Part 8 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal


6 Month Summary

Tue Nov 01 15:54:10 2005

A belated, half-hearted attempt at a summary of the first 6 months of using a Mac.

Episode 3

Tue Nov 01 09:24:21 2005

Star Wars Episode 3 is released on DVD today. I used my HMV coupon and got it for $21.99.

Plot-holes don't really matter if you are prepared to believe in a machine that can destroy an entire planet.

New FreeBSD Logo

Tue Nov 01 21:50:10 2005

It's gone from "cute satanic" to "severely pornographic".


Wed Nov 02 01:23:53 2005

<johnsu01> e1f`: my mom's mac caught on fire
<e1f`> 00o_o00
<e1f`> the mini or the ibook? 
<johnsu01> there were no visible flames, but the room did fill with
           quite a bit of smoke
<johnsu01> actually this was her iMac, desktop.
<e1f`> i'm sure she has cause for apple fixing it for free
<johnsu01> it was still under warranty, and they fixed it quick. 
<e1f`> johnsu01: fixed the original or swapped it?
<johnsu01> not positive, but I think they just fixed it.
<e1f`> it's not everyday a computer catches fire 
<johnsu01> I know it
<johnsu01> maybe she was overclocking it ;)

Great Expectations

Wed Nov 02 19:05:55 2005

At the time I drew the above cartoon, I didn't own a Mac; I now know that "Apple" should have read "Mac".

Scary Smart

Thu Nov 03 00:00:36 2005

Last Sunday's NY Times had a full-page Halloween-themed Google recruitment ad (it suggested Googling for "scary smart") and a full-page cover-story on the business (revenue generating) side of Google— the Google Ads and AdSense.

Google is looking for several positions, including a Data Center Technician, in Toronto.

Google Print

Thu Nov 03 15:14:28 2005

Google Print is now online with 10,000 works, including “Moby Dick”. For some reason, it only shows copyrighted works; the free public domain versions (audio-books and texts) of “Moby Dick” at Project Gutenberg is not linked.

Well, I've sent-off an email to Google. Another interesting question asked by <johnsu01>: why are pages of a work that is no longer copyrighted, marked "Copyrighted Material".

Fri Nov 04 17:51:55 2005: I received a reply to my query; to summarize: the Google Print program is in its infancy and we hope to add more public domain books in the future. Thank you for your understanding.


We interrupt this program for an important announcement...

The price we pay for the complexity of life is too high. When you think of all the effort you have to put in— telephonic, technological and relational— to alter even the slightest bit of behaviour in this strange world we call social life, you are left pining for the straightforwardness of primitive peoples and their physical work.
—Jean Baudrillard

It is the last lesson of modern science, that the highest simplicity of structure is produced, not by few elements, but by the highest complexity.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sat Nov 05 00:00:30 2005

Earlier this week, David sent me a link to Ben Goodger's blog discussing a usability study for tabbed browsing. As it happens, I just finished reading an article in the Oct. 16 issue of the NY Times Magazine, titled, “Meet the Life Hackers”, about Microsoft's usability study on interruptions— given the number of times a worker is interrupted during a typical workday, would it be possible to find a "convenient time" to interrupt a worker? Answer: Yes.

The article also mentioned another usability test that Microsoft performed— did bigger screens help with cognition?

The researchers took 15 volunteers, sat each one in front of a regular sized 15-inch monitor and had them complete a variety of tasks designed to challenge their powers of concentration— like a Web search, some cutting and pasting and memorizing a seven-digit phone number. Then the volunteers repeated these same tasks, this time using a computer with a massive 42-inch screen, as big as a plasma TV.

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly— and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-dgit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains.

The article goes on to say that in 20 years of research, Czerwinski (the MS researcher), "had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity."

Finally, Apple did not escape mention...

By a sizable margin, life hackers are devotees, not of Microsoft but of Apple, the company's only real rival in the creation of operating systems— and a company that has often seemed to intuit the need for software that reduces the complexity of the desktop...Apple's computers have long been designed specifically to soothe the confusions of the technologically ignorant. For years, that meant producing computer systems that seemed simpler than the ones Microsoft produced, but were less powerful...But for many users, simplicity now trumps power...Now that multi-tasking is driving us crazy, we treasure technologies that protect us. We love Google not because it brings us the entire Web, but because it filters it out, bringing us the one page we really need.

