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Category: Software

February 10, 2009

Release!

ROS 0.4x500.jpg

One of the reasons this blog has been quieter this past year is that I've been working hard to help build our communications framework and toolchain for our robots at work. At long last we have our first real release: ROS 0.4. It's a stable release, but we weren't quite ready for a 1.0 designation as there's a little more we want to add before we're ready to put a bow on it. Our code has been out in the open on SourceForge from the start, but we're ready to finally commit to an API now that we've got some real robots doing real tasks on a day-to-day basis.

It's crazy to think that about a year ago it was just Morgan, Eric and I coming up with a next generation version of his Switchyard framework. Then Brian from Player came aboard and now there's open source repositories of ROS-enabled code at Stanford, CMU, and TUM. There's a lot in between, including the contributions of many more people, but it happens so fast.

December 3, 2008

Py3K, woot

My excitement at the release of Python 3000 is only tempered by the fact that it will be years before I can actually use it at work -- the curse of non-backwards-compatible upgrades (I already had to back-port my code from 2.5 to 2.4, with expected blowup in lines of code). I'm sad to see a stalwart like reduce() say farewell, but fixing unicode/bytes and super, changing zip/range/keys/values/etc... to return iterators, and extended iterable unpacking more than make up for the loss.

One note to the Web folks writing the Python 3000 release page: "This is a proeuction release" is an unfortunate typo.

September 22, 2008

Photoshop CS4 and Bridge CS4 Review

CS4 Review

My review is up on PhotographyReview.com

June 8, 2007

Useful Firefox tweak: paste multiple lines

FirefoxThis happens to me all the time: you have the address of where you need to be, e.g.

744 W Dana St
Mountain View, CA 94041

You want to paste that into a search bar so you can get a map, but, instead of being able to copy the whole thing, you have to copy and paste it line-by-line.

Sound familiar?

Lifehacker posted about a useful tweak for Firefox if you share this annoyance:

Type "about:config" in the location bar. In the "Filter" field type "singleline." You can set the value to 2 for editor.singleLine.pasteNewlines, which will allow pasting of multiple lines to input boxes.

May 10, 2007

Fix for my #1 Thunderbird headaches

thunderbirdI love Thunderbird as my e-mail client but there are two main grievances I have with it: * it's always ticked me off that you can make it show messages threaded, but if you click on any of the columns to sort your messages it immediately goes back to unthreaded. It then takes three clicks to get it back to threaded. * the default sort order for date should be chronological (so new items show at the top)

Today I can scratch both of those off the list, though only one with partial success. Mozilla blogger Chris Ilias documents the buried preference key that keeps the threaded view showing. You have to set the value of 'mailnews.thread_pane_column_unthreads' to false (under Tools->Options->Advanced->General->Config Editor).

As for making every folder displays in reverse chronological order by default, I was inspired by Chris' preference digging and found the right preferences: * mailnews.default_sort_order: set to 2 (1 is ascending, 2 is descending) * mailnews.default_sort_type: should already be set to 18 (date).

It's hard to tell if setting this key works because it doesn't retroactively apply to existing folders -- you're stuck having to fix their sort order manually. But in the future, this will be one of the first keys I switch when I install Thunderbird.

You can find more documentation of the sort preferences buried in this Bugzilla thread, though the author reverses the sortorder and sorttype documentation and not all of the preferences mentioned are in the release.

via Lifehacker

March 11, 2007

DELETED!

Norton Internet Security now takes my prize for worst software product, ever. I wasn't going to take the energy to write about this, but #3 below pushed me over the edge.

  1. Annoying renewal messages: This one is very annoying but is sadly par for the course. Presumably, you should be able to decide not to upgrade but continue using the old virus protection, right? But Norton penalizes you by popping up a renewal warning in the middle of the screen. You can choose to not see it again 15 days, but you can't say "never show this to me again." I could be misremembering, but I think for the first 30 days you could only choose to ignore it for 1 day.

  2. annoying.norton.jpgFlashing toolbar icon: Sometime after deciding that popup renewal messages weren't enough, Norton gave me the flashing toolbar icon of death. It's literally a flashing exclamation point on my toolbar tray. I thought I had a clever workaround -- I opened up my Windows preferences and set the icon to 'Always Hide'. But when I rebooted, it came back, it always comes back. I couldn't stand it always there flashing, and I couldn't give such an annoying software maker money, so I decided to uninstall.

  3. When you go to uninstall Norton Internet Security, it tells you that you have to login using the 'Supervisor' account, otherwise it won't let you uninstall. The login screen mocks you with an implicit message of, "You will never, ever get rid of my annoying messages unless you can guess the secret password." Let's be clear: I've never seen this 'Supervisor' account login before and it's not the same thing as your Windows administrator account. This is something that Norton cooks up as a final perverse twist. But I finally emerged victorious: I just had to leave the password blank.

Honestly, who says to themselves, "Gee, I really want to renew this annoying piece of software?" It is only through abject surrender I could imagine handing these idiots my money.

March 8, 2007

Photoshop CS3: two editions

I've been excited about upgrading to CS3 ever since I played with the B&W conversion tool. Combined with the filter layers and new edge refining tools, I'm sure it will be a huge timesaver for editing photos. I was also excited to later learn that CS3 will have support for 3D objects in it. Although I never seem to get the chance to work in 3D, the idea that you can drop in a 3D object and apply effects to it just like any other layer is pretty cool. But alas, Adobe is determined to compound the 'Photoshop' brand even further as there is now "Photoshop CS3" and "Photoshop CS3 extended." I doubt that I'll be able to afford CS3 extended. My current plan is to do a big upgrade to CS3 + Lightroom as my Photoshop 7 + Elements pipeline has faltered with the 8MP Canon 30D and 2GB flash cards. This will also probably require an upgrade to my motherboard, so I will need save cash however I can.

With Photoshop Lightroom on the way, that now means there will be: * Photoshop CS3 * Photoshop CS3 Extended * Photoshop Lightroom * Photoshop Elements * Photoshop Album

Granted, Lightroom, Elements, and Album are all distinct products, whereas the two CS3s are really the same thing with some features enabled/disabled.

February 2, 2007

Java 1.6 really is 20%+ faster

Java downloadIt's nice when you see performance claims hold up in your own use. I just installed Java 1.6 (a bit late to the game) and, sure enough, the load time of our application improved by 25%. We've been working on performance with this release, but we're thinking of just saving ourselves time by saying, "our new release takes advantages of new Java 1.6 features to improve performance by over 20%."

January 9, 2007

CS3 makes a difference

Omotesando Hills - Ando

The Photoshop CS3 black & white conversion feature is everything I hoped it would be. As a test, I did my normal B&W conversion routine for my Omotesando Hills photos using Photoshop 7 and the Channel Mixer. The lighting was fairly funky so each conversion took minutes.

Then I tried doing one photo using CS3's B&W tool -- it only took seconds and I had better control over the result. I had enough time left over that I played around with the Refine Edges tool to produce the cutout above. I still haven't really figured out the Refine tool -- its a bit complicated for all its power -- but there is some promise if I can master it.

January 7, 2007

Best Blogging Tool: iClip

iClipWhenever I needed to do a post with more than text I usually fired up Windows Live Writer, which I thought I was slick... up until I discovered that it was capable of producing some pretty ghastly broken HTML. Since then I've been taking my risks editing in ye ole' browser.

I am still doing that, but I've stumbled across a clever tool that has made some of the more repetitive tasks of blogging easier: iClip, which I picked up as part of the MacHeist promotion. iClip is very simple: it stores the last few things you've copied to your clipboard and lets you copy them back out. It comes with a sidebar that you can pop in and out as you need. This isn't novel -- Microsoft Office has had this feature for awhile -- but its the first time I've been able to use it system-wide, which is where it becomes much more useful.

How does it save me time? As you can see from my previous posts, I like to put a lot of photos in (usually from Flickr). Without iClip, I have to go to the page for one photo, copy the HTML, switch back to the blog entry compose tab, paste in the HTML for the photo, and repeat again for every photo in the post. With iClip, I can copy the HTML for several photos, then go to the blog compose page and paste them all in. This is a huge time saver. iClip can also save me time when I need to copy multiple links or copy a link and text for that link.

There are many other ways it can save time, but blogging ranks high among my most repetitive copy-and-paste tasks, so I'm glad to have a tool like iClip now. This has led to some OS juggling as I do all my photo-processing on my Windows desktop and then crack open my MacBook Pro to start the Flickr HTML copying. Someday this whole Flickr-blogging integration will work right (Vox is close, but not quite).

FYI: of the software I got with MacHeist, iClip is the only one seeing regular use, though I do occasionally fire up TextMate and hope to figure it out soon.

January 3, 2007

B&W Photoshop CS3 tutorial

I've done some very basic playing around with B&W conversions using Photoshop (since then, I've taken to using the Channel Mixer when lazy). All of those techniques seem to pale in comparison to the potential of CS3, as demonstrated by this Russell Brown CS3 B&W tutorial. The tutorial starts off basic enough, but wait until he shows off the click and drag adjustments.

December 21, 2006

I love the smell of icon controversy in the morning

adobe iconsWe got a sneak peek with the Photoshop CS3 announcement, but now that John Nack has announced all the new Adobe icons, we've got a good ole' icon war. Dave Shea's Icon't post recaps some of the classic icon design criticisms: uniform shapes, bad for the color blind, and icons are supposed to be so you don't have to read. John Nack isn't shying away from the criticism and you read more critiques and his response in his post. In case you need help decoding the icons, cdharrison has notes on Flickr.

December 19, 2006

Mac vs. PC

In the latest installment of Apple's Get a Mac ad series, Mac and PC put their differences aside (mostly). I was IM'ing with one of my co-workers earlier this week and, when the subject of my new Mac came up, I told him that I didn't really care anymore about OS X or XP; both seemed about the same for me. For every plus or minus for one, I could come up with an equivalent for the other, and it's hard to come up with problems that are fundamental or a condition of popularity. It's even harder now that the two use the same hardware. I drew up a short list of comparisons in the extended entry.

