In honor of Mother’s day I interview my mom about her newest tech gadget, the Extreme Reader from Guerilla Technologies. ooVoo for 6-way video calls at oovoo.com. In Dumb Question Corner we cover switching windows in Word, creating anniversary calendars in iCal using Dates to iCal from nhoj.co.uk/datestoical/, Keystroke to send Mail, how to restore a user directory from a thumb drive. We look at Honda Bob’s website to learn all about brakes at hdabob.com. And finally Donald Burr from otakunopodcast explains to me the virtues and few failings of the Archos 705 from archos.com. See his pictures at borg-cube.com, download Miro from getmiro.com, iSquint from isquint.org and Handbrake from handbrake.fr.
Listen to the Podcast Once (47 min 05 sec)
[tags]Macintosh, mother’s day, accessibility, Extreme Reader, iCal, Honda, Archos [/tags]
Today is Sunday May 11th, 2008, and this is show number 150.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Happy Mother’s day to all the moms out there! I was trying to figure out what I could to to honor the moms out there, and I figured the best way to do that was to give you the long awaited interview with my own mom. My mom is 87 years old and blind, and if anything she’s doing more exciting things with her life than ever before. In the interview that follows, she’ll be reviewing the Extreme Reader from Guerilla Technologies.
=========INSERT MOM INTERVIEW============
Now that you’ve heard her yourself, can you believe she’s 87??? do you see why she’s my hero? I don’t know how it happened, but we both turned into geeks when i wasn’t paying attention. Because she’s so interested in technology, she really seems to enjoy hearing about my podcast and all the fun I have with it. I took some pictures of my mom and her “gear” – and I’ve got them up on the blog. You definitely want to check these pics out, I got a shot of the Extreme Reader, but also of the startup screen of her computer, sporting a 66 MHz cpu, 640 kilobytes of memory, and a 16MB hard drive (partitioned into two 8 MB drives of course!) She runs Word Perfect 5.1 on this bad boy under DOS.
There’s a good reason, not just mother abuse, why she’s using a 14 year old computer. When she got it my brother set her up with a cool program called Lyon Large Type that works with Word Perfect to give a high contrast, giant sized version of the text you’re typing at the bottom of the screen. You can see this in the photos as well. This was very helpful for a long time, but she can’t see the text any more at all unfortunately. She still does a wonderful job of capturing our family memories in her class, so it’s all good! Head on over to the blog, see my beautiful mom. And if your mom is still with you, give her a call and say hi – that’s what she really wants from you.
pictures of mom and her setup and all 3 of us.
Homework reminder – recordings for the 3 year anniversary
Now I want to give a gentle reminder about the latest homework assignment. Last week I asked you if you’d send in an audio recording telling me how you learned about the show. I’ve gotten some delightful recordings so far and I’m really enjoying them! If you’d like your story played on next Sunday’s show on May 18th, be sure to get them in to me THIS WEEK I sure hope you’ll send one in, this will be a lot of fun.
There’s a lot of excitement about a new video teleconferencing system called ooVoo, over at oovoo.com. Listener Michael King dragged me in there, and threw me into the deep end. What makes ooVoo really interesting is that it can handle up to a six way video conversation. Michael got me, Connor, the Mac Mommy, Brad and Tony all into an ooVoo chat together and it really worked well. the video quality is surprisingly good and audio works well, except it’s REALLY hard not to step on each other with that many people able to talk and the natural lag that comes with this kind of internet service.
Tony was using his Zoon H2 as a microphone and I didn’t even KNOW you could do that! I was so excited I ran and got mine and he walked me through how to set it up. The Zoom has an odd little interface – when you plug it in via USB to your computer, it gives you a couple of options to walk through on it’s teeny tiny dark little screen, basically you just tell it you want to connect to the computer and pass through the audio. A cool feature is that you don’t even turn the H2 on, it powers through the USB so you don’t waste your AA batteries either. In just a few seconds I was up and running, and they said my audio was great. I had been thinking about buying a small portable microphone for travel, and here I had one stashed away in my bag all along! By the way the interview with Mom was done with the H2 and I thought it sounded great there too.
Back to ooVoo – I do have one MAJOR complaint about it. It seems to have hijacked my startup items. First of all it put itself in my startup items in my accounts preferences, uninvited, but that’s not all that unusual, however rude it is. What’s got me aggravated is that evidently bad programming removes all of the startup items I DID want to have running! No Quicksilver, no Skitch, and oddly neither TextExpander nor RapidoWrite will work till I separately launch them. I deleted ooVoo from the startup items, put back the items I did want, rebooted, and ooVoo was back and the others were deleted! Then I went into the ooVoo Preferences and found an option to uncheck regarding startup up on boot, but when I rebooted it was STILL the only thing I had went I booted up. I wrote a note to the ooVoo folks, it is in beta after all so hopefully they’ll come out with a fix for it.
