New device and a multifactor nuisance

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is great. Thanks to 2FA, even if someone manages to figure out my password, they still need to have physical access to my phone. Well, I actually have two phones that I switch between, so they need access to one of those two phones. I just got a new phone to replace an aging one. I use three different services that support Google Authenticator. Guess what? Now I need to reset the 2FA on all three of those services so that my new device has the secret.

Sure, this is a first world problem, blah blah. But, what I’d really love to see is 2FA tied into Persona (BrowserID) and all of the sites I log into support Persona. Then I only have one password to know, one 2FA secret. It would eliminate the need for a password manager. Convenience and security. Sounds grand, doesn’t it?

Camtasia for Mac arrives and brings real competition

I’ve done a good deal of screencasting, including a very popular video (the TurboGears 20 Minute Wiki) and even a screencast DVD that I offered for sale. When I first started screencasting, the only viable choice on the Mac was Snapz Pro X, a simple screen recorder. This was a far cry from Camtasia Studio on Windows, which was the top-of-the-line tool. In 2007, ScreenFlow appeared on the Mac and added an elegant editing experience to Mac screencasting that closed the gap with Camtasia enough.

That said, Mac users have been clamoring for Camtasia on the Mac for a long time. My most popular blog post since the beginning of 2006 is “Camtasia for the Mac”. In addition to a continuous stream of page views, that page also has 140 comments. It was the top hit on Google for “camtasia mac” for a long time.

At long last, Camtasia for Mac is now available. From the preview video on TechSmith’s site, you can tell that they definitely paid attention to ScreenFlow. Camtasia Mac appears to have all of the polish of ScreenFlow and brings some excellent looking new features that ScreenFlow does not have (more transitions and effects, direct publishing to YouTube).

I just noticed that Telestream has pre-announced ScreenFlow 2.0 which adds transitions and YouTube publishing. The timing of this announcement and those features clearly is a direct response to Camtasia for Mac. One thing is for certain, this competition will be good for those of us using Macs to make screencasts.

Congratulations to the hard working folks at TechSmith who have gone from being a Windows shop to producing a very slick Mac application.

Quick and dirty hack to get syntax coloring in Keynote

I figured I’d toss this out in the event that someone has a better solution in hand. I tossed this together quickly and it works. It requires that you have Pygments installed and pygmentize on your path (which is silly, because I could have just imported pygments as a library…) It also requires that Safari is running. But, hey, it works.

import os
import sys

def go():
    if len(sys.argv) != 2:
        print "Usage: %s <filename>" % sys.argv[0]
        sys.exit(1)
    output_fn, ext = os.path.splitext(sys.argv[1])
    output_fn += '.html'
    print "Generating %s" % (output_fn)
    os.system("pygmentize -O full -o %s %s" % (output_fn, sys.argv[1]))
    print "Copying to clipboard..."
    fullpath = os.path.abspath(output_fn)
    os.system("""osascript<<END
tell application "Safari"
        activate
        make new document at end of documents
        set url of document 1 to "file://%s"
end tell

tell application "System Events"
        tell process "Safari"
                click menu item "Select All" of menu "Edit" of menu bar 1
                click menu item "Copy" of menu "Edit" of menu bar 1
                click menu item "Close Window" of menu "File" of menu bar 1
        end tell
end tell
END
""" % (fullpath))
    
if __name__ == "__main__":
    go()

Negative advertising works

Al over the place, there was news of Obama and McCain moving into a dead heat in the polls. Earlier in the summer, Obama had more than 320 electoral votes according to the polls (270 are required to win). Now, Obama and McCain both have less than 270. If you check out the graphs at electoral-vote.com, you can see that 2008 looks suspiciously like 2004, with the Democrat leading and then losing ground after the negative ads kicked in. (Not coincidentally, McCain has placed a Karl Rove protégé in power in his campaign, so we can expect more Rovian behavior from that camp.)

Of course, Obama is a very different candidate from Kerry, and I think there’s still plenty of time in the election for the trends to shift back.

I was struck by an interesting parallel in the software world:

The new ad effort is expected to use some variation of the slogan “Windows, Not Walls,” according to several people familiar with the matter. Those people say the point is to stress breaking down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting.

[From Microsoft Hiring Seinfeld for Major Ad Campaign – Mac Rumors]

Apple’s “Get A Mac” ads were basically negative advertising, playing up the strength of Macs relative to the annoyance of Windows. (Contrast with the iPhone ads, which just show the overall goodness of the iPhone.)

As noted in the MacRumors article, Microsoft sees the Get A Mac ads as having been effective (and how could they not, with Apple’s market share, revenue, unit sales and profits all surging?). Microsoft is taking the “high road” in their response. I tend to think that stressing the “openness” of Windows is not a good approach. For one, Windows is hardly the king of openness. Secondly, Microsoft tried a similar approach with their various media playing attempts, but people still preferred the experience of the iPod. And finally, it seems that the negative, yet still entertaining, spin of the Get A Mac ads is likely to resonate much better.

As with anything, time will tell. But how many people really think this kind of campaign with stop the Mac’s rising tide?

(Update: I should note that the MacRumors article is really about Seinfeld starring in the new Microsoft ads. I presume that they’re going for a humorous slant to the ads, which I do think is a good move. I just still think that the “openness” theme is one that won’t resonate as well.)

Back to Safari/WebKit

As an experiment, I had switched to using Firefox once FF3 was released. I like the Awesome Bar, and the browser definitely feels a bit peppier than Firefox 2. The biggest advantage Firefox 2 has over Safari remains: the add-ons.

