Happy 7-0, Dad!

We spent the day in the mountains with my folks, celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday. seven-oh. We had an awesome day at their timeshare cabin at Banff Gate just outside of Canmore (not far from Banff). Got lots of great pics, and Evan had a blast.

The coolest thing about today was that dad wasn’t supposed to make it to 70. He was diagnosed with a serious case of polymyositis in 1997 (?), and was given under a year to live. His body was digesting all protein in his system, slowly taking his internal organs apart and secreting the remains into his blood.

Well, he basically blew all of us away with his recovery. Dad went through a lot of crap, with his body falling apart from the inside out. All kinds of drug cocktails, side effects, cocktails for the side effects. Therapy. Rest. And now, years later, he just keeps getting stronger, and isn’t slowing down at all. He even had a heart attack last year, and while that was a pretty big scare for everyone, he shook it off, followed doctors’ orders, and keeps on truckin’. Awesome. Looking forward to the big eight-oh, nine-oh, and beyond. Keep on keepin’ on, dad! I hope I’m going as strong when I’m your age! I give my dad a hard time – we relate primarily through sarcastic humour – but we’ve been through a lot over the years (some pretty severe ups and downs), and I admire him in so many ways, and love him more than words can express – certainly more than I could ever say to him. perhaps he’ll see this entry sometime… or, I’ll get up the nerve to say this to his face…

Today was good on several levels – great to have a quality day with my folks. Great to have an awesome day with my wife and son (and Evan was totally amazing today!!!). And, I’ve been in the middle of a neverending shitstorm on a Major Project (well, Two Major Projects With Overlapping/Conflicting Deadlines/Demands). It feels like the entire frakking world is on my shoulders, and it was freaking awesome to get a day (well, only a few hours actually) without having to really think/deal with the bullshit thrown my way. One of the reasons I went back to working at the University was the concept of cycles – there are periods of extreme demands/productivity, but it’s followed by a brief period of lesser demands, where you can catch your breath, regroup, decompress, debrief, grow, and then head into the peak of the cycle refreshed and ready to go. The trough part of the cycle has been absent for me for the last year, so I feel like I’ve been running at 100% for the full year. Nearly burned out. Nowhere near as productive as I could/should be. Both Major Projects are winding down (for now – one permanently, the other hopefully dovetailing into a new cycle). Looking forward to the trough…

On a less Deep note, I was using my sister-in-law’s camera today. She took off to Vegas for a week, and didn’t want to lug her camera around, so she borrowed our small Fujifilm e510, leaving her Sony Cybershot DSC-F717 for us to use. Normally, I’m not a fan of Sony cameras. Hate memory sticks. We hates them. Tricksy! False! wait… OK. So, the Sony camera is a high-end consumer “enthusiast” camera. Not quite SLR, not quite point-and-shoot. It’s got LOTS of nice features (a ring for adjusting focus/zoom, really fast booting and responding to shutter release, awesome low light handling, great battery life, etc…) I’d never buy the camera myself. Although it’s really nice, it uses a silly storage medium, and the beautiful Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lense is built into the camera (on a swivel, but built-in), so that’s annoying – it wobbles and makes me really nervous.

Basically, what using this camera did was make me realize just how much I want a digital SLR. I found I (felt like I (?)) was taking better pictures with the Sony just because of the extra control/feedback/response. Just imagine how much better a Digital Rebel XT would be, or a 5D

I’ll post the pics to Flickr when I get them off the camera. I don’t have anything that can read the stupid Memory Stick format, and the camera uses a USB connection that differs from any USB connection I have cables for. WTF, Sony? Have to wait to trade cameras back again, and get my pics offloaded for me…

New Autostitch Panoramas

Over the years, I have taken several series of quick-and-dirty panorama photographs. No tripod. No careful alignment. Just snapping a series of shots at various angles at cool or memorable places. I’ve been hoping that the software would catch up and make it brain-dead simple and quick to make high quality panoramas. Autostitch has finally done that.

I’ve been playing with Autostitch for a while now, but just went back through the iPhoto archives and dragged 14 sets of panorama series, and fed them into Autostitch to see what came out. The results aren’t consistently great (my older camera had lower res, and image quality was poorer), but they’re pretty darned good.

Flickr Album: Autostitch Panoramas – a photoset on Flickr

Here are some of the better ones…

Stanley Park pano
WWDC2002 Stevenote Lineup pano
Jungle Mural pano
SF Downtown pano

iPod Battery Failure

I know my battery life is really sucking on my 3G iPod. I get JUST enough juice to commute home and back to work (a grand total of 1 hour of use) before having to plug it in for enough charge to repeat the cycle again. On the weekend, if I just leave it “off” without charging it, it will be completely dead on Monday morning (which makes D’Arcy grumpy on the bus on the way to campus).

