Part 24 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

CoD2 Update

software games "call of duty 2"

Thu Mar 01 01:32:22 2007

I'm still playing and enjoying Call of Duty 2, which I purchased in Sept. of 2006. I'm now re-playing the "Silo" mission in the highest difficulty level. It has taken me 3 days (playing about an hour a day) to capture the Post Office. I have found that since upgrading mathilde to 1.5GB of RAM, the levels load in about 15 seconds vs. 40+ seconds when I had 512MB of RAM. I have also grown fond of the M1 Garand rifle since discovering that it was invented by a Canadian (but who lived most of life in the U.S.) The only problem I have with it is loading a fresh 8-round clip without "wasting" 1 or 2 rounds remaining from the previous clip.

Native OS X WiFi Exploit: The Full Story

security wifi broadcom

Fri Mar 02 09:52:35 2007

A few months ago a supposed WiFi exploit of a Macbook was announced but the method was not revealed pending further investigation. There were accusations that the exploit used third-party drivers and not the native OS X drivers for the Broadcom Wifi chip. Soon after, Apple released updated drivers without mantioning specifics. John Gruber even went on a rant about it and offered free Macbooks if he was shown proof of the exploit. Well, the full story was recently revealed at the latest Black Hat Conference.

Interview with a Mac OS X Zero-Day Patcher


Fri Mar 02 12:56:19 2007

The Register has an interview with Landon Fuller, who writes patches for zero-day exploits.

New VMware Beta

software vmware

Fri Mar 02 21:25:58 2007

VMware has released a new beta of Fusion; the old beta expires on March 25th. This version has 3D acceleration support.

Sony eBook Reader Support

software libprs500 ebook

Sat Mar 03 11:32:22 2007

Kovid Goyal created a tool (both command-line and gui), libprs500, that allows Linux and OS X to upload content to the the Sony ebook Reader. Some tips for using the tool are available on the Status-Q blog.

This certainly brings back memories of the times used to upload content to my Handspring Visor PDA from Linux using the pilot-link tools. It's shameful that Sony hasn't yet added Mac support. It only remains for Apple to release a tablet and blow Sony out of the game.

iTunes 7.1 Released

software itunes

Mon Mar 05 16:57:42 2007

iTunes 7.1 has been released. It includes support for Apple TV, which was delayed until mid-March.

“Paprika” Trailer

trailer paprika anime

Mon Mar 05 18:11:38 2007

Wow. I think the trailer would have stood on its own without the newspaper quotes. The mid-sized HD trailer has much more vibrant colours than the small one; the music is quite catchy too (though I prefer the instrumental version).

Variety review of the same.

Most-Admired Companies


Tue Mar 06 22:28:10 2007

In a Fortune magazine survey of corporate executives, directors, and securities analysts, Apple ranked as the 7th most-admired company overall. The top-10 companies are:

  1. General Electric
  2. Starbucks
  3. Berkshire
  4. Southwest Airlines
  5. FedEx
  6. Apple
  7. Google
  8. Johnson & Johnson
  9. Proctor & Gamble

Apple ranked as the 2nd most admired company in the computer industry, after IBM (Sun was 7th, followed by Dell). Apple ranked 1st as the most innovative, having the highest quality products and best "people management".

Kensington Contour Terrain Messenger Bag


Wed Mar 07 14:08:14 2007

Case-studies of public-relations disasters teach many useful lessons about corporate relations— the art of appeasing the angry public. When I came to work this morning, the Kensington Contour Terrain messenger bag that was on my desk, was one such appeasement.

The details of the incident that precipitated this shall have to remain private in the face of the corporate gesture. By a strange coincidence, the bag is designed for a 15.4 inch laptop. How much more perfect could this be?

