Borkware Miniblog

March 2, 2012

Keith on Monochrome Icons

Filed under: off-topic, whining — Mark Dalrymple @ 11:22 am

Keith Blount, the brain behind Scrivener (one of my favorite pieces of software), talks about The Mac Monochrome Trend – A Plea For Keeping Things Colourful:

When Apple decided to drain the icons in these programs of their colour, I learned something about the way my brain works that I hadn’t hitherto ever had to think about: my brain is an awful lot faster at processing colours than it is at processing shapes.

I’m the same way. I use a mix of 10.6 and 10.7 machines. When I go back to 10.6, I’m reminded how quickly I recognize the sidebar icons in the Finder, and on 10.7, it’s all a gray mass.

April 6, 2011

The NeXT Chapter

Filed under: history, off-topic — Mark Dalrymple @ 11:24 am

Dans panel

I guess folks liked my little WWDC guide. I got more traffic from than than everything else around here gets, combined. Poring through my referrer logs I found one tumble about it from @alanQuatermain who said:

“I have a suspicion that someone at NeXT went around with a huge bucketful of awesome one day, because everyone I’ve met with a NeXT association seems to have a fair amount of it these days.”

I can’t argue with that. Over the years, everyone I’ve met with NeXT affiliations has been incredibly smart, and usually very kind and gracious as well. The funny thing is, NeXT wanted nothing to do with me at the time.

I remember when the NeXT cube first hit the mainstream press. BYTE Magazine had a cover story with the cube along with a pretty in-depth article about the tech inside. The 68040 processor, the DSP, scads of memory, the advanced OS and the toolkit. There was even a centerfold. I was in love. I wanted one of those machines. Who cares if the optical drive was slow.  It was mag-NEATO! 256 megs of space! Who cares if the machine was $10,000? Somehow I managed to secure funding for it. Now all I needed was someone who would exchange a pile of money for a black cube of 2-bit graphic goodness.

The first NeXT machines were only sold to educational institutions. At the time, around 1989-90, I was still in college,  fairly small liberal arts college in central Arkansas you’ve probably never heard of. Hendrix College was too small to qualify for any kind of educational co-op with NeXT. UCA, the larger school across town, was large enough though. A friend of mine was the trombone professor over there even had a visit from a NeXT sales representative. I got an invite, and was blown away. I really wanted that machine. Unfortunately, I was told point-blank that there would be no way I could get a machine for myself through regular channels.

Plan B. I’m a programmer. They had a developer program. I got an application and sent it in. I didn’t have a huge number of qualifications (Unix? Is that like VMS?), but I have programmed Macs since they first came out. I even had a couple of application ideas in mind, including a MacDraw-like diagramming app, and a medical database system similar to one I built in high school.

About a month later I got my rejection letter. I think I still have it in my archives somewhere. I purchased the developer documentation anyway so I could live vicariously. Boy did Objective-C look weird. And Display Postscript.

And so there ended my dreams of being a NeXT programmer. I spent the money on a Mac IIci with an ungodly amount of memory (maybe 8 megs?) to continue my Mac programming. A little while later at my first job I discovered we had some NeXT cubes. They were in the corners being used for print servers. But dutifully I got a login, worked through the programing tutorials, had some fun, learned a lot, and then went back to my day job of Unix and C because there was No Future in the NeXT technology.

Needless to say I was pretty happy when NeXT bought Apple for -429 million dollars. I now had all my favorite worlds in one place: Mac, Unix, and now NeXTstuff.

March 31, 2011

My Time Machine Exclusion List

Filed under: off-topic, Questions From Friends, Random — Mark Dalrymple @ 12:18 pm

A friend recently asked me about my opinions on the Time Capsule. I had the first generation device. It was OK, but slow, and eventually died the death of the power supply.

I have the latest gen now, 2TB, and love it. With 10.6 over a fast network, I don’t notice the hourly backups. One thing I did notice as time went on that the backups were getting kind of big. I want my individual machine backups to be under 1TB so I could archive them to some terrorbyte external drives I already have. I’d exceed that if I backed up too much junk too often.

My main goal for backups is to restore my $HOME data in the event of a machine failure. I don’t plan on restoring the OS or Applications from the backup. I’ll just use whatever OS is on the replacement machine or install my own, and I’ll install applications as I need them.

Backup Loupe is a great application for looking at your backups and seeing what’s being piggy. A file that’s only 50 megs is not a big deal, but it becomes a bigger deal if it gets touched regularly and gets backed up every hour. Using Backup Loupe, and general foresight, I have built this exclusion list over the last year or so. Unfortunately the list is not in any sane order. I’m not sure what order it’s listed, since it’s not chronological.

