Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blogger vs. Wordpress

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been trying out Wordpress, comparing it with Blogger by keeping a mirror of STA at a Wordpress URL, and I'm ready to write about my impressions so far. I should preface this by saying that I'm using the Web-based version Wordpress, which has its limitations compared to the desktop version.

Let's start with the drawbacks of Wordpress. The biggie is that Wordpress, unlike Blogger, does not allow users to modify the template. You choose from among a bunch of pre-fab templates and if you don't like something, your only recourse is to change templates. With Blogger, of course, you can access the template code and muck around to your heart's desire, which can be both dangerous and a great learning experience. Not having access to the template also means you can't do things like add code to your blog from sites like Pandora or CoComment. On the other hand, customizing your blog is much less, well, dangerous, and the overall result is probably better for readers, especially if you are like me and are no wizard at HTML (let alone CSS or Javascript). Wordpress also seems much pickier about how HTML is displayed. I'm not sure why that is. And Wordpress doesn't appear to have a built-in spell checker, something I really miss.

On the other hand, Wordpress does support categories and trackbacks, which is nice. You can also create separate pages to organize the information on your blog a little more coherently. Thus, on the Blogger version of STA, I have things like my profile, computer gear and blogroll listed in the sidebar, while on the Wordpress version, this is all accessible via what look like tabs at the top of the blog. This appeals to my neat and tidy side. I could do something similar with Blogger, but I'd have to create separate blogs for my account and then link to them via the sidebar... I might get around to it one day too. (yeah right)

But perhaps the best, and most addictive feature of Wordpress that Blogger lacks is integrated stats. On a good day, it's gratifying (a little too gratifying in fact) to see how many people read your blog. On a bad day, it's depressing, but then you remember that you're blogging because you like to write, not because you care how many people read your words... right?

So for now, I'll keep up the mirror. Frankly, the individual blogging interfaces have become much less important since I've been using Ecto. I'm pretty sure I'll pony up the registration fee when my trial runs out in a few days.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Podcast Review

If you're like me, you think podcasts are the cat's meow. Right now, I listen to 15 or so on a regular basis, and I'm always looking out for new and original shows. But despite the fact that everyone is talking about podcasts and podcasting—so much so that the New Oxford American Dictionary named postcasting its word of the year for 2005—there are still a lot of people who don't understand what all the fuss is about.

In fact, I was speaking to my dad the other day about podcasting (in truth, we were text chatting), and he wasn't quite sure what it was, even after I explained it to him. I think the concept of on-demand media will always seem a little foreign to people who grew up huddling around a radio that only picked up one station to get their news.

In any case, I was googling for podcast reviews and found a few sites (,, and they are alright, but it's not like the Internet is brimming with them, so I thought I would start reviewing the odd podcast myself. Nothing pretentious or systematic, just a periodic description and overall rating of a podcast I listen to.

I'll start with Jay Ingram's Theatre of the Mind. Get the podcast feed here. Get the iTunes Music Store URL here.

Length: approximately 15 minutes, though the early shows were much shorter.
Subject: Consciousness and the brain

Sponsored by HarperCollins, the podcast is, it would seem, primarily a way to promote Jay Ingram's new book of the same title. But if so, it's a pretty soft sell. The show is co-hosted by David Newland, a Toronto-area singer-songwriter. The two make a good team and have a nice rapport. The podcast is non-technical yet interesting to those with a knowledge of science. Ingram is articulate and funny, yet obviously very serious about the subject. The show is well-produced and the sound is excellent. And yet in my opinion, part of what makes the podcast work is that it isn't over-produced. Ingram and Newman seem to be two people having a regular conversation over coffee. And you can tell some of the questions Newman asks are not rehearsed, because Ingram frequently just shrugs and says, "I don't know the answer to that," which is actually quite refreshing.

This is not one of my absolute must listens ever week, but it is an enjoyable podcast that is worth listening too, and it's not so long that it gets boring. I rate it a solid 4 stars out of 5.

If you have a favourite podcast you think I should listen to and/or review, please let me know either by leaving a comment or e-mailing me.

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FreeMacWare I love

Over at, they are running a contest so that I can "let the world know about all the great Mac Freeware that [I] use." FreeMacWare is a great site, and I would highly recommend that any Apple enthusiast or recent switcher bookmark the site, or even better, subscribe to the RSS feed. Of course, most of the readers of STA (and I know you are legion, even if you are discrete) are already Mac aficionados, but if you are a Mac-curious newcomer, then maybe this post will bring you over to the good side.

The contest stipulates that I write an entry on my blog about my five favourite posts on FMW (in other words, the five freeware apps for Mac that I like the most). Let me tell you, it was not an easy job to whittle it down to five. Indeed, I could have easily posted 10 freeware apps that I use on a daily or weekly basis. But if whittle I must, then here are my five favourites:

  1. Without a doubt, Quicksilver is the single most useful piece of software on my Mac (not counting the OS, of course). The beautiful thing about QS is that, like a great piece of literature, the more you delve into it, the more astounded you become. In fact, I think I might like QuickSilver more than Mac OS X. It's that good.

