Posts categorized “Uncategorized”.

‘Tomorrow’s Gone’

March 19th, 2012

As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut — until Challenger, and then my mom said I couldn’t be an astronaut. So instead of being a space explorer, I turned into a space scholar. Instead of lionizing John Glenn, or Sally Ride, I looked to Carl Sagan as a role model.

Thing is, we still have room for both kinds of heroes in this country. We just need the willpower, and the budget priorities, to make it happen.

[via Devour]

Stay warm, Internet

December 21st, 2010

Chicago - Night light

Things will slow down around here, thanks to the holidays.

That, and I’ve found a new toy to play with.

From all of us at Newton Poetry: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year everyone.

Friday’s the day

June 10th, 2010

Looks like I have a few things to do tomorrow.

The aftermath

March 10th, 2010

Database resolved

A bit over a year ago, I switched Newton Poetry from a site to a self-hosted site, using Earlier this week, that decision came back to haunt me when the 1and1 MySQL server crashed, sending the site into catatonic limbo.

First, I want to apologize to readers who showed up at the site Monday night through today, only to get an “Error connecting to database” message. Not that you missed much, but still. It sucks.

Second, this stuff happens. Probably more than I’m aware of, but server crashes and unavailable databases smack web site managers in the face every day. Luckily, Newton Poetry isn’t a high-traffic site by any means, and any disruption in service in negligible compared to – oh, say – some other sites out there. Turns out, even my old blog would have crashed and burned.

The best you can do is make your way to the cellar while the server tornado rips the roof off your blog, and hunker down until Auntie Em says it’s okay to come out. Hopefully, when the wind dies down, you still have some structure standing.

For me, it’s all about backups. Coincidentally, I backed up Newton Poetry on the Saturday before the crash. Now, I didn’t lose any files on the FTP end, but I could have. Without a decent backup, you’d be browsing through a January-era blog.

The thing that kills me is I struggled for two days, wading through database passwords and wp-config files to sort through the issue, only to have it not be a problem on my end at all. But I learned something: call the host first when the sky grows dark and the birds stop chirping.

Unfortunately, was no help at all. Their support staff simply said the server was down, they had no estimated fix time, and that I’d just have to hang out until it was resolved. Since that’s all I could do, that’s what I did. For two days.

Some nice friends offered to host Newton Poetry, or help with the fixes, which I dearly appreciated. I’m still thinking about it.

So anyway, welcome back to the site. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

What’s the story?

March 9th, 2010

At about 10 p.m. Monday evening, I logged on to my WordPress admin to set up a new post. That’s when the trouble started.

The site started acting funny, with the homepage ( showing up fine, but all of the links sporking into some database error.

Since then, I’ve re-installed a backup copy of the site, tried messing around with the database and wp-config files, all to no avail. Today, the site has popped back online – only to disappear in a cloud of MySQL smoke.

Tomorrow I’ll call my hosting company and see if there’s anything they can help with. Until then, hang tight, and hope for the best.

And if you have any experience with installs and database errors like this, please drop me a line (newtonpoetry at gmail). At this point, I’d love any help.

UPDATE: Turns out the servers over at are down. Well, maybe not servers – just the server I’m sitting on. Lucky me!

UPDATE 2: All fixed up now. But some of my images are missing. Time to dig into the backup…

[Thanks to Ken for the pep talk, and to David and Thomas for the offers.]

Observations from WWNC ’09

August 11th, 2009

The Worldwide Newton Conference 2009 took place over a week ago in Vancouver, BC, and John Coady at the NewtonTalk list offers his observations from the weekend’s festivities:

Larry Yaeger gave us a fascinating glimpse into the development of the Newton and, of course, the work that he spearheaded on the second generation print recognizer – which was based on the use of artificial neural networks – that made Newton OS 2.x so incredibly better than the original (non-Apple) version. We were shown some of the original Newton prototypes and development/testing equipment (I hope that one day these end up in a suitable exhibit in Apple’s own museum). Larry then took us on a short stroll into Polyworld where he currently explores the further application of neural networks, and their various properties, in artificial life systems (to me it looks just like a straight extension of his work on the Newton!!!).

Sounds like a blast, despite the low turnout.

I couldn’t make it, unfortunately, but WWNC organizer Ryan Vetter has posted materials from the conference at the WWNC 2009 site.

[Ed. note: I had “Dennis Coady” when it should have been “John Coady.” Sorry about that, John!]

Behold! The Molar Mac

April 6th, 2009


A while back, I asked, “How many Macs are too many?” I asked this after realizing that I have, at this time, three working Macs surrounding my Nerve Center here at home.

