East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2007/7/9

User Interface SNAFU of the day

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 7:32 pm

Occasionally you may have to fill out a form with a pull-down list of states and notice that Alaska is the first entry in the list, instead of Alabama, which you’d expect if you’re sorting alphabetically, but aside from each first letter being sorted correctly, it just looks chaotic:

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona

The explanation is actually very easy: Whoever put together the pull-down list sorted the states by the (invisible to you) two-letter abbreviations of the state, instead of the names that you do see:

		<option value="AK">Alaska</option>
		<option value="AL">Alabama</option>
		<option value="AR">Arkansas</option>
		<option value="AZ">Arizona</option>
                ...

For very similar reasons I’ve had to look for my mother tongue (Dutch) somewhere near Norwegian instead of near Danish, because it was sorted as “NL”!

Today I ran into the incorrect sorting of states on the tvguide.com website, hardly a low profile outfit, one that you’d expect to get it right.

Is it really so difficult to spend an extra 5 minutes on getting it right?

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. 🙂

2007/7/4

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!

2007/7/3

iPhone notes

Filed under: Software,Technology — Erwin @ 5:03 pm

The iTunes sync declined to sync a track, telling me that the iPhone can’t play it. The track it declined is a 128 kbps MPEG2 track, which you would expect an MPEG3 capable device to be able to play. I have no iPod so I can’t compare notes with that. Can anyone who owns one tell me if the iPod has the same behaviour?

Update: Kalle confirmed that the iPod refuses to play this same track as well and wonders why iTunes doesn’t offer to transcode the track (similar to how it’ll convert photos for you that it syncs to the iPhone) since it can play it.

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. 😉

2007/6/23

Google Search

Filed under: Software — Erwin @ 10:17 pm

I’m pondering using Google Search for the search function in the sidebar, but when I tell it to only return results for is-here.com it also returns results for sub-domains, like dgd.is-here.com, it.is-here.com, nl.is-here.com, etc, which makes it largely useless.

It’s possible to exclude various sub-domains for a regular search, but for the site-search form where you indicate the domains to search in a hidden input field, I know of no such possibility. To clarify, I basically need the equivalent of:

    site:is-here.com -site:it.is-here.com -site:nl.is-here.com -site:dgd.is-here.com

Help?

2007/6/21

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″
  • DA PSEC UJ-857 9.5MM 4X SUPERDRIVE HAE4
  • ODD, FLEX ASSY, MACBOOKPRO

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… 😉

2007/6/19

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!

2007/6/17

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!!

2007/5/25

EDID?

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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