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Still Macin’ (for now)

MacBook Pro

The phrase “I am no longer Appleā€™s Target Market” is one that I can identify with… and the blog post of the same name makes a lot of good points.

I’ve been using computers (mostly made by Apple) for over 30 years. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon at this point, but I actually like being able to see the file system, and I don’t want or need some specially curated “App Store” or procedures to protect me from naughty applications I download from the big, bad Internet. I’ve been doing fine for nearly 20 years. As for people who do need such things, I understand the need, but I hope I’m not further restricted due to others and their (lack of) knowledge.

I’ve said this before, and I’ve said it again, there’s a learning curve to using computers, and I’m fine with that. There’s a learning curve to operating a motor vehicle, or a table saw, or a pencil sharpener. There should be. That’s part of life. Learning should not be looked upon as something that is a bad thing, and hey, I’m sorry, but you might have to actually learn a bit to use a computer, or table saw, or kitchen appliance. I’m not saying some things don’t need to be easier, but there’s a middle ground between ease of use, and restrictions of freedoms we once had. And easier? Hell, it’s a million times easier that it once was. Why, when I was a kid you turned on your Apple II and got a blinking cursor. No icons. No menus.

I use Apple hardware, and I use a lot of Apple software (and a lot more non-Apple software.) I also use Linux a lot. Linux has never been my desktop OS of choice, but for servers I love it. I do run some Linux desktop machines though, and they’ve improved much over the years. The work I do though, does at this time require Mac OS X.

I have a first generation iPad. I love it. It’s a great device for what it is. It is not a computer. Sometimes I wish it was a computer, but I find it very enjoyable to use as it is. I wish it were more open though. (But I wish that about a lot of things.)

Mac OS X is still my favorite desktop operating system. Is it perfect? Nope. Has it gotten better or worse over the years? Probably both. I’ve always got a terminal open with multiple tabs, which is something 95% (?) or Mac users probably don’t do.

Anyway, it’s December 2012, and I’m still using Macs (a lot) for business and personal use, and most of the time, they work well for me. I’ll let you know where I’m at some time in 2013.

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Review: Windows 7

Windows 7

Since there will be a point in the future when I upgrade all my Macs to Lion, I figured I should start getting ready, and in order to get ready, I usually need to upgrade my virtualization software. I use VMWare Fusion as well as Parallels Desktop on my Macs. My main use of Windows is for browser testing, though now that I spend time at the Milwaukee Makerspace I also use a few Windows-only applications like CamBam.

My VMs were all running Windows XP, so I figured that it was time to move up to Windows 7, and my old pal Larry Clarkin suggested that I’d like it much better than Windows XP. So in the interest of science (?) I figured I’d review Windows 7.

(Note: This review will be heavily biased against Windows, because I don’t like Windows.)

OK, here’s the deal: I don’t like Windows.

Windows is ugly.
Maybe the interface is customizable, maybe you can skin it, or theme it, or whatever, but I find the default user interface just plain ugly. I’m a Mac user, and I’ve gotten used to a good looking operating system. I’m a Linux user, but I tend to use the command line mostly, but even when I did use Linux on the desktop, it looked better than Windows.

Windows isn’t UNIX.
I mean, Linux isn’t UNIX, but it’s close. Mac OS X is UNIX, or at least it’s very close to being UNIX, depending on who you ask. Windows 7 isn’t UNIX, and I find that annoying. 90% of the time I’m using a Mac I’ve got iTerm running, and I either using it on the local machine, or ssh’d into another Mac or a Linux server.

Windows has little value to me.
As I said, my primary use of Windows has been for browser testing. Specifically, Internet Explorer testing. So pretty much the only reason I used Windows was to test 2 or 3 different versions of the worst browser out there, which, oddly enough, a lot of people used. (Luckily that’s changed.)

Now that I need to use Windows-only software like CamBam, I may end up using Windows 7 more than I used Windows XP, but it’s still just a matter of being forced to use Windows because there isn’t a Mac OS X version of a specific application. There is no joy in Mudville.

So ultimately, Windows 7 may be awesome if you’re a Windows user, but as a long time non-Windows user, it doesn’t entice me, and my primary use is in situations where I can’t use Mac OS X. But remember, this is just my opinion, and my point of view. I know dozens of people use Windows every day and tolerate it, and some even enjoy it. Kudos to them!

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PHP error_reporting

PHP (Once again a note for myself, but if you find it useful, well, you’re welcome!)

After a PHP upgrade, I noticed at least one bit of PHP code one the server wasn’t working (the TextLinkAds plugin for WordPress) so after a bit of digging around in php.ini, I found that this line was uncommented:

error_reporting  =  E_ALL

Which was causing warnings to spit out when some PHP scripts were run. I commented that line, and uncommented this line instead…

error_reporting = E_COMPILE_ERROR|E_RECOVERABLE_ERROR|E_ERROR|E_CORE_ERROR

…for a little bit less error reporting/warnings about things, and that fixed it.

I’m sure this is not a cure-all, as another site with the same plugin always worked fine, and was never affected, but still, I didn’t really like seeing those warnings (which I believe are harmless, but they may need investigating anyway.)

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apt-get fixes

Ubuntu As I get more and more used to Ubuntu and using apt-get I figured I should start keeping some notes. (btw, did you know that in the old days we had to compile everything!? Sheesh!)

apt-get kept crapping out on me with errors, some failed install I believe. This seemed to fix it:

cd /var/cache/apt/archives
sudo rm -rf ./*
sudo mkdir partial

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Yes, sudo apt-get update is in there twice. You may only need once, but twice shouldn’t hurt.

You may also have to look for trouble in:

cd /var/cache/debconf
sudo rm -rf ./*

Warning: Unless you understand what rm -rf does, don’t type it!. It is a destroyer of files. Make a backup if needed. While these are cache files, and it should be harmless to delete them, remember that rm has no undo command.

Also, I’m running Ubuntu on an old G4 PowerBook as a low-power server (thanks to Dave from Kernel Design.) I’ve only had a few problems with the old “powerpc-linux-gnu” so far, mostly involving finding a BOINC client that will work. The typical LAMP stack is good, and the DAViCal install was painless.

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Time Lapse from Eee PC

I find myself on a quest to do some time lapse video… and this one was done with the built-in camera on the Eee PC running Ubuntu (Netbook Remix) and the application UCView.

There seems to be a bug in UCView that prevents it from creating more than 150 still images. I’ll need to dig into that a bit more… It can also create video files, but I prefer stills. With the stills I typically use mencoder to combine them into a video file.

The Eee PC is a nice small solution for time lapse photography. It’s one device, and does everything. Quality? Well, not that great… and bugs? Hopefully I can get more than 150 images in the future…

This will be the first post of many exploring time lapse photography/video. It can be difficult. Just ask this guy.