Ding Dong

Feet First | 323
Wednesday, 27 July


Feet First | 322
My shiny new MacBook Pro arrived! After four years, it was time for an upgrade. Much of the work I do on the computer is photo processing. I use Aperture, which I really love, but it can be quite demanding and the processor speed, graphics card and RAM in my old machine just weren’t cutting it.


Feet First | 324
Thursday, 28 July

Feet First | 324

Thunderstorms and time constraints delayed my getting to the new laptop for about 24 hours. It took about an hour to migrate my old machine over to the new one. I was immediately impressed by the increased speed. Everything happens faster–windows load quicker, applications launch immediately and making edits to photos blissfully happens without any appearance of the dreaded spinning beach balls.

I opted for the glossy screen this time around. (My previous MacBook had the matte screen, since I was concerned about glare and image quality.) After spending a year with the iPad’s amazingly brilliant screen, I knew that I really wanted to have the same eye-popping experience on the laptop. I’m very happy with my choice. Any fear of glare was immediately put to rest (there is none) and everything looks amazing.

I have noticed a couple of puzzling things. One is that the fan comes on much more frequently than in my previous MacBook and I wonder if that’s a function of the Solid State Drive. Quite often it sounds as if a mini-airplane was preparing to take-off, often when the machine is not active in any way that would indicate it’s working hard and needs to cool down. (Can you hear that? It’s doing it now.)

I’m disappointed to say that I’m still experiencing the occasional spinning beach ball, which surprises the heck out of me. Everything about this machine is wicked-fast, but there are times when the beach ball appears while I’m using the internet. Since my machine came with the new Lion OS, the problem could be that, the new machine, my internet connection–or a combination of all three. The jury is still out but it certainly is baffling.

Other than that minor quibble, just as expected, I’m loving my new MacBook Pro.


Learning Curve, Over the Falls

This past weekend, I spent a bit of time exploring the different ways I could upload and share longer form videos. (Flickr is intended for “long form photos” (less than 60 seconds) and YouTube wasn’t the direction I was aiming for.)

I’ve got a MobileMe account that I’m trying out for free, but there’s no way to give photo galleries or videos any sort of description beyond a title and there’s no ability for visitors to leave comments. Not great. Plus, I wasn’t crazy about the viewing size and quality constraints, so it’s not really an option.

I signed up for a Vimeo account two years ago and I’m only now getting around to exploring it. It was a snap to use (though uploading can take some time, so I set it for overnight and left it.) Other than the occasional stuttering of playback, which I think has more to do with my internet/wireless combo, I’m pleased with the way it looks.

I edited this snippet in 2008 as an exercise to get acquainted with iMovie; I used footage of Niagara Falls that I’d shot with my then very new G9. In fact, I’d been shooting photos of the falls for twenty minutes when I suddenly remembered I had the capacity to shoot video at all.

Click here see a higher res version, without the black bars.

The Fourth Plinth: Hours Away From Being History

As I type this, One & Other, the 2400-hour-long art project atop Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, is just four hours from the finish line. What began back on July 6th at 9am, ends on October 14th at 9am. I spent many an hour during this past “summer of the plinth” fascinated, amused, entertained, and educated by what participants brought to their hour on the plinth. This past month, I didn’t have much time to plinth. Perhaps I’ll dip into the archives on the website from time to time. I hear they’ll be available through the end of the year.

If I didn’t have to be up at 6:30am (my time) I’d stay up tonight until 3am to watch the final hour and follow along on Twitter with all the One & Other twecklers. Supposedly, as many of the participants as possible will be gathering in Trafalgar Square for the finish. I’ll just have to settle for watching it on “rerun.”

Plinth plinth plinth plinth plinth. It’s a great word. I’ll miss using it with such regularity.

Cheerio plinth. It’s been fun.

iPhone First Impressions


So, I’m coming up on three weeks with the newest member of the family and I thought it would be fun to pass along my first impressions of life with the iPhone.

I’m happy to report that after such great expectations, the iPhone has not disappointed in any way, save for the handful of dropped calls I’ve experienced. We know who’s to blame for that and it ain’t the Apple. Already, I’ve had more dropped calls in my first ten days of AT&T service then I did in all my ten (was it??) years of Sprint service. But that was to be expected.

On to the iPhone.

