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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

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My first Cocoa adventure: The Huawei E169 Monitor

December 20th, 2009 by Raj

E169Monitor

Having moved in to a new place a few months ago I was once again greeted with the issue of not having an internet connection until the powers that be connected the relevant wires and flicked their respective switches. This; an all far too familiar occurrence I’ve had dealt with in a timely fashion in times gone by (it helped when you worked for a telco) would this time blow out to well over a month to which point relying on my iPhone would not cut it. Coming to my rescue a good friend (thank you Gavlar) bestowed upon me a USB wireless internet dongle that would suffice my addiction until normality was restored with some ADSL.

Armed with an Optus flashed Huawei E169 I was quick to find that at the time there was no software around that was compatible with the relevantly new Mac OS X – Snow Leopard (10.6.x). The solution was to set up the device as you would any other modem and install some lovely modem scripts and what not from Huawei’s website, this got you online but I then found my next problem, reception! It seemed that the Optus network had a little difficulty in particular areas of my CBD apartment and not having an real software to report things like signal strength and data network I spent a good amount of time walking around my place laptop in hands “guessing” that the reception was actually best 1m to the left of my kitchen stove at ground level laying on the floor.

As you can imagine I quickly got sick of that game and thusly decided I’d take a look at just how complicated it was to find out the signal strength was directly from the device. A few googles later and I’d opened a connection directly to the serial device through the terminal and was now actively seeing what I was after albeit in a rather nerdy fashion. Coincidently at the same time as this I was ploughing through Aaron Hillegass’ 3rd edition of “Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X” and thought to myself “Hey, why not create a program to scrape this nerdy jargon and present it visually.” and that’s exactly what I did.

So here you’ll find a little program I like to call the E169 Monitor, because that’s pretty much what it does, monitor your E169’s data connection reporting back on things like signal strength and network connection type (WCDMA, HSDPA, etc) as well as giving you a couple of buttons to connect and disconnect.

Credit where credit is due; a lot of the code in here would not have been possible had it not been for the wonderful AMSerialPort project that makes connecting and reading from serial (USB) connections so much easier than the standard Cocoa libraries and to make the whole connect/disconnect functionality work (and I’m still not sure I understand) I’ve borrowed heavily from the source of the now defunct CheetahWatch, a program which essentially did everything I’ve done and more back in the days of the E220 and OS X 10.4. I really wish this project was picked up again and nurtured because it is a really fantastic effort, if I actually owned one of these wireless cards I think I’d even try an revive it myself, even with my rather fledgling cocoa skills.

Rambling and thanks aside a link to my Xcode project is available here & below. Do with it as you will but please be aware that I’m offering no support, this is all just a learning experience for me that I thought others may find useful. I’ve only tested this code on my own machine, an Intel based MBP running 10.6.2. I hope you can get some use out of it, I had fun doing it and throwing back to the days I used to have to manually enter AT commands to dial the local BBS.

Download my E169 Monitor Xcode Project files. (3.1MB)

Useful Resources: AMSerialPort Project, CheetahWatch application

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Photos from the Hockey Championship Trophy, Melbourne 2009

December 11th, 2009 by Raj

Last weekend Melbourne played host to the Championship Trophy. The international men’s hockey tournament consisted of the world’s top six teams including Australia, Germany, & The Netherlands. To be honest I had no idea that it was even on until a friend from Adelaide rang to say he and his hockey club team mates were flying over for it and I managed to grab a ticket from them. I’m glad I went, I really miss playing and for the two days I was there I had a great time.

On the photography front I think I took nearly 200 hundred photos from the crowd, a lot of them useless but some of them pretty fun and catching a bit of action. The fruits of my labour are viewable in the slideshow below. Unfortunately taking photos like this at a sports event only makes me want to go out and buy some ridiculous zoom telephoto lens rather than using a stock standard 250mm lens that came with my DSLR.

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Review: DigiFi Opera S5 Wireless In-Ear Headphones

December 3rd, 2009 by Raj

Opera Mini S5 In-ear Headphones

You’ve got to love a good headphone’s review don’t you? I’m sure that you and all your friends are in that boat, which means that you’re going to absolutely love my latest review for the MacTalk folk. This round sees me tackle the latest and greatest in wireless audio for your iPod in the form of the “DigiFi Opera S5 Wireless In-Ear Headphones“. Boy that’s a mouthful.

So what are you doing hanging around here still? Go get your audiophile nerd on…

Article Link: http://www.mactalk.com.au/2009/12/03/review-digifi-opera-s5-wireless-in-ear-headphones/

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Sitting next to Satan’s spawn

November 21st, 2009 by Raj

Credit: Flickr user "lolojajaja"

Credit: Flickr user 'lolojajaja'

I had an disturbingly interesting experience on one of Melbourne’s fine public transport receptacles yesterday that I felt I just had to share will the world of internets out there.

