Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA

On a foggy San Francisco morning, I stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts to visit the Exploratorium. While the museum is off the 101, transportation is a hassle because a stretch of 101 winds through the City of San Francisco, with all the attendant problems that crowded streets and endless blocks of traffic lights bring.

With a print-at-home coupon in hand, we walked up to the admission desk and claimed our $2 off for adults and $1 off for children discount.

The breadth of exhibits was astounding. The junior explorers had a wonderful time seeing, touching and experiencing the science in action. The museum had both simple and complex exhibits that appealed to young children, teenagers and adult alike. Allow a minimum of three hours for a cursory roam through the museum.

One of my favorite exhibits was a camera and flash rigged to a dropper and a cup of water. A rotary dial allowed the user to select how soon after the water drop the camera would take a photo. Who knew that hands-on science can be so much fun.


BBEdit 10 Custom Menu Shortcuts

Previously, I mentioned that BBEdit 10 was missing a “Set Key” button to map menu items to a custom hotkey. Well, I heard back from support, and here’s the undocumented trick. Clicking on the empty space to the right where the other hotkeys are listed brings up a field for entering your new custom shortcut. If the new shortcut conflicts with an existing shortcut, you will be prompted with an option to remap the hotkey to the current menu item.


Safari 5.1 Headers

Safari 5.1 is the latest version of Apple’s web browser. People who work on websites should notice a change in the Web Inspector, when compared to Safari 5.0. Previously, clicking on the Resources icon brought up the file size and loading time data, which is useful for diagnosing why a particular web page may be loading slowly.

In Safari 5.1, you can still view this data; however, it has been moved under the Network tab. Another difference is that in Safari 5.0, you could inspect this data after a page load. Safari 5.1 changes this. If you do not have Web Inspector open at the time a page loads, the Network data appears blank. That’s why I could not locate this data at first glance.

If you want to look at the Headers, clicking on the name of one of the files brings up the Status Code, Request URL, and Response Headers.


Mac OS X Lion Launchpad

I don’t get Launchpad. It may be a cool feature if I didn’t have the most often used applications already in the Dock. As it is, the feature set seems a bit duplicative. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you should already be familiar with the UI–drag related applications on top of each other to create folders.

By default, Launchpad displays all the application icons in grid format in alphabetical order. And, when I say all, I mean all, including rarely used utilities like ColorSync Utility, Dictionary, Java Preferences, and Boot Camp Assistant. It will take some organizing for Launchpad to be useful.


Mac OS X Lion Kills Rosetta

Mac OS X Lion RosettaMac OS X Lion marks the end of Rosetta, the transition technology that allowed Intel Macs to run PowerPC applications. After installing Mac OS X, I took a peek at the Applications folder. If you have been migrating all your applications from computer to computer over the years, you may have some Power PC applications, such as Internet Explorer, sitting around unused on the hard drive. Now would be the time to clean up the computer because clicking on Internet Explorer (which now has a slash through it) brings up this warning:

You can’t open the application Internet Explorer.app because PowerPC applications are no longer supported.

No offer to download Rosetta separately. Game over. Of course, losing a 2004 version of Internet Explorer is no big deal with Safari, Firefox and Chrome offering newer and better options. The bigger problem is Quicken 2005. I haven’t committed to any of the alternatives yet. That’s why I installed Lion on the older MacBook Pro and not the newer one that has all the mission critical applications and data.


Mac OS X Lion

On one hand, I don’t have to drive to the Apple Store, find parking, pick-up a tiny box with a disk in it, wait in line, check out, and then drive back home.

However, waiting 1 hour and 55 minutes to download Mac OS X Lion, which weighs in at 3.74 GB, is far from instant gratification.


BBEdit 10 Text Factories

Yesterday, I updated to BBEdit 10. Outside of the different UI for open documents, I didn’t notice anything truly different until I tried to access my collection of Text Factories.

In BBEdit 10, the Text Factories still may be accessed under the Text menu, but the Text Factories have been renamed to Text Filter, and appear at the top of the Text menu instead of a third of the way down. Additionally, the hot keys for my Text Factories did not transfer over. To reset the hot keys, Window > Palettes > Text Filters brings up the menu for setting a key for the renamed Text Filters.

If you are upgrading, I would suggest renaming the previous version to BBEdit-9-6-4.app. After installing BBEdit 10, I was still able to access the older version to look up all my old hot keys. If I replaced BBEdit 9 with BBEdit 10, I would have been in big trouble.


Quicken, Lion and iBank

Last week, I received an ominous note from Intuit regarding Quicken, a personal finance product that I have been using for long, long time.

I can still remember when I first installed Quicken on the Powerbook 100. (The Powerbook is long gone, but for some reason I have kept the Quicken install disks in storage). I was immediately captivated with Quicken and proceeded to tell all my family members to switch to Quicken instead of using Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3 to manage their finances. As the years passed, I consistently upgraded Quicken until I reached Quicken for Mac 2005. I skipped 2007 and Quicken Essentials for Mac received disastrous reviews. So, I held off as long as I could.

After a pretty good run, I may have reached the end of the line with Quicken since Intuit tells me that Quicken for Mac 2005 is not compatible with Apple’s upcoming Lion operating system.

