Part 32 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

Moving to Leopard

software leopard

Thu Nov 01 15:09:48 2007

Now that Leopard is out, I have to ask myself whether I want to, need to, can or should install it both at home on my Powerbook (running Panther 10.3.9) and/or at work on the Mini (running Tiger 10.4.10).

At work my home-directory is NFS mounted from the central fileserver and I login via NIS authentication to my departmental account. All this was configured using Marcel Bresink's NFSManager that does all the dirty work configuring NetInfo. It has been my experience that NIS on Tiger is flakey at best— after a reboot I have to wait about 5 minutes before NIS authentication begins working (it worked properly with 10.4.8). Now with Leopard, Netinfo has been replaced with Directory Services which is accessible via dscl (Directory Services Command Line). This means that NFSManager is no longer of any use. But, since Leopard is Unix™ certified, does it mean that NFS and NIS can be configured manually, by editing the appropriate files in /etc ?

At home, Leopard should just work, however, I don't really feel compelled to install Leopard at all, as Panther does everything I need.

Update Thu Nov 01 20:46:50 2007: I should note that I'm still running iTunes4 at home and am only now considering upgrading to iTunes7 for the convenience of full iTunes backup capabilities.

David emailed me an answer to my /etc question in regards to Unix certification:

[POSIX] means that certain libraries and system calls are present (and work a certain way), and that various binaries accept certain option flags. /etc is OS specific and is not covered by POSIX.

Keeping Balance in the Universe


Fri Nov 02 14:02:41 2007

c.f. Domestic Car/ Mac Ownership Theory and Ownership of the Species.

A few days ago, at around 5PM, a woman stopped to pickup her order of Chinese food at a downtown Toronto restaurant. She parked in front of the restaurant, leaving her BMW X5 running, with the keys in the ignition. A few minutes later, she exited the restaurant with her dinner and noticed that her BMW was no longer there. She called the police on her cell phone and reported that her SUV had been stolen.

At a quarter to six, that very same BMW drove down a quiet residential street; the driver accidently hit the rear-view mirror on another parked vehicle, panicked and accelerated to about 120km/h and lost control of the SUV which then struck an old Ford Taurus parked on the street, causing it to fly onto someone's front lawn.

The BWM was observed to be driven by a well-dressed, white, middle-aged couple. One of the witnesses stayed behind to talk to the police while the other witness got into their car and attempted to follow the stolen BWM (but lost track of it). It was eventually found abandoned at Yonge and Wellesely; the owner's purse was still in the front seat, with its contents untouched.

The Ford Taurus, however was a complete write-off. The owner of the Taurus is a faculty member in this department who was planning to buy a Mac. The following day, he walked into the AppleStore in the Eaton Centre and bought a 15 inch Macbook Pro.

He is considering getting a Hyundai to replace the Ford. My boss is quite livid about this entire episode to the point that he asked the faculty member to not mention to me, that it had taken place. He believes that I hired the couple to destroy the Ford (which, was the only domestic car parked on that street).

I am not making this up.

Sat Nov 03 00:27:03 2007: The faculty member's biggest complaint about his Mac is that it doesn't have Java 6. So he's forced to do his Java development on his old Compaq running XP. Way to go Apple.

Vax Barcelona

hardware laptop bags

Fri Nov 02 18:30:45 2007

Rather unique looking laptop bags from Vax Barcelona (Flash).

Letter from Edinburgh

hardware "ipod touch"

Sun Nov 04 07:26:45 2007

Perhaps, yes, it was the crazy insanity of that night in New York when we first met that made me forget there were such practical issues to consider.

In typical understated humour, Andrew Law writes a letter to his beloved.

Leopard NFS

software "directory untility"

Sun Nov 04 07:33:32 2007

It seems that my earlier concerns about NFS on Tiger have been addressed in Leopard. Colin Gordon discovers, "... a “Show Advanced” button in the Directory Utility. And what appeared? A tab for network mounts! All I did was add a quick entry of the form you’d expect, start NFS on my Solaris machine, and voila! Immediate access to my backups over NFS."

Now all that remains is NIS support.

