June 13, 2007

Projections for Theatre Using Keynote

I call this: computers,mac,summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:03 pm

Quite by accident, I have become something of an expert on the use of Apple’s Keynote presentation software for running projections for professional theatre. Since I’m currently in the midst of one of these shows right now, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how it’s done.

To start at the beginning, you must know about the show that gave me my first experience with Keynote. At the time (2003), I had recently switched to Mac, and owned a Power Mac desktop, and my former computer which was an 8-lb. Dell laptop. By this point I knew I could never go back to using Windows to get any real work done, and I accepted that if I ever got a tour, I would have to buy a Powerbook. This was at the end of the product life of the Titanium Powerbook, and I was hoping if such a thing ever happened, that Apple had a better 15″ model up their sleeve. In the late summer, the 15″ Aluminum Powerbook was released, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Even more so when only a few weeks later I got called to interview for PSM of a small tour. A few days after that, the producer called to offer me the job. I literally hung up the phone, grabbed my keys, and ran to the Apple Store.

With my shiny new Powerbook, I began rehearsals. This show had a really large projection component, both still images and video, and they were not just decorative. The actors interacted with and referenced the images throughout the show, and any errors would make the show not make sense. The video designer was happy to see I had a Powerbook, because he intended to use the then-new Keynote app to run the show. The fact that I owned a Mac laptop simplified things greatly, and I was more than happy to offer its services, since it gave me the opportunity to tinker with my new toy, and a free copy of Keynote to boot. I learned a lot from our designer as he experimented with the slides and played with various features. I had to become pretty proficient with it, because he would not be traveling on the tour, and as the show was still going to be undergoing changes, I would have to be able to handle most situations that would come up. The only thing he would do was editing of the videos and images themselves, which would then be FedExed on a DVD to whatever theatre we were at, and it was up to me to create the slides around them and the transitions between each one to fit the needs of the show.

Sometimes I would be asked ten minutes before a performance to add or remove a border around all the images, or to move or crop all the images in some way, or to swap or reorder them. I think at its peak the show had about 70 projection cues, and I’m not kidding when I say I was asked ten minutes before a show to make changes to all of them. I got very fast with Keynote, and much of the credit has to be given to the intuitive drag-and-drop interface and that magical way Mac apps have of answering all your wishes when you say, “I wonder if I can do this.” This was only version 1 of Keynote, and it has only gotten more stable and flexible through version 2 and now 3. One huge complaint I had on that tour was that the display on my computer while I was running the show did not give me any helpful information about my presentation that I couldn’t already see on the screen. Even the column of thumbnails on the side didn’t scroll as the slideshow progressed, so once you reached beyond the first ten or so, you didn’t even know what was coming next.

Nowadays, when I’m running a show my screen looks like this:

You can choose which elements to include on the screen, where to place them, and resize the current and next slide displays. I like this layout because it places the emphasis on what’s on stage so I don’t get confused, but also gives me a good idea of the cue I’m about to go into.

This is from my file for Thoroughly Modern Millie, which I’m proud to say has since been used in productions in North Carolina and California, and I even got paid! The only projections in that show are supertitles, but there’s a ton of them (90, including the blank slides for when nothing is supposed to be seen), as they are used to translate for the two Chinese characters. It was one of the greater challenges of my career to be displaying Chinese translations in real time while also calling the rest of the show. You can see I’ve used the notes field in this slide as a substitute for my calling script. During the Chinese sections I literally couldn’t look down for the entire scene, because each slide only shows a few words and I had to make sure I was on the right one for what they were saying. I don’t speak Chinese, but I did learn all the dialogue in the show. Having that notes field conveniently placed made it possible for me to keep my head up watching the screen and the actors, while being able to get a quick reminder so I could call cues and give warnings and standbys without the script.

The clock of course is handy for noting the running time of the show.

On the tour I first used Keynote on, it was part of the deal that each theatre supplied the projector. We had to deal with whatever they had, and I was prepared to hook up to any kind of connector: DVI, VGA, BNC, RCA, or S-Video. The Powerbook has a DVI and S-video port, and all the others could be done with adapters that I carried. BNC could sometimes be problematic because the signal had to go through two adapters: S-video out to RCA and RCA to BNC. The digital formats (DVI and VGA) tended to be the best, but sometime depending on the projector and the theatre the analog actually worked better. This is why I got good at setting up and breaking down the whole shebang very quickly. I could walk into a theatre for the first time and be pointed to the projector with my laptop and a couple adapters and have video running in probably two minutes. Hours and hours and hours would sometimes be spent if there were problems with the projection angle, bulb brightness, height of the ceiling, etc. but getting the show coming out the lens was the easy part.

