Posts Tagged ‘computers’

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Sayin’ something nice…about the Jawbone ICON + Nerd

February 19, 2013

jawbone

 

This little tiny thing is the Jawbone ICON HD + The NERD.

I’ve not had good luck with hands-free audio for driving. I have a Plantronics Voyager Pro that works passably with my iPhone 4S until I put the phone in my pocket and start walking. Then it cuts in and out, every time. It doesn’t fit in my ear very comfortably and the sound is so-so.

I have a set of Motorola S305 stereo headphones that provide reasonable sound for headphones of their size, but I can’t wear them in the car. (They also have pretty good range away from the phone.)

I’m doing a lot of long-distance driving, five hours or so at a clip, and I needed something better. I broke down and spent over a hundred bucks at Amazon on the Jawbone. And dammit, it was money well spent!

The thing has “HD” sound – I don’t know what that means for a monophonic, one-ear headphone, but it so far is way better than any other phone headset I’ve ever used. My wife says call quality on the other end is good, too, although I haven’t tested it on the road in my noisy Chevy Equinox.I wouldn’t want to listen to music with it all day, but I could listen to audiobooks with it for a couple of hours at a time, I think.

The NERD is the little USB dongle, obviously. While it is a Bluetooth dongle, it is a dedicated one – once you pair the Jawbone to it you can use it on any computer and it will still know to stay linked. And it can stream audio from the computer while you are waiting for a call on the iPhone, then it will switch to the iPhone when needed. That is way cool! The dongle does use up a USB port, but that’s OK with me because I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I want to connect it to the laptop.

So far, I recommend it. We’ll see after I have it a while. I don’t know about battery life. The button layout seems smart and I can switch it from one ear to the other without too much trouble and without changing anything. I think it will make those long drives a bit easier.

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Hey, I’m on Google Earth!

February 17, 2013
No, really, it's us!

No, really, it’s us!

Last spring after my granddaughter’s preschool graduation we spent some time with one of her friends in a local park. The Google car drove by and we remarked that it would be something if we were included on Google Earth. And apparently – we were! Not tellin’ where, though!

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Really, Apple? What’s up with Pages and pdfs?

February 14, 2013

So…I needed to produce a short, 4-page newsletter in a hurry, and I decided to use an existing template I found in iWork Pages instead of creating my own in InDesign. I know InDesign, actually have been spending a lot of time with it, but I thought this would be just as fast or hopefully faster since I could start with an existing template that I liked. It had about a half-dozen page choices, fonts that looked pretty good with the design and even a color scheme I figured I would not have to tweak. (I eventually did, but that’s another story.)

It went together pretty well. Pages does some quirky things with flow from one column to another, but I got past it. I have to say, the column flow in InDesign is pretty darned smooth nowadays, far better than back when it was still PageMaker. Things stay where you want them.

I got the newsletter done in a couple of days, on and off, and sent a draft out to the board members of the organization for which it was being created. Nobody seemed to have any problems. I did one more proofreading pass, caught a couple of things, and then exported the PDF.

I checked the PDF in Preview.¬† It looked fine. Then I decided I was going to add metadata that couldn’t be easily added in Preview (at least, as far as I know it can’t) so I fired up Adobe Acrobat X.

It looked, pardon my French, like shit.

The text wasn’t kerned properly and the letters were not aligned along a baseline. It looked like one of those “kiddie” fonts that tries to duplicate a child’s printing. I zoomed. Still ugly. I zoomed some more. Still not good, but better. Finally I zoomed out to where I only could see one column on a three-column page at once. Finally it was rendering the type correctly.

I tried printing to a PDF instead of exporting. I tried printing to PostScript, then opening that in Acrobat. I checked it with Acrobat 8 and 11 – same issues. I tried the “Print to Adobe PDF” – how is that different from “Print to PDF” – yes, there are a couple of things you can tweak, but that’s it. It looked just the same.

I figured every Windows user in the organization was going to be laughing their heads off if this thing got out. I did some quick Google searches, and found that THIS WAS A KNOWN PROBLEM. WHAT THE FRAK? THIS WAS NOT A QUIRK, IT WAS A FRAKKING CONSISTENT ISSUE!

What good is Pages if you can’t export a PDF? Print is dead, to quote Egon Spengler, and I’ll bet 90 per cent of documents created in Pages are never intended for print.

It has an “export to ePub” function, for cryin’ out loud! But it can’t render a PDF properly? Even Word can do that!

Near as I can tell, Pages doesn’t embed the fonts. If the reader’s computer doesn’t have the font it will only render it properly at the resolution at which the page was created, or something. It couldn’t scale the type nor kern it correctly. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get Pages to embed the fonts.

Finally, I switched all the text that was originally in Baskerville to Minion Pro. I figured that font should be on most of the Windows machines out there. It was on every list of standard system fonts in Win7 I could find. I didn’t like the look of the page as much; I had to actually decrease the font size and increase the spacing between the lines to get it to come out right without rebuilding the whole newsletter.

