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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Here comes another bubble

A youtube video asks me to blog about it and I just oblige without thinking twice. There goes my free will I guess.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The procrastination chart

Just add a "post random pseudo-interesting drivel on my blog" task somewhere in this chart and you'll get a pretty accurate model of my day-to-day life...

(Thanks to Paul Doran for the link.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ten Signs You Want to Be a "Serious" Photographer

I know those "Ten Things" lists can get pretty lame, but I couldn't find any like this one, and I thought it would be an easy way to conclusively prove to my esteemed readers that I am, indeed, slightly mad.

  1. You have a special B&H wishlist just for camera bags.

  2. You chose your whole camera system in a week and never looked back, but four years later you're still looking for the right tripod.

  3. You sort national parks in preferred visiting order.

  4. During holidays, you get up three hours earlier than on working days.

  5. You don't understand why anyone would buy a car when they could get a 600/4.0 for the same price.

  6. You don't see anything ridiculous in staying in the exact same spot for forty minutes waiting for the light to improve.

  7. You consider anyone who doesn't know about adjustment layers technologically illiterate.

  8. You think of your laptop mainly as a Portable Storage Device.

  9. You refer to your travel companions as "interesting compositional elements".

  10. And, last but not least, you get really sick of hearing "Wow. You must have a really good camera".

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tact Filter

An interesting theory about tact filters has been mentioned on 43folders a few days ago.

I'm not sure this is about nerds vs normal people rather than simply different personality types. Many people seem both tactles and clueless, and still enjoy a very succesful social life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Greener (Darker) Google

Now we can all reduce our energy consumption by using Google on a black background. Looks cooler, too :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chris Jordan

From Nick Baum:
Chris Jordan quit his job as a corporate lawyer to take high resolution pictures of huge piles of garbage. In his words, we have access to the good information about our consumption (through commercials, noticeable quality of life improvements, etc.) but we can’t see the cumulative, negative effects of this consumption. Chris’ goal is to make people aware of this waste… [...] He also creates very large-scale composites that illustrate various statistics about the environment and the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Mac Utilities

My latest post listed all the nifty little utilities and haxies I use to turn my Mac user interface into something funnier and more productive than what OS X gave me out of the box. Of course, having a great user interface to access your documents and applications isn't all that useful unless you also have top-notch tools to process these documents. The greatest application switcher in the world won't do you much good if the application you're switching to isn't all that great.

A friend of mine is currently switching to the Mac, and asked me about what really great applications lurk in the Macintosh world. There happens to be quite a few of them, and because I'm such a nice guy, I decided to blog about those I use.

Since I'm great and ambitious, this will be a three-part series. In this post I'll talk about the small stuff: little utilities that aren't all that important but still help in some way. The next one will talk about the big, expensive stuff. In the last one I'll deal with the Dashboard widgets I like (that one will be pretty short).

I've tried to put these in categories that make some kind of sense, but I'll freely admit it's a pretty weird kind. Let's start with system utilities first:
  • iTerm: this list has to start somewhere, so why not with an app that brings us back to the good ole' Unix days. There's nothing obviously wrong with Apple's Terminal, but iTerm looks a bit nicer, is more customizable, and it has tabs.

  • DarwinPorts: OS X implementation of the port package manager from Debian Linux. The command "port install python" will download the latest version of Python, as well as all its dependencies, then compile and install everything. It's one-click installs for unix software, and it Just Works. (Update: apparently new versions are called MacPorts for some reason.)

  • FolderShare: this small dotcom startup, recently bought by Microsoft (who sadly doesn't seem to be doing anything with it) is a real gem. It allows you to synchronize folders between any number of computers (PCs, Macs, Linux boxes) across the internet. After setting up your account, you first download and install a small program, then all subsequent configuration happens through the web interface. It allows you to access any file on any currently connected computer, as well as setting "libraries" of "synchronized" folders. All file transfers are peer-to-peer, so performance is pretty good. The big sour point is that there's no mechanism to automatically reconcile conflicting changes, so if you edit the same file on two different computers, you get two versions of the file and it's your job to make sense of them. Still, I work on three different computers all the time, and this is the best way I've found to make the process reasonably seamless.

Now for the obligatory "productivity" utilities:

  • TextExpander: this is great. In many word processors you can set up "macros", or one-word shortcuts for snippets of text you use over and over again. This is the same thing but it works system-wide. Especially useful for emails.

