One Last (Long) Gasp For Garnet

I was thinking about new software lately and pondering the $20 mail-in rebate for pre-ordering Mac OS 10.5 from Amazon.com when I stopped myself in my tracks and remembered the release of 10.4 and all the programs it broke.

Much like Microsoft, Apple is now breaking your computer with each and every software release. The big difference between the two is that Microsoft tries (in vain) not to break things while Apple relentlessly exploits new hardware rendering all old versions obsolete.

After growing accustomed to being productive I've decided to sit this round out for a few months and have someone else compile a list of everything that doesn't work and then make a calculated move into the future. Regular consumers have become such a great test lab that they're unwittingly included in "beta testing" for pretty much any new technology that hits the market.

And this is the very reason I realized that it was time to give my Treo one last booster shot to get me through the release of the Palm Linux, not to it.

Though Palm promises an Apple-like experience in the migration (there will be a "classic environment" in which to run old Palm Garnet apps) this kind of strategy is a crutch and we shouldn't have anything to do with it. Instead we'll need to watch and wait (some more) for new applications to come along and fill our launcher back up to it's previous glory.

So until then, Garnet works but needs to look a little better. I set out on a mission this week to find a way to display some wallpaper on the startup screen thinking that would be a quick and easy way to pretty it up a bit. It almost immediately (d?)evolved into a OS X-iPhone-KDE mash-up which not only made my phone look really slick but it also revealed one of the beautiful things about the rev 1 iPhone: if you are forced to simplify your launch screen you find the OS gets out of your way and you end up using your phone and tools more and tweaking it less.

Before:
1-before.jpg

What I was originally thinking: A simple wallpaper, though the problem of clutter still remains.
2-what-I-was-thinking.jpg

What it turned into: An all-out launcher replacement with wallpaper and custom icons:
5-final.jpg

Going back to large icons (which were always available on Palm) and having the ability to use the 5-way button to go left and right through categories forced me to rethink my applications. Now instead of having 5 categories, everything I do regularly is on the first screen, useful but less frequently used tools are on the 2nd screen and everything else is hidden. All of a sudden everything is a quick touch away, not multiple clicks and presses.

So how did we do it? Unfortunately it's not an installer package (partially due to potential copyright issues and also because I'm not a programmer) but here is a brief overview:


STEP ONE: FIND BACKGROUNDS
I found this page with 28 Mac OS X backgrounds on google. The Treo 700's screen resolution is 320x320 but 320x480 will work fine as the extra height will be cropped off. Below is the one I picked:


AquaBlue.jpg


STEP TWO: FIND A NEW LAUNCHER
Sadly the built in launcher does not seem to support wallpapers on any screen but the phone screen (weird) and I couldn't find a way to "hack" one in via Resco Explorer so an outright launcher replacement was in order. ZLauncher, Silverscreen, VisualArts and others seemed really clunky and I was very happy to have found Treo Launcher ($12.95 Shareware). Out of the gates it's kind of ugly but it can be customized with wallpaper and custom icons if you have an external SD card to store them on (no internal storage right now...)

Note about wallpaper: Apparently the pnoJpegLib.prc is required to use a .jpg as a background image. It comes with TreoLauncher so you don't need to get it separately. The two advantages of .jpegs are:

1: most wallpapers you find will already be jpegs and won't require conversion and
2: They are a LOT smaller. My example .jpeg above is 16kb wheras a bmp of the same dimensions will be 528kb. Size still matters on small devices like this one.


STEP FOUR: FIND OR MAKE SOME ICONS
The option to use custom icons is particularly great because there are a handful of very popular apps out there (like pssh and Toccer) that don't have an icon and use a generic 3D blue box. By adding your own icon you can add that level of polish to the interface that should have been there from the beginning.

Speaking of polish, most Palm icons are pretty horrendous to begin with so it might be worthwhile replacing them all if you have the time.

