#FF00AA

Hi! My name is Cédric Bozzi, I make websites and iOS apps, and this is my blog about technology (mostly a Twitter archive, really).

 

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1 January 2006

Wow: Quicksilver, the one compulsory utility for any OS X user, gets radial menus [via] (that means putting every menu option around the mouse pointer rather than in a column, and is orders of magnitude more efficient, ergonomics-wise).

Of course, since Quicksilver isn’t exactly the most self-evident program in the world when it comes to using its advanced features, you have to work a bit to access them:

  • have a Mac, but you already do if you know what’s good for you

  • check “Enable access for assistive devices” in the “Universal Access” system preferences pane

  • download and install the latest Quicksilver version (auto-update didn’t work for me, probably because it’d need administrative rights and doesn’t care to ask)

  • activate the “Enable advanced features” and “Beta” options (you have to restart Quicksilver after each change)

  • activate the “Constellation Menus” and “User Interface Access” plugins (you may need to press Alt while selecting the “All Plug-ins” dropdown item for the latter to appear in the list [via] — they really don’t want you to find the useful stuff, do they?)

  • press F6 or F7 (if you didn’t change the default shortcuts) to get something like this:

No, it’s not just pretty: it’s also useful and convenient. (Except, being beta functionality and all, I’m not sure it’s quite reliable. I had to relaunch Quicksilver a dozen times before it started working correctly, and even then it’s still a bit erratic. Actually, now I have to launch Quicksilver every hour or so because it has silently crashed.)

Incidentally, the “User Interface Access” plugin has other uses: it lets you access, with your keyboard, every menu item in the active appllication. Among many other things, you can create a trigger (the detailed lesson will be for another time) so that every menu item ends up in a big, flat list and you only have to press N, T, Enter to trigger “New Tab”, for instance. (And, yeah, I know it’s a lousy example because there already is a keyboard shortcut for “New Tab”.)

And don’t let this post discourage you from trying out Quicksilver if you’ve got a Mac and aren’t a geek: it also does much simpler things (universal application & bookmark launcher, clipboard history manager, etc.) right out of the box (provided you know it appears when you press Ctrl-Space, by default). Oh, and it’s free.

@apple@

Wow: Quicksilver, the one compulsory utility for any OS X user, gets radial menus [via] (that means putting every menu option around the mouse pointer rather than in a column, and is orders of magnitude more efficient, ergonomics-wise).

Of course, since Quicksilver isn’t exactly the most self-evident program in the world when it comes to using its advanced features, you have to work a bit to access them:

  • have a Mac, but you already do if you know what’s good for you

  • check “Enable access for assistive devices” in the “Universal Access” system preferences pane

  • download and install the latest Quicksilver version (auto-update didn’t work for me, probably because it’d need administrative rights and doesn’t care to ask)

  • activate the “Enable advanced features” and “Beta” options (you have to restart Quicksilver after each of these changes)

  • activate the “Constellation Menus” and “User Interface Access” plugins (you may need to press Alt while selecting the “All Plug-ins” dropdown item for the latter to appear in the list [via] — they really don’t want you to find the useful stuff, do they?)

  • press F6 or F7 (if you didn’t change the default shortcuts) to get something like this (on this screenshot Quicksilver has scrolled the screen up because the menu was beyond the borders; it’s pretty but a bit slower, and optional):

No, it’s not just pretty: it’s also useful and convenient. (Except, being beta functionality and all, I’m not sure it’s quite reliable. I had to relaunch Quicksilver a dozen times before it started working correctly, and even then it’s still a bit erratic. Actually, now I have to launch Quicksilver every hour or so because it has silently crashed.)

 

Incidentally, the “User Interface Access” plugin has other uses: it lets you access, with your keyboard, every menu item in the active appllication. Among many other things, you can create a trigger (the detailed lesson will be for another time) so that every menu item ends up in a big, flat list and you only have to press N, T, Enter to trigger “New Tab”, for instance. (And, yeah, I know it’s a lousy example because there already is a keyboard shortcut for “New Tab”.)

 

And don’t let this post discourage you from trying out Quicksilver if you’ve got a Mac and aren’t a geek: it also does much simpler things (universal application & bookmark launcher, clipboard history manager, etc.) right out of the box (provided you know it appears when you press Ctrl-Space, by default). Oh, and it’s free.

4 January

A creative, unexpected application of the electronic ink technologies: a capacity meter for USB keys that’s displayed even without power. But it has to be just a concept, because even for something as simple as this I doubt it’s quite economically viable.

9 January

Lightroom

@apple@

I don’t think I’ll be trying out the Adobe Lightroom beta, because I really don’t want to get hooked up to the kind of program that redefines workflows when it’s only a beta and will quit being free in June, but the first overview video seems promising enough. The interface isn’t quite as pretty and innovative (what, no stacks?) as Aperture’s, but the possibility to run it on a real-world Mac configuration (and the fact that Adobe is anything but new at decoding RAW files, so Lightroom will probably be as good as it gets at this) should make up for any limitation. I’m very curious to see the next overview video, uncovering the most important part of the software: “developing” photos.

It’s sad that Apple itself wasn’t able to make its program usable on regular Macs, and it’s particularly surprising that salvation would come from Adobe, which is more renowned for the growing sluggishness of the Creative Suite or the Acrobat plugin.

Now we’re left to wonder why Aperture and Lightroom look so much alike when their release dates are so close. Which of Apple or Adobe left too much information out about their new project? And how will Adobe make Apple pay, now that it’s obvious they do care and we’re way past complementarity and into direct competition?

 

[12/01] Adobe Lightroom First Look and Primer.

I don’t think I’ll be trying out the Adobe Lightroom beta, because I really don’t want to get hooked up to the kind of program that redefines workflows when it’s only a beta and will quit being free in June, but the first overview video seems promising enough. The interface isn’t quite as pretty and innovative (what, no stacks?) as Aperture’s, but the possibility to run it on a real-world Mac configuration (and the fact that Adobe is anything but new at decoding RAW files, so Lightroom will probably be as good as it gets at this) should make up for any limitation. I’m very curious to see the next overview video, uncovering the most important part of the software: “developing” photos.

