197 Articles


5 years Ago

Time Machine Backups

Published by marco on

I continue to be mystified as to how Microsoft has not managed to create a backup system as seamless and straightforward and efficient as Time Machine for OS X. The software is, however, not without its faults. As is usual with Apple software, Time Machine becomes quite frustrating and unwieldy when something goes ever so slightly wrong.

When it works, it works very well. It is unobtrusive. You have hourly backups. It is as technology should be: serving you.

At the beginning of the year, I... [More]

Windows developer machines

Published by marco on

A friend asked me for my advice on buying a Windows developer machine. In case anyone else is thinking about doing it, here’s my $.02.

What about a desktop?

I’ve got a desktop at work. It’s easily the fastest machine in the office. The hard drive’s a bit loud though. I’m being upgraded by my vigilant crew to an SSD in the near future, though. Otherwise, if you don’t need portability, you’ll get the most bang for your buck in a desktop.

You’re also more likely to be able to find something... [More]

Windows Live accounts and Windows 8

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If your Windows 8 is mysteriously moving your Windows and taskbar around, it might be because of your Windows Live account synchronizing settings from one machine to another.

Starting with Windows 8, you can connect your local user account to your Windows Live account, sharing your preferences and some Windows-App-Store application settings and logins.

I had this enabled for a while but recently discovered that it was responsible for mysterious issues I’d been experiencing on my... [More]

Refurbished Mac prices

Published by marco on

A friend asked me about the prices for refurbished Macs (Apple Store).[1] In case anyone else is thinking about doing it, here’s my $.02.

Is refurbished OK?

I can’t think of a reason why a refurbished Mac wouldn’t be a good idea. it’s good for the Earth, at any rate. My initial impression is that the price advantage is negligible—you can get last year’s model (June 2012) for only a 15% savings off of the price of a new MacBook. It’s impressive how little Macs depreciate. Still, 15% is better than nothing.

Retina... [More]

Disk Cleanup on Windows 8

Published by marco on

 Disk Cleanup – Windows.old & Recycle Bin Disk Cleanup – System FilesIf, instead of installing Windows 8 on an empty drive, you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8, the installation process retains a copy of your old Windows 7 installation in a folder named “Windows.old”. As you can see from the screenshot, this folder can be pretty big. If your Windows 8 is running fine and you have no plans of downgrading, you can safely throw away this folder.

What’s the best way to delete this folder? It’s probably protected and deleting it manually will be rife with... [More]

The Next Opera Next Browser

Published by marco on

 Opera started a public beta-testing program a few years ago called Opera Next. Whereas the stable version naturally moved along more slowly—but always rock-solid—Opera Next often had a more up-to-date HTML/CSS renderer (code-named Presto) and Javascript engine (code-named Carakan). Opera recently anounced that future versions—Opera Next Next—would be built on the WebKit HTML/CSS renderer and Google’s open-source V8 Javascript engine instead.

Why is it good news?

This is, I think, good... [More]

Iran’s -313 stealth fighter

Published by marco on

There are some pictures of it in the article World trembles in confusion and/or fear at Iran’s fiberglass airplane by Lee Hutchinson (Ars Technica). There you’ll find over a dozen pictures with commentary. The commentary is, on the whole, not kind, but it’s also neither entirely information-free not unwarranted. They note in the picture below that the “canopy has ludicrously bad optical qualities—note the scratches and distortion.”

 Plane with pilot

It’s also, well, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. Or, as Ars Technica put it, “[…] there’s... [More]

FaceTime for Mac 2.0 – UI difficulties

Published by marco on

Skype for the Mac is kind of a CPU hog, so I’ve been looking for another solution.

I recently used Google Voice/Chat/Hangouts, which is kind of low-fi, but worked pretty well. The browser plugin is quickly installed. Although it didn’t work in Opera, it naturally worked in Chrome. It offered the UI that we’ve all come to expect from Google: bare-bones and adequate.

When everybody involved has an Apple device, FaceTime seems like a logical alternative to Skype and Google Voice. So what kind of... [More]

How to convert a Virtual PC 2007 VMC file to work with Hyper-V

Published by marco on

The following article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and is cross-published here.

Windows 8 was made publicly available a few weeks ago. As usual, Microsoft manages to guarantee compatibility with a lot of software, but there are a few tools that will simply no longer run.

One of these is Microsoft’s own Security Essentials product, which has been completely replaced with Windows Defender, which is built right in to Windows 8. So that one’s easy.