This isn't meant in attack/defense of either PCs or Macs. It's simply the realization that, for me, my ability to get stuff done is no longer impacted by what OS is installed on a machine. I recognize that for many, many people (e.g people who buy PCs from HP loaded with crapware, update: people who need Unix environments), this statement is not true, but I've spent the last two weeks working on both OSes interchangeably. Quite frequently, I've written a bit of code on one, checked it in, and then immediately picked up where I left off on the other. I've done the same with blog posts, e-mail, videos, and feeds.

Perhaps this is a recognition of the preeminence of Web apps, or perhaps it means that the two have copied each other enough that the differences become harder to notice. Regardless, it's nice not to care anymore.

Continue reading "Mac vs. PC" »

December 15, 2006

Photoshop CS3! (Beta)

Photoshop cs3The Photoshop CS3 Beta site is live now. You can take the new Mac/PC betas for a spin and, yes, there is a Mac version Universal. Anyone is free to try, though to go beyond a 2-day trial you need a CS2 serial number.

So what's cool about CS3? The best roundup of links I've run across so far is at John Nack on Adobe. I'm personally excited by smart/live filters, which lets you add filters as layers -- I've loved using adjustment layers and smart/live filters is a necessary addition for that style of workflow (lossless compositing, rather than sequential modifications). You can even add a mask to these filters.

I'm also excited by the new black and white conversion tool (implemented as an adjustment layer). I've used the Channel Mixer to do conversions when lazy, but this looks like a much more precise tool. You get more channels to mix across and tinting (hue/saturation) tools.

Here's PhotoshopUser's top ten list of new features. There seem to be a lot of great features targeted at making compositing easier: auto align, auto blend, quick select/refine edges, cloning/healing updates.

One thing really stunned me about CS3: they didn't change any keyboard shortcuts! Maybe Adobe forgot who it was after it acquired Macromedia, but regardless, I'm happy to not have to print out a list of keyboard shortcuts to refamiliarize myself. You can find the very short list of new shortcuts here.

CS3 does overhaul the user interface, which I will refrain commenting on until I actually try it. At the very least, you can revert the behaviors to CS2-style without much trouble.

December 11, 2006

Things I Like: Democracy

Democracy: Internet TVI was going to include the Democracy video player on the list of things I really liked about moving to OS X, and then I found out that it's actually been available for Windows as well. It looks and acts like an OS X application, so I guess I can continue to lump it into that category.

I've complained about video podcast playback in iTunes before, but I haven't been able to be that constructive about it. I know that it wasn't working for me, but I couldn't describe what would be better. Democracy is what is better.

Everything about the application made sense to me. It was really easy to subscribe to vodcasts, and it was really easy to download videos I had uploaded to Youtube and Google -- double bonus. Simple to discover, find, download, and watch -- that's pretty darn good.

October 26, 2006

Adobe Soundbooth Beta

Adobe Labs has put up Adobe Soundbooth Beta for people to try out. In the increasing trend towards pro A/V tools for novices, Soundbooth is an audio-editing application targeted for whom Audition has a bit too many levers.

Soundbooth is billed as a brand new application, but it has its roots in past business actions by Adobe. Adobe acquired Syntrillium in 2003 and turned Cool Edit Pro into Adobe Audition. Adobe then acquired Macromedia in April of 2005, several months after Macromedia discontinued its SoundEdit 16. Soundbooth claims to be "built in the spirit of Sound Edit 16 and Cool Edit", which is a bit funny given that Adobe Audition is built on Cool Edit.

September 29, 2006

iTunes 7.0.1: There goes the library

iTunes 7.0.1 just nuked my entire library. And to think I was so happy that they might have fixed some of the bugs I mentioned in my iTunes 7.0 review. Way to go Apple!

Update: When iTunes nuked my library, it move my "iTunes Library.itl" file to "iTunes Library (Damaged).itl". I copied the "iTunes Library (Damaged).itl" back over to "iTunes Library.itl" and my library was back again. Hell if I know what made iTunes 7 go crazy.

September 26, 2006

iTunes 7: likes, peeves

Update: the iTunes 7.0.1 upgrade nuked my entire library

I've upgraded most of my machines to use iTunes 7 with some good and some bad results. It's clear that this is a buggy release, which is problematic in my opinion because you have to upgrade in order to continue purchasing videos on the iTunes Store. A co-worker of mine had her entire library disappear when she upgraded on her Mac (her daughter got a new Nano). My bugs have been far less severe, though a trifle annoying. I prefer to sit out Apple's first version of any hardware or software product, but I disregarded my own advice and upgraded anyways because I wanted some free ABC episodes.

Cover Artwork

I love the new cover artwork views, at least the the static, non-CoverFlow ones. I'm not sure that the flipbook is going to be terribly useful, though it does look neat and better approximates that physical act of browsing music. I appreciate the fact that iTunes lets me download album covers now, but it's a feature that's still evolving -- I've found that they have been adding new album artwork over time (Q: Does the automatic download feature actually work? I see no evidence that it does).

I have two peeves with the new tech, though. 1) I've had it download the wrong cover artwork for a White Stripes album and the "Clear Downloaded Artwork" option did nothing.  2) As you can tell in the screenshot below, it does covers by artist name, not album name. This means that for Moby's 18, for example, the 18 tracks get broken into four separate listings. Is there any way to fix this other than editing the artist name?

Media Reorganization

I like the fact that the movies view of iTunes 6 has been given an upgrade. It looked nice in iTunes 6, but it was a bear to use. It is much easier to browse videos now that you have the list, list with covers, and CoverFlow views. However, I did run into one problem: there are now views for TV shows and movies, but not vodcasts. Some of my vodcasts were marked 'movies' (e.g. zefrank's The Show) while others were not.

Video Playback

Why does iTunes play video in the tiny 'Now Playing' postage stamp by default? Also, why does pausing a video in full-screen playback cause it to disappear?

Mini Store

I wasn't going to note my inability to figure out how to turn this off -- for about five minutes, because I didn't read their three paragraphs of text in full -- but then I saw that even the people at TUAW had a similar gripe.

Accidental Features?

I ran the "Check for Purchases" feature because iTunes didn't finish downloading three tracks. When I did this, I found that my iTunes downloaded a music track that I had purchased (for free) a long, long, time ago. I know this was an accident on their part -- somehow or another they didn't mark the download for that track as complete -- but clearly Apple has the capability to let me resync my purchases via the iTunes Store (as if this wasn't obvious) instead of clumsily backsyncing from my iPod.

September 25, 2006

New Lightroom and Aperture

Photokina brings two good software announcements for digital photographers: Lightroom Beta 4 and Aperture 1.5. My Windows workflow means that it will be Lightroom B4 that I'll be giving a go -- my previous experience didn't wow me, but I'm willing to see if this latest rev is gentler on my CPU. Apple claims that Aperture will even run on Intel Mac minis, so my expectations are higher for Lightroom now.

September 9, 2006

Firefox 2 Beta 2

I'm testing out the new Firefox 2 Beta 2. Back in the Phoenix/Firebird days, I used to download nearly every update to test out, but I've been so darn happy with the 1.x series of Firefox builds that I haven't had much reason to (except for a crashy Firefox 1.5.0 release). I find the updated look a little cramped looking, even though everything is about the same size as before, but otherwise I'm very happy with the release. I wrote the most of this review a week and a half ago, but I wanted to sit on it until I had some time to judge the stability of the release: I'm used their their betas crashing daily, but I've only had a crash or two out of this one.

There's nothing in Firefox 2 that's really ground breaking, but it does bring the best of the plugins out there and makes them part of the default browser. Although I think this may anger a plugin developer or two, overall I think it's a great model for a software application: don't bloat your releases with new features; instead, have a good plugin model that makes it possible to test new features out in the wild and select the best to become part of your next major release. Firefox 2 represents the best of Firefox 1.x plus the best Firefox 1.x plugin features, which makes for a great browser.

  • Phishing detection: I love the fact that they are making this built in. I haven't had any trouble with phishing, but I know other members of my family do, and I'm always excited to be able to give them software that eliminates a hassle. The phishing detection puts a big 'ole warning sign on top of the page and should save many people from having to cancel their credit cards.

  • Built in session saver: My browsing habits changed the day I got the first SessionSaver plugin. I could keep a lot more tabs open without having to spend part of everyday bookmarking or clearing them off because I was worried that my browser was going to crash. Or I would have to do the same because some stupid Windows Update was requiring that I reboot my computer, so I would have to close Firefox. Firefox recognized that session saving was just too darn good to not be part of the standard browser.

  • RSS/Atom feed enhancements: Firefox 2 has a new built in viewer for RSS and atom feeds that makes the feed more human-readable and also makes it very easy to subscribe using Firefox's Live Bookmarks, Bloglines, My Yahoo, or Google Reader. One possible complaint is that it overrides Feedburner's fancy feed display which does effectively the same thing. There is a case to be made for uniformity, but with this version of the Firefox implementation I think that Feedburner's still looks nicer -- Firefox's is better for actually subscribing, as it can remember which feed reader you prefer.

  • Spell checking as you type: I've always found the Firefox SpellChecker plugin a bit annoying to use. It was always a more difficult plugin to install and it didn't survive Firefox upgrades very well. It also didn't do spell checking as you typed; you had to select it from a right-click menu. I hope to have many less spelling errors in my blog entries now that Firefox 2 adds the familiar squiggly red underlines to its text fields.

  • Autocomplete from the search box: Firefox will pop down some suggested search queries as you type into the upper-right search box. This only works when you have the answers.com, Yahoo, or Google search engines selected; there are no suggestions for Amazon, eBay, or Creative Commons. Previously I had only seen this as a plugin from Google for Google searches.

  • Opens new windows in tabs by default: I hate it when a link pops open a new window on my screen and disrupts my carefully organized tabs and now Firefox embraces tabs fully with this new default functionality.

With the exception of the fact that most of your plugins won't work with the release -- though you won't need many of them with the new builtin features -- I give the 2.0 beta a thumbs up. It doesn't seem the future of Web browsing -- Flock is much more of a preview in that area -- but it does represent a selection of the best current Web browsing trends.

August 16, 2006

Review: Adobe Lightroom Beta for Windows, Need More Power!

