Of KVMs and Synergy...

Okay, so a few months back I discovered Synergy, and filed it under "neat stuff worth a quick look." Now I've cast off the shackles of my KVM, cleared off my desk, and set up a second monitor. I can now seemlessly switch back and forth between Mac and PC as easily as you can switch between two screens connected to a single computer.

Here's how it works: you hook up computer A (the server) to keyboard, mouse, monitor, and network. You install Synergy, and start the server. You hook up computer B (a client) to monitor and network, install synergy, and start the client. Now, move the mouse connected to computer A past the edge of the screen, and it appears on computer B's screen - and now that the mouse is there, the keyboard is directed to computer B as well. And because it's just a KM (keyboard and mouse) solution, unlike VNC which has video, the connection is extremely snappy - so much so that it's unnoticeable to me.

Synergy is free, open-source, and works on Windows, MacOS X, and Unix/Linux. If you frequently use two (or more) computers, have the desk space for multiple monitors, and would like so save yourself some serious trouble, you should give Synergy a try.


Ergonomics FTW

I went out yesterday and picked up a couple of things, and I'd just like to say, ergonomics FTW.

First off, I'm typing this out on my nice new Logitech Wave corded USB keyboard. The keyboard is also available as a wireless desktop combo with an LX7 laser mouse; the keyboards are identical save for the wirelessness.

The keyboard shows off Logitech's typical quality and attention to detail; I've always loved Logitech's products. The drivers are good, but not great, and the UI they use is dated. However, the keyboard itself is lovely; it features an ergonomic design that works quite well for me; I've never been able to tolerate the split keyboards that have been the only ergo-option for some time. The keys are all the same size, and, as the name suggests, there is a gentle rolling curve to the keyboard that feels very comfortable under the fingers. It includes a built-in wrist wrest (not removable - not a problem for me, but it may be for those with less desk space), and has 4 and 8 degree angle stands. It has the usual menagerie of multimedia and function buttons, as well as a suite of fn buttons laid over the F-keys - luckily, unlike most keyboards with this feature, they are normal F-keys by default and only use the special action if you hold down the fn button.

The caps/scroll/num lock lights are strangely placed below the numpad; it's not really a problem, just unusual. The keyboard also features the same navigation key layout with the large delete key and no insert key that I enjoyed so much on the Microsoft Comfort Curve that this board replaced.

One downside to the board is it's just not very comfortable for WASD FPS gaming; something about the arrangment of the W key just makes it difficult. Luckily I had an old Fang sitting in my "spare peripherals" bin, so I hooked that up and it works quite well. It is something to keep in mind if you're considering this board, however.

Onto my new pointing device, another Logitech product, the Wireless TrackMan Optical. I'm not sure exactly why it's wireless - wires only ever bother me on mice, not on trackballs - but it's not much of a downside; I would have preferred a wired version to save me the trouble of dealing with batteries, but alas. Also, unlike their wireless mice, the trackball uses standard AA batteries rather than utilizing a charging dock.

The trackball is a small finger-operated (as opposed to thumb-operated) trackball, featuring left and right click (left click is the silver sliver in the thumb rest, NOT the giant silver pad on top), clickable scroll wheel, cruise up/down, drag lock, and back/forward buttons. The buttons are all fairly comfortably placed for me, but would probably be more comfortable for someone without my huge mitts. See notes above regarding the drivers; it's a different tab in the same program.

All in all I like the trackball; I've used trackballs before extensively, and I keep going back and forth; I prefer trackballs for their ergonomics, but I prefer mice for their precision. However, as I haven't been doing much FPS gaming or graphic design of late, I'm going for ergonomics over precision. (However, I'll be keeping my trusty MX1000 handy for the occasional bout of Team Fortress 2.)

Last, but absolutely, positively not least, I picked up a Eurotech Ergohuman EH-HAM/ME7ERG, a super-ergonomic mesh executive chair, at Office Depot. I won't talk about my experience at Office Depot. It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad enough to rail them for it. The chair, however, is a work of art.

Not to say it's beautiful; I like the look alright but it might not be for everyone. The comfort, however.... oh, my goodness. Okay. Adjustables: seat position forward/back, seat height up/down, arm wrest height up/down, arm wrest angle left/right, back height, headrest height, headrest angle, back angle, back tension. All of it has a wide enough adjustment range to suit me, and I'm 6'6". Well, okay, to be fair, I'd like it if the back came up just one more inch. But, it's better than any other chair I've sat in by far regardless.

The back of the chair is three parts: the main back of the chair, which is just like any office chair back, is in the middle. Above it is the headrest, really a neckrest, and below it is the lumbar support. The lumbar support is on a hinge-and-spring mechanism so that when you're leaning forward it still provides support, and when you lean back, it folds back enough to keep you properly supported without jabbing you in the spine.

My only real concern about the chair is the attractiveness of the mesh to cat claws; we'll see how it goes. I got a 3 year warranty that covers the upholstery just in case.

On an unrelated note, I also picked up the Logitech Precision Gaming Headset, and as it wasn't available in USB form near me, I also picked up the SIIG USB SoundWave Pro 7.1. More on those as time permits... for now, I'm going to get out of this insanely comfy chair and go to be.


Portal is more fun than it should be.

In this game, you'll have to learn how to shoot a portal at the wall and a portal at the floor, so that you can fall down and fire yourself sideways. It makes more sense when you're doing it.


The Haps

Yeah, yeah, no postey lately. I've been viciously addicted to EVE Online (my char is Tremor Loktar, holla). I haven't posted in two months. Two months... lesse:
  • The Java servlets spec needs to freaking add core support for multipart form encoding and file uploads. Seriously. Like, yesterday.
  • I'm impatiently awaiting the new EO expansion - not because I'm starved for new content, but because they're totally revamping the graphics engine and the shots they've released are purrty.
  • I'm also impatiently awaiting the release of Battalion Wars II for Wii on the 29th.
  • Metroid Prime 3 Corruption is pretty farkin good.... but I still liked Godfather better.
  • I hope the EVEMon team release their ship fitter soon. If I knew .NET, I'd help.
  • Amazon's new MP3 download service is teh winnar. Music is cheaper by the song and by the album, it's un-DRMed, higher-quality, and downloads faster. The only disadvantage is catalog size, and I doubt if that will be a disadvantage for long, what with Amazon being the masters of the monster catalog.


I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The $200 Billion Rip-Off | PBS

I've talked about this before, but this is a brilliant explanation of how we got where we are today, and just how much it has cost consumers to get there. A definite must-read for anyone who cares.

read more | digg story


On the "Digital Civil Rights" Movement

The Yearly Kos Conference is holding a panel on net neutrality and other issues which are more and more often being grouped under a new banner of "Digital Civil Rights". I agree with many of the points being raised, but calling this a civil rights issue, I think, is misleading, in that they are trying to evoke ideas of the civil rights movement of the 1960's. This has little to do with equality in treatment, and everything to do with an aging government failing to come to grips with the new, digital age.

They even tried to make it about racial equality, noting statistics that minorities frequently use the internet on mobile phones rather than on computers. This isn't about racial equality. It's about giving the lower classes fair access to our new, digital world. And while it's still true that minorities are disproportionately in the lower classes, that's a completely unrelated issue - and, in my mind, a much more important one, and one we've been battling for decades.

