Will technology ever catch up?

Archive for October, 2006

Photography: Save Money with the Nikon D50 digital SLR

Posted by cascadehush on October 31, 2006

Save Money with the Nikon D50 digital SLR:

Overall, the Nikon D50 offers a lot of value for the money, and should be at least considered side-by-side with the newer D80 and other entry-level dSLR models.

Do you always need the latest and greatest, or will an older model at a run-out price offer better value? Especially one that has been well respected as the entry level dSLR.

This is especially worth considering when you consider that you can put any money saved towards better lenses.

I don’t have a dSLR yet myself, but I have considered whether a slightly older model may prove a cheeper way to break into this kind of photography.

Posted in Photography | Leave a Comment »

Vista: 2 Gigs ‘Great’ Says Dell CEO

Posted by cascadehush on October 31, 2006

TechWeb: Vista With 2 Gigs ‘Great’ Says Dell CEO:

Dell chief executive Kevin Rollins told Bloomberg News: “I think they tell you maybe 1 gig [gigabyte] of memory is okay. No. Two gigs of memory would be great.”

Well maybe, but I’m running Visa RC1 with 1GB of memory and a 3GHz Prescott P4 and performance isn’t an issue. I could even run Aero even though I only have an nVidia FX5200 based graphics card. I don’t run Aero because I mainly use this box for video playback and the graphics drivers can’t cope with both Aero and video at the same time. This is a driver issue that will be fixed in due course.

The system requirements for XP were always over-hyped. Most people have trouble with XP because they have bloatware on their system or are trying to run too many programs. You can’t blame the operating system when the bulk of memory and CPU time is being used by a bunch of (often) poorly written programs. You’ll find that most of the time XP itself is using a very small percentage of your CPU cycles and RAM to keep itself going.

There is always a sweet-spot, however. Whilst XP struggles at times with only 256MB, it runs very well with 512MB. I’m sure Vista will double those values, but I don’t think it will quadruple them.

Posted in Hardware, PC, Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

OSX: Make networked scanners available to other Macs

Posted by cascadehush on October 31, 2006

macosxhints.com – Make networked scanners available to other Macs:

If you share a scanner using the Open Source SANE project… you can use Mattias Ellert’s TWAIN/SANE interface to make it available to your Mac applications.

Sounds like a useful thing to be able to do.

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XP & OSX: Adobe Soundbooth Beta

Posted by cascadehush on October 30, 2006

MacMerc.com: Adobe Soundbooth Beta available for download:

According to the specifications, Soundbooth requires an Intel-based Mac with Mac OS X 10.4.3 or greater.

Adobe Soundbooth is a baby sound editor, which looks like a drastically cut down version of Audition. What interests me is that this is available on both Windows and OSX. Audition is PC only and it sticks out like a sore thumb amongst Adobe’s otherwise cross-platform lineup.

Could this be a hint that Adobe are planning to start work on a version of Audition for OSX. The fact that Soundbooth is Intel only suggests that it may in fact contain code from Audition or it’s predecessor Cool Edit. Perhaps this is Adobe’s way of cutting their teeth on a smaller audio app.

This is all just speculation, but one can always hope.

Posted in OSX, PC, Security, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

XP: Happy 5th birthday, Windows XP!

Posted by cascadehush on October 30, 2006

ars technica: Happy 5th birthday, Windows XP!:

After five years, many people consider Windows XP to be getting a little long in the tooth. Yet such is the maturity of the operating systems market that there are far fewer “must-have” reasons to upgrade now than there were in the past. Windows XP brought drastically improved stability, a robust file system, and overall improved performance (provided you had enough RAM) to the general public, making it a worthwhile upgrade from the 9x series in almost all cases. Will Vista offer enough compelling reasons to upgrade? Or will the venerable XP keep chugging along in most people’s homes for years to come?

According to this article, 75% of Google searches are performed using XP and only 8% with Windows 98. But I suspect there are many Windows 98 boxes still out there that are not necessarily used by the type of web surfers that are big on Google searches, but are used for email and online banking.

My point is that 8 years after Windows 98 was released, and 5 years after XP, it still runs a significant proportion of PCs, despite being vastly inferior to XP.

Now Vista is not significantly superior to XP. If Windows 98 has survived 5 years of XP, I think XP will survive more than 5 years of Vista. I think there will come a time when Microsoft will have to start taking drastic measures to move people away from XP. It will eventually stop making XP available to distributors, that is inevitable, but I fear this may be sooner rather than later. There could even come a time when they no longer allow activation, which is exactly why such copy protection is evil.

I don’t consider XP long in the tooth. It is more stable and reliable than ever. I plan on using XP for a long time to come. I want to make it clear that my utter disgruntledness about Vista only increases my respect for XP. In the long-term, unless Microsoft can come up with something way better than Vista, it is likely I’ll be migrating completely to OSX. But I’ll be keeping my XP boxes alive for as long as possible.

Posted in PC, Vista, Win9x, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

iPod: A video player? Forget it!

Posted by cascadehush on October 30, 2006

The iTunes+iPod software update has decided to mess with the aspect ratio of all the video files that I spent some considerable time and processor cycles re-coding. They worked fine before, filling the screen perfectly. Now I get a letterbox view with the picture all squashed up to fit and 2 black bars at the top and bottom wasting many precious pixels.

So I’m giving up on this. I always knew that the iPod would be stupid as a video player because if it’s severely limited range of supported video file formats. But I thought I could figure it out, I thought I had figured it out. I could probably buy some shareware to do it, but I just don’t think it’s a problem worth spending money on. I don’t think I should have to, just to be able to use the iPod for the purpose for which it was designed.

So, now my iPod will only being used for the purpose I originally intended, as a photo viewer and as an in-the-field memory card backup unit.

