#250 Ballard, FlexClip, Mac Community, Green Smoke, Things, Apple Open Source

Ballard Inn at ballardinn.com, FlexClip at flex-clip.com and thiphone.com by ConnorP. Rose backs me up on Miro, and Mark Pouley rebutts Amber’s statement that there’s no community on the Mac. In Dumb Question Corner we go over how to delete old podcast episodes without deleting one at a time. Ben reviews Voice Central, aka Black Swan from Voicecentral.Riverturn.Com. I review Green Smoke, a high tech solution on how to quit smoking from greensmoke.com. Kirschen reviews Things from culturedcode.com/things to help Getting Things Done. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart tells us about his experience using the Open Source Virtual Box from Sun to run Windows on his Mac virtualbox.org and per a request from listener Ryan Bart explains how well Apple actually supports Open Source.

Listen to the Podcast Once (1hr 20 min)

Today is Sunday March 14th, 2010 and this is show number 250! woohoo – what’s a quarter of a century called? there should be a name for this don’t you think? It seems like a milestone, not like 200 when George from Tulsa made me the most amazing poster for my office with all these wonderful photos. I put that giant poster up in my office – it’s about six feet across, positively wonderful. but still, 250 is cool, right?

Ballard Inn in morning lightAs you know I’ve been off relaxing for the weekend with Steve for our 27th wedding anniversary, along with our goofy friends Dean and Suzanne. Yes, three days of frivolity, wine tasting, and well, frivolity. Have you ever had the perfect weekend? Well, we did. We picked them up at the airport on Friday morning and drove to Santa Barbara for lunch. They’ve been cooped up inside for months since they live in Chicago so a single ray of sunshine is cause for celebration. They were constantly enchanted by the fact that we were outside in March and enjoying the sun. We take it all for granted since we live here so it’s good to be reminded of how lucky we are. From there we drove up to a little town called Ballard that’s deep in the little wine country of Los Olivos. It’s nothing the size of Sonoma County in the Bay Area, but there’s about 20 times as many wineries as you could visit in a weekend so it’s perfect.

fatso mini horseWe got to the Ballard Inn a little too early so they suggested we go over to the Rideaux Winery. We decided to walk, and it was a LOT farther than we thought. We did get to meet a lovely rabid dog (behind his fence) and we say the miniature horse farm. I thought they were cute but Dean couldn’t get over how fat they were. We finally got to the winery and it was wonderful – great wine, and Dean liked the fact that there was a huge party of very young women there – so young we asked if they had to be carded.

The next day we figured we shouldn’t go wine tasting before breakfast (we showed tremendous restraint). Instead we went for a long drive up into the local mountains. Without a specific plan we found this giant loop that went up a few thousand feet with spectacular views. Now Southern California is a beautiful place, but the one thing it’s not known for is the color green. We favor colors in the tan family because we get so little rain. But this year we had a ton of rain (ok, not a ton by Bart’s standards, more of a sprinkle or two in his world) but for us it was a ton. Because of all that rain, the hills were a vibrant green that was just stunning. I’ve never seen the local hills so gorgeous. It was freezing up on top (ok maybe not freezing but 41 degrees with really strong winds), so we mostly sat in the car and looked at the view. Then we stopped at a small market in Los Olivos and had fabulous tri-tip sandwiches. This fortified us enough to embark on some serious wine tasting.

Cottonwood cave with casks and the sign in the background (very artsy fartsy)We visited an old favorite, Foxen, and then went to Riverbench. What we liked best about Riverbench was this lovely outdoor area with cast iron tables in the grass, that great sunshine and a light breeze by this time. We must have taken two hours to sip our 6 tastings of their wine. Finally we dragged ourselves away and went on to Cottonwood, and that was the best experience. The person who served us was very down to earth, none of this snooty “oh this one has good nose” or “do you taste the broccoli in this one?” nonsense. nope, Christine said things like “I think this one is FUN – think backyard barbecue!”

matching shortsShe sort of sped us through the tastings (we got there a little late) but then took us on a tour of their caves they use for storing the casks. It was REALLY cool in there – well actually, it was warm and humid surprisingly enough. She even stuck a giant syringe-type device into one of the casks and drew out wine for us to taste right from the casks. The two interesting things to me was that they spray the syringe with sulphur and that keeps the wine “alive”, and then they pump Argon gas into the cask to push out all of the air so there’s none in with the wine.