One of the tough things about doing shows with devices like DVD players and VCRs is that if it’s not a Broadway show using professional equipment, consumer models have a tendency to display things you don’t want an audience to see, like big letters that say PAUSE coming up between cues. The solution to this is usually some sort of physical device that blocks the lens between cues, but this is often impractical, especially when the projector is hung in the air over the audience. The beauty of using the computer is that you can project a black screen between cues, even if you have to exit the presentation. How to do this is not always obvious. When I offer my services to a show, the question I always get is, “But how will you be able to run it without the audience seeing your desktop?” People really don’t believe it can be done. When you’ve done it a few hundred times, it’s ridiculously easy.

Several steps: you want to turn off display mirroring. In System Prefs/Displays, under the Arrangement tab, you will see a checkbox called Mirror Displays. Uncheck it. I discovered when trying to help the folks at Reagle do this for one of their winter shows that iBooks have their graphics card’s mirroring capability disabled. There is apparently a hack (Google for screenspanningdoctor), but they didn’t try it because it’s not particularly safe. I’m not sure if this is still the case with Macbooks.

When you have mirroring off, imagine the projector is a second monitor attached to one side of your screen. You’ll see something like this.

You can drag the second screen around wherever you want, I always keep it to the upper right as shown. Wherever you put it, the contents of the projection screen will exist in that direction off your desktop. If I’m clumsy and slide my mouse off to the right, you will see it on the projector. There’s nothing wrong with having to back out of the presentation to fix something during a show, the only danger is accidentally flicking the mouse off your laptop into that area leading to the other screen.

Also notice there’s a little white border at the top of the center screen. This represents your primary display, in the shape of the Mac menu bar. Whichever screen you drag that white bar to is the one which holds your menu bar, dock, and by default your desktop icons. You do not want this on your projector. If somehow it winds up there, just drag the white bar back to the other display.

Now you have two screens: your regular one on the computer, and the other, rather empty one on the projector. By default, your desktop wallpaper will probably end up on the projector as well. This is probably not what you want. I have an image in my wallpaper folder that is all black. It’s called BLACK so it’s easy to find. When you go to System Prefs and select Desktop and Screen Saver, you will get a window on both your computer and the projector’s screen. The cool thing is that using the window on the projector, you can sets its wallpaper independently of your normal desktop. So I have the projector set to BLACK, but I can keep my favorite desktop wallpaper on my computer. You should only have to do this once, after that the computer will remember to assign the black desktop to the projector. Unless you make the mistake I made this afternoon, when I plugged the cable in to my computer before turning on the projector. Apparently this confuses the computer, for it set my desktop resolution to 800×600 or something, forgot the wallpaper, and had mirroring turned on. I will remember not to do that again.

Another word of advice: whenever possible, focus the projector on a nice projection surface before you try to do anything with your desktop settings. It never seems to work this way for me, I always wind up trying to manipulate the windows while the projector is throwing an out-of-focus, backwards, horribly-keystoned, and way-too-far-away-to-read image across the ceiling, proscenium and several layers of set pieces. It can take several minutes just to find the mouse pointer. You have to know the desktop prefs window pretty well to be able to set it under those conditions.

When doing a show I do like to keep the desktop settings icon on the menu bar for quick access, especially for shows with analog connections, because the display will not be detected automatically, so you have to select “Detect Displays” every day when you plug the projector in. The screen will flash for a second, and then you will be good to go. You can also adjust the resolution of both screens from that drop-down menu. Unless you have a really fancy projector, its maximum resolution will probably be lower than your computer’s. When you first set it up, the computer may lower res to match the projector (especially if mirroring is enabled by default), but this doesn’t have to be the case. Just go to the drop-down menu and select the normal resolution for your computer and whatever you want for the projector.

