Friday, December 31, 2004

Tivoli PAL (or iPAL): the iPod speaker accessory of choice?

Tivoli Audio -- Portable Audio Laboratory (PAL) in Basic Black

At $130 the price isn't bad. It's not as flash as some of the iPod speaker accesories, but it's ruggedly made and comes with a great radio. It might be interesting to pair this with an Airport Express and use it as a convenient iTunes and iPod extension.

Update 3/18/2018: We actually bought one of these and used it as an iPhone speaker for a while with AirPlay support via an AirPort Express. Microwave kept wiping out stream. So we gave up.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Canon CP-220 dye sublimation printer for quick 4x6 prints

O'Reilly: Tired of Inkjet Snapshots? The Canon CP-220 to the Rescue

A very interesting accessory, esp for printing directly from the camera. Impressively integrated with recent Canon cameras. I could see recommending this to someone who wants to use a digital camera but doesn't want to deal with a computer. Also handy for printing at children's parties.

Update 3/18/2018: Updating this old post to see if it fixes the weirdity that the archive page doesn't show as clickable any longer. This is the first post that breaks MarsEdit archive retrieval. BTW, this kind of print product would delight my daughter in 2018. When I wrote this in 2014 she was 2 years old.

O'Reilly: Exporting QuickTime Movies with Simple Video Out X

O'Reilly: Exporting QuickTime Movies with Simple Video Out X

Apple has a developer tool that allows QuickTime to be output as a FireWire stream to anything that accepts FireWire digital video input -- typically a high end DVD recorder or a video camera.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Digital Imaging Software Review: Vuescan 8.1

Digital Imaging Software Review: Vuescan 8.1

This comprehensive review doubles as a user's guide for VueScan film scanning. It's extraordinary.

Mousing firefox with the Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse

Firefox Help: Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft's software is pretty hit or miss (I could live without them), but I like their hardware. I paid $16 or so for a surplus wireless intellimouse 2.0. Version 5.2 of their software lets me map one of the many buttons to kestrokes. This page lets me know what Firefox mappings are available.

Now I use the small side button to send FF a Ctrl-PageDown, and thus to hop around tabs. Works great, but I may try another button.

Intellimouse s/w allows mappings to be application specific too ...

Slashdot Submissions: Sensor to detect furnace malfunction and send email

Slashdot Submissions
We returned from holiday to find that our furnace had died. Miraculously neither pipes nor radiators were frozen.

The repair service recommends a device that will turn on a light in the window when the temperature dropes below a critical level. The theory is that our neighbor will see this and call us.

That's fine, but I'd rather a sub-50F temperature event trigger email from my server. Then I can route it to my cell phone, etc.

Seems like either a commercial product must exist, or someone must have adopted this sensor/light device to trigger an email message. Of course I'd like something that worked with OS X, but I have a Wintel server as well.

This would be a great Steve Ciarcia article in the BYTE days, but I'm looking for something less ambitious than his recent work.

Belkin KVM switch recommended by a persuasive slashdot poster

Belkin gives you control over four computers--either PS/2 or USB models, or both--from a single PS/2 console. Our audio feature lets you switch between computers sharing speakers and a microphone, without having to unplug and re-plug them. Using the SOHO Series on Sun and Macintosh USB platforms gives you easy, cross-platform control. With its advanced features, such as audio and microphone switching support, the Belkin SOHO Series makes controlling multiple computers easier than ever.

Of particular interest if Apple's headless $500 iMac comes to market.

The OS X Keyboard viewer -- yet another obscure utility that displays special characters and fonts

CreativeBits: OS X: Typing special characters

I wonder about the Mac developers who get stuck doing these utilities. Here's another clever one that's utterly buried in a completely obscure location and probably known to only a dozen people -- yet if you search it out it's a great way to see the effect of using modifier keys and to examine various fonts. The one downside is that it uses yet more space on the menubar, but it's good enough to warrant taking something else (the MacClassic icon?) from the menubar (command-click then drag off menubar* -- but restoring icons to a menubar is application dependent).

One of the most interesting tips I've seen in a while.

* This is one of the more obscure user interface behaviors in OS X. A Ctrl-Click should show a "remove" item on the context menu.

Daring Fireball: An expert's advice on applying OS X system updates and bug fixes

Daring Fireball: Software Update Tips and Voodoo

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Contour Design: iPod hardcase

Contour Design, Inc. - showcase

I've heard some good things about this one.

The Poor Man's Mathematica

Graphing Calculator Users Gallery

There's a long story here. My perspective is that when Apple moved from its 68K Motorola chip to their "hot" RISC PowerPC architecture, they introduced a new mini-app -- the graphing calculator. They made a fuss about it. At the time it reminded me of Mathematica, except even then Mathematica cost hundreds of dollars and this far simpler app was a freebie. It persisted through all of Classic, but vanished after OS X came out.

Now the story of how it came to be, and not be, has come out. And, amazingly, it's back. There's a free version for OS X (works fine in my limited testing) and a $60-$100 commercial version with more features. There's even a book.

I used Mathematica quite a bit 10 years ago, and this is no Mathematica, but I must say it's a very cool tool. I don't do enough math now to judge how useful it would be to an engineer, but it does look like it'd do the job for high school math -- and it's not at all expensive.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Mac OS X 10.3.7: problems with DNS and preferences?

Macintouch - Mac OS X 10.3.7
Updated to 10.3.7 on my 15' alBook and suffered same slow Internet performance that is widely reported on the web. It was especially terrible with my AirPort at home.

The suggestion to make sure you load 'valid' DNS numbers was the only tip I needed. I loaded a different set of DNS numbers and ZOOM it took off. Then I put back the original DNS numbers and ZOOM it keeps on rocking... my previous speed had returned. It was not a new 'valid' number it needed, but simply a reload of the DNS addresses to correct some type of corruption. Even thought they are correct, try erasing, then reloading your DNS addresses and see if it works for you.

Something about 10.3.7 messes up the DNS server lookup process. But it is easily fixed in the Network Preferences panel.

This feels credible. A problem with a .plist file is a typical OS X glitch. Deleting the pref file for network preferences might work as well.

Maintenance tips for OS X: cache deletion on updates

Macintouch - Mac OS X 10.3.7
Jim Wade
I have a suggestion for the readers who are seeing slow start ups after installing 10.3.7.

I recently got around to installing the 10.3.6 Combo update on my 15' TiPB. MUCH slower starting up, mostly after logging in. I remembered seeing a tip somewhere to clear the System and User caches. So I used my copy of Cocktail (but there are other utilities out there as well) to clear/delete the system and user caches. The user cache took several minutes to clear, BTW. Afterwards, the machine was even faster than before installing 10.3.6! So try it with the 10.3.7 update.

It's common to see recommendations to redo permissions after OS X updates. I've found deleting caches to be much more important, and occasionally deleting preference files. Neither is part of routine maintenance. OS X system updates ought to routinely delete all caches -- there's no reason not to start afresh.

I prefer ONYX to Cocktail. I think Cocktail's installation is too invasive, and it behaves oddly when one tries to install as a regular user (needs to be installed and run as a logged-in admin, not as a sudo'd admin, but it doesn't say that...).

Apple tips on selective restore of bundled software

Using Restore discs with computers that ship with Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later

This article is for 10.3.4 or later machines. Several ways to restore or install bundled software. Cite via macintouch.

From the ancient past, words of wisdom

Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair

Lancaster was a geek's geek in the 1980s and 1990s. Here he collects his words of wisdom. They are little dimmed by time, and each reference is a gateway to lost worlds at a time when the world was entering a time of change -- the 1990s.

In the world of tech, this is like opening a lost Egyptian grave. Visit with respect, and practice neo-archeology.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The usual problem: multiple users, one computer, multiple devices (iPods)

How to use multiple iPods with one computer

A common problem with computers and users. OS X is a bit ahead of XP in this regard, but neither have really straightened out the device, data, user conundrum. A good series of workarounds are described here, but they are really workarounds to a problem that's yet to be solved. (Things are really ugly in the XP/PalmOS world.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Amazon's customer service number is 1-800-201-7575

Amazon Grace - If you're a holiday shopper, you must read this. ByTimothy Noah: "1-800-201-7575"

The Nokia 6600: a stealthy smart phone

The Super Phone You Can Get for Free - Ditch your Treo for a dirt-cheap Nokia. By Paul Boutin: "Nokia 6600". Runs symbian.

Succinct description of how OS X handles DVD and CD drives -- 10.3.2 had some major changes

MacInTouch Home Page
Mike Mihalik, a veteran Macintosh storage expert at La Cie Ltd., offered more information about DVD technology:

Here are a few clarifications and comments regarding Mike Love's remarks today on DVD support:

1. Mac OS X has a unique way to identify support drives. There is a mechanism called Disc Recording profiles that describe the capabilities of a particular CD or DVD burner. These profiles are the first step in defining what capabilities are provided by a particular drive. These are part of the Disc Burning API.

2. Prior to Mac OS X 10.3.2, only Apple had the capability to update the OS to provide support for new drives. There are various techniques for adding support for new drives within 10.2.x and 10.3.x; one utility to do this is PatchBurn, but this is not supported by Apple.