If you are going to keep text beneath the icon you'll want to make a 57x57px photoshop file and only use the top-middle 48x48px square to get the effect illustrated above. You will want to save the icons as transparent .gif images with no background and follow the naming and filing instructions provided with TreoLauncher.

TreoLauncher also allows you to turn off the text giving you room for full iPhone-like 57x57px icons.

Most icons these days are getting shiny thanks to Apple's lead with OS X. I pulled a collection of photos from all over including forums, product pages, linux icon sets and google searches.

Here are a few of the main problems you'll run into with Palm icons:

3-problems.jpg

Since you're making transparent .gif images you will run into the problems of a white haze showing around soft, anti-aliased edges. You'll want to trim your icons down as tightly as you can and save them with a matte color as close to your wallpaper as possible. Monochromatic wallpapers work best with this effect.

Any icon that has pure white in it will need to have a "replace color" done on it so that it's a few shades into light gray. For some reason pure white renders as clear even though it is not. The Treo's have very bright screens and the light gray will be solid and will still look white.

4-solutions.jpg


Once you're done and organized you can use the left-and-right buttons on the 5-way navigator to flick between screens:
navigation.jpg

IF YOU'RE GOING TO GO ALL OUT...: Check out the "For a laptop look and feel" section of an earlier article on the Treo 700p. It links to:
- Palm Revolt. Interface skins including OS X "Aqua"
- pTunes iTunes skin

Join the discussion about this and other Treo Launcher topics.

These custom icons, wallpapers, skins and interfaces seem to work with most Palm Treos including the Treo 600, Treo 650, Treo 700p and Palm Centro

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on October 19, 2007 | Comments (0)

How Similar are the Saeco Estro Vapore and the Starbucks Barista?

There are lots of words on the internet about Saeco discontinuing sales of their Estro Vapore espresso maker in the U.S. and instead selling them through the Starbucks brand as the Barista. This side by side photo probably states it as clearly as anyone can: the machines are identical except for the decals.
estro-vapore-starbucks-barista.jpg

Related: A Hands-on comparison of coffee bean grinders

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on September 7, 2007 | Comments (7)

Dear Palm: It's time for an intervention

Here is an open letter to Palm written by Engadget via Digg. After hearing that Steve Jobs is an avid gizmodo reader one hopes that the Palm execs (or their administrative assistants) read the tech news as well as this letter is spreading like wildfire through the tech community.

The gist: Engadget has done, I feel, a wonderful job of summarizing Palm's victories in bringing useful and innovative products to market only to lose touch with what people want today. The company is still a favorite of many of us but seems like it is dooming itself to a slow and painful death while competitors slowly but steadily take the very market away that Palm invented.

treo getting left in the dust by it's competitors

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on August 21, 2007 | Comments (3)

Attention to Detail: Not Just Useful On The Outside

While I'm not sure that this would qualify as shoddy workmanship like some of the reported issues with MacBook Pro manufacturing, I thought the placement of this ribbon cable on the hard drive was interesting:

do-not-cover-hole.jpg

This was discovered while upgrading the HD to a 250GB model that had a different case configuration so there are no longer any blocked holes -- at least on this computer.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on July 31, 2007 | Comments (0)

Ahhhh! Web 2.0!

Flailover: What you program for when non-new and fancy browsers discover and try to cope with your superfly interactive code.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on July 29, 2007 | Comments (0)

Intuitive Technology. Still apparently really hard to do.

There are quite a few stories coming out about how easy the new iPhone is to use (complete with youtube videos of 1 year old kids navigating it). Some are actually criticizing the phone for this lowering of the technical proficiency bar one has to be at to use electronics -- essentially the same "dumbing down" argument against Apple's desktop OS X. Personally I think this is a great victory in UI and a rare deliverable on the promise of technology to make our lives a little easier.

It is easy to forget that the goal of technology isn't to create a thing that has the most features or to have the coolest looking blue lights -- it's to empower its owners to easily do more of something than they were able to before (more places to check email, faster cooking, etc.) or do something they have never been able to do before (send photos of something halfway around the world that they are looking at this very instant).

