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Personal Productivity

NYT Magazine on Coulton, Hold Steady, and "Artist 2.0"

Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog

Fun story by Clive Thompson in today's New York Times Magazine about what some people are coming to call "Artist 2.0" (or "Music 2.0") -- the post-plastic-disc world of musicians like Jonathan Coulton and The Hold Steady, who are actively engaging with their fans and not relying on the old school "spray and pray" approach to music marketing that's still in practice by the majors and their foundering artistic properties.

Selected quotes from Clive's article (plus clickable video of my interviews with Jonathan Coulton):

read more »

Net Net: Drill down with 'Corporate Ipsum' widget

Corporate Ipsum - Dashboard - Developer

As we all learned from Equus, we don't get to choose the things in life that fascinate and repel us, and, in retrospect, if I could have chosen to avoid the avalanche of empty businessspeak I've been exposed to over the past dozen or so years, I certainly would have. Alas, I could not. And, so here I am, alternately repulsed and amused by the twisted patois of nonsense that passes for communication in offices and boardrooms today.

If you share this sad affliction, you may enjoy the pleasures afforded by the Corporate Ipsum Dashboard widget, cleverly (and pointlessly) designed to generate paragraphs and paragraphs of empty insight for your next pitch, presentation, or VC meeting.

In one instance, this paradigm-shifting functionality was a solution-provider for the following bit of kimono-opening stone soup:

Synergistically engage cross-media human capital for out-of-the-box convergence. Objectively generate fully tested meta-services via market-driven sources. Interactively underwhelm long-term high-impact convergence rather than future-proof convergence.

At the end of the day: awesome. Sand Hill Road, here I come!

Many thanks to jwines' bookmarks on del.icio.us

Nocturne: Free "night vision" app from the maker of Quicksilver

nocturne:nocturne [docs]

Fans of working in troglodyte mode should have a look at A1c0r's latest creation, Nocturne, an application that generates a "night vision mode" for your Mac -- similar to looking at a negative of a photo.

For years, you've been able to do something similar by hitting "ctrl-opt-cmd-8," which invokes "Switch to black-on-white" in Universal Access options (go ahead and try it, then hit it again to return to normal).

While A1c0r's improvements on this may seem subtle, they're very useful for allowing you to tweak your own preferences and minimizing distracting, full-color solarization effects.

  • Proper color correction in monochrome modes - you don’t lose all your blues or reds when you tint the screen.
  • Window shadow toggling - if glowing windows aren’t your thing.
  • Background removal - hide the desktop picture so you don’t see a inverted version.

I love that you can pick your own tint for how the monochrome image is colored. Want an old-time sepiatone writing environment? No problem.

My tip? If you enjoy sitting outside with your laptop, but the sun is making your screen almost illegible, try flipping Nocturne on -- the contrast and darker backgrounds should help make reading and navigating much easier.

Like all Blacktree's stuff, Nocturne is free of charge.

[Direct download]

Macworld: HandBrake for converting TV episodes to AppleTV

Playlist: Ripping episodic DVDs

Let's say you've hypothetically picked up a DVD of hypothetical episodes of The Larry Sanders Show, and now you want an easy way to watch them on your hypothetical Apple TV. Well, Macworld's handsome Chris Breen comes to your hypothetical rescue with the help of HandBrake's new "Queue" functionality:

From the Title pop-up menu select the first episode that you’d like to rip (if it’s a TV show it will be 20 - 60 minutes long). In the Destination area you’ll see a File field. Give your file a unique name—BlahEpisode1, for example. Click the Presets button at the top of the window and, in the resulting Presets pane, select the appropriate preset (HB-AppleTV if you intend to rip that content for Apple TV, for example). Finally, click Add to Queue.

Wikipedia on "ratholes"

Ratholing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ratholing is a used to describe a conversation or process that has deviated from its original productive purpose into a generally unproductive but long and winding detour that eventually comes to a dead end. The original discussion purpose may be to agree on a course of action. However, if one or more people rathole into a specific point of the discussion then the discussion stalls with no actionable outcome. This term is frequently used on the Macbreak Weekly podcast, resulting in the eventual creation of the "Rathole!" jingle[1] and subsequent full-length song.[2]

I first heard "rathole" used in the developer meetings run by my old boss and current friend, Richard Ramsay. Any topic that could be better handled offline or that took the group off the meeting's stated agenda would be declared a rathole, and we'd immediately move back into the subject at hand. (Richard was great at this, by the way -- one of many things I learned from him.)

Of course, as anyone who listens to MBW has figured out by now, our ratholes are usually the most interesting part of the show. I think of it like "You Bet Your Life," where the "news" is an icebreaker for letting us talk about more compelling stuff than who sold the most chips the preceding week or whether the rumors of Apple's iLawnmower carry any weight.

In any case, I salute Richard for teaching me this fine term, and -- owing to my own fragmented attention and general lack of interest (or ability) in typical Mac punditry -- I'm proud to have a role in bringing ratholes to a broader audience.

