2 August 2006


Mac OS X Server Firewall Serial Hole [via].



Daring Fireball about another Dell laptop having a case of the exploding battery:

Mental exercise: imagine the media coverage if this had been an Apple notebook.



Segway Centaur. It’s appalling: they have this amazing technology, and everything they manage to produce — and even their concepts — is terminally dorky. I guess you can’t get away from starting up as a motorized wheelchair maker.

See also: Steve Jobs meets the Segway. Somehow I don’t think they followed his advice.



This is hilarious. The Iconfactory organizes a cute 7-day buzz campaign to announce the site’s redesign (while I still find it ridiculous to close shop for one fiftieth of a year just to launch a website redesign — this makes the Apple Store update Post-Its look amazingly professional now — I can’t argue that it wasn’t highly successful, considering how many blogs linked to it) and… nobody told them that DNS updates could take up to 24 or 48 hours, and they shouldn’t rely on them to make the new site accessible on due date. Not to mention the second sentence on this screenshot, which is just clueless.

Here’s a webmaster who deserves to be fired.

3 August


Insecure wifi: whenever your MacBook’s AirPort (or several PC wifi cards) is looking for networks to connect to (or maybe even when it’s already connected, the article isn’t that clear), a hacker can hijack your computer.

Or, well, that’s what I wrote yesterday. In the meantime, the demo video has been posted and it turns out that they make a point of using an external wifi adapter on the MacBook (thanks to John Gruber for noting it). In other words: MacBook’s internal wifi, presumably safe; crappy wifi USB adapters, unsafe drivers, whether you’re running OS X or Windows. (Nevermind that the journalist states: “those device driver flaws are particular to the Macbook (sic).”)



A Windows tip for a change: you can ctrl-click taskbar items to select multiple windows (and close or minimize them at once, or tile/arrange only them). Who knew?



Avoiding the Uncanny Valley, or the future of motion capture: instead of pasting ping-pong balls onto your actors, just cover them in radioactive phosphorescent powder and film them with several cameras. Oh, and stroboscopes, you just need to have stroboscopes. Then you end up with an incredibly detailed, fully textured, perfectly animated 3D model. Magical.

The demonstration video is more than impressive when you consider how hard it is to get realistic, expressive CGI humans, but I’m not quite sure how useful that is actually going to be. For movie effects, the result is pretty much the same as just shooting an actor in front of a green screen — well, except that you can change camera angles afterwards, but there won’t be so many cases where it’ll be worth the complication. And, yes, it could be interesting for game cinematics and character animation, but the whole point of regular motion capture is that you can apply captured movement to any model, whereas with Contour you only get a lifelike clone of the actor — so you’ll have to hired a different actor for each character, and they’ll have to look the part, and you’ll need to get exclusive deals with some actors for the most prominent parts, and… well, that’s all very unpractical.

Basically, it’s a fantastic technology with not much real world use apart from the odd Polar Express feature.

4 August


I can’t understand why rumor sites are so insistent that Apple would introduce an iPhone at WWDC. Steve is going to introduce Leopard, the new Mac desktops, and quite possibly updates to the MacBook Pro and Cinema Display lines; where in the keynote do you expect him to cram something as major as an iPhone?

Besides, I don’t know Apple’s history by heart, but if Wikipedia is to be believed they have been rather coherent so far around the fact that this is a developer conference — I don’t know what even a new iPod nano would be doing there.



Scan the WWDC 2006 Banner for Clues. Huh, okay, or maybe Steve isn’t going to announce anything interesting at all. Come on, a PowerMac / Mac Pro redesign is long overdue.



The Washington Post reporter who broke yesterday’s story about the MacBook wifi security hole has now posted a follow-up insisting that the flaw is indeed present with the MacBook’s included AirPort card and drivers, but Apple pretty much forced those hackers to use an external wifi card for their demo. On a MacBook. Huh?

John Gruber’s take is that the writer is either incompetent or a moron and, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.



On Embruns, whom I have decided not to link anymore, because he regularly likes to spoil the ending of the most popular books and shows:

Garoo, your all-caps tags scream of teenage angst. Don’t forget you’re a thirty-something now.

Forbidding uppercase strikes me as one of the stupidest inventions of W3C (and yet there’s a lot of competition): it doesn’t help anyone accomplish anything, but only removes functionality from the language. I write some tags in uppercase for a simple reason: I hand-code my pages. Having some tags in uppercase and some in lowercase helps figuring out the structure at a glance: a <div> is a tiny block; <DIV> is a big encompassing block, that’s closed way farther down the page, or often even in another PHP function. (Well, I’m simplifying here; there are other cases where I switch between lowercase and uppercase, and the rules aren’t set in stone.)

And, no, the fact that I need this doesn’t mean my code is too complex. Apart from <font> tags, CSS hasn’t simplified code; it has only simplified everybody’s layouts.

7 August


So that’s, what, Dell: 3, Apple: 2 now? We’re all carrying tiny bombs in our bags and pockets now. And loving it. It’s scary.



If the Introducing Vista 2.0 banners are legit (PS: they are), Leopard better be much more spectacular than the latest rumors would have you believe. Wonder what kind of Aqua tricks they could have up their sleeve.

Paul Thurrott:

BTW, as someone pointed out to me this morning, is Apple describing Leopard as “Train Wreck 2.0”? Really?



AOL Proudly Releases Massive Amounts of Private Data: three months’ worth of search engine queries… associated to AOL user accounts — anonymized, sure, but since people always look up their names and their relatives’, you can easily recognize someone you know and find out whatever they’ve been searching for the last three months. All of this as a public download.

Well, that makes you reconsider Google’s refusal to supply the US government with a bunch of random queries — sure, it’s not the same at all, but they took a stand, and in retrospect it becomes much clearer why search engine companies would need to take such a stand.

(Not applicable in China, of course.)

