Author Archive

Experiences with a Sound Designer

Dec 13, 2008 in iPhone, Programming

Andy Finnell:

This is a description of my experiences with finding and hiring a sound designer to create royalty free, custom sound effects for my game. My experience with hiring and working with a sound designer was quite pleasant. The entire process was completed exactly one week after I first started contacting designers.

I’ve been spending a little time thinking about sounds in applications lately, so I enyoyed reading about Andy’s experiences with a sound designer.

ATPM 14.08

Aug 04, 2008 in Apple

I’m a litle late to the party, but the August 2008 edition of ATPM came back from the virtual printer a few day’s ago. Chris breaks down this month’s contents and touches on a delayed personal milestone — 10 years at ATPM as of the July issue.

I’ve been at ATPM for a while, but Chris inspired me to dig back into our review archives to see exactly how long. Going back, it turns out that my first review ran in issue 4.08, 10 years ago this month. I contributed that first article after some prodding from Evan Trent, who introduced me Michael Tsai, our Publisher and Editor for the entirety of my time at ATPM.

I’m certainly not writing as much as I used to (and I’m hoping that will change), but I’ve consistently enjoyed the experience. In addition to reviewing numerous compelling products over the years, I’ve gotten to know many interesting people through my involvement at ATPM, both virtually and in person. The world of online publishing has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years — one of the reasons Evan was able to prod me into writing was that I’d lost my previous outlet and was looking for something new. At that point, I think there were 3 or 4 other monthly Mac e-zines regularly published. As far as I know, ATPM is the only one left, as personal and professional weblogs have lowered the barriers to entry for electronic publication. I think it says something about the people involved in ATPM over the years that we’ve remained in publication through this shift in the landscape.

RetailMeNot and Sparklines

Apr 27, 2008 in Internet

RetailMeNot.png

I was looking up something on RetailMeNot a little earlier and saw that they’d added a sparkline in addition to each discount code’s success rate.

I love seeing little visual additions like this — it doesn’t add much clutter to the display while giving a clear indication of the trend related to the coupon that the success rate alone lacks. In this case, the failures most likely correlate to the 4/14 expiration date. For coupons that don’t list the expiration date, though, the sparkline provides a visual clue as the whether any failures are random or due to a change in the code’s validity.

First Trip to Nationals Park

Apr 08, 2008 in Baseball, Nationals, Photos

Redding Pitching

I had a chance to take in a bit of a game at Nationals Park last night. It’s a very impressive stadium and I’m looking forward to getting back later during the summer.

Attendance was fairly sparse, but we chalked it up to the combination of the cold weather and the championship game scheduled for that evening.

Firefox 3 vs. Safari 3

Apr 08, 2008 in Mac, Software

Daring Fireball:

And that’s just it. Firefox 3’s shortcomings as a Mac app are behavioral, too.

I’m giving Firefox for just reason that Gruber highlights later on in his piece — improved memory management. I’ve only got 1 GB of RAM on my PowerBook and my computer’s performance would noticeably drag when running Safari for extended periods. Conversely, I’ve noticed little-to-no slowdown with Firefox running.

That said, Gruber’s definitely right that Firefox isn’t a particularly good Mac app. In addition to his list of issues, there are two that I’m finding bothersome.

  • Doesn’t Respect RSS Reader Setting — Apps like Safari, NetNewsWire, and others are capable of registering as the default feed reader and Safari will happily pass feed URLs over to the selected reader. This makes it simple to subscribe to new feeds. Firefox, however, doesn’t honor this setting, instead displaying the feed contents in a new tab/window.

    Update: Turns out that while Firefox won’t respect the default system feed reader, you can configure Firefox to use NetNewsWire or your other feed reader of choice. The Applications panel in the preferences lets you (appropriately enough) configure external applications for different content types. I’d originally looked here for some sort of setting, but missed the Web Feed option among all the audio and video formats.

    Firefox Application Preferences

    Firefox doesn’t seem to auto-detect the feed readers installed on your system, but you can point it at NewNewsWire and it seems to work as expected. In addition to supporting external applications, Firefox goes one step further and allows you to specify web-based feed readers, like Google Reader or My Yahoo. So, as is often the case with Firefox, the desired functionality is present, but not necessarily Mac-like. (Thanks to John Gruber for pointing this out to me.)

  • Doesn’t Use System Keychain — Old news, I know, but I’ve been retyping a bunch of passwords lately and I’ve occasionally had trouble remembering which password is associated with which site. I have the choice between trying a number of passwords till I find the right one or firing up Keychain Access and looking for the appropriate record.

    On the plus side, the save password display in Firefox is quite nice. The display is similar to the new search bar in Safari and hangs around after the password-protected page has been loaded. If you’re not sure whether you’ve entered the right password, you can defer saving the password until after you’ve confirmed the validity of the password. Definitely an improvement of Safari’s ask, then process approach.

I’m not saying that Firefox isn’t a good web browser. However, it’s very likely that I’ll switch back to Safari once I get a computer with more resources.

