Archive for August, 2009

Turtle Strikes a Pose

Saturday, August 29th, 2009
Red-Eared Slider with Blossom

Every now and then, a critter will strike a pose for me.

This red-eared slider showed up a week or so ago at the landing site for the Smith’s Fern Grotto tour, a boat trip along the Wailua river with a short walk through the jungle.

They had been looking for the turtle to re-appear. Of course, Roger found it — he has 20/10 vision and finds life in the most surprising places.

Red-eared sliders have become ubiquitous the world over as they are the most popular aquatic turtle kept as pets. We found a rather much larger red-eared slider in Missouri.


Saturday, August 29th, 2009
skimboard Splash

We have spent the last week in Kauai, Hawaii having a bit of a break from life.

Awesome time.

While sitting on the beach, a guy showed up with a skimboard and started carving the waves of Kalapaki beach. A skimboard is a wonderful way to turn rather small waves into a bit of fun.

He was having a good run at tossing parts of each wave this way and that.

skimboard Fail

But even the small waves can bite back…

Fortunately, spout over handle in the water leads to a relatively soft landing.

(Thanks, Corbin, for the correction!)

^ Blocks Tips & Tricks

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Ok, I lied… next post about Blocks won’t be about the innards. At least not directly.

Having worked with Blocks for a while, I thought I’d share some tips, tricks and gotchas.

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Basic Blocks

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Now that Snow Leopard has shipped, the Blocks Programming Topics is available from Go have a read; it is a great primer for Blocks.

This post is focused solely on the core syntax of Blocks; declaring a block and calling a block.

Blocks are closures for C.

That is, a block is an anonymous inline collection of code that (Note: lexical scope means function or method or {}-surrounded collection of statements:

  • has a typed argument list just like a function
  • has an inferred or declared return type
  • can capture state from the lexical scope within which it is defined
  • can optionally modify the state of the lexical scope
  • can share the potential for modification with other blocks defined within the same lexical scope
  • can continue to share and modify state defined within the lexical scope [the stack frame] after the lexical scope [the stack frame] has been destroyed

Blocks is available in GCC and Clang as shipped with the Snow Leopard Xcode developer tools. The Blocks runtime is open source and can be found within LLVM’s compiler-rt subproject repository. Blocks have also been presented to the C standards working group as N1370: Apple’s Extensions to C (which also includes Garbage Collection).

As Objective-C and C++ are both derived from C, Blocks are designed to work fine with all three languages. Thus, the syntax reflects this goal.

A block is introduced using the ^ — the caret — character. The ^ was chosen as it had no unary form (and C++ couldn’t operator overload it).

For the purposes of an excruciatingly simple example, how about a block that multiplies two numbers?

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Furu Sato

Monday, August 17th, 2009
Tuna Salad with Cucumber Rolls

My favorite restaurants are ones where I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat. Just as I wouldn’t expect a chef to tell me how he wants me to implement some specific feature in a piece of software I work on, my ideal relationship with a restaurant is one where the chef is free to serve to me whatever they feel is optimal.

Which makes Furu Sato one of a handful of my very favorite restaurants.

The Japanese refer to this style of dining as omakase. Another favorite restaurant — Tanto — has served me some fantastic omakase meals.

What follows are a series of photos of a couple of typical meals consumed at Furu Sato.

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AT&T U-Verse: Configuring for Back To My Mac

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Upon switching to AT&T’s U-Verse service, I had a bit of “fun” configuring the 2wire modem.

At the end of it, the Mobile Me Back To My Mac feature didn’t work. That bummed me out; it is an incredibly useful feature.

The problem is that the 2wire modems don’t support either NAT-PMP (NAT Port Mapping Protocol) or UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). A bit surprising.

To fix, the key is to make the 2wire modem as dumb and invisible as possible. Treat it like the incapable box that it is.

You will need a UPnP or NAT-PMP capable router (or a machine that you can configure as a router– Mac OS X’s built in “Internet Sharing” works just fine).

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BrownBlack Widow Saturday Revisited

Saturday, August 15th, 2009
Black Widow Top

For whatever reason, the black widow population in our neighborhood has skyrocketed this year.

They are relatively non-aggressive and harmless when left alone, but they are a nuisance and can be a hazard.

One of the toddlers around the corner got bitten earlier in the summer. 2 days of all over muscle cramping followed by 2 weeks of flu like symptoms. The spider had taken up residence in the stroller and didn’t like being sat upon.

