Sunday, December 30, 2007

This is it! One more day for the current Drobo discount

Folks, seriously, if you haven't purchased your Drobo yet and you weren't lucky enough to get one for a cool holiday gift, you should go to the Drobostore and take advantage of the $25 discount available with the code REFJENL!

The current discount ends December 31, 2007 — just in time to get your order in, to enjoy the New Year with your New Drobo!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Grab Ambrosia's WireTap Pro for free!

The venerable Mac software developer, Ambrosia, is distributing WireTap Pro for free today to all. The software records audio from your Mac, and is normally $19.Click on the link and sign up to join us on the latest heists put together by the MacHeist Crew.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 30, 2007

Still time to grab a Drobo to for holiday gift giving. (-:

Don't forget that there is still an instant $25 rebate discount available on the Drobo. Just use the code REFJENL when you are checking out at the Drobostore and get that cool present for the person in your life who is constantly running out of hard drive space!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gotta Love it... the ease of using an iPhone for taking and viewing photos

This ease of use demonstration was given to us by my 6 year old son.

It was time to upgrade — read: swap out for another not as easy to use as we might hope — phone for my parents. There were two phones we could get for "free" after rebate — not so free after accessories — or a couple that would cost ~$25 plus accessories. While we're all aware that none of the major cell carriers have offered the consumer real value overall, I have been with AT&T/Cingular/AT&T for quite a while now. We've done okay with our family plan and we aren't the type of family that needs the latest phones with all the bells and whistles. We wouldn't make use of most of the "features", nor are we eager to generate the bill that accompanies them on 4 lines.

While we were sorting out the choice of phone for my parents, my son gravitated to the display with the lone 8 GB iPhone near the door. My husband noticed that he was playing with the iPhone and thought he was just attempting to take photos of the display area. Lo-and-behold my son located the camera function, set up his Star Wars Lego minifigs — nearly always in tow where ever we go — and was taking pictures of them!

Then, in the process of telling me that we needed to buy that very phone (the display phone) so he could take his pictures home, he navigated to the photo gallery to show me the photos he had taken. He even corrected his Dad with regard to locating the photo gallery when my husband attempted to help him get to the photos to show me. (-;

Sheesh. You hear these stories — I've been a Mac user since 1985— and you think, "hmmm, nice marketing but it can't really be that easy to use!" Though I can't vouch for any other features, because I don't anticipate getting my own until after MacWorld 2008, I can certainly say that it's darned easy to navigate the use of camera and photo gallery at least... my 6 year old is proof of that. (-:

The bummer was, though we managed to surf the web on it, no email was set up. We couldn't send the photos to ourselves... and they were pretty good pics too. )-:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Drobo discount pricing for current owners... watch your email!

One of the reasons I register my hardware is to get notifications from the companies for exactly something like this! Data Robotics sent out an email to current Drobo owners... come and get a second one at a nifty discount. It's a great deal too. So, if you haven't checked your email or you overlooked that little tidbit from Data Robotics, go back and look at the offer. It might just be worth it to you to get an additional unit.

If you haven't gotten off the fence yet and purchased a Drobo, you can still get a discount. The $25 evangelist discount is good through December 31st. Just use the REFJENL code for the instant discount.

If you have questions you need answered before making the purchase decision, check out the Drobo Community and get the skinny on how folks are making use of their units.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It's baaack, just when you thought you couldn't get a deal on a Drobo!

So, Data Robotics decided the program was so successful with us Evangelists that they are giving us a chance to once again pass a $25 savings on to you though December 31! That's right, you can take a $25.00 discount by going to the Drobo Store and using the code REFJENL to take $25 off a really cool storage device. And, since it's good through December that means you can pick one up as a holiday gift for that person who has everything — except enough storage for all their videos, music and photos.

Why not head over to the Apple Store and toss an iTunes Gift Card into the box as well! What Mac addicted computer user wouldn't love that combination?

I'm throwing tons of video at mine and loving the access over my Airport Extreme.

Take a look at the YouTube video to give an idea about the Drobo if you haven't seen or heard about it yet.



And, here's another review of the Drobo from I4U News.

Check out a really cool piece of data storage equipment and grab a disount too!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Wouldn't a reverse lawsuit feel wonderful about now? (-;

It would be oh so tempting to put together a class action lawsuit aimed at people like this:

Woman Sues Apple Over iPhone Price Cut

As some prominent reporters and bloggers have noted, no good deed goes unpunished.

$1M in damages! Get real. Let's see, and you think that will do exactly what to future pricing? Some people really are whiny, greedy idiots at times.

For a couple more views on this:

Pogue's column at the NYT

MacRumors forum discussion

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking a moment to breathe

Wow, what a busy August and hectic beginning of September I've had. Taking a moment to breathe I've enjoyed catching up on some current happenings.

What a delightful blog entry Chris Breen wrote on his blog Sept. 11.

Indeed, the iPod Wow is still there. I haven't become quite as Jaded as Mr. Breen, though I've lived through from the first release to the current amazing offerings as well. (-;

I face the quandry of a few other writers... which one do I set aside the money for. iPhone? iPod Touch? 160 GB Classic. Decisions, decisions.  

Friday, August 24, 2007

Drobo discount lasts through Aug 31

Don't forget folks, $50 off a Drobo ends next Friday, August 31.

