Thursday, September 29, 2011

OS X Lion

Here are two of the best reviews of Apple OS X Lion.

Apple OS X 10.7 Lion roars with futuristic, and maddening, upgrades by Andy Ihnatko (Chicago Sun-Times)

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica reviewBy John Siracusa


Now I've discovered a word to describe my more than small dislike of page-turning animation:  Skeuomorph.

In John Siracusa's extraordinary, voluminous review of Mac OS Lion at Ars Technica, he pulls out the definition of skeuomorph from Wikipedia.

A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, such as copper cladding on zinc pennies or computer printed postage with circular town name and cancellation lines. An alternative definition is “an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material.

The bold emphasis is his.


I'm a Mac?

I'm trying an experiment.  For the first time in longer than I can remember (probably the first time since the Mac II (series) in the very early 90s,  I'm trying switching to a Macintosh as my main desktop system at home.

I've had a Macbook Pro of some flavor or another from work for five years now, so the Mac OS X environment is no stranger.  Also, everyone else in the household has a Macbook.

But, for almost 10 years, when I sit down at my desk to do something serious, it's been the old Dell running Windows XP.  Now, mainly pushed by the growing Gmail app, I'm faced with needing to add more memory to the old Dell but I'm tempted to make the jump to a more modern OS.

Around 2007 I made a solid decision.  I'd never move to Windows Vista.  In the same way that Windows 95 was a clear win and I abandoned the Mac interface, thinking it was for good (note that I had been a Windows user simultaneously all along and was using various UNIX workstations as well), it was just as clear that Vista was as horrible a mistake.

To be fair, Windows 7 seems to have redeemed the design and Windows 8 looks very interesting but the jury is still out.  However, for now, I still have no intention of using a Windows machine, at least as my main workspace, every again.  I still reserve the right to later change my mind, just like I did with the return to the Mac world, when a new boss suggested I really use a Macbook.

So, I finally decided to take the plunge that I've been considering for a while.  I'm using my daughter's abandoned white 2007 Macbook as a desktop machine, plugged into my LCD monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers.

Parents of college students and high school seniors take note.  I wondered if the Macbooks would last a full four years, including the battery remaining functional enough, etc.  The answer for us is Yes!  The Macbooks can easily hold solid for a full four years of use.  I think the aluminum Macbooks even more so.  

This is in contrast to my observations of other laptops.  Their batteries seem to barely work for more than a year or two and I usually see the whole laptop being replaced in from one to three years, i.e., you'll be buying two traditional Windows laptops for a four+ year undergraduate degree run.  Factor that into the price/cost/value comparisons:  A Macbook for school is worth two non-Mac laptops.

I should also point out that I always have an Ubuntu Linux workstation nearby including on my desk and I still find them extremely functional and sometimes even delightful to use.   If I had to use Ubuntu for my daily environment, I think I could.

Also, rest assured, the old XP machine is still humming away right here, still plugged into the same monitor.  I still miss the nicer looking, more pleasing fonts of the Windows XP GUI compared to the slightly too-weighty sans serif fonts of the Mac.  But, I'm making that compromise to move on.

Next on the radar:  Upgrading from Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.7 OS Lion.  Do I make that plunge?  I'm intrigued by this new OS.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brian Brushwood Teaches a Card Trick


WISE mission captures black hole's wildly flaring jet

Article from

Galactic Cannabilism

by Matt Williams in Universe Today.

A Campus Champion for Women in Computer Science

They've switched from Java to Python.  Article by Ari Levy in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

A bit belated, it was 5:05 EDT this morning .

Fri 2011-09-23 05:05:00 -0400
Fri 2011-09-23 09:05:00 +0000

Faster Than Light Neutrinos?

It sounds like crazy talk to me.  We'll see.

An article


The paper.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scariest Face

This is one of the scariest faces I've ever seen!

Sigh. Things Today's Babies Will Never Know

by Stacy Johnson at Yahoo Finance Things babies born in 2011 will never know.

Computer CPUs 1000x Faster

At Mashable by Charlie White.

“…3M and IBM have unlocked a secret low-tech shortcut.”

 “It’s an adhesive that dissipates heat so efficiently that layer upon layer of chips can be stacked on top of each other into silicon ‘towers’ up to 100 layers high, glued together with this special adhesive that keeps things cool. The result? Faster chips for computers, laptops, smartphones and anything else that uses microprocessors.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nine Years Ago

Yesterday was this blog's ninth anniversary.  I started out using Blogger, but Blogger was configured to FTP the files to my desktop computer, a NeXT machine which also acted as a server on the Internet.  (We had no firewalls at all in those days.  Every computer was literally a peer on the Internet).  .  This was before Google bought Blogger.  Later on I moved the blog, called Monolith Daily,  to Blosxom (pronounced like blossom) software which ran off of my desktop computer at workBloxom provided for blog entries as simple text files.

