Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Does ebay sell everything?


When searching Google I notice that you often get an ad suggesting that the very item you were looking for is available right now on eBay.

This often leads to disappointment as you click through and find nothing.

I was wondering about the limits of their claims and noticed, for example, that if you search for "eBay Fraud" you get a nice banner offering just that, and at a bargain price!

Disappointing to see that on clicking through ebay reports "0 items found for ebay fraud".

Monday, January 22, 2007

iTunes love it or hate it


Noticed a great feature of iTunes. Listening to a Podcast/Netcast on an iPod, didn't get all the way to the end, docked the iPod then thought I'd scroll through the program to the spot I was up to and listen to the rest. When I clicked on the podcast it knew where I was up to and played from there. Really neat.

At a party on Saturday, I spoke to a friend, Kati. Her kids have iPods, she hates the way they work. The iPods were opened at a friend's house where they immediately plugged them in to his computer, whereupon they sync'd with his music collection. Of course when they went home and plugged the iPods in to their home computer it told them that all the music would be erased!

I think iPods should have a simple mode where they mount as a disk and you just drag music on to them. The sync method is great for many people but for some it's counter-intuitive and infuriating.

Moved my kids from one Mac to another the other day. Naturally, they wanted all their tunes and pictures on the new machines. All I had to do was copy the "iTunes Music" folder from the Music folder on the old to the Music folder on the new machine. (Same with the iPhoto Library folder in Pictures). Great stuff!

The only painful part is the DRM which means I have to deauthorise and authorise to move the few purchased tracks over. My kids are mystified about DRM. It punishes consumers.

iTunes is good and bad. Personally, I think Apple's losing the plot on this one. It's getting too complex, there are menu items I can't explain. Why is "Transfer Purchases from iPod" needed? Why is "Subscribe to Podcast" in the Advanced menu. For that matter, any application with an Advanced menu doesn't belong in the Apple in-house design stable.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Speed up your Mac


I'm familiar with "bit rot" where Windows computers seem to slow down over time and in the end seem to need a clean install to get them right again, but it seemed to be happening with my Macs.

The built in Activity Monitor is a wonderful tool for seeing what's going on. I ran it and found that I had forgotten about some of the things that were running, including postgresql, mysql, various daemons for scanners, printers, pda's and even cameras.

The worst offendor was Caplio Mounter, an abomination that was taking gobs of memory and using too much CPU for something that is idle but waiting for a camera to connect.

Select a process in Activity Monitor and "inspect" it, you get wonderful, readable information about what it's up to and even all the files it has open. Very interesting.

Regrettably, there is no framework for uninstallers on the Mac. This really needs to be fixed! I had to trawl around the /Library/StartupItems directory moving things out. There is a Control Panel called Diablotin that does a pretty good job at managing Startup Items too.

After turning off a bunch of unused things, (I even had Apache running), my machine is clearly faster to start up and more responsive.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Props to peeps... what the?

Global media has been a force to unify English across the globe. Basically we non-Americans find ourselves picking up U.S. words and phrases almost without noticing.

I suppose Sesame Street started it, it's very striking here in the land where Z is pronounced Zed to hear small children ending the alphabet with Zee.

But now I'm starting to wonder if some words are real or just some sort of local slang. I've heard the Engadget crew giving "props" to people and I wondered what they meant. I asked a few friends and they were equally mystified. We understand from the context that it's a good thing to get "props", but how is this word derived?

Turns out the dictionary on my Mac has an explanation:

"props |pr├Ąps| plural noun informal respect or credit due to a person : Erika gets props for the great work she did on the music."

The origin of this use is a little unclear but it does suggest: "ORIGIN late Middle English : probably from Middle Dutch proppe ‘support (for vines).’"

By the way, props to the Engadget crew for their excellent coverage of the MacWorld keynote.