NosillaCast 07/02/2006 Show #50

Lots of listener emails, laptopsforless.com for low laptop battery prices, assistance running Celestia from last week, Stellarium from stellarium.org, feedback from Bellamax on my UpShot review, how I got Bill Gates to quit his job, encouragement to run the 10.4.7 update to OSX link to the full article at ZDNet, Google maps mashups (gmapsmania.com, quikmaps.com, communitywalk.com), tabblo.com review, I make my own youtube.com videos at youtube.com/user/nosillacast, and cooliris.com review.

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A technology geek podcast with an ever so slight Macintosh bias. A proud member of the Tech Podcast Network – if it’s Tech, it’s here. Today is Sunday, July 2nd, 2006 and this is show number 50. Wow, 50 shows. And it seems like just yesterday it was 49! Speaking of Episode 49, how did you like hearing episode 48 twice instead? I can’t believe that for 47 consecutive shows I made no catastrophic mistakes that wrecked the feed, and the TWICE IN A ROW I messed up!!! for the previous week I had an excuse, I was trying to get it done in the morning, rushing out to a wedding, but last week I have zero excuse! Just blew it!

I enjoyed the emails I got about it – this one from listener Rose taught me some new Australian lingo – “I was going to email you but thought I’d check your website first and found out you’d messed up AGAIN. I’m laughing at you but crying with you. Have you visited the Maccast site lately. I wanted to tell you about it cos Adam stuffed up which I thought would make you feel better cos if the Macgeek can stuff up then anyone can! One of the things I love about the Mac community is that even the uber geeks aren’t “up themselves” (is that an ozzie saying?) Everybody seems so nice and humble and helpful. Anyhoo – hang in there cos we’re all looking forward to the next Nosillacast adventure.” It did make me feel better that Adam “stuffed up” as well! thanks for the moral support Rose!

Listener Jeremy made me laugh, he said, “I thought I was losing my marbles as twice I thought I’d screwed up loading the wrong episode onto my nano. This morning I made sure to load the correct episode only to get the same result. This time I realised that the ‘senior moment’ was not mine but yours. I was about to post a concern then saw your apology this evening. I re-subscribed so tomorrow I hope to hear an intro other than ‘father’s day blah blah’ and your wedding trip.” “blah blah”??? are you insinuating that I blather on a bit??? no worries, I bore MYSELF sometimes!

Jeremy went on to ask for some help on a kind of scary request – he’s got an out-of-warranty Powerbook battery and he doesn’t want to shell out the big bucks for a new one, but instead he wants to actually replace the battery cells that are inside! He opened his up and he says “there are 6 li-ion battery cells type 18650. They look a bit like AA batteries with tags on each end to facilitate soldering. They are ‘if I remember correctly 3.6 volts each, therefore multiply that by six batteries minus a couple of volts for the diodes etc and that is the voltage of the pack. Not at all scary. ” From where I’m sitting the danger of blowing up a $2000 laptop by building a battery yourself IS scary! Anyway, he wants to find a supplier for the li-ion battery cells type 18650 in either the UK or continental Europe. If anyone out there knows of a good supplier shoot me an email at allison@podfeet.com. One other thing you might consider Jeremy is picking up a 3rd party battery. I’ve used a company called laptopsforless.com
once before, they show the 15″ aluminum powerbook battery for $99 instead of $129 from Apple.

Listener Scott who turned me onto the star travel program Celestia that I reviewed last week gave me some pointers. One thing he suggested was trashing the plist and when I did the crashes stopped, so evidently it got horked up on that first launch or in the installation process. Now it’s pretty stable. he also gave me some hints about how to navigate around the program. You’ll remember I was complaining about how it would take me around the dark side of a planet, or plop me INSIDE a planet. He said, “To navigate to a planet, for example, the planet Mars you must first hit the return key. You will see a target window pop up. Type “Mars” and hit return again. Now hit the “G” key. This will zoom you directly in front of the Big Red planet.” He also showed me how to rotate AROUND a planet by holding down the shift key and hitting the left/right keys. That was pretty cool. It got scary after that though because he showed me how to speed up the Mars orbit by hitting the “L” key, which speeds it up by 10X. If you hit it often enough you can really make yourself sick! Especially if you hit the “M” key which shows the moons around the planets or “O” to see other moons, comets, space crafts, that orbit the planet itself. thanks for all the tips, Scott, this is way more fun to play with now!

