Part 18 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal
Radiant Core does Firefox 2 UI
Some of the things around the tab strip in
Firefox 1.5 were platform-specific. For example, on the Mac it wasn’t
clear when the tab was in the background that it was a tab and not
just part of the background of the tab strip.
—Jay Goldman, itbusiness.ca interview.
Radiant Core, a Toronto web-design company, won the competitionto improve both the usability and the design of Firefox 2. The thematic changes will appear in the September Beta release. Nice to know that people are paying attention to detail.
Call of Duty 2 Review (Part 1)
software "call of duty 2" game review
The engrossing play of the Call of Duty Demo on my 15 inch Powerbook G4 prompted me to buy the full game and play a marathon session during the Labour Day weekend, even though the minimum requirements for the game are a G5 processor; there is no doubt that the built-to-order (BTO) 128 MB Radeon 9600 video card makes it possible for me to play this game on a less-than-minimum system. Playing at 800x600 with 2x Anti-aliasing provides adequate detail to differentiate friend from foe and I am quite impressed with the detail of the surface textures. A minor annoyance is that the game requires that the DVD be present in the drive.
The only modification I made to the default key-bindings was to choose to use "V" to toggle "aiming down the barrel" as I'm not playing with a mouse and the default key-binding is Mouse-3 which takes too long to press as it is emulated as Ctrl-Click on the trackpad.
I started out playing in the Regular difficulty level and within an hour I had finished 2 missions without having been killed— too easy. So, I decided to re-start the Campaign from the beginning in the Veteran difficulty level (I'm beginning to regret this difficulty level as the game progresses and especially during the German counter-attack of the "Comrade Sniper" mission).
The game has three major campaigns; the Russian campaign (defending Moscow, Stalingrad, etc.); the British Campaign (North Africa, etc.) and the American campaign (D-Day, etc.). Each campaign is comprised of several missions which must be completed before the next mission is "unlocked". Once missions have been unlocked they can be played and replayed independantly at any time, in any order. The cut-scenes before certain missions are video and narration taken from the Hitler Channel (aka. the Military Channel) that describe the historical context of the forthcoming mission.
The Russian Campaign
My unfamiliarity with the campaigns of the Eastern Front prevents me from commenting on the realism of this missions and the streets of Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow or the weaponry (I am only familiar with the famous PPSh sub-machinegun with the drum magazine). This game has been educational in the sense that I am now more familiar with weapons used during the Russian campaign— my favourites being the Russian made PPS-43 SMG (7.62mm) and the German Gewehr-43 (7.92mm) scoped sniper rifle, adapted from a Russian Tokarev SVT40 (7.62mm) design because both the Mauser and Walther designs were flawed.
Battle Chatter System
One of the features of Call of Duty 2 is the Battle Chatter system where your comrades yell-out directions and warnings about the next objective or about enemy positions (this chatter also appears as text)— a convincing addition to the confusion of the "fog of war". My only critism of this system is that the Russians speak English with a stereotypical Russian accent. I think it would have added to the realism if the Russians spoke native Russian with English subtitles.
Update Fri Sep 08 17:51:34 2006: The review continues in Part 2.
Sherway Gardens Applestore Photos
New Macs Announced
hardware imac mini
Apple released upgrades to the iMac line, with processors upgradeable up tp 2.33GHz and RAM up to 3GB, including a new 24 inch iMac and upgraded the Mini to a Core Duo. This early announcement of the upgrades (expected on Sept. 12) now makes that event even more interesting.
Friday brings the conclusion of the first week of classes— one of the busiest times of the academic year— which doesn't leave any time for updating Journals. What follows are updates that accumulated during the week...
To the Editor:
Re "The Math was Complex, the Intentions, Strinkingly Simple" (Week in Review, Aug. 27):
I read with great interest your article about Grigory Perelman, the Russian mathematician who refused to accept the highest honor in mathematics, the Fields Medal.
Whatever Dr. Perelman's true motivations are, it has certainly made him something of a hero in the scientific community; he apparently puts deep thought and seeking knowledge, ahead of personal accolades and career recognition in marked contrast to many of his prominent colleagues.
