Chloe is a name I’d long figured I’d give to a daughter, if I were the breeding type, but ‘Chloe Clark’ always seemed too ridiculous a combination. The staccato of repetitious ‘C’s in ‘Chris Clark’ has always bugged me to some extent, ‘C–L’s could only be worse. Considering I’m also fond of the name Clarice, you have to worry about the psychological well–being of my future progeny.
Picking her up two days ago, it turns out my first notebook computer is also my first girl computer —a shock to us all, no doubt— and thus she was dubbed Chloe. It’s been a positive experience thus far, and I’m still amazed to see such a full–featured computer in such a tiny package. The loss of screen real estate migrating from a 17" CRT to a 12" LCD wasn’t as painful as first feared, she’s noticeably zippier than the desktop she’s superseding, and the keyboard is deceptively comfortable (though having an extra key where there was none before [ie– the function key] will take some getting used to).
Small, sexy, and well–named, I’d probably date her if she weren’t inanimate.
Generally speaking, I consider myself a pretty keyboard–savvy kinda guy; and with Mac OS X being the keyboard–friendly place that it is once you’ve enabled full keyboard access, there aren’t too many times in the day I need to reach for the mouse (or trackpad, though I dislike those things immensely). The moments I do need to reach for the mouse are ones where the mouse would honestly be quicker, and given that you can’t really move and resize windows from the keyboard, it’s an out–and–out requirement at times.
What I’d like to see though, in place of (or in complement to) the trackpad/mouse situation we’re all currently familiar with, is touchscreen. Need to move or resize a window? Just reach out and drag that sucker! Can’t be bothered hitting Ctrl–F5 then tab–tab–tab–tab–tabbing your way over to some obscure NSToolbar item that just doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut? Just punch it! The metaphor of on–screen interaction that we live through the mouse is a poor substitute for actual interaction with the screen, and I dare say that the time it takes for you to take your hands off the keyboard and touch any given point of your screen is less than the time it would take to remove said hands from keyboard, grab the mouse, and acquire the same target with the mouse. This is true of laptops, where the screen is mere inches away, but not so true of desktops where your monitor is practically a foot and a half from your keyboard. Hey, I never said it was a perfect idea; just that I wanted to see it; moreso because it is technically feasible in this day and age than because of any particularly futurist bent.
The mouse is growing stale; and though I’m still in line for one of those funky cerebral implants the 21st Century was supposed to deliver to us, I don’t expect it to arrive any decade soon. We need a new device for human–computer interaction —something along the lines of the gloves in Minority Report— and soon… before I grow old and unable to adapt to new methodologies. Where the hell is Xerox PARC when you need them? Why aren’t Sci–Fi writers employed deep in the bowels of hardware manufacturers’ R&D ThinkTanks? And what the hell ever happened to the Nintendo Power Glove?
Well, it’s February 2nd, it’s 3AM, and I’m sitting around waiting for the new OmniWeb beta to be posted. It’s still the 1st in the US, of course, so my waiting is pointless and utterly ridiculous, but I’m waiting nonetheless. Having spent the last few weeks jumping between Safari and Camino, I’m hoping to find OmniWeb fünf a pleasant in–between zone… a happyland free of the various gripes I have elsewhere.
On the one hand, we have Safari. Great rendering engine, lousy interface. I’m not even going to start discussing it. On the other hand, Camino. Development has picked up a lot lately on ‘the little Cocoa–interface Gecko browser that could’ and it looks to have a promising future… but if there’s a browser out there that satisfies all my urges now, I’ll jump ship in a second. This is me hoping that OmniWeb 5 is that brower; an all–killer, no–filler browsing experience. Plus, I’m really digging where WebCore is going with its CSS support.
Somehow the beta release of this incredibly feature–packed browser leaves me feeling somewhere between elated and exasperated; disappointed and… appointed. Form and function bicker with each other constantly; garbling up my the free space of my brain. One is the jewel in OmniWeb’s crown, the other a dull pain in my ass; so, in a rare break from interface–related bitching, I thought I might discuss some of the functionality of OW5.
- History Searching
- Searching inside the pages you’ve visited recently. How very long I have craved this. It’s simple, it’s useful, and it’s right there. I do have one question to the browser–makers out there: why give us a ‘History’ icon for the app’s toolbar when clicking it will take us to the bookmark manager? Admittedly, the History folder of the bookmark manager, but the bookmark manager nonetheless.
- In a “quick, I need to bookmark a dozen interesting things right now before I reboot” situation, workspaces are practical. But when it’s a case of “quick, I need to launch eight browser windows; one going to my own site, several hitting validation services across the web that check that site for errors, and several related to uh… popularity–voyeurism because I just updated my weblog and I wanna make sure my post is valid”, workspaces are invaluable. I’m setting a few up right now… one for the aforementioned ‘decaffeination’ process whereby I check the validity of new entries (etc, etc) and one for my daily comic intake. I used to run a couple of AppleScripted applications from my dock to automagically open those browser windows, but now I can do it with keyboard shortcuts and pre–specify the size and location of the windows while I’m at it. Brilliant.
