software

An Extremely Minor Reason to Upgrade to iTunes 10

There’s one extremely minor reason to upgrade to iTunes 10 (if you must use iTunes at all), and that’s the fact that Apple seems to have finally figured out how to provide an attractive, intelligent, and functional manner for displaying cover art outside of the main application. No need for a separate CD cover art app any longer.

Standing alone as an album art viewer (this is as small as it gets):

When the mouse hovers over it, iTunes controls show:

Here’s how to get it working:

  1. Click the album art pane in iTunes (see image below).
  2. Move and adjust the cover art window.
  3. Minimize iTunes, because it is still ugly.
  4. Hover over the album art to control iTunes, or use an alternative method (see links below).
  5. Get on with life and living.

Click for larger

Of course, you can also continue to use hotkey solutions as I describe in earlier posts:

iTunes can be downloaded here.

Still not hot on iTunes 10? Here’s how to install it without extra crap that you don’t need.

Looks like Spelunky hit 1.0… and the big time

Snapshot from Spelunky website.

Click to download Spelunky!

I was just writing about Spelunky for my blog, wondering when it would hit 1.0, when BAM, front page of IndieGames:

Spelunky Coming to XBLA in 2010

No foolin’. And it’s got a real website, too:

http://www.spelunkyworld.com/original.html

Though it came out shortly before year’s end, I’ve pretty much thought of this action roguelike as my personal Game of the Year ’09. It’s not immediately obvious, especially if you’re one to quit games the split second they get difficult (and this is one unforgiving game), but the acrobatic stunts and the unexpected interactions of simple mechanics really add up to a charming and deeply fun game.

It kind of irks me that, like Cave Story, Spelunky will be getting the special treatment (better graphics, some unspecified extras) for its console debut, but fortunately, Derek Yu is a man with his feet on the ground, and the Windows version will continue to be free. XBLA exposure isn’t exactly a bad thing, and it’ll put a few dollars in his pocket. Good for him, I say. Plus, the interest may well spawn new variations on the action roguelike.

(Personally, I don’t own and have no interest in owning an XBox, but if the improved version of this game hit the Nintendo DS I’d be all over it.)

Seriously, if you haven’t tried out this little gem, do so, immediately.

Freeware: ManicTime micromanages your day

It looks like a file defragmenter, but really it’s a way to see how very fragmented your day is. ManicTime is a fat, but free .NET app that snoops on all your window titles and creates a series of charts that describe the applications that take up your day. It’s a good way to augment your timecard, or just see how long you’ve spent playing Team Fortress 2 versus World of Warcraft. I’ve been using it for about eight hours now and I already feel terribly, terribly guilty.

ManicTime main screen

ManicTime main screen

Pluses:

  • Free and professional-looking
  • Silently records your doings with no interaction
  • Unobtrusive – unlike a PDA-type app, it won’t remind you what to do, it passively records what you’re doing
  • Accurate enough out of the box, better with a little personal configuration
  • Can export graphs (to PNG) and data (to CSV)
  • Does not share or upload your data with a 3rd party source, all info is store locally

Negatives:

  • Induces guilt
  • Requires .NET (and therefore not native to Mac or Linux machines)
  • Grossly overweight (its two runtimes exceed 50MB when minimized)
  • Without user interaction, cannot differentiate between different activities using the same app (bad if you use your browser for multiple tasks: watching YouTube, checking email, writing a blog post)
  • Weird, fuzzy display of some text (some .NET issue, maybe?)

Download!

(found via Lifehacker)

Free Software: sfxr – glitchy games effects generator

sfxr is a tiny little tool built for the purpose of quickly generating unique, but recognizably stock sounds for games, specifically games competitions, where dev time can be measured in hours.
sfxr screenie
Derek Yu used it to create sound effects for the rogueish treasure platformer Spelunky. Generated sound effects for a procedurally generated game. For me, of course, it’s just a fun little thing to play around with and make stupid noises.

Quick-customizing Snarl styles

An impatient search of Google for Snarl style customization, or some reference for Melon styles was fruitless (har har). Perhaps that old crank Dvorak was right about Google. At any rate, here is the problem:

Snarl is at best beta software at this point (current version 2.06). It’s chunky, clunky, and the styles are ugly. As a universal screen-spammer, however, it does have some promise. There’s little for a non-programmer such as myself to do at this point than play with it until it becomes too annoying or eventually matures. The existing styles have the same aggressive, hard glass of a Windows Vista theme, or are simply dull:

2008-11-19_133446_snarl_ugly

That top one there is my own modification. Yes, it’s ugly as well, but it’s a start. Note for one how the text size is larger, the overstated glassy effect is removed, and the color matches my desktop. Again, I’m just getting started.

Some quick searching in your profile’s application data folder turns up some styles files: c:\$YourProfile$\Application Data\fullphat\snarl\styles. (more…)

Opera + Sandboxie = good performance on the EEE, with minimal disk writes

lesson learned: don’t write for half an hour on wordpress, then accidentally navigate away. you’ll lose your post.

Well, short story is best, then: sequester Opera’s activities on a Sandboxie repository on the SD drive of an Asus EEE to save disk writes. Decent performance! I’m almost concerned that Sandboxie is somehow writing to C:\ under my nose. Perhaps the speed increase (over editing Opera’s config to force it write cache, bookmarks, etc. to the SD card) is due to how Sandboxie manages disk writes from within its own system-level driver. Maybe it caches writes in memory until there’s enough to burst onto the SD? Not sure…