It’s sad that Apple themselves weren’t able to make their program usable on regular Macs, and it’s particularly surprising that salvation would come from Adobe, which is more renowned for the growing sluggishness of the Creative Suite or the Acrobat plugin.

Now we’re left to wonder why Aperture and Lightroom look so much alike when their release dates are so close. Which of Apple or Adobe left too much information out about their new project? And how will Adobe make Apple pay, now that it’s obvious they do care and we’re way past complementarity and into direct competition?

10 January

There you go: the Intel iMac is two or three times faster than the G5, for the same price. My computer hurts. (Though not as much as for those people who fell into the trap and bought an iMac G5 with iSight last fall.)

11 January

Macworld, etc.

@apple@

There it is: the iMac is two or three times faster than the G5 was (or is it? it seems the benchmarks are way too optimized for multiprocessor systems — unlike most common applications — to mean anything at all [via]), for the same price. I’m obviously a bit frustrated, but I can find solace in the knowledge I own the last revision (hence, the most reliable) of the old, entirely user-serviceable, iMac G5 design. Whereas those who fell for last fall’s revision trap have a design as recent, and as likely to be faulty, as the new Intel Mac — only much slower. Suckers.

As for the PowerBook, it becomes MacBook Pro (is the PowerMac going to be named Mac Pro? the iBook, MacBook? if so, why does iMac remain iMac?): the name is rather ridiculous, and the change wasn’t that necessary — after all, “Power” remains pretty neutral. Price and specifications aren’t much surprising (once could have hoped the Mactels would be cheaper, but that would only happen if Apple wasn’t using the latest in Intel chips — if they put old Pentium M chips in the next Mac mini, it would really get interesting); what’s weirder is only offering a 15-inch setup. And including Front Row and the remote (with a poorly located IR receiver). On a 15-inch setup. How hard is it to cram the same motherboard into a bigger box?

Infinite Loop :

I was checking out the new MagLite, or whatever they call it, plug, and it is kind of cool. The magnets snaps in and out when you get close to the power receptacle […]. I did that about a hundred times, and then I looked up and noticed the battery readout had calculated an estimated life span. […] Three hours and three minutes on a full charge. Let’s hope Intel sends over some Magic Faerie Dust to sprinkle on the optimization code over the next few weeks.

[01/14] But you should probably take into account the fact that demonstration machines have to be configured for maximum CPU power, not minimum energy consumption.

As for the Mactel commercial… the blogosphere consensus is that it’s too geeky, but cool; I find it way too geeky, not particularly cool, and absolutely useless: either you already know that Apple has switched to Intel, or you have no idea who Intel is and you don’t give a damn. I wonder where they intend to air it — or maybe they only made it for Macworld and blogs, and that would be the most reasonable option.

 

@apple@

The way iLife integrates with the internet is pretty nice: creating podcasts in Garageband, generating RSS “photocasts” so grandma can receive the latest family photos directly in iPhoto or her screensaver; creating your website or blog in a few clicks (and with Ajax). As retro as it may be to make a blog with no serverside scripting whatsoever (which means, no search, no comments), it’s quite tempting. And included in iLife, and free with all new Macs. It’s odd, though, that they wouldn’t think of making iWeb work in tandem with a real blog platform on .Mac.

iTunes 6.0.2 forces a big iTunes Music Store contextual ad on me, taking up a third of the window. What the hell is wrong with them? You can very easily remove it, in the “Edit” menu or by clicking the associated button, but my first reflex was rushing to the “Parental Controls” preferences to disable the iTMS. Will I be the only one?

Of course, the privacy paranoids among you will have immediately realized that inserting contextual ads, i.e. recommending records related to what you’re currently listening to, means iTunes keeps reporting what’s playing to apple.com. And it won’t bother to ask whether you’re okay with that. On such a touchy subject as MP3, and when the program’s developer happens to have deals with most majors, it’s a bit awkward — beyond the fact itself of inserting ads into the interface.

 

@apple@

The new widgets are pretty disappointing. The calendar is visually less interesting than the previous version, and it still won’t display your appointments (it’s a good thing the iCal Events widgets seems to have become pretty reliable); the new address book is almost ugly; the ski weather totally is; what’s most annoying, though, is that Google widget having as much appeal and use as all the other search widgets you could already download. Seriously, who wants to press F12 to type in a Google request instead of switching directly to Safari? Okay, obviously some people do want to, but should Apple really be encouraging them?

At least, the Yahoo! Widgets equivalent displays results inline. It doesn’t make it really much more useful (except that, unlike Dashboard widgets, it’s allowed to live permanently on the desktop), but it does give it some kind of an excuse to exist.

 

@apple@

Google Earth is available for Mac, and isn’t uglier (actually, it may even look better) than the PC version. A compulsory download, even if you have no need for it. Just play with it.

And as I launch it again to make a capture I find out it lost the bookmarks folder I had created (looks like you’re not supposed to be placing bookmarks outside the “My Places” folder — but it won’t tell you).

 

@apple@

This year’s most important contest in the blogosphere has just launched: be the first to post pictures of your Intel iMac running Windows (preferredly with a game, since that’s the main point of having Windows on a Mac) and you can be sure your name will be on everyone’s lips for two weeks and your webserver will never recover.

[01/12] Or maybe it won’t be so easy, or possible at all, until Windows Vista [via].

 

@apple@

Techdirt [via] :

A reporter at News.com noticed an extremely unintentional inside joke with Apple’s closing share price today. On the very day the company officially announced its first Intel-based product, Apple’s stock price closed at $80.86.

 

@apple@

Oh, they did so well updating Safari: it just crashed on me for the first time in months.

