Background updating tasks

10/13/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


ZDNet has a brief article on how a good idea can become an excessively annoying one. In this case, it's applications that run in the background in order to check to see that the version of software one has is the most recent one. On your average computer, it doesn't take long until boot time is doubled and memory is consumed by large numbers of applications that do nothing but increase the footprint. Disable them as you will, you just know they'll be back next time there's an update.

To me the answer seems simple but neither Apple nor Microsoft have done it: create a central registry program that does this. The program -- just the one -- checks through a list of programs and associated URLs looking for updated. When it finds one, the user is prompted, much as the Apple software update works right now. New installs can be added to the list and old ones removed. Make it a standard API and you're done.

So, industry standard operating system providers, why not?


The incompetent hand of the marketplace

10/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Politics


Truly I don't understand what drives financial markets and currency fluctuations:

Canada's dollar broke southward through 85 cents US in morning trading, slipping to 84.87 cents, down 2.41 cents from Thursday's close of 87.28.
Other currencies have been hammered as well as investors buy American dollars despite the weak economic indicators coming out of the United States.

Why would people seek refuge in the US dollar given that it's the US economy causing the financial instability in the first place? Shouldn't they be looking at the Euro instead?

It's not as if the Canadian economy is collapsing: employment is good, the banks are stable, there are no dramatic changes to the business world other than those directly caused by the financial shenannigans in the US in the first place.


Maybe IT security blowhards have a point

10/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Recently at work we found that one of our workstations had been compromised and was acting as a spam server. The primary user of that machine swore blind that he hadn't done anything wrong like visiting iffy websites and installing dicey software. As no other machines in the office -- that we've located at least -- have had a similar problem I'm rather not inclined to believe him.

For a long time, I've held it as a fundamental requirement that users (at least in a development environment) should be able to administer their machines in order to be as productive and capable as possible. I'm now beginning to change my mind on that, at least in this specific case...


Cardboard duvet

09/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


There's something strangely appealing about this duvet and pillow set silkscreened to look like cardboard boxes.

(Via BoingBoing)


"Hamlet" through the prism that is Facebook

09/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


Another fine McSweeney's outing. Oh, here's the New Facebook graphical representation of the same.

(Via Ezra Klein)


Redecorating a basement with a Sharpie

09/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


This has to be the ultimate in graffiti.

(Via ihb)


Escape from reality

09/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games


World Of Warcraft:

Nothing eases the tension after a long day of putting up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks like logging on to Warcraft to put up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks!"

Yet somehow it does...


Somehow, it's still going...

09/23/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Link is to a nice review on the latest iteration of the Amiga operating system. It sounds as if the developers have put a lot of work into making it current and useful but I doubt that I'll ever move back to it.


OSX's "Safety Net"

09/20/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh


For a lot of people, changing operating systems is a significant step. You lose all of your applications, most of your data and a large amount of proficiency (and time!) while you relearn the basics. It's mostly true even within generations of the same operating system (like Windows 3.1 to '95 to '98 to ME to XP to Vista.)

When I moved to the Mac, it was due to a few issues. First, I was frustrated with Microsoft's licensing for Windows. I run multiple machines and buying non-transferrable $200 OEM licenses for each one was getting quite pricey. Secondly, I'd had a chance to play with OSX on a 12" Titanium Powerbook and had liked both parts. Third, BootCamp. Fourth, my current desktop was futzing out and needed to be replaced, preferably with a decently specced and priced laptop.

The third item was really the clincher as far as the choice of laptop was concerned. I didn't want to abandon all the Windows apps I'd paid for and liked so the ability to continue to use them was a big selling point. While I did like OSX based on my brief use, that was with it not being my primary operating system and I wasn't certain the good feeling would last; I had liked BeOS when that was current but it never managed to displace the host Windows system. BootCamp was in essence going to become my default way of using the Mac with OSX being booted into as a diversion and as a way of learning how to support family members who used Macintoshes already. The important thing to note was that OSX was going to be the backup OS on the laptop, not the primary. I wasn't worried about trying OSX on for size as the Windows support acted as my safety net for when it didn't work out.

It didn't really turn out that way. I liked OSX and soon after I bought the computer, the massive discounted software bundles like MacUpdate, MacZOT and MacHeist began, leading me to develop a decent collection of useful applications native to OSX. Those, plus the excellent integration of the native Apple software and the presence of cross-platform programs like SplashWallet and the Palm Desktop, meant I stuck to OSX and really didn't use Windows much any more at home.

