Tracking packages on a Mac

I just ordered iWork ’08 from Apple. When you get the confirmation e-mail, there’s a tracking number. In Europe, Apple use TNT, but the TNT web page was crap (I couldn’t even find a tracker search box!). So I downloaded the Delivery status widget. Amazing piece of software!!

Delivery status

When you enter a tracking number, it has options for how often it should check. And it supports Growl. So now I know that my iWork-package is at Heathrow, and once an hour Delivery Status will alert me with Growl. Just brilliant.

Delivery Status supports just about any way to deliver a package there is (except pigeons):

– Adobe.com (US and Canada)
– Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.jp, Amazon.de, Amazon.at, and Amazon.fr
– Apple.com (including all international stores)
– Canada Post (Postes Canada)
– DHL (US and Germany)
– FedEx and FedEx SmartPost
– Google Checkout
– Nintendo (US and Canada)
– Purolator
– TNT
– UPS and UPS Mail Innovations
– USPS (United States Postal Service)

Delivery status screenshot

As you can see, the Apple.com tracker just shows that the package is shipped, and no details apart from that. So you need to set up a special tracker for TNT or similar.

Try iWork for free

There’s a 30 day fully working trial version of iWork ’08 for download at Apple. I just would like to mention a few highlights: Pages opens AND saves Word documents. The new Numbers app is something as self-contradicting as a cool spreadsheet app! And Keynote has a new, better masking features, animation and new effects.

Skitch

Skitch is a brand new app for uploading of pictures. “Heh, I need an app for that??”, you might say. Yes, you do. Because Skitch do it in ways you wouldn’t believe. It looks amazing, behaves like it has a Nobel Prize-brain, and the icon is sweet.

Check out the 3 minutes entry video which says it all:

Then go grab a semi-public beta at Colin Devroe, or just wait a few hours until it’s public beta.

WWDC 2007

WWDC logo © Apple

In a few hours, I’m off to the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. A whole week of unlimited Mac fun, learning, meetups, sessions, labs, meeting people and seeing San Francisco for the first time. If you’re there and would like to meet, call me. Or use the contact form. Or the comments below. I’m brilliantdays at AIM, oyvindsolstad at Skype and sol24 at Yahoo.

I’m especially interested in Mac apps for productivity and digital creation (video, graphics, sound). I will be posting about everything here at brilliantdays, in English. And at NRKbeta in Norwegian. Also, I’ll be twittering if you’re into that. Finally, here’s my Facebook badge:

WWDC links

Here are some useful links if you’re off to WWDC.

Apple’s official WWDC site
Attendee WWDC login
Moscone Center website
Moscone West floor plans
Moscone West on Google Maps (street view)

OmniFocus video is out

Omnigroup just posted a new video showing the main features of the forthcoming OmniFocus application. And it looks like they are doing almost everything right.

The two things I like the most:

Focus
Let’s you focus on a special project or folder of projects. Hides everything else you have entered in the app, so you cab concentrate on the task in front of you. Like a zoom lens on a camera. Very cool feature.

Project folders
You’ll be able to make folders of projects, grouping together projects. Put all your “home” projects in one folder, “work” in another, “you” in a third etc. It lets you organize your projects much better than just a long list of projects. It also helps you see the bigger picture. A silly example: Your “work” folder has 800 projects and your “home” and “you” folders 4…

Combine these two features, and you have a very strong tool to help you do what’s mos important right now. I have two major areas of responsibility at work now, and with the project folders and focus, I can hide the other half while I’m working on one of them.

Get me the beta, and I’ll start using this from day 1.

Final Cut Pro wipes

I have used Final Cut Pro since version 1.0 in 1999. During these 8 years I have used wipes two or three times. Wipes are ugly.

Heh. But today a friend of mine called and asked:

What do I buy if I want the most crazy wipes out there for Final Cut Pro?

Fair enough. He makes a children’s program, so he DOES need them. It’s part of the deal to make wacky transitions every 6 seconds.

So I made a list of some interesting things:

The Final Cut Pro wipes list

GeniusDV has a tutorial called “Utilizing Gradient Wipes in Final Cut Pro”. It shows how to use a matte image as source for crazy wipes in FCP.

CHV Electronics has a collection of plugins for FCP. One of them is called “The AlphaWipe-collection V1.0”. I have never tried it, but it looks like you get a lot for your $.

CGM also has lots of FCP plugins, and many of them have crazy transitions. Have a look at the demo movies (links are on the top of the page).

