Saturday, June 11, 2011

Balloon art, the next generation

Artist Larry Moss has taken famous pieces of art and sculpted them using latex balloons, calling his work "Airigami."

... Whistler's Mother... too funny.

Santana Smooth

OS changes

Apple has announced that in X Lion, apps are meant to re-open in the exact same state they were closed, same documents open and in the same position, etc. This sounds great, for example I usually have four or five FTP windows open at the same time, it would be great if they opened automatically.

It probably depends on developers though. For example, I remember clearly how Jobs showed when OS X was new how save dialogue would attach to the document's window to not confuse things or disturb other things on the screen. This is wonderful, but some people are slow to adapt, some major Adobe apps still don't do this... TEN YEARS LATER! Ah well, I guess Adobe is a small company, still learning how to walk.

Rich man, poor man, now and then

Regarding the book "The Science Of Getting Rich" which I posted about recently (ebook for free): reader Anna commented to me:

I am reading the e-book you posted, much more spiritual than what I thought from the title ! :)
I confess I do not agree with the idea that you *have to* get rich in order to have a fulfilling life... But this book was written in 1910 or so. I am actually not rich, but still live in abundance in my opinion, for I can travel and study and have free time, through the possibilities of international scholarships and institutions gave me. So at the time he wrote, the only way to life a fulfilling life doing these kinds of things was to get rich, I guess. So then, for his time, it is absolutely right.

Couldn't have said it better. I was also disagreeing with the author on that point, but it's just that, the book was written before the occurrence of the Middle Class. In olden days, if you were not "rich", you were poor, and you had no leisure time, no time or money to travel or read and such. And I certainly can't disagree that without that, life is poor.

One might say that stressed as most people still are, we are perhaps overlooking the huge blessing it is that a huge proportion of the population in more and more countries are now in this abundant situation, where just a hundred years ago it was a tiny minority.
Of course it's a bit of a pity that many people are wasting this situation in still wanting more and more and more, for reasons they know not what of, and putting themselves in big debts, thus creating the feeling of being poor despite being quite rich.

A different issue is that more and more people these days find that after they get more or less rich, it makes less of a difference than they thought. Those irritating philosophers may be right after all: all good or bad is only inside. Durn those smug bastards.       :-)

Seems to me that money problems is like having a wet shoe in the winter: it's something you want to solve immediately, and when you have the problem, it feels like it's the only problem you have. But when it's solved, the joy is temporary, the real problems sit much deeper.

Lakefront Mansion Price Cut by $25 Million

Lakefront Mansion Price Cut by $25 Million, article.

... This is just in case anybody is still under that old illusion that real estate is a "safe" investment.
People don't learn so fast. I'll bet that the next time real estate has been booming for a decade or so, there will again be lots of people who will believe the suits at the seminars who tell them that it will continue forever, and that it's a certain gold mine.

Even so, in many places like Europe/UK, the housing crash was really only half a crash, many markets are still simply too high for the majority of potential buyers. So many experts are waiting for the second shoe to drop, and it may be a big one, because this time governments can't dampen the shock with lower interest rates, they can't go any lower!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The future of NASA's space shuttle program

The future of NASA's space shuttle program, video.

David is proud of his ending, and small wonder, it's perfect timing.

More data in this article.

Audiobook: Anne of Windy Willows (Poplars) LM Montgomery, plus Anne of Ingleside audiobook

[I believe these books to be out of copyright. If I'm mistaken, please do contact me and I'll remove them.]

I want to thank L. M. Montgomery for many, many hours spend enjoying her books, which have humor, thoughtfulness, and warmth rarely found. These are healing for the soul.
The Anne books are justifiably the most popular, but I very much liked the Emily books too (and Storygirl).

Anne of Windy Poplars audiobook by Lucy Maud Montgomery (266 MB). zip file.
The fourth book in the Anne Shirley series.
(Published as Anne of Windy Willows in the UK, Australia , and Japan.)
(Alternatively, a MP3 version, zip file.)

It is presently not available commercially in most countries, and it was not easy to find otherwise, so I decided to compile it into a real audio book, one file with cover and all, and put up the link.

