#136 KeyXL, DiscLabel, Linux Apps on Mac

Homework assignment – find people in Africa, Asia, and Antartica to check in, more Twitter clients at twitter.pbwiki.com, KeyXL from keyxl.com for keyboard shortcuts by operating system. Texter breaks for Mike too, request for Podcast lessons from Gérard, DiscLabel from smileonmymac.com. How I still can’t get a good backup, and Bart and I discuss Martin’s instructions at blog.grummel.at on how to install Linux applications on the Mac during Chit Chat Across the Pond.

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[tags]Macintosh, shortcuts, labels, linux, MacPorts [/tags]

Today is Sunday, February 17th, 2008 and this is show #136. Was it fun having a surprise bonus show in the feed this week? I had so much fun with Paige I couldn’t resist coming out with it as a standalone show.

Hey – did you all remember to tune into the MacRoundtable last week? We had SUCH a good time and we have been getting great feedback on the show. My favorite part are the outtakes at the end, at least we though it was funny. Be sure to check it out at macroundtable.com

Homework Assignment
map of the world pointing at africa, asia and antarcticaI’ve been wracking my brains trying to remember who it was who wrote to me asking what happened to the homework assignments. Um, I guess it was winter break? Well it’s time to get back to work. How about this – we need to hear from someone from every continent. I’m pretty sure we have Europe covered with Bart from Ireland, Hannes from Austria, and Ben from the UK (plus a whole lot more! The US and Canada are pretty well covered, so North America is set. I haven’t heard from Paul in Peru in AGES, so I’m going to declare South America as open territory. Ok, that’s 3, right? Now i’m not as smart as a fifth grader, but my son assures me that there are 7 continents. Oh, we have Australia with Rose and Jane, that’s 4.

That leaves Asia, Africa and Antarctica. I can see we have listeners in Africa and Asia, but I’m not showing any hits yet from Antarctica. For those of you in Africa and Asia I need you to check in – send me an email or better yet a voice recording so we know you’re out there! And how do we get some folks from Antarctica to start listening? maybe there’s a Mac User group there? You have your assignment, now get to it!

If you haven’t had enough talk of Twitter clients, Duncan wrote in with a site that lists a gazillion of them! At twitter.pbwiki.com they have them sorted by operating system and they include a short description of each application. You can go crazy in here!

James from the UK wrote in (no, not crazy james) and here’s what he said:
I just wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoy your show, and that I also have what could be a useful link: KeyXL from keyxl.com

keyxl logogI thought it might be useful for everyone, but especially your mum, who I seem to remember you mentioned is blind. I too am blind, and although I’ve not had chance to check this out yet, it is supposed to be a huge database of keystrokes for a massive number of applications on all platforms. It may also be useful for other listeners, as keystrokes can make you more productive as you don’t need to take your hands off of the keyboard.”

Well James, this couldn’t come at a better time! I’ve recently been forced to use a Vista machine at work, so I’m literally a 50 year old Windows virgin, so I REALLY need to learn some shortcut keys! The one thing that’s been driving me nuts is how in the heck you actually QUIT a program. People say alt-f4, but that doesn’t work on chat clients! I needed to do a screencast at work, so I alt-f4’d all my apps so I wouldn’t get popups on screen, but sure enough here comes Pidgin jumping up on screen. My friend Tony said Windows isn’t so bad, it’s the death by a thousand papercuts that gets to you! Anyway, KeyXL is very well organized and has a TON of links, sorted by application or operating system. They even give a link over to a wikipedia page with more shortcuts. thanks for the tip James!

Texter redux
Last week I talked about Texter, a great little piece of open source software for windows that does text substitution a la TextExpander. I was all excited about it until it stopped working! I got an email from Mike telling me that the same thing happened to him! His Texter worked great for a while and then stopped. I haven’t been able to find a way to communicate with the developers yet but I’m still trying. Mike heard about my great Buffalo experience and he just chose a buffalo external drive – and it was on sale. doesn’t get much better than that! Oh, and Mike said that his cousin Christine lives within Honda Bob’s range, AND she drives a Honda Oddysey, but get this she hasn’t called Honda Bob yet! To be fair, she’s only needed oil changes so far, so maybe she’ll come around.

