Archive for July, 2007

DVD-R vs DVD+R

25Jul07

Dvds-On-A-Plate

I have previously rambled a bit about what will be the winning format in the HD-DVD vs Bluray war, and at the time I quickly scratched the surface of the other DVD war. The war between DVD-R and DVD+R.

DVD-R hit the market in 1997, while DVD+R came in 2002, five years later. And today, after five more years, there is no sign of a winner. I’m pretty sure the same will happen to HD-DVD and Blueray, but that’s another story. I thought I’d explain in simple terms what the main differences between the two formats are.

DVD-R:
– introduced in 1997
– capacity: 4.382 GB
– has had a five-year lead on DVD+R. As such, older or cheaper DVD players (up to 2004 vintage) are more likely to favour the DVD-R standard exclusively

DVD+R:
– introduced in 2002
– capacity: 4.377 GB
– tracking and speed control more accurate at higher speeds (than for DVD-R)
– more robust error management system (than DVD-R)
– additional session linking methods are more accurate with DVD+R versus DVD-R, resulting in fewer damaged or unusable discs

Quick recap: DVD-R is older and as such is slightly more compatible, at least with older devices. It also has a slightly higher capacity than DVD+R, although probably insignificant. If you plan on making movies and you don’t know what equipment the receiver has – choose DVD-R. Else, go with DVD+R for the added robustness.

Source: Wikipedia (DVD-R) (DVD+R)

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Peekaboo

Google is not alone in providing a web based Maps service, with or without satellite photography. There are however alternatives that also provide aerial photos, something that Google has yet to dip its toes into. Is that all about to change? I checked out the Wikipedia article “List of Google acquisitions” today, and found out they had just acquired ImageAmerica, a provider of “high resolution aerial cameras”. I can think of little else that would make sense with such an acquisition. Finally an end to the blurry topless pictures!

Also of interest might be the “List of Yahoo!-owned sites and services“. You probably knew that Yahoo bough Flickr, but what about Kelkoo, del.icio.us, blo.gs and upcoming.org? Guess I had known had I used any of them 🙂

A couple other interesting sites: Google Zeitgeist and Google Trends.

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Ok, here is a funny picture. Which of the two center dots is bigger? Answer below, but don’t peek! (answer is hidden with JavaScript, might not work in your RSS reader)

Illusion-Dots

Show me the answer!

 

Wacky Mini Golf

15Jul07

Wackyminigolf

It’s not often that I register a shareware game. Wacky Mini Golf had my $25 in minutes however!

I’m not being paid to write this, but I thought I’d let you know. If you like mini golf that is. Wacky Mini Golf is probably the best-looking mini golf game on any platform. The graphics are very cute, colorful and overall beautiful. The music likewise. Tiger Wood took a vacation, and in his place you will find a cat who drives a Vespa. And when he goes to the golf court, which happens to be in the middle of a jungle, or covered in lava, he takes to the skies with a crazy guy who seems waaay too obsessed about his english tea. Yeah, it’s definitely not your average mini golf game. It has cut scenes too!

You can play the first few holes on all the courses for free, and it’s available right… here (from DanLabGames).

Oh, and right after I bought my copy, Freeverse released Tiki Magic Mini Golf. Just so you know. You have options. Which is good.

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Switchers-Want-Games

Following up on yesterdays article about finding replacements for the software you used to love so much in Windows, it’s time to look at replacements for all the great games that come bundled.

Just like yesterday, the list of Windows games and the respective descriptions are borrowed from Wikipedia.

Game Description Mac Replacement
Chess Titans A version of Chess. Chess (included with OS X)
FreeCell A version of FreeCell. PySol
Hearts A version of Hearts using Black Lady scoring. 3D Hearts Deluxe ($19.95)
InkBall A game employing the use of a stylus or mouse to draw lines to direct balls into holes of corresponding colors. Enigmo ($19.95)
Mahjong Titans A version of Mahjong solitaire. MyMahj / Bo-Jong / Mahjong Solitarus ($17)
Minesweeper A version of Minesweeper. BombSquad / XMines
Purble Place An educational game for children, teaching pattern recognition, shapes, and colors. LuaLua ($19.95) / Plopp ($19.50) / Giggles ($19.99)
Solitaire A version of Klondike Solitaire. PySol
Spider Solitaire A version of Spider Solitaire. PySol

If you are serious about Mac gaming, or just curious about what is offered, have a look at the excellent Inside Mac Games website.

