East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2008/2/5

Update

Filed under: Family,OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 6:50 pm

A bit embarrassing that the first update of the year is in February, but so be it.

Since the last post I’ve had my share of fun. Aside from the usual social obligations around the holidays we were also kept busy for a week in early December by the fall-out after an ice storm that caused power outages and broke the cable used for the television signal and internet connectivity. The chopped up bits of broken off branches are still at the side of street in most of the city because they held off actually dealing with it until they had funding (from state and federal resources) which meant that people had to come in and inspect how much damage was done, etc.

The cable outage took longer to fix because the cable repair crew didn’t want to touch it while it was hanging near the electricity cable and the electricity company repair crew was waiting for us to deal with the tree that was snapped in two. Naturally the electricity company did not share this fact with us, which was a bit frustrating.

CFBBFB00-DBD6-4D5B-80ED-5BD1E871A62F.jpgThe past few weeks had also been unusual, with my MacBook Pro being shipped to the nearest Apple repair location twice within two weeks. First it was shipped there and the repair was put on hold because of a part that they needed. When it returned they had only replaced the hard drive so I assume that was the part. I received the repaired notebook on Tuesday, and on Friday evening, when I had slowly but surely gotten settled on it and I was doing the initial Time Machine run, it stopped working. The next morning I got on the phone with Apple, spent an hour talking and being on hold and another repair was initiated. While I thought the guy on the phone had told me I should receive the empty box on Monday (in which to ship the MBP to them), I didn’t get it until Tuesday, and the tracking indicated that it hadn’t even left its origin until Monday. Hrm. Then after it was repaired on Wednesday, this apparently didn’t happen in time for it to be picked up by DHL that same day. Fine, if that at least meant that it would arrive on Friday, but after a day of checking the tracking site and seeing that the box was still somewhere in or near Ohio, it didn’t arrive until Saturday!

In those three weeks I worked on M‘s MacBook and were both happy to no longer have to share it after I had (again) moved and reinstalled everything on the repaired machine.

Crossing my fingers, I think the machine (and yet another new hard drive, and also new cables this time) is in better shape. This was the third and fourth repair so far, I think it’s starting to get in Apple’s own interest to just get me a new machine and get it over with. I paid for the extended AppleCare so it is covered by warranty for another year and a half at least. I’m afraid to think about how many more repairs that is going to be, all on their dime (and my time). The price you pay for using a first-generation product, eh?

2007/11/1

Linkage

Filed under: Humo(u)r,Linkage,Music,OS X — Erwin @ 1:40 am

You can’t make this stuff up…

How to split up: Vienna hosts world’s first divorce fair:

“If people untie the knot in good faith, it can turn out that the day you divorce is the best day of your life,” said the organiser, Anton Barz, who also arranges wedding fairs.

Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin:

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today’s music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices. <…> Because these music fans also listen using portable players and computers, Matador and other labels include coupons in record packaging that can be used to download MP3 versions of the songs. Amory called the coupon program “hugely popular.”

And lastly, this Ars Technica review is well worth the read if you’re interested in knowing what changed under the hood of OS X Leopard (10.5):

While the casual Mac user will gauge Leopard’s worth by reading about the marquee features or watching a guided tour movie at Apple’s web site, those of us with an unhealthy obsession with operating systems will be trolling through the internals to see what’s really changed.

These two views of Leopard, the interface and the internals, lead to two very different assessments. Somewhere in between lie the features themselves, judged not by the technology they’re based on or the interface provided for them, but by what they can actually do for the user.

iTerm vs. Terminal

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 1:32 am

With the introduction of Leopard also came a refreshed Terminal application, which appears to be responding to some of the complaints that have driven people such as myself to using iTerm.

  • I see no keyboard shortcuts to directly go to the Nth tab in a window, for Terminal. In iTerm that is done using cmd-N (for values of N of 1 through 9).
  • In iTerm you can cmd-click on a URL and launch it in your preferred browser. In Terminal you get the same effect with first a right-click (or ctrl-click), then cursor down and hit enter. On the other hand, Terminal has a few more options in its context menu, like searching in Google or Spotlight.
  • Terminal has something called Window Groups. Nice, but aside from importing and exporting the data I don’t see an easy way to edit them? You can pick one of your Window Groups and start up with that. iTerm’s support for an AutoLaunch AppleScript looks more flexible in that respect. Maybe I just haven’t figured out how to do things The Apple Way?
  • In iTerm you have bookmarks with which you can define combinations of terminal/keyboard settings and initial command, allowing me to set up bookmarks for the various hosts I need to access via ssh on a daily basis. I see no way to do this in Terminal.

Please correct me if I’m wrong regarding any of this. πŸ™‚

2007/10/28

Leopard

Filed under: OS X — Erwin @ 2:27 am

I received the Leopard DVD on Friday, shortly after noon, and almost immediately put it to work. Twenty minutes DVD-verification and 45 minutes of actual upgrade time later I’m running OS X 10.5.

