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Two Kinds of People
by Jon on Monday, September 17, 2007 file under: Technology

There are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. People who like their Mac.
  2. People who haven't used one.

Mark Cuban uses a phrase I've been telling people who haven't "switched" for years: once you go Mac, you never look back.

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"Holding a Program in One's Head"
by Jon on Friday, August 24, 2007 file under: Technology

Paul Graham knocks one out of the park with Holding a Program in One's Head.

I've been trying to explain several of Graham's eight suggetsions to Kortney almost since we've been married. Not being a master of the English language, however, I've failed at each attempt. I've never chosen the words Graham uses, after reading each point, my gut jumped, as if saying, "YES! That's what I've been trying to express for years!"

By the end, I was almost cheering. You'll never guess what I've been spending the last two weeks-worth of nights at home doing...

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Starting Fresh
by Jon on Saturday, August 11, 2007 file under: Technology

Yesterday I posted an app called Perrier. Today I feel I have the unfortunate responsibility to rename that app. Perrier will now be known as Spangle.

Why the change? It is well known that Perrier is a popular brand of sparkling water. That trademark has been owned by Nestle since the early 90s. It covers several types of beverages, apparel, and various marketing promotions. To my knowledge, it does not cover software (at least, not filed with the USPTO).

On the other hand, Nestle could choose to sue me, and I wouldn't be able to make it to a hearing without going broke. Nestle has not filed a complaint nor contacted me regarding the name, but I'd rather play it safe. I don't think I can afford to put my family at risk over the name of some unfinished software.

I feel like I'm in good company. Apple had to change Rendezvous to Bonjour in 2005. Quinn isn't allowed to mention Tetris.

So Perrier is Spangle. I apologize to the 200 or so people who downloaded Perrier. I'll be able to push a name update out over the appcast, but unfortunately, it won't get rid of your old Perrier app.

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Introducing: PerrierSpangle
by Jon on Friday, August 10, 2007 file under: Technology

Last week a post by Chris Hanson gave me the bright idea to bunker down and write a Mac app from start to finish.

The basic premise is this: several apps now use Sparkle to manage updates. Sparkle makes it incredibly easy to notify users when an update is available. As Chris points out, and I agree, the workflow is all wrong. If I start Vienna and an update is available, I'll get prompted to install the update and restart the program. Now I'm spending my time updating Vienna, when I really just wanted to see if Kortney posted something new.

Chances are likely you have more then one Sparkle-enabled app floating around your Applications folder - if you've bought a Mac recently, you probably at least have Comic Life, which is Sparkle-enabled. Do you really want to open each of those applications and figure out if anything new is available?

That's where PerrierSpangle comes in. PerrierSpangle finds all of your Sparkle-enabled apps, queries them for updates, and presents you with a list of updates which you can choose and install.

"But Jon, I already have AppFresh. Why would I need PerrierSpangle?" you might be thinking. AppFresh relies on the socially driven iUseThis for its version information. While iUseThis is a great site, I would imagine that the application author knows best about their updates. Perrier goes straight to the source, uses the application's built in method for updating, retrieves the update the same way the app would if it was updating itself, and verifies the download's integrity (if specified by the app author). It turns out AppFresh will give preference to Sparkle information if available. Does that invalidate Perrier's usefulness? Of course not! It remains a simple, small footprint app.

If you have a chance (and are OCD about keeping your apps up to date), give PerrierSpangle a try, and don't forget to tell me what you think.

Update: Perrier has been renamed to Spangle.

Permanent link to Introducing: <strike>Perrier</strike>Spangle

More on BeOS
by Jon on Monday, July 16, 2007 file under: Technology

Some more BeOS links:

  • Tales of a BeOS Refugee

    I discovered BeOS and fell in love. Here, for the first time, I found a truly fast and efficient OS, designed from a clean slate to meet the needs of the future of computing, incorporating a raft of modern technologies and design concepts, and which also had a Unix command-line.

