Monday, January 31, 2005

Paste equations into OS X Calculator.app

macosxhints - Paste equations into Calculator.app

Calculator and Graphing Calculator are very interesting but obscure applications.

Keyword Assistant for iPhoto: Updated for iPhoto 5

Software

The previous version caused problems during iPhoto 4 udpates, the new version runs on 4.03 and 5. I'm staying with iPhoto 4.03 unless Apple fixes iPhoto 5's performance and reliability issues, but I may try this update.

Keyword in iPhoto are odd. On the one hand they work well with SmartAlbums and they're well preserved in Library merges. On the other hand the native UI for managing keywords is weirdly awful. This helps a bit.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Outlook keyboard shortcuts

A good reminder - Outlook keyboard shortcuts

I spend a lot of time in Outlook at work. I need to force myself to start using these keyboard shortcuts. I might map one of my mouse buttons to Ctrl-4 for tasks. Note they don't work in earlier versions of Outlook.

Update: This switches the Navigation pane to the default view that was introduced in Outlook XP. I dislike that view and had swapped it out. Somewhat annoying!

macosxhints - Pages 'First Look' preview and commentary

macosxhints - Pages 'First Look' preview online

Pages isn't ready. Neither, for that matter, is iLife '05.
...Pages truly has the ability to redefine what a word processor should be. Its seamless integration of page-layout and word processing features makes creating brochures, reports, flyers, and other well-designed documents a piece of cake. With literally no training, anyone can create professional looking output with a minimum of fuss.

Unfortunately, the lack of a page management system within Pages means that using the program is more frustrating and troublesome than it should be. In addition, the bugs in Find and Replace and PDF Export, along with the generally limited capabilities of the Export feature, make using Pages a bit frustrating. As good as all the other features are, these Version 1.0 bugs and missing features may make Pages unusable for many people. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great program. Hopefully a version 1.1 update will address the general bugs and page management features.
The Mac OS X Hints comments affirm this MacWorld article, though some argue the Find/Replace behavior is a "unix" standard.

Apple pushed out too much stuff that wasn't ready to make their most recent marketing deadline. iPhoto 5 is not ready. Pages 1.0 is not ready. (I read that iPhoto 5 has a 25,000 image limit. Sigh. I hope Apple is working on a pro version.)

Not ready for use. I'll wait for Pages 2.0. Nisus Express is looking good by comparison.

Want light sensitive digital photography? Buy a dSLR.

PhotoReview.com.au - 6-megapixel DSLR or 8-megapixel Digicam – Which Should You Buy?

Megapixels are messing up the digital camera marketplace the same way MHz did consumer computing and ZOOOOMM did consumer camcorders. The problem with consumers is that they're human. Once humans get hooked on a metric (measure) that's all they can handle; humans can only solve single variable optimizations. So single variable metrics drive a consumer market --- at the cost of everything else. Ultimately we end up with something like the "Irish Elk" -- giant antlers, but a lousy Elk.

This article demolishes the megapixel myth (yet again). Most of all, though, it had some very interesting things to say about light sensitivity, and about why light sensitive digital cameras need electromechanical shutters and mechanical diaphragms.

I want to be able to take pictures indoors without a flash. That means the digital equivalent of ISO 400 film and f2.0 optics. Image stabilization would help too.

I figured I'd be able to get that camera next year in a G2 (non-dSLR) form factor. This article has convinced me that's unlikely. I'll have to go for the next generation of the Nikon D70 or the Canon Rebel.

One thing the author omitted is that another advantage of a larger sensor is that it can be manufactured using CMOS-type technology rather than CCD-type technology. My military optics/electrical engineer buddy tells me that at human-tolerable temperatures CMOS sensors are effectively more light sensitive than CCD sensors, but they require more surface area to provide an equivalent resolution. Bigger sensor means bigger camera. Once camera size moves into the range of a dSLR, it's hard for a vendor to justify producing anything else. Emphases mine:
You can fit roughly 16 of the 2/3-inch (11.08 mm diagonal) sensors into the same area as a 35mm film frame – or 2.56 of the Canon sensors. Naturally, in a 2/3-inch type, 8-megapixel sensor, the photodiodes have VERY small surface areas, which means their light-capturing ability will be limited. In dim lighting, this sensor will be struggling to collect photons and the resulting signal will need considerable amplification to produce an image. (And everybody knows that when a signal is amplified, the associated noise is also boosted!)

Because the sensors themselves are much larger, the photodiodes used in DSLRs have greater surface areas that can gather more light, leading to an increase in the sensor’s effective sensitivity without the inevitable noise associated with an increase in gain in the system. The downside is that they cost more to manufacture and take up more space in the camera, which means camera bodies have to be bigger...

...DSLRs use full frame transfer sensors, in which the entire surface area of each photodiode is exposed. This further increases their light capturing facilities but means they must be used with a mechanical shutter that controls each exposure (this also means the inclusion of adjustable aperture diaphragms).

Digital camera market slowing ...

PhotographyBLOG -:- Canon Predicts Digital Camera Sales Increase in 2005

Looks like digital cameras will change at a slower rate in 2005. The profit is draining out of the market, with even Canon missing their sales forecast. Olympus is in the red. I know that I'm not all that interested in what's being sold right now (I have a G2 and s410). I want more light sensitivity with good optics and focus in a G2-style package.
'Canon said it sold 14.0 million digital cameras in 2004, falling short of its forecast of 14.7 million. It forecast sales to rise about 20 percent to 16.8 million this year, including 1.8 million digital single lens reflex (SLR) models.

Tanaka said prices of compact digital cameras would likely fall about 10 percent in 2005 after dropping 15 percent last year. But he said Canon would work to maintain margins and avoid the troubles faced by Olympus Corp. and some other makers whose camera divisions have fallen into the red.

Canon’s camera division boasts an operating profit margin of about 15 percent.'

iWork performance

Macintouch - iWork
'm not sure if this has been commented upon yet, but Pages is *slow*. Page redraws are glacial. Steve's presentation showed newsletter text reflowing around the cookie like water. On an iMac in the Tampa Apple Store, I opened that newsletter and text reflow was slow and jerky.

'Well,' I thought, 'It's an iMac,' and moved to a dual 2.0 GHz Power Mac. Barely any better. What was Steve using? Then I tried another template -- 'Club Newsletter'. Try this: Make a Club Newsletter. Drag the keys around. On my mom's 1.25 GHz iMac G4, text reflows/screen updates happen less than once a second.

Reminescent of iLife. I'd like to know how Apple does its product development. Is it all outsourced? What is the quality of their "internal" non-OS development shop? Small vendors, like Nisus, OmniGroup and others do produce high performing OS X software. So we know it's possible, but that Apple can't do it.

Except with iTunes.

So who does iTunes development?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

HDIUTIL: the essential OS X image management utility

Manual Page For hdiutil(1)

This Darwin man page tells one just how complex hdiutil is. OS X Disk Utility hides much of this, but in some cases it's very handy.

See also:
Some interesting examples:
  • hdiutil convert output.dmg -format UDSP -o iPhotoDiscImageII
  • hdiutil convert output.dmg -format UDSP -o iPhotoDiscImageIII -segmentSize 10m
  • hdiutil create testImage -type SPARSE -megabytes 10000 -fs HFS -volname Pictures -imagekey sparse-band-image=40
NOTE: can use -readwrite to attach an image as readwrite

example
  • hdiutil attach test.dmg -readwrite

Merging iPhoto 4 Libraries: The definitive approach

John's Digital Photography Page

I reviewed various articles, did my own testing, and wrote up the definitive seven step approach to merging those iPhoto Libraries. A curse upon Apple for not providing the facilities that would make this a better, simpler, faster process.

Reverting to iPhoto 4 -- OS X needs an uninstaller

Apple - Discussions - How to revert to iPhoto 4

OS/X needs an uninstaller.
If you have an intact copy of your iPhoto 4 iPhoto Library folder, you can go back to the that version. Just delete the current applications and all files with iPhoto in the file name that reside in the HD/Library/Receipts folder. Also move your current iPhoto Library folder from the Pictures folder to the desktop. Then install iPhoto 4 from your CD, make any upgrades to it immediately before launching. Then copy your version 4 iPhoto Library folder into your Pictures folder. At this time you should run Disk Utility and repair disk permissions. Also delete the iPhoto preference file, com.apple.iPhoto.plist. Then launch the new iPhoto.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pogue likes JVC DR-MV1S for VHS to DVD recording (save old home videos)

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > State of the Art: Videotape to DVD, Made Easy

David Pogue reviewed a few, the JVC DR-MV1S one out (for now).

The Mac-Mini server: reliability through redundancy

PBS | I, Cringely . Archived Column

A great column, even by the very high Cringely standards. This quote, from a very authoritative source, is very interesting.
'The second box is going to be our source-code server. It's safe as heck, because OS X includes one-click firewalls. And, again, it's not like I have so many engineers that we're checking in code every second. If it processes a transaction every ten minutes, I'll consider our company very productive. For us little guys, the Mac mini is the absolute perfect server. I'm hooking up two identical external drives to each Mac mini (total of four), each two set up as a RAID 1. (Each drive is slightly bigger than the mini.) The chances of losing data via disk failure are astronomically low this way. And if a motherboard crashes, I can swap in the other box -- I have a $500 hot-backup OF THE WHOLE MACHINE. I have a complete server 'closet' that fits in less than a cubic foot. It's quiet. It's got a redundant RAID built-in. It's easy to administer and set up. I share a monitor and keyboard with my main workstation, so I don't have any extra clutter. Look out, Linux.'
Hmm. I'm not sure Apple will like this; they sell xserve blades! The cost advantages over doing this with a cheap PC come from security, built-in RAID support, and a low cost quiet machine.

