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Saturday 8/31/02 §

Reuters story about Turkish woman who kept a cow in her apartment triggers stampede of puns at MetaFilter. Film at eleven. 4 comments

Friday 8/30/02 §

Pancakes in Seattle! 57 comments

Geez -- more iApp weirdness. When I put a CompactFlash card from my Canon PowerShot G2 into my Lexar Firewire CompactFlash reader, Jaguar doesn't launch iPhoto. If I launch iPhoto manually, it says there is no camera connected, which is of course technically true, but it sure didn't seem to stop iPhoto from importing from the card reader under 10.1.5.

I can just open the card and drag its contents into iPhoto so it's not a big deal, I just wonder what else they broke. 4 comments

Thursday 8/29/02 §

I had the iPod refuse to sync up again last night. Shortly before that, I had been having some weird Finder behavior: it would show multiple copies of an item in a window when there was only one copy of the file in the directory, and the AppleScript delete verb refused to actually move files to the Trash. I had been doing some pretty heavy-duty script wrangling using AppleScript Studio that evening, so maybe it's some obscure bug in Jaguar's Apple event handing. Logging out and back in fixed the problem, as before. Oh well; having to log in every few days is not exactly a catastrophe. Still, it's something I hope they figure out how to fix in 10.2.1. 5 comments

Monday 8/26/02 §

Got the iPod working again. I thought perhaps it might have something to do with my login items (I have quite a number of them), so I took screen captures of what was in the Login Items preferences pane and cleared it all out. Sure enough, on the next login, I plugged my iPod in and it synced right up. I then put all my login items back in ... and it still works. Go figure.

Oh, by the way -- the iTunes Helper problem was apparently a red herring. I don't see that running, but the iPod still syncs just fine. 2 comments

Canonical Tomes is a volunteer-run Web directory that catalogs the definitive works (books or otherwise) of a wide range of subject areas. (Rebecca's Pocket) 1 comment

Did my second install of Jaguar Friday evening on my G4 tower. The last time I tried it, a couple weeks ago (yes, this was a legitimate developer seed of the golden master), enough things still didn't work right that I reverted to 10.1.5 within a few hours. Thank God for Carbon Copy Cloner. But there have been a good number of third-party software updates over the last two weeks for Jaguar compatibility, so I judged it feasible to try again. They changed around enough of the UNIX underbrush that some things still don't work, such as fink, pine, and gcc, but those can wait until I solve the more pressing issues.

Since Friday evening I have had not one but two kernel panics. The good news is, instead of just throwing up a stack trace on the screen with no instructions as to what to do, they now throw up a friendly screen that tells you "You must restart your computer now" in several different languages. The bad news is, on the off chance that you do want the stack trace so you can figure out what the hell went wrong, there doesn't seem to be any way to get it. Also, for some reason I don't understand, the message appears on my second monitor (that also happened with 10.1.x).

Kernel panics completely suck. I don't trust fsck to fix the disk at startup after a panic, because I have noticed it doesn't always fix the problems even though it says it did, so it's always "boot from the other hard disk and run DiskWarrior" time. And on my main drive, that takes about 40 minutes. I am not very happy about having to do that twice in three days. Ironically (in the Alanis sense), one of the panics happened as I was starting up again after running DiskWarrior to try to fix my other major problem.

The other major problem being that I can't sync my iPod anymore. I tried basically everything I could think of, including wiping the iPod entirely, trashing every iTunes preference file I could find, and reinstalling iTunes. The iPod mounts fine, but iTunes doesn't see it and doesn't start syncing. After trying everything else, I noticed that the iTunes Helper application wasn't running, and I believe this is in fact the culprit. So I tried to start it manually. Trying to do so from the Finder tells me I don't have enough permissions to do so (which is bollocks, I checked). Trying to launch it from the command line (sudo open /Applications/ gave the following helpful error message:

2002-08-26 10:01:48.253 open[562] LSOpenFromURLSpec() returned 1016 for application (null) path /Applications/
2002-08-26 10:01:48.254 open[562] Couldn't open file: /Applications/

Now I have a blank iPod that I can't get my tunes onto. Gee, thanks, Jaguar. I guess Crazy Apple Rumors wasn't kidding; I certainly feel mauled. 2 comments

Friday 8/23/02 §

The Google Quiz. Win free Google gear by using Google to find the answers to trivia questions. ( 3 comments

Thursday 8/22/02 §

What might it have been like if all the predictions of the future of space travel made in the 1950s had come true? Find out in Man Conquers Space, a "retro-mockumentary" about the illustrious history of the United States' National Council of Astronautics. (Boing Boing) 2 comments

Tuesday 8/20/02 §

Timeline of Crayola crayon colors. My favorite is Burnt Sienna. I think of it every time I see a Toyota Sienna on the highway. I have never seen one of those on fire, but if I did, I would have to laugh. Unless it was mine. (The Flangy News) 1 comment

