Category Archives: tech

General technology issues

Austin Creative Technologists Mixer this Thursday at 6:30

This Thursday I’ll be at the Creative Technologists Mixer, the very special Holiday Version.

We’ll be at Opal Divine’s on 6th Street from 6:30-8 PM this Thursday, Dec 14th 2006.

From the invitation:

We had such a great time at the last one, we thought we’d do it again.

Come join us for an informal creative technologist mixer. This time we
can look forward to a presentation from a fellow creative technologist
right here in Austin.

We are looking for energetic, passionate people from any discipline
who want to talk about making stuff with the Internet and other
networked technologies.

We welcome designers and developers, students and entrepreneurs,
futurists, pixelists, and pointillists, user researchers, product
designers, Web publishers, podcasters, video bloggers, graphic
designers, people interested in UX, IA, HCI, PHP, and MySQL, and any
other acronyms out there.

Come on out to talk shop or just meet people with similar interests.
Please pass this invitation to others who might be interested.

Direct any questions to

I’ll see you there.

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Second post with Ecto

This is my second post with Ecto, a very popular blogging tool for both Macintosh and Windows systems. So far I like the tool, but one thing is slowing me down. It either takes a very long time to upload photos, or it is trying to upload photos and there’s something wrong with Ecto, WordPress or my setup of either or both. (I don’t know if it truly takes a long time because I did a force quit to get Ecto to stop trying to upload the photos.)

Anyone know what I’m missing here? (And while I appreciate any answer that includes linking in pictures via Flickr instead, that’s not what I’m asking, but thanks.)

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Moyers on America . The Net @ Risk on PBS online

We like Bill Moyers here in Texas. We like him even more at the University of Texas. He’s got a program on PBS where each week he (and his surely wonderful research and production staff) overview topical issues you should know about.

So when Bill does a whole show on an issue that affects us like Net Neutrality we pay attention. We like it even better when there’s a great overview of the issue including the entire show online for you to watch: Moyers on America . The Net @ Risk.

If you’re reading this, Net Neutrality issues should concern you.

No, I’m not sure why I wrote this with the royal “we” perspective.

IA Templates for Visio & OmniGraffle

Dorkbot Austin Testify!

David Nunez, Austin’s own tech evangelist speaks the truth about the freedom to tinker and to do potentially risky experiments with technology, all in the name of learning and building wonderful things to the at Austin Telecom Commision about Austin’s very own Dorkbot Scene.

And I quote:

“We believe in the freedom to tinker – to tear apart our technology, our clothes, our food, our stuff and use those raw materials to build something new and better…We insist that young students should be encouraged to do undocumented, dangerous, and weird things with their toys, tools, and electricity because they will surprise us with what they choose to invent.”

Watch it here:

Can I get an “Amen”?

At dorkbot austin (next meeting October 12th, 2006) you sure can.


Schneier on Security: Human/Bear Security Trade-Off

Bruce Schneier has a blog post that talks about trashcan usability in terms of finding the right balance between security and ease of use: Human/Bear Security Trade-Off
From the blog post, ending with one of the best quotes ever:

Back in the 1980s, Yosemite National Park was having a serious problem with bears: They would wander into campgrounds and break into the garbage bins. This put both bears and people at risk. So the Park Service started installing armored garbage cans that were tricky to open — you had to swing a latch, align two bits of handle, that sort of thing. But it turns out it’s actually quite tricky to get the design of these cans just right. Make it too complex and people can’t get them open to put away their garbage in the first place. Said one park ranger, “There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists.”

Take a look at the comments on the post where all manner of clever and cynical comments add to the post.

MacBookPro first impressions

Yesterday I got a MacBookPro and am only starting to use it. It’s the 15″ with a 100GB 7200 rpm drive with 2GB RAM. Sweet. The Migration Assistant was just about perfect in moving everything over. I set up a administrator account with administrator priviledges, but not the same name as the account name I want to transfer from my G4 Powerbook. (I think I’m still going to be calling the new machine a powerbook out of habit).

As you go through the migration process, you boot your old machine in target disk mode (hold down the “T” key when booting the system) and with a firewire cable connected to both machines, the data transfer begins after a few questions about what accounts and files you want to move over (just a few choices, for files mostly everything on the disk or just those related to the account you want to migrate). Then the transfer begins. I started this once and when the estimate was more than 3 hours for the transfer, I deferred until later in the evening. Sure enough, about 3 hours later (much later), it seemed to be done.

