OK, so I just got my new macbook pro on Monday, an…

OK, so I just got my new macbook pro on Monday, and it’s pretty darn cool so far. I’m having a little bit of trouble getting real work done because I’m a long way from linux-land and am still accumulating applications that I use to do my job. Let’s face it, I’m also a little bit distracted by all of the shiny, gooey, sappy goodness that is the mac OS X interface. 

What I’m testing out right now is a Dashboard widget that let’s me easily type up and edit this blog, and publish it without ever opening a browser (well, I hope that’s what it does – hence the test). Dashboard is neat – you hit F12, and it puts your desktop in the background and bring a whole bunch of little mini tools and applications to the foreground, like a dictionary lookup tool, a calculator, a weather forecast, etc. There are thousands of these widgets available, many of which do next to nothing, but I grabbed widgets for doing wordpress and blogger posts, a measurement units converter (handy for brewing), and an application that helps me to find wireless networks ;-)  

Well – all this blogging and I’m still only down to
48% battery. For the past 90 minutes I’ve been streaming music from iTunes to my AirTunes express connected to my home entertainment system, downloading large applications that I need (like Parallels Desktop for OS X), installing them, running the PhotoBooth application (which uses the built in video camera), installing software off of a CD for my digital camera, importing pictures from the camera, and basically trying to do everything I can to make sure my battery runs out, which is something you should do once every month or so to calibrate the battery (read your manual – it says so right there). Also, the thing is on “Better Performance” – not “Battery Life” or whatever the power-sipping setting is. I want this thing to die! After 90 minutes of resource abuse, it’s probably safe to say I’ll be pleased with the battery life, especially since I’m coming from a behemouth 17″ laptop that had about 75 minutes of battery life just sitting idle! 

Flockworthy

I hate to say that Flock is “a browser”. It’s true that you can surf the web with it and leave the rest of Flock’s features untouched. But I think of Flock as more of a tool to exploit the web; to integrate more of my life and my day’s work with the web. In a nutshell, Flock uses web-based sites and technologies to take the place of things that a normal browser either does poorly, or just doesn’t do.

Instead of a bookmark file or favorites list, Flock uses your del.icio.us account to manage your favorites, which just makes so much sense to me. Why should I ever wonder where I bookmarked something? I see a site I want to bookmark, I “star” it in Flock. Flock will let me tag it if I want, and then it’ll post it to my del.icio.us account. The beauty here is that now my bookmarks are automatically synced across all of the machine where I use Flock… which is to say, all of my machines. Nice.

Blogging to a blogger, wordpress, or movabletype blog can be done directly from Flock. I’m writing this entry using Flock’s editor. When I hit ‘publish’, it’ll ask me which blog to publish to (I have more than one), and that’s that. Unfortuately, I haven’t found a way to automagically publish a single entry to more than one blog. This isn’t usually necessary, but can occasionally be useful. The benefit to me here is that I don’t have to go to a site, log in, start an entry, and then wonder if my session timed out when I get called away for an hour.

Flock also supports “drag ‘n’ drop” photo publishing to your Flickr account, has a news feed manager, and other stuff I haven’t even tried to use yet. Given all of these features, probably the most surprising thing about Flock is how easy, intuitive, and accessible they’ve been able to make all of these features while still hanging onto a very clean interface.

Flock does all of this by managing connections to all of the web services involved. Flock’s configuration enables you to enter your account information, and tell flock how you want to handle things. You can either be prompted for a password each time, or have Flock store your account information, and it’ll log on automatically. You can also optionally set up a master password to protect all of the information Flock stores.

Flock is currently in beta, but has become many times more stable since it’s initial release. I’ve thoroughly tested every feature with the exception of photo management, and I’m finding it to be a real pleasure to use this time ’round.

Blogged with Flock

Stop Bookmarking Stuff You Hate

I'm a part-time college student. As a result, I have to do research. I'm currently in a public speaking course where, for example, I have to give a persuasive speech. I have no idea what to write my speech on, but my wife did – drink more grape juice!

Some number of years ago I made a comment half in jest that I thinkpurple grape juice is the answer to more health issues than most give it credit for. I say "half in jest" because I had no clue at the time about all of the research to that effect. The comment got some heavy laughs for one reason or another, and I stuck to my guns, which, to me, just made it funnier. This all started because, well, I just like grape juice.

