Friday, December 21, 2007

Great graphic design stuff and thieving bastards...

A while ago I purchased some hosting, bought a couple of domain names and committed myself to designing a new website for myself and moving this blog to a proper Wordpress install. All that stuff is going ahead.. albeit a little more slowly than I originally anticipated. However, just as I'm feeling all cocky and proud about venturing out onto the web 'for real', along comes this to jolt me back to reality:

David Airey, a talented graphic designer who writes a very useful blog by the way, posts about how his site was hacked the day after he went away on vacation. He's now in the process of trying to wrestle back control of his domain name davidaireyDOTcom which he's lost to the attackers. So in the meantime he's using If you're a fan of his, or want to check out lots of good graphic design related stuff, make sure you update your aggregators and/or bookmarks to the address.

And to David, kudos for exercising such careful restraint in your posting about the incident and best of luck in getting back what is rightfully yours - I'll be following the story.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Everday Normal Guy...

Finally... a rap song aimed straight at me.. motherf!#@er...

[warning: if you didn't get the gist.. you might find the language (or at least one word repeated many times)  in this video somewhat offensive - or just funny]

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The Fantabulous Inkscape 0.46 About Screen Contest

Ryan Lerch spreads the news that the About Screen contest for the upcoming 0.46 release of Inkscape has been announced. The deadline is January 6th and I may try and make some time to field an entry or two once again. No luck last year, but it sure was fun coming up with ideas.

I seem to be mired in end of term exam marking, full time engineering work along with the website/blog stuff I'm trying to get finished. Oh yeah, and then there's Christmas to contend with...better start shopping. ;)

I may just have to extend an arm and "sweep the desk clean" for a little while over the next week or two and come up with some new ideas for the Inkscape 0.46 About screen. It would be kind of nice to see your name up in lights inside one of my absolute favourite apps.

Here are my not-so-great entries from last time out.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I have had a Facebook account for at least a few months now. It has proved useful for one thing: reacquainting with school chums from long ago. I log in about  twice a month - usually only to read and reply to a private message someone has sent me.

One email notification thingy I've seen popping up repeatedly is that one contact or another has written something on my "FunWall". Oh Joy. And up until tonight, I've resisted signing up to see what they've written there.

Turns out that the times they are a-changin'. Instead of sending out forwarded chain letters and un-funny photos via email, they're posting them on my ironically-named FunWall. Better yet, each one is accompanied by the typical 'Forward to three friends or get bad luck' or the more succinct "Forward!!" message  tacked on the end.

Send over the paperwork. I'm ready to sign. I'm officially a Facebook-hatah.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

What's Your Favourite Application/Project Name?

I just responded to a comment on one of my blog posts about various aspects of the free and open-source OS world versus Windows. One part of that discussion was about application naming, with the commenter suggesting that more descriptive naming would be an important thing to have. While I'm in agreement theoretically, my heart just isn't there. I love a creatively named application or project.

One of my favourite application names is Inkscape (and not just because I love the program too - which I do - that name is just uber-cool to me). But there are other good ones like: BlueFish, XSane, Opera, DamnSmallLinux, SeaMonkey and F-Spot.

There are of course other names I don't like, with Gimp, Avidemux and Pidgin immediately springing to mind.

Of course none of this has anything to do with how well the applications work.

What's your favourite application, distro, or project name (open or closed, free or non-free)? Which ones do you hate?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Couple of Quick Command Line and IRC timesaving tips

I'm one of those people who figures out things bit by bit. I learn enough to get what I want accomplished and then move on. A consequence of this is that I find out some time-saving trick literally years later, when it could have served me well from the beginning. But I'm too lazy (and too eager for immediate gratification) to take the time to thoroughly learn every nuance of some new exciting new toy.

So here are two things I've learned recently which you may or may not know:

1. In most IRC chat clients (Gaim/Pidgin anyway), you can use tab-completion to fill in nicknames of those in the chat. So if you wanted to type: "heathenx: You're a sorry excuse for a human being." , you could type "he" and then 'tab' and it would fill in the 'athenx' for you. If there are multiple matches, it lists them out and you type additional letters the next time to get a single match. **

2. In the bash terminal (works in rxvt under Cygwin, and likely on Mac terminals too), if you're searching for a past command you entered - and it's still in your command history - hit Ctrl-r. This will bring up a prompt so that as you type the first few letters it will find the most recent command matching those letters. It refines it's search result as you type more letters. If you find the command you wanted,  hit enter to execute the command or hit the right cursor key (or ctrl-j) to bring it onto the command line for you to edit.

So there are a couple of tips that might save you some time and frustration (things I'm intimately familiar with).

Note: Any reference to heathenx's or sorry excuses for human beings in this post are strictly fictional. No actual heathenx's were harmed in the production of this blog post - even if they claim to be. ;)

** - this tip comes via a Lotta Linux Links IRC chat session a while back. Check out the venerable Dave Yates and his podcast, blog, forum and irc channel at - you'll regret it if you don't.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Uber-slick and simple paper airplane animation site

One thing I've loved doing since I can remember is making paper airplanes. If you're looking for a few neat paper airplane designs to keep the kids (or yourself) busy?  Check out the ultra-neat site at: Lowe-Tech - portfolio for a few models described in deceptively simple and attractive folding paper animations.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Creating a windows installer from your WxPython application.. a love story.

I've just finished wrestling with a small wxpython application I wrote a few years back for our bookkeeper. It needed minor updating with a couple of new features. Now that I've finished the process here are a few remarks:

  1. Python is a lovely language. After about 14 months of not touching this app (or much of python in any case) it only took a few minutes of review to get back up to speed on it. Granted, I made judicious use of comments and verbose variable naming when I wrote it, but dang is it ever nice clean, clear and simple code.
  2. Once I had the thing running I downloaded and installed the latest version of py2exe (this app is to be installed on an XP machine). This little gem is invaluable in making .exe files from your .py files  and not requiring a Python install on the machine which is going to run the application. Our bookkeeper has no interest in what Python is, never mind running it.
  3. I love the Nullsoft Installer System (NSIS). It's an open source system for creating professional looking Windows installers. No funky console windows or command line gobble-de-gook for the person installing it - typical modern looking windows install  - wizard style.
  4. Now the Nullsoft installer system is scripted (you have to create a script file to direct the setup) which allows for a lot of power and customization. But if you're like me and have no interest in building these things by hand, you can use the wonderful HM NIS Edit application which lets you set up the whole thing through a nice friendly wizard.

So in the end, with the combination of my original .py file, py2exe, NSIS, and the HM NIS Edit, I have a very professional looking windows install file after about 5 or 10 minutes work. Brilliant!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Jericho - Feb12 return?

Looks like CBS has *finally* decided to air the 7 episode long second season of Jericho. I'm not a big TV watcher at all, but this was one series I truly enjoyed. Glad to see it finally get aired. The launch date appears to be set for Feb 12, 2008 at 10pm. We'll see. ;)

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Pardon the Digression but...

Posting here has slowed for the time being but for good reason (to me anyway). I'm finally shucking my blogspot diapers and have purchased proper hosting and a domain name or two.

So right now I've put a few things on hold while I de-rustify my html and css skills and build a proper site. In a week or so I hope to be moving this weblog to a proper Wordpress install just like my heroes Earl  Moore and OmegaMom. I'd like to have a proper static site to hang it off of as well, hence the html and css remedial work.

Thanks to heathenx as always for guidance in edumacating me on hosting plans and domain whatchamawhoosits.

And to the good friends mentioned above - you should expect a few newbie questions! :)

Let's see if we can step it up a notch around here! :)

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

F-Spot - new version aggravation

Typically I've always used F-Spot to transfer the photos from my DSLR to my hard drive. I like the way it arranges my photos: /home/user/photos/yyyy/mm/dd.