LightroomI was excited by the announcement that the Adobe Lightroom Beta had been released for Windows. I had been jealous of the Mac platform, which saw the arrival of both Aperture and Adobe Lightroom in fairly quick succession, whereas the Windows platform strangely had no product really targeted at the SLR-amateur-to-pro category. I was also excited because I am currently sitting under a mountain of photos -- 2000+ to be exact -- as I've been one of the 'official' photographers for two weddings this month, and I also have two cycling races and my photos from my Japan trip (in May!) to process.

Aperture and Lightroom are both photo workflow apps and, as far as I know, they are the first of their kind. After watching the positive results of anthropological studies of workflow at PARC, I have been really excited to try out these apps that claim to be the result of workflow studies on digital photographers. Granted, they targetted pros, but I hoped to reap the benefit, and perhaps even learn a thing or two about my process.

There is quite a lot to optimize in a digital photography workflow: if I only spent 1 second processing each of the 730 photos I took at the wedding last weekend, it would still take me over 10 minutes to go through them all. More realistically, it takes 1-5 seconds to decide whether or not to process a photo -- even longer if you have to decide which shot is the best out of several takes -- and another three minutes (my average) to process the selected photos. Anything software can do to either be faster, batch process, or get out of the way can provide huge time savings, which can either be used to enjoy life, or process even more photos.

What follows is a review, but with the caveat that as this really is a beta product, so perhaps a better call this 'feedback'.

Continue reading "Review: Adobe Lightroom Beta for Windows, Need More Power!" »

Sharpcast Beta review

sharpcast.gifI've spent several hours checking out Sharpcast Photos and thought I'd post my initial thoughts. Sharpcast has a great syncing technology, which they've chosen to showcase by deploying a photo-sharing solution with both Web and Windows clients. You can install Sharpcast on multiple machines in order to easily share your photos between them, and you can also share albums with specific people.

This isn't quite a review because I believe that utility of Sharpcast will largely depend on business model decisions that haven't been made yet: Sharpcast is more alpha than beta, as you are limited to 2GB of storage and the future pricing and limits are unclear. Case in point, Flickr offers me 2GB/month of photo upload (at a price), which guarantees its long-term usefulness for me; Sharpcast's 2GB total is nothing more than a toy to play with for a couple of months. I understand the need to not have to build up a massive storage farm just yet, but I take over 2GB of photos at a single wedding.

"Sharpcast Photos is optimized for accessing, sharing, and backing up photos." I kept this in mind when checking it out so that my comments would be contexted to the intended product. I also kept in mind my dad and my sister, because if I'm going to share, I should be able to share with my family (Flickr is not so strong in this regard).

So, going on the three activities that Sharpcast does list -- accessing, sharing, and backing up -- I've recorded my thoughts, followed up with a list of some peeves I had with the UI along the way.

Continue reading "Sharpcast Beta review" »

August 15, 2006

Testing out Windows Live Writer

Despite the terrible "Windows Live" branding, I'm giving the new Windows Live Writer beta a test shot with my blog. So far, it's very slickly done.

Although I've learned a lot of personal workflow habits to try and streamline the process of blogging, any blog entry involving an image takes me far too much time. I have to download the image I want to the computer I'm posting from. Then I have to upload it to my Web server, then I have to copy in the HTML for the image to where I want it in the post. Then I usually have to go back and re-edit the entry because the image isn't aligned or sized how I want it.

I immediately had to try Writer out When I saw that it allows you to easily insert, align, and resize photos from your computer and automatically upload them using the newMediaObject API (supported by MovableType). I used it to place the little Window Live icon above and then had a happy suprise when I inserted a photo you see to the right: Writer automatically rotated the image into portrait layout. That's a subtle touch, but an important one.

There are other subtle touches that give me confidence that this is a good product:

  • The image manipulation controls get the job done well: there are image sizing presets you can click on for quick resizing, or you can manually drag the image to the size you want; you can easily select photopaper or drop shadow borders; you can easily align and rotate an image; and there are basic image effects you can apply, like sepia tone, sharpening, and brightness;
  • Writer still managed to figure out the CSS styles from MovableType 2.x template and use them in the compose window.
  • Writer breezed through the setup process with my blog. It seems simple enough to use the RSD data embedded in MovableType blogs, but after trying out Performancing and ecto, I can say Microsoft did a better job.
  • You can hit F12 to switch to HTML entry mode, which reveals that Writer is using relatively clean HTML markup.
  • If you cut and paste text with HTML links it it (e.g. from a Web browser), those links are preserved.
  • You can easily apply the 'tag' or 'nofollow' attributes to a link.

There are a probably couple of bugs, which is expected for a beta. The category selector can't handle a large number of categories, so I can't put this entry in the 'Web stuff' category, text focus doesn't return to the composition window like it should after you click on an action in the right pane like 'Insert link,'   tags are used unnecessarily, and Writer confusing refers to previous published entries as 'drafts' if you go back and edit them.

Right now I rate Writer as a 'good' blogging client rather than 'great' blogging client, though I don't think it's far from that higher rating. If it came out in 2005, it would have probably knocked my socks off, but a 2006 blogging client needs to do more than just type text and insert photos from your computer -- it needs to be able to tie in all your media into one blogging platform. It should be integrated with your photo blog (e.g. Flickr), video blog (e.g. Youtube, Google Video) and your links (e.g. del.icio.us), and it needs to be able to easily insert product thumbnails from Amazon; in other words, it needs to be more like Vox and Flock. I like Writer enough, though, that I think I'm going to use it for my next few entries.

July 20, 2006

Adobe Lightroom beta, now for Windows

A Windows version of Adobe Lightroom beta is at last available. Lightroom is a photo-editing and organizing software package aimed at the SLR crowd: this Apple Aperture, but free (at least until January 2007). I look forward to trying it out when I get back from Comic-Con. I've got a lot of photos to process in my backlog.

Adobe Lightroom Beta

May 24, 2006

del.icio.us Adobe

The good folks at Adobe have signed up for a del.icio.us account and are populating it with links related to Adobe products, such as Photoshop tutorials. It's a work in progress, but isn't that useful?

del.icio.us/adobe

April 10, 2006

Switching to Tab Mix Plus

tabmixplus.jpgI've replaced my Firefox SessionSaver plugin with TabMixPlus. SessionSaver was a lifesaver many a time, especially when I have about 20 tabs open with articles I haven't read, blogged, or bookmarked yet. The main problem with SessionSaver that it apparently has a memory leak. That's a sin I can forgive as long as it's the only game in town, but now TabMixPlus has come along with all of SessionSaver's tab-saving functionality plus:

  • tab reordering
  • a close button on every tab
  • the option to change ctrl-tab to cycle through most recently used tabs instead
  • reopen that tab you didn't mean to close
  • fiddle around with link opening, tab closing, and other tab behaviors
  • claims to not have the same memory leak as SessionSaver
  • loading bars on individual tabs
  • unread tabs marked in read

TabMixPlus is essentially a variety of tab-related plugins (SessionSaver, UndoCloseTab, etc...) all rolled into one. I've used it for several days and have liked what it has to offer, though the huge set of functionality does make it more complicated and you'll probably have to fiddle around with some configuration menus that are almost as long as all of Firefox's.

January 17, 2006

Latest software updates

With three separate computers, it takes a lot for a piece of software to make it onto all three. Software that makes it easier to install on all three or keep all three in sync definitely get bonus points. Here are the ones that have recently passed the grade:

  • Google Pack: I burned a DVD every year to install a bunch of software on my dad's computer while I'm there for Christmas. It turns out that nearly everything I usually include is on the Google Pack: Google Earth, Picasa, Google Desktop, Acrobat Reader, Ad-Aware, and Firefox. It can even install Trillian. Best feature: one program to install them all, one program to find them, one program to bring them all and in oldness to update them. Worst feature: Norton Antivirus only comes with a six-month subscription.
  • Folder Size: Adds a column to show you how large a folder is in Windows Explorer. It's a simple program to win that game of, "Why Am I Out of Diskspace?"
  • Foxmarks: it's a buggy beta, but it's something I need. del.icio.us holds on to most of my bookmarks, but I still have quite a few bookmarks I need to keep inside my browser. The 'synchronization' feature ends up putting a lot of empty separators in my bookmark folders, but these can easily be deleted.
  • Foldershare: It lets me keep a folders synchronized between multiple computers. I find placing files in a folder the simplest metaphor for sharing between two computers and it requires the least effort to maintain.

January 10, 2006

Adobe Lightroom

It's exciting to see Adobe announced their Aperture competitor, Lightroom, though it might be awhile before I can evaluate it seeing as the Windows version is lagging. But with those tasty Intel Macs coming out, who knows?

Glancing at the first looks, my hunch is that Lightroom has the advantage. Although it's clear that both products have had a long germination, Lightroom will be able to learn from the lessons of Aperture before a final product is released. Even with the beta release it's clear that Lightroom will be less of a resource hog than Aperture, allowing it to run on laptops (ln m says it even runs on his old TiBook). Adobe also has far more experience with image processing, especially with RAW conversion. The poor RAW conversion was one of the biggest complaints about Aperture, and certainly an Achilles' Heel for a professional product.

According to postings on their discussion board, it sounds like the Mac version came out first because they were able to leverage some OS X capabilities that won't exist in Windows until Vista, but who knows. Releasing a free Adobe Lightroom beta to compete against a $499 Aperture, which has enough bugs to be a beta product, and it sounds like a great strategy to me. I hope that the final pricing for Lightroom ends up being low. There's really not that much difference in overall functionality from a product like Photoshop Elements or Bridge. A lot of the difference is which audience the UI is being targetted at. UI is worth paying for, but I'd rather buy a new lens for my camera.

January 2, 2006

Review: Picasa - good stuff

picasaI installed Picasa on my dad's computer to help him manage all the digital photos that he's been taking and I am impressed. I'm not impressed because Picasa has better features that Adobe Photoshop Elements, Aperture, or any other photo management software out there. In fact, the features of Picasa are fairly streamlined to include only the most basic photo retouching capabilities.

The reason I am impressed is that it's one of the few pieces of software that my dad was comfortable and competent with almost immediately. My dad is a complete computer novice who doesn't use his computer for much more than writing letters, surfing the Internet, and balancing his checkbook. To see him immediately latch onto the red eye tool, retouch several photos, and then print them with only minimal assistance is a great accomplishment in user interface design. Importing photos from the camera was also a snap because Picasa doesn't really care how you import the photos -- it finds them automatically -- so it doesn't really matter which of the numerous import options Windows pops up he chooses, it will probably work, i.e. Picasa gets around Windows' lack of usability.

