Archives for November 2007

I'm not the trusting type

Nothing new here since I already posted my thoughts on RadiantCore's analysis of Facebook Beacon but I think that Assaf Arkin phrases it very well when he says:

Facebook still collects the data. Every time you hit a partner site. That’s the nature of their Beacon protocol: collect first, ask for forgiveness later. [Ed: my emphasis] What they let you opt-out of is presenting that data in your mini-feed. You don’t have to share it with friends, but you do have to share it with Facebook.

What it comes down to is whether you trust that Facebook, their partners, and potential future owners are now, and always will, have your best interest at heart when using the data they collect about you.

I don't.

30/11/2007 12:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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I don't know much about art

I know it's hard to believe, but, really, it's true.

I think I would like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Nuragic though.

29/11/2007 09:25 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Terminal on Rails

Solomon White at OnRails has written a script like my goto project script only he's put quite a bit of effort into making his script control Leopards Terminal.app.

I gave up on that approach when it didn't seem to work properly and stuck with iTerm. I'm kind of glad to find that I wasn't just being a muppet -- Terminal is not especially script friendly right now. Maybe things will improve in 10.5.2 or perhaps in 10.6, or 10.7.

He's included quite a neat trick which is that he uses the project contents (e.g. the presence of 'app', 'lib', 'test', 'config' folders) to determine the project type which gets around the need for symlinking or passing a project type explicitly. I wish I'd thought of that. Oh well, what's sauce for the goose... we may borrow that one ;-)

I took a bit of time to have gp build an index of the project tree and searches use that. I'm interested that Solomon choose to go with a solution based on Ruby's Find#find. In my experience that was way too slow. Maybe my project tree is a lot bigger (438,000 files in 140,000 folders) but, if not, I'd be interested in #find performance for others.

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who likes to refactor their work processes as well as their code!

29/11/2007 08:42 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Making a Cocoa NSTableView column resize

For future reference:

When trying to make a Cocoa NSTableView, with a single column, resize properly you need to address both the ResizeWithTable attribute and MaxWidth attribute on the column.

In the simulator, if you attempt to resize the table past the max width, the column will stop resizing which is logical but visually surprising. You then get a 2nd ghost column and some column header artifacts as you resize the table.

Set the MaxWidth to something like 3000 and it will work as you expect.

27/11/2007 23:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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We get the information protection we deserve

Hang on, hang on, hang on...

Mike O'Reilly (where's your damn blog Mike?) pointed me at an eWeek article about the Canadian government losing an undisclosed number of health records (including name, age, sex, and results of tests for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis). In which I read this:

"This appears to be an isolated situation," Jerome Kennedy, minister of justice and attorney general, was quoted as saying in the release. "The information garnered from our investigation thus far supports this. Because the external computer was not part of the systems and networks of either the laboratory or Eastern Health, which provides IT support to PHL, this breach in no way reflects on the integrity of these systems. We can say unequivocally that all other patient information stored by our government and the regional health authorities was in no way jeopardized by this one situation with one computer external to our networks."

So the systems are perfectly secure it's just that, if you want, you can extract their data, put it on an insecure laptop, and take it home with you. Yes, that's marvelously secure.

As Mike noted when he emailed me the link both eWeek and the government (in this case the Canadian government but the same applies in the UK) want you to believe that these breaches are the fault of the individual, the rogue in the system, who took the data.

They don't want you to look at this as a systematic problem. There's nothing wrong with the system. Shoo, shoo, nothing to see here...

There is human error at work here. But the errors are the fault of the people who designed the systems such that data could be improperly accessed and, by extension, the people who commissioned systems without due regard for our protection and - if I want to get all picky about it - also by the people who continue to let the government act this way: *us*.

Until enough of us start standing up to government ministers and their bureaucrats and make it clear to them that our personal information is valuable enough to protect and hold them accountable for we can expect no better treatment from them.

27/11/2007 10:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Why I left Facebook

I've been asked a few times why I left Facebook most recently, in a roundabout fashion, by Stuart Henshall. I left a comment to his post that, I think, is a reasonable summary of my views:

Hi Stuart.

Having been involved in an effort to sell privacy protection to individuals and vendors I think I am quite sensitive to the issues so maybe it's worth treating me as an early warning indicator.

What Facebook and others are doing has made me very uncomfortable; they're changing the deal and in ways I don't like. I think there were ways to implement Beacon and Social Ads that, while they would have followed a less sharp revenue growth curve, would not have rung alarm bells for me. They choose not to go that way. More here:

http://matt.blogs.it/entries/00002718.html

I think Facebook and the rest have gotten an overinflated view of their importance to us. What, after all, do they actually do? They run a website with some gadgets on it. They're good at marketing. Nothing about their site is particularly rocket science or even innovative. They were just the best at packaging those features for a generation that was receptive to the idea of social networking sites.

But, as with blogging, I believe we don’t need large corporations to do social networking and, in bringing the network back under our control, we gain benefits and protection from interests other than our own.

Anyway… just a little more perspective on my views.

Only time will tell if I am right to be worried. In the meantime I'll work here on alternatives and we can let the market work it out.

27/11/2007 10:02 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Don't have a sabot handy? Here, take one of mine.

RadiantCore do a thorough deconstruction job on Facebook Beacon with a detailed explanation of how it works under the hood.

A couple of things occur to me based upon their detailed analysis:

1. It wasn't implemented this way purely because of engineering effort.

Q: How much harder is it to make a web service call than to embed a javascript call and metadata in your pages? A: No harder at all.

Since I am doing this myself at the moment in an application I am building I can tell you it's absolutely no harder to make a web service call than embed a javascript file.

What using a web-service would have done, however, would have been to make it far harder to adopt the opt-out approach they have taken. Circumventing XSS protections to make opt-out possible should tell you something.

2. URL based blocking of beacon is not a proper answer.

Smart users of Firefox can use URL blocking to prevent Beacon requests from being made. But the Beacon URL format is not fixed in stone, not every browser can do this, and I think it creates a sense of false safety.

One other thing that is less clear but may be possible:

3. Instead of following an opt-in, web-service based, approach Facebook have gone out of their way to circumvent browser cross-site scripting protection. I'm not saying this creates potential problems but it seems to me there is a risk that Beacon could be exploited. We'll have to wait and see. If there are problems then telling people to "Log out of Facebook" sounds pretty weak to me.

