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. The only updates this week are to hardware-managing tools that help with monitoring and configuring displays, hard drives, batteries, and keyboards.
There are times when people may wish to use nonstandard displays or special setups that require customized timings, color outputs, and other details that Apple does not offer natively in its display driver settings. Display Maestro is a $4.95 utility that allows you to adjust these aspects of the OS X video driver. The latest version fixes a problem with external displays on laptops not being recognized by the program in some situations.
Regularly checking your hard drive's S.M.A.R.T. status is one way to see if the drive is healthy or about to fail. There are various tools that can do this (including Disk Utility) but the measurements that are checked can vary from utility to utility. SMART Utility is one that should check most of the S.M.A.R.T. measurements on a drive, and hopefully more accurately tell you if you are having hard-drive problems. The latest update is a full version upgrade (version 3.0) that brings a new menu extra in addition to bug fixes for Growl notifications, user interface elements, memory leaks, and other miscellaneous problems.
Watts is a battery calibration helper that reminds and instructs you on how to properly calibrate your laptop's battery. In addition, it offers some status information on batteries. We recommend you regularly calibrate your laptop's battery to ensure the battery level is properly reported at all times, so the system does not unexpectedly go into a deep sleep mode. The latest version of Watts fixes a bug with a system time error being shown. Watts is $6.95 after the 30-day trial.
Sometimes if gunk gets on your keyboard, when you wipe it off you inadvertently press keys that can cause the system to perform unexpected functions. While you can shut the system down to clean the keyboard (or unplug the keyboard), sometimes you might wish to quickly do it without affecting your workflow (and you cannot unplug the keyboard on laptops). KeyboardCleanTool is a simple utility that blocks they keyboard input so you can perform cleaning tasks.
The last utility update this week is GeekBench, which as a benchmarking suite can be used to gauge a system's performance after software updates or hardware configuration changes. The latest version adds support for the latest MacBook Pro systems and fixes some compatibility issues with the Mac App Store. GeekBench has some free benchmarks, but requires a $19.95 license to enable benchmarking tests.