Time machine exclusions

Some are pretty obvious:

~/.Trash – no need to backup trash.

/Library/Application Support, /Library/Caches and ~/Library/Caches, those will be re-created by applications. ~/Library/Application Support I do back up since it might have useful goodies.  [edit: Mark Aufflick suggests preserving /Library/Application Support/Adobe.  Personally I just use Lightroom and Photoshop CS5.  Lightroom is pretty well behaved, and I’ll just reinstall Photoshop.  But if you had the full Suite, that’d probably be a huge pain].

/Applications, I’ll just redownload and reinstall them.

/Users/bork is a test user I only use for development. No need to back that up.

The various parts peculiar to individual app or companies are there because they’re either big, can be regenerated, or an app touches a file often. Camino is one of them. I don’t use it very often, but every time I do I have to back up 50 megs. So its application support directory is on the chopping block. Similarly, Chrome gets updated every week, and is pretty big.

/Developer and /Xcode4 are there because I’d fill up the Time Capsule just from Xcode updates. I can always download the latest one if I’m setting up a new machine.

~/junk is a directory I use to throw junk into (hence the name). NoBackup is a similar directory at the top level. I have one in Movies too as a place to store one-off iMovie projects. Once I create the final movie the project can go bye-bye, and I usually don’t feel the need to back it up in the interim. I can get the original footage from the camera again. If it’s something larger or more important, I’ll leave it in ~/Movies, which does get backed up.

~/Downloads is another place for stuff I don’t want to delete right now, but won’t cry if it suddenly went away. If I want to keep it, I’ll put it somewhere that’s backed up.

Lightroom generates previews of photographs so that the UI is more responsive. Those can be regenerated later, so they don’t ned to be backed up.

All system files, including /Library/Printers,and /usr are things that would come with a fresh OS instal. Things in /usr/local I can re-install as needed. Same with /opt.

My music lives on another machine, so I don’t need to back up ~/Music

I check with Backup Loupe every now and then to make sure there’s not a new suprise that’s getting backed up.

Addendum: courtesy of brad@cynicalpeak, there’s other trash directories, /.Trashes, /Volumes/*/.Trashes if you have multiple disks.  Also /var/folders is yet another cache location.

March 28, 2011

Borkware’s First-Timer’s Guide to WWDC

Filed under: off-topic — Mark Dalrymple @ 12:23 pm

Atm machienSo, you’ve just purchased your first WWDC ticket. Congratulations! Many folks have have published their “First-timer’s guide to WWDC”, so being a veteran of 6 or 7 of them, both in the modern age and during the Dark Times, I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon.

1) The ticket is expensive, so you’re probably short on cash now. Don’t worry about booking a hotel. The weather in San Francisco is really nice. It hardly ever rains. And if it does, there are many store fronts and office building entrances you can use for shelter. It’s also pleasantly warm 24/7.

2) Go to as many sessions, labs, BOF sessions, and parties you can at the Moscone center. It’s a virtual firehose of firehoses of information and activity. You won’t have time to bathe, so don’t even bother.

3) Get into the keynote line early. Most hardcore attendees start lining up Sunday afternoon. You’ll be guaranteed of a good spot if you get there late Saturday night. There’s really only 700 spaces in the keynote room, even though the videos make it look deceptively large (*cough* CGI *cough*). Due to health concerns, Steve’s Reality Distortion Field doesn’t extend past 10 or 15 rows these days. :-( May he rest in peace.

4) Don’t worry about food. In fact, you don’t have to really bring any money, credit cards, or Automatic ATM Machine cards. I can never remember my PIN Number anyway. Apple always lays out a huge spread of food from dusk to dawn and back to dusk again. Make sure to hang around friday evening for Prime Rib and Champagne night, in celebration of the end of a good conference.

5) A secret: you don’t have to wait until the end of a session for Q&A. There are microphones around the room. If the one you are at happens to be turned off, no problem. Bring your own bullhorn.

6) When asking questions in sessions, be sure to state your name, where you work, which platform you work on, which version of Xcode you prefer, and your opinion on the App store and C++ vs Objective-C. Be sure to complement the speaker on their sartorial choices. The sound systems are run rather hot, so please don’t speak too loudly into the microphone. Of course, if you brought a bullhorn, you can tailor its output to the conditions of the room.

