Thursday, March 31, 2005

HP Design on the UP

After really going astray with one horrible looking new product after another, HP are finally back on the right track. Here are a couple of new PCs that aren't ugly.

Well... The top one at least!

It's all relative...

I just had my first purge. I'll rephrase that; I just spent half an hour deleting all of the stuff that I don't actually need on the Mac.

Whenever I download a program to try out I leave its installer on the Desktop until I decide whether I want to keep the app. If I do keep it then I drag the installer into a folder called "Archive." Tonight I copied Archive to a CD then deleted its contents.

Then I deleted all the music that I recklessly ripped from CDs without sampling first (music that turned out to be crap), and finally I deleted all the Quicktime movies that I'd dragged over from cover CDs (stuff like movie trailers) that was on the hard drive for the sole purpose of showing off the multi-media capabilities for people who look over my shoulder and say, "What's that thing do?"

The end result is that I now have another 2 gigs of free space. Two gigs. It's a lot and a little at the same time. What a crazy world we live in now; every new generation—add three zeros to all the specs. In the end I don't suppose it matters at all how big a file is as long as the ratios are still reasonable. By that I mean what the heck difference does it make if a music collection is 5 gigs if you have an iPod that can easily swallow that up.

But for me at least, it's still panic stations if whatever I'm using drops to forty percent free space. And yet I constantly drive my car with its fuel gauge between twenty percent and zero. Go figure...

The one dampener for me regarding the actual file sizes is the bandwidth bottleneck. When you're on dial-up certain tipping points come into play: when a file I want is going to be 10 megs then I sigh; 20 megs is a big deal; and 30 plus is simply a deal breaker. As Russell Beatie once blogged—when he recently moved into a new house without broadband it was like stepping back into a whole different world...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ah, That's Better...

I just spent the best part of a day setting up my old PC so that I could pass it onto my nephew. At first I wiped the drive and re-installed Windows with the idea being to cycle it back to an initial set of conditions, as it were.

Bad idea. Turned out to be a nightmare. Two or three essential DLLs wouldn't install from the install CD for some unfathomable reason.

In the end I restored a disc image I had made a few months ago and modified that—taking out all the apps and mods that might confuse a newbie.

What a piece of crap Windows and Windows PCs are. The whole experience reminded me of when I owned a 1995 Honda Civic and my Dad owned a 1975 Honda Civic; I'd sometimes have to move his car to get out of the driveway. Talk about chalk and cheese.

Now that I'm plugged back into the Mac, it's like I traded the Civic on an Audi A8...

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Amar Sagoo - Tofu

I just installed Tofu 1.3.2. Here's a screenshot.

It's an app for reading text files. The main selling point, although it's free, is that the text is displayed in columns. This however, is not what I like the most about it; what I really like is that I can scroll using just the space bar, just like with a browser. It's such a simple thing, but they're usually the best. I can lazily read through a long document and step through with the space bar, and, even better—if I quit the document I can re-open it at a later time and Tofu remembers where I was.


You know how it is; there's an interesting article on a webpage that you want to read, but it's surrounded by clutter. If you're lazy (and easily distracted like me) then drop it onto Tofu and read it in the style that you choose including font and background color. There's even a new Services called View in Columns.

Last little gem: Set up margins to give yourself some white space. Get it.

Tilt and Slide

You know how it is; you one day have a crazy idea and then you think, "Nah..." Then years later, there it is—implemented.

Years ago I was saving notes on my Newton about my idea of the ultimate PDA, part of my Savi project. One of the brain-waves was to have a built in motion—or orientation sensor. I imagined an attitude sensor that could be reset to local up, with a deadband of about 20 degrees of attitude change.

Because a handheld PDA has limited screen real estate, my idea was that you could display a graphic on the screen that was much larger than the screen itself; instead of scrolling about the graphic using the directional pad or scroll-bars you'd simply tilt the device to have the graphic slide about.

Well, now the Apple Powerbook has a motion sensor for parking the hard drive if the device is dropped. Already there are hacks available to navigate iTunes etc, by tilting the Powerbook. Here's hoping that the rumored Apple handheld will have tilt-slide.

Should'a patented it...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Mac mini Watch: Exploded View...

With Mac Mini, Apple Builds a Smaller Box

Interesting article and graphic from the New York Times.

