On the right device for the plane

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest on February 27th, 2011 by juan

So I travel a lot

I’ve been on a plane a ton lately. Last year, for the first time in many, many years, I made platinum with Delta. However, even with that semi-rarified status, I still don’t get upgraded to first class all of the time. That means that I have to figure out how to spend my time in coach often. Very often. So lately, I’ve been using my ipad as “the device” on the plane. I can listen to music, do some light email, read a book, etc. – you know the drill. However, as you can tell from my previous post, I can not use the ipad for everything that I need it to be: a real computer. I can’t do email, correctly. I can’t — well, simply put – I can’t create on the ipad. Now, I do know that there’s apps that let you do a lot of stuff, but when it comes down to word processing, spreadsheeting (that sounds wrong somehow), and presentation creating, the ipad just won’t do.

The dilemma I have is that my work laptop is a very generously provided 17″ MBP. It’s an awesome laptop. The screen is beautiful, the horsepower is amazing, the hard disk size is stupendous, etc., etc. But – it’s big. Too big. I can’t open it in rookie class on the plane unless I happen to sit on an exit row. Even then, that means that I’m giving up the meager refreshments that are served to us during the flight. That laptop consumes all of my generous space allocation. I have on occasion gotten a drink and played the very dangerous balancing game of putting the drink on my laptop.

Enter the MacBook Air 11.6″. I’ve just come into possession of one. It is clearly an amazing piece of technology. The form factor is truly hard to describe, unless you actually hold one and use one. You do sacrifice a ton: screen real estate, cpu horsepower, storage space, and ports. My specimen happens to be a top of the line 1.6GHz, 128GB SSD, 4GB RAM unit. In my mind – those are essentially minimum specs. They happen to be the maximum at this point, but they are what they are. That said, what you gain for that sacrifice is an laptop that you can actually forget you have in your hand. I closed it and was walking from my office to the kitchen when my daughter waylaid me and we started talking. 20 minutes later, I’m still standing there, and the laptop was honestly forgotten in my hand. It’s that light. That’s very cool.

I’ve been using it for a couple of days now. Battery life on this is rated at 5 hours. That turns out to be 5 real hours in my experience. As in, I did just about anything I would normally do during a day of using the laptop and it gave me about 5 hours. That’s actually fricking amazing. There’s few flights that I take that are much longer than 5 hours – and I suspect that if I’m careful with wifi, bluetooth, etc. I can get much more. The CPU you get on this is surprisingly fast. My office productivity apps (MS and Apple) all fire up nearly instantly – even the first time after a reboot. All thanks to that cool SSD drive. My spreadsheets are not monster computationally challenging things. My presentations are kinda creative, but don’t require supercomputer’s worth of processing to deliver. And even though I do create some pretty complex Word documents – everything is fast enough. I mean, can I tell the difference between this and my 27″ Core i7 Imac? You bet – but the beauty of it is – that I can use that whenever I’m home. I can usually reserve the long sessions of content creation to when I am around the super ‘puter. The 11″ air is way more than good enough. And that’s cool.

oh and what about doing that email thing?

That is honestly, my number one annoyance with the pad. I can use it, just like I use my iphone, for quick emails and status checks. I can’t use it for real email. That means doing real answers – which includes a lot of typing, documents, replies, flagging of importance, and filing of emails.

Does the 11″ do this? Yes! It does, it’s a full computer. The whole thing. I mean everything. I can CREATE, FILE, DO IT ALL!!!

I’m giddy with excitement for having this cool thing.

one more thing

It’s so small I can actually take it to bed. When I’m done using it, I close it and lay down on my nightstand. Without having to do the one arm sweep of everything else so it will fit. I wrote this whole article – in bed. My lap is not scorched. And I like it.

I like it a lot.

so what do you do with the other computers?

The iMac will remain as the main production ‘puter. The 17″ MBP, will become the playground/take it on the road when you know you will need to do heavy duty content creation computer. The 11″ will become the default travel companion along with the iPad. Media consumption will remain on the iPad. That’s what it’s made fore and it’s much better than OSX computers.

More on this once I actually travel with this thing.

Sorry for the length. Had to get it out while I was thinking about it.

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Posted in Commentary, Geekfest on February 18th, 2011 by juan

I’m back (and a review of the ZaggMate)

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything to this blog. Sorry about that. Had some issues with hackers, patience, a new baby, and laziness. It happens.

Things have changed much since I last wrote: baby, new mbp, imac, mac mini, iphone, and ipad. Yes, Apple has my garnished my wages in a very interesting way.