I could tell you more but you’re probably bored already. Ok, one more thing. When we went to Sedona with Dean and Suzanne the last time, I forgot to bring shorts, and it was unseasonably warm. We went to some really cheap store to find something I could wear, and Dean picked out the most hideous pair of turquoise plaid bermuda shorts for me. I loved them and of course wore them to embarrass everyone. They’re really a sight to behold. On this trip though, Suzanne showed me what a truly great friend she is – she stepped off the plane wearing matching pink plaid bermuda shorts. Words cannot describe how I felt when I saw her in those beautiful shorts. Of course there’s a photo of the two of us in our finery so you too can enjoy how marvelous these shorts really are!

Anyway, the good news is that I put out the call before I left for people to help out with the show, and in true NosillaCastaways style, they came through. I hope you enjoy the reviews and commentary! Let’s start out with a review of FlexClip from ConnorP that he recorded at MacWorld Expo.

FlexClip from Connor
======insert Connor=====
Talking with Harold Curtis, CEO and inventor of the Flex Clip and Thiphone.
flex-clip.com and thiphone.com. Flex Clip is a fantastic new take on phone holsters. The Thiphone is a device to keep a portable device stable whilst working while seated on a couch, a bus seat, etc. This, my other macworld coverage pieces, and a whole bunch of other stuff can be found over a impodcast.tv/.

Thanks Connor! You have a great interview style. I’m intrigued by this, not for me, but for other male friends of mine. Since I don’t actually wear any clothes that would work for a holster, they’re not for me, but Steve and Niraj have both complained about the holsters they have for their new Blackberrys. I’ll have to show the Flex Clip to them. I also can’t wait to see this Thiphone – sounds pretty goofy but sometimes the goofy things actually work great! Thanks again for a great review.

Rose on Miro
===insert Rose===============

So glad you like Miro, Rose – I’m loving it for video playback. The only thing I wish they did was give you an indicator if you’re partway through a video. On iTunes you have the solid blue ball for unwatched, half filled for partly watched, and gone for completely watched. In general I deleted video podcast episodes if I’m done watching, but sometimes I save one to show Steve. On Miro, everything is either watched or unwatched. It’s a good tradeoff though – that minor inconvenience vs. no spinning beach balls and stuttering. I think I’ll keep Miro till Apple gets that awful iTunes tightened up again.

Mark Pouley on Mac Community
==========insert mark recording==========

Hi Allison, this is switcherMark from Seattle. Thank you for last week’s midweek surprise conversation with Amber Grainer about her move to Ubuntu. If you don’t mind though, I’d like to offer a short rebuttal.
I’ll preface this with two comments. First, this is not personal. Amber seems like a perfectly delightful person and I really enjoyed your conversation. Second, I know NOTHING about Linux or the Linux community. I wouldn’t know a Linux build if it fell off the shelf and hit me on the head. But there was one particular part of your conversation that nearly made me fall out of my chair. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a clip of that conversation.
[Audio Clip]

My first reaction when I heard this was. WHAT!? Of course that’s not very intellectually satisfying, so I’ll elaborate. I picked up the nickname “switcherMark” in June of 2007 when I bought an iMac and switched from Widows to Mac. Why I needed a nickname after I bought my first mac addresses Amber’s statement. As a new Mac user I found myself posting dozens of beginner questions on all of the great Mac web forums. You know what’s even better, I got answers. Usually quick, intelligent, helpful and polite answers. No Apple snobs condescending and flaming the noob.

