Book Reviews

[Day Permalink] Friday, August 7, 2009

[Item Permalink] Goodbye to Universal Rule - closing shop -- Comment()
As the Radio Userland software is at the end of its life, I'm closing down this blog and will not move it elsewhere. Some parts of it (book reviews etc.) may appear elsewhere at some point, but no promises. The blog will disappear from the net at the end of 2009, perhaps even earlier.

[Day Permalink] Monday, January 5, 2009

[Item Permalink] Photography is the thing -- Comment()
I haven't been blogging much here at Universal Rule for some time, but those who are interested in what I'm currently doing, please check out the Light Scrape blog, which is about photography. I'm nowadays mostly using the Panasonic LX3 for taking photos, over 23,000 photos taken so far with the camera. There has been much less time for other topics since I got a major interest in photography, but that can of course change at some point. But currently it seems that photography poses an interesting long-term project, defined in my own terms. So, other topics such as DRM, Macs, and such will have to wait.

[Day Permalink] Tuesday, December 2, 2008

[Item Permalink] Some happy things -- Comment()
Some computer-related things make me happy, or at least don't increase my non-happiness. Firefox 3 is one such thing - switching to it from Safari was a good decision. I has been great, especially with the add-ons I have been using for synchronizing bookmarks, blocking ads and tweaking the interface. Safari was quite fast and mostly robust, but it crashed every so often. Firefox has been more stable, although even it does freeze sometimes, perhaps once a week.

The only remaining problem is a specific web site, which for some strange reason does not work right in Firefox, but works in Safari. But that is also all right, as this system is not needed every day, and because I'm using it for financial things it is actually good to quit the browser after each time I go there (I have set it up as the home page in Safari).

What are other happy things. My iMac and Macbook Pro are nice things, especially as they mostly stay out of the way of using them. And the software I need works great on both systems, no bottlenecks and no hiccups. The iMac has become the media center of out family, used for all kinds of things - kids playing, the family watching movies and tv, I organizing photos, everyone using the web (the kids with access restrictions).

The MBP is really a workhorse machine, performing those things I need to do. And both the iMac and the MPB have excellent displays and keyboards, allowing the work efficiently. The one remaining thing about the MBP is the buttonless trackpad, which still causes some learning problems - mainly because at desk at work I'm using it with an external display, keyboard and mouse, the same way I did with my old Titanium Powerbook G4. But slowly I'm also learning to use the trackpad, especially the single-finger click and drag, which used to require two fingers with the old trackpad.

[Day Permalink] Saturday, November 22, 2008

[Item Permalink] Macbook Pro hiccups -- Comment()
After using the new Macbook Pro for two weeks of so, I have mostly good experiences, but also some problems have turned up.

What is interesting about the MBP is that when you are using it, it seems quite large, even big - plenty of room for typing, using the trackpad and working on the screen - but when you look at the machine, especially closed, on a table, it seems small, almost diminutive. It is probably the rounded edges and the aluminium color which produce this effect.

The problems which I have had are twofold. I'm using the machine lid closed on my desk, connected to an external display and through a USB 1.0 hub to a keyboard and a mouse. (The MBP needs to be connected to the power supply to use the machine like this - this is the same as with the TiBook.)

I had a single instance when the machine was not waking up when pressing the mouse button or keys on the external keyboard. Fortunately, this problem never appeared again.

But there is another problem which appears once in a while. When woken from the sleep, the external display starts to switch on, goes off, wakes again, goes off, etc. The display does not function properly until disconnected and reconnected, or until the display (not the MBP) is put to sleep and then waken up. You can use define the "sleep display" command to one of the corners of the screen to do this easily.

Perhaps connected to this "waking display" problem is the occasionally slow startup when connected to a video projector - my old TiBook can do it faster. But this doesn't happen always, and may be due to some software settings (PowerPoint of the new MS Office etc.).

I would imagine these problems will soon be fixed in a software update. At least they are quite minor, and don't much diminish the joy of using the MBP.

[Day Permalink] Wednesday, November 19, 2008

[Item Permalink] Ssh and Mac OS X Keychain -- Comment()
SSP asked for details about my ssh integration with Mac OS X Keychain. I'm using the keychain unix system, and the Mac OS X Keychain integration happens through SSHPassKey. (There are two software packages with the same name here.) SSHPassKey is quite old Mac software, but surprisingly it still works.

