Archive for the '*nix' Category

Me and Evernote

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Long ago I promised myself I’d blog about <a href=””>Evernote</a> when I made more than 1000 notes. I broke that record on Friday November 9, 2012 so here’s a quick summary of what Evernote is and what I use it for.

Evernote is intended to help people remember everything. While I haven’t achieved that, I’m a lot closer.

Evernote is a desktop, phone/tablet, browser plugins and a web application that allows you to capture information from anywhere. The application also indexes all entries so that the content can be quickly searched, including any text in pictures – for example: whiteboards.

All these collected notes are synced to client/applications on almost any device that connects to the internet – as a lowest common denominator, there is

Evernote has a provision for tagging notes, but more importantly it lets you start new notebooks and sub-notebooks. I use this to collect notes about the kids, projects at work, my favourite beers and wines, and other notebooks – including some I’ve shared with others.

There’s lots of information on Evernote’s site, so instead I’ll share what I use to for:

At home and around the town:

  • Lists of things to pack, buy, collect and almost anything else.
  • Pictures of the various medicines and other records my kids have taken – both kids have their own notebook.
  • Planing and document projects around the house – including the summer’s minor fence project and last summer’s major patio project and year before that’s nursery project. The notes are important, but the pictures are handy to travel back and forth from Home Deport with.
  • Records and information about the cars and appliances.
  • I transferred my wife’s recipes etc. from an old laptop to all her new devices – I also have access to the this shared notebook and…. don’t use them.

Code Babies – HTML for Babies

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Six months ago I ordered the Code Babies book Web Design for Babies (Vol. 1) . I took a while for it to arrive as PayPal passed on an old address and I failed to catch it, but after a number of months both ends figured it out and then package arrived. Code Babies were kind enough to include a poster (now in our second child’s room).

The board book’s colours are bright and the content teaches children about SGML-based markup languages and their tag and property based structure, demonstrating the merits of extensibility. I consider my children a significant revision of their parents, and it’s my intent that as they encounter new experiences in life they demonstrate exciting innovation when possible and otherwise fail gracefully.

I taught myself HTML when I was about 15, reusing a notebook that had been used for story writing from when I was about 8 for my notes. Why not give my children an earlier start, especially since they have 2 more versions of HTML and CSS to learn than I did?

Since both our children were born with their own web site already up and running (first child’s site was standards compliant and dynamic, the upgrade for our second child brought a responsive, bootstrap-based, design) the sooner they can contribute to the World Wide Web the sooner they can start shaping the world they’ve found themselves in.

Next lesson: POSIX-based file structures and how they relate to putting away their toys.

If My Contact Is On Your Phone, Please Protect It

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Matthieu Aikins underscored the need to protect the contents of your smartphone. If the potential to have your own information stollen or generally snooped through your stuff, please consider this story.

The British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister was in Syriashooting a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4 about the underground there. A few he had worked with were concerned about his general lack of care about his communications and protection of the identities of those in the underground he was working with.

In October, McAllister was detained by Syrian security agents. Well detained he could hear the cries of prisoners being tortured in nearby rooms. He was interrogated and had all of his electronics seized and searched.

Upon hearing that security forces had McCallister a few individuals who had been in touch with, including the main source of the article, immediately fled fearing the brutal Syrian regime now had information that put their lives at risk. Others in McAllister’s electronic records, like one Omar al-Baroudi, were never heard from again.

The article uses the example to point to the need for journalist and the organizations that employ them to become more aware of how to protect their digital information. I hope this stark example will encourage everyone with a smartphone to consider protecting the information on it and information available to it.

If not, please consider the potential embracement of a malevolent or mischievous individual finding your smartphone and posting to Facebook or Twitter on your behalf (though I would understand that it would be nice if someone update your Google Plus account).

BlackBerry Playbook

Monday, April 4th, 2011

The BlackBerry Playbook coming out on April 19th has some familiar plays in it – if you grew-up in Ontario:

  1. RIM is a Waterloo-based company
  2. RIM is/was known for their trackball
  3. The device is running the QNX operating system, developed by Waterloo/Ottawa-based QNX Software Systems (which RIM just bought)
  4. The screen and input device is are an all-in-one deisgn
  5. The whole enterprise seems like a string of poor decisions to create something that will be expensive and will not be successful

Where have we seen these plays before?

The Unisys ICON! Wikipedia Article:

The computer built specifically for use in Ontario schools commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

(Thanks for the image,

Unisys ICON computers were kicking around my public school when I was a kid. They didn’t do much beyond very basic word-processing and had a lot of games on them, thanks to the local board of education, and a few of my friends. They were all networked, and relatively reliable, save for the poor teacher/”computer lead” who gave admin access to some of the Grade 8 students.

The ICONs had a trackball (the PlayBook won’t, but the BlackBerry Pearl and others do), it had an all-in-one hardware design, and sat in the corner of our classroom, mostly unused.

The most relevant commonality is that the old ICONs were running the QNX operating system!

The ICON was ultimately deemed too expensive to keep in use or develop for and was cast-off in favour of Apple and others’ more user friendly products.

So now you know Ontario: when you think BlackBerry Playbook, think Unisys ICON.

Update: Tuesday April 19, 2011

Apparently two more things they have in common is no E-Mail application and they both can’t connect to the internet on their own!

AppleJack free disk maintenance tool for OSX

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

If you use a Mac, and you haven’t had a chance to install it yet, I’d like to recommend AppleJack.

AppleJack is a free open source tool that automates the basic UNIX tools are a few other basic maintenance tasks for OSX. All things someone comfortable with the command line could do themselves, but AppleJack automates the process and more. It’s routine repairs disk contents, repairs permissions, validate the system’s preference files, and gets rid of possibly corrupted cache files.

In my experience AppleJack is as good or better than commercial OSX maintenance tools and makes the most of the proven command line disk maintenance tools that come with almost all UNIX operating systems.

Once you have visited and downloaded and installed AppleJack it is ready to be run. To run it restart in Single User Mode (SUM), by holding down Command + S keys at startup, and then when prompted type applejack, or applejack auto (which will run through all the tasks automatically), or applejack auto restart (which will also restart the computer automatically at the end of the process).

One of my favourite features of AppleJack is that it lets you issue commands like applejack auto shutdown to have it run through its whole routine and shutdown the computer when it’s done. A great task to run at the end of the day, and it looks really hacker-cool when its running.

I run AppleJack every once and a while, or when something goes wrong for un-explained reasons. Occasionally it catches problems and alerts me, but mostly I feel the benefits of good computer hygiene.