Part 16 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

OS X Book Is Out!

"mac os x internals" amit singh

Sat Jul 01 21:44:27 2006

Mac OS X Internals, by Amit Singh (who now works for Google) is out (early, too; Amazon had a release date of August, just in time for WWDC if I recalled correctly). It's 1680 pages, weighs a few tons and is CA$64 from

Brazil is Out!

fifa world cup

Sat Jul 01 21:50:05 2006

Brazil, the favoured team, lost the World Cup quarter-final to France, 1-0 this afternoon. I would have worn my yellow Brasil jersey today, but it's Canada Day and my display of sports loyalties to adopted countries is exceeded only by my loyalty to my home country.

In the morning game, Portugal, gave England a good trashing in the after-game shoot-out, 3-1.

New MP3 Player Stats Out!

statistics mp3 player

Sat Jul 01 22:05:50 2006

The results of a new U.S. study show that one in five people own at least one MP3 player and one in twenty, own more than one. In terms of content, 44% of music found on MP3 players from the person's collection of music, 6% from friend's CD collections, 25% from online stores and 19% from P2P servers.

Google Video With Commercials

google video

Sat Jul 01 22:12:45 2006

Based on viewer suggestions from inside Google and outside, Google Video is testing content, that was previously viewable for a fee, and is now viewable with commercials. I haven't looked, but how do they stop viewers from skipping commercials? Do they stop the streaming until the commercial is viewed? Or is the commercial just at the start?

OS X Book Ordered

book osx

Sun Jul 02 13:15:21 2006

I ordered the Mac OS X Internals book this morning. I also ordered a DVD, Blue Max, that was saved in my shopping cart, because it just dropped in price. When I got the confirmation email from Amazon, I noticed that I was charged the old, higher price. Well, I cancelled the DVD and submitted a bug-report to

Google Earth KML Tutorial

google earth

Sun Jul 02 18:45:32 2006

Google has a KML tutorial that gives a really good look at the tricks that GE uses to render huge datasets in near-realtime. You can easily do the Iceland tutorial by saving the XML code to iceland.kml and then loading it in GE.

Shields Up!

accessory slipcover macbook laptop

Sun Jul 02 21:38:46 2006

A few days ago on #macosx, someone had posted a link to thermal slipcovers for MacBooks. Today, someone asked about them and I had the most difficult time finding them because searching for "macbook+thermal" returned links to the thermal paste problem. I eventually had to search for "heat resistant" rather than "thermal".

Update Wed Jul 05 19:57:48 2006: see Laptop Desk update, below.

“Notebook” vs. “Laptop”

google trends

Sun Jul 02 21:44:39 2006

Along the same lines there was a huge argument on whether the MacBook is a laptop computer or a notebook computer; the implication is that if it's a notebook, you can't be expected to keep it in your lap, and hence be affected by the heat. It seems I have finally found a use for Google Trends— settling this argument.


hardware musicgremlin mp3 player

Mon Jul 03 08:53:17 2006

MusicGremlin is a MP3 player/service that allows songs to be wirelessly downloaded and exchanged with other MusicGremlin subscribers. A WiFi network is required, though a computer is not explicitly required. The player costs US$300 and has 8GB of storage; the subscription service costs $15 per month and songs can be bought for 99 cents. WSJ's Mossberg reviewed it recently and thought it was innovative and pretty cool overall but had reservations about the cumbersome interface, flaky WiFi, comparitively small storage ($300 iPod has 30 GB), inability to transfer personal MP3 files wirelessly to other players and inability to display photos on the LCD.

PB Decorations

hardware personal stickers

Mon Jul 03 17:07:18 2006

mathilde has been decorated— apples, bees, a flower, the sun and a train.

Google Earth Weather

google earth

Mon Jul 03 17:22:36 2006

You can get near-real-time hurricane tracks and cloud cover overlayed over Google Earth using the following KMZ. It doesn't seem to be working for me.

PowerBook Journal RSS Feed

website rss

Mon Jul 03 19:26:08 2006

RSS feed is now available thanks to the very cool services of Feed43. And a big Thank You to Gary King for pointing me to this service.

