Get Facebook Notifications Out of Your Inbox and Onto Your Menubar

Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 10:24 PM
I just found this great application that lives in your menubar and lets your know what's going on with your Facebook account. It's called, simply, Desktop Notifications. If you have Growl, it works even better by giving you one of those little popups the moment you get poked.

I like this app because Facebook has reached the point where I use it as a communication platform as much as regular email. I used to have my Facebook email notifications get routed automatically to a special folder in Mail, but it always seemed a bit redundant to mark new messages as read in two places.

The app is lightweight, effective, and definitely worth a look.

(via TUAW)

Google Earth Replacement Icon

Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 4:50 PM

I am a big fan of this icon but I don't know if I'd advocate going through with the interface tweaks since the Google Earth software has changed considerably in the three years since this was first posted. If you are brave enough to test it out on your computer, post your experience in the comments section below.

Streamline Your iChat Experience

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 5:52 PM
There are a handful of instant messaging applications available for OS X. To name a couple, Adium and Proteus are two popular open source programs. However, I tend to prefer iChat for its simplicity and feel. Out of the box it works very well, but there are definitely ways for you to improve your overall experience with a few fairly simple tweaks.


This is an iChat add-on that should definitely be considered by every power-user. I love it because it provides multiple levels of functionality missing from the vanilla version of iChat. The killer feature of Chax is that it gives you the ability to merge multiple buddy lists into a single window. Nice! It also supports Growl notifications so you don't have to constantly monitor your IM window if you're doing another task that takes up the whole screen (like browsing the internet). The useful improvements don't stop there. Check out the full list of features on the Chax website.

Add MSN and Yahoo Contacts to iChat

Most Mac users know that you can setup iChat to work with AIM and Google Talk, but did you know that there is a workaround to access your MSN and Yahoo contacts as well? I love this because it gives me the opportunity to get back in touch with friends from outside the US who largely use MSN.

The solution is fairly involved but can be accomplished once-and-for-all by following the step-by-step instructions laid out by our friends over at AppStorm. You're going to need a free program called Psi during the setup but you can delete it once you're done. In a matter of time, you'll have access to all your friends across all networks in one window and that is oh-so-sweet.

Give Your Contacts Custom Buddy Icons

The buddy icons on my contacts list used to look really cluttered. Some of my contacts had that little lightbulb, others had cartoon characters, and still others had pictures that were way too small to make out. I think it looks a lot cleaner to associate each contact with a clear head shot of his or her actual face.

The way to do this is by managing your contacts in your Address Book. Make sure that each contact has their instant messenger handle(s) filled in and drag a good headshot from Facebook or your hard drive onto the box to the left of their name. Remember, the icon shows up in iChat as less than one square centimeter so make sure you crop out everything but the person's face.

Next, go back into iChat and right click on the contact's name. Check the box that says "Always use this picture" and enter their first and last name into the appropriate fields if not done so already. If the icon does not update automatically, you can try restarting Address Book and iChat. Also, if you want the pictures to show up on your contacts list without having to mouseover, make sure you check "Show Buddy Pictures" under the View menu.

This process takes a little bit of time, especially if you have a large contacts list. However, once complete, your contacts' pictures will show up in other programs such as Mail and on your iPhone.

In the future, I'd like to see this process more automated. It only makes sense for the facial recognition software that debuted in iPhoto '09 to be utilized for populating the Address Book with head shots. To be honest, I'm surprised this isn't integrated to OS X already.

It should also be noted that there is a program called AddressBookSync that automatically grabs photos from Facebook to populate your Address Book. However, this solution doesn't work as well as it should and it often misses contacts whose names are spelled slightly differently on your computer than they are on Facebook. However, you may find it useful if you want a quick fix and don't mind pictures that are often too small to make out individual faces.

