Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

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Re: Look! a bandwagon!

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pablowestenh wrote:

its extremely quiet in here icon_neutral.gif

post some interesting topics guys

Somehow this makes me ask: are you sure you’re in the right place?

…anyway: there’s no “guys” plural here, only myself; and only I can post topics; others can just reply/comment. I do plan to report on my work progress Real Soon Now, though.

Re: Developments

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The new iMac (27″, i5, 8GB) has arrived and is awesome. Most everything is now transferred to it and working; I had to merge my Home folder from the Time Machine backup I did of the old iMac I sold in September, before our Asia trip, with things I did in the 4 months on the MacBook Air that has been my only machine since then.

Small glitches:

– connecting an external monitor over MiniDP works, but (for me) it flickers distractingly every 5 minutes or so. The dreaded main display flicker is absent, though.

– the enclosed Magic Mouse is great; I loved the scroll-by-touch feature. Alas, after 1 day of click-intensive work, my hand started to hurt, so I’ve gone back to my el cheapo Pleomax mouse. Maybe I’ll try again later; my guess is holding the thing between thumb and little finger is straining some never-used muscle. It also has surprisingly sharp edges at those points.

I’ve also gotten my old Core Solo Mac Mini back and am setting it up. It still runs 10.5.8, so I’ll finally be able to debug running stuff on Leopard again.

Re: Developments

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If any of you still read this after nearly 50 days without posting, I’ve been tempted to do this:

Click on the comic to see the original at (via

In other news, my trusty but overloaded MacBook Air proved unable to cope with serious developing (or even the usual mixture of stuff I do when procrastinating working on other things). Less than half an hour (often much less) after I connect to the Internet over either USB/Ethernet or WiFi, connect an external USB drive, an external monitor, or whatnot – much less all of these at once – the fan turns to full blast and soon thereafter the dreaded “kerneltask” begins to use 99% of both CPU cores, slowing typing and even mousing to a crawl.

Closing the Air for 10 to 20 minutes usually but not always allows resuming work for another short time, but sometimes a reboot is necessary. Must be global warming icon_cry.gif

Anyway, my new iMac 27″ quad-core i5 with 8GB of RAM (squeee!!!) is due to arrive tonight and all should be back to normal Real Soon Now?.

Re: Developments

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Whew, there were even more tons of stuff to do than I’d thought; sorry about that.

To make a long story short, we moved out of our old apartment before the trip and moved in to the new one when we came back. I’ve almost caught up with buying furniture, wiring, plumbing, installing lighting fixtures, bathroom accessories, kitchen shelves and so forth; the main thing still in the queue are wall-to-wall bookshelves in my home office, and they’re a priority as all my books are lying about in boxes.

Also, I sold my main working Mac (a 20″ iMac Intel) before the trip, confident that I’d be able to immediately buy a new one on my return; unfortunately, the new 27″ iMacs have been delayed in Brazil and I now expect my pre-ordered i5 model to be delivered a few days before Christmas. In the meantime, the MacBook Air is somewhat overloaded with stuff, and much juggling will be necessary before I can again use it for coding… still, I hope to get going again this weekend.


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Non-development developments, that is.

We’ve been busy packing for our upcoming trip to China and other Asian countries. Also, moving from our current apartment to a new one – more packing! I also just sold my desktop iMac (more packing, erh, backing-up); by the time we get back in mid-November there should be a new generation of iMacs out. Meanwhile, essentials are being copied to my MacBook Air, and I’ll work based from that for the next two months.

You can tell that I decided to schedule all traumatic experiences at once! Better to get them done and over with…

Anyway, we go off the coming weekend. On the way to Beijing there’ll be a stopover of a few days in Frankfurt, Germany; enough to de-lag a little, and visit with family.