 

Maybe you’re expecting me to post a longer article now about what was announced at Macworld. Or you’re not expecting anything, because you don’t care, but you’re still a bit surprised I didn’t. As it happens, I spent over an hour writing a long post commenting the most important points (and more), and I published it. On my other blog. The new one, that won’t be accessible until I have money on my account to buy the domain names.

12 January

Microsoft officially offers [via] the codecs to open Windows Media files in Quicktime.

If I’m reading things correctly, even WMV3 files (that the indispensible VLC can’t open, and the OS X version of Windows Media Player doesn’t bother to read either) should work. Well, it makes Quicktime Player crash every time I close a file, but at least it’s there.

Macworld, continued

@apple@

MacBook Pro, I am your father.

 

@apple@

Microsoft officially offers [via] the codecs to open Windows Media files in Quicktime.

If I’m reading things correctly, even WMV3 files (that the indispensible VLC can’t open, and the OS X version of Windows Media Player doesn’t bother to read either) should work. Well, it makes Quicktime Player crash every time I close a file, but at least it’s there.

 

@apple@

Sure enough, people are up in arms about iTunes 6.0.2’s MiniStore and its spyware ways. Not being an iTMS customer, I care more about the real estate and the commercialization of the interface than the data itself (I have no iTMS account number to be associated with my music-playing habits), but since1968.com has some pretty valid points (emphasis mine):

How hard would it be for Apple to check whether my music comes from an RIAA approved source and, if not, simply disable it within iTMS? Is that really such a paranoid fantasy after the Sony rootkit fiasco? I don’t have an answer, but I know this: the more you push back now against apparently harmless invasions of privacy, the less likely Apple will be to breach your privacy substantively later.

And this point is pretty interesting, too:

And why on earth does a third party need to bury its IP address behind a string that looks like an intranet (local) address?

That is really sneaky and off-putting. (Note for the non-geek: numerical IP addresses beginning with 196.168 are local addresses, on the local network; making your program connect to a server with a non-numerical address of 192.168.112.2o7.net means you’re expecting some geeks to be keeping an eye on what’s going through their network connections, and you want to fool them into thinking there is no outbound traffic, when there is. That’s no way to act when you’re honest.)

 

@apple@

The new Apple commercial for the Mactels is quite strongly inspired from a music video. Again.

It’s not like Steve Jobs not to fire a marketing guy who’d plagiarize a video — or at least shout on him loud enough to be sure he doesn’t do it again. He must have knowingly okay’d this. Kudos, Apple.

[01/12] Oh, and Intel isn’t too pleased about the ad, either, surprisingly.

 

@apple@

The new Macs are now pre-installed with Comic Life, with no mention of it being a demo or trial. That’s cool, but weird. But cool.

 

@apple@

Intel Macs might not [via] be able to run Windows XP, only Vista. Or maybe they can, according to some of the comments.

 

@apple@

It seems iPhoto reads Flickr photocasts, and iPhoto photocasts can be read by other aggregators.

13 January

@apple@

So there might be a reason for the Macworld keynote being so anticlimactic: they’d have released more stuff if it weren’t for a shortage of Intel chips. But I wonder what could fit the bill as “much, much cooler” than the MacBook Pro — the only thing worth saying that would be a MacTablet, and I can’t seriously imagine Apple releasing one. Or could they?

A TUAW comment :

I had the same feeling when, at the end of the keynote, he said “if you want a new macbook in february, I suggest you order it now”.

They want people to commit to these new computers before they announce the uber-cool ones.

They were pushing the iMac G5’s with the built in webcam the same way. Now we know why.

Like I said, I wouldn’t like to have bought one of those. It’s really not good karma for Apple to treat their customers this way.

 

@apple@

The latest OS X update apparently makes Front Row easier to install and more functional on all Macs. I’ll try this later.

 

@apple@

Days after Logitech, Microsoft announces a keyboard and mouse designed for the Mac (how amazing is that?!) and the only thing everybody finds it interesting to comment upon is that it doesn’t have an Apple logo on the Command key. Just so you know, I own a Macally keyboard, and I was pretty much not surprised when I noticed it didn’t have an Apple symbol. Because it kind of makes sense for them not to want competitors to slap Apple’s corporate logo on their products, you see?

I think I remember being surprised that Logitech’s offering, however, did have the logo. Maybe they paid for it? (Which Microsoft would obviously had declined.)

As for the keyboard itself, I’m wary of buying a Microsoft keyboard for the Mac that requires drivers — although I haven’t had issues with my MS trackpad’s software. I love my Macally keyboard (I’ll publish a review someday), but had to uninstall its drivers (and therefore relinquish the volume keys) to stop my Mac from crashing.

 

@computer@

Chandler is a cross-platform open-source iCal clone that might certainly be of some interest if it weren’t 180MB, didn’t take ages to load, and showed a particularly well-designed interface. It’s only version 0.6, but I fail to see the promise.

{comments}

 

14 January

@computer@

The cultish Optimus keyboard concept (the one with OLED screens for keys) is going to start by having unexpected offspring: a tiny gadget with only three keys/screens (which will assumedly launch the applications associated with each display, and be entirely programmable).

If they intend to use this to evaluate the market for a full Optimus keyboard, we’re screwed. Who really needs this thing to take up room on their desktop? The OS X dock does exactly the same on your computer screen!

 

@apple@

The Windows Media codecs for Quicktime have been updated, and Quicktime Player doesn’t crash anymore when I close a file (the bug apparently also affected Safari, and is fixed).

 

@apple@

The Intel iMac disassembled. Not particularly appetizing. I’m not surprised Apple would cut out bits, like the modem, to make the MacBook Pro a hair thinner, but I’ll never understand why they messed up the iMac’s bowels so badly just to win a couple centimeters on the edges and make it look like a hunchback.

 

@web@

wankr beta [via] :

Sorry this box doesn’t have curvy edges. We promise that by the time this thing is finished, it’ll have curvy edges everywhere, along with broken navigation, a confusing user interface and tags all over the fucking shop. It’s going to be awesome.

