To an Apple Thief

You have no fucking clue how proud I was of that apple,
We moved in last year and that whole front yard was gravel.
It took us lots of time but we got to working,
Digging and planting veg, while you nearby were lurking.

We spotted it in Lidl, this pathetic looking tree,
We knew of course that for a year, it would be fruit free.
But it surprised us in the end, that little miracle flower,
It pollinated with next door’s orchard, the clever little bugger!

We watched it from the window, our single little fruit,
Growing on a twig, it was becoming quite the brute.
We joked about who’d eat it, her or I would savour,
We’d chuck it in a pie, a desert we both would favour.

But you had other plans, for food you went to hunt,
Perhaps you thought it funny, you stupid little cunt.
And we know you didn’t need money, we know you are not broke,
Here’s news for you, apples aren’t ready to Autumn, I truly hope you choke!

American Billion vs British Billion

I read an article on Gizmodo today in which Jesus Diaz quoted the cash balance of Apple as being $100,000 million. After this came a large torrent of arguments complaining about why he didn’t just say $100 billion! Meanwhile some people complained that in their country this figure would not be correct as in most countries, a billion is a significantly larger number than in America.

Jesus Diaz eventually replied to the comments clarifying that he had in fact chosen to say $100,000 million for exactly this reason, so that people would know the exact figure he was stating regardless of where they had had their education or what their scientific knowledge was.

How is a British Billion actually different?

The truth is, there is no difference, there was but there is not anymore.

In Britain a billion was accepted to be a million million and a trillion was accepted to be a million million million.  This definition spread across most of the world because, to be blunt, Britain owned most of the world.

However, in American a billion was accepted to be a thousand million and a trillion, to be a million million!  Oh dear, now things are really confusing, that meant that when ever an American said one trillion, to us in the UK, they should have said a billion!

To avoid disambiguation in the scientific community, many scientists avoided using the terms billion and trillion altogether, just like Jesus Diaz attempted to do in his article and as the Americans grew in power, it was eventually accepted that the American billion and trillion be adopted internationally in the scientific community, though as with any language, its common meaning will not change until everyone accepts it as meaning one thing which appears to be a long way off.

It is worth noting that the financial industry has also chosen to work with the American billion as noted by Denis Healey in 1975 when he announced that the treasury was officially switching to using the American billion.

Did the American billion have a name in Britain?

Yes, 1000 million in Britain was called a milliard, though this term was never widely used.

But doesn’t a million million just make sense?

You may be thinking, BI means two, so million million makes sense and TRI means three so million million million also makes sense?  Well yes but then, under the exact same reasoning, the American system also makes sense, allow me to demonstrate.

A million is a thousand multiplied by a thousand once.  While BI means two which means that a billion is a thousand multiplied by a thousand twice.  TRI means three so a trillion is a thousand multiplied by a thousand thrice.

So which one should I use?

The truth is, if you’re outside of America, you can pick and choose which billion and trillion you use, however, if you are using it in a scientific or financial capacity or in any forum with an international viewership, you should avoid using the old British system as it can lead to confusion, it will even lead to confusion in your own country as many have switched to the American system.

Or, you can simply do what many scientists and of course the aforementioned Jesus Diaz has done and just avoid the words all together.  If I say 1 million million and one person reads it as a trillion while someone else reads it as billion, there is no harm done because I know that in their heads, they both understand the number I am trying to convey.  I would rather have it that way than have myself say trillion and have people understand it as to entirely different numbers.

The New iPad does have a name… iPad!

A few minutes ago, Apple finished their presentation of the latest in the iPad range.  It’s got loads of improvements including 4G internet (note, we do not have 4G in the United Kingdom so this fails to thrill us), Retina display that is so HD that it has a million more pixels than your massive 1080p TV (note: 1080p really is just a 2 megapixel image so don’t get too upset, still it makes the new iPad higher definition than most print media), 5MP camera that can record 1080p video, a quad core processor to compliment the graphics processing that it’ll require and a bunch of new apps including iPhoto.  It also doesn’t have a new name.

People have been arguing for a while now on whether this new iPad will be the iPad 3, the iPad HD or something else, now people are confused that Apple hasn’t named it, we just know it as “The New iPad.”  You know what, why can’t it just be called iPad?

People aren’t going to get confused because you know what?  They didn’t get confused about it before!  What do I mean, let’s put it this way.

Apple produced 5 iPods that were just called "iPod". I think we'll do just fine.


