Tues September 14th, 2010 | by Alex McNaught
One of the things that have been doing of late is moving from Windows XP (a long term reliable favourite after long gone Windows 2000) to Mac OS X (the future).
This started with the need to have a Mac for personal use such as browsing and camera download picture management, then iPhone development and now, with the help of an interesting package, the final nail in the coffin of pure Windows only has been hit.
The package in question is Parallels which is used to install Windows under Mac using a technique called virtualisation. With this product installed it's now possible to demo and present the Business apps for Windows desktop (developed on another PC) within the Mac windowing system and thus do many things in one hardware package which is so easy to carry about to home, office or client locations.
So far it's been tested using Windows XP initially but with Windows 7 here (and too-horrible-to-contemplate Vista NEVER being a considered option!) will install that as well and see if it goes as smoothly. If so that will relegate the Windows PC to just 1 product area and data hosting only.
The Windows PC is pretty good for data hosting as it happens because it is a tower format and has an industrial strength secure 4 disc RAID array, the laptop format is still single disk and while backed up using Apple's Time Machine it is not possible to use if disk fails of course. Eventually a Mac Pro with RAID will be obtained but it's an expensive choice for just that alone at this stage!
Stay tuned for further updates as roll out other packages and some screenshots and experiences using them!
Wed September 15th, 2010 | by Alex McNaught
Well finally got around to do something should have done a long time ago which is to put video training and live how-to material on the web and the result is the new video page!
Doing it this way saved a LOT of time compared to written documentation which is very demanding to produce even small amounts of material given you need to enter and format the text and copy and format the image snippets one by one. (this takes longer than you think to do more than a couple of pages let alone maintain or expand!)
By contrast simply talking while moving the mouse in seamless video capture means more variations can be produced and the videos are easily accessed using accepted, well known (and FREE!) sites such as YouTube which you can expect to be up and available whenever you need it. Keeping the videos short and to the point also means the load time is the fastest possible while keeping a reasonable quality standard.
Given the move was already on to shift daily office and development tasks to the Mac it was a no brainer to use a Mac based video capture package (in this case iShowU HD, from the amusingly named shinywhitebox) in combination with the Windows-within-Mac package. More on using this great combo next time!
Thu September 16th, 2010 | by Alex McNaught
Ran the Windows 7 setup process from within the Parallels Mac app and it went like a dream! Even on this laptop it was possible to run XP as well as Windows 7 all as windows within Mac OS X. The Parallels people sure make a robust and impressive product that allowed a smooth and short path to being up and productive which is appreciated.
To show you how simple it was, what it looks like step by step, and not clutter up this blog page, a separate page has all the screen shots from go to whoa to give you an idea..
One funny thing was when running XP was seeing the Windows toolbar icons honoured faithfully and showing up such classics as "Your computer might be at risk, click here.." stuff!
Here's an end-of-story pic showing running Windows app under Windows under Mac - kinda cool.
Mon September 20th, 2010 | by Alex McNaught
Another priority recently has been the implementation of a email based newsletter system. The reasoning behind this is pretty straightforward: how else will anyone know about changes, updates or new things otherwise unless you tell them in a timely way?
To date this has been done in an ad-hoc way which is not acceptable beyond a certain point when the user base keeps expanding, the product range keeps expanding and you want to create a high standard for communication about all the products you believe in!
After trials of several web based services it was decided to use Mailchimp because it is free (thanks!), does what is needed, has no major irritations or limitations for the intended volume and seems to be used for several lists and other newsletters have received in the past so hopefully that means they will stick around in the future.
The newsletter content is written and saved locally, and the email lists that are imported into Mailchimp are also from a locally maintained source and so there's a high degree of portability and independence from any chosen service should they go belly up and easy enough to move to another without much interruption!
Sending out newsletters is more than just sending an email with a long cc: list though. Items looked for, beyond formatting and presentation, are tracking and reporting facilities. You want to know if your emails are being opened and any links clicked on so you can assess, even if no-one gives direct feedback, how successful you are in reaching out with the information and assistance you are wanting to provide.
Early days yet for this product and content though and the very first newsletter is in draft form and should be sent out soon and let's see how it goes when live!
Wed September 29th 2010 | by Alex McNaught
As mentioned before the Mac video tool has been going well with several how-to clips up on YouTube already.
It's early days for the video production but so far the feedback has been positive. The decision on settings hasn't been totally finalised yet but there are options for varying resolutions, varying screen capture sizes and whether fixed or follow-the-mouse style so many combinations to try yet as simply choosing the highest settings doesn't mean the best choice since video file sizes increase dramatically, and loading times increase too with no real benefit beyond a certain point.
Picking that point is the hard bit but so far seem to have a good balance between all the variables and even if change mind later could always re-do each clip with better voiceover anyway and better to just "get it out there" so users can benefit sooner rather than later!
As a side-note I think using free hosting such as YouTube is a great resource. They take care of server uptime, video streaming to the browser in use and as long as any future page or video display doesn't compromise your brand then using it is way better than ever building it yourself! (As a backup the original video clips are stored locally for re-deployment anywhere).
So far the combination of running Windows on the Mac using virtualisation has been fault free as well so I give the move to Mac a big thumbs up for overall productivity!