Part 29 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

New "something"


Wed Aug 01 07:36:05 2007

Apple has invited the press to a Mac product announcement on August 7th. The current speculation is that it's the brushed metal iMacs. August is typically the month for Apple's back-to-school product releases. September and October see the consumer lines, and the iPods updated in time for the Christmas season.

Also, Leopard (October release) is now UNIX'03 certified and shares privileged company with Solaris, HP/UX and AIX. However, from a brief discussion on #solaris, the UNIX03 spec is quite generic (because POSIX tends this way) and outdated— awk is required but not perl; ssh is not required (it's not installed by default on AIX).

The first iPhone update, which fixes security vulnerabilities, also shipped.

Michelangelo Antonioni, R.I.P.

Wed Aug 01 20:20:19 2007

Is it a coincidence that two famous directors pass away on the same day? Is it a conspiracy? Or is it the Rule of Three?

The only memorable movie of his I can recall watching is Blowup with those sexy women from the 1960s; it's a great movie for fans of photography.


"google phone"

Thu Aug 02 18:44:37 2007

The Wall Street Journal today reported about the possibility of a Google (branded) phone to appear as early as next year. Unlike the iPhone, it will work with several carriers and has been designed to Google's specifications (in terms of features and capabilities). Several gPhone prototypes exist and they typically have either a slide-out keyboard or a fixed keyboard (like Blackberrys).

Apple's Product Cycle


Fri Aug 03 00:39:41 2007

In an attempt to guess whether an iPod was going to be released on Aug. 7 (I don't think so), I was trying to find a site that tracked the dates that various Apple products were released on. Instead, I found a site which describes Apple's product cycle, beginning with:

An obscure component manufacturer somewhere in the Pacific Rim announces a major order for some bleeding-edge piece of technology that could conceivably become part of an expensive, digital-lifestyle-enhancing nerd toy.

It continues with the usual rumours, followed by the product announcement ("as though its just an afterthought"; i.e. One More Thing...™), then the shipping delays, and then after it finally ships...

The obligatory Im waiting for Rev. B discussion appears in the Mac forums. People whove been burned by first-generation Apple products open up their old wounds and bleed their tales of woe. Unsympathetic technophiles fire back with, if you cant handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. pussy. Everyone has this stupid argument for the twenty-third time.


The only thing that's missing in that cycle is the class-action lawsuit launched by an opportunist (though it's sometimes justified— iPod battery life and number of colours of a video card).

Quake Zero


Sat Aug 04 06:56:26 2007

id Software announced that they will be releasing a free version of Quake 3 that can be played in a web browser on both PC and a Mac (what about Linux, BSD, etc.?); the game will be supported by revenues from ads.

id also announced a movie version of the popular video game Return to Castle Wolfenstein and that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars will be released in October for Windows; the Mac or Linux release dates have not been announced. In the mean time, you can salivate over the screenshots— you're no longer playing a video game, you're now in a movie. I am afraid to ask what the hardware requirements for this game are going to be.

Finally, Rage (demoed on the Mac by Carmack at WWDC2007), based on the new Tech5 engine with MegaTexture which can handle rendering massive, unique outdoor areas, will be released on 2 DVDs or 1 Bluray. Players drive across wide-open terrain to various settlements and battle mutants. The game can be played standalone or in co-operative multiplayer mode.

Hugo Nominees


Sun Aug 05 23:30:13 2007

2007 Hugo Award Nominees. Most of the nominees are available in full text. I enjoyed reading Mike Resnick's All the Things You Are and Tim Pratt's Impossible Dreams. I downloaded Michael Swanwick's Lord Weary's Empire and Robert Reed's A Billion Eves for later reading.

Update Mon Aug 06 09:46:49 2007: I've gotten to page 5 of Michael Flynn's Eifelheim. It passed the "intriguing opening" test. As I mentioned earlier, Vinge's Rainbows End failed the test (surprisingly).

Mac Buyer's Guide


Mon Aug 06 20:05:31 2007

David sent me the link to the Macbuyer's guide that I was looking for, which tracks Apple's product cycle.

Ultrathin Is In


Tue Aug 07 14:52:52 2007

Today, Apple announced:

Update Wed Aug 08 00:40:02 2007: Note that it's iLife '08, not '07. Does this means that when Leopard ships in October, iLife '07 will be bundled instead?

