Saturday, July 29, 2006

iTunes integration finally complete!

Complete... that's a rare state around here! But after months of tweaking, rating songs, and trying different iTunes utilities, iTunes is working seamlessly and effortlessly.

The biggest challenge was to rate all of my music. I have almost 50 gigs, so leaving iTunes on Party Shuffle makes sense. Shuffle has an option to play higher rated songs more often, so this is the main point to rating your music.

As my favourite music gets played more often, it gets ranked more accurately on, the popular self-charting service (check it out if you aren't using it!).

QuickSilver integration: I used Synergy (I even paid for it!) for a while, but QuickSilver can do almost the same thing (for free!), and I have QuickSilver running anyway, so I get to free up a token amount of memory by removing Synergy. Is QS, I created triggers to control iTunes with global keystrokes for fast forward, pause, display artwork, assign a rating, etc.

QuickSilver displays artwork when a song begins, but I am also using a sweet little iTunes plugin called DockArt, which replaces the iTunes icon in the dock with the cover art from iTunes. Why bother? Because you can!

And if you don't have the cover art for your songs? You can use a dashboard widget that finds the art on Amazon. It's called... Amazon Art!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Introduction to QuickSilver

Everybody I know has probably heard me mention QuickSilver at some point. No other application exists that has as much buzz, while being nearly impossible to describe. While you could just install it and poke around, I'll try to outline some cool things that you can do with it, and as I find ways to make my workflow more efficient, I will share those tips with you.

The first thing you need to do is download QuickSilver. Download it from here and install. The preferences menu is where you will create an infinitely complex program -- eventually -- but for now just change the HotKey Activation to something easy, like Command-SpaceBar.

The most basic function of QuickSilver is an application launcher. Invoke QuickSilver, type the first few letters of the application you wish to load. If the application you wanted did not show up, press the down key until it is highlighted. If you want that application to show up first, by default, the next time you enter those letters, click the radio button beside the application name. Press Return to launch the application.

You will notice that second panel, beside the application name, displays the "Open" action. While this is useful (I use it all the time), there are many other actions within QuickSilver. But we'll leave that for next time. For now, enjoy the launcher.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What are RSS feeds?

In a previous post, I talked about the ideal way to view your RSS feeds, and already there are some new options out there. But I neglected to explain what RSS really is, or how it works. If you aren't aware, this post is for you.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (and used to stand for Rich Site Summary). It's delivered by a mark-up language - XML - and its purpose is to summarizes new web content, so users can track updates to a site rather than revisit the site to check for updates.

This can be of great benefit to you for three reasons: you need not miss new content on your favourite sites; you will be alerted to the update immediately, so you will not miss time-sensitive updates; no more tedium of checking sites for updates, and trying to figure out what's new.

Any page that has an RSS feed will have a little RSS icon, or just a subtle RSS link. Click on it to see what the feed looks like. The URL should end in .xml, and that's the URL you will use if you manually add that page to your subscriptions (If you run NetNewsWire, just click Subscribe).