2006 (old posts, page 5)

Universal build of PCRE?

Dear Lazyweb, I wanted to polish up and push out a project I started more than two years ago in time for WWDC, but it requires PCRE, and I can't seem to get PCRE to build for i386 in less than twenty minutes. Does anyone know of a universal build of a recent PCRE somewhere (or good specific instructions to build one?)



Script Dictionary Documentation

In relation to my previous post about instant replay in QuickTime Player - The script dictionary almost looks like a program wrote the documentation. For example:

"time scale (integer, r/o) : the time scale of the movie" (uh...) and

"current time (integer) : the current time (can be set by name as well as number)" (units? what names?).

I guess it all makes sense if you understand a lot about QuickTime movies, but is that the audience for the script dictionary? I suggest not.

Developers: your script dictionary and its documentation are important user interface concerns - if you put as much consideration into the experience your users have with scripting as you do the GUI and documentation, it will create loyal power users. And they all have blogs these days, so that's free advertising too...

Instant replay in QuickTime Player

A feature I really miss from having a DVR is the '8 seconds back' button, to catch a play or repeat something funny.

Recently I've been listening to recorded interviews we've been doing of HPC developers, and updating my notes (in VoodooPad using them. Since people mumble and use jargon I don't always understand, I decided I really needed an instant replay button in QuickTime Player. It'll come in handy if I watch sports on my laptop again, too.

In order to get it, I wrote this quick AppleScript and bound it to a Quicksilver trigger. If you run it while the movie is playing, it backs up 4 seconds and keeps playing from there.

-- 4secondsback.scpt
tell application "QuickTime Player"
    set theMovie to movie 1

    set ctime to current time of theMovie
    set tscale to time scale of theMovie

    set current time of theMovie to ctime - (4 * tscale)
end tell

Update: I just realized that for transcribing interviews I also needed a 'play/pause' command that could control QuickTime Player while keeping it in the background, just as the 4secondsback script does. It's a really simple script, but since QuickTime Player lacks the convenient 'playpause' command that iTunes's scripting dictionary has, I had to do this:

tell application "QuickTime Player"
    if movie 1 is playing then
        pause movie 1
        play movie 1
    end if
end tell

I have this set as a trigger for Control-Option-Space, and the 4secondsback script is control-option-'b'. This way I can listen, type, and control the recordings without leaving VoodooPad. Brilliant!

Zoomr, Yellow Tree

I've taken to carrying my camera around with me, for practice. It's lead to an unhealthy obsession with camera bags (of which there is no perfect single choice).

It's also lead to maxing out my Flickr account quickly, and I have no cash for a Pro account. So, I thought I'd try the new - Zoomr 2.0, and see what I like about it. Geotagging and Google maps integration is cool, and I like the trackbacks, but to be honest, the interface could be much cleaner. Lots of loud colors and bold text vie for attention with the photos, which should be the real focus of attention on a photo sharing site. At any rate, here's the first photo I uploaded to Zoomr, something I took while waiting for the 30 bus at UCSD:

Yellow Tree

Pacific Beach Night Photos

Last night I took my camera with me on a late-night food run. On the way back, I stopped at the end of Felspar street and took some shots of the beach scene. My favorite two are already up at Flickr, but I thought I'd expand on them a bit here.

This is the end of Crystal Pier, which houses a hotel (you can see the last of the cabins on the left). I took a bunch of these shots, playing with the sensitivity and exposure. This was the longest - at ISO 200 and f/4.0, exposed for about 10 seconds.

Even with an f/1.4 lens, it was super dark and I had to focus manually. I set the camera on a post and used a 2-second delayed shutter to keep it still and out of my shaky hands.

Crystal Pier

For comparison, here's a version taken at ISO 1600 :

Crystal Pier at ISO 1600

Even reduced in size, you can really notice the noise.

Here's a shot of a cleaning lady working at JRDN, the swank bar in the new Tower 23 hotel. Tower 23 doesn't really fit in in PB - it's way too self-conscious and preening of a place to feel natural in such a laid-back, seedy beach neighborhood. It seemed appropriate that on a Sunday night when the more relaxed established places like the PB Bar & Grill and Longboards were really hopping, JRDN was closed - looking its ghostly best.

I should have remembered that I'd set the 2-second delay before I took this shot - I had the woman framed well, hit the shutter and wondered what was going on. Luckily, she stayed in the door frame, but I could swear it was a better shot just two seconds before.

Bar cleanup

Here's another missed shot opportunity, as she ducks behind the bar just as I find the right exposure and focus. I think the color in the other one makes it better, but the angle of the bar on this one has some promise. Shot through a couple of layers of glass, and manual focus - I'm sure it could be sharper if I'd kept trying.

