Saturday, December 30, 2006

Do you trust Google or not?

Blake Ross, one of the original FireFox developers, says that Google has lost his. Paul Thurrott ask Blake what took you so long because he has been banging this drum for a while.

Me? I mostly trust them for search, but the example Blake gives of putting ads for Google's own apps at the top of the search results without it being a search result really bothers me. The IE7 toolbar lockin is crazy, I chose to use the toolbar and your search Google, it doesn't mean I don't ever want to change. The privacy policy on the phishing filter is troubling, and privacy concerns is why I don't use GMail. I don't want ads in my mail, and I don't like the potential to have my mail mined whenever Google feels like it now, or if they update their policy.

That is one of the reasons I keep re-upping my .Mac account. It is reasonably private, and I have pretty control over spam. The other .Mac benefits sweeten the pot, but the easy publishing and OS X settings synching is extremely nice.

Obama is Ready...

I hadn't seen the Monday Night Football where Barack Obama gives an introduction, but the following video annotated by is fantastic:

I especially like the James Bond reference. Here is the segment from MNF without the annotation on YouTube.

I posted this because the annotated video is very funny IMHO and this is perhaps the best political ad I have seen in years. No mudslinging, make your candidate presidential, and keep him human at the same time. I can think of no other current politician that could have pulled this off. No wonder people are falling over themselves to get this guy to run.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Notes on a Scandal: The Microsoft+AMD Acer Ferrari Vista Laptop Giveaway

No, not the movie, I just liked the title for this post.

I am talking about the Christmas gift that Microsoft and AMD put together for a bunch of bloggers and influencers. Not clear how recipients got "on the list", but here is a sampling:

Laughing Squid - Scott Beale
Notgartner - Mitch Denny
Ed Bott
Marshall Kirkpatrick - Now MS wants he laptop back
Robert McLaws

I think this story started to explode when Scoble linked to Scott Beale, called it PayPerPost. Since then Scoble posted again saying he thought this was a great PR move, but the key question from a blogger ethical point of view was did you disclose? People are calling the "gift" a bribe.

Full Disclosure: I did not receive a laptop :-). If I had, I would have immediately disclosed that I had, any communication received from Microsoft, and what my intention was to do with the laptop (charity sounds like a great idea).

What would I have done if Apple had sent me a MacBook Pro for "review" and to keep it if I liked as MS has done? You have to disclose, and then you can't keep the machine. It really is that simple. Just because the "bribe" would be better since it would be a MacBook Pro instead of the Acer Ferrari doesn't mean you compromise your integrity. Handouts of any kind cloud your judgement, it really is that simple, which is why Ed Bott's stand against gifts is the only sensible option, but he's wrong that bloggers shouldn't be held to that standard just because they don't have journalism training. Bloggers can't have it both ways, you can't be journalist when it suits your needs, but bloggers when your getting gifts. Here is a link to The New York Times Ethics Guide (PDF) from 2004. Look at the "Accepting Hospitality from Sources" section for guidance on receiving gifts, in short don't unless completely impractical to the situation. Paying for Vista and your own hardware to review it is not impractical.

What really prompted me to post though was the unrepentant post by Robert McLaws on this situation. Here is an amazing quote:
When I got the e-mail giving me a choice betwen a couple systems, I was told that I could either give the system away, or keep it for myself. Being the selfish greedy b@stard that I am, and having dealt with the crappiest Tecra M4 in the world, I decided to keep mine. So, some people think that's bribery. Fine. Some people think the Holocaust didn't happen, too. You get SWAG for going to a conference, why is this any different? I was a Microsoft MVP for 3 years, which was a reward for past efforts with Microsoft software, trips, and buttloads of NDA information. Is that bribery too?
Yes Robert, that's bribery too. To even mention the Holocaust as passingly relevant to the giveaway discussion is disgusting. Here is the MS MVP FAQ, look at Q&A 6:
Q6: Do Microsoft MVPs receive any payment from Microsoft? A6: No. The Microsoft MVP Program does provide a small award of software and other benefits in its core program offering, but MVPs do not receive any monetary payment from the Microsoft MVP Program.
Somewhat stunning that MS does not equate software and benefits here with monetary compensation, when software handouts have been using to settle antitrust lawsuits, which is obviously compensation. In the MS MVP case, you were compensated for you time with gifts and a title.

Have I ever received something for my time in online community work that influenced me? Yes I have. Back when MS was launching their Broadband Networking hardware, I bought one of the 802.11b wireless routers. It didn't work with the Pacific Bell DSL I had because of some bugs with PPP dialing. I got into the newsgroups and provided logs, traffic captures, and general debugging to MS and the few other people that where in the San Francisco Bay Area having the same problems with Pacific Bell. One day I came home from work to find an 802.11g beta wireless router from MS for my "time" debugging, which I used and upgraded to retail code until I got my first Airport Express (for the streaming, my first Mac worked fine with the MS router). Did receiving the free router influence me? You bet, when I had thoroughly tested and debugged it, I recommended it to friends, and I moved a few SKUs. I would never have bought the 802.11g MS router because of the problems with the first one. If you haven't used your own money (or your publisher's money) to purchase products that your review, I think it's pretty obvious you are more kind to the product you are reviewing/using than if you had spent the money yourself. If Robert McLaws had to replace his crappy Toshiba Tecra M4 to run Vista properly out of pocket, it may not have changed his opinion all that much, but he would have been starting with a different mindset, and that makes all the difference.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tip: OS X doesn't have a defragmentation tool because user's don't need to run one