An accident, assuredly. While black & brown widow are voracious consumers of pest bugs, I would much rather have some other species of spiders around.

This particular critter had taken up resident in an antique toy truck that had been rusting in the yard for a while.

Beautiful creature. I hadn’t seen a black widow with such distinct markings on its back. That’s because it isn’t a black widow, but a brown widow (thanks, Mark!!). If there were any doubt that it is a widow, the picture of the spider’s belly below will lay that question to rest.

Black Widow Underside

I do hate to kill anything, but this one met The Big Squish in the middle of the street.

AT&T U-Verse: Canceling the TV Portion

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

AT&T won’t sell you U-Verse internet service without a bundle that includes the U-Verse TV package. However, you can order a U-Verse package and then cancel the TV without a problem. It is not unlikely that you’ll run into sales/support people that say otherwise. Ignore them and call back, they will cancel it and there is nothing in the contract that says otherwise.

Since the (very nice & competent) installer installed the TV box along with the 2wire modem/router, I decided to give the TV services a try since we effectively have it for free for a month.

Canceled after 20 minutes.

The service includes a TiVo wannabe box that offers the channel guide, recording options, etc…

It is crap. There appears to be no way to automatically filter the channels down to just what you receive. In my case, that means that the 100 channels I received were interlaced with 350 channels I don’t receive.

There isn’t even an indication in the guide of what channels you receive. The only way to tell is to sit on the channel long enough for it to either show content or a blue box in the PiP window.

There are virtually no setup options, SD channels look awful and are not scaled properly (hell, video from YouTube often looks better on the Apple TV than the typical SD channel on U-Verse, and the HD channels look about like what I would expect from the SD channels.

Then, of course, there is the issue that AT&T can do little about. The actual broadcast content available is just garbage. Between the commercials, the interstitials, and the other noise, there isn’t much time or space left for actual show content.

The sports packages look fairly impressive, I suppose. Not my bag of rice and, thus, further rendering the service useless in comparison to NetFlix’s Watch Instantly, Apple TV, and Amazon’s Unbox.

I just wish I could have the TV’s 25mbps for Internet Stuff.

AT&T U-Verse: Configuring the 2Wire Modem

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

I needed more bandwidth. Mostly, uplink bandwidth more than downlink, but an upgrade to both was desired.

Given that AT&T is not currently being terribly evil, I decided to go with their U-Verse service that just became available in our neighborhood.

For $65/month (ouch, but… no, just ouch), I’m getting a consistent 17-18mbps down and 1.4-1.5mbps up with very low latency. Beyond the obvious bump in download and upload speed, it certainly makes screensharing to the office far more pleasant.

Of course, with a new network connection comes a new modem. My previous service (SBC/AT&T DSL) used a crappy Motorola based modem that pretty much did nothing (other than crash when routing iChat video unless I moved to using PPPoE on an AirPort Extreme).

Note: The 2wire modem doesn’t implement the standards necessary to support Back To My Mac. At the moment, it seems that BTMM simply will not work with AT&Ts U-Verse. The 2wire modem can be configured to support Back To My Mac; the configuration leaves your network a tiny bit more exposed to the Internet and, thus, I’ll leave these instructions as is and keep the other article up to date with the BTMM specific configuration.

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Learning to Ride A Bicycle All Over Again

Saturday, August 8th, 2009
Biking Bbum

I have always enjoyed bike riding. I used to stay in the saddle for many consecutive hours in 100+ degree humid midwest weather and loved every minute of it. And mountain biking the Rio Grande Valley in Andrew Stone’s backyard was an absolute blast!

It is something that I missed in New York and Connecticut. When we moved to California, one of the requirements was that I was within biking distance of work.

After a few years of sporadic biking habits, I have been biking to work pretty much every day since the spring of this year and, achieving such consistency and a bit of back pain along with it, felt that it was time to consider an upgrade.

bbum relax-o-bike

I wanted something comfortable. Something that wouldn’t hurt my back or, frankly, my ass.

I had a chance to briefly ride a recumbent off The Bike Doctor’s truck and was immediately sold on it. The good doctor is also a Bacchetta dealer and the source of said bike. He took great care in tuning and fitting the bike. Highly recommended.

Specifically, the bike is a slightly modified Bacchetta Giro 20. Instead of rim brakes, mine has disc brakes as they perform much better when wet and won’t rub at the slightest bit of out-of-round of the wheel. I also added a botleholder and rear rack.

So comfortable and such a natural position to be using one’s legs. All of the power of a leg press, but in a highly mobile form.

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