Now that we’ve got our own offices, and I’m free of the super restricted corporate firewall we we’re previously (and kindly) bludgeoning off, I was really excited at the prospect of using GMail’s IMAP capabilities and finally being able to use Mail.app.

One word.  Disappointed.

Pluses for IMAP and using Mail.app:

  • I can work offline
  • Creating mail is faster
  • I can haz decent signatures
Pluses for staying with the GMail web browser:
  • it’s instant
  • I can easily tag (Google call this “label”) messages
  • no mucking about with syncing
  • it’s not restricted by IMAP locked down firewalls
  • great search functionality across my whole mailbox
I have tried and tried and tried and tried to persevere with Mail.app and IMAP, but no matter how hard I try I still gravitate back towards browser based Gmail.
Am I missing something here?
Are there some uber-tips and uber-features I just haven’t seen?
At this stage, Gmail through the web browser wins hands down.
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Films now on iTunes!

June 5, 2008

iTUnes films!

Wow!  Imagine my excitement this morning when I opened my inbox and Apple told me I could now download films from iTunes.

Kiwis – don’t get too excited.  This was for my iTunes UK account.   Bah!

First impressions?   Well, there’s plenty of films in there to download, but they are priced pretty much the same as DVDs.   Add in the size of the downloads and the cost per GB for traffic on our fantastic broadband, and it weighs in slightly more expensive!  So why would you?   You can even rent movies too, but that again equates to a similar cost as popping down to your local Blockbuster

The saving grace is that there’s a good selection of TV shows, most of which you can download particular episodes.  And kind of like iTunes music, it’s great being able to pick and choose the odd gem you’re after without having to buy the whole boxset/album.

I’ll be buying the odd classic show and maybe the odd series you simply can’t get here.   But for other mainstream stuff I’ll just rent or buy it from the DVD store.

Call me an old fart, but if I like a movie or an album, I’ll go and buy it.  I like something I can touch and feel.  I like the cover.  I can rip it.  It’s not DRMed, and it’s automatically backed up.

After Webstock 2008

February 16, 2008

WebStock


Webstock 2008 is now over.   The brainwaves have subsided and the hangover ended.   A massive thanks should go to the Webstock team for organising what can only be described as world class event.
 
Whilst many would have seen some of these talks or content before (especially the podcast nuts) – there’s simply no substitute for taking two days out to talk face-to-face with some of the most respected dudes in the business.  You get two days to let it all soak in – and you get to see many angles over the course of the conference.   It was a great investment of my time.
 
Here’s some of the stuff I got out of Webstock 2008.
  • Tags and Taxonomy.   Free tags are like leaves.  A gazillion of them, but eventually they all fall off the tree, rot, and end up feeding the tree’s structure (the taxonomy).   Tags are for quick learning.  Taxonomy is long term.    A great session from Peter Morville.
  • Continuous Integration, Release and Ops Management at Flickr.   It was great to hear from Cal about how the Flickr team run their shop.   Talking to him post conference, I found out Flickr has about 2,500 servers!!  Yikes!  In short, they do everything to make their lives easier, make them more agile, and to reduce risk.  You know, things like continuous integration, continuous deployment to “pre-production” servers, release flags (i.e. flags in the app to turn functionality on/off – to reduce branching), running tests on their software every hour, and building a whole plethora of “one-click” tools to manage all this stuff.
  • Achieving Flow.   There was one diagram that Kelly Goto put up, which really hit the nail on the head as to why people get in the flow.  See my (keynote) scribbling below:
          Flow
  • Primal Software Development and Managing Design.   I really enjoyed Michael Lopp’s presentations. Fascinating to hear that at Apple, they start their product process with 10 pixel perfect mockups, which they then reduce to 3, then to 1.   Also – a key take away I got from his sessions was that you can build software many times, but you only build culture once.  Go check out his blog, particularly this post – which captures nicely his first presentation.   
  • How good design helps tell the story.    Jason Santa Maria showed a great example as to how design helps to augment the story, and how the transition from print to web often loses this.  In short, give your site some “context” sensitive design.  If that kinda makes sense?
  • Blending the real world with network data.  Tom Coates gave a great presentation which really opened up my thought processes.  In short, the web is not so much of a collection of web pages, but more a massive collection of data that manifests themselves as web pages (of which is only one form)!   Your product is not your site! (it’s the platform).  And once your size of data gets too large, forget hierarchies – they will collapse under the weight.
  • Eloi vs Morlocks.   Remember that our users are Morlocks and that we, the Eloi, must make their lives as miserable as possible.   Seriously, though, this was a great presentation by Damian Conway, who rightly advocates that we must remember that most internet users are just like Grandma.  So design for them, not us.
  • Feel their Pain.   The brilliant Kathy Sierra says that we need to actually experience the pain our users feel so that we can “mind read” them.   Seriously.  There’s  theory that it will more effectively trigger our “mirror neurons”.   When you’re usability testing, look at peoples faces.  It’s the feelings that you’re after!  Another great tip when building your help.  Document exactly the questions your users ask in the usability sessions. Exactly how they ask them.
All in all, a brilliant conference.   
 
Thanks Webstock Dudes! 

So, Leopard is not perfect.  Shock!  Horror!
Whilst the highly amusing blue screen of death debate continues, I’ve stumbled across a few, but annoying issues:

  • Automator “rename finder items” does not work for “make sequential”.  Nooo!  My workflows are broken.
  • Basecamp plays funny tricks with select boxes in Firefox only!!  Bizarre.  It’s now much harder to delegate to-dos!!  (OK, but I’ve switched to Safari now)
  • I lose my dock every now and again, particularly when my machine is working hard.  I just relaunch finder and it fixes itself (akin to the restarting the explorer process in windows)

I guess nothing’s perfect.  Still, it’s a good worthwhile upgrade.

