inPrint: Take files between the office and home (Microsoft Home Magazine)

Posted on 24. Jan, 2006 in All, Blog, inPrint | No Comments

I know I’m usually pretty Mac-o-centric around here, but I thought I’d point everyone to a new article I was interviewed for called “Work it: Take files between the office and home” in Microsoft Home Magazine. The article discusses considerations to be made when telecommuting and applies generally to all platforms, not just Windoze ;-) . Check it out!

inPrint: the Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin (2003) 4/5

Posted on 07. Jan, 2006 in All, Blog, inPrint | 4 Comments

The Pleasure of My Company is the second novel from writer, actor, and comedian Steve Martin, one of my favourite entertainers of all time. At 176 pages, this wonderfully written book is an easy read and thoroughly enjoyable. Martin is a talented writer on all counts: his style is unique without being difficult, he can be very funny without being comic, but above all, he is enormously perceptive and intelligent, creating characters who, while being strange and unusual, are entirely believable. Indeed, I think it is this insight that made his original comedy and subsequent writing so enjoyable.

The Pleasure of My Company is centred around the almost cripplingly obsessive-compulsive, though very intelligent, Daniel Pecan Cambridge. The story takes you on a firsthand journey through this highly unique individual’s mind and life – following him as he copes with everything from ensuring that the lightbulbs in his Santa Monica apartment always total 1125 watts, to his difficulties in interacting with the outside world (e.g. having to avoid curbs resulting in him only being able to cross streets where two driveways are directly opposite one another), to the development of a touching relationship with his young therapist, Clarissa, and her son. One of the central events driving the story is Daniel’s participation in the Most Average American essay contest, where he ends up competing against himself, having entered the contest twice (once using a pseudonym). However, the story is really about getting the reader inside Daniel’s head, which Martin accomplishes with grace and depth. Steve Martin’s novels (unlike his 1998 book, Pure Drivel) aren’t meant to be specifically comical – they’re funny because life is funny – but they certainly demonstrate the great intelligence that is behind one of America’s greatest entertainers.

inPrint: Macworld (January 2006) 5/5

Posted on 14. Dec, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | No Comments

Another month, another solid issue of Macworld. Features include spotlights on all of Apple’s new hardware, including the iPod with Video (and how to convert videos/DVDs for it using HandBrake or MacTheRipper), a host of digital photography tips (including photo gifts from Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Canvas On Demand), and lots more great info.

One of the coolest things I learned more about in this issue was how to use Apple’s free Property List Editor application (included in the Mac OS X Developer Tools/Xcode suite: Finder->Go->Go to folder->”/Applications/Installers”) to modify preference files (as of Tiger these are typically binary code files and are not easily editable). A couple of favorites:

  • Hide Your Desktop: open the com.apple.finder.plist file, create a New Child with the name CreateDesktop and the Boolean Value of No. Relaunch the Dock and everything on your desktop will vanish – application windows are still visible, but your desktop will be gone (you can’t even drag things there, although your files are available through the Finder). Set to Yes to undo.
  • Change iTunes Link Arrow: by default, if you click the link arrows next to an iTunes song name, artist name, or album (activated through iTunes->Preferences->Show Links To The Music Store) then you’ll be brought to the iTMS entry for the object you clicked. If you option-click then you’ll get a list of matching items (e.g. all songs from selected album) in your Library (instead of being sent to the iTMS). To reverse this setting (so that you’ll get your Library search listing by clicking) open com.apple.iTunes.plist, create a New Child named InvertStoreLinks, give it a Boolean value and set that to Yes. Make sure iTunes is closed when you make this change (and just set the value to No to undo).

Note that you can access the same variables through the Terminal using the defaults write command or using Night Productions’ free Pref Setter.

inPrint: Macworld (December 2005) 5/5

Posted on 14. Nov, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | No Comments

Another month, another great Macworld :-) .

I’m always amazed at how often the next Macworld seems to contain articles on the very issues I was considering that month. This month’s issue contained a couple of these…

FireWire Hard Drives: It seems crazy but, even with the two 60GB hard drives in my desktop and the 100GB in my laptop, I still find myself in need of additional storage. This is especially an issue when doing video production, but is also important for back ups, a habit which I’m desperately trying to embrace with increased regularity. This article covers considerations such as: Connections (number and type of FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and/or USB 2.0 ports – BTW, FireWire 800 does not in practice perform twice as fast as FireWire 400 and buying a drive with a couple of different connections can be a good idea); Portability (heavier, cheaper, and more spacious desktop drives or lighter, more expensive, but less roomy portable drives); Storage (portable drives reviewed are 20-100GB, desktop ones are 160-400GB); and Back Up capability (included software, etc.). FYI, I’m looking at the Iomega Black Series triple Interface 250GB or the Other World Computing Mercury Elite-AL Pro. Other considerations include being able to boot OS X using a FireWire connection and getting a FireWire drive to match your Mac Mini. For those of us who want to install the bulky GarageBand on an external drive, Macworld points us to the free GarageBand Anywhere software by David Hodge.

