• Newsletter Issue #463

    October 12th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    So David Biedny, our Special Correspondent, writes me that he had still more news to present about Photoshop CS4, and other fancy features from the upcoming Adobe Creative Suite. So I invited him back for a return appearance on last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE for another session of “The David Biedny Zone.”

    In addition, you also learned how the current shaky economic climate is affecting the consumer electronics industry, with an emphasis on Apple Inc., from Ross Rubin, a key industry analyst with the NPD Group. How will things fare this holiday season? Ross presented his usual penetrating insights not just into personal computers but the iPod, the iPhone and even flat screen TVs.

    With the release of the latest version of the Opera Web browser, version 9.6, we called upon Nuno Sitima, Director of Business Development and Marketing for Opera’s Consumer Products, to talk about all the new features, including the major enhancements to Opera’s under-appreciated email client.

    On The Paracast this week, we present Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., a professor of Psychology, who takes us on a fascinating journey into the amazing world of body, mind and spirit, including his extensive studies into life after death.

    During this wide-ranging discussion, you’ll gain insights into the prospects of cellular memory, such as whether someone who receives an organ transplant will acquire some of the personality characteristics of the donor.

    THIRD PARTIES STILL OFFER MAC OS X’S MISSING PIECES

    Just the other day, I got a press release and smiled. It came from an old friend, Evan Gross, author of Spell Catcher, that venerable system-wide writing tool. Indeed, it has gone through a number of incarnations and several publishers over the years, before Evan decided to let his company, Rainmaker, Inc., do it all.

    It all began in 1985, when Thunder! was released as a Mac desk accessory by Batteries Included, a company that soon went out of business. Thunder! subsequently passed through several publishers on its path to becoming Spell Catcher.

    At least Evan doesn’t have to beg for his royalties anymore, and he’s really been through the mill getting paid from those failing companies. Indeed, he deserves every bit of the success he’s earned simply by doing what Apple has failed to do all these years.

    Yes, it’s perfectly true that Mac OS X Leopard has limited system-wide spell checking capabilities, and applications that support those features can get the job done, after a fashion. But Spell Catcher is so much more, and when it’s running, you barely know it’s there. That’s the hallmark of solid design.

    But Spell Catcher isn’t just a spell checking utility. It goes a lot farther, with features that will quickly make it an indispensable accessory for your Mac.

    Spell Catcher 10.3, the newest version, also offers instant correction of common spelling errors, similar to the auto-correct capability that Microsoft Office offers. In addition, it features an automatic typing capability that lets you enter a shortcut, such as “adr,” for example, and have it “explode” to display your entire address.

    The built-in dictionary and thesaurus helps you expand your vocabulary, and there are also technical dictionaries that cover such areas as technology, medical and legal.

    By far the most important feature, however, may be Ghostwriter. Consider this scenario: You are running your favorite browser, writing a long answer to a forum post. Now forums don’t offer any special text saving features that I know about, so imagine what might happen if the browser crashes after you spent 20 minutes of your time writing that message and just before it can be posted.

    And, as you know, browsers are notoriously crash-prone, even though they appear to be getting somewhat better these days. But what do you do then? Do you just write the whole thing all over again, hoping your browser won’t quit on you at precisely the wrong time?

    Now I realize some of you, particularly if you’ve addicted to some of those forums, will first open up a word processor and set your thoughts down in advance, just in case, as a means of protection. With Spell Catcher’s Ghostwriter feature, the keystrokes you type are stored in a text file for simple recovery.

    Before you consider this a prospective security hazard, know this: “Ghostwriter will never record your keystrokes in the login window or any standard Mac OS X authentication window,” nor will it “record your keystrokes in standard Mac OS X secure text input/password field.”

    You might also want to observe a few cautions about putting your passwords, credit card numbers and other security-related information in a simple text file, or just turn off Ghostwriter first. It can be switched back in a jiffy in Spell Catcher’s preferences panel. No sweat!

    The initial setup is simple. The application is copied to your Mac, and launched, after which you click the prompt to install the Spell Catcher input source utility, which has the effect of placing its telltale check mark in your Mac’s menu bar.

    There’s a whole lot more to Spell Catcher, but this article wouldn’t do it justice. One of my favorites, by the way, is the ability to inhibit double spaces between words and punctuation. Yes, I know that you can do that by yourself, but it’s easy to fall into bad habits, particularly if you spent a lot of time with a regular typewriter, where double spacing after a period is the norm.

    I suggest you download the demo version from Evan’s site. If you like what you see, the user license is just $39.95, and worth every penny.

