Large corps like Adobe may charge exorbitant amounts of moola for their software, but sometimes those profits are put into useful FREE services for the public at large to use, as is the case for two of Abobe Lab’s offerings: BrowserLab and Kuler.
Adobe BrowserLab is a free online service where you can load up web pages that you are developing and then see how the different versions of browsers mangle them.
As there are minute differences between the way that browsers handle text and graphic placement, this saves the web developer from having to have all versions of all browsers on their local machine to do this testing.
BrowserLab offers side-by-side comparisons between browser displays of your choosing, as well as an onionskin overlay of two browsers. Rulers and guides are also available to see precisely how far off one browser is over another in displaying your precious.
I use this every time I develop a website now, and think it’s one of the greatest freebies from the overlord Adobe. Another great freebie is Kuler.
Kuler is a color matching and swatch creation tool that is integrated into the entire CS suite of products. You can use Kuler to create swatches from an existing image, and then import those swatches into say Photoshop or Illustrator for application when creating a new image.
But there is a pot of gold at the end of a Kuler rainbow. For example, if you are developing a new website, and you want to keep your colors matched and contrasting, you can screen capture the first page that you develop, upload, and create a Kuler set of colors that can be used when creating all the other downstream pages created (download the Kuler set into Illustrator, Photoshop, and/or Indesign - see the Extensions menu).
Kuler ensures that all your fonts used in headings and whatnot all have the same color values assigned. This will all so make sure that backgrounds and foreground items are not garish and clashing if Kuler is used religiously.
Both Browserlab and Kuler are easy and free to use from Adobe Labs at these urls, and all you have to do is to create an account and have at it:
For those that hate typing on your iPhone, there is a great solution for anyone with a jailbroken phone and access to Cydia to download an app called Veecy. I use this hack send SMS messages from my mac keyboard instead of sending via the itty-bitty one.
Before the iPhone, there was Bluetooth Elite 2 for all other smartphones that allowed you to do the same thing and more, but I digress.
Veecy is a VNC server that runs on your phone and allows you to tap into it from any PC with a VNC client like Apple Remote Desktop or Chicken VNC. Other VNC tools probably work too, and there are freebies so you don’t have to pay for ARD like I do.
But anyway, just install Veechy from Cydia (there is no interface, it just sits there and works) then connect from your laptop/desktop - VNC tool like this:
You just use the IP address assigned to your iPhone by your WiFi router.
So you can control your phone then from the desktop display, and SMS is just one thing that you can do:
An interesting byproduct of this hack is that u can use the VNC connection to capture your screens, like I did for this tut.
Okay, back to my iBook...I don’t even have to hold the phone anymore to read!
Not often you find a useful app that becomes one you can’t live without for just 9 bucks, but with FRESH from Ironic Software Inc (a software company of two guys who have been writing mac software for over 20 years) you get just that. This app does for you what you have to do at the start of every in-progress job: finds the files that you need to get going.
We all have our own workflow when it comes to picking up where you left off last Tuesday. Some of us just know where we put the files needed and efficiently navigate using Finder to get started, some of us click upper right on the spotlight hourglass to run a search, and others open up an app and look to “Open Recent.” Then there are the few, like myself, that has to grab a beer and contemplate the situation: “WTF did I do with those files!?@#%?”
Someone once said the hardest part of doing anything is to start, and this is certainly true for me. So FRESH uses a metaphor that I can relate too: a cooler. After I get a brewsky from the beverage cooler, I just click on the FRESH widget on the desktop and go to the file cooler for my last job.
The interface that comes up elegant, and a blast for eyeballs...the “chilling” files are displayed in a large-in-your-face way that’s great for eyes going blind from spending too much time in spotlight, or searching through tiny-type Finder lists. FRESH is fun and functional.
Well, it only takes a moment to learn and to try, so I’ll leave this review at that. Check out what Ted and Tom are doing at Ironic here: http://www.ironicsoftware.com/
Ps.For you tagging freaks, which I have just become, try out LEAP, which is a great improvement over the Spotlight interface:)
In Nepal, it’s always been all about being free, and of late, due to the economy, about getting things for free. In this light, I thought I’d blog a review of my favorite free tool discovered in 2009: iWeb SEO Tool from Rage Software.
