NosillaCast 05/13/2006 Show #43

This week is very special, as it’s the one year anniversary episode of the NosillaCast. In podcasting that’s an ancient podcast! To commemorate the show, I take a walk down memory lane of the events of the past year as I saw them, and then launch into my regular show with feedback from Tasmania, some excitement about my Mother’s Day gift – a power washer! a review of a freeware virtual desktop program for the Mac, a bit about the new laser bluetooth keyboard, a Popwire’s swell new program to allow windows media files to play on an Intel-based mac, online Pictionary, great site to buy trip insurance, Mouse Locater to keep track of your cursor, and a new google website. Hope you can take a minute to stop by podfeet.com and check out the NosillaCast’s one year anniversary show!

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Today is Sunday May 13th, 2006 and this is show number 43.

Happy Birthday NosillaCast!
This week was the one year anniversary of the beginning of my show. I think I can say with confidence that I’m not experiencing any podfading – if I can keep it up for a year, I think I’m in this adventure for the long haul. if anything I think I’m more excited now than I was at the beginning. I thought I’d take a trip back in time and talk about some of the highlights of the last year.

When I first started, I did one 9 minute introductory show, and then the next three were all from the D: All Things Digital Conference. This is an executive conference put on by the Wall Street Journal, and hosted by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher. I had great fun discussing the discussions with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and I did the whole thing from my hotel room in San Diego. If you’re interested in seeing more about the conference, it’s at d.wsj.com. Then I did what 90% of all podcasters do – I stopped. I seemed to think I was going to keep going, but I didn’t. Most podcasters fade after 4 or 5 shows. Lucky for me, a fan named Jay Jacobs wrote me an email and said, “what’s up? where’s the NosillaCast?” That’s all it took, for me to realize that people were actually listening to me, to kick back into gear. By July of 2005, iTunes 4.9 came out, bringing podcasting into the semi-geek mainstream. September is when i finally got into the rhythm of the weekly podcast, and I haven’t missed a week since. September also brought the Nano to us, you had to hear ALL about my first family reunion in 35 years from Michigan – which turned into way more fun than I thought it would be because I rediscovered my cousin Ann Marie, who turned out to be an ubergeek like me!

By October I was thrilled to see my unique visitor count get up to 178 people! Funny to look back on that now, but I remember running to tell my husband about all the people listening. October also brought the WordPress blog which is the greatest tool I’ve ever used, probably instrumental in me keeping up the energy to do this. It wasn’t all joy in October, that’s when the Samsung debacle closed, not that I haven’t spent nearly every month reminding you to never buy anything from Samsung!

November was probably the greatest month of the year as that’s when the Podcast Expo took place and I had the great thrill to meet Adam Christianson from the MacCast, Steve Gibson of grc.com, Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central, John Chambers of the One Minute Tip Podcast, and best of all I got to meet my hero, Leo LaPorte. His keynote speech was very inspirational – he talked about how if you do what you’re passionate about, everything else will fall into place. I remember what he said frequently when I’m gearing up to do the ‘cast, and it really is true. I could spend the rest of THIS ‘cast gushing about Leo, but I’ll try to restrain myself. Everyone was so gracious, it was an honor to be with them all.

December and January were filled with Christmas, New Years, the Martian Death Flu and a car accident – but I still never missed a weekly podcast, only shifted it out one day each time. It was rugged but I really feel a commitment to the show and I don’t want to disappoint! February was spent playing with the new iLife Suite, and the arrival of my MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro only had a month of adoration before I began torturing it by running Windows on it using the hack from onmac.net/ in March. April’s excitement over a new calculator application was shockingly overshadowed by the advent of Boot Camp and of course Parallels to run Windows natively without a hack. And that brings us back to May.

I want to give heartfelt thanks to all of those who’ve provided feedback over the last year, sending questions and comments, and also to those of you just listen or even those of you who only read the blog – it’s been a year of joy for me, and I thank you for the opportunity to spread my excitement about technology to you all. Let’s do it for another year, shall we?

