Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Recent personal thoughts on higher end digital cameras

John's Digital Photography Page

Advice to a friend on buying a digital camera. I wrote this in a quick email, but it might be of broader interest. My friend's daughter has a G2 she likes, but she's bothered by the "shutter lag" and is shopping for the next step up. I start by discussing how to make the Canon G2 work better:
The G2 actually has very good responsiveness, but there's a trick to it. She needs to pre-charge the CCD and eliminate the slow focus-acquistion phase. For the zoo pictures she can lock aperture and focus and then depress the shutter button slightly prior to shooting. If she squeezes to take the shot the lag will be very short. I've gotten very good pictures of our kids that way... (This was the reason I bought the G2, I knew beforehand that the timed lag was among the shortest in the industry -- assuming CCD pre-charge and pre-focus.)

Another trick is to drop the image res slightly so it will cycle into memory faster without overflowing the internal buffer, then put the camera into burst mode. Do as above, but when the picture is taken it bursts and you get more chances to capture an image.

Still, there's a lag. The pros use Canon CMOS SLRs mostly. I think some pros even use the $1500 10D, of which the Digital Rebel $900 is a cheaper version. Canon just introduced a new camera, the Pro1. It's a descendant of the G2 with a large zoom and up to 8mpixel. I think it has a faster bus and will capture quickly with a high speed card. The Nikon D-70 is also very new and very hot. I guess, but don't know, that the CMOS sensors don't need to be pre-charged and thus are less prone to shutter lag.

Another BIG factor is light sensitivity. Is she taking flash pictures at the zoo? If she's not, she needs ISO 400 or higher pictures with good light sensitivity. That's very rarely discussed. Most digital cameras have far too much noise at ISO 400. The main exceptions are the Canon CMOS cameras, including the rebel and the 10D. They have very nice images at ISO 400 and tolerable at ISO 800.

Digital SLRs all have problems with dust on the image sensor. I think the D-70 may have some new technology to help with that. Need to be very careful when changing lenses esp. in dusty settings.

I think for her needs I'd look at the

1. Canon Pro1: Just on the market, very hot -- but not my first choice because I of some "purple fringing" that's a side-effect of pushing smaller CCDs too hard. (The industry is selling megapixels now -- and pushing current CCDs further than they ought to. They depend on heavy post-processing in the camera to fix the images -- but it's not perfect).

2. Canon Digital Rebel (price is falling fast as the D-70 comes on board! Might get a good bargain. The Nikon D-70 is about $300-$400 more than the Rebel since it doesn't include a lens.)

3. Nikon D-70: Excels in burst mode, very new.

4. Canon EOS 10D: the $1500 version of the Digital Rebel, price probably falling because of the D-70. This camera is due for a refresh this fall I think.

5. The SONY alternative to the Pro1 ... SONY and Canon are in a dogfight with Nikon starting to come on fast.

Or she could try my tips on the G2 and see if they work :-).

I think the key discriminator for her may be image quality at ISO 400 and higher. If she wants more zoom (typical of zoo) she wants a smaller sensor, which does favor #1 and #5 above (smaller sensor --> smaller lens/higher zoom).

john

PS. Everything we need for a GREAT $800 camera is in place, it's just a matter of time. I want JPEG 2000 on the camera (better color management, better edge feature capture, better compression esp. at higher ratios), faster datapaths and bigger buffers (trivial), ISO 800 with tolerable noise, better manual focus/focus lock, image stabilizer technology, no perceptible shutter lag and D-70 level burst mode, internal but serviceable 20GB microdrive (forget the dinky memory cards), the Canon 6 megapixel CMOS sensor and a G2 style body (NOT an SLR -- I don't want the mirror complexity; I refer the swivel LCD feature of the G#/Pro1 line.) The only fly in my ointment is the CMOS sensors are larger than CCD (the "wire" problem) so I may need to live with a bigger camera. I'm fine with my G2 until I get the above -- though the market rarely delivers exactly what I want. I'm figuring on replacing my G2 in the spring of 2005.

PPS. Since cameras are going to get immensely better over the next 18 months (no new technology required, we have all the technology already) she might consider getting a Rebel now (since it will do very well I think) and then replacing it again in the spring of 2006.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

iPhoto 4.01: more than a bug fix

John's Digital Photography Page
iPhoto 4.01 was more than a bug fix. They fixed some big usability problems -- especially cropping. I'll update this page with what I notice:

1. Cropping works! Now after you crop and go to the next picture, iPhoto remembers your last aspect ratio. In edit mode it even gives you a crop box oriented around the image. It's emulating the behavior of GraphicConverter prepare for photo service features (I think I might have had a role in GC's implementation of this behavior, so it's nice to see it appear in iPhoto too!).

2. The JPEG decompression has changed. Images render in stages and they appear oddly softer. I'm not sure whether I like this or not. I suspect it would look better on some displays than others.

3. I haven't noticed any more integer overflow bugs (petabyte file sizes), but I'm watching.

4. Although some have had problems with the active folders (canned queries) I haven't run across that yet. (Bug is query selects all images, workaround is to enter a 2nd clause that returns null.)

Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File

Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File
Old trick, but I'd forgotten it. Download this hosts file to block traffic to evil sites.

Portable wi-fi phones -- now it gets interesting

Vonage to offer portable Wi-Fi phones | CNET News.com
SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Broadband phone service provider Vonage will make available portable Wi-Fi phones later this year to help defend itself against AT&T's expansion into its market, a Vonage executive said Monday.

I looked at Vonage for our home service. Made no sense at all. A trifling savings for a pile of pain.

Portable wi-fi phones are a different matter. Now it starts to get interesting.

Blacktree - Quicksilver for OS X - Cory Doctorow likes it

Blacktree - Quicksilver
Quicksilver is an evolving structure for manipulating any form of data. The current modules include a launcher, a clipboard recorder, and a shelf.