8 August

WWDC ’06 — Bo-ring!


The Mac Pro certainly is a nice beast, and I wouldn’t mind having one or two under my desk, hooked to assorted Cinema Displays (without iSight — damn, that was a simple and credible enough rumor to come true!), but no update at all to the case? Well, no update except for the additional optical drive slot? I kind of understand the reasoning — the switch to Intel doesn’t change what a Mac is, so apparent changes should be minimal — but it’s been 200 days, the whole switch thing is behind us now, and the PowerMac case is really getting old.



Speaking of which, can you believe they haven’t changed a single thing in the GUI? Not even brushed metal. Not even Mail capsules. Not even the Apple and Spotlight menus! Could they really consider the current state of Aqua to be so perfect, it doesn’t need the slightest refreshing anymore? Or are they just still working on it?



Time Machine: back up all your filesystem’s history to an external disk or fileserver, and restore any previous version at any point in time.

Yeah, I’m sure that’s cool. But I’m weary of my external hard drive imploding under the weight of all my files’ revisions (what happens when the drive is full? does it stop backing up your data, or does it erase the oldest backups, so that you think you have them, only you don’t?). And don’t you just love that Leopard’s most innovative feature is the one interesting feature that hasn’t been removed from Vista? Oh, yeah, those arrogant banners? That was a misunderstanding — they’re unapologetic, not arrogant.



Mail: HTML stationery, iDVD-style. Pretty cool, but rather useless in real-world usage. (Wow. HTML email. Seriously, who would have imagined.) Notes and to-dos: I just don’t know. While Mail is certainly the best place to hold such notes, I’m very afraid that this will be a half-assed implementation at best. But then, maybe not: “Group your notes into folders or create Smart Mailboxes,” sounds good. Same thing for system-wide to-dos: could be great, or could be utterly useless, we’ll have to see. RSS support: pretty weird. I mean, it’s always made more sense to me than having it in the web browser, and, well, why not offer a choice of subscribing to RSS either in Safari or Mail, but… doesn’t it feel odd for two system applications to compete for the same functionality? Oh, wait, that’s right, they already did a bit of that with iTunes and podcasts.

In any case, this is all hardly revolutionary — or worthy of second place in a major OS X revision’s feature list — and, yeah, Redmond, photocopiers, all that…



iChat: Photo Booth effects and ugly background substitution. Whatevs. Screen sharing. Very cool, but very much been there, done that, too. Sharing slideshows and presentations. Ditto. Tabs. Sure. No more brushed metal. What? Why on earth is iChat the only one application to have un updated look? Finder hasn’t changed a single icon, iCal and Safari are still metal, but iChat is updated? Makes no sense.



Spaces: virtual desktops. I never thought that could happen. Weird. I love that OS X will have system-level virtual desktops that just work, but I still can’t believe that’s going to be in the system. Isn’t that terminally geeky? Placeholder images in Mail, cheesy backgrounds in iChat, and… virtual desktops?



Dashboard: saving any portion of any web page as a Web Clip is pretty cool (and the DashCode announcement isn’t exactly a surprise), but still no widgets on the desktops. Meh.

The unbelievable part: the leaked screenshots of Safari with an ugly, out-of-place black Dashboard icons were for real. This thing is horrendous. It’s unbelievable. It’s almost as if they were working on a completely new black, glossy theme to replace brushed metal, and hadn’t bothered to create an old-style toolbar button for Web Clips. But, well, it’s probably not that.



Spotlight: not only don’t they bother to announce it’s gonna be faster (talk about listening to developer and user feedback), now it’s going to be that much slower because it’ll search your other computers on the network, too.

I mean, sure, the idea of the feature is cool. And maybe it works perfectly on a quad-core Mac Pro. But I’m using an iMac G5 and I just never, ever use Spotlight because I can’t bear to wait several minutes for results to appear.



iCal: calendar sharing, group scheduling… eh, whatever. Besides not having a personal use for that, I’m not very interested in whatever requires all your contacts and coworkers to use the same tools as you to be functional (hence my lack of interest in iChat’s new features, too).



Accessibility: the new VoiceOver voice sounds very nice, but are we to understand that Leopard will ship with all the old voices, and one new voice using the new, better algorithm? What’s that about?



And, on the API front, the only announcements are 64-bit support (I’m sure that’s very useful for something, but I don’t suppose it changes the way any developer works, does it?) and Core Animation. Which is, well, very cool and all, but that’s definitely not going to be a reason for developers to start releasing Leopard-only software. That means the new cat will only have to rely on its own features to sell, and… there aren’t too many worthy of a full OS update. No garbage collection? That one would have been immediately adopted by whoever developed new freeware or shareware applications, and would have been a nice incentive to upgrade the OS within six or twelve months.



Now this intensely disappointing keynote (which wasn’t even of enough interest for Steve Jobs to do most of it himself) leaves us speculating: what the hell are those top-secret features that they can’t announce yet, for fear of being copied by Microsoft?

Don’t expect virtualization — they wouldn’t have any reason to hide it, and they confirmed today that Boot Camp would be included in Leopard. It would make no sense to keep garbage collection secret, either, since WWDC is the right place to announce it, and, uh, .NET already has it, I think (unless it falls in the “not sure that’ll be ready for launch time, so better not announce it” category). And I don’t think it would make sense for Apple to devote keynote time to the Dashboard, for instance, while holding back on such details as the ability to place a widget on the desktop (alas). What’s left? What the hell could be secret?

You know it. You know you want it. And you know you don’t want to hope for it. But it’s the only thing that makes sense. A new Finder. And maybe a black, glossy Aqua variant, but a new Finder above all. Something amazing. Or just something mediocre, but pretty. Who knows.


Wow. Stop the presses. Garbage collection is in [via]. Silly me, expecting that to be announced on a Worldwide Developers Conference opening keynote. It doesn’t look cool like Core Animation. And it’s not useless like it.

