Allison goes on vacation next week, but leaves you with great audio interview of Fay Wells by rondavid.com, difference between Tanzania and Tasmania, Sky Chart from Sky and Telescope, description of the NosillaCast creation tools, Microsoft bends on Open Document format – ZDNet article, crashmedia.com for interesting web development in Flash, Windows vs. Mac – how to add applications to quick launch/dock, Wimp from greenkeepersoftware.com to track your IP address, Witch from petermaurer.de to change windows with a keystroke, International Women’s Podcasting Expo from global.co-opworld.com, Paige Eissinger from the podcast Views from the Coop at 2smartchix.com, cheaper way to buy Windows on the Mac at MacMall.com.
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I’m afraid I have some disturbing news for all of you – I will be on vacation for two weeks, so there will not be a NosillaCast during those two weeks. I know, you’re devastated, but you have two options. the first is that you can peel back through the archives on podfeet.com and find old shows you never heard. I will also be posting a few shows in my absence, but they won’t be me! One of the NosillaCast fans is a gentleman named Ron David, who does professional voiceovers. If you’ve ever listened to any US Public Broadcasting, you’ve heard Ron. the one I remember him for most is the show about the Titanic, and also Mysteries of the Deep from National Geographic.
As a former stunt pilot, one of Ron’s hobbies is to hang out with pilots from the early days of aviation. He’s the President of the Washington Chapter of the Silver Wings Fraternity, and through that affiliation he did a fabulous interview with 94 year old pilot Fay Wells. Fay was a foriegn & war correspondent, co-founder of the 99s, the first woman broadcast correspondent to cover the Whitehouse, and served in Africa during World War II. She even flew with Amelia Earhart! I guarantee you’ll enjoy listening to this interview, Fay and Ron clearly have a great deal of mutual respect, and Fay’s stories are just simply enchanting. If you enjoy the material, please send an email to Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me and encourage him to get these shows out as a podcast. He’s been working a bunch of other issues in his life and doesn’t want to do a botchup job of it by not dedicating enough time to the effort, but I think maybe he needs a little encouragement in getting started. You can also check out Ron’s website at rondavid.com where you can see some of the material he’s done and get in contact with him if you need some voiceover work done.
Now that I’ve made sure you’re in good hands while I’m gone, let’s talk about me. How am I going to survive without internet access for two weeks? it’s going to be gruesome. We’re going on a barefoot cruise in the Caribbean, so I guess we’ll just have to suffer through. I searched around and it looks like while we’re on the island of Antigua for about 4 days we’ll be able to drum up some internet access.
Listener Sebastian explained the difference between Tasmania and Tanzania to me. I referred to listener Rose as being from Tanzania in Australia. Turns out Tanzania is a country in Africa, and Tasmania is An island state of southeast Australia. Good thing I never professed to be good at geography! Sebastian was quite shy about correcting me, but I sure hope you all will when I mess up, because otherwise some poor soul could quote me and sound like an idiot!
A couple weeks ago I reviewed a tool called Celestia, which is a mac-based space exploration application. I did get it to work pretty well, and I even got my nerve up to try and run under Linux. I worked on it pretty hard, but I got tangled up in words like path and MAKE and needing to install gcc libraries, and while believe it or not I understand what those things ARE, I have zero clue how to actually DO these things! I may pursue it with some adult supervision, but in the mean time, listener Bill wrote in to tell us about another cool tool to look at the heavens called Sky Chart, which comes from Sky and Telescope, the authority on this subject. Sky Chart is a cross-platform, java-based app that runs in browsers. On the Mac side it runs in Safari, not Firefox or Camino, and on Windows it works under Firefox. If you really want to run it under Internet Explorer, you have to download java from Sun. Way easier to just use Firefox.
