(Wed, Mar 26, 2014)
This depresses me more with every reminder: the legendary graphics programming pioneer John Carmack now works for... Facebook. And Oculus Rift seems destined for that vaguely annoying, and lightly sluggish powder blue slag heap.
Time Machine
(Wed, Mar 26, 2014)
I have this gloomy feeling that as we grow older and more befuddled, programs like Time Machine will become useful, even essential. Time Machine is a backup service on Mac OS: it stores an image of your data every day so you can restore from it as needed, even if you only need a single file or folder you accidentally deleted, as I did this morning. (The FBI must love this.) Score one++ for Mac.
Hichhiker's Guide Text Adventure
(Mon, Mar 10, 2014)
It's the 30th Anniversary Edition of the classic, frustrating, Zork-like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure game. What could be better than this in your browser?
This Thing Where
(Sat, Mar 08, 2014)
Did you ever notice this thing where: when you are expecting a call at a specific time it is more startling when the phone rings than if you did not expect a call? And wouldn't it be great if male house-cats had giant manes of hair like their lion cousins? And where did I put my slinky? And why isn't winter over yet? And card games.
MacBookProMe Part Two
(Sat, Mar 08, 2014)
The second positive discovery was Automator. I am the kind of lazy guy that writes a script for everything I do more than once, so I have big piles of scripts, most of them in Bash, some in Dos, Python, and Java. Automator provides a sort of runtime infrastructure for integrating scripts with the OS. So if I want a script to post this file to my weblog (which I do) I can use Automator to make it into a service and it becomes available via menus.

Automator has come in handy a few times to overcome some strange limitations in OS X. For instance if you want to see hidden files in Finder you need to go into a terminal and execute a command. It also lacks a shift-delete function (skipping Trash). So now I have scripts that do those things.

Replacement applications have been mostly adequate. iTunes reorganized my music collection (and wasn't quick about it), and that was annoying (applications should ask permission before moving files around). It created folders for artist and album, so my Music directory exploded with dozens of new top-level folders with names like "An Evening With Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart", "Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan", and "Toto" (that last one containing a single song, you know the one). But it's integrated well with the OS so I have not switched away from it yet.

So most of that is satisfaction but I admit I did boot into Ubuntu from a USB stick just to see if it was plausible to run Linux on Mac hardware. And it seems very plausible! There wasn't a working wifi driver with the installer, and I do not have an RJ45 adapter dongle at the moment (man I thought those dongle days were behind me) so I didn't get any further than booting up Ubuntu looked great on this laptop so who knows....
MacBookProMe Part One
(Fri, Mar 07, 2014)
We Americans, and probably other humans, have been conditioned to treat the money taxed from our paychecks as belonging to the government. So when one (such as I) has adventures for part of the year and does not earn a salary, then returns to work to be taxed at a rate suitable for a full year, the resultant tax refund can be considerable, even the size of a MacBook Pro. “Oh hey,” I say, because I are stupid, “this is money from nowhere! I must spend it all!” And now I type on a MacBook Pro.

This is my first MacBook but I suppose it was inevitable as I had taken one of the gateway drugs — an iPad — and then moved onto another: an iPhone. I had joined the *ecosystem*. (And the ecosystem works. This morning I realized I needed to replace a printer ink cartridge, and my first impulse was to write the cartridge identifier down on a piece of paper like I’m living in the 19th century. Then I realized I could just type it into Notes and it would magically appear in my iPhone’s Notes app.)

For the past dozen years or so I have been using one version or another of GNU/Linux at home (and sometimes for work but there is usually a Windows component, if only for Outlook), so I am very deeply embedded in *that* ecosystem. Adjustments have been ongoing, and there have been surprises, some pleasant, some annoying.

The first unusual discovery was the inclusion in the retail box of a sort of microfiber cloth folded in the shape of an envelope. This seemed puzzling coming from a company that never includes anything more than the bare minimum with its products (the sticker is advertising). I thought at first it was a letter from Tim Cook informing me that if I did not believe in anthropogenic global warming I should return the product immediately and instead buy something from Lenovo. But it unfolded into a cloth, presumably for cleaning the screen and other surfaces of the device. How strange!

The second discovery was the keyboard, which is an “island” or “chiclet” -style keyboard, and rather less useable than, for instance, something from Lenovo, and a great adjustment from the mechanical keyboard I thrash about on for work. It does not have dedicated Home or End keys, and I really love those keys. Generally, I have had some frustration acclimating to the MacBook’s somewhat Byzantine collection of meta-keys. Mostly Command does what Control used to do. Mostly.

