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February 16, 2011

SSD ()

by fluffy at 11:15 PM

I finally got sick of how crappy my laptop's hard drive was for Logic, and upgraded to a nice big SSD. Holy cats this thing is fast. 190MB/sec write speeds, booting is really fast (it's kind of weird having all my startup apps start up right at startup!) and everything works great. I also managed to get it for $445 shipped; the deal at SSD Solutions seemed too good to be true, but the reviews said it was legit, and yeah, so far it's exceeded expectations. Not a refurb, not an obvious bootleg... I think they might be loss-leading in an attempt at becoming a "featured merchant" on Amazon (since right now they're pretty much buried in the listings).

Transferring data from my old drive was pretty easy. I used a SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 Adapter and the Mac OS X data migration tool (which was also nice enough to let me turn off transfer of my iTunes folder, which is way too big and is now going to live on my NAS, with all the problems that implies).

I think the most striking thing about it is just how quiet my computer is when the CPU fan hasn't kicked in. I hadn't realized how much of its idle noise was the hard drive. It's also running a lot cooler and presumably the battery will last longer. I am also of course looking forward to not having Logic constantly complain about a "system overload" every time I try recording on a project that I haven't gotten entirely in the readahead cache after letting my computer go to sleep for a couple seconds.

Any mod_rewrite gurus out there? (, , )

by fluffy at 10:50 PM

As an attempt at getting rid of some stupid spammers who are also trying to exploit nonexistent scripts on my site, I'm trying to redirect all requests that contain /../ in the original request URI (which are basically guaranteed to be an exploit attempt) elsewhere. However, it looks like mod_rewrite is only performing the substitution rule on the resolved path (i.e. it's treating /foo/../bar/ as /bar/) despite the fact that the REQUEST_URI environment variable still has the original /../-containing expression in it. I know my regexp is written correctly because the rule is working on other things (such as QUERY_STRING and HTTP_REFERER).

So, does anyone know if there's any configurations to mod_rewrite which might fix this behavior?

It's not a big deal but I've noticed a high correlation between the spammers who get through and the folks who are trying to find stupid CGI exploits and I figure anything that trips them up can only help.

February 14, 2011

C++ wishlist: Abstract-on-subclass (, )

by fluffy at 6:50 PM

In C++ you can mark a method as being abstract pretty trivially, e.g.:

class A {
  virtual foo() = 0;

which makes it so that you can't instantiate anything that derives from A until the method foo has an implementation. This is a very useful pattern.

What it's missing, however, is a way of insisting that every instantiable instance of A must provide its own implementation of foo; for example:

class A {
  virtual foo() = 0;

class B: public A {
  virtual foo() {}

class C: public B {

It would be nice if in this case, there were a way to make it so you can't instance C until it gets its own implementation of foo.

Of course, the situation I've run into where this would be exceptionally useful (having a complex DOM which needs per-class script bindings) is kind of nichey, and I can't really see it adding much value to the language as a whole. Still, I can dream...

January 7, 2011

My current Pixelmator wishlist (, )

by fluffy at 9:19 AM

I'm trying Pixelmator yet again. It's made a lot of positive progress since the last time I wrote about it in detail (especially regarding its pressure-sensitive brush engine, which is now just as good as Photoshop's), but there's still a bunch of stuff that could be better, and which still keep me from switching:

  • Selection refinement (still) isn't particularly useful. There needs to be a way of growing/shrinking by a specific number of pixels (rather than percentage), and keyboard access to those values (right now only "smooth" ever gets keyboard focus, for some reason)
  • There (still) needs to be a brush set on a per-tool basis, rather than globally. Having to constantly switch between a small brush (for sketching and inking) and a large brush (for erasing) sucks. (This is the main thing that stops me from switching.)
  • It would be nice if there were automatic non-destructive layer styles like in Photoshop; in particular, I use Stroke a lot, and not having that is really irritating.
  • Magic Wand and Paint Bucket (still) need a way of restricting their area based on the full image, not just on the current layer.

Every version gets a lot more features that add gee-whiz factor, but none of them seem to address what I feel are basic workflow issues for producing art digitally. If the Pixelmator guys would at least acknowledge these requests on their forum I might feel more confident in my purchase (which I've made again thanks to the categorical App Store transition), but I'm starting to get a bit worried that they don't actually care.

January 2, 2011

Android vs. "Google Phone" ()

by fluffy at 1:52 PM

Bynkii wrote his thoughts on why Android phones are not Google phones:

Folks, there's been one Google phone. One. If you don't have a Nexus One, you don't have a Google phone. You have a <CARRIERNAME> <HARDWAREMANUFACTURER> <MODEL> running <modifiedversionofAndroidrelease>. The only thing Google has to do with those devices is that last part. They put out a version release and associated reference materials for each Android release. But you're not running that, are you? Not unless you've jailbroken/rooted your device you aren't. You're running a modified version that <CARRIERNAME> told <HARDWAREMANUFACTURER> to put on the <MODEL> you bought.

