Month: October 2004

Process Outliner & Organizer

Process looks like an intresting outliner. I’ve tried it before but never stayed with it but it might be worth a try. It reminds me of the long defunct InControl which was one of my all-time fav Macintosh apps. I do like an outliner linked to a calendar and now I’m using Omni outliner and separately using iCal for calendar events. Maybe this takes the place of both. Hmmm…

Bush site filters foreigners

George W. BushThis does not surprise me but still, it’s amazing: Bush site restricted to foreigners.

If you live outside the US or Canada, you will get an access denied screen on your browser if you go to http://www.georgewbush.com.

What good does it possibly do to do this? What about Americans living abroad? Talk about an isolationist viewpoint.

Next thing you know they’ll start filtering registered Democrats or people who have donated money to Moveon.org.

Another kind of apple in the news

applesThe New York Times has a story on Apples With Pedigrees Selling in Urban Edens which, of course, makes sense. Who would want to say “golden delicious” when one could say “Roxbury Russet” or “Ashmead’s Kernel”?

If this wets your appetite for apple history the book to read is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan (who used to live up the road from us). The first section of this book is all about apples and how they and we got this genetic engineering thing going with them. The other sections are also fantastic: tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. Really great stuff from a great writer and thinker.

Sandrine through the window

Sandrine through the windowAfter seeing Polygraph Lounge at Joe’s Pub in New York the other night, my friend Sandrine and I popped into a Starbucks for coffee and to debrief after an amazing concert before we hit the subway (her to Brooklyn, me to Grand Central to get on a Metro North, which I missed and had to wait an extra hour listening to my iPod).

We got into a discussion about cameras as both of us want digital SLRs and in doing so, I pulled out my old Canon G3 and took some pictures. I was talking about turning off the flash when shooting through a window when I took this shot… of her.

RSS Readers are Killer Apps

I’m relatively new to RSS although I’ve had NetNewsWire lite (an early RSS reader) on my machine for a while, I just never used it until I started reading too many weblogs, tracking too many news site, and keeping track of numerous threaded discussions (with feeds). Now I use its big brother, NetNewsWire and follow the excellent weblog of its author (with NetNewsWire, of course).

However, most folks still don’t think of Sherlock or the late Watson as web-based and in some of their tools RSS readers but I’m pretty sure they are and those tools also allow end running the browser as the sole application to browse information.

I remember showing an early OS X version of Sherlock to a group of teachers at a conference and they had no idea what they were looking at: they had no clue that one could get information from the internet outside of a web browser. To them, a web browser is the internet and as John Gruber says in Windows vs. the World, most users are nowhere near ready to get this stuff (RAM vs. HD, etc.).

I think it took building my own weblog to push me over the hump and I finally got it then and now (for 4 months now) I’m deep in and have no idea how I ever managed without it.

But, as said in a great interview with Mac OS X RSS application authors at DrunkenBlog, there is going to be a time, relatively soon, when a lot of people are going to get it. The interview will really help as it makes basic concepts clear and is extremely well written.

OS X Software I Use and Love

OS X FinderMacintosh OS X is great, I just love using it and have since day one. I now have a mix of amazing applications for doing lots of different things and I thought I’d list some of them here. Comment if you’ve got additions I need to try but note that my criteria (which all of these meet) is simple, clean, stable, and not too expensive. Some of this software is commercial, some shareware, some freeware, all of it is great.

BBEdit is a commercial, industrial strength text editor that I use to edit the back end of this site and all of the other web sites I work on. It’s far from perfect but the current version has added better ftp support, better AppleScript support and once you’re comfortable with it it’s hard to use anything else. Publisher: BareBones Software. Cost: $179.

MarsEdit is the application I am using to write this. It is a weblog publishing tool that makes posting and editing weblog entries a lot easier than the web-based tools that are part of WordPress or MovableType. I’m composing this post in MarsEdit and saving it as a draft until I get all the text written and links collected. Very useful. Publisher: Ranchero Software. Cost: included with NetNewsWire.

NetNewsWire is an RSS Reader that makes it easy to subscribe, organize, and read RSS feeds from discussions, sites, and weblogs. There is a free version of NetNewsWire (lite) and using it is a good way to see if you find applications like this useful. NetNewsWire is the center of my web use these days; I use it to scan most of the sites I scan daily. I’m using the 2.0 beta version and it’s fantastic with few noticeable bugs. Publisher: Ranchero Software. Cost: $39.95.

