Archive for ‘apple’ category

FourTrack

I’ve always loved the constraint of a 4-track cassette recorder. So when I first came across FourTrack, a simple recording app for the iPhone, I figured I’d give it a whirl. I grabbed my trusty ukulele and laid down a little tune I often play to the kids. The audio records right from the iPhone’s built-in mic. The quality is impressive. Then I grabbed my three year old son Jack’s toy percussion kit, and banged along to the uke track. In literally 5 minutes, I had a finished song.
FourTrack lets you download the raw track files by temporarily creating a web server, giving you an IP address to grab the files individually via wifi. You can then drag those files into an audio editor on your desktop. I dragged mine to GarageBand, quickly added a stupid bass line, applied a British amp distortion to the uke, then exported it to an mp3.

All in total, it took about about a half hour to create the final version. With vocals by our 8-month old girl, as well as me telling Jack to “hold on” while I finished up the drums. It’s certainly not a hit — but this app might just be what I need to get back into music making.

A Few Days with the New MBP

I just bought a new MacBook Pro. I like it. I was stunned at how bright the LED screen is. Then I realized it was only at half brightness. I don’t mind the lack of a button under the trackpad. I pretend there’s still a button under the trackpad. I rest my thumb where the button used to be. I’m OK with that, and it works for me.

I’m impressed with the precision of the casing. I picture dudes in white lab coats with metal instruments in their hands when I look at the tiny micro speaker holes. I don’t remember picturing dudes in white lab coats before (OK maybe with the 1st gen iPhone). I’m surprised that it’s not all that much thinner or lighter than the previous model though.

I like that, when lifting up the lid, the entire machine doesn’t lift off the desk or try and skate away. I like that there’s no latch, but miss an audible click that confirms it’s fully closed. I like that all the inputs are on one side now. I don’t like that it’s the opposite side that I’ve configured my desk for.

I love the glass screen. I’ll still need to plug into a non-glossy screen for any real color work. I’ve been OK with that. I think the speakers are louder than the previous model. I doubt my hearing has improved over the last few days, but if it has, then the speaker volume remains the same as the previous model. I’d be OK with that.

I was shocked how small the box it comes in is. I’m happy that Apple is considering packaging waste now. This reduced packaging lowers the “unboxing excitement” by approximately 4%. I’m OK with that.

I like this new MacBook Pro.

Fluid + Hahlo

The best Twitter interface, in my humble opinion, is (currently) Hahlo: a web application designed for the iPhone that uses the Twitter API to offer an alternative skin for the service. There’s a lot I like about the way Hahlo approached the UI. So much so, that I started missing those features when Twittering from the desktop.

Hahlo iconThat’s where Fluid comes in. I’m certainly late to the game here, but Fluid is a pretty handy little Mac application. It allows you to create Site Specific Browsers for web applications you use. These SSBs are then available as a dock icon or menu bar item, as if they were standalone desktop applications.

Each SSB has its own preferences and User Agent settings, and they’re conveniently untethered from your main browser of choice, able to be command-tabbed to, and unsusceptible to browser crashes caused by other sites. Fluid uses Webkit for its rendering engine, which enables it to work with iPhone web apps.

It rocks in combination with Hahlo, but also for other often-used web apps. Thought I’d mention it here for other potential late-to-the-gamers.
Use Fluid with other apps? Do tell.

Safari 3.1 Develop Menu

Web Inspector

The just-released Safari 3.1 has a new “Develop” menu (check the Advanced tab in Preferences to activate it). I usually rely on Firefox’s Web Developer Toolbar for testing and diagnostics — but preferring Safari as my general browser of choice, I was happy to see some native tools baked-in.

I often run these “bulletproof integrity tests” after finishing an initial design: disabling styles, javascript and images to check for readability and flexibility. Favlets and Firefox extensions have made this easy for years, and Safari’s new Develop menu has several of these. Excellent, I said.

It also ships with a Web Inspector (think Firebug), which allows you to break down a web page by listing it’s various files, drilling down to see computed styles and DOM info. At first glance this looked exciting and very promising, with “editable CSS” promised in the release notes. Unfortunately, you can’t edit the full CSS file (a feature we’d all love, and one that’s found in other developer extensions), but rather choosing “Inspect Element” by right clicking on a web page’s element will activate a semi-confusing-but-comprehensive status on that particular bit of code selected. I was initally confused by choosing “Inspect Element” on one of the CSS files in the list view in an attempt to edit it, only to find that the Inspector was in fact inspecting itself (which is apparently built with HTML and CSS). Heh, recursive inspection. Recurspection. Inspursive.

It seems I wasn’t the only one confused, with a chorus of Twitterers wondering the same thing: how the heck can I edit the CSS? The answer is by choosing “Inspect Element” from the browser window (a right or ctrl click), then double-clicking a property from the Styles sidebar in the Web Inspector — but not in the “Computed Style” box that’s also in the sidebar.

So, it’s a start. I’d love to see full live editing of CSS and HTML in a future version — but it’s nice to see the beginning of all of this built right into the browser.

Do the Collapse

“Pretty soon you’ll be using your iPhone”, said the attorney in the elevator just five minutes ago. He’d glanced at me checking things on my (now terribly outdated) Blackberry Pearl. Everyone’s talking about the iPhone. No, _everyone_ is talking about it. Just goes to show how big an announcement it really was.