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Switchers-Want-Paint

Given that there are many “new” Mac users out there, and that a friend of mine just ordered his first Mac, I decided it was time to make a list of software for the switchers.

There are plenty of such lists already, but they all deal with “my top ten Mac apps”. An application that works for some, might not work for others. If someone asked me “what ftp client is the best for the Mac?”, I would answer Transmit. But if someone asked me what software to get in general, I would not say Quicksilver. I think it is better if people play around on their own, instead of having people telling them “this is how I roll, and that probably works best for you too”.

So what I decided to do was to make a list of all the software that is included with Windows, and then list a few alternatives on the Mac. Now you can start right where you left off when you get your shiny new Mac. All applications are freeware and/or open source unless otherwise stated. Got anything to add? Leave a comment below! (although the point of the list is to provide a few simple alternatives, not a complete list of every piece of software available)

List of Windows software and the respective descriptions are borrowed from Wikipedia.

Application Description Mac replacement
Windows Calendar Calendaring and task tracking application. iCal (included with OS X)
Windows Contacts Keeps a single list of contacts that can be shared by multiple programs. Address Book (included with OS X)
Calculator A calculation application. Calculator (included with OS X – also as a dashboard widget)
Character Map Utility to view and search characters in a font, copy them to the clipboard and view their Windows Alt keycodes and Unicode names Font Book (included with OS X) / Character Palette (included with OS X) / Keyboard Viewer (included with OS X)
Paint A simple graphics painting program. PaintBrush / Seashore / pixen / ArtRage / ChocoFlop / Tux Paint / GraphicConverter ($30)
Notepad A simple text editor. TextEdit (included with OS X) / Smultron / TextWrangler
Narrator A screen reader utility that reads dialog boxes and window controls in a number of the more basic applications for Windows. VoiceOver (included with OS X)
Sound Recorder A simple audio recording program that can record from a microphone or headset, and save the results in WAVE format. QuickTime Player (included with OS X) / Audacity / Audio Hijack ($16) / WireTap Pro ($19) / Voice Candy ($12.95)
COMMAND.COM and Cmd.exe A text-based shell (command line interpreter) that provides a command line interface to the operating system. Terminal (included with OS X, OS X is built on UNIX)
WordPad A simple word processor that is more advanced than Notepad. It has facilities to format and print text, but lacks intermediate features such as a spell checker and thesaurus. TextEdit (included with OS X) / Bean / AbiWord / NeoOffice (more like Microsoft Office)
Remote Desktop Connection A client implementation of the Remote Desktop Protocol; allows a user to securely connect to a computer running Terminal Services (Remote Desktop on Windows XP and Server 2003) and interact with a full desktop environment on that machine, including support for remoting of printers, audio, and drives. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client – for Windows remote control / Apple Remote Desktop – for Mac remote control ($499 / unlimited clients) / Included in Leopard
Remote Assistance Allows a user to temporarily take over a remote computer over a network or the internet to offer help with and resolve issues. See above / Included in Leopard
Internet Explorer A graphical web browser and FTP client.

Web browser: Safari (included with OS X) / Firefox

FTP client: Cyberduck

Windows Mail An e-mail and news client.

Email: Mail (included with OS X) / Thunderbird

News: Thunderbird / Unison ($24.95)

Windows Fax and Scan An integrated faxing and image scanning application.

