Two tools; One stable, one not

If you should have, as many of us do, a love-hate relationship with the PHP programming language but have yet to fully articulate what you don't like about it, then you need to read "PHP: a fractal of bad design" by "Eevee" who describes himself as "just some guy who loves hacking." An outstanding, exhaustive and exhausting rant!

Anyway, last week's grab-bag of interesting stuff apparently proved, well, interesting to lots of people, so this week we'll do more of the same with two cool things that are, well, cool.

* AppZapper: If you find yourself trying out even a small number of applications under OS X you'll wind up building up a backlog of apps that just don't cut it. Either they're too slow or they don't work as you hoped or they simply stink. But getting rid of apps can be tricky. Under OS X (as with most OSs) you don't want to just delete the program file, you want to kill all of the dependent modules and files as well without trashing anything else that you'd like to keep.

AppZapper, which describes itself as "The uninstaller Apple forgot" solves this little problem. You just drag and drop an application file onto the AppZapper window and the utility finds all of the associated files. When you confirm, AppZapper deletes the whole mess (accompanied by a loud swooshing noise that will surprise you if you aren't expecting it).

I've used this tool many times and it just works! No fuss, no mistakes, click, drag, click, gone. The latest version, AppZapper 2.0, includes MyApps, a database for tracking your apps and licensing data. AppZapper is a measly $12.95 and gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

* Mayhem: Microsoft recently released what it describes as "an open source, near-zero learning curve, application that provides a collection of triggers and reactions allowing non-programmers to use their computers to do things automatically." Fine words with which to butter their digital parsnips.

The concept is interesting; by supporting nothing but "triggers" (i.e. event detection) and linking them to "reactions" (i.e. stuff that Windows and applications can do), even the noobiest of noobs can automate parts of their work. For example, a key combination such as left control with left alt and "g" could be selected as the "Key Press" trigger and the URL "" could be used as the target for the "Open Website" reaction and, voila! Something the user does with monotonous regularity -- to wit, check Gearhead columns -- is orders of magnitude easier.

More advanced users might wonder at the lack of anything more sophisticated then what is essentially an "if ... then .." construct ... no looping, no conditionals ... but the idea was to make basic functionality enhancements (rather than real programming) simple, accessible and usable, and to that end, Mayhem works well.

The current beta release supports detection of folder change (triggered when the content of a folder changes), key press detection, RSS feed update detection, speech recognition, stock price change, timer events, and weather alerts.

There are also add-on "packages" that extend the repertoire of both events and reactions to include interacting with application windows; support for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS events; support for Office 2010, Xbox controller support, and debug modules.

The instructions for how to use these modules are notable for their complete and utter absence, so here's what you do: Download the packages and, after installing Mayhem, double click on the packages which should launch Mayhem and install the new triggers and reactions. I say "should" because, so far, every time I try to install the packages under Windows Vista Mayhem crashes. Given that this is an alpha release the crashing is understandable, but the lack of explaining what to do with the packages seems pretty sloppy.

And for those adventurous types, there's also documentation on how to build your own modules, although it's all predicated on Microsoft Visual Studio rather than something accessible such as, say, Python or Lua.

Mayhem, being open source, is, as I wrote, very interesting and, so far, Microsoft has kept the project pretty low key. I'll give the current alpha release incarnation a qualified Gearhead rating of 3 out of 5.

Gibbs is tooled up in Ventura, Calif. Your equipment to and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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