The Big Think

January 27, 2010

Geeking out on the new iPad

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

Want. Will Have.

June 11, 2009

Dialog Box

Filed under: Apple,Games,Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:17 am


Redshift Dialog.jpg

May 21, 2009

Eulogy for an iPod

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 12:54 pm

This sucker just won’t die. I’ve had my iPod for probably 4 years now and bought it used from a friend. It’s been a faithful companion.

The hard drive has been acting up so I’ve applied the known fix: holding it firmly and then whacking the corner of the unit on the table. This dislodges the little stuck arm in the hard drive and makes it work again, for a while.

Well, that while finally ended today. The drive just clicks and nothing happens. So now I can either replace the drive for fifty bucks and hope that the repeated whacks upside the head haven’t hurt anything else, or just pony up for a new one altogether. I think I’m going with option B and retire the old girl.

So long, Walkabout. You were great!

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!

March 11, 2009

Things Break

Filed under: Apple,Mac OS X Crashes — jasony @ 4:15 pm

*UPDATE* I got things working again! Well, I got the old hard drive to live long enough to pull the needed data off of it. Quicken stores historical stock data in a weird non-standard place, so even if you back up your Quicken file, all those important numbers can still get lost. I had almost a decade of hand-entered numbers (daily) in that file, and not having them there really messed with the graphing function of Quicken. Thankfully, it’s restored now and working correctly. HUGE sigh of relief. I still have to spend tomorrow formatting the new drive and reinstalling all my apps (and removing the old drive to send to the firing range), but it looks like I got all my data back. Stupid Intuit!**

Gahh, what a frustrating day. It started out just fine as I continued doing the mastering for Word, then my hard drive decided to take the big dirt nap on me. Fortunately, it was a problem I’ve had before- hard freeze in OS 9, followed by not being able to see the X partition. Reboot with system CD, run Disk Utility, and all is well. Unfortunately, this time was different. The OS X partition didn’t mount and couldn’t be resurrected, even using arcane Terminal commands.

I have a nice new 320 gig drive on my desk all ready to install when the new RAM arrives in a few days, and to have the drive crap out THIS CLOSE to the full reinstall is maddening. Yes, I had most of the really critical stuff backed up (Quicken and most of my work), but I’ve been working on a few things this week that were fairly important that didn’t get backed up. I mean, what are the odds? Now I have to go back and redo about three days of carefully done work.

I did manage to get most of my old documents off of a backup DVD, and I’m in the process of reinstalling apps and getting my Mail application as I like it. I lost a bit of email, but some of it’s on the new laptop. For some reason not all of my mail makes it to the laptop (it seems that if it’s destined for a subfolder in the Mail app, then the laptop doesn’t even bother to download it. Here’s the weird part: if I login to the service, I can’t even see that stuff online! Proven and verified by the Apple store employee. I don’t know what it means and Erin is having the same issues, so I’m a little flummoxed.). Anyway, one of the benefits of this quasi-cloud thing I have going is that much of my data is “out there” somewhere. This blog is hosted on a service (note: backup blog), my mail is scattered between gmail,, and yahoo, and my bookmarks, address book, and other digital sundries are all synchronized to a fare-thee-well. So now instead of taking three days to completely reinstall everything and get it all up and running it’ll only take me a couple. I’m sure there will be the inevitable weeks of micro tweaking as I get the environment back to what I was used to. It’s like when your neighbor borrows the car and everything-seat, radio, mirrors- are all subtly out of whack. It vexes me, it does.

I used to make it a habit of wiping my drives down to bare metal once a year and rebuilding, but that hasn’t happened in a few years, and the drive that went belly up was the original 80 gig drive that came with this G4 six years ago. I bought a 320 gig drive to replace it, but after seeing the problem (a crash in OS 9 corrupts the OS X partition), I decided that I’d rather not have this issue again, so I went to the Blue Box today and shelled out another $90 for an identical 320 gig drive. Instead of running them as a redundant RAID (that seem to temp the gods), I’m instead going to keep my OS’s confined to their own drives and cross-backup the data. I also have a tertiary half-terabyte for working data (that can also be cross-backed-up). I need to devise some sort of automatic backup system here so this doesn’t happen again.

The only big loss, besides the aforementioned work, is that I have to spend $30 upgrading MarsEdit. Long story, but since I’ve been using it for years it’s probably time.

One note: thank goodness for the new MacBook. Without it as a secondary repository of syncable data through the .Mac service (bookmarks, address book, calendar, mail rules, etc) I would have been emseriously/em screwed. Now I’m just slightly hosed.

December 24, 2008

Mac vs. PC

Filed under: Apple,Movies — jasony @ 12:39 am

Best line: “your face gets viruses”

December 5, 2008

Podcast Man

Filed under: Apple,Audio,Education — jasony @ 2:07 am

My iPod recently gave up the ghost, only to come back and haunt me like a shiny white specter of lickable technology. The hard drive wouldn’t spin up, so I figured what the heck, wound up, and gave it a great big hard smack against the wall (no kidding, I really whacked the thing). It started working again! It’s been a couple of months now and the little beauty just won’t die. I love it!

I’m updating my podcasts on it right now. Podcasts are pretty much the only thing I use the iPod for, but I REALLY use it a lot. I’ve gone through probably 1000+ hours of podcasts on the thing. Right now I have 655 separate casts (about a dozen different shows) and, if I started right now, I wouldn’t be finished listening to them all for 13.9 days. I tend to catch up on a bunch of them when I’m out woodworking in the garage, then I’ll get busy in the studio for weeks on end and not listen to many. There was a time about 18 months ago, right after I finished the studio build, where I was completely out of podcasts to listen to. Now I’m positively drowning in them.