However, I don't use F-Spot for managing my photos. There are various reasons for that and I'm pursuing the use of IPTC data for tagging the photos directly (and not using a separate database) — but that's for another post.

So up until this last upgrade (to Gutsy), F-Spot has always imported my photos and had a checkbox that let me import them WITHOUT adding them to it's managed photo library. However since upgrading I think the new version of F-Spot has done away with this checkbox, and so I am unable to stop it from moving any imported files directly into it's library. Thats NO GOOD. I checked the options menu but couldn't spot any way to turn off this feature.

Please someone tell me I'm wrong. How can I copy photos from my camera using F-Spot without importing them into an F-Spot library?

I'm open to suggestions for other apps. I have used gThumb, but I couldn't figure out how to get it to auto-create the subdirectories in the same way and format as F-Spot did.

Let's hear some suggestions!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Are Dumber Than We

So I'm checking out the We Are Smarter Than Me site (google it - they get no linkage from me). Hmm, nice, an interview with Doc Searls, a current one with Mike Arrington. Neat.

But there's no download link (that I can see) for the mp3 file. Oh, okay. There's the little orange XML button. I'll subscribe to the feed in GReader and the mp3 attachments will show up there likely. Umm.. no they don't.

There's a little note on the Podcasts page about having to subscribe to this stream via ITunes. So it's either that or listen on-line while I'm on the page (there's a little play button link which plays the file - apparently without any controls).

Oh forget it. 'We' are definitely smarter than you. At least the blog title is accurate.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Woohooo... cough cough

I'm not sure if it's just a Canadian thing, but this recent AutoTrader commercial made me laugh - especially the last part of it. Dunno if it's the coughing or the howl at the very end. This reminds me of more than a couple of my high school friends:

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Font Matrix - a font manager for Linux

Via the Open Font Library Mailing list comes news of Font Matrix, a font manager for Linux. The opening line on the front page shows much promise:

"Fontmatrix is a font manager for Linux users. I repeat, for users."

Very nice indeed. There are not pre-built versions at this point - it is an 0.2 release after all - but the source is there to download and compile. Something which I'll be trying out later tonight.

Good Linux-y stuff once again! :)

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Interesting Times

I was in Niagara Falls (Ontario) this weekend for a quick mini-vacation. On the first night, after checking in, (to the Doubletree which I highly recommend and is suprisingly affordable this time of year) I drove down to a 7-Eleven on the corner to grab a carton of milk.

When I approached the counter there was a guy roughly my age who was handing the clerk a $20 US bill to pay for his stuff - they take both currencies in the Falls area of course. She politely told him that it was only worth $19.00 Canadian (and what he was purchasing was something like $19.75). He chuckled, took the bill back and handed her his credit card. He turned around to me and said, "Boy, how times have changed.". I chuckled back and agreed.

We then had a short, but interesting discussion. He thought Canada (at least the Niagara Falls part of it) was very expensive. He wondered how we live with these costs along with our relatively high taxes. He asked aloud whether everyone up here must make correspondingly higher salaries just in order to live comfortably. I assured him that this was *not* the case. ;) I told him that Niagara Falls was a tourist area and significantly more expensive than the norm. I also brought up the fact that that we seem to have a very large middle-class in Canada while the US seems to foster a much bigger widening between the rich and the poor - at least that's the way I perceive it whenever I'm visiting the states. There seem to be lots of SUV and Caddy driving rich people and lots of destitute people, and not nearly as many in-betweens as we have up here. He nodded in agreement.

A second interesting thing I noticed was when I made a quick trip into a Rexall drugstore to pick up some Advil. As I was paying, I noticed a stack of pamphlets on the counter which proudly explained the fact that Rexall was now honouring US prices on all of it's magazines, gift cards and stationary. This is I think inevitable since we have the higher dollar and yet I'm still paying a buck or so more for magazines than US customers.

Interesting times.

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Desktop Nirvana

I was a little disappointed to hear the lack of love for the Openbox window manager during the most recent LinuxLinkTechShow. I've been happily using Openbox on top of Ubuntu for a few months now. I like it so much that I'm using it in on the Gutsy VM I have running on my XP-pro box at work too. I like it's tweakability, it's speed and the simplicity of it.

There is simply no quicker way to get to an application on some other desktop than middle clicking the desktop which brings up a list of applications across all desktops. Like I said, simple and fast.

But even with this success, I'm far from what you might call an 'experienced' Openbox user. That's why I was so thankful for this amazingly useful post by Urukrama. It covers Openbox on Ubuntu from installation right down to customizing options. So if you're interested in trying out Openbox, make sure you check it out.

I found this post by way of K.Mandla's excellent Linux blog. There's tons of good Ubuntu and Linux related stuff to be found there.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Splogs are at it again

Several months ago I noticed that my posts were showing up on spam blogs every once in a while. Then it all stopped. But in the past week or so I've seen 4 or 5 a day come in through my highly egotistical technorati and google blog searches that I keep in my Google Reader - hey I need to have something to stroke my ego, no one else does. ;)

Anyway, I'm not sure why it's happening now all of a sudden. Just chance or are these slimy guys just proliferating.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ok Apple.. enough...

I don't know about you, but the last two Apple ads I've seen on TV (the Mac vs PC thing) are really starting to annoy me. Don't get me wrong, I don't really like Microsoft. But I've always been an 'underdog' kind of guy - with Linux being my perennial hero of course ;). Even though in reality Microsoft is Goliath to Apple's David, these commercials leave me feeling the opposite lately.

And it's not just the underdog sympathy thing either. It's the smugness of the Mac guy. It almost leaves me wondering whether all Mac users are somewhat smug. Of course the Mac users I know are no different than most Windows and Linux users I know. But if I were a typical mainstream PC user, I'd start to feel a little defensive about my current Windows PC when confronted with this barrage of ads lately. They were funny to start with but I'm wondering whether anyone else thinks they're losing their effectiveness and run the risk of backfiring.

Besides, they've got a UI to be proud of and a system that works. Why not highlight the benefits of actually using a Mac rather than a Windows PC? And do it without feeling bad for the other guy. They do it with their iPod advertising.

Or even better yet, show a Mac user that's not some grungy college grad or turtleneck wearing artsy designer type. I think they've already tapped that market anyway. Shouldn't they now be going after the minivan driving moms and dads that populate the mainstream? If you're trying to capture more of the mainstream market, get a likeable, intelligent celebrity as a spokesperson.  Not Mariah Carey or K-Fed...  but someone like Matt Damon, or Julianne Moore.

There's a million possibilities.. all of which are likely better and friendlier than a smartass grunge grad delighting in the misfortune of an overweight fat guy in a suit. Poor guy.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A SD card with wi-fi built into it? Now that's cool!

On a recent TechGuy podcast I heard about this Eye-Fi Wireless SD card that comes with built-in wi-fi capability. Yes wi-fi right inside the SD-card!

So the gist of it is that you can transfer pictures to your pc or mac without even taking the card out of the camera. And this would be camera independent.. so you don't need a camera with wi-fi built into the hardware. This is right up there in the good idea hall of fame with the Sandisk Ultra II SD Plus card that folds open to reveal a USB plug right on the card.

It also does auto uploads from the camera to online photo management services like Flickr. And I'm assuming this would work anywhere you can get wi-fi connectivity (not necessarily your own PC). Personally I don't like just mass uploading pics to Flickr. I like to cull my photos and toss out the horrible and mediocre ones whenever possible.

I'm not sure how well it would work with Linux and haven't read about all the other potential issues like security etc. But the one stumbling block I have is not Linux related at all. It is the fact that my Canon Rebel XT uses Compact Flash and not SD.

