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See?

Have you been using SubEthaEdit on your PowerBook and, upon attempting to install the included command line utility see, stood face to face with resolute failure? Me too. I’m guessing you Googled The installation of the see command line tool failed, or something to that effect, right? Right. Probably because you saw the following dialog and wondered what, if anything, you could do about it, right? Right.

The alert message reads: “The installation of the see command line tool failed”

Don’t you just love internet search?

You’ve come to the right place. The problem (at least in my case) is caused by FileVault, and doesn’t take much to work around. The bug is on the radar, too, so don’t fret. Just pop into the terminal and perform the following:

sudo cp /Applications/SubEthaEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/see /usr/bin/
sudo cp /Applications/SubEthaEdit.app/Contents/Resources/see.1 /usr/share/man/man1/

(Altering the path as necessary should your copy of SubEthaEdit not actually reside in /Applications, and entering your admin password as prompted)

There. Problem solved. Now you can get back to your command line hijinx with the quality and comfort of a text editor that obeys normal Mac OS X keyboard conventions (don’t kill me, vi nerds).


The rumor mill

Apple’s releases a new multi-button mouse You gotta love it when a rumor site goes the extra mile to claim something that has been rumored —or at least widely desired— for more than a decade as their own handiwork. AppleInsider is reporting that they first predicted Mighty Mouse five months ago.

Assuming for a moment they’ve forgotten that as an air-quotes “News Agency” they aren’t supposed to predict anything, they’re supposed to report the news, they would also presumably be praying to whatever gods they hold dear that their readers don’t click to check out this ‘prediction’.

According to sources who have so far filed accurate reports on Apple's future hardware plans, the company is feverishly working on a two-button wireless optical mouse that it intends to release.

I don’t need to send you to the Mighty Mouse ‘tech specs’ page to point out the difference between a two-button wireless mouse and a four-button wired one, do I? Ugh. Beyond that little tidbit, I’m surprised the hyperactive Mac rumor mill didn’t see this one coming… maybe Apple really has plugged those leaks.


Multiplicity

How did we not notice this? How did we not try it out until we were told? Three months. Three months it has been right under our noses in Safari 1.3 and above. And we only find out today.

It’s multiple CSS background images on the same element, and Dave Hyatt finally spilled his guts. Yes. Multiple. How long we have waited for a browser, any browser, to run that through. Positioned as you please, layered in order of their declaration, playing together in ways that make the old way look prehistoric. Wow.

Oh, the cleanliness. Oh the cries of “you’ll need to wrap a few nonsemantic spans around it” that shall ne’er be heard again. I’m already chafing at the bit to deploy, at least on personal sites, and will gladly do so the moment the Mozilla family lands this feature; Internet Explorer be damned.

Try the demo, if you dare. Then check out the source (excuse the invalidity… my goal was to write as basic an HTML file as you’re ever likely to see), and the stylesheet. Now that shit is simple.

Update

Looks like this code landed in Konqueror too! Rad. [Screenshot]


Limbo

I don’t often like to shop at the campus computer store —the place is staffed by nincompoops and the parts department is always bereft of stock due to what I can only assume is a paralyzing fear of obsolescence— but time constraints occasionally force my hand. I needed my PowerBook examined pronto, since massive (and I mean massive) hangs and a weird, transient clicking noise emanating from beneath its aluminum skin led me to believe there’s something very wrong with it. Getting it in for a service, however, took more work than one would expect…

Chris
Hi, I’ve been having some trouble with my PowerBook, I think there’s something wrong with the hard disk. As far as I know it’s still under warranty, can you guys take a look at it?
Serge
[After checking I’m still covered by AppleCare] Why do you think it’s the disk?
Chris
I don’t really know… I’ve been getting some really huge hangs —like minutes at a time— when I’m launching apps, saving a bunch of work, that kind of thing. I checked out the CPU usage and it’s not lagging there… so I, uh… yeah.

The guy’s stare is piercing. Why can’t I say that I think there’s a problem with I/O and it’s causing a blocked process to stall for fucking ever while the disk gets its shit together? Is he employing some kind of mind-control beam? A pheromone spray, maybe? Why don’t I mention that as the hangs wear on, more and more apps become unresponsive, suggesting that now they’re queueing behind the first for I/O and getting bubkes? I’m looking like an idiot who doesn’t know anything about computers… and he’s on the other side of the desk looking like a smug fuck.

Serge
Have you repaired permissions?
Chris
No. No I haven’t

Alarm bells. DING DONG DING DONG. HE THINKS YOU’RE RETARDED.

