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TidBITS is 700! Okay, so we're not that old, but we are celebrating our 700th issue with news of a Creative Commons license and our choice for a new content management system. Also in this issue, Palm releases new handhelds (the Tungsten T3, Tungsten E, and Zire 21), Apple re-releases Mac OS X 10.2.8, and Kirk McElhearn takes the ShuttleXpress controller out for a spin, comparing it to the PowerMate he swore he'd never give up.
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Mac OS X 10.2.8 Returns -- Late last week, Apple posted a new Mac OS X 10.2.8 Update, replacing one that was released and then quickly pulled after causing significant troubles on many machines (see "Mac OS X 10.2.8 Comes and Goes" in TidBITS-699). The new update for computers running Mac OS X 10.2.6 or 10.2.7 (the latter available only on some new Macs such as the recently released 15-inch PowerBook G4) is available as a 38.9 MB download via Software Update and as a standalone installer. A Mac OS X 10.2.8 Update (Combo) version is available as a 97 MB download, and updates Mac OS X 10.2 and higher.
For users who installed the first Mac OS X 10.2.8 update, Apple has also posted a separate updater via Software Update, the Mac OS X Update 10.2.8 (Build 6R73) with an updated Ethernet driver and an update to the battery status menu; it is a 248K download. And lastly, owners of Power Mac G5 machines require a different updater that works only on those models, the Mac OS X 10.2.8 (G5) Update, which is a 13 MB download. [JLC]
by Jeff Carlson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Palm, Inc. last week released a trio of handheld devices, available immediately. At the high end, the Palm Tungsten T3 features a 320 by 480 color screen, which can display data vertically or rotated horizontally (good for reading electronic books or working with spreadsheets using the included DataViz Documents to Go software). Like the Tungsten T and T2 models, the T3 case features a lower section that slides down to reveal Graffiti-writing area (see "Tungsten T Marks New Beginning for Palm" in TidBITS-655); however, the T3 is the first device from Palm to incorporate the handwriting recognition area in software - tapping a small icon makes the area disappear to view more data. The $400 Tungsten T3 includes 64 MB of memory, a speedy 400 MHz Intel XScale processor, an expansion card slot, and Bluetooth wireless networking.
Occupying the middle ground is the sleek Tungsten E, the spiritual descendent of the popular Palm V. The E is lighter and thinner than the Tungsten T series, and comes with a high-resolution (320 by 320) color screen, 32 MB of memory, a 126 MHz ARM processor, and an expansion card slot. Unlike the T3, the Graffiti area is the traditional silkscreened section of the screen. However, the Tungsten E is aggressively priced at $200.
Aimed at users who are either cost conscious or simply don't need much more than a basic handheld organizer, the Zire 21 is a bare-bones system featuring a 160 by 160 grayscale screen (without a backlight), 8 MB of memory, and a 126 MHz ARM processor. The Zire 21 costs $100; the original Zire, which features 2 MB of memory and a slower processor, is now available for $80.
In addition to introducing new hardware, Palm has finally updated some of the core Palm OS applications - and given them a name change as well, with Date Book becoming Calendar, Address Book becoming Contacts, the To Do List becoming Tasks, and Memo Pad becoming Memos. The Contacts application now supports multiple addresses and more fields, including a Birthday field that adds the date to the Calendar. Events can be categorized, and categories can be color-coded. And, at long last, you can create Memos that are longer than 4K. The software improvements apply only to the Tungsten T3 and Tungsten E, however; there is no upgrade path for owners of previous models to take advantage of the new features.
This sort of terminology change drives writers like me crazy. The third edition of my book Palm Organizers: Visual QuickStart Guide is now being printed, so I'll be publishing a free downloadable PDF update that covers these changes at the companion Web site linked below, shortly after the book appears in bookstores.
by Kirk McElhearn <email@example.com>
When I bought one of Griffin Technology's PowerMates, I thought it was the cat's pajamas. In my review here last year (see "Unleashing the Power of the PowerMate" in TidBITS-653), I said, "It will most likely remain by my keyboard for a very long time." Alas, that time is shorter than I had expected, for I have found something even better: the Contour Design ShuttleXpress.
The PowerMate is a strange gadget: consisting of a rotating knob and a push-button, it can be programmed to do almost anything with any application. While the PowerMate's brushed aluminum finish and pulsing blue LED give it an additional cool-factor advantage, the ShuttleXpress wins out in usability. Since the ShuttleXpress has replaced my PowerMate, and since the PowerMate is a popular item that many readers may be familiar with, much of this article will compare the two devices.
