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A Perfect Circle

Went to see A Perfect Circle on Friday last, and was greatly impressed. For weeks prior to the show, rumors abounded that Maynard wouldn’t be showing his face at the gig (as was the case at the Tool concert a few years ago), and the big box–o–fabric we saw upon entering the pavilion made my heart sink… the rumors were true. But hey, two songs into the set he had obviously determined that we were worthy, and the shroud was lifted. Good to see.

There isn’t much you can say about a band like A Perfect Circle other than “Wow”. Between Messrs Howerdel, Keenan, Freese, Iha, and White, there’s enough star power to light a small country, and enough talent to makes a grown man cry. But unlike Tool (comparisons will be made, and I can’t help that), they seem less like an extravaganza and more like a ‘real’ band.

I remember, at the aforementioned Tool concert, a gigantic projected AV display flipping through snippets of CG film sequences and their video clips. Naked (and shaven) acrobats wandered about the stage and climbed ropes, and one Maynard James Keened stayed behind a screen all night; hidden from view but for a soft silhouette. There was very little talking between songs, and indeed it was one of the most fantastic and surreal concerts I’ve ever been to, but it wasn’t band–y. A Perfect Circle chatted between songs, and talked to the crowd; played impromptu ditties and generally fucked around — and for a band, that’s important. They are human, after all.

The only downside to the whole event is the massive number of people I see out and about in brand new ‘Circle tour t–shirts. Here’s a hint: tour shirts rarely look any good, are incredibly expensive, and do nothing but prove to everybody that you care enough about that band to have paid for a ticket to their concert. Wahoo. Of all the band shirts and tour shirts I own, I only ever wear one; and I didn’t buy it. Fiona bought it for herself; and since it happens to fit me rather nicely, is an attractive shade of blue, and pays homage to a festival rather than an individual band, I stole it from her.

Well, exchanged it. She has a tendency to hoard my jumpers and jackets during the winter, so I figured I should get something in return.


Where it’s at

Monday was my first day at UWA. The verdict so far? It’s great.

The place is crawling with Wi–Fi hotspots, and though I had to go through two registration processes (one to register for “personal” internet access, the other to register for SNAP) and then go through some VPN–related rigmarole, I consider it to be more than worthwhile. I can get online from the library, the refectory, the library’s ‘student terrace’, and a bunch of other places around campus… all for free. This means I can geek out during breaks. This makes me happy. No signal in most of the lecture theaters though.

I was surprised to see the friendly–and–familiar faces of three girls I know from high school amongst the crowd at my Psych 101 lecture, one of which is also in my Linguistics 101 lecture and tutorial group. Between them and the boyfriend–of–a–girl–I–know I discovered in Foundations of IT 104, I’m pretty much set for people–to–sit–next–to–in–the–lecture–theater.

Foundations of Computer Science 123 looks to be good (we’re learning Haskell this semester), and though Foundations of IT looks to be mind–numbingly dull (AKA: MS Office, StarOffice, and OpenOffice for dummies) everything feels like it belongs in “Chris’ Big Book of Stuff He Wants to Learn”. Keeping me interested is, after all, paramount to keeping me enrolled. I’m kind of finicky like that.

The key is as such: keep me interested, keep me enthralled, and I’ll be your star–fucking–pupil. I’ll do more than the required reading; hell, I’ll do more than the recommended reading: I’ll read shit that you make passing references to in class. I’ll do extra credit assignments, I’ll participate more in tutorials, I’ll work harder, and I’ll get great marks. If I’m not interested I won’t turn up to lectures, I won’t do the readings, and I’ll bludge along and doing only enough to pass. Keeping me enthralled isn’t my job though; it’s a responsibility shared amongst the lecturers, the tutors, and the subject. Thus far they all seem to be doing their job.

We’ll see how I feel by the end of the semester.


Watching others play

I don’t know many other OS X users personally —hell, I don’t know too many Mac users personally— so seeing one in the wild is a unique experience for me.