Happy Mother’s Day
Well, I got a VERY exciting present for Mother’s day – Ron and Steve went over to Costco and got us a Power Washer! if you haven’t played with one of these, you haven’t lived. It attaches to your regular hose, but with an electric motor it increases the pressure until you can take paint off of a wall! Okay, I exaggerate, the 1800 PSI model from Husky we bought is perfect for us though – it’s to take the algae off of concrete and stucco walls. You may remember about 6 months ago I spent 4 hours scrubbing the algae off our stucco walls and pathway, literally wearing holes in my knuckles from the scrub brush. Well, today I spent about an hour with so little effort and did a way better job! Steve and I did our respective halves of the driveway – it’s amazing what color our driveway actually is! I suppose an electric power washer isn’t for every wife for mother’s day, but it sure made me happy! We share custody of it with Ron, so the whole thing only cost us about $80 as it was $160 US.
AL POWER WASHER

More on Virginia computers
Last week I talked about all the things my friend Melissa and I were able to do on her computer successfully, and I knew there was something I was forgetting. I of course remembered a half hour after doing the recording! Harvey and Melissa wanted to do instant messaging, but their old computer got all horked up when their son ran AOL’s Instant Messenger on it. I installed an open source program called GAIM from gaim.sourceforge.net. the cool thing about GAIM is that it lets you talk not just to AIM users, but also MSN messenger, Yahoo! messenger, IRC, Jabber, and about 5 more tools! You can even log into multiple IM networks simultaneously. GAIM runs on Windows and Linux, and it’s updated frequently. so if you want an alternative to AIM, or if you have friends using different protocoals, check out GAIM over at Sourceforge.

Listener Feedback
First I want to thank you for a great podcast, one I never want to miss. I was listening to your #42 and heard your discussion about computer heat. I think you might find the following widget to be very complete in the reporting of virtually everything in your computer. It is free and it’s name is iStat pro 2.21 from islayer.net. Keep up the good work, Best regards, Phil

thanks for the nice praise Phil, and the tool suggestion. It looks like it doesn’t work right with the Intel mac – it’s got screwy numbers for the memory (594MB???) and it doesn’t show temp for my machine at all. it sure looks cool though. it shows the cpu, but I don’t know which one it’s showing! I like the network in/out too, but I wonder what bandwidth is vs. network in/out?
iStat image. If you’ve got a non-Intel machine, or acan wait till they come out with a Universal binary version, this is definitely a nice tool to get all your diagnostics in one place. Check it out at islayer.net, and all their other cool tools too!

Tasmanian miner update
Last week I talked about the story going around that some miners were stuck in a mine for an extended period of time, and everyone was abuzz about the fact that they sent iPods down to them for entertainment. The real story of course is that they were stuck in a mine for all that time! After I talked about that last week, I got a great email from Rose who lives nearby to where the miners were trapped. Here’s her own words:
G’Day Allison – I live in Hobart (capital of Tasmania) and thought I’d best tell you about the Miners. They were in a safety cage when the rock fall (due to an earthquake) occurred. A large rock fell on the roof of the cage which protected them from other debris. Thermal imaging equipment discovered they were alive (14 miners got out on the day but sadly one died) on about the 4th day. The rescue team was able to drill a 100mm (4inch) access tunnel through to the cage so they could communicate and send food and water and later iPods but due to the extreme hardness of the rock and the need not to risk any more lives it took another 10 days to free them. These guys are amazing – they walked out – they had to go to hospital to be checked out but they are very well. Simply Amazing.
I’m so pleased to have found your podcast. The guys are great but it’s nice to hear a girl geek!
I run a cleaning crew at a seafood complex. I work at night and three quarters of my work is manuel and doesn’t demand all of my brain so that’s when I listen to tech podcasts (I also listen to some music podcasts) through my shuffle. If I’m alone on my breaks I watch movies or tech vidcasts on my 5G iPod. – Rose

Rose – thank you so much for telling me the full story here. This is really a miracle that these guys were able to survive. I’m sure it was a harrowing time for all in the area. I wonder that we didn’t even hear about it until the iPod angle came in. I don’t actually watch the news very often (too depressing) so maybe it actually was out there.

