Thursday, December 27, 2007

Deep Blue

Mae's a wonder...

Okay, so I'm putting Mae, our three year old, to bed after Marian gives up trying to get her to sleep.

Her drink and sandwich taken, the stories done, we're lying in the dark...

'What's this called, Daddy', rubbing her hand on my forehead.
'That's called a forehead'
'Cos that's where the words are. The words are in there.'
'Oh you're thinking about your mind.'
'Inside there's a bone... a bone', her hands on either side of my skull.
'Yes, that's called your skull. Inside your skull is your brain and that's where your mind lives. And you do all your thinking inside your mind'.
'I'm thinking right now, Daddy'. Her forehead wrinkling, her finger pointing to where the action is.
'Yes, of course you are'.
'I'm thinking...'
'Uh uh...'
'...I'm thinking that Mommy should be putting me to bed...'

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is that Google on the Mac?

I was actually asked this question when I launched Safari in a traiining session. It was a little insight into what the Net is for most people.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Saw 'Once' again.... I love this movie...

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Four Trillion Emails...


Well... so much for Inbox Zero. Once I finish clearing these 4 trillion out of my Inbox... give or take a few hundred billion... I'll get right back to you.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Getting Things Done using TaskPaper

I’ve been been a keen convert to GTD since reading the book by David Allen about two years ago. Since then I’ve been a daily visitor to 43Folders and found a lot there to help guide me, there’s a very well informed community of productivity heads all of whom seemed to be working their way though similar issues.

In GTD, there were things I got very quickly - the overall process, ubiquitous capture and adopting a structure to an file system that really matched what I had to do. And of course, Allen’s emphasis on the right tools. This alone is why all the geeks out there love GTD.

Central to my practice was a set of digital tools, KinklessGTD, a bunch of add-ons to Mail, and iCal. When OmniFocus entered beta, I signed up in a hearbeat. And let me tell you, I love it, it’s satisfying and rich, a really flexible piece of software which readily adapted to the complexities of producing a feature film. Now, the film is complete, bar tidying up details, and as the workload grew simpler, I found that my productivity lessened. Sure I was tired, just burned out... but hey, I still was at my desk, still running the system, but I found myself exploring dependencies and time allowances, finessing the structure of my work... rather than actually doing anything...

I’ve had an eye on other GTD apps and downloaded a bunch over the years, usually dismissing them as requiring a bit too much adaptation to their system. I already knew a system, a really good one in OmniFocus, and I’d no interest in exploring another. But still, recently, I’ve come to accept that something has to change.

I returned to an old paper system I’ve used prior to having software for this purpose, post-its with single tasks obscuring my work window, do a task, clear some window space. Gets me up from my desk and there was some simple pleasure in taking up a piece of paper and trashing it. There was something about having your work up on a large public window that put a bit of pressure on me. But still it was hardly portable and obviously very limited.


Enter TaskPaper from Hog Bay Software.

Hog Bay have always produced quality software, their Mori was one of the better outliner/note taking software offerings prior to them selling it on. Back in the day, if you visited the Hog Bay site, it was refreshing to read on the Mori page, frank recommendations of DevonThink and OmniOutliner, two competing products. And today if you visit the TaskPaper section, you’ll read an endorsement of OmniFocus. All very evolved indeed, it speaks well of them, I wish other software producers were as generous. They also produce WriteRoom, which I own and love too. The original of the full-screen wordprocessors, also worth checking out.

To launch TaskPaper is to get it.

Its model is of a blank piece of paper, using it is like grabbing a pen and quickly drafting a list of stuff to be done. As a result it feels really fresh. Punch in your Projects and Tasks, assign Contexts/Tags on the fly, sort your lists by project or by context/tag. That’s it. No Futzing. My productivity soared.

For all its simplicity it has a lot of admirable qualities, not least of which is that the file is plain text, you can load it up into other software should you need to. TaskPaper’s internal workings enables it to sort it and format it.

It’s got tabs which I use for handy clicking to commonly used views. Like everything in TaskPaper, it’s simple to do and simple to remove, so you feel flexible and responsive, you don’t think too much about it, you just do it.

Again a sign of flexibility, It permits on the fly addition of multiple contexts. For me contexts, as defined in GTD, always were tags, as usually understood. Beyond the usual applications for context, I use them to add complexity, when needed, to the straightforward TaskPaper approach.