Update Fri Mar 09 21:44:49 2007: A brief review: I carried a 1-inch binder and a newspaper home in the bag to test it out. It takes some getting used to— the back of the bag is curved to fit the contour of the hip/bum (depending where it's carried). I tried adjusting the straps to it sat higher on the hip and I noticed that my shoulder began to get sore as it took the weight. So, it is important to ensure that the bag rests on the hips. Unfortunately, this tends to make the bag bounce with each step— something laptops will never forgive. I will have to reserve a final verdict until I can experimentation some more. I also have to use the bag in inclement conditions and see how well it protects the contents.

I like the softness of the canvas and the quality of the manufacturing; it's also very stylish— sadly, this is not a plus for me. I prefer carrying stuff— my lunch, books I'm reading, etc.— in ordinary plastic grocery bags as it keeps the homeless at bay, because I tend to look much like them. (When I walked home with the Kensington bag last night, for the first time since I can remember, a homeless person begged me for change at the first intersection I reached.) I will now have to weigh the benefits of looking stylish against camouflaging myself from the beggars.

Jean Baudrillard, R.I.P.

obituary "the matrix" philosophy

Fri Mar 09 21:22:55 2007

Jean Baudrillard passed away on March 6th. The references in The Matrix (which he said ,"stemmed mostly from misunderstandings") brought him to the attention of popular culture. In his New York Times obituary Patricia Cohen wrote, "He was also a fierce critic of consumer culture in which people bought objects not out of genuine need but because of the status and meaning they bestowed."



Sat Mar 10 20:00:34 2007

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim
—John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”.

In ancient Greece, the most civilized part of the world at the time, the life expectancy averaged 28 years; by 1900, the life expectancy in America had risen to 47 years; by 2004, it had further climed to 78 years. There are some who think that 120 years will be a normal biological lifetime in the near future. With ever increasing life expectancies, one has to ask whether there are benefits to living more than one lifetime or even forever (in a future (futurama) where our essence is converted to an AI entity and uploaded into non-volatile storage).

For reasons that are pragmatic, scientific, demographic, economic, political, social, emotional, and secularly spiritual, I am committed to the notion that both individual fulfillment and the ecological balance of life on this planet are best served by dying when our inherent biology decrees that we do.

—Sherwin Nuland, “The Art of Aging

You see that even though I am ninety, and even though I am dying, I am still interested in the details of life.
—George Santayana

Because I could not stop for death, it kindly stopped for me.
—Emily Dickinson

There is a subtle difference between aging— the slow march towards the inevitable end— and waiting to die— standing still (or running away) as death marches towards you. The Journal of Philosopy has an 1953 article by Thomas G. Henderson, Santayana Awaiting Death, that elaborates on the latter aspect.

Some see life as just a prelude to death with various rituals designed as a distraction from the inevitability; if we thought about death, for even a little, everything would look futile. It would seem that if one knows how and when it's going to end, one is resigned to just wait for the finish; on the other hand, if one doesn't know the last chapter, one can blissfully muddle one's way through what remains of life.



Sun Mar 11 10:00:38 2007

The word "biophony", coined by Bernie Krause, describes a portion of the soundscape (a term coined by composer R. Murray Schafer in the 1960s) contributed by living things other than humans. He travels around the world recording sounds in nature.

Many animals, he argues, have evolved to squeeze their vocalizations into available niches of the soundscape in order to be heard by others of their kind. Evolution isn't just about the competition for space or food but also for bandwidth. If a species cannot find a sonic niche of its own, it will not survive.
One of his Aha! moments occured in Venezuela, when Krause was recording warblers. "The birds would fly through grids of sounds until they found a place where their voices wouldn't be masked", he says. Krause noriced that the birds who settled in compromised habitats— logged-over second-growth forests— encountered unexpected vocal compatitors from other species and found their mating songs masked. Warblers that failed to find unoccupied bandwidth failed to breed.
He has compiled a library of more than 3,500 hours of pristine natural sound, which he thinks is the world's largets private collection— nearly a third of the ecosystems he has captured have become aurally "extinct" because of habitat loss or the presence of noise-making machines.

