Posts tagged "technology"

Second impressions: Sony RX100 Camera

review technology geek
I wrote about my brief first impressions of this camera back in August, not long after I had bought it. I thought it was probably time to do a second review, now that I’m about 5 months into using it. First, you need to know a bit about what I want out of a camera, and what sort of photographs I enjoy taking. I would say that I’m an intermediate photographer in terms of expertise. Continue reading →

Zen Fibre Broadband

geek technology
Some background Since we moved into our current house about 7 years ago, we’ve used Zen Internet as our ISP1. They were recommended to us by my brother, who had been with them for a number of years before we signed up and found them really reliable, with great customer service. I’ve never regretted that decision. I don’t think that I ever remember noticing an outage in those 7 years. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have an outage of course, because it may have happened when we were not at home, but given that Mr. Continue reading →

First impressions: Sony RX100 camera

review technology geek
Choosing a camera — like choosing many other technological tools — is a matter of balancing compromises. Digital SLRs have a great choice of interchangable lenses and superb image quality, but they are large, expensive and heavy, and you can’t really carry them around with you every day. Compact cameras, on the other hand, are usually cheaper, smaller and lighter, but the image quality is compromised, and you are stuck with a single (albeit potentially a zoom) lens. Continue reading →

Miss Silvia is at home

coffee technology
Some introductions Aren’t they a handsome couple? That’s Rocky on the left (all young and shiny and energetic), and Miss Silvia on the right. She’s not in the first flush of youth, as you can see. Her logo is a bit worn, and she doesn’t have the fancy steam knob and drip tray patterns of these newer models. But inside she’s as strong and well-made as any new machine. She’s seen a few shots and she’s experienced. Continue reading →

Piolo

review technology hardware
A little while ago, I bought a couple of nifty stands for my iPhone from Piolo. There’s not much to them, really: they are just a nicely molded piece of plastic with a slot in one end just wide enough to grip the edge of an iPhone 4 without a case. The idea is that you attach the Piolo to the edge of the phone and you can prop it up in either portrait or landscape mode. Continue reading →

Sharing iTunes

geek software technology
For a while now, I’ve been wondering how best to handle sharing the collection of digital music I’ve built up with other computers in the house. This collection is mostly composed of rips of CDs that I own, but there are also a few albums that I’ve bought via the iTunes store or Amazon. I keep the main collection on the Mac mini in the living room, and that also serves as the library which the Squeezebox Server serves up to the three Squeezebox music players I have scattered around the house. Continue reading →

Kindle

technology geek
I’ve always been a voracious reader. I constantly had my nose in a book when I was younger, and when we went away on holiday, I spent ages agonising over which books to take. They were pretty heavy but the obvious danger was that if I took too few books, I might – oh, the horror! – run out of books to read. That catastrophe had to be avoided at all costs. Continue reading →

Tom Bihn Synapse as carry-on bag

technology
I've been meaning to update my previous review of my Tom Bihn Synapse rucksack after my recent travel experiences. I decided to use the Synapse as my carry-on bag when I travelled to Brazil recently. On previous trips, my older but superficially bigger rucksack was straining at the seams with all the stuff I had to put in my carry-on, and felt like a dead weight while I was wandering around airports or running from one gate to another. Continue reading →

iPhone 4

technology
If you've been following my rather over-excited tweets, you'll know that I recently got a new iPhone 4. I might not have bothered to upgrade, but for the fact that Mr. Bsag's phone (a Palm Treo) was failing rapidly and he was very keen to have my old iPhone 3G. Since I was outside my contract with O2, it seemed a good time to upgrade. I'm really glad I did. I bought it direct from Apple (unlocked), and just continued with my Simplicity tariff from O2, which is a rolling monthly contract you can cancel at any time. Continue reading →

Arch Linux and XMonad

technology
{width="500” height="293”} Warning: Geekery ahead! I've been meaning to write for a long time about the EeePC 1000HE I got last August and Arch Linux. When I got the netbook, I installed Arch, and used Awesome as a window manager. It worked well, but then — in a fit of curiosity and tweakery — I decided to try out Jolicloud. Jolicloud is a nice distribution, specially designed for netbooks, and every single feature on the EeePC worked perfectly out of the box. Continue reading →

Google Chrome and gleeBox

technology
I change browsers much more often than I buy new clothes. Whenever a new browser emerges or an older one adds new features, I tend to try it out for a while, but often end up gravitating back to Apple's Safari again. While Safari is far from perfect, the integration with the rest of the system and its stability and speed tends to pull me back to it again. However, I tried out Google's Chrome a month or so ago, and I haven't yet moved back. Continue reading →

In which I go a bit barmy over a washing machine

technology
I hate consumer appliances which are made from poor-quality, non-serviceable parts, and which last only a year or two before ending up at the Council tip because they cannot be repaired economically. So I faced the task of buying a new washing machine with a heavy heart. The old one was left in our house by the previous owners, and had never washed, rinsed^1^ or spun well since we first encountered it. Continue reading →

Well-connected applications

technology
In a brief exchange with Steve Hodgson (@BestofTimes) on Twitter, I recommended TextSoap — a brilliant utility for munging and cleaning up text in a multitude of different ways. It's not a very glamorous application, and it seems pricey until you actually use it intensively. I've had it a while now, and on most days I use it once or twice, but it really pays its keep when I have big tasks that require a lot of text manipulation. Continue reading →

On the ball

technology
Last week, our beloved, elderly Dyson vacuum cleaner finally packed up. We've had it about 12 years, so it has done well, but has been getting gradually more decrepit. We had the power supply replaced a couple of years ago, but the problem this time was a burnt-out motor. It could be fixed, but with such an old unit, it wasn't really cost effective. We're lucky to have an excellent, independently owned vacuum shop fairly near us (Midland Vac), which has a great range of Dyson units, so we visited at the weekend to try to decide on a model. Continue reading →

Mac mini and EyeTV

technology
Since we got rid of our VCR, several years ago now, we've been using EyeTV on our iMac to record TV and radio, streaming the resulting recordings to our living room TV using a discontinued Elgato product called EyeHome. This worked well for a long time, though if there happened to be significant wireless network activity while we were watching, we'd get a stuttering picture. The rest of the time it was great, as we don't watch much live TV, and we could also easily edit out the adverts and reduce the length of films scheduled in 2 hour slots by as much as 25 minutes. Continue reading →

A huge 8K of RAM

technology
I've been so busy at work the past few weeks that all I've been fit for at the end of a long day is flopping in front of the TV. One programme that I really enjoyed (for the nostalgia factor as much as anything else), was Micro Men, a drama about the rather strained relationship between Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry as they competed to produce the most popular home computer in the 1980s. Continue reading →

QuicKeys

technology
I've had a bit of an on-and-off relationship with QuicKeys, but it has certainly been a long one. When I have stopped using it for periods, it has usually been because I have adopted other ways for accomplishing the kinds of tasks it deals with, and it seemed like overkill to have a separate application running to deal with those things. However, with version 4, QuicKeys has become even more powerful, versatile and easy to use, and I am using it in earnest again. Continue reading →

Alpine

technology
A few weeks ago, I got an EeePC 1000HE netbook for work. I needed a dedicated, cheap machine to run some Linux-only stuff on, and I thought it would be nice to have a lightweight portable to take on trips. I'll write more about the EeePC later, but I wanted to mention my new-found love affair with the console email client, Alpine. I installed the ArchLinux distribution with the Awesome window manager, both of which are very lightweight and speedy, and I wanted an email client to match. Continue reading →

Fever

technology
{width="500” height="314”} I've used RSS feeds to keep up with the blogs and other websites I wanted to read for a long time. I used to use NetNewsWire, which was (and still is) a great bit of software, but when Google Reader came out, I switched to that. I liked the quick keyboard shortcuts to navigate around, and the fact that using an online reader meant that I could read feeds on any browser and not have to deal with items that I'd already read elsewhere. Continue reading →

Tweetie for Mac

technology
Tweetie -- a Twitter client for Mac OS X (the 'desktop' version, as I suppose we must refer to it now) -- was released today. I use Tweetie for the iPhone, and like it so much that -- until now -- I tended to access Twitter on the iPhone rather than the Mac, even if I was sitting in front of my computer. It's difficult to define exactly what is so good about it, but the smooth behaviour, beautifully designed user interface and carefully thought-out features all conspire to make Twitter much more fun to use than it would otherwise be. Continue reading →

Logitech VX Nano mouse

technology
I've just got a new mouse for my computer at home, and I'm really pleased with it. It's a Logitech VX Nano cordless mouse, and I got a really cracking deal on it from Amazon. Despite the abomination that is the Logitech Control Centre, I quite like Logitech mice, and I've had a variety of them over the years. My work mouse is a MX 1000 Laser, which is also good, but has a tendency to 'skip' a bit sometimes. Continue reading →

Canon PowerShot G10

technology
I've been planning to replace my old camera (a Casio Exilim EX-Z40) for a while, so when I got some money for my birthday recently, I put it towards a Canon PowerShot G10. I spent ages trying to decide what to get. I wondered initially whether I should get a low end digital SLR, but I really wanted something that I could easily carry around with me routinely. Whenever I've regretted not getting a photograph in the past, it has usually been because I haven't had a camera with me, not because I haven't had the right camera with me. Continue reading →

Ada Lovelace Day - Jean Bartik

technology
War is hell. Everyone knows that. But sometimes the incidental effects of war can have some tentative, positive side-effects. During both World Wars, so many men were away fighting that -- for the first time -- women were actively recruited into work that would once have been considered too physically tough, technical or otherwise 'unsuitable' for them. In Britain during WWII, the Women's Land Army employed women to work in the fields, others worked in factories, producing munitions and other vital components of the war effort, while 'Wrens' in the Women's Royal Naval Service shuttled aircraft between airfields, among many other important tasks. Continue reading →

BubbleTimer

technology
Although I started tracking my time using a home-brewed, Tinderbox-based solution, I still look out for new and 'frictionless' ways to record the time I spend at work on various projects. One project that I came across recently has really impressed me: BubbleTimer. Based on David Seah's Emergent Task Timer PDFs, BubbleTimer offers a very simple, but very powerful interface. As you can see above, you set up tasks in the left-hand column, then click the bubbles corresponding to the 15 minute time slots that you spent on that task throughout the day. Continue reading →

Fastmail

technology
You might wonder -- in this age of free email accounts with gigabytes of storage -- why anyone would pay money for an email account. Well, I've just done exactly that. For a while, I've been consolidating numerous email accounts into one account using Gmail, so I can receive email at my usual range of email addresses, but check, search and send my email within one account. It worked fairly well, but Gmail's quirky implementation of the IMAP protocol has its own irritations, and I experienced a few reliability problems. Continue reading →

Dropbox

technology
Like many people who work on more than one computer at more than one location, I've had a perennial problem with making sure that all the files I need are on all the computers I use. My first attempt used a home-brewed set of rsync scripts to sync files up and down from Joyent's Strongspace file server. For various reasons, I then switched to using a portable hard drive with ChronoSync. Continue reading →

iPeng

technology
I really like Apple's Remote application on the iPhone, which lets you use the phone like a remote control for iTunes, complete with library browsing and display of cover art. However, in the living room, I tend to listen to my music collection using my SliMP3 player, via SlimServer running on the iMac upstairs. So I was delighted to find a plugin for SlimServer, called iPeng which does the same job as Remote for my SliMP3. Continue reading →

Using Tinderbox as a task timer

technology
I mentioned a little while back that I'm using Tinderbox as a kind of daybook to record thoughts, ideas, notes and activities throughout the day. I'm really enjoying using it, and the experience of gradually adapting the structure of my Tinderbox document has been interesting and fun. I also posted a request a while ago for suggestions for simple software that would allow me to log my time at work. People responded with some great suggestions, and I've since found a few more. Continue reading →

iPhone as travel companion

technology
I travelled fairly light (for me, anyway) to Brazil, but one thing I was keen to take along was my iPhone. It turned out to be a very useful travel companion for entertainment (music, TV shows and books via Stanza) as well as a stopwatch, alarm^1^, calculator, currency converter and various other useful widgets. We had no internet or mobile phone coverage at the site, but the connectivity was very useful during the interminable travelling. Continue reading →

