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     Defraggin’ my hard drive for thrills
    Filed under: — David @ 2:29 pm

    I noticed recently that my 3-year-old 12″ PowerBook seems to be inordinately slow - it has a habit of doing a lot of stuff on the disk when I switch applications. I didn’t think I was overloading it, so I figured disk fragmentation was the issue. So I went to my trusty local Apple Store and ended up buying TechTool Pro; the DiskWarrior box didn’t claim defragmentation features. The Apple store person actually said that OS X does some defragmentation itself, which was news to me, but I figured a 3-year-old hard disk could probably use some maintenance anyway.

    They have new bags since the last time I bought something at an Apple store - the tie strings now attach to the bottom of the bag so you can wear it like a backpack. It makes me not want to throw the bag away. How many stores would this kind of thing even occur to?

    So I ran the computer through the full battery of tests, and it only complained about some minor issues with Finder data, like “bad” custom icons. Since everything was in order, I proceeded to the performance utilities. The directory structure optimization went fine, and at least according to the numbers it helped. So I proceeded to the file optimization, and that’s when things went weird. The upper progress bar - the overall progress - never went anywhere. The lower one, for individual files, flashed on and off irregularly which on its own seemed to imply normal progress. But the text display always said “1 of 4083″. This went on for like an hour, and finally it was bedtime, so I left it running overnight.

    When I came back in the morning, the progress display was the same, but the computer was stuck. I could move the mouse, but it didn’t respond to any mouse clicks and it didn’t even show the spinning rainbow cursor. This didn’t look like good news; the documentation warns that if the optimization process is interrupted it could be bad for your disk.

    But with the computer totally unresponsive I didn’t have much choice. I restarted, and ran the TechTool tests. No problems. I started up from the OS X 10.4 disk to run the Disk Utility tests - and I had to start up from the hard disk in between because I couldn’t get the 10.4 disk in fast enough. That all went fine too. So there’s not much left now but to proceed as normal and hope nothing got messed up. I checked the fragmentation status, and it does seem to be improved, so maybe it’s just the progress display that’s buggy. I’ll still have to see if it makes a noticeable performance difference.

    And yes, I had made backups before all this. Well, some backups. My backup strategy is to occasionally take the stuff that I’ve worked on recently and burn it to a CD, so I did that again before running TechTool. I’m very glad that - at least so far - I’m not having to reconstruct my hard disk from those backups. That’s the thing about backups - they’re great to have when you need them, but the rest of the time they’re just a pain. But a lot of things in life are like that.

     Pornography, violence, stereotypes
    Filed under: — David @ 6:41 pm

    Utah has a proposed law that would put excessive violence in media such as video games into the same category as pornography. While I firmly believe there should be less violence in video games and other media, that is not the subject of this little rant.

    What bothers me is how the gamers are quick to criticize this by throwing around stereotypes, saying essentially “look at those stupid Utah religious conservatives.” It’s so easy to ridicule them as two-dimensional stereotypes so you don’t have to think about the fact that these are real people trying to live by good standards. You want to laugh at them because they have different values? That’s called intolerance. See if you can achieve understanding instead. See if you can understand what their motives and goals are, without dismissing them as paranoid conservative nuts. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll even contribute something positive to the situation. That would be refreshing.

     Bindings work better than expected
    Filed under: — David @ 6:58 pm

    I had a pretty cool experience with Cocoa Bindings yesterday.

    I have a dialog with a list of items, and each item has, among other things, a font setting. I have a text field that I want to display the item’s font and size (like “Times 10″), in that font. Naturally I want to use the standard font panel to set the font. Can bindings handle it?

    I bound the text field’s font to the array controller’s selection.font - that was the obvious part. To show the font name, I set displayPatternValue1 to selection.font.displayName, and displayPatternValue2 to selection.font.pointSize, with the display pattern set to “%{value1}@ %{value2}@” to construct a string with both the font name and size like “Times 10″ as I wanted. This is the part that worked better than expected: NSFont’s pointSize method returns a float, not an NSNumber, and yet it still just worked.

    It turns out I needed to write just one function, effectively two lines long: changeFont: in my window controller, to handle font selections from the font panel and set the font on the currently selected item accordingly.