So anyway, I have to do research on this now, and so I went to Google Scholar, searched for "purple grape juice", and started clicking on stuff. Now I have choices:

I can bookmark every single one of these research papers about grape juice and how it stops brain rot and whatnot. Bookmarking, though,me ans going and making a folder for these bookmarks, bookmarking all of these things, and then when I have some downtime or a lunch break at work, I can't look at any of this stuff because I'm doing the research on my workstation at home and I loathe synchronizing *anything* between home and work.

Another option is to use del.icio.us to bookmark them, and that's great because I also use Flock,
which uses del.icio.us as my bookmark organizer. Problem there, though, is that now people who go and see my del.icio.us collection see my weird obsession with grape juice, and 2 years from now I'm gonna think "why the hell do I have all of these grape juice links?"

There's also the larger problem of bookmarking in general, which is that you have no real context to work with when you bookmark – you just have a bookmark. A link to a page. Great. What if the "page" is one of those really long ones with links off to other stuff and enormous amounts of
text, like, say, a research study page? Well, you'll have to sift through all of that every time to remember what tidbit you went there for.

There is, I think, a "perfect tool for the job" in my case, and it's Google Notebook.

Google Notebook is a firefox extension and gmail component that puts a little notebook icon in the bottom right corner of my firefox window. I can manually click the icon to add a note, create a new notebook for another subject, or whatever, but what I normally do is use the highlight feature. I can highlight just the interesting paragraph from a research site, right-click on the highlighted portion, and choose "Note this". Now, my Google Notebook will have the paragraph text, along with a link back to the page I got it from. Perfect!

Now, I can just do crazy-mad-guerrilla browsing for facts about my topic, add them to my Google Notebook, and when I go to organize my speech, I just open my "Juice" notebook, jot down the quote, and the link I need to reference the source is right there for me as well.

What's more, because Notebook is integrated with my gmail account, I can view my notebook from any machine without syncing anything. And, when I'm done with my research, I can easily go and just completely delete my "Juice" notebook without disturbing my other notes. Pretty cool!

Blogged with Flock

Stop Bookmarking Stuff You Hate

I’m a part-time college student. As a result, I have to do research. I’m currently in a public speaking course where, for example, I have to give a persuasive speech. I have no idea what to write my speech on, but my wife did – drink more grape juice!

Some number of years ago I made a comment half in jest that I think purple grape juice is the answer to more health issues than most give it credit for. I say “half in jest” because I had no clue at the time about all of the research to that effect. The comment got some heavy laughs for one reason or another, and I stuck to my guns, which, to me, just made it funnier. This all started because, well, I just like grape juice.

So anyway, I have to do research on this now, and so I went to Google Scholar, searched for “purple grape juice”, and started clicking on stuff. Now I have choices:

I can bookmark every single one of these research papers about grape juice and how it stops brain rot and whatnot. Bookmarking, though, means going and making a folder for these bookmarks, bookmarking all of these things, and then when I have some downtime or a lunch break at work, I can’t look at any of this stuff because I’m doing the research on my workstation at home and I loathe synchronizing *anything* between home and work.

Another option is to use del.icio.us to bookmark them, and that’s great because I also use Flock, which uses del.icio.us as my bookmark organizer. Problem there, though, is that now people who go and see my del.icio.us collection see my weird obsession with grape juice, and 2 years from now I’m gonna think “why the hell do I have all of these grape juice links?”

There’s also the larger problem of bookmarking in general, which is that you have no real context to work with when you bookmark – you just have a bookmark. A link to a page. Great. What if the “page” is one of those really long ones with links off to other stuff and enormous amounts of text, like, say, a research study page? Well, you’ll have to sift through all of that every time to remember what tidbit you went there for.

There is, I think, a “perfect tool for the job” in my case, and it’s Google Notebook.

Google Notebook is a firefox extension and gmail component that puts a little notebook icon in the bottom right corner of my firefox window. I can manually click the icon to add a note, create a new notebook for another subject, or whatever, but what I normally do is use the highlight feature. I can highlight just the interesting paragraph from a research site, right-click on the highlighted portion, and choose “Note this”. Now, my Google Notebook will have the paragraph text, along with a link back to the page I got it from. Perfect!

Now, I can just do crazy-mad-guerrilla browsing for facts about my topic, add them to my Google Notebook, and when I go to organize my speech, I just open my “Juice” notebook, jot down the quote, and the link I need to reference the source is right there for me as well.