Please note that only the first item of the blog will be displayed by the feed. You will find that the feed links to the entries are slightly incorrect. I'm working on that.

Update Mon Jul 03 20:38:51 2006: I think I need a DIV around the content of the journal entry otherwise Feed43 gets confused with secondary entries for the same day.

Update Mon Jul 03 21:27:13 2006: Nope, a DIV doesn't work. This is the regexp I'm using and it fails to give the correct url for a new day when the previous day had multiple entries:

<a name="{%}"{*}
<h2 class="newday">{%}</h2>{*}
<p class="timestamp">{%}</p>{*}

OS X to Ubuntu

essay switch ubuntu

Tue Jul 04 07:57:49 2006

Tim O'Reilly noted in his blog that Mac users switching to Ubuntu Linux should serve as a warning to Apple.

Perhaps. There is a good rebuttal in the comments, from Tony Vance.

I use OS X mainly because of the iLife Suite. The ease with which I can manage photos, make a slideshow, make a movie of that slideshow, or make a DVD of that slideshow; also, take a bunch a video clips and make a professional looking DVD with animated menus is unmatched. Being able to use Emacs with anti-aliased fonts is also nice.

On the other hand, if I could run OS X on a Sony VAIO, I would also jump at the opportunity. Apple needs better hardware engineers.

If I didn't need the functionality of iLife, I would likely still be running Windows/XP because admining an Unix box at home is not something I look forward to.

Update Wed Jul 05 22:10:29 2006: I went to update this entry with the Ubuntu logo, so I used Google Images to search for ubuntu logo— two of the resulting images are quite amusing.

Laptop Desk

hardware furniture

Wed Jul 05 19:51:16 2006

I was really surprised to read this article that starts with the laptop/desktop debate and suggests a $9.99 solution to the heat problem.


software utility sms

Thu Jul 06 07:24:48 2006

Seismac uses the Sudden Motion Sensor to plot seismic disturbances.

Educational iMac

hardware imac

Thu Jul 06 14:37:53 2006

Apple has announced an iMac as a replacement for the end-of-lined EMac— 1.86GHz Code Duo, 17 inch LCD, 512MB RAM, integrated video card, 80GB SATA drive, CDRW/DVD-ROM, and integrated iSight, for UD$899.

Built-to-order (BTO) options include bigger disk, 2GHz CPU, 8x Dual-layer burn Superdrive and 128 MB ATI video card.


software video

Fri Jul 07 12:33:58 2006

D-Vision is a front-end to mencoder that encodes movies to DivX, Xvid and H264. It can also merge two AVIs into a single stream.

Call of Duty 2 Demo

software games

Fri Jul 07 12:38:28 2006

A few days ago, Aspyr released a demo of Call of Duty 2. Despite the G5 requirements, it seems the games does play reasonably on a G4 Powerbook according to one of the comments. I downloaded the 655MB DMG last night.

Update Wed Jul 12 09:27:33 2006: See my review below.

Free The Widgets

tip dashboard widget

Fri Jul 07 18:04:47 2006

You can free any Widget from the Dashboard by doing the following:

Of course, I will have to wait until OS X Leopard before I can try this.


software utility

Fri Jul 07 20:08:32 2006

O heavy deed!
Hamlet, IV., i.

If you ever needed to drain your battery by putting the CPU under load, then you would have found SystemLoad useful.


software games

Sat Jul 08 08:45:09 2006

Blackshades (you are a bodyguard with a license to kill) was one of the winners in a 2002 game-writing competition. There are Windows, OS X and Linux versions available. The author also has a couple of additional games on his site.

Microsoft MP3 Player

hardware ipod microsoft mp3 player

Sun Jul 09 00:00:12 2006

According to a New York Times article, Microsoft is poised to introduce a MP3 player to compete against the iPod.

The player will be wireless capable (with the ability to download songs without connecting to a computer) and have, "an advanced display screen". The article acknowledges the idea of The Invisible Computer, "Music and video may be so crucial to how computers are used in the future— a potentially big source of new growth in software and hardware sales— that Microsoft cannot strategically afford to let Apple continue to hold the upper hand."

