Saturday, November 08, 2008

Apple iPhone documentation

A press release for a new iPhone SDK book says:

You’ll gain a complete understanding of objects such as view controllers, navigation controllers, and how to build professional looking user interfaces - explained in English, rather than the obfuscated language Apple writes their documentation in.

Hm, I think the Apple documentation is rather good. Not that I don't want to get a book or two as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vista bake sale

There is an irony to Apple broadcasting an ad about Microsoft spending too much on an ads.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

OpenOffice 3.0 released

OpenOffice 3.0 is officially available for download. The biggest thing (for me) is it has a full version for the Mac! (No X11 necessary.) Among other things, it supports Microsoft's OOXML document format, so you can open MS Office 2007 files. And the Mac version supports VBA script, which the current version of Mac MS Office doesn't even do. (Though I hear MS is restoring it for the next release.)

But the Mac version appears to be a little buggy. Hopefully those bugs will be fixed soon. Or we can wait for NeoOffice 3.0 to arrive.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sweetening the bailout bill

After one spectacular failure, the $700 billion financial industry bailout found a second life Wednesday, speeding toward passage in the Senate and gaining ground in the House where conservative opposition seemed to soften.

Senators loaded the economic rescue bill with tax breaks and other sweeteners for the right and left, hoping to secure approval in the House by Friday

Lovely. So instead of just a $700 billion bill, we now have one with added "sweeteners". (Read: pork.) I'm sure glad we have politicians looking out for us. :\

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unhappy Android developers

Given the bumps in the road I've encountered developing for the iPhone, I can't say I'm entirely disappointed that Android developers are having a bit of a rough time as well.

But mainly because Android developers are wont to express what a bad idea it is to develop for a "closed environment" like the iPhone. Not because I'm into schedenfreud or anything. Really!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Liberal church shooting

Knoxville's police chief says the man accused of a shooting that killed two people at a Tennessee church targeted the congregation because of its liberal social stance.

Chief Sterling Owen IV said Monday that police found a letter in Jim D. Adkisson's car. Owen said Adkisson was apparently frustrated over being out of work and had a "stated hatred of the liberal movement." (AP)

Beautiful. I wonder what radio programs this guy regularly listened to. (I can guess.) If it is important to know what media teen shooters consume (playing shooters, listening to NIN, whatever), why not this guy?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

End of an era

The Ford F-series pickup truck, which has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 26 years, was outsold by four fuel-efficient Japanese sedans in May.

NY Times

Friday, June 27, 2008

.Mac to MobileMe


Funny how so many seem inclined to interpret the latest .Mac outages to possibly be related to the upcoming upgrade to MobileMe. Maybe they are, but they also seem to me to be a bad indication of MobileMe's possible future uptime. Having the previous generation service down even more than usual in the weeks preceding the new service roll-out is not the best way to generate hype.

That said, I will consider MobileMe when it's available. Having services available between the native Mac apps, the web and my iPod touch would be nice. I've been using my iPod touch with the beta 2.0 OS at work and it's been nice having access to my work email and calendar wherever I am in the office.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More iPhone 3G pricing

Sounds like the 3G pricing is going to be even higher when you figure in SMS.

The original $20 iPhone data plan includes 200 SMSes. The new $30 3G plan does not. To get the 200 messages/month (and avoid paying 20-cents a message -- ouch!), you have to add $5/month. So that makes the 3G $15/month more expensive.

Over 24 months that's $360. Which is more than the $200 being saved initially when purchasing the phone.

Monday, June 09, 2008

iPhone 3G pricing

Okay folks, it's basic math: if the iPhone 3G is priced $200 less but you end up having to pay $240 more for the AT&T data plan over two years, you are not saving money! (Not without 10% annual inflation or something.) Yet the NY Times says "Apple Aims for the Masses With a Cheaper iPhone".

O-kay.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beyond Good & Evil 2


More good gaming news: Ubisoft announced a sequel to a critically acclaimed game that did not do so well commercially. Hooray! Here's hoping this one does better in the market so there will be more following it.

