East of the Sun, West of the Moon


New gadget

Filed under: Family,OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 1:41 am

Panasonic PV-GS80 MiniDV Camcorder with 32x Optical Image Stabilized  ZoomIt’s for M‘s birthday, but of course something that’ll be used for the entire family. We got her a Panasonic GS80, a handy camcorder. It’s a bit of a starter model, as we’ve never owned one before and I didn’t want to buy something entirely too complex or overpriced.

So far she’s done some recording with it, had some fun feedback loops while recording straight through firewire into her MacBook, etc. Once it’s been on the initial 24 hour of charging for the internal battery she’ll no doubt test to see how long the rechargeable detachable one will last, and do some recording around the house and such.

The kids are of course enthusiastically planning videos of the rats to be posted on YouTube, but I hope to stop them from that for a little while longer. 🙂

Update: I almost forgot to list that I also, while I was ordering from Amazon anyway, picked up the Snakes on a Plane album. Ladies and gentleman, snakes are slithering… carry on!


Time passes

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 3:46 pm

So what’s happened in the last few weeks, around here?

I upgraded our MythTV setup from 0.18.<aging> to 0.20.2. This was required in order to still get any TV guide information. See, MythTV was getting its information from labs.zap2it.com, which provided that service for free, where free meant answering some survey questions every 3 months. The last few times the number of questions had been 0, which was amusing, but apparently a sign of things to come because a few months ago the fine folks there announced that they were going to discontinue this service. Some open source folks cooperated to work out a solution, now known as schedulesdirect.org, where we can continue to get this data. Initially at $15 per 3 months, but if enough users get on board that price should drop quite a bit. The amusing part is where they get their data from TMS (Tribune Media Services), the people that run zap2it.com, so I guess their biggest deal was that they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with payments and now only have to deal with one contact. Good for them, and now that we are paying real money for this data, there is also a better chance of complaints about missing or faulty data being dealt with, which is definitely a bonus.

My MacBook Pro was sent to Texas for the second time, 2 months after the first repair. This time they replaced the hard disk, which took a little convincing because it doesn’t show any errors when you merely verify using Disk Utility. The TechTools Deluxe software that Apple provides to AppleCare customers has a Surface Scan option which did, however, so I used that as leverage.

Unfortunately my timing was less ideal than last time. I called AppleCare on Wednesday, got a box to ship the laptop on Thursday, had it out the door within 5 minutes because the DHL delivery guy was kind enough to stick around so that he wouldn’t have to make an extra 2 hour trip just to pick up that same box again, and after it arrived on Friday it was marked as done and shipping out again within hours. But then “2nd day shipping” or whatever it was called turned into something slightly slower because the weekend got in the way, plus the extra holiday on Monday (Labor Day for non-US-ians reading along), so I got it around noon on Tuesday.

First thing I did was verify that I had a different hard disk, which I did, and run that Surface Scan on it. Thankfully there were no problems, so I moved on to restoring my home-directories and give M back her MacBook which I’d claimed for the past week.

I will cross my fingers that I don’t need to talk to anybody at AppleCare for a while!


iPhone notes (3)

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 11:42 pm

As far as I can tell I can only send text messages (SMS) to one contact at a time. I see no way to send to groups, nor do I see any way to add more contacts after the first one.

What the heck does the little “auto” icon mean, the one in the Google Maps application?

In the Recents section of the Phone menu, I can only clear all calls, not individual entries. Thankfully I don’t think this device is going to run out of space anytime soon, but what’s wrong with cleaning your caller-id history, so to speak, and only keeping the ones that you care about?

You know you’ve been

Filed under: Humo(u)r,OS X — Erwin @ 5:47 pm

… using the iPhone a lot lately when you do the two-finger scrolling on your Apple laptop of sorts in the wrong direction. 🙂


iPhone notes (2)

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 3:54 am

You know what would be cool? If the iPhone would be able to connect with an Airport Express! 😉

It looks like EDGE is behaving a bit better again today, I could even almost browse web pages over it, but then switched back to wi-fi for actual bandwidth and speed. I tried YouTube briefly on there but couldn’t get Search or Features to work on either wi-fi or EDGE, it keeps telling me “YouTube not available”. Ditto for Most Recent and Top Rated in the “More” section. Annoying.

