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Thursday, January 24, 2008

"MacHeads" - documentary on the cult of Mac


MacHeads - the movie (trailer)

It seems like more and more documentary movies are made, especially after Michael Moore's "Farenheit 911". The latest one that I've come across is this intriguing movie called "MacHeads". Apparently, it takes a look at the so-called "Cult of Mac", i.e. Macintosh users who have become so obsessed with the computer that they practically worship it.

The trailer shows snippets of interviews with a range of people, from the famous ones, like Guy Kawasaki (and a few other people whom I recognise but can't name), to folks who switched to the Mac and never looked back.

I think that this could be an informative movie, provided that it's presented objectively, of course. Mac die-hards are a well-known breed who make for good documentary fodder. All in all, you'd probably be left with one of two feelings: sheer awe at the power of the Apple/Macintosh brand, or pity for these Mac "cultists".

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time Capsule: how soon before it becomes a BitTorrent client/server?

Time Capsule
One of Steve Jobs' most intriguing announcement at his Macworld 2008 keynote was "Time Capsule". Apart from its name, which only Apple's marketing folks could've come up with, it also opens the doors to new possibilities. It's meant to be a companion device to Mac OS X's backup program, Time Machine.

But a quick rundown of its features suggests that it could be more than what it's designed for:
  • Small: 20 x 20 x 4cm,
  • Light: 2kg
  • Lots of disk space: 500GB or 1TB (that's 1,000 GB)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Firewall
  • NAT support
  • Works with both Mac and Windows
From what I've heard, there's a mini-Mac OS X in the machine to make it operable. If so, then this is no dumb machine. It's practically a full-fledged computer that does one thing really well: file storage.

Which means that it could function as a huge -- and stylish -- BitTorrent client/server (servent). (Ok, maybe "huge" is subjective. I'm sure that there are people who have 1TB of disk space and still complain that it's insufficient!) Essentially, BitTorrent software could be installed on it, then controlled remotely though the host computer to manage its file transfers.

There are already similar devices in the market, but I don't know if they've caught on with the pirates downloaders. However, their advantages are two-fold: you don't need to leave a computer running (which means less power), and the devices are Wi-Fi routers too, so they can be used as backup devices as well.

Therefore, Time Capsule is a BitTorrent servent in reverse; it's already a backup device, now it just needs BitTorrent capability. And since BitTorrent is open source, some enterprising genius could put a program together and load it into Time Capsule. Hey, if folks can hack the iPhone, then Time Capsule can't be that big of a challenge!

And even if Time Capsule doesn't have an operating system, I doubt that it'll be long before a talented hacker or two installs Linux (or Mac OS X, for the purist hacker) and loads BitTorrent on it to fulfill the function.

Time Capsule take 2: Apple-branded BitTorrent servent.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard": the largest beta tested Mac OS yet

Mac OS X 10.5
Steve Jobs announced at Macworld San Francisco 2008 that 5 million copies of Mac OS X 10.5 a.k.a. Leopard had been sold. And that this amounted to about 20% of the installed base. (I don't think the 5 million number includes copies of OS X 10.5 included with new computers.)

When I heard (or rather, read) about this, I immediately thought, "Wow, that's a lot of beta testers!" Apple had seemingly succeeded into using these 5 million customers to weed out bugs that its internal QA team was unable to.

I'd been following the numerous problems that upgraders had faced. There's a very long list over at Macfixit.com. Issues included graphics distortions, incompatibility with existing programs, files deleted/changed, and more.

Other complaints not related to upgrades had to do with an important component: the user interface. The three main complaints were the translucent menus, Downloads folder in the Dock, and difficult-to-identify folders.

Which is why I did not upgrade to Leopard. I'm waiting for the bugs and other silliness to be more-or-less removed before taking the dive. Or maybe I'll spring for a new computer for the Intel CPU and faster speeds.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Singapore PHP User Group meeting - my first time

After missing the first two Singapore PHP User Group meetings (due to unforeseen last minute events), I finally managed to show my face at the third meeting this evening. I must admit that I went in with low expectations, based on the programme, but came away, well, a bit more knowledgeable.

There were two parts to the meeting. The first part was a presentation about "design patterns", i.e. a run-through of three popular methods for structuring a (software) program, regardless of programming language used. It's similar to how you can learn to drive a car, but don't need to know how to specifically drive a Toyota (example taken from the presenters).

The key takeaway was that design patterns simplify development work through a "divide and conquer" method, such that one person's work not only doesn't overlap another person's, but also doesn't overwrite other work. Theoretically, this can be expanded to cover any form of work.

From this first part, I learned a bit about other design patterns besides the familiar model-view-controller one (which I was forced to learn when doing my first program for Mac OS X). However, it was the second part of the programme where I totally tuned out.

The topic was to learn how to connect to a MySQL database with PHP. I didn't follow this session not because I am already familiar with the methods, but I believe in making use of commonly available frameworks. These sets of pre-built code not only simplify the whole process, but also reduce the chances of programming errors.

But I guess that's the problem with a one-size-fits-all meeting. There was a mix of experienced PHP developers and newbies. Like they say, before you can walk, you must learn how to crawl. Frameworks are for developers who know how to walk already. But once they learn walking, they'll be running very soon too. And that's why I personally believe that newbies should be exposed to frameworks as soon as possible.

Anyway, I got to chat with a few people, both familiar and not, so that was pretty fun too.

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