There are quite a few people out there using them now with a wealth of information to go on to figure out whether it's right for you!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Drobo folks at it again... August Discount!

Hey folks, just when I thought I was done being able to give you a deal on some really cool hardware the Data Robotics folks up and gave me a chance to offer you $50 off a Drobo from their Drobostore for the month of August.

Check out the Drobo and plug in the discount code of REFJENL to get that instant $50 off your purchase through the end of August.

If you were a little hesitant when it was only $25 off, but thought it might be a useful piece of tech for your setup, give it another look!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Google, the iPhone and you

I know, I know, enough about the iPhone already. But, it still never ceases to amaze me that the rest of the computing, manufacturing and now cell phone industries just don't get it.

There is a super tip from David Pogue this week in his Pogue's Posts blog, part of the New York Times Circuits Column, about getting your regular email account on your iPhone filtered through Gmail. Google and Apple get it. They really are engineering things that make sense & provide a good user experience.

So much of what we are forced to work with on a daily basis is not thought out well or is implemented badly. It's nice to have the chance to choose something that enhances productivity or at least is easy enough to use that we'll use it!

I'm really looking forward to the day I can afford to replace my current phone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

theAmazon Version 2 Launched!

theAmazon has just launched theAmazon v2! Users on theAmazon will receive free Mac software for completing missions, online treasure-hunts. Right now, it's invite only, but you can get an invite by visiting the IRC at irc://irc.macnn.com/#theamazon and asking nicely!

read more | digg story

MacUpdate and MacHeist

Best Mac bundle deal yet!

TechTool Pro is unlocked and they've added PhotoPresenter!

read more | digg story

Monday, July 16, 2007

Intaglio Unlocked in MacUpdate/Macheist Promo, TechTool Pro Within Reach!

The unlock limits for Intaglio and TTP were each reduced. The goal for Intaglio was just reached, and TTP is now set at 5,999. Buy though Macheist to get WriteRoom, Linkinus, Browseback, and Execs, as well as Beta Invites to Pixelmator and Flow. Go to http://www.mupromo.com/ to see the current number of sales and unlocked apps, since MH is behind.

read more | digg story

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Macintosh Application Uninstallers

After a few really hectic weeks I've finally managed to post the next application comparison.

I came across a number of applications that seemed to fit the bill for what I wanted — uninstall unused/unwanted apps from my Mac system. Those that "made the cut" are in the uninstallers comparison chart. There are nine apps compared.

Keep in mind, the intent of these comparisons is to put apps side-by-side to see what features they offer. I'm not touting these as a review of recommendations and I'm not singling out one above the rest. I find it useful to compare software side-by-side and figure it might just be useful to someone else too.

Give it a look. The best way to figure out which app is right for you is to download, install and test it. Having an uninstaller handy is a good thing for clearing up hard drive space when accumulating a bunch of demos, etc. Amusingly, most of these apps will uninstall each other (but not themselves, of course. ;-)

Information about what I included is in my post on jennsBLOG and there's also a post about what I left out and why. It's my intent that this will be the standard formula for the app comparisons — the table and 2 blog posts for each.

As always, if I've left out that one spectacular app in this category that you couldn't do without, drop me a comment. I'll check out your recommendation and add it if it fits the bill.

jennsBLOG :: Uninstaller Comparison Chart

Thursday, July 12, 2007

theAmazon rises once more

Hubert is sleepy, however theAmazon rises once more.When the 500 have arrived... Hubert will return...Users on theAmazon will receive free software for completing missions, but only when the 500 have come, and Hubert is woken......

read more | digg story

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Macheist gives out free Linkinus IRC program!

"For anyone interested, up to 20,000 limited licenses for Linkinus through versions 1.1.X will be distributed for free on this page over the next few days. Just put in your name and email, and they'll email you back within about an hour with your license code."

read more | digg story

Still time to get that Drobo Discount... 21 days left!

So, if you've taken the time to check out the advantages of having a Drobo of your very own, you still have a few days left to grab an instant $25 discount on your purchase at the drobostore.

Just use the code REFJENL and start storing and protecting all that cool video, the photos and the docs that you are accummulating daily. (-:

The discount is good until July 31st.

Check out current news, questions about the Drobo at www.drobospace.com. It's a great place to get a feel for how other folks are using it and to help you decide if it's the right choice for you.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Another Bundle Deal, Some Useful Apps... MacHeist & MacUpdate

MacUpdate Promo and MacHeist have a "deal" going that might be of use to folks who don't already have a majority of the apps. It could be pretty nice deal for $49.99 for 7 apps if you have use for them, or not, that's for you to decide once you check it out.

The line up looks like this from MacUpdate:

SRS iWow 1.1.8
GarageSale 3.2.2
Cocktail 3.8.1
ProfCast 2.1.3
Amadeus Pro 1.0.3
Fetch 5.2.1
GraphicConverter X 5.9.5.

Three more apps will be unlocked when the appropriate bundle sales have been achieved (2,500, 4,000, 9,999) and they are:
Little Snitch 1.2.4
Intaglio 2.9.5
TechTool Pro 4.5.2.

MacHeist has sweetened the deal by adding BrowseBack & Exces, an additional unamed app, as well as private beta access to Pixelmator & Flow .

