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Showing posts from April, 2009

TweetDeck vs Nambu vs Tweetie

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I've become quite attached to Twitter lately, as several of my blog posts will attest. I use it for a wide range of things; a source of news (technical and non-technical), to chat with friends and share things I find of interest, to ask and answer questions on Macs, Ruby on Rails, etc. and finally to banter about my favorite sports teams (Redskins and Caps, thank you very much).

Given this wide range of uses I tend to be accessing my Twitter feeds throughout the day and the web interface simply doesn't handle things the way I need it to. As a result I use a custom client to access Twitter. A custom client presents Tweets in their own interface, accessing the data through the Twitter API. You drop in your Twitter username and password and the custom client takes over from there, presenting you with a view of your Tweets and the ability to create them as well.

Over the last few months I've tried a number of different Twitter clients for my Mac. First it was TweetDeck, an Adob…

OpenDNS, a great free way to speed up the interwebs

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Last night I was doing some research and went to pull up the Ruby On Rails site. Unfortunately when I did I could not connect. My DNS server wasn't resolving it properly. Assuming it was Verizon's problem I embarked on a long and ultimately fruitless attempt to find out why rubyonrails.org was not resolving. While doing this I tweeted about it and suddenly got responses from people explaining that there were some problems with that domain name. It wasn't the Verizon DNS server after all.

So Twitter helped me out, but that wasn't the end of the assistance. Chad Hohner (@hohner) told me about using OpenDNS, something that will help improve network performance (at least as it relates to name resolution). I figured it was worth a try and changed the DNS on my Mac Pro to using OpenDNS's servers. The performance improvement for me was dramatic, so much so that I changed back to the Verizon servers, flushed my DNS cache and started testing different sites. I then switched …

Baby Shaking Apps and Other Challenges for Apple's App Store

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My wife and I were going through our morning routine, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper when suddenly she said "I can't believe Apple!". We share many core beliefs—especially on politics—so I usually give her a nod, offer a "Yup" and continue reading my section.

Me: "What about Apple?"

Wife: "They have a shaking baby iPhone application!!! This is outrageous!"

Me: "Honey, Apple didn't make that application."

Wife: "Well they had it in the App Store. That's just stupid."

I completely understand that Apple is generating some significant revenue from their App Store sales and that it has become a major part of their strategy moving forward. The problem as I see it is that Apple is putting itself in a very precarious position. Instead of just worrying about whether or not the application will break an iPhone, chew up resources, etc. Apple now has to worry about the content.

The problem as I see it is two-fold: Apple…

Keeping those bookmarks synchronized

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I'm torn. On one hand I like Firefox because of the incredible array of add-ons, especially for developers building web applications. On the other hand I love the performance I get from Safari and with the release of the version 4 public beta many of the new features. As a result I find myself jumping between the two browsers all the time, often keeping both open (one for browsing, one for my current web development project).

Compound this with the fact that I have two Macs I use frequently—a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro for meetings and travel—and my bookmarks are all over the place. I even have Firefox running on my Ubuntu workstation and would like my bookmarks there too. Fortunately I found a great solution for this problem: X-Marks.

Though it started out as an add-in for Firefox they recently changed their name from FoxMarks to X-Marks and have started adding more browser support. They now have a Safari add-on and this has solved my little bookmark problem.

X-Marks is backed by a f…

Two tips for Tabbing your way through a Mac

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When I switched to Mac from Windows I had an adjustment period. The window model is a bit different, the menu is in a different location, the Dock Bar != the Start menu, etc. Those all took a little adjustment period but I quickly overcame them as obstacles to productivity. By far the longest adjustment period involved the use of the keyboard and more specifically the use of the Tab key.

For all of the keyboard power of a Mac (shortcuts are virtually everywhere) the Tab key seems to be forgotten on most Mac keyboards, yet that is probably the most used navigation key on Windows. Here are a couple of tips for making your Mac keyboard experience leverage the Tab key:

Enabling Tabbing
The first thing you will want to do is to enable tabbing in dialog/pop-up windows. For some reason Apple decided to make that an option you need to manually enable in order to tab your way through all of the controls on a modal dialog. You can change this by going to System Preferences / Keyboard & Mouse /…

Nambu makes Twitter feel natural for Mac users

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For a while now I've been using TweetDeck to access my Twitter account. While I love many of the features that TweetDeck has made popular I always struggle with the UI. Though it's quite usable the fact that it's built on top of Adobe Air means it doesn't look quite right on my Mac's OS X desktop.

I've tried a number of different Twitter clients for Mac but none worked quite as well as TweetDeck did for me. Then along came Nambu, which is still in beta. Nambu looks and feels like a normal OS X application. The design is similar to TweetDeck in some respects but has some key enhancements that make it much more powerful.

Multiple Twitter Accounts
I have two Twitter accounts that I use: dalison and sharedstatus. The former is my personal account where I ramble on about my blog, Macs, sports and things I find amusing on the Interwebs. The latter is an account for my main product and I use it to announce features and generally cover business related topics. Fortunately…

My top 5 ways to make Twitter better

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I'm finding myself using Twitter more and more these days and not for putting out tweets about what I'm doing at the moment. Twitter is slowly replacing my RSS reader as my vehicle of choice for news I care about, whether it's general, technical, Mac specific or sports related. I've used it to promote my new company (SharedStatus), chat with friends about topics I care about, help people with Mac and Ruby on Rails specific questions and generally build up a network of people I like to chat and network with. I can ask a question on Twitter and usually get an answer almost immediately.

For these and lots of other reasons I've found Twitter to be a great addition to my online experience. While I really like Twitter I know it can be improved so here are my top 5 features/changes for making Twitter better:

1) Make ReTweets fundamental
ReTweets (usually abbreviated RT in tweets) are likely the most powerful networking component of Twitter. When you find something of value y…

MacHeist 3 Bundle - some great apps

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In the unlikely event you haven't heard of the MacHeist 3 Bundle allow me to introduce you.

MacHeist is a collection of applications available for a dramatically reduced price. A significant portion of the proceeds go to a variety of 10 different charities, which you can designate when you purchase or simply let MacHeist evenly distribute to all.

I've heard some people complain that this devalues ISV software, a claim I find ridiculous. The single most challenging problem every ISV faces is getting people to learn about their software. The more people that are exposed to it, the more likely you are to "get the word out". It also gives the ISVs the opportunity to be associated with a really good cause; as I write this blog post over $342K have been raised for charities. Everyone wins in this scenario; the buyers gets a great deal, the ISVs get some great exposure and the charities get money at a time when donations have dropped precipitously during this economic recessi…

Need to shorten URLs? Give Bit.ly a try

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I always ignored URL shortening services in the past; what was the point? My e-mail systems always seemed to handle URLs automatically, forums that I frequented usually shortened the URLs for me and more often than not if I needed a URL in a blog post I created a hyperlink. It wasn't until I started using Twitter quite a bit that I started to appreciate a really small URL. When you have 140 characters to express your thoughts and you are as verbose as I am, every single character counts.

Not long ago I noticed a buddy using Bit.ly to shorten his URLs. Up until then I always thought of TinyURL.com but 5 fewer characters in the domain name alone is substantial so I thought I'd give it a try. I give it my long URL, it gives me back a short URL and then I send that out to people. End of story, right?

Well, not quite. Bit.ly does two things that have made it a top service for me, one that I use frequently and recommend to friends. The first is that they provide a small JavaScript lin…