Serge
You should really repair permissions… that’s often the cause of a lot of these kinds of problem. Plus you’ve missed our hardware order, so even if I found something wrong with it today you’d have to wait until Monday before we can order new parts from Sydney.
Chris
O…K. Can you transfer my old data across if you do need to put in a new hard disk?
Serge
We can’t guarantee it, so it’s probably best for you to back it up yourself. Also, if we can’t find anything wrong, or that the problem is in software, then it won’t be covered by warranty and we must charge you half an hour labor time.
Chris
Alright. I guess I’d better repair permissions and back everything up. I’ll bring it in on Monday.

Again, I’m dumbfounded. Why don’t I tell him that I reinstalled the whole damned operating system just last week, specifically to exhaust all possible non-hardware issues before I brought it into the shop? Why don’t I tell him that I think repairing permissions is a bullshit solution to a problem he hasn’t even started to investigate? Why don’t I tell him I backed everything up three days ago, and that I’ve done nothing so important in those three days that he can’t take it right now? A perfect information asymmetry… he’s a professional, an expert, he’s supposed to know his shit, so I go home and do what I’m told.

In order of time spent performing unenjoyable tasks:

  1. Repairing permissions: fruitless.
  2. Backing up: so I did it again anyway, and retired from doing anything serious thereafter to ensure things didn’t get too far out of sync. Thank god I finally bought that new 250GB drive for my firewire enclosure.
  3. Using the laptop through the remains of the weekend: painful. Monday couldn’t come fast enough.

Stepping into the store on Monday I dealt with a young woman who was more than happy to take the computer off my hands. The catch: by noon I had already missed the hardware order and now, almost a week later, I’ve heard nothing back. I’ve come to assume that there was definitely something wrong with the hardware, otherwise they would’ve rung me already and demanded their fifty bucks for not solving my problem, but I shudder to think how long the parts will take to arrive. After all, it took them three weeks to get a 512MB stick of RAM in stock, how long could this take? To think of all that time I saved visiting the campus dealer instead of driving out to DigiLife

Updates as events warrant. In the mean time, I’m working from my backups on the ol’ eMac. The extra screen space is almost intimidating after being stuck at 1024 × 768 for so long.

Update

As it turns out, it was the hard disk. So that’s one bet I’ve won against myself this year.

The brilliant minds of the service industry being what they are, I have to wait another week before I can see my PowerBook again. Why? Because AppleCare carries a new-for-old, like-for-like warranty on hardware… meaning my faulty 40GB hard disk drive is being replaced with another 40GB hard disk drive; something I wouldn’t protest if 40GB disks weren’t becoming increasingly rare and if Winthrop IT actually kept any stock on hand.

Instead, I have to wait for this disk to arrive from being on back-order. My offer to just pay the difference between the cost of the 40GB and some other, more easily acquired, disk was met with difficulty. “Sorry, we can’t do that. The warranty is like-for-like”. Shit. Of course, old Serge was nice enough to suggest I just buy a whole new hard disk outright and have them fit that… but that would completely negate the benefit of having a warranty, wouldn’t it? Jesus.


Drag this

Hey, the little control dashboard that comes up when you’re watching movies full screen in QuickTime is draggable.

Who knew?


The gush ahead of the bottleneck

I live about three hundred meters from my local telephone exchange; a large, clunky, Telstra-branded building on the corner of Beach and Okely. This is not something I ever fully appreciated, nor saw as any particular advantage, but when ii has gone and installed new DSLAMs all around the place as part of its broadband2 strategy and I’m getting an unadulterated 12mbps line straight out of that building for a paltry fifty bucks a month, it’s hard to complain.

It’s nerd heaven. The cruel irony being that my laptop is still in the shop (the status of which has been updated), so the 12mbps intarweb connection flowing out of the 54mbps wireless router in the next room is being received by an eMac with an original Airport card. 802.11b, theoretical maximum speed: 11mbps.

“Actual line speeds depend on things like the distance and quality of your telephone line from the local exchange”. Hah.


Birthday bonanza

This is the time of year during which a massively disproportionate number of people I know celebrate their birthday; myself included. I’d love to see some real data on this, but I’ve always suspected it’s because of some weird kind of New Year conception phenomenon (Freakonomists, activate!), or at least a southern-hemisphere Summer Lovin’ phenomenon resulting in a lot of spring babies. Unsurprisingly, it is also the time of year that plays host to a disproportionate number of birthday parties and dinners and whatnot, and for me this yearly ritual began just this Friday with the girlfriend’s own.

Besides the actual weekend, during which I dined out twice and dressed as a pimp once for various celebrations, I spent the better part of the last fortnight trying to nut out a decent present for Jess. Her friends were collectively replacing her aging mobile phone with something more modern, and her parents were rumored to be replacing her aging Discman with an iPod mini, so I was stuck with nada. Those are both the kind of present I would’ve thought of if they hadn’t beaten me to the punch, and though I probably could’ve joined in on the whole parents/friends thing it seemed a little sad. What kind of boyfriend piggybacks on a girl’s parents’ present? A lame one, that’s what. And frankly, I’ve already established myself as the big nerd in her life: I don’t need to reinforce it with technologically-inclined gifts… even if she does need the upgrades.

