NosillaCast 02/05/2006 Show #29

2/5/06 show number #29

…a tech geek podcast with an ever so slight Macintosh bias!
Country update, computer setup in Casa Sheridan, VNC problem for listener Alex, Videora for Windows iPod video conversion, Firefox beef, Wiki-wiki, iTunes tweaks, snipurl, Japanese case mod, Webphoto.

Listen to the Podcast – Time: 21 minutes 44 seconds

It’s SuperBowl Sunday, so I’m actually recording early for once – didn’t think I’d have the energy to record after the exhausting work of eating cheetos and waiting for the great SuperBowl commercials.

I’m really excited about how many people are listening – over 2000 people from 77 countries came to the site in the month of January! Isn’t that crazy? It really inspires me to work hard to make this better and better. Your emails with suggestions and ideas really help me work to improve. Keep up all the great feedback please!

country update
time for a country update – 7 new countries joined the Nosillacast listening audience this week! We’re joined by Chile, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, and Moldova. Head on over to the website at podfeet.com where I’ve added links for all these countries to the CIA World fact book so you can read up on them and maybe learn something!

Computer setup in Casa Sheridan
One thing I’ve never done is describe the computer setup at my house. I do all of my work on a 1.25GHz G4 Powerbook. it’s about 2 and a half years old, but since Apple was held back so far on the Power PC chips, it’s really slow compared to a modern PC. That’s why I’m so looking forward to the MacBook Pro I have on order – that’s the new Intel-based Mac with a dual core Yonah chip in it. For my husband’s video work, I just got him a dual core 2GHZ Powermac G5, so he’s smokin’ over there. My son is the spoiled one though. He has an iBook AND a PC. While I’m pretty slanted to the Mac side, I wanted to learn how to build a PC and really get a better feel for the windows side, so a while ago Kyle and i built him a PC. I was really surprised at how easy it was – i thought we had a three week summer project to look forward, but I was only able to milk it over two days! And it wouldn’t have taken THAT long if I’d pushed the wireless card in all the way the first time – diagnosing that took the extra day! I like having a Windows box in the house to test software on, and to see how my web work comes out on the PC.

While I was glad my son liked the PC, I was kinda bummed when I realized that he wasn’t hardly ever using his iBook. but then I got an idea, I bought him a KVM switch – KVM stands for Keyboard, video, mouse – it’s a switch that allows you to run two computers to one monitor, keyboard and mouse, switching between the two of them with a simple keystroke on the keyboard. I chose the MiniView Micro USB PLUS KVM Switch. It drives 2 devices with USB keyboards and Mice, has it’s own cables built in, and also supports audio so either computer can drive the speakers. I chose this device because it supports both Mac and PC, you have to be careful because most KVM switches are PS2 which would leave the Mac out in the cold. The model number on this one is GCS632U and it runs $60-80.

As soon as I put that KVM in place, he didn’t use the PC for about 3 months! It turned out what he really liked was having a nice monitor and keyboard at his desk. now he’s evolved into the major spoiled guy – he keeps his iBook open on the desk for AOL Instant Messenger, and the PC is driving the monitor with his online video games – the best of both worlds. I’ve created a monster.

and then for no apparent reason we still have our 1GHz G4 Powermac set up in my daughter’s room (who is away at college with her own iBook). This machine is on the network, but I’m not sure why we haven’t sold it yet…having separation anxiety I suppose. When I get the MacBook Pro, I’m sure I’m going to want to keep my Powerbook, because it’s so great to have a spare laptop for when one is in the shop! I should also mention that my husband has a Windows laptop from work too – so that means that when the MacBook Pro gets here, we’ll have 7 computers for the 3 of us. Sounds a bit obsessive, don’t you think?

Enough about my obsession with computers….

it’s the beginning of the month, if you enjoy the NosillaCast, head on over to podcast alley and vote for it! If we can get high enough in the rankings, even more people will find out about the podcast. I have to warn you – when you click on vote, it makes you enter your email address, and then sends you a link you have to click to finish the vote. this is to thwart spammers, so I hope it’s not too much of a burden to vote. I think last month we got up into the 600’s out of 11,000 podcasts, so that’s not too shabby!