  2. Adium. A wonderful multi-protocol chat client. It's easy to set up, wonderfully customizable and supports pretty much every protocol out there, including jabber. File transfers can be a problem, and it doesn't yet support audio or video, but it's a lean, mean chatting machine, and it's my main chat client.

  3. Mail.appetizer. This little mail plug-in does wonders for my productivity. When mail arrives, a preview window pops up that gives you various options of replying, dismissing, deleting and so forth. The great thing is that you can specify which mailboxes you want notification for, which I'm sure Merlin Mann, of 43 Folders fame, would love. In conjunction with rules, I have set it up so that only mail from my clients interrupts my work.

  4. FlickrExport. Now that I own a digital camera, I frequently post photos to my Flickr site. And the easiest way by far is using this iPhoto plugin. It just works. Is there anything else to say?

  5. And last, but not least, iBackup. This is an easy-to-use backup app. I use it every week.

  • Honourable mention: As I said, I could have mentioned 10 apps, but at least one other deserves mention. Textpander is a great little app that allows you to program keyboard shortcuts for frequently used sequences of letters or words. I find it especially useful for HTML tags and e-mail.

There you have it. I'm sure others will have their own favourites, but these are mine, at least until FreeMacWare tells me about some other indispensable free Mac app. Ahh... the joys of being a Mac user.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, March 10, 2006

The not-so-Mighty Mouse (and a confession)

When Apple came out with it's "two button" mouse, the Mighty Mouse, I ordered one the very same day. Generally, I was pleased with it, though I thought it was overpriced. But we Mac addicts take such things in stride, and I have been happy to use it. I especially like the scroll ball, and it's amazing how fast one can come to rely on horizontal scrolling.

The mouse hasn't been problem free, however. That same scroll ball I love sticks on occasion. I have usually been able to get it to work again by moving it in a circular motion. But the last time it happened, five minutes of circular scrolling didn't help. So I unplugged it, wrapped it in its little cord and it's sitting beside my computer waiting to be taken to the shop, since it's still under warranty.

The thing is, in what I thought was a stop-gap measure, I plugged my old Microsoft mouse back in and... well, I almost hate to admit it, but it felt like and old friend. It's slightly bigger than the Mighty Mouse, but fits my hand better. The two separate buttons work better than Apple's cute touch-sensitive "buttons." The only thing I don't have is horizontal scrolling, but the vertical scroll wheel has a nice solid feel to it.

So once the Mighty Mouse comes back from the shop, I think it will get thrown on the pile of computer junk I have sitting beside my desk. In retrospect, I think Apple got just a little to cute with this mouse. This is one piece of Apple gear I probably should not have purchased.

[posted using Ecto to both Singing the Apple--Blogger and Singing the Apple--Wordpress]

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


So I'm writing this post using Ecto, a desktop blogging tool. We'll see how it goes after I hit publish, but so far, I'm VERY impressed with the interface and options, which include tags for blogger (we'll see how those work out too). You can download a 21-day trial, but the program itself costs US$17.95, or C$21.81. I've been waiting for Bleezer to work the bugs out, but after seeing this, I think I might be in love. Of course, love is fickle, and my love hinges on how well this post works out. If there are no edits to this post, it means "head over heels."

The other tidbit I wanted to mention was the very cool QuickSilver comma trick recently posted over at TAUW. I've been wondering if QS could do this. Now I know. The TUAW post actually links to a 43 Folders tutorial (to give credit where credit is due) and it's well worth a look if you're a QS user. The usefulness of this application never ceases to amaze.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Trying out Wordpress

I just imported all the posts on Singing the Apple from Blogger to Wordpress and will be running this blog in parallel on the two systems for a while so see how the two compare. I've heard so many good things about Wordpress that I thought I should see for myself. For now, I'm using the Wordpress-hosted browser-based version rather than the user-hosted desktop version (speaking personally, I'm still not sure if this blogging thing is a flash-in-the-pan or not, so I don't want to lay down cash on it, especially when there are so many fine free options).

One of the first things I notice with WP is that I can't fiddle with the template (or I can't figure out how to fiddle with it right now), which is no fun. On the other hand, Blogger doesn't offer me categories (something that continues to baffle me). I'll be sure to note which platform I'm using for each post until (and if) I make a definitive choice. Obviously, I've created this one in Wordpress, and the URL of the new blog is--tada!

In other news, I just posted an article in my newsvine column entitled Advertising I can stomach, about a subtle form of promotion I recently came across. Check it out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The ABCs of podcasting

No, this isn't another post about the wonders of podcasting (wonderful as it is). No, it's simply a pointer to the site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's podcast page. They have a really neat series of podcasts on a wide variety of topics. Heck, they even have one in French!

I love public broadcasting, and Canada's CBC is a pretty fine broadcaster. But on the podcast front, it's sorely lagging behind its British and Australian cousins. Granted, they say they are about to expand their podcast line-up. I, for one, can't wait to get programs like Ideas and Writers & Company on podcast. 

On a side note, I learned about the ABC podcasts via Newsvine, which went public yesterday. This means you can now read my Newsvine column at Not that there's anything so very newsworthy there that I wouldn't also post in my blog...