1 April 2008

Dropclock

Very nice visuals. But who wants a screensaver that weighs 138MB, takes minutes to load, shoots the CPU load to 100% when it’s running, and costs $15, when most screens are now configured to turn off when not in use?

Besides, it doesn’t even look that good — it’s a great idea, but not done so well, with each number falling over and over again in a separate slot.

Funny that Apple doesn’t do April Fools even though Jobs is said to enjoy a mean prank.

Cmd-Minus

Convenient: Firefox 3’s page zoom lets you check how your layout handles window sizes twice as large as what fits on your desktop. Particularly interesting for me, as I tend to like ultra-wide header images these days.

I don’t know whether Opera lets you zoom out the same way, but nobody uses Opera; and I don’t know about the new WebKit because I don’t use the nightlies. But, whichever browser allows it, that’s an interesting use of that functionality.

Fresh, Free and Gorgeous RSS/Feed Icons

I don’t do feed icons (I consider the browser’s RSS button to be enough), but those are pretty and mostly legible.

The Mystery Behind PlayStation 3’s Sometimes Mandatory Installations (As Far As We Know)

By nature, the outer and inner parts of a disc move at different speeds while a disc is spinning, regardless of format (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, HD-DVD, etc.). While DVD drives can read data at those differing speeds, Blu-ray reads at one speed. [So the spin speed has to change as the laser moves across the disc.]

That’s certainly not news, but I never knew (or didn’t remember) exactly why Blu-ray is slower than DVD for console games.

I have a hard time finding information on the web, but it looks like, ironically enough, that might be the reason why Blu-Ray has a higher capacity than HD-DVD — meaning that, if Sony had used HD-DVD in the PlayStation 3, game developers would have an easier time with the drive’s seeking speed. (But then, the PS3 wouldn’t have had HD-DVD either, since the only reason it has a blue-laser drive is precisely that Sony wanted to force Blu-ray onto the market.)

2 April

Firefox 3 Beta 5 Released

Considering I’ve only had positive experience with beta 3, and this one has “755 bug fixes,” I see no reason not to upgrade immediately.

3 April

Desktoptopia

I’d always wondered who would want to pay for an application that loads a new desktop background every n minutes or hours (or days, or weeks, or… seconds). I wasn’t the only one, evidently, because it’s now free — I don’t know how they intend to make money and pay for the servers now, but I guess that’s called web 2.0.

I tend to be rather deliberate about choosing my wallpaper, so I probably won’t keep Desktoptopia running, but at this price it’s still a bargain. Especially when you look at the image library’s quality, which has always been its big appeal.

 

P.S. Ah, I didn’t bother to read the FAQ: it’s ad-supported, of course. Fair enough, and probably more viable than subscriptions, if the occasional commercial wallpapers are as pretty as the regular ones.

4 April

Apple Leasing Offer

Resist resist resist resist. But then, why?

5 April

Toggle dock zooming on the fly

I’m not sure how often that’s gonna be useful (actually, I’d already forgotten about it before I found the tab I had kept open in NetNewsWire until I blogged about it) but it’s the kind of thing you always like to know (and forget) exists.

6 April

Quake 3 Arena on iPod touch

I’m not sure how convenient the tilt controls can be for an FPS on the long run, but it works surprisingly well in that demonstration. The PSP is so dead.

7 April

Gmail being throttled, blocked by some anti-spam vendors

It all began when Google’s bot-busting CAPTCHA for Gmail was defeated sometime in February. According to sources around the anti-spam industry, the result has been a marked increase in spam originating from Gmail SMTP servers.

Conundrum: I can’t just trust the API to get my Twitter direct messages, but email notifications = twice the same content, and I hate that.

Time Machine via AirPort Disk Is Unsupported

If you attempt to use an 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station for Time Machine backup, you won’t get any help from Apple’s technical support, something that readers have already told me. I’ve been getting reports that USB-attached drives work erratically with an AirPort Extreme.

One the one hand, asking people to buy a Time Capsule when they already have an AirPort Express is ugly; on the other, if those setups do work erratically, then maybe there actually are technical reasons. Of sorts. Not to mean “it can’t be done,” but rather something like “our engineers would have to spend some time making it work reliably, and we can’t be bothered.”

8 April

Google App Engine

I’m a little confused: it doesn’t try to compete with Amazon S3 as a remote storage solution, even though that’s the most compelling part of Amazon Web Services; but it doesn’t really compete with Amazon EC2 either, as it doesn’t provide virtual servers but just hosting for Python scripts — and only that. I know it’s fashionable (but not as much as Ruby on Rails for the web 2.0 crowd), I’m sure the infrastructure will be nice and reliable and well designed, and it’s certainly simpler than managing virtual servers in the cloud, but come on, how limiting is that? Yeah, I know there’s a waiting list already, but that doesn’t mean the App Engine will get much real-world usage.

