Monday, 23 March 2015

On Monday, we started as usual at Starbucks, and walked to Kilkenneys, near Trinity College. We took the tour bus (tickets are good for two days!) to Dublin Castle and followed the self-guiding tour there.

Tower at Dublin Castle

Tower at Dublin Castle

Checking that the mirrors work

Checking that the mirrors work

A throne room

A throne room

A round room

A round room

The Chandelier in the round room

The Chandelier in the round room

We walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and looked around.

St. Patrick Stone

St. Patrick Stone

Seal outside St. Patrick's Cathedral

Seal outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Then, we hopped on the bus to the Jameson Distillery.

Outside the Old Jameson Distillery

Outside the Old Jameson Distillery

We were a little early for our 2:00 tour, so we had lunch at Christophe’s Cafe. I had a beef stew and an Irish coffee. Both were tasty.

We followed the Jameson tour and had a comparative whiskey tasting. The tour was interesting and fun. It was enlightening to taste the difference between Scotch, Irish, and American whiskies. We took the bus back to the hotel.

We walked to Merrion Square and then to the National Gallery, but it was about to close.

A Path in Merrion Square

A Path in Merrion Square

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

For the Android fans

For the Android fans

We then walked to St. Stephen’s Green, and to a nearby mall.

Building and street near St. Stephen's Green

Building and street near St. Stephen’s Green

Path at St. Stephen's Green

Path at St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen’s Green

Arch at St. Stephen's Green

Arch at St. Stephen’s Green

Then, we found ourselves at Wagamama for dinner. After Pad Thai and Gyoza, we walked to Neary’s for a pint of Guinness.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Morning

Sunday morning we got up at about 7, and went to Starbucks. We walked down O’Connell Street to Trinity College — down Pearse Street and around until we found an open gate near Lincoln Place. We walked around the sports field and to the area near the Book of Kells.
Sunday Walk to Trinity College

Sunday Walk to Trinity College

It wasn’t open yet, so we walked to another Starbucks in the Grafton Street area to wait until it was open. Then, we went back for the 12:00 tour.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells exhibit is interesting, with a lot of interpretive signs and displays. The actual book is under heavy glass in the back, and we were only able to see a little bit of it. And photography was prohibeted. A little disappointing, but, then, so was the Mona Lisa in person. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see it, though. The Book of Kells tour ends in the Long Room of the old library, which was really cool. I want one.


The Long Room at Trinity College

The Long Room at Trinity College

Me in the Long Room at Trinity College

Me in the Long Room at Trinity College

After the Book of Kells, we walked to have lunch at Meat & Meet. We walked back up O’Connell Street and bought tickets for the Hop-on-hop-off bus (the green one). We took the bus around the Trinity College area, through Temple Bar, and near Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Then, we got off at the Guinness Storehouse.

The Guinness Storehouse

The Storehouse was pretty interesting — a survey of the beer making process and some of the old Guinness marketing campaigns.
At the Guinness Storehouse

At the Guinness Storehouse

We went to the Tasting Experience, where there are four dry ice plumes scented with the elements of Guinness — Hops, Beer Esters, Malt, etc. We had a tiny glass of Guinness to taste.
A Tiny Glass of Guinness

A Tiny Glass of Guinness

We skipped a few of the exhibit floors and went to Gravity at the top of the tower for our full pints of Guinness and for a pretty epic view of the city.
A Full-Size Glass of Guinness with Irish Flair

A Full-Size Glass of Guinness with Irish Flair

A Pretty Epic View of Dublin from Gravity

A Pretty Epic View of Dublin from Gravity

The Evening

After that, we took the tour bus back around the rest of its loop through Phoenix Park and back to O’Connell Street. The sun was setting. It was cold.
Chilly, despite the sun.

Chilly, despite the sun.

We walked to the Temple Bar area, and stopped in at Boxty for, well, Boxty. We had Gaelic Boxty, which is medallions of beef in mushroom gravy in a potato pancake. And it was very good.

Getting There (20-21 March 2015)

The Trip

My friend Mike and I decided to travel to Ireland for a week, and our adventure started early in the morning, as many interesting adventures do. We left Santa Barbara via train for Burbank, and then flew from Burbank to SFO. From SFO, we flew to Dublin.
Me in front of the Santa Barbara Amtrak station

Me in front of the Santa Barbara Amtrak station

Ready to take off

Ready to take off

The Arrival

We arrived in Dublin and set about finding out where to pick up our Dublin Pass, which Mike had pre-ordered. After a few trips around the arrival area, and questions asked of counter attendants that weren’t quite sure what we were talking about, we figured out that we had to pick up the Pass at the Tourism Information booth, which was located down a walkway, behind a bar. Tricky for tired travelers, but in retrospect, it makes sense.
We walked down to the Bus depot, and instead of using the AirLink bus that was included free with the Dublin Pass, we opted to take a bus that would take us closer to the Hotel we were staying at. €6 later, we were on our way.

