The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mac'
Apple have just donated the source code of MacPaint to the Computer History Museum. The code is in two parts: the tip of the iceberg is MacPaint itself, which was written in Pascal and consists of one source file, but the bulk of the code is the QuickDraw library, written in 68000 assembler, which gave the original Macintosh most of its (then groundbreaking) graphics capabilities. And here is a story of the development of MacPaint.
The source code still belongs to Apple, though may be used for non-commercial purposes. I wonder if anyone has managed to compile it recently.
Charlie Brooker's latest column is a dig at the Apple iPad. The most interesting part of it is towards the end, where Charlie, who, last year, declared his allegiance to the Windows PC platform, comparing it to the stench of urine in an underpass or living in a Communist country in 1981, but nonetheless declaring it better than becoming one of those smug Mac-using twats (or, even worse, one of those Linux weirdos), declares that he's considering buying a MacBook. Not because of it'll make him cool, but because his current Windows laptop, one of the Sony Vaios (they're the nice-looking Windows laptops, the ones sort of like MacBooks for people who couldn't stand to be seen as one of those Mac users) is driving him up the wall:
Yes, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Mac sceptic for years. Yes, I've written screeds bemoaning the infuriating breed of smug Apple monks who treat all PC owners with condescending pity. But being chained to a Sony Vaio for the last few weeks has convinced me that I'd rather use a laptop that just works, rather than one that's so ponderous, stuttering and irritating I find myself perpetually on the verge of running outside and hurling it into traffic.
I just hope buying a MacBook won't turn me into an iPrick. I want a machine that essentially makes itself invisible, not a rectangular bragging stone. If, 10 minutes after buying it, I start burbling on about how it's left me more fulfilled as a human being, or find myself perched at a tiny Starbucks table stroking its glowing Apple with one hand while demonstratively tapping away with the other in the hope that passersby will assume I'm working on a screenplay, it's going straight in the bin.
Accordion Guy on how operating system fanboys see operating systems.
Let it not be said that Microsoft and Windows don't have sincere supporters: Charlie Brooker is one, albeit in a backhanded sort of way:
I know Windows is awful. Everyone knows Windows is awful. Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway: it's there, and there's nothing you can do about it. OK, OK: I know other operating systems are available. But their advocates seem even creepier, snootier and more insistent than Mac owners. The harder they try to convince me, the more I'm repelled. To them, I'm a sheep. And they're right. I'm a helpless, stupid, lazy sheep. I'm also a masochist. And that's why I continue to use Windows – horrible Windows – even though I hate every second of it. It's grim, it's slow, everything's badly designed and nothing really works properly: using Windows is like living in a communist bloc nation circa 1981. And I wouldn't change it for the world, because I'm an abject bloody idiot and I hate myself, and this is what I deserve: to be sentenced to Windows for life.
That's why Windows works for me. But I'd never recommend it to anybody else, ever. This puts me in line with roughly everybody else in the world. No one has ever earnestly turned to a fellow human being and said, "Hey, have you considered Windows?" Not in the real world at any rate.Of course, the reason he prefers Windows is because it doesn't have evangelists.
One of the things I enjoy doing is creating electronic music, for which I use a Macintosh laptop, some music software and various plugins. For the past few years, the software which I used has been Apple's Logic Express, to which I switched from Cubase VST when moving from MacOS 9 to OSX. As Logic didn't come with a drum machine program back then, I found myself buying Linplug's RMIV drum machine, which I have over the years used extensively.
RMIV is an excellent and comprehensive drum machine, which contains both analogue-style drum synthesisers and sample playing capabilities, as well as filters and effects. However, it has one downside; when you import sounds into it, it has the annoying tendency of saving those in its own proprietary format (rather than using a standard format such as, say, AIFF or WAV, both of which are good enough for other software including Apple's own samplers).
Recently I have started using Ableton Live, and have found it very impressive. While Live will happily load all my AudioUnit plugins, it also contains its own drum sample player, Drum Rack, which integrates more tightly with it. Drum Rack allows you to drag your favourite samples to various pads and play them. The hitch is that the samples must be in a standard format; if most of your drum samples are in RMIV's .D4T format, then you have a problem. Guess where most of my samples were?
