Dear busy

December 21, 2004

We've had a good run and it pains me to say this, but I'm afraid you just don't do it for me anymore. I need a new word; something that better describes the way I feel; something more accurate; a word that, when used to rebut friendly fire, provokes understanding and acceptance.

But, until I find that perfect word, it's you and me baby.

IOGEAR Bluetooth Mini Mouse

December 19, 2004

A couple of weeks ago I purchased IOGEAR's Bluetooth Mini Mouse and have been rather pleased with it so far. This is my third Bluetooth mouse and while the first (Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer) was just horrible, the second (Logitech MX900) wasn't that bad, thus the obvious question of why I got another mouse. Beyond my usual urge to get the newest [insert gadget here], the only real impetus behind me getting the third one was size (and resolution).

Admittedly, the "Mini" part of the name is not a misnomer — this thing is tiny, but despite its stature the mouse is packed with features, a lot of which its much larger competition is missing. The feature that initially drew me to the mouse was the fact that you can charge it while using it. A USB 2.0 cable plugs into the front of the mouse and charges the rechargeable batteries while you work (or don't). The fact that there's no cradle makes it very portable and eviscerates the need to worry about whether the batteries are going to go dead; simply pop the cable into your bag and you're set. It also has an on/off switch so that you aren't wasting the batteries when not using it. While this might seem like an obvious feature, my first two Bluetooth mice were without it.

I should also mention that the mouse has 800 dpi resolution and can reach up to 66ft (instead of the usual ~30); why one would need the extra distance is beyond me, but you never know.

Road Tools PodiumPad

December 18, 2004

A few months ago I 'reviewed' the iLap and pointed out some problems I was having with it. I recently bought something similar, a Road Tools PodiumPad, and while it doesn't work very well as a "lap rest" (not that it was designed for that), it is perfect for raising the height of your notebook to a more comfortable reading/typing level. It's incredibly sturdy and there's no noticeable movement as you pound away at the keyboard.

The same rubber is used throughout (both on the bottom of the pad and on the parts that touch the bottom of your notebook) and it's very sticky — your notebook is not going to slide off. I mention this because the iLap would, depending on temperature, allow the PowerBook to slide right off the front of it; as the weather got colder the rubber feet on the bottom of the PowerBook became less apt to 'stick' to the aluminum iLap.

One very useful feature of the PodiumPad is that it can swivel 360°, which allows you to easily show others what you're looking at and to move the notebook slightly to the left or right as you change seating positions.

As odd as this may seem, I really have nothing negative to say about it. It would be nice if there was an attachment that you could use for your lap, but, outside of that, I'm pretty pleased.

One more week

December 12, 2004

I feel like I've been neglecting this site some lately. My time is being stretched incredibly thin between a certain someone and law school finals. As soon as exams are over, I should be back to my normal posting routine and will start replying to the growing mountain of 'non-pressing' e-mail.

As you were.

Sharing TiVo data

December 07, 2004

There should be a way for me to share my TiVo "schedule" with other users. For instance, I'm headed back to Florida pretty soon for xmas break and I'd like my dad's TiVo to record all the shows that my TiVo will be grabbing while I'm away (so I can watch them at his house and not have to wait until I return to California).

Here's how I think the process should work:

  1. X makes a request, through, of Y's schedule
  2. TiVo sends Y an e-mail asking for authorization to share the schedule
  3. Y authorizes (or doesn't)
  4. TiVo alerts X that Y's schedule is now available
  5. TiVo automagically puts Y's schedule on X's TiVo
  6. TiVo adds all of Y's shows (that don't conflict with X's) to the "to-do" list
  7. TiVo walks X through the conflicts and lets him configure accordingly
  8. TiVo allows X, at any time, to remove all shows added from Y's schedule

Simple, right? Right. In fact, the initial request should allow X to specify whether the schedule should be mirrored or if the shows should be recorded only on Y's TiVo until X decides to have his TiVo start recording them again.

Forgive my ignorance if this can already be done, but I'm pretty sure it can't (at least not through a method as simple as the one outlined above).