- Page Marking
- I’m of the opinion that any page worth ‘marking’ is worth bookmarking… so I’m not at all sure what to make of this feature, but to say that following Apple’s lead on the whole SnapBack thing isn’t everything.
- I’m not a really big fan of tabs these days, they hit their practical limits when your most often–hit tab group is 20–30 different sites. As I’ve said before, I prefer to go with independent windows and just exposé my way out of whatever mess I create. When you’re doing most of your window–surfing via the keyboard, it’s not so hard to command–tab through applications (or command–` through the windows of an application, or control–F4 through the windows of all applications) without getting swamped and without resorting to exposé. That said, I could care less about OmniWeb’s new and controversial implementation of tabbed browsing. More power to ‘em though; the drag–n–drop is particularly cool, along with the animated transition between ‘list mode’ and ‘thumbnail mode’.
- Per–site Preferences
- Awesome. I can’t recall how many times I’ve thought “Jesus, the text on this site is way too small —even for me— and it’s a pain in the ass to upsize the text every time I visit it”. Likewise, popup blocking is counterproductive when some arty–farty “I could care less about usability” website puts absolutely everything in independent, self–launching windows; so it’s nice to be able to whitelist those sites without making it seem like a whitelist. Not that I ever visit those kind of sites…
- And many more…
- This puppy has legs, and I’ve only scratched the surface here today. More will come as more intrigues me.
I quick dash to my local Apple store (where ‘Apple store’ means ‘Apple authorized education dealer’, but I digress) bought me some new toys; specifically, two Airport cards (one extreme, one not–so–extreme) and one wireless mouse.
Now with the deskbound eMac acting as my base station, I’m free to roam the house with Chloe; surfing the web, doing whatever. The sheer wonderfulness of wireless internet probably won’t hit me until I find some Wi–Fi hotspots around town and start blogging from a café of some kind, but for now plain–old mobility is serving me just fine.
In the same vein, the bluetooth mouse is just dandy — it’s there when I need it and I don’t have to unplug it when I want to pack up and move elsewhere. The fact that it’s not tied to anything also comes in handy from a “the PowerBook’s USB port is on the left side of the machine, but the mouse is on the right side — restricting my movement somewhat” point of view, too. The cables that used to hang, like medicinal leeches on my PowerBook’s side, are all gone; only returning occasionally to recharge its battery or connect peripheral devices.
It’s pretty fucking cool.
I’ve already discussed the new features of OW5, and mentioned in the opening that this beta leaves me feeling somewhere between elated and exasperated. Considering that I spent the rest of the entry praising its new features, you’d be right to wonder what left me feeling disappointed… and here it is.
- Standard State
Application windows in Mac OS X have two states —Standard state and User state— that describe the size and position of the window. You toggle between these states with the ‘zoom’ button in the title bar (AKA the green ‘+’ button). An app’s Standard state is hard–coded; the user cannot change it, which is why we have a User state in the first place. For most users, 99% of the time, application windows will operate in the User state. For most users, in most applications, Standard state is only sometimes invoked as a ‘maximize’ command. Yeah— the Standard state for a lot of apps is having the window filling the entire screen; in other cases it’s having the window expand to accommodate its contents. I prefer the latter.
Not so in OmniWeb. New browser windows are spawned in Standard state; and their Standard state is a largish, squarish affair. To put it plainly: this sucks. I, like most other people, in most other browsers, have my window set to a size I’m comfortable with. Maybe that window size is reflective of the screen resolution I’m working at, maybe it’s reflective of the width of one of my most frequently–visited sites so I don’t have to side–scroll; it differs for all of us. But OmniWeb doesn’t remember your browser window’s preferred size, it just gives you the Standard.
Perhaps this is a push for you to use workspaces more often, since workspaced windows remember their size and position; or perhaps it’s a bug that will be merrily squished before shipping. Time will tell.
Time did tell; and John G tells me that OmniWeb’s ‘Window’ menu contains a ‘Save Window Size’ item that lets you manually determine the window size of OmniWeb’s Standard state. This is a bigger deal than it looks, since it means OW5 will remember my preferred window size even after I’ve visited one of those arty–farty “I could care less about usability” websites.
A person migrating from any other web browser, one that handle things the other way, won’t find this option immediately; but that’s hardly Omni’s fault. Is it? This makes me happy — that was a potential deal–breaker for me.
Other Window menu niceties include proper support for ‘Close All Windows’ and ‘Minimize All Windows’ shortcuts. Sweet.
