a glob of nerdishness

August 29, 2007

Meet Will Thimbleby

written by natevw @ 8:33 pm

Just found out that Will Thimbleby has a blog. No deluge of posts there yet, but it’s in my feed reader.

Will has created all sorts of neat apps like Lineform, RecDit and, my personal favorite, MacSword. While I’ve been using the latter since I got my Mac mini in the spring of 2005, I didn’t know much about Will’s other work until I read an article about Lineform’s development on Apple.com. He seems like an all-around brilliant chap who I’d love to meet, should I ever make it to the UK.

August 27, 2007

Garbage collected iPhoto 7?

written by natevw @ 7:19 am

Does iPhoto 7 use some garbage collection features? If so, that would explain the semi-regular beach balls, regardless of what the user is doing. I’ve been wondering for a while if Tiger will get updated to support the new garbage-collected runtime from Leopard, and perhaps the new iLife suite is testing some of that out internally.

On the other hand, this could also be caused by paging. I was only able to get it to hang up twice this morning — the hard drive was churning, so this points to paging, but I didn’t see much change in iPhoto’s Real vs. Virtual memory usage. Any ideas for a better experimental or investigative method?

Update: While the results posted in the comments aren’t entirely conclusive, the simplest explanation is that the hangs were for plain old paging. The 7.0.2 update seems to have greatly reduced these hang-ups either way.

August 22, 2007

Minimum fuss, powerful ripping with Max

written by natevw @ 8:11 pm

This evening CDex, my long-time Windows ripping friend, turned fiend and messed up my settings. Unable to decide whether Stereo or J-Stereo, MPEG version I, II or II.5, and which VBR Method was best, I decided I was ready to stop using Windows to rip CDs. While iTunes does a good job at ripping, it uses a different filename and folder structure than all my previously ripped CDs.

I found Max, and I like it. It’s free, and has a good blend of power packed into a (mostly) intuitive interface. You can edit metadata on an album or track basis (or automatically fetch it from MusicBrainz), drag in artwork (or have it grab from Amazon) and easily choose presets for (or customize) a large number of output encoders. While not perfect, it’s a great example of a heavily-customizable, workaday utility that still feels right on a Macintosh.

August 20, 2007

Importing scanned images into iPhoto automatically

written by natevw @ 7:32 am

Over at Apple Matters, Chris Howard reviews iPhoto ‘08 laments that there is still no direct scanner import into iPhoto: “You still have to scan to a folder and then import that folder.”

You can eliminate half that battle using Automator. When you first load Automator, it will already have a blank “Get Specified Finder Items” step in place. Leave this as is, and drag “Import Photos into iPhoto” action below it. Have it add to a new album called “Scanned”, and check the “Delete Source Images After Importing Them” box. (I’ve uploaded a
screenshot of how this should look.)

Now we’re ready to “Save As Plug-in…” (from the File menu). Call it “Move to iPhoto” and choose “Folder Actions” in the “Plug-in for” drop down box. Pick the folder where your scans will be (you may need to select “Other…” and then click Save:
Automator save dialog

Now whenever an image is added to this folder, it will get moved into your iPhoto library automatically.

August 14, 2007

iPhoto ‘08 for this photographe

written by natevw @ 7:00 pm

(It’s not a typo, it’s French)

iPhoto ‘08 may very well change the way I work with photos. My old process was:

  1. Import photos (by reference) into iPhoto
  2. Occasionally sort out an album if I wanted a slideshow or make a Tabblo
  3. Otherwise, scroll through around 36,000 pictures…hoping to someday caption and rate them all
  4. Cringe at the amount of disk space used by the full-size copies of RAW photos, delete the whole folder and wait an extra 10 seconds to open the image.

While I still think captioning is a wise investment, and will continue to develop something like my flCaptionater for iPhoto, it hasn’t happened yet. It seems I’m always a step behind where I must be for the number of photos I have. This new version of iPhoto should buy me some time.

I anticipate my new “workflow” to be something like this:

  1. Import photos (by reference) into iPhoto
  2. Tidy up the Events, because it’s fun!
  3. Use albums for thematic content, and use slideshows for slideshows (though iPhoto ‘06 has this too, I just didn’t know about it until my sister-in-law found it during the second day with her first Mac.)
  4. Keep on working on a faster captions/keywords solution, glad that the AlbumData.xml format hasn’t changed significantly
  5. Deal with the months of RAW photos I shouldn’t have taken, because iPhoto no longer will load directly from the RAW file (more on this in another post)

So far I’ve been impressed. It doesn’t gain as much speed improvement as I’d hoped, but it starts up and closes down a little faster and events helps keep the “iPhoto gasping for breath while scrolling” a little less painful. I like being able to “Magnify” (view) photos upon double-clicking, although I wish I could zoom (actually magnify) without having to go back to the old “Edit” mode.