  • Growl: many programs run in the background waiting for something to happen so they can tell you about it. "File transfer complete". " wants to send you a file". "You have 237 new mail messages". etc. Usually this is stuff you want to know about, but maybe not right now. Growl gives you a central place for all those notifications. When you're feeling bored you can set it up to warn you of everything all the time, but as soon as you feel like actually getting stuff done, it only takes one click to get him to shut up for the time being.

  • Twitterific: This is a twitter client for Mac OS X, and with it you won't fail to waste all the time that the previous utilities saved you, and then some.

  • Synergy: Software KVM. Nice when you have multiple computers in the same place. Works with Mac OS X, all versions of Windows, Linux. I've also tried Teleport, which is more mac-like and can be installed without editing obscure configuration files. On the flip side, it's Mac-only, and I could never get it to work...

Let's call the next ones "multimedia utilities":

  • Flip4Mac: this allows you to play all (non-DRMed) Windows Media files in Quicktime and most web browsers.

  • TubeSock: download files from YouTube, converts them to whatever you want (iPod, H.264, etc.) and add them to iTunes, all in one click. At $15 it's pricey, but much faster than free solutions out there.

  • Senuti: if you have an iPod, you want this. Allows you to transfer any music file from an iPod back to iTunes. It's a real shame that Apple's iTunes no longer does this out of the box, but as long as Senuti works I don't mind too much.

  • Toast Titanium: This is the Mac's Nero. There's plenty of ways to burn CDs and DVDs from Mac OS itself, but Toast automatically splits data-sets that won't fit on a single disk, does one-click DVDs from most kinds of video and picture files, allows you to burn obscure formats like DVD-Audio, you name it. Slightly expensive for something you probably don't really need, but it's very good at what it does.

The following utilities you probably won't use frequently, or at all, but it's good to know they exist:

  • OmniDiskSweeper: No matter how big your hard drive is, at one point it'll get nearly full and you will have to delete some stuff. This (nearly-)free tool instantly shows you which files and folders take up the most space. (If you're a Unix geek you can think of it as "du -sh" with a GUI.) Very handy.

  • Pacifist: Chances are you'll never use this. I didn't. But a friend of mine swears by it, and it looks like it might be the only way out in some situations, so I'll mention it anyway. It allows you to look inside .mpkg installation packages and select individual files to install. Automatic installers usually work fine, but, hey, you never know.

  • Chicken of the VNC: VNC client. If you don't know what VNC is, you probably don't need it.

Mac OS X is compatible with most of everything, and it's pretty rare to come upon a file that you can't open with what's in the default OS install. I've found two, and luckily there's free applications to handle both of them:

  • UnRarX expands .rar archives.

  • Chmox opens Microsoft's .chm files (Compiled Html) used for some documentation and ebooks.

That's it! In my next post, I'll talk about bigger, and probably more controversial, software choices. See you soon.

Monday, April 30, 2007

My Very Own Mac Desktop Interface

The Mac has a great user-interface. Everybody knows that. No-one can ever explain exactly what it is that makes it so great, but it's great. Any sane person only has to use a Mac for a little while to realize how superior it is to every other GUI, even those he's never heard of or those that aren't really implemented yet. Some people may disagree, but that just means they're Windows fanboys and thus not worth listening to.

Well, call me picky, but that perfection is just not good enough for me. And judging by the number of user-interface add-ons available for Mac OS X, I'm not alone. I've tweaked my Mac so much that it doesn't even look like a Mac anymore, and that's not because the Mac is that bad. It's just that from my perspective it can still be improved quite a lot, and since there's plenty of ways to do exactly that, I did it.

First thing first: the Dock sucks. Interaction design guru Tog wrote about this a while ago, and even though Tiger has improved a few things, most of his points still hold. The Dock is a low-density widget that only works well for someone who only ever uses the same five apps and three documents, and that's not me.

The other big problem is that the Mac interface is made for multi-tasking. (If you don't find that self-evident, ask yourself why the green "Zoom" button doesn't actually zoom.) That's awesome when you're working on stuff that requires multi-tasking, like blogging or reading emails or brainstorming with a bunch of people in an IM session. However it's not so great when you need to finish a boring report, especially if you're me and you have the attention span of a ferret with ADD and a caffeine addiction.

