Sat, 07 Oct 2017

Fez-Wearing Dragon in the Living Room

I don’t know if AR is “cooler” than VR, but at least you don’t need a stupid looking hunk of geek strapped to your face to try it.

AR Dragon

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:: /tech/computers/os/ios | [+]
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Mon, 26 Sep 2016

Home Server Addendum

GkrellM AdamMicro Center is selling the Raspberry Pi Zero for 99¢ as a loss leader. I bought one, then spent another few bucks for a boot disk and a USB-to-Ethernet adapter and a minimal case. Total investment: about $15.

I’m using it as a Pi-Hole machine.

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Wed, 10 Aug 2016

A Home Server in 2016

gkrellm display for raspberry piOver the years, I’ve had various boxes around the house that you could consider a home server. Often, these were just my desktop machine doing double duty. Occasionally, they’d be some old semi-retired tower machine shoved under a spare table, gobbling frightening amounts of electricity with spinning drives and cooling fans making way too much noise.

Raspberry Pi 3 in a pretty box

It’s really funny to think that this ~$50 guy is really just as powerful as the >$100,000 “medium iron” HP-UX box I was sysadmining barely more than a decade and a half ago.

HP 9000 / 800 Series

These handled the typical home server tasks: holding photos, music, backups, whatever. Serving media inside the house. For many years, this very weblog lived on home servers. With the advent of ubiquitous cloud storage, I’ve outsourced most of these tasks.

It’s still useful to keep some of these things within the home network. What doesn’t really make sense anymore is devoting floor space and lots of watts to some ugly, oversized tower.

Earlier this year I finally bought my first Raspberry Pi system. They’re basically teeny tiny Unix boxes (roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes) for hobbyists. They basically pack a smartphone-level SoC on a small board that can be deployed with minimal fanfare for all sorts of applications.

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:: /tech/computers/os/linux | [+]
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Tue, 12 Apr 2016

New MacBook Pro

apple logoI’m probably the last Mac owner in the world to switch to a Retina MBP. My problem has been that Macs stay useful for so long — my previous machine was over 5 years old, and quite honestly, still works fine. It really only had one real limtation — it maxed out at 8GB of RAM, which made it uncomfortably tight when I needed to run virtual machines on it.

I was really getting frustrated with it at the end of 2014, but then I replaced the spinning rust with an SSD and got another 18 useful months out of it.

Compute-wise, I went from

It’s enough of an improvement to feel during everyday use, especially when I’m doing a lot of things at the same time (I gained 2 compute cores and a lot of cache, and the built-in SSD is much faster than the third-party one I installed in the old machine.)

Honestly, though, the biggest difference is the screen. The gorgeous, gorgeous screen. Combined with subpixel anti-aliasing, I’ve never seen a sharper display.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx/apple | [+]
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Tue, 29 Dec 2015

Autodesk Graphic

Autodesk Graphic header image

Treated myself to this as a late Christmas gift. Just playing around with it I’m pretty happy so far. Between 1990-1999 I used to support a small company’s worth of artists, illustrators, and layout people. I’ve never claimed to be any sort of artist, but out necessity I picked up some facility with the applications those folks used (primarily the Adobe suite.)

If you’d told me that I’d one day be able to buy an application that had essentially all of the functionality of Illustrator (at least the parts I used) for 1/20th of the price I’d have said you were nuts.

Apparently there’s a pretty feature-comparable iPad version that reads and writes the same files. I’ll try that out later.

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Sat, 08 Mar 2014

That Is One Chilly Yak

Biggest hassle was extracting disk images in the right format. I didn’t realize Apple kept around so much of the old stuff here

VMac WriteNow 4

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Sun, 20 Oct 2013

Linkblogging Aid: Frontmost Safari Tab's URL and Title Formatted For Markdown

This AppleScript snippet is probably useful to no one except me, but if it saves even one other Mac-based Markdown-using linkblogger a few seconds, why not?

I have it attached to an Alfred hotkey. (download)

tell application "Safari"
	set myTitle to name of document 1 as string
	set myURL to URL of document 1 as string
	set mdstring to "[" & myTitle & "]" & "(" & myURL & ")"
	set myResponse to (display dialog "Selectable Markdown Link Text" default answer mdstring)
	if myResponse's button returned is "OK" then set the clipboard to myResponse's text returned
  end tell

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx/scripts | [+]
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Sat, 31 Oct 2009

Netbook and UNR

The netbook business is an odd one, really. As a product category, it's easy enough to describe: take a notebook computer, and start taking things out until you end up with something really small and really cheap. Optical drive? As long as you assume the consumer already has a full desktop or laptop somewhere with a CD/DVD drive, you don't need one. Full sized keyboard? Too big, give them something smaller. Top of the line CPU? Don't need it for basic web surfing and light editing. Tons of storage? This is an appliance, you don't need it to hold all of the user's media.

As a business, though, it turns out it's pretty dicey. It's just not possible to make much money on a $300 computer, no matter who you are. Some companies have done the math and decided that it doesn't make sense for them to be in the business. To be honest, though, the business model doesn't matter much to me -- that's up to computer companies to figure out, not me.

