Random Thoughts

New City, New School, New Computer

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Well we made it to Bangkok without much of a fuss. Cats traveled well and we’re slowly settling into our new house in our new city. ISB is about 30 minutes outside of the city center making our view a little different from Shanghai.



The view is not the only thing different. Last night’s low of 81F and today’s high of 90F just about did me in. The wife of course is loving it and we constantly fight over A/Cs being on or off. So today we compromised and bought a fan. Although we have situated our bed so the A/C is blowing directly on me and not on her. πŸ™‚

The new house is bare as we await our shipment from Shanghai to arrive (a 20ft container) full of “beautiful carpets and furniture” (direct quote from wife).

It was nice though to turn on my laptop and find out that ISB installed a wireless system in teacher housing over the summer. So every teacher has wireless in their house that runs off of the school’s network.

Last night I found myself reading through blogs and e-mails and skipping over links that I knew were blocked…that is blocked in China. It was great when I clicked on an edublogs.org and a wordpress.com link and they both loaded. I have some retraining to do of my clicking fingers. πŸ™‚

Lastly I went to school today and picked up my new school issued computer.

Yep, a new Mac Book with 4GB of Ram. The last time I had a Mac was 9 years ago running 8.xx OS. I’ve been secretly wanting a Mac for the past couple of years so I’m looking forward to putting this thing through the test in the next couple of weeks.

But first I need help from all you Mac users out there. What free software do I need?

My first three are already on:


(Firefox and Skype came preloaded from the school…we’ll work on Twhirl for next year πŸ˜‰ )

So I’m busy tonight putting in all my Firefox extentions. The onces I can’t live without.

But what I need from the community is the other great stuff that makes a Mac…well a Mac.

What I’m looking for in particular at this moment:

FTP client (free)
Software that allows me to share my desktop via web cam

But I’ll take anything that will allow me to do my job better, faster, and more efficient and of course all that other stuff too. πŸ™‚

So come on all you Mac users…start thowing me those links to software I just can’t live without!

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. You will love your mac! There are so many features already loaded that I haven’t needed a ton of new software. I use garage band for my podcasts now – was using audacity on the pc. I downloaded jing at the BLC08 conference and am looking forward to using it. Have you tried that? I am going to follow this post to see what others share with you. Enjoy it.

  2. Jeff, I would have to recommend Fetch as the Mac FTP client to use. It’s easy to use and free for educators. You just have to send them a quick email and give them your school info and they will send you a code. http://fetchsoftworks.com/

    As far as screen sharing, if you use iChat, you can use that to screen share, but only if person on the other end has iChat.

  3. Jeff,

    If you don’t mind using a text-based FTP client, Mac OS X comes with the utility Terminal pre-installed, which supports SFTP (provided that the server you’re connecting to does also, of course).

    I sentiment Alice’s sentiments regarding Audacity. I had never used it on either the Windows or the Mac platform until I got a Macbook this summer and it was fairly easy to learn and is pretty user friendly.

  4. Most educators–subsisting on the low end of most pay scales as we do!–look for ways to trim costs wherever we can, so it’s a good thing that there is a fair amount of free software available. GIMP, Lemke Software’s Graphic Converter, and your MacBook’s iPhoto application are reasonably good graphics editors, Audacity and your Mac’s pre-installed GarageBand each have audio editing capabilities, and FTP and its preferred cousin SFTP are also built right into your new Mac’s operating system (albeit at the command line).

    Increasingly, though, I’m finding that a reasonably small amount of money invested in some commercial apps is a worthy long-term investment. In my opinion, the small amount of money spent on these apps is a win-win situation: I get a well-designed software package with technical support, and developers get some remuneration for the time and energy they’ve devoted to creating the product.

    Some specific examples:

    β€’ Panic’s Transmit is a world-class SFTP client that is worth far more than the $29.95 they charge. http://www.panic.com/transmit

    β€’ HairerSoft’s Amadeus Pro, at $40, is a joy to use, with more features than GarageBand and more stability then Audacity, which is no longer currently being supported for OS X.

    β€’ Adobe’s Photoshop Elements provides more than enough power for most educators, from simple one-click “enhance” operations to working with multiple layers. At $99, it’s a bit pricier, but still a tremendous value for money.

    In terms of live screen-sharing, I’m not aware of any software that does that aside from the previously mentioned Apple-only iChat. I use ScreenFlow ($99, from Vara Software) to capture independent screen and camera streams for creating educational presentations.

    Best wishes with your new MacBook!

  5. Glad to see you’re settling in. As a new Mac user here’s a few I use all the time:

    -QuickSilver….very powerful but I use it for a quicklaunch
    -Caffeine….activate it when playing videos and it disables your display from dimming
    -VLC media for playing non-apple formats
    -TV Tube enables downloading of youtube videos directly into .mov formats for use in Keynote.

