Most of you have probably noticed that the pace of new hints has slowed down over the last month or two. Where there used to be 10 or more hints published daily, now you're seeing four or six or perhaps even fewer. To stave off the already received (and more expected) "Why aren't you publishing as many hints?" questions, here's a brief explanation for the decline in output...
The biggest reason for the decline in the hint count is simply that we're nearly exactly between major OS X releases (six months since 10.2, six months? until 10.3). So a lot of the easy, obvious stuff has been found and published already. When 10.3 comes out, there will be another spike in hint count as everyone explores the newly added features. I've seen it happen with 10.0, 10.1, and 10.2, so I'm pretty sure it will happen with 10.3! This happens on a more minor scale when major apps such as Safari are updated (which should be soon, in fact).
The second reason for the decline is that the macosxhints.com database is quite extensive now, with over 3,000 hints published since we launched. This means that even though I may get 10 to 12 submissions a day, I end up deleting seven or eight of them as duplicates. So save your fingers some typing and do a search before you submit a long hint! If you're not sure if something's been published, and searching didn't help (please search first!), send me a quick email ("Hey Rob, have you run a hint on such and such?"). I can usually verify quickly if a hint would be new or not.
The final reason for the decline in the hint flow is simply that I haven't had as much time to work on finding new hints as I have in the past. Since about early February, this is primarily due to the book project wrapping up. So where I used to spend a couple hours each evening poking, prodding, and researching the net, now I'm spending that time editing chapters! The good news is that we're going to press in a few weeks, after which time, I'll again have more free time to dig for hints. As an aside, the book is shaping up very nicely, with well over 500 of the best hints from the site, and over 300 screenshots to help explain things more fully than are done so here.
I made a decision very early on in macosxhints' existence that I would not run much in the way of Press Releases or general "filler." I wanted 100% content 100% of the time. I'm still holding to that mantra, which means you may even see days here on macosxhints.com where there may be no hints published. That doesn't mean the site is dying, or I'm ignoring it, or anything like that. It just means that there weren't any true hints worth publishing on that particular day. There are lots of great sites out there that provide news content and press releases; I have no desire to try to 'compete' with any of them, so macosxhints.com will retain its "hints only" focus for as long as I'm involved with it. The upside of that decision is you get useful content, but the downside is you only get useful content when it's there to be had! ;-)
I made a couple of small changes to the site this weekend ... the first change (very overdue!) is that the "quick search" box in the navigation bar now does a "find all words" search. Prior to today, it was doing a "find exact phrase" search, which is infinitely less useful here. As an example, a navigation bar search for "color dock" would have returned no matches; now it returns 14! No more loading the advanced search page just for a quick multi-word search -- thanks to the two or three of you who pointed out to me how annoying the old behavior was!
Second, the navigation bar now contains a Chat link that loads a page explaining how to join the macosxhints Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel. If you have a problem that needs an immediate answer, macosxhints' chat is a great place to start -- think iChat without the fancy interface. And with the xhintschat application (check out the link above for more info on it), IRC is nearly as easy (not quite, though!) as iChat. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a chance and say hello to some of the other macosxhints' readers (if I'm there, I'm either 'robg' or 'griffman.')
As of today (well, a while ago, actually ... but I'm finally getting around to announcing it today!), there's now an "official" macosxhints.com IRC channel. For the few of you who may not know what IRC is, it stands for Internet Relay Chat. Think iChat without the fancy GUI and with better tools for managing large discussions, and you've got the basic concept. Although IRC can be a bit intimidating if you're new to it, I think you won't find this to be the case with the macosxhints' IRC channel...
Thanks to forum readers eagle_eyes for setting up the IRC channel, and to Chuck (aka saint.duo) for creating an easy way for all of you to get there -- the XHintsChat application [659K dmg]. Of course, the XHintsChat application wouldn't be possible without the hard work of Nate Friedman and Doug Brown on OpenMac, the customizable IRC client that XHintsChat is based upon.
The XHintsChat application is basically a regular IRC client that's been modified to connect directly to the macosxhints' chat channel. Just double-click the application and follow some simple instructions, and you're in. If you're experienced with IRC, just point your favorite client to irc.krono.net and join channel #macosxhints.
When might you want to use the macosxhints' IRC channel? When you have a question that you need answered right away, and you can't wait on the forums. When you think you've found a bug / feature / whatever in OS X, and you'd like someone to test your theory. When you just want to say 'hi' to some other OS X users.
I'll do my best to stop by on occasion ('griffman' is the moniker you'll see me under there), but the beauty of the channel is that it's not reliant on any one individual's presence to be beneficial to all -- everyone can participate!
