Archive for May, 2005

Vacation!

Kristen and I are busy getting ready for our vacation, and we’re extremely excited about it! One year after we got married, we’ll be spending our anniversary in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, where we took our honeymoon. We have no plans for while we’re there, we’re just going to relax and drink a lot of fruity drinks. How could you not? Just look at this place!

Princeville Resort

Is that not beautiful? It’s going to be a life of luxury. This year has gone by so fast, but so much of our lives has changed in that short time. It’s been the most joyful adventure of my life so far, and I can’t wait to see what years to come hold for us!

I’m not sure about the Internet situation at the hotel, so you probably won’t hear much from me for the next week and a half. I’ll be checking in when I can, and there will be lots of new photos up on Flickr when we get back. See you on the other side!

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iBook/PowerBook battery recall

iBook Battery imageMy iBook is included in the just-announced Apple battery safety recall. Something about a fire hazard, could cause a nuclear explosion, gloss over that, hey, I get a new battery for free! If you have an iBook or PowerBook, you might want to check your model and serial numbers to see if you qualify.

Having never participated in an Apple recall before, I’m impressed at how convenient they’ve made it to exchange the battery. Just fill out the form online, they ship you a new battery along with prepaid return shipping, and you send them the old one when it gets there. Nice and easy, and I get a brand new fresh battery to boot!

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Tutorial: Subversion on Mac OS X

This tutorial has been moved to Macpot — as I make updates to it occasionally, I’m linking here in order to avoid maintaining two separate copies.

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Mouse + keyboard + USB hub = bad

USB hubI’ve been experiencing some weird mouse trouble with the new PowerMac lately. And no, I don’t mean being unable to find the right mouse button, though that is also puzzling. My problem was a little more frustrating.

Occasionally, when moving the mouse around, and especially when dragging, I would get “phantom” clicks. The mouse would suddenly click or let go of what I was dragging, even though I clearly hadn’t clicked. You can imagine how much trouble that caused when moving files around — they were suddenly dropped into some folder my mouse was moving over, but I had no idea which one!

Then inspiration hit me. My mouse was plugged into the keyboard hub, which was then plugged into an external USB hub, and that was plugged into the computer. Perhaps if I knew more about USB communication, I would have realized that was a bad idea, but I eventually got it. Plug the keyboard directly into the computer, and bam! No more problems. Weird, but I’m much happier now.

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How to be a real San Francisco hipster

On oxygenStep 1. Go to the Oxygen Bar for dinner.

Step 2: Eat lots of sushi.

Step 3: Drink sake. Cold. Apparently hot sake is the Japanese equivalent of putting an ice cube in your wine.

Step 4: Pay actual money for, well, air.

Step 5: Imagine that looking like a 75-year-old life-long smoker is somehow cool.

Step 6: In order to not look like a fool for doing step 4, pretend that the oxygen made you either energized, calm, enlightened, or high.

Man, am I cool or what?

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Mac: Organize your files with tags

Since installing OS X 10.4, I’ve been using a very similar system to what Giles Turnbull describes in Folksonomise your files with Automator. You can enter metadata (here, in the form of space-separated tags) into the file’s “Spotlight Comments” field that will be searched in any Spotlight query. This is great, and it (along with Spotlight in general) is changing the way I store and access files. When I download a reference PDF, I just throw it into my “docs” directory, tag it in the Spotlight Comments, and forget about it.

The article leads me to think, though, about how the buzzword-hungry internets seem to be mashing the terms “folksonomy” and “tag” into the same thing. Tags are a terrific way to organize data, as the break out of the more restrictive hierarchical structures (like a directory tree on your hard drive), and allow you to associate multiple pieces of information with a particular item (like a file).

A folksonomy, though, introduces a subtle but important distinction in that it describes an emergent vocabulary that evolves as a group of people apply their own categorizations to a shared item. del.icio.us is an example of folksonomy, and it has radically improved my efficiency when performing certain kinds of web seraches. While organizing files in this way is a tremendous shift in personal organization, it is clearly not a folksonomy.

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Google content blocker

Sick of reading all that annoying content on the web? Doesn’t it always get in the way of good, relevant ads? Then you need the Google Content Blocker.

What types of ads will I see?

Once the content is removed from a Web site, you will see all of the original ads, unencumbered by annoying content. The ads fall into two categories:

Google AdSense Ads
Google AdSense Ads are the best ads, because we make money every time someone clicks. Learn more about Adsense.

Other Ads
Google Content Blocker does not block other ads. This is consistent with the “we are not evil” spirit that our PR department always talks about*.

An excellent parody site.

