Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 4:46 pm
iPhoto 6 is good stuff

I’m very impressed with what I have seen on iLife ’06. However, the application most essential to me is iPhoto, and has it managed to score some major new advancements. Oh yes. For me, speed is key, and is pretty much the only feature affecting me.

Even though Steve Jobs was touting “speed” in previous years, the true “speed” only arrived in this release. In fact, it has pissed me off knowing how many hours I have wasted using the previous versions of iPhoto, now knowing the potential speed on the same hardware. Some software tweaks have been done under the hood–why begs the question of why it takes Apple several years to optimise an important Cocoa application?

Yes, it does “scroll like butter” even on a PowerBook 15" 1.25 GHz/768RAM (My photo library is stored on an external 7200 RPM 3.5" drive). The telling thing is that I am no longer fearful of launching iPhoto; whereas in the past, the very thought of using it made me look at the clock and wonder whether my next couple of hours were free. And one more thing™: I no longer envy those Picasa users on Windows. Especially now that I know that the Macs are receiving a kick up the rear with the Yonah adoption.

More speed is always a good thing, and if that was the only new difference that would be OK. There are a few more “evolutions” though.

iPhoto has also adopted the “iTunes-look” which is not quite brushed-metal (Safari), and which I guardedly do like. It does look “lighter” than true brushed metal, and the border-less look works. The colours: dark grey title bar, light grey bits and the light blue album area do clash though.

Full-screen editing builds upon the editing capabilities in previous iPhotos. Now, palettes are not just translucent: some get out of the way when not needed—and quickly too. Images can also be compared side-by-side. Thankfully. there is no fade-to-black when entering/exiting full-screen mode. The usual “some may still need Photoshop” disclaimers apply.

The calendars/photos/book printing “features” are a continual slap in the face for those Macintosh users, who do not live in North America, Japan and Europe, since these features are not available to us. That would be not too bad, since surely we can disable their respective buttons at the bottom of iPhoto window. Nope. Even though the ability to customise that particular toolbar has been present since the last version… those particular buttons… can… not… be… removed. Personally I suspect this to be a simple oversight, although an Australian service would be nice. I don’t think I’d be keen on printing a custom-designed gorgeous calendar on my home inkjet.

It would be easy to just focus on these new features. iPhoto does still have the old faithfuls. My favourite features: the calendar, keywords, smart albums, enhance and adjust features are still there (and work faster too). And… even though iPhoto’s proprietary filing system is sometimes disparaged, I am a big fan and a convert.

Finally, and coming back to the new speed improvements, the Media Browser in other applications is now workable. Previously launching the Media Browser (which hooks into the iPhoto database) was as bad as launching iPhoto itself.

So, iPhoto: You’ve had the features. But now you’re fast enough to no longer be embarrassing to use. Woot!

[posted with ecto]

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Friday, January 13, 2006 10:10 am

It’s that time of month again—when I exceed my download limits, and my ADSL connnection slows down from 1.5 Mbits/s to 64 kbits/s. Better than the old 56 kbits/s POTS modem, and with much less latency, but still slow as.

Most sites I visit are so graphics heavy that it’s a real hassle to use Safari or FireFox to browse. And so despite wondering what in the world Opera’s long term strategy is: I’m glad there is a version on Mac OS X. Simply because Opera, has a single toolbar button that toggles graphics on and off.

I also took the opportunity to better get to know Lynx—which is a cross-platform text-based browser. I used DarwinPorts to get my OS X version a while ago, but of course had little incentive to use it at the time. Surprisingly, it’s very usable in this age of complex web pages. In fact I think it has given me a new appreciation as to how unimportant much of the data on most pages are. I just scroll through and ignore the lots of image tags on each page. The speed is refreshing. Even forums that require signing in work well.

Navigation is keyboard based, with each key having some function—reminds me of the old days of playing Ultima 3 & 4. Out of habit, I find myself reaching for the mouse, and then realising that it serves no function. In fact, maybe Lynx would be useful in those aggravating times when one forgets to charge their wireless mouse.

There is no tabbed browsing either—although I can just open a new terminal window and type lynx apple to get to the Apple site. So each Lynx window is a separate application. I quite like this feature, since ocassionally some graphical browsers (e.g. Safari, Firefox) provide me with the spinning pizza of death (similar to the hourglass in Windows) preventing me from switching between any browser window/tab of that application.

So, Lynx… my browser of choice for the next 3 days—until my next Internet billing cycle.

[posted with ecto]

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Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:25 pm

The Macintels are here, and on paper look tremendous. Debate rages about the FireWire 800 issue, the modem issue, the missing 86400 pixels, and the ExpressCard issue.

There’s also the single vs dual DVD writer issue

And the price issue

I’m a heavy user of the FW800 port, and think there is a noticeable performance increase, when using a daisy chain of FW800 devices. I have noticed that plugging devices into both the FW800 and the FW400 port on my Rev A aluminium 15" PowerBook slows both ports down—which probably means there’s only a single bus on the motherboard to start with. If Apple wasn’t going to rectify this, maybe removing a FW port was a good idea.

Perhaps Apple should have removed the FW400 port instead.

The PowerBook is extremely tempting. Of course I am concerned that it is a Rev A product, but… my biggest reservation is compatibility with 3rd party hardware.

I expect storage and display devices should work perfectly, as should Postscript printers. But what about scanners, tablets and other printers, e.g. inkjet printers? The built-in GIMP printing should help somewhat, but my Canon i865 isn’t on the chart of supported printers. Less likely to work would be my Canon ScanSnap, my Epson Perfection 1670 scanner, and my Wacom tablet—in the short term at least. All those devices need a driver of sorts, because unfortunately there isn’t an industry standard. My HP LaserJet 2300 which uses Postscript requires a PPD and should work—although I suspect some printer plug-ins are also required.