It isn’t just a “Wow, another Mac zealot!” reaction (though that’s nice, in its own way), it’s the watching them do stuff that interests me; the voyeurism inherent in watching somebody else work with a system that you know in and out. It’s like watching another guitarist playing your Fender, or a driver gearing your Corolla and riding the clutch all afternoon; watching them play with their windows, their menus, their dock; seeing what keyboard shortcuts they know and use regularly, what problems they run into and how they go about solving them. It isn’t just voyeurism though, it’s user interface testing.

My case in point is one Callum Dent (not his real name): 15" PowerBook owner and Linguistics lecturer extraordinaire. He runs OS X 10.2, his default browser is Internet Explorer, he lectures with the aid of Microsoft PowerPoint slideshows and he likes to keep the whole MS Office suite in his dock. His desktop icons are unusually large (92 pixels, I kid you not) and he keeps them roughly organized on the left of his screen. Clearly not a man fitting the ‘power user’ profile.

Launching some browser windows from links in his PowerPoint presentation, Dent notices that the resize handle and scroll buttons have gone under the dock; inaccessible by mouse. He wants to scroll down the page, so what does he do? He hits Command–Option–D, a shortcut he has taken the time and effort to memorize, to hide the dock; giving him access to the window’s scroll buttons. He doesn’t drag the scroll bar, he doesn’t click the scroll track, he doesn’t even grab the title bar to drag the window out from under the dock; he hides the dock, using a keyboard command.

Remember: not a power user… obscure keyboard command. The man has memorized a three–button keyboard shortcut just to work around a flaw in the dock’s usability, and he doesn’t even know that ‘Cut’ and ‘Paste’ can be done with the keyboard. This is why real, human UI testing needs to be performed on any new piece of software, big or small. It’s often overlooked in the low–budget, independent–developer scene (and, evidently, the big–budget corporate scene too) and really needs to be brought back to the fore. Call your Grandma or something, seriously.


Femcar

Volvo’s new concept car is designed by women, for women…and they’ve taken some of the dumbest ideas possible and spent money making them into a reality. Sure, it’s a concept car and won’t ever actually make it to the production line, and we’ve seen plenty of stupid–ass concept cars in the past, but some of these ideas are just…bah!

I’m going to be flamed by angry geek women for being chauvinist, aren’t I?

Split headrest to accommodate ponytails…that’s actually pretty cool, and having storage, storage and more storage is always cool, but what’s the deal with the seat covers? Sure, swappable covers, change them to match your mood, whatever, I get it. But magnets? They’re attached with magnets? Did you forget what century we’re living in? How many of the little electronic devices you carry around with you every day could be potentially damaged by a strong enough magnetic field? What’s that? All of them?

I guess “held on with clips”just wasn’t conceptual enough.

Don’t even get me started on the fold–up seats. That’d get tedious real quick, no matter how great it is to have extra space for your shopping; you don’t notice it when you go to the cinema because you probably don’t get in and out of your cinema chair as much as you do your car.

Moving on…sealing the bonnet? Are you mad? Here’s the sitch: you don’t care about what’s under the bonnet because you’re just some clueless broad. The washer fluid can be filled up from an input next to the petrol input (pretty cool, mind), so you don’t see a need for the bonnet to be opened…ever. So, what about your oil? What about your coolant? What about your brake fluid? Steering fluid? Air filter? Oil filter? Any number of user–serviceable parts that you may indeed just not care about…but your boyfriend/partner/father/hitchhiker could probably check for you. Why pay the Volvo technician $99 for the pleasure of changing your air filter —a two–minute procedure that involves no grease and requires no tools or technical aptitude—when it would cost you $4.95 to do yourself?

Sure, I know people whose cars have broken down because they just never checked their oil. And, admittedly, modern cars are much better at alerting you to the fact that you need an oil change so you should never actually reach that point…but any man worth his salt can change an oil filter and put new oil in a car. It’s a $19 procedure, and sealing the bonnet means you’ll always pay the mechanic his $99 fee. Always. In 20 years, after your car has been through 5 owners and was just sold to a 17–year–old for $400 as his first car, it’ll still need to go to a Volvo–approved garage for something as trivial as an oil change. Whether you care about opening the bonnet or not, somebody will, and sealing it will cost you a lot more in the long run.

