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Alan Luckow joins the MyMac crew this week to talk about the new iLife 09 suite, video editing, iPhoto problems, working with Woz, and much more. A fun show! Also, it is CONTEST time! Listen for your chance to win a Speck Products case, and a copy of both Hear and Klix from Joesoft – Prosoft Engineering!
This show sponsored by Other World Computing
Lightsoft Weather Center
Price: $79US/£44 GBP
If you’ve owned a weather station and a Mac for any length of time, you know that Mac compatible software, used to monitor and collect data from your station, has been impossible to find. I am happy to report the search is finally over.
Lightsoft Weather Center (LWC) is a full featured weather display and data collection system that is compatible with the following weather stations: Davis Instruments Vantage Pro series, Weather Envoy, Weather Monitor, Weather Wizard, and the LaCrosse WS23xx range.
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Price: $72 – $129
Have you ever had a photo or photos that you wanted to have converted into a painting? This can be extremely expensive. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars you can spend less than $100 and do it yourself with AKVIS Artwork.
Artwork allows you to take a photograph and convert it into a painting. OK, it can’t really make it a painting created by a brush, but it can create an image that looks like a painting created by a brush.
Believe it or not, the program is really easy to use. You open you image and start manipulating it using the slider controls to make the brush strokes look the way you want. This is where you have to be careful. Push the sliders too much or too little and it won’t look like a painting.
Once your image is finished print it out on canvas paper or another really nice quality paper and you are done! Keep in mind, the paper and printer quality will effect the final image.
So how are the results? As an art teacher for over 12 years, I think the program works great! With the right amount of adjusting the paintings I made looked like a painting. However, my wife looked at the images and thought differently. She did not think it looked like a painting. I guess it depends on the eye of the viewer.
The program itself is available in two versions. One is a Photoshop Plug-In and the other is a stand alone program. Obviously, if you don’t have Photoshop you’ll want the program. Unfortunately, you have to spend more money to get both in the deluxe version ($129), which also allows you to control the stroke direction. I personally think you should get both versions for the standard $72.
So is it worth spending $72 on Artwork? That depends on you. The price seems a little expensive for a program the does one thing. However, it does one thing well, and that is turning a photo into a painting. Converting photos into paintings can be very pricey (as I said earlier) and if you are computer savvy and enjoy doing things on your own Artwork can save you a lot of money- especially if you want to convert more than one photo. Basically, it is up to you.
A couple of years ago I left my company after 17 years. It was almost two years after an acquisition and I was hating my job and the new company. They were pushing, but I was comfortable and that was the problem. Had I not been, I would have, and should have, left much sooner.
I was angry at first. Worried about my family. Of course the economy wasn’t in the crapper like it is now. After not being in the job market for so long, I realized I didn’t even know HOW to look for a job in the 21st century.
I bought a newspaper. What a waste of 50 cents that was!
I found that networking and job web sites are the tools of job seekers in the 21st century. I also found much of this to be cold and impersonal. Much of the time there is no interaction, no response. I can’t say it’s better, but its todays reality.
Go with it.
So it was a learning experience for me and I immersed myself in it to learn.
1) You need a resume in WORD format. Actually a couple of versions altered to target different job opportunities you may want to go after.
2) Sign up for Monster.Com and Career Builder.Com. Post a resume that has no real identifiable information. Instead of saying “I worked for Motorola” Say “Large Electronics Company” so no one will steal your identity. Only send your real resume to companies YOU contact.
3) Set up the auto search functions and have the results sent to your email address daily
4) Get on Linked in, and Plaxo. Networking with the people you know is the BEST WAY to find a new job quickly nowadays
5) Use a job aggregator like “Indeed.Com” to help you sort through Monster/Career builder and all of the other job boards to find jobs. Great site.
6) Find headhunters in your area, or in your industry. Sign up with them.
Only send a resume when you are sure about who you are sending it to
This is a marketing job you now have. You must sell yourself and be in everyones face.
Never STOP looking even after you are hired. One of the many mistakes I made was not really looking before I left. You should always be looking.
Now my resume is updated monthly, I have search engines looking for me, and when I get called, I go on interviews if I think I may be interested. In fact, I am talking with a search firm right now even though I am employed. I have nothing to lose. Companies are no longer loyal, like you and I have been. I have no loyalty any longer.
Took me about 6 months to find a job with a company (longer commute) that I liked. The first thing you’ll discover is the pleasure of working somewhere where you are appreciated. They WANT you there. What a joy!!
I hope things don’t go south for you in this lousy economy, but if that happens, you’ll be ready to resume searching, because you never stopped.
Be persistent. I thought I’d take a month off and just do nothing. Never happened!! I started contacting people I know. I met them for lunch, for dinner, network, network, network. I joined a group here in New Hampshire that has lunches and dinner networking meetings. These are more than just “chit chat” meetings. They help to hone your interviewing skills. Got a friend who hires people? Ask him/her to interview you. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and where your weaknesses are. Remember, while the process to get your foot in the door has changed, the interview process has not. All of the old school advice you got about being interviewed is still relevant. The difference nowadays is you usually only have one shot to make an impression, so make it a good one.
The best jobs are not posted…..you have to go find them. They won’t find you!!
My advice…..good luck and I hope you land on your feet—which I am SURE you will!!
Company: Econ Technologies
Price: Single license: $40
Upgrade from version 3.n: free
Price of 3.n before release of version 4.0: $30
System Requirements: Macintosh PowerPC™/Intel® G3 or better
The moment you start to use more than one computer is the moment when you should plan to keep any data that changes on one system synchronized (‘in sync’) with its counterpart on the other system(s).
To do this can be as simple as to overwrite older with newer files manually. But that’s neither an elegant nor an efficient way to avoid at best frustration and at worst the disaster of data loss. It’s likely, for example, that file ‘a’ on computer ‘x’ in may be changed independently of file ‘b’ on computer ‘y’. But both files may reside in the same parent directory on each machine.
It’s necessary to have a system in place to compare files one at a time on each system before working on that machine; to compare them according to multiple criteria of which you are in full control. An ideal system will then copy (or not) and correspondingly delete (or not) only the files which you want to be so synchronized (‘synced’); and in the right direction; and the system should report anything that doesn’t go exactly as predicted and/or desired; and it will offer you a variety of corrective measures. Better still if the sync can take place unattended and/or at variably scheduled times.