I bought Tammie a little Acer Aspire for her birthday last year. Of course, I probably use it more than she does. It arrived with Windows XP installed, and I'm pretty sure I had the hard drive reformatted within a half hour of unboxing. Yeah, I'm one of them.

I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and it was OK. The machine was OK for running Firefox, but I had recurring issues: sometimes, the WiFi would just stop working for no reason, for example.

I'm happy to say the new Karmic Koala release of Ubuntu drastically improves the overall feel of the machine. Everything feels a little snappier, it connects to the household wireless with much less hassle, and after I copied a few fonts from one of my Macs things even look pretty good in the browser. I installed an early access release of Chrome and the performance is very usable on all the sites I visit regularly, even Javascript-heavy sites like Google Wave.

Overall, though, the netbook is still a toy; something to check the IMDb or Wikipedia on while sitting on the couch. It's a nicer toy than it was last week, though.

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:: /tech/computers/os/linux | [+]
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Sat, 17 May 2008

This Month's Bargain

A neighbor of ours was moving and had stack of crap she was throwing away / giving away. One of the items was a ~3-year old Dell desktop — one of those ugly grey and black towers with the meaningless names (OptiPresidioFlexron 3000 or something.) It had XP Home on it, and she thought the motherboard was bad or something. Really, it was mostly just too slow to be usable and she had a new laptop anyway and just wanted rid of it. She gave it to Tammie, and I figured I’d take a look at it and replace the MB if necessary. After booting it into XP, it didn’t look too bad but I really didn’t want an old Windows box of mysterious provenance on my network, so I wiped and repaved with Ubuntu current. A wireless USB NIC and 15-minute driver hunt later, we have a perfectly adequate 2nd websurfing desktop in the house— total out-of-pocket cost: $20 for the NIC.

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:: /tech/computers/os/linux | [+]
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Fri, 25 Apr 2008

Ten Things Apple Could Do To Fix iTunes

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Slashdot’s CmdrTaco
, upon the introduction of the iPod, October 23, 2001

Apple’s iPod platform is a monster in the portable music space. Tens of millions have been sold, and the application that interfaces with the device,iTunes, runs on tens of millions of computers.

I have a love/hate relationship with the iTunes application. I use it to manage my digital collection, which it does handily, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that it has limitations and inconsistencies that I bump into every day.

Continued @ moodmat.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx/applications | [+]
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Mon, 21 Apr 2008

iCal Through A Proxy Now Officially Somebody Else's Problem

My little LazyWeb mewl from a few weeks ago didn’t really generate much in the way of attention, though one poster, Matan Ninio, was apparently able to get things working with a manually specified proxy:

The problem seem to be that iCal does not know how to work with a proxy.pac file, but does know how to work via a proxy. Just enter the proxy address and port directly, and suddenly all is well again. (at least thats the case with our 10.5.2 machines)

My employer now supports Juniper’s SSL proxy, though, which means “free” split routing, which means my iCal traffic doesn’t need to negotiate a proxy at all.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx | [+]
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Mon, 17 Mar 2008

OS X iCal Pet Peeve

iCal in DockiCal sure isn't perfect (far from it, actually), though its current incarnation is far more useful than it was at 1.0. I use it because it integrates well with the rest of the OS (e.g. Mail, Address Book, i$ShinyDevices, etc.) and since, unlike a certain other calendaring product from a large corporation that I Won't Name, it acknowledges that the rest of the world exists and that integrating with things Not Invented Here is OK...

There is one thing about it, though, that drives me batty. Unlike just about every other tool Apple ships, it doesn’t work through an HTTP proxy. They managed to fix the icon so it displays the correct date when the application isn’t running (which has to be hacky as hell behind the scenes), but they couldn’t do something as basic as reusing the same URL retrieval logic as almost everything else on the platform.

In practice, this means that if I log into my employer’s VPN, my calendar subscriptions are broken (i.e. non-refreshing) until I disconnect, rendering them useless during the most important part of the work day.

If anyone has managed to hack around this problem, I’d appreciate hearing about it in the comments.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx | [+]
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Tue, 26 Feb 2008

Bonjour Does The Right Thing When VPNed

I’m working from home today, which means I’m connected into work via the corporate PPTP VPN. To drastically oversimplify things, when you’re connected via a VPN, your local network basically “goes away”, for all intents and purposes, unless you manually set up split routing, which is, to be frank, a complete and utter pain in the ass.

What I noticed today, though, is that Bonjour apparently takes care of split-routing .local addresses automagically. Connecting via ssh and afp worked fine to my local, non-VPN machines, and they even showed up in the Finder’s sidebar and iTunes.

