Tune-Up App Lets You Get More Intimate With Your Mac
Getting under the hood and really digging around with OS X's deepest settings can often be a little tricky, but Macware's MacTuneUp is designed to put those controls within arm's reach. Its latest version makes it more compatible with Snow Leopard, and it's ready to take on tasks like disc clean-up, boot disc creation, and Internet connection optimization.
It's been both a boon and bane for the Mac that it has some characteristics of an appliance. For some users, "it just works" is what makes Apple computers so much more attractive than their competitors. Others, though, just feel incomplete unless they can get under the hood of their byte box. For them, there are programs like MacTuneUp.
MacTuneUp (US$34.99), which was recently updated to version 3.6, is a suite of utilities for improving system stability and the performance of a Mac. The changes in the latest version make it more compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) as well as increase application performance on Intel Macs and buff the application's disk cloning feature.
"Snow Leopard added some feature enhancements to the dock and ways to optimize Internet connections -- things users usually don't notice, but now can enhance on their own," Ishan Amin, vice president of product development for the maker of the program, Macware, told MacNewsWorld.
One way MacTuneUp improves a Mac's performance is by increasing disk space by eliminating superfluous files, especially those located in caches dedicated to programs. Ninety percent of people don't know how to do that, Amin maintained.
He cited Java as a particular cache hog. "Every time a new version of Java is installed, the entire 100 to 200 megabyte file is cached," he explained.
"We clean all that out," he added. "It's hidden pretty deep, so most users would never find it." What's more, MacTuneUp can be programmed to periodically automatically perform its cleaning chores.
One problem with disk cleaning programs is the danger of wiping a file that's important for the proper functioning of a system. Macware carefully addresses that issue, according to Amin.
"We have very good checks in place," he contended. "We don't touch caches that Apple or third-party apps require.
"Our system is built in such a way that it won't let you delete something that is critical," he added.
In addition to housekeeping, the program creates an interface to centrally access settings that a user would have to hunt around to find on his or her Mac.
The application can also create a bootable CD. It contains all the system utilities and files needed to get back into a Mac. "It allows you to get back into a dead Mac," Amin observed. After booting from the CD, a user can make necessary repairs and move important data to a safer location.
Hard drives can also be cloned with the application. The clone can be made bootable so it can act as a mirror backup to a system drive. What's more, the cloned drive can be updated incrementally making it easy to keep its data in sync with a system drive without recreating the clone from scratch.
Would-Be Power Users
MacTuneUp also permits a user to tinker with the Internet connection on his or her Mac. It does that by altering the size of information packets, or MTUs, passing through a TCP/IP connection. The size of MTUs are usually predefined by the maker of an operating system, Amin explained.
"They want to throttle the Internet," he said. "Some applications don't perform well when it's really high, and some don't perform if it's really low."
Since even experienced users may not be familiar with the best settings for their Internet connection, MacTuneUp suggests optimal values based on type of connection -- cable/DSL, dial-up or satellite. Of course, more knowledgeable users can make their own changes manually.
The utility suite also includes a firewall, which can be configured to control the access of individual programs to the Internet. It also makes file sharing between Macs on a network easier, Amin maintained. "With the Apple firewall, there are more steps in getting sharing to work," he added.
In addition, MacTuneUp gives users a simpler way to modify a number of settings for the Mac, such as customizing the dock and adding file types for screen capture output.
If a user wants to get more intimate with his or her Mac, MacTuneUp is a way to do it. "There are lots of hidden settings on a Mac accessible only via Unix commands," Amin explained. "MacTuneUp is an entry-level utility that enables you to become a power user and adjust any of those settings."