In OmniFocus I used to have a complex structure of projects and sub-projects, nested several layers deep in some instances. TaskPaper could be used to create subprojects in the use of names only like ‘Film-distribution’, ‘Film-marketing’ and so on. But I’ve not done that. It felt wrong, like the path I’d taken in OmniFocus that ended up with a huge matrix of projects which frankly triggered my procrastinating sorry-ass self to emerge. So now, if I have to designate a series of tasks to relate to a sub-project, I simply tag it with ‘design’ or ‘marketing’ and all the tasks with that tag appear in their own list. If I need that.

I really appreciate the simplicity of this software, it’s almost unspoken encouragement to just put your words down and move on. I’m keenly aware that I may find myself in the throes of a large complex project and TaskPaper may struggle to match it, but hey, I know I can pick up OmniFocus again for that period in my life. For when I’m not, TaskPaper is more than capable and like a good draught of cool water, just might refresh my understanding of my own productivity.

Taskpaper from Hog Bay Software. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't try to be original, just try to be good...

Nothing quite an old geezer who knows his stuff.... Paul Rand discussing his approach to work.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Digital difference...

Whooo.... my first lecture on the internet compressed by Michael Wesch into about 3 minutes and way more entertaining. I love the sense of joy and wonder, empowerment and personal responsibility he clearly feels now, in this moment.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Honouring The Dalai Lama...

A great interview from Charlie Rose with this eminently reasonable and intelligent man, his Holiness The Dalai Lama.

China today still takes no real heat from the rest of the world over it’s treatment of Tibet and Tibetan life and culture. As the Dalai Lama was honoured in Washington, China redirected any online searches towards state sanctioned search results. They surrounded the largest monastery in Tibet with 3,000 troops.

Meanwhile the world’s economy marches along with China, and nations around the world prepare for the upcoming Olympics. Have a look at Amnesty International’s latest information campaign, the level of shock required to shake our complacency speaks volumes...

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

32A trailer

The trailer for our upcoming feature film, 32A, being premiered in Galway at the Film Fleadh this Friday. There’s more information at the Janey Pictures website.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Charlie Rose

Given the role of American television globally, we often overlook the differences between the experience of television in the US and Europe.

Particularly when it comes to public television and the values and styles employed.

To an American, UK and Irish public broadcasters put out a lot of shows which look like they belong on a private network, shows with little or no merit, playing to the lowest common denominator. Even the shows with an obvious public remit, there’s a lot of gloss and packaging involved, they compete against private networks using public money, making the networks look impoverished and low-end.

It’s quite different in America. Often the best output of PBS is very plain and simple.

One of the mainstays in New York living is checking into Charlie Rose and who he’s interviewing each evening. He employs a simple relaxed style, a minimal studio, no audience, sofas or graphic overlays, this is a format which permits serious conversation with some of the most interesting people in the arts, politics, science and current issues.

The good news is a lot of the content is now available to a wider audience, they’ve put 3,600 hours of interviews online at his website Charlie Rose. It’s well worth a peruse, you only pay for a downloaded version and you can watch them for free on the site. It's going to be one of my favourite places to check in for informed commentary as the upcoming Presidential campaign unfolds.

I include a sample interview here with Fred Rogers, another mainstay of public television in the US. His show is the opposite of what you might expect from the likes of Barney, say. A show where he talks straight to camera, treating kids, very young kids, with a lot of honest respect. Europe would be too cynical for this, but it works a charm in the USA.

The man is a wonder and he’s done some pretty impressive work over the years not least of which was an influential address to the Senate commission on public broadcasting for children.

I’ve remembered this interview for one moment when Fred tells Charlie that he too is special and... well... it’s a moment.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Four Eyed Monsters on YouTube

I blogged about these two before. They have now put their feature, all of it, on YouTube for free and legal viewing for one week only.... They have a promotion whereby for each viewers who sign up with Spout, a film review site, Spout will give them 1 dollar. Sign up and help these guys get out of debt and hopefully working on their next feature.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tell the World....


It appears I am blocked in China. I thought initially perhaps it’s the name, even though I never thought it would sound like trouble... but then I checked out the discussion board on the site. There's a long list of perfectly innocuous sites which are blocked. So I tried my other two sites, Janey Pictures and my undeveloped site. They’re both blocked. Go figure.

Well, let’s give it some credence then.

This June 4th is the 18th anniversary of this terrible day. It is still moving to hear Kate Adie’s broadcast from Tiananmen. ‘Tell the world...’ a student said to her. Perhaps the world has stopped listening....