Not that I have time these days to play games. Nor do I have a newer game console. But that would all work itself out. ;)

Oh, and there are still used copies of the first game out there. Quite the bargain!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Axon


The maker's of Britain's Axon tout the car can get over 80 miles per gallon, has lower carbon emissions and a cheaper price tag than Toyota's Prius.

Marketplace

This is with a regular gasoline engine, no hybrid technology. The trick is the auto body, made of carbon fiber and half the weight of a normal car.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Java on Google App Engine?


Could Google be getting ready to solve the long-standing issue with Java application hosting by doing something revolutionary?

Podrazik goes on to predict that Google will release a reduced capability JSE and do something along the lines of Android (Dalvik) and GWT’s reduced Java API. (ONJava.com)

Given the difficulties of hosting Java, it would make sense for Google to offer a Java subset. Full Java would be better, but I'd be happy with a semi-familiar subset rather than having to jump into Python or Ruby.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

OpenOffice 3.0 beta

OpenOffice 3.0 beta has been released.

The new OS X version eliminates the need to run OpenOffice through the X11 environment. Sun, which oversees OpenOffice, announced some time ago that native OS X support was high on its priority list and Mac users should be happy to hear the company is delivering on that promise.

Unfortunately the new OS X version was noticeably slower than NeoOffice, a Mac-specific OpenOffice offshoot, and most of the extensions I tried to install wouldn’t work. OpenOffice still has a way to go before it’s ready for everyday use on a Mac. For the time being NeoOffice remains the better choice for Mac OS X users, but at least OpenOffice is available now.

Wired

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for.

From a great talk Clay Shirky gave at the recent Web 2.0 Expo. (You can watch the video here.)

I had a similar experience recently. After watching some videos on my iPod touch, my 4-year-old put it down and tried controlling the TV similarly, tapping the screen, dragging her finger across the screen. I imagine it was quite disappointing to her. Here she thought she had just learned a secret to controlling videos, all you have to do is tap the screen and away you go. Alas, it's not that way most of the time. Maybe when she has kids.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Silverlight @ Democratic Convention

Microsoft has also bought Silverlight's way into the Democratic Convention.  Is this something like a parent finding friends for its child instead of the child making its own?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Silverlight Olympics

You'll need Silverlight to watch the Olympics on the internet? Blah. I guess it's good Adobe's Flash has some competition, but I don't like the idea of installing yet-another-plugin to do exactly the same thing as another.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Restaurants miss moms

Attention working moms: The restaurant industry needs you. According to an article in today’s Journal, restaurants “are waking up to a worrisome long-term trend: The number of harried working moms isn’t growing like it used to.”

The article says that the steady increase of working women over the last several decades has been a boon to restaurants, as “the combination of women having less time to cook and households having a second income caused families to eat at restaurants more frequently.” However, since 1999 that five-decade increase has leveled off, “with the percentage of women in the work force down slightly at 59.2% as of January,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why the number of working women is flattening out isn’t entirely clear. NPD Group analyst Harry Balzer suggests it has to do with more young moms opting to watch their children instead of work.

WSJ

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bush to endorse John McCain

A bold move on Bush's part, I tell ya. Those pundits who thought he'd take the safe road and endorse Clinton or Obama were wrong, wrong, wrong.

OpenDNS content filtering

I've used OpenDNS for a while to speed up my web surfing at home. DNS is what's used to look up domain names. When you type in "google.com", your DNS server (usually supplied by your internet provider) translates that into an IP address that is used to load the page. If your DNS server is slow, your web experience will be slow. OpenDNS promises to speed things up with faster servers.

What I just discovered the other day is that they also provide free content filtering. By default it will filter out phishing sites as they are discovered. The also have a mess of other categories that you can filter.


And it's free.

Note that filters are not 100% accurate. Web sites can only be blocked as they are discovered by whatever service is tracking them. But filters are a good first line of defense in keeping unwanted material out of your home.

Chocolate during Lent

It's fun to sometimes check out the search terms that bring people to my blog. A couple days ago, someone entered into Google "did the lord say it's ok to eat chocolate for lent on weekends" and somehow ended up here.

To answer the question: no. :)

And that reminds me. Since I have a couple days until Lent begins for us Eastern Orthodox, I've got some chocolate eating to do.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mazda 2


If VW never brings the Polo to the US, I could be consoled with a Mazda 2.