When you first go into SkyChart, it asks you for your location and time zone which is how it figures out what to show you in the sky. You can change that later so you can see what the stars look like from different areas of the world. You can also look at the stars at different times of the day and year, which is pretty cool. The main window is the expected circular sky chart, with lines outlining the different constellations. AS you hover over a constellation it highlights the entire thing along with the name. there’s also a green bordered area you can drag around, and that area becomes highlighted in a smaller window on the upper left. That window can be maximized so it fills the browser window. You can drag this view around, which is really like you rotating your head around to see what’s out there in different directions. To make sure you understand that you’re looking at the horizon, they’ve put little things along the bottom such as fences and tractors and little houses – very cute! Along the bottom it also tells you what direction you’re looking, which is perfect so you can match that to where you’re looking in the real world.
I did try to run under Linux, and while I was running Firefox which they said it would work, they said I had to install Java. argh. i tried, I found it and downloaded it, downloaded an RPM which I’ve heard is the kind of file that will actually install itself, but then i couldn’t figure out where Linux put it! I got bored and moved on, again maybe I’ll noodle around on it later. At least I verified that it’s supposed to work.
Skychart is a really slick program, and it meets the NosillaCast seal of approval by being cross platform! Check it out at skyandtelescope.com/observing/skychart thanks for the cool tip, Bill, keep them coming!
Listener MIke wrote in and asked me a couple of questions and I thought some of you might have the same questions. He started his letter off as all fan mail should, with some nice compliments, here’s what he wrote:
“I have reallly been enjoying your podcast since I found you last May. You have a very professional presentation. Do you do much editing. I never hear a miscue. I think you might have mentioned what equipment you use but I could not recall it. Can you point me to the show you discussed it? BTW, I also was winner in the Mac Companion giveaway and won a nice book collection from O’Rielly.”
congratulations on the Mac Companion giveaway, the odds were great on that contest! and thanks for the nice words. Believe it or not, I don’t do any editing! I shouldn’t say none, once when my son came in and hit me in the head with a ball I sorta said a bad word, and I had to cut that. Once in a while I’ll mess up really badly, but probably 90% of the time I record right through. I do script the whole show beforehand so that’s probably why it’s relatively smooth. I’ve tried only writing up bullet points so I would sound more relaxed, but it just didn’t work for me, I found myself stuttering and forgetting what I meant to say.
For equipment, I use a Samson C01U USB Microphone that runs around $70. I put a link in the shownotes to Sam Ash which is where I bought it so you can take a look for yourself. I plug that into the USB on my MacBook Pro, no preamp or mixer involved at all. I originally used a USB headset microphone that came in the box with IBM’s Via Voice. I used it to type for me when I broke my hand a few years back and it saved my life! I thought the sound was pretty good, but then all these podcasters were talking about how important good sound was. I was paralyzed by talk about mixers and line in and preamps and all that, but when I heard about the Samson C01U (it even says GREAT FOR PODCASTING! on it) and it didn’t need a mixer or a preamp or power – only USB, I figured that was the mic for me. I bought it at Sam Ash, threw in a mic stand and after tip and tax I was out the door for $100.
The Samson comes with software that looks kind of like a mixer – it has sliders and a level meter that shows if you’re peaking out on the gain. the whole levels thing is pretty tricky. On the tool you have to crank up the gain about 30db or you won’t get reasonable volume (at least on my Powerbook G4). the other weird thing is that the sliders in the Samson tool, the volume in the system prefs for sound, and the volume sliders in your recording tool seem sort of dependent – like some of them are actually the same thing. In Audacity the volume is VERY hinky. I switched to GarageBand because of that. in Audacity I had to mess with the levels every time, and if I slid them up higher and higher it wouldn’t get louder, not until I hit the very top and it would go through the roof and then if I backed off it would get to the right place. Got tired of that, so I went to GarageBand.
When I got my Intel-based Macbook Pro, the mic didn’t work at all and the software wouldn’t launch. I emailed tech support at Samson and they said to call instead. I hated that, I prefer to email. I called though, and was delighted with the support. The guy who answered the phone knew exactly what was wrong – the Intel-based macs don’t need the software. He didn’t just tell me to delete the app tho, he walked me through how to eliminate every little bit in every Library. he was extremely versed on OSX, and once I got rid of the application the Mic worked perfectly. finally the issue of sound quality – I think it’s about 20% better than before, you can listen to the difference yourself. check out show #25 on 1/8/06 and show #26 on 1/15/06. if you go to my site you can click on the archives to hear the shows.