Paul Graham has a plan for spam. Rather than using rule-based filtering like SpamAssassin or collaborative filtering like Vipul's Razor or automated whitelists like many other products, Graham favors an adaptive statistics-based approach that considers the probability that every single word in each of your messages is part of a spam. Some words are never found in spam; some words are almost always found in spam. Over time, this approach actually learns what kind of mail you don't like to get and filters it appropriately. There is no reason this could not be done collaboratively (i.e., using an online database that tells you what other people, on average, consider spam and legitimate), but the brilliance of this approach is that this is not only unnecessary, it probably actually works better if you teach the filter yourself. 3 comments

Monday 8/19/02 §

Sampo DVD players can be hacked not only by entering secret codes on the remote (like the Apex players, allowing you to turn off Macrovision and region coding), but by burning new firmware onto a CD-R. Needless to say, there is a robust hacking community for these players. Sampo also makes players for Sharp and other brands. As an added bonus, their progressive-scan model has a retail price of just $149. 1 comment

An oldie but goodie from BrainLog: how to buy something from Amazon for someone who has a wishlist, even if the item you want to buy them isn't on their wishlist. 1 comment

Sunday 8/18/02 §

Macro New York City is a collection of close-up digital photographs taken in, um, New York City. Many of these I'd class more as still lifes than macro. New York City has more than eight million peaple living in it, but in these photographs it looks almost like a ghost town, brimming with the evidence of habitation but only a couple of people (one of whom is the photographer himself). (one day at a time) Comment?

Thursday 8/15/02 §

Dave Haxton (the programmer in one of Apple's "Switch" commercials) is a practitioner of Asatru, an ancient religion of Northern Europe. Not every day you find someone who worships the old Norse Gods -- although wouldn't naming a cat after Freyja constitute sacrilege of some kind?

I would imagine Apple's previous ad campaign, "Think Different," appealed to Mr. Haxton greatly. (Thanks to Scott Rogers via IM) 4 comments

Ten lessons in clarity and grace. It's about writing, but sufficiently abstracted, it seems applicable in other media as well. (elegant hack) Comment?

If you ever link to Amazon products from your Weblog, you might have noticed a while back that Amazon has added an intermediate page (listing products similar or related to the one you're actually linking to) before you get to the product detail page, even if you explicitly link to the product page. Getting around it is as simple as adding ref=nosim to your URLs. In other words, where you previously had this:
... you would instead use this:
Replace the ASIN above with the ASIN of your desired item, of course, and use your Associate ID instead of mine. Here are two links to try it out: intermediate page, direct link. (Of course, you should definitely pre-order the album I linked to, it is by all reports a masterwork of modern progressive rock.) (Blogroots) Comment?

Sculpture that walks. Powered by the wind. Watch the videos. (rosebaby) Comment?

Ricochet is back. (Thanks, Warren) Comment?

Why we haven't been contacted by aliens yet. Classic. 3 comments

Wednesday 8/14/02 §

Good God. There are now working brain implants that provide artificial sight. They're prototypes, to be sure, but this line of research is much further along than I ever imagined. (MetaFilter) Comment?

If you turn the word iPod upside down, it says pod! 7 comments

Tuesday 8/13/02 §

Cooking with lava. (Slashdot) Comment?

Where did salad dressings get their names? (GirlHacker) 2 comments

California conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has started a petition to get the city of Berkeley to pass Aristotle's law of identity, A=A -- a tautology stating that every entity is equal to itself. A small fine would be imposed on anyone or anything caught being unidentical to itself within city limits. It's certainly no dumber than other laws Berkeley has passed throughout the years. I'm not sure this actually qualifies as art ("conceptual art" is usually neither), but it's certainly a wonderful gag. (Flutterby!) Comment?

Happy twentieth birthday, e-mail! (Boing Boing) Comment?

Monday 8/12/02 §

The iPod's new, smaller earbuds still suck: too big for my ears. Jam them in far enough so they stay, and they're uncomfortable and sound lousy; put them in just far enough to sound good, and they fall out when I move my head. The remote is kinda nice if you put the iPod in the included carry case. Other than that, well, 20GB sure is roomy! 1 comment

Here's a data point on the "dumbing down" side of the equation: adoption for kids, not roads. (Follow Me Here) 3 comments

Euan Ferguson makes a case that culture is not actually being dumbed down in the Guardian. Unfortunately, he only addresses the situation on the U.K. side of the pond. It'd be much more difficult to make the case here in the U.S. (dangerousmeta!) 1 comment

Friday 8/9/02 §

Alan Smithee is dead. (See left sidebar.) Smithee leaves behind him an incredible legacy of bad films. (MetaFilter) 1 comment

Thursday 8/8/02 §

Here for future reference: notes on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. (I plan to read it soon.) (MetaFilter) 3 comments

Best SF is a site that purports to tell you which science fiction short stories are worth reading. It's all put together by one guy, so if you disagree with him, you can at least expect that disagreement to be consistent and, over time, learn to compensate for it. So far I largely agree with him. Comment?

