BLOG - THOUGHTS ON TECHNOLOGY & LIFE

Category Archive

My technology week from hell

So, usually I love technology. Usually I rant and rave about how it makes my life easier and how I’m able to do so many great things with technology that my friends just can’t understand.

Not this week.

Last weekend, I went back home for the Australia Day long weekend, which was fantastic — catching up with friends and family for the last time before I’ll head back to Uni. While I was away, I did some package updates on my server in Sydney which I use as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, as well as an internal VoIP server. Primarily I updated some NFS (networked file system) packages, thinking that it was the right thing to do — of course which it usually is.

When I returned back to Sydney, my MacBook died on the Monday I returned within hours of me walking in the door. .Mac, which is temperamental at the best of times, failed to sync my iCal calendars properly (while successfully syncing everything else), so I’ve got no recent copy of my calendars — which has left me without any idea of what I’m specifically doing this week.

So, I’ve been using my old PowerBook G4 as a portable machine once again. Unfortunately though, my NFS server has broken (due to what I think is the package updates I did) and so iTunes doesn’t work because my entire library is stored on my NAS which has made it difficult to listen to my favourite podcasts and downloading music from the iTunes store.

Right now, I’m waiting for people who are smarter than I, to write back to my posts in the great linuxquestions.org forums. My MacBook is in the AppleCentre Service Department at Broadway (thank goodness for the 1 year warranty with all Apple products), and I probably won’t get it back for a few weeks judging by the experience of a friend who took his MacPro in to the same centre recently.

At least I’m not totally cut off from the world – my PowerBook is still going strong, even with a short battery life these days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post in a week and thank a whole bunch of people from LQ’s and the AppleCentre for their support – but right now, I’ll just sit tight and hope for the best.

-james

No Comments »

Apple partners with Quiksilver for free iTunes

Recently, in the TRACKS surfing magazine I was interested to find the following iTunes card bundled inside the front cover.

iTunes Card - Quiksilver

Previously, I’d only ever seen cards like these at the Back-to-Uni promotions that Apple runs at Uni Campuses around the country. Apple and Quiksilver created a unique partnership here where both companies gain exposure, but also have allowed me to find some really great music, for free. While I don’t like all of the 17 tracks that came with the iTunes card, some of them are great listening material and certainly worth the $0.00 I payed for them (minus for the broadband connection of course).

I think partnerships like these are an exciting prospect for the future of the iTunes store, especially as it increasingly moves into the iTunes Plus – non DRM space (which, incidentally, I’m loving more and more). My guess is that the typical reader of Tracks magazine is not a typical iTunes, or computer user, and this deal is a great hook to get people interested in purchasing music online.

Quiksilver - Store cropped
Click on the image for a larger screen shot of the iTunes store Quiksilver checkout page.

I’m curious to know if Apple and other partners will create more opportunities like these. I’m wondering who paid for the music that I, and many others, downloaded. Apple probably made this deal a loss-leader but I’m not sure what Quiksilver did to get this deal – maybe just promotion of their DVD or maybe just brand awareness.
Regardless, free music is great, especially when it is as easy as typing in a short code to get.

-james

No Comments »

Review: Windows Remote Desktop Client for Mac 2.0 (beta)

As many mac users would know (even though we hate to admit it) there are sometimes where we need to run a Windows based application. Most recently for me, this has been the application to submit my tax return to the government. For recent mac purchasers, this problem has been solved with solutions like Boot Camp, Parallels and Fusion, but for old-timers like me who haven’t made the switch to an Intel based mac yet, we still have to have a Windows PC around or go through the painful virtulisation software that is available to run Windows on our PowerPC CPU’s.
However, there’s one other solution that has been great for me, and that is the ability to use my Windows based PC (back in my parents house) remotely through the Remote Desktop Server/Client setup. Thankfully, Microsoft has recently released a beta of the client, which offers quite a few new features over the previous version, and a couple of things that I’d like to see changed.

Universal Binary

This is really a no brainer, but an important step-up from the PowerPC only version that preceeded the new beta.

Built for the Mac

Unlike the previous version (1.6), the 2.0 beta has been intergrated nicely with the Mac OS X user interface and experience. There’s now an option to go Full Screen, and like in DVD player, the menu bar pops out when you place your cursor at the top of the screen to allow you to drop back to the normal size. You can also resize the window and the remote desktop will scale accordingly.
The added functionality of a preference pane, and the inclusion of the default shortcut of Cmd+, is also worth a mention. Within the preferences, they’ve grouped everything under tabs, similar to the previous iteration of the software, but with far more added functionality. The keyboard mapping feature has been updated and makes for a Mac to Windows transition a breeze.
RDC_Preferences
The brand new Preferences pane which adds some great functionality to the RDC client.
RDC_KeyboardMapping
Keyboard Mapping features

A new Connection Window

While a minor change, the new connection window has taken receipt of a new Vista-like graphic. Unfortunately, it looses the ‘Options’ disclosure triange which allowed for a user to quickly change the information about the connection they were about to establish. This selection has been moved to the Preferences pane, but it would have been nice to see it in both locations for better ease of use.
RDC_1.6_Connection
The old Remote Desktop Connection Window
RDC_2.0_Connection
A refreshed RDC 2.0 (beta) screen.

As you can see above, Microsoft has followed Apple’s lead with the UI design by doing away with the brushed metal look and going for the gradient look now found in iTunes and several other Mac applications.

Other Features

Microsoft also claims a host of other features, most of which I haven’t been able to try out but some are worth a mention here.

