Look South

When everything goes South

Faking Depth with iPhone 15 Pro Camera

iPhone 15 Pro Default Portrait Mode.

Set iPhone 15 Pro to “portrait” mode and took this picture. This is the default it delivered (no corrections).

The iPhone 15 Pro simulates depth of field via a depth camera and advanced processing. Before the 15, I had to specifically set the camera to Portrait mode so it would capture depth data. Now, it automatically captures depth data whenever it recognizes a person, dog, or cat. This allows me to return to any picture of a person or our dog and add depth…later!

What is a Freewrite, and why did I get one?

Freewrite Gen3 on my floating shelf.

The Freewrite Smart Typewriter Gen3 sits beautifully on my shelf next to my desk. There is a handle in the top so it’s easy to grab and go.

There is a computer product I’ve coveted for a while. It’s not fast. The screen is black and white. It’s a little finicky. It has almost no ability to do anything … except write. It’s called the Freewrite.

Why I dumped my HP InkJet printer

HP Officejet 6400.

HP Officejet Pro 6400 is a great printer, but HP ink policies are terrible.

I used to own two printers, an HP 6400 and a Brother MFC. Now I only own one because HP changed their ink cartridges.

Facebook broke its social contract

A few months ago I deleted my Facebook account. It’s not suspended. I didn’t lose the login details. I removed it — all of it. The posts, friends, thoughts, stories, links, photos are all gone. Why? Facebook broke its social contract.

Upgrade to Mongoid 6.3.0

Fixed with Mongo 2.5.1 driver update. Mongoid 6.2 is incompatible with MongoDB 3.6. It seems as though they dropped $pushAll support which Mongoid 6.2 relied on. Mongoid 6.3.0 fixes this and is compatible with MongoDB 3.6. There is a minor configuration change that may not be obvious because Mongoid generates the wrong config parameters.

Spherical dome surface distance formula

Surface distance formula.

It’s useful to know the distance from the top of a dome to the foundation — the surface distance. The formula for our PCalc plugin works fine for spherical domes that are less than a hemisphere. Turns out it doesn’t work for spherical domes greater than a hemisphere. The formula would “invert” and only give the bottom portion surface distance.

The revolution will be streamed

Broken TV.

So much for the old TV business model.

Quinn Dombrowski

I’ve watched the digital revolution from before the IBM PC. Technology forced changes in market after market — from giant linotype machines to desktop publishing, drafting tables to CAD systems, film to digital CCD. Each leap had one thing in common — the established companies hated the change. Kodak went bankrupt betting that digital photography would never be as good as film. Now it’s television’s turn. My family cut the cord years ago, but cord cutters are not the big problem. It’s my kids. They will never buy cable. The industry has a name for this — cord-nevers.

I brake for stupidity

Synthesizer hard case.

It’s 1991 and I am walking from my apartment at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) to the little music studio under the football stands. I say walking. It really isn’t. I probably look like Quasimodo as I lumber about with a 50-pound particle-board case. It is weighed down with — in order — glue, wood chips, felt, and a synthesizer. It’s spring in Rexburg so the weather is a balmy 40 something degrees. The winter ice is mostly melted from the roads, except where the cars park. Shade from the vehicles keep the ice pristine and very slick. Even from this distance — as I amble slowly forward — I see a car in the football parking lot struggling to break free.

Rails Subdomains, CNAMEs, and Crzy.me

Network tag cloud with CNAME, host, DNS, host.

Setting up a Rails development environment to handle subdomains and custom domains is tricky. There are lots of suggestions from editing your /etc/hosts file, custom rack applications to handle CNAMEs, dnsmasq for wildcard domains, and more. All of them are compromises and often caused more problems than they solved. However, there is a decent solution to the problem.

Save your tapes, now!

Discarded VHS tapes.

Magnet tape is dying by the dumpster-full.

Rob Pierce / Flickr

Humanity has a lot of memories on tape. Video tape. Cassette tape. Even reel-to-reel tape. And there is one thing for certain, they are not going to last. Whatever your treasure, you should work to save it, now!

Ghost in the Mac Mini

Glowing Apple Logo.

How a Mac Mini with parental controls gave my family the scare of our lives.


In the wee hours of the morning while everyone is fast asleep, the quiet is broken by a deep, booming male voice. It reverberates in my subconscious. I wake and check the house. Nothing. I could have sworn I heard someone talking. Everything is quiet. I’m so tired I immediately fall back to sleep.

The voice penetrates my subconscious again. I stand up, blearily walking the halls. Nothing. Again. Still tired. Back to bed.