China hosts the Olympics next. They are the worlds fastest growing economy and every major corporation in the world have set up there. Half the world’s concrete was poured in China last year and they are heading to take over the US in terms of environmental impact. China may be hot right now, but it doesn’t take any heat over how it denies it’s citizens rights, it's policies in Tibet, or, indeed, for the brutality shown that day in Beijing.

This coming June.... Embed this.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Word Processors

Back in the day... that would be 1986 to be precise, the year i bought my first computer. It was an Amstrad PC1512, all of 512k ram and twin 360k floppy drives. It came with a choice of operating systems. MS-DOS or CP/M and two windowing systems, Windows 1.2 and GEM.

The principal reason for the purchase was word-processing. My girlfriend had an earner typing up a science journal for a publisher and the Amstrad could run a dedicated mathematical wordprocessor which would turn out pretty respectable typeset pages, well respectable given that it was 1986.

People used to drop by and ask us to show them ‘cutting and pasting’. These were heady times....

The main application I used for wordprocessing was Wordstar. It was a tough piece of software to love, it got in your way and had no redeeming factor other than it worked. We got a hold of Wordperfect which was like driving a BMW in comparison. WP was kinda cool, especially when they did a version for my new Amiga which rapidly became my main machine. I stuck with WP for quite some time, until the computer in work had Word on it, and then that became set in stone, of course, for me and for everyone.

Now, nearly fifteen years later, I find I’ve been avoiding Word. i have so many writing tools available to me, even the most basic of text editors is more pleasurable to use, it seems ridiculously cumbersome to me. And the fact that I’ve been using it for so long and I am still at sea on how to use whole chunks of it, annoys me. So I’ve set about finding an alternative.

I checked out Mellel, (very impressive, if I was more of an academic I’d be thrilled) and Pages, (real potential, but too much of a design tool for what I was looking for). Finally, I came across Nisus Writer Pro, which is in beta, and it’s been a joy. There’s a sixty day trial period, long enough to persuade you that you can’t ever go back...


It’s fast and responsive, nothing sluggish about it at all. No hangs or waits, no spinning balls.... the beta is very polished, it’s never stalled on me once. I’m using it every day and, yes, in work.
Overall they have struck a very good ratio in how they handle the balance between interface and functionality, you can do a lot, and the interface is designed to make that potential very manageable and not at all intrusive.
- Number one in my book, I want to write, a nice clean toolbar with just what you need on it. There’s no massive list of buttons you can put on the toolbar, so it stays nice and simple. They use palettes for pretty well most options instead.
- The palettes live in a pop out drawer. It’s a simple thing with a big result, you can make them disappear. If you want them available at all times, you can have them float like other applications do or simply keep the drawer open, but I love being able to put them away.
- On top of that, you can configure different sets of palettes into groups in that drawer, so it’s very customisable. And you can set up as many different groups of palettes as you want. There’s huge functionality here, the range of palettes is very thorough.
- It handles styles better than any other writing tool I’ve used, ever. It’s very easy to set them up and implement them, again handled visually in an unobtrusive and straightforward way, a small set of icons at the bottom of each window.
- And every software should borrow how they handle setting up keyboard shortcuts, it’s that easy.

Generally, the UI is great. There seems to be a real focus within Nisus on getting the heck out of the way and keeping it simple. All the while delivering real high end functionality, certainly covers all of the uses I’ll be needing.

It can import and export Word docs, especially RTFs, but the quality is no better than okay. The same applies to most alternative word-processors, but this isn’t a deal breaker for me, I can certainly deal with the table that’s imported slightly longer than it should be very easily in NW Pro. Far easier than I can in Word if something went wrong there....

Best of all, It’s got a simple full-screen mode which is configurable. I’ve been struck by the Full-screen mode we are seeing everywhere, from MacJournal to Montage. The screen blacks out and you just see... crazy after all these years... your words on screen, nothing else, not a menu or palette in sight. Naturally, it recalls all those early experiences, I have actually gone to an amber on black background. Nothing else on screen, just these glowing amber words. Back home... punching in text, but knowing, when I need to do something fancy, it’s going to be easy and quick to do.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Susan and Arin

I’ve followed these two for the past couple of years... it’s been amazing to watch them fulfill what the ongoing development of digital media has promised.

Susan Buice and Arin Crumley, and their project Four Eyed Monsters.


They are two filmmakers who, like many others, set out to make their first feature.

