Testing.... uno dos tres

Just testing the idea of cross-posting everything to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and eventually Diaspora. No content yet to speak of. Enjoy this diagram of a condensor microphone:

Condensor Microphone

EDIT: looks like this solution totally sucks. Ideally, I would want to post the body of text within the message itself.

Anyhow, here's a link to another spiel of mine.

Cute, huh?

Conservatism ≠ GOP

A comment posted in reponse to this article sums up my feelings about the Republican party more eloquently than I ever could. I like a lot of conservative ideas, but will never defend the GOP. They deserve the hyperbole of their critic's condemnations.

thewippet writes:

Here's the problem with the GOP: it's gone senile. Demented. It's become a party of intolerance, hate, religious craziness and racist idiocy. The GOP caters to people who deny reality. Since it refuses to face reality, the GOP has no sound ideas for the future. It has no vision. Instead of grappling with the real challenges of the 21st century, the GOP is led by bizarre people who want to go back to the 18th century. Wearing tricornes like it's 1760! You've got GOP candidates who call rape "God's gift"; who say that evolution and science are "lies from the pit of hell", etc., etc.

Compare the slate of candidates in the GOP primaries of 1980 versus 2012. The decline in quality, worldly knowledge, wisdom and common sense is startling. In 1980 the GOP had Reagan, Bush Sr., Dole, Baker, Connally. In 2012? Bachman, Santorum, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney... The best Republican Presidents of the last 30 years--Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr.--would be driven out of today's lunatic GOP. Or they'd flee.

And why has the party deteriorated so sharply? Because it was taken over by talk radio and Fox. Frum was right. The conservative media industry makes money stoking anger and manufacturing outrage. They're not worried about the country. They don't have principles. They're in the outrage business, and it's wonderfully profitable--for them. And it's Limbaugh, Weiner/Savage, Levin, Fox, Hannity, etc. that REALLY run the GOP--and have run it into the ground. While they get rich.

The GOP's ideas are at odds with the Western world. The GOP offers no solutions to our problems because it denies reality. To those of us outside America, that is patently obvious.

The Mac is actually one of the few things I’m a geek about that I’ve been in on since the start. Geekdom is not defined by historical entry points or even shared experiences. A geek must possess just two things: knowledge and enthusiasm.

Why this matters

I actually have nothing to add, this is just a test paragraph

Apple’s 2013 Scorecard

At the beginning of last year, I posted a list of things Apple can and should do during 2013. It’s time to settle up. Because I’m feeling scholastic, I’ll give a letter grade to each item.

Out of the 10 items on my to-do list, Apple did 8 of them well enough to earn a checkmark. (The TV thing was always a bit of a reach, anyway.) I’d call that a solid year.

Fill Your TV

On two recent episodes of Accidental Tech Podcast, I talked about calibrating my new TV. The reactions of my co-hosts and the feedback from listeners has made it clear that the entire concept of calibrating a home TV is foreign to most people.

While a full-zoot ISF HDTV calibration is expensive and unnecessary for most people, there are some important steps that every TV owner should take to improve image quality. If you have an iOS device plus either an HDMI output cable (Lightning or 30-pin) or an Apple TV, you can use the simple THX tune-up application to dial in your color, contrast, brightness, and other basic settings.

Before calibrating, don’t forget to turn off all the “image enhancement” features of your TV. These are the things with names like Vivid Color, Color Remaster, Motion Interpolation, Brilliance Enhancer, Black Extension, C.A.T.S., AGC, and so on. Check your TV’s manual for explanations of what each setting does, if you’re curious, but you really do want to turn them all off. They all mess with the image in ways not intended by the creator, and they will make proper calibration more difficult or impossible.

There’s one setting in particular that anyone can adjust without requiring any skill or special software. Let’s say you buy a new 1080p HDTV with a native resolution of 1920×1080. Out of the box, that TV will most likely be configured to never show you a full 1920×1080 pixels of information. In computer parlance, it’s running at a non-native resolution by default, like a 1024×768 LCD display set to a resolution of 800×600.

Imagine this test image exactly matches the native resolution of your HDTV. (It doesn't, so please don't use it to test your actual TV. Use a real calibration app or image instead.)

TV test image displayed correctly
A TV test image displayed correctly: the shapes in the corners are squares, the green box is visible.

If you’re viewing this post on a Retina display, the thin lines extending from the squares in the corners should be crisp and pixel-perfect. Send this image to your HDTV, however, and this is what you’re likely to see:

TV test image with overscan
This is how your TV is likely to display the test image: information is lost, detail is blurred.

