Monday, September 25, 2006

The iPod Playlist Book

by Clif Colby

This review is short, because this book is short. The one redeeming quality of this book is there is no doubts what it is about: a book of playlists. No iPod tips or tricks, no troubleshooting guides, not even history about the songs. The playlists aren’t from famous people. This is simply a cute book of sample playlists for different events such as “Songs for Crying in your Beer” or “Martini Time.”

This is one of those fun little gifts you see at a checkout...like the mini book that has 6 pages and is 2 inches tall that has different ways to say I love you. This is a good stocking stuffer to elicit a smile or great book for a waiting room at a doctor’s office.

The book is cute, and that’s about it. Sometimes the world needs a few more smiles

Pros: Makes you smile and chuckle
Cons: Serves no useful purpose besides making you smile. Nothing particularly iPod related

2 out of 5 dogs cows

Monday, September 18, 2006

MacJournal

by Mariner Software

Every OS X user has certain programs that they have run at startup: those programs that are so indespnsible they want to have it immediately available.

MacJournal is one of those programs , at least for me. I absolutely cannot live without it! On average I’d say I use it at least every hour I’m in front of the computer. MacJournal is obviously designed for someone wjp keeps a journal or diary, but it’s really so much more than that! Don’t be limited by its name Think of it like a thousand sticky notes properly organized. You can set journals for anything. I have a nearly endless list of journals: a to-do journal, a journal of business ideas, a journal of books to read, a journal of recipes. Each journal can have mutiple entries in it that can show either the date, text or title of the entry (or all of them combined). For example, in my Review journal I can say “ MacJournal”. Then I click that entry and can type the reviews.

Obviously you can type plain text items within MacJournal, but you can also create numbered listings,checkboxes for to do lists, or plain bulleted lists. That’s why I keep my general to do list in MacJournal, I can print it out and check things as I go. Heck, you can even leave voice memos--yet another reason why I have it constantly running

Sometimes journals can keep private information, so you can password protect your MacJournal entries. You can also email them or export them to text documents. You can even take a MacJournal entry and directly publish it to blogging sites. Talk about versatile!!! How very cool!

Being a Simpson’s fan, one of my favorite features is the “Taco”. What’s the taco? Click on it and you get a random Simpsons quote. So when you are writing the next chapter of the Great American Novel in MacJournal and want a brief distraction, click on the Taco and be presented with such famous quotes as: “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is ‘never try’.” or “There’s a 4:30 in the morning now?”

MacJournal won an Apple Design Award in 2002 and it shows in the excellent interface and functionality of the program. The overall program design is similar to the Mail interface. A drawer contains your journals and you can open and close journals via the disclosure triangle. The title bar is completely customizable with drag and drop buttons and most menu functions can be included on that title bar. Alternatively, most of the text functions can be accessed from the “Action” menu (the menu with the gear icon) located in the Journal drawer.

Two other very similar programs to MacJournal I’ve seen are StickyBrain and Yojimbo, both reviwed previously. StickyBrain also lets you store information and create lists, but I find to be somewhat disorganized because it allows free-from entries. Before I received a review copy of MacJournal, StickyBrain was my program of choice for tracking daily thoughts. Yojimbo is great for storing passwords, but for general information entries, MacJournal is simply better if you want to store a greater variety of information.

My only complaint is I’d like some way to bring it up with a keyboard command. Both StickyBrain and Yojimbo allow you to press a key combination to bring their program to the forefront. It’s really a feature request rather than a complaint really, but it nonetheless would still be useful

Download MacJournal for the basic blogging, but keep it for the advanced interface and functions!

Pros: Perfect memory upgrade for your brain
Cons: Needs a systemwide keyboard command

5 out of 5 dogcows

Learning Unix for Mac OS X Tiger

by Dave Taylor

I had really high hopes for this book. I consider myself a pretty smart Mac tech, but Unix was the one thing that really scared me about OS X. To fix some esoteric problem, I’d have to follow some Unix recipe and it always annoyed me I didn’t understand what I was typing. O’Relly books are well known not just for the animals on the cover, but excellent explanations of very technical concepts.

After reading Taylor’s book, I felt better, but not by much. Most readers can easily understand the basic unix file structure commands, but towards the middle of the book he inaccurately assumed that his readers could also quickly understand some of the advanced concepts. Towards the end of the book I was left scratching my head. We went from move a file here and there to commands that were taking up multiple lines. Arrrgh!

The critical flaw in the book was a lack of exercises and real world examples. When I want to learn something, I don’t just want to be told. Involve me and test my knowledge. Some of the more difficult concepts covered in the book would have been enhanced with numerous real world examples, each building on the other. Things moved way too fast and made it easy to get lost.

The book was an excellent overview of Unix for the Macintosh and perfect for someone to decide whether to pursue further learning. “Introduction to Unix” instead of “Learning Unix” would have been a better title. After reading the book, I was reminded of speed dating where you meet 20 people for five minutes each and decide whether you want to go out with them or not. After reading the book I have enough familiarity with Unix that I can understand basic commands and how they relate to each other. I clearly want to go out on another date but any type of wedding bells are way in the distance.

PROS: Excellent overview of Unix for the Macintosh
CONS: Doesn’t leave you with enough practical understanding

Monday, September 04, 2006

earPod: your earbuds best friend

Continuing along with my recent theme of great iPod accessories, my handiest unexpectedly brilliant iPod accessory is the earPod.

I love my Etymotic Research, Inc. - ER•6i Isolator Earphones. However, like most iPod users, I hate the way my cord constantly gets tangles and develops damaging knots. I’ve tried all sorts of methods of properly storing them. The earPod is the only one I’ve seen that fixes this.

The earPod is approximately one inch think and three inches across. It reminds me of a mini “moon pie”. . earPods are made out of a hard plastic and in my experience are virtually indestructible. I’ve thrown mine at the bottom of luggage and stepped on it countless times with zero damage. After a year of using my earPod, I’ve had no cracks or damage to the plastic. With some earbud style headphones costing as much as $500, protection like this is a must. Those little “pouches” expensive headphones come in are a joke.

To use the earPod to store your earbuds, you slip the top of the case off its hinge. The process is extremely easy once you get the hang of it and can easily be done with one hand. Inside the earPod is a think foam that cushions your earpod and collects some of the wax that invariably develops on the earbuds.

Once the earbuds are inside you slip the top of the case back and lock it in place. You then simply wrap the cord around the earPod and then just slip the headphone jack within the wrapped cord. It’s quick and easy to load and unload. It even includes a beltclip.

Pros: Perfectly protects your earbud style headphones.
Cons: Absolutely none!


Click on the word earPod for more information at Amazon's website.