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  • Newsletter Issue #433

    March 16th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    Most of the time, The Tech Night Owl LIVE is devoted to news and opinion more than products. But sometimes we try to change that in order to catch up. For example, Steve “Mr. Gadget,” Kruschen, whom you probably have seen on many local TV shows, brings us a collection of the latest gear during his periodic visits. Not all of it is necessarily tech-related, but you learn about cool new stuff you might otherwise overlook.

    This week, we presented a unique slant on device charging, a wireless charger, with Izhar Matzkevich, President of WildCharge, Inc. The day after the show was broadcast, I visited Izhar and his charming assistant, Debbie, at his office in Scottsdale, Arizona, located about five minutes from my office. I brought home the company’s charging plate, plus an adapter for the Motorola RAZR and a prototype for the iPhone. You’ll read about this intriguing invention later on in this issue.

    We also presented Vito Salvaggio, the Senior Vice President of product management for Roxio, to talk about the newest version of their popular CD/DVD software, Toast. In addition, Alykhan Jetha, known to his friends as “AJ, who is CEO for Marketcircle Inc., talked about the good, bad and ugly aspects of the new iPhone SDK.

    We also entered “The David Biedny Zone,” where our Special Correspondent held forth on the lack of Flash support in the iPhone and on Microsoft’s inevitable decline towards insignificance.

    On The Paracast this week, we present pilot and UFO researcher Don Ledger, who discusses the Stephenville, Texas and Shag Harbor, Nova Scotia UFO cases.

    Coming March 23: Investigative journalist Leslie Kean, of The Coalition for Freedom of Information, discusses her efforts to unearth NASA UFO documents and promote an official government investigation of the enigma.

    Coming March 30: UFO trace researcher Ted Phillips, Director of The Center for Physical Research, speaks about his ongoing investigations of physical trace evidence in the wake of reported UFO landings.

    A BRIEF LOOK AT THE NIGHT OWL’S SOFTWARE TOOLBOX

    If you asked me several years ago which Mac software I found indispensable, I probably would have placed QuarkXPress at or near the top of the list. Although I have made my living for years as a writer, I also worked for a time in the traditional typesetting industry, and later migrated to desktop publishing. Or let me put it more bluntly: I migrated because it was necessary in order to earn a living.

    Well, a lot has changed since then. Yes, the writing continues, but, after more than five years of online broadcasting, I’ve modified my list of essential software in various obvious ways. As always when I do lists of this sort, consider the results arbitrary and not meant to reflect some sort of special recommendations on my part. I’m just telling you what works for me.

    • WireTap Studio: I first became acquainted with Andrew Welch, of Ambrosia Software, nearly two decades ago when he was a shareware developer working his way through college. Today he’s turned the shareware into a full-time enterprise, and I consider WireTap Studio his featured product, aside from his Mac-only games of course. At its core, it simply captures audio from a variety of sources, including Internet radio and iChat and Skype chats. However, it also includes a reasonably full-featured audio editing component that many of you find perfectly suited to handling all your work, whether it’s a podcast, or extracting the commercials from the shows you’ve downloaded. Yes, it does supprt Apple’s Audio Units and comes with a few extras you’ll want to try out.
    • Amadeus Pro: Developer Martin Hairer has shown incredible dedication to this powerful editing application over the years. It has all the basics, but excels at its ability to remove noise from a recording, and support for multiple tracks. That, by the way, is why I use it. You see, mixing music and interviews usually requires an extra set of stereo tracks. At the end of the process, I simply mix it down and take the audio file for its final post-production step.
    • Bias Peak Pro: Version 6.0 arrived the other day, and it has a number of Podcast-specific features, including ducking, which means you can do a voiceover with a musical background. Alas, Peak Pro still doesn’t do multichannel support, but it’s a powerful audio editor that is used to master music CDs. That’s not my bag, but I do use it for fine-tuning of recorded shows and interviews. It’s powerful Normalize function, particularly the RMS option, is a wonderful volume leveler. What can I say?
    • Transmit: Sending FTP files is almost a daily chore for me. Maybe I’m just updating a WordPress plugin for this site, but what I really like is the fact that Transmit also has a built-in text editor, so I can alter a site’s code, at least the simple stuff, on the fly. I just have to remind myself to make sure I have a local copy. 🙂
    • Parallels Desktop: All right, I have to run Wiindows. It’s not a priority, except when I have to check my sites with Internet Explorer and make sure I can do the little things to alter up the code to make everything as compatible as possible. On a Mac Pro, with pair of 2.8GHz quad-core Xeon processors and an appropriately large memory partition, performance is simply magnificent. Few native Windows boxes can compete.
    • Microsoft Word 2008: All right, for those of you who wish to banish anything with a Microsoft label from your Mac, there are alternatives. Apple’s Pages, for one. But Word is still the standard on planet Earth, and the new version cures some of the ills that made previous versions less Mac-like. You might balk, however, if you need to work with documents that contain Visual Basic for Applications macros. Microsoft ditched support, claiming it would have unnecessarily delayed release of their new version of the Mac Office suite. I’m not disputing that contention, since Microsoft doesn’t understand how to speak the language of rapid development.
    • Mail: From its humble beginnings as a transplanted NeXT email application, Apple’s Mail has grown into a pretty powerful yet extremely slick email client. It does most everything you want in handling your messages, and the addition of To Do features and data detectors in the Leopard version really helps. Apple has also made it a whole lot faster and more stable. There is tepid Microsoft Exchange support, but you still need Microsoft Entourage for the real thing, such as it is. Unfortunately, Entourage 2008 still suffers from performance bottlenecks and its dependance on a monolithic database file is rife for potential problems. Someone needs to teach Microsoft about the joys of multithreading.
    • WordPress: All right, this really isn’t a Mac application. It’s actually an open source PHP blogging tool that you can access from any computing platform. I have to thank my ex-Webmaster, Brent Lee, for helping me convert from standard and static HTML to WordPress two years ago, and I’ve never regretted the move. Today, WordPress powers the sites run by everyone from personal bloggers to the ones published by major metropolitan newspapers. We all have to thank 24-year-old Matt Mullenweg, who made himself a millionaire building this wonderful application with lots and lots of help from paid staff and volunteers. Even better, most every Web host I know about lets you install WordPress with just a few clicks. So what could be easier?
    As always, when I write lists of this sort, the choices are apt to change at any moment as I discover newer, better tools or just change the focus of my workflow. More to the point, I just know many of you will disagree. But that’s what Comments features are for.