Make Automator Work For You: I’ve been fooling around with Apple’s built in Automator software recently, which allows you to create workflows/macros to run a multitude of tasks. This month’s Macworld includes “Learn the Essentials”, “Take a Trial Run”, “Troubleshoot Your Workflows”, “Automate Photoshop Chores”, and “5 Workflows for Geeks” related to this subject. Automator is a really useful tool that I suspect most people don’t make enough use of. A quick read through these articles should change all that in short order! ;-)

On top of what Macworld mystically knew I wanted to learn about, there were also some other great sections:

iChat Power Tips: I was disappointed with my lack of success at establishing multi-person video chats out of the box with iChat, but it sounds like there have been some improvements since it was originally launched. This article teaches you how to send text messages from iChat to mobile phones (just enter “+1<3 digit area code><7 digit number>” into the person’s name field in File->New Chat With Person); how to receive messages in the same manner; how to set up your Mac to automatically accept chats so that you can remotely monitor through your iSight; how to stop chat mishaps; and a variety of other info.

Macworld’s Gear Guide: My Christmas shopping list all in one place! :-) Actually, there are some great new toys in here for all us Macheads, so let me point out a few (all prices USD): the QX5 Computer Microscope ($80) hooks up to your Mac for viewing and control to see 10x, 60x, and 200x magnifications, timelapse movies, and more; Logitech’s Z-5450 ($500) THX-certified 5.1 surround sound speaker system can get those of us with Mac’s equipped to handle it the ultimate cinematic experience on our desktop; and, for the truly frivolous, why not pick up a dancing Hasbro I-Dog ($30) to boogie and blink to your music :-) .

Lots more goodness in this issue too (e.g. video iPod reviews), so check it out!

inPrint: Macworld (November 2005) 5/5

Posted on 26. Oct, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | No Comments

Well the guys at Macworld must feel a little silly when their magazine comes out with an opening editorial talking about “the Future of the iPod” and a full article on “Picking the Right iPod” without being able to mention the new video-capable iPods and new iTunes b/c Apple’s “One More Thing” announcement and Macworld’s press-time missed one another by a few days :-) . However, as usual, the rest of the magazine is great.

This issue has as its focus “Spinning a Better Web”, which includes a ton of great tips for getting more out of the web, and supplements a review of all the major web browsers. Articles in this section include:

the Secrets of Safari 2.0: Some stand outs in this section include how to extend Safari using Saft, which adds more than 25 very useful features; PDF Browser Plugin to help those of us who need more robust PDF viewing in our browser; SafariSource, which adds sytax colouring to source views; AcidSearch, which adds a pulldown to choose a number of search engines in the standard Google search box; and more.

the Power User’s Guide to Firefox: This article made me want to use Firefox more (if it weren’t for that darn .Mac syching I like so much!), it just seems you can do almost anything with it. Extending Firefox is a very helpful section here – I used Tab X to put a close button on each tab (instead of only one at the end of the tab row – bad design); the Brushed Theme to get a more Mac-like look; miniT so that I could rearrange my tabs; Firefoxy to beautify web-page controls; and the fantastic SessionSaver, which saves the state of your browser on close and reopens it exactly how you left it (and I mean exactly: windows, tabs, contents of web forms, scroll bar positions, etc.).

the Best Blogging Tools for Mac: Tips on Blogging for Photographers, ratings and reviews for Blogger, Typepad, etc., and more.

the Web Pro’s Tool Kit: Thank you Macworld for answering a request I had from a commentor on my blog who asked about exactly this. To preface the following and to more fully answer that visitor’s question, Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive are the two main professional Web design apps. Here, Macworld presents some lower cost options (the cross-platform open source NVU for web design), points us to some royalty-free images (e.g. MorgueFile), gives us a way to help pick colours for the web (Color Schemer Online and others), supplies us with an online measuring tape (MeasureIt), and much more.

If the above topics interest you then definitely pick up this issue, as I’ve just scratched the surface here – there are tons of great web tips and all the other usual outstanding content.

inPrint: the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkein (1977) 4/5

Posted on 18. Oct, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | 3 Comments

I’ve had the Silmarillion sitting on my bookshelf since I was a kid – my grandmother gave it to me with the boxed set of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit that I devoured at an early age. Though I peaked into the great tome throughout the years, I was a little confounded that I couldn’t find any of the characters that I had loved so much from the Lord of the Rings. However, I finally picked it up recently and, with the help of a couple of websites and some maps, began my journey in earnest.

