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November 2007

brett's logjam

December 2007

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January 2008

2 December 2007

Crossovers That Should Not Be

Crossovers That Should Not Be

Shopping at Target, I came across an entire line of Star Wars/ Transformers toys.

The hell?

I know that the Transformers line isn’t big on continuity, but I think this is even more of a travesty than the X-Men/Star Trek novel I ran across a few years ago.

Because, you know, that was fan-fiction. This is merchandizing.

Web Log

links for 2007-12-02 links

4 December 2007

Thoughts on Upgrading

Ain’t broke? Don’t fix it.

Now, if only I could heed my own advice.

  1. I was seriously considering upgrading the software that runs a few of my sites to Movable Type 4.x to allow the use of the the iPhone/MT interface plugin. Yes, you read that right: I’m considering installing an entire CMS to get an interface for my phone. This plugin makes posting from the iPhone very, very easy. And a clean install of MT 4.x is actually quite easy as such things go.

    But upgrading from an old version, with an extremely custom template and unsupported database? Very, very difficult.

    So difficult, in fact, that I gave up trying to upgrade the existing installation and instead evaluated how much effort it would be recode several sites on the clean install.

    And the answer? Way more effort than it’s worth.

  2. I’m of a similar feeling of my second recent upgrade, of that to Apple’s Leopard on my G4 Powerbook, Hithlum.

    My first upgrade attempt resulted in an unbearably slow system. This was not the desired outcome.

    So, after several hours debugging processes, killing off all sorts of little performance-stealing problems, I opted for a clean Tiger (10.4) install and trusted my backups. Tiger was great in all the areas I remember, and weak in all the other areas I remembered (cough cough Spotlight cough).

    After a few days of that, I thought that since there were enough other people having success with a clean install, that I would give it a try with a clean upgrade back to Leopard. In other words, I lost my marbles.

    You know what? I have not been entirely happy with Hithlum since I started meddling. And really, there’s no turning back.

    Leopard may be faster than Tiger, but it doesn’t feel faster. The 10.5.1 update helped stabilize some of the applications, and I’m sure that on a newer machine that I would be happy as a clam with Leopard. But instead I ask, was this really worth the time, effort, and money I spent?

    I suspect that the answer is no.

So: Future Brett! Listen up! I will make this simple for you. NEVER UPGRADE! Okay? Never.

(I don’t know why I bother. Future Brett never listens.)

Computer Log | Hithlum Log | Personal Log | Site Log

This Dame's 16, Going On 17

(Via, via)

Web Log

links for 2007-12-04 links

The HP MediaVault and Me

HP Media Vault

I recently added a HP Media Vault into my networking setup, with mixed results.

The Media Vault is a Network-Attached Storage device (NAS) that provides an always-on place to store data, supporting NFS, SMB, FTP, and even HTTP connections. In theory, every laptop on my network can use it for wireless storage, allowing each laptop to offload non-essential files, like our huge iTunes library. Given that I have Mac, Linux, and Windows machines to deal with, cross-platform compatibility is somewhat necessary.

My main goal was to point iTunes to use the Media Vault as the primary library location, which would let me reclaim 45 GB of disk space on my laptop.

In practice, this doesn’t work. Not. At. All.

It’s not that it can’t work. The setup to stream media over wireless is fairly easy. The drives can be automounted so the iTunes Library files always point to the right location. And the Media Vault works quite well as network storage for archives and nightly backups, a serious point in its favor.

But if you aren’t using Windows Media Center (which I’m not), then the streaming functions of the Media Vault don’t apply, and you’re left with the restrictions around transferring large files over wireless to watch movies. Video is the real trouble spot; audio is actually fine. Playback isn’t initially compromised by wireless network speeds, but it eventually fails. Badly.

Unfortunately, video is kinda important in this scenario. So you’re left with the previous options of splitting apart your iTunes Library, or continuously culling and managing your disk space. Which, in turn, is totally counterproductive.

See, one of the things I like about applications like the iLife suite is that they abstract filenames and location away from you. I just wish they could take it a step further, and abstract the physical filesystems used (like ZFS) so that you don’t have to worry about where the file is, it just goes and gets it for you. Local caching of frequently-accessed content, intelligent offloading onto network resources…

(Just think of what .Mac could be as part of a Apple ZFS strategy in this case. Yowza.)

The problem here is really one of expectations; I wanted one thing, but the Media Vault is something different. It looks to do what it does pretty well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I really wanted, so I have mixed feelings about it.

So, to sum up: I got a NAS. It’s cool. I thought I was going to use it for live media storage, but it turns out it’s only really good for backups and archives, so that’s what I use it for.

The end.

Computer Log

6 December 2007

links for 2007-12-06 links

7 December 2007

Nature Finds A Way (In)

During a warm spell in October, thousands of bugs swarmed my backyard, trying to get into my house. They were everywhere — coming through any hole they could find, flying about for a little while and then dying en masse in the house. Squishing them was counterproductive, as they stunk, so we just vacuumed them up.

