posted on 1/4/06 by Michael Koppelman
I'm officially addicted to having 2 displays on my computer. I have a laptop and now have additional screens at both home and office. It allows me to spend less time managing windows or switching between windows. It also helps to partition my thinking, sort of like having one drawer for your pens and another for your paper.
Like a lot of us these days, I live and work on the net. I have hobbies, friends, work, recreation -- all on my little PowerBook. When you live here like we do, you may as well have a big house, as in pixels, and lots of 'em.
posted on 1/5/06 by Chuck Olsen
Remember browsing for music by actually looking at the cover art instead of a database? Check out a cool new app for Mac OS 10.4 called CoverFlow
. It searches your hard drive's music collection, fetches the cover art, and presents your music collection in a lovely, graceful 3D interface. Double-click a CD to launch it in iTunes. Here's the story
This is just the kind of simplicity and function I want when Apple figures out how to converge iLife into the living room environment. Speaking of -- MacWorld is right around the corner. What will Steve Jobs unveil? Here's a look behind the magic curtain
of Jobs' MacWorld shows, written by former Apple employee Mike Evangelist (no relation).
posted on 1/6/06 by Matt Gray
zegenie studios has created a quiz to determine which Linux distribution suits you best. zegenie is a Norway-based open-source software and support company. The quiz is dead simple, with precise explanations of confusing questions. As a daily Linux user who regularly recompiles kernels, develops, etc. I didn't feel silly answering the questions.
From a user interface perspective, the wizard is worth going through because it is so darned cute. The icons and questions are quite clean, there is a persistent progress bar at the top of the survey's window—in short, a well-executed web application.
Take the quiz and see what Linux distribution suits you; the available choices include live CDs, so you can download, burn, and try Linux without changing anything on your computer. I keep a live CD [knoppix] in my car at all times, since I never know when I'll be called upon to rescue someone's misbehaving windows PC.
Example question in the distribution survey.
In case you're wondering, both Ubuntu Linux and Debian are my best distro choices; I currently run Ubuntu on all my machines (after migrating from Debian). The quiz doesn't lie!
(Via Lifehacker. If you don't read it, you should.)
posted on 1/8/06 by Matt Gray
An easter egg is a "hidden message or feature in an object such as a movie, book, CD, DVD, or computer program." (Wikipedia) Easter eggs are the ultimate inside joke—developers like to have fun, and sometimes insert these geeky in-jokes as part of a larger project. For example, Microsoft software engineers hid a flight simulator in Microsoft Excel 97, a clone of Spy Hunter in Excel 2000, and a version of pinball in Microsoft Word 97. An integrated chip design even includes the outline of a popular video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog. The software used to run the web is no different; it too was created by fun-loving developers, and there are occasional easter eggs.
PHP is a server-side technology used to provide a rich web experience. If you provide a special URL to a web site that runs PHP, you can make it display an image instead of the usual web page. These "magic images" were included into PHP by its developers; they are present in every standard PHP install. Most any site that uses PHP will display these magic images if you ask properly. For example, PHP's own web site can be made to show a dog photo inside its normal logo.
Try it yourself
If you add ?= and a special code to any web address, you can test if the site is using PHP. Try out some example links (check 'em out while they work):
Update: It appears that digg has disabled this easter egg. I've changed the links above to point at php.net.
Read on for the technical details, including the location of these images within the PHP source tree.
posted on 1/10/06 by Matt Gray
The Internet is a wonderful tool, community, knowledge base, sounding board, diversion, and much more. Broadband Internet provides always-on access to the vast Web and instant communication tools (e-mail, instant messaging). Much of the online world is free and forgiving—one doesn't need to worry too much about exploring.
Despite the openness and exploratory nature of the Internet, it is an unfamiliar and frightening world for some. Others become addicted to a constant flow of information and diversion, an information stream that TV could only approximate before the Internet. The potential for fear and addiction is a major stumbling-block for effective Internet use.
The Internet can be used in a non-threatening way that complements daily life; indeed, the Internet can greatly increase productivity when used properly. There are some simple things you can do to improve your Internet usage:
- Use Google effectively.
- Check your e-mail less frequently.
- Obtain and use web-based e-mail for on-the-go access.
- Limit your time online.
- Eliminate repetitive online tasks.
- Filter the available information.
- Use the proper tools.
- Do not abuse IM.
- Write clear, concise electronic communications.
Read on for a discussion of tips 1 and 2; I'll continue this series this week.
posted on 1/13/06 by Zach Drew
DIY/hardware hacking, as they say, "floats our boats." If it floats yours too, motor your boat over to this hack to turn a 4GB Nano into an 8GB Nano. Hardware hacks may be nothing new in net-land, but it's not often they get away with reworking SMDs (Surface Mount Devices) with a bazillion pins, thanks to Chipquick, an easy method for removing SMD components.
iPod board before modding
After adding the extra chip
Note: images from MultiArcade.com.
