Moving to the Bay Area Part II: A New Hope (in the East Bay)

by Goondaba


DAY 2: Sunday

The next day I felt demoralized, thinking it could very well be a while before I found a place. But, having spent the previous day walking around the city and seeing a few places, I wondered if I might find some better values across the bay.

Before flying out, I'd read some suggestions about living in the East Bay and commuting into the city for work. When I finally flew into San Francisco and hopped in a cab, I asked my cabby if he had any opinion on the matter; San Francisco or East Bay: "For you? Young Guy, just live in the city. Maybe go to the East Bay when you look for a house." Noted, Cab Guy, but after the prices and claustrophobic spaces I'd seen on Saturday, I was ready to look to the East Bay.

My host was very enthusiastic about her adopted town of Oakland, but I was hesitant to consider it. Maybe it's just because I grew up in a relatively small town in the Midwest, but crime isn't really something I've ever had to consider when apartment hunting. But Oakland has its fair share of crime; enough to warrant its own crime-tracking website:

http://oakland.crimespotting.org

Though a hipster's paradise and a landing spot for many making the exodus from San Francisco (as noted in the aforementioned "Why Are All My Friends Moving to Oakland?"), Oakland just wasn't for me. At least not yet; maybe I'll warm up to the idea.

So I searched online for areas in the East Bay with low crime rates, and that sent me looking farther inland, near the Walnut Creek area. It looked promising enough, so I found a couple of places to go look at. I hopped onto a BART train and headed East. Hopping off the station, I took an instant liking to the area; it had kind of a familiar small-town feel. Plus I'd seen that it had lots of trails and a reservoir with a jogging path around it. The only downside was that since the crime was much lower here, naturally that meant that this was an area people flocked to to raise their spawn. I figured I could put up with it as long as the lines at Coldstone weren't too long.

While in the area I was able to see two apartments, and get applications for both. Normal applications; no stool sample required. Of the two, I much preferred the second apartment. A two bedroom at $1700, I felt it was a steal compared to the places I'd just seen the day before. I chatted with the fellow showing me the apartment, gave him my little apartment resumé, and went on my way. I'd decided I liked it. I liked the place so much, that I filled out the application for it right away, scanned it with my iPhone, and emailed it to the landlord within half an hour of seeing the place.

The next morning, I got a call from the apartment I'd applied for. It was the landlord saying the place was mine if I wanted it. I gladly accepted, then gave out a sigh of relief. That afternoon I BARTed out to my new town, signed the lease, and spent a glorious night sleeping on the carpet in my new, empty apartment.

Looking farther East worked out for me, but everyone in the area seems to be looking to the East Bay as housing costs in San Francisco continue to rise. It'll be interesting to see whether the prices in the East Bay start to skyrocket.

The Power of the Resumé

That same Monday, in the afternoon while still at work, I got an email from someone I didn't recognize. To my surprise, it was the landlord from the place I'd gone to see in Pacific Heights on Saturday; the place besieged by a legion of couples, the place I'd assumed I had no chance at. She was offering me the apartment. 

Having taken the place in the East Bay, I declined and thanked her for the offer. I was seriously shocked that I'd been more qualified than any of the other applicants, especially considering that some of them were clearly local, and the expectation I had that I could be searching for months before getting accepted at a place I wanted. The only thing I could think of was that my little resumé did its job and let the landlord quickly know I had a solid rent history and good credit.

Behold; the power of the resumé.

Shipping the Stuff

Having found an apartment, I now had to get my stuff from the (Eastern) Midwest to California. And I had a plan.

But then I realized that matter transporters had in fact, NOT been invented yet. So then it was on to plan B: 

  1. Get a hold of a box.
  2. Put my junk in that box.
  3. Make someone ship out the box.

Perfect! Now I just needed to figure out which box-handling service to use, and there are a few to choose from:

The basic idea of these services: they drop off a container at your old residence, you fill it up at your leisure, and then they pick it up and ship the container to your new place. In my research, the Ubox service's boxes seemed too small and Pod's pods were too expensive. So that left me with UPack's ReloCubes.

Reserving the cube via their website was easy enough. They don't deliver or pick-up on weekends though, so that's something to consider when planning things out. After making the reservation they called me up to confirm the details. Everything was great, except that apparently I had to be there to receive the container; there, being Ohio. I was already in San Francisco doing the programming thing when I made the reservation, so that wasn't going to be possible. I'd booked a weekend flight back to my old house to pack my stuff, but as I mentioned, they don't drop off on weekends.