In a video chat with Michael and Jimmi-Lee, we talked about the problem. Michael had seen the same issue but had been able to beat it out of the tool. Jimmi-Lee suggested I uninstall and reinstall to see if that will fix it, because he hasn’t had any problems like I have. I’ll give that a try, but ooVoo will be very short lived for me if they don’t get this fixed. anyway, with that warning, you still might want to go check out ooVoo if you’ve got a group of people you’d like to get together to chat as a big mob!
MacBook Pro battery
I bought the MacBook Pro the very first day they came out – had to be first on my block to have an Intel-based Mac. I haven’t ever regretted it – even though I had two logic board replacements in the first three months! I will never be that person who can’t decide whether to wait and buy because I’m always the early adopter, and I’m happy bleeding on the edge for everyone else!
Well, my MacBook Pro is now two and a half years old, and I have a new problem. My battery is going, but not gracefully – it gets down to about 50% pretty quickly, but then it goes from 50 to 0 inside of 8 minutes! I started looking at replacement batteries but they’re expensive, and there aren’t any third party ones like I thought there would be. I kept searching, and I came across a ZDnet article saying that Apple was recalling early MBP 15-inch batteries. There have been a few recalls during the life of this machine, but I’ve never been lucky enough to be in the right serial number range. Well, I finally got lucky!
according to the article, Laptops starting with W8607 serial numbers means they’re one of the very first ones. I gave it a whirl and called Apple, and after zapping my Parameter RAM for no apparent reason, they had me read off the battery info from the Apple System Profiler. They looked at the cycle count (394), the full charge capacity (3056) and the serial number
(KF617KT9TY48) on the battery to decide. He went away for about 15 minutes and when he came back he told me they’re replacing my battery! Yay!!! I tried to get out of him what about the cycle count and capacity were indicative of the problem, but he didn’t have a clue! I was hoping to provide more info back to the community by adding more detail, but I didn’t get much out of him. I’m betting it was the serial number itself that made the decision! In any case, I just saved a pile of money and I’ll get LOOONG battery power again!
Now so far this story sounds too good to be true, right? Well I’ll take it up a notch – I made that phone call to Apple at 11am on Friday – at 10am on Saturday, just 23 hours later, DHL was on my doorstep with my new battery! It’s no wonder Apple has blown away all the other hardware vendors in terms of customer service according to a recent poll by Consumer Reports. I’m delighted with Apple right now – and it’s SO nice to not have to be tethered all the time now.
Dumb Question Corner
==========INSERT DUMB QUESTION CORNER MUSIC================
I don’t think I’ve given you a single homework assignment that you resonated to more than the idea of Dumb Question Corner! I’ve been getting so many emails I can’t answer all of them – especially the ones that aren’t dumb, they’re really complicated!
Megan Duffy took the Dumb Question Corner assignment very seriously – she sent in two dumb questions. Her first question was:
SWITCHING WINDOWS IN WORD
“How do you switch between open Mac Word 2004 windows by using the keyboard? This makes me crazy. I can’t find a way to do it without using the mouse. I’m a switcher, and in Windows you could switch easily with keystrokes.”
This first one had me stumped for a long time till I took drastic measures and actually tried Help in Microsoft Word! I found it buried in there, and it sure is an obscure key combination – it’s Apple-F6! to flip backwards between documents it’s shift-Apple-F6. w00t! I wanted to know this too actually. I knew Excel help was good, but I hadn’t ever had much success with Word help before. Megan’s second question was tougher – here’s her second question:
ANNIVERSARIES FROM ADDRESS BOOK TO ICAL
“In iCal you can have a “birthdays” calendar taken from the birthdays you’ve got in the Contacts app. I have a custom field with anniversaries added to each Contact card. Is there a way to cause iCal to create a calendar from those dates as well?”
I actually never knew about how you can add birthday fields to Address book and have them come up in a special calendar. that’s really cool! I think that used to be accomplished through different means somewhere back in time because in my Address book I have birthdays in the notes field, preceded by the word birthday in brackets. I have been using the Address Book for so far back I don’t even remember how I created the birthday entries, but they also sync into the Birthdays calendar.
