June 14, 2007

Birth of another blog

Now why do I now have another website? Well, because it's midnight, I recently got a Mac and I want to tell the world about it.

Well... ok we actually became a Mac family about a year ago, when my wife got an 20" Intel C2D iMac and of course more recently got myself a little Mac Mini. Previous to that, I used a combination of Linux and Windows... usually Windows for gaming, Linux for everything else.

I've been a Linux guy for a long time. I would say pretty much since I discovered it sometime in 1994 or so I started using it on a regular basis. I still remember recompiling my first kernel, not knowing what the heck I was doing with my first Slackware installation, kernel ver 1.3.x'ish I think it was.... I'm sure I still have the cd's in the original box that it came in somewhere.

So this website really will be just the ramblings of an Linux / Windows gaming converted to OS/X guy...



Safari 3 Beta for Windows Updated

Safari for Windows was just announced a couple of days ago, in what I think is a extremely clever strategic move to get mainstream exposure to the browser. Whats the big deal? I don't use it on my Mac, why would I use it on Windows?

My theory is that Apple doesn't really care if it's takes off on Windows or not, what they do care those is that it takes off on the iPhone, and getting Safari on Windows potentially can get millions of people who otherwise wouldn't give a rats ass about the iPhone take a second look, and maybe see what OS X is all about and ultimately... buy and iPhone and even get the full meal deal switch to OS X altogether.

Oh right, this was supposed to be about the first update to Safari.

Just hours after the initial release of Safari for Windows, several exploits were found and announced, this first update is supposed to address those problems. These types of issues are exactly why this is Beta software and the fact that Apple is addressing the issues so quickly is good to know.


June 15, 2007

Option... Command... Alt... Windows...


One of the first things I installed on my Mini was a program called DoubleCommand. Because I am using a Logitech G15 keyboard from the PC world on my Mini, and by default OS X maps the Alt key to the Option key and the Windows Key to the Apple key, everything is backwards!

This little program (actually a kernel extension) allows you to remap the Alt and Windows keys so that they correspond to the Command and Option keys on an Apple keyboard.

It can actually re-map and fiddle with the keyboard in various other ways as well but the main reason I installed it was so that the keyboard feels like a real Apple keyboard.

Lastly, the best thing about this app is that it's free and open source!


June 16, 2007

Annoying remotes

Maybe not having worked in the presence of a large number of Macs with little white remotes has made be ignorant about this little problem.

We have 2 Macs side by side and the little white remote, although not really that useful for anything other than showing people how cool your Mac is, can be annoying because when our little nearly 3 year picks it up and presses something, it can trigger both Macs.

Actually i take that sarcastic comment back about the remote, it's works great in Joost... but that's another days article.

A very simple trick is to simply pair up the remote with your one back so you don't disturb others around you. How you do this is by hold the Menu and the Right Arrow button the remote for approx 5 secs and you will see the following graphic on your screen.


And voila, your remote won't be bugging those around you... to unpair your remote with your computer, you go to System Preferences, Security, and click the Unpair Button near the bottom.



June 17, 2007

Carbon Copy Cloner


This is not really any breaking news and has been covered to death everywhere but CCC is a great free application that allows you to make a bootable clone of your HD without having to re-install your OS and your apps.

I'm using it to make transfer the contents of the slow 80GB HD in my Mini to a faster 7200rpm 320GB Seagate Barracuda in an AMS Venus DS3 external firewire enclosure to be my main disk.

I'm having a bit trouble with the clone failing after a few minutes... switching to USB seems to fix the problem and allows the clone to complete successfully, lucky the enclosure came with both cables.

So I'm guessing it has something to do with either the firewire controller on the enclosure or possibly a faulty firewire cable. I'll do some more troubleshooting shortly.

And of course you can also use it to make backups of your data and it has some built in scheduling functionality to help with this but I think there maybe other better approaches to backup just data.


