Part 13 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

I'm Switching Back

Sat Apr 01 00:00:01 2006

After considerable and careful thought, I have decided to switch back to Windows because Microsoft has promised a beautiful desktop interface, with virus-free software and the new IE beta looks amazing. Panther just doesn't cut it for me when compared to Vista. Radical as this may sound, I haven't really invested that much into OS X so I can still switch back without much loss. I'm certain that I could easily get my original money back by selling my "collector's item" Powerbook on eBay. Leopard is rumoured to be previewed (not fully released) this August and other than the Finder I can only imagine incremental improvements to the OS like a sorely needed improvement to the Spotlight interface.

Fanciful promises of future features and technologies like the iPhone only serve to showcase products that may eventually be cancelled for "technological" reasons. Obsessivly following Steve Jobs' so-called "vision" is not the way to live a productive life. Only time will tell if Jobs was right to run a company like this. Last April, I jokingly wrote about Apple releasing the G5 laptops and instead, Apple switched to Intel and made fools of a lot of people who said it would never happen.

Update Sat Apr 01 10:12:51 2006: David sent me an email about Rui Carmo, the Tao of Mac blogger, who is also fed-up with Apple, OS X and the whole Mac thing and is switching to Linux. This looks like the beginning of the end of Apple.

Update Sat Apr 01 22:47:50 2006: This entry was the most challenging to write only because the first letter of each sentence couldn't be random; the look command did come in handy and fortunately, "Panther" and "Leopard" were a natural fit for "P" and "L".

RAM Price Drop

Sun Apr 02 13:14:03 2006

I noticed that the price for the Kingston 1 GB SIMM has dropped to CAN$158.65. In addition to paying $12 for shipping, I only pay Goods and Services Tax and no sales tax charge as I am outside the province.


Sun Apr 02 13:18:20 2006

Downloaded Firestarter FX, a CD burner. I had initially overlooked this program because I thought it was shareware. I have been informed that it is free but time-limited as it is still in beta.

Savory Spam Crescents

Mon Apr 03 22:47:44 2006

I was cleaning up my Gmail spam folder and I notied that there was a link to a recipe for savory spam crescents. What can I say? (I'm not the first to have noticed this, it seems, after I went googling for a picture of the final product).

Things We Take for Granted

Tue Apr 04 08:46:20 2006

Someone on #macosx wanted to batch convert some 3000 images to PDF and it was suggested that the scripts in /Library/Scripts/Printing Scripts/ could be used. I tried dropping a .JPG file onto the "Convert to PDF" but nothing happened. Looking closer at the source, it looks like it only understands ".JPEG" and not ".JPG". Hm. I renamed the image to ".JPEG" and still nothing happened. Now that I think about it it was ".jpeg". Hm.

Under Linux/Solaris I would typically use the PBM Tools and Ghostview in a zsh for-loop.

Update Wed Apr 05 12:31:33 2006: David writes:

While there are a lot of services available on OS X, it may not have everything by default. Thankfully a good portion of the traditional Unix software compiles fine under OS X.

The two most popular methods of installing are Fink (uses .deb files) and Darwin Ports (same idea as FreeBSD Ports).

NetBSD's pkgsrc also supposedly works, but it can't use HFS+ because of case-sensitivity issues (must use UFS).

Boot Camp

Wed Apr 05 12:34:53 2006

Macs do Windows, too.

Boot Camp lets you install and run Windows/XP on Mactels; it will be standard when Leopard ships. It includes a boot manager that allows the user to choose to boot either MacOS X or Windows/XP at startup.

Very Impressive.

Update Wed Apr 05 14:46:34 2006: <TrickyR> came by after installing Boot Camp on his MBP and reported "BF2 = 35fps 1024x768 - Settings High - MBP 1.83/1GB ... video drivers are from ATI ... Really nice, a lot better than the OnMac stuff...I had to reinstall from scratch because I couldn't install the firmware update with the OnMac installed."

Update: Thu Apr 06 09:14:21 2006: A small blurb about Boot Camp made the front page (bottom-half) of the Globe and Mail this morning:


Apple Computer has always gone its own way, marketing its sleek Macintosh computers and software as the alternative to Microsoft's dominant Windows empire.

