August 2, 2008

Ships Bells Revisited…

Posted in Mac, Mac Software, Productivity at 2:45 am by a11en

A kind reader (Russ P.) shared with me his method for playing the Naval Ship’s Bells (for the daily watch) with us on my About page.  I’ve been meaning to revisit this for a while, ever since my first discussion of Chimes on OsX.  Since I tend to be a fan of the Un*x underpinnings of OsX, I tend to try and use common commands (that are already on your system, that you might not know about) to get these types of tasks done.

For a bit of a review of the methods I’ve used for the Westminster Chimes on OsX, please read my previous post on the topic: Westminster Chimes

I will be using a few of the same tricks here, but I won’t be using one- AppleScript.  For the Ships Bells, AppleScript really isn’t needed.  We’ll be adding 8 lines to our Cron file (using the nice GUI program called Cronnix.  Unlike the Westminster chimes, we don’t have to do any computation to determine the number of times to chime a bell (for the hourly chimes).

First, snag some Ships Bells audio files.  The files here: WxTide Ships Bells are already separated by the number of bells: 1-8 bells.  You of course can use any Ships Bells audio files you like to accomplish this task.  Just be aware that we’re using an approach below that uses a separate file for each type of bell (1-8).

Second, head over to Wikipedia to read about the watches and when the bells are to chime: Wikipedia.  Look closely at that first table… we’ll use it in one second (save it).

Third, if you haven’t done so yet, snag a copy of Play Sound which is a simple program, very easy to call, and we’re going to use it like the following (you can try a variant of this in your

open -a /Applications/ /Users/yournamehere/soundfiles/2bells.wav

That’s a nifty little one-liner that will play a file (here 2bells.wav) with an application you specify (here  For more help on this command, in the terminal type “man open” (manual for open).

Now, the sneaky part is we’re not even going to use AppleScript at all to play the ShipsBells!  Haha!  What we are going to do, however, is to run that CLI command directly from Cronnix (the program that keeps track of when to run things for us).

Fourth, make 8 lines in your Cron file (via Cronnix GUI) to play the bells at the appropriate times.  I do this by simply following along with the table in the Wikipedia article, and adding commas for each field in the Cron file as needed…

An example.. the 1 Bell chime can be seen in the first line of the table in the wikipedia article… and here’s the cron command for it:
30    0,4,8,12,16,18,20    *    *    *    open -a /Applications/playsound/Play\ /Users/yournamehere/ShipsBells/wxtide32_bells/1bells.wav

As you can see, the 1 bell chime plays on the half-hours of the following hours of the day: Midnight, 4am, 8am, 12pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm  (this one is funny, because of the Dog Watches).

Actually, with that little example, you can see the power of the simple Cron command… I can accommodate all the Dog watches very easily, where as some programs you can download don’t even do the dog watches.

We completely avoid Applescript because no calculations are required.  We only lose out in that we have 8 lines to add to our cron-file.  But, I don’t think Cron will be mad we added those 8 lines (one for each of the 8 bells specifying exactly when during the day they are to chime).

So, that’s a simple and quick way to add Ship’s Bells to your computer, if you’re in the Nautical mood.

A quick one goes out to Sailorman Jack- Fair Winds, Jack!

January 24, 2008

Bibdesk 1.3.13 apparently is superstitious

Posted in Mac, Mac Software, Work at 2:37 am by a11en

(Mac Only) Just a quick post today. For those of you who are Bibdesk users and are still using Tiger, a small warning. Bibdesk 1.3.13 appears to break some things. I can’t do a simple drag and drop file addition/auto-filing in 1.3.13. There seems to be some serious changes to the code and new preview windows etc., in the item info screen. These changes are nice, but I can’t live without drag and drop file addition/autofiling and simple click opening of PDFs into preview (or skim). So, I’ve deprecated to 1.3.12 to get back to the working system I had before my update. Hopefully 1.3.14 will fix things. Guess the number 13 was a bad one for Bibdesk.