3. Starting with Mac OS X 10.3.2, Apple provided the capability to install new Disc Recording profiles (DRprofiles), that add support for new drives. These profiles are supplied by some vendors to provide full OS X integration for iLife and DVD SP applications. With the exception of iDVD, support is provided for external and internal drives for iPhoto, iTunes, Finder Disc Burning, and DVD SP 2 or 3.
LaCie provides Disc Recording profiles with each of its drives, and the latest profile can be downloaded from the Optical section of our support website. These DRprofiles are compatible with the System Update process and are signed and approved by Apple.
Other techniques that require patching may NOT survive system updates.
iDVD is hard coded to work only with internal DVD burners. A short search using Google will find the tip to enable burning with external drives, but I'll leave that to others to describe, as it is not supported by Apple or most 3rd party vendors.
DVD SP 1.x had limited burning support, and did not use the Disc Burning API, so it was difficult, if not impossible to add support for new drives; only Apple had the ability to do this.

4. Even with addition of DRprofiles, some applications may still require additional work to support all the capabilities of a particular drive. As a rule, Apple officially supports only DVD-R media, and only recently has added support for +R and +DL media.

5. As for DVD-RAM, this is a particular can of worms, as Apple does not support the latest UDF versions, which is widely used by many set-top DVD recorders. While a drive with DVD-RAM capabilities can surely used with a Mac, lack of full UDF libraries limits the utility of these drives.

So in summary, support for external and internal drives can be a happy experience, provided that products purchased include the appropriate DRprofiles, and the user has Mac OS X 10.3.2 or newer. Users are NOT forced to purchase a new Mac to gain DVD or CD burning capabilities.
LaCie does provide complete solutions for Mac OS X, and the necessary DRprofiles to add support to OS X. Further info is available at: [La Cie Optical Family].

The negative scanning project continues ...

Lasersoft Imaging / SilverFast JobManager

Over the past year or so I've been puttering along on a project to scan negatives. I bought a Nikon V ED for this project (LS-50). A few observations:

1. The Nikon software and workflow is really ugly. I think there's some kind of Adobe Photoshop plug-in option for some of their utilities, but the documentation is beyond miserable. I did get good results, but the software wins some kind of anti-usability award.

2. VueScan looks promising -- much better workflow. For a single license fee one can install a copy on a PC and a Mac -- legally! Downside is their test version produces unusuable images (watermarked) -- so time spent testing is utterly wasted. I don't have time to waste that way. I'd prefer an image-count limited test application so time spent testing isn't wasted. Documentation for VueScan isn't too bad.

3. This link is to SilverFast. They seem to have a "professional" solution, but I doubt they license for Mac and PC alike! It's a more expensive and more "polished" competitor to VueScan. I will try their demo package next.

My goal is to figure out a workflow that will allow me to outsource the scanning work to a local student.

If I weren't so worried about negatives getting lost or damaged, taking them to an imaging service would probably be far more cost effective.

This whole thing smells like something that hasn't quite been packaged for the serious non-professional.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

An essay on building a web browser

How to build a better web browser - UIWEB.COM - Scott Berkun

For those of us who build applications, this is a particularly interesting essay. I'd like to see JoelOnSoftware's comments. The author worked extensively with IE during its formative stages.

I think he's missing out on one some critical issues however. Being a Windows/IE guy he misses issues around portability of data, representing bookmarks in a way that's accessible from multiple sites, extending the browser through shared APIs. I'm sure he knows these things, but they are anathema to Microsoft's culture.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Review of online cut-rate transcription services (offshore)

Twenty-first Century Typist ::

Good advice on digitizing video (Tidbits)

Bring Your Video into the 21st Century -- You know those old videotapes from your VCR and analog camcorder have a limited lifespan, and your best hope for preservation is to digitize the analog recordings. Travis Butler pointed toward a product that will do just that. "If your budget supports it and you have someone with inclinations towards video hobbyism, you might consider the Canopus ADVC 100.

"The ADVC 100 is a converter box that lets you hook a standard video source - composite or S-Video, two-channel audio - to a Mac's FireWire port, and record it with a video capture program like iMovie.

"This is frankly something I wouldn't have bought for myself; at $300 list, it's something I don't use enough to justify the cost. But we picked one up at work this spring to convert our VHS-based training materials to DVD for convenience and durability. The boss gave me permission to take it home and use whenever I want, and I've found a surprising number of old videotapes that I wanted to convert to DVD.

"It's a bit hard for me to judge the ultimate quality of the video circuitry, since I've never used it with a maximum-quality video source; a couple of old laserdiscs are probably the best-quality items I've had, but my laserdisc player doesn't have an S-Video output - only composite. That said, I've never seen anything come out of the ADVC 100 at a lower quality than went into it, and even the laserdiscs over composite look pretty darned good transferred to DVD.

"As a side note, the combination of iMovie, iDVD, and a video capture box like the ADVC 100 makes it easy and relatively quick to put your old videos on DVD; frankly it felt easier than the times in the past I've transferred old records and tapes to CD. And iDVD is capable of doing fairly professional-looking work; I'd like to think the job I did on the original Mind's Eye laserdisc is better than the professional DVD releases of the second and third collections, though that's not too hard.

"For those not familiar with them, the Mind's Eye series was one of the original collections of early computer animation; the second collection (with music composed by Jan Hammer of Miami Vice fame) and later were released on DVD, but the original one never has been so far as I can tell. I'm still not sure why; the best guess I can make is that the animation is relatively primitive by today's standards. I still think it's worth having it available on DVD; even if there weren't historical reasons, some of them were rather cool as works of art."

Denis Jarvis concurred with Travis's gift suggestion of an analog/digital video converter. "However," he said, "I bought a Datavideo DAC-100 for $176, including shipping. This is substantially less than his $300 Canopus ADVC 100, yet it seems well constructed, has similar specifications, includes a full set of cables and has performed well for me.

"During the past month, using DAC-100 with iMovie and iDVD on a 20-inch iMac G5, I have converted my camcorder VHS tapes to several DVDs. I added titles and edited out the boring parts, something I would never have attempted with tape-to-tape editing. With this application alone, I have justified purchase of my new iMac!"

Editing out the boring parts isn't the only reason to make the conversion from tape to digital, as Jeff Carlson learned last year when he watched his 10-year-old wedding video. VHS tape deteriorates over time, so those memories you think are stored safely on the shelf are likely losing their quality. (For an example, see the following Web page.) Although DVD isn't an archival-grade medium (the surface materials wear out over time), you can more easily move the digital data to new media later on without further loss of quality.

The thought of losing the kids' taped videos is not comforting. I need to do this sooner rather than later.

Choosing media for home movies: Verbatim MediDisc DVD?

MacInTouch Home Page
I work in a small post-production studio and we use DVD media for archival purposes every day. Our brand of choice for Data archive is Verbatim's little known 'MediDisc' line of DVD media. This media is DICOM certified for use in long-term medical records storage (including medical imaging) for compliance with HIPPA requirements.

Yes, the media is significantly more expensive than the consumer-grade 100pk DVD-R/ R spindles typically available at retailers such as WalMart & Best Buy, but is saving a buck really worth it when it comes to long-term data integrity?

Furthermore, we store the DVD discs in Tyvek disc envelopes (the same that Apple is now using for software distribution in packages such as Final Cut Pro HD) and place them upright in a light-tight storage container. Tyvek envelopes are currently regarded as the best storage option for protection of CD/DVD recordable media. Information Packaging is a good source for these envelopes.

I'll update with supplier information as I uncover it. I think the market for longlife media is going to improve quickly.

What Mac to buy? Macintouch has very surprising results.

Performance Comparison: eMac G4, iBook G4 and iMac G5

Fascinating results of some serious testing from a reputable source. We've had hints of this in the past. The G5 is fundamentally not that much faster than the G4, and real-world performance is not processor bound. Performance is affected by much more than the CPU. There were significant design compromises to fit a G5 into the iMac, and they have performance implications. Disabling the iMac's power management features helps performance, but it may stress heat management -- and those fans will run. (Of course in Minnesota we can simply put the iMac in the attic -- no heating problems in winter there!).

BTW, I think a similar analysis of various Intel systems would show similar results. Performance nowadays is often about heat, system throughput, memory, hard drives, etc. The CPU isn't the big factor for a lot of functionality.

Implications? The G4 iBook and G4 eMac are very interesting alternatives to a G5 iMac. The major unknown is Tiger. If one wants to run Tiger, should one opt for a G5 iMac? My general rule is that when an OS upgrade is very important (like Tiger -- it's something I want), the best strategy is buy hardware that ships after the OS goes GA and that ships with the OS.

Since I want a new Mac now and I want to run Tiger, I may choose to shop around for a used G4 system, or a new eMac, and plan to buy a new system post-Tiger. Nobody should upgrade from a fairly recent G4 machine to an iMac or even a G5 tower.
... Using QuickTime Pro 6.5.1 and QuickTime Player, we export a high-quality 50-second DV file to MPEG-4 format. Source and target files are on the hard drive. We use the standard "Default" settings.

This is a good real-world test of system performance, and the results are surprising: Right out of the box, the eMac G4/1.25GHz outperforms the iMac G5/1.8GHz system at Apple's standard settings, and the lowly iBook G4 is right on its heels.

If you change Apple's standard Energy Saver options to get "Highest" processor performance, the iMac G5 will outperform the eMac, but there must be some reason that's not the default, and clock speed alone should give the iMac a big advantage.

Apple is using the G5's special "slewing" feature to reduce heat and power drain, and the result is a real bottleneck.


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 some serious technical questions that long to be answered.

In the meantime, you'll be getting a high-performance bargain with either the eMac G4 or iBook G4, and you still can't go wrong with the iMac G5.

If you want the ultimate in performance - or maybe just a super-large screen - 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 2.0GHz systems.

PowerBooks are nice, but pricy. The biggest advantage you get for the extra cost 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. [jf: the iBook hardware supports driving an external desktop, but Apple disables this -- possibly for heat reasons, possibly to protect PowerBook sales.]

