Archive for January, 2006

Cyclone Update: What the hell was living in this thing?

Friday, January 13th, 2006
Upper Playfield Disassembly 1.jpg

Over the weekend, I finally mustered the courage to tear into the upper playfield of the Cyclone. The “upper” playfield is everything beyond the big open area just above the flippers. It also happens to be the part of the playfield that pivots down and into the machine when you lift the playfield. Coincidentally with being the least accessible part of the playfield, it is also the most complex as it is where all the tight shots, loops, ramps, and complex targets are layered together.

Upper Playfield Disassembly 39.jpg

In other words, there really isn’t any way to tear into the upper playfield without pretty much removing all ramps and most plastics from the playfield. That big pile you see in the first image to the left was quickly turned into a pile of ramps, screws, plastic bits, and washers/spacers seen on my work desk to the right.

Upper Playfield Disassembly 43.jpg

The end result can be seen to the left. Most of the toys have been removed and only a handful of plastics need to be pulled to gain access to the grime, lamps, and rubbers hidden underneath the multiple layers of playfield components.

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Google Earth for Mac: Big Disappointment

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Google has released a Macintosh Google Earth client. In short, a sub-par user experience sitting on top of a brilliant treasure trove of data.

The mapping features are amazing. The actual rendering is significantly higher resolution than the map data available through Google Maps and the app offers a slew of useful data overlays.

That is where the positive note ends. The user interface is poorly designed and only cosmetically resembles a Mac OS X application. There is a huge amount of screen real estate wasted on rarely used controls, thus reducing the Map area to a relatively tiny portion of the screen.

During operation, the application’s responsiveness is extremely choppy. Many things do not track the mouse as one expects after having used just about any other Macintosh application.

Update: click on through for the rest of the story with an update…..
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Garmin to offer Mac Support!!?!!?!?!??

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Garmin has announced future support for the Mac platform. Wow. This will make Garmin the first company ever to actually have a piece of GPS hardware with control software on the Mac OS X.

There have been many GPS packages for the Macintosh, but none that actually allow manipulating the set of base maps on the device or otherwise interacting with the proprietary features of the targeted device.

Neat. After 6 or so years of owning a Magellan GPS receiver and suffering with their horribly bad windows client, it looks like I’ll be purchasing a Garmin in the next year. Given the level of response to a number of previous posts I have made in regards to the state of GPS on Mac, I’m betting that Garmin will be seeing quite a bit of pent up demand for their products.

I really hope that their client is decent. Please make it a native app — Carbon or Cocoa — and please make it look and feel like a real Macintosh application.

MarsEdit vs. PHP: dropping ‘class=’ from posts

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

MarsEdit 1.1 is out. It adds a number of nice new features and bug fixes. I use MarsEdit to edit all my weblog posts. It is a great tool.

Coincidentally, WordPress 2.0 was also recently released. WordPress is a nice enough weblog publishing engine. For me, the most important features were decent comments, useful permalinks, and a lot of canned templates so I didn’t have to torture myself any more than necessary with debugging random software. “It just works” was my mantra in choosing WordPress.

Of course, it doesn’t always “just work”. In particular, since upgrading to 2.0, posts made through MarsEdit that included class= attributes on div tags — what I use to float images left and right (amongst other things) — were being blown away.

Yuck.

After wading into some PHP code (GROSS! What a horrible piece of coding torture that was), the problem proved to be relatively easy to “fix”.

The file wp-includes/kses.php implements a filter that strips all posts of nefarious bits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let the class= attribute through on div tags.

The fix is easy, even if it most be made in about a 2k character long single line of code.

Just add class => array() to the div tag specification:

'div' => array ('class' => array(), 'align' => array ())

There is a MarsEdit forum discussion and a WordPress bug.

Aperture vs. iPhoto ’05

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006
Agapanthus Bud
Agapanthus Bud

On the right is an image that I originally edited in iPhoto. On the left is the same image edited through Aperture. I don’t believe I cropped the photo in iPhoto, but both images had a slight bump to saturation. Probably the key difference is that Aperture allowed me to highlight the blowouts — the overexposed areas — within the photo and adjust accordingly.

I’m looking forward to playing with iPhoto ’06. I will likely end up exporting photos from Aperture into iPhoto ’06 to take advantage of the whole iLife integration.

This is, of course, a completely random sample from which not very much of a conclusion can be drawn.

Butterflies, Santa Cruz, and State Beaches

Saturday, January 7th, 2006
Monarch Butterflies at Lighthouse State Beach_1.jpg

Roger and I headed down to Santa Cruz today. Roger specifically wanted to go see the Monarch Butterflies at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Unfortunately, the butterflies had moved out of that location as a result of the massive storms in Northern California a couple of weeks ago. There were only a few fluttering about.

There is a second Monarch wintering location at Lighthouse Field State Beach. As seen in the picture, there were still thousands of monarchs at the location. Click through to see a wider angle view of a tree completely covered in monarchs. It was incredible.

Amazingly, Lighthouse Field State Beach is located right in the middle of the Santa Cruz city coastline. If you have ever been to SC, the grove with the monarchs is an easy walk from the wharf and boardwalk.

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Electric Sheep & Stone Design

Thursday, January 5th, 2006
ElectricSheep.org Example

Imagine the image to the left fully animated. Tendrils of colorful fractal gooiness whipping around and about. Perfectly smooth. Gorgeous.

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Stone of Stone Design pinged me to test a new client for electric sheep. Yesterday, there was an official press release announcing the availability of the new client.

The new client uses opengl based textures to vastly improve the playback quality and Andrew also added a couple of nice features.

ElectricSheep is the coolest screensaver around. The fractals are evolved by taking the favorite animations (you can rate any given animation as it is playing in the screensaver) and using their parameters to generate new animations.

Spot — Scott Draves — is also working on Dreams in High Definition. An HD version of Electric Sheep that will playback on custom appliances specifically dedicated to said purpose. I have seen some of the hi-res movies and they are flat out amazing.

Update: There is a zen like aspect of running Electric Sheep for the first time. It may take a long time — hours — before it downloads the first sheep. This is because it takes a completely lackadaisical approach to filling the local cache with animations. Just let it run for a while. It’ll get around to it on its own time.

Scott Adams’s weblog

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

Scott Adams (Dilbert author) has a weblog. In it, he says all the things that he can’t say in the comic strip. He criticizes his own work, makes fun of everything and everyone, and is both thought provoking and damned funny.

In a post called Clever Or Stupid – You Decide, Scott discussed part of a recently published comic and inviting reader commentary in regards to “violating the third wall”.

Scott followed up with an absolutely hilarious post that appears to have been deleted. Fortunately, I have it in my NetNewsWire cache. An excerpt:

A surprising number of you accused me of “violating a wall” in some sort of intimate fashion. I think I speak for every guy who has ever passed through puberty when I say, “Yes, I have violated a wall.” It wasn’t bad either. It was no floor, mind you, but not the worst I’ve had. As the inanimates go, a wall is relatively attractive.

Later, he mentions moccasins and vacuum cleaners. And his mom.

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