Easily enough, I just rebooted the MBP (maybe I just need a great name for the new machine – any ideas? “Bender”? too obvious?) and logged on with the account name (and password) from the G4 powerbook. Simple as that. I knew things were looking good right away as the boot screen changed color to the background I had on the G4. Everything loaded from my startup items, with one exception, Textspander (yes, I know there is a newer version out). Nice job Apple software developers. snapped open quickly (after being selected my old customized dock – great!), but crashed in just a few minutes when I went to clearing out my junk mailbox. (It might have something to do with getting junk mail in odd character sets I don’t have the related fonts for. Just a theory.) I started right back up and it’s still going strong now. After working around in mail, I don’t feel a neck-snapping performance improvement, this is a bit disappointing.

Next was Firefox 1.5.06 and it seems fine too, including extensions. I checked and it is a universal binary. This is disappointing in a way, because Ffox still seems slow. (Oh, if there were all the right extensions in Safari versions.)

I like the increased screen resolution and the keyboard feels fine, a little mushy but with good bounce on the keys. Also, not as noisy as the G4. The addition of a camera is nice, but I don’t think I’ll make much use of it. There is not Firewire 800 slot anymore, I would have wished that Apple would have put another USB port in its place. As has been commented on before by many others, there is no internal modem included. I hope I don’t have cause to regret that. The PC Card slot is replaced with a smaller add-on slot that has some name I won’t remember because I’ll probably never need a device for it. The new magnetic plug power supply seems fine, but the box is actually LARGER than the old one. Also, I had three G4 powerbook power supplies, now that investment is lost (except that the extension cords seem to fit with the new power supplies).

The next, system-wide step seems to be making sure I have (intel) universal binaries for all of the applications on my system. I assume all the Apple applications are ready (and they were kept from deletion when I transferred the account over from the G4 with its potentially non-universal binary app versions).

The big question: Does anyone know of a utility that could scan my disk and make a list? (even better, give me links for the apps? even better, auto-download those possible?) Comments or emails are most welcome.

The best thing I have found so far to help with this is the MacUpdate: Universal Binary (Macintosh Intel) page (with an RSS feed).

2006 Information Architecture Institute Progress Grants

The Information Architecture Institute (IAI) will award two USD $1,000
Progress Grants for 2006. The purpose of the program is to twofold:

  1. to encourage researchers and practitioners to investigate IA-specific
  2. to publicize useful work that furthers the information architecture
    body of knowledge.

IAI Progress Grant pplications should propose work that will forward the theory and practice of information architecture. This can include original research, a synthesis
of important existing research, or the development of an innovative new

The format of the applications should be 2,000 words or fewer and must contain:

  • Description of the problem or hypothesis
  • Methodology to be used
  • Explanation of how the resulting work will forward the theory or
    practice of IA
  • Conditions under which others can use the results (e.g. Creative
    Commons license)

The grant application deadline is September 15th, 2006.

Please see 2006 IA Progress Grants information page, including information on last year’s winners.

This year, I am a member of the awards jury for the grant, for even more information, see the details for the progress grant.

Let's kill the CAPS LOCK KEY

Does anyone use the CAPS LOCK key? It does seem to be a throwback from a very different time. WHO NEEDS A CAPS LOCK KEY? INTERNET NEWBIES? YOUR FAVORITE SPAM MAIL PROVIDER? (Especially when most WYSISYG word processors like Microsoft Word have a function that easily converts text to upper case whenever you please.) This Slashdot post: War Declared on Caps Lock Key explains it all.

“I’ve launched a campaign to rid the world of the caps lock key. Sure, there are more serious problems to solve but please, think of the children! How am I going to explain to my kids why some of the most valuable keyboard real estate is squatted by a large, useless key that above all you must not press! Our campaign mission is simple: to send a message to the computer industry to force it (by any means necessary) to retire the CAPS key. It’s going to be a hard, long, and possibly very embarassing war on uppercase, but some things just need to be done. ”

Of course, there is a (Google) group called CAPSoff to discuss the woes and strategies (and some humorous nonsense) about getting rid of the keyboard’s least popular key.

Allow me to point out that I have two other keyboard pet peeves too:

  1. The num(ber) pad on the right of most full keyboards, that rarely gets used and requires a Kent Tekulve side-arm mousing style. I want those 4 inches back on my desktop!
  2. Keyboard real estate I’d like to have is a BACKSPACE key on my powerbook keyboard.

A trivia question: do you know how “upper case” got its name?

Update: Of course, there is a blog about the CAPS LOCK key fight.