They were perhaps unwitting pioneers in a way, building an online presence around their project which ultimately absorbed their film and became bigger than it. it’s been great to follow it, each step of the way, not just uploading video, but building a community around their project, exploring everything from a premiere on Second Life to Google mashups for screenings.

They give me heart in that it’s not the future, it’s now. It’s the first time I’ve seen filmmakers act like musicians, making their stuff and marketing and distributing it themselves and operating at a certain level. The entire project is open and brave and full of humour and life, genuinely engaging...

The podcasts track the development of the film, its trials and tribulations through production and festival runs and now distribution. They’re funny and touching and really one of the best things on iTunes. I’d recommend watching the podcasts in sequence, including all the little bits promotional stuff... and then catching the film. They have the DVD on sale on their site.

It might tell you something of the impact of this project when you watch the purchasers of the DVD upload videos to YouTube of them opening the packages and popping them in their players. I love the fact that an audience felt that kind of connection, especially for an indie low budget feature.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


I love apps that break through your model of what you can do in a particular area. Calculation on the Mac seems to generally revolve around calculators like TopCalculette or spreadsheets, like Excel or Tables.

Soulver is one such app. It’s neither a straightforward calculator, though you can certainly use it as one, nor is it a full spreadsheet program.

There’s a phrase in mathematics or more likely, book-keeping or carpentry, called a ready reckoner. This implies a handy tool, a sense of some practical application which will enable your work to proceed. I keep being reminded of this every time I load Soulver.

The developer touts it’s abilities to evaluate English language statements and to calculate results from them, to wit:
Ten euro a day for ten days = 100 euro.
Two apples and three apples = 5 apples

Which is all fine and good and possibly useful for some but has no real place in my life. I use it as a calculator and math scratchpad. For stuff that’s not that involved but would require you to jot down intermediate results if you used the average calculator.

For example, It can understand defined constants.
Book = 10 euro
Fifteen books = 150 euro.

Or you can make reference to particular lines in your calculation
1. 130/2        = 65
2. Line1*10 = 650

These two simple things open up a lot. You can set up scratchpads which you can use for ready reckoning... For the kind of thing that Excel would just be overkill. And, best of all, you can save them.

I set up one, which calculates cost implications of different film ratios for me. You could just as easily do a simple pad up for a mortgage calculation, or to calculate costs of different floor coverings for various rooms, simple things that we juggle every day, that don’t require major setup.


Here, it’s a simple matter to adjust all the key variables
- the duration of the movie
- the shooting ratios evaluated
- the set costs per metre

Loading up Excel for a simple ten line spreadsheet always seems silly, but in Soulver, it feels smart. It’s cheap, only 18$, and we’ve seen steady development over the past year. There’s tons of flexibility and real stuff that mathematicians care about but for me...this is enough.

It’s from France, hence the name, Soulver, highly recommended.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Ted Robinson on Creativity in Schools.

Al Gore on Averting a Climate Crisis

Great examples of the good things in TED.

I think this might just be the best thing to happen this week... and I've a feeling more to come...

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First came across TED a few years ago and thought how great it would be to attend that... a conference by leading thinkers in technology, entertainment and design. My cup of tea altogether.

The great news is they have put over 100 of the presentations from previous years online. Terrific. All posted under Creative Commons licenses so freely repostable and linkable to. I wish only that there was one RSS stream so I could download whole chunks of the conference for viewing in iTunes. But even one by one, it’s worth the trouble.

Free Good Stuff, what’s not to love?

Go to it....

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Leopard to ship in October

Ah feck. I was looking forward to Leopard this coming June... Apparently the current builds are pretty unstable... which means the team must have been seriously depleted. Apple usually get one thing wrong... for years it was hardware... I’d hate to see software being an area of stagnation.

Half the issue is Tiger is so good...they must have dropped OS development down the priority chain and chosen to rest on those laurels. Jobs has been seriously over-committed for years, but the last few are pretty spectacular, the store rollout, Disney, the transition to Intel, the iPhone and a cancer scare. Given all that, I wonder how much face time they got with Jobs, especially with his evident excitement over the iPhone.

Apple Statement:
iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard's features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Standing Desks

Every now and then you stumble upon something and then it pops up everywhere. A particular car model, Laksa, scripts involving yoga, all recent culprits...

I do the occasional Standing Desk Day. I have an L-shaped desk. One half low and the other half high. The high side is the perfect height for working while I am standing up.