Anyway, not being one to give up easily, I took it upon myself to examine the D4T format, and come up with a way of converting my samples to an open format. Luckily, I had some samples sitting around in both formats; after examining them with hexdump(1) and a Python interpreter, I soon determined that D4T is a fairly simple format, consisting of a short header and the samples in 32-bit float format.
The header turned out to be a bit more work; there were what looked like magic numbers in it, as well as some values roughly proportional to the file size, though bizarrely unrelated to actual sizes. After creating a few oddly-sized AIFF files, importing them into RMIV and examining the imported versions, I determined that RMIV's format used a bizarre way of encoding integers: it would encode them in binary-coded centimal. Which is to say, as a series of bytes, each containing a value from 1 to 99, representing a pair of decimal digits. Why they settled on this peculiar and inefficient encoding, I can only guess; it seems too feeble to be an attempt to thwart reverse engineering.
Anyway, the point of this anecdote is that I have now written a Python script which converts from RMIV's .D4T sample files to AIFF files. (One could change it fairly trivially to make WAV files, though that's left as an exercise to the reader.) The script, named "dermiv", is here.
7. iPods have two fixes. Resetting and Restoring.
If both of those features do not work, your iPod is trash. Unless it's under warranty or you purchased AppleCare, then they will give you two options. First is to trade in your iPod for 10% off any model (except shuffle), or they will give you out of warranty replacement, Which usually means that you will pay around $100-$250 depending on the model you purchased.
6. We have 4 things that we will try to sell you when you purchase a computer.
AppleCare, of course, is your extended 3 year warranty, we are told to sell it as a service plan, but it does not do ANYTHING extra, but extend your warranty, and does not cover anything extra. .Mac is a ripoff unless you use the web site hosting. ProCare has to be the biggest ripoff. All this does is upgrade your AppleCare for one year. It has a little perk for business uses, but otherwise useless. Lastly, One-to-One training, which is the best deal in the store.
(via Boing Boing Gadgets)
New market research has revealed that Mac users are snobs, upper-income-bracket elitist aspirational types who see themselves as better than the PC-using rabble, while, seen from the other side, PC users are cheapskates.
Meanwhile, a filmmaker has made a documentary about the intense loyalty Maccies feel to their brand, which bears out some of the findings:
Violet Blue, a popular blogger and sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who also features in the film, says: "First of all, I've never knowingly slept with a Windows users ... that would never, ever happen."Anyway, back to the Mac-users-are-snobs thing: the description of the difference between Mac users and PC users reminded me a lot of (Mac user) Momus' recent paraphrasing of the right-wing anti-intellectual argument against liberal cosmopolitan elites:
The intellectual is not one of us. We are ordinary folks, he is a member of an elite. We gravitate around right wing ideas, he's left-leaning. We're family people, he screws men, women and children. We farm, he stays in the city, with his intellectual elite, or on campus, corrupting the minds of our youth. We're religious, but the intellectual is an unbeliever. We run to fat, he stays thin. We're patriots, he's a cosmopolitan, equally at home with foreigners as with his own kind. He puts loyalty to ideas before loyalty to his people. We have the church, he has the liberal media.I'm wondering whether Microsoft or Dell or whoever didn't miss a trick in the few years after 9/11 when Americans (and, to a lesser extent, other Westerners) fell into a right-wing populist groupthink, dissociating themselves from straw-man liberalism. Perhaps, had they run ads playing on the stereotypes of Mac users as potentially disloyal rootless cosmopolitanists, they could have converted some Mac sales into sales of PCs and copies of Windows. After all, when your country's under siege, you don't want to be seen to be distancing yourself from your compatriots, however symbolically.
Jona Bechtolt of YACHT (and formerly of The Blow)'s latest venture (with partner-in-crime Claire L. Evans): making MacBook Air laptop sleeves that look like manila envelopes, like the one Steve Jobs pulled the Air out of at MacWorld. For people who also have a Banana Phone.
If one had a MacBook Air, that would look either cool or cheesy, depending on the execution. Though I'm not tempted to buy one; given that I use my Mac for music and video, I couldn't justify buying one with only one USB port and no FireWire.