Another is Microsoft Virtual... [More]

Windows 8: felled by a modem driver

Published by marco on

tl;dr: if you can’t read the BSOD message or need to examine the minidump files generated by Windows when it crashes, use the BlueScreenView utility to view them. Windows 8 kept crashing on shutdown for me because of an errant 56K modem driver. Sad—so sad—but true.

My Windows 8 installation went off with just one hitch: the machine crashed on shutdown. Every. Single. Time. This made it impossible to use the hibernation feature, which was a blocker issue for a laptop.

So, how to solve the... [More]

How to purchase and configure a TV

Published by marco on

Your New TV Ruins Movies (Prolost) is a wonderful, eye-opening article about flat-panel TVs. If you care at all how your television looks—and whether it all matches the original intent of the director—it’s well worth your while to read the whole thing (it’s not that long).

However, here are the main points:

Plasma > LCD
If you don’t have a flat-panel television yet, or you’re in the market for a new one, strongly consider buying a plasma screen instead of an LCD. Why? Because “plasma TVs can... [More]”

6 years Ago

Google hates the Opera browser

Published by marco on

Google has recently begun more aggressively trying to get people to stop using the Opera browser. There are not many of us (less than 2% of the worldwide market), but Opera isn’t exactly so difficult to support. Google products do support the following browsers:

“Google Flight Search has not been optimized for your browser. For best results, please try Chrome, Firefox 3.5+, Internet Explorer 8+, Safari 4+.”

So, browsers that are around 3 years old—Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer 8—are... [More]

On the topic of sites which barely appeal to me

Published by marco on

There exist a few gargantuan time-wasting and mind-numbing web sites that scoop up hours of attention like a whale does krill. Facebook, with its coterie of applications (like Farmville and Mafia Wars, though I fear my lack of experience here is showing), is the undisputed king, but Twitter also looms large. The carcasses of others, like MySpace or Friendster, twist far off in their wake, drifting slowly down on gentle currents that carry them deeper into obscurity. Others, like LinkedIn and... [More]

MPAA Shoots Self in Foot

Published by marco on

Even the official Academy Awards web site isn’t allowed to show trailers and clips from the official nominees. Score one for the studios?

Unlikely Heroes

Published by marco on

 Swiss Bundesrat 2011

To the joy of the technically literate everywhere—and those interested in the rights of citizens to some form of cultural commons—the Swiss Bundesrat (pictured above) have emerged as unlikely heroes for their recent confirmation that file-sharing no big deal, some downloading still OK by Timothy B. Lee (Ars Technica).

“A new report by the Swiss government argues that unauthorized file sharing is not a significant problem, and that existing Swiss law—which allows for downloading copyrighted content for personal use—is... [More]”

7 years Ago

Saving & Loading Performance in Quino

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and cross-published here.

The GenericObject in Quino had recently undergone a performance overhaul, as documented in the article, Improving performance in GenericObject…but we weren’t finished yet.

I’m going to assume that you read the overview on “How Data Objects are Implemented” and understand what the GenericObject actually is. In the other article, we optimized performance when creating objects in-memory and when loading and... [More]

Improving performance in GenericObject

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and cross-published here.

Quino is Encodo’s metadata framework, written in C#/.NET 4.0. Since its inception four years ago, we’ve used it in several products and the code base has been updated continuously.

However, it was only in a recent product that one of the central features of the framework came under scrutiny for performance issues. It turned out that reading and writing to Quino data objects was a bit slower than we needed it... [More]

OS X Lion Installation Tips

Published by marco on

  1. You should check that you’re not relying on any applications that will no longer run on Lion. See the article How to Check if Applications are Incompatible with Mac OS X Lion (OS X Daily). Basically, the Rosetta Stone application is not compatible with Lion, so PowerPC-only applications no longer run. If you can’t find an update (or there is none announced) for an essential application, then you may have to stick with Snow Leopard for now. If you open the System Profiler and look at Applications, you can... [More]

Apple Terms and Conditions and Apple Privacy Policy

Published by marco on

When you buy something from the iTunes Store, you will often be asked to confirm new terms and conditions. In Switzerland, there are four official languages—French, German, Italian and Romansh—and English is used quite often as well (though it’s not yet an official language). Apple, seemingly unable to decide which language to use, simply chose almost all of them at once.

No that’s some well-executed localization!

Works Best in “__________”

Published by marco on

More than a decade ago, the available web browsers—Internet Explorer, Netscape and Opera—differed widely in capability. Cutting-edge pages that worked in one browser either didn’t work at all in the others, or ceased to be cutting-edge. In those days, it was both common and appropriate to include a browser recommendation. “Best viewed in Internet Explorer” or “Best viewed in Netscape” flourished.

