26 November 2007

Ordered an Amazon Kindle

I bit the bullet and ordered up an Amazon Kindle ebook reading device. I'm a big reader and this thing has serious appeal. As Don MacAskill says, I am often into several books at a time, and don't know what mood I'll be in, so when traveling it's hard to trim down the list to something easy to travel with.

I am also very intrigued by its ability to send documents to it, in particular PDF. The PDF translation (to the MOBI format the Kindle needs) is apparently not perfect, but this is huge, as it'll allow me to take all the ebook versions of tech books I have and use with me. I always have these on my laptop, but there are times when I want to actually sit down and read some of them (as opposed to just do a quick lookup while coding).

It's pretty promising, and I promise to review it once I have it, which won't be for a few weeks (mid-December is my approx ship date).

17 November 2007

Killer New Cooking Tools

Well, really, I hope they aren't actually "killer", but I am talking about knives, and spinning blades...

I recently attended a knife skills class, and during the class got to try a slew of different types and brands of knives. I came away very impressed with Shun knives. Great feel, cut briliantly, and the food just falls off - no need for the hokey hollow ground divots, etc. Also, I was able to try the "Ken Onion" Shun knife in particular. This knife has a specially designed bolster/handle area, where your fingers can sit in the proper style. It also rocks really well while cutting. And technically, there is a whole range of Ken Onion knives know, it just seems that this one was the first and thus is what folks refer to as the Ken Onion.

A few weeks later I picked up a Ken Onion, a paring knife, and their cool new serrated "Ultimate utility knife" (I couldn't find this on Shun's site, so the link is to the online store of the place I bought it from). I also took in my Wusthof Grand Prix knifes to be sharpened. These have been great knives, but I actually think I will sell the two cook's knives and paring knife now that I have the Shuns. Eventually I will replace the others as well.

I returned a bit later to pick up my Wusthof's, and low and behold, the Shun rep was there for the day. I talked to him for maybe 10 minutes (I was actually in a hurry at the time). Luckily he clued me in that "diamond fingers" sharpeners, which work rally well on German/stainless steel, shouldn't be used on VG10 steel of Shun knives. I thus got Shun's sharpening steel, which handily has a properly angled bolster on it to help you be certain you are maintaining the proper angle on your edge.

Finally, somewhere in all this, I also picked up a Viking immersion/hand blender. I got a chance to use it for the first time tonight, and WOW, that thing rocks! Made itself worth it in one use. I was making potato leek soup, which needs to get pureed, and previously I had to do this by taking stuff out in batches and putting it in a food processor/blender - a total pain. With the immersion blender, obviously, you just pop the thing in the soup pot, and blend for seconds (it probably took me 20 seconds). This is going to be one nice addition to the kitchen tool chest.

Oh, one note on the Viking vs. others. The Viking is extra powerful and has two speed settings. The first speed setting is what most immersion blenders can dole out, the second is turbo. Also, it's blade guard/bottom area is a nice design that lets the food flow out much better than many of the others that have holes, but where those holes aren't open to the bottom. It also comes with a whisking attachment, and others are available (I got a mini-chopper one with mine due to a current promotion).

12 November 2007

Open Source, Linux-based, New Wireless Protocol Bike Computer

This is really amazing - an open source, Linux based, bike computer/cyclometer, that does GPS, heart rate, power metering, and all the usual other cyclometer stuff (speed, distance, etc.). The system is fully hackable, an intended to be hacked. They are also using Ant +Four, which is like Bluetooth for bikes. I blogged about this more, including the link to the video showing it, the company, etc, etc., on my Mountain Monkeys blog. Check it out, quite cool.

11 November 2007

What Leopard Changed for Me

I've been running Leopard for about two weeks or so now. It has not been the usual OS update where it has some nice eye candy improvements and some underpinning changes, but doesn't essentially affect the apps I run. Leopard has directly impacted the apps I run. There are also some that I've chosen not to switch to.


But first, wow, the little printed booklet that comes with Leopard... wow, a) I actually read it, and b) the info in it was actually useful! Hath hell froze over?! Printed documentation of value?! Woah nelly! Even better, it was short, easy to read, and to the point, with almost zero fluff. Way to go Apple.

The app changes...