Mobile Safari

technology
Reading web pages on the iPhone is a very different experience than reading them the desktop version of Safari. Some things (like entering text and so on) are inevitably slightly more awkward because of the onscreen keyboard. But there's one thing in particular that I'd like to see in the full version of Safari: zooming in on page elements. For those who haven't used Mobile Safari, each page is initially displayed full width, which for most pages results in tiny text, but means that you can see at a glance the layout of content on the page. Continue reading →

iPhone 2.0

technology
As you will have seen if you follow my Twitterings or see them on the sidebar here, I got an iPhone last week. When the original iPhone came out, I fell in love with it, but I couldn't afford it at the original prices, and I also had a mobile contract to finish first. The timing for the 2.0 version was perfect, as was the reduction in price. With all the hoo-ha over the release (O2 got inundated with registrations of interest), I thought that my chances of actually getting hold of one would be low. Continue reading →

Tinderbox daybook

technology
{width="240” height="207”} When I started using Tinderbox again for planning various work projects, I noticed that a lot of people were using it for a simple daybook or journal. I've tinkered with various ways of keeping a record of the various things I do, people I talk to or ideas I have throughout the day, including a simple little plugin I wrote for Textmate to keep a journal in a plain text file. Continue reading →

blippr

technology
I've just signed up to a new service (currently in beta, natch) called blippr. You've probably already guessed from the missing 'e' that blippr is a social web service. It offers 'Radically Short Ratings and Reviews' for books, films, games and music. The idea is that you 'blip' items, rating them on a four-point scale and writing a short review if you like. It's a little like Twitter in that you only get 160 characters for your reviews, which is both a good and bad thing. Continue reading →

Automation

technology
I was quite excited about the prospect of Automator when it was introduced, because it offered the prospect of being able to write quick scripts to solve little workflow problems, without having to know much about AppleScript. I can code in a number of languages (not brilliantly, but enough to get by), but for some reason, I find AppleScript quite difficult. It looks enough like English that you're lulled into thinking you know what you're doing until you get tripped up by some odd syntax. Continue reading →

USB Sync Station

technology
{width="240” height="180”} I got a bit tired of the tangle of USB cables under the shelf on which I place my laptop, so I decided to make myself some kind of sync station to tidy things up a bit. Being lazy, I wanted to get a container to house the USB hub and the bulk of the cables which wouldn't require much modification. I spotted a 'vanity box' in one of my favourite shops -- Muji -- which looked as if it would be just the job. Continue reading →

Papers

technology
For a while now, I've been using a great programme called Papers to organise PDFs of journal articles along with their associated bibliographic metadata. I use the terrific BibDesk for the output side of references (formatting references into citations and a reference list in manuscripts), but I didn't find it so helpful for gathering, organising and reading articles. Papers, on the other hand, specialises in just those kinds of tasks. Continue reading →

Aeropress

technology
Following the sad demise of our espresso machine, we were looking around for a cheap and temporary method of making nice coffee. We have a cafetière, but we're not keen on the kind of coffee it makes. We seem to end up with bitter coffee, with lots of grounds and sediment in the bottom, and they are a pain to clean in the morning when you're in a rush. A while ago, I saw an article on the Aeropress, and thought at the time that it looked quite nifty. Continue reading →

Upgrading through replacement parts

technology
I was interested by a piece on Gizmodo reporting that Leica -- rather than releasing brand new models of their digital rangefinders -- are offering a service whereby they will upgrade the components of your Leica M8. Given that the M8 costs $4795 (body only -- sheesh) that's probably just as well. It's rare enough these days to find companies making products which are repairable at all, so it's great to see some enabling not only repair, but also upgrades to the features as technology advances. Continue reading →

Macworld 2008

technology
So, the Stevenote is over for another year, and some very interesting stuff was announced. The MacBook Air is a really stunning design, I think. I love the way that they emphasise the weightlessness of it^1^ by tapering the edges of the case so that they are not actually sitting on the surface of the desk. It makes it look a little as if it's floating. Of course, there's a compromise for losing the weight and shrinking the thickness so the specs aren't as good as the MacBook Pros, but I think it fits its intended niche pretty well. Continue reading →

Butler

technology
Ever since I discovered LaunchBar (several years ago now), I've felt that any Mac (indeed any computer) without a launcher triggered by abbreviations is broken. Once you get used to hitting a hotkey, then typing a few characters to find anything on your computer (applications, files, bookmarks, address book entries and so on), having to browse file system hierarchies feels positively 20th Century. I cut my launcher teeth on LaunchBar, then switched to the dashing and rebellious newcomer, Quicksilver. Continue reading →

Gmail email consolidation

technology
At about the same time that I was sorting out syncing my computers, I also changed the way I receive, send and archive email. I'd read an article on CatCubed which described how to route all your email through Gmail, while retaining the ability to send email using your own email address. It combined the benefits of being able to use IMAP in a desktop email client, while having access to Gmail's excellent web email client on the road. Continue reading →

Leopard

technology
Thanks to pre-ordering Leopard (it was delivered on Friday), I now have Leopard installed. The installation went very smoothly, thanks in no small part to reading Joe Kissell's Take Control book, Take Control of Upgrading to Leopard before I attempted it. Joe is a friend, but I'd be recommending his book even if he wasn't. It's very detailed, thoroughly researched, and a great confidence-booster if you're unsure about which of the installation options are best for you. Continue reading →

Synching my Macs part two

technology
Back in April, I wrote about trying to sync two computers via a server. It actually worked pretty well for quite a long time, but for a number of reasons, I've recently changed how I sync them. By coincidence, Merlin Mann issued a Geek Throwdown to ask people how they manage to sync two or more Macs, so I thought I'd write about my new method. The old way involved using a self-written script to rsync files in ~/sync to my Strongspace online file space. Continue reading →

Blueprint and CSS

technology
A few days ago, I noticed a bit of buzz about a new CSS framework called Blueprint. The main idea behind the framework is to make it easy to construct purely CSS grid layouts, and also to set up good-looking typography, and to make the whole thing as similar as possible in all browsers. Even Internet Explorer. That's no small task. I'm certainly not a CSS expert, but while I'm not too shabby at making things with pretty colours and attractive padding, I usually seem to come unstuck when it comes to positioning blocks of text on the page. Continue reading →

On the lure of the user manual for a geek

technology
When I first used beamer (the LaTeX package for making presentations), I noticed that there was an included packagage called PGF for drawing figures. Unlike the drawing packages most people are familiar with, in which you click on tools and use the mouse to drag shapes out on a virtual page, PGF requires you to enter commands to specify points to be drawn in an x,y co-ordinate system. So, for example, if you wanted to draw a diagonal line going up and to the right, you'd specify a line from (0,0) to (1,1). Continue reading →

Troubleshooting

technology
I'd had a long, tiring day yesterday, and wanted nothing more to get home and relax. I woke my laptop at home to check my email quickly, and found that it hadn't connected to the wireless network. When I tried to connect (it listed our network as available), it gave a rather cryptic error. Odd. So I went into diagnostic mode: the iMac was connected to the same network wirelessly with no problems, so it didn't seem to be a problem with the router. Continue reading →

dotMac and syncing

technology
Khoi Vinh has posted an article about possible links between the .Mac service and the upcoming iPhone over at Subtraction. Although I agree with a lot of what he says about the current poor value of .Mac, I'm actually finding the syncing aspect of it quite invaluable at the moment. If any of you are on the Yojimbo mailing list, you'll know that .Mac syncing can be a really squirrelly thing. Continue reading →

Rsyncing two computers via a server

technology
I wrote a while ago about my plans to get a new (desktop) computer at work, which would then require me to synchronise some files between the desktop and my laptop, which would remain at home for most of the time. I said at the time that Unison looked like the most likely candidate, but as you'll see below, there turned out to be problems with that approach. Because of the hassle and delay caused by my laptop hard-drive failure, and the Easter break, I've only just got the computer I ordered: a shiny new Intel 17" iMac. Continue reading →

Back in the land of a working computer

technology
Well, that was interesting, but I'm glad it's all over. After a couple of days of upheaval and camping out on Mr. Bsag's computer, trying to find files or applications I needed, I'm finally back on my own, working computer. I've learned a few lessons: Do not trust the hard drive S.M.A.R.T. status -- in my case, it was gaily saying everything was fine (la la la) until the second it wasn't and my hard drive failed. Continue reading →

Broken

technology
I apologise for the silence around here (and for any unanswered emails), but my laptop hard drive died on Monday, so I'm in computing limbo-land. I'm camping out on Mr. Bsag's iMac, but that means I can't do anything computer related at work, so there's a lot of running about and improvisation going on. Luckily, I had a backup from late on Saturday (backing up is boring until the instant you need it, and then you are incredibly grateful that you took the trouble to do it regularly), so I shouldn't have lost much data. Continue reading →

Unison

technology
There's a possibility that I might be able to get a new desktop Mac (most likely an iMac) at work, which would mean that a) I'd have a much faster machine for work (my G4 12" PowerBook is starting to show its age a little), b) I'd have a bigger screen, c) I'd mostly be able to leave my PowerBook at home for working in the evenings and weekends. Since I'm going to be commuting more by bike soon, not having to worry about my laptop bouncing about in a pannier will be quite welcome, not to mention lightening the load to haul quite a bit. Continue reading →

Tabs and popup windows in Safari

technology
I was about to post a question to expert Safari users out there about opening popup windows (the kind you want to open as a result of a javascript bookmarklet) when you have tabs enabled -- but I just solved it myself. In case anyone else is as dense as I am, I might as well post the solution here. The problem was this: I have tabs enabled, and have just one open window containing all my tabs. Continue reading →

Real world to virtual world

technology
Just one more thing about the iPhone, and then I promise I'll shut up about it for at least a couple of minutes. I noticed something while watching the photos video on the website for the phone functions. When you tap the button to send a photo by email, the following things happen: the background disappears and the photo reduces in size slightly (a visual clue to the fact that the photo is literally being downsized for sending by email, I think^1^) but stays visible, then the email page appears and zooms forwards as the photograph drops into place. Continue reading →

GeekSwoon

technology
Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. I am not a woman who swoons, but following the liveblogging of the Apple Keynote on Macrumorslive -- waiting with bated breath for every 60 second auto-refresh (Quick! I've got 60 seconds to run to the bathroom...) -- I very nearly had a quiet geekly swoon. So shiny. It's not just the amazing hardware advances (a multi-touch touchscreen, 2 MP camera, 8GB memory, and two batteries in that tiny, elegant package), but the wonderful software implementations (automatic flipping of the layout of a photo or webpage from portrait to landscape as you tilt the phone, proximity sensors, etc, etc. Continue reading →

PDFView

technology
I've always greatly prefered MacOS X's Preview PDF viewing application to the bloated mess that is Adobe Reader, but it has a number of irritating features. The first is that I almost always find myself zooming in to a document to increase the font size for comfortable onscreen viewing. However, in Preview, you have to keep hitting the zoom button or shortcut until you get the size you want, then adjust the window size to fill the screen. Continue reading →

Opera Mini 3

technology
Opera Mini 3.0 has just been released, and has some really nice features. I've used it before on my mobile phone, but it now allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds as well, which is a nice addition. It's fast, displays pages in a nice, clean way, and now collapses navigation links so that you don't have to scroll past pages of navigation to get to the content. Prompted by the nice experience of reading RSS feeds on a mobile, I got around to setting up NewsGator to publish mobile feeds. Continue reading →

Testing from TextMate

technology
Ignore this, I'm just testing out using the blogging bundle in TextMate with ExpressionEngine. Update 2006-12-03 18:38: Since it does indeed now work, I'll tell you what I did to get it working, in case anyone else is having problems using the TextMate Blogging bundle with ExpressionEngine. After a fair bit of messing around, I found out that there are two snags which stop it working out of the box. The immediate problem is that, using the metaWeblog API with ExpressionEngine, the URL for the endpoint is somewhat differently formed than those for MovableType or Wordpress. Continue reading →

Sending faxes via email

technology
Every now and then, I need to send something by that antiquated method of communication known as the Fax. It happens less and less, but sometimes it seems that there's no way around it. If it's a work matter, I just use the machine at work, but if it's personal my scruples (or stupidity) prevent me from sneaking personal faxes through the work machine. The last time it happened, I managed to rummage out my old modem cable, hook my PowerBook up to the phone line, and use that to send a fax. Continue reading →

