Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Free batteries

In the wake of Apple's battery recall I've finally got round to checking my own batteries, and it looks like both the batteries I have for my 12-inch Powerbook are included in the recall. Considering I bought the second because I trashed the first one to death and it wasn't holding charge anymore, I'm moderately happy. I've never had a problem, and I'll get two new fresh batteries in exchange for my two aging ones. Can't complain...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Samsung ML-1610 and Mac OS X

Update Dec. 2008: I've recently upgraded to Mac OS 10.5, and had to go through the process of installing the printer again. However this time around it seems that a driver for the Samsung ML-1710 is available on Samsung's Australian site. The ML-1710 driver appears to work perfectly with the ML-1610 under Leopard for me on my Intel Macbook.

Update Nov. 2007: The instructions below are for PowerPC Macs only, and don't work on Intel based machines. However there is still a way to get the printer working, at least under Mac OS 10.4, I haven't tried under Leopard yet. Download and install the PowerPC version of ESP Ghostscript from Sourceforge (espgs-7.07.1.ppc.dmg) and then the PowerPC Samsung GDI drivers (samsung-gdi-foomatic-1.0.ppc.dmg) from Make sure the printer is plugged in during the installation. Then go ahead and set up the printer as normal from the Print & Fax preferences, but select "ML-1210 Foomatic + GDI" as your printer when asked. Despite having just installed the PowerPC drivers, and unlike the official Smasung drivers for the ML-1740 I talked about below, these seem to work okay, at least for me as my ML-1610 is now working fine with my Intel Macbook.

I've been on the look out for a cheap laser printer for a couple of weeks, and in the end I picked up a Samsung ML-1610 laser printer from eBuyer for £49.99. Since it was advertised as being supported by Linux I just presumed that it would work out of the box under OS X. Unfortunately not, and I've just spent half an hour or so tinkering getting it working.

It turns out that the ML-1610 natively supports Microsoft's Graphics Device Interface (GDI) via the Samsung Printer Language (SPL) and after running across Jeff Boulter's post about drivers he'd managed to find which supported the Samsung ML-1740, it turned out that these were actually generic SPL drivers and, despite not explicitly saying so, supported the ML-1610 just fine.

So now that I have it working directly via USB, does anyone know if there are problems with the ML-1610 and either of the D-Link DP-G310 or Netgear WGPS606 wireless print servers? Or with these print servers and OS X?

Apple battery recall

In the wake of the largest ever consumer electronics recall in history by Dell, it seems that Apple are now also recalling batteries that may be affected by the Sony battery problems. So if you have a 12" iBook or a 12 & 15" Powerbook, and a battery with a model number of A1061, A1079 or A1078 and A1148 respectively, you should probably check your serial number against the list of affected batteries.

How to find your serial numbers...

However the recall apparently only applies to batteries sold inside the United States, although according to the CPSC, there were an additional 700,000 batteries of the same type sold outside the States, which is a little worrying if you think about it...

Update: This is unrelated to the previous recall of Macbook Pro batteries with model number A1175 and a 12 digit serial number ending in U7SA, U7SB and U7SC.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Which Orion is that?

It now looks likely that NASA have chosen Orion as the the name the new Crew Exploration Vehicle and possibly for the entire programme leading up to America's return to the Moon. That said, I'm currently under the impression that, officially at least, the name for the programme is still Project Constellation.

The name is liable to cause a great deal of confusion. Although the is already an American rocket named Orion, the main source of confusion will be the original Project Orion, the first engineering design study of a spacecraft powered by nuclear pulse propulsion, undertaken by General Atomics in the 1950's and 60's. The original Project Orion is well loved, and despite critics, is treasured as one of those "what if?" moments in history by space activists around the world.

George Dyson, son of physicist Freeman Dyson who amongst many other notable things worked on the original Project Orion, has written a book about the project; "Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship" (US/UK) which I'd recommend for anyone that wants to learn about the original project and to find out why NASA's choice of name for their return to the Moon is such a disappointment to those of us following the manned spaceflight programme. We'd wanted, hoped for, so much more...

Ubiquitous interfaces

Innovations in user interfaces aren't that common, so I was really pleased to see NTT's new cell phone has a novel way of showing the current battery status...

NTT DoCoMo's new 3G phone, the N702

The phone comes with a built in motion sensor and the current battery charge is displayed on screen as a glass of water; the emptier the glass, the less power in the battery. Novel, but immediately understandable, a classic ubiquitous computing interface.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Google Connexion?

Following rumours that they wanted out of the market the news that no buyers have emerged, and that Boeing is therefore going to close down its in-flight broadband service, is probably not going to surprise many people. However the news immediately sparked speculation that perhaps Google should buy Boeing Connexion, as a perfect fit to its Google WiFi service in Mountain View, and to get a foot in the door in the in-flight tracking business.

In-bound tracks to LAX in real-time...

Compared to the capabilities of Google Earth, the current generation of seat back in-flight tracking is pretty poor. Even forgetting the eye candy the availability of tracking data from providers like FBO should allow a much more dynamic view of the world with you able to see the position of your own flight in relation to everyone else's...

