Breaking Radio Silence

Apologies for the lack of posts lately — no real excuses for the radio silence, but there it is: a hair under 3 weeks since my last entry. Here’s a quick sum up of the past few weeks:

  • Bernie put out a call for citizen co-signers for a petition against the current Wall Street bailout. Signed that, and encourage EVERYONE to contact their Senators and Congressmen ASAP, as this is something on the floor NOW.
  • Been introducing Jessica to Dr. Who, in all its glory. Currently in season 2 of the new series, and discussing with several friends picking up the old series and doing a Who night going through the whole damn thing.
  • Picked up a 1TB hard drive (LaCie Quadra) and an eSATA card for my laptop, which is making me happy — I was effectively out of room on both my laptop (120gb) and my extra drive (250gb), and this way I’m nicely backed up once more and have a bit more space.
  • Purchased a new domain: As the name might suggest, it’s going to be a travel related blog, with essays and writing and photography about various trips and locations (and even some local stuff from various places I’ve lived that I think are neat). It’s not really live yet, as I’m waiting until after WordCamp to properly set up the site. Looking forward to it, though!
  • WordCamp is this weekend, looking forward to it. Sounds like we’re going to get to preview WordPress 2.7, and the event has been filled to capacity (around 150 people). Woo!
  • Have the wanderlust, BAD. The air is finally starting to cool and turn autumnal, and as usual, it is sparking both the creative impulse and the desire to go explore.
  • Planning to head up to Seattle on October 3rd to attend Neil Gaiman’s reading from his new book (The Graveyard Book). Should be a fun trip!
  • Yes, I’m still looking for work. Had a phone interview with Apple last week regarding a Mac Genius position, which (while effectively a retail position) would provide full benefits and decent pay and help lock me down to an actual living situation again (how novel!). Despite having passed the phone interview, I’m not holding my breath, and continue to look and apply elsewhere, like Omni’s listing for a Software Test Pilot, which is WAY too up my alley to not try for (and for a company I like, to boot!).

So, err, yeah, I think that about catches ya’ll up. I’m still debating whether or not to split personal and professional blogs again for Critical Games (still have the nadreck subdomain after all, so why not use it?). As is suggested by me going out and getting a new domain and hosting service for, I’m more and more leaning to making the materials more granular, instead of converged. (“All things have their place.”)


So, I’ve been applying for jobs all over the place, and this includes having a long-running search agent on Microsoft’s staffing site. When jobs I’m qualified for come up, I’m notified, I log in, decide whether it’s something I should apply for, apply, log out. Easy.

Except they’ve been doing a lot of work on the Passport network of late, migrating things for Windows Live support and who knows what else, which is causing problems. Like, now I can’t fully sign out, but when I try to sign back in, it claims I’m not using a current enough browser, and should upgrade to IE6 (not even possible if I wanted to — I’m on a Mac). I swap out my reported user agent for IE7, and the sign in process now works. I can forgive the sign-in funkiness, since I AM using a brand new, beta release of Safari 4.

However, signing out still doesn’t work, and I STILL can’t reach my job agent. That, my friends, is lame.

Random Apple Post

I’m sitting in an Apple Store at the moment, trying out the new keyboard they have. It uses a keyboard scheme more similar to the MacBook keyboard, which may look “weird” to folks used to most keyboards… the keys are a bit more spaced out, so people wonder if it would be hard to get used to, or have trouble reaching keys. Or, at least, I was wondering. Hence this post — it’s a writing exercise, something that will give me a sense of the keyboard response and how the keys “feel” — whether or not I can tell when I’ve been hitting a key or not, or mistyping or similar (I mean, other than my usual typos of course). So far, it feels pretty good. I’m typing at a pretty fair clip (not the fastest I’ve ever typed, but still not very slowly either), and it feels pretty good under my fingers. Despite the “slim” look and feel, I can definitely tell when I’ve hit a key, and on a purely aesthetic level, the keyboard LOOKS sharp: metal case and white low profile keys. I should really check the site to see if it has key illumination (too bright to tell of course — the curse of trying things out in a retail location). Unlike the previous desktop keyboards, rather than having the sound controls over the number pad, the entire upper row is function keys, and then it functions more like a laptop keyboard, with the first twelve or so also controlling hardware (which, of course, you can reconfigure if you want).

