Blocks

I’d like to introduce you to Blocks. It’s an application I’ve had in my mind for a very long time. At it’s basic level it is about understanding data formats. Very geeky stuff.

I finally have something to show, so I’d like to tease you all with the folowing Quicktime screen cast:

http://www.macmess.org/downloads/Blocks_Screen_Cast_A.mov

I plan on more screen casts so show more functionality. Please, let me know what you think.

Here you find where I first write my thought down about all this. It’s interesting how the idea has changed since then.

Reoccurring Apple PubSub requests in my Apache logs

Frequently in my web servers logs I would see a request for an RSS feed I have available from a “PubSub” user agent from my IP address. It bothered me because the feedreader I use doesn’t use Apple’s PubSub library to read feeds.

So I figured Safari was the cause. I had tested Safari’s RSS support a long time ago, but didn’t like it. I took a quick look and found Safari was subscribed to zero feeds. Hmm. After some web searching I discovered the pubsub command line app Apple provides to manage the resource.

I told it to list all the feeds it knows about and sure enough, there was the offending URL plus some others. I promptly deleted them from the list. I figured all was well. But after a few hours, I found new log entries for the for the same feed. I queried the PubSub command again and found all of the entries restored. I discovered Safari would restore the feeds every time it launched. Safari’s GUI was no help. I looked everywhere for entries for the feeds and found nothing. So I started combing thru it’s preference files.

I finally found the feeds listed in the “TopSites.plist” file. The GUI displaying the top site in Safari did not list these feeds. Strange.

I used the plist editor to delete the references to the feeds in the top sites preference file, and now Safari no long repopulates PubSub. Happy days indeed.

I’m 37. I’m not old.

That line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail keeps going thru my mind. Mainly because I finally became 37 a few days ago. I’ve always hated people celebrating my birthday. I’ve never like to make a big deal about it. Fortunately my wife has finally understood this about me and had nothing planned.

Apple hates Color Computers

A long time ago Apple Computer released an operating system called Mac OS9. Microware, the makers of OS-9, sued for trademark infringement and lost. I was quite surprised. It seemed like classic trademark dilution to me.
Then a few years later Apple released Mac OS X. In Mac OS X, they included an Application Framework called Cocoa. That’s awfully close to the nick name of my favorite computer: The CoCo. Hmm, that’s suspicious.
Now I learn Apple is creating a new JavaScript engine called Nitro. Very similar to the OS-9 retooling called NitrOS-9. Well, now I am calling it: Apple hates Color Computers!

New Lost timeline

I hope this doesn’t turn into a Lost blog, but I have got to get this off my chest.
I really believe a new time time has been created by the Losties in the 70s.

The Hyrda station has not been cleared of Dharma stuff. The dock (where the submarine was blown up) seems still intact. The barracks were never de-Dharma-ified. The Dharma recruit photos were still on the wall in the orientation building.

It looks like to me that both Dharma and the Others (hostiles) were purged by something our Losties did in the 70s. It’s like the purge in the 90s never happened. Or maybe, the rules were changed when Alex was killed, just like Ben said.

Unicode and the obsolesce of audio books

Wil Wheaton posted a wonderful example of how machine reading of text compares unfavorably to a real performance. He performed a small section of one of his stories and played it next to a standard machine reading. The difference was easy to understand. The human performance trounced the machine.

We know that that text to speech technology does not constitute creating a copy, thus cannot be considered a derived work under the copyright statute. Eventually technology will become good enough to replace the time consuming recording process a good audio book deserves.

For some books a machine reading will be sufficient. Automatic reading will improve over time and more and more books will become very listenable using the technology. But some works of art need to be performed. How will that be handled?

A while ago I was reading about Apple’s text to speech engine and discovered that you can add codes to the text stream to modify the how the machine will read the data aloud. It would be safe to assume Microsoft’s text to speech engine includes the same functionality. It would also be safe to assume the two implementations differ in the codes they use. Someone skilled in the arts could use these codes to start directing the text to speech engine, thus creating a true performance. This would never happen in a world with multiple standards.

I propose to assign a Unicode code page to create a similar set of codes that all text to speech system could understand. When a text document is sold to a customer, the codes could be included in the text stream, but made invisible by the Unicode standard. Or they could be sold separately. This will allow reading and listening to the same file.

Authors to not have the right to be paid extra for reading aloud of their text. If automatic text to speech is good enough for you then the authors will not have an opportunity to sell you an additional copy of their work. But using this scheme, authors could go the extra distance to add value to their text and then deserve the extra money.