Part 2 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

A Milestone

Fri Mar 18 01:19:42 2005

12:50AM mathilde[102] w
 0:51  up 19 days, 6 secs, 1 user, load averages: 1.19 1.51 1.64
USER     TTY      FROM              LOGIN@  IDLE WHAT
elf      console  -                27Feb05 18days -

Mailed SystemProfile to Apple

Fri Mar 18 10:26:53 2005

I received a follow-up email to my last bug-report, requesting a System Profile upload. I did that last night— hopefully, it will help them track-down these trackpad annoyances.

Temperature Monitor

Downloaded and installed a temperature monitor though it looks like most sensors do not update in real-time for my computer model; the temperatures reflect the state at boot-time.


Television could perform a great service in mass education, but there's no indication its sponsors have anything like this on their minds.
—Tallulah Bankhead

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.
—Orson Welles

Fri Mar 18 13:37:46 2005

I don't own a TV. So I was thinking of getting Eye TV 200 made by Elgato Systems, so I can watch and/or record some Simpsons, Nova, Britcoms and Star Trek episodes on mathilde. Here are two product reviews, one from PowerbookCentral and the other from Macworld are promising; the Macworld review notes that Eye TV had problems waking G4 iBook to start recording.

Update on Windows Rendezvous

Fri Mar 18 18:53:45 2005

<byers>, on #macosx, tried out Rendezvous for Windows/XP available from and reported that it is just a technology preview that supports printers only, no file-sharing.

Update on Previewing Images on a CF Card

Further to my bug-report about not being able to preview images in iPhoto, I noticed that my bug has been classified as having a workaround in the bug-reporter database, but I don't know where the workaround is to be found. So I continued searching and I came across this article, which mentions, among other "workarounds", PicturePop.


Mon Mar 21 01:22:22 2005

Downloaded Soundflower, a system extension to route audio between applications.

Update Sun May 08 13:07:37 2005: see below for details on installing and using Soundflower.

Spent most of the weekend watching The Third Man, The Longest Day, The Incredibles and Raging Bull.


When I make changes to my Xdefaults, and I want them to take effect, I have to run xrdb -merge .Xdefaults. The problem is that when xrdb runs, it complains /usr/bin/cpp not found. Hm. So I have to kill and restart the X server. Looking at the /etc/X11/xinitrc file, there is an xrdb command invoked there; so why does that command work?


Tue Mar 22 00:02:14 2005

Downloaded and (painlessly) installed Emacs. Spent a lot of time trying to configure the default font. I found Adventures with MacOS X useful in solving my font problem (M-x set-default-font TAB). Here is my .emacs configuration for the default look:

(setq default-frame-alist
   '((top . 80) (left . 464)
   (width . 80) (height . 40)
   (cursor-color . "red")
   (cursor-type . box)
   (foreground-color . "lightcyan")
   (background-color . "midnightblue")
   (font . "-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--14-140-75-75-m-140-mac-roman")))

Update: See additional lisp required to support Latin-1 in #macs.


Tue Mar 22 23:47:13 2005

I was quite impressed with the speech capabilites of MacOS. Every application can be registered to speak text— even the recently installed Emacs. OS X is also pretty good at understanding speech. It understands some phrases like "What is the date?" or "What is the time" or a "Knock, Knock" joke; I found that it works better when using the "Esc" key to input speech rather than continuous listening.

Instead of an epigraph, I present the following excerpt from a book I am currently reading, called “The Language Instinct” by Steve Pinker:

In the 1970s a team of artificial intelligence researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University headed by Raj Reddy designed a computer called HEARSAY that interpreted spoken commands to move chess pieces. Influenced by the top-down theory of speech perception, they designed their program as a “community” of “expert” subprograms cooperating to give the most likely interpretation of the signal. There were subprograms that specialized in acoustic analysis, in phonology, in the dictionary, in syntax, in rules for the legal moves of chess, even in chess strategy as applied to the game in progress. According to one story, a general from the defense agency that was funding the research came up for a demonstration. As the scientists sweated, he was seated in front of a chess board and a microphone hooked up to the computer. The general cleared his throat. The program printed, “Pawn to King 4”.


Thu Mar 24 00:09:04 2005

Downloaded BubbleGym, a tilt-controlled game for SMS equipped PowerBooks, written by Peter Berglund. According to a article, the author received a congratulatory email from Steve Wozniak.

Update, Sun Mar 27 21:05:26 2005: Deleted the annoying nag-ware demo after playing with it for a minute.

Further Update: see BubbleGym Revisited.