Later down the road, as I left behind hosting my own services on the Internet, I moved Bloxom back to Blogger.  This time it was fully hosted on Blogger with none of my own machines involved.

The name Monolith Daily came from the fact that my desktop computer's name was Monolith, taken from the main character of the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey.  The Next computer was a flat, black slab, so it sort of looked the part.

Here's the very first post on the blog.

Mon 16 Sep 2002

This is the first entry. This is just a blog to check out and experiment with the template and other such stuff.

I don't plan to keep it---it should be deleted soon.


This is the first post of substance.  Initially most of the blog consisted of snippets about work activity at the time.  The blog itself was mainly aimed at folks at work.

Wed 18 Sep 2002

Today, I printed out the PeopleSoft copy of the config file for the Emulex card driver. I am comparing it to the document that Chip left of me that recommends settings in the config file. For example, it has a column with my software listed. There are some differences between the PS version and the recommendation in the document. I'll come back at some point and list them.

Once I have the lpfc.conf configured correctly, I'll either try the disks, drvconfig, etc., plan.

 Tomorrow the plan is to be able to see the LUNs, install Veritas Volume Manager and File System. Then build the filesystems. I also need to remember to copy the binaries and support files over from the current.


The first non-work-related entry I could find is this one.  Morph a celebrity was a web site that let you distort images of celebrities, apparently it's not around any more, at least at that site.

Fri 27 Sep 2002

Okay, for hours of fun try this: Morph-a-celebrity.


This is the next non-work related post, slightly more substantial.

Fri 04 Oct 2002

Astronomy and Distance

I will be making some presentations to fifth graders at Magill Elementary on Thursday 10 Oct so I'll be out some that day but working the rest of the time.

A Micro Essay: Thinking some about that presentation has me thinking that humans like to boil all measurements (of anything, any physical quantity) down to one of three things: distance, time or a quantity (just a number). Distance seems to be our favorite. Almost everything we measure we eventually do with some sort of ``meter'' which is just some needle or indicator moving a distance.

In these latter digital days, our meters read out numbers (ultimately integers, even if we pretend there's a decimal point in there). I've heard over the years that we really don't comprehend numbers larger than seven to 10. So, when numbers get really large (1000, million, billion), guess what we are interested in then? Not the actual number, but the magnitude of the number, i.e., how many digits it has. But the number of digits is just the answer to the question, how long is the number?, which is back to length again.

We sometimes count the digits (by using a logarithmic scale) but, for most of our experience, those quantities fit nicely back into our zero to 10 range.


It was Sat 2006-06-24 when I moved the blog from Blosxom and back to Blogger and Blogspot.  Here's the last entry from the Blosxom version.

Sat 24 Jun 2006

Moved Blogging

I've moved my blogging to…

…at least for now. This is an experiment of sorts. I'm sort of caught in transition on blogging at the moment and I haven't quite decided what to do. So, for now, I've gone back to Blogger and Blogspot.

I'm working on a more long-term solution (permanent would be the wrong word) for the next edition of my public blogging.

My main motivation is to move my blog to another site. A secondary motivation is that Blosxom is getting slower due to dynamically generating the views. There are a lot of files now since each posting is a file.

I can generate static pages but then the searching feature (which is really useful, at least to me) doesn't work for those pages.

My current idea is to generate a static copy of this version Monolith Daily to this posting and put it up on a site that is linked such that Google can crawl and index it. Maybe that's the way to handle blogs. After some point, freeze them and publish them as a final, static archive of some type. A set of HTML pages perhaps.

I've also changed the look and feel. I really like the old look of Monolith Daily but thought I'd try something new.

I have to say, though, I really, really like Blosxom and miss using it!


It continued here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I finally looked up tl;dr.  It's not a mistyped or misinterpreted bit of HTML markup as I first thought.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Star Trek 45th Anniversary

I celebrated Star Trek's 45th anniversary last night by watching “Charlie X,” which I'm pretty sure was the first episode I saw in 1966.  I found it by accident while flipping channels.  Note that in 1966 our town only had one channel and, because we lived on a hill, we could get three to five out of town channels.  There were only three networks anyway so flipping channels wasn't what you might think.