Today, however, the various browsers have standardized to a great degree. There is no longer a... [More]

On The Year of the Linux Desktop

Published by marco on

It is, apparently, indefinitely delayed due to the advent of a completely new class of devices that no longer need desktops. Pity. In a recent discussion on Hates Software, one commenter noted:

“Those of us with jobs and credit cards won’t put up with that nonsense and will pay for the problem to go away.”

“That nonsense” to which he refers is any of the typical just-download-the-sources-and-compile-it-yourself claptrap peddles by those who don’t understand a good-goddamned-thing about usability.... [More]

Java Memory Usage on the Mac

Published by marco on

I’d heard that Java was a memory hog, but this is ridiculous:

 Java uses 16 million terabytes of virtual memory

It’s impressive that the machine was responding at all, actually. :-)

8 years Ago

Sneak Peek at OS X Lion

Published by marco on

If you browse through the new iLife videos, you’ll notice that the person doing the iPhoto demonstration is clearly using an OS X with a new UI style. The styling of the controls has changed subtly, with a stronger and darker blue highlighting line around the focused text-box and a much smoother look for the dropdown list:

 Text fields & Popup menu

When the dropdown list is opened, the popup menu is much different than that in Snow Leopard, in that it’s now black and sports a softer shadow:

 Popup-menu Open

Well, exciting stuff... [More]

Opera Alphas

Published by marco on

Opera software is ordinarily quite stable. Released versions are rock-solid, running for weeks—even months—at a time. Betas are also usually very good and even Alphas (for those of us in the testing program) are quite stable. Sometimes, however, we testers get saddled with a very bad version. A recent build has the tendency to crash completely on its own: Look away for a few minutes and, instead of your browser window with many tabs, the crash dialog is on-screen, waiting for a report.
... [More]

Cross MonoTouch off the list

Published by marco on

Apple presented the iPhone OS 4.0 late last week. The new version includes hundreds of new API calls for third-party developers, including long-sought-after support for multi-tasking. The changes extended to the licensing agreement for iPhone developers, with section 3.3.1 getting considerable modification, as documented in the article, Adobe man to Apple: ‘Go screw yourself’ by Cade Metz (The Register). That section now reads:

“Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by... [More]”

Mercurial: Why So Unhelpful?

Published by marco on

I’ve been using Mercurial for a little over a year now, but I’m still kind of a newbie because:

  1. I don’t use it every day
  2. I use it only for private projects, so there aren’t many merge issues

For development, I have two repositories: One for the web site content itself and another for the earthli WebCore, the backend for the web site. For each of these projects, I have the following repositories:

  • Local repository
  • Server repository (development)
  • Server repository (production)

... [More]

Stephen Fry’s review of the iPad, in a nutshell

Published by marco on

“It is possible that the public will not fall on the iPad, as I did, like lions on an antelope. Perhaps they will find the apps and the iBooks too expensive. Maybe they will wait for more fully featured later models. But for me, my iPad is like a gun lobbyist’s rifle: the only way you will take it from me is to prise it from my cold, dead hands. One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest... [More]”

iPad as Appliance

Published by marco on

Who would have thought twenty years ago that Steve Jobs would be the guy taking his company to ever-more-dizzying heights of nigh-monopolistic rapacity and peddling locked-in consumerism and that Bill Gates would be in Africa curing malaria and trying solve climate change. It’s a funny old world.

Apple announced its iPad to mixed reviews a little over a month ago. They plan to start shipping the device on April 3rd and are taking pre-orders now. A plethora of detail as well as succulent photos... [More]

Apple does listen

Published by marco on

Ever since Apple starting shipping software on the Windows platform—before iTunes, Apple’s presence was considerably smaller—users have complained of its rather aggresive installation policy. If you wanted Quicktime, the Apple site offered Quicktime+iTunes; when you installed iTunes, you were asked whether you wanted Safari. Though extra software could all be avoided by reading before installing, the fact is that most users simply accept the defaults. In Apple’s defense, their checkboxes... [More]

On Developer Control

Published by marco on

The iPad debuted, as expected, without support for Adobe Flash. Many industry observers spend very little time thinking about possible reasons for Apple’s continued resistance to Flash and instead very quickly come to the conclusion that Apple either “has it in for Adobe” or “likes to screw with its users”.

Since Adobe has been, is and will be one of the prime developers of content on OS X, it is highly unlikely that Apple “has it in for Adobe”. They might be getting a bit frustrated with... [More]