Archive for Technology category
It’s been a few weeks since I took up Microsoft’s employee offer of a free Windows Phone 7 (when you renew a 2 year contract) and combined it with AT&T’s offer of buy-one-get-one-free for my wife.
So how have things been going?
Compared to the iPhone 3G the Focus is much more comfortable.
The larger screen size means a wider and taller phone but with less surround it’s not unwieldy – far from it. In fact the phone sits far more comfortably in my hand than the iPhone did. This is partly because it’s a better match for the size of my hand, partly because it’s a little lighter but mostly I think because the bevel is a lot more subtle and less steep and awkward than the iPhone’s shiny-pebble inspired design.
On the flip side it does look and feel a little cheaper and less solid but a small part of that is because the back of the phone flips off like many other allowing you access to the battery, sim and memory expansion slot. The dedicated back and home buttons below the screen help keep the display clear of chrome and give the apps the space they need.
The major disappointment for me here is the screen. While it is very bright and has great contrast if, like me, you hold it rather close to your face you can see a dithering pattern caused by the unusual LED subpixel arrangement called PenTile on every colour except green. I’ve learnt to hold it a little father away as the text rendering is very nice otherwise but compared to a friends iPhone 4 the screen is a letdown.
Until you’ve used the Zune-inspired interface (part of an overall design strategy called Metro) it’s a little hard to put it into words. Static screenshots certainly don’t do it justice as it’s all about movement and flow in a way other devices aren’t.
Starting from a tiled home page that gives you a peek into your mail, messages, people and games through a gorgeous combination of animation, text and imagery that keeps the page feeling fresh and alive – a spirit that is carried through the rest of the device – not just with the built-in screens and features but also into many third-party apps (more on that soon).
In a way it feels like a window onto a bigger world behind it instead of a subset of that world crammed onto a small screen. It’s like the difference between a mobile web browser that scales in and out on a whole page versus a mobile-optimized page that lacks detail and finesse.
As many will know my wife and I are primarily based on Apple technology but even after a week with the Focus my wife announced (with a slightly sad face) that her iPhone 3GS felt old – even with iOS 4.1 on it. I have to admit the same feeling. Sure the iPhone is cure but the icon-and-list approach with the odd red circle to indicate some activity now lacks engagement.
Part of Microsoft’s advertising campaign has been the get-in-get-out approach and the home page and email works really well here. So much so that it’s broken my 3 year ritual almost instantly in that I now check my email on my phone each morning when I get up instead of using the laptop to do the same. If I can find a good Google Reader app then the laptop might not open until I get to work.
I had an initial worry when I first turned it on as there were a bunch of AT&T applications and tiles installed however it let me remove all the ones I don’t want or use (e.g. U-Verse) Score +1 for consumers over providers :)
I’m in a minority among friends as I actually like iTunes. It sorts, it plays, it lets me get audiobooks, podcasts and legal music quick and fast. I’ve also used it to rip a fair number of my own tracks from CD and bolstered my collection with tracks from Amazon MP3 sometimes (like their $3.99 Tron: Legacy deal). Sure I wish it allowed plug-ins for different music formats – I have a soft spot for chipmusic – but apart from that it’s been quite pain free.
iTunes however only likes to play with iPods, iPads and iPhones. Other companies have hooked their devices in unofficially in the past and Apple have been sure to quickly break it.
Thankfully Microsoft haven’t let the Mac fans out in the cold and provide the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac.
The software does an okay job at sending music and videos from your iTunes library over to your USB connected phone although obviously DRM-protected content isn’t going to work.
What was disappointing however is even “Purchased music” from iTunes won’t actually play on the Windows Phone even though it syncs. I’m assuming this is a bug as there isn’t any DRM here (that is marked “Protected music”) and the file format is Dolby’s own AAC not Apple’s so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work.
It also won’t sync your Mac’s Address Book and Calendar’s directly however there is a way to do this quite easily indirectly – see below.
Enter your Facebook name and password and it will fill your contacts from Facebook with each getting their own ‘what’s new’ etc. Like most people this isn’t exactly what I want but I took the opportunity to prune 100 people I never speak to – an option also exists to only supplement existing contacts on the phone with their Facebook pictures and feeds.
It also helpfully pulled in my Gmail contacts and in the cases where I have a contact card in GMail for somebody on Facebook did a good job of joining them up. Some it seems were automatic possibly based on email addresses and full names. Others had recommendation when I went to join that were always correct and in a handful of cases I just had to tell it which ones to join up manually because they had changed their name on Facebook.
