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Some distractions

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Yes yes I know. "Ain't you supposed to be releasing new games any second now?"

Well you're right, I am. Buy hey, I was ADD back when ADD still meant "compute the sum of two numbers", so I cherish my distractions.

First, I noticed that Google Reader got a facelift. I must agree that it looks quite nice. In fact, I think it's the best-looking app Google has now, as Google has always tended towards keeping their UI's a bit sparse.

Also it's got a cute "automatically mark entries read if you scroll 'em off the screen" feature.

That being said, I'm still sticking with Bloglines as my RSS-reader-of-choice for two reasons. . .

1. It's quite a bit faster than google reader. Looks like all that cute eye-candy is coming at a price. Bloglines is always quite snappy.

2. Far as I know, Google has no equivalent to "Bloglines Notifier", which is a little applet that puts an icon in the corner of your browser (or in your system tray) that lights up when there's something new to read. I've grown used to it.

Now then, I do realize that the new Firefox and IE have very pretty RSS clients built into 'em now. I'll never use 'em, though. For one thing, they lock me into one browser. With bloglines, I can pop up my little RSS news-headlines no matter what browser I'm using or even where I am. If I find myself near an internet-connected machine with a few minutes to kill, I'll often find myself logging into bloglines so I can see what's happening in the world. I can't do that if all of my feeds are married to Firefox/IE on my machine at home.

Second, I finally posted my Sid Sackson Design Documents. I was worried that the handwritten version was gonna be enormous because it's basically about 45 full-page bitmaps, but I was actually able to keep the size reasonable (under 3 meg) while still keeping the text readable.

. . .or at least as readable as the originals, given that it's written in pencil on a yellow legal pad and has apparently been stored in a hot garage for 30 years. My 1907 Mark Twain collection is less brittle than this set.

Third, I ain't in a hurry to update Acrobat. I was reading on a news-blog about how great Acrobat 8 is. Far as I can tell, though, the new version has the following enhancements over version 7.

1. You can now merge two PDF files into one.

2. It comes with a 90-day 15-connection trial of "Acrobat Connect" (formerly Macromedia Breeze) after which time you can keep up the 15-connection version for $40 a month or upgrade to more connections for more money than you have.

3. Rather than a big blank app, you now get a pretty multi-button wizard-box opening screen.

Since Acrobat now has product-activation, we only use it on Shelly's machine. We'd go with one of the multitudes of Acrobat knockoffs out there except that the Adobe version seems to be the only one out there that integrates nicely with AutoCAD, allowing you to break up layers and such. Also, Shelly occasionally uses the form and signed-document stuff that, far as I know, the clones don't do.

"Acrobat Connect", formerly Breeze, is quite cool if you've ever used it. It's that big Flash-based groupware UI that many companies use for doing online tutorials. It's a bit like NetMeeting, but it's nicer in that you just need a Flash Player to run it, so most platform issues aren't issues. That being said, it's too expensive for the couple of times a year we'd actually need it.

For the occasional PDF creation on my machine, I use FlashPaper, which is an obscure product that Macromedia made before merging with Adobe, and will likely never be updated again, given that Adobe's not too keen on competing with own flagship product. It's actually quite good at making PDF files. It can also convert documents to SWF which is kinda cool. What I like most about it is that its little "fake printer" works backwards from the way Acrobat does. With Acrobat's fake printer, you do this. . .

1. Print to "Adobe PDFMaker".
2. "Save As" box pops up. You choose a filename to build to.
3. System pauses as it saves out a PDF file.
4. Load up PDF file in Acrobat reader to see if it looks nice. Repeat with different settings if it doesn't.

With FlashPaper you do this. . .

1. Print to "FlashPaper".
2. System prints, then pops up FlashPaper app, showing what it printed.
3. If it looks nice, you choose "Save As" from FlashPaper, choosing PDF or SWF.

The FlashPaper really strikes me as the "right" way to do it. The Acrobat method always struck me as how people did things before print-preview. You'd print, then make sure it looks like you want, repeat if it doesn't look right. FlashPaper gives you the equivalent of Print-Preview, and you only have to pull the trigger when things look the way you want.

. . .umm yeah this is me thinking too hard about things, but I do like FlashPaper better. It doesn't have form-filling or document-signing or PDF-merging, but it's 1/5 the price of Acrobat and can save things as PDF or SWF.

Shame it'll never see another update.
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