A few basic things you should do to your computer when using it for a show:

  • Always have the power cord plugged in when running the show
  • Put the computer to sleep: never (Energy Saver prefs)
  • Put the display to sleep: never (Energy Saver prefs)
  • Turn off all system sounds (Sound prefs)
  • Turn off “play feedback when volume is changed.” If you ever want to hear the little blip, you can hold shift when hitting the volume keys.
  • Mute the startup chime just in case your computer crashes and needs to restart (I use Tinkertool System, but there are others)
  • Start screen saver: never (I forgot to do this when switching to the new computer, and came back on a break during tech to see the default “Flurry” all over the house curtain)
  • Turn off any background apps that have notifications that might pop up (anti-virus, backup reminders, etc.)

Before starting the show:

  • Close all programs except Keynote
  • Shut down background apps that consume resources
  • If you’re outputting audio to the sound console, you’ll probably want to keep your Mac set at a consistent level and let the engineer control the volume. So to start the show make sure you’ve got your computer’s volume where it should be. For Singin’ in the Rain, I keep mine at half.
  • If you’re really concerned about speed and stability, a restart right before the show will probably give you the most reliable performance.

Designing Slides
Keynote has lots of options for deciding how your slides look and how they change. I won’t go into all of it, but I will hit some of the most common techniques I use.

When designing for theatre, you will probably always want to choose a master slide with a black background. You can add colorful backgrounds by creating a shape the size of the slide.

My friend the Yellow Box
When you click on “Shapes” in Keynote, by default it gives you this textured yellow box. The yellow box makes a pretty good target on a black background, and I use this to move and resize around the screen until I’ve figured out what size the projected image needs to be. In this case, we have a drop that flies in with a movie screen in the middle of it, and the movie needs to hit only this part of the drop. So I fiddle with the yellow box, making adjustments until it’s the right size. Then I take the actual content for that slide, the pictures or videos, and drag them so that it’s the size of the yellow box. There are very easy arrangement buttons to help with this if necessary — forward, back, group and ungroup. If you’ve got an image that you don’t want to distort, or a video that can’t be stretched to the correct size, you can then create some black boxes and layer them over the edges of the images to essentially crop them. This leaves you free to manipulate the original image below and drag it around until you like which part is cropped. It also makes it easy to later drop in a new image without losing the work you’ve done with the black borders to size it properly.

So when it’s 7:55 and your director says, “Can all the images be six inches narrower on the left and right side?” you can just make two black rectangles, drag them around until they have the desired proportion on stage, and once you have the first slide looking good, group the black shapes together, select them, and copy. When you paste them into the next slide, they will retain their position in the slide. So all you have to do is select every slide and hit command-V in each one, and you can rest easy knowing they will all match. This is the secret to making changes when you don’t have the time to actually inspect each slide on stage. Get one looking right, and then create something that you can paste in every slide to use as a guide.

Transitions can do some nifty things, but most of the shows I’ve done have not been the kind of situation to use anything fancy. A simple fade in and fade out are the most common. The Inspector in Keynote has a tab called Slide which has the effects for how that whole slide changes to the next (applying a transition affects how you go OUT of the selected slide). An important concept is that you can set transitions for the whole slide, or for elements within the slide. If you can’t get it to do what you want, this may be the problem. When you set the transitions, make sure you know if you’ve selected the actual slide or a part of it.

Say you have a slide with a picture-within-a-picture. You can have the larger picture be displayed when the slide starts, but the inner one appears later. To do this you select the element you want to change and go to the Build tab. If the Build options are grayed out, you need to select the object you want to apply the effect to by clicking on it. There are too many options to go into, but you can set the action to occur either by a certain number of seconds’ delay, or with another button push. The timed ones are great if you want to fade the image with a light cue for instance, but if you want to cue it yourself you can control it with the button. You can build in and out of an image, and can set multiple builds per slide and the order in which they happen. I’ve only ever needed to scratch the surface of this feature, but it can do some pretty cool things.

April 10, 2007

Pimp Your Mac with Theatre-Related Icons

I call this: computers,mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:09 pm

If you’re a visually-oriented Mac user like me, perhaps you like to make your frequently-used application and folder icons distinctive so that you know at a glance what you’re looking at. I’ve downloaded lots of icons from the web, but often I find there’s not one appropriate for my needs. Which makes sense, since nobody (else) bothers making icons for stage managers, or bearing the logo of some obscure new play or musical nobody has heard of. So I’ve taken to making my own to make things easier to find.

So here are some of my favorites, available for download in two packages.

