Collider VR

&tQuicktime VR at its finest: The Atlas target at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, near Geneva.

When I see stuff like this, I always wonder why Quicktime VR never really took off. Examples of it aren’t unheard of, but given that it’s relatively easy to create QTVR files, I’d expect to see these things everywhere. Instead, Apple’s QTVR creation software became the only OS 9 software the company never ported to OS X. I’ve heard this is mainly because stitching software now comes bundled with most digital cameras, so there was little market left for it. But if every digital camera comes with stitching software, why isn’t QTVR ubiquitous?

via David Rowland

Speed Up

Am I crazy, or has gotten slower with time? Nope, not crazy. uses SQLite, and its database can stand a good vacuuming from time to time. Simple instructions on optimizing your indices to re-optimize internal data structures. No metrics on this, but there’s no question my larger mailboxes are snappier after running this.

Music: Benny Goodman :: Solo Flight

Steve Responds to Norway

Last month I expended what were probably too many words in a discussion on a mailing list, making the point that Apple inherently values DRM-crippled music. How else to explain the fact the iTunes store attaches DRM to music even when the artists don’t want it there? Buy 100 songs from iTMS, I argued, and you’ve invested $100 in music that can’t be played anywhere but in iTunes or on the iPod. If Sony comes out with an iPod killer next month, you’d be reluctant to switch because you wouldn’t be able to take your purchased music with you. DRM is valuable to Apple, Sony, and Microsoft (who all exercise the same kind of data lock-in) even when there’s no direct profit in it, consumer convenience be damned.

Steve Jobs’ recent open letter to the music industry knocks a neat hole in my argument, making the point that, based on their data, 97% of music on all iPods is not protected, and that 3% is hardly sufficient incentive to prevent users from switching. Hmmm… Good point, but then why is some music available at eMusic (my favorite online music store by far) without DRM while the exact same music is sold as cripple-ware at iTMS?

Not sure what to think, but I appreciate that Steve is calling for an end to DRM. His letter is extremely cogent (one wonders how many lawyers’ hands the letter passed through before publication), and provides a great primer on the opposing forces with which Apple and other music providers find themselves wrestling. Of course, the fact that much of Europe is threatening to follow in Norway‘s footsteps in making the iPod (or rather the breakdown of consumer choice its DRM represents) illegal is likely a contributing factor.

Music: Kalama’s Quartet :: Kawika/Liliu E

Table of Contents

McSweeney’s has apparently gotten their hands on an early version of the table of contents for the iPhone manual.

VIII. Using the iPhone to manage your calendar

XV. Using the iPhone to better understand the coming synergies between Disney and Apple, and the fact that no conflicts involving the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will ensue

XXIV. How to change the iPhone’s battery

Music: Duckmandu :: California Ãœber Alles

Negative Space

Dangling participles left after today’s introduction of the iPhone. What exactly does Apple mean by “Runs OS X?” A stripped down version, or the Full Monty? If a stripped down version, where else might this “OS X Lite” run? Where is the SDK? What will it take to recompile existing OS X software for it? Has it got Java? Why GSM rather than CDMA? Will Widgets run as-is? Why have they hitched their wagon to a single carrier, rather than selling an unlocked phone? Does it include a corkscrew?

Sometimes it seems like Apple puts as much effort into deciding exactly how transparent / opaque they should be as they do into design. Negative information space surrounding a visible hub, carefully sculpted to encourage speculation.

Just switched to Sprint a few months ago, and am locked in for the long haul. Shame too, since Cingular offered a similar discount to UC employees; could easily have swung that way. Wearing a phone on one hip and an iPod on the other strangely seems much more awkward today than it did yesterday.

Two good reads:

Tom Evslin: Apple Fails to Reinvent Telecommunications Industry – Too Bad.

Imran Ali, with both dancing praise and concerns about openness (or lack thereof): Yay! iPhone!

Music: The John Doe Thing :: Tragedy by Definition


Returned from vacation to a struggling XServe (at work, not Birdhouse) — the main boot drive had quietly filled to capacity, and for some reason the email alert system had not kicked in. Fortunately we had recently decided to upgrade the server to a RAID 1 configuration. I had ordered a pair of 500GB Apple Drive Modules before I left, and the delivery dude arrived right as we were in the middle of clearing up space. The universe smiles.

I had done some research on software RAID solutions for OS X Server, and was hearing great things about SoftRAID. Yes, OS X includes built-in RAID software, but this comparison between Apple’s RAID and SoftRAID had me sold.