The 15" PowerBook is an ideal mobile machine, and it can drive a big external screen on a desktop or use FireWire 800 to get disk performance more on par with a desktop computer's. This laptop costs almost twice as much as an iBook G4, however, making it an expensive option for part-time portability, and it's not as compact as the jewel-like 12" models.

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 G5 models, but the real-world advantage for general applications is questionable at this point.

Sunday, December 12, 2004 - disable "shortcut to" prefix without external programs - disable "shortcut to" prefix without external programs
This tweak stops windows creating the annoying "shotcut to" prefix when creating shortcuts to the desktop via either dragging/dropping or right clicking and selecting send to . This means that you do not need to rename all those shortcuts on your desktop . Here's how -

Start Registry Editor.

Locate the following registry key:

Modify the data value of the Link value to be 00 00 00 00.

NOTE : For Windows 95, the Link value does not exist by default. Create the Link value as a Binary value, with a data value of 00 00 00 00.

One of the greatest of all windows annoyances. I found this using AskJeeves, it often works where Google gets lost in noise.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Omni Outliner Pro 3 (Beta) - great with MORE 3.1

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Beta

I can't find the page for downloading the Pro beta, maybe they took it down temporarily. It's very impressive. OO Pro is now a full fledged writing tool. I imported some fairly large (20 page+) documents written in MORE 3.1, OO Pro had no problems. It even imported and embedded graphic elements.

Friday, December 10, 2004

MORE 4.0? OmniOutliner Pro

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Beta Download

This app imports and exports in a bewildering list of outliner formats, including all those old Acta and MORE documents. It has hoists, etc. Really, it sounds like MORE 4.0. I'm probably going to buy it when it's available.

Recording sound and transcribing it for OS X

Boing Boing: Excellent transcribing app: Listen&Type

AudioRecorder for sound capture, Listen & Type for transcription.

I have a device that turns my iPod into a recorder. Works very well! (Griffin something.) This sounds very handy for the laptop.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

PalmSource goes Linux -- shades of Apple's Pink An open letter to the Linux community from PalmSource
Today we at PalmSource announced we're going to extend Palm OS® to run on top of Linux. We've written this letter to explain what we're doing and not doing, why we're doing it, and how we're doing it. We'll also answer some likely questions.

... We intend to offer future versions of Palm OS Cobalt as a software layer on top of Linux (specifically, on the Linux kernel plus selected Linux services appropriate to mobile devices). The Palm OS software layer will include our well-known UI as well as a set of middleware and applications that encompass the best of Palm OS. We intend that properly written Palm OS 68k applications will run unchanged on Palm OS for Linux, and that Palm OS® Cobalt native applications using the Palm OS Protein APIs will port with a simple recompile. In addition, Palm OS for Linux will be able to run many third party Linux applications and services (GUI applications will need to use the Palm OS APIs).

... We're not open sourcing Palm OS®; we're going to implement it as a software layer that runs on top of Linux. Our business model will be licensing that layer, with hardware companies that use the layer in a device paying us royalties. We don't charge developers a license fee to create software that is compatible with Palm OS. Our development tools are also free; they are built on Eclipse, and we are a member of the Eclipse Foundation.

While we're not open sourcing all of Palm OS, we do expect to open source some of our code, and will actively seek to invest in the open source community through code contributions and other means.

... We think the Linux platform will become a leading operating system for mobile devices [jf. note they didn't say PalmOS mobile devices only], and we believe the endorsement and support of PalmSource for that platform will greatly accelerate that process. We think the combination of Palm OS and Linux can attract more mobile licensees and developers, create more new devices, and bring in more users than either could on its own.

... The Palm OS layer written for use on Linux will be designed to be portable to any suitable mobile Linux distribution, and we'll expose Linux APIs under the Palm OS layer.

... Together, we'll have the technological and market critical mass to challenge -- and, we believe, beat -- even the biggest proprietary operating system companies in the mobile market. [jf. of course they're still proprietary, but what the heck -- they're not Microsoft]

... We are acquiring China MobileSoft, a leading Chinese mobile phone software company. CMS has been developing a version of Linux with optimizations designed for smart mobile devices, especially around battery management and fast boot time. We will be using that technology as the foundation of Palm OS for Linux (although we will also support other Linux distributions).

The original PalmOS was based on an embedded device OS. Something out of Canada if memory serves. I'd love to know what when wrong with Palm's OS development process.

Apple spent years on OS development during the Classic era. They tried Pink (hence the title of this posting), Taligent (with IBM), the OS-like OpenDoc project (I really liked that one), and the beloved NewtonOS. All more or less failed. Finally they bought NextStep with its Unix based OS. That became OS X.

Now Palm revisits those days. Indeed, I think they've watched Apple and decided Apple's mixed (some would say parasitic) open/closed source strategy is a good one. I thought at first Cobalt was dead, but if they're really following Apple's example PalmSource may keep enough of the Cobalt API to make it worth pursuing -- though I doubt there will be many apps released for Cobalt directly. Sounds like CMS has done a lot of grunt work -- Linux is not known for power management.

It's interesting that they're using Eclipse. They intend to capture developers by allowing them to produce PalmOS and even non-PalmOS (write directly to Linux API) apps that may be repositioned for other platforms.

Clearly PalmSource and PalmOne are going in different directions. PalmSource wants to put their software atop many devices that will come out of Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China -- countries where pen input is very workable (though Korea has a phonetic alphabet -- of which they are quite proud -- and is less pen dependent than China). On the other hand PalmOne has talked of using Microsoft's OS. I'm not impressed with PalmOne's hardware direction -- actually I'm incredibly unimpressed -- so this may not be bad. Maybe PalmOne just needs to go away.

I'm very curious as to what Apple might do with this new picture. Does it change their calculations at all?

Given that the Palm platform has most of its extremities in the grave, this isn't a bad move -- though it feels late in the game.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

RAW format management and Photoshop Elements 3

Macintouch Digital Cameras (Part 3): "...Nikon Capture 4 at $100 is splendid for batch processing. (It's not THAT slow.) A new contender for low-cost entry is Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 at $80, a super editor for RAW files. It has the same Camera Raw 2.3 Plug-In found in Photoshop CS and it supports RAW (NEF files) from Nikon, and Canon and whoever else, all seamlessly. A bargain.

For anyone wanting to understand the RAW format (including Nikon's NEF, which is their flavor of RAW) get Bruce Fraser's excellent book 'Real World camera RAW.' [$23.79 @ Amazon] Once you understand what RAW can do you will never shoot JPEG again."
News to me that Elements has the RAW editor!

Defective Airport cards can disable a Mac (Macintouch)

MacInTouch Home Page
[M.J. Ejenbaum] I had been having a few problems with my 15' Aluminum 1GHz PowerBook, including wake from sleep issues. Today, I ran a backup in the office on my FireWire 400 backup, and then went to work at my home. I decided to run the FireWire 800 backup as well, since I try to keep two (2) separate external hard drives as redundant backup drives. I plugged in the FireWire 800 'cold', i.e., when the PowerBook was completely shut down. Got a kernel panic. Hit the power button, waited 2 minutes, and no startup. Tried to boot from PowerBook G4 DVD which has Panther 10.3 on it, no go. CD would spin up, computer would not start no matter what.

I hightailed it over to the Apple Store in Aventura, Florida, and waited to see the resident Genius for about 10 minutes. He pulled out the battery, and then the Airport Extreme card. Lo and behold, the machine ejected the DVD, and started right up.

He gave me a new Airport Extreme card. All issues resolved. The Firewire 800 backup works fine, the computer wakes from sleep with no problems, and now, I am picking up a network near my residence that I had not detected before. The Genius told me that the bad Airport Extreme cards are responsible for a variety of problems, and one of the first suspects he has.

[Robert Lenoil] I have a Trendware 802.11g PC Card installed on my 500 MHz TiBook, which Mac OS X 10.3.5 treats as an Airport Extreme card because it uses the same Broadcom chipset. Yesterday I closed the lid on my PowerBook, but instead of going to sleep it just hung with the fan still on. After I rebooted, I got a kernel panic as long as the card was plugged in. I removed the card, and installed the Airport 4.1 update. The computer would then boot, but it no longer recognized the card - the PCCard menu showed 'unsupported legacy card' or something like that. I reinstalled the Airport 3.4.3 drivers and the PCCard menu didn't appear at all and Airport didn't see any AirPort card. I plugged the card into a PC laptop and it worked fine, so I didn't think it is a problem with the card itself.

I removed the wireless card, ran System Profiler, and it reported the same results - meaning that it wasn't seeing my card at all. I then opened up the TiBook and found the cardbus connector to the motherboard had worked itself loose. Just re-seated it, and I'm back in the saddle.

Tight integration of hardware and software can have pernicious side-effects. This is an OS design problem. Modern personals are too complex and unpredictable.

If a system seems very unstable, strip it down, boot off a CD, and retest.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Camino - Firefox with a better GUI?

Camino: "Upgrades the Gecko HTML rendering engine from Mozilla 1.0 to Mozilla 1.7, resulting in performance, stability, and rendering improvements"
I don't like the Firefox GUI and font management on OS X. It's ugly. Also FF is slower than Safari on my machine. I'll try this one too.

Migrating from one system to another (OS X)

Mac OS X 10.3.6: "Re: Anthony Burokas question: How to migrate to a new Mac without Setup Assistant. I have done this using the free utility Carbon Copy Cloner.

