Downcast - a nifty podcatcher for iOS

I recently did a review of Downcast from Jamawkinaw Enterprises on Allison Sheridan’s NosillaCast (Episode 346).

Here's the problem to be solved. I'd like to download and listen to my subscribed podcasts without having to sync with iTunes. Before Downcast I had to download all the podcasts using iTunes and then plug in my iOS or iPod device to sync the podcasts to the device. This meant that I had to lug a Mac along on my trips just to listen to the latest podcast releases. more...

iPad iOS 5 update woes

Took a while but I finally updated the iPad to iOS 5.0.1. Talk about being an “early adopter”! This update took a little time as the iPad had to be essentially restored to the new version of iOS and then all the content (applications, music, videos, books, and such) had to synchronised back on. All went well until I noticed that the memory usage bar on the iPad summary page in iTunes said 10.9 GB of space had been overrun by “Other” - and on a 64 GB iPad too! I was certainly perplexed by this occurrence and on searching the Apple Support Communities and on Google, found that a simple re-sync of the iPad would suffice, and indeed this fixed the case. Phew… Got back to 17 GB of free space - what it was before.

Thanks Steve! Rest well.



The news of Steve Jobs’ death last night came as a shock to me - my sweetie mentioned that CNN was covering that, while I was making dinner. While en route to my business meeting today, I penned the following and sent it to rememberingsteve@apple.com.

My career in computing was accelerated by Apple products. It did not start there - no, it began with the Fujitsu FACOM U-200, a minicomputer replete with teletype terminals and paper tape. I learnt BASIC and wrote my first program, a solver for quadratic equations. And then I saw the Apple ][, a sleek beige box and it had BASIC as well. I was hooked.

I convinced my dad to get me an Apple ][ in 1979. Maybe it didn't have the speed of the TRS-80 but there was something different about the Apple ][. Might have been the big red book that came in the box - with full assembly listings of the 6502 firmware monitor routines, no one else had that. Might have been the elegance in the way in which the hard drive controller card had impossibly fewer chips than everyone else's. Could have been that you could do so much more with an Apple ][ - music, speech synthesis, even bar code reading. But no matter, it was different.

And I discovered community - Apple and Mac User Groups - you don't see quite the fervor and dedication to share and learn in any other computer / operating system user base. This lives on to this day, in podcasts, blogs, and other online social gathering places.

So thanks for getting me going, Steve. You showed me that there was more than building boxes and "just good enough" software - the importance in understanding your users' needs and delivering elegant solutions. Because of you new directions have been charted in human endeavor, and people have been inspired.

We'll miss you and continue to carry that brightly burning torch of innovation as your legacy. Peace and condolences to your family and friends. Rest well.

Quick Tip: Fixing iPad Camera Kit USB Woes

Many people have been purchasing the iPad Camera Kit to use the USB adapter for other things than connecting a camera. Check out:

gigaom: Secrets of the Camera Connection Kit

Apple: iPad: Using iPad Camera Connector with unsupported USB devices

However sometimes you might get the dreaded “Accessory Unavailable: The attached accessory uses too much power”. What to do? Well I found that plugging a powered USB hub into the Camera connection kit USB adapter and then plugging the said USB device into the USB hub will allow the iPad to recognise the device! My reasoning was that if the accessory needs power, then make the USB hub supply that power instead of the iPad. Simple, no?

Safari Extension: Rightsizer

I’ve had a problem with reading Wikipedia pages using Safari on a 27” display. The text was simply too small. Now I could resize the text using the “Zoom Text Only” menu item in the View menu and choosing Zoom In / Out. But this didn’t stick through quitting and restarting Safari.

I did a quick search with “Safari font extension” and Canisbos’s Rightsizer came up, a free Safari extension, no less. Canisbos also developed the Safari extension PopSearch which I simply adore - -K to pop up a search tool for which you can specify one of several search sites. Rightsizer lets you enlarge the text on parts of a page, or even the entire page. You simply click on a representative sample of the text to be resized, click on it and hold down the mouse button, and then press one of several keys corresponding to the resize action. What’s more, Rightsizer saves your text resize settings for the website. Now, when I come back to Wikipedia, I get the font sized the way for me to read! Definitely a win! Check out their page to see what it can do for you.