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Yahoo jumps into the online music biz

They’re taking a cue from Napster and RealNetworks and going with a subscription model. No word on exactly what type of DRM they’ll be using, but it does say that you’ll be able to listen to the music on your MP3 player, but the songs will stop working if you don’t renew your subscription every month. They’re also severely undercutting Napster to the tune of $7 vs. $15 per month.

In such a saturated market, one can only wonder how long it will take Google to jump in and do it better than all of them.

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Switched (again)

I’ve been hacking together my own PCs from spare parts for years. It started when I was 16 and finally scraped up enough cash to replace my old Commodore 64. It wasn’t much cash, though, and in order to get the most bang for my buck, I wound up piecing parts together from old used computers. There was a lot of pride in that first 286, 12MHz PC. No hard drive, and not much RAM, but plenty of pride.

Every upgrade I’ve done since then has included at least one or two parts from the computer before it. Often it was nothing more than a video card, or a modem, or some memory, and eventually there were no remaining parts from the original PC. But somehow it always felt as if that first computer was always a part of whatever the latest one was at the time. Maybe not any of the same physical parts, but hey, this hard drive was in the last box, and that one’s video card was in the PC before it… My computer had its own lineage, and it, too, was proud.

So you will understand that it is a bittersweet time that finds me announcing the passing of that once illustrious line. But not too bitter, because LOOK AT THIS HOT NEW MAC!

PowerMac photo

I’ve already mentioned how much I love my new iBook. Ever since I got it, I’ve known that my next desktop would have to be a Mac as well. I’ve been patiently waiting, though, for the proper convergence of events, and with the recent release of Tiger and the (admittedly disappointing) updates to the PowerMacs, the time was ripe.

Unfortunately, everyone else in the bay area thought so too, and I had to call four different Apple stores to find a dual G5 2.0 GHz in stock (man, I love that I live within driving range of four-plus Apple stores!). But I managed to find one in the end, and took home this brand new powerhouse of productivity. You wouldn’t believe how much more efficient I am now at wasting time!

I don’t think many people realize this, but Apple has as much to offer the super-geek computer user as it does the technophobe to whom it seems to target most of its marketing. Darwin means that I can have all of the Unix tools on my desktop that I’ve become so attached to on my servers. That, and the second-to-none UI, bundled software, and professional-level software availabile combine to make this my dream machine.

Sorry if this sounds like an Apple ad, but I’m just excited. I get that way. :) Right now, I’m busy exploring the world of development for Mac OS X. It’s a slightly different world than Windows, and there’s a lot (Cocoa, for one) that looks very cool. I’m eager to share some of those experiences with you here as they happen.

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Elistic: a “social list manager”

Early Friday morning, I flipped the switch on Elistic, my idea for a social list manager come to life. The concept was born from a combination of my desire for a good organizer for my Getting Things Done lists and my interest in social networking tools like del.icio.us. The current product is the result of several commutes’ worth of hacking and is still very much in its infancy. I hope to continue developing Elistic in response to the ways in which people want to use it.

Elistic gives you the ability to create lists containing any type of text content, organizing them using a free-form tagging system, and “linking” your entries to other users’ entries as you see fit. Elistic offers RSS feeds for all of its hosted content, and I’m working on an XML API similar to that offered by del.icio.us to encourage creative development of extensions.

It’s a pretty simple system, but I believe that it creates the potential for rich social interaction — one could conceivably use Elistic to host a blog, or a discussion group, or a communal mind map… It would thrill me to see people eventually using it in ways that I had never considered. I hope you’ll check it out and tell me what you think!

There are a couple reasons why I waited until now to start telling people about it. Most interestingly, I wanted to perform an experiment to see how effective del.icio.us would be as the sole promotion tool. Friday morning, I added Elistic as a del.icio.us bookmark and tagged it with a few values that I thought were appropriate.

Within a short while, the bookmark had been picked up by a few more people, and people were starting to sign up at Elistic. By the end of the day, Elistic had about 50 unique visitors, and about 200 more throughout Saturday, all from one link on del.icio.us. Of those 250, ten people created an account and started experimenting with it.

I don’t know that this proves anything other than del.icio.us is a success as a useful social bookmarking tool. Not that I didn’t know that already, but it’s fun to see it in action, anyway.

The other reason that I kept quiet for a couple days was becuase I wanted a chance to start nice and quietly to make sure things were working. I have already found and fixed a couple minor problems thanks to the interest of one particular user. But it seems like things are running more ore less smoothly, so if it sounds interesting, why don’t you check it out? I’d love to hear what you think I can do to make Elistic a more interesting and useful service.

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