1. Download Carbon Copy Cloner onto the old Mac.
2. Shut down the new Mac.
3. Connect the Macs with a FireWire cable.
4. Start the new Mac in Target Disk Mode (hold down the T key)
5. On the old Mac, use disk utility to format the new Macs hard disk. (Anthony will need to copy any data he needs from the new Mac first)
6. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your old Mac's hard disk onto the new Mac.
7. Disconnect and restart your new Mac.
8. Reinstall iLife and other goodies from the System Restore disk.

I have done this 5 or 6 times. One time the new Mac wouldn't start up with the OS from the old Mac. I simply used the system CD or DVD that came with the new Mac and did an Archive and Install."
Nice discussion, but this is all way harder than it ought to be. In the old Classic days sytem migration was trivial. XP, btw, can handle a similar transition by mirroring then doing a repair install. Neither solution is really satisfactory.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Beta

The Omni Group - Applications - OmniOutliner - Beta
Coming soon! OmniOutliner Professional has in-depth outlining features like folded editing, named styles, clipping service support, audio recording, saved templates, and much more.

Sounds more like .... MORE 3.1 (Symantec). I'll write and ask if they're going to import MORE files into the Pro version.

SAFT plug-in for Safari -- looks well worth testing


$10. Worth a test given the feature list. I wonder if it would work with Omniweb ...

OS X firewire problems: occult solutions

MacInTouch Home Page:
About a week ago, I decided to add some new music to my 4G click-wheel (40 GB model). I placed the iPod in the dock and waited for the appearance of iSync and iTunes. And neither appeared. The iPod did not mount. Took the iPod out of the dock and put it back in. Still no joy. Checked all cables and connections (FireWire in my case) and nada.

I'm running 10.3.6. and iTunes 4.7, plus latest updaters for iPod on a MDD 1.25 ghtz G4.

So I ran the Apple Hardware test and it reported a problem with my FireWire bus. (I have no other FireWire peripherals.) The diagnostic suggested that I read over my warranty information and get in touch with AppleCare.

So I went to the Apple website in search of a link with which to do this. Decided to check the Knowledge Base and, lo and behold, I found an article about FireWire problems. The article suggested that I shut down the machine, disconnect the power cord and all peripheral inputs EXCEPT for the FireWire line, and wait at least five minutes and then reconnect everything and then boot up.

I followed this procedure and the FireWire bus came back up. iPod mounted normally and has done so since. No explanation in the article as to what causes this or how the fix works, but it did work.

Firewire is too bizarre to live. It reminds me of SCSI.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Xcelis: cell phone to VOIP


This peculiar service is primarily useful for making international calls via a cellphone. In my case I all Canada several times a week. My employer has no trouble with personal calls on my corporate cellphone -- but not with calls to Canada! So if I switched to a corporate phone, this service could be very interesting.

OS X Setup Assistant Use

MacInTouch Home Page: "Following up on discussion of Mac-to-Mac migration, Steve Chambers suggests a trick that could be a big help when you have multiple disks on an older computer, only one of which will appear in FireWire disk target mode:

Actually you can copy the Setup Assistant to the old Mac; it runs just fine. Then you have access to all the drives and Apple's migration utility."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The magic that makes Google tick: ZDNet Australia: Insight: Software

The magic that makes Google tick: ZDNet Australia: Insight: Software
Quality of search results: One big area of complaints for Google is connected to the growing prominence of commercial search results -- in particular price comparison engines and e-commerce sites. Hölzle is quick to defend Google's performance 'on every metric', but admits there is a problem with the Web getting, as he puts it, 'more commercial'. Even three years ago, he said, the Web had much more of a grass roots feeling to it. 'We have thought of having a button saying 'give me less commercial results',' but the company has shied away from implementing this yet.

I want that button! Great article on google's infrastructure.

Spyware and licensing - the stupidity of EULA contracts

Claria License Agreement is Fifty Six Pages Long

This web site is worth a quick read. A libertarian would enjoy this. Legal action against spyware companies will be very difficult; it's a libertarian world out there.

Buy a Mac.

Global Moxie :: Big Medium - Perl based web content management system

Global Moxie :: Big Medium

I may try this one out. I like the RSS features.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Getting Things Done and Managing Email with Lookout for Outlook

GTD: The Fallow's summary

A month or so ago I posted about the Fallow's summary on GTD. (see link). Here's a revised update. (PS. Too bad Blogger doesn't support trackback links!)

Getting Things Done (
See also:

Atlantic Online | July/August 2004 | Organize Your Life! | James Fallows
David Allen's book. (This is a bit dated, he needs a new edition.)

1. If you can do it in two minutes, just do it.
2. Get everything out of your head. Appointments, tasks, notes, contacts -- get it into one place (eg. Outlook).
3. Tasks have three important relationships:
the minimal context needed for the next action (ex: anywhere, phone, desk, computer, network, office ..)
the project(s) that contains the task
date of next action
4. Tasks always have a next action. Identifying and executing 'next actions' is critical.
5. Record tasks/ideas at time they are recognized.
6. Weekly review of about one hour. (This takes me at least 2 hours but I'm trying to speed my review.)
7. Tasks don't have priorities. (Personally I use priorities on tasks but Allen assumes if a task is scheduled then it should be done. I see his point.)

How I handle email (using Lookout)

(Note this works for any email solution that supports full text indexing. I think it would work for OS X Mail in Panther, it will definitely work in Tiger.

Lookout for Outlook:

1. Install Lookout. Note this is an early product and has some rough edges. I force a complete index rebuild every night. Still, value is enormous. It has not affected my system stability.

2. Read message. Follow GTD protocol as above (see book too). Then either:
- delete
- create task and save
- save

3. If a task is needed, I create a task by dragging the message to the Outlook task icon. Outlook creates a task that incorporates the message content (text only).

4. If the message is to be saved I
- edit the subject line to be more descriptive of the message
- rarely I edit the message text or subject line and add terms I'd use for a Lookout search.
- drop the message in my "Save" folder (that's it). I don't use subfolders anymore and don't spend time filing anything.

Update 3/2/05: This related article talks about environmentally-induced ADD.

More lists of favored OS X apps

The multi-tasking Mac is always running - The Unofficial Apple Weblog -

Mac OS X Power Tools: Change the UNIX short user name

Mac OS X Power Tools

Sometimes needed for some backup/restore issues. Very risky.

The Mac OS X Power Tools "Superb Software" List

A list of all the apps recommended in a recent OS X book. I can vouch for most of those that are bolded.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Blogger - software hell

We've had to restart the databases multiple times today because of server freezes. During the freezes, users would have encountered error pages when trying to access their blogs.

We're planning on a number of improvements this week to address this very serious situation. First, we will be pushing new code to both gather information on these freezes as well as revise some features to put less strain on the database. Second, we will be effectively doubling the number of machines used to handle the db workload.

Blogger is in flames. The status page is an impressive set of short reports, which are all variations on the theme of "we're doomed". Their shoving machines in and patching code on the fly, trying to figure out why their databases are going down several times a day.

I think they should shut down for a week and get some sleep.

Mall of America: Winner of world's worst web site - the invisible MOA PDF map.

Mall of America

What would most people like to get from a Mall of America web site?

A map of the mall.

Doesn't exist. Ok, so it does. But only Google can find it. There's a tiny link on this page that hints that a map exists. Click on it to get a PDF map.

There are no other mall maps on the web site. Buried away somewhere is a list of stores, each store links to an illegible map GIF for that store area alone.

This site wins the "world's worst" prize because I bet it cost real money. If it were a freebie hobby site it would only be lousy.

Silencing the G5 whine

MacInTouch Home Page
Bill Bradford may have put his finger on at least one iMac G5 noise problem:

I've had my iMac G5 (17", 1.8Ghz, SuperDrive) for almost a month now. Due to my ambient "computer room" noise, I never noticed any problems with the iMac (which replaced my quite noisy "Wind Tunnel" MDD 867 G4). After reading some of your Reader Reports concerning system noise, I turned off all of my other systems and had a listen. Sure enough, that's quite an annoying whine.

I took the back of the iMac off, and noticed that the CPU fan vent cover (below the CPU, the part with the metal "bar" across it) had a tiny bit of "play" - it would move or rattle when I tapped it with a finger.

I taped a piece of an old nylon backpack strap on top of it to eliminate any clearance with the back cover that would allow movement, put the back cover on, and fired everything back up. The whine is COMPLETELY gone - all I hear now is normal fan noise, and no whine at all. Even the "100% CPU" full-fans-on noise is much quieter.

Looks like this is a problem that Apple can possibly solve by application of some pieces of sticky-back rubber, or other padding material (as someone else mentioned, furniture leg pads would be perfect).

Besides the fix, two interesting points:

1. It's nice to have a self-service system.
2. The Mac community is a large distributed problem solving system that adds substantial value to Apple products. I wonder if Apple includes it in their "goodwill" valuations. (joke).

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Kick Sleds are becoming more available

Black Ice Dog Sledding Equipment
Canadian Kicksled    SR36  $189.00
A rugged northwoods version of the Norwegian style sled, this Canadian version gives you the look of a basket sled with its solid maple construction and laced seat back, with the convenience of a sled which you can fold up nd easily take anywhere. The bed is made of 5-16" slats providing a comfortable seat for a small passenger. The runners re 2" wide and have a narrow teflon guide on the base. A 2" UHMW runner base could be added to reduce drag (see below). Sled includes a bridle and single claw brake. Enjoy winter with this affordable, folding sled. (32" H x 18" W x 55" L) Approximately 16 lbs.

A year or two ago I could only find these via Norway. Looks like they're returning to North America. Fun on ice, with or without a dog. If you want to skate with one you have to cut back the runners.

ClamXav - OS X GUI for UNIX ClamAV antiviral software

Mark Allan - Software - clamXav

Installing this sofware also installs the antivirus engine, which then downloads the antivirus definitions. So you don't need to also download the clamAV package.

