Bermuda pics

August 29th, 2009

So it’s only taken four months, but I finally got around to putting together the photos from our Bermuda trip and posting them to Toby and Dara’s site. Hope you like them!

back in mac

August 24th, 2009

Sorry for the long hiatus – firstly I was away on vacation for a couple of weeks (one week in London for my brother’s wedding, the second in Victoria, BC on the beautiful west coast of Canada) and also we’ve had some technical hitches at home. My HP notebook wouldn’t start up – if I pressed the power button the power light would come on but nothing else would happen at all. Fortunately it’s still covered by warranty, so it’s away being repaired. Fortunately also I had backed up all my stuff just a couple of days before it died, so all my photos etc should be OK.

Then we noticed that Emma’s iBook (now four and a half years old) was acting up. Loads of applications would try to start up but then just fail before they could do anything, for example Safari or Firefox browsers. I did some research (mostly knowing about the innards of PCs) and found that it could be due to corrupted .plist files, which are kind of like preference files for applications. The info I read said that if you’re getting weird application behavior it’s best to delete that application’s .plist file, as the app will then create a new “clean” file when it starts next. So I went to my /user/library/preferences folder and deleted all the*.plist files (actually I put them into a backup folder – the point being that I moved them out of the preferences folder). When I started Safari, a new browser window came up, which was progress, and it said it was downloading information but rather than displaying a page it would just crash. Another clue was that some applications (like TextEdit) would start up OK but then crash when I tried to open a file. Clearly something else was up too.

When Safari crashed it gave the option to view the crash report, so I clicked that button and had a look. It was mostly a lot of strange looking info but one phrase seemed to show up several times:
/System/Library/Frameworks/ApplicationServices.framework/Frameworks/ATS.framework/Support/ATSServer: FOExceptionMainHandler caught a fatal exception

On searching around it seemed that ATSServer manages Apple Type Services – the font management on the screen. It looked like in this post there could be a problem with the font caches, but I couldn’t find any of the cache files he referenced. Other sites suggested that there could be an issue with the mac’s system fonts. Two clues which pointed towards this was that Microsoft apps (like Word) ran just fine, and would display different fonts OK, but the crashing behavior happened under both Emma’s and my logons. It seemed that there are common system fonts, which all users of the computer use, and also account-local fonts, which the Microsoft apps were using. So a problem with the system fonts.

Fortunately I still have the OS X (operating system) install CD, so I used that to do a reinstall – not wiping everything, but preserving all our account settings. I didn’t want to have to do something as drastic as a complete hard drive wipe and reinstall. But that didn’t fix the problem. So I looked on the OS X CD for the fonts folder – found it and fortunately the fonts were easy to copy onto my desktop. I went to the system fonts folder /system/library/fonts and found that the names of the fonts there matched the ones on the install disk. Just copying over the font files didn’t work, however, as some files were in use. So I had to re-create the fonts folder and get rid of the old (bad) one. This involved changing some folder permissions: I selected the /system/library folder, did CTRL+click, chose Get Info and changed the owner of the folder to be me, so I had read and write access. Then I changed the name of the old fonts folder to be FontsOld. Then I created a new folder called Fonts, and copied in all the fonts from the install disk. Finally I use the Get Info dialog to set the owner of the /system/library folder back to system (the original value). A quick reboot, and we had a result – the applications all started cleanly and fonts are displaying just fine.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me why these font files would become corrupted, but I’m fairly pleased with myself that I managed to work all this out! It could be that there was a more elegant solution – if you know of one please leave a comment, and if you come across this post because you’re having the same issue, let me know if this helps. I probably won’t be able to help if it doesn’t resolve your problem, because this stretched the limits of my Mac skills.

mind bullets

July 29th, 2009

Here’s a great post from 10 fascinating cases of mind control. It’s not for the squeamish – generally the examples are parasites who alter the behavior of their hosts in order to increase their likelihood of being passed on to a new host, and in most cases the hosts are insects. So it’s all a bit creepy.

I’m pretty amazed at how this works, and of course it raises questions about how these behavior-altering behaviors came about. It seems very complex for natural selection (until you think that there were billions of years, and therefore tens of billions of generations for this to happen) or if you prefer the designer theories you have to consider that anyone who would come up with these kinds of designs has to be some kind of sick maniac.


July 27th, 2009

I’m not going to just post Mitchell and Webb videos, but I liked this one about homeopathy:

My only objections – they missed talking about Raiki, and I think the beer at the end was about 100,000 times too strong for it to have been homeopathic. Surely the water only needed to have the “memory” of beer in it?

summer camp report

July 26th, 2009

Toby has had a week back at regular YMCA summer camp, after enjoying a week of the outdoors at the Y’s Camp Kici Yapi. I think he really enjoys both, but the outdoor camp was something a bit more special. Too exhausting for him to go every week, but he’ll be doing back in a couple of weeks to do more archery, swimming, sliding and fort building, and get more of a tan and more mosquito bites. In the meantime, here’s his report sheet from the first week (click on the picture for a closer view):

Toby's July 2009 YMCA outdoor camp report

Toby's July 2009 YMCA outdoor camp report

in news we trust

July 23rd, 2009

An interesting online poll from Time magazine on who the most trusted news broadcaster is:

Bear in mind it’s an online poll so not scientific or anything, but still, it shows the power of what Stewart has done, and the fact that he is seen to call people out when they’re clearly not telling the truth.

(Story from here)

this must be what happened

July 21st, 2009

I’m sure this is accurate in every respect, except maybe the accents

squid news

July 17th, 2009

I haven’t posted any aquatic life news for some time, but around three years ago there was a flurry of piscine activity on this blog. Well now I’m moved to tell you the horror of giant squid attacking people near San Diego (in the ocean side, fortunately, so at least they’re not roaming the streets). You may note that all the people who are attacked are swimming or snorkeling – more proof that exercise is bad for you.

news from scotland

July 6th, 2009

Things have been all a-flurry at my mother’s church in Aberdeen, where they recently chose to select a new minister who happens to be openly gay. Although the church has been fine with being flexible with other biblical rules, such as allowing ministers to eat shellfish, wear clothes of mixed fabrics, and not having their wives have to shave their heads before attending services, apparently being open and honest about yourself was a stretch too far for some. But after a lot of deliberation the appointment went ahead.

The first service by Scott Rennie was this last weekend, and apparently it went very well with large attendance and lots of smiles. The biggest blot was that someone had nailed a sign to the front door of the church to greet my mother on Sunday morning. Here’s what she had to say about it

I got up to church at 8.45 this morning, the first person to arrive in the building because the beadle was late, to find a huge wooden notice nailed across the front doors. It was painted black with cut-out letters stuck on : THIS CHURCH IS NOW A DEN OF INIQUITY AND IS DAMNED!! I waited until a couple of other people had arrived, so at least there was someone else in the building, and then got out the tool box and prized the huge nails, over 20 of them, out of the wood (kept the nails cos they might come in useful if WE ever want to nail notice boards about the place!). There were also three candles underneath it which I removed, but sadly couldn’t keep to use again because they had burnt themselves to the bottom.

What she didn’t know is that she was photographed by the local paper removing the sign – here’s the article.

america’s place in the world

July 4th, 2009

To celebrate Independence Day (Emma’s and my first one as real American citizens (it doesn’t feel much different from before to be honest, but great to have a day off and we’re having a great day with the kids)) here’s a lecture Stephen Fry gave recently, on America’s Place in the World. Enjoy!