But shortly after celebrating its 30th anniversary yesterday, the firm said it was joining the Windows world with a free download that offers Mac users a choice of operating systems.

News of that patch, called Boot Camp, gave Apple shares a major boots as investors forecast inroads in the lucrative corporate computer market. It also caused a major stir in the tech communoity where Mac users have zealously celebrated their independence from Windows. "Hell is freezing over," observed one blogger.


Thu Apr 06 09:39:00 2006


The iPatch is designed to slide over the built-in iSight camera to offer privacy when required. It slides over to one side when the camera needs to be used.


Thu Apr 06 12:11:22 2006

Parallels allows you to run Windows or Linux or BSD or Solaris in a window on a Mactel running Tiger.

But can you run another copy of OS X in a window?

Update Fri Apr 07 18:27:17 2006: From a report on #macosx, The I/O is not fully virtualized (something VMWare excels at) and is therefore excruciatingly slow. And for OS X specifically, the graphical rendering will result in very poor performance.

Boot Camp Logo

Thu Apr 06 12:17:49 2006

The Boot Camp logo is a clever morph of the Windows logo— straighten out the curvy edges, rotate 45°, fill with shades with grey and Aquafy.

Anime Characters

Fri Apr 07 15:02:35 2006

An excerpt from an article about the Tokyo International Anime Fair in Japan, titled “The Award for Best Satanic Rabbit goes to...”, that appeared in last Saturday's Arts and Leisure section of the NY Times:

...the hero of "Eureka seveN" for example, is Renton, named for a character in "Trainspotting"; his father, Adrock, is named for the Beastie Boy; and a helpful duo named Jobs and Woz are named for Steven P. Jobs and Stephen Wozniak of Apple.

Key Bag

Sat Apr 08 12:06:35 2006

Joćo Sabino designed the Key Bag— a bag made from keyboard keys; he also has many other clever designs. The sad thing is that we threw out about 40 keyboards, a few weeks ago, and I couldn't think of anything to do with the keys.

The Risks of Increased Popularity

Sun Apr 09 14:34:47 2006

Of the decline of reputation many cause nay be assigned. It is commonly lost because it never was deserved; and was conferred at first, not by the suffrages of criticism, but by the fondness of friendship, or servility of flattery. The great and popular are very freely applauded; but all soon grow weary of echoing to each other a name which has no other claim to notice, but that many mouths are pronouncing it at once.
—Samuel Johnson

This morning on #macosx, we had a discussion about OS X becoming a mainstream OS because of Boot Camp, which was designed to encourage those users with PCs at home to buy a Mactel box while still allowing them the company and comfort of their old reliable Windows XP. It would surprise me if Apple began selling OS X that ran on generic PCs. It would not shock me, however, if Apple began to license the OS X DRM to Sony or Dell so that they could also sell users a choice of OSes when they buy computers.

Even if Apple doubled its computer market share because of Boot Camp, it would still only have 10% of the market. This means that there will be a lot more Macs and we could no longer claim to be one of the "l33t" minority. This already happened when the Pope, the Queen and President Bush got an iPod. The iPod's dominant market share hasn't stopped Sony, Samsung and others from making MP3 players.

When Toyota, Honda and BWM became popular, Ford, GM and Chrysler saw their market share drop but they still continued making cars that people without aesthetic taste happily continue buying. Certainly veteran Mercedes owners frowned and muttered under their breath when the C-class ("Cheap-class") sedan was introduced, but Mercedes just increased the market share in the luxury sedan segment catering to the less affulent. There will always be a large segment of the population that will yearn for cheap products regardless of other factors like improved milage, price/performance ratios, etc.

With a 10% market share however, the risk of viruses and trojans increases because the virus writers would not want to leave such a market share untouched. a Virus could,for example erase /Applications— I was surprised to find that /Applications, even tough owned by root, is group-writable by admin, a group that the first account created on a Mac belongs to and like me, 99% of Mac users will use this account.

Update Mon Apr 10 09:28:25 2006: A response from David:

Gruber wrote about this a while ago:

> The idea— which is widely-enough held that it probably qualifies
> as conventional wisdom— is that with regard to attracting security
> exploits, it is inherent that a monopoly platform will attract
> virtually all of the exploits.

