Restart the Flash plugin without quitting Safari#

You guys aren't already doing this? I actually take it a step further and use a LaunchBar action (that I named "kf") to kill the plugin with just a few keystrokes (i.e., I saved do shell script "killall -9 WebKitPluginHost" to kf.scpt in LaunchBar's Actions folder).

I normally would refer to my Use LaunchBar to execute, in the "background," commands via a shell piece, and tell you to alias killall -9 WebKitPluginHost to "kf," but do shell script uses the Bourne shell, which doesn't recognize aliases. Actually, you maybe could use my linked-to solution together with TextExpander (i.e., have "kf" expand to "killall -9 WebKitPluginHost").

Capturing the atom bomb on film#

From 1945 to 1962, the United States military detonated hundreds of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere. Photographers struggled to document the nature of the explosions and their destructive effects. George Yoshitake, 82, is one of the few cameramen who is still alive.

Write with whatever you want, sync with Notational Velocity

September 14, 2010

For the past few months my writing setup seemed to change with the wind, but recently I've settled fairly comfortably into a solution that allows me to both write with the Mac application I prefer, and access with my iPad/iPhone the text files that application generates.

It's all really very simple. I write all of my blog posts, including linked-list posts, in TextMate, using a method I devised. As explained in that post, I generally prefer writing in TextMate because it gives me ultimate freedom with respect to syntax highlighting; in this particular blog-writing case, that syntax is MultiMarkDown, a derivative of Markdown.

The plain text files I create with the TextMate blogging bundle get saved to a particular folder, which I interact with via a Stack in the Dock, sorted as a list by date created. (This actually is the only interaction with the dock I ever have on my machine.)

The second piece of my text-writing puzzle is Notational Velocity, the simple and powerful note-taking app for the Mac that syncs with Simplenote (which is fast becoming the go-to service for text-syncing apps). I set NV to use plain text files (instead of its database option) and point it to the folder referenced above where I store draft blog posts. After adding NV to my list of apps to be launched at login, it never again needs to be touched — it's always open, but hidden.

As long as NV is open it routinely will poll the folder I've told it to use, and sync that folder's files with Simplenote, even if those files were not created with NV; so, I can use TextMate to generate new files, and know they'll be synced automatically when I save them to the appropriate folder. Then, of course, because the files are synced with Simplenote, I can retrieve and modify them on the iPhone/iPad1 via the wonderful Simplenote apps.

It obviously works in the other direction too; i.e., I can create new files on my iphone/iPad via the Simplenote apps, and as long as NV is running on my Mac those new files will be added to my Stack, where they'll wait patiently for a little TextMate love.

So, I get to write on my Mac using my ideal text editor, and access the text files on both my iPhone and iPad, all while sacrificing nothing. It's kind of the perfect setup for me2.

  1. After struggling to find a real use for the iPad (other than a few games), I've settled on using it mostly as a mobile word processor (with a Bluetooth keyboard of course). (For most things portable I much prefer the iPhone 4 to the iPad.) It's nice to pull away from your daily driver and bang out a post without any distractions. Relatedly, Griffin's A-Frame iPad stand is great for this sort of thing.  

  2. For now of course; I've a feeling I'll switch to a PlainText/Dropbox solution once the PlainText apps are available. Yeah, you can do something similar with Elements now, but I've some niggles with the app, including its unattractive icon. ;)  

Chrome extension lets you graph the results of Gmail searches#

Graph Your Inbox is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to graph Gmail activity over time. You can use it to visualize your communication with friends, your Facebook activity, when you purchased items on Amazon or how often you use certain words or phrases.

So awesome. I've been playing with this all damn night.

My "Sweet Mac Setup"

September 10, 2010

A few weeks ago Shawn Blanc asked if I'd like to contribute to his "Sweet Mac Setups" series. If you know me at all then you know that I love this series (and generally anything like it) and was honored to be a part of it.