One cannot help but wonder whether the way that Dr. Perelman sequestered himself from the minutiae of academic life and from e-mail and correspondence altogether is a principal reason he has been able to think deeply about a problem.
Perhaps tranquil reclusion is a prerequisite for brilliant thought, as evident in other legendary geniuses like Newton and Darwin.
New Haven, Aug 28, 2006
Call of Duty 2 Review (Part 2)
software "call of duty 2" game review
The British Campaign
The British Campaign (one episode is the exactly as in the free demo) is more interesting than the Russian Campaign. In one of the missions, you play a tank commander; in another mission, you play a spotter for field-artillery you get to man the 20mm canon in a German half-track and in the last mission you get to shoot down Stukas with a captured German AA gun emplacement.
I found the tank mission to be physically nauseating and had to stop several times because of the motion of the tank bouncing around, coupled with the ever-so-slight-delay of the LCD pixels refreshing.
Except for the mission titled, "Outpost" (which required me to drop-down the difficulty to Regular so I could complete this particular mission), this campaign was pretty easy— winding your way through a town or through tunnels and killing the enemy.
One complaint I have about how this game is designed is that I cannot choose to play individual missions within a campaign and I cannot choose a different difficulty level for each mission. Since some missions are more difficult than others, I would have preferred to gradually increase the difficulty level on a single mission and work my way up to Veteran— this is what I found enjoyable when playing the Demo.
Latest Trailers (Featuring Macs)
Just before leaving for home yesterday, I looked at a few of the latest movie trailers available at apple.com; I was impressed with The Queen (exquisite cinematography), Renaissance (animation technique similar to that of Sin City) and Children of Men (promising plot).
Two other trailers stood out— The Reaping and Conversations with God— only because both movies have Christian themes (a coincidence?) and feature Macs. Notice how, in the second trailer, the background is lit and how the window produces a saintly halo around the head of the woman typing at the original Mac.
In a past essay, The Next Big Thing I predicted,
By 2027, as computer screens continue to grow in size, they begin to occupy any and every surface (curved or flat) that surrounds us-- the walls, the floors, the bed-sheet, the fridge-door, the table-tops and counter-tops, the sidewalk, the road, the parking lot, and even the unoccupied the seat across from you on the subway train..
Philips has demonstrated cloth with programmable, embedded LEDs— t-shirts and sofas are demonstrated in the movie.
hardware software ipod nano shuffle "itunes 7"
Live, from the simulcast on #macosx... New iPod...60% brighter with brighness control, 3.5 hours video playback... big version goes to 6.5 hours, new headphones, gapless playback...software: instant searching, new games: Bejeweled, Cubis 2, Mahjong, Mini Golf, Pac Man, Tetris, Texas Hold'em, Vortex, and Zuma... 60GB for US$249, 80GB for US$349.
New Nano... aluminum metal body and colours... 24hr music playback... 2GB is US$149 (silver only), 4GB is US$199... Available colours: green, silver, black, blue, pink.
2nd generation Shuffle... new metal case with clip.
45M videos purchased... NFL network($1.99 per game or $24.99 for a season)... 220 TV shows, 40 networks... 640x480 res videos.
iTunes 7, gapless playback... iTunes content can be moved between multiple computers... Films from Walt Disney, Pixar, Touchstone, Miramax... 75 films online today... New releases cost US$12.99 for preorders and during the first week... Older movies US$9.99... Can watch movie as it downloads.
One more thing...iTV...Wireless box for TV, PC or Mac... Q1 2007, US$299... USB, ethernet 802.11 wireless component video, RCA jacks, optical audio and HDMI ports, half the size of a mini... Video looks very close to DVD quality even on a huge theater sized projector.
The AppleStore is up.
Update Tue Sep 12 16:14:38 2006: Apple has now taken what nearly one year ago, in Journal 7, I referred to as a Half-Step.