CSSEdit 2.0

technology
For minor changes to CSS files, I tend to use TextMate, but for major re-working of a stylesheet, I use CSSEdit. It was always a good bit of software, but with the recent update to version 2.0, it has become really superb. One of the best new features is the ability to extract the stylesheet from even a dynamically-generated site (like this one), and save a local copy. You can then make changes to your heart's content and preview the changes on your live site, without fiddling about making static local HTML files, and without messing up the actual site for visitors. Continue reading →

Leopard features

technology
What with all the kerfuffle of moving and so on, I missed most of the buzz around Apple's announcement of some of the features to be introduced in Leopard: the next version of MacOS X. I've had a little time to read the information now, and some of the features look pretty spiffy. Time Machine in particular looks interesting. The idea is that the system keeps an automatic, incremental backup of your entire system. Continue reading →

Zen Internet

technology
We are (OK, I am) quick to rant about companies when their service lets us down, but I think it's also important to be just as quick to praise them when they get things right. When we moved, I had to decide which company to use for broadband provision. In our old house, we had Telewest for phone and broadband (only because our landlord already had it set up and it was too much hassle to change), but I didn't really want to continue with them. Continue reading →

Logitech Cordless Desktop S530

technology
One of the things I bought with my Aperture rebate was a Logitech Cordless Desktop S530. At home and at work, I use my 12" PowerBook raised up on a stand with a separate keyboard and mouse, so I've got a number of input peripherals scattered around that I have varying degrees of affection for. Both keyboards and mice are very personal things, and I find that it often takes a while to find out if you're suited to one another. Continue reading →

VisualHub

technology
Since we got our EyeTV unit, we've accumulated quite a collection of recordings that we'd like to burn to DVD. Some fit neatly on a disc, but others are just a tiny bit too long to fit on a single disc, and with a film it's annoying to have to cut it in half and split it over two. I wanted to make a disc for my Dad for Father's Day, but I couldn't fit the 15 episodes of a particular show on one disc (I can't say which show in case he happens to read this before next Sunday), and I only had one blank DVD left. Continue reading →

Ubuntu Dapper Drake

technology

Canon Pixma MP800

technology
As I've mentioned once or twice before, our old Epson scanner died some time ago, without any possibility of resurrecting it. Mr. Bsag needs it for scanning his artwork, so it came to the point where we really couldn't do without one any more. Our inkjet printer (a Canon i250) was a very cheap and cheerful affair, and having seen a great review for the Canon Pixma MP800 in MacUser magazine, I thought it would be a good buy. Continue reading →

ScanR

technology
Somewhere or other (I can't remember where, unfortunately), I heard about ScanR.com. It provides an interesting service whereby you take a picture of a whiteboard or document (with a phonecam if you like), then email it (or MMS it) to one of ScanR's email addresses (there are separate addresses for whiteboard and document photos). They then perform some image manipulation voodoo on it and return you a PDF via email. You can see some examples on their site, but they can correct for weird perspective, bad white balance and a host of other photographic blunders. Continue reading →

Shure E2c earbuds

technology
I've used a pair of Sony Fontopia earbuds for my iPod for many years. In-ear earbuds are very much a matter of taste, but I really like them for the passive sound isolation they provide, and for the full sound with rich bass. However, my old Sony phones parted company with the mini-jack plug, so I was looking around for a replacement. I probably would have just settled for another pair of the Sony earbuds, but I had some money for my birthday and felt like treating myself. Continue reading →

Beeping hell

technology
In the course of my work, I often need some kind of timer (a stopwatch or a countdown timer, depending on the situation) for my experiments. I bought a photographic timer from Jessops, mainly because it had nice big displays and could run three different countdown intervals at the same time, which is often useful for me. However, the big problem is the noise. It beeps when you press buttons to set things and it beeps continuously when the countdown period expires. Continue reading →

The Stirling Engine: Betamax of the 19th Century

technology
While following the links provided alongside a very interesting article on how to reduce household energy consumption in A-to-B magazine, I came across some information about highly efficient, power generating domestic boilers which contained Stirling engines, and I wondered again why we don't see Stirling engines everywhere. Why did VHS (steam power and then the infernal internal combustion engine) win? I first learnt about Stirling engines several years ago on a TV programme (who says TV isn't educational? Continue reading →

Green diesel

technology

Social bookmarking shootout: Diigo vs ma.gnolia

technology
I was lucky enough to get beta accounts at both Diigo and ma.gnolia, and have had some interesting exchanges with developers of both services. So I thought that I'd write about my impressions of them. I should point out that both services are being added to all the time, and some of the things I'd like to see appear seem to be possibilities for the future, or are planned features. Continue reading →

Quicksilver activate screensaver snippet

technology
However, it was far too easy to activate accidentally. I kept interrupting my own work because I'd unknowingly pushed the mouse over to that corner, and would have to stop what I was doing to wait for the password entry box to come up. Annoying. Then I realised that Quicksilver could come to the rescue again (Quicksilver Ho!^1^). I removed the Hot Corner and set up a trigger with the text: Continue reading →

Smart scheduling

technology
There are few things more annoying than setting up your video to record a programme, only to find that the golf has over-run the scheduled slot. My VCR supports Programme Delivery Control (PDC), which is a code supposedly sent by Ceefax to signal the start and end of any given programme, so that your VCR would start the recording at the right time, even if the schedules changed. However, it only works on analogue broadcasts, and when I say 'works' I actually mean 'works once in a blue moon'. Continue reading →

Aperture

technology
I've been meaning to write about my experience with Aperture for a while, but other stuff got in the way. I also wanted a chance to really work with it for a while, especially in the light of various rather negative reviews that circulated after its release. I should also say at the outset that in three respects, I'm probably not a typical Aperture user, so my opinions should be weighted with these things in mind: Continue reading →

Back in the Dark Ages

technology
A colleague asked me if he could have a copy of my thesis as a PDF file a couple of days ago. It's still sitting in a long-neglected corner of my hard drive as a series of Word files (in some antique version, circa 5.1), but as I'd been thinking for a while that I ought to convert them (before some future update to Word renders them unreadable), I decided to go for it. Continue reading →

iMac G5

technology
{width="180” height="240”} I've had the new iMac G5 for a bit over a week now, and I'm still really happy with it. It's a really beautifully designed computer, with all the usual Apple attention to detail. When I compare it to our old CRT-iMac (a Graphite model), you can see how they've continued to advance the all-in-one computer concept right to its logical conclusion. It's so sleek and integrated. Two little touches that exemplify this are the power cable which has a plastic disc attached to the socket end so that the cable forms a smooth, continuous surface with the back of the machine, and the IR sensor (for the remote) which is hidden invisibly behind the grey Apple logo. Continue reading →

EyeTV

technology
When I got my new iMac G5, I also got an EyeTV for DTT. I saw these units being demonstrated at MacExpo, and was really impressed by the quality of the recordings, and by the tiny size of the box. We're constantly having problems trying to record the Freeview-only channels on our VCR, so it seemed like a great idea. Setting the EyeTV up is very easy as it auto-tunes itself, finding a huge number of channels. Continue reading →

Shiny toys

technology
I've just taken delivery of a shiny new iMac G5 20" to replace our creaky old iMac, and some other nice toys like an EyeTV (digital terrestrial version) and Aperture, all courtesy of the great Apple educational prices. I'd write more, but I've got lovely new geek toys to set up and play with! I'm sure I'll be going on about the experience at great length in due course. Brace yourselves. Continue reading →

Pandora

technology
There was an excellent article in TidBITS today about a music streaming and recommendation service called Pandora. It piqued my interest, as I'm always keen to explore new music, and was curious about how well it would actually do at finding music I'd like. The idea is that you give it the name of an artist or a song you like, it classifies that music (by musical characteristics, rather than conventional genres), and it plays you a series of tracks that share some similarities with that music. Continue reading →

One Bag to Rule Them All

technology
I dislike having to transfer stuff between bags (partly because I don't trust myself to remember to transfer the right things), so I need something that will carry my 'core essentials' (keys, wallet, phone, iPod, travel pass, camera, Leatherman) for day trips, but also take my work gear (PowerBook, A4 document wallet, books, VGA connector, laser pointer, lunch etc.) for work. Because I walk home from the station (a 30 minute journey), and travel on a couple of different kinds of public transport, it also needs to be waterproof and comfortable to carry. Continue reading →

Griffin iCurve

technology
I've usually found working on my 12" PowerBook very comfortable, but recently I've started to feel that my posture is beginning to deteriorate. I already use an external keyboard and mouse at work, so I felt that raising the screen up higher would help me to keep my shoulders back and my back in a more natural position. I could have gone the DIY route and propped my laptop up on a couple of phone directories, but I decided to do it properly and get a Griffin iCurve. Continue reading →

Mac converts

technology
My brother came to visit at the weekend, partly to take delivery of a brand new Mac mini I'd ordered for him. He's always been a Windows (and now *nix) user, but after a blown power supply on his old Windows machine, he decided that he wanted to get another small computer to run alongside it. All those years of steady but stealthy indoctrination from me must have had some effect, because he decided to get a Mac. Continue reading →

MacExpo 2005

technology
That all went surprisingly well, I thought. Despite the half hour delay to the journey on the way home because of a 'security alert' at West Ruislip station, it was a very enjoyable day. The buses worked out well, except that I got very confused about buying tickets. As I left the station, I could see a 27 bus coming up from Baker Street, so I ran for it. Consequently I didn't notice the ticket machine next to the bus stop with a big yellow sign on it saying "You must buy a ticket before boarding the bus" or something to that effect. Continue reading →

Apple Genius

technology
I had to take Mr. Bsag's birthday iPod shuffle back to the Apple Store yesterday, because it had developed a fault. I'm still not sure exactly what the problem was, but it seemed as if there was a failed contact somewhere, because it would either suddenly lose power when it had been fully charged, or the buttons would only intermittently respond to presses. I hadn't realised that returns need to be handled by the Genius Bar, so I had to make an appointment and wait. Continue reading →

BSAG revisited: Trees, trunks and metadata

technology
[First published 11/02/1003] Dan Hon has written a very interesting article about the limitations of the filing cabinet metaphor of computer filesystems, and the about the finality of saving a document. He touched on a number of things that bug me on a regular basis. I speak — as usual — from a MacOSX viewpoint here. ::: {.img-shadow} {width="75”} ::: Representing files in ways that give cues to their content. Icons should tell you what kind of file it is, not what application last opened it (or what the default handler is). Continue reading →

Shiny Tiger things

technology
I've been living with Tiger for a few days now, tinkering, and reading more about Spotlight, Automator and Dashboard, so here are my thoughts about the new operating system. Preview has some great and long-awaited features. I find myself reading quite long articles and manuals as PDFs now, so the new bookmarks are a great feature. However, I think it would be better if the Bookmarks menu only showed bookmarks for the currently open document or documents. Continue reading →

Tiger installed

technology
I've managed to get Tiger installed, and for the most part everything seems fine. The only oddity is something that cropped up after I had been running everything with no problems for a while. In certain applications (but not others), I get doubled spaces or characters when I type. This is most disruptive in Mail. I find that I can't type any spaces at all in a new mail. As soon as I type a space, I get a system error beep and I can't add anything else. Continue reading →

Tiger Day

technology
OK, I'm so excited, it's just ridiculous. What with getting my copy of Tiger delivered, trying to make it to the opening of the Bullring Apple Store, and then trying to make it to a party (by which time I may be thoroughly geeked out, and even less comprehensible to others than usual), it may be a day before you hear from me again. Or it might be longer if I manage to stuff the installation up. Continue reading →

You know you’re an incorrigible Mac addict when

technology
...you order Tiger reflexively on the day pre-orders are announced, and then mark 29th April on the calendar with the words "Tiger arrives", adding more exclamation marks than are strictly becoming for a woman of your age. ...you find out that a new Apple Store is opening in your home town, and go out of your way to walk past the closed shop, just to look at it. You do this despite the fact that you generally detest shopping and shopping centres. Continue reading →

PowerPoint annoyances

technology
These days I tend to prepare talks and lectures using two main bits of software; for lectures to undergraduates, I use beamer (a LaTeX based style for producing PDF presentations), and for seminars on my own work I use Keynote. So, it's been along time since I've had to fire up PowerPoint in anger. However, I've recently had to produce a talk in PowerPoint (for boring and complicated reasons), and the experience has reminded me why I fled to Keynote's open arms. Continue reading →