This web site defines cryptic. Doctorow likes it, swears it's better than my beloved OS X Launchbar. Worth revisiting in a month or two?

Monday, March 29, 2004

BlogJet - interesting editing tool

BlogJet
Gradually rebuilding FrontPage 97 on a standard platform.

macosxhints - Translate and open Windows network location strings

macosxhints - Translate and open Windows network location strings

macosxhints - Cached 'favicons' in Safari can cause slowdowns

macosxhints - Cached 'favicons' in Safari can cause slowdowns
I'll set my Icon folder to "read only"

Langa Letter: Cool and Quiet, Summary of advice on quieting a PC

Langa Letter: Cool and Quiet, Part III

Zone Labs: ZoneAlarm

Zone Labs:
I think I might need to add this to my PCs. Grrrh.

Open source approach to spam prevention by "postage" -- looks very promising (MIT Technology review)

A Better Way To Squelch Spam?
... The idea of fighting spam on an economic basis using some form of postage has been discussed since 1992. This technique is known as sender-pays because it forces the sender to incur some cost before sending a message. Sender-pays systems can employ one of two different types of postage: money stamps, such as what Gates has proposed, or proof-of-work stamps.

Money stamps are a kind of electronic micropayment. Since the dawn of the Internet era, dozens of micropayment schemes have been proposed. Building the centralized infrastructure required for a worldwide micropayment system is a daunting challenge, however. Not surprisingly, none of these systems has taken off. And there is no reason to believe that value-bearing e-postage would fare any better than its predecessors.

Money stamps raise other significant issues: Who redeems the stamp? Who has taxing authority on the income? Who bears legal liability for erroneous or absent stamp validation? Who controls access to your mailbox and for how big a stamp? These questions make it clear why we and many others distrust money stamps as a solution to spam.

A proof-of-work stamp—or “work stamp”—is a mathematical puzzle that is hard to solve and has a solution that is easy to verify. Another important property of this puzzle is that it has no cheats—that is, there is no way to solve the puzzle by a shortcut.

The major impediment to adoption of any form of sender-pays has been the apparent requirement for wholesale changes to the e-mail system. The Camram (Campaign for real mail) open-source project has developed a hybrid system that solves the problems of classical sender-pays and provides a clear path to incremental adoption. Avoiding problematic money stamps and using proof-of-work stamps, Camram deters spam while maintaining decentralized operation.

The cheat-proof puzzle used by the Camram project is called “hashcash." The details of hashcash are complex, but here's a quick explanation. Hashcash uses a seed value consisting of date, e-mail address, and a random number. This seed is fed to a mathematical function called a "hash." The function performs a calculation based on the input. If the first N bits of the returned number are 0, then the input value is the stamp. Otherwise the input value is incremented by one and the process is repeated until the result is a valid stamp (0 bits in the first N places)....

...The Camram project has learned that the most effective anti-spam cocktail contains at minimum three filters: a stamp filter, a smart "white list," and a content filter. The white list is a roster of those with whom you exchange e-mail; it is used to let this friendly mail in unchallenged. The content filter looks at the content of the message and makes a probabilistic assessment as to whether the message is spam. Taken together, these three measures implement the principle of “strangers pay, friends fly free.” In other words, strangers who stamp their mail, and friends with whom you regularly communicate, have easy access to your inbox. All others go through the content filter.

Sounds great, what I like best though is the cocktail approach. When I espoused that 2 years ago (with sending service authentication) no-one seemed to "get it" (except Jon Udell, who understood immediately). Glad to see that becoming common wisdom!

Great Macintouch notes on recovering an initialized OS X drive.

Mac OS X Panther (10.3.3)

"Recovering an Initialized Drive

Peter J. Creath
Michael Bradley did exactly the right thing in disconnecting his drive and not touching it.

The best off-the-shelf (read: affordable) utility I have found for recovering Mac files is Data Rescue X. Unlike Norton, which progressively patches the drive it's trying to recover, Data Rescue X doesn't modify the drive to recover. It scans the entire drive looking for lost files and presents you with a list of files found. You can then recover those files to another drive. This does require another target drive, but it's by far the safest way for end-users to recover data from a zapped drive.

To be clear, even connecting your newly-initialized drive will modify it slightly (since the new volume will be automatically mounted), but those changes _should_ have minimal impact on your ability to recover your lost files. The ideal recovery process would be to make a forensic block-level copy of the zapped drive and do the recovery work on the copy.

Antonio Tejada
Michael Bradley needs to get Prosoft's Data Rescue X. It takes forever and then some to run and do its thing, but is highly effective.

There is a demo available that will do the full scan (the part that takes hours and hours, even days sometimes) and show you what it found, but the demo will only recover 1 small file.

Caleb Clauset
Having just gone through something similar with a client, I know exactly how Michael Bradley must be feeling. The good news is it is very much possible to recover the data in a situation like this.

The first thing to try is Prosoft Engineering's Data Rescue X software. It's quite capable of recovering data in this situation and is non-destructive (you have to have a second volume mounted which is capable of receiving any recovered data).

The other option (which is what we did) was send the drive to the guys at SoftRAID to have the partition map reconstructed by hand. It's not their normal line of business, but they were extremely gracious and able to restore everything for a fraction of the cost of a recovery at DriveSavers. They also offered to hand-deliver it to DriveSavers if they weren't able to restore everything. So don't lose hope."
There's more at the site. Wonderful discussion.

iPod tip of the year: any AAC file can be made "bookmarkable"

Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes - Managing Files
Make Bookmarkable
written by Doug Adams
posted: Mar 1, 2004
This script will change the 4-character file type of the selected AAC tracks to 'M4B ', thus making them bookmarkable. (That is, the track will resume playing wherever you left off the last time you played it.) Works on protected and non-protected AACs.

