Fiat Lux

It's Latin for 'Let there be Light'

Spring Cleaning, Geek-Style

With Spring in the air I’ve been making some changes (or trying to) on my personal technology use. It’s been a mixed bag of success, which leaves me currently caught in transition — not quite ready to let go of the old and not fully embracing the new.

First off, Chrome for Mac is at the point where it’s usable and I’m starting to switch over to it. As a browser, it lives up to its reports — fast, stripped down, easy to use. My bookmarks were easy to transfer, too. I don’t love how Chrome handles their bookmark display but I’m adjusting fairly easily. And I like the choice of themes, they are much nicer looking that the Firefox themes.

What’s been keeping me from full-out Chrome adoption is that I have a huge pile of passwords stored in Firefox and Xmarks and getting them ported over hasn’t worked. Some of my friends have told me that they should be portable, but so far I haven’t found the setting or application that will help me do it.

This raises the whole issue of password management. Like many people who try to be reasonably secure with my passwords, I have a lot of them and if I don’t visit a site frequently I don’t always remember what password I used. Hence I’ve gotten pretty dependent on tools to help me manage them all (which is also a possible source of insecurity, I know). I haven’t tried 1Password or LastPass yet but I probably should. (Got any suggestions?)

I expect I’ll make a full transition pretty soon but sometimes it’s just easier to open a page in Firefox than try to remember exactly what password I used for what site. So for now I’m still switching between the two.

I’ve also been giving Windows 7 a look. Boot Camp makes trying Win7 on my MacBook Pro pretty painless, so I created a new partition on my personal laptop and installed a copy.

It’s been a few years since Windows was my full-time OS and that was XP, so Win7 is a new experience. Microsoft has clearly done a lot of work on the OS and it’s a more visually-appealing OS these days. I’d be lying if I said I was enthusiastic about making a complete switch though. Having to re-buy all my software, unlearn all the keyboard shortcuts I rely on, and deal with a much more complex set of system settings (not to mention having to worry about viruses again) is not something I’m looking forward to.

Still, it’s been fun to play with something new, and there are a few games I had to give up when I went Mac that I’d like to be able to play again (if I ever have time!). I’ll keep testing & see how I feel after a little more time using it.

It could also be that if I had different hardware I’d feel a little differently — the MacBook Pro’s touchpad isn’t really designed for use with Windows and that’s giving me some issues. I’ve looked at a few Dell and Toshiba possibilities but given that this MBP is less thsn a year old, I’m not feeling the need to go out and buy a new laptop just now.

I’m also still stuck in transition on the phone front, carrying both the Nexus One and my Blackberry. The N1 is a really nice handheld computer and I like it a lot; I’ve gotten rid of my iPod Touch now that I have it. For e-mail though, I still can’t shake free of the Blackberry. The keyboard and Exchange integration are too good.

My deepest wish is that RIM would hurry up and put out a Flash-enabled phone with a big screen and a slider keyboard. I may have to suck it up and go with another solution though, because my much-loved old Curve has taken quite a beating these past 2 years and I’m not sure how much longer I can wait for a replacement for it. I know there will be a lot more options coming soon but I am finding it hard to be patient.

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Dear Apple – 1984 Called, They Want Their Video Back

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Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I should start out by noting that I, like a very significant number of my colleagues at Adobe, am a big fan of OS X and Apple products. I am typing this on the Macbook Pro I purchased for personal use. The MBP for work is sitting on a table nearby. There’s two iPods and an iPod Touch in this room as well. The only thing I use Windows for is some HR stuff that doesn’t run well on the Mac. In short, I love OS X and I hope to keep using it for a long time.

So from the point of view of someone who’s a fan of both the Apple and Adobe platforms, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the vitriol lobbed against Flash by my fellow Mac users. And if you read the blogosphere these days, you might come away thinking Adobe is on the verge of a massive route, driven into irrelevance by a horde of iPad-wielding HTML5 developers. And some in the media, who always love a good “X is going to kill Y” story line, are following suit.

The reality is somewhat different.

One thing that frequently (but not always) goes overlooked is that as much as this is a technology battle, it’s also a business one. Pushing as much content through the App Store as possible is great business for Apple; and honestly, I don’t blame them for wanting to build their App Store into a massive (and massively profitable) content juggernaut. It’s far friendlier to their margins than the hardware business, even with their premium pricing, so why not go for a platform play?

Where I take exception — and developers should too — is with Apple’s “my way or the highway” approach to development. Adobe’s Flash is a very high-profile victim of this approach right now, but we’re not the first nor are we the only one. And I really don’t understand how a bunch of developers committed to embracing the “open web” can turn right around and accept the massively closed structure that is the Apple ecosystem. Is it cognitive dissonance, or just Stockholm Syndrome? Is this really the same company who so famously embraced the image of shattering Big Brother’s image? How did Apple lose its way?

When I think about why all this matters, I think about my 10 year old niece. She doesn’t know (or care) what Flash is. All she knows is that she loves playing Webkinz, and every time I come over to visit, she wants to play it with me on my laptop. If I handed her an iPad, she’d want to play it there too, and she wouldn’t understand why she couldn’t. Yes, of course, I can buy her a bunch of other games on the App Store, but that’s not the same thing to her, and anyone who says that it is has clearly never withstood the wrath of a pre-teen. :)

Apple needs a reality check. Once you get outside the San Francisco to San Jose corridor, you’ll find very few people who know or care what HTML5 is. Most people who don’t do technology for a living find our high-geek holy wars incomprehensible and boring. They don’t want to be locked out of content, and they don’t want to be told they should spend money in the App Store just to conform to Apple’s vision of the internet. They just want to use the sites, view the videos, and play the games they’re used to.

Oh, and 90% of them do not run OS X.