I dutifuly called my termite company, they came out and informed me that they weren’t termites at all, but some form of Japanese Beetle. Dur, okay, I said, as long as they’re not eating my house, I don’t care that they don’t look like any Japanese Beetle I’ve ever seen. The hot spell passed, and the bugs eventually went away.

Well, the latest edition of my neighborhood newsletter contained a little gem: these bugs are Ischnodemus Falicus, who have moved in to the recently-marshified Lake Powell. They eat crops, and trying to eliminate them from anywhere but the source is doomed to failure. It took sending a sample of them to the Smithsonian to identify them (Virginia Tech didn’t know what they were), and not much is known about them.

Let me tell you, I can’t wait for spring. Ugh.

Personal Log

8 December 2007

Are Those ...?

Are Those?

Yes, those are artichokes in the wreath.

Williamsburg is awesome at this time of year.

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

9 December 2007

Hat Trick

First, after a long hiatus, Flotsam and Jetsam makes a triumphant (if short) return with The iPhone Widower.

Second, you may be interested to know that my mom sells more iPhones than I do; it’s The Early Adopter Paradox, over at Nobody Wants a

And finally, I let my Flickr pro account expire and am looking at other options again. Please let me know if this inconveniences you (as the full-size photographs will no longer be available for download. Flickr gets you like that.)

Other Sites Of Mine

Tucker House Gables

Tucker House Gables

The Tucker House at Colonial Williamsburg serves as the donor reception center, where contributors of $100+/year can go to take a break while touring CW. The house is staffed by helpful, friendly volunteers — all of whom know my son.

When he was younger, Trip would go there three times a week without fail. Now that he’s older (2.5 and counting!), his schedule is more erratic, but he still visits about once a week or so to get a cookie and eat it on the front sign. Given how hot and cold it can be walking around Williamsburg, I’d say we more than get our money’s worth out of his contribution.

This photograph was taken in the late afternoon sun, from the Palace Green. I used a tripod for the first time on one of my walkabouts this particular afternoon, with some good (and bad) results.

More photos from this shoot to follow.

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

Shawn Blanc has begun A Series of Reviews: Some of The Greatest Software Available For Your Mac that, based on his previous posts, will be well worth your (Mac-using) time.

Update: That was fast. NetNewsWire is already up!

Web Log

Three Views of the Governor's Palace

Palace Cupola

Palace Weathervane

The Lion and the Unicorn

The Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg has a storied history, and is well worth the visit.

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

The White Horse

You may have noticed that I shoot a lot of horse photographs. Part of this is because my son went through a period when he could not get enough of the horses downtown in Colonial Williamsburg.


And part of it, frankly, is that I like horses. I can’t ride worth a damn, but I like ‘em anyway. So there.


We’ve had a few new arrivals in the CW stables in the last few months, and I haven’t learned all the new kids’ names, so I can’t properly attribute these photos to a model. But eventually I’ll have the current crop down.

Anyhow, I kept telling him, over and over, that I had no treats on me and just wanted to take his picture. No apples, no mints, no altoids.

He preened, and posed, and then pestered me for a reward anyway.


Oh well. I gave him a good nose-scratching to make up for it.

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

10 December 2007

Again for the Mac users out there, you may be interested in a detailed article on removing DRM protection from iTunes tracks with iMovie HD — specifically, iMovie HD 6, which is the last version of iMovie that can run on my G4 Powerbook.
Computer Log

11 December 2007

links for 2007-12-11 links

The Final Days of Autumn

The Final Days of Autumn

Into Your Firey Arms


Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

12 December 2007

On Vacation

Today was the first day of my December vacation: I am taking the rest of the month off. Aside from the holidays, I have no plans.


Personal Log



Photo Log

Sent from my iPhone

I launched a new website today, Sent from my iPhone. It’s on the new v3 Tumblr platform, and is intended to be a photographic equivalent to Twitter. For whatever that’s worth.

Working with Tumblr, I can really see the appeal of the platform. It’s seriously easy to use. I spent a little bit of time tinkering with designs, and the underpinnings are similarly easy to work with.

I’ve added the photos on to the main page (now on version 7.12!), but will keep them out of the main feeds. I recognize that short-form photography — is that even a term? — is not for everyone.

Anyhow, enjoy.

Other Sites Of Mine

Bruton Parish at Dusk

Bruton Parish at Dusk

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

From Why Are You Reading All That News?:

“The world won’t end without you knowing it. Trust me, your mom will call.”

This is very, very true. She will (and did.)

Web Log

13 December 2007

links for 2007-12-13 links

Of course. I go and let my Flickr Pro account lapse, and Flickr goes and rolls out stats… but only for Pro members.


Web Log

14 December 2007

The Palace Cupola at Christmas is now up in the original size if you would like to use it for a desktop picture.

(I really should shoot with a tripod more often.)