— Jeff Hull, "The Noises of Nature", in the Feb. 18, 2007 New York Times Magazine

I wonder if this theory also applies to humans— the poor, disenfranchised, the "lone voices in the wilderness." The only ecosystem I am intimately familiar with, is the Internet— the web with it's blogs, various online forums and IRC. I have witnessed many "extinctions" of personalities because of ideological or philosophical disagreements and these personalities were forced to seek other venues to have their voices heard. I sometimes wonder what has become of some of these voices.


software game mahjong

Sun Mar 11 21:08:32 2007

MyMahj looks like a gorgeous game. Will be trying it and reporting next week. I prefer Mahjong to Solitaire as a pastime.

I've tried the demo version of Solitarius Mahjong, another gorgeous implementation, but it's shareware and runs full-screen. It looks like I eventually deleted it as I can't find it in my Application folders.

Dear Steve, Please Drop DRM. Signed, FSF


Mon Mar 12 18:26:09 2007

Defective by Design has an online petition asking Steve Jobs to drop DRM. It was hoping for 1,000 signatures; it has collected more than 4,000.

The petition does make a valid point in asking Jobs, as majority owner of Disney, to drop DRM from Disney and Pixar movies, "You can set the example in the arena of video and movies. Disney can be the first "major" to drop DRM. You have the direct power to do this."

Also, the European Union has started hearings on the what it feels is the anti-competitive nature of music bought from iTunes, because it is only playable on iPods. The ball is now in Apple's court.

Be careful what you ask for.

Laptop Drive with Native Encryption

hardware encryption drive

Mon Mar 12 18:37:11 2007

Seagate has announced the Momentus line of 5400 RPM laptop drives that have onboard native encryption using technology from Wave Systems; the cost is about 25% more than drives without encryption-- a small price to pay for 128-bit AES protection and peace of mind from FileVault corruption. I hope that these drives are options in future Apple offerings.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto will be buying several laptops (ASI Technologies is the first manufacturer to ship laptops) equipped with these drives after the recent loss/theft of a laptop with unencrypted patient information. I wonder if these drives are drop-in replacements for current drives (I think you would need updated firmware).

“Dell and Linux”


Tue Mar 13 08:50:56 2007

Another entry in the Be-Careful-What-You-Ask-For Department: Dell set-up a website to solicit ideas from users and guess what the number one suggestion was— support Linux— not exactly the idea it had in mind (the biggest problem with soliciting ideas is that you tend to look even worse when you ignore the suggestions that are offered because they disagree with your philosophy). I read a good summary of the events in this blog (the author was Michael Dell's personal tech-support), including a link to "Can Apple Take Microsoft in the Battle for the Desktop?".

Update Tue Mar 13 18:56:34 2007: One of the reasons that Dell gave against supporting Linux, was that there were so many distros. It may come as a complete shock to them, but all the distros have one thing in common— they use the Linux kernel, and that kernel is under the control of one man— Linus Torvalds. Instead of going to Novell, they should have just gone to Linus.

Tiger 10.4.9 Update

software update

Tue Mar 13 18:49:37 2007

An update for Tiger 10.4.9 has been released. Everyone suspects that this is the last release of Tiger before Leopard.

Firefox: Disable “Server not found” page

firefox tip

Fri Mar 16 21:48:15 2007

Whenever Firefox cannot connect to a site, either because because the site is offline or the URL was mis-typed, it displays a “Server not found” page; in most cases, this page is useful. However, I find this page annoying when I go offline and Firefox re-loads an auto-refresh site like Google News, finds it can't connect and then discards the previously downloaded page. It would have been nice if I was able to access the last instance of that page by clicking the "Back" button, but since I can't, I found (by asking on that setting browser.xul.error_pages.enabled to "false" (it's accessed via about:config), disables the error-page entirely.

iTunes 7.1.1 Released

software itunes bug-fix

Fri Mar 16 22:00:10 2007

iTunes 7.1.1 fixes some data-corruption bug in iTunes 7.1. Tsk, tsk— there is no excuse for this sort of thing.

