fatal exception

a blog about sundry things

Archive for February 2010

Nifty Website Roundup of the Week

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Maybe I’ll try to make this a Thursday habit. After all, my Thursdays could stand to be more interesting.

Toasty Tech’s GUI Gallery
Nathan Lineback’s comprehensive collection of GUI screenshots. There are the usual suspects, like Windows and Mac OS X, but there are some rarer operating systems like RISC OS and VisiOn, which were neat to look at.

GUIdebook
Marcin Wichary does something similar, although he hasn’t updated his website in about four years.

Brand New
Love this blog, because I’m kind of a design/branding geek.

Written by Finn

February 26, 2010 at 2:57 am

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Status symbols

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I had a commenter drop by recently, who’d followed me from the Brand New blog. We’re currently having something of a debate over my “Intellectual Property and Theft” post–I am arguing that many high-price items are that way both because of quality and social engineering, and he is arguing that all high-priced items are automatically higher quality, and all lower-priced ones are automatically higher quality. I don’t believe this is true, because I have seen expensive items that are made poorly, and cheaper ones that are made fairly well.

For example, Microsoft Windows in its more functional versions costs quite a bit of money out of the box, and I find it unintuitive, annoying and vulnerable to attacks. Quite a few Linux distributions are free, and they do not come with Windows’ security vulnerabilities, and many of its applications are comparable to commercial ones. I can’t say that GIMP or Open Office are, but VLC, AbiWord, Empathy, Pidgin and other applications perform quite capably. Inkscape is also quite good, and has comparable features to Adobe Illustrator. Ubuntu has grown increasingly friendlier to users over the past several years. Mac OS X is similar; a full version of OS X bought from Apple costs somewhat less than what Microsoft wants for some of its distributions of Windows, and OS X is a better operating system, with better included applications and a more efficient workflow. (Ron claimed that Windows was worse and was therefore less expensive–this is untrue. Apple charges a flat rate for a full-featured end-user operating system; Microsoft charges varying rates for several crippled versions of Windows, along with the full-featured “Ultimate” edition.)

I also disagree with his opposition to free and open source software. I think that F/OSS has a lot of potential–it’s just that people from disciplines other than programming need to get on board with it to lend their perspectives. The reason why the GIMP isn’t ideal for graphic designers is not that it’s free; it’s that the majority of the people working on it are programmers, rather than graphic artists who would have more of a user’s perspective on its design. I’d gladly use the GIMP if more graphics people got on board and made contributions to it to make it a worthy free competitor to Photoshop.

Written by Finn

February 25, 2010 at 12:13 am

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I am now free of the PC, and picked up a sort-of late-model iBook G4. It’s definitely not the newest Mac portable, but it fits its purpose, and runs applications more smoothly than any other computer that I’ve had, with the possible exception of my old XP desktop.

Written by Finn

February 23, 2010 at 9:52 pm

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Put this computer up for sale on Craigslist. No buyers yet, but I just tried a different way of writing the ad. It’s a good computer, but I really don’t like PCs/Windows at all, so there’s really little point in my keeping it when I can sell it and use that money to buy something I’ll actually enjoy using on a daily basis. I hate Windows. I find Linux not quite what I need, so I’m just going to get something that DOES work for me, once I have this thing sold. Kind of worried that there isn’t going to be enough demand, but I’m pretty sure that if I keep trying, someone will go for it. It’s not like it’s in bad condition or anything; everything runs well.

Written by Finn

February 18, 2010 at 2:08 am

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Fun Geeky Link Time

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Symphony of Science is fantastically wonderful and geeky. You really MUST MUST MUST see it, NOW. I mean, electronic music! With Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough and Jane Goodall and Michio Kaku and Bill Nye and … yeah. LOOK AT IT.

Written by Finn

February 12, 2010 at 7:58 am

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New New Wave, I warmly welcome you.

