Monday, 12 June 2006


You know, I really am quite prolix.


Except in that last entry, of course.

Sunday, 11 June 2006


Wow. I've just been called a Mac fanboy (or near enough) over on the Apple support forums. Despite the fact that I bemoan Apple as much as extol them. Why are people so rude and downright nasty on forums? A question on University Challenge recently revealed that given a certain number of users and a certain amount of time, the chances of someone calling somebody else a Nazi on any given public forum on the internet soon rises to 100%. Someone elsewhere pointed out that because they can't be seen, many people forget basic manners when using the internet. No one has a chance to say, "Say that to my face." What sad, little people they must be, if the only thing they can do to make themselves feel better about their lives is to insult strangers whilst hidden behind a mask of anonymity.

The brand new yellow MacBook

Well, this is annoying. Lots of people have complained about issues with the new MacBooks - "mooing" coming from the fan, whining, overheating, crashing, warping; you name it. Of course, much of this seems disproportionate: if you hang out at a support site, you are only going to hear from people with problems, not satisfied customers. All the same, I have not had a single problem with my white MacBook (touch wood) - sure, it runs hotter than I'd like, and I'm going to get one of those lap cooler thingimajigs so that, should we want more children, the option will not have been cooked away, but other than that this thing is lovely.

Except... After two weeks of heavy-ish use, I noticed that the trackpad and palm-rests (especially the right one, because my right-hand does all the trackpad work) had started to turn a horrible yellowish colour:

It looks like I've been smoking 60 a day and breathing heavily on the surface of my MacBook for two years. Not pretty. It's also very surprising, given that I have owned an iBook for two years and it never suffered from anything like this - it's a bit scuffed, but there is no discolouration anywhere. And it seems that other's are having the same issues after a few weeks' use, too:

(I hope that last one doesn't disappear - I've noticed that the Apple mods are quite trigger happy when it comes to deleting posts.)

I wonder if this is why Apple charge extra for the black MacBook? Someone somewhere noted that Apple only care about how lovely their products look in the store; they don't care how they look a few days later, because cosmetic issues aren't covered under AppleCare. Well, I hope whoever said that is wrong, but judging by the bad press that Apple is receiving recently for this sort of thing, it seems not.

Personally, I can live with it. My MacBook is just a machine, after all, and so long as it works well, I'm happy. I couldn't afford to wait for another revision, because I need an Intel machine now so that I can make sure Scrivener is Intel-ready, but I do hope that Apple fix this issue for the next batch of MacBooks - if you are thinking of buying one and don't want to pay the "black tax", you might want to wait.

What you don't see on those Apple ads:

"Hi, I'm a Mac."
"And I'm a PC. Is that jaundice or are those just liver spots?"

I do wonder: why is there a continued discrepancy between the brilliance of the Apple software engineers and the rest of the company?

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Pedanticism gone mad

From today's Guardian:

Dan Chiasson... he has a lot about which to be smug

Friday, 2 June 2006

Scrivener icons (and distractions)

Half-term is pretty much over. As soon as it gets to 3.15pm on a Friday, that's the holiday over. Ho-hum. I spent most of this week designing the icons and graphics for Scrivener. I spent the first day or two just surfing the web trying to find good PhotoShop tutorials. I came across this:

I was always into drawing cartoons as a kid, and I still enjoy sketching occasionally, though ultimately I don't have the patience to produce anything particularly good. These tutorials are fantastic, though, especially if you want to draw the female form in a comic-book style. So needless to say, they distracted me from my real purpose - icon design - for a good few hours. They just give a good overview of getting the proportions right. For instance, when I sketch a face freehand, I always have problems getting the size of the eyes to match when drawing the face at an angle. The tutorial on faces ( really helped, though. This is what I came up with:

Anyway. As far as the icons go, I ended up playing around in PhotoShop with layer style settings, gradient fills and the shape tool, and after nearly a week's work, I have finally managed to put together the icon set that I will use for Scrivener 1.0 (a few of the icons are just modified common Apple icons):

The only one I'm not 100% certain about is the binder icon, which doesn't sit at the right angle if you're going by the Apple Human Interface Guidelines (it's sloping backwards when it should be sitting straight, as though sitting on a shelf). I'll probably leave it for now, though - I really have to get onto rebuilding the interface, and I don't want this thing to get stuck in development hell forever.

Mobile phones

Much as I hate them,* mobile phones have reinvigorated a part of our language which was hitherto sadly neglected outside of learning to read and clever literary novels: present tense. Before mobile phones, anybody standing at a bus stop announcing loudly, "I am at the bus-stop," or proclaiming, "I am in a shop," whilst paying for their groceries, would have been taken and locked away. Now, I'm not saying it wouldn't be a good idea to lock away the loud and rude mobile-phone-users who do this on buses and in shops, but that's just the way of the world.