There’s got to be a point where Google’s traditional “let’s start by launching a half-assed ancillary product to see if there’s demand” modus operandi has to fail. Wait, hasn’t it failed with Google Talk already? And with Gmail even (not that the product itself was half-assed, in that case, but they didn’t try to push it hard enough). And lots of other stuff.

HuddleChat

Looks like a nice collaboration tool, but I can’t login. I end up on an error page in French even though my Gmail account is set to use English, so God knows what’s happening. Not that I collaborate much anyway.

And you may or may not care about John Gruber’s take:

But HuddleChat is just a feature-for-feature clone of 37signals’s Campfire. The layout is the same, the tabs at the top of the screen are the same, the right-side sidebar listing participants and file uploads is the same. It even copies Campfire’s trick of formatting a message as “code” if it contains literal newline characters.

Borrowing ideas is fair game, but copying an entire app is wrong. And it’s creepy, in a Microsoft-of-the-’90s way, when it’s a $150 billion company cloning an app from a 10-person company.

Tweet Clouds

Doesn’t seem to like UTF-8.

9 April

about:robots

I love the Battlestar Galactica bit.

Flickr invents “long photos”

I kinda like the angle they chose, limiting clips to 90 seconds — after all, if you extrapolate the traditional Flickr usage, people are gonna want to post either 10-second clips from their cellphones, or two-hour art projects. And you can’t realistically offer to host the latter, so let’s set Flickr very clearly apart from YouTube and all the rest.

The part that sucks, though, is that according to Webware (I can’t find confirmation on the Flickr FAQ, but the example videos I viewed seem to confirm it) videos seem to be converted to 12 frames per second. It’s nice to have better image quality than YouTube, but I think framerate limitations are pushing too far the homage to early-19th-century photography. Why not turn the videos black and white and put an animated grain overlay on top of the Flash players while you’re at it? That would reduce bandwidth usage, too.

(Oh, this post remained as a draft for 36 hours for no reason.)

10 April

HuddleChat taken down

While I mostly agree with the complaints about cloning Campfire, I hope Google (or someone else) will rework a similar application, only with a different interface. Because the App Engine is a good platform for such an Ajax chat — if it’s operated by Google itself, free of quotas and billing.

Measuring the Color of Light

Ever wonder why “color temperature” is called that?

A meter is defined by how far light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458th of a second. A second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of Cesium 133. So, it should come as no surprise that the color composition of light is measured by comparing it to something. That something happens to be the light radiated by a theoretical black body when heated.

And there’s more information where that came from.

HP Mini-Note

Now that’s sexier than a damn eee PC.

Immersive Media 360° Sightings

Google Street View as an interactive panoramic video (and it doesn’t even use 100% of my CPU like a YouTube video does).

Muji Chronotebook

A dayplanner with a clock face in the middle of each page (one page for AM hours, one page for PM); you write down your appointments all around, so that you can manage the space much more freely than with the usual fixed model of a couple lines per hour.

It would probably work better with square pages, but I’m still going to buy one sometime, even though I have absolutely no use for it. (I’ve got an iPhone. And no appointments, ever.)

Firefox logo spotted in deep space by the Hubble Telescope

11 April

Lesson for Flickr: don’t mess with your paying users

I think this is an interesting case study. Any user who is invested in using a service feels a certain sense of ownership over that service - but paid users take this to a completely different level. Paying $25 a year (or $5 a year for that matter) changes the psychology of how users regard a service drastically.

It depends on the website, though: Flickr has always been known for the very 2.0-ishness of its communication with users — being human and fun and laid-back and all. Well, there’s a flip side to that coin, and you end up with a community of users who think they own the site.

European Parliament says “no” to disconnecting P2P users

By a 314-297 vote, the European Parliament has signaled its opposition to recent initiatives to kick users off the Internet for repeated copyright infringement. […]

Today’s vote is nonbinding, so member states can still move ahead with their respective plans.

314-297 is hardly a landslide majority anyway.

“We designed User Account Control to annoy users”

Microsoft not only wanted to get users to stop running as administrators, which exacerbates the effects of attacks, but also wanted to convince ISVs to stop building applications that require administrative privileges to install and run, Cross explained.

13 April

Rocketboom Founder Puts His Twitter Account On Sale

Maybe he intends it as an artistic performance of sorts, but to me it mostly comes off as slimy.

