APOD Grabber 1.1, by RAILHead
Posted: 6-Dec-2004

3 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: RAILHead Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Jim Melton Class: PRODUCTIVITY
     
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Overview
Space. The final frontier. It is vast, and amazing. And NASA is constantly looking. And sharing a different picture on their web site every day. APOD Grabber is a neat little tool that provides an interface to NASA's Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD).

Requirements
APOD Grabber works on any system running OS X.1 or later. I've been using it on my G4 laptop with both X.2 and X.3.

Setup
APOD Grabber downloads as a disk image. Installation is as simple as dragging the application icon to your hard drive. Actually, you can run APOD Grabber from the installer image, but you will want it on your hard drive. There is also a folder of documentation, but I never even looked inside until I wrote this review.

In Use
When you launch the application, it automatically connects to NASA's web site and downloads the picture of the day. If you want to know more about the picture, you can open a drawer and see all about the image.


APOD Grabber window with information drawer


One of my favorite features is the ability to set a picture as a desktop background. Over time, I've built up a library of pictures I like, and coupled with Apple's random desktop option, my desktop is always covered with something interesting.

NASA maintains a substantial history of images, so if you want to browse other images, just click on the "Previous" button, and the previous day's image is downloaded. You can also go forward by clicking the "Next" button (but you can't go into the future; NASA hasn't worked out time travel yet). APOD Grabber maintains a cache of previously downloaded images, so you don't have to wait to see an image you've seen before.

I put APOD Grabber in my start-up items, so it launches every time I log in. I also put it in my Dock, since I don't log out that often. It can also be configured to check for application updates on each launch, but I've been using it for over a year and haven't seen an update in that time.

There are a couple glitches that annoy me about this application. If you don't have a network connection when the application is launched, it goes into an "idle" state. However, there is no way to get it out of "idle" state, even after the network is restored. Also, browsing through images (even ones that are in the cache) sometimes "appears" to lock up. The application responds to menu items, but doesn't display images. The application is supposed to retrieve an image from NASA's site and display it. In this "locked up" state, it does not retrieve an image. Also, the "previous" and "next" buttons are disabled, so you cannot really do anything, even though you can mouse menu items.

A small interface issue is that under the "APOD Grabber" menu, the application lists "Preferences..." twice, one is enabled and the other is disabled.

Summary
APOD Grabber provides a convenient interface to NASA's Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD) site. Admittedly, it doesn't do anything you couldn't do yourself from the APOD web site, but APOD Grabber is easier than using the web site. It allows you to browse backwards and forwards through NASA's archive, and to save favorite pictures as desktop background images (or just for fun). For viewing the picture of the day, it is easier than navigating NASA's web site.

There are some stability issues related to browsing backwards and forwards or missing network connections. However, if you love "the final frontier" (or at least, gorgeous pictures of it), APOD Grabber can be a useful addition to your bag of tricks. I enjoy it.


Pros

  • Simple interface
  • Save pictures as desktop background


Cons

  • Reliability problems
  • Unable to recover after a network connection lost
  • Interface not completely Mac savvy


Overall Rating

3 out of 5 Mice