Since Mark posted this on 3/1/04, it's amazing it's taken a month for this to make the wires. This makes putting my medical lectures on iPods far more useful. It was a major "feature" for audible.com so they may be unhappy about it leaking out. I wonder if Apple will change the behavior in an iTunes update. The script makes it easy to do vs. doing the file type change by hand.

Special google commands - filtering out hits on prices

Google Help: Numrange Searches
Numrange can be used to specify that results contain numbers in a range you set. You can conduct a numrange search by specifying two numbers, separated by two periods, with no spaces. Be sure to specify a unit of measure or some other indicator of what the number range represents.

For example, you might conduct a search for DVD player $250..300 or 3..5 megapixel digital camera. Numrange can be used to set a range for everything from dates (Willie Mays 1950..1960) to weights (5000..10000 kg truck).

Or you could negate the string to filter OUT results that include prices. Good way to find reviews on a topic?

Google Search: define: glycoprotein

Google Search: define: glycoprotein
Nice new "hidden" google feature. Definitions are surprisingly good.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

How To: Switch between Outlook and Palm Desktop synchronization

palmOne - Support - Knowledge Library: "How To: Switch between Outlook and Palm Desktop synchronization"

TechTutorials.com - Fixing a Stuck Print Job in Windows 2000

TechTutorials.com - Fixing a Stuck Print Job in Windows 2000

This happens to me quite often. It's one of the biggest Win2K annoyances. Nice fix.
"Fixing a Stuck Print Job in Windows 2000

Occassionally a print job gets stuck in the print queue and cannot be deleted. When you try to cancel the print job it will show as 'Deleting', but the job will never go a way. Additionally, new print jobs that you send to the printer will not print either.

There are a couple of easy ways to fix this problem as follows:

1) Open the services control panel (start -> settings -> control panel -> administrative tools -> services). Right click on the Print Spooler service and select stop. After that has completed, right click on the Print Spooler service again and select start. You can then close the control panel and the offending job should disappear from the queue.

2) An easier way to do this is to just click on the Start Menu, select 'Run' and type in 'CMD'. At the command prompt, type 'net stop spooler'. Once that is complete, type 'net start spooler' without the quotes of course.

After you perform either one of these actions, the job should disappear from the queue and you should be able to print again. "

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Silicon Valley - Dan Gillmor's eJournal - Google's Definition Lookup

Silicon Valley - Dan Gillmor's eJournal - Google's Definition Lookup: "If you type (without the quotes) 'define:' and then a word, Google goes out and finds Web pages where that term is defined. For example, I put in the word 'type' and got back a fairly long list of sites where the word has been defined in some way. (Nothing came back when I put in 'weblog' but 'blog' returned a bunch of definitions. Go figure.)"
Google is the command line interface to the web. Very weird that the CLI should be "hot" in the post-Mosaic web. Maybe we're post-GUI too?

The CLI is a handy way to "hide" advanced features that one is testing out.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Udell: InfoPath, Adobe and others

InfoWorld: Next-generation e-forms: January 23, 2004: By Jon Udell: E-business Strategies
Microsoft's XML-oriented InfoPath, which shipped with Office 2003 in October, is now deployed and in use. Adobe plans to ship a beta version of its PDF- and XML-oriented forms designer in the first quarter of this year. And e-forms veterans such as PureEdge and Cardiff, whose offerings are built on an XML core, are lining up behind XForms, an e-forms specification that became an official W3C recommendation in October 2003.

Nice Udell article on InfoPath, I need to send this ref to Andrew.

Canon PowerShot Pro1 (the "G8") Disappoints

DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot Pro1
Reading between the lines, this is a downer. The Pro1 CCD is just too small with current technology to capture 8 megapixels properly. Canon's last great camera in this lineup may have been the G3 (I have a G2 which I'm very fond of).

I'd been hoping they'd use their Digital Rebel CMOS in the f/u to the G5, but maybe it didn't fit the form factor.

john

Why I hate computers: "Unexpected error ($80080005)" with DataViz BeyondContacts

DocID: 13208 - During the synchronization, I recieve an error in the HotSync Log "Unexpected error ($80080005)"
...Restart your computer and try the synchronization againl.... Uninstall and then reinstall Outlook. After uninstalling and then reinstalling Outlook, restart your computer and try the synchronization again.

1. Chapura KeySuite is hosing my Outlook data when I sync to my Tungsten E. I paid $50 for it a few months ago.
2. I switch to DataViz BeyondContacts. In two days of testing it works ok. I have to stop at day two for irrelevant reasons.
3. I pay for BeyondContacts. $30.
4. BeyondContacts starts failing to sync. It can't connect to Outlook 2003. Retry fails. Outlooks is "busy":

$80080005 - A possible conflict involving Beyond Contacts and another application has occurred. Please see http://www.dataviz.com/BCConflict/ for more information on this error. There was an error attaching to Outlook. Restarting your computer often corrects this problem.
I am developing a visceral dislike for:

1. PalmOne (hacked up Palm conduits and databases)
2. Chapura (only because they've caused me great pain for years)
3. Outlook (every version)
4. Microsoft (ok, I always disliked them).

I wonder if I could figure out a way to get a piece of desktop software to suck in the Outlook calendar and then sync from that software to the Palm ...

PS. BeyondContacts spells "canceling" "cancelling" and "receive" as "recieve". It doesn't help my confidence in the product.

Googles fragility

The Register: "Google's IPO is expected in July, but doubts are already being raised. 'IMHO, they made a huge mistake in not having their IPO earlier as their 'superior technology' is increasingly being compromised,' a Slashdot poster noted at the weekend. Google is still the world's most popular brand name , but the deteriorating quality of the results raises questions of whether it can get to the finishing line in time. Google's greatest threat is not the competition: but that it appears to have no Plan B. We certainly don't hear that 'Google is God' so much these days.