There are still some features that my dad had trouble with. The selection tools for cropping and red-eye correction gave him some fuss, it's hard to tell which options you have selected on some menus (the highlight around a selected button is too faint), and the button layout is a bit inconsistent, including the placement of the OK/Cancel options. However, Picasa doesn't edit the photos directly, so it's hard to do permanent damage.

Picasa most directly compares to iPhoto. Photoshop Elements 4.0 and Aperture have more features but require more computer-savvy users. Picasa is much faster than iPhoto and I believe it's UI is a better design for photo-editing and browsing, but you'd never really have to choose because Picasa is only for PCs. So, if your parents have a PC and you want to get them good, free, photo-management software, or you love iPhoto and are stuck on a PC, you may want to give it a shot. It will be better than the crap that comes with your digital camera.

December 22, 2005

Installing and testing Performancing for Firefox extension

I'm testing out my installation of the Performancing for Firefox
extension. It's a Firefox 1.5 plugin that lets you write blog entries directly in your browser. I'm not entirely sure on the advantage of this as my personal #1 reason for wanting to use a blog editor is so I don't lose my edits when Firefox crashes. I'm not sure Performancing handles this, but at the very least it is better than using the QuickPost button.

It was a bit of a hassle to install, so for all of you out there that are trying out Performancing with MovableType 3.2 and getting 'login error', here's what you might need to do:

1) Login to MovableType and go to your author profile page (the one that lets you set your password. you can get to it by clicking on Authors->yourloginname).
2) Set the API password
3) When Performancing asks you for the AppKey, leave it blank. When it asks for your username and password, use the API password you just set instead of your normal password.

If you don't know what your API URL is, go to http://yourblog/rsd.xml. The URL will be listed there as 'apiLink' next to "MetaWeblog."

December 5, 2005

Results-Oriented UI

I didn't realize that the style of interaction in the upcoming Office 12 had a name: "results-oriented user interface." I learned it's name and more from Jakob Nielsen's alertbox column on What You Get is What You See (WYGIWYS). According to Nielsen, Word 2003 has over 1,500 commands. A results-oriented interface says screw these basic commands that you can't locate anyway -- you tell me what you want and I'll put together the variety of commands necessary to do that. The Office 12 screenshots are my first exposure to this approach and I've liked what I've seen so far, but full judgement comes when I can actually play with it.

November 25, 2005

Upgraded to Photoshop Elements 4.0

photoshop.elements.jpgI've been a devout user of Photoshop Album for organizing my photos, but my copy was getting a bit old and I've been looking to ditch it for something faster and with improved organizational features. I took advantage of the Black Friday discounts to get a copy of Photoshop Elements 4.0 packaged with Premiere Elements 2.0 for $50. I skipped Photoshop Elements 3.0 because, even with the 'stacks' feature, it wasn't worth $100 to upgrade from Album.

I only care about the organizational features of Elements -- I do all my edits in Photoshop -- and so far the upgrade has been worthwhile. Several things stood out immediately (NOTE: the Mac version is very different from the Windows version): * Most important 'feature': faster browsing performance. It's hard to organize your photos if you can't quickly scan through them. * Stacks and version sets let you group similar shots and different edits, respectively. Very nice. * Tags are now stored within the image so that it is easier to share that metadata with others. * The biggest timesaver will probably be "Find Faces for Tagging." The name says it all -- it scans your selected photos, finds faces, and then lets you tag them. The tagging interface for faces is much improved over the generic tagging interface. It keeps tracks of your most recently used tags so that you don't have to keep scanning over all your tags to find the ones you need. I used it on some wedding photos and it almost did too good of a job picking out everyone in the dance photos. * The documentation notes that there is a Photomerge utility, which has to be better than the one that Canon gives you, but I have not tried it out yet.

The only disappointment so far is that it is less well-integrated with Photoshop than Album is. Album doesn't have a builtin editor so they made it very easy to do your advanced processing with other applications. Although Elements allows you to do external editing as well, it appears to be much less smart than before. It doesn't notice when you've finished external edits and it tries to import the edits as new photos instead of new versions of the original.

Elements is not a bad photo-editing tool, so I don't know how much I'll hate upon it. I'm planning to move to Photoshop CS2, which includes it's own photo workflow features, so it may not matter too much in the long run. I may just end up using Elements to organize and CS2 to edit, but this will take some time and money (to buy CS2) to sort out.

I'll end this quick impressions review noting that the Amazon reviewers don't seem happy with the new version, with several complaining that they prefer Photoshop Elements 3.0. I've never really used the previous versions of Elements, so my ignorance in this case appears to be bliss.

November 23, 2005

CS2: Smart Object and Layer Comps

I just got a copy of Photoshop CS2 at work so that I could do some software UI mockups. I've already discovered two features they've added since Photoshop 7 that are huge timesavers for this type of work.

Layer Comps: With mockups I often have to toggle different layers on and off to show different steps or variations. "Here is a mockup with the button to the left and here is one with the button below," or "Here is the first step where the user types in, 'I want a pony,' and here is the next step where the results for ponies are returned." Layer comps let you save the current state of your layers so you can easily switch between the different variations all within one Photoshop file. These presets let you save the visibility, position, and styles of each layer.

You can access Layer Comps by going to Window -> Layer Comps. Here is a tutorial on using Layer Comps.

Smart Objects: In UI mockups you often have a lot of repeating elements. You may have the same set of buttons appear four times on a screen and if you want to change the appearance of one of the buttons you used to have to edit all four copies. With Smart Objects you can edit the original and have all the copies update. Smart Objects also keep all the original data, so you could paste in a photo, shrink it down to 10x10 and then later decide to resize it to 100x100. I'm told that this is the same as the 'Place' feature that other Adobe products have had for some time now, which makes me wonder what took them so long to put such a useful feature into Photoshop.

There are a lot of different ways to create Smart Objects. You can use File->Place to create a Smart Object from another file. You can also select a bunch of layers and group them together into a Smart Object.

October 10, 2005

Quick thoughts

No time, no time, some rapid fire rants and praise:

The good

Zimbra: I just check out their demo of their Web-based e-mail/calendar suite and it has some great stuff that makes me think, "why haven't more companies done that?" If there's an address in an e-mail you can mouse over and it pulls up a Google Map and if you mouse over a date reference ('tomorrow', 'Aug 20') it shows your schedule for that day. It's all about saving that extra step. The rest of the UI is pretty fancy and desktop-like, but I'm no longer sure why desktop-like is a plus.

Microsoft Max: A Microsoft product that I actually had fun with, though I have no idea why I would use it on a regular basis and the UI is confusing in all its modalities. I can't think of any other Microsoft product that I thought of as fun -- most just cause me to break DVDs (others agree). The feature I most enjoyed was the mantle, which arranges your photos in 3D space. (Examples: my nephew, Pinnacles, Red Bull). It looks great and it also lets you view more photos in less space. You can rearrange the clusters that it creates, but the ones it chose seemed intereresting. Side note: are the clusters in the mantle view randomly assigned? Some of their clusters are great, some make little sense, but overall it's a nice new spin on things.

iPod nano: strap one of those to the back of my cellphone and another to the back of my PSP. Slide another into my Elph case and ... oh, now I'm getting greedy.

Lost: is there anyone in the 18-35 demographic not watching this show? Everyone at the wedding was either watching the new episodes or catching up with the DVDs.

The maybe good

PSP + TV: The head of Sony says that soon you'll be able to watch video using the wireless capabilities of the PSP and sync with your DVR. Sounds pretty cool but I won't jump for joy unless I hear "TiVo."

The almost good

Google Desktop ate my CPU: I had to uninstall because the new Google Desktop decided that 99% of my CPU was quite nice to utilize, even when instructed to pause indexing. Rather unfortunate as there were some aspects of the sidebar I liked, even if it was ugly. You can tell that it's paying attention to what you're doing and trying to help and with a couple iterations I could imagine it becoming a great product, but not quite yet.

The probably ugly

Google Reader: davextreme pulled me aside during the wedding reception to let me know that Google had released a feed reader, news that I have been waiting to hear for a long time. Less than 24 hours is not enough to evaluate a feed reader properly -- for now I'll say that it's slick, but who wants to read through your feeds one entry at a time. BoingBoing alone has 20-40 entries a day -- even with keyboard shortcuts that means I have to hit 'j' 20-40 times to read just one site, at which point I want to rent a helper monkey to break up the monotony.

The ugly

iTunes 5.0 (Windows): can't seem to play a song without skipping and the 'streamlined' UI makes me wish for ole' big and bulky.

Flickr + Yahoo: the extra year of service plus two free giveaway accounts were nice presents, but Flickr still goes out for massages all the time and I don't want my Flickr ID linked to my Yahoo! ID.

TiVo: what the hell are they up to? I love my three TiVos, but their current directions have been entirely pro-broadcasters and anti-consumer. It's a very capable platform that they try to do less and less with every day. Why can't I play shows on my PSP? Why can't I share episodes with friends? Why is TiVo Desktop so buggy? Why why why?

September 13, 2005

Stuff from Microsoft that actually seems cool

I hadn't been the least bit interested in anything Microsoft was doing for quite some time. After seeing some of the laughably bad screenshots for the next version of Microsoft Window, which were mostly bad (and ugly) attempts to copy OS X, I was convinced that they had no clue what they were doing (especially the horribly bad transparencies).

I'm still not sold on the next Windows, but two applications they previewed today seem like they might be interesting. First, there's Microsoft Max, which is a photosharing tool notable for the fact that it has some rather nice looking 3D layouts. I haven't tried it out, though, so it's hard to say whether or not it will be an impressive offering.

