messing with 3.2

I’ve got some changes for this site up my sleeve and so have been exploring what software out there can accommodate these modifications. I’ve been using WordPress for another project of mine and have been pleased with the results, but I wanted to give MovableType another shake and see what comes out before I make that switch. So I’ve upgraded to MT v.3.2 to see what new functionality it has, which has unfortunately necessitated reconfiguring the templates I used to use. The one you’re seeing now is a canned template, serving as a placeholder until I can determine what software will accomodate what it is I’m hoping to unveil.

Stay tuned.

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Google Desktop v2 beta adds a sidebar

It’s like a Yahoo! or MSN messenger that doesn’t suck.

Google Desktop (v2 beta) was released today and includes this fantastic sidebar that provides plug-in functionality such as gmail viewing, stock quotes, weather, photos, and more.

It’s similar, at least in intent if not form factor, to the widgets functionality of OS X Tiger, with developer-created plugins to provide unique functions, such as a ToDo list and an iTunes controller (finally!).

It even auto-adds RSS feeds from commonly viewed pages, although I have no idea how it knew to add the RSS feed from Ideoverse–I don’t believe I have ever visited that page from this PC.

googleweb.gif

Google Big Brother is watching…

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What to do with GMail?

I recently snagged a coveted invitation to become a GMail email account holder, and I excitedly signed on.

Umm…now what?

I have a new email account with all these really great potential features, but I have no incentive to use it. Let’s count how many emails i have:

  1. yahoo – my first web-based email, now almost completely unused because of spam
  2. ideoverse – my email for this site and my usual personal email
  3. e-utah.org – from when I worked at our Utah office
  4. neinetwork – for the Vermont office
  5. hotmail – which I have only for IM’ing
  6. byu – which I have for life and gets forwarded to my yahoo account

That’s 6 email accounts. 6! And that’s excluding the two email accounts which I administer at work! All of these accounts have access via the web and most have pretty good spam control, both of which GMail provides as well. And then some of my accounts are POP3, allowing me to download into a mail reader, which is something GMail doesn’t offer.

So my question is, what does GMail give me that nothing else does?

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MS Conspiracy

Am I the only one who thinks that the leak of Windows NT/2000 source code was intentionally made by Microsoft to get paranoid CEO/CIO’s to upgrade all their legacy boxes? After all, don’t like 75% of corporations still run NT or 2000 rather than XP?

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electronic joy

One of the reasons OS X is great is because it has PDF conversion built right in, you simply save to PDF in the Print dialogue and you’re done. And Preview is faster than Acrobat Reader at rendering and viewing PDFs too. Unfortunately, the PDF functionality beyond saving and viewing is pretty bare bones, requiring you to resort to the command-line or various shareware products to combine, remove, or reorder pages in a PDF (or get Acrobat, of course).

The problem with a lot of these shareware products is that they ask $30-80 for their suite of functions, when all you want is just one part. This morning I was given a high-priority task to take a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and put them in a single PDF, so I went out on the web to find something to help.

I downloaded a few different ones, and found a few that I thought would meet my needs, but little did I realize I would find a product as sweet as Combine PDFs. It does just what it says, allowing you to take multiple PDFs and put them in one document, reordering or removing those pages you don’t want, all in a nice and simple UI.

This app, simply put, rocks.

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ipod in macworld keynote

I’d like a portable mp3 player but the current prices are just a little too much for the time being. As an idle fancy, I’ve been following the rumors that Apple would release a sub-$200 ipod at Macworld this year and when Jobs’ keynote included reference to a $250 4GB mini-ipod, the bulletin boards erupted in absolute horror that Apple priced it beyond what most of the rumors had pegged it at.

I think they’re mostly misinformed–$250 is still an incredibly good price and the smaller size (business card!) increases complexity too–but when they say that it won’t improve Apple’s marketshare, I say, who cares?

After all, as John Gruber points out, Apple targets the creative workers, a small subset of business in general. BMW seems perfectly happy filing a smallish niche in the auto world, and I think Apple would rather be the BMW of the computer world rather than the GM.

Although the cost of the new ipod’s doesn’t completely disuade me, my biggest question is whether the smaller form-factor negates my biggest issue with the ipod: as a hard-drive-based machine, the bumps and jiggles that come from exercising force frequent hard resets, making it nearly impossible to use while running. (Okay, so I don’t run but having such a sweet player might almost get me to start)

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Canon A60 and video

Okay, so the digital camera we have has the ability to record video, something a lot of digital cameras (and PDAs and cell phones and…) are able to do. But I’ve never really messed with it because of the less-than-stellar results of trying to use our DV video camera to take digital stills (poor color, grainy picture, and it takes 6 seconds to show the pic in the viewfinder). It’s always been my experience that any product with cross-functionality tends to be either mediocre in both or good in one and just plain horrible in the other (look at cell-phone cameras, fax-printer-copiers, and cross-trainer shoes).

So it was with great joy to use the Canon A60 to record Ali laughing. It was super easy; the camera records in .avi, I dumped it on the Mac using USB, and iMovie added the fades and export to Quicktime. And the results are pretty impressive. Judge for yourself:

www.ideoverse.com/alison/video/ali-laugh.mov Quicktime, 2.3MB

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slow connection, ergo no updates

Since we moved out to the country (7 miles out of town), we have been unable to get any high-speed Internet connection. There is no DSL and no cable, and satellite costs about $700 to install and $100/mo. That could work, particularly with my company paying for it, but from all the reviews I’ve read, satellite is fairly unreliable, and particularly slow on the upstream. And the required year-long contract is about 6 months longer than we’ll be in this place.

So I’m left with dialup, which is incredibly crappy out here (we’re lucky to get 26k on these old copper lines). I end up getting by for work purposes, but it just leaves me fatigued to use the Internet for much of anything else besides work. Hence no updates.

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XHTML and CSS

I’ve been slammed at work lately and with me as the sole person on the ground, I’ve had to pull some crazy hours. Luckily some of the work has involved designing some agency websites, something I haven’t had a chance to do since I was first hired back in Utah.

Amazing what can happen in 2 1/2 years. Back then, it was all image preloaders, javascript actions, dynamic dropdowns, and tables for layout. This time around, I’ve been doing it lean, clean, and standards mean—XHTML and CSS. While it’s been difficult to get away from the crutch of tables and spacer images, the resulting code is much more easily updateable and the page is more accessible. Best of all, it’s tiny:

  old project new project #1 new project #2
html 8k 2k 6k
images 172k 48k 71k
js 30k 0k 0k
css 2k 8k 8k
total 212k 58k 85k

Those are file size reductions of 73 and 60 percent! Amazing.

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the ibook is back!

Last time it took nine days versus three days this time. Now I have it for the weekend—yea!

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