Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PAF 5.2 on Intel OS X 10.5!

[Note, an update is posted here.]

It works!

For all those genealogy buffs out there who happen to have Intel Macs at home, there's a way to get PAF working on your Mac (OS X 10.5, Leopard*) without buying stuff.

[Quick aside, PAF is short for Personal Ancestral File, a software application for Windows written by the LDS church designed to help people document their genealogy, build pedigree charts, etc.]

I found this originally on, but it doesn't seem to be there anymore. Here's the process that worked for me:
  1. Download Darwine. Darwine is a project that tries to mimic the Windows OS for a Windows .exe program. It doesn't work terribly well for most stuff, but it does seem to work for PAF.

  2. Install. Just like every other Mac app out there, double-click the .dmg file, open up the disk image that mounts, and drag the Darwine folder into your Applications folder

  3. Download PAF installer. This is a Windows application.

  4. Install PAF. Open up the Darwine folder (/Applications/Darwine), and drag the PAF5EnglishSetup.exe file you just downloaded onto the

  5. When the IntallShield asks you where to put PAF, press the "Browse" button, and browse to "Z:\Applications", then change it to read "Z:\Applications\PAF5.2"

    On the "Select Options" screen, deselect the first 2 options. I didn't try viewing the "getting started" document or putting a shortcut on my desktop, but I'm guessing it might not work. You can leave the third item selected.

How's this work, anyway? Some background information...

Windows applications draw stuff to the screen using system calls to the Windows operating system, e.g. "please draw a big window in the middle of the screen for me". Unix/linux apps draw stuff to the screen using something called "X11". WineHelper is a Mac program that translates system calls within a Windows .exe application into corresponding X11 calls. You should see X11 (the icon is a big X in a white square) show up in your dock when you run WineHelper.

If an "xterm" window appears, you can safely close it. If you get annoyed by it constantly appearing, let me know and I'll help you make it stop. =)

The PAF program (paf5.exe) should have been installed in /Applications/PAF5.2. OS X thinks it's a document, just like a family newsletter or something. When you double-click it, /Applications/Darwine/ should try to open it. You can put PAF in your dock in the documents side (the right/bottom side, where the Trash can is).

If the fonts look bad, it's because PAF isn't using the good fonts from X11. I have some instructions on how to make them look good, but they're a little complicated, so email me and I'll try to figure out a better way.

Caution, this is Windows territory...

Note that you're not in danger of getting any viruses from running PAF this way. However, you will need to be a little more careful about files you get from the outside. Some viruses have filenames that end in .jpg.exe to fool you into thinking it's a picture, and when you double-click it, will start, and might manage to run it. I can't think of any other specific dangers here, but as always, be careful with stuff you get from the internet. If is starting up and you're not starting PAF, right-click the dock-icon and select quit. I can probably help you figure out how to keep .exe files from opening automatically with a double-click, if you're interested.

Let me know how it goes for you, I'm interested to hear.

* This will likely work with Tiger (10.4) also, but you have to install X11 at least. I haven't tried it, so I'm not sure what else might be required.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ring dance

This looks like fun, but only after you get the hang of it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bugs that excrete petroleum?

According to this site, yes. Supposedly they're planning for large-scale production in 2011, and "oil" could be back to $50/barrel soon thereafter.

I'm terrible at predicting the future*, but here are the likely outcomes of this as I see it:
  1. This is a joke on that guy, and his intern is swapping out the mix with gasoline in the middle of the night.
  2. The bug excrement by-products are horribly toxic and prohibitively expensive to deal with so the project gets shut down by environmentalist lawsuits (or PETA cries cruelty to genetically corrupted insects).
  3. Chevron funds the guy (go big oil!), then redirects his team to a "more promising" technology that takes 20 years to discover is a dead end. What bug-excrement project?
  4. Bugs escape, mutate into a super-race of petroleum-producing foliage eaters, and turn the US into a giant flora-less oil dump.
Note that none of my likely outcomes involves bug excrement ending up in my gas tank.

However unlikely, I'm still hoping.

* ... except for my uncanny ability at work to predict software features 2-years out =)

Marty Cooper

communicator.pngAnybody remember watching Captain Kirk beam down to the planet Janus VI and talk back to his ship on this tiny flip-open device without wires? Or Captain Picard using this tiny badge-thing stuck to his shirt that did the same thing? Remember thinking how cool that would be?

Turns out, Marty Cooper did think that, and invented the first mobile phone. I never realized the two were connected...

