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Welcome to the fold, brother. You’ve got a nice piece of machinery there, but if we’re honest here, it doesn’t come fully-equipped right out of the box. Here are the 5 essential free apps you need to get in order to unleash the Lion (OSX 10.7)  and let your mac tear up the computing world!

1. Quicksilver (Free, http://www.blacktree.com)

If there’s only one application you download from this page, let it be this one. For those of you that like to get things done fast and efficiently, Quicksilver is THE app for you. In fact, it’s really for anybody with a mac that doesn’t like Mac’s clunky built-in ‘Spotlight’ menu. Quicksilver is a sleek application-switcher / file-manager that is indispensible to power-users. I have quicksilver set to pop up whenever i hit Cmd-Space (the easiest keyboard shortcut on the keyboard), but in order to set it you need to steal it from spotlight — just go to system preferences > spotlight > spotlight menu keyboard shortcut and change it to something easy to forget- you’ll never need to use it, trust me.

Quicksilver not only catalogues your entire system but also lets you set global macro keys for your power-apps, like your web browser. I have a global macro for Chrome (ctrl-opt-cmd-C), VLC (ctrl-opt-cmd-V), my applications folder (ctrl-opt-cmd-A), you get the rest.

It’s an indispensable application, and it’ll make you a power-user in no time.

2. VLC (Free, www.videolan.org/vlc/)

Apple’s built-in video media player, Quicktime, may look sleek and sexy, but it seriously lacks in codec support, especially for those of you that enjoy .mkv, .flac, or literally any other file extension. If the file is some kind of media, throw it at VLC and I guarantee it’ll play it. If it doesn’t, then your file is corrupted. Do yourself a favor and download the best media player available.

PRO TIP: Use Quicksilver to select an .avi or .mkv file and use the command ‘always open type with’ and then ‘VLC’. This way you’ll get rid of Quicktime trying to butt in on codecs it can’t play.

3. Growl (Free, growl.info)

Growl is a notification system for OSX that is natively supported by lots of applications. Twitter, iTunes, Mail, and many other applications can give you heads-up notifications that look smooth (just like everything else on your mac). Definitely worth it, as it is now an essential part of my whole workflow.

4. Caffiene (Free, lightheadsw.com/caffeine/)

Macs are notoriously electrically conservative with display-dimming and sleep tendencies. If you’re up for a long time and don’t want your Mac dozing off, you can get this cute little app called Caffeine. Caffeine is a little coffee cup that sits in your menu bar. When the cup is full, your computer will stay awake. When it’s empty, your computer will revert back to the ‘power usage’ settings you set in the system prefs. Simple, clean, and cute app for a very practical use.

5. Menu Meters (Free, http://www.ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters/)

This is one of my most recent additions to my Mac, and it’s just awesome. Menu Meters does exactly what it’s named for- it has modules for your CPU, Disk Activity, Memory, and Network statuses that will run in your menu bar up top. This is very helpful for people who like to know what is going on with their computer at every second. I only kept the Network and CPU modules, which i colored in a grey-scale manner. It’s an awesome tool and makes your Mac only that much more pro.

So that’s the list, get to downloadin! The faster you get acclimated with these apps, the faster you’ll be tearing up the bits and gigaflops. Enjoy the brilliance and euphoria that is Mac OSX, and again, welcome to the fold.

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Scientists have recently uncovered new discoveries about the human brain and its interaction with its environment. These studies have centered around habits: how they are formed, how they are reinforced, and how they can be changed.

Your brain deals with a lot of stimulus and action every day, and that takes energy. In most cases, the brain’s goal is to cut down on work and energy consumption, so many of the daily activities we do are all streamlined into ‘blocks’ of automatic behavior. This ‘blocking’ of common tasks happens every day, like when you pull your car out of the driveway. When you were just learning how to reverse the car into the street, it took a lot of concentration and focus to keep the car straight, interpret the mirrors, push the gas, look behind you, etc. But now since you’re well-practiced at that routine, it becomes a ‘block’, simply “pulling out of the driveway”.

In lab studies, scientists observed this behavior of ‘blocking’ in rats. They set up a maze that had a latched door at the beginning and chocolate somewhere at the end. In the first few times the rats did the maze, their brains were cranking out the processing power. But after those first few times, the rats’ brain activity looked much different. There was a spike of brain activity at the sound of the latch at the beginning of the experiment and another spike at the rats’ acquisition of the chocolate. The space (of low brain activity) in-between those two spikes is what we can call a ‘block’ or ‘habit‘.

The whole experiment put together explains the ‘habit loop’, which starts with the ‘cue’ of the latch unlocking, the ‘routine’ of running through the maze, and the ‘reward‘ of the chocolate. Although this habit loop is specific to the rats, it presents itself in many aspects of our daily lives. For instance, a smoker has his cue (boredom), his routine (smoking), and his reward (relaxation?). Same thing with morning coffee addicts: cue (commute to work), routine (buying the coffee), and reward (caffiene buzz to start the day).

This key insight into humans’ thought processes can help us shape the way we act and think. Knowing that there are ways to change your habit loops can help you enact those changes. It is possible for an aspiring runner to engrain a morning run into his habits, as long as he understands the cycle: cue (putting on running shoes), routine (running), reward (satisfaction/weight loss). It is also well within the realm of possibility for a habitual cigarette smoker to kick the habit as long as he understands the cycle that he is caught in, and how he can amend that cycle to keep the reward without the consequence of all that smoke.

There’s much more on this habit loop and how it relates to consumer marketing and corporate sales on the new york times website here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2  

It’s an awesome article, and I highly recommend it. You can be the change in your life, by understanding ourselves, we understand our destiny.

these things change

Have you ever noticed how when somebody talks about their favorite sports team, it’s always “we won” or “we scored a goal”. we like to be a part of the spectacle of the sport, part of that world. 

but when we talk about the development of our roads, cities, communities, we’re always saying “they’re making a new highway” or “they’ve discovered a new drug for helping aids victims”. why is it that we seperate ourselves from the part of our society that gets things done? there are no people that exist in any city planning commission or zoning board that are not essentially connected to us. we’re much more connected to those people than the people playing the football game on the field.

it’s not necessary to seperate yourself from the progress and change in society. i would like to change my own thinking on it too, i’d like to…

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