Archive for July, 2006

BBC starts video podcasting

July 29, 2006

Happy news! BBC News are publishing video podcasts of some of their material. I’m watching Newsnight on my second monitor right now. I have to say, this is a big part of the future of TV, especially for news, weather reports and the like. I don’t even have a TV – but if I did, it is unlikely I would abandon my computer to go stare at it.

Getting downloads of the best broadcasts to my computer, where I can watch them whenever I like and forward through uninteresting stuff – that’s something else. Norwegian state broadcaster NRK has been doing this in various forms for some time; it’s great to see an international broadcaster doing it. And I have to thank the British tax payers for financing such great shows. (Apart from the stuff that’s podcast – who haven’t watched downloaded copies of Top Gear?)

If you think it sucks to pay, while we get it for free – don’t worry about it. It’s really an awesome way to spread British culture – as well as knowledge, common sense and fun – around the world. Hopefully we’ll see more of the BBC’s programming made available in this fashion!

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When stuff just works: Moving from Thunderbird on Windows XP to Thunderbird on OS X

July 29, 2006

I’ve been using Gmail for a while now, but I like to have an offline backup of all my stuff – you never know. I’ve been using Thunderbird for this purpose, but I recently got a MacBook and only now got around to the problem of transferring my offline mail to it.

Every time I’ve switched computers, backing up and moving data has been a chore. Considering that I was moving between operating systems, I was fearing the worst.

Turns out I had no reason to worry – I just fired up Tbird in OS X, let it create a profile with an IMAP account (I have both IMAP and POP3 accounts), quit Tbird, and copied my Mail and ImapMail folders from the XP Thunderbird mail directory (under Application Data/Thunderbird/Profiles) into the corresponding directory in OS X (user/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles). Then I started Thunderbird, all my mail was available – the IMAP mail in the IMAP folder and the rest under Local Folders.

I wish all import/export/transfer/backup/restore operations were this simple!

Mac OS X annoyances: What’s up with the mouse acceleration?

July 22, 2006

I bought a MacBook a few weeks ago, and I’m generally happy with it. However, it does have its faults, and being a long-time Windows user, there are quite a few features I miss in OS X. Today’s specimen is the weird mouse handling of OS X.

OS X is a lot less keyboard-friendly than Windows XP. One example is how you can navigate in application menus in Windows – you simply press the Alt key, and focus is moved to the menu bar. All menus now have a letter underlined in their name, so you can navigate to the menu with the arrow keys or just by pressing the underlined key. After opening that menu, you can navigate inside it in the same fashion. This is not always a perfect solution, but it’s better than OS X. I have to press Ctrl + F2 to get into the menu, which is more cumbersome than just pressing Alt. Then it is possible to use keys to jump directly to menus, but there is no visual indication of this feature. (I should probably mention that using the keyboard in this fashion in OS X is not the default – it must be enabled in the System Preferences / Keyboard and Mouse settings.)

Back to today’s topic: Mouse acceleration. Since the keyboard shortcuts aren’t as efficient as I’d like them to be, I use the mouse more than I would in XP. The problem is that it handles really badly. It is a bit tough to explain, but in Windows, there’s a setting for mouse acceleration. Meaning: How fast does the cursor move when you start to move the mouse?

In Windows, the cursor is very responsive, and relatively little effort is required to move it. In comparison, the OS X cursor feels light, but sticky. And at first sight, there is nothing to do about this.

Happily, there are settings for these things in the OS X mouse driver – they are just not exposed to the user via the GUI. Through Google, I found a free application called mousefix, which attempts to adjust the settings in the mouse driver. It alleviates this problem, but unfortunately doesnt’ fix it completely.

Check it out: http://www.knockknock.org.uk/mac/

My life would really be so much better if the OS X design team could copy a few features from the Windows XP design. Next time: How on earth can I right-click (bring up the contextual menu) in OS X Finder using only my keyboard?

Dell Inspiron 6400 emitting loud beep when connecting to the wireless network

July 18, 2006

Margrethe has had a curious issue with her new Dell laptop – when she has put it to sleep and resumed working, it has made a loud beep when re-connecting to the wireless network. After googling around a bit, I found a few possible solutions to this problem, one of which we’ve tried and seems to be working this far.

1) Open Intel PRO/Wireless (the application controlling your wireless adapter, running in the system tray in the bottom right corner, it’s a green, fan-like icon showing the connection quality). Go to the Tools menu and enter Application settings. There are a number of checked boxes under “Alerts” – un-check them and click “OK”. This seems to be working on this system so far.

2) If that fails, you can try to disable the built-in beeper (speaker). Your PC would be unable to beep, but other sound should work. Go to the Start menu -> Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager. In the list, double-click “System devices”. Somewhere in that list, you should find “System speaker”. Right-click it and choose “disable”.

These tips were gleaned from a thread over at the NotebookReview forums: Very useful thread on the beep “problem” / feature affecting Dell Inspirons.

Hope this helps someone!

In an unspecified future post: A review of my MacBook!

PS: The Inspiron 6400 is in general a nice machine. This particular example of the species has got integrated graphics and the cheapest screen – at the price, it’s a well-rounded machine. Its main negatives are size/weight. The large battery option is well worth it – an actual battery life of 4 – 5 hours is great!

The shortest Nintendo DS Lite / Brain Training review ever

July 9, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a DS Lite with the games Brain Training and WarioWare. The only game I´ve really played is Brain Training, and here´s the DS Lite / Brain Training verdict:

It rocks.

The DS Lite has gorgeous looks and bright screens. The handwriting recognition works quite well in Brain Training, which is a fun game – with a few exceptions. To those who know nothing about the game, it is a kind of maths / logic training game. Among the exercises you can run through are simple maths problems, sudoku puzzles, keep track of how many people are in the house as some leave and some enter continously and speak the colour of the word currently displayed (typically, the word “black” is written in yellow font).

The biggest problem with this game is that it is too talky – Dr. Kawashima, who is behind the brain training theory used in the game, insists on talking and talking and talking and talking, and you have to tap your way through it, talking bubble by talking bubble. It doesn´t keep me from playing, though. Also, I would have liked to have support for more than 4 profiles (they are used for tracking your progress in the game).

Overall, I really recommend Brain Training if you, well, enjoy training your brain!

I´ll make sure I post some pictures of the DS Lite alongside my black MacBook soon… :)