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Showing posts from March, 2008

Mac: Time for a spare battery

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Though I live on the East coast and my parents live in Southern California we are very close and speak at least once a week. When my Mom was hospitalized over Easter weekend I figured now was a good time to cash in some frequent flyer miles and spend some time with my parents and brother.
There are some serious advantages to being self employed and picking up the tent at a moment's notice and moving to a new campsite is one of them.
The flight to California is a little over 5 hours from my local airport and while I have had excellent battery life from my MacBook so far, I decided at the last minute to run over to the Apple store and grab a spare. It took a few hours to charge but it was ready prior to leaving at oh-dark-thirty on Saturday morning.
Since I left so early I actually snoozed for the first 2 hours of the flight. I then decided that I really needed to get some of my work done and fired up the MacBook, jumping between a couple of different tasks. I had read that someone got…

Mac: Canon 1100IS, iMovie and YouTube

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I am out in Southern California visiting my parents and brother. Before I left I debated on packing up my camera, a Canon 30D and the usual kit I travel with when I know I'm going to be taking some photos. At the last minute I went on a "travel austerity" program and shed myself of my camera kit - so I arrived in California camera-less.
While it was great to not have to lug the rather large bag around through the airport, shortly after arriving I regretted not having the ability to take pictures. I had been thinking of getting a nice little point and shoot to compliment my DSLR - something I could just put in my pocket at a moment's notice and use on demand. I also liked the idea of being able to shoot light weight video easily.
My brother, always an enabler when it comes to spending money, took me over to Samy's - a camera store in Santa Ana, CA. Since I'm a hardcore Canon fan I immediately went to the Canon 1100IS, a nice little 8MP point and shoot.
The big se…

Startup 101: Do you have what it takes to fire your boss?

I've been asked what it's like being your own boss before and have developed a standard response: It has its ups and downs. On the downside my boss is an obnoxious jerk that pushes me relentlessly.On the upside I'm sleeping with his wife.Have you given any thought to leaving the "security" of a regular paycheck and going out on your own? If so, this entry is for you. It is my not so humble opinion that working for yourself - owning your own business - is one of the greatest experiences a person can have. I equate it to the difference between living in your parents home and going out on your own and getting a place to live as a young adult. It is initially pretty frightening but the feeling of independence and growth is incredible and once you’ve done it successfully you cannot imagine going back to live with Mom and Dad.I recognize that not everyone is cut out to start his or her own business - or even work outside the structure of a corporate environment. The sk…

Playing Media Rant - when will this get better?

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So here's the deal. A buddy (Jeff) sends out some MPG files of a recent trip to friends. One of the friends responds that she cannot view the files on her Mac. Jeff sends a note to me on AIM:
Jeff: yo macboy what app do you use to view MPG files

Nice to know that I am now "macboy". I feel like the Jive Lady in the movie Airplane... "Oh stewardess! I speak Mac".  I look at the MPG files that Jeff sends me and sure enough I can't view them. QuickTime Pro, which I recently upgraded to, gives me this:

I had already installed Flip4Mac into QuickTime but that didn't help me. A quick search turned up VLC, which I posted about earlier today. Finally, I could see the videos.
As a techie I am accepting of the challenges of technology. I understand why it all exists - that each vendor has their own way of recording the video that may take advantage of their hardware and hundreds of other issues. But when I put on my consumer hat I get more than a little pissed off that…

Mac: Playing media is easier with VLC

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I am by no means a video guy. I've got friends that understand all the variations in compression technology and formats, the best codecs to use and everything else. When they go into "video speak" my eyes glaze over and I imagine myself on a beach somewhere nice and warm until their mouths stop moving and I can change the subject.
When it comes to video, especially when I'm just viewing it on my computer, I just want the stuff to play. It happened to me on Windows and it's now happened to me on my Mac - someone sends me a media format and QuickTime can't play it. I don't know why, nor do I really care all that much. Sure, I'll change my tune at some point when I start getting into video editing on my Mac but that's tomorrow's challenge. Right now what I need is something that let's me play any of the files that people throw at me. Period.
With that simple requirement on my mind and a MOV file that I couldn't watch I looked around for a c…

Mac: Safari Snapback

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Ever wondered what that little orange arrow to the right of the Search Box or Address Box does in Safari? It's the Snapback button. If you perform a search using the search box and then start to navigate through URLs on the page, clicking on Snapback will take you back to the first page that you started navigating away from.
It's actually pretty smart when it comes to Google searches too. Rather than returning you to the first page of your results, it will return you to the point you left the search page through a link. If you go to the second page of search results, then pop into a link, Snapback will take you back to page two of your search.
It also works with bookmarks and addresses in the main address bar.
Having used tabbed browsers for many years the way I normally do a search is by clicking Mouse Button 3 (my scroll wheel button - but Command-Click can work too) on a result link and having that load in a new tab. I'll quickly scan through the links in a search result, …

Mac: Where did my Backspace key go?