Check it out to see if it's a deal for you. Inevitably there is a swirl of controversy. My take on the whole thing is this: Decide if the apps (most or all) will be useful to you. Decide whether you can afford the $50 bucks. Decide whether getting the additional group of things from MacHeist adds value and jump on it — or don't.

Really, truly, no-one is forcing anyone purchase this. But, enjoy some nifty apps if you decide this bundle is for you.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

iPhone, want one but knew I should wait

...knew I should wait, but not for the same reasons that a bunch iPhone naysayers will bandy about. I definitely don't doubt the functionality of the device or what Jobs says it's capable of delivering.

But, Wow! Consumers can be really harsh. Of course, the tech industry as a whole has somewhat let themselves in for this by training us to expect "plug and play", instant services, etc.

I'm an existing AT&T customer. I've been an avid Mac user since 1985 and evangelize the benefits of Mac to people nearly daily. Even if I did have the budget to have gotten a couple iPhones last night I wouldn't have done it (except maybe for the atmosphere that is only avaialable at an Apple "event" like this. The people make the event as much as the opening, gadget, etc.).

With the convoluted mess that is a cell phone plan (pick your company, it isn't exclusive to Cingular/AT&T), did existing customers really think it would be instantaneous activation? That's a bit naive! When I do have enough saved to get a couple iPhones I intend to go to an Apple Store or AT&T store near my home, laptop in hand. I hope to work out all the sordid details of what I have to do with my family plan to make the iPhone usable before I buy the phone and try to activate it.

I have no faith whatsoever that I'll be able to get myself an iPhone to replace my existing phone and just be able to tack $20 per month onto my family plan. The online explanation was too simple, devoid of details for the myriad plans that exist among millions of current Cingular/AT&T customers to give me any confidence that it would be an easy move.

On the flip side, I'm not surprised at all that folks transfering a phone number from another service or setting up a new number were activated within minutes. There were no issues of traversing an existing contract, potentially incompatible existing service plan etc. They were coming to a fresh contract. Of course they were activated and up and running on the iPhone within minutes. This is still a milestone in phone activation processes. For a new number or transfer the iTunes activation is streamlined and utterly consumer friendly - pure Apple!

I feel for acquaintences who are still waiting for AT&T activation as an existing AT&T customer. I'm glad, as much as I'd like to have one of these cool phones in my hands at this moment, that I'm waiting until it makes sense to replace my existing phone. Maybe it'll be just a little smoother transition then if they're able to learn and apply anything from the intial AT&T buyer experience. (-:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rethinking Machine Distribution. The Drobo ripple effect...

I've been slowly moving video content onto the Drobo. I'm finding that it's playback over wireless is quite good throughout our house. Of course, I can't quite do with a Drobo what can be done with an AppleTV, so I'm still considering one of those at some point in the future. Specifially for the iTunes movie playback that would be so convenient now that we're buying now and then.

So now I'm thinking of putting flat panels in locations I hadn't considered before. See, we live in a 210 year old stone house with a 204 year old frame addition. Shiny aluminum (or titanium...) isn't the most historically accurate thing to put into most of these rooms. But, I think I can get away with a carefully placed flat panel here and there.

This would enable a really great way to do slide shows, watch movies, etc. with family and friends.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bravo Drobo... PCMag Editors' Choice as well!

It slipped by my attention until today but, the Drobo had also garnered a PCMag Editors' Choice back on June 13!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Drobo wins CNET Editors' Choice

Those of us evangelizing know the cool things our Drobo's are doing for us. Others are noticing as well.

CNET gave the Drobo an Editors' Choice award. Check out their review

Don't forget you can still get a $25 discount direct from the Drobostore using the code REFJENL!

App Reviews... check out iAppblog.com

Just thought I'd let you know that I'm keeping busy between postings for app comparisons (I know, I know... I need to get another one posted, and soon ;-).

If you head on over to iAppblog you'll see a great bunch of reviews by a group of dedicated Mac users.

Be sure to check out my latest postings. You'll find a really nifty app for Intel Mac owners who are "feeling the heat"!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Drobo Evangelist Discount available here...

Well, they've decided we've done such a good job for them in the beta test period that they'll trust us to offer you a discount through July 31st!

You got it. All you have to do is go to drobostore and use the discount code REFJENL and you'll still be able to get $25.00 off the $499 price. This discount code is good through July 31st courtesy Data Robotics and yours truly. (-:

I've been steadily filling up my Drobo and they've put out a really nice icon to replace the generic desktop icon. I've actually managed to stay ahead of the accumulation of videos and photos that have been proliferating over the last 12 months around here.

Take a look at gadgetell, MacNN or PCWorld for some recent reviews.

Also, check out the lastest TWIT podcast 100th Episode with Leo Laporte. In the midst of all the celebration of posting their 100th episode they fit in a discussion of the Drobo.

The Drobo is available from other retailers but you can only get the Evangelist Discount by ordering directly from the drobostore.com with the discount code listed above.

Btw, I know a bunch of folks are clamoring for interfaces other than USB 2.0. I get it, I do. But this is one convenient combination with an Airport Extreme! It was the simplest way to add networked storage to our set up and make it available for use while providing truly easily expandable storage.

Before the Drobo I'd accumulated 3 USB/Firewire cases with drives and then a set up with 3 swappable trays. None of those even comes close to the ease of using the Drobo and none has the ability to safeguard my data they way the Drobo does. It's worth giving it a look!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Software updates, did I say software updates?