In some cases I merged three cards for a single person – their semi-public Facebook profile and photo, their private telephone numbers from GMail and their semi-public Windows Live details for messenger and Xbox.
Finally I added my Outlook/Exchange account – all worked flawlessly and for each account you get to choose whether to bring in contacts and calendars and in most cases mail (but not for Facebook).
The result of all this is that my phone is now the best contact list I have on any device. It combines them beautifully in a way no other device I’ve owned has and not once in the three weeks since I set it up has it got confused, lost details or had sync problems.
Very sweet… unless of course your primary contact information is your Mac’s Address Book as any Mac-owning iPhone owners will be.
Getting Address Book contacts onto Windows Phone
Please forgive the SEO-tuned heading but I didn’t find any useful information online and want to share this simple technique with others :)
You’ll need a GMail account to make this work (it also works with Google Apps for Domains too), simply:
- Copy any important details from your GMail contacts manually into Address Book if you need to
- Wipe out your GMail contacts (you could always backup with Export first if you want but don’t re-import)
- Open the Address Book application and head into Preferences
- Choose the option to sync “On My Mac” with Google and hit configure to enter your GMail details
- Delete the GMail profile from your Windows Phone 7 and then re-add it (otherwise it won’t sync phone numbers)
This means you’ll have your Mac contacts at your fingertip in GMail so make sure your GMail account has a secure password and follow their steps to ensure your account is well protected.
Reception & call quality
I was nervous about getting back into bed with AT&T for another two years. I need coverage at work and home as I don’t have a dedicated phone at either location and many times AT&T had left me with only a single bar to get by.
I am somewhat confused that I get 3-4 bars on the Samsung Focus in both locations and I’ve yet to have the chopping up or disconnecting of calls that I attributed to AT&T when using my iPhone 3G. Stranger still is that when I have had 1 bar (one place in my apartment) I am actually still able to make calls without it cutting out or dropping. My iPhone taught me never to try with 1 bar…
Visual voicemail is gone as I guess that was an Apple exclusive but I’ve only had a handful of voicemail messages over the last 2 years so I doubt i’ll miss it.
The camera seems pretty good and has some HDR and anti-shake options as standard as well as limited bunch of image effects. It also does video but I haven’t tried that yet.
You sign into this with your Xbox LIVE credentials and once you’re there it’s not a far off experience from the iTunes store except that it has a lot less apps. While it’s good you don’t have to wade through so much junk to find good stuff there are some omissions too like Hulu and for many people they’ll be missing Angry Birds and their favorite games and apps. I also haven’t found a good Windows Phone-like navigation app although the built-in Bing app is no worse than the Google Maps app on the iPhone that occasionally gave me nonsensical (drive into the ocean) or wrong directions (Seattle hotel being off by 2 blocks).
On the plus side some favourite sites have their own apps and they have fully embraced the metro user interface to provide a great experience – these include IMDB, eBay, Facebook, Twitter.
The bad side here is that the marketplace you’ll be presented with is the one your Xbox LIVE account is associated with and once you’ve set-up your phone YOU CAN’T CHANGE IT!
For me this means I can’t get Netflix on my device as my Xbox account is set to USA. Previously Xbox didn’t let you change your country but recently introduced a facility to let you migrate your account to one of several new countries they now support. I’m hopeful they’ll let more general country changes next year as I’m not giving up my 8800 gamer score and cool gamertag (damieng) without a fight.
There are a whole bunch of extra things I haven’t covered here including the Bing maps, Office docs, Xbox LIVE, Zune and the various apps. I’ll either update this article or post another :)
I haven’t switched my iPhone on in three weeks. There are a few apps I do miss but they’re also on my iPad.
It’s been quite a while since xbox.com had a major update and today sees the launch of the new version with a clean new look and a whole host of new features that our teams here at LIVE engagement have been working on.
There are a whole great new set of features, my favourites are below… note that some of these are not available in non-LIVE locales.
Avatars are no longer just for the console but are escaping out onto the web and Windows Phone 7. With the new Avatar Editor you can create your own avatar or modify your existing one with a new easy-to-use interface from your browser.
The new Avatar Marketplace lets you search and find cool items for your avatar to wear and try them on right-there in the search pages. Head on in either by game or by lifestyle (brands) (click the little grid icon to see sub-brands such as your own university’s sports team!).