More broadly speaking we've moved to high reliability systems in the past 10 years not by making individual machines more reliable, but rather by seeking reliability at the system level -- not the component level. Hmm. Reliability at the system level. Where have I heard that idea before?

The other point the author makes, that many people forget, is that many servers really aren't doing much work at all. Our home server is a very old Win2K machine and that's overkill.

Cringely has more in the article. Clearly he's fond of Apple. He describes how to build a $9K supercomputer with 16 Mac-Minis:
Imagine a Mac Minicluster running Apple's xGrid software. Start with a 16-port fast Ethernet switch and stack 16 Mac Minis on top. That's a 720 gigaflop micro-supercomputer that costs less than $9,000, can fit on a bookshelf, and can be up and running in as little time as it takes to connect the network cables. High schools will be sequencing genes.
Read the whole thing. Good fun. Now if Apple could only get their #$!* iPhoto product working ....

Sending large files: YouSendIt and others

ExtraBITS

I've used YouSendIt for a while (blogged on it sometime). This post lists some others. YouSendIt can be very slow (minutes) to initiate an upload, but otherwise it's worked well for me.

As the author notes it would be interesting to learn how YouSendIt expects to make money. (Probably they're just trying to get Google to buy them --- which smells like a 1998 business plan.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Obscure Windows XP networking problems: Disabling the DNS Cache

JSI Tip 6540. How do I disable client-side DNS caching in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003?

I'm having DNS problems with my Cisco VPN connection. I'm testing if it might be related to a bad DNS cache.

Update: Yep. That did it. I could connect to work via my Cisco VPN from my home LAN, or from a cafe LAN. I couldn't do it from the hotel though! I have XP firewall disabled. When I tried to ping a machine in the office I saw the DNS was returning an IP address of 1.1.1.1

I tried various VPN options and even reinstalled it. Nothing worked. Finally I made a wild guess that XP cached DNS values and that the cache was corrupted. So I did the search and found the above.

Then I did:

net stop dnscache

- after this the VPN wouldn't connect at all

net start dnscache

- the VPN connected and I was fine again.

Update: I've since learned ipconfig, the secret weapon of windows IP networking, has some useful options for debugging DNS problems. There's a secret glitch however, a windows networking guru tells me one must run /flushdns TWICE to really clean out the Resolver cache.

Here are the options displayed with ipconfig /?:

/all Display full configuration information.
/release Release the IP address for the specified adapter.
/renew Renew the IP address for the specified adapter.
/flushdns Purges the DNS Resolver cache.
/registerdns Refreshes all DHCP leases and re-registers DNS names
/displaydns Display the contents of the DNS Resolver Cache.
/showclassid Displays all the dhcp class IDs allowed for adapter.
/setclassid Modifies the dhcp class id.

Monday, January 24, 2005

BBC Internet Radio -- including podcasting In Our Tme

BBC - Press Office - Radio Player re-launched

This is the first podcast that's caught my attention.
In Our Time is also available via podcasting - the BBC is the first British broadcaster to use this technology.

Wake a Mac from a PC and vice versa

macosxhints - Wake a Mac from a PC and vice versa

The comments to this "hint" fill in more background on "magic packets".

Keynotes subversive XML file format

TN2073: Deconstructing a Keynote Document: Part One - Slides:

Will the same thing be true of Pages? Is Keynote a covert SVG implementation?

MacDevCenter.com: Keynote's XML Connections

MacDevCenter.com: Keynote's XML Connections

Not scriptable, but one can script the xml that Keynote reads .... Interesting.

Is Apple planning to replace AppleScript?

Apple - Discussions - Applescript

From a post I made to Apple Discussions. It may be deleted as it may be contrary to Apple's restrictive posting policy.
Pages is not scriptable. Keynote is not scriptable either.

I was interested in buying iWorks until I learned this. On the plus side both apps have an XML file format and the Keynote spec has been published (AXML). That's very good.

But what's the story with AppleScript? Has Apple decided to replace it with something else?

It's worth noting that iTunes/Windows lacks iTunes/Mac functionality because it doesn't have a scripting solution. I wonder if Apple is considering a cross-platform replacement for AppleScript. If so they may have decided not to invest in AppleScript support for iWorks.

If they're not planning to replace AppleScript, them I'm completely at a loss to explain why their premier desktop productivity software would not be scriptable.

OS/X Pages review

macteens : Review: Apple Pages (iWork '05)

One of the first reviews of Pages (iWorks). Overall this sounds like a much more promising app than iPhoto 5. I'll still wait until I have my G5 before trying it out. My comments:
1. Is it scriptable? A few AppleScripts, esp. if they have keyboard shortcuts, could work around many usability issues (fonts, etc). Unfortunately Keynote is not scriptable. So maybe Pages isn't either. Is Apple going to give up on AppleScript?

2. The file format, I'm told, is human readable XML with associated binaries. If true this is a major plus. But does Apple publish the file format specification? An open format is an essential requirement for any wordprocessing application that is not Microsoft Word. The good news is that Apple does publish the Keynote APXL spec; we'll see if they publish a spec for Pages as well.

Doesn't Apple test anything? - "Register iWork from an admin user account"

Register iWork from an admin user account: "Register iWork from an admin user account
To avoid being asked to register again if you switch user accounts, be sure to install and register iWork using an admin user account instead of a standard user (non-admin user) account. You'll only be asked to register once if you register from an admin user account."

Sigh. Don't they do ANY testing?

Using credit card warrantees in place of unreliable AppleCare

MacInTouch Home Page

Credit card warrantees are a better deal than most vendor extended warrantee plans. Given the recent issues with the quality of AppleCare service I'll likely go this route in future. VISA seems particularly good, but I've had excellent service from AMEX with broken or defective goods.
[Nicolas Martin] Thanks to Doug McLean for noting that Visa's extended warranties are much cheaper than AppleCare for purchases made with eligible cards. The Visa web site lists the costs of those warranties, which extend up to 5 years: [Visa Signature Benefits]

Visa confirms that its warranties are transferable for $10, and a pro-rated refund can be obtained if the warranty is cancelled.

This seems like an good deal, and neither AMEX nor MasterCard offer anything comparable. But to look at it another way, the Visa extended warranties, like Apple's, are in force from the date of purchase. If you have a credit card that offers an additional year of no-charge coverage on a product that has a one year warranty - like a Mac - then a 'three-year' warranty only really buys you one additional year of coverage.

You can almost buy a Mac Mini for what Apple charges for AppleCare on some Macs, so it is a good idea to use a credit card with the 'free' year of extra coverage.

iPhoto 5 is worrisome

Apple - Discussions - iPhoto 5 Strips Color Profiles!

This doesn't look pretty.

1. Not suited to use on a G3 machine. Too slow to tolerate, several editing tools unavailable.
2. Strips out color profiles when editing, seems to ignore system ColorSync settings.
3. Reports of unuseable Libraries after upgrading from earlier versions.
4. Various problems with book editing.

Software QA is my primary concern with Apple. What are they doing?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Delete iTunes store account information

macosxhints - Manually delete iTunes store account information

A comment on software quality: OS X and iPhoto 5

Apple - Discussions - DO NOT USE IPHOTO 5... FOR NOW

I posted this as a part of the above thread. It may be deleted, Apple's policy allows them to delete commentary of this sort.
... Thanks for the warning! I've also read that iPhoto 5 does not work fully on older machines (G3 iBooks) -- many of the new editing features require a G4 (or perhaps use a newer GPU?)

You will receive many replies to your post essentially "blaming the user" for not running UNIX maintenance scripts, not running one disk repair utility or another, not repairing permissions (that's largely superstition by the way), not deleting caches, not forcing iPhoto database restores, etc. Some of these posts are somewhat accurate, but all are irrelevant to the main point -- OS X is marketed as a consumer OS, not a geek platform. (Ironically, some versions of classic had more problems than most OS X releases -- so it's not the 'UNIX' underpinnings that cause issues.)

I believe Apple doesn't do enough beta testing. They ought to have released iPhoto 5 in a public beta, as Google does with their apps (Gmail, etc). Of course this is contrary to Jobs passion for secrecy and big bang product launches. Jobs is a genius, but his interests are not the same as ours.

The RAW support in iPhoto is weak. They shouldn't have gone this route -- the manufacturers simply aren't willing to cooperate. Adobe has spent a fortune reverse engineering RAW file formats, that's why they're championing a "generic" RAW-like file format.

As to the import problems you ran into, similar experiences were seen with iPhoto 2 to iPhoto 4. At that time it seems iPhoto 2 had some severe bugs (they may have been in OS X, we don't know) that led to corruption of the iPhoto 2 database; this corruption was often invisible to the user. The initial release of iPhoto 4 responded to the problem badly. Later iPhoto 4 releases seem to have managed iPhoto 2 database corruption better.

It may also be that you have a hardware issue. Do you use an external drive? External firewire drives have often been problematic with OS X, especially with suboptimal cables. The iPhoto 5 update is a severe stressor on drive i/o, it might precipitate i/o errors and lead to database corruption -- even on a journaled file system. (This might be especially true if you had your iPhoto Library on an external firewire drive that was not journaled.)

