Allison leaves on vacation but you can hear her on the Mac Roundtable at macroundtable.com, a weak iPhone whine, please sign the Yahoo! accessibility petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/yabvipma/, Honda Bob’s Mobile Service at hdabob.com, update on Inquisitor, how to add a button to your menu bar in Excel, and an update on my father-in-law the switcher. Picturesque from acqualia.com, and Ryan’s review of GrandCentral from grandcentral.com.
[tags]iPhone, accessibility, CAPTCHA, Excel, Disk Inventory, Zoho, Picturesque, GrandCentral[/tags]
Listen to the Podcast Once (30 min 38 sec)
Today is Sunday, July 29th 2007 and this is show #107.
I have terrible news for you. I want you to sit down, get a cup of tea, and try to prepare yourself. I’m going on vacation. And I didn’t prepare a darn thing for you to listen to while I’m gone! Well, that’s not entirely true. While I’m gone, you could listen to the Mac Roundtable at macroundtable.com. Why would you listen to the Mac Roundtable? maybe because it has some really swell folks who talk about interesting aspects of life on the Mac, or….because Allison got to be on the latest episode? Yes, yours truly is on the next episode, and I can’t begin to tell you how much fun I had doing it! Well, that’s not true, I COULD begin, but maybe not finish!
This episode had Tim Verpoorten of the MacReviewcast as the host, and w were joined by Joseph Nilo of the Mac Mediacast and Don McAllister of Screencasts Online. All of these guys are brilliant and gracious and funny. We had some interesting technical difficulties – before we started Tim told us that there were thunderstorms in the area, so if he suddenly disappeared, we shouldn’t worry. He was pretty smart – he did a file save 30 minutes in, and then started recording again and about 10 minutes into that, our Skype connection went silent on Tim’s end! It was cool though, he came back in just a few minutes, luckily the thunderstorm just caused a slight glitch in his internet access.
ANYWAY, the point of the story is that I’m leaving you, but you’ll be able to check out my skills when I’m not just talking to myself!
I got a bunch of emails telling me how much people enjoyed the iPhone whines last week, so let’s do some more! You’re not going to like this one though. Ok, here’s the deal. On the Mac, if you use Mail.app for your email, it integrates BEAUTIFULLY with Address Book. As you start to type an email to someone, if you’ve ever sent them an email before, or if they’ve every sent YOU an email, their address pops up in the address bar in your email. Does that make sense? Let’s say you received an email from bobarino727, if you type in “bob” you’ll see bobarino727 pop up as an option to send to. With me so far?
this is a terrific thing, because you don’t have to actually add anyone to your address book, if they’ve ever emailed you, they’re in there! So why is this bad? Why is this an iPhone whine? Why, I’ll tell you why! Because the iPhone syncs with your Address Book, and all those lovely recipients who you never bothered to actually SAVE as contacts never actually end up in your iPhone! I never realized how many people I write to DAILY who I never put in my address book. I guess this an ad for how cool Mail.app is, but man is it annoying when I go to email someone in the iPhone and they’re not there. ok, so that one was weak. I’ll try to do better next time.
Hey wait! how’s this for a whine for next week? if I bring the iPhone to Italy, it will cost me $1.29 US PER MINUTE to actually make phone calls! Text messages? $0.50 per minute to send, $0.15 per minute to receive. Steve says that’s proof that it’s better to receive than to give…
I’m seriously thinking about leaving my iPhone at home. Isn’t that horrible? I’m actually very sad about that! I will miss Mikala, my iPhone.