Mattias in Sweden makes a great bundle of free FCP plugins. You can download them at mattias.nu. They are not wipes, but they are free and should go into any FCP setup. Donate him some Paypal $ if you use them!

Digital Heaven in UK has some great quality FCP plugins. I use the DH_Subtitle – a subtitle plugin myself. And when it comes to transitions they have the nice DH_WhipPan. The plugins are cheap, and they are great quality.

And finally: Toolfarm has a list of FCP plugins that does transitions.

Do you have any suggestions? Things that actually work?

Final Cut Studio 2

In October 2006 I wrote:

I think the new version of Motion will be Motion on steroids. Apple will put lots of the stuff Shake can do inside Motion, and now also include the great color tools from Final Touch. I’m not even sure they will continue FinalTouch as separate product. It depends whether they manage to get a work flow for colorists inside Motion.

Yesterday Apple showed their biggest upgrade of Final Cut Pro ever; the Final Cut Studio 2. With new versions of abot everything (except Livetype).

Let me start off with the single most important thing to me as a video editor: Open Format Timeline. With this new feature in FCP, I can drop all my most used video formats in the same timeline… (drum roll) with no rendering!. I’m going to save hours and hours just with this feature. All these formats are supported by this feature:

Open Format Timeline - formats supported

FinalTouch = Color

Apple bought FinalTouch last autumn, and now they are throwing it into Final Cut Studio 2 – for free! Yes, it’s part of the package. Either you pay $1299 for the a new package, or $499 to upgrade from Final Cut Studio, or $699 from any previous version of FCP – including version 1 from 1999. That’s a very good deal. Applause for Apple, who have sold more then 800,000 copies of Final Cut Pro so far, and will sell tons more with this upgrade.

Have a look at the new features of FinalTouch, now called Color.

I’ll have a full rundown of all important new features of the new Final Cut Studio 2 package soon.

Nike + iPod mac app

Graham is thinking about making a Nike + iPod application for OS X. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Graphs that show your progress over time, either with the same route, or how far you manage to run in (example) 60 minutes.
  • Map integration. Let me put my runs on a map like on Nike+
  • Route playlist planning. Don’t know if that would be useful, but I thought it would be cool if I could put up a map for my run, grab data from previous runs of the same route, mark different sections of the run with a marker (like part 1, part 2 etc), and then drag in songs from iTunes to fit the different parts. Like power songs in the hills, slower stuff when it’s flat etc.
  • Some way to integrate the running with iCal. Bitch me if I’m lazy!

If you have any ideas, put them here or in the thread at Flickr. Ditto if you have any good suggestion for other Mac software that uses the data the Nike + iPod collects.

GTD mac app: iGTD

Bartek Bargiel is another one in the race for the best Mac GTD application. In good Apple style it’s called iGTD and has some very nice features (and some annoying shortcomings as well).

iGTD screenshot

The two things I like the most: Syncing and Quicksilver integration. Syncing worked flawless on my Mac. I had a few tasks in iCal already, synced from another GTD app; Actiontastic, which went open source some days ago. When I synced iGTD, it got these tasks from iCal with no problem.

And this is a good lesson if you are developing a Mac GTD application: Syncing with iCal. One GTD application that doesn’t have this is Midnight Beep Inbox. So there’s no way to get my tasks over to another app. Bah.

I also like that I can use Quicksilver to enter tasks into iGTD. And a nice menubar item with direct access to the app.

The date entry (for entering due dates) is very old fashioned. There’s no pop-up calender to click dates, and you can’t type “today” or “next monday” as some of the other apps can. It doesn’t even recognize 20.3.2007 as 20 March 2007, but as 20 March 2020. Weird.

So the race for the best Mac GTD app is still on. In my heat of possible winners are now five:

Actiontastic
iGTD
OmniFocus (not out yet)
Ghost Action
Midnight Beep Inbox

Which one do you like the best so far? I have big hopes for OmniFocus, based on the quality of the other apps Omni make. Of the other four, I think Inbox looks beautiful, but it’s soooo slow. The other three are great apps, and all have syncing that works. It’s too early to pick a winner for me.

Sean Tierney: Use your desktop as a matrix for urgency/importance

Urgency vs. Importance and the 5th system for scattered todos:

Mentally superimpose the above graph on your desktop (or if you really want, draw it as your background).