But I'm not here to talk about racial or sexual equality. I'm here to talk about the failure of our government to keep up with the fast-paced advancement of technology in the digital age. This nation invented the modern computer, and the internet, yet while we trip, stumble, and fall, other developed nations have taken this new technology and hit the ground running. The US is ranked 14th among nations in broadband penetration. Broadband here is more expensive than almost any other developed nation, it's slower than in other developed nations, and it's available to less of the population. Not coincidentally, the US is also the only developed nation without a national broadband deployment policy.

We have in this country the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) going on a vast crusade against their own customers, bringing countless illegitimate and frivolous lawsuits to bear against hundreds of people nationwide, demanding obscene compensation for infractions that, quite often, never occurred. Unfortunately, the RIAA has enough political power to keep their witch-hunt going on unchecked.

We have in this country a deeply-entrenched broadband duopoly, again with enough political weight to keep themselves in power into the foreseeable future. They have little to no incentive to reduce prices, increase speeds, or widen deployment into rural and low-income areas. Monopolies and duopolies are a free-market failure that hurt the consumer in countless ways, limiting innovation and elevating prices. And, should they decide to start bringing to bear their threats of bandwidth shaping for the highest bidder, there will be no free and neutral alternative for internet access.

Don't think it's an issue? Look at Japan: 50Mbps DSL is available for $35 per month, 100Mbps fiber is available for $50, and 1 Gbps service over power lines is available for $90. I'm currently paying $43 for a paltry 6 Mbps, and I'm lucky to even have such "high" speeds available in my area; the majority of DSL customers in America are limited to 1.5 or 3 Mbps service, if DSL service is available at all.

So why are things in such a sad state in the country that originated the digital revolution? It's very, very simple: wretched companies with no concern for the consumer have far too much power, and the people have far too little. Is there a simple solution? Of course not. The unchecked political power of big corporations is a staple of American politics, and I don't see it changing any time soon. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are on the take from Big Business, leaving voters to choose the lesser of two evils.


The State of the Wii

I picked up Mario Strikers Charged on Wednesday. I haven't had enough time with it to really put in a solid review, but I will say that online multiplayer is really solid, and it's about damn time. More than anything, playing Strikers makes me yearn even more for Battalion Wars II, set to release in the US on October 29th, and it can't come soon enough. BW on the GameCube was a blast, and is a clear target for a dose of Wii controls.

I was beginning to feel a little down about the Wii, as the first half of this year was sparse on new titles, even more so for good ones. Godfather is top-notch, and that was about it. I was beginning to worry about the platform's viability with such a lack of good games coming out, then I saw what the second half of this year looks like, and, well... it looks amazing. See for yourself.


Ultimate OS Wishlist

You'll find below my ultimate OS feature wishlist. This is from years of use of Windows and Mac OS, as well as some Linux use. Now, I know, some of these may be covered by one or more of the countless Linux distros out there, however, Linux isn't ready for my desktop (whether it's ready for the desktop is a matter for people smarter than I).

The ultimate operating system would feature:
• A completely vector-based UI with full transparency, allowing users to select not only a monitor resolution, but also a display DPI, so that large, high-density displays could be used to display the same size features at higher quality.
• An auto-update system that's open to all developers to use. Currently, modern OS's (Mac OS and Windows) supply a system auto-update feature that cannot be used by installed applications, forcing application developers to write their own, separate auto-update libraries.
• A bug/crash reporting system that's open to all developers to use. We sort of have this now, but it could get a whole lot better.
• A complete skinning/theming system that can be used to apply complete OS-wide interface makeovers, as well as skinning specific applications. Currently, operating systems typically require a seperate piece of software to skin the OS, and many individual applications provide a means to skin that application.
• Filesystem-level local revision control, and integrated access to remote revision control repositories. Revision control isn't just for programmers any more.
• A tightly-integrated, professional-quality Personal Information Manager (PIM), integrated into the system's clipboard and drag-and-drop functionality. Apple almost has the right idea here, except that the PIM applications themselves are dreck. It should be simple to use my computer, without any 3rd-party software, to store contacts, set reminders and appointments, create a to-do list, and so forth.
• Multiple clipboards and clipboard history.
• Solid remote command-line and remote desktop capabilities. Only *nix really has this nailed down. I want to be able to throw away my KVM in favor of my LAN.
• System self-optimization based on usage statistics. C'mon, guys, this can't be that hard. I shouldn't have to do much, if any, of my own optimization; operating systems should be smart enough to monitor how I use my PC and adjust system settings accordingly.
• Window-manager-level support for tabbed interfaces. It should be up to the user, not the developers, what windows and applications can be run in tabs rather than a slew of individual windows.
• A decent application launcher. Seriously, this is the core functionality of all operating systems - running applications. But still, with every OS I've ever used, I've had to install a 3rd-party application launcher to really get the most out of my system. I should have a customizable solution that completely eliminates the need for programs like QuickSilver, Colibri, Katapult, DragThing, and so on.
• Easy management of startup items. For crying out loud, this is still a pain in the ass on both Windows and Mac OS. Why?!?
• A cappuccino maker.

So, what's your OS wishlist? Post in the comments!



Wow. I just found this (quite old) post from my apathosist days... although I consider myself to be an Atheist now, most of it still rings true, so I'm reposting it here.

Okay, time to cover religion. You've got your ideological religions - agnosticism, atheism, and apathosism. Atheists believe there is no god. Agnostics don't know if there is a god or not. And Apathosists don't care if there is or not, they'll find out when they get there. If you haven't guessed, I fall into the last category.

Then you've basically got three other types of religions - anglican, based around the Old Testament, the New Testament, or some Testament or another involving lots of guys with shabby clothing, unkempt beards, and a bit of an overzealous love for wine; and eastern, based around spending lots of time doing menial tasks or sitting very, very quietly for long periods of time to reach a state of personal enlightenment; and the Old Religions, which were mostly about farming, eating, killing, and procreating (and what else would you need in life?)

And then, of course, there are the Unitarian Universalists, who believe in stuff, and who evangelise door-to-door in comfortable shoes saying "Hello, I'm with the Unitarian Universalist Church, and I was hoping you could take a moment to hear the joys of, well, whatever you believe in, being, ah, really really good, and all." If you've ever been to a Unitarian church, you'll notice a lot of Birkenstocks and Ugg boots and other brand-name hippie footwear. In fact, as a kid, for a brief while, I went to a Unitarian youth program at Our Lady of Sensible Shoes - fantastic lot, lots of candles, cork sandals, sex ed is done every year 5th grade through high school at an anual sleepover weekend at the church (good planning...) Makes for an interesting childhood, lemme tell ya.

And Unitarian ministers are great - they all sound like announcers from NPR, or maybe subliminal tape voiceover actors from Canada. Very polite, always soothing tones, lots of talk about how pretty the trees and the sky and the flowers are. Very politically correct church, they try to keep it non-denominational - no, not easy in a church, but if it's not a challenge, it's probably not worth doing, right? Or maybe it's just not worth doing right? I always get those confused...

