What's New? 2000-08-19

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What's New? 2000-08-19

[Macro error: There is no glossary entry named "Linux"]

I've been updating my pseudo-professional side of the web space, my "Geek Times" pages, at the expense of my personal web pages. What's been attracting my attention? Well, I've been playing around with running "Linux" on my PowerBook in addition to the Macintosh OS.

 Sunday 17 December 2000
  good UI While reducing the size of this web site I realized that I'd discovered an inconsistency in the user interface model used by GraphicConverter. During a Convert More, when a problem is detected, a dialog appears to give options for solving it. In some instances, this dialog box includes a method of saying "don't ask me about this problem again, use the decision I give you here for all of them". At right is an example of how GraphicConverter does the right thing. (Note the Automatic Rename All, Overwrite All, and Skip All buttons.)

transparency warning Unfortunately not all of the warnings which are intercepted during a Convert More follow this model. Neither the Unknown File Format warning (below) and the GIF Transparency warning (at left) do. This is exceedingly annoying when one converts several hundreds or thousands of images, and is expected to hit the Return key after each warning. (This web site has almost 10,000 images.)

file format warning

My request of Thorsten Lemke (the author of GraphicConverter)? Please check all the warnings detected by Convert More and add a checkbox and "Don't show this warning any more during this conversion" label.

 Thursday 14 December 2000
  Whoops! While mirroring my web site from my PowerBook to the web server I exceeded my disk quota. (Sorry, Mike @ Raw Bandwidth.) It must be the travelogues on which I'm working. They're chock full of pictures.

disk quota exceeded

I'm still working on reducing this site from the 512.3 MB it was; currently it's at 212.2 MB. How am I doing this? Well, I'm using GraphicConverter's Convert More feature to move all the existing graphics to JPEG at 70 per cent quality, a level at which I can't see any degradation. JPEGs produced my my Nikon CoolPix 950 and my Sony DCR-TRV20 generate JPEGs which contain much more data than are used by the naked eye, and are much bigger than necessary for a web site. (Of course, I'm not using these images to publish on paper, for which the requirements are much more strict.) Then I restore any PNGs (a format with which I'm playing) and animated GIFs (since there are no animated JPEGs). I also scaled down some of the more colossal panorame, which were so large that they befuddled some web browsers.

 Wednesday 13 December 2000
  I just re-rendered all the web pages in my 1995 travelogue Eivissa and Gran Canaria. The previous/next links at the bottom of each page weren't active. Now they are.
 Tuesday 12 December 2000
  1500 1500 There's not much I can think to say about the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) except that it's been an important part of my life since I was a small child reading science-fiction books. Here are the screen shots from my 1500th and 1600th SETI@Home work units. I surely hope someone is calling :-)
 Monday 11 December 2000

This happened a few days ago, as I was trying to see what our whip-sawing stock market was doing. What I got was the minimal slap in the face. Wouldn't it would have been nice, even essential, to provide a hypertext link for the administator's email address? Or, better yet, trap this error condition and let us know that it's been reported for us. (Note to potential clients: "the best is cheapest" is not the same as "the cheapest is the best".)

It's sobering to be reminded that we're not at 24/7 yet, even though we think of web services in essentially the same way as we do the utilities. (Disclaimer: I've been a consultant to Charles Schwab & Company, but not on the project which generates these particular web pages.)

 Sunday 10 December 2000
timmy BM2K tix I'm working on web pages about Burning Man 2000. I have all the pictures sorted, but I'm not yet done with the commentary. Still, it's up there for your perusal. You can enjoy the playa without grit in the teeth nor the danger of sunstroke.

For those of you new to these pages I might suggest you begin the Burning Man saga at the beginning rather than jumping right into this year's event. In the past I did a better job of documenting the look and feel of the entire environment. This year I only mention things that differ from previous years, assuming that you're familiar with things. I wanted to take more pictures and many more notes but while the spirit was willing the flesh was weak. That and I was trying to keep my new digital camera out of the driving playa dust.

 Saturday 9 December 2000
  Finding a rare and strange user interface bug is just the kind of thing which makes a beta-tester's day. This is from Interarchy 4.0fc1 for the Macintosh.

Interarchy 4fc1 bug

My work here is done. (Actually it's not done, but I'm feeling rather good at finding two bugs in two hours. The other bug was the prepending of the user's home directory to every FTP directory listing, which would cause failures all over.)

 Friday 8 December 2000


Can it really be that twenty years have passed since the murder of John Lennon?

In the winter of 1980 I was a senior at Bridgewater-Raritan High School East, in Bridgewater, New Jersey. I was lying on the floor of my bedroom doing algebra word problems, my feet being heated by warm air blowing from a central heating wall fixture. I was listening to WPLJ New York and heard a report that Lennon had been transported to a hospital by police car after being shot in front of the apartment building in which he lived, the Dakota. The announcer thought it wasn't serious, or they would have waited for an ambulance. A short time later it was broadcast that Lennon died of his injuries.

I was shaken. I moved to the living room, where I popped a casette tape into the stereo and began taping the chatter and music. my Mother - half asleep - came downstairs hours later, and saw me there, listening to the goings-on via headphones. (She doesn't remember the following exchange, but it - and the generation gap - will stay with me.)

