January 2008

From time to time, I check CPSC to see if I’ve bought anything that might be unsafe. These are just too funny, though:

And that’s just January. Aren’t candles in general, particularly if burned indoors unattended, a fire hazard?

BusinessWeek has published their review of the latest shiny from Apple, the MacBook Air. I have to agree with the reviewer on most points, though I’m probably not really the target market for this laptop. The price is right, but, for me, being restricted to a single battery really kills the deal. In order for an ultraportable to hold value for me, I need a full working day of freedom from AC. 5 hours just won’t cut it; I might as well carry a larger machine at that point. One of the reviewer’s comments simply misses the boat, though:

Meanwhile, it would be nice if Apple would end its pigheaded insistence on a single mouse button, as it has on desktop mice.

Just as quietly as with desktop mice, they have in fact ended this limitation for over a year now. To activate the “second button” simply enable two finger taps in the system preferences application. This lets you tap the pad’s surface with two fingers at any time to “right-click”. It’s a tremendous improvement over a second button, which is much easier to inadvertently activate. I constantly find myself wishing Apple’s competitors would ditch the second button and adopt that feature instead.

With VirtualBox, in order to compact sparse images effectively, unused blocks need to be set to zero. The traditional

cat /dev/zero >fillerup

Doesn’t seem to give good results. Here’s what worked better for me.

This info comes from the virtualbox forums but seems to have absolutely no google-juice, so I’m reposting it here in hopes of making it easier to find.

The end result still isn’t spectacular, but on my image that should occupy 2.1G if the disk image were perfectly sparse, it resulted in a 2.8G image. Copying from /dev/zero prior to compacting resulted in a 3.6G image. That makes the difference between wanting to compress the image when I burn it to a DVD and being happy to leave it alone.


DHS has sponsored use of Coverity’s products against several prominent Free/Open Source projects’ work product. It’s great news. The projects never could afford to sponsor such themselves, and they will doubtless find and fix some errors. ZDNet’s coverage makes you wonder just what kind of errors they’ll find, though:

Coverity uses static source-code analysis to spot errors in code, such as open brackets. Projects on Rung 2 will move on to use the company’s “satisfiability” techniques, which use a bit-accurate representation of a software system, translating every relevant software operation into Boolean values (true and false) and Boolean operators (such as and, not, or).