Just when I thought nobody was reading this blog, I get a comment from Conor, the “Top Dog” over at Bruji’s site telling me to post my impressions of the Pedias (CD, DVD, etc.) when I got a chance. Now, I’m not sure how he found that post– what pond he’s dipping his net into, but it inspired me to get in gear and take the Pedias through their ‘paces. And the end result? Me spending more money. Imagine that.
If there’s anything Delicious Monster (of Delicious Library) does well, its advertising. I bought this MBP back in October and initially discovered Delicious Library through some of the folks on the MacHeist site. I liked the idea, a way of cataloging one’s media on the computer. It was novel. It was another great use for a great machine and infinitely useful for someone like me who’s been moving around (between houses, states, and countries, even) every year for the last 6 years of my life. My things are scattered in boxes, strewn throughout multiple houses and ultimately divided by some 5000 or so miles, as far as my current situation in Japan is concerned.
While my last entry covered Delicious Library 2, I feel compelled now to talk about far better product(s) that just don’t get the hype they deserve, Bruji’s Pedias.
Now, I don’t know why Bruji’s Pedias don’t get any coverage on The Unofficial Apple Weblog or Daring Fireball, but my gut feeling is that Bruji can’t hype its own releases the way developers like Wil Shipley can. From what I understand, the delay between DL 1.6 and 2.0 was massive, which gave him (Shipley) a lot of time to build his product up and hype the beta releases and whatnot. Bruji, on the other hand, seems to release updated builds fairly frequently– and for free, giving them no time to hype up the latest paid point release that took a year to add in minor functionality. It makes sense, really. Bloggers like to focus on vaporware and betas because, ultimately, we like to complain. See my post about Apple’s font panel, for instance.
In any case, I’m getting off topic. Impressions.
As you can see, Bookpedia (in this example), is awesome. There are a ton of places that Bookpedia is willing to search for information on your books including all the Amazon sites, the Library of Congress, AngusRobertson, (an Australian bookseller) and even the Royal Library of Sweden. You can add books one at a time, or many at a time. You can even scan in barcodes with any iSight camera. When I intially played around with this feature and compared it to DL2, I came to the mistaken conclusion that the scanning in Bruji’s Pedias was subpar, but today, when I went back to it and went through every book that I could find in my apartment with a barcode on it, I found that it was uncannily accurate. It handled all my obtuse Japanese reference books without breaking a sweat and there wasn’t a single dictionary or novel that I couldn’t easily import.
The only book I couldn’t find the right cover for was my older edition of Remembering the Kanji I by James W. Heisig. (I think I’m going crazy. The correct edition popped up instantly when I searched for it just now.)
Bruji’s Pedias (Should I be referring to these some other way? Hmmm… From here on out, I’ll be talking simply about Bookpedia, but from my own tests, it seems that the rest of the Pedias have very similar functionality.) have a really clean user interface that I prefer over DL2’s UI. Whereas DL2’s Shelf view is sort of ugly and fake looking, Bookpedia displays book covers on a completely adjustable monochrome background. I prefer white, which is the default option. There’s also a list view and a coverflow view. After that, there are multiple Details templates you can apply to the “Info” panel that allow you to customize the display of detailed information and summaries. In the default cover view, covers can be resized at will with a slider (as opposed to DL2’s total lack of control in this respect). The whole interface, despite having way more options than I have time to play in time for this post, feels clean and simple, as opposed to, what– I want to borrow a term of contention from the games industry and say, DL2’s “console-ified” (dumbed-down and/or smoothed over for a younger audience) interface. DL2 looks great, but it also looks juvenile. As mac-like as it is to have stylized, fluffy, colorful icons (gadgets, etc.) I think I prefer the simple utilitarian approach of Bookpedia rather than the juicy, delicious approach.