All of that is what Econ Technologies ChronoSync has been doing efficiently, elegantly and with great flexibility for almost every possible set of circumstances since 2002. Version 3 was released as long ago as March 2005. Now here is the latest – and certainly the greatest – version of this comprehensive market leader, ChronoSync 4.
The major change you will notice in ChronoSync 4 is to its interface. It’s sleeker, nicely toned down, and altogether more professional in appearance than was that of ChronoSync 3.
There’s no extraneous detail; menu options are placed in tabs, buttons and bars which are logically arranged, easy to find and to remember. The new interface has clearer graphics indicating the direction of the sync, for example, and such functions as ‘schedule’, ‘log’ and ‘options’. And all in a palette of quiet grays, whites and blues that are easy on the eye, softly fade from one to the other as needed – and really inspire confidence in what is – after all – a mission critical application: if mistakes are made, data can be lost. Being able to see what you are doing (or about to do) – and getting predictable, legible, comprehensible and yet sober feedback as things are set up, and then as syncs run, helps this. Admittedly you can set an option to archive any deletions. But it wouldn’t be long before mistakenly overwritten files can propagate over your two or more systems – and be lost, if you don’t attend to what’s about to happen (ChronoSync 4’s ‘Trial Sync’). So it’s as well that it’s all made as clear and unambiguous as it is. After a few monitored syncs, it really is safe to set it and forget it.
Just what counts as a ‘changed’ file is determined with almost infinite care. How and when to trigger a sync (which file attributes will mean it needs to be replaced or replace another one) and such nice touches as email notification and optional archiving of any files which ChronoSync replaces are all handled elegantly. The several clearly-explained options in each context are also simply annotated on-screen.
‘Rules’ make even greater granularity possible: there are three ‘Rules’ modes (‘Simple’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’). They control syncing by Filename, Extension, Size, Date/Time modification and FileType/Creator. It is hard to think of a single circumstance which cannot be catered for – not even to sync all Aperture libraries in ~/Pictures/temporary but not in ~/Pictures between 26 and 35 MB in size modified by a guest user within ten days of every second Thursday of the month and excluding all non-jpeg graphics files which begin with an ‘a’ or a ‘k’ in the same folders!
ChronoSync 4 continues to employ a document metaphor: you build, fine tune and save each sync operation typically by first navigating to your ‘left’ and ‘right’ (usually corresponding to source and target) directories. Most of the defaults can safely be accepted, though – as in previous versions of ChronoSync – you have a very large degree of control over error handling, reporting, exceptions (invisibles, packages, aliases, empty folders etc).
Most of your time after setting up your document(s), on which you can double-click to launch a ChronoSync session, will be spent in the tab still called ‘Setup’ because it’s from here that you invoke the sync itself; view the log (if necessary); see feedback; make temporary adjustments (to change the direction of the sync, for example, or force a sync from one direction to another if there should ever be a conflict – usually two files which have been independently updated); or perhaps to eject backup media immediately on completion.
Feedback is superb: you get multiple messages on readiness for syncing, progress, success (or failure) and during the processes necessary to set up a connection across a network where remote volumes need to be mounted, for example. In the case of conflicts and apparent anomalies, ChronoSync 4 again delivers superbly: isolate the files, examine just which of their properties clash and make an informed decision accordingly – for this sync only and/or all future such syncs. There is excellent inbuilt Help.
Pleasingly, individual ChronoSync 4 documents can be aggregated into ‘Containers’ which will then execute with as much control as you would ever want. You use a Container sequentially to run a series of individual sync documents. These are typically for different directories on the same pair (or more) of computers; or even on on a set of documents distributed across multiple directories on multiple computers. Again you have all the necessary control over how this works.
Indeed, three-way syncing is just one of the more complex operations expertly explained in the thorough and clear documentation of three dozen or so pages that comes with the product.
You are also walked through some of the most likely user scenarios in the documentation; common errors and problems are also outlined and solutions suggested. Such issues as file permissions, dealing with the inevitable conflicts, connection over a network (which can be automatic and transparent – the new ChronoAgent may be employed here) and the commonest types of anomaly. ChronoSync 4 is particularly good at recognizing oddities and non standard situations, then dealing with them on the user’s terms – rather than by brute force.
It’s clear that after this amount of time evolving and refining software to accomplish all the quite complex syncing tasks which ChronoSync 4 does, it ought to be good at doing so. And so it is. Yet for the relatively modest price of $40. ChronoSync 4 is still far and away the most reliable, flexible and user-friendly application of its kind.
In fact, it may have more features and functionality than you need if all you want to do is bring backups of half a dozen directories to and from work via a thumb drive. In that case, though, the way ChronoSync 4 makes the features you actually need incrementally available (those options you do not need are context sensitive) will still serve you well. As you get to know the product, you may even find it can do things for you that you didn’t otherwise know you wanted to be done.
There are a couple of improvements that could be made – and may very well be forthcoming in future releases: it’s necessary to keep the ChronoSync 4 application itself at the root of your Applications directory. If you like to group such associated files for your apps as their documentation and .dmgs, should you ever need to reinstall them in a single directory, ChronoSync.app must reside outside this.
It’s not possible to sort on the various columns presented to you in a ‘Trial Sync’ report – it would be useful to group together, say, all the files in a large fileset that were about to be deleted, before doing so, or display together all files going in any one direction. But these are truly minor points and do not interfere with the smooth and utterly reliable operation of ChronoSync 4.
It almost goes without saying that performance during testing for this review was exemplary; that the explanations given by Econ Technology staff when queries did arise were dealt with plainly and effectively; that the product just just what it claims to do in every way – reliably, quickly and consistently. And – importantly, for setting up and maintaing this kind of software is more of a chore than an act of primary creation for many people – becomes, if not enjoyable, easy, manageable and familiar. Recommended without hesitation.
Pros: Extremely versatile. Utterly robust. Comprehensive functionality for almost all conceivable syncing situations and environments. Very pleasing interface for such a potentially ‘mechanical’ application. Yet easy to use with well thought-out menu structures, tabbing and choice of interfaces.
