Posted on Saturday, April 19th, 2003
When Apple released Safari, the elegant interface and quick rendering speed quickly promoted it to my default web browser. And now that they've added tabbed browsing, I don't find myself missing Camino (the Netscape Navigator spin-off) so much, and internet Explorer is just a bad memory. Unfortunately, some sites have compatibility issues with non-Explorer browsers, which I find contrary to the entire concept of the World Wide Web (not to mention really, really stupid). One such site is Pyra's Blogger, which has been the technology powering my Hard Rock blog for the past two years. And so I've patiently waited for Pyra (now owned by Google) to get off their asses and allow Safari to use their service. Well, my patience has finally worn thin, and I've decided to scrap my Blogger site and start over with the highly recommended Moveable Type. Not only was it shockingly easy to set up, the wealth of features and cool options have me wondering why in the heck I was messing around with Blogger for so long! We'll see how it goes.
Posted on Saturday, April 19th, 2003
Since my blog is starting over, I thought I'd check into the latest blogging technology available for MacOS X. Much to my surprise, there's actually quite a lot to choose from at VersionTracker. But the app that really stood out was 5-star Kung-Log, which had a feature list that seemed too good to be true, and testimonials to match (apparently, people are switching to Moveable Type just to be using this app!). After playing around with it for a bit, I've discovered that, amazingly enough, it lives up to the hype. As a side-bonus, author Adriaan Tijsseling has a nifty blog at kung-foo.tv that's an interesting mix of life in Japan, MacOS X coding, and Cognitive Neural Science! In any event, Kung-Log makes blogging a breeze, so thanks Adriaan (and since this is "donationware" I'll definitely be making a contribution!).
Posted on Sunday, April 20th, 2003
Okay, now that I've had a chance to mess around with Kung-Log a bit more, I'm kind of freaking out over the nifty stuff that's built into it. One of the more intriguing features is the ability to look at what's playing on iTunes and insert it into your post with one click, just like this: To Let You Win from the album "Minor Earth Major Sky" by a-ha. And, yes, the Google search link for the artist is created automatically as well. Frighteningly good stuff! If only you could add your own HTML tags... oh crap... wait a second... yes, you can do that too (and create shortcut keys for them as well!). Sigh. I just set up hot keys for all of Meagan's little photo booth images that preceed my posts, and it took about 2 minutes. Heaven only knows what other features are hiding in here... I suppose I should read the documentation!
Posted on Monday, April 21st, 2003
The rumors have been mounting for months that Apple would be creating it's own online music service, and now it seems the day has finally arrived (as announced in an invitation sent to the press). Apple claims the news will be "music to your ears," and I remain hopeful that it's true... nobody could be happier than me if Mac users finally have a way to purchase music online. The big question on everybody's mind is "what will the selection be like?" Are we getting entire back-catalogs, or just current hits? Because I don't really care about buying current, easy-to-find music online... convenient as that may be. No, what I want is to be able to purchase obscure music that you just can't get without purchasing pricy imports or dropping a small fortune on eBay. As a for instance: not so long ago I was wanting to purchase the long-out-of-print album "Living In The Background" by Baltimora (which most people might recognize for the "Tarzan Boy" hit from the 80's). Problem is, I couldn't find it anywhere to purchase it. I eventually bid on a copy that was being sold on eBay, but dropped out when it got to $40, which was $35 more than I wanted to pay in the first place. Frustrated that I had done everything I could resonably do to purchase a copy legally, I eventually started up LimeWire and managed to get a few of the tracks illegally. What I don't understand is why the record companies make it so damn difficult in the first place to purchase music you want!! If you have to go to eBay, neither the record company nor the artist is making money. Selling digitally is the perfect solution... resonably priced music for the masses, without the expense of having to print out-of-date CDs that aren't going to get big sales anyway. Here's hoping that Apple gets it right.
Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003
Just found out from a Windows user that my style sheets "break" under Microsoft internet Explorer on Windows XP (and probably all the other MSWin flavors as well). Oddly enough, things work just fine when I use the Mac browsers: Opera, Safari, Chimera/Camino, Mozilla, and even MS internet Explorer Mac... so apparently this must be a Windows thing (though I haven't heard from any Linux/Unix users yet). What to do? Well, the only thing I can think of right now is to spoil my beloved table-free layout with a table across the top to hold the header graphics and have them flush out to the left and right margins. Crap. Yet another example of Microsoft making my life "better."
Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2003
If you are using a Mac running OS X (lucky bastard!) there are a few utility programs you should know about. Things so essential that they should be built into your Mac in the first place! My list begins with DragThing, an amazing utility that allows you to create tabbed docks to organize apps, URLs, and anything else you need easy access to. Next is LaunchBar which miraculously (and instantly) finds files, bookmarks, apps, e-mail addresses, whatever... as if by magic... wherever they may be hiding on your Mac. I've always loved being able to grab a snapshot of the screen with Apple-Shift-3, but Ambrosia Software's Snapz Pro X is screen capture on steroids, adding dozens of options (including movie capture!). A more recent addition to my arsenal of must-haves is Konfabulator, which allows you to run "widgets" on your desktop to do whatever you want... you really have to see it to understand it. One utility you won't be able to live without once you've experienced it is Default Folder, which eliminated the failings of save/open dialogue boxes and makes them work the way they should have all along. Other handy add-ons you'll love... X-Tunes (adds fingertip control to iTunes from any app), and iAddressX (ditto, but for your Address Book), R-Name (batch file renamer), Quick Change (file attributes editor), BookIt (browser bookmark manager), and of course NetNewswire & Kung-Log (essential blogging tools I have recommended many, many times before).
Posted on Saturday, April 26th, 2003
In organizing research for my new book, I've collected hundreds of snippets of research... text, photos, web site URLs, maps, drawings, just about anything you can think of... and it's all crammed into a folder on my hard drive in a big, disorganized mess. A couple of weeks ago, I bought an organizational tool called "NoteTaker 2003" and eventually side-graded to a similar, but streamlined alternative called "Circus Ponies Notebook." Either program is a revolutionary way to organize your thoughts, because they automatically index every word you put in them. Just turn to the index an instantly find whatever you are looking for. Collecting data from a variety of sources is simple thanks to a "service" that will insert text into your notebook (open or closed) from within any application. Find a snippet while surfing the internet? Pop it into your notebook without leaving your web browser. Both programs have a 30 day free trial, and any Mac user who collect information will wonder how they lived without it!
Posted on Monday, April 28th, 2003
Okay then, the day Mac fanatics have been waiting for has arrived... Apple's music store has finally debuted! Is it all I had hoped for? Yes and no. I mean, I've already dropped $50 on music, so they must be doing something right!
PROS: Catalog is fairly deep and growing daily (according to Steve Jobs). Very, very easy to shop (too easy!) and beautiful to look at. Nice feature update to iTunes. ACC encoding supported on the iPod (finally!). Exclusive Apple tracks by top artists like U2, Eminem, and more. Price is fairly reasonable (99 cents per song, $9.99 per album).
CONS: Catalog limited to US releases from what I can tell... all of the domestic releases by a-ha are there, but none of their later releases are there. And there's no International section to purchase tunes from Germany, Japan, etc. Many albums are not complete, but seem to be missing tracks for some reason (Bananarama has ONE track from ONE album as the entirety of their listing??). Albums that ARE complete on the service, are not sold as complete albums (like John Mayer's Room for Squares). Several of the artists I was wanting to purchase are not there yet (Baltimora, Paul Oakenfold, and about 10 others).
Overall, a good effort on Apple's part. I enjoy the service immensely, and look forward to buying more music in the future (assuming the stuff I am looking for ever makes it to their service!). If you are a Mac user, you owe it to yourself to check this out... Windows users have to wait a while, because Apple won't release iTunes/Apple Music for those poor unfortunate souls until the end of the year.
Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2003
Minutes after Apple announced its new iChat AV software and accompanying iSight camera, I was online placing my order. I had tried video conferencing before, but it never really lived up to its promise, with crummy video and sound quality, rediculous hoops to jump through with IP addresses, link negotiation, and other nonsense... it just wasn't worth it. Leave it to Apple to get it right! So far, only one of my friends has iSight, so I've only done limited testing with it, but I like what I see so far.