- Text Encoding
OmniWeb’s “assumed” text encoding (its fallback encoding, should the page not specify one) is Windows Latin 1 by default, which isn’t altogether a bad thing, but it also claims to ‘Use encoding provided by server’ as its default in cases where one is specified.
I’ll tell you right now that every page served at decaffeinated.org is served with a
charset header that says
UTF-8, but OmniWeb 5 doesn’t respect that header. One might assume that it’s looking for clues inside the document instead of in the headers, and it’s turning up bubkes. Hey, that’s not how things work in XHTML. Look in the freakin’ headers and stop assuming I’m using Windows Latin 1.
I’m really not sure whether this is another squish–it–before–shipping bug or whether they actually want it this way, but the user interface is a little… stiff. Rigid. It lacks fluidity.
Not sure what I mean? Pull up an OmniWeb window and any other window in Mac OS X that features a toolbar. Click the toolbar–disclosure button on one, then the other. One app slides the toolbar in and out; collapsing and expanding. The other (no prizes for guessing which) clicks it on and off. It's as though it’s a switch for visibility, instead of state. The tabs drawer has no such problems with animating its appearance and disappearance, no siree. Consistency, I like it.
The same complaint extends to the appearance of the Site Preferences pane (the pane appears; as if from nowhere) and to the lack of smooth scrolling. Yes, this stuff is just polish… but when smooth scrolling is an operating system function, one that applies to almost any scrollable area in any application, you have to wonder why it doesn’t work here.
- Preference Madness
Being as feature packed as it is, one would expect OmniWeb to have a whole swag o’ preferences; and it does. What I fail to understand is this: when every other drawer–toting application in the Mac world just opens the drawer on whatever side of the window isn’t obstructed by the screen edge (and defaulting to a developer–defined side when it has ample room on both sides), why must OmniWeb ask the user what side they want the drawer to open on?
Not only that, why does it enforce this preference so brutally? This isn’t a life– or data–threatening problem, I will not cry if the tab drawer opens on the left side of the window because the window is hugging the screen’s right edge, why must you scoot the window away from the edge, then open the drawer, then scoot it back when I close the drawer? My decision to have the drawer on the right was completely arbitrary, I just don’t care.
Like Safari and many other browsers, OmniWeb works around the ‘uh–oh, the toolbar is collapsed but they just hit command–L, meaning they want to type in a URI, what do I do?’ situation by quickly expanding the toolbar, allowing input, then collapsing again when the user commits the input by hitting Enter. This isn’t a terrible way to do things, certainly, but there are other factors to consider; which is why I still consider Camino’s sheets to be the superior method for handling this.
First of all —bug reporting for bug reporting’s sake— the expand/collapse toolbar method doesn’t work for OW5 when you hit command–shift–F to get to the Google Search field. When the toolbar is open this works as advertised (which is one more shortcut than Safari has, to OmniWeb’s credit), but when it’s closed OmniWeb plum forgets it even has such a search field. Guess it’s back to the keywords then, huh?
Second of all, though it’s acceptable to expand my collapsed toolbar so I can type in an URL, remember that I wanted that toolbar shut; no matter what I do next. It’s all well and good to collapse it once I hit Enter, but what if I don’t hit Enter? What if I only hit command–L because I wanted to copy and paste the URI of the page I’m viewing into ecto? What now? Why in the hell would I hit Enter now? That would only serve to refresh the page I’m trying to read, thankyouverymuch. The most reasonable course of action for me, as I see it, is to hit Escape to dismiss the now–unwanted toolbar; but hitting Escape will get me nowhere. In fact, the only way I can dismiss the toolbar without hitting Enter is to hit command–option–N. A cumbersome shortcut in an otherwise–simple situation. Similarly, in Safari, I need to hit command–shift–\ to dismiss the navigation bar. Not cool.
This is why I advocate Camino’s sheet input — users know how to use sheets, and sheets work in predictable, predefined ways. You might assume that the percentage of people who surf with their toolbars collapsed is insignificant, and you might assume that most browsers’ handling of it is a weak attempt at contingency design; and you’d probably be right. But damnit, I’m one of those people, and your contingency plan sucks!
OmniWeb has spell–check enabled in multiline form elements. I am wetting myself. This is it, this seals the deal, this is the feature that says “no matter what other gripes you have, no matter how many other cool features should’ve swayed you to fork out thirty bucks for a better–than–average web browser; you are buying this browser”.
And I will.
Microsoft Internet Explorer now accounts for less than 25% of UA traffic here at decaffeinated dot org, with Mozilla holding an even 50%. As for OSs, Windows and Mac usage is split at roughly at 45% a piece; with the remaining 10% held amongst various *nix distros and ‘unidentified operating systems’. Things look good.