Oh well, it's still very very neat. :)

ps - With the extra room in the significantly larger CompactFlash card, they should be able to give me a 0.5"x0.5" OLED preview of the photos right on the card too! :)

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ubuntu Upgrade - surprising!

I've never had complete satisfaction with a distribution upgrade although they seem to get substantially less painful for me with each iteration.

So in the midst of vacuuming the house this morning, I decided what the hell.. I'll do the Gutsy upgrade. I logged out of Openbox and into my old standard Beryl/Metacity setup. I did a few package upgrades that were waiting and then hit the button at the top of the upgrade manager.

Two hours later I was done and rebooting with crossed fingers. It likely would have taken substantially less time but it stopped to ask me to confirm about 4 configuration file changes (I ok'd them all) and seeing as how I was vacuuming and not sitting in front of my computer watching the install, I likely added about 15 or 20 minutes of delay to the process.

The startup into Gutsy with my previous Metacity theming went fine. I turned on some high level desktop effects just to see if it picked up on my ancient Intel 810 video card. Yep. No problem, but more on that in a second. I then checked out internet connectivity and some other bits and bobs - they all worked fine.

For the final test, I logged out of that session and back into my Openbox setup. Everything seems to work A-ok. I'm duly impressed!

A note about compiz: As an engineer I am stupified as to how smoothly Compiz effects work on my bottom rung Intel 810 card. It's got 32MB of *shared* ram and that's it. And yet it all works beautifully. I've played with MS Vista and while some things look nice, the system requirements for Aero seem out of this world.

I'm by no means much of a Compiz fanboy - I love some of the effects and find some of them very useful - but the speed, simplicity and hackability of Openbox has really stolen my attention for the moment. But man, you have to give them credit for being able to do what they do when compared to other OS's.

Free Image Hosting at

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Episode 045 - Snapshot Mosaic

I've *finally* completed a new screencast. Sorry for the long delay. This one was a fun one. It demonstrates a fairly easy way to take a single image and break it up into component 'snapshots'. So it looks like you took several pictures of different parts of an object and reassembled them. The example I do is a pretty basic one. You could do things like adjust the lightness, contrast or saturation of each snapshot separately to really give different creative effects.

This is another example where I really think Inkscape is significantly quicker than using Gimp or Photoshop for certain photographic projects. The method is simple, very intuitive and leaves room for lots of creative ideas once you get familiar with it.

Hope you enjoy it. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Screencasters now accepting donations.

Heathenx and I have decided to add a completely voluntary donation button to our screencasters website. He seemed to articulate the reasoning just perfectly in his post. So don't be too dismayed to see the paypal donation button on the site, we're not going all capitalist and closed-source on ya, at least not until we take the thing public and retire to a beach in Tahiti..  ;)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Earl's got some skillz!

Turns out Earl Moore has some serious skillz when it comes to woodworking. He built a very nice looking dining room table extension. And the part I like best is that he's got three legs on it which keeps the people using that end of the table from bashing their knees. Now that's a nice solution, elegant and effective.

So tell me Earl, how many links do you want before you come and fix the wavy, gappy monstrosity in my daughter's bedroom that I creatively call crown molding?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Does the world really need another font?

Does the world really need another font?

Yes. Mine.

For some inexplicable reason, I'm hell bent on designing/making my own font. I find the whole thing intensely fascinating (at least for now).

How timely then was this link to these Type Workshop images illustrating some fundamentals of type design. Incredible. Thanks to I Love Typography for so much great information.

So anyway, I've sketched out a basic alphabet as a starting point. The more I look at it, the more I want to change and refine it. Right now it looks a little anemic. I'm interesting in creating something sans serif, stable and consistent. Honestly, I'm aiming at something that someone (even just me) might actually use. The more reading and research I do, the longer the road seems to get, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. It's quite rough and there are lots of things to fix and refine. But there will be plenty of time for apologies... here's my starting point:

Free Image Hosting at

And before the typeface nazis attack, yes, it is a font that I'm initially going to create. If I'm successful and enjoy it, it might serve as a starting place for a typeface of which this one will just be a member. ;)

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A Lesson in Humility (or is that Stupidity)

So after my accidental but terribly embarrassing Stumbleupon spam mail earlier today I finally got up the courage to crawl out from under my desk and I have the following interesting facts to report:

1. The vast majority of my work-related contacts paid no mind to it. It seemed to be a kind of 'wuzzat?... I ignored it' reaction. Web-Ignorance I sincerely thank you.

2. Three or four people actually took the opportunity to join the service (they send you an email when one of your invites is acted upon). Glad I could be of service. :)

3. I received two or three re-acquaintance emails from people I hadn't talked to in a while. (eg. Ah nevermind... but say, long time no talk - what's up?) This was actually a nice by-product, and served to ease the pain ever so slightly.

4. I got a few truly comforting emails ('no worries - shite happens', 'no big deal - don't worry about it' etc.). These people now get preferential status. Hehe.

5. Heathenx gave me a right proper ribbing. I would have expected no less. :)

Not too bad. But just when I thought the whole internet had gone soft, John L. saved the day with this little diddy in reply to my spam:

"Go fuck yourself ebay lover.".

Ebay? I didn't even know Ebay had acquired Stumbleupon. So to John, thanks for educating me and restoring my faith in all things Internet. You'll get your free pen1s enlargement patches sometime next week.  :)

The moral of the story? Triple check that page before hurriedly clicking those nice shiny buttons.

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Curl up and Die....

Excuse me.. Two phone calls so far... I'm going home right now to curl up and die.


Damn You Stumbleupon!!!

I just inadvertently spammed 270 of my contacts. And I'm PISSED about it.

Sincerest apologies if you received a Stumbleupon invite/reference from me.

I like Stumbleupon. I think it's fun. But when I saw the 'see your friends reviews', atop my Greader page, I thought it might be interesting.

So I get there and sign on, but the layout there is tricky (to me anyway). It lists your Gmail contacts that are already on Stumbleupon (there were 5 of them) and has a nice shiny button to connect them up and thereby see what it is they're recommending. Good stuff....

But wait! There are all your other Gmail contacts (270 of them) lower down on the page and THEY ARE ALL SELECTED BY DEFAULT. It will then email them all a Stumbleupon invite!

FUCK!! (profanity is fully and completely allowed in this specific post btw).

My bad for not reading and comprehending well enough, but crap StumbleUpon.. you should make it more clear before potentially spamming hundreds of people I consider friends or at least acquaintances.

Again - My apologies to all of you.. I'm thinking of sending out a mass apology. I don't know if I'm over-reacting, but damn I feel slimy right now.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Free Fonts for Professional Design

I Love Typography cites a nice post over at Smashing Magazine describing 40+ excellent free fonts for professional design. I already have some of them, but am always on the lookout for new ones.

I'm also unable to shake the itch to design and create my own font. Sketching has started.. but it looks like a long road.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Catherine Zeta Jones of Online Word Processors

If you've ever tried Google Docs, you'll know it's an online word processor in the traditional Google style - functional but not necessarily the prettiest girl in the room.

But after trying the Adobe-acquired Buzzword today I have to say I've just met the Catherine Zeta-Jones of online word processors.

Very slick indeed! In fact, I was almost tempted to keep adding tables just to play with the interface. There are some really nice ideas going on here. Between the creative ideas and the high polish of the app, it's obvious they've spent a great deal of design time (graphic and otherwise) on this.

It's a free sign up when you get there.

I love seeing the bar get raised. ;)

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Firefox/Flock - Pretty Large Security Flaw - Passwords in the clear

I picked this up listening to Leo Laporte's KFI podcast a week or two back and just forgot to blog about it:

Did you know that...

In Firefox or Flock, if you go to Tools->Options->Security Tab, you will see a button called "Show Passwords". If you click this button you will see a pop up dialog box with a list of all of the sites for which you let FF (or Flock) manage your logon information. It will list each site along with your login name. BUT on this dialog there is another button labeled "Show Passwords". If you click on this button, it will SHOW YOUR PASSWORDS IN CLEAR TEXT.

