July 18, 2008

Moving again

Filed under: My Life,Technology — Allan @ 7:14 am

New web host, so blog has gone back to is hopefully my permanent home online.


July 11, 2008

My 10 must-have Mac tools

Filed under: Cult of Mac,My Life,Technology — Allan @ 8:57 am

As more and more people I follow on twitter do the only sensible thing and move to Mac, and also since “top list” type posts tend to drive traffic to your blog, here are my must have mac tools.  I originally wrote this up as a wiki so that Dave and Max could contribute and add their 2 cents, but since neither have bothered in the more than 2 months that it’s been up, I decided to move the content here.  I’ve also not bothered sticking the obvious things like Firefox and Skype on here.


I keep going on and on about this program but I really like using it.  Effortless note taking on Mac, PC or Linux, all of which is synced up to a web interface for anytime access.  And they’ve just released an iPhone client.  Hoping it will also work on my iPod Touch :) And speaking of my iPod…


Converts pretty much anything into mp4.  Which is great for sticking onto an iPod or into a presentation.

Office 2008

I used to be a Keynote junkie, but when you work with a team of people (and clients) who don’t all have Mac’s it starts getting messy.  Overall Office 2008 is good but not great, document portability forced the issue here.  I miss the video support of Keynote, especially being able to specify the portion of the video that is played on the slide (as apposed to Powerpoint playing the entire clip) and being able to select the frame that is shown when you first arrive on the slide (as apposed to Powerpoint showing the first frame)


All-in-one instant messaging app. Latest beta tends to crash, which does wonders for productivity.  Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here, but I’m not seeing it :)


I  no longer have the time nor inclination to compile Apache, MySQL and PHP from source like I always used to insist on doing, so luckily these guys have done it all already and packaged it up in a single neat download.


Nice, lightweight MP3 player.  Random file downloads and audio bits that I need to listen to but don’t want squaloring up my perfect iTunes library get the treatment with Play.  Also, since I haven’t set up the iScrobbler preferences in it, it doesn’t put stuff like voiceover_treatment_sample2.mp3 in my music stream


Sweet GTD style app.  I used to use iGTD, but prefer the workflow of Things.  Early alpha/beta so back your shit up.  Currently free for testing, and testers will receive a discount when it launches. Also, uses XML files for storage which may prove problematic down the line.     iGTD uses an sqlite type database which is damn quick and scalable.  Plus will allow external apps to build off it.  I may be talking myself back to iGTD here :P

There are a few apps that I’m playing with at the moment that, from the look of it, will be making it onto my must-have list soon.


Yep makes finding that elusive PDF a thing of the past.  Search, tag, browse.  It’s like iPhoto, but for PDF’s.  This is one that you have to pay for, but you can get a good deal if you buy it with Leap.


Leap works as a file manager like Yelp, but for all types of files.  Luckily I got a new Mac recently so I was able to continue with the trial version for the moment, but this is something I will be buying in the not too distant future.


Amazing coding environment, brought to you by the same people who created Transmit.  I’m still uncertain whether the amount of coding that I do at the moment warrants forking out the cash for this, but the free alternatives, while powerful, are not nearly as sexy.

July 6, 2008

Has it come to this?

Filed under: My Life — Allan @ 8:50 am

Remember when they used to throw in a free DVD contract with your phone and contract?

July 5, 2008

iPhone SDK

Filed under: iPhone,Mobile,Technology — Allan @ 8:15 am
Tags: , ,

Finally sucked it up and downloaded the 1.2GB iPhone SDK.  Looks like I’ll be buying extra bandwidth this month again.

Nice emulator included, looking forward to playing with the SDK.

June 30, 2008


Filed under: My Life,Technology — Allan @ 7:38 am

Generally, my desktop looks like something exploded all over it.  One of the things I used to save most were text documents with little notes about an idea I had, or something I should build or something I have to get done.  I played with Yojimbo for a little bit and also with Circus Ponies’ Notepbook.  While both of these are excellent pieces of software I never really got to using them properly or with enough effort to see any real benefit.  For about two months now I have been using the beta of Evernote, and I have to admit, it is a damn fine piece of work. (I’m actually writing this up as draft in Evernote)

So, what makes it so much better?

Firstly, the application is cross-platform.  It runs natively on PC and Mac and on selected phones.  For most of the apps that I use I couldn’t care if they don’t run on a PC, but our team are on both PC’s and Mac’s and so here finally is something I can rave on about that they can also use.

Then, the application sync’s to a web version of your notes.  So I can continue to edit my notes when I’m not sitting at my machine.  The changes made on the web sync back to your desktop version.  I know that I could do this through Google docs, but I actually prefer working in a native application.  Web apps are not as responsive as I often need them to be.

You can also enable an Evernote menu item to clip items and screenshots directly into Evernote.

Which neatly brings me to another feature – text recognition.  When you sync new notes up to the server, any notes that contain images are analyzed for text portions and text recognition is done on them.  I’ve just synced this note with a screenshot from Twitter in it, and now when I sync back, the text should have been recognized.

I can now search for text within images in Evernote.  It filters down to only matching posts and text is highlighted.  Sweet.

My one small problem that I had with Evernote was that I couldn’t easily share notes with people.  This has now been added and I can mark a Notebook as public which creates a page for that notebook that anyone can browse.  Of course, if we could share Notebooks with other Evernote users so that we could collaboratively create and edit notes that would be awesome.

