TUAW Loses Credibility

I’m a Mac user. I’m a Mac fan. I’m not, as far as I’m concerned, a Mac fanboy. I do however, read some Mac centric and Mac fanatic blogs. TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog is one. I often scan the feed, as it tends to be subject matter I’m not interested in. I’ve ranted before about some of the fanaticism and over the top coverage before.

So this evening, I was scanning some feeds, and the see the headline Putting the Apple Store Geniuses to the Test and was immediately intrigued. Several years ago, I worked in a retail Apple store. It was quite enlightening in many, many ways, but for me, not really a good experience. However, I did meet some very nice people, some very smart people, and learned a lot.

That said, to call all employees of an Apple Store Geniuses, is ignorant, as the Geniuses, as pointed out in the comments of the post, are trained techs who do not do sales. Of course, they can do sales for customers who come into the Genius Bar for issues, and wind up needing something, but it’s not their primary job description. And as pointed out, Mac Specialists (the sales team) are generally knowledgeable in niché areas. I worked with some extremely knowledgeable people who specialized in graphics, music, networking, you name it. Everyone generally knew each persons strengths, and when they ran into a question they didn’t know, they knew who to ask, or as also pointed out, were savvy enough to Google search to help the customer. I’m sure it’s possible during the holidays that temporary seasonal employees might not be as versed or familiar with everyone, and a customer might not get the technical answers from such an employee. But my experience was that those types of employees also were quick to explain their unfamiliarity with technical issues, and still sought out more experienced Specialists to assist the customer.

All of that said, it’s very disappointing that the author of this post on TUAW didn’t know what he was talking about, and as the post title states, certainly gives me pause to the credibility of the site, and makes me wonder if there’s a certain quota of posts they need to write, and was at a loss to find a relevant topic that he could bust out. Which again, gives me pause to the site’s credibility of a reliable source of pertinent Apple related news.

Also, one thing that I hadn’t seen mentioned in the comments, as everyone was coming to the defense of the Specialists, and pointing out that there was no commission based sales, is that isn’t entirely true. This might have changed, but when I worked for an Apple Store, there were quarterly bonuses for full-time employees based on store sales goals. Generally speaking however, the commenters are right, there isn’t any emphasis on over selling equipment. Meaning, don’t push a Mac Book Pro on a family looking for a laptop for their kid heading to college who’ll only be doing email, word processing, and web surfing, along with the obvious music stuff. However, one of the biggest turn-offs that I dealt with, was the huge emphasis on pushing .Mac on all customers, even if you knew they didn’t need it, or understand it. Certainly since then, .Mac has grown in it’s uses, and I can see how maybe it’s slightly more attractive for users, but then it was crap, and I felt dirty pushing it on everyone.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a post slagging Apple retail, rather as a response to the post and comments in the aforementioned post. Also note, this post was started late last night, and finished today without re-visiting the post to see if the author has amended or commented about his perspective, though my feed reader does pick up edited posts, and it hasn’t come through. Ultimately though, there should be some level of responsibility and editing in a “pro” blog such as that one, part of a bigger network of blogs whom make a pretty penny I’m sure in advertising. Shame on you Blogsmith and TUAW for shoddy writing and editing.

Redarry Theme

If you are looking for an XHTML 1.1 valid mod of Habari’s k2, be sure to check out Harry’s Redarry Theme, complete with “Red-dy” goodness. I really like the subtle gradient for the tabs in the header.

Welcome to the Habari community Harry, we look forward to seeing you around!

FireFox 3 beta

Testing out b2 of FF 3 (Mac OS X Leopard), and it seems snappier, though none of my normal extensions are available for the beta, so that might be part of it. Certainly can’t use it for everyday browsing because of that reason. It seems kinda odd using the native OS X theme, with Safari like buttons instead of the standard FF HTML buttons.