Hmm. That ain't very nice is it. Especially if you work in an environment where other people might have access to your browser.

Luckily, in the original options dialog box, there is a checkbox marked 'Use Master Password'. Check this box and you will be prompted to enter a master password. This will require that the user enter this password when the browser launches and will require it again if they attempt to show the passwords in the Options dialog (as described above).

Not sure if you let Firefox or Flock manage your logon info, but if you do, you might want to secure them.

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Facebook: Ugly Irrelevance

I visit my Facebook page every few weeks just to see what's up. I find my distaste for FB growing with each visit. All I see is a steady stream of invites for something called the 'Funwall', or 'iLike' or some other 3rd party Facebook app. Even Steve Gillmor is trying to leverage Facebook in his recent call out for people to listen to his most recent 'Gang' podcast by joining a Facebook Group.

I've checked out some of these things and find the whole FB thing useless and a navigational mess. A hot steaming pile if you get my drift. Sure, there are no starry backgrounds (likely copyrighted by Leopard anyway) or animated gifs (yet!) but it sure doesn't feel or look like the social app of the future to me. Every time I visit there just seems to be more and more crap squeezed into every nook and cranny of my home page. It actually looks busier than And that people, is no mean feat!

Maybe I'm just behind the times, but I can't for the life of me find any real value in Facebook.

Just give me a decent browser, Google Search, Google Reader, and GMail and I'm all set.

Do you frequent Facebook? If so, Why?

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Postr - Gnome-based Upload tool for Linux

Lifehacker seems to have it's fair share of Linux related info lately which is nice. Something interesting spotted today was this article about Postr, which is a Gnome based application for uploading photos to Flickr. I've been using jUploadr for a while and it does work fairly well. But it would be nice to have a non-Java based alternative that would be a little better integrated into my Gnome/Openbox environment at home. I think I'll give it a shot this week and see how it works.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Missing Masterpiece

About five years ago, I was thumbing through my local Chapters bookstore shelves and picked up a copy of Driving Ambition by Doug Nye which documented the design and birth of the Mclaren F1. An amazing book, it contained design sketches, notes and drawings from Gordon Murray - the car's designer, along with beautiful photography. The story of the car's design along with the sketches and handwritten notes elevated this book significantly above any other I have read before or since. It was brand new and priced at an amazingly low $40.00 at the time.

Alas, about a year ago, I had proudly lent this book to a co-worker and then to a nephew... Didn't pay much attention to who had it or in which order. Anyway, it is safe to say that I don't have the book now and can't seem to track down who does.  So I decided to bite the bullet and re-purchase it...

The Chapter's site lists it as "Temporarily Unavailable To Order". So I decided to pull out the big guns and head on over to ...

Turns out that Amazon doesn't have it either. But they do know 3 re-sellers that do. And better yet they want $539 for it. [cue record needle ripping sound]. WHAT ??!!?? Five Hundred and Thirty Nine dineros? Okay, it was a good book, no, actually it was a great book. But Five Hundred? Sorry sirs... er.. thieving Bastards... No takers here.

Instead I'm thinking of spending $300.00 bucks hiring some thug to threaten my co-worker and nephew into finding the missing masterpiece.


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Friday, November 02, 2007

What's your favourite terminal/programming font?

As I've posted about before, I run XP at work, but use several Linux-y tools in my workflow. A key tool for me is the rxvt terminal which I run using cygwin. I use this for my todo list management among other things. Since it's such an often used app for me, every once in a while I try to fine-tune the fonts and colours in rxvt to make it nicer and more readable for me.

Right now I've settled on a "Light Steel Blue" foreground on a black background. But I constantly switch between two different font choices, one using the wonderful ProggyClean bitmap font and the other using the Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font which renders quite well on my XP box (nicer I think that it does on my Linux box at home actually).

Here's the shortcut launch command for each one with a screen snippet:

C:\cygwin\bin\run.exe rxvt -sl 1500 -fn "ProggycleanTT-13" -bg black -fg "LightSteelBlue" -sr -e bash --login -i

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

C:\cygwin\bin\run.exe rxvt -sl 1500 -fn "Bitstream Vera Sans Mono-14" -bg black -fg "LightSteelBlue" -sr -e bash --login -i

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Think these are ugly? What's your terminal or programming font of choice? Share it in the comments! I'm always up for some good suggestions.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Me again on Linuxreality...

The second part of my guest segment on the linuxreality podcast is up today. More Inkscape chatter from yours truly.

The new found fame I've enjoyed because of this is just wonderful. I did a photo shoot for Podcast&Ammo magazine just last weekend. Unfortunately it included a nude photo spread and the editor deemed it far too graphic to publish. For shame, the prudes.


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Mahalo Daily Trailer - Very Sharp

I'm not sure about the idea of people-powered search. But maybe Jason Calacanis should stick to video trailer production instead. This intro video for the new Mahalo Daily video podcast was very good. The part with Alex Albrecht was genius.

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Make My Logo Bigger Cream.. and more!

Stuck with a crappy graphic designer? Say goodbye to all your worries with easy to apply "Make My Logo Bigger Cream". Big improvements with only one application. And there are lots of other deals to be had too, like "Whitespace Eliminator Spray" and more.

This company could put many hard working designers out of business. :)

ps. The look on the designer's face when confronted with "Flouresencizer" is priceless.

Check out all of these wonderful products right here.


[via boagworld]

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Top Gear Kicks Butt - Bugatti vs. Eurofighter Typhoon

While not one of my normal topics, I have to say that Top Gear is an absolute kickass show (and magazine). Very high quality production and always a gem to watch. Alas, I don't get the BBC channel at home, so much of my watching comes via YouTube.

Anyway, this race between a Bugatti Veyron and a Eurofighter Typhoon jet is a good indicator of how entertaining this program can be. Very nicely done and I won't tell you who wins the race. You'll have to watch! :)

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Liquid Rescaling - Very Cool.

Saw this excellent and interesting demo of something dubbed 'Liquid Rescaling'. In essence it allows you to stretch or compress an image but keeps some semblance of proportion for the objects within the image. It's hard to describe but imagine you had a 4x6 image, but there was an ugly garbage can on the right hand side. With this tool, you could crop off the right 2 inches (leaving you with a 4x4 image) but then stretch it back to 4x6 *without* fattening up the people in the picture.

It uses algorithms to detect areas in the photo where it can stretch while minimizing distortion. It's really quite neat. Even neater is the fact that there is a plugin for the GIMP which uses the tool. If you watch the demo you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

I also believe that there is no equivalent tool in the beloved Photoshop that does this. ;)

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Monday, October 29, 2007

I'll take a new Ruby logo and a thick skin please...

I've entered a few logo contests in the past just for fun. It's been a creative outlet for me and always ends up being a learning experience as well. But today I came across the winner of the Ruby logo contest. It's definitely not what I would have picked as the winner, but over and above that, I'm glad I never knew about the contest - especially if I got the 'shoe-ing' that the winner seemed to get in the comments to the winning results post.

I'm simply not sure my skin would be thick enough.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Photographic Inspiration

I haven't done a lot of photography related posts lately. Unsurprisingly, that's because I haven't done a lot of photography lately. ;)

Not that I have lost interest mind you, but anybody who reads this blog regularly will know my interests shift around all the time. Sometimes it takes a little creative inspiration and awe to get me moving again on certain fronts. This gallery by Nick Brandt is just one of those things.

While his photographic subjects might be dramatic to start with (how often do you get to photograph lions, elephants and zebras in the wild?), his use of tone and somewhat dramatic burning and dodging techniques add a huge amount of drama to each and every image.