Requiem for a Kernel Panic

...libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu.
—Missa pro defunctis

Sat Nov 05 10:35:29 2005

On most all Unices I have known, a kernel panic is a stress-filled, worrisome event— numerous log messages with asterisks scroll-by and the computer beeps several times to attract your attention to its last breath. Compare this with a OS X kernel panic (I only realized I had witnessed a kernel panic several days after it had happened) where a multi-language overlay appears on the screen and the computer begs your forgiveness that it needs to re-start and it apologizes for the inconvenience— only in OS X would a kernel panic be a thing of grace and beauty.

iMac Review

Sat Nov 05 20:49:55 2005

<TDT> recently got a new iMac.

“iPod, Therefore I Am”

Sun Nov 06 10:14:13 2005

In last Sunday's NY Times Book Review, Dave Itzkoff reviewed Dylan Jone's book “iPod, Therefore I Am” (half the book is about the iPod, the other half is about Jones) and made the following observation:

There was once a time when being a pop-music critic required a record library that took up at least half of your apartment, a criterion that conveniently limited that trade to those with the the precise combination of free time, dispensable income and arrested development to cultivate such a collection. What makes the iPod so alluring and yet so threatening is that when you can fit that same collection into an affordable device the size of a deck of cards and call up any song in it at the touch of a button it makes these people— and their books— largely trivial.

Dan Cederholm recently noted a new radio station that "plays everything". There is possible future where there will only be 3 kinds of radio stations: Country and Western, Classical and Play Everything; the Talk Radio stations will just become Podcasts.

Narrow Down a Search

Mon Nov 07 01:41:44 2005

Paul Scoble proposes a search-engine that asks questions to help narrow down a search— a conversational computer, as I envisioned earlier.

Yet Another Emacs

Tue Nov 08 00:00:38 2005

I found yet another Emacs for OS X— is a Cocoa-based Emacs that attempts to follow OS X desktop and UI conventions. It is currently a developer release only.

One Million Macs Served

Tue Nov 08 00:13:33 2005

Note the difference between the AppleInsider headline, "Over 1 million Windows to Mac converts so far in 2005?" and the Slashdot headline, "Over 1 Million Windows to Mac Converts So Far in 2005"; the difference is a single character— the question-mark at the end of the headline is missing on Slashdot giving the wrong impression that 1 million Windows users have converted to Macs. This is certainly not the case because the analyst is quoted as saying:

If we ASSUME that all of the growth in Mac shipments during the past three quarters resulted from Windows users purchasing a Mac, then purchases by Windows users exceeded one million.

That would be a bad assumption to make, as many Mac users have upgraded their old Macs with newer Macs.

The Venerable Floppy

Tue Nov 08 18:02:50 2005

The 3.5 inch floppy disc is 25 years old and is close to obsolescence as USB keys, optical media and firewire drives gain in popularity and storage capacity. However, the icon for "saving a document", in applications that display a toolbar— Photoshop, Word, Emacs— is still a picture of a floppy disc.

Gods, Monsters and Myths

Wed Nov 09 00:00:37 2005

Recently on #emacs, <twb> mentioned a rumour that the rainbow Apple logo was a hidden reference and a tribute to Alan Turing and his suicide by a cyanide-laced apple.

After a cursory search I found a page that mentioned this reference and refuted it as apocryphal. The design of the Apple logo is briefly documented on the Bill Kelley site:

First, we designed the logo. That is, Rob Janoff designed it -- an Apple with a bite out of it, indicating the acquisition of knowledge. Originally, the apple logo was to be simple, but the Apple II's advantage at the time was color output, so Jobs argued the logo should have colors, and, of course, Jobs won. He ended up actually specifying several of the colors of the logo.

MacWorld Reader Survey

Thu Nov 10 21:57:48 2005

You can participate in the 2005 MacWorld Editor's Choice Awards for Best Hardware (iMac , iPod nano, iPod video, Mac mini, and Mighty Mouse) and Best Software ( .Mac Backup 3.0, Audio Hijack Pro 2.5, Comic Life Deluxe Edition, DevonThink Professional 1.0, NetNewsWire 2.0, Opera 8.5, Mac OS X 10.4 and Transmit 3).

I voted for the Mac mini and NetNewsWire.

“Switching To The Mac”

“How to jump ship from Windows— and love it!”

Fri Nov 11 17:43:48 2005

“Switching To The Mac: Tiger Edition” was just published by O'Reilly; it's been added to my Amazon wishlist. You can't go wrong with O'Reilly books and from the comments on #macosx, David Pogue is a knowledgeable author.