It actually looks like this might be a good idea for Google. It would put Google WiFi and Google Earth directly in-front of a fairly high powered audience, and a captive one at that, it might even be worth it for "brand awareness" purposes alone. So, an idea that might just fly, so to speak...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Off the Grid

Brian McConnell has an interesting article on the O'Reilly network about how he took his house off the utility grid. I've been thinking along similar lines, although I don't have the budget to throw around that Brian obviously has, and living in the UK rather than California I've been thinking about wind turbines rather than photovoltaics. Although I'm not exactly alone (via Digg) in thinking that wind turbines are a good solution.

Of course you can always make your own solar cell (via Make: Blog), but it's not exactly going to produce enough power to run your house. That said cheap 9 or 12V panels for prototyping (via Make: Blog) are coming down in price rather dramatically, and it looks like larger installations are about to become more efficient, at less cost. Time to think about dropping off the grid...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Google flight sim

I've been stumbling across mentions of Mark Caswell-Daniels' mashup, Goggles, for a couple of weeks now. It's a cute flight simulator mashup that uses images directly from Google Maps as the backdrop.

Goggles, the Google Maps flight simulator

Monday, August 14, 2006

One third less flights?

The Times is reporting that airlines have been ordered to severely reduce the number of outgoing flights out of Heathrow.
British Airways said that it was awaiting further advice from the Department for Transport but was complying with a directive by BAA, the airports authority, to cancel 20 per cent of its short-haul operation today in addition to cancelling all 26 of its domestic flights from Gatwick. The airline, which cut 30 per cent of its Heathrow flights yesterday, has now lost about 900 of the 2,900 flights that it was due to fly in and out of London's two largest airports over the past four days.
...and just when I thought things were getting back to normal.

One piece of hand luggage, maybe?

The threat level in the UK has just been downgraded from "critical" to "severe", which means that each passenger can now carry one piece of hand luggage onboard when they fly. However the change appears to have caught operators on the hop as they're unprepared and won't be allowing hand luggage through security until tomorrow at some airports...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Google homepage broken in Safari

It looks like the changes to the Google home page which got rolled out yesterday have a problem, like many Google products, they just don't work in Safari. The cute little drop down menu which you get after hitting More>> appears okay, but clicking on the options inside don't actually open up any new pages. You'd have thought that they'd have at least tested it?

Update: For the curious, I'm running Safari 2.0.3 (417.8) on Mac OS X 10.4.5.

Update: It has now been fixed...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Solution to hand baggage ban?

Ah ha! I think I've figured out a way around not being able to take my laptop onboard on flights in or out of the UK...

I should be able to take the Eurostar to Paris, and then fly from Charles de Gaulle, after all nobody else has a hand baggage ban in place. I wonder how long it's going to take for everyone else to figure this out? Talk about offshoring jobs...

UK terror alert

Anti-terrorist police say they have foiled a suspected plot to blow up aircraft leaving UK airports. It's understood the aim was to detonate bombs smuggled on board flights to the United States in hand luggage, and as a result extra security is now in place at all UK airports.

CREDIT: Associated Press/BBC News
Screen capture from BBC News 24

The Department of Transport has issued new travel advice for passengers and no hand baggage is being allowed in aircraft cabins.
Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:
  • Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)
  • Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)
  • Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic
  • Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
  • Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution
  • For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)
  • Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)
  • Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
  • Keys (but no electrical key fobs). All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened.
In response the US has raised it's alert level for flights coming from the UK, and for internal flights. Heathrow has also been shut to all incoming flights not already in the air.

CREDIT: Phil Coomes/BBC News
Most flights cancelled at Heathrow...

Update: Statements from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department of Transport. More in-depth coverage from the Associated Press, and Slashdot picks up the story...

Update: I was expecting this,
Passengers are going to have to get used to the new restrictions, at least for the foreseeable future... - Chris Yates, Jane's Airport Review
We're also being told that we should pack on the basis hand luggage may not be allowed and to ensure that our checked luggage have a strong lock to protect valuables like laptops and cameras. Which is a bit confusing, as last time I put a lock on my hold baggage the TSA tore the bag to pieces. I use cable ties these days, but I'm hardly going to trust my laptop to that, even if I thought it'd survive in my hold baggage...

Update: The BBC is reporting that sources close to Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander indicated restrictions could become permanent, despite statements from the Department for Transport that the government hoped the current hand baggage restriction would be in place only for a "limited time".

Update: A possible way around the hand baggage ban?

Update: Hmm, it doesn't look like the Yanks believe the UK government's official line on the level of threat caused by the current "crisis".

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So what happened at WWDC 2006?

You have to remember that it's a developer conference, but despite this everyone gets seriously worked up about possible new hardware surprises that were never going to happen. If Apple ever do launch an iPhone, it probably won't be at WWDC...

Amongst many others, Engadget covered the event live, and in the end the only real surprise was the lack of real surprises.