Cons: ChronoSync is so full of features that it may appear intimidating at first; inexperienced users may find setup and fine-tuning the options time-consuming.
I have been using LogMeIn for Mac for a while now. I even blogged about it here at MyMac.
For those who don’t know what LogMeIn is, it is a service that allows you to remotely control another computer. The Mac version is free, and requires a LogMeIn account and a simple installation of the LogMeIn software on the computer you want to control. It has been extremely useful for me while I troubleshoot my grandmother’s computer, and computers of friends. Yes, you can do this through Leopard’s iChat, but not everyone has Leopard.
Recently, LogMeIn released an app for the iPhone/iPod Touch called Ignition, which (no surprise here) allows you to remotely control another computer through your iPhone/iPod Touch. The LogMeIn folks were kind enough to allow me to try out a copy of the app and I have been very pleased with it.
Just like the LogMeIn for Mac service, the LogMeIn application requires a free LogMeIn account and the computer you want to control has the LogMeIn software installed. You also need some type of internet connection for the iPhone/Touch for this to work. After that you are good to go. Of course, the faster the connection (on both ends) the better the application works.
The big difference is that the application costs $29.99.
You open the application, login to LogMeIn, and you see a listing of the computers in your account that you can control. You click the computer, and that computer’s screen magically appears on your iPhone/iPod.
As one might expect, the computer screen is extremely tiny on the iPod screen. However, you can zoom in and move around the screen to do what you need to do.
In my tests, the LogMeIn application worked great. I was able to do everything I needed to do, just as if I was logged into the web interface. I was able to move icons, control programs, double click, type, drag and drop, etc. The small size does make it difficult, but any application of this nature will have that issue.
The application is a bit confusing at first, but there is a great downloadable manual available from the LogMeIn website.
I have tried other free applications of this type and thought they were unusable. LogMeIn has been fantastic! So is it worth $29.99? That depends on you. This is not the platform you want as your primary remote control application (at least I don’t). I would think you would want to use a computer for that. For me, this is the type of application you use in a pinch, when you desperately need access to your computer, or you need to help someone in urgent need and you are not near a computer but you have you iPhone or iPod Touch. The screen of the iPod is just too small for that. Of course, you might like that size and this is perfect for your needs.
It is a shame there are no trial periods for applications, because this is the type of application that needs one. However, if you do decide to spend the $29.99 I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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With the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh upon us, Tim, Guy, Mark, and Owen look back over their personal history with the Mac. Remember Extensions, Res-Edit, After Dark, Mouse Balls, Conflict Catcher? If so, this is the show for you!
The episode sponsored by
Other World Computing
Price: $29.99, 1 Year Warranty.
I recently took a long plane trip to London. To pass the time, I was happy to have my new iPod Touch with me. Except that there was one problem. The flight was 10 hours long, and after a several hours of video watching and game playing, my iPod Touch battery was going dead. What was I to do?
Well, lucky for me, in my carry-on luggage was the JBoxMini from Macally. This is a small ((W) 2" x (L) 2.5" x (H) .5 "), thin black box that contains extra power for your handheld devices. Basically, almost anything that can take a charge from a USB power source can be charged from the JBoxMini.
On the side of the JBoxMini are two USB connectors, an on/off switch, and a small button. The button is used to light one of 4 LEDs along the top that show the battery’s remaining power. The on/off switch enables and disables the output power from the standard USB socket to conserve the internal battery, and the small USB mini socket is used to charge the battery pack.
To get started, I plugged this device’s small USB port into my computer’s USB port with the included USB A to mini B male cable, and charging of the internal battery began, indicated by a single green LED on the box. After several hours, the LED went off, indicating the device was fully charged. Now, if and when I needed extra power, this device was ready.
The internal, high capacity Li-ion Battery will add many hours of additional playtime for your iPod device(s), as well as prolonging the life of other portable devices wherever you go. Macally recommended this device for the iPhone and just about every iPod, cell phones, PDAs and other MP3 players with USB charging capability or any products that can be charged from a USB port. To charge a device, simply attach the device’s USB charging cable to the standard USB port on the side of the JBoxMini, and turn on the switch. Power is immediately applied to the cable, and your device will begin to charge. The USB port supplies 5 volts DC at up to 1000mA max, so it can add charge almost any device that needs it.
On my flight to London, I was able to extend playtime on my iPod Touch by another 3 to 4 hours after exhausting the iPod’s internal battery, giving me almost 7 hours of playtime. Stopping for dinner and other breaks, my unit was available to me the entire flight.
In additional testing after I returned home, when the iPod Touch was not in use but low on power, I could typically get just over 2 full charges from the JBoxMini before it needed recharging. I also used it to charge my Treo 755p cell phone, and several other rechargeable phones and a camera without any issues.
The small size of this device is ideal for a pocket, purse, or briefcase to give you that extra power on long flights, outdoor activities, or anytime your devices might run out of power and there is just no place to plug it in. A simple and small solution to extra power.
MyMac rating: 5 out of 5. It does exactly what is says it will do!
In Your Face Viewbase handheld device holder
Company: In Your Face LLC
The idea is so simple; I am surprised someone had not done this before now. Anyone who owns an iPhone, iPod Touch, or even a PSP has surely gotten tired of holding the device in one hand while watching movies or playing games. And laying it on a table puts it at a very odd angle making it hard to watch and hurting your neck. And propping it up does not work well either, it always falls over.
This year at Macworld, there were several products designed to hold your iPhone or iPod Touch at a better angle for viewing or playing. There was one that looked like a small iMac stand, made of solid aluminum, and quite expensive, which required a flat surface to work, and not very stable. There was another that clamped to the edge of a table like this device, but then attached to the iPhone with a suction cup. That was no good, suction cups eventually fail, and drop what they are holding, so not sure I would trust it. But the In Your Face viewbase was my favorite of all these products, and here is why.
First, it is inexpensive at only $29.95, so you can afford to buy one for the office, home and car. Secondly, it holds the iPhone, or almost any small hand held device with a clever, spring-loaded padded jaw. It is worth noting that the spring in the jaw is compressed when the jaw is pulled opened to insert the iPhone, meaning that opening the jaw compresses the spring rather than stretching it. That may sound insignificant, but stretching a spring over and over will eventually weaken it. Here, the spring is never stretched when the jaw is opened, so the jaw’s holding power will not weaken over time as you use it. Simple and clever.