Great idea to learn while you’re working – I get bored SO easily, I can see how much more enjoyable your job would be with some entertainment. I’m also intrigued that both the shuffle and the 5th gen iPod are useful for you. I tend to use my Nano way more than the 5th gen also. I’m glad you like finding a girl geek too – there sure are a lot of boys in this industry! what would they do without us though?

By the way, for those who don’t know, Tasmania is an island state of southeast Australia consisting of the island of Tasmania along with several smaller islands and separated from the mainland by Bass Strait. Abel Tasman explored the island in 1642, naming it Van Diemen’s Land. It was renamed in his honor in 1853. Tasmania joined Australia in 1901.

Listener Michael works in an old factory buidling in Delft in the west of the Netherlands. It’s an interesting place with lots of history – during WW II they were secretly working on Penicillin, so there are old tubes and labels like ‘nitrogen 100 bar’ and things like that around. now it’s used for small companies in architecture, design and IT. Evidently he has to sit around alone most of the day, and a good podcast breaks up the day for him. He does prefer audio to video because you can’t do something else while you’re watching a video. He suggests that I keep to audio, unless I’m doing a lesson like I do from time to time, like showing a short clip of my shiny car! I had asked for feedback on whether I should include the videos in the regular feed, and Michael reflected what most of you said, if the videos are only occasional, it’s okay to throw them in the feed. if there ended up being tons of them, you’d prefer I create a separate podcast feed for them. i think I’ll do that from now on, thanks for the advice from Michael and all the rest who provided feedback!

VirtueDesktop
I’ve been hearing about this idea of having virtual desktops, and I wanted to get a feel for why you’d want one and what the experience is really like. A virtual desktop application allows you to have separate the different kinds of things you do into different desktops. Maybe I can explain it by example – you have your desktop open right now, and you probably have windows open for web browsing, email, maybe some office automation – and all of these windows are competing for space. You spend a lot of time shoving windows out of the way so you can get to the thing you want. On the Mac I use command tab to switch between applications, and then I use F10 to show me all the windows in the front application, which is a lot of work, but it’s easier than minimizing all of the windows and then hunting around in the task bar or dock for them. that’s where Virtual Desktops come in handy – you can separate your viewing area into categories of activity, like web browsing and email being in separate desktops. Is that clear at all? Hearing about it is why I really wanted to test it myself. For years I’ve watched Solaris people with four little blocks down on the bottom of the screen and they’d click on one and suddenly everything changed to a new set of applications.

The virtual desktop application i chose was the free VirtueDesktop from virtuedesktops.info. I haven’t even begun to explore all the options available within Virtue but I’m already enjoying the experience. Virtue does have a lot of great eye candy – I can still use command-tab to switch between applications, but if my switch changes the desktop, I’ll see the whole desktop turn in a block like fast user switching. It’s really fun to do! Virtue allows you to change between ten different animations, including Cube that I’ve been using, as well as flip which looks like it just flipped over a piece of paper, swap which is like pulling a piece of paper out from the one in front, a couple that warp the screen which is just crazy, a couple that fade and zoom. You can change how long the animation lasts, so you can really irritate yourself. After I made it 2.5 seconds (the max) I quickly changed it back to the default of 0.5 seconds. I also tried it at 0.1 seconds, but that made me nervous!

There are a whole lot more preferences, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what they’re for – like the section on “Layout and Pagers” – has stuff about rows and columns and how pager cells behave – no idea what a pager cell is! I suppose I could go read the documentation, but that’s not what you’ve come to expect from me, so I’m just not going to do it.