And with diesel? Sweet!

De-DRM'd audiobooks

The NY Times says

Some of the largest book publishers in the world are stripping away the anticopying software on digital downloads of audio books.

The trend will allow consumers who download audio books to freely transfer these digital files between devices like their computers, iPods and cellphones — and conceivably share them with others. Dropping copying restrictions could also allow a variety of online retailers to start to sell audio book downloads.

And perhaps libraries will start offering audiobooks that can be played on iPods as well. It boggles me that they think they're providing a service when the Microsoft-DRM'd files can't be played on a vast majority of mp3 players.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cracking disk encryption

I guess in addition to strong passwords you should also consider shutting down your computer instead of simply putting it to sleep.

A new paper (PDF) by a group of Princeton computer scientists suggests that disk encryption is vulnerable to a hack that will be hard to correct for: data about the encryption can be extracted from the machine's RAM.

[...]

With the memory contents in hand, the next step was to crack the encryption and compensate for the sporadic memory errors. Here, the researchers relied on the fact that most decryption systems store information derived from the encryption keys in memory to speed calculations.

[...]

The paper describes algorithms for recognizing and extracting AES, DES, RSA, and tweak key information from memory. The authors have also turned these on most of the common encryption methods, including TrueCrypt and dm-crypt, as well as Mac OS-X's FileVault and Vista's BitLocker. Using an external USB drive, the authors were able to identify and extract the key and mount a BitLocker-encrypted volume in about 25 minutes. While wandering around the memory of an Intel Mac, they not only cracked the FileVault encryption but also stumbled onto multiple copies of the login password.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why the Microsoft Office file formats are so complicated

An interesting piece by Joel Spolsky, a guy who worked for Microsoft back in the day.

If you started reading these documents with the hope of spending a weekend writing some spiffy code that imports Word documents into your blog system, or creates Excel-formatted spreadsheets with your personal finance data, the complexity and length of the spec probably cured you of that desire pretty darn quickly. A normal programmer would conclude that Office’s binary file formats:

* are deliberately obfuscated
* are the product of a demented Borg mind
* were created by insanely bad programmers
* and are impossible to read or create correctly.

You’d be wrong on all four counts.

Being the charitable guy I am, I only thought the first, second and fourth bullet points were true.

The advice on how to work around the difficult specs is good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Misinformed craze for hybrids

Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are selling like mad, but they are a stop-gap measure at best and the "misinformed craze" for them may delay sustainable technologies like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, French researchers say.

Gas-electric vehicles are not environmentally sustainable, yet automakers like Toyota and General Motors are pouring tens of millions of dollars into them in no small part because consumers are convinced they are, Jean-Jacques Chanaron and Julius Teske write in "Hybrid Vehicles: A Temporary Step."

Wired

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy day-after-Evolution-Sunday

Yesterday was another Evolution Sunday, a day where some churches celebrate being religious and evolutionists. At the same time! (Cue dramatic gasp.)

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. [...] We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

Er, okay. Except that it sounds kinda post-modern to me. If science says "black" and religion says "white", do they have a problem with that? Or would those be complementary forms of truth?

Here's some previous comments of mine.

And the final word (IMHO):

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things, both small and great....These all look to thee, to give them their food in due season. When thou givest to the, they gather it up; when thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good things. When thou hidest thy face, they are dismayed; when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground. (Psalms 104:27-30 via Mere Comments)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Unprofitable servants

Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

Luke 17:7-10

Friday, February 08, 2008

The ancient church

Interesting article about evangelical Christians' growing interest in the ancient church.

[...] "The Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals" [...] declared evangelicals' "pressing need to reflect upon the substance of the biblical and historic faith and to recover the fullness of this heritage." This historic document began by issuing a "Call to Historic Roots and Continuity":

"We confess that we have often lost the fullness of our Christian heritage, too readily assuming that the Scripture and the Spirit make us independent of the past. In so doing, we have become theologically shallow, spiritually weak, blind to the work of God in others and married to our cultures. … We dare not move beyond the biblical limits of the gospel; but we cannot be fully evangelical without recognizing our need to learn from other times and movements concerning the whole meaning of that gospel."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New American VW minivan

OK, I'm not the target audience for minivans (I hate them), but still.