Well, like I said, then: six months after Leopard’s release, you’ll need to have upgraded if you want to install the latest freeware and shareware programs.



Sony Mylo: a wifi Skype and IM client with slide-out keyboard in a PSP form factor (or rather smaller). I’m not sure why Engadget calls it an unholy abomination — I like the design, and I would totally carry it in my man-purse.

Gizmodo has a quick video hands-on: with 320x240 pixels you’re not going to buy it just to browse the web, and $350 might be a little steep for a Skype phone that only works when you’ve got wifi (don’t mention IM: it “comes embedded with popular instant messaging services,” and that means Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger – such comedians) and doesn’t seem to have a proper operating system, but it still looks cool and, apart from the lackluster memory capacity, it could be quite a decent alternative while waiting for the iPhone to arrive.

No camera, though? Releasing a communications device in 2006 without a camera, with the market they seem to be going after? Geez, what’s wrong with Sony these days?



Kottke: How I Blog:

I spend a lot of time on getting the description of some linked text, photo, or video just right, so that the reader has a good idea of what they’re getting into. Choosing a 1-2 sentence pull-quote that accurately represents the idea of an article is key in getting people’s attention in a productive way. “This is an awesome link” is only going to cut it so many times; you need to tell people what the link is and give people an honest reason to click.

I wish more people understood that. This is HTML 101 (as in, hypertext), but somehow it doesn’t seem to be part of the “I’m blogging now” primer.

11 August


Ack! Capsules in Preview! [via]



Much better: an option to change grid spacing on the desktop, at laaaast. Either that’s actually the one and only change to the Leopard Finder, or that means the only thing remaining of the old Finder will be the desktop — in which case the Finder replacement won’t be the outlandish Core Animation-powered 3D extravaganza that some expect (and thank heavens for that), since it wouldn’t make sense to keep the existing desktop then.

Knowing Apple, you’d have a hard time speculating which alternative is more likely.



Incremental search in Safari [via], actually done a bit better than in the other browsers (to make up for being so late).



Why wait for Leopard? Get Dash Clipping now. And it works, too. Pretty cool.



Mac browser speed wars. Well, maybe I’ll give OmniWeb yet another try, but I can’t ever seem to lay off Safari. (Plus, I might value my RAM more than page load times.)



Interview with Chris Forsythe of Adium and Growl:

The major issue here is that one of the previous goals for Adium was “So many features you will crap your pants”. […] That’s no longer a goal or even on our radar.

[…] One real goal we have is to no longer add a preference if at all possible. Another is to apply the “80/20” rule to things.

Eh… but isn’t the original philosophy the reason why Adium got so popular in the first place? I hate the 80/20 rule (which consists in not implementing anything that would be useful to less than 20% of the user base — 20% is an awful big percentage!).



Sony Mylo Linux-based and doing Java. Unlike the PSP, Sony has no valid reason to cripple the OS this time (but then, having no valid reason doesn’t mean they won’t do it just for fun), so it’s getting more and more interesting.

Yeah, I’m sure you could buy a Palm or Pocket PC for the same price or cheaper, and teach it Skype, but… ooh, shiny. (No, really, I like the design. I do.)

12 August


Digital Face Beautification software transparently morphes headshots to more ideal proportions. The results are so impressive it’s actually quite frightening.

But then, if it’s either that or plastic surgery… better be surprised at the first date rather than when you see your first-bon’s monstruous face.



I’m afraid my iMac is dying. How many prayers will I have to recite for them to send me a replacement power supply rather than deprive me of my computer for two weeks (and send it back to me untouched because the problem won’t have happened in their labs)?

[+1h] One hour on the phone with Apple’s hotline (I don’t want to know how much it’s going to weigh on my phone bill) and he finally tells me I’ll have to bring my iMac to a certified center anyway because all he can personally deal with is software issues.



Segway to the power of one half: the Ballbot balances a 2-meter tower on a single metal sphere.

13 August


Is your iMac randomly shutting down for no good reason? Here’s what you don’t want to do: You don’t want to reinstall the latest combo 10.4.7 update just in case it might be a software problem (which it isn’t, of course it isn’t, you feel in your bones that it isn’t and you’re right) — I don’t know why people seem to recommend that all over the web, but it just screwed up my system. And another thing: You don’t want to try and reinstall from your system disc — I don’t know why I thought I could get away with it, sucidal instinct maybe, but obviously the computer shut down in the middle of the install and borked my system further. And did you know that you can’t FireWire-boot from just any external backup drive? I could have sworn I had tested it, though. No, actually, I am certain I tested it. Maybe I made a mistake with RsyncX in the meantime.

Thank heavens for the Mac mini I bought for no reason last summer. And for target mode.



This was one of my biggest fears when I seriously considered switching to the Mac: that I’d get component failure. On a Friday night. In the middle of August. And I would have to wait until Monday to get any fixing at all done, and that fixing would entail living my life and blood computer into foreign hands for a week. Or two. Or three, there’s no telling, what with being in August.

My next Mac is so going to be a Mac Pro (with two drives in RAID-1 and a third, bigger one for Time Machine). And I’ll have two of these, entirely identical, in case one is ever in trouble. The same with 30-inch Cinema Displays. And Cintiqs.




But from where I sit, right now, Leopard Preview is not to Tiger as Tiger Preview was to Panther.

I’m using a Mac mini with Panther right now, and I have to say — apart from unified windows, and the latest Quicksilver betas, there isn’t a whole lot I’m missing from my usual Tiger install. (Okay, Panther’s Mail is a bit prehistoric in comparison. But usable.)

And yet I was much more excited for Tiger than I am now for Leopard. Goes to show.