And seriously…aside from the fact that a seamless one–piece front end would look more sleek and futuristic than a bonneted car, does the fact that you don’t care enough about your car’s engine to want to open the bonnet mean the option shouldn’t even be there?


Damn neighborhood kids

It’s not that I have a problem with loud parties, it’s just that they all seem to have terrible taste in music.

Maybe I’m getting old.


Bagle.J

Typically I don’t have too much trouble with spam or viruses in my mailbox. I’ve only had this site for what, two years? And all that time my email address has been spam–protected wherever it appears on the site. I tend to credit you guys as being adroit enough to avoid viruses (and/or use Macs and thereby avoid such plagues), but somebody… somebody sucks.

For whomever has me in their address book as chrisclarke@decaffeinated.org, I have two pieces of advice.

  1. It’s Chris Clark, not Chris Clarke.
  2. If you’re too much of a dumbass to protect yourself from the multitude of script–kiddie–generated Win32 viruses, at least have the decency to use an operating system that does the protection for you.

At least with all the virus email going to chrisclarke@decaffeinated.org it’s easy to block. Thank heaven for small mercies, I suppose.


Completely random

There’s something very odd about sitting at a desk, squished between my brother and his other half, team blogging. Suffice to say, my physical contact with other bloggers in this city is limited at best, and this is just eerie.

Though I must thank Sarah from the bottom of my heart for finding (and buying!) me my precious Donnie Darko DVD. Long sought after and never found, I tried to compensate for his absence with the frenzied purchases of bargain–basement DVDs from all around town. Now he sits with his kin. Now I have no reason to venture near JB or EzyDVD. Now I am complete.

Right.


Sleep is for the weak

I remember a time when 9:00PM was just a kind of dark mid–afternoon by my internal clock…a time when being awake before midday was blasphemy, and going to bed before 4:00AM was the same.

Those days are gone.

Lectures and tutorials at 9:00AM and 10:00AM every day means battling with peak–hour traffic on the freeway and the coast (neither appears immune these days), which means allowing a good hour–and–a–bit for travel, which means getting up at 6:30AM or 7:30AM to compensate.

Clearly, I’m yet to adjust. But I have the feeling that I’ll have to do just that —adjust—to survive.


deep.ASCII

I, I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead. Hey, you eh, want a drink?

Pornography abstracted. How avante garde. [via Fleshbot]


A promise is a promise

88% of those self–righteous “I’m going to wait until I’m married… it’ll be more special that way” teen abstinence pledgers end up spreading their legs anyway, according to CBS News, because they’re hypocrites… as much as the rest of the moral right, anyway.

As it turns out, people who know nothing about sex tend to know an equal amount of nothing about safe sex, too. The stats on STD contraction for pledgers and non–pledgers are roughly equal; as pledgers are less likely to use a condom when it does come time to disrespect their God and dishonor their parents by getting jiggy with Wayne in the back seat of his Dad’s Camaro.

And I’m not just targeting women here, by the way. Wayne could easily be a girl’s name, so beware. There’s an old saying back where I come from: Fuck early, fuck often, and don’t be a dumbass.

Actually, I just made that up. But it does have a nice ring to it. [via Les Orchard’s decafbad]


Fuck that

Korn has a new video, and while I haven’t listened to Korn since back in the ‘Follow the Leader’ days (trendy, I know, but the video from ‘Freak on a Leash’ remains one of the greatest music videos of all time, to my mind), this video is fucking great.

Sorry. Fuckin’ great. I know the letter G isn’t all that popular these days. Except when it’s made of gold and hung around for neck for the purposes of bling. Or blin’.