October 23, 2007

WLS-AM Difficulties in Streaming Audio

Posted in Mac, Mac Software, Rants at 11:31 am by a11en

Well, I figure it’s time for a small mini-rant.  After all, you guys get tired of listening to me not-ranting, don’t you?  😉

I’ve been a long-time listener to WLS-AM (890 kHz- Chicago, IL).  When I can’t get it via the radio, I often attempt to get it via streaming audio.  Recently, the radio-station made a change to how it was streaming its audio.  It appears they have contracted out the audio streaming to some insane company called  Fine.  Just fine.  Except, well, that it’s impossible for me to stream their audio anymore!  I can’t get their stream in anything other than a d*Q!#@ web-browser with their !@!@# pop-up window and in-line advertisements.  Well, that’s just b-e-a-utiful.

They’ve lost a listener, at least an on-line listener.  They used to be one of the major online radio streams, and I can only guess that now, they aren’t even registering in listenership.  Why oh, why, WLS-AM did you need to make this change?  Honestly, do you think it was worth it to get a few more adverts up to only support web-service streaming with weirdo-pop-ups and platform specific audio?  [Windows media player only!]  What in the world is happening up there at the station?  Someone dropped the ball on that one.

Guess the money was worth it.  Well, you can count me out on listenership online.

September 7, 2007

iPod Touch: update- Hacking and Searches

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software at 5:51 pm by a11en

Well, a bit of an update on the “Hacker-Killer” release of the iPod Touch. Gizmodo is reporting:

The iPod runs Mac OS X like the iPhone does and we have got unofficial word from inside Apple that it runs exactly the same applications. The exact quote: “they use the same damn binaries.”

They also discuss that the same internals are likely there, with some modest interface differences.  In fact, they are reporting that Apple likely didn’t install the usual iPhone software (, Stocks, etc.) due to differentiation in the product line.  I completely concur, and suggested this in my last post.

Then there are some questions as to whether or not the microphone within the iPhone’s headset is available (hiding within the headphone jack of the iPod Touch) for use.  Some mentioned that the headphone jack is *not* recessed in the iPod Touch, and therefore your kick-ass Shure noise-isolation ear-buds will work… but this may mean that the headphone jack was changed out in the iPod Touch (will have to do a bit more digging to confirm this).  But, I think we can expect to see the iPod taken apart in the first few weeks of it’s life, as well as  someone trying out the iPhone headset with it.  The only problem will be, are there any apps for it, if it does use the microphone?

As Gizmodo suggests, we are all now learning about the applications which are available to hackers of the iPhone.  In a new post, I’ll update and add links to the apps which are being added by the savvy to their iPhone, and see what that might mean for iPod Touch users.

BTW, it seems we are all of the same mind.  Recent search hits from the blog show that people are arriving here looking for:

  1. PDF abilities on the iPod Touch–  Most likely this will be the same as the PDF abilities on the iPhone within the browser.  There are some reports that the browser requires the full PDF to be available in the phone before showing the first page (as most browsers do these days).  This might not be too important to people who wish to download their pdfs to the iPod Touch.  But- will there be a reader capable of surfing the file-system on the iPod?
  2. Skype on iPod Touch– we’ve talked about this in the past… I think it will come down to a USB microphone product… I can’t see Apple allowing a microphone input on this device.  In fact, I think we’ll see the device was crippled once it gets into the hacker/cracker’s hands.
  3. Bluetooth on the iPod Touch–  Gizmodo readers commented on this as well.  Unfortunately, this appears to be another no-go.  If the internals of the iPod Touch really are the same as the iPhone, I think we will have some serious confirmation that Apple *doesn’t* want this device to be much more than a reader.  They’re thinking consumer visual reader hardware, not useful communication device.  Truly it could be the latter, Apple just needs to get out of this mode of thinking.  [Again, re iPod’s lack of high-def record abilities.]
  4. iPod Touch SSH– seems I’m not the only one.  The good news, is that if the terminal is working, most likely we can install the simple ssh libraries and binaries needed in the underpinning.  I suspect we’ll see SSH pretty quickly.  Likely we won’t be able to pass through VPN’s, however.  But, time will tell.