Well, there’s another thing I’m missing: for some reason, on this computer, the Microsoft drivers won’t recognize my trackball, and won’t let me assign commands to the extra buttons. While Exposé happily lets me set a “Button 4” trigger to show all windows, I need a solution to map Cmd-W to the fifth button — reading tabbed news in NetNewsWire and tabbed webcomics in Safari isn’t nearly as fun if I’ve got to reach for the keyboard or close box each time I’m done with a page. Any suggestions?

Oh, wait, my bad (well, not quite). The Microsoft Mouse drivers detect what kind of mouse you have when you install them, and never try again afterwards — even though the illustration seems to indicate you only have to plug the mouse in in order to configure it. And the manual refers you to an “Update Mouse” button that is nowhere to be found in real life.

(Refraining from criticizing Microsoft’s Mac software, because it is actually several orders of magnitude better than their Windows software, whereas Apple’s Windows versions of their software is utter crap.)



Oh, damn. I don’t have Panther versions of my thumbnail scripts. Big pink squares all the way, then.


I’d never wanted to open my iMac, to keep it pristine, but if someone’s going to put their greasy fingers in it anyway, why don’t I get started. And now I can say: boy is it nice design. I don’t even have any clue how the three bottom screws that seem to do nothing manage to keep the box shut.

In any case, all capacitors seem to be doing just fine. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing — I have random failures (well, less and less random and more and more frequent) with no visible physical symptoms. I can so easily see myself dropping my computer off on Monday and getting it back two weeks later with a notice that “we didn’t find anything wrong with the hardware, so we reinstalled OS X because that’s what didn’t work anymore, and that’ll be $150 thank you because it’s not covered by AppleCare.”

14 August


If I’m going to have to wait until August 16th to see any sort of progress (damn catholics), I might as well avoid lugging my twenty inches of iMac through the whole third arrondissement (which isn’t big, but still) and order a replacement power supply on the web (which I should have done yesterday, but then I still thought I had a hint of a chance of finding a store that would give it to me, which won’t happen not only because I can’t memorize holidays for the life of me, but also because the nice lady who answers the phone while the store is closed told me “oh, no, you’ll have to bring your computer anyway, we’re not allowed to sell Apple parts” — wtf? they just don’t want to skip billing the labor costs, right?), praying that Apple is kind enough not to bill me.

We received your request for a DIY part for your IMAC G5 ALS (20-INCH) […]. The part should be delivered to you soon, along with installation instructions.

Soon… yeah, right… soon.

Our initial diagnostic indicates that, since your DIY repair will probably be covered by warranty, an AppleCare Protection Plan, or another Apple repair program, no expenses should be billed. For any question regarding your repair’s coverage, we will contact you by phone or e-mail.

Probably. Huh. I don’t like this word, having read somewhere that a power supply is billed somewhere around $150 (hell yeah, why don’t we… well, gotta admit it makes some sense, since it’s custom-designed for the iMac and even includes the Ambient Light Sensor I never quite understand the need for). And yes, of course, they have my credit card number, so that they can bill me $70 expenses if I don’t return the replaced part within ten days.

I know I disobeyed technical support by not bringing my machine to a certified Apple agent, but, well, let’s stay optimistic, shall we? I have the Repair Extension Program on my side, plus it’s not like I found the DIY part order page by myself — I was pointed to it by an online support agent. So there.


By the way, it’s great that they have web chat on the Apple support site (you might have to hunt for it a bit, and it’s in English only — but AppleCare is centralized and internationalized enough for them to know exactly where I stand with French support, which is nice). But it would be much more interesting if they acknowledged the fact that online, keyboard-only support is the most efficient tool there is (I spent one hour on the phone with Apple support on Saturday, 55 minutes of which were just heavy breathing, waiting for the OS to not-boot and the Apple Hardware Test to not-complete; with online chat, a well-trained support agent can process many customers at once, and do something else while waiting for test results) and put their best elements in line there; instead, they seem to only be trained to search the knowledge base really fast and point you to the right pages. Which, well, thanks, but I can do it by myself.

Well, okay, I know that most people will use that web chat as a replacement for the search forms, so it should be taken into account. But, with no e-mail address or anything, where are power users supposed to go for support?

I know, that’s a universal question, and it’s anything but new, but I have very seldom had to deal with technical support lines (and thank heavens for that).

15 August


We have shipped the replacement part or parts for your IMAC G5 ALS (20-INCH) that you have ordered, along with instructions for their installation.


Shipping date : 14-Aug-2006
Estimated due date : 28-Aug-2006

Who the what now? (Disclaimer: translated from English to French by those lousy Apple translators, then back from French to English by me.)

I hope it does mean “date when we expect you to have shipped back the replaced part, or we’ll bill you” (the context allows to think so, but isn’t quite clear). Or else.


I can’t seem to find out where the package is right now (yes, I did find the UPS link) but, considering the time they confirmed shipment, I’d wager that… uh… no, actually, I have no idea where it is, but it’s most probably somewhere August 15 doesn’t apply. So there is a non-totally-null chance of receiving it on the 16th.

(Of course, now that I’ve posted this, it has exactly a 0% chance of happening.)

(Well, now that I added that sentence, it’s back to 50%.)

(25% now.)


(Off the top of my head, that should give a 33% limit or something, right?)


New Leopard screenshots [via]: I find Automator’s new interface less appealing than the current one (I actually felt brushed metal worked on that one), but I guess it’s more functional; and the addition of special, temporary, local-access-only guest accounts is awesome.



More screenshots yet [via]: renaming a file now deselects the extension (Path Finder-style), or yet another example of how the only improvements to the Finder apply to the desktop — you know, considering how fucked up OS X 10.0’s file manager was, I’m getting a bit worried about how Leopard’s secret, brand new Finder will work.



And a Leopard Safari video [via]. As I wrote when I saw the screenshots, I love their take on incremental search; I’m a bit… uh, weirded out by the way inline help search displays results. I mean… no doubt it’ll be quite functional and helpful and all, but it looks so… well… pink, for starters.