So anyway, and then there was the Unitarian Inquisition - "Excuse me? Ah, excuse me?" "Yes?" "Well, I was just wondering... what do you believe?" "What do you mean?" "You know, the whole god, devil, afterlife thing - what's your stance?" "Well, I'm a Pagan, as a matter of fact." "Ahhh, yes, very good. Good for you, that. Hope you're enjoying it." "Well, the orgies are nice..." "Ah, yes... Ahh.... Have some tea?" "Well, aren't you supposed to be putting me on the rack now?" "What? Oh, goodness no... that'd be terrible... we might light some candles later..." "Candles?" "Yes, candles, love the things, can't get enough of 'em. May I ask another question? Do you have a comfortable pair of shoes?"

So, yes. That's the UU Church. I also did the Old Gnostic Mass for a while, that's pretty interesting, a dozen drunken Jews in Southern California putting on a Shakesperian play set in Pagan Rome with nude women and oh, what the hell, we'll use whiskey for sacrement, can't find the wine, whiskey's better anyway, I always feel closer to God after I've had a few. "There is nothing in me that is not of the Gods." Unless you're Michael Jackson, in which case most of what's in you is synthetic anyway.

I've done pagan circles too - again with the whiskey. I find that the alternative religions tend to very quickly decide that hard liquor is much more religious than wine. And if those stale crackers are the body of Christ, I really have to worry about the guy. I understand people are supposed to taste like pork, not cardboard. He might want to have a quick chat with God about that one. "Excuse me, dad?" "Yes?" "Well, I was wondering.... why do I taste like crap?" "Ahh, well... Huh... Hadn't really thought of that... Ahhh... well, you see, it's... it's, ahh.... it's all Adam's fault, that bastard! He - he made me do it!Yes, that's it..."

So, yeah. That's religion in a nutshell for ya. If you're still having trouble choosing one, go with Apathosism, it's easier, and it lets you have a lot more fun.


On the iPhone

I don't care.

I would, however, take an iPod with the same interface, at half the price and ten times the capacity. C'mon, Apple, you can do it.


Public Airwaves for the Public Good

I just learned about a really important issue, and signed a petition about it. The federal government is on the verge of turning over a huge portion of our public airwaves to companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast--who will use them for private enrichment instead of the public good.

These newly available airwaves are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionize Internet access -- beaming high-speed signals to every park bench, coffee shop, workplace, and home in America. Phone and cable companies don't want this competition to their Internet service--they'd rather purchase the airwaves at auction and sit on them.

You can sign the petition I signed here - urging the government to make sure the public airwaves are used for the public good:




O, M Fing G. I want one. Yes, I'm a technophile, but few products arouse my tech-interest quite like this one has. It has to be seen to be understood - so just go check it out for yourself. The Optimus Maximus keyboard, by Art. Lebedev.


The Joys of Hibernate

I just spent the last few days troubleshooting a HibernateException with the error message Illegal attempt to associate a collection with two open sessions. After much Googling, I had tried every solution I could find, and none of them worked - so hopefully this solution will make it into the next person's search.

In my case, the issue was that I was taking a persistent object, storing it in the HTTP session, and trying to reconstitute it later. By storing the ID in the browser session and loading by ID each time, the error was eliminated.

I hope this helps someone - if so, or if you're having a similar issue, post in the comments!


The Godfather: Blackhand Edition (Wii)

I got The Godfather: Blackhand Edition for the Wii for my birthday, and I'm totally hooked - and, after borrowing the game for a day, so is my best friend: he ran out and bought his own copy, after holding mine hostage for a few days. It's all the best qualities of Monopoly and Grand Theft Auto, set in the The Godfather, with the Wii controls allowing you to literally beat the pulp out of business owners with a baseball bat while extorting them for cash, and physically tossing people over balconies for bonus points.

Yes, it's that kind of game. Yes, it's not for kids. Yes, it's on the Wii. And yes, it's damned addictive.

The game smoothly mixes a wide array of sandboxing opportunities, including extorting businesses, setting off mob wars, robbing banks, taking on hit contracts, and so on, with a deep plotline that follows the story of the films. You start as a young gangster on hard times, dealing with a bad crowd. Luca Brasi comes to your aid, and initiates you into the Corleone family with a few tutorial missions. Then, it's up to you to take on any of the many "business opportunities" throughout the city, or continue to advance the main plot. The game lets you delay the main plot as long as you want between missions, letting you set the pace the entire time.

The graphics aren't stunning, but they definitely get the job done. It's enough for suspension of disbelief, particularly for fans of the films. Having not seen them for many many years, playing the game now makes me want to watch the movies again - and then play the game again from the beginning.

All in all, I'd give it a solid 8/10, and a definite recommendation to anyone that enjoys a little digital bloodshed in the morning.


Wired vs. Wireless

I was talking to my mom today, and she wanted to set up a wireless network. I advised against it,
and her argument was that wired networks seem archaic.

Now, while I can certainly understand the idea that the same cables we've been using for decades are still just fine today may be hard to swallow, but in reality, wired networking is advancing far faster than wireless.

Wireless networking, over the last decade, has gone from 11mbit (802.11b) to 54mbit (802.11g) to "up to 700mbit" (802.11n; effectively 100 - 200 mbit). This bandwidth is per airspace - multiple clients on a network, and multiple networks in the same airspace, must share the available bandwidth.

Meanwhile, wired networks have gone from 10 to 100 mbit, then to 1 gbit and now 10 gbit, all on copper cable. And each client on a wired network gets a dedicated, full-bandwidth pipe all to its own.

So, while the cables may not have changed much (cat 6 is hard to tell from cat 5 to the average person), wired networks are advancing far beyond wireless, and all the while, they provide greater reliability, security, ease of use, and power efficiency.

All in all, I'll keep my wired network.


Mario Kart DS

Now that I've had a few hours with Mario Kart DS, I must say, it's a really good game. Even my girlfriend, not much of a gamer, thinks so. I'd say it's console-quality, and definitely a solid update to a time-tested franchise.

MK DS includes 16 new tracks, and a selection of 16 tracks sampled from past MK games. Each racer (the usual 8: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, Wario, and DK) has two cars to choose from, with differing stats.

Online play is smooth and easy to manage, and it allows random matchups via WFC without swapping friend codes. On a related side note, the DS apparently doesn't speak WPA2-PSK, which makes me very sad, since I'm never using WEP, and I'm certainly not going unencrypted just for WFC. I may have to invest in one of the Ninty USB WFC gadgets.


Nintendo DS

I just picked up a DS, and I must say, it's a very nice little machine. Ultra-portable, long battery life, built-in touch screen, microphone, and wireless, and a solid lineup of titles including a long history of GameBoy Advance titles which are still compatible with the machine. (Titles for older Game Boy models, such as original GB and GBC carts, will not work with the DS - only GBA titles.) This is particularly nice as I already have a small collection of games for my aging GBA SP, some of which I've now picked up and started playing again.

I've had it about 48 hours, and so far, I'm extremely happy with it. Final Fantasy III for the DS is a great game in the classic Final Fantasy tradition. Mario Kart DS is a solid title in the Mario Kart line, and blows away any portable Mario Kart title to date - honestly, you'll be amazed at the quality of the graphics and gameplay packed into a handheld game.

Elite Beat Agents is a good game for fans of rhythm games (which I am, even though I tend to be terrible at them). It uses the touch screen to great effect and provides a good challenge throughout, with as much replay value as can be packed into the relatively few songs included with the game.