    Which brings me to Keynote. Likely it’s already installed but has some really nice features that sets it apart from PPT.

  6. Hi Jeff (from bangkok also!),

    One word: Writeroom – great for writing (and particularly coding) or really just for thinking if you need to focus – nothing comparable on the PC really.

    I’ve used Cyberduck for FTP on the Mac when I’ve used Mac’s in the past.

    RescueTime works on the mac well (although also does on PC so should not be strictly included on this list)

    There are also some great BitTorrent clients for the Mac is you’re into that kind of thing.

    not sure on the screen collaboration – this is one strength of PC’s I think due to the heavy enterprise use and greater need for remote support. I do have a feeling though that Mac has some kind of support for this nativity

  7. Terry Kaminski Reply

    I would immediately install Flip4Mac. It allows you to play WMV files in Quicktime. I could not live without this.

    I use Transmit as an FTP client. I find it very easy to use and very intuitive.

  8. Terry Kaminski Reply

    I would install Flip4Mac immediately. It allows you to play WMV files in Quicktime. I could not live without this.

    I use Transmit as an FTP client.

  9. Welcome to the Mac world, Jeff.

    FTP client – Cyberduck

    Download the free Flip4Mac and Perian plug-ins for QuickTime which will allow you to play Windows Media files and practically any other odd media format you can name.

    If you’re looking for an RSS aggregator client, get NetNewsWire, also free.

    Twitteriffic is a good Twitter client. The free version throws an ad into the mix every so often but I don’t find it annoying enough to pay for the ad-free version.

    Finally, if you want an image editor that’s a great replacement for Photoshop and don’t mind paying only $60, get Pixalmator.

  10. Wiretap – great tool for capturing audio. The pay version includes several audio formats
    SuperDuper – great tool for backingup/archive data
    Little Snitch – program will flag any program “phone-ing home”

    I use the FireFTP plugin for Firefox and it works quite well for me.

  11. There are some really cool apps out there that are worth downloading. Like others I find Transmit as the FTP uploader of choice.

    Other cool things I use for free are

    Videocue for recording video with an inbuilt autocue

    Adobe’s new Photoshop Express does the basics of Photoshop without the download.

    FFXporter that synchs with iPhoto for uploads to Flickr

    Twitterific for Twitter notifications

    Art Rage for painting and drawing- get the lite version for free.

    Skitch would be my most used app- do you want an invite for that one or have you got one by now already.

    Audio Hi-Jack for recording the noises yr computer makes

    Blog Assist for real easy html coding.

    Then there’s the cool widgets for yr dashboard…

    iStat gives you snapshots of yr system’s performance

    Time Scroller is a fabulous tool for knowing what times are in other parts of the globe

    Sing That iTune- gives the words to songs playing in yr iTunes

    iClip lite gives you multiple easy to access to copy paste functions

    That’s enough to go on with!!

  12. Hey there,

    Some great ideas already added by others, but I would recommend Jing http://www.jingproject.com/ which does similar things to skitch It allows you to take a screen capture of still images or a video of your screen. You can annotate over it, add objects like arrows etc, then save them to your desktop or embed them in websites. Very handy.

    Enjoy your Mac – I find being ‘bilingual’ very handy in this day and age…

  13. Welcome to the Mac world again.

    I went back to Macs after nine years of using PCs because of my network guys. They’re even better than before. I use cyberduck and filezilla as ftp apps. I prefer filezilla. I still use audacity for podcasting occasionally, but really prefer to use GarageBand.

    Have a great time with the Mac and hope that you’ll enjoy Bangkok and ISB.

  14. Glad to hear someone else recommending GarageBand – but my hope was you’d venture to lay out some snazzy tracks to your podcasts(music teachers never retire – they just modulate!). Mine’s not yet released, but check out our podcasts at http://www.rubiconpodcast.com. Thanks for the inspiration – and let me know when you’re teaching your next class!!

    We use Webex.com to share desktops or selected applications; internet based – has voice & video options, chat and recording features. Pretty cool.

    Enjoy your new . . . everything – and good luck with the ever-familiar AC discrepancies.

  15. Have you done any research to see if or how they are using social networking and media? If you have the time I would here your thoughts on thier acceptance of social networks and media.

  16. Essential free software
    FTP: Cyberduck
    RSS: Vienna (faster than NetNewsWire)
    Flysketch: annotates screenshots
    OmniDazzle: cool visible cursor effects. Use in whiteboarding and Jing
    Jing: screencasts
    File Juicer: strip components out of PDFs
    ThumbsUp: one-step image resize
    Adium: multi IM client
    BBEdit Lite: text processor
    Xnet: remotely monitor your servers
    Namely: lightweight launcher
    Pando: Transfer big files
    NeoOffice: Open Office for Mac

    Good enough to pay for
    HyperEdit: lightweight HTML editor
    OmniOutliner: Mac is pointless without it.

