The 512 Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me

It's that time of year, so I'm happy to present the 512 Pixels Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me:


Backups always come up this time of year. If you're at home visiting family, it's your Nerd Duty to make sure your family members have something in place to keep their data safe.

There are lots of good options out there today, but back in the early 2000s, that wasn't true. If you were a .Mac subscriber, though, Apple's made data duplication easier than it had been previously. You didn't even have to download the app; you could install it right from your iDisk folder.

There were three major versions of; that screenshot is from version 3, which was by far the most useful.

(Version 2's headline feature? Support for FireWire drives.)

The app came with several preset backup solutions:

  • Back up your Home Folder to either a local disk (daily) or optical disk (monthly)
  • Back up personal data to iDisk daily
  • Back up iLife data to optical disk weekly
  • Back up iTunes library to optical disk monthly

Each of these four options could be tweaked further, and could be used to help restore data from the various destinations if needed.

The final option allowed for custom backups, mixing and matching files, destinations and frequency of the backup: could be used to copy data to a non-iDisk location without a .Mac subscription, but was limited to 100 MB per backup. It was really designed to be a park for users paying the $99/year fee. — while it runs under OS X El Capitan — is past its useful life. Time Machine shipped with OS X Leopard in 2007, making less useful. By the time MobileMe was announced a year later, the writing was on the wall for this little utility.

Kbase Article of the Week: Mac OS: Rebuilding Desktop File and icon recovery

This is a classic tip for those who ran Mac OS 9 and earlier:

The Desktop file is an invisible file found in the main level of your hard disk in Mac OS 9 or earlier. It is the file that keeps track of all the documents and applications that are on your disk. System 7.0 and later versions use the invisible files named Desktop DB and Desktop DF.

Occasionally, your Desktop file may become too large or may become unusable. It is generally a good idea to rebuild your Desktop file once a month or so in Mac OS 9 or earlier.

iPad Pro in the classroom

Karan Varindani, on using an iPad Pro in college:

I can’t stress just how much the Apple Pencil increases the utility of the iPad Pro. Its precision turns the device into a true digital textbook and makes it incredibly easy to eliminate a lot of paper workflows in college. I’m typing all my comments in PDF Expert for now but as soon as the app gets updated for the Pencil I’ll start writing those out, simply for the increased memory retention of writing vs typing.

Connected #67: Being in Charge of a Space Rocket

I missed this week's Connected, but am listening to it now. It's a fun one:

This week, Federico talks about how he is changing his automation workflows with 1Writer and Workflow, and Myke talks about his Apple Pencil review.

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Blue Origin lands fired rocket safely

Jeff Bezos:

Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.

This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.

The video really is something. New Shepard launches, flies to the edge of the atmosphere, and after jettisoning its crew capsule, enter a free fall back to Earth to be slowed before landing by the same motor used at liftoff.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has been attempting to land its Falcon 9 rocket, but has yet to do it successfully. While SpaceX is ahead of Blue Origin in several key areas, yesterday's landing a big win for Bezos' company.

Both companies are working with NASA on its Commercial Crew program, which will have private companies flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station while the agency focuses on its Journey to Mars program.

Fan-built LEGO Saturn V enters production review

I've been keeping my eye on this LEGO Ideas project page for a while:

This year is the 45 years Apollo 11 Moon-landing anniversary.

What a perfect time to present you the Saturn-V rocket which took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon out of Lego!

The whole Lego rocket is about 1 meter/130 studs high (aprox. 1:110 scale), has 1179 bricks and lots of features:

  • removable 1st rocket-stage with the main rocket engine
  • removable 2nd rocket-stage with rocket engine
  • removable 3rd rocket-stage with the Apollo spacecraft
  • Apollo spacecraft with the "Eagle" Lunar Lander and the Lunar Orbiter
  • the rescue rocket on top of the whole spacecraft
  • two minifigure astronauts on the Moon for displaying

The project has reached 10,000 votes, meaning it will be considered by the toymaker for possible production.

Sign me up. I'd love to have this sitting next to my shuttle.

Liftoff #8: Halo of Junk

This week on Relay FM's only space-themed podcast, Jason and I talk about the not-so-impending doom facing Phobos and a bunch of other news before being joined by Emily Lakdawalla from The Planetary Society to discuss the future of solar system exploration.

My thanks to these sponsors:

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I woke up to a fun tweet in my timeline this morning:

I had no idea this existed. In short, some Macs sold between 1992 and 1996 came with free telephone support as long as you owned the machine. In 1997, Apple tried shutting it down, but got hit with a lawsuit.

The best part? The phone number still works.