Flickr Greeting

Apr 06, 2008 in Internet

FlickrGreeting.png

While I appreciate the effort on Flickr‘s part, I’m don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say I really don’t know how to greet people in Icelandic 🙂

Can Sprint Make a Cheaper iPhone?

Apr 01, 2008 in Business, Gadgets

Brian Dolan:

“Icon Mobile helped us with the icons and other parts of the UI, but Sprint took a more aggressive role than we ever have in designing this device,” Owens said. “It’s the most aggressive push into UI I’ve seen by a carrier, and I spent 18 years at AT&T.” Sprint conceded that the iPhone exposed a weakness in the market: user interface, so the carrier decided it needed to build a UI consistent with the iPhone experience, while creating a device that leverages the capability of Sprint’s Rev. A network. [Emphasis added]

You know, I thought one of the reasons for the iPhone’s success was that AT&T stayed the hell out of Apple’s way and had almost no impact on the UI development.

Sox Take Opener

Mar 25, 2008 in Baseball, Red Sox, Sports

Opening Day ScoresheetWow, what a way to start the season. The Red Sox won took the opener in come-from-behind style, getting a game tying 9th inning home run from Brandon Moss. Moss had a huge game, going 2-5, driving in a pair, and getting his first career home run off A’s closer Huston Street. Manny Ramirez was the other offensive star of the game, going 2-5 and driving in 4 runs on a pair of doubles.

After a rough start to the game, Daisuke Matsuzaka settled down to pitch 5 innings, setting down the final 7 hitters in order. Hideki Okajima get into the game as well, pitching a scoreless 9th and getting the win after the Sox took the lead in the 10th. Jonathan Papelbon struggled a bit in the 10th, giving up a run on 3 hits and a walk. He was bailed out when Emil Brown tried to take third after doubling. Instead, he was cut down on a nice 9-4-3-5-6-3 play by the Sox (yes, I had to rewind the TiVo to get all of that).

Oh yeah, 2004 hero Keith Foulke made his return to major league baseball during today’s game, pitching a scoreless 8th inning and striking out Manny.

And with that, the 2008 major league baseball season has begun.

Opening Day 2008

Mar 25, 2008 in Baseball, Red Sox, Sports

At this absurdly early hour, it’s time for yet another baseball season. With last weeks’ minor bump in the road averted, the Red Sox and the A’s are kicking off the the season with a two game set at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

Frankly, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet and the brain isn’t functioning, so I’ll let the starting lineup for the 2008 Boston Red Sox do most of the talking.

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Kevin Youkilis 1B
David Ortiz DH
Manny Ramirez LF
Mike Lowell 3B
Brandon Moss RF
Jason Varitek C
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Julio Lugo SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka P

After last fall’s heroics, it might seem odd to see Ellsbury at the bottom of the lineup. It sounds like Terry Francona is going to give Ellsbury the opportunity to earn his way to the top of the lineup, just as he did last year with Pedroia. Until that happens, I have to say I like the idea of the two speedsters (Ellsbury and Lugo) running in front of two big OBP guys. This could give the Sox a little more freedom to run without worrying about opening a base for teams can pitch around Ortiz and Ramirez.

The A’s lineup has also been posted.

Update: …and J.D. Drew’s back acts up in the pre-game, so he’s replaced by Moss. Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

Another Quality Customer Service Experience

Feb 29, 2008 in Business

After commenting on Jeff Carlson’s quality customer support experience with Apple, I had my own comment-worthy experience today, this time with Douwe Egberts / Sara Lee.

As a slightly early birthday present, my folks got me the Senseo Gift Pack. I like drinking coffee in the morning, but hate the process of making coffee. Let’s be honest, I am not a morning person… particularly before I’ve had my caffeine hit (so you can see why making coffee is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg issue).

The gift pack is supposed to include 2 packages of coffee pods. However, one of the packages was missing from my kit. When I called customer support, I had the choice between talking to somebody about Senseo issues or about coffee pod issues. I chose Senseo issues, since I was calling about a kit. It took maybe 30 seconds to explain my issue, where I was told I actually wanted to speak to the Douwe Egberts / Sara Lee folks, as they were responsible for that portion of the package. The CS rep transferred me over, where I explained my issue once more. The Sara Lee rep immediately apologized and offered my a coupon for a free package of pods, no questions asked.

The total experience took less than 5 minutes, maybe a minute of which involved hold time. Whereas some companies would make me jump through hoops to ascertain whether or not I was truthful, Sara Lee gave their representative the ability to set things right in short order. Giving me a coupon for the free pods has minimal cost to them and is an easy way to build goodwill among customers (ie, things like this posting). Plus, with the coupon, I have the freedom to choose the type of coffee I want instead of taking whatever type they threw into the box.

Again, in a perfect world, quality customer service experiences would be the norm. As the real world seems to have beaten down my expectations, though, I am often pleasantly surprised when things turn out this quick and painless.

Update: …and but a day later, Tom provides something of a counter-example.