Actually — I think it looks Vistaish.



You didn’t believe me when I wrote it (well, you didn’t read it, either), but maybe you’ll believe Gus Mueller (of VoodooPad fame):

10.5/Leopard is looking to be a solid update for developers. There’s lots of good stuff in there that is very compelling, and I imagine a lot of developers are going to find excuses to drop 10.4 support as soon as they can. […] Garbage Collection in objc looks like something I’ll be taking advantage of as soon as I can as well.




Starting with Xcode 2.4, the OSX Universal binary format has been extended to support 32-bit and 64-bit for both PPC and Intel processors inside the same file, giving OSX quad universal binaries. Users don’t have to choose between processor architectures nor 32-bit or 64-bit processors, either at the OS or application layers, it’s all abstracted away from them - as it should be.

Quad universal binaries. Yay. Not. Those slimming programs that trim out unneeded versions from a universal binary are getting more and more appealing.



Vertical PowerBook as an ebook reader. Will people stop abusing their laptops already? I vote to form a protection association that will remove the poor computer from those freaks’ hands. With extreme prejudice.

16 August


I thought I remembered having 512 megs in there but I’d forgotten that the first Mac mini revisions werewas actually designed to handle OS 7. No wonder it’s slow. Hopefully I’ll receive my power supply soon enough — and it will indeed solve my iMac’s problems — that I don’t get tempted to spend 100 € (which I don’t really have right now) on a 1GB stick for a computer I hardly ever use.



One more round of Leopard screenshots (in case the other series had been CoD-ed before you clicked the links), some of which are a bit interesting. Exposé in Spaces (more like Exposé Squared) is pretty nice — Spaces might be the first virtual desktop manager that actually feels like you do have several screens connected to your computer.



Windows Live Writer: it’s free (duh), it works with most major blog systems (what?!), and it seems not to suck at all (gasp!).



YouTube HTML easter eggs. You’d think if I were a true webmaster I’d be sprinkling my sites with stuff like this.



London cabbies reject satellite navigation. Funny that you just can’t see a taxi in Paris without that little glowing screen on the dashboard.

Are London cabbies independent workers, though? Because most French taxis are part of big networks, and that could account for the difference.


John Siracusa on Time Machine:

The point-in-time views in Time Machine are actually sparsely populated directory trees on an external disk or server containing mostly hard links to unchanged directories, plus full copies of the few files that have been created or modified since the last backup. […]

Time Machine leverages the same file system event notification system as Spotlight in order to keep track of which files have changed. (This notification system is open to third-party developers in Leopard. Yay!) This makes the backup process much less demanding; the entire volume does not need to be scoured for changed files, grinding the disk in the process.[…]

In other words, if you change a single byte of a 500MB file, the entire 500MB file will be copied to the backup volume during the next Time Machine backup. Frequent modifications to large files will fill your backup volume very quickly.



Neowin on Vista’s Shadow Copy:

The Shadow Copy feature in Vista doesn’t create a completely new file every time a change is made, it only creates a backup of changes using a driver that tracks changes at the block level across the entire disk volume using a copy-on-write mechanism. These changes are captured in discrete shadow copies or ‘snapshots’, which are created more or less once a day. The total size taken up by the shadow copies is capped at 15% of the disk size – this will normally give you a month or so worth of shadow copies, depending on your I/O profile.


I know that most consumers will prefer the idea of (semi) backups being stored on the same volume; as for me, I’d much rather have a complete disk clone on a separate volume so I can restore everything in case of hardware failure (Leopard installation screenshots showed a “Restore” button). Plus, I have 10GB free right now on my iMac’s 250GB drive right now, and buying a 500GB FireWire drive for Time Machine will be much simpler than upgrading the internal drive. (And that would still be true if I were a PC user.)

On the other hand, not keeping full copies of modified files is a definite Vista advantage — but I don’t think it would work too well with Time Machine’s functionality: you can instantly preview any backed-up file before restoring it, which would be much slower if you had to put together all the past snapshots in order to obtain the file’s final state (a full-volume restore based on incremental snapshots ought to be excruciatingly slow).

I’m quite puzzled by the mention of copy-on-write, though. That’s block-level copy-on-write, right? Vista isn’t actually copying the whole file whenever you make a small change in a big database, for instance, is it? (Note: copy-on-write means, instead of overwriting data you save it to a new place, and update pointers after the copy is made. So that the most inconveniently-timed power failure can’t cause data loss. It’s only slower.)

17 August


A blog full of Leopard screenshots [via] (what? no, of course we’re not done with that!) that will probably have disappeared before I get to publishing this post (what kind of idea is that, putting that up on Blogger? do you really expect them to resist Apple’s lawyers?): weirdly-styled Preview inspector, Undo Close Tab in Safari (at last!), weird Exposé and Spaces icons (which might only be active on beta versions, I don’t know), and… a 512-pixel Safari icon. Adding to that Iconfactory’s statement to the effect that they don’t want to violate their NDA but huge icons are closer than ever, I might finally begin to believe that resolution independence might actually be coming as soon as Leopard.



PodTube [via] gets a YouTube video and converts it to iPod- and iTunes-compatible .mp4 format. There already were websites helping you download the raw YouTube videos, but then you had to figure out what to do with those .flv files (even VLC seems to have problems with them). This is much simpler.

iGetMovies on the same page, is supposed to save QuickTime movies straight to your desktop even when they are save-disabled, but doesn’t seem to like my setup.



Gridwars [via]: a Geometry Wars clone running on Windows, OS X and Linux. I’d wondered why everyone seemed so hooked on Geometry Wars, which looked so primitive and uninspiring for a 360 game; now I understand a bit better — but this thing seems to be pretty much unplayable without a console controller.



Valve Studio Tour: Portal is, indeed, a separate game.

One of these days, I’ll have to find an opportunity to try out Half-Life 2 for a minute, though. It’s a bit of a classic, isn’t it?