The Silmarillion is essentially the creation story and history of the world in which the Lord of the Rings is set (though it extends beyond Middle Earth and takes place far before the events in those books). With limited dialog, it is more or less a collection of tales that describe what we would refer to as god, the angels, and the inhabitants (elves, dwarves, humans, etc.) of Tolkein’s world, how they came to be, and how their history evolved.

I wasn’t kdding when I said I read this book with map in hand, and that doesn’t include how I’ve pretty much worn out the pages flipping to the appendices (which include a dictionary, geneologies, and maps) to keep track of all the different names and places that are mentioned. It is not an easy read! However, it is a highly rewarding read. It may be a bit geeky (okay, a LOT geeky), but it is fascinating to learn more about this world that I found so engaging through my reading of Tolkein’s other books and, more recently, watching Peter Jackson’s fantastic movies. The story is so rich and feels so real, it was no surprise to learn that the Silmarillion was essentially the first of these books Tolkein started and the last one he worked on before his death (it was collected and published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkein).

I was truly amazed at the amount of material available online to anyone interested in delving deeper into Tolkein’s work
(e.g. the Encyclopedia of Arda) and, frankly, it is well deserved. I know of no other author who has created such a deeply detailed and compelling world. If this seems at all interesting to you, and you have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings books, then take the next step (although it’s a big one) and pick up a copy of the Silmarillion, b/c this one ain’t gonna be made into a movie in our lifetime, folks ;-) .

PS: Do yourself a favour and photocopy the appendices before you begin – you won’t regret it. The flipping back and forth does get a little tiresome.

inPrint: Wired (October 2005)

Posted on 13. Oct, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | 4 Comments

The OTHER magazine I subscribe to is Wired. I went years without reading Wired, but when I decided to get take another look earlier this year, I really liked what I saw. Wired is no longer a magazine for the ubergeek – it is an award winning, genre-crossing magazine that touches on technology, culture, sociology, business, medicine, politics, and much more.

This month continues on the movie cover theme that seems to be running strong over the past few issues (I’ve seen George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and now Peter Jackson figuring prominently in the cover stories of several recent issues). So the big story for October is Peter Jackson’s new King Kong movie (with the article title, “Return of the King”, really appealing to my love of puns/double-entendres). But there’s more than that: how robots can teach your kids, the evolution of bacteria, how to pimp your new Honda, tech trends from Tim O’Reilly, life of DVD pirate, and even a cool new (and more accurate) take on the periodic table of the elements.

Wired has evolved along with technology: from something that was of interest only to the pocket protector crowd to something that encompasses almost every aspect of modern day life. Get Wired – you won’t regret it.

inPrint: Macworld (Oct05) 5/5

Posted on 29. Sep, 2005 in All, Blog, inPrint | 4 Comments

I have categories to cover video/film and music, so I figure I owe it to that stalwart of old media, the printed word, to give it its own category. :-)

There are only two magazines that I subscribe to on an ongoing basis and one of them is Macworld (you’ll just have to wait to find out what the other one is, but don’t worry, it’s PG-13 :-) ). Every month I read Macworld from cover to cover – even if the article doesn’t interest me, there’s something (maybe my deeply ingrained obsessive compulsiveness ;-) ) that makes me trudge through it. This month’s Macworld, like most, is rife full of interesting stuff and here are some highlights…

Final Cut Studio review – the bulk of this month’s reviews section focuses on the different elements of Final Cut Studio (Final Cut Pro 5, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro 4, Motion 2). Not only did this section make me want to go out and buy the whole Studio, it gave me a much better understanding of how the different elements of the Studio work together.

Tiger Secrets Declassified – while I’m sure I won’t make use of all the “55 Hidden Features, Slick Tricks, and Smart Timesavers” (I think “Smart Timesavers” is a bit of a pun given their numerous references to Smart Folders, Groups, Mailboxes, etc.), I definitely found some of great use.
For one, I’ve really missed being able to highlight a group of files (say, for burning to a DVD) and hitting command-I (Get Info) to see their total combined size (this changed from Panther to Tiger). One solution in Tiger: drag those files into a Burn Folder (File->New Burn Folder – this does NOT move the files, it just creates aliases) and click on the burn button (before inserting your DVD-R/CD-R) – their combined size will be displayed.
There’s also a lot of references in this article to using the Automator to do things such as combine PDFs – well worth a look!

Which Mac is Right for You – a buying guide to Macs. Although this is something that I don’t really have the need for personally, it’s a great resource for all those friends who have been asking you what type of Mac they should buy.

Whip Up a Widget – a how-to guide to building simple widgets. The example they use is a widget that counts down to an event in the future, but their explanation makes a great first step to learning how widgets work internally.

You can find much of the information from the magazine online at www.Macworld.com, so you don’t even have to buy the magazine to check it out (although it’s hard to beat such informative bite-sized reading for your bathroom library :-) ).

PS: Subscribing for a year’s worth of issues costs less than several issues bought at the newstand, so don’t be afraid to invest. ;-)

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