Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Woodman's Cottage

From one of everybody's favorite episodes (also of Kevin McCloud's himself, he told me) of Grand Designs. If you can get the series, do so. This house was all built by hand in the middle of the woods, with all wood and hay blocks. He only got building permission because he already was the caretaker for the woods.

How computers think, part four

By the way, here is a very typical story about how you can use computers better by learning how they "think" (or perhaps how programmers think?). 

After using the useful but clumsy software calibre to convert the HTML file (mentioned in the post below) to ePub, it occurred to me that many people might prefer a PDF file. Well, I have paid good money (several times) for Adobe Acrobat Pro, and it can import a web site and make it into a PDF file! That's really cool. 
So, one might expect it could open an HTML file from disk and not just from the web, n'est pas? Weeeeeell, I have learned the weird ways of the world, and yes, just as I suspected: Nooooooooo, it can't. Of course not. 

So I had to upload the HTML file to my web server, choose "make file from web site" in Acrobat Pro, type in the web URL for the file, and import it from there! 
A couple of minutes later I had a decently formatted document (sadly you can't do anything about text size when doing this), which I could then just save as PDF... Ding dong dut. 
But, see what I mean? That is just so typical that I *knew* it would be that way.
Update: a couple of people reminded me that in this case (a simple document without important links or such) Mac OS X's "print to PDF" feature would do the same job, and easier, just from the web browser. Thanks guys. There's even an advantage to this: one can change the size of the text in the PDF just by changing the visible text size in the browser before printing. (I kept to the text size I had though, because it's a good compromise between screen, printing (perhaps half pages), and the Kindle's 6-inch screen.
To those who didn't know this trick: in the print dialogue window in OS X, in the lower left corner, there is a "PDF" button, click that and select "save as PDF". One can also preview it first by selecting "view PDF in Preview". 

How I Found Freedom...

Harry Browne's famous book How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World is available on paper or as HTML and ePub and PDF files*.
It is a very unusual book about gaining freedom by not being ruled by arbitrary beliefs or rules.
There's a short overview (and alternative dl link) here.

*A Kindle 3 can read PDF files and an iPad can read PDF as well as ePub formats. Any web browser reads HTML. You can check out the book first in a web browser here.

I’ve tested the PDF version of this book on my Kindle 3, and it works fine if you set it to show it at 150% and turn it 90 degrees.  (See update below for great tip, found by TCGirl.)

Update: From Amazon:

If you prefer to have your personal PDF documents converted to the Kindle format so you can take advantage of Kindle functionality such as variable font size, annotation, Text-to-Speech, etc., type "Convert" in the subject of the e-mail when you submit your personal document to your "name" address.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coming from a mind-set of Lack

(BTW, I've just updated my money article.) 

This is a page from The Trick To Money is Having Some.

This page is funny, and typically Wilde. Many years ago I told a friend that I'd bought a big work chair for 800 Pounds Sterling. He said I was crazy, and that I could have gotten it for half the price, a friend of his could have made it for me.
He couldn't see that even if: 1) I had cared, 2) and his friend really *could* make a decent simili, which I doubted, it still wouldn't be the same chair.

Even years before I had much money to throw around, I bought a quite expensive racing bike. People were astounded at how much money I'd used at it ($900, about twice what a typical "good bike" cost then). I found I could find common ground by finding an area they knew well, because within that area, they were familiar with a scale of quality and cost. One guy said he knew motorcycles. So I said "would you use a cheap wrench when working on a motorcycle?" He said "no, they break immediately," and he started to understand.

Sure, there are companies which take advantage of the fact that some people will pay a lot extra for illusory values. So you have to learn to differentiate between qualities which matter and those that don't. One clue is that when a price gets above 10 times the average, you're probably over-paying.

I should note perhaps that Wilde's chapter excerpted above is not about being willing to spend, but about being willing to charge good money for good work. A different area, but I shouldn't be surprised if they are closely related.


Scott found an exceptional weather site: Weatherspark.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Display for Airbook

I bought a Cinema Display for my 11-inch Airbook.
The display is great, as I expected, but what keeps striking me is how the Airbook (sorry, "MacBook Air") running this huge display doesn't feel at all like a compromise in power. Sure, I haven't tested big photoshop or video files, but certainly with day-to-day work it's not only adequate, it's quite zippy. Just a delight. They say the processor itself is modest, as befits the tiny 1-kilo frame, so much of the nimbleness must come from the solid-state drive, I guess. Anyway, it's nice. It runs totally silent, and of course when I unplug it, it's the ultimate in portability if you want a full-sized keyboard.
It's seen here running lid-closed, but if you open it you can use the external screen either as mirroring the built-in screen, or for extending the desktop.

Big Grips for iPad

Really, this is a great idea!
Not just for kids either. Me, I'm no more clumsy than average, I have never dropped my iPad. But you always feel that you have to be so careful with a thing like that! Which of course just adds to the general tension and stress that many of us have in the modern world. I bet that with the Big Grip on, your grip is much more secure, easy to hold, and it protects the iPad very well too.

(I'm getting their stand also.) 
You can get it in bright colors also. But I'm very happy they made a nice grey one so adults ain't blinded.
A version for iPad 2 is coming soon. But I wonder if this one won't work, perhaps with a bit of cope, the only difference is that the iPad 2 is a bit thinner after all.
Big Grips home page

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who pays the pensions

Many people believe that what they pay in taxes now is being saved up to pay for their pension when they grow old. S'not so,  what's being paid now is paying for the current pensioners. And when the baby-boomers retire very soon, there may be a problem, it is a very large chunk of population to have on permanent vacation for 25 years, paid for by much small groups of younger generations.

(From a recent issue of MoneyWeek, UK.)

Electric speed demon

Three speed world records in one evening, with an electric car!
"I thought I had a quick little BMW, but it was like I was standing still..."

(Video found here. I didn't find any way to scale the picture to this column.)

‘Chimping’ and Other Photo-Taking Tips

‘Chimping’ and Other Photo-Taking Tips, article by David Pogue.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jonathan Ive profile

How did a British polytechnic graduate become the design genius behind £200billion Apple?, profile of designer Jonathan Ive. (Thanks to MacObserver.)


(From anon.)

I have noticed that many who text messages & email have forgotten the art of capitalization.
Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse, and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BBC teevee

So I tried the BBC iPlayer for iPad, and I tried various current BBC programs ("programmes"). They were all either boring or just bad. How can it be? They have access to all of Great Britains' talent pool, they have millions of taxpayers' Pounds Sterling, how can they fail to make some good TV? I can't figure it out. All they have to do it let people present their stuff and then pick the good ones, and let their experienced producers make it. One would think.