Wed, 30 May 2007

Enable DRM-Free Purchases in iTunes 7.2

For whatever reason (I smell lawyers), DRM-free purchases (“iTunes Plus”, cheesy har-har) are not enabled by default in iTunes 7.2. In fact, they’re positively buried:

  1. Choose the iTunes Store in the source list (under “STORE”) in iTunes 7.2
  2. Choose “Account” under the “QUICK LINKS” pane towards the upper-right corner of the store interface.
  3. Click “Manage iTunes Plus” on the account page.
  4. Agree to the screen full of lawyer scat.

iTS screenshot

hat tip: SteveX Compiled

addendum: Looks like they placed iTunes Plus links more prominently in the store interface, so you no longer have to dig for them. Thanks, Apple.

:: 10:19
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Sat, 15 May 2004

Markdown, Two Months Later

I never consciously planned to do it, but two months after trying Markdownfor the first time, I find I'm using it for substanially all of my web-based writing.

I never consciously planned to do it, but two months after trying Markdown for the first time, I find I’m using it for substanially all of my web-based writing. I’d played around with other human-centered web markup formats before (WikiText, Textile, etc.), but with every one I always found myself having to unlearn too much HTML markup to feel efficient. Markdown succeeds, for me, in a few crucial ways where the others always failed.

  1. Simple passthrough of HTML markup - the parser doesn’t strip HTML it doesn’t know how to handle itself. This is crucial.
  2. Fits into my workflow. I do 90% of my writing in 3 programs: SubEthaEdit, Apple Mail, and in Safari textfields. Markdown works as a service, so I can invoke it with a keystroke in each of these places.
  3. “Feels” familiar. Since Markdown uses email-style conventions for things like bulleted lists, text emphasis, and footnoted links, and I’ve been writing emails for 20 years, I never feel like I’m trying to shoehorn my writing into something new or unfamiliar.

I’m not storing my blog text in Markdown’s syntax. I’m writing in Markdown, then running the finished text through the parser, rendering it to HTML and filtering it through Tidy. Still, I find I’m producing substantially stupid-free (i.e. no open or improperly nested tags) text faster than I ever did writing my posts in raw HTML.

:: 14:24
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Wed, 05 May 2004

Yow, Web Services In Action

Rather than using a physical TV listings guide or viewing TV listings on a website, I prefer to use a specialized application to see what’s on. For quite a while, I’ve been using Tom Talbott’s MyTelly, which was always pretty nice. It’s written in Java, but it’s acceptably responsive even on my G3. The only drawback was that it retrieved its listings by screen scraping the listings at the Zap2it site. It did a good job of it, but of course it was handicapped by the inherent limitations of that technique — it had to grab entire web pages and labouriously filter and extract the programming from them.

Well, Zap2it has deployed a SOAP interface, and the newest MyTelly release talks directly to it. Wow. Fetching 8 days worth of programming data with the old screen-scraping MyTelly engine took 10-15 minutes over a cable modem connection. The new release fetches the same data in about 45-60 seconds. I suspect the amount of bandwidth consumed is a couple of orders of magnitude less than with the old version. Sweet.

:: 21:09
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Mon, 27 Oct 2003

jEdit and Stuff

My copy of Panther is in the hands of UPS, and there's no shortage of reviews for it anyway, so I'll talk about some other software.

It's well known that my current favorite text editor is Hydra SubEthaEdit. I can't use it on my office PC, but I have found something to use there that I like nearly as much. It's called jEdit, and it runs as a Java desktop application. I know that sets off alarm bells in some people's heads, but it's really quite nice. It's very responsive (even as a non-native application), and the interface isn't particularly jarring (I'm notoriously not picky about interface consistency when I'm in Windows, I'll admit.) Since it's Java, it runs in most every modern OS. I've run it in OSX, Windows, and I'm going to try it on FreeBSD later. It does everything you'd expect from a modern programmer's editor, and benefits from one of the coolest plugin architectures I've seen in any application. The plugin manager is fully web-integrated: it connects to a server and presents a fully up-to-date list of modules, complete with descriptions, that you can download and install with a single click. It handles dependencies automatically, too. The only negative is that plugins require a restart before they become active, which is subobptimal, but hardly a deal-breaker.

Unconnected observation -- the Delgados are really, really good. They've been around a while, too -- I wonder how I missed them.