Of course I was a fan during it's original run though 1969.  The first season was on Tuesday nights, the second on Thursday nights, and the last year it was on fairly late on Friday night, either 21:00 or 22:00 as I recall.

However, I became an even bigger fan when they started the reruns in 1970 or 71, when it was on every afternoon after school.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Xoom Part 2

Okay, since my first comments regarding the Xoom, I've played with it on a handful more occasions.

I've tried it both as just a user-less machine with no particular account attached and also by syncing in much of my Google account so that everything worked as designed.  I tried Gmail, Google searching, various sites via browsing, Amazon Cloud Player (the app), the Kindle App, Angry Birds (of course!), Youtube, Google Maps,  and looked for the Netflix app (apparently there isn't one for this device, and it's not supported in the browser).

Basically my opinion hasn't changed.  I don't really like it.  It's heavy.  Yeah, I know that I could eventually find a perfect holder/case/cover that would make it easy to hold, prop up and even add a keyboard.  However, out of the box it was never comfortable to use.  The most comfortable was when I just laid the thing down on the desk.  At that point it became a really big glass touchpad that happened to have moving color displayed items on it.  (Hey, this might not be a bad thing.  See all versions of Star Trek after the original series).

A Few Good Points

I'll admit that I was impressed by a few features.  It's Android and I consider that a plus.  Honeycomb was quite impressive though I don't like the visual appearance for some reason.  It seems to have borrowed the theme of the latter day Tron movie, interesting and slick, but tiring and even annoying after a while.  It was slick and sort of responsive though there's a noticeable delay when you try to do things sometimes.   You tap or drag and it seems to take just a moment to catch up with what you're trying to do.  The operation and design of the menus was okay and fairly functional.  It didn't take too long to get used to them.

HD Youtube video on the display looked pretty good so maybe I was wrong about my first impression of the resolution, i.e., that it looked “soft.”  The Youtube feature where you see the big scrolling wall of videos is impressive.  It's not clear that it has any practical value at all.  I can hardly think of any video I've watched by browsing, I watch a video either because someone sent it to me or I searched for something.

The battery life was good.  Again, I didn't use it much but I've had the thing over a week now and have never plugged it in.

It wasn't too difficult to find the MAC address when needed to set up wireless.

The Gmail app redesign for Honeycomb is quite slick.  Once again, I don't know if I'd prefer it to the more standard layout, but it is functional.

The Biggest Problem

Here's the biggest problem with this tablet and, I think, with all current pad devices.  When you sync your Google accounts with it (which is pretty much just like you would with your Android phone) it becomes your device.  If anyone else uses it, they'll be authenticated to Google as you with all of your authorization.  This makes it extremely un-useful as a device that's just laying around for any family member or visitor to use.

In fact, this is where the ChromeOS notebook is a big win and, IMHO, a much more useful device than the tablet.  Anyone can pick it up and log on.  If their Google accounts are set up to sync, then it becomes their device until they log off.   Their whole world is just automatically available  and present with no noticeable syncing or downloading.  Then they can log off and another person can come on, type in their userid and password and the same is true for them.

I could probably learn to get faster but, at this point, I can literally type just as fast on my Android Nexus S phone screen as on the 10-in tablet.


Okay, you should probably take into consideration that I thought voice mail was useless and opted out of taking part in an early trial.  I also thought the web was just for marked-up documents and would not be appropriate for applications and software.   I don't like the Xoom tablet and am still happy to put it back in the box.

My phone does what I need and, for me, does it better and more conveniently.

For a tablet-sized device, I think the 11-inch Macbook Air is the most wonderful solution out there.

I've been evaluating a ChromeOS notebook for months now and I'd take it over the Xoom anytime, even with it's faults.  The ChromeOS device was immediately useful, including for real work, and I was able to use it for a couple of weeks as my only machine at work.  The Xoom didn't even begin to be useful for any sort of real work.

I'll be interested to see the next devices to come out.  Maybe they'll capture my heart and mind.


P.S.   Yes, I've played with the iPad's 1 and 2 briefly and my reaction was bascially the same.  I don't remember the sensation of them being uncomfortably heavy though.

P.P.S.  You might say the Xoom weighs less than a lot of books.  I thought about this and wondered why books don't seem so bothersome.   Maybe it's because the book really is more pleasant and comfortable to hold when reading than a flat slab.  When I think about it, I've used a clip board for taking notes and checking things off, but never really as a platform for reading.  For reading I'd probably staple the sheets together and hold them, folding and rolling them up in various ways that made them easier to hold.

