MacDrive – access Mac-formatted drives on PC

Imagine the situation with me… you’re a PC user, or more specifically a Windows user. Your friend, however, is a fully paid up member of the cult of Mac and, understandably, has formatted their external hard drive for Mac OS X. One day, though, your friend brings his drive over to your house… there are a few large files you want to share and the easiest way was just to plug straight in to your computer.

The problem is… Windows can’t understand Mac OS formatted discs. They just won’t show up in Windows Explorer.

I had a similar problem to this: I have a Mac with an external drive plugged in. I usually share the external drive over our home network so I can access the files from my Windows 7 laptop, but recently the network’s been a bit flaky. I wanted to plug the external drive straight into my laptop but hit that Windows/Mac drive problem. Fortunately there is a solution.

MacDrive, by Mediafour, enables your Windows computer to understand Mac drives. In fact, it integrates them right into the explorer so, to all intents and purposes, they behave just the same as a Windows drive. The application suggested by Mediafour themselves is that of a Mac user running Windows as a Bootcamp partition, but wanting to access the Mac portion of their hard drive. I have no doubt that’ll work but, as I said, I wanted it to access a Mac-formatted external drive on my PC.

It’s a testament to how well this is working that I actually don’t have too much else to say! I installed the software, rebooted the computer, plugged in the external drive, and away we go. The nice thing is that there’s a free trial so you can see whether MacDrive fulfils your expectations. It’s certainly done so for me – why not download it and give it a try?

Check the MacDrive microsite for more information, and that free trial.

Kashflow: Accounting made easy

I have a love-hate relationship with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs: I really hate having to fill in a tax return every year, but I usually get a rebate for my trouble. Anything that can help me keep track of my finances accurately is going to be a great help when we get to the end of the financial year again.

I’ve been using Kashflow to track the income and expenditure for my online dealings for a while now and I have to say it’s the best software package I’ve tried. It’s user friendly for someone without an accounting background, i.e. me, but powerful at the same time.

Kashflow offers me:

  • Access to my accounts from any Internet-enabled computer
  • Easy supplier and customer management
  • Smart-looking invoices, and an e-mail reminder of any invoices that are overdue
  • Form “late payment” letters that have been crafted to maximise the likelihood of your client paying up
  • PayPal integration, to track incoming payments
  • At-a-glance overview of the health of your account
  • And plenty more features detailed on the site.

I’m really impressed, evidenced by the fact that I’m still a customer on their £14.99 plan after five months of use. I won’t pay for services I think are substandard, but this is great accounting software for bloggers and small businesses and well worth at least checking out.

The really nice thing is that if you want to try it out Kashflow is completely free for 60 days and (this is the good part) you don’t have to give them your credit card details. If you decide you want to stick with them after the 60 days you can give them your details then, otherwise you just walk away.

If you’re looking to keep track of your accounts securely and easily, give Kashflow a try.

Links to Kashflow in this post are affiliate links. If you decide to remain a Kashflow customer after your free trial I will receive a small commission.

Customise your Mac with retro screen savers

James DocThis is a guest post by James Doc. James is a Web Technologies student in Lincoln, UK and is a freelance PHP & ASP.NET web designer in his spare time! He gets excited over new gadgets, sci-fi and a wide variety of music. You can read more of Doc’s thoughts on his blog or follow him on Twitter

Mac OS X comes with some beautiful screen savers. Flurry is pretty and the mosaic screen saver using your iPhoto or Aperture images is just fantastic. Sometimes it’s nice to personalise your desktop beyond the basic, built-in settings though.

One of the things I really like about Linux is that there is a huge range of screen savers available for it. Admittedly some of them are a touch on the dull side, but others are just fantastic;  flying toasters or bouncing cows being good examples!

Now thanks to Dan at UneasySilence the XScreenSaver package, consisting of over two hundred screen savers has been compiled for OS X 10.6 “with 64 bit goodness.” You can download these retro scenes from uneasysilence.com. Check them out, and be sure to try out my favourite: Substrate.

Call for conversation: Which Twitter Client?

Seesmic Desktop

Let’s try something new, a “call for conversation” if you like :) Comments are most definitely welcomed and if you know anyone who would like to offer an opinion please forward this posts’ address to them!

I just have a simple question. If you’re a Twitter user, which client do you use? Are you a purist (web-interface only)? Is TweetDeck your thing? Or do you tweet on the move with Twittelator? And while we’re thinking about it why not tell us what made you choose your particular client as well?

To kick things off, my preferred desktop client is Seesmic Desktop – an Adobe Air application that’s still pretty young (i.e. there are some features that are missing, like the ability to follow users in the application) but still manages to keep me coming back. I like that it can handle two or more Twitter accounts, but also has multiple columns and user groups.

And on mobile? I love Tweetie on iPhone – just because it’s simple and does everything I need it to with very little fuss.