And then you discover all sorts of people do this, there’s Walter Murch, the film editor who cuts standing up. Back in the day, editors had to get up and shift bins around, lift down cans and spool film, and more often than not, cut on their feet. Now he’s the most prominent editor using Final Cut and he’s still upright. I can see how it returns a free-flowing physicality to the experience of editing digitally.

Our Sound Designer, Lars Ginzel, also works standing up. Somehow it came as no surprise that Donald Rumsfeld, too, has a standing desk...

For me, standing up aids focussed work. It’s an attitude thing.

First and foremost, the Internet isn’t half as appealing when you’re upright. You might check something or download a file, but there’s no way in heck you’ll surf. Man, I’m standing up, I’ve got work to do.

Being already upright, moving around and getting files out of drawers and so on is not so difficult. It’s a great approach when you’re in a crunch and you have to get a package out the door, compiling a document from here and there.

It also works with how I think best, pounding the floor back and forth, scribbling notes on walls and talking to myself.

And I never sit down while on the phone, I walk endlessly.

I have to say, I like what it does to me and how I work, my attitude shifts, I’m much more productive.

The other half of any desk is the chair. Somewhere there must be the ideal high stool, so if I needed to sit occasionally because say, my feet hurt, I could.

My current chair is the antithesis of what I need. It excels in getting me horizontal. If I tilt it back, it’s a perfect for Pzizz, with a set of good headphones and my feet up...

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Monday, April 9, 2007

1Passwd encore...

I posted about this earlier in the heat of passion and I have to say it’s blossomed in to a full commitment.

1Password from Agile Web Solutions is something that has become a seamless part of my workflow. It’s an excellent piece of software that generates strong passwords and fills in forms for you as you visit the many sites online. Things I really like about it:

1. Cmd+\ immediately fills in your default ID and password for each different site you visit.
2. Multiple identities, I use this for home and office and school, three different credit cards for each....
3. Cross browser support. Works on Firefox, Omniweb, Safari... Fill in a form in one and it’s available in all the others.
4. I had developed a habit of using just one password for all these different web2.0 sites I frequent. 1Passwd generates strong passwords for me for each one. Far more secure and it works like a dream.
5. Regular development. I like this in a developer... indicates commitment and these guys keep improving it.

I recommend it highly. Worth every penny. I got it as part of the Macheist adventure, the next upgrade will be a paid one but I’ll be happily doing it.

FWIW They’ve come up with a neat approach to license keys with pictures, they look cool....

They’ve a lot of screencasts on their site covering the installation and usage, a quick look at one should convince anybody...

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Morphing of Interactivity...

While shooting the breeze with Brian Mulligan, who heads up e-learning at our College, we went through our histories, it’s always nice to talk to someone who knows what an Amiga is and who had worked with them.

What I also like is chatting to someone else who knows the sweep of things, who remembers the issues which emerged of the Seventies and Eighties as personal computing spread when interactive multimedia was the vanguard of creative applications.

We were discussing what approaches would be achievable as the College moves forward. Brian is very active in Moodle and other enterprise level solutions and is leading the IT’s rollout of e-learning generally. I was keen on discussing blogging, podcasting and using RSS to disseminate media from the lecturers to their students and beyond.

Discussion wandered onto CBT, computer based training, and the problems inherent in developing interactive education. We shot the breeze and then slowly came to the consensus that... the whole idea of a non-linear document, a multithreaded experience was probably not worth developing.

It felt very odd to actually say it...

Kind of like something had been lost.

The rise of search

There’s many ways of interacting with material on screen.
        - Choosing, I know I want this
        - Browsing, I’ll check this out
        - Searching, Find this for me

It’s as if we move through levels of certainty as you progess through this list. A steady abdication of authority from the user to the net, whatever that is.

Has interactive multimedia in the main come down to this; gather a big enough pile and make it searchable? Search is probably all the interaction most people want now. I want to find something out... just give it to me, as Google says, I’m feeling lucky.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007


There’s some apps you just don’t bother replacing.

Preview for one.

Acrobat has tons more features but it’s slow and over-complex and takes an age to load. It’s not really for just looking at stuff, it’s about doing some work. I always feel that the real app is the Pro version and the cut down version has to carry the baggage of an app with a lot to do. I only really use it for particular documents which have tons of layers in them, the IKEA catalogue comes to mind. Preview sometimes drops the ball on documents which are difficult to render and leaves a layer or two out...