Overall I think the effect is pleasing, helps to feel a little less cluttered, and I just like it when things change and look different so i enjoy all the animations going on. I’m not certain it helps in work flow though, because it becomes harder to drag things between applications since they sort of don’t exist in the same place any more. I did a search for virtual desktops for Windows at Version Tracker and found 1 freeware and 8 shareware ones right off the bat. If it sounds like this might give you some of the organization you’ve been looking for, go check out one of these tools and have some fun. If I get my nerve up, I’ll download that freeware one for Windows and test in on Windows on my Mac. If any of you have one of these that you really like, send me an email at allison@podfeet.com and give us a review.

Odd Dock Behavior
So I was listening to Leo LaPorte’s Call For Help show from Canada, and he had a call from a guy who said that he dragged an application out of his dock, and suddenly the application was GONE. Leo was stumped when i stopped watching. I went to breakfast with my friend Ira, and out of the blue he mentions that his wife had this weird problem that she pulled an app out of the dock and suddenly it was gone for the other users. He figured it out though, she held down the command (or apple) key when she pulled it out – which puts the app on the desktop, actually removing it from the Applications folder. Since it’s on the first user’s desktop now, the other users don’t have access to that directory, so the Application is completely gone to the other users! It can still be in the dock for the first user, but it won’t work on the other users. Pretty weird that Ira would come up with the exact same thing as Leo was trying to solve the day I heard it! I wrote to Leo and told him about it and he wrote back that he was glad I solved the mystery!

Honda sound commercial
Quality Control Director Steve couldn’t find anything wrong with the podcast last week, so instead he sent a cool link. this is really hard to explain in words, but I’ll try. It’s a Honda Civic commercial from England where all of the sound effects were made with human voices. They show you rain hitting the windshield and you see and hear the windshield wipers going – and then they show you the people making the sound effects – you would swear it was real! Check it out by going to honda.co.uk/civic/. after it loads, click on Watch. If you like it, you might also enjoy watching/listening to the rehearsal – it’s fascinating to watch!

Laser Bluetooth Keyboard
Remember when you were promised all those amazing future tech innovations? Just around the corner was supposed to be a shining technology utopia with flying cars, personal space travel to distant galaxies, and bio-implantable cell phones. thinkgeek.com says they have the future here and now – it’s a bluetooth laser keyboard. this is a little gadget that stands about 3.5″ tall, and shines a red laser down onto your surface giving you the outline and letters of a keyboard. Get this – it even makes a clicking sound when you hit the virtual keys! It works with a bunch of bluetooth enabled PDAs and cellphones – they give a list of compatible devices on the website. It works with PalmOS 5, PocketPC 2003, Windows Smartphone, Symbian OS, and Windows 2000/XP. Limited Mac OSX Support – you can’t control the brightness, key repeat rate and sensitivity. They don’t include a driver for OSX, but it works with the OS just as is. this gadget for the true groundbreaker is $180, but unfortunately they’re out of stock right now. Wouldn’t it be awesome to whip out this baby in a boring old meeting? I need one, I really do!
bluetooth laser keyboard showing red letters on black table

WMV on MBP
So lately I’ve been getting a bunch of .wmv files and I can’t seem to open them – I can get audio only in VLC, but that’s it. I keep hearing/reading about Flip4Mac, which is supposed to allow us to watch WMV files inside Quicktime, but it never worked for me. I heard that it was made just because Microsoft wasn’t going to support the Mac, so they came out with this to help us watch and listen in quicktime. I may be getting this all wrong, but it doesn’t matter much since it never worked for me anyway. I finally figured out that it doesn’t work on the Intel-based Macs. Not to be daunted, I went on a little google search and found Popwire Technology’s WMV-9 Component available at popwire.com. It’s a 20MB file, and the server was pretty slow when I downloaded (less than 20kbps). The installer download is well worth the time, because when I ran the simple installer for the Universal binary, (no reboot, no linking it to Quicktime) I launched a .wmv file in QT and it opened right up! It’s been SO annoying that I haven’t been able to open these files, this really makes my day.