VNC problem
Listener Alex is having a problem with using VNC on his home network, and I’ve run out of ideas for him, maybe someone here could help. He’s running VNC Server on his PC, with Chicken of the VNC as the client on the Mac under Tiger. The problem is that the chicken freezes up on him and the only way to get it to reconnect to the VNC server on the PC is to shut his airport card off and turn it back on again. He suspects that OSX is doing something to interrupt it. He’s got the appropriate port open in the router. he also tried using VNCDimension (the one I like, not as cool of a name, but it’s easy), and it crashes the moment he tries to connect. He verified that he is only running the firewall on the router, not on either the PC or the Mac. If you have any ideas to help Alex, shoot me an email at allison@podfeet.com

Video conversion on Windows for iPod
Last week I talked about my experiences converting movies to the iPod video format, using Handbrake and Handbrake Lite which are Mac specific applications. I asked if anyone had used any programs on the Windows side. Listener Nolan wrote in and said he had used Videora, but that it wasn’t nearly as easy as the tools on the Mac, because you have to go through a bunch of programs instead of just one.

I wasn’t completely sure what he meant, so I checked out the FAQs and there’s a really nice tutorial on how to get video to the handheld device from a DVD. They’ve done a really nice job of outlining every step simply and with nice screenshots. I think I know what Nolan’s talking about, because the tutorial starts with DVD Decrypter to rip the DVD, and then goes into Videora for the iPod conversion. The problem is that it’s pretty unintuitive – for example, one of the early screenshots in DVD Decrypter says to click on Mode and then IFO. What the heck is an IFO? I’ve heard of ISO which is the other option, but I’ve never heard of IFO. After selecting IFO, you have to select File Splitting and set it to None. What the heck is this even talking about??? I can see that if you followed their steps to the letter you’d probably meet your goal, but what a bunch of gibberish even for a geek like me (or was I a nerd?)

The Videora iPod Converter is a free application, which is cool. Videora itself is a much more extensive product that helps you download and receive bittorrent files, including setting up what they call Season Tickets, which allows you to have your favorite shows downloaded when they come up. Pretty cool integration.

They also have an app called Videora TiVo Converter – which is a really odd idea – it lets you download movies from the internet and move them INTO your TiVo. this seems backwards to me – I’m always downloading because even though I paid for the shows on digital cable, for some reason I can’t seem to reliably record shows on my TiVo so I keep missing them! I guess everyone has different problems…

Firefox beef
text box showing the auto download on FF
So I’ve been really encouraging you all to convert to Firefox or some alternative browser to avoid the security problems of Internet Explorer, right? Well tonite Firefox did something VERY spyware-ish in my opinion! I’m happily surfing away in FF 1.5 when suddenly a window pops up and says “Firefox has just completed downloading an important update and must now be restarted so that the update can be installed.”

WHAT??? How dare they? that’s something i expect out of a casino website! I checked in the FF preferences, under Advanced, and the Update tab, and the default setting for “when updates to firefox are found” is to “automatically download and install the update”. Sheesh. at least they allow me to change the setting to “ask me what to do” when updates are found, but man, that irritates me!
prefs, advanced, updated screen

Wikis
So have you started to hear the word “wiki” being bandied about and wondered what the heck it is? I am immersed so deeply in geekland that I forget that normal people don’t use the same vocabulary, so I like to stop once in a while and step back and explain things. The one place you might have heard the word wiki and not been intimidated by it is the little shuttle busses that run around the Honolulu airport – they’re called wiki-wiki busses. wiki means quick, fast, or hasten in Hawaiian. Ward Cunningham used the word to name his idea for a type of website that allows users to easily add and edit content and is especially suited for collaborative writing. What that means in simpler terms is that it’s a website where everyone who wants to (or who has permissions) can edit the website – even changing what someone else writes.

the most well-known wiki is called Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a multi-national encyclopedia that has been written by normal people like you and I to record everything you’d find in a traditional encyclopedia. A recent study did an audit of Wikipedia and a traditional encyclopedia, and found very comparable error rates, with Wikipedia doing slightly better.

You wouldn’t think this idea would work, would you? You’d think people would vandalize pages, and they do, but because it’s owned by everybody, people go back in and clean up after the vandals – and quite quickly. For example, someone vandalized the page for US President Bill Clinton, and the defamation was removed in under two minutes. It’s as though every time graffiti vandals struck out at a wall, every one of us is driving by with a bucket of nice white paint in our cars, and we stop to erase the vandalism. I think it’s a great example of how most people are genuinely good, and we outweigh the idiots.

A necessary part of Wikipedia is that there are people who monitor sections of the website. let’s say your specialty is in French Impressionistic art, you would monitor that section of the encyclopedia, and whenever someone posted to that section, you would get an email letting you know so you could go check it out and make sure it was okay. It’s that oversight that really helps to keep things orderly. My understanding is that this is entirely done by volunteers.

