Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘software’

WordPress.com upgrades file storage to 3 GB, world rejoices

Posted by Fred on January 22, 2008

yay-new-shoes.jpg

wp_space_upgrade.pngThis is awesome. Last week, my wordpress.com account said I’d used 30% of 50 MB for file uploads, but they’ve gone and upgraded free space to 3 GB. And it’s still free, if you don’t want to host audio or video.  Hey Matt, now just roll out the batch upload capability and I’ll be really happy.  Then I can move the images for this theme for an off-site host to wordpress.  No way I’m uploading all those files one at a time.

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Essential PC applications for bloggers

Posted by Fred on January 17, 2008

Scoble recently linked to a post from Darren Rowse listing 14 Essential Mac OS X Applications for Bloggers, which led me to wonder “what about the PC?”  Darren’s response is “switch,” which really isn’t an answer at all.  So this is my attempt at a Mac-to-PC translation of that list.

1. Desktop Blogging Tool

Mac: ecto or MarsEdit

wlw.pngPC:  ecto is available in a PC version, but I’ve always found it to be lacking compared to the Mac feature set. It’s even more so now, as the rewritten-from-the-ground-up version 3 is available only for OSX.  Personally, I use Windows Live Writer, which is free and can post to Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server, and lots of other blog systems.  WLW also makes it simple to add photos, videos, maps, tags and other fancy stuff. Before WLW, I mostly used BlogJet, which is also good (but not free).

2. Image Tools

Mac: ImageWell and Skitch

logo3.pngPC: There are, obviously, a lot of image tool available for the PC.  For photos, I tend to retouch using Photoshop Elements and/or Picasa.  For vector images, I prefer Illustrator to Inkscape.  But for basic blogging tasks, nothing really beats paint.net.  It’s great for basic cropping, rotating, recoloring, adding shadows and text, and optimizing for the web.  It does a whole lot more than that (blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing, splines, Bezier curves, etc.), but most of that functionality is beyond the needs of your average blogger.

3. Offline Web App Tools

Mac: Twhirl for Twitter and Flickr Uploader for Flickr

smugmug_white.pngPC: Both of those tools are also available for the PC.  Twhirl is written using Adobe AIR, so it is cross-platform.  The Flickr Uploader was originally written for the PC, and later ported to OSX.  I don’t really use Twitter (although I have an account) or Flickr (ditto).  For image hosting, I’ve actually been using DriveHQ instead, as more and more filtering tools are being configured to block Flickr and Photobucket.  A good alternative for photo sharing is SmugMug.  For uploading there, I’d suggest Komodo Drop, available for PC, Mac and Linux.

4. FTP

Mac: CyberDuck or Transmit

logo.pngPC: Since I moved to WordPress.com, I have little need for FTP software, as WP doesn’t allow FTP access.  However, before the switch, I primarily used Filezilla.   It’s open source, available for Mac, PC, Linux and *BSD, andsimple to use given its powerful feature set.  If you do a lot of large transfers, the ability to pause and resume huge file transfers (> 4 GB) is a big plus.  It’s also available in a portable version, so you can take it with you on a USB drive for use away from your PC.

5. Screenshots

snagit7boxshot.jpgMac: InstantShotQuickSnap, Paparazzi and SnapNDrag

PC: For most purposes, I usually just use [Print Screen] + paint.net, actually.  For more robust screen capture, SnagIt wins hands down.  You can capture pretty much anything that appears on the screen, including menus and scrolling windows.  SnagIt will also automatically capture all of the images, video and audio files from a Web site if you feed it a URL.  SnagIt also includes an image editor, and free plugins allow direct transfer of images from the program to your blog.

Windows Mobile: I also blog about Windows Mobile from time to time. For smartphone screenshots, I use Ilium’s Screen Capture, which is free, fast and easy to use.  You do have to sync the phone to get the images to the desktop.  To avoid that step, you can use VITO ScreenCapture, which lets you take screenshots directly from the desktop.

6. Video Capture

Mac: CaptureMe

logo-new.gifPC: I don’t really do screencasts, but on the few occasions I’ve needed to try, SnagIt’s basic video capture has been good enough.  You could also try Camtasia Studio (also from Techsmith, publisher of SnagIt), but it retails for $299.  It integrates really well with SnagIt – you can send screengrabs directly from SnagIt to Camtasia. A free alternative is CamStudio, which records activity from your screen and audio from a microphone as AVI video files, which you can then convert into Flash using its built-in SWF Producer.