Spaces is also an interesting one.  I thought I’d get a lot of use out of it, but as I have a two screen set up I really don’t use it.  I set it up the first few days, but if you have sufficient real estate, I really find it adds minimal value.   In fact, with all the alt-tabbing (or command-tabbing in MacOS speak) I was getting a bit disoriented with all the screens whizzing around!  I’m sure there are some GTD gurus out there that can tell me how to organise things better.

The Leopard Roars

October 28, 2007

Its HereI wasn’t quite as fast off the mark as other Mac fan-boys installing Leopard – but it’s now up and running on my Macs.  No problems at all. Here’s what’s impressed me so far: 

  • The seamless install – I’ll be honest with you in that I’ve never personally performed a hands-on O/S upgrade before (on any platform!) so I was sh*tting myself a little.  It couldn’t have been as painless.  Easy.Safari 3 – I like it so much that I’ve made Safari my default browser.  WeatherLightning fast, and I love the ability to chop a part of a website to show on your dashboard.   Anyone recognise the weather? 
  • Stacks – once you realise you can use this for anything you drag on to the dock – it becomes super useful.  I have a lot of my key folders now on my dock, with most recently modified docs at the bottom.  Brill.
  • Spaces – very nicely implemented.  Very useful on my Macbook, and it’ll be interesting to see how useful it’s gonna be when I gear up at work in full dev mode on a two screen setup.
  • CoverFlow galore!  Yes, all files are now coverflow enabled – real easy to browse through files, and particularly useful for documents
  • Space Bar Preview – everywhere.  Just click on any file, pretty much from anywhere, press the space bar, and see a quick popup preview.  Space bar!  Simple.
  • The new photobooth – the old photobooth was always good to keep the kiddie happy, but with “bluescreening” built in you can now have even more fun – the same effects can be carried forward into iChat.
  • iChat – finally, better GChat support.  I’m still a big fan of Adium, but I’m gonna give iChat a crack for a few days as my default IM client.  When you’re chatting with other iChat dudes, you can apparently share your desktop et al
  • The shelf dock – I thought it was pretty cack at first but, now I’m used to it, I find it adds a lot of depth to the screen.  It’s very subtle, but it’s just somehow better.
  • Automator – it now has the ability to record what you do on your desktop.  Automating repeatable tasks has never been easier.

And that’s just the surface that I have scratched.  There’s over 300 other features that I can also get my grubby hands on.  No incompatibilities detected as yet. Overall impressions?  Cheap as chips for the $299 family pack (5 licenses).  Piece of cake to install.  Very non-intrusive.  Lots of goodies to improve productivity.  More nice eye-candy.   Great stuff.  

CurveiPhonePearl

I need a new mobile phone.   None of the keys on my Telecom Apache no longer work, so I’m reduced to stylus only operations (or highly inaccurate big fat thumb operations).  It sucks.

I had my heart set on an iPhone after Sandy told us all you could get them from Tauranga.  But with Apple playing silly buggers with the new software release breaking the hack, I’ve got reservations.

I’m after the following:

  • a nice slimline profile, so I can carry the phone in one of may pockets without it looking like I’m carrying a brick
  • decent call quality (unlike the Apache)
  • easy access to my gmail (and ideally Outlook)
  • good and bandwidth efficient surfing ability to my GMail, GCal, Google Reader, and BBC pda
  • ability to sync up contacts
  • photos/music are nice, but not essential

Now I know there are a gazillion phones out there that could probably do the job, but I (at present) have my heart set on one of:

As you can see, I like sex!!

If you’ve have any comments or experiences with any of the above, or know a screamingly good cellphone that’d do the trick then please let us know.

I’ll blog with an update as to which road fate leads down.

iWork with iWork

September 27, 2007

iWork

Wow! It’s been almost one year since I switched from Windows to Mac.

One of the things you soon learn is that, if you play in the corporate space, you need Microsoft Office.    Quite simply without it you’ll just have headache after headache with formatting incompatibilies,  and the like.  Whilst I admire Open Office and NeoOffice (and I also like the likes of Google Docs & Spreadsheets) they simply can’t handle the “corporate” word document.  Especially if you’re having to deal with richly formatted documents.    I’ve found NeoOffice and OpenOffice slow and buggy as well.  Just not a good experience all up.

I’ve also held off purchasing Office for Mac, since it’s so unclear as to what Microsoft’s plans are with regard to this product.  So at present it’s Parallels desktop with a Windows XP virtual machine for the sole purpose of servicing MSOffice  (given I had a licensesalready!).  Parallels coherence mode simply rocks.

I’ve recently been trialling iWork08, and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised.  I’ve been working with a whole range of quite complex word, excel and powerpoint documents that have translated almost seamlessly – certainly without any issues that would turn me off the product (unlike NeoOffice and OpenOffice).

Keynote is the dogs b*ll*cks, and iWork08 is worth it just for that.  The presentations you can create are simply mindblowing – assuming you don’t adopt the death by powerpoint approach.

Numbers is okay – but omits one essential feature I use ALL the time in Excel – “freeze panes”.  WTF?

Pages is pretty good, and is a nice and pleasant alternative to word.  It feels nicer, and the commenting and track changes is mindblowing clear and simple.  Kinda what you would expect from Apple.

And then there is the price.  NZ109 for a single license, or NZ$138 for a family pack which I can install on my ever growing family of Macs.

Cheap as chips.

I’d urge you to at least try it.   Like me, you may be pleasantly surprised.

I’ve gotta try iLife08 next…