Wow, little did I know when I wrote the previous post just how many updates there were recently. Did someone somewhere designate this week of May as Macintosh Software Version Update Week?
Here's what I know of, just from apps I'm using or testing, for which updates were released this week:

1Password
Adium
DiskCatalogMaker RE
FotoMagico
GarageSale
iSale
KIT (argh, another from my first comparison)
MacFamilyTree
Mac Pilot
Mailings
Media Indexer
RapidWeaver
SOHO Notes & Organizer

Or, maybe May is update Month because earlier in May the rest of these saw updates:

Assignment Planner
BookPedia
BookDog
Cha-Ching
Coda
Google Earth
iForm
ImageBrowser
iPod Access
Lego Designer
MacJournal
Mail Archiver X
Microsoft Office
NoteMind
TeXshop
Video2Go
Xslimmer
Yep

Yikes! 31 apps updated from around May 3 through May 25. Darned glad only a couple are major updates for me or I'd have to start looking for a 2nd job to pay for the Mac software addiction I'm suffering from at the moment.

The Inexorable March of Software Updates...

No sooner do I complete the comparison of organizer applications for the Mac than one of the developers puts out a major upgrade. And here, I thought I was actually receiving standard notification emails from Chronos as I'm a registered user of their SOHO Notes. Nope, this one just popped up in my VersionTracker as not the current version.

I'm in a quandry. Should I try to come up with the $25 to upgrade to v6.0 (and $25 to upgrade RapidWeaver and money for other pending upgrades) or should I really stretch it and try to come up with $49 to upgrade to SOHO Organizer?

I was actually hoping to test out SOHO Organizer in comparsion to say, DEVONthink Pro or Pro Office and a couple others. Man, I just start to get comfortable with the software I have only to have more features made available if I upgrade. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for improvement and progress but, I'm almost afraid to add up the potential outlay for software on an annualized basis.

I have to make sure I'm keeping enough in reserve to afford my Family Pack of Leopard when it comes out too!!

Time to go update my comparison chart already. Sheesh! What have I gotten myself into? (-;

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Discount Countdown - Get Your Drobo Soon!

Okay, folks. Last post on this as we approach 5 days left on the discount code REFJENL. If you need more info to convince you just check out the forums at www.drobospace.com or articles at Gizmodo or engadget.

Though obviously, as a true Mac enthusiast, I'd suggest you get one of these to put on your Airport Extreme... it does actually work with Windows too. (-;

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ah, the confusing categories we place software applications into

Thanks to a kind reader who provided quick feedback to me regarding my maiden attempt at comparison reviewing I’ve already made a few changes to the table.

The crossing of boundaries for strict categorization is going to be an interesting issue going forward with this venture. It was pointed out to me that Midnight Inbox is really a GTD* application. As such, it probably shouldn’t be in the running as a prime candidate for an “organizer” software review.

Here’s my sticking point, and why I’m leaving it in the chart (for now), it covers enough of the features of some of the others I compared that I still see it as a possible contender as an organizer too. I guess you could call it's task management capabilities a bonus in that case. Ultimately it will depend upon the direction of app development by Midnight Beep Softworks whether I pull it when I finally take on a review of time/task management applications.

I hadn’t really been aware of the “Getting Things Done”** action management method before this and certainly hadn’t associated any Mac applications I had seen with it. However, amusing to me — at least eventually — was that when I was testing out Midnight Inbox it kept popping up the default “are you shaving a yak?” dialogue box, Wha? a yak? — it drove me nuts for a bit! My husband can attest to this, I was talking back to it after the 6th or 7th time it popped up. "Yes, blast you, I'm on task, go... away...!!" [click on Yes! um, er, NO! ...again!] d-:

I was flitting off to websites, opening the other apps to compare features, moving over to Dreamweaver to edit the HTML table and all the while this silly box was popping up asking me whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing or had I gotten distracted from my active task. Obviously none of the other apps were doing this, they weren’t designed to keep the user on task. Now I get it!

To finish working on my review I eventually dug into the preference settings on each of the programs and, lo-and-behold, there was the toggle for “remind me I might be straying off task” or the "Two-minute yak timer".

Ah, sweet relief. I shut it off. Now, don’t get me wrong. I can certainly see the appropriate use of this being very effective under the right circumstances or for the right type of person. I, however tend to multi-thread when I work. I have lots open, I switch between projects and I get a lot done that way too, and usually done well. That warning box just became a fly I had to swat to keep doing what I was doing (on task too, ironically ;-). I was glad to see that it was an option not an unrelenting “feature”.

I may have opened up Pandora’s box for myself with this first review. Now I want to do the next level of organizers such as SOHO Organizer, DEVONThink Pro or Pro Office, and any others that fit that category. I want to review a plethora of other “categories” of software that deserve comparison reviews to enable better choices based on our own needs, wants or work styles.

If there’s a category of software that you think is crying out for a comparison review with 5 or more apps that seem to handle the same task(s) let me know. If it isn’t already on my growing list for future review I may end up adding it as well.

Btw, having now looked into more of the “time/task management” offerings that follow on David Allen’s methods I’m actually going to steer clear of a comparison at the moment. I’ll save that for a couple weeks when I really have the time to focus on such broad a category of potential candidates for review (apps, plugins, add-ons — this will need some sorting out).