:: 11:07
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Fri, 03 Oct 2003

Killing a Mosquito With a 12-Gauge

After playing around with VoodooPad, which I quite like, I decided I'd register it and start using it as my personal organizer, so to speak. Then I thought a bit more and realized that, no matter how much I liked the app, that wasn't going to work out very well. I don't have a PowerBook (sob), and I'm primarily limited to Windows machines at work, and if I end up going mobile with a Hiptop or some other PDA then it's inaccessible there, too. Then I realized -- I have a webserver!

I looked at Alex King's Tasks, which looks really good. But really, it's not really the sort of thing I'd really use. I need something more freeform -- I don't really need all the alarms and "project 50% done" indicators and all that. What I really need is a virtual scratchpad where I can record semi-random stuff:

  • things to pick up at the grocery store
  • which libraries I need to download and install so app-xyz will compile
  • what website had the walkthrough for level 16 of Aliens Eating Cheeseburgers III
  • what the secretary on the fourth floor said her printer did when she plugged it into the Ethernet jack
  • the notes for my review of the new Shaggs record

and a million other of the trivial details that fill my life. I'd been using VoodooPad for these sort of things, but, as mentioned above, it doesn't travel with me so I needed something web based. I've grown fairly comfortable with Wiki -style editing, and I definitely love being able to create new pages basically "at the flick of the wrist" (by joining wiki-words), so I started to think: Why not just configure some proper WikiWikiWeb software? I already have AwkiAwki installed to serve my FAQ pages, but it's not exactly feature-ful. I tried PurpleWiki as well, but had some problems setting it up (adding Perl modules on OS X usually involves invoking dark forces.) MoinMoin is powerful enough to have served the Atom project, and it was dead simple to set up at work (praise Jebus for the FreeBSD ports system), where I'm evaluating it as a possible internal tech-support mechanism, so I decided to try it here. Frankly, the installation was a pain in the ass (mostly my fault), but I got it working.

My grocery list, of course!Anyway, I get full text searching and an index and stuff "for free." I can see myself using it as an idea scratchpad for long blog entries, for the book about absolutely nothing I may write someday, and whatever else.

I've restricted it by IP address for now (Google, world, and dog don't need my grocery list), so I can reach it from home, the office, and I figure any other place I might need to have access from in the future is just a SSH session away.

You don't have to tell me that normal people don't do this. Well, duh... Proudly without a life since at least 1985...

:: 21:58
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Tue, 02 Sep 2003

More Fun Than A Barrel of Monkeys

Yay, a new toy.
Geekier than normal content follows. Mom, you should skip to the next entry.

read more after the break...

:: 22:20
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Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Mozilla's Continued Existence Assured

Looks like a number of corporations have chipped in to ensure a secure base of funding for projects under the Mozilla banner, under the leadership of Mitch Kapor. This is great news, since there has been plenty of doubt about AOL's commitment to Mozilla ever since they crawled under the desk.

edit: I wrote the above paragraph before I read that "AOL has cut or will cut the remaining team working on Mozilla in a mass firing and are dismantling what was left of Netscape". Ugh. My heart goes out to those folks, who worked their butts off for the usual corporate reward.

Mike Pinkerton: "Tonight I pour one for myself, and one for my homies."

:: 13:58
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Mon, 14 Jul 2003

Smart feed fetching

Chuq Von Rospach has an excellent suggestion for aggregator developers here. A couple of aggregator developers applaud the suggestion in his comments, so maybe we'll start to see these sorts of smarts in a software generation or so.

:: 11:58
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Thu, 12 Jun 2003

Tools for the sake of tools

I collect RSS aggregators like some folks collect stamps. I (obviously) don't do this for practical reasons. Realistically, no one really needs an aggregator (though if you're an avid reader of weblogs they're pretty much essential for keeping things manageable.) Anyway, I've got a ton of them.

An extended ramble on tools, aggregation, and people who you should probably be tired of by now.

read more after the break...

:: 12:46
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Wed, 02 Apr 2003

New Mozilla Roadmap

The Mozilla Project has unveiled their latest development roadmap, and there are two really big bits of news to be found there:

  1. The large, integrated Navigator browser project, which integrates a web browsing front-end with a mail/news client, HTML composer, etc., is being replaced with smaller, more focused subprojects, based on Phoenix and Thunderbird (neé Minotaur.)
  2. They're tightening up module ownership, which should (theoretically) result in higher quality code and more strongly focused project management.
There are other significant changes (e.g. moving to Mozilla 1.4 as the recommended stable baseline branchm etc.), but the two changes above are the ones that are probably the biggest deals. Best of luck to them.

