Tue, 29 Dec 2015

Autodesk Graphic

Autodesk Graphic header image

Treated myself to this as a late Christmas gift. Just playing around with it I’m pretty happy so far. Between 1990-1999 I used to support a small company’s worth of artists, illustrators, and layout people. I’ve never claimed to be any sort of artist, but out necessity I picked up some facility with the applications those folks used (primarily the Adobe suite.)

If you’d told me that I’d one day be able to buy an application that had essentially all of the functionality of Illustrator (at least the parts I used) for 1/20th of the price I’d have said you were nuts.

Apparently there’s a pretty feature-comparable iPad version that reads and writes the same files. I’ll try that out later.

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Fri, 25 Apr 2008

Ten Things Apple Could Do To Fix iTunes

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Slashdot’s CmdrTaco
, upon the introduction of the iPod, October 23, 2001

Apple’s iPod platform is a monster in the portable music space. Tens of millions have been sold, and the application that interfaces with the device,iTunes, runs on tens of millions of computers.

I have a love/hate relationship with the iTunes application. I use it to manage my digital collection, which it does handily, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that it has limitations and inconsistencies that I bump into every day.

Continued @ moodmat.

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Sun, 03 Jul 2005

Back up your tunes, suck in that gut, etc.

In a recent podcast, a guy complained (damn non-internally-permalinkable things — fix that!) that a big problem with the iTMS is that the files are locked to a given computer and that, if that computer takes a dump, you’re screwed. He complained that Apple makes it too hard to back your songs up.

For all the complaints one might have about Apple selling DRM’ed music (and I have some myself), the idea that the songs are “too hard” to backup isn’t a valid one, IMO, since all the tools necessary to do the backups are built into the application, and they’re not hidden, either.

Really, there are only 2 steps to backing up your music —

  1. Creating a smart playlist

    iTunes smart playlist creation window

  2. Burning it to a disc disc burning button. You probably want to make sure iTunes is set to make a data CD/DVDthe relevant app text, rather than an audio CD.

You now have an ISO-formatted CD or DVD that you can place in a media safe, a safe-deposit box, mailed to your nephew, or whatever. None of this is hard.

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Mon, 23 May 2005

Poo Casting

Steve Jobs apparently demonstrated support for downloading podcasts and syncing them to an iPod in the next version of iTunes. I imagine they'll use a UI similar to the current one for radio streams. Now that I actually have a commute again I listen to a couple of podcasts a week (though I still prefer music, thank you very much), so I imagine I might find it useful.

I haven't actually seen this confirmed, but there apparently have been talks at some level between Apple and Sony towards some level of integration between iTunes and the PSP and PS3, and the iPod and the PS3. What I would love to see is support for syncing photos and video to the PSP from iTunes and iPhoto, as the current manual process is a major PITA and Sony doesn't have any Mac syncing software anyway.

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Tue, 10 May 2005

OS X Backup

Lazyweb, I invoke thee.

You would think this would be a simple request, but you would be wrong. I've been having a devil of a time finding an OS X backup utility that meets my needs. I'm not asking for much. My requirements:

  1. Allows me to do a full system backup, spanned over multiple DVD-R's
  2. Allows me to do interim incremental/differential backups, spanned if necessary
  3. Does the above, predictably, reliably, and without a lot of hand-holding

Yes, I know about .Mac backup, and it fails number 3 spectacularly. Retrospect still feels like a Classic app, frankly, and it's rather expensive. Most of the existing backup apps I've looked at are oriented towards duping to another mounted volume, which, though useful, is not what I need. I'm not averse to picking up a reasonably priced tape drive if I have to, but DVD-R media costs are such that I'd really like to stay with optical discs over tape if possible.

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Tue, 14 Sep 2004


After a couple of days of use, I’m really liking NewsFire. It’s only at version 0.21, so it has a few rough edges, but it does a whole lot of the little things right.

  • Excellent autodiscovery support. You can subscribe to feeds either by:

    1. Entering the feed URL directly.
    2. Entering a web page URL. It will suck down the page, find any feeds that are properly advertised in the <HEAD>, and scrape the HTML looking for feeds in pages that don’t.
    3. Telling it to look at the current displayed page in Safari, and goes through the process in 2.
  • Per-feed update intervals. There are still some minor nits, but it’s smart enough to use the information provided in the feed if it’s present.

  • Per-feed persistence settings. You can tell it whether or not to store old entries on a per-feed basis. In practice, this works great: I usually want weblog entries to be stored persistently, while things like weather feeds, BBC news feeds, and the like to be transient.

  • Humane interface. There’s very little clutter, just a two paned window with a list of feeds on the left and a space to display feed indexes and articles on the right. You can configure it to sort feeds either by newest content or most unread articles. In perhaps the coolest touch, it visually shuffles the feeds as new items comes in, with audible feedback.

  • Of course it does the basic things expected of every OS X aggregator: it uses Webkit for display, imports and exports OPML, supports all the extant RSS variants plus Atom, etc.

  • At least for now, it’s free.

addendum: I would strongly recommend not setting your refresh to 5 minutes for any site that you don't personally run and pay the bandwidth bills for.

