VPN software for privacy – Private Internet Access
With government mandating what websites you can and can’t visit and spying eyes looking over your shoulder, it’s time to take privacy and you’re right to full internet access regardless of location into your own hands. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection was once the domain of businesses allowing remote users to join their corporate private network in order to access local work resources remotely. VPN providers use this once solely corporate technology that encrypts data during transmission, thereby reducing the chance of data interception by spying eyes.
The new generation of VPN providers are offering consumers the ability to connect to remote computer services in a location of your choosing, in order to circumvent ISP restrictions, country or location restrictions and to remove your local IP address and therefore remove your computer fingerprint from all communications with internet websites. We have found the VPN provider Private Internet Access to be a reliable, secure and fast operator for VPN services.
Available for Mac OS, Windows, iOS and Android.
Annual subscription prices start from as low as US$39.95 for 12 months.
Resource Information – MenuMeters
Ever wonder what your Mac is doing at a certain point in time? Is that large email still being sent or received? Why has the Mac slowed down? Why are the fans running fast? Why is a program taking so long to open?
You can launch activity monitor to view resources, or there is a free utility for Macs called MenuMeters which places visual information icons in the upper menu bar informing you of what’s going on behind the scenes at any given glance.
There’s a network meter that you can customise to your preference, I like to view a small graph of incoming and outgoing network data with transmission speeds so I can tell if something is being sent or received at any given time.
Another visual icon is for drive reads and writes. Macs don’t have LED indicators for drive activity, so this tiny customisable icon takes its place in my upper menu bar.
A CPU thermometer graph and percentage use can tell you instantly if the processor is in heavy use or just idling along. If it’s running high, you can click on the icon to open further information including quick links to activity monitor and console for OS level clues.
Lastly a pie chart icon visually represents the system memory. If your pie chart is constantly full, it might indicate you need more memory and partly explains why the system is paging to the hard drive so frequently causing slow-downs.
You can of course turn the icons on or off individually and full customise any of the meters to suit your tastes / needs.
MenuMeters is a free utility for Mac OS. A 10.11 and up version has been ported for use on newer Mac OS’s.
Temperature information and control – Mac Fan Control
When you replace a hard drive in a 2009 – 2011 iMac, the custom firmware on the replacement drive does not quite communicate correctly with the Mac hardware and this small fault causes the system to increase the hard drive fan speed up to maximum as a safety precaution of a drive that may be overheating. It’s an annoyance that aftermarket repairers have needed to navigate through for many years.
Mac Fan Control will report the current temperatures from all internal reporting sensors. You can view temperatures of CPU, GPU, Hard Drives, Ambient, Memory areas, PCH and proximity sensors from all around the inside of your Apple Mac. More importantly for those with an aftermarket hard drive, you can program the hard drive to read the correct hard drive temperature directly from the drive itself and set the fan speed parameters for when the fan starts to increase RPM from minimum and at what temperature the fan should hit maximum RPM.
Whilst this program is essential for iMac users with aftermarket drives and noisy fans, it can also be carefully modified to suit specific purposes within each Apple Mac model. At this point I will suggest only using the additional settings if you are completely competent and have a full understanding of the hardware and bios programmed fan control as damage could be caused from changing the default cooling profiles of other fans.
Mac Fan Control is a free program for Mac OS
Turn your printer into an AirPrint compatible printer – Handy Print
This utility is not for everyone. If you have an older printer and it’s not Wi-Fi or network connected or it’s simply more than a few years old, chances are it’s not AirPrint enabled. AirPrint is the ability to print directly from your iOS device to a printer using the iOS print function available in many apps.
AirPrint is just a software protocol for standardised communicating between a printer and a iOS device. Older printers can use Handy Print to negotiate printing by advertising a Mac connected printer as an AirPrint compatible printer and using the Mac OS print driver to route the iOS print job to the printer. It works well with most apps on iOS and we recommend making the small PayPal donation of USD$5 to the developer to unlimited untimed use.
Just for Mac OS, free trial to see if it works for you, but donation unlocks the full version.
Document handling and creation – Microsoft Office 365
Office has changed a lot over the last few years, maybe not all for the better but certainly the direction is moving towards cloud based subscription model for Microsoft Office. A new subscription brings with it Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word along with complementary OneDrive web based storage for documents.