But other than that, Preview is nimble and accurate and does the job for 99% of PDFs and also images of all formats. Why change it? I never thought I would until Skim came out the other day.

I used Skim for two minutes, then quit, selected a PDF in Path Finder, chose Get Info and set the default app for all PDFs to Skim.

It can match Preview in terms of speed and it’s attractive and uncluttered. When you use it, it becomes clear that whoever designed it had a focus on what people need when they want to look at stuff and you know, read...

So, in no particular order...

it’s got a quick magnify tool, a cool floating window which can zoom in on different parts of a page.

You can use the snapshot feature to open up multiple windows on a document.

It’s got lots of annotation options, more than Preview, and you can add anchored notes while you’re at it. It has bookmarking so you can set placeholders for the key points that interested you.

It’s got nifty Fullscreen and Presentation modes which I can see being used as a basic Powerpoint or Keynote replacement. So once they fix the slightly goofy document icon, it’s near perfect.

And being open source... it’s Free.

Skim Recommended.

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

The future of film financing?

Cinematech recently did some interesting coverage of current projects out there seeking finance online, Howard Dean style.

It’s too easy to view these projects a little harshly, and no doubt some of them may be finding finance difficult for a reason. But generally I think that would be too simple. Film financing is such a complex problem, this approach has many benefits.

This could suit some documentaries really well. A lot of documentary makers have unique problems, their projects typically develop over years and they progress through actually shooting stuff, as opposed to pitching and refining scripts and creative packages. They go and gather material, often tons of it, offering them good opportunities for disseminating it in new ways.

I can see documentary makers building rich and illuminating web presences which track their projects, offering their individual backers an ongoing relationship and insight into it’s progress.

That would certainly work well with political or advocacy style projects which highlight issues and can attract an audience who care about the issue.

Drama Features
Even excellent drama projects face many hurdles. I remember during financing our first feature the Coen brother’s finance disintegrated. It happens all the time in film no matter where you are on the Hollywood food chain.

It’s because the chunks involved are just so big. The pressure is always on, you are exposed to the vagaries of that particular source of finance. If something goes awry, a whole side of your film’s finance falls away and the entire structure can collapse.

And as a result people enter it cautiously. The financiers are exposed to a high level and are cautious as a result, the film makers are exposed to their nervousness.

Even getting the initial finance is unpredictable. In the US, it’s usually the ‘guy’, whoever it is at the top of the food chain, and whether he ‘gets it’. ‘yeah, I get it’ can be a green light in the US of A. Over in the EU, it’s about panels and committees, equally unpredictable, their version of ‘I get it’ is usually an avalanche of required documentation, combined with panel members who aren’t exposed but nonetheless whose opinion is taken on board. Go figure that one out. Gimme the ‘I get it’ guy any day.

We had eight sources of finance in our film, the legal documentation totalled over 2000 pages. A part of me is wondering if I’d prefer 2000 sources of finance each with the same 1 page contract.

And if one or two go wobbly, would it all fall apart?

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Sunday, March 11, 2007


I run a pretty tight email ship... it’s one area I’m on top of.

I practice Inbox Zero, I completely got that once David Allen pointed out the simple fact that an Inbox is where things arrive and not where they should live.

When an email lands, I use Mail Act-on to deal with it;
        - if I need to do anything that requires some time and effort, I have an Act-On short cut (Ctrl-K) via Mail2kgtd to add the relevant email to my kGTD file in OmniOutliner Pro.
        - I also have a short cut (Ctrl-A) to send the email to my Actionable Emails folder in Mail.
        - The rest I either dash off a quick response and file in the appropriate project folder, each of which have an Act-On shortcut key.
        - In any case emails only go to the relevant project folder in Mail when they’re done.

The above means I have:
        - An empty inbox,
        - A folder called Actionable that has any emails I have to deal with.
        - My general list of stuff I’m working on has those actionable emails referenced as well.
        - Any emails relevant to projects that I need to be able to refer to at a later point are all sitting in their project folders.

I do like having my email To-dos itemised in my full GTD list, they are no longer a island on their own. Mail2kgtd sends the full copy of the email to the Kinkless GTD file, it stores it in the notes section. This also means that the full email is listed in the notes section in iCal if I refer to the item there. It was spooky the first time, the key data being available in my email program, my GTD program and my calendar...

Each year I run an archive on the email of the year previous to the last one, so I only carry about one years emails around on my laptop. I own MailSteward Lite for archiving, it’s simple and fully searchable, and plays nice with Spotlight. But I’m considering using DevonThink Pro Office, an program whose application grows each time I use it, it may have more interesting options for analysing archived mail.

