More delicious2safari

It seems there is a problem with the API (which is used by delicious2safari) that will bring down the database when a user with several thousand bookmarks tries to download them through the API calls. Joshua has therefore disabled the affected API call for now.

Unfortunately, this also means delicious2safari won’t be working for now. While the API troubles are being sorted out, I’ll be working on a new version of delicious2safari to reduce the load for the server even more. To be notified, when that update becomes available, please subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for your patience.


delicious2safari icon

I’ve written a small application to import bookmarks into Safari. It is particularly useful if you’re using Quicksilver: Once those bookmarks are in Safari, Quicksilver will index them and they become available in Quicksilver just like regular Safari bookmarks!

Here’s a screenshot, the download can be found on the software page.

A big thanks to everyone who answered my Cocoa questions and provided feedback on earlier versions 🙂

Switcher FAQ No. 1: Where’s $KEY on that Keyboard?

I think every single person I’ve talked to after they switched to the Mac platform has asked this question. It’s particularly difficult for people with German keyboards since all the characters Unix people and programmers usually need such as tilde, backslash, braces, and brackets are not printed on the keyboard and only accessible using Option or Option-Shift. But fortunately, Mac OS X comes with a little tool to help you figure out where all those keys are:
Keyboard Viewer.

It can be enabled in System Preferences / International / Input Menu. This will automatically place the Input Menu (that’s the little menu with the flag icon) into your menu bar, containing an entry for Keyboard Viewer. In Keyboard Viewer, just press any of the modifier keys (Shift, Option, Option-Shift) to see the key mappings.

If that was too fast, here’s a little movie to show you how it’s done.

Ubuntu Linux – Very First Impressions

Today, the first public preview release of Ubuntu Linux was announced: “Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds a focused selection of packages, regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should “Just Work”, TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release.”. And all of this while being free as in freedom, and free as in beer. Sounds too good to be true? Well, I took it for a test drive on my iBook G3. Here are my purely subjective and totaly incomplete first impressions …

Getting It

The current preview comes as a single ISO image, available for i386, ppc and amd64 architectures (a Live CD is apparently in the works). It can either be downloaded from one of the mirrors or by BitTorrent. Burning the image to CD on Mac OS X poses a problem since, for some unknown reason, Disk Utility crashes when trying to open or burn the image. The image itself is perfectly fine, mounting it in the Finder or burning it using cdrecord works. After overcoming those little hassles, it’s off to the installation …

The Installation

Before the installation, the iBook had two partitions, both of which contained a Mac OS X installation. I decided I would delete one of them to make room for Ubuntu, and keep the other to see how it works with a dual boot setup. After booting from the CD, the installer asked very few questions (language, time zone etc.), and attempted to detect hardware. My ethernet and AirPort cards were detected correctly, but setting up the ethernet card to use DHCP failed (for some reason the installer came to the conclusion that I was “not connected to to a network”). Since I was installing from CD anyway, I just told it to configure it later and continued the installation. If you want to get an impression of a typical installation, take a look at the installation howto.

For partitioning, it gave me the option to either erase the whole disk, or partition manually. I chose the latter, deleted one of my two HFS+ partitions, and created an ext3 partition for the root filesystem, a swap partition, and a new world bootloader partition instead. This was about all it asked of me during installation (well, I think I remember being asked to create a user account as well, but no root account: by default, root access is granted only using sudo). From then on it continued automatically — no package selection phase, X configuration (the first release in October will still use XFree86, the subsequent ones are supposed to include, or anything else one has come to expect from a Linux installation. So, after the usual reboot and package installation, I was pleasently surprised to be dumped directly onto a very sleek looking login screen 🙂

First Impressions

Go look for yourself. Antialiased fonts, Firefox as the default browser, and an interesting menu setup. And (most of) it just works: The iBook-specific buttons (volume, brightness, eject) function as expected, sound, plugging in an USB mouse with 3 buttons and scroll wheel, and of course the X configuration without any … configuration 😉

I ran into some trouble getting nameservers by DHCP, apparently the dhclient-script that comes with the PPC version of the preview release is broken. Replacing it with the script from the i386 version fixed the problem. Also, the Network Admin utility crashed occassionally, complaining that it could not run as root when trying to (de-)activate network interfaces, even though I typed in my password earlier. But I managed to configure my network interfaces anyway.

On my “not instantly working” list so far: Power management, emulating right and middle mouse button with a single-button mouse/trackpad, playing audio cds. I’ll look into that when I have more time …

Package Management and Components

Ubuntu uses Synaptic as a user-friendly front-end to apt. Installable software is divided into three components: main (free software packages maintained by Ubuntu developers), restricted (commonly used non-free software, maintained to the extent permitted by the license), and universe (almost every open source and less open software, but without guaranteed security fixes and support). After activating the pre-defined repositories for these components, a huge collection of packages is available for installation.


Though certainly not for newbies yet, it’s great preview release. Go out and test it, and file bugs, so the first release of Ubuntu Linux in October can be close to perfect. Specifically regarding a Mac, it was the easiest installation I have experienced so far. And the features planned for future releases look just too good to be true 🙂

There are some things …

The ladder is stuck in the window.

… that are better not forgotten on a roof. Ladders, for example 😉

For the past weeks, the roof of a neighboring house was being repaired. Today they finally seemed to be finished and removed the scaffolding. When the scaffolding was gone, I noticed two wooden ladders still on the roof, and
started to wonder whether they remained there on purpose, and how the roofers were planning to get them off the roof. Although there is a small window to get out onto the roof (which is probably wide enough for the ladders to fit through), there is definitely not enough
space under the roof to actually get the ladders inside. It seemed like they’d have to get a rope and let the ladders
down the side of the house. And that’s exactly what happened

Useful Unix Commands: fmt

For a while, I’ve been keeping a file of useful Unix commands and interesting usage examples. I’ll post some of those here from time to time.

I’ll start with a nice little utility
that reformats text to a given line width: fmt. The basic syntax is
quite simple: fmt -80 myfile.txt formats the text
contained in myfile.txt to a maximum line width of 80 characters and outputs
it on standard out (like most Unix commands, fmt will take its
input from standard input if you omit file name).

fmt inserts line breaks as necessary (any whitespace character is a valid insertion point), and also removes unncessary line breaks. Line breaks
that mark the end of a paragraph will be preserved (the end of a paragraph is defined as a line break immediately followed by another, or a line break on an empty line).

Additional command-line options apply uniform spacing (-u for the GNU version, -s for the BSD version), format mail header lines
sensibly (-m BSD only), and specifiy a goal length the output
lines should get as close as possible to, while not exceeding the specified maximum line width (fmt ..., BSD only). Another nifty use of fmt in the BSD version is to center
lines of text. For this, only the -c option has to be specified
(and the input file(s) if the input is not read from standard input).

Of course there are much more powerful text processing utilites available on
any given Unix system, but often simple utilities like fmt are
completely sufficient and much easier to learn 😉


No User-Serviceable Parts Inside?

iMac G5 inside
Courtesy of Apple

Apparently not with the new iMac G5:
Two new Apple Knowledge Base documents indicate users can replace almost all parts themselves (including the LCD and the mainboard), and detect the cause
of hardware failures using diagnostic LEDs. (AppleInsider)

In case you’re still in the earlier stages of getting familiar with your new
iMac, Apple also provides you with instructions on how to pick it up 😉 (DasGenie: !Scrap)