This software just scans, it's not continually monitoring file I/O. Also it's not automatically triggered by receiving email.

Although ClamXav is free, the author is seeking voluntary donations. (Almost never works.) I'm testing now and it it works I'll donate $20. It's nice to have a convenient scanner.

I was able to install as a non-admin user. It does create its own directory: usr/local/clamXav.

ClamAV: Antivirus scanning software for UNIX, including BSD Unix/Darwin (OS X)

ClamAV: Abstract
Clam AntiVirus is a GPL anti-virus toolkit for UNIX. The main purpose of this software is the integration with mail servers (attachment scanning). The package provides a flexible and scalable multi-threaded daemon, a command line scanner, and a tool for automatic updating via Internet. The programs are based on a shared library distributed with the Clam AntiVirus package, which you can use with your own software. Most importantly, the virus database is kept up to date.

There are two commercial antiviral software solutions for OS X, but they both have terrible reputations for performance issues, system damage, etc. They cause more problems than they prevent. Fortunately OS X viruses are still very rare, but this is not a tenable situation.

Some OS X experts are implementing ClamAV, a UNIX antivirus solution. Apple should incorporate this into Tiger and support the project.

Macintosh hardware monitor software

MacInTouch Home Page: "Marcel Bresink's Hardware Monitor 1.3 reads all available hardware sensors in Macintosh computers and displays the measured values in a variety of ways. This release adds support for all iMac G5 sensors, support for nVidia GeForce 6800 sensors, support for many more hard disk temperature sensors, an option to attach the display window to the Desktop background, auto-save intervals for history data, and other changes. Hardware Monitor is 7 Euro for Mac OS X 10.2.5 and up."

Transportation Security Administration Wait Times at airport security

TSA | Transportation Security Administration | Wait Times

I need to add this to my travel page.

Virtual tours of Montreal, and of other worlds


Another virtual tour, this one of Montreal. I grew up there, so it's of particular personal interest. There's been an eruption of these virtual tours lately, using Flash and Quicktime panoramas. With Google's purchase of keyhole it seems likely these virtual tours will explode over the next few years. It will be fascinating to combine satellite images, panoramas and even virtual reality environments into a pseudo-coherent world. At the other end of the metaverse, bar codes and other identifiers in the physical world are being used to attach data to real world objects. Aim one's camera at the bar code on the outdoor restaurant menu and read the reviews (also find out one's physical location -- for when the GPS is down ...)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

OmniWeb -- my new better OS X browser


I'm trying out OmniWeb these days. It has one amazing feature and several excellent features.

The amazing feature is workspaces. I loved tabbed browsing -- at first. Now I can't live without it, but it annoys me. On both Firefox and Mozilla I end up with a slew of windows, each with its own tabs. If I lose track of a tab, I wander through windows looking for it. In OmniWeb the Workspace gives me a hierarchical view of windows and tabs and lets me even rearrange the tabs between windows. I can display a mini-view of a tab to get more information than the tab title.

In the "just excellent" department I'd include their pop-up text editor for forms. Instead of making do with Blogger's textedit box, I have my own little editor. Slick and easy. It looks like OmniWeb has more than a few of these niceties.

Overall OmniWeb's rendering resembles Safari's -- they use the same web toolkit. Not quite as nice as Firefox and not recognized as Firefox by Blogger. On the other hand, OmniWeb doesn't suffer from the keystroke lag I get with Firefox on the Mac -- AND Mac services work with OW, they don't work with Firefox. Not to mention Firefox fonts and font spacing look pretty bad on my Mac.

Overall OW feels like a much better version of Safari. Worth paying for!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Slovenia - Quicktime VR panoramas


Visit virtual Slovenia -- at warp speed.

USB Geek -- the power of a platform


One of my favorite themes is the power of platforms. Provide a standard one can build on, and one can move worlds.

One of the most accidental standards anywhere has been the USB power connector. Not the data channel, the power. A standard plug, 5V, a few amps. Given that standard one can do a large number of interesting things. Too bad the Firewire equivalent didn't catch on; 12V would have been nice.

This store is dedicated to showing what can be done with that platform.

Recording music to a Mac

Macintosh Audio Recording

This is the 4th in a great series of Macintouch reader reports. Others have featured voice recording, this one tackles series music recording. I don't know the domain, but I'd bet this rates as a pretty authoritative review.

Macintouch has a unique approach to authoring content. I'm surprised others have not tried to copy it.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

OS X Installer has an option that describes the pending installation

macosxhints - Preview all files that Apple Installers will install: " It may just be me, but I just noticed that the installer has a 'Show Files' option in the 'File' menu that, when selected, shows all the files and where they'll be installed. This appears to only be enabled when you're in the 'Installation Type' step. Very handy to pre-examine what'll be installed. "

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I need a real blog editor -- like MarsEdit

Ranchero Software: MarsEdit 1.0 Beta

Today I realized that both Faughnan's Notes and Faughnan Tech blogs were formatted incorrectly. This happens often when I don't close a blockquote. Surprisingly, it's not easy to find the malformed post, but it wrecks the page display. I spent about 30 minutes slicing and dicing. It was 30+ posts back in one blog.

I need a real editor.

Fortunately there are several great OS X editors, like this one's predecessor. One of them should do the job. Oddly enough, there are few if any mature editors for XP.

EyeTV: Issues with analog VHS digitization

EyeTV Reviews and Owner Comments
iMac G4 800Mhz, 356MB Ram
- OSX 10.35
- eyeTV 200, vers 1.5
- formac FW ext drive 250 GB (for recording)
- Grundig GV 470 S S-VHS video recorder attached to eyeTV via S-VHS and audio cinch cables

Hi Mike, in addition to my earlier reports on eyeTV 200 I performed more tests, again only transferring VHS tapes to mpeg2. I did not record any live TV, neither did I use the programming features for TV shows. Alas, the results of my testings were again sobering.

My findings are as follows:

Converting 1st generation VHS (good to perfect quality) was not working flawlessly. In half of my recordings heavy block artefacts would occur on any given moment, which would last for minutes if left unstopped. Most of the time this only happened in recording mode.

On 2nd generation VHS (ie, copies from VHS to VHS) the results were almost always wasted due to artifacts.

It seems that eyeTV needs very bright and sharp feeds to render correctly. Since I was converting my music video collection lightning conditions were admittedly extreme: dark spots on stage, brightly lit artists, camera flashlights etc.

BTW: Research in discussion groups on the internet revealed that direct-to-mepg2 video rendering applications in the PC world are sensitive to this problem as well. Only digital video (DV) feeds seem to bring good quality results. Big drawback is the time needed to render DV to mpeg2 for burning DVDs. Here PCs (and probably G5s) are in advantage of my (slow) G4 system. I never tested Miglia or Formac products which offer analogue video to DV rendering, neither do I own a digital video cam to verify rendering time. But since I don't have to edit a lot in my recordings (titles, cuts, advertisements etc)--which is the DV advantage over mpeg2 video--this option never interested me anyway.
ElGato Tips for EyeTV 200 VHS Encoding Problems

To fix the VHS encoding problems with EyeTV 200:

1) Using EyeTV 1.5, go to EyeTV > Preferences > Devices... > Encoding > Custom > Edit...
2) Change GOP Structure to "I, P Frames" or "I Frames Only"
This should minimize or completely remove such encoding problems, by allow EyeTV to recover from glitches in the signal gracefully.
By the way, "I Frames Only" allows for frame-by-frame editing, a much requested feature.

Nick F.
Technical Support Specialist "
Hmm. Looks like some serious technical issues here. EyeTV has a money back guarantee, so I'd have to be ready to test and return. Pass-through on a digital camera seems to give the best results as near as I can tell.

Faxing with OS X: a tutorial

Articles: "Faxing with Mac OS X Panther"

YouSendIt | Email large files quickly, securely, and easily!

YouSendIt | Email large files quickly, securely, and easily!
Benefits: YouSendIt FileLink allows you to receive files up to 1GB in size for free on your website. Use FileLink to accept any document submissions from your customers, users, and visitors to your website. Common usages include receiving print, image, and multimedia documents normally too big for email securely and easily. Let YouSendIt help you do business on the internet.

Ok, interesting. Maybe a good way to send someone a batch of digital images. "Free" (for now!) for non-corporate use, so you have to wonder about how they make money. Here's part of their privacy policy:
Collecting Email Addresses

We collect the e-mail addresses of YouSendIt Delivery recipients solely for the purpose of logging and measuring usage. Personal user information we collect is not shared with other organizations for any reason.

Third Party Advertising
We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our Web site. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address or telephone number) about your visits to this and other Web sites in order to provide advertisements on this site and other sites about goods and services that may be of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, please click here...
I'll give them a try. I wouldn't send anything via them that I wanted to be secret -- no matter what their privacy policy might say.

Update: Wow, they are SLOW. I'd guess their service just started and has been hammered. You have to upload via a browser interface, so it can really tie up the browser cycles. I'll give them a few more tries. This seems like something Google would have the infrastructure for.

Buying a G5 iMac? Might as well buy EyeTV too

Elgato Systems

Turn the G5 iMac into a TV. Especially if you buy the 20" version.

Macintosh Audio Recording - A Macintouch Report

Macintosh Audio Recording

Handy for recording lectures, for example.

Sound Recording for OS X

MacInTouch Home Page: "We've also been trying to identify a simple and reliable Mac recording application. SoundEdit was a great option for Mac OS 9, but it's not available for Mac OS X. We discovered that Rogue Amoeba's inexpensive Audio Hijack combines a great interface with strong features for recording live audio, quite apart from its other special capabilities.

