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there and back again

Monthly Archives: July 2008

More details emerge on the

More details emerge on the Antikythera mechanism.

I hadn’t looked at LyX

I hadn’t looked at LyX in a long time, and it has gotten really good. By now it may be the way to do LaTeX without a lot of complexity, on any platform.

tip to microsoft marketing: if you’re going to try sell me something, don’t start by calling me an idiot

on the new MS vista campaign. Comment on the ad and also on the details “translating” their material such as “but some of you complained” to “we know that even Bill Gates couldn’t make this stuff work…”

the dark knight: spectacular


In Alan Moore’s 1988 masterpiece The Killing Joke we got the clearest vision yet of the Joker as Batman’s “dark side,” and a Joker that was as vicious and demented as anything we had ever seen.

Until The Dark Knight, that is.

The movie borrows narrative strands from some of the best Batman graphic novels: Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, Loeb’s The Long Halloween, and The Killing Joke. One of the core plot elements of the movie in fact (The Joker wanting to prove that everyone can essentially become like him given the right circumstances) is at the center of The Killing Joke, and many story elements and characters in The Long Halloween reappear in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, most notably perhaps the plotline involving DA Harvey Dent and his transformation.

Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is nothing short of astonishing. In a sense Batman can be defined by contrast with his enemies, and Bale’s Batman is better because Ledger’s Joker has so much ferocity. Without it, one of the few shortcomings of the movie (that Batman’s own latent insanity and his finely tuned detective skills are for the most part conspicuously absent) would be much more glaring.

A review I read somewhere said that The Dark Knight is a “modern bullet train of a movie” and it’s true. The last half hour in particular is something to behold. It’s one of those movies that really require a giant screen to be experienced in full.

Supposedly this is the second part of a trilogy, and if commercial success leads to sequels then this one is almost guaranteed (it broke the opening day box office record), and hopefully it will be as good as the first two.

In the meantime, we have The Dark Knight to take us once more to Gotham, in all of its bleak, chaotic intensity.

Cool: CoolBook.

Cool: CoolBook.

iphone 3G battery life tips

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the battery life of the iPhone 3G was a complete disaster for me, but I had noticed this is the old iPhone with the new firmware as well, so I did some experiments. Apple has a list of things you can do to improve battery life which is, if you ask me, pretty ridiculous, including “disable 3G” and others that are tantamount to throwing away your shiny iPhone and getting a RAZR. Here’s two small things that worked well for me:

  • Disable push. Yep, this could be a deal-braker for some people, but I switched push to checking every 15 minutes and battery life improved remarkably.
  • Disable “Ask to Join Networks”. For Wifi, the default settings of the iPhone have it scanning for networks to join, even if areas where you wouldn’t use WiFi. Disabling this also helped significantly.

For the moment, just the two I mentioned are enough for me, we’ll see in more extended use over several days if these two “fixes” are, as they seem now, enough to make the phone usable.

the obligatory iPhone 3G review

Yes, yes, I belong to the fraternity of lost souls that queued up over the weekend to get His Steveness’ shiny new toy. Having had an iPhone for a year now I’ve increasingly used the browser more and more, and a few times I’ve used the maps+search feature to find something close to where I am at the moment. The kind of thing that you almost never need (unless you’re on the road a lot) but that, when you do, can be a life saver.

Anyway, the iPhone 3G is a good incremental improvement over the original but there’s a couple of annoyances that subtract rather than add to the experience:

    • Battery Life: this is a bad one. Right now, with moderate to no use (i.e., mostly on standby) the battery gets consumed as if the phone is itself playing with those new apps. The culprits are 3G and WiFi. Other phones do 3G quite well without killing the battery, so what’s up with this?
    • 3G Coverage. Decent around the Bay Area in general, but terrible at my house. Meh. I may have to get a cell signal booster. That said, when you do have coverage 3G is heaven. But we knew that.
    • GPS. It’s there, and finds where you are pretty fast. It seems to lose signal easily, but aside from that, it’s all good.
    • The apps. Of the apps, the iTunes remote is for me one of the most immediately useful. I can now control the Apple TV without having to turn on the TV and navigate through the menus, which means more music goodness. Other that I like are Netnewswire (really well done), the Yellow Pages app, and Tetris, which has a really nice touch interface. Oh, and Lightsaber of course. 🙂

Dirt. Somehow, this phone (at least the black version) picks up smudges way faster than the previous one. Maybe it’s the 3G that increases the rate :). All I know is that smudges are more noticeable on the 3G than on the old phone.

  • Over-The-Air Sync. Not much to say about this — really a feature that works as advertised, but that works as well with the old phones, even over Edge. We use Exchange at the office, so the phone has now become basically the only way I look at the calendar, and the ActiveSync push works well.
  • The dock. Or rather, the old dock, which is no longer compatible since the shape changed. Curses!
  • The charger. It’s tiny! But ugly. Oh god, it is ugly. What were they thinking? Round edges people!
  • The no-longer-recessed headphone jack. I am now vindicated in my refusal to purchase a headphone jack adaptor.
  • The screen. As good as the old one, but the touch sensitivity sometimes seems to be a little off around the edges. Maybe it’s my imagination though.
  • The new contact list features. Much improved use of the contact list.


About the battery life: an interesting tidbit is that when I upgraded the old iPhone to one of the 2.0 beta firmware (I’m on the developer program) about 6 weeks ago, battery life suddenly went to hell when using WiFi, and it may be my imagination but the phone ran hotter too (which the 3G does as well). It very well may be that the battery problems are related to power-management issues with the 2.0 firmware, rather than hardware related, and that they may be fixed in a future update. Here’s hoping!

Now, if we only we could get copy/paste…

defender of the favicon

Defender of the Favicon. Defend away at a glorious 16×16 resolution!

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