I started railing about the lack of the Fn key (which is used by the system to delineate whether you want the key to access the keyboard control, or whatever the function key is supposed to do), but then I finally noticed where it is: it seems to have replaced one of the “magic six” keys that sit above the arrow keys, between the main keyboard and the number pad. Going from memory, I think it took over “insert”, and now delete is on the bottom row instead of the top. Not sure how I feel about that. I’m sure I’d get used to it, though.

Final prognosis? If you’re in the market for a new keyboard, it’s well worth checking out: on board usb2 is nice, it’s got a good form factor, and I’ve felt pretty comfortable typing all this out, and for $49, it’s fairly competitive with other quality keyboards out there (and markedly less than most specialty keyboards). Had I the cash, I’d probably head home with one now!

Tech Adventures

Most of the time, my computers are a delight to use: reliable, fast, clean, effective. But every so often, bad things happen, for inexplicable reasons. Case in point: my MacBook Pro. The machine has had its issues for a long time, as it’s a revision A, purchased 5 minutes after the keynote that they were first announced at, and as most techies will attest, you take your chances to be at the bleeding edge. I had heat issues, battery issues, logic board issues, pretty much the full gamut of problems that people have listed with the early releases. But, by and large, it’s been a good computer, and I’m happy with the purchase regardless.

A few days ago, the video abruptly started to have issues. Text became nearly illegible, colors were completely off (and in some — but not all — cases, inverted), with bizarre technicolor dithering happening where smooth gradients once lay. As some of you are aware, I’m broke, so I REALLY can’t afford to have my machines fail on me right now, because I simply can’t pay the money necessary to repair them in the case of hardware issues, as my warranty has expired. These symptoms reek of a video card failure, so I was concerned to say the least, and turned the machine off for the rest of the week, until I’d have the weekend to work on it.

My first step was to think about what I’d been doing when this first appeared: I’d just installed the Audio Update from Apple via Software Update, and when it restarted, that’s when these issues cropped up. So, maybe an issue with that? Quick check of known issues (Macintouch and MacFixit are both handy for their user reports for this) revealed nothing. I tried rebooting a few times, and it didn’t go away. I then tried booting into my Windows partion, and while there I was still having issues, when I booted back into OS X, the problems went away until I next rebooted. This gave me hope that it’s not actually a hardware problem, as I was able to reproduce this every time.

It then occurred to me that I’d been doing the phone flashing and modding in the Windows partition, then booted back to the Mac side, then did the Audio update… so it’s entirely possible that something done during that had caused an issue, and I simply hadn’t created circumstances for it to show up until then… so I wiped my Boot Camp partition. Still happening… hmm. So, I put the laptop into target disk mode and backed up my user directory to the desktop, and did a clean install, complete with zeroing data.

The display was still screwy. Well… shit. At least I’d been meaning to clear out and reorganize my laptop anyway. The next step (and probably should have been an earlier step) was to start ticking through different hardware reset methods, things like reseting the NVRAM and the SMC. So, powered down, took out the battery, held the power button for a few seconds (reset the SMC). Reset the VNRAM (option, command, p, r) while booting up, and suddenly no more issues, including across another half dozen test reboots.

I still don’t know what caused the initial problem, and likely never will — I certainly hope it doesn’t come back! Mostly I wanted to share what I’ve been doing all day, and hopefully provide some helpful information for the next poor schmoe who has something like this happen and is Googling for Mac video issues. Tomorrow, I’ll likely be spending the day sifting through my old user directory, and deciding which things I want to put back onto the laptop. Not exactly how I would have liked to spend a gorgeous summer weekend, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Successful Hackery

I managed to successfully hack my phone as I’d mentioned planning to do. I’m definitely glad I gave myself the day to work on it, as the process ended up taking me a good chunk of the day. After that, re-syncing it my computer addressbook, then shuffling contacts around, then adding the contacts that for various reasons were only on my old phone (ie, never got around to adding them to my official addressbook)… well, yeah, you get the picture. Long, semi-annoying day of jiggering things.