Zero Downtime


Wed Aug 08 00:25:10 2007

On Monday, IBM announced Live Partition Mobility a method of moving a running virtualized computer from one physical server to another without suspending or rebooting it. This means that if a workstation has to be taken offline for an upgrade or repair, the processes it is running need not be terminated and restarted on another computer; with Live Partition Mobility, the user doesn't even notice that anything changed. (By a strange coincidence, just last week, I had listed this as a deficiency of Solaris. It was noted that VMWare has a product called VMotion that allows VMs to be migrated between servers.)

Live Partition Mobility, currently in beta testing with general availability planned later this year, is a continuous availability feature that will enable POWER6-based servers, such as the System p 570, to move live logical partitions— including the entire operating system and all its running applications— from one server to another while the systems are running. The technology will enable companies to effectively manage and maintain their servers with the potential to become more energy efficient in the process.

The future is here, now.



Wed Aug 08 16:46:13 2007

Designwyse is an Apple reseller in Australia. It suffered a massive fire recently and there are pictures of melted Xservers (scroll-down).

There are many lessons here about ensuring that there are backup and disaster recovery procedures in place. Quoting Rule No. 10 of Sysadmins, "Always have backups. 10 a) Having backups of backups is nice too (you can never have too many backups). 10 b) Check your backups everyday."

Monthly Google Rant


Thu Aug 09 08:45:35 2007

What good is having a library with all world's information, if people can't find what they're looking for? Google should have a digital librarian to help people with their searches.

Today, I was looking for books about identifying flowers; the keyword that would have made my searching easier was "horticulture". The problem is that if you're not an expert in a subject area or you don't know the specialized jargon, searching on Google is practically useless.

Compiz Eyecandy

Thu Aug 09 15:57:47 2007

These Compiz animations for mapping and iconifying windows beats the boring old ones in OS X. I once suggested an enhancement that iconifying a windows would produce an animation of a window folding like a piece of paper— well, compiz has done it first.

They Might Be Giants

design microsoft apple

Sun Aug 12 16:06:20 2007

I found a slide (click for a larger view) that Steve Jobs used in one of his presentations showing two handheld remote controllers dwarfing a six-button Apple Remote. The remote on the right looks (from the logo at the very bottom) like it's for a HP multimedia PC.

I initially thought that the one on the left was Microsoft's controller, but it isnt— Microsoft's remote is much more hideous looking innovative— the designers have thoughtfully contoured the body of the remote to fit the gigantic hands of Americans.

There are reports that the Apple Remote no longer magnetically adheres to the side of the aluminum iMac. I'm surprised that Apple didn't redesign the white plastic Remote to match the new aluminum look.

I Hate Adobe

Mon Aug 13 13:21:14 2007

†Actually, I hate the pinheads at Adobe who write Mac software installers.

Installing Adobe software (Photoshop Elements and Flash plugin) on my Mac causes me no amount of grief— first for the unecessary reboots after installation (IT'S NOT WINDOWS/XP; IT'S UNIX, YOU KNOBS!) and second, for causing NIS authentication problems right after the install/reboot cycle. The solution requires my Mini to be shutdown and restarted at least twice— a reboot is not sufficent— before I can login using my departmental account.

See also the Digg post, Dear Adobe, What happened to you?, for other views on the Adobe's ignorance of OS X issues.

Scorsese and Allen

cinema scorsese allen bergman antonioni

Tue Aug 14 17:59:24 2007

Last Sunday's NY Times had two articles, one by Martin Scorsese and the other by Woody Allen, paying tribute to the spirits of Antonioni and Bergman. Google for 'The Man Who Asked Hard Questions' and 'The Man Who Set Film Free' to read the articles.

True Story

microsoft unix

Thu Aug 16 23:43:37 2007

This story is true. It was at a USENIX Windows NT conference and Microsoft was presenting their future directions for NT. One of their speakers said that they would release a UNIX integration package for NT that would contain the Korn Shell.

