A good sample of home/desktop Linux distributions


Missing some critical business focused distros…but worth reading.


Apple’s OS X “El Capitan” first impressions

TL;DR: Faster, more secure, better looking, and the latest thing.
I upgraded last night.  NOTE:  it’s BIG (6 GB).  For those of you still have data caps, this can be a problem.  Start the process, and then go to bed.
What’s great so far:
1) You can see the new usability features from help.apple.com website, which is the first specific item in the Help menu in Finder:
The El Capitan Finder help menuThe El Capitan Finder help menu
In my case, upgrading from Yosemite (10.10), this points to:
2) The new font.  You will hardly notice it, except that the user interface looks…clearer.  Apple has chosen a font that will look great on Retina and non-Retina displays.  I am typing this on my trusty workhorse of a 2009 iMac, and it looks very clean and clear.
3) Faster graphics (including text rendering).  Much of the old OS X was built on top of OpenGL.  OpenGL is still in place, but now the library graphics calls in use by all apps are going straight to the Metal…which is Apple’s new “more direct to the hardware” API for rendering graphics, first debuted on iOS, where it made rich 3D games possible with lower CPU and therefore power use.  Think of it as DirectX for the Mac.
This means it will be faster for you, including on old machines, and it doesn’t break anything.  Note to business folks:  when developers tell you “we need a layer of abstraction” this is why.  These changes are invisible under the layer of abstraction which is the Mac programming API.  The developers are free to make things work faster and better, without breaking existing programs.
4) Application Transport Security.  A huge number of applications (all platforms, sadly) either don’t use modern encrypting transports when talking to web applications and/or web services.  Even worse, in some ways, they use the secure transports badly, giving the impression of security without the full benefit.  This enables things like “man in the middle” attacks, where your information that should be secure can be intercepted by an untrusted third party.  ATS enforces “works or breaks” in using application transport security by:
     a) requiring applications in OS X and iOS to use the latest secure transport, TLS 1.2.  Previous versions are known to be broken from a security standpoint.
     b) Except:  exceptions for particular domains may be made, but must be explicitly listed. (This is a small lie; you can tell ATS to allow unsecured.  BUT DON’T DO THAT.)
     c) Only ciphers which support forward security are supported.  This obsoletes a number of cyphers which permit men in the middle attacks, as above.
NOTE: 4. breaks a number of applications.  THIS IS A GOOD THING, THEY NEEDED TO BE FIXED.  IF the development companies decide NOT to fix them, there’s a work-around…but don’t do it, *you are betraying your customers by doing so*.  Take the (minimal) time and DO IT RIGHT.  (Sorry for the CAPS).
Remember, these are just first impressions.  I will post a follow-up later. Looking forwards to trying out some of the new features (full screen split screen!).
Have an excellent day,

FREE: Keeping Raccoons out of the recycling, 7 years and 4 tries later

Back in (gulp) 2008, I posted a simple design to keep raccoons out of the garbage and green bin.  The design worked, I got some nice comments, and even a possible CBC TV spot on the design (which didn’t pan out, but it was nice to be asked).

raccoon closeup
Do you have ‘little visitors’ like this guy who came sniffing around my green bin?

Continue reading “FREE: Keeping Raccoons out of the recycling, 7 years and 4 tries later”

Freebie of the week

One of my favorite cross-platform apps (web, iOS, Android), Instapaper, has been honored as “App of the Week” by Apple. Congratulations, Marco!

How to get it:

What this means to you: this week, it’s free.

What it is: it’s an application and a service which allows you to save web content, including multiple pages, with all the ‘extras’ stripped out, for reading later. Similar functionality can be found in the Safari ‘reading list’ and the ‘Pocket‘ app…but Instapaper was an early player, and has a web presence, and download to Kindle, and all kinds of pleasant surprises.  Terrific for saving news to read later, or a fast ‘I need this for something I’m researching and I don’t want to put it into a notebook app.’

Recommended. If you have an iOS device, it’s free this week. If not, or you miss the free week, it’s still worth supporting the app, it’s worth it.  Please support authors of things you like!

A brilliant management two-for-one

There are two excellent ideas in this posting on ZDnet, aside from the observation that you can scale Ruby on Rails if you avoid hitting the disk farm for static content:

1) Have a team devoted to rapid scalable prototyping.  (LinkedIn Light Engineering Development)

2) Use free apps for both proof of concept testing and marketing.

Read and enjoy.

Ruby on Rails: scaling to 1 billion page views per month by ZDNet‘s Dennis Howlett — While a lot of attention has been focused on Twitter with questions about whether Ruby on Rails scales, LinkedIn has been quietly running a RoR application on Facebook that is beating down around 1 billion page view per month. Bumpersticker, a relatively trivial Facebook application that allows you to create a cartoon that you can […]



‘Free’ is always good for business

Now that I’ve got your attention, the next best thing to FREE is painless and predictable. Flat rate, as we know from telephony and other similar business models, reduces ambivalence about using a service, and increases the rate at which people BUY.

I received this in email today, and frankly, WOW.

Canada has, relative to the US, a low adoption of mail-order and therefore internet-order business models.

This is a pretty innovative way to get people over that hump. Good work, Ebay and Canada Post