Bits and Pieces

Another week has gone by. It being tax time and all (yea I waited) I didn’t have time to put together any additional articles but I do have a bunch of little things I’ve either started or have noticed around the web. Rather than a lot of small posts, or ignoring them completely, I decided to summarize them here.

Software News

Hawk Wings had news of Correo 0.2 which is an open source e-mail client based on Camino and Thunderbird. With my move off of mail.app due to some problems it’s nice to see a product that seems to address my main reason for not using Thunderbird (despite it’s cross-platform abilities) which was the lack of OS X integration. It’s definitely seems worth looking at. My e-mail requirements are minimal but reliability is a key one so I’ll probably avoid moving to it at least until it’s a little further along in the development stage, but my curiosity will probably force me to look at it pretty soon. You can download Correo or visit the blog to learn more.

TextExpander is a app I’ve heard about and has piqued my interest in the past but I never downloaded it. It was again mentioned on a recent Macbreak Video and in a Hawk Wings entry (about the new html snippets) so I took the hint and downloaded the evaluation software. Well, I’ve only had it installed for a day and already I’m hooked. I also downloaded their snippet files for autocorrect and html codes. One of the things that had turned me off was that it’s a $29 app. While that’s a low price the app seems to do something that’s so simple it seems pointless to pay. Well, it’s a huge productivity boost (especially for someone with my lack of typing skills) and is worth the twenty-nine bucks. The only downside is learning the shortcuts. Simple enough for ones that are used all the time but the other ones may be a bit tougher. They offer suggestions since the shortcuts also have to be avoided when typing real words.

On the Web

There were some web articles I came across but haven’t mentioned yet.

Information Week published and article about managing application compatibility in Vista. Much of it is in problem/solution format while they also cover additional options such as the Application Compatibility Toolkit from Microsoft. The target audience is IT support people rather than end-users/consumers but it’s an interesting read if your considering Vista.

I was looking for some icons and came across Real Word Graphics. The have several icon sets that can be downloaded for free. They also sell an icon editor (which I haven’t looked at). I was also able to use their online fav-icon creator to create a favicon for another site.

It was also in the news that Apple’s Boot Camp beta would be expiring. At the time the article was posted Leopard was still officially due for a “spring” release which was expected to be in June. Since then Leopard has been officially delayed until October but the terms of the beta state that it expires September 30th even if the product isn’t released. Apple has said that the Windows installation will continue to work aftert the beta ends, but support options will be limited. There won’t be any driver updates and the Boot Camp Assistant software sill stop working. Boot Camp will become part of Leopard when it’s released and there have been rumors that it will also be a separate product for older OS X versions. Price rumors for the separate product are $29.

Computerworld had a good review of four external drives. They liked the Western Digital drive the best (although performance was mixed) but also gave good marks (along with some bad) to drives from Seagate, LaCie and Iomega. Also, while not the exact drive that was reviewed (the one with the triple interface) my local Staples newspaper circular has WD Mybook drives on sale this week so check them out if they’re local for you.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Also in the news this weeks was Corel’s release of an update to their WinDVD software. A while back some hackers accessed the encryption keys which would allow duplication of HD DVD and Bu-ray disks. The encryption keys were revoked so the software will stop playing DRM protected discs that use those keys. I’ve read conflicting information as to whether this just affects new disks or if it also applies to old discs. But the Corel spokeperson says it also affects old disk. They said…

Our recommendation is for anyone using HD DVD or Blu-ray disc playback to download the update in order to ensure that both their existing titles and newly purchased titles will continue to play,” Hughes said. “If someone inserts an HD or Blu-ray disc with the new licensing keys, it will result in HD/BD playback of previous titles being disabled until (users) install the free update.

To me, this is just foolish. Blu-ray and HD DVD don’t seem to be catching on (at least based on their availability in stores). Rather than trying to improve the product they’re making the product hard to deal with by requiring their customers (the ones who paid) to go out and update their software. The product they bought (Blu-ray/HD DVD discs) will stop working without this update. The manufacturers didn’t even think ahead by trying to put some automated update ot notification service in their software. The first time a paying customer will learn their disks don’t play may very well be when they try to play a disk. I suspect they’d return the disk if it is new. I doubt they’d know to update their software.

ZDNet had an article on Microsoft acknowledging that hackers have found a way to bypass Windows activation. To me this just seems to prove that the people who really want to bypass such protection can get by it. These are the people who can profit from it in a big way, not the typical MS customer. So it becomes another speedbump on the consumers road to using Microsoft’s product.

Quest News

I’ve been playing around with using iWeb to create a website hosted outside of .Mac. I’ve also been looking at Google Co-op as a custom search tool. The current results of both efforts are here. (Warning: That’s a development site and likely to change frequently and be down at times.)

The iWeb template I chose was a tad heavy on the graphics so it takes a bit of time to load. Unlike something like WordPress there’s no way to easily change an existing template that I can see. So I’ll be looking for a lighter theme before I continue much farther along. I also used iWebHancer which allows me to use HTML code within iWeb. The feedburner headline animators, Google Custom Search and the Amazon ads were all possible because of iWebEnhancer. The instructions for use are simple and are on the site. A tip – when they say type the placeholder as it appears, they mean it. Somehow mine was entered all caps and it didn’t work. I really like iWeb and I’m itching to do something with it. If I decide to keep using iWeb I’ll be adding iWebhancer to the toolkit. For an example of how far iWeb can be taken visit RoughlyDrafted.com.

I just started looking at Google Co-op to create custom searches. It’s fairly easy to use but takes some trial and error to get used to. Once I get more comfortable with it I suspect it will become the search tool I use on my websites.