The design of this device is also very cool. The clamp on the other end that you attach to an edge also has a unique, hinged design to let it attach to different sized or shaped edges, including round surfaces, and is padded to protect surfaces. The neck is completely flexible, so you can twist and bend it to any comfortable angle for viewing. Which means you can use it almost anywhere, like your monitor at work, your bed at home, or a table edge, allowing you to easily play games or watch movies without holding the device. Even take it on an airplane and attach it to the tray table for easy viewing. And best of all, and where the device got its name and the idea was born, attach it to the sun visor in the car to watch movies while RIDING (not driving) in a car. The company was founded in July 2008 by husband and wife team Hans and Marion Kohte. Initially the idea of a portable media device holder was born to remedy a pair of sore arms after watching a two-hour movie in the passenger seat during a long car trip. The designers said it put the unit at eye level, right “in your face”, so you could easily view it without having to hold it for hours and hours.
Simple, easy, and effective in what it does, and inexpensive as well. What more could you ask for? I have been using it for a week now, and simply love it and highly recommend it, especially if you play a lot of games or watch a lot of video.
MyMac rating: 4.5 out of 5. Great, but not sure how it will survive long term.
How this little application from Retronyms saved the world, Macworld to be exact.
It was late Wednesday morning at Macworld. I had two very important interviews scheduled for that afternoon. As I sat at the MyMac table in the media room, I felt a lump building in my throat. I was preparing to interview two CEOs and I still hadn’t figured out a solution to recording decent audio on my iPhone 3G.
My first thought was to use Evernote to record the audio from the interview. The problem was getting the recorded audio back to my Mac for editing and eventual incorporation into the MyMac.com Podcast. I created some test audio files to test the Evernote file transfer system. The process, as detailed by Evernote, was complicated and failed to actually work.
I was rapidly running out of time and patience as the shadows of my approaching appointments began to rise like ominous clouds blotting out the sun and casting shadows of fear and trepidation overhead (well, that may be overreaching a bit, but hey, you get my point). I feverishly tried and deleted a number of free recording apps from the App Store. None would successfully transfer the recorded audio files back to my Mac.
Finally, when I could wait no more, I decided to check out some of the paid apps. I poked around the store a bit and found Recorder from Retronyms.
Like all the free apps, Recorder promised great sound quality and the ability to easily transfer the recorded audio files back to the desktop. Of course I was somewhat skeptical, but I decided to give it a go. At $0.99, what did I have to lose?
With the app downloaded and installed on my iPhone 3G, I recorded a test file as I had so many times before. Having easily configured (just a tap of the i located in the lower right corner) Recorder to record in the highest quality available (44.1K), I recorded a brief audio file and was presented with a simple screen displaying my new file and a few options.
In the lower left corner of the screen, there was a WiFi Sync button. Tapping that button displays an IP and the instruction to visit that IP from your desktop web browser.
Typing in the IP starts a sync connection between the iPhone and Mac. What a thing of beauty. My audio file synced quickly and the result was a high quality .aiff file in my download folder.
Having found the solution I had been frantically searching for, I was off to my interviews and all was right in my Macworld universe. Recorder is a simple recording application for the iPhone. The UI is beautiful and intuitive. The ability to easily transfer the recorded files over WiFi, or email makes this little jewel of the App Store Nile a must have for anyone needing a credible digital recorder on the iPhone.
For its sound quality, simple and intuitive UI, and file transfer capabilities, I give Recorder an appreciative 4 out of 5 MyMac rating. I look forward to seeing the continued development of this great little application.
Brenthaven MetroLite Backpack
My Macworld adventures with the Brenthaven MetroLite Backpack.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…" I arrived at Macworld 2008 with all the enthusiasm and verve one would expect. My spirits were somewhat dampened by the prospect of becoming the pack mule for my husky backpack loaded down with a MacBook Pro, power adapter, and all the supporting hardware and cables needed to get me through the expo. My motel was quite a distance from Moscone so I wanted to make sure I had what I needed on my daily treks. I lugged the backpack and its weighty contents during three full days of walking the expo floor, back and forth from the south and west complexes, and around downtown San Francisco. Needless to say, the experience was less then enjoyable and not one I wished to repeat.
As I prepared for my annual Hajj to San Francisco for Macworld 2009, I was determined to lighten the burden on my back. As I searched online to find a new backpack for my trip, I had some basic requirements in mind. My new back companion had to be light and svelte. It needed to encompass intelligent industrial design, allowing for the maximum volume of contents while maintaining a minimal footprint. This wonder pack would need to protect two things very precious to me, my computer and back (in that order).
When I arrived at the Brenthaven site and began to look around, I found what seemed to be a little jewel just waiting for me to uncover all its backpack goodness. On paper, the Brenthaven MetroLite Backpack seemed to have everything I needed. The proof would indeed be in the proverbial pudding. A few days at Macworld would answer all the painful and burning questions. The final litmus test would be conducted on Friday as the sun set on my week at Macworld (more on this test later).
The MetroLite is an attractive backpack. The satiny finish of the black ballistic nylon gives the backpack a rich texture. The red piping provides an understated sense of class. This is a refreshing choice in this day of bright neon colored backpacks etc.
Staying with the material choices for a moment, I was particularly impressed with the choice of red nylon for the interior of the bag.
This crimson red interior carries the understated class design directive into the interior of the backpack. Of course they could have just lined the bag with the De facto black nylon and called it good. I for one, am glad Brenthaven decided to go the extra mile and give the MetroLite a little something extra.
Clearly, the folks at Brenthaven were focused on size and weight when they designed the MetroLite. Choosing to utilize a slimline handle, tuck away straps, and an overlapping rear compartment enclosure all serve to reduce the depth (4"), weight (2lb 0.6oz), and overall feel and size of the backpack.
Under the heading, "It’s the Little Things that Matter Most," there are many little industrial design choices that help the MetroLite stand out from the crowd (more on that later). I give the folks at Brenthaven high marks for their thoughtful design of the MetroLite.