One possible solution to the difficulties in low-on-board memory may be streaming content via your own webpage.  I suspect we’ll see an amped up version of .mac for users of the iPod Touch.  Apple will probably attempt to link the home iTunes materials (video and audio) through streaming content and secure connections to the iPod Touch via wifi.  This obviously isn’t the best option for these things, but it may alleviate some of the lack of memory.  This may be the only solution we have to do PDF’s if we can’t figure out how to get the pdf’s from the core system file area.

Will be updating this weekend with what I find out for applications on the iPhone.

September 6, 2007

iPod Touch: Released due to hacking of iPhone?

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software, Rants at 11:00 am by a11en

So, in talking on the phone (regular cell phone, which I hate, btw), with my brother about all the wonderful possibilities for the iPod Touch, we touched on a number of aspects regarding future devices. We also talked about how Apple set this release up with panache to fit within their tier of products. An earlier commenter, Shawn, brought me a bit back down to earth, chastising me for not seeing the iPod Touch for what it is. True, Shawn, the iPod Touch is just that- an iPod that you can touch the screen of. With the added bonus of Wifi. [Interesting]

And on that note, my brother made an observation that I must share with you. Kudos goes to the guy for a moment of sheer genius. The question we were trying to answer was: “Why not a microphone? Why not bluetooth for keyboard attachment?… etc.” In a flash of brilliance, My Bro, hereafter called “D” (to protect the innocence of little D… yeah right).. said the following: “Dude. They released the iPod Touch because people were hacking the iPhone.” I sat in silence for a few moments… I think D is onto something serious here. It fits. It fits good. It fits really really good. What was everyone and their doggies with webpages screaming for when the iPhone came out? “No Phone.. we just want an iPod.” It was a nice enough device (touch technology getting major kudos here, as well as the sweet flip-screen ability), that people started hacking it. They made it work in Europe, they made it work as an iPod without any darned phone ability. They were taking the device and hacking it in a big big way. Big enough that there were startups thinking about offering their services to hack these devices for everyone.

ATT must have been pissed. I know I would have been. Hell, they probably had the European release scheduled, and then the Asian release… everything planned out. Then, within 2 months of it being in the wild, a crack that allowed other network useage, as well as new applications and bricking the phone for use as a Wifi Browser (albeit a seriously expensive wifi browser)?

So, what does Apple do? They have this device in the works… they were planning to do this. What did people really ask for? An iPod that let’s them surf the internet. Pretty sweet device. I suspect Apple was (is) gearing up to give us more. How do they stop the incessant hacking? They release a device that gives us exactly what we were screaming for. That would cause either (1) the iPhone hacking to take a serious hit in interest, and (2) start a whole new type of hacking on the more popular iPod Touch. All to the benefit of the cellular networks (ATT) that were frustrated they were losing money and customers.

Let’s see if perhaps there isn’t a bit more to support this… let’s actually try and purchase one of these iPod Touches… oh, wait… I see I can order the new Widescreen Nanos… yes, they ship in 1-3 business days… I see that I can do the same with the shuffles and the iPod Classics… yup, ships in 1-3 business days. Hmm… iPod touch? No love… ships on the 28th of this month. That’s 22 days away. Hmm… interesting!! Vary vary interesting….

Looking closer at the iPod Touch… we see that it has practically the same *everything* as the iPhone. Sure, it’s a bit smaller around the edges, the top-plastic seems to be a bit shorter on top… perhaps the button divot is a bit smaller. The screen appears to be the same. My prediction? The first person to crack this cover off and look at the internals is going to find some missing chips inside and a bunch of connectivity not used. This, my friends, is an iPhone without a bunch of stuff inside. Slightly repackaged. I personally think it’s not a new product… I think it’s actually the iPhone. 🙂 That’s my take on this. They pushed this sucker out the door as fast as they could. They didn’t care they burnt some of the iPhone early adopters (oh sure, they paid lipservice to them by not including and a chat feature and removed blue-tooth as well as the microphone port). Nope, this was a “hacker-killer.” They want to divert your attention. And, you know what? I think it’s going to work. I personally want to know much much more about the iPod Touch and want hackers to hack it as fast as they can! Give me a terminal and a few other apps, and I’m so there.