I like how SMS looks like iChat, which also makes me think that IM support may be added at some point. As far as I can tell you can only clear entire conversations, not any individual messages from those conversations. Still waiting for my number to be fully moved over to AT&T so at the moment I can SMS from the iPhone and AT&T customers can SMS me back on there, but anyone trying to call my number will end up on my old cellphone still. Patience… I know.

Configured two GMail accounts to see how that would work. Note to others: It helps tremendously if you first go into GMail and configure your account such that POP3 is allowed! 😉 It looks like email is the only way off of the iPhone for pictures taken with the thing itself, as opposed to pictures synced onto it with iTunes? Am I missing something here?

Update: iPhoto kindly treats the iPhone like any other camera from which you can import photos. What’s more, emailing the photos only gets you reduced size copies (640×480) instead of the original size (1600×1200) that you get using iPhoto!


Mad iPhone

Filed under: Humo(u)r,OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 2:52 am

… or was that iPhone madness?

Either way, thanks to Christopher I now am the proud and still somewhat baffled owner of one of those gadgets. The activation itself was as smooth as you would hope, but the number transfer is going to take a while longer still, it appears. For added fun M and I then visited the local Cingular, or rather “new-AT&ampT how can I help you” store which amusingly enough didn’t have any of them on sale itself. Apparently they were a bit difficult to get a hold of, for this poor mid-west city? On the other hand the nearest (bigger) city did have some. The reason for the visit was to get M a new phone, transfer the newly created account into one with a family-plan, and add her on there, since having one phone with AllTel and one with AT&T makes very little sense.

The EDGE problems today were definitely noticeable. Combined with an apparently weaker wifi receiver than the MBP right next to it, they caused the iPhone to have almost no network connectivity. This was at the in-laws, while at home the wifi receiver is much more willing to hop onto the home wifi network. Time will tell how typical this is.

I like the custom Google map/route setup, which will hopefully be useful in the upcoming road trip (in a week and a half). Same with the weather widget, I guess.

Is it normal that the YouTube item doesn’t work yet? This may be a firewall issue, which is pretty strict here at home.

More later, no doubt. 😉


What a week! (and then some) (final)

Filed under: OS X,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 10:12 pm

Impressive, I must say.

Here’s the time-line, of sorts:

  • Saturday:
    • 1-2pm: Put MBP to sleep with a Firefox that refuses to start back up, figuring I’ll deal with it later. At the time I assumed I would simply need to restore the relevant profile directories from the most recent backup.
    • In the evening I try to resume it, without any luck. Various tests are performed, leading to the conclusion that something is definitely broken, the hard drive being the main suspect. Not being able to open it up without voiding the warranty, I can’t verify that theory.
  • Sunday:
    • After initially restoring my personal account onto M‘s MacBook, I decide to instead put it on the Mac Mini, and put my work account on the MacBook, to ease the load while I temporarily crash there. It also allows me to remain mobile because I have no idea how long this situation will last.
  • Monday:
    • 10-11am: Talk to Apple Support for just over an hour.
  • Tuesday:
    • 11:30am: Box for MBP is dropped off at our door.
    • 2:00pm: Request a pick-up via DHL’s website.
    • 2:25pm: DHL is in our driveway to pick up the box with MBP.
  • Wednesday:
    • 11am: Receive confirmation from DHL and Apple that the box has arrived.
    • 5pm: Receive an update from Apple that the MBP has been repaired and is on its way back to me!
  • Thursday:
    • 12pm: Receive box with MBP from DHL.
    • 4pm: Both work and personal account have been copied back onto the MBP!

This means that what I feared might be a multi-week affair has been sorted in under a week. Wow!