Daring Fireball

Fri Mar 25 00:57:52 2005

Those of you who religiously delete font caches every time you install a system or security update, feel free to smirk smugly.
—John Gruber

John Gruber always has something interesting to say, and sometimes it's Apple related. His latest blog entry was related to login delays as a side-effect of corrupt font-cache files.

Tiger mauls Emacs

Sat Mar 26 00:21:51 2005

It has been reported on #emacs that CVS Emacs doesn't build and the Carbon Emacs available for download on doesn't run on Tiger (for one person, at least); the Carbon version dies with "Fatal error (6)Abort trap" and CVS doesn't compile.

I have now installed and configured ERC 5.02 (Emacs IRC client) and I now use it instead of ssh'ing to a Solaris box and running Emacs and ERC in a Terminal. I was hoping to get Emacs to speak the conversations, but Emacs > Services > Speech > Start Talking only speaks text which is selected by the mouse.

Crash No. 2

Sun Mar 27 20:50:47 2005

I switched to another user, deleted a folder, logged out, then re-logged-in as myself. Noticed the SPOD (spinning pizza of death) when I moved the pointer to the user-list in the (top-right of the) menu. Waited about 2 minutes and it was still spinning. Hmmm. Ran top to see if anything interesting was happening— CPU was just idling. Closed the lid and noticed the glowing light was dead. Feh. Had to power it back up again.

I set-up my console log to pop-up and pause for 3 seconds every-time something interesting happens. The only thing it reported before the crash was PowerStateFoo 0->1. Perhaps I should have waited a bit longer for the SPOD.

SPOD Spotter's Handbook

We need a “SPOD Spotter's Handbook”— Approach with caution? Run away? Pretend it's not there, because it just craves attention? Prepare to reboot? Man your battle-stations?


Downloaded OnyX, a free maintenance, optimization, and personalization utility written by JoŽl Barriere.

Ejecting Stuck Media

<Flowerbauer> hmm... i just found out an even comfier way:
'disktool -l' to find the name of the disk then 
'disktool -e <diskname>' to eject it

Sat Apr 23 19:56:51 2005: If disktool -l doesn't see the CD device (fsType='cd9660' doesn't show up) then shut down the computer for a few hours (8 hrs works) until it cools down and then turn it back on; the CD-drive should appear <decibelle> had this very problem and this solution worked for her).

Update Fri May 27 10:43:10 2005: As a last resort, you can try ejecting the media from the OpenFirmware: boot into the PROM: Cmd-O-F, then type: eject cd, then type: mac-boot, to continue booting.

DS_Store: OS X was here

If ever you see a .DS_Store file, you can rest assured that OS X read that directory. They are even on my CF card and I see those files when using it on my Windows/XP laptop. I presume they are directory index files with meta information that OS X uses to speed up searches. I see them as directory pollution. Everyone on #macosx would prefer a centralized approach— storing them in a single location rather than scattered about everywhere.

iPhoto and iMovie

Mon Mar 28 08:43:13 2005

Over the weekend, (in between watching La Femme Nikita and Fargo) I played with iPhoto to import a few photos from a DVD full of photos and I also played with iMovie to create a small movie with 5 video clips taken with a digicam.

I managed to figure out iPhoto through some trial and error (and i look forwarding to getting a photo book printed via iLife), but a few aspects of iMovie still elude me (if a music clip is longer than the video, how do i trim it?). So for future reference, I will read through the iMovie tutorials and iPhoto tutorials.

iPod Health Warnings

The Register notes the anti-social effects of the iPod.


Googlefight settled an argument on #macosx about whether the proper term is Spinning Pizza of Doom or Spinning Beachball of Death.


Tue Mar 29 00:04:35 2005

The reason I started playing with iMovie was because the Quicktime player cannot play a more than one clip like the Windows Media Player can, and I wanted to concatenate all the clips into a single movie— one thing led to another and I got sidetracked with the iMovie transition effects. Under XP I was used to selecting all the clips I wanted to watch and selecting "Play All" in the Explorer toolbar. Someone suggested I try MPlayerOSX (the OS X port of the famous Linux mplayer program) which I downloaded.

Updated Sun Apr 24 15:26:24 2005: see Video Clips.

Paul Graham Comments on the Mac

Tue Mar 29 18:57:12 2005

All the best hackers I know are gradually switching to Macs.
—Paul Graham

The essay is called, Return of the Mac.

Update: Thu Apr 07 19:28:47 2005: John Gruber comments on this essay, below.

Crimson Skies!

A Crimson Skies screenshot from the game-site gallery.