Hence after using a Mac for a couple of months, I got annoyed at some of its GUI quirks and decided to do something about it. I quickly came upon an article by Tog called Make Your Mac a Monster Machine, and since then my Mac Desktop has changed forever.

Nowadays I refuse to settle for a single user interface. I have two. The one I use most of the time is optimized for multi-tasking, just like the original Mac Desktop, and looks like this:

The other one I use when I need to focus on just one thing. It looks like this:

Unless you've tried this kind of setup before it probably looks stupid, but I've found it really helps me concentrate on what's really important for the work at hand.

To achieve this setup, I use a lot of different utilities and applications. Although I use all of them, there's no reason you have to, so I've decided to simply list them all and describe what they do. I guess most people will try them one at a time and figure out whether they work for them or not. So, without further ado, here's the list:

  • VirtueDesktops: If you've used Linux recently, you probably know what virtual desktops are and how useful they can be. VirtueDesktop is a pretty good implementation of the idea, and it's free. The two features I really like is first how easy it is to bind applications, forcing them to always stay on the desktop where they make the most sense (I've got Mail, iCal and Address Book bound to my "In" desktop.) and the wealth of keyboard and mouse triggers you can set up to go from one desktop to another or move applications around. This will likely be replaced by Spaces once Leopard comes out.

  • QuickSilver: This thing is unbelievably cool. The first time you use it it looks like Just Another Application Launcher: hit ⌃-space, iTunes, ↩ and iTunes appears. That's already pretty useful if you're a keyboard junkie, but when it comes to Quicksilver, launching is not so much scratching the surface as polishing it with a soft cloth. From its minimalist interface, Quicksilver allows you to open documents with any app, navigate the filesystem, create folders, move and copy files. It also comes with a wealth of plug-ins that allows for FTP upload, controlling iTunes, creating iCal appointments, reading your address book, searching Google, and pretty much everything you can think off, all in just a few keystrokes. After using it for a few days, you won't believe how you ever managed without it.

Most "power-users" think the mouse is inherently inefficient and that you can be a lot faster with keyboard shortcuts. This is mostly true, but for some tasks the mouse feels a lot more natural, and with a well-designed interface it can be mighty fast, too. The next four utilities make launching and switching between applications with a mouse much faster.

  • DragThing: This is a bit like the dock, except it is better in all possible ways. It can store hundreds of applications, documents or urls in a fraction of the Dock's footprint. Best of all, it puts them in predictable places, which makes finding them with a mouse a lot faster. As an added bonus, you get a nice trash can in the bottom right corner of the screen, which is a lot faster to access than the dock's.

  • Application Switcher Menu: This is just like the Applications menu from OS 9. It sits in the top right corner corner of your screen and shows all your open applications. With a single click you can switch to an app, quit it or hide it, without ever touching the keyboard. It's especially useful with VirtueDesktop, since Expose only shows Apps from the current desktop.

  • WindowShadeX: This is another haxie that revives a nice feature of OS9. It gives two new behaviours to all your windows: WindowShade, which rolls up the window inside it's title bar, and minimize-in-place, which shrinks it on the side of your desktop. Both are very handy when you have many windows open on a small screen.

  • StickyWindows: I found out about this one only a few days ago, and I'm starting to like it even though it's a bit redundant with WindowShade. It allows you to minimize windows into tabs and "stick" them on you screen's edges. By default these tabs are "automatic", meaning that whenever a stuck windows looses focus it minimizes to its tab, keeping screen clutter to a minimum.

Just a small hint: if you install the previous four applications, you'll quickly notice that you never use the dock anymore and it's just taking space there for no reason. Luckily, it can be totally hidden from view, even though the feature isn't well-documented. Just open up a terminal window and type these commands:

$ defaults write launchanim -bool no
$ defaults write magnification -bool no
$ defaults write autohide -bool yes
$ defaults write orientation -string top
$ defaults write pinning -string end
$ defaults write tilesize -int 16

then either log out and log back in or just force-quit the Finder. The dock is now hidden in the top-right corner, beneath the menu bar. If at one point you really need to see it again, hit ⌘⌥D. More info here. (By the way, don't you love operating systems that you can easily customize using undocumented NeXTStep commands that Just Works? Never mind...)