In GarageBand I then add the music at the front and back end (the music you hear is a canned jingle from GarageBand called Midnight Dialog). From there I send it to iTunes, convert it to an MP3 in iTunes, and add some stuff to it in there like the picture that shows as cover art, change the genre to podcast, that kind of stuff. I use Feeder from reinventedsoftware.com to create the RSS feed itself (and to write up the script of the show), and WordPress to do the blog. I think that just about covers everything, hope that answered your question Mike. If anyone wants more detail on any bit of this, just shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Microsoft Bends on Open Document Format
This next topic may sound a bit political, but there was great news this week about open standards. As you know Microsoft dominates the office automation space, which I actually think is a a good thing. While I don’t believe in any need for a dominant operating system, it really is handy that we all can trade documents around and know the other person will be able to open them. The next phase we’re getting into finally is a world where the application doesn’t have to be the same, it’s the document format that needs to be standardized. Many government organizations are now pushing for an OPEN standard, not the Microsoft standard. They are reasonably concerned that every document archived of their collective knowledge are in a format owned by one company. Lead by the State of Massachusetts, Microsoft has agreed to join the cause and actually support what’s now called the Open Document Format. I think this is tremendous news, but I remain skeptical that Microsoft won’t booger this up – remember how well they supported Java? Anyway, I’m cautiously optimistic about this shift in policy. You can read the entire ZDNet article at a link in the shownotes.
I’m not really sure how to explain this next website, it’s called crashmedia.com and it’s one of the oddest sites to navigate. I have to warn the visually impaired here, it’s all done in Flash. The site is a gallery of the kinds of odd projects they’ve done for people to meet their needs of online businesses and just fun stuff too. I saw one of the Crash!Media guys on Call for Help with Leo LaPorte, and in that show he was demonstrating some interesting hardware hacks they’ve done. One example of the interesting things they’ve done with Flash is to go to their site called webcamtastic.com. This site uses your own installed Webcam to mutate your picture live. Again, hard to explain, but pretty fun. Just to let your brain explore different ways of doing web design, check out crashmedia.com and let me know what you think.
Windows vs. Mac observations
Ever since I got Windows running on my Mac under Parallels I’ve been using Windows more and more often. the main reason behind this is that the major applications I use are not native to the Intel platform yet under OSX, but they ARE native on the Windows side on the Mac. Have I confused you there? Let me back up for a minute to make sure you’re all with me. the new Macs have an Intel processor, so applications that are native to the PowerPC processor either have to be re-written to be native to Intel as well (referred to as Universal apps) or they have to run in an emulation layer. That emulation is called Rosetta. Most apps still run on the new Intel-based Macs, but if they’re running in Rosetta they’re just crawling compared to what they could be doing. They’re not bad compared to a G4 laptop for example, but compared to their Universal competitors they’re pretty bad. However, many of the applications we all run are also written to work with Windows which means in their Windows-version they ARE already native to the Intel chip. So, even though the applications are running inside Parallels, the overhead of that program is so small that they’re nearly full speed.
The good news is that I’m learning more and more about Windows. My friends at work laugh at me though because I’m such a newbie at it – hard to find an adult who hasn’t ever used Windows! I had to ask someone the other day how to get rid of everything on the screen and just see the darn desktop (turns out it’s the windows key and then the letter D, but I don’t have a windows key so I had to just mess around till I figured out that the command key will work just fine with the D key to get to the desktop.) I now have a unique opportunity to compare ease of use side by side as I get more comfortable with Windows.