  • Why BeOS Lost

    BeOS had technically brilliant underpinnings that allowed the user to do amazingly useless things like play eight QuickTime video streams at once and search their hard drive files in a very intelligent way. It was not very good at printing or Web surfing, and it did not enable the user to accomplish anything new.

It may have not done anything new, but it did the old things so well that they seemed new. There's still nothing like it, but Mac OS X keeps getting closer.

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BeOS Nostalgia
by Jon on Sunday, July 15, 2007 file under: Technology

A recent Ask Slashdot has brought up a bunch of BeOS nostalgia.

To BeOS users, BeOS is kind of like Bill Brasky: no matter how outlandish the claims, other BeOS users know they're true.

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MacFusion + Bonjour
by Jon on Tuesday, July 10, 2007 file under: Technology
MacFusion + Bounjour

I started using MacFusion a few weeks ago as an alternative to MacFuse. For SSHFS and FTPFS mounts, MacFusion is a very handy utility.

Trying to connect to a Nokia N800 over SSH, I consistently got the error: Mount Failed (MacFusion failed to Mount *hostname*: remote host has disconnected. Google turned up little and I eventually filed a bug. While looking through the other bugs and feature requests, one caught my eye: Bonjour Support.

"Brilliant", I thought! All the computers in the house are announcing their services (mostly SSH), it would be great to get a list of computers with their available MacFusion mounting options.

So I wrote a patch. It worked fairly well, but I wanted to make it a little cleaner (the original patch stores a plugin's service information in "the wrong place"), so I fixed it up, and posted another patch.

I waited a few days to see if would be accepted, chatted briefly with Graham Perrin on #macfusion, but not much happened. Then the revision number got bumped, and my patch couldn't be cleanly applied, so I fixed it, and posted it.

Along with the patch I posted some screenshots and a build of MacFusion (Revision 287) with Bonjour Support. If anyone's willing to try it out, I'd love some feedback (just on the Bonjour menu/code). You can post any comments on the ticket.

The patch hasn't been accepted into the MacFusion trunk; this shouldn't be used on production systems (though it doesn't affect mounting or unmounting Fuse filesystems); and obviously, if your computer eats your cat, don't hold me liable. I haven't experienced any problems with it, but of course, your mileage may vary.

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Gateway FPD2485w
by Jon on Sunday, July 1, 2007 file under: Technology
Gateway FPD2485w

On Thursday Kortney and I picked up Gateway's FPD2485W - a 24" LCD display - to be used along with our future MacBook. The monitor had gotten extremely mixed reviews, from glowing to lambasting.

An aside: Thinking back on it, the glowing reviews came from review sites, while the lambasting reviews typically came from (former) owners. That should tell you something immediately. I don't think you should typically trust someone who gets free stuff from companies for a living, they may be slightly biased. On the other hand, if you've dropped a significant wad of cash down for something and it doesn't meet your expectations, you're probably going to encourage people not to waste their time.

I wanted a monitor that could do at least 1080p, had great color reproduction, no noticeable banding, and no dead pixels if I could help it. After some color calibration, the FPD2485W was looking much better then it did out of the box, but when people say it has retina-searing brightness, they aren't kidding. Kortney's sunset background made us feel like we were looking into the sun. The first thing we did was drag a window over the sun portion of the background to shield ourselves from its intense rays.

After setting up the monitor, I began looking for the obvious defects, namely the inverse ghosting and color banding often associated with this monitor. I was able to reproduce the color banding almost immediately, especially on a white-to-black gradient. Dragging this gradient between the display on our TiBook and the FPD2485W, it was obvious the Gateway was dithering (and doing a poor job at it). The TiBook has some very subtle banding (I've hadn't noticed it before tonight), but the Gatway looked awful; like the display could only display a handful of shades of gray. For a $500 TN panel, that may be acceptable, but I was looking for something nicer than that.

Several posts on [H]ardForum mentioned the monitor's tendency to generate an inverse ghosting effect, especially when a white object was passing over a gray background. From that suggestion, it would appear that the monitor is overcompensating when transitioning from white to gray, causing the pixel to go black for an instance before correcting itself at the proper gray intensity.