Not a lot, but a couple key ones. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am no longer using Path Finder, because regular Finder has some great improvements, picks up some of the key features I used Path Finder for, and it eliminates needing an additional app, that didn't integrate as seamlessly as you'd hope.

Update (12 Nov 2007): A new version of Path Finder has been released that integrates MUCH better with Leopard, including supporting Quick View, and having an "Open in Finder" replacement that works completely. I'll have to see if I go back again to using Path Finder...

Second is iChat. The jury is still out on this one to be honest, but the fact that you can now login to multiple accounts on a single network (Jabber for me), all the video and screen sharing enhancements, and again, one less app to install and keep up to date, has led me to stop using Adium for now. We'll see. I've tried before, and iChat was not up to par, but this time it's looking like a replacement.

Other bits... Stacks are pretty cool, especially when you add overlays to keep them straight. Quick View rocks. Safari is definitely better, and thankfully the one feature Safari cannot seem to implement, for who knows what reason, is still solved by Saft. This is the feature of it remembering all the tabs you had open when you close the browser, and re-opening it with that. Saft also adds a great feature, which is to allow you to edit Text Area's with your favorite editor. This is key for me (I use(d) a similar plugin with Firefox).

What hasn't changed...

Time Machine. Yep, I am not a convert. Admittedly I haven't looked at every option, etc., but I'm a Super Duper! fan. Why? First I don't really need multiple revisions of files - any files I do need that for are already in a version control system. Second, one of the key features of Super Duper (or similar) backups, is that I have a complete clone of my drive, that I can boot off of. This has saved me a few times. What happens if your hard drive goes bad or something happens to your system. Fine, you restore from backup. But, what if you are in a time bind and you really need access to your files? Well, you can just boot off your backup, work there for a short bit, and then perform your restore/redo when time permits. No biggy. Yes, you lose whatever was changed between the time you did you clone backup and the current time, but for me that is often very little (due to what really matters being in version control, or being backed up by Jungle Disk every 15 minutes).

I still don't use Apple Mail. In fact, these days I don't use a desktop mail program, or rather, one that I POP or IMAP mail with. I use Mailplane, and all my email accounts are Gmail accounts (I have a half dozen or more at this point). Works extremely well for me.


The blog post, Dock Stack Overlays on the XD blog is really cool. It shows you how to put an overlay icon on your dock stacks, so that you always know which stack is which. This is incredibly useful if you use stacks (or more than one stack anyway). Great stuff.

10 November 2007

New Tools

I've been using a few new tools lately, and also got rid of one I've used a long time. First up, now that I'm running Leopard on my Macs, I've found I just don't need or want Path Finder. Path Finder has been great, I've used it for a few years now. But, with the new features in Finder, and the niggling issues I've had with Path Finder, it was finally time to end my use. The Finder's new sidebar, stacks, quick look, and the fact that you can show the directory path at the bottom of Finder windows (this was a big-little feature in Path Finder for me), brought me back to using it.

Update (12 Nov 2007): A new version of Path Finder has been released that integrates MUCH better with Leopard, including supporting Quick View, and having an "Open in Finder" replacement that works completely. I'll have to see if I go back again to using Path Finder...

Some new tools, both web and Mac that I've been using a fair bit lately include:

Mind Meister

I haven't used mind mapping tools much in the past. I've tried various ones several times, but they either were too cumbersome, too slow, or just didn't seem useful. I found out about MindMeister from someone on Twitter, and have a couple mind maps running on it now. I'm also collaborating on one of them with others. MM is fairly preferment, quite easy to use, nice to look at, and the collaboration bit is super nice. I'd like to see them add a way to insert a URL/link, where that link could be clicked on, but that's about the only issue I have so far. Interesting to note, if you get the Premium account (a measly $4/month!), they have offline editing. They are using Google Gears for this. Another intriguing bit is that they have an API. I haven't looked into this yet, or haven't thought about how I'd use it, but I always like to see services that have this as an option.

Mars Edit 2

The 2.0 version, now produced by Red Sweater Software is quite nice. In days of old, I'd preferred ecto, but this new version is simple, effective, fast, and quite nicely, has great Flickr integration. I've been using Flickr quite a bit, especially with my other blog, and often put multiple photos in a post. Mars Edit makes this trivial.