Whilst travelling from point A to B there was a point that the seats next to me became occupied by a young mother and her two boys around the ages of 5 and 10. Nothing particularly fascinating about that I know but what was to come had me wondering if perhaps I’d just encountered a young Charles Manson.

Once seated the eldest of the two boys noticed an advertisement adorning the tram’s walls that contained a picture of one of Australia’s own Ringtail Possums.

“Look Mum, there’s a possum” stated the boy. Yet another statement confirming Douglas Adams’ theory of humanity merely stating the obvious for 90% of conversation.
“Yes, you’re right, do you like them?” enquired the mother.
“I want to kill it” replied the boy. Um… ok. Not the response I was expecting.
The mother, clearly embarrassed by the child and now noticing the majority of the tram glancing with judging eyes quickly responded with “But you can’t, they’re endangered”.
Slightly puzzled yet not deterred the boy retorted, “I don’t care if they’re ‘engaged’ I don’t like them, can I kill it?”

The conversation then went on with the mother doing her best to explain what “endangered” actually meant, another entertaining story in its own right, before the boy quickly lost interest and began jumping up and farting on his brother clearly disinterested in her efforts, the “death to all possum” revolution purged from thought.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably not reciting the conversation verbose but you have agree that this is hardly the conversation that instills faith in humanity’s new generation. Coming from a Gen-Y’er like myself that’s saying something!

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I play guest on the MacTalk Podcast #95

October 8th, 2009 by Raj

Mactalk Podcast

Things have been a little quiet for me in the online world of recent but that’s all about to change today with a recent guest appearance on MacTalk Australia’s podcast in episode 95.

I’ve you’d like to have a listen head on over to their website or fire up your iTunes and get your Mac on.

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Snow Leopard Box Art = Crapola

September 9th, 2009 by Raj

snowleopardBoxArt

Call me crazy but I absolutely despise the artwork that’s on Apple’s latest Mac OS X release. I mean come on, seriously, did Apple fire all of their graphic designers as a part of brew-ha-ha around the Global Financial Crisis or did someone decide they could just phone-it-in one day whilst the overseeing lord El-Jobso was away sick leaving Tim Cook & Phil Schiller dropped the approval ball?! I have never been so appalled by Apple’s efforts in an area that has always set them apart!
It would appear I’m not the only one with a grudge to bear as the folks over at Gizmodo are even running a contest on who can design something less shitty!

As for Snow Leopard itself, it’s had its problems, but overall I’m quite happy with how things are chugging along. But still, it’s no excuse for that google image, stock-photo, clip-art, crapola of a picture that adorns the box. Pull up your socks Apple!

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365 Days – The Video

July 24th, 2009 by Raj

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now and last night with a spare hour or so I threw together a video of my photos from the 365 Day project I finished on flickr earlier this year.

You can see all the photos individual (if you wish) here: http://www.idontquiteknow.com/365-days/

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A Hard Drive & A Time Machine

July 7th, 2009 by Raj

timemachineUnfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do anything particularly nerdy let alone blog about it, thankfully for my adorning masses I’ve chosen to make my “back-in-the-saddle” return with a jump straight in to the deep end. That and quietly going for the record of how many cliche metaphors one can use in the same sentence.

You see just this week gone by I found myself in the unusual position of nerd boredom. I hadn’t done anything really “hands-dirty-nerdy” and my little girly hands were an itch with possibilities. The new Apple Macbook Pro’s had just been released for starters and it took all my will power to not just dash out and buy one for example but I was blessed (or smote) by the good lords of geek with the ghastly sound of a hard drive platter scraping from inside my Macbook Pro’s Aluminium enclosure. Again, scrounging every last fiber of restraint to not run out and buy a new laptop I decided to take the high road and upgrade the hard drive and keep my existing rig, both satisfying my need for nerd and keeping my costs at a 20th of the cost.

Normally, had I opted to purchase a new machine, I start from scratch, reinstalling everything, copying over Mail Libraries, Photos, etc manually and giving myself a fresh start, but as I was only giving the old girl a new ticker I thought I’d do a straight copy restoring my file hierarchy to its full glory via the use of my Time Machine backups. A trick of the Mac trade I’ve yet to make use of.

The hard drive install was as straight forward as can be, a few screws here a torque screwdriver there and Bob’s your Grandfather’s Nephew she was humming to the new tune of a 500GB 7200rpm drive. The next and what i’d also envisaged to be the more lengthy portion of the process of the restoration process then began.