So – I figured a review would be a good way to bring this back to life. I love my iPad and I’ve been looking for a way to turn it into “the” tool to use while I’m flying. I really hate to lug around my 17″ MBP, specially on day trips. However, the iPad by itself is not really that efficient of a machine for me to sort the 100’s of emails. The onscreen keyboard is also difficult to use if you are trying to write anything but just a few sentences (better than an iPhone, but much less than a real keyboard). Zagg introduced the ZaggMate and some of the reviews said it was cool. I found out you could get one at a bestbuy and I did. My hopes were that it was going to at least let me reduce my backpack load down to two things: ipad+zaggmate and Clear hot spot. I tried it and this is what came of it:

The good:

  • The fit and overall polish is very high. It looks like it was made for the ipad.
  • The keyboard is pretty responsive and can keep up with me at my fastest, but that’s a limited thing because of some of the downsides
  • Battery life is rated at months and recharge time is very quick.
  • There are several function keys that are built into the keyboard that are nice touches: volume keys, media keys (ipod control) and screen keyboard controls.
  • Having a full keyboard makes things like SSH eminently usable now. Also using text note utilities that do things like Markdown are much more usable. You no longer need a special app, just to get the markdown symbols.
  • The case+ipad = real thin.

The bad:

  • The keyboard is not full sized, so it takes some getting used to. I definitely can not type as fast as I can with a real full sized keyboard. However, it is much faster than the onscreen keyboard.
  • There is no cutout for the headphone. That means that to use the ipad as an audio device, you have to take it out of the case. There’s not way to fit the case and the audio plugins at the same time. Period.
  • Once you take the ipad out of the case, you can not flip it over and put it back in the case. Basically, unless you are using it as a stand, you can not use the case. On my flight, before we took off, I had to take the ipad out, put the keyboard in the seat back and wait until we were up in the air before I could use it.
  • The f’ing caps lock key! The keyboard is small already and it’s really easy to hit the caps lock key. I don’t need that key. I wish there was a way to turn it off or remap it like there is in OSX.
  • The osx mail.app keyboard shortcuts don’t work. So – you use the keyboard only to type stuff in. Sending, moving, replying, deleting, etc are all done through screen interactions.- The back of the ipad is not protected while it’s in the case. You can get another thingy, but those are another $30-$70
  • The plastic thing that props the ipad up feels very cheap. I don’t trust it to survive in the long run

The final result = me returning the case this weekend. Cool experiment, but not really all there. The killers for me:

  • No back protection
  • No way for it to latch on the back when you are not using the keyboard
  • No audio hole
  • Flimsy build of the stand thing

on Cocoa programming.

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest on September 7th, 2008 by juan


Still working through the decision process between ecto3 and marsedit.

I’m thinking I’m going to stay with ecto3 for now.

On the news side:

Started working my way through Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass. I’m about through the first 8 chapters. Things to know if you are going to be doing this:

  • This isn’t like working with Delphi, Visual Basic, Real Basic, or any of the other “object oriented” systems. This is much different.
  • You really should learn Objective-C first. Even though he says you should have a moderate knowledge of Objective-C, you really should spend time learning it well. The examples and “challenges” in this book assume a fair amount of knowledge. Some of the exercises and examples really don’t make that much sense until you spend time learning Objective-C.
  • It really helps if you have access to the Apple documentation. For example, in chapter 8, you go through some really cool stuff on bindings. For me it was completely magical until I went through the Apple “Cocoa Bindings Programming Topics”, “Key Value Coding Programming Guide”, and “Key Value Observing Programming Guide”. Once I worked through the basics of those documents, chapter 8 went from being a really mystical, chant invoking exercise, to more programming with some occasional leaps of faith.
  • Cocoa programming is based on some very extensive frameworks. If you are like me and you want to know how the frameworks work – don’t, yet. Just take some of the stuff as magic and assume that it works. Once I gave in to the “I’ll figure out how that works later” concept, this has started flowing better for me.

I’ll be posting more on this as I go through the exercises on this book. I’ve also started creating side challenges for myself to figure out how some of this stuff works. I’ll post those as well in case you need some additional views. Remember that I’m just learning this stuff so take this material as you would any other beginners: an example of how it possibly works correctly. To get you started, here’s a simple program that I wrote that uses a couple of controls, and a text field. The first one uses bindings to get it’s job done. The second one is the exact same, but uses an Object Controller to mediate the bindings. For me, until I saw both of these simple projects working, I couldn’t really “get” the different between just plain bindings and what an object controller bought for you. Check them out: myBindingsFun and myControllerFun.

