More evidence that God uses a mac

I’ve discovered an even better method of using my iPad as a preacher, and surely further proof that there will be no Windows in heaven. One of those serendipitous discoveries when searching for something else … I think it might help others too. Now I imagine there might be ways for the recalcitrant to do this from a PC, but I wouldn’t know. Another reason to repent of your Windows allegiance .. (but I digress .. )

I discovered that Pages ((current) ’09 mac desktop version – not the iPad version) can export to the .epub book reader format, which is the ebook format recognised by iBooks (and also some other book readers). If you then load that file into “Books” in iTunes, and sync your iPad, you then have your sermon notes as an eBook rather than a PDF. So that means you’ll find it in the ‘books’ section of iBooks on your iPad, rather than the ‘PDF’ section.

That’s where the beauty starts 🙂 You have much more reader interface power at your disposal than with a PDF:
• You can increase or decrease the font size right on the device with a few finger taps (so no more bothering about font size, page size and margin size in your desktop word processor), and
• You’ll notice that swapping the iPad between landscape and portrait orientation also has the effect of offering you the choice of a single page / whole screen view, or a paperback-novel-type view with two small pages side-by-side – and the illusion of flipping real pages in a real book as you read.

The latter feature means, in theory at least, easier adaptation from paper notes to electronic – irrespective of whether your brain is used to speaking from full A4 single-side notes or from something like an A5 ring binder or display book printed double-side. My 30-year pattern has been the latter, so having made this discovery I’m now using landscape mode and it almost feels like I’m using my familiar binder 🙂

What you can’t, of course, do with this method is annotate your notes on the iPad. So if doing that is important for the way you work, then I guess you’d be wiser sticking with PDF and something like GoodReader. But if it works for you to do all your annotating, highlighting etc on your desktop before syncing – then I think this method would be hard to beat. It would mean buying Pages for your mac if you don’t already have it, but you don’t need to spend a cent on any iPad apps.

A mouse by any other name (please! … )

“Mighty Mouse” as a name for Apple’s previous desktop rodent really didn’t do it for me. But as it came bundled with my last computer, who was I to complain? But at any rate, it scarcely lived up to the jingle I remember from my prehistoric black & white television days in short pants. Unlike his erstwhile namesake, this mousey – for all his undeniable cuteness – had not “come to save the day”. He was (well, still is actually) sore afflicted, like his many cousins, with fluff constipation. The treatment for this condition was never an exact science, despite the widely documented search for a rolled gold cure. Forget the ‘gold’ bit. A mouse thus ailing did very little rolling at all, which was far from ‘mighty’ for him or indeed anyone else.

Well now Apple has released MM’s nephew, and in the process demonstrated that the great originators of the winsome initial lowercase “i-” for every data-bearing device under the sun, just don’t have any creative baby-naming pizzazz left for digital rodents. “Magic Mouse” just doesn’t … Well heck, I’m not sure that it doesn’t make “Mighty Mouse” seem almost poetic. And that’s quite apart from recycling the same initials – a deed destined to frustrate forum junkies no end.

However what the younger and marginally more diminutive MM lacks in naming, he more than makes up for in .. well, doing what rodents of the digital age are supposed to do on one’s desk (or indeed, lap or chair arm in the case of this little critter).

He does take some getting used to. Initially, having just parted with the cash, I was inclined to agree with some unfavourable reviews suggesting gross ergonomic misfortune. I could feel my larger-than-average hands beginning to ache already. But after a few more days’ adjustment, I reckon I’m hooked. In fact I’d now go so far as to rate this bluetooth mouse as the most satisfying mouse I’ve ever used. (And I’ve been through many of numerous shapes and sizes – some with ‘tails’, some without, and the latter both RF and bluetooth.) And this despite it being one of the smallest and with precious little to grab onto.

The secret, I’ve now decided, is to abandon any idea of actually wrapping one’s hand around the critter, in favour of holding it lightly between thumb and ring finger. (Perhaps little finger as well if you have a smaller hand, but I’m only guessing there.) Doing it that way, it glides around beautifully. I’m used to bluetooth mice these days. But my usual gripe is that the device becomes horribly sluggish and inaccurate, if not downright unuseable, when something even slightly intensive is happening. With this mouse however, tracking is smoother and pointing more accurate than any mouse I’ve used, except at those times when there are some processor-hungry things happening. But then nothing works well at those times anyway. Mind you, I must mention that I’ve used it almost exclusively on a one of those recent design optical mousepads. It seemed to do OK on my thigh too, but I didn’t really try that at length.