I won’t bore you with the list of specifications, although the technology incorporated into this diminutive backpack is impressive.
With a fully padded computer compartment large enough to handle a 17" laptop and many pockets positioned for quick and easy access while allowing for adequate organization, the MetroLite provides the urban traveler enough space for the necessities.
As with many other Brenthaven products, a prominent feature of the MetroLite is Brenthaven’s Zero Impact design directive. The lofty goal of Brenthaven is for their products to have zero impact on your computer, your health, and the environment. A great goal to be sure and one I would love to see more of the industry adopt.
Design and features aside, what about the real world? How would the MetroLite hold up under the gauntlet that is Macworld? After using it for five days, I have to say, the MetroLite met my needs as represented.
One side benefit of the MetroLite was that it required a rethinking of what was necessary for my daily treks into the land of Macworld. As a MacBook Air owner, I had become familiar with the, "everything you need, nothing you don’t" style of organizing and packing. I actually enjoyed the process of reducing everything down to the least common denominator. What items had multiple uses? What items did I really need, and what items could be classified as, just in case?
Finally, I arrived at the magic combination of "must haves" and "just in cases." I was actually surprised at how much I was able to pack into the MetroLite.
I found the MetroLite to be very comfortable on my back. I knew it was there, but I never felt as though it was heavy. Additionally, the MetroLite did not impact my ability to maneuver through the maze of people and booths at Macworld. This had been a problem with the behemoth I used the year before. Making apologies for my backpack was a constant requirement in 2008. This year, no apologies required. Thanks Brenthaven.
One feature I really found useful was the AC adaptor compartment in the front lower portion of the backpack.
Not only did it equalize the balance and weight of the backpack, but it was very handy when the adaptor was needed. The compartment also proved to be a perfect location for my camera. As I said before, it is the little things that matter most.
Another design feature I appreciated was the ability to tuck away one of the shoulder straps and just sling the backpack over one shoulder.
I have used packs where this was not a feature, but rather, an afterthought. The MetroLite allows you to stow away the unused strap so as not to impact the balance or bulk of the pack when you want to sling it over one shoulder.
My final and most important test of the MetroLite came Friday morning as I woke up, packed up, and headed for home. As I climbed behind the wheel and began the four hour drive home, I thought to myself, "HEY! My back does not hurt." Last year at this time, all I could think about was the location of my Advil. How wonderful it was to drive home thinking about the great time I had at Macworld and not the pain shooting down my back. Brenthaven, mission accomplished.
A word of caution. If you are looking for a backpack that will allow you to carry everything and the kitchen sink, the MetroLite is not for you. This in not the person that Brenthaven had in mind when they designed the MetroLite. This backpack is for the urban traveler who can exist with the basic requirements for his or her day.
The Brenthaven MetroLite Backpack earns a hearty 4 out of 5 rating for its design, features, and usability. There are lighter packs on the market which hold barely anything, and heavier packs that hold everything. Brenthaven seems to have hit the sweet spot with the MetroLite.
Mac OS X Leopard Killer Tips
by Scott Kelby & Dave Gales
New Riders Press
December 2008, 456 pp.
"Wouldn’t it be cool," suggests author Scott Kelby in this book’s introduction, "if there was a book where the whole book, cover to cover, was nothing but those little sidebar tips, but with graphics?" To me, the very concept of a computer-training book that skips the standard instructional content and contains only the sidebar "tips" seems almost overindulgent–kind of like eating the tops off all the muffins and leaving the rest.
But after exploring the book’s 15 chapters and 400-plus "killer tips," I can confirm that, yes, it is indeed pretty cool. Virtually every aspect of the Mac OS, as well as the iLife apps, is covered, and the sheer volume of tips is such that there are no less than 24 focused on the Dock alone, as well as an astonishing 44 tips on working with windows (with a lower-case "w," of course). While the information provided is largely focused on the intermediate to advanced OS X user, the authors have prepared "a secret special downloadable chapter of beginner tips", just so novice Leopard users aren’t left completely out in the cold.
Is every single tip contained in "Killer Tips" truly a "killer" tip? For the most part, yes, although the authors tend to kick off each section of the book with a tip that would seem patently obvious to even the rankest of beginners. For instance, the chapter on Spotlight begins with a tip that simply notes how useful Spotlight can be, followed by a tip that explains how you can do a Spotlight search by typing your search term in the Spotlight menu. Similarly, the three Time Machine tips simply note how to turn Time Machine on, set the preferences and restore files by launching the Time Machine application. These would seem to be more appropriately designated as "filler" rather than "killer," given that the authors’ own definition of "killer" states that each tip should be "so cool that after reading just a few you have to pick up the phone, call your Mac buddies, and totally tune them up with your newfound Mac OS X power."
OK, so perhaps not every tip lives up to the "killer" designation. But rest assured, there are plenty that do. I’ve been providing Mac OS consulting and troubleshooting services to my clients since 1989 or thereabouts, and I’ve been using the Mac since its System 6 days. Nonetheless, I picked up a wealth of both really useful info (in Address Book, hold down the option key when a contact is selected to see which group(s) he or she is in) as well as some more esoteric but still interesting tidbits (hold down option-shift while using the volume up and down keys, and the sound level will change by only 1/4 of a step at a time on the volume meter).
I also found "Killer Tips" to be very appealing from a design standpoint. Computer-centric books are often notoriously difficult to plod through, and the authors seemed to understand this by providing the reader with full-color screen grabs to accompany not merely some of the tips, but each and every one. Unfortunately, in their quest to keep things interesting, they also seemed to be working overtime to serve up their tips in an irreverent and edgy style, which I found to be more distracting than amusing. Closing out tips with gratuitous exclamations like "Sweet, huh? Gotta love it.", "That is over-the-top coolness!" or "Man, it doesn’t get much easier than that!" begins to wear on the reader after a while.
Further, employing pseudo-adjectives like "gigundo" or titling a Dictionary tip "Daniel Webster would be jealous" in spite of the fact that Daniel Webster (as in "The Devil And…") had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of the Merriam-Webster dictionary (that was Noah Webster, guys) indicate that this book would have benefitted from some tighter editing.
