Our utilities update report is a column on updates for Mac utilities that have been released in the past week. Though a utility can be any tool that helps you perform a routine task (including image manipulation and synchronization), our focus in this column is on bringing you those tools that help in troubleshooting Mac hardware and software problems. This week there were updates for a couple of maintenance tools, and a great option for managing launch daemon and launch agent files, as well as a couple of hardware monitoring tools.
The popular maintenance tool Cocktail has been updated to version 5.0.1 this week. Cocktail has a number of options for managing disk features like motion sensors, SMART status, permissions, and repair routines, in addition to tweaking network settings and other system features to work best for your uses. It also has a convenient Pilot feature that can be used to schedule and consolidate routines accordingly. Cocktail is a $19.00 program.
A second maintenance utility that was updated this week is BlueHarvest, which is used for cleaning up and preventing hidden OS X files such as the Finder's .DS_Store files from littering hard drives and network shares that may be accessed by Windows machines. The program configures the system to avoid creating these files on certain drives, and can scan for and remove them from specified drives and folders. The program, which is $16.95 for a full license, has been updated to fix some user interface bugs.
One of the utilities it was great to see updated this week is Lingon, which is a tool that can help you create launch agent and launch daemon property lists for automatically running tasks using the system launcher (launchd). Recently I discussed a way to use these configuration files to run a script when a disk is mounted, and Lingon is useful for setting all of the available options in these configuration files. The latest version makes it easier to create the configuration files, and also has options to load and start the configuration files when they have been created. Lingon is $2.99 for a license.
Hardware and monitoring
If you wish to regularly check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard drives, then a utility like SMARTReporter may be useful. The program will run in the background and issue warnings if your drive's S.M.A.R.T. statistics show signs of possible drive failure. This may allow you to take pre-emptive action against a full drive failure. The latest version adds options to check software RAID setups in addition to a tooltip status option for the menu extra symbol.
A last tool for measuring hardware is CPULoad, which like Activity Monitor will show you whether or not your CPU is being heavily used, but does so in a lightweight menu bar add-on. The tool does not appear to be much more than a basic monitor that gives you quick access to Activity Monitor, but it is free and may be useful to some people. There are alternative menu-based system monitors available that can show you more details about system status.
Finally, while it is not a troubleshooting-based utility, the benchmark suite Geekbench can be used to help gauge whether your system is performing well. By taking a baseline benchmark measurement you can compare differences in performance when you have applied software updates or when you have attached and configured peripheral devices. Geekbench is a $19.95 program, and has been updated to add new hardware stress tests and command-line tools and to consolidate the 32-bit and 64-bit benchmarks into the same tool for OS X.