Wolfram|Alpha = Freaking|Awesome

WolframAlpha, the “computational knowledge engine,” is fantastic for those interested in math, science, engineering, music and more. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s worth investigating. It’s not a web search engine like Google or Bing, but instead is a searchable database of just about anything science-related.

Want to know about the Sun? Do you like caffeine? Have a need to convert AU to parsecs? Looking for a solution to a differential equation? Wolfram’s got your back!


WolframAlpha cranked out this integral calculus problem almost immediately! I wish I could say the same about my HP calculator!

Bad Font Breaks Time Machine?

So I came across this error in my Mac OS X system.log while performing a Time Machine backup:

backupd[]: Unable to rebuild path cache for source item. Partial source path:

I don’t know about you, but when I see errors from my backup daemon, I pay attention.

I first forced a reindex of Spotlight on the source device by removing the metadata:

sudo hdutil -E /

Spotlight got busy again, but after 20 minutes, I saw log entries along the lines of:

mdworker[]: ATSFontFindFromContainer failed: count = 2

And when I say lines, I mean hundreds of them.  Disk Utility returned OK on both devices, but Spotlight seemed to be spinning its wheels:

mdworker[]: (Error) Import: Importer force killed!

I “validated” the integrity of the fonts in Font Book, only to find csd12.ttf gave a warning.  After removing the font, Spotlight finished indexing in 30 minutes. With no more log errors, Time Machine now seems content to copy my files hour after hour.

So could it be that a bad font caused problems for OS X’s backup mechanism?

Safari 4 Passes Acid3 Test, Private Browsing Sucks

I’ve been a long-time fan of the Firefox web browser, and I’ve been enjoying some of the new features that have been creeping into the beta builds lately. But I recently upgraded my Mac to Safari version 4, and I have to say, I am very impressed!

Acid3 tests a browser’s compatibility with Web 2.0 standards. When I ran this in Safari 4, I was surprised to see a result of 100/100!

Safari 4 Acid3 Test

My current version of Firefox, 3.5b99, made it to 93/100.

Firefox 3.5b99 Acid3 Test

I do enjoy the usefulness of some of Safari’s new features, such as the Top Sites grid and the Developer tools. Others, like the Cover Flow view in History, offer some pleasing eye candy. The main improvement seems to be in Java-script engine performance. Gmail loaded noticeably faster and my Netflix queue drag-and-drop was much snappier with Safari 4’s “Nitro Engine.”

Both browsers offer a new “private browsing” mode, dubbed by some “porn mode.” Firefox seems to have a better implementation of this private browsing experience by suppressing cookies. Safari, on the other hand, keeps your cookies present when switching from normal to private browsing.

To test this yourself, login to Google while in normal browsing mode, then activate private browsing, then reload Google and you’ll see you’re still signed in. Try this again with Firefox 3.5b99 and you’ll notice the same doesn’t happen.

Safari’s private browsing seems silly when cookies stay intact, allowing websites to still identify the user. If anything, it gives the user a false sense of anonymity!

Private browsing flaws aside and despite the features and speed increases, until there’s an Adblock Plus for Safari, I’ll probably stick with Firefox as my primary browser. I’m sure others have extensions they’re attached to as well, and this alone may keep market share with Firefox.

Windows 7 Includes New Psychedelic Wallpaper

The new Windows 7 RC demo sports some new features for the Microsoft operating system, most visually noticeable being the bright, new psychedelic wallpaper themes.

Windows 7 Mushroom Wallpaper
This is just one of the new psychedelic wallpapers included with Windows 7 RC, which I like to call Mushroom Trip.

Windows 7 Includes Cool Wallpaper
Another impressive Windows 7 included wallpaper.

Windows 7 Psychedelic Wallpaper
Looks like a wild acid trip!

Those of you that know me know that I’m a pretty big Apple fan.  It humbles me to tip my hat to M$, but I do enjoy the new eye candy!