Review: VirusBarrier Plus

You know the old saying: Macs don’t get viruses. Well, the truth is, they don’t get as many. Yes, Windows has had hundreds of thousands of known viruses in its time, while the Mac has had a few dozen, most of which are over ten years old.

But that doesn’t mean that Mac users should have no concern over viruses whatsoever. Mac users are still capable of being “carriers” for Windows viruses–open an infected e-mail on a Mac, and without knowing it you could transmit that virus to all of your Windows-using contacts. And there could certainly come the day when Macs will become popular enough that more people start writing viruses and malware aimed at Macs; the recent MAC DEFENDER fiasco was a chilling reminder of that fact. So it is a good idea for Mac users to have some anti-virus protection, and my recommendation is VirusBarrier Plus.
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Review: Turbo.264 HD

As a video editor, converting and transcoding videos is a big part of my workflow. But it comes with one big drawback: it takes FOREVER. There’s a million tools on the block to do it, including built-in conversions in Final Cut Pro and a wealth of transcoding options provided by Compressor, but they take a really, really long time, even on really fast, souped-up Macs. That alone is the reason why I consider Elgato’s Turbo.264 HD to be a godsend.
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Review: Fluid

The internet is evolving, and many of the websites that we use every day are becoming more and more like web applications, whether they be sites that we live in, like Facebook or YouTube, or sites that function as services such as e-mail or Google Docs. In fact, Google has been specifically pushing the development of web apps with its Chrome Web Store. But there are disadvantages to web apps: mostly that they have to live within a tab of your browser alongside other websites. Wouldn’t it be great if your web apps could actually act as their own self-contained applications on your computer? Well, that’s exactly what Fluid is all about.
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Review: Reeder

RSS feeds have often been the bane of my online existence. The concept of RSS feeds is a good one: on news websites, blogs, or other sites that have frequently-updated content, you can subscribe to a feed of that content rather than having to constantly visit the site over and over yourself. That way, if something new arises, you can quickly view it in an RSS feedreader. The problem is that for years, I’ve tried a bunch of feedreaders, but I’ve had a hard time finding one that I’ve truly liked, up until the point when last fall I kind of gave up altogether.

That is, until I discovered Reeder. Reeder is a feedreader that originated on iOS and recently came out with a Mac version on the Mac App Store. And despite a few minor UI quirks, it’s become a very useful tool for viewing and staying on top of my RSS feeds.

A Client for Google Reader
Google Reader is a great (free) service provided by Google that lets you subscribe to and manage your RSS feeds, and it’s particularly handy because you can easily get to them from any computer. But Google Reader’s user interface is clunky and leaves a lot to be desired. Not to mention, who really wants to open a web browser to view feeds?

Well, Reeder actually is a client for Google Reader, which means that it synchronizes its subscriptions and feed content with your Google Reader account. This actually offers benefits for both products. Reeder provides a much more user-friendly interface for managing your Google Reader subscriptions and feeds, and also allows you to view your feeds even when your computer is offline. But Google Reader synchronizes all of your feeds and subscriptions across all of your devices, so if you add a subscription on your Mac, it gets added to Google Reader. If you read a feed item using Reeder on an iOS device, it’s already marked as read on Google Reader and Reeder on your Mac. It truly combines the best of both worlds.

The UI: Initially Confusing, Eventually Quite Useful
It becomes clear that Reeder is an app that originated from iOS roots; actually, it’s interface could probably be best compared to the new version of Mail coming in OS X Lion–complete with the fade in/fade out scrollbars.

The Reeder window is divided into three resizable columns. The left one is a source list, where you can show all items or only show items from a specific feed, so long as the view switcher on top is set all the way to the right. (Otherwise, all you’ll see are starred feed items, or else unread feed items.) The center column shows a list of feed items, grouped either by date or by source feed. The first two lines of the feed content are displayed. And the third column shows the content of the highlighted feed item.

A unique aspect of Reeder is that it actually provides an in-app web browser. If you double-click on an article in the feed list, or single-click on the article’s title in the viewer, the viewer expands to show the original page for the feed item within an integrated web browser. I’ve found this to be quite useful for those stupid websites that only show you a two-sentence excerpt of an article in their feed, daring you to actually have to visit their website to read the whole article. Now you can actually read the full webpage right within Reeder. Any links within the feed also open in Reeder’s in-app browser by default, but you can Command-click on them to open them in your regular web browser.

Shortcuts and Gestures
Reeder’s assortment of keyboard shortcuts can be a bit random and unorthodox, including a number of single-key shortcuts. For example, pressing ‘A’ asks if you want to mark all items as read (press Enter to confirm), pressing ‘R’ refreshes the feeds with Google Reader, pressing ‘P’ and ‘N’ moves to the previous or next subscription respectively. However all of Reeder’s keyboard shortcuts are completely user-customizable.

However Reeder does offer support for gestures, and you can configure various gestures as you like to perform certain actions. By default, a three-finger swipe (on a trackpad) left/right toggles the in-app browser for the current item, while an up/down swipe switches to the previous/next article.

At Your Service
Reeder provides built-in support for a wide array of services, including Google Reader Notes, Readability, Instapaper, Read It Later, Pinboard, Delicious, Zootool, and Twitter. In other words, there’s plenty of options for you to save articles for reading later, to bookmark them, or to share them.

Reeder offers a fresh (but not radically fresh) take on what using a feedreader is all about. It’s fast, responsive, and flexible, and by functioning as a Google Reader client it makes managing and syncing feeds completely painless. It is still a 1.0 product with some room left to grow, but it has easily taken the place as my favorite RSS feedreader for the Mac.

The Nitty-Gritty
Reeder Version 1.0 by Silvio Rizzi
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $9.99
Download: Mac App Store

Also available on the iOS App Store for iPhone and iPad. Only the Mac version was specifically reviewed for this article.

Review: BusyCal

Let’s face it: in the category of calendar apps, there isn’t really a whole lot of choice out there.

Sure, you’ve got Microsoft Outlook, but that’s kind of blah to work with. Google Calendar is also not the easiest app on the block to use, though it does get a bonus for its sharing features. Apple’s iCal (built-into Mac OS X) is probably the best there is (and it is due for a pretty facelift in OS X Lion), but it really doesn’t have much more functionality than the calendar apps on the iPhone or iPad. I mean, c’mon, we’re on a Mac for Pete’s sake! Well, if you’re looking to get a bit more out of your calendar app than you’re getting from iCal, then BusyCal is the app for you.
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