What’s more, because Notebook is integrated with my gmail account, I can view my notebook from any machine without syncing anything. And, when I’m done with my research, I can easily go and just completely delete my “Juice” notebook without disturbing my other notes. Pretty cool!

Blogged with Flock

Pandora.com rocks… or doesn’t. Your choice.

Pandora.com is a site that helps you find music you’re likely to enjoy by having you enter songs and artists that you like, analyzing the various attributes of your favorite songs and artists, and then creating a radio station made up of songs that match that set of attributes.

So, for example, I started out creating a jazz station at work by entering “Cristo Redentor” by Donald Byrd as one of my favorite songs. Pandora immediately played a different song that had similar attributes to that song. However, since that would make for a rather boring jazz station, I entered more songs and artists like Art Tatum, Miles Davis, Otis Spann, I just entered songs and artists that represented different sounds, but all ones that I liked, from the jazz spectrum. The result is a pretty kick ass jazz station, made up of songs I pretty much like, though there are plenty of songs on the station that I’ve never heard.

Next I’ll create a rock station, and a metal station. Sometimes when I’m coding I enjoy heavy metal for some reason. It motivates me. Other times, when I’m just doing day-to-day stuff, jazz or more mellow rock will do just fine.

Anyway, I read a review of pandora.com recently that said their library was pretty deep, which was not my experience when I tried it about a year or more ago, and I had also heard that you could now listen for free if you didn’t mind occasional ads, which was also different from my first try. They used to just give you a two week trial period and then force you to subscribe, which it wasn’t worth doing when their library was a bit thin. I might subscribe at some point, but it’s nice not to be forced into it.

In short, I recommend everyone check out pandora.com.

House Painting, and Mother’s Day

So the goal was this: get my house painted in time for my mom’s visit for Mother’s Day weekend. I scheduled the painting so that they would start a little over a week before Mom’s arrival, because it was supposed to be a 3-day job, and I wanted to allow for bad weather and stuff.

The painting crew, unfortunately, decided it was no problem to take 5 days to do the job, which would’ve been fine except that the forecasts were calling for rain for the 4 days leading up to Mom’s arrival. They were never going to make it.

I called the owner of the painting company, and he came out on the morning of the third day of work. Just looking at my house, I think, was enough for him to understand. I don’t think I probably had to say much, but I did make sure to point out all of the problems I had not only with the workmanship (they weren’t doing a particularly good job), but also the work ethic of the crew. They were leaving around 3pm every day, taking long lunches, and the crew lead did more talking on the phone than painting. We were on the 3rd day of an alleged 3-day job, and they hadn’t even begun to apply the finish coat!

In short, the house got done, and they finished cleaning up about 2 hours before my mom’s plane landed, so it worked out. The color isn’t exactly what we wanted, but it works, so we’re happy.

Beer is your friend

I’m putting a bunch of posts here to catch up with everything that’s happened since I last posted two months ago.

I should let everyone know that I have yet another blog that I maintain with my buddy Matt called bamfbeer.com

The purpose is to keep up with our adventures in home brewing. There’s a lot going on. We started brewing with one coleman cooler, one keg, one carboy, and a burner. It was run purely on gravity, we chilled the wort with a counterflow chiller Matt made 12 years ago, and we sparged by pouring water over an upside down cereal bowl to sprinkle water over the mash. The setup served us well, but was labor intensive. We found ourselves getting less motivated to make beer because of that, and we actually didn’t brew at all for an entire season.

Then I ran into a buddy of my father-in-law’s who needed to get rid of some kegs, and I figured I’d better take them, because free kegs are unheard of, and very useful for brewing. Then I found a pump on sale at northernbrewer.com and thought “hey, we might have something here”. Then I started looking at all of the stuff people were doing to make their lives easier. I was inspired. We bought a pump, a new wort chiller, and a sparge arm, and we planned to brew a red ale. Our pump was a lemon, but everything else worked really well!

Long story short, the red ale is fermenting nicely in my basement, and we’re planning to brew a nice bitter sometime this month. In the meantime, there’s new pump on its way, and Matt got his hands on an old utility cart made from angle iron that might make it possible to create a sort of “brewery on wheels”. Matt’s also going to work on a steam injection setup, and we’re on our way!