Sure, we've talked about tools that will let you monitor data on your network (check our recent OTSessionWatcher review), but what if you want to make things interesting and intelligently monitor and modify the data you are sending and receiving? Muffin is a Java application that will let you do exactly this. With the advances being made in the MRJ (Macintosh Runtime for Java) world, you can now run this and many other Java tools.
Before you try Muffin, or any other Java goodies, make sure that you have obtained and installed the latest versions of the MRJ libraries, as well as the MRJ SDK. The latest version of both is 2.1.1 as of this writing. The enhanced speed and stability of this new MRJ are reason enough to give Java on your Mac another try. Prior versions of MRJ offered less than stellar speed and compatibility.
The most difficult part of using Muffin is figuring out how to run it on the Mac. On other platforms, Java applications are typically launched via a command line. Since we are not cursed with such a thing, we can instead use the JBindery application that comes with the MRJ SDK. After launching JBindery, open the muffin.jar file, which contains the Muffin application. The class name will default to 'muffin' but you must change it to 'Muffin' to get things to work right. You may want to save these settings as an application so you won't have to launch JBindery again.
Once you launch Muffin, it will function as a proxy server at your IP address on port 51966. If you point your browser at this proxy server, you will be able to see all of your browser traffic in the main Muffin window.
The big fun comes in when you apply one or more of the included filters to your data. Some of the more interesting include SecretAgent, which will 'spoof' the browser you appear to be running (useful for nasty sites which won't talk to Mac users), CookieMonster, which will eat cookie requests and replies, and Snoop, which will show all HTTP request and reply headers.
Although some of these features are available in recent browsers, Muffin can add this functionality to any browser. You can also create your own filters to provide new and interesting functionality.
Monday's Mac Gadget is here to help you with those cool things that we all just have to have on our Macs. Shareware, Freeware, Postcardware, Emailware, and even commercial apps, Monday's Mac Gadget is here to help you find and use the best of these programs.
John is a software engineer who works in the corporate R&D group of a Fortune 500 company, focusing on all aspects of communications technology. He has several degrees that claim he knows what he's doing when it comes to computers. After watching co-workers reinstall Windows, search for device drivers, and experience other horrors during the day, he's glad that he comes home to a Mac (compatible) computer. Have any comments, suggestions, or favorite Gadgets? Drop John a line at