@web@

This blog is now officially open (if you’re reading this, I suppose the DNS are up to date), after a few days of offline posting, mostly about Macworld, because I wanted to practice and couldn’t be bothered to rewrite my posts for publication on my other site.

I’ll certainly write a fuller introduction post sometime later; in the meantime, I didn’t want to open without acknowledging the influence from The Tao of Mac on this site’s design. (Including a wiki part that isn’t coded yet but will be integrated better than on garoo.net). Done.

15 January

@web@

Uh… my database’s contents have disappeared. All posts are there, but empty.

 

P.S. Thanks a lot to the person who found out I had forgotten to put an .htaccess file in the administration directory, and chose to delete the whole contents rather than notify me.

 

P.S. After examination of my logs, it may well be a poorly programmed robot indexing my website — though the post-saving URLs are not called in POST, nor in GET, but in Javascript! Okay, it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t linked to the administration interface from the posts, and forgotten to upload my .htaccess, but what kind of dumbass robot doesn’t see the difference between Javascript and HTML?

 

P.S. Thanks a lot to Laurent and Laurent for the RSS backup copies. It’ll take some time to put it all back into the database — and into English — so let’s just say: see you on Monday!

16 January

Path Finder 4

@apple@

Path Finder, the OS X Finder replacement that most geeks recommend for some reason, has finally reached version 4, after a year and a half of intensive rewriting.

The new bits are rather good: the interface isn’t ugly and unpleasant anymore (except for a few remains, like the messy “Get Info” window and its three “+” buttons with no label), the keyboard shortcuts aren’t so stupid anymore (in version 3, Command-< and Command-> changed icon size instead of switching windows, for instance), Spotlight is integrated, and Path Finder even embeds Stuffit to create and extract archives of all formats. So you think, you might want this.

Unfortunately, the things I didn’t like about the previous version are still there. Whereas most advanced users resent the OS X Finder’s forgetting about the spaciality of its ancestors (the fact that for each file there was one and only one window, always displayed the same way at the same place) to become a file browser (originally inherited from NeXTstep, then modified to move back a bit toward the MacOS Classic version, but never quite being up to par), they recommend Path Finder although it only works as a browser: when you open a folder into a new window, it always uses the default size and display, no matter the state you’d left it in before.

Incidentally, that’s the main reason why, although I may find Path Finder useful once in a while (such as when the Finder starts crashing, which happens every other time when I wake up my Mac), I can’t even conceive using it as a desktop replacement: I like to keep various folders on my dekstop, and they have to open where and how I want them every time I double-click them. For instance, the hard drives opens into a big window with all sidebars one, but the “Bookmark” folder gets a small window, in a corner, with no buttons and a list-mode display. If I use the Path Finder display, I just can’t — not to mention that another Finder flaw, the fact that its icon grid is too wide and can’t be modified, is just copied; what’s the point of making an alternative file manager, reaching version 4, if you’re not going to allow people to change icon spacing?

After that, I don’t really care that it crashes, that the console is hideous (and I don’t understand why they made it anyway), or that you keep wondering whether the search box is in “filter” (search through the window’s contents, instantaneous) or Spotlight (search through the computer, slow) mode. Path Finder is still rather useless and poorly designed. I’m always amazed, appalled and a bit scared when some people show it as an example of the way Apple should redesign the Finder someday. Heavens no!

 

43 Folders:

I’m very happy to share that PathFinder 4 is now out and available for download at Cocoatech’s site. […] Life inside a single Finder window is closer than ever.

Come on! It’s 2005 2006 (thanks, P.), they’re using a Mac, and still pining for a text-mode Norton Commander? Is it supposed to be easier to drag and drop a file onto a tiny tab than a separate window?

 

[01/17] 43 Folders: 7 things I like about Path Finder for OS X. All valid points, but in my opinion they don’t make up for the flaws I wrote about.

@web@

After some trial-and-error (I’m not that good at math theory) I’ve finally found a PHP script to make a decent tag cloud from Dan Steingart, and used it on the archives page of this blog and the other.

 

@apple@

Dragon not included.

 

@apple@

Rather unsurprisingly, iWeb doesn’t seem to allow FTP upload, only publishing to .Mac or the local hard drive; it’s up to the user to upload files onto their server if they want to. It’s amazing Apple could get away with such pettiness.

 

@apple@

Mac users ‘too smug’ over security? [via] Probably: as reliable and secure as OS X may be, there’s not much to prevent a trojan from erasing (or stealing) the active user’s data and forwarding itself to their contacts.

17 January

@photo@

I hadn’t seen the demonstration videos for for the plenoptic camera (which simultaneously takes 175 photos focused differently) and I’m not sure whether they’re new or I had just missed them (or hadn’t seen them because I couldn’t view .vmw videos on the Mac then). Whichever, they’re very impressive (particularly those two with water splashes).

 

@apple@

tickr for flickr [via] scrolls Flickr pictures (chosen by tag, or author, or whatever) on the side of your screen. There already were equivalents (particularly for Windows; not sure for OS X) but this one is simple and well done (it’ll only be better once you can set the scrolling speed, because for now it’s a bit too distracting).

 

@computer@

All Core Duo laptops seem to have poor battery life. That’s encouraging for the MacBook Pro. If they only offered another model with bigger batteries — now that would be a good way to differentiate MacBook and MacBook Pro.

18 January

@apple@

Apple did the right thing, and updated the iTunes MiniStore to ask for permission before activating and sending your information to the iTMS. Why don’t they always react so fast?

They also tried to do the right thing by actually hiring for the Mactel commercial the directors of the ad it’s “inspired” of. In my opinion, that doesn’t make it any less of a plagiarism; it’s just legal (even if they’re not the first to do that, and most video directors dream of the same thing happening to them — but it’s just not fair for those who paid for the original video).

19 January

@web@

Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye [via]. I could have told you the same just by intuition, but it’s always interesting to see it confirmed by scientific studies (even though I’m not certain the way they conducted it means so much; it relies heavily on the idea — which is probably proven, but still — that “people enjoy being right, so continuing to use a website that gave a good first impression helps to ‘prove’ to themselves that they made a good initial decision”).

