Oovoo and My Oovoo Day

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

Oovoo video chat software

Today is the last day in My Oovoo Day, which might more accurately been named My Oovoo Couple of Weeks. What is Oovoo? Does the post office deliver mail on My Oovoo Day?

Oovoo is a new video chatting application that is available for Mac and Windows. It allows up to 6 people to have a video chat at the same time in a display that has been compared (by people like me who watched too much TV in their formative years) to the opening credits of Brady Bunch or the grid for Hollywood Squares.
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Twitter and Twitterpad

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

TwitterPad

If like me, you have become addicted to Twitter, then you should check out the TwitterPod application for the Mac.

If you have been living in a cave, twitter is a web based server that allows people to “micro blog”. You can enter any text that will fit in a 140 character limit. Twitter updates (or tweets) can also be delivered to your cell phone if you so desire. People twitter about blog articles they have written, what they have had for breakfast or words of wisdom as long as it fits in 140 characters. Many podcasters and bloggers have started to use twitter because you can send updates to a set of people who follow you but follow the updates, potentially, of a completely different set of people. Adam twitters at maccast (sometimes) and I (my podcast is the Amateur Traveler) twitter at chris2x.

The best twitter updates I received (or wrote) yesterday:

acedtect Happy Arbitrary Roman-derived change of annual enumeration.
leolaporte Turkish coffee and a flight to Aswan where we meet the Sun Boat IV. Sarkozy and Blair are in town, snarling the traffic.
chris2x just a thought, when Clark Kent gets new frames, does anyone recognize him?
scottsimpson For the record, a certain part of my anatomy has also been compared to a baby’s arm: my arm.
hotdogsladies GoDaddy’s checkout is like a hallway of Marines trying to hit you with a sock full of pennies. “Ow! Quit it! Don’t need ‘WebSite Tonight!!'”
CaliLewis “When we honor the potato, we honor ourselves.” Just heard it on NPR.
Ihnatko The fonts I bought from Comicraft for $20.08 each (with one freebie plus a $16 discount…details in post): http://tinyurl.com/3d36aq

And if those literary gems make you more interested in Twitter than as a Mac user one program that I would recommend is TwitterPad which has a clean interface and growl notification. It also highlights the last post you read (you can read URLs posted in a pop out panel) so it makes it easy to tell what posts are new.

Let the tweats begin.

Apple Announcements and Marketing 101

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Editorial

I have heard a number of people express the opinion recently that Apple has changed the way that it announces products. This comes from the fact that Apple recently pre-announced two products, months in advance before you could even order them. The two products were the AppleTV and the iPhone. This has set the expectation for a number of people that they might learn about the next iPod or the next iMac in a similar pre-release fashion. This post is intended to discourage that expectation.

Let’s back up a bit and look at what this from Apple’s point of view. In general when Apple, or some other hardware company, releases a new product they are going through a product transition. So when they announce a new iPod they are trying to maximize how much money they make. A product transition has some risks for the company.

If they announce a product too soon and the product sounds very good then people may choose to stop buying the current product and wait for the new product. This is called the Osborne Effect after Osborne Computer Corporation which pre-announced a series of new products in 1983. The company went out of business shortly there after and the most common story has been that their sales dried up when they announced these new machines. (Whether this actually caused Osborne to go out of business is not universally accepted in retrospect, no one seems to argue that this was helpful to the company).

If a company still has old units in its warehouse when it ships the new product, these products will have to be sold for less money (or perhaps not sold at all). But, if the company guesses wrong how many of the old product it will sell in this transition and runs out of units in the warehouse then it may lose sales to a competitor. Combine this with a slip in the new product and you get the kind of scenario that can keep executives awake at night.

So why did Apple decide to pre-announce not one, but two products last year? The main reason would seem to be that they were not going through a product transition. They did not have a TV box when they pre-announced the AppleTV nor a cell phone when they pre-announced the iPhone. Why does this make a difference? The big difference here is that customers may in fact not buy some product that they were planning on buying and wait for the Apple product, but in this case it was not an Apple product. So with the iPhone, for example, what Apple wanted was for people to decide not to by that new BlackBerry, Blackjack, Razr, etc but to wait for the iPhone. What Apple did was create F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about their competitor’s products. They did not need people to pre-order the iPhone so much as they wanted them to at least wonder whether they should wait and see. FUD is a very useful marketing tool. If you don’t have something sell, marketeers are trying to at least get you to wait before buying a competing product. Their hope, which worked in the case of the iPhone, is that if you wait long enough they will have a product you will want to buy.