    All the above apps are in my dock. Dozens of others are in the apps folder; they are all cool but not used frequently enough to make it to the doc.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy your new Mac!

  17. Jeff,

    I would agree with several of the others on VLC, Flip4Mac, NeoOffice, and Jing.

    I would also highly recommend Evernote (organizing software that is quite amazing), iSquint (video codec converter), and Songbird (a great online music player).

    If you do any work whatsoever with any CSS coding, I absolutely can’t recommend CSSEdit enough. I just started working with it this week, and it’s absolutely amazing. I’m a pretty rudimentary CSS dabbler, and CSSEdit has completely changed everything for me. I know I’m borderline gushing and am risking great self-embarrassment, so I’ll just stop now.

    You’ll love the Mac.

  18. Colin Becker Reply

    Flip4Mac is very useful and runs in the background when needed.
    UnRarX, Switch (sound format changing), Miro (video finding and watching + library), xACT (another sound format tool), JUploadr (for Flickr), iSquint (converting movie files), HandBrake (convert movie files).

    For other open source software look here: http://cjbstudytourblog.edublogs.org/open-source-software/

    Good luck and welcome to the Mac community.

  19. Everyone has suggested every necessary tool to go with an already amazing operating system!

    An extremely handy email I receive each week is from VersionTracker

    It lists so many useful apps out there by popular downloads, editor’s pick, latest releases etc.

    Enjoy your mac!

  20. Congrats on the mac!

    Looking through the list, it seems most have been covered (and I’ve discovered a few new ones I’d like to look into!)

    If you have firefox 3, you can add on the “Magic’s Video Download” to capture youtube videos, essential in districts like mine where youtube access is denied, then use isquint to convert them into a usable form.

    A good quality screenshot capture is the dashboard widget “Screenshot Plus,” the highest quality still capture that I’ve seen.

  21. Hey Jeff,
    I like Notebook by Circus Ponies. I use it like… well a notebook. I use it to keep notes from meetings, to-do lists, pdf’s, and even videos and audio files. There are web 2.0 tools out there to do similar tasks but I find having my stuff on my hard drive is handy when my internet connection is unreliable.

  22. Welcome to the whiteside.

    Hey, great list forming. But do you read your OTHER blog, you know utechtips?
    I have posted several suggestions over the years on Things i love about my mac.

    Some suggestions:
    1) Facebook and flicker plugin for iphoto. You can EASILY export your pcitures to both sites.
    2) Adium is the gold standard of instant messaging. Period.
    3) Cyberducky rules FTP.
    4) Burn like Toast but free
    5) http://gizmo5.com/pc/ like skype but records…for free
    6) Menu meters–great for a laptop
    7) 1) http://www.lifehacker.com/photogallery/lh%20top%2010%3A%20free%20mac%20downloads/
    has a great set of “must have” free apps for mac
    8) I will send you a chart (HTML) that you can post on utechtips for every one on opensource or cheap software alternatives to meet everyone’s needs.
    9) Snapzpro cost 29 instead of canatasia studio which is a fortune.
    10 evernote and journaler are two free apps worth checking out…I have not decided which one I will use.
    11) iphone. Okay not an app, but god it works as a great convergence device.

    BUT: Apple’s built in software rocks:
    Forget audacity, use garage band. Steep learing curve, but a fun one.
    Forget screen capture and powerpoint, use keynote which has a built in record option and exports to video and even direct to youtube.
    iweb makes really clean webpages.
    Old imovie does a lot, especially with plugins from gee three. For most people no need for final cut or premier.

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  24. strange I posted this and it did not show up…so I rewrote and I am posting again.
    1) iphoto plugins to post to flickr and facebook. Love these.
    2) Cyberducky ruls FTP
    3) menu meters for macbook–now what your macbook is working at
    4) Transmission for Torrent
    5) VLC for video watching
    6) evernote or journaler for clippings–not sure which one I prefer.
    7) http://www.lifehacker.com/photogallery/lh%20top%2010%3A%20free%20mac%20downloads/
    has a great set of “must have” free apps for mac
    8) Firefox for browsing, adium for chat, burn for making CDs
    9) I love the free software in the mac
    –garageband to make podcasts, steep learningc urve but totally fun and beats audacity
    –Imoive–the old one with a few plugins does more than most people need in a simple, easy to use way…no need for final cut or premier
    –iweb makes great webpages
    –iphoto rocks as a photo organizer and more
    -iDVD makes exceptional DVDs exceptionally easy

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  31. I agree with anyone that said the following:
    Chicken of the VNC

    I would also look at Quick Silver (dont have to actually click on My Computer anymore) http://www.blacktree.com/

    Text Wrangler (Free BBEdit)

    Virtual Box if you don’t want to spend money on VMWare and run other OSs

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