Starting XAMPP Automatically Upon Login on OSX

I was SO getting tired of opening a terminal window to get my web server going when I needed to do some web dev on my MacBook Pro, I finally started looking around for ways to start XAMPP on it’s own when I booted my machine.

I found the answer deep in the forums. It looks like this:

crontab -u root -e
@reboot /Applications/xampp/xamppfiles/mampp start

I didn’t know you could do an @reboot in crontab. It turns out there are a number of these abbreviations, including @hourly, @monthly, @yearly.

Anyhow, it seems to be working, and I’m delighted.

Third Time’s a Charm

It’s been a dreadful few days.  So I thought I’d share.

Saturday night I was on my way to a party at Centro, to celebrate my friend Brian’s 50th birthday.  The radio station was cutting out.  I thought some poor bastard was probably scrambling in a control room somewhere; so I’ll give him a few minutes to get his act together.  When I got tired of the continuous cutting out, I decided it was time to change the station.  I looked at the radio and realized it wasn’t the station: it was the radio.

That’s when I noticed all the coloured lights on the dash were on.  And the dash itself was growing dim.  And the acceleration was sluggish.

Best turn around and go home, I thought.  On the way, even though I was moving at a reasonable clip, the speedometer was often at 0km/h.

I got the car into the driveway, turned off the ignition and drew a sigh of relief.  I tried starting it up again, but no go.  I called Mario, our mechanic, and described the symptoms.  It was the alternator.  Towing, parts and labour: $400.

Sunday night, while I was laughing my ass off at the Winter Garden Theater, watching Lewis Black’s Dual Citizenship Tour, a tree from my backyard fell into a neighbour’s yard.  Thankfully, it didn’t damage the house.  In fact, my neighbour, who seems to be quite ill, poor woman, hadn’t even noticed it.

Still and all, cleaning that up: $300.

But wait: I’ve saved the best for last.

This afternoon, while Yvonne and I were at work, earning our daily bread for an honest day’s work, some lowlife scum broke into the house and stole my MacBook Pro.

The car, the tree, I can take that.  But my computer?  Breaking into the house?  That’s nasty.  So in addition to the $2200 replacement cost (we’ve yet to see if the insurance will cover this), we’re going to have to install a monitoring system.  And you never stop paying for that.

My friend Morty observed that the real tragedy was that the kid who stole my machine was probably only going to get fifty bucks or so for it.  I could have bought a replacement MBP for about $100; so long as I didn’t mind buying a stolen machine.

FYI, the insurance company said there’d been a rash of break-in’s, all targetting notebooks.  They figure it’s kids going in and out within five minutes, grabbing the first thing they can easily carry.

Silver lining?  I had turned on Time Machine, the OS X backup system, so everything was backed up on a separate hard drive.  Of course, the backup was about two months old, but I hadn’t really done much other than surf and download videos in the past little while.  So when I turned on my new MacBook Pro it asked me if I wanted to initialize from another Mac or Time Machine, and it took care of everything.  It took about an hour and a half.  (And, oh yeah, it now has to go through USB, because Bender2 doesn’t have FireWire anymore.)  So, my users are now in place, my screen saver, my pictures, my iTunes, my VMWare with WinXP, the hookup to my desktop at work, the wireless connection to my router.  All done.

Backups are a miracle.  I’ve seen the light and been saved.  Hallelujah!

Now I need to go through all my websites and change passwords.  Blech.

Correction: The new MacBook Pro’s now have FireWire 800, while the old ones had FireWire 400.  Different connectors (though you can get an adapter).  So I’m still stuck with USB.  (Thanks to Michael Goldberg our intern here at butterscotch.)

And while we’re at it, I should mention how grateful I am that no one got hurt, and that Mr. Lowlife-Scum didn’t trash the place.

But I’m really disappointed in the cats.  All those barking lessons were for naught.

So I Bought An iPod Touch

In spite of Apple’s many transgressions, I finally caved, and bought a Touch.  What transgressions?