     Juggling three lists
    Filed under: — David @ 8:19 pm

    After my last burst of activity, which mainly consisted of switching to Boost threads classes and adding some unit tests, I left Volley on the back burner again for a while. Today I picked it up again.

    After my previous changes I hadn’t actually tested that logging in still works. It doesn’t. But instead of fixing that, I decided to redesign the client’s main Connections window. I’ve had a hard time settling on a layout for it.

    This window manages three lists: current connections, bookmarks, and local servers (detected with Bonjour/Rendezvous/Buenos Días). The previous design had them all in an outline-style list where the top-level items were the titles of those three lists, and you could collapse and expand them depending on which list you wanted to see.

    Today I decided that’s kind of a weird use of the outline view. So I split the bookmarks and local servers out into a drawer, with a segmented control at the top to select which of the two lists you want to see. Working out how to do that with bindings was interesting; I’ll post the details once I’m sure I did it right.

    Writing unit test for client-server interaction is a bit of a challenge, since you could end up trying to test two applications at once. But then I realized I can tests the server on its own: the test can add a fake client connection to the system with basically the same technique I planned to use for logging in through a protocol adapter like Hotline. It’s the good old Volley “it just works” principle at work again :)

    Of course, I haven’t actually tried that out yet, just like I haven’t finished redoing the connections window. So hopefully I’m not being premature about all this.

     Anakin’s story
    Filed under: — David @ 11:27 pm

    After buying the Star Wars Transfomers Darth Vader, both DVDs of Clone Wars, and the Lego Star Wars video game, I’ve had Star Wars on my mind a lot lately. I was thinking the other day about how Star Wars is essentially about Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, and I finally made a connection between the beginning and the end. Aside from feeling that Obi-Wan was holding him back, Anakin’s first big frustration was that he couldn’t save his mother. Then he became obsessed with finding a way - or more specifically, the power - to save his wife from the suffering and death he saw in visions, and this obsession was what Palpatine leveraged to lure him to the dark side. But finally in the end, he redeemed himself when he realized that he could save his son - not because he finally had the power, but merely the opportunity, and all he needed was the willingness to take action and sacrifice himself if necessary.

    Maybe it would have been better if, rather than having no father (which was left uselessly unexplained anyway), his father had died not long before Qui-Gon found him. He might have, in his own childish logic, blamed himself for his father’s death, and he would then leap at the chance to become a jedi because then he would never have to have a loved one die again. This would have made his motivations clearer to the audience, and it would have made his father-son relationship with Luke more meaningful.

     No life
    Filed under: — David @ 8:49 pm

    I just got iLife 05 a couple of weeks ago, so of course the announcement of the 06 version had me wondering if there was an upgrade package available. I looked around the Apple site, but the only thing I could find is for people who recently got iLife 05 with a computer… qualifying computers even. And that’s not me.

    So I went to my local Apple Store to ask them about it. The first store person I asked didn’t know, and referred me to someone else, who said the only thing available was if I hadn’t opened the box. Naturally I had, because I wanted to install it. Otherwise I’ll just have to buy the whole new package. He explained that “that’s how technology works” - updates happen.

    I actually burst out laughing on the spot. That’s their explanation for not offering any kind of upgrade pricing, less than a month after I got the now-obsolete product? I could have explained to him that, as a developer of one of the products on his shelves, I actually do have some understanding of “how technology works”. But since I didn’t expect to negotiate any deals, I just left. At least I got a good laugh out of it.

     DarkMarsh bug
    Filed under: — David @ 1:48 pm

    I finally got around to downloading the Titan Onslaught Map Pack, and wouldn’t you know it, it uncovers a bug in Flag Domination. If you play on ONS-DarkMarsh, the A flag base doesn’t get placed. It looks like it’s trying to place it on the center island, and somehow the placement of that power node is weird. I may have to fall back to nearby PathNodes like I did for unreachable power cores.

     Resexcellence
    Filed under: — David @ 9:06 am

    I just looked and saw that my new logo for Resexcellence is on their site now. Actually, it’s been up for almost a month now. Guess I should have looked sooner :)


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