If all goes well, we’ll arrive in Beijing in the early afternoon of Sept. 25, and in the evening I’ll do a small presentation for the local CocoaHeads chapter. (At this time, that page shows Sept. 26 but we’re trying to move it to the 25th.) I gather that all members are rather young, and will be amazed at someone over 40 writing software! icon_wink.gif

At any rate, I plan to talk a little about my professional experience, then move to the main topic – tentatively named “Protect Your Application Against Evil Hackers (or, at least, against the lazy ones)” – and finally showing some pictures from exotic places like Brazil and California. If it comes off well, I’ll post the slides somewhere here for downloading.

After a little more than two weeks in China we’ll depart from Shanghai for a 4-week cruise, going to Japan, Hongkong, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. On the way back to Brazil there’ll be another few days of stopover in Paris.

Posting updates here from China may not be easy, but I’ll try.


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Well, the nice folks at MacMagazine (thanks Rafael!) have republished a slightly updated version of an interview I gave a few years ago. It’s mostly about the 1985 Unitron Mac512, the very first Mac clone.

It’s in Portuguese, so here’s a translated-by-Google sort-of-English version. Rafael has hunted down some good pictures of an early prototype; I regret not having taken any myself.

Re: Off we go.

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Back home, yay! As usual, there are lots of things to do and catch up on.

My email server got somewhat confused, as I normally use Eudora in POP mode, and on the trip alternated between Mail in IMAP mode (neither of which I’d ever tried before) and webmail. Somehow it started to refuse deleting messages, duplicating them instead on the server, a process that would have gone exponential had I not shut everything down in time.

Still, later today the email situation should be normalized again, and I’ll try to reread the thousands of messages since the middle of May just in case I missed something important.

If you emailed me in the past 3 months and I didn’t reply, please resend? Some message may have gotten lost in the process.

Some years ago, when I needed to re-check my eyeglasses’ prescription, I found an article on the Internet about an optician – I think in Los Angeles – who was making special glasses for computer users. (I can’t find that URL anymore, unfortunately.)

Aside: my personal case is rather uncommon. I’ve always been nearsighted in the left eye (-4 to -5 diopters), while my right eye was normal. The left eye also has a slightly different color response, seeing things a little greener and darker than the right. Until my late 30s, both eyes had an overlapping range where both would focus well… starting at 30cm out and going to about 90cm (1 to 3 feet if you’re stuck in the imperial backwaters). Then, presbyopia set in and astigmatism became worse; my eyes’ focusing ranges no longer overlap at all, so I started needing different eyeglasses to work and to drive. (I still need no glasses to read with the left eye, at least.)

Anyway, having two different eyes taught me to be able to switch between them as needed and to tense and relax the eyeball voluntarily – call it manual focus. I hear this can be learned in a short time even if your eyes are equivalent.

So, the trick is to learn to relax your eyeballs, deliberately making stuff go out of focus. When you do that, you should see things at some distance between 4m and infinity in perfect focus. Next, you should measure your desired working distance to your screen; mine is exactly at arm’s length.

Now you go to the optician and do all the standard procedures, except that you’ll hold that small eyechart at arm’s length, or whatever your preferred distance is, and relax your eyeballs throughout – think of “idly gazing into the distance”. I find that the resulting diopters are about 0.25 to 0.5 stronger than they are for my driving glasses, but of course YMMV. Ideally this should also be done without any of those pesky dilating eyedrops, as you want your eyes to be as near to the normal state as possible.

If you did this correctly, you should be able to sit at your screen for hours without any eyestrain. Of course you still should get up and stretch every thirty minutes or so, unless you also have an “infinity focus” chair… icon_wink.gif

I seem to remember hearing that there are modern laser-based machines that measure your lens directly without having you read charts or whatever; I suppose that if you run into such a thing, you’d have to do the “relax” trick while this is done. Be sure to talk it over with your optician; mine needed some convincing the first time.

Update: this article about computer glasses confirms my experience. You may want to check other articles on that site for more up-to-date information about vision problems and corrections (especially if you’re based in the USA).

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