Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Jing is a free (for now) application on both Windoze and Mac that allows you to capture images or even video from you screen. This is being touted as a way you can do tech support for your friends, relatives, etc. without having to be in the same place. Jing saves its content as .swf files (flash animations) and there is a way to share your Jing content on their server - Screencasts.com. 
The Screencast service is free for now for use with Jing, and run by the same people (TechSmith). Apparently, TechSmith is assessing usage patterns to decide where they want to go with Jing and Screencasts. But for now, you can use both for free. And you can always save things to your desktop for later use.
I gave the Mac client for Jing a spin and it seems to work OK. There doesn't seem to be any detailed documentation for the app, just a demo movie on the Jing site and FAQs. The app starts out in 'sun mode' on the Mac - which means you can find the program icon after you start the app. The sun mode icon lives in the upper right hand side of your screen, under the Spotlight icon. Mousing there makes the sun icon pop up along with three options (capture, history, more) which have their own little pop-up balloons. The "more" option gives you several settings to choose from, including preferences to use a menubar item instead. I highly recommend this. If you choose capture, you get some sort of crosshairs to select the part of the screen you want to capture. I found this a bit difficult to use, as it often would only select the program window, but not its menus. Furthermore any active app you work in will sort of move from the active window, requiring you to select it manually as your first move.
After selection you choose from Image, Movie, Redo, or cancel. Movie records screen actions within the area selected. Image takes a screen shot. After you've recorded your shot/movie, you can save it or 'share it' which uploads it to your Screencasts account. After sharing and uploading, the url for the content is saved to the clipboard. So, you can paste it into your chat window or email. However, it would be nice if you had a list of shared content URLs to easily access. The History option of the main menu shows the vids/shots you've recorded thus far - but apparenly not the URLs.
I found the app easy to use, but a bit quirky. You can view a screencast file I did here for saving to PDF files on a Mac.
There are other options out there for recording screen actions on Macs. The most popular seem to be iShowU and Snapz Pro X. Both of these are $20 and $29, respectively. As Jing is free, it's gotten many more downloads on MacUpdate. If your are interested in making screen movies, give Jing a try. The developers seem very open to input on improving the app.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chumby - interesting

Caught this on Engadget a few days ago. There is a new internet hardware product called the Chumby, a fat little blob that sits on your desk, table, or wherever, and displays various internet content. It has some sort of touch screen, and you can choose the internet content from the Chumby website

Kinda interesting... Sort of...

New Mac Stuff - No Ultraportable Again :-(

Well, last Tuesday, you probably all know, Apple had a press event and released all kinds of goodies. I somehow stayed awake for most of the blog feeds, despite lengthy feature demos with little or no running commentary. MacNN and Engadget had the best live feeds, with Engadget's photos giving it the crown. MacNN's started well and updated more frequently initially, but it pooped out halfway and had to be manually refreshed at one point. For whatever reason, MacRumors didn't do a live blog this time. I'll review what was announced, and give you my take:

1. New iMacs
The good - Thinner screens, new keyboards, more ecofriendly glass front and aluminum covers, new slim keyboards, same price.
The bad - No info on whether these use less electricity, wireless versions of keyboards are MORE EXPENSIVE ($79 vs $49) and smaller because they LACK A NUMBER PAD. WTF. The 17" iMac is now gone (bad for some folks), and the new low end iMac is more expensive. Also, I read on TUAW that the Apple remote no longer clings to the side of the iMac.
The ugly - I'm sorry, but the new black border around the screen is butt-ugly. It makes the screen appear smaller for some reason. Plus, these iMacs still retain the wasted space below the screen with the Apple logo, whose only purpose seems to be for the attachment of postit notes.

2. iLife 08
The good - Highly anticipated update to the package, enhanced .Mac integration (along with .Mac giving you a whole 10GB now) enhanced iWeb features, completely revamped iMovie that is much more user friendly, improved iPhoto.
The bad - New iMovie lacks much of the advanced features of iMovie HD 06. It is so late in coming that the package has to be renamed '08 instead of '07.
The ugly - They are still trying to use iLife to justify the existence of .Mac.

3. iWork 08
The good -  Pages gets reworked and becomes more modular to separate word processing from page layouts, NEW NUMBERS spreadsheet (!!!) actually justifies the 'work' part of the application name, can import the new Windoze Office 07 .docx and other lame MS formats, improved Keynote, still very affordable at $79, smaller install size than iWork 06.
The bad - Numbers has problems importing many Excel files, in part because it lacks a third of Excel's advanced functions, no HTML export from any of the iWork apps.
The ugly - Not confirmed, but the delay of the new version of MS Office for Mac announced a few days prior is suspicious. It begs the question of whether MS will ever finish development of it.

4. .Mac
The good -  More space (10x more at 10Gb), better interaction and more functions with iLife.
The bad - 10Gb is still very small and free services give you a better value.
The ugly - not enough of a refresh for the service, still too tied to iLife for my tastes.

5. New MacMinis
The good - kept the same price points but bumped up the processors to 1.83 and 2.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo, plus bumped up base RAM to 1 Gb (woohoo!), sticks it in the face of those morons anticipating the Mini's demise.
The bad - kept the same enclosure, while a nice form factor it is a bitch to open.
The ugly - Steve didn't have the balls to mention this during the actual presentation, only during the Q&A session after. Lame Steve, lame.

6. Overall Presentation
The good - Apple hasn't forgotten its Mac side and seems to be continuing development of new technologies and style.
The bad - the emphasis on integration with the iPhone is pathetic, given it's only available in the US and will only be available there for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, not everyone wants a freaking iPhone. Steve perpetuates sales problems in Japan (it's bad here again), by not giving us a freaking real portable MacBook. FIVE POUNDS doesn't cut it here, Steve!
The ugly - The continued lack of a replacement for the 12" PowerBook is pathetic. The "rest of us" here in the world's second biggest consumer market deserve better.