Listener Bill wrote in with another program similar to Celestia, again Open Source, called stellarium from stellarium.org. Stellarium runs under Linux, Windows and OSX so you’ve got to love that! I should make sure it’s clear, the views of the planets and stars are not real photographs, but they’re beautiful and placed correctly I assume, so it’s still fun. Stellarium is around 18MB and is a universal binary (runs natively on both PowerPC and the Intel boxes). Unfortunately I couldn’t get Stellarium to launch – it would paint the window black, then blue then crash. I did delete the plist file, and I edited the .ini file to set it to the widescreen resolution of the 15″ powerbook, but it still wouldn’t launch. I checked the forums and others were reporting the same thing – one of the developers weighed in and said that using the emulated version under Rosetta was the only workaround for now. I think I’ll wait till I have more time to play with this and download a different version, then I’ll do a more complete review! Thanks Bill for the idea though – you know how I love open source cross platform software!

Listener Chris from Pennsylvania wrote in about an interesting problem/solution he had using Parallels. Here’s his letter:
Given all the fun we’re having using Parallels. I really like it a lot. This is an excerpt from a post I made on a Parallels forum in response to someone who asked about what to be “ready” for or aware of as they try Parallels.

One more thing re: Parallels and CDs etc. I was trying to burn a playlist from iTunes in OSX but received a message saying burn already in process. I had to “suspend” my virtual parallels session and then the burn occurred without incident. (I was not actually using the WinXP Parallels session at the time). That is an example of things you just have to be ready for when attaching devices or in this case, inserting a blank CD.
Avid listener to your podcast…..THANKS

Well thank YOU Chris – glad you like the podcast, it’s such a blast doing it, but it really charges me up to get nice emails like yours! that’s an interesting problem you had, and a creative solution. i wouldn’t have thought you could suspend and then go right back to the burn. You’re right to point out that having two operating systems running can make things interesting, to say the least! I only discovered the idea of suspending the OS this week – that’s where you put windows away so that when you bring it up the next time it pops right up instead of waiting for it to boot. I found that the time it takes to suspend is really really long though, and it chews up both processors completely while it’s doing that, so I can’t do anything else. My solution is to just never shut Parallels down!

Cory Mitchell of Bellamax wrote in that he heard my review of their product UpShot. That’s the Windows software that has some really great algorithms for editing photos that I reviewed last week. I brought up a concern that Bellamax appears to keep 3 copies of the photos beyond the original, and that this would eat up a lot of disk space. cory said “We are making small copies of the file called proxies. We do this to preserve your original image. These proxy images by design will never exceeded 1200 pixels in the maximum image dimension. So the never be more than 1.4M uncompressed and around 200k b/c they are compressed. They will never be the same size as your full size image (unless your image is that small).”

I did some math for him on one photo I edited in Upshot.
724KB my original file (5MP photo compressed to level 8 jpeg in Photoshop)

1062KB Bellamax original folder
1062KB Bellamax originalRedEye folder
1189KB Bellamax enhanced folder
———–
3313KB total file space
in ADDITION to the original file, or 4.5X the disk space created by the original file. I told him I don’t think this is a minor inconvenience, this is a non-starter. I hope they can get some focus on this flaw as your algorithms for photo editing do look to be really good. the other odd thing is that he said they’re not working on a Mac version (even though the CEO told me they were) – evidently that idea was shelved. From a technical perspective I’m surprised that this is such a big deal – if the code is java based it shouldn’t be too hard. I know it’s not the magic ease that Sun promised us for java code, but it still shouldn’t be that big of a deal – heck, why write in Java if you’re going to make software for only one OS?

I sent all this to Cory and he came back with a good explanation. He said:
Thanks for your additional feedback. We made a fundamental decision to work on proxies, requiring the saving of multiple copies. This serves the consumer in many ways notably full experimentation without risk to the original. However, there is the storage reality. Please be assured that our foremost product work involves reducing the footprint, improving speed and overall performance, including reducing the file proxy sizes.

One final point, as the original file size increases the proxies saved are not proportionally large, but much smaller, allowing large numbers of large files without an extraordinary hit to storage. I understand however, that doesnt solve your overall issue. Our proprietary Fast Fix and other tools offer a lot for photo hobbyists. We hope youll continue to follow our progress with UpShot.

