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ATPM 11.10
October 2005




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Another excellent tutorial! I have struggled with nested if statements a couple of times and had never even thought of using case even though years ago it was second nature. Thanks for the examples! They add so much to using the functions when we can see how results are varied with the structure and how various methods are used to the same result. I really appreciate the effort you are putting into this series!

—Gloria Wilson

You Control: Desktops Review

The possibility of having items deleted from the Desktop is the main reason I don’t save items to the Desktop, and why I recommend no one else do so either.

—Christopher Turner

• • •

Actually, You Control: Desktops is basically a feature rip-off of the earlier (and much better) DesktopManager, which is open source and free. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that YCD is a code rip, but it’s pretty obvious once you start using it that the functionality is very “influenced” (to be kind) by DesktopManager.

—Neil Lee

I hadn’t previously known of DesktopManager. Thanks for the pointer. At a very brief glance at the Web page, I didn’t immediately find mention of some features in managing windows and desktop items that YC: Desktops has. Not to say the feature aren’t there, just that I didn’t find mention of them right away. But there is, however, the consideration that ATPM tends to not review beta software. Only in very specific circumstances. Hopefully someone can keep tabs of DesktopManager and provide a comparison review once it goes full release.

—Lee Bennett

• • •

You didn’t mention how cool this is with two monitors…which it handles with ease.

I have do not have the problem with moving applications between desktops that you mentioned. I do, however, not have any nice transitions…which is probably because I have a TiBook that can’t handle the graphics.

—Tommy Weir

You’re right, I did forget to mention that, and I even tested YC: Desktops on two monitors. You Software’s forums had comments that dual monitors wasn’t supported, but it worked fine for me. Now, if only it could be made so that you could change desktops on the two monitors independently! Now that would be sweet. Sorry about the transitions—you must have one of the earlier TiBooks. My 1 GHz model with the digital video (as opposed to VGA) displays the transitions just fine.

—Lee Bennett

The transitions work fine as long as I am just using my TiBook (677 MHz DVI) on it’s own. It just swaps when I am using my 19″ LCD (using DVI as a matter of fact) as well. Must be a limitation on the graphics memory.

I tried out Desktop Manager and it’s actually good. It’s not as good, not as full featured, but the same ‘cake’ to follow the metaphor above.

However…there’s two great pieces of ‘icing’ in YC:Desktops. First, I prefer the menu item to show the visual representations of the desktops. When it’s dropped down you can just drag windows around from desktop to desktop. It’s very intuitive and simple. You can swap to the textual menu by Option-clicking it, but this is desktop management made very simple. Nice.

YC: Desktops is more customizable. You can turn on and off different desktop icons and backgrounds, and you can choose the desktops appear in the menu bar.

I think it’s worth the $10. I don’t know if it’s worth the ordinary $30, but certainly $10 is a bargain.

—Tommy Weir

• • •

I’ve been using DesktopManager for months now. I had missed that basic feature, ever since moving from Linux, and it is nice to have it back in a somewhat limited way. Like some of the others here, I don’t see any compelling reason to pay money for something which is basically already granted. $10 (let alone $30), is just too much for things like easy ways to move windows around (which does not even seem to work as advertised.) Personally, I never do this enough to warrant a big feature set for it. Usually I am already on the desktop I want to be on when I open a window, and when I leave, I don’t want to carry it with me. The only exception is sticky windows, which are pretty easy to set in DesktopManager.

—Amber Vaesca

Mighty Mouse Review

Unfortunately the occasional uncertainty about the effects of a right- or left-click is due to a fundamental design flaw. The designers did not take account of the difference in length of human fingers—especially that the middle finger is always longer than the index.

Many right-handed people use the middle for right-clicking and the index for left-. Because the two sensors in the Mighty Mouse that are used to determine the effects of a left or right click are equal in size, if users move their fingers back towards the middle there will be a band, located roughly between the two side buttons and equal in depth to the difference between the user’s index and middle fingers, over which the index finger has moved off the left sensor, while the middle finger is still over the right sensor. This leads to a left-click being interpreted as a right-click—because it is the same as if a right-click had been made with the left finger lifted off the left sensor. The overall effect is as follows:

  1. Left-clicking over mouse forwards of side buttons results in a left-click, so long as left finger is over the left sensor.
  2. Right-clicking over front of mouse also produces a left-click if the left finger is over the left sensor.
  3. Right-clicking over the front of the mouse produces a right-click only if the left finger is lifted, or otherwise moved off the left sensor.
  4. Right- or left-clicking over the rear of the mouse, behind the side buttons, results in a left-click (as in the original single button design).
  5. But in a band across the mouse between the buttons a left-click is interpreted as a right-. The area over which this happens will vary according to the difference in length between the index and middle fingers, but will also depend on the angle the mouse is held and the degree that the fingers are flexed in use. These variables make it very difficult to be sure the extent of the area of unexpected effects. The effect is mechanically consistent and predictable, but very unintuitive. As if, when driving, the functions of brake and accelerator pedals swapped over between 20 and 30 MPH.

