Part 20 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal
Mac Mini Progress Report
hardware "mac mini"
Yesterday, when my boss called Apple Canada Educational store and was told that the sales representative had returned from vacation, he left voicemail asking for help in buying a Mac Mini. In about an hour he was given a call back with the URL to the Proposal page, and the Proposal was generated as a PDF; the previously mentioned specs were upgraded to 2 GB of RAM, Applecare and 120 GB disk. The purchase order was created, PDF attached and sent to the Purchashing department.
iPod Shuffle2 Shipped
hardware "ipod shuffle2"
By this morning several people had received their iPod Shuffle2 and unpacking pictures were available for salivating over. The Shuffle 2 will be in stores by Friday.
Usability/Disability: Coloured LED Indicators
usability disability colourblindness
The tip of the power cord on my Powerbook glows orange when the battery is charging and green when it has finished charging; this nemonic is also used by the new Shuffle 2. The problem is that some people that suffer from red-green colourblindness cannot distinguish between shades of these two colours (deuteranomaly affects 6% of the male population). A person on #macosx who has received his Shuffle2 was unable to tell whether it had finished charging because he suffers from colourblindness. I wonder if Apple is aware of this problem.
Anime/Manga on Sale at Amazon.ca
dvd anime manga
Netdiver: Flash Animations
website netdiver flash
One of my favourite sites to visit for really great flash presentations is Netdiver. It's been around for a few years now and there are always some amazing things to see there.
U.S. Election Results
Democrats now have the majority in Congress but they did not win control of the Senate.
Transit of Venus
Venus wil pass across the face of Sol today just after 2PM, EST. The Exploratorium will have a webcast from the Kitt Peak Observatory.
Even though the name sounds like a Dairy Queen Sundae, Chocoflop is a CoreImage-based, realtime, non-destructive, HDR image and photo editing application.
software tor anonymizer proxy
Tor (The Onion Router) is a web anonymizer that cloaks your identity on the internet and the web, as long as the watchers do not have access to both the originating and terminating connections.
I have only recently begun using the System Preferences/Energy Saver option to automatically sleep mathilde every morning after I leave for work.
I wish, however, that this feature could be more customizable. I would like to be able to specify separate shutdown and startup settings for weekends and weekdays— on weekdays, I want the laptop to automatically wakeup at 8:00AM and automatically sleep at 10:00AM, after I leave for work; then automatically sleep at 11:00PM amd on weekends, I want the laptop to automatically wakeup at 10:00AM and then sleep at 12:00PM.
"maritime disaster" "edmund fitzgerald"
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
—Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
Today is the 31st anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship went down with all hands under mysterious circumstances during a fierce storm in Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot memorialized this disaster with one of my favourite folk songs (which is ever-so-slightly flawed because of a single non-rhyming couplet).
Comparing Beethoven to Eminem and 50 Cent
beethoven "music appreciation" eroica
A brief excerpt from Alex Ross' article, Listen to This, from the Feb. 16, 2004 issue of the New Yorker Magazine. I remember that the cover of my parent's copy of the “Eroica” Symphony had a painting of a young Napolean wearing a wreath on his head and facing the viewer in defiance.
The first music that I loved to the point of distraction was Beethoven's “Eroica” Symphony. My parents had a disk of Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic— one of a series of Music-Appreciation Records put out by the Book-of-the-Month Club. A companion record provided Bernstein's analysis of the symphony, a road map if its forty-five-minute sprawl. I now had names for the shapes that I perceived. (The conductor's “Joy of Music” and the “Infinite Variety of Music” remain the best introductory books of their kind.) Bernstein drew attention to something that happens about ten seconds in— a C-sharp that unexpectedly sounds against the plain E-flat-major harmony. “There has been a stab of intrusive otherness,” he said cryptically but seductively, in his nicotine baritone. Over and over, I listened to this note of otherness. I bought a score and deciphered the notation. I learned some time-beating gestures from Max Rudolph's conducting manual. I held my family hostage in the living room as I led the record player in a searingly intense performance of the “Eroica”.