In the instructions they suggest that you launch the file in the installer disk image called “register Extensions” – this allows you to create file associations for .asf, .wmv, and .wma files with QT. I did this, but I think it’s the same thing as doing a get info on a .wmv file and changing the “open with” dialog to QT, and then clicking on “change all”, just way easier and takes care of 3 file extensions at the same time. For some reason a few of the .wmv files I have insist that they are WMP files, and will not open with QT. I haven’t figured out why most work but a few don’t (they even keep WMP icons when the others turned blank).

the Manual is well written, with nice graphics explaining the menus, as well as special icons to denote Notes, Tips, and Words of Caution. I know this sounds trivial, but it makes this a very readable manual because you can tell what kind of information you’re going to get in a particular section. i don’t take for granted a good user interface, it’s far too easy to find poorly written or text only manuals.

If all you want to do is import videos to play, Popwire WMV-9 Component is free, but they also tease you with the ability to do a 20 second export to WMV format. this tease is to show you what you can do if you pay for the full version at $50. for that price, you can do exports from QT Pro, Final cut Pro, iMovie, and Discreet Cleaner. The features they list on the website include Windows Media 9 Video and Audio, Simple and Main Profile, 1 pass constant and variable bit rate encoding, support for fractional keyframes and automatic de-interlace as well as 32 professional presets. I didn’t have anything I needed to export, but I did see in the manual that the presets they talk about allow you to meter your export for a BUNCH of different options of the kbits of streaming you want, the size of the download, whether it’s widescreen or not – more options than i can explain here.

As I mentioned, it’s a Universal binary – on PowerPC Macs it requires 10.3.9 or later, and Quicktime 6.5.2 Pro or later (Pro if you want to export). On Intel Macs it requires 10.4.5 and QT 7 Pro or later. If you want a full-featured video export tool this one looks pretty capable – check out Popwire WMV-9 Component at popwire.com.

Inklink – Online Pictionary
My son Kyle told me about a really fun game to play over at Shockwave.com – it’s called Inklink and it’s an online game of Pictionary. If you’ve never played Pictionary, it’s where one person is given a word, and they have to draw it so that other people can guess the secret word. In real life you play on teams, but in Inklink, you’re joined by random people and so you get points by guessing what someone else draws, AND if you draw well enough that others guess your drawing quickly. I was able to play Inklink on our G5, but I couldn’t get the Flashplayer 8 universal preview for Intel to load properly so I can’t play yet on the MacBook Pro. if you’re bored tonite, head over to Shockwave.com and click in the search window and enter InkLink and have some fun!

insuremytrip.com
My father-in-law is a great resource for insurance. what could be more exciting to talk about on a podcast than insurance? This will be sure to raise my listenership! But seriously, he hooked me up with a cool website that lets you compare trip insurance from several big companies. These trip insurance policies offer coverage for cancellation, interruption, emergency medical evacuation, and even money you’d get paid just if they left you stranded in the airport for 6 hours, or even if your luggage was late. The good news AND bad news is that lots of companies offer these kinds of policies, and have many different plans from which to choose, and that’s where insuremytrip.com comes in. When you start on the site, click on Quotes, and then they ask you to fill in just a few facts about your trip, like how much it costs per person, and what kind of a trip you’re going on (air only, cruise, or other). Then you tell them the ages of the people on the trip, your area of residence (US states, and also some countries, but you can pick “other” here as well), and finally the dates of your trip.

After you give them those details, you’ll be faced with a list of companies and plans within the companies from which to choose. Here’s where it gets good. Narrow your choice a bit by selecting the ones that might be contenders, and then hit compare. All of the plans will be side by side so you can compare them against each other for cost, and coverage. What I REALLY liked about the usability of the site was that after you’ve chosen all these plans to compare, you can eliminate them one by one and they disappear from the comparison. That way you’re not having to keep track of so many columns of information, just blast away the ones you don’t like. The combination of usability with my father-in-law’s endorsement of this site (he used to work for the California insurance commission) helped me to choose a good plan for our summer vacation, and now I won’t worry so much about whether something might go wrong. Check it out at insuremytrip.com.