The way Beacon has been designed, the choices they made, seems to me to highlight an intent to make it as easy as possible for Facebook to exploit its users whether they want to be exploited or not.

For those people who are happy to trust Facebook go head, but don't say you weren't warned.

26/11/2007 11:39 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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iTerm broken

Is iTerm broken under Leopard for anyone else? What I am finding is that iTerm is intermittently beach-balling when a session generates output. It will be hung for quite a while, maybe as long as a minute, or until the input dies down and it uses 75%+ CPU while it's beach-balled.

I never observed this behaviour under Tiger using exactly the same configuration of tools. I'm using iTerm 0.9.5.517 which appears to be the latest released version. Has iTerm been abandoned now that Terminal.app has tabs?

25/11/2007 19:41 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Yellow belt

It's hard for me to believe that I have only been doing karate about 9 months. It's become such a regular commitment and an integral part of my life here. Today I passed my 7th Kyu grading and got my yellow belt.

I'm still a beginner, yet I can feel I have come quite a way since those awkward first steps as a white belt. Todays lesson was hard but I felt that the grading itself went well apart from one little mistake I made during the kihon (the basic practice) which I hope went unremarked because I did the rest well rather than that it just wasn't seen.

I'm grateful once again to Sensei Richard Hughes for his teaching and support. This last month I am especially grateful that he runs classes each weekday so I have been able to work around missing a few of my regular Tuesday classes.

Although I have really enjoyed practicing Heian Nidan (the 8th Kyu kata) I'm really looking forward to learning the next kata, and the kumite looks more interesting as well.

If, by some chance, you live near Maidenhead, Woodley, Burnham, or Windsor and you fancy trying Karate I heartily recommend Richard's dojos to you. He is as friendly as he is professional.

25/11/2007 15:58 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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The principal failing

As Graham Sadd points out the principal failing in the governments latest privacy debacle was their inability to deliver what the NAO wanted. The NAO wanted data for aggregation purposes. They didn't want 25 million identifiable records with bank details intact.

This goes right to the heart of government thinking on systems design. With your (and my) best interests at heart any design would proceed from the assumption that each request is delivered with the least identifiable, or sensitive, data possible. And that, as the data requirements escalate, so to should the authority required to proceed.

But the government don't have our best interests at heart. They design systems for their own convenience and, where forced, to comply with the law. Listen to the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and decide for yourself whether the law is providing you adequate protection from government blunders.

We allow the government to build a vast, all encompassing, database about us at our peril.

24/11/2007 10:10 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Giving Spaces another go

When I installed Leopard I gave Spaces a go and, well, it just didn't stick. I'm not entirely sure why but I suspect it has something to do with how much space you have using a 23" Cinema Display anyway and the awkward interplay between tasks and applications.

However, yesterday I gave it another try using just two spaces. One for communications and one for development. Because I use a different browser for development (BonEcho) than I do for mail, blogging, and news (Safari) this seems to work and has proved quite beneficial.

It makes me wonder if there is an API to Spaces.

23/11/2007 11:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

LinkedIn next?

It wasn't easy leaving Facebook, in more ways than just the difficulties getting your account deleted, but everything I have heard since convinces me that it was the right move to make.

Now I hear a rumour that Murdoch's News Corporation is in the running to buy LinkedIn:

An unconfirmed rumour has reached me via a reliable source that LinkedIn is in talks with media giant News Corporation over a possible buyout in January 2008. The reason I am running with this, is that the source is very well-placed. Furthermore, the rumour has the fundamental ring of truth about it. Consider the following.

I know how News Corp views the customers of it's services. One word: cattle. If this news turns out to be true I will, immediately, delete my LinkedIn profile.

This will leave me as a member of no mainstream social network service. The nearest thing to that will be my LibraryThing account. I trust the folks at LibraryThing won't be selling out to Amazon any time soon.

I wonder to what extent the people who own Facebook and (making the assumption that the News Corp rumour pans out) LinkedIn can consider and respect their members if they will consider selling out to companies with the unsavory reputation and predatory practices of the likes of Microsoft and News Corporation.

I don't trust Microsoft or News Corporation so I don't do business with them. If you're going to try to sell my profile to them, I'm going to burn it first.

Everything that is happening in the SNS space at the moment screams out to me that we need another way. I've been calling one concept of that other way Ring. Chatting with John Howard, yesterday, he called it a 'personal social network' which seems to neatly sum it up and why it's incompatible with the ambitions of dinosaurs like News Corporation, Microsoft, and, yes, Google.

23/11/2007 10:00 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

These guys know how to have fun

I am quite a fan of the current generation of "Get A Mac" adverts. I have found all of them funny and some of them hilarious. Don't give up on Vista is, in my opinion the best yet. I've watched it five or six times now and it gives me guffaws each time.

22/11/2007 12:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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I don't trust the government

You may call me a paranoid but I just don't trust the government. It's not that I think they are out to get me, in fact it's quite the reverse. I don't trust the government because they don't give a damn about me at all.

Much like they don't care how they spend the money they coerce from me, they also don't care what they do with personal data that they hold about me. Today it's 25 million child benefit records but it could have so easily been tax records, or medical records or who knows what else. They may pillory the poor shlub who sent the CD's but imagine how badly broken the system has to be for this to even be possible.

Note that this is the same government that say you can trust them to build and manage the National Identity Register which will include a whole range of sensitive, personal, information about us. Of course they will protect it, just like they protected the personal information (including bank details) from those 25 million child benefit records. So, no problems there then.

I almost crashed my car on the way home this evening because I was spluttering with rage listening to some ass-hat politician talking about how much safer we will all be with identity cards and the national identity register.

The governments record on large IT projects would be laughable if we didn't pay for their mistakes. The national identity register will be a huge project where the potential gains from infiltrating the system will be enormous. And your data only has to be stolen or corrupted once to ruin your life.

Today if your electronic information is compromised it can cause you problems but, in general, your life can go on. Things aren't so joined up that one problem will affect everything else. There is value to distributed identity. Once we have a system of ID cards linked to a centralized national identity register it will get hooked into everything. It will invade all areas of life. It will start with birth, death, and taxes but - coming from the government - it won't end there.