Considering Carnegie


Mon Nov 05 21:20:38 2007

I was debating whether to purchase the just-released paperback edition of David Nasaw's massive biography of Andrew Carnegie (Indigo Books ($15.84) has it cheaper than ($17.52); see below, however) when I Googled across two book reviews (I don't remember the NY Times review but from the snippets I've read, it was reviewed as being overly lengthy, though comprehensive and complete)— one by Jackson Lears for The New Republic Online; the other by Christopher Hitchens for The Atlantic Monthly.

The Lears review begins by talking about Marx ... then I started skimming and ultimately lost interest. Hitchens works Star Trek into the first paragraph and wins handily; he writes quite beautifully, even for an atheist. (Aside: From what I can recall, the NY Times review of his book, God is not Great, was quite dissappointing as the reviewer filled it with complaints about Hitchens as a person, rather than review the book itself. I was surprised that no one wrote a letter to the editors.)

Update Tue Nov 06 13:01:10 2007: I popped into the Indgo Books store in the Eaton Centre this morning and was quite surprised to find that the book cost $24.00! I even double-checked the price on the store terminals which showed the in-store prices and irewards discounts; it seems that the price on the website ($15.84) is for online purchases— pretty sneaky. I did however pickup a copy of How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, since gives a ship-time of 1-4 months and I wanted this book by Christmas.

Screensaver: Anemona


Tue Nov 06 18:55:28 2007

I am trying out a new screensaver called Anémona written by Oriol Ferrer Mesia; 10.4 or later is required. The only option I changed from the default was to reduce the particles (check-box "Less Particles").

My previous screensaver was Ignis Fatui which has been in use for 5 months.

Quake Wars PC Demo Comments

software game quakewars

Wed Nov 07 18:18:18 2007

Last week, I had an opportunity to play the Quake Wars PC Demo for about 4 hours. To say it's an amazing game would be an understatement. The MegaTexture terrain is amazingly detailed and a joy to behold visually (even at 1024x768, the upper limit of the stupid KVM that was in use). The ability to ride vehicles and aircraft was quite a thrill (never having played Half-Life 2). Equipment blows spectacularily up into many parts. The demo guarantees at least a year of gameplay. The only competition Quake Wars has, is Call of Duty 4.

The learning curve to playing the networked game skillfully is very steep. There is much strategy involved for the attacking forces (human); the Strogg (aliens) have an easier time defending. Before playing the game online and embarrassing yourself, I would recommend reading the strategy guides on the QW community site, then playing locally against the skillfull bots and only then going online to first spectate the games and finally joining in.

The Mac version, which is scheduled to be released in December, is currently in alpha. Regretfully, the game requires a 128MB standalone video card (because of MegaTextures) and will be Intel only, so I can't play it on my Powerbook at home, nor my Mini at work. (I still fondly recall the 25 on 25 marathon sessions of Marketgarden on the server in Florida which was id Software's testing ground for a large-volume game RtCW server).

Update Thu Nov 08 12:08:13 2007: David says it was 32 on 32. I also found a strategy guide by BradyGames and a free sample chapter for Island Assault.

Widget: Sunclock

software widget sunclock

Thu Nov 08 13:59:32 2007

A really nice Sunclock widget, based on code from the Konfabulator widget, which shows the terminator line on a Mercator projection.


fashion scarfs

Thu Nov 08 14:04:32 2007

Cold and windy weather brings forth the scarfs and yesterday I wore mine— a six-foot long grey scarf from the Gap and made in Italy. During especially windy weather, the scarf tends to unwrap itself and the ends keep flying-off in all directions and smacking into passerbys. I googled for instructions on tying scarfs and came across a Doctor Who Scarf fan site.

I am still experimenting with different techiques of tying my scarf. I used the Doctor Who knot today, but since it wasn't as windy as yesterday, it wasn't a true test.

iPhone Cost in Canada

Thu Nov 08 16:05:42 2007

Last Tuesday's Globe and Mail had a great article on the cost on using the iPhone with Roger's current phone plan for data compared with AT&T's iPhone plan in the U.S. and O2's plan in the UK. I particularily enjoyed reading the footnote to the article, "Rogers data prices based on fees for Window mobile plans. Data rates for other Rogers' cellphones are $10 for the first 10,240 kilobytes and then 3 cents for each additional kilobyte. So 200 megabytes (MB), equal to 204,800 kilobytes, could cost $5,837."