It may come to pass that there will be security issues on OS X, but a good OS architecture can help minimize the risk. Currently Apple takes in a lot of code (kernel and userland) from FreeBSD, but in the future they may start taking a lot of work from OpenBSD and incorporating the attack mitigation techniques (W^X, malloc() via mmap (), etc.).

The main thing that OpenBSD does though is code auditing and fixing bugs (regardless of whether they're "security" related or not).

As the attacks change, so must the coders and designers.

Dock Location

Sun Apr 09 22:19:51 2006

According to the latest poll with 10,000+ responses, 33% of users keep the Dock visible at the bottom, 29% keep it hidden at the bottom and like me, 13% keep it visible on the right.

Since the screen is wider than tall, it is logical to keep the dock on the right hand side. What this proves is that people don't fiddle with defaults. I'm very surprised.

Firefox Released

Thu Apr 13 19:09:41 2006

A long and busy week didn't leave much time for blogging. Just as I'm about ready to go home for the Easter weekend, I saw the Digg announcement for the Mactel version of Firefox.

Today's big announcement was Google Calendar (beta).

Easter Eggs

Thu Apr 13 19:14:28 2006

Some OS X easter eggs.

Update Thu Apr 13 21:39:52 2006: some of them are excepting the one and the calendar one (which is in FreeBSD if I recall correctly). It seems that the lack of easter eggs in OS X is because of a ban imposed by Steve Jobs.

Gu Ge

Thu Apr 13 21:35:40 2006

Gu Ge is the name of the Google brand in Chinese; it means "valley song".

Good Friday

Fri Apr 14 12:54:15 2006

For those that are eating fish today, here is an article abstract from The Complete New Yorker:

The Connecticut State Department of Fish & Game made a study of the migratory habits of bass. A number of striped bass were caught off the Long Island Sound & tagged with markers bearing a number and the words: "Please return to StateFish & Game Department, Hartford. Conn." A few weeks ago, the assistant superintendent in charge of collating returned tags, came back from a long business trip, and found on his desk a large striped bass in a bad state of preservation. A new batch of tags have been ordered, reading: "Please return tags to State Fish & Game Department, Hartford, Conn."

Battery Firmware Update

Fri Apr 14 16:49:32 2006

A Powerbook5,6 only requires the G4 battery firmware update if the battery was purchased after September 2005. I exchanged my battery in June 2005 so I'm OK.

Update Fri Apr 14 17:04:25 2006: I have automatic Software Updates disabled, so I forced a check to see which updates I am missing via Preferences >Software Update >Check Now. The battery firmware update is there (gah!) even though I don't need it. I am only missing 4 (needed) updates in total.

No Audio From Right Headphone Jack

Fri Apr 14 16:51:47 2006

There's no audio coming from the right headphone jack now. Checked the balance settings in Preferences (of course), tried logging out; even rebooted— no such luck. I noticed that if I set the balance to full-right and volume to 100%, the right headphone has audio. Hmmm, most peculiar.

iCal Calendars

Fri Apr 14 19:54:33 2006

I just discovered an iCal feature that allows subscriptions to several useful iCal calendars available from Apple; I have subscribed to DVD Releases (Aeon Flux in 2 weeks), Christian Holidays and Canadian Holidays. Just click on the URL and the web-browser will pop-up a dialog asking to run iCal to subscribe to the calendar. These calendars also miraculously work with Google Calendars. Where is the 2006 World Cup calendar, Apple?

It's quite amusing that subscribed Google Calendar colours can be customized while iCal's can't.

iPhoto Library Backup

Sun Apr 16 20:10:14 2006

I backed up a few of my iPhoto photos and movie clips to a DVD using Share >Burn Disc. Everything went quite smoothly. Very impressed. Except for the strangeness of only 2.2GB of a standard 4.7 GB DVD being available for backup. Not impressed.

This DVD is configured and readable as an iPhoto Library so I could delete the pics I just backed-up from my HD, and use the DVD as a removable Library. I will try to see if it's readable under XP as a DVD data volume.

Update Mon Apr 17 09:20:56 2006: I can read the data on the DVD under Windows/XP with no problems.