Package #1 – Basic Folder Icons

Only two here. One is my basic Stage Management folder. I keep this one in my Finder sidebar, so I have a quick link to all of my subfolders of show files and general paperwork. One of those subfolders is my Equity folder, which holds the PDFs of the rulebooks for all the contracts I’ve worked under. Very handy to have around.

Package #2 – Show Folder Icons

When I’m doing a show, the folder for that show is one of the more important items in my computer, usually making its way into my sidebar for the duration of the production. As such, I like to have a nice, very noticeable icon (preferably that doesn’t look anything like the icons for other shows I’m currently working on.) This is a collection of folders for shows I’ve done or am currently working on (only the one’s you’ll ever hear of). Sorry the one for The Fantasticks has that weird orange border. Never quite figured out why it was doing that. Of course the logos are copyright of their respective shows — I wish they were mine, I’d be a millionaire.

The shows included are: 42nd Street, Crazy for You, Carousel, The Fantasticks, The King and I, The Phantom of the Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ in the Rain, The Sound of Music, and The Will Rogers Follies.

Oh, and there’s also my icon for Adium (which is a highly customizable instant messenger app, if you’ve never tried it). It’s the Adium mascot, Adiumy, as a stage manager/tech person, with a cue light overhead to indicate Available, Away, Idle, Invisible, etc. Yeah, I know it doesn’t make any logical sense that the same lightbulb keeps changing colors. I really did want to have all the bulbs visible, cause I’m a perfectionist, but 128 pixels is 128 pixels, and it has to look better much smaller than that.

How It’s Done
To make simple icons, I use a shareware app called Can Combine Icons, which is incredibly easy to use if you just want to combine two icons or images, and it comes with a full library of standard Mac icon images to get started with. Some simple image manipulation and color changing is also possible, which works great when you want the folder color to match whatever else you’re putting on it. It’s only 10 bucks, and for how much I use it, and how you can create a professional-looking icon in literally seconds, it’s well worth it. I should caution though, that it doesn’t seem to have been updated in a long time, and I’m not 100% sure of its Intel-compatibility (though I can’t see why it should be a problem), and some comments on VersionTracker indicate the developer may be slow to generate registration codes now. But it’s one of the best apps I’ve ever purchased, so I can’t complain. And of course there is a free trial.

To change an icon for an application or folder, click on whatever icon you want to use (perhaps one you’ve downloaded here), and press command-i. This will open the item info window. In the upper left corner is an image of the current icon. If you click on that, it gets highlighted. Press command-c to copy the image. Then do command-i on whatever item you want to apply the first icon to, click on the icon image in the resulting info window, and press command-v to paste the icon. If you want to go back to the default icon for that item, command-x for “cut” will remove whatever custom icon you’ve added.

April 4, 2007

This week’s Apple news

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 3:57 pm

Quick wrap-up of some interesting things that happened this week:
Steve Jobs will lead us from the evils of DRM
Some time ago, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter saying that he felt the future of digital music was to remove digital rights management and let consumers play their purchased music however they want and on whatever device they want. Well it’s actually happening. The iTunes Store will be selling DRM-free, higher-quality (256kbps) music published by EMI for $1.29. If you already own the songs you will be able to upgrade to the non-DRM versions by paying the extra 30 cents. You will still be able to buy songs in the original format for 99 cents if you choose. Some people are mad about the price increase. I think freedom to do what you want with music you own is worth more than 30 cents, so I’m happy. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before all the major labels convert.

Complete My Album
In more minor iTunes news, there’s this new feature available now on the iTunes Store that will be helpful for people who own songs from an album and don’t want to pay the full price when they later decide to purchase the entire album. If you go to the Complete My Album icon on the store, it will show you your albums and how much it will cost you to complete each one. Cool way of doing it, I think. Unfortunately, you only have six months after purchasing the song to be able to apply it to the album cost. That’s kind of lame.

Lower prices on Cinema Displays
Always a good thing, given the high price of quality flat-panel monitors. The prices are:

  • 20-inch: $599
  • 23-inch: $899
  • 30-inch: $1799

Personally, if I was in the market for one, I would be cautious, because a price drop usually means something better is around the corner, and the discontinuation of the standalone iSight would seem to indicate that soon all Apple monitors will have built-in iSights. Even if you’re not interested in an iSight, you never know what crazy improvements they’ll come up with. But if I had unlimited funding, I might be interested in one (or eight) because of this…

8-core Mac Pros
I don’t get as excited about processors as some people get (at least when I know I’m not going to be using them), but I do know that quad-core is all the rage, and two quad-cores is naturally double the rage, and as a result people have been hoping for the announcement of an 8-core Mac. Congrats.

