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November 2007 Archives

November 4, 2007

Velveeta is life

I was visiting Cisco Home Base in San Jose last week for various stuff right before Supercomputing, etc. (including moving my entire MPI development cluster to a new machine room with much more space). I got to have dinner with my cousin Lisa D. who is out there for school. I haven’t seen Lisa since 2002, when I was deployed in Arizona, so it was nice to catch up.

I also saw D. and D. for Halloween, which was quite cool. They bought me my very own pumpkin (how many friends do you have that would pre-emptively buy you a pumpkin?). I discovered that my pumpkin-carving skills suck; apparently I should be using the pumpkin-carving stencils that all the cool kids are using these days (when did competitive pumpkin carving become a hot market? and how did I miss the memo?). I also got to play with D’s iPhone. Wow, that thing is yummy! I still can’t rationalize buying one (mainly since Tracy and I both have smartphones for work that do e-mail, etc.), but the iPhone is still cool as hell.

(benefit of publishing this entry [long] after I wrote it: apple keeps releasing updates with new, cool iPhone features)

In the “it’s a small world” category, D. is now using Open MPI at work on a regular basis. He’s reported a few bugs in the past (fixes for which made it into the production releases), but now I understand that it is actively being used in at least some capacity. Neat!

It seems that Notre Dame’s football team took the season off. Oh well; I’m guessing that there’s some strange things happening behind the scenes that we are unaware of. Hopefully they’ll pull it together — there’s always the ‘08 season…

November 10, 2007

8 out of 7 people are bad at math

I Leoparded last weekend (i.e., upgraded my iMac and MBP to Leopard). A few things I have noticed:

  • I found a bug in OS X’s Mail client regarding plain text and rich text composing (short version: I have “plain text” set as my preferred format, but still Mail composes some mails in rich text). I filed a bug about this with Apple and they closed it as a dup and something that they’re supposedly already working on.
  • Spaces is “ok” (vs. great). I wouldn’t say that it’s much better than Virtue Desktops. It gets many of the same things “wrong” as Virtue; if you switch to a different application (via cmd-tab), even one that has an open window on the current Space, you may still get switched to a different Space. I once got Spaces to “lose” all the windows on space 6 (i.e., the windows were supposedly there, but Spaces wouldn’t display them anymore — the windows in Spaces 1-5 were fine. I could even make new windows in Space 6 with no problems), but I haven’t been able to repeat it, so I haven’t filed a bug with Apple.
  • Quick Look is great, especially for e-mail attachments. It doesn’t always do a perfect job; I’ve seen it fail to show any details on some files (e.g., even powerpoint files that it should know how to display) and I’ve seen it skip some details that are in other files (e.g., not render some of the text on a powerpoint slide). But I guess that’s ok — it’s a quick look, not a detailed examination, after all…
  • I’ve caused Leopard to lock up a few times (requiring a soft or hard reboot); I’m not entirely sure what I did to make that happen; I was just using the machine normally.
  • Twice when I’ve rebooted, Leopard has associated the wrong application for opening Powerpoint files. I had to reset it to the right application (and then make all similar files open the same way). I don’t know why it seemed to “forget” how to open the right application.
  • Open MPI’s build system can make Leopard’s ld throw a bus error. Awesome. Technically, our assembly isn’t exactly correct, but it’s the minimum that will compile on all the linkers that we care about. Making ld on OS X throw a bus error is new, though.
  • tcsh still sometimes aborts for no apparent reason (it did in Tiger, too). It has something to do with typing ctrl-C on a command line. It is very difficult to reproduce this error; I’ve not found a consistent formula to make it die (i.e., just typing ctrl-C doesn’t make it happen). It doesn’t dump a corefile in /cores, either, so there’s little additional clues as to what happened.
  • X11 support is weird, as noted in Brian’s blog.
  • Open MPI is included in Leopard as universal binaries for 4 architectures. Woof!
  • I’m not much of a designer kind of guy so I won’t comment much on the aesthetic changes Apple made, but I will say that the light blue dot on the dock indicating that an application is running is kinda hard to see sometimes.
  • The printing subsystem is a bit nicer than Tiger’s, but it no longer automatically finds the CUPS/IPP-advertised printer on my home LAN; I had to configure it manually. Tiger’s printing subsystem would always automatically find the printer.
  • The network subsystem is also a bit nicer than it was in Tiger.
  • DTrace looks pretty cool, but it has some differences compared to Solaris’ DTrace (making portable integration into Open MPI a bit more difficult).
  • I haven’t been able to make iChat AV work (audio/video/or vnc — regular chatting works fine), so I can’t comment on it. But I wasn’t able to make it work in Tiger, either — I’m guessing that there’s something weird in my network/ISP setup that is not letting the connections go through (need to setup weird port forwarding or something). I haven’t yet spent enough time with it to figure it out. Shrug.
  • Spotlight seems slightly faster. I’m guessing that it’s still bogged down by the few hundred thousand e-mails I have in Mail.
  • I love Mail’s new “export a folder” feature. It allowed me to archive off a bunch of really old mail to some permanent storage on a different server. Removing about 200k mails from Mail seemed to speed it up a bit (yes, I could have done this before by going into $HOME/Library/Mail, but I didn’t really think about it until I found the feature in Leopard Mail and thought “hey, this seems like a good idea!”).
  • Safari’s text search is waaaay better than the old one; I love how they visually pop the search items out at you when it finds matching text in the web page.
  • I really like the uniform use of the “Downloads” folder (why didn’t they do this before?); both Safari and Adium download things there by default and it makes the resulting files easy to find (without cluttering up my already-busy desktop).