I've always been a fan of post-processing when it's well done; and in Nick Brandt's case, it sure is. And given the tools you get in the GIMP and Photoshop, applying these techniques to improve your own images is not so hard. I've always found John Arnold's Photowalkthrough tutorials to be incredibly useful in teaching techniques that can really enhance your post processing work.

Expect to see more photography related posts here in the future.

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So I want to create a font...

As I've likely mentioned before, I've been very interested in graphic design for the last little while and typography is one of the elements of design that I find most interesting. I've been humming and hawing over trying to create a font just for the heck of it. So I was quite happy to see the start of the So You Want To Create A Font series over at I installed FontForge on my system quite a while back and I'm looking forward to taking the font creation plunge.

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Photographic Observation

Over the past few months I have noticed something different in my neck of the woods. I do a lot of driving (commuting etc.) and a great deal of it is on back country roads north of Toronto (the area where I live). It is not uncommon to see the odd car pulled over on the shoulder with a dead battery, flat tire, child peeing in the bushes.. y'know, the usual. But lately, when I spot one of these cars, I look over further and see people with their digital SLR cameras across the ditch photographing some grazing horses, a majestic sunset or just a nice picturesque farmhouse scene. Sometimes they've even got tripods set up!

You can clearly see that almost all of them are not professionals (no big camera bags, or huge elaborate glass), but amateurs satisfying their passion and hobby on the way to and from work. Sometimes I'm almost tempted to pull over from the rat race and just chat them up about photography, but alas, my social skills are not that well developed I guess.

I'm not sure if it's just my own perception, but it seems like digital photography of the more serious kind is really on an upswing. Very nice to see.

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Mind your step...

Although as a parent, I'm twice removed from this situation  (I have only one child, and she's a 'she'), I did grow up as the younger of two boys, so  Tony Woodlief's post made me genuinely guffaw this morning. Mind your step. ;)

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

One for the Mac guys out there...

While I don't necessarily like Apple's relatively closed system. I do hold their designers (both industrial and graphic) in high regard. So why then does their new Leopard packaging remind me of a GeoCities webpage motif?

The problem with raising the bar is that you have to meet it every time after that.

Btw, I've watched the Leopard tour video just to see how the other half lives. I've got more thoughts on that to come, but one thing sticks out. Is it just me, or does the Aqua blue (or graphite) scroll bar just seem to stick out of their new interface like a very sore (and very shiny) thumb. I think the glass buttons for drop down lists etc. still look decent in the various dialog boxes, but when those scroll bars pop up on a general application window they just look completely out of place with the rest of the interface.

Have the aqua controls finally worn out their stay?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The True Future of Online Office Productivity

Screw Google Docs or Writely or whatever. Forget about ZohoWriter and MS-Office Online...

If you're looking for a truly awe-inspiring online word processor, look no further than WordPerhect.

You be pleasantly surprised by the advanced interface and a truckload of innovative features such as:

- the ability to write on a variety of media from the back of silver cigarette foil to a torn off strip of cardboard
- the ability to customize your writing instrument size
- the choice of colour (as long as it's black)
- the ability to save your documents, and even print your documents
- in the spirit of less is more, the delete key scratches out the previous character, there is no delete per se.

Make sure that you use your browser full screen since the highly advanced rendering engine will scale accordingly and enhance readability.

ps. The pop up dialog system will undoubtedly be the model for OS's in the future.


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The Dirty Car Art Gallery

Wow. Have you ever seen the Dirty Car Art Gallery. Absolutely amazing. I'm used to seeing what we call the old 'Charlie Weiber'.. which amounts to a simplified version of a portion of the male anatomy usually seen on the back windows of dirty white construction vans. This is a few million notches above that! :)

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Okay - now I'm officially famous... ;)

Several weeks back, Chess Griffin put the call out for contributors to a series of guest segments over at the fabulous LinuxReality podcast. A couple of weeks ago I pulled up my knickers and gave it a shot. If you're interested in some talk aimed at people who are new to Inkscape, you should check it out. My full recording was an hour with the intent that it be split into a two parter. Part 1 is now up as part of Episode 82. Thanks for the opportunity Chess!

After doing that recording, I have to say that I have a ton of respect for Chess and others. It was very tough. It took me a couple of awkward moments before I got into any sort of groove (if it even merits the term 'groove'). Chess, Dave Yates, and others do such a great job just to do it so naturally week in and week out. Props to all of you podcasters who make my commute so enjoyable!

Since I've now achieved fame (fortune not so much), I'll be signing autographs in my car outside the Burger King in the north end of Mississauga over the lunch hour. I think I'll spend the rest of the day bossing around heathenx to celebrate. ;)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Back on the StumbleUpon Wagon

About two and a half years ago I posted about StumbleUpon. After being a little bored with my feeds this weekend, I decided to get back on the SU wagon and give it another shot.

On the face of it, it doesn't appear to have changed much. I am however, finding it quite addictive. It seems to bring me to a ton of interesting and new sites. You might have noticed a short flurry of brief posts about some interesting stuff over the past couple of days. Those came from my Stumble'ing. In fact, I had to restrain myself from overposting. There were a ton of interesting sites, but I didn't want this blog to become a steady stream of regurgitated links. Still, I find many of the sites fascinating and I'll definitely share the odd one or five in between what will hopefully be more substantial and more consistent posts.

If you're keen on finding new and interesting sites in your own fields of interest, then StumbleUpon might be a great tool for you.

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My Graphic Love Affair with Design

For quite a while now I've been harbouring a lusty affair with design. Mostly of the graphic type. ;) My notebooks and Inkscape are an outlet for that (I'm due up for a new screencast big-time btw). 

A few months back I picked up Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton. A great book if you're interested in typography and text related design. Another great find was the September/October issue of Good magazine which focused on design (a very interesting magazine on the whole by the way). And just to round out the package, I recently subscribed to the I Love Typography blog which seems to have lots of interesting posts as well. They've got a presentation posted there with Ellen Lupton which I'll definitely watch when I get the chance.

So while there's not a lot of meat to this post, I just thought I'd share a few things in case any of you harbour the same illicit affair with design that I do. ;)

Do you harbour a love affair with something unrelated to what it is you do everyday for money?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Useful tool for downloading/converting online videos

Another quick link, (this time somewhat useful) ;)

If you want to download online streaming videos to your pc, you could try A very simple (and pretty) dialog box awaits you there. You enter the URL to the video (like a youtube link) and then check off which conversion you want to download. One nice thing that I found useful is that they will provide an audio (mp3) version of a streaming video. Many times there are presentations and things that I find interesting, but I end up wanting to listen to them in the car during my commute instead of watching them. I could always do the conversion to extract the audio myself, but this might prove simpler. It appears to be free but I believe they offer up a 3x speed increase with a paid version.

The conversions available are .wmv, .mov, .mp4, .3gp, .mp3 and .flv. I tried it with a couple of our Inkscape YouTube vids and it seemed to work flawlessly - I've only tried the mp3 and flv conversions. But of course, as with just about everything online, you spins the wheel and takes your chances. ;)

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The Eight Irresistable Principles of Fun

If you're anything like me, there are times when you get in a rut, creatively or personally. If you need a quick kick in the pants or just something to pick you up and get you on your way again, check out The Eight Irresistable Principles of Fun.

It's not anything too nutty or pie in the sky. Just a very well done and attractive presentation with eight very common sense principles. I probably violate every one of them at one time or another - but also hold each and everyone of them in high regard.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Beautiful Flash Toy

From the land of completely pointless, but simply beautiful flash animation demo's, check out:

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Lady Loves me...

Have I ever mentioned the fact that my almost-6 year old daughter has a thing for Elvis?

Turns out she's fascinated by Elvis.. well more accurately, Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa-Marie.

