Voyeurs everywhere rejoice

October 22, 2006

I have a rather long intro for today’s software review, but hang in there. Alternatively, you can just skip to the section labeled “Review:” and ignore my theories altogether.

I look back at the first half this decade as the age of digital music. MP3 players came into wide spread use, music file sharing exploded, and iTunes was born. From that period forward, music has become a more integral part of my life. I can listen to it just about anywhere I choose.

Next came the podcast which did the same for talk radio. We can now be exposed to a limitless number of opinions and viewpoints.

Now, this second half of 2000 is shaping up to be all about images. More people than ever have digital cameras with features that can turn anyone into a semi-pro (or Prosumer as I’ve heard it called). Even Grandma can now take RAW photos like a pro.

Applications like Photoshop (still not a Universal app) and Gimp give anyone the ability to correct and manipulate images while iPhoto gives us instant access to our ever expanding library of digital images. More recently, sites like flikr, Google images and Photobucket have sprung up to allow us to share our work with the entire planet. It’s really hard to imagine the impact it might have when someone from Beijing China can check out the vacation photos of a New Yorker or vice versa. The internet is now enabling people to move beyond file sharing into experience sharing. Youtube will most probably continue down this path.

Review:

Flikr is great for sharing your photos, but what I like best about it is the ability to peruse the photos of people I have never met. There are some stunning photos out there. The problem with most photo sharing sites is that the display is pretty clunky and makes the experience rather dry. Not anymore. Now we have PicLens to blend the experience in a way that Mac users have become accustomed to. The usage is very simple. PicLens is not an application, but rather a Safari plugin. After installing the plugin and restarting Safari, you can navigate to a Flikr set (I chose this one discussed around the web this weekend) and PicLens finds all the photos and preloads them all.

If you hover over an image, you get an icon in the lower left corner as shown here:

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When you click the icon PicLens takes over and loads up a gorgeous full screen viewer with a preview ribbon below. Menu appear and disappear elegantly and the entire experience rivals any sophisticated photo catalog application out there. I’m simply in love with this Safari addition. Apple could learn something here.

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PicLens is brought to you by Cooliris, the makers of a Safari plugin by the same name (also available for Firefox and Internet Explorer). The Cooliris plugin provides a preview of link URL’s without having to click through. I’ve never found much use for the Cooliris plugin but PicLens is a homerun.

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Let the covers flow again

October 19, 2006

When Apple bought Coverflow to include in iTunes 7, I was both happy and sad. At first I was happy that iTunes finally had a nice interface for my album art. Sadly, Coverflow was no longer available (or so I thought). Coverflow downloaded album art from Amazon while iTunes uses the iTunes store (makes sense). I have some unusual CD’s which iTunes just ignores the cover art for while Coverflow happily found.

Fret not art lovers! Coverflow can still be found at MacUpdate. Just a quick download and your back to the good old days of August 2006.

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Media format armistice

October 15, 2006

Is there really any reason to have so many different media formats? WMV, mpeg4, QT, FLV… the list goes on. While Quicktime handles many of the most popular formats, there are still plenty that it doesn’t and that really gets frustrating. Sure, I have VLC running on my Mac Pro, but it is far from a finished product. Why can’t Apple just finish the supported format list for Quicktime? I even upgraded to Quicktime Pro to get some extra formats (like Mpeg2).

Recently I found a plugin for Quicktime that allows it to handle many more formats. I was looking to play some flash FLV files and VLC was giving multiple errors. After downloading and installing the Perian plugin, my dream came true. Here is a list of the supported formats:

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Divx, XviD, FLV, AVI, MS-MPEG4 v1, MS-MPEG4 v2, MS-MPEG4 v3, DivX 3.11 alpha, 3ivX, Sorenson H.263, Flash Screen Video, Truemotion VP6

These formats when they are inside an AVI: h.264, mpeg4, AAC, AC3 Audio, and VBR MP3.

Wow! And it plays FLV files better than VLC. It still makes me wonder what is up with WMV format. I really hate using Flip4Mac just to play WMV files. Why can’t Apple just license the format from MS and include it in QT? MS isn’t even making media software for the Mac anymore.

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More keyboard surfing

October 14, 2006

Just a quick link today. This one is for the list of keyboard shortcuts from Apple. It’s really meant to discourage programmers from using these standard key combos for their applications.

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Better Mail

October 8, 2006

Simplicity is the Apple way. Sometimes that comes with a shorter feature list. Apple’s Mail is a good example. Even your grandmother could use it with little or no help, but that is partly because it has so few features. Just try to get granny to have a go around with MS Entourage. Luckily, there are more than a few Mail users out there that have cobbled together some of the most asked for features in the form of add-ons and Scripts.

There’s a nice repository of add ons for Apple Mail that catalogs some older additions and scripts as well as a more up to date list at Hawkwings that is more comprehensive.

There’s not many that I have found useful for Mail but the Google Maps plugin and GoogleFill for reverse address lookup are both handy additions for Address Book.

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Digging for code

October 8, 2006

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Recently, Google labs introduced their new “Code Search” tool. This got me to start looking for similar search engines on the web. One of the nice one’s I’ve used is “Programming is hard” which has some nice formating, but limited languages. While many of the examples are way over my head as a new coder, these snippets have a lot to teach. I’t is mind blowing just how efficient an experienced programmer can make a routine.

As I said though, there are few good sources for Objective C, Cocoa, or Applescript. ALthough Google found over 200 examples for Cocoa related code. Of course there are plenty of publicly available sources for learning Objective C, but they are sparse with code examples.

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Thanks for that

October 6, 2006

I came across this WordPress blog post today. The author breaks down some fundamental guidelines for coding. To summarize: You should take as much care formating code as you would with an essay. This is good advice. I’m still a beginner when it comes to heavy lifting with Objective C, but I have already learned this lesson the hard way. It is much easier to find mistakes when you have the proper punctuation. Just imagine writing an essay without carriage returns, indentation, page breaks or punctuation. It would be pretty tough finding where you forgot to put that closing quote.

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