Category Archives: Software

We’re In The App Business, Baby

There’s few things better in life are than the feeling of achievement. Unlike most project that I work on this took more or less only 3 weeks from idea to a product.

Last summer after running the Edinburgh marathon, I thought that there must be a better way of creating split times when preparing for a race. (Split times are used by runners to help them run at a consistent speed through out a long race.) Initially I though it should be a website that would help generate them I quickly let go of the idea as I didn’t think I could recoup the money I’d need to invest in it. As you probably know, I’m not a programmer, and I would have had to hire someone to come code it for me.

Then around mid April this year I was listening to an interview of Ryan Carson on the Pipeline podcast where he was talking about the importance of passive income. In the interview, Ryan mention a website called smartpassiveincome.com where the author, Pat, blogs about different passive income streams that he’s been able to create. One of many things he’s doing is developing iPhone apps. As he’s not a developer, he outsources the development work via various outsourcing websites. I guess hearing how little you can have something developed inspired me return back to the idea of making something that helps runners create those split times.

The process itself was almost scarily fast. I mocked up about four or five screenshots in Photoshop to see how the app might look. I then posted a job on a freelancer outsourcing website. Few days later I had enough proposals to choose from and in another 2 weeks the app was ready! Once the ball was rolling, it took surprisingly little time to get it finished.

So what’s the app then? It’s called Split Times. Check out the video below to see how it works. Or get it in the App Store, it’s only 99¢.

Apple Media Event Predictions – iSlate and iLife X


Only way to be right – or wrong – is to make a claim.

If you still haven’t heard anything of the buzz surrounding Apples now confirmed press event on the 27th January, you’re either living under a rock or you’ve got better things to do than follow what’s going on in the world around you. In both cases, you might wanna first read about the Haiti earthquake and then come back here.

Continuing my long line of astonishingly inaccurate predictions, here’s my reading of the crystal ball.

1. The Tablet will be called iSlate. My reasoning behind this: a) iTablet.com isn’t owned by Apple, if it was they’d most likely use that and take ownership over the generic term ‘tablet’. Just like they did with iPhone. b) This, more or less means we’ll be talking about ‘slate computers’ rather than ‘tablet computers’, which is good because tablets don’t have a glorious history. c) They also wont call it ‘iPad’ simply because it’s too similar to iPod, MessagePad and ThinkPad. And it sounds an awful lot like a pad of totally different sort. I like the suggestion by Cabel Sasser that it’d be called ‘Canvas‘. I really do like that, it’s original and new but I’m very sceptical that Apple would use it. It’s too left field for them. (Look at the rest of their lineup; MacBook, Mac Pro, iPhone, Apple TV etc.)

2. iSlate has a roughly 10″ multitouch screen going up to about 1280×800 pixels, same pixel size as the 13″ MacBooks have. Or slightly smaller at 1280×720 pixels. It’ll have the same buttons as iPhone and no more. The dock connector might support plugin in other devices like card readers and alike. I believe that in order for it to be successful in replacing a notebook as a weekend-away computer it has to have connectivity beyond wifi and bluetooth (look at how little you can actually do with bluetooth on iPhone) Like on iPhone, you can’t have background apps.

3. iPhone 4.0 and iSlate SDK 1.0. iPhone 4.0 is mentioned as a side note but the real kicker is showing what developers can do with the iSlate. I believe it’s too risky for them not to talk about apps as the world has, in the past 12 months, gone app-crazy. That’ll be the first question people will have: What does it come with and what apps are out there. Developing apps for it is not much more than developing for iPhone. Most apps can be ported with little effort. One major difference between the current iPhone SDK and the iSlate SDK is that there will be a common file area that all apps can easily access. This means that we can finally have Mobile Me syncing for all apps that wish to support it. It also means that we can dumb photos from our digital cameras to an iPhone or iSlate, edit them on the go and upload to our Mobile Me service and from there to our Mac at home. This means iTunes will always remain synced as well.