When is a PDF file not a PDF?

I decided to put the Aperture 3 manuals on my iPad. Navigated to the folder in Finder and dragged the files Aperture 3 Keyboard Shortcuts, Aperture_3_User_Manual.pdf, Aperture_Frequently_Asked_Questions.pdf, and Exploring Aperture 3 to iTunes. When I looked into the Books section of iTunes, only 3 out of the 4 were listed – Exploring Aperture 3 was missing. Tried it again to no avail. Double-clicked the file and it opened fine in Preview. And then I looked carefully...



The file certainly has the PDF icon but it says “Kind Application” and did not show the Quick Look preview of a normal PDF file.

Aha!!

Lightbulbs go off. This is an application bundle. So I right clicked on it and selected “Show Package Contents” and was rewarded with a tree structure starting with Contents. Drilling down I got to Resources which contained a number of .lproj folders with the name of a different language. Mac OS X developers will recognise these as internationalised resources associated with an application. So I went into the English.lproj folder and was rewarded with the real Exploring Aperture 3.pdf file. I made a copy to my Aperture documents folder and then dragged this one into iTunes and voilà – it was added to Books! So if you ever have a problem with a PDF file which doesn’t act like one – such as being unable to drag it over to iTunes, take a look - it might well be an application suitably disguised as a PDF!

Dock Fun in OS X

I found this out in Snow Leopard – if you left-click and hold down the mouse button on a Dock icon for an application, then the screen fades and shows all that app’s windows. Even the hidden ones! It’s like Exposè, but only focussing on that app. There’s a thin line near the lower third of the screen below which are displayed the hidden windows. Very nice!

RapidWeaver Local Exports

RapidWeaver has an “Export Site...” menu item which lets you export your entire site to a local directory. That got me thinking – what if I could use the Mac OS X web server (which just happens to be Apache) to preview the site and test out tweaks to the theme CSS files? Turning on the web server is really easy:
  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Select Sharing
  3. Click on the Web Sharing checkbox
That’s all there is to it. The contents of the Site folder in your user folder are used as the root of the website. To access your local web site, simply open Safari and type in http://localhost/~your_user_name - and voilà the default web page (index.html in Sites) comes up. In fact anyone on your local home network can access your website using Bonjour in Safari. What could be simpler!

The RapidWeaver theme I’m using for Free Range Coder is Unity 2.0 from NimbleHost. It’s a really nice simple theme which automagically adapts itself for the iPhone / iPod sized devices. It also uses PHP and the default configuration file for Apache in Snow Leopard does not have PHP enabled. I found this site which walks you through the configuration file changes for Apache and setting up the PHP initialisation file. In a nutshell:

To enable PHP in Apache - uncommenting the line below in /etc/apache2/httpd.conf:

LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/libphp5.so

Copying the default php.ini file from php.ini.default file in /etc:

cd /etc
sudo cp php.ini.default php.ini


The article goes on to show how to fix a warning in phpinfo() by setting the timezone in php.ini.

Back to RapidWeaver... So I dilligently exported the Free Range Coder website into frc in Sites within my Home directory. Launched Safari and typed in http://localhost/~kirschen/frc in Safari’s location bar and the page came up. But... It wasn’t what I had expected – the Unity theme style had not been applied.

