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User Journal

Journal Journal: Fuck Radio

Forget that last post. Userland Radio sucks ass. I deleted it after about two days and went with the lighter-featured, but more enjoyable, Blogger, and don't intend to go back. Sure, Blogger has its issues (such as randomly "losing" my posts, suffering from user overload, etc.), but it's cleaner, I can submit things from home and work, and it's simpler, so I'm more inclined to use it often. Check it out!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Blogging 2

I've finally taken the plunge and downloaded a trial copy of Userland Radio, Dave Winer's weblogging application. I toyed with it for a few minutes last night, but didn't do anything earth-shattering with it. But who knows? Maybe I'll pony up the $40 and start using it instead of this free Slashdot log that nobody reads.


Journal Journal: The Great Migration

Now that The Beast has entered our house, it's going to become The One Computer. That's right--everything else (except The Maclet, my beloved Mac Plus) has to go. So that means that the 7600, the iMac, and the HP Pavilion are going to be made redundant. The 7600 is spoken for, the iMac may go into storage (at least until I accept the fact that collecting Mac memorabilia is a waste of time, space, and money), and the Pavilion's probably going to put up for sale somewhere. (Anyone interested?) That means that everything worth keeping has to be moved to the 100Gbs of disk space on the new tower.

Net Work

All of these machines (except the Plus) have Ethernet, so the physical part of the network is covered. However, it's not so easy. OS X doesn't seem to play well with AppleTalk networks, in that it doesn't always recognize other machines. About 50% of the time, I have to manually enter the server's afp:// URL. Another wrinkle is the fact that I'm not going to have a floppy or Zip drive anymore, so I had to copy over all of the disks that I plan to keep (for classics like old System Software and HyperCard, games, and so forth). Tedious.

Connecting the PC to the tower will prove to be another kind of challenge. I haven't fully digested the OS X documentation, but I do remember seeing something along the lines that X can be integrated into a Windoze network out-of-the-box. If that turns out to be false, or if I'm too stupid to figure out how to set it up, then samba is always an option.

Ne Plus Ultra

And that leaves the Plus. How do I connect it to the network? Luckily, I saved the Farallon iPrint LocalTalk-to-Ethernet adapter that I'd used to connect a StyleWriter 1200 to the iMac before I got OS X and there weren't any StyleWriter drivers for it. But the iPrint won't work out of the box. I think that I need to get something like Apple's old (and unsupported) LocalTalk Bridge software, but that requires System 7.1. Maybe I can find a used SCSI-to-Ethernet adapter that will work under 6.0.8. If you know of a better way, let me know.


Journal Journal: Meet Quicksilver

Well, it's official--the debate between getting a G4 iMac and a G4 tower has been settled, in favor of the latter. The newest addition to my computing family is a just-discontinued PM G4 867 tower with a 17" LCD Studio Display. This machine is unbelievable.

Out-of-box Experience

It's been just over three years since I last bought a Mac (a Rev. B Bondi Blue iMac, to be precise), but a week shy of five years since I bought the 7600 that this new tower is meant to replace. As usual, the out-of-box experience was typically Apple--crisp, clean, and sleek. The system starting up with a satisfying, deep chime. Of course, it was configured to boot first into OS 9, and it started up very quickly, but, alas, this puppy wasn't destined to keep starting up in 9. So a quick trip to the Startup Disk control panel put an end to that.


There's no way to describe this machine except beastly. The LCD display is amazingly bright, and makes the iMac's CRT look as dingy as a 10-year-old Mac IIci. Startup times are ridiculously fast, especially when Ethernet networking is turned off. Apps open in a snap. Even the "Genie" effect doesn't look clunkly, as it did on the lowly iMac. Soon I'll pop another 40Mb, 7200 RPM drive into the tower and start transfering over the stuff that I have on digital tapes.


Of course, there are some surprises to any new machine, and this one's no exception. Here are some of the ones that I've noticed:

  • MultiMedia cards, when plugged into my new ZiO! reader, showed up instantly on the desktop, without having to install any software. However, if the card is manually removed without first dragging the disk icon to the trash, and if the icon is subsequently clicked, the machine appears to go into a hard freeze. This must be a problem with the built-in USB support, and I'm going to see whether 10.1.2 fixes it.
  • My unit didn't come with any additional hardware (i.e. screws) to install a second hard drive in the U-shaped harness, even though the manual mentions it.
  • Maybe the unit had sat in the warehouse for a few months, because it didn't have the OS X version of iDVD. I have to pay $20 to get it on a CD. That sucks.
  • Limiting the ATA bus to 66MHz sucks rocks. My 40Gb drive supports up to ATA/100, but obviously the system isn't going to take advantage of it. It seems silly to buy an ATA/100 or /133 card (if they even make them for the Mac), but it's way too expensive to do the Right Thing and get an ATTA Ultra160 SCSI card and SCSI RAID drives. Poor little me.
  • MS Office:X has the coolest packaging that I've ever seen for a software product.