  • Multiple Sessions
    Lets you connect to multiple Windows-based computers at the same time.
  • Improved Printing Support
  • Remote Desktop Protocol 6.0
    Allows for connections to Windows Vista machines

Stability

Despite being a beta product, I’ve found this version to be very stable. I’ve only had one crash which occourred when I closed the connected session window by clicking on the red button at the top left corner of the window. The scaling works extremely well, and moving from window to full screen view makes for no trouble at all. Microsoft seems to have worked hard on this, all-be-it light weight, application, making sure that stability hasn’t been compromised with the addition of more Mac like features that the end-user will no doubt take advantage of.

If you’ve used the RDC client for Mac in the past, I highly recommend you get the latest beta. It’s a much needed overhaul to a robust application that has served me very well over the past 2 and a half years since I first got my PowerBook. The RDC Client for Mac beta is available from Mactopia at http://www.microsoft.com/mac/.

- james

No Comments »

iLife and iWork ’08 Preview

iLife 08 banner
I’m not going to say a lot about the new iLife and iWork yet, but it looks really awesome! It’s just another reason for anyone to switch from a PC to a Mac.
They seem to be pusing the new version of iPhoto quite a bit, from what I’ve seen and read, but I wont be using it since I’ll be getting aperture in the next few days. The new GarageBand looks great though, especially multi-take recording. When I can afford a good audio interface for my mac, I’ll have everything I’ll need to start recording demos for the band at church and iMovie adding support for AVCHD is great for a couple of friends who haven’t been able to edit video from their recently purchased camera until now.
Glenn Wolsey (a great blogger from New Zealand) talked about the new versions of iLife and iWork here. I’m sure he’ll write up something before I do about the new products as he’s already got them on order.
I’ve got a 3 hour product breifing/training session with Apple hopefully in the next few weeks, so I’ll rave on about the products after I learn the inside outs of the new versions of the software.
Until then, check out the video tour guide for iWork. It’s a great way of finding out what’s new and if it’s worth upgrading for you!

- james

1 Comment »

Live Earth and the iPhone

While looking a little over exposed, here’s me with an iPhone (with its all encompassing glow) while I was at Apple’s Australian HQ last week for some training as I take on the role as UTS Campus Rep. Naturally, the first thing I did was go to my very own website and checked out how it looked on Safari! If you look closely you can see a couple of the images I posted in my blog on Hillsong Conference 2007.
iPhone hands on

Meanwhile, I also attended Live Earth in Sydney for free (thanks again to 2Threads). You can check out my photos as usual on my flickr account or in my gallery. It was awesome seeing Crowded House for the first time live, and John Butler Trio were pretty amazing too.

-james

1 Comment »

Twitterific 2.0beta

I just downloaded Twitterific 2.0 beta 4, so I just thought I’d give a quick run down on my impressions.

At the moment, I can’t see too many differences from what I’ve seen with 1.1, except I’m getting an error sometimes saying it can’t connect to the xml feed – but that could be a problem with my router as well (it does some weird things from time to time).

If you don’t know what Twitter is visit www.twitter.com and have a look. If you’re a mac user and using Twitter – Twitterific makes a great way to get updated via twitter. I also use Adium and my gmail/gtalk jabber account to keep track of everything.

You can add me as a Twitter friend with the username jamesk5. Let me know if you’re using Twitter (and the 2.0 beta) and what you think of it!

Update: I’ve just changed my Twitter username to jameskirsop to make it easier for people to find me.

-james

No Comments »

OpenSource Software for MacOSX

Thanks to a story on Digg I’ve come across some fantastic software for MacOSX that’s open source, easy to use and a good add-on to make my life a little easier on my PowerBook. It turns out that a few of my readers use the OSX platform (more than I would have thought), so hopefully you’ll find these programs useful!
OpenSoft Development is a relatively new development house, started by Dustin Bachrach that writes software for MacOSX and releases it free and Open Source under the GPL.
The 4 pieces of software that have been released are all really fantastic and fit perfectly in to a traditional MacOSX users expectations of integration. While I think some further development and polishing needs to be done on QuickTunes and DiggUpdate, this guy is certainly on the right path to writing some great software. I’ve found QuickTunes and DiggUpdate a bit slow to respond to mouse clicks and QuickTunes increases the pause between songs which is quite annoying for me when I’m listening to a series of continuing tracks like those from a live concert.
ToDo’s, an application launcher, is a fantastic idea, and is something I can see my self using quite alot. While I’ve used spotlight in the past to search for and launch programs, this app, with its shortcut key combination makes life a breeze when trying to find an application that you want to open that’s not not in the dock.
If you’re on a Mac, running 10.4 I strongly recommend that you try out these apps. They’re a great addition to any Mac users tool kit who either has alot of programs that they use frequently, likes listening to music while working or likes having the latest news just a click away!

Over at the MacDev Center, there’s been a great article written by Matthew Russell about OpenSource software for the mac. Recommendations in some main categories (eg. mail and internet applications) are given on opensource, free and commercial applications, with some great free replacements for some of the software you’d usually consider buying.

Thanks again to all the people visiting from the Sydney Morning Herald website. I’ve had more unique visitors than I think I’ve had for a good portion of the year. If you’ve got comments, suggestions or ideas for my blog please drop me a link at james[dot]kirsop[at]gmail[dot]com. I’ll reply to you on a different address, I use my gmail account as a spam filter to some degree – mainly because I can’t send outbound email using Mail on MacOSX. If you’ve got it working, please drop me a line.
-james

1 Comment »