See Also

My earlier comments on the iPad in 2010-01-30.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Hubble ST Movies of Stellar Jets

[VIDEOPosted by David Ruth-Rice at Time lapse movies made from Hubble Space Telescope images, spanning 14 years, show motions inside stellar jets of gas.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Stupidest Idea of 2010

While I am at the zenith of my curmodgeonliness, I'm reminded I never got around to awarding the Stupidest Idea of 2010:  Animating e-book pages to look like real pages turning.

Yes, it looks really neat, but it's dumb.  I hope the programmers remembered to add code to make the pages slowly turn yellow and then randomly delete themselves from the e-book as years go by.  Maybe they never got around to that because they're off re-programming terminal apps to scroll text by at 300 baud.

Again, I appreciate the artistry, but having seen it, it's then about the most annoying thing I've experienced in a user interface.  Please, at least provide a way to turn this animation off.

This effect should be one of those little novelty apps your friends download and say “Ha Ha, Look at This.”  You look at it and reply,  “Neat.”  Then you never have to see it again.

I don't like Tablets and Pads

Okay, I have a Motorola Xoom for a week and so far, after spending maybe 20 minutes with it, I don't like it.  I don't like it at all.  Basically it's a device that does what my phone does, but it weighs about a million times more.  Holding it makes me physically uncomfortable.  I can operate my phone just fine with one hand but this thing always requires two.

I tried watching a Youtube video but there I was holding this thing.  I tried laying it down on my desk but then it was flat and at the wrong angle.  All I could see was a reflection of an overhead light.  It didn't seem like it would stand up when I tried to lean it against something.  So there I was, awkwardly holding the thing I couldn't wait to put down.  I probably watched less than a minute of the video.

Basically, it's like using a computer that has no legs.  Now I know what Chewbacca felt like when he was carrying the blown-apart C3P0 around on his back.

I tried it again last night.  So far, I've only used it for 20 minutes because that was about all I could stand and probably half of that time has been spent factory-resetting the device to erase my personal data.  The happiest moment was turning it off, putting it down and taking my phone out of my pocket.

How to Network Your Way to World-Class Mentors

The Thiel Fellowship Lecture, Part 2 by Michael Ellsberg on


Beautiful! Dione and Saturn


My Next Camera?

Samsung Introduces A Trio Of New Cameras as reported on TechCrunch by Jordan Crook.

I really like using my Nexus S as a camera but it lacks a good zoom lens. So, what I really need is something like a smart phone with a bigger lens stuck on it. The Samsung MV800 really looks a lot like this! The other two models in this article also look intriguing.

Could this be enough to make me give up my infatuation with the Olympus PEN series, which is probably too expensive anyway?

My main motivation is the growing need to replace my aging DV tape video camera.


Mon 2012-04-02 03:58:19 -0400

Updated.  Here are the cameras I'm referring to above, for reference.

Samsung MV800
Samsung NX200
Samsung WB750

AT&T and T-Mobile: Is the deal dead?

No one knows by David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech.

The graphic tells a lot of the story.

Image credit:  The image was in the original CNN Money article.

It's Time To Upgrade My RAM

It looks like I'm going to have to add memory to my nine-year-old Dell 4550 Windows XP desktop which I'm using here and which is my usual desktop machine at home.  Right now it has 768 MB but watching Task Manager it seems lately that I need from 800 MB to 900 MB with the number of Chrome tabs I have open for Gmail, documents, etc.  Amazon Cloud player is currently running.   In spite of a growing RAM appetite, I haven't seen my old machine cross 1-GB yet (knock on wood).

It has a 256-MB DIMM and a 512-MB DIMM so I'll probably just replace the 256 with a 1-GB which seem to be available for $15 to <~ $20 or so.  That will bring the total to 1.5 GB, over twice what I currently need.

I think Gmail and other Google apps are slowly using more and more memory.  But maybe it's just Chrome.

It's worth noting that, even with 930 MB of memory usage (commit charge), which is what it is at this very moment as I type this, I don't really notice the paging or much slowness.  Typing this entry is going fine and the Cloud Player music is playing nicely.  However, I'd definitely notice it if switching to another tab that hadn't been used in a while or, worst of all, trying to fire up something else that's big like Acrobat Reader.

Hm, I don't think it was that long ago that I upped the RAM from 384 MB by replacing a 128-MB DIMM with  the 512-MB.  Memory usage seems to be accelerating.

In case anyone is curious, the only thing running down in my system tray is AVG and something from Nvidia for the video interface.