The Big Think

April 27, 2012

Fishbowl

Filed under: Computing,Disclosure,Macintosh,Technology — jasony @ 12:13 pm

Living in Public: What Happens When You Throw Privacy Out the Window

Wherein a writer turns off all privacy filters online for 3 weeks and then analyzes what happens. The result? Well, the targeted ads are kind of nice when you’re shopping (they save you a Google search or two), but in the end, the writer goes back to the private life. Erin and I run Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and DNT+ on all our machines, and I take the extra step of only allowing Javascripts to execute on my laptop on an as-needed basis by using NoScript (extra security for banking, for instance). NoScript is a slightly less convenient way to surf in that it probably adds 30 seconds to my surfing every day, but I feel that the security and privacy is worth it. As for the others, they’re 100% transparent and actually speed up my surfing quite a big because they keep all those ads from even downloading… thus saving more bandwidth for what I actually requested in the first place.

I got into a (polite) disagreement on FB a few weeks ago about security and privacy versus the unspoken agreement that we all have to allow ourselves to be tracked as part of the social contract we make in exchange for a mostly free internet. I’m not convinced of this position at all— if you broadcast a tv or radio signal for free there’s nothing – no legal or moral argument– that prevents me from just listening to the content. That’s why God and Sony created a MUTE button after all. The person I was talking to about this didn’t see the connection but the fact that she does marketing for a living and thus depends on mailing lists and selective targeting to make their job more effective somewhat diminishes the argument in my mind.

Regardless, whenever I get on a completely unprotected (i.e. un adblocked, un-Do-Not-Tracked) machine I’m always appalled at all the flashy movement that’s taking place on the edges of the screen. Is this what everyone else puts up with every day? Seriously? It’s incredibly distracting and borderline anxiety-producing to have virtual sidewalk-hawkers constantly throwing stuff in your face trying to get you to punch the monkey or chase the mute button. Our surfing experience at home is fast, anonymous, quiet, and very non-distracting.

Do yourself a favor and give AdBlockPlus, Ghostery, and/or DoNotTrack+ a test drive for a week (and if you’re more technically minded, you can also try NoScript for blocking auto-running Javascript). You can install them all even, though I’d try them a few at a time just to make sure they play nice together (they do on all our machines). I’ve been running them all for well over a year (ABP goes back about five years) and seldom have any compatibility issues.

I think you’ll be amazed at how much better a “quiet” internet can be.

March 31, 2011

World Backup Day

Filed under: Apple,Mac OS X Problems,Macintosh,Technology — jasony @ 11:12 pm

Today is World Backup Day. How ironic that the hard drive in Erin’s iMac just died! Good thing we’ve got Time Machine on it. Now we get to see how well it works.

We’re probably going to spring for professional installation of the new hard drive. I’ve looked up the directions to replacing the HD in her model of iMac and, wow, yeah… not going there. Better to pay somebody else the money to do it professionally. I trust my mad screwdriver skillz, but one slip up and we’re buying a whole new machine. No thanks.

Have you backed up your data lately? I just got a second 2TB hard drive to go with my first one and everything is backed up six ways from Sunday, so I think I’m covered. Still… wouldn’t hurt to burn the Quicken data to CD again, would it?

September 1, 2010

Move Me

Filed under: Education,Macintosh — jasony @ 2:51 pm

Cool! SketchyPhysics is now available for the Mac. Time to boot up SketchUp and play a bit.

March 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to X

Filed under: Macintosh,Music — jasony @ 8:46 pm

Mac OS X turns 9 years old today. I have continued to use the old OS 9 since then. I use X, but do all of my professional work on OS 9… until now. It’s fitting that tomorrow I will accept delivery on my new 27″ iMac. Yup, from now on I’m OS X only! I’ll miss Vision and OS 9, but technology changes, and eventually you have to change with it. This move was brought on by the confluence of several events: the continuing dilapidation of my G4 MDD, the need to update my sound pallet, and an upcoming feature film audio mix. Fortunately, all three of these things came to a head in my “off season”, so I am spending quite a bit of time at night curled up with manuals and new hardware. The Fedex guy has come to our door for the last five mornings straight (except Sunday).

I’m a bit nervous about finally making the switch to Logic and Digital Performer since I was probably among the fastest Vision users in the universe (a distinction that’s akin to being one of the fastest Cobol programmers around), but I’ll get it. Change is good, right?

January 27, 2010

Geeking out on the new iPad

Filed under: Apple,Macintosh — jasony @ 1:43 pm

Want. Will Have.

December 6, 2009

Broken Computer

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 8:53 pm

I pulled my headphones out of my Macbook the other day and the red light from inside the headphone jack turned on (it’s the digital headphone out for when you have the laptop plugged in via sp/dif). I took it to the Apple store and the verdict was a motherboard replacement. There was one component bad on the motherboard, but since they’re monolithic, if something goes wrong you have to just replace the whole board. It’s still within warranty (for another 55 days), so the repair was free, but it would have been $600 otherwise.