Audio Recorder is a super-simple, freeware option we're currently exploring. Amadeus II, which is also inexpensive, has proved to be reliable and capable in our experience, with advanced capabilities for audio analysis and processing, but we find its interface a bit confusing. Audiocorder might be another good option. There's more discussion on the topic in our Audio Recording report. -MacInTouch"

Dave Dahlberg notes an expansio"

Waiting for OS X 10.3.7

MacInTouch Home Page
I just wanted to let you know that 10.3.7 fixes two of the major current problems users complain about. One is the file name truncation issue. I did not personally test this but it is mentioned in the latest pdf file accompanying 10.3.7S206.

The other is the problem with DNS lookup and sites not found. Of this I have direct experience. With Pacifist I extracted and installed the binary of the files that are related to the lookup process: mDNS, libresolv.9.dylib and mDNSresponder. Since then I did not have a single instance of 'site not found' at first attempt.

I've seen both bugs, neither consistently. Both are very annoying. I can wait for 10.3.7, but no-one should update to 10.3.6. (BTW, the truncation bug is worse with 10.3.6, but apparently it's longstanding.)

NovaMind Mind Mapping for OS X

NovaMind Mind Mapping Features

Imports Mind Manager mind maps, more or less -- if save with .xml extension.

Rebranding Quick Notes - Faughnan's Tech

Faughnan's Tech

Rebranding time. I first started using Blogger when my brother Brian was lost -- as a way to communicate readily to friends and family. After Google bought Blogger I started a blog for which I hurriedly assigned a somewhat silly url: I called it Quick Notes, or something like that. It included purely technical notes with commentary on technology and science.

A bit later I started blogging in the classic sense -- around news, events, etc. That got the URL and the name Faughnan's Notes.

The two have evolved, even as other blogs of mine have waxed and waned. For now, two main blogs seems about right.

Faughnan's Notes continues with the same name. Most of the science and technology commentary has moved to that forum.

Quick Notes has become more purely tech, and really more of a notebook for my own use. It's not just quick jottings about things -- it's really notes for my benefit about OS X and tech in general. Hence I've renamed it Faughan's Tech -- without changing the URL (I hate breaking links).

My Firefox Extension List

Mozilla Update :: Extensions - Add Features to Mozilla Software

1. DOM Inspector
2. Sage
3. Copy Plain Text
4. BlogThis!
5. A9 Toolbar
6. BugMeNot
7. ieview
8. Magpie
9. Named anchors
10. Tabbrowser preferences
11. FoxyTunes

-- I'll update this post as I discover new extensions. I'm looking for an extension that will list all tabs across all Firefox windows.

The problem with tabbed browsing: where's my window?

Mozilla Firefox - Tabbed Browsing

Safari and Firefox have the same problem with tabbed browsing. There's no view that of all open tabs across all containers. So one can flip from container frame to frame and searching tabs within each.

They need a drop down that lists all windows. Ideally the view would be an expanded hierarchy, as in:

container: Name of first tab within the container
- second tab name
- third tab name
container 2
- second tab name
- third tab name
container 3
- second tab name
- third tab name

Maybe this could be a Firefox extension?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Preserving analog video tapes

Slashdot | Preserving VHS Recordings For Another 20 Years?

This May 2003 Slashdot thread was cited in a more recent thread on the death of VHS. Interesting comments about digitizing analog material. I'm waiting for my G5 iMac to take this one. I frankly hate to throw out our very reliable and robust analog SONY camcorder.

WPA Wireless Security Update in Windows XP: SP2 includes WPA

Overview of the WPA Wireless Security Update in Windows XP

I'd been wondering if I could switch my home WLAN from WEP to WPA. The clients are iBooks, but occasionally I need to add a Windows portable to the mix. Looks like that may be possible now, at least with SP2.
For wireless clients that are running Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows Server 2003 and that are using a wireless network adapter that supports the Wireless Zero Configuration service, you must obtain and install the Windows WPA Client. For wireless clients that are running Windows XP service pack 2 (SP2) and that are using a wireless network adapter that supports the Wireless Zero Configuration service, the Windows WPA Client is included in Windows XP SP2. instructs how to download the WPA client for XP SP1.

iKey 2 with an Adam Engst authored manual too

TidBITS#756/22-Nov-04: "Take Control Expands with iKey 2 Manual"

iKey 2 is an OS X automation tool. I'd not have considered testing it, but now I see it comes with a manual authored by Adam Engst. That puts it in a whole new light. I love manuals (I know, it's a perversion). So now I'll try the software.

Software who's primary sale point is the manual?

What a revolutionary idea.

Why Macs are so vulnerable to bad RAM

MacInTouch Home Page

Because they've missed a step in computer evolution:
I manage about 150 Macs in a creative agency. Over the last year and a half I have noticed a sharp increase in the discovery of bad RAM.

My fifty or so G5s (all dual 1.8 or 2.0) have been subject to about 5 instances of bad RAM. That's a ridiculously high percentage (granted we have 4 DIMMs in each, but please...). I don't understand why this would suddenly become such a bigger problem. We have more mirrored-door machines (and more DIMMs) and don't have anywhere near this level of trouble. I pull RAM from machines at the first sign of multiple kernel panics now. I never used to think that way, but if a user is getting panics, the odds are these days that it's the hardware, not my system.

What's more (and most importantly) is that none of the available utilities diagnose the bad DIMMs. I have to send them to a break/fix shop with a hardware-based RAM tester to see if the RAM is OK. I recently ordered 4 GBbytes from CDW and immediately just sent it to the shop for a check. 1 of the 8 was bad. I'm now pricing a RAM tester to use in-house so I can be rest assured about what I'm putting in my machines.

The bottom line is that this is a major quality concern that both Apple and the VARs need to take more seriously. Aren't they testing this stuff themselves? Why does it seem like G5 RAM is much more prone to problems? My main point is to check that stuff (with a hardware-based diagnostic) and don't be surprised to find your OS is fine but your RAM is not.

[The Xserve G5 is the only Mac that bothers to use ECC memory to avoid this pernicious problem. Here's Apple's description from the Xserve G5 Architecture page. -MacInTouch:

Xserve G5 uses Error Correction Code (ECC) logic to protect the system from corrupt data and transmission errors. Each DIMM has an extra memory module that stores checksum data for every transaction. The system controller uses this ECC data to identify single-bit errors and corrects them on the fly, preventing unplanned system shutdowns. In the rare event of multiple-bit errors, the system controller detects the error and triggers a system notification to prevent bad data from corrupting further operations. You can set the Server Monitor software to alert you if error rates exceed the defined threshold.]

PC's use ECC memory. So vendors know the ECC will catch errors of a certain type -- it's no longer cost effective to prevent those errors from occurring. This makes sense -- you get more reliable memory for less money.

Problem though -- Macs don't use ECC. So they get the less reliable and cheaper memory -- without the compensatory mechanism. Bad news.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Aren't you glad you use Firefox/Safari/Opera/Omni?

Bofra exploit hits our ad serving supplier | The Register: "Important notice Early on Saturday morning some banner advertising served for The Register by third party ad serving company Falk AG became infected with the Bofra/IFrame exploit. The Register suspended ad serving by this company on discovery of the problem.

Bofra/IFrame is a currently unpatched exploit which affects Internet Explorer 6.0 on all Windows platforms bar Windows XP SP2. If you may have visited The Register between 6am and 12.30pm GMT on Saturday, Nov 20 using any Windows platform bar XP SP2 we strongly advise you to check your machine with up to date anti-virus software, to install SP2 if you are running Windows XP, and to strongly consider running an alternative browser, at least until Microsoft deals with the issue.

We have asked Falk for an explanation and for further details of the incident, and pending this we do not intend to restart ad-serving via the company. Falk will, we understand, be making a statement regarding the matter on Monday.

Although the matter was beyond our direct control, we do not regard it as acceptable for any Register reader to be exposed in this way, and wish to apologise sincerely to anyone who was. Further information about this particular exploit is available here or here. "

Don't buy Lexmark products?

Lexmark accused of installing spyware - ZDNet UK News: "Reports on the comp.periphs.printers Usenet newsgroup claim that Lexmark has been planting spyware on its customers' PCs in the form of undocumented software that monitors the use of its printers and silently reports back to a Lexmark-owned company Web site.

One user said that after initially denying the allegations, Lexmark acknowledged installing tracking software that reported printer and cartridge use back to the company for survey purposes. He claimed that Lexmark said no personal data was taken by the program, and that it was impossible to identify anyone by it.

However, users installing the software are prompted to fill in a registration form including their name and the serial number of the product.

The newsgroup posting claims that the program, found on the X5250 installation software, embeds itself in the registry and monitors the use of the printer through DLL files in the c:\program_files\lexmark500 folder.

The program sends the information, which includes print and scanning data, to the URL According to the Internet Whois database, this domain name belongs to Lexmark International in Kentucky."

If true, they are idiots.

Is OS X 10.3.3 the sweet spot?

MacInTouch Home Page
['Photo Tim'] I finally have had enough dealing with Apple's updates. So on Thursday I did a 'archive & install' and reverted Panther back to a stock Mac OS X 10.3 install. Then I ran the combo updater to 10.3.3. I also reinstalled the latest ATi drivers. All is well; everything is very snappy and that is that.

One thing to note, if someone is going to do this: Macromedia apps need a 'reset.'...

Every OS release has a "sweet spot" -- especially for older hardware. I think the G3s are moving off the radar. I wonder if 10.3.3 is the best choice for a G3 iBook.