Back to the subject, the song is of questionable quality (that much must be made clear) and hell, let’s just say the song sucks and get it out of the way… but the video is brilliant. The continuing backlash against the RIAA and the rest of the industry, now coming from the side that matters (sorry, but as a consumer you don’t matter. You’re old enough to know that now), fills me with hope for the future. For the benefit of people without DSL, or those who just don’t want to hear the words “y’all want a single say fuck that. Fuck that, fuck that” over and over and over again, I shall transcribe:

One corporation owns the 5 major video channels in the US.

Is that OK?

Last year the big 5 record labels together sold about $25 billion dollars of music.

90% of releases on major labels do not make a profit.

Britney Spears’ last video cost $1,000,000.

This Korn video cost $150,000.

You have seen $48,000 worth of video.

Will any music channel play this video?

The music “industry” releases 100 singles per week.

Only 4 songs are added to the average radio “playlist” each week.

Hit songs on Top 40 are often repeated over 100 times a week.

Is that all you want to hear?

Why is a song worth .99¢

Do you download songs?

Steal this video.

This is a single.

Two radio conglomerates control 42% of listeners.

The record company wanted to change this video. We didn’t.

90% of all singles get to “the hook” within 20 seconds.

98% of all #1 singles are less than 3 30 seconds long.

Does this seem like a formula to you?

With all this said…

We love making music.

Is this the music “business”?

Is that OK?

Thank you for your 3 minutes of time

Love, Korn.

[This surprisingly eloquent rant brought to you by Cory, who found it on MeFi. Great how everybody’s tightened up on their attribution lately, isn’t it?]

[Not that Cory or anybody else over at BoingBoing has ever been lax with their attribution… but you know what I mean]


Improbable iPod peripherals, Part 1

There seems to be quite a market for iPod peripherals these days. Not content with crafting rubber sleeves and cassette adaptors, companies like Griffin and Belkin are building voice recorders, FM transmitters, media readers, and backup batteries to complement and extend Apple’s miniature beatbox. The product is the platform, as they say, and things can only get more complex from here.

In the proud tradition of armchair tech analysts proffering advice to those who have not solicited it, I present the Quietune. Anybody willing to or capable of bringing this little baby to life has my blessing; Belkin, Griffin, Apple, I don’t care. Go nuts. It’ll be no mean feat, I’ll guarantee you that; and a viability study might prove it a fruitless and expensive venture, but this is my weblog and I’ll invent whatever computer peripherals I please. After all, USB–powered mug warmers are all the rage these days, aren’t they?

Presenting… the Quietune

Moving on…

The Quietune might look like the bastard child of Griffin’s iTrip and iTalk add–ons, sure, and given the origin of my clearly–photoshopped image that’s understandable, but the functionality of this unlikely device is where the fun is at: it shuts everybody up.

All this time we were looking for a way to mute the world’s unruly hordes of megaphone–heads, and all we really needed was a good pair of ear–plugs. Put simply — the Quietune is active noise reduction for your iPod. Walking through a party, a crowded room, a concert hall, a construction site; nothing disturbs you and your music. Your personal space is preserved completely; and sure, it’s antisocial, but most fun things are. Even when you aren’t listening to your music, the Quietune is your own portable silence generator… it’s like a library in your pocket, except without the modestly hot librarian shushing everybody.

Put more technically — the microphone on the Quietune is constantly monitoring environmental noise, but instead of capturing it or amplifying it (as per a microphone’s normal modus operandi), this microphone feeds the noise through an internal processor, inverting the wave and mixing it with the signal headed for your headphones. When the inverted–wave ambience meets the regular ambient noise your ears pick up, the waves cancel each other out; the end result — silence. It’s physics, baby. Clean and clear.

There are a few caveats, of course, like the whole “when the iPod is in your pocket the Quietune’s fancy little microphone won’t be picking up any ambient noise, so it’ll be inverting the rather unique sounds of inside–your–ass” thing and the “the components required for a device like this are horribly expensive, the performance won’t be as great as you’re hoping” issue… but next time you walk through a crowd and have to turn your music up to drown out the noise, you’ll remember this device. With the Quietune, the crowd’s noise isn’t a problem… it just doesn’t exist.


iTablet madness

No, no, it isn’t the usual bout of pre–conference tablet–Mac rumors, it’s just a pleasant musing on why a tablet Mac would be super–cool awesome. Sitting at your desk with a bluetooth keyboard, mouse, and a stand of rough equivalence to a vertical iCurve, it’d be oddly reminiscent of Daniel Eran’s footless iMac. On the road, it’d be perfect for quick alterations to documents, iCal appointments, and for surfing the web.

