Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Land of the free (to pay)

This week my anxiety generating problem has to do with the way utility companies do business in this part of the world. I always heard that American businesses are all customer centered, and that they treat the customer as king and whatnot, however this sounds like bullshit to me now that I am here. It seems that no company trusts their customers at all, especially the crappy utility companies, since they all demand very significant "security" deposits to start service with you. Moreover, since Americans still use very archaic banking practices (like paper cheques), by the time it is my turn to receive my deposit back, I will not even be in the country to cash the cheques they send me with the money I wasted on their deposits.

Any more blindly patriotic American reading this might get a fit for my rant, but I miss England so much, because for all people here like to criticize them, the British are, as Bertrand Russel once said, the only ones using common sense ever since it was invented by themselves. Actually John Locke is usually credited to have invented common sense in the 17th century, an Englishman, nonetheless.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keep fucking that chicken

Today I was catching up with The Daily Show after having traveled to Niagara Falls, Ontario, in what was my first tourism trip of the US season of Felipe's research tour, I was just pissing myself with laughter at a local broadcast from Fox (no less), in which an apparently famous news anchor banters to the weatherman to "Keep fucking that chicken", in the video you see above. As I mentioned earlier in the post, this was picked up by Jon Stewart in his daily show. This seems like the kind of thing that would slip out in the entire lifetime of an anchor, but this seems like just another day at the office for news anchor Ernie Anastos, which seems to have a small, and illustrious history in blooping on air.

At the end of the day, I always thought that it was me that was always thinking profanity while I carry out regular conversation, and hoping (though not most of the time), that my thoughts would not spill out at an important moment in my conversations. Luckily for me, my verbal misadventures have not been the subject of The New York Times.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro - Ernie Anastos' Catch Phrase
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Open iTerm here

As you probably know from my previous entries, I have upgraded to Snow Leopard, which, despite initial hurdles, led me to read and demand more of the operating system. Among the custom things that I missed from my old windows installation was a context menu allowing me to open a terminal window through an Explorer context menu pointed to a folder of interest. Recently I found the solution in another software developer's blog, which allows one to open a window of Terminal.app. I however, prefer the alternative (and open source) iTerm, and so I tried to simply change the name of the invocation within the code of the workflow I downloaded for the previous site. It turns out that it was not that simple, so ended up having to dig into a Mac hints forum to find the code that finally did what I wanted. And the result of that is my very own version of that script, which I call, Open iTerm Here. I do not guarantee it will work, even though it has worked in my Snow Leopard installation. It includes installation instructions, which are basically the following: open the zip file, go into the open-here folder, and copy Open iTerm Here.workflow to ~/Library/Services.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Turing gets apology, now missing a knighthood

The father of the modern computer and all around scientific genius, Alan Turing, has finally received an apology from the British government over his treatment 55 years ago, which probably contributed to his untimely death, curtailing what could have been an even more brilliant scientific career.

The only thing missing now is his granting of a Knighthood by the very same monarch who could have done that when this man was still alive, and his contribution to the continued existence of the British royal family was even fresher.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Update on last post

As an update, I found out how to solve this problem from this thread at the Apple support forums. Well, thank you very much for nothing Apple, since I had to figure out this crap on my own.

It is one of the weirdest bugs I've ever seen, but apparently, if you have multiple keyboard layouts set for your Mac, as I did using the US International layout to be able to type in diacriticals for latin languages, the dialog asking for your admin password would never come up.

This affected everything from program installations to unlocking certain preference panes.

So the only way to solve this was to remove all keyboards but the US one (I don't know if it happens for other keyboard types, since I have a US layout keyboard), and then add the other layouts back again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Snow Leopard Installer.app Issues

Even though I promised myself I would not be the type of overeager moron to adopt an operating system right after it was released, my faith in the reliability of Apple's software somehow led me to actually buy and install Snow Leopard in the hopes that it would be a smooth experience. At first, indeed, the upgrade process was relatively smooth, with only a couple of applications being removed due to their incompatibility with the new operating system. It was also cool to have about 5 Gigabytes freed up from printer drivers that were not really used.

Moreover, the claims about speed improvements for Snow Leopard are totally bogus, as far as I can tell, and counterclaims about the need for more hardware are equally worthless to me, especially since I have a 2.6 Gigahertz MacBook Pro and 4 Gigabytes of RAM (effectively a maxed out version of this laptop).

Now, what worried me more was the fact that pkg (and mpkg) installers from the Mac simply did not work anymore. The installation wizard would run up to when you had to click the install button, at which point the button simply did not work. When Mac OS X did not even ask for the Administrator password, I knew something was very wrong. To top it off, I managed to somehow delete my MacTex installation, and without it, I could do nothing paper related. Apple's own forums were as good as worthless to sort out my issue, which I doubt is unique to me.

After wasting practically the entire day trying to figure out what the hell happened to my beloved mac, I discovered that pkgs are installer by an application called Installer.app, which did not help a lot in sorting out my installation problem. Finally, I found out that the installer software also exists as a command line application in /usr/sbin/installer, which can be forced to run as an Administrator, and finally managed to install MacTex using this command sudo /usr/sbin/installer -pkg MacTeX-2008.mpkg -tgt / -verbose, which should work for installing other stuff under Snow Leopard.

This is far from a good solution, but at least is solves the problem until Apple decides to update this piece of beta software that they released. It seems that they have been learning with Bill's company on how to have unpaid beta testers.

Finally, thanks to Kristen for allowing me to use her picture of a sleeping Snow Leopard to poke fun at Apple.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

American Problems

As many of my friends are probably in the know, after having looked for a position in my home country for a while unsuccessfully, I was back again moving away from it. Thus, I have recently moved to Pittsburgh in the US to take up a Research position at Carnegie Mellon University.

Well, job details aside, it has been a bit of a hassle to get properly set up here. The first problem is that apartments are seldom rented furnished, so in order not to have my meals and my sleep on the floor (like real men!), I had to go and find me furniture. The solution was cheap furniture from the largest charity in the world: IKEA. Of course that was not a trivial pursuit, since IKEA is not close to the urban center of Pittsburgh and there was no way in hell that I would haul 50 kilos of furniture in public transportation. So I had to rent a UHaul van, and boy I did not remember how large these American trucks were. To top it off, UHaul, or at least the store I rented it from, had no option of a Satnav in the trucks, so I had to brave the highways and interstates of Pennsylvania with not much more than the instructions Google maps had for me, which, given my attempt at safe driving (and no paper reading in the middle of the interstate) invariably led to me doing many extra miles due to taking wrong exits and generally going in the wrong direction.

After the whole rigmarole of buying furniture and essential home items, I needed to do laundry after many days living out of a suitcase, which leads me to my other problem. The washing (and drying) machines are not only coin operated, but they accept only quarter dollar coins! Of course, I only realized I was short on quarters for drying my clothes, and did not have a drying rack at home. To improve things, the supermarket till attendant was also short on quarters, and a simple task such as doing laundry led me on a trek of spending little money just to collect these fucking coins!