Using the test they suggested, I didn't see a significant ghosting effect, but several posts also said it gets worse when the monitor gets hotter. A monitor that deteriorates in heat isn't the best fit for Scottsdale. Our house is routinely in the low 80s, and probably won't drop below that before mid-September. This afternoon I was re-reading John Gruber's Full Metal Jacket and moved the Safari window to get at a Terminal window below. There it was, the ghosting. The display devolved into a smear of gray on gray pixels. If you can imagine wiping your hand across a fresh oil painting, you'd get an idea of what it looked like. Half a second later things had returned to normal, but the motion was jarring enough to break my persistence of vision, requiring me to rescan the screen.

Oddly enough, I could only reproduce the ghosting using the DVI connection. The VGA connection didn't cause any ghosting, though banding was just as bad, if not worse.

Did I mention this display was bright? I don't think I have particularly sensitive eyes, but this monitor is hard to look at. Friday morning I adjusted the brightness, contrast, and set up a color profile. On the VGA input right now, the brightness is set to 0, the DVI connection is set to 4 (yes, that's zero and four out of 100). The TiBook's display is set to its maximum brightness and the Gateway is still brighter. I've created an ICC profile for the monitor using SuperCal if anyone needs it (though you'd probably be better off getting a BenQ FP241W for about the same price then trying to salvage this monitor with a proper color profile).

The FPD2485W is also very tempermental about displays which aren't in its frequency range. No, I don't expect it to attempt to show those displays, but when there is no valid signal coming in, you also don't have access to any of the on-screen-display menus. This caused me to have to restart the monitor several times this weekend to get a picture back.

We bought the pictured speaker bar as well. The sound was decent, and the convenience of having the speakers up off the desk is nice too, but overall they felt cheap. For the price of the speaker bar, you can get a very nice set of stereo speakers.

The negatives reviews seemed to be right on, and this monitor is making its way back to the store. The picture the FPD2485W produces is beautiful... except if that picture is moving, or has a horizontal or vertical gradient. For full disclosure, the model I had was manufactured in April 2007.

Permanent link to Gateway FPD2485w

by Jon on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 file under: Technology

Imagine my excitement this morning when I was perusing John Gruber's Linked List and saw a link to my last post about enabling Safari for Windows' debug menu.

that other post...

The post had made it to Mac OS X Hints, and I was hoping to get to some more high profile sites.

I was on top of that post, and I was confident of that. The technique was definitely no secret, the twist was how to do it in Windows. I got the beta very quickly, enabled the menu very quickly, and was ready to post on it, very quickly.

So I mouse-over the link on Daring Fireball, and realize its not going to my domain. I click the link, and read a post about exactly what I had written about, and its not my blog. Blast! Vetted by Mac OS X Hints, and I still can't make it DF. Perhaps on another day; perhaps on a less obvious post.

Permanent link to Foiled!

Safari for Windows Debug Menu
by Jon on Monday, June 11, 2007 file under: Technology

In an interesting turn of events, Apple released Safari for Windows. Well, they didn't quite release it, its still a beta but in general works very well (this post is being made from one of Safari 3's resizable text fields).

If you're a web developer, Safari's Debug Menu is a necessity. Fortunately for those of us stuck in Windows, Safari's Debug menu is still available, however, it appears you have to get your hands dirty to enable it.

On a Mac, you'd open a Terminal and type:

defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu 1

As far as I can tell, Windows doesn't have Apple's defaults utility, but plists, where the preferences are stored, and the Debug menu is enabled are just plain text XML files. To enable the Debug menu in Safari for Windows, add the following key, value pair to c:\Documents and Settings\your username\Application Data\Apple Computer\Safari\Preferences.plist


Before the closing </dict> element and restart Safari.

It seems a little more spartan than Safari for Mac's debug menu, but at least it includes a JavaScript console and User Agent switching.

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