End of an era

  • Steve doesn't do the keynote: Not a huge suprise -- They've been backing him off the one man show stick for a while.
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RapidWeaver 4.2 & RapidBlog

Hi All,
If you are using RapidWeaver 4.2 & Rapidblog you might see some problems uploading pictures.  I've put up a release that *should* fix it here
The reason it's not available on sparkle or the download section is I am still waiting for some testing results -- if you try it and see any problems let me know.
-John
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Crazy?

In the last 4-6 months I've worked on three seperate iPhone apps.  The previous two attempts were aborted when I saw something very similar appear in the app store.
This time is different... I'm making practice and the app is actually usable to me today.  I'm currently trying to line up help with artwork and putting some finishing touches on feature set but it's close, very close.
So what changed?  Did I think of an idea so freakishly creative that no one else has done it?
Sadly, no.  Initially I thought it was unique but I know of at least three other apps with very similar functionality but this time I've actively ignored them.  Yes, thats right, instead of doing the 'sane' thing of looking at the other products and thinking how I could do it better I've ignored them -- I know they exist but I'm choosing to pretend they don't.  I intend to ignore them up until the point I'm done and then maybe, just maybe, I'll take a peek (to make sure what I push out to the app store is at least competitive)
It's crazy but its working -- I'm happily working on my app with my head in the sand.  It's kind of like having a baby and not finding out the sex.  You get a planned suprise -- Completely rationale? perhaps not but it's the only way I can keep from giving up.
I'll post again when It's up in the app store (or, if I give up I'll post and let you know why)
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Loving me some chrome

Unless you have been under a rock you have heard about Google's new browser Chrome.
Well, not new exactly, it uses WebKit the same rendering engine that we know & love in Safair (really, webkit is amazingly well done) but they added their own goodies.
Right now it's Windows only (Mac & Linux "Real Soon Now") but after installing it yesterday I can say it's replaced Firefox as my windows browser.
Unlike Safari for Windows Google hasn't tried to port a mac app to windows.  The have made a windows browswer on Webkit which is a much more satisfying experience.   Add to that the process-per-tab and slick way they drag in & out coupled with WebKit's already very good rendering speed and the new javascript V8 engine and you have, well, a very compelling product.
I've been a diehard safari user for the last year on the Mac but I'll likely be using Chrome when it comes out on the Mac.
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RapidBlog quick tip #1

Want to search by categories using "And"? Put a slash between them..
So for instance in my blog you can look for my 'Mac' categories this way.
and my "misc' categories this way.
And posts that are both this way
You should be able to combine them with multiple "/" between them.
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A bunch of small items

I've had a bunch of small things I've wanted to blog about but I've never quite gotten the energy up to start. In the interest of you, my dear reader, I decided to pull a few smaller things together into one blog First a bit of news. The Pope is still catholic, bears do their business in the woods and Apple is planning a September Special Event that will involve ipods. It boggles the mind that anyone would expect apple NOT to have a special event as they have clearly demonstrated a yearly cycle for iPods and quite frankly for consumer products like this they *have* to follow a yearly cycle, 'nuff said. Next up: 3G or not to 3G? I purchased a 3G iphone (white) and like most folks discovered it runs through batteries faster, and I mean much faster, than my 2G. Now as it turns out I know a bit about cell phone design and RF stuff and I can provide a bit of insight into why this is. You see a '2G' iphone is GSM based which is also known as constant modulation. What this means is that the processing of the signal is very simple and power amp (the part of the circuit that boosts the signal when you talk) can be very, very efficient because you can run it highly compressed. Enter 3G: 3G is none of these things, it's a very complex signal that requires a *lot* of baseband processing (that's one of the ways they get the zippy speeds) and the power amp is not nearly as effecient becuase you need to operate it in a mode that wastes more power. The unfortunate thing is that for voice there is *no* difference between 3G & non 3G talking (it doesn't sound any better at all) but it's all or nothing if your radio is in 3G mode for data it *has* to be in 3G mode for voice which means you loose power even though you don't get any benefit (sad really) Of course Apple thoughtfully added a switch to turn off 3G and it *does* return the phone to it's good old power situation but that sort of defeats the purpose of buying a brand new 3G phone, no? What I'd like to see them do is add a turbo feature. Look, if I'm not talking and the phone notices a *lot* of internet traffic, I'd like the phone to switch from 2G to 3G.. If after a while it notices no more traffic it can switch back. It takes some time (5-20 seconds) to switch between modes but that strikes me as a very reasonable way to allow for good battery life and fast data transfers when I need it. Then there is Apple TV vs. the Roku Netflix box. Honestly I've used them both and they both have pluses and minuses. On the Apple TV the only Minus is the fact that you have to pay for everything -- Look I only want to watch Weeds season 2 episode 3 one time in my life I really don't need to purchase it. I would happily pay a subscription fee to get unlimited access to movies & tvs. That is where the netflix box is brilliant. For the cost of membership you get access to lots of content unlimited -- to be sure not all of it is first run content but a suprising amount of it is useful (for example you can watch the aforementioned weeds on it) Finally the app store. Is it just me or does it feel like working in a windows environment? Lot's of stupid apps useless apps, shady developers (such as the 'one ebook per app' guy and the unit conversation that switched to paid or the fellow with the $1000 "I am rich"), toss in the user rating system with such witty ratings as "Epic Fail", "This app is way overpriced at $1.99, should be free", etc. -- I'm actually in development of two apps for the phone but that marketplace really turns me off, on the upside I have a new appreciation for my mac customers who are in general a much better breed of person than the average iPhone user... Ok, 'nuff for now.
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WWDC