Inside AdSense: Show me the ads

I just noticed the previous / next arrows on my blog’s AdSense panels. Are they out of their minds? Have they spent so much time repeating that AdSense is information that they’ve begun believing it themselves?

15 April

Cover Flow in Fluid

If you’ve been wondering why you should be using Fluid, which makes site-specific instances of the WebKit browser (i.e., mini-Safari applications), here’s one reason that’s been true since the beginning, and the only reason I was using it: the best way to use Leopard’s Spaces is to assign each application to a space, and Fluid lets you create individual browsers that you can assign to separate spaces. (I may have already blogged that.)

But now there’s another reason, and I’d dub it “Holy shit” but they call it “Cover Flow,” unimaginatively enough:

If you use a Fluid browser to go to Google, Digg, Wikipedia, Facebook, Flickr and a bunch of other sites, you can display a Cover Flow pane (which you can also set to show in a palette or HUD panel) that preloads all the pages linked from your results list, or friends list, or whatever. Which you can then double-click to open either in Fluid or your system browser, depending how you configured Fluid. And the best part is, it’s customizable — well, it’s supposed to be, but the add/remove buttons don’t seem to work in this version. In theory, though, it seems quite simple and clever: give a URL (with wildcards) the filter must apply to, and tell Fluid the CSS path to the relevant links, and it will fetch the URLs. (For instance, for http://*google.com/search*, it’s #res h2.r a, apparently.)

I only wish it was a Safari plugin instead. But Apple doesn’t want Safari to have plugins. (Isn’t there either a browser or a plugin that displays your browsing history or your tabs in Cover Flow? Well, it’s not nearly as cool anyway. And let’s not mention the search engine that displays its result in a Flash carousel; it’s not comparable.)

Oh, and I know, prefetching links is evil. But when it’s for something as cool as Cover Flow, who cares?

WebKit introduces CSS gradients

It’s not as backwards-compatible as most -webkit (or -moz) CSS stuff, but still usable. And, more importantly, it’s going to be very useful in web applications for the iPhone. (Which is obviously why they’re implementing it.)

P.S. Ok, the post concludes that it degrades gracefully if you place several background (or whatever) declarations one after another, but I can’t believe there isn’t a version of IE somewhere that screws up and switches everything to white if you do that.

In the meantime, why doesn’t anybody post screenshots? I don’t want to download the nightly.

RED (pre-)announces a bunch of cool shit

If you’re not a film or photography geek, you may not know that RED is famous for making a digital camera that makes all the aforementioned geeks drool because it’s so powerful and cheap (for how powerful it is, that is).

They’ve only recently started shipping their original camera, and they’re already diversifying on two fronts: the 5K “Epic” camera (5K means that images are 5,000-pixel wide — full HD television is 1,920 pixels) could be expected as the arms race never stops in technology; the 3K “Scarlet” that looks to fit in your pocket, shoot 3,000-pixel-wide images at a steady 120fps (that means you can shoot true slow-motion at up to 5x) on CompactFlash cards and cost around $3,000, on the other hand, is going to give a lot of people some wet dreams.

Download YouTube Videos as MP4 Files

You don’t need a separate program anymore; just click a bookmarklet (or, in Firefox, install a Greasemonkey script) to download the higher-quality mp4 file that’s usually served to iPhone users. (As far as I understand the blog post, if it’s a video that hasn’t been converted for the iPhone yet, the link will get you the flv file.)

I just used it on a couple of videos I posted on Regarde L’écran and it worked great. Better video, better sound, and I don’t have to play it in a Flash applet that hogs 99% of my CPU.

TouchBrowser Brings iPhone Finger-Flicking Browsing to Windows Mobile

Not very pretty and not quite as smooth as Mobile Safari, but it works. Well now, Apple, how about you protect those hundreds of patents you said you had?

MacMod: PowerBook to Desktop

Dailymotion gagne ses procès contre Lafesse et Omar & Fred

Le juge a estimé que l’activité Dailymotion relevait du statut d’hébergeur, c’est-à-dire que la société française n’est pas obligée de surveiller tous les contenus qu’elle accueille. Elle a simplement l’obligation de retirer, dans un certain délai, tout contenu qui lui est signalé, sous forme de notification, par les ayant-droits.

16 April

How Logitech Control Center breaks Growl

I was looking at mice the other day, and remembered that the Logitech “drivers” were the cause of many a blue-screened Leopard upgrade; and now, this. Confirming what I already decided: just don’t buy a Logitech mouse for a Mac. I have no problem with Microsoft’s mouse drivers — as dirty as that sounds.

On the other hand, Growl seems a little too fragile to me; it regularly becomes unresponsive on my iMac.