More on CAPTCHAs
Last week we talked about the lack of audio CAPTCHAs on many websites, and that it keeps the visually impaired from being able to participate in all the fun (and sometimes keeps them from participating at their own banks. I received an audio plea to have you go sign a petition requesting Yahoo! to conform to the new standard of audio and visual CAPTCHAs. It just takes a minute to sign the petition – enter your name and email address and any comments you may want to make, and then decide whether you want your email address visible. Click sign and you’re done. not too much work to do to help others join with us, is it? I put a link in the shownotes to the petition, and here’s an audio file explaining a little bit more:
=============insert request to sign yahoo captcha petition=======
HDA Bob’s Mobile Service
And now a word from our sponsor. Honda Bob has been fixing our Hondas and Acuras for just under thirty years now. who else do you know who has had one mechanic for that long? Now it could be that I have issues with change or could it be that Honda Bob is good at what he does – honest, hard working, and meets his commitments? that’s a trick question because actually both statements happen to be true, but THAT’S not the point! Bob is a terrific mechanic, and a good friend, and that’s why I enjoy advertising for him.
He sent me a couple of great photos this week – one is of me with my 1988 Accord (champagne beige, which i preferred to call smog colored) and Steve with his 1986 black Prelude. I put the images in the show notes for your entertainment! Here’s the amazing thing – we sold that Prelude to a guy around the corner in late 1998, so it was just under 14 years old. We told the guy about Honda Bob, and Bob is still keeping that car in great shape – it’s 21 years old now! I don’t know what else I could tell you to convince you that if you’re in the LA Area and you drive a Honda or an Acura, you should really consider Honda Bob for your auto repair and maintenance services. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is available by phone at (562)531-2321 or go to hdabob.com.
HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.
James on InquisitorX
So remember last week when I reviewed Inquisitor, the Safari plug-in-ish thingy that gives you Spotlight type searching within the search window? and I told you I thought it was really slick but I didn’t know how to actually configure it? and I didn’t know how I would make it go away if I ever tired of it? and I said that Listener James would probably write in with a sentence starting with “hey dork, all you gotta do is…” remember that? Well, shockingly I got an email from Listener James this week. Let’s hear what he has to say, shall we?
“Hey Dork, all you gotta do is go into your Safari Prefs and there’s a new pref tab that says “Search” then you can add search sites & keyboard shortcuts.” To uninstall, just run the installer and click on uninstall.”
You know, that’s what I love about doing this show, it’s the support and kindness of my fans. I took a look at the preferences in Safari, and sure enough James isn’t lying, you can change how the autocomplete works, swap which comes up first in the instant results – web site results or suggestions, you can change how many web site and keyboard suggestions are displayed, change your search engine to Google or Yahoo (and choose from a gazillion languages. But I still couldn’t find the keyboard shortcuts they were talking about. Perhaps James will write again next week! How about we actually start a NEW review finally?
Viddyup! from splasm.com
If you have a video iPod, iPhone or AppleTV, you’re probably trying to find a way to make video clips that will work with iTunes and be formatted properly for those devices. I found ViddyUp !from splasm.com – it’s $10 shareware and they promise to be the tool to solve this problem. We’ve talked about other applications that do this, but for $10 this one sure seemed worth giving a whirl, even if I do feel silly pronouncing the name. they even have on their website the line “Say ‘howdy pardner’ to ViddyUp!, the iPod & Apple TV video wrangler.” Have you noticed that while it’s all the rage to drop the “e” in the name of your site, it’s also all the rage to put an exclamation point at the end of your name? SuperDuper! InstantShot! ViddyUp! whew – I’m so excited about all this software!
Ok, down to business. ViddyUp! is only 10MB and it launches with a darn simple interface. It has a cowboy hat…with a blue arrow pointing into the hat. It says “Drag your movie files here to begin.” Well, that sure seems simple enough, now to find a file to test it with. I had a pile of mp4 files in my movies directory for iTunes, and they were all syncing just fine with my video iPod. I had one movie though that was a .mov file, and it was not showing up properly. I thought that might be a good test case. I dragged it onto the hat, and the entire interface changed immediately to show a whole slew of options. I like that the look is contextual – why do I need to see all those options, only needed the drag the file here part to start with.
the top half of ViddyUp! now shows a little movie player window with my movie in it, the bottom half is where I can configure it. There’s an encoding pulldown with a whole slew of options, defaulting to iPod 320×240 mpeg-4, along with a lot of other iPod options, and even a couple for podcasting using h.264, and two for the Apple TV, both mpeg 4 and H.264. I can choose quality from good to better to best (optimists, aren’t they?) and I can set the genre – either leaving it at the default Movies, or changing it to TV shows, sports or Music videos.
