Blogging tools

This post is not a list of tools to use to make your blogging life easier.

Recently I’ve switched my primary laptop from a Lenovo to a Mac. This in turn brought with it a need to change (almost) all of the software I used, including my blogging client. I use a desktop blogging client because I still have times when I’m not online, because I appreciate the responsiveness and the feature bloat of a desktop text editor.

On Windows I used Windows Live Writer, which, contrary to most MS products, is a good one. It worked like a charm, taking me through some blog changes and merging without glitches. However, it doesn’t work on the Mac, so I had to find something else. After fiddling with the idea of using a simple text editor and a custom script to post, I ended up using the trial version of Ecto. So far it seems an OK editor, though with less (apparent) features than WLW. I say apparent because I haven’t used for long enough to get to all of the hidden features, but unless I do in the 13 days of trial left I may even consider running WLW in a virtual machine.

Oh well, the price we pay for being lazy.

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Speaking at 360 Flex

306_Flex Italy In April I will be speaking at the 360 Flex conference in Italy. I will be talking about webservices and Flex3.
The conference will take place between 7 and 9 april in Milan, Italy, so if you’re in Europe you can attend.

 

Details on the event can be found on the homepage for the conference, and registration can be done through its eventbrite page.

Si s-a mai dus un an

2007 e cam gata. Si odata cu sfarsitul anului au venit si concediile (o saptamana aproape s-a terminat), timp pentru odihna, stat deoparte de ceea ce inseamna ecran de calculator (n-am rezistat decat cateva zile) si de petrecere.

Mai e timp si de meditat la ceea ce am facut bine sau rau in anul care a trecut si ce vrem sa schimbam pentru anul care vine, sa ne hotaram pe niste obiective pe care sa le aatingem pana la anul pe vremea asta. Eu unul sunt destul de multumit cu ce mi-a iesit anul asta; nu totul a fost perfect, dar scorul final e pozitiv.

Oh well, timpul alocat netului pe ziua de azi e limitat, asa ca La Multi Ani tutoror si multa distractie de anul nou!

P.S. Desi cam cu intarziere, invatati sa ziceti La Multi Ani si Craciun Fericit in muuulte limbi, aici.

Interacting with computers

This is not a so much technical post. Instead it shows what I’ve come to observe for some time now. You can call this midnight ramblings of a curious mind.

Initially users interacted with their terminals via text. Keyboard commands ruled the all mighty PC. They were pre-defined, had a specific syntax and could do a lot of stuff. And I do not speak about programming here, just day-to-day operations.

Then the mouse and GUI’s entered the scene. Suddenly users were no longer confined to a list of need-to-know-to-start-my-machine words. The mouse brought freedom. True, the amount of work you could do with the mouse at first was limited, but options grew as the programs grew and started to use the new tool. The command line remained a thing of the dinosaurs and the uber-geek, or the IT pros.

Now search seems to take its turn in the evolutionary chain. More and more users “search” as an action. Want to start Word? Just hit the hotkey to pop up the launcher (or hit the Start key in Vista) and type its name. Then launch it. Need a document? Why browse through the thousand folders when a few letters from it typed inside the preferred tool for desktop search can bring it forward instantly. The same is true for the web. Google-ing is a term as well known now as the ubiquitous RTFM (read the freaking manual) was in the console/terminal days. Now we don’t remember web addresses, we search for them. And when we need to store them, we use del.icio.us or other tool that, you guessed it, lets us SEARCH through them.

Granted, the search paradigm hasn’t caught yet everywhere, but its popularity is rising. And the fact that Vista’s search menu or Suse’s launcher menu use a search bar as the first point of entry can only speed things up. Also, the need for search to become prevalent and able to find everything in our virtual lives came as a response to a problem: more information than one can handle or organize. Search answered this problem in a simple way – by saying do not remember. Do not store megabytes of files with URL’s. Do not remember the entire name of that use-once-a-month program or where to get it in the first place. Just give me a hint and I will find it for you.

I wonder what will come next? How will we control, manage and find information next? maybe we’ll just move search back to the tool status that it always had or maybe we’ll keep it in the center of our virtual worlds and simply find another, better or more unique way of communicating what we want / need to find. Only time will tell.

Until then, can you last a day without searching?  Or at least are you conscious where you use search?

Wikipedia out of ca$h?

Acording to a declaration made by Florence Devouard, Wikipedia may be in the slumps – Ò€œAt this point, Wikipedia has the financial ressources to run its servers for about 3 to 4 months.”. This may very well be just arather extraordinary example of begging for money, or a way to put itself on the shelf, but since it is the most popular way to get information it may be possible.

Wikipedia has risen in a while to a de facto way of gathering information on the web. Either for a project, for personal information or for work, it provides. It’s one project that has put the collective intelligence of the masses to a very good use and which continues to be a must-know-of tool for everyone. This means lots of people use it. This means bandwith. And lots of it. And servers. And looots of storage. Which in the end means money.

