Friday, January 28, 2005

Geek Funny

This slashdot post and its reply has to be the funniest thing I have ever read on slashdot. I damn near fell out of my chair laughing my ass off. If you're wondering who this General Grievous guy is, you'll see him in Star Wars: Episode III.

2004-01-27 20:35 C&T

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Macs and Speed

Lately, there have been a rash of "switcher" articles, where an advanced Windows and/or Linux user takes the Macintosh package for a spin. There's one from OSNews, one from ExtremeTech and several from AnandTech.

In many of these articles, the author will mention the lack of responsiveness in the UI or choppiness in some of the UI animations (like Exposé). This is particularly the case with power users who are used to top-shelf PCs. Unless you're running a Dual 2.5GHz PowerMac G5 with a couple Gigs of RAM, a Radeon 9800 XT, and Apple's 20" Cinema Display (nothing larger), you probably won't be able to perceive the true power you have at your finger tips just by the feel of the user interface. I wish it wasn't true, but it is. All I can do is attempt to explain why.

Apple's core markets are publishing and video: graphics. Except for crunching massive amounts of scientific data, there is nothing more demanding you could ask a computer to do. In addition, to compete in these markets Apple needed products that would offer the highest quality graphics environment available from anyone. Which brings us to Quartz.

Quartz is MacOS X's graphics subsystem and it's the highest quality graphics subsystem available on any operating system. While most OS's have 2D graphics systems based around bitmaps, Quartz is based on PDF. Add this to the fact that Apple's external monitors have high native resolutions, (to the point that Apple's 30" monitor requires this dual head video card just to use it) and you have a recipe for SLOW. Apple's Quartz Extreme enhancements just show that Quartz is really a graphics system designed for the hardware of 2010 rather than today's equipment.

In the long run this will be good for Apple, but today it's hard to make the case for Apple's machines being fast when they often feel slow.

2004-01-26 18:32 C&T

Monday, January 24, 2005

iTunes Music Store Downloads Top 250 Mil

As I predicted previously, Apple announced today that the iTunes Music Store has sold a total of 250 million songs since its inception.

The significance here is not that iTMS continues to sell music but that each month they sell more music than they sold in the previous month. Someday, iTMS will reach a critical mass where a significant percentage of music sold world wide will be sold through iTMS. When that happens, iPod will be guaranteed not to ever go down as a "fad" because it is the only player which can play iTMS's DRMed songs.

2004-11-23 17:45 C&T

The End is Coming... Eventually.

It's official! The End of Life as We Know It is coming. soon. -ish. Countdown to global catastrophe lays it all out. A report being published tomorrow makes it all clear: CO2 concentrations will reach 400ppm within ten years. After that, catastrophic environmental disaster will be inevitable... sometime later this century.

I really wish this shit would just happen so we can all get started dying already. I mean, I've been listening to the environmentalists proselytizing about this for twenty years, and it's still going to be another good twenty years before it starts coming true. Can't they speed it up? I'm going to start leaving my car running 24/7.

2004-01-23 15:26 C&T

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Upgrading the mini, revisited.

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on upgrading the Mac mini. Dan Franks over at MacCentral has recieved his mini and opened it up. It looks like my thoughts were pretty much spot on.

2004-01-21 02:08 C&T

Friday, January 21, 2005

Disgusting Dissection

If you like guts and gore, you have to check out this new set of dissection pictures over at AppleMatters: dissecting an iPod shuffle.

Really interesting and slightly nauseating (since I'm still waiting for my shuffle to arrive.)

2004-01-20 17:32 C&T

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Upgrading Your Mac mini's RAM

Let's say you're buying a Mac mini and would like to bump the RAM up to 1GB, so you select the option and Apple wants $425US for the RAM. Holy Hell!

The tech specs say that the Mac mini takes a single PC2700 (333MHz) DDR SDRAM module, and dealram prices the same RAM at $155 to $200US across a wide spread of vendors. Plus, you get to keep or eBay the 256MB stick that the mini comes with! (Worth about $30US)

So, how do you save more than $250 and upgrade the RAM yourself? The hardest part is opening the Mac mini's case. Luckily, what appears to be an Apple training video has surfaced which shows you how to do just that. I found it on smash's world and I have it mirrored here.

The video says to use a putty knife with a beveled edge to pry the case open, but a quality precision screwdriver might work just as well or better. I'll know for sure when I get a mini of my own and can give it a try.

Once you get the computer open, the RAM is probably easily accessible based on this picture of the Mac mini's mainboard. Although you can't really see much of it, at the end of the video the RAM is on the right side of the computer. It doesn't seem to be obstructed by anything so it should just pop out using the levers at each end of the RAM slot. Pop in your new 1GB module and snap the computer back together.

All said and done, it should be pretty easy but don't blame me if you destroy your computer trying to do this.

2004-01-18 20:52 C&T

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Mac mini Fastest Selling Computer Ever?

There are unsubstantiated rumors that the Mac mini may be the fastest selling computer ever, with 250,000 units pre-ordered in the first week. If this is true, Apple really needs to verify it and get the word out to silence the naysayers (particularly Bill Palmer.)

