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Google Reader has replaced NetNewsWire in my life

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Since discovering NetNewsWire shortly after (re)discovering the Mac platform I’ve been a pretty vocal advocate of the application and its slick swiss-army knife approach to tackling mountains of information piling in via RSS. When NetNewsWire was purchased by Newsgator I started using the sync features which greatly simplified my multi-computer lifestyle.

Strangely enough I think NetNewsWire has just left my life as suddenly as it came to it. More and more I found myself using Newsgator as a reader rather than NetNewsWire. I really like the slick interface NetNewsWire offers, but the overhead of opening and syncing it with Newsgator combined with the fact that I don’t always have a Mac handy combined to limit it’s use to a single big post reading session in the evening to drive my unread count down to zero for the next day. I mainly read RSS in tiny chunks I squeeze in here and there throughout my day as I can spare the time, so entirely web based solutions make it easier to do from whatever computer I happen to be sitting at without having to worry about clients, syncing, or application state.

Google Reader

I just discovered my new reader of choice Google Reader (yeah – I know, I’m really behind the times) and I have to say I’m 100% impressed. Just like Google revolutionized the concept of web-mail using a fresh new Ajax approach Google Reader has done the same for RSS. Reader dynamically loads your stories in the background and provides a configurable view including my all time favorite – the never ending scroll of articles that I can slide through as I get the time.

Google Reader performs a great little trick by automatically marking posts as read when they scroll up the screen leaving me with fewer actions than with Newsgator where you see 50 articles at a shot (not configurable) and have to click a link to mark them as read and to pull up the next batch. Another nail in the coffin of Newsgator was that some of the Javascript they used had issues and would occasionally fail to respond to clicks and have to be reloaded.

To seal the deal Google Reader has amazing keyboard shortcuts. While in the application simply hit the ? key to bring up a semi-opaque cheat sheet. The keyboard shortcuts are intuitive and make navigation, triage, bookmarking, and reading very efficient. After less than 20 minutes of use Google Reader became an entirely keyboard based application for me, and one rivaling the functionality of most thick-client RSS readers.

At this point my only gripe with Google Reader is it’s iPhone experience. Newsgators was worse, but the iPhone version of Google Reader is very static and really fails to capitalize on the rich Javascript capabilities the iPhone bestows to offer a experience that matches the desktop browser experience in functionality while being tailored to the user interface limitations of the iPhone.

Sorry Brent – I still love NetNewsWire and have a special place for it in my heart, but the cloud is calling!

iPhone: Context over consistency

Monday, October 1st, 2007

37signals, the makers of Basecamp, Highrise, and my favorite: Backpack just blogged about the iPhone’s user interface and Apple’s conscious design decisions which favor context over consistency. Personally I trend slightly more to consistency because I’m mildly OCD about organization and repeatability, but the article is an interesting read that rings true.

To-to-too mmuuuch caffeine

Monday, October 1st, 2007

iTunes WiFi Music Store

I just got done blogging the rollout out their new Starbucks WiFi Music Store here in Seattle and I’m aquiver with coffee as a result. This morning I happened to stop into the Starbucks for a latte when I remembered that the new partnership for free iTunes access at Starbucks retail locations was lighting up in Seattle this morning so I whipped out my iPhone to check it out. The new Starbucks review is a good sister article to they soon to be posted in-depth review I did of the new iTunes WiFi Music Store.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me in the morning so I had to come back to review it over lunch about 90 minutes later. Between the quad shot earlier, and a triple over lunch I’m completely wired. *Bzzzt* *Bzzzt* *Bzzzt* *Bzzzzzzt*

Luckily I don’t have anything left on my to-do list for today so I’m pretty much free to lay on my couch watching movies with Skype. Finally getting a long weekend is really helping me feel a lot more relaxed from all the activity at work recently. Now for the rest of The Matrix Revolutions and then perhaps a little Lord of the Rings to continue on with the epic feel.

iTunes Smart Playlists

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

iTunes Smart Playlist

I’ve allowed my obsession with Smart Playlists in iTunes to get a little out of hand. After spending the last month combing through my media collection, tweaking ID3 tags, and rating as I go I’m learning how to create personalized radio experiences from my library that are easy to manage and sync/update automatically with my iPhone. By making a series of smart playlists with size limits limited by least recently played I can keep both my iPhone and my Apple TV stocked to the brim with a great music selection that gradually changes as I listen to it.