Recycling that old iMac G3 with Ubuntu

In 1998 Apple released what in my opinion, saved the Apple Computer market, they released the iMac.  This computer started a huge change in the computer market and introduced powerful but beautiful machines into our homes and created a fair few, brand new Apple fanboys… and girls.  What a shame they’re 11 years old now and really no use to us now… or are they?

The Rebirth of Cool... again.

I was 10 years old when the iMac was released and I was already a computer nerd so could appreciate a great many things about the iMac that were real game changers.  The first point was obvious.

A computer was always easily identified by two large beige boxes.  One of those boxes would be a large CRT monitor (as flat screen monitors were too expensive and under developed to be the norm) and one would be the actual computer which either sat under the monitor on the desk, or stood as a tower on the floor.  Even now, most desktop computers consist as this tower and monitor style though you’ll find it difficult to find one in beige, in fact, if I gave you a thousand pounds and sent you out into the city to buy a new model beige desktop PC, I’d let you keep the change and the PC if you found one.

The iMac contained the whole computer in one unit, in fact, at first glance most people assumed it to be just a monitor with speakers built in.  At closer inspection though, this monitor had a CD drive on the front of it and ports for the keyboard and mouse to plug into on the sides.  There was no tower.  And this thing was anything but beige.

iMac Flower Shot
This thing was anything but beige.

While Apple claimed that the i in iMac stood for Internet and also I as in the pronoun, the real meaning for this letter was not missed by the design community, the i in iMac stood for Jonathan Ive, the head designer at Apple who as it happens, is now Sir Jonathan Ive after being knighted as part of the Queen’s New Year Honours list and it was Ive’s design that really opened people’s eyes to Apple.

Having a whole machine in one unit wasn’t new to Apple, in fact, the first Apple Macintosh computer was an all in one.  What Ive did was to make the damn thing look good!  iMacs were colourful, rounded, even the mouse was circular, these things looked good.  This was a game changer but one of many.  That sexy looking body caught your attention, now look closer and take a look at what else is new.  I remember the total shock that people had when they realised there was no floppy disk drive.  Apple knew that these things were not going to be needed soon and so did what many were avoiding, they took it out of their computer.  Then they did something big, USB.  Every iMac came with two USB ports with an extra one on your keyboard and that was it, Apple had set the standard.  These computers were great, they didn’t take up as much room as a conventional computer and they didn’t need to be hidden away from your interior designer.

Now of course, we all have a good looking computer, whether you’re running PC or mac.  Hell, my desktop computer is golden, the front of it designed to resemble a classic Nokia mobile phone.  We all learnt a lesson in design with the iMac but it was a daring step, they did look pretty radical and perhaps, after several different versions, the current iMacs on the market aren’t quite as exciting to look at.  But then, times have changed haven’t they, 1998 was fourteen years ago and now it’s 2012.  Well I’ve still got my old iMac, and I don’t want to throw it out.

Bringing the iMac G3 back to life

New iMacs are a very different creature now, they have Intel processors in them just like Windows computers.  Those old original iMacs had PowerPC G3 processors.  These are a very different chip, they run differently, they’re built differently.  Today, you can install Windows on an Apple computer, back then, you couldn’t, the PowerPC chip just isn’t able to run it.  That isn’t because it wasn’t a good chip, it’s because it just runs in a different way than what Windows was made for.  But as things have moved on, now even Apple’s own software won’t run on it either.

The last three versions of Apple’s Mac OS X have been for Intel computers only, Apple turned its back on all those people who had bought computers from them in the past and told them, “if you want to keep up with us, you’ve got to buy a whole new computer.”

My iMac G3 was left with Mac OS X Tiger as it’s final upgrade, after that, it was left to rot, abandoned.  Apple kept making new operating systems: Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion… my iMac got nothing.  People made software for new Apple Operating Systems, Firefox, Microsoft Office… my iMac started gathering dust as I started using newer machines that could run software that it was too old for.

Firefox doesn't get made for old Mac OSX

And why should they make software for it?  There’s no good reason for a software company like Mozilla to bring out it’s brand new Firefox 9 for Mac OS X Tiger or earlier when everyone is using newer computers.  But I’ll tell you something, Firefox 9 can still run on my iMac G3, just as long as it’s running something better than Tiger, it’s just not made by Apple.

There are still modern, up to date operating systems being made that work just fine on the PowerPC architecture and if you’re feeling brave, you should take a look at them because through Linux, you can recycle that old computer that you had given up on and give it a new lease of life!