2004-01-17 21:58 C&T

The Basics of Space Flight

I've been making my way through NASA's Basics of Space Flight online textbook. If you would like to get a better understanding of the solar system and how NASA and Earth's other space agencies manage to explore it, I highly recommend checking it out.

2004-01-17 20:39 C&T

Thoughts On iPod's Future

Early on in the iPod's rise to power the complaint was levied against it that iPod didn't offer enough choice in hardware; that there weren't enough different models. It was a valid complaint when there were only three models of different capacities and they all looked the same. However, this unified iPod specs page shows that problem has been pretty well addressed. There are five iPod product lines with a total of twelve distinct models currently shipping.

So what's next for iPod? I think it's pretty clear that the iPod mini will get a bump to 5GB in the near future, with a possible adjustment to it's color palate, the way the old color iMacs often had their colors tweaked with a hardware revision.

I also expect that over time Apple will add some other features people have been demanding. A built-in microphone for recording will happen someday; iPod already supports recording via an optional add-on. Radio will also arrive eventually, either in the form of an AM/FM tuner or possibly a new satellite radio enabled model. I'd also expect some kind of wifi-enabled iPod to work with Airport Express, although I doubt it will happen this year.

The iPod and iPod photo would be the most likely recipients of these features if they aren't added via a whole new model. My guess is that we will see all of these features within the next two years.

2004-01-17 18:26 C&T

Friday, January 14, 2005

Huygens Made It!

More good news this week: the Huygens probe landed on Titan.

Pretty exciting stuff. The first images and data should be available to the public within 24 hours.

UPDATE: The first image from Titan is available!

2004-01-13 20:15 C&T

The Ultimate Weapon

The Pentagon has revealed some of its rejected chemical weapons. These are non-lethal chemical weapons that, if developed, would have been used to demoralize enemy troops.

New Scientist says:

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behavior among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

The Drudge Report called this a "Sex Bomb" but I think "Gay Spray" sounds better. Either way, this has to be the most awesome weapon ever conceived! Whether it demoralizes the enemy or not, it's pretty difficult to fight a war while you're sucking your buddy's cock.

I picture the delivery rockets with "Make love, not war" stenciled on them. How perfect would that be?

2004-01-13 16:23 C&T

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not Getting Laid Off: Priceless

Well, the CEMEX deal doesn't close until the first week of February at the earliest but it looks like my job is safe. There will be lots of changes but I should be able to stay on and will probably get to spend more time out of the office. What a load off my shoulders.

200411-01-11 18:12 C&T

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

cOgniTIVe di$s0naNce i$ a BitCh!

"No, that's not true, that's impossible!" -- Luke Skywalker, ESB

That was my response to today's announcement of the Mac mini. I posted about the rumor before, but I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it. I'm looking at the Mac mini page and I can't bring myself to accept the reality of it. My brain hurts.

"Apple released a new Mac several times faster than the ill-fated PowerMac Cube and one third the size for $499? No, that's not true, that's impossible!"

Don't even get me started on iPod shuffle. It's all bullshit! Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.......

I can't believe it. I won't believe it. And when I do believe it I'll do exactly what I know I shouldn't do: pull out the plastic and buy a Mac mini and an iPod shuffle. God damn it.

2004-01-10 19:56 C&T

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Return of Geekman!

Most of 2004 wasn't very good for my geek pride. My primary focus was my strong AI project, which saw some significant but largely invisible progress. It was all theoretical and thus amounted to many pages of notes and very little else.

Every other project was basically shelved and when I wasn't doing AI-theorizing I was half-heartedly trying to maintain my aging computers. My little file server had its primary hard drive fail. I didn't lose any data but I never quite got around to getting the server working again, although I did make an abortive attempt. I also replaced some parts in my iBook to keep it ticking for a bit longer and had to replace my wi-fi access point when my Airport AP finally burned out. My poor iMac's DVD-ROM drive is still jammed up with the pennies my son stuffed in there three months ago. A lack of focus led my cyborg project to languish; it took me all year to accomplish goals I had planned to complete by the end of February 2004.

However, I'm now back on track. In December, I finally finished the mockup of my wrist-mounted cording keyboard and I am planning on getting a functioning prototype together early this year. An early alpha build of Cyborg Search Pro should be ready by next weekend and I expect to begin coding the IOL Interpreter for my AI system within the next month or so.

I have my file server running again with Gentoo Linux configured the way I wanted it, without X. I've also been playing with DSLinux on an old Pentium II machine I acquired from one of the VPs at work for the low cost of moving his data to his new computer. In the past month my comfort level with Linux has increased considerably.

Right now, I feel better than I have in a long time. I'm starting to get stuff done and the next steps seem clear and doable. The CEMEX buy-out still shadows my '05 plans, but overall 2005 looks like it should be a really good year.

2004-01-09 22:27 C&T

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Kill the Flying Demon Creatures!

You have to feel bad for the folks of the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands: first they barely survive the tsunamis and then giant flying demon creatures start dropping supplies on them. They responded by shooting arrows at an aid helicopter.

The article doesn't actually make it clear whether these tribesmen would have known that the helicopter was a machine flown by humans or if this was a "The Gods Must Be Crazy" type of incident. The article did seem to imply that this was par-for-the-course when dealing with these people.

Naturally, no one on board the helicopter was harmed.

2005-01-03 18:10 C&T