Troubleshoot exchange/outlook synchronization problems

How to troubleshoot synchronization problems when you synchronize your Exchange Server mailbox with your .ost file in Outlook 2000

Despite the title these problems occur with Outlook 2003, even in the new synchronization mode. No wonder it's hard to reliably sync a PDA with Outlook/Exchange.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

This is what I want in a digital camera ..

Canon EOS 20D Digital Camera Review: Intro and Highlights
the new Canon 20D offers dramatically improved noise performance at high ISOs, with the result that its images at ISO 1600 are remarkably clean-looking, and its shots at ISO 3200 are eminently usable

ISO 1600. Sigh. I don't want a full fledged DSLR, I just want that beautiful CMOS sensor. I don't suppose Canon will ever put one in a non-DSLR?

A small and interesting vendor of iPod fproducts

SiK, Inc. :: products

They make some interesting products! I like the power-only Firewire cable. Their line level portable audio out is neat too.

Printer connected to Airport Extreme Base Station stops working after firmware upgrade - fix

Macintouch Wireless Networking (Part 26): "Jason Froikin: AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express attached USB printers will often change ID's after a new firmware upgrade, even if you didn't rename the printer. It won't work again until you delete it from the Printer Setup Utility on your Mac and add it again via Rendezvous.

If you had the printer attached and turned on, sometimes the printer will get erroneous codes during the upgrade and get stuck. Turn off and detach the printer, restart the AirPort and, and reattach the printer. Then follow the instruction above."

Friday, November 19, 2004

USB audio output adapter

HarmonyExpress - Portable Sound Card

This would be much more interesting if it had a digital output. Odd device about the size of a thumb drive, plugs into USB port.

Altec Lansing USB Powered portable speakers: XT1

Altec Lansing Products: XT1

They don't fold as nicely as SONY travel speakers, but they're quite elegant and compact. $130. USB powered.

Blogger is in miserable shape


Blogger is in fine shape about 1/3 of the time, iffy another 1/3, and dead for the last 1/3. It's reallly in awful shape. If it were this bad early on I'd not have committed to it. Now, however, I can only wait and hope they're able to fix it. I haven't bothered sending them nasty letters -- it's clear they're working frantically. They grew too fast, without enough infrastructure. Their CEO left just in time ...

Travel and other iPod speaker systems

Speaker Systems

Very nice review with great pointers.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Their pixels are bigger than your pixels

Reflecting Pool

The astounding volume of information captured in a single gigapixel image.

Juxtapose this with the reality that our optic nerves can only handle a surprisingly small flow of information, and information flow to the prefrontal cortex is even more constrained.

What we perceive is a peculiar reconstruction of a vastly denser external world ...

A VC's guide to entrepreneurial success

VC Institute Bookstore -- Beste
3. They have a sound knowledge of the financial dynamics of their companies. By this I most decidedly do not mean that entrepreneurs need an accounting degree, or even an intimate knowledge of financial analysis. What I do mean is that they focus on key results areas, such as: gross margins, monthly fixed costs, sales/employee, sales to budget, dollar production/day - whatever factors drive cash flow and profitability in that particular type of business. Entrepreneurs exhibiting this characteristic can tell you (without looking it up) what the trend in gross margins has been over the past few months, or what the cash flow impact of a 20% shortfall in revenues would be next month.

Ten reasons to avoid venture capital

AVC Venture Capital

Recommended by Joel on Software. It's on a web site devoted to non-venture funded startups.

Google Scholar - a citation search engine

Google Scholar
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

Just as with Google Web Search, Google Scholar orders your search results by how relevant they are to your query, so the most useful references should appear at the top of the page. This relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature. Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications.

Please let us know if you have suggestions, questions or comments about Google Scholar. We recognize the debt we owe to all those in academia whose work has made Google itself a reality and we hope to make Google Scholar as useful to this community as possible. We believe everyone should have a chance to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Shades of Dickson's encyclopedia, or the Memex of Vannevar. Searching here for a medical condition returns very different items than a standard google search. I look forward to comparisons with PubMed results. This is very intriguing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

HandBrake DVD Ripper

HandBrake homepage

External hard drive enclosures: Next up is video out

Gizmodo : SigmaTek X-Bay: "I bet it won't be too long before all external hard drive enclosures come with a commodity MPEG-4 decoder chip and video out hardware built right in."

Dan's Data does a terrific review of PC power strips and surge suppressors

Power struggle

Dan's Data is without equal. Here he tackles surge suppressors. He puts in one place everything I've picked up over many years, and then adds much more. His discussions always remind me of how much we lost when BYTE went under.

We have 3 PCs and 1-2 laptops in our home, not to mention thousands of dollars of other voltage sensitive gizmos. I like the idea of having an electrician install a whopping big fusebox conditioner; OTOH it may be less trouble to buy $50 suppressors and replace them every year. I wish Dan would provide some examples of vendors he likes.
...No ordinary cheap powerboard ("cheap" definitely includes "$US100") actually provides very good protection from line current gremlins...Cheap surge filters are all based around components called Metal-Oxide Varistors (MOVs). MOVs pass current only when the voltage across them is above a set value, and they react to overcurrent in microseconds. A circuit breaker or fuse can take tens of milliseconds to trip or blow; that's much too slow for spike suppression.

Unfortunately, MOVs will only work a few times, at best. The more work they have to do, the closer to death they come...Better surge/spike boards are meant to tell you when their MOV's died via a little light or even a buzzer, but they commonly, actually, don't. A surge/spike filter that's been in use for some years and still reports its MOV as perfectly healthy is, probably, lying.

Better surge suppressors use two other kinds of spike-sinking component. Gas arrestor tubes are much tougher than MOVs, but respond too slowly to be useful for many applications, including computer protection. But they're present in better power filters because they can handle the load of a really big surge, after some other component has (possibly) bravely given its life to intercept the first several microseconds of overvoltage.

And then there are Silicon Avalanche Diodes (SADs), which are between gas tubes and MOVs in toughness, but as fast as a MOV. They're more expensive, though, which is why cheap surge/spike filters never contain them.

The best surge/spike suppressors gas arrestor tubes and SADs, and possibly MOVs as well. Proper "power conditioners" go on to include a great big heavy iron transformer, whose 50Hz resonance (60Hz, in countries that use that mains frequency) and enormous inductance blocks surges and spikes quite well too. This makes the power filter large and heavy and easily as expensive as a mid-range Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), but if there's an aluminium smelter down the road from you, this is the kind of filter you want. Rather than faff around buying tons of flaky powerboard filters for all of your electrical outlets, you should get an electrician to install one giant power conditioner at your fusebox; now, the whole house should be bulletproof.

... The take-home message from all of this is that quality power filtering isn't cheap. Fortunately, though, most people here in Australia don't need quality power filtering. To Aussies, I therefore say: Go ahead and buy dirt cheap no-CEW filter-boards, and be merry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A fairly significant limitation to SMB filesharing for OS X

MacInTouch Home Page
[Jann Linder] Samba limits filenames to 26 characters. Since Mac OS X now correctly displays Windows and Samba servers in the Networks file window, users may inadvertently utilize the SMB method of logging on to Mac OS X servers from Mac OS X clients; this prevents them from seeing any files with names longer than 26 chars and anything they attempt to save this way will be corrupted in the filename to a shorter version - if it allows them to save at all.
The only way to tell if you are using the Mac OS X file-sharing vs the Mac OS X Samba windows file sharing is the fact that you will have a login box which asks for 'SMB/CIFS filesystem authentication', and it will ask for 3 pieces of information: A Workgroup/Domain, a Username and a Password. If this is the case, then filenames are limited to 26 chars and you cannot see longer filenames.

I'll have to test this! Since NTFS supports much longer file names I never thought OS X SMB sharing would truncate filenames. I find this hard to believe.

AirPort Extreme Base Station Firmware Upgrade (5.5)

Apple - Support - Downloads - AirPort Extreme Firmware 5.5 for Mac OS X: "AirPort Extreme Firmware 5.5 for Mac OS X"
Pretty extensive list of changes. I'll wait to see what the bugs are.

Nice description of digital camera dynamic range

TidBITS: How to Buy a Digital Camera
For pictorial photography, dynamic range usually matters more than resolution. It doesn't matter if the sensor is able to resolve fine detail on an object if you cannot see the object at all because it is buried in shadow. You can do a quick-and-dirty test of dynamic range even in a camera shop by systematically underexposing photos of a photographic grey scale. I found the dynamic range of the SD-10 to be remarkable. If highlights are correctly exposed, shadows can be 10 to 11 stops darker yet still retain some coarse detail. The pair of screenshots (linked below) from Sigma's PhotoPro software show how easily and effectively this detail can be extracted. This photo was exposed perfectly for the highlights. The dark version shows a normal dynamic range, about what a colour slide would have shown. The light version shows additional detail in the shadows that was recorded by the sensor and brought out by the Tonal Adjustment sliders.

...(Note that with a digital camera, increasing the "ISO" speed does not make the sensor more sensitive, it amplifies the signal and, at the same time, it amplifies the noise. "ISO" 100 is normal for most cameras and speeds up to 1600 are commonly available, but any speed over 400 is not likely to look very good.)

Some cameras offer a choice of metering modes - spot, segment, averaging - so you can choose the one most likely to be accurate for the picture you are about to take. This is the sort of silly featuritis that makes so many electronic devices difficult to use. There is no point to trying to figure out how to set the meter to read a scene the most accurately, it's as fast and more certain to take a quick test picture and adjust the control that nudges the automatic exposure up or down. Automatic exposure-bracketing is almost as useless: there is rarely reason to bracket exposures when you can identify the correct exposure when you make it. The SD-10 dedicates push-buttons and primary display space to both of these "features."