Arguably, these figures only go to indicate that my weblog is being read by its intended audience, but I like to interpret it as a signal that I can stop designing for IE’s shortcomings; or at least stop being limited by them. An elastic layout is certainly on the cards, as is a more sophisticated breed of CSS: better use of PNG transparency, a reduced use of
ids in my XHTML, and an increased use of more appropriate (though more sparsely supported) selectors.
…Right after I finish with those other projects cluttering up my life.
There was a time that I could spot a poorly–contrived, horribly overproduced piece of Top 40 pop shite a mile away. I could tell the song sucked just a few seconds into it; be it in a club, a car, or on a friend’s stereo. Lately that hasn’t been happening.
I’ve been hearing more and more songs in clubs and on the radio that I believe to be good songs — that they have some genuinely appealing element. Tonight I actually downloaded some of these songs, thinking I might enjoy them while I work. I won’t mention what they are, for fear of total humiliation, but I will say that you’ve probably heard them on the radio… recently… and that they’re of the ‘dance/pop’ persuasion… and are sung by attractive women.
I’ll tell you what: they suck.
It turns out that drunkenness, overtiredness, giddiness, horniness, and happiness are all terrible states to be in when critiquing music. If you’re dancing at the time, so much the worse. I should’ve realized things were turning bad for me back when Evanescence was sounding good. Jeez.
[via mezzoblue] I’m yet to decide whether this is sheer stupidity, carelessness, or the work of an adman with an evil sense of humor:
<p>We've cleaned up our act.</p>
<p>FrontPage 2003 now has built-in professional coding tools that help you produce clean code faster.</p>
</p>That's right. We said FrontPage.</p>
Regardless, I like it.
There’s something wonderfully perverse about listening to music from an iPod ad on your iPod.
If things look a little shitty around here for the next couple of
hours days, forgive me. I’m recoding a little of the PHP backend, which should give me some better hooks for CSS. The end result? Less code; less
class bloat; cleaner, less convoluted CSS selectors; greater usability; and more betterness.
Also, given that I’m doing this in public and in real time, it makes me 90–100% more motivated to finish this
tonight quickly. So please, excuse the mess.
The browser scene has really started hotting up lately, what with Safari 1.2, the OmniWeb 5 beta, stepped–up Camino development, and now Firefox 0.8. I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t been able to download Firefox because Mozilla’s servers have been jam–packed, but it is my intent to do so, pronto.
Safari 1.2 recently shuffled Camino out of the position of “Chris’ full–time browser” for reasons I can’t quite discern, but after a few weeks’ full–time use I’ve grown quite accustomed to smooth scrolling and shift–spacing to scroll up the page. Hitting the function key and the up–arrow to “page up” on a reduced keyboard is kinda shitty, so shift–space has quickly endeared me; making any application that doesn’t support it quite frustrating. And I’m not just talking about web browsers.
Add to this the fact that Vinay has informed me spellchecking can be enabled in Safari quite easily (though it isn’t enabled by default… why?), and you can see I’m being given fewer and fewer reasons to migrate back. I tweaked Safari’s brower–window nib to turn off texturing, and have decided to just shut the fuck up with regards to my recurring input complaints, so until OW5 ships solid I’m sittin’ pretty with Safari.
My everyday life has become increasingly battery–oriented of late; and never since the days of yore, when radio–controlled cars were the only kind of cars I could give a rat’s ass about, have I been more acutely aware of how very short–lived they are.
- Mobile phone
- OK– I’ve been carrying a mobile phone since longer than most people I know, so I’m quite used to this one, but mobiles are generally pretty low–consumption devices anyway. Generally speaking, I send more SMSs than I make phone calls (the latter being the bigger battery hog), so my battery will last days at a time without the phone ever being powered down. This, I like.
- Digital Camera
- Again, not a real drain on the main vein; there are probably a few hundred photos taken between charges, and those charges could easily be weeks apart, so color me impressed. When you run out of power unexpectedly, though, because you disabled the ‘display’ (read: time and date indicator, along with battery indicator and poorly–estimated shots–left indicator, taking up waaay too much space on a tiny LCD screen) and haven’t been paying your battery levels much attention in its absence… you’re rightly pissed off. Mostly because you find out you have no battery at the beginning of what turns out to be a great night on the town. One that was undoubtedly worthy of a few snaps.
- Video Camera
- Like the still camera, the video camera isn’t exactly a high–use item, but the fact that you can only get 2 hours of filming done on a full battery is a kick to the ol’ face. Less if you open the little flap with the LCD on it (as people at parties are prone to do unless you tell them not to), and less if you use night vision (as people starring in infamously well–distributed sex tapes are prone to do). Crap.
- Seven hours of continuous play really isn’t as long as it sounds. When you’re merrily walking around town or campus it’s a little crippling to be cast into a sad and silent world–of–no–music. Unless you count those buskers on the corner. Which I don’t. What the hell would you do on an international flight?