OmniOutliner is an electronic outliner that makes it easy to work with lists, hierachies of lists, information that needs to be structured hierarchically, and any information where hiding and showing details is useful. It is one of my main applications (as outliners of various sorts have been for years) and I start most pieces of serious writing in it and keep my non-calendar-based todo list as well as all of my other scraps of reference notes in it. If you’ve never tried an electronic outliner or the only one you’ve used is in MS Word, you really ought to try this application. It’s not perfect but it’s stable and useful and I’ve been using it since it came out in the early days of OS X. Publisher: The Omni Group. Cost: $29.96.

Skype is a peer to peer (no server involved in the telephony) voice communication tool. It is cross platform and the OS X version is currently in beta. It works quite well but has missing features and a few bugs. However, the clarity of sound is far beyond iChat using AIM or .mac and it’s cross platform. Publisher: Skype Technologies. Cost: Free although there is a charge for Skype to landline calls.

Sound Studio is a sound editor for audio recording and/or editing analog sound. If you work with sound, you probably have a product like this or this one. The big commercial sequencers and high end applications like ProTools have analog sound editing built in. For those of us with occasional needs, Sound Studio is just the ticket: multichannel, wave form editing, effects, and more. I’ve been using it happily for years and I can lift any part of any AIFF song off a CD and make a loop out of it (for my own use, not for distribution) or simply look at it more closely. Publisher: Felt Tip Software. Cost: $49.99.

SuperDuper is a backup and archiving utility that is simple and works like a charm. For years now I have used another application called Carbon Copy Cloner and it worked well but SuperDuper is more intuitive and better designed. It allows you to backup to any disk or volume, compress the backup or not, and backup incrementally. I’ve not explored all of its options but I’ve done two backups with it and it worked like a charm. I’m sold: simple, intuitive, inexpensive. Publisher: ShirtPocket Software. Cost: $19.95.

Tex-Edit Plus is a scriptable text editor and a lot more. I use it for getting extraneous characters out of downloaded text (high ascii stuff or bad line endings that Windows, unix or linux puts in) and even though BBEdit and other text editing applications do the same thing, Tex-Edit Plus does it simpler. I’ve been using Tex-Edit Plus longer than almost any application on my computer; it has been around forever and even though it was late to move to OS X, when it did it did it right. It’s also one of the least expensive ways to have text read aloud on a Mac with words and/or sentences highlighted as they are read. Excellent software and worth having even if just to massage (mung) text. I even met the author, Tom Bender in San Angelo, Texas on a trip down there. Nice guy. Publisher: Trans-Tex Software. Cost: $15.

Transmit is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client for moving files to and from a server. I use it to support this web site and all of my others. It’s simple, well designed, inexpensive and has been around a long while and I’ve been using it since its birth. Panic is a great Mac-only company with great support and a great attitude. Publisher: Panic. Cost: $24.95.

WeatherPop Advance is a simple application that when run, puts a menu on your menubar with the current weather at your location, and/or at any other location on earth. It uses various weather databases (your choice) and is completely customizable. Weatherpop is the freeware version of WeatherPop advance which supports fewer cities but otherwise is fully functional. Publisher: Glucose. Cost: $8.00.

wStock is a simple menubar stock ticker that uses your Sherlock stock list to build a moving ticker or symbols and the latest trade price. It can be alarming if you’re tracking something on the way down but it’s a nice way to see movement in stocks. I run it a few times a day to grin about Apple (appl). Publisher: Wolfware. Cost: Freeware, donations accepted.

xPad is a writing/organizing/notepad tool that stores multiple “pages” or “documents” inside one document as records or pages. The pages are gotten to by clicking on them in a “drawer” that lists them by name and/or category (if you sort them that way). xPad is interesting in that for me it’s not a replacement for an outliner, but it is in some ways, and it’s not a replacement for my text editors, but it is in some ways and until I got MarsEdit I used it to store all of the html, php, and css code I wanted to have easy access to in the back end of WordPress. Now, this application (that I am using to write this now), MarsEdit has the ability to store custom code and that’s where my image and link tags and other tags live. So, I’m using xPad for other things, mostly as a replacement for Stickies, which it is much better than in that it’s all in one place and organizable. I recommend trying it as it’s unusual yet simple and straightforward. The developer has a weblog in which he talks about many things, including his work on xPad. Publisher: Maniacle Rage. Cost: $9.99.

