Archive for Mac

This Is Just a Test

“Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?”

I just finished a long night of karate and I’m not sure I’m ever going to stop sweating. It started in class, and it was Sensei’s birthday so he decided we’d get in a really good workout and do some sparring. Two and a half hours later, most of us were dripping (especially Sensei, who sparred everyone in class one at a time — and yes, he kicked my butt). But review is next week, so shortly after I got home I warmed up again, ran two kata, and started in on all of my wazas. I really want to be ready for review next week, so I ran them all normal speed, redid the ones I messed up, then ran them all slow for refinement and muscle memory.

So yeah, long night.

As I’m cooling down I’m composing this on my iPod touch. I found a WordPress app and so far it’s working like a champ (unlike the BlackBerry WP app). Writing in landscape mode on the on-screen keyboard is very quick, especially with the built-in word recognition. Faster even than on my CrackBerry physical keyboard. I really wish either AT&T would fix their coverage out here or that their exclusive contract would end because I’d buy an iPhone in a heartbeat. Evernote and WordPress on this touch could very well become my killer apps.

Enough rambling. Time to hit the shower. This weekend is bachelor weekend and I’ll need to be well-rested for the carnage.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Year That Was

Personally, 2008 wasn’t so bad. On the fitness side, I started a running program over the summer and enjoyed moderate success. In the martial arts, I earned my green and then purple belts in Shuri-ryu karate, and I read some great books on the subject. I may not have lost a ton of weight like I did last year, but I do feel even better and I’ve definitely improved my strength and flexibility.

I spent the whole year on a Mac, and have become an official member of the Apple cult. I got my hands on a Canon Digital Rebel XSi to get more creative with my photography, and I have been very happy with it. I bought a motorcycle and got comfortable on it. My family is doing very well, and we took our first family vacation shortly before the Wife and I celebrated our 12th anniversary.

The writing side, however, was a bit disappointing. Despite best intentions, I didn’t finish the Muy Mal arcs as planned, largely because other projects took precedence. New Dark Voices was just re-released and Brimstone Turnpike finally saw print, but the Top Secret Book that was expected faced some unfortunate delays. New publications brought Das Tödliche Geschlecht (the German translation of Deadliest of the Species) and Jack Haringa Must Die! Beyond that I’ve had some promising leads, but they have yet to come to fruition.

I guess that’s what 2009 is for, right?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The King and His Throne

The King and His Throne

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Even Conan never had it so good.

Our elementary school is going Apple next year, and we saved a few bucks by ordering the equipment early so it’s already here. I have three 52 Weeks pics to take yet (because I’m a slacker), so I thought it would be cool to work them in.

Now comes the hard part of unboxing all those suckers and setting them up… The first two or three are like Christmas, but after that it gets old quick.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I Feel So Dirty

I just ordered the iMac for the family.

Mmmm, Kool-Aid.

And someone please tell me why the iPod touch doesn’t have Bluetooth. If you could access the Internet through a cell phone, it would make Safari and Google Maps much more useful. Some of us live in the boonies where public wi-fi is still an urban legend and AT&T coverage sucks.

Not to mention a Bluetooth keyboard would be nice when someone adds some kind of word processing ability via the software SDK due this month.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Getting Her Geek On

The Wife got her first hands-on look at the iPod touch yesterday, and was blown away by how small it is. She’s now excited to be owning one soon, mostly because it will take significantly less space in her purse than the calendar and address book she carries around now. She walked out of the store sporting phantom wood, looking forward to the day she can proudly show off pictures to people who ask (as opposed to bitching that her lazy husband never prints any of them out).

It’s easy for a geek like myself to get excited about new technology, but for non-techies it’s a bit trickier. Despite there being PC’s and laptops in the house throughout our marriage, the Wife has only been using email actively for the last two years. She’s embraced online shopping and Google Maps, and thought my being able to download missed television episodes was “pretty cool.” She only recently started using text messages and fiddling with ringtones on her cell phone, but hardly ever uses the camera. She’s fully embraced DVR technology, but could care less about high-def televisions beyond the fact a flat-screen hanging on the living room wall will free up all kinds of floor space.

In short, the Wife looks at technology as a tool, not a toy. She sees practical uses for the iPod touch, and a new layer of convenience seals the deal. The maps, multi-touch screen, and even the music and video playback are all just a slick bonus. The bulky Palms and other PDA’s have never tripped her trigger, especially with a stylus to lose, easy-to-scratch screens, and clunky interfaces.