I've got reservations

December 02, 2004

How can I convince you it's me I don't like
And not be so indifferent to the look in your eyes
When I've always been distant
And I've always told lies for love

I'm bound by these choices so hard to make
I'm bound by the feeling so easy to fake
None of this is real enough to take me from you

Oh I've got reservations
About so many things
But not about you

I know this isn't what you were wanting me to say
How can I get closer and be further away
From the truth that proves it's beautiful to lie

I've got reservations
About so many things
But not about you
I've reservations
About so many things
But not about you
Not about you
Not about you
Not about you
Not about you

From Wilco's Reservations

"Lots of Robots" redux

November 28, 2004

A few days ago a reader informed me that Andy Murdoch had released volume two of his Lots of Robots movie. This second installment is a continuation of the first and I suggest that you just watch the work in its entirety. Quoting from my previous post on volume one (almost two years ago, damn):

Andy Murdock's Lots of Robots is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. As you watch the video, stay cognizant of the fact that this guy did everything himself: the story, the writing, the music, and all of the animation. Wow.

Nothing's changed. Enjoy.

Google Hacks

November 21, 2004

A few months ago Rael Dornfest asked me if I would like to contribute to the second edition of the Google Hacks book he writes for O'reilly (he's actually in charge of the entire "hacks" series). More specifically, he wanted my input and knowledge as it pertained to Gmail, because there was going to be an entire chapter devoted to the webmail service in the new book.

After doing quite a bit of research I organized my ideas and findings and gave Rael everything I had come up with. A few days after I submitted my work, he asked if I would like to be the technical editor on the book. I of course jumped at the opportunity and really appreciated being asked to take on the task. I'll admit, it got a little hairy there for a while trying to juggle my commitment to the book with law school and interviewing and this site and... you get the idea. Notwithstanding the time crunch, I would do it all over again and am actually in the process of making that happen.

That said, go out and buy the book — I thought I knew a lot about Google, but after poring over this book from cover to cover I realized that I was quite ignorant (not anymore!). Word from the top is that it should be on shelves by the end of the year.

Kenyon & Kenyon

November 17, 2004

Kenyon & KenyonAfter nearly two months of interviewing and "hobnobbing," I've accepted a summer associate position at Kenyon & Kenyon. To try and relay my excitement and relief here would be an exercise in futility, so I'll simply state that I'm excited and relieved and will let you qualify those adjectives with whatever order of magnitude your imagination can come up with (you'll likely still fall short).   :)

Not for nothing, but I genuinely feel that I could not have found a firm more in line with my interests and long-term goals. They've gone out of their way to make me feel wanted and I'm extremely appreciative of being given the opportunity to work there. It should be a great summer and I'm very much looking forward to making the most it.

Browser session restoration on Mac OS X

November 14, 2004

There is one very specific thing that my browser must be able to do: restore my session (tabs and windows) upon browser quit/crash. It never ceases to amaze me, and moreso as the years march on, how few browsers actually have this ability. The only browsers I'm aware of that offer this natively are Opera (for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X) and OmniWeb 5 for Mac OS X. That's it! I don't get it, but I digress as I've complained about this many, many times in the past and more of the same drivel now isn't going to change anything. It's apparent that the masses don't want, or rather, don't realize that they need, this option. Where I can't live without it, it seems that most don't even know to want it, but that goes back to my argument that 99% of the population seems to be apathetic to the fact that they're inefficient (which is fine *shrug*).

I've wanted to use Safari since it burst onto the scene, and for a very short time I did, but there was that nagging problem of not being able to restore my session when something went awry (you'd probably tell me "nagging problem" was too weak a description if you were sitting next to me and saw me lose all of my open tabs). Let there be no question, Safari is a great browser, but it couldn't do the one required task that I needed (it can now; read on).

There are a few solutions under Mac OS X, but most have deal-breaking disadvantages (at least for me).