Newton Poetry reader Rand Careaga chimed in with his impressive suite of Macs, including the above beauty: an all-in-one G3 PowerMac, also known as the Molar Mac.

Like the eMac after it, the Molar Mac was designed for the education market, where the look-ma-no-mess-of-wires design was attractive. And hence the name: the thing looked like a giant tooth.

A giant heavy tooth: they were almost 60 lbs. heavy, and that’s only with a 15″ CRT screen. As the Washington Apple Pi Journal puts it in their hilarious (and comprehensive) post:

While it is possible for a single large, stupid person to uncrate one (or even six) of these without assistance, Don’t Do This. The machines are heavy, and the boxes are deep. You can fall into a box and never be heard from again. You can rupture vital organs of a personal nature. Accept the fact that this is a two-person task.

The All-In-One G3 came before the iMac, meaning no USB ports. It did come with serial and ADB ports for peripherals, as well as a floppy disk drive.

Molar Macs came in two speeds, 233 MHz PowerPC and 266 Mhz, meaning they run at the same clockspeed as the original iMacs, and shipped with 32 MB of RAM. For their time, these were speedy machines. And speedy to set up, too, thanks to their all-in-one design.

Sadly, I’ve never seen one in person. Any Molar Mac owners out there that can speak to their uniqueness?

New ‘Vista’ virus strikes Newton community

April 1st, 2009


As if Apple Newton users didn’t have it bad enough with the 2010 bug, this morning brings news that a new virus is striking the wide-spread MessagePad community.

Called simply “Vista,” the virus struck in the wee hours of the morning, before many Newton users noticed their pioneering device was frozen.

The Newton’s popularity and millions-strong user base made it a prime target for hackers, one expert said.

“It’s a wonder this kind of thing hasn’t been tried before,” Dr. Don Hamaker, an IT professional and recreational putt-putt golfer, said.

The virus seems to mimick an obsolete operating system, and attempts to install on Newton systems randomly. The bug-ridden OS tries to install itself (above), but hangs in the process, leaving eMates and MessagePads inoperable. Users have begun nicknaming the virus’s effects “GSOD” – or “Green Screen of Death.”

Millions of Newton users have reported bricked PDAs to Apple, who couldn’t be reached at the time of this posting. Some are turning to community forums for help and advice.

“This ugly piece of shit is totally wigging me out,” Newton fan prythisstylusfrommycolddeadhands posted on one of the message boards. “Nothing but the beautiful Newton OS belongs on Bessie (that’s what I call my MP2100).”

Experts are stumped as to how to remove the rogue OS virus. Some are calling for Newton users worldwide to unite and fight this growing menace.

“This could be worse than our worst fears,” Dr. Hamaker said. “The only thing that could be worse is if Apple decided to kill off the wildly-successful Newton platform.”

Only one suspect has been arrested on suspicion of releasing the virus into the wild. After Apple made the Newton OS the mobile standard across the product line, threats from a hacker base outside Seattle, WA became more vocal and daring. Authorities said they have other suspects in mind, as well.

In the meantime, and with no word from Apple, the legions of Newton users will be on their own to find a solution – as they’ve done before.

Podcasts I like

March 2nd, 2009

iPod Shuffle

I love my music, and I love listening to the radio, but lately – especially at the gym – I’ve been devouring podcasts. For me, podcasts are like little radio shows that you can listen to whenever the heck you want.

Unlike radio, podcasts are mainly done by amateurs for fun. There are a few that take sponsorships (like MacBreak Weekly), and those are non-intrusive, but most are put together by hobbyists who just want to share. I like to think of them as audio blogs, in a way, even though some are based on TV or radio shows.

The “pod” in “podcasts” comes from the iPod, of course, mainly because iTunes made it super easy to subsribe to shows. And that’s how I do it: I have running subscriptions that come in, usually, on a weekly basis.

So I wanted to share the ones that I never miss. I’d also love to hear your favorite podcasts, because I’m always looking for new shows to try out.

A note: when you click the main title of the show, you’ll be sent to iTunes – so if you don’t have iTunes, click the link in the body of the description.

A frustratingly-irregular podcast with Daring Fireball’s John Gruber and Hivelogic’s Dan Benjamin, The Talk Show is basically two nerdy guys talking about nerdy subjects. John and Dan mostly cover Mac-related topics, but their conversations have strayed from movies to flat-screens to football. One of the best is John’s rant on using an Apple Extended II keyboard, circa 1988, even on his modern Macs. The Talk Show is one of the best examples of a plain, no-frills podcast I can share. It’s the kind of show that makes the whole format worth supporting. The only problem is, it’s not on any set schedule – so catch it when you can.

