Concept: My hopes and dreams for Apple TV

Samsung TV showing the home screen of the Apple TV UI concept by Andrew Ambrosino The illustrations on this article are from the excellent Apple TV UI Concept by Andrew Ambrosino. They have little to do with the ideas I put forward in this post, but they sure do look pretty. I have been an Apple TV owner on and off since the very first one from 2007. It wasn’t in the same small black puck from factor you may know from today. It was much larger, sort of a hybrid between the design of the Mac Mini of its time, and today’s Mac Mini; the design cues were clearly from then, with an aluminium “band” serving as the front, sides and back, and a white-and-grey plastic top (but where the Mac Mini was a grey Apple logo on a white field, Apple TV had a white “tv” on a grey field). The measurements, however, were much more like today’s Mac Mini; much lower, deeper and wider than the Mac Mini of its day. That Apple TV is still lurking somewhere in my attic, and it was my first entry into the Apple ecosystem. The main reason to get it was to get a source for HD video material, because I had just bought a HD Ready Sony Bravia TV. It turned out to be a gateway drug for Apple stuff. Our household is exclusively Apple nowadays; iPhones, iPads and MacBooks all around. Read More »

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Comparison of bookmark services

I have been a Delicious user since 2006. Of course, some time ago, we had a long episode of uncertainty, but that has come and gone. Things have quieted down around Delicious. I’d almost say too quiet, and I’m wondering if we are going to suddenly be greeted to a “Sorry, Delicious is no more” message some time in the not too distant future. Also, I’ve had some small frustrations lately, which I won’t go into here. To make a long story short, there were some reasons for me to go and look for alternatives to delicious. There are many articles about that on the Internet, but obviously, none are based on my priorities. So, what am I looking for in a bookmarking solution?

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What happens to your data when your computer floods/catches fire/explodes?

Image: Andrew Kuznetsov on Flickr

So, what did you answer to that question? If it was, “Meh, that’s not going to happen to me”, think again. If it is, “I’m making backups”, good for you. But how safe are your backups? Some say, one backup is no backup. This is especially true if you’re just backing up to an external drive connected to your computer. Yes, it will safe your hide when the hard disk in your computer dies, but what if a bigger disaster happens? Of course, I wish no one to have their hard disks crash on them, let alone worse. However, what if your upstairs neighbour has a leak and it is right above your computer? Or what, heaven forbid, you have a fire?

In the past, I gave these questions some thought. I thought I had found the golden goose when I came up with this; buy two external disks, set them up both with Time Machine, and swap them on a regular basis, keeping one connected to the computer, the other at my parents’ house. That way, even if both the computer itself and the primary backup drive (the one currently connected to the computer) dies, I still have the “offsite” backup. Well, in practice I think the offsite backup was maybe switched once, after which it grew old. Very old.

Now, I do have the solution, though. I use an online backup service. I chose Backblaze (full disclosure: this is an affiliate link, see further down in this post), because of recommendations from some podcasts I listen to (The Talkshow, Hypercritical and Build & Analyze when they still existed, and ATP). I haven’t looked back since. It’s only 5 USD per month per computer for unlimited backups, with no strings attached (except maybe that you can’t backup drives containing Time Machine data, but that’s more a technical issue than anything else). There’s even a way around the one computer thing; just setup something like Carbon Copy Cloner on your other machines to make regular backups to the machine that is being backed up to Backblaze. Their Mac client software is really nice. It has that native feel; if you ever used badly ported software from other platforms, or software developed by someone that clearly is not an experienced Mac developer, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Something else I can recommend related to Backblaze is their blog. They share tremendously interesting stuff they have a unique position to acquire, because they have so many (consumer grade, which makes it relevant to you and me too) hard drives that are being pushed to the very limit. Don’t worry, consumer grade doesn’t mean your data is less secure, because they have all kinds of early warning systems to make sure bad hard drives don’t screw with your data. Recommended reading: Seniors are the Kings of Data BackupHard Drive Temperature – Does It Matter?Storage Pod 4.0: Direct Wire Drives – Faster, Simpler and Less Expensive and last but not least, What Hard Drive Should I Buy? (I just bought a Western Digital Red for my Drobo based on this).

So, after all that, I hope you will look into getting your data backed up, securely and off-site. By all means, do your own research and pick the one you like. But, if you like the above, consider using this link to get Backblaze one month for free. If you do, and you decide to get a paying subscription, I will get one month free as well. I hope you don’t hate me for dropping an affiliate link at the end of this post without warning you up front, but I did not because I did not want to put you off from the post; I do genuinely believe this stuff is important.

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Walking with Dinosaurs movie mini-review

Just watched the Walking with Dinosaurs movie. It is beautifully made, but oh boy was the talking dino’s every bit as bad as I had expected. To get a taste of it, watch the trailer above.