This tool is essential for any iWeb developer, as it will get your iWeb sites higher up in the Google search standings, as well as help you do a few other important SEO tasks seamlessly and easily. (Note: iWeb sites by default, are relegated to the basement of all google searches, so you really need this if you have an iWeb site.)
First, for ease of use, the tool loads the contents of your entire “idisk” websites area. That means that all the sites in your default domain.sites2 file get’s loaded up for changing. iWeb does not need to be running, and this tool just publishes the changes direct to your Mobileme account.
Second, it allows you to easily change the title tag. According to RAGE, the number one on-page search engine optimization that you can add to your website is an effective title tag. This is great for iWeb users, as this tool does not modify the name of the page in your interface, or on your displayed page, but just the title displayed by the browser at the top of the screen.
Third, it’s an easy way to get the Google Analytics code onto each page of your site so you can track performance in Google’s nifty analytical tracking tool. Just paste the code from the Google account into one page of your iWeb site and say “Apply to Entire Site” and you’re done.
Besides these three functions worth the price of submission (zero), the interface allows you to add metatags to each page (which I hear is not so important these days) and to also easily go through all your images and add “alternate text” which is also used by the google monster when indexing sites for searchers.
The added bonus to all web developers is that this tool is NOT iWeb dependent, meaning it can be used on any site that you have source for locally, and then FTP to a server. For example, I have many sites created in Dreamweaver as well, and developed in the more traditional way of creating locally and FTPing remotely. It was a snap to just open those up, make the SEO modifications as listed above, and re-FTP the changed files to their respective homes on the web.
The one gotcha with this tool is that each time a web page is updated in iWeb, you lose any special SEO tagging when published – but that’s the nature of the beast. However, iWeb SEO Tool has a cure: a “Re-Apply Saved Tags click, that you can run after any publishing and it will put all your SEO customizations back into place.
Highly recommended; download here: http://www.ragesw.com/products/iweb-seo-tool/download/
Okay, okay, I know I say I don’t write about programs that cost big bucks, but this one is important, and security is something that some amount of money is well spent on. In this case we are talking about $48.44 (including tax) for all of your computers, and your iPhone or Palm. In return, you get some decent password management and strong encryption (whatever that is). 1Password may be old news to many of you out there in password hell, but not until I read this debate on Slashdot: Poor Passwords A Worse Problem Than Poor Antivirus
, that I even knew that I had an option.
I thought that scribbling down passwords and credit card pass codes on little scraps of paper and hiding them in my wallet or wherever was the way to go. Or for the online stuff, just making all my passwords and userids the same - just so I could remember them – was not a half bad idea considering the alternative: hundreds of passwords to remember. After all, how secure a feeling do you get when you try to log into a site and realize that you have forgotten the password, as well as the name of your first schoolteacher or pet goldfish, as well as the email that you used to create the account?
I now realize that the entire situation is just too insane for the human mind to deal with (I was making up CIA-like cryptograms for my slips of paper, of all things). But using something like software to deal with something so sensitive as a database of my account info (PayPal, Online Banking, Credit Cards, etc.) also sounded nuts. I know software...and it’s not something I really expect to be there when I really need it. But after a month with 1Password, I'm sold on letting my personal version of a Skynet botnet take full control over all of my sensitive info, and thus get all that password, ID, and PIN stuff out of my hair. In other words, resistance proved futile in the long run.
So now I have everything sensitive tucked away in 1Password, all organized and cataloged just like I have my video and audio files tucked away in CatDV. Makes perfect sense now, and that exercise cost less then 50 bucks.
If I open an account on a forum board or e-commerce site, the userid and password is automatically stored in something more secure then Firefox, and much more portable, as that account is added to my 1Password database and then synced with my iPhone and laptop for when I am on the road. The license for 1Password is per person, so I can sync as many devices as I want with all my sensitive info. The interface is dead simple to use, and there is browser integration with both Safari and FF. You can import your sensitive stuff from other sources, like FireFox, and then add things to your “virtual wallet,” like credit card numbers and bank accounts. You can also create secure notes to yourself, containing anything that normally would be typed in plain text and then left in the wild. Also nice is the feature to create full blown identities that can be recycled into new account info, for example when you sign on to a new blog or shoe store site.