Hurrah! After half a year's work, my friend Pat in the US managed to find a good copy of the tapes of the last book about Anne!
And he converted them to digital for me. Trust you won't find this better, because he has top-pro equipment, and does this kind of work for The Library of Congress!
(I converted the files to an audiobook with cover.)
Without further ado, the very rare Anne of Ingleside audiobook.
(MP3 version, zip file.)

Thanks for all the pleasant comments, folks!

Not all devices are set up to play audiobook files. I play them in iTunes or on an iPod (get used ones cheap) or iPhone or iPad.
I think iTunes software is still available for free for Windows PCs.
If all fails, notice the alternative download links for the universal MP3 format.

Apple Mail text size trick (updated)

Since I was forced to change from Eudora to Apple Mail, I've been irritated about how some emails, particularly from Yahoo accounts, had tiny, tiny, tiny text. Even enlarged to the limit it was smallish, and I had to use time and attention every time.

So I asked my Mail guru, Joe Kissell, author of "Take Control of Apple Mail in Snow Leopard", and he told me from his own book:

If You Prefer Plain Text

To force Mail to display the plain text version of incoming messages initially, you must turn on a hidden preference. First quit Mail. Then open Terminal (in Applications/Utilities) and enter:

defaults write PreferPlainText -bool TRUE

Quit Terminal and reopen Mail. Messages appear in plain text if available. Use the View>Message submenu to see other formats.

Man, that helped. Buy his books!

Bruce told me of a Mac control panel called Secrets, which can change this amongst many other things. The best part is that it also has a setting for minimum font size in HTML mails. This is better for me to use, because getting text-only emails removes embedded links and other formatting.
"Secrets" also has many settings for many other apps, Safari for example. I'm looking forward to go over it.
One good thing for example: you can make the Dock a beautiful transparant black instead of the default silver/glass/reflective mode which I don't like at all. 

You Can Call Me Al

Both music and lyrics so fresh and lively, even today.

(What is funny is that the thing which really makes the video funny is their size difference. Which isn't really a funny thing when you think about it.)

Who'll be my role-model,
Now that my role-model is gone, gone,
He ducked back down the alley,
With some roly-poly, little bat-faced girl.

TidBITS informs well

I awoke early, and before even getting up I wanted to use the 'pad on my bookstand by my bed to get an overview of the wealth of announcements from Apple this week. It didn't seem like podcasters were generally up to the task of commenting and recording this soon, so I set two RSS reader iPad apps to update for fresh articles. Heavens, what a ridiculous time these things take to do that! So I took to my TidBITS iPad app instead. Well, what a difference. Less than a dozen concise but inclusive articles covered all the important parts. And like always well written and considered, often even humorous.

You don't need the app though, you can get it all on the TidBITS home page, the relevant articles are roughly from June 6 til June 8. You can even get most articles read aloud by the author (link by the top), something which was nice as I lounged snugly in bed before breakfast.

The Tidbitters take their work seriously, and they are well trained and experienced. One example: TidBITS is about the only tech news web site were I have never seen a report of a "new dangerous virus threat", which later turned out to be virtually non-existent. But I know they will know about it if and when one happens. So they are my go-to place for solid information.

What's more, unusually, almost uniquely, the site has never stressed quantity as being important for a web business (whether it is or not). If an item is there, it has a reason for it. You don't have to wade through five fluff articles to find one relevant one.


Thanks so much for the kind words, Eolake. You've perfectly captured what it is we try to do in determining what topics really are important, and covering them in such a way that readers are certain to learn something or know what to do about that issue in the future.
cheers... -Adam (TidBITS publisher)

 eolake said...
My pleasure, for sure. Most people don't notice, and it's rarely pointed out, the difference between a Pretty Good news source, and a *really* good one. That last mile is the hardest to climb, and since it's not the one which give the most money, few bother.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

phone pics on Flickr

By July, the iPhone 4 will be the most popular camera to post pictures with on Flickr, above Nikon D90 and other serious cameras. Well, at least it couldn't happen to a better phone camera, there's nothing "dilettante" about that camera, it's better quality than most compact digicams I have had.