I'm still running 4.7.1 on mathilde and whatever shipped with Tiger 10.4.8 on ilsa. Some habits die hard.

Aesthetics of Reading

typography psychology

Sat Mar 17 11:47:55 2007

It has been previously demonstrated that when people are in a positive mood that they will perform better on cognitive tasks that involve creativity.

The Aesthetics of Reading is a paper by Kevin Larson, who works for Microsoft, and Rosalind Picard, MIT faculty, about the effects of good typography on the reader's behaviour.

Via the UIScape feed.

Update Sat Mar 17 22:10:39 2007: I found the Typotheque website today. I enjoyed reading Martin Majoor's article on his design philosophy: My Type Design Philosophy and an article about his development of the Seria font (a sequel to his Scala font designed to typeset programmes for the La Scala Opera House): Seria's Motives.

In the latter article, an excerpt of a programme illustrates how the bold and italic variations of the same family can be used to great effect (up until yesterday, I would have used one font for the title a different font for the composers and yet another font for the performers)— other things to note:

This certainly gives me a new perspective and ideas when designing future Keynote slides.

“The Merchant of Cupertino”


Sun Mar 18 09:45:43 2007

A brief excerpt from a speech in a courtroom scene from the play “The Merchant of Cupertino” where a company is sued for various patent violations:

The quality of the sound is not strain'd
It emerges from the device with crystalline purity
Upon your ears: it is twice transformed;
when it is digitized and then converted back to analog:
The MP3 is the mightiest of the mightiest;
it becomes the throned monarch bettering Ogg Vorbis in popularity.

Ian Murdock Now at Sun

debian sun solaris

Mon Mar 19 23:25:39 2007

I was completely surprised when I read, on Tim Bray's blog, that Ian Murdock was hired by Sun. I predict that either Solaris will be GPL'd soon or Sun will start selling GNU/Linux sooner.

Bluetooth Proximity Detection

coolness bluetooth

Tue Mar 20 00:43:51 2007

Jesse David Hollington figured out how to do something really cool— have your Mac unlock the screensaver and sync your phone (other actions can be programed) when you walk up to it with your Bluetooth phone.

Update Tue Mar 20 01:52:42 2007: It looks like (surprisingly) it was accomplished for Linux first. In some ways, it makes sense; Linux people are prone to fight with something until it works while Mac people prefer to wait until it just works (it should be noted that the OS X solution still requires a bit of hackery including compiling a small notifier program, so we're still not at the "It Just Works" stage). Ideally, the iPhone will have this feature and more.

Update Tue Mar 20 21:32:10 2007: David noted that BluePhoneElite "Just Works". This is a starting point for a future where all appliances work together to make our lives more enjoyable.

Whatever became of the Java Ring (first seen in 1998), that piece of magical jewellery that was supposed to make identifying ourselves to various computers, very easy.

Apple TV Finally Ships

hardware appletv

Tue Mar 20 15:26:48 2007

I won't be buying an Apple TV since a TV (something I don't own) is an essential requirement for using it. When the AppleTV is capable of replacing a TV; i.e. pull signals off the air or via cable— when it comes with a built-in eyeTV— I'll buy one along with a Mac Mini and a Cinema Display and that will be my Media center. For now, the Apple TV is a method to play your iTunes content (music, movies, TV shows, photos) on your TV rather than your computer or iPod.

Apple Marketing


Thu Mar 22 16:15:16 2007

A colleague mentioned that he noticed an increased Apple "presence" on the radio recently— three of the six station presets on his car radio (as far as he could remember they were 104.5, 103.5 and 107.5 FM) had contests where the prize was a Mac and the DJs were praising the Macs that they used at home.

