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A cold day in Hades?

Mighty Mouse imageIn case you missed the news, Apple today released Mighty Mouse, (no, not that one), the company's first-ever multi-button scrolling mouse! I haven't yet seen it in person (though I intend to visit a dealer today to check it out; they appear to be in stock at many places), but at first glance, it looks like (as is typical of Apple) the industrial design has been very well thought out.

No big huge scroll wheel, just a small scroll dot that enables scrolling in many directions (up, down, diagonally). Reversible buttons for left- and right-handed users. Touch-sensitive top buttons (left, right, and scroll), and a "force sensitive" side button -- note that though the images show two side buttons, Apple only claims four programmable buttons, so I think the two side buttons will act essentially as one button. The programming software is built right into the OS X Mouse & Keyboard control panel, and looks quite well thought out.

About the only downside I see is that this is not a wireless mouse (for now?); it's wired-only, which is a bit of a bummer -- I've grown quite fond of my wireless Microsoft Intellimouse. I'm not sure if this is a Bluetooth bandwidth limitation (as they don't want to introduce a USB-based plug-in remote device, I don't think), or just a packaging and/or time-to-market issue. Hopefully we'll see Mighty Mouse 2 with Bluetooth wireless connectivity sometime in the near future.

Even without wireless, though, this mouse looks like it could be a winner. I'll post an addendum here later today if I'm able to get some hands-on time with one in the store. And at $49, it's expensive, but not so much so that I'm not tempted to buy one!

But the real $64,000 question is ... when (if ever) will Apple make this the standard shipping mouse with new hardware purchases?



Separating the signal from the noise

Macworld logoSorry things have been so quiet around here lately. I've been caught up with relatives in town, creating and finishing my Macworld slides, and working through the first month of the Macworld transition (so far, so good, just lots of little things to work through).

Apple's recent release of iTunes 4.9 and the integration of podcasts into the Music Store got me thinking about the whole "podcast thing." I spent some time downloading, listening, and learning, and wrote about my experiences in a Macworld weblog. Hopefully people won't misinterpret my article as a slam on podcasting; that wasn't the intent. But clearly, I just don't get it ... so I asked folks to help me discover what it is I'm missing.

I'm still working on a couple other articles for here and/or the Macworld site, so hopefully the posting frequencey will pick up here in the near future -- but probably not until after Macworld Boston (July 11th through the 16th). Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

-rob.





My initial thoughts on Intel and Apple…

Macworld logoI wrote a weblog entry for Macworld covering my initial reactions to the announcement, as well as some thoughts as to what it might mean for the future. I've heard it called Macintel, but that seems to easy to me. Since it will have "Intel inside," I prefer Mintelac [min•tel•ak], since that's literally Intel inside Mac.

In short, I'm definitely excited about the potential, but quite scared about the transition ... you can read why in the full entry over at macworld.com.

[Note: I've disabled the comments for this article, as editorials such as this one are now actually part of my job for Macworld -- hence, I'd like any follow-up conversation to appear on Macworld, not here. Don't worry, my blog's not going away, and I'll still try to post here regularly. But there will be posts such as this, where the topic I wish to discuss is very closely aligned with my job, that will appear on my Macworld weblog instead -- I will always include a pointer to such articles here, though.]



Ten things I know about golf

When I have some free time (ha!), I enjoy playing golf. Despite the fact that I'm really not that good at it, I find it both relaxing and challenging. After a recent round, I was thinking about the sport, and came up with the following list of observations (and don't worry, this isn't turning into a sports blog; I've got a long writeup on Butler in the works! This was just top-of-mind last night...).

  1. If there's one spot on the fairway you don't want to be, that's where you'll find your drive.
  2. Golf balls have a strange magnetic attraction for water.
  3. Though it may appear the putt breaks left (right), it actually breaks right (left).
  4. If your irons (woods) are working really well today, your woods (irons) are not.
  5. If your score on the front nine is five shots better (worse) than your typical round, your score on the back nine will be at least five shots worse (better) than your typical round.
  6. If you consistently hit your 9-iron 150 yards, and you need to hit it at least 140 to carry the lake, you will hit it 139 yards.
  7. Trees may be 90% air, but your ball will hit that single, tiny, skinny branch sticking out roughly 99.5% of the time.
  8. When the Golf Gods force you to use five shots on a short 175 yard par three hole, then immediately let you use only three shots on the very next 440 yard par four, thou shalt not question the Golf Gods decision making process.
  9. The hardest shot in golf is your opening tee shot on a busy Sunday morning at the local course, where the crowded outdoor patio at the restaurant overlooks the first tee.
  10. If you ever stop to really consider what it takes to even make contact with a golf ball, you'll probably never hit one straight again.

Despite all this, I still find the game fun to play ... though I'm not sure why!



Free iTunes songs from Audi!

A3 PictureThe car in the picture is Audi's new A3, which just launched here in the USA. I was browsing Audi's site last night, looking for some info, when I stumbled onto a pretty cool promo ... Audi USA is offering this deal, but not for much longer:

Test drive an A3, and get 33 free iTunes songs!

This promo ends today, so if you've got any free time and a local Audi dealer (I have both today, luckily), it might be worth a lunchtime test drive. Just fill out the form, print the email you'll receive, then visit the dealer. I'm don't think I'm all that interested in the car, but heck, test driving new cars is always fun. Throw in $32.67 worth of free music, and I think it'll be worth the 45 minutes of sales pitch from the rep. Who knows, maybe I'll like the car, too! :)

Sorry for the short notice, but I just found out about this promo last night.