*abbreviation trademarked by David Allen & Co.
**also TM David Allen

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Organize those thoughts... um, files... um, docs...

In the loosely defined category of “thought organization” there are programs like DEVONThink, EagleFiler, Journler, KIT, Midnight Inbox, NoteBook, NoteMind, SOHO Notes and Yojimbo just to name a few — and to name the nine apps I chose to do my first comparison review of. These applications are mostly database oriented for gathering files of various types together enabling you to tag, label and organize to your hearts content.

I’m trying hard to plumb the depths of this category of applications and in the process I found myself putting together a rather extensive table of comparisons. I just couldn't find a suitable comparison online anywhere. I haven’t yet taken the plunge to contact the developers to determine some of the less obvious things people may want to know — for example, I couldn’t always figure out just what tool they built on to create the application’s features ("what database is it anyway?", -type questions...) – but I’m about to. (-:

So, here is the first version of my foray into comparison software reviewing. As I mention in my rather long article about it on jennsBLOG, my goal was not to declare an outright winner of the category but rather to enable a more informed choice between a group of rather useful applications. Take a look at my comparison table and let me know what I got right, what I got wrong and if I missed an outstanding app that you use regularly!

Airport Extreme -- Whoa!

Modern computing. What a blast!

I’m sitting here on our back porch listening to a “symphony” of birds and lawnmowers, enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures of a Spring day in Western Pennsylvania. I received an Airport Extreme for Mother’s Day, as I mentioned in my previous entry. Installation was a snap.

On our previous router (not Apple brand) I had been using MAC addresses but hadn’t enabled anything more as security. I knew this wasn’t the best of ideas but we don’t appear to have an extremely active neighborhood for this type of thing -- I know, not a good excuse. I had a heck of a time figuring out what would work, some clients could log in and some couldn't and the security options were woefully out of date as the rounter has to be at least 5 years old, possibly older. Well, setting up security and getting all the clients back onto the network was extremely easy as well. It just worked. Just what I expect from Apple engineering.

So, would it really put out a stronger signal than our old “g” router. You bet’cha. We have a variety of vintages of Macs, not to mention we live in a 210 year old stone house — not stone veneer, mind you, this is whopping thick stone walls — with a nearly equal sized frame addition. Now the signal from the main wireless router, the Extreme, reaches through the entire house, into the back yard and likely across the street as well. I haven’t had the opportunity to see just how far I can go out into our acre and still be online, but I’ll be trying that in warmer drier weather to be sure.

Now I can probably just dedicate the two Airport Express routers we have to serving music to different portions of the house. Very cool indeed. Time to research speakers, I guess.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Time is running out - get that Drobo discount!

Well, there are 12 days left for "friends of beta testers" to take advantage of the discount on the Drobo.

I've hooked mine up to an Airport Extreme that showed up for Mother's Day and I couldn't be happier (yes, believe it or not, some Mom's really DO want electronics, computer stuff and we can be -- dare I say it? -- just a bit geeky too ;-).

Now I have networked storage on a unit that protects my data in the event of a hard drive failure and so far the results have been great with transfers over the network. I've managed to clear a chunk of data off the laptop and make it readily accessible when I log onto the home network. Setting up the Extreme was a snap and adding the Drobo was just as easy.

If you accumulate photos, music or much in the way of video this is really a solution you should check out! If it looks as appealing to you as it is to me then take advantage of the discount code REFJENL and get one to put on your network too!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Joost Invites... just ask me. (-:

I've been beta testing Joost for a while now. If you don't quite know what it is, click on the banner below and get some background info. Then feel free to ask me for an invite if you'd like one @ macmuse at gmail dot com. (-:

You'll need to send me a first & last name and a valid email address for the invite to be sent to.

Joost™ the best of tv and the internet

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A milestone, of sorts...

Wow, so I officially started this blog in 2005. I posted a whopping 8 posts from April through August that year and I only managed 7 posts for the entire year in 2006. I just posted my 8th post for 2007 (and with this one it's 9!) and it's only May. There's hope yet. Nothing like late-bloomers, eh? (-;

MacHeist, what hath you wrought?

I’ve pretty much been a DreamWeaver web developer since the meager beginnings of a few static pages I put up for myself and a couple of non-profits I work with. I’ve never really had the time to delve deeply into web development, I do too many other things besides that. The web development I had done years ago stemmed from the need to put some information online that we were publishing in physical form, newsletter content & event calendars.

The pages looked fine. Not cutting edge, they didn’t need to be. Clean, crisp, usable. I periodically looked for simpler software to use that would still give me WYSIWYG (mostly). Nothing really managed to give me as much flexibility as I’d like with enough WYSIWYG to be useful. Adobe brought out an HTML editing app, and I can’t actually remember the name of it as I never used it. Some touted it to be the “DreamWeaver Killer”. Hmmm, then Adobe ended up buying Macromedia, so much for dethroning DreamWeaver. Market share and product popularity do count for something (which can be a hard thing for 22 year Mac user to admit ;-).

Then a new generation of applications came about. RapidWeaver, Sandvox, CoffeeCup, etc. There is a wonderful comparison section on the Wikipedia page for HTML Editors. I confess, I tried RapidWeaver in the very early stages when it was made available and I just didn’t get it. I was too steeped in DreamWeaver and too confused by something that was trying to be an easier editor.