In this case, I had a friend who saved my smoked bacon and was willing to be at my old house and sign for the cube when it arrived on the Friday before I flew back. I arrived in Ohio on a red-eye flight, grabbed a rental SUV at the airport, and drove to my old house.

That whole day was kind of a blur. Just minutes after arriving at the house, my friend whom I was selling my car to arrived so that we could head down to the BMV and take care of business. She stuck around, helping with the move and providing a seemingly infinite amount of sturdy cardboard boxes.

I was lucky to have more friends and family show up to help. I was much more tired from the flight than I thought I would be, and had to take a nap sometime in the afternoon. I don't know what I was thinking; doing a move in a day like that. But, thanks to plenty of help and pizza-fuel, by the time it started to get dark out, the cube was full and ready to go.

I flew back to San Francisco the next day, and received my cube a few weeks later (they transported it across country by train). The only hiccup I encountered in the process, is that someone forgot to pick up the cube at my old house until I called!

I'd been using the tracking number Upack provided me with to see where my cube was, but kept getting an error. When I finally called someone to find out what was going on, I learned that instead of being picked up the day after I flew out of Ohio, the cube had been sitting in the driveway for a few days. I'm not sure why that happened; it had been scheduled to be picked up the next day. But, the cube got picked up after I called to see what was going on. So, I guess you should make sure to check on the status of your cube soon and often.

It's like magic!

It's like magic!

When the cube DOES arrive, you don't necessarily have to be there for drop off, but I was able to take the afternoon off that day to make sure there were no hiccups. Instead of using the helpers UPack offers for a minimum fee of a few hundred dollars, I simply hired a TaskRabbit for much less, and together we unloaded the cube in about half an hour.

I'd found a place to live, and gotten all my stuff across the country in one piece. Now, I just had to figure out where to get some coffee...  


Moving to the Bay Area Part I: Revenge of the Landlords

by Goondaba


A few months ago I moved for a new programming job in San Francisco. I'd never been to the Bay Area before, but I'd been thinking about making the move for a while. So, when the opportunity came, I jumped on it. The start date was just a few weeks away so I booked my plane ticket to make sure I'd be there for my first day... but then of course, I still had to figure out how to move my stuff out West.

The plan was to get out there, start the new job, get a sense of the area, find a place, then finally move my stuff. So first things first, I flew out the weekend before my first day...

Crashing a couch

I was fortunate that I knew someone who knew someone already in the area. In my case my dad knew someone in Oakland who was gracious enough to let me crash on their couch for a week and a half. I had never met the person I would be staying with, but it was very comforting to arrive to a perhaps not familiar, but friendly face.

My host's couch acting as my home base, I set forth to my first day of my new job. I spent the evenings during the week on the couch building up a list of apartments to go look at on the weekend. I mostly used sites/apps like Craigslist, Padmapper, and Trulia.

Whether on a friend's couch or in a hotel room, having a home base in the area while apartment hunting is crucial. Being in the area to act quickly and snatch an apartment before it's taken is so vital, I wouldn't recommend trying to find a place before actually getting here.

Preparing the Apartment Resumé

In preparing to move out to the Bay Area, I read a few blog posts:

The major points I took from these were: neighborhoods are important, rent is high, it helps to have a resumé, landlords can afford to be picky, and it could be a while before you find a place.

Most of those are about setting expectations before you start your search, but there's one important actionable item in there: having a resumé. I'd never had to prepare anything to get an apartment before. My experience had always been: show up, fill out the application, pay a deposit, and wait a day or two. That's it.

But not here. Even though I'd already been accepted for a job in San Francisco, apparently I had to pass a second interview in order to have a place to crash at night. So, I whipped up an apartment resumé that consisted of the following: my total rental history(where & when), a credit check, and a reference from my current landlord. It didn't seem like much, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

Finding a Place

DAY 1:  Saturday

After a week of couch surfing and getting used to the new job, I was ready to do some apartment hunting. I got to San Francisco Saturday morning, grabbed some breakfast, then set off on foot to check out three apartments in three neighborhoods...

