Macintosh blog postings

Macintosh Postings

Earliest: June 26, 2003Latest: September 22, 2017Total: 211

March 24, 2017

Biff App

Biff Logo

I became interested in the Biff app when I saw it included in a couple of Macintosh Mega App deals. I wanted to find out more about the application.

Here's a description of what Biff is from their website:

Biff is a Vector Graphics application. It makes creating graphics for your Website, Poster, or anything else really easy. Biff helps you create Amazing Logos, App Icons (Biff comes with the Templates you need.) with simplicity, without sacrificing powerful features like full path editing and boolean operations.

The developers of Biff are huge Back to the Future fans and the App name is in reference to a character in the movie. There are several references to the movie throughout the App.

Initial Impression

This is a good app to learn some of the fundamentals of Vector Graphics.

It lacks a lot of features that you can find in other vector base applications. While it talks about creating "Amazing Logos," other Applications give you a lot more power.

The application is expensive and sell for $59.99 on the App Store. However it is currently on sale for $39.99 on their website.

Some missing features

True EPS import - You can open up EPS files in biff, but you loose the vector aspects. Basically, you get a rendered EPS file. So if you purchase something online from DepositPhoto you can't modify vector components.

Limited Tools - When you click on the circle or rectangle shape it automatically creates one for you. You don't get to define the size of the shape on creations. The rectangle tool appears on the bottom right corner, and it took me a while to figure out that when I clicked on the rectangle icon a shape was appearing in my image. In addition, there is no pen tool, which is essential for any vector application. There is a free shape tool, which seems to only draw a line.

Training - There is some tutorials on the start up screen: Decorations, Intersecting Shapes, and Text with Image Fill. Other vector base apps have more detail information about the various tools.

WYSIWYG Font - There's no WYSIWYG font option, Biff just uses the system font picker when you need to change the font of a text.

Application Features

biffstartupscreen

There is a Library pallet with 18 Objects that you can use as a starting point. You can also build the library with your own Biff Objects. This is useful if you plan on reusing certain buttons or shapes.

There is a Style pallet with 14 styles to spice up any selected object. It's a good way to see the power of the application and makes it easy to see the object in different designs.

Lots of Shapes! Everything from standard circle and polygon to trees, people, and even an iPhone. A total of 53 shapes.

Skew Dialog box - In the transformation tool is the skew dialog box which gives you the ability to preview the skew shape that you wish to perform. This is better than most of the skew functionality that is in other apps, where you have to play around with the tool to figure it out how it works.

The Boolean Operations box in the Objects area is a neat way to learn the way multiple shapes transform when you use the different operations.

Cool Feature

The Repeat/Title Tool is better than what's in Affinity Designer. You can set the repeat amount and offset and see your object get transformed.

Repeat Title

Bug: When I clicked on the Repeat/Tile the print dialog appears. Very strange!

Final Thoughts

Hard to recommend Biff when there are a lot of other good options out there. I would certainly suggest looking into Affinity Designer, ArtBoard, and Autodesk Paint as good alternative applications. In the long run, you'll learn some core fundamentals of vector programming.

I highly encourage you to download the Biff app from their site and use the 30-day trial.

Cross Application Note: When I copied an object from Biff and pasted it into Affinity Designer the object shows up as image and not as a shape or curve.

March 17, 2017

Irish Icons from Xicons.com

A few years ago, the folks at Xicons.com created some really cool icons. They ran frequent contests for people to submit their icons and people would vote for their favorite.

The site isn't the same anymore, it's now part of InterfaceLift and it appears that the main focus of their business is with Desktop Wallpapers. They still have an active icon area, but it doesn't seem to be as vibrant as it once was.

Back in 2002/2003, I grab a bunch of their icons. Seems appropriate to share some of the Irish theme ones.

IrishCollection.jpg
Click on image to download the IrishIcons zip file.