A co-worker asked me yesterday if he needed to defragment his Mac. This is my co-worker's first Mac, and after being conditioned to Windows defragmentation he thought he should ask so he could keep his Mac running at top performance. I told him right away that OS X doesn't need to be defragmented, mostly because I had done some research on this in the past because I was conditioned to defrag coming from Windows. I came to the conclusion it was unneeded because OS X automatically and silently defrags files, and moves heavily requested files onto the fastest parts of the disk (more on this stuff later). I also told him no defrag needed because I hadn't defragged any Macs in the 3 years of owning and using Macs. This is one of the "Windows taxes" that you forget to tell people about that they don't have to do when they use Macs, since the pain is gone you kinda forget what all the fuss is about.

But my VersionTracker for OS X RSS feed showed a new version of iDefrag, 1.5.8, available for download, so I read their documentation and then Googled for some more information on fragmentation on OS X, specifically the default filesystem HFS+.

A few minutes later, I found pretty much the authoritative article, Fragmentation in HFS Plus Volumes by Amit Singh. Amit it seems is becoming the Mark Russinovich of the Mac OS X kernel. Amit's book, Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach may be the equivalent of Microsoft Windows Internals, Fourth Edition. I hear Santa is bringing me the OS X internals book...

Anyway, here is the conclusion to Amit's article:
Defragmentation on HFS+ volumes should not be necessary at all, or worthwhile, in most cases, because the system seems to do a ver good job of avoiding/countering fragmentatio .
For the more curious, I encourage you to read all of Amit's article. Two features in OS X help eliminate the need to manually defrag, Hot File Adaptive Clustering and On-the-fly Defragmentation. Amit's article contains excellent descriptions of both. There is an Apple support article on why defragmentation should not be needed, but there are specific scenarios that might cause heavier then usual fragmentation and OS X built-in techniques wouldn't suffice. This has to do entirely with heavy large file manipulation, since those files aren't earmarked for automatic and silent defrag since they most likely exceed the 20MB rule Amit mentions.

For comparison's sake, Windows XP has had the Prefetcher which does essentially the same thing as OS X's Hot File Adaptive Clustering combined with On-the-fly defragmentation, with one exception. OS X will defrag any file on open if it hits a bunch of conditions, again listed in Amit's article, Windows isn't doing that, only for the most used files. Vista goes get an Automatic Defragmenter.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vista Annoyance #003: What driver was that please?

I finally got around to installing Vista in a Parallels VM on OS X. Parallels takes whatever remaining pain there is in installing Windows XP or Vista away by capturing all the information, like product key and username, at the start of the VM install and then automates the Windows install process so you basically don't have to do anything, it totally rocks.

What doesn't rock is that all the drivers it installs aren't digitally signed so Windows pops-up the following nag dialog:

Why is this a Vista annoyance and not a Parallels annoyance for the driver thing? Because Windows is showing the user the red shield and scary red dialog title and leaves out the most critical piece of information possible, what the hell is actually causing this dialog to pop-up? What process? What driver is being installed? Then look at your choices. Which one is the better option? Both have the green arrow next to them, why is that? Should I as a normal user exercise more caution if I decided to install the driver anyway?

Tip: Reducing OS X and Application disk space

In my experience, you can expect to recover between 2-5 GB of disk space by removing additional languages.

Original Post
In the wild world of Windows, installing or using localized versions of Windows and programs is a conscious decision the user has to make. Installation programs are often split into multiple versions, one for each localization offered, and using a localized version of Windows means installing a completely separate copy. If anyone has had to use localized versions of either Windows or its applications, thats a complicated procedure and at the minimum a potential time waster.
With OS X and applications made for the platform, there is only one version of OS X for all locales its installed for, and Applications are the same way. This is great for usability, and makes buying OS X or apps less confusing, but the downside is that localizations eat up a lot of disk space. If you are not using the localizations, and you know you never will, why keep them around?

Fortunately, OS X provides UI to remove localizations, they are called Languages, from an application through the Info pane on the application.

You can go through every single app and remove languages you aren't going to use, but this will not remove the extra language files from OS X itself. You can choose not to install the Languages when you install OS X, but most people use OS X pre-installed on their Macs. There is a pretty great utility, called Monolingual, a Universal binary that allows you to remove all the languages you know you aren't going to use. Here is a screenshot:

Monolingual also allows you to remove PowerPC binary data from Universal binaries if you are using an Intel Mac, or Intel binary data from a Universal binary on a PowerPC Mac, but I don't recommend it for pretty much one reason. Developers may keep certain files in a distribution as PowerPC because there performance doesn't matter and Rosetta emulation is good enough. World of WarCraft had this issue when they first released a Universal binary.

Tip: OS X Finder Error Code -1309 Possible Meaning

If you are copying files from your OS X partition to external drive or a Boot Camp partition and receive Finder Error Code -1309, it most likely means you are copying a file greater than 4 GB in size, which is the maximum a FAT32 formated drive can support. That's because the 32 in FAT32 means it uses a 32-bit unsigned integer for the number of bytes in a file, so 2^32-1 is 4 GB. Wikipedia Reference