4. Last year we got iLife ’09, this is year we’ll get iLife X, pretty obvious, but what’s new? Biggest single thing is that iDVD stops from the lineup and is replaced by iShow or iPublish or something similar that denotes other forms of publishing and content producing than just DVDs. (Really, when was the last time you made one of those?) Killer here is that you can publish to iTunes LP format which gets extended so that publishing an album from GarageBand, animated photo book complete with purchaseble art or a magazine with multimedia components becomes a breeze. And the best part about this is that you can offer them for download through the App Store. Well, best part if you like the App Store. This means that if you’re an author of books with lots of words, it becomes trivial to publish on to the iPhone or iSlate. Or iTunes. And Apple TV. Most people win.

5. iPhone 4 doesn’t get mentioned.

6. There wont be any mention of the iTunes music subscription service that will be launched on 7th Sept 2010.

There we go. Check back here on or after the 27th to see how well I’ve done.

Scheduling Time Machine Backups with AppleScript and iCal

Great news to all Time Machine users! It’s actually possible to schedule when you allow backups to happen. Problem has been that Time Machine tends to go on at times when it’s really not that convenient; when your working on something heavy and don’t want the extra CPU usage or when you need to leave your flat but don’t want to abruptly stop it backing up (latter can be really harmful to your backup so should be avoided). Two lines of AppleScript and few iCal events will fix this!

Few easy steps:

The Script

1: Open Script Editor.app from Macintosh HD/Applications/

2: copy and paste this in to the window:
do shell script "defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine AutoBackup -bool true"

3: Save As: “TM-On” in Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/Time Machine/

You don’t need to change the defaults

4: Open a new document in Script Editor

5: copy and paste this in to the window:
do shell script "defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine AutoBackup -bool false"

6: Save As: “TM-Off” in Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/Time Machine/

In iCal

(As there’s going to be repeating calendar entries for every day I’d suggest adding a new calendar so you can hide it.)

1: Create a new calendar entry for today.

2: Decide what time you want to turn Time Machine on. I’ve set it to 13:00 so it’ll be on when I get home. Also set it to repeat daily.

3: Set Alarm to Run Script and underneath File… and browse to /Macintosh HD/Library/Scripts/Time Machine/TM-On.scpt

4: Set it to go 1 minute before the event (if you set it to ‘on date‘, repeat wont work)

5: Repeat above steps for turning Time Machine of and you’re done. I’m turning mine off in the wee hours of the morning but if you like watching stuff on you laptop in bed you might want to turn it off – say – 21:00 so it won’t be backing up when you want to go to sleep.

6: Relax… or watch the video below. It shows how this is done in about 4 minutes. Click here to watch this video in HD on Vimeo.

[Update 1] If you’re having problems using this, it might be that you don’t have a .plist for Time Machine. As odd as it sounds, Darina’s MacBook was missing this completely. In order to create it, just go to TM preferences and add something to the excluded list. This will create a file called com.apple.TimeMachine.plist in your systems main library.

Firefox Security

This may not be news to all of you but I think many will be pretty chocked. Certainly I was. It was noticed earlier on last year but nothing – at least on OS X version – has been done to fix it. It’s a feature, not a bug.

You know when you’re login on to a website for the first time, your browser asks if you want to save the password? I often choose to save the login credentials on sites that aren’t in the circle of ‘important to keep secure’ sites. After all, my laptop locks up every time it goes to sleep or screensaver comes on so it’s not THAT easy to get on it.

Firefox obviously does this, too. It’s convenient to use it. But what I didn’t know before is how easy it is to get those passwords, in plain text. Go to Firefox Preferences and select the ‘Security’ -tab (those were air quotes) there select Show Passwords. Unbelievable. Anyone, who has access to your computer for about 30 seconds without you watching, will be able to LOOK at your passwords and copy them. In the following video, I will demonstrate how this is done, in under 20 seconds:

Of course some websites don’t let you save the password, banking websites foremost. But the problem is that so many people recycle their password. Using the same password for banking and facebooking is not a good idea.

I haven’t been using Firefox for a while now but when I did, I used to recommend it to people. I don’t anymore.

–kristian

ps. Safari saves passwords, too, but it saves them in Keychain. Keychain database has AES 128 bit encryption on it making it not far from un-hackable. You can still access them, but you need to be authorized as the admin.