I knew that Microsoft had licensed a number of tools from MKS so I came to the microphone to tell the speaker that this was not the "real" Korn Shell and that MKS was not even compatible with ksh88. I had no intention of embarrassing him and thought that he would explain the compromises that Microsoft had to make in choosing MKS Korn Shell. Instead, he insisted that I was wrong and that Microsoft had indeed chosen a "real" Korn Shell. After a couple of exchanges, I shut up and let him dig himself in deeper. Finally someone in the audience stood up and told him what almost everyone in the audience knew, that I had written the 'real' Korn Shell. I think that this is symbolic about the way the company works.

—David Korn, Q/A on Slashdot

My personal history of shells begins with csh on SunOS 4.1 and Solaris 2.3. Then I tested tcsh and ksh for a few days, I also tried bash for a few days and then found zsh— I found it so much more elegant— and never looked back.



Sat Aug 18 08:33:21 2007

...tea is one of the main stays of civilization...
—George Orwell

David sent me a link to George Orwell's 1946 article, "A Nice Cup of Tea". In the ensuing discussion on #emacs, there was a question about the meaning of "in the Russian style", as mentioned in the last golden rule. <bpalmer> found the reference in the "Russian Tea Howto for Linux Hackers", which confirms that Russians exceed the Englishman's obsession for the perfect cup by several orders of magnitude.

My preference is for Twinings English Breakfast Tea (no milk or sugar) in the morning and in the afternoon, and the occasional Three Crown Chamomille before bed (or if I feel like a hot beverage after 4PM; caffiene after 4PM keeps me awake until 2AM).

Book Review: "The Emergence of Probability"

book review probability

Sun Aug 19 19:13:37 2007

My book review of Ian Hacking's, "The Emergence of Probability" is now available on My Bookshelf.

Mac vs. PC

"1024 words" ad

Wed Aug 22 19:03:19 2007

Hello, I'm a Mac.

Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet

branagh hamlet movie

Fri Aug 24 23:40:33 2007

I was overjoyed to read that the long-awaited DVD edition of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996) is finally available for sale. The 2 DVDs set has been mastered from the 4 hour long 70mm print (2.20:1 ASR)and includes a director's commentary and a couple of featurettes.

I had to email to add it to my latest order (Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America and Butterflies of North America) because the website does not allow new items to be added to unshipped orders; I don't know if this is a Canadian thing or whether it's also standard practice in the U.S.— I should ask our resident Amazon guru.

Before and After

design books

Sat Aug 25 00:10:56 2007

I was poking around Amazon after completing my order and saw that Binghurst's “Elements of Typographic Style” is on sale for CAD$20 (added it to my wishlist). After browsing a few more recommended links I found “Before and After Page Design”, a collection of various print publications visually illustrating the improvements after a design "renovation". It is a book that collects articles from the magazine which has a website that offers some free samples.

Forbidden Experiment


Sun Aug 26 11:39:26 2007

In the seventh century B.C., the Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus conducted an unusual experiment: he plucked a couple of infants from their mothers and turned them over to a shepherd, to be raised in seclusion and in the absence of any spoken word. The idea was that whatever sounds the babies spontaneously emitted would reveal the oldest, the original human language.

This anecdote appears in the second book of Herodotus' Histories, and although its veracity is disputed, it continues to tantalize linguists, among whom it has become known as the Forbidden Experiment— forbidden because its replication would be ethically untenable; tantalizing because of the rich psycholinguistic data such an experiment would surely yield.

The Forbidden Experiment is the specter that haunts "Talking Hands," the story of a remote Bedouin village where an indigenous sign language has drawn the attention of a team of linguists, who hope it will provide information about our innate capacity for language and our drive to create it. During the past 70 years, this village of 3,500 people has experienced an unusually high incidence of deafness (about one in 25, 40 times that of the general population). As a result of these numbers, and the fact that until recently the villagers had not been exposed to established signed languages, the one that sprang up there and is now used by both deaf and hearing people holds special value for researchers.

—Great opening from Leah Hager Cohen's NY Times review of “Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind”, by Margalit Fox.

Internet Killed the Video Star

tv internet

Sun Aug 26 15:37:20 2007

An excellent summary of the re-assignment of the UHF spectrum once analog TV channels operating in that band are replaced by digital TV channels.

Aristotle was wrong!


