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Friday, October 09, 2009

Weekly Utilities Update: Peek-a-Boo, CleanMyMac, BackupLoupe, more...

October 9, 2009 12:05 AM PDT

by Topher Kessler

Our Weekly Utilities Update report is a list of all the updates for many Mac utilities that have been released in the past week. While utilities can be any tool that helps you perform a routine task (including image manipulation and synchronization), our main focus in this column is to bring you those that help in troubleshooting Mac hardware and software problems.

Weekly Review: Peek-a-Boo

There are a number of Activity Monitor alternatives out there, and when you see the brief description of Peek-a-boo it may appear as yet another process viewer. While this is technically true, it strives to display processes and system events in unique ways that are rather useful as well as fun.

The idea behind Peek-a-Boo is to give you another angle on interpreting what is happening in your system. Most process viewers show processes, statistics, and attributes in lists, but Peek-a-Boo goes one step further to visualize the same data in a window they call the "Throb" window. This visualizer is a window that combines the CPU usage and Virtual Memory usage of applications in a large field, where each process is represented by it's icon (if available), with the size of the icon representing the amount of CPU being used, and the speed at which it moves around the field being the amount of virtual memory being used.

The throb window is an active view with icons zooming around and changing sizes as they use different amounts of CPU and VM.

(Credit: Screenshot by Topher

In addition to just the Throb window, the developers have gone so far as to enable a full-screen view of this field, allowing for more processes to be seen at once. It's an amusing way to look at your system activity, and you can immediately see what applications are using more resources than others.

The "Throb" view can be shown at full screen, where the icons overlay your desktop and zip all over your screen.

(Credit: Screenshot by Topher

One minor change I'd suggest is to switch the representation of the CPU and VM usage in the Throb window. It would be more intuitive to have the virtual memory usage be represented by the size of the icon, and the CPU usage being represented by the icon's speed in the field, but the idea is great and works.

Overall the program feels a little unfinished, but this is mainly from a trivial aesthetic point of view. There are some visual artifacts and odd window sizes, but is quite useful as it stands. While it is a work in progress, it has great potential as a troubleshooting utility (especially for visual people), and is worth checking out, even if just for the fun of seeing the representation of processes in the "Throb" window.

The program is $29 shareware, and the latest version (v2.8.2) can be downloaded from the developer's website:

Other Recent Utility Updates:

Keep in mind that while utilities can help in a vast majority of cases, as with any software, they can be buggy. Since these utilities were recently updated, these are actively being developed and are currently assumed to work. However, developers cannot take into account all system configurations, so be sure to back up your system before running any utilities for the first time. Additionally, double-check with the developer's Web site to be sure they are compatible with your system version. Incompatibilities with system software are the main reason why utilities and programs function improperly.

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