I find myself answering a flurry of questions... Why was he called 'The King'? Was Priscilla the Queen? How did get so fat? Why are all those ladies screaming?

Turns out she also loves the YouTube. The YouTube has the Elvis. Actually, it has an untold number of Elvis and Priscilla slideshows set to music and snippets of concert footage. Turns out Elvis Fans have figured out The YouTube too!

So I've steered her away from Bratz, only been to Build-A-Bear-Empty-A-Wallet once. Kept her on the straight and narrow so far. And the fact that she prefers the young handsome Elvis to the old fat sweaty one makes it that much easier to live with.

Elvis movies are the next wave. While in Vegas a few weeks back, we picked up a VHS copy of Viva Las Vegas for her. It's wearing thin after about 40 plays (seriously). We know the words to "The Lady Loves Me" almost completely. Which in itself leads to more questions like: What is Russian Roulette?, What is a moonlight tete a tete? What is playing hard to get?

We signed out Blue Hawaii from the library only last week in a bid for some sanity.

However, if I have learned one thing during this stage of fatherhood, it is this....

Ann Margret was indeed the hotness... ;)


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FSF, GNU sites updated -&gt; butt-ugly 2.0

I just read an article about the improved navigation and appearance of the, and the Free Software Directory sites. Good news since I've always found them to be antiquated looking and a general mess. I decided to go and check them out.

While they may be an improvement in a navigational sense, I'd say the appearance improvement is very very marginal. They're still ugly. And it's frustrating to me.

I'm sorry, but I don't care if you are a non-commercial entity, there are thousands of free software users out there who are talented web designers (I'm not one of them) and who would be happy as a clams to provide some guidance and help on site design. As it stands, I still think they're a mess. I'd love to point somebody to these sites and be proud. I can't. I'm not sure if it's the font choices, the colour schemes, layout or all three. But definitely something is missing.

And I'm not talking about rounded corners and earthy tones. The Free Software directory has that. But it also has mixed up font styles and a very primitive looking blog template. The search box looks like something I'd design (and that's likely not very good).

C'mon FSF and GNU. I realize the content is the important thing, but so is image. We're talking about software, technology and freedom. You want to inspire people into understanding the message. It's hard to do that with an uninspiring series of websites.

And one other thing. Call me a freedom hater if you want, but I can't stand that GNU logo. I don't like it and never have. I'm no big fan of the whole penguin thing, but it's tolerable. But the GNU? No way. Sorry. I don't care who designed it. It's simply unappealing. They should change it.

Am I just a raving freedom-hater? What do you think?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Facebook Funk

Looks now as if Scoble is done evangelizing Facebook. Hehe. I'm still scratching my head over why everyone's making such a big deal of it. I still find it only to be a marginally interesting nuisance. A place for old friends to pop out of the woodwork and that's pretty much it. Putting apps on it has done nothing but force my interest elsewhere.

But at least Robert seems to have no qualms about expressing his regret,

"Damn I wish I hadn’t locked my rolodex in this trunk."

 Most know-it-all web mavens would likely just start ignoring it and never admit they might have been wrong about something to start with.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Microsoft Death Spasms - or is Steve Ballmer just in panic mode?

Is it just me, or does Microsoft seem to flailing about quite a bit lately?

They are sure kicking up a lot of fuss over an open operating system and open-source ethos that not long ago they would have liked you to think didn't even exist on their radar.

And Linux / FOSS marches inexorably onward.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Excuse for a big arse pumpkin photo

Big Arse Pumpkin

As you might be able to tell from the sporadic posting here (not that I've ever been prolific) and the lack of screencasts coming from me lately (thankfully heathenx has stepped up to the plate numerous times), I'm just swamped lately - hopefully I'll be able to get things a little more under control soon.

But on a more positive note, on my way into Newmarket yesterday I managed to capture this pic with my otherwise seldom-used cameraphone. That, my friends is one big arse pumpkin. You think I'm busy... imagine the poor guy who's gotta carve that sucker. :)

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Friday, October 05, 2007

It's Uncanny

This post about surviving a task explosion is exactly what I need at the moment...

... now if only I could find the time to read it. :)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

You guys must be deef...

Popular blogger complains about attention-seeking bloggers gaming a system that is developed to funnel even more attention to yet other attention-seeking bloggers. Another allegedly attention-seeking blogger complains that by complaining, the popular blogger is himself seeking attention and gaming the system.

Phew!! Where the hell is a kickass Kent Newsome rant when you need it???

I already said it was missing the point. I say we send them all to the back of the class for not paying attention.


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Personal Aspects of Space Travel and Shooting Stars

Here's a good explanation of one of the more mundane aspects of space travel... and you'll learn something surprising about shooting stars along the way too:

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Notecase - A Clean and Simple Outliner

Whenever I've looked for a nice clean and simple outliner for Windows or Linux, I've never come up with something that has satisfied me. They either end up being too complex or too.. I dunno.. wacky for my tastes.  I know that a lot of Mac-heads swear by OmniOutliner, but I don't have a Mac.

Alas, my search seems to be over. I came across NoteCase a while ago and have used it for the last couple of weeks. It's a clean and simple 2-pane outliner written in C and Gtk. It's free and open-source software released under BSD license. It does exactly what I want it to do, build a clean and simple outline with no-fuss and no-muss. It also does things like export outlines to html and text file formats. NoteCase will even export to an .exe file which I believe just creates a standalone instance of NoteCase itself, preloaded with the outline you've exported. Nice.

It has all the node editing features you'd likely expect, along with standard text formatting, search and replace, and date/time insertion features. The current version is 1.6.9.

All in all it's a simple, fast and clean outlining program - exactly what I've been looking for. Check your distro's repositories for it, or go here for the different downloads that are available.

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Missing the Point

As a non-professional blogger (ha! couldn't ya tell..) and sometimes screencaster, maybe I'm completely unqualified to judge, but I think a new Top 100 (or an old Top 100 for that matter) completely misses the point of blogs, podcasts and the web...

The power of the internet is niche information. Build me a better search and recommendation engine and I am invincible!

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Must-Listen Interview about the Future of Software and other things...

I spotted an interesting post about an interview done with Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the Free Software Foundation. The title of the post was interesting enough, "The inevitability of free software", however I've written before about how smart and passionate Eben Moglen is, and after listening to an mp3 of the interview, I have to say I was not disappointed.

While the interview was fascinating from start to finish, his views on the future of the software industry were a lot less rosey and idealistic than I was expecting. Of course he contends that the old models of proprietary software manufacture (like Microsoft) will die out, but he also predicts a landscape of freely available software being produced by millions (if not billions) young people the world over, not a relatively small group of high-minded rich programmers in the US destined for early retirement. The high-level, money making task it seems is not in the software production and design, but in the 'editing' of the newly commoditized software landscape. That is, taking the raw materials and forming practical and palatable solutions for corporate and consumer consumption. Adding value is the thing. He illustrates it with IBM. He says they are well on their way. They are commoditizing all the software they can and concentrating on their high margin/ high-value added items instead.

There has long been discussion about how free software developers are supposed to make money. Maybe they're not. I remember an interview on TLLTS where Richard Stallman is  confronted with this question. And if I remember correctly, I think he said the same thing.. 'maybe they're not'.

And while this undoubtedly won't sit well with many free software developers (or software developers in general), it may be the inevitable truth in the long run. Does the western world have some divine right to software technology production? Perhaps it (the western world) just has to move on to something else - something further up the chain.