I have yet to play multiplayer (DS-to-DS or via Nintendo WiFi Connection), but if you'd like to help me give it a shot, post your friend codes in comments.

My Mario Kart DS FC: 274976-668344
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin FC: 090293-173479


GarageBand is Fun

GarageBand is fun. Came with the Mac, came with around a thousand loops. So, I tossed this together over a couple of hours - let me know what you think in the comments!


Drums Remix


Google Traffic Maps

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but some time in the last couple of days, Google finally added traffic information to Google Local/Google Maps. It's not available everywhere, but it is available for the major freeways here in Atlanta, and many other US cities. Look for the stop-light icon on Google Maps.


LAMPP and then some

I recently built Apache, MySQL, PHP, Python, SQLite, OpenSSL, Subversion , and Trac on a Mac, an Ubuntu box, and a RHEL 4 box. Don't ask why, just see these tips:
  • Try building your own APR. Also, check what APR is being used; if you already have an APR version 0.9.x, the new APR will be named apr-1-config instead of apr-config, and likewise apu-config will be apu-1-config to get the proper version.
  • Try building Apache --with-included-apr.
  • Try using a different version of OpenSSL, even if you have to go back a version. Security holes are typically backported as a letter release to the previous one or two point releases.
  • Under linux, remember to run sudo ldconfig, make clean, make if you're having trouble.
  • Under MacOS, if you're building under a prefix, make sure to add the prefix to the environment variable DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH.
More tips, and maybe even a step-by-step, will be forthcoming.


Blogger vs Google

Does it make sense to anybody out there that Blogger, a Google property, doesn't automatically generate, or even have an option to generate, sitemaps, which are a Google initiative?


Call for Help (Updated)

Okay, I've been struggling with this issue for several days now. So, if anybody out there has successfully built Subversion 1.4.2 or 1.4.3 on MacOS 10.4, please, PLEASE let me know if you know how to resolve this issue.

When I try to build Subversion, I can configure it just fine, but when I try to make, I get the following:

Reason: Incompatible library version: libaprutil-0.0.dylib requires version 6.0.0 or later, but libexpat.0.dylib provides version 2.0.0

I can install Subversion via fink just fine, but if I try to run it (e.g., svn -v), the above message displays and the execution fails. As far as I can tell, there is no version 6 of libexpat; I've updated libexpat via fink and tried compiling it manually myself.

I've since resolved the issue. The fix (in my case, at least - YMMV) was to custom-build APR 1.2.3, and specify that APR and APR-util on the command line (apr-1-config and apu-1-config) when building Subversion. You can also build APR and APR-util automatically along with apache by adding --with-included-apr to apache's ./configure. Please post in comments with your experiences.


Urgent Apps - Mac Development Kit

After yesterday's post, I got to thinking. I had pulled some items out of that list because they were highly developer-centric applications. However, that does mean that some really top-notch programs didn't make the list, and I think that's unfair. There are some apps that I really can't live without when it comes to development work.

Before we begin, I should point out that my particular development tasks typically include the administration of a MySQL database, editing PHP, Java, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, and operating revision control; the tools laid out here are centered around those tasks.

Now, without further ado, the list:


jEdit calls itself "the programmer's text editor", but that's selling it short. jEdit is, to put it lightly, a god among executables. I've never seen another program come close to its level of flexibility, modularity, and customizability. The sacrifice for all this goodness is that it's a bit of a RAM-hog, particularly running under the MacOS JRE (I highly recommend updating to the 1.6 JRE available on apple's website, and completely switching over to 1.6; it provides some vast performance and footprint improvements.)

NetBeans is, of course, the Java IDE, unless you're one of those people that thinks that Eclipse is the Java IDE, but I'm not.

SmartSVN (payware)
The best SVN client I've seen for the Mac. Unfortunately, there aren't many good free options.

The real deal, straight from the source.

This nifty little app lets you take any shell or other script file and turn it into a Mac application package.

Java-based UML designer.

Revision control extraordinaire. Any box I do development on has a local Subversion server for anything I happen to want to keep a history for.

I've recently fallen in love with Trac, which is why it made the list. It's not exactly an application - it's a web application. However, it can be installed on a Mac, so it made the cut, and I do love it dearly. Go check out their page; the Trac site runs on Trac.

Anything I'm missing? Post in the comments!!


Urgent Apps - "20" Mac Software Picks

So, I just reformatted my laptop and reinstalled the OS, which got me to thinking about which applications I installed first, reflexively, as I can't stand to be without them - and then I progress on through the stuff that I need infrequently, but I do still need nonetheless. These are my "Urgent Applications".

The best browser, period. Well, okay, Camino might actually be better - I haven't used it, because it doesn't support FireFox plugins. Bust.

The ultimate multi-messenger application. Handles MSNM, Y!IM, AIM, ICQ, GTalk, Jabber, IRC, and a whole host of smaller services. Moreover, it's just about the most customizable instant messaging app I've ever used, on any patform.

Quicksilver is a launcher and then some. It doesn't just let you quickly find and open documents and applications; it lets you do anything to them, with just a few key presses. I still have yet to fully discover its potential.

Nice text editor, especially for programmers, webmasters, and power-users.

MacOS file tagger and tag-based file browser. Stores tags in meta data so they can still be searched with Spotlight.

Global notification app. Many of the programs on this list support Growl notifications, and more applications add Growl support every day.

On windows, 7Z has always been one of my "urgent apps" whenever I reinstall. 7zX holds the same spot for OS X.

I know, I know, it's cheating, but hey, you do have to manually install it. And besides, it's required for Fink.

Again, I know, it comes with MacOS, but again, it must be installed seperately. X11 is found in the "optional installs" package on your MacOS disk, and it allows you to run graphical Linux applications on your Mac, side-by-side with Mac applications (programs such as OpenOffice, the GIMP, and Inkscape.)

A pure Aqua port of OpenOffice. It's got some quirks, and it tends to be a couple of steps behind the official OpenOffice tree, but it's still a very solid port.

VLC isn't just a multimedia player; it's an omnimedia player. I've only run into a couple of files in my life that VLC can't play; and even when multiple players will play the same file, VLC usually does so with better quality, less resource usage, in fullscreen (unlike unregistered Quicktime), and for free.

Fink is the Darwin package manager, like apt or yum (in fact, it's a forked port of apt to Darwin.) It's a command-line tool you can use to install and update the thousands of standard (free) packages that have been ported to Darwin.

For those squeemish at the command line, there's FinkCommander, which puts a nice graphical interface over top of Fink. Heck, I love the command line, but I still use this instead of fink itself 90% of the time.

FruitMenu (payware)
One of the few pay apps on my list, FruitMenu is well worth the price. It lets you turn your Apple menu into, well, something that's actually useful for stuff. There's a free demo, so check it out.

FileZilla 3.0 beta
The famous FTP client for Windows has in its third generation finally been ported to the Mac - and the people rejoiced. My all-time favorite Windows FTP client is finally available, and completely free, for the Mac (and, for that matter, Linux as well!)

Mac OS X app that lets you view Windows CHM helpfiles, which are prolific throughout the open source community in providing packaged online documentation. Works very well, with an interface similar to Preview.