Because these guys are 3D animated they require Silverlight to be installed on your machine (the streaming videos on xbox.com also require it)
2. Marketplace search & results
A brand new search function means we get much better results than before, fuzzy matching and some dynamic filtering options that appear on the left-hand side letting you dig down into family friendly games (e.g. bt game ratings).
Another cool use is to search for your favourite band and see what tracks and packs they have available. Then head to the game filter on the left to see only the ones that work with your game (e.g. Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Dance Central etc!)
When you visit the product detail page it now shows the images and streaming video inline (goodbye popups) as well as game add-ons showing which games they work with – useful for those music track packs!
3. Hand-picked promotions
Our content teams can now put together collections of themed hand-picked games, add-ons etc. that you can you filter, sort and explore from such as the new Kinect games or family-friendly fun (these will be per-region so might not exist in yours yet).
Gold and family gold members should keep an eye out for Gold exclusive offers or pricing!
4. Streamlined account creation
It’s now easier-than-ever to sign up for a free Xbox live account. Less questions, less steps and we’ll give you a randomly-generated gamertag you can change for free later when you’ve had chance to decide on the perfect name for your game-playing alter-ego. (We’ve seen some fun auto-generated ones during the development cycle including FirmJunk,
5. Compare games with your friends
Okay, you could compare games before but the new UI is better and there’s a cool hidden feature that lets you compare against multiple people at the same time.
To do this head into My Xbox’s Game Center and choose a friend to compare with. Now, notice the url at the top of the page? Put a comma after it and another gamertag to see three… or another comma and a gamertag to see all four (the maximum) side-by-side.
6. Family center
New with this update is the Gold Family Pack which lets you get four gold subscriptions for $99 a year and lots of cool family features including play time reports, gifting points, allowances etc.
There are a whole host of extra features to be seen at xbox.com including mobile-to-web gaming, improved messaging, simplified UI etc. so go check them out!
I wanted an SSD for some time and finally caved in. Armed with credit card, screwdriver and trusty MacBook Pro I fitted a sweet SSD and decided to document the experience.
Choosing a drive
There are a bewildering number of options out there. Budget, as always, dictates the combination of speed and size available.
You may not need as much space as you think so even if you intend on a fresh install first clean-up your current drive to get an idea of actual requirements. Remembering to backup before you:
- Identify biggest culprits
Try DaisyDisk ($20), Disk Inventory X (free) or OmniDiskSweeper (free) and drill down to catch unexpected bloat in your folders
- Clean up unused system junk
Use CleanMyMac ($30) or MonoLingual (free) to clean up logs, caches, redundant processor and unwanted languages.
- Archive unused content
Move those podcasts, TV shows, applications and games you aren’t going to use anytime soon to cheaper external storage.
- Deal with orphaned & duplicate files
Find media in your iTunes folders missing from iTunes lists and either trash or add it back then use iTunes Display Duplicates.
If you’re prepared to give up your internal Superdrive then move your existing hard drive to the optical bay and purchase a smaller SSD for the OS and key performance-critical files. This saves cash and gives you more space at the expense of battery life and a little extra weight.
All SSDs are not created equal and the combination of flash and controller (on drive and in your machine) play their parts in defining performance. Firmware, hardware revisions, drive size and operating system can also affect the speed so do your homework.
Drives come and go quickly so keep an eye on review dates and exact model numbers as manufacturers have models with similar names with difference specifications.
I settled on the Crucial SSD 256GB C300 because it is blazingly fast and the 256GB variant fit my 150GB storage requirements.
- Samsung 830 Series
I upgraded my work Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with this drive and it’s crazy fast and also fitted it to my new desktop. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($80), 128GB ($100), 256GB ($230) and 512GB ($449) capacities
- Crucial M4
I upgraded two MacBook Pro 15″ (work+wife’s) with Crucial’s M4 last year. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($75), 128GB ($98), 256GB ($183) and 512GB ($539) capacities
Apple’s factory options for SSD are a mixed bag. They originally used slower drives by Toshiba and from July 2010 whether you get a fast Samsung or a slow Toshiba SSD was pure luck.
Given Apple charge a slight premium for the SSD option, you don’t get to choose your drive model and they are easily replaceable (except the iMac 27″ and MacBook Pro Retina) go with an after-market drive :)
Installing a new hard drive
Newer Unibody MacBook Pro hard-drives are user-replaceable and covered in the manual.
My older non-Unibody is not so simple but those nice people over at iFixit put together a hard drive replacement guide for 15” that is close enough for my 17″.
Installing Mac OS X without a DVD drive
My Superdrive died a while back so installing Mac OS X is a little trickier than usual. There are a few options you might come across.