Finally, I do want to affirm that I (at least) agree with you that consumer software is far, far from what it should be. Apple is not alone, I do most of my work on XP and Microsoft is at least as guilty. (Apple has very demanding customers, that helps. Microsoft customers have largely learned helplessness.) Perhaps the newer NetApps from Google will take us down a better path. In the meantime, backup relentlessly (yes, backup is FAR more costly, difficult and less reliable than it should be) and, above all, don't install anything until it's been on the market for at least 2 months. Sad advice indeed, but true.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

iLife -- not for G3 machines

Apple - iLife

Many of the editing tools in iPhoto 5 are not available on a G3. Rumor has it displaying images on a G3 is very slow. This is a time honored way to force upgrades, one that Apple has practiced for many years.

I suspect there are similar stories for iDVD and iMovie HD, but I don't follow them closely. Bottom line -- don't go for iLife 5 if you're on a G3. (I still have iMovie 2 on my iBook!)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Testing Picasa and Blogger/Hello

I'm a dedicated iPhoto user, but I also have an XP Box with a large volume of photos on it. So I downloaded Picasa and gave it a try. Then I tested the Picasa/Blogger integration. Here's the photo I chose, it's of our dog Molly about 15 years ago - in her once-upon-a-time favorite chair.



A few impressions of the combination of Picasa/Blogger and (even) Firefox.
  • Picasa is very impressive. Unfortunately for OS X fans, it makes iPhoto look anemic. In particular, Picasa doesn't blink at handling a volume of photos that brings iPhoto to its knees. iPhoto is a spectacularly inefficient piece of software.
  • The Picasa/Blogger integration still requires use of "Hello", an addin software that acts like a robotic blogger. It's better than in the days when one had to use Flickr as an intermediate store, but getting it all working is strictly for geeks. When I went to the Hello site for downloading one of their inline images was missing -- not a good sign!
  • For geeks though, the Blogger integration works. I posted the above, then edited with the image displayed inline using the Blogger/Firefox "Compose" interface. It has a few bugs, but overall it's pretty impressive.
Points to Google. I hope Apple takes the competition to heart. iPhoto 5 is better than 4, but the performance issues are hard to get over.

How did Quicken become a joke?

Quicken.com

In the late 80s Quicken was one of my favorite applications. It was a fast, reliable, DOS application that kept my checkbooks balanced. One a month a diskette arrived in the mail containing my credit card transactions. It was always complete and my accounts balanced. Every so often it corrupted all my data, but heck -- that's what backups are for. (I knew 3-4 different ways to rebuild Quicken's famously unstable database.

15 years or so later Quicken is a joke. I download my statements and the reconcile function is off by $1000 or so. Same thing happens every so often with the "fully integrated" Quicken credit card. I used to track down those things, but it was an enormous pain and the bank was always right. Intuit/Quicken extort money from banks to use their proprietary transfer format (Quicken no longer supports the old "open" xml format they once championed) and few want to bother with tight integration.

Last year I gave up. I use Quicken to download transactions (it mostly gets them straight) and otherwise I'm back to spreadsheets. I assume the banks get the checking accounts more or less right.

It's a sad tale ...

Gmail: You are currently using 146 MB (15%) of your 1000 MB.

Gmail

Hmm. That didn't take long at all! After a few months of sending my mail stream to Gmail I'm at 15% of capacity. Of course the 6367 spams in my Spam folder don't help! They count againsts my 1GB total and there's no practical way to delete them enmasse.

At this rate I'll overflow my Gmail account within another 12 months.

Logon failure: the user has not been granted the requested logon type at this computer

How to Troubleshoot Service Startup Permissions

How does anyone manage Windows XP at home? I use the Pro version, and it really expects to run within a managed LAN. It is quite awkward to do networking using XP Pro in a peer-to-peer network. Windows 2000 was easier.

In this case I needed to share a folder. I tried allowing access to the Guest acccount. Gave me the above error message. Turns out the Guests Group is not a group that XP expects to share too. Instead it provides that cryptic error message.

You can use the Windows Management Console to drill down the even more cryptic solution:

Console Root:Local Computer Policy:Windows Settings:Security Settings:Local Policies:User Rights Assignment:Access This Computer from the Network.

There one sees the list of Groups that are permitted to Access via the network. That list includes "Everyone" (not what you think) but not "Guests" or "Guest".

Rather than add Guests I backed away and added a new user in the Users group to support this sharing need.

Wow. Not only is this pretty darned cryptic, the sheer complexity suggests lots of pitfalls. No wonder XP machines are so hard to make secure (not to mention I can't run as "User" and get work done on XP, but in OS X I always run as "User" -- a basic security practice).

Important (good) news about Pages/Keynote

MacInTouch Home Page

Nisus Express uses RTF. Mellel uses an proprietary file format. If Pages used a proprietary file format, I wouldn't consider it. It sounds like it's XML based instead. So not necessarily standard (RTF, OpenOffice), but readily accessible. That's very good news and it makes Pages a "contender".
[Mitch Cohen] I was also curious if Pages uses XML. While at MacWorld I confirmed this when trying it on the show floor. I created a new simple file and saved it. The file saved is a package, which can easily be opened ('show package contents'), just like Keynote. The file body is saved in a ZIPped XML file within the package. I unzipped the file, opened the XML, and opened it in TextEdit. At least at first glance it appears to be standard XML.

[MacInTouch Reader] The answer is that Pages, as Keynote does use an xml format that is open. I, like Nigel Warren, find it useful to be able to future-proof files as much as is possible, my reason being that I work in the pharmaceutical business and we have a need to keep docs for up to 40 years, so as we move further into a digital age open and easily transferable documents are becoming a killer functionality.

[Walter Ian Kaye] At Macworld Expo, Pages was being demoed by its UI designer. He indicated that it uses the same format as Keynote. (He also liked to clone palettes by a shortcut of option-clicking on one of their tab icons, which I found cool.) I also asked about Word support. He said that Pages can read/write Word files ....

Mac serial number database

Klantenservice: Serienummers

They solicit information on systems, then provide a way for others to query that db.

Macintouch: Mac Mini is pretty good, the G5 is pretty bad (hot)

Performance Comparison: eMac G4, iBook G4, iMac G5 and Mac Mini

Why does only Macintouch do these kinds of evaluations? Here's the conclusion:
The iMac G5 is a wonderful system, and we'd rather pay a few hundred dollars over the cost of an eMac to get one, but all the Apple hype about the G5 falls a little short when you see the low-cost eMac, with its slower G4 processor, pushing the iMac G5 in performance. The eMac is actually faster in several real-world situations, and that raises serious technical questions that long to be answered.

Adding the Mac Mini to the mix really changes the equation. For far less money than an iMac or even an eMac costs, you get excellent performance, silent operation and the ability to drive a big beautiful monitor of your own choosing, a critical feature missing from all but the Power Mac and PowerBooks. The Mini's one weakness is disk performance, which may make the eMac a better choice for video editing or heavy audio work, but it shouldn't be an issue in too many applications. For general home or office use, the Mini is perfect.

If you want the ultimate in performance - or multiple large screens - the Power Mac G5 is the way to go, although we have some concerns about reliability with the liquid-cooled 2.5GHz model and would probably stick with 1.8- or 2.0-GHz systems.

PowerBooks are nice, but pricy. The big advantage you get for the extra price of the 12' PowerBook is the ability to drive a larger external screen in dual-display mode (up to 2048x1536), although the built-in screen has the same 768x1024 resolution as the iBook.

The 15' PowerBook is an ideal mobile machine, and it can drive a big external screen on a desktop and use FireWire 800 to get disk performance more on par with a desktop computer's. This lovely laptop costs about four times what a Mac Mini costs, however, making it an expensive option for its portability and performance, and it's not as compact as the jewel-like 12' models or Mini.

The 17' PowerBook strikes us as an expensive alternative to the iMac with better portability and battery power.

One last factor is the G5's support for 64-bit processing, which is supposed to get a boost with next year's Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger'. Theoretically, this may be an advantage for the iMac and Power Mac G5 models, but the real-world advantage for general applications is questionable at this point.

Ric did miss a key point -- almost everything that's true of the Mac Mini is also true of the G4 iBook. The main drawback of the G4 iBook is its slow graphics card and the inability to drive an external monitor at high resolutions. If Apple does a G4 iBook refresh in the next month that issue will be resolved.

The other part of the story is that the G5 is a crummy CPU. Hot and not all that faster than a G4. It really feels like a desperate marketing gimmick. There's reason to hope that the next generation IBM replacement will be better, but we're talking 2006. The good news from my perspective is that the inability to replace the G4 means Apple systems have a longer than usual lifespan (software vendors have to write to the G4 standard).

For anyone needing a machine and not doing video editing, the Mac Mini looks awfully good. For video editing the slow hard drive is a problem on the iBook and the Mac Mini. The (yech) eMac is a good solution, or a G5 iMac (toggle to high performance when doing video editing -- shades of toggling my original 8086 PC!), or a refurbished 1.8GHz PowerMac (need to have a monitor, takes up lots of room).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

AppleCare alternative

MacInTouch Home Page: "just read the fine print for my Visa card and discovered the 'Performance Guarantee' that, for a fee, will extend the manufacturer's warranty for items bought with the card. For about $180, my PowerBook repairs can be covered for four years, compared to $349 for three years of AppleCare. Of course, you don't get the one-stop phone assistance and 'peace of mind'.
The phone operators says that the insurance can be bought anytime during the first two years (which are covered automatically by 'Extended Warranty'), and that failed batteries are covered."
There are serious issues with AppleCare. Apple has outsourced its repair services to some marginally incompetent partners. This might cover repairs by private sources.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Buying John's DV camcorder: Sony DCR-HC40

dvspot review: Sony DCR-HC40

I like the DVSpot reviews. They're confirming what I gather from the Amazon user reviews and other sources. 2004 cameras were in many ways a step down from 2003 cameras, and 2005 may be even worse. I wonder what's going on.

