Price Check!

How often have you or your significant other been in this situation. There you are, staring at a piece of merchandise and wondering “Hmmm…I like this _________, but is this a good price? Perchance the item may be available at a lower cost elsewhere. Methinks I will endeavor to locate the item and profit from the savings.” (Mind you, I don’t really know any people that talk like that)

Well, you scurry around the mall or other shopping outlets on a search for that better deal. You can’t find one, so you go back to the original store where yout journey began only to find that the item is no longer there. Rats! The dreaded “price check” scenario has won again.

Well, fellow iPhone users, do not despair. Check out the RedLaser app at iTunes. This $1.99 app may save you many times that. I downloaded it yesterday for my iPhone 3G and was amazed at the features.

Product List
Product List

RedLaser works by reading the image of a UPC barcode (actually looking for the associated number). Once the information is obtained, the data is checked. If RedLaser is able to identify the product, a listing is provided with prices for the merchandise listed from online vendors as well as local prices (GPS-enabled iPhones). The app provides an audible tone when the label is scanned. If you are unable to get a good scan, the app allows the user to manually enter the UPC code.

I’ve tried it out on a few recent purchases and most items are located by the app. In fact, I could have saved over $10 yesterday if I had downloaded the app a little earlier ($5 if I had just walked across the street for one of the items).

For more information, visit the RedLaser web site. Here’s to great shopping in the future.

Trouble in Magic Land!

As noted in a previous post, I am using the new Apple Magic Mouse and have enjoyed the new device. However, all is not joyful in Magic Land.

I also use the Apple Wireless Aluminum keyboard and have for over a year. Prior to the arrival of the Magic Mouse, the keyboard was coupled with the wireless Apple Mighty Mouse.

Upon the arrival of Mr. Magic, I made the necessary Mac OS X software updates required in order to use the full capabilities of the mouse. I have also moved to the latest version of Snow Leopard (10.6.2).

Prior to these changes, the battery life for my keyboard was measured in months. It is now measured in days. I just had to replace the set of batteries again after 8 days of use.  My conjecture at this point is that the keyboard is no longer achieving the automatic low-power setting during periods of idle time.

I note that I am not alone. Many others are reporting the same issue in discussion groups scattered across the internet. I have submitted a “bug report” to Apple, but have no idea  when or if the Apple Team will respond to this dilemma.

In the meantime, I will place the keyboard in manual “low power” mode by turning it OFF when I leave my office. I am also scanning ETrade for opportunities in the AA battery market.

Apple, remember, it is the drip, drip, drip of these seemingly small annoyances that can cause a mighty dam to fail.

Just sayin’

All Those Passwords!

If your web experience is anything like mine, you are building up quite an inventory of user names and passwords. You don’t want to use the same entries on every site, but there are limits to your ability to remember which one goes where.

For those of the Apple persuasion, here are two software offerings that solve the problem.

Pastor

Off-line Password Database
Off-line Password Database

Pastor is classed as “donation-ware”. Pay whatever you think it’s worth to you. The software provides a basic password-protected off-line database of sites and their associated login information. I describe the tool as “off-line” since it is not integrated into your web browser.  Pastor can also be used to generate password suggestions.

Pastor was the first password management application I used and I’m still using it as a general password database.

1Password by Agile Web Solutions

1Password Main Screen
1Password Main Screen

A few months ago, I decided that I needed a password management system that could be integrated with my web browsers (I use Safari and Firefox). I settled on 1Password.

1Password is commercial software, but  Agile offers a free download to allow user evaluation.

One feature I like is it’s integration support for a number of web browsers.  1Password also helps generate passwords and has a nice visual representation of the relative “strength”  of each password you use.

For those running the new Mac OS X Snow Leopard, 1Password offers 1Password 3 which is the version I am currently running.

What ever your preference, a Password Manager is a valuable addition to your web security toolbox.

Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac Released

Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac
Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac

Parallels Inc. has announced the release of it’s latest offering in the field of computer virtualization. Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac is now ready for distribution.

I took the bait and ordered the upgrade package. I have been a Parallels customer since Version 2 in 2006 and have dutifully followed the upgrade path through version 3 and 4.

The announcement of the availability of Parallels Desktop 5 comes on the heels of the release of VMWare Fusion 3 by VMWare, Parallels chief competitor in the world of Virtual Operating System software.

My interest in virtualization is due to the need for running multiple types of Operating Systems as part of my work as a Software Application developer. Using my Mac Pro (circa 2006) , I use a variety of virtual PCs representing different versions of MS Windows, as well as various Linux distributions. I run my Virtual PCs both singly and in combination.

The upgrade from Parallels version 4 to 5 went very smoothly. I immediately noticed an improvement in performance in the boot process. One of the improvements featured an advertised performance boost which appears, at first glance, to be there.

Parallels, as does VMWare, focuses their Virtual Desktop support more toward the world of MS Windows (XP is noticeably faster and Windows 7 runs like a dream), but Linux support is more than adequate. In fact, version 5 seems to have corrected a problem I had been having after an upgrade from Ubuntu Linux  9.04 to 9.10.

More updates to follow.

Update: November 9, 2009

The performance is indeed improved. I especially like the new addition of icons to the Mac Dock.  It allows you to lauch Windows apps in “Coherence” Mode much easier. Coherence Mode is the term used by Parallels when referring to running a Windows App intermingled with other Mac apps on your desktop.

Moneydance 2008

When I first moved to the Mac platform in 2005, one of the applications that provided the impetus for my final move from Windows was Quicken 2005. I had been a long-time Quicken user and, at the time of my purchase of the Mac Mini, I was using Quicken 2005 for Windows.

One of the applications available on that first Mac was Quicken 2005 for Mac. I took the opportunity to import years of financial data into the Mac application. Initially, I maintained my accounts both on the old Windows PC and the new Mac. After a short while, I abandoned the Windows platform.

I dutifully upgraded to Quicken 2006. Then Quicken 2007 arrived, but the features available for the new version weren’t enough to pry the upgrade price out of me.

I waited for Quicken 2008, but time passed with no release from Intuit. I then began searching for a replacement for Quicken.

I tried a number of contenders such as Moneywell and iBank, but all fell short in the area of importing my old Quicken data. I then downloaded a trial version of Moneydance 2008 by Reilly Technologies.

The import of my Quicken data was accomplished without a hitch. The interface was clean and simple. Moneydance didn’t have all  the bells and whistles  of Quicken, but I never used these features. Moneydance provided exactly what I needed, a simple, straight-forward financial program that provided direct download of financial transactions from my bank and easy reconciliation of my accounts. I’m looking forward to the release of the 2010 version of the product.

If you’re looking for financial software for your Mac platform, Quicken is not the only party in town. For me, Moneydance is my choice. Check it out, or try any of the other applications to see which one suits your needs.