User Interface

Explain why a Macintosh pull-down menu can be accessed at least five times faster than a typical Windows pull-down menu. For extra credit, suggest at least two reasons why Microsoft made such an apparently stupid decision.

I ran across this question on AskTog and finally know the answer. It’s one of those things I have known for years, but did not understand, “why?” The answer is here:

Headin’ home – Boise

Yesterday we drove to Portland to say hi to Matt Meehan. Then we drove over to Boise and spent the night at a Red Lion. While a Red Lion is not bad (certainly better than your $23/$39 hotels with big signs), it is not nearly as nice as the DoubleTree Riverside in Boise. We’re off to eat breakfast at a wonderful little diner we found here last time.

Sumptuous Dining

One of the joys of living in the Pacific Northwest is berry season. Today we introduced Kayla to the first delectable treats of the season – ripe sweet juicy local strawberries.
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After thoroughly enjoying our scrumptious picnic on the deck, Kayla cheered for her new favorite flavor. Score one for strawberries!

Apple is cozy with Microsoft Windows?

The year 2006 has brought many more forays into Windows than normal. Over a decade ago, I wrote software for DOS and subsequently various versions of Windows. After quitting my job at Kysor, I left Windows behind and my primary desktop OS has been either Mac OS or a variant of Unix (FreeBSD, BSDI, IRIX, or Linux).

For the last decade, I used Windows only when necessary. Earlier this year, I bought a new Core Duo iMac. I contributed to the XPonMac context to get XP working on it. I was even happier when Apple released Boot Camp soon thereafter. I installed XP and Firefox, rebooted, and didn’t use XP again. Then Parallels arrived. I downloaded and installed it. Not only did it work, it worked well. I installed FreeBSD, Debian, and WinXP just to have convenient access to them. Before June, I did actually used XP for one thing. I downloaded and installed the Blue Frog. Then Blue Security got DOSed off the planet.

I began 2006 with only occasional contact with Windows. Within a couple months, I had it installed on my iMac and a few months later I was actually using it. Then, just imagine my surprise when I was filling out the rebate form for my free iPod (which I bought with my new MacBook). The form was experiencing technical difficulties and yielded up an extremely interesting error message. Apparently Apple is also becoming much more familiar with Windows as well. Pay careful attention to the server tagline at the bottom of the error message.

Apple using Microsoft Servers

I am sure the explanation for why an Apple server is yielding up Windows .NET error messages will be interesting. For reference, I also saved the page as a web archive. The following is the .webarchive file generated by Safari. I have also posted a full sized image of the original screenshot.

Web Archive of Windows at Apple

Another look at the 20″ iMac Core Duo

Two weeks ago we arrived in Seattle. We planned at least seven weeks here. Being gone for so long required that I set up a portable office so Jen and I could work. She brought her laptop, I limited myself to the PowerBook and 20″ iMac Core Duo. Upon arrival, I accepted a one week contract job helping out Microsoft. That contract meant putting my iMac to work in new ways.

My project was the instruction of a course on LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP/Perl/Python) development. I had to document a process by which Microsoft employees could install LAMP on their computers and then use the LAMP stack in a development environment. Of course, it had to be delivered in the form of Word docs and PowerPoint “decks.” With that in mind, I had to have several things all running at the same time:

  • Windows XP
  • LAMP: Linux (via virtualization)
  • MS Word & PowerPoint

While instructing the course, I learned quite a few things about my Core Duo iMac, Parallels Desktop, and MS Office under Rosetta.

For starters, and reference, Parallels Desktop does a great job of running Windows XP. Previous to this contract, I had no problems running XP under it, but I had not really used it other than to boot it up and see that it worked.

Parallels Desktop & Boot Camp
While Parallels Desktop lets me run XP under Mac OS X, it is not quite as good as rebooting into XP via Boot Camp. I ran into a limitation when I installed and attempted to use Virtual PC 2004 for Windows. It simply will not run under XP when XP is running under Parallels, giving a “CPU not supported” error. Since I needed Virtual PC 2004 to work, I had to reboot into Windows under Boot Camp.

When Jon, the project manager, came over to broadcast the Live Meeting from my house, he looked at Windows XP on the screen and asked, “Where’s the computer?” I replied, “that is the computer.” Apple hardware rocks. As I have pointed out in previous articles, and continue to be surprised by, Windows XP runs much faster and smoother under Boot Camp on my iMac than on the dual 3.0GHz Xeon server I have. I was reminded of how “authentic” my experience was when MSN Messenger asked to enable my video camera. When I allowed it, the system promptly rebooted. I let it try once more with the same results before disabling the built-in iSight’s hardware profile. Am I the only one that finds it inexcusable that a vendor supplied chat program can crash the operation system?

MS Office & Core Duo Macs
Previously I noted that PowerPC apps like MS Office work just fine on the new Core Duo systems running under Rosetta. I have found that my assertation was a bit hasty. While Office does run and appears to work fine, when I began using it I found its performance is intolerably slow. I had to generate a number of PowerPoints and Word docs. None were very large, 15-30 slides for PowerPoint and 5-15 page Word docs. I started out building them on the iMac in Office 2004 but redraws, scrolling, and general use was too slow. This is on a 2GHz Core Duo with 2GB of RAM!