This weekend gone, I’ve given my iMac a copy of Ubuntu and I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not just running programs that Tiger couldn’t run, it’s running faster!

My iMac G3 Running Firefox 9 on Ubuntu 10.04
My iMac G3 Running Firefox 9 on Ubuntu 10.04

Installing Ubuntu on iMac G3

Installing Ubuntu Linux on these machine is actually pretty straight forward thanks to the Ubuntu Community who see to the release of PowerPC compatible Live CDs for it.  Though there are more up to date versions you can get (and feel free to try them), I chose to use version 10.04 which is the official Long Term Support version.  In other words, the only one that the folks who make Ubuntu feel is as bug free as it should be.

You can download yourself a copy of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS at this here link that will work on your iMac’s Power PC G3 processor.

There is a bug!

Ubuntu won’t work straight off the disk with the iMac G3 as it can’t quite cope with the graphics on board, resulting in a blank screen.  It’s easy to fix though, just make sure that at the first prompt after booting your machine from the CD, you don’t just type “live” like it suggests, type “live video=ofonly” and then hit enter.

This will start Ubuntu in Low Graphics mode.  Once you’re in, double click to install Ubuntu on the hard drive.  Once you’re done, you’ll want to fix that graphics problem properly, it’s easy to do, just create a text file and copy the text found at this little linky into it.  Now save that file at /etc/X11/xorg.conf and reboot your machine.  Done, you can now get installing all your new software like Firefox 9.  Be warned, there’s a few things that won’t want to be installed on a PowerPC chip, like Chrome for instance but you’ll still get a lot more on there then you were able to before.  Happy recycling.


Lion like scrolling on Ubuntu – Inverse scrolling on Linux

Mac OSX Lion Logo
Lion, the latest operating sytem for mac from Apple.

Any one who has upgraded to Mac OS 10.7 Lion will will have had the new inverted scrolling (natural, as Apple call it) which I described in my last post.

However, while many may have found it irritating at first but chose to power through and get used to it, have got too used to it.  Now, other computers seem just wrong.

I hate it when it turns out Apple were right but it would seem that moving the page up and down rather than the scroll bar really is just, natural.

So here’s how you Linux folk can get Lion like scrolling working on your computer.  I’ve been using Ubuntu but I’m sure we’ll see it working on other distributions.

Right then, open up your terminal, let’s get going. You can click on any of these screen shots to see larger versions.

Your first command is:

xinput list

This will show you a list of devices, work out which one is your trackpad or mouse. From my screenshot, you can see that my Trackpad’s ID is 13.

Now that you know this, it’s time for your second command, incorporating the ID you have found out.

xinput test 13

Replace the 13 with whatever your device ID was.

Now scroll up a little and then scroll down a little, finally press Ctrl+C to end the test. From this you can see the mapping of your scroll function. In my screen shot you can see that my scrolling up as button 4 and scrolling down as button 5, obviously they’re not really buttons but you’re not supposed to think of that ;]

Work out what your scroll button numbers are, you’re going to need them.

Now for the actual change, the button mapping of your device will be set up as something like 1 2 3 4 5. In my case; 1, 2 and 3 are likely left, right and middle button; 4 and 5 we know for my case are the scroll, obviously they may be different for you, take note of these along with the device number you already know.

So of course all we’re needing to do is swap these round, here we go:

xinput set-button-map 13 1 2 3 5 4

Now pay attention to how that’s made up; we’ve got your device number in there (I’m 13 remember) and we’ve flipped round the numbers that we know are mapped to our scrolling, (5 and 4)… also, while I’m patronising you like this, don’t forget those spaces. Now go try it out, look, it’s working! Aren’t you clever.

You’re not done yet!

All you’ve done is make it work for now, the moment you restart your computer, it’s going to go away so let’s just make this thing permanent shall we?

Now you can set up an xorg option (Option zAxisMapping “5 4”) but I’m still in my patronising mood and thinking I should just give you the easy option so all we’re going to do is take that last command we typed in (xinput set-button-map 13 1 2 3 5 4) and make it run on startup.

So open up your System Settings and choose Startup Applications.

Now just click Add and type in the command along with a Name and description. You’re all done, you’re natural Lion like scrolling is all done. Congratulations, you may roar, raaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Mac OSX 10.7 Lion

Mac OSX Lion Logo
Lion, the latest operating sytem for mac from Apple.

Yesterday Apple launched Mac OSX 10.7 Lion.  OSX is the Operating System used on Apple computers much like Windows on most PCs.  I use three computers, a PC with Windows 7, a netbook with Ubuntu Linux and a Macbook with Windows 7 and Mac OSX.  So yesterday it came time to upgrade my Macbook.