Usability: So far, I’ve found the iPhone easy to use, and while not 100% intuitive, the answers are always easy to find on the internet. I like the finger flick on the screen to scroll or page through content. Fast. And the on-screen keyboard is just fine by me, but all I have to compare it to is using the keypad to type in text, so this is a big step up. And as soon as I get used to the fact that the delete key is not the return key, I’ll be a whiz. I love the auto-complete and is it just me, or does it seem to get smarter the more I use it?

The Screen: A big beautiful color screen for web surfing and everything else under the sun.

Email: I’m using my Gmail account on the phone rather than Mac mail and it’s such a pleasure now to be able to return email when I’m away from my computer. The only thing I miss is the ability to star/flag an email (on the phone the only option is to mark it unread.) A minor gripe.

Contacts: I love having the convenience to phone or email anyone in my contact list (as opposed to one or the other.)

Voice Memo: I’ve already mentioned how this one came in handy while birding. I can see voice memo getting a lot of creative use in the future.

Camera: The image quality is a huge step up from what I had before and I love it. I’m still getting the hang of touching the screen to focus but that will come with use. I’m looking forward to playing around with it more and getting creative. I’ve spent only a minute or two messing with the video, so lots to try there. Having the ability to snap a photo on the fly and email it to friends or carry it around for reference is terrific. For example, I had to pick up a drawer organizer at the Container Store. Rather than try to remember what all I was trying to contain, I snapped a photo and stood with it in the store trying to figure out the best option. Brilliant.

Image Capture: Using this simple program on my Mac, I can easily download photos from my phone to save and manipulate on my laptop. Way way way easier than before.

Silencing the phone: Is now as easy as flicking a tab on the side of the phone. With my old phone, this simple task touch three menus and five key punches to achieve.

Spotlight Search: Having the ability to globally search the phone is terrific. I needed to gather all the dates and info for this year’s Lyric Opera season. A quick search for Lyric pulled up all the necessary dates in two seconds.

Compass: Came in handy a few days after I got the phone and had to drive Maisy out to the imaging center in Buffalo Grove. I started to GoogleMap the location on my laptop and then remembered, I could take the map with me! In real time it followed me along the route and gave me traffic info along the way.

Notes: A great way for me to jot down quick information or my thoughts. The items for this blog post started as a note page on my iPhone, collected on the fly. Also handy for notes about books I’m reading. I like that there’s also the ability to email a note.

Alarm: This one is taking the most for me to get used to. I’ve used my cell phone as my alarm clock for years and for some reason, this interface is taking a bit of getting used to. Also, I’ve learned there are certain ring tones I will sleep right through. The one drawback with using the iPhone as an alarm is that when a message or a calendar alert comes through (ba-ding) it will wake you up!

iPod: Now I have the ability to click on a song that’s playing and access the entire album it came from. This is something I’ve long wished my old iPod could do. Genius Mixes (a new iTunes feature that creates a kind of genre-specific personalized music stream from your own music) are a great way to dig deep into my music library.

The Size: Here’s the only feature where my previous, compact flip phone had an edge over the iPhone. With the size and heft of a thin brick (albeit an awesomely powerful and cool brick) the iPhone just doesn’t easily pop in the pocket. But I’ll just have to suffer.

Tomorrow, more about the apps I’m using.

Life With iPhone: It Just Keeps Getting Better

Yessssssssss!For the past two weeks, my iPhone has been a near constant source of “oh wows” as I discover all the cool things it (and I) can do.

And now, in the span of these two weeks, two of my major complaints about the phone seem to have been eliminated. The first concerned TypePad’s blogging app, which I used on a friend’s phone this past April to post photos while on vacation in the BVIs. Only when I returned, did I make the unfortunate discovery that the app cropped the photos square. Yuck.

So, shortly after getting my own iPhone, I was extremely pleased to see that while the program still crops photos square, it now allows you to choose the cropping. (Ah, if only you had the ability to center images in the post too, I’d call it the perfect blogging app. A quick email suggestion to the TypePad help center revealed that this very feature is in the works, set to drop “soon.” Bonus.)

Then comes the announcement today that AT&T will (finally) allow MMS on iPhone 3G and 3GS beginning Friday. This is excellent news, since the lack of ability to directly send photos between phones was the only real drawback I saw in getting an iPhone (other than the notoriously crappy AT&T service, of course.) Even with my grainy old camera phone, I shot a lot of photos and frequently sent them to friends, including JD’s mom, who enjoyed getting fun snaps of her gal while at at work.