Nobody has great quality, but sadly both Amazon and Consumer Reports are very critical of Canon quality. Sad. I'm no SONY fan, but they seem to have better quality -- at least for camcorders

Higher priced is not necessarily better. The money buys crummy still photos -- I'd rather use my quite nice digital camera.

One warning sign seems to be > 12x optical zoom. It seems to be a marker for a badly designed camera.

This DCR HC40 seems to be less of a step backwards than some of its peers. Otherwise I'm leaning to a Canon Elura 65/70 or a (mere) Canon ZR.

Index to reports of the Congressional Research Service

Congressional Research Service [CRS] Secrecy and Security Documents Index

Congress chose not to make these available via the web. They are public, so the Federation of American Scientists has made them available.

Securing an iBook: Open Firmware password protection

Setting up Open Firmware Password Protection in Mac OS X 10.1 or later

If you reallly want to protect an iBook, or make it useless to most thieves. Sure they could pull the drive, but most won't bother. If you use this and an encrypted disk image for vulnerable data you have pretty good mobile security. That combination wouldn't defeat a real guru, but it'll take care of everyday thieves. (Probably a good idea to put one's address info on a biz card taped to the inside of the battery, an honest person won't be able to get at your data so they can return your lost iBook.)

SONY CLIE PEG TJ-27: lessons in PDA reliability

Society for the Preservation of the True PDA (SPTPDA): May 2004

Last May I started using a SONY CLIE PEG TJ-27. It often lives in my front pants pocket. This is a very inhospitable environment for an electronic device, but for me the entire value of a PDA is portability and availability. I don't carry a purse, and it's useless in my backpack. I've had phones on my belt, and that's at least as bad.

The Palm III and Palm Vx devices I had survived in this harsh environment for years. Even the Tungsten T did pretty well.

Today, seven months after buying the CLIE TJ-27, I happened to notice that 3 of the 4 screws that hold it together were missing. In other words, it's about to come apart. It's design is not suited the pocket environment. It's too bulky, and screws don't work when a device is subject to regular flection stress. Fortunately I have an old JVC "walkman" tape device that died about 20 years ago; it's a rich source of small screws. They will substitute for the missing CLIE screws. (BTW, some of the original SONY CLIE screws cannot be tightened with a conventional tool. Ahh, genius at work.)

The phone or PDA vendors don't have a handle on the portability issue. There are versions of the Blackberry that might have the belt problem licked, but I've no personal experience with them. The last device I had that solved the portability issue, other than the Palm Vx, was my old pager.

Fundamentally this is not a priority for most of (dwindling) base of PDA customers. The PDA, might be a "Personal Digital Assistant", but at least for men resisting purses it's not a "Portable Digital Assistant". The same can be said of most cell phones.

Install Mac OS 9 classic to Mini and G5 iMac

Install Mac OS 9 to use Classic applications

Needed for much child software.

Webstractor: transform web pages into documents

Softchaos - Webstractor

The one thing I like from IE is the web archive (mht) format. I think it's even a net standard file format. I don't know why noone else has done it.

This is the next best thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Digital camcorder: Sony DCR HC40 MiniDV Digital Handycam Camcorder w/10x Optical Zoom

Amazon.com: Camera & Photo: Sony DCRHC40 MiniDV Digital Handycam Camcorder w/10x Optical Zoom
Analog To Digital Conversion with Pass-Through: Convert and/or record any analog NTSC video source to digital video via the analog inputs. Analog NTSC video can also be passed through the digital Handycam camcorder directly into a PC via the i.LINK interface in real-time for easy PC editing of your analog footage.
I wanted to find a Canon digital video camera. Alas, Consumer Reports documents a poor reliability record with Canon digital video. SONY is substantially better. This is most unfortunate, because my general impression with SONY has been that they truly dislike their customers.

I will give SONY credit, however, for the best lithium ion batteries in the business. I think they must have some unique patents. My old analog SONY monster camcorder has a battery that seems to last for weeks -- and its about 6 years old!!

Another good thing in favor of this camera: low zoom numbers! Most vendors cameras are going to absurd zoom numbers; and sacrificing wide angle support.

Usability guidelines from mainframe days remain largely valid today

Durability of Usability Guidelines (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

70% remain valid
10% invalid though underlying concept is valid
20% valid but not relevant today

Computers have changed less than we think, people have changed not at all. Good reference article with pointers to some old guidelines and to Nielsen's current material.

Removing those cursed Microsoft Windows toolbars

Lose that Adobe Acrobat Toolbar

The Adobe Acrobat toolbar is only one of several pieces of toolbar flotsam that infest my XP environment. No, I don't have any spyware infestations (oddly enough I've never gotten anyway, perhaps because I don't use IE!). These toolbars are all legit commercial products that just won't go away. I'm beginning to understand, though, why spyware vendors typically target toolbars to deliver their wares. It looks like the Microsoft Windows toolbar architecture is a festering mass of muck -- with many different backdoors and hacks that one can use to inject code into an application. Yay Microsoft.

In particular I'm cursed by pieces of Acrobat 4.0 and, more recently, the the silly Yahoo Desktop search toolbar (I like X1/Yahoo Desktop Search, I don't like Yahoo's toolbar -- which is starting to feel a bit like Adware).

This page provides some tips. I found 2 copies of PDFMaker.xla in "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\XLSTART" and deleted the older one, that seems to have gotten rid of the ghost Acrobat 4.0 toolbar in Excel. A search of my file system for "PDFMaker" found flavors of that beast in the Acrobat 6.0 folders and in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\STARTUP and C:\Documents and Settings\[myUserName]\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART.

I still haven't figured out yet how to remove the Yahoo Outlook toolbar. Deleting it from the Outlook toolbar list doesn't work. (Hmm. Feels like spyware indeed ...). Regedit tells me I have "Yahoo! Desktop Search Outlook Addin" loaded. Unfortunately I can't parse this further or find a file corresponding to the Addin. I'm defeated for the moment ... I might need to let the web chew on this one for a while.

Update: I received an email from Nigel L. He suggested: "You can remove the YDS Outlook toolbar by simply deleting the X1Outlook.dll ... I have not noticed any other unwanted effects from doing this (YDS can still index your PST files etc.). I also removed X1Launch.dll to stop YDS from trying to open up an internet connection…". These files are located in the Yahoo Search directory. I tried both of his suggestions and it seems to work well. The desktop toolbar still works.

Update 8/17/05:

By chance I found the official way to remove the YDS toolbar.

1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
2. On the Other tab, click Advanced Options.
3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, click COM Add-Ins.
4. Click to clear the YDS Add-in check box then remove it.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Macintouch reviews recycling computers and their components

Recycling

An obscure frailty at the base of all unix systems, including OS X

MacInTouch Home Page
[Scott Boone] The 'short name' used by the system is mapped to a (supposed to be) unique user identifier (number). This mapping can be seen using NetInfo Manager. It is an age-old problem whereby these 'unique' identifiers collide, and is a legacy reminder that unix was NOT invented in the Internet era. Combined with the fact that the unique identifiers are used sequentially (typically starting at 500 or 1000) when creating user accounts, such problems are nearly inevitable; the first user you create on each account, even with different names or passwords, will have the same ID.

Also because of the inherent 'trust' given to a mounted volume, passwords are NOT USED AT ALL to protect files on an individual basis. This is, in fact, a common vector for getting to other users' files--you need only to utilize a second system that can mount the target volume and then change your UID to match the target user's to gain access to that user's data. Backup tapes and backup files are historical favorites.

An easy way to see these numerical IDs in action is to perform this command in the Terminal: ls -aln - that will spit out a long directory listing, with the -n switch causing the output to NOT convert the user/group IDs.
This is a bit amazing on first glance. The fundamental UNIX user identifier is an integer that increments with each user added. The text username is a convenience that's mapped to that integer. It's ok that usernames aren't unique (neither are text usernames, but they don't overlap as much as the first 25 integers do!), but it's a poor behavior that to mislead the universe about the nature of the fundamental user indentifier. Of course this wasn't designed, this behavior arose as an accident of the evolution of UNIX. It's an example of how very early decisions persist as environments change. This kind of forgotten vestige of prior evolution is fodder for crackers. There are biological equivalents -- bits of protein that viruses need but may no longer have much value for us.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Yahoo! Desktop Search (X1) review by PC Magazine

Yahoo! Desktop Search review by PC Magazine

They liked it. It's quite a good review, they make some of the same points I made.

Lookout for Outlook + YDS covers what I need at work. At home I need to search Eudora. Looks like YDS doesn't do that, but X1 commercial does. So X1 + Lookout together would do the job. I'll have to see if X1 will offer an upgrade path at less than list price.

Moving iTunes Libraries: the SMB version

iBook, iPod and OS X: News, Notes and References

On the one hand, iTunes is very adaptive. It can handle a lot of upset in where files are stored. On the other hand, Apple provides NO help with moving an iTunes library between machines or between files stores. Their support site mentions using an iPod to make the move; a technique that that's roughly the equivalent of moving a house by chopping it into pieces and throwing it in a large bin.

There are many ways to move an iTunes Library. OS X Hints has mentioned a few. This is only my experience -- and it's very anomalous.