While the Smart Playlists feature is amazingly powerful I have unfortunately discovered a few pieces of highly useful metadata that are not exposed as options for the creation of iTunes Smart Playlists. These all seem like simple things to add, and would enable some really cool Smart Playlist scenarios. Here are the things I think iTunes is missing on this one:

If anyone at Apple is listening please, PLEASE get these added to the next version of iTunes! They all look reasonably simple to implement and would make me one happy iTunes geek!

iPhone 1.1.1 is out – my frustrations with the WiFi Music store

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

This morning Apple released updates for the iPhone bringing forth a bevy of new features including the slick new WiFi music store, better iPod controls, your choice of incoming SMS alerts, and other minor tweaks and refinements throughout the iPhone. The iPhone gained a few features already introduced in the iPod Touch like bringing up media controls when the home button is double tapped and a cool trick where double tapping the space bar inserts a period and a space to help cut down on finger taps.

The WiFi music store lets users purchase songs on-the-go using any WiFi hotspot which essentially puts the entire multi-million track library of iTunes in your pocket – perfect for a quick impulse buy from time to time. It would be perfect for the impulse-heavy consumer like me – if it worked on my iPhone!

I’m having store authorization problems so I can’t actually buy anything right now. It’s rejecting my credentials to the point of locking my account, when I know I’m entering them correctly. I even verified my credentials on a desktop just to make sure I wasn’t having a senior moment.

Password attempts

I wrote up up a more detailed report of my WiFi Music Store experience for Gear Live if you want to know more. For now I’ll have to sulk about with my existing library while on-the-go and be content with the other features released today.

iPhone reviews, studies, and commentary of the day

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster for the iPhone

I just posted a couple of great articles to Gear Live on the Apple iPhone. First up is a bit of commentary and a link to the usability study performed by Computerworld which pits Apple’s iPhone, the HTC Touch, and the Nokia N95 against each other in a usability battle royale. Obviously the iPhone scores high marks, but there are some other interesting insights to be garnered from the review relating to how it differs from it’s main competitors in the touch-based phone world.

Next up I posted my in-depth review of the Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster case (featured in the image above) which is my current favorite iPhone accessory. It’s both stylish and protective – a great combination for a sexy device like the iPhone. You can check out the full review here.

Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster for the iPhone” by sparktography

Happy with EDGE?

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

iPod Observer just posted about an Information Week article about AT&T’s upcoming HSUPA upgrades for their network which will increase 3G speeds up to sixfold in some cases. AT&T’s president Richard Burns commented that iPhone customers are happy with the EDGE (2.5G) network.

We’re surveying them in large numbers week in and week out. They’re telling us their EDGE experience is great.

I’m sorry, but I have to call plain and simple bullshit. The newly improved EDGE network is faster than the old one, and makes browsing the web possible on an iPhone, but certainly not “great”. The fantastic iPhone WiFi experience makes up for it, but whenever a hotspot is not handy life on the EDGE network is barely faster than dial-up internet access in a day when modern web content is designed with broadband network connections in mind.

Apple needs to hurry up and drop with the 3G iPhone – the modern capabilities of the device paired with a more modern network connection would make for the true killer phone.

Blogging Gear Live

Friday, September 21st, 2007

I am pleased to announce my triumphant return to the professional blogging scene at Gear Live. I’ve been busy with other things in my life the last 6 months or so and haven’t had a chance to write up articles and reviews, but now that things have settled down a little bit I plan to be writing weekly columns again and reviewing more gadgets and technology. I’m close to finishing up some final details to confirm I’ll be going CES again next year with the Gear Live crew – yay!

The re-launch of my Gear Live writing career starts with an in-depth review of the V-Moda Vibe Duos. There are a lot more exciting things coming to the site (including a fantastic new site design launching soon) so bookmark Gear Live and stay tuned for more announcements! If you just want to see the posts I’ve written you can always look at the filtered view of my posts on Gear Live.

A triptych of iPhone wallpapers

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Chain link iPhone wallpaper Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper

I did a little work on some old photos tonight to work them up as Apple iPhone wallpapers. I ended up selecting two of them as my favorites, and am posting them here as a triptych with sunlit frond which I posted about two weeks ago. They were all selected for their central composition, and color pallets to go with the frosted grey and blue popups that appear on the homescreen. All three of them have been resized to 320×480 pixels from the original version and I adjusted the colors to look their best on the iPhone screen.

To set one of these as your iPhone’s wallpaper click the thumbnail above, then save the origional version from the pop-up to your hard drive. Save it to the location your iPhone syncs photos from (the folder of your choice on Windows or a Mac, or into iPhoto on Macs) and sync it to your iPhone. Once it’s there you can select it by clicking on Settings then Wallpaper to get to your photo library then selecting the photo of your choice.

Chain link iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography
Sunlit frond iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography
Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography

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