Requiring a degree in computer science to understand a top-level UI is an engineering failure on the grandest scale.

A good technology parallel to phone evolution might be microwaves. Both consumer goods followed an easy/hard/easy progression to get to where they are today:


1-microwave_easy.jpgMICROWAVES STAGE ONE: THE REBIRTH OF COOKING CONVENIENCE:
Microwaves appear on the scene transforming the kitchen with fast and easy cooking and reheating of food. It is intuitive: it's just like the oven-- stick your food in, turn a dial and you're off.

2-microwave-hard.jpgMICROWAVES STAGE TWO: TECHNOLOGY TO CONFOUND:
In an effort to show off the amazingly fine-grain modulation they have achieved appliance makers loaded up microwaves with an array of digital timers and an entire panel of non-alphabetical, non-intutive 'presets' for everything from popcorn to fish to steak au poivre. Simply setting a time went from a twist of the wrist to a 4-6 button exercise in memory and frustration (do I have to hit the power level first? why is it just counting down instead of cooking? How do I stop this damned thing?!)


3-microwave-pre-iMicrowave.jpgMICROWAVES STAGE THREE: TECHNOLOGY DOES ITS JOB:
Technology is summoned to actually work for people once again. Microwaves are smart enough to detect what kind of food is inside and adjust accordingly, saving you the 300-page user manuals. For those who just want 30 seconds with no commitment the dial returns on some models. Now we just need to settle the argument of whether or not microwaved food causes cancer or not.



1-mobilephone-easy.jpgCELL PHONES STAGE ONE: THE REBIRTH OF CALLING CONVENIENCE:
Cell phones arrive and though thet are bulky and the service coverage isn't great they are simple and intuitive: the operation is identical to your home phone with the added convenience of being able to bring it with you.


2-mobilephone-hard.jpgCELL PHONES STAGE TWO: TECHNOLOGY TO CONFOUND:
Feature bloat and technology dead-ends abound. When you buy a phone you have no idea if you can add your own ringtones, if you'll be forced to email yourself photos to get them on your computer, or if it will even be stable. The rush to bring the personal computer, music player, camera, camcorder, gaming console, fashion accessory, gps, etc. into one device causes a car wreck that stalls traffic on the technology highway for years.


3-mobilephone-easy.jpgCELL PHONES STAGE THREE: TECHNOLOGY DOES ITS JOB:
iPhone. You pick it up and within a few short minutes you pretty much know what it does and can trust that the things it does will have been done well. In the not so distant future if you wish to add capabilities to it (like a compuer) you will be able to.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on July 24, 2007 | Comments (0)

New Paper Shredding Technology Discovered

PROS:
- Environmentally friendly
- More ferocious than electronic shredders
- Built in entertainment value
- Does not overheat under normal operation

CONS:
- "Claw cut" less secure than "straight cut" or "cross cut" methods of shredding
- Easily distracted

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on July 13, 2007 | Comments (0)

Matias tactile pro 2.0 takes steps back

After almost three years of regular and hard use the keys started to stiffen up on the Matias Tactile Pro 1.0 keyboard and I thought I'd try out the newly released sequel.

Basically the entire review can be summed up as this: It's 4 steps backwards, one step sideways, and 0 steps forward.

3-bad-things.jpg

The above image shows 3 steps backwards:
(1) One of the only two USB slots is now occupied by a gargantuan dual-USB cable used to plug the keyboard into the computer
(2 + 3) Matias decided to abandon the clean Apple aesthetic and spam up their keyboard with stickers
(3) This sticker is the kicker. It reads "USB 2.0 dock" and the box advertises it as being the greatest thing since sliced bread. Plug in all your fancy digital cameras and gadgets! Well, seeing how Apple mice have an extremely short cord the only thing you'll be getting at 40x the speed is your mousing action. WooHoo!

(4) The 4th step backwards was the removal of the light on the "caps lock" making it impossible to know whether you'll simply be typing OR YELLING.