OnyX is a system tweaking, tinkering, optimizing, and maintenance tool. And it's free. Go get it. I run the full suite about once a week.

SuperDuper (payware)
The other pay app on my list, SuperDuper lets you quickly back up your Users directory, your entire disk, or any selection of files, to a disk image.


Hfsdebug is a command-line utility you can use to quickly get information about an HFS drive, such as file size and fragmentation. The only free way I know of to determine file fragmentation on an HFS+ disk.

Dashboard Widgets
iStat Pro
Shows various system stats, such as memory use, network info, disk use, fan speeds, temperature readouts, CPU usage, uptime, battery status, and more.

Delivery Notification
The best package tracking widget I've ever seen, bar none - and I've used many of them. If you do a lot of online shopping - or even just occasionally - check this little widget out.

Color LS
Yes, yes, this would make #22 (#21 if you count the dashboard widgets as one item, which I do, because I'm a cheater), but it's not exactly just an application, so I'm not counting it as one. In order to get LS in color, you have to install a version of LS which supports color output. You can do this from Fink by installing the "fileutils" package. This gets you a color-capable ls, but it's not in color by default; you have to use the --color=always flag. However, you can change this by editing your ~/.bash_profile and adding a line like so:

alias ls='ls --color=always"

You can find more info here: http://kung-foo.tv/xtips.html#9.

Open Terminal Here Workflow
(See note from Color LS about how this doesn't put me over 20 items.) Sometimes you're browsing around the Finder and you need to get to the current directory in a Terminal window - only to discover there's no easy way to do it; you can't even quickly copy and paste your current path. So, what is a power-user to do? Script the action!

Right-click on a folder's background (or the desktop background) and choose Automator -> Create Workflow. This will open Automator with a new Workflow, with "Get Selected Finder Items" already inserted as Step 1. Choose Automator as the library, find Run AppleScript, and add it as Step 2. For the script body, use:

on run {input, parameters}

tell application "Terminal"
set firstpath to item 1 of input
do script "cd " & (quoted form of POSIX path of firstpath)
end tell

return input
end run

Now save the file as a Finder Plugin, and name it anything you want. Now, to get a Terminal that's where you are in the Finder, just right-click, and choose your script name from the Automator menu.

Know of a superior alternative to one of my picks? Or something that should be on the list but isn't? Post a comment and let me know!!


Short Story

The other night, in the middle of the night, a fragment of a story popped into my head, and I typed it out. Since then, none of it has come back to me - I can't think of any of the qualities of the characters other than what's laid out in what I had written. So, in the hopes that it might come back to me some day, I'm going to post what I wrote here. Please forgive its roughness, and, obviously, its incompleteness.

We came across a great battle - legions of men fighting, screaming, sweating, bleeding. I recognized the colors of my people - and immediately after, I realized that they were sorely losing.

"Your people are being slaughtered, Dorian. They are no match for these warriors, either in number or in tactics," Jonas said.

"I see that, Jonas, but what can I do for them? Surely you don't mean for the two of us to jump headlong into battle against thousands," I said.

"We needn't do any such thing," Jonas replied. "Close your eyes."

This seemed like a dreadful idea - we had suddenly walked out of the wood and into the middle of a vast battle - eyes open, I was doing my best not to be killed just by being in the vicinity. I pointed this out to Jonas.

"Close your eyes, Dorian," he said again. I closed my eyes. I was shaking gently with fear, waiting for an axe to land in my skull. Waiting to open my eyes and find Dorian gone, or dead. My breathing was ragged, fast, my heart pounding.

"Take a deep breath," he said.

"I can't."

"Do it!"

I tried to take a deep breath, and succeeded in taking a nearly normal one. I tried again, but just couldn't do it. I opened one eye to peer at Jonas.

"Close your eyes!" he shouted, "and take a deep breath!" I closed my eye again, and suddenly he was behind me, one hand clasped hard over my eyes, the other covering my nose and mouth.

I struggled against his grip, pulling at his arms with my hands, trying to wriggle myself free. I started to feel lightheaded as I tried in vain to gasp for air, when none was available. Suddenly he let go, and I gasped, sputtering, filling my lungs completely in one giant breath, and exhaling slowly. "Relax," he said.

I looked around at the battlefield, and everything seemed to be moving so slowly. The sounds had gone from a deafening roar to the murmuring of some distant conflict; yet I could hear Jonas as clear as day.

"Can you see alright?"

"Yes," I said, "I can see fine - why?"

"Your eyes are still closed," he said, and I realized he was right - my eyes were still shut, but I could see the battle raging around me with perfect clarity.

"Do you see their leader over there?" he asked, pointing. I concentrated, and picked him out of the bustle.

"Yes, I see him," I said.

"Good," Jonas replied. "Now kill him."

"But... Jonas, surely you're kidding? He must be a hundred yards away - and even if I made it to him alive, he'd flay me before I could make a move! I'm no soldier, and certainly no assassin!"

"But, Jonas... don't you see? He's not really all that far away, if you think about it. And do you see how slowly he moves? Surely you could step right up to him and run him through before he could turn around. Go ahead, do it."

I took another deep breath, and realized Jonas was right - though I knew he was a hundred yards away, I was sure I could just step right over to him, and in three strides I was there, untouched by any of the clashing warriors around me. And indeed, he was moving incredibly slowly now, and it seemed he hadn't even noticed me walk up to him, blade drawn. I stabbed him hard in the gut, pulled my blade back out, and kicked him hard as I could in the wound, knocking him back hard into one of his own men. Two steps later I was right back at Jonas' side.

"Good work, Dorian," he said. I opened my eyes, and stared in amazement at the field of battle: the death of their leader left the enemy forces confused, disorganized, and demoralized; while at the same time, it gave my own people a second wind, as they pushed forward, turning the tables on the enemy.


Development Tactics

I recently set up an account with hosted-projects.com, because I wanted a Subversion repository more accessible & stable than the one running on my home desktop. I shopped around for a while, and decided on this place - it's a small project, and a starter account is only $7/month, so I figure, what the heck.

My account was set up within a few minutes, even though I ordered after business hours - I'm guessing they've got a pretty good automation system going. I get fast, secure access for unlimited users to unlimited projects in 100M of space, plus a free Trac - not a bad deal. As far as reliability and support, well - only time will tell.

The host is all well and good, but what I really wanted to talk about is Trac. I had looked Trac up some time ago, and decided to take a pass on it - it just wasn't mature enough at the time, and didn't have most of the features I was looking for.

Now, however - after some time, and a few bug tracking schemes - I find myself with a free Trac page sitting around, and I figure, what the hey, I'll give it a shot. And you know what? It still doesn't have some of the features I was looking for. But it works so well, it doesn't matter.

The whole thing runs on a Wiki engine. This Wiki engine identifies all CamelCase as wiki links, which I find a bit annoying, but I got used to it pretty quickly. It lets you easily link to pretty much anything, and inline, too: #123 is ticket 123, r456 is revision 456, etc. It hooks up to your Subversion repo and lets you keep an eye on changelogs and browse the repo; plus, this means if you put properly formatted notes in your commit messages (which isn't hard), you get links in the changelog, for free.

While not quite as versatile as MediaWiki, for example, in terms of page layout and design, it's probably easier to use - and programmers tend to go for form over function anyway. It's a developer's tool. Developers probably won't spend all day perfecting page templates and macros.

