Archive for October, 2003

Cool Kitty Tricks

Friday, October 31st, 2003

I had a Safari crash, which leads me to believe that Emacs isn’t really my problem. I still haven’t rebooted - that would probably be a good idea after installing a new OS, but Kitty never asked me to reboot. Anyway, I’ve found some neat tricks while playing with Kitty - some are my own discovery, but most are from MacOSXHints.

The whole command-shift-left/right arrow thing for Safari is new to me, but that’s the quick way to switch tabs. Command-tabbing in Panther has changed a bit, too - now there’s a big program switching popup.

To make your own keyboard shortcuts, open the Keyboard and Mouse panel in System Preferences and choose the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. I added a shortcut to all apps (choose All Applications at the bottom of the shortcut list and hit the plus button). I typed Show All to add that menu item and gave it the shortcut control-alt-command-H. I’m also adding a Hide Chat Participants shortcut to iChat.

When I first set up iTunes to play Filk Radio, I went through a whole song and dance to get the correct Live365 streaming URL into iTunes. I wanted to add some others today and discovered a much simpler method:

  1. Find your station at Live365.
  2. You should arrive at the station page, which will have a URL like or Each station has both a name and a number, and it doesn’t seem to matter which you use.
  3. Edit the URL in your location bar - replace stations with play.
  4. If you want to listen to the station in Safari, just hit return and the stream will play as embedded Quicktime (though I thought embedding was illegal now).
  5. If you want to listen to the stream in iTunes, which I find more convenient, then don’t hit return. Just copy the new URL from the location bar (command-C), go to iTunes and choose Open Stream from the Advanced menu (or just hit command-U), and paste in your URL (command-V). The stream will start playing.
  6. Any time you play a stream in iTunes, it ends up in your Library. (In fact, I have three or four versions of Filk Radio resulting from these experiments.) To put it in a more convenient playlist, just drag it from the Library playlist (it will be the one playing) into your playlist of choice. For some reason you can’t drag a stream into the official Radio playlist, but you can make a new playlist for Live365 stations.
  7. Now anytime you click on that tune in iTunes your Live365 feed will start playing. The free version includes commercials. I don’t know how the paid version works - probably by adding your username and password to the URL. That project is left to the reader.

Here’s Kitty!

Friday, October 31st, 2003

So I’ve finally backed up my home directories and (wisely, it turned out) my Apache configuration files and installed Panther. I just did the upgrade, not the archive and install option, and I customized it just to drop most of the printer drivers and foreign languages. They take up space better spent on educational videos.

The first odd thing Kitty did was pull up my first preferred keyboard in alphabetical order (Dvorak) rather than the one I’d been using before the upgrade (US). I caught on to that pretty quick and switched back. I played with Exposé and Mail, and configured my new Finder windows. Exposé was definitely worth the upgrade. I took a short stroll through Font Book, but my main concern has been Emacs. I can’t start NaNoWriMo without my text editor. Fortunately I’m outlining my novel with the free copy of OmniOutliner, so the situation isn’t quite desperate yet. (Note that OmniOutliner has an upgrade available for Panther.)

Rumor has it that Emacs’ pty bug is gone, which I think means that ispell and other spawned processes will now work from within the GUI version. (It was an OSX bug rather than an Emacs bug, and now Kitty is all better.) It would be much nicer if Emacs actually worked.

The trouble began the first time I tried to rebuild Emacs, probably because I’d forgotten to install the developer’s tools (now called Xcode). My old build of Emacs wouldn’t run, either. I also had trouble the second time, but that looks like it was a CVS problem. I managed to get everything out of CVS and and my last build compiled, though make install didn’t move to the Applications folder like I expected it to. You can’t have everything, especially not at 3 a.m. Now that I look at my emacs build at a reasonable hour of the morning, I find it crashes occasionally. Such is CVS, I guess.

The other thing I did last night was redo my Apache config files, which were moved to a backup spot in the upgrade. I’m wasn’t sure what had changed so I reinstalled Entropy PHP. I’m getting a [warn] module mod_php4.c is already added, skipping, which I can’t figure out, since there’s only one AddModule statement in the conf file. I hear that may mean I have the wrong Apache build installed, but I never touched it, really, Senator. Otherwise PHP seems to work.

Maybe I should have gone with Archive and Install after all…

Big Mac Up

Thursday, October 30th, 2003

Virginia Tech’s supercomputer built out of 1100 Macintosh G5 computers has jumped to #3 in the “semi-official” rankings of the world’s fastest supercomputers. It spent a little time at #2 in the preliminary rankings, then dropped to #4. The final numbers will be out in November, and the Big Mac will be upgraded from Jaguar to Panther next month as well.