There are three possibilities for the iPhone's release in Canada: an iPhone with no data capabilities in Canada (which makes it a iPod Touch with a telephone); very expensive data costs (which would limit sales significantly since free Wifi hotspots are non-existent) or a new data plan for Rogers which would be limited to iPhone users only, making the iPhone an attractive option for other phone users to switch to.

Fri Nov 09 22:22:06 2007: David sent a couple of links that provide more details on the iPhone in Canada— which looks like a Third World country when it comes to data rates for cellular communications.

"The Ignition is on the Left"

ad porsche

Fri Nov 09 08:40:37 2007

I don't typically read the ads that appear in the Globe and Mail but on Wednesday, the title of a Porsche ad appearing on the bottom-left of a page caught my eye, "The Ignition is on the Left". Above these words is a small black and white photograph showing a goggled and helmeted racer wearing a short-sleeved white shirt, white pants, black leather gloves and a cravat, leaping feet-first into a two-seater. The rest of the ad is all text, also typeset in Helvetica (have to double-check).

On the facing page, in the bottom right was a colour ad for a Porsche SUV (which is mocked by Porsche enthusiasts who ask, "Why would you drive a slow Porsche?").

Browser/OS Site Statistics


Sun Nov 11 22:43:02 2007

Looking over the web stats for my journal, I see that most of the visitors are running Windows (this is quite a surprise).

Browser/OSReaders (%)

*However, consider that 90% of the traffic (new visitors) is Google (image) searches (so we can eliminate the Windows browsers, though it's a surprise that Firefox beats IE in the standings).

Firefox/Windows at No. 3 means that 10% of traffic (returning visitors) is from "switchers" who either use, or have used another OS before switching to the Mac. Most return visitors are from Europe and Canada.


software android sdk java

Tue Nov 13 12:38:20 2007

The week before the Android SDK was released, the Sunday NY Times business section ran a detailed profile of Andy Rubin head of the Android project at Google (summary: he loves automation and robotic gadgets; Danger Sidekick was his invention). Note also the Dell/Google ad at the bottom.

On November 12, Google released the Java-based* Android SDK for Windows, Mac (Intel) and Linux and unveiled the first prototypes. There are also Eclipse plugins to help with project management. Steve Horowitz demonstrates a prototype 3G phone (Quake looks pretty cool); the Youtube video is introduced by Sergey Brin sporting a really a wicked haircut.

* Except it isn't really; it's Java syntax code that is compiled to run on the Dalvik VM.

Ordered my OLPC Laptop

hardware xo olpc laptop

Tue Nov 13 14:59:57 2007

Also, we have been safety approved for lap use—XO is the first "laptop" approved for usage on one's lap in many years. (The reason that most laptops are now called "notebook computers" is that they run too hot for safe lap use.)
OLPC News, 2007-11-10

On Monday, I ordered my OLPC laptop. I've created another journal to document it. People still have another 2 weeks to order it. They are expected to arrive mid-to-late December or early January. Delivery by Christmas is not certain.

The laptops have an elaborate security system that can be used to remotely disable the laptops if they are reported stolen. The Gold release of the OS is still being worked on.

According to the stats, 640 people watched this Google Video explaining the OLPC mission, yesterday. There is a lot of speculation as to how many have been sold so far; I guess no more than 1000— a wild guess based on the number of people on #olpc.

Udate Tue Nov 13 23:20:04 2007: There was supposed to be a confirmation email, but I haven't received one. The mail logs show nothing, other than the 2 announcement emails I have already received. Comparing this with Amazon's ordering system, the OLPC ordering process is quite amateurish. They should have hired Amazon to handle the logistics of ordering and delivery (when I mentioned this on #olpc, I received a cryptic, "Maybe we tried." response; a company called Brightstar is handling it for OLPC.)

Vimeo: HD Video

hardware hd video

Tue Nov 13 18:11:37 2007

I didn't realize the amazing quality of video that was possible with state-of-the-art cameras and lenses until today, thanks to Vimeo, a YouTube for HD footage. The video titled, "My Backyard This Morning" on page 6 is breath-taking in fullscreen.