Being good as well as looking good

My friend David Clark and I have been following a number of discussion threads that have resulted from provocative posts from popular bloggers. Some of these threads have over 50 replies from all over the world (all in English) and there are themes in them that we find interesting and worth discussing.

One of them is one that David as just posted on in his weblog which is about presentation or surface appearance. His take on it is partly driven by the fact that he’s got a disability that makes face to face meetings and phone conversations hard and the filtering of email or online interaction allows his ideas to stand free of the baggage that comes from seeing him in a wheelchair or hearing his voice.

My take on this particular theme is a bit different. Many of the weblogs we read and track are done by professional graphic designers and there is an unspoken theme in threads that your blog better show your chops or your comments have no weight. Generally when one posts a comment there is a link back to one’s weblog or site or email at least and at times I have felt totally ignored because my weblog doesn’t look like it was done by a photoshop fanatic or graphic design pro.

This is the same theme David is tracking. But, there are many more and my current favorite is the popularity effect: if you do not run a popular weblog you must be doing something wrong and therefore your opinion has less weight. Or, the flip side: if you run a weblog that gets a lot of hits, your thoughts are taken more seriously, even if they’re crap (which many are).

My wife calls the pretty but lacking content idea “looking good instead of being good” and there’s a lot of this going around these days. Seems like it’s a scaled up pre-teen “if I just wear the shoes she’s wearing I’ll be popular just like her” idea. It’s amazing to see it at so many levels in so many places.

Andy Singer

Andy Singer Global Warming CartoonI’ve been reading Funny Times for years and one of my favorite cartoonists is Andy Singer. His illustrations are always right on the money, both politically and socially. His web site has numerous illustrations and compilations in book form.

Andy Singer Computer CartoonIt’s important to support artists like Andy Singer by buying their work and encouraging local papers to carry it.

There is something special about political cartoonists and in times like these we need them more than ever to give us perspectives that mainstream media fails to.

Thanks Andy, keep up the great work and know we will be watching.

Behind the Scenes on Accessible Voting

WIRED News has a fascinating and depressing story: Diebold and the Disabled about disability groups being in bed with Diebold (the controversial voting machine company) initially to push their agenda of making voting more accessible (electronic voting is generally more accessible than paper or mechanical voting) but now it has come out that Diebold has given a lot of money to numerous disability groups in exchange for lobbying. Bad news for the credibility of these groups and it sure looks like a conflict of interests to me.

Disability rights and accessible voting do not trump the rights of all Americans to have fair voting with a process that is transparent and open to scrutiny. Current Diebold machines produce no paper trail (metaphoric or otherwise) and this is unacceptable, especially after the 2000 election fiasco in this country.

Hilight Tribe

hilight tribe

Hilight Tribe is a French “trance” music group that is nothing like any group I’ve ever heard. Essentially they are a techno dance beat group that makes almost all of their sounds with non-electronic instruments: djembes, dumbeks, drum set, congas, djun djuns, tabla, didgeridoo, hand percussion, and more. They also fold in electric guitar and bass as well.

They are in the US for a week and spend most of their time touring the rest of the world although I really hope they will return more often than one week of the year as they are really wonderful.

Their sound is great: tight, fast, “metronomic” drumming based on traditional African, Middle Eastern, and Indian rhythms and they sing and dance around as well.

I admit it, I like techno but less for the synth than for the regular, driving, danceable beat. These guys do it without a synth and that’s even better since I also love hand drumming.

I have their newest CD and I was blown away that it was done without a drum machine; they did it all by hand.

I’ve seen them twice here in Connecticut: once in a small concert in the next town and once in a concert/workshop they did for a local school (picture above). Tonight I’m going to see them in a club in upstate New York and that should be a bit more “atmospheric” and hopefully even louder.

These guys are almost exactly where I want to be with drumming and music making. I have not found a way to buy their CDs online yet as the order page is in French and I’m not sure what I’m doing reading through it but maybe Amazon will pick them at at some point or better yet, the iTunes music store. You can hear demo streams of their music at their site (broadband connection useful here).

More on this I’m sure when I get back from this concert tonight (early tomorrow morning). Man, I’m a bit old for this but I can’t help myself.