Perhaps some of you haven’t heard about Honda Bob yet. He’s my mechanic, and while it might seem a bit odd to advertise your mechanic on a tech show, you need to know that he’s a hard core geek himself. He does his own website over at hdabob.com, he loves cool software tools, and this week he just replaced the battery in his son’s dead iPod mini for only $17! the best part about Honda Bob is that he actually drives to your house or your place of business, and works on your car at YOUR convenience. He covers the LA and Orange counties, (that’s where you work Christine), and he does a marvelous job. If you’d like to contact him, try his phone at (562)531-2321 or shoot him an email at [email protected]. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.

Request for Podcast lessons
Gérard from the Netherlands wrote in with an intriguing request:
Hello Allison, first of all: you have a great show. Thank you for that. Is it possible that you make a show about podcasting itself. How to produce, upload, hosting, bandwith, what does it cost, Garageband etc etc. Geeks are always interested how other geeks do things. Maybe it’s an idea to split it up like this:

1. Concept/writing
2. Recording
3. Post-production (filtering etc.)
4. Upload/RSS/ bandwith/hosting

I hope you decide to podcast about it. Few podcasters do. (Victor/adam etc. rarely speak about it) Actually rather strange beacause the tech stuff behind it all is what us geeks like to play with.

I’m asking because i’m a PR-consultant of a Policeforce here in the Netherlands and besides the fact that we make WEB-TV (pit.tv), i’m looking for a way tying podcasting in our communication with our citizens.

You, Tim, Adam, Victor, Steve etc. have fans in the Netherlands. Small country…. big MAC-community
– Gérard

I think I will go ahead and work on this idea for Gérard and anyone else who is interested. The one thing that worries me is that I think I may do a lot of it the hard way. I learned to do it when you had to use a hammer and chisel, and I think there are easier ways to accomplish the same result. let me work on this though, I think I could provide some interesting tips. I might do a segment a week so it doesn’t bore those of you not interested in doing a show. In any case Gérard, I’m glad to know there’s lots of Macs in the Netherlands!

I finally got time to start testing out DiscLabel from smileonmymac.com. You may remember my interview with Jean MacDonald about this software – finally it was time to give it a shot myself.

As always, what’s the problem to be solved? I’ve made probably a hundred disk labels using Photoshop elements, and I dread it. My husband Steve makes DVDs of our home movies, including transcoding of all our old VHS tapes. He keeps churning these things out and I have to make clever labels with photos and all the scene selections on the back. DiscLabel is intended to make this process easy, so I thought maybe if it was fun i wouldn’t dread it so much.

disclabel interfaceDiscLabel has a very unusual interface that is pleasing to the eye. You have a choice of Edit, Media or Store as tabs across the bottom. When you’re in the Edit mode, you have four columns of information. The name of your projects are in the left column, the various label options are in the 2nd column (such as the CD/DVD label, the jewel case cover, the jewel case insert and the jewel case booklet). Then the third column is huge – that’s where the label you’re working on is shown – like a gigantic disc labe in the middle. finally there’s the fourth column and that’s where you can see various templates for the label element you’re working on. In the example of the disc label itself, there’s all kinds of options about how to display the text.

DiscLabel integrates extremely well with iPhoto and iTunes, so that you can pick pictures of your own and import tracks from playlists. Since I’m not making musicCDs the iTunes integration won’t be the focus of my review. One of my happiest moments in using DiscLabel was when i discovered that while it was integrated with iPhoto, it didn’t MAKE me use iPhoto. I have been keeping my digital photos organized all on my own since long before the existence of iPhoto so I never actually converted over.

Steve’s latest project is making DVDs of his sister’s home movies on VHS. Since we don’t have high res photos of their lives, we decided to take screenshots from within iMovie. Not the highest quality of course, but we figured if we flung a bunch of them around on the disk so they were small, it could look pretty cool.

