results just like an expert.

You can use Magic Calculator for other advanced purposes as well. You can define functions of your own and performing user-friendly function plotting is also achievable with this app.

PCalc

PCalc

If you are a fan of the RPN mode, you must have heard of this MAC app before, due to the extreme popularity that it enjoys. However, PCalc is undoubtedly an all-round programmer and scientific calculator.

The default calculator app of MAC has a scientific mode of its own and that grants access to a number of functions. The default app is impressive, but, it’s tough for the same to reach the heights of that of PCalc.

The app has got an extremely good to eyes user interface and it’s user-friendly as well. The app has been in existence since 1992 when the first version came out. The 2nd version came out in 2002 and as a special promotion; it was shipped with MAC OS X in US and in some other countries. The current version is PCalc 3. With a price of $9.99, the application is not cheap, however, given the great number of functionalities it covers, you cannot complain about that.

MAC OS X users definitely cannot complain when it comes to calculating options. The default calculator that comes with MAC OS is pretty diverse in nature and better than the other standard calculators. However, it is not really possible to build an app which is as general as a calculator for satisfying all the user scenarios. Depending on the user, different calculator apps will be found to be the favorite. Luckily, when it comes to MAC, there is no dearth of calculator alternatives and below, I will discuss a couple of them:

Soulver

Soulver

This app costs $19.99 and it is pretty good at number crunching, something you will probably expect from the expansive spreadsheets in general. Contrary to the other similar applications, Soulver is pretty easy to use and intuitive as well. As far as my personal experience is concerned, I’ll call it a contextual and smart calculator. Soulver lets you use natural language and that eradicates the need of using formula chains. Soulver is probably the most expensive calculator app for the MAC users. However, the app is definitely worth the price as it speeds up your work procedure and allows you to juggle between various currencies. Apart from that, using natural language constructions, you can get idea on the current stock prices as well.

Always on Top Calculator

Always on Top Calculator

This app always stays on top and this cheap (Comes for $0.99 only), little calculator, by no means, is a powerful MAC application. It still supports the general number crunching and as it stays on the top, you don’t need to switch to and fro between the other apps and this in case of multitasking.

I will soon come up with another article discussing some other calculator apps for MAC users. In the meantime, check out either of the two and let me and other visitors know about your experience.

What is Hazel?

May 10th, 2013 | Posted by Costea Lestoc in Mac - (0 Comments)

I have always been on the lookout for a MAC application that works in the background and does not want any keyboard shortcuts or any sort of mouse click on my part. Well, if you have been searching for something similar, your search ends here. Hazel is an automation program which goes into action whenever files are added to the system or any sort of changes are made into the designated folders. Automator is a similar application, but, according to me, Hazel is easier to use and faster in operation as well. You can create your own customized rules and some of these in my MAC are: automatically clearing off files on the system after a specific period of time, changing file size of the screenshots, opening up new applications which are added to the Applications folder, move PDF files in a specific folder etc. It is also possible for you to integrate with the Dropbox account automatically.

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There are so many features of Hazel that it may not be possible for me to cover everything up in a single article. Remember, if you are a fan of free applications, Hazel is probably not for you. It costs a total of $25. However, there is an option to test whether this is worth using or not, you just need to sign up for the 14-day free trial.

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Hazel watches the folder for which you assign certain rules. Let me give you an example: create a rule for a folder where all of your downloaded exe files will be moved. After setting the rules correctly, you don’t need to do anything else for executing that particular rule. Hazel is installed in the System Preferences menu of yours, but, it is also possible for you to interact with the same through the menu bar.

I cannot call it a series of these many parts as I really don’t know where it is going to end. However, through this series, I’ll discuss some free or pretty cheap MAC apps that have helped me to make my life simpler. Well, I call these productive apps as these help me to be more productive while I am working. These not only help me save time, but at the same time, help me to complete the work more efficiently:

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Fantastical

It’s tough to work without a good calendar. OS X has its default Calendar application; still, I will suggest you to go for Fantastical. The app costs $19.99, but undoubtedly is the best calendar app that you can ever run on the MAC.

All the calendar events can not only be edited or checked, but you can create schedules too right from the menu bar of the MAC. Creating a new event is pretty easy. You just need to open the drop down window of Fantastical and then you should enter the relevant data for that event. Instead of clicking the numbers and times, you should just write the event simply. It’s just like writing the same on a scratch sheet of blank paper.

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Let me give you an example for your better understanding. Suppose, you want to schedule a lunch meeting for next Friday. Now, you just need to type Lunch with Client A next Fri, 12.30 PM at Restaurant A. As you type these data, Fantastical will fill in all the data for you. Yes, it is really that easy!

The exact type of reminders you want for the calendar events can be preset by you. Fantastical synchronizes with the Calendar application of Apple. However, an iPhone version is available for Fantastical as well costing $8.99. If you have experience of using Fantastical, I’ll love to hear your thoughts on the same.

Popular podcast iOS client on Instacast has come up with a new version for the MAC users. If the desktop version of the app is considered, it is still in open public beta; hence, many improvements are expected to come before the app hits its prime time. However, for the time being, it looks like to be shaping up as an awesome podcast client.

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The beta version of this app will run till the end of this month, so, if you are interested, you’ll have a single month to test it out. The final release will probably not be free, so, that’s another reason to try it out right now.

Right from the application, it is possible for you to subscribe to numerous popular podcasts. If you see that a particular podcast is not featured in the app (You’ll understand this by searching the podcast name in the app’s search field), you can import the same manually using the exact feed URL.

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If you are subscribed to a particular show, the new episodes will automatically be downloaded as soon as those are posted. The shows are presented in a slick and easy to navigate layout, hence, you can listen to the favorite podcasts without any unnecessary fluff whatsoever.

There’s another cool feature of this iOS app that I’ll like to mention here. You can synchronize the podcasts between your devices by creating an Instacast account. Thereby, you can listen to the podcasts no matter if you are at home or you have started to venture out into the world. If you have loved using the beta version, the same can be purchased for a price of $14.99. Well, it is still less than the official launching price of the next month. As the app is still in beta, you may see bugs. If you do, make sure to report those to the creators, so that the final app released is pretty smooth.