Wednesday, October 29th, 2003

More random writing links: If you’re not feeling up for NaNoWriMo, you might want to look into IWriSloMo - International *Write Something* Month. Anyone can write bad short fiction for fun.

If you’re planning to sell your NaNoNovel, consider Marion Zimmer Bradley’s answer to the eternal question, Why did my story get rejected? To improve your ailing baby, sign up at the Critters Workshop for workshop-style critical feedback.

I’ve been suffering doubts about my planned NaNoNovel, and I think I’ll be switching from the poor, neglected Right Novel to a Whole New Novel based on three or four related short story ideas. I still have trouble figuring out when an idea is too big for the short-story format - leading to rejection #1 on MZB’s list. Maybe I even have too many ideas to fit into the novel (the 50,000 word “limit” aside), but it’s always easier to cut than to pad.

NaNo, NaNo

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

Yesterday’s word count: 1000
Today’s word count: 340

The server has been down. I’m having doubts about which novel to NaNo, and I’ve also been catching up on rasfc, which led to this old NaNo critique. (My opinion: the author was clearly cat-vacuuming when she wrote it.) Here’s my missing post from yesterday:

Seema signed up for NaNoWriMo, and immediately began vacuuming the cat at the NaNoWriMo forums. Here’s a handy Guide to Literary Fiction she found there.

I think there’s a much simpler definition of literary fiction: Literary fiction is anything that doesn’t fit into a genre of genre fiction. For the purposes of this definition, Danielle Steele should be considered as a genre.

Note that I’m taking “literary” to be synonymous with “mainstream” rather than with “good.” Everyone who writes wants to write well, and there’s nothing about the setting of, say, a sci-fi novel that keeps it from being well-written - but no one counts The Left Hand of Darkness as literary fiction.


Sunday, October 26th, 2003

Word count: 1000

I don’t have much to say today. I’ve been writing original fic, or rather, getting distracted from writing it by the necessary research. (Jerie didn’t think it was all that necessary, but this is how I write.) I made up my own system of decimal time and hunted through some nearby stars for a nice semi-habitable solar system for my characters.

Now all I need is a plot.

NaNoWriMo Again

Saturday, October 25th, 2003

Word count: 100

So it’s that time of year again, and I have exactly a week to figure out what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. Unless the muse strikes me, this year’s novel will be the long-delayed Right Novel, for which I suffered the writer’s block that led me to write 20,000 words of the Wrong Novel, an unknown amount of the Wrong Prequel in a notebook, and 50,000 words of another Wrong Prequel for last year’s NaNoWriMo.

The Right Novel is set about 8,000 years in the future, meaning I can make up a lot more science and background than is possible with near-future sci-fi. That, in turn, means no research. Another novel I’d considered writing, the Mars Novel, would have required research, and the need for scientific accuracy is incompatible with the need for speed. (I’d really love to write a Stargate novel for NaNoWriMo, but fanfic doesn’t pay.)

Last year’s novel never went anywhere after NaNoWriMo because the conclusion was slapped together in the last week of November and never really sat right. This year I must think of a climax before I start writing, so I have something to aim for. A plot outline wouldn’t hurt, either. Then again, most of Colony wasn’t in the outline - I meant for the crew to settle down in the Delta Quadrant and instead they stole the moon.

You never can tell with characters…

Here’s Kitty

Friday, October 24th, 2003

Panther has arrived! I wasn’t planning to rush into upgrading - I just wanted the $20 upgrade copy safe in my hands before Apple changed their minds about the new mac qualifying.

I checked out Mark Pilgrim’s article (with screenshots) on What’s New in Panther and now I’m tempted to upgrade now. My favorite new feature (besides, obviously, Exposé) is the Font Book. I’ve always wanted a good way to view my fonts, but I’m too cheap to pay for the popular font programs.

I suppose I should get the upgrade out of the way before NaNoWriMo, but there will always be new cats to vacuum.

Low-Octane Geek

Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

Word count: 200
Panther report: Kitty is in East Boston!

I am 36% Geek

You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the “normal” crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.

Take the Geek Test at

Tabs Slide Forward

Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

Panther update: Kitty got on the plane in Oakland, CA.

A List Apart is back, with a new design and a nice article about making navigation tabs out of Sliding Doors. It’s chic, but I think I’ll stick with my boxy tabs for a while yet.