Enter MacHeist. A friend of a friend invited me to participate. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I had a great time solving the puzzles, completing heists, “earning” free shareware apps. Then came the Bundle. For a ridiculously reduced we got an interesting selection of full licenses for 10 applications, including RapidWeaver.

Wow, RapidWeaver has developed into a wonderfully useful editor. Version 3.5 is proving to be a flexible and much more powerful version than the early iterations I had tried. I still have DreamWeaver if I need it but I’m currently in the process of revamping all but one site I work on and using RapidWeaver to do that. Seems some people are chomping at the bit for v3.6 but I’m quite happy getting used to 3.5.

Btw, part of the discussion that happened in the MacHeist forums was centered on the “if you discount like this people will only look for discounts” vs. “if we sell some useful apps at a really great price we may get some lifelong users who pay for upgrades”. I’m now firmly in the second camp (I was leaning there to begin with). In addition, with an application like RapidWeaver they didn’t take into account all the other small developers that would benefit from getting such a modularly expandable app into people’s hands. I’ve just plunked down for plug-ins & templates to extend the usability of the app and mostly at the full price the developer has them listed for.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drobo - A Beta Tester's Thoughts (and a deal...)


I had the pleasure of beta testing a nifty piece of hardware over the last few months. The Drobo, by Data Robotics, which does some amazing stuff with your data deceptively simply.

I've been bitten a few too many times in the last 12 months or so by failed drives. Yes, I do backups. Not as frequently as I should for sure. However, I've had two, count'em TWO backup drives fail on me in the last 6 months alone. Mind you, this was not my main drive (I've had two of *those* fail in the last 12 months too) but it was painful none-the-less because there were things on the backup drive that weren't on any other drives at the time.

The designers & engineers have put a lot of thought and effort into this product. The current unit can hold up to 4 SATA drives. I'm not going to go into spec details here, those can be had at www.drobo.com . They've managed to bring down the price from $699 to $499 even before their “official” launch June 1. A much better price point that should help them move even more units based on the current configuration of the box.

If you know a beta tester — and if you are reading this, now you do — you can get an instant $25 rebate off the new price through May 30th. For those of you lucky enough to see my blogs just use REFJENL at http://www.drobostore.com to get that discount. Be sure to use all caps.

The cool thing about testing this hardware was simulating the drive failures. Seriously! We were told to pull a drive, randomly... just pop one out of the unit. VoilĂ ! The unit flashes lights at you to tell you that there's a problem (okay, it's a bit more specific than that but they explain it pretty well on their own site). Then it begins to manage the problem by redistributing your files over the remaining drives. No loss of data. Wonderful!

If you have their software installed, which I find useful and reassuring even though you can use the Drobo without it, you will be given even more feedback about the status of the device and your remaining drives. As beta testers we were a pretty merciless group. We tried, and succeeded, breaking it many ways and engineering at Data Robotics was a great group to work with. They were responsive and willing to communicate. Some of us were a little thick regarding some of the technology and they patiently worked through it with us to understand the advantages — and some limitations — of the unit.

Way back when, I tested the first bit of software for them. It was Windows only at the time. Then the call came asking if I was still interested in beta testing as they were about to enter the hardware phase. “Sure”, says I, thinking all the while “Man, I really wish I could do this on my Mac(s) instead of the Windows box“. Lo-and-behold, the beta unit arrive with a CD to install their software and the few pages of instructions that came with it included, yes, Macintosh installation notes! Yay! WooHoo!

I promptly chucked the Windows machine back to it's dusty corner, back to idle status and loaded the software and the unit on my Mac. I've never looked back. I'm currently awaiting my commercially available version of the unit (unfortunately, I have to give up the beta unit to do this as it was too rich for my budget to keep both). I'm hoping my boys (that would by my husband and my 5 year old son) will forgive me for buying my own Mother's Day present in a few days — an Apple Airport Extreme — so I can plug the Drobo into our network and get all those kids shows (Scooby, Avatar, Jimmy Neutron) OFF my main drive at home. (-;

Take a look at www.drobo.com and see if you find the backstory on this product as compelling as we beta testers did. With the price drop and an additional discount you may find yourself less likely to be in a “lost my data” scenario in the near future.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Coffee Revisited

Ages ago I blogged about Boca Java coffees. I must admit that I figured we’d tire of the coffee and by now would be back to buying stuff locally, somewhere other than the grocery store, most likely. I’m delighted to report that we’re still enjoying Boca Java selections. Thanks to their program that enables the selection of one free sampler with your “club” order I’ve found a couple additional blends that we really like. They change the free selection and if you really, truly want to try another blend they sell sample packets of most, perhaps all, that are currently available for roasting and shipping.

We are currently enjoying the last of a particularly tasty holiday blend that was originally offered around Halloween 2006. They continued to allow it to be ordered through February 2007 so I stocked up on the last order I could make for it. I’m hoping they will bring it back for Halloween 2007.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spike

This is a nifty little collaborative clipboard app that enables you to share files painlessly across your network.

As it states on Porchdog Software’s website: “Spike requires no configuration. Just start Spike up and it finds all of the other shared Spike clipboards on your network. Simply click on a remote clipboard and visually inspect the clippings. Double click on a clipping to load it, then go to your favorite application and paste. Or drag the clipping from Spike to your application.”