There is also a hint that the player would be able to play songs wirelessly from other Microsoft players in the vicinity. The article concludes with, "Apple is reported to have a wireless version of the iPod waiting in the wings, and it is also said to be close to introducing a version with a touch screen. Those bits of consumer polish might outshine Microsoft just as it was entering the business with its own hardware.".

It's possible that Apple is already thinking of future possibilites of wifi players by hiring programmers with game design experience.

This Old Computer

book review recycling g3 imac osx

...product turnover is a key to a dynamic economy.
Alfred Sloan, General Motors

Sun Jul 09 10:36:27 2006

The July 8th Globe and Mail Book Review has Heather Menzies' review of, “Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America” by Giles Slade, "an unfashionable Canadian who writes admiringly about America [and its] flawed but wonderfully extravagant dream."

The American Dream is to get rich (quick)— next quarter profits are all the matter. This means that you better have a new improved product or your competitor is going to win. To force people to buy your new improved product, you might even design your current product to fail in a short time, or (even worse) to look unfashionable and thus shame you into buying the latest.

In 2003, 63M perfectly working PC were thrown out in the U.S.; in 2005, 100M working cellphones were thrown out; today, in Japan, the latest cellphone model is bought every year and last year's model is discarded by all those that dare not risk practicality over fashion. What happens to this world when China adopts this disposable mentality? Apple has a program to recycle computers but most people don't have Apple computers.

So, it is with a wary comfort that I enjoyed reading this review of a G3 iMac running OS X— once Dashboard is disabled, it's a fine computer for kids or grandparents.


hardware mram memory chip

Mon Jul 10 18:38:00 2006

Freescale Semiconductor is shipping MRAM (magnetoresistive RAM) chips which store data magnetically rather than capacitively like DRAM.

The chips have a data-retention lifetime of 10 years and faster access times than flash. In future computers, it is likely MRAM chips will replace flash chips and even hard-drives.

Call of Duty 2 Demo Review

software game review

Wed Jul 12 08:52:55 2006

If I was asked to praise only a single aspect of the Call of Duty 2 Demo, I would have to say that it would be the realistic simulation of the fog of battle— that feeling of confusion one gets when surrounded by carnage, complete mayhem, bullets flying in all directions, yelling, screaming and death.

The demo scenario plays for about a half-hour (it's easy to lose track of time) and takes place during the 1942 desert campaign. There are 3 objectives to be accomplished (destroy '88 artillery batteries on the coast, radio-in an air-strike and steal some documents.

In this first-person shooter game, your character leads a platoon of men into battle; the AI-controlled soldiers follow you into battle, so if you do nothing, they do nothing and are slaughtered. These soldiers are a vast improvement on the original Call of Duty demo (Normandy scenario) where they ran into battle at the most inopportune moments especially when stealth was called for.

The only dissappointment is with the graphics. On my 1.67 GHz Powerbook with a 128MB Radeon, the graphics quality is equivalent to that of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (c. 2001). It's quite playable as long as you leave it on "Optimal Settings" at 800x600; even tweaking a single parameter (render quality, anti-aliasing, etc.), renders the game sluggish and un-playable (see update, below).

I would not buy this game at full-price to play on my Powerbook (I would certainly play it if I got it for $20 or for free). But if you have the recommended hardware (G5 with a good graphics card), I can heartily recommend this game and guarantee an enjoyable time.

I'm going to be re-playing the demo at the more advanced skill levels a few more times before deleting it.

Update Thu Jul 13 14:12:11 2006: I decided to try dropping the resolution from 800x600 to 720x480 and increasing the anti-aliasing to 2x to see if the graphics quality would improve. And it did improve remarkably! My graphics card may not be able to render higher resolutions, but it can certainly smooth-out the jaggies at lower resolutions without sacrificing performance. I then tried to increase anti-aliasing to 4x and it caused the sound to be a bit choppy; I also tried increasing the render-quality and it didn't really look any different.

Tilt-shift Photography

photography tilt-shift flickr photoshop

Fri Jul 14 05:46:50 2006

A few weeks ago, Hack-a-day had an item on building a tilt-shift rig for a camera. Tilt-shift is a photographic technique that creates photographs that resemble miniatures in a diorama.