Set-up involves sticking the camera to the back of my Cinema Display and plugging it in. That's it. It took a total of two minutes, and iChat AV popped up the instant the camera was activated. I saw Meagan was online and had her iSight on (thanks to little icons next to your buddies that let you know if the person has audio or audio/video capability). One click and a window came up that allows you to see yourself, check camera position, comb your hair (well, not mine, but whatever!), and you're off.
Audio quality is excellent and video quality is likewise very impressive (especially considering you can blow the image up to rediculous sizes and still have a pretty good picture, thanks to Apple's Quartz display rendering engine). The only problem seems to be with the camera white balance, which tends to run a little dark (or green under fluorescent light), but I'm sure Apple will fix this eventually (iChat AV is in beta and won't be finalized until later this year when MacOS X 1.3 Panther is released). p>
I've now ordered another couple of cameras for my home G4 Cube and my PowerBook, so I can be connected wherever I am with NO long distance charges! It's like something out of Star Trek! I highly recommend that anybody with a Mac and a broadband connection grab an iSight and see why e-mail is going to become obsolete for personal communications in the future. I just hope that spammers don't figure out a way to ruin iSight like they've done e-mail.
Posted on Saturday, June 28th, 2003
Well, Adriaan Tijsseling has done it again... His amazing Kung-Log blog posting app is now at version 1.5 and is ever so dreamy! We now get to preview entries using Apple's WebKit, which makes all the difference for me (as previews have never worked before for some reason). I can honestly say that this blog would not be possible if it weren't for this excellent app. Any MacOS X user who is even thinking about keeping a blog owes it to themself to take a look (and, for you poor Windows-using bastards, this is yet another good reason to make the switch to a Mac!). My donation is on the way... thanks Adriaan!
Posted on Saturday, June 28th, 2003
Hey now... people are actually reading this blog! Well, two of you at least. So, for Matt and Carol (and anybody else wanting to play around with iChat AV that doesn't mind looking at my face) my "buddy name" is email@example.com. The "mac.com" addresses for .Mac users can also work with AOL Instant Messenger, but you have to get the latest software, because earlier versions won't recognize iChat buddy names.
Helpful iChat AV Hint: Yes, it is a bit disorienting that you can't actually look each other in the eye when chatting (the camera would have to be in the middle of your display for that!), but you can make the shift slightly less annoying by putting the iChat window at the very top of your screen, as close to the camera as possible. I've kind of developed an "iChat-Head-Bob," whereas I look up directly into the camera on occasion so that the person I am iChatting with has more of an illusion that I am talking to them. After a while, I notice them doing it as well. It kind of becomes automatic when you have something particularly important or poignant to say, and makes the conversation all that more personable.
Boy do I love Apple for this new toy!
Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2003
When the upgrade to Apple's Final Cut 4.0 arrived, I was pretty impressed with some of the latest feature additions... then I stumbled upon the included Soundtrack application and was completely blown away! This amazing tool allows musically challenged videographers (like myself) to create complex, lush, brilliant musical scores with very little effort. It's just a matter of selecting various instrument loops from the included (and impressive) library and putting it all together. Start with a funky drum beat, add a synthesizer or two and some strings, and you're done! Even more impressive is that Soundtrack handles all the timing, so you can lengthen or compress the tracks to match cues in your video effortlessly. I was able to create a complete musical score for a 5 minute video that contains 27 tracks in just under an hour, and it sounds amazing. Yet another coupe for Apple that makes me so very glad I own a Mac. If you create video content, and don't have the luxury of hiring a composer to arrange a score for your project, then you need this incredible app!
Posted on Sunday, September 14th, 2003
I am Adobe's biggest fan... really I am. I cannot imagine how difficult my job would be if I didn't have Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesgin, GoLive, and the rest. But, all things considered, Adobe's response to technical issues sucks ass. Problems I have been begging to have fixed since Illustrator version 5 are still unresolved. And now I read that Illustrator version 11 is just about to be released, and find myself dreading what new problems will pop up (or still be unresolved from previous versions) that will make me want to open a can of whup-ass on the programming team (hey, they put their names on the start-up splash screen, so they're just begging for a beating!). Here's my top-six list of most irritating problems (a full list would fill this blog for days!)...
