Fixing a suddenly-unavailable MacBook battery (aka “that was odd”)

So, I’m sitting on the couch this afternoon, surfing the internets on my (unplugged) mid-2007 MacBook, when suddenly, the computer shuts off.

Thinking I’d failed to notice the low battery warning, I plugged in and restarted, only to find that:

  • The battery indicator was suddenly showing “no battery available”
  • The fan was running full-out, despite zero processor load
  • All of the temperature sensors except for the hard drive’s had disappeared from StatPro

I zapped my PRAM, ran the Apple Hardware Diagnostic from my original boot disc, no dice.  Swapped in a known-good battery from my wife’s laptop.  Still nothing.

Then I tried zapping the SMC, by removing AC adapter and battery, holding power button for five seconds, then reinstalling battery, reattaching AC adapter and restarting.

That did the trick.

That was odd.

SideTrack: a less-annoying trackpad driver for Mac OS X

So, yesterday I whined a bit about the MacBook’s trackpad.  Today was problem-solving mode.

Turns out it’s mostly the lame Apple trackpad driver, rather than the hardware itself.  Fortunately, there is an alternative: SideTrack. It adds back the nice scroll-at-edge feature us Synaptics users have grown used to, and adds a bunch more bits of trackpad configurability that Apple didn’t see fit to include. 

It’s $15 shareware; I’m going to try it out for a while to be sure it’s worthwhile.

Hint to Apple: buy this guy’s software and ship a better trackpad driver.  It’s lame to have to pay an extra $15 for something that should work better out of the box.

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Mindless Droning Consumerism

A little known fact is that I haven’t actually bought a personal computer for myself since 1993, when I purchased a PowerBook 145B before leaving for a semester in Denmark.  (Actually, I think my parents may well have paid for it!)   Since then, I’ve always used various work computers, or computers belonging to my now-wife, Molly.

It was a good 14-year run.  But now it’s over.

I just bought a MacBook.

(For the curious/geeky: White, 2GHz, 1GB RAM (soon to be upgraded), 80GB HD.  The bottom-of-the-line model.)

I’ve never been a huge Apple fan, and I’m unlikely to become one.  But the fact is that the MacBook is a nicely designed laptop, with good perfomance, at a very reasonable price ($1099, plus tax).

I’m looking forward to using it.

Things I already like:

  • The keyboard looks a bit scary, but feels surprisingly good.  Not as good as my work ThinkPad, though.
  • The screen is sharp and bright.
  • It’s a nice size.  Not too small, not too big.
  • The MagSafe power connector, which connects magnetically and pops out when tripped on, is so elegant and simple that I can’t believe nobody thought of it until now.  Every laptop manufacturer should copy it ASAP.

Things that already annoy me:

  • Apple’s touchpad.  It’s just not very sensitive.  It’s still way behind the trackpad on my ThinkPad at work.
  • Only one mouse button has been a bad idea for a long time, and still is.  Two-fingered right-clicking on the trackpad is a partial solution, but I’d really like two buttons.  Steve Jobs’ “one button” dictum be damned.

Why Facebook/Twitter/IM/Blogging etc. Might Actually Be Significant for Relationship Building

Marty shows yet again why he is one of the keenest observers in the nonprofit technology space:

Direct online interaction robs the very important inattentive trust building components to relationships. Twitter, facebook, etc. provide a unique window into watching someone without paying direct attention to them. How many of you log on to do work late at night and “see” in AIM list and Skype list folks that are still online working. Does that over time build your relationship with that person in any way? Does a facebook update on someone going hiking at a place you have hiked before influence your interaction with that person next time you meet even thought you never discuss the hike? Yes.

What if they were taking jazz lessons? What if they twittered they picked up a new Hummer? or bagged a black bear on the first day of the season? You might never bring it up in a work context or direct interaction but you know it is there and your brain files it in the mix. It is inattentive. They were not telling you. They were not looking for a reaction. They were just letting you see if you cared.