7) Follow proper Labs etiquette. The labs where you can chat with Apple engineers are an invaluable resource. It is a scarce, shared resource, so treat it like you would computationaly: pretend to be a mutex. You walk into the lab you want and shout “I AM ATTEMPTING TO OBTAIN A LOCK ON THE MEDIA PLAYER FRAMEWORK ENGINEERS”. If an engineer is free, you’ll hear “LOCK SUCCEDED” from the back, and you can go to the engineer who just shouted and ask your questions. If no one responds wait until you time out, and try again. Expert tip: “spinlock”.

8) We’re all friends at WWDC. If a session looks to be standing room only, feel free to find an available lap.

9) The Thursday night beer bash is actually just a giant mosh pit.

10) Don’t forget that recording devices are forbidden. So please leave your voice recorder, iPhone, video camera, DSLR, pens and paper at home. The TSA has been contracted to provide session information security.

Have a great time! WWDC is an awesome experience.

July 13, 2010

Help menu search as shortcut button

Filed under: off-topic, Random — Mark Dalrymple @ 12:45 pm

Ever find yourself wanting a short-term shortcut button for something in an application, especially something buried a couple of levels down in menus?  I’ve been using the Help menu search field to essentially pre-cache a menu item for quick access.

Specifically, when I work on the newsletter for my community orchestra, I have all the submitted stories in one Pages™®© document and the final newsletter in another document.  I strike out stories as I move them over. I can tell what’s been finished, but I don’t destroy what’s there in case I need to undo or refer to something.  There’s no toolbar button that I could find for strikeout, so I just search for ‘strike’ in the menus. Now when I want to strike out some text I just go to the help menu and hit the first useful item.


Help menu in Pages with 'strikethrough' selected

January 31, 2009

An unusual arrangement

Filed under: off-topic, Random — Mark Dalrymple @ 6:09 pm

Picture 2.png

It’s been awhile since I last used a two-monitor setup. Usually I do all of my work on a 15″ MacBookPro or one of the plastic MacBooks. But I wanted a better monitor for the desktop when I’m doing photostuff, so now I have two monitors again. Last time was in 2002 when I was doing contracting, and the client’s product I was working on wouldn’t fit on a laptop screen. I used a secondary monitor for running the software.

Even back in the Mac II days I always got really annoyed with the “traditional” way of setting up multiple monitors: having it so the desktop areas had large coincidental areas of vertical or horizontal border, so you could have one window span both screens and have it look non-horrible. My problem was I would always overshoot one monitor and end up on the other. I had really come to depend on Fitts’s Law. So why not use that for the monitors too?


I use my monitors as distinct playgrounds: Code and whatnot on one and the client’s big-assed program on the other. Lightroom’s Develop pane on one, and the Library grid on the other. Photoshop’s editing area on one, palettes on the other. I never have one big window that straddles both screens. Hence, my arrangement, seen above, connects the monitors at one corner.

This gives me my sides as big Fitts’s Law targets, as shown in the cute kitty picture. I can slam the mouse to the side to get to the tools. The menu bar at the top remains a nice big target. If I want to go to the other monitor, I throw the mouse to the bottom-left corner.

This makes the mouse enter the second screen at the top-right, and I keep my Photoshop palettes and Nik plugins panel up near that corner for easy access. I twiddle what I want, then throw the mouse into the upper-right corner to get to the main screen. If I lose my mouse, I can just keep mousing up and to the right until I see it on the main screen.


Why not put the other screen to the right? I keep my Dock hidden on the right. With today’s wide-screen displays, horizontal real estate is cheap, vertical real estate is still precious (six more lines of code! woo!). Having the Dock Fitts-style on the right makes it very easy to access.

Why not off the bottom? I use the hard border of the screen when resizing windows large – grab the corner, resize larger quickly until hitting the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately the green jellybean rarely does what I want it to do.

I’m not saying this is the best way for everybody, but it works very well for me. If you get frustrated with your multiple-monitor setup by accidentally mousing into the other screen, give the corner-connection a try.

July 1, 2008

How I Got Started In Programming

Filed under: meta, off-topic, Random, work — Mark Dalrymple @ 10:47 pm

The redoubtable AnneKate™ tagged me with a narcissitic brain-dump meme, How I Got Started Programming, so I figured I’d chime in. Usually I don’t do that stuff here, but hey, it’s my blog, I can me me me me if I want to.

How old were you when you started programming?

Sixth grade. Which would put me around 12 years old maybe? My dad brought home an Apple ][ (amazing how many stories like this start off with that machine), intending to do Typical Computer Things like track finances and write simulations of radiation-resistent DNA (my Dad’s awesome), but I noticed that it could play GAMES, and I glommed on to it. Dad got occasional visitation rights, but for the most part, the machine was all mine.