This takes care of my multi-tasking desktops. As said earlier, I also have a "single-tasking" (aka sensory-deprived) desktop, inspired by the distracted mac from the Macbreak podcast. This uses two more utilities:

  • Backdrop: This just displays a uniform wallpaper above your desktop, hiding all your icons and other applications. Originally it was made for taking nice screenshots, but it works great as a focusing aid for the attention-challenged.

  • MenuShade: Okay, you've got Backdrop running and your whole desktop is hidden. Suddenly that menu bar on top of the screen looks really bright and it's kinda annoying. MenuShade allows you to dim it, either totally black or totally bright or anything in between. When you hover your mouse near the top it reverts to full brightness for best legibility. I set it to not quite black, so that when I'm looking at it I can still aim for the right menu, but the rest of the time it simply disappears.

I've added those last two utilities to my Login Items, so they launch automatically when I turn the computer on. Using VirtueDesktop, I've bound them to my third desktop, which is called "Work in Progress". This way I always get the same setup when I log in, with the usual interface, and when I need to concentrate on something, the sensory-deprived desktop is only a keystroke away.

This is it! A super-powerful user-interface explained in just a dozen paragraphs! Don't you wish everything was that simple ?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Did Google want to be sued ?

Michi Knows has an interesting theory about how Viacom's lawsuit has always been part of Google's strategy in buying YouTube.

He raises many interesting ideas (Go read them ! You can come back here afterwards :) ) but I believe the simplest explanation is usually the best, and I don't think you need to include the legal side to explain why Google bought youtube.

Google bought YouTube because it has a gazillion page views a day and is likely to grow enormously in years to come. This is the only thing that matters. Google's business is all about page views. Double the page views, double the revenue. It's that simple.

The legal threat from copyright holders doesn't matter much. You could ban all the TV content from YouTube and it would still be enormously popular. As of today, clips from the mainstream media are in the minority on YouTube. The most popular videos are user-generated. Those non-mainstream-media vids are getting better and better, because users are getting better at producing them, but also because serious producers from independent labels and small studios are realizing that YouTube is a great advertising medium, and indie artists are recognizing it, and MySpace, as great ways to be discovered. YouTube is all about distributing those kinds of videos, not television shows. (That's more iTunes' or Joost's business.) In the long run, YouTube doesn't even need the mainstream media.

As of today, Viacom wants a billion bucks. So what ? Google will negotiate a deal and this will never reach the courts. Why fight it out ? Google might win of course, even though Napster and Kazaa lost, and their business model was pretty close to YouTube's, but why bother ? Even a "win" would surely involve a court decision constraining Google/YouTube to do something about piracy, and that would be expensive and technologically challenging. (Yes, even for Google.)

Of course, if what Viacom really wants is to kill YouTube plain and simple, then it will have to go to court. Maybe their faith in Joost goes so far that they're willing to sacrifice all the free publicity they get on YouTube and all the goodwill in the world just to cripple a competitor. Maybe. But for Google, maintaining the status quo is much simpler and less expensive.

Are new distribution media and business models like YouTube's showing the need for a serious rehaul of copyright laws ? Certainly. But this is not Google's fight. The only thing they did was to buy a site with the potential for huge traffic, so that this traffic would be their own, not Yahoo's or Microsoft's. Of course they thought about the legal issues. But those are peripheral, not strategic.

PS: the latest TWiT discusses this subject at length.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Macintosh Keyboard

I've just noticed that I've been writing this blog for a few months now, and I've never posted a proper tech rant. A "tech rant" is when a blogger gets up on a metaphorical podium with a decent piece of design or technology that millions of people use everyday without hassle, and tell those millions of people what a stinkin' piece of crap they've been unknowingly stuck with all this time. It's fun.

Our subject of the day will be: the Macintosh keyboard. I know, it won a gazillion prizes for industrial design, it's the main human-interaction device for the most user-friendly OS in existence, it has a wonderful soft-touch feel, and it's on display in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Well, it stinks.

First, there's a bunch of symbols missing. I can empathize with the designer's wish for a clean and pure layout, and it looks awesome in photographs, but googling "mac special characters" when you forget that ~ on an AZERTY keyboard is ⌥-n-space gets old real quick. Of course everybody knows that tilde is mostly used in spanish for the letter 'ñ', so that makes the ⌥-n-space shortcut really intuitive.