I’m pleased Cory came back with more info here, mostly because it shows they’re really interested in feedback and working the issues. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on Bellamax and Upshot.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet
I’m sure you’ve heard that Bill Gates is giving up his day job to do philanthropy full time, and that his buddy Warren Buffet is giving up 85% of his fortune or $30B to the Gates foundation. I just wanted to note that just 2 weeks before Gates announced this, I got to meet him, and I thanked him for what he’s doing for world health. I’m not saying I made the decision for him, but it’s clear I had a significant role in getting him to do this full time. I just wish I could say that I’d talked to Warren too…

10.4.7 update Load it!!!
This week Apple came out with an update 10.4.7, and some folks HAVE had trouble with it, but ZDNet is reporting an attack that goes after just the vulnerability that the update fixes. I put a link to the full article at ZDNet but the gist of it is that the malicious program takes advantage of a locally exploitable vulnerability in an operating system component called “launchd”. Previous attacks on OSX have been on vulnerabilities that were patched ages before the exploit came out – like the highly publicized Ingtana worm that came out 8 months after Apple had patched it. however, Apple was only a day ahead of this one. It’s too bad there are frequently issues with updates breaking other things, but this one seems worth doing. Remember to fix disk permissions before and after running the update (I always forget, so do as I say, not as I do!) and it’s a good excuse to run a good backup before you run the update too! Or, if I’ve made it too hard so you won’t actually run the update, just run it and take your chances!

Google Mashups
A couple weeks ago I showed off a site that was a Google mashup, let you put a pin in a map, but it was kind of clumsy and only let you put in one pin. there are lots of cool mashups popping up, so I wanted to tell you about a few sites where you can look for mashups that interest you. the first is gmapsmania.com. I looked through some of the mashups and found a few that interested me. There’s one to track the Tour de France which sounded awesome but I couldn’t quite figure out the map – it showed what the markers meant, like start and finish for each daily path, but there were no markers on the map that I could find! Probably user error though, they said this is updated each day so that could be cool if you’re smarter than me at figuring it out!

One I did like was quikmaps.com which is just what it says. You zoom to an area that you want to map and then you can add all different colors and sizes and shapes of markers (even stars!) along with text labels and you can even draw on the map with lines and squiggly lines. Once you have the map the way you like it, you can save it to mail the link to someone, or you can save it and generate code to put on your website. I made one to illustrate how it looks and put the code in the shownotes. I drew a map of how to get to the Apple Store in San Francisco from Mosconi Center for the next time you go to MacWorld Expo. I found the hardest part was drawing lines – never got the straight ones working and squiggly was hit and miss. When it first generated the code for me it was WAY zoomed out again, like the whole US showing, so I zoomed back in and it changed the code for me.

The site doesn’t require a userid to create and save maps, but once you close your browser, your maps will become uneditable. Sign up with a permanent id and you’ll be able to save and edit maps later.

An even cooler mashup to create your own maps is communitywalk.com. Community Walk has way more features and builds some really interesting functionality. First you put markers on the map, and for each marker you can add a ton of information – a description, a url to a website, and you can upload a picture you took (or link to one from the web). You can easily draw a path between markers, and then it creates something really cool – it creates a visual timeline looking thing that shows distances between your markers. this is really cool to show walking or driving distances, and it’s all automatic. If you look at this distance-line, you can click on the markers and the map will jump to that location. You can add categories to your different markers so if you wanted to show restaurants or parks or whatever and then you’d be able to turn them on and off by category. I created a map that showed how to get from the Jewelry Exchange in downtown LA (my favorite place for my husband to shop) to the Staples Center (home to the formerly world champion Los Angeles Lakers). I put a link to the map in the shownotes, but there’s one buggy thing about it – for some reason the default view is out on the Antelope Freeway (which is really far from downtown LA), so to get to the right place in the map you have to click on one of the marker links in the distance line viewer. this happened even though I did select “save default view” when I was building the map. In any case, this is a really fun tool, and people have made some awesome maps which you can go view at communitywalk.com. Again you can make some maps without logging in but if you want to edit later you need a login name.
Link to map I made
Head on over to gmapsmania.com and see what people are creating and see what you can do yourself!

tabblo
Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal did a review of an interesting tool/site called tabblo.com. Tabblo helps you take a set of photos and create a large poster that tells your story about them. As they say on the Tabblo site, “You can start with professionally designed templates and powerful editing tools to compose online photo albums, or tabblos. Your tabblos can be shared with friends and family, printed as posters or prints, or published to blogs or websites.” One of the things that helps to show you what you can do is they’ve posted tons of peoples tabblos so you can get a feel for the creative things you can make. One of the tabblos has a stark black background with dramatic scenery and people, very artsy fartsy, and the next one is of a bunch of drunk guys having a going away party for one of their buddies. Some people put in a lot of text to describe each photo, while others like the Cleveland Botanical gardens tabblo pieced all the photos together like a puzzle so there’s no empty space at all on the page.