How slow is “too slow?” I did not bother with benchmarks because I had work to do. When I grabbed a scroll bar and drug, I would have to drag and wait for the screen to update, and it would often take up to a second and sometimes a few to redraw a page or a slide. This was after turning all of the auto-* features. If you are content with the speed of OS X or XP on a 4 year old computer, then the performance would be acceptable to you. For everyone else, if you must use Office regularly, avoid the new Intel powered Mac system unless you intend to buy the new version of Office the day it ships so you get get decent performance again.

I worked around the problem in two ways. The first was by running Office under XP (under Parallels). The rest of the time I edited the files on my aged but trustworthy G4 PowerBook. To summarize, the Core Duo equipped macs are really great systems, but if you spent a good portion of your day working in Office or any other app that is not yet Universal, you will want to continue using a PowerPC based Macintosh.

A cornucopia of things

We are in Seattle (Lake City) at least until mid-July. We fled Texas to escape the heat. Jen found us a housesitting job.

Weather in Seattle is wonderful! It’s cold in the morning (60s) and warms up into the 70s during the day. There are no mosquitoes. The doors and windows of the house are open all day (and night). I can be out in the sun for hours and not get burnt. I burn in less than 40 minutes of Texas sun.

Honda Odyssey
We drove our new minivan up to Seattle. It is a 2004 Honda Odyssey. We got it last month with 26,000 miles. It is like new. It is so anti-Jetta. The Jetta is small, the Odyssey is not. The Jetta is frugal (35mph), the Odyssey is not (24). The Jetta begs to race down the backside of mountains at 120mph, the Odyssey says, “grow up, speed racer.” The Jetta is cute, the Odyssey is…is…practical. 534

The Jetta: Let’s DRIVE!
Odyssey: Let’s ride.

The Jetta: Go, Go, Go! Faster, faster, I can do it!
Odyssey: Hey, look at the pretty mountains and the cool morning air that I have conditioned to exactly 72° for your riding comfort. Would you like a massage with your soft cushy seats?

After driving 400 miles:
The Jetta: Stop? Why? I can go for 200 more miles on this tank!
Odyssey: I’m thirsty. Don’t you have to pee or something?

After looking at the pile of stuff to take for 6 weeks:
The Jetta: Where?
Odyssey: Is that it?

Things that would not have fit in the Jetta: 20″ iMac, crate full of rock climbing and camping gear, portable office (phones, routers, power adapters, etc), a really big bag of Kayla toys. It really was quite dramatic. We filled up the Odyssey with everything we wanted to bring and was still below the bottom of the windows.

Contrast that with our two weeks in Michigan over new years. The Jetta was packed to the gills with the roof rack on top and not an inch to spare anywhere.

Junior 2.0
We had Junior’s big ultrasound yesterday. Junior appears to be very healthy. In fact, Junior is quite vigorous, refusing to hold still for the ultrasound technician. She claimed never to have seen such an active fetus. There were a couple images she simply could not get because Junior refused to hold still. After 15 minutes trying to get a particular shot, in frustration she held the probe still and said, “Look at this, I’m holding this still and he is just going and going!”

Junior’s mommy was not the least bit surprised. Kayla was an active baby and we had nicknamed her “Dances in Womb.” Junior is hyperactive and seldom pauses. Junior is more like “Spastic Bounces Off Walls.” His activity level is almost constant. Many things about this pregnancy are different than the last, but of course, every pregnancy is different. The nausea that abated in the second trimester last time has not. Other little things are different. We had our suspicions.

As the technician probed, daddy and Kayla watched. I asked, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” The technician slid a knowing grin and continued. She paused, and froze the screen. There it was again, and this time she caught it before Junior swam away. Junior is sporting the goods.

Workin’ for the man
The day after we arrived in Seattle, I got the phones set up and then they rang. A certain mega-sized monopolistic computer software corporation (MSMCSC) based in Redmond, Washington wanted my assistance. Oddly, they had no idea I was only a few miles away. So, I am finishing up a one week consulting project with, guess who?

More miles and smiles

We left Denver this morning. Wyoming was one mightly long boring state, but we’re in Utah now. The mountains are beautiful and this is certainly a part of the world that is not scenically challenged. We’re almost out of Utah now, and heading into Idaho. If all goes as planned, we’ll be sleeping in Boise by midnight. Kayla got chocolate for her birthday. Kayla likes chocolate.

Update: We have arrived in Seattle. It’s 53° out and that makes some of us very happy.

On The Road

We’re in Kansas. Bye bye Texas, Oklahoma is in the rear view mirror, and Colorado is in the near future.

9:45AM 26,543 – Depart Home
10:34AM 26,590 12.726G $34.60
12:41PM 26,734 6.018G $15.64 23.9mpg(1)
3:17PM Kansas Turnpike $1.50 (3)
6:27PM 27,097 15.203G $41.34 23.9mpg(2)
10:30PM 27,436 Arrival in Denver
12H:45M 893m 33.947G $91.58

Leg #1 stats: 893 miles in 12.75 hours = 70mph avg. speed(4)
Economy = 23.9mpg.

(1) speeds driven on this tank were less than 70mph.
(2) speed varied between 70 and 80mph.
(3) Drove through a “brown out” where high winds and dust limited visibility to 20′.
(4) Faster speeds on the two latter tankfuls helped make up for extra stops for Kayla to play in the grass and stretch.