Did Lenny get a little carried away when he called that soft C-sharp in the cellos a "shock", a "wrench," a "stab"? If you were to play the “Eroica” for a fourteen-year-old hip-hop scholar versed in the works of Eminem and 50 Cent, he might find it shockingly boring at best. No one is slicing up his wife or getting shot nine times. But I would submit to my young gangsta interlocutor that those artists are relatively shocking— relative to the social norms of their day. Although the “Eroica” ceased to be controversial in the these-crazy-kids-today sense around 1830, within the "classical" frame it has continued to deliver its surprises right on cue. [...]
I don't identify with the listener who responds to the “Eroica” by saying, “Ah, civilization.” That wasn't what Beethoven wanted: his intention was to shake the European mind. I don't listen to music to be civilized; sometimes, I listen precisely to escape the ordered world. What I love about the “Eroica” is the way it manages to have it all, uniting Romanticism and Enlightenment, civilization and revolution, brain and body, order and chaos. It knows which way you think the music is going and veers triumphantly in the wrong direction.The Danish composer Carl Nielsen once wrote a monologue for the spirit of Music, in which he or she or it says, "I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it."
Have you ever wondered why the flash pictures you take with your camera look so craptacular compared to the flash photos that the professionals take?
Wonder no more— the secret is in the diffuser "rigs" that the photographers attach to their flashguns when photographing their subjects. These photos— of models, their clothes and shoes, the photographers, the dressers, the hair stylists and the makeup artists— were part of a feature in a NY Times Magazine giving a behind-the-scenes look of a runway show.
My camera is a Canon S60 and about the only thing I can do to diffuse the flash is to put some tissue paper on the flashbulb (after decreasing the strength down to 2 notches above the minimum). I have (accidently) discovered that photographing your subject in front of a white background does improve the flash shot considerably (as seen in the photo in the top-right of the quad set).
licensing gpl java sun
Sun announced that Java is now available with a GPl license. Many Linux distributions require that all the software that they ship be GPL'd and so Java was never included with many distros and required people to manually download Java from Sun.
Update Tue Nov 14 02:48:11 2006: Jonathan Schwartz wrote a very eloquent blog entry about this momentuous event.
In other news, the GPL was deemed not violating anti-trust laws (Sherman Act) after a lawsuit launched against RedHat, IBM, etc. failed to prove that free software undermined the competiveness of small software developers.
Feed43 is Down
software escher screensaver
...even in a lifetime of endless repetition,
there's still room for possibilities.
Yesterday, if you'd asked me if it was possible that Sun would GPL Java I would have laughed in derision. I would have also laughed if you'd said that someone had animated an Escher painting.
When I read the description on Macupdate, I thought, "What did they do...animate the flapping birds changing into chessboards?" No, they (meaning the developer, Dag Ĺgren) did something even better— they brought Escher's "infinite zoom at the gallery" painting to life. It just took my breath away when I first ran it. If you don't have a Mac, you should buy a Mac just so you can see this screensaver. Also remember to play with the options; there are various starting points for the screensaver.
I remember reading and and not even beginning to understand the mathematics behind this painting.
politics elections blogs
David Miller was re-elected mayor of Toronto and Hazel McCallion was elected to her 11th term (I don't think anyone bothers running against her) as mayor of Mississauga.
Update Tue Nov 14 21:22:53 2006: Hazel got ~98,000 votes; the first runner-up got ~5,000 and the next runner-up got ~3,000.
Politically, 2006 is definitely the Year of the Blogs. Many if not most political candidates have their own (in most cases written by an aid, no doubt). And independent bloggers are now standing by 24/7 to catch a politician out. [They contribute to democracy] in that everybody can have his or her own voice. I do sometimes think that when this phenomenon is described as `community', it is somewhat missing the boat. People love the opportunity to speak out. Whether they have much interest in listening to other people speak out is not so clear.
