Solution Spheres

Using Apple technologies (and possibly others) to create a seamless digital lifestyle for home and business.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I fixed my iPod!

No real secret to it. The iPod had bad blocks on it. I knew it did... HD-based iPods are prone to bad blocks because they get tossed around while playing. That head hits the platter and boom-- you got some bad blocks (a bad block is a portion of the drive that can no longer have data written to it).

Anyway, the iPod wasn't really dead. But powering it up got you a Settings menu, nothing more. It had no playlists, but would simply play all the songs in random order. Kinda neat, but not useful.

So I broke out an old TechTool Pro CD, and booted up my ancient G3 iBook with it. I plugged in the iPod, and scanned. Like I said, I knew the surface inside the drive (the little platters) had damage because I did the self-diagnostic scan and it failed. TTP told me I had 8 bad blocks, and recommended I zero out the data. Guess what? TTP had an erase disk function, which allowed me to do just that!

For some reason Apple's own disk utility wasn't doing this trick for me...

Anyway, while I won't rely on the thing, and I'm a little sad I bowed out one side getting it open a while back in an attempt to re-seat the drive, I'm happy it's working. That little 20 GB 4th gen form factor was so nice.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Let's all just change to Zulu time

I happened to drive the kids to see the grandparents today and caught up on some podcasts. Cnet's Buzz Out Loud had a comment from a listener regarding this time change we're all panicking about. In reference to aviation, he said planes won't fall from the skies because airlines, pilots, the entire system uses ONE time system. Zulu time. It's the Greenwich time standard, kinda like time zero... So what if it'll be wacky for a while? I don't mind going to bed at 7 am!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How to lock up your Intel Mac completely

I have found a solid, reliable way to crash my Macbook Pro. By "crash" I mean totally, 100% unrecoverable lockup. The mouse moves, but all other signs of life are gone...

1. Launch Word.
2. Connect external monitor.
3. Do stuff for a while.
4. Disconnect external monitor.
5. Use Cmd-Tab to switch to another app.... BAM! You done been frozed up.

This had been vexing me, until I finally caught GeekTool putting the message from the Console (a crash reporter) onto the desktop... apparently Word must be informed of any monitor activity. Once an external is disconnected, it starts to get cranky.

Bug or feature? Did MS put the bug in to intentionally crash my Mac? Let the conspiracy theories begin!

Anwyay, try it, lots of fun. Thank goodness for web-based work (no appreciable loss of data-- just a real PITA).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fixing health care

(this is copied from my superpixel blog, but I wanted it here too-- it counts as a Solution!)

One of the coolest bloggers around, Willy Volk, recently said in an interview that he'd blog full-time IF he could still get health insurance. Oh sure, he can get *private* insurance, but we all know how expensive that is (well I do, as I've got friends on it). So my wife and I got to talking last night about this mess... Make no mistake, it IS a mess. Why is your insurance tied to your place of employment? This seems really arbitrary considering how often we all change jobs nowadays. Also, I think it is safe to say many Americans feel shackled by jobs they've taken "just for insurance." And don't forget the upward-spiraling cost of said group coverage...

Well, I can't do much about the increasing costs. That is something that would indeed involve a modicum of reform and government oversight. Personally the idea of a sort of "Federal Trade Board" makes sense-- a body of experts who can evaluate and promote medical solutions objectively. As objectively as possible, anyway. But that isn't something I can speak to, because there are a myriad of reasons for increasing costs, some of which seem blatantly abusive, and some which are subtle in their intricacies.

What I can speak of is using technology to provide coverage for most Americans at an affordable rate, independent of their jobs. Think about that for a moment. If you could buy into affordable group health insurance, yet remain a "free agent," what would that do for our economy? I think a great outpouring of entrepreneurship would occur. We would literally set free the pent-up dreams and ambitions of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who otherwise took jobs for the insurance. It would revitalize the economy, it would make people happier, and it would spur innovation and productivity like the world has never seen. So how do we do it? Technology has the answer!

If there's one thing we've learned about the web, it's that the real power is in connecting dots that would have previously sat isolated. Take ebay, linking up oddball sci-fi toy collectors and grandmas cleaning out dusty garages for over 10 years. Before, geographic proximity was the limiting factor for collectors, but ebay has removed that obstacle. Well, how about doing this for health care? I'm in my 30's, quite healthy, and I lead a "safe" lifestyle... Why not use the power of the interwebs to put me in a similar group for healthcare? It's like LinkedIn for group health-- except you need an intermediary. So you build a website that serves as a nexus for patients seeking group coverage (and matching them up in groups), and doctors looking to serve this clientele. Doctors would finally play a part in the cost equation, as their willingness to take a deep-fried Twinkie-eating smoker aged 40 would really have a cost associated with the risk. The company handling all this would take patient info, evaluate the risk, and assign groups and match up doctors. It's so simple! Why can't there be a Progressive insurance for health?

Now what about fraud? Obviously this could be a problem. Again, technology to the rescue. Develop devices that allow you to monitor vitals and push that info to your provider via the web. An e-checkup? Sure, why not? Or build kiosks to do this. Also, once someone is caught being fraudulent (like saying they don't smoke but winding up with emphysema a week) you just cut them off. Fraud would not be tolerated, just like car insurance or at a bank. I already monitor my heart rate when I jog-- I'd be happy to pass this along to my doc.