    Oh and by the way, yes there is a Windows version too. Why let Mac users have all the fun?

    IS THE U.S. AUTO INDUSTRY DOOMED?

    It wasn’t so many years ago when it was generally perceived that buying a foreign car was almost akin to committing an unpatriotic act here in the states. But that was long before the auto business went global.

    Today, even the auto makers that supposedly are based in the U.S. may assemble their vehicles in Canada, Mexico, somewhere in Europe or even Australia. China is also in the cards, and even the parts that make up the vehicle are often sourced in a variety of countries.

    The so-called foreign brands build many of their vehicles here, although ownership remains aboard. In fact, one of the arguments for buying, say, a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry, besides almost bullet-proof reliability, is that they are assembled in America by local employees using parts mostly acquired from domestic sources.

    But the traditional U.S. brands are hemorrhaging billions of dollars every single quarter, and there are published reports now that Chrysler and GM are getting ready to tie the knot.

    So what was the cause of this mess? Was it the current economic crisis, or are the American auto industry’s problems the result of years of badly-designed products and wrongheaded decisions about new products and designs?

    Back in the 1970s, for example, the oil crises of the day made small cars extremely popular. Over the years, however, the little cars became larger, bloated not only with the latest safety gear, but with lots of comfort features to entice you to sign a purchase contract.

    Alas, U.S. auto makers also made their small cars second-class citizens, largely because of smaller profits. They were the entry-level vehicles sold in the hope that you’d upgrade to their larger, bread and butter models. Over the years, the traditional family station wagon was largely supplanted by the SUV, which was often based on a truck. Forget about efficient size and decent gas mileage.

    Today, car makers have to almost beg you to take their slow-selling SUVs, and small cars are back in vogue. Meantime, the credit crises has made it extremely difficult even for those of you with high credit scores to get a car loan. Whether domestic or import, if the salesperson can’t get you financed, the dealer is stuck with the car, forced to pay floor charges, the interest fees charged by their lending institution if a vehicle is left on the lot for an extended period of time.

    Now I suppose you could say it serves the American auto industry right for releasing far too many me-too products and putting reliability on the back burner. Certainly they seriously misjudged the ongoing energy crisis and built the wrong products at the wrong time.

    But their mistakes also meant that hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs over the years as more and more plants were shuttered.

    Alas, both Chrysler and GM are troubled companies, and putting two troubled enterprises together doesn’t guarantee success. And don’t even start with the concept of synergies, since there will be none. If this merger occurs, at its best, even more people will be left seeking employment, and not just the assembly-line workers, but many dealers who will find more and more of their sources of income to be consigned to dustbins of history.

    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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    5 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #463”

    1. Tom Gosnell says:

      Hi Gene,

      Your paean to Spell Catcher caught my attention. You lauded special features that I’m sure are valuable to writers and web junkies but you didn’t mention the feature that I’ve missed in my ancient Classic app, American Heritage English Dictionary. That is, I often refer to a dictionary to find out how to properly spell a word. Furthermore, if I don’t know how to spell a word I can’t look it up for a definition if it doesn’t offer options. My old AHED gave me spelling options. Does Spell catcher do this? If so, I’ll buy it.

      Tom

    2. Paul says:

      >> One of my favorites, by the way, is the ability to inhibit double spaces between words and punctuation.

      I am going to try and get one of my clients to get this program just for the “double space after period” function. I design a lot of materials for this particular company and a couple of the content writers cannot break the old typewriter 2 space habit. It drives me nuts!

      On another note a had a different client who was a communications major who would not believe me that the proper way is one space after a period. I actually had to send her a couple links to sites that stated this to prove I was correct. Crazy thing is she also taught English Comp. in the evenings at a local community college. I guess she did not study the MLA format that was stressed very strongly when I took some classes.

      Remember the book “A Mac Is Not A Typewriter”… Best book title ever:))

      Paul W.

    3. @ Tom Gosnell: Spell Catcher includes Webster’s Concise Electronic Dictionary, so you can easily look up words. Also remember that Mac OS X Leopard has its own dictionary too, but Spell Catcher integrates that a whole lot better.

      @ Paul: Yes, I remember that book. Thanks for reminding me.

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. Paul says:

      Another great book is by Robin Williams, called “The Non-Designers Type Book”. The title is kind of misleading seeing as it was required reading back in the day for my Publication and Design class. At any rate it is a great read for designers AND writers. For example it is great for a quick reference as to when to use a Hyphen, or Em dash, or En dash.

      Paul W.

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