Background

There are 3 parts to an iTunes Library. The first tow of these always travel together. The third can be anywhere, but the default location is set by iTunes. (Music folder, My Music, etc)
  1. iTunes 4 Music Library (PC version has the extension .itl): This is a binary file. This is the true iTunes database. I think iTunes gets the location of this binary database file from the plist file (Mac) or registry (PC).
  2. iTunes Music Library.xml: This is an ascii file. I think iTunes generates this from the binary file. It's used by applications other than iTunes. I believe one could delete this file and iTunes would regenerate it, I've not tested that.
  3. iTunes Music (may have other names): This is the folder iTunes uses for music it manages. If you import from CD, the compressed files are stored here. The iTunes database poins to music in this folder. In fact you can have many different folders with music on many different machines, all indexed by the iTunes database, but only one of them is actively managed.
Moving an iTunes library or hosting it on a different drive.

There are two techniques. The first technique leaves the iTunes database in the default location (user folder if you're using a Mac). The second technique, which is riskier but is the one I started with, moves the iTunes Library database too.

Technique One: Move the music only

This is the more official technique. Configure iTunes so it manages music (keep library consolidated). Use Consolidate Library menu item in the Advanced menu. In the advanced preferences change the location of the library. When asked if you wish to move the files, say yes. iTunes moves the files. The database doesn't move.

Technique Two: Move music and database to a remote drive

Once upon a time I moved all my iTunes music from my iBook to an SMB share. Alas, I'm not sure how I did it! I've since moved that music to a different SMB share. I sort of know how I did that. So this is really a reconstruction of what I think I did. It is probably not correct, but it might provide some insights.
  1. Copy the iTunes music folder, database files and music folders alike, to the server.
  2. Create a shortcut (alias) to the new music files.
  3. Remove the default iTunes folder and replace it with the shortcut.
  4. Start iTunes. You may need to use the Advanced consolidate library feature. (Astoundingly I think I did this and it worked, but I don't see why it worked. I think iTunes may use relative paths in the binary database, and updates the XML with abolute paths.)
I think Technique One is safer, if I were starting over I'd do that one. I was able to move the files from one SMB share to another but it was a hairy and error prone process.

Technique Three: Moving to a new machine

I haven't done this yet. I think it would go something like this:
  1. Consolidate the library as in Technique One.
  2. Copy the database files and the music to the default location in the new machine.
  3. Start iTunes.
Given that I keep iTunes in a remote SMB share, when I switch to a new machine I'll probably just have to swap the shortcut into the new machine's default music location. Now the trick will be moving the entire Library from an SMB share to the new machine. Hmmm. I might have to do something like this:
  1. Remove the shortcut.
  2. Copy the music files and database over to replace the shortcut.
  3. Fire it up and see what happens!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Biggest iPod usability issue: the alarm design

Apple - Discussions - Biggest usability issue: the alarm
I like using my iPod as an alarm clock (3G). This taught me the biggest usability issue for an iPod.

When you set the alarm, it stays on. So set it at 6am. Wake up. Turn off the iPod. Pack it. At 6am the next day, the iPod starts up. If one doesn't check it, the iPod gets bounced around all day with the disk spinning -- until it finally runs out of power. It doesn't matter whether the iPod is locked off, it will still power up.

Ok, so I'm an older demented gomer. Maybe everyone else remembers to turn off the device. Or, forgetting about the alarm, maybe they decide their iPod is broken (powering on by itself) and send it in for repairs.

Perhaps Apple should change the behavior so the alarm turns off after it activates.

Frontpage Server Extensions for Windows XP

Where can I get Frontpage Server Extensions for Windows XP?

I"m still, sigh, dependent on FrontPage. I run FrontPage 98, the application went down the toilet after that version. I need to install the extensions on XP. This page is a good resource for that.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Technorati Tags: another small step towards the semantic web

Technorati: Using Technorati Tags

We seem to be approach the ancient vision of a semantic web one inch at a time. It feels like evolution in action.

This isn't practical for blogger yet.

Mac mini -- some more details via the product manager and the usual rumors

Clearing up confusion about the Mac mini - The Unofficial Apple Weblog - apple.weblogsinc.com
I spoke with the product manager for the Mac mini today to clarify a few facts.

1. Yes, it will boot headless, meaning with no display or video device connected, enabling you to have what I like to call an iServe.
2. While it is strongly recommended that you only have an Apple Authorized Service Provider crack it open and install RAM, hard drives, Airport and Bluetooth, it will NOT void your warranty if you do it yourself. As is standard operating procedure, however, anything you break while attempting anything on your own is not Apple’s responsibility and will not be covered under warranty. I think that is pretty much common sense.
3. Airport and Bluetooth can, in fact, be added after purchase. AirPort Extreme card and Bluetooth module attach to the Mac mini’s motherboard via a special connector and will be sold together as a kit for $129.
4. RAM is the most accessible upgrade once you get the case off. That much is clear from the picture.
5. All upgrades other than RAM are not as accessible, but accessing them won’t void your warranty, with list item #2 above in mind.
6. The reason the TOP of the Mac mini doesn’t glow and pulse (this is my only gripe so far) is that there wasn’t enough room to light it once the optical drive went in :)

Macintouch has some interesting discussions on where the Mac Mini may go. Some are trying to make it a home server (presumably w/ an external drive, otherwise the wee internal drive will melt). Others note that, despite the absence of various I/O jacks there are an interesting range of firewire peripherals that may allow it to become a media center. Still others speculate that "Asteroid" is more than a GarageBand breakout box, but is a peripheral that makes a Mac mini the center of a home entertaintment system. Ahh, Apple is such fun.

Gmail: View by RSS client again available

Gmail: Help Center

In November Gmail briefly introduced Syndication of one's email inbox. This has now been made widely available.
You can view Gmail messages in your aggregator by subscribing to a new channel. Enter https://gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom in the ‘URL’ field, and submit your Gmail address and password.

Please keep in mind that Gmail messages don't appear in your aggregator unless there are unread messages in your inbox.

There's some security risk here. If you use a web based RSS client, like Bloglines, your email pw is available to anyone that hacks Bloglines. Safest for a local RSS client. In fact, at the moment, Bloglines doesn't support this feed. It does work in Firefox though (go to bookmarks, from bookmarks menu choose live bookmark, enter url. It displays in Bookmarks drop down menu as a folder in which each inbox item shows up as a bookmark.).

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Maps based on Flash

Maps, All Interactive Like | Metafilter

It's only taken 10 years to start to get away from GIF or JPG maps. These vector maps are based on Flash. I'd prefer to see SVG maps, but them's the breaks. PDF work well. Anything is better than GIF/JPG for maps.

Multiple Libraries in iPhoto 5?

Ars Technica: Macworld 2005 keynote coverage: "but multiple libraries have come to iPhoto in 05"

Damn. I should have watched the darned keynote. Noone else has mentioned this most critical feature.

The first Mini Mac review worth anything (ars technica)

The Mac mini preview
If, as Apple states when they consign rumor sites to the ninth plane of legal hell, innovation is the DNA of the company, then it must be fossilized. Low-margin, low-tech, white box, red state PCs have been around since before Michael Dell first declared Apple doomed, so what is the big deal about Apple finally doing what most PC manufacturers have been busy losing money at for years?...

...It's clear that the xMac [jf: Mac Mini] performs considerably faster than both my iBook, which cost me $200 more than an xMac, and nearly as fast as my wife's PowerBook, which cost four times as much and is less than a year-old...

...It’s not about the computer. It’s about the effect, or rather the affect. The “y” of xMac, or Mac mini, is another question: why not Windows? For people in the real world, the Mac mini, with the included software, does everything people need, while not doing things they don't need, like becoming infected with malware.

And the Mac mini does it at a price, US$499, competitive with the charcoal turds produced by more successful PC vendors. It's taken twenty years, but Apple may have come full circle at last.

This is a funny, slightly scatological and somewhat impish review. It's also very good, and done by someone who really knows their stuff -- including speculation on whether Apple would revise Tiger's video infrastructure to accomodate the low end Mac Mini video specs.

Bottom line, this is a really positive review.

Griffin Technology BlueTrip: broadcast from iPod to stereo system.

Griffin Technology

A quite worthless picture! How does this thing look attached to an iPod?!! Grr.

Griffin has more fun and interesting products.

Yahoo! Desktop (X1) is the new champion

Yahoo! Desktop Search Beta [updated 1/18/05]

Until recently AOL/Copernic was my choice on the XP platform for file search (not Outlook, for that I use Lookout). Copernic isn't ideal however.

Now X1 freebie, better known as Yahoo Desktop Search (YDS) has taken over. Roughly following the same format as my previous Copernic review, here are my comments. Bottom line: it smokes everything else.

