Jools bought me an iPad

Once again the annual “Thatch is ignoring his birthday” rolled around like clockwork (damn you Isaac Newton), but this year Jools had plans (insert scary music here), big plans. Jools had decided that I didn’t have enough toys (seriously. Isn’t she wonderful.) and that what I needed was an iPad 2.

Now the truth be told I didn’t think I “needed” an iPad, it was more like the whole world had iPads and I was quite happy (well I thought I was …) reading my books and mail on my iPhone (silly me).

But here is the big problem with the iPad.

Once you have one it is really, really, really hard to not use it. And anyone who tries to take it away will be involved in a major struggle. I personally think that these things are harder to give up than caffeine (and/or cigarettes).

So first up these things are not “productivity tools”, I don’t care what anyone says. If it’s more involved than a tweet, a quick reply to an email or an appointment update. I am grabbing my laptop.

What these things are great at is “consumption”. Listen to music- check, watch a movie or a missed tv episode – check (isn’t the ABC’s iView wonderful?), Listen to music- check, reading e-books – check ( and this is the main thing I use it for) and emails as mentioned earlier. Did I mention Listen to music????

Everything was rolling along fine until I discovered that Korg had released a Kaos pad app (yep it’s all downhill from here)

 

thatch

EasyDNS is a very cool service

EasyDNS offers a real-time DNS (domain name system), which allows a Web site to switch from one IP address to another within minutes. Without a service like this, a new server may not be findable by visitors for 24 to 48 hours while its IP address “propagates” gradually around the Internet.

For about $20 per year  you will be able to reroute your traffic in an emergency to your spare server that can display your emergency message or replicated server.

Very cool.

Firefox Zealotry: An assortment

We haven’t done Firefox zealotry for a while.

Lets start with getting rid of the download window by using the Download Statusbar by Devon Jensen

The Download Statusbar Firefox extension gives you a small visual representation of your downloads at the bottom of your browser window, forgoing Firefox’s (occasionally annoying) default download window. It gives you a discrete view of your recent downloads, hides when you’re not using it, and lets you easily manage opening, clearing, renaming, or deleting downloaded files without ever leaving your main browser window. You will love this one

Next up lets have a look at the Tiny Menu by Anthony Lieuallen
The Tiny Menu Firefox extension compresses all the menu items into one pulldown, a great place to store those “less frequently used items”.

After you install Tiny Menu and restart Firefox. It will compress the menu bar down to one item called “Menu”, this now contains all the normal menus as sub-menus. Right-click on a toolbar and select “Customize.”
Next drag all of the items from the navigation bar up to the menu bar, one a time. (Yes I know it will be a tad tedious). What you are doing is combining the menu bar and the navigation toolbar. Click on DONE when you are finished and then right-click on a toolbar and un-select the navigation toolbar.

It’s amazing how quicly you notice it missing when you use “normal” browser.

MediaCoder an open-source audio/video transcoder

Ever received a snippet of video from a friend with a MAC and not had it play? I wont go into the PC/Mac dichotomy other than to say that the PC world seems to have more solutions to Mac created problems than the other way around. So, converting video files from one format to another is one of the more frustrating tasks you can have to do as you are confronted with the arcane language of codecs, acronyms and incompatible file formats.

Enter stage right MediaCoder

Here is the hype …

MediaCoder is an open source universal audio/video batch transcoder (converter), which puts together lots of excellent audio/video codecs and tools from the open source community into an all-in-one solution, capable of transcoding among different audio/video formats. With many extra features and a expandable architecture, MediaCoder is more than a GUI of a bunch of command line tools.

  • Convert to and from many audio and video compression formats and re-multiplex into various container formats, on the fly, in batch
  • Give you the control over the transcoding process and all the parameters of the transcoded files, so you can learn about, compare among and play with various codecs
  • Specific user interfaces for specific devices with device plug-ins and extensions
  • Fully standalone, no dependent on any media player, filter or codec, no registration of any components into system
  • Multilingual user interface

MediaCoder is a free open-source utility that was developed to help users move their video around easily, for example to iPods or PSPs. While Microsoft has the very useful Windows Media Encoder and Mac has Quicktime and they are arguably very good formats, this does not allow you to move video files from almost any format to almost any other format.