Pocket Birding

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous. While I was out walking, I heard a birdsong that I often hear in the trees in front of my place, but somehow, I’ve never been able to identify the bird. While on a walk Sunday, I heard the song again and was trying to spot the two or three birds chirping and flitting around in the trees when I suddenly remembered I had a recording device in my pocket!

I whipped out my iPhone, hit the voice memo recorder, and held it skyward for about thirty seconds. When I played it back, I was stunned at how well the mic had picked up the birdsong from atop a tree twenty feet overhead.

Now, not only can I use my digital camera to “shoot” birds to later identify at home, I can record their song as well.

BTW, unless someone can tell me otherwise, the closest I came to identifying this birdsong (and from the very brief glimpse I got of them) this is a goldfinch.

Halfway Through One & Other — Highlights From the Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth
Photo by FrankLong on Flickr.

One and Other, the living art project going on in Trafalgar Square this summer, is over half-way through its 100 day run and it’s just as entertaining now as it was that first week. I continue to spread the news about the Plinth to all who will listen and figure I’m long overdue with another list of my favorite plinthers thus far. So here goes:

Week 2 —

Week 3 —

Week 4 —

  • LilacbonzaiThe infamous first naked plinther who caused a controversy, not because he appeard “with his kit off” but because the cops told him to put it back on.

Week 5 —

More to come.

iPhone Home Stretch

Less than two weeks to go and waiting is as hard as it gets. I swear if someone told me I could break my Sprint contract tomorrow for a quick $50, I’d probably do it. There have been about 25 times in the last week when I’ve thought, “Damn, if I just had an iPhone right now, I could do XYZ.” I know all my problems will magically disappear when I’ve got that sleek little computer in my possession.

On the flip side, I’ve dropped my current phone at least as many times in the same time period. It’s probably my subconscious expressing my true feelings for the blasted thing but it’s making me wonder if I should look into an iPhone case made of bubble wrap.

So, a couple of questions I’m throwing out to those of you who already own an iPhone–a question I’ve been asking everyone I know for the past few months–which iPhone app do you love best? Which one do you use the most?

And finally, any advice as to whether or not I should go to the Apple store (my first choice) or ATT store to get the darned thing would be much appreciated.

My Library Has the Most Craptastic Catalog Search on the Planet

There are a lot of things I love about my local library but the computerized catalog system is definitely not one of them. It has, without a doubt, the absolute worst search function. Ever.

Take this example for instance. I was looking for A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, the next selection for my book club. I type the words single man in the search box and hit return.

Top 10 Results:

  1. Happy-Go-Lucky (DVD)
  2. Dune Road, Jane Green
  3. Single Mama’s Got More Drama, Kayla Perrin
  4. The New Valley: Novellas, Josh Weil
  5. La Caza, Clive Cussler
  6. The Lost Origin of the Essay
  7. Deep Dish, Mary Kay Andrews
  8. Guilty, Karen Robards
  9. Guilty, Karen Robards (large print ed.)
  10. I Shall Not Want (CD, Julia Spencer-Flemming)

Scrolling down the entire page, the title I’m looking for AND TYPED IN EXACTLY, does not appear.

Okay, I figure, knowing this is a hinky system that requires a lot more finesse than your usual computer search, I type in single man again, but this time rather than hitting return, I select the Title button.

Top 10 Results:

  1. The Lost Origin of the Essay
  2. Jackpot! The Best of Bette (CD)
  3. Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem! A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom
  4. 2033: the Future of Misbehavior: Interplanetary Dating, Madame President, Socialized Plastic Surgery and other Good News from the Future
  5. A Walk Through My Garden
  6. Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting, Will Hodgkinson
  7. Mom, There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe, Ellie Slott Fisher
  8. The Single Girl’s Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife, Sally Bjornsen
  9. With or Without a Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives, Karen Gail Lewis
  10. Wingspan, Paul McCartney (CD)

Frankly, this title list scares me.

One final search, using the author’s name, pulled up this Top 10:

  1. Living with a Writer (no other info)
  2. Isherwood: A Life Revealed
  3. Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times
  4. Farewell, Godspeed: The Greatest Eulogies of Our Time
  5. Lost Years: A Memoir, 1945-1951 (Christopher Isherwood)
  6. The Isherwood Century
  7. Cabaret (CD)
  8. Auden and Isherwood: The Berlin Years
  9. Cabaret (DVD)
  10. Jacob’s Hands (Aldous Huxley)

Thanks for nothing.

At home, I typed single man into Amazon’s search and, you guessed it, it pulled up the book I was looking for, number one on the results page.