From its omniscient authority of just a couple of years ago, Google already looks like one of Silicon Valley's most spectacular burn outs. Only by popular folklore, they're supposed to burn out after they've IPO'd, or been destroyed by Microsoft. Google hasn't even IPO's yet."
The fear is that Google has run into some pretty severe technical problems. Their infrastructure may be too big to fix ...

Invision Power Services: Inexpensive conferencing/community software

Invision Power Services
They provide hosting services and open-source based commercial proprietary software. The missing pieces is an RSS feed for RSS client monitoring of forum activity.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bloglines | Free, Web-Based News Aggregator

Bloglines | Free, Web-Based News Aggregator
Seems to work fine. I use NetNewsWire on OS X, and I could use Newsgator or FeedDemon on Windows, but a web based solution makes more sense. Yahoo is adding an experimental service, but when I tried it was out of order. So bloglines looks interesting.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

David Allen: Blog of a productivity guru

David Allen

Talk about reputation management. He comes highly recommended by a very interesting guy I've been reading. Another one to add.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Marc's Outlook on Productivity: Blurring the lines

Marc's Outlook on Productivity: Blurring the lines
Some interesting references. Need to add to my RSS collection.

Lookout for Outlook: another outlook search tool

Lookout for Outlook Download

Toshiba - Digital Media Server (DVD Player/TiVo DVR Combo) - SD-H400

Toshiba - Digital Media Server (DVD Player/TiVo DVR Combo) - SD-H400
Public TV pledge week broke me. We need a PVR to get our family through fund raisers. This doesn't zap commercials the way we want, but it is very nice to have a DVD player in the package - so we can drop one set of plugs. Of course we really need VHS/DVD/PVR player ... I wonder if I could use the PVR to digitize our 8mm analog home video? Techbargains also points to a rebate on Tivo service.

Of course I hate rebates ...

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Gormish Notes on JPEG 2000: very nice (and unique) March 2004 summary

Gormish Notes on JPEG 2000

I found this by Googling on "Kakadu" and "Fnord". This is a classic Google technique for finding diamonds among the dross. Only a superb site would mention both. The search produced about 2-3 english pages, of which only one was relevant.

Pegasus Imaging JPEG 2000 Adobe Photoshop Plug-in: $50

Pegasus Imaging | ImagePress JPEG2000 Photoshop Plug In | JPEG 2000 Adobe Plug-in
Five free trials, then $50.

JPEG 2000 on Mac and PC: ICC issues and fixes

Google Search: jfaughnan
From a Yahoo Groups posting of mine:


I have since upgraded to 10.3.3 and it's the same issue [some PC generated JPEGs render as black box on OS X viewer, Safari, etc]. It looks like Quicktime/Mac has problems with some of the ICC headers [color profile] that some windows photoshop plug-ins insert into a JPEG 2000 file. GraphicConverter doesn't have the problem and when it saves the files the headers are accepted on the Mac.

BTW, I think the JPEG2000 world is really starting to pop. After years of quiet I see a lot of Photoshop Plug-In out there -- from free to $50. QuickTime supports it (sort of, see above) as does GC (very well). Due to QT support Safari and iPhoto show JPEG2000 images.

Acrobat Distiller 6.0 supports JPEG2000 compression, as do the Acrobat 6.0 readers.

For document scanning there's no real alternative that's not totally proprietary. (JPEG2000 is "standard" but patent encumbered.)

I'm going to try some other PhotoShop Plug-Ins until I find one that renders JPEG2000 images that QuickTime can open. GC will be one way to test problematic items.

JPEG 2000 Photoshop Plug-In from ColorUtilities - $16

Catalog
One good "anonymous" review. Cheap, free to try.

Mark/Space: Outsourcing Mac Synchronization

Mark/Space
Interesting development. Apple, Palm and various phone companies have basically outsourced sync functionality to this small company. Good all around I hope.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Algo Vision LuraTech: JPEG2000,datacompression,imagecompression,documentcompression

Algo Vision LuraTech: JPEG2000,datacompression,imagecompression,documentcompression
IE only I think - well known name in jpeg2000 industry.

Morgan Multimedia Kakadu derived JPEG2000 plug-in for Mozilla and IE

Morgan Multimedia - Home of the MM MJPEG video codec.
The other sources I've found are just Active-X plugins. I found one problem with Mac/PC JPEG2000 images, some Photoshop plugins produce ICC embedded items that Quicktime and Mac plugins can't read.

SI Photo: Recommended Sports Illustrated settings for Canon 10D

SI Photo
Note the advice on sensor dust. Interesting links to photoshop color setup.

ACDSee 1.6 for Mac: OS X software for digital picture viewing on Macintosh.

ACDSee 1.6 for Mac: OS X software for digital picture viewing on Macintosh.: "ACDSee 1.6 for Mac is a fast image viewing and management tool compatible with Mac OS X software. It lets you view, browse and organize your digital pictures and multimedia files extremely fast and comes with TWAIN image acquisition support for scanners."
Sports Illustrated's favorite image viewer. I'll try it out.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Free & Impressive Fnord (Kakadu) Photoshop JPEG 2000 (jp2) plug-in

j2k
I tried the LEAP plug-in, I couldn't read the JPEG 2000 files on my Mac. Fnord software in San Francisco puts out this free Photoshop plug-in for Mac and PC. Last updated 1/03. Written by Brendan Bolles .

The Fnord plug-in uses Kakadu 3.2. QuickTime/Mac and Yahoo Messenger use the same development kit, created by Dr. David Taubman at the University of New South Wales. The common SDK source for this plug-in and QuickTime may be responsible for the Mac compatibility.

I used it with Photoshop Elements 2.0/PC to compress a 10MB PNG map scan to a very readable 200K JP2 file. Unlike the LEAP plug-in the Fnord file was readable by Quicktime/Mac. In both cases I included the Adobe sRGB ICC file, but Quicktime choked on the LEAP generated jp2 file.