It wasn’t easy (having a transporter deliver a package to your home is about as easy and pleasant as canceling an AOL account), but I finally did receive the replacement power supply on due date — only 48 hours after I ordered it. That’s nice service, isn’t it?

Nevermind that prying the faulty PSU from the iMac was insanely difficult — now that I’ve done it, I’m a bit puzzled they actually let users do it themselves; how many inconveniently-placed capacitors must have been ripped out of the logic board by iMac owners desperate to get their PSU out? Well, I wanted to do it myself, so I’m not going to complain.

What I’m going to focus on, though, is that the replacement power supply they shipped wasn’t new. The laser-printed instruction leaflet is very specific about that: your replacement part may be new, or refurbished, or made of matchsticks and peanut butter. And mine was (refurbished), as evidenced by the screwdriver marks on the logic board connector, and the wear marks caused by the iMac’s case screw. Well, fair enough, I guess. They must have salvaged it from a broken iMac. Or it was a previously returned power supply that they fixed, and tested, and put back into the system. Or it wasn’t faulty at all, they only tested it. Because they must have tested it, right? Right?

Listen to this (MP3, 590KB, it sounds a bit more electric in real life, but the sound volume is pretty much right). Oh, yes, my computer works, and I could finally reinstall OS X (which is amazingly simple, actually — when I saw people recommending an “Archive & Install” when something went wrong in your system, I was outraged, traumatized as I was by Windows, but it really is pretty innocuous) without losing power, and I’ve been able to use it for a few hours now. But it sounds like it’s going to explode. Yes, the sound comes directly from the power supply, and it starts as soon as power is on and only stops when power is off, and I have exactly zero doubt that it was returned by a “picky” customer and Apple decided it was just a cosmetic issue and it worked just fine. It doesn’t seem to be particularly overheating, but it doesn’t sound very reassuring, does it? I’m weary of leaving my computer on for too long, and leaving it on unattended is out of the question until I manage to get an other replacement. Why does technical support always have to be a losing fight? Why do they have to be so petty? Are they going to test my previous power supply for five minutes, decide it works, and send it back to another poor unsuspecting soul?

Sure, I’ve only been Mac-less for 48 hours — so far; can’t assume that the new PSU isn’t going to fail within a few hours — but I’m still pretty close to actualizing the worst fears I had when I switched to the Mac. How are hacked OS X-on-PC installs doing these days?

18 August



Core 2 Duo Double Double Twin Twin-based MacBook Pros (or MacBooks Pro?) will run hotter, not colder, than the current generation. (I don’t usually give much importance to what AppleInsider writes, but I understood as much when I read an Ars Technica primer on Intel CPUs.)



The annoying thing when you start reporting controversial news is that you’re obliged to keep on with it as developments arise. So, here it goes: that infamous wifi vulnerability has nothing to do with the MacBook’s AirPort card, chip, or drivers [via]. That’s Apple’s PR department speaking, but everybody suspected so from the start; for all their flaws, don’t you think they’re a bit unlikely to flat-out lie about having received disclosure information regarding their own drivers?

(But then, Apple released a MacBook firmware update just today, so you might as well conspiracy-theorize away.)



Web 2.0-ish graphics replacements for the QuickTime plugin. Feels nicer, more modern.

[+15h] This patch also changes the QuickTime controls within the iTunes video window. Not a catastrophe, but they feel a bit more out of place there than the original controls did within Safari.



Hands on the Optimus Mini Three. For real. In the flesh. (With a particularly crappy, hardly enticing, cameraphone-like picture.)

And, on the same day, Apple patents the exact same concept. If I read this correctly, they only just applied for it — and it should be overthrown, because Art. Lebedev has supposedly filed theirs earlier.

[+15h] This is the patent application’s publication, not filing date (thx Enro). Which poses the question of the Optimus keyboard’s future; I don’t think they revealed when they filed their own application, but since the publication delay appears to be standard, we should already know it if they had filed it before Apple did.



Scott Adams:

The scary part is that every spam message probably works on at least one person. […] So Barney places his order for the miracle pill and wonders why the Nigerian vendor needs his social security number. […]

I think the government should send spam to all citizens. If someone like Barney tries to buy a miracle pill, the government erases his social security number from their records so he can’t vote. It would solve a lot of problems.

Side note: the purpose of the American social security number is to vote? Figures, I guess. (The surprising part, come to think of it, is that they have such a thing as a social security number.)

19 August


Oh, right, silly me. The reason why iTunes doesn’t show a video podcast unless I select the individual podcast episode in the list is, of course, that I set the artwork/video viewer to “Selected Song” instead of “Now Playing” (because I use it to set the artwork on album tracks without opening the Get Info window).

I specifically set my iTunes preferences to open a video window when there’s video; so it totally makes sense for iTunes to assume that, if I haven’t set the artwork viewer to “Now Playing,” then I most certainly mustn’t be willing to see the video. In another window. Right?



So far I’d resisted installing UNO (which replaces the Aqua and brushed metal window schemes with unified and dark-unified), because I’d like to avoid hacking OS X as much as possible, and because I wanted to keep a pristine, as-designed Aqua interface for as long as I could bear (since it doesn’t need to be tweaked and hacked like Windows does), but I’ve been irked by the occasional non-unified application lately (OmniWeb, I’m looking at you — yes, it so happens that the outdated Panther window style are reason enough for me not to switch browsers), and everybody’s talking about it, so I might as well give it a try.

I wish there were a bit more granularity in setting up the GUI (I’d rather it left the menubar and logon screen untouched, thanks), but I like the way it works (with no performance impact, no runtime), and I like the way it makes my system look. Some apps like System Preferences or Transmit look much greyer than they used to, but I do happen to like grey. Maybe I’m even going to switch to the graphite color scheme; it makes perfect sense in that context.