The system provides for a roadmap of milestones, a list of issue tickets, the wiki, and the repository. That's it. What's the big deal? How insanely easy it is to wire them all together. With some really basic formatting, you can turn a simple list of milestones into this.

It's got some rough edges, and there are definitely some huge opportunities yet to be taken advantage of - particularly, I have yet to discover decent, proper JavaDoc support, with full wiki integration. I may just have to learn enough Python to write a plugin for it. I'd also really like to see automatic backlinks added to all the internal links.

I know it's still version "0.10.3", but it's pretty stable so far, and everything works pretty well. I have yet to run into any bugs or bad behavior - however, you should keep in mind that this is bleeding-edge software if you're considering deploying it. Don't let that scare you off though: if you don't mind the under-heavy-development label, you really should give this little application a try and see what you think. At the very least, check out Trac's own website to see what it can do.


Status Update

I know I haven't posted here much lately, I'm sorry... My del.icio.us has been lighting up though, if it's any consolation. Basically, I've been swamped, between work, a new health regimen, and a new side project. The side project is in its very early stages, so I'm not going to jump the gun and start talking about it now... so far it's just a registration page and a login form, it doesn't actually do anything. Watch this space for more details, kids.

I am, however, trying to gain 60 pounds in the next 6 - 12 months. That's right, gain. I'm currently 60 pounds under my "optimal" body weight, with a BMI of 18.5. So I'm now on a 3600 calorie/day high-protein high-fat diet, as I want to build up both muscle mass and a healthy level of body fat. I'm tired of being cold all the time, damnit. I'm doing half an hour of heavy calisthenics every weekday (why half an hour? that's pretty much exactly when I can no longer lift myself up.) I'm also working on building a regular cycling habit; me, my girlfriend and at least one or two friends in my apartment complex are gonna join up and get our cycle on. I'm really excited about it; I haven't been cycling in a long time, but I love it, and it's good for ya.

So, wish me luck!


More Del.icio.us.ness

I have a few friends who use Stumble, and I noticed that Stumble now includes a tagging feature. I have to say, though, that I never got that into Stumble - something about their algos I suppose (or maybe the decidedly retro interface) just didn't jive with me. But, it certainly serves a purpose that Del.icio.us doesn't quite manage to accomplish... but why not?

There is, of course, the Random page on Delicious, but it's totally random. What they need is a personalized random link page that pulls a random link stumbled recently by someone else who labeled it with a label you have used. Make a bookmarklet for it, and voila, you have yourself a solid StumbleUpon replacement.

So, what say you, Del.icio.us Masters? Have I stumbled onto something good here? Or is this just not feasible from a performance perspective due to the high volume of tag searches?

Update 2/8/07: I sent this to the feedback address for Delicious, and got a reply back stating, "Basically, what you’re talking about is showing users links based on things they’ve liked enough to tag in the past, right? If so, we’ve already got something in mind." I can't wait!


Symbolic Tagging: Tags 2.0

Tagging has become extremely popular these days, and with good reason - people naturally catalog things under various categories mentally, and are able to recall them by any of those routes. So, it makes sense to use a multiple-tagging system rather than a singular system like plain categories or folders.

Combining tagging with social networking, as Del.icio.us does, is particularly effective - a set of aggregate tags that allow a community to classify data for use by the whole. However, the problem with this is that not everyone uses the same tags to mean the same things.

The words are just symbols; tags demand meaning. It makes sense, in a simple system, to consider words and their meaning to be one and the same; however, as the system expands, it needs to understand the relationships between words and meanings. Enter symbolic tagging. Rather than making the tags the words and the words the tags, separate the two - after all, they are in fact separate.

From an architecture perspective, this means we need two constructs: the symbology (words) and the semantics (tags), with a 1..*:1..* relationship between the two. One symbol can have multiple semantics, and one semantic can have multiple symbols. As an example, let's say two symbols, "foo" and "bar" both share a semantic X. When a user searches for "foo", they will see all records associated with semantic X; the same when they search for "bar". Alternately, assume the symbol "baz" is attached to two semantics, X and Y. When a user searches for "baz", they will see all records associated with semantic X, Y, or both.

How does the system learn which symbols reflect which semantics? The same way it determines which records match which tags - community input. Take, for example, the following process for developing and refining a symbolic-semantic map.

1. As new records are added, the user adding them tags those records as they normally would. Any time a user inputs a tag that isn't already in the map, a new symbol is created for the tag, and a new semantic is created for it as well. At initialization, the two share a 1:1 relationship.
2. The user may opt to go through a refinement process, either manually initiated, or initiated as an additional step in the new-record process. This refinement process prompts the user with a list of tags they have used, and for each tag T, lists other tags associated with records which are also associated with tag T. The user may mark zero or more of these related tags as being synonymous with the tag in question.
3. For each tag being marked synonymous, if that tag is associated with more than one semantic, the user may chose one or more semantic associations between the two tags. The semantics can be identified by the list of tags associated with them. If none of the semantic lines is appropriate, the user may choose "other" to create a new semantic and link it to the two tags being compared. If the tag in question is only associated with one semantic, that semantic is automatically used, avoiding the additional step.

This allows the system to continue its organic social self-construction, while greatly improving the quality of the tag browsing/searching system as a whole, and imparting exponentially more meaning on the dataset itself, which can be used in other areas of research - the data from one large-scale implementation could prove invaluable for semantic computing, computer linguistics, and social networking research and development.

So, Del.icio.us - are you up to the task?


Sustainability, Energy Independence and Agricultural Policy

Long, but definitely worth the read.

The Oil Drum | Sustainability, Energy Independence and Agricultural Policy

One of the biggest threats the USA faces today is a serious shortage of energy. Vulnerabilities in our system have been made glaringly obvious several times; since the 1970's the USA has had social and economic upheaval due to the actions of foreign oil producers, and two hurricanes in 2005 showed just how fragile our remaining domestic supplies of oil and natural gas are. The fact that the nation has a Strategic Petroleum Reserve shows that this is a matter of national security.

For such a serious matter, it's being treated in a very casual fashion. There is no national program to manage oil demand in the event of a supply crisis, or employ market forces to help. Neither is there a long-term initiative to reduce oil dependence and the size of the threat. While the US looks to become dependent upon imported natural gas in addition to oil, there's nothing in the works for a Strategic Natural Gas Reserve. And as for a national building code or even minimum standards for building codes, there's nothing worth mentioning.

Other, less-serious problems have been dealt with far more competently. The USA had a plan for achieving the goal of saving the peregrine falcon and bald eagle from DDT, and another for saving the world's ozone layer from halocarbon emissions. Both of these were carried forward both domestically and internationally, with considerable success on both programs. Given the last ten years of concern about global warming and three decades of concern over energy supplies, you would expect something similar would be in the works for those also.

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines

Ask anyone which search engine they use to find information on the Internet and they will almost certainly reply: "Google." Look a little further, and market research shows that people actually use four main search engines for 99.99% of their searches: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask.com (in that order). But in my travels as a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), I have discovered that in that .01% lies a vast multitude of the most innovative and creative search engines you have never seen. So many, in fact, that I have had to limit my list of the very best ones to a mere 100.