Needless to say, there won’t be a song review today. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Twitch, Twitch, New Phone

No, not an iPhone. They’re pretty awesome (swung by the Apple Store and played with one), but I ended up making use of the “new every two” feature of my current contract to pick up a Motorola K1m instead. It’s a sexy little phone, and I like it a lot… physically. The interface, however, leaves a LOT to be desired. This is not Motorola’s fault, mind you: Moto’s standard interface is pretty kickass. It’s Verizon. They made their own UI, and it’s ugly as sin, and literally SATURATED with Verizon and V Cast branding, all the way down to advertising V Cast both when turning the phone ON and when turning it OFF, and when talking on the phone, the outside screen has a giant Verizon Wireless logo glowing, making you a walking advertisement. This is patently ridiculous, with added insult in that they turned off core functionality of the phone to make room for their branded materials. The ever so handy shortcut keys? The only things useful that aren’t just links to V Cast or Get It Now services are the alarm clock, calculator, and calendar. I really wasn’t expecting this level of stupidity, since they didn’t do nearly as much of this with the 710 I was using before.

So, I’ve had the phone for a day, and I’m already poring over sites online about how to change the firmware. It looks like I’ll need to do it in my Windows partition, as there are several tools that are currently still PC only (though ports are being worked on), but otherwise the materials necessary to re-flash the phone are readily available. I really hate that I feel like this is a necessary step to enjoy my phone, but it really, really is. If any VZW reps happen to read this (the chances of which are increased by my including brand names and such), PLEASE stop dumbing down your phones! Leave them as is! Motorola has better UI designers than you, let them do their job! It would do a lot to assuage the perception of you as an “evil corporation” if you stopped fucking over your customers like this. You’re Verizon, we’re not going to forget your fucking name, you reeeeally don’t need to inundate us with your branding when we already have your service.

Beware the Ides of March

Actually, not much to beware at the moment, things are doing pretty well. I made a quick trip to Fry’s Electronics, something of a Mecca for computer geekery, in order to pick up a DVI cable to plug my G5 into my television, which works smashingly. I wouldn’t think that it would take Fry’s to get a DVI cable, but apparently they’re just hard to find right now. The Apple Store didn’t have any, Radio Shack not only didn’t have any, but were rude about it (and tried to tell me that DVI was being replaced by HDMI, which is bullshit: HDMI serves multimedia consumer electronics, DVI serves the computer industry. While there’s some overlap what with the proliferation of media pcs, HDMI is NOT a replacement for DVI. That would be UDI, which isn’t even out yet). Office Depot had one DVI-D cable, but for $70, which seemed a bit exorbitant. So, Fry’s it is… for $30 (and I could have gone cheaper). For those not aware, Fry’s is a honeytrap for geeks… it is incredibly likely that if you go in for one item, you’ll leave with that item PLUS several other things you didn’t realize you needed.

So now the G5 is hooked up to a nice big 32″ LCD TV, fresh up on software updates, and currently downloading the Gentoo PPC64 Linux Distribution. You might be wondering why: well, I have two very nice computers serve as my primaries (a 24″ iMac Core 2 Duo, and a 15″ MacBook Pro Core Duo), so using the G5 to explore another operating system and set it up as a server becomes remarkably appealing. I looked around at different systems I could put on it, notably Darwin, which is the BSD variant that underpins OS X, and Ubuntu, which is a popular, easy to use distro. Darwin simply didn’t have the user support, what with OpenDarwin closing down, among other things. As for Ubuntu, while they MAY have better PPC64 support in their next 6 month seed (ie, this April), they currently don’t really support 64 bit PPC chips fully yet, and I’d prefer to make a full leap if I’m going to. This didn’t leave many options, but of the major distros, Gentoo supports… well, pretty much every architecture you can think of, including PPC32, and TWO variants for PPC64 (one using a 32bit user space, the other using a 64 bit user space). I’ve heard good things about Portage, which is their package handling system, so Gentoo it is!

