June 28, 2005

June 25, 2005

June 24, 2005

Review: Microsoft Digital Media Pro Keyboard

Filed under: — 12:15 am

Microsoft Digital Media Pro KeyboardI’ve used an HP multimedia keyboard for the past year or so. It had two critical problems that recently convinced me to switch: first, after spending way too many hours fiddling with things, I could never get the multimedia buttons to work reliably with WinAmp. Second, I spilled a drink on it.

Microsoft’s Digital Media Pro Keyboard is the cheapest of their new line of keyboards. The more expensive ones are wireless, and while I’m sure there’s a huge group of people I haven’t met who want to use their keyboard wirelessly from 10 feet away, I just want mine to sit on my desk and never require batteries.

The keyboard has a great feel. Apparently the “natural keyboard” fad is over—most of the new models have the old-fashioned layout, and I have to admit I’ve had no increase in wrist strain or sore fingers since abandoning natural keyboards a few years ago. I’m sure they work fine for some people, but I’ll stick to the standard layout for now.

Along with the usual buttons in all of the right places, it has a “zoom slider” on the left, which I’m sure will disappear from the next batch of keyboard models. More buttons include volume, mute, play/pause, stop, previous/next track, five programmable “Favorites” buttons, shortcut buttons for things like My Documents and Mail, a dedicated Calculator button next to the numeric pad (one of my favorites).

It also makes a gesture toward making the almost-worthless function keys useful again—they default to things like Undo, Open, Close, Save, and so on (and seem to work in just about every program.) You can lock them to act like traditional function keys too.

Since this is a Microsoft keyboard, I expected some trouble customizing all of the buttons. Surprisingly, this hasn’t been an issue—the control panel lets you reassign just about everything. Even more impressive, the media buttons worked in WinAmp with no configuration, and the “Web” button pops up Firefox by default since it’s my default browser. The zoom slider controls the font size in Firefox. The control panel lets you disable the Windows and Application keys, and assign the functions or programs of your choice to the “Enhanced F-Keys”. Kudos to Microsoft for not trying to lock me into their applications with this keyboard.

The Digital Media Pro Keyboard supports USB or PS2 connectors, and includes software for Windows and MacOS. I haven’t found a problem with it yet. Highly recommended.

June 23, 2005

June 17, 2005

June 16, 2005

June 15, 2005

June 14, 2005

June 13, 2005

June 9, 2005

June 8, 2005

Tracking yourself with RSS

Filed under: — 10:00 am

One of the nice things about RSS is that it makes it easy to find people who talk about or link to what I write online. I can search for my name in services like Technorati, Bloglines, or Pubsub and quickly find references to my name, or sites that link to mine.

Tracking Your Name

A feed that searches for your name lets you know when someone mentions you. Having a somewhat unique name like mine helps—if your name is John Smith or Bill Gates, this is a bit trickier. In that case I recommend giving your site a unique name so you can search for that.

I’ve subscribed to a search feed for “Michael Moncur” on all three sites. Here are my impressions of the results:

  • Bloglines finds my name mentioned in other people’s weblogs, comments I’ve posted elsewhere, and occasionally my own postings. It’s by far the most useful of the three. Unfortunately, as far as I’m aware, this feature is available only for those who use Bloglines as their feed aggregator.
  • Technorati mostly finds my own posts from my own weblogs. Not too useful to me, but I suppose if you were keeping tabs on someone else it might help.
  • Pubsub tends to find my name mentioned on other people’s sites, exactly what I’m hoping to find—but it doesn’t find all mentions.

While I find Bloglines the most useful, none of these is perfect, so I subscribe to all three feeds. For some reason, almost every new mention of my name shows up in just one of these (usually Bloglines) and not the other two.

Tracking Links

Technorati lets you set up a feed that tracks links to your site. I use one feed for each of my sites and find them pretty reliable, catching most mentions of my sites on weblogs. It also finds blogrolls and other links to my sites. Unfortunately, old items show up in the feed as new from time to time, but it’s usually relevant.

I’m sure there are other services besides Technorati, Pubsub, and Bloglines, and other ways to use those services. Any ideas or tips?

June 7, 2005

Sorry, your photos aren’t amateur enough.

Filed under: — 9:02 am

A few years ago, I walked into Kinko’s with 300 pages of galley proofs for a book I was working on. I ended up arguing with them for half an hour and walking out without copies—they refused to copy them because it looked like “copyrighted material”, and the idea that I was the copyright holder (and the book wasn’t even published or copyrighted yet) meant nothing to them.

Now the same thing is happening to a few “amateur photographers” (or professional ones, presumably) who try to get prints at Walmart and other retail shops.

I have no problem with the enforcement of copyright law, but assigning the employees of a supermarket photo lab to determine whether photos can be printed or whether they look “too professional” is ludicrous.

I suppose I’ll consider myself a success as a photographer when nobody will print my photos…


June 6, 2005

June 5, 2005

June 3, 2005

June 1, 2005

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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