I don’t really like my nickname today because it doesn’t seem right three years after my switch, but I can’t change it. You know why, because there are several people in the Mac community, many I consider to be friends, that I communicate with on a regular basis that only know me by that name. I realize the existence of nicknames doesn’t prove my point, but the active forums and the building of relationships does. There really is an “out of the box” Mac community that, as far as I can tell, is available to every Mac consumer, not just the uber nerds and power users.

Of course, I can’t ignore the “network” of Mac podcasters that cover the gamut of Apple and Mac news, tips, rumors, and, frankly, the Apple community. Your show, and the fact I’m sending you this comment, is a perfect example of the Mac community that exists. While I suspect a good deal of today’s Mac community is online, it certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. Your audience is likely even more familiar than I am with the long history of Mac user groups, and from what I’ve learned, the survival of the Mac platform during the dark decade was due in no small part to the strength and resilience of the Mac community.

Like so many others I made my switch after using an iPod and wanting a computer that worked just as well. I can say that was a mission accomplished, but what I didn’t expect to find was the thriving Mac community that love’s to share the pleasure of using using Apple products, commiserates when things aren’t working as they should, and collaborates to find solutions to those problems. Amber briefly acknowledged Macworld as an example of community, but even I’ll acknowledge that the vast majority of Mac users will never attend Macworld. But the mere existence of Macworld for the last 25 years speaks volumes about the rich Mac community.

With all due respect to Amber and her joy of using Linux, I’m here to say there is a Mac community and that community is one of the chief reasons I love this platform.

Dumb Question Corner
==========insert dqc music============
Tony Beard wrote in with a great dumb question:

    Today I was very frustrated that the latest podcast was not downloading until I realised I deleted it in iTunes by mistake. Anyway I subscribed again in iTunes and all is good.
    My “dumb question” is though when I resubscribe I get all the old podcasts again and I have to manually delete them all. How can I subscribe in iTunes just from the latest podcast? Or how do I delete the old podcasts without having to do it manually (select on at a time and then delete).
    Love the show..Tony (Sydney, Australia)

Hey Tony – this is a great question! And even if you hadn’t deleted the podcast, sometimes they just go bad all on their own. None of the podcasters can figure out why either – the only solution is to deleted and start over as you’ve done, so this is a question that could apply to anyone.

Now there’s a certain amount of debate on how many episodes to keep in one’s feed as the podcast creator, and as you’ve discovered I’ve chosen to keep them ALL, so you have nearly 250 that all appear to come into iTunes. I’ve heard people worried about the RSS feed being too big, but guess how big 250 shows is? 512 entire kilobytes. Yup, what’s the harm? Well I guess the harm is you have to know how to get rid of the other 249 if you want to start fresh!

The good news is that they’re not really there, you’re seeing placeholders to get them. The other good news is that you can simply select the top one you don’t want, say last week’s show since you of course listen to my shows immediately when they come out. Then scroll all the way to the bottom to show number one, hold down the shift key, and then select that very first show. This should select all of the unwanted episodes, so then simply hit the delete key.

I sent that explanation to Tony and he wrote back with a d’oh! moment, because he uses shift-select all the time in the finder but it just didn’t come to mind when looking at iTunes! This is what makes Dumb Question Corner great.

While we were off on our wine tasting weekend, we got into one of our inevitable technology discussions. Dean was complaining about how incredibly difficult it is to find things in the new Excel 2007. Like so many of us, he’s really good at Excel 2003 so having all of the menus moved around is really frustrating. I told him about the “Interactive Office 2003 to 2007 command reference guide”. It’s pretty cool, it’s a Flash thing you download and it opens with either Excel, Word or Powerpoint in 2003, you click on the menu where you know where it is in 2003, and then it fades away and up comes 2007 and it shows you where that menu is in 2007. Then he said, “that’s cool, but I don’t get why companies like Microsoft don’t just use ScreenSteps to make tutorials for us so we can get up to speed faster.” I loved it of course! He looks at ScreenSteps as the gold standard now for tutorials. He expects people to create their training in ScreenSteps because that’s what makes it easy for him to learn. If you’re not using ScreenSteps yet for your projects, you’re making your own life harder than it needs to be, and you’re not bringing the best training materials to your users, friends and family. For a mere $40 (heck, $30 with the coupon code NOSILLA) you can get the standard version of ScreenSteps or heck, go for the $80/$60 go for the Pro version. Go over to ScreenSteps.com and download the free 30 day trial and see for yourself.