Big Bang Theory

"big bang theory" tv nerds mac

Wed Nov 14 12:20:00 2007

Big Bang Theory is a TV comedy show about stereotypical nerds. There are 2 main characters (both nerds) and 3 supporting characters (2 other nerds and the girl next door, who is a waitress). I have watched 3 episodes and they range from "mildly amusing" to "hilarious". This week's episode featured a Macbook Pro as a supporting character.

The theme song is by the Barenaked Ladies.

DTrace Intro

software dtrace

Wed Nov 14 17:02:07 2007

I watched the DTrace Review Google Video by Bryan Cantrill today. DTrace, a dynamic tracing facility for both user and system processes and the operating system itself, is available on Solaris 10, FreeBSD and MacOSX Leopard. My notes are below (NB: you need root to run dtrace):

Show dtrace usage:
# dtrace

List all instrumented probes available (>50,000 lines):
# dtrace -l |less

Trace all system calls (syscall) being made:
# dtrace -n syscall:::entry

More useful, trace all system calls and show the name of the executable that made the call:
# dtrace -n syscall:::entry'{trace(execname)}'

Keep an aggregate count (@) of all system calls being made; the total count is displayed when ^C is pressed:
# dtrace -n syscall:::entry'{@[execname] = count()}

Probe the system calls of a specific program; e.g. imap and get an aggregate count:
# dtrace -n syscall:::entry'/execname == "imap"/ {@[probefunc] = count()}

If you only want to aggregate on the read() system call, change 'syscall:::entry' to 'syscall::read:entry'
# dtrace -n syscall::read:entry'/execname == "imap"/ {@[probefunc] = count()}

A more detailed how-to is also available from Sun.

Updates: Panther, Tiger, Leopard

software updates

Fri Nov 16 22:37:23 2007

Apple released a security update (2007-008) for Panther; Tiger updated to 10.4.11 and Leopard to 10.5.1, in addition to updates for many Apple professional apps, Adobe apps and iPhone/iTouch firmware. The significant Panther security fix is for the Flash player key-logging vulnerability.

The Panther update is going to kill my glorious uptime. The Tiger update for the Mini at work will be installed just before I shutit down for the the Christmas (aka. Mid-Year) break.

A Day at the Races

smart phones

Fri Nov 16 23:15:44 2007

By releasing the iPhone, Apple elevated a SmartPhone— a mobile phone that does more than make telephone calls, and has features like a touch-screen, a keyboard, a web browser, wifi internet access, GPS mapping, etc.— from a mere geek toy to a chick magnet; something having mass appeal to the regular, non-technical consumer.

With the Google's announcement of Android, an open mobile phone platform which future SmartPhones will run, the race for market share is completely redefined. The new race is between Android and Apple. Currently, the market is fractured because of the various technologies used around the world and various operating systems used by different companies for their phones.

The iPhone handset exists today, but a SDK allowing third-party developers to develop software for it will be announced at the next WWDC. On the other hand, the Android SDK exists but the handsets are expected to appear in mid-2008. The question is, how many participants will join the race. The answer is difficult to see because it's a foggy day and the finish line is not clearly discernable. And in this race, only first place matters because the gold medal winner gets to do the commercials for Cheerios and Depends.

Macworld has an interview with the CEO of ARM. There are some statements worth quoting:

Symbian’s first operating system running on ARM was launched back in 1996 or 1997, and here we are 10 years later and Symbian has a majority share of the smartphone market.

The iPhone is based on ARM11... a microprocessor we first delivered to semiconductor licensees in 2002, so it’s actually quite elderly technology...

I think it’s inevitable if the iPhone continues to be as successful as it appears to have been on launch, there will be iPhone II, III, whatever. And hopefully, if we do our job right, then they will be based on future ARM products.

That a device using 2002 hardware (though running a modern OS) made the front page of many newspapers, is an indication that the average consumer lacks the awareness of the state of the art in mobile telephony.

