Monthly Archives: March 2008

12″ PB HDD Upgrade

Here’s an interesting first hand report on upgrading the hard drive in a 12″ PowerBook. It’s the same kind of laptop I have had for a number of years now and I also have been wondering if it is a worthwhile effort. After searching online and reviewing upgrade guidelines I had decided that it was too much trouble and instead opted for cleaning up my hard drive to remove electronic clutter. Fortunnately, I had enough foresight to order a built-to-order laptop with the largest HDD offered at the time, 100 GB, still not to bad even by today’s standards. If all it takes is one hour, the procedure may not be as bad as I thought is was, we’ll see…

UN Makes Databases Publicly Accessible

“The DESA Statistics Division has just launched a new internet-based data service for the global user community. It brings UN statistical databases within easy reach of users through a single entry point. Users can search and down load a variety of statistical resources of the UN system. […] Since its foundation, the United Nations system has been collecting statistical information from member states on a variety of topics. The information thus collected constitutes a considerable information asset of the organization.” [reference]

The database can be accessed here:

The first couple of search terms I tried all failed b/c they are not part of the database. Until it is extended with more data, it seems more useful to browse rather than search. Fortunately, an overview of the covered areas is included and can be browsed in a handy hierarchical way. Data can be filtered by year and country, and once desired results have been identified they can be downloaded for further analysis.

Time Capsule = Simple Home Server

Apple advertises its Time Capsule product primarily as a simple backup companion solution to its Leopard Time Machine Application. While this is certainly a great application, this Apple Insider Article points another great application, namely Time Capsule’s use as a simple server for home users. Continue reading

Visio Alternative for Mac OS X

In the Windows world there is MS Visio for diagram drawing of all kinds. On Mac OS X there is OmniGraffle, a phantastic diagramming application with a 100% Mac look-and-feel. Omnigraffle comes in two versions, standard and professional. I have the professional version and if you plan to do some serious diagram drawing I strongly recommend it (check here for a feature comparison).

The developers just released Version 5. I cannot comment on this version directly, since I have not upgraded yet. OmniGraffle 5 Pro claims improved Visio compatibility, one of the key features of the Pro version. In my experience, the compatibility of Rev. 4 was not very good with text and shadings not being well supported. When using OmniGraffle diagrams on Windows, my standard path is to export as 300 dpi PNGs which have excellent quality at small file sizes.

At $200, the program is not cheap, but well worth it. This is still $60 cheaper than the standard edition of Visio. The Professional version of Visio costs 3 times as much. There is also another commercial application with both Windows and Mac versions by the name of ConceptDraw. Apparently, the Mac and Windows licenses have to be purchased separately, at $250 each not cheap. The advantage is good cross-platform compatibility, but it doesn’t have the Mac look-and-feel that makes OmniGraffle so much fun to use.

For the budget conscious, there is also a good (and free) vector graphics application called InkScape. I briefly tested it and it seems to be very capable, albeit, not as pretty and feature-rich as OmniGraffle. Also, it requires X11 to be installed. In my experience, applications requiring X11 tend to be less integrated and to have less of a Mac look-and-feel to them. Last not least, VectorDesigner is a recent addition to the vector graphics applications. While I acquired a license through the 2008 MacHeist Bundle I have only briefly tested this app. I like the look-and-feel, but my first impression is that for just $30 more a basic OmniGraffle license seems like a better deal.

Better Weather

If you like to check the weather forecast online, The Weather Channel might be everybody’s standard, but there is a much better alternative:

You get all the good information has, but without the advertisement. All the information is handily available on a single screen. No need to click on separate links or to scroll through a long page with lots of unnecessary fluff. has quick icons for the coming week, text descriptions, a local map, color enhanced infrared maps, interactive maps, you can switch to Celsius, and also pull up a very informative hourly weather graphic of the next two days. There’s lots of other useful weather data and text only data good for mobile access. Once you go here for your weather you’ll never go back.

Ingenious Unit Conversion Widget Updated

About a month ago I received an e-mail from the developer of qwikCONVERT, my all-time favorite unit conversion widget. I was afraid Ben had stopped developing this widget, so I am very happy that he did not. Among other things, this update corrects currency update issues and now finally corrects problems when converting negative numbers, a big problem when converting temperatures between Celsius and Fahrenheit.

If you have never tried qwikCONVERT, I urge you to try it. As far as I know, it the quickest and easiest way for unit conversions. Simply enter the amount you want to convert and the units (e.g., 25 C) and you will instantly see conversions into other applicable units (e.g., F and K).