Ever since hearing the concept of Walking with Dinosaurs – the original series, that is – I absolutely loved it. I was one of those boys with a thorough fascination for dinosaurs. Think Tim in Jurassic Parc, except maybe a little less annoying. And no, I had not read scientific publications by famous paleontologists. But I did read every book about dino’s that could be found in the children’s section of the local library.

That was well behind me when the original Walking with Dinosaurs was announced, but being a man, you never really grow out of that sort of thing. WwD was to be like a documentary. No being chased by a T-Rex in a Jeep (no, not that way way, silly), but David Attenbouresque observations, aided by the latest and greatest CGI and animatronics.

The actual series did not fail to deliver. Of course, epsecially the close ups looked fake, even back then, and being spoiled with today’s CGI (I rewatched the whole thing recently on Netflix) also the computer generated sequences look a bit dated, but it’s still interesting to watch.

So, all in all, the 2013 movie had quite something to live up to. And, in terms of video quality, it does look gorgeous. 14 years later, it really does look realistic. No more feeling that, eventhough you’re supposed to be looking at some prehistoric creature, you’re really looking at some colored rubber on a metal frame. Especially striking was the glittery skin on the Gorgosaurs, as if the T-Rex from Jurassic Parc hired the most festive tux it could find (this sounds tacky, but it really isn’t).

That’s where the praise ends, though. Because gone is the original WwD formula of documentary-like story-telling. I probably would have loved this movie if it was made like the beautiful Earth, which shows that a nature documentary can be made feature length. Instead, though, it was turned into something more akin to Babe, the talking pig, although they did resist the temptation to have the creatures lip-sync (although that could not have made it mcuh worse). Its’s a rather corny feel-good story, with an underdog hero that rises to the occasion. To make matters worse, the whole thing is wrapped in a completely unnecesarry present-day thing with a rebelious teenager who, after having been told said corny story by a crow, suddenly does think his paleontologist uncle is pretty cool after all.

How wonderful it could have been, when that executive who did have some sense (they did exist, right? RIGHT?) was able to convince those responsible for this highly commercial choice and was allowed to hire the likes of James Earl Jones (see the link to the Earth trailer above) or Jeremy Irons (see this clip from the wonderful The Last Lions to get an idea) and turn this into the beautiful tribute to the orignal series it should have been.

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Gizmodo: Full Scale Lego X-Wing

This is Lego Inception. A enlargement of the small Lego model to full scale, built with… Lego.

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Iron Baby

Cleverly made Iron Man parody.

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Growl + Bark + DummyGrowl = Notification Center goodness

Update 28/12/2013: It looks like DummyGrowl has served its purpose and that it is no longer needed with the latest versions of Growl.

DummyGrowl stops Growl 2.0 with Bark from displaying both a Notification Center notification and a standard Growl notification (right, the Notification Center notification can be seen through the Smoke-style Growl notification). At this point, it is still unclear to me whether this is a bug or a feature of either Bark or Growl.

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HomeBrew vs. MacPorts (vs. Fink)

High level overview of the differences between these systems. As I am re-installing my Mac, I thought I’d first do a little research before defaulting to MacPorts (which feels somewhat natural considering I have some BSD in my past). I think I will go for HomeBrew this time around, just for the heck of it.

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Everything is a remix

I heard about it, but had never watched the videos before (or even knew it was a series of four). Very interesting documentary explaining how “original work” is usually only a combination of existing ideas, “remixed” in a certain way (which doesn’t make the invention or creation any less impressive, it’s just that attributing something to a single inventor or creator doesn’t exactly reflect reality). There are nice references to pop culture and it ends with an explanation why the current US patent system is a monstrosity that does not help its original intent at all. Below are the videos, with Dutch subtitles (thanks to because I imagine most of my public will be Dutch. The original videos are at

I Was steered to this video-series when listening to the last episode of Hypercritical, a podcast from 5by5.

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Debugging Drush with Eclipse and XDebug

Update 15/4/2017: This is a fairly old post, by now. I’ve done a more recent post on debugging drush on a setup with PhpStorm and Vagrant.

Drush is a command line tool to interact with the Drupal Open Source CMS (Get it? DRUpal SHell). It is an invaluable tool that many Drupal developers love once they start using it. Another tool I personally love greatly is the XDebug PHP debugger. I use it almost daily to quickly find out what is going on in a PHP website I am working on. It can be a pain to set up, but once you have it, firing up a debugging session is as easy as hitting a button in Eclipse (in fact, it might be the only reason I put up with Eclipse’s slugishness; I have yet to find a better integrated experience on the Mac – especially being able to set breakpoints right from your editor is king).

Getting XDebug to work with your local Apache installation can be daunting. Enter Drush. It doesn’t work through Apache. Or a browser, for that matter. In short, Eclipse’s “PHP Web Page” debugging target is no good. In this post I explain the steps required to get all the XDebug working for Drush commands, just like you sure used to for your PHP sites. Read More »

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