Archive for September, 2004

The New PithHelmet

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Survey of the day: Outboard Brains for Mac OS X, an old survey article from

I was happy to discover that my Amazon problem is not all in my mind—they really do have extremely annoying Javascript focus code on their site that shifts focus to an Amazon page when I don’t want to look at it. For I while I just blocked Amazon completely using PithHelmet 0.7.2a for Safari, but that’s a brute force solution.

What I really needed was a Safari plug-in that would turn off only the offending javascript (since nobody these days can live without Javascript), or barring that, one that would turn Javascript off just for the offending websites. PithHelmet 2 is supposed to be able to do both.

Unfortunately, as has been reported by many users at VersionTracker, PithHelmet 2.0.1 is a buggy swamp. It has an obscure and counter-intuitive interface (both the annoying menu and the new preference panel), it slows down page loading, it doesn’t import rules from previous versions, and it forgets its own settings. It refused to load the included Python script designed to demoronize Amazon, though the promise of that sample script was my main reason for installing 2.0.1 despite the bad experiences reported in the VersionTracker comments. Maybe I needed some sort of Python compiler. That wasn’t mentioned in the documentation—but usability was clearly not the hallmark of this release. At least the option to turn off Javascript for did seem to work.

I saw all these problems in the few minutes I ran it before downgrading to 0.7.3. On the bright side, it did turn on the Safari Debug menu for me, and left it on after the downgrade. Since PithHelmet has gone from freeware to shareware, I hope Mike Solomon will start treating it like real mac software—that means providing real documentation and an intuitive interface. (Hide the regular expressions, at least!)

Since I canned the above entry, PithHelmet has gone up a subversion to 2.1. The changelog claims it’s faster and that some of the preference bugs have been fixed, so I’m giving it another try.

Someday, somehow, Amazon will be demoronized.


Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

I discovered the phenomenon of catblogging recently at Classical Values. Since I’ve been catsitting Veronica’s cat (”Kitty”), I have an excuse to catblog. I have no pictures of Kitty; he’s so hefty he’d probably eat all my bandwidth anyway. (I noticed while feeding him that he was off the weight chart on the back of the cat food bag.)

So here are some links instead:

Agent Elrond

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

I knew this quiz looked familiar when I saw Dennis’s results on Classical Values. Last time I cheated, but now I have a greater appreciation for LotR characters so I’m posting the real results:

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Moon of the Month

Monday, September 27th, 2004

Check out the harvest moon tomorrow night. Thanks to Space Weather for the link.

Scary System Crash

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

As the Apple Turns discusses the recent loss of “talkie with the big flying things” in LA:

According to Techworld (which in turn cites an LA Times story from a week ago), the Windows-based radio system for an air traffic control center in Southern California took a three-hour coffee break recently, leaving “800 planes in the air without contact to air traffic control.” But hey, how dangerous could that possibly be?

I heard about the failure, but not that it was Windows’ fault. I should have known. As the Apple Turns looks toward the Windows future:

…while we’d never wish a midair plane crash on anyone, part of us can’t help but suspect that if anything can get the Windoid lemmings to consider that “hey, maybe this operating system kindasorta sucks rocks out loud,” it would be a fiery hail of twisted, screaming metal and black and red body parts pummelling the tarmac at LAX. Will a near-miss or two be enough of a wake-up call? We sure hope so.

If that doesn’t do it, maybe the radioactive glass crater will do the job. Somehow I suspect even that won’t work unless by chance a Windows-guided missile takes out Redmond.

Killing Her Softly

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Definition of the day: misottawy: 1. The antipathy that Canadians, especially those furthest to the east and west, feel toward their federal government. Also called “Western/Eastern/Northern alienation.” 2. (By extension) Distrust of a government, particularly a government at a great geographical distance from its subjects. [Langmaker Neologisms]

Last week, the Florida State Supreme Court struck down Terri’s Law, the Bush-backed (no, not that Bush—the other one) bill to keep a brain-damaged woman alive despite her husband’s continuing legal efforts to starve her to death.