Flash Drives

hardware "flash drives"

Sat Nov 17 08:50:22 2007

Robin Harris replaced the stock hard drive in his Macbook with a flash drive (solid state) and performed some tests to see how much more battery time he would get. He concludes that the extra 30 minutes is not worth the cost of replacing a HD with a flash drive (and the biggest flash drive to date is 64GB).

In comparison, the OLPC (with a very low-power CPU and agressive power management using a special ASIC along with a hardware framebuffer that freezes the display to a static image when the laptop sleeps) has a flash drive because of the rugged operational requirements. As mentioned in the Google video, it uses the JFFS2 filesystem which has built-in wear-levelling protection required because of the limited (1M) number of writes that flash RAM is able to undergo.

Screensaver: Filigree

software screensaver filigree

Sat Nov 17 23:28:02 2007

Another screensaver to try: filigree. This is not to say that I'm tired of Anemone. It's just that Filigree has a few more options to tweak. Requires 10.4 or later.


hardware ebook amazon kindle

Mon Nov 19 12:51:53 2007

Today, Amazon released a 5 inch x 8 inch ebook reader called Kindle. It has a 6 inch (diagonal) 600x800 E-Ink display with a 167 dpi 4-level grayscale screen. It has 256 MB of RAM (180 of which is available to the user) which can be expanded via a SD card. It has USB 2.0 connector (for transfering Audible audiobooks and MP3 files) and a EVDO/CDMA wireless modem for purchasing and downloading purchased books (NY Times bestsellers cost $9.99), magazines (Time, Fortune, The Atlantic (but not The New Yorker) for $1.99; free 14-day trial) and newspapers (NY Times ($13.99/mth), Washington Post, WSJ (both $9.99)) and popular blogs, from The device costs $USD399. There are no additional subscription costs. It has a built-in dictionary for looking-up words and can access the Wikipedia.

The Kindle User's Guide has more information:

When Kindle is connected to your computer, you will see three directories or folders. The one called "documents" contains all of your digital reading materials like books, newspapers, your "My Clippings" file, etc. The "Audible" directory is for your audiobooks, and "music" is for your MP3 files. You can add Kindle compatible files to these directories, and you can copy, move, or delete the files that are already there. The computer file formats that you can read or listen to on your Kindle are listed below:

  • Kindle (.AZW)
  • Text (.TXT)
  • Unprotected Mobipocket (.MOBI, .PRC)
  • Audible (.AA)
  • MP3 (.MP3)

Other types of files (DOC, HTML, images) have to be emailed to Amazon for conversion (for a fee); the files are then wirelessly downloaded to the Kindle. Feh! Looks like there are a few OS X utilities (MakeDocDD, PorDiBle) to convert text files into formatted PDB files (same as PRC files?).

People can self-publish their ebooks; that sounds promising.

RMS Rebuttal

history lisp

Mon Nov 19 18:53:57 2007

Dan Weinreb posted a view disputing RMS' memory of the reasons that motivated the creation of FSF and the open software movement. Many Big Names posted comments to the blog.

Apropos David Chapman's comment, "I wish that RMS had built a stand-alone LISP into gnu early on," I would like to know why the GNU (after all, GNU's Not UNIX) project was "based" on UNIX rather than LISP.


ikea fossa

Tue Nov 20 13:22:58 2007

I was browsing Ikea's website last night and came across this battery-powered pepper mill, code-named Fossa.

This is only funny if you understand Portuguese.

Geoff Arnold: Kindle First Impressions

amazon kindle

Thu Nov 22 22:05:29 2007

Geoff Arnold (who works for Amazon) bought a Kindle and gives his first impressions (summary: he likes it).

I have to say I was rather surprised by many of the negative comments people made about the Kindle on various blogs— people would not have looked stupid if they'd only downloaded the User Guide and read through it. And some people even predicted the demise of the Kindle without even using it.

Update Fri Nov 23 17:14:06 2007: a design criticism of the Kindle.

Last Exit to Nowhere

tshirts cinema merchandise

Fri Nov 23 17:14:47 2007

Some t-shirts of entities that exist only in cinematic imagination— The Overlook Hotel, Weyland Yutani Corp., Cyberdyne Corp., the city of Amityville etc.