Some 3rd party hardware manufacturers make an effort to release Macintosh drivers, and then let them languish without updates. Canon did this for some of the early USB scanners they released. So does HP apparently—although I don’t own one personally, the reason for this is that I have been scared off for that reason. Palm does this to a lesser extent—their official stance at one time was Mac users would do better to contact Markspace for Macintosh support. However since then they released “Revision D” of an existing driver. Who knows what that company is up to.

There’s an advantage of being a computer novice—fewer hardware compatibility requirements.

I know lots of Macheads have already plonked down their $ for a Macintel, so I’m sure there’ll be the tales of sorrow soon enough—hopefully eased by some updated Macintel drivers. Thank goodness for early adopters—saves the rest of us the trouble.

[posted with ecto]

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Monday, December 05, 2005 2:34 am

In general, things seem to be working OK. Still a few issues with the individual posts page, which I can fix up later on.

Ecto is a little better behaved, when not using WYSIWYG mode.

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2:16 am

Ah, after finishing the CSS book (for Dummies), I decided to take the day to change my blog’s underlying structure. So the CSS has gone from Minima to something customised.

It sure took a while. Fortunately, TextMate has turned out to be a magnificent workhorse. I'm sure there are so many other features that I haven't even used. I can't seem to find a good manual that explains all the features. It is a little pricey too, compared to TextWrangler at least. I'll have to decide if it's worth the cost.

The HTML/CSS edits are incomplete though. But I need some sleep. And also to see if the Technorati tags show up properly.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005 12:18 am

Ah, managed to finish that HTML book while listening to Harry Potter. Most of the HTML stuff was probably quite outdated. Still, useful to know. Now, on to the CSS book.

In fact I might try entering all my blog posts in HTML just for the fun of it.

Editing the template by hand was such a PITA. Until I found the right text editors. My favourite: Tex-Edit Plus just didn’t cut it for HTML/programming stuff. I’m currently tossing up between BBEdit, TextWrangler (free, from same company), and TextMate. TextMate looks like the newer kid on the block—I’ve heard about BBEdit since the System 7 days. TextMate did make the template editing easier, and I’m leaning towards that. Pricey though.

[posted with ecto]

Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:56 pm
Even though TV killed the radio star, audio-only content never really went away. And it’s making a comeback. Just in time too, just as video content is imploding.

I can’t bear to watch television anymore, and am staying away from the cinema complex as well. Movies, have become bigger, louder, whizzier, but not much fun. I regret wasting time to watch most of the movies I’ve seen this year. Just about the only things worth watching, are some video podcasts, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—and I don’t mind missing those.

I found the video-podcast experience to be quite disappointing. The first problem is the massive file sizes. The second problem is one in common with most types of video: that video doesn’t bring much additional content with it.

On a side note: there is a stupid trend nowadays on television, to glitz up visuals, just to attract one’s attention to the screen. Just watch a news broadcast. Instead of mundane news, there’s shiny bullet points, and flying shimmering logos. Computer graphics are everywhere, the result of desktop publishing gone mad. Actors (newscasters) ham up their accents, and mannerisms. And silly camera shots that don’t add any information to the content being discussed.

But the main problem is that audio content can be consumed "in the background", while video cannot.

I love to listen to Adam Curry, Engadget and Roger Ebert while cooking. I feel little compulsion to fast forward through boring bits or advertisements, because I can just block these things out. And if I’m distracted and don’t catch something the first time, I can usually just ignore it; but I still have the option of going back to that track later to re-hear it.

(If I’m in front of the computer as the track is playing, I have hot keys set up to skip 30 seconds forward/backward, just to avoid those boring bits.)

My current audio delight is the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets audiobook. I’ve never read the books, but finished the audiobook of book 1 (Sorcerer's Stone) over a couple of days while doing my other daily activities. If only I had an iPod, I could even do the listening while out walking, driving or gardening. There just isn’t that option with video.

In contrast, when I watch video versions of TWiT, and diggnation, or The Daily Show I always feel compelled to look at the screen, even though it’s just talking heads talking.

Self-help books understood this, and successfully moved to audiobooks a long time ago. Apple stuck polished up the audio experience for a long while even though others had “moved to” video. Devices such as Airport Express, SlimDevices are popular even though they only do audio. Skype became successful because they got the audio right. Video conferencing (while nice) continues to be the cool technology that few people use. Videophones are long-promised by non-existent.

The concept that "video is greater than audio", is simply false. Audio content is simpler and—with the help of MP3 compression, portable audio players, and the Internet—is increasingly compelling.

[posted with ecto]

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2:17 pm
Ecto (preferred weblogs posting software) is functional again, after a super secret setting in an obscure dialog. See comment in previous entry. Cool bananas.

I did eventually pick up a CSS book to read—pretty interesting. Would be nice to alter the designs of this blog. Maybe one day. It would also be nice I suppose to move the blog off blogspot, although I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to the additional costs, bandwidth considerations and what not. Maybe later... just for the experience.

There are some massively customised blogs hosted by blogspot. I’ll probably just stick with them for now.

[posted with ecto]

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Saturday, November 12, 2005 1:02 pm

It has come to this: posting via email. Ecto Mac is still unable to
post to Blogger accounts, and an update is coming early 2006—only 2
months from now. has not responded to an email about a
fix (aside from a form letter. Which contained instructions that did
not work).

And see:

Hopefully this email post works (although the addresses above won’t
show up as links), so that I can send some more posts on Monday when
I have more time.

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