05 January 2007

I came across this gem while doing research for an upcoming article on strain engineering in advanced transistors. From the IBM Journal, it's a highly technical but very thorough discussion of the impact of several different global strain techniques.

Posted 03:55 PM

By way of Pocket Full of Words, a fascinating collection of animated historical maps. The Religion and Middle East maps are especially relevant.

Posted 09:53 AM

A quick administrative note: I've dumped the list of recently Furled headlines up above. I got tired of the delay caused by Furl's slow servers. I've left the Furl archive link: follow it to see what I've been reading that didn't merit a complete post.

Posted 09:33 AM

Every so often, a list of Shakespearean insults makes its way around the web. Those are funny, but lose something out of The Bard's original context. Still, you've got to appreciate an insult that forces the victim to consult reference works. Paperback Writer accomplished that this morning, placing book reviewers firmly in the kingdom of Archaeplastida. (Algae, for those who don't feel like following the link.)

Posted 09:19 AM

04 January 2007

Let's just move along to 2007, shall we? With 7050 words since my last count, I finished 2006 with a grand total of 75,810. That's pretty low, especially when I remember that my goal last January was 300,000. No wonder I've had trouble meeting my other targets, too.

The goal for 2007 is again 300,000. Year to date total is zero, January target is 30,000. Onward!

Posted 02:03 PM

This holiday season brought a reminder that the microprocessor market isn't all about personal computers, and isn't all about Intel. The Big Three gaming consoles -- the XBox 360, the Playstation 3, and the Nintendo Wii -- all use IBM chips.

Gaming consoles were once dismissed as weak stepchildren to the more general purpose PCs. No longer. Whether roaming through an alien landscape shooting anything that moves is your cup of tea or not, real time rendering of realistic 3-D graphics is far more computationally challenging than word processors and web surfing.

(Links by way of Soitec's Advanced Substrate News, which wishes to point out that the aforementioned IBM chips use SOI wafers.)

Posted 10:10 AM

02 January 2007

And one more thing. For either Windows or Macs, get a bigger monitor. Get the biggest one you can afford and have desk space for. No matter what tools you use, you'll be more productive with more space.

Posted 11:08 AM

After I switched over to a Mac, I promised a post on the Mac tools I'm using to replace my Windows standards. It's been a month, but my environment has finally stabilized enough to write about it.

One of the things I've discovered is that Mac components work together much more smoothly than Windows components ever did. It's hard to give an example. If I say, for instance, that I can look up an address and seamlessly send an email to the person, Outlook users will scoff and say, "And? Outlook does that." And it does, but the Mac tools do it better. (Not to mention, Outlook is an expensive add-on, while Mail and Address Book are included with the system.)

Because the components work together so well, and because the core of OS X is Unix, Macs offer a huge array of scripting and automation tools that just don't exist for Windows. Automator, AppleScript, and the Unix shell are all built-in, and between them can reduce just about any repetitive task to a few mouse clicks. Automator in particular is pretty easy for even non-programmers to use. It's definitely worth poking around in the native tools before you go looking for third-party utilities. Spotlight, another built-in tool, handles desktop search far more smoothly than any Windows tool I've used, including Google Desktop.

The other thing about Macs is that the architecture is relatively open, especially compared to Windows. The interfaces that packages like Automator use are well-documented and available to third party developers. One of the most interesting results is Quicksilver, an application launcher and file search tool that learns which tasks you do most often. It's wonderful to use and difficult to explain, but it's also free.

As a writer, I spend a huge amount of time collecting and organizing information, some of which is immediately relevant and some of which I want to file away for future use. I used Copernic Agent under Windows. Copernic doesn't have a Mac version, but I don't miss it. Instead, I've embraced Devonthink Pro and Devonagent. Devonagent is a web search and results analysis tool similar to Copernic Agent, but Devonthink is a freeform database with powerful automatic classification tools. As far as I know, there's nothing like it for Windows, and certainly nothing in its price range. With a mouse click or two (there's that seamless integration again), I can drop just about anything -- images, web pages, my own notes, PDF files -- into the database, where Devonthink ties it all together. This is another program that's hard to explain, but the company offers a good trial period to play with it and very active forums to read what other users have to say. Highly recommended.

My last serious requirement is a catch basin for all the random stuff that comes across my desk: software registration keys, project administrative stuff like purchase orders, travel itineraries, and so forth. I used EverNote under Windows, and am using Circus Ponies Notebook on the Mac. Notebook is more of an outliner than EverNote, which uses chronological entry with tags. That makes dropping things into Notebook a little more difficult, but I suspect that getting things back out will be easier, especially as the mountain of information grows. In this category, OmniOutliner deserves a mention as well. It didn't appeal to me, but it comes bundled with the iMac, and many people swear by it.

In general, there is far less software available for the Mac -- not surprising, given its relatively small market share -- but I was able to find several solid choices in almost every category I'm interested in. (With a few exceptions, which I'll discuss in another post.) With the advent of Intel-based Macs, I wouldn't be surprised to see substantial market share gains over the next year or so, either. I'm definitely encouraging family members and anyone else who asks for my advice to take a serious look at Apple's offerings. It'll be fun to watch things develop.

Last but not least, a shout out to 43 Folders, where I learned about many of the tools discussed above. Highly recommended, but especially helpful to Mac users in a Windows-oriented world.

Posted 09:39 AM


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