Jul 28, 2007

Fixing Russian track names in iTunes

Here's a situation: you have a bunch of MP3s of Russian (or Cyrillic in general) songs that you decided to drag-and-drop add to your iTunes library. No problem with that, except every once in awhile you end up with songs/artists/albums named using "birds language" instead of proper Cyrillic letters.

I have once in the past stumbled onto a small AppleScript solution that fixed that, but I was unable to trace it down again. I have, therefore, decided to "scratch this particular itch" and build one myself.

Here's a fruit of that labor.

A few caveats:

  • It worked on a sample of songs I had, can't promise it would work always.
  • At this point it only fixes Russian letters, not Cyrillic ones at large.
  • The change is irreversible: you cannot undo the action!

Jul 22, 2007

One month after upgrade: BlackBerry 8800 impressions

Just about a month ago I have upgraded my BlackBerry from an old 7290 to a shiny 8800. What's below is a quick summation of my impressions.

Look and feel

It certainly feels lighter and slimmer. Although it is a bit longer than 7290, it has no bulge — it is a plain candy-bar slab. Gone is the scroll wheel on a side, cause of many thumb injuries of real crackberry addicts. Its replacement is a small trackball that on one hand helps to navigate cursor in any direction (no need to hold Alt anymore to move horizontally), but also leads to constant smudges of the screen. The latter is a clear improvement over 7290 -- has great colors and better resolution.

Applications

It generally provides the same assortment of apps, some slightly more upgraded, some identical to the 7290 times. 8800 includes a GPS and BlackBerry Maps is also there. It's fun to use it every once in a while, although inside the city it has trouble locking onto satellites, unless you're standing on a square or in a park. It also has a few media-centric apps (like audio player, video player, improved picture browser).

Working

Keyboard has been changed from the 8700 series (where it became smaller, yet the keys were all flat, resulting in much harder typing experience) — keys are not flat, they have a slightly curved ridge, serving as support for the fingers while typing. Trackball is very nice and does help to navigate texts much better. One great addition is ability to type (not only read) multilingual text. While the way switching is done could certainly be improved, as well as ability to restrict the number of choices in the "Change Language" dialogue, the feature in itself is really great.
Mail
The way that names and addresses are looked up has been improved a great deal — that happens straight from a to/cc/bcc field (less clicking and scrolling around). In most other respects there is little change.
Calendar
Views certainly look better with a higher resolution and true color display. It would have been nice to be able to reduce the size of a header font a little. In fact, this same problem manifests itself in a number of other places.
Web browser
What RIM should look at is WebKit-based browser in Nokia S60-based cell phones (e.g. N80, N95). The way pages are rendered (both in terms of typefaces and structurally), support for JavaScript and CSS — all of these leave quite a bit to be desired in case of 8800.
Maps
Nice toy, with somewhat questionable value, see above reception issues. Also, at least in case of Russia/Moscow street names seem to have been taken from the maps at least 15-20 years old. Which, naturally, leads me to conclude that correctness of a map may well be in the same range... And (again, font problem/higher resolution problem) — dashboard could really use 30% less vertical space.

Jul 21, 2007

iPhone fonts choices — why so limited?

John Gruber writes about a limited set of iPhone fonts, commenting that "...but worse than that the list is so short is that some of the fonts Apple did include are so ugly." I think that the reason for that is to keep as wide a character coverage as possible, while saving memory. Most (although not all) of the fonts that iPhone does have are either Unicode or have many more character sets than Latin-1/Latin-2. At the same time the list pretty much covers CSS selectors for serif/san-serif/fixed/cursive/fantasy. Very pragmatic, although probably not as pretty as it could be.