While there wasn't a design overhaul, despite optimistic predictions, I'll settle for the new four core Mac Pro as a replacement for the PowerMac G5. Although after playing around on the Apple Store, it looks like the system I'd want seems to be coming in at around £6k, so I doubt I'll be seeing one any time soon.

CREDIT: Engadget
The new Mac Pro, that'd be £1,699.00 inc. VAT

However Engadget have already gone hands-on with the new Mac Pro on the show floor, it looks good, and the new box looks to be fairly price competitive with a similar specification machine from Dell.

The bulk of the keynote was taken up with the Leopard sneak preview, and amongst others Phill Ryu discusses the many applications that Leopard kills off (via TUAW)...

With either the biggest, or the smallest impact, on the current Mac software market, Time Machine really isn't a back-up utility "as we know it" as it has a radical and intuitive UI that's wholly original. I've certainly never seen anything like it before, and perhaps it leaves a niche for existing applications like Carbon Copy Cloner, as it seems to look and feel more like a file versioning application than a traditional back-up utility.

CREDIT: Engadget
Is Time Machine for back-up or file versioning?

Proper file versioning integrated into the operating system is something that UNIX has always lacked, and the one thing I miss from my VAX and VMS days.

Spaces will make a pretty big impact on the Mac software world, in one fell stroke it wipes out a whole generation of utility programs like Desktop Manager that gave those of us used to virtual desktops our fix.

CREDIT: Engadget
Virtual desktops comes to OS X

But unless Time Machine starts killing off back-up utilities left right and centre, maybe the biggest impact will be from the introduction of Apple's new Dashboard development environment, Dashcode. This will almost immediately kill a whole range of emerging tools like Widgetarium.

CREDIT: Engadget
A Dashboard IDE for the masses?

I could go on, but maybe you should just read Phill Ryu's article instead, or Chris Messina's, who has a remarkably similar post.

Finally there has been a lot of discussion following the conference about whether the Apple and Microsoft rivalry getting out of hand? The banners at the Moscone Center were pretty blatant about Apple's attitude towards Windows Vista.

CREDIT: Engadget
OS envy?

For a company that has to rely of Microsoft to keep producing Office for Mac they're shooting themselves in the foot, just a little, don't you think?

Update: More on what we didn't see from the Apple Blog...

Update: A possibly off the wall, but none the less, interesting analysis of the keynote by Joshua Scott Emmons over on the O'Reilly network. He concludes that,
...he was completely occupied by something more important for the past few weeks, and was unable to find the time he needed to pull the presentation off with his usual flair.
and that perhaps Apple's possible legal troubles over their stock options irregularities might be getting ugly..?

Monday, August 07, 2006

A NetNewsWire pre-beta

Brent Simmons' has just announced (via TUAW) something a bit out of the ordinary, a pre-beta release of the upcoming NetNewsWire 3.0.

The new NetNewsWire 3.0d7 pre-beta

Be warned however,
So I put up a super-early sneak peak release. It's not a beta, it's not even an alpha, it's at 3.0d7. You can download it here. But I warn you with big red letters that it's a work in progress, and you shouldn't try it out if you're not comfortable with it. - Brent Simmons
I can personally attest to the bugs. The new improved combined view is excellent, although currently somewhat prone to locking the application fairly solidly. That said, back up your current Preferences and Application Support files and take it for a test drive, I like the new look and feel, so perhaps you will as well...

Update: Is it just me or does .Mac syncing not work?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Flood offence?

The BBC is reporting that the UK's Environment Agency is cutting flood defence spending in an effort to recoup losses from the failures in the new EU farm subsidy system. So, all things considered, that's a good idea is it?

Everything you'd expect?

With WWDC next week the iPhone and MVNO rumours are flying again, this time surrounding images of the iChat Mobile (via TUAW)...

CREDIT: Engadget
The new Apple iPhone?

The mock-up in the photo has some problems, for instance the click wheel is an directly from the iPod shuffle, and tellingly for something with the iChat name, the obvious design flaw is that the camera is on the wrong side of the phone. Surely Apple would put out a nice 3G phone capable of video calling? The handset in the photo is just plain ugly, both on the hardware and software side, and it doesn't have the right functionality for the iPhone. So I'm going to make the call and say this one, at least, is fake...

We already know we're going to get a first look at Leopard at WWDC, but like many I'm also expecting some sort of hardware announcement. However speculation about possible plans to release an Apple branded mobile phone, or MVNO, have been doing the rounds for several years, with rumours of the Apple iPhone stretching back to the start of 2004. Although you might of expected the rumours would be put to bed after the release of the Motorola ROKR, instead the release of such an obviously poorly designed device just whetted people's appetite for the real thing. Recently leaks from such people as Scoble and Mossberg have hinted that there is something cool coming, but the long rumoured iPhone? I'll wait and see...

Update: A video purporting to be of the iChat Mobile has shown up on YouTube. To me it seals the debate, there is definitely something wrong with the buttons and the screen looks like a sticker rather than an LCD. But you can decide for yourself...