Monthly Archives: June 2011

Meet Between Bytes:

Today, I’ve begun collaborative work with another WordPress blog, BetweenBytes.  While we’re still working out the details, I’ll be occasionally writing articles and doing other things in conjunction with them.  BetweenBytes is a group of writers that write reviews and opinions on a lot of different tech topics from video games, to browsers, Windows, iOS, and more.

What does this mean for you?  Well, you have another great site to read, and they have some pretty good articles.  But as for might site, you won’t notice any real changes.  I’ll still be doing the same stuff that I’ve always done, writing, reading, tweeting, and making videos.  The only difference is that you now you just have a different place to see more (and you should just check it out anyway because it’s cool like that).

Thanks!

App of the Week/Games4Mac: Team Fortress 2

Generally I try not to put games as “App of the Week” posts, primarily because of the separate Games4Mac series.  However, I occasionally make exceptions for special reasons like holidays or sudden deals.  In my opinion, this could be counted as both.

In 2010, Valve released their Steam gaming client for the Mac.  Through Steam, you can download and play games ranging from big titles like Half-Life, Portal, Mass Effect, and more, to smaller titles created by Valve and other developers for various prices.  While not many of the games initially were for Mac (though most of Valve’s big name titles were), that number has been growing rapidly.  But now, one of their big titles, Team Fortress 2, is now free-to-play for all Steam users.

Team Fortress 2 (abbreviated TF2) is a team based shooter.  If you haven’t played it, or heard of it, imagine Call of Duty’s different soldier classes, in a cartoony, ironic fashion.  Games range from capturing command points, capture the flag, team deathmatch, and more.  I do advise going through training first if you haven’t played it before.

The game runs fairly smoothly, though occasionally you may notice some gameplay lag if your Internet connection slows down.  It’s exciting, fun, and easy to pick up.  You can play either with bots, or (more likely) with other players online.  And it has Valve’s touch of excellence on it, meaning it looks and plays great all around.

There are 2 downsides to the game.  First off, it’s not a small file (over 7 gigs), so I recommend starting the download and then leaving your computer for a while (maybe a few hours).  You might just let it download overnight, but definitely don’t download the game when there are other people using your Internet (like other people playing online games).  The other issue I noticed is that some of the controls are, by default, tailored to desktop users (or at least users with a regular mouse).  I had to switch up some of the controls to work better with my Macbook Pro’s layout.  But these are both minor problems to an overall great game.

Valve says they’ll be using micro-transactions to make money off of the game.  Simply put, the game and its basic functions will be free, but you can pay extra money for better weapons, upgrades, new costumes, etc.  The game is free to download for all Steam users (making an account is free) and can be downloaded on Windows XP, Vista, and 7, as well as Macs running OS 10.5.8 (Leopard) or 10.6.3+ (Snow Leopard).  You can download the Steam client from http://store.steampowered.com/.  Check to make sure your Mac meets the minimum system requirements to play.  Most Mac’s in the last few years should play fine, but just check that your video card is capable of handling it.

And remember, if you have any ideas, comments, or suggestions for apps and games to review, you can always let me know.  Send me to easyosx@live.com, tweet me @EasyOSX (see the big Twitter button up top?, that works too), or leave a comment below.  Thanks again.

Games4Mac: 3 classic games in your Terminal

It turns out that your Mac has more games preinstalled than just Chess.  It turns out that your Terminal has Pong, Snake, and Tetris hidden within its walls.  You just have to know how to get them out.  Check out our video below:

Final Cut Pro X and new Time Capsules

Today, Apple released its updated Final Cut Pro and its new Time Capsule.

Final Cut Pro (FCP for short) is Apple’s high end, pro-level movie editing software, which has gained traction as the go-to movie editors for filmmakers.  This new iteration has been completely rebuilt with a design similar its consumer level product, iMovie, and some of the features to match. For example, skimming and facial recognition have both been borrowed from iMovie ’11, but FCP has a few tricks of its own.  For one thing, it has been completely rebuilt to run on 64 bit architecture (which is what Snow Leopard and Lion both use), allowing it to use more use more RAM to run the application, a real boost for anyone who has used video editing software for a long time.  It is also able to process clips in the background as they are being imported or edited, speeding up work time, and much more.  There is a lot more to cover as the reviews start to come out, but you can read more about it at MacWorld’s website.

MacWorld is also reporting about the release of the new Time Capsule unit, Apple’s wireless base station and backup drive.  Using wireless or ethernet, the Time Capsule can act as the backup drive for your Mac via Time Machine (or theoretically any backup utility).  It has 1 Ethernet WAN and 3 Ethernet LAN ports (both 1 Gigabit connections) and supports 802.11 n, b, and g wireless.  It also has a USB port for printer or other attached devices.  The big news though is the storage size upgrade.  The lower of the 2 models is now 2 terabytes priced at $299, and now the higher model for $499 has 3 TB’s of storage, which not common to see in consumer level devices.  So those of you who store everything, or at least do a lot of media work, this new upgrade might be extra handy.  A terabyte is still a lot of data.  you can read more in this MacWorld article.

For more news and information, follow this blog on Twitter @EasyOSX and send any tips, suggestions, questions, etc. to easyosx@live.com.  Thanks!

App of the Week: MPlayerX

MPlayerX Icon (from http://www.mplayerx.org)

If you watch video on the Mac (besides Internet videos), you probably use one of two media players.  One camp uses QuickTime, which has the elegance and simplicity of Mac, but lacks some video formats that can only be fixed by plugins.  The other camp is VLC Media Player, the open source, cross-platform player that offers many more features, media formats, and tweaks than QuickTime, but its look still doesn’t feel Mac native, and can be challenging from some people to use.  What if you could have the power of VLC with the elegance of QuickTime?  MPlayerX answers that call.

MPlayer is not new in the world a video players, especially to Linux users.  It is powerful, open-source, has a lot of features including streaming media, Apple Remote support, the ability to remember where you left off playing a video, and much more.  What makes MPlayer X from other versions of MPlayer different is its Mac-centric design; MPlayer X mimics the design of QuickTime, with a black stoplight bar and controls that fade away when the mouse stops or is off the video screen.  But its style doesn’t detract from its power.

The Preferences contain a lot of features, tweaking, and options to play around with, but most of them are fairly straight forward, easy to understand, and very well organized.  But not all the features are in the preference files.  By going to Window in the menubar, you can adjust the audio & video, as well as find more information about the media file.

Like QuickTime and VLC, it supports file streaming links through the player, such as those offered on twit.tv.  Interestingly enough, compared to Quicktime, I found the MPlayer X’s audio to be louder and better quality than QuickTime (all other settings being the same), but video quality was not.  So if MPlayer X is better for audio streams, but I would leave video streams to QuickTime.  So far, though, I have yet to find a media stream or format that MPlayer X can’t play.

One last interesting thing that MPlayerX has is a wide variety of gestures, from basic tapping to play & pause, to three finger controlling on the aspect ratio.  Some of them seem a little odd and unnecessary, but having these choices and features is still a bonus in my book.

Both QuickTime and VLC could learn a few things from MPlayer X, in power and style respectively, and at the moment, MPlayer X is my personal Mac video player.  You can download it for free from the Mac App Store.

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