In this world of a national identity register let's imagine how we might fuck with someone's life. I expect that the real exploits will be more subtle and, long-term, more dangerous but let's make it personal:

Let's say I pay someone to sneak into the identity register database and do two things. First I get them to declare you as being deceased, and then I get them to replace your biometric profile with some other, random, profile.

(You may choose to believe it will be impossible to do this. I challenge you to ask yourself why you think this. Do you have any evidence? Who is telling you it will be impossible? Do they have anything to gain by persuading you?)

Now, according, to the central, authoritative, government database you are dead and your finger prints, iris scan, or whatever other biometric they believe is yours won't match you. The next time you go to get your car taxed or visit the doctors you'll probably get arrested for impersonating a dead person.

You will, of course, claim that it's all some horrible mistake. But some smiling official will tell you "The national identity register doesn't make mistakes sir." You'll claim someone has broken in but a blank faced official will tell you "That's just not possible, not with all the safeguards that are in place." And then you'll get carted off.

But we don't have to imagine anything so far fetched as this scenario. Imagine how bad life might become if an accident caused your record to get corrupted, or deleted. It's on a computer; these things happen. Maybe you accidentally gain a conviction for sexually abusing children or your social security number gets invalidated. Try getting that fixed.

Because you see the system will have to be presumed to be infallible otherwise people won't trust it. So it will be infallible and any evidence to the contrary will get swept under the carpet just like it does in the banking industry where, of course, no crime exists.

And none of this even begins to take into account the potential abuses that will come from the governments own fishing expeditions in the cornucopia of data they will gather about us all.

The American and British governments have no compunction about spying on their citizens. The national identity register will become a great resource for them both because, inevitably, the government will start to share NID data with it's friends. It will get justified, at the outset, on anti-terrorism grounds and spread out from there.

Can we not think of better things to spend £5.6billion on? Better yet, let's not spend it at all.

22/11/2007 00:33 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Mexican wave

Mexico is staggering under a crime-wave relating to drug gangs. It seems like they have some serious problems and the gangs are often better armed than the police with a steady flow of armaments coming over the border from the U.S.

Today two teenage girls have been found guilty in Ghana of trying to smuggle 6 kg of cocaine to the UK. Who knows if they did it? Or if they were duped?

These and all the many other drug stories just reinforce, for me, the idea that most, if not all, gang related crime is created by government prohibitions.

In all the years that governments have declared their wars on drugs has it ever stemmed the tide? Even a little bit? Do people want to use drugs less now than they did?

This crime exists because the government creates the conditions for a black market to exist. Do you see people killing each other over cigarettes? Or alcohol? Only when the government bans them.

If you want to smoke crack cocaine frankly it's nobody's business provided you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Maybe your health insurance should be more expensive.

Frankly I think we'd spend far less looking after people who can't handle their drugs than we do now on phony drug wars that seem designed only to keep law enforcement in jobs and drug lords in Ferrari's. I often wonder if the drug cartels are the biggest lobbyers for continued anti-drug legislation.

If we legalized drugs, gambling, and prostitution how would the gangs make any money out of it? Their way of doing business would be more expensive than their legitimate competitors. Just like people don't bootleg whisky any more (except when the government make the taxes so high that you're tempted to smuggle it from abroad).

The Mexican government seem to have a hard line stance on drugs and guns and, as a result, Mexico seems to be awash with both.

What will it take for people to work this one out?

I vote that we repeal the drug laws, gambling laws, and prostitution laws. Put a chunk of money aside to deal with the drug addicts, gambling addicts, and prostitution addicts and, I predict, take a healthy cut in taxes.

21/11/2007 23:56 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

The terror of pesto

I'm back in the UK after spending a couple of days hanging out with my friends at Evectors; It's going to be good to be able to talk about what we've been up to.

While I was there Paolo recommended to me to buy some pesto he thought was very good, so I picked up a couple of jars and, packed them very carefully in my bag for the flight home.

Well I got stopped at the X-ray machine... "What's this Mr. Terrorist?" they said to me. "Pesto... that's like a liquid isn't it? You can't have those."

I wanted to say "It's pesto you dolt! How many fucking planes have been blown up with two jars of pesto?" But I'm not allowed to use a position of authority to bully people so I stuck with trying to persuade the nice officer that good pesto didn't deserve to go in a bin. But that's exactly where it did end up. I assume someone makes a nice living selling all this confiscated stuff.

What the fuck is wrong with us? Are we so scared that we accept this kind of raving bureaucracy? What next? I mean, I carry 8 pints of blood around with me... that's like a liquid too.

Watching old black & white films traveling by plane used to be so easy, such a pleasure. The government appear to be conspiring to make something magical into the most horrible fucking experience they can. Once again we pay for their bullshit rules, the many official hanger's about and armed police, all of the taking off of shoes and belts, and make sure you smile for the nice official.

And what's it all for?

21/11/2007 23:34 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Time is an illusion

Stowe quoted a fascinating piece about the history of sleep from a recent Sunday Times article:

Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night — divided into a “first sleep” and “second sleep” — also included a curious intermission. “There was an extraordinary level of activity,” Ekirch told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. Benjamin Franklin took “cold-air baths,” reading naked in a chair.

I had never even considered the possibility that our "8 hours at a stretch" model of sleep was not simply the natural way things happened. Once I thought about it though the link between the industrial model of work and a "sleep shift" was too clear to ignore.

But I'm not a shift worker and I don't work in a factory. I work from home and have a great deal of flexibility about when I do what I do. I also find my nightly sleep often doesn't completely refresh me and I get tired in the afternoons.

Polyphasic sleep is, in principle, an attractive idea for me but, in practice, it seems to have a lot of constraints that would not play well with my lack of self-discipline about such things.

Is the sleep pattern conditioned? How would you experiment with a first & second sleep model? It seems like an odd idea to set an alarm clock for 4 hours after you go to bed.

20/11/2007 11:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Living with Leopard

  1. Dock on the side. I've tried it with and without glass and, as long as the Dock is on the side of the screen, I prefer the glass. It was the _3D_ and reflective stuff that bothered me. The dock is hidden most of the time anyway.

  2. LeoColorBar. Fixes the anaemic, transparent, menu-bar. I've found I actually like my menu-bar a slate blue color to complement Leopards new, darker, look.

