Preparing for Launch

I'm now back home, mentally bracing myself to return to work tomorrow (boy, won't that be fun...). The past couple of days were spent visiting family, sunning and poring through magazines - I sort of ran out of interesting books, and needed something different.

EDGE, for one, is starting to grow on me, which is odd considering that I don't really play console games - but the fascination for graphics techniques that TRON instilled in me many years ago lives on, fed by my Quake antics and a few forays into 3D modeling work during college.

Which reminds me, there's a Mercury Meltdown demo now available for the PSP, which I'll check out later tonight.

Neat Stuff

Thanks to the guys at Twisted Melon, I've been playing around with Mira for the past hour or so (which, considering none of my Macs has an IR port, just goes to show you how neat it is). Apple's inclusion of an IR port on modern Macs has opened the door to new ways to interact with your computer, and I don't mean just watching movies on it. Although Mira comes with built-in actions for VideoLAN and other media players, it can also be used for browsing, PowerPoint presentations, Preview slideshows, etc. You can even invoke AppleScripts (which is, for me, the killer app for this kind of thing).

Too bad that Apple didn't add a simple USB-IR transceiver for older Macs to their portfolio. It's somewhat typical of their "upgrade for the neat features" approach, but I hope (and it's to be expected) that someone steps in to fill the gap.

Not Quite So Neat Stuff, Followed By Even Neater Stuff

There's a new 2.0 alpha 1 version of Thunderbird that implements Tags, but from what I've seen so far it does so in very a very limited and narrow-minded way - mostly by relying on IMAP custom flags, which may not "stick" depending on your mail server.

Thunderbird may well be the 800-lb gorilla of the free MUA universe, but gorillas do lack a certain finesse, and the Mac universe has already evolved way past this - and with a better approach, too.

The new MailTags bundle for (the beta for which Scott kindly let me join) implements tagging as a set of X-Headers (for keywords, projects, etc., etc.), and besides being completely independent of the IMAP server you use, lets you share tags among machines, send tagged mail and review the tags you receive.

Here's a few sample headers:

Subject: Daniel Jalkut: A Table View For The Ages
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 04:35:51 +0000
X-NewsPipe-Version: 1.1.9 (Rev 1.66, Python,
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Keywords: cocoa,coding,planet tao
X-Project: Test

The X-Mailtags header looks scary, but it's just a serialized NSDictionary that holds Mac-specific info. I personally hope it will become deprecated some day, since there doesn't seem to be any MailTags information that can't be expressed as a text field.

The neat thing about this is that these headers can be manipulated by procmail, other MUAs or just about anything that can send e-mail - including newspipe, which I intend to modify to add keywords to some items depending on content.

And since MailTags lets you review incoming tags before accepting them, this might be the feedback loop I've been looking for to perform Bayesian classification and training on RSS feeds (all I need to to is have newspipe check my IMAP account).

The bottom line is that Thunderbird guys could probably learn a thing or two from MailTags. Actually, you can search the X-Keywords header in Thunderbird 1.5, so Mac users are ahead in the interoperability aspect this time around, but it would be nice to have a cross-platform, standard (cross-MUA) approach for tagging mail.

And right now, Thunderbird's approach just isn't it. Maybe someone should start drafting an RFC or something...

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