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?

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 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 :)

February 23, 2008


Filed under: Me,My Life — Allan @ 1:56 pm
Tyler thoughtfully tagged me in the “7 random facts” meme.
<sarcasm>Thanks mate, really appreciate it</sarcasm>
The rules are thus:

  • link to the person who tagged you (check)
  • post the rules here (check)
  • share seven random or weird facts about yourself
  • tag seven random people at the end of the post, linking to them
  • leave a comment on their blog so they know they’ve been tagged
So, here goes, in no specific order of weirdness:
  1. I enjoy writing code.  You probably guessed that from the title of this posting.  I got my first computer in 1984, it was an Atari 600XL and I was bitterly disappointed when I got it home and it didn’t answer questions like computers did in the movies.  It had a tape drive and since I couldn’t afford to buy cartridges for the thing, I managed to get a book of source code for games.  Which I typed in.  40-odd pages of code and you’re going to make a mistake somewhere along the way.  So we actually just ended up playing games on my friends brothers’ ZX-Spectrum.  That same year I did a programming course and wrote my first lines of (working) code.
  2. I wasn’t in Enter the Dragon or Pretty Woman, but some other guy with my name was.  In 2002 he played himself in “Playboy: Inside the Playboy Mansion”.  I’m detecting a trend here.  Downwards.
  3. I’ve co-authored 11 books, all of them on techie type stuff.  If you Google for me you’ll find them all mixed with links to our actor friend.  Writing books doesn’t pay very well at all, but at least my mom has something to show her friends.
  4. I do my best thinking when I’m driving.  I’ve been meaning to get some kind of dictaphone type thing to use in the car because the middle of the steering wheel makes a really crap desk.  If I didn’t hate my phone so much I’m sure I could work out how to do it on that.
  5. I can still remember the IP number from my first real job when I worked at the University of Cape Town.  I do an nslookup on it every now and again – UCT still give descriptive names in their DNS.  When I was there it was  Going by its current name my IP is being used for an ethernet switch now.  Unfortunately, doesn’t have anything of the web site I ran off it back in 1995.  It contained a diary type page that I updated about three times a week (dare I say blog?) and a mirror of unix documentation for people in the office to access.  It was optimized for NCSA Mosaic.
  6. I now live in the same neighborhood that I grew up in.  It’s kinda cool being able to walk around and point out old friends’ houses and what happened there in your childhood. 80’s nostalgia.  Thankfully there are no photos, as the 80’s were not a good time for fashion.  There’s a lot on that list I was guilty of, and no I won’t list them, but I will fess up to a pink tank top.  I wish I could go back in time and slap myself.  I still have my black mesh tie.  But I don’t wear it.
  7. Even though has lost my website, Google still has my first ever posting to Usenet.  4 June 1992, using a friends VAX account.
So that’s the seven facts out of the way.  Now to pass on the misery:
  1. Bruce Lawson.  Accessibility bore and proud owner o the domain. Go read his blog – you’ll learn a crapload about web standards and accessibility and have a good laugh while doing so.  Incidentally, Bruce was editor on a number of my books, so if you think they’re crap, you can blame him :)
  2. Uwe Gutschow.  Thought you could slip away over there to LA?  Uwe was my boss at Saatchi AtPlay before he deserted us.
  3. WhiskeyKitten.  I’ve only known her for about 22 years.  That’s what you get for growing up with her brother.  Go check the site for photo’s of horses.  Millions of them.  Here’s another fact about me:  I don’t like horses.  But she does. 
  4. Faris Yakob.  He was the keynote speaker at a conference where I got to ramble away behind a lecturn for an hour.  His talk was inspirational and I’ve been a religious reader of his blog since then.
  5. Leon Jacobs.  Was Creative Director at Saatchi Cape Town and is now regional CD for Saatchi in Asia.  He likes funny french cars and cats.  He also enjoys singing while playing Wii golf.
  6. Dave Duarte.  I would have expected Dave to have been tagged with this a long time ago, but a quick search on his site for “random” or “seven” didn’t turn up anything.  So consider yourself tagged.  Dave, for those of you who only just turned on the internets and don’t know, is Cape Town’s celebrity marketing geek.  I can’t recall ever spending time with Dave when he hasn’t had something interesting or clever to say, so let’s see what random gems he can deliver.  No pressure.
  7. Ash.  While spending waaaaay too much time on IRC in the 90’s, I bumped into Ash and her husband.  Her blog is all about books and living in Amsterdam.   
So that’s it.  Now to go give people the good news.

