Sep 012010

Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 9.25.42 AM.png

This is something that should have been part of iOS/MacOS/MobileMe from the start. It’s a little bit of a bummer that I have to rely on a third party solution for a fully sync’ed plain text notebook across all of my devices, but at least there is a solution.

Just a couple of things I like about it versus the also somewhat useful Evernote:

1. It’s just plaintext. No fancy formatting, nothing to bog down the process of getting an idea into my digital universe. Just a simple text input interface, with basic tagging for organizational purposes. No funky RTF issues (yes, Evernote… I’m talking to you). This is not a ‘catch all’ notebook. It’s someplace to dump those things I want to look into later, when I have time. For instance… what ever happened to my copy of Knee Deep In The Hoopla, or how wide is Idina Menzel‘s vocal range?

2. Native apps EVERYWHERE. In the case of my Mac, I can use Notational Velocity, a very cool and very clean open-source notepad app to access my notes. And when I take a note in one place, I get it everywhere. Ubiquitous data for the win (FTW). Oh… and though I haven’t bothered to use it, there’s apps that work on that buggy, sucky OS I use for playing a couple of key games to my nerd lifestyle.

iTunes: Concerto in E Major for Two Pianos and Orchestra: I. Allegro vivace by Love Derwinger and Roland Pöntinen, from The 99 Most Essential Mendelssohn Masterpieces (Amazon Exclusive)

 Posted by at 9:30 am
Jul 122010

Microsoft CEO touts new Windows tablets vs iPad | Reuters

Yeaahhhhh… that’s gonna help. So I can’t help but wonder how a Windows7 tablet is going to improve over a WindowsXP tablet… seeing as how they pretty languished in mediocrity before. A desktop OS is just NOT going to cut it, dude.

I mean, the entire ‘tablet market’ was expected to max out at around 1.5 million units sold worldwide last year. And then Apple came out with the iPad and sold 3 million in 80 days.

If you treat the tablet just like a laptop in a slightly different shell, you’re going to fail. And that’s what Microsoft is doing here. And that’s what’s going to be the end result.

As my friends at MacDailyNews say:
May Steve Ballmer remain Microsoft CEO for as long at it takes.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm
Oct 312008

Windows 7, or Vista Second Edition? – The Tech Report

So… apparently Vista wasn’t as awesome as Steve Ballmer swore? I know I can’t believe it…

Just two weeks ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that “Windows 7 will be Vista, but a lot better.” So what was Vista, a practice run? Microsoft is addressing the problems it introduced with Vista (like UAC), but rather than offer free fixes, it’ll offer to sell us Windows 7. When asked why new users should now make the upgrade to Vista, Mr. Ballmer almost seemed dismissive of the current flagship OS, saying that “if people want to wait they really can.” From the perspective of a Vista user, that almost sounds like abandonment of the platform.

And then there’s this little nugget…

Speaking of Apple, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the much shorter Mac OS X release cycles, which Microsoft could end up mirroring with its future OS updates. Do I have a problem with that? No. The key difference is that Apple’s operating system upgrades cost $129. You don’t have to worry about what edition to buy, and the full-featured retail version doesn’t have a $399 MSRP.

Bottom line? Most of the time you get what you pay for. That’s not the case with Microsoft OS’s. Buy something good instead. Preferably something that ships with SSH installed out of the box.

 Posted by at 4:52 pm
May 012008

I ordered my Drobo last weekend. It arrived yesterday, along with two of the three 750GB disks I’ll be using to populate it.

Only problem is, it didn’t work. I took it to work and did some debugging, and it looks like both of my disks arrived DOA.

That sucks. At least the drobo itself works nicely.

 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Jan 032008

Trying out a Mac OS X blog client app called MarsEdit. It’s quite nice, and I think I’m going to be purchasing it. It was contributed to by Gus Mueller, one of my favorite developers (also known as “He Who Made VoodooPad“) and is pretty much everything I would want in a blog publishing/editing app. Nice interface for writing, ability to push pictured up as well, very scriptable (via AppleScript), doesn’t hijack my ability to push from other sources (web-based, iPhone, etc), isn’t terribly expensive, etc.