Photo Log

Tumblr Photo Upload Compression

It’s rather a pity that Tumblr applies so much compression to photos uploaded to their service. It’s the only flaw I’m unhappy about, because it actually degrades the quality of the content I’m publishing. Everything else I can accept as part of minimalist blogging, but this is like smearing Vaseline over my lens. Which is, you know, not what I generally do.

(Oddly, the compression is mitigated on an iPhone. I suspect the massive DPI is to credit.)

I’ve put some comparisons up on Flickr, but will have to see if it’s the email compression the iPhone applies, or Tumblr’s. I suspect that the former shouldn’t be underestimated — and as a consequence, the iPhone camera appears to take worse shots than it really does.

Photo Log

The Return of the Train

The Return of the Train

Photo Log

17 December 2007

American Cream

American Cream

An American Cream Draft horse, at Colonial Williamsburg.

Photo Log | Williamsburg Log

20 December 2007

Tumblr Photo Compression, Again

Amidst all the family activities this weekend, I spent some time considering the Tumblr Photo Compression problem. I had some downtime tonight to finally poke around at some of the alternate solutions I’d come up with while doing other things.

My conclusion? The compression is pretty bad. But creating some Flickr/Movable Type 4 hybrid thing to solve that problem is like using regular expressions: now you have two problems.

Tumblr is simple enough for me, for now. I’m tired of messing around with complicated systems; getting away from them is the entire point. The photos likely look worse on your screen than they do on my phone, and I’m sorry about that.

But the good ones will wind up in the Photo log eventually, anyway. So don’t worry about it.

Moving on now.

Photo Log

The Big Guns

The Big Guns

Recruiting sign on display at the Casemate Museum in Fort Monroe, Virginia.

Photo Log

I hereby dub this Gruber’s Law of Apple Analysis:

“A good rule of thumb, by the way, is that the more a writer attributes the actions of Apple, an enormous corporation with thousands of talented employees, to Steve Jobs, who is just one man and neither an engineer nor a designer, the more likely the writer is an idiot, a hack, or both.”

Web Log

22 December 2007

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

A Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) perches in a sweet gum tree.

Birdwatching Log | Photo Log

The Flag at the End of the Crane

The Flag At The End Of The Crane

Photo Log

Bork Bork Bork

I borked another two hard drives today. Lost around 600GB of files.


Because Leopard’s Disk Utility is a piece of crap, that’s why.

I, for one, am seriously tired of reformatting hard drives on a Windows computer.

Computer Log

23 December 2007

It's Not Me, Leopard, It's You

I don’t know how I missed Primate Lab’s article on Leopard Performance, but it provides numbers that corroborate my own experience on my Powerbook G4 — Leopard is slower than Tiger.

Mostly, it just leaves me grumpy that I purchased the family pack. I’m not going to upgrade any of my family’s G4s or G5s at this point, and may very well go back to Tiger on Hithlum until it’s time for a new laptop in a year or two.

Computer Log | Hithlum Log



Photo Log

25 December 2007

And you will know us by the trail of toys...

And you will know us by the trail of toys...

My son plays with some cutting food on Christmas morning.

26 December 2007

Leopard on a Powerbook G4

Considering upgrading your Powerbook G4 to Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard)? After running with Leopard since its release, let me give you some unsolicited advice:

Skip it.

No, really. Just wait, and get it on a MacBook instead.

It comes down entirely to performance vis-a-vis Tiger. Here are Hithlum’s Geekbench scores:

While Spotlight performance in Tiger may be slower than in Leopard, overall chip performance is 17% better. I knew that 10.5 was optimized for the Intel chips, but that’s crazy to think that that sort of degradation is acceptable.

By way of comparison, machines with Intel chips running Leopard do significantly better than PowerPC chips. Most of the MacBooks are around 2500-3000, with some of the Mac Pros clocking in over 8200. Leopard seems to be a pretty good investment for Intel-based Macs.

But combined with the Disk Utility problems, random crashes, and overall sluggishness I’ve experienced with Leopard, the upgrade isn’t worth it on my older PPC machine. I’m certainly not going to upgrade my mother-in-law’s G5 iMac to it after this.

So, it’s back to Tiger for me on my Mac. Experiment over, back to work.

Anyone want to buy a Family Pack Leopard DVD set? I’ll trade you for Tiger DVDs…

Computer Log | Hithlum Log

31 December 2007

Meet Thievey

Meet Thievey, a ring-tailed lemur. He’s very cute, but he needs your help.

Consider doing something good and help Mike reach his goal before the end of 2007. He’s got 3 2 1 lemurs left to give away.

Update: Mike reached his goal, but there’s still time to make a difference. The MGF is totally blown away by the amount of support they’re getting here ($10,450 + $167/month for the next year), but there is still more need.

You may also consider purchasing one of the Moon Bears from Vermont Teddy Bear (which we got Trip for Christmas), or a contribution to Defenders of Wildlife. There are still like three hours left in 2007! Go!

Personal Log | Things I Recommend | Web Log

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November 2007


This is: brett's logjam → December 2007.

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January 2008