December 10, 2007

Service levels

Filed under: My Life,Technology — Allan @ 3:10 pm
Tags: , ,

I just went out to do two tasks: renew my car license and buy a wedding present from a bridal registry list.  And what a difference in service between the two.  The Traffic Department with the infamous eNatis system, and Boardmans. (more…)

August 4, 2007


Filed under: Articles,My Life,Technology — Allan @ 9:12 pm

I was thinking this morning about how prevalant facebook has become (oh god, another facebook post they cried) when compared to something like OpenID. The reasons are pretty obvious, no point in listing them here. But then I was thinking whether it was feasible to use something like facebook as a kind of identity server. A long time ago I watched a very cool presentation online about Identity 2.0, and as I sat languishing over my breakfast this morning, I thought that perhaps facebook could be that identities authority. I then thought that I was on my first day of leave, and writing some kind of 3rd party authentication hook into the facebook API was not really the sort of thing I wanted to be doing with my leave, so I quickly turned to more important things, like ordering more coffee.

Which was interesting because just now I was reading Tyler’s post now about people nicking his ideas, and from that found this post where Uno mentions an OpenID/facebook thing. Sounds like it could be kinda like what I was thinking of this morning. Which reminded me of somthing somebody once told me: he believed the moment you had an idea, you “put it out there” – in a hive mind/hippie kind of way. But in a way it’s true. Very few ideas are original and even if you have an original idea, it’s not worth anything unless you act upon it. So if you have an idea, you’ve put it out there and someone else is also going to think of it. So do something about it. Or don’t complain when someone else does it.

My point then (and I do have one) is, good luck to the dude writing the OpenID/facebook thing. I think it’s a fantastic idea (because I thought of it) but I’m not going to do squat about it. So it’s really his idea. Or the dude in Michigan who’s about to launch it. Or maybe that other guy in London who’s just ironing out the last bug in the code. Awesome, I look forward to using it. When I get back from leave.

May 22, 2007

A small request

Filed under: My Life — Allan @ 5:09 pm

I’m on my way to Jo’burg.  Can someone please put the heater on before I get there?


May 3, 2007

Mac battery annoyances

Filed under: Cult of Mac,My Life — Allan @ 8:24 pm

A couple of days ago the Software Update had a battery firmware upgrade (1.2), which seemed like a great idea at the time. It all installed without a hitch and when I rebooted it sat and thought for a while, as I expected it would. All seemed happy in Macland until I popped the power cord out to go sit somewhere else. 3 seconds after pulling the cord, the machine shut down. No warning message, no save now or lose your work, it just died. This was somewhat dissapointing since the battery appeared to be charged. Sometimes, like this morning, I can start it up immediately without the power cable being in, but this evening it wouldn’t start up without being plugged into the power. Of course when it boots it shows the battery as fully charged. Naturally there are useful suggestions on the web, but these all involve running the battery down completely, something I cannot achieve since it shuts itself down at the first hint of trouble.

This may seem like a bitch session, but it’s not. This morning I emailed Digicape and they mailed me back almost immediately and said bring it in we’ll sort it out. I’ve had a few other niggles with the notebook since I got it but I get such great service that it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had an HP NX7010 for about the same period of time as the Mac and that (touch wood) hasn’t given me a single problem (unless you count installing Vista on it, but I think that was more my fault for installing Vista in the first place) but if I had to choose, I’d still take the Mac. I guess if I’d had shoddy service and was perpetually fighting to get my machine sorted out I would have a different outlook, but so far so good.

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