Volkswagen has two interesting minivans in Europe: the Touran and the Sharan:



The Touran actually looks half decent. At least it looks like a Volkswagen! But what does America get? The Routan.


Looks like a Chrysler? You don't say. It is. Blah.

I guess we can't expect much more given the weak dollar. (It's much cheaper to build a model in America for sale in America.) But still.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Carbon Lent

The Christian and environmental church converge!

Two senior Church of England Bishops have called on people to give up carbon rather than chocolate for Lent.

[...]

Lent is the time when Christians traditionally give up such things as sweets, chocolate or alcohol in recognition of the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the desert to prepare for his ministry.

Christians may give up things such as sweets, chocolate or alcohol for Lent these days, but traditionally they gave up more than that.

This year they will be asked to think about their own carbon footprint and follow a few simple steps designed to help cut CO2 emissions. They include:
  • avoiding plastic bags
  • giving the dishwasher a day off
  • insulating the hot water tank
  • checking the house for drafts with a ribbon and buying draught excluders
Those taking part in the Carbon Fast will be asked to remove one lightbulb from a prominent place in the home and live without it for 40 days. On the final days of the Fast they will be asked to replace it with a low-energy bulb which over its lifetime will save 60kg of carbon dioxide per year and up to £60.

I'm all for environmental practices, but removing a lightbulb for Lent trivializes it, don't you think?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Tis that time of year when more than 20 million Americans are buying sweets and flowers for their loved ones on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, these tokens of love aren't as sweet or pure as they may appear. Over 40 percent of the world's conventional chocolate (i.e. non-organic and non-Fair Trade) comes from Africa's Ivory Coast, where the International Labor Organization and US State Department have reported widespread instances of child slavery. Meanwhile, commercial flowers, most of which are produced in countries such as Colombia, are the most toxic and heavily sprayed agricultural crops on Earth. In order for you to deliver your bouquet to your beauty, poorly paid workers in Third World countries put in up to 18 hour work days for poverty wages during peak flower buying times such as Valentine's Day. But don't let the bad news squelch your Valentine's plans. Show your love by choosing Fair Trade and organic flowers and chocolate for your Valentine's Day gifts.

Check out OCA's Buying Guide, watch an entertaining flash movie and take action against the 5 major chocolate and flower corporations.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Naughty Step

For those that can't get enough Mac commercials, here's a funny one from the UK.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deuterocanon

A Protestant makes an argument for including the deuterocanonical books in their Bibles.

Anthony Sacramone says:

It seems to me that “Protestant Bibles” that do not have the apocryphal books are missing rich material that most certainly would have informed to some degree the Apostles’ own thinking about the relation of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection to the suffering of Israel and the promises of God to redeem that suffering and liberate them from oppression.

I couldn't agree more. A lot of Protestants get so hung up on the canon that they ignore other invaluable early Christian writings. And then they go out and buy the latest 21st century best-seller. Bring back the good stuff.


Update: Doh! The early writings we're talking about are Jewish writings, of course. Read by early Christians.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jobs on Kindle

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Steve Jobs on why the Amazon Kindle will be unsuccessful.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Undecided Republicans

“I just don’t get the sense that any of them are finding as much synergy with voters as candidates have in the past,” said Mr. Beltram, a supporter of George W. Bush in the 2000 primary, in which Mr. Bush defeated Mr. McCain.

“Last time, we had just two candidates and the choice was kind of black and white, either or,” Mr. Beltram said. “This year, it’s an awful lot of gray. There is no single, clear message.” (NY Times)

Boo hoo! You mean the race hasn't been decided already after Iowa and New Hampshire? That rates as a good thing in my mind. It's nice having the electorate decide the candidate rather than the party establishment.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Recycle your cell phone

By the agency’s reckoning, as many as 150 million cellphones are taken out of service each year. The phones contain metals, plastics, glass and chemicals, all of which require energy to mine and make, and many of which could be hazardous if they end up in landfills and leach into the ground. Moreover, many old cellphones still work and can be donated to charities or distributed to poor people. (NY Times)

Yeah, my favorite cell phone provider has been doing this for a while.