Here are my notes such as they are:

  • The default netatalk package in Debian/Etch does not cooperate with Leopard. You can either compile it yourself, if you can figure out how to do that, or fetch it from debian.jones.dk (which appears to be unreachable right now). The actual package lives at /dists/stable/misc/binary-i386/hykrion/netatalk/netatalk_2.0.3-5.0.0jones2_i386.deb. The reason is that Leopard no longer puts up with clear-text passwords and the default package in Debian/Etch doesn’t include uams_dhx.so that implements Diffie-Hellman eXchange, which Leopard will accept.
  • After I carelessly upgraded to Tunnelblick 3.0b5 (I was using 3.0b4) I found that something in 3.0b5 doesn’t play nicely with Leopard, causing it to not set up a default route after creating the OpenVPN tunnel, so I’ve downgraded for now. Maybe later.
  • I am happy to be using Spaces and have already made a list of applications that by default open in specific virtual desktops. Occasionally switching between applications seems to interact a bit quirky with Spaces, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
  • Thankfully all of my regular applications (Adium, iTerm, Firefox, Thunderbird, Moneydance, MiniBatteryLogger) seem to behave well after the upgrade.
  • I must not have been using cronjobs when I upgraded to Tiger, because I don’t remember that upgrade nuking any crontabs, but I hear that that’s standard procedure. So if you have any, make sure you keep a copy somewhere and restore them again afterwards.
  • I like what I’ve seen of the Time Limits feature in the Parental Controls. It takes fast user switching into account and pauses the countdown when the time limited account is not actually the one in focus so to speak. When you’ve reached your daily limit it still lets you log in but almost instantly kicks you back to the login prompt. When you try to log in outside of the allow time frames it simply doesn’t let you. When you’re logged into an account with a time limit it warns you 15 minutes in advance and shows a countdown. At 1 minute before you run out of time it also gives you an audio warning. All in all, not bad and I’m looking forward to putting it to good use on the family Mac Mini.
  • The Fan Control setup was removed in the upgrade process but a new version was released that is Leopard ready.
  • The Time Machine doesn’t seem interested in my network mounts and I’m pretty sure that in earlier builds that did work. I guess I’ll continue my rsync + Bacula based backup setup for the Macs for now, then.
  • I like the new iPhoto based screensaver, although now I’m tempted to set one up similarly with a network mount that includes all the photos in was-there.com. Something to try another day.

So far I’m happy with the improvements and there are a few things I haven’t even tried yet (the new iChat for instance, although I know in advance I’d never fully switch to it). I briefly glanced at Photo Booth but the backdrop tricks seem to expect a certain kind of background that I don’t have, so the results are less than perfect.

More testing fun tomorrow!

Update: Instead of a non-mainstream netatalk package it’s also possible to re-enable the cleartext passwords with this magical command line incantation:

    defaults write -g com.apple.AppleShareClientCore -dict-add afp_cleartext_allow -bool true

Update: There is a newer version of Tunnelblick, 3.0b6, which appears to work better with Leopard.

Update: Another magical command line that I applied pretty quickly, which turns the 3D dock back into a 2D one:

    defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES

2007/10/24

This week’s linkage

Filed under: Linkage,News,Software,Technology — Erwin @ 1:04 am

How to build your own Sputnik:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you could build one in a container smaller than a matchbox, weighing about as much as a wristwatch. The components, including a transmitter, battery and the sensors you’d need would probably cost less than Β£50,” he says.

That’s progress.

Stellarium:

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

Looks pretty cool!

Comcast traffic blocking: even more apps, groupware clients affected:

So far, Comcast has been extremely tight-lipped about what’s going on here. The only thing Comcast will admit to is using “the latest technologies to manage our network to provide a quality experience for all Comcast subscribers.” From the look of things, that quality experience doesn’t extend to BitTorrent, Gnutella, and Lotus Notesβ€”and we wouldn’t be surprised to see more applications added to that list.

What was that about net neutrality again? Ugh.

The Evolution of Yahoo! 360:

On Yahoo!’s Q3 Earnings call today, it was announced that we intend to transition Yahoo! 360 to a more integrated Yahoo! experience in early 2008. I want to provide additional information on this news and assure you that we will minimize any disruption to you and our valued Yahoo! 360 community. I also want to assure you that you can still use all the features of Yahoo! 360 until this transition takes place in early 2008.

Translation: We’re shutting down Y!360. This was posted there a week ago and only today I hear about it through TechCrunch. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, did it really happen? Or something like that. πŸ™‚

2007/10/22

Printer fun

Filed under: Technology — Erwin @ 8:24 pm

Our Epson Stylus CX5400 (bought almost 3 years ago, it’s been discontinued now, of course) all-in-one printer stopped working when 2-3 weeks ago A wanted to use it for something and even putting new cartridges in place (although the old ones weren’t fully depleted yet) didn’t do any good.