The Mini relies on a combination of strategies to keep things cool. Like some earlier Apple products, it relies heavily on what Mr. Schiller calls "passive heat reduction." This involved designing a heat sink for the warmest components and carefully designing interior airflow patterns. But the Mini also has an active system - a small fan that comes on when necessary to increase the airflow...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Future of Apple? No...

Some design studies from Business 2.0. More like "Your Name Here."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Great New Freeware...

It's been a fairly quiet week as far as blog entries go. I haven't really seen anything that I want to share with the world. My criteria is a little limited at the moment. I'm going through one of those stages where I'm trying to accentuate the positive, as it were. Being a natural-born cynic, it can get a little boring at times; even borderline depressing. So, nothing but positive stuff for a while.

Here's something: A couple of excellent freeware apps that I've recently discovered...

ImageWell is for manipulating images and shipping them to my server. As you can gather from the screenshot, you can (after dropping an image onto the dock to load it) resize it, rename it, enclose it within a shape, add a watermark etc.

You can also add captions, circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one if you so choose. (I'm showing my age there...) Best of all, once it's initially configured, you can upload via ftp with one click. Very handy.

The second app, called Galerie works along the same lines, only this time you drop several images from iPhoto and select a few options before it assembles a complete web gallery. There are a lot of templates to choose from; some of them are pretty awful—some of them are great. The best news is that it resizes the images and adds such things a drop-shadows in the blink of an eye. Here's a quick and dirty sample gallery. to give you the general idea...

Friday, March 11, 2005

See, That's The Thing About Macs...

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniGraffle

I just downloaded this flowcharting application called OmniGraffle and in one minute I'd created this mindless but incredibly cool looking chart.

The commercial app is about a hundred bucks, but you can get a fully functional beta limited to 20 things per chart from Version Tracker.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Google News Tweaked

Google News

Although still in beta (it seems like forever) Google News has just been tweaked to allow shuffling of the categories. Not only that—you can create new ones. Naturally I tried Apple—got five stories about the computer, and one about the fruit...

Radio Recorder MP3 Thing

PoGo! Products Radio YourWay

Radio YourWayLX TM AM/FM Radio Recorder

Imagine the ability to record your favorite radio programs such as AM Talk Radio, Sports, News or Music and play those recordings back at a more convenient time. Radio YourWay LX makes this possible! Set Radio YourWay LX to record any station, any time, totally unattended!

  • Automatically record radio broadcasts via a daily or weekly timer-function; totally unattended
  • MP3 Recording- Easily transfer and archive your recordings to a PC or MAC with an available USB port
  • Record from any audio source (CD, Cassette, or TV etc.) in MP3 format without the use of a PC!
  • Playback MP3, WMA or RVF files
  • Use Radio YourWay LX as a portable storage device for data files!

I don't know. I think in a wierd way, it's kind of cool. I can think of times I'd like to record radio... Bit pricey though.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Project: iPal...

There is the vaguest whiff of a rumor making the rounds that Apple is working on a PDA. What with my ten years of using PDAs and my flawless handwriting, saying that I'm excited would be an understatement. I mention the flawless handwriting because I for one was never frustrated with handwriting recognition problems (except just a little with the OMP. Just a little because I was staggered that it worked at all!)

Here are some of the features that I suspect will be included in Project "iPal":

The Newtons were monochrome and later models had backlighting of the indiglo kind. Their displays were black on white in theory, but truth be told, were more dark green on light green. This made for amazingly low power consumption so long as you were frugal with the backlight. I used mine for probably two hours a day and could go for a month on a set of batteries. If the batteries did completely die, it wasn't that big a deal because the flash memory held everything in limbo.

The Pocket PC that I use now has a brilliant transflective backlit color display, but with the same kind of usage I get about two and one half days of use before panicking about recharging the thing because just about everything is held in fast powered memory and if the batteries dies then it's all lost. So what do I think is a fair compromise from the iPal? Safe data integrity, and four days of one hour a day use.

Now in order to copy some text from a webpage and have it appear in the Pocket PC I have to perform about six separate steps that include pasting the text into a TextEdit document, saving it, connecting the Pocket PC, dragging the file into the PDA, deleting from the Mac and finally deleting from the PDA. With the iPal I'd like to be able to select some text in Safari and either drag it onto the iPal icon or press a key combination; then the next time I sync the file is moved to the iPal and given a name taken from the title bar of Safari. Deleting the file from the iPal would mark the Mac copy for deletion as well.