The Protest

As we neared O’Connell street, the road was blocked by a protest about Water Rates — and so the bus let us off. We walked the rest of the way to the hotel. Mike reminds me to note that I was rather grumpy about this. I feel I had a good reason to be. I was tired, and I don’t like rolling luggage across brick walkways.
We got to the hotel, the Best Western Academy Plaza, and I was finally able to take a shower. The hotel had free WiFi. The window was surprisingly soundproof, and very effective at blocking the noise of the protest. I became less grumpy.

The Exploring

We took a few hours for a nap to catch up and set off down O’Connell Street to explore the area around Trinity College.
Saturday's Exploration

Saturday’s Exploration

Grafton Street is a pedestrian zone for shopping, and while Mike felt it was a bit Disneyland, I appreciated the pedestrian-ness of it.
Me standing on Grafton Street.

Me standing on Grafton Street.

The SIM Card

I stopped into a Meteor Mobile store to pick up a pre-paid SIM card for my iPhone — I opted for the €30 7.5GB data / Unlimited Voice plan, since I pretty much can’t exist without mobile data, and I want to be able to phone hotels or other places while here if need be. As it turns out, iMessage uses an SMS message to activate, so after messing around with my phone and wondering why I kept getting texts that said I was out of credit, I went back to the Meteor store and the sales guy added €0.40 to my account, to accommodate that one text message that I needed to receive. iMessage worked after that. Yay.

The Eating

We walked around Grafton Street and the surrounding blocks, and looked for a place to eat. We wanted to go to a pub but they were all standing-room-only due to sports watchers. We went to Pasta Fresca and had Italian instead. We walked back up O’Connell Street and stopped in at Gino’s for a crepe.
Most of a crepe

Most of a crepe

And then, back to the hotel.

iChat / AIM can’t connect after 10.7.2 upgrade?

For whatever reason, iChat seems unable to connect to AIM with SSL after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.7.2. Fix it like this:

Change the server to with port 443 using SSL.

Kind of an odd thing, maybe 10.7.2 shipped with bad settings? Who knows.

OSX Service: Base64 encode/decode text

A very quick set of Services for OSX. The service takes selected text and uses the Ruby Base64 library to encode or decode it:

  • 64encode (clip) – encodes selected text and puts the result on the clipboard
  • 64encode (inline) – encodes selected text and pastes the result inline, replacing the original text
  • 64decode (clip) – decodes selected text and puts the result on the clipboard
  • 64decode (inline) – decodes selected text and pastes the result inline, replacing the original text

Download, unzip, and copy to ~/Library/Services. Access through right-click menu after selecting text.

Cool Stuff

1. Google Calendar ‘quick-add’ events.

2. The new Android OS interface preview (via @techcrunch)

3. IOGraph (today’s art below)

Screencast to AppleTV with Mac / VLC … looks neat. Will have to explore.

OSX Service: Timestamp Filename

Super quick OSX Service — it takes selected items (i.e. in Finder) and renames them with the current date and time appended to the end. I created it to combat the persistent ‘photo.jpg’ filename of images I email myself from my iPhone. This is something that has irritated me for about 2 years, so I finally took 45 seconds to make this. It’s three Automator actions:

  • Get Selected Finder Items
  • Rename Finder Items (to add Date)
  • Rename Finder Items (to add Time)

I make zero claims of uniqueness or creativity, but I was a little surprised to discover it took three actions. Maybe there’s a regex sub module i’m overlooking.

To use: download, unzip, put in ~/Library/Services and then select items, context-click (or find it in the Finder > Services menu) and get some timestamp on.

For those non-Terminal-inclined people out there, do this:

  1. open Terminal
  2. type:
  3. cd ~/Library/Services
  4. press Enter. Skip to 4 if you don’t get an error. If you get an error about the folder not being found, do:
  5. cd ~/Library
    mkdir Services
    cd Services
  6. type:
  7. open .
  8. press Enter
  9. copy the .zip file from above into this folder
  10. double-click to unzip the workflow
  11. drag the .zip file to the trash

So you just got a MacBook Air…

…lucky you!

If you’re a Mac user already, you know how to use it. If not, let’s go through some basics:

  • To ‘right click’ put two fingers on the trackpad and click with the thumb.
  • The bar at the top is separate from the Application windows — it changes context as you switch apps.
  • The Dock at the bottom is kind of like the windows Start menu, drag stuff there for quick access
  • ‘System Preferences’ is the analogue to Control Panel on Windows — it’s accessed through the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen.
  • Make sure you get the System Updates that are available (currently 10.6.5) from the Software Update… option in the Apple menu.
  • The temptation to go get Microsoft Office is strong — but also consider the Free, Open Source alternative OpenOffice, or Apple’s offerings (iWork)
  • If you’re a college student, or education faculty, you can get AppleCare for $183 instead of the regular $249 (MacBook Air). Other great discounts apply to the other computer versions. AppleCare is great, and you have a year from the purchase date of the computer to purchase it. It’s important to remember, though, that AppleCare does not cover physical damage to the system.
  • As with any kind of battery-powered device, it’s important to know the ins and outs of battery performance.
  • Setting up a new computer is a great opportunity to start backing up your data … Mac OS X makes this easy with Time Machine, and you can use any Mac-formatted USB hard drive (or do it over the network if you’re feeling super fancy…)
  • Spotlight is awesome — it’s the magnifying glass in the top right corner of the screen. It searches all the files on your Mac as you type. I use it to launch applications, too — it’s handier than clicking through the Applications folder. You can open it by pressing Command-Space also.
  • has some great tutorials on Switching from Windows to Mac and Computer Literacy for the Mac. But of course, you already know that… 😉
  • It’s pretty easy to move stuff from an old pc to a shiny new Mac — just copy the files you want to move on to a USB hard drive.
  • Moving your iTunes library is pretty easy as well.
  • The Migration Assistant that you see during the initial setup is also available later in Applications/Utilities/Migration Assistant
And on to a few Air-specific things:
  • You might consider migrating data from an older Mac. Apple provides a nice article explaining this. Be sure to uncheck the ‘Network’ settings under the preferences dropdown when migrating, especially if you’re using the network to migrate. If your new Mac picks up the address from your old Mac, it can abort the transfer. Most people don’t have exotic network settings to bring over, and if they do they should probably just set them up manually anyway. 🙂
  • Because the Air’s screen is rather short vertically, consider moving the Dock to the side of the window. You can ‘right’ click on the little crosswalk divider and change the position of the Dock. You can also do this in System Preferences.
  • Since the Air doesn’t have an optical (dvd) drive, you might be tempted to go out and buy one. I would try to resist this — most people don’t use CD’s much anymore. Consider investing (a fraction of the cost) in a large-ish USB disk — 8 or 16GB. You can also use another computer’s cd/dvd drive! Just follow these instructions.
  • The Air is very WiFi oriented. If you need an ethernet plug, you’ll need to buy one. Or maybe it’s time to get a WiFi router…
  • If you do get that ethernet plug, bear in mind that it’s 10/100Mbps, not Gigabit. This shouldn’t matter much to you unless you plan on doing enormous file transfers… There’s a ‘gigabit’ adapter available over at amazon, but it won’t actually go gigabit — USB peaks out at 480Mbps.
  • Since the air is so lightweight and networky, consider jumping into the cloud rather than shuffling files back and forth with a disk. Services like Dropbox allow you to automagically sync a folder of files from your Air to other computers (and access the files on the web, too!). I use it for all my grad school work, so I have my files anywhere I need them. Evernote is a great tool for keeping text and clippings synced across your Mac, PC, nerdy Linux machine, or iPhone/something else.
  • The Air is a rad little slice of Mac, but it’s not a powerhouse. It’s very well suited for internet, document creation, and photo viewing but not so great for AfterEffects, Final Cut, or World of Warcraft. They’ll all run, but not optimally. Consider that the processor in the Air is about the same as the MacBooks from a few years ago. It has more RAM (4-8x) and a much faster SSD hard drive, though. These help it be snappier for navigating and doing file access.
  • Since the Air is so thin, be very careful about how you put it in your bag. The screen lid is very thin, so avoid positioning anything like a power adapter near it where it could impact the screen.
  • I personally like to use Tap to click on the Air trackpad. It feels more appropriate or something … more like the iPad.
  • Being very small, the Air is probably easier to lose (or have taken from you). You might consider turning on FileVault to encrypt your personal stuff. It can be found under Security in System Preferences. This of course doesn’t protect against data loss, but is a pretty solid line of defense against ne’er-do-wells getting access to your personal data. There’s a slight performance hit, but it’s mostly offset by the faster SSD storage.
  • Additionally, check out some of the ‘stolen Mac recovery’ apps. There’s a free one here for a limited time.
More tips to come as I think of them. Please let me know if you have Mac or Air-specific questions you’d like addressed.

Outlook 2011 – Gripes So Far

– Doesn’t sync CalDAV or CardDAV
– I don’t want all these random calendar categories. What is Manager? Why is he/she pink? Why can’t I change the color of my own calendar?
– OMG clutter…
– Choice of sounds: yes or no. Ignores OSX system sounds.
– Editing a contact destroys my CPU
– I don’t want little dropdowns in the sidebar in the mail context for all the meeting rooms I’m a delegate for. They don’t get mail I care about. They’re meeting rooms.

On the upside, it does have the whole ‘isn’t Entourage’ thing going for it. Which is big. Also it’s pretty fast.

Between weirdness with Outlook and Apple Mail randomly crashing, I’m tempted to switch to the Google Apps interface full-time for my personal email. And calendar. And contacts. Oh, Google, you’re starting to rub off on me.