June 18, 2007

8 Hours of battery on the iPhone

To all the crazy people bashing the iPhone's poor battery life, Apple has just announced that when the unit ships the battery life will in fact be 8 hours as opposed to the originally announced 5 hours.

Chart stolen from the Apple Press Release.

To those who still say that this is still not long enough or say it's just PR marketing lies, WAIT UNTIL IT COMES OUT!

We're less than 2 weeks away from the release, go test it then before you complain about something that you've never touched or tested.


June 19, 2007

Where did /etc /var /tmp come from?


Now, you successfully cloned and transferred your bootable OS X system onto an external hard drive and you're able to boot into it by holding the Option key when turning on the system and picking disc... everything works! Time to celebrate right?

Well, all except for one little annoyance, there are new directories that show when you open up a new Finder window, mainly: /etc /var and /tmp.

These are really not a big deal, especially if you're familiar with Unix but to most casual users that don't know or care about the Unix behind the scenes this could be a little disconcerting.... and besides, they really should be invisible because well, they normally are.

There's an easy fix but unfortunately you gotta dust off your original OS X installation discs.

The steps are simple:

1. Insert your Mac OS X installation disc.
2. Open Terminal and type the following commands, each on one line:
cd /Volumes
cd Mac\ OS\ X\ Install\ Disc\ 1/
cd System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg/Contents/Resources/
sudo ./SetHidden / hidden_MacOS9

And you're done!

This is documented on the Apple support site, the article id is 301677.


June 20, 2007

MacFUSE and MacFusion

So you may or may not know, I keep an offsite backup of all my perceived to be important data... I used my webhost that gives me a crapload of space, they probably don't think most people use it all up but I sure do.

Since a webhost is what I considered to be an untrusted area, what I did in the past was on my Debian box run encfs over sshfs to create what is essentially an encrypted offsite storage drive... which then i rsync all my important data over to periodically. I rambled about it back in Feb.

Now that I'm completely on OS X, I need a way to access my offsite storage drive... and wow was it ever easy to do.

3 things to install:

  1. MacFUSE
  2. sshfs for MacFUSE, available at the same page as MacFUSE
  3. MacFusion
  4. EncFS Plugin for MacFusion

First, I setup my sshFS connection to my webhost:


Next, I setup the encfs mount:


Notice, I use the newly created sshfs Volume as the source.

Next I enter the password that I used to create my encfs drive months ago.... and Boom! ...just like that, my old encrypted offsite storage drive shows up as another mounted Volume on my machine, all files intact.

Now I'm able to run my old rsync script (slightly modified of course) to update my offsite data again!

Wonderful, I love Unix.


June 21, 2007

OS X 10.4.10


Gasp! An update!

What's included?

The following improvements apply to both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs unless otherwise noted:


* Addresses an issue in which a Bluetooth headset may show up as an available device for sound output in the Sound preference pane after it had been removed from Bluetooth preferences.


* Adds RAW image decoding support for the following cameras: Panasonic DMC-LX1, Panasonic DMC-LX2, Leica M8, Leica D-LUX 2, Leica D-LUX 3, Fuji S5 Pro, Nikon D40x, and Canon EOS 1D Mk III.
* Resolves an issue in which some DNG images may appear tinted or distorted.
* Improves compatibility of Mathematica 6 with 64-bit Macs.


* Improves reliability when using the IR remote control after waking from sleep.
* Improves reliability when mounting external USB hard drives.
* Resolves an issue in which a TomTom GO 910 may not be recognized when connected via USB to an Intel-based Mac.


* Improves responsiveness when using the Control-Eject key combination to display a shutdown dialog.
* Addresses a specific issue in which users importing video from a DV camera may experience dropped frames.
* Includes recent Apple security updates.
* Addresses issues with calendar calculations in certain applications.
* Addresses issues when rounding decimal numbers for display in certain applications.
* For Motion, addresses an issue in which some texture corruption could appear in Motion if VRAM is full.