Irish Icons

In this collection by Dustin J. Craig contain these icons inspired by Lucky Charms:

Clovers, Diamonds, Hearts, Horse Shoes, Lucky Charms, Lucky You., Moons, Neon Clover, Pot of Gold, Rainbows, Red Balloons, Stars

Lucky Charms

These icons by ceruleanjen contain all the marshmallow shapes in the Lucky Charms cereal:

Clover, Heart, Moon, Shamrock, Spade, Star

As noted in the Read Me file: A few icons to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and make your Mac feel a bit Irish.

OS X Flag Icons

This icon collection contains 194 national flags and 7 Organizations, including Ireland.

AFRICAN NATIONS:
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Congo (Zaire), Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethipoia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

AMERICAN NATIONS:
Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela

ASIAN NATIONS:
Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen

EUROPEAN NATIONS:
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Belorussia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City

OCEANIAN NATIONS:
Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

ORGANISATIONS:
European Union, IOC, NATO, Red Crescent, Red Crescent & Red Cross, Red Cross, United Nations

March 10, 2017

TurboCollage 6

Turbo Collage6

Every day I send out a collage of photos to family and friends featuring my daughter. I have been doing this for six years now. When I put together the collage, it needs to be quick and simple.

What is TurboCollage

TurboCollage makes photo collages, mosaics, photo piles, grids, greeting cards, mood boards, polaroid collages, contact sheets, and more! Their website says that they have more than 55,000 active customers.

TurboCollage doesn't have any photo touch-up capabilities. You will need to touch up photos before using TurboCollage. This is fine for me because I have several applications that do an excellent job with fixing up photos.

Collage Style

There are seven built in Collage styles:

  • Regular Pile - Pictures on top of pictures
  • Advanced Pile - Pictures can be set to custom shapes (Hearts, Circle, Triangle etc?)
  • Picture Grid - Grid of pictures (Like the Brady Bunch Intro)
  • Mosaic - pictures are arranged in grid by different sizes
  • Center Frame - Mosaic layout with a large center picture
  • Zig Mosaic - Non-rectangular Mosaic layout
  • Photohive - photos arranged in beehive pattern.

Turbo Collage6

Templates

TurboCollage comes with templates broken into eight different categories. The templates are just a simple starting point to learn the capabilities of TurboCollage.

Basic Patterns, Picture Piles, Picture Grids, Mosaics, Center Picture, Zig Mosaics, Photohives, Instagram, Facebook Cover, Twitter Header Photo, Greeting Cards, Postcard.

What makes Turbo Collage Different

  • Very easy to create a collage with a custom layout size
  • The Picture border style adds a nice effect to final design
  • Easy to adjust the layout of the images.
  • You can create any layout size you need for print or web

TurboCollage vs Posterino

Both Applications do a great job making collages. I feel that for smaller collage, TurboCollage is the way to go. It?s very easy to put together a collage when you have only a few pictures to deal with.

Posterino is a great solution when you have a large set of images and want more control. You can read my review on Posterino from August last year.

TurboCollage vs PictMonkey

For years PictMonkey was my go to application for creating collages. Recently I encountered issues with my collage looking slightly out of focus. My workaround was decent but it was time to look at other solutions.

I really like how I could auto adjust pictures in PictMonkey, simplify right click and boom I can edit the picture and see the final results in the collage.

What I like about TurboCollage

I like how quickly I can generate a really good looking collage. I don't have to mess around with different settings or styles. I just add my photos, set the layout, make some visual adjustments and then export the image. It's fast, easy and I get a really nice clean picture.

TurboCollage 6 was last updated on September 28, 2015. It's available in the Apple App store or on their website.

March 3, 2017

EUASOO Mouse Mice Z-7900 on MacOS

Last week I purchased a new gaming mouse EUASOO Mouse Mice Z-7900 4000 DPI Metal Base MMO/FPS High Precision Optical Gaming Mouse from Amazon. I have been looking for some replacement for my Logitech Mx 518 mouse. The mouse is several years old and I wanted to see if there was another mouse that might be more comfortable to use.

There's two reasons's why I wanted to investigate a new mouse:

  • Logitech Mx 518 is old, it first shipped on August 2, 2005.
  • The Logitech Gaming Software is very limited and doesn't have the ability to assign commands to the keys.