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My Mac keyboard has taken a bit of adjusting for me, especially coming from Windows. It's not that it's difficult, just that I still spend a lot of time on my Windows machine and moving between the two keyboards can be a bit frustrating at times.
The MacBook adds to that challenge because it doesn't have some of the keys that I've become used to having on a full size keyboard. Where the Backspace key is on my Windows machine is a key labeled Delete. It performs the same function as a Backspace key on Windows though - so far so good.
The Delete key on my Windows machines (usually Del since it's a small key) doesn't exist on my MacBook. For the first month or so I accepted that I had to move past a letter and back over it with Delete in order to remove it. I like the fact that my keyboard has keys that have a little space between them - cutting down the key count by not including Del, Page up, Page Down, etc. means that I don't have a cramped keyboard like I do…

Mac: Had your Mac a while? Check this out...

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Okay, you may know I'm a noob when it comes to Mac - I haven't even hit the two month mark yet. One of the things that happens when you get a new device like Mac is that you spend a lot of time checking out all the cool features because everything is so new. But what about people that have had their Mac for a while? How do you learn about features that have been added to OS X over the years that slipped by you?
Take a couple of minutes now and read this page:
The 300 Features of Leopard
I've noticed over the last month or so that people often put in comments like "I've been using my Mac for years and didn't know that!" even when I write about some pretty simple stuff. The beauty of the OS X UI is that it does a great job of masking complexity. The reason I love OS X is that if I dig just a little I find all kinds of cool things that are not readily apparent on first glance.
When I go through that list, which I've scanned through many times, I always seem …

Mac: Making Safari open links in a tab

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I've mentioned before that I really like Safari as my default browser, mainly because it's lightning fast, even more so with version 3.1. One of my pet peeves with it is the way it handles opening links that are targeted for a new window.
Links on a web page either go within the current browser window (or tab) or can be targeted to a window - the author of the page determines the target. Web sites will often target a new window because they don't want the user to leave their site. While this is all fine, I personally can't stand having a ton of browser windows open. The tabbed interface model for browsers is perfect for me - I like to open new browser windows as tabs and then be able to quickly switch between them.
There's a setting in Safari that allows you to open any link on a page in a new tab instead of a new browser window. Under Safari / Preferences / Tabs you can select the option that Command-Click opens any link in a new tab. I can also use my Logitech'…

Mac: How quickly does VMware Fusion run my development environment? Very.

Now that I'm back in my home office I figured I'd get Visual Studio 2005 Professional - my primary development environment - properly set up.  This proved a little more time consuming than I thought it would.
Installing and initially configuring Windows XP in a VMwareFusion Virtual Machine (VM) takes a little while. I decided that rather than play around with my existing VM I would build a new one that I could snapshot at key points. Fusion allows you to create a snapshot of your VM at any point in time that you can revert back to if something becomes hosed up - a distinct possibility when installing and configuring a development environment with after-market controls.
I forgot how long it takes to install Windows fresh, even with Fusion giving you a jump start. Not only do you have the 30 or so minutes to do the initial installation, you have to run Windows Update multiple times to get each layer of security patch in place. In my case that was over 100 patches and three full re…

Mac: Going without power

My daughter is home from college for the weekend to celebrate Easter. I always love when she comes home - she really is a fantastic kid. She arrived a little early yesterday and filled me in on what was happening at school. Then she said:
"Daddy..."
When my daughter addresses me as Daddy that means there's a problem. Usually I'm Dad, Dude or "Yo!".  Daddy = not good.
"Daddy, the check engine light on the car came on right before I left campus. My cell phone died and I need to get it fixed. Oh, and I forgot to bring the power supply for my MacBook so I'll need to borrow yours."
I absorbed and slowly processed each of these statements, giving her a vacant look while my brain worked overtime. A check engine light is not good but the car is still under warranty so I'll figure that one out. That damn cell phone is not quite a year old and we had to sign a two year contract when we got the thing since she had to have the built in MP3 player on it. &…