Something else I can't see worrying about is how the camera reproduces colour. As I explained in "Colour & Computers" in TidBITS-749, this is tantamount to complimenting or castigating an amoeba on its figure. There is even less reason to worry about the colour reproduction of lenses. If a lens tints the image that it projects onto the sensor, the tint will be systematic and slight, and it will be corrected automatically by whatever software converts the raw image into a usable one...

One in a series of hard core digital photography articles printed in Tidbits. I've learned something with each one, and I'm not a complete novice.

There's lots of fine commentary in here. The author is writing about a very high end camera, but the commentary is relevant to every digital camera. I ended up thinking we really need to move away from the anachronisms of film photography and adopt new imaging parameters. The ISO control may be the worst of the bunch.

We're fine with 6 MPixel sensors for all the pictures I'm likely to do. Let's see the focus change (sorry) to dynamic range, image stabilization and light sensitivity. Forget the darned megapixels.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mac OS X Power Tools - A comprehensive list

Mac OS X Power Tools

Riipping DVDs on OS X

The Cult of Mac Blog: "Update: Alexander Malov writes, 'Just saw the entry on DVD ripping in OS X and their method is over-complicated to say the least. It is much easier to use MacTheRipper to rip the DVD (simple, almost one-click process) and then compress for burning
(if nessesary) using DVD2OneX. Then burn using Toast. Voila.

It is also possible to rip DVDs using DVDBackup."

Photoshop Elements 3: Scanning alone may justify purchase

Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 Review: 3. Operation: Digital Photography Review
Divide Scanned Photos

Scanning multiple photographs with a flatbed scanner typically leads to a big image consisting of the photographs with white space in between. The Image -> Divide Scanned Photos command automatically detects each photograph, rotates it, crops away any white borders, and opens each image in a separate window. The command is equivalent to the The File -> Automate -> Crop and Straighten command in Photoshop CS.

I wonder if VueScan does this? This feature is such a huge time saver it alone may justify purchase of PE 3. Note the Mac version doesn't include the Organizer features; also the Mac version has some serious security issues (won't run well in non-admin account, of course I suspect the XP version has even more severe security issues -- but no-one really runs XP other than in an admin account).

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sima CT-2 Video Signal Processor: Defeat macrovision copy protection Camera & Photo: Sima CT-2 Video Signal Processor

This is a curious sort of device. When one reads the marketing description it's hard to see what it's good for. On reviewing the user commetns the value is rather more obvious -- it defeats Macrovision protection. So you can, if you're an honest sort, copy your old VHS video tapes to DVD. Or, if you're dishonest, you can make copies of rental DVDs and videos.
... what yu really need is a unit which will fully override both types of Macrovision, and to my knowledge, the only thing available is the SIMA SCC-2 Color Corrector 2. This thing is expensive ($150-200 bucks), but it's worth it if you have a big video collection you'd like to transfer to DVD-R. I hope this helps anyone out there who bought a bunch of VHS tapes and simply wants to transfer a few to DVD. Jeez....

It must be interesting to market a product who's primary value can never be described! The device does not seem terribly high quality. Some reviewers indicate they had to transfer the audio on a separate cable.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The future is now: Amazon and Google are the cutting edge

Amazon as a network OS
The Amazon Simple Queue Service offers a reliable, highly scalable hosted queue for buffering messages between distributed application components. The Amazon Simple Queue Service reduces the costs associated with resolving the producer-consumer problem that arises in distributed application development. Such costs include increased application development time, and potentially significant investment in server and network infrastructure to support distributed application messaging. Amazon has already invested in the large-scale computing infrastructure that runs the Queue Service, and since the Service's interface is exposed via Web services, integration with applications is fast and easy.

I've been a bystander for some serious networked application development; at one point we used IBM's MQueue. This stuff is non-trivial. So now Amazon is providing a network queueing service?

Very strange. Who would ever depend on it? What's to stop it from vanishing? What the heck are they up to? I have to assume it's the first step is something rather larger.

Ask Jeeves -- time to reealuate?

Ask Jeeves -

I've not used in years. They did quite well in a recent BBC test. Their contextual searches do seem to work now -- an understanding of phrase "meaning" rather than phrase string match. I'll have to figure out how to use them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why one must take problem reports with a grain of NaCl

Mac OS X 10.3.6
David Biddix
I wrote yesterday about my Other World Computing Mercury 400 FireWire Drive ceasing to work after I installed the 10.3.6 patch. I talked with OWC Tech Support today (Tuesday) about the issue and he had me run through several diagnostics, including one where we unplugged the FireWire cable from the drive. It lost power.

Tech support had me then trace my power connection for the drive, and I discovered that my toddler son had turned off the power strip to which it was connected (the power strip has no on/off light to show if it is on). He had me go ahead and update my firmware drivers (downloaded from the OWC site) as a backup plan, but my drive mounts perfectly.

It took only 5 minutes to complete the call...OWC Tech Support is first rate, and I appreciated the tech not laughing while I cleaned egg off of my face.
Kudos to David for fessing up. I've done something similar myself.

So the OS X firewire problem may only be with the Inito chipset.

Film Scanning with PhotoCD

MacInTouch Home Page: "I'm a professional potter and I frequently need scans of my 35 mm color product slides. Kodak's Photo CD (NOT Picture CD!) has proven to be the best and the cheapest. One vendor I have used is Imagers out of Atlanta. They will put 100 scans on a CD and each scan is recorded in 5 resolutions, all for under $1 per slide. You just keep sending the same CD back to them until it's full. They even offer overnight service. I have also had a local photo store send my slides and CD off to Kodak for about the same price, but that usually takes 7-10 days."

Competition is good: A9/Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Firefox Home Page

If only we had this kind of competition in productivity software. Alas, Microsoft has left much of the software world a barren desert. OS X has not provided great productivity software alternatives because Microsoft Office rules there too.

Not so on the net.

Amazon/A9, Firefox, Google and Yahoo are all in a complex and intense struggle that's increasingly interesting.

In the past few weeks:

1. I switched to Amazon/A9 because Amazon has put together an excellent Firefox toolbar. It uses Google search, but it has a number of fascinating and subversive features. Amazon is leveraging their review infrastructure and their customer knowledge in fascinating win-win ways. Privacy shmivacy. (I made my last stand for privacy in 1994, when it was obvious that privacy was doomed if we didn't act. We didn't act.)

2. I switched my web site and blog search engines from Google to Yahoo because Google is having serious indexing problems. They are not indexing Blogger -- their own property. If I had time I'd short Google stock. They're a great company, but they are heading for a rough patch.

3. Google's GMail is great. I love it and I'll happily pay for it -- esp. when they add IMAP support. I'm looking forward to their image and backup solutions. Now if they can only fix their search. Above all -- will they make Firefox their core browser?

4. Firefox, my Win browser of choice for about 8-10 months, is moving from strength to strength. Their extension collection is becoming amazing. Bloglines has added some nice extensions. Google has been oddly quiet. The Amazon A9's ability to share data and bookmarks effortlessly between platforms is highly subversive -- it may drive me to Firefox on the Mac as well as on my Win machines. I also like the ability to pass notes around. Now we need a Palm client for the Amazon repository that Firefox/A9 builds. Hmm. I wonder if AvantGo could be set to pull down that data ...

Ahh. I do love a fight like this. Bring it on guys. Electronics: Seagate Firewire/USB external $120 w/ rebate Electronics: Seagate ST3160024A-RK 160 GB External USB 2.0/FireWire Hard Drive

A few points of interest here.

1. I got this referral via Macintouch. Macintouch is a superb OS X oriented site with loyal readers. They make referral money from Amazon and they make good referrals -- like this one. Nice win-win.

2. This is an amazing deal.

3. I never thought of Amazon when I bought a firewire/usb drive recently. I should have. The user reviews are excellent and would have been most helpful.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Favorite Firefox Extensions and Themes -> Favorite Firefox Extensions and Themes

Search tools of many shapes and forms

All Searches - All-In-One Search Engine Tools

Only Google indexes usenet.

Equalizers in general, an in iTunes in particular

Demystifying the iTunes EQ
32 Hz: This is the lowest frequency selection on the EQ. This sits in the lowest of low bass frequencies, where sub information resides in mixes –such as kick drums and bass instruments. Some speaker systems can't even reproduce this frequency.
64 Hz: This second bass frequency starts to become audible on decent speakers or subwoofers. Again, mostly bass drums and bass instruments will reside in this region.
125 Hz: Many small speakers, such as in your laptop, can just about handle this frequency for bass information. In other words, if you turn it up on most systems, you'll hear more bottom in your mix.
250 Hz: This is still considered low-end, but more of the "woofy" sound of bass and drum sounds. Guitars and pianos will have a large amount of low end in this frequency range.
500 Hz: Now were approaching midrange frequencies, but still some of the low end of vocals and the mids of bass instruments sit here in a mix.
1K: This is now low midrange of most instruments such as guitars, pianos, snare drums, etc.
2K: The 2k frequency can boost or cut the "nasal" sound of your music, in the range your voice makes when you hold your nose and talk.
4K: 4k is the upper mid range that many electric guitars sit in, as well as a large portion of many instruments.
8K: This is getting into the high end, where the majority of cymbals and hi-hats are, as well as upper range of synths, pianos and guitars. Many vocals have a lot of information in this range.
16K: Theoretically, us humans can hear just above 20K, so this is true high end. If you crank this up, your mixes will get ‘sizzly'. This is the top of high end on the iTunes equalizer.

A rare find! Fascinating article on how to get the most from different acoustic environments.