I jumped into DiscLabel with both feet, and I got stuck almost immediately! I easily found the menu pick that lets you create a montage of photos on your disk, which sounded ideal. there’s a bunch of options on how to display them – in a grid, film, surround, randomize, and pie. sounds great! but none of them looked good with my photos. No worries, once it places the photos on the disc, I can just move them around, right? Nope. They’re stuck there. Shoot, that would have been fun. Oh well, no worries, I’ll just plop the pics in and resize at will. this is scary since i have little artistic skill, but I was willing to go for it. the first pic I tried to resize by holding down the shift key and dragging a corner, did NOT stay in proportion! Yikes! I searched everywhere for the answer, and finally resorted to writing to Jean to find the solution. Here’s what she wrote:

“Based on our years of customer support, we’ve put a lot of what I call “training wheels” into DiscLabel. One of them is that by default, resizing is proportional UNLESS you hold down the shift key. It’s the opposite of what Photoshop users expect. If you go into preferences, you can uncheck this default, as well as a couple other defaults that are counterintuitive to the more experienced graphic software user. See attached for my preference pane.”

Ah, interesting perspective. I’m not sure I 100% agree with the logic though, since holding the shift key for a proportional resize isn’t just in Photoshop, it’s how you make a circle instead of an oval or a square instead of a rectangle in every drawing program on the Mac, and even on a PC. Heck, it’s even the way you proportionally resize an image in Microsoft Word! Oh well, once I had the toggle set right, all was good. Except I still had no artistic talent!

Back to work. I wanted to know more about all of the editing options, and if you’ve been listening to the show for ANY length of time, you know I wasn’t going to read the manual – instead I headed over to smileonmy.com and went hunting for some video instruction. Imagine my delight when I discovered video screencasts by my good friend Don McCallister of screencastsonline.com! He does such a terrific job – if you haven’t checked out his screencasts, you really do want to head on over there some time soon.

One of my favorite features of DiscLabel was that I could import an image, resize, and then double click on it and it would bring up the image in a lovely crop tool. It works like a champ, very quick, very easy and intuitive. I don’t think I completely follow how the text label thingys work so much – again I think this is a design decision that most people would like to click through a ton of preset options until they see something they like. I’ve been doing it for so long by hand that I’m inclined to want to hard code it myself. I’m trying to mellow out and go with the flow with DiscLabel but I’m such a control freak it’s hard!

I really hate to do this, but I have to admit that I found myself struggling quite a bit with DiscLabel. for example, I got my photos sprinkled about on the disc, and added a black background (which took me a long time to figure out) and then laid some text on a white rectangle. Ok, good to go. Then I started to work on the CD cover, and I thought I’d go select that text or even the whole text box and copy it over to the cover too. No dice. I couldn’t grab that text box, couldn’t edit the text, couldn’t select the text – all I could do is slide it around. If I double clicked it, it wants to crop something for me. that got me thinking maybe the layer had gotten behind something, so I right clicked and sent whatever I was selecting to the back. that allowed me to select the the text.

So then I’m back on the cover, and I want to do that montage thing now, since it’s easier on a square than on a circle. In order to toggle on the montage, you have to select the pictures first. But as soon as I click one picture, it plops it onto the cover. I struggled back and forth trying to trick it into letting me select the photos before it did the plopping. i finally did get it to work, but it wasn’t very intuitive to me.

And then I tried to print. I had my CD label up in front and hit command-P to print. this brought up a window that looked like a CD label template, but not the one I wanted to print on. Down at the bottom it had a pulldown for Avery 8696, so I tried pulling it down to see if it had some options for Fellowes labels that I own. No Fellows. then next to the CD in the 2nd column was an arrow, i right clicked on it and it offered to find compatible media. Cool beans – in here they had all the manufacturers, so i selected Fellowes Neato. but guess what? no Fellows labels are available to me. I searched all over the Fellowes box and nowhere on there does it tell me the compatible Avery label, which is lame on the part of Fellowes.