USB Active Extension Cable by A-TEN

USB Active Extension Cable by A-TEN
USB Active Extension Cable by A-TEN
Part NO: UAE-16
Features : The USB Active Extension Cable is not a passive cable. It has a patent pending ASIC chip inside that buffers the ingoing and outgoing USB signals. Passive cables have the risk of data loss because they cannot pass the signals efficiently. The Active Extension Cable acts as a single port hub, which means that multiple cables can be cascaded (up to 5) to increase the distance between your computer and USB devices. The cable meets USB specifications and works with low-speed and high-speed devices
Extends the distance of a USB Device by 16 feet (5 m).
Can be cascaded, up to 5 cables to greater extend the distance to up to 80 feet (25 m). Complies with USB Electrical and Timing Specs for a USB Hub.

Looks good. Be nice to have a wireless bridge solution to extend a USB cable. Don't know of one.

Fix for installation of Palm Desktop in OS X 10.3

palmOne - Support - palmOne Permission Fixer
"The palmOne Permission Fixer application resolves a known issue with the Palm Desktop installer and Macintosh OS X when iSync 1.2 has been installed.

You may receive the following error during installation or re-installation of Palm Desktop if you have installed the iSync 1.2 Palm Conduit for Mac OS X: "Sorry, the operation could not be completed due to a System error. (Access Denied.)"

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Apple Reference Library Makeover

Reference Library
Apple's redone their reference library. Very nice!

MacDevCenter.com: Are You Talking to Me? Speech on Mac OS X [Mar. 17, 2004]

MacDevCenter.com: Are You Talking to Me? Speech on Mac OS X [Mar. 17, 2004]
Everything you want to know about speech on the Mac. I've wondered about using some of these capabilities in reading education software.

FileMaker 7: separating data and code (Tidbits review)

TidBITS#721/15-Mar-04: "In FileMaker Pro 7, it's possible to put the data in one file, and all the programming resources - layouts, scripts, value lists, summaries - into a separate file. Separating data (and the data structure) from the stuff you do to analyze and display the data brings an enhanced clarity to the development process. It's also a huge boon for any client whose developer is working remotely. When it's time to update that solution with 6 million records, the IT guy takes the solution off line, throws out the old front-end file, puts the new front-end file in its place, and places the solution back online. Downtime: five minutes, tops.

FileMaker developers have been talking about 'The Separation Model' for years, but it was more of a dream than a reality, due to the limitations on the ways in which one file could access, manipulate, and display another file's data. Line-item reports can't be printed effectively from portals, so you usually had to jump to a data file to print line items (like invoices or class rosters). And that usually meant you had to include scripts in the data file to sort the records and display them on a report layout.

But in FileMaker Pro 7, since one file can logically incorporate all the tables in another file and make use of them as if they were stored internally, these impediments to true separation no longer exist. The main remaining obstacles to The Separation Model are the need to deal with unanticipated fields and user modifications to accounts and passwords, but a lot of smart developers are working on these problems. I have a solution on my PowerBook right now that implements The Separation Model completely. It's somewhat modest, but it works.

The Separation Model won't be adopted by every developer. Many developers will be so thrilled to be able to put everything in a single file that they won't want to think about the alternative, at least not for a while. Even those who embrace it may not use it in every solution, in part because it may unnecessarily increase the amount of data that needs to be backed up regularly. But the sky's the limit now as far as file size goes. FileMaker Pro database files can balloon to 8 terabytes (if you have an Xserve RAID to store it on). As FileMaker Pro databases grow ever larger, the advantages of The Separation Model may become more obvious and more compelling."

TidBITs on NoteTaker

TidBITS#721/15-Mar-04: "NoteTaker 1.8 Hits More High Notes -- AquaMinds has released version 1.8 of their flagship notebook/outliner program, NoteTaker (see 'Take Note of NoteTaker' in TidBITS-677). This version introduces the capability to export to XML, using a new markup specification called NTML (Note-Taking Markup Language); such export can apply an XSL transform on the fly, and as a proof of concept, a transform to Keynote format (APML) is included. Other new features take advantage of technologies in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther: there is import/export to Word (.doc) format, and NoteTaker can now be used as a Web browser - including the ability to type into a search field to do Web searches using any online engine (like Safari's 'Google' field on steroids)."

Network browsing and connected servers in Mac OS X 10.3

About network browsing and connected servers in Mac OS X 10.3
Good reference though I think they're still being coy.

Web Database Publishing Software to Generate Static HTML Pages

Web Database Publishing Software to Generate Static HTML Pages
...quickly create web pages from a database, a spreadsheet or a set of simple text files, and publish them on the web. Your source contents may come from any text editor, FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, 4th Dimension, Microsoft Excel, AppleWorks, or any database that can export data in XML or the most common tab-separated text format. Its excellent job management features free your imagination to create big websites.

Mergemill offers great advantages in database publishing. The cost is low and website response is excellent. You can create and update many static web pages using a few web templates, and have your website easily hosted by any ISP. Since none of the web pages needs to be generated on-the-fly, site response will be much better. The process is just the same in publishing large amount of database content in static HTML on CD-ROM.

For those of us who don't own our servers, this is an interesting option.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Email To RSS In Three Easy Steps

Email To RSS In Three Easy Steps - Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings
The time has come.
You can now freely generate an RSS feed for any YahooGroup or similar email discussion or distribution list (Topica, Listbuilder, Sparklist, Lyris, Majordomo IMN, etc.).
The process is very simple, it is free, and it may take at most three minutes. (I refer to Yahoogroups in my example but this can be done with any mailing/discussion/newsletter distribution list).