Mac OS X install DVD whirring away in the drive, we arrived at the “Migration Assistant” portion of the install offering the option of “Restoring from a Time Machine backup”. Excellent, that’s exactly what I’d like to do thanks. A click or two later I had a screen asking me what user accounts and applications I’d like to restore, selecting them all and clicking Next I began the two hour wait for the copying process to complete. One movie length break later I returned to see that the progress bar and status text had indeed indicated that everything was all tikity-boo but I was unable to continue on to the next step. I thought I’d just let it whir away for a while, sometimes these progress bars are less than accurate (at a stretch) and I figured it’d all be over soon enough. Two episodes of Deadwood later and there was still no movement to which I threw it in and restarted the `puter myself. Everything booted up fine, even had my user account there for me to log in to but that was about the end of the good news. A Dock riddled with question marks and no mail to be found it looked like the only things that had actually been copied successfully was my Network System Preferences, connecting to my Wi-Fi as soon as it logged in. Balls.

By this time it was about 10pm and I couldn’t be ferked sitting there doing a manual copy so I thought, “You know what Time Machine/Migration Assistant Restore Process, I’m going to give you one more crack of the whip. Balls this up again and the engagement is off!!” So after reformatting and going through the OS X install process again to begin the restoration it was about midnight and I left it all to whizz away as I dreamt of ponies and unicorns battling to death in the Roman Colosseum; as you do.

Waking the next morn to find a beautiful dew adorning my bedroom windows there was a smell of success in the air. Perhaps it was the restoration had worked and I was about to be full of glee, yet again it could’ve been the new air freshener I’d purchased the day before permeating its aroma through out the house? Fortunately for my sanity and the now back on again wedding between myself and Apple technology it was the former and there before me stood the exact same desktop as a day before, same wallpaper, same icons, same file system, same launch items on login, had Time Machine fulfilled its end of the bargain to my wildest dreams?! It would appear so!

Everything appeared to be exactly where I’d left it prior to the transplant. Wrapped! No idea exactly how long it took to complete having let it go whilst asleep but we can safely say it was over two hours (120Gb of data to copy via USB2) and less than twelve (I slept in!) But really, who cares, IT’S ALIVE!!!

Now all of that was a few days ago… and while everything seemed perfect from the casual observers point of view, it would seem that deep down in the bowels of a file system that I roll with there have been a few “issues”, allow me to list them for you now…

  • Pretty much anything out of the normal “Mac” root folders gets missed. For instance my SVN repository in /svn hasn’t been backed up or restored.
  • Similarly all of the stupid OS X apache example files are back in /Library/WebServer/Documents and my /etc/httpd.conf file has been overwritten
  • Aperture wouldn’t launch, my photos were fine but I had to reinstall the application
  • I had to do OS X updates all over again from 10.5.2 (Which was on the discs that came with the Mac)
  • My Nortel/Apani VPN software had to be reinstalled and didn’t work at all to begin with

All in all, a very small price to pay, and not a lot of work to get things back to normal considering all of my preferences, my mail, calendars, contacts, images, movies, music, applications were back and working. So I guess the question is whether or not I’d use this method the next time or not. Well, yes I would, but if it was a new Mac I was about to obtain I’d most likely stick to my tried and true method of a fresh install & manual copy. Why? Well, I come from an old school and tend to “clutter” a machine over time, an issue your average ham sandwich [person] is unlikely to have.

So go forth, propagate your Mac’s hard drive Guy Pearce style and feel safe about doing so, the process actually works.

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O Canada, A year ago today

May 24th, 2009 by Raj

`Twas a year ago today that I was celebrating the beginning of a new adventure half way around the world. What followed was one of the quickest years of my life, and now here I am, full circle to the bosom of Melbourne.

hee, hee… you said “bosom”

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A Diabetic Low & Britney Spears’ “Circus”

May 5th, 2009 by Raj

Preface:This whole (strange) post came about through a conversation I’d had with a friend, Philippa, about how I don’t actually listen to lyrics combined with my sister’s love/hate relationship with Britney’s musical offerings. When I set out to write this post I had it was planned to be a somewhat satirical aloof take on Britney Spears’ *cough* masterpiece *cough* “Circus”. What it turned in to was a rather surreal story of world domination that would have you thinking I was tripping on acid when in actual fact it turned out my sugar levels were low and to be honest I don’t actually remember writing half of what I did now reading it back. Regardless here it is, a lyrical analysis of Britney Spears’ “Circus” (whilst low on sugar).