Though this isn't an actual photo of my keyboard, the same flimsy feet were kept in the back. Step sideways: check.

Pretty much the only good thing I can say about this keyboard is that the mechanical keys are fantastic and luckily they are the sole reason I bought the keyboard. This comes with a 5 year warranty which from my experience (and keyboard usage) should outlast about 5 or 6 Apple Pro keyboards, which is good considering it's $150 price tag.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 25, 2007 | Comments (19)

You CAN use 100% Recycled paper in any printer

Have you ever noticed that you simply can't find a ream of paper that is marked both "100% recycled" and "inkjet" or "laserjet"? Seems to be because it doesn't exist. Or does it?

A possible answer came by reading the back of a ream of "100% recycled copy paper" from Staples.

paper-types.jpg

You can see that they have a little chart that helps you find the best paper for you and obviously points you to their more expensive "premium" papers for all things. But you'll notice that they have used a very carefully written phrase for their top-of-the-line printing paper:

"heavier weight, ENHANCED CLARITY for laser and inkjet printers"

Reading between the lines this suggests that you absolutely could use any of their papers in your inkjet or laserjet printers, but that you probably wouldn't want to.

Look, it is true that the pores of the premium paper are tighter (less ink bleed, better clarity) and the paper is thicker and more white (better color) but if you don't need it for quality prints from your digital camera or presentations for a project you'd be doing everyone a favor by using the recylced paper. Maybe toss the recylced in one tray and the premium in the other so you can switch depending on the job.

So far I'm one ream in (printing on both sides) of 100% recycled paper with an HP LaserJet 1012 and have had no problems with performance, clogging, etc. I will report back if this changes but I don't expect that it will.

For the record here is how recycled papers help:

30% Recycled "copy" paper

  • 30% fewer trees used
  • 13% less energy used
  • 11% fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • 14% less water used

100% Recycled "copy" paper

  • 100% fewer trees used
  • 43% less energy used
  • 36% fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • 49% less water used

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on May 11, 2007 | Comments (0)

Using your Treo 700p with your car stereo

With just 2 accessories and an auto manufacturer with foresight enough to see past the iCraze and who uses the industry standard (and blasphemous) 1/8" "AUX" (auxiliary) port you can enjoy all of your pTunes with stunning quality on your next road trip.

THE ACCESSORIES:

Cheap 'ol Radio Shack 1/8" to 1/8" cable:
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102949&cp=&sr=1&origkw=1%2F8%22+cable&kw=1%2F8+cable&parentPage=search

SPE to 1/8" Stereo adapter:
http://shop.treonauts.com/content/accessories/12-45--337.htm

Treo-stereo.jpg

THE EXPERIENCE
I don't have a list of manufacturers that provide an AUX port on their stereos but it really should be everybody. The reason? It is a universal standard. Every single music player on earth either uses it out-of-the-box or can be made to use it with no more than one adapter. Why make a dock for one generation of one music player? (*ahem iPod..*)

Our last two rental car upgrades were Chryslers (Jeep Grand Cherokee and PT Cruiser) and they both had the port right there for easy access. We also rented a Saturn Ion and it also had the Aux feature so this suggests you can also make it a certain distance into the GM line and jam out on the road.

The Treo battery life is just stellar and it survived the trip from New York to Washington D.C. and still had 75% of it's battery left.

On the way back we decided to try an experiment and use our all-you-can-eat data plan (which is a real bargain on Sprint) to pull up some streaming radio stations using the Blazer Browser.

Your mileage will certainly vary (so to speak) but we had a rock-solid (no skips) stream from no less than three stations along the 'Jersey turnpike. We tested:
- soma.fm (128k Groove Salad stream)
- a 128k shoutcast.com trance stream
- a 64k virgin.co.uk stream

Since you are using your transceiver this will chew up a fully charged battery in just over 2hrs so you may want to be plugged in to power to use this one.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on | Comments (0)

Using the Samsung SCH-u740 with Mac OS X

vzw-black-u740-official.jpg So long as you time things correctly (generally using a combination of about 8 in person and over the phone reps at Verizon) you can take advantage of their "new every two" program and get a new phone for free every two years and not incur any special service charges or pro-rating of your "old" contract.