I couldn’t think of a better way to state it, so quoting the developers seemed to fit the bill here. The app allows you to easily share files between Macs on your network or between Win 2k, XP or functioning cross platform as well between Mac and Windows machines.

You do have to be on the same network for it to find other clipboards. The thumbnail images are scalable so you can see some of what is in the clipboard. I find this is a bit hit and miss depending on the type of files you are looking at. Even so, it’s extremely useful for moving files around between my Macs and on a different network for sharing files between my Macs and a Windows machine.

It works as advertised and is a useful little app for the price, especially if you are getting more than 2 copies. I’m always happy to find developers who have multi-copy or family pack pricing. Porchdog has a “try before you buy” download available at their website.

Price: 1-2 $7 per copy, 2-4 $6 per copy, 5 or more $5 per copy

website: http://www.porchdogsoft.com/products/spike/

Trampoline

For the longest time I’ve been resistant to using any type of launcher for my applications. You may find, as I did, that you have to squint at an overloaded Dock if you don’t have a launcher solution. The “folder full of aliases” in the Dock method works well. Not elegant, not configurable, but workable.

I’ve just installed Trampoline and I’m amazed at how useful it has become in just 24 hours of use. I’m hooked. I’m currently using the default alt+spacebar hot keys to open the application on my MacBook Pro. Assigning hot keys appears to be quite flexible, which should allow you to avoid interfering with hot keys you may already have set. One suggestion in the fairly helpful PDF user guide is if you happen to have a three button mouse to set the third button to open it.

Trampoline opens right under your cursor, which is convenient, though can take a bit of getting used to. Where your cursor is on the screen determines how large the “wheel“ is when it opens. It can be a bit annoying when the cursor is close to the edge of the screen since the wheel opens at the smallest setting and sometimes off the edge of the screen. The developer knows about this but the UI functions a little inconsistently when attempting to move it into usable range. That issue aside, I’m getting a great deal of use out of it, having explored about 1/2 the setting options and keyboard commands to customize it. The initial default is set to grab all the apps from your Dock (docked and open) when the app is first opened. Once that’s accomplished you can clear out that overloaded Dock and keep adding more to Trampoline. You can put folders as well as applications in the items menu. When you click on a folder it will “bounce“ you to a new wheel with the contents of the folder displayed.

There are quite a few customizable features, it’s a snap to install and you’ll likely make immediate use of it, even just using default settings. The version as of this review is 2.0.3, requires Mac OS 10.4 and is a Universal binary. This is likely to be one of the keepers out of the myriad shareware I’ve been downloading and trying out recently and may just fill that app launcher niche for you as well.

http://www.old-jewel.com/

Note: For a limited time a free version is available at http://macheist.com/ when you register and complete Heist 6.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Readers, please help me figure this out — target="_blank" tag in iWeb

Okay, perhaps I’m already doing what can be done about this but, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m missing something — or someone out there, somewhere, may have a better solution.

How can I *easily* get the target=“_blank” tag into my href tags when using iWeb and Google’s Blogger? Is going in after publishing and editing all the links (albeit with a global replace) the only way to do this?

I’m most interested in a fix for my iWeb pages than anything else. It’s not that much of a burden to edit the HTML on my blog after uploading from one of my journal apps. And yes, I’ve sent the “feature request” email to Apple numerous times. I know they don’t reply and I’ve no way to know if it’s ever gotten into a real feature improvement list anywhere within Apple.

I’m generally quite happy with the hardware and software that Apple makes available to the consumer but I’m really, really tired of having to go in and edit, post publishing it to .Mac, to keep readers from being whisked off my site due to an informational link I’ve included. <sigh>

Apple, is it really that hard to add a button to iWeb so that when we make a link we can choose target=“_blank” to keep people on our site?

I'm a Mac App Junkie!

So, I admit it, I’m a Mac App Junkie. I hope to review and ultimately be able to recommend a variety of software that provides real daily value and won’t necessarily break your budget. Some really, truly useful software won’t take a single dime of your budget since their developers are putting them out there as freeware!

I’ve had the pleasure of being re-introduced to shareware in a big way over the last few months. In my early days of computing (suffice it to say I’ve been using Mac’s since they were only 1 year old and I do have a Mac 128k still tucked away somewhere) we partook of freeware and shareware via the BBS’s we chatted away on. I’m not sure I would be that trusting again on the Windows platform.

I work at a university and students sometimes teach us a few things as we attempt to teach them. I received an invitation to participate in MacHeist back in early November 2006. Their goal, which I at least believe was admirably achieved, was to heighten user awareness about great, inexpensive Mac shareware.

I’m in a definite minority going into an “event” like this. First, I’m a woman — (ack! watch those sexist comments on those forums ;-). Then, heaven forbid, I’m over 40!!

But, I like a good puzzle as much as the next guy. MacHeist was fun, the forums (for the most part) are engaging and informative and I got a boat load of useful software along with a few I’ll probably never use much.

The user community on the MacHeist forums has put me onto quite a few additional apps and places to get them. We had MacAppADay* during December. Some folks weren’t too impressed by the offerings but there were a few here and there throughout the month that I hadn’t seen before or hadn’t gotten elsewhere. I’m still using a couple on a regular basis.