I kinda like the Smart bookmarks feature, though the recent bookmarks isn’t really useful to me. I’ll be curious how that might be tied into del.icio.us bookmarks (however, seeing as Yahoo! is in turmoil, I will be exploring other bookmarking services, including checking on the status of scuttle, a GPL script for hosting your own bookmark library ala del.icio.us). Any suggestions for similar services welcomed.

Another feature I’m not keen on just yet is when I click on the favicon, normally that would highlight the entire URL in the address bar, now it gives me some odd identity information. Definitely a PITA. I really use that feature for copy and pasting URLs, though there might be an easier method for that.

I’ll continue to run FF 3 on the laptop, and keep 2 on my main desktop, I understand a beta3 will be out Monday, and hopefully sooner than later a RC will be around, with most of the extensions being updated around that time. I understand extension developers not trying to keep up with alpha and beta builds for official downloads, but at some point, they should be offering some kind of indication to users whether or not the extension will be available for the new version. Nothing worse than upgrading only to find out your favorite extension isn’t being developed for the latest release.

Mzingi 0.3

I’ve made some small changes to the mzingi theme, most notably a few code changes to work with the most current revision. (1267 at time of writing).

This includes fixing the atom feed link, addressing plugin hooks in the header and footer, and removing some extraneous code in the commentform that has been moved to the theme class.

Also, some minor styling for the date has been added, as well as a screenshot and license.

Also added is the conditional code in the header to show the title on the home page as the blog title, or the post title followed by the blog title in single post pages.

A few things I’m looking to do in the next revision is to remove the Asides code, and add a template for the linkoid plugin, so if a user doesn’t want to use Asides, they don’t have to edit the theme, as well as leverage the ability of the plugin to allow the user to chose their own tags to be used in the feature and excluded from the primary content.

Also planned is author comment highlighting.

Suggestions are always warmly welcomed.

You can download the file from the original post.

Textile for Habari

I’m quite happy to see a new Habari user, Dylan, over at Trifold Design, has created a Textile plugin for Habari. I too use many of the same tools Dylan does, and find myself using that markup more and more, even in email and on IRC (though, embarrassingly I didn’t realize it was actually Textile).

I haven’t actually tested the plugin yet, though it did install fine, and it’s a .5 release, so I assume the author has vetted it himself.

Also, welcome to the community Dylan, it’s always great to see new people join in.

For those that are looking for other markup plugins, you might look at Matt Read’s Markdown plugin as well.

It’s All Text and Leopard

I recently had upgraded to Leopard, and one FireFox extension I’ve come to count on was It’s All Text!. Which allows you to chose a text editor of your choice to edit text fields. Sometimes I need to do some code changes for sites in a text box, or work with a large amount of text, and it was quite handy to simply edit with TextMate. It seemed to have broken in Leopard. I checked the settings, and changing the path to

/usr/bin/mate

from

/usr/local/bin/mate

seemed to do the trick. Might have just been me, but it’s working now, and I’m happy.

Media Temple Follow Up

Update: I was just contacted by the customer support person from yesterday, and indeed there’s an Alex and I’ve been credited in my account. Thanks Alex.

So I immediately received a comment from an “Alex” who said he was with Media Temple on my previous post. (He actually left two comments, as they went to moderation, and sent a contact message.) The comment speaks for itself. I did that, emailed him, giving the primary domain, and email address for my account. Two days later, I get the automated emails about my credit card being declined. Oh, right, I was mugged two weeks before Thanksgiving, and had my wallet stolen, so I had to get a new card. But wait, weren’t they going to credit me? I wait. Another email. I wait. This time, an email with a name attached. I respond, saying, Alex said he was going to be crediting my account. Is there an Alex? Was I duped? No response at this point. Meanwhile, I couldn’t FTP into my accounts most of yesterday because of some Authentication server problems.

Not that I’m having the greatest success setting up the VPS server I’m testing from SliceHost. Mostly MySQL problems. I’m not ready to give up PHPMyAdmin just yet, nor FTP. But that’s another post.