The stuff above was blantent copied from:

About the Mac OS X 10.4.10 Update (delta)


June 22, 2007

YouTube and the iPhone


A week to go and you can see the marketing around the iPhone ramping up more and more, here's the latest iPhone Ad.

I love the fact that Steve Jobs decided to launch the iPhone on Friday at 6pm!

I mean, you see morning store opening launches, midnight launches, but 6pm? Why you might wonder? Well, because he knows that at 6pm every local news station will be doing the evening news and with all the hype around the phone, every news station will be covering wanting to cover the launch. The guy is brilliant.


June 23, 2007

Washed out colors on OS X

Since I plugged in my 22" Dell into my Mac Mini, everything looked great to me until my wife pointed out that the colours looked a little washed out or faded.

I ignored her thinking she was just jealous of my awesome lcd panel but after a bit of time had passed I realized that I thought she was right.

Well, if this is happening to you, the fix is quite easy:

System Preferences -> Displays -> Color -> Calibrate


And afterwards just follow the instructions and when you're done answering the questions, I'm almost positive that the colors will look "nicer".. at least if your LCD panel was originally configured for a PC.


June 24, 2007

Mac Mini internal drive vs external drive

There is no comparison. I did a very unscientific test, but because the difference is so large, it doesn't matter about how precise my method really is:

My test, immediately after cloning my internal mini onto my external firewire disk I did this:

Power on the Mini with the Command key pressed and wait for the option to pick my boot drive. Click the drive to boot with one hand and start the stopwatch with the other.... wait for the dock to appear, click the stopwatch.

Built in 2.5" 80GB HD: 28.46 seconds
Seagate 3.5" 320 GB 7200 in a AMS DS3 USB enclosure: 29.3 seconds
Seagate 3.5" 320 GB 7200 in a AMS DS3 Firewire enclosure: 17.3 seconds

As you can see the built-in disk and the external disk over USB is about the same.... but however when the same disk is running over firewire....

The difference is over 10 seconds! This may not show real world daily usage performance but it does give a good indicator that a firewire drive with a decent drive out performs the internal 2.5" notebook drive pretty much hands down.

This is probably one of most most simple and worthwhile upgrades you can do to a Mac Mini.


June 26, 2007

Free Apple Seminars

Something that many people don't know about are the free Apple Online Seminars.

Lots of great free content on many different topics:

- Audio
- Business
- Design
- Photography
- Science
- Video


iPhone rates posted!


It looks like the iPhone mobile package plans have been released and they are not as insane as some initially thought. Unfortunately these rates are for the US and I nothing for Canada has appeared yet.

Base plan looks to be $59 for 450 minutes, 5000 weekend/evenings, 200 sms and unlimited data... and a few more things... and the packages go up from there.

You can see the the full chart posted on the apple site.


June 29, 2007

Holy Bajeezus! 1and1 what are you thinking????

Holy cow I can't believe 1and1 my web provider shut off my all my websites and not tell me or their CSR's about it.

Shortly after my last update here, all my websites went down.

Timeline is as follows:

June 26th at around 1or 2pm - I noticed the problem I figured it was nothing, network burps happen all the time... and so I just forgot about it and went about my business

June 26th 10:30pm or so - I noticed my sites were still not working, ok more than a little burp, so I called 1and1 tech support and asked if they knew about this outage. The response I got was it will be back up in about 3 hours, she had to "apply a fix"
June 27th 2:00am or so - More than 3 hours later, everything is still down - I go to bed hoping everything will be fine in the morning.

June 27th 12:00pm - Still nothing, I place another phone call to 1and1 and was told this csr would apply a fix and it will be up in 1 hour. An hour later still nothing.... so I sent an email request through the 1and1 administration site asking for an update.

June 27th 7:00pm - Everything is still down - so I place another phone call as was told by the csr that my problem has be "escalated to a higher level" and I had to just wait.

June 27th 11:05pm - I received the following email:

Thank you for contacting us.