Interesting way to market a product.

future cinema

Fri Mar 23 08:37:37 2007

The first commercially exhibited movies were watched through peepholes in machines called Kinetoscopes, so watching a film on an iPod shouldn't really seem all that different.
—Manohla Dargis

Last Sunday's NYT Arts and Leisure section had two articles, one by A.O. Scott ("The shape of cinema transformed at the click of the mouse" and the other by Manohla Dargis ("The revolution will be downloaded (if you're patient)" about her experiences downloading movies for the "small screen", from a new site called Jaman), that discussed how the internet will change traditional cinema— it will allow movies to "open" on potentially 4 billion screens simultaneously and it will allow 4 billion movies to open every day. The deluge of new movies will make it impossible for the few critics to view and evaluate them, so social networks like blogs and IRC will become important in this aspect.

LEGO Café Corner


Fri Mar 23 09:05:42 2007

There's a new LEGO kit, designed by LEGO fans, called Café Corner. What is impressive is the architetural realism of the model— sure, it's made of LEGO but it resembles a building you may have seen in your travels.

I am tempted to buy it.



software web colour

Mon Mar 26 12:03:58 2007

Adobe has a interactive colour-scheme picker (it requires JS and Flash but well worth it) called Kuler. There are several algorithms for picking the other shades given a base colour: analogous, monochromatic, complimentary, triad, compound, shades and you can customize your own rule.



Mon Mar 26 18:11:34 2007

Identifont uses a series of questions about particular letter shapes, to help identify a font. It's impressively cool. It helps to have the text in front of you because the questions about the details of certain characters are very specific, so unless you have a photographic memory, Identifont not going to be useful.


nsa filevault isight secure

Tue Mar 27 08:40:48 2007

The Powerbook/iBook running Panther was (and still likely is) NSA's favourite laptop because it could be reasonably secured according to published guidelines. When the new Macbooks with integrated iSight cameras were released, the NSA security guidelines recommended against their use in secure environments because first, there was no way to disable the cameras (without also disabling all the other USB devices) and second, because there was no visual indicator that the camera was in use (possibly remotely).

A recently published hint may have a work-around for disabling the integrated camera by deleting the QT digitizer component from the system library. It remains to be seen if this is within NSA guidelines (though the comments lean towards the negative).

Updated Tue Mar 27 12:59:37 2007: Recently, another organization called NSA but not the NSA also demonstrated the risks of trusting FileVault (VileFault) and encrypted DMGs, which a determined cracker can read using a brute-force attack.

Star Wars: Empire at War Demo

software game "star wars"

Tue Mar 27 17:01:36 2007

Downloaded the Star Wars: Empire at War demo. It took about 8 minutes for the 800+MB DMG to download. It's Intel CPU only (so I can only play it on the Mini) and it works with the i950 video chipset (based on the screenshot, the graphics look quite craptacular).

After playing the first tutorial, I have to say that the start-up and auto-detection went smoothly and the graphics are understandably craptacular. The music and the audio-effects are fantastic, though I did find that at certain times the tutorial instructions were difficult to hear over the laser blasts and other explosions. The gameplay involved moving squads of Rebel soldiers around to defend a base from Imperial troops, attack and hold re-inforcement points and then retreat from the planet.

2006 Youtube Awards


Wed Mar 28 15:21:59 2007

The 2006 Youtube Awards have been announced. There winners in several categories: Most Creative, "Here It Goes Again" (very creative use of exercise machines, liked it); Best Comedy, "Smosh Short 2: Stranded" (got bored after 10s); Best Commentary, "Hotness Prevails" (haven't watched it yet); Best Series, "Ask a Ninja" (got bored after 60s); Best Music Video, "Say It's Possible" (nice song, her voice needs more training, it reminds me of Natalie Merchant); Most Inspirational "Free Hugs" (very memorable) and Most Adorable (had seen it before on and it was somewhat enjoyable).