The obligatory Mac podcast, MacBreak Weekly is special because of the roundtable of commentators – including Andy Ihnatko, Scott Borne, and sometimes Merlin Mann, with a cast of special guests (like John Gruber – see above) that join the show once in a while. I’ve tried a few other Macintosh-related podcasts, but none of them are near as much fun as MacBreak Weekly. MBW is where the whole crew, with host Leo Laporte, chat over Apple-related news stories, rumors, and philosophy in a very non-serious way. Sometimes clocking in at an hour and a half, there are tons of “rat holes” (off-topic conversations) and goofing off. I never miss an episode, and I think it’s because listening to the gang ramble on is like inviting a bunch of friends into your brain every week. Scary? A little, but so worth it. The crew share “Picks of the Week” – good Mac or iPhone apps – as well as their personal projects each episode, and I’ve picked up a few good tips along the way. Mostly, MBW is a high-powered hour or so of Mac geekiness.

As one of the most popular podcasts offered, This American Life needs little introduction. It’s a smart, low-key NPR radio program that, if you miss it on the weekends, you can catch it in its podcast form. I only knew TAL as the program that followed A Prairie Home Companion on my local NPR station, but after I heard the program about how an Oklahoma preacher was shunned after he stopped believing in Hell, I was hooked. I’ll never forget driving through New Hampshire, listening to “The Giant Pool of Money,” and finally understanding what the credit crisis was all about. Some people make fun of Ira Glass’s radio show for being too quirky and too “so what?” But for me, you can’t get any more relevant than what TAL has become.

Based on the west coast, near San Francisco, Zencast comes from Gil Fronsdal’s weekly talk at the Insight Meditation Center. When I was learning to meditate, I used Zencast’s beginning classes to get started.

Bill Moyers’ podcast has its origins in his weekly PBS program. Think of it as a left-of-center “Meet the Press,” but instead of politicians, Moyers interviews academics, economists, political operatives, authors, and noteworthy figures about American issues. Moyers was the Press Secretary for President Johnson, but has used his journalism background for impactful reporting for years now. His Texas accent and folksiness make his program laid back and respectful. Moyers is a smart guy, too, which helps. I’ve heard great programs on everything from what Barry Goldwater would think of the Republican Party these days to famous writers’ thoughts on religion.

Scott Simpson, Lonely Sandwich, and Merlin Mann do a sort of improv-meets-topical-meets-discussion-meets-goofiness show. Merlin described it as “comedy for people with a master’s degree,” and I’ll agree. What’s really embarrassing is laughing out loud at the gym, thanks to this show. I probably look crazy, but if anyone asks if I forgot my meds, I’ll be glad to recommend YLNT. The guys do a few live shows, have had Jonathan Hodgman (the “PC” guy in Apple ads) on, and even maintain a companion blog. If you like your humor dry and smart (and who doesn’t?), than this “journal of emotional hygiene” is right for you.

Finally, there’s Mr. Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover radio show. I listen to this one mainly at work. Dave hosts a call in show where people ask about financial situations and ask for advice, and Dave offers his opinions freely. I was fortunate enough to take Dave’s Financial Peace University classes, and it helped turn my money situation around. The basics? Save up for emergencies, pay off all your debt, and use your income to live happily ever after. Sounds easy enough, but it’s not. That’s where Dave’s tough-love philosophy comes in handy. The radio show is simply a sounding board for Dave’s outlook, but he really does help people.

Refurb Macs make sense in down economy

February 11th, 2009

PowerBook G4 1280x854 Desktop 3

They didn’t have to convince me, but BusinessWeek makes the case that IT departments would be smart to use “obsolete” and refurbished computers in a recession. Roger L. Kay writes:

This year, as IT and financial managers wonder whether, given the economic situation, they can squeeze another year out of their existing client PCs, it’s not a bad idea to revisit the principles of useful life. A good tool should last a long time.

Picking quality is the important part.

I’ve long been a fan of refurbished Macs. They make tons of sense if you’re looking to get a perfectly-capable, discounted Macintosh. I also live by the philosophy of “good enough”: all the Macs I own are G4s and older.

Charles Moore at The Apple Blog explains how Apple’s refurb system works, and why buying fixed-up Macs makes economic sense. His advice is to check Apple’s refubish page often, as a lot of the models come and go depending on demand. You can also get some amazing deals on refurbished iPods.

[Photo courtesy wowstanley on Flickr.]