Drag the resources (URL locations, documents, graphics, audio files, forms, whatever you’re working with) to the appropriate quadrants on your desktop. URLs are the exact pages on a site with which you need to do whatever task it is. You can chunk a bunch of related items for a discreet task in a folder.

Now rename the filenames to “verb-noun” (ie. “handle tax returns” URL item links to the online filing page on the IRS.gov site)

I find Sean’s tip on using the desktop quite interesting. I drag stuff to the desktop all the time. I will try to organize them according to his tip for some time, and see if that make sense for me. And I think he is spot on when he says that…

Anytime you find yourself uncomfortable contorting your processes to match the latest and greatest productivity religion, I think that’s bad. Ultimately you should learn the fundamentals of various different productivity religions and pick and choose the elements that work for you and make your own.

But – and this is an important but – sometimes it’s better to just use a system someone has spend quite some time thinking about. And not start spending days and hours and months trying to tweak it into your the “perfect-productivity-system-for-you”.

Use Exposé

If you decide to use Sean’s tip, here’s a productivity tip to the productivity tip: Set up Exposé with the upper right corner of your screen to be “Desktop”. When surfing, just grab the link from the browser, move your cursor up in the upper right corner, and wham – all open apps and windows disappear. And you can put the url exactly where you want it on the desktop, on your new urgency/importance grid.

Leave your Mac alone while it’s installing software

Very good advice from Rosyna Keller at Unsanity:

When “Optimize System Performance” appears during the update process do not touch your computer and definitely do not launch any applications. Just back away from your computer box as if it were a swarm of bees.

I always do this, and if you’re setting up a new Mac, and instaling lots of apps: One at a time. And reboot between every install. Saves you lots of troubles up the road.

OmniFocus icon

What do you think of the icon draft Omni has posted for OmniFocus?

OmniFocus icon draft

I’m not sure. I think the other Omni icons are way better. Here they are, presented with the three “main” competitors OmniFocus have:

GTD apps

If I were in charge at Omni, I would have followed the style of the two other apps, a slanted document with something in the lower right corner. A checklist with a magnifying glass was my first thought. The color is ok, so keep that, but change just about everything else. Maybe keep the clip, which looks good.

The other three apps all look great when they are this big. At smaller sizes, Ghost Action look the best. Clear and simple. Actiontastic is a little to complicated for smaller sizes, but the concept is fun: Hit those tasks with a hammer.

OmniFocus out soon

I think OmniFocus is pretty close a release. This is the status message GTD guru Merlin Mann of 43 Folders sported yesterday:

OmniFocus soon?

“That thing you want? It’s almost done, I swear.”

Could be he’s knitting some amazing productivity wool socks for his friends… But I think it’s OmniFocus he’s referring to.

Multitouch software development

Shannon asks in an IM message:

“Saw your posts about multitouch. How do you think this interface technology will impact software engineering and what kinds of applications can be developed?”

Good question! I’m not sure it will impact software engineering much at first. It’s the end user that will experience the biggest revolution. I guess Apple would have to make a set of tools for software developers, and these wouldn’t have to be much different than the ones used today for trackpads and other input devices.

Applications? I have mentioned a few examples at the end of the “Multitouch will revolutionize your computer” post. With examples how multitouch could change (a lot) existing apps in Mac OS X.

New applications? I’ll have tgo think about that. Give me a day or two. And if you have any suggestions, feel free to use the comments.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test showing slower results

We have been installing a new Xsan system the latest days (more about that in a later post). When testing the performance we use two different tools, and they have very different results, 186 MB/second vs 136 MB/second.

The first one is Xsan tuner, that comes with Xsan:

Xsan tuner

Speed is calculated to 186 MB/second.

We use DeckLink Extreme HD cards in the Macs (10 bits uncompressed SDI). Blackmagic also has their own test tool for disk speeds, the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test:

BlackMagic Disk Speed Test

Now, the same disks show 136 MB/second.

Which one to trust? BlackMagic make dead solid products, but on this one I hope their tools show the wrong results…

If you need to test your drives for speed, whether you use BlackMagic cards or not, download the DeckLink drivers for Mac OS X or Windows XP, and you’ll get the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test application when you install it. If you don’t need the actual drivers, just “hide away” the app, and uninstall the drivers again.

Xsan tuner can be downloaded from Apple.com.

Why a difference?

Do you have any idea why the two apps show different speeds? 136 MB/second up to 186 MB/second is almost two more streams of uncompressed video in realtime. Less rendering, more done.