What did sell me on some future Microsoft tech is the Office 12 revamp. Office 12 is a major, major overhaul. The focus of this release seems more on improving the usability of features, rather than bogging it down with more useless features. Instead of the cluttered menu bar of the past, they have reorganized everything in tabs that change a toolbar at the top. For example, there is an 'insert' tab that you can click on that fills you top toolbar with things like "table" and "header" and "chart." The coolest bit I think is that when you hover over an option, you get an instant preview of it in the page. If you hover over a font choice, for example, your entire page appears in that font. If you hover over a 3x3 table, you see a 3x3 table in your page. I can see this as being a big timesaver.

word-inserttab.png

The Office 12 UI redesign also demonstrates a better, though not perfect, understanding of Fitt's Law (basically, the smaller something is and the further away it is the harder it is to select with a mouse). The new toolbar has much larger selection buttons and there are new "floaty" menus that appear above selected text in Word. These floaty menus contain the most common commands like bold and underline. An interesting behavior they added is that the menu fades away if you move your mouse away from it.

Screenshots taken from here. Words and still photos don't really convey the differences though, so if you have the time you can check out the Office 12 video (skip past the first 10 minutes or so).

August 22, 2005

New Google Desktop

Even though every tech site on the Internet has already dissected this, I would be remiss in not mentioning the new Google Desktop 2.0 Beta. I was underimpressed with the first Google Desktop as it was lacking in Google's core strength: it did not return good search results. I hope the new version does, but if it doesn't there are a lot more competitors in this space now that I can try out.

The feature I'm most pleased to see is Quick Find, which appears to be a direct copy of Quicksilver. I've long wished for a descent PC equivalent of this Mac-only tool and perhaps this will be it.

The most noticeable new feature is the 'sidebar', which appears to be a copy of the sidebar that has appeared from time-to-time in betas of the next version of Windows (Longhorn). I have previously discussed how many of Google's current moves (Desktop search, GMail) are better understood in the context of Longhorn. All Microsoft has to do is put up search boxes that use their own search technologies and the average user will be too laxy to go to Google.com.

Google has two strategies that it can use to counter this threat: * make sure their own search box is there (the Google Desktop strategy) * own the data that the user is trying to search (the GMail strategy)

These two strategies make sense and, with the frequently announced delays to Longhorn, Google has plenty of time to stake their territory.

I just didn't realize that there was a third strategy: copy Microsoft's ugly, space-hogging sidebars.

July 12, 2005

One of those days

Found this little animation on Waxy that pretty much describes what it's like whenever I have to use a particular, unnamed piece of software: animation

The furious pounding of the keyboard while the head tilts backwards, releasing an anguished scream, is completely accurate.

June 24, 2005

Awesome software

del.icio.us Director: del.icio.us has been improving its features for creating and tagging bookmarks, but it hasn't done much to make it easier to find those bookmarks later. Director pretty much gives me everything that I would expect in terms of browsing and searching my bookmarks.

Scrapbook for Firefox: makes it super easy to collect and compose images and text you find on Web pages. Normally I have to keep track of dozens of tabs when I researching a topic or holding onto articles. Now I can just save what I want into an easy-to-manage pane.

June 16, 2005

Icon freakage

Some reviews for Adobe CS2 have complained about how unintuitive the latest incarnations of the suite's icons are:

icons

They're cute -- but what the hell is the seashell?

ps_eyecon.jpgAnyway, I post about this because I learned this fun fact from meta about the disappearance of the familiar 'eye' icon for Photoshop: they had to get rid of it because it freaked out the Japanese customers.

In trying to understand this revulsion to eyes on your desktop -- as a former user of XEyes -- I am reminded of another story that meta shared about her mother and Clippy. Most people are just annoyed by the Office paperclip, but her mom was fully freaked out because, "there's this thing on my computer, amd it keeps rolling its eyes at me!"

The bird is watching you:

staredown3.negb

addendum:

discussing the now-discontinued Adobe Atmosphere product:

meta: did i tell you what it looked like when adobe had just bought it and before we re-worked the ui?
me: nope
meta: it was dark grey... very gloomy looking. and LOTS of windows.
meta: but the worst part was... in the upper corner, where you'd usually have the close button in OS 9....
meta: they had eyes. on EVERY window.
me: hahaaha
meta: no, it gets worse.
meta: i was looking at it over this guy's shoulder.... and i kept sensing movement in my peripheral vision. but when i looked to where it was.... it was always the same as before.
meta: then, i finally caught it.
meta: THE EYES WERE BLINKING!

May 27, 2005

Google Earth details

Just got my copy of the Google Earth Beta. I can't test it just yet because I purchased the cheaper NVIDIA-only license for Keyhole that will only run on Chunk (my home laptop) (update: added my own screenshots below).

Looking at the feature list, it looks like this will be a big upgrade: * GPS support * new primary database with imagery for Australia, South/Central America, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, as well as hi-res support for all of Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, and, Massachusetts. * 3D buildings in select cities (update: added a screenshot of an awfully pencil-like TransAmerica building in the extended entry) * integrated driving directions (don't care about this per se, but this is integrated with the flyover feature, which hopefully will be more useful than it's previous "flying morass of pixels" incarnation) * extension to their previous markup language, KML, which is now KMZ (KML zipped). From reading the descriptions, it looks like it will be easier to create photomaps (both in UI as well as with scripting tools). It's rather hard-to-tell, though, because Keyhole never released a public specification of KML, and I don't see any released for KMZ yet, either. In the past people have reversed-engineered the XML spec, but hopefully they will be nicer this time around. update: Google has posted the KML documentation and tutorial. (thanks Mickey)

The UI looks a lot cheesier, like some misguided homage to OS X (screenshot), but if the features live up the hype, this should be a nice upgrade from Keyhole NV.

Update: woohoo! There's a lot more imagery for Japan now, and they've unfogged my birthplace (military base). Here's a shot of Mt. Fuji close-up (checkout the extended entry if you want to see a screenshot of Fuji looming over Tokyo Bay):

gearth.fuji.jpg

The flyover driving directions are also sweet -- the map even spins as you go through a cloverleaf. It's mostly an eyecandy feature, though, as it takes about as long for it to fly between San Francisco and San Diego as it does to do the actual driving (even on the fastest flyover setting). Also, they went a little too crazy with the driving directions (in the spirit of Google Maps), which means that you'll find amusing popups like:

gearth.tokyo.JPG

Continue reading "Google Earth details" »

April 4, 2005

Java/Windows Hate Hate Hate

I occassionally encounter something so moronic while doing my daily software programming, that I feel compelled to share. I know that many of you don't write code, but I hope that you can appreciate my sarcasm and the stupidity of the problem regardless.

Java, on Windows, does not correctly adjust for Daylight Savings Time.

I know that being able to tell time within your own timezone correctly is a minor feature, I mean, who needs to know that it's 6:24PM when you can more precisely find out that it's been 1112664323536 milliseconds since midnight, January 1, 1970 (UTC)?

More cathartic details are in the extended. Proof that I wasn't hallucinating this but are in this Java Forums thread: default timezone is wrong!.

Continue reading "Java/Windows Hate Hate Hate" »

March 30, 2005

Obey the Sheep

Originally this was going to be a review of the Workrave software, but I saw an RSI specialist today, and what he told me today goes along well with what I was going to write, so I now present my condensed, summarized report of how you, too, can help prevent RSI (with a little assistance from the Sheep). Workrave is perhaps the single most important piece of software I've installed on my computer in the past three years, as I have now started to develop RSI. To understand how and why it's so useful, let me first try to relate what my specialist told me about RSI (note that this does not apply to carpal-tunnel, which I now little about).

RSI is a bit of a misnomer; it's not a repetitive stress injury as much as it is a static stress injury. While you are typing, your muscles must constrict in order to hold your arms, neck, and head in place. Over time, this causes your muscles to form more fibrous tissue (i.e. tendon-y tissue), which help induce pain. My specialist had me feel my triceps as an example of what good muscle tissue is: it's soft and all of the same consistency. He then had me feel my forearms muscles, which felt like little bands of tendons.

Each day you cause damage to your muscles that your body must heal; if you only heal 99% of that damage each day, then over time you will accumulate more and more damage until you are in pain -- RSI. This view of RSI offers three avenues of treatment: decreasing the amount of daily damage, increasing your repair rate, and repairing the damage manually.

I said this was originally going to be a review of Workrave, so here is where the Sheep comes in (decreasing the daily damage). Workrave is a great piece of software that is a glorified timer, with a sheep that pops up to tell you when to take micro-breaks (every three minutes) as well as when to take rest breaks (every forty-five minutes). It even has suggested exercises and stretches that pop-up during the breaks. These breaks are important, as the amount of time your muscles spend in static contraction is related to the amount of damage you are doing. If you take three seconds every three minutes to put your arms down and shake them a bit, you go a long ways towards decreasing the amount of damage. Every ten to fifteen minutes you should also tilt your head back to break some of the static contraction in your neck and back. Workrave actually has thirty-second micro-breaks, but what my specialist said seems to indicate that you can take much shorter breaks. When I first started using Workrave, the most frustrating thing was learning to listen to the Sheep and actually take a break from typing; knowing that I only need to take three-second instead of thirty-second micro-breaks will really help me obey the sheep better.

To improve your repair rate, there are three basic things: water, minerals, and exercise. Water is important to muscles, and we often don't feel thirsty until we are already dehyrated, so it's important to drink plenty. It's also important to take good vitamin/mineral supplements (my specialist said to stay away from Centrum and other supermarket brands). Aerobic exercise will boost the body's metabolism, which will also help it heal.

As for repairing the damage manually, that involves a lot of stretching (2-4 times per day). The fibrous muscle tissue causes your muscles to shorten; the goal of the stretching is to lengthen the muscles once more. There are just a few basic stretches that my specialist gave me to do, and a lot of these can be easily done during one of the micro-breaks or rest breaks that the Sheep indicates. You need to stretch your wrists as well as your shoulder muscles. My specialist is also having me focus on my pecs, as they can impinge on both the blood and nerves running into the arms.

March 21, 2005

Saved my butt = Recommended Software

The SessionSaver plugin for Firefox just saved my butt -- twice. I had a bunch of tabs open in Firefox that I hadn't bookmarked yet when Firefox crashed on me. I re-launched Firefox and all my tabs were restored: no harm, no foul. I, of course, managed to repeat the action that crashed Firefox in the first place, but SessionSaver leaped to the rescue once more.

December 28, 2004

Get Acrobat 7 Reader

I read asa's acrobat reader 7 recommendation, and I have to agree: download Acrobat 7 (Windows). It's way fast (or rather, its not way slow like Acrobat 6, which horribly froze my browser for up to a minute).