One-all

technology
I had a couple of techie things to do this weekend: set up a D-Link DWL-122 USB Wireless adapter and install Skype. D-Link WiFi adapter: Mr. Bsag wants to move the old G3 iMac into his studio so that he can use it to view the reference photographs he takes of an area when he's out sketching. At the moment, he prints the shots out and uses them in conjunction with his sketchbook, but viewing them on screen is easier and less wasteful of ink. Continue reading →

Perchance to dream

technology
One of the design features I've always really loved about the current series of PowerBooks is the sleep light. The slow cycle of brightening and fading of the white light — at the same frequency as the breath of a sleeper — is oddly reassuring, and encourages you to think of your computer as a character. I realised the other day that I may have gone a little too far down the road of computer anthropomorphism. Continue reading →

Rover phone home

technology
Behold the PetsMobility PetCell (justifiably sceptical review by Gizmodo): The PetsMobility PetCell is only a concept for now, but the patent-pending collar could be great — if you don't mind spending a lot of extra cash on your pets. The idea is simple: it's a cell phone and GPS unit on a collar, with its own private number. Using caller ID, it automatically picks up when an approved number calls, allowing you to speak to your dog or cat (but probably dog) from wherever you are. Continue reading →

Ta-da lists

technology
Partly because of my own project, Tracks, I'm interested in seeing how other people implement todo type lists. So I signed up for a Ta-da list to see how they were doing it. I was pretty impressed. It's intended to be a fairly simple system to tempt people into signing up for a full Basecamp account, so there are no categories, due dates or anything like that. However, they do have some really neat ideas. Continue reading →

Macworld SF 2005

technology
I missed not being able to watch the Keynote live this year, but it always was a bit of a hit and miss affair as far as bandwidth goes. I often found that the video and audio dropped out just before Steve-o announced something insanely cool. Streaming or no streaming, there seems to be some juicy stuff coming out (mostly leaked beforehand, but it's still nice to see the reality). I think the product I'm most excited by is the iMac mini Continue reading →

Indestructible

technology
My brother came up this weekend, and we decided to watch one of our Lovefilm acquisitions — Lundi Matin. Mr. Bsag and I have both seen it before, but my brother hadn't. I mentioned in my review of the film that it's full of visual non sequiturs, but it became one long non sequitur because of the dreadful scratching on the disc. All the discs we've had from Lovefilm before have been in pretty good condition, but this one looked as if someone had taken wire wool to it. Continue reading →

MacExpo

technology
I made my annual pilgrimage to MacExpo on Thursday. Now that I'm living further away, getting to London is more of an undertaking, though curiously it takes exactly the same amount of time to get there on the train from Birmingham as it used to on the coach from Oxford. As a consequence of the scandalous fares Virgin Trains charge you to travel before 9am, I arrived at lunchtime. However, I don't think I would have needed the whole day. Continue reading →

British Rocket Scientists

technology
After the last episode of Space Odyssey last night, there was a great documentary on BBC4 about the British rocket science pioneers in the post-war period. They developed a wonderfully elegant propulsion system powered by hydrogen peroxide. Some shots of these engines firing showed a lovely clean blue flame like a blow-torch, which seems futuristic even today in comparison with conventional rocket engines. It was the usual story of chronic underfunding of brilliant people that we're very familiar with in this country; because they were so financially constrained, they had to find elegant and innovative ways to side-step technical problems. Continue reading →

New camera

technology
If you have looked at the new pictures I've posted on Wings Open Wide and flickr, you might have noticed that I've got a new camera: a Casio Exilim EX-Z40. I've been thinking about getting a new camera for a while, because Mr. Bsag often uses the Nikon Coolpix for recording scenes that he might paint. This means that one or other of us often doesn't have the camera when we need it. Continue reading →

Numbering lines with Ruby

technology
I've been fiddling around a little more with integrating Ruby scripts and one-liners with Quicksilver, and I found a way to number the lines of a selection. This is handy for those times when you decide to bullet-point some text. Generating bullet numbering manually is a chore, and if you rearrange your points you need to renumber all the following points. It's a simple and not very elegant bit of code — I'm sure someone with more than my newbie's knowledge of Ruby could make it much more efficient. Continue reading →

Headphones

technology
Really, I should have kept my mouth shut. It all started when I got fed up with Mr. Bsag getting paint all over my Sennheiser HD570 headphones. He likes to listen to music while he's painting, and rather than inflicting his taste on the neighbours all day, he listens on headphones. However, the studio environment was starting to take its toll on the condition of my lovely 'phones, so I suggested that he get his own pair. Continue reading →

IE issues

technology
I've had a couple of reports of things looking crufty more crufty than usual in Internet Explorer 6. This is a bit baffling as I haven't done anything with either the layout or the CSS for a while. I've tidied up a few minor issues with both XHTML and CSS validation which had crept in (both validate properly now), and also tidied up a few long URLs in the 'Recent comments' section^1^. Continue reading →

Using Ruby one-liners with Quicksilver

technology
Sometimes a Unix-based system can be a beautiful thing. Take a little problem and solution I came across today. I had been writing some notes on a paper I was reading in the Vim Outliner, and wanted to paste a paragraph or two into the notes section of Endnote (a reference manager). But there was immediately an irksome problem: Endnote doesn't understand Unix line endings, and my notes were also hard-wrapped to 72 characters, with a 'pipe' character (|) and tab before each line of text. Continue reading →

Creative thought experiment

technology
Daydreaming (as usual) on my daily commute, listening to my iPod, I had an idea for a creative experiment. I'd like to make a film on an ordinary journey to a random iPod playlist. "Pfft," I hear you cry "What's so special about that?" I'm glad you asked. The wrinkle would be that the camera (or just a very small lens on an umbilical) would be strapped to my head so that the shot would consist of whatever I was looking at, and I wouldn't be allowed to cut either the soundtrack or the visuals after shooting. Continue reading →

Ruby Tuesday

technology
I'm firmly of the belief that you can never learn too many programming languages^1^. For one thing, each new language you learn teaches you more about the general principles of programming, which aren't specific to any one language, and makes you think about general problem-solving approaches. Also, no one language — even my beloved Perl — is perfect for every eventuality, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. So recently, I've been looking at Ruby. Continue reading →

Post Bank Holiday delights

technology
Apple and Bare Bones Software seem to have conspired to make the return to work after the Bank Holiday (UK only!) a bit more bearable: there's the new G5 iMac and BBEdit 8.0. My feelings are slightly mixed about the new iMac. I think I like it, but it doesn't grab me like the old flat-screen iMacs did. They immediately struck me as cute and cool, and whenever I see one 'in the flesh' I can't resist grabbing the screen and moving it around a bit. Continue reading →

Flickr

technology
As you've probably noticed, I've been playing around with posting images from my Treo 600 via Flickr. I used to occasionally post things via email on the phone using mfop2, back in the days when I used Movable Type. I got out of the habit because I dropped the GPRS package; I just wasn't using it enough to justify the cost. But I missed taking spontaneous photographs — the camera on the Treo is pretty bad, but at least I carry it around all the time. Continue reading →

Simpler beamer

technology
Peter Smith emailed me to tell me that he has written a simpler, getting-started guide to using beamer.cls — the LaTeX presentation programme I have raved about here. Peter's guide is really excellent, and much less intimidating than the huge (though very informative) manual that comes with beamer. If you've been meaning to play with beamer, but didn't quite know where to start, give the Simple Beamer guide a read. Continue reading →

GarageBand

technology
My new PowerBook came pre-loaded with the iLife suite, including GarageBand, which I've never investigated before. I didn't think it would be of much interest to me, as I'm better at listening to music that making it. But I idly fired it up to see what all the fuss was about, and before I knew it, I had spent a couple of hours intently noodling around with some reggae loops. It's a very addictive bit of software. Continue reading →

1.25 GB baby!

technology
When I ordered my 12" PowerBook, I decided that I might as well max out the RAM^1^, but I had to wait because the extra 1 GB stick was back-ordered. I got it today, and I'm revelling in the most RAM I've ever had installed on a computer. The laptop felt pretty fast before, but now it's really snappy. I do have a legitimate reason for needing all this computing grunt — I'm going to be using digital video pretty extensively in my work, and I know from experience that applications like Final Cut Pro need as much RAM as you can throw at them. Continue reading →

CocoaSuite

technology
I've been pretty busy just reinstalling all the applications and utilities I used to have on my old TiBook on to the new 12" PowerBook, but now that I've finished that, I'm looking around again for some new things to install on my shiny new toy invaluable work tool. I've just come across CocoaSuite, and I'm rather impressed by it. Some time ago, I used CocoaGestures — a free utility by the same author, which allowed you to draw shapes with the mouse (while holding down a configurable key) to trigger any menu command. Continue reading →

New computer

technology
One of the perks of my new job is that I get a new computer. My trusty old 15" TiBook belongs to my current research group, so I had to get a new one; happily for me this is paid for by the new University. It has just arrived, and I've been frantically installing stuff and migrating my files across so that I can return the old one before I leave. Continue reading →

Tiger

technology
The announcements of the new features in the next version of MacOS X ('Tiger') turned out to be a lot more exciting than I was anticipating. Many other people have commented on things, so I'll just mention the two features that grabbed my attention the most. I feel vaguely smug that I mentioned what a good idea something like Smart Playlists would be in the Finder when I wrote about Panther, and — lo and behold — 'smart folders' pop up in Tiger. Continue reading →

Open and closed operating systems

technology
I've been reading a really interesting article by Neal Stephenson called In The Beginning Was The Command Line. It was published in 1999, so some of the conclusions are a little dated, but it is certainly worth a read. Neal longs for an OS with a nice GUI, multi-threading, and a terminal window to interact with Unix command line applications — like BeOS, but not doomed to obscurity. I think that MacOSX has filled that role fairly well, but many of the other points he makes about interacting and tinkering with the innards of the system are well made. Continue reading →

iTunes Music Store

technology
As we've all heard, iTunes Music Store is now available in Britain, France and Germany. I ranted a bit about how unfair the whole thing was a year ago, but now I'm beginning to see the wisdom of that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for — it might come true." Crikey. It's like crack. The really lethal thing is the low price per track. You think, "Well, I'll just get this track — it's only 79p^1^, after all. Continue reading →

Googling your email

technology
Despite all the buzz about Gmail, there are other email search engines. Two years ago at the London MacExpo, I went to a presentation by Creo on their email search engine, Six Degrees. At that time, Six Degrees was a stand-alone application, which could only import email from Microsoft's Entourage. I didn't use Entourage, but even so, I was excited by the possibilities of the software. Now Creo have launched Six Degrees 2. Continue reading →

Unwise product codenames

technology
I think it's about time that someone told Intel that their codename for their new Pentium 4 processors is not going to play well in the UK. They obviously don't know the John 'Two Jags' Prescott that we all admire so much, or they wouldn't be burdening their technologically advanced, ground-breaking new chips with the name of someone who eats his with brown sauce and a pie. Actually, you can tell a lot about a company by the codenames it chooses. Continue reading →

Nick Drake documentaries

technology
Knowing that I'm a fan, David tipped me off to a documentary about Nick Drake on Radio 2 that aired on Saturday night. Everyone must be going Nick Drake-crazy at the moment, because this was immediately followed by another documentary on BBC4. Of the two, I preferred the TV version, if only because it didn't have Brad Pitt telling us that he was Brad Pitt every five minutes, and mis-pronouncing 'Stratford-upon-Avon'^1^. Continue reading →

Installing PHP locally

technology
Now that I'm doing more PHP-based web development, I decided that it might be time to install PHP properly on my laptop and run Apache locally to test my sites. PHP is great, but there's great potential for messing things up royally, and in full and embarrassing view of your users. There's a series of great tutorials on MacDevCenter starting here, which gives you a good overview of using Apache as a development server. Continue reading →

Review of launchers

technology
There's a nice round up of the available keyboard-driven launchers over at MacDevCenter. The author has some very complimentary things to say about Quicksilver, despite being a self-confessed LaunchBar addict. It's worth a read if you're thinking about using a launcher of some kind. I — of course — am not at all impartial on the matter either :-)

Affrus

technology
Regular readers will know that I'm learning Perl, and always on the lookout for good books, tutorials or tools to help me along. So I was quite excited to see it mentioned on TidBITS that Late Night Software have just brought out a Perl editor and debugger called Affrus. I know that many Perl aficionados maintain that you don't need an IDE for Perl, but the fact that the question is a FAQ on Perldoc. Continue reading →