I reclassified a number of older hints today into the new Web Browsers and OS X Server categories. I'm not sure I caught them all, so if you see a hint that needs to be reclassified into one of the new categories, please drop me a note!
Based on my own experiences and some emails from others (thanks for the feedback!), I've made a few changes here tonight:
The big news is that the new syndication engine is working. Just point your favorite news reader (NetNewsWire, SlashDock, PluckyX, etc.) at:
and you should now see (assuming your news reader supports it) the article title, the date, the category, and the first 225 characters of each hint! Again, thanks to Lucas for pulling this together!
The header has been reworked to better handle resizing (the Pick of the Week table should be much friendlier) and the "new window" on the Forums link is now gone.
Comments now have backgrounds in all themes, which is most noticeable in Classic (you can actually read the comments now!).
Some lingering references to "•" (for the bullet symbol) have been replaced (they don't render correctly in some versions of Netscape-based browsers).
I found and removed some lingering colors from the Gray theme.
There is also a bug that I'm currently trying to sort out -- the What's New box is not sorting correctly. Although all new comments are being picked up, the newest is not sorting to the top of the box.
Please continue to send in reports for things you find that don't look or work correctly -- and thanks for all the kind words on the conversion. I'm glad most people see it as an upgrade!
Welcome to the new and improved (I hope) macosxhints.com! We're now running on Geeklog version 1.3.7, and there are a few nice new features:
Story submission mode includes a
tag pair that will leave all characters (including ) alone. Please use this when submitting code!
A greatly improved links page with paging and organization by category.
A nicely improved search engine, with much more readable results ... and there will be more improvements in the near future.
Blocks on one side only. For now, they're on the right, though that may change in the near future based on some expected features in a minor Geeklog upgrade.
There's a new "Site Activity" feature in the What's New box that will show you everything that was posted to the site on any given day. You can easily choose any of the last seven days, or search on any day in the site's history.
Topics are now in a pop-up box on the right, just below the What's New boxes. There are two new topics (Browsers and OS X Server) to pick from, and I'll be migrating some historical hints into those categories in the near future.
Finally, registered users (the free registration, not the subscription) will be able to pick from one of three themes, as shown here:
There are actually two versions of the Color theme (one with rollovers, one without), so technically there are four themes to pick from. Registered users can also post commets, set comment display preferences, and other things...
I'm sure I've missed some things, and I'm sure many of you will have comments. So if you notice a problem, or something that doesn't make sense, something you like, or something you don't, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what's on your mind. Please include a URL to the particular page you're commenting on to make it easier for me to see what you're seeing.
Sorry it took so long this weekend, but as with most web projects, actual time estimates always seem to be off by a factor of two or three...
beta site update: I mucked with the CSS colors a bit last night for links, and also added an "Activity" feature to search on everything that happens in any one day -- look for it in the What's New box...
The 'hint count' is down a bit today, as last night's server work took much longer than expected. Between that and work on the new site, I kind of ran out of time last night / this morning. But the good news is that we're now up and running on a new hard drive, which will hopefully solve the crashing problems we've been experiencing.
Regarding the new site, please take a couple seconds today to visit the beta site. It's now running a new look with a fundamental change in layout (based on beta comments to date) -- the blocks are now on the right. There's a poll on the beta site, asking which block location you prefer. In this case, I'm probably going to let the majority rule -- choose your favorite side for the blocks, and that's where they'll be in the new site. Unfortunately, I can't offer either side as a user preference (nor even vary the locations by theme). This is a site-wide setting, so it's either all left, all right, or both sides ... cast your vote soon, as the poll closes tomorrow night!
Just a quick reminder that the beta site is available for public review this week. Throughout the week, look for changes as I get ready for this weekend's cutover. Today's change is a work-in-progress theme (3D Lights2) that registered users can set in their Display Preferences. As always, comments welcome -- but keep in mind the site is a work in progress, and please post your comments to the existing articles on the beta site.
That's right, there's now a public beta of the new macosxhints.com. It's using some older database data, so you may not be able to sign in if you registered here after last October or so (but try the sign-up system; your account from the old site will be migrated in the real conversion, so anything you do on the beta will just be thrown away).
I'd love feedback on the layout and features -- there's a featured story on the beta site explaining some of the new features. At the moment, there's just one theme, but there will be several available at launch time -- which is still on schedule for next weekend, the 15th and 16th. If you find anything that seems broken or wrong, comment on the featured article on the beta site, or just drop me an email...
Let the comments (good (hopefully!) and bad) begin...