What is so magical about a majority anyway? As a standard for producing a result that is as pleasing as possible to as many people as possible, 50 percent is just one possible stopping point on the ay from zero to unanimity. Anyway, in presidential elections, we don't have majority rule. We have plurality rule. In the past four elections, only George W. Bush in 2004 got more than 50 percent of the vote. In losing, John Kerry received a higher fraction of the vote than Bush got in 2000. In raw numbers, more people voted for Kerry in 2004 than had ever voted for any candidate in American history except, of course, for George W. Bush in the same election. —Michael Kinsley
Google TechTalk: Doug Lenat
cyc "doug lenat" ai
Today, Moses has come to the Mountain and we
reverently listen to what he has to say.
—Peter Norvig introducing Doug Lenat
Doug Lenat, creator of the Cyc Project spoke at Google; the talk was entitled "Computers versus Common Sense". I read about this talk in last Sunday's New York Times article about Web 3.0 so I tracked down the video.
This morning, at 9:33 mathilde "froze". The mouse still worked but I couldn't focus any window and the read disk-light was full-on . I only noticed it was frozen at 9:44 (the clock in the menubar still read 9:33). I had to power-cycle. The last thing I did, before it froze, was quit the New Yorker magazine browser.
October 2001: iPod
Notable differences between today's presentations and this one:
- a small auditorium;
- sedate (almost bored) crowd— journalists, maybe?
- Comic Sans (?) font used in the slides;
- applause only at the "unveiling" at the end.
Sun Travel Mug
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the mug.
Today, I received my Official Sun Microsystems travel mug. I won the mug from the "Spot Butros Galli" Contest on Ann McDermott's blog. Sun provided the computers and networking for the United Nations Youth Summit on "Building Global Villages".
Now I can enjoy my tea whilst wearing my "Surfin' with Java Technology" T-shirt, which was handed out back in the 90s when James Gosling gave a talk at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto and various Java based technologies were demo'd. I also got Gosling to autograph my Java book.
What I found remarkable is that Ms. McDermott is alive today because she was late getting to work on the morning of September 11th, 2001; she worked at Sun's Manhattan office which was located in the WTC.
software wingnuts arcade game
Wingnuts 1 is now available for a free download. It's some sort of arcade dogfight game. Downloaded it.
Update Wed Nov 22 06:05:45 2006: Installed it on the Mini, played it for a minute or two (a 640x480 rectangle in the center of a black 1280x1024 screen), deleted it. I couldn't figure out how to make it play in higher resolution, full-screen. Deleted it.
Shaving Flogging the Gnu
definition "flogging the gnu"
I would like to coin a new phrase—
the gnu— jumping through numerous hoops (i.e. suffering) to do
something because of ones fanatical adhererence to the ethos that
demands the exclusive use of Free Software and making do without, if
there is no free alternative. (c.f. shaving the yak). This phrase
was inspired by <twb> on #emacs.
Update Mon Nov 20 16:38:58 2006: David writes in with a suggestion:
May I make the recommendation that you call it "flogging the gnu", as flogging is probably a more painful activity than shaving— especially since it can be self flagellation; see also mortification of the flesh.
Update Thu Dec 14 14:02:13 2006: Here is a more concise definition of "flogging the gnu": the insistence on using Free Software (GPL definition) despite there being superior, albeit non-free alternatives and making do without software when there is no free alternative available; some examples: using Gimp rather than Photoshop, only because Photoshop is not Free Software; not using a particular file-format because the codec is distributed in binary-only format. "<jml> doing painful things to avoid using non-Free software." Update Sun Dec 31 22:30:21 2006: The term can also mean those that advocate GNU software vociferously, using the alternate meaning of "flog" which means "to sell".
Also added a preliminary sketch for a flogging-the-gnu logo, inspired by the slave-ship scenes in Ben Hur.
The PS3 Frenzy
hardware sony playstation ps3
I am saddened when I read about food-riots in Third World countries and in famine-stricken countries when food is handed out in camps. I was even more saddened when I read about riots and fights among people waiting in line (some camping overnight) to buy a PS3, the Sony game console, that was released last week. The majority of the people waiting in line were not gaming fans but "entrepreneurs" hoping to auction their purchase at double and even triple the original price.
Paul Mauriat, R.I.P
Paul Mauriat passed away on November 3, 2006. Love is Blue, his signature piece (written by André Popp), is the only song that I have in my collection. I remember this song from my childhood; I especially remember the LP cover with a beautiful, naked woman, in profile, running across a beach, silhouetted in front of a setting sun glittering on the waves.
