Archive for August, 2006

Dock & Genie effect: Stupid Hack of the Day

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

John Gruber has discovered that window contents remain live during the genie minimization effect on Mac OS X. There are other animations on the system that will also be slowed by the shift key. Exposé is the most obvious.

Here is a stupid/fun little hack:

  • Type killall Dock into a Terminal window (but don’t hit return)
  • Minimize a window while holding shift (slow minimize)
  • quickly bring forward the Terminal window and hit return

The Dock controls the minimization animation and, when killed while it is running, the above will leave the warped window on screen in its warped form. All of the contents in the window continue to display and work correctly, though mouse tracking is completely borked.

(I don’t remember how I stumbled on this one.)

Magnetic Knife Holder

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

In the last year, I received some excellent cooking knives as a gift. Ones that will hold an edge if properly stored.

Now, proper storage does not mean in a drawer with a bunch of other knives. All that knocking about quickly destroys the edge.

Nor does “proper storage” mean in a wood block with slots. It collects moisture and food bits in the dark crevices, creating an ideal breeding ground for all kinds of nasties.

Knives should be stored such that their blades never knock about while also being completely visible.

A magnetic knife holder will serve the purpose quite nicely. Poking about Amazon, I found the MIU France Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Holder. Beyond the striking design, it is quite well made with a rounded lip around the edge that the knives rest against, thus reducing the potential for trapping liquids between magnet and blade.

One last tip: Never put good knives in the dishwasher as it will rapidly degrade the blades. I have knives (that I don’t care about — but will start doing so now that I can store them properly along with my good knives) that have been in/out of the dishwasher for more than 5 years. Might as well try cutting with a random piece of sheet metal.

And it is one hell of a lot better / safer than balancing the damned knives on top of a cockeyed spice rack (now gone) as I had been doing for the past few months.

Spammers vs. Spam Karma 2 (and Akismet)

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Since moving to WordPress 2, I had been relying on the built in Akismet to take care of all the rat bastard spammer droppings. It has done the job nicely, averaging over a thousand spams filtered a month.

Akismet contacts a central server to check if an inbound comment is spam. It is free for personal use and requires an API key to use.

Akismet generally works great but, occasionally, a large batch of spam would end up in my moderation queue. By large batch, I mean 30 to 100 spamments a day. This may have been because Akismet’s central server was down or because the spammers hit my weblog with a pattern that hadn’t been updated in the central store.

Who knows? It was seriously annoying.

In WordPress 1, I had used Spam Karma to block spam. It worked quite well. Spam Karma applies a huge number of configurable tests to each comment, calculating a total karmic value to the comment. If the karmic value is positive, the message is passed through and posted. If negative, it is blocked. Any comment with a Karma between 0 and -20 is sent to me in a daily email digest for verification. Anything below -20 is tossed (I have seen comments with karmic values less than -500. Ouch.)

Fortunately, the two work together just great. Since installing SK, I have yet to see a bit of spam make it through the filters. More importantly, I have yet to see a legitimate comment dumped into the bit bucket.

Total time saver. I dropped $20 in the Spam Karma donation box — worth every penny. Akismet is free for personal use until your weblog(s) generated $500/month. I’m nowhere near that limit, but I bought a $55 annual subscription to support the worthy cause of stomping spamming rat bastards.

Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis)

Saturday, August 26th, 2006
Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis)

We have been seeing a number of these beetles around the house over the past few weeks. They are just gorgeous with super shiny green metallic undersides and copper-green wings.

As seen in this picture, the beetles don’t bite and are quite handle-able. They are easy to care for and have a habit of “going to ground” when kept in captivity. It takes 10 minutes or so for them to “wake up” when taken out of its cage.

It can fly, though isn’t terribly coordinated about it.

Roger is now gathering the larvae in hopes that we can raise a whole herd of the things.

Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis)

A bit of research revealed that it is a Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis). It also known as a June Bug, but that name I reserve for the annoying little brown bugs that flit about in a generally annoying fashion. The adult figeater beetle primarily feed on rotten or over-mature fruit while the larva tend to live in compost heaps and the like. In other words, definitely not a pest species.

This also makes it quite easy to feed. Have a peach going bad? Or a tomato? Feed it to the beetle.

As soon as I build my lightbox, I’m going to put one in the freezer long enough to slow it down a bit and then try to get some interesting macro shots.

Grilled Honey Chicken

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Last night, I wanted to slow-roast a chicken (BGE, of course), and briefly thought about making a plain chicken to ensure that Roger — who doesn’t yet like spicy things — would enjoy it too.

But, of course, I couldn’t just leave the damned bird alone.

So, I took a spoon and — like when spicing a bird under the skin — separated the skin from the meat at the neck, going down the back and breasts (do the same thing and stuff the bird with rosemary and diced lemons…)

I then filled the resulting cavities with quite a lot of honey and drizzled more honey on the outside of the bird.

The bird was roasted at about 270 to 300 degrees for a couple of hours (until the internal temperature hit 165 degrees). I went with the slightly higher temperature to caramelize some of the honey’s sugar. The bird was propped up on a “chickcan” rack. That link leads to the product at Amazon — decent price, but you can find better if you hunt around at local stores. Definitely worth it — totally stabilizes the chicken, which tend to fall over when simply placed on a can.

It worked brilliantly. There were sections of crispy-sweet skin on top of incredibly succulent, honey soaked, perfectly cooked, chicken meat. Roger loved it — devoured it — and everyone else thought it was delicious, too.

