Archive for November, 2007

Amazon: Unbox me, please!

November 19, 2007
Photo 86

I’m a big fan of the TV shows Battlestar Galactica and Heroes. Unfortunately, as I live in Norway, we get new episodes of these shows a long time after they have aired in the US. For instance, while season 3 of Battlestar Galactica concluded in the States in March, we are still getting Season 2 over here.

Of course, in this day and age, watching TV shows on a TV set as they are being broadcast is a bit old-fashioned. However, if you want to view them the legal way, it seems to be the only option here in Norway – and that means waiting for ages before new episodes get here.

Amazon sells movies and TV shows online through their Unbox service. It is reasonably priced, but encumbered with annoying DRM and works only on Windows. Still – if it was possible for me to get shows there, I would give it a go. Problem is, they sell only to US consumers. Why? I guess selling worldwide online would cannibalize sales of the shows to channels in other parts of the world – particularly as long as they broadcast stuff so late. Why isn’t stuff broadcast simulatenously worldwide? I have no idea. Doesn’t make sense to me.

In any event, those sales are already being threatened big time by free downloads of TV shows. I would say that 75-80% of people my age watch far more TV by downloading it than by following a broadcast. The reasons are obvious – you can view it when you want to, there are no ads, and if you want to view the episode now and not in six months, it is your only option.

Hopefully the TV companies are beginning to realize what’s happening. I’m willing to pay something like 2-4$ for an episode of Battlestar Galactica provided it is fresh, the technical quality good and the DRM absent. We’re talking cash cow keen to be milked here – right now their high-quality content is being given away to lots of consumers who are willing to pay for it if given the opportunity.

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How do I move the focus to a popup dialog in OS X – using the keyboard? [Updated!]

November 7, 2007

Just can’t get there with the keyboard!
Ahrg – just can’t get there!

Update 11/11/07:
Previously, I posted that I couldn’t get to all dialogs using the keyboard (read more for details). Thanks to Archie on the Apple Discussions forum, I have now learned a workaround.

The VoiceOver utility has a function called Window Chooser. By turning on VoiceOver (in Universal Access), you can get to Window Chooser by pressing Ctrl+Option and hitting F2 twice. Cumbersome – but it works. Another workaround is to enable Mouse Keys and navigate the mouse cursor using the keyboard.

Of course, both of these solutions are rather hopeless – this is one of those keyboard accessability things Apple should just fix, for instance by including all windows spawned by an application in the Command+> sequence.

This is the scenario: I am installing something on my Mac that requires administrator privilegies, and I am doing it with my keyboard only. After agreeing to terms and conditions, a popup window comes up, asking me to verify that I am an administrator.

Accidentally, I task-switch to a different application.

Now – how do I get back to the Authenticate dialog, using the keyboard?

The popup dialog can’t be reached via command+tab, is not visible via Expose, and is not a sub-window of the installer process that spawned it, so I cannot get there with command+>. Seems to me like a good example of poor usability in OS X.

I haven’t been able to figure this out – I would be very grateful for any ideas!

The wonders of modern advertising – Amazon and Gmail

November 4, 2007

I have had this happen to me three times now, and I just have to let it out somewhere.

Had what happen to me?

Well, intelligent advertising! The first two times was Amazon e-mailing me about 1) a new U2 live concert DVD that I didn’t even know existed, and 2) a new Buzz! PS2 game, which I also di not know of. I bought 1) but skipped 2) after reading some reviews – but I was still very happy about being given relevant information.

Now it just happened again – I was shopping at Threadless (a pleasure), and it occurred to me that they probably have some good competitors online – firms I have never bothered to look for. Then the confirmation e-mail from them arrived (I ordered the “Cupid Stupid” shirt), and lo! What advertising am I treated to in Gmail, immediately above the Threadless mail? An ad for Deadblog, an Icelandic firm selling (rather depressing) t-shirts. Again, useful information! Who would have thought this in 1999?!

Reducing your data traffic costs on the iPhone – Google Mobilizer

November 4, 2007

I have a few friends who are using unlocked iPhones. Since they have “normal” (read: expensive) data rates on their mobile subscriptions, using the iPhone to surf online over EDGE/GPRS can be quite expensive.

As they didn’t know about this little trick to reducing your data transfer costs, I thought I should mention it here.

Google Mobilizer works by taking a web address as an input and converting it to a “mobile friendly” format. Basically, this means that it strips the page of formatting and reduces the size of images (and trashes the layout in the process). In other words, it works a bit like Opera Mini – only way less elegant (particularly compared to the beta of Opera Mini 4).

Give it a go: Google Mobilizer. I would suggest entering your favourite websites via Mobilizer and then bookmarking them for easy, mobilized access. Switch off images for extra savings and quicker pageloads – useful considering the slowness of EDGE.

If you have a handset that allows you to install Java apps, you should definitely try Opera Mini! The best thing to come out of Norway since, eh, the cheese slicer. Or something like that. (I’m hoping for a iPhone version of Opera Mini soon.)