Speaking of intuitiveness, what kind of sick deranged mind ever came up with the idea of Glyph Notation ? In case you don't know, glyph notation is the amusing practice of referring to special keys (in menus, documentation, even help files) not by the key's name (conveniently written on the key itself) but with symbols that have absolutely no relation whatsoever with the key's name/shape/form/usage/history. For example, esc is ⎋, ctrl is ⌃, the option key (you know, the key with "alt" written on it) is ⌥ and the command key is ⌘, which surprisingly is drawn on the key, along with a hollow apple that doesn't appear anywhere else. (In case you're wondering: no, "command" isn't written anywhere on the keyboard.) Even though I get a real kick out of having a key with a hollow apple drawn on it, because it's cute and reminds me of the Apple IIc that introduced me to computing twenty years ago, I must admit that it doesn't make any kind of sense.

And don't get me started on "enter" (⌅) and "return" (↩). There's a key with "enter" written on it, and another one with both "return" and "enter". (I believe that if I were to forget about the existence of the "enter" key I could get the same effect with fn-return, but it might be the other way around.) According to legends, old folk tales and post-it notes some guy claims to have seen on Steve Jobs' desktop, both keys have subtly different effects. I sure hope so, because they're taking up valuable keyboard real estate on my PowerBook G4, which is so small and optimized that it doesn't even have "insert" or "delete" keys. Very sad, considering "insert" has the outstanding quality that at least I know what the hell it's for.

Despite all those non-sensical gotchas in what I'll call (for lack of a better word), the "design" of the Mac Keyboard, Mac fans seem to love it. Self-described power users even brag about how much more powerful their keyboard shortcuts are because there's four modifier keys on a Mac.

People who don't use both platforms regularly might not be aware of the subtle differences between them, so allow me to explain. Disclaimer: reading the following paragraph might cause your brain to give up on you and move to Ecuador in search of better climate and a less life-deprived body. You've been warned.

PCs don't have the ctrl (⌃) key. I mean, yeah, they have the Ctrl key, (note the capital "C") but their Ctrl key is really the equivalent of the command (⌘) key, not ctrl (⌃). So Windows PCs have three modifier keys (Ctrl, Alt, Shift) and Macs have four (cmd, alt, ctrl, shift). Now I know some of you annoying smart asses are going to tell me that PCs have the AltGr key — which Macs don't have — but this doesn't really count, because AltGr is really Ctrl+Alt, so it's not an independent key. [Update: Windows developer Deadly Smurf points out that it's possible for an application to distinguish between AltGr and Ctrl+Alt, although very few ever do, and having different behaviour in the two cases is generally considered bad design.] There's also the Windows key, but this is reserved for the OS (or seems to be. I've never seen it used by a client application) and is a joke anyway, the product of an underused mind somewhere at Microsoft, who one day looked at the space between "Ctrl" and "Alt" and thought "What a waste. Let's replace this useless empty space with a useless key, and make it do vaguely useful things in Windows 95". He brought it up to marketing, who immediately loved it, thinking that if by some off-chance the Briefcase failed to cause mass-adoption of the new OS, this "Windows key" certainly would. Last but not least, if anyone comes up with how the Mac's ctrl (⌃) is not needed on the PC because PC mouses have more than one button — on a Mac ctrl-clic gets you a right-click. Confused yet ? — I'll just have to take him outside and shoot him, because ctrl (⌃) is used in keyboard shortcuts, so it is a full-fledged modifier key.

Now where was I ? Oh, yes. Mac power users. (Am I the only one who thinks of "power users" as "people who spend so much time customizing their computer and optimizing their settings and tweaking their applications and whatever that they never use their computer to actually do anything" ? Just wondering.) So, they're bragging about those four modifier keys. As if that was obviously a good thing. As if there really was such a dire need for more key combinations.

Have you ever computed how many combinations you could get with three modifier keys ? I'm not very good at combinatorial arithmetics, but three keys should have as many states as a three bit register, which is, I think, eight. In any context where you're inputing text, using either no modifier key or Shift alone will simply input the corresponding character. And Alt is the menu key in Windows, so we're left with "only" five usable combinations for keyboard shortcuts.

The vast majority of Windows programs use Ctrl for the really obvious stuff (Save / Close / etc.) and Ctrl+Shift for the slightly less obvious stuff (Save As...), leaving three other combinations for obscure functionalities and user-defined shortcuts. As a rule, most programs don't use Alt-Shift nor Ctrl-Alt-Shift, so this means that whenever you think a function is worthy of a keyboard shortcut but Ctrl- is already taken, there's a good chance that Ctrl-Shift- or Ctrl-Alt- will be it. This is good. It means that most windows programs have very predictable keyboard shortcuts, and ease of use is all about predictability.