Why Use a Gaming Mouse on Daily bases?

A gaming mouse has a couple of advantages over the standard "Magic Mouse" that ships with every Apple product:

  • Game Mouse are better Ergonomically fit - If your doing a lot of work on the computer, you want something that feels comfortable to hold all day.
  • Extra Buttons and functionality - Gaming Mouse have extra buttons to do more work. In the 1990's having a two button mouse was good. Developers today have a need to simplify their workflow and a two button mouse just doesn't cut it. Yes, the "Magic Mouse" has various swipe settings, but who wants to remember if it the functionality is 3 swipes or 4?

Computer Mouse3

Initial Impression

The mouse does have a nice soft feel whereas the Logitech MX 514 mouse doesn't have a soft top.

The light on the top of the mouse is pretty cool.

There are no drivers or MacOS software that comes with Z-7900. The standard mouse functions will work out of the box, but you'll need to purchase a third party driver to use the extra mouse functions, speed and acceleration.

The mouse is seen as a "USB Gaming Mouse," Vendor ID: 0x04d9 (Holtek Semiconductor, Inc.)

Here are some options and my experiences with getting the extra buttons to work on the Mac out of the box:

USB Overdrive

  • Only Supports the extra Button 4 and Button 5 (Buttons in front of the thumb and behind the thumb)
  • Ability to assign AppleScript to key clicks. (Which meets my needs)

Keyboard Maestro

  • Only Supports the extra Button 4 and Button 5
  • Awesome ability to assign functions to the extra buttons.

Better Touch Tool

  • No control over the extra buttons.
  • Can only control the main click and double click.

SteerMouse

  • Can control 4,5,6,7 Buttons. (Those are the buttons around where the thumb is.)
  • Doesn't have access to the buttons at the top of the mouse.
  • No support for assigning command keys

ControllerMate

  • Can control 4,5 Buttons.
  • Very complicated to use and learn, it may have more power than Keyboard Maestro. I may re-visit in the future.

Driver Hack

I have read that there is a way to hack the driver to get all the buttons to work. This will involve me reinstalling Parallels to get it working. I haven't installed the application since my computer crashed last month.

I'll be sure to post my experience soon.

February 24, 2017

Private File

Private File Splash

In 1996, Aladdin Systems came out with a cool piece of security software called "Private File." This software allowed users to encrypt any file and send it securely.

From their documentation:

Why is the product called Private File?

That's just our way of letting you know that when you make your files private (by way of a simple drag and drop action), they will be protected with strong encryption as well as bring compressed -- using the award-winning Stuffit compression technology. The private files you create can be sent anywhere in the world, thanks to our cross-platform versions for Mac and Windows and because we also have a legally exportable (outside the US) version!

Private File used industry standard algorithm called MD5. The International version would use 40-bit encryption while the domestic version used 128-bit encryption.

Private File was available for Macintosh System 7.0.1 and Windows 95 and NT 4.0.

Private File Folder

Easy to Encrypt and Decrypt

Private File works by Drag-Drop. You take any file or folder, drop it on the "PF Encrypt" icon, type in a secure password, and it will compress and encrypt very quickly.

Encrypted StuffIt archives created with the Private File utility will have .pf extensions.

To Decrypt, simply drag the file with the .pf extension to the "PF Decrypt" application, enter the password and it will decrypt the file.

Private File was discontinued sometime in 1999. Smith Micro Software acquired Aladdin Systems in 2005. (Note Aladdin Systems had to change the company name in 2004 as part of a trademark settlement from Aladdin Knowledge Systems.)

Today's Solution

If you're looking for the same functionality in Macintosh OS X world, Stuffit 16 is a good solution. You have the same drag-drop flexibility as Private File with today's compression technology. Stuffit 16 offers 512-bit encryption.

We come a long way in software. When Private File came out it cost $49.95. Today a digital copy of Stuffit 16 only cost $9.99

February 17, 2017

Art Director's Toolkit

Art Director Logo4

The Art Director's Toolkit 4 came bundled with my Powerbook G4 computer. The application is a toolbox of useful mini-apps for graphic designers.