Not a bad article, despite him being an SEO guy.


Cirque du Soleil: Corteo

Just got back from Corteo, my first live Cirque show, and it was awesome. I've wanted to see Cirque live forever, and I wasn't dissappointed. Of course, we blew near $300 just on souvenirs and gifts, and the tickets weren't cheap either... but it was well worth it! I wish you were allowed to take pictures, I'd be able to post some good shots up here - oh well.

The show is themed around a look at death in the 1920's; the music, costumes, and plotful interludes follow this theme, though of course, the acts themselves aren't particularly plot-related - not that that makes them any less spectacular. My three favorite acts were the ribbon act (that girl is fabulously gorgeous - wow), the juggling act, and, my top favorite of the night, the chandelier act at the very beginning of the show - I can't wait to see it again on video (DVDs were $30, so I skipped that - it'll be on Bravo for free soon enough), as I'm sure there's a ton I missed while I was paying attention to the orchestra, the extras, or the angels constantly floating through the rafters, dropping things off, picking things up, and raining glitter down onto the stage.

There was also a great interlude where they put a midget in a harness, hooked her up to a mass of balloons, and floated her out into the audience, who got to bounce her around, kind of like a beach ball at a concert. It was hilarious, and inspiring: I'm determined to find a way to construct a similar rig for Boris, so we can float his lazy, furry ass around our apartment!

Okay, off to bed now - too much excitement for one night...

Foreign Perspective on the State of the Union

The American hostility towards Iran

"One of the notable features of President George W Bush's State of the Union speech was its hostile attitude towards Iran."

This is the title and tagline of the BBC's article analyzing President Bush's State of the Union address last night. And it's not off base. Bush may manage to drag America headlong into the third middle-east conflict of the Bush Administration. It's no wonder the entire rest of the world thinks that America is destructively stupid on an epic scale - it's true.

History of the Oil Wars

YouTube - History of the Oil Wars

Very interesting video on the state of oil in America, and how we've gotten where we are. Highly recommended.


HDCP: beta testing DRM on the public?

Ars has a nice summation of the state of HDCP/HDMI, and how we got there. A lot of this wasn't news to me, but it's put into perspective very nicely.

HDCP: beta testing DRM on the public?

When the supposedly uncrackable copy protection used on DVD was indeed cracked back in 1999, two very different messages were received. Hackers and most tech enthusiasts took the crack as yet another sign that these encryption schemes will all, ultimately, fall to the efforts of hackers. The titans of the entertainment industry received another message—a challenge, as it were, to build an even more "robust" content protection system.


I, Cringely -- When Being a Verb is Not Enough: Google wants to be YOUR Internet.

From TFA:
I spoke recently with an old friend who is a bandwidth broker. He buys
and sells bandwidth on fiber-optic networks around the world. And he
told me something that I found not completely surprising, but I
certainly hadn't known: Google controls more network fiber than any
other organization. This is not to say that Google OWNS all that fiber,
just that they control it through agreements with network operators.

I knew they'd been snapping up fiber en masse for years, but I didn't know they'd managed to control more fiber than anybody else. That's a hugely impressive feat... I dunno if Cringely is right here, but I'm just as curious as he to see exactly what they're up to.


Giving in to the Deliciousness

That's right - I've finally given in and started a del.icio.us account. I've been resisting it since they started to get popular a couple years ago... but, in keeping with my ongoing attempt to "join in" on this whole community-driven internet deal, I'm jumping on the tasty bandwagon. Who knows - maybe I'll be using Digg a couple months from now (perish the thought!)

Anyway. I've added my del.icio.us feed to the right-hand pane of this site, and it's further accessible here.


10 Business Lessons From a Snarky Entrepreneur

10 Business Lessons From a Snarky Entrepreneur by Steve Pavlina:
As a companion to 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job and 10 Stupid
Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed, here are 10 positive lessons
I learned from more than 12 years as an entrepreneur. A few of these
are rehashed from the 10 Mistakes article, but most are new.
Fantstic article; I also highly recommend the two noted articles (10 reasons not to get a job, 10 stupid mistakes), as well as pretty much everything he's written on business, including 10 myths about self-employment, and how to earn $10,000 in an hour. I've been wrestling with the idea of entrepreneurship for the last several years, picking and choosing from the array of ideas I come across on a daily basis, trying to decide what will work and what won't and how much it'll cost to get it off the ground; his blog has convinced me it's high time I just picked one and dove in whole-heartedly, and make it succeed. It's not about the planning, it's about the doing, and it's time for the doing to be done.

Wish me luck.

Long time, no post

It's been a while since I've posted here, so I thought I'd catch up everything that's happened before I get myself back into the swing of posting random nonsense.

Chronos is running smoothly with its new PSU, no issues since the replacement, save for some bizarre incompatibility between my D-Link USB 802.11b/g+ WiFi adapater and the uTorrent BitTorrent client. I have no idea how they could even manage to be incompatible, but somehow, if I run uTorrent, after a few minutes Windows will lose my wireless, and I have to unplug and replug the USB adapter for it to get back on. This will let the connection stay up for another few minutes before the cycle repeats itself. It only happens when uTorrent is open; if I get disconnected, reseat the USB adapter, and close uTorrent, I can stay connected for days on end. I don't get it.

Also, I bought a MacBook (13" widescreen, 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB DDR-667, 80GB HD, SuperDrive), and I love the thing to death. The old Dell Latitude D600 was a POS from the day I got it, and I rarely used it (it's a work machine - I didn't actually buy a $2k laptop and never use it.) The MacBook, on the other hand, has more CPU power than my desktop, it's extremely portable due to its size and weight, and the power adapter is far more portable than any laptop charger I've ever seen. The screen quality is fantastic, and I'm actually starting to get back into the swing of MacOS.

Five or so years ago, I had never used a PC. I used an Apple //c when I was five, started programming it in BASIC and assembly when I was 7, got a Mac SE at 10, a Mac Quadra 605 at 14, and a PowerMac G3 (Blue & White) at 16. Then I got a job doing tech support for an ISP, and had to get a Windows-based computer to be able to keep up with the issues experienced by our majority-Windows customers. So, at 19, I bought my first PC, and built it myself from parts, just to have the experience. I sold my last remaining Mac when I was 21, and now I'm nearing my 24th birthday, and I have a Mac again.

Why did I ditch the Mac in the first place? Mac OS X. I've used every Mac OS from System 4 on the IIgs to System 6 on the SE to System 7 on the Quadra to MacOS 8, 9, and eventually X on the G3. It kept getting better and better; every update was faster, easier to use, more feature-full than the last. With MacOS 9.1.2 my system was more responsive than it had ever been.

Then Mac 9.2 came out, designed to ease the migration to MacOS X, laying the groundwork for a whole new Mac OS. I tried the OS X public beta; it was dirt-slow, a total memory hog, and it eventually hosed my hard drive - but hey, it was a beta. I used 10.0 final, it was nearly as bad; 10.1 was a slight improvement, but I never got over how much the interface had changed; I still think Mac 9.1 was the easiest to use, and I think at this point Mac has come down to be roughly on-par with Windows in terms of intuitiveness; a significant fall from grace.