They took the laptop overnight and gave me a new motherboard, plus a new faceplate (which was cracked), and a new keyboard, touchpad, and button. Not bad for a warranty repair. I think I’m going to pay the $250 for 2 more years of AppleCare in case this happens in the future. Hate to do it, but I want the computer to last a while.

November 15, 2009

Lego Man

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Macintosh — jasony @ 3:04 pm

Wow, I really want one of these. Too bad they’re sold out.

April 24, 2009

Avoid Mozy

Filed under: Computing,Macintosh — jasony @ 10:20 am

MOZY for Mac is terrible! I just installed the backup utility and have had no end to problems. Half-baked UI, frequent beach-balling (why does it freeze for 30 seconds when I deselect a check box? Intolerable!), and general slow operation. Even the oft-blasted beta was better than this. I had high hopes for Mozy but I’ve been very disappointed.

Recommendation: Avoid Mozy until they get their act together. Even the free version isn’t worth what they charge. Why would I pay $60/year? Awful.

March 18, 2009

Computer Update

Filed under: Apple,Mac OS X Problems,Macintosh,Music — jasony @ 11:12 am

Still fighting with the computer. The OS 9 partition that has all of my work on it (thankfully, Sing is over now) still works, but I can’t recreate it using the drive clones I created years ago, and I don’t know why. I got two new drives and they both work fine, but I can’t reload the 9 partition, and if I can’t do that, then writing another year of Sing is like walking tightrope across a very large drop with no net. Not going to happen.

So yesterday Erin and I were in the Apple store and I was contemplating the purchase of a new MacPro (on a friend’s discount, of course!). As I was standing there, I had the realization that this new MacBook I’m typing on is probably 10x as powerful as my old G4, and I could possibly use it as a temporary stopgap. I bought a $20 adapter and confirmed that I could indeed use my 22″ Dell monitor (great monitor) with it, then bought a 2TB external drive to use as a backup. The external drive is going back to Fry’s (it only showed as 1.36TB, which is terrible even accounting for formatting space), but I might be able to make this work.

This solution would enable me to save the cost of a new Mac Pro ($2400!) for now, and it would let me ease into the whole purchase of the new studio by only having to buy the Midi interface and the new audio interface. The only downside is that I lose the easy portability of the laptop. Why? Because once it’s ensconced in my desk it will have seven of its nine ports in use. Not that I can’t unplug it and go, but grabbing it off the desk to go downstairs won’t be a one step process.

I’m still messing with getting the G4 to work, though. But Erin brought up what would have happened to me if this whole debacle had occurred two months ago. I don’t even want to contemplate that. In that case I would have paid almost ANYTHING to get the whole thing working again. In that regard, I think making the big jump is probably due. I hate kludging solutions together, though, so I’m still not sold on using the laptop as my main machine. What a pain- just glad it’s March!

January 6, 2009

The New Macbook Wheel

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Macintosh — jasony @ 10:18 am


Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

November 11, 2008

Windows 7 an 8 ball?

Filed under: Computing,Macintosh — jasony @ 9:29 am

“Windows 7 is a ‘minor point-type of release, as opposed to a major update or rewrite.’ Memory footprint for the kernel proved eerily similar to that of Vista as well. ‘In fact, as I worked my way through the process lists of the two operating systems, I was struck by the extent of the similarities…In a nutshell, Windows 7 M3 is a virtual twin of Vista when it comes to performance. In other words, Microsoft’s follow-up to its most unpopular OS release since Windows Me threatens to deliver zero measurable performance benefits while introducing new and potentially crippling compatibility issues.’

Hey, there’s always OS X!

read more.

June 26, 2008

Mac-Tel?

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 11:16 am

Is Intel considering switching its 80,000 internal computers over to Macs? Maybe.

December 23, 2007

Mini Us

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 5:05 pm

Last week a power surge brought down the whole home automation system. I managed to get it up and creaking again, but the hard drive was starting to hiss and smoke. It was obviously time for us to replace the thing and get the house up to date.

Giles let us use one of his three friend’s and family discounts on a brand new Mac Mini (Thanks, G!). I ordered it last thursday and it arrived 20 hours later on friday, even though I had chosen free shipping. Within a day I had up and running and happily loading movies and other content onto it. A day later I plugged it into our (analog) TV and installed/configured our home automation software (Xtension) on it. Unfortunately, the new machine comes with Leopard (OS 10.5), and Xtension isn’t fully compatible with Leopard yet, so there were some fairly hilarious and debilitating bugs with the setup. After I paid my upgrade fee for Xtension, I asked the one of the co-writers (the inestimable James Sentman) if he maybe had an alpha build of Xtension I could test. Boy! Am I glad I asked. I installed the alpha an it’s never run better. The HA machine has been rock-solid stable and doesn’t have the quirks that the older Xtension did on Leopard. The Mini is incredibly powerful and doens’t even blink when I ask it to run the HA machine, compress a movie, download content from Miro, and play back a hi def stream, all while hosting music and doing a few other things- simultaneously. And this is the low end machine. I got an Apple wireless keyboard and the bluetooth mighty mouse so now I can sit back on the couch and surf or watch a movie from the hard drive. Granted, the screen on our 28″ analog TV is only 28″ and very low res, and we’ll rectify that once prices drop a bit more, but it’s a game-changing thing for us to have easy access to so much content.