🙂 So, Kudos goes to my brother the infamous “D” (yes, he used to do some children’s TV shows back in the day along with the other letters.. “A”, “B”, etc.). I suspect that “D” is onto something here. I suspect this release solved a bit of trouble in Apple… and I suspect this was the device, albeit a bit more cut-down, that was supposed to be released next year.

Will I buy it? I’m counting my pennies. I most likely will. It’s going to be very hard not to buy it before the next Apple hardware release. So, for releasing practically what everyone wanted… serious Kudos go to Apple.

[small whisper says it’d be damned nice to have open development for this platform!]

September 5, 2007

iPod Touch: Apple almost gets it right…

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software, Rants at 4:25 pm by a11en

Well, I’m kicking myself more and more for not buying APPL back in ’94. Today is one of those days. Apple listened or realized what they had here… a wifi enabled iPod with touch-screen ala iPhone. Fantastic. The price-point is not that bad either. However, there are a few things blatantly *wrong* with the new iPod Touch… and here’s my take on them…

No microphone and speaker.

As far as I can tell based on the specifications, there is currently no microphone or speaker included into the iPodTouch. As well, there is no blue-tooth connectivity. Connections can only be made via the wifi connection or via the USB port. So, this means, at least for now, absolutely no Skype abilities. Wow. Apple really missed the boat on this one. If this thing had Skype they would sell about 10x the number of units the very first month. Perhaps 100x the number of units. As it is, this thing is big.. but let’s be honest here. Useable skype in a hand-held Wifi device would be HUGE. Apple would literally change the face of telecommunication if they did this. Instead, I believe they decided to play a bit of product tier marketing. They felt- well, let’s not confuse people with a Skype enabled iPod… let’s make them buy the overpriced (due to service contracts etc.) iPhone. Apple is saving it’s own butt on this one. They won’t lose as many users from the iPhone with the new iPod, and they won’t piss off Cingular at the same time.

No GPS chip on board.

So, you want to find all the local Star-Bucks? Well, forget using an internal GPS chip to help with routing via Google Maps or Google Earth. Just like the iPhone, the iPodTouch has no GPS capabilities. Big mistake on this one guys… there’s a whole slew of things that could have been done if you had added a GPS chip. For instance- “see where my pals are”… or “find nearest bookstore”… now I assume you’ll have to type in your current location (snore… ZZzzzz). Although, for my tin-foil hat wearing friends (I’m a part-timer) this means Google won’t know exactly what you read and exactly where you are every moment of the day (a good thing perhaps). 🙂

A bit too light on the GB’s.

Ok, so you have a wide-screen iPod capable of all sorts of goodies, you can do web2.0, and likely also streaming video etc. But, what about integration with video via iTunes? What about downloading and installing full length movies for that plane flight? [How big is that movie file again?]… at only 8 GB or 16 GB, the iPodTouch is a bit lacking on ability to store a number of BIG media files. This is a huge mistake. There should be no reason why I can’t have 3 or 4 movies as well as all my music on this thing. I suspect Apple will make a show of streaming via WiFi in an attempt to offset this lacking memory. Obviously the device is flash-ram based (a plus for those who have bricked their iPod’s that have hard-drives), however, at this size, are we sure we’re really in for a serious machine like this with such a small amount of memory?

Lack of BlueTooth – huge mistake.