There are a zillion ways to set things up, but the process turned out to be incredibly smooth. Disabled services to prevent data changing during the upgrade, installed the drives into bays #3 and #4 in the XServe, initialized and grouped them to RAID 1 with SoftRAID, used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the existing drive onto the new volume, set the new RAID volume as the startup disk in system preferences, shut down, ejected the original drive, and brought the system back up. The whole process took two hours, and everything was running like butter. Well worth $129.

Music: Blind Willie McTell :: It’s A Good Little Thing


All of my old rsync scripts still work fine, but have thinking lately about altering our home backup strategy. Backing up just user data is well and good, but restoring a fresh system and applications in the event of a total failure would take half a day.

Hearing good things about SuperDuper! for a while now — a system that puts OS X’s native disk imaging capabilities to full use. When backup starts, a “sparseimage” (a grow-able disk image) is mounted, and any changes to the filesystem since last backup are written into it. Make it a bootable sparseimage and you can move it anywhere and boot from it. A complete restore to any volume can be made from it with Apple’s Disk Utility. Or you can mount the image normally and drag files out of it to restore individual bits.

Creating the initial image took most of the day (which is fine – I was busy grouting and caulking and refinishing a door), but subsequent updates should be relatively quick. The biggest downside I can see is that I’ll lose my rolling 30-day incremental rotation system. But that’s also an upside in disguise, since tracking incrementals consumes gobs of space when a family member uses Entourage, which stores everything in one giant database. Receive a single new message in a week and rsync wants to create another copy of the whole gob. SuperDuper will put an end to that nonsense.

I’m liking this, but not 100% sold on the imaging approach just yet. What are your fave OS X backup solutions?

Keyboard in the Dishwasher

The converted boiler room I call my office is extremely dust-prone. A stream of delivery and construction trucks parades by just outside, leaving a thin film of black soot on everything. After a recent office cleaning jag, realized that my white Apple USB keyboard had become positively embarrassing — the keys stained a mottled gray and black, every crevice stuffed with grime.

Had read before that it’s possible to put a keyboard right into the dishwasher, and decided to give it a shot. Worst case would be that I’d have to get a new one if it didn’t work. When I left Friday eve, strapped the keyboard to my bike rack and headed home. Saturday morning gave the keys a quick pre-scrub with a plastic pot scrubber, then placed the keyboard upside down on the top rack, facing down.

Thought it might not make sense to use the heat-dry function, so removed it afterwards to air-dry. Blessed with warm, dry Santa Ana winds all weekend, but after 24 hours my heart sank when I tested the keyboard for the first time. At first all seemed well, but quickly realized that some keys were stuck on infinite repeat. But after a second full day of outdoor drying, I’m pleased to report that keyboard is in perfect working order (typing on it now). And it literally looks like it just came out of the box. Shiny perfect sparkling white.

Have seen other reports that keyboards will dry faster if you remove all the keys. Doing so may have saved a day of dry time, but if you can live without the keyboard for two days, I’d say don’t trouble yourself.

Music: William Shatner :: Has Been

Mac Marketshare Increasing

According to the Gartner group, “Sales of Apple’s Macintosh computers over the past twelve month’s have grown faster than any other major PC manufacturer, boosting the company’s share of the U.S. PC market to 6.1 percent.” Meanwhile the iPod bubble seems finally to have burst. I’m sure there are many factors that account for the rising marketshare, but wonder whether the iPod actually has functioned as a gateway drug (as planned), its user experience seducing new computer buyers to try a Mac?

Music: Pere Ubu :: Crush This Horn


Greenpeace has built a site based on the look and feel of, but chock-full of information on the environmental impact of Apple’s products and flimsy reclamation program. I’m not sure it’s fair to single out one computer manufacturer, since the entire industry is toxic. But targeting Apple does help to make the point more tangible. Apple is renowned for their elegant but excessive packaging, and its left-leaning userbase probably assumes that just because Apple is “alternative” it must ipso facto be doing good stuff environmentally. Thought this was a very good point:

You can’t recycle toxic waste If Apple doesn’t drop the toxics from its products, it doesn’t matter how good a recycling program they have. Because toxics make recycling more hazardous.

I like this idea too:

We’re not asking for just “good enough.” We want Apple to do that “amaze us” thing that Steve does at MacWorld: go beyond the minimum and make Apple a green leader.

Apple has responded to environmental criticism in the past, and has even been named one of the Top 10 Environmentally Progressive Companies. Not sure how that squares with Greenpeace ranking Apple the fourth worst

Anyway, the site is really nicely done, and drives the message home to Mac owners. It’s too easy to push uncomfortable truths under the rug when you’re involved in a love affair.

Music: Seeds :: Up In Her Room