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January 2004
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March 2004

Home Automation at MacDevCenter

A new series of articles at O'Reilly's developer center holds a lot of promise. The first installment provides a catalog of the software and hardware you might need, and best of all, describes at a high-level how the author, Alan Graham, puts the pieces to use in his home. The next article promises more details, which should be very interesting. In my experience, the hardest part about home automation is deciding how to deploy it.


Big in Brazil

I'm pleased to announce that Editora Abril will once again be publishing a photograph of mine in their Almanaque Abril. My QuickTime VR of the San Francisco de Asis mission was included in the 2003 edition, and now will also appear in the 2004 version of the CD-ROM.

But you can see (and hear) it now, for free, at this location.

Kudos to Abril for their attentiveness to creator's rights. Despite the language barriers and hassle, they've been great about ensuring they have permission to use my work. They certainly could have just taken it from the Web, as others have done, and assume that I wouldn't mind or even know about it.


Log and Camera Monitor

Tynsoe's Geek Tool just keeps getting better and better. But don't let the name or screenshots fool you, it's as useful for home automation as it is for watching console logs. Here's how I use it:


  • Every few minutes, I see an updated image from the webcam that keeps an eye on my dog, Scooter.
  • If I'm on my home network, I can view the spool log for my laser printer so I know when my documents have been printed.
  • I haven't quite perfected this yet, but I'm working on getting my XTension log showing in a window too.

The best thing about Geek Log is that it's a system preference, so you don't have to muck around with an extra application, and it has a menubar extra that makes it every easy to switch between different sets of windows, force a refresh, or turn the whole thing off.


FOAF me, baby

At various times I've looked into FOAF but never quite groked what it could mean for me. Interesting technology to be sure, but so what?

An entry on Jess' weblog, Nice Font You've Got There just made it 'real' for me, at least as far as I understand it.

Jess and I have been friends and coworkers for several years now. Cory and I know each other, having met at OS X Con and SXSW. We share some common interests stemming from his work at the EFF and my history with the Computer Underground.

Had Jess and Cory exchanged FOAF files (in addition to fonts) they would have discovered me as a person-in-common, instantly providing for conversational fodder, discovery of common interests, and some degree of whuffie assessment.

Or, maybe not. At least I think it's an example of where FOAF could be useful.


Quck Review - Keyspan Presentation Remote

A few months ago I decided to buy a remote control that I could use while giving presentations, to drive Keynote or PowerPoint. I diligently searched the web for product reviews, but couldn't find many that were useful. Eventually, based on faith and past experience, I decided to just take the plunge and buy the Keyspan Presentation Remote.

presoremote.jpg

Having since used it for several presentations, here's what I've discovered:


  • The battery lasts a long time, which is good. But there's no battery-strength indicator so you'll be caught by surprise when it dies, which is bad. It uses uncommon batteries so you'll want to have a spare handy -- it's unlikely you'll be unable to scrounge on up when you need one at the last minute.
  • It's true you don't need software drivers for basic functionality. This is great for using it with whatever computer happens to be handy at the venue. But you do need drivers to use the fancy-dancy media controls it offers. Unless you're on a Mac, then you're just out-of-luck because the fancy-dancy stuff is for Windows only. That sucks, but I don't care too much, the last thing I want to do is muck around with drivers on any computer.
  • The shape and weight of the control is very good. It's easy to grip, pick up, and find the controls by touch alone.
  • The big intuitive controls are not the ones you use to run the slideshow. Instead, you use the thumb control on the side. This is odd, but OK once you understand. Don't mash the buttons, otherwise you'll whiz past several slides. A gentle, momentary touch is all that is needed. You'll get the hang of it quickly.
  • The included carrying case is very thoughtful, but lamely executed. It's too big, has a cheesy velcro closure, and does not include a spot for a spare battery. Sheesh, did they put any thought into it at all?
  • Don't buy this if you really want a laser pointer. The built-in one is way too complicated to activate, requiring several button presses, a security passcode, and a click-thru reminder about wearing safety goggles when using laser devices. OK, I'm exaggerating, but not by very much.

So, overall, if the price seems reasonable to you, this remote isn't a bad buy. An acceptable, but not compelling product. If there's another brand that seems equally attractive, don't feel like you're passing up something special by not getting this one.