Andrew's Mac Tips

Saturday, November 05, 2005

iPhone -- I Wish!

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Friday, November 04, 2005


Welcome. This is the weblog associated with the Andrew's Mac Tips website.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Impending Announcement

What will the big announcement scheduled for the 12th be? Every time it's the same—you click on the Apple page on the day and under your breath you say, "Da Da!" only to see whatever it is and then say. "Oh."

My guess is that it'll be a gadget something along the lines of an iPod, but with a bigger screen; the tagline will be something like, "Think Everything." It'll be the same width and height as a standard iPod but it will have a three inch screen and a small scroll wheel. As well as all the usual iPod features you'll be able to view PDFs and other documents, along with quicktime movies.

So that's my take—an incremental improvement that a lot of folks will be initially disappointed in.

However, below the surface there will be a few changes that will allow for third party development. For example: The connector will be enhanced to accept a keyboard and wifi access. You'll be able to create documents as well as just view them.

Then someone will develop a clip on camera...

I hope I'm wrong; my wish is for a Newton 3000. What do you think?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Simple Test of Design

Years ago I was really into cars. Not only owning them or driving them; I was interested in how they were made and how the car companies worked.

At first I was intrigued by Honda, who showed so much innovation and had such a family theme going on — I don't mean human families, I mean that the range of cars had a coherence to it. There was a similarity between models and an easy evolution to the new models.

You knew it was a Honda by the look.

Same thing with VW and Audi. They too had a run of a few years where everything gelled. When the level of design coherence is that good then it's sometimes a shock when the time comes for a new model; you look at it and say: "Hey what happened. I'm not so sure about that direction..."

But the real test of a good design might be when, after a few weeks, you take a look at the previous model again and say: "That looks so old now..."

Hey! What's any of this got to do with Apple?

A few days ago there was a new release of iTunes. It has a lot of great new features, and a new look. There's quite a bit of comment floating around on discussion groups about the changes — and most of them are about the cosmetic changes. Opinions are all over the map — as for me: I neither love it or hate it. It's just different.

However, the other day I chanced upon another article about the changes that had screenshots, and what was my first thought? It was: "iTunes 4 looks so old now..."

On that criteria then, I think the cosmetic changes are a success. I can see all the "i" apps looking this way soon; and who knows? Perhaps the whole of OS 10.5 or OS 11.

Getting back to the cars for a moment: there used to be an urban myth that car designers had come up with a 100MPG car — they were just feeding it to us at a rate of 5MPG each year.

If Apple are drip feeding us the new look for the OS through iTunes, and the graphic design of the new product pages on the Apple website, then maybe there are other clues right under our noses...

The iPod nano can be had in black so maybe there's a new black iMac on the horizon, or satin rather than brushed finish for the Powerbooks?

I just hope that the good taste that's always been shown by Apple continues for a good while yet; it's been said that Steve Jobs likes to compare Apple to the car maker BMW. Fingers crossed that he's referring to their exclusivity and market share — and not to their recently goofy styling!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I suffer from frequent insomnia. Sometimes I just don't sleep at all—sometimes I spring awake at 4:00am and can't get back to sleep. Times like these I flick on the TV and scan the channels; on two or three channels there are a constant stream of infomercials. They're usually for food processors or workout equipment, and they're usually pretty poor. You've seen one—you've seen them all.

But, say what you like about them, they must be effective. Otherwise they wouldn't be such a fixture. And this got me to thinking.

What if there were a regular Apple infomercial? But being Apple it wouldn't follow the normal format. What if it was full of really useful information for existing Apple users:

This week we're going to talk about using iPhoto in conjunction with online services
This week we're going to explore the power of Smart Folders
This week we're going to look at keyboard shortcuts as well as Automator...
Naturally these shows (which you'd Tivo or tape) would have regular callouts where they'd say: "If you don't already have a Mac then call XYZ or visit"

Non-Mac users might be intrigued enough to say: "No way can my machine do that," or, "Mmm. I could always get the mini and give it a try..."

With re-packaging, some of these segments could be supplied on a DVD with every new Mac. If they were really classy then Mac owners would loan them to their non-Mac friends.

There's more to marketing than buzz generation and glimpses; detailed stuff does sink in. Everyone, when pressed, will admit to knowing about the Miracle Knife set, or Gunner Whatsisname's exercise ball.

Why not apply the infomercial to an operating system?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Making Pages

This is the first log entry, even though the site has been progressing for about a week. Sorry about that. I thought a good subject for today would be: How is this site put together?

Basically, it's done through four types of template; the first is a javascript file that's separate from the HTML but accessed by all the pages. In that file I put all the navigation elements that you see to the right, as well as the "A site put together by a recent switcher..." message that you see above, and the "Thanks for visiting!" message in the footer below. These items are in the javascript file so that in the future I can change any one of them and the whole site will be modified, without having to tweak the individual pages.

As I add a new page the only change I'd normally make to the javascript file would be to add its link to the Contents section.

The second template is the separate stylesheet that's also accessed by all the pages. In there I define the look of the pages; the font and the size of the text, the width of the columns, the behavior of the navigation buttons. All of those things that we once had to do page by page using old-fashioned HTML.

The third and fourth templates are "Fill in the Blanks" boilerplates for regular new pages, and wide image new pages. The first thing I do when making a new page is to save any screenshots that I might need into the local folder for the site. Then I open TextEdit and, using a Butler Pasteboard, I paste in the template for a new page and replace all instances of "***" with the title. The template already has a link for the image of the app's icon if I'm doing a Look, as well as a button leading to an outside site, so I just fill in the blanks. The blanks are always something obvious to see, like "XXX" or "ZZZ."

At this stage I usually save the page to the local folder and then quit TextEdit and open my Smultron project and drop the new file there. The Smultron project already has the javascript and stylesheets open so I can update those at the same time.

Now I write the body of the page and switch to Safari to Look it. When I'm happy with the result I check that I've updated the navigation, then I drop it into Opera to see how it looks there; usually it's identical, but sometimes I need to substitute a break for a paragraph mark to get it truly finessed.

Later I'll check it on a friend's PC using IE6 and Mozilla, but for now it's time to upload. I do that by opening Cyberduck with a shortcut to my ftp site and dropping in the new and modified files. And lastly, a quick check of the online version. Writing this reminds me that I must download Firefox to do a QC check there as well...

As this is my first log entry I soon realised while writing it that I could turn log entries into a pasteboard template as well, so that's what I now have. The blanks that I fill in are the date and heading and the heading also repeats in the button for contacting me, and the email subject header...