Archive for April, 2008

fix quicklookd and transmission when downloading video

April 29th, 2008

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit…
it’s the only way to be sure.

Is your Mac’s CPU pegged when Transmission (or any other Mac BitTorrent client) downloads video? That’s because quicklookd — the QuickLook daemon that sneaks around and builds thumbnails of your movie files, is trying to build a thumbnail of a chunk of video that doesn’t exist yet. Because BitTorrent clients allot the disk space non-contiguously and then fill in the data, your Mac is confused. End the confusion with two Terminal commands so long that there is no center content well that can contain them:

sudo cp -r /System/Library/Frameworks/QuickLook.framework/Resources/Generators/Movie.qlgenerator ~/Documents/Movie.qlgenerator
sudo rm -r /System/Library/Frameworks/QuickLook.framework/Resources/Generators/Movie.qlgenerator

NOTE: So what did that do? The first command made a backup copy of the problematic Movie.qlgenerator in your Documents folder. The second command removed it. On the downside, you will lose the ability to “QuickLook” video files, and no thumbnails will be created or maintained for video files. On the upside, you will instantly gain ~75% of your CPU back as your Mac stops struggling in vain to create a thumbnail for a video frame that hasn’t actually been downloaded yet.


the olpc is a pile of crap

April 27th, 2008

So I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and since I’m currently ProCrastinating making breakfast (the Crastinating that Pros useā„¢!), let me waste your time for a second:

I bought an OLPC laptop off a local 9-year-old kid about three months ago. I found it for sale on CraigsList, God help me, and I picked it up after work at his house. He met me at the door — my suspicion was his dad had bought him the laptop via the G1G1 promotion, and he was flipping it to raise some quick cash. After I checked it out, I asked him “So why are you getting rid of this?” and he replied that the house “already had a laptop” and he “had to start saving up for a car.” The whole transaction was mighty fishy, but what the hell.

I took the little green laptop home, opened it up, and it became immediately apparent that the thing was full of porn — but a 9-year-old’s idea of porn. Browser window after browser window of Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, and JPEGs from “Maxim.” Recent search terms included the phrase “AOL Chat” and “bust.” Apparently, the kid was in a fevered titty frenzy and couldn’t figure out how to erase the details of his porny excursion from the OLPC’s journalled history.

In fairness to the kid, I couldn’t figure it out either. And here lies the problem.

The OLPC’s hardware is great — the screen is gorgeous, and once you figure out the somewhat stupid ear antennae that lock the thing shut, it’s easy to open it up and get it situated. The keyboard is mushy and SD slot is in a moronic location, but hey, these are forgivable issues. What is not forgivable is the dismal state of the “Sugar” system software that the OLPC ships with. It’s a shambles.

It doesn’t sleep so the battery just drains and dies. Wifi is spotty to begin with and connecting to any password protected wireless networks is iffy. The “neighborhood view” shows some networks as “close” and some as “far” but it’s completely random by design(!) and doesn’t actually mean anything.

It gets much worse: the web browser crashes out again and again. Flash videos won’t play without arcane terminal commands. The concept of “cut and paste” doesn’t exist. The much-vaunted “Learn Python” button that would expose the source code doesn’t even pretend to work. You can’t program an “Activity” without signing up for a “developer key” via a strange and convoluted method. Just check out the wiki — the OLPC developers themselves can’t figure it out.

These are all showstoppers, but what’s worse is the Sugar interface.

The Sugar user interface running on top of Fedora is beyond opaque. Anyone who makes excuses for the OLPC software is a crazed zealot — it’s just awful by any metric. It’s easy to see what they were going for — a unique, non-Windows, non-linguistic discoverable interface — but it’s a complete swing and a miss. I expect most kids will be scratching their heads and eventually giving up in frustration.

And here’s the frustrating thing: All the OLPC really needed to be is a piece of hardware wrapped around Firefox. If the OLPC developers just concentrated on getting together a top notch browsing experience, the rest could take care of itself. All the “Activities” bundles written in Python could just be webapps living locally. And Ubuntu provides a top-notch browsing experience today, not in the future, but today, with great performance and nice fonts and Flash and everything Just Working. Clearly the future of educational software is on the web, or via webby technologies, but because the OLPC guys were so in bed with Fedora and so in love with Python, that option is off the table.

It’s a shame. The OLPC laptop itself is lovely hardware, but the project has been capsized by open source fundamentalists who were too in love with their own half-baked ideas. It pains me greatly to say it, but I’m looking forward to getting Windows XP running on it so it has at least some use — and that’s about as serious a condemnation of the OLPC project as I can imagine.


building a hackintosh

April 27th, 2008

Steve Jobs’ Waking Nightmare of Complete and Total Inelegance

So I hit up and got my ~$200 worth of parts together — the nifty Shuttle KPC case, 2 GB RAM, and a 1.8 GHz Intel Core Duo chip (I already had a 250 GB IDE hard drive and Netgear WPN311 Wifi PCI card lying around) and I was going to write this big long honking thing about building a Frankenmac/Hackintosh but then Rob Griffiths from Macworld already beat me to it.

Bottom line: Building a Hackintosh is probably not worth your time. It’s amazing how much stuff “just works,” but here are the major problems:

  1. Updates. Point software updates (10.5.2 to 10.5.3 etc.) won’t happen unless you get updates via Bittorrent from Some Dude Who Has Already Fucked Around With Them. No offense to Some Dude, but this strikes me as a really bad idea.
  2. Wifi. This was the big fat stopping point for me — after four hours of what I will charitably describe as “dicking around” with .plists and .kexts I never got my Netgear PCI card to stop freezing after choosing a wireless network. Apple is in the enviable position of having to support only a couple wifi cards, and while the Netgear is super “out of the box” compatible with Windows and Linux, Mac OS X doesn’t need to know about it. So it doesn’t.
  3. Sleep and boot. Neither worked great, requiring kernel fiddling and partition twiddling and boot DVDs left in the the drive.
  4. Install. Installing from an IDE DVD-ROM drive was a pain in the ass thanks to not being able to install a hacked Mac OS X via USB DVD-R drive, so I had to have cables and junk strewed all around. Also, Some Dude has tricked out the Mac OS X 10.5 install, “helpfully” adding apps to /Applications and modifying the background colors, icons and dock. This is analogous to getting your car back from the shop and having “Grape Job!” scratch-n-sniff stickers “helpfully” added all over your leather dashboard.
  5. The Mac Mini. Frankly, if you figure it out by the hour, unless your time is worth absolutely nothing, the amount of time you’d spend on hardware and then dicking around with a hacked mac during its lifespan would total up to way more than just picking up a new $600 Mac Mini. And then everything would work out of the box and keep working.

Stats: I Xbench’d the Hackintosh, and performance was pretty good for a $200 machine:

Results 115.24
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.1 (9B18)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model Mac Pro
Drive Type Maxtor 6Y060L0 Maxtor 6Y060L0
CPU Test 104.29
GCD Loop 212.34 11.19 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 102.59 2.44 Gflop/sec
vecLib FFT 83.55 2.76 Gflop/sec
Floating Point Library 83.83 14.60 Mops/sec
Thread Test 132.61
Computation 136.39 2.76 Mops/sec, 4 threads
Lock Contention 129.03 5.55 Mlocks/sec, 4 threads
Memory Test 124.75
System 121.03
Allocate 170.66 626.74 Kalloc/sec
Fill 125.49 6101.37 MB/sec
Copy 91.25 1884.64 MB/sec
Stream 128.71
Copy 120.45 2487.77 MB/sec
Scale 120.40 2487.40 MB/sec
Add 138.49 2950.23 MB/sec
Triad 137.93 2950.75 MB/sec
Quartz Graphics Test 157.95
Line 125.77 8.37 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
Rectangle 166.61 49.74 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
Circle 135.69 11.06 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
Bezier 129.68 3.27 Kbeziers/sec [50% alpha]
Text 381.51 23.87 Kchars/sec
OpenGL Graphics Test 278.54
Spinning Squares 278.54 353.35 frames/sec
User Interface Test 171.48
Elements 171.48 787.00 refresh/sec
Disk Test 42.54
Sequential 54.36
Uncached Write 49.55 30.43 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 51.27 29.01 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 58.41 17.09 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 59.62 29.97 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 34.94
Uncached Write 12.89 1.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 76.65 24.54 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 78.06 0.55 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 90.38 16.77 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Anyway. As a computer, the Hackintosh is a shambling failure, but as a fun learning experience it was a success — I now know way more about the inner workings of .kexts and /System than I ever thought I’d have to know, and the Shuttle KPC will be a lovely PC or Ubuntu box, just not a Mac. Speaking of, Ubuntu 8.04? Literally everything worked out of the box.


Top 5 ploys to get people to your website

April 14th, 2008

#5: Top 5 lists

#4: Top 50 lists

#3: Top 3 lists

#2: Top 20 lists

#1: Top 10 lists