The newsletter should come out quarterly; I will switch to InDesign for the next one. So much for Pages. It’s just never seemed to be quite ready for prime time. It’s sad, because it could be a pretty nice app – pretty interface, tools that mostly work the way you expect, low learning curve. But as far as I’m concerned, the PDF export issue is a deal-breaker.

I expect better from Apple. I really do. I don’t think of the Apple folks as superhuman; just as a company that cares about the experience the user has with its products. This is NOT a minor point, to allow it to render PDFs incorrectly. I don’t care how much bad blood there is between Apple and Adobe. The Quartz engine should make PDF conversion pretty simple, and it usually is. (Remember, the granddaddy of Quartz was a little thing called Display PostScript…for the NEXT computer.) This is a really sad oversight. I hope Apple fixes it, but it seems to me that updates to Pages and the other iWork apps don’t appear very often.

Sorry for the caps. This really bugs me, not only because I just found it out of luck, and then spent two hours fixing it. I just have higher expectations of software developers. PDFs are such a standard I don’t know how that could have slipped past in beta testing.

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Mac Microsoft Word 2011 save problem – solved?

December 14, 2012

I’ve been working on a book about how to arrange music for marching band, and I’ve been plugging away at it for about a year. I’ve been writing it in Word, mainly, and embedding images as I’ve gone along. There are a lot of music notation examples in the book, so I have been creating them and placing them along the way.

I didn’t originally know if I would complete the book in Word or convert it to something else. Last summer I got Adobe Creative Cloud services for another project and so I have access to the newest version of InDesign. I was a PageMaker guy from way back, and I’ve used InDesign CS3 to do concert programs and the like, but never a large (100+ pages) document.

I decided to move the text to InDesign and I’m in the process of doing that. However, what prompted that decision was the trouble I’ve had with Mac Word 2011.

Lately it’s been switching the document to Read-Only and refusing to save. There have been dialogs popping up about the file being used by another process. I’ve done a little research and I found that others with the same problem have (a) been using large files, in excess of 20 MB; (b) they have been using images embedded in the file, and (c) they have Time Machine backup turned on. There were a lot of suggestions to fix permissions (the generic Mac OS X fix) and I did that, daily, for a while…it didn’t help.

Since I have the first 40+ pages transferred to InDesign I decided to delete the images in that part of the document. The file went from 22.5 MB to 19.9. I’ll see if that helps. I hate to turn off Time Machine if I can avoid it. Maybe it’s the images.

If so, that’s kind of stupid. I’ve worked with documents in Windows Word 2010 that were of similar file sizes, with lots of embedded images. I used to write a lot of computer training documentation and those docs were full of screenshots – and I did nothing to optimize those images one bit. There’s obviously some kind of bug in Word and how it works with Time Machine or some other background process. I’ll report back on this issue in a few days, and let you know if the situation has improved.

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But I thought paying taxes was a good thing…

December 10, 2012

Apple taxes

Got this in my email today. But I thought we were supposed to LIKE paying taxes!

Remember, folks, a tax deduction is now defined as a loophole. We workers are not supposed to like loopholes, because they deprive the State of some of our property.

I think I’m now going to refer to the US Government all the time as The State, like Ayn Rand did. Confusion with actual state government? OK.

 

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Stupid iCal tricks

May 29, 2012

I use the Reminders app on my iPhone and iPad a lot. I wish all the functions that are available in iCal were available on the phone, but I still use it without them. I actually use it more now that Siri adds them for me.

I created a new list because I had a bunch of things to do today, and I didn’t want to hunt through the long list. Then I moved the reminders from the default “Reminders” list to the new list. (I did all this on the iPad.)

When I opened Reminders on the iPhone, the new list was there, but the regular “Reminders” list had no entries! They showed up in iCal, and on the iPad, but not on the phone.

Searches through the intertubes didn’t help much, but finally, though, I found an old Apple forum post that said…you guessed it…turn the phone off and then on again. I figured it wouldn’t work since it described behavior from a previous iOS version.

Yeah. That’s all it took. Hold the Sleep button down until the red slider appears, then turn it off, then hold the button again until it starts up.

All my Reminders were there.

One the one hand, duh; on the other, why would you have to do that? I thought all this stuff was in iCloud and synced automatically? I had all the settings correct!

Anyway, they are in there, and that makes me happier. Not delirious, but happier.

Now I’d better get to work…

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Photo Phoolery

April 26, 2012

(click for a larger version)

I shot this image of the Trump Tower last week while I was on the Chicago River on the Wendella Boats Architectural River Tour, which I recommend. I put it through an app called Focus (available at the Apple App Store) then adjusted it in Pixelmator (same source). I didn’t have any plan at all, just messed with stuff until I liked the look. I have no idea what I’m doing with these tools, and I assume folks who really know what they are doing could do something really special. I just liked how this one turned out – I think mainly because of the angle of the shot.