Keynote is the King
After having used Keynote for the first time, I can say I am totally blown-away at its ability to make superb looking presentations and then generate movies from these presentations. It is a joy to work with this software— I never once cursed, or swore or was frustrated during the entire 8 hours I worked on it.
“Put Some Music On”
advert ipod shuffle2
New ad for the iPod Shuffle2— anonymous morphing torsos clipping-on the Shuffle2. Nicely done; the music, "Who's Gonna Sing" by The Prototypes, ends abruptly at the end.
Robert Altman, R.I.P.
Tea At Four. Dinner At Eight. Murder At Midnight.
I own only one movie directed by Robert Altman— Gosford Park— a favourite of mine because it reveals something new at each viewing. I also love the screenplay, which won an Oscar, for it's ability to effortlessly glide in and out of conversations mid-stream. And of course, the acting is superb— it is quite amusing to see all the "Shakespearean" actors playing servants.
He is most famous for directing M*A*S*H* (ranked 56th in the AFI Top-100 Movies) which was spun-off into the popular TV series, which I grew-up watching.
There are many movies of his that I have never seen, including his last movie, A Prarie Home Companion, based on the eponymous radio show that I religiously listened to when CJRT used to broadcast it. (Now, I make-do with NPR's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" podcast via iTunes).
hardware microsoft apple
It all started with a statement on #emacs that paraphrased, went something like, "my microsoft keyboard just crashed on the floor and it's still working", to which I replied, "if it was windows xp, it would have crashed and stopped working".
Later, on #macosx, <Darien> noted that Microsoft Windows was designed to make it easier to use a computer while Mac OS X was designed to make it easy to make a movie, to listen to music, to manage your photos, etc.
A day later, I read the Leopard vs. Vista article via Slashdot and found the section, "A Tightly Integrated Product", of particular interest:
Apple's current Get a Mac advertising campaign doesn't compare Mac OS X to Windows, it compares the complete experience of a Mac with that of a PC. After all, Windows is only half of what's wrong with the PC as a product.
This strategy also allows Apple to highlight Mac advantages without specifically drawing attention to Windows, avoiding the common marketing mistake of inadvertently creating brand recognition for rival products.
For Apple, hardware and software are inseparable, tightly integrated components. This applies to both the Mac and the iPod. Tight integration allows Apple to remain competitive even as cheap hardware cloners pump out fake iPods or try to make PCs that look like its Mac designs.
At that moment, it occured to me that Microsoft could build their own PC. They are famous for building reliable hardware (it's their software that's craptacular)— after all, I do have two Microsoft mice. They already have a popular game console and just recently, released a music player. So why not a Microsoft PC?
This goes against the conceptual logic of the “Invisible Computer”, of course, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a Microsoft PC.
If There Is No God
If there is no God
Not everything is permitted to man.
He is still his brother's keeper
And he is not permitted to sadden his brother,
By saying that there is no God.
(p.94, Aug. 30, 2004, New Yorker)
The meaning of the first sentence, “If there is no God / Not everything is permitted to man”, eludes me, at the moment.
Update Thu Nov 23 15:42:24 2006: David found the reference— it's attributed to Dostoevsky, who never said it.
Google TechTalk: Second Life & User Experience at Google
I watched the TechTalk about Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Labs. It is “Neuromancer” and ”Snowcrash“ brought to life.
Next up, The Science and Art of User Experience at Google— Jen Fitzpatrick talks about the art and science behind Google's design process and how design, usability and engineering come together in Google's unique culture to create great products.
As I was watching the beginning of the video, where she talks about the simplicity of the Google homepage, it occured to me that I hadn't been to the Google homepage is a few months (or perhaps years) because I search Google (and Wikipedia, Amazon, etc.) using the search browser build into the browser. I also realized that what I missed the most about Google's homepage were the appearances of the special Google logos celebrating special occasions (I just saw Louis Braille's birthday logo— really cool). I think it would be interesting to see a miniature of the the entire Google logo appear next to the search window (currently only the favicon appears) and the logo changes would be more noticeable.