Blockquotes remixed

technology
You might have noticed that — in a fit of Spring zeal — I've restyled blockquotes (again). While I liked the previous style with graphical quote marks, it was a bit greedy on space and also didn't scale well. If you have a short quote, the size of the quote graphics is out of proportion to the height of the text, and rather overpowers it. I think that the new style is distinctive, but a little more subtle. Continue reading →

Markdown

technology
John Gruber has produced another text-to-HTML filter, called Markdown. I use Textile extensively when writing this weblog, and find it very useful. I do know how to write HTML, and I don't find it particularly hard, but using a filter like this just makes it a bit quicker to write — and perhaps more importantly — easier to read and edit. If there's too much 'code furniture' on a page, it can be hard to pick up spelling or grammatical errors. Continue reading →

Lifeblog

technology
The Guardian Online had a feature on Thursday about some new software from Nokia called Lifeblog. The idea is that you create a kind of daybook of your life by collecting together photographs and SMS text messages from your mobile phone (either ones you take yourself or that you are sent), which are then arranged in date and time order by the software, so that you have some kind of eccentric record of your days. Continue reading →

pedit

technology
At some point I'll get round to a follow up to my What's on my Treo (Part 1) review, but the Palm application I'm going to discuss here merits a whole review of its own. When I got my new Treo 600, I wanted a sophisticated text editing application. Note that I didn't say 'word processor'. On the Palm, I don't want to be fiddling around with formatting — it's pointless and just makes it harder to export the file to the desktop. Continue reading →

Route planning software

technology
In preparation for our trip to Leek, we tried to plan the best route using various online route planning sites. I tried Multimap first, but that didn't give an overview map of the whole route at a sensible scale, making it difficult to check the route with our road atlas. Next, I tried the AA, but I got trapped in a Javascript dialogue loop (it reported a script error, but pressing the OK button just spawned the same dialogue again) and I had to force quit Safari to get out of it. Continue reading →

Shrook Preview 2

technology
I've been trying out a preview of an RSS newsreader called Shrook. I had tried the last version (1.x) and quite liked it, but I ended up going back to the excellent NetNewsWire Lite. The preview version is a tad^1^ unstable, but it looks very promising. It sports the metallic appearance (which will either make you love or hate it), and looks like a cross between Safari and iTunes. At the far left of the window, the Sources and groups are displayed in a separate pane. Continue reading →

You can write a whole book on that?

technology
While I was in Borders ^1^, I spotted the following title, which amused me no end: Windows 98 Annoyances. Priceless. Disappointingly, the description on Amazon suggests that it's about hacking Windows 98, rather than just listing the bugs. ^1^ I should say that I don't usually buy books in Borders, because I prefer to patronise the local shop Blackwells, but they didn't have what I was looking for. Nor did Borders as it turned out. Continue reading →

iBeeZz

technology
I've finally sorted out a workable solution for running cron jobs at night on my laptop. The problem is that I don't like leaving the PowerBook awake all night: Heat is pretty damaging to electronic components, and the longer the backlight in the LCD is on, the shorter its life. It's also a bit wasteful of energy, and I try to conserve energy whenever I can. We've been using a utility called iBeeZz at work for a while now to shutdown and reboot a desktop machine we use as a server, and I've finally got around to installing it on my laptop. Continue reading →

GeekTool updated for Panther

technology
I've mentioned before that I'm an avid user of GeekTool, so I was disappointed to find that it was broken in Panther. I sorely missed the little bits of information that got written to my desktop, though my desktop is already pretty rich in information. I'm glad to say that GeekTool has now been updated for Panther and works fine. I had a nice GeekTool entry which ran an Applescript written by Pete, which listed the mailboxes in Mailsmith with unread messages, and gave the unread message count. Continue reading →

CSS tools

technology
If I'd had this CSS debugging bookmarklet when I was designing this site, I might have ended up with a few less bruises after banging my head on the table in frustration. It outlines each div and labels it with a colour and a label to indicate its class or id. It's really handy, and would also be a useful learning tool when examining other people's sites — in conjunction with the source — to see how they achieve their look. Continue reading →

Tin

technology
I've never had much interest in Usenet-type newsgroups, but when I found that perl.org had some great beginners' Perl lists (perl.beginners, perl.beginners.cgi, and perl.macosx^1^), I wanted to find a good newsreader. I tried Thoth, MT-Newswatcher and the beta of Unison, but all the GUI-ness seemed a bit over the top for reading text-based news (I'm not interested in downloading binaries over Usenet). I also wanted something cheap or free, as I'm saving my money to get a licence for Omniweb 5 when it comes out of beta. Continue reading →

Attention all outliner anoraks

technology
Are you an outliner anorak? Have you ever burned to know the history of the disclosure triangle (aka flippy triangle)? If so, then this is the answer to your prayers. It's deliciously geeky. [via Mac Net Journal]

Omniweb 5

technology
I've been trying out the new version of Omniweb: Omniweb 5. The beta was released today, and I must say that I'm pretty impressed with it on the whole. I'm a big fan of Safari, so a paid-for browser would have to be pretty special to replace it in my affections. However, Omniweb has two features that might just allow it to supplant Safari for me. I've long moaned about the fact that you can't easily save a set of tabs in Safari (at least, there is no built-in method to do so). Continue reading →

Ch-ch-ch-changes. Small ones.

technology
David mentioned that my main feed (the one linked by the RSS 1.0 button in the sidebar) was only showing the main part of the entry, and not the continuation that you see if you click the "More..." link at the bottom of some entries. It really wasn't supposed to be like that, and for ages, I'd been convinced that it showed everything but the comments. Anyway, I've put that right now, and the feed shows the entire post. Continue reading →

Perl resources

technology
I've just come across some great resources for learning Perl. I've now worked through Learning Perl and I'm steeling myself to tackle Programming Perl, so I don't think I need another beginners book. However, if you're thinking about learning Perl, the full text of Beginning Perl by Simon Cozens is available online for free. It looks like a clear and helpful book that sets out all the basics.

Big Cat Scripts Plugin

technology
I've been a long time user of Ranchero Software's NetNewsWire Lite, so I'm a little surprised that I haven't cottoned on to Big Cat Scripts Plugin before now. I've been reading up a bit on Applescript, and saw Big Cat mentioned as an alternative way to launch scripts in a contextual menu. This seems to have a couple of advantages over Apple's Script Menu which appear on the Menu Bar: Continue reading →

Skyhooks

technology
The ingenuity of some people really astounds me. I've been watching "Crafty Tricks of War", a programme on BBC2 in which Dick Strawbridge (irrepressible former Army Colonel, Scrapheap Challenge team leader and luxuriantly moustachioed man^1^) and his friend Diarmud attempt to recreate some ingenious — and frequently downright whacky — engineering solutions developed during the war^2^. One of the best ideas featured this week was the Skyhook. The problem the Skyhook was designed to solve was this: it's relatively easy to drop military personnel behind enemy lines by parachute from a plane, but how do you get them back out again without being shot down or detected? Continue reading →

DesktopEarth Pro

technology
{width="400” height="267”}  I got some money for Christmas, and naturally my geek-girl thoughts turned to software. I can't quite recall how I came across it, but I found DesktopEarth Pro, and I was immediately blown away by it. I tried it out for a couple of days, then blew some of my Christmas money on it — money well spent, I think. At its most basic level, it's a very fancy screen saver, which allows you to display an image of the earth, overlaid with updated images of the real cloud pattern, and the pattern of night and day across the globe. Continue reading →

Comments feed - Take 2

technology
I had another go at a comments feed which would be a complete one — i.e. it would show the full post and also each of the comments, with one channel for the whole blog, and each entry and its associated comments forming an item within that feed. I struggled to produce something myself, but couldn't produce something that actually worked. After a Google session, I found this lovely template on etc, tried it out, and it works just as I had hoped it would. Continue reading →

Comments feed

technology
I've been thinking about adding a feed for comments for some time, but some gentle prompting by djn1, and the example of his own feed encouraged me to try and find a solution. If you comment on an entry, it's nice to know when someone replies, without having to remember to check back with the page. I wanted to have the comments displayed together with their respective entry to give some context, but the problem then is that the feed would keep showing as 'unread' every time someone added a comment. Continue reading →

OmniWeb 5

technology
I was hoping to be watching Steve Jobs' keynote from Macworld San Francisco around now, but I'm getting an 'insufficient bandwidth' error message on the stream. Grrr. So I'll talk about OmniWeb 5 instead. I'm a big fan of OmniWeb applications. Thanks to their rather generous academic pricing, I'm the proud owner of OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle Pro. OmniGraffle — in particular — is beautifully designed, with a lot of very innovative touches. Continue reading →

The Curta calculator

technology
I really love this kind of thing, but I can't quite explain why. This mechanical calculator was invented by Curt Herzstark — an Austrian Jew — while he was being held in Buchenwald concentration camp during the Second World War. I played with the simulator for ages, but I still can't quite figure out how you would actually use it to calculate things. It's like a slide rule; my Dad used one for years before the advent of affordable electronic calculators, but to me, it's tantamount to magic. Continue reading →

iView Media Pro

technology
Since I've got a bit of spare time over the holidays, I've been trying to sort out my collection of digital photos and inspire myself to take some better images. I've had iView Media for a while now (I got a cheap upgrade from a version bundled with Toast), but I hadn't got around to really investigating the new version. It's one of those bits of software which is simple to use without reading the manual, but has a lot of hidden power. Continue reading →

O’Reilly CD Bookshelves

technology
Somebody (I'm afraid that I can't remember who, and can't seem to find the entry concerned) mentioned the O'Reilly Unix CD Bookshelf in the comments on an entry a little while ago. I couldn't afford the full priced version, but I managed to find a used copy on Amazon. It was sold by Alibris, and only set me back £10 including postage from the States — bargain! It arrived a couple of days ago, and I'm really impressed by how O'Reilly have implemented the CD bookshelf. Continue reading →

What’s on my Treo 600? (Part 1)

technology
I don't know if anyone will find this interesting, but in the spirit of looking over someone's shoulder and seeing what they've got in their Dock, I thought that I would list a few of my favourite Palm applications. I think that they key to using a Palm effectively is the speed with which you can enter information, otherwise it becomes so much of a chore that you just don't bother. Continue reading →

Scott eVest

technology
Damn you TidBITS! If it wasn't for your article on iPod accessories, I might never have known about the Scott eVest, and I wouldn't have wanted one. Gah. I love pockets, and this jacket has 30 of them (a long and embarrassing search if you forget which you put your mobile phone into), and--get this--a Personal Area Network! I love the idea of a jacket so geeky that you need a several explanatory videos to point out all the features. Continue reading →

Outliners

technology
This is the third part in an excellent series about outliner applications on the Mac on ["About This Particular Macintosh(AtPM)":http://www.atpm.com]. I've always had problems remaining faithful to one outliner, as none of them seem to do everything I want them to. As a consequence, I've got more outliner-type things on my Mac than you can waggle a mouse at. I can think of many software reviewers (and for that matter, manual writers) who could learn a lot from AtPM: rather then telling you what the software does, they focus on what you might want to use it for. Continue reading →

Moblog

technology
So, you probably noticed that I posted my first mobile blog entries yesterday and this morning, and wondered what was going on. Well, I was prompted to embark on this adventure--further freeing myself from the tyranny of cables--for the following reasons: I got a Treo 600 Palm-based phone a week or so ago (a long story which I intend to tell in the next few days, as well as reviewing this brilliant bit of kit) Via a discussion thread in the comments of an entry on Dan Gillmor's, I found a service called Mfop2 which lets you upload entries via email, once you have registered your details. Continue reading →

Perl Advent Calendar

technology
This is so up my street--an advent calendar that also gives you geeky Perl tips. What more could a geek girl want for Christmas? The description of the site for non-Christians is pretty funny too: Or if you're not Christian, it's a site that annually features descriptions of a new module for twenty five days starting on the first of December. I heartily endorse the secular description, but it's not quite as concise as "Advent Calendar", is it? Continue reading →

Nice title switcher

technology
I've knocked up a rather primitive checkbox type thing so that you can switch the fancy titles effect on or off. Check the box on the right to toggle the effect, and then reload the page. The current status is shown beneath the checkbox. The script saves the state you've selected in a cookie, so you obviously need to allow cookies to be set for this to work. It's horribly inelegant at the moment (for one thing, it doesn't remember the checked state of the checkbox), so I'll develop something better when I have time. Continue reading →