Accordingly, I spent a few hours banging out 2500+ words describing the hardware and software that makes me tick. Enjoy.

The first church of robotics#

All thoughts about consciousness, souls and the like are bound up equally in faith, which suggests something remarkable: What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture. […]

If technologists are creating their own ultramodern religion, and it is one in which people are told to wait politely as their very souls are made obsolete, we might expect further and worsening tensions. But if technology were presented without metaphysical baggage, is it possible that modernity would not make people as uncomfortable? […]

We serve people best when we keep our religious ideas out of our work.

Homebrew Cray-1A#

I've spent the last year and a half or so constructing my own 1/10-scale, binary-compatible, cycle-accurate Cray-1.

Incredible. Congrats Chris!


Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire. Share in the knowledge and buy the books.

Subscribed, obviously. (Via Richard Felix.)

Pull over before you read this#

Just because the technology is realtime doesn't mean our behavior always has to be. Forget the obvious issues like walking into an intersection or driving off the road. When it comes to the net, we're habitually guilty of LUI (Living Under the Influence). We sacrifice real life for realtime. We tweet vacation photos while we're still on vacation. We share anecdotes about our kids when we're spending time with them. And yes, we read and publish content from the driver's seat of our cars. […]

All of this data can wait until later - and much of it can wait until never.

Google Reader and all-time read counts

August 29, 2010

Recently (yesterday?), Google Reader started pushing out all-time read counts via Trends. However, it looks like the count has an upper limit of 300,000 and, somewhat alarmingly, I need to go back just 264 days to reach at least that limit (i.e., Trends says that "Since December 7, 2009 you have read a total of 300,000+ items.")

300,000/264 = 1,136 items/day. Every day. Wow. Use that statistic to extrapolate a read count for the last ~eight years' worth of feed reading and it's obvious we're dealing with some scary numbers. I always knew the numbers were large — I've forever been a bit of an information nut — but this definitely puts my "problem" into perspective and compels me to immediately pare down the number of feeds I track.

(Relatedly, had I submitted my stats to Google's tongue-in-cheek ReaderAdvantage program, I would have been in the top tier with just a few months' worth of use. (The top tier required only 314,159 lifetime read items.))

Worry isn't work#

Many of us have grown up thinking that if we are properly self-punishing then we are somehow being responsible. "What, I'm a nervous wreck -- how could I possibly take on more?" On the other hand, if, God forbid, we are feeling carefree, we have this nagging sense that we're being downright irresponsible, certain that if we don't get right back to self-flagellation then the other shoe is going to drop. And hard. We don't correlate our sense of responsibility with what we are actually producing. We correlate it with how hard we are being on ourselves. […]

Worry isn't work. Being stressed out isn't work. Anxiety isn't work. Entertaining a sense of impending doom isn't work. Incessant internal verbal punishment isn't work. Indulging the great unknown fear in your own mind isn't work. Hating yourself isn't work.

I'm speechless.

Living out of a hard drive#

I have to say I love this philosophy (except, probably obviously, the no-place-to-live aspect), and to some extent have been practicing it for as long as I can remember. Despite how it may come across on Twitter (and even here to some degree), I really don't own too much stuff, and the less I own the better I generally feel. Sure, when it comes to certain items (namely computers and all other types of electronic gadgets) I participate in a constant (and admittedly absurd) upgrade cycle that seems to know no bounds. However, I don't tend to own more than one of these sorts of things at a time (e.g., I don't have nine pairs of headphones), and usually welcome the convergence of devices (as long as I feel that maximum usability can be maintained).

Personalized color contrast -- possible?

August 21, 2010

I want to know the perfect background/foreground color combination for me (for reading/writing). Often I spend hours at a time searching for and experimenting with new color schemes to see if I can come up with something preferable to whatever configuration I'm currently using. I generally like my background to be darker than my text, but beyond that I'm all over the map. (I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like I type faster with a light-on-dark setup.)