Tendernob

In reading about the different neighborhoods, all the articles and posts I'd seen had made a point to emphasize: unless you'd like to begin a career as a poo-flinging crackhead, stay away from Tenderloin. Point taken, but I wanted to see this for myself. So when the first place I had to look at was on the periphery of Tenderloin (cutely called 'Tendernob', as it's on the border of Nob Hill), I walked there through what was the very edge of what is considered the Tenderloin. And it was indeed replete with the poo of crackheads, and the crackheads from whence they came.

When I found the place, I waited outside while a little group of around 5 people gathered. At the precise minute the open house was to start, a man opened the door to the building, and let people in for the viewing.

This was the first apartment I was looking at in San Francisco, so I wasn't sure what to expect, other than small and pricey. But I was still surprised by just how small and pricey it was. You walked into what was the kitchen/living room, which had a spiral staircase up to a small loft area where you couldn't stand up. That was it. It was TINY, and going for $1350. 

NEXT.

Nob Hill / Chinatown

The second place I looked at wasn't too far away. Plus, it was my first chance to walk up and down an insanely steep hill in San Francisco. I had some time to kill before the open house, so I found a nice little cafe to grab some lunch. Then I headed off to the open house: a yet tinier space with a kitchen the size of a broom closet. The icing on top was the lady showing the place cursing under her breath at the other tenants for drying their underwear on lines out their windows.

NEXT.

Pacific Heights

The next place was a ways West, so I figured I'd grab a bus out there. But the open house wasn't for a few hours, and I saw that it would only take an hour or so to walk there. So I decided to take a stroll.

I'd read that the appearance of neighborhoods changed drastically in the city, and walking West for an hour let me see the changing character of the city for myself. I started in close-quartered Chinatown housing, then passed city apartments, then finely kept row houses, then to older Victorian houses.

I arrived to the place and waited outside for the open house to start. This neighborhood was MUCH nicer than the area I had just been in. Though, at $1800 it was near my limit for how much I was willing to pay for a one bedroom, but the listing made it seem like a nice place.

As I waited, a few more people showed up; mostly couples. They arrived in cars with California plates. "Surely, these locals are more experienced in the San Francisco apartment hunt than I", I thought. Then as the time for the open house grew nearer, more and more couples materialized. Hmm, I hadn't counted on competing with so many couples. I figured their applications would probably look better, with a higher combined monthly income.

The time for the open house finally arrived, and a lady appeared out of the door at the top of the steps, walked down and around to the door to the apartment and let us hopefuls in. 

The place was a ground level apartment in a Victorian style house. Once inside you could see a nice carpeted space, with a nice kitchen with modern appliances including laundry machines, and even a nice garden area out the back door; clearly a few steps above the places I had just looked at.

As I glanced over the place, the lady put a stack of applications on the kitchen counter which the pack of viewers descended upon. The others were professional; they grabbed an application and whipped out a prepared sheet, promptly copying over all of their information.

I made my way to the applications and grabbed one, pulled out my pen and began to fill it out. The top of the application was normal enough, but it was the bottom portion that caught me by surprise. I'd read that applications for apartments here would ask for everything but your blood type, but I couldn't quite believe what they WERE asking for. Besides asking for the details of any loans you might have, it was asking for your bank accounts. Not the name of your bank, but the actual account numbers. And then under that it just had a line called "Credit", and next to it a field for "Account". What? They can't possibly be asking for my credit account number, can they? Is that even legal? Even while in the midst of couples hurriedly filling out applications, I pulled out my phone to search online about whether it was legal to ask for this. I didn't find anything right away, and others who had arrived after me had already returned their filled out applications, seemingly having filled out everything.

Whatever. There's no way I was filling out all this crap. I made sure the sensible stuff had been filled out, then returned the application. But before handing it to the lady, I used a nearby stapler to attach a copy of the apartment resumé I'd prepared. I handed the stapled papers to the lady, she asked for my name, I gave my moniker and said thank you, and let myself out. 

Getting out to the open air and away from the mass of people writing down their blood types, I felt overwhelmed. I was sure that not only did I have no chance of getting this apartment, but that it could take quite a while to find a decent place to live in this city...

 

Why Everyone Should Learn To Code (maybe, perhaps)

by Goondaba


Alright, I've been reserving judgement on this issue for a while. I've read the posts of Jeff Atwood imploring the masses to keep away from the code. I've also seen the video where Gaben says if you learn to code, you'll become a wizard. Up until recently, I more agreed with Mr. Atwood. But then a few nights ago, I re-watched the movie "Angels & Demons" where the following scenario takes place:

A canister of antimatter has been stolen by criminals. The canister is set to explode in a few hours. If the device explodes, the city will be wiped out. The police have a video feed to the canister.