The first really positive discovery was the trackpad. This thing is a marvel of engineering and after a week I still haven’t plugged in a mouse (other than to play Doomsday one time; the trackpad is NOT good for first person shooters). I love scrolling with two fingers, and swiping in the browser to go back a page. I love the three-finger swipe to visit all my maximized windows (which incidentally has been a perfectly adequate replacement for Linux workspaces). The trackpad is cool, man.

Linux Mint with MATE
(Sat, Dec 22, 2012)
For the past week I have been running the new Linux Mint 14 with the MATE 1.4.2 desktop. There was some early difficulty getting stunnel running (due to personal idiocy that eventually resulted in a segfault that might have made me cry a little), and installing Java keeps getting more annoying every time I do it, but eventually I got everything the way it should be: like it was three years ago when Gnome 2 was alive and Ubuntu felt right and nothing should have ever changed. MATE is a throwback, a fork of Gnome 2 that, with this new version at least, looks and feels and functions just like Gnome 2. I feel like I'm back home; it's a little boring here, there's nothing new to discover, but also there's nothing silly or misguided, no ongoing frustrations over poor design choices. It's... relaxing. Although I *am* a bit curious about that brand new Enlightenment E17 release....
Website Password Strategy
(Wed, Dec 19, 2012)
It's foolish to use the same password for multiple sites and it's a pain to memorize dozens of them. Here's what I've been doing instead of those foolish and painful things:

Take a pair of words that are easy for you to remember. Nonsense words are best but for this example I'll use WayneGretsky. Add some numbers somewhere; 99 is too obvious even for an example so I'll make it WayneGretzky412. Now for each site password change a middle letter to the first letter in the site's URL, for instance for Amazon.com, change the password to WayneAretzky412. For Citibank.com make it WayneCretzky412. Et voila, you have all your passwords, each different and easy to remember. For stronger security you should avoid using common words or words that go together, add special characters (!#), move the numbers around, or vary the numbers in some way (for instance counting the number of characters in the URL). Since passwords should change over time it makes sense to use a word series like US Presidents or the first paragraph of Moby-Dick.

And NOW I have been helpful.
Voting is Stupid
(Sat, Nov 03, 2012)
Interesting article on why Your Vote Doesn't Count at reason.com. My opinion is that people vote in order to support their team, to feel as if they have participated in the grand contest, ultimately to feel slightly less trivial. Rooting for a team makes us feel part of some larger enterprise, and joined in camaraderie with fellow fans. We cheer as one and commiserate together. (And we are still stupid.)
IOS 5 Gestures
(Wed, Sep 19, 2012)
I must be like a rodent in a hole under a rock or something because I've only just now learned about these new IOS 5 gestures. For almost a year I've been muttering in annoyance about IPad's annoying button, always pushing that stupid button, why won't this button leave me alone, time to push the button again... for no reason. Screw you, button. I have fingers!
Geek Intersection!
(Mon, Sep 17, 2012)
How about Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown?! Where's the umbrella? Oh wait....
(Tue, Aug 07, 2012)
I'm excited to see Curiosity Rover's photographic output from Mars. I hope to put on some ethereal music and watch Mars video for about an afternoon. But -- but! -- why no audio from Mars? Doesn't anyone at NASA want to hear what Mars sounds like? I want to listen to Mars!
Beefy Lou at the Olympics!
(Sat, Aug 04, 2012)
Beefy Lou is busy competing in the Olympics in jolly ol', running the 400m with some modification. He's attached pogo sticks to his feet that bounce him down the track like a giant, grease-stained jack-rabbit. It wasn't easy for him to get a place there: a lot of mean-hearted opponents insisted that pogo sticks weren't fair in a running race. Beefy Lou maintained that since he could never compete with anyone running on his feet that he must use some assistance from technology. Beefy Lou? He's not much of a runner but he can pogo like a mofo. Finally the The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that pogo sticks do not give Beefy Lou an advantage in the race over other runners, so today he will be lined up for the 400m next to an Argentine on a skateboard, a Frenchman with roller-blades, and a Ukrainian on a bobsled. Go for the gold Beefy Lou!
The Manhattan Project
(Mon, Jun 25, 2012)
This time-lapse video of random scenes in Manhattan is both beautiful and awesome. I muted it and listened to Pink Floyd's Sheep instead, and it fit perfectly (and somehow synced really well too: "Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away" landed right on a scene of people in Central Park).
Bird Eat Bird
(Thu, May 10, 2012)
Just now there was the panicked squawking of birds, then a hawk swooped down and slew a sparrow about ten feet from me. The hawk then looked around for a moment, as if guarding his prize, then carried it off. Somehow my perspective on little birds has been altered, knowing they are the constant prey of larger birds. Like me with the hill giants nearby.