I *heart* Robots
movie toys robots
I received my copy of the 50th anniversary edition of the “Forbidden Planet” on Thursday. It is packaged in a large tin which includes a Robby the Robot figure (smaller than expected, with no moving parts), 2 DVDs (including, “The Invisible Boy” featuring Robby as "The science-monster who would destroy the world!") and a set of 5x7 replica lobby cards from both movies. There is also a pamphlet so you could order your own life-size Robby the Robot. I bought this set so I could have the robot figure.
Resize An HFS+ Partition
Resize an HFS+ partition using an Ubuntu Live CD and parted.
Altman to Apple
"degrees of separation" altman "apple iic"
Before last week, if you had told me that there were 2 degrees of separation between Robert Altman and Apple (linked by Robert Balaban), I would not have believed you.
This realization came about like this: last Monday, a colleague lent me his 2010 DVD (which he bought for $4 over the weekend at a remainders bin at Loblaws) in which Robert Balaban plays Dr. Chandra and where Roy Scheider, in a product-placement scene, uses an Apple IIc with an LCD display, next to a Budwiser wrapper (crushed can?) and an OMNI magazine. The next day, when Robert Altman passed away, I mentioned that Gosford Park was my favourite movie that he had directed and since my colleague hadn't seen it, I agreed to lend it to him. When I was describing the plot I realized that Rob Balaban had a role in Gosford Park.
Philippe Noiret, R.I.P.
Philippe Noiret, French actor who made mostly Italian films passed away last week. He was most famous for Cinema Paradiso (music by Ennio Morricone), and also for Il Postino where he played the Nobel prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda. In both movies, the women were exquisite— a requirement of Italian cinema.
Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz
In my high-school English literature class we were taught the three basic types of conflict narratives— man vs. man, man vs. nature and man vs. himself. I have since learned that there are many more types. One of those that is of particular interest to me, is man vs. machine.
Beginning last Saturday, a chess tournament, that tuns until Dec. 5, has been underway; it pits Vladimir Kramnik, the current World Chess Champion, against Deep Fritz 10. Game 1 was a draw; Game 2 is scheduled for today.
Star Wars Chess Set
The queen is a bearded Episode III Obi-Wan...
I was thinking about a chess set made of Star Wars Action figures. There is an official one from Hasbro but there doesn't seem to have been much thought put into choosing some of the characters, according to a comment by.T.F. on Amazon.
For those who may be interested, here is a listing of which pieces are included in this new chess set. For the silver "good" side, the pawns are Republic Clone Troopers, kneeling and holding a rifle. The two rooks are C3P0/R2D2 (together on one piece), and Padme firing a blaster from Episode II. The knights are Han Solo in Episode IV clothing and Chewbacca with bowcaster, and the bishops are Princess Leia from Episode IV and Luke Skywalker from Episode VI. The queen is a bearded Episode III Obi-Wan, and the king is Yoda flying through the air (resting on a piece of clear plastic) with a lightsaber. On the black "evil" side, the pawns are the Episode IV era stormtroopers, kneeling with rifles. The two rooks are Count Dooku and Darth Maul (holding a double-bladed lightsaber and doing a high kick). Bishops are General Grievous (two of his four arms are holding lightsabers) and a General Grievous bodyguard with staff. Knights are Jango Fett from Episode II flying with jet pack and firing double pistols, and Boba Fett from Episode VI, presumably firing his wrist cable. The queen is Darth Vader with lightsaber, and the king is Emperor Palpatine with hands poised for sith lightning ala Episode VI.