Startup 101: Getting through the tough times

"What comes first - Success or Confidence?"--Marty Schottenheimer
Marty Schottenheimer, the coach of the Washington Redskins back in 2001, started the season 0-5. When trying to explain what was happening with the team, he asked the rhetorical question above to reporters grilling him.
Back in June of 2000 my partners and I had finally pulled it off: we got an initial round of angel funding that would allow us to make WebSurveyor a real business.  Now we could start to hire employees, get some office space and start paying ourselves! It was a heady time - we were running at full speed, buying used furniture, setting up a spacious 1,000 sf office space that would ultimately house 14 people (yeah, it was really tight in there), buying a cheapo phone system, etc. By the end of August we were in our new customized office space, had a handful of employees and were watching our sales take off!
Reality started to hit us two months later. Sure, our sales were growing at a decent pace, j…

Startup 101: Quitting the day job

I mentioned before that I wanted to write about starting up a company and figured this would be a good time to do it. Moving forward I'll put Startup 101 in the title of these posts so that readers that come for my Mac experience won't have to sift through these if they don't want to. My hope though is that everyone can gain some value from this; if not for specific advice on how to build a company from scratch but for the stories that come from those experiences.
Don't worry - I will keep writing about Mac too!

Getting Started In September of 1997 I decided that I wanted to create something that would leverage the internet. The Dot Com era was really starting to take off and with the internet I saw a tremendous opportunity to create rich Windows based applications that would leverage the power of a common network accessible by anyone.
By day I was a mild mannered User Interface Architect, responsible for developing user interface concepts and models for the technology div…

Mac: VMWare Fusion and Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition

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I'm traveling right now and don't have access to all of my normal development tools but since I do have my handy MacBook I figured I would try a little experiment. Here's what I have set up right now:

VMWare Fusion Windows XP SP2, fully patched Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition
I allocated 1GB of RAM to the VM for Windows XP and it worked great - plenty of headroom to run applications. I've said it before but it bears repeating since I know based on the comments that a few people that are Windows folks are considering trying out a Mac:
Windows runs really well, even on my lowly little MacBook. I did bump my memory up to 4GB, which I think is really important, but standard Windows applications (not games mind you - not even attempting that on a MacBook) work great.
To maximize screen real estate - really important on a MacBook - I run Windows XP in full screen mode. This still allows me to access spaces easily. 
I was able to get Visual Studio 2008 Express installed…

There is a storm coming on the web...

... and Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software and the author of the blog Joel on Software has summed it up in a brilliant post on his blog. It's a little long but if you are a web developer or are even mildly interested in what is happening with web standards you really should read Martian Headsets. Be patient and read through his analogy because in the second half of the article he gets to the root of the problem.
This issue is important to Mac users because like it or not many sites continue to use IE as the standard for building their web sites. If you want to create a web site - or more importantly web application - that includes more advanced features like menu systems, JavaScript driven controls, etc. then the coming release of IE 8 could have a dramatic impact on how you construct your site. Joel gives a great background to the whole issue.
As I am currently in the process of building a web based application for public use it has a huge impact on me. Should I compromise the appl…

Mac: Have you tried using the Option key?

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I'm not sure that everyone reads the comments in this blog but for those that don't sgt-phail mentioned something that I think is worth putting a quick post in about: using the Option key while performing actions with menus. It opens up a lot of different options for the same menu items in most of the native OS X apps. Try it in Finder, Safari, etc.
What I like is that it's very dynamic. I can pull down (or pop up) a menu and while it's displayed hit the Option key and the menu immediately changes. I don't have to be holding down Option initially to see the variations.
One of the reasons I really like the OS X UI is that it does a wonderful job of providing features in a progressive disclosure model that works for me. While I was just starting out on my Mac nearly everything I needed was right there. Once I needed to do something off the beaten path I just had to dig a little bit and the next layer of options became available to me.
I realize that this kind of capabil…

Changing the default PDF viewer

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Last week a friend sent me a PDF that had some rich content embedded in it; a small video that Mac Preview would not let me see. I really like Preview but figured I might as well grab the free Acrobat Reader so that I could view the more advanced PDFs people were creating.
Adobe Acrobat Reader is a pretty big install but after doing so I was able to see the PDF file - and its embedded video - just fine. There was a catch though; Acrobat is slower than Preview and now it was my default PDF viewer.
For the life of me I could not figure out how to make Preview my default viewer again. I right clicked on a PDF file and from the pop-up menu selected Open With - the sub menu that appeared allowed me to open it in Preview but not set that as the default.
At this point I did what I always do - Google up the problem and look for a solution. One of the first solutions I found was to use RCDefaultApp - a preferences pane add-in that allows you to see and set the default applications for file types,…

Ever wonder what happens when you get Dugg?

