Monday, October 20, 2014

In Praise of the Kindle 3

In October 2010, I broke down and bought a Kindle 3 (with the chiclet keyboard). That is now four years ago. While I do not do all my reading on it—I like real books better in many ways, and I have a Kindle application on all my other electronic devices—I have regularly used this version of the Kindle, reading regularly some journals and papers (like The Atlantic and the Times Literary Supplement) on it, as well as some books that I did not buy as hard copy. There isn't a week in which it does not get some use.

I have never regretted buying the Kindle 3. Nor have I ever felt the need to update it. Though I have played with the Nook, I have given the ones I had (because of Barnes & Noble gift cards) to relatives. The Kindle 3 is a device that just works. I can easily see myself using it for another four or even eight years. There are not may electronic devices of which I could say this.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mac Mini and SSD Drive

It is not easy physically to change a hard drive in the Mac Min (2012), or perhaps better: it is not for the faint of heart. There is, however, a way of change your boot drive to an external SSD by just changing the Startup Disk in System Preferences. I have done this for a number of years. My latest configuration is a Vertex 3 Series VTX3-25SAT3-120G connected to a Seagate Thunderbolt adapter (Model: STAE128) and a Thunderbolt cable to the Mac Mini (or to an Apple Thunderbolt Display).

The computer boots up very quickly and you never see Apple's equivalent of the hour glass after setting up the drive as your system drive. An internal SSD might be slightly faster, but I doubt this would be noticeable.

The ability to specify any disk as a start up disk is one of the strengths of OS X. I just hope that it will not be axed in the future so that the borders of the Apple Ecosystem are closed even more to third-party "infringements."

Friday, October 17, 2014

The New Mac Mini: Upgrade or Downgrade?

The new Mac Mini (2014) is praised as a significant upgrade in most of the early reviews. And there are some improvements, most notably two Thunderbold 2 ports, (slightly) improved graphics performance in the two lower-priced models (Intel 5000 integrated graphics rather than 4000), and (even more) improved in the higher end model (Intel Iris Graphics). However, there are two changes that I can only consider as evil: You could easily upgrade the RAM yourself in the models from October 2012 or earlier. Apple has eliminated that possibility. In other words, you now MUST buy the ridiculously over-priced memory models and pretty much have them installed at the apple store (though I am sure that clever users will find ways to circumvent this). Nor is there a four-core processor option available any longer.

The last two "improvements" will keep me from buying the new model. I will stay with the four-core 16 GB 2012 model I now have until the next "upgrade" or until I buy another non-Apple computer. The last decision will depend, of course, on the next version of Windows. I can't stand Windows 8.

Update on October 19th: See also here. The Ram is soldered into the motherboard. The screws at the bottom of the device have been so modified that they are "tamper proof." Opening up a Mac Mini to change the hard drive means a voided warranty. That means no Mac Mini for me any longer, and probably the end of my Mac experience (after the Mac Mini 2012 will be obsolete—which may, of course be a while). I do like the the operating system, but not so much as to give up any possibility of modification. Case closed—no pun intended :).

Later that day: It keeps getting better: "Unlike single-core performance multi-core performance has decreased significantly. The "Good" model (which has a dual-core processor in both lineups) is down 7%. The other models (which have a dual-core processor in the "Late 2014" lineup but a quad-core processor in the "Late 2012" lineup) is down from 70% to 80% See here for more.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saramago on Typewriter versus Keyboard

"The truth is, I had no difficulty in adapting to the keyboard at all. Contrary to what is often said about the computer compromising one’s style, I don’t think it compromises anything, and much less if it is used as I use it—like a typewriter. What I do on the computer is exactly what I would do on the typewriter if I still had it, the only difference being that it is cleaner, more comfortable, and faster. Everything is better. The computer has no ill effects on my writing. That would be like saying that switching from writing by hand to writing on a typewriter would also cause a change in style. I don’t believe that to be the case. If a person has his own style, his own vocabulary, how can working on a computer come to alter those things?" José Saramago, in an interview in the Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 155.

My sentiments exactly. I also need a paper copy in the end!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Two Outliners for the Mac

I discovered two outliners in the Mac Apps Store. One is called "The Outliner." It's a very rudimentary two-pane outliner. I cannot recommend it, especially also because the support site does not seem to be operational. It costs $1.99. I paid it, but it does not seem to me to be worth the price.

The other is called OutlineEdit. It is a slick one-pane outline with a number of extras, the most important of which is the so-called category filter. It allows you to assign different categories to outline items by giving them the same color. Look at the Website for an introduction. It costs $16.99, but it may well be worth the money. In any case, I am tempted. And not only because it looks good. I am not sure, however, that it is better than Outlinely which now also can do tags that can be filtered.[1]

1. A tag starts with a "@" character (which I prefer over assigning a color because it is easier to type.

Mou Fund Drive

I have written about the Mou Markdown Editor beore. It is a capable application that has been in beta for years. Its developer is now asking users to donate to a fund that will enable him to hire programers to create version 1.O: "Our goal is $20,000 USD. It'll be used to pay basic salary to our developers. It's enough for supporting 1 developer working full-time for 1 year, or 2 developers working full-time for half year. That'll be enough for us to finish Mou 1.0."

The minimum contribution is $10.00: In return, the contributor will get a "Mou 1.0 license + Feature requests." There are other options. See the Website for further details.

The hope is "to release Mou 1.0 in early 2015," if they reach the goal. It would be good (I believe), if they allowed contributions by way of Paypal.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


CatchCar gives you "a custom menu that consists of only the characters that you use often and add to it. This is different than using Charmap or Keyboard programs that show you the whole character set. Custom menu saves time. See the sample menu on the right that is installed with the program. You need to click on “Edit Menu” to replace with your own favorite characters." By the developer of Whizfolder which I used until the upgrades became too expensive. (They seem to have returned to a more reasonable level now, but I no longer have any use for the application.)

Nor is it restricted to just one character. Even though I use AutoHotKey and Breevy extensively for abbreviations, this might be useful for characters that you don't use often enough to want to learn an abbreviation.

Highly recommended!