If Apple hadn't released BootCamp, I probably wouldn't have migrated; the comfort level just wouldn't have been there. This brings me back to the Ars Technica report linked above:

That's an interesting thought, but perhaps it's not so much wanting to experiment with Windows as an insurance policy for Mac OS X—Windows as a last resort, if you will.

I think they have it exactly right. The Windows support is perceived as essential, even if it's never used. Apple got that with BootCamp. Hosted virtual machines like Parallels and Fusion simply make it an even easier sell.

(MacSurfer link)


60's oilfield technology

09/19/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly


In the 1960's, the cutting edge of technology in Alberta's gas and oil sector included bows and flaming arrows. Seriously.

(Via BoingBoing)


Application focus under OSX

09/18/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining, Macintosh

For the most part I've been very happy with OSX compared to its competition. This isn't a long standing Mac fanatic thing: I couldn't stand OS9 and the prior System releases; the Mac only became an acceptable option to me after the "classic" MacOS was retired with Darwin's arrival.

That is as it may be, but why does it like giving popups instant focus? There I am, happily typing away, and suddenly a requestor appears, grabs focus, nicks my input, goes off and does something, and I'm left wondering what the heck happened. The behaviour should be to bring the requestor to the front where it can be acknowledged but for the sake of the turtlenecked-sweater-clad-one, don't steal my frickin' focus.



Monolingual strikes again

09/17/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Regular readers of this blog will remember a run in a few months ago with a tool called Monolingual that carefully destroyed a fair number of software installs on my Mac. I thought I'd fixed all of the problems.

Not quite; I just found another case.

This time the damage was a bit more subtle. For the last couple of weeks I've been trying to install an update to Office:Mac 2008 which has been failing with an error about not being able to find a legitimate install. Office:Mac itself runs fine and has demonstrated no problems; I just couldn't patch it. Eventually a Google-suggested trip to the Wikipedia gave me the hint I needed:

On May 13, 2008, Microsoft released Office 2008 Service Pack 1 as a free update. However, there have been many reports of the updater failing to install, resulting in a message saying that an updatable version of Office 2008 was not found.[15]

That [15] linked to another article with this comment:

There is an application out on that will modify the resource bundles. Like the above issue, the application bundle has been changed and as such the patch installer no longer recognizes the application as one that has been installed by Microsoft.

Unfortunately after that, all further investigation came back to one solution: delete Office and reinstall. That option does indeed work but I do wish there was a less destructive one.

Anyway, I'm now promoting Monolingual from "potentially dangerous" to "shoot on sight".


Radio Adam foobared

09/16/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Macintosh

Yesterday I updated Radio Adam to use the newest iTunes since it had been working appropriately on my other systems. Part of the install requires a reboot of the system which I didn't think much of at the time.

When everything came back up, I restarted iTunes, let it do its validation process and ran the usual playlist. What I had forgotten was that it reads in the music from a remote SMB file system. OSX does not automount network drives by default when a device is requested (see MacOSHints for some suggestions on how to do this at boot time) so when iTunes went to read the first file, it didn't find it and therefore marked it unavailable with that lovely little exclamation mark in a circle. It then went to the second, had the same problem, and proceeded onto the third. Within moments it had invalidated about 13,000 tracks.

It's here that I found a major problem with iTunes. If you double click or bring up information on an invalid file which is actually there, iTunes will mark it valid again. Unfortunately it will only do this for the initial file so if you use the "next" or "previous" buttons from the information browser, it'll leave any other viewed items as unavailable. If you're playing to revalidate, once the first track finishes, iTunes won't try any others as they're all flagged unavailable. As far as I can therefore see, there is no way to force a bulk revalidation of music once its marked as being dead.

I then took the other brute force route and dropped the entire file system for the music back on iTunes and went to bed. When I checked in later, it had duplicated all the unavailable files rather than merging back the links back in. I now have a vast collection of duplicate entries that need to be cleared out plus I've lost all of the iTunes library-specific data as that's indexed to the "unavailable" version of the files.

I'm not best pleased.


Time Magazine's Worst Cars List

09/07/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly, Potpourri


Time's list of lousy cars is remarkably even-handed: it doesn't go just for the most ugly or unreliable but also for those which started unfortunate trends.

(Via Wired)



09/06/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly

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