Title tips are back

technology
I used to have transparent title tips on this weblog--a tip I picked up at kryogenix.org. I removed it because it seemed to be causing some odd behaviour on IE6. However, there's a modified version at 1976design.com which doesn't use a PNG background, and has a few more niceties. I don't know if this will work any better (comments from IE6 users would be very welcome), but I thought it might be worth a go. Continue reading →

Au revoir iMac

technology
There's a rather sad and dusty gap on our computer desk where the old iMac was. As well as the embarrassing keyboard problem, we've been having some problems with the screen shimmering when the hard drive is being accessed. Luckily, I did actually get an extended warranty with the machine when I bought it, because for once it wasn't a complete rip-off. As the expiry date was looming, we decided to get it in for repair. Continue reading →

MacExpo 2003

technology
{width="300” height="170”} I'd been looking forward to going to the MacExpo for weeks; piles of great Apple products and hundreds of other Mac-fans--what could be better? My impression was that there weren't quite as many exhibitors as last year, but there was still a lot to see. Apple was there with the whole range of hardware on display, and was running seminars on the new features in Panther, the G5 and so on. Continue reading →

Backing up MovableType

technology
Continuing on the theme of paranoia, I've been paying serious--and very overdue--attention to backing up my MovableType installation and entries[1]. I've been really bad at remembering to export and backup the entries, and the thought that I could--at any moment--lose weeks of considered (and ill-considered) entries and comments started to really bother me. I did a search on the MovableType forums for an automated solution, and came upon this brilliant solution by girlie at Virtual Venus. Continue reading →

CVS

technology
I've just started footling about with CVS, so I was very interested in this article by Joey Hess about storing his whole home directory in CVS. I don't think that going to those kinds of extremes would help me a great deal--partly because I have to write a lot of documents in binary formats, so I wouldn't get the benefits of diff and so forth. In fact, I'm a bit hazy on whether CVS can deal with binary format files at all. Continue reading →

My iPulse

technology
{width="128” height="128”}I had a request in the comments of this entry to post an image of my iPulse set up. So for all you crazy iPulse fans, here is my configuration. I should say, here is my most recent configuration; iPulse comes with a lot of different 'jackets' as backgrounds, and the colours and transparency levels of gauges are all totally customisable, encouraging entirely pathological levels of tinkering. I've experimented with a lot of different looks, but this is my favourite at the moment. Continue reading →

Word Service

technology
I've always been a big fan of Services in MacOSX. I think that they go some way to enabling the kind of complete integration between applications which would be great if it actually worked properly. I found a collection of free standalone services called Word Service, developed by Devon Technologies. There are three sets, grouped by function: 'Convert' contains options which do useful tasks like changing the case of the selection, removing quotes, or altering the encoding of line endings; 'Insert' lets you insert the contents of the path, or the current date and/or time in different formats; 'Format' does all kinds of useful things like removing multiple spaces, surplus line endings, and sorting lines alphabetically. Continue reading →

Bash

technology
This is one for the UNIX geeks: Many moons ago, when I had a PC laptop running Linux, my shell of choice was bash. Well, to be truthful, it would probably be more accurate to say that the default shell was bash, and I never figured out how to change it. I became reasonably proficient with it and customized it with aliases, scripts, a custom prompt and so on. When I moved to MacOSX, I used tcsh, as that was the default shell at the time, but I missed the features of bash. Continue reading →

Casting a shadow

technology
This is fabulous--Safari 1.1 (included with Panther) implements the CSS text-shadow property. When I was learning about CSS, I remember reading about text-shadow and getting quite excited, before I realised that no current browser actually supported it. Judging by the nice examples produced by Frank Limbacher, the results can look pretty stunning. When I get some free time (hah!), I might include some shadowed text as a special treat for Panther users, and wait for the rest of the browsers to catch up. Continue reading →

Panther part 2

technology
I've had a couple of days of living with Panther now, and I'm almost totally impressed. My few quibbles so far are to do with Apple not quite going far enough along the line they seem to be pursuing. I still don't think that I've found all the new features and enhancements, but here are the highlights: Interface changes — Many people have complained about the changes to widgets and the apple on the login screen, but I think that they are mostly an improvement. Continue reading →

Panther stuff

technology
My local Apple Centre emailed at the end of the week with an invitation to come to a Panther party on Friday night. They had permission to sell Panther at 8pm--a full 4 (or 5?) hours before it was released in the States. I had previously ordered 3 copies for all our Macs at work, and of course I jumped at the chance to spend the weekend tinkering with it. Continue reading →

Gotcha!

technology
I dealt with my first comment spam with MT-Blacklist today! It didn't get caught by the default filter, but with a quick click on the blacklist link in the notification email, I added the offending URL to the list, and poof--the spam comment was magically removed. No tedious deleting of the comment, adding the IP and waiting for the site to rebuild. If anyone wants to look at the blacklist of the banned URLs and regexes for the URLs, you can find it here. Continue reading →

Life Balance

technology
At the beginning of this month, I linked to an article probing what people have in their Docks. The comments revealed a plethora of popular applications, but also another user (Nathan Ladd) of one of my new favourite applications: Life Balance. At the time, I was just trying it out, but I've since taken the plunge and registered. I first heard about Life Balance via the Mailsmith mailing list, and--like a pig after truffles--I had to check it out. Continue reading →

MT-Blacklist

technology
Last week, dvd tipped me off to a new plugin that Jay Allen was about to release: MT-Blacklist. This excellent plugin for Movabletype has now been released as promised, and I've rushed to install it. As I mentioned here, I was getting heartily fed up with having to track down spam comments, delete the spam, add the IP to the banned IPs list, then rebuild the site. Like many people, I've been getting steadily increasing amounts of spam, and the whole thing was getting to be a right royal pain in the fundament. Continue reading →

Pashua

technology
My current mania for all things Perlish has lead me to Pashua--a framework for wrapping a simple GUI around Perl, PHP or shell scripts as a dialogue to input values into the scripts. There doesn't seem to be a way to capture output to a text box or dialogue window as yet, but the strength of Pashua is its simplicity. With the aid of the example provided in the package, I managed to knock up a neat little front end to a Perl script I was working on last week to convert an email header style date format to a Movabletype style format, which was prompted by an email exchange with dvd. Continue reading →

Outliners

technology
Given my continuing obsession with finding the perfect note-taking/outliner application, I was very interested to read this article covering the features and capabilities of a huge range of outliners. The article was interesting because--rather than exhaustively covering all of the features that the different applications offer--it discussed what you might want an outliner to do, and then briefly mentioned which of the programmes would best fulfil those needs. For me, this addresses one of the most difficult things about choosing an outliner or note-taker; everyone has different priorities and needs from it, so no application is going to be perfect for everyone all of the time. Continue reading →

Nisus Thesaurus

technology
I like words. I like using them inventively and correctly, but I often need a lot of help. While I own several paper dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri? I rest my case...), I'm a fan of the electronic versions because they obviate the need for that tedious trudge to the bookcase. Enter the new, free Nisus Thesaurus; it's a neat little Cocoa application, with matching Services menu for quick lookup of words in other applications. Continue reading →

Synergy

technology
My latest cool software find is a little utility called Synergy; it's a small application which runs in the menu bar, and allows you to control iTunes without first switching to it or using the Dock menu. You might be thinking, "Pfft. Is that all? Loads of applications do that--what's the big deal?" Well, the big deal is in the level of customization possible and the quality of the implementation. Continue reading →

Saving Safari tabs

technology
Before I start this mini-rant (rantette?), I should say that I love Apple's Safari; it's a quick, elegant andâ€"most importantlyâ€"standards-compliant browser, and since they introduced tabbed browsing I have used it as my default browser for all but the most non-IE-phobic of sites. However, there are two (related) flies in the ointment. First, I hate the fact that there's no easy way of saving all of the tabs in an open window manually (or even better, automatically). Continue reading →

Learn to touch type with Vim

technology
Vim just gets more and more amazing. I was looking around for a free touch typing tutorial program, just to refresh my skills a bit and practice on the new keyboard. I found a plugin for Vim called TTCoach, written by Mikolaj Machowski which does just that. You can start at any level and it measures your speed, accuracy, and logs the percentage of errors produced by each finger and each letter, which is pretty useful. Continue reading →

Typing without keys

technology
A few months ago, I wrote about the new MacNTouch keyboard. After a long period of thinking about it, an even longer period of trying to find the cheapest place to order one from, and what seemed — because of my impatience and excitement — like a geological epoch, I finally slid my hands over a MacNTouch. Part of my reason for wanting one was because I'd started to have some problems with pains in my hands while typing, and I didn't want it to get too bad before I did anything about it. Continue reading →

Don't panic Mr. Mainwaring!

technology
It's a measure of the stability of the current incarnation of MacOSX that I freaked out completely when the Finder went all wobbly on me today. For the past couple of years, I've had no serious problems with either software or hardware. Today, every time I tried to open any folder or document in my home folder, the Finder would crash. It wasn't a Finder.app problem though, because Path Finder (a Finder replacement) had the same difficulties. Continue reading →

Brunel's Great Eastern

technology
There's a new series on BBC2 called Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, in which the engineering marvels of the 19th Century are documented. Last week's episode was particularly interesting as it was about an engineering feat that doesn't survive today: Isambard Kingdom Brunel's huge ship, the 'Great Eastern'. It's probably fair to say that the general consenus on hearing Brunel's proposal for the Great Eastern was that he had finally lost his marbles (or ball bearings). Continue reading →

An excellent Applescript

technology
When people post a comment on this site and list a URL, I often visit out of curiosity. OK, I'm nosy--I can't help it. Sometimes it takes a while to get around to looking, now that my blogroll is reaching unmanagable proportions. Anyway, that was how I came upon this absolute gem of an Applescript, on Pete Boardman's weblog. I was slightly missing the feature in Apple Mail which displays the number of unread mails in the Dock icon, but this is even better. Continue reading →

Dr. StrangeVim, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vi

technology
It all started with a ssh session on the University web server. I was thinking of implementing some clever thing as a cron job, and wanted to see what the crontab for our username currently looked like. As it turned out, there wasn't a user crontab, so I was greeted with the dreaded empty screen, and a sinister column of tildes down the left hand side. This could only mean one thing--the default editor was set as vi! Continue reading →

Drawing figures

technology
I've been on another 'perfect software' quest over the past few months. I often have to draw diagrams of my apparatus and so forth, but so far, I haven't yet managed to find a package which does exactly what I want. Most of my diagrams are greyscale (for journals which are too cheap to publish colour figures), and they usually need to be to scale with dimensions marked on. Of course, almost any decent vector editor would allow you do all of this manually, but — again — why should I have to laboriously measure and convert the dimensions in the diagram, when I could have a tool to do it for me? Continue reading →

My perfect writing environment, part 2

technology
I don't know, it's like buses — you wait years for a decent writing environment to come along, and then several are in development at the same time. Matt Gemmell at Irate Scotsman has proposed a writing editor with the provisional name of 'Treatise'. There's a UI mock-up here. It seems to have all the proposed features I was looking for, as did the project Nathan mentioned that he was thinking of pursuing (in the comments on the entry I wrote in July on this subject). Continue reading →

MT-Textile and SmartyPants

technology
Some time ago, I wrote about using MT-Textile to format posts. Well, there's a new version out, and it's better than ever. There are a lot more options (including the ability to add a class or id to tags, a table formatting option, alignment of paragraphs, and lots more goodies. You can play with it here. I don't mind writing plain HTML, but Textile is a bit quicker, easier to read, and there's less danger of you forgetting to close tags. Continue reading →

My first useful Perl script

technology
I was thinking the other day that it would be useful to have something to convert decimal values for RGB colours into hexadecimal values, and vice-versa. Of course, you can input either value in Photoshop, but sometimes when I'm writing a stylesheet, I would just like to be able to do a quick conversion. And--yes--I could probably do it in my head, but that would be Actual Thought, and I use a computer to minimize the amount of that kind of thing I have to do. Continue reading →

New feature

technology
I've just added a new feature via a Moveabletype plug-in called 'RelatedEntries', written by Kalsey Consulting Group. On each individual archive page (the one you get to by clicking the posting date of an entry on the main page), there is a list of four entries which share the same category. I'm not sure whether these are randomly chosen—it isn't clear from the documentation. The current items in this section all seem to be rather old, but I suppose it does give readers a sample of stuff buried in the archives that they might not otherwise come across. Continue reading →