Gus is my hero. Well… I like his work anyway.

iTunes: Durham Gaol by Molly’s Revenge

 Posted by at 6:02 am
Nov 122007

So in a couple of earlier entries, I’ve alluded to part of my setup process being the installation of ‘key applications and utilities’. These are generally Mac-specific small developer apps that I can’t live without as part of my standard workflow. I’m not talking about the big things that everybody might expects (Photoshop, Illustrator, Pages, iWork, iLife, etc.), but the cool little apps that really show the uniqueness of the Mac, and make it such s vibrant platform. So I thought I’d highlight a few of these today…

Quicksilver :: Quicksilver is basically a launcher. However, rather than having yet another toolbar or waste of pixels on the screen, it’s totally fluid in how it works. You type a predetermined key combination to activate it, then type the first couple of letters of whatever you want to launch, be it application, document, folder, etc. That’s pretty much it. The new version of Spotlight can do most of the same stuff very quickly, but Quicksilver also adds some scriptability that really makes it cool and indispensible. Plus the price is right (free as in beer, not as in speech).

VoodooPad Pro :: The ultimate local wiki/notepad/information storage receptical. You can store objects in it such as graphics, files, etc… can write in it and then export to nay number of formats, it has buit-in sketch functionality. Great application. I can’t live without it, and the developer is so responsive and cool. Price: $29.95. Pro Version (which is the one I use) is $49.95.

FlySketch :: Another product from Flying Meat, flysketch is a quick little screen capture/annotating utility. Infinitely useful and very slick. I used it to annotate the picture of my ‘Dock folder correction’ entry if you want to see what sorts of things it can do. It’s amazingly handy. Price: $24.95, or $44.90 for FlySketch *and* VoodooPad. Well worth the money.

Text Wrangler :: The best free text editor on any platform. And yes, that includes vi , eliteist freetards. Suck it. The only thing might be better is it’s big brother BBEdit, which does everything TextWrangler does and oh, so much more. Of course, it also costs money. Price: Free.

WriteRoom 1.0 :: Writeroom is something I’ve wanted for ever: the ability to just have a completely blank screen with no distractions to write in. It hides everything but the black screen with green text (fully customizable, of course). Why specifically 1.0, you might ask? Because Version 2.0 costs money. Not that it’s cost ($24.95) is totaly unreasonable, just not something I use enough to justify at the moment. But when I need it, I *really* need it. I might but the new version just to reward the developer for making good Mac software. Price: free (version 1.0)

 Posted by at 10:41 pm
Nov 122007

“Preview” icons.Pretty much every document icon on the system uses the new ‘preview’ format, where the icon reflects the contents of the file. For some sorts of files, this is fabulous… things like jpegs and other graphics, Quicktime Movies, page layouts, etc.

How about letting me determine what frame in a QuickTime movie to use as the icon, rather than just splattering the black nothingness that is the first frame of a movie on my screen? And even better… how about letting me turn that feature off for files such as spreadsheets and GarageBand projects? Those sorts of documents really gain nothing by having their contents shown… and in fact, they lose some of their ‘recognizability’ in the Finder by not bearing an icon that associates them with their master application. You have no way of knowing what application will be launching when you double-click the file, unless you have “Show all file extensions” enabled (which I do).

Seems to be something that’s useful for certain file types, but a detriment to others. I’d love to see this as something that can be enabled/disabled by file type or by application. Not sure how they’d implement it though.

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
Nov 122007

Well, I got Leopard installed on my MacBook Pro, as well as the core apps that I use on a regular basis (I’ll post on that later). Then I turned my attention to getting Windows XP to install for the purposes of loading The Addiction on it. This was easier said than done, though. I mean, the Apple side of the solution (aka Boot Camp) worked flawlessly as documented. But XP was giving me all sorts of headaches. I’d run through the installation process and complete it, and XP would reboot. However, instead of taking me into the ‘setup’ part of the installer I would get an error stating that the hal.dll was either damaged or missing. Grr. And I tried this for the better part of a day, installing, removing, reinstalling, etc.

Turns out that this is a problem that non-Apple hardware users (aka: it’s not Boot Camp/Apple hardware-specific) run into pretty regularly as well, according to Google. Eventually a post on the apple discussion forums led me to my solution. So, for the sake of posterity and in the interest of raising the google hits on what solved the problem for me, here’s how I did it (reprinted and paraphrased from the post in the Apple Discussion Forums)

1) First, get an original Windows XP SP2 cd and be sure that your CD is bootable and that you can access the recovery console in a repair function (not all the cds got the function, so be careful).

