Mavericks, Apple Mail, and Gmail

I’ve been running OS X 10.9 Mavericks for a few days now. Overall, I’m impressed by the speed improvements and how trouble-free the upgrade was. There aren’t any major new features (other than a few programs added from iOS), but it’s a solid update and probably representative of the yearly update cycle Apple is planning to use from now on.

(I don’t understand why so many people insist that 10.9 isn’t a new version but an upgrade. Although it’s true that many people like me will install it as an upgrade, that is a meaningless distinction. Almost every operating system has offered upgrades for existing users. By that reasoning, only Mac OS X 10.0 back in 2001 was a true version and everything since has been an upgrade.)

Quiet Computing

Back at the dawn of the personal computer revolution, the most popular personal computers were all quiet. The TRS‑80, the Apple II, and the Commodore PET didn’t have fans, cooling themselves with convection only. I grew to like quiet computing, with only the sound of the keyboard and the floppy drive to interrupt my thoughts.

But after several years, the quiet computing environment became a thing of the past. Newer computer models, especially after the introduction of the IBM PC, came equipped with fans, sometimes multiple fans. These loud fans changed computing from a silent experience to a very noisy one. Computers still had power lights to indicate they were powered on, but, as one reviewer put it, that would only be necessary in a war zone.

How To Write a Telegram circa 1928

At one time, telegrams were the primary means of high-speed, long-distance communications. They were the email of their day and, like any widely used service, customs and rules grew up around them. A 1928 booklet by Nelson E. Ross titled How To Write Telegrams Properly details some of those rules and conventions. Not solely about writing telegrams, it also serves as a historical snapshot of telegraph services in 1928. The many topics covered include:

Visual Studio 2005 and Windows SDK v7.1

Despite its age, I think Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 is quite a useful tool. It works well for native C++ Windows development and I prefer its user interface to later versions. But one problem is that it doesn’t support the newer Windows 7 headers. This makes software development using Windows 7 features rather difficult.

The obvious solution is to download the latest version of the Windows software development kit (SDK) from Microsoft. The documentation for the current version of the SDK (v7.1) describes it as supporting Visual Studio 2005. But the SDK configuration tool which is necessary to configure Visual Studio 2005 doesn’t work with it, describing Visual Studio 2005 as "not a supported scenario." So how do you configure Visual Studio 2005 with Windows SDK v7.1 if the configuration tool won’t do it?

The trick is to set the configuration paths manually. Visual Studio paths can be changed in the menus under Tools, Options…, VC++ Directories.

Why are there so many video and audio formats?

Recently, a commentator posed an interesting question. Why, he wondered, are there so many computer video and audio formats? Why can’t everyone involved take a lesson from the phonograph record? After all, there is only one type of phonograph record and it can be played by any record player.

Although this idea makes sense at first, it has a few historical problems. It is true that any phonograph record you can buy today (assuming you can find one) will play on any record player you can buy. But this is the result of a long process that spanned almost a century.

iPrognostication

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months then you undoubtedly have heard about the iPad, Apple’s new handheld device. Given the widespread media fascination with the iPad, I can’t think of any other way to have avoided hearing about it.

I also don’t know of any product that has been more widely rumored before its official release. Apple officially announced the iPad on January 27, 2010, but the rumors were flying months before that. Some of the rumors seemed unlikely (a three-dimensional user interface), some were bizarre (built-in solar panels), but some were fairly accurate (an accompanying ebook store).