Now most operating system upgrades require a large spend of money, Windows 7, for instance, costs from £99 ($150 in the US) to buy an upgrade disk however, Apple has made the price of the upgrade to Lion a tiny spend of £21 in the UK ($29 in the US).  This is the same as their last major upgrade, Snow Leopard though before hand, like Microsoft, Apple had always charged over a hundred pounds for the upgrade.

While some would say that this shows a much fairer company than Microsoft, let’s not forget that Microsoft is primarily, a software company while Apple, makes most of their money on their hardware.  You can’t install Mac OSX on any computer that isn’t an Apple computer (you can but you need to crack it and that’s not neccesarily legal).  And let’s also not forget how much profit margin Apple makes from their machines.  Devices of higher spec than Apple can be bought a lot cheaper in terms of both computers, music players and smart phones.

It also shows that Apple are once again, not allowing small businesses to make a decent profit from their products, compared to Microsoft who allow anyone to sell computers using their software and make a fair profit in the process and even then, they donate some of their profits to charity.  But I’m not here to start a Mac vs PC debate, let’s talk Lion.

Lion has taken the final step in making sure no one other than Apple can profit from selling it by making the operating system a download only purchase.  You can’t buy a disk for this upgrade, you must open the App Store on your Mac and click to purchase.  For anyone who has been trying to avoid creating an iTunes account, I’m afraid you’re out of luck here, your App Store account is the same thing.  Once you’ve selected the purchase, your download will leap to the dock and you’ll have to wait for the 3.49GB to arrive on your hard drive.  I’m fortunate enough to have a 25Mb/s download speed so was only waiting for around 30 minutes but I expect others will find themselves leaving it overnight to download, I do not envy those on rural internet connections.  Once downloaded, the upgrade process is actually very easy and you’ll be done in around 30 minutes if your computer is much the same spec as mine, perhaps faster.

On your first load, I’m afraid that there’s no music, no fancy animation, nothing to make you feel smug about completing your upgrade.  You’re just thrown into using your computer but not without a quick intro to the big change that you’re going to have to get used to:

Inverse scrolling

Mac users have had a form of multi touch long before the multi touch trackpad appeared on the scene, we’ve been scrolling by moving two fingers up and down on the trackpad for some time, an extremely simple concept that has now been appearing on other computers as well.  Well this gestured scrolling has been turned upside down in Lion, literally.

Think about it, ordinarily when you scroll down, your page moves up.  On macs now, when you scroll down, the page moves down.  However, as mac users are so used to scrolling with touch, even on their desktop machines (using the magic mouse or magic trackpad), it made sense that pages should scroll in the same way they do on other touch devices, such as smartphones… ok I’ll say it, such as iPods, iPhones and iPads… iOS devices.

Now for many, this seems like a very strange thing to change but really it’s just a very simple change in the way you think.  Before, when you scrolled, you were pushing or pulling the scroll bar up or down.  Well now, you are simply pushing or pulling the actualy page up or down.  It took me a couple of hours to get used to but like everyone else I’ve heard talking about it, it became very natural to use and I was doing it instinctively.

Launch pad, bringing iOS to Mac


The scrolling is not the only new feature to simulate iOS, we now have launch pad.  By clicking an icon in the dock or using three fingers and a thumb to pinch on the trackpad, Lauchpad is opened.  This is very much the same as the homescreens on your iOS device, listing every Application in your Applications folder.  However, it does this without descrimination.  I had a screen filled with adobe uninstall applications which was a little frustrating to look at, though I could organise them into folders much like I can on my iPhone.

View all your running mac applications in one place.

Mission Control

Anyone else noticing the space age terms we’re using here?  I thought we had gone beyond all this but then perhaps this is some kind of recognition to the last space shuttle, Atlantis, which is due to make its final landing.

Mission Control seems to be replacing Exposé and spaces.  With this view, found by either clicking its icon in the dock or swiping up with three fingers, you can see all your running applications, the dash board and now, seemingly limitless desktop that can be spawned as you need them.  Just drag an application onto one of these desktops or to the far right to create a new one.  Even without Mission Control you can swipe between these desktops using three fingers left or right.

The Mac Mail app is just one that many users can use fullscreen.

Fullscreen Apps

Once again looking to mimick their iOS devices, Apple has launched a number of updates to their main programs including Mac Mail and iTunes allowing them to be used as Fullscreen apps.  The trick is to place one of these on a desktop of its own in Mission Control and leave it there as a full screen app.  This allows for a submersive and distraction free experience.

