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Showing posts from January, 2009

Switching to an ergonomic keyboard - the Microsoft Natural 4000

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When I bought my Mac Pro last year I used it to replace my Windows XP system. Since I already had a great pair of Samsung 204B displays and a Logitech Mx510 Gaming Mouse that I really liked I figured I'd just keep using them. I personally couldn't stand the Apple Mighty Mouse - I love all the buttons I get on the Logitech too much and with SteerMouse I could customize it as much as I liked.

The remaining item for input was the keyboard. My Mac Pro came with a full size aluminum keyboard and typing on it was acceptable. Since I had been using a MacBook quite a bit up to that point in time I wanted to use a Mac style keyboard, one that had the keys aligned properly for Mac users. Windows keyboards generally have the following keys along the lower left side:


Full size Mac keyboards on the other hand use:


The swapping of the the two keys between the Control and Space Bar means a lot of fumbling for different keys, especially for a heavy keyboard user like me. Since I've now ingra…

Skitch makes it easy to annotate pics

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Though Skitch has apparently been around for a while now I didn't hear about it until I saw a Merlin Mann's video on how he has his Mac desktop set up. For those that don't follow Merlin's stuff you really should.

Since I tend to write about software that I find for my Mac quite a bit I drop in a lot of screen shots. Since Macs have an excellent built in screen capture capability I often just used that, pushing Command-Shift-4 to activate it and drop the resulting capture as a PNG on my desktop. I would then take the PNG and load it up into my graphics editor (usually GIMP), then crop or edit the image. If I wanted to annotate the image with highlights or callouts I would use the line drawing tools which were a bit of a challenge.

This is where Skitch really shines. You can capture an image just as easily as with the built in Mac capture tools but this give you an editable surface that allows you to quickly crop, resize and annotate the image with really simple tools.


I w…

Reflections on my first Mac

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With all the talk of the 25th anniversary of the Mac I started to wax nostalgic about my original Mac experience.

Though my blog got a lot of page views last year because of my switch from Windows to Mac, the reality is the little white MacBook I bought in February of 2008 was not actually my first Mac. From '83-'84 I worked at a small retail computer chain in Southern California named Sun Computers (not Sun Microsystems). We sold IBMs, Compaqs, DECs and Apples.

When the Mac was introduced Apple provided special training to the authorized dealers and I went off for a day of presentations in early '84. At the end of the presentation Apple gave us all forms that allowed us to purchase one Mac directly from Apple for a ridiculously low price. We could get a 128K Mac, an Image Writer dot matrix printer and a padded carrying case (for the Mac). To be honest I don't even remember the price, though it was considerably lower than its $2,500 retail price; so low that I quickly to…

iStat Server - remotely monitoring your Mac

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I've always been a big fan of iStat menus, the freeware system monitoring utility. It's a great way to quickly see what's going on with my Mac, whether it's CPU, disk or memory utilization, temperature, etc.

Bjango, the iPhone side of iSlayer (producers of iStat menus), has recently released iStat Server, a free Mac application that runs in the background. It sends your Mac's system monitoring information to your iPhone for actual monitoring. On the iPhone side you buy the $1.99 iStat - System Monitoring application, which then connects with your Mac and displays your monitoring information on your iPhone.

If you want to remotely monitor one or more of your Macs for the ridiculously affordable price of $2 then this is a very cool set up.

The first step is to download and install iStat Server on any of the Macs you want to monitor. Once installed and running you will get the main iStat Server window:


It will display a code that you will need to enter on your iPhone once…

Switching challenges: the Page Up / Page Down key

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It has been nearly a year since I switched from Windows to Mac. In the past I've written that among the more difficult things I encountered in the switch was the behavior of the keyboard:
Little adjustments - from Windows to Mac
Mac: Have you tried using the Option key?
Mac: Where did my Backspace key go?
Windows to Mac keystroke mapping - a quick guide
In spite of all this attention there was one key stroke combination group that I missed and it didn't get to me until very recently: the behavior of the Page Up and Page Down keys. On the Windows and Ubuntu based systems I have handy the Page Up and Page Down key perform the following action: Page Down/Page Up in a non-editing viewport (web browser, help system, etc) and the viewing window scrolls Down or Up by a screen. If however you are in an editable surface (like a text editor) and hit Page Down/Page Up it moves the screen and the cursor.

This is different than the behavior on a Mac. The Mac Page Down / Page Up keys (fn-Down Arr…

The Snowball: a high-end mic for my Mac

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Lately I've been trying to build up some screencasts and found that the little RocketFish microphone I had was woefully inadequate. I had to doctor up the sound considerably with Audacity just to get it to come across reasonably well.

My friend Bob (who happily shares his marketing expertise) let me borrow his professional setup, complete with a Tascam US-122, a Sennheiser mic, filter and large desktop stand. He used to do professional voice-over work and after getting it up and running the difference was simply stunning.

Though I liked Bob's setup, it was a little too much for my modest needs. Since I'm not an audiophile or accoustics expert I just wanted something that approximated the sound quality of a professional setup in a nice little USB based package. I hit up the local Apple store and the gentleman that was responsible for high-end creative applications said some good things about the Blue Snowball USB Microphone. I jumped up to Amazon and bought one.

Enter the Snow…

Using Twitter to really help someone

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I've been using Twitter for the better part of 6 months now and have found it to be a compelling way to network with other people. Sure, it can be a fantastic waste of time if you let it but so can nearly every other internet technology. I use Twitter for a wide range of things, from asking about which photo management tool to use, following key people that talk about topics I'm interested in on through BS'ing with my friends on different topics. There's something about limiting the conversation to 140 character statements that keeps everything very focused.

It's hard to understand the impact that this form of networking can have outside of how it impacts you directly. Can Twitter really be used to connect people together quickly? Last night I ran across something that was pretty cool. This tweet came across my Tweetdeck "Friends" feed last night:
From @jtnt:
RT @MackCollier: Pleas help @armano help out a friend in need (pleas RT if you can) - http://tinyurl…

First Impressions: Picasa for Mac

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When I switched from Windows to Mac nearly a year ago the only thing that I really missed from Windows was Picasa, Google's free photo management software. I've struggled getting iPhoto to work the way I wanted it to. I had used it for years and since I take a LOT of digital photos I have a pretty extensive photo library for a non-professional (25K photos, 55GB of disk space that span the past 8 years). Today Google released the beta version of Picasa for Mac and I immediately set about installing it and checking it out.

Here are my first impressions of Picasa for Mac.

Picasa is very comparable to iPhoto in terms of functionality. It indexes all of your photos and presents them in a scalable film strip interface. You can double click on a picture and it will zoom in to it. When I first loaded up Picasa and had it index my photos it took about 25 minutes to find them all; on my dual processor Mac Pro the CPUs barely moved while this was going on. The quality of the thumbnail imag…