One thing that’s really nice about Bookpedia is that, unlike DL2, I don’t get the feeling that Bruji is trying to sell me items, rather than helping me catalog what I already have. Whereas DL2 gives you recommendations and reviews whether you like it or not, Bookpedia has a very elegant Advanced menu where you can find that information if you need it without a single “Buy (from Amazon)” button in sight. I’ll add here too that since downloading both Bookpedia and Gamepedia, I’ve not seen a single nag window or money pit yet. According to the “Register Bookpedia” link in the main menu, Bookpedia has a “10 book limit,” but unless my eyes deceive me, I have 11 books in my library currently. Bookpedia is up there with Scrivener as having an incredibly smooth trial period without sacrificing any core functionality.
Really, my choice is clear. Bookpedia (and its brethren, DVDpedia, CDpedia, and Gamepedia) are just plain better than Delicious Library 2. Why DM bothered to add a “Tools” section to DL2 (and not, for example, a CCG module or Comics, or anything really) baffles me. I’m getting off-topic again, aren’t I? All this, and I’ve only scratched the surface. Bookpedia has some really amazing ways to export your library, along with lending library functionality, wishlist support, detailed statistics, and custom fields for all those other details.
Really, the one and only problem I could find with Bookpedia is that there were only two default templates for the Info pane that I liked (Collection and Grey), both of which are somewhat difficult to read when it comes to star ratings (grey stars on dull blue and grey stars on dull grey respectively) and other assorted info.
As if you needed any other reason to go for Bookpedia or its siblings over DL2, I’d like to mention the incredibly positive reviews forum (hint: the latest post is: “I must be dreaming…”) as well as its 4.6 of 5 stars ratings over at VersionTracker compared to DL2’s 2.5 of 5 stars rating. I’m not entirely sure how Conor found my backwater blog in the first place, (Technorati, maybe?) but I’m glad he did. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have given Bookpedia and its siblings the time of day I should have. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put my money where my mouth is.
I woke up after a series of naps today to discover that Delicious Library 2 was released. There aren’t any good reviews up yet, and the only thing I’ve heard about it was a thread about disappointment with the beta here.
As soon as you open it up, you get a little warning encouraging you to upgrade to Mac OS 10.5.3, which is, as yet, still in beta and not available on Software Update. On one hand, I like the transparency, but on the other hand, it makes this release feel a little rushed.
I scanned a few things I had laying around in using the built-in iSight barcode scanner. On books, DL2 was generally spot on. It didn’t have any trouble with any of my obscure Japanese language references and even imported 希望の国のエクソダス from Amazon.co.jp without pause. (The cover size was wrong, which resulted in the image being cut off at the top on the Shelf display, but Japanese books come in strange sizes and I don’t really fault DL2 for that.)
After that, I added my two iPods, my laptop (which I got lucky with and found my exact BTO model the first time I tried searching for it), and a few of my Xbox 360 games. I couldn’t import them via the barcode scanner, but searching for them was relatively painless. However, when I tried to do the same for my Canon 20D, I came up empty-handed. I did however find both the 30D and the 40D in a search for the 20D… This looks like a limitation of the close integration with Amazon, but its hard to tell because searches for relatively simple items, like say, “Xbox 360” often come up with a bunch of related, but ultimately useless accessories, rather than the device in question.
This is the first sticking point I really ran into. While I like the integration, I’d also like a few more options as to where DL2 pulls its data from. The close integration with Amazon is nice, but sometimes I feel like the program is trying to sell me stuff, rather than help me catalog what I already own. (The “Buy Now” links in the previous shot are the first thing my eyes are drawn to after a search and I always have to avert my gaze and go looking for the “Add” button, for instance.)
My second qualm is with the Info pane. In the beta thread, one of the main complaints was the addition of a horizontal Info pane with no option to switch it back to the vertical pane in DL 1.6. I didn’t think this was going to bother me, but it really does. You really have to grow the info pane into your shelf space to get any useful information out of it. I find this pane sort of confusing too, because I’m not sure why I need reviews for a product I already own. Furthermore, the Details panel is pretty sparse. Bruji’s Bookpedia, for instance, pulls info from multiple sources, including Amazon and the Library of Congress and includes what looks like a more robust Details panel without dedicating a ton of screen real estate to “Recommendations.” Recommendations are good, but they feel pretty forward in DL2. On that same note, Bruji’s Pedias are competing in this same space and aren’t too far from the price of DL2 for the whole suite, so I’m going to be checking those out soon enough as well.
