More on MacJournal

I’ve been using Mac Journal for a little more than a week now.

The basic editing and management features are very good. I’m very happy with this as a basic journalling tool. I’ve also figured out all the server configuration issues, successfully posting articles to both WordPress as well as Blogger/BlogSpot.

The editor is weak in its support of HTML. I’ve been using a lot of HTML paste-in from Google Maps, Urbanspoon, and others, and this really doesn’t work. I thought a nice workaround would be to add a link to an image, but you don’t seem to be able to do this. A link only seems to work for text, primarily because images don’t seem to go along for the ride with posting a journal entry. This might be a setting, since the images need to go somewhere else but haven’t figured this out yet (or didn’t receive any errors on posting which would tip me off something wasn’t going well).

So, all in all pretty satisfied, with some small nits I think I can live without. Might be a purchase.

Testing MacJournal

With dozens of journals spread all over the place I’m looking for a way to simplify management of them. I’ve considered writing a database myself for this purpose, but would want to avoid this if possible.

I came across “MacJournal” (from http://www.marinersoftware.com/products/macjournal/, and maybe http://homepage.mac.com/dschimpf/), which has very positive marks from MacWorld and CNET. Simple word processing (good), effective document tagging (good), and automatically posts to blogs if you have the right services (which I do). The full screen edit option seems interesting as well. The downloading of blog entries into the tool is quite excellent.

We’ll see how this goes.

Bloglines

Bloglines Screen Snapshot
Bloglines Screen Snapshot

I’ve been using RSS readers for quite a while.  Anyone that does a lot of web site reading really should, it saves a ton of time previewing what’s new material.  It used to be that many sites didn’t support RSS, or didn’t support it well, but at this point any blog or news site that doesn’t support it is frightfully behind in their programming features.

I’ve tried a number of them over the years on Linux, OS X, and Windows, and most of the browsers or E-mail clients support them now.  But, when you use multiple computers the issue of synchronization inevitably comes up forcing you to consider a server based RSS reader (and, aren’t we all going to be multiple computer users eventually with our phones and pads?).  My favorite is Bloglines, which is a simple layout, well supported across all the browsers I use it with (including phone based ones), and has only been off-line once in all the years I’ve been using it.  I’m a daily user of the program, and have occasionally looked at something else (like Google Reader) and never found a compelling reason to switch to anything else.

Delicious Library 2

Is this a common problem?  You are in a book store, or a record store (yes, I still go to record stores), and you see something you like but you’re not sure if you bought it before?  Probably not too common, especially for a modern music purchaser who downloads from web sites and doesn’t go into stores anymore.  But, for an old geezer like me who still likes physical copies of what they purchase, it happens.  For proof, I’ll show you my multiple copies of Miles Davis’ Milestones.

I tried a running list which I copied to my Palm Pilot, but this wasn’t satisfying and a lot of work.  More recently, I discovered Delicious Library 2 from the software company Delicious Monster through an article.

This software is in the category of “inventory management”, optimized for books and CDs.  A more recent upgrade adds other categories so you can use the software for tracking tools, software, and any other categories you can think up.  Side note: the company could not be any cooler to contact for support or questions as I found out when the v2 upgrade was announced right after I purchased the original v1 software.

Snapshot of HTML Export page
Snapshot of HTML Export page

The software UI design is clean and unique, using a bookshelf metaphor to show you your books or CDs with various sorting and display options.  Where it really shines is when you initially load your library into it.  Delicious Library 2 is able to use the iSight camera (or any camera) as a bar code reader.  You just hold up the item so the camera can see the code (a preview window helps this), it beeps when it recognizes a code, and it looks up information on the item over the Internet using Amazon.Com’s web services.  If the item is recognized you get reviews, categorizing information, cover art, and even reseller information.  It will also announce the item using the creepy software driven voice to confirm it found the right thing.

If it can’t find the item, you can manually search for it.  And, if its really old and not in the database you can enter everything by hand – useful for your bootleg home recordings.  There is also an option for a real bar code reader if you think you’ll use this a lot.  I do have occasional problems with using the camera for the bar code reader, mostly due to lighting conditions or unusual bar code printing (small codes on reflective CD cases, for example).  But, its not enough trouble to purchase a reader.

So, how does this help the original problem?  You can export the libary to HTML (and other formats), which I’ve done and published to my web server.  Now, if I’m not sure I have something I can quickly look it up on the server, even from my phone while I’m in a store.

Final verdict; love the product, love the company, been using it long enough that any warts have been exposed and they are very minor.  And, it allows me to search through my library from anywhere with an Internet connection, which these days is just about anywhere.  Very nice.

Review: Western Digital “My Book” 1 TB External Drive

Product: Western Digital My Book Home Edition 1 TB External Hard Drive
Link: http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?driveid=357

I’ve outpaced what I can back up on my original Accodata 160 G external Firewire drive, and went looking for a replacement.  I didn’t have a specific brand or model I was looking for since the Accodata drive, which I had never heard of, has given good, reliable performance for more than 4 years.  The only thing I cared about was Firewire and at least 500G storage.  I have done enough side-by-side use between the Firewire drive and a USB 2 drive to know that I’m not going to waste any time on a USB drive for important things.

WD MyBook 1 TB
WD MyBook 1 TB (on the left)

Western Digital has a series of drives called “My Book” in various sizes and interface options. They are all in a similar case, roughly the height of a paperback book in different widths depending on the drive capacity.  Best Buy had one on sale of interest, which I purchased on the web for in-store pickup.  It ended up being a minor debacle due to the product code on the web site not matching the product code of the product on the shelf.  And, of course the one I purchased wasn’t in stock.  So, the quick calculation showed that it wasn’t worth my time to come back or go to another store and I purchased a larger capacity drive with the same interfaces.  This is a 1TB My Book with Firewire 400, eSATA, and USB 2.0 interfaces.