2) Go to /Applications/Utilities and launch Boot Camp Assistant.

3) Create a Windows partition (I did a 30 gig) and be sure that your Windows cd is in the drive and launch the installation.

Computer will reboot in the installation program after that all the drivers has been loaded (the blue screen lasting about 5 minutes).

4)Once your are in the installation menu, just select the option that takes you to the repair console.

5)You will get a C: command line, sort of MS-DOS. Type “diskpart” to review the partitions created and be sure that the c: drive is labeled “bootcamp”. Just return to repair console in the c: command line.

6)type the following command line:


You will get a quick format of the c: drive in the NTFS file system. It will also probably work in FAT32, but I’ve never tried.

7)After that the format has been done, hit the POWER button to reboot. (NOTE: This is the critical step. It seems that the correctly formatted partition needs to be there during install, or you end up with the stupid “hal.dll” error.)

8)You will be taken back in the installation menu; you’ll also have to wait once again during 5 minutes for the drivers loading process.

9)Once you get in the installation blue screen, just choose the partition that has been created and choose to let the file system intact.

10)Windows XP will be copying install files on the HD, install Windows XP SP2.

11)Once, the installation is done and you entered in Windows (if you followed the instructions carefully), insert in the cd drive, the Leopard CD and install Windows drivers.

12) Reboot

13) Enjoy! (Well, let’s not get carried away here… this *is* Windows we’re talking about…)

 Posted by at 10:38 pm
Nov 092007

Leppard introduced a bunch of new things to the user experience, in particular the Dock and the Finder. I like a lot of them, but some of them piss me off (and friends of mine, such as the Funny Little Man) something fierce. Today’s topic of discussion: Stacks.

Issue 1: If you have a folder filled with Apps, and some of them are subdirectories? You can’t squirrel down into them any further to actually launch the application. Basically, you can use springloaded folders to drag items into a nested folder, but you can’t access the contents of those nested folders just with the mouse. You have to click on the folder, then let it launch in the Finder, at which point you can find the app itself and double click.

Issue 2: Good Lord, who decided that you shouldn’t be able to just have a folder look like a folder in the Dock? The idea that the icons change and reflect what’s inside of them is nifty and all, but a UI that changes like that makes it really hard to know what’s what when you’re actually *using* the OS. I’m betting that this one was all Steve.

A workaround to the Problem:

Stacks sorted by Name (such as Applications, Documents, etc) – For folders that are sorted by name, you just create an empty file in the directory. (Go into Terminal and type “touch “) Then add a couple of spaces to it to sort it to the top of the list and paste a pretty icon on it. No matter what you add to the directory, that icon will always be at the top of the stack. Easy peasy. We used to use a similar trick (with the file naming) to get things to sort as desired in the Apple Menu back in the Mac OS Classic days. Sure, it’s cludgy… but I do honestly like some of the functionality of the new Dock stacks. Sue me.

Stacks sorted by other criteria (such as Downloads) – This is a bit trickier, since you’re having to manipulate metadata to force the icon-ized file to the top of the stack. Do the same as you did for the previous example, with a little bit of trickery to accompany it. I wrote a quick little AppleScript droplet to torque the ‘mod date’ metadata for the file:

on open files_
repeat with file_ in files_
tell application “Finder”
set modification date of file_ to date “Sunday, January 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM”
end tell
end repeat
end open

1. Touch an empty file on your desktop, and place it inside your Downloads directory (or inside whatever Stack that’s going to bear it’s icon).
2. Name it whatever you want (I used the spaces at the beginning just to always sort it to the top of the list when looking at it in Finder)
3. Give it whatever pretty icon you want. I’d recommend InterfaceLift as a good start.
4. Drop the dummy icon-creating file on the applescript. Watch the modification date get changed to the year 2012. Keep in mind that if you actually change the name of the file, move it, etc… the mod date will change to now. So you’ll have to drop it on the script again.

Anyway, like I said… cludgy, but it works. And it gives me a good bit of what I really want from my Dock and Stacks in Leppard.

NP: Dethklok, “Thunderhorse”

 Posted by at 10:10 am