Update Tue Sep 12 16:49:55 2006: iTune 7's Coverflow View was bought from Steel Skies who wrote the excellent Coverflow (an app I never had the chance to review because it required Tiger (I mentioned this app one year ago, also in Journal 7)). It makes me happy that Apple did this.
software "itunes 7" gapless playback
When iTunes 7 is first run, it re-indexes your Library for albums that require gapless playback. But <enclaved> has reported that both Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper were not recognized as gapless. Unless I'm mistaken, both these albums had tracks that seamlessly blended from one ot the next. I wonder if it only recognizes tracks bought in iTMS.
Update Sat Sep 16 23:10:46 2006: According to Paul Lamere's blog gapless playback only works on the new iPods (understandable, will there be new firmware for older generation iPods?). Also, can iTunes 7 be configured do play certain pairs of track with no gaps, if you ripped your own music?
New Nano Ad
There a new TV ad for the multi-coloured Nanos. It's brilliantly done. Except for the stupid music— a rare mis-step for Apple who typically picks amazing music that fits the ad perfectly.
The new Shuffle, or what I like to call the iClip— soon you'll see women wearing them as earrings or perhaps clipped to their nipple— will not be available until October!
And I was planning to go down to the AppleStore and pick one up today, just because I found the design so cool (it doesn't look like a MP3 player with a clothes-pin attached to it) and the price was good.
Apple may market the iClip as "the world's smallest MP3 player", but the DAH-1500 cube from MobiBlu (24x24x24 mm) will remain the world's smallest MP3 player with a display.
Second Battery Exchange (The Saga)
hardware battery exchange
My second Powerbook battery to be exchanged under the Battery Recall Program was delivered on Monday, but it had actually arrived on the Tuesday following Labour Day, almost a week before.
I wasn't really expecting the battery so soon because AppleCare told me it would take 6-8 weeks when I called them during the end of August. So, when I came back from work on Tuesday, Sept. 5th I was surprised when my Mom showed me a note from DHL indicating a missed-delivery (all my deliveries are to my parents, since they are retired and are usually home). My parents had, in fact, gone out shopping for groceries. The note also said that re-delivery would occur the following day.
So my parents stayed home the entire day, Wednesday but there was no delivery.
The following morning, at 9:01, my mother called DHL customer service who told her that according to their records re-delivery had been attempted and that no one was home. That's when my mother got upset. She told them that she had been home all day; that from my Dad's couch he could see all the vehicles that enter our street; that they hadn't left the entire day on the Wednesday because a delivery was expected and that no DHL vehicle came down the street or into our driveway. DHL then told her that the package would be delivered the next day, Friday.
Obviously, you know what happened Friday. Nothing. Another wasted day. Friday afternoon, my mom called DHL again and they said that delivery had been attempted but that the name on the parcel didn't match the buzzer in the lobby and that after two delivery attempts, we would have to pick-up the parcel. (!) That was when my Dad got upset. There was "an argument". Finally, DHL promised delivery on the following Monday.
“It's Showtime” Apple Presentation Video
“It's Showtime” is available for viewing.
LED Spectrum Analyzer Visualiser for iTunes
Graham Cox wrote a colourful LED Spectrum Analyzer iTunes visualizer with plenty of configurable options.
On the 12th September Rob Levin, known to many as Freenode's lilo, was hit by a car while riding his bike. He suffered head injuries and was in a coma. Rob was being treated at the Neuro Trauma Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital in Houston, Texas where he passed away in on Sept 16th.
KHOU News in Houston, Texas reported it as a hit-and-run.
Using a PC-formatted iPod on a Mac
ipod macbook pc itunes
I noticed that my brother, who has a Macbook, was still using my Sony VAIO to sync music to his iPod, which was originally formatted on the same VAIO.
I asked on #macos whether it would be possible to use a PC-formatted iPod on a Mac; the answer was yes! When I told my brother, he didn't believe me. I told him to just remember to answer "No", when he first plugged-in the iPod to the Macbook and it asked for permission to format it.
He reported today, that his PC-formatted iPod did indeed work with no problem and he was able to manually sync new music from his Macbook. He also said that he tried to copy the music off the iPod onto the Macbook and that didn't work. I explained why this wasn't possible (unless you have iTunes 7, of course— I'm still running the original iTunes 4 on the VAIO and he has iTunes 6 on the Macbook) and told him about Senuti (iTunes spelled backwards).