Multi-button mice are great timesavers

mouse picOne of the first things I tell new Mac users is to ditch the one-button mouse that Apple provides. Sure, it's simple and easy to use, but it also has limited power and you end up using way too many keyboard modifiers to get things done. There are lots and lots of multi-button mice out there, and all of them work (to at least some degree) with OS X: the second mouse button is functional by default, and will bring up the contextual menu -- that's the menu you normally reach with a control-click.

But for the most productive computing experience, find yourself a mouse that comes with OS X drivers, so that you can program all of the buttons. Logitech makes a full line of OS X-compatible mice, as do Kensington (wired, mobile) and Microsoft (check compatibility for each device; some are PC only). But this isn't a post about which mouse to use (I've chosen the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer, used for the icon in this story), but more a discussion on how to best put all those buttons to use once you have a multi-button mouse. So I thought I'd share my configuration, and ask what others might be using...

The Intellimouse Explorer has five buttons (two main buttons, a scroll wheel button, and two buttons under the thumb) plus a scroll wheel with "tilt" side-to-side scrolling. Here's how I have the five buttons set up:

  • Left button: Click
  • Right button: Control-click
  • Scroll wheel button: Dashboard (F12)
  • Top thumb button: Exposé all-windows mode (F9)
  • Bottom thumb button: Activate DejaMenu. If you haven't seen this handy little program, it's a huge timesaver. It puts any program's menubar one keyboard combo away -- no mousing required. I just assigned its keyboard combo to the thumb button, and presto, menus wherever I want them.

So that's how I have my mouse set up. I find it a huge timesaver, especially the thumb button tied to DejaMenu. No more wasted time moving to the top left to grab File when it's a simple mouse click away. In general, I love the mouse and I've gotten very used to how I've got it set up.

The one thing I find lacking in the Microsoft software is that you can't assign custom commands to modified button clicks -- i.e. I'd love to be able to assign Command-Option-button 4 to something other than the button 4 default. I think this should be possible, given that OS X can read command- and control-clicks, but Microsoft's software doesn't allow it.

Anyone else have any interesting configurations, and/or mouse recommendations?



Click [and click and click …] to install

Tiger boxIn comparison to other platforms, installing software on OS X is a breeze. Usually, you just drag and drop the program from the disk image to its destination, and you're done. Even some complex programs can be a snap to install -- Office 2004, for instance, has its installer hidden in its code, and it's smart enough to run the first time you launch any Office app. So even though it installs stuff to a bunch of places, it's transparent to the user.

The third option is Apple's installer, which helps guide the user through the software installation process. The installer is the ideal solution for programs that need to install things in many spots, and require administrative access to do so. And while using the installer is still a very simple process, I still find it a frustrating process at times.

As an example, consider my recent installation of a new version of Snapz Pro X, the indispensible screen capture tool. Please note that this is not intended to be a slam on Apple's installer or Snapz Pro X (which I rely on every day!). Rather, it's just an example of how the process can be a bit frustrating and confusing, along with a couple of suggested improvements.

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My favorite browser

Tiger boxQuite a few people seem interested in knowing which browser is "my favorite." I wish I had a simple answer for that question, but as of now, there's not just one. Before I get to my favorite browser(s), the macosxhints site has done some tracking of browser usage via the occasional poll. I've run a total of five polls regarding favored browsers since I launched the site. Below are the results for each, showing the top three in each poll, along with the percentage share for the winner.

  • Feb 2001: OmniWeb (41%), Internet Explorer, iCab. Note that the site was *very* young at this point, and the results were skewed as most of the readers were early OS X adaptors -- hence we all used the only (and best!) native browser of the day.
  • Jul 2002: Internet Explorer (40%), Mozilla, OmniWeb. The site has grown some now, and more typical users are visiting. IE takes the lead.
  • Feb 2003: Safari (59%), Chimera (nee Camino), Internet Explorer. Safari shipped in January, and by early February, it already had nearly 60% of the Hints readership.
  • Feb 2004: Safari (82%), Mozilla, Camino. Total dominance now. IE has vanished, with less than 2% reporting they use it.
  • Oct 2004: Safari (65%), Firefox, Camino. Firefox has emerged and made a pretty serious dent in Safari's domination (Firefox garnered 18% of the votes, which is basically what Safari lost from the prior poll). IE has dropped to 0.9% usage.

I should probably run another shortly; it's been over six months, and it would be interesting to see if Firefox has eaten away at more of Safari's lead. So enough of the history lesson ... which browser is my favorite?

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Should Apple applications be movable?

Tiger boxA quick entry tonight, just because the subject came up recently in this hint regarding iSync. In particular, the hint (and comments) note that iSync will fail if the application is moved into a directory whose name contains spaces. I had added an editor's aside about moving apps in OS X, and my personal belief that it's a Bad Thing to do. As noted in the second comment, it's not necessarily an issue with using applications -- they'll (more than likely) run fine from most any location. Instead, it's an issue with Apple's updaters failing if the application they update isn't in the usual spot.

Although it's my philosophy not to move Apple's applications around in OS X, that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. I have multiple partitions on my drive (partition vs. don't partition; that's a subject for another day!), and have one set up particularly for all my applications and utilities (called Apps). I put everything on that partition -- it makes it easier, for instance, to erase and install OS X if I have the need. As of result, the only things you'll find in my boot drive's Applications and Utilities folders are Apple's programs, along with anything that just won't run if it's located elsewhere (Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, for instance, fails if it's not in /Applications). Everything else lives on my Apps partition. As much as I'd love to move Apple's stuff out of there, after reading about the issues people have had with upgraded applications not working, I've decided to just let sleeping Mail applications lie.

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