I'm headed off to WWDC starting Monday so support (both in the RW forums as well as email) will be slower than usual. I'll try my best but it's a pretty intensive week. Everyone loves doing predictions so I thought I would throw out a few to the googlesphere. The only sure bet is a 3G iphone. I'm willing to bet serious money on this, I mean comeon -- Apple is out of stock, AT&T is out of stock, rumors are rampant and it's been a year. I do hope beyond 3G they get a GPS in there along with more memory (32GB) and (ideally) I'd like to see video camera functionality (to capture short clips) with perhaps a upload to youtube? In term of OS's when I first heard the 'snow leopard' rumors I thought "This sounds crazy, 10.6 has no features, just stability & performance?" but when I sit back it makes a certain amount of crazy sense. Security is increasingly important and in the mobile space even more so. Also, Apple has been really pushing scripting languages for development (Leopard has this cool scripting bridge for instance) and it's 'widely reported' that the iPhone SDK includes a LLVM version of gcc so it's clear they are thinking of changing the compiler technology -- why not go to something like bytecode LLVM for 'most' applications to allow easier sandboxing? My other thought on 10.6 is the first release of the OS without PPC support will bring howls of pain from folks. If you make it a 'feature lite' version release people will have less room to complain. Finally factor in apple actually *wants* you to upgrade your computer so it's in their interest to kill ppc as fast as they can. What about the rumored 'slate' computer? To me it sounds pretty nice in concept and I'd buy it (I love the iphone but the screen is small) -- My ideal would be something about the size of the Amazon Kindle with a long battery life that can be a web browser/e-book reader/mail client. Having said that I don't think they'll introduce it next week.. iPhone 2.0? Probably not next week but it will be out in june so no biggie there. Apple TV updates? They'll announce 48hour rentals iTunes? Nothing to see here, move along folks. Macs? Maybe a small bump but nothing big here. "one more thing"? -- I don't expect much here -- I'd love to be proven wrong however. Regardless of what they announce I'm still pretty excited about WWDC -- I really enjoyed it last year and I expect this to be as much fun.
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Roku Netflix box rocks


Got netflix? Live in the US? have a spare $99?

Get the roku netflix box. this is a little box that attaches to your network and to your TV and lets you watch any one of netflix's 'watch instantly' titles (currently 10,000 are available)

Previously this feature of netflix was not terribly interesting because

  1. It was PC only (you had to run IE)
  2. Watching movies on a Computer in general sucks
With the addition of this little Roku box you can watch movies on your nice flat panel. You just add the movies you want to watch to your 'instant' que and they show up on your box.

I hesitated ordering it since I've heard the netflix streaming service is poor quality and I already own a apple TV but at $99 (with a 30 day return policy) I figure it was worth a risk. I'm so glad I took that risk as it's really exceeded my expectations.

First the setup: The box attaches to your TV over HDMI or composite or regular RCA and attaches to your network wirelessly or wired. In my case I used HDMI & wireless. After booting up it asks you to enter you wireless password and then downloads an updated firmware, installs the firmware and then reboots -- This entire process took perhaps 3-4 minutes.

After rebooting it tells you to go to netflix.com/activate and enter a code (while logged into your netflix account) -- This takes perhaps a minute and now boom! You can watch movies.

The movies you add to your que show up in a coverflow'ish layout that you scroll across, as you add more movies they sort of 'magically' appear (I wonder how often they check for updates? It seems to pick them up pretty fast) When you click on a movie you get the option to watch it, rate it, delete it (from you que) or (for series) you can change which in the series to watch.