Here’s one thing that really illustrates how the legacy of Windows is a big downfall for it. OSX has the dock where you can drag applications so they can be accessed with one click when in any application. Windows has identical functionality in the quick launch bar. So far so good. On OSX, to add an app to the dock, you open the applications folder, which is filled only with applications, with names like Word, Excel, etc. Drag the icon for the application right into the dock and the apps move over to make room for it at your desired location. On Windows I tried to do the same thing. I opened the Programs folder, and in there i found a whole bunch of other folders, not named by the name of the applications but by the name of the company who created them. Not a big deal, but that means I have to go a folder deeper than I did with OSX and know the name of the company.
Luckily for our example I was trying Microsoft Word. So I open the Microsoft Office folder and now there’s still more folders. Annoyance going up a nothc, but one of them is called Office10, so I figure THAT will have my applications. What the heck is all this garbage??? there’s EIGHTY SEVEN files and folders in the Office10 folder! how am I supposed to find the applications in here? Ok, I’ll sort alphabetically and find Word down at the bottom. I find something called WORD.PIP, but that can’t be it, should have a .exe at the end I’m thinking. Hey, what’s this right above it called WINWORD.EXE? you’ve gotta be kidding me, they don’t call it Word? I complained to a buddy of mine about that and he said it was because there used to be a version of Word that ran under DOS, so when they came out with the windows version, they called it winword. can you believe that? Powerpoint isn’t called Powerpoint either. for some equally obscure reason they took the latter vowels out of it and called it POWERPNT.EXE. Thank goodness at lease Excel was in there normally. what are the other 84 things in this folder? does anyone know?
To be fair, I brought this up to another friend of mine, and she said the way normal people do it is they pull up on the Start menu up to Programs and then over to Office XP (hmmm, it’s called XP, not 10) and then over to the application which is actually normally named, and then drag THAT icon over to the quick launch bar. Way easier, but still I’m wondering about those 84 files, aren’t you? I’ll bring up comparisons from time to time, and I promise to tell you things I like better about Windows just as soon as I find them! Just kidding. Mostly.
apps from Niraj
Research Department Niraj is actually in Sweden right now, but that didn’t slow down his sending of some interesting applications from his Blackberry. I tell you, this guy surfs more effectively on his BB than i do on a laptop! He said it was a LONG train ride in Sweden that let him get so much done! In any case, let’s take a look at what Niraj submitted to us this week.
first up is Wimp from greenkeepersoftware.com. Wimp is a Mac-only application that solves a niche problem. If you like to connect into your home Mac from other locations, you need to know it’s IP address. Today’s broadband IP addresses are relatively static but they do change after a while, and that’s when you’ll need Wimp. Wimp runs in the background and checks regularly to see what your IP address is, and sends you an email whenever it changes. It even allows you to have email sent to more than one address if you need that feataur. It’s available in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese, and they’re looking for volunteers to translate all user-visable text into other languages. You do have to leave your Mac on for Wimp to do it’s work, but you don’t have to be logged in. that feature is what allows Wimp to perform a second function. If your computer is stolen, Wimp will send you emails of its new IP address which could help in tracking it down.
You can change the interval at which it will check your IP, and if you’re worried that your system will be bogged down by the constant checking, put those worries aside. Wimp uses a very small UNIX Cron job, which is tech geek speak for very efficient. The Cron job does connect into the GreenKeeperSoftware website to check the IP address, and that’s necessary because you might have a firewall that masks your local machine’s IP and it needs to send your external IP. their server discards the IP address as soon as it sends the email to you. If you have a laptop, you probably move it between a couple of locations, and Wimp even has an allowance for that. it will send each IP just once, and until those don’t change you won’t get a message again.
I installed the 920K (that’s K, not MB) Wimp application, entered my IP addresses and Wimp asked permission to run a test. It INSTANTLY came back and said, “didja get the email? huh? didja? didja get it yet????” I checked and checked and i wasn’t getting the emails! I fiddled around for a while and finally broke down and read the FAQs on the site where they said to make sure the mails weren’t being filtered into your junk mail folder. Uh, duh, that’s where they were! Now Wimp’s main function isn’t to provide theft assistance but it could be some help if that does happen. In the mean time, this looks to be a sweet solution to the problem of changing IP addresses.