So, will Apple pre-announce the next iMac. That is unlikely. But if they get into yet another consumer product business then it is very likely that they would pre-release that product.

MacMania 7 – Combining Leopard and Life Boat Drills

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

I attended a class by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue on the new features in Leopard recently. Mr. Pogue is a dynamic speaker and the enthusiastic crowd was rocking. No, really, I mean the room was literally rocking. Of course the room was located on Holland America’s ms Volendam so the rocking was fairly easy to explain. This class was part of Insight Cruise‘s (formerly Geek Cruises) MacMania 7 cruise.

A MacMania cruise is like a Mac conference at sea and more than one of the attendees had their attendance at conference paid for by their company (although only the most generous company will also pay for the cruise itself). The speakers on MacMania 7 were: Richard Dreyfuss (the actor), Janet Hill, David Pogue, Randal Schwartz, Jason Snell, Sal Soghoian, Derrick Story and Robin Williams (the Mac author not the actor). One of the wonderful perks of the cruise is being able to meet, talk with and generally shmooze with people who are well known in the Mac community.

The classes offered on MacMania 7 included:

  • Introduction to Lightroom
  • Introduction to Aperture
  • iPhone: The Missing Manual
  • Maximizing iPhoto
  • Photoshop for Photographers
  • Integrating Photoshop with Aperture, Lightroom, or iPhoto
  • Which Is Best for You — Aperture, Lightroom, or iPhoto?
  • iDVD and iMovie
  • Apple’s Latest and Greatest
  • The Ground Floor Guide to the Macintosh
  • Extreme Googling
  • Inside Mac OS X “Leopard”
  • Leopard Power User Tips
  • Introduction to iLife
  • Pushing iLife to the Limit
  • Amazingly Cool Utilities
  • Personal Podcasting Primer

The classes are not held while the ship is in port so that attendees and speakers alike can enjoy shore excursions or just generally explore. MacMania 7 stopped at a prvate island in the Bahamas, Aruba, Curaçao, Panama and Costa Rica with the highlight of the cruise being the Panama Canal.

The cruise had more than 4 days spent entirely at sea. If you enjoy the normal ways to spend your time on a cruise: shuffleboard, bingo, art auctions, shopping, etc then a geek cruise may not be right for you. If you can’t imagine entertaining yourself on a 10 day cruise and think that spending the time with 150 other Mac fanatics would be fun, then you might want to look into MacMania 8.

Insight Cruises also ran Shakespeare at Sea on the same cruise (which is what I was officially attending but I was allowed to attend either program). More information about the cruise can be found in Amateur Traveler Episode 113 – Theme Cruise to Panama (Shakespeare at Sea / MacMania).

Leopard Delayed Until October

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: News

CNet.com reports:

For once, the rumor mill was right: Apple will be delaying Leopard, the next release of Mac OS X, until October.

The company said in a statement Thursday that because of the push to get the iPhone out by June, it had to pull engineers from the Leopard development effort and reassign them to the iPhone. As a result, Leopard won’t be finalized until later this year, and only a preview version will be available at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Looks like maybe Apple should have named it after a slower cat.

Apple’s official statement

iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard’s features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we’re sure we’ve made the right ones.

Editor’s comment: Has Apple been having their water imported from Redmond? Seriously, they couldn’t just use some of their vast cash reserves to hire some additional developers? I guess Steve was really serious about the dropping of the whole computer from the Apple name. I love iPods, the Apple TV, and the iPhone as much as the next Apple fan, but come on. Apple’s roots and the heart of company are in the OS and in the glorious systems we get stuff done on each and everyday. Has Apple lost sight of that in lieu of the consumer success of the iPod? Leopard has already had the longest development time of any OS X update to date. I don’t think Apple is giving us the whole story here. Let’s just hope they don’t pull another play from Microsoft’s rulebook and start ripping announced features out of 10.5 just to try and make their new ship date.

