“This is what you do in a game, you run around and talk to everyone with punctuation over their heads until you win.”

— Stolen Pixels explains it all

Boot Camp/Parallels

I have (shudder) Microsoft Windows running on my Mac Mini now, both virtualized and dual-boot, thanks to this week’s most interesting betas: Boot Camp and Parallels.

Both have significant potential. I have some Windows-only software that drives useful hardware devices, like my GPS and my camera, and the full dual-boot solution guarantees that they’ll work correctly. Inconvenient, but less so than trying to keep an actual Windows box around.

I also have some old, relatively lightweight Windows software that I’d like to use occasionally, like MasterCook and Streets & Trips. Those are usable on a G4 running Virtual PC, so a real virtualizer is more than sufficient, and preferable for handing off things like printing to the host OS.

The people who think this is “the beginning of the end” for Apple and OS X are smoking their socks (or less savory garments). This is the wafer-thin mint that has the potential to explode the current limits on home and corporate Mac deployment. Hell, just the dynamic partitioning that Apple included in the Boot Camp beta points to a bright future.

Last year I bought my dad a G5 iMac, to try to wean him away from his endless Windows problems. He has just enough third-party crapware that I have to send him a copy of Virtual PC to complete the job. If 10.5 ships with real virtualization, I’ll gleefully swap that iMac out for a new one and call it a bargain. Even the dual-boot may be enough, with its near-certain compatibility with every little USB gadget.

Update: forget “lightweight”; I was using Windows Media Player to watch large movie trailers in my Parallels session last night. The mouse is a bit jumpy, apparently related to propagating cursor changes between the Windows and Mac environments, but that’s the only visible performance issue. Even without taking full advantage of the Intel Core chip’s virtualization (off by default on the Mini, no hints on how to turn it on yet), it’s darn quick for 2D apps.

A disciplined mind

It’s looking like my Spring Quarter Japanese 3 class will be canceled. Actually, it’s all but certain at this point, and everyone who could has already switched their enrollment to the morning class.

This leaves me in an awkward position. The Rosetta Stone software remains useful as a supplement, but it’s been quite a while since it’s been able to really help me advance. I need interaction now, primarily conversation practice, but also occasional enlightenment when I get into trouble (have I mentioned that the Situational Functional Japanese series is crap? I haven’t? Well, it is. More on that another time).

While I wait for the class to be offered again in Summer Quarter, I need two things: someone to talk to (preferably someone familiar with the material I’ve studied), and a decent textbook to review. I’ll get some conversation practice in the Japanese Culture and Calligraphy course I’m taking, but the book is another story.

I could start on a new multi-volume series such as Japanese for Busy People or Genki (both of which I already own, actually), but our teacher suggested an alternative: a single book that covers all of the material usually presented in 4-6 books. They used it for many years at Foothill, and she stressed how much better it was at explaining things and presenting proper use of the language.

It is, of course, long out of print. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean what it used to, and I was able to acquire a copy of Japanese For Today within two days through Amazon.

While going through it and erasing the many penciled-in comments (and sighing over the few inked ones), I started to understand why she liked it, but it wasn’t until I read the “Organization” section that I fully appreciated the work they’d put into it: each of the 30 lessons is precisely 12 printed pages long, divided in exactly the same way each time, but there’s no gratuitous whitespace or obvious padding. The authors appear to have spent a great deal of time thinking about what to cover and how. I’m looking forward to reading it cover-to-cover.

Its only flaw is the extensive use of romanization, which is regrettable, but not surprising in a book written in 1973. The presentation section of each lesson does introduce the new material in proper written Japanese, with furigana, so it’s not all bad.

My other project for the Spring is kanji writing practice, but that’s another blog entry…

Things you never want to see in a recipe

This looked like a reasonable introduction to Japanese-style curry, until I hit this “basic tip”:

Scoop lye on the surface.

I guess I wasn’t paying attention during those school field trips to Mostly Faithful Recreation Of How People Used To Live Town, because the only things that come to mind when I hear the word lye are “harsh soap” and “drain cleaner”. As a way of finishing off your curry, it strikes me as a way of finishing off your guests.

4/1/2006, Bad Haiku Edition


(if you arrived via the RSS feed, you may have missed the joke)

Update: I guess I was a bit too subtle. One friend said “it looks like you used some font that’s not on my Linux box”. Another said “hey, it looks like your site’s been hacked”, but he also fell for World of Warcraft’s prank.

I had a more elaborate prank planned, with a very specific target in mind, but I just plain ran out of time. This was an easy, last-minute joke: grab some Japanese spam email from my Junk folder, type “asian porn” into Google and grab some non-explicit banner ads and thumbnails, create a simple but hideous layout, and compose a Bad Haiku that could easily be translated by BabelFish (whence the name of my “haxx0r”, Babe.F1sh).

Customizing for Usability, Bad Haiku Edition

I’m doing 45 minutes of cardio (most) every day on my LifeFitness 5500 elliptical cross-trainer. Doctor’s orders. I like working out on this machine, and it’s certainly good for me, but I’ve always had a problem occupying my mind. In the past, I’ve simply listened to music on my iPod, generally a PopTarts mix (or, more recently, JPopTarts). Studying kanji and vocabulary for my Japanese class would be an ideal use of this time, but I never ordered the optional magazine stand, and it doesn’t look like they make it any more.

So, I stopped at an office supply store and bought the only non-ridiculous copy-holder they sold. Just setting it on top of the crosstrainer worked fairly well, but hid the display. I really needed it to sit above the display section, but there was no obvious way to accomplish this feat. And then, a moment of clarity:

How to attach this...
What mounting system will work?
Ah! Some gaffer tape!

Short Review: Nisus Writer Express

If your (Mac-only) word-processing needs fit within Writer Express’s feature list, the generally sensible UI will make it a superior alternative to Word. Within its limitations, it’s an excellent, useable program.

However, if you need table support that’s better than an ancient version of Netscape, real Word interoperability, or precision layout tools, look elsewhere. For now, at least; they’re working hard to improve the product.

Note to people with fond memories of the Mac OS Classic Nisus Writer: Express implements a subset of the old features, along with a bunch of new ones.

Server dog slow today

I’m getting consistent 190ms pings to my server, despite 10ms pings to the router its connected to. It’s not server load, it’s not the bandwidth throttling rules in my firewall config, and I’m not seeing any errors in netstat or dmesg output. My best guess right now is a duplex mismatch on the switch. I’m waiting to hear back from the network guys.

Update: supporting evidence for my switch theory: Scott’s machine in the same rack, recycledbits.org, has the same problem, and I get 360ms pings from mine to his, without ever touching a router.

On the “damn nuisance” front, however, email to ViaNet tech support comes back with one of those stupid challenge/response verification schemes. This is precisely the wrong approach for your primary tech-support contact method. Maybe if you’d actually answered the phone when I called, I wouldn’t mind so much, but come on, grab a clue, eh?

Update: oh, that’s much better.

Speaking truth to moonbats, Bad Haiku Edition

Driving in this morning, I reflected on yesterday’s sighting of the usual group of “9/11 was a Republican plot!” nutcases on University Avenue, and felt inspired.

"Chickenhawk," you say,
to silence your opponents.
Get a job, hippie.