  3. Getting rid of the stupid "space theme" login background. I like the black & white Mojave image from the desktop preferences so I coped that over /System/Library/CoreServices/DefaultDesktop.jpg. The halo effect around the login box welcoming you to MacOSX was pure sugar.

  4. No more Aqua scroll-bars. The Aqua scroll-bars seemed to be a jarring oddity in the new Leopard look. This trick replaces them with iTunes style scroll-bars. It's a tiny change but the feel of Leopard is all the better for it.

As an aside I decided to re-enable Spotlight for my system disk. At first things seemed to go okay; It said it would take approximately 2 hours to index the volume. After a while this went up to about 10 hours which still seemed quite reasonable for the size of data I have. But it kept going up and up and, by the time I went to sleep, I was looking at quite a wait:

Nevertheless it was finished by this morning and I am enjoying the new, improved, Spotlight. Since I am not at home I do not have TimeMachine running. It will be interesting to see whether I have problems again with both of them together.

20/11/2007 10:29 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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What I miss on the iPod Touch

Three applications I really want for my iPod Touch:

1) A decent scientific calculator. Aesthetics aside the touch is not a Micky Mouse computer. I don't expect it to retire my Casio fx-991MS but I need a calculator that can do more than add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Bonus points for graphing with pinch & zoom.

2) A notes application. Okay so it's not an iPhone so I can't record voice messages. But I've proved I can type pretty fast on this thing, I need a note-taking application. At a pinch I could settle for a single notepad although something with some organization would be preferable. It must synch.

3) A PDF reader. Sure the screen isn't huge but with double-tap & pinch & zoom it would be a fine backup reader and a way of having copies of Programming Ruby, and other essential volumes, with me everywhere.

Perhaps when all three are available the 1.1.2 jailbreak won't look so uninviting. Oh well, there's always February...

17/11/2007 10:01 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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It's not ours, it's yours

I really hate the way some people/companies insist on using the word "your" in describing things of theirs.

For example Sainsbury's often refer to their stores as "your Sainsbury's store" but, so far, my every attempt to either sell or have my store shut down has failed.

I'm going to say this just once: It's not mine, it's not ours, it's yours.

17/11/2007 09:48 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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How to spot fear

Why is the U.S. government afraid of people having their own money?

But to make matters worse, all the gold and silver that backs up the paper certificates and digital currency held in the vault at Sunshine Mint has also been confiscated. Even the dies for mint the Gold and Silver Libertys have been taken. -- [via Kevin Burton]

I'd like to know what part of the Liberty dollar was illegal.

15/11/2007 21:57 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Making multi-site work in Rails 2.0

It's supposed to work in Rails 2.0 but, as of RC1, there are still some wrinkles making multiple view paths work properly. The idea is that you should be able to serve a different set of templates for requests to awesome.myawesomesite.com and dismal.myawesomesite.com.

For example you might use a Rails before_filter to detect the domain and prepend to the view_path like so:

before_filter do |controller,action|
    case controller.request.subdomains.first
        when "awesome"
            view_path.unshift( File.join( RAILS_ROOT, 'app', 'awesome_views' ) )
        when "dismal"
            view_path.unshift( File.join( RAILS_ROOT, 'app', 'dismal_views' ) )
    end
    true
end

This would allow you to keep common templates and layouts in app/views/ and override with domain specific templates. However it doesn't work.

This relates to the initialization process and the point at which view_path is used. I came up with a gross workaround which involves modifying @template.view_paths directly but Technoweenie came up with a better fix:

Index: lib/action_view/base.rb
===================================================================
--- lib/action_view/base.rb (revision 8131)
+++ lib/action_view/base.rb (working copy)
@@ -265,7 +265,7 @@
  end

  def initialize(view_paths = [], assigns_for_first_render = {}, controller = nil)#:nodoc:
-    @view_paths = view_paths.respond_to?(:find) ? view_paths : [*view_paths].compact
+    @view_paths = view_paths.respond_to?(:find) ? view_paths.dup : [*view_paths].compact
    @assigns = assigns_for_first_render
    @assigns_added = nil
    @controller = controller

by dup'ing the path you get the right effect without that change knocking on into subsequent requests. However it does mean an extra dup on each request.

Perhaps there is a better way? I'm also looking into the Rails MultiSite plugin

15/11/2007 16:58 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Pull the trigger

I pulled the trigger on getting my Facebook account deleted. I'm waiting for them to confirm the request and do whatever it is they do. I couldn't see any way to preserve any of the messages people had sent me or to download any of the information so I guess I lose everything.

This experience, more than any other, has taught me that it was a mistake to give my social network to anyone else. Marc is dead right about that.

I am resolved to think more about Ring the idea of a social network that we all keep ourselves as conceived by Paolo.

I think I have already come up with a way of making it work that preserves privacy but also scales and handles off-line activity. More later.

15/11/2007 10:39 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Leopard losing passwords?

It's just a feeling but I am beginning to wonder if Leopard is losing my passwords. I keep hitting sites that I've logged into before and finding that Safari doesn't know the username & password. I go check the keychain and there's nothing for that site. In todays case it was the EngineYard HelpServe and I happen to know that the details were in the KeyChain at some point.

KeyChain instability would be bad, but hopefully also noticable. Anyone else having this kind of problem?

14/11/2007 18:06 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Botched GMail

Is it just me or are Google botching up GMail?

Today GMail has been unusable in Safari for much of the day with links of one kind or another not working. This seems to be related to their "New Version". The problem I had was that the "Old Version" link, like most of the rest of the links, didn't work.

Also with the "New Version" it no longer auto-completes the addresses in my contact list. I have no idea what this is about and, from my perspective, it's fucked up.

GMail is an essential tool for me. Google arbitrarily tinkering with it like this is not cool. Improve it, but don't break it, and don't take away essential parts of the experience please.