I found very little to quibble with regarding the validity and accuracy of the tips themselves; I tested scores of them and each performed precisely as advertised. I was a bit surprised by the "Set A Default Printer" tip, which indicated that the option to set a default printer did not exist prior to OS X 10.5 even though I’ve been doing that since version 10.3. Then again, for every minor inaccuracy or less-than-killer suggestion, there are five or six remarkably useful tips awaiting within the next couple of pages. The "Mac OS X Pranks" section doesn’t score very high on the useful scale ("Creating An Even More Terrifying Fake Dialog," anyone?), but after cranking out 400-plus tips in the first 14 chapters, I guess maybe the authors needed to blow off some steam.
So is "Killer Tips" appropriate for you? If you’re new to the Mac, and/or you’re looking for a helpful step-by-step reference guide to Leopard, this is not the book for you. If, however, you’re a more advanced Mac OS X 10.5 user who wants to find ways to work better, faster and smarter, you will find a lot to like in this book. From changing the order in which Spotlight result categories are displayed to creating a Stickies note from a PDF, there’s more than enough useful info here to satisfy even the geekiest of Leopard users among us.
by Sal Soghoian & Bill Cheeseman
January 2009, 896 pp.
"Can you build us an AppleScript to do that?"
That question has been put to me dozens of times over my ten-plus years doing Macintosh support, and in almost every instance, the answer has been "yes." AppleScript has literally helped me to earn my living, in the sense that I’ve been hired to build customized applications that–to name just a few–scan the entire content of a weekly newspaper and flag any prohibited words for later exclusion, pull records from a database and turn them into a fully-formatted 32-page pamphlet of health-specific Web sites, and convert the SGML-tagged text from a medical journal into XPress Tags coding for import into QuarkXPress.
I first got turned on to AppleScript at a Macworld Expo back in the 1990s, when I attended a presentation given by a very enthusiastic service bureau employee by the name of Sal Soghoian. Not a programmer by trade, Sal had discovered the joys of AppleScripting while trying to free himself from some of the redundant tasks he was faced with while outputting his client’s documents. I was so excited about what I saw him do with his QuarkXPress scripts that I ran up to him after his talk and starting peppering him with questions. Evidently recognizing my enthusiasm, he offered me a free copy of his "Sal’s AppleScript Snippets," a 3.5" floppy disk containing a few dozen simple QuarkXPress AppleScript routines and some brief but helpful documentation. From that point forward, I was hooked on AppleScript.
So who better to author an AppleScript training guide for beginning scripters? For the past eleven years, Sal has been the product manager for automation technologies at Apple, and his own enthusiasm for scripting has helped to create a community of AppleScripters who, like me, were exposed to his Macworld sessions and got turned on to all the possibilities AppleScript offers. Sal’s co-author, Bill Cheeseman, is no slouch either when it comes to scripting; a civil litigator and trial lawyer by day, he founded the AppleScript Sourcebook Web site (now MacScripter.net), an invaluable reference for scripters, way back in 1996.
Given this book’s pedigree, I was expecting it to be the best AppleScript book I’ve seen to date (at least six AppleScript reference manuals currently reside in my programming library) in terms of introducing the non-programmer to scripting. After reviewing the initial chapters and working through some of the hands-on exercises, I was not in the least bit disappointed. The book truly does begin at "square one" by walking the reader step-by-step through the creation of a Finder toolbar script that is actually useful for restoring your Desktop to a preferred (uncluttered) state, and moves on from there to essential concepts like object references, conditionals, loops, and error handlers. While these concepts might sound intimidating to the newly-initiated scripter, Sal and Bill do an excellent job of making them both understandable and accessible.
As an AppleScripter, I can confirm that documenting the many aspects of this scripting language presents a challenge to any author–note that this book weighs in just shy of 900 pages. Recognizing this, the authors have taken what I consider to be a unique approach to the overall structure of the book. The first twelve chapters, which they call "Instant AppleScript," cover the fundamentals of scripting in a linear fashion, providing enough of a foundation for the reader to get started with basic scripting. Chapters 13-30 serve as more of a reference guide, and are organized in a way that even intermediate and experienced scripters will find useful, with individual chapters on folder actions, scripting connections to network servers, unit coercions (converting distance/weight/temperature, etc.), date scripting, and using the Script Editor, the built-in application used to construct and compile AppleScripts. The third section (that’s the "3" in "AppleScript 1-2-3") refers to the downloadable content provided, which includes example scripts, updates, errata, and additional training materials.
Throughout the book, the writing is clear and concise, and each and every script is referenced with an ID, such as "SCRIPT 9.46," so that when multiple scripts appear on a single page or spread, there’s no doubt as to which script the text refers. Screen shots are used extensively where appropriate, and the 31-page index is not merely exhaustive, but contains individual entries for each of the symbols employed in AppleScript, not just the terms and concepts. Perhaps equally as helpful, however, was the publisher’s choice to use "lay-flat" binding for this book so that you can place it on your desk, open it to page 146, and actually have it remain open to that very page without flopping closed within a few seconds. This might seem like a small thing, but anyone who’s ever tried to complete a "hands-on" tutorial from a book that refuses to stay open knows precisely where I’m coming from.
I’ve found some room for improvement in pretty much every product or book I’ve reviewed to date, but try as I may I can’t really conjure up any creative criticism to offer the authors of "Apple Script 1-2-3." The best I can come up with is that I wish the included screen captures were a bit larger and in color, but that’s really a piddling complaint. The bottom line is, if you’re a beginner and you’re serious about learning how to write AppleScripts, you won’t find a better book out there.
Or, to sum up my review in a pseudo-AppleScript context:
set this_Book to "AppleScript 1-2-3"
tell individual "reader"
if (wants to get started with scripting) then
Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure
by Mikkel Aaland
$44.99 US, $44.99 CAN
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers
by Scott Kelby
New Riders Press
$44.2009 US, $48.99 £28.99
I’m a dedicated Aperture 2.0 user. Eighty percent of my post-production workflow for wedding photography is done in Apple’s pro photo imaging software. But I must honestly admit that I have kept my eye and hands in Adobe Lightroom off and on since its beta days. For a long while, Lightroom in my view lagged behind Aperture because it’s interface was too linear and it lacked the smart album features of Aperture that I use to efficiently keep track of my tagged photos.