(Here's The Official Rathole Jingle)

[via scottgladstone's bookmarks on del.icio.us]

Unclutterer: Get your shred on

Unclutterer: Paper clutter begone, part 4

Handy tips on what to shred and when.

Shred Now:

  • Credit card applications
  • Any piece of unwanted paper that contains: addresses, account numbers or access information, birth dates, budgets, copies of “never shred” documents listed below, drivers license numbers, employment information, envelopes and address labels, estimates, legal papers, luggage tags, medical information, passwords, report cards, signatures, social security numbers, transcripts, travel itineraries, used airline tickets, and anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable having a stranger read
  • Expired credit cards, bank cards, passports, visas, and identification cards (college, military, employee badges, etc.)
  • Credit checks on tenants or other home employees (contractors, nannies, etc.) immediately after evaluating the information

And I couldn't agree more about picking up the best, fastest, securest, and highest-volume shredder you can afford. If you buy purely on price (picking up one of those drug store models that's the size of a guest bathroom's wastebasket), you'll regret it immediately.

Treat yourself to a multi-page monster that can gobble CDs and staples, and you're much more likely to use it in a regular and timely manner -- as in every day, when you pick up that pile of credit card applications with your info all over them. As suggested, I second the motion to shred that crap the second it arrives.

FuzzyClock gets Universal Binary update

Objectpark's FuzzyClock

My friend, Matt, first showed me FuzzyClock a few years ago, and I'll admit that, at first, it seemed sort of silly and counter-intuitive. But even after a few days' use, it became one of my favorite little Mac apps.

Unlike the typical digital clock that tells you the precise time, FuzzyClock gives you -- well -- a fuzzy version of the time. So, instead of your menubar displaying "4:58:23 PM," you'll see "nearly five."

Plus, you can enter in your own custom fuzz -- for example, changing the period from "5:25pm through 5:35pm" to "beer thirty."

Many thanks to Guido for the fast update to universal binary; he heard my whining the other day, and pushed out a new DMG lickety-split.

Now, I think the last three PowerPC holdouts on my personal UB wish list are SplashShopper, AutoPairs, and HumaneText.

On that last one -- a useful OS X Service for turning Markdown text into HTML and back -- I suppose its author, Jack, can be forgiven. He's been kinda busy lately.

What's in my menubar?

Seems like every time another Mac user looks over my shoulder, they freak out over the number of little icons I have up in my menubar. And -- like all Mac geeks -- we have to immediately start trading information, learning tricks, and sharing tips. I'm sure you know the drill by now.

If you were looking over my shoulder right now (and I hope that you are not) here's the stuff you'd see in my menubar.

I'm out of control

The larger version on the Flickr will, where appropriate, let you mouseover for the name and a link, but I'll save you the trouble of a click by repeating the links below.

Panic releases lovely "Coda" web dev app

Panic - Coda - One-Window Web Development for Mac OS X


In conjunction with the celebration of their 10th anniversary -- and cannily timed to be eligible for an Apple Design Award -- Panic has released their new "one-window web development" app, "Coda."

I've only been playing with it for an hour or two, so I don't have anything revelatory to add to everyone else's reactions. But, so far, I'm very impressed with the ease of use and lovely design. That said, hiding under the pretty is a lot of great stuff that should make prosumer web designers' lives easier, including built-in SSH shell, a straightforward CSS editor, and a very configurable multi-paned window approach. I also love the low-key code validation, Hamburger Helper "Clips," and what looks like a pretty nifty "Bonjour" sharing functionality.

The care that the Panic folks put into all of their apps and the humor and humanity that they express as a company makes me proud to use a Mac. They're doing God's work, and, whenever the opportunity arises, I'm all too happy to give them my money.

NYT: BlackBerry outage about more than missed information

BlackBerry - Research in Motion - Technology - Smartphones - Cell Phones - New York Times

An article in yesterday's New York Times suggests that the upshot of last week's BlackBerry outage may be about more than just an annoying communication outage -- for some, it was a flop-sweat-inducing night of cold turkey.

“It’s random reinforcement,” Mr. Katz said. The fact that you don’t know when important news will come, he said, “means you will quickly engage in obsessive compulsive behavior.”

These social needs and yearnings may drive the use. But at some point, that use becomes an end unto itself — a physical ritual that can take on some of the qualities of actual addiction, said Dr. John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, where he specializes in neuropsychiatry.

Several years ago, Mr. Ratey began using the term “acquired attention deficit disorder” to describe the condition of people who are accustomed to a constant stream of digital stimulation and feel bored in the absence of it. Regardless of whether the stimulation is from the Internet, TV or a cellphone, the brain, he said, is hijacked.

Sure, I kid the BlackBerry addicts, but I do sympathize. Left to my own devices, I'd check email a hundred times a day and can still half-ruin a vacation with the constant need to "just check in." Electronic fiddling is a lot like tobacco addiction and a lot easier to get away with nowadays.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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