[The prevalence of search engine referrals] makes a user’s first impression even more critical, he explains. “You’ll get a list of sites, click the top one, and then either say ‘I’ve engaged’ and give it a few more seconds, or just go back to Google,” he says.

The lasting effect of first impressions is known to psychologists as the ‘halo effect’: if you can snare people with an attractive design, they are more likely to overlook other minor faults with the site, and may rate its actual content (such as this article, for example) more favourably. […]

Caudron suggests that the amount of graphics on the page should be strictly limited, perhaps to a single eye-catching image. […] These days, enlightened web users want to see a “puritan” approach, Caudron adds. It’s about getting information across in the quickest, simplest way possible.

Still, nothing you couldn’t have figured out on your own, but having a scientific study and a Nature article to back you up can help you convince a client that, no, there shouldn’t be blinking horrors all over his web page. (Although the whole piece is discredited by the use of the “enlightened web users” phrase — in most cases, that’s not who you design for.)

The human being is still such a superficial animal: it’s love or hate at first sight, always.

@apple@

Who at Apple had the brilliant idea to…

For those who don’t know, the current Apple (wired) keyboard is a nice, bone-white keyboard, with which, I’m guessing, everyone at Apple uses white-gloves while using.

Is the wireless keyboard different?

 

@misc@

The Animaris Rhinoceros Transport weighs two tons and walks pulled by a single person or pushed by the wind. Photos, video. Uh, wuh?

 

@music@

The Song Tapper [via]: find the name (and lyrics) of a song by humming it with your space bar (no, really, it does make sense). The theory seems sound but the site is pretty slow (or my connection is) and my first test failed, so I’ll leave it up to you.

 

@apple@

If you’re going to use a mediocre Finder replacement, you might as well take a freeware variant [via]. Even though it’s a bit of a shame to make an OS X app that won’t open a second window, and quite weird to assign a shortcut to the F9 key (which is taken by Exposé), it’ll be quite enough for those cases when the Finder doesn’t do it (such as displaying folders at the top of the list). And you can’t beat the price-to-quality ratio.

 

@apple@

And on the same topic, it looks reproducible: after I’ve set my Mac to sleep two or three times, drag-and-drop quits working in the Finder — I just can’t pick up an icon, until I log out and back in. It’s probably an incompatibility with some program I’m using, but I have no idea what.

 

@web@

FeedXs [via] lets you create RSS feeds without a blog. Write (presumably short) posts on the website or via an MSN bot, and the feed is updated. I just don’t understand who’s supposed to have a use for this: geeks have other options and will want more customization (starting with password protection); newbies will have trouble explaining their friends how to read the feeds, and will be put off by the bot’s interface, which could be way more friendly. Too bad: with passwords and a nicer bot, I could see myself keeping my contacts updated on my schedule by posting to a private feed (or a public feed that could even be syndicated on my blog).

AlloCiné Blogs

@web@

AlloCiné (kind of a French IMDb, with more end-user functionality) launches its own blog platform [via] and, lo and behold, it’s based on the same CMS as the infamous (and unfamous) Illico blogs. (A very crappy platform that got launched last year, announcing they were the first French gay blog platform even though we beat them by two or three years.)

Signing up is more complicated than it should, of course, because AlloCiné very much wants to you sign up to the whole site and give out your contact information, but the rest of the interface has improved a bit since Blog-n-co (and the name is better, too — at least they weren’t stupid enough not to use the opportunity to give their brand name more exposition). And there’s a really nice functionality that does take advantage of the connection to AlloCiné :

Your post is about a movie, TV show or actor and you want to link it directly to an AlloCiné page?” proceeds (with a bit of Ajax) to:

Check the box next to the information you want to display after your post.

I have no idea how good it looks on the final blog page, though, because I had a tiny problem there:

No matter how hard I click, my post isn’t saved. I’m sent back to the administration home page, but still have zero post in my list. Since the platform is already in use, I suppose it’s just because I’m using Safari.

I’m not sure anyway why you’d want to create a blog looking like this (although dull layout and big ads haven’t prevented other platforms from rising):

At least you don’t get interstitial ads like on the rest of AlloCiné — not yet anyway.

But all of that doesn’t matter much compared to the big flaw: I can’t find anywhere a list of AlloCiné blogs — just like on Blog-n-co, incidentally: I figure that’s a way of hiding that nobody uses it, but it doesn’t entice people to try it out. Community is the way to go (or so I observed; personally I hate people… but then I’m blogging on my own domain name).

 

 

Disclosure: I know one of the founders of Abricoo, the company that developed this blog platform. And, being myself one of the founders of Gayattitude, I’m in competition with other free blog hosting solutions.

20 January

@apple@

Intel Macs don’t appear to have the ‘Processor Performance’ option. That voids my proposed explanation for the MacBook Pro’s alleged poor battery life. Thank heavens there have been contradicting observations since.

 

@apple@

The $1,300 iMac costs $900 to make. Who’s surprised? Who cares? Let Windows users focus on the price difference if it can comfort them.

 

@web@

10 raisons de détester les blogueurs / 10 raisons d’aimer les blogueurs.

25 January

Hallelujah! Thanks to Brenig I found out that, while setting the SpeedTouch up for my ISP is a nightmare, I could very well use the Sagem F@st 800 my parents lent me, just by installing a driver (which is known for causing kernel panics, but nobody’s perfect). It’s a USB modem instead of a router (which probably slows the whole computer down, besides being less convenient), and I get pathetic bandwidth, but I’ve got a connection and that’s all that matters.

@misc@

I’m back! I have crappy bandwidth, waiting for my ISP’s official, proprietary DSL modem, but at least I’ve got a connection (I could have been content with dialup, only in the middle of switching providers I didn’t even have that anymore). So, anything important happen when I was away? Like, Steve Jobs selling Apple to Microsoft or something similar?