A concrete example of science fiction inspiring *real* world inventions. So instead of Star Trek reminding us of cellphones now, we should be thanking it for them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Big storm afternoon

A big thunderstorm came through this afternoon. The rain was being blown hard against our back windows, which usually doesn't happen, so we knew it was an unusually strong one.

I thought maybe I'd climb in the attic to see if we had any roof leaks, but once I got upstairs, Kyla was already in the yellow room and I could feel a significant cool breeze coming through.

"Uh, you feel that breeze?", I asked.

"Yeah, it feels good."

"Are all the windows closed?"

"Yeah, pretty sure..."

Nah, something's wrong. So I raced around checking windows, and as I started the descent into the basement, I could feel a strong breeze coming up from there...

"Oh, no." I muttered with my first glance into the big room in the basement. The back door was flung wide open, probably by the wind, and there was a half inch of water on the floor in a 5' radius around the back door. I raced over and shut it, but soon realized how much water had gotten in... The wind had been blowing so hard that the opposite wall 15 feet from the door was wet. We spent the next 45 minutes drying things and trying to vacuum the water out of the carpet with the wet/dry vacuum. Fun.

Then I went out front:

"Well, that'll be a little difficult to prop up..."
"Oh good, just a little branch came off of that tree..."
"Doh, make that half the tree! Uh, oh, and it's blocking half the road...

"Wow, it didn't fall on my truck... And wow, that's the only part of either tree that didn't fall."
"That first tree sure fell flat!"
"That's a lot of water that came down..."

Not wanting to risk the rest of the tree falling on my truck, I backed out, and went for a quick drive around the neighborhood to survey the damage. A lot of bradford pear trees fell, a couple people lost gutters, but pretty clean drops all around, as far as I could tell.
"What's Stuart doing with my tree?"

Our neighbor from across the street had come while I was driving around, and was already cutting the branches with his son. What a guy!
Pretty soon our other neighbors showed up and we had a road-clearing party.

We still have a mess in the yard, the Tucks said they'd come help us with that Monday.

I went to see if anybody else needed help, and a fellow around the corner had his bradford pear tree drop on his new Cadillac and new Nissan Z300 (?). Amazingly, despite having probably 400 pounds of limbs laying over both cars, neither were really damaged -- just a slight ding on the side of the caddy's hood. I spent an hour or so helping them, then headed home.

Most of the people who saw the truck untouched by that tree said, "Wow, you got lucky."

But that's not how I think of it. =)

Lisinopril connected to fibrosis?

Huh? I know nothing about anatomy and medicine, remember?

This is mostly so I won't forget -- my hometeaching companion has fibrosis in his lungs, a condition where the lungs scar over more and more, until the condition is fatal. (There are a bunch of fibroses on wikipedia, but this one looks like it might be it.)

He mentioned today that in talking to other people with the same kind of fibrosis, the common thread is that all of them had taken a blood pressure medicine called Lisinopril. He said one guy was in his 80s, healthy as a horse, was put on Lisinopril and within 3 months had fibrosis and his lungs and had to be put on oxygen. Ouch.

Interestingly, he said that when he stopped taking that medicine, his blood pressure immediately dropped -- apparently it wasn't working as well as was expected.

Watch out for that stuff (and medicines in general!).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mac vs. Windows, part 2: Jeep people

At work I used to sit next to a lady named Kim. Really sweet and nice -- had pictures of her horses all over her cubicle, and loved jelly beans -- great cubemate.

But if you spent much time around her, you'd soon realize that she was a Jeep person.

34006.jpgIf you've met a Jeep person, you probably know what I mean...*

Jeep person

Kim didn't just own a Jeep -- she was a Jeep person.

Any time "Jeep" was brought up, something clicked-on in her and she'd get really excited about it -- upgrades, and wheels, and suspensions, and seats, on and on. It was fun to watch the expressions on her face as described some kind of axle.

See, a Jeep to Kim isn't just a car, it's a lifestyle.

And because of that, I could never have bought a Jeep while I sat next to her. If I'd bought a Jeep, to her I would've been buying into her lifestyle, and then that would've dominated our conversations forever after. Then, either I'd have to become a Jeep person too -- or she would've stopped talking to me because I was treating my Jeep as just-a-car -- and who does that? I mean come on!

Mac person

So somehow my character/personality is wired into computers, particularly Apple ones. I remember sitting for hours on a stool in our pantry making BASIC programs on my dad's Apple IIe from school. I wrote dozens of those programs: launchers, original games, graphics drawing -- you name it. Interestingly, the part of my job now that I enjoy the most is writing perl scripts that do the rest of my job for me.