I chose H.264 320×240 for iPod, left it at the better quality. In 37 seconds it converted my 19 second long video to an mp4. It was nice enough to play me a quick little banjo rift to let me know it was done too! When finished it offered to take me right into iTunes. I noticed in the preferences that you can choose to avoid the banjo if you’ve got no sense of fun at all. I plugged in my video iPod, and the video started in the right folder for iTunes so the movie came in beautifully! The file was also shrunk from 13.8MB down to 1.6MB. Again, it’s a preference in ViddyUp! that makes the magic happen – it is set as a default to add the video right to your iTunes folder.
I thought I should go for something a bit more challenging, so I took a full length feature that I had previously converted to mp4 but wouldn’t move to the iPod, I’m assuming because the format was wrong. This file I never finished converting to iPod format – according to ViddyUp!, after 19 minutes it was still saying it would take 11 HOURS to convert! That’s not going to work for me. I actually think this file might have something wrong with it – it took about 3 hours to convert the .vob file into the .mp4 file using VisualHub last night, so I think it’s something out of control, so I’m not going to hold it against ViddyUp!
ViddyUp! doesn’t have a million bells and whistles, but it does the job it promises and does it quickly and simply without a lot of fuss, and with a bit of down home feel. I’m going to ask them when they’re going to have the format for the iPhone, which I’m sure they’re working on right now! For $10 it’s a good buy, and I’d definitely recommend it.
Wrap Text button in Excel
Last week I was reviewing Zoho and in their spreadsheet program I was excited to see a word wrap button, and bemoaned the fact that I don’t have that in Excel. today I had an epiphany – why not just customize my toolbar and add my own word wrap button?
Maybe I should explain in case you don’t know how to do this. This tip works in both Windows and Mac, but there may be some slight differences in nomenclature so I hope you can translate! In the Excel menu bar, pull down on View to Toolbars. This will open a menu to the side with a whole slew of options, but you want to drag all the way to the bottom to Customize Toolbars/Menus.
When the next window comes up, there are two tabs, you want to switch to Commands. this will give you a list on the left of each of the top menu choices, and as you click on each choice you’ll see in the right pane every option within that menu. I selected Format on the left pane, and then scrolled nearly to the bottom to find the symbol for Wrap Text. Now here’s the crazy part you’d NEVER figure out on your own – just grab that symbol and DRAG it up into the menu bar of Excel! Seriously, pick a place, say near the right/left justify buttons, or over by fonts, anywhere you like, just drag and drop! isn’t that awesome? And get this, you know how they load up the menu bar in Excel with a bunch of slop you never use? Like how hard is it to use command-x to cut? do you EVER use the button for cut – the little scissors icon? Maybe sometimes you go to Edit and pull down to cut, but I bet you never use those silly scissors! So while you’re in this mode of dragging icons INTO the menu bar, it turns out you can also drag them OUT of the menu bar! how cool is that? Ok, ok, I know, I’m overly excited when it comes to Excel, but STILL, this is good stuff! I think I might have to do an Excel tip of the week…yeah, a new feature – maybe I’ll finally do that pivot table tutorial I’ve been promising!