I know this isn’t a huge thing, but it’s nice that “the right thing” happens by default.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx/apple | [+]
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Sun, 04 Nov 2007

Nice Kitty

No detailed upgrade journal, you really ought to read John Siracusa’s latest novel for that. The only thing that was immediately broken was the URL for this blog, because Leopard switched things over to Apache HTTP Server 2.x and doesn’t move your old configs over.

sudo cp /etc/httpd/users/* /etc/apache2/users

If I have anything to say that you haven’t already read 167 other places, I’ll post it.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx/apple | [+]
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Wed, 30 May 2007

Enable DRM-Free Purchases in iTunes 7.2

For whatever reason (I smell lawyers), DRM-free purchases (“iTunes Plus”, cheesy har-har) are not enabled by default in iTunes 7.2. In fact, they’re positively buried:

  1. Choose the iTunes Store in the source list (under “STORE”) in iTunes 7.2
  2. Choose “Account” under the “QUICK LINKS” pane towards the upper-right corner of the store interface.
  3. Click “Manage iTunes Plus” on the account page.
  4. Agree to the screen full of lawyer scat.

iTS screenshot

hat tip: SteveX Compiled

addendum: Looks like they placed iTunes Plus links more prominently in the store interface, so you no longer have to dig for them. Thanks, Apple.

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:: /tech/computers/os/all/applications | [+]
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Thu, 29 Mar 2007

Maybe This Will Help Someone Else

OfficeHTMLIf someone sends you an “HTML” mail from Outlook, even Tidy will run away screaming unless you strip out some of the gunk manually before trying to fix it.

If it’s Quoted-Printable, you have a bit more work to do first [maybe this (web service) or this (sed script).], though you probably have even more work to do if the original document used a non-Western encoding. Not tested.

sed -e "s/\<o\:p\>/\<p\>/g" | sed -e "s/\<\/o\:p\>/\<\/p\>/g" | /usr/local/bin/tidy -c

broken into two sed invocations for readability’s (hah!) sake…

Of course, it’s all very brute-force, but usually good enough for government work.

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:: /tech/computers/os/all | [+]
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Fri, 16 Mar 2007


A white MacBookGuess what — I’m a switcher! I mean, I’ve been using Macs since 1985, so I probably don’t meet the usual definition, but for the last 2½ years I’ve been using a Dell laptop (warning—embedded java) for work. And boy, did it suck. I managed to make it suck a little less by running a Linux distro as my primary OS on it, but that had its own way of sucking, too. It seems weird that, having used Macs since The Dawn of Time™, I’ve never had a portable one as my primary work machine — it always made sense when it was time for an upgrade for me to update my desktop machine. I’ve had many desktop Macs, of course — consistently at home and, when the fates smile upon me, at work as well.

To be fair, the Dell was designed to work with Windows, and for all I know it would have probably been OK in that environment, but frankly the majority of my work life consists of email and scripting, neither of which has a Win32 dependency, and I was not about to add one. I ran SuSE Linux in preference over Windows because, in the course of my work day, it was more useful to me to have a laptop for which the truly necessary tools of my trade (ssh, nfs, perl, python, a decent shell environment) are native rather than crude bolt-ons. Besides, I’d rather make sweet love to a cheese grater than spend my working life in Windows. :)

Dell Inspiron 5160Getting away from Windows and back to Dell, the machine was heavy, noisy, ran (very) hot, and had all the design elegance of a “Soviet tractor built on a Monday” ( thank you Jens Alfke). SuSE had no support for the Broadcom wireless NIC, so WiFi was always a kludge, and the ACPI support was so bad that the thing would regularly shut itself off to keep from overheating for the first several weeks I had it, until I tracked down the magic incantations. Overall, I could get work done with it but it always felt that I was fighting with the thing.

I ended up with a MacBook — I considered the MacBook Pro but I actually prefer the 13-inch form-factor, and the only thing I really miss from the MBP is the nicer video hardware. Traveling with a MacBook is so dramatically a more pleasant experience that I kick myself for not making it happen sooner. The wireless support is truly peerless — the engineers behind OS X’s 802.11x support really deserve kudos for taking something that’s really pretty complicated technically (smoothly moving between disparate networks) and making it truly as simple as I think it could possibly be. Neither Windows nor and Linux distro I’ve used comes anywhere near the Mac wireless experience. Even interacting with my employer’s VPN has been, dare I say, a pleasant experience. The suspend and resume support is first rate, and it even weighs about 20% less than the machine it replaced (a big deal when you’re schlepping the thing around constantly), and I get about an hour more in battery life in typical use. The reduced weight, better battery life, and more versatile wireless support make it a much more mobile machine than the one it replaced. Parallels under OS X is far nicer from a usability perspective than VMWare under Linux for running the occasional Windows app.

So for now I’m still in the honeymoon phase — I haven’t run into any significant hardware or software annoyances (or, more accurately, all of the annoyances are the general Mac ones I’ve been aware of and worked around for years…) Watch this space.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx | [+]
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Tue, 28 Mar 2006

Now That's a Widget!

I was tooling around on HBO’s site, looking for Sopranos stuff, when I came across the HBO dashboard widget (requires OS X 10.4.) Wow. Schedule grid, slick Quicktime integration, and loads of graphical polish. The only negative is that it takes up a fair bit of screen real estate, but it’s maybe the most impressive widget I’ve seen yet.

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:: /tech/computers/os/osx | [+]
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“Mind if I smoke?”
“Yes, I’d like to see that, does it come out of your ears or what?”