Monthly Archives: November 2003

Mac files, volumes

While looking for something else the other day, I ran across this Apple technote. I think it illustrates quite nicely the kind of sacrifices that were made to put Mac OS on top of unix. In the end the rewards are worth it, but the way volumes are handled is a step backwards. Seems like they could have created a small root partition, just for links to standard unix directories (usr, lib, etc), and mounted volumes in their own directories /My hard drive, /My apps, etc. This “/Volumes” business is silly. It’s another example of the fragility of the new system.

We used to brag that you could rename your System Folder and the Mac would still boot. Those days are long gone.

Related: John Siracusa reviews Panther.

HorseBack Salad

The Austin Chronicle profiles HorseBack Salad Entertainment:

“In February 2001 — working out of their homes — the four formed HorseBack Salad, a ‘ground up’ animation and multimedia firm whose chief claim to fame was and is its ability to generate unique results fast, whether the project is a music video, an animated pilot for the Cartoon Network, or a piece of educational software — you know, for kids. With an animation style that occasionally echoes Jamie Hewlett’s work for Brit hip-hop popsters Gorillaz and encompasses everything from their own projected animated shorts and series (this is where the kung-fu robots and Kabuki snowmen come in) to more serious (but not too serious) outings like their bouncy animated segment in local singer-songwriter Andrea Perry’s ‘Simple’ video, HorseBack Salad has initiated or had a hand in 44 separate projects: a whopping record considering they’re the new kids on the block.”

I first saw their name when the Question Authority interactive game showed before the Matrix at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was immediately obvious that these guys had talent, with some traditional animation know-how that is absent from a lot of online content.

Peppercoin and web comics

It’s been a few years since Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics was published. In that time, a couple digital cash companies have probably closed their doors, and thousands of web comics have been created by artists with little expectation of even covering their costs.

Peppercoin is the latest company trying to solve this problem (not just for web comics, but for any small purchase, such as music downloads). An article on Technology Review covers the details, and I have to admit it’s a pretty clever idea:

“One transaction out of a hundred, selected at random, is sent to Peppercoin. After Peppercoin pays the seller 100 times the value of that transaction, it bills the customer for all of her outstanding purchases from all sites that use Peppercoin. Since about one out of a hundred purchases is processed, her last bill will have come, on average, a hundred purchases ago. That’s the trick: by paying the seller and charging the customer in lump sums every 100 purchases or so, Peppercoin avoids paying the fees charged by credit card — roughly 25 cents per transaction — on the other 99 purchases.”

But it still requires the user to install new software. The content will have to be extremely compelling for people to install new software they’ve never heard of just to access it. Even BitPass, a competing service just getting started, is completely browser based. As is PayPal, for that matter.

Meanwhile, we recently resubscribed to the local paper. (You know, the physical one that shows up on our driveway every morning.) Imagine my surprise that the comics section is now a full one-and-a-half pages, not just the one page when I was growing up. Now that’s progress.


Something interesting is going on with VoodooPad, winner of O’Reilly’s Mac OS X Innovators Content. It’s the best front-end to a Wiki I’ve seen, but more than that, the implementation for talking to servers is XML-RPC based and open (overview and more documentation).

The API is simple, and you could probably use it as a front-end for other custom content-management systems, not just Wiki. But it is yet another API. I wonder if they considered building off of one of the existing weblog APIs, or the Atom project.

I’m going to give VoodooPad a try for general purpose note taking. I’ve always liked the idea of a Wiki but have never been able to successfully use one for anything meaningful.

G5 vs. Power Mac 9600

My new G5 arrived last week. This machine replaces (supplements) my old TiBook, which was really showing signs of age even with Panther. It is an understatement to say the G5 is a fast machine, and it makes programming a joy again.

Of all the machines in my office now, the new G5 most resembles another machine I got just a few months ago: an old Power Mac 9600. That machine was a monster in its day too. As a Linux server, it does the job quite nicely. I finally finished migrated this site and email to it last night. (If you’re wondering why I would move this site to such an old machine, I should point out that this site used to run on a Power Mac 7600, even more ancient and running an extremely old Linux Kernel. Both run Yellow Dog Linux.)

In the process I learned something valuable: Webmin is your friend. I had heard of this web-based unix administration suite years ago, but finally tried it yesterday. I configured a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know how to touch before now. I like the power of the command line, but using Webmin probably shaved two hours off of what I was doing. The only real problem I ran into was with Postfix, and I had to do a little troubleshooting with netstat and friends. Overall the migration went very well.

New York City and Al

After visiting family in Louisiana last week (wait, 2 weeks ago), we took a trip to New York City for a few days vacation. It was great New York City weather: cold, and a little rain one night. We did the usual tourist sites, Broadway show, and walks in Central Park. We covered the city on foot, by taxi, and in the subway. All great experiences, and even though I’m back at home I catch myself jaywalking. Oops.

The night we arrived, Al Franken was signing books. I finished his “Liars” book a few nights ago. It’s mostly good stuff, and I found myself laughing out loud at 1am, trying not to wake the sleeping three-year-old next to me. But there’s a darker side too. There’s only so much “funny” you can put in September 11, and he puts very little.

Of course ripping apart conservative talking heads is fine, but the problem is not just with the right. Cable news in general has spiraled down into so much sensationalist garbage that there’s little or no time for real journalism. Even so, most of Franken’s arguments are pretty dead-on and well researched. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually have cable anymore, so what do I know.)

One of the unfunny chapters is a moving description of the memorial service for his friend, Senator Paul Wellstone. Now Al Franken is contemplating a run for senator in Minnesota:

“Driving him as well has been his distaste for the Bush presidency, he said. ‘I felt like after 9/11 this president had a chance. We were united in a way that I had never seen, and he had a chance to take this country forward in a spirit of mutual purpose and mutual sacrifice. Instead, he just hijacked it and used it to his own political ends.'”

Some people look to 2004 and ask, “How can a Democrat hope to win against Bush?” But this president’s credibility has been weakened, and the uphill battle right now is his. Wait to see the turnout on election day. Democrats hate this guy, maybe even more than many Republicans hated Clinton.

Semi-related: George Soros gives $5 million to, attacks Bush.

(Don’t worry, politically-themed posts to this blog will be very rare.)