For example I would have chosen Ewoks as the pawns for white and storm troopers as pawns for black. The biggest problem I have is finding a queen for black (update Tue Nov 28 15:02:53 2006: it has been suggested that Mara Jade represent the queen); the queen for white is obviously Amidala. The bishops for white are Han/Chewbacca; I don't know about black. The knights for white are Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon; Darth Maul and Dooku for black. The kings are Luke and Vader. The rooks for white are C3P0/R2D2 and Yoda; for black the Fett bounty hunters (father and son).
oil "article excerpt"
If the United States were forced to rely on its
own resources, it would run out of oil in four years and three
The two hundred and ninety million people [three hundred million in 2006] who live in the United States make up just five percent of the world's population, but they consume a quarter of the world's oil supply. For much of the twentieth century, the United States was the world's largest oil producer and its profligacy wasn't a pressing problem. Today, however, we are only third-largest producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. In terms of proven reserves— oil deposits that are known to exist and are believed to be accessible at reasonable cost— we have slipped to tenth place in the international rankings, as reservoirs in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have started to dry up. [...]
Many Americans also appear to believe that they are entitled to cheap fuel, regardless of how much they consume. When gasoline hits two dollars a gallon they look for somebody to blame— this despite the fact that gasoline is still cheaper than it was in the nineteen-seventies, after adjusting for inflation, and that it costs a lot less than it does abroad. In the United Kingdom, for example, a gallon of gasoline costs more than five dollars. [...]
Americans prefer lower prices at the pump even if they gave to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes to support a U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
The October 11, 2004 issue seems to be a particularily good one— in addition to the above article, there's a short story called, "The Scheme of Things", by Charles D'Ambrosio; it's an excellent study of the Prisoner's Dilemma set amongst the corn fields of Iowa about two teens who have escaped from an institution and are making their way across America by preying on the benevolence of others. You know it's an excellent story when you forget to the read the cartoons.
Most stories in the New Yorker have failed my "first-line reading test"— I read the first line of the story and if it's not immediately interesting, I don't read the story.
Wait, there's more... I'm in the middle of reading an article titled "Northern Lights", by David Denby, about the Scottish Enlightenment. a couple of excerpts:
David Hume, perhaps the most thoroughgoing skeptic in the history of philosophy, believed that religion is a portrait not of how the cosmos works but of how the human mind works— of what men and women want and need. [...]
In "Leviathan", published in 1651, Thomas Hobbes had develpped a mechanistic view of human behaviour: men were entirely ammoral; they reacted positively to anything that gratified their self-interest, calling it "good", but the reaction was no more than a mechanical response to a stimulus. Unless they were overawed by a strong central authority, men would quickly be at one another's throats. The Scots were also familiar with the Duc de La Rochefoucauld's "Maximes", a wickedly funny collection of aphorisms that dissolved virtue in the acid of self-interest [I love that phrase]. If we performed a benevolent act, La Rochefoufcauld suggests, we did so in order to stoke our vainty or to seek a return of favour. But Hutcheson, and also (David) Hume and (Adam) Smith, were repelled by such fashionable cynicism; they were determined to prove that virtue was grounded in human nature itself.
New Mac Ads
New ads: Gift Exchange, Sales Pitch & Meant for Work. My favourite of the trio is Gift Exchange.
Let us now praise famous Macs.
There has been nothing but praise about my Keynote presentations done on the Mini and playing on the LCD screen in the corridor— "That presentation just rocks! Did Luis do that? He just got that Mac and went crazy, didn't he?!" I have tried to be modest about this gushing praise, saying that I didn't really do much other than type in the text and click a few buttons. That it was all the Mac's doing.
But not any more! From now on, it's, "Yes I did that amazing presentation. Oh yeah, and I happened to use a Mac."
Just before he left to go home, my boss re-iterated his wish to buy a Mac. However, he said he would wait until it had built-in TV (coming in Jan. 2007, I told him). I have begun printing copies of this Journal so he can read them on the commute home and get aquainted with Macs. He took the Prologue with him, today. He was ready to go pick-up the printout at the front office printer/copier, but I told him that I had the back-room (unix print-server based) Postscript printer already configured. His comment— "I bet you did that while simultaneously surfing and making a movie."Ummm. Ya. OK, whatever. Well, it pretty much involved a bit of typing and a few clicks.
If you habitually need to ssh to various hosts and have many shell aliases to do so, then this SSH shortcuts hint enables icons to be created with pre-configured hosts, usernames and port-numbers.
The novelty behind this hint belies our understand of the OS X Finder and the Desktop from a typical user's perspective rather than a developer's perspective.