One of the eeriest experiences of modern life is thinking something one has never heard of ought to exist, entering it in Google, and having it appear at the very top of the results list. Very strange and oracular.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Kula: Ecto blogging client for OS X

Kula: ecto
ecto is a feature-rich desktop blogging client for MacOSX (we also have a Windows version in the works), supporting a wide range of weblog systems, such as TypePad, MovableType, Nucleus, Blogger, and more. ecto is the successor of the wildly popular Kung-Log, which has been in use by thousands of Mac users and which earned a 4.5 mice in the MacWorld July 2003 issue, a 4.7 rating by users of VersionTracker.com, and a 5.0 rating by users of MacUpdate.com.

The fun area in net software today is RSS and blog clients. I'm a relative late comer in this domain -- about the right time for me to enter. Maybe I'll be able to eventually say good-bye to FrontPage.

MacInTouch: Deleting bad cache files in OS X and finding bad pref files

MacInTouch Home Page
Dennis Sweet, meanwhile, explains that similarly strange symptoms can be produced by a different Mac OS X problem:

With Mac OS X, corrupted preference files may not be the only thing to look for.
I have had a weird problem with my Desktop. The problem only shows up with my username, and not any other users on the same Macintosh (a 15' AL Powerbook). The problem would show up when I would download a number of files, usually ten or more, to my desktop. I would then sort them into folders. The problem was evident as:

1. Some files wouldn't show up on the Desktop and/or there would be multiple copies of them.
2. When I transferred the files to folders (usually more than one at a time), the icons would reappear and/or the icons of the files that I didn't copy would move or duplicate on the Desktop.
3. Most of the time, icons that weren't being moved would seem to be duplicated. But if I deleted the duplicate icon, both icons would be deleted.

Selecting Cleanup from the View menu didn't help, even when some of the icons were mostly off-screen.
I just returned from the local Apple Store Genius desk, and the problem was a bad cache file. He deleted the Library:Caches:Desktop folder from my user home folder and I am back to normal. I had spent several weeks trying to find the bad Preferences file to avoid having to do a clean install. Hope this helps someone else.

Also on the same theme, a script for finding bad pref files.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Plain Quiet Noise Reduction Headphones

Outside the Box
Plane Quiet $79.99

Plane Quiet is an industry leader in active noise reduction technology. The soft, ergonomic headsets offer the exceptional performance of comparable models at a fraction of the cost. Our patented design was tested on airline professionals and frequent fliers to ensure the highest quality and most comfortable fit. Plane Quiet eliminates up to 17 decibels across the sound spectrum, so you can relax and enjoy your favorite movie, music or pristine silence on your next flight, or anytime you need to block out unpleasant noise.

Follow the link from TravelInsider and enter the code "travelinsider" to get 10% off.

Update 8/04: These have been disappointing. My first pair was clearly defective and they were replaced. The second set seemed ok, until I plugged it into a charging iPod. The 60Hz hum was deafening. Even being near electronic devices was a problem -- they picked up a hum. They seemed to have both a grounding and an antenna problem. They work best on airplanes (little interference) but aren't very useful on the ground.

Update 4/28/05: The cord finally broke, and I was free to replace these darned things. They weren't all bad, I got my money's worth I suppose -- but one year is short lifespan. I had been steeling myself, and I bought a pair of Bose II headphones for ... $300 (ouch, ouch, ouch)! The Bose come with a very nice case. They're probably only 3x as good as the Plane Quiets, so they're overpriced, but that's the way it goes.

My Next Digital Camera

John's Digital Photography Page

I love my Canon G2. Really, the best camera I've ever owned, even better than my first camera, the ancient SLR Minolta SR2.

I'll be ready to part, however, if Canon delivers a G6 with:

1. The Digital Rebel's 6 megapixel CMOS sensor. I want the light sensitivity of CMOS.

2. An internal but seviceable 30GB drive. Why should I need to bother with memory cards?

3. USB 2 or (better) Firewire data transfer.

4. Internal 32 bit data paths.

5. JPEG2000 native formats.

6. The G3 body and general features. I like that camera.

7. Ability to take highest res photos with no shutter lag and 1/4 sec or less intervals.

Except for the last there's no real technical challenge to any of this -- Canon could make the camera today and sell it for about $900. So I'm hopeful I'll get it in the fall of 2005 for $500.

Gigabyte's GN-WLBZ201 - USB wireless and thumb drive

Tom's Hardware Guide First Look: Gigabyte's GN-WLBZ201 - Wireless LAN Monitor, Continued
Sounds useful!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

iPhoto bug: there is not enough disk space ... how annoying ...

Apple - Discussions - Error exporting iPhoto4 slideshow to quicktim
I think it's an iPhoto bug arising from multiple causes. I do think that if you change your free space (either increase or DECREASE it) iPhoto will often decide you have enough room.

Try mucking with your disk space (heck, try using up some of it) and let us know if it works. The most common problem is a corrupted image however, and the only fix I know of is to hunt it down by serial export attempts.

Most recently this happened to me when I tried to export 512 images. I divided the set into half and exported the first half. Then I did the same and exported the next quarter. I repeated the process until I identified a SINGLE photo that, when I tried to export, produced the spurious error. The photo appeared fine -- iPhoto reported the normal size, etc.

I edited the photo in iPhoto 4, making an arbitrary crop. I then reverted to original. I then exported ALL of the remaining images without an error.

As an experiment I returned to the original 517 photos and tried exporting them en masse. This time it worked without any error message.
I'm told iPhoto 4 had a disastrous development process and a brutally short timeline to get from nothing to something that could be shoveled out the door. If there's one single thing that shows Jobs persistent weaknesses, it's Apple's attitude towards this key piece of software.

Very cool portable ethernet device, on fascinating web site

RoadWired
Auto-Retract Network/ISDN Cord
Price: $32.95
In stock, ready to ship!



Click on any image to enlarge
If you need to connect your notebook to a network or high-speed hub, particularly when traveling, this is a must-have accessory. Seven feet of high-quality, "Cat. 5e" certified cord with RJ-45 (network-type) connectors at either end, stored in a protective housing. Pull out to use, push button to retract. Built-in adapter system adds amazing versatility (see specifics at right).