This is in connection to call earlier regarding the downtime of the server, please be informed that I have escalated your case to the appropriate department for further investigation. You will receive an updates from them via email.

We will appreciate your patience on this.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

and of course still nothing is working.

June 28th - 1:52pm - 48 hours after the outage I received this email:

Recently we have noticed that your web site(s) is consuming a disproportionate amount of server resources (including memory and/or cpu time). Because of this, we have had to move your account off of the shared hosting server to an auxilliary server. We now request that you consider purchasing a Managed or other Dedicated Server in order to continue hosting with 1&1 Internet.

The decision to move your account was made by the system administrators in order to improve the quality of service for the rest of our clients on the shared server from which you were previously hosted. The resources consumed by your account threatened the ability of that server to capably operate as as a shared host, so it was required that your account be moved in order to mitigate server load. Though we could move your site back to the original shared hosting server, it is not recommended. Your account activity has demonstrated that your site deserves its own server to better suit its performance needs.

Please visit 1and1.com to review the server products we offer. You will have one (1) month to make a decision and migrate your account over to a 1&1 server or another host provider. You can choose to return your account back to the shared server, provided that you take steps to reduce the load generated by your websites. If the account has to be moved off the shared server system again you will only have the option of purchasing a dedicated server account to continue hosting with 1&1 Internet.

Please reply to this email promptly. Further questions/comments should be directed to admin@1and1.com.

Thank you for your compliance in this matter.


They had taken my site down deliberately but did not inform anyone, especially me since I own them... or their CSR's who would be answering my requests? It's not like they were spending time trying to fix the problem, it was the fact that they took it all down and did not tell anyone about it for 48 hours.... even after numerous requests from me.

The majority of my sites are little sites, that generate relatively low traffic, some are some blogs for friends that I host on their behalf.... what the heck could I have on my sites that could have caused them cpu/memory issues? I've requested they tell me which specifically which site and/or pages was causing them a problem and I will remove it from their servers but have yet to receive an answer.

I mean this is absurd... 48 hours later, they told me they did all this deliberately.

June 29 - 1:00pm - It's now about 72 hours later....my domains are slowing coming back up because of dns propagation I'm not still able to see everything....

I had previously recommended 1and1 to a several people because of their great pricing and decent uptime. They actually got extra business from my recommendations, but after this fiasco I'm not going recommend them at all.... I realize you get what you pay for and my sites will likely eventually all be leaving them.


June 1, 2007

The Great Circle

Grant's Great Circle Calculator
(Image above from wikipedia)

So Yi sends me and a few friends this wikipedia article about the Great Circle that her co-workers had to work with to build an application to do that calculation and how it gave her a headache to look at.

I looked at it and started at it a bit and figured that deriving it would be impossible with my current state of math awareness (not like I could do it in the past heheh) but implementing it (given the formula above) now would be trivial.... so I did and sent her and my friends the link to a webpage.

It originally accepted 5 values, lat/longs values for two locations and the radius of the sphere defaulting to 6372.795 which is the radius of the Earth.... and it worked!! Yay proof of concept....

The next day her and my friends started goofing around with my calculator by calculating the distances from their homes to various other places such as work... grandparents homes etc.... but it was a bit of a pain because they needed to obtain the lat/long values from another source and then input them into my calculator...

Then someone mentioned something about using google to find the lat longs and then it struck me:


I could just use Google Maps API to geocode the address and use the resulting lat / longs to do the calculation! Having used google maps api before, this would be fairly easy to do....

This resulted in the following webpage:

Grant's Great Circle Calculator Near Release

The in the spirit of annoying internet buzzwords, I decided to bring my little calculator into the world of web 2.0 by ajaxifying it and throwing some pastel colors as well as removing the final "e" in mapper.... this results in the final product:

Grant's Great Circle Mappr

Why did I do this? Well no reason really, I suppose I could throw an ad on it.