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Fri, 21 May 2004

Brief SubEthaEdit 2.0 Update

It looks like the new SubEthaEdit networking protocol is based on BEEP (spec), and apparently “Ethereal is a nice way to watch BEEP traffic.” (link). So now you know.

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Tue, 18 May 2004

SubEthaEdit 2.0

There’s been a new release of SubEthaEdit. I’ve barely started using it, so I’m not entirely sure of what’s changed, but one change is that they’ve introduced a new URL scheme for document sharing. If you’re running SEE 2, you can connect to my test document here, at least for a little while.

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Thu, 25 Mar 2004

Markdown As An OS X Service

Systemwide Markdown text filter functionality in OS X, howto.

Gust’s HumaneText.service has been updated to rev 3 and supports Markdown natively, so my hack is no longer necessary.

I'm happy to report that it's possible with fairly minimal effort to get Markdown.pl to function as a service in OS X. This makes Markdown functionality available inside of Cocoa text fields, which means that everything from Safari to Mail to SubEthaEdit to Stickies can benefit.

First download Gust's HumaneText service.

By default, it's configured to use PyTextile, but the package also includes ATX.

Install it, then, using Terminal, navigate to


Copy Markdown.pl to this directory. Make it executable with this command:

chmod 755 Markdown.pl

This is the directory that contains the text filters used by the HumaneText service. The service chooses which filter to invoke by means of a simple symlink. Delete the existing symlink:

rm filter

and recreate it, pointing to Markdown.pl

ln -s Markdown.pl filter

Tested under OS X 10.3.3.

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Thu, 29 Jan 2004

Panic's Unison

The very first thing I ever used the Internet for was email. I was a freshman at U of M, and MESSAGE, which ran on top of MTS on one of the big IBM mainframes on campus, was very popular among the student population. It was tied to a number of other campuses via Bitnet, so I was able to send email to friends at a few other universities as well. Most of my online time was spent on MTS and on local BBSes. The BBSes around at this point in time were mostly islands to themselves. I realize that things like FIDONet were around, but the boards I haunted didn't use them. One BBS I used was hosted on someone's Mac II running an early version of A/UX. What made this BBS special is that the owner was maintaining a Usenet feed. You could dial into this BBS and read and post articles on Usenet. That was the moment when the potential of the Internet really hit me. You had tens of thousands (at that point in history) of users taking part in hundreds of newsgroups, being replicated around the world in something not-at-all resembling real time (most of the Usenet nodes were using UUCP at that point, connecting via modems in the middle of the night and passing articles around. You could post an article on a Monday and it might take until Thursday or Friday to propagate around the Net. One of the coolest things about Panic's page for Unison is that it takes a "when people were shorter and lived near the water" approach to describing what the application does, assuming (probably correctly) that the majority of people who happen across their product page will have no idea of what Usenet is.

Panic are really some of the all-star developers on the Mac platform. They're not huge, like an Adobe or a Macromedia or a Microsoft, but their applications are always polished, tightly functional, and most importantly, a joy to use. I registered Audion ages ago and used it for years until the crushing power of the Smart Playlist secured the universe for iTunes.

Their latest application, Unison, is no exception. Everything about the app, from the whimsical icon to the introductory setup dialogs to to the progress indicators, screams polish. If you're doing a long binary download in the background and switch out to another app, Unison even badges its dock icon with a jaunty green checkmark when it finishes. How cool is that? It really makes binary downloads completely painless, taking care of the alphabet soup of standards (uuencoding, base64, yyencoding, rar, etc.) and presenting the files in big, friendly format that even a tyke raised on P2P apps can understand. Don't have a Usenet provider? Panic has partnered with a provider to bundle access if you need it.

Anyway, it's a joy to use, and it's nice to see a Mac newsreading app that does something different, as opposed to slapping a paint job on John Norstad's ancient Newswatcher source.

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Sat, 20 Dec 2003

iTunes "Grouping"

iTunes 4.2 adds a "Grouping" field on the tag screen, which sounds interesting, but it's currently undocumented. I did a Feedster dig and found this thread on Apple's discussions board. Sounds interesting -- some folks are using it as a subgenre field, others have different applications. Well, more metadata to key smart playlists on is always a nice thing. One wacky thing is that it seems to have picked up the Emusic classifications scheme (for tracks I downloaded from that service), which implies that whatever field ID3 Apple is calling "Grouping" is being used for other things by other people.

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Sun, 24 Aug 2003

Testing HyperEdit

I'm playing around with HyperEdit, a new WebKit-savvy text editor that does a couple of cool things of note. Like Hydra, you can preview HTML via a fast, correct renderer. What's new to HyperEdit is the ability to take advantage of your installed JavaScriptCore and PHP engines as well -- I imagine this would be a killer feature if I worked in either of those languages. You can also attach external CSS to the HTML file you're editing -- for example, I'm editing this in HyperEdit's window and it's previewing with a local copy of blog's stylesheet (I want this feature in Hydra.) Though I haven't tried it yet, there's apparently a way to reverse the process so that you can watch stylesheet changes affect an HTML file in real-time (that could be really, really handy if you're contemplating a redesign, I imagine.)