As I type this, Steve Jobs is giving his keynote speech at MacWorld. From what I can tell, he has announced a few consumer gadgets (an improved AppleTV with movie rentals (presumably in the US only) and Flickr support, iPhone and iPod Touch firmware upgrades) and a wireless Mac backup appliance named "Time Capsule". Mind you, Engadget's feed doesn't seem to be coping with the load of millions of Maccies across the world constantly hitting reload to see whether any new tidbits have appeared, and Gizmodo's feed, while more reliable, seems a bit lighter on content. It'll be interesting to see what the "one more thing" is, whether it's a solid-state, Asus Eee-sized MacBook named "Air", or whether all the rumours were all off.
The presence of Hollywood heavyweights and mention of Blu-Ray is ominous; given Blu-Ray's strict licensing conditions, any Mac with Blu-Ray would have to have the same onerous internal DRM surveillance infrastructure as Windows Vista, with the same fragility, loss of performance and the actual user generally getting the rough end of the pineapple.
Update: Nothing about Blu-Ray; though the Another Thing was, in fact, the MacBook Air, a ridiculously thin 13" laptop.
Tech blog Ars Technica has a meticulously detailed review of OS X 10.5 Leopard. As one would expect, it's 17 pages long and goes far deeper than the usual roundup of cool features and visual effects, delving as deeply as the kernel and APIs. In it we learn, among other things, that Apple are finally killing off the old Carbon APIs, inherited from the old MacOS, meaning that someone at Adobe and Microsoft will have a lot of rewriting to do. Not to mention that, while the UI isn't seamlessly scalable yet, it's going in that direction, with elements (such as window decorations and checkboxes, for example) being assembled from XML-based "recipes" (and all the "Aqua" eyecandy appears to be made by distorting a source bitmap of a glass sphere). On the downside, the article's quite scathing about the new Dock and folder icons.
I've just discovered a slightly nifty feature in MacOS X, when running on a relatively recent *Book.
If you hold down Ctrl and drag up on the trackpad with two fingers (as you would to scroll upward), the screen zooms in around the cursor. Releasing Ctrl keeps it magnified, though following the cursor. Holding down Ctrl and scrolling down zooms back out.
I'm told the feature is new to the 10.4.8 update that recently came out.
YouTube video of the day: a kitten climbs onto a MacBook, inadvertently triggers FrontRow (the media-player application), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdXTDovB9K8 starts pouncing on the flying icons, and eventually starts iTunes.
Microsoft are abandoning Internet Explorer for the Macintosh; as of 31 January, it will be unavailable for downloading, with Mac users being encouraged to use Apple's Safari browser. Hopefully this means that Microsoft aren't going to use their IE near-monopoly to create a proprietary superset of (D)HTML and keep web application users locked into their technologies; either that or, if they do, they're willing to lock non-Windows platforms completely out and hope that they have the clout to make everyone get a Windows PC for their internet access.
It looks like Sony's CD copy protection compromises Macintoshes too; at least if you're trusting enough to enter the administrator password. Which just means that Sony's copy-protection geeks haven't found a local privilege-escalation exploit in MacOS X that they can use. (I'm sure that Sony would believe that they are within their rights to do this because their prerogative to control access to their intellectual property by all means necessary overrides the user's right to maintain the integrity of their computer, and the ability to use it to potentially use Sony's IP in unapproved ways.)
(via bOING bOING)
jwz gets pissed-off at Linux soundcard complications, buys an iMac, never looks back; imminent death of xscreensaver predicted.
Music Thing has a feature on how various tiny, ubiquitous sounds and pieces of music were created. The Mac startup sound, for example, was a C Major chord played on a Korg Wavestation, whereas Brian Eno created the Microsoft sound during a creative dry spell.
Apparently, an external FireWire hard disk beats an IDE-connected notebook drive, or at least the 4200RPM ones. So, if you have a Mac mini and want to make it faster, your best advice is to wipe the internal hard disk and boot it off an external 3.5" drive in a FireWire enclosure; performance will then improve steeply.
