Monthly Archives: May 2006

Jungle Disk

So, via TUAW I heard about Jungle Disk which is the first application I have seen to make use of the Amazon S3 file storage service and last night I downloaded it and had a play.

The good news is that there is massive potential here and even with the current beta release of the software I was able to upload 1,000 or so small files from my Mac and then download them onto my Windows PC without any major issues. So that is cross platform, encrypted, fully redundant file storage backed by a financially stable company for $0.15 per Gb per month. A cheap, cross platform iDisk? Good stuff.

There are plenty of rough edges in both stability and usability here (it crashed both on the Mac and on the PC) but it is beta software and so I am not going criticise that. No the main issue I have is that of the sign up process, and this could be as much Amazon’s fault as Jungle Disk’s. To use the application you have to have an account with the Amazon S3 service and it sends you over to this page on the Amazon site to register. Unfortunately the sign up pages are targeted completely at developers aiming to develop against the web service rather than consumers. After signing up, you get shown how to download the WSDL (and no consumer should ever need to see those letters next to each other) and the sign up e-mail starts with:

Greetings from Amazon Web Services,

Thank you for signing up for Amazon S3. You can now build innovative and entrepreneurial applications using this and other AWS web services.


Who else can picture the confusion of someone attempting to replace iDisk with this? :)

This disconnect comes because I am fairly sure that Jungle Disk are not utilising S3 in the way that Amazon originally intended. Doing a little research in the S3 developer guide I am pretty sure that the boys and girls in Seattle intended Jungle Disk to own and operate one single S3 account as a file store for all of the files used by any of their users rather than have everyone sign up for an original account. That will work very well for some applications but isn’t what Jungle are trying to do just as valid? I like the idea of having my data protected by a different security key than my virtual neighbours. So, the solution? Either provide a consumer friendly sign up or provide an API to your account creation process so that I can still have my own account but it looks like a Jungle Disk account.

However this is going to be a cracking little utility that needs some work but shows a lot of promise. Am I going to use it now? No, but I will be keeping an eye on it.

One final thing, I don’t really understand how Jungle Disk are making any money on this. The software is free, the data storage and transfers are paid directly to Amazon with no cut taken by Jungle Disk. It looks like a referrer ID is getting passed to Amazon if you sign up with S3 from the Jungle Disk web site but that is a very sparse revenue generation model. I hope they have a plan :)

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We all knew design was important to Apple …

… but even so, this is beautiful even for Apple.

It is apparently open 24×365 as well, not that I have ever felt the desire to buy an iPod at 3am on Christmas day!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I am having a busy week but normal service will be resumed soon :)

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Clarification on exactly what WebKit is?

I have been doing some experimenting (read farting about) with WebKit recently and I am now a bit confused by what WebKit actually is.

The Wikipedia article about WebKit states that it includes WebCore (HTML/CSS rendering engine) and JavaScriptCore (JavaScript engine) and that it is used in Safari amongst other apps. That sounds logical so I went to the WebKit Project page and downloaded a nightly of it (I did have a reason for doing this but it can wait for a future post :).

The confusion came when I launched WebKit in how similar it is to Safari! I expected a reference implementation of the basic browser but it is a full featured web browser that apart from the different colour surround to the compass in the icon is indistinguishable from Safari. It uses my Safari bookmarks, the menu items are identical, the annoying beach ball is there when loading large web pages, even the application name in the menu bar shows as “Safari”.

So, does this mean that other software that wants to use WebKit has to either include all of the additional Safari functionality or strip it out manually? This seems to me like a rather backwards way to do things, shouldn’t WebKit be an absolute bare bones implementation which applications can easily integrate and then Safari be a project based upon that (they could open source Safari itself if they want to give a more comprehensive example of WebKit being used).

Just seems a little strange to me, am I missing something?

Oh and I am going for “WebKit” rather than “Web Kit”, if it is good enough for their home page it is good enough for me.

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Weird flashing menus?

I am having a weird problem with right click menus, often I get an annoying flicker effect when right clicking a menu.

It is going to be easier to watch the tiny screencast than have me try to explain what is happening (and convince you that I am not making it up :)

The menu sometimes flickers in and out two or three times before finally becoming available. It doesn’t matter what app I am using or where I right click, it just randomly happens.

I haven’t noticed this happening until recently but this could be because it has only started happening recently or it could be that it has only been annoying me recently :)

Any ideas on what is causing this?

Update: I have tried several things now but no joy…

I have used AppZapper to delete everything in InputManagers in both ~/Library and /Library (mainly browser plugins for Camino and Safari) and all related files. Rebooted, still happens.

I have done a safe boot (holding shift down) and when it eventually booted I loaded up finder (no other apps whatsoever were loaded) and it immediately happened and can be reproduced easily.

Update 2: Looks like it could be the mouse as suggested by a couple of people in the comments. It never happens with Ctrl+Click. What a pain in the backside because I love this mouse and it has served me well for many years!

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Windows Media Player 11 – The OTHER album art aware app!

So after making the post on CoverFlow yesterday I remembered that Windows Media Player 11 comes with a pretty nice implementation of album art visualisation for some of the default music selection/navigation views.

I don’t have a Vista installation handy at home right now for screen captures so we will have to make do with Paul Thurrott’s atrocious taste in music! (Sorry Paul, but you have to get called out for having Def Leppard, Phil Collins and Enrique Iglesias all showing on one screenshot).

Anyway, if you take a quick look at the screenshots you can see that WMP11 shows stacks of album art when browsing by genre, year and artist and a very nice album view showing album art and track listings side by side. Now, all of this is not as flashy as CoverFlow with its 3D loveliness but it is solving this problem in a slightly more real world way and it makes a very nice addition to Windows Media Player (which I do still prefer to iTunes, even iTunes on OS X).

My question for Microsoft though is this. Where is the 3D CoverFlow style album art browser integrated into WMP? You have built a fantastic new presentation layer which could implement something like that with no problems at all, why are you not exploiting it more in the apps you are intending to ship with Windows Vista?

Note: Apparently, Windows XP Media Center Edition also uses album art for navigation and has done since it’s first version but I don’t have an installation of that handy to test it either.

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Are ex-PC users the most irritating type of Mac user?

I came across a great post this morning from recent switcher Rob Manuel which is a very nicely written and amusing post about his switch where he concludes that the ex-PC user may well be to the Mac what an ex-smoker is to a non-smoker – The most irritating person in the room :)

Definitely worth a read, but really the post can be summed up in one paragraph from his list of ten things that annoy him about the mac:

You know what? I can’t find ten things that annoy me about the Mac. I’ve been racking my brains and there’s no more. In fact, I’m writing this within a web browser and I’ve just realised that there is a spellcheck built into Safari. How cool is that? Not only is it cool, it’s the same spellcheck that works in Textedit and Pages so any words I add to the dictionary are available in all aps. God damn it, I love my Mac. It’s giving me the horn.

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Portable iTunes Library

Those of you that watched the screencast in my previous post may have noticed that my iTunes library doesn’t have many albums in it! This is because I am toying with how to actually do this on my MacBook. I have a ~80Gb library on my PC which I obviously can’t just move to the MacBook because it would entirely fill my HDD :)

So far I have around 30 albums (~2Gb) imported but I am really going to need an external HDD to get my library properly imported into iTunes. The problem here is that when I do that, I won’t be able to listen to any music at all when I am not sitting at my desk here at home which will make hotel rooms suck again! Are there clever solutions to this problem? (apart from buying an iPod!)

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