7. Instant Messaging

Mac: Adium

trillian_logos.pngPC: I mostly use Google talk because it’s free and built into Gmail, which is the only email I use these days.  But for multi-protocol IM comparable to Adium, the best is probably Trillian, which  supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.  To get Jabber support (i.e. for Google Talk), you have to buy Trillian Pro, which supports plugins like the Jabber plugin. Cerulean has started alpha testing the new version of Trillian, called Trillian Astra, which promises even more interoperability, including Windows Live, Google Talk, Bonjour and MySpace IM.

8. Text Editing

notepadpp.pngMac: TextEdit

PC: There are a lot of good text editors for the PC, and the one I use depends on what I am using it for.  For basic “jot something down before I forget”, Notepad is usually adequate.  For more formatting options, or for HTML, PHP, CSS, etc., I prefer Notepad++, which is also available in a portable version.  For XML, I usually use the free Microsoft XML Notepad 2007. Of course, if you’re a real geek, you probably use emacs or vim.

9. Other Tools

I agree with Darren on some of his other suggestions, most of which are cross-platform.  For VoIP, use Skype. For browsing and general Web stuff, use Firefox.  For RSS, use Google Reader.

Anything else?

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Vaporware 2007, and the winner is (duh!)

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

Wired released its Vaporware 2007 list, and the #1 vaporware product is hardly surprising. Duke Nukem Forever was #2 in 2000, and has enjoyed a run at #1 ever since, interrupted only by its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 (Wired’s ill-fated attempt to get the thing off the list).  The AT&T Blackjack/WM6 upgrade made #4. Glad to see Wired piling on, but AT&T has released their BJ upgrade – it’s called the Blackjack II.  Poor pitiful BJ owners should give up hoping that the free upgrade will ever see the light of day, and install the hacked ROM (or do what I did, and get a Q9h).  AT&T’s not about giving you free stuff, after all.

One piece of vaporware Wired missed – the Slacker portable radio.  Originally supposed to be released in “summer 2007”, it’s now allegedly going to ship at the end of January.

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Firefox 3 Beta 2 Released

Posted by Fred on December 19, 2007

Mozilla released the second beta of Firefox 3 yesterday. As always, there’s a bunch of under-the-hood changes affecting security, speed and stability (better protection against cross-site JSON data leaks, 30 plugged memory leaks, Cairo). But there are some interesting UI and front-end functionality changes.  The biggest such change appears to be to the location bar. It’s a whole lot prettier and easier to read. Compare FF3 to IE7:

locationbar_dropdown.png

vs.

ie7_locationbar.png

Firefox provides more information, and the list is just easier on the eyes.  The new beta also greatly enhances auto-completion on the location bar.  Type in a word, and Firefox will provide suggestions based on your bookmarks and browsing history.  The browser searches against URLs, but also titles and tags (assuming you’ve added tags to your bookmarks):

ff3_autocomplete.png

This could be very useful for people like me.  I hardly ever bookmark anything, and have taken to treating Google like a giant bookmark list (I never claimed to be either organized or bright).  The feature would be even more useful if more sites actually gave their pages useful titles.  But that’s a gripe for another day.  Mozilla continues to make improvements to the Places feature that collects bookmarks and history in a single interface.  It’s probably not a new feature, but I just noticed that you can now delete individual entries from the browser history – now you can cover tracks without making it obvious that you covered your tracks, since nothing says Inappropriate Browsing! more than an empty history list:

history_delete.png

Finally, the developers have improved the download manager (which is already a lot better than FF2, with pause-and-resume, etc.).  The Downloads window tells you where a file came from, and when and where you saved it.  You can also search the downloads list:

ff3b2_dlmgr.png

If you’re running FF3b1, update now for the security fixes if nothing else.  If you’re not, the usual caveats about running beta software apply, although this beta has only crashed once (strangely enough, it closed upon hitting the stop button on a RealPlayer stream).  The only big downside is that the browser remains a memory hog. I’m using 189 MB right now (granted, I do have 10 open tabs). IE7 shows only about 50 MB with 10 tabs open (yes, I know the memory footprint isn’t really comparable, given IE’s hooks into Windows).  FF3 also sports a new welcome page, complete with killer robot and straight-out-of-70s-prog-rock font.  At first I wondered where they came up with this:

ff3b2_robot.png

But then I realized someone’s been jamming to prog rock:

triumph-just_a_game.jpg

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Firefox 3 Beta 1 released

Posted by Fred on November 21, 2007

 firefox3-title.png

Monday night, the Mozilla crew officially released the first beta of Firefox 3. This is hardly new news, but I was traveling yesterday so this was my first chance to check it out.  I had tried some of the early alphas of 3.0 (Gran Paradiso), but haven’t really used it much lately.  Many of the changes from 2.0 are under the hood – check the release notes for details on security and performance changes.

As has already been much discussed, the new version makes significant changes to the way bookmarks and related information are organized.  At the end of the URL address bar is a star:

fx3_star.png

Click the star once to add a bookmark to the base bookmark folder using the site’s reported name as the bookmark name.  Firefox will report that the site has been added with a different star:

fx3_star_on.png

Click the star again, and you can rename the bookmark, add it to a folder or add tags for metadata:

fx3_edit_bookmark.png

That is a handy organizational tool – you may never need the Organize Bookmarks menu again.  Those tags come in very handy in the new Places feature.  Firefox 3 adds a new folder to the Links bar, conveniently called Places.  It’s full of information about, um, places:

fx3_places.png

Here you’ll find quick access to your most recently bookmarked pages (Firefox 3 calls them starred pages, which makes sense given the new way to add bookmarks), recently visited bookmarks, most visited bookmarks, recently/most frequently used tags and overall most visited pages.  This could be useful for navigation, but it will also just be interesting in the way Google Reader trends is interesting – what sites do you really visit the most?

The other new feature that I liked immediately is the elimination of the extension whitelist.  You’ll recall the extension two-step from Firefox 2 if you added an extension from the developer’s site or somewhere other than the Mozilla Addons site  – click allow, add to whitelist, install again.  Now you just click Allow in the warning bar that appears at the top of the screen and the install proceeds automatically.

Like all Firefox betas, this one’s not quite ready for prime time.  If you rely on extensions, most of them will not work – only Adblock Plus worked upon install for me.  Firefox will offer to check for updates, but this will most certainly fail.  Some developers have posted beta versions on their own sites, so check the Addons page for links.  I successfully updated Download Statusbar this way.   If the extension was updated for the Firefox 3 alphas, you can make it work on the beta yourself (this may also work to go from 2.0 to 3.0b1, but it may not).  Here’s how to do it using a stock XP install:

  1. Download, but do not install, the extension file (it will have a *.xpi filename).  You can right-click on the install button and choose “Save as…”
  2. Rename the file, changing *.xpi to *.zip.  The xpi files are just compressed files, but most decompression utilities don’t know this.
  3. Unzip the renamed file, and open the install.rdf file in a text editor.  Notepad will work just fine, but third-party editors are easier to work with due to the way Notepad deals with line breaks.
  4. Search for something that looks like this: “<em:maxVersion>3.0a8</em:maxVersion>”  This entry tells Firefox not to allow installation on anything more recent than 3.0 alpha 8.  Change it to 3.0b1.  You can also change it to 3.0 to make it work on anything up to the 3.0 final release, or an even higher number if you want, but I change it to this because you never know whether it will actually work with later versions.  Plus, hopefully the developer will release an official update.  Save the install.rdf file.
  5. Select all the files and folders in the folder you unzipped in step 3, right-click and choose Send To > Compressed (zipped)Folder to create a new *.zip file.  Windows will by default give it a name based on one of the files in the compressed archive.
  6. Rename it back to *.xpi. I usually just rename it to what we started with in step 1.
  7. Drag this new *.xpi file and drop it on an open Firefox window to start the install.  After a restart, you should be good to go.  This process worked for several of my extensions, including Forecastfox, Linkification and Stylish.

The onle thing I had hoped the developers would address that they didn’t was memory usage.  Firefox is still a memory hog (120 MB right now, with  five tabs open and seven extensions installed).

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