Update: The hack-a-day write up and comments are very skeptical of this hack. Unfortunately the comments to this effect represent the internet at its finest. This hack is completely plausible. If I were a designer at Apple, I would build my PCB to automatically detect the configuration of the flash modules. It would be crazy not to, especially with the poplarity of the iPod. As the demand for 2GB and 4GB Nanos and supply of flash modules fluctuate, the only thing that need to be done to adjust your assembly line is the number and kind of flash modules soldered to pads. And what about when Apple chooses to release a 6GB Nano? Well the designer smiles and goes on vacation. Is this hack legit? Maybe we'll find out.
posted on 1/14/06 by Michael Koppelman
, after whom the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is named, discovered something really important about 100 years ago -- that the universe seems to be expanding. Coincidentally, Albert Einstein
was working at roughly the same time on explaining the universal laws of gravitation, something we now call general relativity
. Hubble drew a line on a plot he had made and calculated the rate at which the universe was expanding. Einstein came up with an equation that said the universe was most likely either expanding or contracting -- staying the same was virtually impossible. Einstein, though, believed the universe was not
expanding nor contracting so he added a term to his equation, now called the cosmological constant. When Einstein learned that the universe was expanding he called his addition of the cosmological constant his greatest blunder.
With me so far? Hubble and Einstein independently "discovered" the same thing at roughly the same time -- the universe is expanding
The thing is, the expansion is hard to explain. Given what we know of the universe and the Big Bang
, the universe should be contracting. Gravity should be winning its tug-of-war with the initial expansion of the Big Bang. There must be some force causing it to expand, what Einstein called the cosmological constant. We don't know what it is but we call it Dark Energy
. The name is not meant to be as mysterious as it sounds -- it just means energy we haven't detected yet. It might be one thing or many things, new or known, that we just haven't put our finger on yet.
Now new research has suggested that the cosmological constant may not be constant
. Says Phil Plait on the previous hyperlink:
Itâ€™s weird enough that the Universe is accelerating, but if that acceleration is itself accelerating, that makes things a whole lot weirder.
This is one tidbit I picked up while attending a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.
It's amazing the things we can learn about the universe and how we learn it. It's interesting to me to read about the work of people, like Hubble and Einstein, who are trying to figure out the very origin and fate of the universe as a whole.
posted on 1/16/06 by Matt Gray
Note: This article is a continuation of Improve Your Life Using the Internet, Pt. 1.
Apparently when I ended the last article with a promise to continue last week, I really meant this week.
Now, on with the tips:
3. Obtain and use web-based e-mail for on-the-go access.
For many net-savvy people, this is a no-brainer. I also know many hardcore geeks that spurn web-based mail technology, and prefer to use the likes of mutt, pine, and the "newer" readers such as Mozilla Thunderbird. My suggestion is not that you abandon your traditional, familiar means of communcation. However, let's say you're in an unfamiliar location, without a laptop, and wish to check your mail? Unless you have a Treo, you can't remotely connect to your computer; sometimes all you have is Internet Explorer in an internet cafe. Enter webmail.
Gmail and Mail2Web are the two web-based e-mail servers I use. Gmail is a wonderful repository for Amazon receipts, random bits of web registrivia, and critical notes to self that need to be accessible on the road. Searching is incredibly efficient and fast—much more so than an IMAP client crawling through thousands of e-mails sitting in a folder. I'd recommend that everyone establish a Gmail account and use it as a remote information repository.
Ready access to e-mail in unfamiliar or remote locations can be a life-saver, especially when you're forced to play by someone else's technology rules.
4. Limit your time online.
Limiting time online is an odd tip coming from a blogger, Flickr-addict, and general geek who spends most of his waking time online. The Internet is vast. You could spend every waking minute reading or downloading something online and there would still be more. New content is being created every day. In order to maintain any productivity whatsoever, you must limit your browsing to focused, specific tasks. This is limiting one's "online time".
Always-on broadband does not mean you should spend your day refreshing Slashdot, or checking your inbox, web stats, etc. These are examples of information addiction. When you come across an interesting web site, bookmark it (see tip #8). Visit Google with a clear idea of what you want to find. Set mini-goals for your time online, and evaluate them when you've finished. It's hard, but all that information won't help you a bit unless you spend time using it.
Finally, just break away. I shouldn't need to say this. The Internet is wonderful, and I love technology—yet, I need to get away from time to time. Living entirely online can sometimes blind you to new and interesting possibilities on the 'net. The Internet is an enabler: use it to improve your life, rather than enslave it!