Once you hit 'watch' it starts streaming. On my network over a cable modem it takes maybe 20-30 seconds to start up --- you get a little quality indicator as it's buffering and then the movies starts.

Once concern I heard about was the lack of hard drive and fact that it was pure streaming meant you can't FF/Rewind. This is (strictly speaking) true but it's not really an issue. When you hit FF/Rewind thumbnails pop up of the different scenes -- you can scroll backwards and forwards to find the scene you want, hit play and resume watching. It's not quite as nice as a DVD or apple TV but honestly it works fine.

The big concern I had, however, was the quality -- I had this horrible vision of poor quality really making it unusable. I'm happy to report that the quality is really quite good. They claim 'near DVD' and I tend to believe them. To my eye it's better than standard definition TV but not quite as good as HD -- however the main point is it's totally watchable. We qued up a few shows last night and with moments of starting you forget you are streaming this over the internet -- it's that good.

The nice thing is the box is HD equipped so when netflix slips the switch it'll start output HD quality (right now it outputs in standard def) -- I've not seen publicly them commit to delivering HD movies but the hardware is capable of it (they even mention in the roku faq that it's ready for HD -- I'm looking forward to that switch happening but even if they never do it I'm still pretty happy with it.

Finally the selection. Netflix claims 10,000 movies and they do have a lot -- it's a bit of mismash, tons of older movies and TV shows but a sprinkling of newer things. They probably won't (ever) have hot new releases (like the Apple TV) has but even with the current lineup most people should be able to find something worth watching -- Assuming they continue to gain the rights to add shows this should not be a huge problem (for the record last night we watched snippets from "The Music Man", "My Girl","Heroes Season 1" and (for the kids) "Scooby Doo Hawaiian adventure")

I'd love to see the Apple TV get this kind of functionality -- While I enjoy watching video podcasts on it and I've enjoyed a number of movies (gotta love the ability to zip new DVD releases) there is something so freeing about being able to pick from a huge library in an all you can eat plan like netflix gives you. Given that the netflix subscription for the DVD rentals includes the instant access for free it's a winner.

Highly recommended.
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Loghound Plugins & RapidWeaver 4.0

First of all I'm using a new feature of RapidBlog -- I set the 'date' in the future (4:30 to be exact). Because of RapidBlog's dynamic nature that means at exactly 4:00 in the morning my time (which is no doubt some reasonable hour in the UK) this post will appear. This is good for two reasons.
  • I don't want to spoil the launch of RW4.0
  • I don't want to be up at 4:00 in the morning
The main point of this post is to point out that all of my plugins have been upgraded to work with RW4.0. With the exception of RapidBlog they all needed some sort of change (RapidFlickr seems to work perfectly as is!). I'll also point out that all plugins work fine in RW3.6 and RW4.0 so if you want to upgrade the plugins but don't want to upgrade RW4.0 right away you should be safe. So just for reference here is the list of plugins and required version numbers for use in RW4.0 (again they all work in RW3.6)
RapidBlog Version 1.54 (or greater)
RapidFlickr Version 1.29u (or greater)
Lockdown Version 1.76u (or greater)
PlusKit Version 1.40 (or greater)
FaqMaker Version 1.08 (or greater)
SiteMap Version 1.61u (or greater)
Of course as the RW4.0 floodgates open up it's possible that other problems will be found, so keep an eye on the loghound plugin RSS feed for any critical updates. Happy Weaving!
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Thanks Adam!

I've mentioned a few times that I came to the mac late in life (so to speak) and for the longest time described myself as a 'switcher' but I've been involved for a few years now and don't think that way much anymore (unless of course i'm hanging around someone like Isaiah and he starts talking about 'system 7' which makes me glaze over -- system wha?)
The point to the above (and I do have one) is that when I first got involved with the mac was around the time podcasts started getting big (this is before they were in iTunes) and the first podcast I listened to on a regular basis was a little one called the maccast.  It was a godsend to help me figure out which way was up on a Mac and I even emailed Adam a few times (to which he always answered -- a real class guy)
So imagine my suprise when he started talking about mac blog clients and he starts talking about choices, yes you have blogger, or wordpress but for mac specific you might consider Rapidweaver with (ta da) the RapidBlog plugin!  I was driving back from monterey when I heard this and I practically hit the car in front of me (not recommended by the way)
Good fun -- check it out here (toward the end) -- by the way, I'd recommend you subscribe to the maccast (as well as Macbreak weekly) if you are inclined towards podcasts.
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