Christmas 07: Days 1 and 2

And so it begins…

Christmas is here once again. How did that happen? It doesn’t seem five minutes since the beginning of the winter term at work.Anyway, on with the holiday diary bit:

Saturday 22nd.
I started off from home at just after 10am and it was stil frosty. The GPS traffic warnings were showing problems with fog on the M4. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter any real fog on either the M4 or M5. By the time I’d got to Taunton services the external temperature had risen from freezing up to 12C, quite a shock to the system. Also by this point the car was fully encrusted by black salt throuwn up by other vehicles. You could hardly see the lights.

Firther along the journey the weather changed yet again and by Bodmin I was driving through torrential rain. Talk about changable weather! And by the time I’d reached my destination the rain had stopped and the sun was on the horizon. At least the rain had washed the salt off the car.

After dinner I set up the Wii and my Dad and I had a brief play.. this could be a good purchase for all those days where there’s nothing on the telly!

Sunday 23rd.
Not a ot to report about today, really. After getting up late we popped into Tesco’s in Helston to stock up for the week. The afternoon and evening were just lazy.

MacOS X 10.5 Leopard: The view after a month.

I’ve been using the latest version of Apple’s operating system for about a month now and here are my views:

It’s been said by some that Leopard is Apple’s Vista-scale disaster area and is broken beyond usefulness. Well, on that side I would disagree. There are flaws and a coupe of rather major bugs but it’s not on the scale of Vista’s retrograde step.

So, what are the problems?

(1) User interface.

The dock is awful to use in its default form. It’s hard to see which applications are running. It’s merely eye-candy. Thankfully, you can change it into a 2D form which is FAR better using a command line setting.

Similarly, whoever thought that a transparent menu bar was a good idea should be put in stocks and pelted with tomatos. It will force you to find a background which will allow you to read it. Thankfully, again, there is a command line setting to change it.

Other than that (I don’t use stacks, which is the other thing people have berated, so I can’t comment on those) it’s fine. I would have liked a different default key combination to swap between “spaces” or a mini-view of the screen layout so that I could click directly on the virtual desktop I wanted but those are relatively minor things.

(2) Outright bugs.

The problems with the default version of the X server is well documented, i.e. broken cut and paste, especially with the 3 button mouse emulation (which doesn’t work at all) and a few other things. The build in the core Xorg server tree have fixed these, we’re still awaiting the Apple official update. It’s mostly an annoyance to be honest.

But rather more importantly….

The name service subsystem is REALLY knackered!

This is important if you’re going to use Leopard on the net. With every name look-up using the built-in hostname look-up system (not DNS) the likelyhood of the look-up will fail increases until you get to the point where most name look-ups will fail or give incorrect results (which is worse).

If you don’t believe me try it out; open a web browser, either Safari or Firefox will do, load up a web site which does a lot of look-ups, e.g. Facebook with a lot of apps loaded. Refresh page, repeat. Depending upon the number of apps and adverts it will probaby take 10-15 refreshes until you’ll start to see problems. Usually you’ll start seeing missing images. The mre you reload the more the problems will appear. Some of the adverts may appear as error pages. You can try closing the application and re-starting it, or try another browser or even maybe an e-mail client. The problem’s still there. If you open an xterm or terminal application and do an nslookup the failling look-ups will work perfectly but ping/traceroute etc. will pick up the wrong entry all the same. A reboot is the only fix.

So, there you have it. Other than the major name service bug, niggles really.

Sporadic update number 547

OK, I don’t know if this is the 547th post but my updates are sporadic at best.

So, what have I been doing over the last couple of weeks? Not a great deal really other than visiting people the last couple of weekends.

The Saturday before last I popped down to Rachel, Graham and Chris’ place for a nice, relaxing day with tea, crumpets and flapjacks.

This weekend, after drying out from the drenching I got cycling home, I drove up to Liverpool on Friday evening and was introduced to two cats by Lindsey and Andrew. Saturday was consumed by a museum visit, Christmas tree wrangling and decoration hanging. Whilst yesterday included human kite flying (almost) and a visit to a water powered cotton mill run by the National Trust before a drive back home again.

Hmm, what else? Oh yes, I’m now a proud owner of a 2.6GHz MacBook Pro, which arrived a week earlier than predicted. i.e. marginally less than a month after I ordered it rather than slightly more than a month. It’s very shiny, in a brushed aluminium sort of way and weighs the same as the iBook G4. It’s replacing, with the help of Bootcamp & Parallels, both the iBook and the Acer laptop, which I used for mobile Linux and, when down in Cornwall, as a games machine. I “merely” have to transfer all the data and applications now.

Oh, while I’m at it.. MacOS X 10.5’s great except for a few things:

  1. Transparent menu bar… bad idea. What were you thinking Apple? I now have to pick a desktop background which makes the menu bar usable.
  2. The X server’s partly broken.
  3. Time Machine is unusable on a G4 Mac as it will take 5/6ths of the backup run pegging the CPU at 100% with zero data transfer. On a fast Intel dual core machine it’s fine as long as you don’t unplug the external drive as it will take an hour deciding that it doesn’t need to back up anything when you next plug the drive back in.
  4. The application dock may be shiny but that and the glowing blobs to tell you that an application is running make it less useful.

Oh, and if you think that I’m being partisan about knocking Apple… Microsoft Genuine Disadvantage is the spawn of several devils as well.