One thing I do really like about DL2’s Details panel is the “Current Price” vs. the “Retail Price.” I’m not sure how this works exactly, but it looks like it queries Amazon for used items and calculates a “Current Price” (adjusted in up to 20 currencies?) based on what it finds. If I could easily put in my Canon 20D, I’d be interested to see just how much its worth these days, but at the very least its interesting seeing that GTA IV is only worth $44.95 now.
My biggest qualms with the 2.0 release as it stands now are:
Lack of Customization (Why can’t I set shelf scale values or specify where to download info from?)
Somewhat In-Your-Face Amazon Integration (Recommendations, Buy Now, etc.)
Hit-or-Miss Searching (Especially with regard to Gadgets)
Relatively Useless Item Details
I didn’t notice any debilitating slow down issues, although browsing my iTunes library feels slower than it should, because DL2 doesn’t seem to grab album art in the background (or cache it well while navigating other shelves). However, it didn’t really wow me like I thought it would. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long while, since I’ve been moving around every year for a while now and would like to keep a close tally of my stuff along with its current location.
Still though, I like the idea and I’m going to play around with this for a while longer and see if it doesn’t grow on me.
An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan’s Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.
Manpei Tanaka is my hero: “I knew that using passengers’ bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog’s ability.”
If only more people were willing to go so far to succeed.
This guy racked up 3100 hours between 16 months and 600 phone calls– all to listen to the voice on an automated guidance tape.
“He gets excited by the woman’s voice on the guidance tape,” the spokesman said, adding that the voice sounded normal to the detective who was involved in the investigation.
I updated my movies on Facebook to include the excellent Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and clicked it to see if anyone else had that down as one of their favorite movies. This took me to Chris’ profile. He’s in the Japan network, but really the important thing here is the fact that his profile is about as close to MySpace as you can get without actually going there. It’s really terrible.
Apple’s “Fonts” pane. It’s bad. Really bad. So bad, in fact, that find myself using Helvetica out of fear and loathing for it. I like the idea of a unified, ubiquitous font panel that is shared between applications. It’s a commendable idea, which suffers from an atrocious implementation.
It’s clear there are problems as soon as you open it. The interface is unfamiliar. There’s a row of ambiguous tools at the top which seem to either share or contradict functionality in the tri-panel view below. These tools are great, really. Select Single or Double from the first pull-down menu (Text Underline) and watch as future text is unaffected by the change. Strikeout and Text Color display the same aberrant behavior. In contrast to the panels below, they don’t actually affect text that is typed after they are changed. The Text Shadow button, as well as the next three sliders (Shadow Opacity, Shadow Blur, and Shadow Offset) with completely baffling icons work the same way– that is, they don’t, unless you manually select the text you’d like to modify.
But really, that’s nothing compared to the bigger usability problems inherent in this menu.
There’s no way to preview the fonts in the panel itself. Preview is disabled by default. Fonts in the family column are all in a generic system font, and the Typeface options too refuse to modify their display to match their function, resulting in, well, garbage. Who knows the difference between Bold and Bold Oblique? Was it Gill Sans or Gujarati MT that I wrote that last paper in?
Or at least… This is the way it works in the default collection.
Enter the Favorites collection and you’ll find that a new panel replaces the old two panel format that allows you to preview your fonts. But wait… These aren’t your favorite or most used fonts (as far as I can tell)! Favorites, instead, appears to be a history of your fonts. Only, rather than simply displaying fonts, it instead displays a history of your typefaces, so every time you change the size of a font in a document, it adds a new entry to this collection.
Next comes the Recently Used collection. Case in point:
Both the Colors and Fonts panels look terrible in applications like Pixelmator, whose interfaces don’t conform to Leopard’s UI guidelines, but that I can over. What I can’t get over is that Leopard doesn’t recognize that I have Kotoeri (Input Method) enabled and then automatically add a new Collection that includes Japanese fonts. I mean, I’d add it myself if there was a clear, logical way to go about doing so. As far as I can tell, there isn’t.
