Mac of All Trades: 4 Ways to Extend Your Mac

Aside from being a fantastic computer and girlfriend/boyfriend substitute,  your Mac is capable of some pretty amazing things.  In fact, whenever I have a problem that needs solving or a gap that needs filling, I turn first to…well, first to buying things, but once I realize (yet again) that I have no money, I turn to my MacBook. Here are a few of the more unexpected and useful ways you can put your Mac to work.

Stereo Receiver

I have multimedia speakers, one of the many Logitech 5.1 sets that seem to be deeply discounted at Best Buy at least once or twice every few weeks. They produce great sound considering how cheap they were, but they don’t have a remote and my TV clicker doesn’t control external speakers. Having to stand up and walk to the rear right speaker constantly to adjust the volume makes me feel like I’m trapped in the 1950s, and not in the good, “Those were the days” kind of way.
Light bulb: I can control the volume on my MacBook via remote, and it has both line-in and line-out ports (mini-TOSLINK compatible ones).  The problem, however, is that OS X doesn’t natively channel sound directly from input source to output.
With the help of some Google prospecting, I found LineIn, a simple freeware application that enables playthrough and does so very well.  Setup was a breeze, and with the help of a couple cables (RCA to mini-stereo for TV to Mac, mini-stereo to mini-stereo for Mac to speakers) I was once again in full control sitting comfortably on the couch.

Yogurt Thief Catcher

This is actually something I wish I’d been able to do instead of something I’ve done. I used to have roommates, and in case you never have… don’t. Ever. It seemed like a fun college-student thing to do, but it wasn’t. It was constant fighting and petty squabbles. Over things like who ate my yogurt. The yogurt which I bought with my own money for my own consumption.
Had Air Cam Live Video for iPhone (and the iPhone itself) been available, I would’ve been able to catch the culprit in the act. The application, when paired with its desktop counterpart, uses your Mac’s iSight (or any attached compatible webcam, including those that work with macam) to turn your computer into a surveillance device.  You’re iPhone and the computer with the desktop application have to be on the same network, but that’s perfect for catching thieves red-handed.  Also apparently useful as a baby monitor, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Guitar Tuner

While I am not a skilled (or unskilled) guitar player, I have one and sometimes I jab at it with my swollen, indelicate hand digits. When I do so, I like the resulting noises to at least be in tune, since they could never be melodious.  Various tuning apps are available for the iPhone (Guitar Toolkit being my personal preference) but when I’m at home I use Guitar Tuner by Hidetomo Katsura & Rustle Laidman. It’s simple, clean, and extremely accurate, and while shareware, the price to register is only $9.00. Even my friends with actual musical talent swear by this little app.

Comic Book Reader

It has “book” right in the name, so it makes sense that I would occasionally use my MacBook to actually read things.  High on the list of things I like to read are comics, because they have pretty pictures and  explosions. Paper still appeals to the collector in me, but my bachelor pad provides little archiving space and conveniently forgetting boxes of comics at friends’ houses is not a long-term storage solution.
Thank goodness for the recent rise in the availability of digital comics. Although the big houses (like Marvel and DC) seem to be sticking with web content as the method of delivery, smaller independent studios are taking advantage of image archive formats, like .cbz and .cbr. These are great, because they’re small enough to be easily stored in large numbers without taking up too much drive space, but they require special reader programs to work properly.
This is another area where there is no shortage of software available for OS X, both free and paid. Despite my general reputation as a spendthrift, here (as with Guitar Tuner), I opted for a paid product. Enter ComicBookLover ($24.95). In addition to providing better basic functionality than many of the free apps, it allows you to organize your comics collection in the same way iTunes organizes your music. And it has a convenient laptop viewing mode to automatically rotate the page for easy, readable viewing.
That’s only a few of the ways you can get more out of your Mac.  Stay tuned for more, and send in or post your suggestions below.