Allow me to turn off clipboard export. For years now I have been begging to be able to turn off clipboard export like you can in Photoshop.
Remember the print area and page size. Adobe will probably blame OS X for this, but I am really tired of opening a document, printing it, then finding out that it's been cut off because Illustrator "forgets" the page size.
Stop hanging from an app-switch. How much time have I wasted because every time I come into Illustrator from another app, Illustrator gives me the "spinning beach ball" cursor for up to two full minutes? I don't know, but considering every time you print a page, you have to temporarily switch from Illustrator, it adds up to a lot.
Fix the pen tool to remember path ends. This drives me insane... in Photoshop, if you place a point in the wrong spot and nudge it with the cursor, you can continue on as if nothing happened. In Illustrator, you place a new point after doing that and you start a new path. That's just dumb.
Fix the flattening engine. Now, I know that Illustrator has grown into a very complicated program with transparency modes, multi-node gradients, and such... but it's really a pisser to never know when you send to the printer exactly what's going to come out.
Give me the option of having Apple-H hide the program. This command-key shortcut should work like all the other Mac apps out there (Adobe programs excluded).
Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2003
So what do you do when your competition (Apple) releases a cool new 64 bit RISC chip and you (Intel) are still addling along with yesterday's CISC technology at 32 bits? Why that's easy... have your Chief Technology Officer come out and say that people aren't ready for 64 bits yet! If you think that makes Intel sound like a whiny bitch, I'd have to agree... and so does AMD, who already has their CISC stuff running at 64 bits. The really stupid thing is that Intel would have been better served by not saying anything... their Windows-using customers should be used to running crappy, outdated technology.
Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2003
I've never really been interested in how other people set up their desktop but, since I had somebody ask, I thought I'd put up a snapshot of mine just in case there's anybody reading this that is curious for some reason (I've got a 23" display, so I had to shrink it quite a lot... sorry!).
Everything is pretty basic, but I do have quite a lot of Konfabulator Widgets stuck here and there... I've got "Calendar," "What To Do?" list, "Where is It?" search bar, "easyKal" appointment lister, "Picture Frame," and seven copies of "The Weather" set for various cities around the globe (currently: Cashmere, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Edinburgh, Paris, and Tokyo). I've also got DragThing running along the left-hand side (it's a "must-have"), and LaunchBar going in the upper-right corner.
I used to have my desktop cycle through my photo album, but eventually gave that up as too distracting (preferring the less annoying Konfabulator widget instead). My current screensaver of choice is SereneScreen Marine Aquarium which is pretty darn special.
Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2003
Today deluded Windows users got a taste of Apple goodness when iTunes was released for the Wintel monopoly. It actually works really well and, in a surprise move, has complete functional parity with the Macintosh version. You can shop the Music Store, use AAC encoding, share your music over a network with Rendezvous, and even mix Macs and PCs in your shared computer list for purchased music on either platform... pretty cool. And if that wasn't enough, Apple has struck up a deal with Audible.com to sell audio books and will be giving away 100 million free songs in a cross-promotional deal with Pepsi come February (sounds like a great way to sell more iPods!).
Posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2003
Wouldn't it be nice if Bill Gates would just shut up? It seems every time I read an interview with him, he is either lying or revising history. In an article I just read at The Register, he's at it again:
"Gates is optimistic about meeting the challenge of the new security threats, he told reporters. "We have to. We invented personal computing. It is the best tool of empowerment there has ever been. If there is anything that clouds that picture, we need to fix it."
Excuse me? Microsoft invented personal computing? There can be a lot of answers to this question, depending on your definition of "personal computing," but it's pretty crazy that Microsoft would appear on anybody's list as the "inventor." I have always felt that everything that came before the Apple ][ (including the Microsoft-driven MITS Altair, which didn't even have a keyboard) wasn't really what we would call a "personal computer" today (perhaps "micro computing device" is a better term?), but I'm an Apple whore, so take that as you like it... most historians go all the way back to the Heathkit/Minivac/Simon era from the 50's & 60's when Microsoft didn't even exist (and neither did Bill Gates until 1955!). If Microsoft wants to take credit for inventing something in the industry... how about vaporware?
Posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003
For a couple of years now, I've relied on SpamCop to keep my mailbox relatively free from unwanted e-mails. Unfortunately, spammers must be getting smarter, because SpamCop is having a difficult time flagging spam anymore, and I get at least twenty in my inbox every day (to say nothing of the HUNDREDS I get each day that SpamCop manages to stop!). If this keeps up, I'm going to be forced to shut down my e-mail accounts and start from scratch. When is somebody going to start hunting down these asswipe spammers and killing them? Laws and threats don't seem to work, but perhaps knowing you might be murdered for sending spam would be a good enough deterrent to keep my inbox clean?
Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2003
I've been using the "gold master" build of MacOS X 10.3 "Panther" for the last couple of weeks, but became "official" today when my three copies arrived for my home, laptop, and work computers. "Sweet" doesn't even begin to cover how much I am loving this latest version of the MacOS!
Now for some people, the changes in Panther may seem mostly cosmetic and not worth the $129 upgrade cost... but that is hardly the case for me, I'd gladly pay that money just for being able to color-code my files again (a feature missing since I abandoned OS 9). Mark Pilgrim has a nifty overview of all things Panther from his blog that shows all you non-Panther-using Mac addicts what you are missing, and all you poor Windows-using suckers what you'll be getting in 2006 when Microsoft once again rips off Macintosh features for their next Windows release (which has the dippy code-name of "Longhorn").
Watching Apple's MacOS X progress in usability and elegance year after year just has me dumbfounded at why people are still clinging to the tragedy that is Microsoft Windows (which seems to get worse with each new bug-filled, virus-ridden version).
Posted on Sunday, November 2nd, 2003
Adobe tells you that "CS" stands for "Creative Suite," and is the coming together of Photoshop, Illustrator, GoLive, InDesign, and Acrobat 6 in a single bundle. After receiving my copy and playing with it for a while, I prefer to think of "CS" as standing for "Crappy Swindle."
First of all, I had already upgraded Acrobat 6 months ago for $149 so, when added to the $749 for CS, I've sunk a total of $898 into upgrades. The four non-Acrobat products can be upgraded for $169 each, plus the $149 for Acrobat, totaling $825... which means that Adobe owes me $73. Don't ask me where the money went, but I want either a refund or some kind of credit (odds are that somebody will be firing up a class action lawsuit, so that day may yet come).
And what do you get for the outrageous cash outlay? Well, the apps seem a bit more responsive under OS X, which is nice... and there's a few more features to be found (the 3-D stuff in Illustrator is especially welcome since Adobe has discontinued Dimensions). But overall, I am not impressed. The expanded Cascading Style Sheet functionality in GoLive is woefully inadequate, making it impossible to layout web page structure with CSS. What the hell? Macromedia Dreamweaver has done this for quite a while, so I just can't figure out why Adobe is so stupid not to add it. CSS is the future of the web, and Adobe is oblivious? This was the one big thing I was waiting for, and ends up being the biggest disappointment. I mean, sure you can style text, but that's all we get for $169? Photoshop doesn't offer many new features at all, but can now open RAW file formats which is kind of sweet (and, to me at least, is worth the upgrade cost).
There are numerous small problems I've run into already, which I've come to expect from Adobe upgrades, but nothing so major as to cause me to want to kill somebody (like the Illustrator 9 fiasco). Illustrator STILL doesn't have a way of disabling clipboard export (dumbasses, that's FIVE versions now!) or reconfiguring the "Apple-H" key to hide the app like EVERY OTHER APPLE OS X PROGRAM (okay, maybe I want to kill somebody for that one), but oh well.
When you register online, you get a free gift... I was hoping that it would be the MISSING f#@%ING MANUALS... but alas, it was not to be. Adobe has taken the Microsoft route, and stopped including them. Amazing that upgrades cost $40 more than last year, but you don't even get a printed manual anymore. Guess I'll be dashing off to Amazon in the hopes that Deke McClelland has written a book about the new CS apps.
Posted on Monday, November 3rd, 2003
I had a lot of work to catch up on tonight because I didn't put in as many hours as I should have over the weekend. As always, I have the television on as background noise, which helps me ignore the distractions that come from apartment living. Anyway, I was working along when all of a sudden I hear Pictures of You by The Cure playing... I look up and see that it's a commercial for HP's new ink-jet printers... one of the rare times that the music being played actually fits the product being sold.