After all that, i didn’t see a way to create anniversaries – I looked through all the custom fields and didn’t find it there either. Strangely i find references to the Anniversary field in Address book all over the web. so how else could I figure this out? Ask Twitter! in about 1 minute Elliott and SwitcherMark and ljsworld and wizardchimp all answered the question of how to get anniversaries into Address Book. I know, that wasn’t YOUR question but it was MY dumb question! turns out if you go into Address Book, Pull down from Card, to Add Field, then Edit Template, you can add a field called Dates, which defaults to Anniversary. Gee, they made THAT hard enough! However, after all that, i couldn’t figure out how to get those dates to show up in iCal.
I put the question up to Twitter again and Pat Putnam came up with a solution. She found a shareware application called Dates to iCal from nhoj.co.uk/datestoical/. This application allows you to not only automatically sync birthdays from Address Book to iCal, it can also sync anniversary and other custom dates. you can set up to five alarms for each date in iCal and even set different alarms for birthdays and anniversaries. This looks like the perfect solution to Meagn’s hard question – and you get all this for a grand total of £3, which is around $6US. thanks Pat for the assist!
MACMINI AS MAIL SERVER
After Pat helped out on the last question, she asked a “dumb” question of her own – but I rejected it because it wasn’t dumb at all – it was a really HARD question! i’ll give it to you here and if someone wants to contact Pat with an answer I’ll connect you two. She asked, ” would like to use my Mac mini, which sits idle most of the time, as a server for an email list that I run. Can I do that? Do I have to invest $500 in Leopard Server to do it?”
Yikes! See why I rejected this one as not qualifying for Dumb Question Corner? Luckily after I disqualified her question, she came right back with a question that qualified for the low bar of Dumb Question Corner.
KEYSTROKE TO SEND MAIL
Pat’s second email said, “Maybe this is a dumber question… is there a key command for send mail message?” Lucky for me, I happened to know the answer to that one! The keystroke is command-shift-D (or apple-shift-d if you’re of that persuasion). I’m crazy for keystrokes to increase efficiency so I had to find this one out when I first switched to Mail. If any of you out there have the misfortune to have to use Lotus Notes, the keystroke for sending mail there is shift-escape. I found that one by accident one day and boy was I thrilled to find it! Notes is SO unintuitive, get this one – new message isn’t control-n like every other application on the planet, it’s control-m for new MESSAGE. Oh well, at least now I know what it is. Another favorite of mine in Apple Mail is command-r to reply to a message. Sure wish Notes had a keystroke for that one!
RESTORE BACKUP FROM THUMB DRIVE
Drew wrote in with a question that sounds like it’s simple enough but is riddled with subtleties:
“Hi Allison, Here is my numb question. I’ve got my father backing up his entire user folder to a thumb-drive, but I have no idea how to restore a user should the need arise. When I’ve tried this kind of thing in the past, I run into locked and forbidden folders. Hopefully it is REALLY easy to do!”
Drew, I’m afraid your fears about complexity are warranted. It’s not difficult to do it right, it’s simply a bit tricky. There’s a very good Apple knowledge base article on the subject that walks you through how to make it NOT a nightmare! They walk through using the .Mac Backup application, third party backup applications, and finally manual backups which is what you’re doing. I put a link to the Apple Knowledgbase article in the shownotes. I’m very glad you asked this question because I’ve always known it was dicey and now I’ll remember that somewhere in my blog I put the answer when I go looking for it later! That’s one of the best things about doing the show – I’ve recorded every single thing I know about technology in one place, so I never have to remember a darn thing!
As I close out Dumb Question Corner for this week, I’d like to thank Victor Cajiao for that little jingle as the leadin for Dumb Question Corner. If you’d like something like this, Victor does it as a business – you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve been listening for any length of time, you know I’m a big believer in my mechanic, Honda Bob. Honda Bob isn’t just a great mechanic and a geek in his own right, he also works very hard to help provide education about how cars work through his content-filled website. I was wandering around in his website this week and came across an extensive explanation of how the brakes in a car function. He explains the difference between disk and drum brakes, and the role the emergency brake plays in aiding you in an emergency. Check out his section on brakes at hdabob.com. And if you ARE lucky enough to live in the LA or OC areas, and you would like outstanding and convenient in-home care for your Honda or Acura, give Honda Bob a call at (562)531-2321 or send him an email at email@example.com. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.
Donald Burr on the Archos 705
We’re joined by Donald Burr again from otakunopodcast.
