Tag Archives: Mac OS X

Your own hard-assed training coach

I still practice my music on a daily basis. Sometimes I have a few hours, most times I have less than one, but I still try to pick up the guitar and the double bass for at least a little bit each day.

When I was in college, I would create detailed lists of the exercises and pieces that I had to practice every day. When the list began to get incredibly long, I had to start budgeting my time and assigning a time limit to each activity, just to make sure that I’d get to it and still have time for everything else. I would sometimes create sessions that would span up to an eight hour period if I could afford the time, and would mix up my routines with breaks and stretching, studying, and even how much time I was allowed to eat. It kind of went over the top there for a while, but the basic idea of creating a structured practice plan has always stuck with me.

Lately as I get more and more into my daily music activities, I have found myself again starting to work off practice schedules. Time could not be more limited. Between working full time, hanging out with my wife and kids, and taking care of all the other daily needs of modern life, I find my available practice time becoming shorter and shorter. That’s why it is even more important to ensure that I have an efficient, timed schedule for everything I need to cover. If you just flop around on the instrument for a half hour, you’re going to go nowhere.

One thing that I had always hoped for was an integrated practice coach sort of software application. Something that would let me list a series of tasks with timed intervals, and it would be oh-so-cool if it would turn into a Dr. Beat or something.

Well thankfully someone has come up with the task/time component. Enter FlexTime. The developer describes it thusly:

FlexTime turns your Mac into a hard-assed training coach for whatever it is that you do.

This is exactly what I needed. I had actually been trying to scrap together something for myself in a more web-2.0-ey vein by incorporating some of this functionality in a PHP/MySQL/JavaScript/Ajax sort of thing, but really this is almost exactly what I need to maximize my practice efficiency, and it’s pretty much ready to go here and now.

Why aren’t you practicing?

Two Steps Back

I’m deeply concerned for Apple’s lip service to web standards support in their latest suite of products.

First of all, the iPhoto 6 RSS generation is invalid, proprietary, Safari/Apple-only code. Let me get out my yea flag and give it a wave. I’ll use that feature approximately never. What is the point of sharing your photos if almost everyone you know does not use Safari? I love Safari – I love it’s support for standards and it’s ease of use. But let’s be realistic here with iPhoto and photoblogging. Do we want to be able to use and enjoy photoblogging and share it with everyone? Or do we want to create a proprietary, useless piece of technology that only a very few people will be able to experience? The last thing I want to explain to people is “Oh, I created this with a Mac and that’s why you can’t see it.” Does not sound like happy, positive word-of-mouth marketing to me…

Next up is the travesty that is the .Mac blog. Bask in the aqua glow of those horizontal scroll bars. View source and see the horror of dozens of inline CSS styles applied liberally to empty div tags. This is worse than the HTML 3 font tag madness and completely misses the point and exposes a deep misunderstanding of what web standards were meant for. What is most frightening is that the document almost validates against XHTML 1.0 Transitional. It’s as if they inserted all this crap-generating tools and kept running it against the validator, just to say “hey, it validates!”, without understanding that the XHTML is supposed to be simple and meaningful.

Extra credit goes to the .Mac blog’s title props: “Blog”. Well done. Does anyone care that this is a public-facing website for a prominent and trend-setting company?

Most disturbing is the core of this issue, which is the .Mac blog’s creator. Let me direct the audiences attention to line six of the source code:

<meta name=”Generator” content=”iWeb 1.0.0″>

Which means that there is this software thing that is made to be openly placed into the hands of idiots, that is going to create highly-bollocksed-up code that makes FrontPage look like the W3 brain trust.

Lord help us all.

If there is such a thing as Web 2.0, I am sure that this is not part of it.

Chewing Fedora

I guess it’s time to eat my hat. Apple did come out with a pro laptop. Didn’t think that one would make the cut quite so early. Kudos to Apple for keeping that one under wraps. The new rumor of a Mac-powered HDTV plasma display was kind of exciting – I only heard about that one the day before, but it sounded awfully tempting.

What I don’t get is the branding change. PowerBook has been such a dominant brand name – why change it. Isn’t MacBook kind of dorky?

