Tuesday, July 26

Yahoo! acquires Konfabulator

Konfabulator is the shareware application that Apple ripped off when they made the Dashboard for OSX 10.4 "Tiger." Apple's incarnation is doubtless a bit more refined, but now that Yahoo! bought Konfab they've made it free. There goes my only reason to even think about upgrading to Tiger.

Konfabulator 2.1 is now freely downloadable at konfabulator.com, and all of Konfab's existing widgets run with the new free version. By the way, Konfabulator runs in both Mac and Windows, and (even though the application was Mac-only to begin with) a good number of the widgets are cross-platform as well.

Check it out on both Mac and Windows! It's a great way to have a bunch of useful tools tucked away and easily accessible with just a keypress.

(Here's Yahoo!'s announcement of the buyout)

Monday, July 25

Web Site Help: Is Anybody Out There?

This is an interesting report from PC World on the ease-of-use in contacting and receiving responses from a dozen of the Web's most-visited sites and services. Netflix won hands-down on response time, with craigslist and Yahoo! never actually sending a response.

Tuesday, July 19

Thirty-Eight Ways to Win an Argument

These "Ways to Win an Argument" are apparently condensed and translated from Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophical tome on "The Art of Controversy." The original, of course, was originally written in German during the first half of the nineteenth century.

I find the propositions it advances amusing, but not particularly insightful. For instance, point twenty-one includes the phrase: "it is with victory that you are concerned, not with truth." This seems to me to hardly be a valid philosophical objective. Truth, to some degree of certainty, has always been the final aim of philosophy. To attempt only to prove your own conclusions acceptable has nothing to do with accepting and synthesizing new information, which is the goal of the truly learned.

But as a humorous bit of historical thought, I find this interesting; worth a quick read, but a set of ideas to which no deep investigation or lasting importance should be ascribed.

Monday, July 18

Optimus keyboard

Oh. My. Goodness.

I am drooling *ALL OVER* this keyboard. Or, the prototype photos at least. This thing doesn't actually exist yet, but I am very intrigued by the possibilities. Every key has an OLED screen, and the markings thereon can be manipulated globally or even application by application. You really have to look at the pictures on the site to get the full effect.

There is a software application that allows you to customize the keys' function and appearance. As shown in the images on the linked page, you can change the keys to display pictures indicating their purpose (like the various tools in Photoshop, etc.) and even to assign macro functions to a few extra keys that have been added to the traditional layout for the purpose of providing more functionality.

I think the best things that could be added to this design include:
1) an embedded USB flash drive to store the various custom layouts so that the keyboard can be moved from machine to machine without needing to reprogram the customization. The current model is to have a software program installed on the host computer to store the customizations, but I think it would be a great idea to make the device more mobile.
2) I'm not sure if this is already included, but I think it would be an AWESOME feature to manipulate the keyboard based on the mod-keys that are pressed. For instance, to have the keyboard display all lower-case letters but switch to capitals when the key is held down. Also, display the vowels with umlauts (ä, ö, ü, et cetera) after option-u is hit on a Mac keyboard, or the various symbols that are unlocked by the command and option keys.

The only problem with number 1 is that the storage of layouts would have to be accessed differently depending on the OS to which the keyboard is connected. I'm sure the developers could make it work, anyway.

Also, there is an interview with the designer on the Primotech site here.

Sunday, July 10

Amazon.com Sitting Pretty 10 Years Later

This article is a good synopsis of the history of Amazon and its rise to the top of online commerce. The article claims that, according to independent analysts, "Amazon has won over the masses with its vast selection, a brand name everyone knows, a site that's easy to navigate and a reputation for reliability."

That's certainly true in my case. I was recently looking for a few computer-related things (a sync/charge cable for my cell phone, a sync/charge cable for my handheld, and a copy of the PC game Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb), and I looked all around the Web for them. I checked out Shopzilla, I looked at Yahoo! Shopping, I even looked at brick-and-mortar retailers' sites like those of Best Buy and CompUSA. None of these places did what I wanted.

Best Buy and CompUSA's selections were very limited, and when I did find one or two of the things on my list they turned out to be pretty expensive. Shopzilla and Yahoo! Shopping are each only lists of retailers' wares, and I would have had to visit these individual online stores individually to purchase my items... no merchant (they're all pretty specialized) stocked all three of my desired items.

But Amazon came through. I did end up getting all of my items through individual sellers who provide their items via Amazon's "Used and New" service (is there an official name for that?), but I was able to purchase my goodies with one credit-card entry and minimal hassle. The charges all came to my credit card as "Amazon," so I assume that they are the only ones to saw my card number... and that makes me feel incredibly safe.

I trust Amazon. Why I ever shop anywhere else online is beyond me. These days, they've got everything from rollerblades to electric shavers, so why would I need to?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).

The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.