Archive for the ‘Computers & Internet’ Category

Amateur Wikipedia vandalism

March 3, 2008

Fulton Sheen would probably have laughed. This almost prompted me to sign up and do my first Wikipedia edit, but I resisted. I have faith that the “online community” will take care of itself, without my butting in.

fulton sheen


Leopard still screwy, and now Photoshop

February 22, 2008

I installed the 180MB Mac OS Leopard update a week ago or so. Preview still doesn’t search the way I’d like, plus I am getting some new “features.”

Tonight while working in Photoshop, my screen faded to black. Yet I could still hear the “plunk” of incoming messages on the Yahoo IM . . . then the “Front Row” application appeared. I have never run Front Row before, and wasn’t even touching the computer when it decided to launch itself.

Also, Photoshop is crashing every time I try to perform “Copy Merged” on the header graphic of the website I’m working on. I can Copy Merged in other parts of the same graphic, but not the header. Makes one want to switch to PC! At least there you expect crashes to occur every time you sit in front of the computer.

Leopard bug(?): “Preview” searches are screwy

December 1, 2007

This might be spun as a “feature” rather than a bug, but I think it’s lame, whatever you call it. When viewing PDFs with Apple’s Preview application, I am no longer able to do live-updated searches on multi-word strings. If I type “the end,” for instance (without quotes or comma), Preview begins searching for “the” only until I begin typing “end.” At that point, when I begin the second word of the search string, the entire search changes its focus to that second word alone, completely discarding the first.

If I want to search for the two words next to each other, I have to enclose the whole phrase in quotation marks. But this means I have to wait until I type the closing mark before Preview even begins to search the text. I much prefer the old way, where it started searching immediately, even for a multi-word string.

Any suggestions on a better way to PDF, drop me a comment, please. I was loving Skim, but it doesn’t play nice with Leopard. Just yet.

Leopard in the house

November 5, 2007

I’ve been using the new Mac operating system, Leopard, since Friday, and I like it very well. Probably one of the coolest things is “quick look”—press the space bar with any file selected in a directory listing, and that thumbnail zooms in to provide a nearly full-size preview. Even works with multi-page documents, and with RAW files.

The built-in file backup system, Time Machine, is also wonderful. Automatic hourly backups of your hard drive! But it seems to be a quick way to fill up your entire backup disk, and I am not sure I want multiple daily backups. Especially if it is backing up files that haven’t been altered since the last backup, like the multiple gigabytes of those Apple Loops for Soundtrack, which I never use. That’s what it looks like it’s doing.

The down side to this new OS is that a bunch of my programs are now very unstable. Word 2004 has crashed repeatedly while trying to print documents, and Google Earth won’t start. My preferred PDF viewer, Skim, has crashed several times.

Google Books and Real Books

November 2, 2007

The main conclusion of this excellent New Yorker essay (“Future Reading” by Anthony Grafton) is that while the huge digitization projects will bring millions of items to anyone with an internet connection, if you want fuller knowledge, you will never be able to get it just from a computer screen. If you’ve spent any amount of time with original materials, you know how true this is. It was an amazing experience for me to browse through John Milton’s own Bible, Evelyn Waugh’s manuscript copy of Brideshead Revisited, an original printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and any of the scores of other items I’ve had the privilege to hold and read, dating from the 10th through the 21st centuries.

That said, you’ll have to shoot me before I stop using the digital resources. They too are now indispensible.

Here’s a good quotation, but do read the essay yourself. It’s got too many interesting nuggets in it to do it justice in a blog post.

Original documents reward us for taking the trouble to find them by telling us things that no image can. Duguid describes watching a fellow-historian systematically sniff two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letters in an archive. By detecting the smell of vinegar—which had been sprinkled, in the eighteenth century, on letters from towns struck by cholera, in the hope of disinfecting them—he could trace the history of disease outbreaks. Historians of the book—a new and growing tribe—read books as scouts read trails. [. . .]

For now and for the foreseeable future, any serious reader will have to know how to travel down two very different roads simultaneously. No one should avoid the broad, smooth, and open road that leads through the screen. But if you want to know what one of Coleridge’s annotated books or an early “Spider-Man” comic really looks and feels like, or if you just want to read one of those millions of books which are being digitized, you still have to do it the old way, and you will have to for decades to come. At the New York Public Library, the staff loves electronic media. The library has made hundreds of thousands of images from its collections accessible on the Web, but it has done so in the knowledge that its collection comprises fifty-three million items.