14/11/2007 17:51 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Fonts for coding

Gruber talks about the fonts he likes for coding:

Me, personally, I'm still a Monaco 10px non-anti-aliased man. But if you prefer anti-aliasing even for coding fonts -- and in our coming-someday-soon resolution-indepenedent future, we all will -- there are a bunch of good options. My two favorites are Panic Sans, a Bitstream Vera Sans Mono derivative that Panic supplies with Coda, and Consolas, a new font from Microsoft designed by Lucas de Groot.

avatar.rb 2014 SandokanI've been through 'em all discovering problems with different point sizes, anti-aliasing and so forth. At the moment I am locked in on non-anti-aliased, Anonymous, 13pt in TextMate and anti-aliased, Anonymous, 12pt in iTerm.

For the record I do 99% of my coding in TextMate on a 23" Cinema display (1900x1200) with the TextMate window at full vertical stretch and about 50% width.

14/11/2007 14:50 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Finder memory leak?

I notice this morning that Finder is using about 148mb of memory. It's the second largest process on my system after Safari. But I have no Finder windows open so I can't imagine what it's using 148mb of memory for.

Anyone else think there might be a leak in the new Finder?

14/11/2007 10:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Give your own money away

"Free trade means no sanctions against Iran, or Cuba or anyone else for that matter. Entangling alliances with no one means no foreign aid to Pakistan, or Egypt, or Israel, or anyone else for that matter. If an American citizen determines a foreign country or cause is worthy of their money, let them send it, and encourage their neighbors to send money too, but our government has no authority to use hard-earned American taxpayer dollars to mire us in these nightmarishly complicated, no-win entangling alliances." -- [Ron Paul]

If it's good enough for America it's good enough for us. Of course the problem is that it doesn't seem to be good enough for Amercia but one can hope... ;-)

14/11/2007 00:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Adios Facebook

Okay I suspect nobody much cares but I've had a response to my questions from Facebook support:

If you are logged out of Facebook, you will never receive a prompt to publish a story about the action you took on an external site. If you are logged in, you can just click the 'No Thanks' link, and it will never send the story or store that information anywhere. Unfortunately, there is not a place where you can opt-out of all external sites from prompting to publish a story. We appreciate your feedback, and will keep it in mind as we continue to improve this feature.

They don't directly address my questions but from what they do, and don't say, my worst fears about this are confirmed:

There is no way to opt-out of this which means that you're either going to be saddled with saying "No" to, what?, dozens, maybe hundreds of stories or let it ride. My guess is they hope most users will let it ride. I'm also complete unclear about this "never store that information anywhere"? I've queried them on this about whether that specifically includes Facebook. I don't believe them.

But simply not providing an opt-out and forcing me into this is unacceptable to me so I shall vote with my feet. Tomorrow I shall request my Facebook account be closed down.

As I wrote to a friend who questioned my decision to leave:

I realise Facebook makes things convenient for people, including me! But Facebook realise this as well and, I believe, they are leveraging that to increase their own profits at the expense of our best interests. I could be wrong but I'm not willing to take the risk.

This experience has just emphasized the need for a social network on our (the users) terms. Ring anyone?

13/11/2007 14:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Spotlight on spotlight

So it seems like Spotlight was the culprit in my problems with TimeMachine. Last night I re-enabled TimeMachine before I went to bed and it looks like it completed the first backup in about 2-2.5hrs and then did hourly backups as normal.

I read somewhere that TimeMachine depends on Spotlight but the evidence so far is that it doesn't because I was able to run it and browse the history okay. I didn't try searching from TimeMachine but, if it didn't work I'd understand why.

I'm going to leave TimeMachine enabled and Spotlight disabled until 10.5.1.

13/11/2007 09:30 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Why on earth does anyone use Kagi?

So I wanted to register VisualHub which seems to be a good solution for converting video for use on the iPod Touch. Their purchase link ferries me off to a Kagi store.

Here are some observations based on what follows:

  • The store website is butt-ugly. I mean it's coming straight out of 1997. Strike one.
  • Okay they allow me to pay by PayPal. I'll let them off having a fugly site.
  • Hrmm.. I'm paying by PayPal but they still want my address. They already seem to know I'm in the UK so i've no idea why. Strike two.
  • The checkout link takes me to PayPal, but after I login there is no transaction to verify. This is the first time I've ever seen anyone mess up a PayPal transaction. Strike three.

So, in a nutshell, this useless store asks for information it doesn't need and doesn't fullfil it's single purpose in life, i.e. to let me but this software. When I tried to find the help and support I discovered after checking a bunch of links on the Kagi pages that they have no clue what support means either.

Really... I want to buy your software, you (presumably) want me to buy your software... so make it easy, make it pleasurable, but for gods sake: make it work!

12/11/2007 23:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

In which I get called an ignoramus

In a comment to a post of mine "chris (humanbeing@hotmail DOT com)" from Canada writes:

You are an ignoramous! No social safety net? I hope your luck runs out and you land up on the street one day along with your kids!

but you see the joke is totally on them because it irked me enough to write a reply straight away when the only gadget to hand was my iPod Touch. Here is the result.

Thank you so much for the insult and the I'll wishes. You certainly added to the discourse. Of course given your attitude I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you seem not to have attempted to understand either my point of view or that of the article I quoted. In short: I am not advocating a society based upon arbitrarily dumping the poor on the scrapheap of life but actually considering ways of supporting people that either don't require taxation or require considerably less in the way of taxation. I am not willing to simply accept that,because it is a given, we should blindly go along with it no matter the costs or the ills it generates. Thanks for playing.

Considering my first impressions of typing on the iPod Touch I have to say it was amazing. I made a couple of errors but, overall, found myself able to type at a good pace and was not frustrated with it. It's really pretty good.

(See the way I turned around a comment about me being a heartless bastard, who wants to consign the rest of humanity to the dustbin, into a post about my iPod Touch... okay I guess maybe I am an ignoramus... at least I can spell ignoramus!)

12/11/2007 16:46 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

I guess I asked for this really

I installed MacOSX Leopard on my MacBookPro on Saturday night. I configured which disks Spotlight should index and fed a 300GB disk to TimeMachine and went to bed.

On Sunday morning I was somewhat surprised to find Spotlight still 70 hours from finishing indexing one of my disks (albeit one with 350GB of stuff on it) and TimeMachine only half way through backing up the 60GB on my system disk (for reference SuperDuper can copy that lot in about 2.5hrs).

So I let both run for most of yesterday and overnight. When I went to bed Spotlight said it was 10 hours from finishing and TimeMachine had about 5GB left to backup.