So it uses two of the ‚ÄúClovertown‚ÄĚ 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 processors which should give it a rating of “really fucking fast” on my personal benchmark against my 1.25GHz G4. It can take up to 16GB of RAM, and I’m not sure if this is new to this model, but the video cards can support up to 8 monitors (I assume that would mean 4 of the 30-inch ones). Damn. If I had a million dollars, I’d buy one of these and 8 23″ monitors wrapped around my entire desk, just because I can.

So how much does it cost? Well the starting price on the Apple Store is $2499 for a Mac Pro, but that’s not for the new chips. I configured a system with the 8-core chips, 16MB of RAM, and eight 23″ HD monitors, and it came out to $19,473.90, including tax. As this is only slightly below my average annual income, I think I will have to settle for the Macbook Pro I’ve got my eye on.

March 25, 2007

Something cool I once did with my desktop

I call this: computers,gaming,mac — Posted by KP @ 8:00 pm

While my desktop these last few days is the highly-original default Aqua wallpaper that came with OS X Tiger (shown here), I did once do something pretty cool with it.

I’m a big fan of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and I’m kind of fond of having little bits of NES nostalgia in my life (like this USB NES game controller), so of course I occasionally like to decorate my Powerbook’s desktop the same way. So this one time, I decided that I would go all out. The result was this:

What you can’t see from the image is that all of the “?” blocks are clickable buttons (using DragThing) that are actually hovering over the image on the wallpaper. They launched various apps, the pipes opened commonly-used folders, and the picture of Mario in mid-air launched a NES emulator, so I could play all those classic games on my Mac, with my original NES controller, of course.

The Details
The wallpaper itself I adapted from this one, resized and rearranged to fit my needs. The dock being squished over to the left side can be done with any number of utilities that can access those sorts of hidden OS X features. If I were doing it now I would use Cocktail, but I’m sure there are free apps that do it as well. I changed a number of icons to look more Mario-like. Unfortunately, I have acquired them over years and some may no longer be available, I don’t know. But I like InterfaceLIFT for a lot of my desktop customization needs now. For changing some of the system icons like the Finder, you need a separate app, Candybar. In brief, the green mushroom is the Finder, the red shell is SpamSieve, the flower is Photoshop, although I really wanted it to be a Fire Flower, I couldn’t find a decent Aqua-like icon of one, so I made do. The music note block, as you might have guessed, is iTunes. I made that one myself in Photoshop. If you’ve always wanted one, here it is. The piranah plant is the trash of course, and when empty it’s just the pipe. I made the pipe and added the plant from a very nice icon I found somewhere. The clock is a regular ol’ dashboard widget. And if you’re curious, the instant messaging app showing is Adium, which I highly recommend. I also designed the icon you see, of the Adium mascot as a stage manager, which you can download here.

The whole thing was a lot of fun, but eventually I just got tired of it, and it wasn’t as useful as you might think. I felt really bad changing it because of all the work I had put into it, but it was time to move on. I kept it a lot longer than I keep most of my desktop looks, and I still have some pieces of it, like the mushroom Finder icon. I’m still intrigued by the idea of having a desktop picture with clickable elements that do things. This was my first attempt at that. Maybe if I think of a good way I’ll try it again someday.

March 23, 2007

Mac OS 10.4.9 and USB webcams

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 12:32 pm

One of the more interesting things to happen in the Mac world in the last week or two is the release of OS X v10.4.9, which among other things, enabled the use of USB webcams natively with iChat and Quicktime and whatever else you might use them for, without the need to buy shareware drivers as was necessary before.

If, like me, you never bought the now-discontinued iSight because it was too expensive, and you think, as I did, that this means you can now go out and buy the cheapest webcam you can find — you’re wrong. Not all webcams are compatible, only those which are UVC compliant, which seem to be only the ones that are almost, or as expensive as the iSight was. Bummer.

Nevertheless, I needed a webcam, and this finally got me to go out and buy one. After perusing a number of Mac-oriented forums, and finding very little concrete evidence of which webcams actually work, I found this thread at MacNN, which seems to contain the most information. So with a list of theoretically compatible models, I went to CompUSA. The cheapest I found was the $79 Quickcam Pro 5000, but it’s kind of huge, and I wanted something that would work well for my Powerbook, but also sit nicely on a regular monitor, as I intend to give it to my parents once I buy a Macbook Pro. I found the best value for my needs was the Logitech Quickcam Fusion, for $99.

