Monday, March 27, 2006

New Apple Goodies Coming?

Well, April 1 is coming, and the big surprise is that there are no surprises. Well, there are no press events announced by Apple, as many suggested there would be. So, what does this mean? Good question.

Some Tech/Mac blogs suggested that there will be some low-key rollouts over the next two days. The suggestion is that these would be some Intel versions of iBooks or updated iPods, but nothing super exciting. Other tech blogs suggest nothing will come out in April, and Apple will blow its proverbial wad this summer, perhaps in June. Some sites, including financial news entities have suggested the iPhone is ready to fly.

Well, I don't have any inside sources, but I'm going to make a guess at what could happen.

I think most people feel that Apple's last event was pretty anticlimatic and disappointing. So, perhaps Apple wants to keep things low key, in order to avoid that situation. It's hard for me to believe they won't take advantage of their 30th anniversary to wow us with something. So... here's what I think. I think Apple is going to make the most of the day, April 1st. I think at the last minute they'll announce some really amazing stuff, then play it off as an April Fools joke. Or at least make us think we have been fooled. Then *wham* we will be hit with the fact that some of their fake announcements are real.

So what *could* they announce to shock us? iPhone? Maybe. Touch-screen - vid iPod? Maybe.
Or how about a MacPDA? Hmmm...

I'll be in Okinawa next week, and probably miss any news details on April 1. Let's see if I'm correct when I get back.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Website as WallPaper

I caught wind of this on the O'Reilly Mac site. WebDesktop is an interesting app, that's been around for awhile, but not updated in a couple of years. What it does it put a window in the background that can display either a URL address, or an html file. You can maximize the window of WebDesktop to take up your entire screen, then put it in the background. Clicking on the background won't make it active - you have to actually select the icon in the doc, or Command+TAB to select the program. This allows you to do the normal things you usually do on the desktop without fussing with the background website. You can also choose to have the URL update at periodic intervals. And you can also adjust the opacity of the window.

This is an interesting program, and my only quibble seems to be the way it handles RSS feeds. Pasting the Safari RSS URL into WebDesktop opens the RSS feed in Safari itself. This also seems to happen when you click on a link in an active WebDesktop window. It would be wicked cool if this app could open other app windows up in the background - NetNews Wire would be an excellent background that would update itself. I'm also wondering what the screen background would be best or least distracting. My wavy blue pattern is visible still behind the WebDesktop window... I also wonder about screen burn in - so it would be cool to have a way to change between URLs automatically.

In any case, this is a neat toy, and I can see folks using it to check their webmail accounts or other frequently updated content sites.

Hasta la pasta....

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Brother the Mac Hater

I love my brother - he's 10 years younger, and maybe 5 inches taller. He's got an IT job, after getting an (unused) degree in computer animation. And he's quite bright. But the sad fact of the matter is that he is a Windows bigot.

I'm not sure when it started, as I haven't been around him much the last 16 years. I've been in Japan the last 5, and in Hawaii most of the time before that. But when I came to visit him in the US last Fall (first time in 6 years) - he and his wife proudly announced that they are ANTI Mac as I did all sorts of kewl things with my PowerBook in their living room. I found this a little funny, as most people aren't ANTI Mac, just not interested in them.

I should have known, however. I've been trying forever to get my mom up on a decent computer - even switch her from dial-up to broadband. She's always complaining she can't see the jpegs I send her - doesn't know how to open them or how to forward them. But last Summer when I offered to buy and send her a Mac Mini to replace her falling apart Windows 95 system - my brother went ballistic. He even claimed he had a PC for her, but not time to set it up. Well, this hadn't changed at all several months later, though I didn't say much about it.

My brother is so Anti-Mac, he isn't even interested at all in setting up VOIP for anyone in the family - even himself. Last X-mas, I asked him to get and set up a SKYPE or Gizmo account - but it seems he thinks these are things that only MAC people use - so he won't have anything to do with it. WTF!