But when Lightroom 2.0 was released and I worked with the trial download from Adobe, I was seriously impressed. Lightroom still has a more linear feel to me than Aperture, but it sports nearly every management and image processing feature found in Apple’s program, plus a lot more. Now I mainly hang onto Aperture 2.0 because of it’s book making features, it’s integration with Apple’s iLife programs, and its more fluid interface.
With that said, I have started to bring some photography projects in Lightroom because I find it’s universal presets (which are absent in Aperture) to be both awesome and a huge time saver. When someone ask which program they should get, Aperture or Lightroom, I have to honestly say, Lightroom. (Note, however, if you’re not a professional photographer shooting 800+ photos on a regular basis, you could easily use Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw, both of which come installed with the CS versions of Photoshop. These two programs do many if not most of the same things as Lightroom and Aperture do.)
If you choose Lightroom for your digital photo management and processing, you will find no shortage of books and video tutorials to teach all you need to know about using the program. The authors, Mikkel Aaland and Scott Kelby, of the two books under review were amongst the first authors to write excellent guides about the program, even under its beta release.
Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2
I wrote about Aaland’s book, Photoshop Lightroom Adventure last year and gave it a well deserved MyMac 5 out 5 rating. This his latest book, Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2, is not a second edition; it’s a rewritten book employing his collaboration with 18 other outstanding photographers and a team of Adobe experts who took Lightroom 2.0 on a road test in the wilds of Tasmania.
As with his first book, the images included in this guide are simply astounding (see many of them here). It’s really great that publishers of photography manuals have realized that the images included in their books should be very professional while also instructive. Every page of Aaland’s book is filled stunning photography and screen shots that explore every aspect of Lightroom 2.0.
At least three of Aaland’s books have been on my shelf since the first time I picked up a digital camera over five years ago. He is a master of breaking down complicated concepts about digital photography in a succinct manner. Each section and chapter of Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2 starts off with a 1-2 paragraph overview of what will be covered. Chapter and section headings are on top right of each page. All aspects of the post-shooting workflow are covered in this book. You will learn about organizing the Lightroom workspace, importing images, using the library, as well as the development and output modules of Lightroom.
The middle chapters of the book deal with digital development, e.g. exposure correction, cropping, toning, and white balance adjustment. This is where the book stands out because you’re learning about digital development from a team of experts. Chapter 8 even includes, as with first book, actual custom development module settings created by Aaland and his colleagues in their photography adventures in both Tasmania and Iceland. The ability to make various adjustments and conversions to one image in Lightroom and save those settings to use again later is what sets Lightroom apart from other image processing applications, including Aperture 2.0. In Lightroom, you can save your adjustments as presets and simply pass your cursor over the titles of the presets to get a preview of what your selected photo will look like even before the preset in applied. This can’t be done in Aperture. You can save individual settings in Aperture and/or copy and paste a group of settings from one image to one or more others, but you can’t save entire settings and re-use them later in the way you can in Lightroom.
You can also save and share your custom settings with other Lightroom users. The settings (or recipes as Aaland calls them) explained in Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2 are breath taking, showing you how to convert your images and give them a stunning look and feel. By following along the step-by-step instructions for improving an image, you can get a better sense of the development tools in Lightroom than you would by simply downloading the settings and importing them into the program.
These and other sections in the chapter on using the development modules in Lightroom are advance but very accessible parts of Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2. Aaland shows you how to examine your images and how to make choices for effective exposure and color adjustments and conversions. His section, for example, titled "Black and White and Special" actually starts off with a brief discussion of what type of images make for good black-and-white conversion. This of course is an aesthetic issue, but Aaland provides some guidelines and the shows several ways you can make various types of greyscale conversions.
Aaland helps you push the boundaries of Lightroom by adding unrealistic special effects to your images. The beauty of this process is that you can play around with your images and never destroy your originals. This will also mean that you will find less and less a need to work on your images in Photoshop because Lightroom takes care of nearly your entire post-shooting workflow. However, Aaland does include chapters on how to take your images from Lightroom and into Photoshop, as well as how to do output work for printing, creating slides shows, and the entire image exporting process.
Indeed, Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2 will be the only guide you need to learn the program. The nearly 8 1/2" by 10" design and layout of the book, as with other O’Reilly books, provides plenty of room to jot notes and flip the pages back and forth. You can work through each chapter and section of the book if you’re a first time user of Lightroom, or you can use the book as a guide for what specifically need to know. One thing to point out, though, is that the manual does not come with a CD of images that are used in the book. So be prepared to have your own images as you work through the tutorials.
All in all, Photoshop Lightroom Adventure 2 is a inspiring book for Lightroom 2 users. The price tag is a little steep, but the images and instruction in the book are well worth the price, and a 5 out of 5 MyMac rating.
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers
If you’re a serious Photoshop user, you no doubt know of the best selling works of the Scott Kelby, the author of The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers. For those of you who don’t know, Kelby is Editor-in-Chief of Photoshop User magazine, President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and co-producer of the popular Photoshop podcasts, PhotoshopUsertv.
Kelby is well known for getting at the nuts and bolts of Photoshop and digital photography. All his guide books are practical-based, providing the essential techniques to achieve real world application. The second edition of his The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers is written and designed like most all his other books. Each chapter consists of 1-2 page step-by-step instructions about every feature of Lightroom 2. These pages are like mini-guides for using Lightroom 2. Each step is no longer than a paragraph and are accompanied with a screen shot that reflects the specific instructions of each step. You can dip into this book and start anywhere you like, but if you are new Lightroom 2, you might want to work through the book from beginning to end.
Both of the books under review are very similar in approach. It’s very difficult to recommend one over another. The edge that Kelby’s book has over Aaland’s is that Kelby provides some downloadable photos taken by him and his colleagues that can be used to follow along with the tutorials. Of course, it’s always better to work with your own photos, but it’s great that he’s made photos available for eight of the fourteen chapters. He also provides a couple of bonus chapters, one that explains his personal workflow using Lightroom, and another one specifically for wedding photographers. I would say that Kelby’s book might appeal more to wedding and portrait photographers, and the style of Aaland’s book may appeal more to nature and landscape photographers. I should also point out that if you like Kelby’s style of instruction, you should check his online training website, which includes excellent video tutorials about Lightroom 2 presented by Matt Kloskowski, a close colleague and protégé of sorts of Kelby.