Now if you have played with video you know two things already
A: It’s not fast and
B: See A

MediaCoder is not extremely fast when doing complicated transcodings. This isn’t really the programs fault though; it has to decode the file from the old format and then recode it the new format you have chosen.

About now I should also point out it’s a spiffy little audio converter as well.

Oh yeah, it comes in colours. MediaCoder offers skins as well.

Highly recommended.

PDF Readers-Their Care and Feeding

Have you noticed that there is a weird relationship between the Adobe PDF Reader version number and the amount of minutes that it takes to load?
Coincidence?
Well actually it probably is. But if you are bored to death waiting for the bloody thing to load, you may wish to consider some of the following options.

Lets start with Foxit Software.
Here is a list of some of the nifty advantages of Foxit Reader 2.0:

  • It’s tiny. The download size of Foxit Reader is only 1.5 M which compared to Acrobat Reader’s 20+ Meg and “weekly updates” seems pretty cool to me.
  • It’s Fast. When you run Foxit Reader, it just launches instantly, no annoying splash window displaying company logo, no author names, no nonsense… it just runs.
  • Annotation tool: Have you ever wished to annotate (or comment on) a PDF document when you are reading it? Foxit Reader 2.0 allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document.
  • Text converter: You can convert a PDF document into a simple text file. Brilliant.

To make sense of what you get for free and what you need to pay for read the hype below and have a look on their website.

Foxit Reader 2.0 itself is free. As to add-ons, the critical add-ons are free while advanced add-ons are non-free. For example, you can use the following functions for free:

* View or print PDF document
* Fill out PDF forms and save them
* View PDF as text
* Critical add-ons, such as UI language package, JPEG2000/JBIG decoder, CJK package, GDI+ for early Windows version, etc

The followings are several examples of non-free, advanced add-ons:

* Pro Pack is not free. It unlocks functions to save annotation, save a PDF document as a text file, copy text from text viewer. Actually without Pro Pack, you are still able to annotate a PDF document and print it out. However when you save the annotated document, it will be stamped with an evaluation mark on the top-right corner of the annotated pages. If you purchase a Pro Pack add-on, then there will be no evaluation mark.
* Foxit PDF Creator, which allows you to convert non-PDF file into PDF file, is non-free.
* Foxit PDF Editor, which allows you to modify content of a PDF file, is non-free.

They also have versions for Linux and Pocket PC.

Now if you want to stay with the Adobe product … O’Reilly Publishing has a book called PDF hacks

Here is the hype…

PDF Hacks is ideal for anyone who works with PDF on a regular basis. Learn how to create PDF documents that are far more powerful than simple representations of paper pages. Hacks cover the full range of PDF functionality, including generating, manipulating, annotating, and consuming PDF information. Far more than another guide to Adobe Acrobat, the book covers a variety of readily available tools for generating, deploying, and editing PDF.

and whats really neat is that they have put a copy of the SpeedUp Chapter up on their website, ironically it’s available as a PDF.

Here’s a few notes I have collected on how to make Adobe Reader load much faster:

  1. Go to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat #\Reader (replace C: with whatever letter your hard drive is. (The # is the number of whatever version you have installed).
  2. Create a new folder called plug_ins_disabled.
  3. Move all files from the plug_ins folder to the plug_ins_disabled folder except for these three: EWH32.api, printme.api, and search.api which should remain inside the plug_ins folder.

Now you’re set to go! Enjoy the speed increase.

Additionally, you can turn off the splash screen by going to Edit -> Preferences -> Startup and unchecking Display splash screen.

Version 7 installs a quickstart item in your Start folder. This can be a real annoyance and isn’t really necessary, so to grab your RAM remove the “Adobe Reader Speed Launch” from Start->All Programs->Startup.

Now, if you have a small banner ad in the top right corner, just go to Edit->Preferences->Startup and uncheck the item labeled “Show messages and automatically update”.

If you have a small Yahoo button on the toolbar, you can remove it by right-clicking and unchecking the “Search the Internet” item.

When you open a PDF link in your browser, Acroread.exe stays in memory. You can kill the process using taskmanager or start and exit the full app to pull it from memory. Too much of a pain? I agree. Start Acrobat Reader, go to Edit->Preferences->Internet and uncheck the box labeled “Display PDF in browser”. Much simpler.

Anything else out there that I missed? Leave a comment.