Technology on a Soviet Schedule

Joseph Stalin by Victor OreshnikovStalin would have been proud of the accomplishments made in the technology economy’s last half-decade. While I don’t think for a minute there’s been a devious mastermind that formulated any 5-Year Plan, there was a similar sense of urgency in the industry to that of circa-1928 USSR.

2001 saw the introduction of four particularly important products that defined the contemporary technology landscape. Apple’s modern operating system, OS X, was released on March 24. In October the company unleashed that little monster, the iPod, just days before Microsoft set free Windows XP, another monster of sorts. Finally, on November 15, we all met the XBox game system.

Wow, we haven’t seen that much geeky goodness inside of twelve months since, well… since then.

So, with a nod to the 2002 Vin Diesel spy thriller, I’d like to christen this period of technology the “Age of iXXX” (iPod, XBox, XP, OS X, in case you missed the reference).
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Beam Me Up, Bluetooth

Star Trek CommunicatorSo you just got this funky new cell phone. It’s thin, it’s got a camera, and you dig the way it makes you feel like Captain Kirk when you flip it open.

But it’s got this thing, “Bluetooth”. What’s up with that? Should you be afraid?

Naw, don’t worry. Bluetooth’s your buddy, named for an ancient Danish king, not some weird dental accessory.

Bluetooth is a key component in the current generation of technology that’s all about mobilizing information, releasing it and making it accessible.

It’s a common form of wireless communication that lets all sorts of devices hash it out with each other. It’s pretty cool because it’s almost painless to set up and use. If you want to do stuff like sync the contacts from your computer to your cell phone, or use a wireless headset, Bluetooth’s da bomb. It makes it all effortless, which is both a good and bad thing.

I mean, if it’s so easy for you to set up, how easy might it be for someone else to hack?
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Indispensable Mac Utility

Service Scrubber IconEvery so often I stumble on a piece of software for my Mac that I consider indispensable and I just have to share it with the world. Service Scrubber by Peter Maurer is just such a thing.

It’s a little utility that gives you access to the contents of Mac OS X’s Services menu. I love that menu as it contains so much inter-application integration capability, but even in its default state it’s full of fluff that may not be useful to everyone (like, do I really need Chinese Text Converter services?). As well, over time, it can become cluttered with the services of new applications, and their various services aren’t always useful.

Using Service Scrubber you can turn services on and off and even edit their keyboard shortcuts. It’s an indispensable tool for any Mac power used and, quite frankly, should be built right in to Mac OS X.

Make Up Your Mind, Intuit

I decided to upgrade to Quicken 2006 this afternoon to gain some of the new features that Intuit had added over the last few years. I hit the Canadian site and was met with this message on their Mac product page:

Fair enough, I figured. How big can the Canadian Quicken for Mac community be?

On the American shopping cart page, however, there is a most hilarious alert that’s riddled with all sorts of reverse logic:

You have selected Canada as your billing address, but you have added the US version to your shopping cart.

In just one alert box they tell you that the product won’t work, that you need to go somewhere else (where there is no product) to get the product that will work, then they tell you the aforementioned product doesn’t exist and, hey, this one will work after all.

Doesn’t anybody proofread their web communication materials at Intuit?

My Closet Desire for a Kitchen Tool

Kitchenaid 12-Cup (3 L) Ultra Wide Mouth™ Food ProcessorI’m sick of hand slicing cucumbers. Manually crushing chick peas for hummus drives me nuts. If I have to use two knives to blend fat into flour one more time I’ll spit into the biscuit dough.

I’m no gourmet, but I do like to throw together a half decent meal. It just takes so bloody long to chop, slice, blend, mix, grind, hack and toss all this grub together with my bare hands and a limited assortment of centuries-old tools. And though I’ve grown accustomed to manually hacking up foodstuffs to make all variety of dishes, I must say: it sucks.

The geek in me is fed up. I long ago forwent the pen and paper to write. Why should I still be using knife and cutting board to pare?

Enter my obsession with the food processor.
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Palm Treo 650 For Sale [UPDATE]

Palm Treo 650 GSM

This Treo is no longer available.

Anybody wanna buy a used Palm Treo 650 smartphone that’s in awesome condition?

It’s a CDMA model (for Bell in Canada, though it doesn’t sport any provider’s logo), includes a 128 MB SD card, a Palm leather case with belt clip, an unopened pack of screen protectors, and licenses for the following software products:

(I should note that the Treo pictured at left is the GSM edition; the CDMA version has a slight blue tint to parts of its body.)

I’m asking $475 for the package (though I’m open to offers). Fire me an email to andrew at woolsock dot ca and we can chat. Alternatively, post a comment with your contact info — I won’t let it go public and I’ll contact you directly.

So… why am I selling one of my most beloved devices? Good question.
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Dream Gadget

PlanOn DocuPen RC800Ever been somewhere, like the doctor’s office, reading a magazine in the waiting room and come across an article you want to keep? What do you do? Rip it out? Hope to hell you remember the publishing details so you can look it up later?

That happens to me all the time. Often I pull out my Treo and attempt to take a picture. That’s pretty ineffectual. Sometimes I do scribble a note to myself on a piece of paper that I usually lose. The urge to tear the article out, or even steal the magazine is strong, but I’m too damn honest.

I was pretty stoked to discover the Docupen RC800 from PlanOn yesterday. I can’t really afford one, so I can’t vouch for its quality or effectiveness, but on the web it sure looks cool.

Basically, it’s a full-sheet colour handheld scanner in the form factor of a standard pen. One side is flat and you drag it across a page to capture its contents. So, if get caught in that doctor’s office again and see an article you’d like to keep, just pull out the Docupen, drag it across the page, and it’s yours. Too sweet!

I wonder if they’d send a mere blogger a test unit?

The Craziest Software I Ever Did See

Onlife Screen ShotI downloaded an insane piece of software this morning. Onlife is the creation of a guy named Edison Thomaz and it’s totally mind-boggling.

Basically, it keeps track of everything you do on your computer then presents this tracked information in a graphically stunning format. It’s neat because you can analyze what you were doing at any given point in time, pan-applications and even organized by workflow.

Like, this morning during the time I was doing research for my Geek Love column Onlife shows me what pages I browsed, what emails I read and wrote, and even what music I listened to (Electric President).
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