Ok, to add insult to injury here, we find that the iPod Touch has no bluetooth abilities. Yes, I said “No Bluetooth”. Ok… the reason I harp on this is as follows. (1) Lack of communication ability via Wifi… obviously Apple is seeing this as a “Reader” not a full-fledged Internet communication device (again, Skype killer). If BlueTooth was possible, we could (2) sync via the computer w/o usb, we could even (3) use BlueTooth enabled cameras to download and catalog all our camera files. As well, we could link to other devices, say a (4) GPS even… hell, the whole world practically opens up with bluetooth capability, (5) local iPod to iPod connectivity, (6) wireless stereo headsets… the list goes on and on. Hell, a (7) blue-tooth connection to your fancy schmancy car… Or the ability to take (8) voice notes or (9) class-lecture recordings. Need I go on? Hell, even have a dialer function for your blue-tooth enabled phone, with address-book support!!! (10).

And, now we see how Apple set up it’s product tree, I fear. You see, if they had done these things, it would have become an iPhone killer product. Most people likely *don’t* want to have their iPod coupled with their phone. But, give them semi-reasonable Wifi connectivity and BlueTooth support, and you have a very useful product. I’ll deal with Skype for that one friend of mine who uses it too… but for everyone? I think not. Would I have paid for that limited ability? You betcha. I would have paid an extra 100 easy for bluetooth capability with microphone support. Add a GPS and extra memory, and I may have even paid an extra 200.

OsX and iPodTouch application development?

The true killer for this device will be simple. With its above limitations, it’s a nice internet browser and limited video/audio media device. Lack of high-quality recording function continues to plague all of apple’s products, and likely will continue in the far future due to Apple’s appeasement of the payola scamming record labels. It’s a shame that even though I don’t ever purchase from these guys that I still am feeling the effects of a backwards antiquated record company schema. Fine. Let’s leave that for another day. But, what will the real killer of this device be?

Lack of application development– That will be the real killer. I have yet to see if I can run a cisco vpn, an ssh terminal to my local machine with Mutt and screen via terminal… hell, the ability to directly fix websites on the fly would be wonderful. The ability to get into the os, and produce applications is what will really make this device useful. The question is- will this be? Will we be able to tap into the strength of the FreeBSD underpinnings? Mount webdav servers? Upload/download pdf files for view? There are reams of possibilities and this one item may be the true killer for this device. Will it be a serious device, or merely a candy-of-the-month toy? We’ll have to see…

The future I suspect will be like this:

The products I see in the near future: a USB-Bluetooth connection for Skype users, a USB attached GPS unit for geocachers and others, a Microphone attachment that can handle the first, as well as enable note-taking in class (ala the iTalk).

August 20, 2007

OsX – Spotlight Zoom in Preview

Posted in Mac, Mac Software at 10:26 pm by a11en

(I wish I had done this a long time ago!) For some time now, I’ve wondered what sort of drugs the folks that did Spotlight have been on… one absolutely annoying feature is the zoom that happens in Preview when viewing the results of a spotlight search in a pdf. Well, it appears there’s a way to fix this:

defaults write Preview (...all on one line)
   -dict-add PVPDFSpotlightSelectionSize 10

That little line right there will solve all your problems. You need to run that line at the terminal, and no reply will occur from the terminal… oh- do this when is not running.

Linklove for this goes to: MacWorld and MacOsTips(blog)

Other spotlight weirdness- apparently spotlight doesn’t index textfiles that don’t contain the “.txt” extension. Very very strange. So, that ReadMe on OpenDX compiling won’t be indexed. Wonder why they chose to do that… very strange.

Anyways, at least I can now read the text which surrounds my searches in my pdf’s.

June 7, 2006

Slowest Experiment In The World (& update)…

Posted in GTD, Mac, Work at 1:31 pm by a11en

Sometimes I feel like my experiments are this slow: The Pitch Drop Experiment, [2]. 🙂

Blog Update: A large post on Procrastination will be up in a day or so. It's pretty much completed, but I want to run through it again briefly before posting.