I've been mulling over a prospective blog post in a similar vein for a month or two now. Maybe traditional journalists will go the way of the Dodo Bird. Maybe free software programmers are not supposed to make money doing it. As technology develops, certain careers fall by the wayside. What about secretaries? What about professional photographers? What about professional graphic designers? Are any of these things sacred? Maybe not. Maybe those people have to find other ways to make a living in the future. Time passes, things change, and being a stubborn optimist, I think we, as a whole, move forward. But I digress... that post is still simmering.. ;)

One final fascinating thing in the interview was Moglen's distinction between functional and non-functional digitial goods. Functional meaning things like  data collections, algorithmic systems, blueprints, software and the like which can be judged on their functionality. Whereas non-functional digital goods are things like music, art, movies, literary works etc. whose evaluation is subjective in nature. He proposes that  the quality of functional commodities improves when no-one is excluded from producing it (eg. free and open-source software) so rights restrictions on these things inherently limits quality. However he states that non-functional digital good (music, art etc.) will not necessarily be better or worse depending on how they are limited in terms of rights - so whether or not these rights are limited makes little difference.

Now I'll stop pretending to know all of the intricacies of these issues. Do yourself a favour and listen to it. It's the most interesting 45 minutes I've spent in a long while.

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Is Google Reader really slow to refresh feeds?

Anybody have any idea why my blog posts are taking so long to show up in Google Reader? It took about 5 hours yesterday for a couple of my posts to show up. This morning for instance I made a couple of hours ago. It shows up in Bloglines, but still nothing in Google Reader.

And also, I think that posts I make on Wordpress (at come into GReader a lot quicker too. You'd think that since Blogger and Greader are both Google, they'd have them working well together.

I'd be interested in hearing from other Google Reader users. How long do you have to wait until your posts show up in GReader?

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Another question about customizing XP...

Okay. So it's almost 6 years since Windows XP first shipped. And you mean to tell me that no one has developed a free utility to customize the desktop right-click context menu?

Using Openbox has spoiled me. I thought for sure something would be out there for use on my XP machine here at work. I'd even do a registry hack. There are fixes for modifying the context menu on files and folders, but not on the desktop as far as I can tell. Please someone... tell me I'm wrong. Show me the way...

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Young Engineers

This was very very cool and not what I expected....

Nice Idea - For more funny movies, click here

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Here's a menu entry you don't see every day..

I've been playing around with Foxit for a couple of days as my default PDF reader tool on my XP machine at work. It's got a little self-advertisement up on the top right touting additional features of the paid versions (I assume). Wonder of wonders, but there is actually a simple checkbox in the view menu to get rid of it. Nice! Check out the screenshot below:

sshot_adtoggle.png picture by rfq

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Mystery System Tray Icon - anybody recognize it?

Anybody know what this icon is in my system tray? When I hover over it, it only displays that it's downloading updates (10%) but the percentage never changes. Left-clicking or right-clicking on the icon does absolutely nothing. I've opened up Windows Task Manager to see what it might be, but I can't spot anything too suspicious. It looks like a shield but I uninstalled McAfee months ago and also recently uninstalled the horribly bloated Adobe Reader 8.1 (Foxit Baby!).

Anybody recognize this tray icon? What the hell is it, and how can I get rid of it?

mysteryicon.jpg picture by rfq

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Are you trying to illustrate some important world changing idea? Or just want to show the world you're the next xkcd or the next Hugh Macleod?

Check out Sketchcast.

BTW - man do I miss not having my Wacom Tablet at work. ;)

[via Drawn!]

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Microsoft, Apple and the inevitability of openness

Tom Raftery thinks that Microsoft will Open Source Windows (or die!). While I agree with Tom that open source is a better model in a lot of ways, I'm not sure if any of them appeal to Redmond.

I don't think Microsoft will ever open-source Windows. Not because it wouldn't make for a faster moving, better product, but it forces Microsoft to lose something they hold quite dearly... control. Interestingly, Apple has banked on 'control' even more heavily and are reaping rewards from it (for now anyway).

Tom writes about the benefits of open source:

"With open source development, you are getting the “Wisdom of Crowds” -
the more people involved in the development, the better the end-result"

There are a *lot* of people who would disagree with that statement, although I'm not necessarily one of them. One of the problems with open source development is the scattering of resources and lack of focus. In my opinion it is a good thing to have a BDFL (benevolent dictator for life) type of arrangement within an open source project. Design by committee doesn't always work too well when it comes to making a better product for the consumer. You need to have someone with focus (like Mr. Jobs at Apple), but without all the pomp and circumstance.

It is interesting to watch the Apple model. They try to lock you in at
every step. And while that keeps me away from Apple, I have to say, it
makes things work a lot smoother for them. They design software for
their device and nothing else. They have a focused design philosophy
which is envied by a lot of people. Is it always the best design? Not
in my opinion. But it does make for consistency.

One point Tom makes that I've always felt is more powerful than a lot of people realize is:

"In open source projects the code is written by people who self-select for jobs they have an interest/skillset in"

You have people who are doing things because they enjoy them. They're specialists by default. Imagine having your workplace filled by people who all want to be there. Who all want to make the best stuff they can. This is what can make for a better product. It also makes for stubborn people who won't just give up. That is why open-source is not going away any time soon.

I think the growth of the open-source philosophy is inevitable. Apple can try as it might to produce finely designed and overpriced products that lock you into their system. Microsoft can keep heading down the road to forced upgrades that nobody really wants or needs. There is simply nothing compelling to me about either company's products. But still open-source marches on. And not just on the Linux front. Look at Google. Look at OpenOffice. Look at Firefox. Look at Flickr. It ain't going away, and it ain't slowing down. And neither Redmond, nor Cupertino can stop it.

While I don't think Microsoft will open-source their OS, they had better wake up and do something soon before they become even more irrelevant.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

For Gnome fans trapped in XP

For the last month or so, I've been running Openbox on my Ubuntu Feisty home system. I like the simplicity and speed of it. It takes a little more manual work to customize it, but then again you end up with a system that works the way you want it. It's like taking a standard desktop environment like Gnome and removing (or hiding) all the bits that are not important to what it is you do every day. Eliminate the fluff, so to speak. I run a very sharp and slick looking Murrina-type theme on it. I don't bounce around between a lot of different themes, but I have to say that the Murrina style themes are definitely my favourite.

Anyway, at work I'm stuck on XP-Pro. I do have Virtualbox installed to run a virtual environment that is pretty much the same as my Linux box at home (Openbox on Fiesty etc.). And for probably a year now, I've ran a Gnome theme in XP on my work box to at least make it a little more homey ;).

Today however, I came across WinGNOME-XP on deviantART which is a project that aims to provide various resources to allow users to experience a consistent Gnome-type desktop environment on Windows XP. I'll sign up for that!

Of course the project is just getting organized, so there are only a couple of things available so far. One neat utility is the Tango Patcher which will replace or revise your system resources to provide icon themes based on various Linux projects (basic Tango, Tangerine, Suse Industrial Theme, Gnome 2.0 theme..). I ran it on my system and it seemed to work fine - although like any utilities of this type, it's caveat emptor.

I also downloaded and installed the MurrinaFancyClearlooks theme which finally got my windows controls looking somewhat like my home box.

It ain't perfect, but at least I can now be somewhat happy with the look and feel of the XP box I have to spend all day with. Here's what it looks like now:

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Flock revisited... nearing my happy place.

As a follow-on to the comments for my previous post, I was not having any luck finding a blogging tool for Linux that would allow me to upload photos to my blog (curs-ed Blogger API!). So I decided to give Flock another shot. I knew they had updated their release a few months back and thought I'd check it out again. I first checked it out quickly on my XP box at work. The early beta version of Flock that I had tried when it first came out seemed to be crippled when I tried to use it from work (proxy, naughty proxy). But this time out I was very pleasantly surprised to see the blogging and Flickr aspects working smoothly. Now, the question was, how was the Linux version....

