Part 17 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal


software dodim dimmer

Tue Aug 01 14:48:37 2006

DoDim is a dimmer program that dims all the other applications and the Desktop except the one with the focus. This is useful for doing presentations that require you to switch between several apps.

“Mac OS X Internals” Chapter 2 Review

book review "mac os x internals" amit singh

Wed Aug 02 08:53:32 2006

Chapter 2 review is now up.

Slacking Off

comment star trek hogan's heroes tv

Wed Aug 02 13:45:04 2006

I have been slacking off lately; last weekend I just watched old episodes of Star TrekJourney to Babel, introduction of Spock's parents; By Any Other Name, with the incredibly and unquestionably exquisite, and amazingly beautiful Barbara Buchet (pictured); Gamesters of Triskelion, with the late Angelique Pettyjohn; Metamorphosis, Zefram Cochrane living on an asteroid— and Hogan's Heroes taped from television and converted to MPEG1, by a colleague, a few years ago. I also searched around for software remove commercials and I accidently found an application which I will be reviewing soon.

Security Update 2006-004

software security update

Wed Aug 02 16:15:03 2006

Security Update 2006-004 was released yesterday. Just waiting a week before patching mathilde.

Hurricane Katrina Recognition Award

Google Earth

Wed Aug 02 21:50:34 2006

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency presented the “Hurricane Katrina Recognition Award” to the Google Earth team, and the Google Enterprise and Global Support groups, for creating satellite imagery overlays of the devastation, accurately showing the scope of the disaster to both the evacuated residents and the emergency relief workers.

Despite stories like these, I believe that our dependence on technology is leading this world into certain darkness (and I just don't mean the blackouts caused by strain on the power grids). Tomorrow's entry will discuss one aspect of technology and darkness.

Forever Data

digital data storage archival google

Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act,
Threaten his bloody stage: by the clock 'tis day,
And yet darknight strangles the travelling lamp.
Is 't night's predominance, or the day's shame,
That darkness does the face of earth entomb,
When living light should kiss it?
— Macbeth, II.,iv.

Thu Aug 03 07:49:41 2006

In Escaping the Digital Dark Age Stewart Brand warns of the consequences of storing our digital documents, memories— photos and movies— using current technology (optical media or magnetic media).

The problem isn't the storage of data itself; the problem is preserving what we have stored, not for 10 or twenty years, or even a lifetime, but storing it forever. Within a century, the data we have today will be unreadable because the storage medium will have changed so drastically that we will lack the technology to read the digital data that is archived today.

Humanity needs a storage device that:

Current storage technology companies are driven by profits rather than storage and preservation of data. For example, if a company has perfected technology to make a 100 TB drive, they will first ship a 10TB disk; the following year they will ship a 20TB disk; the year after that the 45TB disk will appear and so on, until 7-10 years later the 100TB disk will finally appear. This method gurantees that the company remains in business and profits will increase the following year.

It would be economic suicide for a company to invent a storage medium with infinite capacity and longevity because it does not increase profits and appease shareholders in subsequent fiscal years. Only a non-profit organization with external funding can venture into a project like this.

The company that will develop this technology would have to be concerned with the future welfare of all human kind. There is only one company I know of today that is capable of doing this. It has become the global repository of all the world's information. If it plans to store this information for 1000 years, it better do something more than build huge data-centres with massive arrays of disks and servers. If it is interested in being remembered forever, it should consider funding research on storing data indefinitely and compactly.

Quake 4 Demo is Out!

software games quake4

Sat Aug 05 10:19:50 2006

Quake 4 demo ported by Aspyr, based on the Doom 3 engine, is available for download and minimum requirements are Mac OS X v10.3.9, 1.67GHz G4 with 512MB RAM, ATI Radeon 9600 or Nvidia GeForce 6600 and 64MB VRAM. Downloading...

Nature vs. Nurture

genes iq nature nurture

Sun Aug 06 10:04:14 2006

A few weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine, “After The Bell Curve” by David L. Kirp.