Now on the Mac, not only do you have four modifiers but there's no designated menu key. (It's ctrl-F2. Which means ctrl-fn-F2 on laptops. Apple obviously thinks Mac OS' menu bar's mouse implementation is so fast that there's no reason to ever use the keyboard. Amazingly this is mostly true.) This gives you fourteen possible combinations for every key on the keyboard. Which is very impressive until you realize that you effectively have zero chance of ever guessing a keyboard shortcut you've not seen before.

What compounds the problem is that beyond the really obvious (New/Open/Save/Close/Quit and clipboard ops) there's almost no convention for keyboard shortcuts across applications. Even really basic stuff like "move caret to beginning of current line" (the "caret" is the blinking vertical line that shows where you currently are in a document) can be either home or ⌘←. Move to next window/tab is either ⌘˜ (on US keyboards), ⌘> (on many other keyboards), ⌘→, ⌥⇥, ⌘⌥→
or nothing (which means either use the mouse or ⌃F2, W, ↑, something).

Things don't have to be this way: application developers could just follow best practices and standardize on something sensible. "Sensible" doesn't mean "the best design possible in a world where no other application exists", but "the design which will make our application easiest to use for our target audience, given what programs they've used in the past and the habits they've acquired in so doing."

Until this becomes widespread practice, user interface on the Mac will be a far cry from the total perfection described by fans.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pogue on interface

Funny TED-talk by David Pogue about software design and simplicity, with a few geek songs thrown in for good measure. It's one more great example of how great speeches can be when the speaker has the courage to ditch PowerPoint.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Stay at home and send your giraffe to work !

I can't decide if this video-conferencing device is perfect or ridiculous... The name is fun though :)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Stop levelling and start living!

According to an article in The Age, many psychologists now agree that online games can lead to clinical addictions and other conditions classified as "mental health problems".

Reading this quote from a poster on the WoW_Widow mailing-list, (I ripped of their slogan for the title of this post), I think I agree:

"My husband is addicted to WoW [World of Warcraft]. Our one-year anniversary is coming up in three weeks and he doesn't want to go anywhere for it because he won't get to play. I feel so neglected and he even turns me down for sex because he'd rather play the game ... I feel more like the mother of a 13-year-old boy than the wife of a 27-year-old man."

Of course, this somewhat-new phenomenon has lead enterprising individuals to seek new business opportunities, and that's alright, but... I wonder... who's going to buy this... and for whom ?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Paul Graham has a video on Dexter, the first dynamically balancing biped robot. He's certainly more impressive than the Walking Table.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Equivalent lenses and diffraction limits

Luminous-landscape has a very thorough article about equivalent focal length and how diffraction limits resolution at low aperture. The fun part is that it's written by two very knowledgeable people and yet they apparently can't agree on the minimum aperture at which resolution becomes diffraction-limited for a given sensor.

Who's right ? I have no idea. I just know that when I use a good tripod and a good lens opened-up to oh-I-don't-know,-about-f/8.0, the result is generally sharp enough.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The open-source Aeroqua

DailyMotion hosts a cool demo of Beryl, an upcoming window manager for Linux. It borrows liberally from Aqua, Aero and Looking Glass, and adds a touch of open-source exuberance, going ridiculously overboard with themes and 2D or 3D effects.

Provided there's an easy way of disabling the more epilepsy-inducing animations, it does seems like Linux will soon be getting a top-notch window manager of its own.

Friday, January 26, 2007

New bestseller coming to a very small screen near you

Apparently Finnish author Hannu Luntiala just finished a novel written entirely in smsspeak. (Proofreading must have been hell.)

I doubt it'll be as funny as Who moved my blackberry?, a novel entirely made of emails written by one very conceited executive, but I'm sure buying it :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Let's photoshop Apple's future products

Fun contest at Worth1000: what are Apple's future products ?

The iCube looks like fun:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Heard on TWiT : David Pogue on indexing.

I'm sincerely sorry for database fans hoping for a post on query optimization, but this post will talk about book indexes. You know, books. Made of paper. And ink. With page numbers, a table of contents, and a really old-fashioned user interface which doesn't even offer full-text search.