Ben on Voice Central, aka Black Swan
Here’s a review from Ben on the Google Voice iPhone app called Voice Central, aka. Black Swan:
====insert ben======
Black Swan can be found at Voicecentral.Riverturn.Com.

voice central black swan logoThanks Ben, that was a tentatively positive review of Black Swan – a lot you don’t like about it but enough good stuff that you’ll keep it. I still don’t see what Google Voice would do for me. Everyone I consider a friend has my cell phone number and they know to call that. Our home phone’s job is mostly for my mom and as our base number for the doctor, pharmacist, newspaper delivery, that kind of thing. I don’t miss calls often and I don’t find it difficult to keep track of numbers or anything like that. I know others see it as the greatest thing in the world but it just doesn’t solve a problem for me.

I just realized that there was all the hype about the iPad on Friday and I totally forgot to mention what my plan is. They’ve sure made it hard to decide, haven’t they? Well it’s obvious that I HAVE to have it on day one, right? I mean, really, how much would you respect me in my bleeding edge position if I didn’t? So that means I have to buy the wifi only model, but I really wanted the 3G model. so my solution (which I stole from Chuck Joiner) is that I’m buying the wifi only model on day one, and in 30 days or so when Steve decides we’re worthy enough to have the 3G model, I’m buying that one, and selling my wifi model. Now don’t get all excited, I have a prearranged buyer – my friend (and avid listener to the show) has agreed to buy it at a reasonable discount. I did have to put in a bunch of clauses to our agreement, like I’m not allowed to drop, mangle or drown the poor thing before I sell it to her! That drowning clause will be the hardest one for me. so basically I’m renting a wifi only model until I can get my hands on the one I want. I did reserve the wifi only model and I’m trying to figure out how to reserve a 3G model but the only option appears to be to buy it right now, and I want to go to the store for it. Holding out till I figure out the optimal plan. anyway, that’s my plan and I’m really excited about it!

Green Smoke
Ok, imagine this. You’re a smoker. You’re addicted to smoking. The nicotine keeps you coming back no mater what the impact on your family and friends. You feel bad about it but you’ve tried everything to quit. Well it’s just possible that technology has an answer. I was in my friend Ryan’s office this week when he pulled out a cigarette and started to smoke. Smoking isn’t allowed indoors in California, so you can imagine my surprise when he did this.

green smoke packsHe then showed me his “cigarette” – it’s called Green Smoke. This is such a cool product – I have no idea if it will actually help anyone quit smoking but from a technology perspective it’s awesome. The “filter” part of the Green Smoke is a cartridge that has an atomizer with a solution of nicotine, water, and flavor. You get to choose your cartridge based on the nicotine level and flavor desired. Flavors are things like chocolate, coffee and menthol (which I thought was kinda weird), but the nicotine level is pretty interesting. You can choose from 16mg of nicotine which is comparable to non-filtered cigarettes down to 4mg’s which is comparable to Ultra-Lights, or oddly, you can even choose 0mg where the cartridge has flavor but no nicotine at all.

The white cylinder part of the cigarette is actually a lithium ion battery which is used to heat up the cartridge, make the water/nicotine solution into a steam so as you pull on the cigarette you actually get the warm feeling as it goes into your lungs. The battery section unscrews from the cartridge and then can be screwed into several different types of chargers. it was so weird to see Ryan’s computer with a cigarette sticking out of the side of it using the USB adapter. They also sell car and wall chargers so you’ll never have a dead cigarette. Wait, that sounds weird.

So here you’ve got a cartridge that pretends to be a filter, a battery that pretends to be the tobacco part, you’ve got steam pretending to be the smoke – the one thing left was not forgotten – when you pull on the cigarette, the end of it turns red like an ember!