So, what do the police do? They figure that they can find the device by turning off the lights to sectors of the city, and seeing whether the light goes off in the video feed. Sounds good! Except they turn off the lights in order... one by one.

If there were a Com Sci first-year in the room, he/she would blurt out "Are you kidding me?! Do a binary search!!", and the movie would only last half an hour.

Learning to code efficiently is also learning to think efficiently, and finding shortcuts to make your work easier. Coding definitely isn't for everyone, but I really don't want to get blown to hell just because nobody in a room took Algorithms 101.


Vaadin Portal Page Flow

by Goondaba in


In researching using Vaadin portlets within Liferay for a project, I came upon the need to implement some sort of portlet-to-portlet navigation (or page flow, in static html lingo).  And after searching around for a bit, I couldn't find anything to my liking.

What I really wanted to do was have a containing portlet with views I'd setup in a CustomComponent, and then swap out that CustomComponent for a new one on the fly.  So, being familiar with the iOS way of doing things, I simply used an iOS-style push/pop view concept.

In your Vaadin application, setup a function that takes a new CustomComponent; this function will be responsible for swapping out the components in the containing portlet. Then, in your CustomComponents, you can simply push a new view onto the stack, or pop the current one. Example below:

Vaadin Application

package Wizardry;

import com.vaadin.Application;
import com.vaadin.ui.Label;
import com.vaadin.ui.Window;
import com.vaadin.ui.CustomComponent;
import java.util.Stack;
public class WizardryApplication extends Application {
Window window;
Stack<CustomComponent> viewStack = new Stack<CustomComponent>();
public void init() {
window = new Window();
setMainWindow(window);
pushNewView(new FirstView());
}
public void pushNewView(CustomComponent givenComp){
if(viewStack.size() > 0){
if(viewStack.peek() != null){
window.removeComponent((CustomComponent) viewStack.peek());
}
}
window.addComponent(givenComp);
viewStack.push(givenComp);
}
public void popView(){
if(viewStack.size() > 0){
if(viewStack.peek() != null){
window.removeComponent((CustomComponent) viewStack.pop());
}
window.addComponent(viewStack.peek());
}
}
}

Push a new view

WizardryApplication myApp = (WizardryApplication) getApplication();
myApp.pushNewView(new SecondView());

Pop the current view

WizardryApplication myApp = (WizardryApplication) getApplication();
myApp.popView();

The Curious Case of the 8GB 3rd Gen iPod Touch

by Goondaba


The Impetus

In developing some apps that had to support older devices, I had to acquire a previous generation iPod Touch for testing purposes. I figured a 3rd generation 8GB iPod Touch would be fine. So I set off to eBay to quickly grab an iPod. 

After a few days, my new-to-me-but-used iPod Touch arrived in the mail. I took it out of the box and plugged it into the iMac, only to have XCode tell me I had a 2nd gen iPod Touch in my possession.

I checked my eBay order to make sure I hadn't ordered the wrong thing. Nope; 3rd gen 8GB iPod Touch. So I assumed the seller had sent me the wrong item. I contacted the seller, and was informed I'd received the correct item. I was ready to go off on the seller, but I first checked the Apple page on identifying iPod models. It turns out, we were both kind of right.

You see, technically, there is no such thing as a 3rd generation 8GB iPod Touch.

The Confusion

In 2009, Apple introduced the 3rd Gen iPod touches; they released new 32GB and 64GB models, but didn't release a new 8GB model. So for a time Apple sold the 2nd gen 8GB iPod Touch alongside the new 3rd gen 32 & 64GB models (Wikipedia reference).

So what had occurred, was that the seller had identified the 8GB iPod as 3rd generation, because it was sold alongside the actual 3rd generation iPod Touches. It's easy to see how this confusion might occur, but in looking at Apple's own page on "Identifying iPod Models" (source):

iPod touch (3rd generation) features a 3.5-inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display and 32 GB or 64 GB flash drive...
...The iPod touch (3rd generation) can be distinguished from iPod touch (2nd generation) by looking at the back of the device. In the text below the engraving, look for the model number. iPod touch (2nd generation) is model A1288, and iPod touch (3rd generation) is model A1318.

it becomes clear that there is no such thing as an 8GB 3rd generation iPod Touch. And that Apple would refer to the model number of the 2nd generation iPod Touch in the blurb about the 3rd gen suggests that this confusion may be common.