Currently Evernote is in beta, but I have 17 15 invites if anyone wants. Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter.

June 18, 2008

FMCG online? OK, but make it count

Filed under: Advertising — Allan @ 9:04 pm

I was reading Dave Duarte’s latest post around how FMCG brands needs to be marketing themselves online and decided to check out the two websites that were given as examples – and  On the face of it both of these seem like they could be cool applications that provide an element of utility, but I can’t help but think that they missed an opportunity here.

Take Party With Pyotts.  Great, I can register and create an event and then send email invitations to my friends.  They can simply click a link to RSVP and I get a neat listing of the people I’ve invited and whether they are coming or not.  But that’s where it ends.

You’re giving people a tool to plan a social event, so why not build some social elements into it?  If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably been invited to an event planned using their event application.  What’s cool about the eventing there is that not only do you see your invite list and RSVP’s but people can chat pre and post event as well as upload photo’s and video’s.  And Facebook isn’t the only place for this, there are dedicated sites like and for this as well.

So here’s a utility that’s been tied to the brand (because all parties need snacks) but it’s living in its own little world.  Unfortunately only has an API that allows remote posting of events, the others only allow you to retrieve existing event detail.  But there’s an insight in that right there – if websites are exposing their data for you to use in other ways, why not do the same?  Why not build a application or widget that pulls the detail and displays it elsewhere, not only exposing the event to more people in the environments in which that are already playing, but exposing the utility and therefore the brand to more people.  With websites exposing their data through API‘s and service-oriented architecture it becomes a simple matter to mash-up some data and build a really cool application.  Yes, retain your registration data in your database, but it could become something really useful by simply pulling together related data from other services (flickr, Youtube, Facebook).

Then, Pro-Vita.  Here you can build a sandwich using Pro-Vita and selected toppings and see how they stack up with the built-in BMI calculator.  Neat.

But now what.  I’ve invested the time in building my sandwich and it’s over.  Domino’s Pizza created something similar with their Big Fantastic Deal but with their application you could actually order it.

It’s back to the utility of the application – interesting only gets you so far, making something useful will get people coming back to use it again.

So what about Pro-Vita then?  Well, once I’ve created my sandwich, let me save it.  I can then save a few of them and put them together into a snack menu.  I sense a potential link to here…  And if I can save my snack menu (which knows what ingredients I need to make them) why not let me say how many people are coming and then print out a shopping list for me with the quantities I need.

Who knows, might even know how many people were coming.

Subsequent to starting this post I was in touch with the marketing department at AVI, the company that owns the Pyotts brand.  These pages are only meant to be holding pages while bigger and better things are planned.  Fair enough, but any interaction I have with a brand – online or off – will add to my experience and opinion of that brand.  So if you are going to do something, do it right and do it well!

June 6, 2008

plurk…. urk!

Filed under: My Life,Technology — Allan @ 11:31 am

Twitter isn’t stable, let’s all run off to plurk! or not.

Is this the sign of things to come?

Personally, I’m not sold on it yet.  I’m also wondering if that level of functionality will scale when the masses all start signing up.

Update:  just got page unavailable on the home page, and have a look at that code :)

June 5, 2008

My hands may be better than hooker!

Filed under: Technology — Allan @ 9:02 am

What fantastic news.  Received a blackmail attempt this morning because apparently I have been caught on my webcam doing naughty things and logging into dirty sites.

David, here’s some hints before you send your next email:

  1. Learn to spell.  Nothing spoils a blackmail attempt like poor attention to detail.  I’m frankly a little bit hurt that you didn’t make the message up from cut out letters.  That would have shown some real class.
  2. Don’t follow it up immediately with an offer for “children porno” from the same email address, but using a different name.  Poor effort really.

On the plus side, it seems like Iike I’m not the only one to have received this.

June 2, 2008

Adobe Buzzword

Filed under: Technology — Allan @ 11:19 am

Started messing with Adobe Buzzword this morning because UXMagazine suggested it was going head to head with Google Docs.  Google Docs loads fairly snappily as it doesn’t have a massive flash interface, so first impressions weren’t that good.

I was impressed though by their “your session has timed out message”:

Cute.  And not because it’s a baby.  Because it’s not some rude browser timeout dialog thing.

May 2, 2008

A poor man’s ORM – my journey so far

Filed under: Technology — Allan @ 10:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

For a while now I’ve been using Google Alerts and Technorati feeds to let me know when my name, the company I work for or some of our key clients’ names pop up online.  Recently I began wondering how often these terms were cropping up on twitter, and in what context. is a really slick Twitter search engine and has the advantage of providing your search results as an RSS feed – all I needed to get near realtime alerts of my key search terms on twitter.

The problem was that for a search term like Peugeot there is a lot of sales spam kicking about:

I had a quick poke about the documentation, but being easily distracted I soon found myself kludging together a Yahoo Pipe to fix it.

The problem with this was that the RSS feed only returned 10 results to me, and with the Pipe cleaning out the majority of them, the resultant output feed was looking a bit bleak.

An email to feedback at sorted it all out.  Not only did they tell me how to get more than just 10 results back from a query (rpp as a parameter) but that I could negate specific authors by using -from: in the query.  Cunningly all things that I had managed to avoid reading in the documentation on the site.

All’s well that ends well.  I now have a spam-less feed and I know that the support from Summize is excellent.  Not only are they friendly to blind schmucks like me, but they value community feedback – 2 great ways to build a solid, well liked product.

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