He was attempting to backup his iPod because he wants to get the old battery, which now only holds a 4-hour charge, replaced. I told him that after he backs-up his music, he could try a DIY battery replacement as an alternative to sending it in to Apple.
Sony VAIO N-Series
hardware sony laptop
In October, Sony will be releasing the N-series of VAIO laptops costing about US$1000. They come in all-white (looks like a Macbook, naturally), black and brown (no doubt, to match the recently announced brown-coloured Zune MP3 player from Microsoft).
AssistiveWare has software that enable severely handicapped users to use computers.
There are several profiles of users, on their website. I admire all of them. We tend to take a lot of our interaction with our surroundings for granted and until we lose that ability we cannot appreciate how any of these people manage to live. I suffer from a relatively minor handicap called Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome which limits the amount of typing I can do without a break (about 10 minutes). I have to force myself to stop touch-typing and slow down my typing rate to stop my left wrist and forearm from hurting.
shure e3c e4c headphone battery exchange
Very busy week due to work— Perl coding frenzy with 194 lines of (working) Perl code written in the last 4 days. Lots of things happened...
Shure E3C Headphone Breakage
Last Sunday, I went to clean my E3C headphones (bought in Feb. 2005) and the tip of the right headphone fell off. Gaah! I emailed the AppleStore at the Eaton Centre at around 3:30 PM asking if they had any E4C headphones in stock and received a reply just after 6:00, in the affirmative. I also emailed the Shure service depot asking if my headphones were under warranty. Then I realized that Shure has a separate contact for Canadian service and I emailed them also.
There's more to come...
Defective Battery Returned
Today, I sent off my defective laptop battery via pre-paid UPS; requested a pickup at work and let the secretaries in the front office worry about it.
Disco. Wow! All my CD-burning dreams come true. I just hope Apple doesn't screw them when Leopard is released.
iPod Shuffle Order (Postponed)
This morning, I went to order the Shuffle and realized that the quote I wanted engraved on the back wouldn't fit as the Shuffle has a 38 character limit; the quote I wanted was the 2nd sentence in, The Great Gatsby (I have a passion for collecting famous opening sentences in literature). So I began searching anew for the a famous quote that would fit in 38 characters or less. Update Sat Sep 23 00:35:45 2006: I chose one.
EE Student With a Macbook
A third-year student came in with a Macbook (he drives a foreign car) looking for help trying to compile SystemC on OS X. The problem is that SystemC requires a specific version of gcc and it would probably require a bit of work to get it to build on OS X. This is a first as the typical student laptop around here is a Dell (this goes for 98% of faculty), or a Panasonic (or similar company that makes microwave ovens and coffee makers) or sometimes a Sony.
One Web Day
celebration world wide web
OneWebDay is a day to step back and think about how the internet has changed our lives.
Today is One Web Day, a celebration of online life.
Update Fri Sep 22 18:02:42 2006:
Those people, born in an earlier time— a simpler time— managed to live quite contently without computers, the Internet and the web and still continue to do so (my parents are just two examples of this).
There are children today that have never known a life without computers, the Internet and the Web; there have always been computers in their lives ever since they opened their eyes in the hospital and began learning about the world. Technology will always be a daily part of their lives— in school, at work and socially. There are also children, here in the First World, that have only known a computer in school because it is still unaffordable to have one at home, nevermind an Internet connection.
Across the Digital Divide, however, there are children, that have never known a computer or imagined a device such as a computer; but only because they are too busy surviving until the end of just one more day.
Now, imagine a world where everyone can afford a computer and can afford access to the same knowledge and information as everyone else.
One day, this will be possible— everyone will have access to the same information and what each person does with that information, will distinguish them from everyone else.
hardware appleremote "remote control"
Twisted Melon, a Canadian company, developed a USB IR receiver (and software) for the AppleRemote that, when connected to legacy Macs, can be used to control various apps remotely.
movies "forbidden planet" "maltese falcon"
The Collector's Edition set of Forbidden Planet that will be released in November, includes a Robbie the Robot action figure; I hope the action figure is not craptacular.