HP Upline

Unlimited online backup for $59 per year. But, no matter how interesting the offer may be (and it isn’t, in that it seems to be Windows-only), how much would you be willing to trust your backups to someone who has no experience with online services?

Not to mention that “unlimited” plans always reserve the right somewhere to boot you out for “unreasonable” use of their resources; with Amazon S3 and other solutions you get what you pay for.

Okay, I just remembered why I dismissed TextMate again the last time I tried it, even though it had come a long way in finally recognizing AppleScript and different charsets. So this time I’m going to write it down for future reference, next time I see a plugin that inspires me to give it another chance: it’s laggy.

I regularly have long lines of PHP in my scripts and, on my iMac G5, editing them or scrolling horizontally is sluggish — not quite unusable, but far too noticeable for comfort. I suppose it’s the syntax highlighting; sure, it’s much more powerful than TextWrangler’s, but if the result has to be Chinese water torture, I think I’ll pass.

Unlike charsets and scripting, this is unlikely to change by intervention of the developer, so I’ll just try TextMate again if I ever get a multiple-core Intel Mac.

Handwriting Recognition for iPhone Now Available

Ah, shit. I’ve thought for a while that one of the things the iPhone misses most is licensing Palm’s Graffiti kinda-handwriting recognition or implementing something similar — I’m pretty sure Graffiti has to be the fastest possible input mechanism for smartphones once you master it. And who cares if it’s not quite intuitive and has to be learned? It doesn’t have to exclude the current soft keyboard; it could only be an alternate mode.

So here’s the “Ah, shit” moment: I don’t want to jailbreak my iPhone, but third-parties will never be able to release such a functionality under the SDK’s terms, so it will never be available to factory-state iPhones unless Steve Jobs decides he likes it. And that’s unlikely to happen.

Sony Shows Off 0.3mm-Thick OLED Display

Rockin’ Our Sales

P.S. MIcrosoft 1, blogosphere 0:

“This video was a spoof (believe it or not),” said a Microsoft representative. “They thought folks internally would get a kick out of not taking themselves so seriously all the time, but some people thought that’s exactly what they were being–serious.”

Well, duh. Double-nerdy way to miss the point: of course it’s a spoof; but the thing is, it sucks as a spoof.

Sawed-Off USB Flash Drive

SocialThing beta

Just got an invite for SocialThing (which is to FriendFeed what H2O is to water), and I liked that, as I was opening the email and thinking “Uh, whatever,” it greeted me with: “Hey there, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for (ok maybe not, but we’d sure hope so!).

There isn’t much I liked after that, though (beyond the fact that it’s prettier than FriendFeed, which isn’t difficult):

  • I’m not allowed to have accents in my name (and I don’t mean the account login, but my personal name that’s been given to me and I can’t change unless I go to court or something).

  • The Facebook and Flickr applications open in minimal popups, so that you end up being asked your password without having an opportunity to check the URL.

  • The Pownce, Twitter and LiveJournal configurations just plain ask me for my login and password on the SocialThing page, as if.

  • None of the social functionality is baked in yet, so for now it’s really just displaying what your Facebook friends are doing on Facebook and your Flickr friends are posting on Flickr and so on.

  • I have to register on a third-party website to give feedback on their beta, which is so not going to happen.

 

Oh, and I have two invites, so try and deserve them if you want.

17 April

Blue Jeans Cable Strikes Back

You may know Monster Cable as the makers of cables that… well, let’s say many people consider grossly overpriced. Turns out they’re also what many people might consider patent trolls, sending cease and desist letters to all kinds of small cable makers and resellers for infringing on their connector patents. (You think connectors are standard and there’s nothing much to be patented about them? Well, that’s the point, that’s why many people might consider they are patent trolls.)

So they ended up sending one of those letters to a small company whose boss happens to be a former lawyer, and he replied with a very detailed legal memo that’s been doing the rounds of the blogosphere; and the reason I’m posting it now is that it does deserve the attention it got (and the company deserves the buzz), because it’s a pretty good read.

I love this bit:

I assume that Monster Cable International, Ltd., in Bermuda, listed on these patents, is an IP holding company and that Monster Cable’s principal US entity pays licensing fees to the Bermuda corporation in order to shift income out of the United States and thereby avoid paying United States federal income tax on those portions of its income.

And this one is sad:

My first seven years were spent primarily on the defense side, where I developed an intense frustration with insurance carriers who would settle meritless claims for nuisance value when the better long-term view would have been to fight against vexatious litigation as a matter of principle.

Yeah, that’s what reasonable lawyers like him end up doing: they quit the business and start selling computer cables.

Four examples of Internet anti-news

Aluminum MacBook, iMac-like MacBook Pro mocks leaked?