Hope that helps someone

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Open Source SAM/QFS

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Storage on March 18th, 2008 by juan

For those of you that have never heard of Sun’s (formerly LSI) SAM/QFS, this is a high performance filesystem that also has high performance HSM capabilities. I’ve installed this and used it in some very large sites. Amongst the many good things you can do: multiple reader/multiple writer clustered file system, dynamic inode creation, dynamic migration and staging (even in the middle of a file when you do a fseek), file size based volume selection (let’s you send large files to volumes optimized for large files and small files to volumes design for them all in the same filesystem).

Now if the SAM/QFS guys and the ZFS guys could merge this stuff together, oh-la-la!

Get your copy here:

SAM/QFS at OpenSolaris.org:

mental sausage

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on February 14th, 2008 by juan

Merlin Mann might be one of the funniest, but also most insightful people ever. He recently made available the presentation he gave at MacWorld. In this brilliant presentation, he talks about how to keep our time and attention focused. He also gave me another reason to buy a domain name – mentalsausage.com.

Check out the presentation:

get better at shooting with the wheel (redux)

Posted in Commentary, Musings on February 12th, 2008 by juan

While sitting on a boring con call, I went ahead and re-did the shooting wheel into a PDF. This is a nice big sheet version of this so that you can take it to the range with you. This is a great tool to improve handgun shooting accuracy.

 Shooting Wheel

get better at shooting

Posted in Commentary on February 10th, 2008 by juan

Today I went to the range with my older daughter. We had a good time, but as I was trying to teach her how to improve her accuracy, I kept remembering a chart I’d see years ago. It took me a long time to find this site: http://www.bullseyepistol.com/training.htm that had the chart. I’m including it here to expose it some more.


SSD’s are going enterprise

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on January 25th, 2008 by juan

Hot on the heels of Mac announcing that there’s going to be a an SSD option to their Mac Air, comes the news that EMC is going to offer SSD’s on the Symmetrix: StorageMojo » EMC’s new flash drives. Can’t wait to see what a fully loaded all SSD Symm runs for. My guess is the GNP of Guatemala. However, it should smoke just about anything out there. Finally a good use for all those fancy 4 and 8Gb Fibre HBA’s everyone’s been buying.

Going for a free license for a pdf printer appliance

Posted in Commentary on March 24th, 2007 by juan

This is a cool thing to have in your back pocket for the home dcf:

YAFPC-Appliance – the ultimate Network PDF Server Appliance.

macbook pro here!

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on January 26th, 2007 by juan

First of many updates. I promise to do one on the migration process from the PowerBook to the MacBook. That’s an un-believable thing.

However, this update is on a nerd speed thing. I downloaded John the Ripper, my traditional test of speed on new computers. Just wanted to see where the new box stood. Here’s the basic results of three machines I have at home. All three of these are the output of “john –test”:

Test on a MacBook Pro (2.33GHz Core Duo):
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Many salts: 1961K c/s real, 1976K c/s virtual
Only one salt: 1628K c/s real, 1635K c/s virtual

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Many salts: 63846 c/s real, 64361 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 62233 c/s real, 62735 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 6359 c/s real, 6397 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 388 c/s real, 391 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [48/64 4K MMX]… DONE
Short: 308531 c/s real, 309770 c/s virtual
Long: 825344 c/s real, 828658 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Raw: 9090K c/s real, 9144K c/s virtual

Test on a Powerbook G4 1.6GHz:
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Many salts: 614247 c/s real, 785738 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 601600 c/s real, 719617 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Many salts: 25856 c/s real, 27216 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 20403 c/s real, 26429 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32 X2]… DONE
Raw: 4187 c/s real, 4408 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 284 c/s real, 301 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Short: 110284 c/s real, 117825 c/s virtual
Long: 308889 c/s real, 325146 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Raw: 5263K c/s real, 5551K c/s virtual

Test on PIII 800MHz “server”:
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Many salts: 65024 c/s
Only one salt: 52434 c/s

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [24/32 4K]… DONE
Many salts: 1790 c/s
Only one salt: 1423 c/s

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 1450 c/s

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 92.1 c/s

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Short: 56941 c/s
Long: 130843 c/s

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [32/32 BS]… DONE
Raw: 805506 c/s

So – the basic math works out to what Apple claims. MacBook is roughly 3X speed of PowerBook. And roughly 30X the speed of the PIII server! F’ing cool.

As an aside – I remember being extremely proud of at one point around 1991 making a Sun Sparc1 workstation run the Crypt routines at roughly 1,400 crypts/second. New MacBook is … 1,400 times faster. What 15 years gets us, huh?