Since Intuit was offering a 50% discount for Quicken Essentials for Mac and a 60-day money back guarantee, I decided to take the plunge. I did not experience any problems migrating all my financial data to Quicken Essentials for Mac. However, the inability of the program to track investment transactions is a non-starter. I could look past the changed UI that displays transactions in one line instead of two, which makes Quicken Essentials look like a spreadsheet. (Gasp! If I wanted to use Excel, I would launch that app instead.) I could probably deal with transfers between accounts that are now recorded in a transfer field instead of the category field. But, the loss of investment transactions was too much to bear.

In 2010, the Macworld review for Quicken Essentials noted that a “promised Quicken Deluxe comes out next year” that may address the lack of investment tracking. But, we are into the second half of 2011 with no product in sight. I tried to pry some information from the Intuit support staff, but I couldn’t get any response other than phrases cut-and-pasted from the Intuit website. Since Quicken Essentials for Mac did not meet my needs, and I have no idea when an upgrade to Quicken Essentials for Mac or a rumored Quicken Deluxe may show up, I decided to give iBank a look.

At first glance, iBank looks more like Quicken than Quicken Essentials for Mac. Despite the superficial similarity, iBank does have some differences from Quicken. For example, categories work differently. In Quicken, I had to add a new category through “Lists > Categories & Transfers.” I could not find a parallel menu in iBank and found the solution by happenstance when I tried to type the new category in the category field. I actually like the iBank method.

I also liked the transaction search in iBank where I can enter a term in the search field and iBank instantaneously filters the transactions. Much faster than the Find and Replace dialog in Quicken.

But, what absolutely aggravated me was iBank’s treatment of short sales. The portfolio summary incorrectly reported that I was fabulously wealthy. After some sleuthing (by generating another portfolio report with all transactions), I found the offending transaction that threw off my portfolio balance. Within the portfolio report, I could see a share adjustment transaction at the time of a short sale. Well, iBank would not let me sell shares that I did not own, so it added the shares to the account before the short sale. If that wasn’t bad enough, the share adjustment transaction only showed up on the portfolio summary and not in the account register. The resolution is to change the transaction type for the short sale from “sell” to “sell to open.” After that, the portfolio balance plunged back to a more credible level.

This major bug has shaken my initial faith in iBank and wasted an inordinate amount of my time. I will be taking full advantage of the 30-day free trial period before I commit to Quicken or iBank. I like the iBank UI and feature set, but I cannot deal with maddening bugs like the above. For now, iBank is in the lead, but if I find another significant glitch, I might be returning to the tried and true Quicken 2005.


Las Caletas or Las Marietas Eco Discovery

While trip planning, I could not decide between Las Caletas and Las Marietas Eco Discovery. Both sounded similar in that they were boat trips with the option to snorkel and kayak. However, these adventures were completely different.

Sea Sick. Las Marietas is located in Banderas Bay, and the journey out there can be unpleasant for those who get motion sickness and have not taken dramamine. The crew were handing out plastic bags to those who were sea sick at the tail end of the ride out to Las Marietas. In contrast, Las Caletas is a smooth, enjoyable ride along the coast of Puerto Vallarta.

Activities. If you have young children, Las Caletas is the perfect destination. Between the burro ride, ziplining, and floating on an inner tube off the beach, the little ones were absolutely delighted. Las Marietas offers kayaking and snorkeling. If you get sea sick on the way to Las Marietas, you’ll probably be spending your time on the beach.

Food. With a full kitchen, Las Caletas offered a better assortment of hot food and cool desserts. For Las Marietas, the lunch offerings are sandwiches and salads.


Las Caletas

Of all the tours offered by Vallarta Adventures, I enjoyed Las Caletas the most. Like the other tours, we started with breakfast at the Nuevo Vallarta center before boarding a catamaran. The ship proceeded to Marina Vallarta, where it picked up additional passengers, and then headed straight to Las Caletas. The ship traveled parallel to the coast and the journey was not rough at all, unlike the ride to Las Marietas.

On the way to Las Caletas, we passed by Los Arcos, which are giant, arched rocks in Banderas Bay. We could see people snorkeling around the rocks in the morning.

As we approach Las Caletas, we receive a wave and a warm welcome.

Las Caletas has two beaches. The first one you pass is the quiet one. The catamaran that transported us to Las Caletas is in the background.

Las Caletas is the perfect destination for young children. Vallarta Adventures has a program dedicated to kids (four and up) that includes face painting, a visit with ducks and monkeys, a ride aboard a burro to the hilltop, and a zipline ride back down the hill.

During your stay at Las Caletas, drinks are complimentary, unless you want some fresh coconut juice.

The most important sign at Las Caletas. The water sports end at 1:00 PM. So, after lunch, there is no returning to the beach for more kayaking or snorkeling.

At the second beach, you can snorkel, kayaking, swim or float in an inner tube. The kids really loved the inner tube.

Lunch is a delicious buffet that offers food both familiar and foreign. For Chinese kids who are not too experimental, you cannot go wrong with rice.

I really liked the handmade tortillas, especially with the cactus.

Good bye Las Caletas.

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