One for Each Hand -- Becoming accustomed to one of these alternative controllers - either the PowerMate or the ShuttleXpress - involves changing the way you work and accepting the idea of having two input devices: one, your mouse or trackball, which you use to point, click, drag & drop; and two, a rotating device, which offers scrolling and other functions that are normally available either from the mouse or the keyboard.
This also implies a certain amount of ambidexterity. Although I am right-handed, I find it more comfortable to use my left hand for my trackball and my right hand for these additional devices. Not everyone will be comfortable with this approach, but it's worth a try.
A Bird's Eye View of the ShuttleXpress -- Shaped like the top half of a flying saucer, in matte black plastic, the ShuttleXpress is designed primarily for video editing. But, like the PowerMate, it can be programmed to run any of a number of commands or actions with any application you want. Its background process monitors the active application, and makes the appropriate settings available according to the program you are using.
The ShuttleXpress features a central jog wheel, which has a finger depression, and which turns 360 degrees. Around this jog wheel is a rubberized, spring-loaded shuttle ring, which has a total of 15 positions: 1 in the center, and 7 to each side. You can program the action associated with each independently. Five buttons run around the top circumference of the device in positions that naturally lie under your five fingers. The three middle buttons have depressions so you can locate them more easily, and you can program each button separately.
So, with a total of seven controls, the ShuttleXpress out-controls the PowerMate. The main differences are the five buttons and the spring-loaded shuttle ring: with the PowerMate, when scrolling, you must keep turning the knob; with the ShuttleXpress you just turn and hold the shuttle ring, and, when you have finished scrolling, the shuttle pops back to its center position.
Programming the ShuttleXpress -- It's easy to program the ShuttleXpress, almost as easy as for the PowerMate. But the ShuttleXpress is less Mac-like, since you must program it through a dedicated application. It would be simpler if the ShuttleXpress used a preferences pane, as with the PowerMate.
To configure settings for a program, open the ShuttleXpress application and choose a program name from a pop-up menu. About two dozen pre-configured programs appear in the list, and each includes sample settings that you may or may not want to keep. You can add other programs, and also adjust global settings that will apply to any application not in the list.
Configuring these settings can be a bit complicated. Although it's easy to set actions for the buttons and even the jog wheel (they can type keystrokes, press modifier keys, open files or folders, scroll up, down, right or left, and perform all sorts of mouse clicks), it's not as simple to program the shuttle ring. Part of the reason is that this ring has 15 settings. In addition, you can program actions for the passage from one ring position to the next.
Looking at the shuttle ring's built-in settings can give you an idea of how to program it. To best use the shuttle ring for, say, up and down scrolling in document windows, you want to have the amount of scrolling increase as you turn it. In other words, turning it to the first position scrolls slowly, and turning it further scrolls more quickly. This variable speed system works much better than PowerMate's single-speed scrolling, but it takes a while to program all 14 settings (it's best to leave the central rest position doing nothing for most uses). As for the jog wheel, you can only set it to scroll at the same speed, since it's designed to rotate 360 degrees, and you can program only right and left movements with it.
One tip: to set up scrolling for several applications, find one of the built-in settings that has the kind of scrolling you want already set and export it. Then import it, renaming it to match the application you want to use. As you work, you may find yourself adjusting the scrolling settings for one application to tweak it just so; use it as a template for other programs you want to scroll in the same way.
Putting the ShuttleXpress into Action -- How can you get the most out of this gadget, and why is it better than the PowerMate? If you look back at my review of the PowerMate, you'll see a handful of ideas for using the device in different programs. You can mimic those ideas with the ShuttleXpress, but you can also go much further, thanks to the five buttons it offers.
In Microsoft Entourage, which I use for email, I set the five buttons to do the following: check mail, press Return (to open a message), press Delete, press Command-N (to create a new message), and press Control-T (to run an AppleScript that empties the Trash). That covers just about every action I perform regularly in Entourage, with the exception of typing. Naturally, the jog wheel and shuttle ring are set to scroll: the shuttle scrolls up and down, and the jog sends up arrow and down arrow keystrokes, to navigate message lists.
How about Web browsing? For Safari, I set the jog and shuttle to scroll, and set the five buttons as follows: display my home page, press Command-T (to create a new tab), press Command-W (to close a tab or window), and press the keyboard shortcuts for Back (Command-[) and Forward (Command-]).
Since I often work with Microsoft Word, I set one button to save my work (sending Command-S), another to create a new file (Command-N), another to switch windows (Command-F6), and two buttons set to show and hide the formatting palette. I can change any of these whenever I want, and I have already switched the last two buttons around to show and hide specific toolbars for different projects.