Naturally iCal, Address Book and various user folders would have lite synchronized versions on the iPal. You could use the iPal with the keyboard stowed, using a clickable trackpad under your thumb. Slide within a document to scroll and click and slide to navigate menus.

I imagine that Apple will keep the first version of this thing fairly simple; working mainly as a portable repository for your contacts, schedule and documents and images. If they go the same way as they did with the iPod there will probably be a universal connector so others can sell hardware addons like phones and Airport remotes and GPS and who knows what else.

A lot of people are already saying they want built in phone, built in camera, full OSX operating system, screeds of power and capacity—but I don't see it. If iPod and mini, and some of the new Mac applications are any indication I think their philosophy will be to have it do just three or four things ridiculously well—and let the third party developers and hardware wonks—and end-users decide where to take it from there...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A New Look

Thought I'd try a new look for a change. I'm still tweaking it, but I think the posts look a little tidier than before. This is the great thing about CSS and SQL: the ability to make changes to the style while leaving the content intact...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Good Take on Microsoft's Push into Security

Demo@15: Tech To Touch And Be Touched

Microsoft's decision to give away anti-spyware software is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it's great that the company is finally addressing this important problem but I worry that the free product could have a negative effect on other companies that are developing what are likely to be far more robust anti-spyware programs.

The worst situation would be for Microsoft to be one of the only anti-spyware vendors around. That would not only hurt competitors but offer fewer choices to consumers and, worse, create a single target for hackers to attack. Users are better off being able to choose from several excellent security programs - even if they have to pay for them - than being stuck with a single program from Microsoft.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Amend that...

It looks like I spoke too soon. I just saved another page using Firefox and it came out crap. This time the css file and some of the images were two folders deep so Firefox ignored them.

Back to the wish list...

Nope, too ugly

In line with the new Mac oriented thinking, I have a new criteria that I apply when evaluating software that I install: If it doesn't fit with the visual style of the OS then it's out. One such app that I chucked was Firefox.

I know, Firefox users are even more zealous than Mac users. They site it's security, and the tabs, and all the add-ons that are available...

But to me—its just too ugly, and I don't like tabs now that I've discovered command-` so off it went.

I love the brushed look, and the clarity of Safari. However, like the original Netscape, Safari caches its files in some arcane format that makes examining the true makeup of pages almost impossible.

Say what you like about IE but with it you could save a viewed page in its original form, along with any images or linked css file or java scripts. I found this extremely useful.

Although this blog is hosted on an automated service, I do like to dabble in hand coding my own sites. In the PC/IE days if I spied a page somewhere that I liked the look of, I'd save it as a complete page and examine how it was built up; of course I'd never copy and paste someone else's code, but I would learn from them.

Recently I was checking out the promised new features in Tiger and saw that the new Safari would save pages complete, but that release is probably six months away so I got to wondering whether Firefox did the same thing—and sure enough it does, and it does it beautifully.

To make a long story even longer—I put Firefox back on. Now, when I'm curious as to how a page was built, I copy the address into Firefox and save it from there. So, shoot me if you're a Firefox zealot, but for me it's more a helper app than a full-time browser...

Friday, March 04, 2005

From the Less is More Department...

Motorola PEBL V6 Gallery (MobileBurn)

Motorola re-discover their Small, Black and Sleek roots. Let's hope the interface is as clean...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Rad New Civic

The Japanese seen to have a thing for Alfa Romeo, (semi-hidden rear doors) and I'm not complaining. Here's hoping the extreme shape reaches production.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ad Speak...

The latest ad-speak is not Buy, or Own, or Join. It's Celebrate. Who are they kidding? I hate this stuff. I know it's futile to get worked up about this bastardization of the language—but it just makes me cringe.

First there was Lifestyle whenever something was just too dopey to be categorized as being useful. "Check out our Lifestyle product line!"

Then everything was a Solution, then a Total Solution. Another new one: It's about... Let's package then all together:

We'll use the crap car shown below...

...It's about life being random. Celebrate diversity and show you embrace the total fusion lifestyle. Introducing the Saab Sub...

Jeez. This ad stuff is easy!

Subaru Morphs with Saab—Everyone Loses

Morning Light

Sometimes is does pay to be up early. Shot full-auto on the Fuji at about 6:00am. Sorry for the ubiquitous Sky Tower shot, but the lighting is nice.