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I started up this blog in early February, the day after I got my MacBook. It was going to be cathartic for me - something to break up the time I was spending while building the foundation for my next company. 
Because I included a reference to my blog in my sigs at Mac-Forums I started getting a little traffic. With friends and the folks from that forum popping in I was averaging about 20 unique visitors a day. The nice folks at Digital Apple Juice asked if they could reprint my blog there. Sure, why not? That also generated some traffic.
I was running Google Analytics and, other than a mental lapse for a couple days in late February where I removed the tracking script, my traffic looked like this:
Up to this point in time I had 716 visits and 1,441 page views. It was simply bubbling along.

I noticed that the folks at Digital Apple Juice were getting digs on their articles so I figured I'd try that myself. I added the little Digg box in the top right of my templates and submitted my f…

Where did all my disk space go? Disk Inventory X tells you

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I recently bumped up the disk storage on my MacBook. The 120GB stock drive could not handle all of the things I wanted to do on the machine. Between my photo collection, videos for editing and all the software I've been trying out, I needed more space. So I got as much disk as would fit (at the time) into my MacBook: a 320GB drive from Western Digital. Formatted it dropped down to just under 300GB but that was plenty of space for what I needed.
I became very cavalier about my disk usage since I had so much and just 6 weeks into my Mac experience I was burning up over 240GB of disk space! Okay, a lot of that was video but there's a lot of other things in there too.
Paul, a commenter on one of my blog posts recommended that I try out Disk Inventory X, a tool for determining where all the space went. Disk Inventory X builds a graphical tree of where your disk space is being used and gives you some basic management capabilities while in there - which is deleting files for the most p…

Gmail Notifier for Mac

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Since I made the switch to Gmail as my primary e-mail tool I had settled into what I figured was a good model. I would leave Safari running Gmail up in a window and then have Mail running in another "Space", polling my e-mail through the IMAP interface.
I liked this because Mail then kept all of my mail synchronized locally. If I unplugged for a bit and needed to grab a message, most of my mail was current and I could get to it. I still use Safari and the Gmail interface to create and generally read my messages though.
The problem is Google's implementation of IMAP apparently leaves much to be desired. What I found in Mail was that if I sent it from Mail a new label was created in Gmail called Sent Messages. I didn't really like that. In addition the Junk Email filter in Mail was getting false-positives on some of my e-mail, and a new label called Junk Email was created in my Gmail account; Mail would move what it considered junk into that label.
So, in the end it has b…

Windows vs Mac - can't we all just get along?

In the spring of 1992 I lived in Los Angeles, Ca. Not long after the riots commenced Rodney King, the man beaten by LAPD officers and the incident that proved the flash point for the riots, made the now famous plea "Can't we all just get along?"
It simply amazes me how people become so religious about a particular topic, especially the now painfully tired Windows vs Mac debate. Both platforms have advantages and disadvantages. I used to hate Mac - mainly because it was yet another platform I had to support as a developer. I would spend extraordinary amounts of time to craft a great application, only to have a vocal minority of the population complain that it wouldn't work on their Macs.
When that happened I did what any other normal, rational person would do. I ignored them. They didn't represent enough of a financial opportunity for me to even consider developing there.
The emergence of the web as an application platform nullified that debate to a large degree, at …

Now I want to buy my wife a Mac

I am married to a wonderful woman - for the last 21 years I've been blessed with a fantastic life partner. She's a brilliant lady with several graduate degrees to her credit, an accomplished attorney and teacher, someone that has succeeded in virtually everything she has set out to do. She even pulled all this off while we raised three incredible children. 
Unfortunately she's had me to serve as her technical crutch for the last two decades so she's never really become proficient with computers. Sure, she can buy stuff on the web as well as anyone can and she's gotten pretty good with e-mail since I switched her to Gmail but outside of that...
She has an HP Laptop running Windows XP - it's about 2 years old. I've got the thing pretty well protected, paying my annual mob "protection" money to anti-virus vendors to keep her machine safe since even though I warn her not to click on everything people send her she still manages to install crap on the mac…

iPhoto vs Picasa

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One of the things I imagined would be a no-brainer when I started using my Mac was that all my photo work would be done on it. After all, Apple makes a pretty big deal that iLife (with iPhoto, iMovie, etc) is great for managing media like that. The reality is that it's been more difficult than I thought it would be.
For a non-professional photographer I take a lot of photos, especially when playing tourist. I have an excellent "Prosumer" camera: the Canon 30D, with a few decent lenses. I've got just over 19K pictures in my library and up to this point in time I used Picasa, the free photo management solution from Google.
Picasa has been wonderful for me. It does exactly what I need it to do which is ride herd on my photo collection. It tracks my folders just like I have them on disk, creates a huge contact sheet that I can scroll through very quickly and allows me to do quick and dirty editing. Most of my editing is removing the occasional red-eye and adjusting lightin…