Wikipedia is available in 10 languages, and the English version has 954,563 articles. Go check it out at wikipedia.org.

iTunes tweaks
Ever wanted to know how long it would take to listen to your entire iTunes library? Look at the bottom of the iTunes window, and you’ll see a summary of the size of your iTunes library, showing the length of time, in days, that it would take to listen to all your songs. Command-click this to change the display to a precise total showing days, hours, minutes and seconds. Not sure why you’d need this, but it’s a quirky thing to check out! O’Reilly has a bunch of cool tweaks for iTunes if you’re interested, check out the link in the shownotes for more fun. oreillynet.com

snipurl
Have you ever wanted to send a link to someone and it was so long, you knew it would word wrap in their email, and then when they clicked on it, you knew it wouldn’t work? and you thought about how hard it would be to explain to them to cut and paste it in two pieces, and so you decided you just couldn’t send it to them? Well, there’s a really easy way to make the url short so that you can email it easier. I think there are several services for this, but the one I like is called snipurl. All you have to do is copy the long url, and then past it into the window at snipurl, and hit the button with a pair of scissors that says “snip”. snipurl main window

snipurl 2nd window
And voila – you’re presented with a nice little url to cut and paste into your email to your friend! another cool feature is that they give you a statistic to show how much smaller the snipped version – the one I’m showing pictures of in the website shows that the original url was 55 characters, and they reduced it to 23, which is 42% of the original. I love stats! Snipurl works in five languages. check it out next time you’re faced with one of those long url’s.


Ultimate Case Mod
This next web link shows the real creativity of people. Some Japanese folks have a Mac SE/30 (introduced in 1989), and they’ve got it running OSX! The way they did it is to wire a Mac Mini into the innards, and actually drive the original monochrome display! This defies description, you’ve got to go see how they did it. The url is really long – I’ll put the real one in the shownotes. Hey, I could give you a snipurl over the air – okay, check out this crazy Japanese mutant mac at http://snipurl.com/m8lv. I don’t know if these url’s expire after a while, so if it doesn’t work for you, just head over to the website for the long annoying one. By the way, they’ve got the entire description both in Japanese and English which I thought was pretty cool of them! Japanese mutant Mac.

WebPhoto
It’s important to me that you understand that I don’t just love everything in technology, I only love it if it a) solves a problem, b) works, or c) shows a promise of something really cool on the horizon. for example, in the late ’90’s, my buddy Ron and I would fool around with an application called CUSeeMe. it was an early video chat program developed at Carnegie Mellon University. It barely worked, and we spent 100% of our time on it adjusting frame rates, trying to get the audio to work at the same time as the video. Even though it wasn’t functional for a normal human, every once in a while we’d get lucky and actually see and hear each other with it. I loved it because it proved to me what was possible, and what was coming. It was very exciting to get a glimpse into the future.

So I test all kinds of software looking for either something that works well, or something that shows the future. If you test this many things, you’re sure to come across something that doesn’t work at all. I just tested out an application called WebPhoto from ionize.org/webPhoto. the idea is that you put an application on your Mac that will allow you to share your iPhoto library over the internet. You don’t have to actually have iPhoto on your machine, just have access to an iPhoto library. I downloaded the application, and followed the web instructions at ionize to start the service. It took two tries, but finally the button that said “visit site” stopped being greyed out, and when i clicked on it, my browser spun for a long time, then timed out. Ok, try again, right? This time it actually brought up a screen on the web where I was supposed to choose the iPhoto library by browsing to that folder on my machine, which appeared to work, but then they cautioned to change the administrator password. Even though I was on the Site Administration page, i couldn’t find a place to change the password. any link I found when clicked opened up a window that was a duplicate of the one I’d just left – the Site Administration page.

sounds like WebPhoto is an interesting idea, but it’s sure not ready for prime time if a bleeding edger like me can’t figure it out. I probably spent 20 minutes on it and couldn’t crack the code. If anyone sees that I was just being simple minded, send me an email at allison@podfeet.com and set me straight – I’d hate to pan somene’s software when it was just operator trouble, but I’m usually reasonably clever at this kind of thing!. My purpose in reviewing this software was to let you know I don’t have completely rose colored glasses, there’s lots of stuff I try that never pans out, or doesn’t work the first time out of the shute. I won’t give you the broken software review all the time, just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t faking it when I told you something worked well!

That’s going to wrap it up for this week’s installment of the NosillaCast – as always feedback is VERY welcome at allison@podfeet.com – thanks for listening and stay subscribed!

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