More On Creative Suite 3 Pricing

So I contacted Adobe about their pricing policy and If I’m allowed under the EULA to buy a copy of Creative Suite 3 from US to save some money. Here’s what I wrote:

As Creative Suite sold in the UK and rest of Europe is so over priced compared to what it is in the US, I’m thinking of traveling to New York to purchase my copy. Am I allowed to do this under the EULA? It is a very tempting option as this way I would save hundreds of pounds even after paying for the flights. I believe I can’t order direct from Adobe Online Store in the US? If you can, could you also explain some of the reasons behind charging customers in the UK almost twice the amount? I understand if you cannot comment.

Yours Sincerely, Kristian Tapaninaho

And Adobe responds (emphasis added):

Dear Ms [sic] Tapaninaho
It is possible for you to go the USA and buy the product.However you will not be able to receive support from european support. I would also have to mention that yyou [sic] can only upgrade to North American versions. The offical [sic] reason for the pricing is as follows. The price of software in EMEA (europe-middle east-africa) reflects both the additional expense to develop and test Adobe’s applications for local markets and operating systems, as well as for the delivery of complimentary Warranty support. Adobe’s complimentary Warranty support covers product installation and defect issues for the life of the current version of Adobe’s desktop applications.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Lennon
Adobe Customer Service

This to me raises at least three questions:

1. Does it really cost that much more to localize it to Arabic, Chinese Simplified (Windows only), Chinese Traditional (Windows only), Czech, Dutch, English, French, French (Canadian), German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean (Windows only), Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Spanish (Latin American), Spanish (North American), Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian?

2. There is no ‘UK English’ or ‘International English’ version of the apps. So if it costs more to develop it for UK market, is there some extra features we’re paying for? Of course not. Does support cost more for UK customers than US customers? No, the call centers are probably in India in both cases. (I realise that I can’t back this argument, I am merely assuming)

3. If this is the ‘official’ reason, what is the unofficial reason? To loosely quote Chief Executive Bruce Chizen: ‘We can charge as much as we want’.

Anyhow, I’m gonna stop complaining about this and start paying up.

Are Europeans Being [insert an expression of brutality] by Adobe? [updated]

So Adobe Creative Suite 3 has been officially announced. Shipping in April. Great. Hundreds of thousands Mac users have been waiting for this like nothing else. Universal Binary. As smoke from the press conference settles, prices for this industry standard start popping up in online stores. Although Photoshop is my main tool, I do use other parts of the Creative Suite regularly enough to consider buying the Design Premium bundle. All I can think to need. Problem between me and CS3DP (abbreviation is my own, not Adobe’s) is money. It’s costs almost £1600 ($3100). That is a lot of money. No matter which way you look at it.

But this should not be a big deal. As Adobe’s Chief Executive Bruce Chizen said:

CS3’s prices may seem steep compared to other shrink-wrapped software. But Adobe customers — particularly graphic and video artists with deep-pocketed corporate clients — spend money relatively liberally compared with average software buyers. Via NY Times

And he is right. I guess. It’s always the customer who pays in the end.

Problem is that I’m in the start of my career in the creative industries. I don’t have that many deep-pocketed corporate clients, yet. I need to find a way around. I’m still working at the UCCA until this Friday so I would qualify for the lecturers edition. Or I could always find a student to order it for me. Respective prices for these two options are £230 for the student edition and £540 for the lecturers edition. Very tempting as an idea. Get the program for fraction of the price. Obviously this would be too good to be true. EULA for these editions says that you can’t use them for commercial work. So that’s not gonna work.

There is one way to save money on buying Adobe software (actually applies to just about everything else, too), fly to the US. Compare these prices on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Madness. Almost the same amount of money, only one is in Sterling and the other in USD.

$1,780.99 or £1,592.99. Quite embarrassing. That’s $1,355.60 difference.

Of course you must take in count that UK price includes 17.5% VAT but the US price doesn’t have the sales tax which, as far as I can remember correctly, is 8% in NYC. If you calculate that in, the difference comes to only $1,213.11. Bargain.

Conclution: the cheapest way to get the suite is to fly to NYC (£170), get a hotel for few nights (£70), buy the suite (£900) and fly back.

I don’t really understand why this is. It would be more understandable if we were talking about something like this paper machine, shipping and handling cost are clearly high. But no, it’s only a box size of a small box. I really do appreciate all the hard work that the brilliant software engineers put into this product. Functionality of this piece of software makes my life easier every day. But I don’t think we should be punished for having such a strong economy. After all, if we pay $1600 for something, it’s still $1600 when you take the cash back to States.