Finally, though I didn’t do a scientific comparison of each book, both seem to cover most of the same features of Lightroom 2 with different emphasis on various features of the program. It might be useful to actually peruse each of the books in hand to make a decision about which one appeals to you personally.
Though there a few fine books written about Apple’s Aperture 2, they don’t compare to the how well these two authors explain and make Lightroom 2.0 very accessible for first time users of the program.
Both books get a well deserved 5 out of 5 MyMac rating.
Bakari Chavanu is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and an occasional blogger: Mac Photography Tips
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Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus helps kick off this weeks show with his run down of Macworld Expo, where it goes from here, and what he enjoyed most on the showroom floor. Sam Levin fills us in on his Cool Mac Picks from both Macworld Expo and CES. Finally, Owen and Mark join Tim, David, and Guy to talk about the rest of the weeks stories, and Owen’s blog post on Alsoft.
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Other World Computing – You have to check out the Voyager Q!
"Did you hear the news today?"
I have been emailed, IM’d, and Twittered that question incessantly over the past ten hours as of this writing. The cause for all the email is, of course, the news that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, Inc…, is stepping down as CEO for half the year to focus on his health. In his absence, Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Operating officer, will helm Apple.
"Do you think Steve is really dying"
I don’t know, and I hope not. I hope not for his sake, and his family. Not because of his connection to Apple, Disney, or any other business venture. I don’t want Steve Jobs to die for the same reason I don’t want you to die.
"Can Apple survive?"
Of course, and very well, thank you. One of the things Steve Jobs has done as CEO was to place some of the most skilled people in key areas within Apple, Inc. Tim Cook is one of those people, hand-picked by Steve Jobs himself to oversee all Apple, Inc. operations. And while I don’t personally know either Mr. Jobs or Mr. Cook, I know as much about them as you do. And I would ask you this: do you trust Steve Jobs to do what’s right for Apple? If the answer is yes (as it should be, obviously) then you should feel every bit of confidence in an Apple, Inc. under Tim Cook as you do with it under Steve Jobs.
"Do you think this is why he did not do the Macworld Expo keynote?"
Sure, of course. I think there are many reasons, but his health was the primary reason. That and the fact that Apple had no show-stopping products they were ready to showcase at the event. The Macworld Expo comes at a horrible time of the year for most vendors: right after the holiday shopping season is over, most people have already spent all their disposable income for a few months, it’s too early for Back To School shopping, and it falls well outside the average companies product cycle. I believe the stories and first-hand accounts I heard at the show why Apple wanted out of the yearly grind of the Macworld Expo.
"Do you think Apple’s stock will tank?"
I have no idea. I don’t play the stock market, and even if I did, I would not buy Apple, Inc. stock as I run a website that covers and comments on them. It would be a conflict of interest, in my opinion. My opinion is worthless about the stock market.
"Do you think Steve Jobs will really come back this summer?"
I have no reason to doubt it. He said he would be back, and Steve Jobs is many things, but a liar is not one of them. That being said, nothing is written in stone, and his health problems could take a turn for the worse and force him to miss his return date. It could cause him to retire permanently. He could also heal and be more healthy than he has been in years. I have no way of knowing. But one thing I am very confident of is the future of Apple, the Macintosh, and the iPhone. Apple has a really great team in place at the highest levels, and they will continue to produce and deliver stunning and award winning products well into the future.
AirCurve Acoustic Amplifier for iPhone
Company: Griffin Technology
This is not a powered speaker for your iPhone. AirCurve’s primary function is to amplify the iPhone’s built-in speaker. How does it do so? Acoustically, of course.
The AirCurve is a clear polycarbonate iPhone dock that sits about 1.5” high, 3.5” deep, and 5” wide. It has a hole in the top so you can drop a dock connector cable into it if you need power. It also comes with two white dock adapters to hold your iPhone or iPhone 3G in place.
I like the appearance of the unit. I usually keep it placed just in front of my keyboard within arm’s reach. I’m happy with the audio amplification the AirCurve produces. It’s not earth shattering or ground thumping audio, but it does increase the volume output just enough for quiet office use.
One design flaw in the device is that if you are using the Apple-branded Dock Connector that came with your iPhone, you’ll find that it fits a bit too loosely into the AirCurve. This means that when you remove your iPhone from the dock, the cable usually pulls up through the AirCurve. I found this sloppy and annoying. Moreover, you cannot just drop your iPhone onto the dock when using the Apple branded cable. Rather, you need to manually snap the connector onto the phone and then place into the dock. Again annoying.
When I contacted Griffin about the Apple Dock Connector issue they shipped me a tiny little white adapter that holds the Apple Dock Connector in place. Griffin also told me that they are now including the Apple Dock Connector adapter in all future AirCurve boxes.
The fact that the Apple-branded cable is a bit too small or requires an adapter doesn’t really affect my use. I rarely need the power cable when using the AirCurve. It works just as well without it. If you need to power up and/or sync while using the AirCurve, I’d suggest using the Griffin Dock Cable (sold separately). The Griffin dock connector fits better into the AirCurve, and is black in color. So I think it looks nicer on my desk.
If you plan on using the AirCurve in a noisy office setting with lots of chatter, or if office printers/copier machines are in close proximity, you may find the AirCurve doesn’t amplify your audio sufficiently.
I give the AirCurve 4 out of 5 MyMac rating. The AirCurve audio will not blow you away, but it’s more then adequate in the right setting. It doesn’t require any power, and the price is right. Although I found the Apple Dock Connector issue annoying, Griffin has addressed this issue with a new adapter.
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The Macworld Expo wrap-up show, featuring Tim, Guy, Nemo, and some other guests. This was recorded on Friday, January 9th as the Macworld Expo was closing the doors. The show starts off at Mel’s Diner, and wraps up in the press room.
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Today’s show kicks off with the Macworld Staff, as well as the iProng Magazine staff, talking about the day. Segments include Toon Boom, an interview with Paul at Rogue Amoeba, Andreas Hass of Axiotron, Bruce Gee from GeeThree.com, an interview with Andy Taylor, CEO of MacSpeech.