This morning Spotlight is still 5 hours from indexing that disk and TimeMachine appears to be broken. Overnight it has, apparently, backed up a mighty 29*KB* of the 56,78GB it now claims needs backing up. Lord knows why it's decided it has to backup more or less the whole disk again. I hope it's not because Spotlight indexed it, that would be too stupid for words.

I am starting to wonder if upgrading Tiger to Leopard was such a good idea. Usually I do a clean install and then, laboriously, copy everything across. Otherwise things have been okay, the only major problem I've had being that AFP mounted disks don't seem to appear in Finders Devices sidebar any more.

I'm not sure whether to leave it and see if Spotlight ever finishes or to re-install. Having watched as ATSServer and mdworker consume, between them, at least one core of my machine for about two days it seems a shame not to at least see if it can finished. Otherwise I guess it's an Erase and Install or maybe even a return to Tiger.

Oh well, I can't say I wasn't warned... by me even!

Update#1: Perhaps all Leopard needed was a prod in the back with a sharp stick. It seems that Spotlight has finished indexing now (at least I see no sign of mdworker and the Spotlight search box is just a search box, for the first time) and TimeMachine kicked itself off again and has done 3.29 of it's 56.85GB and seems to be trundling along now.

I'm still not sure why the heck it's backing up 56GB when it already did pretty much that amount Sat/Sun. Will I end up with a lot of duplicated data? If it does this anything like regularly that 300GB volume is not going to last long at all.

But I'm encouraged enough to hang fire on a re-install for now.

Update#2: Less encouragingly TimeMachine appears to be grinding to a halt again. It did about 19GB very quickly and is getting slower and slower. It's on 21GB and hardly moving.

Also disturbingly mdworker appears to be back. The spotlight window doesn't say anything is being indexed but I have mds and mdworker processes taking up between them about 320MB of real memory and, along with their friend ATSServer, one of my cores. I have no idea what they are doing.

Now I think about it, TimeMachine seemed fine when Spotlight wasn't around. I might disable both of them until 10.5.1 rolls out.

Update#3: I have now completely disabled spotlight and turned off TimeMachine. Frankly I'm surprised that Spotlight still has such a crap admin interface. If this thing is going to be so baked into the system it needs some sort of management console so you can work out why it's going crazy and deal with it. mdutil is, frankly, not that console.

12/11/2007 08:41 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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How do you rename the document in XCode 3?

Does anyone know how to rename the "MyDocument" in a document (in this case a CoreData document) application?

I see that the new refactoring support allows me to rename the class and files MyDocument.h and MyDocument.m but it leaves the nib files and the data model with the old name.

Given how annoying it is to have a class called "MyDocument" it seems like this would have been something addressed by the XCode team, e.g. letting you pick the stupid name when it creates the project!

Anyone know a good solution?

11/11/2007 23:42 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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So that's what a deep sigh of relief sounds like

I just tried to use iJailBreak 0.3 to jailbreak my iPod Touch and install 3rd party apps onto it. Unfortunately after churning away for a little over 10 minutes the process seemed to go wrong and although JailBreak.App was saying it was "installing SSH" the iPod screen popped up with an "I'm melting... you must connect me to iTunes immediatley" screen and iTunes popped up a helpful error -32 or something like that. Not cool!

I'm not blaming iJailBreak per se. Other people seem to have gotten it to work and, given the patchy place the instructions are at right now, I may have done something wrong. But it's certainly not a process for the faint of heart. Especially since it sits there for a very long time with no obvious indication that anything is happening. Why does it take 10 minutes anyway?

So... iPod apparently mortally wounded... I restarted iTunes and told it to restore the iPod. However it then decided it wanted to download the 1.1.2 firmware, all 150mb of it, and this after claiming, just a few hours before, that there was no new firmware available. Marvellous! I had to wait 25 minutes or so, with a seemingly inoperable touch, as my tension levels rose.

This tension was not eased by, the download complete, iTunes popping up a new error dialog saying that the iPod could not be recovered with another number that I felt almost certain would give me no comfort if I were to Google for it.

I decided that, before I started to weep, I should shut iTunes down, disconnect and turn off the iPod, and then reconnect and restart it. This time iTunes did start the restore process and after an agonizing wait while it downloaded, verified, installed, pondered, and then restarted my iPod Touch is back in action!

I actually heard my sigh of relief and it was a deep one :-)

The good news is that I now have some confidence in the iPod restore process. So I am mulling over giving it another try. Maybe tomorrow ;-)

11/11/2007 23:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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My Leopard backup strategy

I caved in an installed Leopard this evening. Despite planning to wait for 10.5.1 when the disk arrived, well, okay, I'm weak.. I know it.

I've decided to combine my existing strategy of having a bootable system clone using SuperDuper with TimeMachine. I have juggled my data about to free up a 500GB Seagate Freeagent drive. On that I have setup one 120GB partition for SuperDuper to smart clone to and the rest is given over to TimeMachine.

I realise there is a certain amount of duplication in this strategy but, where backup is concerned, I'm not sure that's a bad thing and given that TimeMachine backups are not bootable it strikes me as still being a good recovery strategy to have the bootable system image via SuperDuper. Possibly it would actually make more sense to use two different disks but that's going to require more juggling.

10/11/2007 23:58 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Multi-touching like it's 1996

Using the iPod Touch today I figured out what it's been reminding me of. It's just like being back in 1996 when I first came across one of these:

I remember Mike and I walked over to the U.S.Robotics stand at an exhibition at the Islington Business Centre because Mike wanted to talk to a rep about modems. At some point in the conversaion the guy flipped open the case on his pilot and started scribbling with the stylus making a note of Mikes info.

At that moment the future arrived for me in a hurry. I can't remember how long it took me to get a Palm 1000 but it wasn't long and I beat the living daylights out of that thing.

I felt the same kind of feeling when I scrolled the iPod touch display with my finger, when I zoomed out in safari, and when i turned the display over and it fell into widescreen.

The Palm Pilot 1000 was a device full of compromises, much like the iPod touch, but it was just so usable, much like the iPod touch. Like the Pilot the iPod Touch changes the rules about what such an object should be like.

The future's here again!

10/11/2007 22:58 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Spend a couple of hours with an iPod Touch

Okay this is such a lovely object.