I just tested it out on some paper links and it removes my chief complaint with pdf -- that it breaks the browsing experience by making you consciously aware that a plugin is loading due to its abundant slowness. As an added benefit, there's no stupid slash screen on startup.

November 30, 2004

konfabulated

Thanks to Paul's comment I'm now trying out the Windows version of Konfabulator. I'm very happy as I've been waiting for this for a long time. Thus far, it seems like they've done a really good job with the port, though the widgets do seem a little out of place with the Windows look and feel (but really, would you want it to match?). I've tried a lot of the Windows Konfabulator imitators and none of them had the polish of the original, so it's great that I can't really tell any differences between this port and the original.

The Windows version does have some serious issues with iEx, so I've had to shut the latter down (which is fine, because Konfabulator will likely be more useful).

Blog widgets

Widgets got a rebirth with Konfabulator, Apple will soon have Dashboard, and soon there'll be Konfabulator for Windows to go along with some of the imitators.

Now there are widgets for blogs, based on the Laszlo infrastructure (flash-based). The Blogbox widgets are a bit sparse right now, and they seem absurdly difficult for the average blog user to customize, but there does seem to be a little bit of promise contained within.

The current set of "blox"es aren't particular interesting to me. It's hard for me to see the extra value in having a flashy weather app on your blog (in comparison to the javascipt-based weather listings). They do provide the ability to condense content, e.g. taking a long list of links or photos and presenting them within a single, small box, but it would be more interesting for me if the bloxes were enabling a new behavior for visitors of your Web site, e.g. a common IM space for people visiting your site, or if they provided additional insight into the content of your Web site, e.g. visualizations. I'll have to wait and see what sort of widgets they come up with next.

November 18, 2004

Such a fool

I've been playing around with the Keyhole, which Google recently bought and is offering a free seven-day trial for. If only I had started playing with the trial when I first heard about this, I would have saved myself a lot of time and effort. It lets you easily overlay highway and county lines, which would have saved me hours when I was putting together my county map.

I'll probably shell out for the software, though some things don't impress me. It's address lookup is terrible, only working on about 10% of the addresses I enter, and very finicky, too, as it sometimes only finds the address if you leave off the road/drive/street designation. It also doesn't come with any soft of tracklog integration with a GPS unit, though if you're a hacker you can get some conversion scripts to run yourself.

The one feature that sold me on the software was when I scanned over Yosemite park and switch into a 3D perspective. I could make out the whole Yosemite valley, and each of the campgrounds/landmarks was well designated.

Granted, this is essentially the same software as the free earthviewer that Nvidia had put online, but it comes with the extra features necessary for using it as an actual tool.

October 14, 2004

Tit for tat

Wired is running an article about how Tit for Tat was defeated in a Prisoner's Dilemma contest. For those of you unfamiliar with the Prisoner's Dilemma is, you can read more on it here.

Tit for Tat was a strategy that had done well before in this contest: the idea is that your first move is to cooperate, and there after you do whatever your opponent does. BitTorrent uses a variant of this to determine who you exchange files with as you're downloading.

The winning team used a strategy similar to that of the MIT Blackjack Team or a bike racing team like US Postal: send in multiple players into the contest and then have most of your players sacrifice themselves to boost the score of your leader(s). The hard problem that the Southampton team had to solve was getting their own players to recognize each other.

Of course, now that other teams are aware of the Southampton strategy, they can try and send in agents that will impersonate the Southampton entries, turning this into a Iocaine powder problem.

September 17, 2004

OS X: the more positive thoughts

Besides the keyboard shortcut problems I've been having, my Powerbook experience has gone fairly well. It's hard to judge off of just one day's use, but I wish the following applications were on Windows:

  • Adium: IM client. Visually better than Trillian with a lot more customization. Also has scripting support, which could theoretically be used to implement some cool features such as IMing your home computer to find out it's current CPU status or what it's playing on iTunes, or write more advanced applications like caltrainbot. No metacontacts yet, though that appears to be coming soon.
  • Quicksilver: I'm hoping Google improves its deskbar and/or their Puffin technology will be competitive with this. Any application that makes it so that I don't have to use a mouse for a task is instantly a favorite with me.
  • iTerm: terminal window with tabbing.

I also installed Fugu for SCP/SFTP, but this is slightly more clunky than WinSCP when it comes to bookmarking directories and sites.

As for OS X, I like the fact that application installation is so much easier and doesn't result in 200 files being copied onto my hard drive. I also think that the way applications and user data is separated makes it a whole lot easier to backup your personal data.

I also like the fact that OS X doesn't suffer from the branding/marketing spam that Windows does, though that's not necessarily Microsoft's fault. When I first setup my Dad's HP desktop, the entire desktop was covered with ads for AOL, HP products, Musicmatch, etc... Somehow the OS X aesthetic seems to resist this clutter. The same lack of clutter applies to the laptops themselves: my Dell is covered with Intel, Windows, FCC, licensing, service, and other stickers and certifications that get gummy and nasty with use.

I also appreciate the fact that applications are named more simply. Microsoft's applications have clunky names like Outlook Express, Windows Movie Maker 2, Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, etc... (apologies if I got any of these wrong. My Windows laptop is resisting power-on). It's kind of nice to create a new account and see "Mail", "iTunes", "iPhoto", etc... along with a nearly empty desktop. Not all of Apple's applications follow simple naming conventions, but I do imagine that a novice user would have a much easier time getting started with a Mac than a Windows PC (and there's no stupid Start Menu to have to keep organized).

Anyway, that's it for now. Off to the Giants game. This may be the only game that I will cheer for Bonds, lest Kenji pass me in the fantasy baseball standings.

September 14, 2004

Firefox gets even better

Get Firefox!I just downloaded the preview release of Firefox 1.0, and they've just added a new feature that makes you think, "Now this is how things are supposed to be."

The feature that has me loving the new Firefox is Live Bookmarks. Described simply, Live Bookmarks allow you to add RSS feeds to your bookmarks that appear as folders, i.e. if I create a live bookmark for my site, then there will be a folder called "kwc blog" filled with bookmarks for the latest entries from my site. There's even auto-discovery, so when you visit a site that has a feed you'll see a rss icon on the bottom status bar that you can click on and choose the feed you want to create a Live Bookmark for. But it's so much cooler than that.

The reason why its so much cooler is that I can create Live Bookmarks for my del.icio.us bookmarks. Now my online bookmarks appear as real bookmarks inside of my browser, and it only took a couple clicks to setup. For those of you who use del.icio.us, you might understand why I think this is so cool. Those of you who don't, you're missing out :).

September 13, 2004

Pile of poo

The Java's builtin XML parser (Apache Crimson) is a steaming pile of poo. Those of you who wish to save 1MB by ditching Xerces, I would ask, "Is a pile of poo worth 1MB?"

September 10, 2004

Useful Firefox Extensions Guide

I just read through Flexbeta's Guide To Firefox Extensions and ended up installing a couple more Firefox extensions. My current list of extensions is:

  • DOM Inspector (rarely use, just re-enables the old DOM Inspector)
  • BugMeNot (frequently use, makes it much easier to read news on registration-required sites)
  • SpellBound (frequently use, lets me spellcheck )
  • Web Developer (frequently use, though prefer CSS editing bookmarklets in general)
  • Adblock (always in use, NYTimes and WaPo never looked more legible)
  • Copy Plain Text (imagine I'll use, haven't had the need yet, cleans up clipboard text)
  • Translate (sometimes use, saves me from typing in babelfish)
  • LiveHTTPHeaders (frequently use, awesome if you sysadmin or write servlets)
  • MiniT (sometimes use, lets me reorder tabs)

Just installed: * DictionarySearch (search for definition of any word on page) * FLST (when you close a tab Firefox will switch to the last open tab, which seems more correct) * Allow Right-Click (override annoying javascript that disables right click menu) * ImageZoom * Statusbar Clock (can't have enough clocks on my desktop)

August 23, 2004

Credit where credit is due

The new MT Blacklist is spectacular (in comparison, the first version was merely great). Since installing it on kwc.org, not a single spam has gotten through. Additionally, MT Blacklist requires almost no administration -- it updates its list automatically every night. This is everything a spam-fighting tool should be:

a) blocks all your spam
b) requires no effort on your part

I'm still in the habit of logging in constantly to clean out my spam, but I will soon learn that it no longer requires my assistance, and I can spend that extra time doing more productive work.

There are a couple of minor Windows-only bugs, but these really aren't an issue because no spam has gotten through, so I haven't had to use the features that have those bugs.

August 9, 2004

I Hate Microsoft IV

Update: you may wish to go to this Microsoft support article (thanks Frances) if the comments below don't help you with this issue. Back when I wrote this post the support article did not exist and this post is mostly here to detail my frustrations with how poorly Microsoft dealt with this issue.

I just installed Service Pack 2. Impressively there is no smoke emanating from my laptop, but we shall see. It appears that they have upgraded some useful services, such as Bluetooth and 802.11 management, though I have no Bluetooth device to take advantage of the former, and for the latter I get this wonderful message:

Windows cannot configure this wireless connection. If you have enabled another program to manage this wireless connection, use that software. If you want Windows to configure this connection, start the Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service. For information about starting the WZC service, see article 871122 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base on the microsoft.com Web site. (emphasis mine)

Am I the only one that finds this message completely broken?

I felt like testing exactly how broken this message is, so here's my attempt to look this article up: * There's no link to article in the error message, so I open up a browser to microsoft.com * I try typing 871122 into the search box at the top of microsoft.com -- no results. Seeing as Google is smart enough to be able to detect FedEx tracking numbers, numerical equations, street addresses, and so on, you would think Microsoft would be able to tell that I was typing in one of their knowledge base article numbers on their own search page. * I click on the "Search the Knowledge Base" link on the microsoft.com front page * I type 871122 into the search box that's labeled "Search the Knowledge Base." I get back "We Currently Have No Documents That Match Your Search." Apparently not even the Knowledge Base search engine can recognize its own article numbers. * I notice a link further down the page that says "Knowledge Base Article ID Number Search" * Again, I typed in 871122. This time it tells me "The Knowledge Base (KB) Article You Requested Is Currently Not Available"

Oh Microsoft, how I hate thee.

