failing like never before


The ipad… and Other Fail News

I stopped by Best Buy on my way to the grocery store to have a quick look at the much lauded Apple ipad. My opinion summed up in one word:



  • shiny
  • long battery life
  • more portable then a typical laptop


  • almost impossible to achieve a reasonably fast typing speed on it
  • shiny (which results in fingerprints and glare)
  • does nothing that my laptop can't do
  • can't do a lot of things my laptop can do
  • costs $150 more then the refurbished laptop I just bought
  • closed platform
  • wide-aspect movies look weird on a 4:3 screen
  • back-lit screens are not ideal for reading books
  • development work for the ipad must be done in Objective  C
  • less portable then a Motorola Droid or Nexus One (or even an iphone)

In other fail news:

A week ago, I got a big batch of images that needed to be resized and displayed on one of the websites that I manage. This required that I crop and resize each photo so that it be exactly the correct size to be displayed on the site, a time consuming and quite laborious task. So I figured I could probably whip up a script with Python and ImageMagick to help automate the process, with idea being that my program would allow the user to simply highlight the "relevant" area of an image and then the program would crop and resize it to the correct size.

I ended up having to use wxPython to do all the GUI type stuff, which meant I had to spend some time learning the ins and outs of GUI programming seeing as how my experience with that kind of stuff is fairly limited. So for the past week, I've been spending about an hour a day learning wxPython and knocking together a sort of program to make my life easier. Today, I looked at my image resizer program and realized I had created some of the most god-awful code ever seen by mankind.  It was basically 100+ lines of uncommented and completely unintelligible spaghetti code.

I threw my monster out and did the cropping and resizing by hand, which ended up taking me less than an hour.

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The ipad is Not the Kindle Killer

The inter-webs have been abuzz about the revelation of Apple's new ipad, and as always, I'm late to the blogging party. Now I'm no Apple fanboy, and I'm not particularly impressed by Apple's new slate. Personally I wouldn't buy it, but I'm sure there are tons of people out there that would love to own one. The one thing however, that has really been bugging me lately, is how so many people are proclaiming the ipad to be the Kindle killer, and that Amazon (and all other e-book reader makers) should just close up shop. Yes, the ipad is capable of providing so many more services then the Kindle, such as full web browsing, office programs, and movie playing capabilities, things that the Kindle cannot possibly offer. But Apple fans are forgetting that the reason that people buy Kindles and other e-book readers, is so that they can read books, and not browse the web.

E-ink, the display technology behind most e-book readers, is an amazing technology, and not just because of its superior battery life, but because reading it is like reading a newspaper. Anyone who has read plain text on a computer screen for hours at a time, knows that it is not a particularly fun experience. Back-lit screens are stressful on the eyes after long periods of time, whereas reading a good-old-fashioned paper book is a much easier experience. I own several e-books and I actually read Stephanie Meyer's God-awful Twilight book on my computer screen and it was not an experience that I want to repeat, not just because of the terribleness of the book but also because of how my eyes were starting to burn from staring at a back-lit screen for so long. Now I have a friend that says he likes to read books on his iphone for extended periods of time, and I'm fairly certain that hes either a freak of nature, or a bold faced liar. But aside from the scarce masochistic few who enjoy burning their retinas out staring at glowing boxes, most everybody else would rather read paper books.

E-ink has allowed for electronic reading devices that are easy and comfortable to read on. This is something that the multi-use ipad does not offer, and it is the reason that dedicated e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle aren't going anywhere just yet. I don't mean to imply that the ipad is doomed to failure, but rather that the ipad is a device meant to do many things and cannot compete with dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle.

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HFS+ and Linux

In a talk that Linus Torvalds gave in February this year (2008), Torvalds claimed that Mac OS X's file system is "complete and utter crap, which is scary." That was the first time I ever heardabout Mac OS X's file system.

One of my roommates is a Mac user and is quite ignorant of almost all things technical. Recently, his hard drive crashed and he had to send his shiny Macbook Pro to a company that specialized in data recovery, and so he is currently without a computer. He does however still have a working external hard drive that contains a plethora of videos, and so yesterday I asked him if I could borrow his hard drive and look through some of his videos. He told me that I wouldn't be able to use his hard drive on my computer because one of his roommates last year, "reformatted it in a special way so that only Macs could read it."

Having read a little into Apple's file systems, after Torvald's comment earlier this year, I hypothesized that my roommate's hard drive was using Apple's HFS+ file system. Linux has surprisingly good support for various different file systems, even Microsoft's proprietary NTFS, so I knew that it was extremely likely that there existed a HFS+ driver for Linux.  So I told my roommate, "don't worry, I don't have a PC, I'll be able to read it just fine." It was a little presumptuous of me to think that I wouldn't encounter any issues with mounting a HFS+ drive, but I have great faith in the Linux community.

I plugged his hard drive into my laptop, turned it on, opened xterm and typed:

fdisk -l 

Fdisk listed his hard drive as /dev/sdb, but it also said that the drive's file system was unrecognizable, which I rather expected. A five-second Google search revealed that the modules for HFS and HFS+ are called "hfs" and "hfsplus." So I went into xterm again, and tried:

 modprobe hfsplus

mount -t  hfsplus /dev/sdb /media/hd

And the drive mounted without a problem.

According to SourceForge the hfsplus module offers full support for HFS+ file systems. So, yeah! Go Linux!

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Mac People

I don't think that any operating system is better for everyone. I think Linux is the best for me, because of its low hardware requirements, cost, ease of use, high standards of security and stability, and the simplicity with which it can be remotely accessed, but that doesn't make Linux better for everyone. Some people like being able to play the latest and greatest games on their computers, while others like a shiny, simplistic interface that requires very little fuss to learn to use.

For a brief period of time, I used to be one of those people who denounced the evils of Microsoft and proclaimed that Linux was the solution to everyone's computer problems. But now I'm a wee bit older and a wee bit wiser, and I'm not as much of a bigot. While I generally don't have problems with people who think that their OS is better then everyone else, I have found that many Mac zealots, with their amazing arrogance, greatly annoy me.

I have seen more Macbooks in this past year in college then I have ever seen in my entire life, and a great many of those Mac owners show more fervor for their OS then their religion. Which bothers me greatly. In my personal experience I have found that most Windows users are indifferent about their OS and its standing against other operating systems, while Linux and BSD users care a little more but also tend to be more knowledgeable about computers and operating systems. Whereas most of the Mac users I have met will attest that Apple products are the best because of their simplicity and physical attractiveness, and that everyone else is inferior for using a non-Apple product (which is stupid really, since a great deal of Mac OS X wasn't coded by Apple).


The Pervasiveness of I

iclicker logo ipod logo iriver logo

In 1998, Apple Computers started selling a new version of their desktop computers, called the imac. The first imac had the CRT and all other components of the computer enclosed in a cool futuristic case, that came in various colors. I remember touring an Apple facility with my dad nine years ago (ASME offered their members tours of tech facilities) and hearing all the commercial hype about the new imac. They gave us some free toys and sat us in front of a projector to show us an imac commercial, which showed some imacs spinning across the screen, showing off their cool colors (because PCs were notorious for only coming in beige boxes back then) while an old Beetles song played in the background. Our guide also emphasized that the imac was simple to assemble and worked right out of the box, unlike a Windows PC. When I was a wee lad in grade school, I never could have guessed that the naming pattern for the imac would extend into just about all of Apple's products, and even into other companies.