Category Archives: tech

General technology issues

Second post with Ecto

This is my second post with Ecto, a very popular blogging tool for both Macintosh and Windows systems. So far I like the tool, but one thing is slowing me down. It either takes a very long time to upload photos, or it is trying to upload photos and there’s something wrong with Ecto, WordPress or my setup of either or both. (I don’t know if it truly takes a long time because I did a force quit to get Ecto to stop trying to upload the photos.)

Anyone know what I’m missing here? (And while I appreciate any answer that includes linking in pictures via Flickr instead, that’s not what I’m asking, but thanks.)

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Moyers on America . The Net @ Risk on PBS online

We like Bill Moyers here in Texas. We like him even more at the University of Texas. He’s got a program on PBS where each week he (and his surely wonderful research and production staff) overview topical issues you should know about.

So when Bill does a whole show on an issue that affects us like Net Neutrality we pay attention. We like it even better when there’s a great overview of the issue including the entire show online for you to watch: Moyers on America . The Net @ Risk.

If you’re reading this, Net Neutrality issues should concern you.

No, I’m not sure why I wrote this with the royal “we” perspective.

IA Templates for Visio & OmniGraffle

Schneier on Security: Human/Bear Security Trade-Off

Bruce Schneier has a blog post that talks about trashcan usability in terms of finding the right balance between security and ease of use: Human/Bear Security Trade-Off
From the blog post, ending with one of the best quotes ever:

Back in the 1980s, Yosemite National Park was having a serious problem with bears: They would wander into campgrounds and break into the garbage bins. This put both bears and people at risk. So the Park Service started installing armored garbage cans that were tricky to open — you had to swing a latch, align two bits of handle, that sort of thing. But it turns out it’s actually quite tricky to get the design of these cans just right. Make it too complex and people can’t get them open to put away their garbage in the first place. Said one park ranger, “There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists.”

Take a look at the comments on the post where all manner of clever and cynical comments add to the post.

MacBookPro first impressions

Yesterday I got a MacBookPro and am only starting to use it. It’s the 15″ with a 100GB 7200 rpm drive with 2GB RAM. Sweet. The Migration Assistant was just about perfect in moving everything over. I set up a administrator account with administrator priviledges, but not the same name as the account name I want to transfer from my G4 Powerbook. (I think I’m still going to be calling the new machine a powerbook out of habit).

As you go through the migration process, you boot your old machine in target disk mode (hold down the “T” key when booting the system) and with a firewire cable connected to both machines, the data transfer begins after a few questions about what accounts and files you want to move over (just a few choices, for files mostly everything on the disk or just those related to the account you want to migrate). Then the transfer begins. I started this once and when the estimate was more than 3 hours for the transfer, I deferred until later in the evening. Sure enough, about 3 hours later (much later), it seemed to be done.

Easily enough, I just rebooted the MBP (maybe I just need a great name for the new machine – any ideas? “Bender”? too obvious?) and logged on with the account name (and password) from the G4 powerbook. Simple as that. I knew things were looking good right away as the boot screen changed color to the background I had on the G4. Everything loaded from my startup items, with one exception, Textspander (yes, I know there is a newer version out). Nice job Apple software developers. snapped open quickly (after being selected my old customized dock – great!), but crashed in just a few minutes when I went to clearing out my junk mailbox. (It might have something to do with getting junk mail in odd character sets I don’t have the related fonts for. Just a theory.) I started right back up and it’s still going strong now. After working around in mail, I don’t feel a neck-snapping performance improvement, this is a bit disappointing.

Next was Firefox 1.5.06 and it seems fine too, including extensions. I checked and it is a universal binary. This is disappointing in a way, because Ffox still seems slow. (Oh, if there were all the right extensions in Safari versions.)

I like the increased screen resolution and the keyboard feels fine, a little mushy but with good bounce on the keys. Also, not as noisy as the G4. The addition of a camera is nice, but I don’t think I’ll make much use of it. There is not Firewire 800 slot anymore, I would have wished that Apple would have put another USB port in its place. As has been commented on before by many others, there is no internal modem included. I hope I don’t have cause to regret that. The PC Card slot is replaced with a smaller add-on slot that has some name I won’t remember because I’ll probably never need a device for it. The new magnetic plug power supply seems fine, but the box is actually LARGER than the old one. Also, I had three G4 powerbook power supplies, now that investment is lost (except that the extension cords seem to fit with the new power supplies).

The next, system-wide step seems to be making sure I have (intel) universal binaries for all of the applications on my system. I assume all the Apple applications are ready (and they were kept from deletion when I transferred the account over from the G4 with its potentially non-universal binary app versions).