 

@web@

Oh, right: Gilles de Robien, mobilisation, etc.

@apple@

As expected, the race is on to boot Windows on an Intel Mac; but the prize won’t just be (blogosphere) fame, there’ll also be (moderate) fortune. But that’s not such a bargain, because trying too hard can easily kill your brand-new Mac.

Nobody’s better qualified to hack this than Apple engineers, and nobody has more incentive to do this than Apple itself. How long until they ‘leak’ the necessary patches?

 

@apple@

A map of future Apple Store locations in Europe. It’s going to amuse this one blogger who often complains about the Apple distribution network (or lack thereof) in his country.

 

@music@

iTunes Signature Maker [via] takes your iTunes library and makes a signature mix based on the tracks you listen to most often. Here is my iTunes signature — a bit of a cacophony at times, but rather representative. (It’s quite customizable, but it took a bit of time to analyze my 100 gigs of MP3s, so I won’t play too much with it.)

 

@apple@

I’ll try Yojimbo tomorrow, but even if it’s cheaper than DevonThink I don’t see myself paying for a simple scrapbook, when there are hundreds of alternatives.

iTunes Signature Maker [via] takes your iTunes library and makes a signature mix based on the tracks you listen to most often. Here is my iTunes signature — a bit of a cacophony at times, but rather representative.

26 January

Yojimbo

@apple@

Okay, let’s forget about the name, which assumedly means something in Japanese, and it’s not like it sounds like “Yo Jimbo!” or anything to an English-speaking audience; Bare Bones’ Yojimbo is a personal data storage application that wants to hold your notes, research materials, incoming bookmarks, passwords, serial numbers and most of anything you ever might need to keep track of — including web archives (i.e., saved web pages, images included), or PDFs created directly from any application’s Print dialog. As you might not know yet, I’m sucker for all things GTD, so I had to give it a go.

The very first thing it said when I launched it was: do you want to subscribe to .Mac? it’s so cool! That kind of thing is already annoying when it comes from Apple software, but it becomes utterly ridiculous from a third-party application. Besides, no matter how proud Bare Bones may be of their .Mac synchronization (which mostly just uses native Tiger functionality, as I understand it), it isn’t that essential to the application; you can find it just as useful even if you’ve only got one computer. (Reportedly, when you do have a .Mac account, what happens before anything else is, Yojimbo tries to access your keychain, no warning, no reason given. That’s not much more polite.)

The interface, à la Mail.app or NetNewsWire, is supposed to be pleasant enough (I love how everybody goes, “whoa, Bare Bones released a Cocoa application!” but ignores the fact that they managed not to check the “Unified toolbar” option when compiling — even though the program does make extensive use of Tiger-specific functionality), yet the very first thought I had was: What a mess. The most striking element of the interface is a big, permanent yellow bar saying whether the currently selected is encrypted; sure I can imagine why this should be emphasized, but this just does the opposite of what it’s designed for: you immediately tune out the yellow bar and forget it (just like a banner ad on a web page), and won’t ever look again whether the tiny lock is open or closed (or you just choose to hide it in the View menu, which is even worse: there isn’t even an Encrypt button in the toolbar). A simple icon with changing colors in a corner of the window would not only suffice, but be more efficient altogether.

But nevermind that, that’s not the reason I thought the interface was a mess (although it certainly influenced my judgment, subconsciously); the problem is the “Collections” list (akin to iTunes’ sources or Mail.app’s mailboxes panes): I instantly figured it wouldn’t be a satisfying way to sort data. The first item, “Library”, lists everything — needless to say, it’ll become totally useless as soon as you start putting in some data (unlike the iTunes “Library” source, which sports a “Browse” mode; in Yojimbo’s case, you’ll only ever have to select the library when using the Spotlight search bar). Below are the expected smart folders (flagged or recently modified items), the item kinds, and user-defined collections. And here are my two gripes: first, you can’t nest user-defined folders (surely that’ll be fixed eventually); second, no matter how much stuff you have in your library, you’ll never have a more granulary way to access them than by user-defined collection (where every type of item in the collection will be shown together) or by kind of item (regardless of which collection the item is in). No, you can not display, say, all passwords from your “System Administration” collection you created, but you’ll have to either find them in the sea of passwords or among all the administration documents you ever collected — or find them with Spotlight, obviously, but if you’re going to forgo filing altogether what’s the point of defining so many smart and regular collections?

If this were a 0.5 beta, I’d be thrilled and say it’s very promising; as a 1.0 version, it’s quite disappointing. Sure, Apple tends to send the trend of releasing utterly useless 1.0s, but it’s 2006 now and when it comes to third-party software people are much more used to seeing applications linger in beta state until they’re really usable. Beside the messy categorizing options, I have a few other gripes about this program that should (and probably will) be fixed to make it worth something:

  • Nothing happens when you drag something onto the dock icon; that would be much more elegant than having to take up some room to display a dedicated Yojimbo dock. Power users only have so many free screen edges and corners.

  • If you don’t want to use the mouse and/or display the Yojimbo dock to add items to the library, you’re going to have to copy them, then invoke the keyboard shortcut for adding stuff, then choose what it is (it doesn’t seem to be able to guess — not that I would know, as it fails to read my clipboard contents anyway) and press Return. Why isn’t there a shortcut to automatically take the selected text? (There’s a Services menu option for that, which I don’t think is mentioned anywhere in the documentation, and as much as I hate services hogging up keyboard shortcuts, that’d be a good example where to add one.) And why isn’t there a button or keyboard shortcut or bookmarklet to grab the URL from the active Safari window?

  • You can’t drop a web link on Yojimbo and decide whether to store it as a bookmark or web archive; unless you want to use the aforementioned inconvenient add-stuff window, you have to make the choice once and for all in the program’s preferences.

  • You can’t easily open the original page, or get the URL, from a web archive; you have to show the inspector window, get to the right pane, and select and copy the text.

  • You can’t define options at the collection level; for instance, I’d like to create some collections in which new items would always be encrypted by default.