I don’t think the MacBook switching to aluminum would make sense now that the MacBook Air exists — you don’t really want them to look too similar, or even related. And the iMac look for the MacBook Pro, with a glass pane protecting the whole screen and lid, doesn’t strike me as very efficient in regard to thickness and weight.

OS X on a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium

18 April

“What is the difference between echo and print?”

“Rocketboom creator pulls plug on auction of Twitter account”

From the “I mentioned it once, I kinda have to follow through” department (I need to have a tag for that):

I believed that I would be able to manage the outcome by trying to make a positive outcome for the buyer, for my friends and followers. Even if it wasn’t a good fit, I (believed) I could work with them. But after I heard that they were all just spam marketers, that just kind of killed it for me and I didn’t want to risk that.

I can’t decide whether it was all a publicity stunt (but that would be daringly negative publicity) or he seriously didn’t foresee that the only people interested in buying Twitter followers were spammers. I believe he may just be stupid enough — that’s why I don’t watch Rocketboom (even though the second host was so much more bearable than Congdon).

FINE, I’m disabling the “New Follower Emails.” You can be satisfied, assholes. As if I was gonna buy what you sell because you follow me.

Camino 1.6

Nothing spectacular, but it looks like they finally fixed the one problem that prevented me from using it as a main browser:

Camino can now store information in the Keychain for multiple accounts at the same site.

But they’re at least two years late with that (geez, how hard it must have been to be able to save several freaking passwords for a same site); I could have switched at the time when Camino’s functionality was comparable to Safari’s, but that hasn’t been the case for a while now.

“L’échec de l’iPhone pousse Orange et Apple à renégocier”

Je suis au bord de la crise d’épilepsie — mon cerveau ne peut pas supporter de tels affronts à la logique et au sens commun si tôt dans la journée.

“Il y a une pression forte d’Apple pour passer à un modèle subventionné,” explique un proche d’Orange.

Cette phrase me donne des tics nerveux, principalement parce que, connaissant Apple, je ne doute malheureusement pas trop de sa véracité. Passons sur le fait que c’est Apple qui a insisté pour vendre l’iPhone au prix fort ; ils ont le droit de s’apercevoir de leurs erreurs et changer d’avis. Mais ce qui déclenche mon eczéma purulent, c’est que l’iPhone est subventionné, et il serait temps que les journalistes arrêtent de répéter qu’il ne l’est pas, juste parce que c’est ce que Steve a dit. L’iPhone est subventionné par les royalties que payent les opérateurs à Apple chaque mois ; juste, il s’agit du seul téléphone au monde à être subventionné mais vendu plein tarif au consommateur final. Et c’est Apple qui vient ensuite se plaindre que le téléphone est vendu trop cher ?

Orange est prêt à subventionner mais souhaite bien sûr une contrepartie. “Le reversement qu’Orange fait à Apple pourrait être revu fortement en baisse, voire même supprimé,” explique une source.

C’est pas que j’aie envie de défendre Orange (après tout, je passe mon temps à vanter les qualités de la Xbox 360, alors au point où j’en suis…), mais pour le coup je suis de leur côté.

Apple updates Software Update on Windows

That’s faster reaction time than I expected.

Apple has since made a small concession, changing the way its Software Update application for Windows looks. Software Update will still push any Apple software you don’t have installed, however, the new programs are no longer listed as “updates,” but appear in a separate pane clearly labeled “New Software.”

In a way, though, fixing the application so kinda-fast makes it all the more vexing that those new software download are checked by default. (And, I suppose, are checked again every time Software Update opens up.)

TabletDraw

Ooh, a new program for drawing with your tablet — yeah, I try them all. I like SketchBook; ArtRage is usable but not great; Painter is too bloated and way too complicated to use. And there’s got to be a couple others, too (actually, didn’t Photoshop CS3 add more tablet-painting functionality in CS3? not sure).

So here’s a new $35 shareware program:

It’s simple, but it works; the ink is almost perfectly smooth, even on my iMac G5 with 1GB of RAM (in several bigger programs, the software can’t keep up with the USB data and displays broken straight lines instead of curves), and it even have guides so you can cheat and trace pictures. No pretty paintbrush effects there (although “ink mode” allows you to draw with a black brush then paint the colors into it, without switching to Photoshop to use layers and blending modes) but it’s very small and light and quick — so it’s great for quick doodling.

And a nice closer:

The unregistered version gives you full access to all features but undo is limited to 5 levels. The registered version allows unlimited undo levels.

I haven’t used it long enough to see if there are occasional nag screens (beyond the launch screen, for which you can’t blame the developer), but it looks a lot like it’s donationware-with-incentive rather than proper shareware.