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You know, there’s something about Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” that’s strangely compelling. In fact, there’s something about Lady Gaga herself that’s compelling, as well as other artists who can be loosely categorised under the “wonky pop” genre. 2009 was the first year in quite some time that I’ve felt even remotely moved to pay the slightest bit of attention to what’s being played on mainstream radio, and there is a reason why. Inventive, creative artists who are willing to take risks seem to be coming back into the public eye, as opposed to the prefab bubblegum Britneyesque singers who were popular at the beginning of this past decade, or the subsequent invasion of the loathsome pop-rap bands that proliferated later on. (Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, I’m looking STRAIGHT AT YOU. And what the fuck kind of name is Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, anyway?) There’s more playing with the pop formula than there was before, and it’s quite reminiscent of what people were doing back in the 80s. It’s ebullient. Effervescent. It’s the sort of music that actually makes a space for itself; it’s not merely auditory wallpaper or ephemeral ringtone- and dancefloor-ready beats that will be forgotten within a week. You can practically fucking see the sparkles and multicoloured lights when you hear this stuff. (But then again, that might just be me; I’ve got synaesthesia.) Energy and verve seem to be suffused throughout the music, with heart and soul pouring out from the synthesiser keys.

And people say that you can’t be expressive with synths. Balderdash, I say.

It’s not just about the music, either: their appearances are just as challenging as the music, or even more so. Let’s take Lady Gaga for example. She expresses a femininity that feels more like drag, rather than classic femininity. She’s a woman who’s using femaleness as an in-your-face, stereotype-defying performance, with her over-the-top costumes and geometric hairstyles. Her appearance is challenging enough to mainstream femininity to cause people to question whether she was born female in the first place. (I find the transphobia inherent in such speculations disturbing, but I do think that it does point out exactly how much she does twist gender boundaries.) Elly Jackson of La Roux does something a bit similar, although for her, it’s a revamped version of Eighties androgyny, a la Annie Lennox. It’s clever, but it isn’t quite as striking as Gaga’s twisting of femininity for her own ends. To me, that’s clever and interesting, unlike Britney clones with perfect hair and precisely matching costumes and the same banal lyrics about cute boys and not-so-messy breakups.

In short, it’s fucking awesome. New New Wave, I warmly welcome you and hope that you provide me with earcandy for the next ten years, or until I grow tired of it.

Written by Finn

February 12, 2010 at 7:36 am

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Windon’ts

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I bought a fairly cheap PC laptop last month to replace my ailing iBook, and I’m really starting to regret it. I bought it in a pinch for me to have something that worked until I was able to afford a better Mac, but I find that Windows is too obnoxious for me to want to work with it seriously on a daily basis, besides surfing the Internet and typing the occasional thing up. Part of this is because I’m used to working with Macs in my own time, but that’s not the only reason, as I’ve used public XP terminals frequently. I just really hate Windows’ UI, and no amount of customisation will fix it to the level that I find comfortable. Windows 7 is just as annoying as every other version of Windows I’ve used. They may have made it look prettier, but it’s still the same Windows underneath. I find applications and settings more accessible on the Mac, and OS X doesn’t give me 50 annoying warnings whenever I want to install or run an application. User Account Control is really fucking irritating, especially for someone who isn’t an absolute beginner with computers. The only reason I keep it switched on is that I want to minimise the likelihood of having drive-by downloads install themselves. I also dislike Windows’ onscreen typography, but bad type on its own isn’t a deal breaker. I think the only good thing about Windows is MS Paint. It’s really hard to use Windows when you know better. (I don’t mean this as an indictment on Windows fans; if Windows works best for you, that’s fine. I feel that Windows works against me, rather than with me, which is why I hate that operating system.)

Which is why I’m selling it once I’m able to, and have more money, so I can buy another Mac. I kind of have a problem “settling” for things, especially when I plan on using them often. Before you ask, I have indeed tried Linux, and it exists as a dual boot on this machine. I like Ubuntu, but it’s not natively compatible with my favourite applications, so I can’t use it beyond basic word processing and web surfing.

Written by Finn

February 8, 2010 at 3:55 am

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