Mom:What's wrong? What's going on?
Me:Lennon died.
Mom:Yes, and Marx too.

 Thursday 7 December 2000
  For months and months I've been unable to upload files from home via my ADSL connection. (Updates to this web site have been via my in-laws' ADSL connection.) It's been driving me nuts. Anything larger than an email message seems to hang at the end-of-transmission acknowledgement. I've seen this happen with a variety of hardware (Sun and Mac, never Intel at Chez Michele :-) and operating systems (Mac OS 9 and X, Solaris, LinuxPPC). Last night I'm chatting with my [Macro error: There is no glossary entry named "TSoft"] guy and he asks whether I've checked my hub. I pull it out of the system and everything flies along happily. Sigh.

Since that's resolved we can get back more frequent updates. No more dragging the PowerBook across town to jack in at the in-laws.

 Wednesday 6 December 2000
  From our relatives in Jerusalem comes this message:

On 2 April 1942 a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft reported the construction of a new airfield 20 miles south of Darwin beside the Daly Waters to Darwin track. Later that same day the new Sattler RAAF airfield was bombed by the Japanese. There was minimal damage. There were no Allied planes at the base as it was still under construction.

   -- Protect & Revenge; The 49th Fighter Group in World War II by S.W. Ferguson & William K. Pascalis

 Tuesday 5 December 2000
I wasn't the only one to attend Burning Man this year. More than thirty-thousand folks visited the wind-blown playa, including a manager of mine from my first contract at Charles Schwab & Company. It was his first year; these are some of the pictures he emailed. Excellent.!
 Monday 4 December 2000
  I was cleaning through my hard drive and came across photos from my time at BusyBox, a multimedia company located in North Beach.


It's the little things that matter: a [Macro error: There is no glossary entry named "Strictly Confidential - A scam"] ; an advertisment for a geek job in paradise (although Middle of Nowhere might have been more accurate); a while back I posted something entitled You Know You're From San Francisco, now I have to provide equal time: You Know You're From Upstate New York.

 Sunday 3 December 2000
  Working in the garden the last two days has been very relaxing and enlightening: one of the things I love about living in San Francisco is that I can weed and prune in December wearing nothing but a tee-shirt and shorts, and that I have nothing to fear from aggressive mosquitos and red ants (like West Palm Beach, Florida) or scorpions and snakes (like "Tucson", Arizona). Not to take the usual low humidity for granted either.
 Tuesday 28 November 2000
  We've just returned from Rome, Italy. More details to follow.
 Monday 23 October 2000
  It's been a very crazy 36 hours. During our Saturday and Sunday Simchat Torah celebrations we found out that a favorite uncle had died, and so we raced to make last-minute reservations from SFO to PBI on a red-eye, pack, and hire a shuttle to take much of their west coast part of the family, Rose, Isaac, and me to the airport.

Since my Dad, visiting from New Jersey but staying nearby with my sister and her husband, still had questions about the PowerBook G3 1999 I'd given him, he came over for a few minutes of hurried tech support (and left with two more G3PB batteries in their unopened boxes and another hand-me-down, our Kodak DC-120 digital camera).

This death in the family has us jetting to the east coast, to West Palm Beach, Florida, a place neither Rose, Isaac, nor I have ever been. According to the weather web pages, we'll be arriving into a hot and very windy week of weather. We have a Chrysler Sebring convertible waiting for us, the same car that Rose and I used to chase thunderstorms across the Indian reservation in Phoenix (and the wild windy whiteouts in Tucson) Arizona.

 Saturday 7 October 2000
  Mac OS X desktop Wow, have the last few weeks been busy! Deadlines at my client, Isaac has four teeth coming in and a cold going away, we've been enjoying the most temperate time of the year in San Francisco, and I've been playing with Apple's latest gift to the world, the Mac OS X public beta. (Here's a screen grab of my desktop: an autumnal background image, several Finder windows open, one in the new NeXT navigator mode, the Charlie's Angels movie trailer playing, and the auto-hiding dock hugging the bottom of the screen.) It's a beta release, and really not for public consumption, but it's still an amazing operating system. I'll be making technical notes on the "Geek Times" pages.
 Tuesday 22 August 2000
  I've been configuring a UNIX test machine at a client site to look like my development computer at home. Here's a picture of a software download progress window. Speed 125.1 k/sec. On the high end of the performance I've come to expect from my home aDSL network connection. I get about the same speeed over my local area network, between my PowerBooks and my SPARCstation 2.


Now take a look at the performance at my client's local area network. 896 k/sec! Bing, bang, boom!


If you don't see the images above then your web browser doesn't support the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image format. Time to get a modern browser, for a variety of technical and political reasons.

 Saturday 19 August 2000
  Isaac is 20 months old today. Wow. We celebrated at the annual Huckleberry Hike at Point Reyes, in Marin County. Mmmmm, there's nothing like ice cream made in the woods, with fresh berries just picked from the bushes.
 Tuesday 25 July 2000
  Concorde It's just amazing and dismaying to me - both as an engineer and a frequent air traveller - to consider that the crash of this Concorde was caused by a blown tire being sucked into one of four jet engines. Worse even is that related technical issues were brought to the attention of Air France and British Airways by the United States National Transportation Safety Board on 9 November 1981. That's right, a memo delivered two decades ago.

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