This is all part of a general process that I’ve been working on, and want to explain a little bit: 1) self-improvement. I’ve been doing a lot of job searching lately (imagine that), and it seems like I’m MOSTLY qualified for a lot of things, but am missing a few key fields which would make this process a lot easier… so if I can fill in the gaps while finding something I CAN do in the meantime (and who knows, maybe something even better… there are a few positions I’m applying for that would kick some serious serious ass, and are things I feel like I could really settle into and not feel like I’m “tiding over”), awesome. And besides, Linux is free, so all it’s taking up is my time. 2) Organization. I’ve been thinking a LOT about how I use my computers, and reorganizing my data to make everything a bit more efficient and accessible. I realize that this is something of a holy grail, considering the daily use of computers is a prime example of entropy, but you’ve gotta try, y’know? If nothing else, it’ll put me in prime position for when OS X 10.5 comes out, for a clean upgrade.

Unpacking continues through this all… after all, it takes a while for CD ISOs to download, burn, and install, so might as well make good use of my time, no? Of course, I say that, but then I took the time to write this, so…

Leopard and You

I’m currently sitting in the conference room of the Hilton in Dedham, waiting for the Mac OS X Leopard Tech Talk to start (it’s a developer seminar previewing the new stuff coming up in 10.5… they did one for 10.4 as well that I made it to). I’m still pretty pleased that I managed to make it here, as they really are a lot of fun, and I like knowing things, even if I don’t really get a chance to make much use of it. I won’t necessarily be liveblogging the event (some of this is still under NDAs), but I will try to give a general sense of what’s coming up without getting in trouble with Apple’s legal department. It’s really nice sitting here and seeing dozens and dozens of MacBooks, Powerbooks, and MacBook Pros, and logging into the complimentary available wireless network and seeing everyone up via Bonjour. If I were a bit more adventurous, I’d even try IMing people.

[Update: 2 PM They were quite happy to point out that yes, a lot of this is under NDA, and if things are leaked, they don’t get to continue doing these, so please bear in mind that there’s a LOT of information here that I just can’t go into detail about.

My first session was the introduction to the seminar, which covered basic sales numbers, general updates about the application, and then showcased some shiny new features that are definitely pretty exciting. I’m feeling pretty good about what’s changing in printing, and I’d say those of you who are worried about it changing should be well pleased with what’s being done. Core Animation is showing a lot of potential, and a lot of it has already been integrated in ways that you may not really realize: it’s not meant to just be a shiny, a lot of the time animation is a subtle thing to enhance the user experience, to make the UI more clear in what’s happening. An example is the dock, already: if you drag an application icon around on the dock, things move and shift out of the way. It makes it immediately clear where and what’s happening. In 10.5, developers will be able to leverage a lot more of that sort of animation capability for “free”. I’m really excited about some of the new graphics related toolkits that they highlighted.

My second session was an introduction to Xcode 3.0 and Interface Builder 3.0. I’ve got to say, I’m quite impressed with the new features. I like what they’ve done to streamline the workflow, and the new interface builder is sharp, and seems a bit more intuitive. It’s also apparently significantly more extensible than the old version. A lot of the information is available on the developer site, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you’re interested in using OS X as a developer platform.

My third session was “Modern OpenGL”, and it was a treasure trove for my particular field of interest — game development. They’re expanding their support of OpenGL, and some of the features they’ve added have already begun to show a marked increase in speed in existing apps: adding multithreading support on the graphics side to a popular game I play gave a 90% frames per second increase. Some of the example apps were crazy impressive in what they were able to pull off, and easily half to two thirds of the presentation covered ways to modernize OpenGL code and optimize it for performance. Some really nice caveats to remember (I have them written down) if I get back into programming.

I’m taking a break at the moment to let my battery charge, but at 3:15, there’s a session on what’s new in Cocoa that I’d really like to attend. Hoping to attend the sessions on Resolution Independence and Printing in Leopard after that, since those are things that are directly relevant to both myself and others I know. Then there’s just the reception and a chance to shmooze with folks before heading back north. Pretty fun day, all told. Kudos to Apple for hosting it!]