Why Does This Matter?

If this were simply a matter of getting the wrong model, that would be one thing. But if you look at the pricing (as of the date of this post) of the 8GB 2nd gen vs. the 8GB 3rd gen, there's a big difference:

These are the exact same thing; iPod Touch model A1288. It would appear that sellers on eBay are profiting from this confusion; selling the mislabeled 2nd gen iPod Touch for a higher price than the correctly labeled 2nd gen 8GB iPod Touches. Whether this is intentional or not is difficult to say, but it is something you should be aware of if you're in the market for a used iPod Touch.

In my case the seller was friendly and willing to accept a refund, but not everyone might be so fortunate.

Bottom Line

If you're looking to buy a used 8GB 3rd generation iPod Touch (or any used iPod Touch, really), refer to Apple's page on "Identifying iPod Models" first to make sure you know what you're looking for, and don't end up paying more than you should.


Sketch : Review

by Goondaba in


I've been messing around with Inkscape lately, just for fun.  But what's not fun is seeing your Core i7 iMac struggling to redraw your document while zooming in.  You see, Inkscape isn't multi-threaded. So, during intensive tasks I'll just see a single core at 100% while the other 7 are just chilling, presumably talking smack about integers.

Thus began my search for a cheap, Mac-native vector drawing application.  And after a grueling 10 minute search of the internets, I decided to try out Sketch.

Initial Impressions

 

Sketch touts "Infinite Size" documents as one of its features.  When you open Sketch, you have an infinite sized canvas on which to do your vector drawing thing.  When you've achieved something worth exporting, you make a "slice" or selection of your canvas to export. That's nifty.

I was using a mouse when I started up Sketch, and was going nuts trying to find a way to scroll around the canvas.  I went into the toolbar configuration, and found that there was indeed a hand tool; it just wasn't in the default toolbar. "Why is that?", I wondered. But switching to the Magic Trackpad, I was easily able to scroll and zoom my way around using the two-finger scroll and pinch.  It seems Sketch was made for use with the trackpad, so that's something to keep in mind.

Sketch has a stroke width tool that's easy to use, and the transforms (stretch, scale, skew) are easy to apply. But that's where the ease stops.

Annoyances

I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to select a vector I'd already drawn. Not modifying it; just selecting it. You see, Sketch doesn't have a mouse tool. Whenever I tried to select a vector, I'd find myself applying the effect of whatever tool I had selected. It wasn't until I realized I had to deselect my current tool, that I could select elements. That was annoying.

Also, Sketch seems very green; it feels buggy in places.  Selecting layers and then deleting them doesn't always work on the first try.  Additionally, a reference layer I had put in the document and hid, wouldn't then un-hide. Useful.

Which brings me to the layers.  Sketch definitely supports layers, but that isn't apparent when you open up the application.  You have to enable layers in the View menu.  And once you have your list of layers, you might be inclined to order them… Well, good luck with that.

For whatever reason, Sketch has decided to make the process of ordering layers as maddening as possible.  You might assume that sending a layer backwards, would change the relative order of the selected layer. Guess again! Rather, in order to send a layer backwards, you must first click the behind tool, then click on the layer you want your selected layer to go behind. Get it? It's so intuitive!

Sketch also includes a set of distortions:

These distortions are easy enough to use, but they aren't very precise. Thus, I don't really find them that useful. But you know what are useful? Bezier handles.

In working with already made vectors, I found it difficult to grab the Bezier handles; sometimes they were easily visible, other times they weren't.

Bottom Line

Sketch seems very promising, and I look forward to updates and seeing where it goes.  But for right now, I'll put up with the sluggishness and stick with Inkscape. 

Sketch is made by Bohemian Coding, and is available on the Mac App Store for USD 39.99.


USBFever 2x Optical Lens for iPhone 4 Review

by Goondaba in


I've been snapping some pictures on my iPhone 4 recently.  The iPhone 4 is a great casual camera, but I've been running into situations where I wish I had just a bit of zoom.  The iPhone doesn't have any optical zoom abilities.  What it does have is a ditigal zoom, which produces a very pixelated and ugly result.

