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Tech

Apple to update .Mac

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Apple has been promising a new version of .Mac to users for well over a year now. After the release of OS X Tiger, .Mac was slated for release in the first half of 2005. However, .Mac was held back due to ensure maximum compatibility and efficiency with the new version of OS X. Users can expect the new .Mac to include a new version of it’s popular program Backup, exclusive .Mac widgets, and a handful of other upgrades that have yet to be seen.

I for one cancelled my .Mac subscription after the first year. Not only is the software expensive ($100 for a year’s subscription), but it is way behind the curve when it comes to online storage. At the time of my purchase, Apple was only offering 250mb of online storage. Many people are able to get something comparable to that with free mail accounts such as Yahoo! or Hotmail. Sync was probably the most useful feature, allowing me to keep my Address Book and Bookmarks up to date and accessable from any computer with an internet connection. However, since I got my Powerbook, I am able to take my computer with me and the functionality of Sync has gone by the wayside.

I would consider renewing my subscription after seeing what new features/widgets they incorporate into the new version of .Mac.

But if the storage space has not increased, iDisk and Sync are technologies that might as well be obsolete.

Tech

Wi-Fi and Widgets

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No, I’m not talking about stealing your neighbors Wi-Fi or draining the bandwidth from one of the seven Starbucks within twenty feet of your house. There are actually many spots in your neighborhood that offer free Wi-Fi service. There is no need to pay overpriced, monthly charges to use your local bookstore’s wireless internet. You simply need to know where to look.

One of the best ways to find out where these free Wi-Fi “hot spots” are located is in a new service called MetroFreeFi.com. The site allows you to enter your zip code and search locally for free wireless internet access. Not only will it catalog what stores near you offer wi-fi, but it will also give you store hours, website information, and driving directions so that you don’t get lost on your way there.

With the introduction of OS X Tiger, many developers have created easier ways for you to keep track of these free internet spots. JiWire WiFi Hotspot Finder and Air Traffic Control are two widgets that I use to monitor the internet activity around me.

While on the topic of widgets, have a look at the Creative Bits Widget Pageant 2005. They have gathered seventeen popular widgets and are having users vote on which they find most useful. Currently, in the lead is the ShortStat Widget which offers quick access to Shaun Inman’s ShortStat on your web server. As a web developer, this widget has proved to be an invaluable resource for me. Simply launch your widgets and get a snapshot of the recent activity on your site(s). This application is well thought out, and it’s successor Mint looks like it won’t disappoint.

Tech

The Mightiest Mouse

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I believe a little bit of Steve Jobs died yesterday. After years of holding out, Apple has released their first two-button mouse. But it’s not just any old mouse, far from it actually. It’s what you would expect from the company at the top of Business Week’s Top 20 Innovative Companies list.

At first glance, the Mighty Mouse looks like a standard, single-button Apple mouse. However upon further inspection, it comes equipped with a pressure sensitive top that can tell which side of the mouse you are clicking. You get all of the classic one-button mouse look with the the two-button efficiency. The Mighty Mouse also boasts other features such as squeezable side buttons for quick application launch and a “revolutionary Scroll Ball that lets you move anywhere inside a document, without lifting a finger”.

Probably the best thing about the Mighty Mouse is its integration into the OS X Tiger interface. The mouse allows you to program your clicking to activate such Tiger goodies as Dashboard and Exposé.

With a simple click, you can access your widgets or clear your desktop applications in a flash. Right now Apple only has a wired version available, but one can only expect that a Bluetooth version will be right around the corner.

Tech

Optimus Keyboard

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The wheel. Sliced bread. The George Foreman Grill. All of these inventions have changed the world and defined a generation. These great moments in time come only so often, however today, we are on the verge of another life-changing invention that will change the way you compute forever. It is called the Optimus Keyboard and this thing looks like it has the makings of an incredible device.

The keyboard is in the initial stage of production and is slated for release in 2006. The site says that it will “cost less than a good mobile phone”, so it won’t be cheap as far as keyboards go. As much as I’d like to throw my disposable income at this thing, I can see that it might have a few drawbacks.

Although it will be using OLED to illuminate the keys, it will still need a fair amount of juice to operate. And the size looks a little bit bigger than a standard keyboard so it may actually take up more space on your desk.

From a design standpoint, the Optimus Keyboard is beautiful and well thought-out. However, the price and usability are yet to be seen; which is what keeps me from selling a kidney on the black market to get one.

Tech

Internet Explorer sucks

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I don’t think this is ground-breaking news here.

Safari, Firefox, hell OmniWeb; I’ll take these over IE any day of the week. After reading some reports on the upcoming release of IE7, I’m skeptical that all of the needs will be met by the folks at Microsoft. Serious flaws such as consistent styling support and page rendering have plagued the browser, and as a designer, I would love to see CSS support done properly. Done even half-way right, it would be an improvement.

This would mean less fighting and more loving. As much as one can love Micro$oft that is.