Some key features with some caveats :
  1. You can configure location of the indices. I store them in a folder that I exclude from backup. You really don't want to backup search indices. All my various search indices tools store files in this folder. The X1 index is 400 MB for a 14GB dataset, but much of my data are in large non-indexed databases.
  2. You can control readily what folders are indexed. I turned off Outlook search since I use Lookout. NOTE: X1 does NOT appear to index Outlook Task or Note folders.
  3. It indexes PDF and a wide variety of data types. You can preview files within X1. Big feature. It even includes viewers for obscure applications, like MindManager.
  4. You constrain your search results by additional quick filters such as data, result type, substring on file name. You can readily sort search results by the usual metadata (file name, date, etc) and by file PATH.
  5. You can tell it not to index files over a certain size (I used 10MB).
  6. You can control when it builds the indices. However, control is limited. Indexing is not all that smart, since my machine is often active (backup, maintenance, etc) the index wasn't getting built. I had to turn off the default option of waiting for an inactive machine. The index did get built and it wasn't a big performance hit. You can't specify a time range for index building.
  7. You can't index network shares with Yahoo's licensed free version. The commercial version of X1 does this. I may buy the commercial version for my home.
  8. It indexes folder names and it treats folders as first class searchable items. You can constrain a search to limit it to folders. This is a HUGE advantage over Copernic.
  9. When you find an item, you can right-click to open it in the enclosing folder.
Some defects:
  1. No fundamental defects for file search so far. Big advantage over Copernic!
  2. Toolbar is kind of dumb. I don't care about Outlook searching (I use Lookout for that) but those items still appear on the toolbar. They also appear on the desktop toolbar and take up a lot of room. However you can specify "Files" as the default to search (RMB, properties) on the desktop toolbar then hide everything but the data entry field.
  3. YECH (Update 1/18/05). You can't get rid of the Yahoo toolbar in Outlook. Sure you can remove it, but it returns the next time you restart Outlook. This is very annoying, because (see next point) X1 is a crummy tool for searching Outlook. I have a longstanding problem with toolbars in XP that show up unwanted -- I'm still fighting an idiotic Adobe Acrobat 4.0 toolbar that's infested my OS for years. I think I have to figure out where these damned things live -- problem is I think they can live in many places in the OS.
  4. NOT a good choice for Outlook search. I use Lookout for that, but this would be a huge problem if I dependend on X1. It doesn't index notes and tasks! I didn't notice if it indexed Outlook attachments, didn't care enough.
  5. Minor defect: it doesn't seem to understand abstract entities, like "desktop" or "documents" -- only physical directories.
  6. It doesn't "smart rank" search results (ie. explicity metadata > directory match > file name match > etc), though in practice the rapid sorting of results and subsearch capabilities mean I don't miss this too much.
  7. It doesn't, apparently, search Eudora mail archives. For that you need the non-Yahoo version of this.
  8. It doesn't search mounted drives. Again, the non-Yahoo X1 version of the app does this.
  9. Update 6/30: It ignores basic windows metadata (subject, author, keyword) entered via document properties dialogs. It ignores PDF metada entered within Acrobat. It doesn't index text comments on Acrobat documents. All of these things make YDS a poor choice for indexing scanned documents. Quite disappointing, actually.
    My configuration
    1. Limited search to the folder that contains my data and the desktop folder. (Removed all other folders, for non-removables set to ignore via "modify" button.)
    2. Moved indices to my "Cache" folder (no backup of this folder).
    3. Max file size to index 10MB.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    iProduct: your life in a plastic case

    iProduct.gif (GIF Image, 640x1050 pixels)

    OS X: not at all flawless

    Apple - Mac OS X

    I prefer OS X to XP, but, darn it, I wish they could get their network straight. In the 14 or so point releases I've been through, Apple had two where networking worked.

    On occasion I get an OS X point release that handles plugging in an ethernet cable correctly. OS X switches from using my 802.11b connection, correctly manages the switchover to 100mbps ethernet, and moves along. Lately 10.3.8 manges the switch, but runs at 802.11b speeds!

    BBEdit Lite now Text Wranger 2 - free (OS X)

    Bare Bones Software : PRODUCTS : TEXTWRANGLER : Download

    Text Wrangler is a "lightweight" version of BBEdit. It was a commercial product, version 2 is free. The free version is a very powerful text editor. I use a similar product for Windows that retails for about $70.

    BBEdit is a programmer's tool, but most of us will find value in Text Wrangler. I've been using BBEdit Lite for a while and will now move to Text Wranger.

    Some interesting atlas and map links and resources

    Atlas of Canada | Metafilter

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    iPhoto 5: a very big upgrade

    Apple - iLife - iPhoto - Prints

    iPhoto 4 was a major bug fix upgrade with significant performance enhancements. iPhoto 5 is a feature rich upgrade. If I don't get iLife 05 with a Mac purchase (it's a significant percentage of the cost of an iMac mini) I'll pay the full price.

    Unfortunately I don't see how I merge libraries! Sigh. Still have to use the undocumented import from DVD feature.

    My mother's next machine

    Apple - Mac mini

    Everything that was rumored and more. Wow.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Feed your iPod: free lectures to load an iPod with

    IT Conversations: "Listener-supported audio programs,
    interviews and important events."

    I'm surprised I'd never heard of this, but neither did my friend Andy who's generally up on these things. He just pointed me to it.

    These are largely technical lectures. Listeners write reviews and rank them. You can stream the audio or download lectures as bookmarkable AAC, ideal for iPod lectures:
    Download (AAC/MB4 for iTunes/iPod): This is the best choice for listening to IT Conversations on an iPod or in iTunes (Mac or Windows). These files support bookmarks. If you stop listening in the middle of a program, when you return later, you'll be able to continue where you left off. Particularly handy for those programs that run longer than your workouts. :-)
    Note: you can make any AAC bookmarkable by changing the extension (PC) or the filetype (Mac)

    This is a great find.

    Windows Macro / Scripting Utility

    Automate Your PC - Win9x/NT/ME/2000/XP Windows Macro Automation and Windows Scripting Utilities. Windows macro scripting solutions with MacroScript and VBScript.

    I use HotKeyboardPro. It works well enough for what little I do. This one was recommended by an industry blog I follow.

    AppleWorks 6.2.9 released

    AppleWorks 6.2.9 (OS X) 6.2.8 (Classic):Information and Download

    On the eve of a hoped for iWorks announcement, Apple has released AW 6.2.9. It's available for download, I don't remember the full app being available for download before.

    Fascinating article on OS X next-generation search and data model support

    Faster, Easier Product Development: Delicious Library Takes Advantage of Cocoa Bindings

    Apple does geek marketing better than anyone. This "developer article" is really written for a non-developer to read; it's a marketing document. Still, it does reveal a lot of interesting things that were introduced, without much notice, in 10.3.6. Much of this is fundamental to Tiger (based on what I read in Apple's Tiger notes).

    Anyone interested in "search" (meaning everyone nowadays) will appreciate the comments on search.

    Desktop search: why it has to be much smarter

    Faughnan's Tech: Copernic/AOL: current leader in the sponsored (freebie) Windows desktop search race

    I keep this blog primarily for my own uses as a place to keep notes on topics. Occasionally I do make editorial comments, but I was surprised recently to learn that at least two people read my posts on Copernic. I even replied to a comment explaining why I haven't yet bothered with MSN search.

    So although I don't expect much readership, I'll expound a bit here on my thoughts on desktop search. If nothing else I'll link back to this in future.

    I think desktop search has to be smarter than most people think -- at least for the 0.01% of the world that resembles me. (Caveat: I'm so far off the spectrum of users that no product manager with experience would use me as a representative user. On the other hand, I may resemble a "department" of typical users.)

    I have thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of documents distributed across local and networked drives and, now, Blogger repositories. They go back about 15 years. I have maybe 10,000 images and they're growing fast. I have over 4GB of email in Outlook repositories and 2GB in Eudora. I have spreadsheets, databases, etc.

    "Dumb" full-text search of my repository just returns noise: thousands of hits.

    On the other hand, Lookout works great.

    Why?

    Because I use Lookout to search only my Outlook repository. And that repository has LOTS of rich metadata. There are date entries, subject entries, people entries, item-type (contact, task) etc. Lookout provides ways to constrain searches by metadata. It seems to use the metadata in its ranking (Subject >> text). It allows me to omit indexing attachments -- which adds more noise than value. I learn to edit email subjects/titles in Outlook (secret tip: this is very easy to do) before I throw my email in the Save folder (I don't use any other email folders). I can add an optional layer of on-the-fly metadata by adding categories. (Very poorly supported in Outlook otherwise this would work better.)

    Desktop search has very little metadata to go on. Yeah, NTFS has LOTS of rich metadata support -- but it's ignored by almost all applications. Microsoft synchronizes (awkardly) Office document metadata with NTFS metadata, but even in Office support is weak. The workflow for adding metadata, even document titles, is very poor.

    The biggest source of filesyste meaning-rich metadata on a PC is the folder/path name -- even more than the file name. I do better using a self-built kludged implementation of Norton Change Directory than I do with Copernic or any other filesystem indexing method. That works because I try to make my folder names descriptive.

    Smart desktop search for someone as atypical as me needs to be smart about metadata. It needs to value strings in path names more than strings buried on page 50 of a 200 page document. It needs to value "Title" strings more than deep tex strings. It needs to value file name strings. It needs to rank recent above old. Heck, I could make a longer list (anyone want to pay me :-?).

    Search results need to be very quick to sort and (me only -- subsort) and to allow additional subqueries (ok, I'm very data oriented.)

    I think OS X Tiger search is going to knock the socks off the PC products I've seen so far -- including Google's disappointing offering. Reading their developer notes, they clearly understand the problem -- and, more importantly, they plan to deliver on their understanding.

    Yeah, I know Microsoft has great stuff in the labs (Longhorn, etc) -- but so did Xerox 20 years ago.

    Of course, as noted above, I'm really extreme. On the other hand, a departmental group of 10-20 people may have similar needs to mine. So someone building a desktop search solution for someone like me is building something that may work in an organization.

    Blogger: Wanted -- a better BlogThis!

    Blogger: Dashboard

    My enthusiasm for Blogger is derived from the extraordinary easy of creating blog entries. My appreciation was strained over the past few months as their performance and reliability went down the drain and as Google failed to index blog entries (not just mine, I think they were holding off to avoid straining Blogger's laboring servers). Recently however, Blogger has become reliable again and Yahoo is doing a great job indexing blogs (better than Google, so I use Yahoo's search on my blogs).

    Blogger has also made a great leap forwards in their web-client editing environment. Firefox 1.0 users have a "Compose" tool that's an excellent wysiwyg editor -- the best I've seen. Web clients are now making a serious challenge to desktop apps.