I was very happy to discover that all I had to do was plug it in, open iChat, and there it was. It also works nicely for recording video with Quicktime Pro. It’s still an awful lot of money just to get a camera working, though. It would be cool if someone could come up with a hack to make the button at the top do something in OS X.

March 22, 2007

My Life with Computers

I call this: computers,mac,pc — Posted by KP @ 4:31 pm

So I mentioned I was a dork. The story begins when I was in first grade (circa 1987), and my teacher, Mrs. Sylvan, told my mother about a camp for gifted kids at C.W. Post College on Long Island. This camp operated in the summer and on Saturdays during the school year. I attended it from the age of 8 until just before I started high school. I learned many, many dorky things from some wonderful teachers.

One of my favorite subjects was computer programming. We learned to program in BASIC, most of which I have now forgotten. But my parents were really cool and for my 9th birthday, they bought a computer from my computer programming teacher, which he loaded up with all the software we used in class, as well as some fun games and other interesting programs. So then I was able to work and tinker on my own.

In 1993, I started high school and was given a new computer which was my first experience with Windows. It also had a CD-ROM drive, which was basically useful only for playing Myst. When I got a job at 16, I had some disposable income and freedom to roam around NYC checking out CompUSA and other computer stores, and I started buying and installing upgraded parts for my Packard Bell piece of crap. When I went to college I bought a Dell, which served me well.

However, when I graduated, I knew I would need a laptop. This is where the trouble starts. At this time (around 2000), the laptop that I purchased came with WindowsME. Let’s just say that after using it for less than six months, I had decided that at the next possible opportunity I was getting a new computer, and it was going to be a Mac. I had never actually owned a Mac, and barely used one in the last decade, but I knew whatever it was it was not going to run Windows. Eventually WindowsXP came out, and solved most of my problems, but by that point it was too late. The release and continued existence of WindowsME despite all its huge flaws, as well as some fishy stuff included with a Media Player update, proved to me that I no longer wanted Microsoft in control of my computing experience.

So when I unexpectedly came into some money, I bought a Mac. It was a big adjustment at first, but once I got used to the differences in terminology and where to find various settings, I started to like it. I will admit I had always been one of those PC power users who thought Macs were for stupid people who wanted the computer to do everything for them. I found it was quite the opposite. Yes, my parents can operate Macs — that is an amazing feat that the whole Apple team should be proud of — but I also can get it to do pretty much whatever I want as a power user, either natively or with 3rd-party software. I came to realize that there’s no shame in having a computer that makes things easy, as long as you can still do everything you want. I don’t think I can ever go back to using a PC for day-to-day work and play.

So I identify myself as a Mac user, but I’m also a gamer, and those two things are not always compatible. I tried to be a Mac gamer when I first switched, but I find that the developers that do the conversions for Mac consistently turn out buggy games that do not play as well as their PC counterparts. Not to mention that you only get to choose from the few most mainstream games, and six months to a year later than everybody else.

So it became obvious that I needed a gaming PC, and my 5-year-old laptop was not cutting it. I started looking into Alienware and other gaming PC manufacturers, but I was on a budget and wanted the ability to buy exactly what I wanted for each part of the machine, to spend my money on what was most important to me, and not buy a single thing I didn’t need. That’s when I realized I would have to build it myself. I thought that was pretty cool, since I had always enjoyed upgrading parts myself, but I had never attempted to build a PC from scratch. So I did a lot of research (being a Mac user, I hadn’t even been following things like what the latest processors were). I will leave the specs and all that stuff for another post, but what resulted was a high-mid-range gaming PC, that two years later still does what I need it to do, with only a slightly newer video card when the original one up-and-died.

I also have been a Palm user for about six years, and I currently have a Treo 650. I think Palm is completely dead and has been for at least two years, but I have so much invested in software right now, and I need something that can function with the flexibility of a small computer, and I would prefer not to use Windows. This is why I’m very curious about the iPhone, but also very worried about reports that it will not support 3rd-party software. That doesn’t make it a very “smart” phone. I hope that will change.

So that’s my very long story of my background and interests in the world of technology.

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