Old thinking about 7200rpm drives

Apple upgraded the MacBook Pros this morning. (I had mentioned to several friends that I thought today would be the day FWIW) There are a lot of nice incremental improvements, especially the increased RAM capacity and the return of the FireWire800 port.

But, as is always the case with Apple’s revisions, people are finding something to complain about. The one I noticed first was the complaining about removal of 7200rpm drive options — the only HD choices are 4200 and 5400 rpms. (MacUser deleted a whiny post before I could comment on it)

This is silly and clinging to past paradigms. As drives get bigger, their data density increases. As there is more data per platter, that data can be read faster without moving the disk as far.
Furthermore, the MBP’s SATA interface is SATA-150. Since 4200rpm drives can mechanically transfer better than that, there’s basically no difference between rpms. Seek times look to be comparable with competing 7200rpm drives as well. These drives spin slower, but they are just as fast as the competition. This is pure engineering efficiency.

So let’s see some benchmarks before shedding any tears for the 7200rpm option. That these slower spinning drives use less power is also a positive. I’ve been looking for months to upgrade my MBP to 200GB but have yet to see the drives for sale at any stores I trust.

Back to the MacBook Pro, what does seem weird to me is the RAM configuration. Why 2GB+1Gb, and more importantly, why not 2GB+2GB? What breaks with 4GB? (I’m sure we’ll know soon enough after someone tries it out and posts what happened)

Update: Here’s the answer to the 3gb question, via John Gruber, who still owes me a shirt. Also see Ross Brown’s comment below for what happens when 4gb is installed.

that all your prayers be answered.

I stumbled across this little parable last week and it’s been bouncing around my head ever since:

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first man was hungry and prayed for food.* The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing. Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered. “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”

I like this, but I suspect it exists somewhere in another, more internally consistent form.

My major concern is that praying for someone else’s prayers to come true requires an impossible amount of faith in the other person. Otherwise you could be complicit in bad prayers. Or maybe, faith isn’t meant for the other person, but rather in the divine wisdom that would sort the good and bad prayers. But still, it introduces a sort of logical feedback loop where the worthy may be praying for the fulfillment of prayers to the unworthy. And if so, wouldn’t the worthy person then be challenging the judgement of God?

I haven’t done much specific reading of theological discussions around unexpected consequences of various prayers, but I’d be curious to read another take as to why the first man prayer for a wife is granted through the death of everyone else on his wife’s boat. And of how that prayer is then reflected onto the second man’s prayer.
Anyway, interesting thought experiment.
* This line originally read “The first thing they prayed for was food.” Since the second man is revealed to have only had one prayer, he couldn’t have prayed for food. I changed this for consistency.


A great idea, USBCELL rechargable batteries with integrated USB charger:
USBCELL rechargeable AA batteries.

So far only available in the UK, costing about $24.50 US for two (ouch). Fully charged in about 5 hours. These are NiMH and not the occasionally flammable LiIon flavor.

If I had more stuff that used AA batteries, I’d buy these.

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link: Sep 21, 2006 10:33 am
posted in: misc.

OS X GUI lockup with Command-Tab

Every once in a while, probably twice this month, my GUI locks up after pressing Command-Tab to bring up the Application Switcher. Everything on screen is stuck behind the switcher display, the mouse still works but nothing can be clicked.

Most infuriating is that the guts of the machine are working normally, I can SSH in and run any non-GUI app I want and everything works fine. I’ve tried working up the ladder of apps to kill (via SSH), but nothing I’ve found manages to restore the computer to working order. Except restarting by holding the power button (or the shutdown command via SSH).

Today the screen froze while iTunes was playing, iTunes finished the song it was playing then stopped. No Apple Events work (ie. osacript -e’tell application “Finder” to quit’)

At least two, maybe three other people are having this problem too; Matthew Conway, poster lazydog on MacRumors and Rich Collins (who’s having it much worse and is willing to pay $125 for a fix.)

The machine is in otherwise excellent health. Disks are regularly checked and permissions repaired (FWIW). Nothing unusual seems to be appearing in the logs and there isn’t anything particularly funky running on the machine. Since it’s so irregular, trying to recreate this in a second user account isn’t a realistic option.

This has happened a few times and I’m totally at a loss as to why. That people are seeing it on non-Intel hardware is reassuring that it’s not a hardware failure. Any ideas about how to fix/prevent this are welcomed. If you’re having this problem, please leave a comment.

More from Apple Discussions: Command-Tab freezes system (sporadically)

I deleted the file, here’s hoping that works.

Update: I seem to have a partially failing stick of RAM, which may or may not be related. It passes Apple’s Hardware Test, but the computer won’t boot if that chip is installed by itself, or in the lower slot (where it was before I discovered this?!), it boots and seems to run fine in the top slot. I installed a new chip this morning (Sept 21), no issues so far.

Thoughts on “An Education on Good Education”

Rather than IM the hell out of Marjorie about her latest column, “An Education on Good Education” I thought I’d put my thoughts down here and link it (and digg her too).

This is one of those columns where Marjorie was on fire, there are too many good quotes to pull them all, but here are some of my favorites:

Remember the column I did, back in the Pleistocene era, making fun of parents who obsessed about getting their kids into the 92nd Street Y preschool? This is the column where I eat that column. …

But: I now understand the fear that one’s child won’t get a good education if one doesn’t go to the mat for it.