    BlogThis!, however, has not kept up. This bookmarklet is fundamental to Blogger's ease of use, but it could do with some rework. I've sent Blogger feedback requesting the following:

    1. A new BlogThis! button that says "Post Draft and Edit".

    When one clicks on this button this is what should happen:

    1. Blogger saves the post as a draft.
    2. Blogger logs the user in (ask for un/pw if no cookie) and opens the just posted item in Compose mode.

    The workflow is:

    1. Go to web site. Select text of interest.
    2. Click "Post Draft and Edit" button.
    3. Edit the blog post in Compose.

    A related change is that "Compose" needs a "Save" button that saves one's work without exiting the editing screen.

    If you agree, send feedback to Blogger.

    ScanTango: Scan to PDF for OS X

    ScanTango

    I've long been interested in this type of product, but I'm surprised to see it for OS X. I don't know of a good Windows version.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    Dan's Data likes AKG K 271 Studio headphones

    Review: AKG K 271 Studio headphones

    MSP Recreation: Roller Garden Skating and Blading

    Roller Garden - MSP - Saint Louis Park

    We're suffering through a snowless winter with 3 children who're reluctant to learn to ice skate. This site was surprisingly hard to find, but it looks like an option for snowless recreation. Another new one is tubing at Afton Alps, but only for children > 5 yo or taller than 42".

    Indoor inline or roller skating places aren't well represented in the search world. I used Google, Froogle, Yahoo business search, the paper Yellow Pages and our family memory. Each one added something. Only the print yellow pages correctly listed the Wooddale (Woodbury) Rec Center as a local site for roller/inline skating and for parties. I'll have to add a number of the discoveries to the MSP rec page I maintain.

    kw: rollerGarden, inline, rollerblading, rollerskating, roller skating, MSP

    OmniOutliner Pro: Heir to MORE 3.1!

    The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Professional

    Based on OmniGroup comments posted to MacUpdate, it's clear that this release of OmniOutliner is a deliberate decision to deliver much of the writing/outlining functionality of MORE 3.1. (OmniGraffle would be a variant of the graphical portions of MORE.)

    They've even implemented a variant of MORE styles. This help file entry tells a veteran that this is a very well designed Mac application:
    By default, when you attach a file to an outline it gets embedded into the outline. This means that a copy of the attached file is actually put inside the outline file itself. If you subsequently move the file around, or send it to someone else, the attached file will move with it.

    If you attach a folder, or hold the control key while dropping a file, an alias to the file or folder will be created instead. The alias behaves just like an alias in Finder, as a pointer to the actual file. This means you can change the file or move it around, and OmniOutliner will try to follow the changes. Of course, if the file is deleted, gets moved to a network drive that is then disconnected, or otherwise goes where OmniOutliner can't find it, the file reference in the outline will become useless. Also, if you want to send the outline to someone else and have the file references stay valid, you'll need to put them all into the same directory structure and send them the whole mess.
    You have to love a vendor who writes documentation like this.

    This product is a cross between a database/spreadsheet, a wordprocessor, and an outliner. Given my history w/ MORE I'd be dishonest if I didn't buy it. So I have. (List price is $70, I paid $40 for the academic upgrade price.)

    This looks to be my primary writing tool for OS X. I'd expect that if Apple announces an iWorks wordprocessor, and if the Apple file format is not completely impenetrable, that OmniGroup will support that file format. It does support RTF import/export so Nisus is another possible complement.

    I'll update with more experience. If it works well I'll look at OmniGraffle integration too.

    Wanted: An AppleScript for Safari that will open a viewed page in Firefox (OS X)

    Apple - Discussions - Looking for: Open in Firefox AppleScript

    From a post to the Apple Discussions Forum:
    I use Firefox on Windows, but Safari on my Mac. (When Camino gets to the same Gecko engine as FF, and thus gets the web site support FF 1.0 now has, I'll probably switch to Camino on my Mac. I like Omniweb, but it has the same constituency problems as Safari.)

    Although Safari works well most of the time, there are some sites, where I'd really like to use FF. Blogger, for example, provides its superb wysiwyg Compose editor only to the most recent FF/Moz release. Safari users are stuck with a barebones editor, Camino gets the previous Mozilla editor (for its version of Gecko).

    Firefox on the PC has an "Open in IE" extension that lets me view some poorly implemented banking sites in IE. We need a similar "Open in FF" function for Safari. That way I could mostly work in Safari (for now), but switch to FF when I need it. (Ugly fonts and all.)

    Has anyone done an "Open in Firefox" AppleScript for Safari?
    Update: "Camelot" quickly replied with the script:
    tell application "Safari"
    set theURL to URL of document 1 -- get the current URL
    end tell

    tell application "Firefox" to Get URL theURL
    For those who know even less AppleScript than I, this is what I did.

    Wow. This works just as you described. It will help with Blogger and those other pages that don't quite work in Safari.

    For those who know even less AppleScript than I, this is what I did.
    1. Located the AppleScript folder in my Applications Folder.
    2. Launched script editor and pasted in above (second example)
    3. Saved script in my personal Library/Script/Safari folder.
    4. Saved script again as an application. Unchecked StartUp Screen, checked Run Only. (This step is useful for LaunchBar integration, otherwise ignore it.)
    Since I have the script icon on my toolbar (forget how I did that) I can click there and launch the script.

    I also extended the script so FF would come to the front (not sure if this the right way to do so):
    tell application "Safari"
    set theURL to URL of document 1 -- get the current URL
    end tell

    tell application "Firefox" to Get URL theURL

    tell application "Firefox"
    activate
    end tell

    Lastly, by saving a copy of the script as an application, I had something that when I click on it just opens in FF. Then I configured Launchbar to index my scripts folder. Now when I activate launchbar and type 'OIF' FF launches.

    I can start a post in Safari, and finish it in FF.

    I can start a blog post in Safari, do Launchbar OIF, then complete editing it in FF. Works great.

    The OS X browser wars: Camino

    The Camino™ Project

    I use Firefox on Windows. Great browser, though until web sites get caught up it's very helpful to have the "open in IE" extension.

    On OS X I mostly use Safari. I like the fonts and readability, I like the compact use of space, I like the OS X services integration. I also use Firefox, but the font/layout is not appealing. I like Omniweb's ability to visualize the windows/tab tree and manipulate it, but horizontal tabs don't work on an iBook display.

    The biggest drawback of Safari is market share. It gets support out of proportion to its market share because of the "Mac Factor" (OS X use is much higher in geeks than in the general population), but it's definitely behind Firefox. Blogger has a terrific wysiwyg-like HTML editor (Compose), but it's only available in Firefox (yeah, IE too, probably Mozilla but I don't use Moz).

    Camino 0.82 is a cross between Firefox and Safari. It's the browser that Apple should have gone with. It's really very elegant. I tried it out on Blogger, but I got the old HTML editor -- not the new Compose editor. Better than what I get with Safari, but it's not 'Compose'. I think Camino uses an older version of the Gecko, so there's hope that when it gets to release 1.0 there will be a Mac browser with the web constituency of Firefox.

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    My newest high tech addiction: wire bound notebooks

    Froogle Search: National Brand college ruled notebook

    As I descend ever further into the depths of senile decay, I am ever more susceptible to the blandishments of paper. At one point in my life I resisted this temptation, for work on paper is often lost. I have at last come to feel, alas, that much of my work is better lost.

    The paper can be used on takeoff and landing. It can be used when I don't have an outlet. The display space is enormous -- I can scatter papers over a wall. A 10 foot display is too costly for me (though I'd like to try a VR display if they ever make it to the mass market). Paper is rigidly linear, I know things won't move around on me. It requires little or no cycles for me to do data entry; it has no distractions. It doesn't ping me. It doesn't lure me into email or the net.

    Ahh. Great innovation that paper. But wait ... legal pads are bulky, pages get scattered and lost. The pad doesn't fold well. What is to be done?

    Wire bound notebooks by National Brand! Micro-perf pages can be separated easily and are pre-punched. It is a good thickness at 60-80 sheets and it stores well side by side in magazine racks (the wire spines intermesh). The spines and covers are robust. It is tough, durable, reliable, lightweight and portable. I can return months later and parse out my scrawls.

    I think I'm in love.

    Update 11/18/07: I'm not alone.
    Resolved: that the Mead (or Cambridge) one-subject notebook, 8-1/2” x 11”, action planner format, side bound, double wire spiral bound, side perforated, 80 pages, 20 lb. bond, white paper, rule lines printed in gray and maroon; catalogue number 06064 or MEA06064; or the Cambridge Executive Action Planner Limited Notebook, otherwise identical, Cambridge catalogue number 20568208—

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    PhotoPresenter: iPhoot viewer

    Update: I downloaded and installed this app. Don't bother. The web site said it was compatible with iPhoto 4, but the executable warned otherwise when I started it up. It ignored my cancel request and brought me to a menu I could not quit form. I had to kill it via the OS X application list.

    PhotoPresenter

    If you have to manage multiple iPhoto Libraries, this viewer lets you see what's in each one without loading iPhoto.