The article centers on the debate between nature (genes) and nurture (childhood). To summarize the article— a person's IQ is hereditary and one cannot achieve an IQ that is higher than what is coded by ones genes.It is our childhood that determines whether we achieve the full potential of our IQ. In other words, if Einstein had been raised by wolves, he would not have been able to conceive of Relativity.

WWDC Bingo

humour wwdc bingo

Mon Aug 07 12:05:52 2006

With just under an hour to go before, I have logged in to #macosx and #wwdc and I have my 2006 WWDC bingo card all ready.

Update Mon Aug 07 12:31:30 2006: With a half-hour to go,a picture of one of the Leopard banners was posted by one of many chatting on #wwdc while waiting in line at WWDC; it reads "Mac OS X Leopard/Vista's gonna suck LOL."; another banner reads "Hasta la vista, Vista".

There were 2 WiFi networks available: "2.4GHz WWDC" and "5.8GHz WWDC" (that only works on MBPs) according to a screenshot posted on Flickr.

Flickr 2006 WWDC.

WWDC Summary

wwdc macpro leopard

The prejudiced are easily deceived.

Mon Aug 07 16:20:26 2006

No iPhone announcement, of course. In June, the WSJ reported that the iPhone would not be announced before 2007 and yet, the rumours circulated and people hoped.

All their hopes were dashed when the WWDC keynote consisted mainly of the introduction of the Intel Xeon based MacPro workstations and Xserv servers (completing the Intel transition) and a sneak preview of OS X 10.5 Leopard, including Time Machine (XP-like System Restore that automates backups and checkpoints the filesystem— one of the items on my wishlist) and Spaces, a virtual desktop. For developers there was XCode 3.0 and Dashcode, for building widgets.

People were impressed with Voiceover— the new text-to-speech voices; the true test will be when I give it an e-book and I can listen to the narration read by the computer; the current set of voices are quite robotic.

Keynote video is available (I'll watch it Friday).

Mac OS Forge

macosforge xnu kernel

Tue Aug 08 00:01:01 2006

Macosforge, sponsored by Apple, now replaces the nearly defunct OpenDarwin site. The sources to the OS X kernel are once again available for download and compilation.

DTrace now in Leopard

dtrace dynamic tracing solaris10 leopard

Tue Aug 08 00:02:51 2006

When you need a bit more help in debugging, Xcode 3.0 offers an extraordinary new program, Xray... Many such Xray instruments leverage the open source DTrace, now built into Mac OS X Leopard.

Cantrill came up with the idea for DTrace in 1996, while he was still a computer science student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

His faculty adviser told him it couldn't be done.

"I sketched out some specific ideas on how I thought it would be possible, and his reaction was, 'Well, you know, if this were possible, they would have already done it by now,'" Cantrill recalls.

DTrace, invented by Bryan Cantrill who is a kernel developer at Sun, is now part of Xcode 3.0 shipping with Leopard.

Can ZFS be far behind?

Rock, Paper and Scissors

sculpture math paper-folding

Wed Aug 09 08:43:24 2006

Beautiful sculptures of mathematical constructs made of metal and paper.

The explanation of the creation of the metal sculptures is akin to having a magic trick explained— it's sometimes better not to know how something is done because once you know, the awe is diminished and a demigod is revealed to be mortal.

RAM Disk


Sat Aug 12 10:38:24 2006

A few days ago, someone on #macosx asked how to create a RAM disk. I found the simple procedure via Google.

hdid -nomount ram://32768 /dev/disk1
newfs_hfs /dev/disk1
mkdir /tmp/ramdisk1
mount -t hfs /dev/disk1 /tmp/ramdisk1

hdiutil detach /dev/disk1

I note that it's simple because supposedly, it's very (unnecessarily) "complicated" to create a RAM disk under FreeBSD. The hdid (OS X specific) utility is quite amazing— I glanced through the manual-page and found that it's possible to mount a DMG via HTTP using hdid (!)

