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I’ll need a name for my next machine

20 Jun

Update 2015-07-29: It has arrived! Naming it was tough; although there were good suggestions that friends made. I considered calling it “theven” given the previous one was called “sith”, but I’m going to go with “Gillie”. I like the ring of it principally, but there are other meanings. It’s the name of a character in GoT, and in French it means “tickle”, which was in the list I considered.

“Gailuron”, “Melina”, “Abraxas”, “Eloah”, “Precious”, “Phoenix”, “Sith”. I have not followed any particular convention in naming my computers, thus far. Here are the stories.

Gailuron” (namely “cheerful chap”) was a sturdy Sun workstation which I had not named myself. It was there when I was sworn into office at W3C in 1999.

Melina” was a sturdier desktop computer, I don’t recall which make. I named it after a most excellent Greek singer, Melina Mercouri. At the time, I was dating a guy who was half-greek, I danced the sirtaki (or rather the hasapiko -the butcher’s dance-, which inspired the sirtaki), cooked greek food, vacationed in Crete every summer, listened to orthodox liturgical music and other Greek music, particularly Melina Mercouri. You know, Zorba? She sang to the famous Zorba movie music.

Abraxas” was a heavy Dell Latitude laptop which I had not named myself. I looked up “Abraxas”, and it’s related to ancient religions. If you look it up, you’ll find that Abraxas is both an Egyptian god and a demon, and you’ll see that he has legs like pretzels, carries a whip and a shield, and has the head of a chicken.

Eloah” was a Dell OptiPlex, a desktop computer that I named after Éléa, the main character of a wonderful novel by René Barjavel, The Ice People (“La Nuit Des Temps”). I don’t recall how I went from Éléa to Eloah, which I find is a Hebrew word for God.
In this photo, it’s hidden under the humongous monitor and behind a screen of paper in the office also known for its “1-million dollar decoration” (that would warrant a post of its own):

At my desk, 2003

Precious“, ah, Precious… My first Macintosh laptop, a 15-inch PowerBook G4. It took me so many months of relentless persuasion and negotiation before it was finally ordered, that it was only natural that it should be named the Precious. I loved it. I could sleep with it.
Incidently, in this photo, it’s in bed with me:

Me and the Precious, 2005

Phoenix” -how could I forget Phoenix?- was the new Precious since on an unfortunate day in late 2006, Precious didn’t wake from sleep. Fortunately, I was in Boston, a short distance from the Cambridgeside Galleria Apple Store where I got a 15-inch MacBook Pro. It was entirely grey. And it was as pretty as the Precious. So I named it “Phoenix” after Jean Grey from the Marvel comics. Because it was grey and because it was sort of arising from the ashes of Precious.

Sith” is the computer I’m typing this on, a MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2009). I named it Sith because it had a dark keyboard. I hated it; it looked and sounded ugly. I had been able to get a glossy screen (versus glass), but there was no other choice than the loud new black keyboard.

I can’t wait to replace the venerable Sith, and wonder what I’ll name its replacement, another MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015).

Opendirectoryd crashes

26 Jan
I was unlucky enough two months ago to start to experience loss of my (computer) identity, occasionally at wake froms sleep. My computer terminal would show “I have no name!” in the prompt instead of my user name, would claim that I am 501, when it should say I’m koalie. Of course, ssh would not want me, telling me to go away as I don’t exist. So I rebooted a couple time and grumbled a lot.

Vlad suggested something was wrong with LDAP and my colleague Thomas diagnosed that opendirectoryd was crashing. All true.

It happened again tonight and Vlad found a way to restart opendirectoryd (in Terminal.app):

sudo launchctl
stop com.apple.opendirectoryd

Which restarts opendirectoryd.

I’m none the wiser on what triggers the opendirectoryd crash at wake from sleep. But I’m glad this works when the crash happens.

Update: The above doesn’t always work. Actually, it may have worked just once. Since then, I’ve experienced silent opendirectoryd crash, and no sudo worked, neither some kill -9. Only a restart can fix it.

First impressions on Mac OS X 10,7 Lion

28 Jul
I upgraded less than a week ago.

I don’t remember how long it took to download because I was working at the same time. Also, the Mac App Store put the download in the dock and only showed a little progress bar and no information such as total size, completed download, estimated time.

When the download was done, it took me 1h10 to install the new system (an installation window appeared, saying installation would take about 33 minutes, which took slightly more than 40, and then a new window appeared, similar to the first one, indicating installation would take about 20 minutes, which took 30).