However, Safari feels so much faster than Firefox that I’m switching back because I find the basic browsing experience to be nicer. I still have Firefox around for the times when I really want to use one of the extensions… but the most important extension, Firebug, has been ably duplicated in WebKit’s debugger.

If you’re a web developer using the Mac, give the WebKit nightly a try and see what you think.

Update: I also wanted to note that I’ve noticed playing Flash videos in Firefox 3 was choppy. I don’t know who’s to blame (Flash or Firefox), but it works fine in Safari.

iPhone 2.0 apps and synchronization

I’ve installed a number of iPhone applications, some of which I’m already using quite regularly. Unlike Apple’s own applications, third party apps cannot synchronize data via iTunes. That’s a real shame, given that Apple clearly has built support for such a thing. It’s possible that iTunes itself is not set up to handle third party sync while still ensuring that Apple controls what’s getting synced to where. Whatever the reason, developers have had to come up with their own means for syncing data between desktop and phone.

To make matters worse, the SDK has been available only under NDA all of this time. So, developers couldn’t even go into much detail with each other about how they were handling their sync functions, let alone actually sharing useful framework code.

My first synchronization experience was with OmniFocus. You could either sync via MobileMe or via your own WebDAV server. I don’t need MobileMe’s services, so $99/year simply wasn’t worth it. I set up WebDAV on my hosting server (which proved to not be very difficult), and sync works.

But, it’s slow. Agonizingly so (though there may be a temporary solution to this). On my computer, I don’t really notice, because my computer can do more than one thing at a time. Not so with the phone. I can do other stuff with OmniFocus while sync is going on, but I can’t use other apps.

So, OmniFocus’ sync is either a pain to set up and slow, or will set you back $99 a year.

Intriguingly, OmniFocus will transfer synchronization settings from your computer to your phone via wifi and Bonjour. It’s super simple to use and quick. Why didn’t OmniGroup just use that as the sync mechanism for the data? That would have saved a lot of pain for a lot of people.

I’ll grant that they can have a somewhat more transparent sync process now, but I’d much rather have a quick (with no wacky setup and no $99/year) manually-started sync process. It turns out that OmniGroup is working on this.

It also turns out that the free new 1Password application for the iPhone does its sync in just that way. They’ve even got high-quality security checks to ensure that people can’t hijack your synchronization session while you’re trying to set it up. 1Password is different from any other password manager I’ve used, but I will say that these guys have definitely thought through the many wrinkles of convenient password management. Let’s hope that iPhone 2.1 includes copy-and-paste so that you can copy passwords out of 1Password and into Safari. (Right now, they have their own little browser, since there’s no way to copy passwords out.)

If you find yourself writing an iPhone app that you want to sync up with a Mac app, please consider the wifi+Bonjour, manually-started synchronization route.

Apple didn’t ship anything!

I’m an Apple fanboy. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m a fanboy because they’ve been doing an amazing job of design these past few years.

Yesterday was the latest of Steve Jobs’ signature keynote addresses. I didn’t watch it, but I saw the play-by-play from MacRumors. I need not go into the details of what was announced, given that Apple gets millions in cheap publicity whenever Steve does one of these keynotes. As usual, the products look great, more revenue, profit and marketshare coming, yadda yadda.

I was disappointed, though, that Apple didn’t ship anything yesterday. It’s very hard to get your product plan to line up with a specific event like WWDC, and I’d be surprised if early product roadmaps pointed to a release at WWDC. In this case, there was the added complexity of the iPhone 3G requiring the iPhone 2.0 software and that it didn’t make sense to launch MobileMe without the iPhone 2.0 software. And the iPhone 2.0 software can’t launch until the AppStore is ready. That’s a lot of dependencies.

As a user of their products, I still would like to have had the iPhone 2.0 software now, though. The Apple of a couple years ago more often than not seemed to ship products on the day they were announced.

I love my new Apple keyboard

“Apple Keyboard Kit” (Apple Computer)

I’m fixing up my home office a bit, and I was using a dirt cheap eMachines keyboard with my MacBook Pro. That keyboard had a PS/2 connector which I ran to a KVM switch (I did have two computers hooked up at one point). So, the first problem was that that keyboard was contributing the my overall cabling mess because of the KVM switch. The other problem was that my current desk, which I bought a few months back, has a much smaller keyboard tray and I’d have to peer under the edge of the desk to see the function keys. It’s also kind of annoying having the wrong meta key arrangement… I’ve been a Mac user for years now, and it would be nice to use a keyboard with Mac keys.

So, I went out and bought an Apple keyboard. It obviously fits much better on my desk. I have no problem seeing all of the keys on this little guy. Additionally, I’ve got to say that I really like the feel. I wasn’t sure that I would, but the keys of this keyboard have a nice tactile response while still requiring very little key pressure or finger travel.

Of course, the Apple keyboard is still a conventional layout keyboard, rather than an ergonomic one. I might be better off with an ergonomic keyboard layout, but for a standard layout keyboard I’m much happier with the feel of this one.

The Trash of Progress

This past weekend, Best Buy offered free electronic waste recycling. The amount of junk people brought out was amazing:

Electronic Waste at Best Buy

Seeing all of that stuff there and knowing that this is just the Ann Arbor Best Buy really brings it home about just how much of this stuff we all collect and trash. The good thing, though, is that it all ended up here. It will be recycle or at least disposed of properly so that the mercury, lead, etc. don’t wind up in the ground.