Daring Fireball 15 in. Powerbook Review

...the current 15-inch PowerBook G4 is an appropriate send-off to one of the best products in Apple’s history.
—John Gruber

John Gruber picked up one of the new Powerbooks and has posted a review after 2-weeks of use.

iDVD Update 5.0.1

Sat Nov 12 01:23:14 2005

I happened to be logged-in at the time I ran iDVD and it told me that an update was available.

Make Your Own DVD

The reason I was running iDVD was that someone on #macosx said that I could it could make DVDs given VIDEO_TS folder— but I wasn't able to figure out how and no details were forthcoming. I knew I could use DiskUtility to make a DMG and then burn that but that would take longer than just burning the video folders straignt. I was also told that I could just burn the video folders straight to a DVD with whatever software I had handy. So I used BurnFreeX to make burn the VIDEO_TS, JACKET_P and AUDIO_TS folders to a blank Maxell DVD I had bought earlier. It took about 25 minutes.

After it finished burning, DVD Player started up but it wouldn't play the DVD. I could manually point it to the VIDEO_TS folder and it would play; the VAIO also played it. Now, all that remains is to see whether my parent's DVD player will play it, which was my original intent in making the DVD. (I suspect that the DVD Player plist file is somehow confusing the DVD Player).

Google's Free WiFi

Sat Nov 12 20:42:27 2005

Slashdot has a story about Google providing free Wifi access in Mountain View, California— if you can't bring advertising to users, you bring users to the advertising. Nice indeed.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast at Google (8:00—9:30AM) is a massive operation.

Take Cover

Sun Nov 13 10:27:07 2005

A post on iPod Lounge reports that the Nano is now shipping with a slip-cover similar to the 5G iPod— white vinyl, embossed with "iPod".

Ghost User

Joerg Sievers blogs about a ghost user on his computer. This shouldn't happen under Unix; it looks like corruption of Apple's Netinfo database (which is a non-Unix addition).

3ivx MPEG4 Plugin for Quicktime Player

Sun Nov 13 14:45:58 2005

Downloaded the 3ivx plugin but haven't installed it.

Matrix Screensaver

Rich Burridge's Blog, which I read occasionally for the archival material he digs-up, had a pointer to various OS X software inventories; the first of which was Brad Choate's OS X Inventory on which I found the free Red Pill Matrix Screensaver.

I can't believe the influence that “The Matrix” has had on society that even today, there are icon themes and screensavers because there is a audience for them. There is a spectacular shareware version of the Matrix screensaver, that has the viewer flying through and banking around the falling symbols.

iTunes Load

Sun Nov 13 20:18:07 2005

If the load on your Mac is above 1 when running iTunes, try the following: iTunes > Preferences > Audio > Uncheck Crossfade Playback, Sound Enhancer, and/or Sound Check. Thanks to <soleblaze> for the tip.

Sony Fiasco

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Mon Nov 14 00:00:29 2005

It would be fair to say that the Sony VP who authorized the DRM "rootkit" that prevents CDs from being copied, is no longer employed at Sony. Wait, there's more— the code contains LGPL code from LAME (the MP3 encoder).


Mon Nov 14 01:50:40 2005

Solarwind is another cool-looking OpenGL screensaver.

Enabling Safesleep on Recent Macs

Mon Nov 14 08:13:36 2005

Andrew Escobar has provided a detailed how-to to enable most any recent Mac to support Safesleep aka. "hibernate to disk". According to the comments, Safesleep is especially useful on the 12 in. Powerbook (which does not have battery-backed RAM for swapping batteries) and on desktop computers which need to be moved to a nother location.

1 Nano, Slightly Used


Tue Nov 15 00:00:13 2005

<MeeKs_> ok so i stepped on my 2 month nano and the screen is cracked...
         does apple offer any kind of warranty?
<e1f`> you stepped on it?
<e1f`> accidently?
<e1f`> what's it doing on the floor?
<MeeKs_> elf it was in my pocket
<MeeKs_> was changing after gym
<Darien> MeeKs_: their warrantee covers manufacturers defects only
<MeeKs_> it is a defect
<MeeKs_> the screen is weak as hell
<e1f`> does it still work?
<Darien> we'll take two nanos, and we'll not step on one, and we'll
        see if it lasts
<MeeKs_> it works
<MeeKs_> its now  a 4gb shuffle
<e1f`> sell it
<MeeKs_> i am 
<e1f`> minus the price req. to get a replacement screen
<MeeKs_> its on ebay now
<Byers> "4GB Shuffle L@@K" <- on eBay
<Darien> see if you can find someone who stepped on theirs and broke
        the wheel
<Byers> oh hey, I was just being facetious

Update Thu Nov 17 22:36:43 2005: It sold for US$126.