Update Sun Aug 13 21:10:17 2006: David writes:

I was curious as to why it was "complicated" to create a RAM disk under FreeBSD, and I don't see how it's more difficult than OS X. Under FreeBSD 5.x:
    /sbin/mdconfig -a -t malloc -s 256M -u 10
    /sbin/newfs -U /dev/md10
    /sbin/mount /dev/md10 /mnt/ramdisk

    /sbin/umount /mnt/ramdisk
    /sbin/mdconfig -d -u 10
Under FreeBSD 6.x it's even easier (mdmfs may even be available under 5.x as well):
     /sbin/mdmfs -s 256M md10 /mnt/ramdisk

    /sbin/umount /mnt/ramdisk
    /sbin/mdconfig -d -u 10

“Mac OS X Internals” Chapter 3 & 4 Review

book review "mac os x internals" amit singh

Sat Aug 12 11:13:22 2006

Reviews of chapter 3 and chapter 4 now available.

Creating an Ad hoc Network

software "ad hoc" network

Sun Aug 13 20:57:14 2006

There's a good tutorial on creating an ad hoc network with two or more Macs using anything from Firewire, wired Ethernet or Wifi.

You may be wondering why I would be interested in networking Macs together. Yes, well...

A Macbook in the Family

hardware macbook

Wed Aug 16 08:37:44 2006

My brother bought a new Macbook (white).

Free Google Wifi

free google wifi

Wed Aug 16 08:41:51 2006

Google's free 1Mbit/s wifi network in Mountain View is operational today, ahead of schedule. Google spent about $1M for 12 square-mile coverage and will pay the city about $14k annually to rent the 380 poles where the APs are mounted.

Time Machine

software time machine backup snapshots

Thu Aug 17 04:08:08 2006

During the recent WWDC Steve Jobs mentioned that 19% (or maybe it was 23% or maybe it was 14%, I don't remember exactly) of Mac users polled said that they backed-up their data and of those, only 4% did so regularily using an automated tool. Then, he switched-on the Reality Distortion Field and previewed Time Machine.

Cue thunderous applause.

While discussing Time Machine at work, we concluded that Time Machine used BSD Snapshots (save changes to the filesystem at the block-level and not the contents of entire files). This was a logical conclusion because the underlying OS had snapshot facility built-in; the alternative— making a copy of the entire file— was unthinkable, only because Apple is famous for engineering elegance.

It seems the RDF had an even greater effect on others as they assumed that Leopard would ship with new a file-system (biggest non-sequitur ever). After leaks of the techonolgy behind Time Machine, not only does Time Machine not use snapshots (it backs up entire files even if a single byte changes) there is no new filesystem.

Cue crickets chirping.

There is still hope, though slim, that this was an early preview and the specifications will change when Leopard is finally released. Wishful thinking? Yeah.

There is no hope for Microsoft, however.

Macbook First Impressions

hardware macbook

Thu Aug 17 09:00:52 2006

I played with my brother's Macbook (Tiger 10.4.6) for about 10 minutes this morning. First impressions— it's nice. Keyboard has a nice feel; screen is nice; CD loads from the side (my brother said it's "noisy" when playing music). Finger prints show-up easily on the case.

The first question my brother asked was whether it was possible to record video from the built-in iSight. I thought iChat could do it—nope; perhaps PhotoBooth—nope; and there was nothing in Help (searching for "record video"). I did a Google search and found that video recording is only possible with Quicktime Pro. Feh! (Update Sat Aug 19 00:09:31 2006: you can use iMovie to record video. This is mentioned in the booklet manual for the Macbook.) I'm sure a lot of people asked this question. (I also remembered that iChat in Leopard will be able to save conferences/chats).

I wanted to try the Media Centre software but I didn't remember the name at the time— it's called Front Row. Anyway, the remote-control still hadn't been unpacked.


frontrow rosetta mackbook applications

Sat Aug 19 00:07:01 2006

I took my Lacie drive over to the Macbook (he hasn't named it yet) to install some of the software I had.