There is a Flickr tilt-shift photo pool that demonstrates this technique. One of the photos makes an ordinary living room look like a doll-house (including a miniature iMac on a table by the window). An alternative to building the rig is to simulate the effect using Photoshop by closely observing the effects of a tilt-shift lense and then replicating the effect digitally.

I found a panoramic photo that I had taken two years ago at the intersection of Adelaide and Jarvis streets in downtown Toronto and attempted to simulate the tilt-shift effect using Photoshop— the result is passable. The effect would have been more pronounced if the lighting was harsher (it was an overcast day, so the shadows are soft) giving sharper shadows. I don't know whether I should have left the red Camaro unblurred, thus making it look more like a toy car.

Once and Future King

ipod rumours thinksecret

Sat Jul 15 11:10:17 2006

ThinkSecret has an article that "separates fact from fiction" about future iPods. To summarize, the video iPod with the touch sensitive screen won't be announced until the January 2007 WWDC and it will not have wifi; iPhone development is on hold until next year.

OS X Book Ships!

"mac os x internals" amit singh

Mon Jul 17 15:15:11 2006

I received an email yesterday from telling me that Mac OS X Internals has shipped.

OS X Book Arrives!

"mac os x internals" amit singh

Mon Jul 17 21:41:27 2006

When I got home at around 20:45, after a half-hour walk through humid air, a walk that normally takes 20 minutes, I saw the box sitting on the table.

It was a big box. (Not even Wolfram's A New Kind of Science shipped in a box; it was just a cardboard wrapper with a pull-to-open tab.) I had to use my Swiss-Army knife cut through the re-inforced packing tape. Opening the box revelaed 6 small baggies of air for cushioning. And underneath, was The Book.

Absently flipping through the pages, I noticed a picture of three enlongated rectangles with some more rectangles at the base— I stopped to read the caption, "Actual photo of the Towers of Hanoi program in Open Firmware."

Well, I just learned something I didn't know.

Biometric Lacie Drive Review

hardware lacie biometric drive fingerprint

Tue Jul 18 07:02:00 2006

The Register reviews Lacie's Safe Biometric Drive with a fingerprint scanner.

The drives are available in 3 capacities: 250GB, 320GB (weird number) and 500GB. The 250GB model was tested on both a Macbook and a XP laptop and it worked as advertised— only people whose fingerprints were registered, were able to unlock the data. The reviewer gave it a 9 out of 10. It loses a point for exposing the user's finger to uncomfortable heat from the drive via the finger-print sensor and for not encrypting the data to protect the drive from physical tampering.

Looking at the Lacie website, it looks like a Safe Drive is available with data encryption.

Channel Frederator

website frederator animation

Thu Jul 20 18:34:04 2006

Channel Frederator is an animation podcast with really great animations submitted by talented animators.

The animations range from from hand-drawn to CGI, from the surreal to the amusing, from boring to absolutely hilarious and from forgettable to very memorable. I stumbled upon Channel Frederator on Google Video. I started watching Epidode 33 (the first cartoon is very bizzare) and then went backwards until about Episode 30 and then I decided to start at the beginning. Episode 2 has a Viking marching-band followed by a Cosby Show/LoTR parody.

The episodes can be downloaded, watched online or as a video podcast available for download to your iPod or PSP. They have gear, with the really cool robot logo, available on Cafepress.

World eBook Fair

ebook free download

Sat Jul 22 08:49:18 2006

From July 4th to August 4th, about 300,000 eBooks are available for free download at the World eBook Fair.

You can browse the collections from various publishers. All the literary classics are available, naturally, but there are speciality subjects including children's books, a mathematics collection, 17th and 18th century music and CIA Electronic Reading Room.

Disgusting Dessert

complaint president's choice vanilla popsicle

Sun Jul 23 13:50:07 2006

I didn't think it was possible to make a dessert that was nauseating, but I have found it— President's Choice Vanilla Ice Cream Popsicle with Almonds— "made with a milk chocolate flavoured coating". I actually had to stop eating it and throw away the remaining portion. The chocolate covering is thick and bitter and the vanilla, which is rich and creamy, has no taste at all. So most of the taste and after-taste is bitter-chocolate and another taste I can't quite place. Bleah!