Applestore in the Eaton Center?

Tue Nov 15 11:56:02 2005

According to TUAW, searching for "Eaton Centre" in Apple's job-posting site reveals some openings for positions in Toronto, hinting at a future Applestore. The paradox is that there is no longer an Eaton department store in the Eaton Centre.

“Mac Bathroom Reader”

Thu Nov 17 22:22:23 2005

An excerpt from Owen Linzmayer's book, “The Mac Bathroom Reader”, about the making of the "1984" MacIntosh Superbowl advertisement.

Busy Week at Work

Terribly busy week helping to set-up a wireless network at work— installing the wireless network was the easy part, configuring the RADIUS server to do WPA authentication so the network is reasonably secure, was the hard part. I'll have to take mathilde to work one day and see how easy it is to configure her to join a wireless network. We have only tested Windows/XP (a Dell and an old Toshiba which only supported 802.11a and required the installation of a Wifi PC-card that supported WPA) clients, as that's what everyone has (Linux clients are a lost cause).


Fri Nov 18 09:43:01 2005

The Oct. 30 (behind in my reading, as usual), NY Times Magazine, "On Language" column by William Safire asked, "When was the lowercase i before and uppercase anything born, and what did it stand for?"

Officials at Apple Computer were unhelpful, presumably because they suspected that the etymological revelation would cause their stock to plunge again, but Dan Frakes of MacWorld magazine informs me that the first i-product was the iMac in 1998: "Apple said at the time that the i in iMac stood fo "Internet" , as the iMac as allegedly the easiest computer to connect to the Internet." Why not Imac or IMac? "They didn't want to dilute their brand name by lowercasing it (e.g. Imac)." ...

The iMac led to the iBook, a laptop, in 1999, followed by Apple's iPhoto, iTunes and a bundle sold as iLife. The meaning of i went beyond "Internet" to be taken as "individual", "integrated", "interactive" or— most appealing to consumers— "what I want when I want it". Because it is difficult to copyright a letter of the alphabet, other companies jumped in: a furniture manufacturer calls its massage chair an iJoy, "to emphasize the 'individual' interaction with the chair".

Why wasn't iPod, which originally played only music, named iMusic? "Apple planned from the very beginning," says Times tech columnist, David Pogue, "to expand its mission to text, photos, files and, as of this month, videos." The word pod was chosem, I deduce, to describe an all-purpose media module, its meaning, "a container or protective housing", long associated with peas and pregnancy but in recent decades applied to the streamlined fuel compartments under the wings of aircraft.


Sheriff of Nottingham, meet Little John; Little John, meet the Sheriff of Nottingham; Sheriff, John; John, Sheriff...
—Bugs Bunny in “Rabbit Hood”

I am probably the first person to ever sit next to Veroniká Varekova and recognize her husband (Phoenix Coyote Petr Nedved) first.
—Hal Stern, “Beauty and the Geek”

Fri Nov 18 12:06:02 2005

On his Nov. 11th blog entry, Hal Stern tells a story of sitting on a plane, next to a beautiful woman who spoke three languages and was married to NHL hockey player Petr Nedved. Only later, after getting home and doing some Googling, did he realize that Nedved was married to Veroniká Varekova, who models for Victoria's Secrets and was a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covergirl. *Sigh* Why doesn't stuff like this ever happen to me? Oh, I know why— because I would likely ignore her as per my rule of not speaking to people without having been introduced to them.

More Mac Users

Fri Nov 18 21:25:22 2005

I saw another Powerbook or iBook (didn't have my glasses with me) on the GO train a couple of days ago; a shuffle (on a neck cord) yesterday and another 3 white headphones.

While configuring our wifi network at work we were using a Dell sub-notebook to test the range of the access-points when the office temp walked-in and started to "oooh" and "aaah" over this shiny, silver thing. She mentioned she liked Windows over a Mac. I expressed surprise over her having used a Mac; she said it was her room-mate's computer. I asked her why she didn't like it; she said "stuff didn't work". Like what? I asked; MSN, she said.

Memo to Apple: if you're going to release x86 based Macs and you're hoping to attract Windows users (the masses), just be sure that MSN works.

Continuing the conversation, I asked her whether her room-mate (who was described as a "hippie") had a car; she did, but the temp didn't remember what it was. She promised to ask. My hunch is that it's a VW.