Then it comes a third time. More insistent. Urgent even. I shoot straight up, wide awake, ready for anything. I hear the voice clearly as it begins an ominous countdown. 10, 9….

iCloud Keychain synchronization vs 1Password and Dropbox

iCloud keychain synchronization is more trouble than it’s worth. With 2-factor authentication on Google it causes no end of trouble as it tries to copy my Mail setup between my Mac Mini and MacBook Air. Additionally, keychain really only works with Safari, but I actually use four browsers — Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. And finally, iCloud keychain easily exposes passwords on iOS devices. My recommendation, use 1Password and don’t turn on iCloud keychain synchronization on your Macs.

Tips for managing your money

Managing money is challenging and important. Banks and credit card companies earn their fortunes from people who don’t understand where there money goes. Bank fees and high interest rates are much easier to avoid if you understand exactly where you are spending money. Here are some tips from hard won lessons in managing money.

Switching from Gmail and MobileMe mashup to iCloud and Gmail on iOS 5

A month ago I received an email about my GmailMe mashup of Gmail and MobileMe. This is the set up I’ve used for years to forward Gmail to my MobileMe account so it can handle IMAP duties. Apparently iOS 5 beta won’t allow custom SMTP servers for outgoing mail. This letter spooked me into holding off migrating MobileMe to iCloud. After a lot of messing around I finalized a new set up to use iCloud services and use Gmail as a lightweight (yes, really lightweight) email service.

Stop guard from automatically running all tests

Ruby guard is an excellent replacement for ZenTest’s autotest. Originally guard would not run all tests unless you told it to. I liked this behavior because it meant running just the test I’m working on until I’m ready to run the whole suite.

How to set up dnsmasq on Snow Leopard for local wildcard domains

We had a working solution to use wildcard domains on the localhost. Using a proxy.pac file and a tiny rack application we could pass any domain into the development environment. It was working great, until we tried switching to Rails3 beta. Whenever we specified a non-standard local domain, the Rails router would strip the query string off the URL. This method is out-of-date. For a far better way please read Rails subdomains, CNAMEs, and crzy.me

Rules by Jim Lehrer of PBS The NewsHour

I found an article discussing Jim Lehrer’s — as in The Newshour with Jim Lehrer — rules for journalism. The PBS Column, Lehrer’s Rules discusses the voracity of these rules in today’s pile of mass media. It’s good reading, but the best part are the rules themselves. Every journalist should study these rules.

Eliminate subdomains and CNAMEs in Rails development

Having two methods of identifying the same edition on a CMS — subdomains and CNAMEs — is painful. Yet many websites have advocated this approach. Every request to the application requires multiple checks on the domain to correctly identify the edition. I believe this process developed from the difficulties of dealing with subdomains and domains in the development environment. Recently we found the answer that simplifies the whole system. This method is out-of-date. For a far better way please read Rails subdomains, CNAMEs, and crzy.me.

Rack CustomDomain converts CNAME hosts to subdomains

When we created our CMS we used tried-and-true subdomains to separate editions. SubdomainFu handled the logic of separating editions and it was easy — until we added custom domains. The standard method is to point — via CNAME — the custom domain (www.davesouth.org) to the subdomain (davesouth.example.com). Unfortunately the rails app can’t use SubdomainFu routing. This method is out-of-date. For a far better way please read Rails subdomains, CNAMEs, and crzy.me.

Subdomains and local development using proxy.pac

The NeolithicCMS we are writing separates editions by using subdomains. It works great in production. A single entry of *.neotrib.com in the DNS points all subdomains to the same server. But for local development we have to manually edit the /etc/hosts file for each subdomain. After adding a few editions it becomes a royal pain. Short of installing a DNS server, we needed a better solution. +This method is out-of-date. For a far better way please read This method is out-of-date. For a far better way please read Rails subdomains, CNAMEs, and crzy.me.

Tips for reporting “bored” meetings

Reporting a meeting has to be one of the most boring assignments a reporter will ever have. It’s ironic because it’s also one of the most important jobs, too. City councils, school boards, state legislatures, congress all make decisions that affect our lives and spend our — the people’s — money. They make these decisions in meetings wrapped by agendas, filled with tedious procedure and painted in sermons of officialese. The reporter’s job is to distill these official riddles into plain English that everyone can understand.

The voices in my head speak English

I have two pet peeves about voicemail systems. Scratch that. I have about a hundred pet peeves but I just want to point out two. The first is why am I asked to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish?

The absolute failure of banner advertising

Banner advertising is a complete failure. It is a paradox of diminishing returns that traps a web publisher into treading water — never making progress and always struggling to stay afloat. What’s worse is how web publishers will flail around with bad idea after bad idea to get ahead. Yet these insane advertisements do more harm than good, cause readers to leave and sink the publisher even more. It’s time to end the madness and recognize that the banner advertising model itself is broken.