What about the Finder? Well, there's New Window, my Home folder, my Applications folder, and Show and Hide Toolbar. But that's just me: I'm sure you can think of different actions you'd want to assign to the five buttons in the Finder, as well as in all sorts of programs.
Pros and Cons -- Although the ShuttleXpress is better than the PowerMate for my use, it has some disadvantages. The PowerMate scrolls pages more smoothly - this may be the way it sends commands to my Mac. But since you can set variable scrolling speeds with the shuttle ring's different positions, the ShuttleXpress, with its scrolling acceleration and deceleration, simply works better, especially for scrolling through long documents.
The ShuttleXpress is much bigger than the PowerMate (about twice the diameter), which may be a problem for people with limited space, but it feels more natural under my hand, and my fingers rest perfectly on the five buttons. Its rubber, spring-loaded shuttle ring also feels more natural than the PowerMate's knob for scrolling. Aesthetically, however, the PowerMate's brushed aluminum and pulsing blue LED not only looks nicer but feels cooler as well.
The ShuttleXpress could go even further by offering chording, where you invoke actions by pressing two or more buttons at a time. Chording would expand the number of possible actions well beyond five. I would also like to be able to type, say, Command-Tab, to switch applications using this device. (As it is, you cannot set Command-Tab to this device, since the Finder traps this command, and you cannot manually select or enter keystrokes in the ShuttleXpress application, like you can when configuring the PowerMate.)
I'd also like some way of printing out the ShuttleXpress's settings. With so many buttons, and so many shuttle ring settings, you can easily forget which actions do what with which applications. It would be helpful to have a graphical printout, that shows the shape of the ShuttleXpress, with the settings next to each part of the device.
Contour Design has told me that most of the above reservations will be addressed in a forthcoming version, due out in a few months. If all these corrections are made, I'd have few negative things to say about the ShuttleXpress.
In the end, the ShuttleXpress wins out over the PowerMate for usability and flexibility. I'm sold, at least until someone raises the ante in this new breed of input devices. In just a couple of days, I became hooked on the ShuttleXpress and unplugged my PowerMate, a device that I previously couldn't live without. I won't claim that I'll never get rid of this device - I've already eaten crow for saying that about the PowerMate - but any competitors are going to have to go a lot further to get me to unplug the ShuttleXpress.
The ShuttleXpress costs $60, and runs under Mac OS versions 8.6 through 9.2, or under Mac OS X 10.1 or later.
[Kirk McElhearn is a freelance writer and translator living in a village in the French Alps. He is co-author, with Todd Stauffer, of the forthcoming book, Mastering Mac OS X - Panther Edition, to be published by Sybex in 2003.]
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by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We like to announce changes to mark the ticking by of large even numbers on the TidBITS odometer. In 1997, TidBITS-400 introduced our dynamic Web site, all driven via Lasso from FileMaker databases, with glue provided by HyperCard, AppleScript, and Retrospect. For TidBITS-500 in 1999, we introduced polls and completely redesigned our home page to make room for both breaking news headlines throughout the week and a listing of hot topics in TidBITS Talk.
Most recently, 2001's TidBITS-600 gave subscribers the option of receiving TidBITS in a sparsely elegant HTML format or as a text or HTML announcement. The HTML version of the full issue in particular has become quite popular, though that list still a fraction of the size of our text-only setext list. Other changes for that issue included a printer-friendly layout option for articles; explicit links to TidBITS Talk discussions within articles; sharing of articles via email; and support for RSS so you can read TidBITS in NetNewsWire, MacTracker, Radio UserLand, or your favorite RSS client. And yes, I'm telling you about these services because I suspect many readers don't realize they're are available.
Choosing a CMS -- As much as I'd like to announce a sweeping Web site overhaul so we can extract ourselves from a system that has grown awkwardly since we introduced it in 1997, our efforts to put a powerful new content management system (CMS) into place haven't yet come to fruition. Back in April, we reported on our progress and solicited additional recommendations from readers. We've spent much of the time since then evaluating different contenders, some in great detail.
Honestly, it's been a roller coaster ride. We'd start looking at a program, get excited about everything it promised, and then discover some major architectural limitation. We had to eliminate one promising package when we realized that it wanted to display every content object in the system in a hierarchical interface that looked a bit like a Finder window with disclosure triangles. That might work for many sites, but since we already have nearly 6,000 articles and 19,000 TidBITS Talk messages, such an interface would bog down instantly. Several other highly attractive content management systems claimed to support email newsletters, but when we looked deeper, it turned out they couldn't send articles in the database out via email (you had to create the newsletters by hand!). And in general, there seemed to be a general lack of understanding of the kind of ubiquitous linking we use between articles and other content objects. As Ted Nelson so famously said, "Everything is intertwingled," and we're not willing to lose meaningful connections between related articles, or between articles and discussions.