David emailed the following response:

MSN does work (my sister uses it all the time).

I think there are maybe a couple of advanced things that aren't supported though (like skins, and animated icons ("winks")). Basic chatting and file transfers are fine AFAICT. I'd be curious to know what she means by "work".

Remember that Apple doesn't really have control over MSN Messenger since it's made by Microsoft (iChat uses AOL's network). A pretty good replacement if you want straight chat is Adium X (supports multiple protocols through GAIM)--a lot of people prefer the interface and it supports Growl.

In response, I have to say that we're assuming that the room-mate's Mac is running OS X. I cannot imagine probing further on this issue; e.g. asking what OS the Mac was running, as her answer would inevitably be, "I don't know— it's a Mac."

LoginWindow Manager

Sat Nov 19 20:14:31 2005

Useful utility to have if you admin OS X in a corporate or educational environment; it allows various aspects of the login window to be customized.

The Magic of rsync

Sat Nov 19 22:16:25 2005

I was reading Dive Into Mark's OS X Essentials where he mentioned how impressed he was with rsync's algorithm of figuring out which files changed and which didn't and that he remembered it was somebody's PhD thesis. There was a follow-up post that linked to the thesis.

Calm Technology

How calm and gentle I proceeded still In all my writings.
—“Anthony and Cleopatra”, act v, sc. i

Romance is tempestuous. Love is calm.
—Mason Cooley

Sun Nov 20 09:11:26 2005

A couple of days ago, on #emacs, <paroneayea> asked whether Emacs was a good application for "writing" (a book; some sort of literary work; perhaps an essay)— exercising ones creativity. The ensuing discussion began with the way Emacs auto-filled text as it was typed-in, which then required the user to constantly type M-q to re-fill the paragraph because it looked jagged. I dared to commit sacrilege by proposing that Emacs is not good for writing because it's "an editor"— to be used to edit or shape the "writing", after the text has been written— and that paper and pencil is better suited for such endeavours.

Naturally, there were a few arguments against paper and pencil; the most common one was that because we use hand-writing so infrequently, it has become illegible (I do marvel at the legibile beauty of my Mom and Dad's handwriting) and this makes transcribing the written text into the computer that much more difficult. My suggestion was to just write in uppercase— that's what I do as my cursive writing is close to cryptic.

I argued that the entire process of cursoring-around the screen, filling a paragraph and deleting text, distracts from the natural flow of writing. On a piece of paper, when you cross something out, the text is still readable; all new text gets added at the end. There is a natural flow and a visible record to the thought-process.

If you watch the behind-the-scenes documentaries for Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings, you will note that all the conceptual artists draw and sketch their initial designs on paper and only later, once a particular one is chosen and finalized , does the computer make an appearance. In the Star Wars documentaries, Lucas is shown (recreating his daily writing ritual) sitting down with some pencils and a pad of paper and writing the script to Star Wars.

The desktop metaphor as a computer interface, pioneered at Xerox PARC and first popularized by Apple, has been stretched to its extreme as the computer Desktop has become distracting to the point of hindering productivity— icons beeping, blinking and flashing, the background image changing periodically, calendar reminders popping-up, irc channel, email and instant-message notifications.

Now compare the computer desktop to a real desktop with a pad of paper and a pen. There are no distractions; the entire environment is a sea of calmness that encourages creativity and allows you to focus at the single task— this metaphor has also been applied to technology. The term, "calm technology", jointly coined by the late Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown at Xerox PARC in 1996, applies to technology that relaxes the user by moving irrelevant information to the periphery but allowing it to be immediately available when needed, without distraction. Designing calm technology is very difficult to do.

Paper is calm, Microsoft Word is not; is calm, OS X Desktop is not (especially the bouncy-bouncy icons in the Dock). I now realize why the "Hide Others" menu option exists in Apple's menu.

David emailed a reply:

> There is a natural flow and a visible record to the thought-process.

Neal Stephenson wrote the three books in his “Baroque Cycle” (over 1000 printed pages) in long hand. You can find pictures of the manuscript on his site.

Also, a reminder of the "paper is calm" post that I sent you to a while back.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a clever application that hides inactive applications after a preset interval. As I've mentioned before, I tend to keep all my applications open— people who have seen my OS X Desktop screen-captures have commented that it looks messy and cluttered (I have never found that to be the case). I also place my applications in particular locations on my screen— the main Terminal is on the middle-left; Stickies are on the top-left; Firefox download window on the bottom left; iTunes and Weather on the bottom right; Firefox occupies the left-half of the screen and Emacs, the right-half. I would find it confusing and upsetting if applications dissappeared off my screen without my knowledge and interaction; Sprited Away is not calm.