And then I remembered what I had heard at the end of the Nosillacast Episode 301 - I’ll just check the Console Logs! I fired up Console (which we all know lives in the Utilities folder under Applications) and switched to All Logs. I typed in “apache” in the search bar in the upper right. And I saw bajillions (and that’s a technical term) of errors, all similar, one of which read:

[Sat Mar 05 12:43:41 2011] [error] [client ::1] (13)Permission denied: file permissions deny server access: /Users/kirschen/Sites/rw_common/themes/unity_v2.0/scripts/extracontent.js, referer: http://localhost/~kirschen/index.php

Aha! The plot thickens! This told me that some files were not readable by the Apache server, and where the files resided. Yes - the Unity theme. I whipped up a Terminal window and cd’ed over to /Users/kirschen/Sites/rw_common/themes/unity_v2.0 and listed the files therein using the ls -al command. The errant files had the same Unix permissions, an example – the one referenced in the Console Log – was:

-rw------- 1 kirschen staff 217 Mar 5 2009 extracontent.js

The rw indicated that the user (myself) had read and write permissions on the file, the dashes showed that members of my group (staff) and other users had no access permissions at all. So how does one fix permissions like this? No, you cannot use the Disk Utility “Repair Permissions” as Mac OS X knows nothing about what the correct permissions for these files should be. We’ll have to make the permissions changes ourselves from the Terminal. I could change the permissions in the frc directory but the next time an export was made from RapidWeaver, the Unity theme files would be overwritten and I’d be back changing permissions again. No, I had to make the change in the RapidWeaver theme directory. So, here are the steps from the Terminal:

cd “~/Library/Application Support/RapidWeaver” – This brings us to the RapidWeaver application support directory in which the Unity theme is installed

chmod -R go+r Unity-v2.0.rwtheme – The Unity theme shows up as a file in the Finder but it’s actually a file bundle. The chmod command will change the permissions so that the group (g) and others (o) get read permission (+r) and the -R option tells chmod to recursively go down the directory structure within the Unity-v2.0.rwtheme directory.

Re-exported the Free Range Coder site into frc – and it works as advertised! So now I can tweak the CSS files to my hearts content before committing the changes to the theme directly.

Review of MailTags

Here’s the review of MailTags from indev software which I did for Allison Sheridan at the Nosillacast Podcast hosted at podfeet.com. This is a follow up to the review of their Mac OS X Mail application plug-in Mail Act-On. Mail Act-On lets you go through your e-mails and process them quickly - filing, copying, tagging. Did I say tagging? Well, here’s where their plug-in MailTags comes into the picture.

MailTags is a Mac OS X Mail application plug-in much like Mail Act-On. It’s from indev software at indev.ca. What MailTags does is it lets you add tags to your mail messages, and much much more.

So - as always, what’s the problem to be solved? more...

Missing Mail Folders?

Had a shock this morning - my .Mac / MobileMe e-mail folders had vanished from the Mail application. I wanted to retrieve and file an outgoing e-mail from last night and there was nothing. Quelling down the initial panic attack, and knowing that .Mac mail is IMAP, I right-clicked on the .Mac inbox and up popped a menu - which had the all-relieving command Synchronize .Mac kirschen. This command will rebuild your .Mac folder structure from the cloud - saved!

Command ⌘ symbol

Just found out how to insert the Apple Command key symbol . It’s the symbol with Unicode hexadecimal 2318. I saw this post on Mac OS X Hints Forums which told me the Unicode value. The steps are on my ScreenSteps.me page Insert the Command Key which assumes that you’ve already got the Character & Keyboard Viewer menubar icon set up. If not, simply follow the steps at Add the Keyboard & Character Viewer to the Menu Bar. Thanks Allison for telling us about ScreenSteps and ScreenSteps.me.

iTunes and Firewalls

My sweetie Sarah had an issue with iTunes 10.1.2 on her new MacBook Air. A dialog box would keep coming up with Do you want iTunes to accept incoming network connections? showing Deny or Allow buttons everytime she launched iTunes. I experimented on my iMac 27” and found that I had the same issues when I enabled the Firewall and had either Share my library on my local network on the Sharing panel or Look for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad Remotes on the Devices panel checked in iTunes’s Preferences. Either of these items would make iTunes listen for an inbound connection.