Easily roll back your corrupted files to a previous version.

Autosave and Version Control

I’ve lost track of how many of my friends complained of writing large research papers only to have the file become corrupt shortly before it was time for submission.  Now Lion provides built in version control that allows users to roll back a file if it should become corrupt or even if you just want to roll it back to a previous save.  This is nothing new, version control has been around for decades, long before GUI interfaces took over and it has been built into many linux operating systems for quite some time but now it’s available to Mac users without having to install third party software.

Is it all worth it?

For a simple twenty one quid, definitely.  Buy it and buy it now, there really is no reason to wait.  As I’ve mentioned, Apple has worked hard to make multi touch gestures an even bigger part of their system after they were first introduced in Snow Leopard.  One thing I highly recommend doing after installation is opening your System Preferences, clicking track pad and looking at all the little video demonstrations on these different gestures.  Once learnt, you’ll be using them every few minutes.


My friend and classmate, James Bennet, has written an article on Lion’s new security features, is it too little too late?


Microsoft buys Skype – Will Mac and Linux support Suffer?

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a company that was recently valued at a lot less and has been struggling to make a profit but what does this mean for Mac and Linux users?

I’m not concerned about the cost and I’m sure that Microsoft will help an already great business go far. What I’m concerned about is the user, specifically, the non Microsoft user.

Microsoft insist that they will keep Skype multi-platform, a feature that has helped keep Skype on top of the Internet Phone market. Skype has feature rich applications for not just Windows, but Macs, Linux and several mobile platforms. I have no doubt that Microsoft will continue development for these platforms but my concern is about the extent to which they will do this.

My primary computers are a Windows 7 desktop and an Apple MacBook running Snow Leopard. I have no bias between Mac and Windows and believe both platforms have their benefits. However, any Mac user can tell you of their frustration with Microsoft Messenger.

On Windows, Microsoft’s Messenger is feature rich. You have winks, web cams, facebook integration, Games, Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Video Messages, Slideshows, the list goes on. However, Microsoft Messenger for mac has very few of these features, in fact, up until a few months ago, it didn’t have Webcam support, something the windows version has had for as long as I’ve known it.

The reason for this is simple, Microsoft doesn’t give enough support to its mac developments team, I remember seeing a support forum on the Messenger for Mac site when people were complaining about the lack of webcam support in which a member of the development team cited lack of funding as an issue. I won’t go into details of the Linux development team… there isn’t one.

So yes, I believe Skype will continue to be available for Mac and Linux but my concern is that with closer integration with the Windows Live Network, will great new features, developed by Microsoft also appear on other platforms and if so, will they keep all platforms in sync with each other.

I don’t want a great new feature appearing on Skype for Windows and having to wait months, if not years, for it to appear on Mac and Linux because Microsoft wants to concentrate on making Skype for Windows.

iPhone Headphone Buttons Fixed

The buttons on your Apple headphones can be very useful, but when they break, the solution may be simpler than you think.

I use the buttons on my iPhone’s headphones constantly, for skipping tracks, pausing, changing the volume, I’m a big fan of the voice control function. That is, I hold down my headphone’s centre button and I say “Play Album, Mad Season” and off it goes.

My problem, it stopped working, pressing buttons on my iPhone headphones did nothing, it started a few months ago when it would just stop working and then get better and steadily got worse. My Headphones were starting to deteriorate as headphones do over time so I took them back to the shop I bought them at and got them replaced (always keep the receipt boys and girls, this is my third set of official apple headphones on this one receipt). New headphones made no difference to the buttons problem though.

So I tried the headphones in a friend’s iPhone, no problem, it was definetely the iPhone, not the headphones!

So today I took my iPhone to the O2 shop. I didn’t expect much hope as my iPhone is currently out of warranty. I showed the guy in the shop my problem and he took my phone and produced a paper clip from his pocket which he straightens. I’m worried at this point that he’s going to remove the sim card and send it off for a costly repair, then, he plunges the piece of wire into my headphones socket, I’m in great shock now, this surely, is not a method supported by Apple but then, he pulled it out slowly. On the end, a piece of fluff.

He does this a few times and explains that people who keep their iPhone in their jeans like myself, fill the socket up with fluff which makes the buttons stop working. Simple and frankly, something I probably should have checked.

So, if your headphone buttons have stopped working, get a straightened paper clip and remove the fluff from the headphones socket, problem solved.