The current product description:

Art Directors Toolkit (ADT) is the "Designer's On-screen Toolset" for Artists and Designers working with digital media. Always a one-click-away companion dedicated to speeding up the design process, ADT works almost by stealth whether using Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, QuarkXpress, Dreamweaver or any tool to create digital media and websites. No more cluttering your desk or desktop with stickies, swatch books, calculators and google searches. ADT provides all of the obscure calculations and information designers need on a daily basis.

I haven't used the application that much when I got my Powerbook. I thought it was worth looking into and seeing if there were many changes in version 5.5.

The only change that I can see between the two versions is that version 5 included a new Launcher. The Launcher allows you to store your commonly used applications, folders, and files. It's a useful tool to organize and open documents.

Useful Art Director's Toolkit Functionality

There are a couple of useful things that I found in Art Director, after no opening the application for a couple of years. My Powerbook G4 is not collecting dust in the basement, it's on my home desk. I just don't open every single application on my computer.

Symbol Tool

The Symbol Tool allows you to see every single character of a selected font. This is useful when you have special fonts that have some extras. For example, the Ravenscroft Font includes some Disney Logos.

Using Art Director's Toolkit, I can see that if I type Option and, I can get the Haunted Mansion logo.

Art Symbol Tool

Blend Tool

The Blend Tool gives you the ability to mix different colors to see what the results would look like. It's a neat way to play around with colors and to see how they interact with each other.

Art Blend Tool

Other tools in the toolkit include, Ruler, Number, RGB, Swatch, Symbol, Text, Scale, Layout, Palette and Launcher.

Getting Art Director's Toolkit

You can download Art Director's Toolkit from code-line.com website. There is a 15-day trial, after that it cost $24.95.

If you're a graphic designer and like to play around with colors and sizes, I would suggest checking out the software. At least download the trial and see if the tools can make your life easier.

February 10, 2017

FontDoc

Its good to have a lot of fonts available in your Font Catalog. However, it can be tricky to decide on the perfect font for a headline or graphic.

Having a single page reference can be useful to figure a practical font that expresses your message the best.

Font Book

Apple Font Book allows you install fonts and to view Font designs. You can't see different typefaces side-by-side to see which one looks best for the design.

The Font Book does include a print functionality. Basically, you select the fonts, then select Print and you can see they various typefaces. You can print to PDF to use this later.

Font Book Preview

It's nice but there's not much configurations.

FontDoc to the Rescue

With FontDoc, you can apply a customize text and determine the preview font size. This makes it really easy to pinpoint the best font to use.

Checkout this preview for "Recongeal Retinophore":

Font Doc Preview

The neat thing is that I can create an RTF document that I can reference at a later date.

FontDoc is free. I find it to be a useful Utility application to have. You can download FontDoc from Allen Smith website.

February 3, 2017

JAG II

Back in the early 1990s Ray Dream created a cool image enhancement utility called Jag II. The program would help remove jagged edges from images.

This is from their press release from April 13, 1993:

JAG II features a completely revised edge detection algorithm which finds the jagged edges in an image -- whether the image is black and white, eight-, 16-, 24- or 32-bit color -- and compares them to the background. JAG II determines whether to use the original technique of adding intermediate colors to blend the edges or to take advantage of the new resolution-boosting algorithm to maintain the document's color palette and smooth the jagged edges through increased resolution. This ability to maintain the color palette is a vital tool when working with monochrome images on laser printers which don't support the use of the intermediate color (gray), or when a restricted color palette is in use. The added resolution allows a crisp, clear image at any size.

One of the things that I liked about was the design of cool splash screen.

Jag Caillou

A problem with JAG II is that it doesn't have any support for JPEG images. It supported opening PICT, Tiff, Photoshop 2.0, MacPaint, Quicktime Movie, AVI, Autodesk Animator, DV, Animated GIF, SMIL, Movie, Pictures, PICS and Graphic Files.