Also interesting: The initial release of only a 15″ model. Will we see again the ultra-portable 12″ or the Cadillac-sized 17″ units?

Most interested to know how apps such as Dreamweaver, Zend Studio, Photoshop, and Fireworks will perform via Rosetta, or if they’re going to be native any time soon. Other apps that aren’t so processor intensive won’t worry me too much, but I gotta code fast and not wait all night for basic graphics processing.

Love the MagSafe Connector power management. I just munched a connector to a power cable yesterday. I’ve been through several of those power supplies due to mishaps, and almost lost a PowerBook or two…

About the Optical Digital Audio: Finally a real portable PowerBook oops, I mean MacBook Pro digital recording studio possibility. I have a goal to rig a machine for recording digital audio directly. This is great. I would seriously would like to use a PowerBook as a mobile mixing board for recording Yingwen’s student recitals and my own gutar and double bass solos. All I want is a good stereo mic with a nice boom stand and some bonehead software to run the recording and convert to MP3 or AAC.

I love the inclusion of the remote. Instant presenter platform. Saw Keynote in action today again too – I’m impressed with it, and the combination of the two is very compelling to someone like myself that does a lot of training and presentations. Add in the inclusion of the iSight camera right in the body of the machine and you might be able to do some interesting stuff over the interent. Something like: (slides + video + wifi) - cables = happy_presenter.

Wow – no more PowerBook brand name then eh? Weird.

Just one more thing…

And the most interesting Apple development of all for today? Apple’s website now requires a browser maximized at 1024 x 768 pixels. Eeentresting…. Gotta push people to upgrade to those bigger better screens I suppose…

Finale PrintMusic: Can’t RTFM?

This is such a simple thing, and I call this a major oversight on the part of the software vendor: I kept getting errors when trying to access the user manual or tutorials from within Finale PrintMusic 2006, getting errors that read something like “Could not open PMTOC.pdf”. I found the file after a quick search via Spotlight on my machine and it launched into Preview as this is the default Mac OS X handler for PDF. I got a table of contents, but it was only that. None of the links worked and it was essentially useless. I then noticed that the entire documentation was broken out into separate files. Linking to other local files apparently isn’t supported in Preview, or it doesn’t use the same protocol as Adobe Reader. Would have been better to make one PDF document, where anchors are supported in both Reader and Preview.

I hate Adobe Reader (and when the hell did they start calling it “Reader” instead of “Acrobat Reader”), but I suspected that this wasn’t going to work otherwise. There was no readme file to suggest that Acrobat was a requirement, so I’m guessing at this point. I grudgingly went and downloaded the Acrobat Reader from the Adobe site and installed it, and I’d like to take a moment to lament on Acrobat Reader’s strange installer: You download a download utility and it downloads another installer. Geeks will say “WTF? OK, whatever…” Non-geeks will just wonder what happened and why they still can’t open PDFs. Just make one installer, or one binary app that can be dragged to one’s hard drive.

And now everything works fine, except I have an extra PDF-reading program that I hoped I would never need.

Documentation has always been a tough subject. We have seen the demise of printed manuals. Electronic equivalents have been formatted to PDF, HTML, Flash, and so on, and sent to browsers, PDF readers, operating system help programs, or displayed within the programs own constructs. Vendors often will switch the tools they use, and wildly, between software version releases. It’s nutty how many ways it can exist, and I don’t know of any solution to this madness or even if there is one. My favorite method is the style that is used by PHP, complete and updated frequently as it lives online, with printer-friendly formatting and downloadable archives, and a number of freely-available tools that make it easy to use including Dashboard and Konfabulator Widgets.

DW8

What I love about the new Macromedia Dreamweaver 8:

  • The Mac installer is a smaller download than the windows version.
  • CSS code completion improvements
  • PHP coder improvements and support for PHP5
  • Improved CSS rendering
  • CSS visualization of margins and padding
  • Faster than the last version
  • Background file operations
  • Document tabs and window management commands like Tile, Cascade, and Save Panel Layout Sets – oh my.
  • The full studio comes with a Contribute 3 license.
  • Improved support for web standards
  • Find diffs using integrated BBEdit or opendiff

Best version of Dreamweaver. Ever.