Update on my father-in-law the switcher
As you may recall, a few weeks ago I helped my in-laws switch from their Windows ’98 machine over to a spanking new MacBook. Now my father-in-law is a very bright guy, and he’s been able to convince companies like Cox Cable to continue to support him even though he’s on Windows ’98 (he wrote to the CEO of Cox) but he really wanted to give the Mac a try. I was worried because he’s very serious about his computer, he does his finances on it, and it was working fine. So I was tremulous about this – I knew I couldn’t push.
recently I wrote to him and asked him how it’s going, and he inserted one word in his response that told me it’s going to be just as wonderful as I’d hoped. Let’s see if you can hear the word that made me so happy. Here’s what he wrote:
“We haven’t had much time to experiment on the MacBook yet except for playing with the Mail feature a little and surfing the Internet. We will, very slowly, get familiar with it.”
Did you hear it? he said PLAYING with Mail. playing. this is a man who worried about his computer, who worked at his computer, who never once expressed anything close to enjoyment about his computer before! I’ll keep you posted on his progress!
Ok, here’s the problem statement. You want to make your pictures look as cool as everything Apple does – with the awesome reflections like in iChat AV when you have 3 people, or on all their web pictures. but man, that’s a lot of Photoshop skills for that, right? What if you could create that at the click of a button? enter Picturesque from acqualia.com (thats acqualia.com). This is a $20 shareware program that has a few little tricks up its sleeve that make it unique and enjoyable.
When you open Picturesque, it brings up a blank window that says Drop Images Here. Who am I to disobey? I dropped a really nice pic I got of Steve on 4th of July onto the window and then an inspector popped up with a whole bunch of options. To get the cool reflection effect of all the Apple images, simply click the checkbox for reflection. It instantaneously creates the reflection, and you can modify it by dragging the sliders in the Inspector.
within the reflection scheme, you have sliders for length – which is from 0-100% which at 100% would be the entire photo replicated in the reflection which is a bit much, even when it’s a picture of your darling husband. Next you can control opacity which makes it a perfect reflection at 100% (which is actually boring), so this looks better around 50%. Oddly even if you set the reflection to 100% and the length to 100% it still fades out eventually. finally you can change the offset, which makes it not reflect right where the pic hits the virtual table, which I think is just weird looking.
The default is to have a black background like in the Apple tools, but you can set it to white too, or pick a color from the color wheel. I put the picture of Steve in the shownotes in white so you can see how it looks. This is a good time to mention that one of the options is to resize the photo while you’re manipulating it. for example, that picture of Steve was 3008×2000 pixels, which would be just a TAD large for the blog, don’t you think? I was able to scale it to 400 pixels wide, and tell it to save it at a very high quality jpeg.
the reflection scheme is the most impressive tool in Picturesque, but it also allows you to put a border around the photo (which they call stroke), changing the color and thickness of the stroke as you go along. You can fade the picture out along any of the four sides (or all four if you like). You can add drop shadows and glow, which can be really sharp looking, but you have to be careful to not try and add too many effects together or it’s a mess, or doesn’t even work! for example, if you turn on shadow and glow, it doesn’t do anything at all if you already have reflection turned on. Fading only works right without reflections too. You can round the edges, defining not only which edges to round but by what percentage of the picture size.
Ryan Boswell on GrandCentral
My friend Ryan has sent us a lot of great reviews over the last year, tipping us off to some terrific software. He sends them in text and then I read them aloud. this week he decided to give it a shot making his own audio recording so he could tell us in his own words about a new service called GrandCentral. Let’s give a listen:
It’s Ryan here, and this is my first in person review for your show, which is probably one of my favorite audio podcasts (ok, so it’s the only one I have other than MacBreak, but it’s still great none-the-less). Anywho, lets get down to business.
A few weeks ago Google acquired a little known service called GrandCentral. GrandCentral is an amazing and unique starup that sets people up with local phone numbers. The big trick is that there is no set landline or physical phone connected to the number. The main purpose, and biggest selling point of the entire service, is that you can set it up with any other number that you have. Let me explain this a little better.