July 31, 2004

More Firefox extensions installed

Came across some more Firefox extensions to install while over at asa: * Copy Plain Text: adds a "Copy Plain Text" option to your edit menu to remove all HTML from your copied text, available from Jeremy's Mozilla Extensions * TinyURL creator: convert current URL to tiny URL via a menu option or toolbar button, also from Jeremy's Mozilla Extensions. You could also use the TinyURL bookmarklet: TinyURL! (drag the link to your links toolbar) * Translate: add a toolbar button to translate the page from several languages * MiniT: reorder your tabs in Firefox by dragging

July 13, 2004

Remaindered tech fu

Sending SMS messages over AOL IM

Spell checker for Firefox 0.9+: this is the first spell checker I've seen that explicitly supports the newer Firefox releases.

BugMeNot for Firefox: It's a Firefox plugin that will help you avoid registration on sites like the NYTimes, LA Times, and other mandatory free registration sites. A useful tool for the compulsive news junkie. I've been using it for a week now and I'm pretty satisfied.

For Java developers: Maven 1.0 released. Maven made grokking and managing my project a lot easier when I was at PARC. I don't have as much opportunity to use it here, but the integration of numerous documentation, build, release, Web site, testing, and analysis tools is well worth the effort you put into it.

June 15, 2004

Samurai

samurai

parakkum, m, and honeyfields are coming over tonight for some RoboRally/LotR RISK madness, but I may have found a game for our next game night: Samurai. You get ten free games before you have to pay $20, and it comes with single player, multi-player, and multi-player networked play modes.

May 25, 2004

Threat Modeling

Microsoft is offering a free download for a Threat Modeling Tool written by Frank Swiderski (author of Threat Modeling). I haven't tried it out yet, as I am no longer involved in security-related issues, but threat modeling tools, in general, are good for focusing attention on what you are actually trying to protect. Supporters of DRM software, for example, would benefit from using one of these tools, if only to notice how broken their model is.

May 24, 2004

WiFi as GPS

My PubSub subscription pulled up some interesting tidbits for me today. Ian Smith (formerly of PARC) is now at The Place Lab, which is providing a toolkit for mapping WiFi locations to map coordinates. This already has some interesting applications, such as a location-aware Todo list and location-aware IM with privacy controls.

Another interesting tidbit from the same entry was that Trevor Smith (also formerly of PARC) is now at Transmutable, which is working on creating HTML-based photo maps, so that the photos you take can be arranged geographically. Although unrelated to The Place Lab, the two dovetail quite nicely.

I look forward to the day where my media and communication applications will have a common location-aware framework, and my photo software will be able to figure out the location of a photo from its timestamp and my blogging software will come with a map-based view.

(via trevor smith via pubsub)

May 21, 2004

Uber-bookmark list

komlenic posted a comment link to a list of keyword bookmarks for Firefox over at adot. I've already used it to update my amazon search bookmark, as my old one was broken.

For those of you not familiar with keyword bookmarks, they are a powerful way of quickly searching for information from your address bar. For example, if I type "imdb Finding Nemo", my browser will take me to the imdb search results for Finding Nemo. If I type "amazon Beowulf", it will take me to the Amazon search results for Beowulf. The one I use most often is "bm python", which takes me to all the python-related links I have in my del.icio.us bookmarks.

There's a tutorial for using keyword bookmarks here.

May 18, 2004

Scribe

Scribe seems to be a rather cool new Firefox extension. It allows you to load and save text that you are typing in a text box.

I often compose meeting notes in a emacs and then copy the text over to MovableType, where I then do some additional touchup. A plugin like this might help me keep the two (MT entry, text file) better in sync. It will also help in cases where the wireless suddenly drops out mid-way through composing a post.

May 17, 2004

Help: GarageBand

This is another request from the Mac camp for some info, though I might not have a large enough audience to get an answer. GarageBand 1.1 was released and apparently fixes some of the performance problems of the first release. The original version, for all intents and purposes, required a G5; running it on anything else was a fairly painful experience.

Until I had witnessed the dreadful performance, I was considering buying an iBook, upgrading the RAM, and installing GarageBand on it. It was an expensive excuse to get me playing my guitar on it. If anyone out there who uses GarageBand regularly can tell me whether or not the performance upgrades make it usable again on iBooks, I would appreciate the feedback. Positive or negative feedback is good; if it's positive, then I have an excuse to buy another toy; if it's negative, I have an excuse to save a lot of money.

May 12, 2004

Oh poop

I was looking forward to reading PyZine's article on POOPy (Programming with Object Orientation Python), but it looks like it's only available to subscribers. The acronym seemed so appropriate.

May 3, 2004

More Windows customizations/OS thievery

I've added to new bits of software to my computer setup. iEx is an app that somewhat replicates Apple's Expose feature. After using the G5 in the lab here for a day, I grew to like that feature rather quickly, especially now that I don't have a three monitor setup. iEx doesn't have all the whizbang animations of Expose, but it has the necessary functionality.

I'm also testing out Samurize, which lets you place a lot of useful information on your desktop, like a CPU meter, network meters, weather, battery gauge, etc... (its different from Konfabulator in that you basically have one giant widget that you customize, instead of a bunch of little ones). The screenshots might make it a little bit more clear. The learning curve is probably a bit steep for beginners, but once it's runing it's rather nice.

April 30, 2004

Wish I thought of that

I've already given away my invites, but apparently they are now fetching $50+ on ebay. There's goes my chance at riches.
- Gmail accounts go up for bid | CNET News.com

April 10, 2004

Balance the National Budget

Here's a little toy for Paul: A National Budget Simulation that challenges you to try and balance the federal budget.

March 22, 2004

ieCapture

These utilities are way cool, even if I can't get the second one to work. iCapture lets you see what your page looks like on Safari. ieCapture lets you submit a URL and view what it would look like on IE, Firefox, and Opera. iCapture works pretty well and returns the image in 30 seconds. I haven't gotten ieCapture to return anything yet, but it's still in 'alpha.'
(via asa)

March 8, 2004

Your own feeds page

movabletypo.net has been updated with instructions on how to incorporate your own version of the movabletypo.net frontpage into your blog.
- Everyone: Guide: Having your own "everyone" page

(for those counting, this is entry #943)

Spellcheckers for your Web browser

I got into a discussion on Kenji's site that evolved into a discussion about built-in spellcheckers for browsers, so I thought I'd repost that info over here. Both Internet Explorer and Mozilla have extensions that allow you to do spellchecking, which is really useful when you're blogging, posting, or writing e-mail.

- If you use IE, you can install ieSpell which gets positive reviews. I don' t use IE so I can't attest to how good it is.

- If you use Mozilla Firebird (not the newer Firefox), you can download the new spellchecker extension. It works on Firefox, but it crashes if you try to spell check anything that has a URL in it, so I wouldn't recommend it. It's far worse to lose a post than it is to have a spelling error. I imagine that a better version is coming soon, but just not now.

March 3, 2004

I Hate Microsoft III

I've really meant to post these more often after I posted kwc blog: I Hate Microsoft I and II, but it's hard to post something everytime I'm confronted with more material. I found this one so stupid it deserves a post:

This item updates the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font included in some Microsoft products. The font has been found to contain unacceptable symbols. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.

Any of you with Windows will have probably already seen this, but I just wanted to highlight the relevant portion. Apparently, removing a swatiska from a font (the reason for the update), requires a reboot. I guess you need the cleansing reboot to remove all the remnants Nazi symbols from your system. Actually, the symbol exists in the font set because it represents "good luck" in Hinduism/Buddhism, so really the reboot must be because all the luck that's holding Windows from falling apart disappears.

February 22, 2004

Java generics tutorial

Generics (aka "templates" in C++) tutorial I'm gonna have to read when I finally start using Java 1.5. Java 1.5 Generics Tutorial

February 9, 2004

Ooo, pretty new toys...

Today was a good day in software and hardware:

Firebird is now Firefox, and version 0.8 is now available for download. Haven't noticed that much that's different, other than the new download manager. 0.7 was already really solid for me.
- Mozilla Firefox - The Browser, Reloaded

At last - something I've been waiting for ever since I saw the first demonstration images. There is finally an affordable consumer camera using the Foveon chip, which makes digital photos look a lot more like real film photos. This page explains the differences between Foveon's X3 technology and other digital cameras.
- A Gamble on a $399 Digital Camera

Keyword search is back on Technorati, which is better than Google when it comes to finding fresh blog entries.
- Sifry's Alerts: New and Improved! Technorati Keyword Search...

Finally, Thunderbird 0.5 (Mozilla Mail Client) is out. They haven't renamed it to Thunderfox yet I guess:
- Mozilla Thunderbird

February 4, 2004

mod_gzip on Windows

This one was a difficult one to Google through (kept finding old 1.3 Apache stuff), even though the process itself is pretty quick, so I thought I'd record what I did to get mod_gzip running on Apache 2.0.48 for Windows.

1) Downloaded the zip file with the built DLL from Index of /development/apache/httpd-2.0/win32/modules
2) copied mod_gzip.so into my Apache modules directory
3) copied the settings from my_cfg.txt (contained in the zip file) into my httpd.conf
4) Got a copy of zlib.dll. Placed this in my apache bin directory.
5) Restarted the server

Web Page Analyzer verified that gzip was working and also reports that I'm about 50K lighter on the HTML (20K versus 70K).

January 30, 2004

Feature requests

GarageBand: now that you can send music to iTunes, why not have a feature where you can buy the drum + bass tracks (possibly rhythm track as well) of a song off of the music store and import that into Garage Band. It would make it a lot easier for guitar freaks like me to pick up a new song, and 99 cents would be dirt cheap. The marginal cost to the producer should also be near nil for most current bands given the digital mastering process. If they wanted to be really special, they could even distribute/sell amp and effects settings to make your guitar sound like the actual recording (Line 6 does something similar with their effects pedals).

Feed aggregator: I'm probably going to be adding a feature to my feed reader that lets you subscribe to a comments thread via a bookmarklet. If you make a post on another MT blog, it's kinda annoying that you have to keep going back to the entry to see if the discussion has been updated. This would allow you to keep up with the discussion in real-time.

