The MacWindows Future of JAA

Posted in Random on June 12th, 2010 by ab

I haven’t written very much lately, as my travels and day job have worn me out.  However, it’s a big day.  I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Toronto trying to get a feel for my new MacBook Pro.   Even though it’s only day 1 (well day 2 if you count the flight), I can see that this is going to change how this blog continues forward.

Why?  Well I’m learning!  Apple is not my strong suit and everything is new.  That said, every feature pleasantly surprises me.  Each time I think “there must be a way to…”, I stumble upon what I’m looking for, amazed that it’s there, without code or effort.  What had worried me about the transition was this: I’m a pretty geeky dude.  Won’t it be hard to transition the hard stuff from Windows to Mac?  The answer?  Not even a little bit.

Google Calendar and Gmail were both quick to setup (a Google search put me on the right path).  Microsoft Office was a simple install.  My programming environment in Windows (Komodo Edit) is available for Mac, so no transition there.   Skype and Dropbox were the same story.  To be honest, if we discount the time for my downloads, I’ve probably set the entire machine up, super-user environment and all in less than 3 hours.  That even includes the time I’ve spent playing with it… Pretty amazing.

Given the fun I’m having, I’ve decided that just an asterisk is going to follow me on my new adventure into Mac land, writing about the land of the apple from the big apple.  That said, my day job still requires a PC and I’m sitting on a ton of windows hardware, so JAA will have to be about more than just the domain of Steve Jobs.  We’ll see where the balance lies after a few months…

I guess this is really a post about posts that I’ll write in the future.  Keep an eye out for a Mac post soon and feel free to send questions to ab@justanasterisk.com.  I’d love to have ideas of what to try next.  We’ll explore this lovely transition together.

Best,

~ab

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Autohotkey Script – send email to Google Calendar!

Posted in Random on February 20th, 2010 by ab

I received a request from Dave on this one Thanks Dave! – and I couldn’t resist trying to do it. Here is the Frankenstein-like result:

What the program does

This program is for emailing new events to your Google Calendar. It checks your Gmail account for new events that were sent to a special label every ten seconds. It can only process one calendar entry every ten seconds (but if you’r emailing in more than that, it’s pretty impressive and you are far too busy to be playing with my software).

I couldn’t find any 3rd party services that do this, so I had to improvise using AutoHotKey and a script I wrote previously for quick adding events to Google calendar.  The result is a bit rickety, but it does the job. Improvements may or may not occur over time and currently it does not work with google apps (although it couldn’t be that hard to fix this).

Setup

It requires three pieces of setup (these are the defaults which can be modified if you know how to script):

1. Create a Gmail filter that puts take email sent to youraddress+jaacal@gmail.com into a new folder/label called jaacal.  You can also say skip the inbox so these emails don’t clutter things up.

2. Download the zip file from this link – Email to Google Calendar (689) – and unpack it to a directory of your choosing.

3. Change the logon.txt file to include your email, your user name (email without @gmail.com) and your password.  Make sure you keep this file in the same folder as the EXE file.

Workin’ it

Once you’ve done these three steps, run the EXE file and walk away.  Send an email with your quick add text in the subject line to the address above and it will appear on your calendar within about 20 seconds. An example of a quick add subject line could be something like dinner with Dave to thank him for such a good idea tommorrow 10pm.  It doesn’t matter what you put in the body, the program will just ignore it.

Download Email to Google Calendar (689)

And that’s about it! Let me know your thoughts at ab@justanasterisk.com or in the comments.

~ab

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Nexus One vs iPhone 3Gs: Nexus One Flexes, Sends iPhone Running for its Money

Posted in Feature, Hardware, Software, video, Web on February 6th, 2010 by jp
Google Nexus One

If you’re trying to decide between the hot new Nexus One vs. the iPhone 3Gs, here’s the skinny on what sets them apart. Both phones sport the aesthetic appeal of that sleek “wow” factor sheen, but there are a few differences you should know about which may make one a better fit for your needs than the other. Read more »

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Things I don’t want to (or simply shouldn’t) write about – Jan 31 2010

Posted in Q&A on January 31st, 2010 by ab

Dear reader,

In a discussion about possible posts with some colleagues, I realized that there were subjects that you might want to know that I either don’t want to or simply shouldn’t write about.  I say shouldn’t because it’s not an area of expertise or more realistically – someone has already written about it better than I ever could. This post will be a mishmash of links to sites that do what I don’t.  Hopefully, it will provide useful reading.