And if anyone needs forced upgrades, it’s Jess: the closest thing to upgrade-phobic I’ve ever seen, bordering on full-blown technophobia. Her 200Mhz Windows 98 box putters along at a pace pleasantly suited to its 33.6kbps internet connection; the side-scrolling, popup-infested hell that is Internet Explorer 5.0 at 800×600 pixels a harsh but familiar experience… like an old razor that burns you for being too blunt. So too, the lack of a DVD player in the house fazes her not. You might be able to pick one up for forty bucks at K-Mart these days, the advantages over VHS being many and varied, but the unpretentious grain of the video cassette is fine with her. Hell, if it weren’t for being a girl Jess probably wouldn’t have a mobile phone either, but the world stopped listening to people without mobiles circa 1998 as phones became the trojan horse parents needed to keep track of their teenage daughters. Suffice to say I was surprised to hear her parents were getting her an iPod for her birthday, since they’re even more technophobic than she is, but the real surprise came upon my discovery that they’d actually bought her an iriver H10 instead. Oh, the humanity.

Me, I opted for the bulletproof boyfriend gift. Not a large, overblown present but a series of smaller ones: music, jewelry, beauty treatments, some photos of us in cute frames, and uh… new beans for her bean bag.

No, that’s not a euphemism. Happy birthday honey.


Not for naught

It occurs to me, on proofreading that last entry, that I’m entirely unsure about the legitimacy of the phrase “it fazes her not”. Not because it doesn’t make any grammatical sense to negate a clause by putting not at the end of it —we’ve had the construction “can not” in popular use for so long it’s contracted to the common can’t— but because of the word naught.

“I care naught” makes just as much, if not more, sense than “I care not”. Caring naught is literally having no care, there’s no sticky grammatical juggling as there is between “I do not care/I care not”, and yet as a result of the cot/caught merger it’s basically impossible to discern the two.

Damned Americans and their merged vowels.

Update

Clarity strikes, in the shower of all places, and I’m reminded of the four-hundred year old reason I started using the “I care not” construction in the first place:

Benvolio
By my head, here come the Capulets.
Mercutio
By my heel, I care not.

Disregard all that hath transpired here.


Google Talk

Hooray for Google, rah rah rah. But I have to ask: why is their new instant messenger service restricted to the gmail.com domain? It’s based on the open Jabber/XMPP standard and I already have a ton of IM accounts on a ton of services, Jabber included, why exclude my Jabber from talking to theirs? That’s like, duh, the whole point of the protocol.

(Sidenote to Dreamhost customers: you can activate Jabber on your own server via the web panel. This is why my Jabber ID is the same as my email address)

I know it’s beta, but this lack-of-feature looks more like design than accident, and after years of “don’t be evil” sentiment pouring out of Google Campus this is a serious misstep. Instead of furthering a worthy cause they’re exploiting it, and in doing so creating a closed community from an open technology. Gmail users are allowed to email non-Gmail users (again, like duh, the whole point of email), why not let Talk™ users talk to non-Talk users? XMPP is the email of instant messaging.

On the upside, they’re happy to let you choose of any XMPP-compatible client to connect to their network. How nice.

Update

Whoa: as if Google’s focus wasn’t Americentric enough, you now need an American cell phone to sign up for Gmail, which in turn means you need an American mobile to use Google Talk.

Did I miss something, or were we using the world wide web here?


Popup windows OK for people with lousy browsers

Gotta say I’m agreeing strongly with Jakob’s findings in regard to ‘non-web’ documents in the web browser. Users are accustomed to a different set of controls —a different user agent altogether— when dealing with PDFs, Word documents, or spreadsheets, and are easily startled when these formats are displayed in the browser window as if they were ‘just another web page’. Web page goes in web browser, PDF goes in Acrobat, Word document goes in Word. Who would mess with something that simple? Well, Adobe and Microsoft would. Go figure.

The solution? Pop these non-web-natives open in a new window with minimal chrome, so when the user hits the ‘X’ button instead of ‘Back’ (believing they’re in a specialized program, not the web browser) they won’t lose their original browser window. It makes sense. The sad part is that this is a guideline created to work around somebody else’s colossally stupid design decision: namely the decision to view PDFs, Word documents, and spreadsheets in the browser window at all. But don’t worry: if you aren’t using Internet Explorer, chances are you aren’t suffering this lousy design.

…which is where the guideline falls flat on its ass.