You can buy Green Smoke in about 28 different ways – they have starter kits, spouse kits if you quit with a partner (two of everything), you can buy the cartridges in packs, and of course there’s all the charger options. Green Smoke isn’t the only company in this business, but they say they have a big advantage over their competitors. The other manufacturers have a fixed atomizer, but with the Green Smoke you get a new atomizer with every nicotine cartridge which reduces the chances of mold growing because of the moisture involved.

I asked Ryan for some more information on his experience with Green Smoke. In particular I was wondering how it’s actually helping him. My understanding was that he had already quit, so I wondered if he’d just started adding back nicotine even though he was over the hump. Courageously he admitted that he’d backslid and so he really did need help. I appreciated his honesty here, it really helps me to try and understand.

He me a few more interesting things about GreenSmoke. He is very curious about how many draws on the GreenSmoke atomizer is equivalent to a full cigarette. They advertise 20 draws, but he wants real metrics! He wants to make sure he’s not fake-smoking 50 cigarettes a day! At first he started making a mark with a sharpie on the atomizer but they rubbed off, so now he’s using a knife to make little marks on it. He says he’ll supply me with a complete spreadsheet with pivot tables when he’s done collecting his metrics.

On a slightly more helpful note, he brought up a problem he had with GreenSmoke and how it was resolved. As I mentioned earlier, the white part of the cigarrette is actually the lithium ion battery. Ryan bought the Valentines Day special so he got two batteries in his kit, but the higher capacity battery stopped charging for him. Unfortunately he was 31 days out of warranty, but just on a whim he went to the website, found the customer service email link, and sent an email including a description of the problem and his order number. In LESS than a half hour, they wrote back asking if it was ok to send the replacement to the original shipping address. He was completely blown away by the level of service from GreenSmoke.

Like I said at the beginning, I can’t say whether this will help people quit smoking, I’m not a doctor, I don’t know the implications of long term nicotine usage, but it sure seems like a good idea to me. If you’re interested, check it out at greensmoke.com.

Kirschen on Things
==========insert audio==========
Full text of Kirschen’s review is at freerangecoder.com
Things is available from culturedcode.com/things

Things logoYou do such great reviews Kirschen – you give us the why, the how, and explain how you use it yourself. Now I actually read David Allen’s book and got really energized by it. The point you make about how your brain is LESS stressed because you have this situational awareness of your tasks at hand is one of the main points he makes. Because you know what you have to do and have triaged the important things, you don’t have the stress of feeling like things are out there that potentially are going to be a mess when you get to them. Now I have to say I never employed any of what I learned from reading his book, but it all made sense. My friend David said that he spent months after reading the book Getting Things Done trying to find the perfect application to create the nirvana of the book, and then realized he was using it as an excuse to play with software for the Mac and iPhone. It sounds like Things really helps you use what you learned. Hmm…I really should give Things a try.

Or, I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast called “Getting Nothing Done” where I interview people who had great ideas and plans but never got around to executing on any of them. Like I said, I was GOING to start this podcast, but I never got it started…

Honda Bob
So do you really enjoy going to the mechanic? Do you find it a consistently pleasant experience where you meet with someone who is always competent, pleasant and a joy to see again? do you find their place of business clean and convenient to your home and work? Do you find that your car is tied up for the minimum amount of time with no unnecessary waiting? Well believe it or not I can answer yes to all of these things! I’m talking about Honda Bob of course. He comes to my house at my convenience, I relax in my home while he does the dirty work, he’s always friendly and fun and above all, competent. I don’t pay extra for this service, in fact I consistently play less than I would at a dealer. If you live in the LA or Orange County areas, and drive a Honda or an Acura give Honda Bob a call at (562)531-2321 or send him an email at [email protected]. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Security Light

  • Patch Tuesday should have been and gone
  • Total guess – but I’m sure something of Adobe’s blew up 🙂