In summary:

  • Left-clicking over front of mouse → left click.
  • Left-clicking over middle of mouse → right click.
  • Left-clicking over rear of mouse → left click.

An example of the nuisance this can cause is that in Safari’s Address Bar there is a contextual menu for each of the buttons, whose first option is to remove the button from bar—is this feature really useful? I have lost track of how many times an intended left-click on the Back arrow has brought up the menu with the Remove option highlighted, and the next click has caused the disappearance of the button.

A possible solution would be to make the left sensor longer than the right, or to make the sensors in two parts, the rearmost being switchable to meet the needs of right and left handers. This would compensate for the difference in finger size and reduce the depth of the band; though it would not eliminate it in all cases.

I agree that the scroll wheel is excellent and have always preferred the feel of the Apple mouse to that of better endowed rivals such as Microsoft and Logitech. Mighty Mouse has great potential but is flawed because of an oversight.

—Duncan Macdonald

ABSmini Review

Nice review, but what’s the point of having your backup drive with you when you’re on the road? Nice in theory, but just doesn’t seem very pragmatic.

—Durjoy Bhattacharjya

Computers die, accidents happen. Full and incremental backups are a godsend. Having them close at hand, even more so.

The ABSmini is so small and light, the question of carrying it around is moot.

—David Blumenstein

StuffIt Deluxe 9 Review

The free StuffIt Expander has long been a wedge to help sell the full product. Aladdin, and after that Allume, has not changed its policy on this in years. It was not such an issue before Apple decided to cut StuffIt Expander out of the Mac OS distribution.

Expander and the StuffIt Engine will still run without charge and with no expiration, although the other StuffIt components will nag relentlessly for payment if you launch them.

To their credit, Allume did make Expander 9 available alone (below most people’s radar) because they recognized (duh) that abruptly dropping it was going to make trouble for large numbers of Apple customers.

I am surprised to see that the review ignored the most surprising new feature of StuffIt 9—its ability to further compress JPEG images. This actually works, and is no mean feat of software engineering, whether you think you need it or not.

—Jeff Clayton

Altec Lansing XT1 Review

The review said the audio input was useless unless you need it for a non-USB audio laptop.

Not true; I standardize on USB to power everything when I am on a trip. I take a single USB main power adaptor (if I don’t have my laptop with me) and a tiny hub, or a cigarette lighter to USB adaptor in the car. Then I can power my phone, MP3 player, Nintendo DS, PSP, GPS etc. In this case this was what I was looking for

—Peter Johnson

Axio Swift Backpack Review

Excellent review, and it answered the two questions I had about the Swift. I ride (motorcycle) to work 3/4 of the year (I’m in the Chicago area), and want a backpack that is, or can be made, waterproof. I was also wondering about the padding for the laptop. It sounds like I need to find a rain cover that will fit the Swift, as well as a sleeve. Or maybe I just need to get a Givi Top Case for my bike…


Tactile Pro Review

Brilliant review. We need more experts like this in the field who are prepared to sit down and conceptualize a crisp recollection of technical and emotional encounters with their tools.

—Loic Bellet

iTalk Review

Thanks for a helpful review. I’m a singer/guitar player and I have some comments to share. I’ve just purchased the iTalk (with a 20 GB color iPod). I want to use the iTalk for recording song ideas to share with my band—so it’s an audio “sketch pad.” I’ve had mixed success using it for this purpose.

Session 1

iPod in dock placed on desk about two feet way. I’m sitting facing it, guitar on my lap. Quiet song; in this situation the iTalk picks up too much guitar.

Session 2

As above, but the iPod sat on a tall box to bring the iTalk higher (nearer mouth level, but same distance away). Much better balance between vocal and guitar.

Session 3

Connect Rode NT3 Studio mic (via mini-jack connector) and placed mic on mic stand.

All three sessions were played back through studio amplifier/monitors. The quality of recording using a studio mic was better—but then I’d expect it to be. But what surprised me was that the balance of vocal and guitar was about the same in sessions 2 and 3. So the iTalk mic would certainly be good enough to share ideas with the band.

But…and here I have a problem: playback using iTalk. I cannot hear a thing—well only when I put it to my ear. I’ve recorded at various distances including close (inches away) and I’ve got the volume up to 100%—but the sound output is the same each time.

There is no way I can record using iTalk and then let others hear it without connecting it to an external amp/speaker system. Nothing is plugged in the speaker jack either. I’m new to iPods, so I may be missing something—any advice welcome.

—Ian Spratley

Thanks for your comments, Ian. I wish I had an answer for your playback problem. Mine plays back recorded audio and songs perfectly fine. Maybe the speaker in your product is defective, and you’d need to contact Griffin for a replacement.

—Lee Bennett

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