After some Google-fu I came up with this Apple Discussion Thread. Here’s how you check:

  1. Open up a Terminal window (Utilities > Terminal)
  2. Type in the command codesign -v /Applications/iTunes.app and press return

If you get /Applications/iTunes.app: a sealed resource is missing or invalid, then the iTunes version in your Applications folder is missing a file which tells the firewall that it’s OK to take inbound connections. You can see that there’s a checkbox for Automatically allow signed software to receive incoming connections when you click on the Advanced... button in the Firewall page in System Preferences > Security. This is checked by default, and lets the Firewall automatically allow iTunes to accept inbound connections – but due the missing signed resource, the Firewall instead prompts you to allow iTunes each time.

The solution was to uninstall iTunes, download, and reinstall our iTunes from Apple’s site. The codesign command now returns nothing - which is good! And the dialog box does not appear anymore!

Review of Mail Act-On

Here’s the review of Mail Act-On from indev software which I did for Allison Sheridan at the Nosillacast Podcast hosted at podfeet.com. But first, as always, there's a problem to be solved...

You like to be able to triage your e-mail inbox in your quest to attain inbox zero nirvana. My problem always has been that in order to get that inbox to zero, I had to move the e-mail to a folder to file it away. This of course meant either dragging the mail item to the appropriate folder - many times inadvertantly filing into the wrong folder.

Alternatively you could use the menu command Move To or Copy To and scroll down to pick the folder - not terribly useful if you had several bills to file away and you had to pop the menu, scroll, and click to select the same folder.

Of course you could create rules to automagically file the items away but for me, that meant “out of sight, out of mind” and I didn’t get to look at that e-mail anyway. And what's more you'd have to tweak the rules time and again when new e-mails need to get categorised.

more...

Prompt Puppy review

Sent Allison Sheridan over at the Nosillacast Podcast my review of Prompt Puppy. Hear and read all about it at Nosillacast #292.

Aperture 3 and iWeb

I had a problem with iWeb tonight - tried to bring in Aperture pictures and found that the Media Browser in iWeb only showed iPhoto and Photo Booth - no Aperture. I tried the Aperture 3 Troubleshooting guide and did all three of the Aperture Library First Aid fixes one after another, and even tried repairing the iPhoto library - hold down Command-Option while starting iPhone (or Aperture) to access the repair dialog box.

And then I found this note by nikonshooter on this Apple Discussion board post:

I found this on Flickr from Distant mirroe had this problem a few days ago, and found the following solution:Create a new Aperture library (just name it Temp or something irrelevant), then switch back to your main library. Then you can delete Temp. It worked for me, YMMV.


This tip worked for me. I’m thinking that there’s something which gets initialised in Aperture when a new library is created. My current library was an import from Aperture 2, so therein may lie the problem.

Add Prefix String Example Workflows


I’ve just added a couple of workflows which use the “Add Prefix String” Automator Action.

  • Download PDFs from Airnav - which lets you type in the identifier for an airport and then proceeds to download the aeronautical instrument approach chart PDFs for that airport to a specified directory. You will want to change the directory in the Automator workflow.

  • Search in IMDB - which puts up a dialog to enter text which will then be searched for in IMDB

The workflows can be downloaded as a zip here and are also linked off the Software page.

Update on Screen Sharing and VNC

I tried the vnc://computer.ip.address trick to connect to my iBook running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and it worked! So indeed you can connect to another computer which runs a VNC server. Unfortunately I don’t have any non-Mac OS X computers which run VNC server to test. Someone go out and try!! And do let me know!!

Add Prefix String Automator Action


I wrote an Automator action to prepend a string to an input string, since I needed to add a web URL to a word. It was a little convoluted to get around writing it but the Automator Tutorial for Applescript Actions at Apple’s Developer site was extremely helpful. I decided on an Applescript based action since it was a little easier to write. You can download the “Append Prefix String” action from the Software page or directly from this link. I’ve also included a link to the source files on the Software page.