First, I installed SMART Reporter. Navigated over to /Applications; ran it and the drive icon appeared grey, indicating "Status Unknown". I guess the Macbook drive isn't a SATA drive. Meh.

Looking around in the Applications folder, there's the Office 2004 craptacular 30-day demo. Oh, look! An iWorks folder— Pages and Keynote are installed. Ooooh! Double-click on Pages (pretty icon) and a dialog appears about another 30 day demo. Not. Impressed. At. All.

Let's leave Office and iWorks just in case we need a word processor in the next 15 days. While we're here, we might as well delete Quicken.

All righty, then. Next, I install NeoOffice 1.1, and run it. The icon bounces about 20 times in the Dock, it stops bouncing and after a few seconds it dissappears. Lovely. I guess it doesn't run on Intel— have to wait until NeoOffice 2 is released (in October, I think).

My brother asks about Rosetta. I explained that it allows PowerPC binaries to run on Intel chips. (He didn't seem impressed).

Not even going to bother installing MenuMeters.

Next, I installed Solitaire XL. It actually ran! Wheee! He asked whether I had Freecell. I promised I'd look. (Update Sat Aug 19 00:39:26 2006: Found a Freecell program.

It was getting near bed-time so I decided to try FrontRow. Looked in /Applications, and it's not there. Hmmm. Maybe it's not installed. Let's use Spotlight to find it. OK, there's a Receipt for FrontRow.pkg? OK, let's try clicking on it (never used Spotlight before). Ah! The Installer starts; "Continue", click; "I Agree", click, "Computer Must Restart", click— "ERROR Installing...". Feh.

So, I asked my brother to get the remote— after groping about in his laptop bag, he found it. I press the "Menu" button and Voilá! FrontRow appears in all its glory! Well, that was easy. He's impressed. I'm impressed. Good impressions, all round.

So FrontRow is installed by default (as mentioned by <Davey> on #macosx); but where, I wonder?

I asked about the type of battery in the remote (it's a CR2xxx, typically used to back-up flash memory). He says that it's mentioned the manual— a nice little booklet THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, THANK YOU! Including how to start FrontRow and how to suspend the Macbook (hold down "Play" for 3 seconds).

Oh, the manual also explains that iMovie can be used to capture video from the iSight.

“Mac OS X Internals” Chapter 5 Review

book review "mac os x internals" amit singh

Sun Aug 20 12:20:44 2006

Review of chapter 5 now available.

Leopard Screenshots

software leopard

Sun Aug 20 12:42:07 2006

Thinksecret has a bunch of Leopard screenshots.

Most of the apps in the Leopard preview are unfinished to prevent Microsoft from stealing the thunder by copying them in Vista. The brushed-metal look is now history.

Extract Audio from DVD

software mplayer vob mp3 wav

Sun Aug 20 21:34:45 2006

My dad wanted the soundtrack to the opera Tosca (on DVD), as an mp3. Rather than use a previous method of extracting audio (SoundFlower kernel extension and record using Audacity), I decided to try a different method.

One of the benefits of installing FFMpegX is that it comes with statically compiled binaries of mplayer, mencoder and other transcoding tools (installed in /Library/Application Support/ffmpegX/). I should note that I attempted to convert the VOB into an MP3 using FFMpegX but it failed. Having braved the extensive documentation available for mplayer, I managed to extract the 120 minutes of audio directly from the VOB in about 40 minutes (compare this with SoundFlower/Audacity method which extracts in realtime).

I created a small script called vob2wav that performs the necessary extraction (the options, -vc null -vo null, are what allow extraction faster than real-time, as video is not decoded):

if [ $# -eq 0 ]
        echo "Usage: vob2wav infile.vob outfile.wav"

mplayer "$1" -vc null -vo null -ao pcm:file="$2"

I then imported the resulting WAV into iTunes and converted it into an MP3. I believe mplayer is capable of encoding to MP3 but I haven't figured that out yet.

Poincaré Conjecture

math "poincare conjecture" perelman "fields medal"

...the conjecture surmises that if a closed three-dimensional manifold is sufficiently like a sphere in that each loop in the manifold can be tightened to a point, then it is really just a three-dimensional sphere.