It’s better this way.

I already mentioned how fantastic the new iTunes/iPod software is for viewing photos organised in iPhoto.

Posted in iPod, OSX, Photography | Leave a Comment »

Vista: Still missing OSX’s 2 best features

Posted by cascadehush on October 29, 2006

I’ve been running Vista for a couple of weeks now. I must say I don’t see the point. It doesn’t seem like an upgrade, rather a side-grade. Different for the sake of being different.

Vista tries to include some of the visual flare of OSX but for the most part fails to actually include anything genuinely useful. But it’s not visual niceties for the sake of aesthetics that are OSX’s biggest asset.

There are two particularly silly and amateurish shortfalls that continue in Vista from earlier Windows.

The first problem is it’s continued use of drive letters to identify disks. This idiotic carry-over from the days of DOS 1.0 creates several problems.

You can never tell what drive letter you’ll get when you plug a removable disk in into the computer. This makes it difficult to work with removable disks with some programs, and adds a layer of complexity if you want to automate tasks.

If you install a new HD, your other drives (including optical drives) can be re-assigned and some programs will have to be re-configured or may stop working.

An even more insidious problem is where windows fails to assign a unique drive letter to different devices. I have a USB card reader that I can’t use at work because windows tries to assign it a sequence of drive letters (one for each type of card slot). When some of those drive letters clash with already assigned drive letters, that card slot is unusable. There is no work around for this. It is common for windows to try to assign drive letters to USB devices which are already taken by network shares.

OSX avoids all these problems by using volume labels to identify drives. This allows me to keep my iPhoto Library on a removable HD and transfer it between my 2 Macs. My card reader only shows up when I actually have a card in the device, so there is no hunting around to find the drive letter for the card.

The second problem is the Taskbar. The Taskbar comes to us from Windows 95, and is a great way of switching between about 4 programs. Back then people were grateful to be able to run more that 2 programs without the OS crashing. Any more than 4 and the taskbar is a mess. Even with a wide-screen monitor it’s not really much better.

You can re-configure the bar to give you 2 rows. This is the first thing I do when I use a Windows PC. But it’s still a mess. Microsoft tried to fix this in XP by allowing you to ‘Group Similar Taskbar Buttons’. This is just adding frustration to injury.

Is it any wonder that so many programs offer some method of hiding their presence from the Taskbar by only showing up as a System Tray Icon next to the clock.

OSX has the Dock and it has Expose.

The Dock is great because the user knows where a certain program is. If they want to run Firefox (for example) they click on the Firefox icon. If they have minimized or hidden Firefox and want to get it back, guess where they click – the Firefox icon. If it’s running, OSX is sensible enough to bring the program to the front. If it’s not, OSX launches it. This is next-generation thinking. The user doesn’t have to worry about whether a program is running or not and act differently.

Expose is even better. A user can choose a window by looking at all windows and choosing the one they want. It’s a natural, human way to work. Vista tries to provide a thumbnail view of running programs in three different ways, none of which are as useful as Expose. They could have just ripped off Expose. They should have.

Posted in Opinion, OSX, PC, Vista | Leave a Comment »

Opinon: Why blogs are killing Google…

Posted by cascadehush on October 26, 2006

…and why it doesn’t matter.

Google is great. If you are looking for something obvious; something with a unique name.

Google sucks. If you are looking for information about a topic which is an idea but could be expressed in many different terms. You have to guess they type of language people will use to describe it and hope that you can find a reference. And if you want to do an exlusive search (e.g you want to upgrade your Mac Mini but it’s an intel model so you want to exclude all results that are only relevant to PPC models) forget about it. Any kind of boolean search is a lottery that you’ll rarely win.

And this is where blogs make the process even worse.

The number of times I do a web search only to find a bunch of pages that are in the results because of comments in a reply to a blog post. Often these comments either don’t have anything to do with the actual information presented, or represent some side-trail. Old-skool web pages do have an advantage over blogs: they tended to present a coherent set of ideas on a focused topic. Well, the good ones did, anyway.

Why doesn’t this matter?

Eventually someone will come up with a proper search engine that takes into account the meaning of language, rather than the slap-dash approach of relying on words with no account of context. It will also be able to interpret the structure of a web page, so, for example, you could restrict your search to the main body of text on a web-page, or give added weight to pages which feature your search parameters in headings or tags.

In the mean-time, find yourself some good blogs. The next time you want to look for something, don’t search the web, search your favorite blogs and follow the links from there.

While you’re there don’t forget to read through some of the comments. Sometimes they are the best bits, even if they are irrelevant side-trails.

Posted in Internet, Opinion | 1 Comment »

Linux: Qt, the GPL, KDE, and GNOME

Posted by cascadehush on October 25, 2006

Linux Today – Stallman on Qt, the GPL, KDE, and GNOME

An interesting article from 2000 which explains some history and demonstrates an interesting mindset. The only thing that ever makes Linux tolerable for me is KDE, so I find it interesting that it has been steeped in so much controversy.

Posted in Linux, PC | Leave a Comment »

IE7: Microsoft’s most secure Web browser

Posted by cascadehush on October 24, 2006

Security Bites: Microsoft’s most secure Web browser | CNET News.com:

For the first time in five years, Microsoft has released a new version of the Web browser. CNET News.com’s Joris Evers and CNET.com’s Robert Vamosi discuss IE 7’s heavily promoted security features in this week’s Security Bites.

Basic security isn’t a feature; the lack of security is a bug.

Microsoft has a history of selling us things as features when in actually fact they are merely fixes for problems that they engineered in the first place.

But I niggle. Watch the video, if for no other reason than to re-affirm your belief in Firefox.

Posted in Security, Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »