Macworld SF 2001 Trend: Cool Utilities
No utility made the kind of big splash that, for example, Connectix’s RAM Doubler made when it was introduced back in 1994. However, there were a number of worthy entries that made this Macworld Expo a showcase for innovative utilities rather than high-end applications.
Aladdin Transporter — Aladdin Systems was showing the $150 Aladdin Transporter, an interesting program that falls somewhere between a macro utility and a scripting language. Transporter provides 26 actions that you can link together in a simple drag & drop interface, including things like compressing, binhexing, copying, FTP uploading, sending email, and more (the Run AppleScript action provides additional flexibility not present in the interface). Once you’ve put together your steps, you create a "transporter" – a drop-box application that you can send to anyone. For instance, I plan to make a submission transporter for Info-Mac, so shareware authors can just drop a folder on the Info-Mac transporter to have their submission stuffed, binhexed, uploaded via FTP, and registered with the archivists via an email form. Anyone who regularly needs to perform repetitive actions with files should take a look at the demo.
Rewind — Power On Software’s $90 Rewind may seem like part of booth presenter Joel Bauer’s magic act, but it’s really a collection of techniques for tracking what you do on your Mac and making it possible to revert to previous incarnations of files or the entire system. I don’t want people to think Rewind should stand in for a real backup strategy, but if it helps reduce the down time when you delete or overwrite a file accidentally, or when you install new software that prevents your Mac from starting up properly, it’s worth it. As with all seemingly magical software that operates at a low level, it’s worth watching for Rewind updates whenever Apple updates the Mac OS (such as the just-released Rewind 1.1, which supports Mac OS 9.1 and is available from Power On’s updates page). Also make sure you have plenty of disk space free, since Rewind uses free disk space to store the information it uses to take you back to a previous time.
DoubleTalk — Connectix presented a new utility that will be just the ticket for some people forced to live in a Windows-centric network. Like Thursby Systems’ DAVE, Connectix’s $100 DoubleTalk enables a Macintosh on an Ethernet network with PCs to access shared folders and printers just like any other PC. Unlike DAVE, DoubleTalk does not let your Mac share its own files and printers, but Connectix hopes that DoubleTalk’s interface will make up for that difference. Where DAVE offers its own interface, DoubleTalk closely mimics the AppleTalk and TCP/IP control panels and wiggles its way into the standard AppleShare and LaserWriter Chooser interfaces (though it doesn’t work with the Network Browser at the moment), so there’s essentially nothing new to learn. Plus, you can even see the print queue on shared PC printers via Macintosh desktop printers; sadly, Connectix’s engineers resisted the temptation to make all Macintosh print jobs go to the top of the queue automatically or let Mac users manipulate the queue to get their jobs out sooner ("Yeah, Macs just print faster. Bummer, isn’t it?"). For fun, turn on Caps Lock and try opening the DoubleTalk control panel while holding down Control-P-L, Control-J-M, and Control-L-S.
DiskWarrior 2.1 — Alsoft was showing DiskWarrior 2.1, which is not so much new as improved. I’ve had good luck with DiskWarrior’s approach to rebuilding directories to eliminate corruption, and in version 2.1, Alsoft added a report listing out the differences between your original directory and the rebuilt one to ease checking. Since I have over 50,000 files on my hard disk, that’s a huge help, otherwise I never know what to look for. Also in 2.1 is the capability to bless the System Folder, rebuild Mac OS X disks, and check for damage in the System and Finder files. DiskWarrior costs $70 (but see the Mac Care Unit deal below), and is a $30 upgrade (plus $5-$8 shipping) for existing owners unless you purchased after 01-Dec-00, at which point you just pay shipping. For a review of DiskWarrior, see "Fighting Corruption with Alsoft’s DiskWarrior" in TidBITS-486.
Mac Care Unit — Last, but certainly not least, Casady & Greene has put together a bundle of utilities to compete with the recently released Norton SystemWorks and Norton Internet Security bundles. Mac Care Unit costs only $130, and includes Casady & Greene’s Conflict Catcher 8 extension manager, Alsoft’s DiskWarrior and PlusOptimizer disk utility and defragmenting software, Connectix’s CopyAgent copy utility, Intego’s NetBarrier and VirusBarrier personal firewall and anti-virus programs, and Radialogic’s Chaos Master, which helps clean up unnecessary files and download updates. All are the latest versions except for NetBarrier, which is version 1.1. The price for the Mac Care Unit bundle is stunning – Conflict Catcher and DiskWarrior alone would cost more, and they’re both worth owning (see "Nice Catch, Conflict Catcher" in TidBITS-446 for more on Conflict Catcher).