Tallis, Palestrina and Garageband

Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood.
—Sherlock Holmes in “A Study in Scarlet”

Sun Nov 20 18:34:49 2005

This morning, beginning at 8AM, CBC Radio's Choral Concert had a three hour celebration of Thomas Tallis on the 400th anniversary of his death (there is some dispute whether he died on Nov. 20th or the 23rd).

I was Googling around for "Tallis" and I came upon Choral Wiki collection of sheet music and MIDI files. Since Garageband 2.0 was reported to be able to play MIDI files, I downloaded Palestrina's Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli as a MIDI. Looking through the Garageband menus, I couldn't figure out how to import the file into Garageband; so I just dragged and dropped the file and it imported! Impressive! After decreasing the tempo of the MIDI file, I had a faithful rendition of the Kyrie which I could follow along with the PDF musical score I downloaded and the musical notation in Garageband itself (Open the Music Editor and click the musical note button).


Mon Nov 21 22:02:30 2005

Warbirds is a 330MB demo that looks really cool. Will download and post a review later.

Cube is a first-person shooter that uses a modified Quake or Doom engine.

iPhoto Buddy

Tue Nov 22 07:58:03 2005

I was thinking of make a hardcover photobook documenting the construction of our new Centre for Computing and Engineering. I have 2 or 3 CDs full of photos and I didn't want to mix those photos in with my family photos. I remembered reading that there was a iPhoto plugin that permitted multiple Libraries to be specified and segregating photos within several libraries. The plugin is called iPhoto Buddy.

Lacie (LEGO) Brick Hard-disks

Tue Nov 22 18:00:28 2005

Lacie will soon be shipping external drives that look like LEGO bricks. Jim Koch, who introduced me to the joys of collecting LEGO noted that once LEGO lost the "bump-and-feel" lawsuit against MEGABlocks, brick-like products are now fair game.

Adoring Fans

Tue Nov 22 22:10:35 2005

*** You have joined channel #macosx
*** Topic for #macosx: Latest: Mac OS X 10.4.3 / 10.3.9 | iTunes 6.0.1 |
Safari 2.0.2 | New iPods are USB only | no web logging w/o approval
please! | | e1f's excellent PowerBook
journal: | Nano issues:

<DemiGuru> e1f`: I'm reading your journal and I really like it. You
           should seriously consider doing it for a living (not a j/k)
<e1f`> DemiGuru: :)
<e1f`> DemiGuru: which are your favourite entries-- software reviews,
       discoveries, pompous essays, pontifications?
<DemiGuru> e1f`: discoveries, pompous essays :-) and pontifications
<DemiGuru> e1f`: Your daily life sounds freakishly similar to
           mine. Which leads me to believe that IT geeks are far from 
           being one of a kind

The Feast After the Feast

Wed Nov 23 00:00:44 2005

The day after Thanksgiving Day is known for sales in the US (the equivalent of Boxing Day following Christmas Day in Commonwealth countries). Apple is no exception.

<br0iled> posted a link to a list of items on sale last year, and the corresponding discounts.

“Parental Switchers”

Wed Nov 23 13:47:30 2005

Browsing through Sun blogs I found an entry about people deciding to buy a Mac instead of a PC:

So just over a week ago my dad gave me a call asking about couple of PCs in a major electronics ads. I gave my thoughts on the couple systems he was looking at and then I asked him if he had thought about switching to a Mac... then I come to find out 5 days later he is in the Apple retail store and letting me know he is purchasing a 20 inch iMac. They were wicked impressed with the support in the store and how easy it was to use the apps.

Games Update

Thu Nov 24 12:53:58 2005

I'm having a bit of trouble flying the airplanes using a mouse/trackpad in Warbirds III. There are some vague hints that this is possible but I have not been able to figure it out— so I sent off an email to the developers asking if it was possible. From articles I have read on the web, it seems that Warbirds went through considerable to get joysticks working with this game. I am quite impressed with the in-game tutorials for flying, navigating and maneuvering a vintage aircraft.

In the mean time, I am downloading the America's Army: Special Forces game— a first-person shooter which should be playable with an ordinary mouse and/or trackpad.


Thu Nov 24 16:27:56 2005

Slashdot has some competition— the site is called Digg. If you can't decide, there's SlashDigg.

