Sunday, December 25, 2005

Frederick August Otto S.

...this was actually a draft from Christmas 2004, but sometimes it just takes a while for me to post things...

And Mr. Schwartz is no more. I passed an empty F.A.O. building in San Francisco and it made me sad - but I didn't go to F.A.O. as a kid, I went to Hamleys!

 Thursday, December 22, 2005

Apparent Santa Wandering:

I have been attending some discussions lately where we discuss the upcoming International Polar Year activities.

One of the NASA boffins was going on about how many poles there are: the Moon has poles where we hope to find water for lunar bases, Mars has polar caps with water and carbon dioxide ice, and Uranus has poles that ocasionally point at the Sun. Heck, even the Sun itself has poles, although they aren't very cold.

The talk about the Sun having poles made me realize that because poles are simply where the axis of rotation intercepts the surface, there are bodies out there that have no poles in the usual sense: the chaotic tumblers. These are bodies that are oddly shaped enough that they are dynamically unstable, and do not rotate regularly. You may have seen or even done the old physics demo where a heavy textbook is held shut with rubber bands, and then tossed while being spun around various axes. Spinning the book around the short and the long axes works fine, but that intermediate one... there's that unstable wobble. Now imagine an enormous rock doing this in space. Hyperion, one of Saturn's moons, is a chaotic tumbler, and the recent visitor Toutatis (about which I posted last year), is another.

Now imagine if Santa were on one of these bodies, having to move his toy factory every few days.

 Wednesday, December 14, 2005

RSS Feeds and the RSS Visualizer Mac screensaver:

Bring up the RSS feed from your favourite source as a screensaver on an (OS 10.4) Mac. Nifty!

I often have this screensaver set to the BBC International Headlines RSS feed, but I only just figured out how to customize this to more than the default set of RSS feeds supplied by Apple within Safari...

You need to make sure your desired RSS feed's URL is saved by Safari before you can get this to work.

1. a. Launch Safari and navigate to your desired source.
b. Check to see if they have an RSS feed (should be on the front page if they are worth their web-savvy salt, and Safari will display an RSS button in the address bar if it can detect it). RSS feeds are sometimes called XML feeds.
c. Click on the RSS button or link link to display the RSS feed within Safari. You should see a list of titles and brief excerpts of postings.
d. Bookmark this page (the RSS feed, and NOT the website itself - you should see an URL ending with .xml).
e. Close all Bookmark management related windows! This ensures you are actually saving the URL within Safari's Bookmarks.

2. a. Launch the System Preferences app from the Apple menu
b. Click on the "Desktop & Screen Saver" icon.
c. Click on "Screen Saver"
d. In the Screen Savers list, select "RSS Visualizer"
e. click the "Options..." button
f. select your desired RSS feed from the displayed list of all your Safari RSS feeds, and click the "Done" button

Sigh. Don't display your own blog RSS. That's just plain vanity. Give your family grief for not doing it.

One feed that gets me laughing (caution, may be mildly offensive to some): The Onion - weekly

 Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Apple Chat:

A good example of why electronic chats do not work well. I wasn't sure whether I was really speaking to an Apple agent, or whether this was an "Agent" as in an artifically intelligent agent that was parsing my posts against a FAQ...

Agent:
Thank you for contacting Apple Chat support. My name is Abhishek, please give me a moment while i access your records in our database.

Agent:
Thank you for your patience, may i know if you are calling about an existing issue or will this be a new one?Paul:
Hello Abhishek, good day to you wherever you may be. A new Issue - headphone port on an iMac.

Agent:
Hi Paul, how may i help you today?

Paul:
When I first purchased the iMac, I tried headphones and external speakers, and they did not work. I assumed I had the wrong jack and sold my speakers. I just bought a new set, and they don't work either (I have tested them on other equipment, so I am fairly sure it is the port on the iMac).

Agent:
As i understand you are unable to connect the external speakers to the imac using the jack, is that correct?

Paul:
I can connect, but the sound is not correct - it is distorted.

Agent:
I will send you an article that addresses the issue....

Agent:
I have pushed a page onto your browser, it should come up on the right side of your Chat window.

Agent:
The url for the page is ...

Agent:
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=86810

Paul:
Yes, thank you I have seen this one - the speakers do have a 3.5mm metal analog jack, but it does not seem to go all the way into the Headphone jack on the iMac.

Agent:
May i know if you have purchased the jack as per the configuration shown in article?

Paul:
Yes, the speakers were bought from Apple.

Agent:
I would suggest you to take the headphone and speaker set to the Apple Store and have them check the jack with the other Apple computers....

Paul:
I have tried the speakers on my Mac laptop, and they work there...

Paul:
These speakers work on other Macs. Other speakers have not worked with this iMac. Ergo, it is most likely the port on this iMac.

Agent:
I believe the issue is related to the port of the imac, as you have tested the jack with other Macs.

Agent:
I would advise you to take the imac to the nearest Apple Servie Provider and they will be in a better poition to help you with the issue.

Paul:
OK, thank you for your help today, Abhishek.

Agent:
You are welcome.

Agent:
Is there anything else i can assist you with?

Paul:
Unless there is some way of installing it myself (I have reset the midplane on this machine before), I think we are done.

Agent:
Is it okay for me to end the chat?

Paul:
Yes, sorry. I did not realize I had to actively end it. Thanks again.

Chat Session Ended, Goodbye. (5010)



...Bummer, I was all set to blast my new JBL Creatures, but it looks like I will be sending the iMac off for repair (again).

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