Testing Tinderbox 2.0

technology
JB and MacNetJournal mentioned that a new version of Tinderbox was out (version 2.0), which has a load of new features. Naturally, I raced to download it, and I must say that I'm very impressed! If this post makes it to you, the shiny new direct-weblog-posting-thingy (I'm sure Eastgate have a better name for it) works; you can post your notes directly to MoveableType, Radio Userland or Blogger. No more dragging and dropping! Continue reading →

Favourite utilities

technology
Recently, I've been trying out the latest release of WorkStrip 3.0, and thinking about what makes a good utility. I'm pretty profligate when it comes to downloading demos of software — I love trying out new stuff, putting it through its paces and testing it to destruction. However, utility applications have always made up the bulk of my software tryouts. Part of this is to do with wanting to make the working environment as efficient and comfortable as possible — a process akin to a dog or cat paddling around in its bed before settling down to sleep. Continue reading →

Panther is looking promising

technology
There's an interesting article by John Manzione on his experiences of running the developer release of Panther. He likes it so much he keeps reinstalling it, despite the inevitable stability problems and bugs. I'm certainly looking forward to the final version. I think that I'm mostly waiting for that first sweet moment when I casually demonstrate Exposé to a Windows user. [via Mac Net Journal]

My perfect writing environment

technology
I've been on a quest for the perfect academic writing environment for some time. On a good day, the current bloated, wheezing incarnation of Word makes me grind my teeth, and on a bad one bystanders are well advised to remove all sharp objects from my vicinity. I'm always on the lookout, so when I saw Ulysses (also discussed on MacSlash), I had to download it and give it a go. Continue reading →

Mailsmith 2.0 Part 2

technology
A week or so ago, I mentioned trying out the new release of Mailsmith 2.0. At the time, I said that I couldn't use it full time because the majority of my mail comes through an IMAP account. For some reason, I had got the idea that the computing service actually blocked POP connections to the mail server, but in fact they just "strongly recommend" using IMAP. My worries were also eased on the other issue (the proprietary mailbox format), when Matt Gemmell commented that you can easily export to mbox format just by dragging mailboxes to the Finder. Continue reading →

PayPal scam

technology
This morning I received a superficially very convincing email which appeared to be from PayPal, asking me to update my account information. I might have been taken in, but for the fact that I received 8 indentical emails together (not even PayPal is usually that inept), and that the message was sent to an email account that I have not registered with PayPal. A closer inspection of the message source revealed that the link in the email was being diverted to another server: Continue reading →

All hail to President Steve

technology
I wouldn't be able to hold my hand up and call myself a MacGeek if I hadn't spent the best part of last night peering at a rather wibbly, randomly-morphing stream from the WWDC 'SteveNote' in San Francisco. So — where's the beef? Others have done a better job than I could of being timely and exhaustive, so here are my random thoughts: Safari 1.0 and Safari SDK: I think Safari is one of the nicest, and fastest-developing browsers I've ever used, so it's great to see it hit 1. Continue reading →

New SliMP3 server supports AAC

technology
I wasn't far wrong: the brilliant developers at SliMP3 have updated the server again to support AAC encoded files, using the LAME MP3 encoder which transcodes to MP3 on the fly — very clever stuff. I haven't listened to enough AAC encoded tracks yet to judge the difference in quality (and whether it makes any difference transcoding it back to MP3), but with a casual listen, it sounds pretty good. There's also support for cover art, so album covers imported into iTunes now appear automatically in the SliMP3 web interface. Continue reading →

Gadget overdose

technology
There's an interesting article in the Guardian about pointless technology (or rather, pointless gadgets). Despite being rather a techno-head and somewhat gadget-obsessed myself, I do agree with the majority of the points. Before I get too over excited about some new piece of hardware, I do try to sit the excitable geek in me down and have a long, serious chat about whether this particular gadget is really necessary. However, I am aware that my definition of "necessary" might not be the same as other people's (see my excitement over viewing my uptime on my T68i). Continue reading →

Look Ma! No keys!

technology
I really should stop reading MacSlash. Not only do I have to wade through a lot of trolls, I see something ultra-cool and ultra-geeky and I want it — and be damned with the expense. Needless to say, I want one of these zero-force keyboard replacements from Fingerworks. I tried to find out if there are any resellers in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, and came upon this German site, which sells the iGesture Pad. Continue reading →

QuickImageCM

technology
I've just found one of the most fantastically useful utilities ever*. One thing that has bugged me for as long as I've been posting images on the web is that I couldn't easily find the pixel dimensions of an image without opening up an image application of some kind. My decidedly low tech solution was to jot the dimensions down on any piece of paper within arm's reach when resizing the image. Continue reading →

Peeking inside a web designer’s mind

technology
Having wrestled with designing my own web sites in a rather amateurish fashion, I'm fascinated with the way in which professional designers might go about the process. I've also been marvelling at the gorgeous designs in the CSS Zen Garden, so I noted Douglas Bowman's description of the processes involved in his Zen Garden entry with great interest. I found it interesting that the 'measure twice, cut once' advice holds even with an electronic product. Continue reading →

PowerPoint Gettysburg address

technology
I'm always a bit behind with these things, so no doubt the world and his hamster have seen this by now: a PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg address. If you haven't seen it, check it out — Lincoln's introduction before the presentation is absolutely priceless. [via Textism]

Fancy blockquotes

technology
There's a great series of tutorials over at Simon Willison's Weblog, and in particular, a very handy hint about styling blockquotes with dinky little background images. I've been thinking about doing something a bit more interesting with my blockquotes, but I couldn't decide exactly what to do with them. This might be a neat solution. [via bitweever.com]

Web applications

technology
I found a great to-do list/task manager application yesterday, called — appropriately enough — tasks. It's a PHP-driven web application, rather than a standard application. This has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your stress levels) of making your to-do list available from any computer. You can even get it to email you a list of upcoming and overdue tasks every day with a well-placed cron job. It's very smooth indeed, and being written in PHP you can customise it to your needs and tastes. Continue reading →

Having the appropriate amount of fun

technology
I'm learning Perl in the evenings. This is slightly mad, given the amount of stuff I've got on at the moment, but hey — what's a geek to do? I'd been thinking about learning a new language (properly this time, none of that 'just learning enough to write this program that I needed yesterday' business) for some time, and had a number of different possibilities lined up. I had a slightly half-hearted attempt at Python some time ago, and I've also considered the merits of Ruby, but in the end I settled for Perl. Continue reading →

The award for outstanding service goes to…

technology
A couple of days ago, my SliMP3 player stopped working. I tried to take it out of standby mode, but it just wouldn't turn on. I did everything I could think of to troubleshoot the problem, but even firmware updating process wouldn't complete correctly. Of course, my player was a few months over a year old, meaning that it was outside the guarantee period (why does that always happen?). I emailed Slimdevices with a heavy heart, thinking that it was going to be an expensive repair or replacement job. Continue reading →

The Joy of the CLI

technology
Warning: this entry contains gratuitous geekiness. If command line prompts scare you, look away now. A couple of days ago, I found a reference to a utility called GeekTool: with a name like that, it couldn't be more attractive to me unless the developer changed the name to ChocolateGeekTool. It's a PreferencePane which allows you to display logs, the output from a shell command, or an image directly on your desktop. Continue reading →

Slim and speedy

technology
Phew! Those crazy guys at Slimdevices must never sleep: no sooner had Apple released iTunes 4, than they had released a new version of the SliMP3 server software supporting the new version — barely 24 hours later! There's no support for AAC as yet, but they do say in the FAQ that they are looking into it, which is encouraging.

Apple music stuff

technology
Lots of exciting audio related things from Apple were announced yesterday. I had an orgy of installing and downloading, and what follows are my first impressions of the software: iTunes 4: the music sharing feature is long awaited, and very welcome. I tested it quickly last night, and it seems to work rather well (once I'd figured out which port to open on the firewall: 3689 in case you're trying to figure it out too). Continue reading →

Drawing and writing

technology
I've got a couple of MacOSX applications worth noting. OmniGraffle 3.0: the previous version was pretty good, but the upgrade to 3.0 has included a mass of useful new features and a re-designed UI. I love the new palette interface. You can save different arrangements of palettes for different workspaces or documents, and the handy (visible) keyboard short-cuts make it easy to open the individual pane you want. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't possibly remember all of the short-cuts for all of the applications I use, and something as simple as making them visible on the palette makes a huge difference. Continue reading →

Full Metal Insanity

technology
Missing scrap engineering extravaganzas like Scrapheap Challenge and Salvage Squad, I've started watching Full Metal Challenge. It didn't start off very auspiciously, despite being co-presented by the brilliant Cathy Rogers, but this week's episode was pretty good. The British team — The Dodgy Oppos — were a bit of a wash-out (though amusingly self-effacing), but there was a fantastic battle between the North Carolina team The Country Boys, and the all-female Australian team, The Flamin' Aussies. Continue reading →

Safari 1.0 Beta 2 (v73)

technology
So, there's a new version of Safari, complete with tabs, autofill forms and a 'Reset Safari' option to trash all incriminating browsing evidence with one flick of the mouse -- perfect for guilty spouses or shifty employees! Let's say -- hypothetically, of course -- that someone might have got his or her sticky little hands on a leaked early build of Safari when someone else posted a download link on Macslash, and that this person used the leaked version quite extensively and rejoiced to be able to use tabs again. Continue reading →

Favelets

technology
dvd's comment about favelets yesterday reminded what fabulous things they are. The favelets outlining and labelling divs at Accessify are genuinely useful, and can highlight problems that you could fail to find after hours of staring at the code. A couple of days ago, after Zeldman mentioned it, I checked out the Ruler favelet at Centricle which allows you to select regions of a page and see a very neat box giving the pixel dimensions and positions of the selection. Continue reading →

Float Flub Fixed!

technology
My cry for help was answered, and the problem is now fixed. Richard Eriksson emailed me with the following information: You'd be surprised how common your problem is. In my redesign [1], I came across the same bug. But I stole the code from somewhere, tweaked it, and it was later revealed for all (by someone else [2]). [1] http://www.richarderiksson.com/movableblog/ archives/redesign_snag0105.php [2] http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0103d.shtml#tweaks Hopefully that helps. Be sure to read the comment in [1] as well. Continue reading →

Do not adjust your sets

technology
If you've just seen some odd layout things happening on this set -- don't worry -- it's not your browser. I've been tinkering with the positioning CSS to try to sort out a very frustrating bug which happens in IE6 on XP and a few other IE Win incarnations, that several people have reported to me. What happens is that once the browser has rendered the page to the bottom of the sidebar, it just sits down, pouts and refuses to render the rest of the content. Continue reading →

Analog vs. Digital

technology
The Today Programme had a bit of a departure this morning, with an interview with The White Stripes on Radio 4. It was introduced in a slightly self-congratulatory tone, with the information that Mark Coles first interviewed them for 'Today' in 2001 before they were famous. John Humphris didn't quite say, "Yo kidz, we're down with the wikkid sounds", but he was dying to. Anyway, what interested me about the interview was the discussion about the relative merits of digital versus analogue recording. Continue reading →

Saturday software

technology
I've just found a fantastically useful audio utility: Audio Hijack Pro produced by Rogue Amoeba Software (great name, eh?). As the name suggests, it can 'hijack' any audio source (like RealOne, iTunes etc.), so that you can apply some sophisticated audio plug-ins or filters, or (and this was what attracted me) record from the source. As I've mentioned many times before, I'm a BBC Radio 4 and Radio 7 addict, but often miss programmes because they're on at awkward times. Continue reading →

Wireless in Starbucks

technology
This is very cool. I'm sitting in Starbucks eating a muffin for breakfast and posting to my blog through the wireless hotspot. I've just spent the past half hour dredging through and deleting about 70 spam emails, which slightly took the gloss off my current well-disposed-towards-technology mood, but it's still cool. I feel really at home because there's a guy with a TiBook and an Apple T-shirt sitting opposite me. I would be more comfortable, but the air-conditioning is really fierce, and I feel like I need a coat on. Continue reading →

Funky tool-tips

technology
I came across this very useful tip for making transparent tool tips via NSLog() (itself a very interesting article of starting a weblog). I've been bugged for a while at the lack of tool tips in Safari, and the current implementation of having them appear in the status bar doesn't seem very logical as they don't appear where your cursor is pointing. I gather that they'll revert to the usual tool tip method in the next revision, but this is a nice workaround in the meantime. Continue reading →

