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Thursday, June 19, 2003  

Tech talk

*MacWorld's article on blogging

I almost turned a cartwheel when I took this month's edition of MacWorld magazine out of the mailbox. There 'it' was right on the cover, "Blog Bonanza: Weblog Tools Let You Build a Professional or Personal Website in a Flash, p.76." I mistakenly thought someone was going to solve my problems as a blogger who uses a Macintosh. Foremost among them is the lack of truly workable API clients for us, especially for those who use Blogger Basic. The article does include a semi-comprehensive list of API clients that are sometimes compatible with the Mac. However, it does not go in-depth enough. Persons who rely on that list will meet the same disappointments I did while researching API clients a month ago. Some of them don't work with Blogger Basic, period, or they work with only one weblog provider, such as LiveJournal or pMachine. Others require the latest Mac operating system, Jaguar, which many a blogger with an older computer may choose not to install. Movable Type is a preresquisite for others.

My advice to other Mac bloggers looking for solutions is to read everything you can find on the topic, (there isn't much) including the API clients' developer descriptions before getting your hopes up. (I would direct you to the two previous entries I've written about API clients if Blogger had not 'disappeared' them.)

That said, the article on blogging on a Mac is still worth reading. It contains information I wish I had known when I began commenting at blogs, as well as blogging.

In fact, I recommend this entire edition of MacWorld. The magazine can be very uneven -- something you glance at and toss aside one month and worthy of fifteen minutes the next. July's edition is a rare one that justifies a cover-to-cover reading. If you don't subscribe, you will want to snag it from the magazine counter at your local bookseller.

If you are only interested in the piece on weblogs, it is online. A Wintel user? I believe you will find the article worth reading, too.

*How to surf offline

Jason Parker of ZD Net's AnchorDesk has been thinking about programs that allow you to carry the Web with you without being connected. I used to be an avid fan of AvantGo for precisely that reason. I would suck up news and information from various sites via AG and have it to go on my Palm. But, after getting WiFi for my laptop, I've neglected the Palm, which is not wireless enabled. It is fairly easy to take my laptop with me and surf in real time instead of using the PDA to read aging material. Parker has software suggestions for laptop and desktop users who still want to surf unconnected.

. . .Another thing I like to do on my commute is surf offline on my laptop.

How do I manage this? Before I leave for work, I use a type of program I like to call a "Web sucker" to download Web content onto my laptop's hard drive. I usually don't download entire sites because they're simply too big. But I've found I can grab a few AnchorDesk columns and a handful of news stories without any problem. Before I know it, I have plenty of reading material for my trips to and from work.

These programs aren't just for laptop surfing, though. You can also use them for conducting research (to save the info you find) or for surfing the Web on a desktop PC if you have a limited amount of time you can be online.

He recommends three programs that will download pages or sites for offline browsing -- NetDrag and Internet Research Software for Windows and Web Dumper for Macintosh OS X. I will add NetNewsWire, both the paid version and the free Lite, which is compatible with the Macintosh if you use Jaguar, to the list.

To learn more about the first three products, follow the links in Parker's piece.

That leaves the question of what to do with my PDA open. Lately, I've been using it as an alarm clock, but it seems rather expensive for that purpose.

*WiFi's other use

The primary use of WiFi is, of course, to surf the Web without wires at home, in coffee shops, hotels or bookstores. Or, even while sitting in the park, if you live in a city with a free WiFi network as I do. However, there is a fast-growing secondary use for WiFi.

For most people, Wi-Fi networks are useful for doing work in coffee shops or allowing computers to share an Internet connection at home. But for Iris Junglas and several other researchers, wireless networks are also capable of keeping tabs on wandering computer users.

. . .Dr. Junglas and others are developing Wi-Fi networks that not only track computer users but also adjust what the computers are doing to suit the circumstances. By keeping constant track of a repair technician's whereabouts in a factory or office, for example, a network could increase efficiency by assigning the worker to the nearest job and transmitting an electronic version of the appropriate repair manual. In a hospital, a network could be used to upload a patient's medical records as a doctor with a wireless laptop approached the bedside.

Obviously, such a use of technology raises a question: What if you don't want to be found? Researchers have anticipated it.

Dr. [Asim] Smailagic and Dr. Junglas said that operators of location-sensing Wi-Fi networks would have to request permission to track users or risk a backlash.

"Over all, it's a question of giving up the privacy of where you are for the sake of someone else being able to locate you very conveniently," Dr. Junglas said.

I am not sure the privacy issue can be resolved that easily. Yes, doctors, who have significant clout with their employers, can probably negotiate whether they are required to leave their wireless cards turned on. But, I doubt a delivery truck driver or maintenance man can. His WiFi equipped PDA could become a form of security device used to log his whereabouts, even on breaks, at lunch or when using the bathroom.

This secondary use of 802.11 has potential, but the privacy issue will need to be addressed more completely.

2:00 AM