The main drawback is that Panther, unified and brushed metal windows all respond differently to mouse clicks (you can move them by clicking, respectively: the titlebar; the titlebar or toolbar; any part of the chrome); once all windows are UNO-ified, it just becomes completely unpredictable.

But that’s definitely Apple’s fault, and nobody else’s.

21 August


Think Secret’s Leopard screenshots: DVD Player gets the dark unified treatment; iChat is (optionally) separated from Address Book (at last! I always found that quite retarded) and does one-way video chats (looking at GarageBand’s advanced podcast recording functionalities, I was just wondering whether that was possible); and what beta software looks like at Apple.



I wouldn’t actually want my Mac to look like this, but every time I check back the messageboard and see this screenshot again (the Amora one, not the rainbow) I just love it.



So far my only problem with UNO is in TextWrangler: they’re clearly not using the right image to fill out the margin. A very minor annoyance.

22 August



At Microsoft they did research and found most people won’t click on the “next” button. But, they will scroll. You’ll notice that the search [results page] at live.com doesn’t ever end. If I remember the research right they are finding that people look at something like five times more information if it just keeps scrolling than if they have to click next.

Not quite surprising in a day of blogs and search engines, but some people have remained stuck on the “virtual fold” paradigm, so this quote might come in handy later.



Video of Optimus mini. Not quite impressive. And why the hell do the screens flicker?

23 August


The endlessly scrolling page [via]. That interface is much more interesting, and organic, than the live.com results page — and it’s amazingly simple Javascript that’s got to work pretty much everywhere. I wouldn’t use it for a blog (I think archive navigation by date makes more sense) but it’s a great idea for an aggregator or search engine. And I might just steal it for gayattitude’s blog aggregator.

It’s a pity they have to show the “If you are using the scroll bar, release the mouse to see more posts” hint, though. I wonder — have there been studies made to determine how many people use the mouse’s scroll wheel versus the windows’s scroll bars?



OS X needs its Minesweeper, and why wouldn’t it be Tetris? Good points, except that Microsoft “invented” Minesweeper (even if I don’t suppose they actually invented that game principle itself), whereas Tetris could never be equated with Apple.

Still, licensing Tetris would be a nice touch. More interesting than Nanosaur. (Well, different purposes — Nanosaur is only included to demonstrate that a Mac can do 3D games.)



Fitt’s Law in Office 2007. I subscribed to this blog a while ago because it’s such a weird experience, seeing a Microsoft design team (and a major one at that) get stuff right.

25 August


Microsoft’s notfornoobs.com viral campaign was for… a freaking mouse. Dear god they’re morons.



Microsoft is likely to leave a compulsory start-up sound in Vista — you know, like my iMac that I just can’t turn on at night, because the startup sound uses the internal speakers and they’re loud. (At least, with Windows, you’ll only have to turn the speakers off.)

And I just love how they rationalize it.

Volume control in a Windows machine is a wild west. A mess. The startup sound is designed to help you calibrate or fix something that got out of wack when you startup your machine.

So I guess it makes sense that Microsoft’s solution would be to do the wrong thing, like Apple’s startup sound, rather than bother to do the right thing, like Apple’s volume control in OS X.

Did you know that Sony has a built in sound? Did you know that Toshiba has one?

Did you know that means Sony and Toshiba computer users will have two startup sounds? (Plus the user-customizable log-on sound.)

Yet they see the bloggers protest, and now they’re beginning to consider the possibility of adding a registry setting to disable that sound. (Heaven forbid it be too easy.) Damn, I already used the “Dear god they’re morons” phrase today.



Uh, one comment on the aforelinked blog post says:

I can turn off the sound on my Mac from a key on the keyboard, and it will boot silently.

Oh, what do you know — apparently (I can’t test it, it’s two in the morning) if you press the Mute key while booting up it will start in silence. (Too bad my Macally keyboard’s volume keys aren’t recognized.) And the sound’s volume is determined by your system volume setting when you turned your computer off, so I could just lower system volume and turn my speakers up.

(Yeah, I know there are software hacks that will disable startup sound, but they’re hacks, and I don’t like that.)

28 August

Google Apps


“Gmail for your domain” becomes “Google Apps for Your Domain” (in beta, duh) and goes for another round of blogosphere hype. I don’t think you’ll want to use Google Page Creator for anything serious; there is no definite advantage (for now) in using this Google Calendar rather than the stock one; Google Talk will be useless for any serious use as long as it doesn’t support offline messaging, and its only advantage is integrating IM logs into Gmail; so this is really still all about getting Gmail to manage your domain’s addresses, isn’t it?

I have no personal interest in that (I wouldn’t trust my email archive to any foreign server), but it looks to be quite interesting for many people (Gmail with your own addresses, still free? why the hell not?) and I would probably not mind recommending it to clients (although most of them would complain about the lack of mailing list support — why no apparent Google Groups integration?). Plus, imagine if/when Google Apps allows for automated account management: any community site could offer free, personalized Gmail accounts to its subscribers. Teh cool.

There’s a teeny problem with the terms of service, though:

No Fees. Provided that Google continues to offer the Google Hosted Services to Customer, Google will provide a version of the Google Hosted Services (with substantially the same services as those provided as of the Effective Date) free of charge to Customer indefinitely; provided that such commitment (i) applies only to End User Accounts created during the period when the Google Hosted Services are considered a beta service (the “Beta Period”) by Google (such Beta Period determination at Google’s sole discretion) and (ii) may not apply to new opt-in services added by Google to the Google Hosted Services in the future. For sake of clarity, Google reserves the right to offer a premium version of the Google Hosted Services for a fee.

In short: any user account you register during the beta will be free forever; if you want to create new accounts afterwards, you might have to pay; plus, we may launch a premium version of the service later on.