Journal Journal: Yours Truly vs. Mac OS X & HP DeskJet 960c

Round One

I'm cursed. In October, I decided to retire the trusty but suddenly-unsupported StyleWriter 1200 and bought an HP DeskJet 960c printer (for an awesome deal, but that's another story). I downloaded the OS X drivers (v. 1.0), and everything was hunky-dory. A couple of weeks later, though, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Whenever I tried to print something, or brought up the Print Center to change the printer's settings, Classic would try to open, Print Center would suddenly quit with an "unexpected error", and the console would be littered with messages like "loginwindow: Could not connect to "RulebookServer"" and more. I tried everything--reinstalling the HP drivers (1.0 & 1.2), Mac OS X 10.1.1 and 10.1.2, but nothing worked. After about two months of trying, I gave up, bought a new internal drive, and started from scratch.

Round Two

The second time around, I vowed to be more careful in how I installed updates. I didn't upgrade OS X beyond the base 10.1, and I gingerly applied the two HP driver updates, testing the printouts each time before moving to the next one. So far, so good. Printing is pretty decent, but you cannot imagine the fear that I feel whenever I start a print job and wait for Print Center to open without also starting Classic. As of last night at 11 p.m., everything looked good. How long can it last?

Lingering Questions

I still get the RulebookServer problems in the logs, as well as stack dumps for some tool called makequeues, which lives in the Print Contents directory. What is it? Why does it fail many times in any given session? How can it possibly be related to Classic?

Who has the answers?


Journal Journal: Time to learn GCC

My next work project involves rewriting in C++ a system that's currently in Java. I'm sure that despite having used it at school for a couple of years, and even teaching intro-level CS courses using it, I'm going to need some brushing up. One thing in particular to learn quickly is gcc, since my school (and thus the class that I taught) used Visual C++. Now it's time to drop the GUI hand-holding and learn how a real compiler works. Wish me luck.

I'm looking forward to having verbose compiler warning and errors again, after having worked with Java's lame error messages for so long.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reading List: Leading Up

Leading Up by Michael Useem

I got this as an Xmas present from my in-laws, because I'd told them all about how stymied I often felt at work. Instead of following the typical self-help/business book format, Leading Up describes the principles of being a good "underling" by way of fascinating, detailed anecdotes.


Journal Journal: Reading list: SICP

The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

by Hal Abelson, Gerald Sussman, and Julie Sussman

SICP, as it's affectionately known by the first-year MIT CS majors who have to learn from it, is a remarkable textbook. It's remarkable because it's almost completely unlike any other CS textbook, in that it borrows from the humanities in its comprehensive approach to the science in Computer Science. This isn't a how-to manual for how to program an OpenGL-based 3D renderer, nor does it does it describe the latest advances (?) in operating systems technologies. Instead, it offers practical advice in the craft of thinking through problems and finding elegant solutions to them. If SICP were a novel, its "plot" would involve creating a compiler for a Prolog-like logical programming language. But to reduce it to that is like reducing The Oddysey to a story about some dude who gets lost on the way home from a war, eventually finds his way home, and opens a can of whoop-ass on some guys who are hitting on his wife. Like The Oddysey, it's the details in SICP that are the most interesting. The authors walk the reader through all of the little things that go into building a program, and these include the most fundamental concepts in a programmer's toolbox: functions, variables, assignment, recursion, data structures, algorithms, compilers, grammars, and much more. The only thing that it'd need to be qualify as a humanities textbook is to have the key terminology printed in boldface, a few colorful call-out boxes with three-paragraph biographies of famous computerists, and a couple of student workbooks.

I started reading this sometime back in September or October, when I was still taking the train in to work every day. Now that I'm no longer doing that, it'll be slow going to finish this.


Journal Journal: Six of one, half a dozen of the other

On February 6th, iain, my beloved PowerMac 7600, officially turns 5. Granted, I haven't used it much since June of 2001, when my wife moved out to Virginia with me and we began sharing her iMac. But it's high time to find a replacement, and that's where the trouble begins.

I'm a developer; I've got needs.

Apple spoiled its users (and as Steve Jobs probably thinks, had an asinine business plan), starting with the second generation of PowerMacs, by putting its processors on daughtercards and spawning extensive upgrade capabilities. I snapped up this 7600 the first day I saw the better-equipped 7300s in the stores. Over the years, I upgraded the hard drive, processor, memory, and other assorted goodies. It was a dream machine.

No developer worth his salt would consider himself anything less than a Power User, right? Even if he only uses his home machine to surf, update Quicken, write letters in Word, and play the occasional game of Tetris or Caesar? (C'mon, cut me some slack here!) Now that the options are between a pretty damn practical LCD iMac or a much-more-expensive tower + monitor, which way should I go?

The iMac Option


  • Cheep.
  • Small footprint. (1643"^2 desk, ~80"^2 base)
  • More than adequate speed.
  • More than adequate peripheral options.
  • DVD burner.
  • Amazing looks.


  • Practically no upgradability.
  • Max. 1024 x 800 resolution.
  • No L3 cache (but I don't have an L2 cache in my 7600, either)
  • Not a Power User's machine.

The PowerMac Option


  • Raw, unparalleled power.
  • Awesome expandability.
  • Power User's machine.


  • Not cheep.
  • Ugly, tired tower design.
  • Big, loud fan.
  • Soon to be replaced by something radically better (I hope)


I can't decide!

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