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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pick of the week: One Sentence

Here is another instalment of Pick of the week. This week, I ran across a site that got me laughing at 4h30 in the morning, after I had fed my son. One Sentence is a site dedicated to telling a story, in one sentence. Although one might be reminded of Twitter, there are no character limits on One Sentence, and posts carry tags that allow users to search through the thousands of submitted stories.

A search using the humour tag revealed such gems as:

As we walked down the "Feminine Products" aisle, my 3-year-old son grabbed a box of panty liners off the shelf and said, "Look, Mama, Mouse Diapers!"

Do yourself a favour and take a look at One Sentence. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Online Tools review: Adobe Kuler

Colour. It is truly one of the most important aspects of visual design, and there are innumerable tools to help designers with the creation, evaluation, correction and selection of colour, yet once again, a new tool seems to have found a winning formula. This tool is Adobe's web-based application, Kuler.

Adobe touts Kuler as a web-hosted application for generating colour themes that can inspire any project. It allows designers to experiment quickly with colour variations and browse through thousands of themes created by the growing Kuler online community. What makes this application interesting, apart from the fantastic visual layout of the tool, are the powerful search capabilities, which allow a user to browse the growing database of existing themes by tags, by title, by creator or even by hex code!

Apart from the ability to browse other users creations, the easy-to-use tools in Kuler such as the colour wheel, harmony rules, and colour sliders allow the user to create their own themes which can then be shared with other Kuler users. It is also possible, using colour extraction tools, to create a colour theme from an uploaded image. This offers some fantastic possibilities for designers of all kinds!

Kuler requires the latest version of Flash to work, but it is a very slick application and a truly useful tool.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eeebuntu or Ubuntu for the EeePC

Even before I had decided to purchase a netbook, I was intrigued by a modified version of Ubuntu Linux floating around on the Web, called very appropriately Eeebuntu. I downloaded the ISO and continued reading forums and viewing videos of Eeebuntu in operation on YouTube. Being an Apple user at home and a console-only gamer, I have lost interest in Windows and its numerous issues. And the geek part of my personality was looking for a new fix!

When I got my Asus 1000HA home, I plugged it in, connected my external DVD drive to it and ran the Eeebuntu disc I had previously made. The installation proceeded without any difficulties, and within about 35 minutes, I had installed Eeebuntu in a separate partition; I chose to keep Windows in case I ran into any issues running Linux (I was specifically concerned about some of my external hardware, such as the DVD burner mentioned earlier, would not function).

The installation process is very smooth, and clearly explained. Several options are possible, including running Eeebuntu from the Live CD, which leaves the hard drive untouched, and is an excellent way of trying out Linux without having to install it to the hard drive. Nonetheless, I chose to install Eeebuntu in its own partition, and leave the existing Windows installation in a separate partition in the meantime. The process was over quickly and after rebooting, I selected Eeebuntu from the boot menu at launch.

The boot time for Eeebuntu on the 1000HA was quite quick, and that was my first surprise. By my count, the initial boot up process was around 1:00 minute, which is almost 15 seconds quicker than launching Windows XP on the same platform. Subsequent boot up times reduced to about 55 seconds, which I found quite acceptable. The launcher provided by Eeebuntu, which overlays the desktop portion, is a fantastic addition makes a fantastic addition to my netbook, and not only provide a user-friendly environment, but takes advantage of the specific size of the monitor.

Within the next couple of days, a new release of Eeebuntu was made available online, version 9.04 which I upgraded to one evening. This version has corrected small flaws that I had discovered (unsuccessful wireless reconnection after waking from suspension, not keeping screen brightness settings after waking from suspension, etc...) and improved boot up time simultaneously. A cold boot up now requires 48 seconds, an improvement over the previous version, and something that I will continue to experiment with so as to improve.

I will continue this post next week, with further comparison testing and feedback on my experience.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Replacing a fantastic mouse... With another fantastic mouse

Well, today is my birthday and my wonderful wife has once again selected a perfect gift to celebrate the occasion, a new Logitech® V550 cordless laser mouse. I had been in the market for a new mouse to replace my previous Logitech® cordless mouse. I can't fault Logitech® when it comes to building mice and trackballs. I have used several of their products in the last 15 years and once again, I have confirmation as to why they are the leader in this industry. Three years ago, when I replaced my original Apple Mighty Mouse with a Logitech V400 Cordless laser mouse, I wrote a short review for it here. Since then, I have given this mouse to my wife and it still works very well to this day.

The V550 is part of Logitech®'s new line of cordless laser mice, with the new Hyperspeed scroll wheel. In essence, the new scroll wheel is weighted and supported by low friction points, allowing a smooth, continuous motion in use. With a nice tactile feedback, this new wheel is what sold me initially to the new series of devices out this year. It is a three button mouse, but the third button is small, and right in the center of the mouse, just below the scroll wheel, as seen on the image below (courtesy of Logitech®):

The mouse is on the smaller side, designed for notebook users specifically, especially when taking into account the newly redesigned USB Nano Receiver included with the design:

The receiver is so small that the USB adapter portion is almost three times as long! This allows the receiver to stay connected to a notebook without concern about accidental breakage when putting the laptop into a bag. Logitech® has also conveniently provided an internal storage space for the receiver, to allow for convenient travel. Storing the receiver inside the mouse toggles an off switch, preventing unnecessary power drain when not in use.