Faxing: built-in to OSX – any application that can print can also fax

Scanning: Image Capture (included with OS X) / software that is included with your scanner / VueScan ($39.95)

Windows Media Player A digital media player and media library application that is used for playing audio, playing video and viewing images. In addition to being a media player, Windows Media Player includes the ability to rip music from, and copy music to compact discs, synchronize content with a digital audio player (MP3 player) or other mobile devices, and let users purchase or rent music from a number of online music stores. iTunes (included with OS X) / iPhoto (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac) / QuickTime Player (included with OS X, add some codecs!) / VLC
Windows Photo Gallery A photo management application. Lets users organize their digital photo collection in its Gallery view, by adding titles, rating, captions, and custom metadata tags to photos. Photos can be edited for exposure, color correction, resizing, cropping, red-eye reduction, etc. and also allows printing photos via the Photo Printing Wizard. iPhoto (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows Movie Maker A video editing software that is intended for use in editing home movies. Source footage can be split into clips, and the final movie created by combining multiple clips along with effects such as transitions, titles/credits, separate audio track, timeline narration etc. iMovie (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows DVD Maker A DVD movie encoding and authoring software. iDVD (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows Media Center Designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub, to be viewed from a distance up to 3 meters (~10 feet) and controlled by specially designed remote controls. Lets users browse and view pictures, videos, and music from local hard drives, optical drives, and network locations, along with viewing, recording and deferred-playing live TV. Features an interactive TV guide with scheduled recording capabilites. Can also be used for visualization of other information (like sports scores) within the interface. Front Row (included with every Mac except for the Mac Pro) / MediaCentral ($29.95) / CenterStage / EyeTV ($79.95)
Windows Meeting Space A peer-to-peer collaboration program which lets multiple users start collaboration sessions. Supports desktop sharing , distribution and collaborative editing of documents, and passing notes to other participants. Included in Leopard / SubEthaEdit ($35) / Zimbra
Windows Task Manager Provides information about computer performance and displays details about running applications, processes, network activity, logged-in users, and system services. Activity Monitor (included with OS X) / iStat
Disk Cleanup A utility for compacting rarely used files and removing files that are no longer required. OnyX / AppDelete / GrandPerspective
Shadow Copy A graphical front end for the Shadow Copy service that lets users choose from multiple versions of a file. The shadow copy service creates multiple copies of a file as they are changed over time, so that users can revert to previous versions. Included in Leopard / SilverKeeper / Google Desktop
Snipping Tool A screen-capture tool that allows for taking screen shots (called snips). Grab (included with OS X) / keyboard shortcut command-shift-3

More free, open source software at Open Source Mac.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Games!

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Backup-Signpost

Last summer my main hard drive malfunctioned. 3 years worth of files. No backup whatsoever. The end of the story is that it ended up costing me $1700 to recover.

To miss out on this, you need to backup your files regularly. I have been reading a total of four articles on backing up recently, and added my own experience to the mix.

There are two main ways to backup files the way I see it: local (hard drive) and offsite (online). Comparing the two is easy with a table:

  Local Offsite
Price One-time Recurring
Speed Fairly fast Depending on your internet connection
Safety Fairly safe Really safe
Ease of use Easy Easy

As we can see, one option might not be cheaper or easier than the other, but unless you have some crazy alien technology, a local setup will let you backup more data in less time. But local backups aren’t as safe as offsite backups? True, so why not go with both? Because really, you just can’t put a price on data. After almost a year of research, I have found a solution that works for me, and hopefully it might help you too!

Local: SuperDuper!

Superduper-ScreenshotSuperDuper might be one of easiest to use pieces of software for complete local backups. You select the disk you wish to backup, and then you select the target, the disk you wish to backup to. You can set simple option like only backing up the home folder. I would suggest you backup your entire disk though. This way the backup will even be bootable, so if something should happen to your system installation, you can boot from the backup and start working right where you left off. SuperDuper can copy only the files that have changed since the last backup, so if you backup regularly, it shouldn’t take too long. Still, I run my backups in the middle of the night. Daily.

A small tip: backup to a different drive, not just a different partition. If you have a malfunction, partitions won’t help you much.