Installed America's Army: Special Forces

Fri Nov 25 12:08:39 2005

Before leaving for work, this morning, I installed America's Army (downloaded yesterday) off the Lacie drive (the DMG is about 800 MB; and it took a few minutes to install about 2 GB), started it up looked at the menus and exited. It looks like there is a offline training section; the actual misions are online multi-player.

When people say that there are no video-games for Macs, it is a uninformed myth. Nearly all major video games are available for the Mac because they are based on one or two game-engines that have been ported to the Mac. What is certainly true is that there are far more video games for the PC than there are for the Mac and that most of the games available for the PC are completely craptacular. There are exceptions, of course— Microsoft Flight Simulator is not available for the Mac but the alternative, X-Plane, is more than an adequate substitute.

Ive Interview

Fri Nov 25 16:23:07 2005

Jonathan Ive, Apple's industrial designer extraordinaire, was interviewed by The Telegraph:

“Our goals are simple. We genuinely try to make the very best product that we can. We have a belief that we can solve our problems and make products better and better. It's a simple goal to articulate, but a difficult one to achieve.”

... Ive's and Apple's philosophy [is] that their computers and music players should be simple to use and beautiful to look at...

Ive— who says he gets his inspiration from the everyday stuff that surrounds him— believes that design and ease of use are as important as function...The team spent months getting the hinge connecting the base [of the iMac] to the screen perfectly balanced so it stayed in position...

“What you and I are left to deal with are the things we care about. All of the stuff that makes this technology possible is resolved in a way that doesn't force you to deal with it. We are left with this gorgeous display. I love the way this solves lots of problems in such a calm and serene way.”

Hmm...there's that word— “calm”.


Sat Nov 26 14:40:47 2005

It will be worth it, if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.
Then there will be nothing I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.
—Philip Larkin, “The Winter Palace.”

When I went to clean the underside of mathilde I noticed a small dimple in the case(!), refer to the left photo. The only explanation I have is that it is due to the manner in which I tend to work with the Powerbook in bed (refer to the middle photo)— I place it on top of two pairs of DVD cases to allow air-circulation down the center. I must have pressed down a bit too strongly at one time and the Powerbook was positioned in such a way that the corner of the DVD case dug-into the aluminum case. I have re-arranged the DVD cases in a 2x2 grid to provide a stable platform (see right photo). On the bright side, I now have a way of uniquiely identifying my Powerbook.

David admonishes my not-so-clever-dvd-case-powerbook-stand:

Instead of kludging a solution together, it's possible to spend a little and get a proper one:

Try dropping by North Star Computer (the Apple shop on Elm St. not far from Future Shop) and seeing if they have anything. I'm pretty sure CPUsed (where I got your eShures) has the iLap.

Two other stands that may do:

In case anyone is wondering, the DVDs in question are: Stalag 17, X-15, Sneakers and Paths of Glory.

Hiring Practices

Sun Nov 27 10:30:59 2005

I have waded through my share of résumés in search of a candidate that met the qualifications to fill a job position. Many of the résumés I read were just wasting my time, some were clearly attempting to pander to the job-opening by including "experienced with foo" but omitting the details on how they had used "foo" in their job. I needed a better way to cull the waste— I decided on a metric whereby a single spelling-mistake in the résumés was enough reason to diqualify the candidate. I read through nearly 100 résumés (I was asked to select six applicants) and did not find a single one that was worth an interview. In the end, I randomly chose six résumés from the pile that remained. The six candidates were interviewed and none were hired; the job was advertised again. By this time, two months had passed since the first job-posting.

The danger in hiring incompetent people is the inevitable repetition of the hiring, interview and training process with the new candidate(s). Candidates with the least risk are the ones that have been referred to you by someone you know, trust and whose opinion you value. It is my experience that hiring based solely on résumés, interviews and calling references do not produce the best results; this is standard operating procedure only because of the limited resources of HR departments. There is also no standardized test to gauge stupidity.

Hiring competent people is an even bigger dilemma for companies that are growing at high rates. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article on the hiring frenzy currently underway, Google has been doubling in size annually since 2002 when they had 500 employees&mdash at the end of September 2005, they had 5000 employees— they hire an average of 10 employees a day. To eliminate the possibility of hiring stupid people, Google has begun hiring engineers working for eBay and Yahoo! The idea is to let someone else go through the trouble of interviewing and weeding and then you scoop them up— this technique only works when the companies are similar; Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon are the survivors of the dot-com era. Ebay lost 10-20 engineers to Google this year and Google has "agressively" pursued Yahoo! engineers to the point where an engineer was offered double the normal stock options when he refused Google's offer. The engineer joined Yahoo! in the end.