Perhaps the most pleasing bit is when using it to scroll a page (vertically and/or horizontally). You just sit it on the desk, release the thumb and ring finger, and gently glide the tip of the index finger over the shiny surface. Pure rodent heaven.

Some thoughtful person has already developed a freeware utility called MagicPrefs which adds some great functionality, and one suspects that can only get better. I have picked up a few rumours about hacks enabling the MM to work with a Windoze PC, but that’s not officially supported. So just another reason to get a mac, guys.

Happy mousing Christmas!

Hope for the drowning

Here’s one piece of good news for anyone drowning in unsolicited bulk e-mail messages (“spam”, in other words). And from what I can tell “anyone” is everyone these days. Jeff Hendrickson of Hendrickson Software Components has just made the reporting feature of his great software “Purify” free.

Now I’m not a software reviewer or anything half so lofty. In fact I’m not even a geek. (Well, not professionally anyway. And I have zilch formal training in anything IT). But those who know me probably won’t be surprised to learn that I make a habit of researching – from a lay perspective – whatever mac software I can find that serves whatever purpose I’m currently pursuing. So I do my share of googling on such things, and I even hang out with the big boys (who are probably half my age) on the occasional techno forum. I just scan the page for posts written in English, as distinct from that incomprehensible babble the geeks such as my two sons use all day long. As far as I’m concerned, a script is something I’d take to the pharmacy, and perl is something my wife might employ when she knits. So you get the idea …

Well courtesy of my dedication (my wife would say ‘obsession’), I’ve identified a number of useful applications which I’ve used frequently for some time and even contributed constructively to their development. In fact I’ve made so many posts on one particular forum that the server has automatically appended the term “Guru” to my profile. Rather a giggle for someone who wouldn’t know an API from a gigabit. Anyway, one such application happens to be this piece of antispam software, “Purify”. It is to spam what the fabled Dutch boy’s finger in the dyke was to rather a lot of water. It aims to stem the tide of spam to one’s e-mail inbox by a combination of various filtering processes, and automated reporting of spam messages to internet ISPs and other online services through which the spam passes on its merry way to torment the innocent.

My relationship with Purify began several years ago with two of its predecessors (SpamX and Em@ilCRX), which Purify has since superseded. Having concluded that my bank account was large enough, my life social enough, my skin smooth enough, my drugs cheap enough, my degrees high enough, my timepieces worth enough, my software digital enough, my wife attractive enough, my equipment functional enough, my anatomy beyond enhancement, and Nigeria far enough – I set my fingers to work seeking to reduce the volume of kind offers being received. I eventually settled on SpamX, due to a combination of features, price and Jeff’s personal responsiveness. Admittedly all these things take a bit of techno fiddle to set up; but once that’s done, it largely just does its filtering in the background while you play solitaire or maybe do some work.

I’m not being paid a cent to say this. But I can truthfully testify that Purify has reduced the amount of spam I receive by at least two-thirds, sometimes more. In fact I get the odd day with literally none at all. A full license for Purify costs all of US$30, which I think is a steal for what it does. But the latest development is what has prompted me to write my first ever software review. Jeff has now made it possible to download Purify and use it for nothing, if all you want is the spam reporting feature. So in other words, it’s now free if you don’t want the other features. The filtering is brilliant for reducing the number of spam messages that wind up in your inbox; but the reporting function is the one that actually contributes to reducing the volume that gets sent to you (and other people) in the first place.

I’ve got to know Jeff well enough (in the cyber sense) to be able to confidently say that this is not any kind of money-driven tactic. Jeff is someone who’s sincerely personally committed to effectively fighting the huge blight which spam is to the whole online community. It’s a credit to him that he has made this a free service. The more people using it the better for everyone (except the spammers).  I recommend it without hesitation, and encourage you to try it. I’ll gladly lend what assistance I can in my techno-challenged way to anyone wanting to set up Purify. But you really don’t need me, because Jeff will respond very promptly if you contact him direct.

Oh, and whilst I endeavour always to keep myself unstained by the knowledge of any evil, I can report that Purify is available for Windoze too. Happy reporting!