Pay your shareware fees, Timbuk2 accessories, MyPodder from podcastready.com DOES work on Mac/Windows/Linux and more, HDA Bob on Anti-Lock brakes at hdabob.com, Color Oracle at colororacle.cartography.ch. More website statistics programs at sitemeter.com. WinDirStat from sourceforge.net/projects/windirstat allows disk mapping like Grand Perspective for the Mac. Neo Office week four, Caffeine to keep your Mac from sleeping at lightheadsw.com/caffeine/.
[tags]shareware, freeware, Neo Office, web statistics, hdabob, cross-platform[/tags]
Listen to the Podcast Once (38 min 04 sec)
A technology geek podcast with an ever so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday, May 27th, 2007 and this is show number 98. We’re getting pretty close to show number 100.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the shareware I use as I rebuild my disk since the big crash of ’07, and it makes me realize how important these apps are to my workflow and to appreciate even more the effort the shareware developers go to in order to make my life easier and more fun. I want to make a plea to all of you to pay your shareware fees even when they don’t make you by watermarking or giving you limited capabilities until you do. We want to keep this great community of developers in place to keep creating software so pay them, ok? One i’ve used for at least 10 years is MacTracker, and when I downloaded the latest version to the new disk they had a donation button i’d never seen before. they didn’t suggest what I should pay but since I’ve used it so much I decided $30 was at least what I owed them. I like it when they remind me, helps keep me honest! If when you’re done paying your shareware fees you have a few extra bucks left in your wallet you can’t figure out what to do with, you could always push the Donate button on podfeet.com and help support the podcast. Pay the shareware guys first though, ok?
Update on Timbuktu laptop bag
After I posted the show last week when i talked about my choice of the Timbuktu messenger laptop bag, where I mentioned that the only thing I regretted was that the strap had padding on it, I posted the same comment to the message board where I found all those lunatic…I mean fanatical…I mean…helpful women had told me about the best computer bags. If you don’t believe me that they’re fanatical, I put a picture ofJenny’s bag collection in the shownotes!
Anyway, after I complained that the timbuk2 bag didn’t have a padded shoulder strap, within seconds Pat, Deb and Jenny all told me that Timbuktu sells ACCESSORIES! and of course the first accessory they all recommended was the padding for the strap.
I ran over to Timbuk2’s website and ordered myself the add-on strap padding – and i chose the rubberized one so it won’t slip off my shoulder. I destroyed the case on my titanium powerbook when my shoulder strap slipped off my shoulder once, so I like that I can give my MacBook pro a fighting chance this time! It was only $10 which seemed like a fair price, but the darn shipping was $9.50! Oh well, my comfort and my laptop’s comfort was worth it! Thanks again ladies for the help!
MyPodder from Podcast Ready
Remember last week I was asking for a Podcatching tool that everyone could use, and I had expressed my disappointment that MyPodder from Podcast Ready was just teasing when they showed download buttons for Windows, Linux and OSX? Luckily Donald Murphy from Podcast Ready saw my post about this and wrote in with clarification:
“I saw your post about the podcatching client from Podcast Ready, myPodder. In order to synchronize your subscriptions with the website, for management, we require an account to be created before downloading. This allows us to match up your user account with your copy of the software. The Windows button downloaded something because the installer requires a user account to install the software in order to accomplish the same task. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. Thanks and have a great week.”
Hey Donald, thanks for writing in, I headed back over to podcastready.com and created an account. and guess what? Donald is right – they DO have a download for lots of OS’s! I downloaded and installed on OSX and on Windows XP.
MyPodder opens prepopulated with a bunch of Podcasts to get you going, which for the newbie is a GREAT idea. they did a nice sampling of a few mainstream media Podcasts like ABC News and ESPN, but also things like Slashdot Review and Slice of Sci-fi. These are referred to as channels, and there’s a separate Podcast tab. Not sure what constitutes a channel vs. a Podcast though. They also have a tab to change options like where you want your files stored, how to configure a proxy in case you’re behind a firewall, and even how to backup your channel listing to an OPML file.
On the opening screen they have a button that says “find more podcasts”. When you click that, it tells you that it’s going to close MyPodder and go to the Podcast Ready website. this seems odd, wonder how I’ll know when to relaunch the application. I decided to trust it. at podcastready.com I searched on the best Podcast of all time, the NosillaCast, and to my great excitement, it was listed in there. I hovered over the buttons, and the plus button added it as a subscription.