I love the iPod, and I love the idea of podcasts. That I can pick from a buffet of great tech, science, educational, current event, and other podcasts by really great hosts and listen to them while I work, drive, mow the lawn, or just walk around Home Depot, is a wonderful thing. I feel like I’m back in school, but I get to study the courses that I’m really interested in. It makes me even more jealous of my time and more willing to focus on stuff that really matters to me.

Anyway, if you do a lot of busywork, I’d highly recommend checking out the iTunes music store’s massive collection of free podcasts. I think you’ll find a lot of stuff to interest you.

Oh, and thanks to Tim again for selling me this little gem several years ago. It’s been a great companion.

Cue “the more you know” music.

November 21, 2008

Test post from ipod

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 11:06 pm

Testing the Word press iPod blogging app. Neat! I can blog from wherever there’s an Internet connection! This’ll be great for traveling though I’m sure my posts will be rather short. It’s hard to thumb type on this little keyboard.

September 1, 2008


June 9, 2008

Keynote Madness

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 10:52 am

The semi-annual Jobs/Apple Keynote begins in ten minutes. Let the page refreshing begin!

March 26, 2008

Cloudy Vista

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 4:16 pm

At Bowdoin College, about half of the computers are Macs, and half are PCs. When Apple released the latest version of OS X in October, professors with Macs immediately swamped the IT department to ask about the long-awaited Leopard. But after Windows Vista, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, came out over a year ago, there were no such requests.

article here.

December 15, 2007

Pen Touch

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 12:30 am

There are rumors afoot that Apple will release a tablet computer next month at MacWorld. All I can say is I hope so. If it uses this technology, all the better. I said I’d be first in line for a tablet based computer, but if we purchase the mini we may have to put that off for awhile. Darn money.

December 13, 2007

Dumb House

Filed under: Apple,Hobbies,Technology — jasony @ 5:42 pm

Well, the dang home automation system is on the fritz. And then it’s not. And then it is again. It seems that the other day some uncoordinated rube ran his or her car into a telephone pole with an attached transformer a mile from here. The resulting explosion and fiery incandescence managed to knock out power for four thousand north Austin residents. What that much power was doing coursing through a single transformer I have no idea, and the fact that my wife drives by the cursed thing every day on her way to work gives me pause. The image of the tiny green box overloaded with electrons suddenly erupting and causing a temporal anomaly, trapping everyone in the area in a time loop where thy have to repeat the last thirty seconds of their commute, only to pass by the tiny green box overloaded with electrons suddenly erupting and causing a temporal anomaly, trapping everyone in the area in a time loop where thy have to repeat the last thirty seconds of their commute, only to pass by the…. you get the idea.

Anyway, the box went blooey, but first I was treated to the spectacular sight of all the lights in our house suddenly ramping up to 200% brightness. Wowsers. I think this is what they mean by power spike. Luckily, I’m a smart lad and have invested a substantial portion of my retirement savings on Uninterruptible Power Supplies. These have the benefit of not only allowing you to continue surfing the internet when the zombie hordes destroy civilization (leave YouTube please!), but also regulate the electrons like a bouncer at a night club. Only the cute and well-behaved ones get through.

So every expensive piece of electronics in the house made it through just fine, and I really think the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on super-duper UPS’s paid for themselves right then and there. There was the bright light and the horrific squeal of a half dozen units beepeing NO POWER, followed by darkness and continued beeping (none of the lights are on UPS’s, of course). I ran around and shut down/unplugged everything and was treated to that very rare modern experience… a silent house. Man shouldn’t live this way.

Unfortunately, the UPS that’s on the home automation computer is old and decrepit, and failed in its task. When the power came back on four hours later (yes, it took them four hours to replace the transformer, rendering an area about 3 miles in radius powerless… including the neighborhood grocery store and the Best Buy. What’s a Best Buy without power but a sad silicon graveyard.), I rebooted the 10 year old Mac that serves as the brain of the house. However, after a suitable period of time I realized that the hard drive never spun up. I kicked it and rebooted it a few times and managed to get it working again, so the first thing I did was back everything up. You want to hear me rant? Imagine if I lost a few years’ worth of programming to the house controller. I might have to actually touch a light switch!

This morning I went back in to visit the computer and it was still working, but when I rebooted it again (yes, there was a good reason), it quit on me again. So I took it apart and tried to replace the hard drive with an even older drive. No dice. Tried a second drive. Nothing. Tried the original wonky drive again, kicked it, spun in place, and spat a few times for good luck, and rebooted it. It worked! But I think the drive is on its last legs. It’s a SCSI drive (that old Mac only takes a special kind of extra-loud, extra expensive SCSI drives), so replacing it would cost more than I want to spend just to keep an ancient machine running a while longer. See also: supercentenarians with pneumonia.

So the plan right now is to see what happens over the next few days. If it keeps working we’ll keep our fingers crossed, but when/if it goes down for sure, instead of spending the money on a big U/W SCSI drive I think we’re just going to spring for a new low-end Mac Mini. This will get the HA server into the new millennium and allow me to do cool things like port our music and video around the house. It should speed up the performance of the HA system significantly, and run silently and more efficiently. In fact, I’ve been running a Kill-a-Watt on the old H.A. computer for a while and determined that we’ll save enough in electricity cost by replacing it with a Mini to completely pay for the Mini…. in 12 years. Of course, the way Macs last, it’s entirely possible that it’ll still be working then.

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