I'm not quite sure how much it needs tailoring to function (I installed it five years ago or so), as I just moved the files from my old TiBook to the new MBP. This combination is quite handy - after starting up the machine, the system starts up with the first use of Terminal (it asks for a Mac Keychain password), and from there on I don't need to give any ssh passwords at all.

I set up this a long time ago, and since then I have forgotten all the details. But there was some tinkering involved (not modifying the software, though). I hope this helps those who would like to try something similar.

[Day Permalink] Tuesday, November 18, 2008

[Item Permalink] Transferring files to the Macbook Pro -- Comment()
I finally managed to move over my files from to old Titanium PowerBook G4 to the new Macbook Pro. In the end, I used an external USB/Firewire hard disk - using Firewire 400 with the TiBook, and USB 2.0 with the MBP. Everything seems to be more or less as it should, or I hope so.

I even got my Unix environment set up the way I want. I'm using /bin/tcsh as my shell (from old habit) and Emacs of course, with some tweaks. And I also managed to set up ssh with Mac keychain integration. That was a bit of a surprise, I didn't expect it to work right away but so it did. So, I'm happy user of the new machine.

I even did a bit of a daring thing - there was a replacement (faster etc.) hard drive delivered with the machine, which I hadn't installed because I needed to use the machine right away. Well, today I made a Time Machine backup of the MBP to an external hard disk, replaced the internal hard disk (easy to do, remove one screw only), and installed the Mac OS X and all my files from the external TM backup disk using the Mac OS X installer.

Surprisingly, there we no hiccups - well, Mail did go through all the files at startup, but after that it behaved as it should. Yes, and PowerPoint started up with a incompletely saved last file - I had forgotten to save that file to disk before running Time Machine. But in relative terms - switching from one hard disk to another without any problems - that was really something. It took about on hour, but I didn't need to do anything during that time, just wait for the data transfer to finish.

I must say that I'm impressed with Time Machine. I wish all software would work like this, just the way it is supposed to. Switching machines - or hard disks - is no pain with a system like that.

[Day Permalink] Saturday, November 15, 2008

[Item Permalink] Macbook Pro - in good and bad -- Comment()
I have now used the new "unibody" Macbook Pro for one week. No problems so far, but there are some inconveniences.

I haven't yet transferred all my files from my old Titanium PowerBook G4, because of technical hurdles. Usb file transfer on the TiBook is very slow - it is  not USB 2.0 but the older version - and moving gigabytes and lots of files is VERY slow. There is of course Firewire, but I don't yet have a cable for connecting my TiBook and MBP together, because the Firewire port on the new MPB is FW800. So, I need to get a 9-pin to 6-pin Firewire cable to use the target disk mode on the TiBook for file transfer. I did manage to transfer a couple of GB of data, but the rest is still waiting on the TiBook.

One problem with the nice design of the MBP is that dirt is easily visible in the aluminium and on the display. Well, you just have to keep on cleaning.

I'm liking the keyboard more and more. It is nicely responsive, I would say a bit evolved version from the iMac flat keyboard. It is very nice to write when the laptop is in the lap. Some have been reporting unevenly placed keys on the new MBPs, but no such things with mine. And no crooked lines or other blemishes.

The early-adopters dilemma is quite possible with new Apple hardware - and with other brands as well. When I got an aluminium iMac a bit over year ago, there were severe software problems resulting in the machine freezing several times a week. After a month or so Apple updated the graphics software, and from there on the machine has been performing almost flawlessly. So far, it seems that the new MBP does not have such severe problems (at least mine doesn't). But I'm not using the faster graphics cpu, and also in other ways my needs are quite modest.

There may be a slight problem, and that is with sleeping - or waking from sleep. Normally this works very well, but when working with an external display and the lid closed, I had one-time occurrence when the machine did not at once wake up when pressing a key on the external usb keyboard. It may have been caused by the old usb 1.1 hub, perhaps, or there may have been other reasons. But that was a single occurrence. Since then, no problems like that have occurred.

I'm not yet quite sure how long the battery lasts on this thing. About four hours at least, but I haven't really timed it. When not plugged in, I have been using wireless, bluetooth etc., so I feel that four hours is not bad at all.

In all, the MBP is an excellent workhorse. Perhaps I could have coped with the new aluminium Macbook as well, but I feel that this machine will last longer in use, and the display of course is larger and allows more effective work.

Will this machine last for almost six years in use as the TiBook did? Who knows - but I'm not so sure about that. Getting outdated is happening faster all the time. Perhaps only five years?