I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I launched MyPodder again, but NosillaCast wasn’t listed there with the others. I went back to podcastready.com and messed around a bit, deleted a bunch of podcasts except for mine and slashdot. I noticed a little arrow next to my podcast and hovered over it to reveal that if clicked it would download OR play the podcast episode. Now I got a nice little window with three buttons – the little butterfly thingy means to send the episode to your private channel, then there’s an arrow to play, and a down arrow to download. they also put the beginning of the RSS describing the podcast episode in this nice little window.
I went back to MyPodder and clicked “refsresh channels” and now NosillaCast came in as a private channel. next to it there was a button for website, but it didn’t take me to MY website, it took me back to podcastready, which was odd, don’t know why they’d need to do that. Oh well. at the bottom it had a button to download the shows. I told it to go ahead, but after it ran for a while, i realized that it was still downloading for all of the channels it had to start with – not narrowed down to the two I had told it to use on the website. that didn’t make me happy! I clicked on one of the podcasts I didn’t want and found a delete button, so I went through the delete process again. I’ll ask my new friend Donald why they chose to do it that way. Oddly when I ADDED a podcast on the podcastready website, it DID show up in my player on OSX, so it’s just a problem with deleting them online.
I should mention that during the download process, they show a nice looking icon of a USB device, which I should explain. On their website they explain that they not only support all of these operating systems, they support all kinds of devices – not just iPods, but any mp3 player, video player basically any USB device! I love this, it’s really agnostic so everyone can play!
I noticed in the myOptions tab it gave me an option of where to store the files, and it allows you to keep them in three separate directories for audiocasts, videocasts, and photocasts. I think I was supposed to have my hardware player attached when I did the download, but it still worked great and put the files my disk where promised.
I won’t go through the whole installation again to explain how it works on Windows, but I did want to point out one big difference. When you download MyPodder on Windows, it brings up an interactive screen that walks you through step by step when to plug in the portable device, logging into your account (or signing up right there). I think it’s really well done and kinda wish it had been on the Mac side just like that! Windows users even get an option to have MyPodder launch when the portable player is attached which is an excellent feature.
Probably the happiest moment in my experimentation was when MyPodder launched in Windows, and it was configured exactly as I had set it up on website (and later on the Mac version) with only SlashDot and NosillaCast as my channels. Seemed better integration than on the Mac side.
I added the Mac ReviewCast to my subscriptions on the Podcast Ready website and then launched MyPodder on OSX and on Windows XP and set them side by side. The two versions handled the new subscription fairly differently – on OSX it added the Mac ReviewCast as a new Podcast series, on the Windows version it added the single episode as a subset of a channel it created that included the NosillaCast. I suppose it’s remotely possible I did the subscription differently, but I’m pretty sure I did it this same way!
I’m sure glad Donald wrote back, my only advice to the development team on MyPodder team would be to have some text on the podcast ready website that explains why the non-windows download buttons don’t work on the website until you create an account (or figure out a way to make the download work without an account like on Windows, which would be even better!) My advice to you is if you’re looking for a Podcatching client that integrates into your OS, no matter what OS you’re running, and integrates into your media player, no matter what media player you like, then you should really check out MyPodder from podcastready.com. Thanks Donald for helping me get this going!
Last week I promised that this week we’d learn about the antilock broake system from HDA Bob’s website at hdabob.com. HDA Bob puts a great deal of work into making his website a useful source of information not just for Honda owners, but for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the components of their car, say before they subject themselves to a regular mechanic. I can’t stress highly enough that if you’re in the LA area and you drive a Honda or an Acura, you’d be so much happier if you had HDA Bob come to you than if you go to one of those sleezy places where you consider yourself lucky if they just rob you blind but at least your car got fixed! On Bob’s site where he explains the anti-lock braking system, he points out that it “modulates the pressure of the brake fluid that is applied to both front brake calipers and/or both rear calipers, preventing the wheels from “LOCKING UP””. He goes on to point out that there is a sensor that the system monitors so that if one wheel is turning slower than the others the anti-lock system releases pressure to the wheel. I did not know that! the most important thing Bob explains is that if the ABS indicator light comes on in your car, get it checked out right away because you could find yourself in a dangerous situation with no support from your ani-lock brake system. For more car tips like this, head on over to hdabob.com, or better yet, have Bob come over and work on your Honda himself!