  • As has been reported here and there, Yojimbo is a total stranger to AppleScript, even though that would allow users to fix most gripes.

I wouldn’t mind using Yojimbo to store my notes, but I’m hooked to VoodooPad Lite, which is free; and if you don’t care for wikis and just want to store your notes in a big searchable dump you can still use good old Notational Velocity (which is free, too) or any one of the million note-taking programs. I could use it to store passwords, although it’s not even clever enough to use URLs you enter there as links, but there are lots of alternatives, some of them free, some of them better designed. And I would love to use it to store “research”, i.e. drag web pages onto it while I’m preparing blog posts, which would be so much more convenient than keeping loads of tabs open in Safari and NetNewsWire, but I won’t because there’s no quick, easy way to get the page URLs back from Yojimbo — plus that wouldn’t quite be worth $40 anyway.

I’m sure there’s a market for this — DevonThink is more expensive (but more complex), StickyBrain is the same price and looks very similar (but it has more experience and probably less flaws) — but I’m not sure there’s room or need for a new offering, especially if it’s not going to take advantage of all the things that make Bare Bones a geek’s favorite (no AppleScript? no integration with BBEdit?).

I’ll probably check back when it reaches version 1.1, but I’m not holding my breath. In such a competitive field, they need to be much more innovative if they really want to make a mark.

27 January

@apple@

SnatchEm is a Dashboard widget that takes a URL and saves (in a clean folder on the Desktop) every file (your choice of images, videos or documents) linked by the page. It might not work for every case, but that’s just the kind of thing I find useful to have on my Dashboard rather than have to hunt everywhere for whichever application it was that could do that.

 

@apple@

Okay, seriously, how come iTunes is able to crossfade tracks, but can’t manage to play album tracks in sequence without blanks between them? Even if I activate crossfading but set it to zero seconds, it doesn’t take a hint and won’t preload the next track.

 

@apple@

Universal Applications, the Apple-maintained list of all applications available as universal binaries. Maybe all Mac blogs could stop announcing each and every application that switches to universal now…

 

@apple@

This will be of limited use to most people, but if you want to remove the Contour ShuttlePro’s useless menubar icon in OS X (that’s a decent controller, most useful with video editing apps, that I just use to control system volume and iTunes playback), you have to kill the ContourShuttleMenu process, then (for more permanent results — you could also certainly create a script to kill it on each login) dive into the Contour Shuttle application’s package, then into the Contents / Resources / ContourShuttleHelper package, create a Contents / Resources / Disabled folder and put ContourShuttleMenu.app file in there (I figure it should also work if you just delete or rename it).

 

@windows@

Windows has its Quicksilver, and as ridiculous as it looks from an OS X user’s standpoint, it’s got to be a must-have for any PC user. Try it, install it and press Ctrl-Space. (Not personally tested, I don’t feel like turning my PC on. Ever again. But Quicksilver is so indispensible, even the lamest copy can’t be superfluous.)

@apple@

In my Yojimbo review I wished for a program where I could drop web pages and type notes while writing blog posts; Webstractor can do just that, saving web archives by drag-and-drop or right-click from Safari or NetNewsWire, and letting you manage and edit them as you like, all the while staying linked to the original site, with direct access to the URL and manual or automatic reloading (which means it’s also great for storing links to blog posts you’ve commented and keeping track of replies). The way original material and edited pages are artificially separated is rather annoying, but it would be the perfect blogging companion (and even more valuable for those who do real, productive research work)… if it didn’t cost $79.99. The price difference versus Yojimbo and other apps isn’t justified at all.

 

@apple@

Scrap Book, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as pretty or powerful, but it works fine for managing your random bunch of… scraps — even though it saves web pages as rich text rather than HTML, losing and mangling much of the layout in the process — and it’s only £10 ($17.85). Trouble is, when it comes to GTD and stuff, I really need to have a pleasant interface, to feel at home (or what would be the point of buying a Mac?), and Scrap Book doesn’t fit that at all.

 

@apple@

KIT (Keep It Together) looks most similar to Yojimbo (including the “by kind” smart folders, only it’s up to you to create them) but doesn’t handle web pages at all, which is, come to think of it, amazingly retarded.

 

@apple@

DevonThink, the veteran and leader (and costing in fact only $40 for the Personal Edition, oops, that’ll teach them not emphasizing more on the product prices) remains clearly the most functional, even though the interface is a bit dated and creating web archives is more complicated than needed (instead of having an option to drop a link and make it an archive, you have to display the page in the integrated browser and select “Capture Page” from its contextual menu).

It won’t replace VoodooPad Lite for storing all my more structured data, but it’s just fine for all temporary stuff.

@apple@

Unrelated to GTD but not to ergonomics: NuFile adds the long-missed “New File” command to the Finder’s contextual menu. It’s not easily customizable (and cluttered with needless templates — I don’t need to create new Office documents, not to mention LaTeX files) but it’s free and simple and it just works.

[01/29] The latest version includes a NuFilePreference.app helper that lets you add and remove templates. No more clutter.

 

@apple@

And, while we’re at it, John Siracusa on the renewed rumors of the Finder’s resurrection:

Like most Apple-related predictions, these things tend to be repeated until they come true, or until a decade passes, whichever comes first.

As he notes, if Apple is only now looking for a top engineer to work on the new and improved Finder, that doesn’t bode too well for Leopard.

29 January

More Quicksilver goodness: screen corners

@apple@

I experimented with adding Technorati tag feeds to my aggregator, and look what I found: Quicksilver Tips & Tricks introduces another new(ish?) (not really new at all) feature I haven’t discovered.

Turns out the developer, in his quest for domination of the Mac mouse (because keyboards are secured now), has also added a “Mouse Triggers” plug-in that allows you to trigger any kind of Quicksilver action or menu to a number of mouse operations (not gestures — I think there’s got to be a gestures plug-in somewhere, but I don’t care for those, as surprising as it may be for a Wacom tablet user).