    GraphClick - Free OS X Graph Digitizer

    GraphClick - Free Graph Digitizer
    You have the picture of a graph but not the corresponding data? GraphClick is then simply the best way to solve the problem! You just have to click on the graph, and the obtained coordinates of the points can be directly exported into any other application.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Canon Downgrades Elura Camcorder Line

    Canon Updates Elura Camcorder Line - News, Guides and Tips - Consumer Camcorders - Camcorderinfo.com:
    In an effort to reduce the size however, Canon has in some ways downgraded the Eluras. The S-Video ports available on last year's Eluras have been removed from this year's models. Also, the hot accessory shoes found on last year's Elura 65 and Elura 70 have been replaced by cold shoes on this year's models. In a ways, the alterations made to last year's Eluras are similar to those made on the ZR series this year. Canon has removed some features in the interest of making these new models not only more affordable but also slightly smaller.
    Losing the S-video is a big deal for someone who wants to do digital passthrough. Amazon is discounting the older models. Looks like a good time to buy an Elura 70!

    Home Hacking Projects for Geeks - maybe it'll help me monitor for furnance outages ...

    Boing Boing: Home Hacking Projects for Geeks: "O'Reilly Media has just published Home Hacking Projects for Geeks, featuring 13 fun home automation projects for your house..."

    Nvu - FrontPage for the Mac/Linux and even Windows

    Nvu - The Complete Web Authoring System for Linux

    This is an open source project that extends Mozilla Composer. It doesn't really match the capabilities of FP 98 -- it's very document centric, not site-centric. It's more like the FrontPage Editor portion of FP 98. Still, that's very valuable.

    It apparently runs "OK" on the Mac but you need to use the Ctrl key, not the Cmd key. It needs some more Mac work, but it's not out of beta yet. I'll try it out ...

    Update: This really isn't too bad. It has some obvious bugs, but overall it works. It's not super-snappy, but I didn't run into much typelag in some quick testing. It looks like Mozilla and, yes, it's no FrontPage 98 (really the high point of FrontPage's life, later versions were inferior). The site management feature expects a real web site -- you need ftp access. There's no WebDav support. (whatever happened to WebDav, and, more importantly, why? Did WebDav die because of IP issues?)

    I'll give this one some more use. I do need a viable replacement for FrontPage, though that will take a long time. (Document-centric low end web management and authoring is what's technically known as a Faughnan-market. That is, a market made up of John Faughnan and similar individuals. At last count there were five of us worldwide.)

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Firefox - Autoscroll is not broken, it's disabled

    Firefox - Rediscover the web

    This was very annoying. Firefox wasn't autoscrolling with my Intellimouse 5.2 drivers. I love autoscrolling. I had used the IM 5.2 driver application-specific configuration to set the middle button click to autoscroll. Still didn't work.

    Turns out there's an option in Firefox to enable autoscroll. In my install it was unchecked! Also one for "smooth scrolling" which I think is a smarter form of scrolling (w/ acceleration).

    I don't recall disabling those, I wonder if some extension turned 'em off.

    Worth noting if your autoscroll isn't working as expected.

    Most web activity is now non-human - implications for personal web site traffic limits

    MacInTouch Home Page
    [Cameron Knowlton] ... The mass majority of web traffic is from non-human surfers, such as positioning agents and other such web goodies. Many sites are poorly designed to work only with IE/Windows... these sites detect the 'agent string' from the users browser, and work only when they see an expected agent string. Accordingly, developers of web agent software mimic the lowest common denominator browser -- IE/Windows. Even Safari is wired to do this.

    Search engine marketing studies have estimated as much as 75% of search engine traffic is from non-humans... other web activity (email crawlers, web site crawlers, etc.) would be similarly skewed.
    This is becoming a cost issue, as well as messing up data on what browsers are being used (suggests Firefox use may actualy be close to 10% of human web access). ISPs charge for bandwidth. I have a fair bit of data on my personal site, but most of it is of limited current interest. I keep it there for my purposes, and for archival retrieval by others. The bots don't know this however, and they suck the entire site. This adds up to hundreds of MBs of traffic a month; and that can start heading towards my ISP's traffic limits. Since I switched to LunarPages I've been ok, but if the trend continues I'll run into problmes there too.

    Palm Converter for OS X and JFile Companion

    MacInTouch Home Page: "... Palm Converter 2.0.0a1 is an application that can read some of the files created on a Palm and transferred to your desktop when you HotSync, including MemoDB, Memo32DB, MobileDB, and other database files. This alpha release is a complete rewrite of the program to allow for expansion of translators. It also now exports to XML and exports ThoughtManager outlines to OPML. Palm Converter is free for Mac OS X and Mac OS 9."
    This site also offers JFile Companion, a Mac product for manipulating PalmOS JFile databases.

    Copernic/AOL: current leader in the sponsored (freebie) Windows desktop search race

    Copernic Desktop Search - The Search Engine for Your PC

    Updated 1/5/05 with, unsurprisingly, some more of the negatives.
    Update 5/10/05: I think Yahoo Desktop Search (X1 freebie) is the best PC desktop search tool -- except it doesn't index Eudora. X1 commercial does -- for $80. There was rumor of a Google Desktop Search plugin, but it's not there yet. So, for home, where I use Eudora still on my PC, I'm going to try Copernic 1.5 again.

    Introduction

    I really like Lookout for searching and managing Outlook. I'm sticking with that one for now. I tried Google desktop search and a few others, including Lookout's desktop search -- didn't like 'em.

    Since MSN search uses Microsoft's built-in indexing, which I don't like, I haven't tried it.

    I think Yahoo/X1 will be interesting, but it's not a freebie yet.

    Copernic/AOL is my latest. It looks good at first glance, but it has some fundamental deficits.

    Some key features:
    1. You can configure location of the indices. I store them in a folder that I exclude from backup, including backup via ConnectedTLM. You really don't want to backup search indices. All my various search indices tools store files in this folder.
    2. You can control readily what folders are indexed. I turned off Outlook search since I use Lookout.
    3. It indexes PDF.
    4. You can tell it not to index very large files.
    5. You can control when it builds the indices, including time of day scheduling. It will do low level background indexing (not a default). Index builds seem very fast and "smart".
    6. If you map a network share to a drive letter, it appears that it can index that drive. (Performance may be poor, I haven't pursued this capability as I don't need it at work.)
    7. It indexes folder names. (A major flaw in Lookout 1.2's file system search.)
    Some fundamental defects:
    1. It's "stupid" in how it does search rankings. In particular it doesn't use NTFS file metadata it doesn't weight metadata >> folder name >> file name >> document content and it doesn't differentially weight aspects of documents (titles, early text, etc) .
      (One of the reasons Lookout works so well for email search is that there's so much reich metadata available in Outlook. The typical PC document filestore has very little metadata. I'm very interested in the 2005 OS X Tiger search because of the way it uses metadata.)
    2. It doesn't return a folder or directory as a search result. The only search results are files. This throws away a lot of the intelligence and metadata that may exist in a file store.
    3. You can't search within a result set easily.
    4. You can't sort result sets by metadata (file size, type, date created, date modified, etc).
    5. The Help and Submit Bug buttons are broken. There's no documentation.
    My configuration
    1. Limited search to My Documents folder only. (Removed all other folders, for non-removables set to ignore via "modify" button.)
    2. Moved indices to my "Cache" folder (no backup).
    3. Update index daily at 1am.
    4. Max file size to index 10MB (I may shrink this further)
    5. Various other small tweaks to enhance performance.
    Conclusion

    It's the best of a bad bunch, but I'm not impressed. I'll compare it to X1 when Yahoo launches it. For now I'm staying with Copernic (it beats Google Desktop!) but I still get more value from a directory string search I hacked together that emulates the immensely underappreciated Norton Change Directory feature of Norton Commander and Norton Utilities @ 1989.

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    macosxhints - Using PDF Services for OS X: update

    macosxhints - Using PDF Services, revisited

    macosxhints - Create a zip archive via OS X keyboard shortcut

    macosxhints - Create a zip archive via a keyboard shortcut

    Rather neat use of little known featurs of OS X.

    macosxhints - How to work with MHTML files (IE Web Archive)

    macosxhints - How to work with MHTML files

    Microsoft's MHTML is a net standard -- RFC 2557. I wish Firefox & Safari supported it natively. Oddly enough GraphicConverter is suposed to add translation support for it.

    Size matters -- but not megapixels

    Digital Sensor Size
    Since all three of these cameras are nominal '3MP' cameras, we can predict that results from the D30 will be better than those from the Coolpix 995, which will in turn be better than those from the Xi, assuming we use a lens of the same optical quality on each camera.

    For the same megapixels and lens quality, a larger sensor gives a much better print. The author doesn't mention light sensitivity, but I believe the larger sensors (esp. CMOS) also capture more light.

    That should be our plea to camera vendors. Keep your $#@ megapixels (6 is enough). Give us bigger sensors and better light sensitivity (ISO 800 equivalent with low noise).

    Copernic Desktop Search - AOL's pending solution

    Copernic Desktop Search - The Search Engine for Your PC

    This has gotten some good reviews. It covers a lot of file types, and one can specify the location of the index files (you don't want to back these up, so they should be stored in a folder that's excluded from backup).

    It does not index Eudora data - only Outlook. I can't tell if it supports indexing of a network drive, probably not.

    Yahoo is partnering with X1. At the moment X1 and Copernic may be in the lead, with MSN next and Google lagging. Google has to get in gear.

    I'll probably opt for X1/Yahoo eventually, but I'd like to see Google improve.

    Gmail Notifier: change behavior of mailto link

    Gmail Notifier

    I'm not sure I want this notifier function, but I do need to override the behavior of the mailto link and I find it faster to email via Gmail than to fire up Eudora (a long story, I'm looking for a Eudora replacement). So I'll try it out ...

    Wikipedia has a good Gmail entry

    Gmail - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I blogged on problems with Wikipedia in my "Notes" page. This is the opposite: something interesting. An entry on Gmail with quite a bit of interesting information.