Books, then. I heard mentioned on TWiT that David Pogue writes his books' indexes (or is that word "indices" ? I never know.) himself. All the hosts seemed to agree this was a waste of time and, well, basically, nuts.

Apparently when you've just finished a technical book and it's time to write an index, the standard way to go is : don't do it. The publisher will handle all of that by himself, either by hiring a "professional indexer" (now that sounds like a rewarding job) or by running the book through an indexing script that automatically generates the index. Some super-scrupulous publishers who think of themselves as catering to the high-tech book connoisseur crowd will, maybe, use a combination of the two.

Please allow me to be the first to say: "Huh ?".

When I'm shopping for a technical book, I have to figure out in a few minutes whether it will help me answer my questions on the subject in a timely manner. And in such a short time, I can't do much more than skim a few random pages, then ask myself a couple of likely questions and try to answer them using the table of contents and, of course, the index. If it's good -- and assuming I had some sleep in the last twenty hours or so -- I'll quickly find an obvious word related to my question, and this will point to a page where I'll find the answer. If it's not good (and I've found most tech book indexes to be pretty bad) I won't.

Now according to an old TWiT I just listened to, David Pogue doesn't do this the traditional way. (Which I should really call "the lazy way".) He believes he can do a better job himself, seeing how he wrote the whole book, and this gives him a better grasp of the content and the kind of question a typical reader might look for in the index.

Now that is a radical idea...

SQL coated raisins

(Disclaimer : non-programmers probably won't find this funny. You've been warned.)

I'm a big fan of The Daily WTF in general and I find their Pop-up Potpourri especially funny, but this one is in a class of its own :


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I'd Really Rather You Didn't

  1. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Act Like a Sanctimonious Holier-Than-Thou Ass When Describing My Noodly Goodness. If Some People Don't Believe In Me, That's Okay. Really, I'm Not That Vain. Besides, This Isn't About Them So Don't Change The Subject.

  2. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Use My Existence As A Means To Oppress, Subjugate, Punish, Eviscerate, And/Or, You Know, Be Mean To Others. I Don't Require Sacrifices, And Purity Is For Drinking Water, Not People.

  3. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Judge People For The Way They Look, Or How They Dress, Or The Way They Talk, Or, Well, Just Play Nice, Okay? Oh, And Get This In Your Thick Heads: Woman = Person. Man = Person. Samey - Samey. One Is Not Better Than The Other, Unless We're Talking About Fashion And I'm Sorry, But I Gave That To Women And Some Guys Who Know The Difference Between Teal and Fuchsia.

  4. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Indulge In Conduct That Offends Yourself, Or Your Willing, Consenting Partner Of Legal Age AND Mental Maturity. As For Anyone Who Might Object, I Think The Expression Is Go F*** Yourself, Unless They Find That Offensive In Which Case They Can Turn Off the TV For Once And Go For A Walk For A Change.

  5. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Challenge The Bigoted, Misogynist, Hateful Ideas Of Others On An Empty Stomach. Eat, Then Go After The B*******.

  6. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Build Multimillion-Dollar Churches/Temples/Mosques/Shrines To My Noodly Goodness When The Money Could Be Better Spent (Take Your Pick):

    1. Ending Poverty

    2. Curing Diseases

    3. Living In Peace, Loving With Passion, And Lowering The Cost Of Cable

    I Might be a Complex-Carbohydrate Omniscient Being, But I Enjoy The Simple Things In Life. I Ought To Know. I AM the Creator.

  7. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Go Around Telling People I Talk To You. You're Not That Interesting. Get Over Yourself. And I Told You To Love Your Fellow Man, Can't You Take A Hint?

  8. I'd Really Rather You Didn't Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You If You Are Into, Um, Stuff That Uses A Lot of Leather/Lubricant/Las Vegas. If the Other Person Is Into It, However (Pursuant To #4), Then Have At It, Take Pictures, And For The Love Of Mike, Wear a CONDOM! Honestly, It's A Piece of Rubber. If I Didn't Want It To Feel Good When You Did It I Would Have Added Spikes, Or Something.

From The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Who needs Photoshop ?

Great collection of Photographs that Changed the world at neatorama. I'm quite admirative of this one by Philippe Halsman :

It took six hours, 28 jumps, and a roomful of assistants throwing angry cats and buckets of water into the air to get the perfect exposure.

Wow. Most of the time I'm too lazy to set up a tripod...