I will continue this series as soon as I have time. In the meantime—blog on, fellow evangelists!
posted on 1/17/06 by Michael Koppelman
Apple is including a built-in iSight camera in their new computers
. These days, when Apple thinks its important, it's probably important. I just got an iSight
and it does kind of get your wheels turnings in regards to the uses of real-time video chat or webcam-style video. This is in addition to the obviously growing utlization of online video e.g. vlogs
and traditional tv-style content. If video conferencing was super-duper easy, we'd all do it. Thus, we will all do it. It's coming. Comb your hair.
posted on 1/18/06 by Zach Drew
In a tour de force mash-up of high design, functionality, and possibly therapy, Irene van Gestel gives the world a knife block shapped like a human head.
posted on 1/19/06 by Martin Grider
Sometime in the not too distant past, First Avenue
redesigned their website. (They claim
it was in March of last year, but I think they've been rolling out new features ever since.)
Anyway, I like the new site quite a bit, but there are a couple of nitpicky thing that really bug me about it. The first is that their sub-navigation items (in the form of dropdown menus) don't appear until you get to an "internal" page. The second is that they have rotating news items on their homepage, but there is no way (that I have yet discovered) to see all the news items at once!
One of said news items was a link to First Avenue's myspace profile
. This got me thinking about myspace in the business sector. If all kinds of bands are creating successful relationships with their customers using myspace, why shouldn't it work for a music venue? (For that matter, maybe Clockwork should have a myspace account...)
posted on 1/20/06 by Matt Gray
Jeffrey Zeldman has weighed in on the latest hype surrounding the so-called "Web 2.0" phenomenon. His reply? Web 3.0.
Zeldman is right to grouse. His annoying conference-goer encounter mirrors the agencies and content publishers who suddenly want to "leverage podcasting" or some other improbable combination of buzzwords. Marketing dollars are starting to flow back into the interactive space, and suddenly everyone wants to have a website that utilizes more acronyms then ever before.
Deploying a web presence that strongly depends on its implementation technology is a fallacy. You do not put the cart before the horse, or AJAX before the content. To paraphrase fellow Clockworker Nancy Lyons, you need to build the foundation of a website first—solid content, well-organized information architecture, a compelling design—not some mishmash of "Gee-whiz".
Zeldman is correct in noting that the community-driven, AJAX-enabled social software craze will continue, not unlike a gold rush. There is electronic frontier out there. However, the same problems inherent of packing all your things into a wagon and heading into the wild West are present too in this new domain. The lack of AJAX usability conventions, efficient design processes, and standard development environments invites catastrophe after catastrophe for these web development pioneers. A select few will be able to engineer their ideas properly and before their competitors deliver; most of these developers will fail.
As Zeldman says:
"To you who feel like failures because you spent last year honing your web skills and serving clients, or running a business, or perhaps publishing content, you are special and lovely, so hold that pretty head high, and never let them see the tears."
AJAX and the other buzzwords pouring out of the "Web 2.0" meme represent amazing capabilities. There are already a few sites that get it right (Flickr, anyone?). Web developers that ignore these emerging technologies will eventually be left behind. However, the existence of this new technology does not change the primary focus of the web: access to media. This content is the defining characteristic of the modern web site. Gee-whiz doesn't need to be leveraged; content does. If the technology doesn't improve the access to the content, it has no place on the web site.
posted on 1/23/06 by Martin Grider
Ever wonder who writes the stories (dialogue) in your favorite video games? I hadn't until I read this article over at the Hollywood Reporter
on video game writers, and the future of video game writing. If you, like me, find the gaming industry fascinating, it's worth a read.
posted on 1/24/06 by Martin Grider
, is a piece of software that grabs 3D information being displayed on your computer, and outputs it in a way that can be read by other 3D programs. This has an incredibly huge amount of applications, but the developers (a non-profit called Eyebeam OpenLab
) have already hit on one of my favorites--turning virtual reality into reality. They used a Dimension
3D printer to create a little model of a world of warcraft character. Just thinking about how many ways this is cool makes my head swim. I'll bet someone ambitious could even make a pretty penny just churning out personalized models for 3D gamers.
The official announcement
(about OGLE) was posted on Eyebeam's blog.
[via Boing Boing
posted on 1/25/06 by Chuck Olsen
is the best, if not the only, social photo hosting service around. These days I post
to Flickr way more than my own blog, even. I *heart* Flickr, in case you didn't notice. Anyway, here are a couple of fun Flickr-y links:
fastr - a flickr game
Enter your name and try to guess the Flickr tag! Compete against other Flickr geeks!
flickr logo maker
(see also: Google logo maker
posted on 1/27/06 by Martin Grider
As reported by just about everybody
, Nintendo has announced a new slimmer version of their popular DS handheld gaming system. The system is supposed to be two-thirds the size of the original.
I personally think the DS has been the best gaming platform released in the last couple of years, and eagerly await the new Tetris DS
(along with the Revolution, which should be interesting).
posted on 1/30/06 by Todd Cermak
Try this on for size. Hasselblad, a Swedish company, has announced the world's first 39 megapixel SLR camera. The H2D-39
includes a range of extended digital features including digital APO Correction technology and Instant Approval Architecture. It offers Hasselblad's own HB RGB color profile, and a new 3FR RAW file format. For all those times you needed a image the size of a building. Yours for the price of only $29,995.
Read more in the press release