Errata from Bart
Well, it’s not a successful NosillaCast if I don’t mess up at least one thing, and at least one of you doesn’t call me on it! Remember all the fun we had with Fauxto? This week Bart caught me in a serious misreprentation of the truth on my explanation of Clicky for web stats:
Just listening to this week’s cast now (I know, I’m late, just been a hectic time). You said “without loading a darn thing on your website you can get terrific statistics”. This peaked my interest because it sounded like some kind of black magic. So, as I always do when something sounds like black magic, I dug a little deeper. What their site says is “By including just 2 lines of HTML code on your web site …..”. Two lines of code on each page I want to track is a big darn thing to me 🙂
Well Bart, you caught me! I remember this niggling in the back of my mind wondering how it does this magic! Of course I had to put some code on my site! By the way, you don’t have to put the code on every page you want tracked, simply put the few lines of code in the footer file so it sees all the pages. Thanks for bringing my faux pas to everyone’s attention.
Bart wasn’t all correction, he also sent in an audio review of a tool called ColorOracle:
ColorOracle from Bart
==============INSERT AUDIO FROM BART=============
Thanks Bart. It sounds to me like Color Oracle and Sim-Daltonsim are both tools that help with accessibility and I’m all for that as you know. We don’t think of color blindness as a disability, but it sure can make life difficult for some people. My son is slightly color blind – I remember he used to refer to our cat Mulligan as “the brown cat” when he was little, and that cat was of course grey. That’s how I figured out that he was missing something in the cone region. You might be thinking he was missing something else, like why didn’t he just call the cat Mulligan? Anyway, thanks for the review Bart!
Speaking of web statistics, I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions on other sites that provide cool statistics, so evidently I’m not the only one with this anal obsession with data Niraj!
Tim write in:
“Your most recent podcast mentioned Clicky as a site “monitor” I thought I would point out sitemeter from sitemeter.com (s-i-t-e). I use it on the website I maintain. It gives me a counter of all my visitors since inception on my site. As webmaster i have access to even more information. It is interesting to see where visitors come from – browser info, etc. check it out.
This is also a free service, but they do offer a paid model as well, which presumably gives much more info (and has no advertising on the stat pages). Another VERY nice feature is that I can tell it NOT to recognize my machine IP address, ’cause I visit a lot and it will not skew the results. Nice feature.”
Tim sent along a link to a sample monitored site, i put the link in the shownotes so you can see what it looks like. Thanks Tim, I checked out your site statistics and it looks pretty comprehensive. i like the world view that sitemeter gives Tim, you can choose to have the location of your visitors shown on a globe-type map, which can be set to show you where it’s night time. Pretty nice graphics. Sitemeter also lets you view by continent, and you can zoom in on the map. This is probably the best map stats I’ve seen.
Susan on stats
Susan wrote in a nice message:
“Allison, May I send you virtual flowers as well as kudos on 2 year and #100 podcasts?
Well of COURSE you can Susan – your kudos and virtual flowers are graciously accepted! She went on to say:
Hey, stats are great! Your appreciation of Clicky’s analytics is right on target as there is so much to learn abouty your audience. By the way Clicky is much like webStats.com.
Before I read more of what she wrote, I need to tell you that webstats.com is now a link farm to web statistics sites. I shot her a note asking her to double check the url, but let’s listen to what else she had to say:
“Webstats was used on an education project we did, a computer security training package on the “buffer overflow”. They funded these education projects to build up a CyberSecurity Corps, then, typically, lost interest. Our stats were scary. Only 1/3 of the users were in the U.S., like West Point and the few schools teaching security. Seeing that somebody was playing with our stuff at Jerry’s Internet Cafe in Islamabad made me wonder about the outcomes of our work.”
Interesting Susan – you sure do realize quickly that this is a global thing these days, definitely you have to assume you’re being heard across the world. If you realize it, then it can become even more exciting, but you sure do have to watch what you say and do when you realize it’s across the world.
She also said that Clicky used a red number to authenticate, which was something she could not see as she is visually impaired. I wrote to them to question their lack of accessibility, you know how grumpy I get when anyone is excluded!
Susan was also intrigued by my description of Grand Perspective on the Mac for looking at your disk to figure out which files are hogging up all the space. She wrote:
“Regarding the disk space utility, I’m planning to try out the TreeMap version for Windows corresponding to the Grand Perspective for Mac. TreeMap was developed at a really cool Information Visualization lab at U.Md., by a researcher I know there, Ben Schneiderman. They did some studies on how TreeMap and similar tools were used, and it’s great to see the product line is out there. Like you, my disk space struggle is never-ending.”
This sounded like fun, so I went hunting for TreeMap and didn’t find it directly, seems a LOT of things are called treemap, but I did find an open source tool for Windows that was a snap to install, and gave me a pretty interface much like Grand Perspective. It’s called WinDirStat (spell) from sourceforge.net/projects/windirstat and of course there’s a link in the shownotes as always!
