Brian Eno Is Alive and Well in My iPhone

Bloom screenshot

The most entertaining iPhone app I’ve seen so far comes from Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers and is called “Bloom”.

Given the current events in the US (or global) economy, “Bloom” rescues me from continually listening to only chill-out music and Radiohead’s most apocalyptic songs.

Instead, “Bloom” allows me to anesthetize (or lobotomize) myself with a mini-Eno, embedded in my iPhone, happy to produce ambient music on demand or from my cue.

The screen is a fuzzy pastel color, varying with your mood (“Bergamot”, “Vetiver”, “Ylang”, “Banzoin” and others). You can choose to have it create music for you, or to give it some cues by tapping various parts of the screen. Tap out a few notes and it will play them back, looping them into a piece of ambient fuzz that could just as well be a song from "Music for Airports". You can freeze the melody from evolving if you like it, but there are no provisions for saving, recording or sharing it, which is just as well.

I was so enthralled with it after buying it that I lost track of time and was late to an appointment.

“Bloom” costs $3.99 and you can buy it through the iTunes Store. Here are screenshots of the preferences:

"Bloom" About Page

"Bloom" preferences

"Bloom" preferences

Showing a Column as a UNIX Timestamp in MySQL

I often need to store a timestamp in the UVFood database. There are lots of things I need timestamps for – recording the time that a user account was made or a modification was made, for instance.

While MySQL has quite an assortment of date and time formats which it supports, I usually find it most convenient to store timestamps as an INT and just put the UNIX seconds since the epoch value in there. I don’t need to do funky searches on the timestamps, I just need to do simple comparisons.

A drawback is that sometimes when I’m working with the database by hand it’s annoying to see the timestamps as big numbers – sometimes it would be very helpful to see them as dates and times.

Fortunately there’s a MySQL function that helps with this problem. The “FROM_UNIXTIME()” function will interpret a numeric column’s value as a UNIX seconds-from-the-epoch value and show it as a date and timestamp.

Using it I can easily do things like:


SELECT URL, FROM_UNIXTIME(Timestamp) FROM AccessLog;

and see it as:


+---------------------------+--------------------------+
| URL | FROM_UNIXTIME(timestamp) |
+---------------------------+--------------------------+
| explore/users/94 | 2008-10-05 22:49:39 |
+---------------------------+--------------------------+

rather than


+---------------------------+------------+
| URL | timestamp |
+---------------------------+------------+
| explore/users/94 | 1223261379 |
+---------------------------+------------+

MacOS X DVDs – Versions and Saving a Little Money on Them

A brief discussion on a private mailing list I’m on reminded me that there might be some interest in this.

MacOS X Leopard has been out for a while, but there are still a lot of folks who haven’t upgraded to it.

The upgrade comes in two versions, the single user licensed one and the “family pack”.

The single user licensed version is as it says, licensed for use on a single Apple computer and lists for $129.99. The family pack is licensed for use for up to five machines in one household, and lists for $199, a pretty good deal for staying legal at less than the cost of two single user licenses. While you can buy the single user and family packs directly from Apple with no shipping fees, Amazon usually has a better deal. At the time I wrote this, they were charging $26 less than list for the single user edition and $44.51 less than list for the family pack, both with free shipping.

If you’re coming to it from the Windows world, you’ll find that Mac OS X Leopard is a pleasure to install. It requires no serial numbers or product activation. You won’t have to worry about matching the particular distribution to the particular CD key.

You should be forewarned that, in my experience, the restore DVD that comes with a computer will only work with that computer or class of computers. So if you have a MacBook restore DVD it likely will refuse to install on an iMac.

Amazon also has a pretty good deal on Leopard Server: $104.51 off the 10 user version (normal list price $499) and $168.46 off the unlimited user version (normal list price $999). Leopard Server does have a serial number and will detect multiple copies of itself running on the same network.

I don’t expect the next version of MacOS X (“Snow Leopard”) to be out for another 9 to 15 months. Snow Leopard is targeted at providing performance and stability rather than feature enhancements, and will only run on Intel machines. It should be a worthwhile upgrade (who doesn’t want performance and stability?) but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.

Working Through a Catalyst View Rendering Problem

I’ve been adding some belated email notifications to UVFood and in the process I ran into a frustrating problem: it wasn’t working at all.

The email notifications are for things like messages people send through the contact form, new user signups, errors. After those are working I’m finally adding welcome emails, confirmation emails and eventually optional weekly summaries of changes to users’ favorites.

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Keeping Your Warcraft Addons Up To Date

wowmatrix.jpg

While I’m on the subject of World of Warcraft, I want to take a moment to mention the software I use to keep the add-ons I use up to date.

One of the most wonderful things about World of Warcraft is the extensible user interface. The UI is written in LUA and users can install add-ons which add new functionality to it or change existing functionality. Some people screens are entirely different from the stock World of Warcraft UI. I don’t change mine that much, but I do use quite a few convenience add-ons.

The set I use started out as “GrimPack” from “GrimPickle” – it’s a good set of add-ons which have been tested with one another (and in some cases fixed to work better together). You can download it from http://www.grimpickle.com

If you install it, the first time you start World of Warcraft afterwards, your screen will probably be a complete mess. If I have the time, someday I’ll write up a guide telling which modules to disable… I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that, though. Instead, I suggest turning off all of them and then gradually turning on the ones that look the most useful to you.

Once you’ve got a good set of add-ons working for you, you can use WoWMatrix to keep them up to date. WoWMatrix scans the add-ons you have installed and downloads updated copies of them when updates are released. It’s very useful and very easy to use. It runs under MacOS X, Linux and Windows, so all bases should be covered. And it’s free, with a couple of small ads embedded.

You can download WoWMatrix from http://www.wowmatrix.com.

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