Amazing Week, Day 1: Digital audio

Part of [Amazing Week 2012][1] In 1981 I was watching the BBC TV show “Tomorrow’s World” when the CD player was first introduced to the UK. The presenter demonstrated the system, and showed how dirt and dust would simply rinse off the disc and it would still be completely playable. He talked about how the disc was read by a laser and would never wear out. I later read more about the system in hi-fi magazines.

In defense of not voting

Harper’s Magazine this month has a spirited defense in favor of not voting: Try to imagine, if you can, candidate Barack Obama in 2008 running on a platform of balancing the budget and appeasing Wall Street by reducing Social Security benefits, restricting Medicare and Medicaid entitlements, increasing the retirement age, and never challenging the established hierarchy of the Democratic Party but rather returning members of the old Clinton regime to positions of power in his administration, especially those advocates of unregulated capitalism who did so much to bring on the economic crisis in the first place.

Why did they ruin Thunderbird?

On trying to use Thunderbird 15: That tab bar is a terrible waste of space, especially for anyone using Thunderbird in 3-pane mode. There’s an option to turn the tab bar off unless it’s actually needed, but for some reason there’s no UI to turn on that option. It’s slow. Really slow. I mean, I thought Apple Mail was slow, then I tried Thunderbird 15. Sending e-mail seems to take an eternity.

Dear Apple: It’s not me, it’s you

Apple is asking for another $707m in damages from Samsung, in addition to the $1b they were already awarded in the ludicrous patent trial. They also asked for a permanent ban on 29 different Samsung phones — i.e. all the phones that are successfully competing with the iPhone. Meanwhile, Apple’s new iOS 6 purges YouTube and Google Maps. The former is now available as a separate app, but the latter has been replaced with Apple’s own mapping app — which is apparently disastrously awful.

More Apple data loss

Today I discovered that a number of documents I hadn’t looked at in years were no longer readable. They were written using Circus Ponies Notebook. Trying to open them resulted in a fairly useless error saying each page was corrupt. I opened the package and discovered that the actual storage format was Apple’s plist. Unfortunately, it’s Apple’s binary plist format, introduced in OS X 10.4. The same problem has occurred with a bunch of files, so it looks as if at some point, a non-back-compatible change was made in the plist format.

How to start an open source project

Here’s a bitter little thing I wrote a couple of years ago, found on my hard disk during a tidy up and updated for the current zeitgeist. How to start an open source project Set up a project on GitHub, Sourceforge, RubyForge, or wherever. Try to pick a name that’s very similar to an existing project or a commercial product. If you can’t think of one, use an unfunny recursive abbreviation.

Costa Rica: San Jose and saying goodbye

On Saturday, we decided that we ought to check out San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. However, after a week of good weather, the Green Season climate finally caught up with us. It began to rain, heavily and steadily, in a way which suggested it could keep it up indefinitely, and had every intention of doing so. In the city, attractive young Costa Ricans, all wearing red T-shirts, were wandering through the congested traffic collecting money for what turned out to be a local equivalent of Habitat for Humanity.

Costa Rica: Carara

Rather than returning straight to Alajuela, we decided to take a detour to Carara National Park. Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, it’s one of the best places to see scarlet macaws in the wild. Unfortunately, best times to see them are morning and evening; we were too late. We heard some macaws heading off into the distance, but we didn’t see any. Carara is the northernmost area of rainforest in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica: Monte Verde coffee farming

Our next Costa Rican destination was Santa Elena, near Monte Verde. This presented some logistical challenges. The distance from Alajuela to Monte Verde is around 75km as the macaw flies, but unfortunately there are some rather large mountains in the way. Once you factor in meandering roads, the route ends up being around 130km. In addition, the people of Monte Verde are concerned about what’s happening to areas of Costa Rica that are popular with tourists.

Costa Rica: The Ara Project

Thursday, we visited The Ara Project. Visits are by appointment only. I had contacted them by e-mail, and been told that the best time to visit was about 10:30, and that they were available on Thursday. We set out in our rented mini-SUV, and had almost made it to our destination when we hit a roadblock—the main road was closed for maintenance. I looked at the GPS, and picked what appeared to be a reasonable alternate route.