January 28, 2004

Newsgroup->RSS

Two apps for bridging newsgroups (nntp) into your news aggregator (rss):
- persistent.info: Bridging NNTP and RSS
- nntp2rss - access usenet newsgroups via RSS - bitfolge.de
(via Scripting News: 1/28/2004)

Barcode 4-U

Jennifer Government would have found this barcode maker useful when she designed that barcode for her cheek. It does a lot of the basic 1-D barcodes, as well as some of the 2-D ones (pdf417), but no Dataglyphs. Note to Max Barry: 1-D barcode tattoos in the future? How 20th century.
- Barcode Maker

January 26, 2004

Photo albums with GPS

The World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX group at Microsoft has released a demo application that lets you create a photo album that interweaves photos, GPS coordinates, and text so that you can view your photos geographically as well as chronologically. Not too useful of an app for today's cameras, but could be a portent of things to come when GPS becomes an inexpensive add-on. Something like this would have been really cool for my Europe backpacking trip.

Example travel log:
Melbourne xmas 2003 (only works on IE due to invalid Windows-only paths)
(via The Scobleizer -- Geek Aggregator)

January 25, 2004

All about RSS Feeds

I've been talking a lot about RSS recently in relation to the Feeds Project, so here are some related links.

In order to use a feed aggregator, you have to be able to find the feed. Here are two tools to help you (if the site is missing an obvious link and Google doesn't do the trick):
- BlogStreet : RSS Discovery
- Syndic8.com - Welcome!

If you have no idea what I mean by "feeds" or "RSS," here's: All About RSS || Fagan Finder

Finally, if you're writing your own aggregator, you should probably pass this test suite (but I don't, yet):
- Aggregator client HTTP tests

and, if you're really cool, you can pass the autodiscovery tests for Atom (I'm not that cool):
- Atom autodiscovery test suite

Tools for your blog

Time to clean off some entries on my blogroll, so here are some links to share:

Want a cool favicon for your Web page? Chami's FavIcon from Pics lets you upload any image you want to create your own.

Linking to a NY Times article? Well, there's two problems: (1) other people need to login to NY Times to view the story and (2) after two weeks the Times archives the story so the link becomes stale. Luckily, there's a workaround: the New York Times Link Generator will give you a link that should work for anyone, anytime.

On other thing you might need for your site: animated menus. If you want to do it pure text-style and avoid all the annoying image slicing, you can try one of these techniques:
- Pure CSS Pull-Down Menus
- SimpleBits | Mini-Tab Shapes

Finally, it's always good to learn by example, so here's one using everyone's favorite site: Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards: A List Apart.

Most of these links probably came from Zeldman.

January 21, 2004

tech reference (command prompt)

Needed this one for work to figure out that "&" separates multiples commands on one line.
The command prompt of Windows NT

January 6, 2004

GarageBand is swwwweeet

This might actually make me buy a cheap iBook:
- Apple - iLife - GarageBand

I really, really, really would have liked this a lot growing up, and it probably would have saved me a lot of money on amps and effects pedals.

January 5, 2004

Simple ontology design

What is an ontology and why we need it
This article was a good read for me because, while I have plenty of background with object-oriented programming, I needed a quick read to understand the subtle terminology and technical differences in the AI world. It's probably an even better read if you have no experience with designing object-oriented programming and want some simple guidelines.
(via kottke.org)

December 3, 2003

Sun misses out

I think that Eclipse is one of the coolest software platforms I've ever played with. I was hook once I figured out refactoring+QuickFix. With refactoring I can fix bad design choices quickly, and with QuickFix I can basically starting write code using a Java class that doesn't exist yet, and have Eclipse auto-create it on-the-fly. (I'm partly biased in that NetBeans is about the ugliest IDE I've ever seen.)
Sun drops bid to join Eclipse | CNET News.com

November 18, 2003

Rendevous Proxy

Now that I have iTunes for Windows, the next step was figuring out how to stream music from my desktop at home to my laptop at work. I just started trying out Rendezvous Proxy, and it seems to be working pretty well. The main problems seem to be with iTunes streaming itself, as I've experienced too much skipping for it to be useful so far. I'm holding out hope, though, that this will be the key to getting MyTunes working.

Update: well, MyTunes doesn't seem to be doing jack when I try and use it, but now that I've connected my laptop to the 100Mbps LAN I haven't been experiencing any skipping, so all is well. I'm currently having plenty of fun listening to my music from home with only the very occassional skip at the start of a song. Now, if there were only a way to allow remote rating of my music...

Update2: the skipping is back. The connection appears to be very tempermental even if I set the buffer size to large. Dang, I really need MyTunes now.

November 6, 2003

Cool new Google tool

Instead of having to open Internet Exploder to have your Google Toolbar, you can now add Google searching to your start menu bar. I've tried it out and it's really fast and saves the annoying step of having to open a browser window. The only drawback is that it uses an embedded Internet Explorer control (Mac users are again SOL).
- Google Deskbar

October 30, 2003

OS X jealousy

There were four things I was jealous of OS X users having:
1) Rendevous music streaming
2) Konfabulator
3) docklets for the OS X bar
4) OmniOutliner

In the past two days I've managed to find complete or partial solutions to three out of the four, so I'm pretty happy. I was partly inspired by Michael Heilemann's own customization experience, which pointed me to most of the resources I would need for this endeavour. I stopped short of his goal, which was a more overall OS X look-and-feel. I just wanted the functionality.

Update: Mark Hunter sent me a copy of YzDocklet, and so far it is easily outperforming the other docks mention in this entry. Thanks Mark!

Continue reading "OS X jealousy" »

October 22, 2003

Review: iTunes for Windows

I've been using iTunes for Windows on two computers since it was first released, so I felt it's about time to write a review. I didn't have any of the boot/install problems described in some reviews, but I have only been using it on Windows XP machines. I have no desire to write a structured review, so here's the quick breakdown:

Continue reading "Review: iTunes for Windows" »

Office 2003, now with e-mail notification

The tech news is much abuzz with the release of Office 2003, and ArsTechnica pointed me to the new feature comparison chart between 2k3 and previous versions. According to this chart it would appear that previous versions of Office were an empty box, as they appear to have no features whatsoever. The part of the chart I found really amusing, though, are the features exclusive to 2k3:
- E-mail notification: Pop-up announcements inform you immediately of new e-mail messages -- no matter what program you are in
- Arrange by conversation: Arrange your Inbox by conversation (or thread) to see all messages on a particular topic
- Quick Flags: Flag messages by priority or time sensitivity, and then find them in whatever folder they reside
- PowerPoint enhanced multimedia support: PowerPoint 2003 supports additional video formats and full-screen video playback.
- Outlook 2003 local caching: Local caching downloads all necessary information to your computer as it comes in

There were more that were amusing, but they weren't exclusive to Office 2003, including file password locking that now actually encrypts the file, and being able to stay connected to the Exchange server when you roam.
Office 2003 Editions: Compare Them to Previous Versions

October 6, 2003

Photoshop Album 2.0 on the way

... including a free version with some of the more important features stripped out. This was a glaring problem with the first one - there was no way for people to try it out beforehand. I love using Album 1.0 and I hope 2.0 will solve my very few complaints with the original version (too much scrolling in the tags pane, can't export source images with the Web photo gallery, tags are organized hierarchically - even though they themselves are relational).
Adobe offers free Photoshop Album | CNET News.com

August 4, 2003

Outliner for Windows?

I've been disappointed by the lack of a good outliner on Windows w/o having to use all of Radio Userland. I'll be trying out Scott's STkoutline to see if it's got the juice. (via Marc's Voice)

Update: too much trouble getting this working even with Tcl installed... I'll wait for an actual binary build

Howl

Hey look - someone implemented Rendevous/Zeroconf on Windows: Howl (via Marc's Voice)

Update: also found a Java Rendezvous (via Don Park)

Update 2: Rendezvous/Music-related links (DAAP = Digital Audio Access Protocol):
- DAAP daemon and links to Java client
- One 2 Oh My God: a Java iTunes client that doesn't work with the latest iTunes 4.0.1 update
- Notes on the DAAP Protocol for those wishing to implement their own clients

July 21, 2003

Vigor

Cohen sends me a pointer to this helpful resource for vi professionals.

June 15, 2003

Firebird Nightlies

Some of you Mozilla users (myself included) have complained that my background causes the browser to lag when scrolling. If that's your case (or if you're still using IE), I highly recommend the June 10, 2003 (or possibly later) nightly build of Firebird . This build is 10x faster scrolling my site than the 0.6 release.

June 12, 2003

java.net... now a Web site

Looks like Java's jumping aboard the community Web bandwagon and launching java.net. It's wiki-fied (though currently still sparse), blogified, and mini-portalized. It seems to have much more potential than the old Java Developer's Connection, which had to use karma contrivances to get people to participate. At this stage, though, it's hard to tell if people will jump aboard. Nevertheless, it's nice to see that they're using Wiki (but Sparrow is better).

May 28, 2003

This CD DVD is broken

this entry contains a photo, click to view

...just like the Microsoft software that's stamped on it

Update: Bryan points out that this is a DVD, not a CD.

I Hate Microsoft I and II

I: This bug cost me half an entire afternoon: 318003 - BUG: Visual Studio .NET Setup Fails on AddShareAndPermissions Custom Action. Apparently, you have to setup a fake wwwroot in order to install Visual Studio, a programming environment. Whaaa? I'm sure in 2004 it will complain that my Windows Media Player isn't up-to-date when I try to install C#.

II: The other half of my afternoon was wasted by bad dependency verification in the Visual Studio .NET installer. After I did a Windows Update on the .NET framework (which came with the installer), it finally started working (5 reboots and 2 hours later). I'm not even sure the two were related.

(I) update: My problems with (I) are not over. Among the suggestions I now have to try: (i) copy the entire DVD to my hard drive and try the installation, (ii) create yet another folder on my computer with appropriate permissions and (iii) update my DVD-ROM firmware and disable DMA.

(I) update 2: Finally, I have it installed. Apparently you need to copy all of the files off the DVD into a directory named "mssucks."

what is this?

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to kwc blog in the Software category.

Science is the previous category.

Sports is the next category.

Current entries can be found on the main page.

listing.