I had heard stories similar to this over the years, but they took place mostly in Japan, not the US. Using only the photos found on a camera left in the back of a cab, the owner is tracked down and the camera returned. It’s the feel-good story of the year (so far).
Month: January 2008
Wired has an interesting article and interactive graphic that sheds some light on all of the bots and scrapper and whatnot that descend on new blog postings. It is amazing how a whole background industry has grown up around blogging. I think it also show the great lengths that people will go to try to benefit themselves from work that isn’t their own.
The rumors around Apple software updates have been flying, including a much anticipated (some would say overdue) update to the Aperture photo software. Of course, there was a rumor that Apple were going to release a huge 10.5.2 update last Friday. That update didn’t materialize as planned.
My guess is that we will see both in the coming week as PMA provides the perfect forum for the announcement (and served as the forum for announcing Aperture 1.5). The 10.5.2 update will likely be released at the same time or in advance of Aperture. The key thing about the OS update is that that is how Apple supports new cameras and file formats. This tying of the camera support to the OS release cycle has been a point of bitter grumbling for photographers who like to jump on new cameras as they are first released.
I am hoping for support of the Olympus E-3 in the 10.5.2 update, as well as an announcement from Olympus of a price drop or at least a rebate on the E-3 as I would very much like to upgrade from my existing E-500 before my next trip.
If PMA truly is the backdrop for these announcements, all will be revealed this week.
With a growing number of apps on Mac OS X being delivered with Growl notifications, I find myself wishing that the default behavior of growl was not just display only, but something more actionable. That is, I want something like a configurable Growl client that could ‘subscribe’ to certain Growl notifications (Growl Actions?) and then take action based on them. This would make all of the apps that participate in the scheme much more flexible and powerful using a common mechanism (growl).
For example, if you use Twitter or Jaiku and that client could subscribe to a Growl notification that a batch update to your files in Aperture had just completed and send you a corresponding Twit. Another app might then perform some file housekeeping action based on the same notification having been sent (so one GrowlAction, multiple ‘subscribers’ take action on it. Some of this could probably be done with Applescript, but using Growl feels like a more open and extensible solution (and keeps it open to our Linux brethren). Heck, this could even lead to Growl-based mashups on your desktop (and beyond).
In conjunction with this concept of Growl Actions, I thought it would be handy to have an app/widget that I call a Growl-er (think flower). This is a circular visual widget that would compactly display received growls; hover over a ‘petal’ and it would extend out and show more detail about the growl received. When a Growler becomes too cluttered it could ‘sprout’ another circle to populate.
Mobile applications have come a long way, but still have plenty of ground to cover. Much of that has to do with the lack of consistency in web sites ability to deal with mobile devices. Google Maps for Mobile is a perfect example. GMM is a slick app that runs on most smart phones. The mapping is fantastic; it’s that the linking isn’t very well thought out.
For example, using GMM you can find a restaurant near you on the go, but when you try to read a review or other linked info that GMM provides it is often very painful (if it works at all). Sites like Zagat (and others) are still utilizing the tired Flash-encrusted site designs that do not play well on mobile devices. The ironic thing is that Zagat is offering a new mobile site — but GMM is not using this for its links. Perhaps Google could be a little smarter around where they source their linked content when the browser/app is a mobile client.
The title is a play on Ubiquitous Computing except I don’t necessarily want devices interacting with each other, I want me to be able to interact with all of my data sources. Recently I realized that general purpose desktop apps are becoming more irrelevant for me because they do not have an online and/or mobile access point. By way of example, here are a few desktop apps that I have traded in over time for online counterparts:
NetNewsWire is a fine feed reader for the Mac, but I gave it up for Google Reader the instant that there was a viable version of Reader. I found that I spent too much time trying to reconcile the feeds that I had read online, on my phone and in NNW. Google Reader gives me one place to manage and access them all.
After the initial coolness factor of scanning barcodes via iSight in Delicious Library it soon became clear that Delicious was just another island of personal data that I couldn’t use in the way that I needed/wanted. I exported the book information from Delicious and imported it into the very fine (and then fledgling) LibraryThing and never looked back. LibraryThing liberated my book info and provides both online and mobile access to my data. I would love to find a ‘LibraryThing for music’ where I could upload/synch my iTunes music info and be able to browse and search it on the go.
StickyBrain (now SohoNotes) was a handy utility for capturing random bits of info from the web and other desktop apps. Same problem though — I found myself wanting to have access to the data on the go but there was no good option. Granted they did have a Palm conduit that you could export notes to which was great if you carried a Palm device. I have begun using Google Notebook more and more for this type of data collection because I can get to the notes when I need it. SohoNotes would be 1000% more useful to me, if it could synch with Google Notebook and thereby provide mobile/online access.
I almost bought OmniFocus when it was discounted during the beta. But again I found that it’s lack of an online capability was too much of a limitation for my purposes. RememberTheMilk has been a great GTD solution for me over the years. It is simple to use and does everything that I need it to do without being tied to desktop app.
The next step is to move beyond the apps and get straight to the heart of the matter — the underlying data. The ideal model is that the data is online and available via a common set of services in addition to a lightweight UI. Another bonus would be if the data is also stored in a format that allows it to be repurposed beyond its original use (XML?, RDF?). Consider the possibilities: Mashup your own data. Have a unified set of tags across all of your data.