The Constellation plug-in (which installs radial menus into Quicksilver, as I showed and explained thoroughly a few weeks back) comes with a mouse trigger included:

Drag a file (or several) to the bottom-right corner of the screen and you get a Constellation menu listing possible e-mail recipients. Select one, your files are ready to be sent.

But I hardly find that convenient, though — as much as I love radial menus, I never really got to use them in Quicksilver because the whole point of a radial menu is muscle memory, i.e. options should always be at the same place, and unless you’re always sending files to the same people there’s no way you can involve muscle memory in the process of dropping files onto a contact — especially if you have more contacts than you configured Constellation to display at once, in which case you have to use the keyboard, or click the tiny arrow, to switch “pages”.

I think mouse triggers become really interesting when you don’t enable the Constellation plug-in. (At least not until it’s improved enough to be really usable. Particularly, taking keyboard input like the regular Quicksilver interface.)

Here comes the same functionality, only associated with the default interface rather than Constellation:

Drop a file onto your screen corner, and you get the regular, efficient Quicksilver interface to select your recipient. Or recipients — select one, press the comma key, select another, and so on. Just works great.

Note: to disable Constellation for those triggers, you seem to need to disable Constellation for all triggers (surely it will be available as a per-trigger option soon) by changing the “Missing Object Selector” handler (the “Show Radial Menu” actions will still be available, and you’ll be able to use them in other triggers if you need them):

The coolest part is, since you’re using the regular Quicksilver interface, you can associate complex, interactive actions to drag-and-drop. Now when I drop a file onto my bottom-left screen corner, I get a prompt to select where I want to copy them. I can type the destination or navigate to it, and there it goes. (This is why the Constellation plug-in needs to accept keyboard input, even though it’s primarily mouse-oriented. If you define a “Copy to…” trigger but leave it to be handled by the Constellation menus, they will show up completely empty and useless.)

Because the options to define mouse triggers are pretty extensive, I was able to define a second trigger, for the same screen corner, that moves the file instead of copying them when Shift is pressed. (I’m not sure it should be Shift, though, but I couldn’t remember which modifier moves files instead of copying them, when dragging from a volume to another. I guess it’ll make more sense to change that to Command-drop for copying and regular drop for moving.)

The problem is, defining those triggers is a bit complicated right now (you can see on the screenshot above that I mistakenly defined a “Move to ~/Public” action instead of “Move to…”, and I haven’t managed to fix it yet1), because the interface doesn’t really allow them (it’s only show a very limited set of available actions for the “Mouse Trigger Dragged Object”, with nothing much useful beside “Email to…”), so you’ll have to hack the right actions in. (Oh, and it’s not documented, of course. Did I say none of this is documented? I had to dig through the Blacktree forums, in the thread dedicated to Constellation, to find out all about this.)

Since you can’t get the “Copy to…” action (or whichever you want to apply to the dragged objects) to appear, you’ll have to copy and paste it. That is, when creating your trigger, instead of “Mouse Trigger Dragged Object” right away, choose a file or folder (e.g., “Home”); press Tab to switch to the action field, and select “Copy to…” (or anything you want); press Command-C to copy; shift-tab to get back to object selection and select “Mouse Trigger Dragged Object” this time; tab back to action and hit Command-V to paste your action. Now it should be all right. Quick, save your trigger before you press the wrong key and lose it.

(Of course, you can also define lots of other mouse triggers — not necessarily associated to screen corners or borders, since clicks of whichever buttons, with or without modifier keys, can also be associated to actions — which, having nothing to do with drag-and-drop, will be as easy to define as regular hotkey triggers. This was just a particularly convoluted example, but it’s also one of the screen corner uses that make most sense.)

Looks like I can disable CornerClick now. (I never really got to use it anyway.)

 

Note: if you can’t get it to work, try starting from the setup I defined in my guide to Constellation (you’ll need proxy objects in particular for “Mouse Trigger Dragged Object” to be available).

 

P.S. I forgot to explain: I usually hate screen corner shortcuts (such as those Exposé offers to configure), because in general use I’m always throwing my mouse pointer all over the place (when you’re sitting down at your computer it’s typically faster to send the pointer into a corner than try and find it on screen — and I already did that before I had a 20-inch iMac); that’s the why the Quicksilver mouse triggers I find most interesting are the drag-and-drop ones. There’s no risk of accidentally triggering those.

 

1 Thanks to the Quicksilver developer’s quick reply in the forums, I could remove the third pane’s contents in the trigger definition dialog by pressing Command-X.

30 January

@apple@

Intel iMacs can reportedly have CPU upgrades very easily. (If you believe a French news site’s translation of a Japanese source.)

 

@apple@

I never quite paid attention either to the fact that SafariStand (the only Safari extension I use, because I occasionally need a Mozilla-like sidebar) can change Safari’s window themes, because it used to make them rather ugly. Turns out the latest betas do Unified (and variants), and that makes Safari look pretty cool. (Funny though how SafariStand’s own sidebar fails to use unified toolbars.)

For those interesting in “pimping” Safari, SafariStand offers a host of other functionalities that I don’t quite need, such as history/bookmark search, a tab bar with thumbnails (which I don’t use because it doesn’t disappear automatically when you only have one tab open, and doesn’t have an associated shortcut — I’ll try defining one in the system preferences to see if I get around to using it), search engine keywords, site alteration, and a bunch of additional configuration options.

 

@apple@

iTunes 6.0.2 can apparently now display half-star ratings. I didn’t find any way to set them in the iTunes interface, so I suppose it’s only for control-freaks using Applescript. Which is… I don’t know, it makes kinda sense, but at the same time it’s pretty absurd.

I’m no using Butler (again) to rate my songs, so I’ll wait until it’s updated to support that.

 

@apple@

I want to make my own Yojimbo clone (only simpler, yet better, and free of course, because I don’t care for the hassle it must be to make people pay for your software). I need a crash course in OS X development, Objective C and CoreData, for C++ or .NET veterans.

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