Wednesday, November 28, 2007

External HD

OK, so my music and photo libraries have gotten out of control. I'm running out of space on my laptop. Thus, I'm probably going to need an external hard drive. I'm thinking at least 200GB; USB 2.0 and FireWirse connectivity preferred. Look for sales here and here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leopard for me

As culled from the New Features page.

Things I like:
  • Google Mapping of Address Book addresses
  • Automator
    • Automator UI improvements
    • UI recording and playback
    • New actions
  • Dashboard web clipping
  • Stacks (esp. Downloads stacking)
  • Icon preview and Quick Look
  • Improved iCal interface
  • iChat invisibility
    • RSS feed reading
    • Auto-detection of data
  • PDF manipulation and markup in Preview (I have programs that do this, but it would be nice for them to all be in the same place)
  • Spaces
  • Spotlight
    • Calculations
    • Advanced syntax
  • Time Machine
Things I don't like and/or am scared about:
  • The new dock design (the "shelf")
  • The new finder sidebar (reminds me of Windows)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dealing with iPhoto

There it is. That's the automator workflow I've created to deal with my iPhoto "modified photos" problem detailed in my below post on Lifehacker. I can't seem to upload to any storage sites recently, probably a port problem or something, so this screenshot is the best I could do.

What this does, as you might guess, is to copy any photos iPhoto creates in its "Modified" folder to some other folder (which I have set as "Modified from iPhoto"). You have to drag your photos from there and manually put them into your library system, but this program at least puts them all in one place for you. Also, if you have more than one mod of a photo, I think this should automatically add a "2" onto the end of the filename. If not, let me know.

(It's important that, in the options for the first action, you check "Show action when run." Then set the date in that to the day after your "LastRunDate" text file was created, so that you only get photos that were modified after the last time you ran the program.)

Let me know what you think!


I've been marinating a blog post for around a MONTH about my filing system for photos. I can't get it written because I'm still wrestling with iPhoto. iPhoto has an absolutely stupid way of organizing files. It has two separate folders at the top of its hierarchy: "Modified" and "Original." Under those, it keeps track of all your albums -- but they're often named really random names, like my Christmas album being named "Roll 34," so there's really no way to tell what album a photo is in except from within iPhoto. As such, I import all my photos into my OWN filing system, one where I control the naming of the folders (which take the pattern of yyyy-mm-dd Event Name). I've set iPhoto to create aliases to this system when I import photos, so as to save space.

This system works well for my original files, but whenever you modify something in iPhoto, iPhoto creates a new photo in the "Modified" folder. I wrote a program in Automator that copies all photos that were modified after some certain date (which I set to the last rundate of the program)in any subfolder of the Modified folder to a different folder. I then have to go to that folder and redistribute those copies to my filing system. iPhoto only keeps one copy of each modified photo, so if you got rid of some red-eye and then made it black-and-white, you'd only have the non-redeye b&w file -- which is why it has to be "date modified.". I may end up not using iPhoto at all, and instead just using some image editor for editing and the Spotlight comments field for tagging.

PS: The marathon iPhoto tag session I did for my ~3000 photos would have completely sucked were it not for Keyword Assistant. Also, my file renaming process was made much easier by NameChanger, a versatile app that includes live preview of what your filenames will look like after the rename.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Grah! just cleared a draft message I had been working on for days! Aah! Not cool!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Quicken Problems

So I'm playing around with new money management software, right, because Quicken 2006 feels like a very Windowsy app. (One high on my list is Cha-Ching, a program currently in beta that was featured on a recent MacBreak short from the MacWorld expo.)

However, I'm having some serious problems exporting my transactions to .QIF from Quicken for importing into other apps. (There's no way I'm going to reenter 7 months of transactions in each program just to try them out.) I can't open the exported files in anything. Preview opens on double-click, but no window shows up. Cha-Ching, bless its little soul, actually tries to do something with the file, but it can't find any transactions. I just got done with a "Live Chat" with one of Quicken's technicians. Here's the transcript. Well dang, I had the transcript on my clipboard but accidentally copied over it. But let me just say that the conversation ended with her saying something along the lines of, "I sympathize with the frustration you must be feeling."

Any tips would be very appreciated. I can provide screenshots if that would help.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Thoughts on the iPhone. Apple's, that is.