After doing some searching, I recently picked up the 2x Optical Zoom lens from USBFever.  In my search, I'd found that there were lenses that offered up to 12x zoom (again, which you can get from USBFever).  But, besides being rather bulky, these lenses require a tripod.  Anyone who's tried taking a steady picture with a smartphone camera knows the difficulties of trying to hold the phone steady.  Stick a 12x zoom lens on that phone, and it's not humanly possible to hold the phone steady enough in your hand.  But my goal was to get something which I could easily snap on or off in casual use, and lugging around a giant lense and a tripod doesn't seem that casual to me.  At that point, you might as well carry around a real camera.

So, a week after ordering, the lens found itself to my door from Hong Kong ready to take for a spin.

The lens itself is screwed in place onto a specialized iPhone case which comes included in the package.  The idea is that you keep this case on your iPhone at all times, and then just screw in the lens whenever you need it.  I actually really like the case, so that won't be a problem.

 

General Use

After taking some shots, a few things became apparent.  First of all, it does indeed zoom.  But there's also a very noticeable distortion around the edges, accompanied by a vignette effect.  The distortions are more noticable in some shots than in others.

Comparisons

Without lens:

With lens:

 

Without lens:

 

With lens:

Conclusions

The distortions will have to be something I keep in mind when deciding whether to use the 2x lens, but I like having the option when I want to see something a bit more closely.


Lion: Quit Without Auto Resume

by Goondaba


Mac OS X Lion introduced a feature that allows applications to restore the exact state of the program when quit. So, the next time you open the application, every document, window, and panel will be right where you left it.  But what if you want to quit an application and DON'T want to see all those windows again?  Apparently you can override the auto resume behavior, by using the key cominbation:

Command(Apple) + Option + Q

 


Lion Review

by Goondaba in ,


On July 20th, 2011 OS X and iOS gave birth to Lion, the latest and… latest from the überminds in Cupertino.  There's some cool stuff in the newest update to OS X, but my initial reactions were of the less-than-amused variety.  I thought I'd jot down some of my impressions while using Lion for the first few days; the laughter, the sorrow.

First of all, I installed Lion on the Core 2 Duo aluminum unibody I had lying around.  I thought I'd test Lion out on the lappy before throwing the cat some big, beefy iMac. Alright then, let's get to it.

Day 1

I'm in between like… and rage.  

Scrolling

First of all, the very first thing that happens when you boot into Lion, is this giant dialog shows up telling you, "Hey, we reversed the way scrolling goes. Why? 'Cuz screw you that's why." And of course you can turn off this behavior to go back to the way things were, but you have to un-tick the box that says "natural scrolling" in the trackpad preferences. Meaning the way you like to scroll is unnatural.  Which means they probably ran tests with iPod touch users who had never seen a computer before... users who were dumbfounded by the über tech that is, the TRACKPAD.  So that's just your welcome into the new hotness.

Finder

I had to flick a few settings just to get my Finder window functional again.  By default, it throws an item into the side bar called "All My Files" and makes it the default view for new open windows.  "All My Files" is literally… all your files; regardless of where they are on your filesystem.  Who the heck would find that useful? That's why I put crap in folders.  Folders = crap holders.

So I fix that in the preferences.

After getting rid of that, I notice Lion has gracefully removed the bottom of the Finder window showing me the number of items in the current directory and free disk space.   That's useful information; I want to know how much space I have free to load up with lolcats. So to get that back, I have to go up to the View menu and select "Show Status Bar".

So I fix that in the preferences.

And to top it off, my friggin library folder isn't visible, because apparently I shouldn't be messing with that witchcraft.  So to see your library folder, which is totally there, you have to go up to the "Go" menu, (which, what self-respecting user ever goes to ?) hold the option key, and THEN you'll be graciously shown the option to see your own Library folder.  It's like XP where you went to your settings folder and it asked you, "These files are hidden. are you sure you want to see them?"

So I fix that in the… no wait, what? There's no preference for that?! $@#%#*&!

Spaces

I use spaces all the time on my Snow Leopard iMac.  I like seeing at the top on the menu bar, the number of the screen I'm on.  I also like being able to organize my screens in grids.  I also like being able to go to the spaces preferences and choosing how many spaces there are.  

But apparently I like all the wrong things, because those all went away.  There's no option to show the screen number you're on anywhere; you have to go to the Mission Control app to see that.  And now, you can't organize spaces in grids; you get one long, linear streak of spaces.  I really liked being able to pop around the grid; up, down, diagonally, and in linked-list back-forth. Sigh…

Safari

Full-screen Safari is pretty cool.  It feels very snappy and oh man why did they have to mess with my Spaces?!?!