The Title is Often the Hardest Part

It’s true. Coming up with a reasonable title is far more of a pain in the ass than just rambling on about my life. Mostly because I generally don’t really know what I’ll be writing about when I sit down, just a general sense of things and a vague notion that writing something might be a good idea. Today, I’m going to open by saying my nice shiny new replacement keyboard, the third on this less-than-a-year-old laptop, has a borked ‘B’ key. It’s not unusable, but I do have to pay attention to my writing to make sure it registers, and have to hit the key pretty hard. For the record, this laptop has given me more troubles than all my other computers combined (my 15″ 800MHz Powerbook might give it a run for its money, but that was also across 3-4 years of HARD use). I still recommend the line, I know this is just a string of bad luck, and they’ve been very responsive to my issues, but damn is it frustrating.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I’m doing for the next few days, concerning New Years and all that. Without getting too cryptic nor too personal, what I would like to have happen isn’t going to happen (I’d give it about a .0001% chance), and so I’m very much of the sentiment of going wandering for a few days to a week. I don’t know where I’d go, maybe south, maybe west. I’ve been feeling the wanderlust incredibly badly for a while now, and in fact was strongly considering wandering off back when I broke up with Erica at the beginning of September. I was asked not to go, and so I stuck around, because I’m a sap and like to feel wanted. I don’t really have that motivation anymore (unlucky at cards, unlucky at other things), and so the wanderlust is back in full force (it even brought reinforcements). If I were in a slightly better situation for doing so, the idea of taking off for an extended period and working as a freelance writer/photographer is immensely appealing. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to disappear off the radar, if only temporarily.

I still haven’t really decided whether I’m taking off tomorrow or not, but if I do, I may miss a few days, or have only some short posts, or have them delayed (or conversely, I may find wireless and muses wherever I end up going, and start writing profound, beautiful, lengthy entries every day). Just fair warning, since I really would like to keep up this regular posting thing, and would like to build a level of trust with the readers I have that they can expect a new entry from me on a regular basis. (For the record, if anyone is curious as to how many readers I actually have, Google Analytics records an average of roughly 30 unique visitors a day, with a total of roughly 300 uniques a month. Broken down a bit more, this means I have maybe 20-25 regular readers, and then a chunk of people who get referred by search engines or a link in a comment or forum post or by another post linking to me, but don’t really stick around. This doesn’t touch AT ALL on people reading via feeds, but still, I am what would be called small potatoes.) Regardless of whether I post much or not, I do still plan on finding a way to launch my new project on the 1st, so I’ll at least be making a quick post about that. If the 1st is the first time I get to post though, let me say in advance, Happy New Years! I hope it’s a great time for everyone, and heralds a new year full of love, growth, and happiness.

Sporadic Posts and Why

You may have noticed that my posting schedule has once again become a fair bit more sporadic than my preferred rate, including a two week hiatus from posting on Applegeeks (need to post there today or tomorrow). There are a few reasons for this, mostly revolving around the fact that I’ve been sequestering myself in various places that aren’t exactly known for their internet accessability. I spent a week at Squam, which was excellent and I already touched upon briefly, and now I’m in Peterborough for the next few weeks, until we close it up at the end of the month. There is no internet at the house, but the bagel shop at the bottom of the hill has free wifi, so I can still do a morning (or in this case, afternoon) email check and update… for now.

You see, I’m planning on sending my laptop in to Apple… again. There is a very disconcerting and loud whine coming from it, especially when the hard drive platter is first spinning up after being turned on or awaking from sleep. NOT GOOD. Also, the keyboard makes an annoying squeak ever since they replaced it earlier in the summer. I’ll still have my desktop (which I bothered to bring down with me), so I can still get my work done, but I do think that tomorrow I’m going to trek out to the Apple Store in Salem and have them look at it again. It’s under warranty, and I really want it to be as ship-shape as possible by the time the warranty ends.

Arr. Other things (how much can I type in the 10 minutes left on the laptop battery?): Canadian Thanksgiving at Squam was delightful, and I had a great time getting to chat with my cousins (hello to any of you reading); I’ve been reading some fascinating interviews with various comic book writers, and really do think that this sounds like a great fit for several of the stories I’d like to tell (above and beyond the already existing comic characters that I’d like to revive). That’s what I think I’m going to focus on for the next week: sinking my teeth into writing some comic scripts.

Anyway, battery is dead, I will update more soon!