Monthly Archives: August 2007

Expand VMware Virtual Hard Drives

Once you create a VMware virtual machine and set its hard drive’s maximum capacity, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to expand it. Fortunately someone at VMware has written vdiskmanager GUI that allows you to do just that.

New York Subway On The iPhone

Khoi Vinh has created a set of subway maps for New York in PDF format for the iPhone. But I can’t help thinking about using Tube 2 on my old Palm Tungsten T2 PDA and being able to navigate around the map by using the touch-screen, having automatic route planning and having street maps linked to the underground ones. I was able to do this in 2004.

Apple really need to release a SDK for the iPhone.

Safari vs Mozilla

Safari with Gmail is just one frustration after another, so I moved to Camino and I never thought I’d look back. But now I use Mailplane to access my Gmail e-mail, and there’s no compelling reason for me to stay on Camino anymore, so I thought I’d give Safari another try as my main browser.

Speed

Camino is fast, much faster than Firefox, but Safari is still the fastest. In my unscientific and perceived tests, Safari seems to render pages just a fraction of a second faster than Camino, but its the frequency of the lock-ups I get from Camino — especially when I try to open multiple tabs — is my biggest annoyance with it.

Rendering

Text rendering in Safari has historically been superior to Gecko, but the new 3.0.3 seems to have taken a turn for the worse. Originally, when faced with a typeface that didn’t have a natural italic, it substituted with an appropriate alternative, which is much superior to Firefox and Caminos method of faking the italics by slanting the roman text.

With the new 3.0.3 Safari, they have reversed this decision and are now faking the italic font. In my opinion this doesn’t look anywhere near as nice as replacing the font, but more importantly the slanted roman Lucida Sans is not as legible as using Lucida Grande Italic:

Safari 2.0: Safari 2.0 Italic Text Rendering

Safari 3.0.3: Safari 3.0.3 Italic Text Rendering

The next version of Camino is supposed to use the cairo graphics library, which in turn can use the newer Core Image instead of the current Quickdraw. This gives all Gecko based browsers — including the next version of Camino — a much better “italic font faker”. In general cairo renders text very well indeed, and a more in-depth look is needed once more stable browsers are released — the latest trunk build of Camino renders all italic text as roman, so currently I’m unable to test it.

Tabs

After using Firefox with Tab Mix Plus and Safari 3.0.3, Camino tabs feel old and tired. You can’t rearrange them, a huge downer for me as I like to organise my tabs into my own little groups, and there’s no way to configure it to open new tabs to the right of the currently open tab, instead of at the far right.

This isn’t to say Safari tabs are perfect, infact without the add-ons mentioned below it would be almost impossible to use Safari. But with the add-ons I much prefer Safari tabs to Camino or Firefox1 especially with the new feature in 3.0.3 where its possible to drag a tab off into a new window.

Add-Ons

Unfortunately for Safari it has a lot of quirks that can’t be solved without third-party software. Fortunately though, there are a lot of add-ons for Safari that makes it — in my eye — bringing Safari to a useable state for my browsing method.

I prefer to have everything in one window, sometimes if you click a link in Gmail, it opens in a new window, even if you Command-click the link. With Saft, you can force Safari to open new links and windows in the browser. For me, this makes it worth its $12 price alone.

Safari has no built-in ad-blocking capability, beside using a custom stylesheet. However PithHelmet makes it a much easier process to add your own blocking rules, and the set of included rules block 95% of the adverts I come across. Its a bargain at $10.

SafariStand is the exception in this list of Safari add-ons, being the only free one. But for me it offers little for me except for syntax colouring in the view source window. However this doesn’t work in Safari 3.0.3 even with the beta version of SafariStand thats compatible with it.

Safari As Your Main Browser

For web designing, you can’t beat Firefox with Firebug, this combination of free software has saved me countless hours, although Safari has something similar, they’ve yet to implement live CSS and HTML editing, which is invaluable when you’re working with complex layouts.

But Safari is an incredibly refined browser compared to the oafish Firefox and, certain circumstances, ungainly Camino, and that is why I use it as my main browser.


  1. They look ugly and the close button is on the right side of the tab, also known as the wrong side.

How To Spot A Fake Rolex

How to spot a fake Rolex. And how to spot a fake Rolex on me: it’s on my wrist.

BlackBerry With GPS Released In UK

Well almost released, the BlackBerry Curve 8310 is set to be released on the 3rd September and is the first BlackBerry with GPS.

I was in London over the weekend, and completely forgot to bring a map with me. Being a cheapskate, I didn’t want to buy an overpriced tourist map, but I do have Google Maps on my mobile phone which allowed me to find where to go.

What would’ve made it even better though, is to have it paired with GPS as we all know its a bit disorientating when you step out of an underground station.

Oh wait, you can.

Nikon D3 and D300

Amidst a lot of fanfare Nikon launches their new flagship camera, the D3 — its replacement for the venerable D2xs, and the D300 — the replacement for the incredibly popular D200.

A couple days ago, Canon upped the ante with their new EOS 40D, fixing the major complaints with the 30D and then one-upping the D200 on image quality as well. However Nikon kept smug about their plans, they didn’t rush any press releases about a mythical forthcoming camera to try to up-stage the Canon announcement like Sony did, and after all this time we knew they had something big in store.

