Thursday, December 25, 2008

Testing out ScribeFire

Let's see if having an integrated blog update function in my Firefox browser will help me write more frequent blog posts.

Friday, September 26, 2008

iTunes 8

I was just listening to some background ambient music (Groove Salad on Soma FM FTW!) and since I'm not actually typing on the computer for once, I turned on the new iTunes 8 visualizer for kicks.


Fantastic graphics. Just jaw droppingly cool. Think exploding black holes surrounded by suns and stars and cosmic plasma explosions. Yeah, and that really doesn't do it justice.

And well synced to the music. I've seen some visualizers that seem to have no relation to the music syncopations that are occurring, but this is right on the money.

Everyone is talking about the new 'Genius' functions of iTunes 8. They should be hyping this visualizer too. I just watched it for like 5 minutes with my mind just completely captivated (yeah, that sounds kinda pathetic, but I'm also sleep deprived).

UPDATE: added this graphic, which totally does not do it justice:

UPDATE 2: has posted some undocumented keyboard shortcuts that make the visualizer EVEN MORE COOL. How is that possible? Check it out:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Perseverance in IT

Here's a great story about a couple of student interns at Apple (back in the 'dark times') who took it upon themselves to complete a project and get it delivered, after it was AXED.

This, my friends, is commitment to the cause:

The Graphing Calculator Story

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Next gear: Netbook

I'm thinking about getting a netbook sometime this year, mainly for quick writing, couch-based web-surfing and for use at things like my son's soccer games. My only real requirements are: less than 2lbs, $300-ish, and a usable keyboard. I tried out the ASUS eee 701 at my local retailer and came away unimpressed by the keyboard, which kind of defeats the purpose of having this thing -- otherwise, I'd just ask for a great big touchpad and type things in that way. (Hmm.... iPod Touch, anyone?) My two frontrunners at this point are the currently unreleased Dell E:

and Lenovo S9 ideaPad:

Which one should I get? Post your thoughts or alternate suggestions in the comments

The 44th post

If I'd been paying a little more attention, this post would be much more relevant:

Check out for some great productivity tips.

(Does spending time reading about productivity mean that you're procrastinating or being productive?)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Keeping things on track - Update

I made a couple of mistakes in my cron job list that kept this from working properly. I didn't need the user component of the command, and "5 pm" is actually hour "17", so the two commands should read:

# # Move to the restrictive hosts to keep users off waste sites for the workday
0 9 * * 1-5 cp /etc/ /etc/hosts
# After 5:00 p.m., return the free "home" hosts file:
# Move the hosts file back to full access at the end of the workday
0 17 * * 1-5 cp /etc/hosts.home /etc/hosts

However, one not so nice thing about OS X's implementation of cron is that it won't work if the computer is in Sleep mode. On most Linux systems, this problem is dodged by using 'anacron' which will execute any cron jobs missed while the computer was off or asleep, but apparently OS X doesn't include anacron. The workaround is to modify the times to reflect accurately when I will have the system up and running, so now my crontab listing becomes:

# # Move to the restrictive hosts to keep users off waste sites for the workday
0 10 * * 1-5 root cp /etc/ /etc/hosts
# After 5:00 p.m., return the free "home" hosts file:
# Move the hosts file back to full access at the end of the workday
30 16 * * 1-5 root cp /etc/hosts.home /etc/hosts

I'll let you know how it pans out over the next week.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping things on track

Quick hit for today: I unfortunately find myself spending a little tiny bit too long surfing some pretty useless websites during the hours when I am supposed to be "enhancing shareholder value". I have a personality that is best controlled when the bad options are simply taken away from me, and the temptation is non-existent.

To that end, here is what I've done to keep my surfing time minimized (this is for my Mac, mind you. Doing this on Windows is certainly possible, but you'll need to use the Task Scheduler in place of the cron job).

  1. Switch to full root user mode with sudo su -. This just means less keystrokes. You are now in full-on root mode here though, so if you don't know what you're doing, skip this step and put "sudo" in front of all the subsequent commands.
  2. Copy the existing /etc/hosts file twice:
    cp /etc/hosts /etc/
    cp /etc/hosts /etc/hosts.home

    The '' file will be the 'restricted' file that will keep you from visiting bad sites.
  3. Open the /etc/ file in a text editor and add in a line for each of the websites you want to restrict access to like this:
  4. Create (or modify) the root cron file using crontab -e. Cron is a task scheduler that is always running, and will execute whatever you add into it. In this case, we're going to swap the hosts file for the length of the workday.
  5. At 9:00 a.m. from Monday to Friday, copy the restrictive "work" hosts file in:
    # Move to the restrictive hosts to keep users off waste sites for the workday
    0 9 * * 1-5 root cp /etc/ /etc/hosts

  6. After 5:00 p.m., return the free "home" hosts file:
    # Move the hosts file back to full access at the end of the workday
    0 5 * * 1-5 root cp /etc/hosts.home /etc/hosts

That's it -- just like magic, any requests between 9-5 on Mon-Fri made to one of your 'restricted' sites will return a 'page load error', making sure that you and I stay on track.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Thank You

To my less security conscious neighbours, who provided unprotected wireless access points to use during the past week while I was waiting for mine to be set up:

Thanks for the bandwidth!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Twitter me this

Yeah, I'm on this now too. Follow me at:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Library up, cowboy!

This post has been working in my head for literally weeks, touched off in large part by a comment that 'z' added to my software roundup post. I've been rewriting it over and over in my head, but I can't come to a perfect solution, so I'll just brain-dump it here, and maybe I can come back to it later.

First off, let me dive back into the mists of time a little. When I first started seriously looking at Apple's product line again, round about when they released OS X, I came across an applications called Delicious Library.

I fell in love with it immediately.