The big question: Does anyone know of a utility that could scan my disk and make a list? (even better, give me links for the apps? even better, auto-download those possible?) Comments or emails are most welcome.

The best thing I have found so far to help with this is the MacUpdate: Universal Binary (Macintosh Intel) page (with an RSS feed).

Let's kill the CAPS LOCK KEY

Does anyone use the CAPS LOCK key? It does seem to be a throwback from a very different time. WHO NEEDS A CAPS LOCK KEY? INTERNET NEWBIES? YOUR FAVORITE SPAM MAIL PROVIDER? (Especially when most WYSISYG word processors like Microsoft Word have a function that easily converts text to upper case whenever you please.) This Slashdot post: War Declared on Caps Lock Key explains it all.

“I’ve launched a campaign to rid the world of the caps lock key. Sure, there are more serious problems to solve but please, think of the children! How am I going to explain to my kids why some of the most valuable keyboard real estate is squatted by a large, useless key that above all you must not press! Our campaign mission is simple: to send a message to the computer industry to force it (by any means necessary) to retire the CAPS key. It’s going to be a hard, long, and possibly very embarassing war on uppercase, but some things just need to be done. ”

Of course, there is a (Google) group called CAPSoff to discuss the woes and strategies (and some humorous nonsense) about getting rid of the keyboard’s least popular key.

Allow me to point out that I have two other keyboard pet peeves too:

  1. The num(ber) pad on the right of most full keyboards, that rarely gets used and requires a Kent Tekulve side-arm mousing style. I want those 4 inches back on my desktop!
  2. Keyboard real estate I’d like to have is a BACKSPACE key on my powerbook keyboard.

A trivia question: do you know how “upper case” got its name?

Update: Of course, there is a blog about the CAPS LOCK key fight.

BarCampTexas in Austin August 26-27, 2006

It looks like we’re having a BarCampTexas (part of something larger called BarCampEarth), Saturday August 26th to Sunday 27th at the amazing Thistle Cafe in downtown Austin.

From the BarCamp Web site:

What is BarCampTexas? Well, the organizers of BarCampAustin, BarCampDallas, and BarCampHouston have decided to join forces and create BarCampTexas! The goal is to get over 1000 campers to join together August 26th-27th. We will be updating this site often so sign up, check back, and participate!

So what is BarCamp you say? What should you expect at a BarCamp? What are the rules of BarCamp? Click and learn.

Note: BarCamp in no way resembles this, since I am able to tell you about BarCamp.

I'll be at dorkbot-austin

Austin is finally on the map. We now have our first dorkbot in austin at 8pm (tonight, Thursday June the 8th) at Cafe Mundi, 1704 East 5th St.

What is dorkbot you ask?

From David Nunez (one of the organizers):

It’s a celebration of tinkering – people doing strange thing with electricity. Fringe finding at its finest.

There are three main presenters for this inaugural event:

* Bob Sabiston, the programmer/animator behind the trippy animation technology for Richard Linklater’s films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly will debut his latest invention: an art/animation homebrew application for the Nintendo DS game system;

* Phil Mancutt demonstrates his homemade Theremin that’s encased in a vintage 1984 Macintosh computer case; and

* Craig Newswanger fires off his Tesla Coil and Jacob’s Ladder (think of the electrified gizmos in Frankenstein movies).

There will also be the much-anticipated “Open Dork,” a rapid-fire open mic kind of thing. Between all this, DJ KDH spins.

Tagging 2.0 panel at SXSW2006 now a podcast

The Tagging 2.0 panel I organized at South by SouthWest 2006 in March is now a Tagging 2.0 podcast among the many SXSW 2006 podcasts you can download.

Some highlight quotes from the panel you really shouldn’t miss:

How can you pass up quips like that?

The Tagging 2.0 panel was one of the “highly-rated panels” this year, tied for first place with a number of other entertaining and informative panels, so check out their podcasts as they become available as well.

Logging Traces of Web Activity workshop at WWW2006

Yesterday we had a great workshop about Logging Traces of Web Activity: The Mechanics of Data Collection at the WWW 2006 Conference.

All of the papers, presentations and statements of interest provided a number of insight into different methods for collecting data about Web use including using both server and client based tools including the issues faced when trying to decide what to log about users’ interactions and what the log formats should look like too. A number of revealing studies also reviewed some current views of how Web users do interact with the Web as well as a number of applications, plug-ins and scripting methods for getting data, distributing it and what users’ perceptions of their data might mean to them.

We were just one of the many excellent workshops at WWW2006.

The entire day went well thanks to my excellent co-organizers for the panel: Kirstie Hawkey, Melanie Kellar, and Andy Edmonds.