- Understandably, there’s only so–large a battery you can fit into a twelve–inch portable computer; but three hours? Three hours? It’s damned lucky I’m using this around the house most days, but what happens when I go back to uni? Timetabling is telling me I have six hours of straight classes on a Monday… this is not something I’m liking the prospect of. It’d barely survive a flight to Sydney… let alone an international one. Disappointing.
Fuel cell technology needs to make serious leaps and bounds into everyday use… and soon. Carrying around a spare bottle of sweet, sweet ethanol in case of emergency is a lot more appealing than carrying around a spare $200 battery. Particularly when one requires you shut down your device for battery swappage and the other (forseeably) requires a quick and simple refill from a side–port.
Well… you’d hope.
If you liked Mena’s license–plate snap, try this one I caught just last night…
I’m going to come out and say it, right now, that there is a serious downside to notebook computing… the ergonomics.
Lately I’ve been wondering why oh why my neck has been getting sore. Is it job stress? Did I hurt myself on the monkey bars again? Is it something vague and sexual in nature? Nope, it’s spending hours upon hours with my head tilted at a wholly unnatural angle as I work on my PowerBook. My teensy, tiny, itsy–bitsy, fuzzy–wuzzy PowerBook. I used to have the same trouble with my desktop computers —if the monitor wasn’t at the right height, my spinal cord complained loudly— and it’s happening again.
My desktop solution was simple: elevate the monitor. To this day, my PC monitor stands on a simple wooden booster, and my eMac (with the ‘tilt and swivel’ stand… making it that bit taller than the average PC monitor) on a couple of YellowPages. Weird, yes. But it works well. With the keyboard inexplicably attached to the monitor of the PowerBook, though, I have only two options: either connect a second monitor whenever I’m working at my desk, elevate it, and mirror screens; or elevate the ‘Book itself… interfacing via a bluetooth keyboard.
I think you already know which option I’m going with.
Some time soon I’ll be placing orders for a nifty Apple wireless keyboard to complement the mouse, and Lapvantage Dome just for fun. Consumer whore, I know.
Valentine’s Day came and went with little fanfare this year, due largely to the fact that Fiona is in Vietnam, helping orphans or somesuch. That girl, honestly.
Unsurprisingly, email and other asynchronous modes of communication have a real knack for destroying the romance of the occasion (candy manufacturers’ and florists’ conspiracies aside, that is), so I might just have to tough it out and wait the four weeks until she returns. Unreasonable, I know. In the mean time I’ve had marvelous results distracting myself with very heavy drinking; this past tenday has been populated with more 21st Birthday celebrations than I care to count (four, if you must know), and I get the feeling the rest of the year will be similarly packed.
So to Dave, Gregor, Nick, and Ali: Happy 21st Birthday(s). To Fiona: Happy Valentine’s Day. Come home before I die of self–abuse.
You write a post about missing your girlfriend at what, two in the morning? And you decide to give a vague allusory nod to Tantek, Matt, and Eric in the process by titling it with whimsical reference to their XHTML Friends Network. But since you’re using Safari as your primary browser these days, and it’s two in the morning, and you just want to go to bed, you fail to run your Decaffeination script, and fail to check the post in anything but Safari, and fail to notice that your post just isn’t valid. And then… since you’re serving your pages with the
application/xhtml+xml MIME type, Mozilla users everywhere find your site to be a big, broken, invalid mess; and you’ve gone to bed.
And you don’t return to your computer screen for twelve hours.
So, to the handful of humans who saw fit to email me angrily about my broken website: thank you. Of course, me being asleep meant that such things didn’t get fixed very quickly, so I must beg forgiveness.
Dear Human Resources Department,
I am interested in securing a position with your company and would greatly appreciate your assistance on this matter.
I have attached my resume for your review. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about my background, and the ways in which I can bring value to your organization.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Your resumé is quite impressive, and your attitude matches, but there are six very good reasons why I’m not going to hire you:
- I’m not hiring any new staff right now.
- You spammed me.
- I’m a student, not a company.
- This is a weblog, not a business.
- I don’t have a human resources department.
- You spammed me.
So sue me, that’s really only five reasons. Good luck with that whole “spam your way to employment” thing, though.
OmniWeb 5.0 has hit second beta, so if you’re the test–drive type I suggest hitting their server some time soon. The changelist is impressive, and though it still ain’t super–stable I’ve decided to give it a shot as default browser for a while.
The clincher was the smooth scrolling.
You know I love gadgets, you know I love spending money, and you know that I blame this disease on my mother; so to save a little time and breath I’ll just say “it’s my Mother’s fault I drove out to DigiLife yesterday and bought a wireless keyboard and a Griffin iCurve”. See? Much easier.