Although Terri left no living will, I think she’s a good example of why a living will is meaningless. Terri has left the building, and this is now a fight between what her parents want (the new, brain-damaged but not quite vegetative version of Terri) and what her husband wants (his wife dead). We can assume that the new Terri is incapable of a desire to die, since suicide is a pretty high-order concept. I don’t see any reason to treat her the way the former inhabitant of her body would have liked. We don’t generally kill people because other people want them dead, whether the other people are relatives or former residents. Suicide is illegal for the competent; why allow it to the incompetent?

Stamping Out Medical Care in Canada

Friday, September 24th, 2004

From the Candian Press service (CP) by way of Med Broadcast: the Ontario Health Minister is determined to keep a US company from administering diagnostic tests in Canada. George Smitherman has vowed to squelch all private health care in Ontario:

“If anybody finds out about this stuff, you call that in. We have a quick response capacity, and we will stamp these out. We will protect public medicare in the province of Ontario.”

Unlike private monopolies, a state monopoly can outlaw the competition. Unlike private businesses, the state will persecute the competition even when there’s no financial gain in doing so—how can Canadians paying private companies for procedures that they’ve already paid for endanger medicare? It may embarass medicare that people are running off to private providers, but where is the threat? Even if medicare funds are apportioned according to use, that’s just bureaucratic number-shuffling, not a genuine financial loss.

Here in America, an HMO would be laughing all the way to the bank if they got their protection money out of the rubes, and then the rubes went and paid again for outside services—but at least it would be legal. If I want to see Dr. Hot Stuff every year instead of every two years, all I have to do is pay him to see me. No black market transactions would be involved.

I won’t be running for the border anytime soon.

NetNewsWire 2 in Beta

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

A mac-attack link dump:

Pretty Pages

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

I like looking at lovely web pages. Here are some I’ve spotted recently

I, Robot

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Jay Severin thinks Bush will win the debates just because expectations for him are so low that all he needs to do is show up and speak English for people to think he did well. On the other hand, Kerry needs to pull off a miracle to win this election, so the bar is so high that an excellent yet non-supernatural performance from him will seem like a disappointment.

I, Robot was kind of like that. I’d heard only bad things about it, but Dr. Deb insisted on seeing the robo-action on the big screen. I walked into the matinee expecting Plan 9 from Outer Space and I got a movie that, while almost entirely unrelated to the source material, was still moderately entertaining.

It goes like this: Detective Spooner (Will Smith) of the Chicago Police Department is the only person on Earth who doesn’t like robots. You’d think there would be more of a Luddite movement going on if robots are taking people’s jobs away, but no, it’s just him. Later in the movie we find out why he has this grudge; for an angsty, misunderstood cop, he’s a funny and well-developed character.

One of Det. Spooner’s character quirks is his passion for relics from the year (you guessed it) 2004. While appropriately reactionary, this personality trait led to confusion in the opening scene, where Det. Spooner is in his 2004-style apartment with its turn-of-the-century furniture, wearing his turn-of-the-century clothing, and waking up to the buzz of a turn-of-the-century alarm clock. I’d challenge the reader to decorate her apartment completely and flawlessly in the style of 30 years ago, on a policeman’s salary.

Once he goes outside we see the robots and the self-steering cars, but when he visits other people’s homes (the victim’s, the love interest’s) they don’t have appreciably more tech than Our Luddite Hero. The overall feel is that of 2004 with robots and fast cars.

That’s a minor point beside the tired plot of a conspiracy that only Our Hero knows about, cares about, and is willing to stop. The paranoia is straight out of Minority Report. Some actual Asimov content about the three laws relieves the monotony, and the Scientist Babe has some nice scenes with Our Robot. The sequence of events at the end, however, didn’t make much sense plot-wise, nor did I buy the solution to the murder mystery.

The big offense against Asimov is the Luddism, but it plays well in Poughkeepsie. Imagine the challenge of getting the audience behind Asimov’s pro-robot views. I, Robot was what it had to be, under the laws of Hollywood. Rent, do not buy.