A new edition of The Maltese Falcon (3-DVD boxed set) will be released in October.
Choosing a Quotation
hardware ipod shuffle engrave quotess
I began my search for a 38 character (or less) quotation to be engraved on my Shuffle, by thinking of popular figures and then searching for quotes. I thought of Yoda and Mr. Spock; Yoda was certainly the pithier of the two.
Finally, I decided on, “Size matters not.” but then I had second thoughts. Both Yoda and the Shuffle are diminuitive and the quote would be too obvious.
I decided to go for the opposite— a quote about something really, really big on something really, really small— and perhaps with more subtlety.
So, what's big? Buildings— perhaps an famous architect's quote; stars— perhaps an astronomer's quote; animals— dinosaurs, whales.
Whales. Hmmm. Moby Dick. Yes. “Call me Ishmael.” Perfect. (The biblical connotations are implied, also.)
Update Fri Sep 22 21:53:08 2006: David shares his preferences:
Thirty-eight characters is a bit of challenge to put something decent into. I came across these quotations (on music) that fit:
In music the passions enjoy themselves
If music be the food of love; play on.
Neither of which I would be really happy with. Two quotations that I wouldn't mind having are:
Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.
My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.
I think that what I would have personally (though the Apple Store's web interface doesn't seem to support it), would be the Greek letter 'phi'.
zfs: Pros and Cons Summarized
software zfs solaris
Adrian Cockcroft (ex-Sun, now eBay) tested zfs on a x4500 and wrote about it in his blog; it's a good summary of pros and cons.
software itunes cover-art download
An alternative to downloading cover-art via iTunes 7 is to use i7AWF. It's hit-and-miss though, Frank Sinatra's Nice 'n Easy is there but Benny Goodman's The New Sextet Sessions is not. I'll just stick to scraping Amazon.
software itunes 7 interface
The drastic makeover of the iTunes 7 interface surprised many people who were accustomed to the Aqua look of earlier versions. Since I'm still running Panther, the Aqua look is the default look for many apps. Paul Barlow provides solace in Aqua4iTunes, an application that restores the Aqua look to iTunes 7.
software banshee itunes linux
Banshee is a GTK based clone of the iTunes player for Linux. I do miss having iTunes for Linux on my Fedora box at work.
<bryanl> posted the following FileVault dialog box; it reads...
"There isn't enough space on your hard disk to turn on FileVault. Turning on FileVault requires an additional 4076.0 GB of disk space to create an encrypted copy of your home folder. Try emptying the Trash or deleting files you don't need."
4TB to encrypt a 32GB home directory? This is on Tiger 10.4.7 i386, with an 80GB disk.
Let me take this opportunity to complain about FileVault's lack of fault tolerance. If your computer crashes or hangs unexpectedly then kiss your encrypted home-directory goodbye (occassionally, people have come into #macosx with this scenario— they can no longer login because their FileVaulted home directory has become corrupted).
My Powerbook hung for about 5 minutes (I got tired of waiting abd power-cycled it) when I first ran Call of Duty 2. I think it was swapping because I had many apps open at the time. Imagine if my home directory was FileVaulted. Now, I shut down most apps before I run CoD2.
I would have much preferred individual on-the-fly file encryption instead of my entire home directory being encrypted. Conceptually, FileVault is a great idea, but Apple's implementation leaves a lot to be desired, specifically guarding against data loss.
Waking Life, Through a Scanner Darkly, Sin City and now Renaissance can be called Synthetic Movies. They are not completely computer generated; the actor's performances are motion-captured and then the video is processed to give the movies a particular look.
The world lacks many things these day, but one thing I miss is women with style. I see women every day and most of these women are dressed in the latest trendy fashions (stretchy pants, etc.) which by definition are dictated by the stores themselves. These women all look like they're wearing uniforms. Very rarely do I see a woman dressed elegantly (elegance does not imply expensive clothes)— she's wearing a skirt or a dress or just that one small accessory, like a silk scarf to finish off what would be an otherwise an ordinary ensemble.