Day 2

Snap to Grid

So this is something relatively minor, but Lion decided to kill my snap-to-grid preference for items on the Desktop.  A simple change in the Desktop view options under the "Arrange By" menu, which Lion now calls the "Sort By" menu.  Because apparently the word "arrange" was too cryptic.

Dock

While the Dock doesn't look any different at first, I heard buzz about something having to do with the indicator dots… you know, the little blue dots that show up in the Dock under applications that are running.  Well there's this tick box in the Dock preferences called, "Show indicator lights for open applications".  Why would that option even exist? Well, apparently the default behavior is to NOT show the indicator dots.

As was explained in the very thorough ArsTechnica review (which I strongly suggest you read), when you quit an application, Lion reserves the right to show the application quitting, but keep the application's process alive in the background.  Lion also reserves the right to quit applications it determines you're not using.  So, in a very real sense, those blue dots don't mean as much in Lion.

Individually, these all seem like minor changes.  But all together, Apple seems to be messing with some things that haven't changed in computer-age eons; stuff that hasn't changed since System 1.0.  Things like the concept of a "running" application.  Ah! And messing with the fundamentals brings me to the scrollbars…

Scroll Bars

I don't want to say too much about this, because it seems to have been mentioned in every review I've read thus far, but… the scrollbars.  By default, Lion only shows you the scrollbars when you're scrolling.  This works great on an iPhone, but on a laptop/desktop those scrollbars are indicators of where you are in a document, and the relative size of the document.  If the scrollbars are hidden, then that information is no longer readily available to you. And that's not cool Lion. Not cool.

You can change this by going to the "General" pane (renamed from the "Appearance" pane) in the preferences. By this point, there are quite a few toggles to switch to get the system back to just useable.

Speech

Alright, so most of this has been griping so far, but there are changes in Lion that I think have changed for the better.

Lion has some MUCH improved voices to choose from, and I do mean choose.  In Snow Leopard, if you went to the "Speech" pane in preferences to pick a synthesized voice, most of the choices would look familiar to someone who hadn't used a Mac since System 7. But now when you go to pick out some new voices, you're presented with an array of high-quality voices, in different languages and locales.

About this Mac

Selecting "About this Mac" under the Apple menu shows you the same dialog you'd see in Snow Leopard, but the "More info…" button now takes you to "System Information".  It has much of the information that you would have found in "System Profiler" (though if you still want to see the classic profiler with all the additional information, you can click the "System Report" button in this window).

This should prove more useful to people who just want to grab some quick information on their system, but what I like most about this is the added view for Storage.  Now you can view the usage of your storage space by content type, à la iTunes iPhone usage view.

Day 3

Print Dialog

The default print dialog has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.  Actually, I don't have much of a problem with this change.  All the dirty printing details can be gotten to by the "Show Details" button. Making things easier up front, and putting the details another click away; a common theme in Lion.

Command-Tabbing

Okay, now this is a big deal for me. Traditionally, you've been able to hold down the Command (or Apple) key and Tab to cycle through open applications.  If you try that in Lion however, it won't work.

Oh, you'll get the list of open applications alright. But when you then select an application to go to, nothing happens; it doesn't take you to the application you've chosen. Which makes command-tabbing through your applications pointless.  So this is the first thing in Lion I've encountered that actually feels broken.

Harumph.

Front Row

It's not a bother to me really; I knew it was coming.  But just in case you were really fond of Front Row, or "Fronty", as I call him... I regret to inform you that Uncle Steve drove him out to a farm with lots of open space where he could run around forever.

Dashboard

By default, Lion now puts Dashboard into a separate screen within Mission Control, putting it two gestures away from the desktop.  You can restore Dashboard's pre-Lion behavior of fading over the current screen in the preferences for Mission Control.

I don't get the usefulness of burying Dashboard within Mission Control... when I want to use a widget in Dashboard I just want to see some information, and get out in a couple of seconds... kind of like a rest-stop map in a shady state.


Method for Detecting Drag Events in the Canvas Element on Touch Devices

by Goondaba in


dragScreenshot.png

I was recently asked about being able to detect a drag event within a Canvas element on a mobile device. By default, if you try dragging on a web page with a canvas element, the entire page will shift and the touch input is lost.