Speaking of power, Logitech® claims an ultra-long 18 months of expected battery life! The dual AA batteries add a small amount of weight to the device, but should provide at least twice the expected lifespan. On close examination of the underside of the mouse, it is easy to see that Logitech® has considered power management with this device:

A power button is thoughtfully provided, allowing the user to turn off the device when not in use. You may have noticed the metallic bracket in the center of mouse, with a recessed button. This is part of Logitech®'s Clip-and-Go Dock feature. Using a provided metal adhesive-backed attachment pin, it is possible for a user to attach the mouse to a laptop cover for convenient carrying:

A simple removal tool is provided, as well as a second attachment pin, in a convenient little tin.

Logitech includes the following in the retail package:

o Logitech® V550 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks
o 2.4 GHz Plug-and-Forget Nano-receiver
o 2 Clip-and-Go docks
o 1 Clip-and-Go storage box
o 1 Clip-and-Go dock-removal tool
o Desktop USB extension stand
o 2 AA batteries
o 2 cleaning wipes
o Quick-start guide
o 3-year limited hardware warranty

Logitech® no longer includes CDs in their packaging, but drivers are easily available online from their website. The new Control Center (for both Windows and Apple platforms) allows the user to customize the actions of each button on the mouse, in a simple and easy to use fashion. I use this mouse on a netbook (an Asus 1000HA) running Ubuntu, and although the Control Center is not available under Linux, the mouse still functions very well. It is not possible to configure the buttons in the same way as possible under Windows or OS X, but features like acceleration and scroll speed can be set easily.

So far, I am completely impressed with this mouse, and I have to thank my wife again for this thoughtful gift!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pick of the week: Cool Tools

It has been said that men have an unnatural attraction to tools. And it is this attraction that led me to discover Cool Tools. The site is one of a number of sites by Kevin Kelly, and I have been very impressed so far. Cool Tools describes itself this way:

"Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We only post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted".

I have always found tools interesting, and as my wife might point out, I already receive enough tool catalogs at the moment. But CT is truly a fantastic place to explore, and there is always something new to find. Do yourself a favour and take a closer look at Cool Tools.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pick of the week: The Art of Manliness

Since before the birth of my son, I have been browsing the Web to find all sorts of "fatherly" advice and information! Although I tried, Bill Cosby's book, Fatherhood, still wound up coming up once in a while! But during my research, I stumbled upon a fantastic site/blog called The Art of Manliness, and I have to say I've been very impressed so far. A good selection of articles, with some meaningful information that proved very relevant to the topic.

With the over-abundance of male related magazines with a complete lack of content, dominated by advertising of the most Neanderthalish type, it is nice to see that some men appreciate the importance of passing on generations of wisdom and advice from other men. From basic rules of etiquette like the proper handshake, to more complex topics, such as the problems of men with online pornography and everything in between, I found myself drawn to the archives in search of more.

I feel that this was a good find, and I am happy to pass it on. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pick of the week

Those that know me well also know that I spend a fair bit of time browsing for new and interesting websites. I have accumulated a fairly long list of bookmarks and have spent an indecent amount of time cataloguing and cross-referencing these sites. But I rarely take the time to let others know about my discoveries. I guess a part of it is due to the fact that I wish to keep some of these gems to myself, but the main reason has to be a lack of planning associated with the dissemination of this information.

As such, I have decided to create a new column in this blog, labelled unimaginatively Pick of the week! Once a week, I will post a selection of the best sites I have discovered. This way, I can share the great discoveries that have impressed me during the week and more. At times, I may revisit classic sites that I continue to use to this day. Hopefully, I will manage to share some of what I have seen while browsing.

More to follow

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A notebook by any other name...

Well, I have decided to stray from my Apple-fanism, and purchased a new computer. But not any type of computer; I have decided to take the leap and try out a new category of computer, the netbook. Of course, my first idea was to get a new MacBook, but with finances being what they are, I was left with far too little funding for anything other than a budget laptop. Since that was pretty much out of the question, I started examining these new netbooks. Being a fairly new category, most likely cooked up by some marketing-types, the netbook is essentially a sub-notebook computer. With displays ranging from 7" to 10", most of these devices are designed to be easy to carry.

Currently, the processors of choice for these devices are from Intel's Atom series. Although they are somewhat underpowered compared to many of the newer processors today, they are very, very efficient from a power consumption perspective.

After doing a bit of research through the various manufacturers websites and netbook forums, I settled on Asus. They pretty much started the trend towards these computers with their EeePC series. My biggest problem was making a selection, as Asus offers many different models. I had a few criteria to help me in my selection:

  1. An actual keyboard, not some over-compressed cellphone dialpad

  2. An actual hard drive with a decent capacity, rather than a first-generation flash-based hard drive

  3. Decent build quality

With these points in mind, I narrowed down my choice to the 900HA or the 1000HA. The primary differences with these two devices were:

  • The 900HA has a 8.9" screen, while the 1000HA has a 10.2" screen

  • The 900HA has 0.3 megapixel camera, while the 1000HA has a 1.3 megapixel camera

  • The 900HA has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours, while the 1000HA has a rated battery life of 7.5 hours

Another obvious trade off with the 1000HA is its larger physical dimensions and weight, but when compared, it really isn't such a huge difference. But what sealed the deal was the price; I was able to get the 1000HA for almost $50 less than the 900HA! Go figure.

I got the box home and was looking forward to trying out the little machine. Like all EeePC models, the packaging and contents are basically the same. Although the 1000HA has no CD or DVD drive, Asus conveniently provides a DVD with an image of Windows XP SP3 and drivers. It's a nice addition, although my plans included an installation of Linux on my netbook.

I will post more as I spend time using this great little device!