If you are just doing a one-off Lion install then try the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant which requires a 1GB USB key and an internet connection for the install.
If you want to install Lion to multiple machines or won’t have internet where you’re installing then you can either put down $69 for the Lion USB thumb drive.
My favorite option however is to create my own install USB key. These steps will work for both Snow Leopard and Lion.
Create your own Lion or Snow Leopard install USB stick
The following steps work for both operating systems – the only difference is what you your drag across as a source in step 8.
- Snow Leopard – source is your retail install DVD
- Lion – source is InstallESD.dmg file which can be found in your Applications folder inside the Lion installer. If the installer is missing use App Store to re-download it. You will find the file inside the Lion installer by using Show Package Contents and heading to the Contents > Shared Support folder.
- Insert your USB stick
- Launch Disk Utility from the Utilities folder
- Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Partition tab
- Choose 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme drop-down
- Press Options… choose GUID Partition Table then OK
- Press Apply to confirm you are happy to wipe away all the data on the device and wait until complete
- Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Restore tab
- Drag the source (DVD or InstallESD.dmg) from the list of devices into the Source text box
- Drag the USB stick from the list of devices into the Destination text box
- Press the Restore and wait a while
When finished eject the USB stick and insert it into your DVD-less Mac. Turn it on and hold down alt until a boot selection screen shows then use the arrow keys to select your USB device and press return to launch the installer.
It may take a while for the installer screen to appear but be patient.
Remote Install let’s you put the a DVD into a machine with a drive, run Utilities > Remote Install and follow a few steps which include holding down the alt key on the machine that doesn’t have a drive.
Unfortunately only machines Apple shipped without a Superdrive – i.e. a Mac mini or MacBook Air from 2009 or later are happy to boot from a Remote Disc.
The following two shell commands enable Remote Disc on older machines within Finder but don’t allow a remote install:
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser EnableODiskBrowsing -bool true defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser ODSSupported -bool true
You will also need to enable sharing on the Mac with the DVD drive. Head into System Preferences then select Sharing then check DVD or CD sharing. You may also want to uncheck Ask me before allowing others to use my DVD drive to avoid having to go to the other machine to continually grant access.
Performance over time & TRIM
A simplified primer
File systems write in blocks and before SSD when the file system wrote to ‘block 1′ it got ‘block 1′ on the drive (unless it was damaged when it would map in a replacement from a reserved section). If it rewrote ‘block 1′ it overwrote what it wrote last time. This is how tools that securely erase files by writing them over and over work.
Now SSDs are fast but the flash technology suffers some limitations the most important is they can’t overwrite data without erasing it first so when the operating system writes ‘block 1′ a second time, it actually stores it somewhere else in the flash (but tells the file system it was ‘block 1′) and makes a note where ‘block 1′ actually is. This avoids the write penalty and also means that you don’t wear out block 1 by writing it over and over again (this is called wear-leveling).
This works just fine until you run out of erased blocks. This happens sooner than you’d think because when the file-system deletes a file it does not actually erase anything but just marks it as not used in it’s own file-system tables knowing it will just get used again sooner or later. (This is how file-recovery tools are able to undelete files).
So this combination of the drive never getting told to erase blocks and only finding out it can re-use them later when its time to write data and it suddenly finds these writes all require it erase blocks too and performance can drop to traditional hard-drive speeds (or worse).
Manufacturers initially solved this problem by writing tools that examined the file-system structures to find out which blocks are unused so they can send ‘erase block’ commands down to the SSD drive so they are ready to be written again without the erase penalty – at least until you run out of blocks again. Because these tools need to know the file-systems internals you can’t throw a Windows tool designed for the NTFS file system at a disk formatted with HFS+ for the Mac and expect it to be able to understand anything.
Another solution involves the drive recording when blocks are being overwritten at the file-system it can mark the older copy of the actual block on the flash as erasable. Now, this may not happen until the disk is quite full and so to avoid stalling again on writes the manufacturers put some extra flash storage on the drive. When it gets in this state the writes gets a fresh block from the reserve and the reserve takes the previously used block to erase and put back into reserve. The problem here is that the manufacturers have to put extra flash and logic on the drive which costs $’ and it’s only able to put off stalling as long as the reserve can keep supplying fresh blocks.
A third solution tackles the problem at the source. Manufacturers agreed on a standard that extends the ATA protocol called ‘TRIM’ that lets file-systems tell the drive when blocks are no longer required and can be erased when it’s not busy. Support was built into Windows 7 and Linux 2.6.28 making a lot of SSD owners very happy.
