Cellphone service switch from AT&T to T-Mobile

Just switched from AT&T where I had a terrible old grandfathered plan with 2GB data and $10/GB overage. I regularly went over 2GB and for most of the past year, my phone bill was $110. I took T-Mobile's 3GB plan for $60:month, with no overages. They throttle down to 3G speeds if you go over. Plus, with the iPhone 5s, there's wifi calling in my house, which gets so-so signal. The downside is that AT&T has signal in the subway, but T-mobile doesn't. Oh well. I'll take the cost savings.



My new Chromebook w/ 3G wireless (via Verizon, 100 MB/month). Currently $310 at NewEgg, $230 for the wifi-only version. There are sub-$200 models from other manufacturers.

It’s great. Netflix and Hulu work OK - a little stuttering on Netflix occassionally. All the Google Apps work fine: Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc. There are also text editor apps for light coding. Worst comes to worst, you can edit in GitHub itself. There’s a not-so-great SSH client. A last-resort BitTorrent client, too.

There is Flash built into the Chrome browser, so the usual video sites (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion) work even without using HTML5 video.

Photo editing is a weakness. There are no apps which directly support RAW files: you have to use PicasaWeb, which is now integrated with Google+.

Flickr used to support RAW files of various formats, but does not seem to, anymore. Attempts to upload a Nikon NEF file failed: the fancy uploader just refused it, and the basic uploader took it but only grabbed the JPG thumbnail. 

Picasa does accept NEF, and converts it to JPG. It has basic online image editing, like Flickr does. This is how I converted the NEF to JPG to post the image above. Conveniently, this Chromebook has a built in SD card slot, so I can just pop the card in from my camera.

All in all, awesome value for money.

Hackintosh build experience

Hardware, following the recommendations in tonymacx86's Customac mini 2012 Deluxe build:

I don't get a kickback, but I bought everything from Newegg. They have great service, and prompt delivery.

UEFI settings: Use the default set. Might want to make sure that the first graphics device to be activated is the on-board HD4000. Very important setting: Leave the "execute bit" setting alone, i.e. activated. Double-check against tonymacx86 recommendations.


  1. Use Unibeast and Mac OS X Lion (10.7) installer from the App Store
  2. Do not use GPU card, just the on-board graphics
  3. Hard drive plugged into SATA 3Gbps port on motherboard. The OS can hang if using the 6 Gbps ports.
  4. Use Ethernet
  5. Boot options -v PCIRootUID=0 GraphicsEnabler=No
  6. Once Lion is installed and boots up, use Multibeast to put in these settings:
    1. UserDSDT or DSDT-Free installation (true for any UEFI board)
    2. Audio: Realtek ALCcxx - ALC892 (see Gigabyte link in hardware list above)
    3. Network: Lnx2Mac's Realtek driver
    4. Miscellaneous: FakeSMC (mandatory)
    5. Bootloader: Chimera (mandatory) -- this will be updated to a newer version later
  7. Create a new admin user, and then run the Migration Assistant to restore data from a Time Machine backup

Reboot from the hard drive using the bootloader on the Unibeast USB drive. Boot options: -v GraphicsEnabler=Yes

Once it seems to be working, power down. Plug in the graphics card, and boot. Now, change the UEFI settings to turn on PEG instead (that's the graphics card). Save settings, and continue booting. I still used the Unibeast bootloader to do this. Boot from the hard drive. Boot settings: -v GraphicsEnabler=No

Once OS is running, open the App Store and buy the Mountain Lion upgrade. Cancel the installation, though. Create a new Unibeast USB drive with Mountain Lion, and repeat the above with rebooting and Multibeast.

Edit the boot settings file /Extra/org.chameleon.Boot.plist so that there is the following pair of lines (Multibeast should have done it, but it's good to check):




The graphics card needs to have that setting, otherwise it will boot to a blank grey screen. From now on, it should boot from the hard drive without needing the Unibeast USB drive.