D3

The D3 is the first Nikon DSLR to have a full-frame sensor (or FX as Nikon calls it). Its a 12.1 megapixel sensor, which on the face of it might not be much competition for the likes of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III’s 21.1 megapixel sensor, but the lower pixel density should produce less noise at the higher ISO ranges, especially as the D3 offers a ISO25600 boost range.

Nikon D3

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor.
  • ISO6400 native, and upto ISO25600 boost.
  • 9 frames-per-second — faster than the old D2hs with a 4 megapixel sensor.
  • New auto-focus system — CAM3500 with 51 focus points, 15 cross-hatched.
  • 14-bit A/D converter — should give better tonality.
  • 3 inch LCD with Live Preview — has very high VGA resolution which should make Live Preview quite useful.

D300

The D300 is the replacement for the D200, a camera that sold far better than Nikon ever hoped for. This isn’t without reason, the D200 is a fantastic camera, it beat off the competition — mainly from the Canon 30D — with ease, only loosing out with noise levels at high ISOs, but the build quality and design of the D200 were second to none. The D300 has big shoes to fill, made even bigger by the new Canon 40D which made the D200 less competitive. But my, if Nikon have finally managed to solve the high ISO issue, it should beat the competition out of the water.

Nikon D300

Noteworthy points:

  • 12.1 megapixel DX sensor.
  • ISO 3200 now native, and ISO 6400 with boost.
  • 14-bit A/D converter.
  • Blisteringly fast 8 frames-per-second with the grip, or 6 frames-per-second grip-less.
  • Same 3 inch LCD with Live Preview as the D3 — nice.
  • Same auto-focus system as the D3 — very nice, the auto-focus of the D200 was often found lacking.

Competition

Nikon have finally made a professional DSLR body that can compete with Canon, if purely down to the fact that its full frame. The D2 series had issues with high ISO noise, something which Canon were always good at. Hopefully with a new image processor, and now noise reduction being applied at the sensor level instead of in post-processing, we should see Nikon catch up to Canon in that respect.

I’ll reserve final judgement until we have sample images, but I’m very hopeful that Nikon have got it right this time.

Canon Confirms 1Ds Mark III and 40D

Canon confirms what Amazon have already leaked, which are the specifications for the new 1Ds Mark III and 40D

MobileTwitterrific

Twitterrific for the iPhone. Made me think that porting Twitterlicious to Windows Mobile wouldn’t be that difficult.

Canon 40D and 1Ds Mark III Specification Leaked

Amazon have leaked details about the upcoming Canon 40D and 1Ds Mark III. I’ve saved screenshots of the 1Ds Mark III and 40D pages as they’re sure to take them down. Note that they’re both nearly 1MB in file size.

1Ds Mark III (screenshot):

  • 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Large 3.0-inch LCD display with Live View and seven brightness settings
  • 5 fps at shutter speeds 1/500 second or faster (for bursts of up to 45 Large/Fine JPEGs or 15 RAW images)

40D (screenshot):

  • 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Large 3.0-inch LCD display with enhanced Live View and broadened color gamut
  • 6.5 frame-per-second continuous shooting capability (for bursts of up to 75 Large/Fine JPEGs or 17 RAW images)

Details of a new Canon 14mm prime have also been leaked by Amazon (screenshot), which looks to have been specifically designed for the 1Ds Mark III.

iPhone Safari Is The New Internet Explorer 4

He’s got a point:

Facebook, Netvibes and Meebo all launched new iPhone-optimized versions of their sites this week, and all three of them are very nice. But wasn’t one of the promises of the iPhone that it offered “a real web browser?” If that’s so, why all the iPhone-optimized sites? And why are these sites being optimized for the iPhone specifically and not just “mobile optimized?”

Twitterlicious 2.0 Beta 4

This is biggest update since the initial 2.0 beta, you can now see replies and direct messages sent to you in seperate tabs, and respond to them.

Twitterlicious 2.0 Beat 4 Screenshot

This update was supposed to include an auto-update feature, however that still isn’t ready even for a beta and I thought the new features and bug fixes were important enough to warrant their own release.

The change log for this release since beta 3 is:

  • New Replies and Direct Messages tabs.
  • Fixed: Windows fails to shutdown when Twitterlicious is open, with the error WARNING_EW_SHUTDOWN_CANCELLED.
  • The window position is now restored when the program is started.
  • Improved pop-up notifications — replies and direct messages include the sender.

Get it from the usual place (hopefully for the penultimate time.)

The Bouncer

Dave Debrin’s entry to C4[1] Iron Coder challenge. Watch the demo video to the end. (Via Daring Fireball.)

See Who’s Editing Wikipedia

Wikipedia Scanner, which offers searches of edits on Wikipedia and cross-references edits with the owner of the IP address, has found some interesting corporate abuse of Wikipedia.

On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. […] In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself.

Mailplane Impressions

GMail has a fantastic web interface, but somethings are just much easier with a desktop application. Google don’t offer any desktop Gmail client, although they do offer support for any e-mail client through POP, there is no way to see GMail’s Conversation View, no way to filter with or apply lables or the excellent search.