The other great thing about the switch is that the home automation system is much more reliable than it was before. The old system was relegated to the corner of an upstairs room and sometimes the signals didn’t get to the computer. The new system is relegated to the exact opposite corner of the house (downstairs corner by the TV), but for some reason signals seem to propagate much better. I haven’t had nearly as many collisions or failed triggers as before. We’ve been through several nights with the system watching over us and so far (finger’s crossed) we haven’t had any lights go on in the dead of night. I think I killed those logic errors several years ago.
Eventually I’d like to speed the system up by getting a wireless antenna so the motion detector signals don’t have to clog up the power lines, but that’s somewhere down the road. Oh, and the mini’s paltry 80 gig hard drive will be cleared up once we get a ginormous firewire drive. I’d love to get a dual terabyte (mirrored) drive, but those’re still out of the price range. I’d hate to get anything less than a 750 because we’ll be filling it up too soon (still don’t have the pictures or music on the mini). How much storage do we really need? About 50% more, it seems. I think in the meantime I’ll look for a cheap ATA to Firewire enclosure and repurpose an old hard drive. Enclosures are only $20-$30 and I can put a lot of music in the 160 gig that I have in the loose drive.

So Christmas came early to our house. Erin loves being able to surf on our TV, and getting rid of that noisy machine upstairs has been a boon. With so much power in the Mini I’m looking for ideas for ways to use it. I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Comp USA

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 10:22 am

So Comp USA is going out of business. I wandered in there yesterday and spent an hour looking for a decent bluetooth mouse. Stupid me. I decided to save ten bucks and get an RF mouse with a USB dongle. Unfortunately, I got it home, opened the package, and discovered the killer: “Maximum range 3 feet”. Bummer. I need a range of about 12 feet. Stamped all across the receipt: All sales final, no returns. There goes $27. I’m going to go back in today and plead my case with the manager, offering up a win-win. Let me exchange this and pay the difference for a more expensive mouse. Hope it works.

UPDATE: The enlightened manager at Comp USA heard me out. His reply was “so what you want to do is spend MORE money with us, and all I have to do is bend the “no returns” policy? I’d be stupid not to do that.” I didn’t have to give him my big rehearsed spiel or anything. Very cool of him. He actually said “yeah, lots of businesses would stick to the letter of the law, but that’d be dumb.”

So I bit the bullet, applied the $27 to the Apple wireless Mighty Mouse, and now I can operate the Mac from 30 feet away. Erin’s used the wired Mighty Mouse for a year on the iMac and loves it. I can see why.

August 31, 2007

Impulse Buy

Filed under: Computing,Macintosh — jasony @ 2:50 pm

Went to lunch at Apple with Giles today and talked Apple, tech, and computer lust. He just got a new Mac Mini and is using it as a central hub for all of his music and movies. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. He showed me his friends and family discount on a new Mini and I aaaaalmost pulled the trigger. But I decided to be responsible and pass. Soon, though. I really would like a Mini running as the home automation server (to replace the 7 year old G3/333) as well as doing over-the-air HD recording and compression and acting as a movie/photo/music storage center for the whole house.

What I did do is purchase the newest version of iWork. It was only $55 with Giles’ F&F discount, which made it easy. I bought iWork about 18 months ago after taking a good look at it. It promised to replace Word/Appleworks/Pagemaker. I had been doing all those setups and layout stuff for CD’s, etc, in a bunch of different programs and was looking for a way to consolidate my efforts. iWork 1.0 did a good job of this but was still a version 1.0 release (some minor annoyances). After looking at 2.0 I jumped. Apple has added a VERY consolidated and powerful spreadsheet program as well as made the layout program (Pages) more “Word-like”. You can still do all the cool layout stuff (see here), but now you can choose to just do word processing without going through the layout layer. I imagine that I will be doing all of my word processing, layout, and spreadsheets in iWork from now on. Too bad I don’t do any presentations. Keynote is supposed to rock.

By the way, I just heard on a podcast that 60% of laptop users are reporting that they will be purchasing a Mac laptop for their next machine. 60%! This jibes with Apple’s laptop market share increase lately. They’ve gone from 12% to 17% of all laptops sold in the past few quarters. We have a couple of friends who have converted over and they are thrilled to have finally made the switch. It’s true- once you go Mac, you never go back. So what are you all waiting for? :)

July 31, 2007

Steampunk Pismo

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 5:22 pm

Clockwork Pismo. Awesome. Hmm… I have a Pismo….

July 6, 2007

iPhone

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 9:44 am

David Pogue in the new musical iPhone.

July 4, 2007

iPhone magic

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 11:00 am

Street magic with the new iPhone.

July 3, 2007

See

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Macintosh — jasony @ 10:34 pm

I could really use one of these. The new Apple i-Bal.

June 20, 2007

Double, Double

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 2:42 pm

USA Today reports that Apple’s market share has more than doubled since 2004. Up from 3.2% to 7.6% Hooray!

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