If you have a lot of images, you could use the Batch Processing. However, the application doesn't always do a great job. Check out the rendering of this graphic file from 1.0.4

Jag Converted2

Ray Dream was purchased by Fractal Design in 1997.

January 27, 2017

Kant Generator Pro

kangt Icon

Kant Generator Pro is a text application written by Mark Pilgrim for the 68k Macintosh. The application had the ability to create some very creative random text using various modules.

The application hasn't been updated to work on Mac OS X environment. There was some development work done about 10 years ago to port this over to Carbon code, but the developer ran into all sorts of difficulties and gave up on the project.

What is Kant Generator Pro?

The best way to understand the application is from the author. This is the description of Kant Generator Pro from the "About Menu" in the application:

Kant Generator Pro was originally designed to generate text that vaguely resembles Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, a brilliant and revolutionary piece of philosophical writing which, for some time now, has been serving as the fourth leg of my wobbly refrigerator. It has since been expanded to allow you to generate anything you like. Several modules are included with this program which can create anything from thank you notes to excuses for being late to work. You can also design your own modules with the full-featured module editor.

As Kant Generator Pro once said (and may say again some day): "Philosophy teaches us nothing whatsoever about philosophy." Words to live by.

I found Kant to be an amusing application. It's fun to see what creative sentences that would be generated. The text content would be good when you need a placeholder text and don't like using Lorem Ipsum text.

Examples of The Excuse Module

Three example runs of the Excuse Module:

I stupidly plunged a leather punch through my son's leg, and when I was waiting for the repairman to get to my house there was this unspeakable fire, and then while I was scraping the strewn debris from my teeth, there was this explosion. Then I suffered a bout of severe paranoia, then there was this terrible hail storm, and then while I was scraping the bone chips from the floor, I suffered a petite mal seizure

Skip, this is Craig Michaels. It's sometime around 2:45 in the morning and I'll be a little late today. There was this fire, and when I was waiting for the insurance adjustor to arrive our dog contracted AIDS, and then while I was picking the broken glass out of my mouth, there was this cyclone, then there was this traffic jam, and when I was waiting for the towing company to show up our dog caught pneumonia...

"Excuses, Excuses" is based on the remarkable reasons a former coworker of mine would come up with for why he couldn't come in to work. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, but some of the instantiations are pretty darn close to reality. - Mike W. Miller

January 20, 2017

Super Vectorizer 2

Super Vectorizer is a professional vector-tracing app that automatically converts bitmap image like JPEG, GIF, and PNG to clean, scalable vector graphics such as AI, SVG, DXF, and PDF. It supports tracing of color and grayscale, black-and-white, skeletonization, and line, as well. Super Vectorizer uses a totally new image-quantization algorithm that produces more natural color after vectorization. (Whew! That's a long complex description.)

Basically Super Vectorizer will take an image and convert it to be a scalable graphic file. This is useful if you want to make a low-quality image to display awesome in a high-resolution environment.

This is a very useful application where you want to convert a trace that you made with a pen/pencil into a vector object so that you can scale it to fit in any environment. If you don't convert it, when you take a scan file to a higher resolution image, the image may have jagged edges.

Converting a file to a vector format, helps make your graphic file look good in any situation.

Exports to four different format type:

  • SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation.
  • PDF - Portable Document Format
  • AI - Adobe Illustrator Format
  • dxf - AutoCAD format

Tip: Affinity Designer users should save files in the AI format.

I found the application to be somewhat useful to convert graphic files into vector objects. The more colors an object has the more blurry the final results may look. It takes a while to figure out all the different adjustment that makes your final image look good. The preview helps you figure out which combo works best for your particular image needs.

Super Vectorizer
Converting Donald's Trump hat to a vector format.

Check out the "Make America Great Again" vectorized hat that was done using Super Vectorizer 2

Purchase Super Vectorizer 2

You can buy Super Vectorizer on the App Store. It's currently on sale for $9.99 (Regularly $29.99). It's a good deal for anyone that likes to convert images into vector format for some are work.