I miss not being able to play the Microsoft game Crimson Skies on my PowerBook. I love that game because the planes are so easy to fly that you can concentrate on having fun rather than having to concentrate on flying the plane. Unfortunately, there is no chance that it will ever be ported to OS X. Sigh.

Windows is Ugly

Wed Mar 30 08:30:26 2005

Until one uses and interacts with OS X, one does not realize how truly ugly Windows/XP really is. The icons are just appalling to look at.

Back and Forth

I feared that switching back and forth between OS X at home and Windows/XP at work, because of interface differences, would cause me mental anguish— but that hasn't happened. I can easily use both. The biggest problem is to keep from typing Cmd-q to fill a paragraph in Emacs running in a Terminal. Many times, I've been in the middle of an email and I've quit all the Terminals. ARGH! The problem is that the Vaio has Alt (next to the space-bar) mapped as Meta and on the PowerBook, the Cmd key is exactly where the Alt key is. And to exacerbate matters, Carbon Emacs uses Cmd as Meta.

Update, Thu Mar 31 15:55:44 2005: David pointed to a suggestion that would cure my Cmd-q woes: Terminal > Window Settings > Processes > Prompt before closing window.

Carrying cases

Thu Mar 31 15:53:17 2005

I am currently considering a PowerSleeve 15 or a SportFolio case for mathilde. I have found that price is directly proportional to longevity— cheaper plastics degrade quicker.

iPhoto PhotoBook

Most of my time is currently spent playing with iPhoto (even managed to crash it once and bug-report was transmitted to Apple) to create a PhotoBook of my nephew's last birthday party.

G5 PowerBooks Announced

Fri Apr 01 00:01:01 2005

Apple announced the release of G5 Powerbooks to coincide with Tiger going gold. Woes Revisited

Sun Apr 03 16:02:00 2005

Lots more complaints on #macosx about being nearly useless. The biggest problem is that 99% of Mac users don't need a CLI to earn their daily bread so there is really no incentive for Apple to improve However, with more hardcore Unix users defecting to Apple, this may soon change. I will be filing by bugs (display of extended chars, any of alt/fn/cmd as meta-key, faster redisplay) to Apple after the 10.3.9 release.

More Emacs Tweaks

;;; When Emacs is configured to use a gui, File->Open File will pop up
;;; a file selection dialog if `use-dialog-box' is set to t.
(setq use-dialog-box t)

;;; Mac OS X: Cmd-up/down for paging
(global-set-key [M-down] 'scroll-up)
(global-set-key [M-up]   'scroll-down)

iPhoto Feature Request

Sent iPhoto Feedback requesting the ability to play multiple video clips in sequence using qt player. If I can make a slide-show of photos, why not video clips, too?

Tiger Mauls Zsh

Mon Apr 04 17:56:32 2005

On March 31st, AppleInsider reported that Tiger OS X 10.4 went gold. In addition to emacs, it seems that zsh also "does not work properly" on Tiger.


Watched the entire first season of “Dead Like Me” (excellent show about grim reapers and death, with superb writing) over the weekend and found a nice tune in one of the episodes which I recorded (on the Vaio) and tried editing on mathilde using Audacity. But I wasn't able to modify the file for some reason. Hm. Read the online documentation and now I have to play with Audacity some more. The MP3 track plays fine but I can't edit. Only later, on the train, on the way to work, did it occur to me that perhaps I should convert the MP3 to WAV and try editing it. I have to try it when i get back home, tonight.

Carbon Emacs Tips

Mon Apr 04 18:58:50 2005

The Emacs Wiki has many tips for Carbon Emacs; something bugging me at the moment is how to disable the default display of Japanese and enable Latin-1.

Zsh OK On Tiger

Wed Apr 06 14:41:18 2005

A developer on #macosx took exception to my reporting that “Tiger Mauls Zsh” as it works with no problems for him as does Emacs. My argument was that I was merely reporting what someone said and that this Journal is more opinion than fact, and so I was justified in my report.

More Audacity

<Necrosan>, on #macosx reported having no problems with Audacity and he was running 1.2.0. So after downgrading from 1.2.3, Audacity now works like a charm.

BubbleGym Revisited

Thu Apr 07 13:24:10 2005

This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Peter Berglund, BubbleGym's author. He graciously emailed me a free copy of the game which would permit me a more thorough review. I had downloaded his tilt-controlled game earlier.

Gruber vs. Bray

Thu Apr 07 17:10:30 2005

A "Transparent" screen submission.

John Gruber comments on Paul Graham's essay about hackers "switching" to OS X and Tim Bray's comments about "unswitching".