–kristian

Side note 1: I really like the public beta of Photoshop 10.

Side note 2: This sort of corners the fact that it’s cheaper to fly than take the train, even short distances. Appalling. Doesn’t make any sense.

Side note 3: Back in 2003, when I was planning on buying my first Mac, it would have been cheaper to fly to NYC to get it than buy it here in the UK. Including staying in a hotel, eating great meals, seeing the Empire State Building and flying back. And possibly even paying the VAT at customs when you fly back.

[update]: As I was writing this yesterday, Adobe’s Product Selector wasn’t working. I had tried it before with some interesting results. Now that it’s back online I can show what I got. Here’s what I selected:

Adobe Creative Suite Product Selector 1

And here’s what I should be buying:

Adobe Creative Suite Product Selector 2

Interesting. It tells me to get the Master Collection although I wouldn’t touch Premier for video editing. And actually, the selections I made, wouldn’t necessarily force me to take Photoshop Extended either.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended is best suited for:
– Film and video creative professionals
– Multi-media creative professionals
– Web and graphic designers using 3D and motion
– Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Professionals
– Medical imaging and scientific research professionals
– Manufacturing professionals

Doesn’t this sort of cover just about any professional Photoshop user? Why have the two? One is better than two. I’m confused. Ok, so if you do ‘basic’ retouching maybe, according to Adobe, you don’t need it. But if you do that as your main job, you would just buy the extended version. Unless it costs $10000 and comes with it’s own workstation.

kristian

Solved: Problem Installing ARD 3

Problem: Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) 3 doesn’t want to install. Installer says something like ‘Newer version of this software exists. Cannot continue’, or something similar.

Background: I used to use ARD 2.2 at my work, upgraded to ARD 3 at another job but had to fall back to ARD 2.2 as the first job didn’t want to purchase ARD 3. Now I need to upgrade to ARD 3 because, as I wrote earlier, I’m leaving this ‘first’ job and my new job includes managing an xServe.

Solving the Problem: I ran all the Terminal commands that ARD advices you to run if uninstalling. Basically getting rid of any mention of ARD in the machine . As this didn’t work, I got rid of the client part of it as well. No help. After about an hour looking through the Web for an answer, I found this. Almost at the end, a post by David Whitely.

Right-click the ARD 3.0 installer package.
Navigate to Contents > Installers
Run the Admin and RMDB installers, but not the client (it’s the one that’s preventing the ARD 3.0 super-installer from wanting to install)
Now update to ARD 3.1.

I didn’t think it would work as my situation wasn’t the same as in the solution but it actually did. Very good. Installers allowed me to install it but I did get a scared when the program wouldn’t launch. This was fixed by running software update. Solved. Very good.

kristian

Firefox – You're Fired

 

As I’d say in Finnish: “Nyt tuli mitta täyteen!” which roughly translates to:”My measure is now full”. It basicly means I’ve had enough.

-Since Firefox 2.0, you can’t do ‘two finger scroll’ on MacBooks when browser is playing a Quicktime video. It stalls and jerks down or up basicly making it un-usable for many seconds.

-About a month ago, Firefox crashed on me eight times in one day. It seems that they thought this might happen as they build in an automatic session saver.

-Every so often something goes wrong, it starts taking too much CPU time and it has to be restarted.

-It takes absolutely ages to launch for the first time after a restart or login.

For about a month I’ve been contemplating on switching to Safari or Camino. First I thought I’de wait for 10.5 and then give Safari another chance. But yesterday, again, I was struggling with it and switched to Camino. I’ll still definately try Safari 3.0 when it comes but as it’ll take while to arrive, it leaves me plenty of time to try Camino.

I’m going to miss the way Firefox handles RSS listing (I’ve started using Vienna, the open-source project, as my main RSS aggregator), some of its plugins and the way you can press Cmd+n to select a corresponding tab but those things alone are not enough to keep me in. Oh yes, and the predictive search bar, that’s really cool and well missed.

I’m not looking back until maybe Firefox 3.0. Maybe. I guess one problem with it is that it is only ever going to be as good as the Windows version and as a Mac user I expect applications to excel their Windows counterparts.

kristian