Mailplane claims to offer desktop integration where it counts, but still use GMails web interface. I managed to get myself into the private beta, and here’s a quick preview of a pre-release version.

Mailplane Screenshot

Attachments

The best feature of Mailplane is the ability to drag and drop attachments directly into the composing message window. This effectively reduces a four-step process1 to a simple drag and drop action.

Mailplane Photo Screenshot

It can also resize and compress images you attach to be more web-friend in size. The amount of compression and size is changeable, although the default setting is quite well balanced. Mailplane can also integrate with iPhoto, although as I don’t use iPhoto I can’t comment on this feature. The getting started video shows you how to send a photo directly from iPhoto.

Mailplane Screenshot Screenshot

Mailplane also has a very slick feature where you can send a screenshot just by selecting the area of the screen you want to send, and then Mailplane resizes, compresses and uploads the attachment for you. This is an incredibly useful feature, that apps like Adium also need to have.

Multiple Accounts

Mailplane Accounts Screenshot

Mailplane supports you having more than one Gmail account. You can flip between them in the account side bar, although unfortunately Mailplane has to load up the Gmail web interface every time for each account rather than storing each session like tabs in a browser, which limits the usability of this feature.

Hopefully the limitations of the accounts feature will be solved in future releases.

Growl Support

Mailplane has support for Growl notifications, and opens the message in a window when you click on the Growl bubble. Neat.

Other Features

Mailplane also includes Mail.app style keyboard shortcuts and directly mailing anything printable with “Mail PDF with Mailplane” option in the OS X Print window. Overall Mailplane is features very nice additions to GMail that Google should already have2 We’ll have to wait for the final pricing of Mailplane to see if it gives good value for money, but the beta is looking very promising.


  1. i. Click ‘Attach a file’, ii. Click ‘Browse’, iii. Select a file, iv. Click ‘Open’.
  2. Whether in the form of browser plug-ins or a desktop client for GMail.

Adium 1.1

Includes major improvements and refinement of the UI. Everything is smoother, sleeker and faster. The best kind of update.

The last release of Adium was about a month ago, so you might think that Adium 1.1 has been in development just that long. You might also think that ice cream is better without caramel. You’d be wrong on both counts. Adium 1.1 development started over a year ago, and the ducky fruits of that labor are now yours to enjoy

The IT Crowd

Channel 4’s comedy series IT Crowd, about three people working in a typical IT department, is coming back for a second series, starting on August 24th. I can’t wait.

Windows XP: The OS That Won’t Die

The new build, dubbed SP2c, includes no fixes or feature changes, but was created simply to address the shrinking pool of product keys. XP Pro SP2c, which has been released to manufacturing, will be made available to resellers and system builders next month, said Microsoft.

Vista is a nice OS, but it really doesn’t have any major advantages over XP Professional, and Microsoft still seems quite committed to XP too.

Free Four Pack of Fosters Twist

Yes really free, as in beer, pack of Fosters Twist. Just register and take the voucher to your local Threshers.

Flickr: Improved Web Uploading

A rather snazzy update to Flickr’s web uploader, which I haven’t used for a long time since you have to choose files individually, but now it seems you can shift click your way to upload heaven. Pretty well implemented too, will no doubt see clones of this sooner or later.

The Closed Format Dilemma

In 20 years time, I want to be able to find a particular photograph or video I’ve produced with relative ease, and more importantly, be able to open it. I take photographs mainly with Nikon’s NEF raw image format, which is a closed standard that Nikon is reluctant to share. While many companies and individuals have managed to reverse–engineer it, Nikon change the format with every new generation of cameras, and as its a closed format, its likely that the third-party software wont be able to read it. While there are no guarantees that I’ll be able to open the files 20 years on, its likely that I will be so its not of a big worry.

But closed film formats are a small worry compared to the problem that is DRM. Imagine this — you buy a track on iTunes with DRM, only iTunes and the iPod can play it. Ten years down the line, someone other than Apple takes over the online music industry and you buy their device and use their music store. You want to be able to play your iTunes Music Store track on your new system, but you can’t because of DRM. iTMS is one of the only music stores that uses DRM and lets you burn the track to a CD, so all is not lost1 that is if Apple still exists and produces iTunes, or you can run an old version on your current system. The reality is even worse with subscription based music services — stop paying, and all your music is gone, if the music store folds, your music is gone, and if you want to use a computer or portable player that doesn’t support the DRM used by the store, you have to switch subscription services or buy all your music again. Not nice.

So now, I try to make sure everything I produce is in an open format, but its just not always possible. I write applications with C#, an established ECMA standard, but I wouldn’t call .NET exactly an open standard. Sure there’s the Mono project, but everything I produce is designed to run exclusively on Windows or as a website. However there is always a balance to be found, and .NET is comparatively more open than VB6 and a lot of its predecessors, and programming software and languages moves so quickly I’d be surprised if code I write today is still of any significant use twenty years down the line.


  1. Except for some fidelity from the conversion to audio CD and back to MP3 or whatever you’re converting to.
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