Let us not get bogged down in a debate over Pages, Numbers and Keynote versus Word, Excel and PowerPoint – each has their strengths and weaknesses. For newer Mac owners, the Mac versions are provided free of charge with the Mac making them compelling use.
However, Microsoft are so dominant in the Office market that many users will opt to pay for the Microsoft versions just because they’ve had it before or use it at work, or just because everyone else seems to use Microsoft Office.
I’m not going to go in for an in-depth review, just merely point out that for many users you will find Microsoft Office installed on their systems and therefore it makes the top ten list.
Available for Mac OS, Windows, iOS on a subscription basis, though some fully licensed installations may be available for purchase.
Alternate web browser – Mozilla Firefox
I love Safari, it’s the one I go to every time I want to jump online, but it’s not the only one. Mozilla Firefox is an alternate web browser that will go places that Safari sometimes cannot or will not. You may visit a website with flash content and find the new Safari not willing to play the content or you may have to click and activate the web content. Annoying and frustrating if you only have one web browser.
Firefox is a little more conducive to playing active content, will let you install flash updates, will also let you fill out web forms that Safari may not display correctly if at all. Think of it as intermediary between Safari and Internet Explorer – it will display content for more sites, will run better on some sites, but it’s generally not as good as Safari.
It’s free for Mac OS, Windows, Linux and iOS, Android
Need a windows program – Parallels
Many people are reluctant to move to Mac OS and its ecosystem due to older legacy programs running on Windows that they just cannot live without. There are several answers to this conundrum, the one I choose to use is called Parallels.
Parallels is a desktop virtualisation solution. A little difficult to explain the intricacies, but the higher-level concept is easier to explain. Mac OS is the operating system that Apple uses to interface hardware and software in its system. Windows is the operating system that PC vendors can choose for the same purpose. It is usually only possible to run one operating system at a time, but the creators of Parallels have used their program to trick Windows operating system into believing it is talking directly to the hardware when in fact it is just a program running on Mac OS.
Sound a bit like the movie Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio? Featuring a dream within a dream – well this is an operating system being run within an operating system, and both Mac OS and Windows work in parallel to each other, side by side sharing the same files and hardware, yet programs for Windows will run normally within the virtualisation environment.
For Mac OS only. Requires a valid Microsoft Windows version and serial number.
Cost for Parallel software $99.95 for once off licence or $99.95 for annual subscription including updates to new versions of Parallels.
File synchronisation and cloud storage – DropBox
Ever wonder how to keep two or more computers synchronised with the same files? There are a few solutions and Apple has its own iCloud Drive offering similar features to DropBox, but if you’re looking at a multi-platform solution, DropBox is the leader in this field.
DropBox provides an account with storage in the cloud for storing files. These files are also stored on each computer linked with the DropBox account. Any change made to any file on one linked computer, will result in the cloud version also being updated. When other linked computers next connect with DropBox, they will download the changes to their locally stored copy.
You change any DropBox Synced file on one computer and it will re-synchronise all the other connected computers with the new data. Requires internet connection to work.
Available for Mac OS, Windows, iOS, Android. Free version offers limited space for a trial and a subscription version offers up to 1TB of web storage to synchronise and store files in the cloud.
Malware removal tool – Malwarebytes for Mac
Malware is becoming more prominent on the Mac OS environment and it doesn’t take much to get an active infection onto the system. The malware can even download more malware and self-replicate making itself very difficult to remove for the novice to intermediate user.
Malwarebytes for Mac is a free program that will search the system and user files for any malware or remnants and delete them. It’s about 85% effective and the best thing since sliced bread for Mac users living on the edge with risky downloads.
Virus protection and removal – Sophos Endpoint for Mac
Users that are sharing files across Windows and Mac OS are fairly safe from virus activity when using a Mac, though the files that are shared across systems can contain malicious programs if they are not scanned. If you want a good free Mac OS virus scanner that will search and destroy Windows infections, then look no further than Sophos Endpoint for Mac home edition.
Sophos will find infected files, but truthfully most of these are Windows vulnerabilities that are not able to create an issue with Mac OS. To ensure you are not unwittingly passing on infected files, you should be scanning them on access and this is what Sophos excels at. Sophos will also remove quite a lot of malware targeting Mac, though Malwarebytes for Mac is my first choice for those issues.
Sophos Home Endpoint is free with registration and available for Mac OS and Windows