By the way, new on that: with iOS 5, you can shoot with the camera without using time on unlocking your phone. And you can shoot with the Volume-up button. Very handy.
(Amusingly, earlier Apple banned an app from the App Store because it did this, with the volume-up button. Hah.)

Tweets to appear on Facebook

Does anybody know how to make one's tweets appear on Facebook? I couldn't see a setting on either site.

High Speed Tracked Amphibian

Seems rather noisy. But, thinking about it, will a Men's Toy succeed if it isn't noisy? I actually doubt it.

Cloud playing

Amazon, Google, and Apple are simultaneously coming out with a new service: your music in the cloud so you can play it anywhere. (Apple will even scan-and-match so you don't have to upload most of it.)

I'm not sure I get why it's such a big deal? Don't people have iPods? My classic iPod holds all the music I have collected through 20 years, with 30% still left to go before it's full. It can sit in any pocket I have, so why do I need to have my music sit in the cloud?

I like many of the other iCloud things, like simultaneous/automatic sharing of content and apps to all your devices (You take a photo, and a minute later it's on your computer too), but the music thing... could be handy in some situations, but important? I dunno.

Film sales

Film sales have been hit even harder than I'd imagined. Could hardly be more dramatic if you'd made it up, actually, lo:

Galaxy wallpaper

It seems that with Lion, Apple has replaced the spectacular but slightly cheesy starfield emulation with a beautiful real photo of a galaxy. I would like to get more of those, in 2560x1600, but to my surprise they are a bit hard to find, and many of them are mushy (upscaled). Does anybody know a good source?

Wow, look at this
... I took the long picture linked above, and I split it into two for wallpaper for my twin monitors. Looks awesome. 

Al points to Astronomy picture of the Day, which I'd neglected though I've known it since the nineties. It's a rich source with thousands of interesting pictures. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Apple event news (updated)

It's gotten late here, so just  a couple of tidbits from Monday's Apple event. (I haven't even watched it all yet.) They had a lot of very nice news.
Example: with the upcoming iOS 5,  iOS devices can now exist and operate without ever having to be connected to a Mac or PC! Not just convenient for most users, but many people want to own one without owning a computer.
Another example: a couple of sorely needed updates to Safari: it will now get tabbed browsing, so it'll be about ten times faster to switch between windows. And it has "Reader" now like on the desktop Safari, to get a highly readable and distraction-free version of an article on a web page. And it even combines parts of an article from many pages into one page! I don't think even Instapaper does that. Talking about Instapaper, Safari will also be inspired by that, in that you can save articles, and they will be saved across all your connected devices, so you can find an article on your Mac, read it on your iPad (even offline), and finish it on your iPhone, or the other way around. Very kool. Poor readability has been an issue with web browsers on the iPad.

As per Lion, I'm not sure. Mostly it seems expansions on Spaces and Exposé, two features I don't use much. But I must say the Auto-Save and the related Versions feature have me more excited than I thought I would be. I think once you get used to using them, they can be quite powerful. Lord only knows how much work has been lost over time because most people forget to save, and then the power goes... And the ability to fetch bits from earlier versions and paste them into later versions could come in quite handy too.

I remember in the nineties sitting with a good friend of mine. He was rather new to computers, he had bought my old Powerbook. He had been writing on an article for an hour, and I asked him how often he saved. "I've not saved it yet," he said. I almost spewed my cappuccino over his keyboard. Save!, I said, save now! I always save compulsively every couple of minutes, and in over ten years I have not lost a line. But Mac OS Lion should do away with the necessity for such compulsions. (Of course you can go back to earlier versions if you regret something.)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Limits are good for creativity

Once more, proof that limits can be good for creativity:

“The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while, and was quite lost, actually, and I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — Solve it!” The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional”, this whole list of adjectives, and then, at the bottom, it said: “and it must be 3_ seconds long”. I thought this was so funny, and an amazing thought, to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made eighty-four pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny, little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds, at the end of this, that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then, when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were, like, three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.”
- Brian Eno

Where old phone cords go

[Thanks to Henry.]

Art by Jean Luc Cornec.