I learned of MacZot! quite a bit later than many of the MacHeister’s. Since then, though, I’ve definitely found apps that were worth grabbing at the discounts provided via that site. A group that participated in MacHeist started their own “solve it and earn software” site — theAmazongroup. I’ve enjoyed participating in their site as well. Nothing has come close to the pace of MacHeist and we’re still awaiting the 6th Heist (due this Wednesday, April 18) with hints that there will be a MacHeist II sometime in the future.

I’ve found some real gems that are enhancing my Mac computing on a daily basis. I’m looking forward to passing information about them that I hope others may find useful.


* an “Under New Management” posting is all that’s up on that page these days

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sony really, truly does NOT understand consumers


Sony — a huge, huge company with some really interesting products. Take for example, the AIBO. Nifty idea. A robotic dog that you can program to do some things similar to a canine friend and a bunch of things no canine could manage.

You promote these, you sell them. You know that at least a few universities have fleets of these little guys doing things like playing RoboCup — getting a good deal of press. Then WHAM! you stop making them. But, you don’t just stop making new robotic dogs, no, you stop making ALL supporting accessories as well.

So, let’s see, you’ve made the people who forked over a few thousand dollars for each dog use proprietary memory sticks in the first place. No, these dogs couldn’t possibly use a common commodity memory stick that you produce by the millions. Oh, and you stop producing that specialized memory for them... and the batteries... and the battery chargers... ?!?

Please, did Sony expect all of the AIBO’s in existence to instantly drop dead when they decided they would make no more of them?

Trying to find a few 16MB proprietary memory sticks isn’t the first fun thing I’ve run into while attempting to support a lab that uses the AIBO’s for their research. Try finding that battery or battery charger. Don’t try to buy one from a SonyStyle store that you can’t physically walk into.

In this day and age you’d think that if Sony sells it, and it’s in stock in a store in the US, you should be able to give them a credit card and have them ship it to you, but NO WAY. They can’t possibly trust that someone is a legitimate customer if they want a battery (or two), a memory stick and are willing to pay for the shipping — whatever they want to charge for shipping! Go ahead, charge me more to ship than the product costs, I wanted the darned stuff that badly!

Every time you try to get a hold of a human to speak to at Sony a recording tells you, very pleasantly, to look for their products on their website. When you do get a hold of a human being they inevitably end up giving you a phone number to a different portion of Sony to try to track down what you are asking for. Education, call 1-800-nnn-nnnn, ah you need XYZ dept, please call 1-888-nnn-nnnn... nearly ad infinitum!

The stores do seem to routinely have a few of something that have been discontinued, at least for a little while before it’s sent to molder in a corner somewhere. These items can’t be had online because of the wonderous supply chain management that is in place in these modern days of retailing — it disappears from the Sony web (SonyStyle, direct parts, etc.) amazingly quick when Sony says “make this no more!”.

For those battery chargers I actually got shunted 3 times and then spoke with a regional sales representative at a warehouse facility somewhere in central Pennsylvania or maybe it was western New York! It was crazy. He could see the product. He knew that someone had them in stock but I COULDN’T BUY THEM because they wouldn’t ship them to me. I had to physically walk into a SonyStyle store to make the purchase.

An enterprising soul in their San Francisco store — who shall remain safely nameless — actually spoke with the manager of that store and they agreed, after I faxed massive amounts of information over to them (it’s a corporate credit card — we’ll deal with it) they actually could ship me a few of these chargers. But, even though I’d managed to get that far, the stores can’t send stock to each other.

We tried in vain to get a NY and Colorado store to send the San Francisco store some of the stuff they had on hand so I could buy it and get it all shipped together. Nothing doing. They don’t work that way. OMG, give me a break!! What do we have computers for? Can’t we use inventory tracking to our benefit and actually SELL the product to a customer who is willing to pay for it? Full price? No discounts? Come on!

Each time I get into this “search for a product Sony says is toast” scenario I think to myself “Does Sony actually want to sell anything to the consumer?” It’s such a huge corporation that they primarily deal with "channels" — sell a pallet or crate of something to [insert favorite consumer electronics retailer here], who then has to carry all the accessories... maybe. The consumer be damned if Sony discontinues something that still has end value and may still be in use — and that was just selling last week in stores, no less.

The problem is, Sony doesn’t allow anyone to pick up the slack either. With lots of other products where models get discontinued, folks have filled in the gaps for parts and accessories. Sure, it’s not OEM but if it works just as well, why not?

Heck, there was a guy who increased the functionality of the AIBO but Sony jumped all over him about mucking with their precious proprietary AIBO. He was actually helping them sell memory sticks and the original software program needed to run what he’d created and they slammed him for it. They actually sued him, cease and desist! Their stuff was necessary for the functionality he designed to even work for the AIBO! He told people Sony's stuff was necessary and he proved that caused people to go out to BUY SONY's STUFF! Really, smart Sony. d-:

If I didn’t have to deal with this as part of a job I love 99% of the time, I’d definitely make sure I had no Sony products around me at all... ever!!

[addendum: I needed to buy a memory stick for a university class that has 6 AIBO's — 1 stick went bad — the last one I managed to get from Sony at retail was around $29.00 I think. Lucky folks who bought extras and never opened them are now getting between $150 and $300 on places like eBay. Thanks Sony!]