There are so many thoughts about this thing, but rather than add to the noise, here’s one I hadn’t yet seen mentioned: with a _reliable_ browser on the iPhone (Safari) and all that it brings in terms of standards support, JS, DOM, etc., will we start looking closer at resolution dependent layouts (Clagnut: Variable fixed width layout) (or other methods) for sites that _would or could_ function as well as their larger screen counterparts?

We’re essentially talking about a fully-browsable web and everything that comes along with that in Safari. Just on a smaller screen. I realize that already exists to a certain extent with Webkit on the Nokia, Opera, and probably others, but the typical screen dimensions on a mobile phone are tiny. Seeing Steve Jobs turn the device and browse “widescreen” was eye-opening. That extra horizontal space could really increase the readability of non-mobile-specific sites as is.

The vulcan-death-pinch-squeezy thing for zooming looks great, mind you. Fluid layout for screens this small isn’t optimal, while multiple columns could just get too narrow (in the absence of min-width) — but I could see where leveraging the browser to adjust layout based on screen resolution could make things interesting in certain situations. And it’ll of course be fun to find out what this all means.

Free vintage SimpleBits sticker to the first person who names (without Googling) the band for which the title of this post is named after.

SmudgeBook Tip

All those smudges covering your black MacBook (you know, the ones that make you question your color choice) can be quickly and easily erased with a few swipes of the cleaning cloth that comes wth your Apple Cinema Display. Convenient. No water/cleaning liquid/turtle wax required. If you don’t currently own an Apple Cinema Display, I don’t recommend buying one solely for the cloth (although I’m sure it’s tempting).

There is now hope for SmudgeBook+Cinema Display owners worldwide.

Appetite

Dan’s recent post about software got me thinking. Maybe you’re like me, where you love trying out cool new apps. “Wow, this is great! It’ll save me time and I’ll be far more productive”. But after a day or so the excitement wears off and you’re back to pencil and paper, or storing things mentally, or doing things without that exciting app again.

For general web work I tend to stick to the basics only: Photoshop, BBEdit, NetNewsWire, Transmit, and all the goodies that come bundled with OS X. I suppose the only oddball would be the Backpack Dashboard widget. I’ve found it to be one of the only productivity apps (if I may call it that) I use with any sort of frequency. I prefer the widget over the web interface, although I’m not sure if that means anything. It’s been useful for keeping track of little client bits, unpaid invoices (for which I should be using something else), etc.

Actually I’ve just thought of a few that might be worth mentioning: Iconographer (for creating favicons) and SuperDuper! (recommended by DB and used as my routine backup solution).

I’ve always considered myself a “Power User”, but damn… maybe that’s wishful thinking.

Shuffle FM

I rarely listen to commerical radio (usually in the car), but I’ve noticed a new(ish) radio station here in the Boston area, 93.7 Mike FM. Their motto is “we play everything”. This means you’ll hear Loverboy, then Jim Croce, then Ashlee Simpson. I’m guessing the new format has something to do with the rise of shuffling on the iPod and other similar devices (are there other devices?).

I have two reactions to this: a) well, that’s sort of cool. At least they’ve broken out of the commercial radio mold of playing the same 12 songs a day. And b) is this just background sound for people that don’t like music? A sort of “Russian Roulette”, where the station bets on playing something that you’ll like… eventually? What’s the demographic they’re going after?

Another observation is that this particular station has no DJs (from what I gather). Just pre-recorded station bumpers, commercials and random songs. I imagine this keeps the cost of running a station like this to a minimum. Just hit shuffle and go.

I also wonder: are there similar “shuffle style” stations popping up in other parts of the world?

Mighty Mouse Reflections

On Wednesday, I had to buy a new battery for my 1.5 year-old PowerBook. Apparently they don’t live that long, and I was getting a whopping 10 minutes out of a full charge. PowerBook batteries aren’t all that exciting, but I also brought home a Mighty Mouse, which is only slightly more interesting.

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Apparently, Mouse Pads are Soo 2004

While checking out at the Apple store recently, I had an interesting conversation:

Me
Do you have any mouse pads?
Apple Guy
Uh, what?
Me
Mouse pads. Do you carry them?
Apple Guy
Mouse pads? *chuckles arrogantly* No, we’ve never carried anything like that.

Oh. But I’m from the camp that thinks they’re a necessity — even when using an optical mouse. Having it slide across the desk without any sort of traction just doesn’t cut it. Not to mention the woodgrain on the desk occassionally throws off the tracking.

So I head over to Office Depot — an office supply superstore. They have mouse pads. But all of them have patterns and designs on them. American flags, Grand Canyon panoramas, Faux water droplets, etc. I can forsee these patterns being a problem for optical tracking. So I leave the store empty handed.

I realize I could order a zillion of them online somewhere with no patterns, perfect for optical mice. But I’m merely documenting an observation, that the value of the mouse pad is just overlooked by so many. And I’m shocked that Apple doesn’t try to capitalize on selling the coolest mouse pad ever created. Someone needs to tap this untapped market that’s been poorly tapped thus far.

I remember buying my first Mac (a Classic II) and it came with a free Apple mouse pad. It was a great one, with a slipperly plastic surface. I wish I still had it, but it’s gone. Where to, I can’t say. perhaps it’s now part of something larger.