Lots of TV shows, podcasts to watch, easily fall behind, needed good portable player for commutes that supports all the commonly used video formats
iPod too small
iPhone/Touch was ok, but still on the small side
Both of the above only supported MPEG-4 and H.264, required transcoding of other formats (e.g. DivX, XviD, MPEG-2)
Enter the Archos 705
7″ touchscreen (800×480)
80GB or 160GB HD
Approx. 182 x 128 x 20 mm ; 7.05″ x 4.96″ x .775″
Approx. 630 gr.; 22oz
(roughly the size and weight of a hardback book)
Platform agnostic – works with PC, Mac, Linux…
Video formats supported:
MPEG-4 (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution)
WMV (MP@ML, up to DVD resolution).
With optional software plug-ins (available on ARCHOS Content Portal or www.archos.com):
– H.264 up to DVD resolution and AAC sound.
– MPEG-2 MP@ML up to 10 Mbps (up to DVD resolution) and AC3 stereo sound.
Audio formats supported:
Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR, WMA, Protected WMA, WAV (PCM/ADPCM).
With optional software plug-ins (available on ARCHOS Content Portal or on www.archos.com):
– AAC stereo audio files
– AC3 stereo sound files
Photo formats supported: JPEG, BMP, PNG
Transfer your photos directly from your digital camera
WiFi support for 802.11b/g, WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption
Supports viewing PDF files (no conversion required)
Supports optional built in Web browser
Music playback time: up to 25 hours.
Video playback time: up to 5.5 hours on built-in LCD.
Plays a wide variety of formats, including the most common ones for downloadable video
Decently sized screen, very bright and clear
Lots of extra functionality – photo viewer, PDF viewer, web browser, etc.
Works with Mac, PC, Linux…
Pretty small and portable, light weight
Doesn’t require a special app to transfer files to it (e.g. iTunes, Windows Media)
Decent amount of battery life (extra batteries only cost $30)
Can record TV/video with optional $100 dock
Includes remote control (good if you have it hooked to TV with the optional dock)
Lots of models available (the 4xx have smaller screens, there’s a Apple TV style set top box model, and even a model with built in GPS)
Firmware is easily upgradable (can update directly from the device itself, or by downloading a file to it) and seems to be regularly updated
Occasional crashes or doesn’t work on certain files (but maybe those files were formatted poorly to begin with, still it shouldn’t cause the device to crash)
Some formats (H.264, AAC audio, MPEG-2) require separate plugins ($20 each for H.264/AAC and MPEG-2)
Web browser is an optional component ($30)
Requires optional $100 dock to hook it up to the TV (but that’s what my Apple TV is for)
Doesn’t come with a decent case (I found a good aftermarket case for $30 – amazon.com)
No place to actually store the stylus on the device – easy to lose (although the device does work with fingernail taps, and there are cases that have a stylus slot in them)
Doesn’t require a special app to transfer files to it (See “The podcast problem” below)
$367 at Amazon for the 80 GB; $449 for the 160 GB
May seem high… let’s Compare that to Apple products:
iPod Classic 80 GB is $250
iPod Touch 32 GB (probably the closest match though, because of the WiFi, web, etc.) is $499
The podcast problem:
Needed a way to automatically download new video podcasts to it
iTunes does a great job of managing podcasts, checking for new episodes and auto-downloading them, etc. but it doesn’t sync them to Archos
You could manually copy them but that’s a pain
My solution: use Miro
Miro – formerly known as Democracy getmiro.com
Free, open source video podcast client + viewer
Available for Mac, Windows, Linux
Set the download directory to a folder on the Archos (means you need to mount the device whenever you run Miro)
The downside is you get really weird directory/file names (e.g. “GeekBrief-TV—Medium-Format” or “hak5–3×10–ipod.mp4”)
An acceptable compromise to me
Some other useful software
iSquint – isquint.org (also check out VisualHub for more advanced video geekery) – convert already existing video files to a format playable on Archos
HandBrake – for converting DVD’s (only ones that you own, please) – handbrake.fr
Pictures of the 705 on Donald’s web site: borg-cube.com
I hope you enjoyed that review by Donald as much as I did, he does a great job of giving a balanced review – both the good AND the bad. I also like that he’s platform agnostic, that really makes his opinion valuable.
Well, don’t forget your homework assignment – send in your audio recordings of how you found the show by Friday May 16th to firstname.lastname@example.org so they’ll be included in the anniversary show on the 18th. Keep up all the great questions and make the questions dumber please! Send them on to email@example.com . Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.