Until Palm has a phone that's actually cheap (and maybe a little thinner) we decided not to add another one to the stable of tech toys, but instead would tread into the murky waters of the "other" phones to find a suitable second phone for my better half.

The Samsung SCH-u740 has been making its rounds and getting high praise so we thought we'd check it out. Unlike most phones this one actually felt solidly constructed and the multi-directional hinge did not feel flimsy.

While it would have been fine to get this and use it as just a phone (esp. as it was free) we thought we'd see if there was more that we could do with it so we started searching the internet for options.

We know that Verizon is notorious for crippling services and we discovered that as expected, bluetooth was pretty much useless out of the box with Mac. You can pair the device to your computer but then all you get to see is "no services available".

We also know from experience from our last Verizon phone, that they want to make email the only way to get your pictures off the phone. After going through the laborious process of emailing the entire phone's worth of pictures (40+) one at a time (at $.10/photo) we were determined not to go through that again.

If that weren't bad enough there is even more: the only obvious way to get music on the phone is to buy all of it through Verizon VCast (with data plan that we had no interest in purchasing).

Luckily with the purchase of a few accessories you can use the "back door" to both load up your phone with your music but also to get your pics and videos off of the phone for free.


THE MEMORY CARD SHUFFLE
Everyone wants more storage for their media these days and like many phones this one has a slot in the side for a microSD card. buy.com seems to always have a deal on them and you can get 1GB anywhere from free to $10. Go buy one.

When you get this card and click it in you can format and use it by going to the following menus on your phone:
- Settings and Tools / Memory -> Card Memory -> Options (lower right hand contextual menu) -> Format Card

Once formatted pull it out of the phone and use your fancy card reader for your computer to mount it as an HD. Different computers will require different readers. We like to reduce desk clutter so we picked up a fancy 12-in-1 card reader for use with our MacBook's Express Card slot. But any card reader that does SD or microSD will do.

chain-of-love.jpg
Here is how our chain of data looks before plugging it all in. From left to right: Samsung phone, microSD, microSD to SD converter (free with microSD card), Express Card 12-in-1 Adapter, MacBook Pro

card-browser.jpg
Here is how your card will look in your OS X Finder. You can see that the phone created folders to put everything in. Just drop music into the my_music folder and it will become available for play. Curiously the phone created a folder called PALM. I don't know why or what that does.

Navigate into the my_pix and my_flix folders to copy photos and videos you've taken**


** To tell your camera to use the expansion card instead of internal memory for the camera and camcorder just start up one of those services and select:
- Options -> Memory -> Card

Enjoy.


Update September 05, 2007: Copying your own movies to your Samsung u740
One of the commenters at the Amazon A Store had noted that this Samsung (along with a number of other phones) uses the Third Generation Mobile Video Standard or .3g2 format.

Apple is a member of this alliance and as such has put this format in the export options of it's newest versions of Quicktime. Here is a walk-through of how we got a short .mov to work on our Samsung:

quicktime-to-samsung.gif


MORE READING:

Here is an online thread with lots of info and feedback on the phone:
http://www.howardforums.com/archive/topic/1114833-1.html

Here is some software that one might be able to use to synchronize *all* of the phone's data with your computer:
http://bitpim.org

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on | Comments (18)

How to remove QuarkXPress from OS X

Apparently to simply know Quark is enough to marry them and be destined to a long life of emotional distance and abuse and crying yourself to sleep every night.

battletoads-vs-quark.jpgNot only do both the 30-day trial and full versions of Quark software *not* come with uninstallers, but searches in their own help forums and support section return 0 results if you search for the word "uninstall".

Oddly, Google searches don't offer any more information so apparently I'm going out on a limb here by posting this "checklist" for filing your divorce papers electronically.