OmniWeb 5, which I actually put in my Required OS X Programs list earlier this year, and which John Gruber wrote a great review for, probably has the best implementation of session restoration that I've ever seen. Hell, the browser itself is one of the best I've ever used, but I just couldn't bring myself to shell out $30 for it (a reasonable price, but with cheaper solutions available it went to the bottom of my list).

Another option for Mac OS X is Mozilla Firefox. I love Firefox and I have used it through all of its various versions and name changes since the very beginning many years ago. As you might have guessed, Firefox doesn't restore tabs, though through extensions the capability is there. For the last few months I've been forced to use Firefox v0.8 even though they have been releasing newer versions for a while (including the big 1.0!). The reason for this inability to upgrade is simple: the SessionSaver extension that restores tabs for Mac OS X will only work in Firefox ≤ v0.8. The extension is excellent and really does a great job, but I don't like the fact that I'm stuck in an "older" browser and I'm pretty sure that development has stopped entirely on the extension. Yes, there are other extensions that will do the same thing, but they don't work quite right in Mac OS X. Take Tabbrowser Extensions for example. This plugin is perfect if you are using Firefox in Windows, but it has never worked correctly in Mac OS X. I check every new version, but it's always the same story — "Last tabs don't reopen at next startup in Mac OS X" — this has been the case for at least a year.

Sick of being stuck in v0.8 of Firefox, I started to look for other solutions. I heard about various AppleScripts that could essentially do what I wanted within Safari, but these required manual save and restore actions on the part of the user. So, not only does it require the user to remember to save/restore at quit/shutdown, it does nothing for the user who accidently quits the browser or who's computer/browser crashes.

Another, ultimately equally useless option, is Safari Helper. While a decent program, it exists completely separate from Safari itself and requires the same manual interaction I was just talking about.

Despite the ostensible lack of solutions, there is actually one little program out there that does the trick. Saft for Safari is the best thing I've found for session restoration on Mac OS X, and it also offers quite a few other neat features to boot. I really put this "plugin" to the test before I actually bought it, and have yet to have a single problem with it — it handles tab/window restoration wonderfully. Notwithstanding the fact that I really don't use any of its other functions, I paid my $10 with no real trepidation because it does exactly what I need and has made Safari usable for me.

The True Story of Audion

November 12, 2004

After reading this story and posting it to my Bits section, I came across John Gruber's take on it, and instead of typing up something similar I figured I'd just steal from him.

Ordinarily, this is the sort of thing I'd post to the Linked List, but it's simply too good — extraordinarily, wonderfully good — and thus deserves your full attention.

Get yourself a lovely beverage, disconnect the phone, quit your IM client, and enjoy The True Story of Audion, by Cabel Sasser of Panic Software. One of the greatest Mac stories I've ever read. Joyous, exciting, heartbreaking. Note: most of the links are pop-up footnotes; don't skip them.

Seriously, read this. You'll thank me. Plus, there will be a quiz next week.

Favorite photos

November 07, 2004

I've just spent quite a while going through my photo collection and pulling out the pictures that I like most. I've put these into a new photo set I'm going to call Personal Favorites and will update it as new photos are shot (they'll be put into the front of the set). You'll notice that quite a few of these are not in any of the previous sets I've put up. Please keep in mind that all of the photos in the set were taken with a Canon PowerShot S30, which I've had for three years now!

On a related note, I've decided that I'm going to get a digital SLR as soon as I can — I've put it off for way too long. They've really started to come down in price and I have my eye on two models in particular, the Canon EOS 10D Digital and the Canon EOS Digital Rebel (300D) (now available with an all-black body). As far as I'm concerned, the main difference between the two is price. The 10D and the Rebel have the same CMOS sensor and essentially have the same firmware, but the Rebel's is slightly crippled (though you can get back some of the functionality through a firmware 'hack'). The Rebel ships with a lens, but the 10D does not (and the lens I want is ~$450!). The best part about the Rebel is that it takes the same lenses as all of the higher-end Canon SLRs (Canon's EF lens lineup; I think there are now more than 50 available lenses). So, the way I see it, if I were to get the much cheaper Rebel (when you take the included lens into account) and then outfit it over time with the lenses that I want, those lenses would work on any future [Canon] SLR that I might get. Seems like an easy choice if you ask me, but if you feel that there's something I'm missing here please let me know.