The repairs are described as follows:

  • PCBA,2.0GHZ,128VRAM(M1-RP) MBP 15″

The apparent translation:

  • They replaced the mainboard (a.k.a Printed Circuit Board Assembly) with new 2.0 GHz Core Duo chip and 128MB video RAM.
  • A replacement superdrive (CD/DVD burner/drive).
  • Including the cable to hook up the superdrive (ODD is Optical Disc Drive, flex ass(embl)y is the cable).

So apparently the hard drive wasn’t the problem. I have the same model in there still but as I didn’t write down the serial number of the original I will never know if it is also the exact same drive. Oh well.

The new mainboard/CPU combo is unknown to CoreDuoTemp, a little menubar gadget I used to track the CPU temperature and usage, so I guess I may have gotten the most recent edition of that, at least. I hope that that also means improved dealing with the CPU/HD heat.

Now, where was I… 😉


What a week! (and then some) (part 2)

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 2:56 am

I spent an hour on the phone with Apple Support this morning. Repeating some of the steps I’d already taken (running the Apple Hardware Test, running Disk Utility from the install DVD to Verify and Repair the hard disk data) and adding some others (attempting a safe boot, clearing the Parameter RAM a.k.a NVRAM contents), none of which resulted in anything useful other than confirming that the hard disk was no longer responding.

Because I’m not particularly eager to make a 2.5 hour drive back both ways to visit either the nearest Apple Store or the nearest certified service center (in Kansas City and Springfield respectively) they’ll send me a box in which to ship the laptop to them. Then the waiting and daily checking of the online repair status page begins!

In order for me to continue doing what I get paid for, I’ve restored my work account on M‘s MacBook, and my personal account on the family Mac Mini (first generation version) in the dining room. That way M can still use her laptop in the evenings and I still have a mobile work environment.

To Apple’s credit the transition of the two accounts to their respective new homes went reasonably smoothly, all the essential applications survived so I can browse, read/write email, read news, chat, listen to music, track finances, etc, as I did before. Two things that I noticed not working were a Core Duo specific application that probably would’ve worked with M‘s Core 2 Duo with an upgrade (but I couldn’t be bothered), and an application that, on the PowerPC side of things was detected as a Classic application, but was actually a compiled AppleScript program. Weird, but not important enough. 🙂

Time to veg in front of the (Myth)TV now, we’ve got a bit of backlog!


What a week! (and then some)

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 3:50 am

What the hell, is there somebody out there with a voodoo doll with my likeness that is sticking pins in it or something? This afternoon the HD in my MacBook Pro died. Yes, I have backups. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll now have to deal with warranties and probably be without it for a while. Aaaaaargh!!



Filed under: OS X,Projects,Software — Erwin @ 5:35 pm

So apparently Apple has been fooling a lot of laptop owners (including myself, it looks like) into thinking that their screens can display millions of colours. Do a little googling and I’m sure you’ll find the relevant news articles, blogs, and whatever else.

For users to find out what kind of screen they have, the current suggestion is to download the SwitchResX Control Panel, run Export DCC and use the brand and other identification from that file to look up the specs online.

Downloading 1.3MB of software to find that out is slightly overkill. Wikipedia describes the contents of the EDID data fairly accurately and if you want more there’s a link to a PDF file on the same page. Combine that with the ioreg program that dumps lots of information of your hardware on stdout, and you have the ingredients to write a quick’n’dirty Perl script that’ll read that, pick out the right line, and explain those bytes in more understandable language to the best of its ability.

The relevant parts are at the end, which will look something like this:

Descriptor Block 3
  93: Block type: (fe) ASCII string
    "B154PW01 V0"

Descriptor Block 4
  111: Block type: (fc) Monitor name
    "Color LCD"

You can find specs for B154PW01 online, and yes it does say 262k colours there, not 16.7 million.

It would be interesting to see how well the script works for other card/monitor combinations. I tried it on the Mac Mini with the TV adapter, for instance, which enlightened me that it uses analog input and one of the descriptor blocks is an ASCII string that says “NTSC/PAL”. Indeed!

Improvements to the script will be happily accepted, of course. 🙂

Update: Improved it to unpack the manufacterer ID, which turns out to be 3 characters encoded into two bytes. So “0610” turns into “APP”, for instance.

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