If it does not boot from the hard drive directly, where it shows error messages like "boot0: GPT, boot0: test", follow the procedure here (Solution 1) to fix it. It involves booting to Unibeast, unmounting the hard drive, and then modifying the hard drive.

So far, one thing does not work, and that is playing iTunes-bought (or free) videos and trailers. These are "protected" videos. It doesn't work within iTunes, nor does it work opening the files with Quicktime Player. So, it seems to be something to do with the DRM.

I also updated the Chimera bootloader to version 2.0.1, availble at tonymacx86.


The fix for the protected video problem is to run iTunes in 32-bit mode. Quit iTunes, and then right-click the iTunes app icon, and select "Get Info". In the info window, there is a checkbox for "Open in 32-bit mode". Check it on, and there you go.

I found also that my Time Machine backups stopped working. It would attempt to do a backup and then stall after a random amount had been saved. The fix is odd: delete the file /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/NetworkInterfaces.plist, and then reboot. Mine had contained old data, artifacts of several reinstallations of the OS. After the reboot, only the two actual Ethernet interfaces were listed. That, for reasons unknown to me, seemed to enable Time Machine to perform backups as expected.


Updated the OS to 10.8.3 and documented the process.

Part of the Internet taken down by a leap second

As a graduate student working for LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory), one of my responsibilities was maintaining date-time code, including accounting for leap seconds, and calculating dates and time thousands of years in the past. 

What is a leap second? Well, the Earth's rotation rate is slowing down. So, as time goes on the length of the day is longer. This rate is very slow. Every few years, the added length must be taken into account, much like the leap day takes into account that the orbital period of the Earth around the Sun is not exactly 365 days. When a leap second must be inserted is not predictable. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service is tasked with making observations of the Earth, and producing a twice-yearly report on whether a leap second is due to be added. This comes out by email, and on their website. The report gives a 6-month or so lead time before the leap second is inserted, at midnight on Jan 1 and on Jul 1.

So, apparently, a leap second was inserted last night: all standard atomic clocks around the world paused for a second. This caused all sorts of havoc with computers and networking devices, causing lots of sites to go down. Notably, Google was prepared.

(via Gizmodo and Wired)

QuickSilver is back!

It has been years since I last used QuickSilver, a quick launch (and so much more) utility for Mac OS X. Despite that, I still keep the icon in my Dock. Well, I accidentally clicked it just now, and before I could quit it, it popped up with a window saying it was downloading an update. And then proceeded to also update several of the base plugins.

I hadn’t even noticed that it had been open sourced in 2006. It was created in June 2003 by Blacktree Software, and received rave reviews. It was quick, unobtrusive, and extensible. Apparently, the project languished between 2006 and 2010. Then, development picked up again last year. I’m not sure when the current version was released.

If you have never used QuickSilver, LifeHacker has a brief tutorial. And here is another one with a list of common tasks that can be performed with QuickSilver.

How to watch some Flash-based videos on YouTube without Flash

One of the larger annoyances of YouTube video producers is that they may restrict their video to Flash only. Even if you turn on HTML5 support, videos do not play. Here is a quick fix for some of those types videos if you use Safari.



The basic idea is that you change the user agent to "Safari for iPad". This makes YouTube think that you are browsing from an iPad, and it will serve up a non-Flash video.


First, you have to turn on the Develop menu. Go to the Advanced tab of Safari Preferences. At the bottom, check on “Show Develop menu in menu bar”. You will now have a Develop menu (between Bookmarks and Window).

Go to that menu, and pick User Agent. A submenu will show various browser types. Select “Safari iOS 4.3.3 – iPad”. The YouTube page will immediately reload, and in most cases, you will be able to watch the video.


I haven’t tried this trick in Chrome, yet, but will update once I do.

UPDATE: This also works to play music without Flash on Tumblr, except that you will have to select Safari iOS for iPhone.

UPDATE 2: Well, YouTube seems to have started blocking this work-around for Safari. It does seem to still work in Chrome: use the User-Agent Switcher extension.