For passwords, the program works like this: you create one master password that you will have to remember, as it will be needed to open the program and to do anything else. Then, you can use 1Password’s nifty password generator to create super uncrackable strings of letters, numbers, and symbols that can then be applied to any userid or account name. You even get a display of how good (strong) the password is. That was the fun part...creating unbreakable passwords for all my accounts - take that you dirty horsehair hackers!
But I have no idea how safe any of this really is, as my only knowledge of encryption is what I’ve read about in spy novels, but I do feel more secure knowing that if someone figured out my password for say this website, that they would not also have the password to my all my email accounts as well as all my other forum accounts. I feel pretty secure that I won’t forget the master password, short of having heaven forbid a stroke or complete mental collapse. Even if I don’t understand the technology, I feel better thinking it’s all OK. And since I am such a simpleton when it comes to remembering anything, 1Password is the one for me.
1Password Website: http://agilewebsolutions.com/
I don’t usually write about MS products, but this one deserves a few lines: Win7. I had been using (if you could call it that) Vista Ultimate in a Fusion virtual box for some time, and just upgraded to Win7 Ultimate by going through the upgrade process and not a fresh install.
To my huge surprise, almost everything worked without a hitch. The only major problem was with VMWare, and not Windows, as to upgrade you need to have about 12gig free in the virtual partition, and to expand that partition you can’t have any snapshots stored. So it took several hours to delete those and then resize/clean the partition, but after that, the install went smooth.
The only minor problem I had was that I had to do a repair install for MS Project 2007, not that I use it outside of teaching classes on it’s use. But all my other windows programs worked fine after the upgrade. I did loose my saved settings on the taskbar and start menu, but that’s not a biggie considering what could
have gone wrong.
Performance is notably zipper and the eye and ear candy is welcome...the Windows box now fits in better with my overall Snow Leopard user experience. My one PC game that I own, Men of Valor, runs much smoother on Win7 over Vista, and there are no longer any annoying nag screens...well, not as many as there was before.
I never say anything good about MS software, but this time I have to admit, Win7 appears to be a fine OS.
We are being updated to death lately, or haven't you noticed? Between all the Apple Updates, browser plug-in updates, and Windows Security updates, I feel like that’s where most of my computer’s time is spent every day...downloading, installing, and rebooting for the benefit of being up-to-date.
One could hardly argue that updates are a bad thing, but having to do one almost every time you open a browser to find out what’s playing at the cinema - that's just bit extreme, no?
For software other then Firefox, developers are pretty good at trying to hide all this updating business going on from the user. They offer options like “download and install automatically in the background.” And you wonder why your machine slows down 5 times a day
while all this “improvement” is taking place.
Then there are those programs that incessantly check for updates daily, almost like they are lost puppies trying to make contact with mother for last bit of breast milk before they are put to work as adult working dogs.
And all of this activity is taking a toll in your activity monitor, whether you need these updates or not.
Some of the updating seems to have value, for example, for those that boot up Windows, virus protection is probably your best friend, and the virus signature updates that come down daily are needed to keep your machine healthy. But do I really need the update to iPhoto that adds Kazakhstan localization and minor improvements to the help system?
With all these updates going on each day, multiplied by a dozen machines or so that I have to maintain, I am really starting to notice the impact. With over 200 apps on each machine, and with all of them shouting to suckle with mother every day, it’s all becoming a bit much. I find that I am spending too much time updating
, and not enough time dating
So I decided to see how much of a life I was actually missing due to our software developer’s obsessions with The Update, and that statistic is staggering.
In one week, 8.9% of the total usable up-time for my computers was spent downloading and installing updates. Another 6% of the time that week was spent fixing what the updates broke. One could look at this as a 14.9% tax for using software that needs improvement on a weekly basis.
But of course, we all want the latest and greatest, at any cost. That’s why in addition to daily and weekly updates, we must do the bi-yearly Upgrade Dance, where here we are all shelling out more cash to keep up-to-date, but on a magnificent level. For example, to change the ridiculous moniker of Office 2004 to something more reasonable like Office 2008 - in the middle 2009 - I downloaded an upgrade. After all, who wants people to know that we are using software that is a 1/2 decade old just by definition?