    IS IT A BATTERY CHARGER OR A HOT PLATE?

    When Barbara brought me an article about a new gadget published in the Arizona Republic recently, I more or less set it aside for a few weeks, in the press of business. I should have paid closer attention, because this particular device is really intriguing.

    The concept is smart yet super-simple. The basic WildCharge, Inc charging pad consists of a small plate with a shiny shiny chrome-like coating. Just plug it into the nearest power outlet with the supplied power brick and you’re ready to perform miracles.

    So what do they mean by wireless if you have to plug the darn thing in? Well, here’s the clever part: All you need to do is to attach a special adapter to your wireless gadget or iPod. The adapter, which usually comes as a back cover or protective sleeve for the device, contains various components that include a bunch of tiny silver balls that serve as charging conduits situated at the rear. When you place the device onto the charging plate, the magic happens, and the standard charging process begins.

    WildCharge is busy rolling out the technology to the retail marketplace, after getting top honors from such prestigious resources as Time magazine and the Consumer Electronics Show. At present, the only supported device is the Motorola RAZR, but the company is busy developing adapters for such products as iPods and iPhones, with others coming soon.

    I had a chance to try it out both on my son’s RAZR and, using a preproduction adapter, my iPhone. In both cases, the charging process was seamless, the same as if I actually used the standard plugin charger (or my Mac for the iPhone). The basic charging pad, which lists for $59.99, can easily handle two or three devices at one time. Adapters sell for $34.99, each.

    With one of the things around, you will no longer have to worry about managing multiple chargers for your device collection.

    In the future, WildCharge plans a high-wattage version that’ll work with note-books, and the sky’s the limit. They even plan to work with auto makers to install charging pads on, say, dashboards.

    To be sure, I’m impressed by WildCharge’s technology, and I look forward to future developments with great anticipation.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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    3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #433”

    1. john says:

      A long time ago, I too, lived in Quark Xpress, Photoshop and Illustrator.

      These days it’s Safari, BBEdit, PowerMail and Interarchy. I created my own CMS for my main sites, but I use wordpress for few minor sites and blogs.

      I guess we all evolve and change over time.

    2. Fascinating how our needs change so completely over the years.

      As to CMS, with WordPress, I think the need for building your own has been strongly reduced. Tell me why you still find it necessary to roll your own.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. john says:

      Very specialized needs and timing 🙂

      I have thousands of contributors and hundreds of thousands of registered users and various needs that aren’t covered by a general purpose CMS system like WordPress. Also, I started building my CMS system before WordPress even existed. I started with PHP 3 in 1999 and first public deployment on PHP4 in 2000.

      With large sites like mine there is a need for extremely fast performance in order to serve a very large audience using limited resources. Fast performance almost always requires custom code (no wasted cycles on unecessary abstraction). For example, even though the site’s audience, contributors and page views increased by 500% over the last 3 years, I managed to keep the CPU load on the servers nearly constant. That’s serving 500% more people with the same resources. Optimizations like that are very hard to achieve with general purpose code.

      As I said, WordPress has its uses and I do use it, but it’s not the right tool for all websites.

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