I think Apple understands this. Yes, Apple gear is shiny, sleek, and cool. But they definitely have the user in mind, whether we’re talking about hardcore users, newbies, or somebody in between. We all have work to get done, and there are many times we’d like to make that work as simple as possible.

It doesn’t get much easier than iPhoto.

The Wife shares one big gripe with me: price. You get the Cadillac or nothing, something I talked about earlier. This slows adoption to general audiences, but those who can afford said Cadillac couldn’t be happier. We’re discussing putting an iMac in my office so she’ll be able to more easily manage her iPod touch, as well as share photos with family by burning them to DVD with iMovie. She doesn’t have the patience to do the same things in Linux.

In other words, she now sees the value in spending the extra cash, especially now that we’re in a position to afford it.

I may pull the trigger on a new iMac this week, before her phantom wood subsides. It will be interesting to see if an iMac changes her view of computing or not, and whether or not she’ll take advantage of things like the iLife suite.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

"Click! Take a pic!"

The Canon EOS 450D (aka Digital Rebel XSi) has been formally announced, and it shall be mine. (Provided it doesn’t come with Rosie Perez’s voice.*)

I’ve been wanting a digital SLR for a long time. I’ve used an old 35mm camera in the past, and I really enjoyed it compared to using a point-and-shoot digital. Looking through the lens gives you better control of the shot, including the framing and focus. My 6-year-old Canon PowerShot G2 was top of the line in its day, but now with its stuck pixels and its focusing frustrations, it’s time for an upgrade. The nice thing is with the changing technology I can buy a much beefier DSLR for the same price I paid for the G2.

I’ve been watching Digital Photography Review for more information, and they didn’t disappoint: they’ve got a brief hands-on with the 450D and a summary of differences between it and its predecessor, the 400D/Digital Rebel XTi. It looks like Canon’s packing in some solid features, and that’s got me drooling all the more. I read somewhere that it doesn’t ship until April, but if I’ve been waiting over two years to get my hands on a DSLR, I guess I can wait two more months.

Maybe.

The question, then, is will the investment result in better pictures? I sure as hell hope so. If nothing else I’ll have a lot more fun taking pics. Of course, judging by what I saw out of my friend Richard’s Rebel and Speedlite, the softened flash alone is worth the price of admission. I’m sick to death of blown-out faces and subjects’ uncontrollable blinking in my pics.**

The first step to improvement will probably be jumping into the Digital Photography School forums. It looks like there’s a lot of great advice flying around in there, and it’s a lot faster (and cheaper) than trying to take a photography class at a local community college.*** DPS also has a great blog with some cool tips.

With photography more on my brain than ever, I’ve started thinking more about digital workflow. I’ll need some processing capability for RAW no doubt, which means some extra software for the GIMP on my Linux box. Of course, if I do make the Mac switch, that will change things significantly. It’s a little premature to be worried about the Lightroom vs. Aperture debate, so instead I turned my attentions to iPhoto on my MacBook and compared it to digiKam on Linux.

If there’s one app that I think I’d truly miss in Linux, it’s digiKam. Both it and iPhoto perform the same function: importing and organizing your pictures. They both allow easy sorting and importing, and they both support tagging. iPhoto’s presentation is a little bit cleaner, but feature-wise they’re more or less the same.

The key difference is in the back ends, and maybe some of the Mac folks can speak up here.

What I like about digiKam is it drops pics right into the filesystem. If I need to find my pictures in any other application or through a file browser, I know right where to find them because the albums are a mirror of the folder hierarchy. If I change the names of the picture files on import, that name is applied to the file name, replacing vague camera filenames like IMG98939.JPG. The added benefit here is if for any reason I lost the digiKam database with my tags and such in it, my files are untouched. If I have to access the drive remotely (via SSH/SCP, which I do often) or have to recover files with a drive enclosure or similar method, I have a good idea of what I’m looking at.

iPhoto, on the other hand, drops everything into a package of some kind. The files appear to be copied to the filesystem, but it looks like the titles are only part of the iPhoto Library package and database. I did figure out there are both Original and Modified folders inside the iPhoto Library package, and there are folders for year and then Event, but the image filenames are still IMG884737.JPG. Having an automatic backup if I edit a pic (an untouched original and the new, modified file) is not a bad idea, but does this not take up extra space?