Hex Fiend 1.1 is out

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Hex Fiend 1.1 is out. Lots of tweaks, fixes, and polish.

… and also one very funny and educational write-up of how to maximize read throughput when scanning really bloody large files.

I don’t need a hex editor often. When I do, Hex Fiend just completely kicks ass. Fast. Flexible. Just works.

Disney’s Fast Play (Or Marketing of a Flipped Bit)

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

My wife and I are huge Disney movie fans. Grew up on ’em and our son — Roger — gets a healthy dose of Disney movies because we enjoy them so much.

Now, anyone who has consumed a Disney DVD in the last 5 years has likely been annoyed that the rat bastards producing the DVDs stuck a good 10 to 20 minutes worth of previews at the beginning of the flick and disabled the menu button to bypass the previews (track forward works, generally, but that is awfully annoying).

We received Chicken Little from Netflix today and I noticed that it features “Disney’s Fast Play Technology”.

When inserted, you get the choice between “Fast Play” and “Main Menu”.

If you make the mistake of hitting “Fast Play”, you get upwards of 10 minutes of promo crap before the movie starts — just like before.

If you hit “main menu” you get, well, the main menu from which you can actually play the movie directly.

That’s right. Fast Play is the slow way to the feature.

So, not only has Disney added a feature that should have been present from the beginning — enabling the menu button all the time — but they have managed to make it so totally bass ackwards as to leave one wondering exactly how bad the crack was that the producers and marketeers were clearly smoking. The damned bit got inverted between implementation and marketing.

While completely a marketing gimmick, that is no excuse for going out of their ways to make the UI as confusing as possible. From a design perspective, this is just plain stupid and actually worse than the original linear force-the-marketing-pap-on-the-consumer implementation.



Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

My neighbors have these odd looking plants in front of their house. They are rather large and in even larger pots. Quite gangly, with long thin leaves and odd root like things sticking out here and there.

Recently, they set buds and the neighbors indicated that they are “Orchid Cactus” (though they have absolutely nothing to do with orchids) or, more technically, Epiphyllum. The University of Missouri (my home town, coincidentally) has an interesting Epi page.

The neighbors invited me to take photos when the blooms finally opened and gave me a call when they did. The flowers are spectacular, the buds being nearly a foot long and opening into beautiful mostly white, very fragrant, flowers upwards of 10″ in diameter.

Epiphyllum Lit From Behind

The flowers only last one night. Because they bloom at dusk and into the evening, I grabbed my tripod and took some relatively long exposures, occasionally using a flashlight to backlight a bloom.

It was quite the fun bit of photography.

Epiphyllum w/Moth

While taking one of the exposures, I heard something buzzing about the blooms. It sounded like a hummingbird, which was rather odd given that it was about 10pm.

A bit of frantic flashlight waving later, we discovered that it was a huge moth. Impossible to get a photo of it in flight, but I grabbed several shots of it quite literally climbing all the way into a blossom, thus completely covering itself in pollen before heading off to the next bloom.

Rarely have I met a moth that makes such a racket when it flies around. Hard to tell in the photo, but the body was 3″ to 4″ long.

Daring Fireball on the supposed Mac Wireless Vulnerability

Monday, August 21st, 2006

From the moment that Krebs (in his Washington Post weblog) broke the whole “Macs can be hacked via Airport in 60 seconds or less” supposed vulnerability discovered by Ellch/Maynor at Black Hat, the whole thing has stunk as sensationalist and clueless journalism blowing things way out of proportion.

I wanted to write something about it, but had zero time to research (WWDC had me just a wee bit busy).

Daring Fireball has followed up in great detail. Worthy read. It will be interesting to see how Krebs/Ellch/Maynor spin things from here out.

For example, a suggested headline for Krebs’ follow-up article’s title (since the one he choose was not as stupisational as the original):

I’m a Gullible Rube and Got So Excited I Nearly Stained My Pants at the Thought of Breaking a Story on a Major Mac Security Exploit

Update: I agree with someone who said that Gruber needs an editor. While long and generally full of content, there is probably about 30% of the word count that could be shaved while preserving both the quality and humor of the content. Still, good writing and I’m happy to have my $30 classic DF shirt!

If you want to see what others are saying about the DF article (or any weblog article, for that matter), just plug it into Technorati:

Curious Case @ Technorati

Castle Rock State Park

Sunday, August 20th, 2006
Roger on top of a Rock

Christine, Roger and I headed up to Castle Rock State Park for a bit of hiking today.

We did a 3.2 mile loop with quite a bit of ups and downs. Great hike.

Mystery Purple Wildflower

After the typical 4 months of hot dry weather that the Santa Cruz mountains sees prior to mid August, there is very little in bloom. If it weren’t for the mosses that survive on the evening fog, it would look like a desert.

It seems like only yellow flowers bloom in this season. At least, that were the only blooms we saw.

Until we found this one purple flower along the trail. It is in a section that is usually loaded with flowers of several different colors.

I have no idea what it is, but it sure is striking in this season of mostly brown with a few greens.

Butterfly in Castle Rock State Park

There was also a species of butterfly flitting about throughout the hike that I hadn’t seen before. One finally landed long enough to take a few shots.

Again, no idea what species this is. Was certainly quite beautiful and many of the creatures were curious — flying around our heads for a bit before heading off to parts unknown.