Archives For free software

Free Mac App Software Bundle

Chris —  May 30, 2014 — 4 Comments

Mac Bundle v3

For all my Mac using friends out there, I wanted to let you know about a great bundle of FREE software that will only be available for a few more days.  There’s a ton of bundles out there, but this one included one in particular that I thought could be fun for Youth Ministry.  It’s called X-Mirage and it lets you mirror your iOS screen (iPhone or iPad) to your Mac.

xmirage

This is great if you want to make demo videos of an app to share, but I think it has great potential for a youth group stage game.  Since it will let you mirror multiple iOS devices at one time you could have two students playing the same game up on the big screen and the crowd could cheer them.  So many fun possibilities, post your ideas in the comments below.

In addition to X-Mirage, you also get:

  • Elmedia Player Pro – a utility to help download streaming video from the internet.  A great way to save those youtube videos to use in a talk or in your presentation software.
  • ClipBuddy – a utility to organize your cut / paste selections
  • cf/x Mosaic – turns your photos into mosaic art
  • Plus a few more

The bundle is free, so what do you have to loose.  Have fun!

Get the Bundle Now

 

Every time we have been gearing up for some fundraiser or another, I think (at the last minute), “It sure would be convenient if we could take credit card donations/payments easily. A couple weeks later I have the same thought about registrations for camp. Each time I remember my research into the cost of machine with the receipt paper, the percentage off each sale it takes as well as the per transaction fee and decide it is not worth the hassle.

Then I stumbled upon Square.

Square is simple. From the little one inch by one inch plastic reader that plugs into the headphone jack on your phone (iOS or android) to the flat 2.75% fee per swipe to the super-straightforward, free app there is one word to describe it: simple.

Did I mention cheap? All you have to do to get the reader is give them basic accounting information and they mail it, at no charge, to your home or office a couple days later. How do they make money? Most places charge variable rate fee from 2.5%-5% per transaction and a $0.15 per transaction fee. Some level the percentage to three or three and a half, but square is cheap and simple. 2.75% per card swipe transaction.

The Square app is super easy to use. All you do is download the app, plug in the dongle, log in and you are ready to take a payment. To do that, you enter the amount and an optional description (we put the budget line item and the event) and swipe their card. They are then taken to a signature screen where they can sign with a finger or stylus if you have one. When they press the continue button, they are prompted to enter a cell number or email address where the app immediately sends a link to a receipt for the transaction. The money is then deposited (one lump sum deposit per day) into whichever account you provide.

You then have access to all that data (minus the full card number) in their clean, user friendly site which will allow you to download it in excel format with a ton of data attached to each transaction.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped on Sunday morning on my way to the youth area by a member who said that he was sorry that he had not yet brought me his donation for a fundraiser.  He never has his checkbook at church.  I told him that I could take a credit card, and he was relieved.  I plugged in the square dongle, opened the app, swiped his card and it was done.  Brilliant.

Simple, cheap and brilliant, but not perfect. If you want to use this for multiple ministries, it may get difficult. You will have to sort through all the transactions to figure out which one went to which ministry. It would be nice if they could have sub-accounts to break things out easily.

Overall, I am telling everyone I meet to stop whatever they are doing, go to the Square website and start making life easier for them and their members.

It is frustrating to have to allow some app to compress you video or image files before you can upload them to your intended destination. Also frustrating is the cap on “over the air” uploading from your iPhone even when it is connected to WIFI. To top it all off, I like to have my video residing natively on YouTube and Facebook, but hate having to go through the painful uploading process twice. PixelPipe solves all of those problems.

PixelPipe focuses on one thing: publish photos, video, audio, text and files on over 100 online destinations. Basically that means it will put your media on every blogging, social media, and online storage site you can imagine.

Once you register for an account, you set up “destinations” like YouTube and Facebook and it adds them to your list of destinations.  Then, once you are ready to upload, you select the media you would like to upload, click upload and it does the rest (one upload to multiple destinations).  It has a 250MB cap which should make most of your HD clips uploadable; though, if you have edited them into a snazzy video, it may exceed the limit.

Its one flaw is its UI.  Once you fire it up, it is not obvious how to go about selecting which destination you are uploading to at that particular moment (you have to go into settings>edit destinations and then select “enable default” or “disable default” in a drop-down next to each destination).  It is this kind of unfriendly UI that would make you think twice before buying it, but is worth putting up with in this free version.

The bad UI aside, this app should be on everyone’s iPhone who does ministry as it allows you to easily upload media to lots of locations on the spot without having to wait until you get back in the office and have the time to sync it with your computer.

We just recently used this to upload videos of our kids on a mission trip every day while we were on the trip, and got rave reviews about our communication from parents as soon as we stepped off the busses.  Do yourself a favor and try PixelPipe out today.  There are versions available for tons of phones and operating systems (iPhone, Android, Nokia, Palm, IM clients, Windows, Mac, and Linux).

For long-term mac users, this may seem ridiculous. For those converts from the PC universe, be prepared to have your world rocked.  Spotlight is Apple’s search feature built into OSX, and if you’ve converted from a PC throw all ideas about how search on large file systems works out of the window.

Without going into mega-geeky details, the way that the Mac formats hard disks allows for incredibly quick search (instantaneous in comparison to the PC).  Just click your little magnifying glass at the top right of your screen, type what you’re looking for an voila; (in 1-2 seconds) it’s there!  Emails, applications, text files, images… everything!

And here’s the best part: it searches the contents of files as well as filenames!  There are lots of other tools that seek to improve on spotlight.  I’ve tried them, but keep coming back to spotlight because it is so solid, and it’s on every mac at which I sit down.