To uninstall Quark seek out and find the following files on your computer and delete them. Then empty the trash and restart your computer:

/Applications/QuarkXPress Folder
/Library/Preferences/Quark Folder
/Library/ScriptingAdditions/QXPScriptingAdditions.osax
/Users/{yourusername}/Library/Preferences/Quark folder
/Users/{yourusername}/Library/Preferences/QXPInstallDataOLD
/Users/{yourusername}/Library/Preferences/User Data {some serial number} (just look for the file with the Quark icon and delete that one)

If I've missed any files here please post in the comments section for the benefit of all. Many thanks.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on March 31, 2007 | Comments (5)

New Intel Macs: Either go Universal or Get Out

If it hasn't made itself apparent with past posts or in-person rants if you know me, I don't like emulation or on-the-fly translation and I only do it when absolutely necessary. Despite what people say, even with these new amazingly fast computers, having to emulate anything seriously affects performance and everyday users will notice a slowdown if they started with a fast computer then add emulation (otherwise they'll just think they have a brand new computer that's really slow).

Recently Bronzefinger got it's hands on a fancy new MacBook Pro and lent a hand migrating a user over from an old G4 tower.

Before beginning the migration we meticulously combed through the old computer's:
- Applications Folder
- Applications/Utilities Folder
- System Prefs (for add-on extensions)

...and compiled a spreadsheet of all programs that we actually needed. This gave us an opportunity to get rid of some old stuff that was no longer used and keep things lean and mean.

Then we went to the web and looked to see what had been turned into a Universal Binary and downloaded it to a "to install" folder that we created.

checklist.gif
A clipping from our migration checklist spreadsheet

Instead of using Apple's ordinarily great "Migration Assistant" program (which could copy over PowerPC applications or extensions) we opted to start from scratch (recommended) and create a new user account on the new computer and migrate files and email and such over manually. This way we could control everything and keep it clean and keep it native.

Most common things you'll run into:
- Mail.app has mail folder importing built in so all you have to do is point it to the mail folder on your old computer and let it do the work. We installed the httpmail extension and set up all the IMAP email accounts from scratch
- simply copy the items in /Users/youruser/Pictures over to the same folder in your new computer and that will take care of all your iPhoto stuff
- same with /Users/youruser/Music/iTunes music for your iTunes library and songs
- iCal and Address book can be exported on the old computer and imported on the new computer by choosing File/Back up database... and File/Revert to database backup...
- Safari and FF bookmarks can also be exported from old computer and imported on the new
- All non-Apple programs will need to be installed using the updates and installers you downloaded from the developer's websites

Once we had everything migrated and started firing up programs performance was great. Not much has come close to the snappiness of fast G4's running OS 9 (because it was such a light operating system windows would be open the millisecond that you were on the second click of your double-click) but overall performance was enough not to wish for more.

Until, that is, we ran into the unavoidable: Adobe CS.

This system could not wait for the Universal Binary version of 'CS3 (which is reported to offer significant gains) so we had to install CS2 and we noticed a system-wide performance drag immediately afterwards. We are seeing the pinwheel much more often. Windows will lag opening and closing. Since we had a pristine system to begin with it was easy to identify CS2 as the culprit.


powerPC-a-drag.jpg

How do you know if your Intel Mac is secretly running old PowerPC code? Go into Applications/Utilities and open "Activity Monitor". Even for non-techies I always put this program in the "startup items" folder of all user accounts I work on, set the dock icon to "CPU history" and tell the computer owner to glance at it if their machine is running slow and they will be able to see "how hard it's working" and take some solace in that.

Anyway, in the Activity Monitor choose "All Processes" in the top menu and look in the "kind" column -- you'll see everything running on your machine and what is foreign and dirty.

ppc-on-intel.gif
culprits in blue

It sounds like a lot of tweaky "PC-like" work, but if you can bear it (presuming you are migrating from a G3, G4, or G5 computer) the performance gains are dramatic and well worth the extra time spent setting up your new computer the long way.