Of course, the same considerations come into play for laptops, though one obviously wouldn't want to lug around an external FireWire drive enclosure with one's shiny new PowerBook. Though the author of the article reports good results from swapping his PowerBook's drive for a 7200RPM notebook drive. (Whether or not this is a good idea would depend on how much extra heat a faster drive generates, and what tolerance the design of the laptop in question has for hotter-running hard drives.)
Ars Technica has a review of MacOS X 10.4, and, as you might expect, it goes into a staggering amount of detail, from changes in the kernel APIs to the quiet addition of arbitrary file metadata (only a few releases after Jobs consigned resource forks to the dustbin of history and told Mac users to and make do with Windows-style file extensions) and Apple's new hierarchical file-typing system, from internal improvements in Quartz to how Spotlight hooks into the kernel:
Any file i/o that goes through the Tiger kernel will trigger the appropriate metadata importer. This kernel-level integration ensures that the Spotlight indexes are always up to date.
A smart folder could be a normal directory that is specially tagged using an extended attribute (in the "system." namespace, masked-out just like the extended attributes used for ACLs). The actual Spotlight query for the smart folder would also be saved in an extended attribute. The contents of the smart folder would be generated on the fly in response to file i/o system calls (opendir(), readdir(), etc.) and would appear to be a series of read-only hard links to the actual files.
It's official: MacOS 10.4 Tiger will be coming out in April, as speculated. Though it won't be out until the 29th.
A US company is building a Mac Mini-based modular synthesizer. No, not a softsynth with rendered clickable cables; an actual hardware modular synth with real patch leads, which happens to have a Mac Mini and touch-screen monitor embedded in it. It is not clear if they have actually built one of these yet, though I imagine that with something like Max/MSP or SuperCollider, it could be interesting.
The company appears to be a cottage industry run by someone named Cynthia Webster, who designs and builds modular synths for a living. The site also has a list of women in synthesis, which is probably longer than you'd expect it to be:
It seems most of the women in synthesis today are hailing from Europe... Why is that ? What does this say about our society lately? Any theories out there?
The MacWorld Expo keynote is out, and the rumours look like being all true. There's the Mac Mini, a tiny white rectangular no-frills Macintosh for PC (which looks like a squat, non-transparent Mac Cube, and ships without keyboard or mouse), which will sell for US$500 (which will probably be A$800 or so in Australia, and £300 or so in the UK) and is aimed at PC users seduced by the iPod. Speaking of which, there's also the iPod Shuffle, an innovative 512Mb/1Gb iPod smaller than a stick of gum. In other words, just another MP3-playing flash drive, only in white, except that the latest iTunes will auto-fill it with a random selection of tunes. (I would imagine this iTunes functionality is disabled for cheaper, non-Apple USB MP3 players.) Not to mention a new office suite and a new version of iLife.
It looks like, after years of positioning themselves as the BMW of the computer world, Apple are about to release a cheap, bare-bones Mac. The new Mac, codenamed Q88, will come with no monitor, a CDRW/DVD-ROM drive and 40 to 80Gb of disk space, and will come in a flat enclosure that can be either vertical or horizontal. Which suggests that it'll look like a shiny white PlayStation 2 and/or an oversized screenless iPod.
The reason for Apple's change of heart is said to be the success of the iPod; the new Mac, which will eschew Apple's focus on performance, and be aimed at Windows users who liked the iPod and would buy a Mac if they were cheaper.
And The Reg speculates that Apple could position these units as home-entertainment PCs.
The decline of the US dollar takes its first victim, as Apple make their US iMacs 110V-only, doing away with their world-ready multi-voltage power supplies, presumably to keep Europeans paying the higher European price. I wonder how they compare to Australian prices; after all, Australia's mains voltage is 240V, and the Australian cost of living (and average wage) is relatively low.
Mac lust knows no bounds. Now those who can't afford actual Macs can do their Windows XP PCs to look like Macs, with a set of 10 cosmetic programs, from a menu bar for the top of the screen (I wonder whether it strips the menu bars off application windows, or whether it just takes up extra space) and a dock to Aqua-style window frames and icons, giving you something that looks just like a Mac, only with the usual Windows viruses, worms and spyware. Or perhaps that looks just Maclike enough to remind you of what you're missing out on. (via bOING bOING)
Someone receives an empty Mac G5 case (no further explanation provided) and builds a PC in it as a prank/conversation piece. Then he writes it up, spinning it as a way of turning an unwanted G5 into a Windows PC. Consequently he gets death threats from Mac zealots across the net.