So, over to you… what’s your favourite client? And what makes it so? Debate away :)

GS Recycled: Remotely control computers with LogMeIn

LogMeIn.com

Control your computers from a distance
with LogMeIn.com

When people hear I used to work in IT they often ask if I’ll have a look at their computer, which has been playing up ever since they installed that free program they downloaded last week. “Yeh, OK” I say – knowing full well that I was a Java and COBOL programmer, and have no idea what Windows is up to under the hood – and heaven-help me if someone asked me to look at a *nix system like Linux or a Mac!

Having said that, many problems can be solved by working through logical steps… this is hard if you’re not physically at the person’s computer, as you can’t see what you’re doing over the phone. LogMeIn, however, gives you the ability to remotely control someone’s computer and work on it as if you were right there!

Setting up an account on LogMeIn.com is quick and easy, and setting up a new computer for remote access is as simple as logging into your account and clicking on “Add Computer”. The software is downloaded, and the computer then appears the list of machines you have available to you. There is a disadvantage, though: either you have to have been on the remote machine to install the software, or you have to give your friend access to your LogMeIn account and let them install it… personally, I wouldn’t be happy giving someone else my login details, so I’d have to go along and install the software myself, and I might as well fix their computer while I’m there!

I do have a use for this, though. I have it installed on my home Mac, and my work PC – and I can access them both from any computer with an Internet connection! OK, so I can’t actually download any files from them, but I can look at them on-screen, and can e-mail them to myself by controlling the e-mail app. It’s also great to see that this works equally well on Macs and PCs. There’s even a Firefox extension to make controlling your remote computers quicker (without the extension, you will have to use a Java applet).

LogMeIn is a simple, free way of controlling computers by remote. Whether it’s for support, a file you’re forgotten, or just to freak your friends out by moving their mouse pointer, it’s worth a look. It might just save your life one day… (no, not really).

Visit LogMeIn.com to sign up.

This “recycled” post has been resurrected for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m at a conference and am unable to write a new article at the moment. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, LogMeIn is still one of the few sites I use regularly, and one of the more useful tools available to me. If you haven’t checked it out already, do take a look.

My Essential iPhone Apps

With all the fuss over the iPhone 3.0 announcement, I thought it was a good time to review the apps I couldn’t live without on my iPhone. Some are for business, some are for pleasure, but all are essential in my eyes. And, oddly for a miser like me, they’re all apps that I had to fork out some cash for…

  1. Easy TimeSheet

    Easy TimeSheet – I use Easy TimeSheet for tracking hours worked on various projects. Whenever you start work on something simply start the timer… when you finish, stop it again. It’s that simple. There’s the option to assign hourly rates to projects if you plan to bill someone for your work. The data can also be e-mailed to you so that you can compile reports/bills on your computer rather than trying to fiddle about with your phone.
    Click to view in iTunes store: £1.79

  2. Tweetie

    Tweetie – I used Twittelator Pro for mobile twittering for quite some time, and recently made the switch to Tweetie. When I changed, Tweetie seemed much “cleaner” and simpler… it just did its job and did it well. It allows you to send a link to your current location, and integrates with TwitPic. I’ve also found it to be very solid… I don’t remember it crashing on me yet. Since switching, Twittelator Pro has had an update which adds a load of new features, but having had a look at it I think it felt a bit too cluttered. For the simplicity of tweeting on the move, it’s Tweetie on my iPhone.
    Click to view in iTunes store: £1.79 (NO LONGER AVAILABLE – for the new version see Tweetie 2)

  3. Milog

    Milog – This is one I use every single day, and couldn’t do without. I have to track my business mileage in the car, and kept forgetting to fill in the log book. Rather than having to try and reconstruct my mileage a month after the event I downloaded this great little app that allows me to input the mileage for every trip, and then allows me to e-mail myself a report at the end of the month. The good thing is that this app is paying for itself, as I’m more likely to remember to claim small trips than if I were doing it all in one go.
    Click to view in iTunes store: £1.79

  4. Things

    Things – I’m notoriously bad at remembering to do things… but I’m also terrible at keeping lists. They get misplaced, or (believe it or not) I forget to write things on them. Because I always have my phone with me, though, and because I can have the icon on the first page of the start screen, an iPhone-based solution works better for me. I’m also impressed with the GTD method of task management, so decided to go for something that loosely followed that. Things is the solution, with an inbox where you just dump tasks as they come up, and “today”, “next”, “scheduled”, and “someday” lists to help break that huge list of jobs into manageable chunks. So far I’m definitely remembering to do more than I used to!
    Click to view in iTunes store: £5.99

  5. Pole Position: Remix

    Pole Position: Remix – a bit of fun to finish with, and a remake of an old game! Pole Position was good on ye olde computers, but steering by tilting the iPhone has added a nice new dimension to the game. Not to mention that I’m a bit of a Formula 1 freak so it’s nice to imagine that I’m racing round the circuit ahead of next week’s season-opening race in Melbourne. Shame none of the actual F1 circuits are in the game (only fairly simple layouts) but it’s still fun.
    Click to view in iTunes store: £1.79

Disclosure: All app links in this article are affiliate links and will generate income for Geek-Speak if you choose to make a purchase.