I agree with his conclusion that Android phone ≠ Google phone, but I disagree with his reason. I posted a comment there, but for my own purposes I've repeated it here.

December 14, 2010

Fund a Net Neutrality PSA (, )

by fluffy at 9:02 AM
My friend Mark is working on an animated PSA for Net Neutrality, and he's trying to raise $3000 to finish it. What I've seen so far is pretty good, and right now we need to get the message out more than ever. Please consider sending some funds his way!

December 1, 2010

Dreaming of electric sheep ()

by fluffy at 8:24 AM
Lately I've been having lots of sleep cycle troubles, so I decided to try buying a new one. It doesn't do anything to help you get to sleep but it does purport to track your sleep cycle (based on your movements in bed) and tries to wake you up when you're most ready.

November 30, 2010

My Android music player wishlist (, )

by fluffy at 11:04 PM
It's silly for me to carry around both my Android phone and my iPod and to have to juggle the two of them when I want to listen to music while using decent apps. I'd really like a music player/sync solution for Android which does the following:
  1. Synchronize from an iTunes smart playlist, and be able to play it in the playlist order
  2. Keep track of play counts, and synchronize that information (or at least "last play" and optionally "last skip") back to iTunes

November 17, 2010

I hate my Mac ()

by fluffy at 12:13 AM
So, my two-year-old MacBook Pro has a rather annoying issue where, due to a stupid turn of events, 3Gbps hard drives don't work very well in it (note the size of that discussion). Unfortunately, all the affordable large hard drives on the market are 3Gbps. I could either be stuck with a tiny drive (untenable) or be stuck with a system that pauses for 30 seconds every few minutes when I'm doing anything that causes a periodic disk prefetch to coincide with a full cache (such as playing an mp3).

Since I only ever use my MacBook as a desktop I'd much rather just get a desktop computer with dual monitor outputs anyway. But there are two things that keep me using a Mac: FireWire (because even a cheap FireWire interface kicks the crap out of even the most expensive USB ones, and anyway I already have an excellent FireWire interface that I see no reason to replace) and Logic Studio, which is the only DAW software I feel comfortable with (not for lack of trying dozens of others).

November 16, 2010

One step forward, several steps back (, , )

by fluffy at 3:50 PM
An intersection of confluent issues with how Google and GMail handle their various accounts has just made my life much more difficult, again.

October 15, 2010

Why home 3D movies are worse than in the theater (, )

by fluffy at 7:51 PM
Today I got the promotional Blu-Ray discs that came free (after registration) with my new TV. So far I'm just watching the promo disc, with clips from a bunch of movies. The various window violations are just as bad in the home as in the theater (only it's a bit worse due to the window being smaller), but then as I have also discovered, it's a bit counterintuitive to disable MotionFlow (240Hz motion interpolation) on my TV when there's a 3D signal, at least not when it's being played through my Blu-Ray player. As a result, animation looks like a cheap video game cut scene, and live action looks like a crappy soap opera.

I absolutely hate MotionFlow, and always turn it off whenever I can. Since it also increases lag, "game mode" generally disables it, so it might not be so bad if I play it through my PS3 — although the PS3 is also significantly louder than the dedicated Blu-Ray player. It merits further experimentation, at least.

Fortunately, there is a way to turn it off: put the system into "theater" mode, and then the sickeningly-smooth 240Hz drops down to the 24Hz that it should be. Unfortunately, that also does a lot of other things to the image, like making it a bit darker (I guess you're expected to have your lights off) and so on, and also screws with the sound (putting it into some sort of "cinema audio" mode). BUT: game mode also turns off MotionFlow (to decrease input lag) and also keeps the nice wide image dynamic range.

It's a bit annoying how I seem to have to fiddle with things more to undo all the "OMG WOW" features that are turned on by default though. Oh man I wish I had a lawn to tell people to get off of right about now.

October 5, 2010

Immersion (, , )

by fluffy at 8:21 AM
So for some reason I decided to spend a lot of money on another toy.

October 3, 2010

Permutations ()

by fluffy at 12:43 AM
So, an online acquaintance recently posed the classic problem:
Use each of the digits 1-9 exactly once each to fill in the blanks in this equation:
_ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ = 33333
Of course, instead of solving it myself, I wrote a simple program to brute-force the solution. My solution worked by very quickly generating permutations and then testing to see which permutations led to the desired answer. Maybe not the cleverest way of solving the problem, but it was a fun challenge anyway.

But then that got me thinking: what properties could I find in other possible solution values? 33333 is all well and good but there's actually 95063 possible numbers that could be solved for (12345-9876 thru 98765-1234).

September 2, 2010

Initial impressions of iTunes 10 (, , )

by fluffy at 8:22 AM
The first thing that struck me was how different the user interface was. Apple have yet again disregarded their own UI mechanisms in order to make iTunes look different than everything else. The window control "stoplight" is now arranged vertically, and all of the icons in the app are monochrome and low-contrast. Even for someone with normal vision like me, it makes major parts of the UI a lot harder to see and parse at a glance.

