i can’t stop hacking my system

It is a real drag getting around the China Firewall. Well, not really if I bothered to take my internet privacy as seriously as I do mucking around with my PowerBook. The firewall has been getting more stroppy lately, or maybe its’ my enhanced internet suctioning. So I spent the evening installing some back-end software that I hoped would make the appearance of a firewall something of a non-sequitur. Once it was all mostly running, I started thinking about what other condiments I have added to my system, and it turned into quite a list.

The three applications I use everyday and in heavy conjunction are Safari, Mail, and iCal, and all of them are fairly tweaked. Safari uses Saft primarily for url shortcuts, and some other gui hackery, followed by PithHelmet for hardarse piss-off ad-blocking and page-view modification. Yes I read your code too, and it looks pretty colours with SafariSource. The final and very heavily-used add-on is LiveDictionary, for all my Chinese-English translating. I also like rewriting plists, so LiveDictionary now also works in TextEdit, Mail, and ecto blogging utopia.

Mail I left alone until I destroyed it in January. Then I added Mail-Tags and Mail Act-On. I’ve given up on organising stuff via specific folders, and just dump everything into folder by month then use lots of smart folders and Mail-Tags to find stuff, and it looks like a candy-store now, mmm so pretty… Mail talks to iCal (keeping the correct time in every city with iCalTimeZoneFixer) with Event Maker, a very simple gui for some AppleScripts that shunts stuff across without having to screw around filling out every field. And they all talk with my Sony-Ericsson K750c (full of Chinese-input goodness) thanks to BluePhone Elite.

Staying with my phone, shortly after I got it, I discovered I could foo with some stuff and my very old PowerBook would run Front Row and my phone would become the remote control. I’d use it more if I didn’t have Sex & Fury stuck in my DVD drive…

Beyond the really quite beautiful gui of OSX (besides ‘brushed metal’ that kinda sounds like Zoolander’s ‘blue steel’ and looks very like a fat robot has dumped on the screen) is the joy of command-line. Yay for Terminal, yay for uptime – the first command I learnt and still use. My hard drive I fear is getting old, and there are no good SMART tools around except for smartmontools, that MacOSXHints has been on about over the last few days.

The other recent addition to /usr/local/bin/ is TOR, and that takes me back to the firewall. I’ve tried a lot of circumvention methods recently, and in the past when I would try out any and every network exploitation/anonymisation/encryption thing I’d come across. Most of them are either crap or don’t work. The category of ‘crap’ includes everything that in any way is noticeable in a deleterious form on normal network usage. This includes the most common two circumventors, anonymouse and stupid censorship. I’m still not sure about TOR yet, it works but is slow. Like dial-up.

Besides all that, I also have WeatherDock tell me it is sunny in Guangzhou (it is rainy and nighttime), MenuMeters telling me I’m pulling down 50k/s of traffic (I’m not), ecto is writing this (I’m in bed asleep), NetNewsWire takes care of 223 feeds, added privacy from Little Snitch, I’ve disabled Exposé and Dashboard (both are unnecessary if you’re handy with the keyboard and using existing OSX software and some plugins).

apple motion

I finally laid my grubby little hands on Apple’s truly magnificent new video software Motion. It’s like all the good bits of Photoshop and Final Cut Pro combined with Flash (minus the crappy stuff like ego-destroying ActionScript black-holes), and so hideously easy to use it’s going to put alot of designers out of a job.

Through some glorious assaulting of software, I managed to make it run on my ancient (3 year old) G4 Powerbook. 1/3 as much required RAM, nowhere near the required video card, a processor nearly four times too slow as needed, and many hours spent creating symbolic links to run the whole thing off my external HD because my internal is a pissy 20gig, and zowie!!! It lives! (OK, it lives like a robber’s dog compared to running it on a G5, but am I complaining?). Motion! Fully sick!

firefox – i’ll make it easy for you

Every so often, I check the statistics for my site, who’s reading what, where they come from, and also what platform and browser they use. (Why so many searches for Miss Tiffany?) As an avid mac user, I always want to see the percentage of visitors using a mac be more than they are, though at 20% overall, that’s ok. But come on!!! everyone, using Internet Explorer?!?!? on a PC?!?!? what are you trying to do? make sure everyone in the world who uses a windows box is infected with viruses and trojans?

Knowing that most of you aren’t going to go out and by a G5 or PowerBook and then use Safari, here is what I’d like you to do: ditch Internet Explorer. Get Firefox. You wouldn’t trust your credit card with a two-bit hood holding a rap-sheet for multiple fraud, so why are you still using Explorer? Take 1/2 an hour off whatever you’re doing right now and read the news, or just read what Washington Post has to say. Then start using Firefox. And remember, switching is easy, and it’s free!

Firefox displays an elegant simplicity within and without. Its toolbar presents only the basic browsing commands: back, forward, reload, stop, home. Its Options screen consists of five simple categories of settings — most of which don’t need adjusting, since the defaults actually make sense.

One in particular should delight many long-suffering Web users: Firefox blocks pop-up ads automatically.

But Firefox’s security goes deeper than that. It doesn’t support Microsoft’s dangerous ActiveX software, which gives a Web site the run of your computer. It omits IE’s extensive hooks into the rest of Windows, which can turn a mishap into a systemwide meltdown.