This behavior can be overridden to allow capture of drag events. The basic strategy is to disable the touch events and capture them, and then respond to them manually.

Because the method to capture the touch input uses general Webkit directives, this solution will work on both iOS and Android devices.

You may view the example on your mobile device here

References:

"Touching and Gesturing on the iPhone"

"Canvas Tutorial"


AppleTV

by Goondaba in ,


Motivation

 I recently acquired one of the new AppleTVs, and was excited to see what one of these could do.  I have an 802.11n wireless network in the apartment, and I don’t have a media-centric game console or an existing streaming media box near my TV, so the AppleTV seemed like a great fit.

Un-boxing


 The packaging itself is something to behold; the AppleTV comes in one very diminutive box.  And once you tear into the small box, there’s an even smaller piece of hardware with the most tightly wrapped power cord you’ve even seen.

 

Initial Impressions

 Setup was a snap. You just plug in the power cable to the wall and the HDMI cable to your HDTV, and you’re good to go.  Once you start up the AppleTV, it’s just a matter of connecting it to your wireless network and putting in your Home Sharing information to get your device ready to play shared content on your local network.

So setup was easy, but I spent a while looking for some sort of volume control and couldn’t find it.  Apparently, there is no volume control, so you just have to adjust the volume of your TV or speakers.  Although, if you’re using the AppleTV as Airplay speakers, you can adjust the volume via iTunes on the host computer.

Main Features

This was my first experience with an AppleTV, so I didn’t have the previous generation of AppleTV to compare it to.  I was mostly comparing the AppleTV to using Front Row on a Mac, and the experience was, for the most part, very similar:

 

Movies: You’ve got movies; you can view trailers and rent movies in HD from the iTunes store.

TV Shows: You can rent shows in HD.

Internet: There’s a lot going on under the Internet tab.  You can view YouTube videos from the internet tab, which makes sharing videos with groups of people simpler.  Additionally, you are able to watch or listen to podcasts, access your Flickr pictures, and listen to the radio stations available in iTunes.  You can also access your Netflix account using the new Netflix interface and MobileMe stuff (I didn’t test these since I don’t have a Netflix or MobileMe account).

Computers: Here’s where you can access all the media available on the machines in your local network.  After entering your Home Sharing information in the AppleTV and enabling Home Sharing on your computers, you’re able to view all your iTunes content on your HDTV.

Settings: Where you get to configure everything from network settings to your favorite style of slide show.

Airplay

New in this version of the ATV is the Airplay option, which allows you to access any speakers hooked up to your ATV via iTunes on any other computer on the network.  This is pretty straightforward, and works very well.

Interface

The AppleTV comes with a handsome remote that is good for most functions, but there are some things which really need a keyboard for.  Having to thumb through an online keyboard using the included remote isn’t very speedy, for example.  But that’s not a problem if you also happen to have some iDevice nearby, like an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

Using Apple’s Remote app, you can use your touchscreen device as a remote to your AppleTV.  For navigation, the Remote app uses gestures to make its way through the ATV interface, and when necessary pops up a keyboard, which makes typing text into search fields much easier.

External Media

My biggest concern with the ATV was wondering about whether it would stream content from stuff I had on external drives.  Movie files are big, so I don’t keep them on my computer’s main drive, I keep it all on an external drive.  So I was glad to find out that as long as it was in the iTunes library, the ATV could stream it.  All I had to do was option-drag my content from my external hard drive to my iTunes library to make iTunes aware of my external media (option-dragging makes iTunes aware of content without copying it to the iTunes folder).  Of course, this only works for stuff that iTunes will accept; meaning video files in Quicktime friendly formats.

Bugs

Though it’s tiny and shiny, it’s still a computer, and therefore is still susceptible to bugs.  I’ve only come across two in the time I’ve spent with the device.  Firstly, I’ve been able to crash the ATV by trying to play large files; I tried streaming a 1080p version of Big Buck Bunny and only got a few seconds of it before the ATV crashed - a simple unplugging-and-plugging was required.

Secondly, when waking the ATV from sleep and playing a song using the Remote app on the iPad, I’ve noticed that the first song I tap isn’t played immediately. Rather, I have to tap the song, then tap a second song.  Then, once the second song starts playing, I can go ahead and tap the song I originally wanted.  Weird.

Overall

I’m very pleased with how the AppleTV has performed, and think it’s a great addition to the living room.