They also hid the AirPlay (nee AirTunes) stuff in a little tiny widget in the corner, which makes it much less clear if AirPlay is available, and they just use a gray vs. blue icon to indicate whether it's active. You have to click on it to learn what your particular configuration is. Considering they're really trying to push AirPlay now, this seems like a curious design decision.

I was also a bit annoyed that when I started it up, it was in "group with album art" view, which I usually turn off, but they've done a bit of tweaking to it to make it actually useful (even though the vast majority of my music doesn't have album art) and so I'm leaving it on for now.

So of course I tried out Ping, and was immediately annoyed by the following aspects:

  • It requires your real name, which is tied to your billing account
  • It requires your gender, which is of course the binary male/female
  • You are only allowed to select up to three genres you like. The list of genres is pretty pathetic and mainstream anyway, though.
  • There is no way for independent artists to add a profile (hopefully that will change in the future)
  • The "privacy" settings are just "do you want to let people follow you?" and nothing like, for example, "do you want this information to be available?" Apparently, no, they haven't learned from Facebook's bad example.
  • The only activity it records is actively purchasing and rating things on the iTunes store. So much for discovery.
On the plus side, iTunes feels much more responsive and less laggy, and it's obviously they've put a lot of work into handling large libraries better. Hopefully they'll address the "too cool for colors" issue on the user interface, and it's not like you have to use Ping.

August 26, 2010

Product idea ()

by fluffy at 11:21 AM
With my Apple wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad, what I'd really like is a lap desk that is designed to accommodate them clipped together. I envision something like a thin but rigid plastic slab with flexible spring "clips" along the top edge which would clip on to the round back part of the trackpad and keyboard, and they'd be spaced such that you could have either device on the left or right.

(The rigid base is necessary so that the trackpad has something to click against.)

August 24, 2010

Bandwidth caps exist (, , )

by fluffy at 7:26 PM
Somehow I appear to have gone over the 250GB Comcast bandwidth cap this month, and "coincidentally" my connection has been shut off. According to the handy bandwidth chart I usually use about 100GB/month, which actually surprises me since I don't do a lot of torrenting or online gaming. I suspect this is a result of my new hard drive which caused Crashplan to go crazy with re-scanning my whole disk.

At least I can get online via my Nexus One in the meantime. Sigh.

Annoyingly enough, Comcast was supposed to call me to warn me, rather than just shut me off outright. Meh.

August 23, 2010

Reasons I like Apple (, , )

by fluffy at 7:50 PM
When I was en route to Chicago, the battery in my MacBook Pro began to swell, so bad that my touchpad stopped working and when I opened the battery cover, the battery popped out with a great deal of velocity. So I made an appointment at the nearest Genius Bar (which is annoying to have to do), and when my appointment came up (after a few failed checkins) I showed my quite-round battery to the Genius(tm) who immediately just gave me a new one for free, despite my MacBook being about a year out of warranty. It never hurts to ask nicely (although I was prepared to argue for it anyway).

Also, having previously been dissatisfied with a compact Logitech keyboard and a Wacom Bamboo Touch, I bought the Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad, and while it's weird to spend $140+tax on a mouse and keyboard, these are actually quite comfortable, and I have them on a little Ikea lap desk and it's much more comfortable on my wrists than trying to put up with my horrible keyboard tray. Hopefully this will help a lot. Unfortunately, the lap desk is a bit thicker and squishier than I'd like, so I'll have to try a couple others out, but still, not a bad setup, and altogether costs way less than a proper keyboard tray (and a desk that can hold a proper keyboard tray).

August 3, 2010

On universal translation (, , )

by fluffy at 7:42 PM
In science fiction series where there's some sort of universal translation thing which uses some ill-defined 'receiving the intent' sort of thing (Farscape, Star Trek, etc.), it seems likely that all civilizations would eventually lose their own cohesive languages. After all, if all children could just understand and be understood implicitly in whatever random babbling they come up with, there's no reason for them to adjust and learn their own civilization's common language, right?

So really, when there's a scene from the perspective of someone who is without the translation conceit, it seems like everyone should just sound like squealing, growling, baby babble, and the like.

July 31, 2010

Pro audio apps leave much to be desired (, , , )

by fluffy at 11:16 PM
So, I'm finally getting around to reinstalling Native Instruments Akoustik Piano on my MacBook, and I'd forgotten how much of a royal pain in the ass it is.

July 28, 2010

Synology DS410j ()

by fluffy at 9:04 AM
So, about a month ago I bought a Synology DS410j NAS and four Western Digital WD20EARS 2TB hard drives to replace my old PowerMac G5 as my NAS/backup archive/etc. Now that I've put it through its paces a while, I guess I'd might as well review it.

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