I think that if you were a newbie at this whole disc labeling thing, or you were willing to go with predefined formats and were especially interested in burning CDs for music, DiscLabel would be a great solution. For my very specific need to add photos and scene names to a DVD label, and since I’m a control freak, it wasn’t for me. I went back to my hammer and chisel method with Photoshop Elements.

I really really want to like this product but it seems to fight me every step of the way. I felt awful because Jean and the other folks I’d chatted with at smileonmyMac are SO nice to me. It gave me a chance to do some soul searching though – do I pretend I loved a product because the people are nice? that wouldn’t be fair to you. I have built my reputation on the fact that I tell the truth. I can’t ever get away from that no matter if it makes me sad. I bit the bullet and wrote a note to Jean telling her that I wasn’t going to be raving about DiscLabel, and what she wrote back was wonderful. In her email she showed the caliber of her character and the company she works for. Here’s what she wrote back:

“Oh dear. I’m really sorry DiscLabel has caused you so much frustration. A couple of questions:

– Did you ever contact support directly?
– Is there another labeling program you use that you find more intuitive?

We do have thousands of happy users and get great testimonials and awards, but we also know that we can’t rest on our laurels. We are actively working on making DiscLabel as intuitive as possible. To that end, I would really be interested in knowing more about where the program fails for you. Would you consider going through some of the steps with me via iChat/screensharing? I know that’s asking a lot from a busy person. I really want us to learn from your experience and where we are failing an experienced Mac user like you.”

Isn’t that great? Instead of being offended or mad, she wants to know how they can improve the product! I thought a lot of their company before this but now they’re rock solid in my mind. Remember, they’re the folks that make the product I could never live without – TextExpander!

Can’t get a good backup
* Time Machine
** 300GB Seagate Firewire drive
*** Did a few backups, couldn’t see my home folder in disk mode, but files were there in TM
*** Either the drive is flaky or the firewire interface is flaky or the case has a problem, backups would just hang after a while
** 160GB Maxtor portable USB drive
*** TM worked perfectly, till it didn’t
*** started saying it was full
*** told it to back up less stuff
*** should have 60GB free, but it still said it was full
*** I thought TM was smart enough to throw old stuff away?
* SuperDuper! for Leopard
** oh the joy
** bought ANOTHER drive: iomega 500GB USB drive
** launched SD! and got a nice backup run
** BUT just like with TM on the Seagate, i can’t see my home folder. Under Users, it only shows Shared
** however, just like TM the files are actually there
** if I do a search on the backup drive, it will find files that are in my user directory – finder window shows on the bottom that it’s finding it inside that drive!
* IS IT ME???

==================INSERT CCATP=================

Chit Chat Across the Pond
Installing Linux s/w on the Mac

Martin Hauser was nice enough to write up an in depth explanation about the tools that are now available to install Linux applications over to the Mac. He put it on his blog, so I’ve put a link in the shownotes so you can read it after the show. I asked Bart if we could talk about it because I’m not quite up to this topic (Martin thinks I’m smarter than I really am!)

Martin’s blog is at blog.grummel.at but I have to warn you Bart and i had a LOT of trouble getting started because we noticed his Flickr stream and we wandered over thee and he has some FANTASTIC photos up there. you’re really talented martin!

Martin gave me some sense of why I’d want to start on this adventure in installing Linux apps on the Mac, Bart gives some more insite into this topic.

It’s time to wrap up the show, so I’ll leave you with a reminder of your homework assignment to find someone from Africa, Asia and Antarctica to give me a holler so we know you’re out there! Extra credit for Antarctica by the way… Keep up all the great emails, i love hearing from you – email me at [email protected]. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

1 thought on “#136 KeyXL, DiscLabel, Linux Apps on Mac

  1. Tony - February 22, 2008

    I had considered antartica as a possible job site actually … at least for a while. I would have been first!

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