I never had that same feeling about Windows or SGI or linux -- not exactly sure why, though I have my suspicions. Those platforms mostly just give me headaches.

So I own a Mac (3 actually), but something I've worried about for a few years now is: Am I a Mac person? Do I just use one, or is it for me a full-fledged lifestyle?(!) Worse, if someone buys one, does that become the only thing I want to talk about??? I'm not sure, but if you really want to know, ask my wife. =)

For a few of my friends, a Mac would be perfect, but I wonder if they don't buy one because they think I'm a Mac person. Maybe they think buying one would change the nature of our whole friendship, just like me buying a Jeep.


... I decided back then that I don't want to be an anything-person. Own cool stuff**, do cool stuff, and be as good a person as I can be.

It's a slow change (again, ask my wife!), but I'm at least getting a little better, I think. =)

* My kids said my blog was boring, "No pictures!" Here you go. =)

** ... when I can afford it ...

Mac vs. Windows, part 1: Price

Macworld has a story from PC World's James Martin comparing prices of Macs vs. Windows laptops.

Bottom line from the article: Mac prices are "on par" with PC prices, in 2 of 3 giving the nod to the Macs (the exception being the high-end, very specifically targeted MacBook Air)

What James doesn't mention, however, is that all the Mac models are fairly high-end machines, with Firewire, Bluetooth, webcam, and wireless internet all built in. So comparable PCs tend to be higher priced since the target market isn't as price sensitive.

Now, say you're just looking for a little laptop to do gmail and web browsing -- all you really need is a browser and a wireless card. Go to, configure a home/home office laptop, Inspiron, jet black, 2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, Vista (yuck) home edition, 80 GB drive, no webcam, cheap battery, McAfee Security Center (36 months, never buy a Windows PC without security software!), MS Works, (my goodness, what is all this stuff they're trying to sell me?! colored mice, bags, colored headphones, extra software, speakers, hard drives, hubs, adapters, routers, remotes, online backups, argh!), add to checkout, and ...

Blat. Irritating.

Anyway, supposedly the price was $598. Cheapest Mac laptop? Make that a refurbished (I bought one!) Macbook at $949.

What? $350 more for a refurbished machine? (And new is another $150 on top of that).

See, a case where PCs are a lot cheaper than Macs.

So if you have exactly $598 + tax to spend, have a reasonably saavy anybody to help you set it up, and are sure that web browsing is the only thing you want to do on your new computer, go nuts. Some people want to think of their computer the same way they think of their toaster, and that's fine.

On the other hand, a fellow from work in his late 60s came to me and asked what kind of computer to buy. I asked what he wanted to do, and he said, web browsing, email, pictures, and writing papers -- and since he wasn't that computer "saavy" he didn't want to have to futz with the machine to make it work. Given that I've *never* not-futzed with a PC to make it work, I suggested he look into the Mac...

6 months later I called him to ask about work stuff, and asked if he'd gotten a computer yet.

"Oh yes!" he said, "I got a Mac."

"What do you think?"

"I love it!"

... then went on to tell me how he set it up without any help and about how he got his vacation pictures up on the internet, etc.*

My bottom line: you can't get a Mac as cheap as you can get a PC, but similarly configured PCs are comparable in price to the Macs, but the value on the Mac is a lot higher.

* ... and I was so happy I didn't have to interrupt him to ask, "You did get your anti-virus software installed, right?" =)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Insights from Mike Myers and Hugh Sampson

Fascinating pair of interviews in the June 18th broadcast of NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where she spoke with Mike Myers (voice of Shrek, among other things) and Dr. Hugh Sampson, President of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (Here's a direct link to the audio file)

Too busy to listen to it? Here are the highlights:

Mike Myers

...on the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s

MM: "The sexual revolution didn't end because of a sexual counterrevolution, I don't think the right had anything to do with it -- the moral right, or whatever you want to call them. I think what happens is that, that kind of swinging is an unsustainable lifestyle -- I think when people... cheat, it hurts their feelings. You know what I mean?"

TG: "Mmm hmm. Yes."

MM: "You know what I'm saying."

TG: (knowingly) "Yes."

MM: "I think that kind of stuff hurts, there's a hangover, there's an aftertaste, there's a price to be paid. So true love triumphs over lust."
(He then adds "that's the message of Austin Powers", which I find odd, but I never saw the movie so what do I know...)