Tue Aug 22 07:12:59 2006

Grigori Perelman has declined both the Fields Medal, awarded today in Madrid (it is the highest award granted every four years to any mathematician, younger than 40 years old, who makes a significant contribution to the study of mathematics) and the Millenium Prize, founded in 2000 by the Clay Institute, to inspire mathematicians to solve seven (now six) problems that have resisted solutions over the years.

In 2002, Perelman posted a solution to the Poincaré Conjecture and over the years it has stood up to rigorous tests for flaws. This is the last year, Perelman is eligible to receive the Fields Medal. The solution to the Poincaré Conjecture has implications in cosmology— if our universe is spherical, it could have begun at a single point.

Creative Settlement

litigation creative lawsuit apple ipod interface

Thu Aug 24 22:08:37 2006

Apple agreed to pay $US100M to license the hierarchical navigation menu used in the iPod from Creative, who had sued Apple when the iPod debuted in 2001. Apple also dropped the counter-suits against Creative.

It's a small price for Apple to pay to keep everyone happy.

Yet Another Apple Battery Recall

hardware apple ibook powerbook battery recall

Thu Aug 24 22:11:25 2006

In the wake of Dell's 4M laptop/notebook battery recall, Apple is recalling 1M batteries. I now have to check my serials again even though I had already exchanged my original Powerbook battery.

These batteries were manufactured by Sony who will be paying dearly for this.

Update: Fri Aug 25 09:16:24 2006 My battery has been recalled. *Sigh*

Amazon S3

amazon storage s3

Thu Aug 24 22:17:40 2006

As the start of the school year approaches, it becomes increasingly busy at work as labs are readied for the incoming horde of students. This leaves little time for blogging or chatting.

However, an #emacs discussion about Java development using Emacs segued into a discussion of an Amazon service called S3, Simple Storage Service. It costs 15 cents per GB per month of storage and 20 cents per Gb transferred either via HTTP or Torrent.

The Complete New Yorker Portable Hard Drive

hardware new yorker magazine

Sun Aug 27 20:19:17 2006

The biggest complaint with the first release of the The Complete New Yorker was that the 8 DVDs couldn't be copied onto a hard-disk for complete self-contained portablity.

In response to that complaint, we now have The Complete New Yorker Portable Hard Drive, a 100 GB USB 2.0 drive with all the issues up to April 2006 (20GB of storage remain free for future updates), for only US$299.

Now, what about all the schmucks like me who already have the The Compete New Yorker DVDs? Can we get a blank hard-drive and a mechanism to copy our DVDs onto the hard drive?

The Compete New Yorker came in handy this week— the New York Times Book Review mentioned that one of James Tiptree Jr.'s short-stories was printed in the 1946 issue of The New Yorker; the story is listed with the author's real name (abstract: "A WAC Captain and her husband, a Colonel, live in a house in Germany where three young girls from Poland - Displaced Persons - are working. Although their life seems grim indeed the poor things are happy to have shelter and clothing.") Tiptree was a scifi author of great renown (though I have never read any of her, yes her fiction) who sadly lived quite a tragic life.

New Mac Ads

getamac tv ads

Sun Aug 27 22:49:40 2006

New Mac ads— "Accident", "Angel/Devil" and "Trust Mac".

AppleStore At Sherway Gardens

applestore sherway gardens

Tue Aug 29 21:46:32 2006

David sends new that the third apple store in Canada will open at the Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto this Saturday.

Update Mon Sep 04 14:26:11 2006: Photos.

Viewing Free Content From The U.S. iTunes Store

itunes store kafka

Wed Aug 30 13:30:56 2006

There's a an episode of Inside Battlestar Galactica Season 2 freely available for viewing in the U.S. store but only if you're in the U.S.