In all seriousness though, my trip out to DL (my nearest Apple reseller… and quite possibly the best one in Perth) was spurred by my recently–reported stiff neck; it was time to sort out my desktop–laptop ergonomics. In that previous post I mentioned the Lapvantage Dome as a frontrunner in my laptop elevation game, but there were a few factors weighing in on my final decision to get an iCurve instead:
- I received an email from one Ben Drago reminding me that the iCurve existed, as I had forgotten it completely until then.
- It’s half the price of the Dome, and only a ½–inch shorter.
- They had the iCurve in stock at DL, any they don’t carry Lapvantage at all.
Given the choice between instant gratification and waiting for a delivery, the answer becomes obvious.
The iCurve is, in a word, brilliant. It’s beautiful, it’s minimalist, it has a slippery base (so I can swivel it and the PowerBook at will), and comes packaged with some rubber feet if you don’t like the slick base. It leaves a majority of the computer’s underside exposed for maximum airflow, it tilts the keyboard down at an inviting and easy–access angle (for those seconds between awakening and bluetooth connection… so I can enter my password quickly), and it fits my 12" perfectly (though I’m told it will accommodate 15" and 17" notebooks just as readily).
There’s just one downside… it’s still too short. Five inches too short if you want to be precise (a measurement reached through experimenting with books, boxes, and blocks), and it’s driving me mad. Of course, at 6'4", it’s quite possible that I’m just five inches too tall; not an unreasonable assumption when you’re aiming a general–purpose product at a wildly–varying market, but still… y’know… mad.
The solution is, of course, to mod my desk so that the rear is platformed by five inches. One might argue that I should’ve just platformed it by eleven inches and foregone any sparkly–looking laptop stands, but one might fail to understand me, and one might be looking for an ass–whupping. I digress. I don’t expect any manufacturers out there to actually produce an eleven–inches–high laptop stand, since such a height would be counterintuitive to 80% of the market, but a man can dream. A man can dream.
I’m constantly amused by the blurbs Apple attaches to their software updates:
This software update will upgrade your version of GarageBand 1.0 to GarageBand 1.0.1. This update clarifies specific alert dialogs regarding system performance.
Right. A 19.9MB update addresses alert dialogs. What are they, full–screen TIFFs? And are there a thousand of them? It’s be nice to know what else the update fixes… it’s not as though you’re tight for room in that little text box. Just say “performance enhancements” and we’d probably believe any sized update.
Given that I only outlined my experience with the iCurve in my earlier post, you might be begging for my impressions of the wireless keyboard.
In a word: “meh”.
Don’t get me wrong, wireless anything is sure to excite me, but it’s the ‘keyboard’ part of the title ‘wireless keyboard’ that fails to impress. I’m usually more–than–pleased with Apple hardware (except for that one time), but this falls kinda flat for a number of reasons.
When you’re using a physical object to interface with a virtual, remote, or abstracted object (eg: video game controller, mouse, keyboard), the very shape of it dictates how you interact. People far and wide complained about the original iMac’s “hockey puck” mouse, and for good reason, interaction depends on orientation.
I may be barking up the wrong tree from a touch–typer’s perspective (you’re supposed to orient yourself with the home keys, after all… and they’re signified by oh–so–obvious raised bumps on the keyboard), but being able to feel the edges of the keyboard and even rest your fingers on them is an experience steeped in orientation. More often than not on a standard keyboard, and on my PowerBook, I find myself leaning my thumbs on the plastic border below the space bar (I’m supposed to be leaning them gently on the spacebar, stupid me) but the compact form of the wireless keyboard has no room for plastic borders. It lacks left, right, and top borders too, which may be less of a concern for those without long fingers or odd typing habits, but it irks me.
The more compact design looks a hell of a lot cooler, but at what expense?
Compared to both the standard Apple Pro Keyboard and the PowerBook’s fairly compact, low–profile keyboard, the wireless feels remarkably spongy. It just feels less responsive, and a little softer on the rebound than the others. That’s not to say it sucks; hell, it still feels a great deal better under my fingers than some of the keyboards I’ve bought in the past for my PCs (even the expensive ones… and they weren’t even wireless), but when you’re switching between three different Apple keyboards in your day–to–day life and this is the least impressive, you have to wonder what has gone awry.
- Rubber feet
Like my iCurve, my mouse, and my run–of–the–mill Apple Pro Keyboard, I like to shuffle the wireless keyboard around on my desk from time to time. Maybe I’m just fidgety, but I like to move it around while I’m finding a comfortable spot for today’s writing adventure. Unlike all of the aforementioned computer accessories, the wireless keyboard has little rubber feet that aim to prevent just that. Sliding it around on the desk isn’t a breeze, it’s a conscious effort; a chore.
And I hate chores.