The problem, of course, being the times that you aren’t exactly “on the road”, but you certainly aren’t “at your desk”, either.

If you have serious work to do, the tablet’s unique input methods are cumbersome and (dare I say it) useless. If you’re in a lecture, or at a developer conference, or anywhere where speed–of–input is more important than funkiness–of–input, the tablet falls short of its keyboard–toting notebook cousins. Fantastic as a casual–use item, perfect as a social–use item, and well–positioned as a quick–use item; can it ever be seen as a serious–use professional productivity item? No. No novels or screenplays or even blog posts will be written on it, no video will be edited on it, no music will be composed or recorded on it… it really is just a glorified doodle pad. A doodle pad I’d really love to have, don’t get me wrong, but a doodle pad nonetheless. There are too many times in the day that I go through the “open PowerBook lid, type password, switch to iCal, check where my next class is, close Powerbook” rigmarole when a real paper diary would probably be more efficient, but I digress.

Maybe what we need are some better–designed, more powerful PDAs in the market that are fiendishly compatible with Apple Address Book and iCal… like my hypothetical wet–dream PowerPod, maybe not. I’m thinking “more powerful, feature–rich, pocket–sized PDA” is better than “cut–down, features–absent, notebook–sized tablet”, but this is hardly the time or the place to start Apple PDA rumors, is it?


iPod — generation four

The rumor mill is running overtime this week, between G5 upgrades (likely) and aluminum monitors (less likely, though still within the realms of reason) sits the 4G iPod. Now, video iPod rumors have abounded for years and are largely seasonal in nature (like tablet Mac rumors, or Apple PDA rumors), but the evidence just hasn’t been there to support the fantasy. Last December, however, the employment opportunity dreams are made of came around to start the ball rolling again.

4G iPods are rumored to have color screens

Adding fuel to the fire, there’s the announcement of the PortalPlayer “photo edition” platform [via Gizmodo, which is via MP3 Player Blog], supporting JPEG and MJPEG out–of–the–box. PortalPlayer’s chips already power the iPod, so the next step is obvious… right? Right.

There’s much speculation around the web as to what this new iPod would do, how it would do it, and what it would look like; and since I’ve never been one to miss out on a good speculation hoe–down, I’m bringin’ out my two cents.

Color

When you produce a video–capable device, of course it needs a color screen, but to what degree color would influence the iPod is difficult to say. The interface would likely adopt a little color here and there to more closely mimic iTunes’ appearance… but then a graphite theme would need to be added as an option to quiet the grumblers. All in all — it’s a game of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Viewing album art along with the currently–playing song would be a nice touch, but integrating it into the iPod’s simple, uncluttered playback window would be a tough job. I’d be interested to see what they come up with. Image and video browsing would remain interfacially (made–up word of the day) similar to browsing the Finder in List View, as adopting an iPhoto–like browsing model would prove ludicrous. The horsepower just isn’t there for it, and if each thumbnail were 15 pixels by 10 pixels you’d be asking for a ticket to uselessville

Of course, photo slideshows (with music) are a must. Sync it with iPhoto and you’re on a winner.

Video out

Since the new PortalPlayer chip supports video–out, people have come to assume that the iPod will sport a video–out plug. Doubtful. More likely scenario: the iPod’s dock will sport a mini–DVI out alongside its line out, with adaptors for DVI, VGA, and S–Video output. The iPod’s dock connector is there for a reason… you expect them to use it.

