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Gadgets - page 2

Usability testing made cheap

Best idea I’ve seen in a long time.

A thank-you note to the Microsoft Xbox 360 team


Dear sirs:
Thank you for the latest complimentary upgrade to your Xbox 360 system firmware. I am certain that it represents a substantial investment of time, talent and tender.
Your efforts are apparent not only in the anime-without-the-art avatar that replaced the picture of my dog. There is also the achievement of making one of the most ungainly user interfaces I’ve experienced even more unfathomable. And the bonus of being able to watch Netflix movies with golfball-sized pixelation on my widescreen TV is a treat beyond measure.
However… Keep Reading

Current unhealthy obsession: Fallout 3

If you're happy and you're stylized, put your hands on your hips...

I recently bought Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360 on the strength of its reviews. It may have been a mistake, as I haven’t been this addicted to a video game since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (I know that GTA 4 was empirically better, but I just never found it as engaging.) Keep Reading

MBT saves my feet, part the first

I have horrible feet and ankles. I don’t mean that they’re particularly ugly — but even when I was in shape, I’ve always suffered from foot and ankle pain and a tendency to sprains and twists.
I saw ads in a couple issues of Wired for MBT Shoes, and on asking April about them learned that her mom is a huge fan. Keep Reading

The power of the cloud

Last week, the hard drive on my MacBook Pro died. (Don’t blame Apple — it was a POS third-party drive I bought in a misergreedy bid for more space.)
I got a new drive — actually switched computers to a newer Macbook. But what amazed me in the process was that a dead computer just isn’t a big deal anymore. Sure, I had my Time Machine restore on a backup drive, but I couldn’t use it in its pure state– There was a corruption.
But anything I really cared about was in “the cloud.” My email? All backed up in my Google IMAP account. Important docs? On Google Docs and on MobileMe (which I’m testing but soon to drop). App reinstall was done via the web with serials in my Gmail archive.
The only thing that really causes me to want/need a hard drive anymore is my music library. If someone found a good, secure, cheap solution to that — one that seamlessly handled 30k+ tracks, the drive would be superfluous.
If anything, changing computers allowed me to weed out a lot of plugins and apps that I’d collected like weeds because I constantly test and discard new stuff. Maybe I need to erase my computer every six months just for spring cleaning. Certainly ’tisn’t a hardship anymore.

Adium: Some apps always just rock

When I first made my return to the land of Mac n’ honey a couple years back I installed Adium as my chat client. We use Gtalk in our outfit more often than we vocalize, and Apple’s iChat couldn’t handle the underlying protocol (Jabber).
When iChat became Gtalk compatible, I gravitated to it because of its video chat capabilities. April and I thought we’d use it a lot, but it was so unreliable, it just wasn’t worth it.
In the past couple days, a new version of Adium came out with support for Facebook chat. I’ve been using FB a lot more lately, because of the iPhone app as well as the fact that the service seems to have hit the hundredth monkey stage — reconnecting me with lots of old friends in just the last month. (That’s a topic for another post.)
So I switched back to Adium today. It wasn’t until it was installed that I realized how much I had missed it. Let me count the ways:

  • Customization: Themes, icons, etc
  • Better Growl support
  • Better integration of disparate accounts. iChat puts them in separate windows; Adium goes for one window with sections.
  • Secure, OTR chat
  • Did I say customization?

I was also impressed with the thoughtfulness of the install: Seamlessly imported my iChat transcript archives.

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