Wikipedia is not advertising supported in any way. The Wikimedia foundation raises money to keep the project going. In a previous article (don’t remember the source) one representative of the foundation claimed that they gather $1million and they should be OK with finances.

So what will become of wikipedia? Will it introduce ads to support itself or continue to rely on donations? Either way I hope that it does not end here. There is still a lot of information that needs to become available.

Quest for media center

I’ve decided on the first thing to change in my house this year – I want to hook up my TV to a media center PC. No, not one built specifically, but one I’ll put together using some of the spare parts I already have around and some hat I will buy. But before I start shopping, I wanted to see what software I can load into it. Fortunately, the list of options is big enough. Unfortunately, there is something wrong with almost everything I’ve tried (so far).

This post will get updated as I test new software for the media center, so bare with me.

This is what I want:

  1. The software should be free
  2. It should have a friendly UI, considering that it is to be used with a TV (low res!) and a remote (limited buttons).
  3. Provide comfort – I want to use it to get rid of the keyboard / mouse / codec install / test routine.
  4. If it has a pretty interface I don’t mind πŸ˜€ (yeah, call me succer).

So let’s get it on the floor …
Candidate no.1 – the free SesamTV

The best part of it is that it is free. However it is also the only part. The process to add files to a library seemed a little peculiar, and I could not add a new radio station no matter how much I tried. True, it was an mp3 stream, but c’mon … it should work. The TV part, I couldn’t try out, as my TV Tuner is on another machine, in use at the time of testing. It also felt quite sluggish and this was the deciding factor to cut it off the list – if it performs slow on a dual core computer, what will it do on the lower spec machine I intend to put in place?

P.S. You can browse for video files not in the library, but the UI moves quite slow and it gets tiring to manipulate the remote to go through a ton of folders. So SesamTV, sorry, but not for me.

Candidate no.2- Yahoo! Go for TV

This was the shortest trial of the software, in just a few steps: download, install, try to run, get unauthorized IP error (not US, we don’t want you), closed error message, uninstall. Simple as that. And it almost looked promising …

On for Candidate no. 3 – Got all media

From all of the Media Center software I’ve tried so far, this one has the most complicated UI of them all. It does not seem that its makers thought it is to be used on a TV with a remote. Because if you try this, your fingers will die before you get to that avi file on your desktop share. It has a lot of (useless) fields in the UI that you do not need nor want to touch. Graphics are blurry (scale the images next time beforehand) and the workflow is complicated. One more down.

Later Edit

Candidate 4: GBPVR

To keep it short – don’t try it at all. Its damned slow and very limited in options. And don’t get me started on the UI – it’s OK if your remote is the size of a keyboard πŸ™‚ Next!

Candidate 5: J River Media Center

OK, I know this ain’t free, but at $40 it’s a lot cheaper than MS Windows XP Media Center. And it works with all kind of remotes too! Over all this has the feeling of a final, complete product. True, it still has a library where it insists to add your media (which is not that bad), but it lets you browse your locations for media files to play too. And that’s audio & video. Now that’s nice. And the indexing speed is OK. It read about 20k files in less than 15 minutes, while I was fiddling with it. So, albeit the price, it’s on the short list. Only if my TV card would have sound too.

Candidate 6: Media Portal

Now this is one that I liked. No indexing, just define what folders you want available. This is great since you don’t have to browse the entire folder – map the one you want and access it via remote. It also supports plugins, by default comes with a few remote types. You have a setup wizard where you define your TV Capture card, radio stations that should be available (both FM and Web) and a lot other settings (haven’t quite gone through them all yet). And the UI feels snappy and it has just the right amount of options. You won’t get tired playing around with the remote and the fingers will say thanks. Definitely one to keep at hand. Did I mention it was free?

Candidate 7: Freevo

Yeah, my Unix side won this little battle. I’ve tried one Media Center software designed for Linux, although with a little skepticism. Booted up my Ubuntu box, went to their site for download instructions, and, to my personal pleasure, they had added repositories for Ubuntu. To be concise, it was a matter of editing the sources list and issuing three commands (because I hadn’t already installed mplayer or python). As for the actual software, the TV card did not work (because I don’t have Linux drivers installed yet) and a configuration issue with Mplayer caused the video to show up in windowed mode all the time. But it does have a daemon setup, so you can build a standalone box and its configuration seems pretty straightforward. Will say more tonight, after I play with it more.

What I want for Christmas β€¦

Aand yes, I know that Christmas passed already … but it still looks nice and I still like it. In case you like Mac’s you already know what I’m talking about – the iPhone. Although I’m not a big fan of phones (I still use a two year old mobile and I’m happy with it) this one got me pretty excited. The user interface looks pretty darn cool (and seems usable too), and what it can do rivals .. no, almost beats a pda.

For all of you that don’t know yet, at the keynote today, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone – a mobile phone created by Applec with some amazing features:

  • no keypad, the screen is your keypad, using multi-touch ;
  • it can run in portrait and landscape mode;
  • it has 8 Gb of storage space – 8 times my first PC;
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooh 2.0
  • and more

If you want a complete description – with some nice pictures too – check out the Engadget article here.