Salinger: "The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth."

*Or used to. Now it's more a grudging tolerance. I even own one - though, much to the annoyance of friends, I refuse to put any numbers into the thing or have it switched on. Ever.

Christmas Tree Farm and toddler talk

You know, when I was younger and greener, a friend of mine had a young child who spent a lot of time with us. We all lived in a big post-student house and her daughter spent a lot of weekends in said house. And I, what with being younger and greener and all that, had a notion that capitalism and ownership must be a learned concept, based on an isolated observation of this girl's daughter giving away without any qualms whatsoever some pine cones she had collected. ("When you have your own children" is a sentence-starter that can be on a par with "When I found God", so I apologise for the next sentence:) When you have your own children, such illusions are soon shattered (I wanted to put in a simile referring to a chimera and Belleraphon here, but my Greek mythology just isn't up to it). The first words most of these little tykes learn is ,"No, mine! Mine, mine, MINE!" Ho-hum.

All the same, watching language develop is fun and interesting in equal measure. I wish toddler social habits could be carried on into the adult world (admittedly, some adults have toddler social habits). It being half-term and all, today we did one of our family trips and visited Christmas Tree Farm in Downe. I was surprised there was so much greenery so close to South London. Anyway, of all the animals on display, Thurston went straight for the chickens, turkeys and ducks. Over and over again. We dragged him around the rest of the farm, to be sure, but that was where his heart was. But you know, as we walked around the farm, it kind of depressed me. The parenting skills on display, I mean, You get into the farm and you can buy, for a mere 50p, a bucket of animal feed. And strewn across this farm were empty buckets. Not just one or two, but dozens. Which adds up to a lot of parents who just do not give a flying donut about their child littering. At this point, I need to calm my blood pressure. But I digress. Blah blah, terrible kids, terrorising animals, blah blah, and then Thurston, after saying, "Sorry chicken" to some chicken he's bumped into with the gate, pours the rest of the animal feed right over the top of a chicken, laughs his lungs out, and then spends the next ten minutes chasing ducks. Toddler fun, parental consternation (which could be a mantra). And after that, we go to a local pub, and in the garden there is a toddler play area, and a little girl playing in the wooden den-house. And this is how Thurston, without further ado, introduces himself to the little girl: "I chased ducks." Now that's an introduction, and no mistake.

I sort of wish, now, that I hadn't spent so much time in my younger days (not that I'm exactly old, but hey, Jesus died when he was my age, and Kurt Kobain, who, let's face it, has had far more impact on my life than Jesus, died when he was six years younger than I am right now) wasting time on deliberating about how to meet people (did I say people? I meant girls). You just march right up and, without further ado (or embarrassment), announce the most important aspect of your day or life. Some possible introductions:

"I ate eggs for breakfast."

"I bought PCGamer."

"I surfed for porn."

"I typed over one thousand meaningless numbers into Excel today. That's more than yesterday. Meaningless, I mean."

Come to think of it, I doubt if it would have helped. But it might be worth a go anyway. At worst, the other person will just think you're talking on your hands-free mobile phone. Feel free to leave your own, should you happen by.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Half-Term: Nearing the end of Kafka on the Shore

Half-term... How come doing nothing for days on end speeds up time? Makes me think of that character in Catch 22 who spends his time trying to be as bored as possible, so as to prolong the hours he has left alive.

Anyhoo. I've spend much of this week redesigning the graphic files for Scrivener. I'm no graphic designer, so the process has been tedious and time-consuming. I've also finished the design document for the redesigned 1.0, so as soon as these graphic files are finished, I'm ready to start stitching together all the code I have back into a better interface. Wish it was finished already - I just want to use the thing and get on with the writing.

In the meantime, I've finally registered a domain name to use to sell Scrivener. I played around with a lot of names, thinking that I needed some professional software company-sounding name like the competition (Blue Technologies, Bartas Technologies, Devon Technologies et al). But everything I came up with had either gone or was just plain awful. So in the end, I went with something that doesn't sound like a software company at all - because I'm not a software company. When I was younger I always said I wanted to own a bookshop-cum-vegetarian-cafe (not with much conviction; it always sounded cool but way too much like hard work). The name of this putative cafe was going to be "Literature and Latte" - the name of this blog. So that is the domain I have chosen for Scrivener:

I think it reflects exactly what I want it to - a place to hang out where literature is the most important thing. Which is what Scrivener should be. The writing should come above the technology...

EDIT: I set up this blog a year ago and only posted to it once. Now that I read that one post back, I realise I said much the same back then as regards the explanation for the name. At least I'm living up to the Marcus Aurelius quote, I guess.

EDIT 2: Huh. And looking at that last post, I realise that I posted it five days before getting hit by a large, red, bendy London bus. Still, the scar gives me something to point to when reading Harry Potter to my class...