Google Docs – Free Web Applications

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

spreadsheetTwo of the “killer” applications that led to wide adoption of personal computers were word processors and spreadsheets. There are many different projects from Christmas letters to personal budgets that can be created with these applications. The two most popular applications on the Macintosh in this area are Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, but if you want to buy these applications they can be fairly expensive. The latest Mac version of Microsoft Office (which also includes Powerpoint) costs more than $300.

So what if you could get a word processor and a spreadsheet for free? Better yet, what if I could share those documents with my mother in Cleveland? What if I could help her with her monthly budget spreadsheet by both of us going to the same website with an internet browser? What if I want to work on a novel with a friend in Paris? What if my mother or my friend could see as I made changes in the shared document in real time? If that sounds too good to be true then you have not yet had a chance to use Google Docs.

Google bought a shared document product from a company called Writely and then also created internally a spreadsheet application to create Google Docs. These applications work surprisingly well. They even have revision control so that you can roll back changes that your friend makes to the novel. I could have used this when my best friend from high school and I “collaborated” on a story (He kept killing off characters I introduced).

You will need to use the Firefox browser (or other modern browser) on the Mac as these applications will not work with Internet Explorer or Safari.

Monolingual

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

MonolingualHave you heard the old joke?

When a person speaks two languages we call them bilingual, when they only speak one language what do you call them? American.

Now that joke may not apply to you but odds are that you don’t speak as many languages as your Macintosh. And if you don’t happen to speak Azerbaijani, Breton, Croatian, Esperanto and/or Tongan then those languages are taking up space on your hard drive. Even if you remember Spanish, French, or German from high school you may not ever plan to look at an application with the user interface set to that language. If you could delete those language files then you would save disk space. How much disk space you will save will depend on how many applications you have installed and how many of those applications come with a multilingual interface. On my computer I saved 2Gb of storage space. A friend saved 4Gb by deleting those files.

One tool that makes it easy to delete the unneeded bulk of both language files (as well as binaries compiled for a processor chip that you computer does not have) is the free application Monolingual. Select what you want to keep and what you want to delete and then press a button and what. Of course, before you do something like this a backup is always recommended.

Editors note: I will second Chris’ recommendation for having a good full backup prior to running Monolingual. You may remember a time when I recommended Monolingual on the Maccast prior to them adding Universal support. Needless to say some Intel Mac owners were not too happy. The application is Universal now, but still caution is always smart when modifying your system at this low a level. I personally avoid the need to use a tool like Monolingual by doing a custom install and only loading the desired dialect when I re-install OS X (which I will do when Leopard is released).

Skype – New and Improved

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: News

Skype finally released the new Mac version 2.5 of its popular software. This version includes:

  • The ability to send SMS messages
  • The ability to see when your voicemail subscription expires in the “My Account” area.
  • An improved video Codec
  • Birthday reminders
  • Clickable mood messages
  • A fix for using Skype with conference calls, TalkShoe or any other system where you have to enter tones from the dial pad
  • Some new emoticons

More information is available on the Skype for Mac blog.

Review: Call Recorder

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

CallRecorderI have a podcast that includes an interview almost every week. None of those interviews have been done face to face and some of them have not even been done from the same continent as the interviewee since my show is a travel show. I record all of my interviews using Skype. Sometimes I am doing a Skype to Skype connection or sometimes I am using Skype out to call a normal phone number. My hardware setup is a headset microphone (Plantronics) and a laptop. I do not have an external mixing board.

One of the problems I have had is that if I don’t set the sound levels correctly balancing my sound level and the guest’s sound level then I can create a lot of extra work for myself in post production. In the worst case while the guest is speaking I am doing my Darth Vadar breathing because my sound level is two high relative to the guest.

At MacWorld I picked up a new program that helps solve this problem: Call Recorder from ecamm network. Call Recorder installs itself in Skype and allows you to record a Skype connection or call but to put each side of the conversation on a different track. So later on when you are editing the conversation you can change the volume of the two tracks independently.
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Twas the night before MacWorld

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Random Thoughts

Twas the night before MacWorld
And all through the hall
Not a vendor was stirring
No, not at all

The attendees lay snuggled
asleep in their beds
While visions of iPhones
danced in their heads

The iPhone is here!
It’s coming right quick
We’d been told this before
(A marketing trick)
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