Installation of WinDirStat took just a few seconds, and it was asking me to tell it what disk to analyze. I let it go nuts on the C: drive, and then it showed a bunch of directories with these little Pacman things running back and forth! it was really fun! Now other value than to entertain me! Surprisingly, it didn’t have to entertain long, because very quickly it came back with a map with three panels.
the bottom half is the pretty part showing the sizes of files by how big the boxes are, the colors representing the types of files. then the top half is split into two halves, the left allows you to see by directory where you are in the map, and the right side is essentially a color key – showing you for example that Windows installer packages are shown in yellow, their extension is .msi, they collectively take up 3.2% of my disk at 266MB for the 66 files. I should point out this is on my virtual machine for using Windows on my Mac through Parallels, so it only has 12GB which is why the files sizes are so small.
the problem with WinDirStat is that in the end game, it has to speak Windows’ language, which is unfailingly arcane. for example, there’s a HUGE blue square which is taking up a full 2GB of my disk. wow, better figure out what that is! turns out it’s called PrlsCmps0.dat. Well gee, that’s obvious, isn’t it??? In the menus of WinDirStat I found under CleanUp the command “Explorer Here”. With the big file selected I asked for explorer here, and it showed me where this big fat file lived. Still didn’t tell me what it was.
Also under cleanup I was able to ask for the properties, where Windows helpfully told me it was a DAT file of unknown application. it did say it had the attribute archive, not sure what the heck that means either. The second biggest square on the color diagram turned out to be PrlsCmps1.dat at 744MB, so I have nearly 3GB of disk wasted with something incomprehensible! I’m not blaming WinDirStat at all for this, just explaining that it can’t do magic, it’s still dealing with Windows!
After I thought about this for a while and I read that file name phonetically, I realized that it could be something caused by Parallels itself – it’s called PrlsCmps0.dat, which could be part of the Parallels compressor algorithm. I threw a post up on the Parallels Forums to find out if anyone there has seen it.
I did find a rather large square at 250MB which was for an application I thought I had deleted, so i killed that, and used the WinDirStat refresh button which quickly rescanned and showed the new boxes without that file. WinDirStat sorts first the folders by size, and within the folders it shows the files that are offendingly large. Remember how I said I wished I’d had that in Grand Perspective?
If you’re like Susan and looking to harvest file space on your Windows machine, check out WinDirStat at sourceforge.net for a free and intuitive solution.
If you’ve been following along with our home game, you know I’ve been testing Neo Office as a substitute for Microsoft Office. I am in week four of testing, and it’s going well, so I thought I’d do a review for the Mac ReviewCast at macreviewcast.com with Tim Verpoorten. Hope you enjoy this:
Neo Office – week 4
Hi Tim – Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast podcast hosted at podfeet.com here. Four weeks ago I decided to try using Neo Office, the Open Source word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and drawing program. Neo Office is based on Open Office which was created by Sun Microsystems, and then released out into the wild as an Open Source project. It was developed to work on Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. At some point the developers realized that the interface shouldn’t look the same in every operating system, it should look more like the applications native to that OS. The early versions running under OSX looked very Windows 95ish. Open Office for the Mac also ran under X-11, and it was really slow to launch.
Neo Office 2.1 in contrast is aquified – it’s very pretty and runs natively in OSX without the need for X-11. In case you don’t follow the whole Open Source thing, Neo Office is free to download and use. If you’ve tried Open Office or even Neo Office a while ago, I really encourage you to check out the latest version because it’s a pretty dramatic improvement. Neo Office comes with 5 major programs all bundled into one. Instead of opening Excel and Word as two separate applications, when you open Neo Office you have access to all five applications. This makes the initial load a bit slow, but not too bad compared to opening a lot of applications.
The five major applications in Neo Office are called Writer, Calc, Impress (or sometimes called Presenter), Base, and Draw. That’s a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and drawing program. If you use Microsoft Office, you know that the Mac version does not include a database program while the Windows version does include Access. With Neo Office you get a database. I’m hoping to get someone who knows how to use Access for Windows to test out Base for me to see if it’s any good, and if it can read and write Access databases. You’ll also notice from the list that Neo Office includes a drawing program. this is an important edition – I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to draw in Powerpoint and it’s pretty dismal.
One small but important enhancement of Neo Office in Presentation is that they give us Mac users something the Windows users have enjoyed for years, and that’s the slide viewer pane down the left side. I’ve ALWAYS been jealous of the Windows guys for that, SO much easier to find the slide you’re looking for. Ironic that in this case I prefer working in Neo Office to working in MS Office because it’s as good as the Windows version.