Britney Spears - Circus

Before we begin, for those of you that have no idea what song it is that I’m talking about feel free to jump over to YouTube and check it out. Once you’re done vomiting come back and continue reading… Oh and don’t worry I’m not about to go through the whole song, it’s surprisingly not that insightful!!! I know, hard to believe!

There's only two types of people in the world
The ones that entertain and the ones that observe
Well baby, I'm a put-on-a-show kind of girl
Don't like the backseat, gotta be first

This is actually quite deep for Britney. She’s successfully divided the world’s 6.7 billion strong population into a distinct cross section clearly garnered from years of research with organizations such as the United Nations and Screen Actors Guild. Now that the world has been completely split in to two equally diverse categories it will calm down so that those that “observe” can watch those that “entertain” and we’ll all live in happy bliss. The only problem I can see in her theory of world peace is that just as she states “gotta be first” I fear a great deal of those living in the now secular society of “ones that entertain” will also feel the same way and quite quickly a civil feud may erupt, the next thing you know there’s hair, silicone & Prada bloodied and strewn across the streets of this new world. It’s actually quite apocalyptic for little old Brit’s.

I'm a like the ringleader, I call the shots
(Call the shots)
I'm like a firecracker I make it hot
When I put on a show

There’s not quite as much hidden in the next verse. Following on from the division of the world Britney has declared “Spears-Law” and emerged from the uprising as the new lord of “Princess-Land” as she’s named the US, which now holds the remaining population of “entertainers” post civil war. Britney rules over Princess-Land with fear tactics, promising that any of those who dare rise in opposition will feel the “firecracker” of justice and burn as she “make(s) it hot” for those that disobey. The rest of the world will watch in pale terror “When [she] puts on a show”

I feel the adrenaline moving through my veins
Spotlight on me and I'm ready to break
I'm like a performer, the dancefloor is my stage
Better be ready, hope that you feel the same

The pressures of ruling Princess-Land are beginning to take toll on poor Britney. Her rule is in jeopardy and with each adrenaline fueled strike she takes to topple the constant attempts to remove her as Queen she’s left alone, constantly in the spotlight of the new nation, “ready to break” under the pressure. Britney is no quitter though, she’s “like a performer”, not an *actual* performer by any means, that would require talent, and the stage is set for a final showdown between her 1984 drone-like followers and her once fellow entertainers, now plebeian subjects, to decide the fate of Princess-Land.

All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus
When I crack that whip, everybody gon' trip just like a circus
Don't stand there watching me, follow me, show me what you can do
Everybody let go, we can make a dancefloor just like a circus

Leading up to the “Final War”, Britney and her cabinet begin a strategic marketing campaign to grab more attention & enlist the people to her and her cause. The “circus” is the unruly terrorist like attacks being employed by her enemy in Princess-Land against her, she stamps her authority over them and her subjects with a crack of “that whip” bringing everyone in to line once again, “Don’t stand there watching me, follow me”, enlisting them to take arms and fight for their ruler, “show me what you can do”.

There's only two types of guys out there
Ones that can hang with me and ones that are scared
So baby, I hope that you came prepared
I run a tight ship so beware

Britney’s efforts at enlisting the people have failed, they’ve turned against her and have been swept up by the underground movement spearheaded by Paris’ dog Tinker-bell, the now smartest living person in all of Princess-Land. Those closest to Britney are given the ultimatum to either come with her in a final stand or die, “There’s only two type of guys out there”. Oddly enough her original move and catalyst for all of this was dividing the world into two, she seems to not have learnt anything, once again dividing her remaining male followers, essentially handing down their death sentence either way.

[Repeated verses & chorus]

Now living underground in a burnt out Krispy Kreme store that fell through the ground in to the sewer system caused, ironically, by one of Britney’s bombings in the early days of the uprising, she begins to slip into a psychotic state still believing she is ruling what she had then labelled “Princess-Land” but is now the United States of Chihuahua with human life eradicated by Supreme Chancellor Tinker-Bell.

Let's go
Let me see what you can do
I'm runnin' this like-like-like a circus
Yeah, like a what? Like-like-like a circus

Having not eaten for over a week and the decaying bodies of her loyal few rotting around her Britney spends her remaining hours of life rocking; chanting that she’s still running the world albeit a “circus”, her mind completely gone and her childhood stuttering returned “like-like-like”. Her life begins to wain and the song’s continued, seemingly never-ending, verse repetition signifies her dying moments in the cold shell of the Krispy Kreme bunker grave she dug for herself. From the highest of highs to lowest of lows her Circus of rule comes to a sad end and Chancellor Tinker-Bell restores the nation to pre Princess-Land glory.

All hail Tinker-Bell!

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