I would add that your child won’t get a good education relying only on school, which I’m pretty sure Marjorie would agree with.

But when your 4-year-old tells you, The most important thing about school is no matter how hard someone hits you, it’s wrong to hit back, you know she’s going somewhere else for kindergarten.

WTF is our children learning?

Josie is a few months older than Lila, and so she missed the Dept. of Ed cutoff regarding which year. Ironically, or something, had Josie gone to private school, which use a different calendar, they would have been in the same year.

We reapplied to The Neighborhood School. It had been my first choice last year, with the small size, progressive philosophy and mixed-age classrooms I liked in the school Josie got into, but with higher test scores and a long-established and well-respected principal. Last year, Josie’s name wasn’t picked in the lottery. (The school is kept balanced deliberately by race, reflecting roughly the same demographic breakdown as the neighborhood: something like 31% white, 21% black, 32% Latino and 18% Asian.)

First, there is some seriously questionable selection going on with these “Lotteries.” I’m not going to go into accusations I can’t backup, but a significant increase in transparency would be a good thing for all the schools.

Second, racial quotas: I don’t like them, but in this case it’s almost amusing how badly they’ve played out. This is the year the September 11th Baby Boom lands in public school Pre-K. The population of four year-olds in New York City has ballooned, with most born sometime after May 2002. I find it deeply poetic that humanity’s innate reaction to death and carnage is babies.

In our neighborhood, the population demographic has fully inverted. The progeny of the hipsters and young, formerly childless couples who lived in the East Village don’t fit the Department of Ed’s out-of-date demographic. The result is that Neighborhood School, everyone’s first choice, got that demograpic. Earth School probably got close to the demographic “ideal” since it’s usually the number-two choice (despite having an upside-down picture of their namesake planet in their science room).

Which brings us to our school, East Village Community School. The Pre-K classes are overwhelmingly white and female. As racial and class boundaries seem to track closely in our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the DOE’s imposed diversity program will likely cause a drastic upending the funding balance between this group of schools. My biggest hope is that they don’t break things more by trying to fix these new imbalances.

Five years later.

Last week a friend at the playground said something about visiting relatives who wanted to watch some TV show about September 11th. He was working downtown in 2001, and went to twenty-five funerals. I didn’t go to any. Everyone I knew, even those who worked in the towers, got out. Each year I skim over the lists of victims, wondering if there was anyone I’d lost touch with who was killed in the attacks. There’s always someone with my first name, or my wife’s or my childrens’. It’s something about having been here, the knowledge that everything I love could have been taken away that day, and how important it is to remember and honor those who weren’t so lucky.

I watched some of the video that never gets played anymore. Looked at a few pictures and re-read my own posts from previous September 11ths; 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. Otherwise I’ve avoided the media as much as possible, I have a lot of thoughts about what this day has become, but those have no place in my head today. It’s still fresh for me.

This morning I took Noemi to her first toddler gymnastics class — lots of things are starting today. Out our front window I’m pretty sure I saw the President’s helicopter crossing the East River towards Ground Zero. The only bells I got to hear were those marking the Flight 11 at 8:46 am. I knelt down and watched Noemi through watery eyes while the traffic kept rushing up First Avenue. Not that many people stopped.

A lot has changed in five years. Both my daughters were born. Dozens of other children became a part of our lives, almost all of them born into this post-September 11th world. Friends married and divorced, new friends came into our lives, some old friends drifted away. Some passed on. Some things were built and others fell apart. More was learned than forgotton.

I’m planning on walking by several fire stations after Noemi naps, shaking hands and saying thanks. Today isn’t just another day, and won’t be for a very long time.

Love, and let those you love know it.

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link: Sep 11, 2006 11:15 am
posted in: misc.

Hoping for a better .Mac

Following up on yet-another dot-mac-sucks post, TUAW posted something of a petition drive to improve the .Mac service.

I just got a notice about updating my credit card so my .Mac account can auto-renew next month, and I was already seriously thinking about letting it lapse. The timing must have been right, here’s the feedback I left at the .Mac feedback form:

> My membership is up next month and I’m considering not renewing. I’ve been a member since the beginning, but $100 just seems like a lot of money for what we’re getting, and I’m just not using that much of the service.

> There is some buzz online about dissatisfacton with the .Mac service, and I think it’s justified. I hope you will be introducing more features, and especially more value in the near future. .Mac just hasn’t lived up to its promise or kept pace with cheaper or free competitors.

> At very least, all .Mac subscribers should get a complimentary QT Pro license.

That last bit has been an ongoing pet peeve of mine since before OS X. Apple is legally prevented from giving away several of the codecs in Quicktime, but AFAIK, there’s nothing preventing QT Pro licenses from being bundled in with all sorts of other software. Since crippling QT brings down the user experience of an otherwise great Apple product, it is in Apple’s best interest to make it absurdly easy to get QT Pro licenses. Maybe that “whole package” thing Steve Jobs talked about at WWDC could finally include QT Pro too, but I feel confident is saying it won’t. It should, but it won’t.

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link: Sep 10, 2006 9:03 pm
posted in: Apple

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