This is excellent. Worth a looksee even if you haven’t played the game. Pretty much every faction makes at least one appearance, with the possible exception of Freedom.
Q: If the game isn’t going to require an authentication every 10 days, will it ever require re-authentication?
A: Only if the player chooses to download new game content.
Apparently they gave in because a lot of members of the armed services told them that always-on internet connections aren’t exactly the standard in places like Iraq…
In any case, I’m sure EA and Bioware figure they had a good round of publicity for both Spore and Mass Effect. There was an outcry that sent Spore and Mass Effect to the edge of the blogsphere and back, then they dialed back their draconian offering, and got a little boost in their popularity to boot. All in all, a damn good day and a lot of free mindshare for their latest releases.
Call me back when they’ve removed SecuROM entirely. That’s the day they’ll get my respect.
Alright, so maybe I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but it’s not that far from what’s actually been said. A lot of DRM-related news has been coming down the pipe recently… Although its not really “news” in the sense of being new or novel. It’s really just more information on how companies are diligently coming up with even more invasive ways of harassing their paying customers.
Mass Effect and Spore are confirmed to have some shiny, new value-added DRM that uh… well… It phones home the first time you install (the games) and then every 10 days after that. If you attempt to install or play Mass Effect (a single-player game) on a computer without an internet connection:
Customer: Are you saying I’m not going to be able to play my perfectly legitimate purchased copy of the game, even the retail version, until I get permission?”
Bioware rep: That is correct.
The Slashdot comments on the Spore and Mass Effect DRM are pretty much par for the course as far as this sort of thing is concerned. Most of them tend to reflect a few simple truths:
DRM is always about access control, not copy protection. CSS exists to prevent you from playing a movie in a region not approved by the studio, or from skipping past commercials. It does nothing to stop you from making a copy. The DRM in this game essentially forces the player to ask permission every time he wants to play the game he purchased.
“Software-as-a-service,” a/k/a/ “software rental model”… translation: you never own anything – you pay and pay and pay and pay and pay, and if you stop paying, they turn off your rig. This is the holy grail for companies that don’t really feel like developing new software, or in updating their software with appealing new features that you might actually buy. They’ll just sell you the same thing for eternity.
…increasingly, a hacked version turns out to be better than the genuine deal. They just work, anytime, anywhere, no questions asked. More than once, I’ve found myself downloading a hacked executable to run software that I bought and legitimately own, even in ways that wholly comply with the original license – e.g., because the activation server for some defunct app had been taken offline.
Personally, I’m not quite sure if the copy protection on Spore is anything to get up in arms about, given that the appeal of connecting to Spore’s servers sort of insures a lot of legal sales anyway. However, down the line, when we’ve got phones capable of running the full DirectX 10 version of Spore and I’m rockin’ my jetpack, I imagine that the DRM then could theoretically suck, given that I seriously doubt EA is going to keep up Spore’s official servers forever. I say theoretically, because it’s clear that this DRM is going to be cracked the day of, or potentially, in the weeks before the official release, like every other DRM scheme in recent memory.
Again, here it all comes down to control. Apple has it and the labels don’t, leading to a situation that is strangely reminiscent of our democratic primary…
The only—I repeat only—reason the labels allow competing stores to have DRM-free tracks is that it’s the only way to get music onto an iPod. Think about that for a moment: Apple’s dominance of the music player business is the actual reason you can buy a DRM-free track from Amazon. If anybody else had a substantial chunk of the player market, the labels would be busy trying to make the other player’s DRM the standard.
To wrap up the discussion, we have NBC Universal’s president of digital distribution Mr. J. B. Perrette reminding us of the benefits of DRM over at this New York Times article about Microsoft’s deal with NBC to try and build “filtering technology that allows for playback of legitimately purchased content versus non-legitimately purchased content” into their media devices.
Mr. Perrette said NBC understands the potential resistance. “In the short term, this will not win us a lot of friends,” he said. “In the long term, the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content, and in order for that to continue to be a viable business, there needs to be significant protection around it.”
Apparently Microsoft is a little wary of adding “features that consumers don’t like to its Zune products,” but is willing to take one for the team for the sake of… uh, who or what exactly? Poor little NBC?