19 April

Mibbit: IRC client in Javascript

There’s no dearth of web-based chat clients, but most of them are crappy. And I’ve already heard of IRC clients made in Javascript, but never found one that really worked. So how come does this one work, and work so well?

Ever heard of IRC? It was to web-based chat what Usenet was to forums. Okay, that probably doesn’t help you. Well, suffice it to say that it was much more powerful and convenient and interesting, but it required a dedicated application to access, so it fell into oblivion as soon as the most primitive HTML/Flash/Java equivalents started appearing.

Well, Mibbit is a dedicated, almost full-featured IRC client… that runs in your browser and is entirely made in Javascript (no Java, no Flash); I’ve been looking at it for two days and I still can’t get over how well it works — seamless, instantaneous chat. And here’s where it gets awesome: you’ve got the general client at www.mibbit.com that lets you access many different servers like a real IRC app (with an option to register in order to save your settings); but you also have an embeddable version that you can use from your site, as a link or popup or iframe, and configure to open any channel you want on either irc.mibbit.com or a third-party server.

Forget all the “chat with your readers” widgets you’ve ever seen; this is the ultimate solution (even though it’s kinda ugly, and for some reason you can change some colors but not the light green frame). Just pick up a unique channel name (channel is the IRC word for chatroom, one starts with a’ #’ and mine is #wwwgaroonet), put up a link on your site that opens this channel in the embeddable version of Mibbit, and you’re all set; everyone can chat together, you can have tabbed private chats, and no registration is necessary for anyone (even choosing a nickname can be optional). The free irc.mibbit.com server even has NickServ and ChanServ, which means that you can however register your own nickname and channel names, as explained in Mibbit’s wiki, so that nobody can impersonate you. And, since this is a real IRC server, you can also launch a separate IRC application on your computer for added convenience, if you’re gonna spend the day there. Perfect. It’s just a pity that the web app is too ugly and not customizable enough to be used on commercial sites.

If you’re interested in the technical side of things, and you’re as mystified as I am that it can work so well, there’s a nice interview with the developer at Ajaxian — in short, it uses a Java webserver/proxy on the server side to keep the connection open and forward your packets to the IRC server.

So come on over and have a look at #wwwgaroonet (when my blog reaches critical mass and I have too many readers for a single channel to be manageable, which is gonna happen, like, so soon, I’ll branch out into #wwwff00aacom and #wwwbewarethefrogcom, which are already reserved, of course). Sure, it doesn’t have webcams, but it’s also super fast, lightweight, and doesn’t hit my CPU at all. And I can’t stop marveling at how well it works.

“Just a Feed That Works Will Do Nicely”

[…] the nutty practice of offering the same content in two (or three!) different RSS/Atom XML formats. I’ve never understood this — why should would-be subscribers to a feed be forced to choose a specific XML format? It’d be like asking web site visitors what flavor of HTML they wanted: “No XHTML 1.0 Strict for me. HTML 4.01 Transitional, please.”

Well, there’s a historic reason — many newsreaders used to have trouble with one format or another, so you had to know what the application you used was able to process, and choose accordingly. But I agree that the practice is obsolete, and confusing now that almost all browsers have an RSS button. (Doesn’t IE7 automatically subscribe to the first available choice?)

Also, you know there’s a bunch of geeks who would like to have a menu to force some blogs into displaying in XHTML 1.0 Strict.

21 April

IRC on a non-jailbreaked iPhone with Colloquy

A while ago I wrote that I wanted someone to come up with an Adium plugin that would serve all open conversations to an iPhone (or any browser) as web pages, and how hard could it be since message views are HTML already?

Well, as far as I know, that plugin doesn’t exist; but it looks like Colloquy’s developers had the same idea I had, and they made a plugin for their IRC client that lets you keep Colloquy open on your computer so you can access to your messages from an iPhone (it’s probably not extraordinarily secure, so just don’t discuss trade secrets on there, okay?).

Here’s a summary of the instructions, for future reference, in case the blog post disappears (since there’s no documentation included with the plugin — which looks very much beta at this point, so I just assume they’ll make it more straightforward in the future, although the article dates back to last July so I’m not sure it’s moving forward very fast):

  • install the plugin into ~ /Library/Application Support/Colloquy/PlugIns

  • open Terminal and type:
    defaults write info.colloquy WebInterfacePassword yourpassword

  • restart Colloquy

Now your computer is serving all your chats on port 6667; as soon as your router is configured to forward that port, you’re good to go.