But again, no one can argue that the benefits of having, say, iLife 09 over iLife 06, is not grand and helps daily productivity. But only if the installation of the upgrade goes smoothly...
One friend of my biz just spent 3 weeks upgrading from an older version of Final Cut Pro to be the latest and greatest. He had to start sending me some of his work, as he had hosed all of his production machines during the course of the upgrade. For him, the total cost of the upgrade went much higher then the $300 sticker price on the software package.
But what irks me even more then the typical update, is that after you complete an expensive upgrade, say for example with an Adobe CS suite, you are immediately deluged with even more daily updates, as developers rush to fix all the bugs delivered in the upgrade.
So while I would like to stand up from my list of software updates and scream DE-UPDATE ME PLEASE! - I can’t. I need to know that the software that I use is running at it’s best possible level of “overall reliability and security”, despite the fact that I will never type one word of Kazakh.
Now I am dreading the release of Snow Leopard, ‘cause guess what that means? Hundreds more updates!
Right now I am sleep deprived and behind in 3 days of my life. Why? I received an iPhone in the mail. I have been up late night and ignoring all calls except for the ones I make testing new applications and features of my new phone. My imagination is tethered to this device, exploring all possibilities and trying out hundreds of apps, in and out of the app store. I just now recovered and came up for air.
My first impression is that they finally made a phone for me, and I am not talking mobile, I am talking phone since the old black and white Ma Bell rotodialers from the 50’s; this is the first phone that I have enjoyed using. All others were just a pain in my rear and pocket side.
But despite all the great features and functions and the endless numbers of pinball and poker games, I have come to realize one thing: I’ve been de-sized.
De-sized in the computing sense, since I had expected the iPhone to be a mini-laptop, capable of doing everything my MacbookPro can do, only on a smaller screen. This is the result of a year of continuous hype in every form of media, from the Wall Street Journal to my own Junk box that is filled with adverts for iPhone-related accessories.
I expected so much more.
At a minimum, I expected that I would be able to use Bluetooth Elite (BTE) as I have been doing on my Nokia for years. For those that don’t know, Bluetooth Elite software is for computer users who hate phones and are tethered to a laptop. With BTE, you plug your phone into your computer and forget you even own the phone, making and taking all calls through your iMac microphone, and using the enter key to pick up all calls. My computer has been my call center for years now, and I have so so happy not handling a phone, to say, send an SMS or to look up a number.
But all that changed 3 days ago, as the iPhone does not support the needed Bluetooth connections, and I have gone back to an era defined before I was born by Ma Bell herself.
While researching why I had to go backward in time, I discovered that Apple has not opened up the Bluetooth or USB APIs for developers, preventing them from creating such cool apps like BTE, and forcing them to use clunky WiFi pairings for all the connections. This lack of sharing on Apple's part is actually putting the BTE developer out of business, as no one is buying anything but an iPhone these days, despite what the media is telling you. Apple has become a giant tyrant in this regard, and I feel smaller.
Another example of a recent de-sizing happened during my workday today, where I took my laptop and iPhone to my classroom to do a 4-½ hour presentation using the new $.99 Apple Remote app. The Apple Remote turns your Keynote slides automatically, replacing the little white remote that comes with your Macbook.
Only about 3-½ hours into my lecture, Apple Remote stopped working – the battery on the iPhone had gone flat. So I had to resort to awkward walks back and forth to the computer just to flip more slides. De-sized and de-limited was I in the light of the classroom projector.
Further smaller-ized, I am typing this blog post, if you can call it typing, in the Documents-To-Go Word window on my phone. I had always dreamed of a pocket sized writing device, and thought I had one until I actually tried creating a Word file on an iPhone. This will be the last one that I will ever write, until massive improvements are made to the iPhone keyboard. That's just insane!
So there you have it, my first unflattering thoughts on one of the most remarkable devices of our time. I am sure they must have said similar things about Alexander Graham Bell’s invention back in the day.