So far so fine. So what about Spam?

I have an excellent piece of software called SpamSieve which does a good job of filtering spam. But it’s not perfect, it’s okay 99% of the time. But that 1% bugs me. Today’s 1% included an email from my EU domain registrar indicating that three domains I registered were due to expire, and a response to an email I’d sent to Red Sweater software about MarsEdit. But more worryingly, there was also an expression of interest in our current feature from a US distributor.

It looks like I’ll have to add “Review my Spam folder“ to my ever-increasing list of buckets to sort through when it comes to my weekly review. Given that eight spam messages arrived in the time it took to write this entry.... That looks set to take over all of Friday afternoons...

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Look Shiny

Look Shiny’s very funny take on Getting Things Done. As a follower of The David, it all rings horribly true... For all you list generators out there struggling to focus on your next action...


Not Getting Things Done

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Friday, March 2, 2007


Picnik is a really wonderful new web service which offers users basic image manipulation tools. You can zoom in and out, edit brightness, contrast, exposure and a host of other tools, even a basic implementation of Levels. Quite impressive to deliver online via flash in itself, but there’s more to Picnik than that.

It joins an emerging field of creative web services which add value because they are online, not despite it.

For a start, it plays really nicely with Flickr, allowing you to take in and edit your uploaded photographs just as easily as the ones on your computer. And not just your own... You can do a full Flickr search on tags and titles. Very cool...

Second, it loads images directly from Yahoo Images, with a full search field and a nice clutter-free (and ad-free) result. I’d look forward to Google Images as an option.

Third, it allows you to put in a web address and it will distill all the images from that address and load them up for you to edit.

Fourth... it has a very nice full-screen mode, click on the Picnik logo in the top right and it expands to full screen.

Fifth... it will work with your webcam. I can see Photo Booth type Firefox plugins ahead...

This might well give Flash a good name. Quite awesome... check it out before Yahoo buys it.



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Monday, February 26, 2007

Blogging and thoughts on software...

I’ve been considering buying software for writing this blog. I’m in two minds now... specifically Mars Edit versus MacJournal.

MarsEdit has a beautiful and simple clean interface and it’s cheaper... does the job, in fact does it well and pleasurably.

MacJournal is serious. It’s really well made and has lots of heavy functionality built in. Including a Full Screen mode which I’m using now. It’s a fine thing, a mature and well developed piece of software. And it costs more...

MacJournal is a piece of software that’s hung around me for quite some time. Back when the now quiet (but then raucous...) As the Apple Turns was in my everyday browsing, I came across it. The site author, Jack, loved it. I downloaded it but given that I wasn’t blogging, found only a small use for it. But I’ve tried it quite regularly over the years, liking the capabilities but not really having a use. So now that I’m blogging I should have a use... right?

Or is there a reason we never dated... Perhaps the simple approach of MarsEdit will ultimately be the better choice. I’ve been enjoying less heavily laden software lately, preferring a melange of programs each of which focus on doing one thing well.

I encountered this most recently when I was asked to give an introduction to the Mac experience by a local body who had acquired a number of Macs. I enquired a little deeper and it transpired that they had set up a network, including a server which had common files on it, and were just running Office. I visited one of them and all of her questions were about Entourage.

Once the initial wave of depression that washed over me, I sat back and thought a little. This was a familiar setup for all of them, they had essentially re-created their old Wintel network, just this time they were using a bunch of Macs. She seemed pleased that everything seemed ‘easy to work out’ and she was probably glad of the virus issue being put aside, they had been plagued by them.

She said they had decided to use Entourage because “ Apple’s Mail wasn’t very good.” As she did this she pointed at the dizzying array of buttons in Entourage and her mouse ran over long and nested menus.... It looked deep, it looked like you could do lots of things you’d rarely choose to do and would struggle to find the things you wanted to do.

And really that’s all she was looking for from me: How Do I Find The Things In Entourage I Want To Do.

She thought that was reasonable, I guess she was used to the struggle.

I have to say, I was a reluctant Apple Mail user, even though I love it now, I love the ubiquitous nature of it and the other core apps, Address Book and iCal. That trio of products won me gradually over and away from initially Palm Desktop and then Entourage.

One of their principal benefits is their level of integration in the system and the ease with which other developers can call upon them. Not only that, there’s a lot of plugins I use every day which have expanded it’s functionality and kept it current.