Using Firefox —or any non-IE browser, really— clicking a link to a .doc file will download the file, not view it. So if, thanks to Nielsen’s handiwork, my clicking pops open a new window just to facilitate this downloading, I’m going to be unhappy. And with everyone well aware of what my stance is toward Internet Explorer, you can tell I don’t give a fig if its users get a lousy user experience. They’re already getting one, ignore the guideline.

This whole ‘view it in the browser instead of a dedicated app’ business is something Mac OS X browsers have been blessedly free of, at least until 10.4, when inline PDF viewing became a ‘feature’ of Safari. Curses. By cutting out the Preview.app middleman, Apple has saved Joe User from complications like a toolbar, a paginated preview drawer, the ability to search the document, keyboard shortcuts like zoom, and many more. Oy.

Thankfully this can be overcome with a little Terminal work to restore Safari’s PDF-handling to its former sensible state:

defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool YES

God bless hidden preferences.


Rome

Coming from a country whose natural wonders are basically all it has (forgive me Jørn), whose original inhabitants were still patting themselves on the back for eliminating the continent’s megafauna before boatloads of Europeans arrived to massacre them, and whose modern culture is a pretty vulgar imitation of America’s own cultural train wreck, a city like Rome is a mind-bending experience. Thousands of years of history and hundreds of years of literary and cinematic expectations suddenly crystalized in a very real, very tangible collection of buildings and people and plazas; a city literally built for exploration and adventure. It’s incredible. And it lives up to the hype.

As the penultimate stop of our world tour and the last in a non–English-speaking country, Rome was something of a last hurrah for us. Knowing we were booked to spend the following week in London with friends —about as close to home as you can get anywhere else in the world— Rome became, at least in our minds, the end. We were getting homesick and we were way overblown on our budgets, but we needed to see the Empire’s crowning glory first. In particular, we needed to do our own Angels and Demons tour of Rome, since we’d all gone Dan-Brown-crazy over the course of the trip.

For those who haven’t read it, Angels and Demons is pretty typical Brown fare; it isn’t bad, just formulaic, but over all remains a decent holiday read. Robert Langdon traipses around Rome solving a thousand-year-old riddle that takes him through all manner of well-known (and not-so-well-known) Roman landmarks: the Pantheon, Chigi Chapel, St Peter’s Square, the Vatican, Santa Maria della Vittoria (housing the Ecstasy of St Theresa), the Fountain of the Four Rivers at Piazza Navona, and finally… Castle St. Angelo. We followed in his fictional footsteps, noting discrepancies along the way, and had quite a time of it. What can I say? We’re dorks.

The Vatican was, shall we say… disappointing. I’m not real big on frescoes, and I’m even less impressed by herds of unappreciative gawkers trampling through hallways in a manner completely hostile to stopping and looking, but such is life. The Sistine Chapel was impressive, but again… frescoes. The remainder of the sights (as above, plus Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the ruins, and Circus Maximus) were a delight, and ones I would gladly see all over again.

Loud and enthusiastic recommendations from a friend who had been to Italy with his girlfriend the summer before said there were plenty of great pub crawls to be done, particularly the Colosseum Pub Crawl — starting, oddly enough, right outside the Colosseum. We took his word for it, obviously, and matched the right flyer to the right pub crawl (there are dozens spanning the entire city, every night of the week, it’s incredible) before donning our now-overworn fancy pants and shirts… shellacking our hair as is the custom of our people. On approach, the sky was dark but for the amphitheater’s lit arches, and we found five or six strangers of various nationalities drinking beer and chatting amongst themselves. Obviously pub crawls aren’t real big business in the dead of winter, but a fresh case of beer and a few bottles of wine made the night shine with promise.

Things became kinda blurry right after that. Our tall, thin, Nigerian guide (name forgotten) knew how to drink, and he knew his way around Rome in the dark, so it was comforting to know he was in charge. Riding buses with beers in hand in lieu of tickets would probably be more cause for concern if he hadn’t given us his sage advice, “if the guy comes to check tickets, just follow my lead. If I’m off the bus already, it’s too late”. If I could tell you which bars we went to, I would. Every now and then we’d spot a familiar landmark, but we were ultimately at the mercy of our gracious host. Walking home at four in the morning without him: not so cool.

The remainder of the time we spent in Rome was a blur. Scotty and Jimmy decided to ‘pop over’ from London for the weekend (for just a few quid, bastards) and join us in our adventures, swelling our ranks even further than the two Aussie girls we’d picked up had already done. There was fine dining, shopping, throwing parties in our room (much to the hotel manager’s displeasure), and a helluva lot of walking. It might just been the nostalgia talking, but I’d have to say Rome was one of the highlights of the trip. Ah, Roma.

(PS- I’m very much aware at how overdue this entry is)