"I hope your PC blows up and leaves your miserable face disfigured forever," read one. "You will surely burn in hell for an eternity for this one." Another said Andy should be hung by his testicles and set on fire. "Turning a perfectly good dual G5 into a crappy PC was the ticket that got you to hell," wrote another, citing the common eternal damnation theme. "And if you were in front of me I'd pop a corn-born Teflon bullet from my Glock in your fucking face."
Proof that there's a vocal minority of Mac users who are utterly batshit insane.
- Parrot knows 950 words, has grammar, can coin phrases and shows evidence of a sense of humour. Which calls into question the accepted belief that parrots act as sound-recording devices. Mind you, the article also claims that the parrot has telepathic abilities, which makes it sound rather dubious. Perhaps the BBC News has been acquired by Pravda?
- FBI computer expert talks about (in)security:
American companies have tried to respond to the massive fraud being perpetrated online. One common preventive, adopted by most companies that sell products online, has been to refuse shipments outside of North America, or allow international shipping, except for Eastern Europe. Criminals have figured out a way around this, however. They hire folks to act as middlemen for them. Basically, these people get paid to sit at home, sign for packages from Dell, Amazon, and other companies, and then turn around and reship the packages to Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine. You know those signs you see on telephone poles that read "Make money! Work at home!"? A lot of that "work" is actually laundering products for the Russian mob. Of course, anyone caught acting as a middleman denies knowledge of their employer: "I had no idea why I was shipping 25 Dell computers a day to Minsk! I just assumed they liked computers!"
Dave also had a great quotation for us: "If you're a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac." Basically, police and government agencies know what to do with seized Windows machines. They can recover whatever information they want, with tools that they've used countless times. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for Unix-based machines. But Macs evidently stymie most law enforcement personnel. They just don't know how to recover data on them. So what do they do? By and large, law enforcement personnel in American end up sending impounded Macs needing data recovery to the acknowledged North American Mac experts: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Evidently the Mounties have built up a knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none.
- The amazing story of three blind brothers who became Israel's most formidable phone phreaks, partly by dint of their acute senses of hearing:
Two hours into an afternoon-long interview with the Hebrew-speaking Badirs, my translator's lips lock. He shrugs and tells me that the Badirs have shifted into a secret code. Ramy later explains that as kids he and Muzher developed their own language - reordering letters in mathematically complex ways - after they discovered that other boys were snooping on their conversations.
Ramy, Muzher, and Shadde were arrested on a variety of charges relating to computer fraud in connection with their hacks of the radio station and Bency Levy's phone sex operation. Police took them from their home in wrist and leg cuffs, but even in custody, they could not help but show off by conversing in their secret language and announcing telephone numbers that were being keyed in by law enforcers.
- Warning: blogging can endanger your career, relationships or general wellbeing: (via FmH)
"The blogging community is terribly incestuous," Lapatine admits. "If the relationship doesn't go well, all your mutual friends will read about it. This," he adds, "is how a friend of mine learned that he had halitosis and was a bad dancer."
Some bloggers run into difficulties from seemingly mundane reports about their daily thoughts and activities. "As an Asian girl, I get weird Asian-fetish e-mails from people who read [my] site," says Lia Bulaong, the twentysomething Manhattan author of Cheesedip (she includes tame photographs of herself in everyday clothes). "Also, stalkers I had in college that I didn't know about have come out of the woodwork."
- The prognosis for the upcoming Hitchhiker's Guide film looks somewhat dubious, what with Karey "Chicken Run" Kirkpatrick rewriting the script (undoubtedly crushing out anything that doesn't fit the standard Hollywood rules of characterisation and plot) and a rapper being cast as Ford Prefect. The thing about Trillian having been rewritten as a "brilliant scientist" also seems dubious. But you knew that already.