All said and done though, it’s a freakin’ keyboard. The fate of the free world does not depend on this peripheral… I’m just fond of complaint. It’s fun to be complaining in the hardware realm for once though; software can get so tedious.
‘Til next time.
I have to admit it, I’m fond of any real–world object that has multiple applications without even trying: a snooker table that doubles as a dancefloor, playgrounds pulling double shifts as landfill, a microwave–cum–kitty–euthanasia–clinic… that kind of thing.
Sure, computers are built to house multiple applications —imagine a world where you had one PC for instant messaging, another for email, and another for video editing— but for something outside the box to boast multiple functions in a single form… it gets me all wet. Like those vegemite jars that you can use as tumblers once they’re empty — genius.
My latest favorite would have to be the iCurve. Its primary function? To elevate your laptop when you’re sitting at your desk to improve ergonomics. Sure, it might be a little poorly endowed to do its job properly on my desk, but it has another function that suits me down to the ground. Are you ready? Its second function is…
Elevating your laptop when you’re not at your desk.
For instance, imagine you want to watch a DVD on your laptop. No problem when you’re at your desk, but what if you’re feeling frisky and want to watch it in bed? You pick up your user manual to see if that’s OK (don’t we all?), only to be confronted by this:
Warning: Do not place your PowerBook on a pillow or other soft material when it is on, as the material may block the airflow vents, in particular the rear vents, and cause the computer to overheat.
For prolonged use, place your PowerBook on a flat, stable surface. The bottom of the PowerBook case functions as a cooling surface that transfers heat from inside the computer to the cooler air outside. The bottom of the case is raised slightly to allow airflow that keeps the unit within normal operating temperatures. In addition, the computer vents warm air from the back of the case.
You might give up and go to bed in a huff, DVD–less and sad because the soft, squishy, insulating properties of your mattress and haberdashery are ill–equipped for the job of CPU cooling; but only if you didn’t have your trusty iCurve by your side. Now don’t get all pedantic on me and tell me that the primary and secondary functions of the iCurve are the same —merely performed in different environments— I think it’s great. Besides, the context has changed too; it is no longer striving to improve ergonomics, it’s stopping your computer from overheating in situations where it otherwise might.
It keeps the PowerBook off the doona and in the air; the vents aren’t blocked, the bottom is getting airflow, and you get to watch the DVD without having to get up and sit on the couch, like a beggar. And to think I used to go fetch an atlas to play the role of tabletop when I wanted to watch DVDs in bed. Oh, the shame.
On a sidenote: Vanilla Sky is an awesome movie, especially when you watch it in bed.
If you’re interested in knowing what I was like before I got a Mac, before I had anything interesting to talk about, and before I had what anyone would describe as a ‘well–designed’ site, you might be interested to know that I’ve imported entries from my old weblog, dated July–September 2002.
Interesting reading, if you’re into that kind of thing.
After buying my twelve inch beast all those weeks ago I considered doing a point–by–point comparison of the 12" PowerBook and some other 12" notebook, in the same vein as the G5/Xeon shootout, just to see if the claims were true; that Apple’s notebooks are great value compared to the competition. But alas, I grew lazy.
Well, here it is. The Apple PowerBook G4 versus the IBM ThinkPad X31.
Apple PowerBook G4 versus IBM ThinkPad X31
|Display||12.1" TFT, with a natural resolution of 1024×768 pixels||12.1" TFT, with a natural resolution of 1024×768 pixels|
|Case dimensions||10.9" × 8.6" × 1.18"||10.7" × 8.8" × 1.19"|
|Processor||1GHz PowerPC G4 with a 512K L2 cache||1.4GHz Pentium M with a 1MB L2 cache|
|RAM||256MB DDR266 SDRAM||256MB DDR266 SDRAM|
|Hard disk drive||40GB Ultra ATA/100||40GB ATA/100|
|Optical drive||“Combo drive” DVD–ROM/CD–RW||“Combo IV” DVD–ROM/CD–RW|
|Video||NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5200 (32MB DDR), with video out||ATI Mobility Radeon (16MB DDR), with video out|
|Wired Connectivity||56k modem, 10/100 Ethernet, 1 FireWire 400 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports||56k modem, 10/100 Ethernet, 1 FireWire 400 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports|
|Input||Full–size keyboard, touchpad||Full–size keyboard, trackpoint|
|Wireless connectivity||“AirPort Extreme” 802.11g, Bluetooth||“Intel PRO” 802.11b, infrared|
|Operating system||Mac OS X 10.3||Windows XP Professional|
|Bundled software||iLife ‘04 (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand), QuickBooks, FAXstf, Art Directors Toolkit, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, Graphic Converter||PC–Doctor, IBM Rapid Restore PC, Norton AntiVirus 2003, Access IBM|
Evidently, there’s room for bickering amongst the two. One born Macintosh, the other born Wintel; one with a touchpad, the other a trackpoint (or ‘nipple’ for those in the habit of anthropomorphizing their computers); one adheres to the 802.11g standard, the other 802.11b. I could go on for… oh, minutes more.