President's Choice usually makes delicious products (especially their cookies).

Shopping at Roots

complaint customer satisfaction roots

Mon Jul 24 08:22:33 2006

Continuing with yesterday's theme of customer complaints, I was cleaning up my tmp/ directory and came upon a 10 year old email to Roots Canada (a Canadian-themed clothing and accessories manufacturer) customer service. I had forgotten all about this incident.

Here's a camp-fire story [the customer service email was] to re-count to your managers about how *not* to do business.

It all happened a week ago (on a Thursday, specifically), when I dropped by your Eaton Centre Store to buy some gift certificates for my sister's birthday. I decided on gift certificates partly because she is a difficult person to shop for but mostly because she got me this really nice Roots sweater last Christmas.

Well, when I got there, I was told that the store was out of certificates but would have them in the next Monday. Alternatively, it was suggested that I could walk down to either the Queen St. ("a 10 minute walk" (hardly!)) or Bloor St. store and could buy them there.

Well, I work at Ryerson, which is just a block away so I decided to come back the following week, since her birthday was still a week away.

I returned the following Wednesday, hoping to pick them up, the certificates had still not arrived! I was first told (again), that I could walk down to either the Queen St. or Bloor St. store and could buy them there (why have a store in the Eaton's Center if people can go shop at the Queen St. Or Bloor St. stores?). I pointed out that I had dropped in the week earlier, etc.

Well, finally after some discussion, one of your staff phoned the Queen St. store, as I watched, to send some over for me to pick up the next day (the day of her birthday)-- which, surprisingly, they had ready for me.

Technically, I am satisfied that I got what I wanted but, I cannot say that my experience has a happy one, or one that I would like to see repeated-- I had to make three trips to get these gift-certificates. If I had not decided on her gift a week earlier, I think would have been really disappointed. I am somewhat disappointed by the complacency of some of your staff.

I don't think I'll be shopping at Roots for a while (I was thinking of getting that carrying case, that I saw on your web-site, for my laptop, but I think I'll wait...)

I never did buy the laptop carrying case.

Bluetooth MightyMouse

hardware mightymouse bluetooth

Mon Jul 24 19:03:40 2006

Apple will soon release a Bluetooth MightyMouse powered by 2 AA batteries.

AMD buys ATI

amd ati intel graphics cpu

Tue Jul 25 00:00:10 2006

AMD has bought ATI for US$5.4B.

This means that we will no longer see Radeon chips in Macs (WWDC Mac Pro announcements will certainly be interesting). We may even see AMD/ATI based Macs (I find that exciting) sometime in the future. I wonder if we'll see an AMD processor and ATI graphics chip on the same die.

What is Intel going to do? The i950 integrated graphics chip isn't really cutting-edge for the Pro line. Apple and Intel have only one option— Nvidia.

“Mac OS X Internals” Chapter 1 Review

book review "mac os x internals" amit singh

Wed Jul 26 21:53:57 2006

I have created a separate page to hold the reviews.


hardware ipod video player

Thu Jul 27 08:09:50 2006

Memorex will soon ship iFlip, a docking station for iPod Video units that has an 8.4 inch LCD, 2 headphone jacks and a video-out jack to connect to to a TV.

Origins of Google Earth

history google earth

Thu Jul 27 08:33:08 2006

Another prespective (beware: the stylesheet may cause eye-damage) on the inspirations for what eventually became Google Earth— SnowCrash, the Tricorder and Powers of Ten movie.

Solaris10 on an Ultra10

software sun solaris ultra10

Fri Jul 28 00:51:58 2006

I got a 440MHz Ultra 10, with 768MB RAM, 9GB disk and a Pioneer DVD-ROM drive, put in my office on Monday and was told to getSolaris 10 installed and customized for our network.

Since Sun no longer ships OS media to clients with software contracts (to save costs) we had to download it (Solaris 10 Release 06/06) from It came as five, 600MB ISO files, that had to be cat'd together to form a 3GB DVD ISO; there was an additional "Companion Software" CD ISO. We got exceptional download speeds— around 5MB/s— which were surprising, as the University shapes network traffic and had officially capped each department at 1MB/s to prevent any single Department from monopolizing the network backbone. Given these speeds, we can surmise that the University has upgraded the network and upped the cap.