Firefox resists “phishing” scams, in which con artists lure users into entering personal info on fake Web pages, by making it easier to tell good sites from bad. When you land on an encrypted page — almost no phishing sites provide this protection — Firefox advertises that status by highlighting the address bar in yellow. It also lists that page’s domain name on the status bar; if that doesn’t match what you see in the address bar, you’re probably on a phishing site.

To keep Firefox current with any security fixes, the browser is designed to check for updates automatically.

A “Find” bar at the bottom of Firefox’s window lets you search for words on a page without blocking your view of the page itself; as you type a query, the first matching item is highlighted in green. “Find Next” and “Find Previous” buttons jump to other matches, and a “Highlight” button paints all of them in yellow.

For searches across the entire Web, a box at the top right provides a shortcut to Google queries, and a menu lists five other sites, including Yahoo, Amazon and eBay. Downloadable plug-ins offer access to such resources as the Internet Movie Database.

What if that Google search yields four interesting sites? Hold down the Control key as you click each link, and they will open behind separate tabs in your existing window. This tabbed browsing — a feature shared with almost all non-IE browsers — is far more efficient and far less cluttered than the old one-page-per-window approach.

Busy readers can also use Firefox’s built-in RSS (Really Simple Syndication) newsreader to fetch updates from Web sites that publish their content using this standard. This “Live Bookmarks” feature lacks the flexibility of a stand-alone newsreader, but it’s also simpler.


Switching from IE to Firefox is nearly painless. Download a 4.7-megabyte installer, run it, and let it import your existing IE data. Your plug-ins, bookmarks, browsing history and even cookies should transfer over (IE’s home page and any saved passwords should be imported, but were not in my tests); you can then pick up in Firefox exactly where you left off in IE.

I think anybody using Internet Explorer should switch to Firefox today. Seriously. Even if you’ve loaded every IE security update, Firefox will give you a faster, more useful view of the Web. If you haven’t — or if you use a pre-XP version of Windows ineligible for Service Pack 2’s security fixes — it would be lunacy to stick with IE.

tac compression

From RSG and Beige who bought the world the endless joy of carnivore comes the world’s newest and best compression utility, only for OSX and still in beta. TAC – Total A##hole Compression

TAC* is the best compression format available for the web today! By using revolutionary scientific methods, research teams at RSG and the Beige Programming ensemble were able to a compose a complex software tool that expels many of the myths that surround modern file compression techniques. The secret of TAC compression is not that it makes files smaller, but that it makes files bigger, much bigger.** This provides the end user with a compression tool to meet almost any need in today’s bandwidth and gig overloaded computing world.

* Total A##hole Compression

** Tests have shown TAC to increase file size of a compressed file by at least 14 times the uncompressed size.

iTunes loves China

Apple has done a deal with Founder one of the largest suppliers of PCs in China to have their computers come with iTunes pre-installed from next month.

“Digital music is becoming very important in the Chinese PC market, and Apple’s iTunes is the runaway market leader,” said Wei Xin, chairman of Founder Group and Founder Technology. “As the first Chinese company to bundle this innovative software with our PCs, we are excited to provide our customers with the world’s best digital music experience.”

“Around the world, iTunes has revolutionized the way people manage and listen to their digital music,” said Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Marketing. “We are teaming up with Founder to deliver an easy-to-use, seamless music experience to millions of Chinese customers.”

Apple computers are a tiny percentage of the market in China, but are also well-recognised, and this agreement will give Apple and its iPod and iTunes Music Store a huge head-start over the competition into the massive digital music market in China.

Carnivore beta for OSX

rhizome.org have released the carnivorePE for apple OSX.

CarnivorePE is inspired by DCS1000, a piece of software used by the FBI to perform electronic wiretaps. (Until recently, DCS1000 was known by its nickname “Carnivore.”) Improving on the FBI software, CarnivorePE features new functionality including: artist-made diagnosic clients, remote access, full subject targetting, full data targetting, volume buffering, transport protocol filtering, and an open source software license. Carnivore is created by RSG.

Carnivore has been exhibited at New York Digital Salon, University of Michigan Gallery, DEAF, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica Center, Electrohype, Art Futura, Darklight Digital Film Festival, The Watson Institute, NTT InterCommunication Center, White Columns, New Museum, Kontrollfelder, Illinois State University Galleries, Transmediale, and the Princeton Art Museum. Carnivore was a Golden Nica winner in the 2002 Prix Ars Electronica.


I thought that like when I was doing XML for Flash, I could just write the Chinese characters in a text-editor, copy-paste into a new entry and everything would be fine. Nope.

So I checked out a bunch of blogs with both Chinese and english, and saw all the stuff that looked like “19981;”, and then spent a whole day working out what it was (unicode) what that format – decimal unicode – was called: H4, and how it differed from hex unicode.

Anyway, after writing in Chinese, finding the unicode number, doing it all by hand, I found UnicodeChecker. It’s like finding you don’t have to spend 2 hours travelling to work every day because there’s a tunnel in your room that takes you all the way there in an instant. Just type it in in Chinese – or any other language, click a button and it’s all converted. Then just copy + paste.

UnicodeChecker, my hero.