Of course, there was always that nagging open source answer to any criticism: "Oh, that's a great idea! Why don't you write that and submit it back so everyone else can take advantage of it too?" Open source is a great concept, but someone still has to do the work, and that person needs to earn a living somehow. Our estimate for customizing Tiki, the most promising of the open source content management packages, came in at more than 200 hours and $10,000, and that was before diving into the mess of integrating with a huge email list. (That said, Tiki is extremely cool, runs under Mac OS X, and is absolutely worth a look if you don't need the kind of ubiquitous linking and email integration that we do.)
But we have made a decision, and in some ways, it's an affirmation of a possibility we looked at briefly early on in the process: Web Crossing. For those that haven't seen it, Web Crossing is a hugely powerful package that's aimed primarily at providing online community tools (there is also a free version that provides Web, email, and FTP servers). Apple uses it for their discussion forums, as do many other high-profile sites like Salon. We certainly need more than just online community tools, but Web Crossing actually provides all the building blocks for creating a full-fledged content management system, with an object-oriented database and Web, email, FTP, and NNTP servers, among others. With Web Crossing 5.0, the program became entirely modular, enabling upgrades that don't overwrite any custom modifications, and adding weblog and wiki plug-ins.
More important, Tim Lundeen and the other folks at Web Crossing are extremely interested in turning Web Crossing into a robust content management package (with the weblog and wiki plug-ins as first steps in that direction). So, to knock off multiple birds with a single inexpensive stone, we're going to be working with Tim and the others at Web Crossing to develop our content management system, with an eye toward helping them create a powerful CMS that has all the features that we found lacking elsewhere.
The process is just beginning, and we hope to be replacing aspects of the TidBITS infrastructure piece by piece with equivalent (or better) systems written in Web Crossing over the next few months.
Creative Commons License -- Our choice of Web Crossing as a content management system is significant, but it won't have an effect for a bit yet. Our second announcement for our seven hundredth issue is perhaps just the reverse, a very small change that takes effect right now.
Since the earliest days of TidBITS, we've always encouraged non-commercial publications like user group newsletters to reprint our articles, as long as they retain the original author's byline and credit TidBITS as the source of the article. User group newsletter editors from all around the world have used our articles to fill space and beef up their newsletters, which in turn helps keep user groups vibrant and alive.
Our overall goal isn't changing, and non-commercial publications will still be able to reprint articles, but as of today, all TidBITS issues will be governed by a Creative Commons license. I've written about Creative Commons in "A Couple of Cool Concepts" in TidBITS-617, and it's an extremely worthwhile project that aims to expand the range of creative work that can be shared and built-upon by others.
To that end, Creative Commons has established a number of initiatives. The Licensing Project helps users build licenses that provide to the public some of the rights normally restricted to the copyright holder. The Founders' Copyright project allows copyright holders to dedicate their work to the public domain after just 14 years, the initial term of copyright established by the First Congress of the United States in 1790. Computer book publisher O'Reilly and Associates has given all of their authors the option of covering books under the Founders' Copyright; both Tonya and I have placed our work for O'Reilly under Founders' Copyright to ensure that the books go into the public domain after 14 years, which is probably 12 years after they've sold their last copy. Lastly, the International Commons project aims to draft and adopt country-specific Creative Commons licenses that take local laws into account throughout the world.
Anyway, I ran through the simple steps on the Creative Commons Web site to generate an "Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial" license, and that's what will now govern the use of TidBITS content. As I said before, there's no significant difference from before, other than that reprinted articles will have to mention the Creative Commons license - we'll change our suggested reprint boilerplate text to accommodate it.
Why go to the effort of using the Creative Commons license if there's no particular difference from what we've always done? Because, and I speak as someone who makes his living from copyright, I think the current copyright regime is fundamentally flawed in ways that bias the system toward large companies and at the expense of the public, all while failing to promote the creativity of the individual any more than was achieved with the very first instantiation of copyright law in the United States. Between the Licensing Project and Founders' Copyright, the people behind Creative Commons are working on, well, creative ways of helping the public interact with a wide range of content while helping creators meet their goals in making that content available. More power to them.
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Thoughts on online radio shows -- After Adam was interviewed on Inside Mac Radio Daily last week, he became curious about what readers thought of the show and online radio shows in general. (17 messages)
USB at startup -- So why is it that some people have trouble getting USB devices to be recognized at startup? (10 messages)
TiVo Series2 improvements -- The discussion of the new TiVo Series2 DVR continues, with readers proposing additional new features. (31 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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