Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in March, 2004

Nice review!

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Kevin Schmitt posted a very nice review of Zingg! in his last installment of Ten Programs I Can’t Live Without (This Week, Anyway). Zingg! is in the company of programs such as Default Folder X, NetNewsWire Lite, SubEthaEdit, Graphic Converter and the Unsanity stuff, among others… very flattering. Thanks, Kevin!


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In the midst of a traumatic move, The Dowbrigade waxes rhapsodically about his iBook:

…Meanwhile, we are amazed at the capacity of this little machine to find, acquire and store the essence of what passes for “culture” in the Dowbrigade’s world. After thinking about this we have concluded that it would be theoretically possible to recreate almost all of Western civilization exclusively from the contents of a single 60 gig hard drive…

Meanwhile it is scary the degree to which my worldview and emotional well-being are becoming dependent on this five-pound slab of plastic, metal and silicon. Over the next three months it will be our companion, our post office, our library, our TV, our newsstand, our juke box, our confidant, our journal, our game chest, our worthy opponent in games and puzzles, our cookbook, our darkroom, our calculator, our telephone, our scrapbook, our window on the world and our lifeline to our past. It seems a miracle that one object can fill so many roles and desires. Our preciouuusss.


Re: Packing…

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We’re back from São Paulo. Catching up. Must run. More later.

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Avoidance therapy

The Wildcat has placed her latest order for things wanted from Paris, but will have to wait.


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…because tomorrow we’ll be off on a 4-day trip to São Paulo, for some personal visits, a wedding, and business contacts. Friday I’ll probably be at the Macmania magazine offices.

In the aftermath of the major data loss I had a few days ago, I plan to buy a new external FireWire drive. Today I found an offer of the Iomega HDD250 at a relatively low price – R$1500, slightly more than US$500. Unless I find something better in São Paulo I will buy this when I come back…

In the meantime, expect light blogging until Sunday.

Avoid arguments

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Simon Willison points at Charles Millers’ Rules of Argument. This excellent article teaches how to avoid online arguments:

Rule one is scarily simple. You will never change anyone’s mind on a matter of opinion. Someone going into an argument believing one thing, and coming out the other side not believing it is a freak occurrence ranking somewhere alongside virgin birth and victorious English sporting teams. People change their minds gradually, and if anything a prolonged argument only serves to back someone into a corner, huddling closer to the security blanket of what they believe.

…Once you have stated your case, there’s no point re-stating it. Going over the same ground repeatedly will damage your case: nobody likes reading the same interminable debate over and over again. Similarly, if people read what you have to say, understand it, but continue to disagree anyway, there’s nothing more you can do unless you suddenly come up with a totally new argument. The only productive thing you can add is if people clearly don’t understand what you?re saying, and you need to clarify.

…Sometimes, you’ll ignore all these rules, and get into a month-long argument about RDF with a fundamentalist gun-nut emacs-user. What then?

The ideal attitude to project during any argument is one of calm disinterest.

I find that I subconsciously already deduced Charles’ rules for several years; I can’t even remember getting into a heated online argument. I suppose I can thank my faithful readers for already being calmly disinterested – hopefully not just disinterested icon_lol.gif.

Nevertheless, it seems that there’s been a seasonal increase in the number of arguments I read about. Even such an amiable fellow as the AccordionGuy recently had to post a comment etiquette notice. Shelley Powers posted on blog commenters’ hostility on the same day. So did John Walkenbach, who put his finger on the main issue: a weblog (or nearly any other publicly accessible page) isn’t a democracy. The owner decides what to put on it, what to cut, which comments to allow. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to publish his views elsewhere. If you read the comments in the above links, you’ll see that, while a majority of commenters agree with that, by no means all do.

The situation on the Internet contrasts to what many people are used to regarding other media. If a newspaper or TV station publishes something you disagree with, they’re often obliged to allow you equal time or space to disagree; after all, very few people can open their own newspaper or TV station to do so. The Internet and the explosion of free weblog providers changed all that; anyone with the resources to read something also has resources to publicly disagree with it.

So it goes…

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An aggravating agglomerated aggregate of glitches glommed onto me yesterday. After nearly 10 years without losing any significant data, an errant shell script (in an Open Source project I had just downloaded from the net) removed a goodly part of my Home folder. I noticed things crashing and disappearing, finally deduced what must have been happening, and killed the miscreant task.

Of course, Murphy decreed that no recent backup of these data existed… the external FireWire drive I had been using for backups turned out to be unreliable over a mont ago and I’m still searching for a replacement.

The BSD/Unix underpinnings of Mac OS X imply that many actions that involve command-line stuff fail when confronted with file and folder names that contain characters classic Mac users are prone to use: hyphens, spaces and accented characters all make naïve shell commands go astray. (This rarely if ever affects BSD tools called directly from normal applications, as there’s no parsing of the actual file names involved, and by Mac OS X all filenames use UTF-8 encoding).

In the days of the public betas and Mac OS X 10.0.x, I recall running into several such glitches, mostly while running Apple’s now-obsolete Project Builder programming environment. Project Builder (and its successor Xcode) invoke the gcc compiler and associated tools through complex shell scripts, and I still run into snags now and then when accented characters are involved. Still, Xcode has been remarkably tolerant of embedded spaces and for the past year I’ve consistently used spaces in my current folder names without any trouble; mainly for having the projects I’m working on list first in my somewhat bloated Home folder.

The leading space, unfortunately, was the cause of the aforementioned shell script interpret a “remove all nested folders from /Users/rainer/ Test Project/subfolder/” command as “remove all nested folders from /Users/rainer/, from Test, and from Project/subfolder” (paraphrased). There are two ways of writing such things correctly: one is to precede embedded spaces with a backslash, another is to enclose the whole file name in quotes. Because of the somewhat convoluted nature of the shell script, which passed a list of search results to the actual remove command, the author did not consider that the list might not be properly formatted…

Besides my current project folders my Desktop and Documents folders were removed. On the desktop I kept mostly recently-downloaded items, which can always be downloaded again as soon as I need them. The Documents folder was more painful to lose, as it contained my address book, e-mail folders and several other files that contained ongoing corresponce.

So I spent most of yesterday and today trying to restore my working environment. I tried some disk rescue utilities without success. I wrote a disk image of the volume I keep my Home folder on to an improvised external drive, only to find later that this doesn’t copy unallocated blocks and is therefore unsuitable for data rescue.

Fortunately, my Home volume was nearly full, meaning my working files had a good chance of having been allocated near the end of the volume – and indeed some judicious albeit tedious scanning allowed me to recover most of the source files I had been working on for the past month. Whew.

Unfortunately, the same trick won’t work for e-mail; there’s just too much of it and the fragments can’t be fitted together as easily; and a CDR backup I did last month proved unreadable, too. So, if you e-mailed me anything important since Christmas, please send it again; sorry.

Quick update.

A few hours after posting the lamentation below I found out how avoid the text cursor. Both selecting and editing have to be disabled. Turning editing on (as I do, briefly, when inserting new stuff) turns selecting on again.

Turning all that off messed up some other functionality but I’m happy to report it was all easy to fix, and I now seem to be where I should have been a month ago.

Ah yes, and the contextual menu itself turned out to be a piece of cake… most of the code from Zingg! and Nudge could be reused.

So I hope to have something publishable Real Soon Now™…

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