New Dell Ultrasharp

Ultrasharp

I bought a new Dell monitor recently and despite what must be the worst out of box experience I have ever seen, you basically have to destroy the box to take the monitor out, it feels like a pretty descent purchase all around.

Except for one thing …

The bottom of the stand and the monitors bezel are unaligned and it drives me crazy. Dell really needs to work on their attention to detail and QA.

I’d return it but other than the fact that the box was nearly destroyed, it’s a real hassle to return products bought online.


Little Bits


A bit like sketching in hardware. Love it.

LittleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers.

littleBits


Software Updates and Such

I’m spending about a day in total updating and installing software on my Macs. It’s a tedious task and one which no longer has the excitement that it used to. It’s certainly different from years ago when I waited excitedly over the next release of Netscape. The latest interface hacks for System 7 were pretty fun too. I don’t think I have installed anything fun in ages – except perhaps for Quinn which allows you to play Tetris over a Rendezvous network.
Yesterday afternoon included a visit from my favourite Mac consultant to get me up to speed on Adobe InDesign and print publishing workflow in general. My head is so into using screen interfaces I forgot that people still love publishing on paper. The people who read these publications must be quite rich as the prices of magazines in Taiwan are out of this world. At least the foreign ones, but then who wants to read the drivel they publish locally.

Installing PHP and MySQL on Mac OSX

This afternoon I am finally getting around to creating a development environment on my Powerbook – as luck would have it, some kind people have actually created regular OS X installer packages, all you need to do is double click the package and follow the on screen instructions.
First is the PHP5 package by Marc Liyanage which comes with a number of additional libraries. Otherwise their is MAMP. It’s basically Apache, PHP, MySQL & phpmyadmin rolled into a single install for OS X. MAMP does not modify any of the “normal” OS X (which includes Apache and PHP by default).


Trying to keep Mobile

There seems to be some strange goings on today on the Inter-web here in Taiwan which is making me doubt my decision on signing up with Strongspace for offsite back-ups. Uploads seem to be a problem lately with even the smallest of files – it took an hour for me to eventually upload a single 50k image file through ftp or browser client. If I have problems with small images it makes me wonder if nightly multi-gig backups will be feasible. Taiwan generally has great consumer level broadband service which is usually only hampered by poor “last mile” infrastructure (if you would see the lousy job done on phone and electrical installations here you would understand). Luckily Strongspace is cheap, very cheap, so giving it try is basically no risk at all.
I was once a .Mac subscriber but the amount of storage and lack of good customer service has driven me to using Strongspace and Gmail. It will be interesting to see how my increased reliance on web applications plays out as I travel and across the various hinterlands of Asia.


Gmail invites

For the longest time using a web application as your primary means of accessing e-mail was certain to be an experience full of frustration. I could never understand why people used them; they are slow, full of ads, difficult to manage, and especially with Hotmail customer adverse. When dealing with large volumes of e-mail client software always wins hands down. That is until Gmail.
While I still use Apple Mail, at least for now, Gmail is in many respects superior. I find it faster in almost every regard and especially so when searching (makes some sense since it’s google). Ask Apple mail to find a search term and it grinds to an almost standstill on my powerbook. Gmail handles the same request with ease.
The point of mentioning this, beyond a bit of praise for Google, is that like everyone else with a Gmail account, I have invites. About 50 more invites than I have friends. If your interested in an invite send me a note at kelake at gmail.com


Tasks 2.0 where art thou

Ok. It just arrived – quickly after I sent a message via his contact form. I’ll edit the following text later.
——
I have been using the free-ware version of Tasks, a hierarchical, web-based personal task manager, for over a year now and despite some glitches I have been more than pleased. The developer Alex King released a far more polished multi-user version, TasksPro at a reasonable cost and later an update to the single-user version, Tasks 2.0. Having decided to purchase a Tasks 2.0 license I was looking forward to installing it over last weekend.
At this point I should be writing a glowing report about Tasks but alas despite having paid for the license last Friday I have yet to receive the download link. The form does say it may take up to 48 hrs to receive said information, why that is exactly we are not told, but after 96 hrs with nothing more than a confirmation of billing – no link. Sunday I even sent a polite e-mail to the developer asking if there was a problem. No reply from him.
There could be a logical explanation. I am using a Taiwan credit card which could cause problems due to either the ineptitude of the Taiwan bank or simply a longer than usual payment. I would assume the payment went through as no problems were mentioned on my receipt. The e-mail containing a link could have been caught as spam by the two spam filters I use but I supplied two e-mail addresses, one of which has no filter at all.
I have faith that this is just a slip-up, that this isn’t a story of lousy customer service nor yet another internet scam. The developer’s (Alex King) web site and software are excellently crafted but it’s these small details (answering e-mail and sending out paid for product on a timely basis) that can either make or break a good experience. How you handle these glitches can win or lose you a customer. It will be interesting see how this works out.


What happened to Flash?

I foolishly upgraded to Flash MX Professional 2004 like the corporate sponsored minion that I am and am suffering through my first flash project this year. What a pig this program has become. With a name conjured up from the Microsoft school of marketing and sluggish performance from the same school of programming I am kicking my ass for just deleting my older copy from my desktop. I am really glad I didn’t remove said license from my Powerbook. It’s not the fact that the software is so damn slow that bothers me, I am using a fairly recent G4, but its the removal of the ‘normal’ mode from the actionscripting interface that kills me. Yes, I admit, I have to learn some actionscript but I had come to rely on those helpful hints versus looking things up in a book. I hadn’t used the product enough to justify the time. Now with tight deadlines I’ll end up having to look up old code, what would have taken a second in MX becomes minutes in the new version with too long a title.


The Web Standards Kit

is a wonderful resource ” that will (help) validate the use of standards compliant code while showing all the benefits that such authoring offers to clients, partners and business owners everywhere.”

What Every Web Site Owner Should Know About Standards: A Web Standards Primer

A brief non-technical explanation of Web standards for Web site owners and managers. This article explains the benefits of Web standards, how they work, and how to begin implementing them.

The Way Forward with Web Standards

The MACCAWS white paper on Web standards. This article assembles arguments and information about Web standards into one document and explains Web standards in terms of how they affect business.


RSS simplifies the reading of large numbers of weblogs

The amount of information avaliable from weblogs is incredible. How can a user keep track of it all? If you rely on an increasingly large number of weblogs it seems impossible to stay in touch with more than a hand full each day. Fortunately, a solution exists to simplify the process of reading large numbers of blogs: RSS (rich (or RDF) site summary).
Some articles detailing RSS/syndication and aggregators:
“Content developers make their RSS files available by placing them on their web server. In this way, RSS


MP3 Sushi Server v1.4.1

I downloaded this software and have been using non stop since. Seldom does software create as much joy so simply as this MP3 server/jukebox. The developers describe it as, “MP3 Sushi is a set of two applications: MP3 Sushi Server and MP3 Buddies. MP3 Sushi Server allows you to turn your Mac into a Jukebox or a Radio broadcast station in a few clicks. It’s a cool way to share and stream your music among a local network or the Internet.” It is without a doubt a wonderful compliment to iTunes, even if you don’t plan to broadcast over the Internet which you might hesitate doing unless you want a billion dollar lawsuit from the draconian RIAA. True random play of my entire MP3 collection makes for an eclectic listen.
More info: MP3 Sushi Server v1.4.1