Keep track of all my DVDs, CDs and books? Check. View all my stuff on virtual "bookshelves", using the album/movie/book covers downloaded from Amazon? Check. Keep track of who's got my stuff on loan? Check. Input my collection by scanning the ISBN or UPC code, rather than typing them in by hand? Double Check. (My favourite feature, considering my library is well over 2000+ CDs, DVDs, and books). All-in-all, an absolutely fantastic application, well-designed and thought out, and a KEY selling point for my Mac purchase.

From that moment on, getting a Mac meant buying Delicious Library for it. Then, when I got my MacBook Pro in October of '07, I went to their site with my still-warm credit card in hand, ready to buy. But I hit a common problem for the modern day software shopper: upgrade-itis.

Delicious Library version 1.6 was out, and available for $40 US; but the developers were promising Version 2.0 (cue bells and whistles) ANY DAY NOW. So I held off. Why spend my money on a product that will be obsolete almost immediately? I could upgrade later, but that would be another $20.

Days, then weeks passed with no 2.0 release.

In December, Delicious Monster (the umbrella company -- of 3 coders -- that makes Delicious Library) finally relented to their public and said, "Buy version 1.6 now, and you'll get the 2.0 upgrade for free!" Still I held off. Why learn the 1.6 interface, and import all my books and DVDs, when I can just start fresh with 2.0 when it comes out.

Then the ALPHA(!) release of Delicious Library 2.0 even won a 2007 Apple Design Award for best Leopard application (in my mind, a product should be shipping in order to be award-eligible). More hype and promises of imminent product release.

Then, last month, reviews of 2.0 started coming. AppleInsider. The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW). I pored over these reviews and news items like epistles from on high. Is 2.0 worth the wait? Is it vaporware? Will someone please give me a GD release date??!!!

Both articles mentioned a March release date. Well, guess what? It's now April 1st. (Happy Birthday to me, BTW!). Still no 2.0 release. Still nothing on the Delicious Monster team blog about this release or even a date.

So maybe you'll soon see a review of Delicious Library 2.0 here on 3 o'clock blog. And then again, maybe you won't. I honestly hope that in 2 months, I'll look back on this post and laugh at how over-wrought I was about this product. I really hope.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mac check-in: software

It's been (about) 4 months since I got my MacBook Pro, and here's a quick rundown on the software I've found, and even in some cases paid real money for, since then.

Adium chat client - accesses my MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and most importantly for me, Lotus Sametime chat lists. Full featured and robust with good notifications
Scrivener writing application - ties research, notes, ideas and writing all together. Time to dust off my novel drafts and get them back on track [props to Ryan Chase for passing this one along]
Apple mail client - the integration with Gmail's IMAP capability has made this my main mail client (outside of work, where -- shudder -- Lotus Notes is mandatory).
Alphababy - this locks out your keyboard and trackpad, and turns every key into a letter/shape generator for kids. Awesome fun for those under 5.
Unisudoku - Gets my Sudoku fix fixed. I even paid money for this, so you know it's gotta be good.

That's enough for today. I'll post more another day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Where Julie meets a Tiger

My last post mentioned my technology resolutions for the year. 18 days in and I can cross one off the list:
Upgrade Julie's G3 laptop to 768 MB of RAM, and push the OS from Panther to Tiger

Upgrading the RAM was fairly painless. I bought a 512 MB stick from the good folks at (this older type of RAM is hard to find, so a big thumbs up to the CanadaRAM crew for having it on hand). Installation was also aided by the step-by-step instructions at After a reboot, 768 MB shows up on the system info screen. Awesome.

Part two was a lot more complicated. I was originally inspired by this article at, which suggested using an older iPod as a installation drive for Leopard (I presumed Tiger would follow the same process). As I have a 20 GB model handy, I naively expected this to work perfectly. My first sticking point was that my copy of Tiger (the one that came with my MacBook Pro) was tied to the hardware, and could not be used to install on Julie's G3 iBook laptop, or anything else that wasn't a Macbook Pro.

I managed to track down a retail copy of the Tiger (10.4) installation DVD, but one of the key problems is that Julie's iBook doesn't have a DVD drive. The lifehacker article shows you how to get around this problem by creating an image of the DVD (on my MacBook), then erasing the iPod and copying that image to the iPod so that the iBook can use it just like a DVD drive. This worked great, except that the older 10.2 version of OS X on the iBook didn't have the "Disk Utility" to allow me to define which disk (the iBook hard drive or the iPod) should be used as the start-up boot drive.

The solution was to start up the iBook (with the iPod plugged in) while holding down the Apple and c keys. This made the iBook boot off an external device and showed me the Tiger installation menu. From there, I was able to install Tiger directly on the laptop in about 30 minutes.

Julie seems to be really happy with the new OS and the responsiveness that an extra 512 MB of RAM brings to her laptop. One resolution down, many more to go.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Technical Resolutions

Every year at this time, we all make resolutions for the coming year. Things we'd like to improve, parts of ourselves we'd like to change, etc. I'm no exception to this, as I like to use this time to take stock of what I like about myself and what I could work on this year.

As a bonus for all my 3 o'clock blog readers, I'm going to post some of the technological improvements I'd like to make, and keep you up to date on how things are going.

Here's my list so far:

* Upgrade Julie's G3 laptop to 768 MB of RAM, and push the OS from Panther to Tiger
* Move all my work-based applications onto my MacBook Pro (i.e. stop the dual-system dilemma)
* Reduce my technological footprint - by this, I mean that I want to significantly simplify the amounts of similar tech that I have. For God's sake, I have 4 printers in my office - how did that happen?
* Blog more regularly. Less complex posts means more frequency. I'll try to document steps taken for bigger projects, but expect more brief hits with lesser detail.

Hope to see more of you in 2008!