One top-notch engineer is worth "300 times or more than the average," says Alan Eustace, a Google vice-president of engineering.

He says he would rather lose an entire class of engineering graduates than one exceptional technologist. Many google services such as Gmail and Google News were started by a single person...

Google's typical hiring process is regarded as one of the industry's most gruelling and extensive. Candidates are often subjected to weeks of interviews, with hiring decisions often made by large committees of executives..."You have to get approved by 14 people at least before you get hired."

According to the article, Google also uses the services of two recruiting firms, Job Machine and Recruiting Choices; the team of in-house hiring consultants is codenamed "Zion" (Matrix reference) and they are instructed to specifically increase the pool of female engineers.

Flaky “K”

Six Sigma produces a product that satisfies the customer and minimizes supplier losses to the point at which it is not cost effective to pursue a higher quality.

Mon Nov 28 12:38:45 2005

Sunday morning, I woke-up mathilde and noticed that the "k" key on my keyboard was flaky— I had to press it harder than usual and sometimes it typed and other times it didn't— by the end of the day, however, it was working fine. Hm. I don't know what to make of it— the only thing that changed was that I re-configured the DVD case configuration that my Powerbook rested on.

Today I read that John Hicks is keeping score on the number of times Apple equipment has flaked-out on him; the inevitable follow-ups to his blog post add to the cry.

Consider that Apple ships millions of pieces of hardware and then even with Six Sigma quality, there will be a few faulty pieces. Perfection is hard to achieve when you don't have guranteed control of every part of the manufacturing process.


Mon Nov 28 17:45:37 2005

Let it snow.

Update Mon Nov 28 21:48:23 2005: as a screen saver, the snowflakes falling over a black background look jittery but as a desktop toy they look fine. My only suggestion for improvement would be to have an option for the snow to collect over the tops of the windows and at the bottom of the desktop.


Tue Nov 29 08:41:15 2005

If for whatever reason (and old favourite DOS game, for example), you ever need to run a MS-DOS program under OS X, there's DOSbox and the front-end DOSboxer.

Update Wed Nov 30 08:00:15 2005:David suggested visiting for an archive of DOS games.


Tue Nov 29 13:22:19 2005

MacLampsX is another desktop toy that adds a border of decorative lights.

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 Announced

Wed Nov 30 08:01:36 2005

The long-awaited release of Firefox 1.5 finally happened, unofficially, at first, when Slashdot posted an item and now officially. Should I wait for or should I just go ahead? First, I should check if my favourite extensions (NoScript, TargetAlert and Flashblock), will work with 1.5 and decide to upgrade based on those results.

Gaming Update: Deleted American's Army

I deleted American's Army after being unable to connect to the online server ever. I even went thorough the trouble of creating an account with the AA server, which is required if you want to take the subsequent training missions that follow the first shooting-range evaluation.

Gaming Update: Re-install Warbirds 3

I am going to re-install Warbirds 3 as I received a reply on Monday night from their technical support that answered my question about whether planes could be flown with the mouse: Alt-M enables mouse-flight mode.

HD-DVD and Blu-ray Now, Holographic Storage Later

Wed Nov 30 08:36:41 2005

A HD-DVD (Toshiba) stores 30GB, a Blu-ray (Sony) stores 50GB and Holographic Disc (InPhase/Hitachi) stores 300GB. Both HD-DVD and Blu-ray are consumer products— media costs a few dollars; HoloDisc is not an option as a single disc costs US$120 and the reader/writer costs US$15,000.

The Mothership

Wed Nov 30 21:34:21 2005

Google has a recruitment video and according to the posted description, it is specifically designed to recruit female engineers (see also my hiring journal entry). But the video may well serve to recruit even more male engineers as the featured engineers are quite attractive!

Update Thu Dec 01 13:53:43 2005: Searching for “Alan Kay” in Google Video returns some videos. Watching the Kyoto Prize Awards is difficult as the video and audio are not in sync and inaudible at times. Another video about the history of user interfaces, made during his tenure as an Apple Fellow, has better production values.

Update Fri Dec 02 21:51:38 2005: I've nearly finished watching the first video (I've reached the Q&A section). I found that I couldn't just let the lecture play in the background while I did some other work— I had to pay close attention to what he was saying. So I ended up watching the video over 2 days which helped in absorbing the information.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 8 / Last Modified: Sun Dec 04 21:12:03 2005