I wonder how European tourists view us. I see them wandering along Yonge Street; they are easy to pick out because their clothes are so different than ours (and the unfolded maps, of course).
Even after the recent Toronto International Film Festival when the rest of Hollywood (the part of it that wasn't already here shooting movies), there wasn't a single actress that displayed that certain style. Quite unlike actresses of the past, like Audrey Hepburn— the definition of style.
On a personal note, I don't particularily care about my clothes because I am invisible to most of society and I prefer it that way. I tend to dress for comfort. I still have 10 year old shirts with fraying collars that I still love to wear because they are comfortable. That, I suppose, is my style.
Update Mon Sep 25 22:05:56 2006: I will not bother posting David's email disputing my considered opinion, on the grounds that he is not qualified to comment on the subject of style— he once bought a Dell laptop.
Elgato EyeTV Reviewed
hardware elgato eyetv
The Register reviews the Elgato EyeTV USB analog and digital TV tuner for Mac.
I have been tempted to buy this, given all the positive reviews, for the very few TV shows that I would want to watch, but have avoided it so far only because I would then be exposed to 99% of the garbage that's on TV these days.
Sony eBook Reader
hardware sony eink ebook reader
The Sony eBook Reader can now be ordered (ships Nov. 1).
It has 64MB standard (expandable via a SD card or an Memory Stick), scalable fonts, weighs 9 ounces, has a rechargeable battery with incredibly long life because the 6 inch eInk technology screen doesn't require constant re-freshing. You can buy eBooks from the Sony site or you can download PDF documents or convert Word or RTF to PDF. It also plays MP3s through the headphone jack.
It looks like it displays images. So I wonder how a PDF page of an issue of The Complete New Yorker would look on this reader.
Until the latest bestseller is available for purchase and download from Amazon, the place where people go to buy books (think iTunes), this gadget is just a half-assed piece of marvellous technology that wasn't thought through.
software python "image sequence" quicktime movie
I was thinking of making an animated movie (with LEGO minifigs). I found PyQTSequence, a Python script that takes a sequence of images and turns them into a QuickTime movie.
Startrek Sale on Amazon.ca
All Startrek titles are 25-35% off on Amazon.ca.
I ordered Startrek: The Motion Picture for $11.97. Actually, I emailed Amazon requesting that this title be added to an order that has yet to ship (Amazon software cannot currently handle this) but only if the price remains the same when the order ships in November.
iTunes 7.0.1 on XP
software itunes "windows xp"
I had an opportunity to install and use iTunes 7.0.1 on XP, today. I was in a rush to burn an audio CD and I ended up being frustrated with the new interface and the layout of the XP preferences dialog.
I am currently quite content using iTunes 4.6 on mathilde so the iTunes 7 interface came as quite a shock, especially since I had to go hunting for the round "burn" button typically found at the top-right corner. The other problem I encountered, was the layout of the Windows preferences dialogs (different enough from the Mac version which has nice pictorial icons representing the various tabs)— I needed to ensure that I was burning an audio CD and not MP3 CDs.
Emacs.app Alpha Version
An alpha version of Emacs.app is now downloadable as either a DMG or installed as a package.
“Mac OS X Internals” Chapter 6 Review
book review "mac os x internals" amit singh
Chapter 6 review is now up.
Made Some New Icons
software pixen icons
I decided that the "Essays" and "Quick Links" anchors needed icons. I took the icon for "Today's Entry" and began modifying it. I started using Graphic Converter, but then decided to switch to Pixen. It's very nice; some features are intuitive (cmd-click in pencil mode switches to the eye-dropper tool to choose the colour under the pencil) but others aren't— the ellipse tool to draw an ellipse, and flood-fill didn't fill the selected area— that was unexpected.
software ical calendar bug
According to one of the iCal calendars I subscribe to— Christian Holidays— Monday is the feast of Gaurdian Angles.
Disabling the GUI
Logging in as the user >console disables the GUI and presents a console-based command-line-only interface to OS X; but as far as I know, this is temporary— until the next reboot.
A more permanent way is to follow the instructions in this O'Reilly hack which enables verbose booting in the PROM and modifies /etc/ttys to enable secure console logins.