Anti-theft Detection

Tue Apr 18 21:39:00 2006

MultiAlarm is a clever use of the Sudden Motion Sensor (SMS) in Powerbooks as an anti-theft detector when you have to leave the computer unattended for a few moments.


Tue Apr 18 21:45:26 2006

DOSBox brings MS-DOS to your PPC with an emulator. I still have all the 5¼ floppy disks from the days of yore, but no way of reading them— unless I lend them to a friend (who is a collector of obsolete computing equipment) to convert to 3.5 floppy disks which I can then dd into disk images and save onto a hard drive.

Second Quarter Results

Wed Apr 19 22:00:58 2006

For the fiscal quarter ending April 1, 2006, Apple announced a profit of US$410M on revenues of US$4.36B and shipped 1,112,000 (+4% over last quarter) Macs and 8,526,000 (+61%) iPods.

The financial results conference is available for viewing.


Wed Apr 19 22:48:28 2006

QTCoffee is the name for a set of command-line utilities to manipulate QT movies or audio. you can extract tracks and chapters, scale or rotate the movie and many other functions that are available in the Pro version of QT from Apple.

The Crazy Ones, The Misfits, The Rebels

Thu Apr 20 21:47:48 2006

David Weiss, who works for Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, blogged a behind-the-scenes look at Microsoft's Mac Lab. Reading through his other blog entries I came across an interview with Dean Kamen who mentioned that most high-school graduates that get Bs become average citizens that have little to no impact on society while the most unusual students, the ones that will the greatest impact on society, are the ones that get the A+'s and F's (the dropouts, the failures).

If you plot a graph with the y-axis representing "Impact on Society", and the x-axis representing "Grades", beginning with F and increasing to A, the graph will look like an inverted Bell-curve with a peak at x=0 representing the failures (F grades) gradually dipping in the middle representing the average ones (B grades) and another peak at the geniuses (A+ grades).

Note that I am not making a distinction on whether the impact on society is positive or negative; a dropout could conceivable become a master criminal and the A+ student could make millions from illegal trades on the stock exchange.


Thu Apr 20 22:31:51 2006

JewelToy is the freeware version of the popular timewaster, Bejeweled. I was first exposed to Bejeweled on my Sony SJ33 Clié. JewelToy's gems aren't as polished as the Bejewled ones, but it's a petty complaint for an excellent free program that acknowledges this and allows one to substitute their own gem graphics. The only other suggestion for improvement I would make, is to add transparency to the window.

Update Sun Apr 23 11:44:57 2006: Copy the "JewelToy Backgrounds" folder that comes in the DMG into ~/Pictures and change the preferences to point to this folder (the background changes after every round) and look through the "Jewels" folder fo alternate jewels (I chose Aqua Jewels).

Google Pages

Sat Apr 22 09:33:44 2006

Google Pages is a Google Labs project for non-technical people to create and host webpages. The pages it creates are actually very nice looking.

Timeout! Avoiding RSI

Sat Apr 22 21:14:17 2006

A Google Blog story on avoiding RSI, written by their staff doctor, was accompanied by a picture of a Powerbook and 2 skeletal hands. By some strange coincidence, a new version of Time Out!, software that forces you to take frequent breaks by locking the screen, was just released.

I suffer from RSI on my left hand and wrist from excessive Emacs usage in my days as a code monkey. The Time Out! interruptions are worth the aggravation because the alternative is much too painful to live with.

17 in. MBP Announced

Mon Apr 24 09:18:42 2006

17-inch MacBook Pro. The art of more. 5x faster. 36% brighter. iLife '06. Still 1-inch thin. Just $2799.

It has FW800, unlike the 15-inch MBP. And it has a plastic housing for the DVD drive which is mounted above center. Some comments from #macosx:

<eobet> plastic belongs on the ibook, not macbook pro
<Flowerbauer> the plastic thingie is fugly

It seems everyone is still waiting for the iBook replacements, though, especially the compact 13.3-inch Macbook.

Update Mon Apr 24 22:54:53 2006: Macworld is reporting that “the 17-inch MacBook Pro seems to be aimed squarely at creative professionals who shoot, edit, and produce digital imagery for a living.” Also, the MBPs ship with a dual-layer Superdrive.

