Thu, 29 Jan 2004

Panic's Unison

The very first thing I ever used the Internet for was email. I was a freshman at U of M, and MESSAGE, which ran on top of MTS on one of the big IBM mainframes on campus, was very popular among the student population. It was tied to a number of other campuses via Bitnet, so I was able to send email to friends at a few other universities as well. Most of my online time was spent on MTS and on local BBSes. The BBSes around at this point in time were mostly islands to themselves. I realize that things like FIDONet were around, but the boards I haunted didn't use them. One BBS I used was hosted on someone's Mac II running an early version of A/UX. What made this BBS special is that the owner was maintaining a Usenet feed. You could dial into this BBS and read and post articles on Usenet. That was the moment when the potential of the Internet really hit me. You had tens of thousands (at that point in history) of users taking part in hundreds of newsgroups, being replicated around the world in something not-at-all resembling real time (most of the Usenet nodes were using UUCP at that point, connecting via modems in the middle of the night and passing articles around. You could post an article on a Monday and it might take until Thursday or Friday to propagate around the Net. One of the coolest things about Panic's page for Unison is that it takes a "when people were shorter and lived near the water" approach to describing what the application does, assuming (probably correctly) that the majority of people who happen across their product page will have no idea of what Usenet is.

Panic are really some of the all-star developers on the Mac platform. They're not huge, like an Adobe or a Macromedia or a Microsoft, but their applications are always polished, tightly functional, and most importantly, a joy to use. I registered Audion ages ago and used it for years until the crushing power of the Smart Playlist secured the universe for iTunes.

Their latest application, Unison, is no exception. Everything about the app, from the whimsical icon to the introductory setup dialogs to to the progress indicators, screams polish. If you're doing a long binary download in the background and switch out to another app, Unison even badges its dock icon with a jaunty green checkmark when it finishes. How cool is that? It really makes binary downloads completely painless, taking care of the alphabet soup of standards (uuencoding, base64, yyencoding, rar, etc.) and presenting the files in big, friendly format that even a tyke raised on P2P apps can understand. Don't have a Usenet provider? Panic has partnered with a provider to bundle access if you need it.

Anyway, it's a joy to use, and it's nice to see a Mac newsreading app that does something different, as opposed to slapping a paint job on John Norstad's ancient Newswatcher source.

:: 18:43
:: /tech/computers/os/osx/applications | [+]
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