Is there some sort of test I can have done that will determine the optimal color contrast for my eyes? Maybe if I'm ‘prescribed' a color scheme I finally can convince myself that it can't get any better and will stop looking.

Relatedly, is there a background/foreground color scheme you swear by? Let me know via Twitter or email.

Apple's Magic Trackpad

August 13, 2010

As soon as the Magic Trackpad was announced I grabbed one, but really wasn't expecting to hang on to it for too long. I figured I'd use it for a few hours and then return it, as I've done with, I think, every Apple "mousing" device.

Turns out the opposite happened — I haven't once used my mouse since getting the new trackpad. What the hell is going on here? I won't go into a protracted (and boring!) discussion about how I've used every mouse ever made, and how I'm constantly testing new input hardware; if you know me, you know that already, and if you don't know me, then, well, just what kind of life are you leading?

I never particularly enjoyed using trackpads when working from my notebook, and in most cases just attached a mouse. (One exception: two-finger scrolling is the best. thing. ever.) Also, and as you probably know, there's nothing terribly novel about the Magic Trackpad; in fact, save its size, there really is no (functional) difference between it and the glass trackpad in your MacBook (Pro). Given these two bits of information, it's not hard to see why I didn't have high hopes for using the trackpad with my "desktop" (i.e., my MacBook Pro plugged into an external display). However, when setting up the Magic Trackpad I was kind of forced to play with the various multi-touch options now available (most or maybe all of which which have been available for a while on Mac notebooks) and came to realize that this little piece of glass was capable of some, well, neat stuff.

The gestures that really caused me to step back and notice that I actually was enjoying using the trackpad are three-finger dragging/selecting and two-finger right-clicking. (One niggle: sometimes the three-finger text selection doesn't "take," or otherwise requires a noticeable amount of time before you can act on the selection. I haven't been able to reproduce this every time.) Enabling these gestures crystalized for me the main reasons I've always hated using trackpads for extended periods; i.e., dragging/selecting and right-clicking required a physical click (and in the case of dragging/selecting, a physical click with one finger and a drag with another). I hated having to do these operations because 1) I was so used to tap-to-click (i.e., no physical clicks) and 2) they just felt so unnatural and forced, and were prone to imprecision.

I think another reason I'm enjoying the Magic Trackpad is because it doesn't require my hand to move very far to get to it. I'm a keyboard guy — if it can be done with a keyboard instead of a mouse, I use a keyboard. Always. Having the trackpad so close to the keyboard (in my case, just a few inches to the right of it; much closer than my mouse) makes it feel more like an extension of the keyboard, and less like a separate device. It's a neat feeling, and surely one with which most people who routinely use their notebook trackpads already are familiar (remember, my notebook's trackpad always has been an afterthought). Relatedly, while it's nice that it looks exactly like Apple's Bluetooth keyboard, I do think the angle of the pad is a little off, and probably should be made flat, just like its MacBook (Pro) counterpart.

So yeah, I'm quite surprised by how much I like using the Magic Trackpad, and am now going to have to make a decision that I thought was going to be a mindless one — mouse or trackpad? I've a feeling that as soon as I plug my mouse in again I'll stick with that (she's so perfect in every way), especially if I'm doing any substantive photo post-processing (which I haven't yet attempted with the trackpad), but you never know. Hell, given the pad's tiny footprint, I may just keep both devices on my desk, if only to switch it up every now and again. OK, you're right, probably not.

This is how it feels to be under a nuclear attack#

Incredible, powerful stories all, but this description, from a comment, hit me hardest:

The hospital thronged with people covered in burns, their faces oozing and swollen the size of pumpkins, and skin trailing at their feet or hanging in tatters from their outstretched arms; people desperately trying to push their eyeballs or intestines back in place, or, lacking the strength to do even that, walking about with their intestines hanging out; people burnt so black and raw it was impossible to identify their age or sex. It was just as if I'd stepped into hell.