As a counterpoint to all this, there are a few people out there who get it. Trent Reznor, for one.
Trent Reznor introduce[d] his latest album, The Slip, with a note that reads, “Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years — this one’s on me.”
Go pick up The Slip (completely and utterly free) if you get a chance. It sounds great in Apple Lossless.
My sister got me a custom-made Timbuk2 bag for Christmas and it finally trickled down through Japanese post to my door yesterday.
I wanted to get this bag to replace my previous work load….
So I designed a bag over at Timbuk2 that would replace and improve upon both of them and it finally came today.
Now, I found Timbuk2 pretty much by chance one day but their bags looked roomy and attractive. I also liked the feature list:
* Rugged ballistic nylon exterior
* Waterproof liner
* Heavy-duty stitching
* Built-in padded computer compartment
* Padded Grab Strap handle
* Quick-adjust side-cam shoulder strap
* Removable cross strap for -on-the-go stability
* Internal organizer pockets and key ring tether
* Reflector tails
* Safety flasher attachment loop
* Timbuk2 Quality Guarantee
* Strap Pad included
Right now, I don’t really have anything more than a few first impressions…
The inside of the bag is more roomy than it looks (as I expected). It accommodates everything that was in my backpack with ease, along with my laptop. Furthermore, there’s still enough room to fit all sorts of things into it, like my big ol’ honkin’ 20D with a lense attached, even. Or another dictionary and a few paperbacks. And my iPod and cell phone and anything else I need to bring along with me (Passport HD, etc.)
While the bag is waterproof, there’s some open space on the sides at the top which is close enough to the laptop sleeve to make me nervous. It doesn’t look like rain will be able to sneak it while I’m carrying it, because the strap will be pulled taut and block the space between the strap and the main flap, but if I set it down, it might be a problem.
The colors look awesome… even though the pink seems to be schizophrenic (or at least, radically different looking under different light).
I’m in the market for a point a shoot.
Basically, I have an itch and to satisfy it, I’m going to buy a new camera. I know, I know, “But your Flickr photostream hasn’t been updated in ages.” Why? I’m not really sure. I think part of it is due to a bit of dissatisfaction on my part the last time I took pictures, which was back during my school’s graduation. I got some good pictures, I thought, but when I actually had them printed I wasn’t really happy with any of them. There were some white balance issues, highlight banding– basically, all sorts of BS. A lot of it probably my fault (I was demoing Aperture 2 at the time) and the rest, I would like to imagine, was the print shop’s. In any case, every time I take my camera out to shoot now I remember those bad prints and get discouraged.
While I continue to wait for the Canon 5D Mk. II or equivalent to replace my 20D, I find myself more and more interested in getting a compact Point and Shoot that I can carry around with me 100% of the time and really just play with. Kind of like the way people play with lomography and Polaroids. (Off-Hand: I really really love the look of lomographic photos and one day will experiment with my own lomographic device but at the moment, I don’t have one and am not doing any of this.) Basically, I want to have the ability to take a picture anywhere, so that I can stop worrying about carrying my camera and start worrying about taking pictures to get over this photo block or whatever it is.
In any case (and regardless of my intentions), I’ve narrowed down my choices to the following…
Compact and without a protruding lens. It’s also Olympus and I’ve been interesting in seeing their “colors” in person for a while now. The price is right and the weatherproofing is just what I’m looking for. The main features that I’m interested in are:
…waterproof to a depth of 10m, shockproof against falls to 2m, freezeproof to temperatures as low as -10°C and crushproof to weights of up to 100kg…
Edit: “Digital Image Stabilization…” Wow I totally missed that. Remember kids: “The “Image Stablilzation Mode” is a joke. It just ups the ISO sacrificing the quality of the shot.”