"Transparent" Screens

Thu Apr 07 19:21:37 2005

A while back, David had sent me a link to a Flickr catalog with photos of a nice effect (not a PhotoShop trick). Now, I'll have to do one with mathilde, of course.


Fri Apr 08 00:19:50 2005

I just read a recent announcement on the Emacs developer mailing list about Aquamacs, "Carbon Emacs (a CVS build) with a range of packages and customizations from a number of people that all try to make Emacs behave more like a normal OS X application".

The Inevitable

Fri Apr 08 12:34:40 2005

Took today off to recover from the temporal-dialation effects of Daylight Savings Time. Watched The Funeral on CNN and later finished watching “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”— I can't say any more about the movie without giving away the ending. Apple DVD Player crashed on me as I was hunting for various DVD Easter Eggs (report sent-off to Apple).

Monkeybread Software

I wanted to grab some frames from a AVI clip and use the screen-caps in the PhotoBook so I went looking for a screen grabber. The default screen-grabber doesn't grab video. I found Monkeybread Software with a plethora of small useful applications.

New Version of iTerm released

Sat Apr 09 14:33:04 2005

I wonder if a certain bug was fixed. Dare I download it and be dissappointed?

Update, Sat Apr 09 20:37:27 2005: No need, <DrunkenDonut> on #macosx tried it out and it's still br0ken. Feh!


Eye candy, n: something purely decorative that serves no practical purpose.

I wonder if it works for X11 under OS X.

Latin-1 finally works in Emacs

Sun Apr 10 12:57:58 2005

Finally able to view Latin-1 in Emacs as the default setup for Carbon Emacs is customized to support Japanese. Used the tips on the Emacs Wiki (and got transparency to work too). Here are the relevant settings (for Bitstream Vera Sans 15 point font):

;;; Set default language
(set-language-environment "latin-1")
(set-keyboard-coding-system 'mac-roman)

(setq mac-transparency-alpha 90)

   "-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-*-*-fontset-mac,
    ascii:-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-m-*-mac-roman,
    latin-iso8859-1:-apple-bitstream vera sansmono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-m-*-mac-roman,
    mule-unicode-0100-24ff:-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-m-*-mac-roman")
 (set-frame-font "-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-*-*-fontset-mac" 'keep)
 (add-to-list 'default-frame-alist 
   '(font . "-apple-bitstream vera sans mono-medium-r-normal--15-*-*-*-*-*-fontset-mac"))

(if (and window-system (x-display-color-p))
(setq default-frame-alist
                '((top . 1) (left . 394)
                  (width . 80) (height . 40)
                  (cursor-color . "red")
                  (cursor-type . box)
                  (foreground-color . "lightcyan")
                  (background-color . "midnightblue"))))

Default Browser for Emacs

To open a url, clicked in Emacs, using your default browser, the following works:

 (setq browse-url-browser-function

Speech Revisited

Sun Apr 10 21:27:01 2005

Playing with the speech engine again, I wondered whether some one tried recording all (or most of) the words in the English language and then using it in a look-up database for a speech engine. The words would have to be atonal, of course, or the variences in pitch would make listening as annoying as listening to an engine based on phonemes.

Build Your Own Mac

If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.
—“King Lear”, act iii. sc. v.

Mon Apr 11 17:40:30 2005

Build your own Mini, iMac, iPod, iPod Shuffle, Mac Classic, etc.

Tiger on the 29th

Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
— William Blake, “The Tiger”

Tue Apr 12 10:36:53 2005

Tiger will be released April 29th, 2005 according to Hmmm... looks like Spotlight includes an application launcher similar to QuickSilver:

Use Spotlight as a quick application launcher. There's plenty of applications that you use occasionally but don't need cluttering up your Dock all the time. Simply activate Spotlight with Command+Space, type in a few letters, say "Gra" for Grapher, then use the arrow keys to start the app.

Keyboards and Switching Windows

<bigboote> e1f: hey, your jewel case prop idea makes a big difference

Tue Apr 12 17:07:32 2005

On a US keyboard, Cmd-` switches amongst different windows of the same application; e.g. if you have multiple Terminals, you Cmd-TAB to the first Terminal, then Cmd-` to the other Terminals. On a Swiss keyboard however, it's Cmd-< (found by trial and error).

In other news, there are two graduate students here from France and they had difficulty using the North American QWERTY keyboards; the French keyboard is AZERTY. One of them requested that instead of using a workstation in the lab, his PowerBook be given network access instead.

iTunes Does Ogg

Thu Apr 14 00:24:29 2005

There is a Ogg Vorbis plugin for OS X. Unconfirmed reports indicate that it "trashes" track-numbers when the .ogg is imported into iTunes.