Bay Area Events

November 05, 2004

For whatever reason I thought I already mentioned this here, but apparently not. For the last six months or so I've been subscribed to the Bay Area Events syndication feed. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area I strongly encourage you to take a look at the site. Every Friday it lays out the goings-on in the Bay Area for that weekend. It first lists the events that are going on all weekend and then lists those activities that are taking place on a particular day. Next to each listed event is a "$$$" label (if it isn't free), a short description, and/or a link to the relevant site. It's a great resource.

Are you kidding me?

November 03, 2004

Shame on you America. Shame on you.

I just came across Todd Dominey's post, and I might as well have written it myself. A couple of excerpts:

With the exception of the political cartoons, movies, and endorsements linked in my side bar, I resisted the urge to personally write about it. And I could have written plenty — the race had consumed nearly all my attention and energy, not to mention conversations among friends, family and coworkers. It permeated nearly every nook and cranny of my day to day life, and despite the outcome, I'm quietly thrilled to have it all back.

I strongly feel Bush doesn't deserve another four years, and I would bet there are plenty of Bush voters who would privately admit the same. But there were clearly more powerful forces at play — most notably morality, religion, and fear — that not only solidified Bush's base, but brought them out in record numbers.

On why I don't allow comments

November 01, 2004

I'm often asked why I don't allow comments on this site. The short and simple answer is that I just don't have time to moderate them. There's no way I could let them go unmoderated and so to keep up with them would be more than I could handle. That, together with comment spam and the fact that I would have to reply to any question/comment directed towards me (I can't help it), would be too much. I might open the site up to discussion in the future, but I doubt it as I seem to be getting exponentially busier as the years march on.

I've moved to Dreamhost

November 01, 2004

After being made aware of the great deal going on over at DreamHost, I couldn't resist moving my site (from Apollo) to their service. The entire transition took less than 36 hours and now, save a few DNS hiccups in various parts of the world, everything is as it should be. I don't want to tout DreamHost too much just yet as I've only been using them for a few days, but I can say that I have nothing to complain about so far (which is rare). The following are just a few of the options I'm getting for $19.95/month:

  • 2.5GB of space
  • 64GB bandwidth/month
  • Unlimited MySQL databases
  • Access to raw log files
  • 75 sub-domains
  • all the obligatory usuals like SSH, multiple server-side spam-filtering options, mod_rewrite, etc

If you end up getting an account with them, please do mention me, jblanton, as the referrer (their referral policy is great; you hear that Apple?).

I'm pretty sure I've covered all the bases, but if you notice that something is broken please let me know.

Stuck in the middle

October 29, 2004

I'm currently in the process of moving to a new hosting provider and so access to this site will likely be limited until the DNS changes fully propagate and I get all of the CMS stuff setup on the new server.

As you were.

Quicksilver iTunes plugin

October 24, 2004

I just wanted to make sure all you Quicksilver users out there were aware of the ability, through the iTunes plugin, for you to have the name of the artist, the song name, and the album art displayed on top of whatever you're doing each time a new track starts. I can't begin to tell you how brilliant this is for someone like me. I often put all of the albums on shuffle and I like to know the name of the song and the artist as soon as I cut to the next track (using Quicksilver of course) without having to bring iTunes to the forefront.

Before this plugin I used iTunes Track, which is actually quite nice and provides customizable transparency levels and the ability to specify both the size and color of the display window. Until just recently though, it failed to update the song information unless you used iTunes Track itself to change the song. That's since been fixed and you can now set the rate at which you want it to update, but the software still doesn't display the album art. The iTunes plugin for Quicksilver handles this wonderfully by displaying the album art on top of the artist and song name in the middle of your screen for approximately two seconds each time a new song begins playing. Couple this plugin with Fetch Art (an AppleScript that connects to Amazon and pulls down the album art for every song in your collection) and you're set.