As it stands now, the system probably kills your iPhone’s battery (the “loading” spinner never stops spinning), but that’s much, much better than Meebo and any other solution (for non-jailbreaked iPhone, and until the SDK is out). Between that and yesterday’s web-based IRC client that I used on my blog to create a personal chatroom, I’m not sure I’m not going to shut down Adium completely.

 

P.S. Oh, and the web interface even has an extended mode that gives you more functionality (i.e., a source list just like on the software application) when you access it from a computer rather than an iPhone. Excellent.

C’est seulement 300 euros, l’eee PC ? o_O

Access iTunes Sharing Over a VPN

I’m bookmarking this for the day when I have several Mac Pros at home and a MacBook Air in my manila envelope.

22 April

Selling your startup, inspired by Oprah

A couple years ago, Oprah went to Montecito, saw a house and fell in love with it. It wasn’t for sale, so she ended up paying above market value for it—several times over the price—because it was something she really, really wanted. […] I couldn’t put a “for sale” sign out there, so I had to do it unconventionally. The way I did it was to make sure people realized I wasn’t for sale. It made them realize that they needed me. They heard from different sources in different ways what BlueLithium was. That attracted them to my company rather than me going [to them]

23 April

Twitter Japan launches, with ads

“Ads are important,” Joi Ito said. “It’s always harder to add ads later. So we’re launching with them in Japan.”

Making a note of that.

24 April

“Behold WordPress, Destroyer of CPUs”

My problem is, I know what I’ve decided I think of some things (or people), but I never remember exactly what facts brought me to that opinion. So I know I don’t like WordPress, but I can never find justifications when I need them.

Well, nevermind that there is no cache by default — it’s not that hard to fix with plugins, after all — what I find much more interesting is this sentence:

A default WordPress install will query the database twenty times every time you refresh the page.

I can’t quite believe that the number is accurate, but I can’t find any rebuttal in the comments, and I’m sure someone would have protested. And that’s only an example of what I hate about WordPress: the inefficient queries, the multiplicity of includes, the horribly complicated source code where you have to search for hours (and across fifty files) in order to modify a simple functionality. It may all be very fine when you’ve got a dedicated server, and you can activate the caches for MySQL queries and PHP opcode, but it should never have been released into the hands of a general audience as a DIY solution to be installed on any shared hosting solution.

I never liked the original b2 code base; WordPress has proven itself quite worthy of its heritage, in my opinion. By the way, since you’re asking: I do like the Dotclear code much better (although I’ve never looked at 2.0), but my top recommendation remains Textpattern. Elegant, clever, well-done and versatile. And this wasn’t a sponsored message.

 

Now, if bad-mouthing WordPress and b2 that doesn’t bring traffic to #FF00AA, I don’t know what will.

Readbag

I’m pretty sure there are other services like this, but this one is pretty well-designed: when you’re on a page you’d like to read later, click a bookmarklet and it’s added to your link list.

So it’s simple, but it’s all in the details: there’s a nice, clean iPhone version, you can get a daily email listing your links, and I like that the bookmarklet’s popup stays open for five seconds, giving you an option to start typing a note before the link is filed.

And, because it’s on App Engine, it uses your Google login (I’m tempted to call it “Google Passport” for now on, because Google has just managed to realize Microsoft’s wettest dreams). Which you might find either convenient or scary.

mooColorFinder

That’s the kind of little utility a webdesigner could find very useful very occasionally — so occasionally that I’ll have forgotten all about its exsitence the next time I have a use for it.

Enter the URL for a website, and the script loads all the associated CSS definitions and displays a list of all the colors they use. And, yeah, that’s all. Like I said, you’re not going to need it every day, but it can be convenient.

Adobe Thermo

A new, upcoming application that graphics designers can use to convert Photoshop mockups into functional Flex projects, for Flash development.

From the short video preview, it looks pretty clever; the part that confuses me is why it’s a separate application from Photoshop or Flex — I guess Adobe’s recent “periodic table” look gave them the urge to create many, many more applications and icons.

Freedom

Freedom is an application that disables wireless and ethernet networking on an Apple computer for up to three hours at a time. […]

Freedom enforces freedom; a reboot is the only circumvention of the Freedom time limit you specify. The hassle of rebooting means you’re less likely to cheat, and you’ll be more productive.

25 April

“Get Two Numbers on One iPhone (or any Phone for that Matter)”

Before you start you need a dual SIM holder. There are a few out there. There are ones that switch phone numbers when you shut down the phone and ones that can get switched on the phone. These SIMs require no jailbreaking or hacking to use if you have two AT&T SIM’s. All you do is cut both AT&T SIMs with an knife to a template size then pop both sims into the SIM adaptor and anytime you want to switch lines you just shut your iPhone off and turn it on.