Our cover is blown

For several years, Loy and I have worked under the company name of Apped Design. It was a cover name Loy came up with when we attended the first Mountain West Ruby Conference in 2007. The Neotribune was on the back burner and we were working on a couple of Ruby on Rails projects. We decided that it would be easier to go as independent consultants than try to explain a long, convoluted startup story no would be interested in anyway.

Newsprint will die

An ad by the Newspaper Association of America states that “No amount of effort from local bloggers, non-profit news entities or TV news sources could match the depth and breadth of newspaper-produced content.” Wow! That’s insulting. What’s worse, it completely misunderstands what’s happening to the newspaper industry and why the printed page is destined to fail.

Off beat reasons to save newspapers

A wonderful story about why we need to Save The Presses! I think the best one is “You can shed a tear right now for the iconic ransom note, with letters clipped from newspaper headlines. What’s a kidnapper to do? Print out letters at home using different fonts and point sizes?”

Install Ruby on Rails using MacPorts

There are several ways to set up a system for Ruby on Rails development. Leopard comes pre-installed with Ruby and Rails and is perfectly fine for most users. For me, however, I kept running into troubles. Trying to do a free standing install of graphic libraries (FreeImage or ImageMagick) proved too painful. I switched back to using MacPorts.

You never save money when you spend

I was sightseeing around San Francisco one very rainy day. It was 1990 and I wanted a CD player. I was also broke. CD players were still rather expensive. So I’d been shopping around for a while. I knew the prices, but they were just barely out of my reach. So I was biding my time, checking every electronics store I saw.

That day, as I wandered around downtown, I found a small shop at the base of a skyscraper. It had a window front on the street with electronics from top to bottom. Inside, it was packed. I’ve never seen so many electronics in such a small space. It felt like a sardine can of circuits, chrome and black plastic.

I made my way over to the CD players and found the exact portable CD player I wanted to buy.

Get your credit report every four months — for free

Having a current copy of your credit record is vital to protect yourself from credit errors and identity theft. And, thanks to Congress, getting a copy is extremely easy. By law, everyone is allowed to download an annual copy of their report. But be warned. The websites advertised on TV offering free credit reports are not the right place to go. The correct website is annualcreditreport.com.

Quit typing like a spider

Dvorak keyboard layout.

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout


In 1994 I took a Sharpie and wrote out the alphabet on my computer keyboard. Then I took little pieces of clear tape and carefully covered each key to keep from rubbing off the newly written letters. Why would I do this? Because my hands were starting to hurt and I needed a better way to type. Dvorak was the key. Not the columnist but the researcher who created the world’s greatest keyboard layoutAugust Dvorak.

Total security is a total pain

Security is a pain. Too much security gets in the way of productivity. Too little and the world owns your bank account. Finding the right balance is difficult. For me, securing my laptop has proven to be a challenge. Sure, I can lock it down so it requires a drop of blood every time I wake it up, but that’s too painful (and I need the blood). So I found a decent balance that you may want to try.

A wet rag fixes the garage door

Our garage door wouldn’t close. We’d hit the button, it would start closing, then stop, then roll the door back the little bit it had moved down, and the light on the opener would flash 10 times. I think it was trying to say something. After careful research over the next few weeks, a lot of thought, and a clean wet rag — we fixed it.

Gmail, .Mac Mashup for the iPhone

The new iPhone has the best mail client I’ve ever used on a smartphone. When I first got my iPhone, I immediately connected it to my Gmail account. Unfortunately, Gmail uses POP to download messages. It started sending every single message from my archive — thousands of messages.

What’s worse is the lack of synchronization between my iPhone and the Mail program on my MacBook because of POP. If I delete a message on the iPhone, the message remains on Mail. I needed a better solution and it was Mike who came up with the answer. He suggested using .Mac and Gmail as a Mashup. Here is how it works for me.


Conflict. It is the heart and soul of reality television — of all television, really. Without conflict there is no story, no ratings, and no show. Take Survivor (please?). In real life, if 12 random strangers were stranded on a deserted island, would they plot against each other? I doubt it. They would need to learn to get along, to work together, or else they would die.

To make a television show, you would need to find personalities that thrive on conflict, have extremely differing opinions, and then create an artificial situation where backstabbing is required to win. Now you have a prime-time show. That’s what counts as good television in the 21st century.

How to archive a Gmail account using Thunderbird

I never use the GMail web interface unless I’m on the road. Instead I POP my email into my Apple Mail program. The downloaded email is not erased from GMail (like traditional POP servers). Instead it is stored in the “All Mail” archive along with all my sent messages, too. After a year and a half, I’ve used 2600 MB of my 2800 MB email box (thank you Google).