I have had an idea/problem that I have been percolating on for a while now.  The basic idea was that I wanted to have copies of several specific folders on specific, different external storage solutions so that I could have them with me when I needed them.  Complicating this problem is the fact that I am lazy.

Of course, I could copy my documents folder the the thumb drive every couple of days, my video clips to my external HDD every time I added a new clip, and my seminary files to the small thumb drive each night before I went to bed, but that would take both time and discipline. The only thing I have less of right now than time is backup discipline.

That is how I ran across what is hands down the best Mac sync utility I have found: ChronoSync.  It does the standard things like let you schedule a sync or backup with a drive every X number of hours/days/weeks/etc.  But it has one incredible function that sealed the deal for me.  I can schedule a sync to happen whenever the target drive is mounted.  Now, whenever I plug in one of the aforementioned devices, the specific files on my computer I want synced with that device automatically get updated and update the external storage.  This, of course, reinforces my confidence in the idea that if I wait long enough, I will find a way to allow my computer to make up for my laziness.

But that is far from all the features of ChronoSync.  It will make bootable backups, lets you specify a range of methods for the sync process including ignoring deletions so that an accidental deletion in one location does not eliminate the file across all your storage.  It will create archives (think time machine) and connect to almost anything you can think of from webdav servers to all the computers you can “see” in the finder.  For those of you who really want to geek out, it has incredibly detailed filtering that will let you specify exactly what you want to backup.

The only con I could find is that the interface is not as intuitive as it could be.  For instance, several of the options at the top of the screen (trial sync, schedule, etc.) are grayed out until you save the sync you are creating. Similarly, several of the terms they use to describe the options are unclear (mirror, sync, blind) but explained well in the documentation.  All that being said, the program’s power and overall ease more than make up for the UI, and ChronoSync is well worth the $40.  There is a demo downloadable here.

Word Fun with Wordle

Brandon —  December 9, 2009 — Leave a comment

Wordle: Untitled
While I was skimming the latest issue of Group Magazine, I found a great blurb by Lyle Huddlestun about a website called Wordle.net.  When you create your wordle, you can either input a bunch of text, input the url of your blog or your del.icio.us username and it generates one of these interesting images(The above image was generated by auto-scanning this blog).  The size is based on the word’s frequency, and the colors, word orientation, and font are set by you.  If you don’t like the first shot, just have it re-layout until you see one you like!  And, if you like it all, but want to delete one misspelled or embarrassing word, just click on it and remove it.

What’s even better, you don’t have to sign up to make them.  It’s totally free!  From volunteer encouragement to cool covers for the material you are writing/borrowing, this tool is worth taking a look at.

btw… I have been a bit silent lately as we just had our second child (Hannah-Claire0 and are finally getting adjusted to the chaos and lack of sleep.  (Pics)

I don’t know what my problem is, but I have WAY too many e-mail addresses to deal with. Many of them I have forwarded to/checked by gmail, but that still doesnt solve the problem fully because, for one reason or another, I still have multiple gmail accounts. I have used plugins for firefox over the years, but am irritated at having to constantly have a browser open sucking up resources I’d rather have being used somewhere else.

Finally, an easy app has been released to help monitoring multiple gmail accounts easy.  The app is called Notify, and is produced by a company called Vibealicious.  They describe it best when they say it’s “like a menu bar app, but better.”  Like a menubar app, it lives in the menu bar and changes slightly by adding color and a number when new messages arrive, but once you click, TADA!  It pops open a tabbed window showing your accounts with new messages and previews.

It is not without its issues like the fact that it opens some odd google error page when you double click on a message, and it doesn’t automatically log you into the appropriate account when opening up gmail, but it is 1.0.  The developers have already slated a .1 release for mid September to include support for google apps and possibly imap which shows a thriving development.  It boils down to this: Notify is an amazing tool that seems to be a pretty good answer to my (and your?) multi-account email dilemma.

Hard Drive Spring Cleaning

Chris —  April 24, 2009 — Leave a comment

Maybe you have a once a yer cleaning ritual, or maybe you are just running out of space on the hard drive that you were sure was way bigger than you needed when you initially bought the machine. Whatever the case, you probably find yourself wondering where to start. Where did all your gigabytes go anyway? That’s where JDiskReport comes in. The software is easy and intuitive. After you install it, it will do a scan of whatever directory tree you specify and then come up with an easy to understand pie chart showing where your precious space has gone. You can click through the tree structure on the left or on the pie chart to the right to drill down into the cluttered depths of your hard drive.

The only thing I wish it could do is delete the files/directories from within the program, but that is not a hard drawback to get over in such a handy piece of freeware.

The best news? Not only is it free, but since it is based on java, it is available on Windows, Mac (though with a decidedly Windows look and feel), or even over the web.  Just check out their site for all the details!

Mac Giving Tree

Chris —  December 22, 2008 — Leave a comment

mac-giving-tree

This is another post for all my Mac friends.  Macheist is giving away free software for Christmas.  There are probably some nice goodies wrapped up under the tree.

Link: Mac Giving Tree

I’m going to date myself here, but do you remember Polaroid cameras?  I used to love to take pictures and get them instantly.  (Believe it or not, I still have one)  Well, I just found this fun little piece of software that allows you to turn any digital picture into a Polaroid image.  Enter, Poladroid.net.  And the best part is, it’s free!

After you download it and install, just drop your picture on the camera and it spits out your picture complete with sound effects.  Now remember it takes a moment for your picture to develop, so be patient.  They really got the coloring and look just right.  It would be a great tool to use on fliers or calendars. It would be super fun to set it up and let kids make their own.  I just wish it integrated with the built-in iSight on my laptop.

It’s only Mac right now, but the site says Windows is coming soon.

Link: Polaroid.net