Research Department Niraj’s next tool is called Witch, from petermaurer.de. You might remember Peter Maurer as the author of Textpander, one of my favorite pieces of shareware, it’s the one that lets you type just a couple of characters to type in any set of information you like, such as your signature, or a paragraph you have to repeatedly type. Witch is a donation-ware Mac System Preference pane that helps you switch to a specific window in an application using a keystroke. Expos lets you switch windows but it’s kind of clumsy if you’re trying to get to a particular window. It also lets you directly access minimized windows without using your mouse, close minimized windows without bringing them to front first, and Zoom, de-/minimize, and close windows on the fly.
I downloaded and double clicked on the prefpane file for Witch and it brought up System Preferences quickly with it already installed. I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of toggles and choices. I kind of like the simple approach, they may have built too much capability in here. I’m thinking how many triggers will I be able to remember anyway? Oh well, decided to dive in anyway. First I have to Open the “Universal Access” pane and enable access for assistive devices. Of course I already have it enabled so I can use Quicksilver. I took another look at the triggers, and it turns out they have just one enabled to start with, and that’s called “All applications'” but I didn’t know what the trigger symbol was right away, so I started guessing. I was pretty sure the second one was tab, so I pushed buttons till I figured out it was option-tab. I figured that out when I finally hit option-tab, and up on screen came a very large translucent grey window. On that grey window was a list of all my open windows by name, and sorted by application. the name they use to identify the open window is the full title of the window, which really helps to figure out which one is which. As I kept the option key down and hit the tab again, it toggled through all the open windows till I got to the one I wanted, then I released the keys and up popped the window. I could also use my right hand to go up and down the list with the arrow keys while I held down the option-tab. I could flip through the options with the cursor too.
Ok, remember when i said i couldn’t remember any more shortcuts? Well, I went back in right away to see what else it could do. There’s a long list of things you can do, but I decided the one I could use was a way to flip quickly through the open windows in the foremost application. I threw on option-1 for that, and it worked great! there’s a zillion more options in the preference pane, two more tabs full of options, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. I think Witch will become one of my new favorite utilities, so head on over to petermaurer.de and download Witch if it sounds useful to you. between Textpander and Witch Peter Maurer is two for tw.o
International Women’s Podcasting Expo
Last week Paige Eissinger from the podcast Views from the Coop at 2smartchix.com posted to the Techpodcast network about a crazy thing called the International Women’s Podcasting Expo. Okay, an all-female podcast expo isn’t crazy at all, it’s a great idea, but the crazy part is the whole podcast was virtual! there’s some software called TcConference from talkingcommunities.com that creates virtual conference rooms in a java applet. I know this sounds confusing, and it was too out of the box for me till I actually went into one. Picture the last conference you went to. Straight ahead there’s a registration desk, to your right there’s the exhibit hall, and farther to the right are the conference rooms. when you walk up to the conference rooms, there’s a schedule posted on a sign so you can figure out when and where the good stuff is. Well, when you launch TcConference, it’s exactly like that, except it’s a cartoon on your computer instead of real life!
To the left of the registration desk was a Green Room (I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be the one in the Green Room!) where you could go to test your microphone. I wandered in there first, and a lovely gentleman named Rob Anderson who works for a company called Co-Opworld at global.co-opworld.com. Co-op world actually runs conferences like the women’s podcasting expo. Rob was in Australia and helped me figure out how to work in the conference rooms. I need to back up a little bit to explain some limitations I ran into right off the bat. I tried to launch the applet on my Intel-based MacBook Pro, and it kept unexpectedly quitting. No worries, I have more operating systems to play with, so I launched Parallels and tried going in the conference room with Windows. I got in, and met Rob. the only problem was all I could do was do text chat with him, but I COULD hear him. I tried a couple of microphones and couldn’t get it to work. USB is still hinky in Parallels so I wasn’t surprised I couldn’t get it to work.
