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December 2003
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February 2004

Daydreaming about Graphviz

A message about UML on the Cocoa-Dev mailing list led me to discover Pixelglow's port of Graphviz for Mac OS X. It's a very Mac-like version of AT&T's automated graphing software. There looks to be a lot of power in the app, but in a nutshell you define the graph using a simple syntax and then Graphviz creates a high-quality rendering for you. Here's a meager example where I describe a little bit about my dog, Scooter.

digraph G {
size = "8,8";
Dog -> Scooter [label="kind"];
Scooter -> Doxie;
Scooter -> Cute;
Cute -> Dog;
Scooter -> Barks [label = "ability"]

This results in a chart:

So, while fun, what might I do with this? There are lots of layout options and chart types, some of which might lend themselves to incorporating data from my home automation system. Or, a more natural tie-in might be with Tinderbox. While Tinderbox has plenty of interesting graphical views built-in, tapping into its export feature to create Graphviz charts (which are of higher resolution and easier to tweak) might be quite powerful. Anyone care to take this ball and run with it?

AvantGo Answers Their Own Question

I used to use, and really enjoy, AvantGo on my Palm. I haven't used it in a very long time because AvantGo hasn't released a conduit that works on Mac OS X. (They claim they can't build an installer, of all things.)

Today, they finally noticed that I haven't accessed their service for a long time, and they invited me to answer a survey about why I've forsaken them. I don't know why they're bothering to ask, they already know. (emphasis added)

At AvantGo we are always looking for ways to improve our customers' experience. We have created a brief survey to learn what we can do to improve our service offerings. We will strive to incorporate your feedback into service enhancements that might just bring you back as an active user of AvantGo. [...]

Please click here to provide your feedback.

We are currently interested in PC users only.


Well, you asked

My friend Steve sent this little snippet to me. I don't care about its veracity, I just find it amusing:

One day a first grade teacher was reading the story of Chicken Little to her class. She came to the part of the story where Chicken Little tried to warn the farmer. She read, ".... and so Chicken Little went up to the farmer and said, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" The teacher paused then asked the class, "And what do you think that farmer said?" One little girl raised her hand and said, "I think he said: 'Holy Shit! A talking chicken!'"

Don't Hate Me Because I Use A Macintosh

The other day my automobile was vandalized. Somebody either ineptly tried to steal, or purposefully destroyed, the frame around my front license plate. Luckily, the rest of the vehicle is fine, so I can only conclude that it was something about the frame itself that motivated them.

It's black plastic and says "Apple Computer, Inc." across the top; "Think Different" across the bottom. The bottom part is completely broken off. A photo is below, only the very top edge and right side remain. When I first spotted it I wanted to convince myself that it was an accident -- the frame got caught on a bush or whacked by the car wash machine.

But, alas, no. The bottom of the frame was secured to the car and plate using single-use wirewraps. If the frame was snagged accidentally, not only would I almost certainly have heard it break, but there would be remnant pieces and stress on the plate itself. No, I'm the victim of a Mac-ist hate crime. B*stards.


Grab It While You've Got It

Curt's Capturing your idea-gems lead me to several good articles about snippet-keeping. Here's how I tackle this challenge...

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I use Tinderbox to gather, record, and mine my ideas longer-term. As this article from Innovation Tools points out, if you use an analog method of capturing notes, eventually you'll want to move them into your computer. For me, that mostly means Tinderbox.

I say "mostly" because I've also been experimenting with a public store of conjuring-related thoughts and ideas, using the very software you're soaking in now -- TypePad. My other site is working out OK for me, but I haven't been doing it long enough to have any conclusions or cogent thoughts about this approach. I'll write more about that when it starts to gel.

But we still live in an analog world, so for those "fleeting thoughts" that I just have to capture when away from my computer, a "pocket briefcase" of index cards is indispensable. I use one of unknown manufacture, but it's similar to these from Levenger.

Joy for Word Nerds

My subscription to the Atlantic Monthly ends soon, and I'm going to let it lapse because I don't have enough free time to truly enjoy it, but I'll definitely miss the back page column The Court Record. If you're into word usage, origins, or word play then you should check out the archives.

This month, you'll learn that the phrase "robins' egg blue" is distinctly American because only American Robins lay blue-colored eggs. In Europe, there's a completely different species of red-chested bird which lays brown eggs. Why the difference? American settlers mistook the red-chested bird in the new land to be the same as the one back home, and stuck it with the same name.