Update: Fri Apr 15 19:03:00 2005: fixed typo in the url.


A screen-capture of my desktop.

Thu Apr 14 15:12:19 2005

This is what my typical desktop looks like on any given day. You will find a Firefox session, a Carbon Emacs session running ERC (the Emacs IRC client) and a Terminal window, of course. A copy of iPhoto usually runs in the background while I mull-over the layout of a Photo Book, Stickies for quick and temporary notes and iTunes for ambience. The menu bar has (left to right) Meteorologist showing today's weather forecast, MenuMeters showing disk-activity, network traffic, memory usage, CPU load, modem connect-time and the standard Apple widgets. The background image is underbrush03.jpg (1024x768), one of my artworks.

Transferring Files

Instead of invoking Cyberduck every time I wanted to transfer a single file to my work account, I wrote a zsh function (called ul) that wraps scp. I pass it the filename, I type-in my password and it's done.

    scp $1 elf@zorro:/home/elf/

iPhoto Update 5.0.2

Thu Apr 14 19:41:22 2005

An update for iPhoto was released today and I downloaded it and I will be applying it later (<robd> said he applied it with no ill effects).

Also, I haven't applied the last security update yet. Should I?

Tiger Preview Review

...Tiger is a solid release. It's just not a major upgrade. And it's certainly not worth $129.
—Paul Thurrott

omg!! Dashboard comes with a Tile Puzzle!!! Tiger RULES!!!
—Sarcasm on #macosx

Fri Apr 15 17:52:43 2005

There's a review of Tiger on Windows SuperSite. The most surprising comment is, "Contrary to a popular misconception, Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” does not include Apple's vaunted iLife '05 applications--iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes, and Garage Band". Hm. Also, the reviewer doesn't think that Tiger is a major upgrade but that it's mostly Hype. However, if I'm not mistaken, Tiger uses features of FreeBSD 5; so at least in that sense, it is a major upgrade.

Another surprise is that Dashboard Widgets do not share the desktop with other applications-- this reminds me of those DOS TSR programs like Borland Sidekick.

Regardless, I don't see myself moving to Tiger anytime soon&mdash I have barely scratched the surface of Panther— and I tend to avoid point-zero releases of any software or hardware.

10.3.9 is Out!

Sat Apr 16 00:40:23 2005

I'll wait until Monday.

OS Upgrade with External Firewire Drive Mounted

Sat Apr 16 01:12:26 2005

Never, ever, perform an OS upgrade with a Firewire drive mounted because after the upgrade, the drive will not be seen. There is a Release Note from Apple about this problem. But, let's look at this preposterous problem a bit further— how much more difficult would it be for Apple to add a simple check for mounted drives to the upgrade procedure? How difficult would it be to add a reminder to unplug fw devices before the upgrade?

Annoying Firefox Horizontal-Scroll Fix

Sat Apr 16 09:53:25 2005

The Panther 10.3.9 thread on Slashdot quotes a solution:

It's actually an issue with firefox interpreting inadvertent horizontal scrolling (easy to do with iscroll2 or the new [USB] trackpads) as back/forward requests. Here's how to fix this intentionally broken behaviour...

From In Firefox, type about:config into the address bar and hit return. This gives you a list of all possible configuration options. The ones we want are those that start with mousewheel.horizscroll.withnokey. Make the following changes by double-clicking the appropriate option in the list:

* mousewheel.horizscroll.withnokey.action => 0
* mousewheel.horizscroll.withnokey.sysnumlines => true

Works like a charm.

Update Fri Dec 09 15:27:41 2005: If you want to re-enable the horizontal-scrolling, here are the settings (thanks to <xerses>).

The Two-Month Look-back

actually, my powerbook spends more time in bed with me than my gf
—overheard on #macosx

Mon Apr 18 13:07:26 2005

Overall, I'm happy. Looking over new features in Tiger, some of my misses are addressed.

The Matrix themed icons.

Customizing Icons

Mon Apr 18 14:53:19 2005

Played around with customizing some of the icons in the Finder— customizing the trash-can is a bit more complicated. Found a set of nice Matrix icons at the Iconfactory and after some trial-and-error with the customizing instructions (after a Cmd-I on the folder you wish to customize, select the icon in the top-left corner before doing the Cmd-V (pasete)) I managed to change some of the folders in my home-directory. I find that having unique icons for my Images/, Download/ and Projects/ folders make them easier to locate than if they were simply coloured.

Update Fri May 27 20:20:54 2005: Read the workaround for folders in the sidebar not displaying icons.

Continued in Part 3...

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 2 / Last Modified: Fri Dec 09 15:30:00 2005