How will this affect remote access? If I use SSH to access a Mac, or if I connect via SCP to copy a handful of pictures to a remote computer, am I going to be able to browse — via the shell or a SCP GUI like WinSCP — to my pictures and copy them? Am I going to have to upload pics to Flickr and fetch them from there? Or is there some other Apple sharing method that I may not be aware of?

And most importantly, if my darling rugrats shove my Mac off a table and shatter it, am I going to be able to access my pictures — and recover tags, titles, and other data — if I yank the hard drive and drop it into an enclosure?

Why does iPhoto do it this way? Inquiring minds want to know.

*For those of you who don’t have rugrats, Rosie Perez is the voice of Click the Camera on Go, Diego, Go! And she sings. It’s truly the work of the Devil.

**I have about a tenth as many pics of my wife as I should because she can’t keep her frickin’ eyes open. If I show you a good shot of my wife, chances are it was taken outside in broad daylight in the middle of summer. As a result she’s probably wearing sunglasses, too.

***I tried to take the photography class when I was in college, but the single section offered was always filled within about 6 nanoseconds of the start of registration.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Drinking the Apple Kool-Aid

One of the Apple execs I met yesterday made a good statement about their products: you don’t get it until you try it.

Apple users extol the virtues of their OS all the time. Three of my friends, including (former) die-hard PC user John Roling, have switched to Mac and vow to never go back. A school in Indianapolis employing a 1-to-1 initiative dropped their PC laptops in favor of MacBooks and couldn’t be happier. A Minneapolis-area school switched their 8 buildings from PC to Mac and offered to load Windows for anyone who wanted it; not one teacher requested it.

The rest of us ask “It costs how much?

The MacBook I purchased in December was my first real experience with a Mac, and it’s been growing on me ever since. Wednesday, on the way up to Chicago for our Apple briefing, my superintendent and I stopped off at the New Lenox School District 122. A teacher showed us how she used Macs, and I picked the tech coordinator’s brain about the back end. Both of them couldn’t be any happier with their Macs, and the downside on the back end is far from a deal-breaker.

That night, we hit the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue. I played with an iPod Touch. I fiddled with an iPhone, then browsed the MacBooks, Apple TV, and the iMacs. I chatted with the sales reps, and I damn near came home with an iPod Touch for the Wife.

Yesterday we sat in on the briefing, learned about Apple’s sales and growth, and got a lot of hands-on experience. We created a podcast in Garage Band in minutes (complete with pictures), and fiddled with a lot of the features that would really help in an educational setting, such as the built-in Dictionary and the Speech text-to-speech engine. We even got to see a lot of the thoughtful extras, like Webclips.

We drove home stunned.

Sure, I still have a few beefs. The closed nature of some of their products, for starters (the iPod Touch may be open to more developers soon, but the iPhone will be AT&T-only for some time). The lock-in to iTunes. The lack of true GPS on the iPhone and the Touch (every time someone tried to show me the triangulation feature, it failed or at least failed to build directions off of it). The way the Nike+iPod is restricted to the iPod Nano. And, of course, the price tag.

Yet it’s hard to argue with the value. Like people say, most of this stuff is just cool to use. Apple has put a lot of thought into the layout and design of both the hardware and the software, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the system’s stability. OS X is loaded with features you just don’t get on Windows (or at the very least aren’t as polished in Windows), and the iPhone and Touch interfaces are an order of magnitude better than the Palm’s (there’s no stylus to lose, either).

The Wife scoffed when I told her I almost brought home a Touch for her. She had been looking at one of those credit card-sized photo viewers to show pictures to people, and she carries a calendar and address book in her purse. The Touch would fill all those functions and then some, saving her space in her purse and give her a much better screen and interface to boot. When I got home, I sat her down in front of my MacBook and gave her a tour of the Touch on Apple’s site. Sure enough, she’s impressed and looks forward to getting one in the near future.

Even tonight, despite my irritation in being forced to purchase an iPod Nano if I want to use the Nike+iPod gear when I try the Cool Running 5k plan this Spring, I found myself pricing out both the gadgets and a pair of Nike+ shoes or the Shoe Pouch. All day I’ve been trying to figure out if I should sync the Wife’s iPod Touch with my school MacBook or if I should buy an iMac for the family, and she doesn’t even have the damn thing yet. I yammered about Apple crap all night, and the Wife says I haven’t been this excited about computers in a long time.

Right now, if someone asked me what kind of computer they should buy, I would tell them “If you can afford it, buy a Mac. If you can’t, buy the best machine you can afford and slap Ubuntu on it.”

I feel so dirty.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.