Mac OS X & TRIM
You could also try to minimize unnecessary writes:
- Don’t use Finder’s Secure Empty Trash or the srm command line tool – these attempt to overwrite the blocks but because of wear-leveling on SSD they’ll just steal blocks up to 35x the size of the file you want to ‘erase’
- Keep large churning files on external drives (e.g. video processing)
- Don’t let your laptop run out of power as it copies the RAM to disk each time (2-8GB)
- Prevent unnecessary disk operations such as the ‘last accessed’ attribute on files (see below)
- Don’t keep running disk benchmarks that cause lots of writes!
Turn off last-access-time
These access times are pretty useless and indeed the iPhone also has them switched off. Create a file named noatime.plist in your /Library/LaunchDaemons path with the following contents:
<plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>Label</key> <string>noatime</string> <key>ProgramArguments</key> <array> <string>mount</string> <string>-vuwo</string> <string>noatime</string> <string>/</string> </array> <key>RunAtLoad</key> <true/> </dict> </plist>
Thanks go to Ricardo Gameiro for that tip although his other Mac SSD tweaks of creating a RAM disk is questionable given the way Mac OS X manages memory and disabling the RAM copy-to-disk entirely and therefore losing data is more risky to me than running out of blocks early.
- Turn off the sudden motion sensor – SSDs ignore the park head command anyway
- Turn off HFS+ journaling – some users report odd issues and corruption
If you do get into the situation where your write performance is suffering badly and you are prepared to spend a little time to get it back you can do the following:
- Ensure you have a full Time Machine backup
- Boot from a Linux Live CD (or USB image) containing a recent build of hdparm
- Use hdparm to perform an ATA Secure Erase
- Boot from your Mac OS X DVD/USB stick
- Choose the Utilities > Restore System From Backup menu option
- Point it at your Time Machine backup
You should also be able to do this with other full-system backup tools like SuperDuper but you’ll have to figure out the steps for yourself ;-)
I wish I had some better benchmarking tools but Xbench is all I have, sorry!
Xbench with Crucial C300 256GB on 2007 MacBook Pro
Here are the figures for my Crucial C300 256GB drive with 0009 firmware on my older non-unibody MacBook Pro 17″ (MacBookPro3,1) with a dual-core 2.6GHz CPU and 4GB RAM.
This MacBook Pro is limited to 1.5GB/sec on the SATA bus as it uses an Intel ICH-8M SATA controller and this is limiting the drive.
|Uncached write 4K||200.40||762.30||185.92||789.45||194.20||774.95||208.42||885.91||191.31||931.43|
|Uncached write 256K||196.34||357.61||196.05||359.23||129.89||360.79||157.84||318.87||172.08||320.78|
|Uncached read 4K||67.56||1926.31||69.27||1942.94||63.01||1911.07||60.37||1812.40||72.50||2030.81|
|Uncached read 256K||239.73||628.06||238.22||624.15||236.40||617.67||234.84||615.42||243.42||631.16|
My original performance figures with the original as-shipped 0001 firmware and subsequent 0006 firmware figures are after almost a year of continual use and the drive has not been secure erased in that time. The final set of 0007 figures are on Mac OS X Lion with the TRIM enabler support switched on for a week.
Xbench with Crucial M4 256GB on 2011 MacBook Pro
I had the opportunity to put an SSD in my new work MacBook and immediately jumped to the a href=”http://www.kqzyfj.com/click-3893583-10674245″>Crucial M4 256GB. Here are the crazy figures for that drive with 0009 firmware on a MacBook Pro 15″ (MacBookPro8,2) with a quad-core 2.2GHz CPU and 8GB RAM.
|Uncached write 4K||428.98||1890.35|
|Uncached write 256K||424.35||770.44|
|Uncached read 4K||120.56||2162.18|
|Uncached read 256K||691.20||1244.41|
SSD is fast but given the hype I was expecting everything to be instant and it wasn’t quite there. Applications usually launch within a single dock bounce and everything feels a lot snappier but there wasn’t the massive WOW! I was expecting.
There are also a few other advantages often overlooked, especially on a laptop:
- lower power consumption
- less weight, noise & heat
- greater shock, dust and magnetic resistance
Here’s a table that pulls the specs compared to the 7200RPM Travestar that was previously my main drive.
|Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB||Hitachi Travelstar 7K320|
|Power consumption (W)||0.094 – 2.1 – 4.3||0.2 – 2.2 – 5.5|
|Shock resistance (G/1.0ms)||1500||200|
|Seek time (ms)||< .1||12|
Time will tell how well the machine now deals with large Aperture libraries of RAW images and Visual Studio compilations from inside Parallels and I’ll be sure to report them here.