Now I'm using a Mac again, and it's taking some adustment, but it's not as bad as I remember it. Some of the more annoying issues have been fixed; others I suppose just don't bother me as much any more because it's been a very, very long time since I was used to the smooth effortlessness of Mac OS of old. Whatever the root, I'm taking a liking to this new OS.

Expose, which allows you to quickly view all open windows, all windows in the current application, or your desktop, with the push of a button, is very nice. Rather than icons representing each window, when you hit the button, the windows slide and shrink and move around so that you can see them all on-screen at once; these zoomed-out windows are still the real deal, however, and still update while you're looking at them in their miniature form; progress bars still update, and so on.

The Dashboard is handy as well; I'm using iStat Pro to keep an eye on CPU, memory, disk, and network use directly from the dash, as well as Sing that iTune, which automatically looks up the lyrics for whatever track is currently playing in iTunes (I can't help it, I'm a compulsive sing-along-er.)

I haven't used the iLife kit much (iMovie HD, iDVD, iPhoto, etc.), though I have tinkered briefly in GarageBand. Yet again, I find myself using iTunes even though it's a desperately sub-par product; it's become such a juggernaut that few are willing to attempt to compete - on Windows you're up against WMP, iTunes and WinAmp, not an easy fight to fight - and on MacOS, well, iTunes has a pretty significant stranglehold. There are a couple of alternatives, but nothing suitable. So iTunes remains my photo app. It also includes an app called PhotoBooth that uses the built-in webcam to let you take photos - I use it for my gtalk buddy icon, which I sign onto using iChat (works just fine, although it does require that I use a seperate app for gmail notifications - luckily Google has released a full-featured email and calendar notification pack for Mac that works extremely well for me.)

I've also got a Wireless Mighty Mouse, which works very well, aside from a small issue with the connection; it seems if I turn off the mouse, then later turn it back on (as I am likely to do quite often, what with it being a laptop - sometimes I have the room to use the mouse, sometimes I have to use the trackpad), it'll pair automagically, but it won't connect, even though the mouse as marked as a "favorite device"; every time I have to go into the Bluetooth panel and force it to connect by going through the entire pairing/connecting process again. A minor nuisance, but highly irritating when you want to just pull out the laptop and the mouse and get to work.

The Unix side of MacOS is just as one would expect; so far, the main difference between the Darwin base and any other *nix system I've used is the directory structure and a couple of missing apps, which I've since been able to easily install by compiling from source. I managed to install AMP (apache/mysql/php) with little difficulty, aside from some confusion which arose due to the apache 1.3 installation that MacOS comes with, which I didn't realise was there until it had already become a problem.

I've been able to use Automator to create a simple script which runs a bash script; I'm already using this on a daily basis, as it lets me put an item in a global menu to quickly execute a shell script. This is extremely handy; I only wish that, like under *nix windowing environments, I could run any file marked executable just by double-clicking it on the desktop. C'est la vie, maybe a future version will feature this; in the meantime, it's a relatively simple workaround to create an Automator workflow or AppleScript to trigger a shell script to run.

I'm already running jEdit (which has a very solid native Mac port), NetBeans (again, very solid Mac support), NeoOffice (a Cocoa port of OpenOffice.org; so far so good, though I've used it very little as of yet), MySQL GUI Tools (same functionality as it has on windows/*nix - but with a better interface!), FireFox (of course - I didn't use IE, and I'm no more enamored with Safari), I've got a BT client (Azureus - I don't like it, but it works, and I haven't had time to try out Transmission, which I've also installed), a Subversion client (ZigVersion, because I can't get svnX to work at all - it hangs as soon as I try to connect to my server), and of course the JRE. I still need to find a way to sync my Q to the MacBook, but that's not a huge priority for me right now.

I've loaded the thing with a sampling of my movie & music collection from Chronos (the full collection is about 60G, a bit much for the 80G disk the MacBook came with), and I find the display to be perfect for movie-viewing. The speakers are lame, but that's to be expected with a laptop; I just use the earbuds that came with my iPod, and I've got a pair of much better quality earbuds coming in the mail (look for a review shortly!)

All in all, the switch back to the Mac has been a positive experience so far; I've always appreciated Apple's attention to detail, and they haven't failed me with the MacBook itself (from a hardware standpoint), though I still find some shortcomings with MacOS as a whole. I suppose only time will tell how effective it is; if I run into critical usability or compatibility problems, you can be sure you'll see it mentioned here.

I've also upgraded from my old Palm Treo 650 to a snazzy new Motorola Q, on Verizon service. Aside from the fact that Verizon's service beats the pants off of Sprints (at least across the Atlanta area, western North & South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and western Virginia), the Q itself is far and away the better phone. Gone is the irritating touchscreen and easily-lost stylus; here is your clickable scroll wheel (thank god). Also, much to my surprise, Windows Mobile 5 is more stable, more responsive, easier to use, and has more and better software available than PalmOS ever did, in my experience. I've already got a pocket NES emulator running on the Q, with a mini-SD card loaded with every NES game ever made; for the cost of an SD card I now have over nine hundred games available on the go, compared to the $10 - $20 per game you pay to download a game from your provider (Sprint or Verizon, Q or Treo, the download prices seem about the same.)

The Q has better call quality (both due to improved reception, and improved mic & speaker), better speakerphone quality, better bluetooth support, and built-in voice-dialing and WAV/MP3 ringtone support (both of which were shockinly missing from the Treo.) Also, while the monthly service through Verizon is slightly more expensive than my service through Sprint was, the Q itself was only $100 with 2-year, while the Treo 650 was $300 with 2-year. I also thoroughly appreciate the Q's smaller, lighter form-factor; compared to the Treo, I barely notice it hanging on my belt, and I find it much easier to handle, particularly due to its thinner depth.

That's all from me for now - hopefully you'll be reading news of the fruits of a couple of new projects here in the near future, but until then, it'll be more mindless ramblings from me!


Click "I Agree" To Proceed...

Okay, this is just getting under my skin. I "sign" agreements all the time, every day. You do to. I agree to things I never read. You do that too. Everyone does it. All the time.

I'm talking about EULAs, ToSs, T&C's, and, of course, "privacy policies". What is this stuff? Well, the end-user license agreement, or EULA, tells you what you can and can't do with a piece of software you're about to install, and it probably mentions anything shady that the software is about to do. Why be so upfront? You're not going to read it, and it absolves them legally. Unfortunately, perfectly legitimate software has EULAs too, and it's too hard to figure out which is which that way.

Terms of Service, or ToS, are what service providers, like ISPs and web hosts and such, use to lay down the litany of things which are, should they unfortunately occur, not in any way their problem. It also likely details the things which you are not, under any circumstances, to do with the service in question, regardless of whether it might seem like a perfectly viable use to you or the general public.

Terms and Conditions, or T&Cs, are usually required right before you sign up for something, like internet or cell phone service. Again, this often outlines exactly what you're not to do with the service, and exactly how much it would cost you if you did.

Privacy policies are my favorite one of all. Why? Because most of the time, you aren't actually agreeing to the privacy policy. You're just required to read it. I find this odd - typically, a company requires their employees to know their policies, not their customers. I find this particularly frightening since the only reason I'd be required to know about it is if there's something shady in there.

Of course, just like you, I still check the box and click the button and make my merry way toward whatever courtroom doom might befall me.

Click "I Agree" to proceed.