So that's it-- affordable medical coverage for most Americans is within reach. We still need some reforms, we still need some government oversight, but just handing the keys to the Feds, if history proves anything, would be a disaster. Keep it private, but keep it quality. You only buy what you need, and insurance would finally have to make real decisions for the betterment of their customers. I think it's a win/win/win for patients, doctors and the insurance companies. Never mind the aforementioned surge in productivity (and reduction in stress) we'd see in the country as a whole.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Llamapod is dead!

We'll be closing in a week.

In other news, this blog is officially closed.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Take a chance on the little guy...

You know, Apple was once an upstart. Then again, they had to rebuild from almost nothing. What a long journey...
And so it has been for the family business-- Llamapod.
Made our first cases when the 4G was newish, and we've been chasing sales ever since. Take a look and see (there's a 5G version, and a cool nano "Gama" system I designed to keep your nano on your wrist or wallet or dashboard... just go to to see it all)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the dumbening of the internet?

They said AOL was for internet n00bs, yet we are now experiencing a huge surge in web-based tools and services as a result of so many users.

Now, one might think bringing even more people, with less money and education would lower the "quality" of the citizenry. Maybe, but it definitely brings more diversity. Diversity is the essence of life, both the reflection of a healthy ecosystem, and a way to propogate the very same diversity... it is stupid-proof, and that's the point.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Here's your Mac mini media center

This is awesome. However, it's taken THIS LONG for it to happen. My El Gato device is now so obsolete it's silly. Mine didn't come with a remote, isn't this small, needs a power brick, and gets excessively hot. Never mind it won't really work right on an Intel Mac. I can't wait to get a new mini some day...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tips on using Windows

I started using Apples back in 1977ish. I was six. Point is, I also started using PC's running MS-DOS when those became available. I remember snickering a bit at Windows 1.0. I remember trying out a different way to look things up on the internet called Mosaic.

And now you can run Windows and Mac OS on one machine. That machine just happens to be a Mac, which is pretty cool too...

Anyway, I wrote up a few tips for living in Windows. Next installment should be the security perspective. Because Mac users are kinda clueless when it comes to security ;)

The article is over at Download Squad: Tips for Boot Campers

Monday, April 03, 2006

Apple ][

Apple ][
Originally uploaded by superpixel.
Riddle me this: how can a nearly 3 decades-old machine still have its keys legibly printed on the keyboard, yet my iBook, less than 3 years old, is now almost blank?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Clean your Mac

I have been pondering the use of Spring Cleaning from Aladdin Software (or whatever they're calling themselves these days) for a while, as I know there are lots of little cache files, etc. left over when you do the amount of surfing I do.

But Mr. Clean is so much cooler because it's free! (Thanks to Lifehacker on the tip)

One thing I did today to clear nearly 10 gigs off my machine: I deleted 2 entire "Previous System" folders. If Apple has ever had you do the OS shuffle, setting up a new account, and leaving your old one as an archive, consider going back and deleting your old system. Were there crazy fonts in there I should have saved? Maybe. All I know is that my hard drive is a lot leaner now... I'll probably live to regret that one.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mac mini media center here almost...

As I write this Engadget, TUAW, and several other sites are buckling under the strain, but iLounge has intermittent info on the new Mac mini's, with Intel chips inside, and sporting more media-sharing tools (Front Row with Bonjour). I still don't see anything revolutionary, although the remote is nice. I believe ALL the Macs will have this from here out. Awesomeness.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Run for the hills!

OK, lesson for today: always apply security patches to your machine, no matter what OS. Even Linux has problems, which is why developers drink caffeinated beverages and patches are released. For every OS. Some more than others, but they all have issues. Let's remember that social vectors are the most likely method of a security breach. For instance, if I steal your laptop, I just "hacked" your machine. In meatspace, granted, but it's a hack. You didn't give me permission to do wild things to your machine, did you?

Well here's a story I found on CNN, because with all their Apple lovin' they have to show they are still somewhat unbiased.
Worm targets Macs through Bluetooth

That's scary, isn't it? Well here's the counterpoint, provided several days in advance for your viewing pleasure:
Yet another pointless worm Inqtana

Granted, a fan of the Mac platform isn't going to scream bloody murder at the first sign of these things. Which raises the constant specter of laziness. That's a social vector too-- thinking you can't get a virus when you can and doing nothing once you've been warned.

Good news: so far I have yet to see anything so destructive or easy to infect and do damage on the Mac as on the PC. So for now you are safe, in my opinion (patent pending). If you want to be paranoid, switch to FreeBSD and wear a tinfoil hat.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mac mini portable media center

The mini
Originally uploaded by superpixel.
Posted up some pics of my mac mini I take to parties. It's a sort of video jukebox, and it can do more than just be a glorified video iPod. I can connect a camera and play EyeToy-style games, or other mac games. Yes, there are some. I use VLC and QuickTime to play video, iTunes for audio, and a trackball instead of a remote. I can drop AppleScripts on the desktop, make 'em really big, and pretty much script an entire evening of wacky, nerdy entertainment.