In talking to Rob, he told me that the Intel-based macs seemed to have some problems with the java applet, so I jumped on one of my PowerPC based Macs, in this case the G5, and I got in and could hear him and he could hear me loud and clear. I told him the fun part is figuring this stuff out for me! He and I chatted for quite a while (he was in Australia) and I got a bit of an understanding of Co-Op World’s vision of where these virtual conferences can go to bring together communities of people who don’t have time to attend a physical conference. it sounds really promising to me. You can hear, you can talk (by holding down the control key to take control of the audio so people don’t stomp on each other, you can see Powerpoint presentations and websites, and you can chat to different people in the audience or to the entire audience.
On Saturday I went to the actual expo, and it was pretty interesting. there were hundreds of visitors in and out, and I think one of the most interesting thing was how it was really a day in the life of a woman. One woman was in a discussion and said, “hey, I’ve got to go scrub my kitchen floor, I’ll be back when I’m done.” Throughout it you could tell the women there were juggling the craziness of their daily lives and popping in and out to participate. You can go to the Expo libraries after the show to hear the recorded conversations – that’s another cool thing this software can do – record text and audio for later release. Head on over to podcasting.global.co-opworld.com, click on “visit the 3-D Expo”, then click on the welcome mat outside the building, and then go to the libraries to hear the presentations. At least that’s what I think will work, but I can’t guarantee it.
I’m really excited about meeting Paige – she’s a tech geek chick who is a Windows person, with an open mind to learn about Macs. She and I will make a great team together! She also told me about a thing called BX Radio at BXRadio.net/coolcast, which is a streaming radio station called CoolCast. CoolCast streams podcasts all day long, and Views from the Coop is one of them. She thinks she can get the NosillaCast on there, wouldn’t that be cool? I’d love to have more ways to have my podcast be distributed, the more the merrier!
Windows cost on the Mac
With all this talk of putting Windows on the Mac, I may never have mentioned that you have to actually BUY Windows in order to do this. The $70 Parallels package doesn’t come with it, and neither does Boot Camp. Here’s the shocking part for both Windows and Mac users – Windows XP home retails for $200 US if you buy it without a computer! and if you want XP Professional, it’s $300! Can you believe that? You’d think it would be at least discounted by now! The reason none of us know this is because we usually buy computers with Windows, and it’s bundled in for somewhere around $100. that version of Windows is referred to as an OEM license, or Original Equipment Manufacturer. Dell, or HP or whoever you bought it from is the OEM.
So now you want to buy a Mac Mini, where the low end one is only $600 US for the 1.5GHz Core solo. not a bad price for a fast little machine. but now you throw XP Home on it and the price goes up by 30%!!! that’s because Apple doesn’t have any kind of licensing deal with Microsoft, so they are not an OEM. there is a sketchy way to get around this – some companies like New Egg will sell you an internal component for a computer like a bracket or cable, and you can buy Windows as an OEM. that seems dodgy to me, but make your own assessment there. I stumbled across a completely legitimate way to get Windows cheaper and that’s if you buy your Mac through MacMall. they have the low end Mac Mini for $574 US to start with, which is $25 cheaper than Apple direct, and then to buy it bundled with XP home it’s $694. That means you’re only paying $120 for XP. they also have it bundled with XP Pro for $744, or $170 for the OS instead of the retail $300. What’s weird is the pricing breaks down when you go to other models, and I’m not sure why. they ahve the MacBook Pros for a great price right now, so when they add XP to them they add it to the list price, which makes the delta for the OS actually MORE than the retail cost. Not sure why that would happen, I suspect someone hasn’t checked out these prices to see if they make sense. bottom line is if you’re looking for a new Mac and you think you’ll want XP to go on it, check out the bundles at MacMall.com.
It looks like that’s going to wrap it up for this episode of the NosillaCast, I hope you enjoy the two shows from Ron David, and I’ll talk to you when I get back, I’ll have a new episode out on August 6th. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, you know how I love to get email comments, suggestions and even corrections! You can also send me audio comments if you’d like at email@example.com. thanks for listening, and stay subscribed!