The phone connectors are wild. The only thing it needs is a crossover converter.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Compucable FirePod Universal FireWire AC/DC adapter and USB/FireWire 12VDC charger kit (p/n FXU-PWR-KIT-DX)

Compucable FirePod Universal FireWire AC/DC adapter and USB/FireWire 12VDC charger kit (p/n FXU-PWR-KIT-DX): "3 pcs. FirePod Universal FireWire, AC/DC adapter and USB/FireWire 12VDC charger kit (p/n FXU-PWR-KIT-DX)"
I can't tell for sure from the description, but this $25 device might just charge my iPod, my phone, and my Tungsten E ...

Apple KB Fix: Mac OS X 10.3: Mail quits when you click Junk Mail

Mac OS X 10.3: Mail quits when you click Junk Mail
reset preferences.

Blogger Unofficial FAQ blog - archived version

Blogger FAQ blog
I couldn't find a more recent version, need to look further?

Fixing problems with OS X preference files (from Macintouch)

MacInTouch Home Page
Ben Levi's note yesterday about fixing common problems with Mac OS X preference files brought several tips:

[Byron Han] From the Terminal, you can issue the following commands:

find ~/Library -name '*.plist' -exec /usr/bin/plutil -lint {} \;

and it will scan all of the plist files in your Library directory to see if they are corrupt or not....

[Alan Goates] The nice thing about most preference files is that they are actually well-formatted XML with DTDs to validate against. You can
do this with any validating XML parser, but here's an easy and free way to validate them all in one command line.
First download Xerces for Java, then cd into that folder (i.e. 'cd Desktop/xerces-2_6_2') from the command line and type

java -cp xercesImpl.jar:xercesSamples.jar sax.Counter ~/Library/Preferences/*.plist

If the file is really corrupted, this should catch it.

[Andreas Junghans] I suggest running the following in a terminal window:
sudo fs_usage | grep 'Sherlock' | grep 'plist'

This line monitors all file system access (sudo fs_usage) and filters out everything except access by Sherlock (grep 'Sherlock') regarding preference files (grep 'plist'). Note that you will be asked for your admin password since monitoring file system access is not allowed for ordinary users.

With this command running, start Sherlock, and you get a nice output of preference files (ending in .plist) that Sherlock accesses. The preference file causing trouble will usually be in '/Users/[your username]/Library/Preferences' or '/Library/Preferences'.

[Randy B. Singer] The corrupted preferences problem in Mac OS X isn't as complex as the extension conflict problem in Mac OS 8/9, so dealing with it is not as difficult. All that is required is a utility program that can make a backup copy of all of your user preferences files when your Mac is working well, and which can substitute all of the good preferences files for the suspect ones when a problem arises. This [free] program does exactly that: Back up user prefs.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Mac Marginalization - thoughts on Apple's responses ...

Mac Marginalization (Part 2)
Some thoughts, which I need to write-up for MacInTouch:

1. Everyone needs a XP machine, so either:
a. emulation on Mac
b. apple branded headless xp peripheral
c. thin client for an XP machine -- use it to run Mac software/hardware.

2. European litigation.

3. Linux alliance: thin client, run Linux apps. Safari/Firebird alliance.

4. Need all of the above.

Lasersoft Imaging / SilverFast SE: Scanner software for Mac and PC

Lasersoft Imaging / SilverFast SE
This scanning software got an amazing review from a super guru. Demo version available and a "light" version for $50. I'm definitely going to take a look at this.

Tunes 4 library files: Apple Knowledge Base

What are the iTunes 4 library files?This is a great kb article. Note the piece about deleting older versions. It also suggests one could play with the XML file to fix various issues. The description here fits with what I've seen when I access a shared iTunes library from both Mac (maintains database) and PC (drag and drop folders into iTunes to update PC database. It does suggest some potentially interesting experiments with Mac and PC databases.
File Locations:
Mac OS X
/Users/username/Music/iTunes/iTunes 4 Music Library
/Users/username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music Library.xml

Microsoft Windows
\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes 4 Music Library.itl
\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music Library.xml

iTunes 4 Music Library (iTunes 4 Music Library.itl in Windows)
This file is a database of the songs in your library and the playlists you've created. If you delete the file, iTunes creates a new, empty copy when you open the application, but any playlists, song ratings, comments, or other information you created is lost. The iTunes 4 Music Library file is only used by iTunes.

Tip: Older versions of iTunes you may have installed and used on the computer created their own version of the file, such as: 'iTunes 3 Music Library' or 'iTunes Music Library (2)'. When you installed and open a new version of iTunes, information from these older files is imported into the new database file. You can delete the older iTunes Library files.

iTunes Music Library.xml
This file contains some (but not all) of the same information stored in the iTunes 4 Music Library file. The purpose of the iTunes Music Library.xml file is to make your music available to other applications on your computer. In Mac OS X other iLife applications (like iPhoto, iDVD, and iMovie) use this file to make it easier for you to add music from your iTunes library to your projects.

So what happens if I delete this one? I need to look at it and try!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Tom's Hardware Guide PCs & HowTo: Cooler and Quieter Barebones PCs? - Choices Galore

Tom's Hardware Guide PCs & HowTo: Cooler and Quieter Barebones PCs? - Choices Galore
Nice review of this marketplace. I'm very interested in these ultracompacts. Heat is an issue, sounds like an external power supply is the answer (just like laptop). They are basically very similar to the original "portables", including carrying bags reminescent of the Osborne bags. I want to pair one with the new Hitachi SATA drive for an XP workstation and game machine.