Microsoft’s “Halo” used to get kids an eternal halo

October 8, 2007

Interesting article in the NY Times about the phenomenon of Protestant churches using the video game Halo—in which the goal is to kill as much as possible—as an evangelization tool. At first I thought, why not? They already have the jumbotron TVs in every church. May as well use them on weekdays, too.

But seriously, as the article notes, this does seem to raise a legitimate question. How far is it advisable for a church to go to be considered “relevant” to youth (or to adults, for that matter)? Must they find exactly the same thing in church they find in the world at large? Someone in the article says that just because something draws teens into church doesn’t automatically mean it’s a good idea—and cites booze and porn as examples. Another claims that Halo is a necessary tool, because kids don’t play sports as much anymore. Perhaps, though, video games are more a cause of this, than a consequence? Maybe? I remember going to mid-week youth night at Concordia Lutheran. I was the biggest video game fan on earth, but still loved running around outside, going crazy. Might it be that the current crop of youth pastors have a Halo addiction? And are simply making a virtue of necessity? “Let’s see . . . gotta work at church on Wednesday night, which will cut into my Halo time—I know! Let’s bring Halo to church!”

Oh—and one guy is quoted as saying that playing Halo at church is “no different than camping.” Uh huh. Except for with Halo, you’re indoors rather than outdoors; Halo requires electricity and camping doesn’t; pizza places don’t deliver to campsites; and so forth. They’re virtually identical! What he means is that getting together with friends is getting together with friends, no matter what the place or circumstances. But this is really lame. A better analogy is that, if you are under 17, playing Halo at church is like getting someone to buy you and your friends beer. If you’re under 17 you are too young to legally purchase Halo or beer. (Problems with this analogy, of course, but it holds up better than the “camping” one.)

I’m not against Halo (I’m kinda hoping Joe rigs another Halo Nite!) but my gut feeling is that church is not the right place for that kind of entertainment. I wonder whether the Jews, Muslims, or Orthodox or Catholic Christians are doing anything similar. Or, if not, why this is a peculiarly Protestant trend.

iLife ’08 pitch

August 13, 2007

I usually count on Joe for this kind of post, but I had to go on the record to say that I just watched the (extremely long) video for Apple’s new iLife ’08 software, and was really, really impressed. The new iPhoto web galleries are super cool, and iMovie is now so versatile it should be illegal for an application of its price. And the photo books you can order are really very handsome, with dust jacket and glossy pages. As Borat would say, “In my country, uh, this is, uh, VERY NICE!”

Paradox at work

July 25, 2007

Eating lunch today at the Taco Shack I saw a TimeWarner high-speed internet commercial. It urged you to buy their product so that you could “share your individuality . . . with people just like you.”

Heading to New Jersey tomorrow morning for a long weekend of sightseeing and funhaving. Take it easy, yo, and I’ll see you next time.

Better color from future browsers

June 19, 2007

I was pleased to see this at CNET News, and it answered a question I’ve had for a while: why pictures look so much richer on my own screen than online. Safari already gives better colors, but Firefox is supposed to introduce improvements in this area this summer.

For now, there’s little point employing the more sophisticated color schemes on the Web. IE, Firefox and Opera can’t display them, and worse, Adobe RGB images, for example, typically look worse than sRGB on the Web. That’s because the non-Safari browsers, incorrectly interpreting an Adobe RGB image as sRGB, drain the images of some of their color.

Not so with Safari. Apple machines are in widespread use among graphics professionals, and the operating system supports color encoding schemes that are called profiles and are standardized by a group called the International Color Consortium (ICC). Safari checks to see whether an image is tagged with a particular ICC color profile and displays it accordingly, tuned to work with the user’s monitor.

Multi-touch screen technology

March 27, 2007

This is the coolest thing ever. Jeff Han’s the man. This demo looks cool on his 8-foot screens, but I think it would work great on a 15″ screen as well, and dare say that in 20 years computers will look nothing like they do today.