Give the gift of down time

Another six months, another disappointment in web hosting. This time, the popular Media Temple grid-server. For the past 2+ months, its been one problem after another, with the most recent being an 12 plus hour down time because of a failed maintenance. They talk of credits for users, however I’m not seeing one in my account. A company I work with received the email, however, not my personal account. So on the heals of this debacle, they are offering gift cards for a years worth of hosting. As if someone would want to give you a migraine for Christmas.

Nice timing Media Temple….

Redesign

I’m working on a new theme, another open source design port. Being the impatient person I am, I’ve got a few tweaks still, so pardon any glitches while I finish up the tweaking. Certainly interested in any comments, I’ll post another more formal outline of the port when I’m done. This will be available for download when it’s done.

mzingi .2

A bit later than I thought it would be, but I’ve updated Mzingi to reflect quite a few changes in Habari’s code. Among the changes and additions for .2 are:

  • added header and footer hooks for plugins
  • added post status class, to allow for styling drafts differently than published posts
  • added a 404 template, including a search box on that page
  • updated the pagination code and styling on home.php and other multiple entry pages
  • added the pingback filtering on comments. Though a plugin, I’m assuming most people will use this feature
  • added recent posts to sidebar. This code will reflect which page you are on, and show the next five. Meaning, if you are on page/2, it will show you the posts of page/3.
  • added comment moderation code. Visitors who’s comments go into moderation will see their comment marked in moderation

Now to make these changes on this design (though I plan on a complete overhaul before the end of the year, so it might wait). That said, I’m looking forward to feedback, and possibly seeing this go into the default download as another optional theme as has been suggested to me. I’ll leave that to others to decide, but I’m certainly not against the idea one bit.

Please visit the Mzingi home page for the download link.

Managing Projects

Much has been written the last few years about project management, GTD (getting things done) and productivity on the web, I personally subscribe to probably a dozen feeds that are specifically geared towards the subject, and have tried probably every conceivable idea, all to little success.

For my paying work, I work with a company that exclusively uses Basecamp, and have come to be quite familiar with the system, but can’t rationalize paying for the service for my own needs. I do have a backpack account, but never quite have gotten a system in place there to do basic project management. Now that I have 2 themes released for Habari, and several other small projects I’m working on, mulling over, I went looking last night for something that resembles Basecamp, but was under my own control, and if I ever wanted to collaborate with someone, could easily add them in. I then remembered, Active Collab, an open-source clone of Basecamp. (Active Collab is now closed source, and a commercial product. Their old, .7.1 release is still available for download. If you want an interesting read about how open source goes bad, read the blog post and comments regarding the new structure.)

Realizing it was now commercial, and priced completely towards businesses, I read through some comments and saw reference to Project Pier, a fork of Active Collab. A new .8 release fixing some bugs and adding a few features to the .7.1 release of AC was out, so I snagged a copy and installed locally. Very easy to install (assuming you meet the server requirements), and after a quick read of how to change the god awful default theme, I was up and running, in a familiar PM environment. I set up projects for my two themes, added some milestones, todo lists, poked around and decided that though I’m the only one using it, I could easily use the messages for personal notes. And if I ever decide to put it on my own domain for others to collaborate with, I can easily migrate the database, and keep my current work intact. It also seems powerful enough that a small design house or programming team could use it for real projects, as it supports file uploads and RSS feed for recent activity. I haven’t explored email notification, however I believe it handles that ala Basecamp as well. (Like Basecamp, I don’t think you can reply to a message via email however)

All in all, a very useful tool, and I’d like to applaud the team behind Project Pier for picking up and forking in light of the changes in the development of Active Collab. I’ll be keeping an eye on it’s progress, and am looking for good things to come.

Harvest Field – A New Habari Theme

Update: New versions now available. See bottom of post for details.

