Entries from February 2004


Lots of interesting new software released today, which is always fun. Well, fun if you're a geek, that is. Two new web browsers hit the pavement today, as well as a major update of one of the best screen capture utilities for any platform.


SafariApple bumps the version number of their little browser that could to 1.2. Some of the improvements in this version include better CSS rendering and secure certificate compatibility - the CSS text-transform bug I submitted has finally been fixed [yes!]. This version is also noticeably speedier in the page loading department, which is always nice, thanks in part to a new version of the WebCore frameworks that Safari uses to render HTML.

You can also now tab through all of a page's links now, as well as control the minimum font size of text, which is also welcome. For those of you using the great Pith Helmet to block and filter ads in Safari, there's a small tweak that you'll need to do to ensure that Pith Helmet continues to make your life ad banner-free.

» Update-o-Rama continues...

The Power On Icon

heaterA few days ago I was talking to one of the tech support people at work, when I noticed a heater he had in the corner of his office. Our campus is apparently one of the "greenest" buildings in North America, which means that when it's freezing outside, it's freezing inside. Our campus is cold-blooded, you see.

Thus, the heater.

I noticed attached to his heater was a foot-activated switch that you stomped on when you wanted to turn the heater on. On this switch was the seemingly universal symbol for "Power", which up until this point I had only noticed on computers. I'm sure you've seen it before - it's the nearly closed circle with a gap at the top, and there's a short vertical line that passes from the outside of the circle partway into the centre via this gap.

After noticing the power icon on the heater, I looked around to confirm that yes, nearly every computer we had in the building had a power-on icon that looked exactly like this, or at least very close:


What I want to know is, who invented this icon? What products was it first used on? What's the story behind how it has spread into apparent ubiquity?

rockerOnOff.jpgI've tried to do some research, but googling has proved fruitless. The tech support guy postulated that it could have originally represented a graphically simplified finger pressing a button. I thought it might something to do with the amalgamation of the old binary-style rocker on-off switch's icons.

Either way, even if one of us is close on how the symbol originated, we still have no idea on its genesis. Anyone?

Power On Icon update

Well, the question I asked about the origins of the power on icon is still unanswered, but I do have an update.

Cameron (beautiful site, by the way!) mentioned in the comments that Don "Design of Everyday Things" Norman ran into a related problem when designing the power on icon for the Macintosh, I figured I'd throw caution to the wind and email Don directly. Seeing how he was intimately involved with the design of a power on icon, I was hoping he might be able to help.

I wasn't really expecting a response, but almost fell out of my chair when I received a reply back from him within eight hours. I love the Internet!

The icon you are talking about is a world-wide international standard,
either ANSI or ISO (that's the name of standards groups).

The | means "on" (as in 1 for one). The O means off (as in zero for off).
The | inside a circle means it is a push-button switch that toggles the
power on or off. The | inside a broken circle indicates that the power does
not go completely off. (Because if it did, you couldn't use a remote
control or tap on a keyboard key to turn it back on.) The standards
committee wanted to distinguish between closed circle and broken circle for
safety reasons.

He then mentioned that armed with this information, googling or searching for "ANSI ISO power switch standard" might help turn up something. I still haven't found any specifics on who exactly created the icon design, but I'm working on it.

Don (and Cameron) both mentioned this chapter, written by Don on the difficulties of designing the original Macintosh power on icon design:

And Don also mentioned this presentation by Jonathan Amsterdam on the same chapter.

The search continues...

Studio Display (17” LCD) for sale sold!

asd17I love how resaleable Apple products are. Thanks to everyone who was interested!

I'm finally at the point where I can afford (and justify) upgrading to a bigger monitor, so it's time to sell my 17" LCD studio display. I've had it for just over two years, and it has performed brilliantly throughout.

If you're a specs-geek, check out the official 17" ASD page. There's also an overview in PDF format on the displays. Don't forget: you either need a computer that has a ADC port (Powermac G4 Gigabit models and higher), or a DVI port and a converter like the Apple DVI to ADC adapter.

With the aforementioned adapter, this display may also be used with the DVI Powerbooks, or (apparently) even a DVI-enabled PC, though I've never tried that myself.

There is a single dead pixel located approximately a inch away from the right-hand side of the screen, which I honestly never notice, but people purchasing LCD's usually want to know about these things, so there you have it. I should also mention that this display is covered by an Extended AppleCare warranty until November, 2004.

If you're interested, get in touch with me. I'm asking $650 Cdn, which at the time of this writing is around $490 US, and I'll ship anywhere that the buyer is willing to pay for.

I originally made the move to LCD displays due to rather severe eyestrain caused by glaucoma, and haven't regretted it for a moment. This really has been the most beautful, highest quality display I've ever used, and after years of headaches, blurry vision, and other eyestrain-related annoyances, the trouble-free peace of the Apple LCD's has been a godsend. Once you've tried one, using a standard CRT seems like a compromise.

If you were wondering what I'm upgrading to, I'm sticking with the tested and true: an Apple 20" cinema display. Of course, this means that display updates are due any day, as I seem to have the uncanny ability to purchase Apple products just before they release new, upgraded versions. Heh.


Speaking of visual beauty, the Mac OS X screensaver entitled Hotel Magritte is possibly one of the strangest, and most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Check out the screenshots.

Things That Make Me Say “Damn” part 1


TV: The Office

I originally got turned on to this short-lived BBC series via Lana and her frequent declarations of love. With its combination of office politics, strange human behaviour, and cubicle humour, it seemed like a natural. It helps too that Renée has a deep, undying love of British humour, a love which I generally share, though I've never understood her appreciation for Kevin Turvey Investigates.

The first episode was funny, but didn't bowl me over, but by the second episode it was obvious that this was destined to become a home crowd favourite. How could you not love exchanges like this:

Gareth: What ones (catch phrases) are yours that I use?
David: Same shit, different day, that's mine. Exsqueeze me, instead of excuse me.
Tim: Wank you very much.
David: Yeah, I invented that.

This is possibly the first show I've ever watched where I cannot stand watching more than one episode at a time. This is even though we have the entire first season on DVD, and each episode is only 30 minutes, which practically invites devouring the entire season in one sitting.

But no. This is mainly due to the infuriating personalities of the Wernham Hogg crew, who simultaneously make me laugh so hard it hurts, and frustrate me because they are so... infuriatingly evocative. This is really the show's strength: the ability to be both shit-your-pants hilarious, and at the same time maddening beyond belief as it reminds you of past office horrors. Damn good.

» Things That Make Me Say “Damn” part 1 continues...

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