Ok, they’ve actually retired that NDA, but there are other offences.  The highly vaunted Apple user experience has been a bust for me.  I tried and tried, but couldn’t get into the App Store, which is the ONLY WAY to download programs onto the platform. Continue reading

Firefox: Resetting the Feeds Default

Firefox has a terrific feature which allows you to select one of many feed handlers.  So, what’s a feed?  And what’s a feed handler?  We’re going to cover all that right now.

Websites with more or less regular content generation, such as blogs or news sites, have syndication feeds.  There are two types of feeds: RSS and Atom.  We’ll just call them feeds for now.  A feed is a file that other programs or sites can read on a regular basis to see if any new content has been added.  You can tell a site has a feed when it displays the feed broadcast icon in the address bar.  It looks like the image at the top of this post.  It used to be orange; but for some reason, Mozilla changed Firefox’s feed icon to blue.  Dunno why.

In any case, when you click on the feed icon and, by default, Firefox will invite you to subscribe to the feed with one of a number of what are called feed aggregators.  Moreover, you have the option of always using the aggregator you chose to subscribe to all future feeds you click on.  Which means, Firefox won’t ask you which one you want to use anymore.

Great.  But what if you want to see that list again, and possibly change your aggregator?  Well, there used to be a way of resetting the default, but that seems to have gone bye bye.  Now you have to go mess in Firefox’s configuration data.  It’s not rocket science, but if you’re not careful, you could seriously trash your Firefox setup.  So, I’m now going to walk you through this scary surgery.

  1. Start up Firefox.
  2. If you don’t have one already, open a new tab.
  3. In the address bar type: about:config
  4. In the Filter field type: browser.feeds
  5. Right click the top entry (browser.feeds.handler) and select Reset
  6. The value should return to ask

And there you go!  Now, when you click on a feed icon, Firefox will ask you which aggregator you want to use.  You lucky bastard.

Great chmod Tutorial

One of the most frustrating things about Linux, and all other flavours of Unix, is the permissions system.  It’s not super complicated, but it can get involved, and it helps if you have a clear idea of what you’re dealing with.  I don’t use it that often, so every time I need it, I have to dig into it again, and relearn much of it.  Thankfully, there are many tutorials for this sort of thing on the web.  Unfortunately, the quality of these tutes is highly variable.

I recently had occasion to dive into the chmod command again yesterday, and was lucky enough to find a very good tutorial, complete with examples and exercises.  If you need this stuff, it’s good to have it on hand.

From Windows to Mac: Another Convert

Mac OS X FinderI’ve been using, playing and struggling with Windows since version 3.0.  Before that, I used pretty much every version of MS-DOS.  I’ve poured a lot of my money into Microsoft.  I’ve watched them go from enthusiastic techno geeks, to arrogant robber barons.

When Vista was announced, I vowed not to donate another dime to the mighty Microsoft marketing machine.  I was planning on going to Linux.  But when push came to shove, I didn’t want to spend days struggling with obscure arcana.  So I decided to go with an OS hailed as a paragon of ease of use: OS X. Continue reading

More Firefox 3 Plugins You Didn’t Know You Couldn’t Live Without

I’ve been frustrated after the conversion to FF 3.0, looking for the search engine.  The Mozilla addons site only has the Merriam-Webster engine.  I went hunting for it on the site, and finally found the link: gives you access to the dictionary, thesaurus and reference engines. Continue reading

Ann Cavoukian: Rock Star

Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Ontarion Privacy CommissionerChad Hensler writes in his blog about Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, encouraging Google to challenge a ruling forcing them to turn private user logs over to Viacom.  In Dr. Cavoukian’s words:

…business should not, in my opinion, rely on the surveillance of consumers to protect their copyright interests. It is not acceptable to allow copyright enforcement to come at the expense of users’ privacy.

My new personal hero.

Read the whole letter here(Thanks, Richard, for the link.)