I tried making a tabblo of my own and found it extremely intuitive and fun to do. It took about 32 seconds to upload a little over 1MB of photos. Once you upload the photos, you can choose a layout and background colors to tailor the look just the way you want it. once your pictures are in place, you can make a lot of interesting edits to them – panning and zooming around in each photo, adding effects such as black & white or sepia tones, change it into a painting, or make it look like a negative. You can pan and zoom in the photos, slide them around, make them big or small, add captions – and it’s all in that Web 2.0 feel where it doesn’t repaint every time you change something, it smoothly moves things around. I had so much I made two tabblos, one using pictures from steves-digicams deskpicture of the day:
steves-digicam
and one of pictures of my son Kyle in a soccer tournament:
The tabblo site works like a social networking site too where you can have a circle of friends with whom you share, create a blog, and all those kinds of things. Head on over to Tabblo.com and get creative! If you do make one, send me a link so I can show it off on the site!

YouTube
So everyone’s sending around YouTube videos, me included, so I decided to see how it worked myself. They made me create a login name, which makes sense, and sent me an email to confirm the address is real. Easy enough if your spam filters don’t block it so you steam for a full day wondering where your invite went. Once I was in, there’s a very nice interface in terms of obvious tabs to click – like Upload. First I had to title my video, enter a description, and tags that can be used for searching along with a video category. Don’t worry too much about the tags and descriptions, you can go back and edit those later if you don’t like what you picked.

I was now ready to upload the video file, which is limited to 100MB and 10 minutes long. They let me decide if I want it to be public or private, and for private viewing I can create a contact list of family and friends to whom you’ll send the links. Again, if you change your mind later you can still change it. throughout the site there are warnings about not uploading copyrighted or obscene material, pretty much every time you turn around.

I was then faced with more fields to fill out if I wanted, such as date and location recorded, and country/zip code. Once I uploaded the video, I was anxious to watch it, but it took several hours before it was really available to view. not quite sure why that is, but hey, it’s a free service, who’s complaining? One of the coolest things they do is give you html to embed in your website so you can have the video play right there! It’s literally as easy as cutting and pasting to get it done. I chose a video of my daughter Lindsay from a few years ago actually shooting a goal…as goalie…shooting from her own goal! It’s a cool little video and the sound track of the videographer Karen makes it even more enjoyable. anyway, if you look in the shownotes, you can see that I pasted in the html YouTube provided, and now the video plays right inside the shownotes!

So far this has been a trivially easy interface, so I can see why so many people are uploading video! I decided to hunt around and see what else you can do. One tab is Home, and in there you can view your own videos, create playlists of videos you like, and go back and pull the direct link to your videos so you can mail to your friends. There are a LOT of features similar to a Myspace kind of place – like you can create a blog, change your background colors, invite friends, exchange messages, and even subscribe to people’s youtube’s. If you want to check out mine, go to youtube.com/user/nosillacast

Cooliris Previews
The next application might be the coolest thing we’ve ever gotten from Research Department Niraj. It’s called Cooliris Previews from cooliris.com. This is one of those little apps that does one narrow little thing but does it so well you just have to have it. It is OSX only, unfortunately but it’s so cool I have to review it. Cooliris is a set of free browser extensions that lets you see the underlying content of links without actually clicking. This sounds weird, but what it means is that when you’ve come up with the results of a search on Google, you can simply hover over a link and cooliris will make a window jump out on the right side of your screen showing you what you’d see if you had clicked the link. It comes up REALLY fast, and eliminates the need to click and then click back when it turns out to not be what you wanted. Imagine all those times when you clicked on a search result only to find out it was that ANNOYING about.com, imagine if you’d had cooliris running you would never have gone there in the first place!

Cooliris Previews is supposed to work in Firefox as well as Safari, but I could only get it to work in Safari. It puts a little “enable cooliris previews” choice in your view menu on Safari, but in Firefox it’s supposed to put a little check box in the bottom right for it and there’s nothing there on my FF window. the cooliris website says it supports Google, eBay Craigslist, del.icio.us and more. I tested it on google and I’ll never give it up – it’s an awesome timesaver – enough to make me switch back to Safari as my default browser actually!

Looks like that will wrap it up for this week’s episode of the NosillaCast, I love that we’re getting so much great feedback and people sending in cool tools they’re using – especially the open source ones! Remember you can email me at allison@podfeet.com and now you can leave me audio feedback at nosillacast@gmail.com. thanks for listening and stay subscribed.

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