Navicat is a GUI database tool. I used to use CocoaMySQL, and YourSQL and such on Mac, but YourSQL doesn't seem to work these days, and CocoaMySQL seems out of date, and I think wasn't under development anymore(?). Navicat, while a commercial product, has been rock solid, and I've found to be quite useful. Admittedly, I use it a lot of simple browsing, simple queries and value changes, etc., but the dependability and quality of it have kept it in my tool chest (and got me to buy it). One other nice thing here is that while it has a real Mac UI, it is a tool also available on Linux and Windows.


Acorn is a slick, simple new image editor by Gus Mueller of Flying Meat Software (likely better known for VoodooPad). It's extremely fast to load up, and I'm finding it's my top pick to do things like saving images in another format (if they aren't in my Lightroom library - otherwise I use Lightroom), make minor tweaks, crops, etc. The speed is one of the best things - it launches super fast, and is very fast to use, so it's an excellent tool for quick work. Interesting note: you can write plugins in Python or Objective-C.

Pack Rat

I use 37 Signals Backpack extensively. It's my GTD system, and I keep tons of notes and information I need in it. Backpack's web interface is somewhat slow, especially if you switch between various pages a lot (and don't want to keep said pages in lots of browser tabs). I have a half completed AIR app to be my Backpack client, but Pack Rat seems to be the ticket now. It has synchronization, offline editing, and so on. I am sold, and have essentially not used my browser for Backpack since.

Panic Sans font

Last, but certainly not least, is the Panic Sans font. This is a fixed width font, great for coding. I've been using the Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font for quite some time, but Duncan's recent post about this discovered a few new ones. Panic Sans is actually a font found inside the Coda app's package. It's very similar to Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, but slightly nicer. Duncan's post has good info in that particular post, but also see some of his followup posts on the subject.

What's new in your tool chest?

07 November 2007

lselect: great Finder toolbar addition

lselect is a really handy Finder toolbar addition. It lets you select files, in Finder, using globs, just as you would on the command line. On the lselect page, if you download the "lselect-toolbar-app.zip", expand that somewhere (e.g. where they suggest on the web page), then drag it up to your Finder's toolbar to add it. Now, wherever you are in Finder, if you click this new toolbar button, it'll show you a dialog that lets you type in a glob pattern, and will then select all the files in your current location based on that glob. Pretty slick.

05 November 2007

WBC Champ Makes More Coffee Than Espresso - What's Happening?!

In Jimseven's (aka James Hoffman) latest blog entry, he says that he makes very little espresso these days in comparison to how much Chemex or press coffee he makes. This caught my attention as he's mentioned the Chemex a lot. I of course take note, given that this guy (jimseven is James Hoffman) is the 2007 World Barista Champion. Not that baristas don't make "regular coffee", but the WBC is all about espresso, and so on.

I like experimenting, and am tempted to get a Chemex just to see, but it seems almost every time I drink "coffee", it is rarely enjoyable (of course most espresso from cafes here in the US at least sucks as well). The other thing that is a big discussion in the coffee world these days is the Clover machine, which is basically sort of like an espresso machine, but for coffee, in that it makes one cup of coffee at a time, with grounds made separately, measured precisely, and so on. Some of the higher end coffee houses are getting them (Ritual in SF had one when I was there a few weeks ago, so I got to see it in person ;-) They are also a machine you can put on the net, and you can have it track all the coffees you make, as well as program it with various settings so you can just say, make a #3, which you know is all the settings you use with a particular coffee, etc. I think the machines cost several thousand bucks, so they aren't likely a home machine (and they may require a water connection). Of course Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek doesn't really like Clover coffee, for many of the same reasons I tend to not like coffee in general, which is that he claims it has almost no "body".

That's like coffee in general for me, in that espresso is this complete mouth experience, in that it has real density to it, and does all sorts of things to your tongue, much in the same way wines do, etc. Maybe I've just had too few good cups of "coffee", but coffee usually just winds up tasting like flavored brown water to me, as opposed to a liquid in its own category.

Note, I mean no offense at any of this, as one thing I love about the coffee world is the range of different preparations and opinions on what is great, etc. So, any of you espresso lovers out there, should I bother trying a Chemex?