Adobe Air

Loose notes from SXSW 2008 panel on Adobe Air, Taking it to the Desktop.

In October 2006, I attended an Adobe focus group for what was then code-named Apollo, which promised to let us easily create desktop software out of HTML + JavaScript + Flash web apps. Fascinating technology, but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around its potential. With software in general moving towards the web, who out there wants to move things the other direction? I thought the biggest market would be on cell phones. Now, 18 months later, Apollo has become AIR and the software has become more polished. But the strategy is still the same, and I’m still at a loss to come up with a compelling business case for the product.

Anyway, this session helped put a few more of the pieces together mentally. Still not convinced it’s going to become a big hit though.

Continue reading “Adobe Air”


Whoa: 11 great Mac apps ($368.75 worth) for $49 – can’t beat that with a stick. Heck, I’ve already spent more than $100 on a few of these over the past couple of years.


It gets better: 25% of the proceeds go to charity. Some of the software licenses won’t be released until certain quotas have been met – all that remains to be unlocked at this point is Pixelmator (I already own that one, but let’s work together and complete the set). Run, don’t walk.

Music: Bob Dylan :: Love Minus Zero-No Limit

Waffle Picker

Wafflepicker I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out Pixelmator – lets me do pretty much everything I’d otherwise do in Photoshop, but with almost no launch time or bloat (the new background gradient on this site was created in Pixelmator). But one thing missing from Pixelmator that I need frequently is the ability to extract the hex value from colors for use in CSS.

Hopefully that ability will be added soon, but while looking around for a solution, came across Waffle’s Hex Color Picker. There are a ton of little hex utils for the Mac, of course, but what’s cool about this one is that it modifies the Mac’s native color picker, adding another pane to deliver the hex value for the current color. Install this little gem and you get hex values available from any Mac app that supports color choosing in any way. Muy elegante.


I’ve released the simple shell script I use to batch-upgrade dozens of WordPress installations at once, both on the Birdhouse server and at the J-School. It requires that all WP installations you want to track be subversion checkouts. Probably not useful for very many people, but the topic came up on the uwebd list, so thought I’d put it out there.

Get it here.

Music: Stereolab :: Rainbo Conversation

WP -> Facebook

After several years of trying in vain to ignore the Facebook phenomenon, I’ve finally given in and created a profile. Way to go early adopter! After having done the LiveJournal thing for years, and experimenting with Friendster and Orkut and every other new social network that emerged, finally came to the same conclusion pretty much everyone else did – after the thrill of each new SN wore off, it started to feel like there was no there there, and the whole pursuit started to seem pointless. Not to mention the time suck. But I’ve got to admit that Facebook is a different kind of beast. The UI is incredibly clean, the API is wide open and there’s a thriving ecosystem of interesting plugins and custom widgets going on. And it seems to have a staying power the others didn’t have. No guarantees I’ll remain active there, but enjoying playing with it for now, and have already hooked up with an old high school friend I hadn’t talked to for years (classic story, eh?)

Just installed the WordBook plugin for WordPress, which installs a WordPress importer into your Facebook profile. Didn’t seem to pick up any existing posts; let’s see whether it picks up new ones. [Later: Ah yep, creating a new post caused the FB profile to pick up the last 10 or so from Birdhouse – nifty.]

gpx2ipod 1.3

Version 1.3 of my “geocaching with an ipod” system gpx2ipod is now available, with an all-new interface for establishing text encoding / international character sets. So all you Swedish and Russian and Chinese cachers should now see your native language rendered with all the proper characters on your iPods!

This update based in part on GPL’d contributions from a volunteer Swedish developer. This kind of collaboration is what open source is all about – on my own, I may never have gotten around to looking into the ins and outs of dealing with non-English charsets in gpsbabel and on the iPod. That wasn’t my personal itch that needed scratching, but it was someone else’s. Working together, everyone itches less :)

Music: The Slits :: Ping Pong Affair


Ugly truth: Photoshop takes so long to launch that I’ll sometimes defer doing small graphics jobs that need doing just to avoid sitting there staring at the splash screen. Funny how 60 seconds can seem like an eternity in the middle of a fast-paced work day. 90% of the time, 90% of people are doing everyday tasks that don’t require all of Photoshop’s functionality — and all of its bloat. The LE version is stripped down (don’t know what it’s launch times are like), but there’s an aching need out there for an elegant, fast, affordable but highly functional image editor for the Mac that basically works like Photoshop.

Pixelmator is exactly that. The UI is at once radically different and totally familiar. For me, there was no learning curve at all – just grab it and go. And the 3-second launch is barely noticeable. The one thing I use constantly in Photoshop that’s missing in Pixelmator is the Save for Web feature, which lets you compare multiple compression levels and their relative file sizes during the save operation. Other than that, I can see getting comfy with Pixelmator real quick.

Music: Daniel Johnston :: Some Things Last A Long Time

Upgrading WordPress with Subversion

Hey, cool – the cats at have posted a set of suggestions for people preparing for the upgrade to version 2.3 – due out in a couple of days – and they’ve linked to the documentation I wrote on maintaining WordPress with Subversion.

This kind of upgrade has become a fairly big deal for me, as I now maintain more than 40 WordPress installations on Birdhouse and more than 30 at the J-School. Over the past few months I’ve converted all of them to Subversion checkouts, wrapped in a mass-upgrade shell script I wrote, which steps through the array of all installations and upgrades each in sequence. Takes about three minutes to upgrade 30 blogs – a far cry from the manual work I used to put into this process.

The downside is that upgrades inevitably break a few plugins and/or API calls, which means there’s usually a bit of fallout (always fixable). But there’s more benefit in keeping all installations up-to-date than there is downside in risking having some features break temporarily.

Plugin compatibility for 2.3 looks great so far; don’t see anything on the short list that will cause problems for any of my peeps.

Music: Mavis Staples :: Turn Me Around

gpx2ipod: Mac-Based Paperless Caching Redux

I’ve written a script – gpx2ipod – to enable Mac-based paperless geocaching with an iPod.

Mac-based paperless caching for people who own an iPod but not a PDA. Batch-converts a pile of .gpx files to plain text for use with the iPod’s “Notes” feature. Super-fast — cut your geocaching prep time to a few minutes. gpx2ipod handles both individual and Pocket Query (multiple-cache).gpx files. Cache files will display alphabetically on the iPod for easy access in the field. gpx2ipod can inject generated text files directly into your iPod (most users) or into a local “output” folder (you might not have an iPod but might still want the text files for other purposes). gpx2ipod is a Terminal application (shell script), but can be run painlessly with a double-click — no shell experience required.

The script requires gpsbabel 1.3.4 or higher, and can be downloaded either with or without gpsbabel bundled.

For me, it’s been a very fast way to reduce prep time before going caching – I can now build and receive a pocket query from, then load hundreds of waypoints into the GPSr and all of their metadata into the iPod in a few minutes (previously I had to selectively print out data pages for each cache I intended to visit – a laborious and wasteful process).

Just received an email from a super-happy beta tester who’s as excited by this as I am – gratifying to know I’m not just barking up my own tree. A future version will feed gpx files to the GPSr and text files to the iPod in the same run.

This tool is also available through VersionTracker.

This is the official support / comment page for gpx2ipod.