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Prezi.com is a prezi for presentations…

Posted in Software on January 25th, 2010 by ab

Tired of PowerPoint? Want a simple online alternative that beats Google Presentations? Checkout Prezi.com. I won’t write much more about it – you can see my demo presentation embeded below.

Good luck!!!

~ab

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Send SMS via Google Talk

Posted in Web on January 17th, 2010 by admin

Sometimes a good tip is worth sharing, even if it’s not really large enough for a full post. Blog fashion police be damned, I’m writing it anyway.

SMS (also known as texting) stands for short message service and has become more popular in the US than calling, a fact that was a surprisingly long time coming.  Although we’ve finally caught on to the trend, messages are still rather expensive if you don’t have an unlimited plan or are sending/receiving while out of country. Well there is a small solution built write into your Gmail account that you might not have found yet. Here are the steps to send text messages straight from Google talk!

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Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Posted in Web on January 3rd, 2010 by admin

If it doesn’t start there automatically, my favorite line from the 1989 Batman is “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” (at 1:17 into this trailer).  It’s just such a perfect description of how I find geek tools to be both empowering and entertaining.

A friend recently asked if I had any links to share and I thought I’d start the new year with a list of some of the blogs that I read.  My hope is this provides that answer to your question about my toys (yes in this fantasy, I am Batman). Read more »

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The iPod Touch – It’s not just about the music

Posted in Software on December 28th, 2009 by admin
UPDATE: iPods sold better than iPhones this Christmas!  Read about it here.

There is a purity to the idea of music as the primary goal for the iPod (the phrase “it used to be about the music” always reminds me of Almost Famous and this scene above).  I’ve written about the feature craziness of the iPhone (here), but recently got an iPod Touch for Xmas, so I thought I would try an experiment.  You see, the iPod touch really has only two features – it plays music and video, like any iPod these days, AND it has a WiFi connection, a feature that leads to all sorts of mischief.  I wondered what I could get up to with only the WiFi connection.  Would the device still be useful if it were not about the music at all?

The results were entertaining.  I spent my vacation downloading apps and trying to get as much mileage out of the Touch as I could.  In fact, I’ll give you a preview of the ending: it was a lot of fun.  Let the games begin…

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Flash drives as gifts with free software

Posted in Educational on December 13th, 2009 by ab

So your colleagues showed up at your desk with a bottle of beer or a Starbucks gift card or a little box with a bow and you’ve managed to suppress the BUT I DIDN’T GET YOU ANYTHING! for about the 10th time in one day.  Sigh… This is the holiday season in an office and although you love that people make the effort, you may feel a little overwhelmed buying even more presents (and for people you barely know outside of work).  The good news is that it’s completely avoidable.  You can arrive ready and not break the bank in the process.  The trick is to give everyone a custom tailored version of… the same thing.  This year, the price of digital media is so low, that I recommend a flash drive with portable apps.

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My new Picasa account (an open letter to my wife).

Posted in Software, Web on December 8th, 2009 by ab

My dear wife,

You were right.  It took me imagenearly a year, I swore up and down that my Flickr account was the bees knees, I wrote articles and explanations of how to use Flickr’s advanced tool set, and I ruined perfectly good cocktail party conversations, berating all services that did not stack up to my personal choice.

A year has gone by and now, like a dope, I have to reverse my position.  Why?  Because Picasa just changed the game, and I can no longer ignore the beautiful integration between Picasa and all my other apps.  Before I start into the details, this isn’t to say that Flickr is a bad service – it’s just no longer for me (yes I’m trying to save face – but let’s not write off Flickr entirely… there are too many devotees).

Without any more ado, here are the top 4 reasons I’ve decided to change over.

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