It would take too long to go through every feature, but on my Podcast I am doing a tidbit a week describing my experiences using only Neo Office at work. I have gone for 4 weeks without MS Office, and so far no one has noticed that I’m sending files from anything but “real” office, which I see as a good litmus test for it’s usability in a Microsoft-centric environment. More importantly, I have used it in front of people to edit documents and collaborate, and even the they don’t notice that it’s not MS Office.
I should admit that I have had some issues with Neo Office. Right now I’m struggling with a document that randomly decides that it shouldn’t be single spaced. this happens on individual lines, and the problem is it’s choosing to go to LESS than single spacing so it gets all jammed up. I reported it to the forums at trinity.neooffice.org, and they’ve been really responsive to my questions so far so i expect a solution pretty soon. Neo Office does publish patches pretty frequently, so each time I’ve had an issue I’ve downloaded the patch and it goes away, so maybe patch 5 that I just downloaded will fix this one. I think they should make it a bit more obvious when you download Neo Office that you need to go get the patches though. I ran with it for about 2 weeks before I heard about the patches, and it turns out they are not included in the downloadable install file for the main program.
I also had trouble when I made a bunch of graphics like big fat arrows with words in them, and reopening the file in Neo Office showed them all messed up, squished, shrunk, moved, just a real botchup. Oddly the same file opened with graphics intact on Windows using MS Office. My next plan is to make the graphics in Draw, which is more flexible anyway, and then paste them as a bit map into Impress.
One thing you do have to do to live in a Microsoft world is change the default save options. If you don’t, they’ll be saved in the Open Document Format. It’s a little tricky to do, so you might want to head over to podfeet.com and check out the shownotes there for the detailed steps and screenshots to get that set correctly.
I’ll keep using Neo Office until I run into a show-stopper or until it in some way inconveniences someone I need to work with. If you’ve got a computer without Office on it, I highly recommend checking out Neo Office for the Mac (or Open Office for Windows) rather than spending the $150 for the home version of Office. Talk to you next week Tim!
Note – after recording I discovered the line spacing was a problem in my Slide Master.
Now that it’s just us chickens over on the NosillaCast, I want to go into a bit more detail on how to set up Neo Office for saving files. this can make or break how well you integrate into our society until the open document format is widely accepted, so listen up if you don’t want to be a pariah!
In Neo Office, open preferences. When that window comes up, click on Load/Save, and a pull down arrow will flip down to reveal four options, click on General. the General section will have all kinds of options, but you want to look partway down to the Default File Format section. There will be two pull downs, one on the left, one on the right. The left pulldown is document type, the right one is “always save as”. You’re going to pull these down several times, not just once. First pull down the left side till it says “Text Document”, and the right side until it says “Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP”. Of course you may have some other format you want to use, that’s up to you but for our purposes stay with this option. What you’ve done so far is tell Neo Office to save your text documents so they can be read by Microsoft Office.
Here’s where it’s not intuitive, now that you’ve told it to save text documents to MS Office format, you have to pull down on the left again, and set it to Spreadsheet this time, and set the right one to “Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP”. I know, it seem redundant, doesn’t it?
Finally we’ll do it a third time, this time pulling the left side down to presentation and the right down to MS Office format.
I thought at first they should have had a global change option, but since there are other types of documents in Neo Office, that wouldn’t make sense. For example, there IS no MS equivalent to Neo Office Draw, so what would a global change do there? If you use more than those basic three and you want to interact with others with these files, be sure and keep an eye on the formats and change them appropriately as well. now you’re all set to use Neo Office in a Microsoft-centric world and no one will be the wiser…except for you of course, saving $150!
Bart turned me onto the sweetest little menu bar application. it solves one teeny little annoyance, and solves it as simply as possible. You know how sometimes (well, probably LOTS of times) you’re watching a movie in iTunes, or maybe Youtube, and the screen dims because of the energy saving settings? What if you could temporarily just tell it to quit dimming? Enter Caffeine, from lightheadsw.com/caffeine/.
Install Caffeine, and you’ll see three Zzz’s in your menu bar. That means your computer CAN sleep whenever it feels like it. click once, and it’s the same three Z’s with an X through it, which means it can’t sleep. that’s it, that’s all there is to it. Sleep on, sleep off. I thought this sounded pretty silly when he told me about it, but I find I’m using it ALL the time now! Check out Caffeine to keep your computer away when it should be.
Well, it’s Memorial Day weekend and I’ve got company coming over for a little barbecue, so I’d better close up the show for this week to get ready. This was a great week for feedback from listeners, keep up the good work by sending me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re in the mood to record your melodious voice, send me a voice recording at email@example.com. thanks for listening, and stay subscribed!