Mouse Locator
So I’m not sure this next took actually solves a problem we have, but it’s still an interesting little freeware Mac utility. It’s called Mouse Locater, and it’s purpose is to provide a highly visible locator to instantly reveal your mouse position. It does this by making two big, bright green concentric circles around your mouse when you first wiggle it after it’s been at rest for a bit. You can set the trigger delay, which is how long the mouse has to be at rest before the Mouse Locater will kick into gear. At first I set it to 2 seconds, and man was THAT annoying! You can set the trigger time period from 1 second to 30 minutes. You can also adjust how long the circles hang around after first alerting you to where your cursor has wandered off to. Mouse Relocator is available from 2point5fish.com, and on that site you can download alternate symbols – different colors, different shapes to identify the cursor. They even have an area where people have uploaded different symbols if you don’t like the standard green circles. It’s a lot of fun to mess around with and i know it’s going to come in useful too. I especially need Mouse Relocater when I’m playing VLC videos, my mouse is always disappearing on me. By the way, Mac OSX 10.4 or later is required.

Google Trends
Google keeps coming up with cool things, I don’t know how they do it but they have another neat one. This was sent in by my buddy Ron, it’s called Google Trends, available at google.com/trends. the idea is that you enter a search term, and Google Trends will show you a graph of how often that term was searched for as a function of time. Ron tested it by typing the names of 3 recent hurricanes, and you could see the activity lined up with when they actually hit. As Ron said, it really gives you a picture of whats on everyones mind vs. time. I typed in podcasting, and it shows that it was first requested back in the 4th quarter of 2004, and then you can see peaks with different events highlighted on the right – such as the peak in activity after iTunes got podcasting, and articles that hit the news about podcasting. There’s no scale on the graph, which is kinda lame, but they do show a second graph which is now much news activity there was as a function of time. You can use the two pull downs to look at the same trend graphs but by region and by date span. for example, the default is to look for all regions, all years. I changed the region to France and later Australia, and both countries showed podcasting as a search term didn’t take off until almost mid-2005. The United Kingdom graph looked more like the all-regions version with it being searched in Q4 2004. Check it out at google.com/trends, and thanks for a cool tip Ron!

Podtrac Update
Last week I mentioned that I had asked Podtrac to start tracking statistics on how many downloads I was getting, and from where, but that in a couple of weeks they still weren’t reporting anything. i wrote to them again this week, and they dug into the problem and finally noticed that they had entered my URL using all lower case, but in my feed NosillaCast has a capital N and C in it. UNIX is case sensitive, so this is really important. They fixed it and now I’m getting real download information. I love statistics so the graphs and data are fun to look at. I also mentioned that I might consider doing a bit of advertising, but I was hesitant on this because it can be so overbearing on some podcasts. Listener Margaret suggested I think of podcasting as street performing, so put out a virtual hat and see if people throw in donations. I decided to take her advice, so I’m working on getting a Paypal donation button set up for the site. I’m a bit lame at coding, so I’m having trouble getting it to work, but perhaps by the time this airs it will be up and running. If it is, and you wouldn’t mind throwing in a few bucks now and then that would be most excellent.

Well that’s going to wrap it up for this one year anniversary episode of the NosillaCast, thanks to everyone who’s been with me from the beginning, and to those who just joined us this week. Please send in your feedback, questions, suggestions and any cool tools or websites you come across, to allison@podfeet.com. thanks for listening and stay subscribed!

1 thought on “NosillaCast 05/13/2006 Show #43

  1. CaffiNation Paul - May 15, 2006

    Great Show Allison! As I said before Congrats, and keep on podding. I can deffinatly relate to your early podscares, I was just about to quit till a buddy from work started asking me what happened to my second show, I had cut down from two a week to one. He was honestly upset so I went back to dual shows. Again great show!

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