I'm still slightly in shock that I paid so much money for it but it seems to be an RDF repeater so every time I hold it those feelings swiftly fade into the background.

It shocks me every time I pick it up how small it is but that it still has a pleasing heft. I knew the sound was good because I could hear it over the din of the Apple store yesterday but I'm pleased at just how good it sounds even using the supplied headphones.

Playing with the multitouch brings a smile to my face. This is the first generation of devices that's had it and the compromise on the CPU is apparent because, for example scrolling in Safari, sometimes it can't keep up. But this is a minor point and I'm sure 2nd gen devices will be even smoother. Mobile Safari is very cool. I liked having the Gmail app on my Nokia, this is better.

I love that it's orientation aware. It's quite funny just to keep turning it over and watch as the screen slides into the correct orientation. It seems like tapping it on the side makes it realise and that's just a lovely sensation. Okay I'm easily pleased but this is the first device I've owned that's this... tactile and it's funky.

I'm still getting to grips with the on-screen keyboard. I'm making quite a few mistakes (big fingers) and it took me a few go's to work out that tapping the completions deletes them and space selects them (which is annoying because it means some common corrections have disappeared, is there a way to get them back?). Ultimately I think the keyboard is still a big win over a "real" keyboard (and certainly over phone style keyboards) because of the screen.

The screen is gorgeous. Nuff said.

The first two notable issues I've got are wireless syncing from my own iTunes library, that I mentioned last night, and the lack of a decent scientific calculator. I don't expect it on my Nokia, but given that this is OSX I'd like the option of something more powerful.

10/11/2007 09:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Steve did it to me again

I popped into town this afternoon to meet a visiting Bethlet for a drink and we just happened to drop by the Apple Store - as you do - and the place was jumping. I'd forgotten it was iPhone launch day. We retreated to a nearby wine bar and came back later and were able to get in okay. In fact we were clapped into the store by cheering Apple employees. It seemed a shame to tell them we had no interest in the iPhone ;-)

I was, on the other hand, very interested in an iPod touch. I probably should never have picked the damn thing up because as soon as I marvelled at how thin it was, the nice weight of it, scrolling, yeah all the stupid shit people have been writing about for months. Well yes, like another of Steve's happy robots I marched off and bought one.

So far I'm wowed by it. The screen is beautiful, the sound (through the provided headphones) is great, and it's a big step up from my aging, ailing, 4G iPod in everything except storage capacity (I shelled out for the 16gb model). I filled my 20gb iPod, I'll fill this one. It'll just mean a little more shuffling but 14gb is still a fair chunk of space.

It hooked up to my Airport network first try and I was able to surf the web and play video from Youtube which was very nice. I look forward to playing with both of those a lot more. But I wanted to put some music on it.

That's when I hit the first real snag. I had hooked the touch up to my MacBookPro which has iTunes and is my main computer. But it has no music at all on it, all my music is on my Mac-mini which shares it's iTunes library. But iTunes wouldn't let me drag anything from the shared library onto the touch.

Then I figured if the touch could download music, over Wi-Fi, from the iTunes store maybe it could sync directly from the mini itself? Apparently not.

So I have this lovely Wi-Fi enabled gadget which seems unable to get service even from my shared iTunes library. What gives?

I mean I can go put it on the mini and sync from there or copy stuff to the MBP but it just seems such a pain when the damn thing has wi-fi already.

Has anyone else solved this problem?

Bethlet also brought me my copy of Leopard so I'll probably cave in and install that tomorrow. I am so weak.

Happy! Happy! Steve! Steve!

09/11/2007 21:53 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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A little bit of good news

From Duane Johnson I hear that the bill to have U.S. vice-president Richard Cheney impeached has actually gotten off the floor after languishing for months.

In order to avoid a floor debate on the merits of impeaching the eminently impeachable Vice President Cheney, Pelosi and her allies then moved to send Kucinich’s bill directly to the Judiciary Committee. They were joined by three Republicans, including maverick Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX).

Ok, it's a far cry from impeachment, or even an impeachment hearing, but it's progress.

So much has happened under this U.S. administration that affects so many of us U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike. It would be good to see a little light shone onto it before the pardons get handed out and the shredders get to all the documents.

It's sad that the Democratic leadership seem so committed, no matter what the true cost, to preserving Bush and Cheney to try and help seal their victory in 2008.

08/11/2007 21:37 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Vader in Love

Steve Dekorte linked to a Youtube short called "Darth Vader in Love" which is pretty funny. Episode 3 is funniest for my money but I won't spoil the jokes.

I seem to be reposting a whole bunch of stuff from Steve. I should probably shut this blog down and just recommend you read him instead!

08/11/2007 09:47 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Getting out of Dodge

This morning I received a response to my enquiry to Facebook about deleting my account and some soothing words about Beacon:

As a Facebook user, you have complete control to determine your privacy settings for the actions you take on other websites. The next time you navigate to the Facebook Home page after interacting with an affiliated site, you'll receive a second reminder that that website is about to publish a story on your behalf. Again, you can choose not to publish that particular story. You also have the option to specify whether you want that website to always publish stories, notify you before publishing stories, or never publish stories for you.

The long and short of it is that you have to delete the info from your profile (which I have already done) and then ask for it to be deleted. I don't know why they make it so difficult but I can guess.

To cut through the privacy blather I have asked three questions that I think define my concerns about Beacon:

  1. Can I choose not to have affiliate sites attempt to publish stories about me?
  2. Can I choose - in one place - that all affiliate sites should not publish stories about me?
  3. Can I choose that Facebook should not keep a copy of the data from stories that I have chosen should not be published?

The three questions somewhat interlap, I probably could have phrased them better, but they cover - I think - the essential deal-breakers, i.e.

  • Will the controls allow me to shut this down safely? If the controls are fine-grained then I will make mistakes, get things wrong, be too lazy, etc..
  • Can I prevent Facebook from receiving or keeping the data? This is different from not publishing it. Unless I can control whether Facebook actually get a copy of the data I am stuck.

My guess is that this last will be the sticking point. If they are going to build their AdWords-killer they will want to make sure they keep all data about me whether I publish it on my page or not. For my part I am looking for a complete, one-step, opt-out from Beacon. They are changing the deal and we know all about that don't we?