Google Techtalks

Tue Apr 25 00:00:01 2006

Google invites really smart people to give talks on their area of specialization and then makes the lectures available on Google Video.

Update Tue Apr 25 18:50:05 2006: “Motion Estimation from Image and Inertial Measurements” by Dennis Strelow. (I started watching the Ethanol presentation by Vinod Kholsa but got bored a few minutes into it.)

Update Tue Apr 25 18:50:05 2006: “Collecting Meteorites in Antarctica” by Kress. The cheapest mission for collecting extraterrestial material. I love the completely unscientific collection approach that can be summarized as, "Stop the snowmobile...Hmmm...that stone looks interesting."

Update Wed Apr 26 18:51:11 2006: “General Purpose, Low Power Supercomputing Using Reconfiguration” by Bob Brodersen. Dedicated (embedded) chips are 1000x more energy efficient than general-purpose microprocessors. Can this efficiency be used to find a replacement (e.g. FPGAs) for the von Neumann architecture and make microprocessors more efficient at consuming power? Can these ideas used for improving microprocessor architechtures be applied to Google's problems?


Tue Apr 25 19:07:01 2006

Shrook is another RSS feed reader that is NetNewsWire's main competition. It was recently made free from cost by the developer. Currently NNW Lite (the free version) fits all my needs; I'll be trying Shrook and posting a review.


Wed Apr 26 18:55:12 2006

Busy preparing for the departmental Open House this coming Friday. Just watching Google Techtalks during lunch and the snack breaks.


Thu Apr 27 07:41:36 2006

Portal Player lost out to Samsung as OEM for the iPod's media processor chip; Microsoft has ramped-up its Microsoft Genuine Annoyance program that displays a pop-up if you (or if it thinks you have) have an illegal version of Windows installed; Google has released SketchUp for free (Mac version "coming soon"; which is better than no Mac version).

Update Thu Apr 27 09:44:53 2006: Yesterday, Ars Technica reported that “Internet Explorer users who navigate to Google now find, in addition to the spartan search box and Google logo, an advertisement encouraging them to switch to Firefox with the Google Toolbar.”


Fri Apr 28 22:36:41 2006

The new release of ffmpegX is Universal and also encodes Flash videos.

It's Over, Now My Work Begins

Departmental Openhouse is finally over, and my work begins as I now have to make a photo album of the 300MB of photos I took. I missed not having iPhoto at work when I copied the photos off the CF card onto my Windows/XP workstation.

On a side note, I was quite impressed with k3b, a Linux application running under Gnome on my Fedora Core 5 workstation, which I used to burn a CD of the Openhouse photos— drag the folder onto the CD icon and click "Burn". XCDRoast on the other hand, failed miserably; it couldn't even find the CD-RW drive. Feh!

David dropped by for a visit and we had a lovely chat on various subjects including Bach's Musical Offering, the possibility of Apple using ZFS for OS X, the Veritas filesystem, Oracle database management, and how one can maintain privacy and still be identified on the Web using Sxip (pronounced skip). Be sure to watch Dick Hardt's presentations— he has great style (not a single bullet in his presentation) and he uses a Mac (of course).

Update Sat Apr 29 22:49:50 2006: David kindly sent the links to the two videos, first "What is Identity 2.0?" and second, a demonstration of how the SXIP 2.0 protocol works.

Google News Suggests

Sat Apr 29 10:45:25 2006

Jon McAlister, a software engineer at Google combined Google Suggest and Google News so searching News will provide completions for the most recent news subjects matching your query; for example, as Jane Jacobs passed away a few days ago, I searched for "jane" and the drop-down menu suggested "jacobs" first, then "fonda", etc.


Sun Apr 30 00:00:04 2006

playsound is for playing audio from the command-line.

iPhoto Gallery

Sun Apr 30 21:42:52 2006

iPhoto can automatically generate a gallery from a set of selected photos (Share >Export..., then select HTML). I generated a gallery of the Openhouse pictures and looking at hideous HTML it generates, the layout is table-based with no CSS whatsoever. Not Impressed. I haven't decided whether I will use the iPhoto gallery, use it with modifications or use just the images and roll my own CSS.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 13 / Last Modified: Sat May 06 09:34:09 2006