It was a super spiffy version, too. It had 48K, plus Applesoft BASIC on a card (Integer BASIC on the motherboard). To switch between languages, you powered-down, flipped the switch, and powered back up. (this was before DOS 3.3). Eventually the machine got a Language Card (16K expansion).

How did you get started in programming?

Typing in programs from magazines and books. This was the time when print publications (remember those?) would have complete program listings. I learn best by by eye -> hands -> screen -> eye -> brain, and this is how I learned programming. Actually, where I learned debugging, since you learn more by making (and finding, and fixing) misteaks than you do by doing things perfectly the first time. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

What was your first language?

Apple ][ Integer BASIC. Later Applesoft, and then the UCSD Pascal system.

What was the first real program you wrote?

Where “real” is something non-trivial, and not something I typed in from a magazine. It was one my Dad designed, and I implemented. It was essentially a quality assurance database system for a Radiology department. Diagnoses could be entered, and then later correlated with reports from Pathology. Or something like that. As far as I was concerned, it was “type stuff in, save it to disk”, and then periodically run the worlds most inefficient multi-device sort. But it was cool seeing three Disk ][ units hooked up to a machine, all running.

It was at this time I learned what flowcharts were (remember those?), sigma notation, and basic algorithms and data structures.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Roughly chronoillogical order, favorites starred

Integer BASIC (*), AppleSoft BASIC (*), UCSD Pascal (*), FORTRAN IV (under UCSD Pascal), VAX FORTRAN, VAX assembly, VAX BASIC, VMS DCL, Dbase ///, Turbo BASIC, Mac/TML Pascal (*), Hypertalk, Object Pascal, C (*), C++, Newtonscript, /bin/sh, /bin/csh, emacs lisp, Tcl (*), Perl, Oracle SQL, PL/SQL, PHP, Objective-C (*), /bin/bash, Javascript, Pythong, Java, Sawzall. HTML (XML and generic SGML) if you count those as languages.

Badgers, or Wombats?

Badgers, definitely.

What was your first professional programming gig?

Visix Software (R.I.P.) We did a cross-platform toolkit called “Galaxy”. It ruled™, and was definitely ahead of its time. Its geometry management system has not been approached by anything I’ve seen since.

I started off in tech support answering questions about network configuration for our license server and X11 Font Paths for our Looking Glass product. Eventually worked my way up to Señor Software Engineer working on some important parts of the product. Also, because of Visix, I spent four months on Wall Street.

My first “will program for food” was a couple of summers and Christmas vacations during college at the Little Rock VA Hospital, assembling PC-clones from spare parts, and building some software tools for the department. One was an elaboration of the previous medical system (this time in a “real” database, Dbase ///), and an isotope tracking system. I couldn’t really be paid, so I was officially a volunteer. If I was there for four or more hours, I got a cafeteria meal voucher, which was *just enough* for a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a coke. It was the only non-lethal thing there.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Hell yes! I’m having the time of my life, and I get paid for it.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

This is more generic life advice, but something I feel strongly about: Surround yourself with people that are smarter and more talented than you, and learn from them. See what they do, figure out why they do it. Ask questions. Bask in their greatness and absorb everything.

At Visix, I spent a big chunk of time hours and three whiteboards going through the Galaxy “Class Manager”, figuring out how it worked (which was a combination of C++-style vtables and Objective-C runtime lookup, but all in vanilla C, with a lot of macro magic).

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had programming?

At Visix, in the bootstrap days of Galaxy. I wrote a lot of demo programs and sample code, in addition to doing the “List Manager” (think Excel, but without the calculation engine). There were a lot of times I’d be working all night on some fun thing (like a graphics demo that needed scrolling, but we didn’t have scroll bars implemented yet, so I wrote a little joystick thingie). My favorite times were hacking on something fun, looking out the window, and watching the sun rise. It was magical.

Thanks AnneKate, that was a fun stroll down memory lane. Now get off my lawn.

May 11, 2008

Looking for Community Music in Philadelphia

Filed under: off-topic — Mark Dalrymple @ 12:56 pm

Hello Everyone,

Two friends of mine who are excellent musicians (Trumpet and Trombone) are moving to Philly this summer, and they’re looking for good community music groups (band and/or orchestra). They don’t know anyone in Philly. *I* don’t know anyone in Philly would know what groups are good in the region. If anyone has suggestions, leave a comment or drop me a line at Thanks!

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