I guess I just didn't expect anyone in Hollywood to believe that.

Dr. Hugh Sampson

... on the rise of food allergies in this country

You really need to listen to this one. Since I'm not a doctor, I can't even really speak intelligently to medical issues like these. Dr. Sampson is the President of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and his interview starts at 28:55 into the program.

Still here? Okay fine, I'll give you my summary of what he said:

  • After years of having physicians advise people to delay feeding peanuts and other potentially allergenic foods to kids, we'd expect the number of people suffering from food allergies in the developed world to start dropping -- but it hasn't, it's rising!

  • So now it appears that food allergies are *not* all genetic -- *we're* doing this!

  • Some scientists believe we're misprogramming our immune systems. One theory, called "hygene hypothesis", postulates that the immune system gets programmed by bacteria that gets on our skin and into our gastrointestinal tract shortly after birth. If that's true, now that we've gotten so effective at eliminating bacteria from everything, we've killed off the bacteria that would otherwise "program" our systems with which things to be sensitive to -- and which not. [This topic sounds very familiar... - B]

  • Peanut allergy rates in Canada, UK, US, Australia are high -- China, on the other hand, reportedly eats roughly the same amount of peanuts but has almost no peanut allergies; researchers think this may be due to the above, or possible the way we prepare our peanuts (dry-roasted, causing a "mallard reaction", instead of boiled).

  • Another example, peanut allergy rates of children in Israel are 1/10 that of children in Hebrew school in London -- possibly due to a food used for weaning children called "bamba", which contains peanuts.

  • Some experts are thinking that we may need to expose kids to peanuts very early or through the mother instead of the previous recommendation that we delay introduction. Dr. Sampson now recommends that physicians tell mothers that they don't have enough data to support making a recommendation on how/when to introduce food types to very young children -- and that the mothers should do what they feel is right, and (wisely so) to not feel guilty about the outcome.

  • What are the 8 food products most responsible for food allergies? milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, various tree nuts, fish, shellfish

  • How much of a peanut can cause an allergic reaction in someone with the allergy? They're not sure, so they err on the safe side and often over-label products, excluding lots more food items from the diets of people with those allergies.

  • Another thing they're looking into is "delayed maturation" of the fructase enzyme in some children; apparently lactase breaks down milk products, and fructase breaks down sugars in fruits and vegetables. If a child has this condition, they'll get severe cramping and diarrea when eating certain fruits and veggies.

Part of me thinks the end result will be that expectant mothers will be told to follow the Word of Wisdom and just live normally otherwise. I'm stunned how often doing what's natural to children seems to end up being a generally healthy practice for them (e.g. eating dirt, not washing hands, etc.).

Also, I really enjoyed listening to this doctor because he explained why he believes what he does, and gave me a sense of how firm those beliefs are, and which ones are "softer". It bothers me that often our doctors take these "maybe"/"sometimes"/"looks like" findings, many of which are conflicting, and turn them into "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" -- but which often end up wrong!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Go Alabama!

Looks like Alabama's landed herself right in the heart of obese America!

I wonder how they calculate these statistics -- do they have hidden scales under the Wal-Mart entrance and just weigh everyone as they come and go? Or something more scientific like assuming conservation of mass and weighing all the incoming and outgoing traffic from the state? Or perhaps monitoring the earth's rotational eccentricity to back-calculate the contribution of each state's mass changes over time? You know, like what happens to a spun basketball if you stick a giant wad of gum on one side. =)

Of course those methods are all perfectly feasible, but I bet they're just doing phone surveys. And assuming that, how do they know that what they have isn't just a map of where people happen to lie more often to phone surveyors?*

I bet a phone survey of prison inmates would reveal some shocking statistics on the number of innocent people falsely imprisoned by our justice system too. =)

Go Alabama!

* We love you, Colorado Parmelees! =)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RC helicopter skills

Check out this impressive display of RC helicoptering skills.

I bet even if I had that helicopter stuck on the end of a long stick I couldn't make it move like that!

Makes me wonder if they don't have sequences of moves programmed into their controller, e.g. press the green button and the thing goes straight up 10 feet and stops, the red button and it goes down 10 feet then stops, yellow button it flips upside down and inverts the rotor blade angles, etc. If so, I bet they could design pilotless fighter jets the same way, and give them some tremendous advantages in a dogfight. That would be like having a tank in the Revolutionary War -- a real game changer.

Who knows, they may have them already.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008