Wanting to work on mzingi, I found myself a little unmotivated, so instead, I thought, maybe I can find an open source design to port to Habari, and that would get me motivated to look at the underlying code. So off I went, googling, and browsing the many repositories of open source designs, looking for something I might want to use on a personal site, and would be a nice (albeit one of few currently) available themes for Habari. I stumbled upon styleshout, and their numerous, well done themes. Ideally, I’d liked to have found one that hadn’t been ported to other platforms, but Harvest Field so caught my eye, I couldn’t help but choose it.
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Habari 0.3 released

After roughly 3 months, the new developer release of Habari is now available for download. I just saw the 0.2 release was downloaded nearly 11,000 times, which I personally think is great, I’d hope to see double that for the .3 release.

This release has many bug fixes and features added, for both the coder and user. Personally, I contributed a fair amount of work on documentation, including my continued work on the manual, as well as getting my coding hands dirty a bit working on the first steps to overhaul the admin interface.

Participating in this community has been one of the few bright spots in my otherwise gloomy year, and I’d like to personally thank all of those who participate. I’ve also expanded my “tech” knowledge, specifically in relation to using more of the CLI and subversion. I actually managed to move a repository the other night from my local machine to a new repository on my Media Temple server that they provide. I’ve now even ventured into using macports to set up my old laptop to be a better mobile development environment, as MAMP for Panther doesn’t support PHP 5.2 (but that’s for a future post).

Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the Habari community growing, and great things to come. Even if you aren’t ready to switch blog platforms, I’d highly suggest downloading and checking it out, and by all means, keep abreast of development. It’s a fun and inviting community, with a lot of excitement for what it’s future holds.

Also stay tuned for a soon to be updated version of Mzingimy Habari theme framework, to leverage some of the new features available to themes.

Prism for Mac

Prism for mac is out. Those not familiar, it’s Mozilla’s Webrunner app, which basically gives you a stripped down browser to run web apps in, so that you don’t have to keep multiple tabs/windows open in your browser, perfect for things like gmail, Basecamp, insert your favorite web app here.

TextMate and Projects

I really, really, really love using TextMate, but I one feature I feel is missing, is the ability to set a project to open on launch. More often than not, I’m using TextMate in conjunction with Transmit, and have a project set up to keep temp files from Transmit collected together, using tabs, vs 12 open windows. I’d love for that project to be set to open on launch, vs the preference now of just being able to open a blank file.

Thunderbird and Gmail IMAP

With the recent buzz around the ‘net about gmail adding IMAP, I was anxious to finally give it a go. I’ve read a bit about IMAP, but had never had the opportunity to try it out. My work requires almost constant monitoring of email, and since I employ Google Apps for your domain to manage my email account, and prefer to use Apple’s Mail, I’d all but stopped using my old, but reliable clamshell ibook. Thus the excitement of being able to monitor my email from my laptop, the Nokia e62, and the desktop computer.
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Installing Ubuntu on my Mac

The “blogosphere” has been abuzz the last few weeks with news of the latest release of Ubuntu, 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon, and curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to see if I could install it on my mac mini, since I didn’t have another machine to try it out on. I’m quite happy with Mac OS, but it never hurts to be familiar with other operating systems. So I thought aloud on the Habari IRC channel if I could use Virtual Box, which I use to run Windows XP, only so I can test websites in Internet Explorer 6. Survey said, “why not”, and I gave it a go.

First step was to download the installer disc from the Ubuntu site, which is in the .iso format. There are many ways to create an actual CD from this, or a .dmg file, however I didn’t want to bother with that step, so after another question to the IRC channel, my friend Christian said Virual Box should load from the .iso, and quickly found a Flickr image showing how to set the VM to load from the .iso. (After you’ve created the new VM, click the settings button, then for CD/DVD-ROM, check the mount CD/DVD-ROM, then check the ISO image, and find the file you downloaded.) I haven’t gone through the steps to setting up a new VM in Virtual Box as I just used their wizard for a new VM. I did give a bit more RAM for the VM than the default setting, as I’ve got 2GB, and won’t be using the VM that often, so figured I could spare some. I’m sure I did the same thing for the XP install as well.