- A proposed Trainspotting-themed tour of Edinburgh has run into problems because the city has been cleaned up too much, with many of the locations in the novel and film no longer existing in any recognisable form (via Lev)
A list of new features in MacOS 10.3, aka Panther, which is due out by the end of the year. Though I'm still not sure about the brushed-metal Finder. (Wasn't that look just meant for hardware-accessing applications?)
Jumping on the bandwagon, only 3 or so years too late; Your humble narrator's blog now has its first pieces of CafePress merchandise, offering a positive, life-affirming philosophy in the classic old-skool Macintosh user-interface idiom. I got mine in the mail a few days ago, and was impressed with how well the printing came out. (I had been a bit skeptical about the quality of those print-to-order places, but CafePress's quality seems top-notch.) I wore it to the blogmeet tonight.
Anyway, why pay $120 for a Japanese-robot-glyph/ironic-retro-porn T-shirt on Chapel St. when you can have one of these for only US$15 (plus exorbitant shipping from the other side of the world, of course)? Or something like that.
Uh-oh; Microsoft has bought VirtualPC, the PC emulation software for MacOS, extending their grip yet again.
Apple surprise everyone with their MacWorld announcements. No video-enabled iPods (though if you want that sort of thing, you can buy an Archos Jukebox; I hear they're pretty doovy), but we get two new Bluetooth-enabled PowerBooks (including a 17" model), revamped software tools, and a Safari, a new web browser (Apple's second; remember Cyberdog, which they killed after MS persuaded them to become an IE shop?). The interesting thing about Safari is that it's based on the open-source Konqueror HTML engine used in KDE, bypassing the favourite Mozilla; Apple have promised to be good citizens and contribute all their enhancements back to Konqueror, which should help it as well,
Apple have shaken off the not-invented-here mentality that dogged the Macintosh for a long time, and now are keen to borrow and share technologies. For example, the iPod is mostly based on off-the-shelf components, including a third-party embedded OS, and there is a lot of open-source software under the hood in MacOS X (i.e., large swathes of FreeBSD, CUPS, Perl and Python), and now KHTML is in Safari. Probably a good choice; it'll save Apple diverting resources to reinventing the wheel, all for the very minor cost of sharing innovations in this area with the open-source world.
"Girl" is a very odd name for an audio synthesis program, but the description sounds pretty doovy. Basically it's a modular sample-based synthesizer/mixer of sorts, which can apparently work standalone or as a VST plug-in, and can be controlled in realtime using the keyboard or 2D 'plane controllers'; which brings to mind all sorts of glitchy loop-based laptop mayhem. The demo MP3s on the site also sound quite promising, in a What Is Music? sort of way. Though whether it's worth the A$200 or so it'd cost to register it remains to be determined.
Meanwhile, while we're on the subject of prematurely dead cool people and the meaning of life, the universe and everything, there may be a sixth Hitchhikers Guide novel, to be titled The Salmon of Doubt, and assembled from files found on Douglas Adams' Macintosh. Assuming that they can put something together from all the motley files and edits. (via Slashdot)
Life, liberty and the pursuit of bootywhang: Microsoft's PR people have posted an ad to a PC magazine, saying that PC users were better lovers than Mac users -- and an identical one to a Mac magazine saying the opposite. Hmmm; reminds me of an amusing article I saw about how Macintoshes make better courtship devices than PCs.
The strange little gulping noise from her throat, would ordinarily be message enough but you're revved up, and you start to tell her about the clock chipping you did last weekend and how you had to hack the DLL in order to get the IDE address to register. She starts to backpedal as you describe the ordeal of finding the correct dip switch setting for your new modem. With wild hand gestures you launch into the details for finding the secret passage from level 7 to level 8 of the game you've been playing over the net, but the object of your desire has fallen to the floor clutching her throat.
Interesting software du jour: Mac-on-Linux, which allows you to run MacOS in a window on top of Linux/PPC (a bit like SheepShaver, only this one is GPLed). I should probably have a look at it at some stage (if I decide to play with Linux/PPC once I get more disk space on my Mac); though I probably wouldn't end up using it much (I suspect Cubase VST probably wouldn't run on it as efficiently as on MacOS alone).