SuperDuper will run you $27.95. A small price to pay.

Offsite: iBackup + DreamHost

Ibackup-ScreenshotSince a local backup won’t protect you from hazards like fire or theft, it is crucial to also have at least your most precious files stores somewhere else. Storing them online is one way to go. It’s both easy and cheap. There are services like Bandwagon and Mozy that makes it really easy. I’m already paying $10 a month for a very spacious webserver however, so it made me think “How can I use it for backup with the least hazzle?”. Meet iBackup.

iBackup is in many ways similar to Apples own Backup software that comes bundled with dotmac. One difference is that it can backup to any WebDAV folder, not just an iDisk. And did I mention it is free?

iBackup is perfect when you don’t want to backup everything. It uses plug-ins to let you easily backup all files associated with certain tasks or applications. You can easily backup your iPhoto or iTunes libraries. Your widgets or fonts. Or all the settings relating to an application. Because it is based on plug-ins, there are dozens of setting sets available to backup.

I set up iBackup to backup my iTunes and iPhoto libraries, all my mail, my bookmarks, my calendars as well as my address book. Of course you can also manually pick any file or folder that you want to backup.

iBackup will not do incremental backups. Everything will be copied every time it is run. This means that with the 30-40 GB that I currently have, I will not be backing up very often. Hopefully at least once a month though. Of course you can make smaller backups more often if you so desire. On the plus side, iBackup will not zip your files before uploading, meaning it’s easy to restore a single file from your online backup without downloading the whole thing, should you need to.

All in all, this solution works very well for me. I have a backup that will be at most one day old (or possibly a couple days if I turn the computer off at night), and I have another backup with my most valuable files stored somewhere on the other side of the planet in case the worst should happen.

If all this seems a bit overwhelming to you, you could of course just go with Mozy.

Please let me know if this encouraged you to do more regular backups, or if you have a routine of your own, let me know what it is 🙂

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Pownce invites

01Jul07

Ok, who’s up for a Pownce invite? One comment per head. If you have a cat, you can leave one from him/her too.

 

After a long wait, the day finally came. I got my hands on one of these beautiful devices (you know, it’s really three devices in one!). I’m talking about, of course, the HP Deskjet F380 printer/scanner/copier. So without further ado, I present thee the unboxing and set-up pics.

Hpunbox1
So this is the box. I especially like the colors. Very web 2.0.

Hpunbox2
A knife is a must when opening a box. This one has some blood on it from stabbing the guy in front of me in line.

Hpunbox3
Cuts like butter?

Hpunbox4
I tell you: no one can make a box more exciting than HP. I mean, what ARE all those things?

Hpunbox5
Oh hey, a registration card. This might come in handy. Free tech support and special offers you say, for free?

Hpunbox6
I wonder if I can put this bag over my head…

Hpunbox7
Yep, a lot of tape here. Luckily it’s the non-sticky kind.

Hpunbox8
Must… fondle… gadget…

Hpunbox9
Of course you put the power cables in the ink tray, that’s obvious!

Hpunbox10
You could almost see my crotch.

Hpunbox11
So this is the multi-touch display, now with a glass surface. It’s a whopping 14 inches, and scans with a resolution of 1200 x 2400 dpi! Yeah I don’t know what that means either, but I’m not impressed.

Hpunbox12
At least it’s smaller than the “other” printer (which doesn’t even scan).

Hpunbox13
I don’t know whether I should cry, or try strangling myself with the power cord… does it even matter? It would still be too short!

Hpunbox14
Well, the desk is certainly less cluttered.

Hpunbox15
Even though the latest drivers are almost a year old, they were still not included on the CD. This thing has to sell like xmas-lights around xmas (meaning it sells a lot, not just around xmas).

Hpunbox16
Don’t worry, the software is a Universal Binary, even if it’s powered by Installer VISE.

This was not meant as a review, but if you want to be the cool kid on the block with a 3-in-1 device the size of a printer/scanner/copier, I can tell you that it does a pretty good job. No really, it’s decent.

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