To my eyes, the PowerBook has but one inferior quality: it’s a pound heavier. Ouch. A whole pound. Then again, when you’re buying an ultra–portable notebook, a pound might matter; of course, so might Bluetooth, or Wi–Fi that’s five times faster, or the world’s most advanced operating system, or $101, or bundled software that encourages its owner to do things with his computer instead of shielding him from his computer.
But hey, I’m biased, and you knew that already. Time for bed.
It would appear that the new, diminutive style of the Apple Wireless Keyboard isn’t exclusive to those without wires. A trip to Kosmic today had me playing with ProTools on a G5 whose keyboard was, indeed, the exact same mould as the wireless.
…but it was wired; USB slots and everything. It makes me appreciate the action of the old Apple Pro Keyboard that much more.
My affections for JB Hi–Fi have been well documented in the past, so you might already be able to guess what happened when Lee called in yesterday saying “hey, you wanna go to JB?”
Lee, of course, has a pretty good reason for going: his car was broken into and his precious CDs stolen. He needs to recover some CDs, obviously, but that in itself is a lousy reason to invite me along for the ride. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy anything. I lied.
I walked out with:
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- the Nightmare Before Christmas
- the Terminator
- the Crow
- the Sixth Sense
- Being John Malkovich
- the Silence of the Lambs
- Donnie Darko: Music from the original motion picture score
Lee walked out with:
- some kind of ‘urban sounds’ remix CD
- the Futurama Season 3 boxed set
Good to see we both stuck to our guns.
I did, however, manage to stick to my resolution not to buy any DVD that wasn’t on sale, which is good, but I paid full price on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Still no Donnie Darko DVD, though. Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Green Mile continue to taunt me from their full–price shelf, urging me to buy them; but I will resist, and wait until they are on sale.
You’re at work. At least, you think it’s work. The chairs and tables in the room are organized in much the same way as those in your workplace, as are the doors and lights. Yes, this is definitely work… but it would appear that it’s aboard a cruise ship. For some reason this doesn’t faze you. A cruise ship… whatever.
A shivering, naked woman is walking through the room; staring blankly into space. She’s cold, and her hair is wet. She looks an awful lot like Maria Bello, but with a softer jaw. More than that she looks lost and upset.
- Are you OK? What happened to your clothes?
- OK, uh… let’s find you something to wear.
You take her out the back and start looking for some clothes. Not that you’d expect clothes to just be there, lying around, but you never know; stranger things have happened in your workplace–at–sea, mute naked women notwithstanding. Finding a sheet, you wrap her in it like a makeshift toga. Oddly, as if being dry and clothed were the salve to her problems, her cheeks warm up and her skin loses its pallor.
- What happened to your clothes?
- I got a phone call from my ex–boyfriend last night. He’s found out that he has herpes, so he’s calling everybody he’s been with to let them know he could’ve infected them. Now nine of his ex–girlfriends have moved in with him.
- That’s a shame.
That doesn’t really explain where her clothes went, though; herpes or no herpes. It could be simplex, for all you know. Why in the hell have nine of his ex–girlfriends moved in with him? Are they building some kind of herpetic love nest, or what? The questions boggle the mind, but they don’t seem so important right now. The scene has changed. You’re sitting on a picnic blanket on a grassy hill, under an azure sky streaked with cirrus. There’s a light breeze coming from the right. The right could be any direction, really, but you assume that it’s West, if only because the breeze is cool and you’re accustomed to having sea breezes come from the West. The sheet has gone now, and she’s wearing a dress; something of a plain, countrified smock. Her hair isn’t blonde anymore, either, and she’s started to look more like Claire Danes than Maria Bello… but without the dimples. You can’t help but smile.
- What are you smiling at?
- You. You’re beautiful.
My good friend of many years, Scotty, has given me a Zippo for my 21st birthday. Of course, my 21st birthday isn’t for another six months, but that’s besides the point.
I don’t smoke.
Let it never be said that the man doesn’t have a bizarre sense of humor.
If you’re subscribed to one of my Atom feeds, I’ll have to apologize for the (apparent) lack of updates lately… I haven’t been rebuilding the Atom files. Why? Oh, technical difficulties.
Long story short, I’ve update MovableType to version 2.661 (from 2.64) to take advantage of the new(ish)
MTEntryModifiedDate tag available therein… thus obsoleting Kevin Shay’s
LastModified plugin and thus bypassing whatever problems his
UTCDate plugin was having with
LastModified’s munged output.
I like to blame the leap year… but the cause may indeed never be known.