I can’t imagine using Entourage and hiding there safe inside the Microsoft box.

I think the idea of having a pot pourri of smaller simpler programs which work together might require a more innocent mindset, a sense of openness, a willingness to take that risk. That it’ll be okay, a sense that it will all work as opposed to a fear that it’ll probably all go wrong...

Update: I eventually did chose MacJournal. Two main reasons other than it works really well.... There’s a very cool Full-Screen mode which means I can do what I need to do, focus on writing better. And the small matter of a decent Education discount which as a lecturer I can avail of...

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Friday, February 16, 2007

K.I.T. released...

K.I.T. (Keep It Together) 1.3.1 was released yesterday.

K.I.T. is one of those information-gathering tools which have sprung up on the Mac. We're particularly lucky given all the options here. There's KIT, Yojimbo, DevonThink and lately EagleFiler. All of which come from good developers and are fine products. I use KIT and DevonThink Pro Office. Both do quite different jobs for me.

KIT is my favourite set of smart buckets. Plowing through emails and the web usually means I come across pages I want to keep, documents I need to read, and bits of information that come my way from snippets of texts to images, mp3s to listen to and videos to watch.

KIT eats them all up with one keystroke in the Services menu, Shift-Cmd-K. I love it...

It comes with a set of built in smart folders which sort on the type of data it is, a document, pdf, media or a web archive or link etc. and you can quickly and easily roll your own using tags and ratings.

So I tag, which autocomplete, as each item arrives in it's Library and I have smart folders set up for each project I have currently. I have one smart folder which captures all untagged items, so I can easily spot items that haven't been assigned to a project.

So no more saving on the desktop, no dumb unsorted pile of stuff sitting in a folder usually called...Stuff On Desktop..., instead a set of sorted folders with all of the stuff already sorted intelligently for me. It replicates whatever folder structure you've set up in it's Library so you can drill down into that using the Finder and see the same structure. Excellent.

It's a well-executed program, which just works. A lot of people know Yojimbo, a similar product, which KIT predates. KIT is much cheaper. And the developer, Steve Harris, keeps the updates coming.

Highly recommended. K.I.T. at Reinvented

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Apple's iPhone

First I think it's pretty fabulous. They did a typical Apple job on it. Take on a project the rest of the world has sort of done well, and make it incredible. It's just like the iPod over again.

I wonder what price an unlocked one is... What's the usual discount providers give, a couple of hundred?

I wonder about the EDGE and the lack of support for 3G. Not cool. EDGE is good but is solely US, right? I hope and presume that an EU model would have 3G.

Don't think much of 8Gb, especially if it becomes the only widescreen large video they do. A TV show is about half a gig on iTunes, you'd get about three or four episodes on and then you'd be debating whether you wanted more or your music or photos or contacts...

I'd worry about the battery life. That high res screen will chew up batteries. It's one thing for your iPod to run out of power, it's another if it's your phone. And something so'd never put it down.

Jesus, it's made for hyperactive, geeky types with a bit of money.

And I wonder just how many of us will jump on them the first opportunity we get...

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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Macworld 07

And the speculation is in full tilt...

They must feel good about whatever it is... a new computer? Hard to see it, they have a matrix that is now complete and completely Intel. And looking at them it's hard to see where it would be done. An 8-core MacPro is doable but not necessarily something the world is ready for software wise. An iMac or equivalent would be Apple's traditional site of change but no one is hollering for that. The tablet market is small.... Steve will never do a PDA...

This for a phone? I dunno... Frankly there's a bunch of great phones out there now. But the level of chatter is so high, it must be on the cards.

Apple since Jobs return has been pushing its own version of what kind of digital media universe we all live in. With the iTV preannouncement last year, Jobs indicated that the circle was now complete. A vision that media would be created digitally, distributed digitally, purchased digitally and consumed digitally. Oh and they're all Quicktime files you own. The iTV will likely get a full unveiling.

The iTV will have a cut down version of the OS... What if the phone had the same cut down version of the OS...

I wonder if the phone could stream files the same way the iTV will? So once within the range of it's iTunes Library it could browse and listen or view videos and photos?

What if a new video iPod could do the same thing?

You could use a phone, your iPod or the iTV to view the media you own on that there computer you own. And the computer could be a PC don't forget so the whole market is available to you.

I think given the teaser on the Apple site... and the overall direction Apple have taken the big theme will be about how it all joins up.

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