Clickwheel

When the 3G iPod was unveiled with its touch–sensitive buttons there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth (not from the audience, mind you; the Reality Distortion Field was in full effect) because they really are a less intuitive interaction model. On the old 1G and 2G iPods, the clickable buttons surrounding the scroll wheel were a tactile shift — you could tell exactly where they were and really couldn’t click them by mistake. Adding to this the fact that you could tell the orientation of the buttons through the orientation of the iPod in your hand, you could operate the whole thing in the dark.

3G iPods removed this feature in favor of all all–solid–state interface. No moving parts: it’s a good theory in some ways, and bad in others. The iPod Mini, however, went a whole ‘nother way with the buttons: the wheel itself clicks.

The Mini’s clickwheel is necessary because the Mini isn’t big enough to accommodate more buttons, and that’s fine, but I don’t see the clickwheel migrating over the the full–size iPod. Why? It’d be an admission of wrongdoing in the user–interaction department, for one. It’d take away their fancy all–solid–state interface, for two. And for three? The clickwheel’s button labels won’t glow red when the backlight is on. Remember: just because Apple is constantly ahead of the pack in terms of usability doesn’t mean Steve Jobs doesn’t blunder for the sake of coolness; just look at OS X.

I might be wrong, and time will tell, but I don’t see Apple backtracking on this one.

Graphical web–browser

OK — I threw this one in just for kicks. iPod Notes already support hyperlinks, so the addition of color and images means fast–forwarding to the land of the world wide web. Connectivity is a problem, of course (don’t expect to see Bluetooth, GPRS, or Wi–Fi for a few revisions yet!), but having iSync download your .Mac bookmarks and throw them into your iPod is just too tantalizing for words.

Specialized small–screen rendering (the kind that Opera uses in its mobile–edition browser) would be a must, of course, and Apple would probably home–grow such a solution (which takes time… too much time for such a frivolous addition to the software), but think of the text–based RPGs XO Play could make with that!


Hit prediction

Though the iPod hardware is more than capable of playing WMA, and iTunes appears to be prepared to be capable of playing it (iTunes’ icon resources house icons for WMA and OGG, among others), Apple will exclude the functionality until a court order forces their hand. That’s my prediction.

Apple already considers itself to be the Microsoft of music downloads… and what could be more Microsoft–like than being sued to anti–competitive behavoir? Their aim in the music arena is, obviously, to sell iPods; and since their iPod/iTunes/iTMS combo is so exclusory to competing products, enabling support for the one DRM format that every other online music store is using (WMA) would be counter–productive. But one day… one day when they’ve thoroughly annihilated the competition on the hardware, software, and music–store front (I’m talking thoroughly), the competition will sue. It’s the way the world works; Apple doesn’t want to open up the iPod for competitors to knock them from their perch, and the law says that just ain’t fair.

The law is, after all, an ass. But so is the corporate personality.


Damn secrecy. Damn it to hell

On Wednesday, 12 March 2003 at 1:29 AM, I launched TextEdit and jotted down a few software ideas that had been floating around in my head. The way I saw it, if I didn’t write them down I’d forget them; and they’re pretty good ideas as far as I’m concerned, so they warranted some keyboard time. I saved them there in my Documents folder, and not here on decaffeinated, because I didn’t want anybody else to see them. My reasoning being, of course, that I can’t actually build this software, so I may as well maintain a secret “software ideas diary” to keep for when I can turn my ideas into reality.

Now, a year later, I’m studying Computer Science at UWA and, being a lowly first–year, the time when I’ll be able to realize my ambitions is several years away. But, as always happens when you have a good idea and lack the means to follow through… someone else gets there first. Graham Parks, creator of Shrook, is the first to roll out an RSS/Atom feed reader with an iTunes–like interface complete with smart groups, type–ahead find, and something close to column–view. I doubt he’ll be the last. Congratulations are due, though I’m secretly pissed as hell that somebody got to my idea before I could.

Let that be a lesson to you. And to me. Act, for inactivity is akin to death.


Why men are just happier people

I get this email once every eight months or so —you probably do too— and it never fails to bring a smile to my dial. Enjoy.