This is an article written but never published, and written before FCP 7 was released. While I am luv'in the new FCP, this post may be helpful for those working only with what god gave them (iLife 09) or for those that need a break from FCP and want to try something new.
Knockdown: iLife ’09 vs. FCP Studio 2.0
The idea for this seemingly absurd Knockdown arose when I was faced with a recent baby project for my nephew and his family. They all came into the Studio one night with stills and videos from various cameras and in even more varied formats. It was all dumped on my desk just hours before my relations were to fly back home, and my wife was with them with a look on her face that said to me, you better get it done! They wanted a DVD of the materials that rivaled our studio work, with soundtrack, DVD menus, films, and photo slideshow. My first reaction was to calculate how long it would take to do in FCP using my wizbang editing bay before me. But then I looked at the clock - it was already 6 PM on a beautiful summer evening, and their flight was leaving first thing in the morning.
I groaned, thinking I would be up all night with this family project, editing raw footage in FCP, adding titles, creating special effects in Motion, editing music tracks in Soundtrack Pro, and then creating a still slide show with even more music, all before minting a disk using DVD Studio Pro. Just the thought of the project made my head hurt, knowing that the photos would be overexposed and film underexposed, and in general, a total mess of raw materials just ready to cause problems within my delicate FCP setup.
Coincidently, I had just updated iLife ’09 on all the studios shiny new Macs. I don’t know why I did that, except for the fact that whenever I get updates from Apple I feel obliged to install them, just for good measure. I had never even opened up any of the iLife apps before, and why would I with FCP Studio 2, Aperture, and all the other goodies at my full disposal! So I decided, what the heck, this would be learning experience and one that might be fun. To my utter amazement, in just a few hours, the project was done: 5 music video length videos of the kid at the playground, in the pool, at restaurants, and being bitten by my dog. Plus 1 animated photo slide show with over 100 of the best photos (from a pool of thousands), all packaged nicely on a DVD with animated menus and music. The footage in the videos looks great on a 24” flat screen TV, even though the majority of the video was shot on still cameras of various levels of quality and design. The relatives were extremely impressed, even more so when I transfered that exact same content to their iPod Nano for review on the plane trip home.
Part 1. Using iLife ’09
- iLife ’09 update
- iMac 2.4 GHz w/ Leopard 10.5.7
Without using a manual or tutorial at all, I just dove right in. The first thing I did on a test lab was to load up the raw materials - about a hundred video clips and a thousand or so photos all from various kinds of memory chips. I first turned on iPhoto’s auto-import feature to capture all the media right into a new iPhoto library (Preferences/When Camera Opens/Use iPhoto).
I was pleasantly surprised when iPhoto sucked both photo stills and videos off the SD cards. One thing I have always hated about Aperture and Lightroom is their inability to handle video. This eliminated one step from my normal workflow with FCP: CatDV video file management!
Within 15 minutes or so I had a complete database of all the materials I needed for the project at hand. I was duly impressed. The interface to iPhoto is so simple (and visual) I was almost confused by it’s purity, as compared to file management in Aperture and other tools.
I had originally planned to bring all the stills into Photoshop CS4, but I found the built in editor for iPhoto to be good enough: one click red-eye, rotate, crop, and image adjustment, RAW handling, plus a limited assortment of cool special effects that reminded me of my Tiffen and other Photoshop filters. But without the heavy weight of having PS open all the time!
Okay, just one hour into the project and I had all my photos and video sorted and marked for use, with the photos all pre-processed. But the clock was ticking - and the harder parts were yet to come.
This being the first time I had ever opened iMovie, I was left feeling a bit bewildered. Where the heck is the timeline? However, it was comforting to see that what iMovie calls an Event Library, were my video assets - just waiting for me to drag into a new project and to begin editing.
I was taken aback on how editing is done in iMovie, which is linear in a sense, but perhaps a bit too so. But once I got the hang of creating clips and stringing them together with transitions, everything fell into place nicely. I was really surprised by all the built in filters under the Video Effects pane (reminded me of Red Bullet Looks in FCP). There was also an interesting assortment of filters, transitions, and themes. Within minutes after clip assembly, I was able to get the timelines complete and ready to roll.