Naturally I'm extremely impatient when it comes to things like this, so having Feisty installed here at work on Virtualbox is a very nice thing. I booted up the VM, downloaded the Flock setup package for Linux and got down to work... Following their dead simple instructions for Linux installation in the FAQ, it was up and running in about 2 minutes. Very very smooth. Very slick. Granted, this is my first official post using it, but it does seem to run every bit as well on Feisty in a VM as it does on native XP-pro.

The compromise it seems is that to get photos into my post (no Flock can't directly upload files to Blogger either), I'll have to use Flickr. The bonus is that Flickr is so nicely integrated into the Flock browser that it becomes very very painless for me to do that. Normally I'd have to be switching back and forth between Flickr and Blogger to coordinate things. With Flock it appears to be very simple. The photos appear in a bar along the top of my browser, I right click the one I want and up it pops in a very slick and simple blog post editor.

The blog post editor itself allows me to do tagging (very important - since gmail-ing posts in doesn't allow tagging), edit the source, preview the post and of course insert links, lists, and does indentation. All very basic, but all very slick. I can easily right click the images that I've inserted from Flickr and change the image title, alt-text and alignment. Also wonderful is that I can just drag and resize the images. I can also save drafts of posts. Not sure yet where those are kept (online or locally).

Keep in mind that I'm saying all this before actually hitting the publish button. It could all go very very wrong....

But for those on Linux (or Windows or Mac) posting to other platforms like Wordpress or whatever, you might find the latest Flock browser to be very useful indeed. It might be a little too feature-rich for when you just want to do some quick and dirty web browsing, but I have to say, it's significantly improved from when I first tried it out.

Expect more spouting off about Flock on Linux if things go well.

Blogged with Flock

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wysiwyg Blogging Tools for Linux... Suggestions?

Upon reading Earl Moore's recent photo posting, I commented to him that I liked the layout of the post and asked him if he did it all manually. While it was not a fully automatic solution, he mentioned that he used Ecto to do the post. And that of course, got me thinking....

I've never thought of using a dedicated blogging tool. Normally I either compose my posts in Gmail and email them in, enter them right in Blogger's online editor, or when I'm feeling all manly, I get bareknuckled and compose them using html in gVim. But my recent experience with Jottit and it's dual paned wysiwyg html editor made me think that a nice wysiwyg blogging tool would be of great use to me.

My fingers danced across the keyboard asking the great Google oracle to show me all the wonderful free and open-source blogging clients for Linux... pfft! Turns out it is very very slim pickin's when it comes to wysiwyg blogging tools for Linux.

There's BloGTK, but it hasn't been updated since 2005 (might give it a try), and Drivel, which seems simple enough but is not wysiwyg. There's also Bleezer - which is cross-platform because it's java-based (I'm not a big java app fan) but supposedly it doesn't support image-uploading to the new Blogger, which is a deal-breaker for me. And there's not much else. Maybe Linux developers feel comfortable enouigh sprinkling html tags here and there that it just isn't a priority.

I dare say that wysiwyg blogging tools for Linux are second only to quality consumer video editing applications for Linux in scarcity. ;)

Mind you, I could get off my duff and put my rudimentary knowledge of python to some good use. Yeah sure.. that's just what I need - some other blind alley to wander off into....

Any Linux users out there had any luck with wysiwyg blogging tools?

A very cool low-tech site - and it's Post 500!!

Bill Westerman's utilware site is cool. There is no RSS feed. The layout is simple, clean and interesting. The site is different than a lot of others because while it's modern and unique, he hasn't used any flash (I think). It's navigation is kind of book-like in that you can flip through page by page if you like, or refer to his table of contents - and it's in a horizontal layout. There is nothing 'below the fold', since there is no 'fold'.

He's got some interesting writing there on a variety of tech-bent topics. He's developed a GSD (Getting Shit Done) methodology which is 'brutally simple' and 'doesn't require a lot of forethought or planning'. Right up my alley. Lately he's into pen and paper, something I can definitely relate to.

Anyway, it would be nice to have him in my RSS reader, but then again, I'd miss the wonderful-ness of his site if he had a feed. It's definitely worth a visit.

On another, unrelated note, this is my 500th post here on Renaissance Man. I was thinking of doing up a full-on well thought out meaty post on some heady topic, and then realized this would break with tradition! :) - and likely jarr my few regular readers.

In any case, if you are one of my few regular readers, a truly heartfelt thanks for your patronage and be happy in the fact that there's simply nowhere for this blog to go but up! :)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Watch out you Yanks!

Today, for the first time in over 30 years, the Canadian Dollar became on-par with the US Dollar.

Co-worker asks ' Does that mean I can pay the US price for books at Chapters now? '

Heh... yeah sure. Right after our gas prices fall 20% to come in line for what they're paying at US pumps. ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Google Docs does Online Presentations - but no OpenOffice Impress support yet...

Tom Raftery notes that Google Docs now does online presentations. Sadly, right now, those brandishing Keynote or OpenOffice Impress presentations (.odp files) are out of luck as far as importing existing files.

I'm back teaching a college course part-time right now, and the way I've done it for the last few years is to use a Powerpoint presentation for the lecture (it's what they run on their media machines - no getting around it at the moment) and also provide printed handouts at the beginning of each class so they don't spend their time copying down notes.

But maybe this could provide an alternative means for students to get the notes. I could publish these for online viewing. Or better yet, start a free blog with links to each week's presentation viewable online using Google Docs. I've wanted to do this in the past but didn't like the idea of hosting pdf files or ppt files for download.

Also noteworthy is that they give you the option of downloading a zip file of the presentation. This file actually contains an html file and all the folders and media files so that you can view it in your browser locally (offline).

Because there doesn't seem to be a way to export the file to ppt, odp or anything editable at the moment, I'll likely end up using it just to make versions for online viewing.

To check out the simplicity of the online viewer, you can check out my Week 1 presentation right here. Be careful you don't fall asleep watching it - the first week is almost always a snoozer.

Anybody got any bright ideas on how to make use of Google's new Online Presentations?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jottit - a potentially useful web app. Finally!

I no longer Twitter, tweet or whatever it's called these days.
Me no Jaiku.
No hablo el Facebook. (except to read the odd personal message from long lost high-school acquaintances).
Pownce (Tell me again.. why?)

But Jottit does seem to be (potentially) fun and useful. From what I can tell:

- editable pages with static addresses
- simple simple simple
- two pane text editor is fricking brilliant!! Blogger(tm) - Are you paying attention!??!
- public or private
- editing history - wiki style note-taking anyone?
- simple simple simple
- web 2.0 gradient-free
- simple simple simple!
- NOT built upon a requirement to socially network! Aaargh.. thank you!

Jotit seems potentially useful. How novel. :)

Click here to visit my baby-steppin' Jottit page.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Now there's something you don't read about every day...

Tom Raftery is using his Vista laptop more than his MacBook Pro. He supposes that the ClearType font rendering is making screen reading easier on his eyes.

The tech blogging space seems so pro-Mac / anti-Vista these days. Talk about walking around with a bullseye on your back. ;)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Google Reader finally gets search, Humber College gets Google Apps and I'm looking to ditch Powerpoint

Google Reader finally get's a search box!  Hooray!! I think that this is definitely a big deal. It will change the way I use GReader. No more going to Google's blog search or to Technorati to find posts I need to recall. It's about fricking time! :)

I start teaching again this Saturday (materials and methods of construction to architectural technologists) at Humber College. Turns out Humber has now moved to Google Apps (check it out here).

Now if only I could get away from using Powerpoint to do my weekly lectures. Sure, I do most of the setup work using OpenOffice, but I always have to double-check formatting and stuff with Powerpoint since that is what's installed on the college machines we use for presentations. You don't want to learn from someone who has fonts running off the side of the screen do you? :)

Incidentally, if you want to see a presentation ninja in action, you really should check this out (via Chris Brogan).