:: 18:11
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Fri, 28 Mar 2003

Addendum to nntp/rss post

BTW, nntp//rss gives you the option of serving the entries as text, html, or multipart-alternative. Historically, HTML in newsgroup posts has been the work of Satan, but since you're not posting anything, it's actually a pretty nice way to read feeds. Mozilla's much-maligned Mail/News client does an excellent job with this stuff, really.

:: 11:07
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Thu, 27 Mar 2003

Using a newsreader as a... newsreader

I mean, using a Usenet newsreader as an RSS feed reader. This isn't the first time I've heard about someone playing with the idea of integrating RSS feeds into a Usenet framework, but this is the easiest to use implementation I've seen so far. nntp//rss (version 0.3) is a java application, so it runs on pretty much everything. It presents a standard-looking NNTP interface on port 119, so (theoretically) you should be able to read your favorite RSS feeds in any minimally compliant Usenet newsreader. This is the sort of thing that really appeals to fossils like me who've been reading Usenet forever. Though there are lots of specialty features a good dedicated RSS reader can offer that some of these old fossil apps aren't going to support, but the sort of people who have been reading Usenet for years have their own workflows that something like this can integrate with.

:: 10:57
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Tue, 28 Jan 2003


BitTorrent document iconI love BitTorrent. It's a clever idea, well implemented. It seems like magic -- the more "in demand" a large file is, the easier it becomes to download it, since downloaders are uploaders, too. Start hunting for torrents here once you've installed the software.

:: 13:07
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Fri, 29 Nov 2002

Fun little tool

I was looking through my referrer logs (absolute, incontrovertible proof of geek lifelessness) when I saw a few hits from a browser (tool, really) called TulipChain. There's a screenshot here. It truly takes so little to amuse me. Requires Java 1.4, which I don't think is installed by default currently on very many operating systems, but then if you're geeky enough to care about playing with something like this then you're also likely capable of finding the right JDK for your machine anyway...

:: 17:01
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Tue, 29 Oct 2002

Browser bummage

I finally found something that IE does (correctly?) that Mozilla (and other Gecko-based browsers) don't do. I want to embed my radio station's "Now Playing" window into this page as an IFRAME. Live365 provides a little window that shows the currently playing track, plus the two before it -- a pretty nice thing to have on the station blog page, dontcha think? The window renders via JavaScript, so it won't work if the user has JS turned off, but if you surf without JS you're used to the occasional empty box so no biggie. Anyway, I spent a little time playing around with this, and in IE I can get exactly what I want. However in my beloved, default browser, no dice.

Unfortunately there is a longstanding Gecko bug which affects dynamic JS-generated content rendered into IFRAMEs. Basically, they don't work, even though I think (I'm clearly no web standards expert) the DOM 1 spec says they should. I would love to be proven wrong, if anyone else knows otherwise.

:: 11:49
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Wed, 23 Oct 2002

Syndication / RSS stuff

First off, if you currently run a news aggregator, check to see if you're running the most up to date version. It has been pointed out in several places that a lot of aggregators have not been doing the right thing bandwidth-wise (namely, using the built-in features of the HTTP spec to reduce bandwidth when requesting content that hasn't changed.) The latest betas of Netnewswire Lite and Userland Radio now implement the appropriate HTTP request mechanisms, and I'm sure other aggregators will be revised to do the same soon.

Secondly, there's now a spiffy new RSS validator. Though my HTML is still a shambling wreck, my RSS feed glides on the wings of validity.

:: 01:25
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Tue, 24 Sep 2002


Before I waste hours pulling and building, can anyone comment over whether or not Phoenix, in its current form, will build Mach-O on Mac OS X 10.2?

:: 09:00
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Tue, 13 Aug 2002


Some days you'd be better off staying in bed, eh mon?

On a side note, these guys are more fun to listen to than most fictional soap operas...

:: 07:21
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Inglish Spocken Hier: some mangled translations

Sign on a cabin door of a Soviet Black Sea cruise liner:
Helpsavering apparata in emergings behold many whistles!
Associate the stringing apparata about the bosums and meet
behind, flee then to the indifferent lifesaveringshippen
obedicing the instructs of the vessel.

On the door in a Belgrade hotel:
Let us know about any unficiency as well as leaking on
the service. Our utmost will improve it.

— Colin Bowles