Wow, I had no idea such a thing existed.

CSS Masks

The WebKit devs are restless these days. Even though the idea of alpha layers in CSS is pretty cool, I have trouble imagining a really useful application — possibly because I’ve already applied masks to images by using ImageMagick on the server to generate PNGs, which are obviously more portable across browsers.

Why doesn’t the iPhone have an ignore list?

“Facebook’s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware”

The company is running around 10,000 servers. […] Of the 10,000 servers, 1,800 are from MySQL and around 805 of them are memcached servers.

I’m surprised they have more MySQL than memcached servers — but I suppose it makes sense because some aspects of Facebook are rather write-heavy. Wonder if the new chat system is powered by MySQL.

26 April

“Glossy Black iPhone 3G is Just a Third-Party Case”

And one I wouldn’t mind having. (Looks like it’s a replacement that requires opening up your iPhone, not a protective case. And the part where the buttons are is likely much more fragile than the stock aluminum panel, so it’s probably not a good idea at all, in fact.)

Twistory: a Twitter feed as a calendar

Perfectly useless, but I like the idea of visualizing a Twitter feed (yours, or someone else’s) as a calendar subscription in iCal, Google Calendar, etc.

Don’t try, though, it’s in private alpha for now.

28 April

Updated iMacs

Except for a bit of drool at the thought of a “3.06 GHz” badge on the top of the line, the newsbit of the day (which isn’t a Tuesday, oddly enough) is that Apple has discovered the concept of exchange rates, and the Mac mini is now available from 499€, and the iMac from 999€.

Which makes it all the more frustrating to stick with my G5.

Dot.me

Montenegro is getting its own country-code top-level domain. And it is called “.me”.

But then, fancy domain names à la del.icio.us are out of style, aren’t they?

I can’t mail myself reminders because Gmail bypasses the inbox, and I can’t twitter-message myself either, it silently fails. Come on now.

30 April

“How to use ssh using Back to My Mac”

So, basically, Back to My Mac automatically subscribes you to a dyndns service with which you can’t customize the user name (well, you could rename your computer). Granted, Back to My Mac involves more obvious security risks than this (like the fact that there’s only a tiny .Mac password protecting your computer from being controlled by the whole internet, and most users don’t realize the importance of strong passwords), but I still think it’s a weird choice. Well, it’s not like Apple has a history of caring much about security.

-webkit-box-reflect

I’m conflicted — it’s undoubtedly cool, but it also looks like Apple is advancing CSS to specifically favor Apple-like webdesign.

“What is Times?”

Looks like it’s going to be a very interesting, and very pretty, take on RSS aggregating. (Probably not for me, though, because I do like to scan all the headlines from my 400 subscriptions, and make my own selection.)

“A plea to web developers”: standard keyboard shortcuts

Navigating individual blogs with keyboard shortcuts à la Google Reader is a great idea, but you’d really need people to agree on what the standard shortcuts ought to be. That would require someone releasing a full-featured Javascript library with hooks into all major blogging platforms.

Unintended uses of technology

Two fun bits from today’s Buzz Out Loud listener email:

 

Smugglers (aka drug dealers) will drop off a package at a FedEx office at a particular time every day for several days. Then on the FedEx Web site they watch the progress of each package and get an idea of when a package hits certain points (i.e. Bogota to Miami, Miami to Memphis, Memphis to Detroit, out for delivery) in the delivery chain. Then they send the contraband from the office at the appointed time. If they see a variation in the delivery times the recipient at the other end knows not to accept delivery. A variation means the package was stopped and time was taken to get a warrant to open it or for the recipient’s arrest.

I’m not sure package delivery is regular enough for that to be 100% reliable, but what’s the worst that can happen — a false positive means you lose some tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars, but you don’t end up in jail. (Not to be used before the authorities already know you’re there, though, because it’s just a teeny weeny conspicuous.)

 

And I just love the image this one conjures:

I was in the cockpit over the eastern U.S. the other day and decided to take out my laptop and look up some technical data on the 737 I was flying. When I booted up I noticed that wireless networks were available. Just out of curiosity, I opened up the Wi-Fi window and saw that the signal was from an aircraft with Wi-Fi service that was flying just above and ahead of us. I knew it was from that airplane because the signal identified itself as being from a particular U.S. airline that has Wi-Fi service and we heard their call sign on our frequency.

That got me thinking about the proposed balloon network you talked about a while back and I was wondering if you couldn’t come up with an airline mesh network. […] If all those airliners were equipped to create a mesh network you could easily defer the cost of the equipment as well as compensate the airlines for the service.

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