Main Topic – Virtual Box from virtualbox.org

  • Free – running Windows XP and 7, one directly on the network, one NATed
  • With X11 I am running at the same time, Linux, OS X and Windows programs

Main Topic – Apple and Open Source

From Ryan:

Allison you should mention more often what apple does regarding releasing open source code, we always hear how closed they are with their hardware but Apple doesn’t get enough credit for releasing so much open code, I very rarely if ever hear anyone mentioning the fact that apple does this. For example they release their entire operating system (the heart of mac os10) Darwin as free and open code.

if you open a terminal and type uname on a macintosh it is going to print out Darwin and Apple release this as open code. (you should check sometime what they’re doing at the puredarwin project. There is some pretty interesting things going on there) Apple has done a boat load of work on OpenCL and OpenGL and these are open. These two things alone are going to have huge implications on computing as a whole regardless what system you use in the coming future. OpenCL is particularly an amazing framework and is pretty remarkable too. To be able to simultaneously execute code across multiple CPU’s and GPU’s is really nothing short of amazing and it took a huge amount of engineering hours to write this.

Apple has released a feature that I believe is a huge boon to their operating system as free code for anyone to take and use as they please (including their competition) I am talking about Grand Central Dispatch, this itself is amazing technology and what they have done is very impressive. Since it is free code and mac os10 (darwin) shares its roots with freeBSD they have already taken and are starting to implement libdispatch (GCD) which is really going to improve their operating system and in turn all the various users of such.

I really don’t think apple gets enough if any credit for this stuff, all this stuff is mostly under BSD style licenses which means they don’t have to release or contribute back a damn thing but they do. People constantly say apple is a closed company and yada yada but do you see microsoft doing anything like this, absolutely not. I can guarantee you we will never see source code from Windows. The best we can hope out of Microsoft is for them to quit with the litigation and bullying of various linux and open source projects/companies let alone giving us source code.

Another thing apple does that is very nice is maintain cups (common unix printing system) which as the name implies is what a great number of unix based systems use e.g Ubuntu. Lets not forget about webkit, WebKit as we know it today would not be the case if not for Apple. That is just flat out fact, they have dedicated an astounding number of engineering hours. It is such a good piece of software most of the industry has adopted it in one way or another (most recently (RIM) Blackberry, yipeee!!) but you see chromium browser, palm webos browser, android browser, blackberry now, and a great deal of smaller browsers on the linux and mac platforms. I’m sorry for all the rambling but I get so irritated when I hear this “apple is so closed crap and I hate them”

I like well written open code regardless of who writes it. The code is just as open and usable if apple writes it or if I do.

It’s that time again, time to call it a show. Many thanks to all of the contributors who gave so generously of their time so that I could go on a little holiday without guilt that you’d get a good show. The Nosillacastaways are the BEST. If you’d like to join us for the live show some time, it’s really easy. Just point your browser to podfeet.com/live at 5pm GMT-8 (aka 5pm PST) on Sundays. Once you’re there you’ll see my smiling video come up on screen and I’ll be showing you the recording as I’m making it and occasionally some images from the shownotes. There’s a live chat where you can talk to all the other listeners – and I promise they’re a really kind bunch of people. Steve’s always there moderating to make sure it’s a family friendly chat room too. I have to warn you though, it’s addictive! In the mean time keep up your great Dumb Questions and comments by emailing me at [email protected]. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

2 thoughts on “#250 Ballard, FlexClip, Mac Community, Green Smoke, Things, Apple Open Source

  1. Jeff Miller - March 15, 2010

    Totally agree with Mark Pouley on community.

    As a Mac switcher of 2 1/2 years from using DOS/Windows from 1985 on I have found the Mac community to be something I never really experienced in the Windows world. So many people willing to help out and the software community is actually responsive.

  2. Namdar Bolour - March 15, 2010

    Ref Microsoft and open source: The embarassment of baring their spaghetti code/programming hacks is probably doing more to stop Microsoft from releasing their source code than any potential financial impact, I would say! Think of all the hours they would have to spend cleaning up their code before releasing it!

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