Apple didn’t garner a tremendous amount of press when they first introduced the App Store in OSX Lion. While it was mentioned as one of the new features in the operating system refresh, it wasn’t one of the primary points that pundits pontificated on. The OSX version of iOS‘ App Store was a logical extension of Apple’s offerings; one stop shopping for trustworthy, vetted software with immediate gratification and an effortless method of keeping that software up to date. Now with Mountain Lion the App Store has been brought to the forefront as the only means of distribution, and new safety features built into OSX 10.8 favor software downloaded from the trusted source (even to the point of excluding other sources should the user decide this level of protection).
I’ve checked the App Store first for any needed software due to the software update integration. While I feel savvy enough to know what sources to trust for downloads, I’d happily endorse relying on just it for an Apple neophyte unsure of the lay of the land. It’s that reliance by design that turns many off of Apple’s ecosystem; the walled garden might be safe but for some that safety is stifling.
As with any unmet demand, there is an alternative to the App Store on the horizon. MacRumors reports that my favorite source of games Steam will be expanding their offerings to non-game software September 5th. The free downloadable Steam client already offers Windows, OSX, and even Linux users an iTunes-like experience with immediate access to a large library of games and built-in social networking features.
The article points to guidelines set in place by Apple for apps hosted in the App Store as both creating the need for an alternative digital software marketplace and a new distribution house for software that can’t meet Apple’s stated guidelines. Limitations such as sandboxing requirements place a hurdle that some programs can’t overcome without losing key components of their functionality, and a Steam-hosted OSX app store will likely be much more lenient with their requirements.
I for one welcome the additional marketplace (especially from a retailer I already love)- competition is always a good thing, and this may allow non-App Store compliant software developers a better chance to make their software accessible enough to spur more development.
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There isn’t a tremendous amount of open source software written for the Mac that I’m immediately aware of, but I do love the concept of it. For the uninitiated, open source refers to users having free and ready access to the source code of software, and the right to alter it to whatever purpose they choose provided that they continue to provide the same access to their modified version. The movement was spawned in reaction to budding copyright and control issues that early technology aficionados saw hampering the development of software. The open source movement led to a burgeoning underground community that has produced some amazing software (my personal favorite being VLC, a simple but powerful media player that can handle just about any format you throw at it). The crown jewel of open source has arguably been Linux in all its vast flavors. Once the tool of uber geeks, Linux has matured to the point that it’s possible for novice users to rely on it as their primary operating system. From Ubuntu to Red Hat, there’s a version of Linux out there that has been tailored to fit what you need of an operating system.
Now the concept of open source has been taken to its logical conclusion in a recent post by the knowledgeable anthonyvenable110. The practice of providing access to the inner workings of software has been transferred to something near and dear to my heart- soda. Yes, I’m a self admitted carbonation junkie, and OpenCola has opened new doors to my addiction. Unlike Coca Cola‘s secret formula, OpenCola provides instructions and ingredients so that end users may freely change it to tailor their tastes and needs (provided they observe the guidelines of the GNU Public License and allow others to do the same) , fully embracing the spirit of the open source movement. Now if I could only get Guinness to open source their brewery…
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Mac Life announced a huge sale going on now at my favorite game source, Steam. For the uninitiated, Steam is essentially an iTunes for gaming- the free downloadable client acts as a multi-OS store (even supporting Linux), library, and social platform with other gaming enthusiasts. Whether you’re a hard core gamer or just an occasional casual game player, they have something to suit your tastes.
The current sale has some fantastic offerings: Valve‘s Orange Box collection has been marked down to just $9.99. This includes Half Life 2, all following episodes, and Portal- some of the best First Person games ever made. Other favorites like Psychonauts, Portal 2, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have been marked down to ridiculously low prices. If you haven’t enjoyed some of these classics now is the time!
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I’ve been a bit enamored with Kickstarter lately; while I had heard of it quite a while ago but only recently have I started perusing some of the campaigns that the site has hosted. There are many worthy projects; I’ve posted on a couple of the accessory-themed ones I’ve invested in: AirBudz, the passive sound enabling earbuds (still not yet fully funded), and Foco, an iPad sound-enhancing device that reached their funding goal and is currently in production.
Kickstarter isn’t just for hardware; I’d like to share yet another worthy project with you courtesy of SuperPunch: Lilly Looking Through. Lilly Looking Through is a game in development for every OS: Mac, Windows, and Linux. The game’s beautiful illustration and animation initially caught my eye; I love animation and the game has a classical Disney-esque feel. The heroine Lilly must be guided through a series of puzzles and challenges “…as she seeks to rewrite the past, change the present, and unlock the ultimate mystery. “
I spent a short while playing the free demo version and was immediately hooked. The musical score adds to the ambiance of the game, and the demo is very polished for a teaser. The mechanics of the game are similar to another favorite indie puzzle title, Machinarium. You guide Lilly and interact with the environment with your mouse (or trackpad); solving puzzles in order to progress further into the game. On the game’s initial screen you have to overcome obstacles in Lilly’s path both through direct interaction and by having her perform specific tasks. If you are having a hard time figuring out how to solve a puzzle or progress to the next task just click the help icon for a visual clue.
Games of this sort don’t fit neatly into any one category. It’s part strategy, part casual game, and a ton of indie charm. The Kickstarter donation levels start at very low contribution levels (just $10 will get you a digital download of the game, two high resolution desktop wallpapers, and regular updates on the status of the project should it be fully funded).
I think the reason I’ve become so enamored with projects like Lilly Looks Through is that Kickstarter has become such a great tool to bring innovation and creativity to life. Not that long ago projects such as this one would need to seek funding from family (if possible) or a loan (often difficult to obtain). Not only does your investment help someone bring their dream to market, it can net you a great deal on a unique product or service. Check out the embedded video and try the free Mac, Windows, or Linux demo; if you enjoyed it as much as I have please donate to their campaign.
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I don’t do as much downloading from multiple sources as I used to in the heyday of P2P sharing, but I still nab the odd compressed/archived file from time to time. While OSX does have the ability to natively open ZIP files, there are plenty of other formats you may encounter that your Mac can’t do without help from an app.
Regardless of what kind of archived file you need to open, The Unarchiver will do the job. The small (3.9 megabytes) app quickly and efficiently detects and extracts your data from just about any format of compression, from ARC to ZIP. The list of compatible filetypes is as impressive as it is comprehensive. Want to peruse the contents of an archive without unpacking it? No worries, The Unarchiver has a sibling program to do just that: the Archive Browser.
While the Unarchiver is free via the Mac App Store, at heart it’s shareware: if you use it and think it’s as valuable as I do please donate to the app’s maker.
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