Sun Aug 26 22:15:26 2007

In the early 1860s, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., then a brash Harvard undergraduate, wrote an essay criticizing Plato, whose classifications of ideas he found "loose and unscientific." Holmes sent a copy of the essay to Emerson, whose books, he later said, had "set me on fire." He soon received in return a nugget of stern wisdom. "I have read your piece," Emerson replied. "When you strike at a king you must kill him."

I recalled this bit of advice recently while reading Scott McCredie's spirited first book, “Balance,” which opens with the gutsy Holmesian salvo "Aristotle was wrong." The error in question is Aristotle's contention, advanced in his treatise "De Anima" in the fourth century B.C. and perpetuated ever since by kindergarten teachers around the world, that there are five, and only five, human senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. McCredie has made it his mission to crack this bit of dogma by elevating balance into the sensory canon, on the basis of its evolutionary antiquity (540 million years, give or take), its necessity for well-being and survival (it is likely impossible to live without), and its surprising relationship to human cognition. Balance, McCredie argues, "may prove to be the most primary— as in primordial, life-sustaining, essential— of all the senses."

Broadly speaking, McCredie is right. Scientists now agree that the classical five senses are not the only avenues through which we gather information about the world around and, equally important, inside us.

—Great opening to Daniel B. Smith's NY Times review of “Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense.” by Scott McCredie.

Book Design

design books

Tue Aug 28 13:42:40 2007

Recent books designed by Pentagram include William Gibson's “Spook Country” and a collection of Kubrick's photographs while he was employed by "Look" magazine. There is also a new UK edition of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

A recent article in the NY Times Book review mentioned a website with all the covers of the different editions of the novel. The covers range from the completely and utterly boring (Spain, 1981) to the exhilarating (UK 1998; Dutch 2006), to racy (Germany 2004), to recursive (Germany 2006), to bewildering (China 2000, Sweden 2003). The cover with the man with a bad haircut, in a red plaid shirt, leaning on a green car (Denmark 1986, Greece 2000, Iceland, Israel 1988) was designed by someone who is not only colour-blind but with impaired vision. Strangely, the pencil drawing of the same cover (Greece 1981), showing more of the car, is strangely elegant.

TextEdit Icon

leopard textedit "crazy ones"

Wed Aug 29 16:03:56 2007

...because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

It seem the new TextEdit icon in Leopard (512x512 pixels in resolution) has the opening text to Apple's "Here's to the crazy ones" Think Different ad. I notice two problems with this icon: first, the original ad said "disagree with them" rather then "disbelieve them" and second, the text is written in Chancery, a font that can only be rendered with a chiseled edge instrument, not the mechanical pencil/pen that is shown. The lack of attention to detail is dissappointing.

Mini Printing Problems

mini printing

Fri Aug 31 17:48:23 2007

Ever since switching the printing system from LPD to CUPS, I've had two problems with the Mac Mini: 1) printing files containing images with transparent backgrounds both from Pages and from Safari/Mozilla— the backgrounds appear black— and 2) the printer features for the Xerox 255 Workcenter do not remain applied when they are modified (the printer has a hole-punch & LAN Fax, and no amount of selecting these two options and clicking Apply Changes makes them appear in the print dialog).

The transparent GIF/PNG problems appear on whichever printer I try— HP LaserJet 5Si (IPP through CUPS) or Xerox WorkCenter Pro 255 (direct connection).

I've decided to call Apple Care.

After being on hold for 15 minutes, I got hold of a support person who was sitting quite close to a woman who was trying to help someone with some problem with dissappearing folders ("are there other users on your computer?"). His first suggestion was resetting the printing system: run Applications > Utilities > Printer Setup Utility and select "Resetting the Printing System..." from the menu, which deletes some files in /etc/cups/. I tried printing again and it made no difference. He then recommended deleting a printer and re-adding it— when I tried to delete the printer (HP 5Si) I got an error: "An error occured while trying to delete the selected printers: client-error-not-found". He admitted he didn't know what that meant and that he was going to talk to someone.

I got put on hold and after 5 minutes the music was suddenly cutoff and the line went dead. Since it was nearly time for me to go home, I decided to leave it until the following week (I wasn't given a trouble-ticket so hopefully I will be able to carry on where I left off).

My current work-around for this problem is to use a Windows/XP workstation in the front-office (half a block away from my office) to print the final job.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 29 / Last Modified: Tue Sep 11 17:58:34 2007