Digital Image Stabilisation reduces blur caused by shakes…
The next camera I’ve been looking at lately is a Sigma. I was clued into Sigma’s use of a Foveon sensor by a friend of mine (I had read it before, but like everything else I read, I just glazed over it) and was hooked on Sigma’s DP14 for a while before I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t need another D-SLR (or a new lens system). Once I made that decision, I started looking at the DP1. It’s got the same Foveon sensor in it that Sigma’s SD14 flagship D-SLR has in it, in a tiny little compact body with a fixed lens. Dpreview doesn’t have a review up (as usual; they only review the really popular models) but there’s a lot to like about it, I think. The Foveon sensor is neat and the image quality is the same as Sigma’s high-end D-SLR. Am I repeating myself? My primary interest with this camera is image quality. It doesn’t have the build quality that the other two options do, nor does it have any weatherproofing.
Primarily, I like the following:
…featur[es] a 14 megapixel FOVEON X3 direct image sensor (2652 × 1768 × 3 layers) as used in the Sigma SD14 digital SLR. The image sensor uses three silicon embedded layers of photo sensors, stacked to take advantage of silicon’s ability to absorb red, green and blue light at different respective depths…
Sigma’s unique and powerful ‘True’ image processor is incorporated into the DP1, enabling it to handle the large image files produced by the 14 megapixel sensor and reproduce exceptional definition with image quality equal to professional digital SLR cameras and on a par with top quality film…
Furthermore, it has an Aperture Priority mode (this is what I shoot on my 20D usually) and a high shutter speed (1/4000s). The lens and its macro abilities get good reviews, too.
The main reason I haven’t jumped on this camera are basically tied to usability complaints. From some of the user reviews at Dpreview:
“This camera sucks indeed. It produces nice images but is awkward to handle.
AF is just unusable for anything except static objects.”
“The LCD screen is not the best .. noisy and coarse in low-light and difficult to use in bright light.”
“It handles some situations even better than a DSLR. Complex detail and color are its strong point. It is a bit slow and has limited functions but it does what it should, produce an outstanding image. I really like mine.”
It’s not all bad. In fact, it’s mostly good, but I’m worried that its a little too much like my current D-SLR (only a bit smaller). On the other hand, I’m torn. I’d like to find out what this Foveon sensor is all about, but the price of entry is a bit steep: 89,820円 @ Amazon.co.jp
Here’s another gem of a camera that appeals to me primarily because it can take a beating without breaking a sweat. Besides the non-protruding lens, there’s a lot to love about it:
A shock resistant structure and stronger camera cone create a robust body able to withstand falls from 1.5 m onto 26 surfaces, in compliance with US Department of Defense “MIL Standard 810F” (previous models withstood 1.0 m). The G600 is able to cope with rough handling outdoors.
The G600 boasts the same impressive water resistance as its predecessor’s, surpassing JIS protection grade 7 performance. Besides taking pictures in the rain, it can even take pictures underwater at depths of up to about 1 m.
Dust resistance satisﬁes JIS protection grade 6. Pictures can be taken in environments, such as the seashore, where there are high concentrations of sand or dust.
The well thought out design and positioning of the large buttons make operation easy even with gloves on, such as while skiing.
The large-capacity lithium ion battery provided with the camera gives long battery life for approximately 360 shots (CIPA standard). If the battery runs out, readily available AAA size batteries can be used instead.
When the camera is connected to a personal computer via a USB cable, it is recognized as an external storage device, so images in the camera can be transferred to the computer without using special software. Full, automatic transfer is also available with the special software.
With all this in mind, the price tag remains high… 71,022円 @ Amazon.co.jp
I’m also not at all familiar with Ricoh in general, although at this point, I feel like the digital camera market is probably one of the most diverse markets in the tech sector right now. Everybody is making their own brand of digital camera, but I imagine most of them license their tech from a few big players.
In any case, I’m not really sure what to do. I was all set to buy an Olympus E-3 a week ago, until I decided that I would wait and see what Canon had up its sleeve before I made any rash, expensive decisions. Now I’m off the D-SLR kick (again, for the moment; its best to bide my time at this point and wait and see what Canon brings out to one-up Nikon’s impressive duo) and looking at a bunch of crazy weatherproofed Point and Shoot cameras!
Anyone have any personal recommendations? After reading this, does any one camera you know of strike you as being better for my apparent purposes (weatherproof go-anywhere do-anything camera)?