Check-in (26 June 2011)
I installed the SSD and wrote this article back in April 2010. I’ve revised and tweaked it over the 14 months it’s been published to account for new firmware, updated benchmarks, the new Crucial M4 replacement of the C300 and the fact that Apple now ship SSD’s with very good performance as standard.
My C300 is still going strong through two firmware upgrades, several OS X installs (trying out betas, upgrading to Lion), regular application installs and work with heavyweight software such as VMware Fusion and Aperture.
The Crucial hasn’t yet missed a beat. No calls to support, no stuttering and benchmarks today are very similar to those published for the 0006 firmware update (within 10%).
It’s been an interesting couple of years with nothing but a maxed-out MacBook Pro 17″ as my only home machine.
The hard drive died but time machine held my hand. At ALT.NET Seattle 2009 my backpack took a dive that left a dent in one corner. The battery was replaced and I roped GrinGod into obtaining a replacement UK-style \ key from the UK after some frantic typing.
A friend cracked the display when his keyfob sprang from his Batbelt culminating in a visit of the Apple Store in Bellevue. Ten days and $700 later got that fixed and included a bonus disconnected thermal sensor, a couple of new scratches, an extra screw to rattle around inside and a line of grease around the Apple logo.
Sticking with it
When I find myself eying the unibody I wince at the glossy ‘matt finish’ screen, the multi-touch trackpad clicks that sound like Robocop is nearby and a US keyboard that requires my pinky to hit a single-height enter key. That little pink dog won’t learn any new tricks. I’ve tried.
Still the OpenCL benchmark show the 8600M outperforming the newer 9400M and it does everything I need and at least one thing I don’t (gets hot enough to bake bread on). Short of switching the hard disk out for an SSD – I’ve ordered twice and then recalled after a Twitter volley of “no, you don’t want THAT one” – it’s here to stay for at least another year.
One thing that is always changing is the bunch of installed applications as I search for a combination that deliver a nirvana between productivity and enjoyment. Apps that perform a set of focused useful tasks with a shiny, eminently lick-able user interface, score highly.
I’ve rounded up my favourite apps before but here’s the latest specials on the menu.
This great-looking app helps reclaim wasted space making it a pre-requisite for SSD switchers.
Combining the PowerPC and foreign language code-purging of XSlimmer & TrimTheFat is also adds cache & log purging in with application uninstalls ala AppZapper etc.
Despite using XSlimmer already on my machine it was able to reclaim another 1.8GB and V2 is out soon which I hope will remove & alias duplicates given we’re not getting ZFS which had this feature (how many copies of Sparkle.framework do I have on my machine….)
This year I rewrote my blog’s WordPress theme from scratch and given the PHP requirement I found myself looking for an alternate IDE to Visual Studio. I already own TextMate but the feel of a raw text editor with bundles of extra bits feel didn’t have the gloss and usability I wanted such as fast preview, remote FTP sync etc. with a minimal of setup fuss.
I briefly toyed with Espresso during the early development cycle but Coda won me over in the end with it’s sheer simplicity and elegance plus the addition of built-in documentation for PHP was very helpful when working offline.
Yes, when the Magic Mouse hit the street I picked one up. The idea of a mouse with trackpad multi-touch technology was appealing but a few minutes of use and no amount of twiddling would make it track or let me configure it to take full advantage of what it should be able to do.
Until Apple sort this out BetterTouchTool is your friend letting you speed up the tracking of the Magic Mouse, or indeed your trackpad, and assign all sorts of interesting shortcuts and abilities to combinations of finger gestures.
Mac apps tend to expose only the common options in their user interfaces but sometimes developers add some additional tweaks and settings behind the scenes that live in the Mac’s equivalent of the registry (known as “defaults“). While you can set these manually using the defaults command-line tool you still need to know the setting exists, it’s name and what options are available and so secrets exposes this.
Secrets is similar to Deeper and TinkerTool but the difference is that the secrets web site lets people add new options which then are automatically available within the installed preferences pane making them easily discoverable, searchable, applied… and occasionally undone.
The scenery is brilliantly imagined, stylistic and shows that very real lived-in cities can be beautiful especially when populated by cute robots capable of assembling themselves from their own body-parts (just like a triple 8 but infinitely cuter).