And then, everything looked the same. The obvious difference was that the scroll bar of some windows appears at launch and disappears, the bar revealed only when the window is scrolled. At the top right corner of some windows, there is the new icon for “full screen”, in case I want my screen real estate consumed by just this one window. Windows are now resize-able by each side and corner (woohoo!). Back in 2004 when I used a mac for the first time I was looking for that feature.

Mission control is the new exposé and virtual screens. It’s nicely done. The layout in exposé view is pretty (that is, every window of every program minified and stacked behind the program’s icon) and useful: the icon of the program in the foreground of each stack, and then the window(s) opened belonging to that program are stacked. If I put the mouse pointer on a window and click space, I remain in the exposé view but the window maximises and the effect is similar to quick look. Active corners remain active. I had set them up for a particular Exposé action, and I keep using them as before.

The biggest change is natural scrolling on the touchpad. They’ve unified scrolling on Apple devices, bringing the iPhone and iPad scrolling to the touchpad. I’m still not used to it! As though my brain is cabled to adapt my scrolling direction based on the device. Anyway. When I want to read down a document, I’ve got to pull it (scroll up), and when I want to read up a document, I’ve got to push it (scroll down). In the systems preferences, one can choose old-skool scrolling.

I didn’t notice any improvement in system memory, cpu and battery consumption; it seems no better and no worse than OS X 10.6.

I gave Mail.app a try for one full day. I set it up with IMAP with the same config I have on my iPhone. It didn’t work for me, I’m too used to Opera mail, which I resumed using the next day.

iCal presented me with one disappointment. I don’t mind their aesthetic choice of faux-leather and torn paper line below the leather pad, I really miss the left panel that showed the calendars and allowed me to display as many months I could fit in that space. This was convenient to quickly check, uncheck, select + refresh given calendars, and the small months view was convenient when planning, next to the main window in which I showed the current week. They added a year view which is pretty (small months featuring my calendar colours and the more stuff I have on a given day, the darker the colour), but doesn’t make up for the loss of the left panel. The calendars I created or I’m subscribed to appear in some popup window when I click “Calendars” at the top left of the iCal window and stays on while I mouse-over, click a cal, refresh, etc, until I click somewhere else.

I almost forgot to install XCode! But I had to because I you run stuff like CVS or make. This took me ages and I even feared it would never complete. The Mac App Store let me download XCode (it used to be, I think, on one of the installation DVDs), put the dl in progress in the dock, and when it was done, I was shown Launchpad. It looks like my iPad welcome screen, with icons of all my apps. I clicked on install XCode, entered my system password and waited, waited. Waited. Something went wrong, it was stuck, I had to force quit the installation, do it again, and wait, wait. I think it took more than a couple hours (by that time, I was busy doing other stuff, like cooking, entertaining guests, eating, so it may have just taken 2 hours).

Some apps like TextEdit have active window bars; if I click on the document title on that bar I see light grey text, for example “ – Edited” and if I mouse over, I see an arrow. Click the arrow to lock the file, duplicate the file, revert to last opened version and browse all versions. It might make some use of a my local CVS moot.

Amaya works fine. Quicksilver too.

That’s all folks.

The mds process was too greedy

15 Feb

Every now and then when my mac is slow, I take a peek in the Activity Monitor, to find out what is the culprit. Today I didn’t find any usual suspect and the only odd bit was the process mds. While it was using barely 10% of the CPU, the memory it used was outrageous. I remember having only 1MB free memory left, and that mds was using 14GB of the virtual memory (this figure stuck, while the real memory one didn’t).

I had learnt that mds is in use for Spotlight indexing. I have no use for Spotlight indexing, because I use other tools or tricks. So I searched for the way to disable Spotlight and did it in the Terminal:

sudo mdutil -a -i off
Password:
/:
 	Indexing disabled.

All of a sudden the process mds jumped from using 14GB of virtual memory to 77MB of virtual memory, whee! And the system memory, of which 1MB was free, reached the comfortable level of 1.7GB, re-whee!

If I ever need Spotlight, the command above is reversed by using “on”.

You’re welcome!

Update of the day after:
It turns out I need that Spotlight indexing after all, if only to search in iCal. <sigh />
mds is on again! until it gets too greedy, that is.

sudo mdutil -a -i on
Password:
/:
 	Indexing enabled.