Granted there will always be things that you want to do on a dedicated app (edit photos, video) but for ‘everyday tasks’ (schedule, todos, bookmarking, contacts, notes, presence, etc) it just makes sense to be able to take that with you. And ‘taking it with you’ could be as simple as desktop apps having the ability to export/sych information into your online personal data hub. Until the personal data hub becomes a reality, there is still a great deal of value in exporting to existing web applications.
Only 7 days left to take advantage of the aptly named Mac Heist where you can get about half a grand of quality Mac software for $49USD. It that isn’t cool enough, a chunk of the proceeds go to charity (you can even pick which ones you would like it to go to). I already have my bundle and am loving it. Heck, I almost paid retail for Wingnuts 2 last weekend, now I essentially get it for pennies on the dollar.
If you don’t make it this year, definitely check it out next year as it only seems to keep getting bigger and better.
I guess the new MacBook Air is cute and optimized for, uh, thin. Otherwise, I think it is overpriced and under-featured. Thin is nice, but I can’t ever think of a time when I though, “I can’t use this darn laptop, it’s just too thick!”. And the non-user-replaceable battery is a joke.
Now a pen-based tablet (ok, it can have multi-touch, too) in a slightly smaller form factor, running full OS X; THAT would be cool and useful. MacBook Air? No so much.
Reading the product page for the newly announced Photoshop Elements for Mac really drove home the growing divide between photography and digital imaging (which I have commented on before). Just look at the features they are touting:
The ability to make franken-photos by cutting and pasting people an things from a series of photos. I am sure this will come in handy for stalkers everywhere to put themselves in photos with their secret love that never actually happened. Yikes.
And of course, a PS favorite, the ability to change areas of a photo to create colors that didn’t originally exist. Why strive for fidelity in your images when you can turn a sunflower orange and that grey sky blue?
Enhanced ability to create black and whites. This is so overused already because people seem to think that converting an image to B&W instantly gives it some kind of classy/artsy cred that it never had (and never will). It is just annoying.
And my personal favorite: ‘one click adjustments‘. The perfect opportunity to make your pictures look like everyone else’s — not what you actually shot, but what some algorithm thinks is good. No creativity required at all.
Of course, there is nothing to say that you must use PS on your photos. It is just bewildering to me how many people do use it (and abuse it). As one famous professional photographer stated in a podcast (paraphrasing): ‘It is amazing how things have changed. For me the creative process is everything I do before I click the shutter: composition, exposure control, lighting, etc. But today, for most ‘photographers’ the ‘creative’ process starts after they click the shutter…’
I found the comments following the article on boingboing about the Chandler calendar project a lot more insightful and informative that the semi-gushing review itself.
I guess mozilla was an exception, but what I call large ‘corporate OSS’ projects don’t always work out. I also suspect that it is not a characteristic of OSS per se. It seems one of the issues was there was no pressure to deliver anything. So rather than focus on product delivery they created their own OS and programming tools as well as what is reported to be a unwieldy and poorly thought out architecture. Don’t know that anyone is in the market for those things.
This reminds me of the first internet bubble when people would rush out and get office space and funding and have no idea what their product or business model was (or should be). They just wanted to be ‘doing the startup thing’ not actually delivering anything. Then it was time for what I referred to as ‘the rise of B2B and B2C’ as in ‘Back To Banking’ and ‘Back To College’.
Just a quick note: Gmail now supports the creation of personal mailing lists. Now it is even easier to spam your friends with the latest URLs that you think might be of interest.
I don’t know why they bother. Yahoo continuously overcommits and under delivers when it comes to their web and especially their mobile offerings. After their announcement of Yahoo Go 3 at CES, I thought, ‘why not see how they have screwed this up’. The usual amount. My phone, a Nokia N75 is listed as ‘compatible’, but when I go through the error fraught process of actually trying to download the much lauded version 3, I am rewarded with a slightly newer version of 2 that I already have installed. Lame. No version 3 in sight.
Their insistence on using zero-value Flash laden websites is also bewildering. When I attempted to enter my phone number to receive the download instructions, I was curtly prompted to ‘enter a valid phone number’. What? Do these retards pretend to validate your phone number against a database of all mobile phone numbers in the US. Not likely. More of their shoddy production, I would say.
Once again: don’t bother with Yahoo NoGo.
It has been a bit amazing the amount of rending of garments and gnashing of teeth that has gone on around AOL announcing that it is ending support for Netscape Navigator in February. Navigator and Communicator have been dead to me for years. I jumped to the lighter weight and more feature rich Mozilla builds when they first became stable and then made the leap to the even more nimble Firefox when it emerged.
I think back to the early-90s when I was using the nearly unheard of Mosaic browser to access the precious few sites that existed at the time (and creating a corporate site using the not-so-stable NCSA server code). Then there were rumblings on the Usenet forums about this upstart beta of the ‘mozilla’ browser. Fledgling webmasters were horrified by this new browser because you could set the number of download treads that the browser could use to access your site. Horrors! This would certainly be the end of the Internet — it can’t possibly scale! But somehow we survived and the Mozilla Communications Corporation became Netscape and the rest is history.