Sample workflow below:

Add Prefix String workflow

Screen Sharing in Snow Leopard

Just discovered that you can create a shortcut to open a Screen Sharing connection. Essentially you do one of the following:

  • Using Automator - Use the “Run Shell Script” action with the following text:

    open vnc://address.of.target.mac
    

    You can use either the dotted-quad standard IP address or the machine_name.local Bonjour syntax.

  • Using Safari - Type the following address in the location bar:

    vnc://address.of.target.mac
    

    When you hit return, Screen Sharing launches and connects to the specified computer. Again you can use the dotted-quad or Bonjour syntax. You can now drag the shortcut to the Desktop and double-click that to connect.

Though I have not tried, I’m guessing that you should be able to connect to any VNC server.

The article I found is in Apple Discussions.

My Apple History

It’s that time to upgrade the primary desktop computer again... Ordered an iMac 27” i7 quad core 2.93GHz 12GB RAM, 1TB drive system from SmallDog (Twitter: @hellosmalldog). This is the third Mac I’ve ordered from them - really like their philosophy and service.

Looking back here are the Apple Computers I’ve had:

  • Apple ][ (1979-85) – This was not a Plus originally, though I switched the Autostart ROM and Applesoft BASIC. I taught myself BASIC, 6502 and Z-80 assembly, C and Pascal with that Apple ][. It’s packed away in its original box back home in Singapore.
    Final configuration: 48 KB RAM, 1MHz 6502, two Apple Disk ][ floppy drives, 80 column card, 128K RAMcard, Z-80 PCPI AppliCard, ALF Music Synthesiser card, Super Serial Card and 1200 baud modem, Parallel Printer Card with Integral Data Paper Tiger 445 dot matrix printer.

  • Lisa 2 (1985-86) – I managed to get a “cheap” Lisa so I could trade up to a Mac Plus. This had the single 400K floppy drive and came with the original manuals with the Apple FileWare “Twiggy” 5¼” double cutout disks (wish I had kept those). It also came with the 5 MB ProFile.
    Configuration: 1 MB RAM, 5MHz 68000, 5MB ProFile.

  • Macintosh Plus (1986-1989) – Traded the Lisa for this. My programming workhorse - I had Lightspeed Pascal and C (which became Think). I’ve cracked the case to upgrade the RAM and have seen the signatures!
    Final configuration: 2.5 MB RAM, 16MHz 68000, 20 MB HD20 (serial port), 800K external floppy, ImageWriter II printer.

  • Macintosh IIcx (1989-1995) – The first Mac I bought in the US. Did a lot of software on it while at computer science graduate school in UT-Austin.
    Final configuration: 8 MB RAM, 16Mhz 68030, 80 MB internal, 160 MB external SCSI, 45 MB SyQuest removable cartridge drive, HP DAT tape backup, Personal LaserWriter NTR.

  • PowerBook 145 (1992-2002) – My first portable Mac. The motherboard went bad so I purchased a replacement PowerBook 170 motherboard, thus making it a PowerBook 157½.
    Final configuration: 6 MB RAM, 25 MHz 68030 + 68882 FPU, 40 MB internal

  • Performa 6400 (1995-2004) – My big tower PowerPC Mac. I added the 400MHz Crescendo cache card coprocessor from Sonnet, 16MB ATI graphics card and a 100-BaseT Ethernet board from Asante
    Final configuration: 136 MB RAM, 400MHz PPC 603e, 1.6GB internal, 9GB external, SCSI external CD burner

  • iBook G3 (2002-present) – The replacement portable. It’s still running a webcam upload Perl script and has Mac OS X 10.4.
    Final configuration: 640 MB RAM, 800MHz PPC G3, 30GB internal

  • PowerMac Dual G5 (2005-present) – This replaced the Performa and is still in use. It’ll replace the iBook as the home server. Runs Mac OS X 10.5.
    Final configuration: 6.5 GB RAM, dual 2GHz PPC G5, 160GB internal, 320GB USB external, 1TB in a Firewire 800 dock.