The images were downloaded to our "scratch" box, running FreeBSD, and then cat'd together to form a DVD ISO. As a precaution to burning a coaster, I decided to test-mount the ISO. On FreeBSD, it's a bit more complicated to mount a ISO than the typical invocations of mount or mount_9660. It is a two-step process: vnconfig /dev/vn0c sol10.sparc.dvd.iso; followed by mount -t cd9660 /dev/vn0c /cdrom. Nothing beats OS X where double-clicking on a DMG or ISO, does the right thing.

While the DVD was being cut (growisofs -dvd-compat -Z /dev/dvd=sol10.sparc.dvd.iso), I was concerned that the U10 firmware wouldn't even recognize the DVD drive because of it's age (OBP v3.18). I put the DVD in and typed boot cdrom from the PROM prompt and the install started. That was a relief.

There were some "internal errors" about ZFS, which I initially thought were fatal and that the install was stuck or had stopped. I logged in to the #solaris channel on and inquired (no responses— most people there seem to be running Solaris 8 or 9). I turned around and noticed that X had started and the system configuration GUI appeared— always a good sign. It took about 15 minutes to configure the system (IP, hostname, gateway, netmask, NIS server) told it to eject the DVD before rebooting, and then started the install. I shut-off the monitor and went home.

When I got home, later that evening, I tried logging-in remotely via ssh and there was no response; the host did answer to pings, though, so it was obviously stuck somewhere.

The next morning, I turned-on the monitor to find that the install had proceed with no problems, the DVD had been ejected and Solaris 10 had booted (but network services hadn't started) and that it was stuck at a prompt asking whether it was OK to use NFS v.4. Answering "no", meant re-entering the domain name (and possibly something else, I don't remember) and the startup proceeded and the GUI login appeared after a lot of disk crunching while SVC did its thing (building 121 services, from the look of things).

During the system configuration, I had requested that the NIS server be found on the network, rather than entering the IP (I wanted to test how good it was). The installer found the NIS server because it would validate logins correctly; except, as soon as you logged, it logged you off. A Failsafe Login session was of no help either. A remote ssh login showed that home-directories weren't mounted, which prevented the JDS from initializing. After a few cut-and-pastes into /etc/vfstab (the automounter daemon had to be shutdown with svcadm stop autofs because it wouldn't let mount-points be created in /home), all shared filesystems mounted successfully and logins to the Java Desktop System were successful.

Total install time was two hours and 20 minutes (probably because the DVD was being read at 2X speed). After various customizations, this disk will be imaged and the JumpStart image will allow subsequent hosts to be installed via the network.


piano pc

Sun Jul 30 10:53:36 2006

In 1978, 280,000 new pianos were sold in the U.S.; in 1983, that number had dropped to less than 200,000; by 2005, the number had declined down to 95, 000. The article in the Sunday Business section of the July 25th edition of the New York Times, attributed this decline to the introduction of the IBM Personal Computer in 1981 (why not the introduction of the Apple Computer in 1977?)— yet another side-effect of the Digital Age to add to my catalog.

In any other circumstance, I would have dismissed this correlation to a coincidence. But, in this case, I would have to agree with the article because I stopped playing the violin (which I had played for 10 years) when I discovered computers in high-school.

It is possible that instead of buying real pianos, people are buying MIDI keyboards instead (several people on #macosx and #emacs, who are musicians, have them) and keyboards are certainly a lot cheaper than pianos: a grand piano costs around $10,000; an upright piano costs aboout $3,000; and a digital piano is about $1,500.

Scorched Earth 3D

software game "scorched earth"

Sun Jul 30 16:44:01 2006

A popular DOS game, Scorched Earth, is now available as a multi-player 3D game for OS X, Windows, Solaris and GNU/Linux (as an X11 app).

I never played the original, but the remake has very pretty landscapes and explosions; the screenshots show-off the graphics while the videos show-off the action.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 16 / Last Modified: Fri Aug 04 13:52:20 2006