Bar cleanup 2

Photos, Buzz, 4th

Buzz and the TLR

Buzz Andersen was in town for the 4th of July, and we both took a few photos, up on Flickr: Buzz's San Diego Photos, and my photos of Buzz.

When I get the film back from the Yashica, I'll scan some more photos in.

In the meantime, I've been getting more into photography, so if you want the full MMC web experience, you could subscribe to a feed of my photos, which should already be part of my feedburner feed. And if you're a fellow Flickr photo nut, feel free to add me as a contact and tell me when I reach photo genius.

PS, I've been working with the Adobe Lightroom beta to process my pictures lately. I really like the focus on workflow, and the UI is very responsive on my old PowerBook G4. It does get a little slower when dealing with 6MP RAW photos, but almost never beachballs. Furthermore, single key shortcuts are priceless for a program aimed at serious users.

MacResearch.org: BibDesk "killer app"

Over at macresearch.org, they've posted a nice review of BibDesk. One quote: "If you use Latex search no more, this is a killer app." Kudos to Adam and Christiaan.

I see an increasing number of Macs at research meetings I go to, and I usually can't help but peek on their dock to look for that yellow folder. I usually don't ask people if they've heard of it, but I have thought of putting a big sticker with the BibDesk icon on my PowerBook, just to see if anyone recognizes it.

Browser history: take the user's perspective!

Even after moving web-based mail to a separate app, I still usually have at least two browsers open at all times - Camino when something doesn't load in Safari, Firefox for tails (a microformats helper), and Safari, which I'm used to, has my bookmarks, and auto-fills forms.

Safari freezes and crashes pretty often for me, but I can't easily switch away from it because it has my history, both in actual saved history and collections of bookmarks which always seem to get dumped into an 'Import' folder when you move between browsers.

Browser history doesn't seem like a lot of data. It seems like a natural choice to keep in a central place, just like the OS X Address Book. However, I don't know of any effort that takes the user's point of view and lets us keep a separate history list, so we don't have to lose data every time we want to try out a new browser.

So - anyone want to step to the plate? Hopefully all it would take is a good API and one browser that works with it - if one WebKit-based browser (OmniWeb) and one Gecko-based browser (Camino) adopted this, it would take something big to make me use Safari again. If a browser imported other browsers' history and made it easy to save & search that history separately, I couldn't think of a reason not to try it out, and see what other features I might like.

Supercomputers as art and cultural artifacts

From BLDGBLOG, some pictures and romantic musings about everyone's favorite kind of computer - big, expensive, finicky and shared: the Supercomputer.

Be sure to click through to see the picture of the MareNostrum system filling a glass box in a chapel in Barcelona. There are more great photos on photographer Simon Norfolk's site.

I wish there was more well-done photography of these systems - not all are nearly as photogenic overall as MareNostrum, but there are plenty of great details, and so many are already lost to history. My vote for favorite detail is the Cray 2 coolant waterfall:

(It's the blue glowing thing in the top center - from SpikyNorman.net)

Here are some interesting quotes from the BLDGBLOG post:

These computers, Norfolk continues, 'are omniscient and omnipresent and these are not qualities in which we find a simulacrum of ourselves - these are qualities that describe the Divine. The problem is not that these computers might one day resemble humans; it is that they already resemble gods.'

I would say Golem.

So if I were forced to take issue with the existence of these machines, it would not be because of their use in modeling new nuclear warheads - as Norfolk makes clear they do - but in something far more secondary, even faintly absurd: what I'd call the lack of a supercomputer poetics, or a more imaginative role for these machines to play in our literary and even religious lives. Oracular, Delphic, radically non-secular: they are either all or none of the above.

If we'd all agree to think clearly about climate science, there's quite a bit of Oracular prediction using supercomputers going on there. I'd love to see high-performance computing become more a part of the culture, as computer security undoubtedly has. I think such stories are unlikely to be told visually, though - it's hard to imagine how it'd be done without being either overdramatized and silly or dreadfully boring. After all, how do you make a movie out of editing text and waiting?

NHL playoff series "season pass" on iTunes

Now that I don't have regular access to cable TV, the sensation I felt when I noticed the announcement of NHL playoff video available on iTunes was that of Steve Jobs signing my name on a check for ten dollars and winking.

Each video is ~20 minutes of highlights, and the video quality, while suffering from the same problems I noticed previously, is pretty good.

Check out the previews here: Eastern Conference Finals and Western Conference Finals.