There is not much to tell about installation.  You plug the drive in, and the operating system sees it and makes it available.  The only thing I did for preparation is to reformat the drive to use OS X native formatting.  The cross-platform FAT-32 formatting the drive comes with was not of interest since I’ll only ever plug the drive into my main iMac.  It’s use will be for backup – currently using the Apple Backup utility but migrating to Time Machine when I get some time to set that up.

The drive is fast – transfers are very quick – and 1TB is the most amazing amount of space anyone will ever need (until about 3 or 4 years from now, the standard disclaimer for any drive purchase).  The drive also has a very sexy LED display on the front that shows you the relative amount of space used (fills up like a thermometer), and the display does a lot of dancing and chasing when there is data transfers in progress.

My only complaint is that there seems to be some unknown dependency of actions to recognize the drive.  The drive is not recognized on power up/down sometimes.  There seems to be a specific sequence of power up drive – wait for ready light – power up computer to get the drive recognized.  And, the drive does not seem to enter power-down-state when turning off the computer.  However, I should upgrade OS X from Tiger to Leopard to determine if this is a drive issue or the OS.

Review: Logitech MX 1000 Laser Mouse

Manufacturer: Logitech
Product: Wireless (RF 27MHz) Multi-Function Mouse
Model: MX 1000
Product Web Site: Here
Purchased At: CompUSA
Cost: Around $59 USD (normal 79, $10 instant rebate, $10 mail-in rebate)

The iMac recently purchased came with the normal Apple 1-button mouse. While the 1-button thing is an adjustment in itself, the size of the Apple mouse is tiny. We purchased the Apple wireless (Bluetooth) mouse with the unit, but this is the same size as the corded one. I’m not quite sure the perfect way to use the Apple mouse – I spend a lot of time pushing it with just my fingertips – but it’s been a little less than satisfactory. It does track wonderfully, however.

To make the adjustment easier we plugged in a Microsoft “Wireless Optical Mouse Blue”, which is a non-Bluetooth wireless mouse that requires a little “base station” plugged into a USB port. This mouse fits in your hand a little better, although its too small and its tracking on the Mac was spotty. So, we’ve been looking around for a better mouse.

CompUSA had on sale the new Logitech “Laser” mouse. This is a similar to the Microsoft product – non-Bluetooth RF connection to a USB connected base. However, there are a couple of interesting features. First, it has rechargable batteries built in which it charges from the base station (works like a Palm Pilot dock), so no scrambling for AAA alkalines in the middle of the night. Two, it is a physically larger unit that fits better in your hand, although a right-hander’s hand only (asymetical shape to it). Three, it has about 8 buttons on it – scroll wheel including side to side, 4 way button on the side of the scroll wheel (like a ring outside it), three buttons under your thumb, then the normal 2 buttons under your fingers. Finally, the optical technology is laser based and not the normal red/blue LED found in other optical tracking devices.

The laser technology is definately a step up from the normal optical technology. The tracking is dead on – never a skip or a lag. The tracking also works whether the surface is reflective or not. The documentation states that it is tracking “20 times” higher resolution than normal optical technology, which allows for finer, more accurate tracking. The laser seems to be outside visible light, so one down side is no cool glow from the mouse.

The number of buttons on the mouse would obviously make Apple nuts. The mouse comes with a control panel which allows sensitivity adjustments as well as changing the action for the various buttons. The pre-set configuration normally has them for scrolling, zooming, “forward” and “back” in a web page, and to step through applications like an alt-tab keystroke. Don’t see a need to change them now, although gaming would obviously change that desire.  (Follow up – multiple buttons are an absolute need for Halo)

The installation was easy. The only unusual part is the need to charge the device prior to using it. Took about an hour. There is a tiny wall wart (real tiny, doesn’t block other outlets) which plugs into the base, plus the USB connection. Worked immediately without the software install.

LEDs on the top (3) tell you the charge status on the batteries. The mouse seems to conserve power pretty quickly with no motion.

The Good: Tracking and usage is amazing. No sponginess like some cordless mice, and it tracks the same whether I have it on the mouse pad or the desk. This desk is a semi-gloss wood finish which normally causes some tracking annoyances with the other optical mice.

The Bad: None.

The Annoyances: None.

So far, only used it a few hours, but its an impressive device if you can get it for the same price I did.

Overall: Function A+, Value B+

Hardware: Review: Altec Lansing AHS-302 Stereo Headset

Description: Collapsable headset with stereo input/headphones and integrated microphone boom with separate mic plug.

In wanting to look at voice of IP applications, I wanted to pick up a headset that was a little higher quality than the El Cheapo brand I had picked up at a swap meet at one point. Best Buy had this particular model, priced around $25.

The good: the headphones sound pretty good, with fairly wide stereo response. They are also extremely light, with a “behind the head” configuration and are very comfortable to wear. They fold up very small, and would easily fit in a shirt pocket if the boom mice wasn’t attached. The mike is on a flexible stark and also pivots around where it attaches to the left headphone. There is an attached foam windscreen, and a generous length of cable which would make the headset usable for a desktop system where the computer isn’t necessarily close to the user. About 14 inches from where the cable attaches to the headset there is a small plastic control unit that lets you adjust the mic level and the volume level of the headphones. The control has a small clip on the back for attaching to your shirt.

The bad: like many low end headsets, the microphone seems to very weak output. With the Windows control panel cranked all the way it still doesn’t generate much of a signal into the computer. Seems like to get quality microphone input you need to spend money for some kind of higher end mike with an integrated amp, or plug into some intermediate piece of equipment to boost the instrument level output up to a line level.

Overall: Function C+, Value B+