Now that the VM is set to run off of the .iso, I started the VM, and Ubuntu quickly loaded, with a prompt to Install/Boot from disc (I think that’s what it said), hitting enter, Ubuntu booted up. You can run just off of the CD image, if your curiosity is small, however, you can actually run the installer from the icon on the desktop, to get the full experience.

Clicking on the installer walks you through the basic installer, not unlike installing Mac OS or Windows. The installer took just under an hour in the VM from the CD image, I’m not sure more RAM or an actual CD would have sped the process up or not. After the installer is done running, you will be prompted to restart, with a notice to eject the CD, so that you don’t run off of the CD. Since Virtual Box is set to use the ISO, you will need to shut down the VM, change the setting to use the host CD/DVD-ROM, and restart the Ubuntu VM. You should be prompted to enter your username and password that you set up during the installation process, and Ubuntu should now be running in your VM.

My initial reaction to Ubuntu 7.1 is that it’s a mix of Tiger and Windows XP in feel, maybe 75% Mac, 25% XP. I haven’t explored much more yet, but have looked a bit at a tutorial for the “perfect desktop”, and will certainly poke around. I think I’m more interested now in exploring virtual machines, and other operating systems than I am with playing with Ubuntu, however, I don’t see myself leaving Mac OS any time soon. Feel free to comment if you have any problems with Virtual Box, though I only have a basic understanding of it, but I’ll try to share my experience.

ScribeFire

I’ve been quite lazy in posting to my blog(s), and am testing out ScribeFire. I spend so much time of my day in Firefox, it only seems logical to find a solution that would allow me to manage drafts and posts from within the browser.  Particularly for asides and tidbits.  We’ll see how this works out, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually blog, and not just work on them

Powered by ScribeFire.

Mzingi

updated: New versions available. See bottom of post for details.

Mzingi development will no longer done on Bloggingmeta, as it’s now included in Habari’s core theme directory. Any bugs, comments, or suggestions should be pointed to Trac

I have had the idea for a foundation type theme for Habari since I first started working with the platform earlier in the year. After spending time converting k2 to the design for this site, as well as for my cooking site, I knew that if I wanted to continue working on Habari theme design, I would need something else to work off of. No offense at all intended for the developers and users of k2, I have extreme respect for what it has achieved, I simply feel that it’s conversion to Habari was a difficult task, considering the advanced features in k2, vs being adapted to Habari at such an early stage. Andrew (aka freakrz), has done great work in advancing k2 to catch up to where the rest of Habari development is, however, I still felt I wanted my own framework to work off of.

screenshotThat said, I took the initial work I had done here on Blogging Meta, and started working on a purely CSS based theme, that could be used out of the box, as well as be flexible enough to be used as a framework. I still have a long way to go in the design world, but trying to use all of the reading I’ve done, I think the markup is fairly semantic, HTML strict, and though the CSS validator chokes on the YUI font CSS, it should be valid CSS as well. I quite like the simple percentage based font sizing of the YUI CSS, as well as the built in font family cascading. Again, still plenty to learn in this direction, and perhaps at some point I’ll drop it, but it’s a good building block (perhaps after getting some time to mature, as well allow me to spend some time with it, I’ll convert to the Blue Print CSS framework).
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Feeds and Feedburner

Having some issues with feed after installing feedburner plugin. The feed link in sidebar is to feedburner, if you so desire to subscribe, use that link for now, I’ll figure out what I’ve done wrong soon enough.

*editStill issues, so feedburner is deactive for now.

Last.fm and iTunes

For many reasons, I have not used the streaming music from Last.fm. That is, until today. I first read a hint on how to use iTunes and Apple Scripts, however, that solution didn’t work. Another comment on the hint pointed to Amua, which basically streams the music via iTunes. Excellent stuff. I now can stream my last.fm music through my stereo, using the Airport Express. If you are a last.fm user, by all means, add me as a friend, or at least check out my musical tastes. Though still a bit buggy, my Lifestream also tracks my most currently played selections.