Tuesday 8/6/02 §

I, Libertine: a great literary hoax. (MetaFilter) 2 comments

On Lying. (dangerousmet) Comment?

Monday 8/5/02 §

Joseph Weil, "The Yellow Kid," was arguably the greatest con man in American history. 4 comments

Seven Deadly Sins FAQ. (Follow Me Here) Comment?

Cell Biology is an interesting Washington Post article on the emergent behavior of mobile phone users. (via cheesedip) Comment?

iTunes' shuffle feature has often seemed less than random to me. There were songs I never heard, and other songs I kept hearing constantly. Luckily, thanks to iTunes 3's Smart Playlist feature and its new ability to remember how many times each track has been played, I've been able to remedy this. Here's how.

First, create a new Smart Playlist (option-click the bottom left button in the full-sized window, or select New Smart Playlist from the File menu). Switch to the Advanced tab, click the Match the Following Condition checkbox, and choose Play Count from the leftmost pop-up menu (it defaults to reading Artist). Then enter 0 in the text field. Click the Limit checkbox and enter 2 in the text field to its right. Then click OK. When iTunes displays your new playlist (it will have two randomly chosen songs in it), click the Repeat icon at the bottom of the window (third icon from the left).

What you have now is a playlist that displays two songs that, as far as iTunes 3 knows, you have never listened to. Each time you finish listening to a song, it is automatically removed (since its play count is no longer 0) and replaced with another song you have never listened to. In this way, you'll listen to every single track in your collection before you hear even a single repeat. (If you've listened to any songs before creating this playlist, of course, they won't be played on this pass, but that's okay because you've probably heard them fairly recently). As a bonus, a glimpse at the playlist will tell you what song you have to look forward to next, since there's always only one other song besides the current track listed.

Once you've listened to all your songs once, simply hold down Option, double-click on this playlist, and change the play count to 1, and you're all set for another pass. 3 comments

Friday 8/2/02 §

Terry Gilliam's unresolved projects. (the null device) 1 comment

Virtual Color Museum: fifty-nine color systems from antiquity to modern times. (Bifurcated Rivets) Comment?

A very positive article about the company I work for. Comment?

Automotive oddity #673522-Q: the Firebird station wagon concept vehicle. Someone at Pontiac thought a performance wagon was such a great idea that they went as far as building prototypes not just once, but two separate times -- first in 1978, then again in 1986. Pininfarina designed and constructed the first attempt. (Thanks, Jackie) 3 comments

Thursday 8/1/02 §

MIT is working on a new kind of window interface. (muxway) 2 comments

Tricks and scripts for using the UNIX part of Mac OS X. Some of these are pretty cool; did you know it was possible to set the title of the Terminal window by sending an escape sequence from a script? Armed with this information and after a perusal of the tcsh manpage, I added the following to my .login script:

set echo_style = "both"
alias settitlebar 'echo -n "\033]2;\!*\007"'
alias precmd 'settitlebar $cwd'
alias postcmd "settitlebar '\!-0'"
After logging back in, the Terminal window's title bar always shows the directory you're in! How cool is that? Even better, when you run a command, the title bar changes to show you the command you're running (for example, try ls -al | more); when the command is done, it changes back to the current directory. The command line is enclosed in single quote marks so you know it's a command and not a directory. (Also, for some reason almost certainly related to my lack of knowledge of the shell, it just won't work without the quotes.)

How's it work? First, the echo_style variable is set to "both" so we can use backslashes to enter control characters in echo commands. Which we do in the next line by defining a settitlebar command that sends a special control sequence that sets the window's title bar. "\033" is an escape character (ASCII 27), "]2;" is the actual command code; "\!*" means to send whatever we put after the settitlebar command (that is, the text we want to set the title bar to). \007 means to send a control-G (ASCII 7), which ends the command. The "-n" flag right after echo means not to start a new line after sending all that.

Now for the real magic. In tcsh, Mac OS X's default shell, precmd is a special command alias that (if it exists) is executed just before each command prompt is printed. The alias postcmd is executed just after you hit Return to execute a command. So we use these to set the title bar to the current directory ("$cwd") and to the last command line typed ("\!-0"), respectively, at the appropriate times. Cake! Well, it's cake if you understand the shell well enough. The shell, like most things that have been a part of UNIX for 25 years, has accumulated a lot of features, often without much regard for how easy they are to use. I'm no expert on tcsh, but I've figured out some other cool tricks, and I'll show them to you in the upcoming days.

Oh, by the way... I'm baaaaaack! 13 comments