Mini-reviews on the forum

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Mini-reviews on the forum

This page collects various reviews that have been posted by users on our forum. To browse a more complete and up-to-date collection of mini-reviews, check out the mini-review section of our forum here.

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redmine: website tool for collaborative project todolist/wiki, bugtracking, etc

mouser and I have been using redmine lately for various projects, and I must say it really helps productivity.
I find this kind of the ultimate `getting-things-done` tool, even if you don't need a bugtracker for what you're doing per se. It's a bit hard to explain everything so I'll just break down the features below:

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Mini Book Review of "The Best of 2600: A Hacker Oddyssey" (now shipping)

I just got my copy of "The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey" and thought I would post a little about it.

For those of you not familiar with the magazine "2600", it's a small magazine about hacking phones and computers, that was stared in the mid-80s as a few printed sheets stapled together and mailed out by a couple of college students. It's always been a kind of loosely put together collection of musings and pictures of odd phones, and the occasional cool hack.  It's always had a very distinctively underground feel, bordering on illegal, and has developed a kind of cult following.  I've always been a fan of the magazine though i don't understand most of it and only read it occasionally.

With the release of this new big anthology, the best writing of 2600 is about to become a lot more well known.

The book is edited and contains chapter introductions (sometimes substantial) by Emmanual Goldstein, one of the original founders of 2600 and still the driving force behind the magazine.

I expected the book to have the eccentric/indie feel of the magazine and be similar in organization to anthologies like "The Best of Creative Computing" -- that is, filled with pictures and organized into randomly themed areas.

Instead, the book is organized chronologically, and separated into 3 main sections for the decades of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and subchapters in each section.

It's a big hardcover book, 871 pages.  And there are no pictures or photos(!).  This is actually a little strange given how many photos and illustrations are in the magazine normally.. I wonder in fact if this wasn't a decision made out of legal concerns.. No explanation is given.

The lack of images and the minimal discussion about the history of the magazine is going to be a little disappointing to anyone who gets the book hoping for a visceral immediate feeling of nostalgia the way one gets from reading the Creative Computing anthologies for example, nothing looks or feels like the original magazine, and the articles are all professionally laid out and typeset uniformly.

It's a great collection of essays that reflect the hacker mindset and the amateur hobbyist perspective on hacking -- a collection that anyone interesting in the history of hacking would be thrilled to own.

If you're expecting to get a collection of the best hacker writing in the last 3 decades, suitable for a general audience, you're likely to be dissapointed.  2600 was always hackers writing for other hackers, and these are not professional writers.  And if you're expecting a visual walk down memory lane through the history of 2600 you'll also be disappointed.

But if you are looking for a collection of the best essays from three decades of the magazine and the hacker community, providing a representative and thorough look at the emerging issues in hacking over time, you've got yourself a new bible.  It's a fascinating book and a great way to jump into the raw source literature if you like that kind of thing and are curious about the hacking community.  And if you're a fan of the magazine it's impossible not to be a fan of this book.

Mini-Review - Direcscape: don't get lost in your project

When I read about Direcscape I had to give it a try, because I simply could not understand what it was about! I downloaded the file, 680 KB, and double-clicked it. It is a WinZip SelfInstaller that will unpack to the silly folder name, "Install Direcscape". Would you go looking under the letter "I" to find Direcscape? I wouldn't, so I unpacked the container again to see what had happened. I found it and installed it in a folder named extSoftware. I tell you these minor details because the Direcscape installer will not create any shortcuts for you, so...


Now came the big question. What the heck was I to do with this program? At first I found it to be extremely strange if it was supposed to be some kind of a file manager that would navigate. But it isn't. All it will do if you click inside the program is to open Explorer. Hmm...!?? It certainly took me more than a moment to understand what was happening. And studying the readme.txt didn't do much ("This is a sample file." End of story!). Well, the program actually comes with a chm help file and a link to on-line tutorials, so eventually I started to figure out what it all is about. And because of the tutorials you really don't need me to tell much. But I will say that as I kept on trying the program, it became clear to me how smart it is that the author has left it to Explorer to do what Explorer is meant to do, instead of trying to make Direcscape replace Explorer.

But what is it then, Direscape? No matter what intentions the author may have for this program, I will say that Direcscape is a VERY fine tool to prevent you (me) from getting lost in a project - I would say Direcscape is a project viewer, if ever there was one. I would also call it a Project Organizer, but in the sense that I will organize the view of the project's folders and files, not the project itself, if you know what I mean.

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An Analysis of CamSpace as a Webcam Mouse and Gaming Controller

Well, it seems that CamSpace,, is in Beta3 mode and they sent out invites to the people that signed up (I never got mine, though. Anyone got theirs?).  Here's three videos of someone trying to use CamSpace to emulate a mouse:,, and here is a video of someone using it on Google Earth type application: Note that these videos appear to be from people who have actually gotten copies of the program and are not promotional videos.

Some of you may remember the WebCam Signature program I submitted for the DC Programming Contest that contained an experimental webcam mouse mode ( From coding that program and watching these videos, I feel that I can provide some useful information for people that haven't gotten an invite yet.

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Mini Review: Espresso

Espresso is a powerful permissions-based email client designed to completely eliminate spam as you define it from your Inbox.

Espresso's unique email filtering system is based on common sense. Everyone knows from whom they want to receive email. Anyone else who sends you messages is sending you junk, otherwise known as spam. Espresso does not filter junk. It only looks for messages you want to receive based on simple, yet powerful rules. Using a number of options available, you decide how to handle messages from unknown senders.

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A while back, I wrote a review of TaskPaper over on (http://www.macspark....-win-a-free-license/).  The truth is that since then I've fallen once again into my old habit of tweaking the tool and not doing the necessary.  I played for a few months with RTM, again, and then settled to paper and my trusty, familiar old Moleskine pocket notebook (the same one I've carried everywhere for the past three years).  But now and then I have opened TaskPaper, updated my lists, downloaded the latest development version, and every time I've done this I've breathed a sigh of pleasure and relief.  There's something about plain text that I find so appealing.

But since I work on a Mac at home and on PCs during the day, I've searched for the best way to carry my lists.  What I've done in the past is to use the portable version of Notepad++, which is a fine solution and does the job perfectly well, but really only to a minimum of usability when you compare with what's possible in TaskPaper.

And then along came TodoPaper ($29.99,, which bills itself as inspired by TaskPaper.  The two programs are, in fact very similar, especially when you compare TodoPaper to the recent development versions of TaskPaper.

Both are really sophisticated envelopes for plain text files.

Click here to continue reading the full minireview now..

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