The only t-shirt that doesn't appeal to me is the one from Tyrell Corp; the HAL9000 t-shirt is borderline.

Periodic Table of Elements Shower Curtain

merchandise "shower curtain" chemistry

Fri Nov 23 18:46:26 2007

The premiere episode of the TV show, Big Bang Theory, had a scene where the next-door neighbour needs to shower in the nerd's apartment. When she needs help operating the shower, we are shown the bathroom and a shower curtain printed with the Periodic Table of Elements features prominently.

This is an actual product that is available at ThinkGeek and at for USD$30.

MSG Mail

humour design

Sat Nov 24 21:44:29 2007

Furthermore, we will change the browser URL from to the more professional looking

What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft? posits a parallel universe where Google is owned by Microsoft and the resulting design decisions.

"What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Apple" would have been more interesting and useful.

World Wide Parrot

rms parrot mit

Sun Nov 25 22:58:08 2007

Reading through rms' blog, I came across an entry about a project at the MIT Media lab involving the design of web browsers for parrots.

She and some friends are still working on their computer interface for parrots... However, she said that the system is not reliable enough to leave a parrot alone with it. This is because they developed it on Microsoft Windows, and parrots don't know how to reboot when they get the Blue Screen of Death. I promised to find people who would help them switch to GNU/Linux.

Applestore: Free Shipping, Engraving and Gift-wrap-- Today Only!


Mon Nov 26 12:25:45 2007

Today only, if you order from the Applestore online, you get free shipping (over CAD$75, like always) free laser engraving (like always) and free Apple signature gift-wrapping with a greeting card.

Eco Location

technology phone "umberto eco"

Wed Nov 28 21:15:05 2007

David sent me a link to a paper by Donald Norman about minimizing (why not eliminating?) the dangers and annoyances of mobile phones. One interesting note that is made in the paper is about people talking loudly into their phones— it is human nature to automatically raise our voices when we perceive that the person we are talking to, will not be able to hear us because of distance and we tend to modulate the level based on the feedback we get from them. He notes:

In the early days of the telephone, the problem of speaking level was widely noted and discussed. The technological innovation was clever: a small amount of a person's voice was fed back to the earpiece, and people then naturally adjusted the loudness of their spoken voice to produce a comfortable level of feedback in the earpiece... With the modern mobile telephone, there is no feedback of one's own voice in the receiver.

On the train home tonight, I just finished reading the NY Times Book Review from two Sundays ago and by a strange coincidence the brief review of Umberto Eco's new collection of essays, chose to quote his essay on cell phones...

Eco Takes Umbrage: Umberto Eco's new book, “Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism,” a collection of essays that first appeared in Italian newspapers... "The imbecile who sits beside us on the train doing financial deals at the top of his voice," he writes, "is in reality strutting around like a peacock with a crown of feathers and a multicolored ring around his penis." (Multicolored ring around his penis? Those Italian newspaper columinists can be pretty vivid.) "They want everyone to know they are decision makers in a refrigerator manufacturing company, that they buy and sell on the stock exchange, that they organize conferences or that their partner has left them. They have paid for a cellphone and the hefty bills that come with it, to flaunt their private lives in the presence of all."

Eco is one of my favourite authors (both of fiction and non-fiction) and I remember, in the days when I had hopes of dating beautiful women, that one of the selection criteria included her love of Eco's writings. I once knew a beautiful girl whose fondest wish was to have dinner and conversation with Eco.

Intel Developer Tools for Leopard


Thu Nov 29 07:06:59 2007

Intel is shipping new compilers for Xcode:

Intel announced on Wednesday that the Intel Software Development Products for Mac OS X includes Version 10.1 of its C++ Compiler and Fortran Compiler. The tools have been optimized for Apple's Leopard and Xcode 3.0 development environment... Intel's compilers have autoparallelizing capabilities and libraries for Mac OS X.

"This is a significant step in that it brings full Intel support to the Mac operating environment," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting. "It will help application developers modernize their applications with multithreading so their applications can take better advantage of current and future multicore Intel processors. This is very important, as applications that can't use multicore processors won't be able to provide better performance in the future."
luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 32 / Last Modified: Sun Dec 09 17:26:29 2007