I personally find the last two clauses a bit conflicting — in a frightening “we have no clue what we’re gonna do” kind of way. Anyway, how come they’re unable to commit to something as simple as free Gmail accounts creation? Beta services are one thing we’re used to; beta pricing, now, that’s bullshit. What businesses could be foolish enough to move their email accounts to Google Apps without any sort of commitment as to what creating new email accounts will cost? (Oh, some will, I have no doubt.)

Come on, you know you’ll offer free user account creation, at least within a reasonable limit, so why not just put it in writing? Limit that commitment to 500 active accounts or so, and raise the counter over time just like you raise mailbox size. Because this doesn’t look very serious, nor clean.



Scobleizer: Bloggers have a double standard when it comes to Google vs. Microsoft? Well, duh. You do reap what you sow, occasionally.

I love that he references a Microsoft blogger’s post complaining that Google Apps is intrinsically the same as Microsoft Office Live. Behold Office Live Basics: Free domain name! (Which I can’t help but expect will forever belong to Microsoft.) Five e-mail accounts with proven Hotmail-quality spam filter! (And probably no POP3 access. Unless you have Office, I guess.) Windows XP and MSIE compatibility! Credit card required, but it’s free, really! (Unless you give in to our upgrade nags.)

Yeah, it’s, like, just as cool and tempting as Google Apps, really. Geez…




  • APC Magazine: “Google promised more information including pricing soon.

29 August


Kevin Rose’s Laptop Getting Engraved [via]. I don’t care much about Digg (except for Kevin Rose being cute) and I don’t care much for desecrating a black MacBook that way; I’m just impressed that laser engraving is so simple and fast.



Using the latest Mercury Messenger yesterday (which is orders of magnitude better than the previous version) I found out that Windows Live Messenger now supports offline messages. Finally.

Oh, and if you’re using Adium or another compatible IM clone, chances are you won’t receive messages sent while you were offline, and nobody will be notified. I wonder if that’s also the case if you’re using an older version of MSN Messenger — I wouldn’t put it past Microsoft.



Does anyone actually care that a program has been released to strip DRM from (legally acquired) PlaysForSure Windows Media files? If so, just Google for it, because I don’t think I could link it without going to jail. Yay for DRM protection laws.

Actually, while I don’t think anyone does, or should, buy Windows Media music, it seems like it could actually be of some interest to Napster subscribers (particularly those American college students who get free Napster subscriptions and still prefer to BitTorrent their music) since it allows you to download all the music you want for a flat fee, and keep a copy. Which would be baaad, needless to say.

30 August


Midnight Inbox [via]: Finally, a real OS X application designed from the ground up for GTD principles? It seems a little too early in development for any kind of functional judgment (or for public beta release — even though I can relate to a small developer’s impatience to get something out and have some feedback), but it seems well thought out, and damn does it look pretty. Which counts. A lot.

From the few minutes I spent with the program before it crashed, only one thing worries me: I don’t see any hint of Yojimbo-like web archiving functionality. The most important thing for a GTD process to be successful is that it has to encompass everything; all your data must be in one central place, to be managed with the same tools. And, in this day and age, a lot of that data is in the form of a web page. (Which is why I have migrated my to-do lists to Yojimbo, even though that means having to manually type “todo” in the search box every time I want to retrieve them.)



Check your web site’s status on Google (part of Google Webmaster Central). It’s nice to see how long ago the Google spiders visited your site, but you could already extract that info from your HTTP logs. It would really be interesting if it could tell you when a newly-added site is actually going to be indexed for the first time, but I tried and it doesn’t.

No pages from your site are currently included in Google’s index. Indexing can take time.

Yeah, I knew that, thanks.



Link Alert: there are already several Firefox extensions to warn you that a link points to a PDF or Word document or whatever, but this one does look more elegant than the others.

Although it’s probably a bit too unobtrusive — unless Acrobat for Windows has dramatically changed since I switched, you probably want a bit more prominent warning before you accidentally click a PDF link.

31 August


I didn’t comment on Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO) joining the Apple board of directors because… well, I don’t quite grok all this corporate stuff, but isn’t this just about one individual man whose capacities to make share prices soar have been recognized, and not two companies merging? What does it matter — it’s not like Al Gore joining the board has changed much for Apple, has it? (Well, he did release a 100-minute commercial for Apple in theaters. Was that an initiation rite or something to get his seat on the board?)

But everybody’s blogging about it, so maybe it does matter — and reading Rui Carmo’s post I realize he has a point: what if .Mac migrated to Google? I was actually thinking about it while writing about Google Apps: Google knows how to do that kind of stuff, while Apple seems to be as clueless as uninterested in making it work. What could be better than a Google-powered .Mac?



I’m still knocking on wood, but I’ve already waited for 48 hours so as not to jinx myself and it looks like my second power supply replacement is the right one. When I initially unpacked it I was heartbroken seeing the screw marks on the metal casing (for some reason the iMac’s design makes the bottom screw scratch the power supply), indicating that this was once again a refurbished unit and it might be as defective as the previous one. It’s only after I installed it and booted up the iMac and didn’t notice any flaw that I realized: the connectors were free of screwdriver marks, hinting that only the metal casing was refurbished, but the innards were brand new. And functioning.

I’m not sure whether that was just dumb luck, or they did knowingly send me an imperfect replacement unit the first time because they didn’t know if I had any valid reason to want a replacement, and agreed to send me a brand-new one when I could demonstrate that it did fix my random shutdowns. I’d like to think it’s the latter — I can’t blame them for not immediately trusting my judgment (even though, the way the iMac is designed, every power supply exchange bears significant risk of knocking off a couple capacitors from the logic board, so you don’t want to do it too often).




He was telling me how easy it is for someone to sit at a Starbucks, slurp off the local WiFi, and recreate almost everything you do, often gaining passwords and private conversations. […] I could be sitting next to you watching EVERYTHING you are typing across the Internet.

Nothing new, but it bears repeating. Over and over again.


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