What to do, given that I know little to nothing about printer internals. Pondering this a bit and doing some research, I run across a website called fixyourownprinter.com which sells self-help packages. The appropriate package for our printer is $9.99 (excluding tax or shipping) so we take our chances and order one. If it works, we’ll have a working printer for the price of this, some wasted ink and paper and an hour of our time and if it doesn’t… sending it in for maintenance (if that’s even an option) is surely going to be more costly than just buying a new one, so not much to lose!

Last week the cleaning solution, syringe and a small bit of tube arrive and yesterday M and I sat down to figure this out.

As described on this page (referred to by the instructions that came with the cleaning solution) the ink purge tube had become disconnected. We had to wing it a little because didn’t have forcepts available, although in retrospect we had needle nose pliers somewhere but didn’t think of those. While doing this the spring underneath the cap assembly that keeps it in place came off so we also had to partially take out the cap assembly itself to reattach it underneath and then reattach all of that to the rest of the printer. Fun! This is where some dental floss came in handy! πŸ˜‰

From there on it was smooth sailing. I applied the cleaning solution with the syringe, we left it sitting for a few hours and then ran the head cleaning routine a few times before running a printer test. It’s nearly back to regular quality so I’ll likely apply some more cleaning solution and then run the head cleaning routine a few more times, but 95% working is a whole lot more than 0% working, right?

2007/10/17

Apple Tidbits

Filed under: News,OS X — Erwin @ 7:11 pm

Yesterday Apple finally announced when the next version of OS X (10.5, also known as Leopard) will be released, Friday October 26, and within an hour of finding out I’d pre-ordered a so-called family-pack (since we have 4 machines running OS X in the house). Nothing stops anyone from installing the single user version on multiple machines, Apple didn’t put checks in their code to stop you from that as far as I know (and have noticed, ahem), but I guess I wanted to do The Right Thing β„’ πŸ™‚

When the previous version came out I waited much longer with the switch, I was holding out on 10.3.9 while Apple was already at 10.4.6, but this time I’m eager to try out things like the built-in backup software, proper support for the iPhone Notes and various other of the 300 new features (obviously not all of them as exciting as that). I’m also curious to try out the improved Parental Controls on the family Mac and hope the Guest Log-In Accounts will be useful for the occasional visitor (right now I have an account that’s locked down using parental controls for that). Browsing through that list I also notice that Terminal finally has tabs! Not that I expect to be convinced to give up my iTerm just yet.

On a related note: Apple announced that it will have an actual iPhone (and iPod Touch, or iTouch as I see it being called) SDK in February 2008. Were they just waiting to see how easily hackers would break through their defenses first, or are they really not quite ready? Having seen the things that developers created without an SDK, I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll come up with with one.

Counting down now, 9 more days until Leopard…

2007/10/11

5 seconds (if that) of fame

Filed under: Humo(u)r,Software — Erwin @ 9:50 pm

Yesterday morning I came across an article in The Register about Apple preparing some sort of webapp portal for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Since this seemed relevant, I passed that on to the iPhoneWebDev group, to which I’ve been subscribed almost as long as I’ve had an iPhone. Within minutes Erica Sadun, also on the list, followed up, and I thought that that was the end of it.

Then in the evening I got an email, out of the blue, from a former colleague (we worked at the same company about 8 years ago), saying he had come across my name in a TUAW article, where Erica mentioned the rumour and thanked me for passing it on. πŸ™‚

Oh, and that portal is actually live now, by the way.

2007/10/10

I suppose it was time

Filed under: OS X,Technology — Erwin @ 4:20 pm

I’ve had an unpleasant week of unpredictable behaviour from my MacBook Pro where it would simply power off while the battery still looks like it should have enough charge (typically over 10% and under 40%), several attempts to fully and utterly drain and then recharge the battery, resetting the SMC (System Management Controller) data to make sure there is no anomalous data there. This forced me to draw the conclusion that after 476+ cycles it may not be entirely unexpected that the battery is due for a replacement!

The MBP has been here since July last year, so nearly 15 months now. If you’ll do the math with me you’ll see that I’ve had the battery go through at least one cycle per day, on average. To have the next one last a bit longer I’ll have to try and keep it on the adapter, I guess. I was already trying to do the drain it fully, once a month thing, but will also try to do that more consistently.

Any other suggestions?

Linkage on 2007-10-09

Filed under: Humo(u)r,Linkage,News,Software — Erwin @ 12:49 am

His silence mistaken, deaf man attacked:

The cashier tried to speak to him but got angry when Goodnight didn’t respond, Goodnight told police. The cashier threw Goodnight’s change at him, scattering it on the floor.

As Goodnight picked it up, the cashier hit him in the side of the head with the crowbar, Goodnight said.

The Inflation Calculator may seem useful but mostly to fuel bogus arguments, I think. After all, your $200 CD player from 1990 didn’t cost $313 in 2006, did it?

Duty Cycle Calculator is a slightly different calculator, one that makes it easier to estimate how much it costs you to leave the television on, leave light bulbs on over night.

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