First, let me say that severely disappointed me. I had the "spoiler-free" page (which would be updated with the link to the keynote video once Apple uploaded it) on auto-refresh, and a headline popped up saying that Apple had announced the iPhone and Apple TV! Bastards! But once I saw that, the floodgates that were my willpower turned out to be less Amsterdam and more New Orleans, and I rushed over to the Apple site and just about broke down over the iPhone.

I really should have commented on the latest MacBreak Weekly earlier. They played a clip of Leo's radio show where a guy called in and claimed to have a source at Apple. The guy said the iPhone would be CDMA. Now, I had a very strong feeling that would not be the case -- if it were so, Apple would likely partner with Verizon, a company scorned for its disabling of features, and that's something I really don't think Apple or Apple fans would like. But now that it's announced as a Cingular product, you're just going to say I'm exploiting the hindsight bias ("Well of course it's that way..."). But really I had thought of that earlier today while listening to the podcast! Really!

Now, about that -- what's it called again? iPhone? How does that fly with Cisco? Turns out it doesn't. But moving on!

It's a PDA! It's a phone! It's the much-hoped-for widescreen touchscreen video iPod! It's so amazing I want to cry. Apple's first entry into the mobile computing market since the Newton (which still holds a place in my heart) is perfect. At least in theory; we'll see what issues crop up once it's released (sometime in June of this year; it's still pending FCC approval). The case and the interface are absolutely gorgeous. Best of all, it's available for my carrier! If only I could get steady reception in any part of my house (even just one spot would be fantastic), I would change my view of Cingular from reluctant acceptance to outright joy. But for now, all I can muster is some muted joy.

Since it's called the iPhone, I guess I'll talk about its capabilities as a phone first. There isn't really anything that will change the way we use our cell phones forever, but the improvements Apple has made on the traditional cell phone are poised make the iPhone experience better in a way disproportionate to their technological complexity. For me at least,
  • The Favorites list is a feature I have ached for my cell phone to have, and I could never understand why it wasn't the first thing the developers thought of as they tested their phones. How hard would it be, Motorola, to include this kind of thing with your OS? (Hint: not very.) It's painful to me to know my wife has to scroll through about 15 other S's to get to my name to call me. (Yes, I know about speed dial, but she's set in her ways.) There are workarounds though, for us stuck with more mediocre phones. One is to use the "recently dialed numbers" screen to find whoever you want to call. Or you can just name important people in the format "## Person" so that they float up to the top of the list. Just don't let "02 Wife" find out that she's behind "01 Boss," or there might be some cold shoulder headed your way.

  • Merging calls is pretty cool. I don't think it's something that will get much use from little old me, but it's good to know it's there.

  • Visual voicemail is the greatest idea in the history of leaving messages. It may (may!) make me not hate the voicemail system quite as much. How many times have you wanted to listen to a message but had to wait through the voicemail lady announcing the number of each voicemail and the time of the call? (For example, with Cingular: "First... saved... message.... Sent...Friday... January... fifth...Ten...Forty...Five...A.M.) This is even worse if you have multiple messages before the one you want to listen to. Well, visual voicemail solves this problem so elegantly it's a wonder it took this long for someone to implement it. Speaking of which, I'm wondering how the iPhone interfaces with Cingular's voicemail system to make this work. Any clarification is encouraged in the comments.

  • Viewing texts as a chat falls in the same category as the Favorites list... Why in the world didn't it get implemented before? What would have been so hard about that?

  • The "soft" number pad (for dialing) and QWERTY keyboard -- "soft" meaning touchscreen elements rather than physical keys-- is a great innovation. It saves so much space over having physical keys, which don't get used all the time. How much bigger could the Treo's screen be, for example?

  • Predictive text that corrects mistakes... I love it! Leave it to Apple to make something smarter than you are!

  • I posted some of the gripes I had with my current cell phone a while back on one of my now sadly-neglected HiveLive hives, and hopefully some of the things I wanted out of my ideal cell phone will be addressed. One that I didn't mentioned was that when someone calls and the phone is open or I'm on with someone else, the "Ignore" button is where the "Answer" button should be -- that is, the right soft key. The menu that comes up on the iPhone solves this problem perfectly. Also, it should be interesting to see if Apple allows you to set special ringtones for certain people calling you but not texting you.
The rest of my comments about the iPhone aren't nearly so extensive as to require bullet points to keep them all straight. I think the demo of the iPhone-as-iPod looks amazingly cool, especially the integration of Cover Flow and the automatic landscape/portrait orientation sensing. The latter really increases the phone's potential as a web browsing device as well, although my experience with Cingular's EDGE network (which I admit has been limited to my V557, which isn't really a multimedia kind of device) has me a little skeptical about the speed displayed in the demo. Widgets are also a great idea for a mobile computing device -- I assume this type of platform I assume has been limited to programs that run only when launched and aren't really supposed to be in the background too much. Again, this isn't really a major breakthrough, but the little things make a difference in product experience. I also love the fact that I could get a phone number via Google Maps and call that number, all from one device.

This product launch could go one of two ways. It could be wildly successful, propelling Cingular and Apple ahead of the competition (the way I hope it will be). The other possibility is that the iPhone could languish due to the fact that you can only get it with a 2-year contract. This restriction will be in place for at least 2 years, during which time Apple's phone competitors could have time to incorporate Apple's innovations into their current devices for a smaller cost and for different carriers. For this reason, I really wish the iPhone had been available as an unlocked device. I understand how handy it is for a service provider to subsidize part of the cost of a phone, making it seem cheaper than it is, but it's risky.

All in all, Apple didn't do anything too revolutionary, but the innovations they brought to the iPhone show how the little things can go a long way toward making a product experience awesome.

(And how about a few sentences on the Apple TV? I think it's a great idea. If I had a widescreen TV, I would definitely get one. $300 doesn't seem too unreasonable. Plus, the Photos screensaver looks awesome.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Comment on the Mac Google Experience

{**See the first several comments for info about my edits of this post BEFORE reading**}

Google kicks ass. There's no doubt about it. Gmail's amazing, Picasa's amazing, Google Docs & Spreadsheets are pretty cool too. But as much as Google appeals to the young, techno-hip crowd of today, its programs sometimes don't work well with another big player in that same scene: Apple. As a recent Switcher, I've noticed a few things about the Google experience that aren't quite the same on Macs. There are two basic kinds of deficiencies that I've noticed. [Subsequent investigation (I am without access to my Windows machine at the moment) might reveal more.]

Some of Google's offerings, mainly webapps such as Gmail that can run in any major web browser, simply aren't [isn't] as capable in the Mac OS as they are [it is] on Windows. For example, in Gmail on a Windows machine, when you right-click on something, you get a context menu that is specific to Gmail itself, not the web browser. This provides additional functionality and, in general, a user experience more like that of a desktop app. On a Mac, on the other hand, the context menu in Gmail is the same as the context menu for any other webpage. (This is in Firefox 2.0.)

Other Google products, such as Picasa[, on the other hand,] and Google Earth Plus, are [is] not available at all for the Mac OS. Needless to say, this inhibits the use Mac users can get out of them [it]. I miss Picasa so very dearly from my days on a PC; the little advantages it has over iPhoto make a big difference. And the more I run around my neighborhood, the more I wish I could save paths in Google Earth -- a feature only available to subscribers to Google Earth Plus, a Windows-only application. Of course, I could get Parallels and a licensed copy of Windows, but DAMN that seems expensive.

I expected the Google Mac blog to keep me informed of Google's latest developments for Mac users, but it's actually a sort of personal blog for developers who happen to work in Google's Mac labs. For examples of this, look at the latest two posts: Some guy's hometown and some guy's bassoonery. It's really kind of insulting.

While brainstorming for this post, an idea hit me. Google's assault on Microsoft's user base is one of the greatest trends of recent computing. It seems like a lot of Microsoft's Live services are responses to Google's services (some of which are, admittedly, responses to Yahoo!'s services). Maybe Google has gotten so into this whole competition thing that they're focusing solely on drawing people away from Microsoft -- and Mac users don't need to be drawn! This seems pretty petty to me, though. Maybe it's that Google doesn't want to compete with things already available for the Mac. That would explain the lack of Picasa, as iPhoto's solid, but... No, that's just ridiculous.

In short, Google's an awesome company with some awesome products which are for the most part available on all major platforms, but I wish they'd fix these few shortcomings.