We're looking into using Matterform Media's yank to rip out CS2 from this machine and Quark 6.1 on a different machine and will report back on that in a future post. Yank has the potential to save a lot of time rooting around on your hard drive to find and delete all the little files that installers put all over the place. I don't consider a program "uninstalled" until every last file related to it is gone.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on March 22, 2007 | Comments (2)

More "Office Hippies" than "Office Pirates"

Has it been three years already? According to our records it has. Three years ago we first began to wade into the open waters of OpenOffice.org, a free alternative to the Microsoft Office.

At the the time it showed a lot of potential and we knew this was the direction to go; the Microsoft suite of applications had become so expensive and so bloated that it was no longer worthwhile to purchase. If you did you got a pile of programs that had 10x the features you'd ever use dealing you both a performance and financial hit.

Though not necessarily speedier, OpenOffice.org at least let you do spreadsheets for free and enjoy full compatibility with all major forms of document, spreadsheet, and presentation format. It seemed pretty good for Intel machines (Windows, Linux) but wasn't fully compatible with Mac.

In order to run on Mac you had to install an additional service on your computer called X11 (akin to OS 9 "Classic" or the new "Rosetta"). Setup required a developer kit plus a convoluted setup. Launching the program was done by running an Applescript that would set off a chain reaction of starting X11, then the OpenOffice.org suite.

Once you got it running you'd notice how X11 (unix) looks like ass, has an entirely different interface than OS X (everything from windows to menus to the cursor) and doesn't work very gracefully with Apple's fonts or print drivers etc.

Luckily a group of good people took the OpenOffice.org base code and ported it to OS X and have been integrating it slowly with Aqua and more. It's called NeoOffice and it runs off Java which is alright since OS X is running all the time anyway. After an initial lag on startup performance isn't terrible, and it looks a LOT better than the base OpenOffice.org. As of this writing I would also say that NeoOffice 2.1 looks a LOT better than Microsoft Office; it's interface has been given a new set of icons and the interface is really clean and simple.

ship2.jpg
I have to presume that the pirate ship icon is more a "fight the power" kind of thing than "steal software". As such, Haus Interactive designed the Mac icon you see below to replace the existing one.

We are happy to re-release it today:

Control-Click Here and select "Download linked file as..." to download .icns file.

To use:
- after downloading the icon single click it to highlight and "get info" (Apple-i on the keyboard or right-click and choose "get info")
- "copy" (Apple-c on the keyboard or the menu "edit/copy")
- single click on your NeoOffice icon and "get info"
- click on the icon and you'll see it highlight in blue
- "paste" the new icon (Apple-v on the keyboard or the menu "edit/paste")

If it doesn't work you may need to change the permission on the NeoOffice application temporarily. To do this:
- in the "get info" screen expand the "Ownership & Permissions" section and under "details" click the little padlock, enter your password, change ownership from "system" to your name
- after you successfully paste in the new icon change the permissions back to "system" and lock the padlock
chown-neooffice.gif

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on | Comments (0)

The problem with cellphones and an example of how freedom (Palm OS) is still the best mobile platform

The biggest problem I see with cellphones are that they are merely technology "teases" that are either unable to realize their full potential (no developer kit or platform) or "crippled" to allow the cell phone provider sell additional functionality for pure profit with no additional strain on their network or customer service.

In my worst futuristic nightmare the RIAA and cellular service providers would bring the limitations of cell phones to the world of computers, absolutely destroying their usefulness.

While most non-technical cell phone users will only experience a few frustrations per phone and provider, those accustomed to a high level of freedom will find themselves gnashing their teeth with all but a few phones.

I'm not sure what the problem is here, but there seems to be a real lack of interest from service providers in making any friends of subscribers. People are rabid fans of Apple computer not because of their love of black turtlenecks, but because the technology opens up a new world for them and they feel that Apple gives them something of value, something empowering.

The thing cell phone companies and providers don't realize (or realize and won't publicly acknowledge until they can fully monitize it) is that cell phones have a lot of potential, and that people want to tap into it.