It definitely shows promise, though it currently lacks the polish of a Hydra or a TextWrangler. It insists on controlling the file extension, for example -- if you're in HTML mode, you have to save the file with an HTML extension. My weblog entries are all have to end in .txt, that's how Blosxom decides whether to render them or not, so I'd have to do a manual rename if I used HyperEdit to edit them. There are a dozen other little annoyances on this scale -- none of them a show-stopper in isolation, but cumulatively enough to keep me firmly in the Hydra camp for now. Still, I'm intrigued, and I find myself agreeing more and more with John Gruber that Webkit is the big behind-the-scenes story in the Mac world this year.

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Thu, 07 Aug 2003

Hydra 1.1.1

I don't know how I missed this, but the Coding Monkeys apparently shipped Hydra 1.1.1 about two weeks ago. This is a huge deal for me, because Hydra's my current favorite text editor, and I live in my text editor. The big new feature is an option which uses Webkit to give you the option of seeing a live HTML preview (145kb PNG). I love this feature -- it's especially useful for these blog posts (Blosxom doesn't have a draft-mode) -- it should save me a lot of after-post typo repairs and formatting tweaks, and should entirely spare me (and you) the bane of every hand-coder's existence -- unclosed tags.

Of course, all the other wonderful stuff that makes Hydra such a joy is still there:

  • Collabrorative editing (on the local network via Rendezvous and on the Internet and intranet via the "Join via Internet..." command): just a few weeks ago, I helped a friend get his mail server configuration files sorted, using this feature and iChat AV, and it's wonderful.
  • Though it doesn't have BBEdit's plugins, I've found the combination of the OS X Services menu, in conjunction with Mike Ferris' TextExtras, and Riccardo Ettore's TypeIt4Me give me something that's at least as powerful, and much more flexible. (As an example, TextExtras powerful pipe command means that you can process text in Hydra's editing window with any command or script installed on your system, including traditional Unix tools like sed, awk, etc., plus any script you might care to write [or download ;)] in Perl, Ruby, Java, Python, C, sh, or AppleScript. It's like having a small, friendly Emacs, without the evil.
  • the little stuff -- flexible syntax coloring, fast startup, and did I mention the retail price? Free. I realize (and respect) that a lot of folks are married to BBEdit ($179) for various reasons, but if you're paying for TextWrangler ($49) without at least checking into Hydra, I think you're nuts.
Anyway, with the new preview feature, what was already a really good app becomes a killer app. Kudos.

(thanks to Kimbro Staken for the pointer)

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Fri, 04 Jul 2003

Top Ten Problems With Safari's Web Page Display

Dave Hyatt asked for our Top 10 Non-UI Safari Issues as trackbacks. The good news is that I only came up with 7 things to whine about. I hope this is helpful.

read more after the break...

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Wed, 25 Jun 2003

Fixing Safari's Minimum Font Size

Yuck.Aha! Dave Hyatt explained the Safari 1.0 font situation the other day. Basically, two major things changed between the betas and 1.0. First, the default font was set to be 16-point Times. This matches the default for Internet Explorer for Windows, which is presumably the browser most sites are tested against. Unfortunately, in my opinion (and I'm not alone), 16-point type looks freaking huge on a small monitor. After setting my default font setting to something sane (in my case, Lucida Grande at 14 points), I found that CSS specified xx-small type (found, for example, in my Shoutbox), became an unreadable pile of poo. The enforcement of a minimum font size (9 points) specified in the prerelease versions of Safari was removed in 1.0 final. The reason for this is revealed in the Dave Hyatt's blog entry -- that many sites use small font size spans as spacers. That sounds like a really unreliable way to position layout elements, but I'm no professional designer.Ah.

The Safari dev team threw us a bone, however. Mr. Hyatt mentioned that it was still possible to set a minimum font size via a hidden pref. Hidden pref, your ass is mine.

defaults write com.apple.safari WebKitMinimumFontSize 9
defaults write com.apple.safari WebKitMinimumFixedFontSize 9

(you need to enter those two lines in the Terminal.)

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Fri, 13 Jun 2003

Punch My Card

Back when I was in high school (and no, right now I don't particularly feel like admitting how long ago that was :-) ), there was a popular saying amongst my circle of friends. It was "punch my give-a-shit card," often simply abbreviated to "punch my card" or a vague hand-wave while holding your fingers in a card-grasping position (especially when teachers and/or parents were around), when something happened that you were theoretically supposed to care about but that, in reality, you just didn't.

Microsoft drops development of Internet Explorer for Mac

/me waves hand vaguely

Punch my card.

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Wed, 11 Jun 2003

Satan Grabs His Parka

Rivers flow uphill, and watch out for flying pigs! Quark Xpress 6 is available to order for OS X.

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Tue, 27 May 2003

iTunes Neutered

The iTunes remote library sharing feature was far too fun and useful in its initial incarnation. So they killed it.


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When the leaders speak of peace
The common folk know
That war is coming
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out.

Every day, to earn my daily bread
I go to the market where lies are bought
I take my place among the sellers.
— Bertolt Brecht, “Hollywood”