  • MacBook Pro (2008-present) – My current travelling Mac. Runs Mac OS X 10.6
    Configuration: 4 GB RAM, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 160GB internal, 500GB Firewire 800 external.

iPad Strangeness... Solved!

I tried to wake up my iPad on a couple of occasions and found that it had been completely discharged. I couldn’t put my finger down on what the cause was - shrugged it off to just plain old self-discharge. Until yesterday... I was getting my work bag out of the vehicle when all of a sudden Green Day’s “Good Riddance” began playing. Hmm... this is strange. I took the iPad out and turned it off, paused the music, and put it back into the bag. And it started playing again. Mystified I dug into the bag and realised that I had the Bluetooth keyboard stuck in the bag next to the iPad and that the keys were being pressed.

This BT keyboard, an old Motion Computing job, had paired nicely up with the iPad before. Little did I know that jostling the bag woke up the keyboard which then woke up the iPad and kept it awake, draining the battery. I would not have discovered this had the music not been playing - the keyboard’s media keys must have been pressed to activate the iPod functionality. I now recall the several cautionary articles I had read or heard about MacBooks being drained and becoming hot when the BT keyboard with which they were paired kept the laptops awake.

Learnt a new thing! I now keep the iPad’s BT turned off until I need it and have removed a battery from the keyboard.

PromptPuppy: A cute little teleprompter

Just purchased PromptPuppy - it’s the little brother to PromptDog. It might be a “puppy” in name but PromptPuppy is no lightweight application though - it has one thing which I haven’t seen in a low cost teleprompter application - the cue arrow. This helps you focus on where you are reading from in the narration text. I’ve read from a text file when doing reviews and sometimes have found myself hopelessly lost in the mass of onscreen text characters, leading to multiple takes for a review. I’ve used PromptPuppy (10 day free trial) and did the review in one take.

Another neat thing is using the scrollwheel to control the speed at which the text scrolls - neat. The spacebar is used to toggle prompt mode on and off. Send a suggestion to allow you to save the window size, line spacing and font settings - this would make it so much easier to set up.

The folks at DVCreators.net, who make PromptPuppy and PromptDog, really take care of their users’ questions - got a couple of very quick responses. Got pointed to PromptDog / PromptPuppy by Cali Lewis (GeekBeat TV) in her “Behind the Scenes” episode in which she mentions PromptDog.

Best of all, you can install PromptPuppy on two computers - how neat is that! It runs under Mac OS X and Windows as well, and the two computer license covers either (or both) operating systems.

PS Do remember to note down the special referral code shown on the PromptPuppy site so that you get a discount when you decide to purchase it - every little bit helps!

Codafy - FireBug for RapidWeaver

Do check out Nimblehost’s Codafy plug-in for RapidWeaver (@realmacsoftware) - FireBug for RapidWeaver!

Republishing using Unity 2.0

Just got the Unity 2.0 theme from Nimblehost (@nimblehost) - looks really neat with lots of controls. Will be tweaking the layout of FreeRangeCoder in the days to come. One thing which sold me was the automatic reformatting of the site when iPhone / iPod touch devices are detected. Looks like the iPad doesn’t have any special reformatting at all - but then it’s got a big screen!

Safari Extensions: Cool Stuff Found

John F Braun and Dave Hamilton from the Mac Geek Gab have a Cool Stuff Found segment in their podcast. Here’s some neat Safari Extensions which I shared with them:

  • Sessions - which saves the set of tabs and can restore them. Even saves the tabs when Safari quits so you can reopen them when it restarts. This will help with Tim’s question in MGG #282
  • Reload Button - yeah I need that reload button!
  • Ultimate Status Bar - comes up to show the moused over link, replaces the “always on” status bar.

Share and Enjoy! PS this should also work with Safari on Windows too...

Safari 5 and PDFs & TIFFs

Just discovered that Safari 5 renders PDFs in place and if you mouse down to the bottom of the window, a translucent overlay appears for zooming, viewing in Preview and saving to the Downloads folder. Used to have a PDF plug-in but now no more!