Anyway, I don't know if there is a cure for my brother's ills, but today I saw a glimmer of hope. He started telling me he wanted an MP3Player, then said something about getting one that could record speech or audio. He showed me URLs for some Sony products just released - with something like 30 hours of speaking time. Now I'm wondering - is he thinking of doing a PodCast? Maybe I should get him an iPod with a speech recorder... Hmmm... Nah... that would be too easy. :-)

Sunday, March 19, 2006


If you haven't checked out - do so. Their website is devoted to evangelizing the best freeware out there for the Mac. And this week, they are asking for folks to vote for their five favorite free Mac apps. Hopefully, it will convince Windoze users to take a peek at our OS, by showing them the high quality free Mac stuff out there.

However, they are doing it in an unique way - it's a contest. And you have to post the names of your five apps on your website or blog. And the winner (?) will get $100 for iTunes and/or Mac stuff. Sounds cool? Check out their site to see the rules.

Oh, OK - here are my five favorite pieces of freeware, in no particular order.

1. Quicksilver - the best searching and app launching utility out there. Throw your mouse away!

2. Google Earth - I feel like I should be paying real money for this one. Fun and useful!

3. TextWrangler - Great basic text editor with low RAM overhead. I use it to edit DNA sequence files.

4. OnyX - this app works like a personal trainer and doc for your Mac. Great suite of utilities you should use daily.

5. Cyberduck - this ftp application is very Mac-like, works well, and is full featured. Open Source RULEZ!

Honorable Mentions:
Meteorologist - puts the weather in your menu bar; see everything at a glance & no spam. Gives me data for non-US locations! I wanted to include this, but it's not on FreeMacWare's list. :-(

iTunes - yup it's free from Apple (even for PCs) and does a great job of organizing your tunes. Indispensible! Would have been there too, but it isn't part of FMW's list either.

QuickTime- also free for Mac & Windoze.

Eudora - the sponsored mode is free and I've been using it for ever.

VLC - part of your vid playing tool kit, fills in QT's holes.

Skype/Gizmo/SightSpeed - Free telephony on your computer! Now if I could only get my relatives to use it.

4Peaks - molecular biology software. It allows you to edit DNA sequencer output files for analysis elsewhere.

And there are many more out there.

Well, I'm getting sleepy. I'll update this post tomorrow if I remember.



This blog is being created as a forum for my Mac and tech-related opinions and ranting. I may have a couple guest 'ranters' from time to time, but hope to post most of the content myself.

A bit about me - I'm a expat university professor working in the Tokyo area, and have been using Macs since 1989 or so for my research and entertainment purposes. I think living in Japan gives me a unique perspective on what's useful and worthwhile in all things tech related.

I would classify my self as an eclectic Mac user, and definitely not a fanboy. I often have a harsh view of what Apple does, despite my love of their OS. My guess, though, is that my perspective is pretty warped - hopefully it will be entertaining for you.

I've had several Macs in my lifetime. My first was an SE/30, which got me through my early days of graduate school. I followed that up with a PowerBook 100 (used), then a PowerComputing Clone (best Mac I ever had), then an aqua (Bondi?) clamshell iBook, followed by a 400Mhz G4 15" TiBook, a 1.33Ghz G4 12" PB, and lastly a G5 20" iMac (last model). I still have the latter three computers, though the TiBook screen is not working, and it sits idle in our spare room connected to an external monitor. I use the 12" PB to give my lectures, and for molecular biology work at a Japanese university. The 20" iMac is our home desktop computer, and I really like it (despite having bought it 3 weeks before the intel iBooks were released).

I also have various accessories - most notable are my 20gb 3G iPod, 4gb nano, and PSP. :-) I run a wireless LAN via AirMac Express from our broadband connection, and pump audio to my JBL creatures. I used to own a Newton a long time ago in Hawaii, but got tired of it - sold it off to buy my first Powerbook, maybe.

So, now that you have an idea of my toys, I suppose you'll want to come and ransack my apartment. :-P

Oh - one more thing. The name means "Mac Viewpoint" in Japanese, in case you were wondering.