The problem is that the billing address on my credit card is not in the U.S. since both my AppleStore ID and credit card are registered in Canada. This was my first time using the iTunes store and I was disoriented in the endless loop of having to update my billing information, which updated my country, which dumped me to the Canadian iTunes store right back where I started. At no time did a dialog appear that said you can't watch the FREE U.S. content if you have a Canadian credit-card.

Ancient Tomes

google books pdf

Thu Aug 31 08:46:16 2006

Google Book Search now has the entire copy of out-of-copyright (pre-1929) books available for download as PDFs. You have to perform the book-search by checking the "Full View" radio button on the main page.

To test the depth of the free library, I searched for one of my favourite poems, The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, hoping to find a free version with Gustav Doré's exquisite illustrations, but I was dissappointed with only a a cover and back-cover preview of a copyrighted book with the scanner's fingertips visible on the bottom-left of the image.

My First AppleStore Visit

applestore impressions

Thu Aug 31 12:06:59 2006

For the Mac, right?
—AppleStore employee

I've just got back from my first AppleStore visit in the Eaton's Centre and I was a bit dissappointed with the service.

The planning for this trip to the Applestore started a few days ago when I realized that I was still playing the demo of Call of Duty 2 nearly every day. I was interested in trying out varying tactics to achieve the objectives. I concluded that if the demo was that engrossing, it was worth buying the full game even though, in my review, I said that I was not willing to pay $60 for it because my Powerbook was not capable of rendering the game playable with spectacular graphics (minimum recommended hardware is a G5 or a Core Duo). That was before I realized how engrossed I would become in the gameplay.

Yesterday, on #macosx, <mgrimes> mentioned how happy he was, when a taxi-driver reminded him that this coming weekend was a long weekend (Monday, Labour Day, is a holiday). I hadn't realize it either until he mentioned it. Since it is the custom on this Journal to play/discover video games on holidays, this was a perfect opportunity to indulge in a marathon session of Call of Duty 2. Something much more exciting than reading Chapter 6 of MOXI and writing a review about it.

So, today, my morning train was delayed and when it arrived at my station, it was packed with children, mothers with their strollers and other paraphernalia that expeditions with young children usually require, all headed to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition; it must be Kids Day, or something). As long as I was going to be late for work, stopping by the AppleStore was not going to make it any worse and the boss wouldn't really care because he had taken the day off (and he doesn't read this journal). (Update Thu Aug 31 19:00:32 2006: boss came in to work during the afternoon because one of the drives on the backup RAID failed this morning.)

So, I walked up Yonge Street, and headed into the Eaton's Centre via the Queen Street entrance, went up the escalators next to The Geese and into the store. It was quite full— nearly every computer has a person looking it over. Since I didn't have my glasses, I couldn't read any of the signs so instead I looked for one of the floor-walkers (black shirts). I had to walk all the way into the center of the store before I found one.

I asked him, "I'm looking for Call of Duty 2; do you have it?".

He mumbled something affirmative and started walking to the back of the store.

He stopped, turned around and asked me, "For the Mac, right?".


There were two ways I could answer this— as Captain Sarcastic or as his mild-mannered alter-ego; I decided on the latter. I said, "Yeah."

He found the game— top shelf, far left and handed it to me. I turned around started walking towards the exit, where I would expect to find the cashiers and I realized there were none. I looked to my left and there's the Genius Bar with a couple of people being helped— one middle-aged blonde woman, the other an elderly man with a problem with his Powerbook or Macbook Pro. So I turned around and asked the floor-walker where the cashier was and he pointed to the back of the store. Ah.

There was no line-up and I was greeted with a cheery (canned) hello. While I was waiting for my purchase to be processed, I noticed a young asian couple trying to decide on a carrying case for their laptop. I recognized the Booq carrying-case from the logo.

On my way out, I noticed the plain-clothes security eyeing me. They stuck out because they looked American— both with close-cropped hair, the younger one had a green track-suit top and jeans, iPod headphones; the other was older with a salt-and-pepper goatee, sun-burnt, wearing a navy polo shirt and grey slacks.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 17 / Last Modified: Sat Sep 09 09:55:05 2006