Let’s say that you have a home phone and a cell phone, and a GrandCentral account of course. In the GrandCentral settings you add both your home and cell numbers and designate them as such. Then someone calls your GrandCentral number and both your home and cell phones will ring with the call. Now, for the purpose of demonstration lets say you pick up on your home phone and you are presented with a vocal menu (all the while the caller is still hearing the ring) that allows you to pick up the call, send it to voicemail, send it to voicemail and listen in (I’ll explain this in a bit), or pick up and start recording the call. Let’s say you just want to talk to the person, you key in 1 and GrandCentral connects you to the caller. You talk for several minutes and all of a sudden you have to head out the door somewhere, but don’t want to end the conversation. No problem, just press the star button on your home phone and a couple of seconds later your cell phone will ring, pick up and start talking like nothing happened and head out on your way. If you are still talking when you get back, or have started another call through GrandCentral, than press the star again on your cell phone and your home phone will ring with the call. All of this activity is completely unbeknownst to whomever you are speaking to, unless you tell them what your doing.
Now let’s explore the other menu options you are presented when answering a GrandCentral call. If you want to send the call to voicemail, you press 2 and the call is sent to your GrandCentral voicemail (you can setup a custom greeting in the control panel, and you can even have different greetings for different groups of people, so that your friends can have a laugh when leaving a message, but you don’t have to worry about your boss being offended because he/she’ll hear a completely different message). Once a call is sent to voicemail you can set an option to have an email or text message sent to you about it. The message is also displayed in your GrandCentral inbox. If you want to listen in on the voicemail to see what the person may be calling about and then decide to pick up, press 3 and the caller will be sent to voicemail, but you’ll be able to listen in on their message, choosing to pick up (or not to) whenever. If you want to pick up and record the call (from the main menu), press 4 and after you are connected, a voice will announce to both parties that the call is being recorded. You also have the option to start recording during the call by pressing 7 (and pressing it again will stop it). All recorded calls are sent to your GrandCentral inbox.
Two other interesting features are that you can have a button on your website or blog that will allow people to call you on your GrandCentral number, all without revealing your number to the caller. The service has them put in their number and it initiates a call between the two numbers (theirs and yours), from which point the call progresses as any other incoming call to you. The other feature is that you can call someone in your address book from the web interface, and it works much the same as the web call button, except the call appears to be from your GrandCentral number in any Caller ID, instead of being from whatever phone your actually using.
In my tests of the service, everything worked as advertised, although I did find out that once you start recording a call, you cannot switch phones. All in all I think the GrandCentral service is great, and in my use of it I haven’t encountered any real problems. Currently the service is in private beta and you can signup to be on the wait list, but if you have a friend with an account, they can send you an invite to get right in.
One question I had when I was first looking at the service is how much it costs. During the beta, everything is offered for free, but once the service is opened to the public a few of the services will cost a small fee. Although now that Google owns GrandCentral, it may never come out of beta.
As a parting gift, I leave you a voicemail that I left on my GrandCentral number just for the show.
Hey Ryan, this was terrific, thanks for taking the time to research GrandCentral for us and especially taking the time to record it yourself. I like the recording off of GrandCentral so we can hear how it actually sounds! This was great. You can find GrandCentral at grandcentral.com.
Packing for Italy
I’d like to close with a reading of my packing list for Italy. I am not making this up, this is the list I started with. backup pocket drive, 2 normal plane adapters, magsafe plane adapter, card reader, camera chargers (little, big and video), video camera, extra camera battery, big zoom lens, 2 digital cameras (little & big), 3-5 iPods including shuffle for Kyle to run with, 3 laptops, European power adapters, European charger block. Later I looked at the list and decided I should pack clothes too.
Well, I better start getting ready for my vacation – will you miss me? I might post a picture or two up on podfeet.com, so check in from time to time. the next show I’ll do for sure will be August 19th, so go outside and play while I’m gone! Be sure to send me feedback on the show, your own reviews, suggestions, and even complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send audio comments and reviews to email@example.com. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.