We hope you've found the tips covered here today useful for enhancing your iChat experience. Let us know what you think. Is all this tweaking necessary or do you just prefer using Adium or some other third party IM application? Do you think Apple should make the experience easier by default or do you like iChat just the way it is? What settings do you use to make iChat the best that it can be? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow the Weather in Your Menubar With Meteo

Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 12:17 PM
Remember Weatherbug? That bloated, spyware infested, Windows program that displayed the current temperature and made strange chirping sounds whenever there was a thunderstorm watch? Despite all it's flaws, everyone seemed to use it (any many still do today) because it's so useful to have the weather available at a glance.

Since I switched to Mac, I've been using Dashboard widgets to keep track of the weather (my favorites are the default OS X one, The Weather Underground, and The Weather Channel). However, I've found that I don't really bother to check them that much. Bringing up the whole Dashboard just to check the temperature is inefficient. I want a way to casually glance at the temperature in the same way that I glance at the clock.

Meteo is a free app that let's you show the current temperature and conditions on your menubar.

You can choose to display different conditions, future forecasts, and even a radar image in the customizable drop down menu.

The options are fairly easy to understand, but I had a little trouble finding the menu where you are able to toggle the different conditions on and off. To find this hidden menu, go to the City Editor and double click your city. Look at the Weather Items and Forecast Items tab and you will be able to toggle things like UV Index, Wind Speed, Pressure, and the radar image.

The best part of Meteo is that it's 100% free!

What do you think of this program? What do you use to get your weather forecasts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Project 365

Monday, July 27, 2009 at 10:47 PM
Way back in 2007, I did this thing called Project 365 where I took a picture every day for the whole year. Not only was it a fun and effective way to develop my photography skills, but it also paid off in the end with a great visual record of the year. I am often able to remember what month certain things happened to me in 2007 based on their relation to one of the photos in this collection.

It was definitely a challenge to make it through the entire year. Now that camera phones are more prevalent and feature higher resolutions, I imagine it would be less difficult to get quality photos on the run. Check out this website for more information on starting your own Project 365.

Have you undertaken a Project 365? Are you inspired to start one? Post a link in the comments below.

(via Photojojo)

Call International Numbers for Free With Talkster

at 9:31 AM
A couple of years ago, there was a rash of US numbers that you could call for the standard domestic rate and they would forward you via P2P to an international number for no extra charge. It was a cheap and easy way to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe without being tethered to a Skype-enabled computer. I never properly investigated the business model for these services but I think it had to do with tax loopholes in Iowa or something. Sadly, someone pulled the plug on this kind of workaround and, once again, one had to pay exorbitant rates to call internationally.

Today, there is a new service called Talkster that restores your ability to talk to people around the world for free.

The service works by giving you and your international friends local numbers to call when you want to speak to each other. Here's how it works. When I call my friend Ricky in China, I call my local US number for him, he picks up and I tell him to call me back on his local Chinese number for me. I stay on the line and, after a short ad, we are connected and can talk for as long as we want!

You can set your numbers up for the first time on your computer, the phone, or via text message. I'll admit that it sounds complicated at first but it's actually quite easy once you try it.

The service isn't perfect. When I tested it out, the call quality was average and there was a slight delay in the audio. Still, the idea of providing this kind of service on the revenue from short, location-specific advertisements is truly innovative and I'm curious to see if it'll last this time.

At press time, Talkster is available for numbers in 38 countries.

Have you tried Talkster or any other similar service? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Discover New Music With Peel

Friday, July 24, 2009 at 4:06 PM
Music on the radio is dead. I discover the majority of new music these days from one of two sources: friends or the internet. Music blogs are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what's hot in the music scene.

Peel is an app that gathers all the mp3s from your music blogs and presents them in an interface similar to iTunes.

The great part is that you can stream the songs to your computer before you download them. That way, you know you're getting a track you like before you add it to your collection. Also, downloading the song and importing it to iTunes is as simple as one click of the mouse. You can even configure it so the tracks you download are placed into playlists named after the blogs they come from.

Intrigued? Check out this screencast.

Of course, you can customize the list of music blogs you follow. Here are a couple of my favorites to get you started:
What are your favorite music blogs? Post links in the comments below.

Peel is free for 25 days and $15 after that.

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