Lomo love

technology
{width="200” height="177”} My Lomo Kompakt Automat has arrived! I felt that I had to take this picture of the packaging before I unwrapped it as it was so unusual. The camera itself was wrapped up in plain paper and neatly tied with black cotton. Best of all, the Russian manual has the worker's initials and the serial number of the unit hand-written in the back in blue biro! How often do you get that level of personal involvement with a product these days? Continue reading →

Bond villain toys

technology
A couple of days ago — at the worst possible time when I was rushed off my feet — my mobile phone died. It was three years old and therefore practically prehistoric in a fashion-driven market. Although I'm generally speaking a gadget freak, I don't get very excited by mobiles. Most seem needlessly flashy with pointless functions, with the emphasis on ringtones and rather lame games. But I do kind of rely on having a phone, so I was forced into buying a new one. Continue reading →

MT Update

technology
Moveabletype 2.6.3 is out. Actually, it's been out a couple of days, but I've been too busy to install it. But after the odd problem I had yesterday I decided that it would probably be a good time to sort it out. It all seemed to go OK — but as usual — if you spot anything untoward, let me know. I also decided to add a line to the popup comments template to remind people about URL fomatting. Continue reading →

Go Moggie, go!

technology
Another classic Salvage Squad tonight: they were renovating a 1930's Super Sports Morgan. This is was a lovely speedy little three-wheeler racing car, with a 1000cc motorcycle engine and a wood and aluminium frame. The owner, Iris, was a fantastic character: a 78 year old woman who is crazy about fast old cars and bikes. At the start of the programme we saw her zipping along — sans helmet — on a vintage Norton motorcycle. Continue reading →

New version of Tinderbox

technology
Better support for languages with non-Roman scripts. Mouse wheel support. Quick-stamps and actions let you set prototypes even faster. New markup makes it easier to export outlines and to simplify complex families of export templates.

Trees, trunks and metadata

technology
Dan Hon has written a very interesting article about the limitations of the filing cabinet metaphor of computer filesystems, and the about the finality of saving a document. He touched on a number of things that bug me on a regular basis. I speak — as usual — from a MacOSX viewpoint here. {width="75”} Representing files in ways that give cues to their content. Icons should tell you what kind of file it is, not what application last opened it (or what the default handler is). Continue reading →

Smarten up your quotes

technology
John Gruber of Daring Fireball has just released a new version of his excellent Moveabletype plugin, SmartyPants. It's a clever little utility which 'educates' your quotes, en-dashes, em-dashes and elipses, and encodes them as proper HTML entities. I'm using them here, if anyone has noticed...

He’s a brave man

technology
In a rash fit of openness, Dave Hyatt has encouraged people to comment or trackback to his blog to suggest what the [GUI]{.caps} of Safari should be like. There are 231 comments and 12 trackbacks as I post this. That'll keep him occupied. My tuppence on the matter: As many others have suggested, some form of tabs would be great. As many have observed, tabs themselves aren't ideal, as they take up too much vertical browser space and the names get truncated if there are a number of tabs. Continue reading →

Dubious design

technology
A couple of links to things that I ought to think are cool but somehow I just don't. Segway^TM^ Human Transporter: I applaud anything that might get more people out of their cars, if they can't use a bicycle for the journey for some reason, but there are two problems. First, it makes you look like Davros from Dr. Who. If I rode one, I would have an irrepressible urge to shout, "You will be exterminated! Continue reading →

Big and comprehensive, or small and sleek?

technology
At the weekend, I was thinking about applications and whether I prefer a big application that does everything, or a number of small ones that do things collectively. I mulled over writing a post about it, and then lo and behold, I find that Dave Hyatt has been thinking about similar things in relation to Safari. Curses — I'm puffing along a couple of miles behind the bandwagon once again, waving my arms and yelling, "Wait for me! Continue reading →

Eccentricity

technology
Regular readers will know of my fondness for Scrapheap Challenge. Now that the series has finished, my craving for watching people toiling over oily things is being sated by Salvage Squad. The tasks are less endearingly pointless (the antique fireboat they did up last week might come actually come in handy if the Green Goddesses can't cope during a fire strike), but there's enough cursing of awkward flanges and engineering ingenuity to keep me happy. Continue reading →

The Internet Has Broken

technology
And I thought it was just my ISP. Of course, because I couldn't get online, I didn't find out that it was a giant DoS until after it was all fixed. As usual, it's all Microsoft's fault.

Woohoo!

technology
I did my first presentation with Keynote today! I hurriedly converted my old lectures to Keynote format once it had eventually arrived (note: does anyone know why we shouldn't be able to download paid-for Apple software immediately, then receive the boxed version at a later point?) To be honest, I was a bit nervous about it after I noticed on MacUser that some people have had kernel panics (of all things) in the middle of Keynote presentations. Continue reading →

Audiophilia

technology
My brother sold his old turntable at the weekend, to a man who has 74 turntables. SEVENTY-FOUR. He said that this bloke's obsession made him feel a lot better about his own hi-fi habit. Seventy-four. That's a man with a serious interest.

Steve Jobs read my mind

technology
Today was the red-letter day an any Mac-aholic's iCal: MacExpo. I watched the streamed keynote live, practically vibrating with geekish glee at all the goodies on offer. But when Steve got to Keynote, I nearly exploded with excitement. You see, I've been grumbling and grousing about the myriad shortcomings of Powerpoint to myself for ages. Only yesterday, while I was trying to update my Powerpoint-based lectures, the straw finally broke the camel's back, and I looked around on the web for an alternative. Continue reading →

Blogrolling

technology
I've started using Blogrolling to organise my blogroll. It's all nicely sorted alphabetically, and recent updates (within the last 12 hours) are marked with an asterisk. It's a really nice system, and makes it much easier to keep on top of the links.

101 uses for Project Builder

technology
MacOSXHints had a great hint about using Project Builder (free on the Developer CD that comes with Jaguar) as a kind of scratchpad/organiser. I'm a devotee of Tinderbox, but in the interests of geeky research, I gave it a go. You know what? It's a crazy idea, but it really works! If you're short of cash and need something to organise your scribbles and notes, give it a try. You can either store your text files and so on in the project folder or just make a reference to the file and keep it where it is. Continue reading →

New RSS feed

technology
The newest build of NetNewsWire Pro allows the display of the date and category of a post. It's a really nice feature, but to take advantage of it, you need my RSS 1.0 feed. Click on the XML Summaries image in the sidebar and copy the resulting URL into NetNewsWire's subscribe dialogue. Even if you use another news reader, I would appreciate it if you could use the new feed. In news readers that support it, it will only fetch headlines if there is anything new available, which saves my bandwidth. Continue reading →

Blogtimes

technology
You might have noticed a new barcode-like image at the top of this page. It's a linear plot of the posting times for all my entries in the current month, courtesy of a cool little plugin written by Nilesh Chaudhari. What's the point of it? Well, there isn't one. It looks cool and reminds me of a time when I used to work on pigeon navigation, and had to deal with orientation data using circular statistics (time is circular too). Continue reading →

Geek task of the day

technology
My geeky task for the day was to install a BBC News ticker on my SliMP3 player. Mission accomplished! It works really well, and beats the hell out of using Ceefax or Teletext to check news headlines or the weather. It also shows the power and flexibility of the SliMP3 server, which is open source and written in Perl. You can think of all sorts of other useful information which could be sucked off the web and displayed on the unit: TV schedules, more detailed weather forecasts, stock prices and so on. Continue reading →

Hit the big red button

technology
My ADSL connection went down this morning. This is a fairly rare occurrence, as my ISP is Mailbox, a tiny but fabulous company, which has an excellent reliability record and tremendous support. But, they (like other ADSL providers in the UK) are ultimately dependent upon BT for the service, and BT manages to screw things up with monotonous regularity. I called Mailbox support, and they told me that they had got other reports and were looking into it. Continue reading →

Scrapheap-tastic

technology
I'm an ardent admirer of Scrapheap Challenge - the show where two teams have to construct some kind of contraption entirely out of scrap to compete in a head-to-head challenge. Sunday's Grand Final was an absolute classic. One of the fascinating things about the show is that the two teams often come up with two utterly different engineering solutions to the same problem. The other is that their designs often go disastrously and hilariously wrong. Continue reading →

Citation index for blogs

technology
I had a look at a new service for bloggers, which is similar in some senses to citation indices for scientific papers (but without the career making or breaking capability that the latter offer) - Technorati [link via BoingBoing]. It lets you input a URL for a blog or article, and it finds other pages which link to it. Of course, part of the attraction is pure vanity, but it's also a great way to find new blogs that in some way relate to your own point of view, or discuss something of interest to you. Continue reading →

MacExpo

technology
{width="200” height="150”} Today I took the day off work and travelled to London to go to MacExpo at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Going up the escalator into the main hall was to enter MacGeek heaven, valhalla and nirvana, all at the same time. Choc full of geeky goodness. There were many highlights of the day: getting my hands on one of the new 17" iMacs was great fun, as was seeing rows of people in the mirrored drive door G4 games arcade blasting seven bells out of all manner of demons, aliens and Nazis. Continue reading →

Digital brain

technology
The Microsoft Media Presence lab is developing something called MyLifeBits, a multimedia database to store everything that ever happens to you. The idea is that you can then easily find what you're looking for. "The motivation? Microsoft argues that our memories often deceive us: experiences get exaggerated, we muddle the timing of events and simply forget stuff. Much better, says the firm, to junk such unreliable interpretations and instead build a faithful memory on that most reliable of entities, the PC. Continue reading →

A new look again

technology
I've been tinkering again. I decided to switch the publishing of this site over to Moveabletype, and in the process, I redesigned the appearance a little bit again. It should have substantially the same feel, but hopefully it won't suffer from the same bugs in IE6. That's my hope, anyway. The move to Moveabletype (MT) shouldn't be seen as any kind of negative commentary on Tinderbox. I'm still writing and organizing the site on Tinderbox, then dragging and dropping the notes into MT. Continue reading →

IE6 nonsense

technology
It has been brought to my attention by a Windows XP user (in my experience, you can't avoid having at least a few friends who are tasteless enough to use Windows), that my carefully constructed, properly validated site breaks in IE6. Inexplicably, the content of the post squishes its left padding by about 1 pixel for each successive post, so that it ends up with the text to the left of its own left border (the vertical line between the publication date and the text). Continue reading →

We're on the interhighweb

technology
I was having a coffee at the little AMT kiosk in town and noticed a sign advertising AMT's new website. The tagline was (wait for it) "Don't worry it isn't boring!" Wow. The advertising budget for that campaign must have stretched to literally tens of pence. Perhaps they made a leap for the BBEdit "It doesn't suck" pinnacle of coolness, but instead they crashed into the valley of mediocrity. I'm afraid that I was so stunned by the tagline that the URL didn't even register, so I can't provide a link. Continue reading →

Tasty new icons

technology
I've just updated the XML button using one of the lovely set that Jeremy Hedley has posted. Swish, eh? If some of you are wondering what the heck that little orange button does, just click it (natch) and copy the URL of the resulting page into the "Suscribe" dialog of an RSS newsreader (like the excellent NetNewsWire Lite), and bingo bongo, you have but she's a girl headlines updated automatically for your surfing pleasure. Continue reading →

Open source activity

technology
An open source PIM is being developed, which seems like a great idea to me. Anything that might offer people some alternative to the Microsoft stranglehold is very welcome. Now that Microsoft has offered to "share" its source code with developers, if that's really what they are going to do, it might be possible for OpenOffice to improve their compatibility with MS Office documents even further. I've haven't used OpenOffice, but I did use Sun StarOffice on Linux, and my impression was that it worked pretty well on the whole, but replicated the whole "Office Experience" rather too closely. Continue reading →

Mmm... blue LEDs

technology
I'm an audiophile. Unfortunately, I'm also an audiophile with very little money to spend. This made a recent trip to the HiFi show at Heathrow more of a window shopping exercise than anything else. Liking any kind of technology tends to be rather pricey, but you can really spend huge sums of money on hi-fi (£17,500 for a pair of Nautilus speakers, anyone?). But it costs nothing to look or listen, which is what I did with my Dad and brother, sad audio geeks all (see, it's heritable). Continue reading →