  • Your last name stays put.
  • The garage is all yours.
  • Wedding plans take care of themselves.
  • Chocolate is just another snack.
  • You can wear a t–shirt to a water park.
  • You can wear no t–shirt to a water park
  • Motor mechanics tell you the truth.
  • The world is your urinal.
  • You never have to drive to another service station because this one is “just too yucky”.
  • You don't have too stop and think about which way to turn a nut on a bolt.
  • Less of the same work, more pay.
  • Wrinkles add character.
  • Wedding dress – $4000; tux rental $100.
  • People never stare at your chest when you’re talking to them.
  • The occasional well–rendered belch is practically expected.
  • New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
  • One mood all the time
  • Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds.
  • You know stuff about tanks.
  • A five–day holiday requires only one suitcase.
  • You can open all your own jars.
  • You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
  • If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.
  • Your underwear is $8.50 a three–pack.
  • Three pairs of shoes are more than enough (one black pair, golf shoes, one pair sandals).
  • You almost never have strap problems in public.
  • You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothing.
  • Everything on your face stays its original colour.
  • The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.
  • You only have to shave your face and neck.
  • You can play with toys all your life.
  • Your belly usually hides your big hips.
  • One wallet, one colour, all seasons.
  • You can wear shorts no matter what your legs look like.
  • You can “do” your nails with a pocket–knife or your teeth.
  • You have freedom of choice concerning growing a moustache.
  • You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives, on December 24th, in 45 minutes.

There are a few others worth mentioning, too, though most of them are in poor taste. Maybe that’s just me.


Empty your trash

Earlier today, whilst fooling around between classes and listening to some Led Zeppelin (thanks to the nearby stranger with the 15" TiBook and iTunes sharing turned on), an alarming alert dialog popped onto my screen.

“Your startup disk is almost full. You need to make more space available on your startup disk by deleting files.”

Wondering how and why my HDD would be so full (for a laptop, 40GB is still considered a generous serve of disk space in this day and age, is it not?), I rooted around in my home folder and found nothing out of the ordinary. My Movies and Music folders combined only hit ~22GB… but then I saw it. The Trash can. The used–and–abused Trash can full of Audio–Hijack–generated AIFF files that were discarded as soon as iTunes was done converting them to MP3… the 8GB Trash can.

Remember: just because your Trash don’t smell don’t mean it don’t stink.


Trailblazin’

Slashdot just frontpaged TrailBlazer, a unique browser with a super–fly purpose: graphical representation of your history. In a word: brilliant.

The idea is rock–solid: present your browsing history as a kind of branched storyboard, an outline tracing your path through the internet. You recognize the sites because you’ve seen them all before; you recognize the patterns because you followed them yourself, just as you might remember how to drive to your Aunt Gladys’ place though you don’t know the address. I’ve cursed the text–only interface of “normal” browser–history navigators far too often, unable to identify a particular web site (or particular page of a particular site) by its obscure title. And though OmniWeb’s full–text history search is a step in the right direction (and would be welcome in TrailBlazer too), I can’t help but think this is a teeny bit better.

Well… not exactly better.

See, TrailBlazer is implemented as a full–on web browser; a web browser that demands you use it full–time in order to enjoy its unique perspective on History presentation. A web browser that lacks most of the normal features we’ve come to expect from a browser (Internet Explorer users: ignore that last comment. We know you don’t expect any of these new–fangled ‘features’ in your browser). To put a spin on it: TrailBlazer isn’t really a browser, it’s a technology demonstration for a very cool way of looking at your browser history. Ideally, they’d let you import history from your default browser and view that through its funky interface. No dice.

One of the reasons they haven’t done this, I suspect, is because our current browsing habits would tend towards making this new view useless. With tabs being all the rage right now, we tend to just Command–click links to open them in the background. We don’t click links to follow them then Back–Back–Back out of them later. We don’t follow paths so much… we just spawn new ones. If TrailBlazer could identify what spawned which new window from where, we’d be in business for some integration with other browsers, but for now it’s an amusing and inspiring look at how things could be done. Congratulations to the geeks at the UIUC MacWarriors group.