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." -- Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith

If I get positive and unequivocal answers to all three questions I will put away my torch and pitchfork. My hopes aren't high though.

08/11/2007 09:08 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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It's a beacon alright

bea*con: noun:

a fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a warning, signal

I've just been reading about Facebooks new "let's take on adwords" beacon advertising service. I'm not impressed.

It's prompted me to start asking what, if anything, Facebook has done for me. It has reconnected me to a few people I had lost touch with. But, honestly, I am (google willing) quite easy to find. If any of them really wanted to get in touch with they wouldn't have failed for the lack of Facebook. Facebook just made it convenient.

Beyond that Facebook has, largely, become an irritation with rafts of invitations to groups I don't want to join, events I don't want to go to, and applications that I have no idea if I want to use because they force me to sign up to them before telling me what they do. The one part of Facebook I'd keep is the status updates but I guess there are other ways of doing that, I'll have to look into those again.

I think I am going to take this Beacon announcement at face value. It's a warning that people like me probably aren't going to be happy with what's coming. I don't want to be monetized to pay back Microsoft for their investment.

Time to get out of dodge.

Update #1: The first sign of something unpleasant. I went to check out the procedure for deleting a facebook account and... they don't have one. You can deactivate your account:

Deactivation will completely remove your profile and all associated content on your account from Facebook. In addition, users will not be able to search for you or view any of your information. If you reactivate your account, your profile will be restored in its entirety (friends, photos, interests, etc.).

But clearly if you can reactivate the account then all they are doing is setting a flag in the database to hide you from searches. That is not the same thing at all. I am totally okay with them offering deactivation alongside deletion but it's not a replacement for it.

I've sent a note through their support feature asking for the process for getting an account deleted. Frankly the lack of a simple delete option weighs heavily on the side of deleting my account.

Update #2: I have just gutted the personal info from my Facebook account. In a way it feels like an act of vandalism... here is this social thing that I have been woven into and here I am now wrecking it. It feels like leaving a club, which I guess it is. But, then, it was never really _my_ club it was always Facebooks club. They were just happy that I feel like it's mine as long as that's making them money. That no longer works for me.

07/11/2007 11:14 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Amen to that

John Gruber thinks Apple needs a strong competitor. Not so much a competitor with a lot of money (there are lots of those already) but a competitor with a lot of taste:

The only technology company I can think of that shares Apple's emphasis on the emotional design of its hardware and software is Nintendo. It's not that Apple and Nintendo share the same taste (they don't), but that they have taste, and express that taste boldly and confidently in nearly everything they produce. Too bad Nintendo and Apple don't compete against each other.

I heartily agree with him. I think that much of what I don't like about Apples products is a reflection of their being designed in a vacuum of acceptible alternative choices.

What I am getting at is that Steve Jobs might well feel that someone choosing a Zune over an iPod is coming from another world. An acceptible choice in this context means a product that Steve Jobs, or someone he cares about, would use in preference to one of his own. Something that doesn't compromise on the design and feel that Apple think are important.

I think a strong competitor, on Apple's own turf, would be good for us all. Microsoft scream that it's not them with every fibre of their being and I think Google are proving that it's not them either. Unlike software, hardware is still an expensive game, I'm having a hard time imaging who is going to step up to the plate for us.

06/11/2007 14:28 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Still has it

No idea what he's been up to lately but Ze's latest [via John Gruber] shows he's still got it... whatever it is.

06/11/2007 12:57 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Not snake oil, gold dust

I really hope this:

According to a report due to be released in Decemeber in the American Cancer Society's Journal, Cancer, during the experiment, six rabbits with liver tumors were injected with a nanoparticle solution and placed inside Kanzius' radio-frequency machine. Two minutes later, the tumors were completely gone and there was no major damage to the surrounding healthy cells, according to the report. -- [link via Steve Dekorte again :-)]

turns out to be geniune. The biggest question for me, not answered by the MSNBC article, is why the gold or carbon nanoparticles choose to attach to the cancer cells. To a layman that's not an obvious behaviour.

06/11/2007 11:14 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Is Ron Paul still the republican black sheep?

The day after Ron Paul raises $4m [link via Steve Dekorte] I am wondering if the idea of him becoming the Republican nominee is still such an outlandish one?

06/11/2007 10:39 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Innovative and Intuitive

Evectors new application Pages got a write up in BlogNation yesterday and they like it:

I’ve been testing out Pages recently and it’s a great way to collaborate on a project. The functionality is intuitive and it’s very easy to create and edit pages. Once you create your page, you are able to add modules including images from a Flick account, video from YouTube, MySpace etc and also text based modules in the style of a blog post.

I can't say i'm surprised. I've worked with Paolo long enough to know that his instincts for this kind of stuff are spot on.

02/11/2007 13:45 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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gp with labels on top

I just discovered a neat trick that makes my gp script that little bit more useful to me. Although it could open all of the terminal tabs and commands I needed, all those tabs got labels like "Shell".. not very useful when you are trying to remember which one has the development log and which one the console.

But I noticed that, when I ssh'd to our Engine Yard slice (What's that? You don't use Engine Yard for your applications? Shame on you!) that its tab label changed to username@host. Not terribly useful given the truncation involved but, nevertheless, different. Hrmm...

A quick Google came up with instructions for changing the terminal window title which basically uses the echo command with some strange escape sequence, so that:

rake log:clear; echo -n -e "\033]0;Dev log\007"; clear; tail -f log/development.log

gives me a tab labelled "Dev log" which is a lot more useful than "Default" or "Shell".

I've amended the rails script I use to:

mate .; diffly .;  echo -n -e "\033]0;Mongrel\007"; clear; mongrel_rails start
rake log:clear; echo -n -e "\033]0;Dev log\007"; clear; tail -f log/development.log
echo -n -e "\033]0;Req log\007"; clear; tail -f log/request.log
open -a BonEcho http://localhost:3000/; echo -n -e "\033]0;Console\007"; clear; ruby script/console
echo -n -e "\033]0;IRB\007"; clear; irb
echo -n -e "\033]0;Spare\007"; clear

and, for such a small change, it's markedly more useful.

I might package the gp script up as a gem in case others might find it useful. Let me know if you do.

01/11/2007 16:33 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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