Additionally TIFFs will also render in place and you can drag and drop them to a Finder window. Have been looking for a way to view TIFFs on the US Patent Office’s website - and now it’s built in.

I’m beginning to like Safari a whole lot more!!

DODOcase is in!

Ordered our DODOcases on 6/26 and they’re in our hot little hands today! Very nice craftsmanship - handmade in SFO. Can’t wait to slip the iPad into it and turn the iPad into the Moleskine for the digital generation.

R.I.P. Airport Extreme Base Station

It’s dead Jim... After 2 years of service, exactly to the day when I placed the order, something in our Airport Extreme Base Station has gotten a little heat sensitive and as a result, the AEBS dies - I think it’s the CPU on the board... Oh well... Time to order another refurb from the Apple Store, methinks.

For now I’m running it without the base and upside down but it still gives up the ghost occasionally... I might try running it without the case (see this link) and just the bottom plate for that exposed look. The 3 port Ethernet switch stills works though...

iPad uPad we all Pad

Bought an iPad today - fully tricked out too - 3G, 64GB. Let’s see how this fits in...

ScreenSteps rules!

Allison from the NosillaCast mentioned ScreenSteps from Blue Mango Learning in one of her recent podcast episodes. Looked like an interesting product, and knowing that I had a project at work in which I had to build step by step instructions - I downloaded the 30 day trial.

Took me no more than an hour to get a number of lessons done, complete with annotated screenshots on the PowerMac G5 at work. These were to show novice Mac users (our company is a PC-centric organisation, like many) how to start up QuickTime Pro and extract segments of video from a .mov file. I also had a lesson to show how to connect to the NAS (Network Attached Storage) shared drives to access the original movies.

Now the trial is for the Pro version so I decided to export a manual as a PDF to see how that works as this is a Pro-only feature. Fully delighted with the results.

Finally, since ScreenSteps is a cross-platform solution, I downloaded the Windows version so I could script a couple of lessons on installing and configuring QuickTime Player for Windows XP. Worked like a charm, and ScreenSteps even had the same folder format between Windows and Mac so I could combine lessons developed on one platform with those from another.

A couple more simple lessons to script - starting up and logging in to the Mac, and putting the handwritten / PowerPoint slides for copying the video off the DTE (Direct To Edit) video drives, uploading the videos to the shared drives, and I’m done with the easy stuff. The more involved task would be to list out the steps to conglomerate four time-coded videos, from different video feeds, into one synchronised HD video for analysis.

The proof of the pudding will be when I present the document to the engineers who will be doing the video extracting and editing, probably for the first time on the Mac, and watch them take the steps next week.

I’ve since purchased the Pro version, thanks to Allison’s coupon code - listen to her podcast to get it!

And if you think ScreenSteps is only for capturing steps for computer applications - think again! I’ve used it to create lessons which list the steps I need to do laundry, complete with annotated photos of the washer and dryer taken with my iPhone (since I’m not the primary laundry person in the household, and have to do that when she’s away).

PasteBot and ConvertBot for iPhone

Definitely love PasteBot and ConvertBot from tapbots. Beautiful and functional user interface. Clean design. PasteBot even has a sync preference pane for Mac OS X 10.5 which lets you cleanly send copied content between the iPhone and the Mac - it's transparent and unobtrusive - bravo tapbots!

One week with the iPhone

iPhones came in Monday, December 7th and were activated on the 8th with not a lot of problems. Just that AT&T's website had a very poorly designed "port this number" page which doesn't alert you if one of the two numbers could not be ported - so we had to call the Porting Unit and have them delete the assigned number and add our ported one.

I've used my iPod Touch extensively and have always wanted ubiquitous net access - so the iPhone fits the bill.

iPhones ordered!

Just placed an order for two 32GB iPhone 3GS's - no traction observed of other carriers getting iPhones (especially Sprint). Counting the days...