Go back and watch that famous “1984” video again — because it seems to me that Apple has become the very thing they were fighting against back then.

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New Gadget Alert

New to me, that is. I recently adopted an iPod Touch from a friend who had upgraded to a Pre and didn’t want the Touch anymore. It came with me on my recent trip to NYC and I had a chance to put it through its paces pretty thoroughly along the way.

I like it quite a bit — for games, web browsing, and of course music. Battery life is decent (a cross-country flight didn’t even drain half the charge) and the screen is lovely. But I am still glad that I didn’t get an iPhone. The iPod’s virtual keyboard does not even come close to being as good as a real keyboard and I’d go nuts trying to manage my email with it.

I do feel a bit silly carrying an iPod Touch as well as a Blackberry. I think it’s the size. I’ve had an iPod Nano for ages, so I shouldn’t feel different about the Touch, but it is bigger than a Nano and that seems to matter. Even so, it’s not a showstopping issue.

I really hate the lack of a decent web browser on the Blackberry but its superb email handling still makes it the winning smartphone for my needs. Unless an AT&T Palm Pre comes out and utterly blows me away, looks like I’ll be staying a two-gadget gal for the foreseeable future.

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Weekend Hacktacular

I couldn’t resist. I should be focusing on getting my trip photos dealt with, but instead I did a little hack project this weekend.

The fact that the Dell Mini 9 is one of the few netbooks out there that can run OSX has not gone unnoticed. And after hearing from one of the Adobe community folks that the method for turning a Mini into a “Hackintosh” really did work as reported, I was intrigued. So when an extra Mini crossed my path, I decided to give to a try.

The necessary ingredients:

starting out

One Macbook Pro, One Dell Mini 9 (1 GB RAM, 16 GB SSD HD), One copy of OSX 10.5.6, One 16GB USB drive. Not pictured: a 2nd USB thumb drive for the bootloader.

How I did it: the “Two USB Drive” version described here.

It was actually quite easy. The only pain in the butt was getting the ISO of the OSX install disk onto the thumb drive — it took a long time. Other than that, though, everything worked as described. After the standard installation and setup process and a few reboots, I had this:

end result

There was only about 2GB of free space left on the drive after installation, but Monolingual cleaned out almost 3GB of additional space. I used Xmark to sync my bookmarks onto Safari, threw on a copy of NeoOffice in case I need to do any basic document editing, and added Last.FM so I can listen to music without having to load any MP3s onto the Mini.

I haven’t tested the Bluetooth yet but everything else is working like a charm. I can stream videos, listen to music, check email, and do pretty much anything else I need to, on a machine that’s small enough to fit into my purse. I can even plug SDHC cards from my camera right into the Mini and then upload photos to the cloud. And I don’t have to put up with Windows to do any of it. :) The only drawback is the tiny keyboard on the Mini. It’s fine for a few emails but I wouldn’t want to use it for extended writing.

And yes, installing OSX onto non-Apple hardware is most likely a violation of the EULA (and may void the Dell warranty as well) so bear that in mind if you decide you want to give this experiment a try.

(Hint: Having a sweet little Hackintosh is worth it IMHO)

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The Odometer Rolls Over

Another year, another birthday. It’s nice to celebrate one on a weekend for a change. We slept in, then made our way up to the farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building and wandered the stalls in search of a few future dinner ingredients.

The Saturn also hit a milestone today as we drove back home — 90,000 miles. Unfortunately, gas prices are way over $3.50 a gallon at all but the cheapest off-brand gas stations. *sigh* With my long commute, this is Not Good At All. If, as predicted, gas goes over $4 a gallon this summer, I’m going to be spending about $200 a month just to drive to work. That sucks.

On a happier note, we finally got a Mac in the house. I picked up an old but serviceable Apple G4 for peanuts, and Scott’s been having fun tearing it apart and learning his way around OS X.

Cats Love Macs

Gimi likes the Mac too. Or at least the monitor!

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Belated Thoughts on the iBrick

The Apple iPhone/ iBrick thing is starting to become old news. Since I’m happy waiting on the sidelines until a 3G iPhone comes out, I haven’t weighed in much, but there’s one or two things I do want to put out there.

I get that users want to hack their iPhones. It’s such an amazing device, and it would be even more perfect if you could only add [insert favorite missing application here]. It makes perfect sense. I’d be tempted to do it too, which is why I am deeply grateful I didn’t buy an iPhone.

What I don’t get is the outrage over Apple’s lockdown. It’s not like Apple encouraged developers to hack their phones and unlock their SIM cards, then turned around and went the other way. Apple was really clear from Day 1 that they expected software development to go via web apps, not installed apps. So why is anyone surprised when Apple started enforcing what they already said they were going to do? Did they really think that they’d let the “hackintosh” crew do whatever they wanted to the iPhone?

The fact that Apple was willing to go to the length of making hacked iPhones utterly unusable as phones strongly suggests to me that they’re doing it not just because of any Steve Jobs control freak tendencies, but because they have to in order to maintain the AT&T contract. And if they want to sell iPhones in the USA, that’s what they have to do. There is no getting onto the US wireless network without getting into bed with a telco. I don’t like it one bit, but it’s the way the industry is right now, and if you want to be in the game you cannot ignore reality.

I well remember when the Treo was first coming onto the market, hearing from some of the Handspring and Palm people about how utterly painful it was to get telcos to be willing to let it in. That was 5+ years ago, but somehow I suspect not all that much has changed.

At any rate, what I understand least of all is this: paying $100 to some 3rd-party outfit for an iPhone “unbricking” that will at best only work until the next Apple patch.

The phrase ‘”throwing your money away” comes to mind.

Update: Nice to see I’m not the only one weighing in this week.

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