So is it a huge improvement / worth it?

There’s a million small little things that are nice. But probably the main thing that changed my day-to-day usage is Spaces (I’m trying to use that instead of Virtue Desktops) and Quick Look. Aside from 1-2 new quirks in Mail, it seems handle very large mailboxes a bit better — and that’s important to me. I would really like to get iChat VNC working so that I can help with some of my relatives’ Macs when they have problems (this was actually the “killer feature” that had me go out and buy Leopard).

November 23, 2007

What I hate about my new cell phone

Per a prior journal entry, my work just changed from Palm Treo smartphones to Samsung Blackjack smartphones. The Blackjack is based on Windows Mobile 5. I’ve made up a list of things that I don’t like about my new phone. To be fair, the blame is equally shared by Windows Mobile 5, AT&T, Credant (the application used for locking the phone/encrypting the data), and Good Messaging (the application that ties into our back-end Exchange servers for e-mail, etc.).

For whatever reason (as compared to my first blog entry), the phone appears to be more stable now — it doesn’t lock up nearly as much, but the list of things I don’t like is still pretty long:

Windows problems:

  • The “done” button location is inconsistent; sometimes it’s on the left, sometimes it’s on the right.
  • You can create “speed dial” shortcuts (press-and-hold a number on the keypad to trigger an action), but: a) they’re not actually speed dials; they’re actions (e.g., run an application), so it took a long time to figure out that this functionality could be useful, but b) there’s no indication anywhere of what your “speed dials/actions” are after you set them. So you’d better have a good memory.
  • It’s a minimum of 7 clicks to get to where you can send an SMS (not counting the clicks to find the right contact) — sometimes more. Why should such a common action be so difficult?
  • If you cancel an SMS message, it goes to drafts. Then you have to delete it from the drafts folder (it takes 11 clicks to get to the drafts SMS folder).
  • There is a nice feature to turn off all transmitters (phone and bluetooth). But sometimes when you turn them back on, the bluetooth transmitter refuses to turn back on. It requires a reboot to fix this problem.
  • The Java on the phone is unusable; Java pops an authorization window every time an application uses HTTP or HTTPS. You cannot setup Java to say “this application is allowed to use HTTP/HTTPS forever.”
  • Windows loses my bluetooth headset settings upon reboot (and other random times).
  • The phone plays any annoying (and very loud) noise upon startup/shutdown that you cannot turn off (I suspect this is AT&T’s doing, though — not WM5). The noise is accompanied by an animated fireball, supposedly to indicate AT&T’s blazing fast network. My wife, who heard the sound but didn’t see the accompanying graphic said, “Did your phone just flush?”
  • Internet Explorer provides no way to clear the current URL. If you want to go to a new web site, you either to have to go a bookmark or you have to fully backspace out the current URL and type a new one.
  • I find that Internet Explorer does not render many popular web site; it just stops in the middle of loading the page. Some sites work fine; other sites just hang.
  • The phone randomly reboots every once in a while. It rebooted while I was typing up this list, for example.

Good problems:

  • In all Good screens, small yellow banner comes up when new mail arrives, but there’s no way to get rid of it (despite there being an “X” on the right hand side of the yellow banner, implying that you can click on it somehow). So the banner stays there until you go read the new mail.
  • There is no integration between Good contacts and SMS. This is highly frustrating; I get SMS messages that simply show the phone number that they’re from; it doesn’t show me who they’re from. Who remembers phone numbers these days?
  • Good messaging does not automatically start when the phone boots (!).
  • When a reminder alert appears for a to-do item, you have to clear the alert to get back to the phone (vs. leaving the alert there because you haven’t actually done the item yet — like Outlook’s Alert’s window).
  • In the inbox, there’s no way to jump to the beginning or end of the inbox (or current message) — there’s only the thumbwheel to scroll up and down (which is difficult if you have a few hundred messages in your inbox, for example).
  • Good only shows the last hundred messages or so in your inbox. I understand conserving resources/memory, but there’s no way for the user to control how many/how few messages appear on the phone.

Credant problems:

  • Credant will lock your phone while you’re on a call. Even if you want to go on/off mute, you have to unlock the phone (which can be many clicks if your PIN is lengthy). To be fair, I don’t know if this is a Credant problem or someone set a policy that Credant would do this (i.e., I don’t know if it’s a bug or a feature).
  • Credant is schitzo about what you can/cannot do when the phone is locked. For example, you can see/clear to-do reminders when the phone is locked.

About November 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JeffJournal in November 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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