There's a more recent article, also from Tom's Hardware, here. This one had some cautionary notes:
Due to the crowded configuration of electricity-devouring components, a conflict of purposes automatically arises: the high degree of heat build-up requires a sophisticated cooling concept. There is enormous scope for development work, precisely with regard to this aspect. Most mini-PCs at full capacity currently make significantly more noise than comparably fitted tower systems. But systems such as the Soltek EQ3701M and, to some extent, some of the XPC Shuttle models show what can be done with conventional aids (fans). [put power supply outside of box?]

A quick run-down of some highlights of this test: two systems with powerful ATI graphics (IGP9100 onboard) - Biostar iDEQ 200A and Shuttle XPC ST61G4 - are also suitable for newer 3D games because of their DirectX-8.1 compatibility. Not so the Intel 865G (DirectX 7) and Nvidia NForce 2 (DirectX 7 with GeForce-2 core), which are completely outmoded and only good for 2D applications. If you want to get the most out of current DirectX-9 games, sooner or later you'll have to get yourself an AGP graphic a lá GeForce FX5950 or Radeon 9800.

The Aopen with the XC Cube EZ65 is a winner right from the start, a sleek combination of great looks and good equipment coupled with neat details. Soltek sets the tone with the EQ3701M's very low running noise - similar to the previous test. Biostar is putting up some competition for Shuttle: the manufacturer likewise offers a mini-system for the Athlon 64 (Socket 754) - for under $383 (300 Euro).

That just leaves us wishing for an integrated DVI interface so that the mini-PC could give optimum output with a TFT monitor. Or how about HDMI straight off?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

phil ringnalda dot com: a seriously interesting geek blog

phil ringnalda dot com

O'Reilly Network: The Ideal Digital Photographer's Workflow, Part 3 [Feb. 24, 2004]

O'Reilly Network: The Ideal Digital Photographer's Workflow, Part 3 [Feb. 24, 2004]

Links at the bottom connect to other articles in this series. Print and memorize.

Universal Buslink PB7-20 PhotoBank 7 in 1 Multi-Card Reader + 20GB USB 1.1 Hard Drive

Epinions:Universal Buslink PB7-20 PhotoBank 7 in 1 Multi-Card Reader + 20GB USB 1.1 Hard Drive
Interesting product for traveling. Compare to iPod photobank ...

Finding disk space usage in OS X

Mac OS X Panther (10.3.2): "Re: Disappearing Disk Space in 10.3.2
John Palkovic
I just read some of the discussion of disappearing disk space. Here's what I do to produce a list, sorted in decreasing order, of disk space consumed by every file on my / drive. I open a Terminal.app, become root with 'sudo su -' and then
root# cd /
root# du -ax |sort 0 -rn > /tmp/du.txt
Then view /tmp/du.txt with TextEdit (open /tmp/du.txt), or 'more /tmp/du.txt' or your favorite editor. This can be applied to other drive if multiple drives are present, just cd into /Volumes/whatever and run the 'du -ax |sort 0 -rn'."

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Very nice review of OS X shells: Bash and tcsh

bash on Mac OS X by David Miller -- "In the migration from Jaguar to Panther, one of the lesser discussed changes has been the switch from tcsh to bash as the default shell (for new accounts). In this article, David Miller delves into affected areas, such as aliases and environment variables, to help you make the transition."

OS X - create archive -- zips the file

macosxhints - Create Finder-equivalent zip archives from the Terminal
I absolutely love the 'Create Archive of ...' functionality in Panther, found in the Finder's File menu or in the contextual menu when you control-click on an item in the Finder. It's much faster than Stuffit, and it doesn't require me to install any third-party software. Sometimes I need to be able to create archives from the command line, and I wondered how I could get the same functionality of the 'Create Archive of ...' function in the terminal. tar and gzip are out because they don't preserve resource forks and HFS metadata ...

I've been using Panther for months. I noticed the "archive" option on a context menu but never bothered to figure out what it meant. Turns out it zips files including OS X metadata. Holy cow.

RealAudio reforms: thanks to car talk?

RealPlayer - the best digital media player - Real.com

RealAudio was infamous for a deceptive approach to distributing their audio player. They used to make it very difficult to locate and install the free player; they played a bait and switch to their fee-based product. Then they spammed their users mercilessly.

Then NPR's Car Talk switched from RA to Windows Media Player -- because of Real's policies.

Now Real has a very agreeable and pretty clear download page.

Probably too late.

When will software companies learn -- only Microsoft is big and powerful enough to abuse customers. Everyone else has to treat customers like precious gems.

Monday, March 01, 2004

newegg.com: Shuttle XPC Barebone System

newegg.com
Shuttle XPC Barebone System for Socket 478 at 400/533MHz FSB Intel CPU, Model SS51G

Specifications:
CPU Support: Intel Pentium 4/Celeron (Socket 478, Max.FSB 533)
Chipsets: SiS651 + SiS962L
Memory: 2x 184pin (DDR266/333 up to 2GB)
IDE: 2x ATA133
Graphics: Build in SiS651
Expansion Slot: 1x PCI, 1x AGP 4X
Audio: Realtek ALC 650
LAN: Realtek 8100B
Extension Bay: 2x 3.5", 1x 5.25"
Front Panel Ports: 2x USB, 1x 1394, 1x SPDIF_Out, Audio ports
Back Panel Ports: 2x COM, 2x PS/2, 1x SPDIF_In, 1x VGA, 1x RJ45, 2x 1394, 2x USB, Audio ports
Power Supply: 200W(PFC)
Dimension: 300 x 200 x 185 mm

This system gets rave reviews on NewEgg -- a demanding audience. I'm thinking of building a downstairs workstation that needs to be quiet, compact and understated, but also support the kids games. It would run XP. This looks pretty impressive. I'd need to add an 802.11G card, memory, a CPU, a hard drive (might scavenge one, I have several lying about), a CD reader (lots of those lying around) and a 1GB of memory. Total system with XP is probably @ $500 or so.