Do you want more on the iPhone? Find our best iPhone posts here.

MacHeist :: Puzzle your way to free software

MacHeist

Not quite sure how to categorise this one… MacHeist is a site that presents visitors with a series of puzzles, or “heists” over time. These might involve solving a simple puzzle, going on a treasure-hunt around the Internet, or any number of other puzzles and games. At the end of each heist is a juicy reward – free software (as you may have guessed from the name, it’s Mac software).

As you progress through the heists you can also earn a discount on the MacHeist bundle, a package of software still to be determined but sold at a discount and earning money for charity.

There’s a great community forming around the MacHeist site this time (we’re on MacHeist 3) with people divided into colour-coded teams and all trying to work out how the heck you get more points for your team! You can usually find plenty of people willing to help if you’re stuck with the heist too, which is fantastic.

If you want to exercise your brain, pretend to be a secret agent, and get free software, check MacHeist out today!

Using WordPress 2.7′s plugin installer

One of the features of WordPress 2.7 that pretty much passed me by was the ability to install plugins from within the WordPress interface. However, I’ve been installing a load of new ones recently and have finally realised that I don’t need to muck about with FTP to get them to work any more. WordPress 2.7′s plugin installer has made things much easier, so let’s have a look at it in case you’re installing plugins the hard way too!

Wordpress dashboard - plugin menu

First, finding the installer: Your WordPress dashboard has a number of sections down the left-hand side, one of which is labelled “Plugins”. Clicking on the little downward arrow that appears when you hover your mouse over the plugins label will expand the menu… you want the “Add New” option.

This takes you to a page that allows you to search for plugins using any terms you choose, popular tags, or you can opt to view a list of features, popular, new, or recently updated plugins. So far so good, but I should point out that not all plugins you may want to get hold of are in the database… so they won’t appear in the search results. We’ll come back to that later, though, because even that has been made easier.

Plugin install screen

Click image to enlarge

Anyway – once you’ve searched and found the plugin you want, click on its name or on “install” and you’ll get a screen giving you a brief overview of the plugin and the option to install it.

Clicking on “Install Now” downloads the plugin package and unpacks it in the WordPress plugins directory. That was always the annoying bit, really: having to fire up FTP and drop the files in the correct directory always took you outside the WordPress environment. Incidentally, when you install a new plugin it will not be activated by default. To activate it there and then, click on the “Activate Plugin” link on the installation confirmation page, or you can do it later as normal from your plugins page. This is definitely much simpler than searching the WordPress.org forums for a suitable plugin, visiting the site, downloading and unpacking the files, and uploading it again. But what about those plugins that aren’t in the database?

The process here is also slightly simplified. Rather than having to unpack a zip file and FTP the contents to your server, when you click on the “Add New” option under Plugins you can upload the zip file within the WordPress interface. You still have to find the zip file yourself (think Google) but at least you don’t have to play around with FTP any more.

Self-hosting WordPress has always been a little bit technical, but it’s great to see the effort the authors are putting into making it as user-friendly as possible. Simplifying plugin installation is a great step forward, and very much more convenient than before. Thank you WordPress guys!

Remotely control computers with LogMeIn

LogMeIn.com

Control your computers from a distance
with LogMeIn.com

When people hear I used to work in IT they often ask if I’ll have a look at their computer, which has been playing up ever since they installed that free program they downloaded last week. “Yeh, OK” I say – knowing full well that I was a Java and COBOL programmer, and have no idea what Windows is up to under the hood – and heaven-help me if someone asked me to look at a *nix system like Linux or a Mac!

Having said that, many problems can be solved by working through logical steps… this is hard if you’re not physically at the person’s computer, as you can’t see what you’re doing over the phone. LogMeIn, however, gives you the ability to remotely control someone’s computer and work on it as if you were right there!

Setting up an account on LogMeIn.com is quick and easy, and setting up a new computer for remote access is as simple as logging into your account and clicking on “Add Computer”. The software is downloaded, and the computer then appears the list of machines you have available to you. There is a disadvantage, though: either you have to have been on the remote machine to install the software, or you have to give your friend access to your LogMeIn account and let them install it… personally, I wouldn’t be happy giving someone else my login details, so I’d have to go along and install the software myself, and I might as well fix their computer while I’m there!

I do have a use for this, though. I have it installed on my home Mac, and my work PC – and I can access them both from any computer with an Internet connection! OK, so I can’t actually download any files from them, but I can look at them on-screen, and can e-mail them to myself by controlling the e-mail app. It’s also great to see that this works equally well on Macs and PCs. There’s even a Firefox extension to make controlling your remote computers quicker (without the extension, you will have to use a Java applet).

LogMeIn is a simple, free way of controlling computers by remote. Whether it’s for support, a file you’re forgotten, or just to freak your friends out by moving their mouse pointer, it’s worth a look. It might just save your life one day… (no, not really).

Visit LogMeIn.com to sign up.