Got Telescope? Binoculars?

Last night I noticed some bright planet-like things in the western sky, so I dragged the old Dobsonian telescope out of the basement for the first time in years.  The objects turned out to be Jupiter and Venus.  I’m clueless at taking photos through my telescope, but I found some examples by the talented jpstanley to give you an idea of what you can see through a normal amateur telescope:

Jupiter and its satellites
Jupiter and its satellites (photo by jpstanley)
Venus
Venus (photo by jpstanley)

Even a good pair of binoculars will show you Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings, and if you catch a half-moon (when the shadows are longest), it’s one of the most rewarding sites in the night sky:

Moon
Moon (photo by jpstanley)

The next time you see a half-moon, grab your binoculars, you’ll be amazed at the detail you can see.

More info:

Another fine feature from my fine team-mates.

The WordPress.com Blog

Once in a while, it’s important to stop, catch your breath, and look at your accomplishments before you move on to the next thing — to put a stake in the ground that says, “I made it this far!”

Today, we’re rolling out a couple of notifications to help you celebrate your blog activity milestones. From now on, whenever you hit a milestone for how many followers your blog has (5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and beyond), you’ll get a badge:

We also created badges to celebrate when you receive lots of likes from visitors:

In addition to celebrating your achievements, we wanted to notify you when you’ve had a particularly good day for receiving likes or new followers. From now on, we’ll let you know of your best days for such activity:

Keep in mind that we’ve only started counting your best days this March.

We all blog for different…

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My favorite feature in WordPress.com stats.

The WordPress.com Blog

If you’ve ever wondered where on Earth all the visitors to your site are coming from, this feature is for you!

Mosey on over to your My Stats tab on the WordPress.com homepage:

…and check out the brand new “Views by Country” panel.
Now, you can see at a glance exactly which countries comprise your audience:

When you click on or hover over a country name, the map zooms in so you can really get a feel for all the parts of the planet your content has reached:

The Summaries page shows you country stats for the previous week, month, quarter and all time, but keep in mind this feature is new and views by country are not available prior to March 2012:

We are tremendously excited to be working on new features like this for your WordPress.com My Stats tab.  Stay tuned for the next evolution!

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Apple, you’re cold and I’m leaving you

This is the story of how Apple lost the enthusiasm of one family of formerly fanatical customers.

We’ve owned nine or ten iPhones, a couple of iPads, and a long string of iMacs and Macbooks. Most of these are no longer with us, but the warm glow of that “it just works” feeling is still with us, and that’s what keeps us going back to the Apple store for more. About a month ago, Apple breathed an icy wind into our idyll. One of our iPhone 4’s was bricked by Apple’s iOS 5.0.1 update.

One minute it’s humming along in perfect working order, eagerly anticipating its new iOS version, the next minute it’s a useless brick. Doing Apple’s own iPhone update from within iTunes on a Macbook Pro had bricked the phone. It’s not jailbroken or anything weird like that, just an innocent iPhone 4. I think to myself, “no problem, I’ll take to the friendly geniuses at the local Apple store, they’ll take care of it”. I made an appointment, drove down to the store, and explained to the genius what had happened and that I’d tried the various restore methods found on Apple’s support site.

Enter the icy wind. Not being able to tell a customer from an idiot, the genius tried the same restore methods again and, surprise, they didn’t work. This is where I expected her to say “This is our fault, I don’t know how to fix it, I’ll give you a new one”. Instead, I heard “it’s a month out of warranty, we can only sell you a replacement”. Cost of said replacement: $149.

This would be an extremely generous offer if I’d caused the brickification of the phone. But since it bricked itself during the iOS update process, with help only from Apple’s own servers and software, this offer was an affront. Clearly Apple caused this issue. Asking for some explanation of why Apple wouldn’t own up to the problem, I was told that since they’d replaced so many cracked screens and things in the past for free, they were no longer doing that.

I tried to explain very patiently the difference between a problem I might have caused myself (e.g. cracked the screen) and a problem that Apple caused due to some defect or snafu in their iOS update. The latter is not my problem, it’s Apple’s problem. The fact that Apple used to give away free replacements willy-nilly to people who sat on their phones or left them out in the sun is also not my problem. It’s Apple’s problem. The Apple store employee and I went around and around for ten or fifteen minutes before I left.

That’s where things stand now, with an icy wind where there used to be a warm Apple-shaped glow. If you can’t own up to this, Apple, you’re off my list.

I’m still a fan of Apple computers, and I’ll continue to buy them, though I’ll probably wait longer between upgrades. I’m not eager to give Apple money anymore, the magic spell is lifted, their computers are simply more efficient to use than the alternatives.

In a future post, I’ll write more about how the Apple mobile device ecosystem is like being in an all-inclusive resort, whereas Android is more like a city, with traffic and noise. And choice. A resort is all about the warm glow and the “ahhh” of settling down into a beach chair with a mai-tai.

But after a while you get sick of resort food, and resort muzak, and resort transport, and resort activities, and you’re ready to go back into the world of choice. Having used an Android phone for a while, there are quite a few things to like and amazingly it just works and is more efficient and easier to use than my iPhone. If you’re getting resort ennui from your Apple devices, go out into the world and take a look around. You might be surprised.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys (and their fabulous keepers — trust me, I know them, they’re amazing) prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Automatically sending changed files from BBEdit over SCP

If you use BBEdit on a local copy of code that you want to send to a remote server upon saving, here’s one way to do that:

  1. Create a file bbedit_docsave.scpt somewhere with the following contents:
    on documentDidSave(doc)
    set p to file of doc
    do shell script  "/Users/you/bin/copy2remote.sh '" & p & "'"
    end documentDidSave
    

    and compile it with this command:

    osacompile -o Document.documentDidSave.scpt bbedit_docsave.scpt

  2. Create the directory ~/Library/Application Support/BBEdit/Attachment Scripts if it doesn’t exist.
  3. Move the compiled file Document.documentDidSave.scpt to the Attachment Scripts directory you just created (or that already existed).
  4. In /Users/you/bin (or somewhere else, but remember to adjust the path in the .scpt file above), create (and chmod 755) a file called copy2remote.sh with the following contents. Note the check for */projectname/* in the path. This is important, because BBEdit will trigger the script for all files you’ll ever edit, and you don’t want to copy all files to your remote server. Pick any marker in the file’s path that indicates it’s part of a project that you want to send to your remote server:
    # Change colons to slashes in path:
    p=`echo $1 | tr ":" "/"`
    # Check whether this is a file you want to copy
    if [[ $p == */projectname/* ]]; then
         # tweak this to match your path and server
         cmd=`echo "$p" | sed 's;^.*/projectname/\(.*\)$;scp /Users/you/devhome/projectname/\1 you@server\:~/you/projectname/\1;'`
         $cmd
    fi
    

That’s it.  This will require tweaking to match your situation.  Works in BBEdit 10.x, I haven’t tested with others version.

Why I love Softpro Books in Denver

I want to give a copy of Revolution in the Valley as a gift to a bright young programmer and Apple fan that I meet with a couple of times a month.  I love reading stories about the chaotic founding days of world-changing companies or products, and I think he would too.  But it turns out the book is out of print.  Softpro Books to the rescue:

Found a copy at O’Reilly’s offices in Sebastopol. I should have it in a few days for you.

Wow.  You just don’t get that kind of service anywhere but a local retailer.  Softpro is one of the last remaining retail computer bookstores in the country, and it’s a gem.