Mac Update: Mac is fixed <knock on wood>… charging is going well, no incessant squeals from the hard-drive. Last thing to do is to recap the 3-key. Ok, so what eventually fixed it was: 2nd Logic board, and a new power-brick. The tech mentioned the powerbrick was flaky when she tested it, so she wanted to be safe and replace it. The 2nd Logic board seems to have been the trick, and things appear stable. Tested sound-in, all is good… no serious problems as far as I can tell. I should run AHT just incase. rsync is working, however, there's still an issue with the extended attributes. I haven't yet learned how to use rdiff-backup, as I don't have much time in my day to dork with it at the moment. For now, I'm just dealing with it until I have more time. At least my drive is backed up on a regular basis now. That should = no lost time in my work if the machine goes down.

Work Update: Conference on Monday… lots to try and get done for the poster. Hopefully I can tell an interesting story. I hope it's well received. Lots of work in OpenDX and KPFM of late. As well papers need updating and working on. How the hell am I going to get all this done? I better not think about it too much, or I'll be a deer in the headlights… better just plug away at my tasks…  Yikes.. just busted a sample grown last night- thankfully it wasn't a great sample indicated by the SEM… but I also busted a wafer I was cutting.  😦
GTD Thoughts: David Allen's GTD helps to alleviate the load on our brains in keeping up with everything we have to remember to do. Removing this burden allows us to think more freely and frees up thought-space. I can see a loop that can happen and have been thinking about it lately… if we're truly more efficient and are more free to think (which I have been of late)… we will likely have many more things come to mind that will spur our work forward. This leads to more "Action" items, and more project folders, and leads to a possibly bloated ToDo/Action list. Is this a sign that the system is not working, or a sign that the system *is* working? I think there's a missing focus on which actions are most important, and action on them. I'll be thinking about that as I go about my work this week.

YUM!  My folks just came back from a trip back to Canada to Dad's home town.  Wonder why in the hell Humpty Dumpty chips aren't sold down here.  I'm currently enjoying some Ketchup Chips.  Super-yum!!  Now, if only I could lay my hands on some Dill as well…

May 25, 2006

Logic board shot…

Posted in GTD, Mac at 6:43 pm by a11en

Well, onto replacement logic-board number 2. 🙂 Apparently replacement logic-board number 1 liked to continually beep at a high-pitch when all the cables were attached. Fun, eh? It makes you wonder if Apple ever tests their refurbished logic boards in a *real* computer before shipping them out to repair techs. So, I’m sans-powerbook at the moment, and I think I’m going through withdrawls. Thankfully, I have my 3×5’s and my Pocket Briefcase with all my up to date kGTD lists, so I’m in good for the moment. Trying to get some background work done- reading/taking notes, etc. As well, my rsync implementation worked beautifully, so I have the entire contents of my powerbook available to me to work with if I need to. So, you think I’d be good. 😉

Matthew Cornell has a fantastic post on his GTD implementation as part of the BlackBelt post series on BlackBeltProductivity. In fact, the whole series has been excellent. Don’t miss the GTD Primers either!

May 24, 2006

Mac update and Rsync goodness…

Posted in Mac, Mac Software, Uncategorized at 3:44 am by a11en

Well, it appears that my logic-board is shot. Lots of logic-boards going out in this machine. Looks like a refurb is on it's way and we'll see if that works. I hear horror-stories of techs having to try 4 boards until they get one that works… wish me luck!

The good news: I have a new backup hard-drive. It will reside at home or a place where I feel it's safe. Currently I've got rsync running to backup the whole volume on the powerbook. This should allow me to run daily backups if I want with the ease of a double-click. Really looking forward to that. 🙂 Although, probably incremental backups are best… since I'm an rsync newbie, I'll just be happy with a nightly backup as it stands… that's much more than I have already. This should mean I won't ever loose my thesis work! 🙂 Yipee.

Finally, my hPDA/Levenger pocket briefcase is working really well. Very happy to have it on hand. Now, I just need to be better at updating my kGTD system with my lo-fi system and I'll be all good.

Up early tomorrow morning to do get some more stuff done! I'm rarin' to go and I need to focus. Let's hope that tomorrow works well!

In light of today's post- Go and backup your critical work on your computer already!!! You'll need it when you don't realize it. You'll be thankful for spending a bit of time to do so! I promise! 🙂

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