What I did miss was Apple Color, which at the beginning of this exercise I vowed not to use, so I was stuck with iMovie’s crude adjustments there.
Also a surprise, was the complete integration of iTunes assets within iMovie - so I grabbed some of the kid’s favourite tracks there, and within one hour point five, I had my 5 finished videos ready for DVD placement.
Total time so far, 2.5 hours. I remember thinking that if I could get through making a photo slide show and cool DVD menus soon, I might get a good night’s sleep before seeing my in-laws off at the airport.
Usually at this point in any FCP project, I am so tired and cranky that I hate dealing with ￼Compressor and DVD Studio Pro, two apps that always seem to have a bug at the last minute. What a joy iDVD is! I simply fired up the program sight unseen, and within minutes I was able to figure out how to create an animated menu structure with music (also sucked in from iTunes). A few clicks later I also had a decent photo slide show with more music from iTunes. Drag and click, click and drag, and it’s done. iDVD is much like DVD Studio Pro, but without all the headaches.
I was easily able to experiment with output compressions in iMovie, as I was not sure how the raw (and terrible) footage that my relatives had provided would play out, but it seemed not to matter what reasonable setting I tried, it all came out looking grand. I am so used to worry, it’s hard not too.
￼The one big timesaver throughout iLife ’09 seems to be assets management, as all assets are available at all times and neatly tucked away in libraries, unlike my FCP projects, which during production are usually all over the place and not handy when you need them, at least not without some amount of extra brain power.
As in iMovie, iDVD has a decent sent of canned effects and themes. Enough to find one that would knock the socks off my relatives, who have high standards being in the business and all, albeit on holiday and using a point and shoot to take videos (arg!).
But this project clocked in with a total time of 3.5 hours, including the time taken to read some of the online help and to figure things out as a first time user.
I estimate that I must have saved at least 3.5 hours using iLife apps, then if I had gone the FCP route (with Color adjustments and animated Motion titling).
Part 2 - The Knockdown
Okay, there really is no Knockdown here, as its silly to try and compare iLife with FCP in the professional media production environment. But for a one-off project that needs to be done in hours instead of days, I found iLife ’09 to be acceptable to use - and will use again! So here is a table of what is worthy of iLife ’09 and what is not when compared to a professional editing suite like FCP 2.0 Studio.
|Posted by: Jiggy Gaton on Aug 4, 2009 at 8:28:57 pm||Comments (4)|| fcp 606, ilife 09, idvd, imovie, iphoto, knockdown, free, inlaws, low budget, alternative to fcp|
I am not a fan of this software, but since i have carpal tunnel from 30 years of clicking away foolishly, I just started using it to dictate articles into Word (3000+ words per day). It works! But I thought that the requirement for a USB noise canceling microphone was nuts for a studio with a closet full of cartoids and dynamics the size of small dogs. So I tried configuring the iMac internal mic with some software you probably already know about: LineIn and soundflower inputs. Download LineIn from our friends at Rogue Ameoba, responsible for fine software like Airfoil for the AirPort Express. It's free and very useful regardless. Then install Mac Dictate and let it complain that you don't have a noise canceling certified by Macspeech expensive tacky microphone. Who cares, we have a way around that. Now, close down Mac Dictate and set up your internal mic using LineIn:
Set Input from:
to Built-in Microphone
Set Output to: to
then click Pass Thru
Open Mac Dictate and you are off to training camp, having fooled Mac Dictate into thinking that you have a valid dictation mic. On my newer 20" iMac with 4gb, Mac Dictate works great with the internal mic, and really cuts down on my typing. Plus I saved 80$ on a mic I would only use for this program.
I have not tested on other Macs, like an MB or MBP, but I think it might work (others who have tried, please post). But it might not, as I have noticed the iMac mic is very good for a built-in, perhaps the best I have ever heard in that class, and the other not so good. Well, good luck!
This is the COW BOG for Jiggy Gaton, designer, filmmaker, cartoon-a-list, (and some say madman) living in Kathmandu Nepal. Check here often for a post-modern take on the ancient arts, a look at new technology on decrepit infrastructure, and how a new-age expat deals with village life. Ps. He did not misspell blog, he really does live in a cow bog.