One of the key components of network health is social ties. There may be passive network building strategies that should be tested and deployed within a campaign context that help foster building inattentive trust. Such activities might include micro blogging activities and work, shared calendars, regular questions asked about non-campaign related activities and republishing the information back across the network.

The tools are catching up very slowly to all the complex needs we have to understand one another. We need to be aware of the opportunity they present to enable us to build more powerful network capacity even in inattentive and passive ways.

This feels really right to me.

Interesting paper on platforms

Managing Proprietary and Shared Platforms: A Life-Cycle View by Thomas R. Eisenmann looks like a really interesting examination of the challenges of both shared and proprietary platforms as they grow and evolve.

The research shows that challenges confronting platform managers vary systematically, depending on whether the platform is proprietary or shared and on the stage of platform development. As in most industries, platform-mediated networks exhibit predictable patterns as they pass through life-cycle stages of birth, maturity, and decline. Exceptions do occur, but the patterns hold often enough that life-cycle patterns provide a useful guide for planning.

How Plone Keywords Should Work

We’re finishing up a big intranet project here at ONE/Northwest, and that led to an interesting conversation between me, Dave Averill and Gideon Rosenblatt about tagging and keywording content in a website. Here are a few notes from it.


1) “Tags” – keywords that are stored per-item and per-user, ala Plone doesn’t provide out of the box support for tagging. That’s probably OK, because tagging doesn’t really work well unless you have a LOT of users.

2) “Keywords” – keywords that are stored per-item, but not per-user. Plone provides this out of the box.

How Things Work Now, And What’s Wrong

Plone’s current Keywords user interface is really clunky. So clunky as to be nearly useless, in fact. (Sorry.)

keyword widget

The main problem is that as the list of keywords in the site grows (which it does, very quickly, because keywords are not per-user, they’re global across the site), it quickly becomes very difficult to find and choose the keywords in the scrolling window.

Worse, you can’t easily see at a glance which keywords have already been selected.

How to fix it

Fortunately, I think this should be fairly easy to fix.

I would do the following things

  1. Move the Keywords widget from the “Properties” tab to the “Edit” tab. (Plone 3.0 fixes this quite a bit, by making the schemata refresh without page reloads, so this may ultimately be a moot point.)
  2. Show the list of keywords assigned to a content object above the keyword widget. (Bonus points for making them clickable to a search!)
  3. Change the widget to an Autocomplete widget. (Note: I need to check whether the Autocomplete widget will let you add new items to the vocabulary.) uses an autocomplete widget like this for tag entry, and it’s really efficient.

    autocomplete widget
  4. Make keywords part of the default content view templates (again, with clickable links to other items with the keyword). It’s easier to remove them (especially in Plone 3.0 with the viewlet manager) than to add them, and having them there by default will signal that we value keywording.  UPDATE: Shane Graber below points out some instructions he wrote for doing just this, in Plone 2.0-2.5.   Zope 3 fans might prefer this as a viewlet, but that’s a pretty trivial implementaton detail.
  5. We should build a screen that allows one to very quickly assign keywords to many objects in a single operation. I think I’d want to execute a search (or build a smart folder), then see a list of all found objects, their descriptions, the keywords they currently have, and an autocomplete widget for each object. Rip through the screen, assign keywords to a bunch of objects, then hit save once. That would be really fast and efficient.
  6. Finally, we should make sure that permission to assign keywords to content is separated from permission to edit the object itself. (I’m not sure if this is already the case, please leave a comment if you know!) This would make it possible to create a “tagger” role which could be used to let site members keyword content items.

OK, that’s it. All of this stuff seems like it would be pretty easy to do without any major changes to the underlying plumbing.

What do you think? Would this be more sensible, more “humane” behavior for Plone? Is there more low-hanging fruit that I’m missing?

Update: It also might be interesting to look at auto-generating keywords by using Yahoo’s Term Extraction API.