A good example of this is the Palm Treo which continues to sell despite having an "outdated" OS. Why? Because it has literally tens of thousands of useful applications to empower you to do everything from manage grocery lists to ssh into unix servers to play nintendo games.


Here is a recent story of a very simple desire to use an apparent "feature" of a basic cell phone and where and how often it dead-ended:

My parents recently purchased their very first cell phones. Their package came with new Motorola Razr V3s. Nice looking phones. Well constructed. Tight. One of them came with a music package that included stereo headset/mic, an SD expansion card and some extra software.

One of the things they wanted to do with it was to use the voice memo feature to record notes to their SD card, and then plug the SD card into their computer for archiving. Simple, right? WRONG.

Upon review the owner's manual stated the camera and camcorder preferences could be changed to save documents to an SD card, but the voice memo program's could not.

A few hours on the internet provided me with a few answers, none of which were desirable:
- there are no free applications one can download and install that offer more control of voice recording
- there were no paid applications one can download and install that offer more control of voice recording
- the motomodders (who provide no-warranty versions of modified firmware that provide additional functionality) had addressed this voice memo limitation in their forums but had not discovered the hack to fix the problem.

So I thought I'd break out my trusty Palm Treo 700p and see if it wasn't worlds better in it's standard configuration. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't, but that the limitations were surmountable (just like on a computer):

Out of the box the "voice memo" software was easy to find and use. Sound quality when played on phone was good. Browsing the SD card turned up no audio files, however. No preferences were available to change the recording destination to the SD expansion card.

Online forums mentioned finding what appeared to be the recordings on the phone's RAM using FileZ or Explorer but in the end they were 0kb in size instead of the 100s that an actual recording would be.

So what next? There were still built-in options to send the memos to a computer via email from the phone or bluetooth. (This is less than desirable as this would require manually copying each and every memo instead of having them synchronized with everything else using a standard hotsync)

After copying the file to my computer I discovered that it was in "PureVoice" (.qcp) format which you need to convert to listen to. Qualcomm (the owners of the PureVoice format and the makers of the PureVoice player) dropped Mac support back in the OS 9 days but you can still get if for Windows versions here:
http://www.cdmatech.com/products/purevoice_download.jsp
(while you're on the Qualcomm site you should bitch at them about the lack of an OS X version :-) )

At the time of writing Mac users could convert their PureVoice files online for free at media-convert.com. You have to be careful about the file format you choose to convert to as a standard 900KB Purevoice file can easily turn into a 10MB mp3. I like a nice 16000Hz, mono, 8-bit .wav with no noise reduction as that's pretty close to the original in quality.

So this is a workable solution but a real pain in the ass as there are so many steps involved plus a potential privacy breach by sending all of your precious audio across the web and back.

Thanks once again to a thriving developers community the next step finally brought us the answer:
For $9 you can get yourself a copy of the rather inappropriately named "Voice Mail Recorder" which does NOT:

- pick up your calls for you and record voicemail...

...but rather does:

- record at 16khz which is nice quality for voice (built in voice memo is 8khz)
- allow you to record to SD card as a usable .wav file
- have easy one-handed controls using the 5-way controller
- record to a folder in /Audio/ which does not interfere with pTunes. Also allows you to easily find the folder to add to your sync list if you use Missing Sync for Palm OS

voicemail-memos.gif
Screen shot of navigating to the Voicemail folder on the Treo SD card using Cardreader

With each year that passes, consumers hold more and more power in the palm of their hands and yet few manufacturers or cell phone providers are stepping up to the plate to allow this power to be unleashed.

Only in the world of cell phones do you run into true dead-ends and find problems that simply do not have solutions.

This breeds frustration and has the opposite effect of building a loyal consumer base. It simply keeps the status quo and gives customers reason to not just replace their phones every two years, but their providers as well.

Sadly all they find at their new provider is a new set of frustrations.

Posted by Aaron R. Deutsch on March 19, 2007 | Comments (3)

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