Good Flash

flash internet

Thu Mar 29 07:37:26 2007

O! though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
If thy unworthiness rais’d love in me,
More worthy I to be belov’d of thee.
—Sonnet CL, William Shakespeare

Recently on #emacs, a discussion that began with the claim that a web browser should not exceed 1MB of source and proceeded to an enumeration of the uselessness of bloated web browsers because they included support for AJAX, Flash and Java, further continued to question the usefulness of these content delivery systems. While there were a few defenders of the usefulness of these systems, I struggled to think of sites that made creative use of these systems. The luxury of hindsight has remedied this.

The premiere example that demostrates the usefulness of AJAX is Google Maps, while Netdiver points to many sites that are enhanced by Flash content. During my one of my irregular visits to Netdiver, I came across a link to Group94, a Belgian design group that develops Flash content. And I was stunned by their creativity, beginning with their own site! They are able to give completely unique identities to each site they create: Annie Lennox's site was quite elegant with easy navigation; S. K. Santos's portfolio was displayed using a creative slideshow and Jeff Wall's photographs, currently exhibiting at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (and featured a few Sunday's ago in the New York Times Magazine) are also shown with a interactive zooming interface and supplementary commentary describing each photograph.

What Flash allows designers to do is to showcase content in ways never before dreamed of. Can you imagine browsing a web where all the sites looked similar?

Update Thu Mar 29 22:13:14 2007: Instead of saying "looked similar", I should have said, "delivered content in similar ways", since David correctly noted that CSS Zen Garden proves how identical content can be styled differently. Since Flash encourages interactivity, having a Flash presentation for (animated) content that is just viewed is a poor use of the medium— the Flash "intro" that some sites have, is just a waste of the viewer's time (as proved by the "skip intro" button).

Symbol Caddy, Easy Envelopes & Usability

software widget html envelopes usability

Fri Mar 30 21:52:58 2007

Symbol Caddy is a handy widget for looking up HTML entity codes for various symbols. Selecting the symbol, copies the code into the clipboard and pops-down the Dashboard— well thought out.

Easy Envelopes (looking at the screenshot of the beautiful widget, I wondered what independant software developer designed this app; I scrolled down to discover it was Ambrosia Software) is a widget that interfaces with the Addressbook to print mailing envelopes.

Both these widgets make tedious tasks very easy to perform and so they become a joy to use. This brings us to the subject of usability. I found the following definition of usability, in a file dated Feb. 1995, in my Documents directory:

It is important to realize that usability is not a single, one-dimensional property of a user interface. Usability has multiple components and is traditionally associated with these five usability attributes:

  1. Learnability: The system should be easy to learn so that the user can rapidly start getting some work done with the system.
  2. Efficiency: The system should be efficient to use, so that once the user has learned the system, a high level of productivity is possible.
  3. Memorability: The system should be easy to remember, so that the casual user is able to return to the system after some period of not having used it, without having to learn everything all over again.
  4. Errors: The system should have a low error rate, so that users make few errors during the use of the system, and so that if they do make errors they can easily recover from them. Further, catastrophic errors must not occur.
  5. Satisfaction: The system should be pleasant to use, so that users are subjectively satisfied when using it; they like it.


iPhone Availability

hardware iphone

Fri Mar 30 22:34:53 2007

The iPhone will go on sale in the U.S. on June 11.

“Switching My Mother to the Mac”


Sun Apr 01 14:37:50 2007

Robert Morvin tells how he switched his Mom to using a Mac. Anyone who "works with computers" and has a non-technical mother who uses computers can appreciate this story on a much deeper level than the rest. Our parents choice of computing platform is based on their son's "expert" advice and naturally, our advice is based on what we are familiar with, since we will have to do "technical support" when things go wrong.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 24 / Last Modified: Fri Apr 06 08:39:36 2007