The upgrade went smoothly. It kept all the old rolls, which wasn’t helpful in my case, so I soon “Autosplit Selected Events” on a select all. This gave me 36070 “items” in exactly 800 Events (why is one capitalized and the other not?). Unfortunately, that didn’t quite suit my picture taking habits (too many cropduster/helicopter sightings in the morning with actual photo excursions in the evenings) but the “Two-hour gaps” preference seemed to give me a good starting point. Although it’s the same organization under the hood, fixing Rolls enough to turn them into iPhoto’s main theme makes for a great new version.

August 9, 2007

Apple on HD discs

written by natevw @ 2:24 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t surprised by no Blu-Ray in the new iMacs:

So who do I think will win the high-def format war? TCP/IP.
Steven Frank

There’s an Apple announcement roundup on MacWorld that echoes the same sentiment. From the Apple TV to the new iMacs, Apple seems to be waiting on this format war (though see below) and hoping their disc-less hobby box and online store win.

It’d still be nice to be able to make double-digit backups onto higher density discs. It seems like HD-DVD, being naturally more scratch-resistant, would be the better media for that. Depending on how much Blu-Ray’s “scratch proof” coating actually gets used, there’s no point in burning 10GB more per layer if it will be unreadable after the real world gets to it. But alas, Apple is on the Blu-Ray board (link=good comparison article, btw), so if only one makes next year’s Macs I probably won’t get my druthers.

August 8, 2007

iWork misused by PHB

written by natevw @ 6:45 pm

Looks like Scott Adams doesn’t think the sleek page layout features in Numbers will change much in the business world:

Numbers doesn’t lie

Obviously, the pointy-haired boss wouldn’t be using such a hip computer, but this week’s spreadsheet theme is especially fun after the iWork announcements. (See the original at dilbert.com while it’s still available.)

August 7, 2007

The new iMac is wearing vertical stripes

written by natevw @ 11:14 am

The new iMac is definitely trimmer. But part of the new design is just cosmetic:

iMac detail

The black mask makes the bevel around the screen look amazingly thin. In reality, it’s about the same width as the previous generation’s. It had me fooled until I started looking to see where they put the iSight camera.

This neat visual trick follows a similar vein as Ive’s design of the iMac G4 display.

Apple’s research project

written by natevw @ 10:58 am

This from MacWorld’s coverage of today’s Apple announcements:

Will the iPhone’s “multitouch” features filter down to the Mac eventually? Jobs said that it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the Mac. “I would classify that as a research project at present,” he added.

There’s been some talk that features like Cover Flow (and perhaps the new skimming, though I’m still downloading the demo) could be a good bridge into multitouch on the desktop. A few commenters on this Coverflow article point this out, for one example.

I’ve been mulling over the next “interface evolution” article and hope to discuss desktop multitouch in more detail (sneak peek: it’s not going to replace the keyboard). Still, I can see Apple keeping multitouch as a potential addition to future versions of Mac OS X, growing out of features like Coverflow, skimming and resolution independence.

August 4, 2007

MIDI Tesla coil

written by natevw @ 4:35 pm

A video of a musical tesla coil was on the front page of YouTube today. It’s not the only one; there’s a nice one of the Nintendo Mario game theme with a coil for each part (see also: a guitar for each hand).

To get sparks that long, one needs very high voltage electricity. The primary job of the Tesla coil is to step up (transform) the voltage coming out of the wall enough so that it can come out of the dome. It accomplishes this by taking advantage of resonance, usually at relatively high frequencies. The coil in the first video link above resonates at 41 KHz, which is beyond the range of human hearing. So how, then, does this music thing work? In short, the spark itself is being turned on and off so that the plasmafied air is vibrating in the range of human hearing. (The guitar thing works with practice and a good clamp.)

The tunes are controlled via a standard MIDI interface. While large sparks are cool to begin with, and I’m still entranced with MIDI after many years… I wonder if it would be possible to drive the spark with a more complicated audio signal? I remember hearing polyphonic music from Apple ][’s and ///’s, which also had 1-bit (click-based) speaker controllers.