Flash forward. It's now after midnight, and I can't get that song out of my head. The Cure was never one of my favorite 80's bands but there were a few songs by them that I really liked... Pictures of You being my favorite. Knowing that I'm never going to be able to sleep until I hear the complete song, I grab my PowerBook, go to the iTunes Music Store, then buy the song and listen to it three times so I can get it out of my system and get some sleep.
It suddenly occurs to me that this kind of instant gratification is exactly what the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) doesn't seem to understand. If the iTunes Music Store did not have the song I wanted, I would have started up LimeWire and downloaded it for free... NOT because I wanted to steal music (I absolutely do not), but because I've been given no choice in the matter. I live in a rural community where we don't have a Tower Records open 24 hours to go by a CD (not that I would have at 12:30am). Far better to offer entire music catalogs online for purchase than holding out in the hopes that online music will disappear.
Oh well. Luckily I could buy what I wanted and get a nice reminder of the 80's music I love without breaking the law and invoking bad karma! If you have iTunes (it's free!), and want a great song that typifies the sound of the 80's, go grab a copy of Pictures of You, which is well worth the 99¢ price tag.
Posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2003
I got a couple of e-mails asking me where I got the art for my Veteran's Day post yesterday. "Did you paint that?" Well, yes and no... I created it by altering a photo I took. It's really easy if you have a copy of Adobe Photoshop. All you have to do is find an image with good contrast (I like to zoom in close) and apply the "Dry Brush" and "Paint Daubs" artistic filters...
It takes seconds, and the results are pretty cool depending on how much (or how little) you intensify the filters. To see how it works, just click on the images below to have them open up in a new window as "Instant Art."
From left to right, top row: Me in Reykjavik, Cherub in the Vatican, Detroit Airport Corridor, Rome Tourist, Royal Guard. Bottom row: La Pieta, Dave's Foosball Table, Mini-Me, Rain in Gamla Stan, Venus.
Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2003
Maybe its because I've been here a number of times before, or perhaps I was Japanese in a past life or something... because every time I come back to Tokyo, I feel very much at home. Within minutes of arriving at my regular hotel in Akasaka, I was running off to see what's new in the area.
The first thing I noticed while on the limousine bus ride in from Narita, was that there is a BMW Motorcycle dealership just around the corner from Tameike-Sanno station (exit 9), so that was my first stop. It's a nicely appointed shop with a good selection of models (including a blue version of my beautiful F650-GS!), and about a dozen bikes in stock. Due to the insane Tokyo traffic, motorcycles are everywhere, and it's nice to know that pricey BMW motorcycles can make a home here given the massive number of Japanese bikes on the street.
Next I'm off to the very, very cool Apple Store Tokyo. Surprisingly, this store is not located in Akihabara, which is the electronics and computer district. It is instead located in Ginza, which is the high-fashion district. This makes it very clear that Apple is positioning Macs and iPods here not as electronic gizmos, but as fashion accessories that compliment your lifestyle. Given the high cost of real estate in the Ginza, I shudder to think how expensive this store must have been.
When I arrived, the store was jam-packed... apparently Japan doesn't have the fire codes we have in the States! The first floor is computers, the second is digital lifestyle apps and the Genius Bar, the third is a cool presentation theater, the fourth is software and accessories with an internet Bar, and the fifth is a training center (which you can only see if you pay for one of Apple's hands-on classes). All the floors are connected via two nifty glass elevators at the back of the store, for which there was quite a line-up to access.
In the above shot, you can see how the huge rotating Apple sign at the top makes the building stand out, even when you're down the street. Compared to some of the key stores in the US (like L.A.'s Galleria and New York's Soho stores), this is not a very big property. But for Japan, it's monster-sized, and easily one of the most impressive shopping experiences in the entire city. The wide-open spaces and minimalist decor is almost unheard of in space-impaired Tokyo, but since every available square foot is packed with people, I suppose it's probably a good thing. I really, really hope that the store's instant popularity translates into brisk sales, because this is a flagship Apple Store that deserves every success.