The green box is no longer visible; the squares in the corners are now rectangles; the fine lines are now blurred together, producing an unpleasant moiré pattern. You can read all about the origins of this terrible behavior in the Wikipedia entry on “overscan,” but all you need to know is that it’s no longer necessary in the age of HDTV.

You paid for all 1920×1080 pixels of your fancy new HDTV—use them! Most HDTVs have a setting somewhere to correct this problem. It may be called “Overscan,” “1:1 Pixel Mapping,” “Native,” “Screen Fit,” “Just Scan,” or something even more generic like “Size 1” or “Size 2.” Consult your TV’s manual to find out. (If you can’t find your paper manual, a Google search for your TV’s model number followed by “manual PDF” will usually lead to an online version.) Don’t give up; the setting is almost always there somewhere. For TVs with no dedicated setting, you may have to change the input label to “PC” or similar to force the issue.

The nerd-rage I feel at the thought of a display running in non-native resolution may not be something you can relate to, but everyone can appreciate a sharper image that shows more information. This holiday, after you’re done fixing all your relatives’ computer problems and updating their software, take a moment to correct the image size on their HDTV as well. Your relatives might not thank you for it, but I will.

About My Mavericks Review

I reviewed OS X 10.9 Mavericks for Ars Technica. I’ve been reviewing OS X since 1999, and this is the tenth major release. There are several ways to read my review.

Here are my thoughts on the various reading options. This is mostly a repeat of last year’s post about Mountain Lion, with some sections carried over verbatim, but there is some new information.

The Web Version

The web version of my review is the canonical version. It has the best formatting and the most features. It's also the most up-to-date. I believe that good writing for the web includes many links. A web browser is the best place to inspect and follow those links.

This year, all the images in my review are Retina resolution. To see all the detail in the images, read the review on a Retina iPad, Mac, or other device with at least around 1,400 “native” pixels of horizontal resolution. (The “full-width” images are 1,280 pixels wide, presented to the browser with a width value of 640, but there are also margins around the content column.)

The free web version has ads, and it’s split up into multiple “pages” (which are usually much longer than a single printed page). This kind of pagination annoys some people. I actually like it for very long articles because it helps me keep my place across multiple reading sessions. I can remember I was on page 8 instead of remembering the exact point in a very long, scrolling web page.

That said, I also really like how an Ars Premiere subscription eliminates all ads from the Ars Technica website and gives me the option to view any article on a single page. I use single-page view on very long articles when I’m searching for some text using my web browser’s “Find…” feature. I use it all the time on short articles.

Some people think Ars Technica forces me to break my article up into many tiny pages. That’s not the case. I choose how to paginate the article. I like to break it up on logical section boundaries, which means that the “pages” vary widely in length. I do try to keep any single “page” from being too short, however.

The eBooks

For the first time, my review is available on Apple’s iBookstore as well as The new iBooks application bundled with Mavericks means you can also read the iBookstore version on your Mac.

The Kindle and iBooks readers for OS X and iOS have their own strengths and weaknesses, but I think the iBooks version of my review has a slight edge over the Kindle version. Amazon adds a “delivery” charge of $0.15 per megabyte (varying a bit for different countries). This can really eat into the price of a $4.99 book. Like the web version, both ebook versions include Retina-resolution images this year, making them much larger than in past years. To control the size of the Kindle ebook, I used JPEG images throughout. (Last year’s Kindle ebook used a mix of JPEG and PNG images for the same reason.)

Unlike Amazon, Apple does not charge a per-megabyte fee in its ebook store. Since both ebooks are the same price, this means I make slightly more money from each iBookstore purchase than I do from each Kindle purchase. But there’s something in it for you, too. The iBookstore version of my review uses lossless PNG images throughout. (Kindle version: 5.5 MB; iBookstore version: 30.5 MB.) In practice, I doubt most people will be able to tell the difference between the JPEG and PNG images, but I know which one I’d choose.

The Unknowns

This year is the first time I haven’t known the price and release date of a major OS X release well in advance. The lead times dictated by the ebook stores (anywhere from 12 hours to a week) meant that I had to submit the ebooks before I knew how much Mavericks would cost. The ebooks are now updated, but Amazon in particular does not make downloading updates easy or convenient. Updates to the web version are visible instantly, of course.

The Stats

My sincere thanks to everyone that reads the review, in any form, in whole or in part. You’re the reason that I’ve been doing this for the past fourteen years.