I didn’t realize that this was officially categorized as “battery failure” – I thought it was acceptable degradation of the battery life over time. Apparently it’s a bit more than that. If I were American, it looks like the recent iPod Battery Settlement would have me covered, and I’d either get a new battery or a deep discount on a replacement.

From the iPod battery settlement notice:

“Battery Failure” means that the capacity of an iPod’s battery to hold an electrical charge has dropped to four hours or less of continuous audio playback, with earbuds attached, with respect to the Third Generation iPod, or five hours or less of continuous audio playback, with earbuds attached, with respect to the First Generation iPod and the Second Generation iPod.

As it stands, I’m trying to figure out how to upgrade the battery on my own. I believe I have three options:

  1. Apple’s battery replacement program: $127CDN + $10CDN Shipping
  2. Newer Tech 3G battery replacement (850 mAh): $25.99US + $16US Shipping
  3. FastMac Online – Battery, Internal: 3rd Gen, 780 mAh, TruePower: $29.29US + shipping

I just sank $35 into some headphones to replace the iPod’s earbuds (which were OK, but sound quality wasn’t all that great), so I’m not sure I want to sink another chunk of change to keep the iPod ship shape.

Any tips or ideas? I do really love my iPod. No plans to ditch or retire it – I just want to make it last without having to sink a small fortune into it.

Update: Paul just let me know that CostCo is carrying iPod batteries! $19US for my model, for the 850 mAH model. Going to have to pick one of these up the next time I’m in the States, or nag the local CostCo into carrying these suckers…

Automator for Deploying WebObjects Application

For the Pachyderm project, we wanted a way to automatically update, build and deploy a WebObjects application and its supporting framework. The initial reaction was to just use a shell script, with xcodebuild running on the server to build the appropriate projects.

That didn’t work for us, because our server is still running 10.3 (with the appropriate older XCode dev. kit), while we’ve moved on to 10.4 and XCode 2.1 for development- so our server can’t understand the .xcodeproj files and barfs appropriately. Doh.

So, King and I whipped up an Automator-based workflow that runs on one of our dev. boxes. It first runs a shell script to update the source code from subversion, then builds the framework and application. It then runs a shell script to record the subversion revision number in a file in the compiled application (so we can display the revision number for bug reports etc… and not pollute our source code with revision numbers). Then, it connects to the server over afp, moves the old build products out of the way, and copies the new ones into place. About an hour later, WOMonitor comes through and cycles the app.

Basically, there is one “master” workflow that runs several nested workflows. This “master” is saved as an application, and I’ve set iCal to launch it every morning at 1:00am.

Yes. Source code management and enterprise application deployment with Automator and iCal 🙂

It seems to work well, but we initially had some permissions problems. It will also make it trivial for use to update the app at will.

Notational Velocity for Outboard Brain

Yeah, I’m switching again.

I’d used Notational Velocity before, and really liked it, but switched to DevonThink PE to manage stuff that I don’t necessarily want Google to find (password, bank account info, and random notes – code snippets and the like – that don’t make sense being blogged)

I just tried the full DevonTHINK Professional edition, and while it’s really nice, and has handy Dashboard widgets for easy access, it just struck me as a “heavy” application. Its interface is essentially a taxonomy, or a hierarchy of folders. That’s cool, but you need to keep thinking about where to meaningfully store stuff.

I was tossing around the idea of using a personal wiki (TiddlyWiki, WikitiWidget, a local copy of MediaWiki, or VoodooPad), and then remembered Notational Velocity (well, remembered isn’t the word… I saw the icon sitting next to VoodoPad in my ~/Applications directory 🙂 )

NV is really sweet. It’s basically just a tagging interface – you type in a tag (or a “description”, in NV-speak), and it searches all of your notes, providing a list of relevant items. If you hit TAB to get into the text entry/display field, you can create a new entry for that tag/description, or edit an existing one. It’s one part wiki, one part fulltext index, one part tagging. No hierarchy. No taxonomy. Just fast, simple entry and retrieval of information, without any bells or whistles getting in the way.

I’ve bound it to respond to “control+space” so it pops up with a single keystroke for easy access.

Update: Well, it gets even easier. NV has a couple of system-wide Services available. Hit “command+shift+v” and your text selection gets turned into a new NV entry, with the first line being used for the “description” (tag), and the entire selection used in the body. Sweet.