Mann pages

For a long time I've just used the man command to look up man pages inside Terminal. I find this frustrating. I downloaded a copy of ManOpen years ago but for whatever reason I don't use it. Mostly because I have to resize the window every time. Anyway, fast forward to today when I resolved to spend 10 minutes solving this problem. Here's my solution.

1. Download Bwana and drag it to your OS X Applications folder.
2. Add the following line to your /Users/username/.profile file:

mann() { open man:$@; }

This adds a bash function named mann that opens the man page in Safari, complete with hyperlinks and searchability. So now I can type, e.g., mann lookupd. Yay! And it has the following bonus: whenever I look up a unix command, I now think of Boris.


Solution to iMovie 6.0.3 consistent crashes

For a while now, my copy of iMovie HD has been crashing when I try to open it. I've been putting off finding the solution since I haven't needed to do much with iMovie, but today I needed it.

I first reinstalled the iMovie 6.0.3 update. No luck. Then reinstalled QuickTime 7.2. Still crashing. An examination of ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/iMovie HD.crash.log showed this thread as the culprit:

Thread 5 Crashed:
0       	0x90811125 CFRetain + 56
1         	0x67e01f56 -[MediaGrabberiTunes _loadMusicThreaded] + 733
2           	0x927f52e0 forkThreadForFunction + 123
3   libSystem.B.dylib              	0x90024227 _pthread_body + 84

That led me to a thread on iPhoto crashes on Apple's discussion forum, with solution posted by Terence Devlin: start up GarageBand.

I started up GarageBand, quit it, and now iMovie HD is working fine. Although Terence recommended saving something from GarageBand, I found that just starting the application was enough. Apparently something in GB's initialization routine fixes the problem.


Daily Paul moves to a VPS

In Drupal, Grassroots Political Activism and the Ron Paul Campaign I mentioned the site Daily Paul. Michael Nystrom, who runs the site, was seeing serious performance problems as the site became more popular. This is Michael's first site with Drupal, but he had made all the right moves: using throttle.module, turning on caching and CSS optimization, and even upgrading to a faster hosting plan.

I contacted Michael and we began going through various scenarios. Was the slowdown consistent? No. Were ping times consistent? Yes. What about the MySQL configuration? And so on. It turns out that Michael's host (Dreamhost) did not have the query cache turned on in MySQL, and refused to turn it on. That meant that every query for every noncached page had to be tediously run by the database server. When the server got busy, Michael's site suffered, badly, though the server that ran Apache and PHP was idling.

Since I had recently gotten a VPS from Rimuhosting but had not set it up yet, we used it as a testbed for Michael's site. Last weekend we switched DNS and the new site began to pick up traffic. After paring down Apache, tweaking PHP, and tuning MySQL, the speed increase was clear. Last night Ron Paul participated in a debate in Florida which drew traffic to the site, up to 30-40 simultaneous users. Load average on the server was about 0.50. The two big wins were (1) having MySQL on the same server and (2) enabling query caching.

Last night I handed the VPS off to Michael with the help of the good folks at Rimuhosting. It's just a little VPS, but it sure made a big difference.

Note: of course, a VPS has a serious downside: it must be maintained.


Drupal, Grassroots Political Activism and the Ron Paul Campaign

There is a battle going on for the control of information. The powers that be (traditional news outlets) are increasingly being challenged by widespread independent media sources including bloggers and journalism-enabling sites like NowPublic. It is the difference between "Good evening. This is what the news is." and "What is going on in the world? I'll find out." The change from one to the other is inevitable.

In politics, this is an important change. Instead of politicians claiming that this or that is "the will of the American people", that will can actually be tested by listening to the people because the people now have a voice. The first real example of this was the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. Dean used DeanSpace, a community CMS based on Drupal, to raise massive internet support.

In the current U.S. presidential election, the candidate who is using the internet most effectively is Ron Paul. Like Howard Dean, Ron Paul's support on the internet is massive. While his main website does not run Drupal, the Daily Paul is a popular site about the campaign. It's managed by Michael Nystrom and it runs on Drupal.

What I find interesting about Ron Paul's campaign is that while Howard Dean had support from the mainstream media (representing the traditional "we will tell you what is important" position), Ron Paul seems to be virtually ignored by the mainstream media; only the Washington Post has covered him. Thus, he represents the first test of how well grassroots internet campaigns can fare when they are pitted against, and not supplemented by, traditional media.

Perhaps the Long Tail, while effective economically, is ineffective politically at the present time. When Ron Paul, a pro-life Christian obstetrician and ten-time Taxpayer's Friend awardee was excluded from a forum put on by the Iowa Christian Alliance and Iowans for Tax Relief in Iowa, eyebrows were raised and his supporters on the internet were quick to unearth the fact that the forum's organizer, Ed Failor, is a senior advisor to the McCain campaign and otherwise involved in Big Politics. But can they convince Iowans to vote for Ron Paul in the Iowa Straw Poll? They have until August 11. That remains to be seen, and would take a tremendous logistical and monetary effort.

While all that is interesting, times are not static. The young people who make up a significant portion (though not by any means all) of Ron Paul's support have grown up with the internet. They do not go to the television Evening News for their news. They do not have landline telephones that are called by pollsters. They are used to using news aggregators, where media bias is apparent. They're savvy. And -- here's the key -- they are making up an increasing percentage of the public.

So while Ron Paul's campaign may not succeed, the battle between old and new media, between the powers that be and the widespread dissatisfaction with those powers, between corporate power and individual power -- that battle will become increasingly heated.

For myself, I'm glad to be involved in an open source project like Drupal, which, in addition to being a platform for individual voices, is in itself a microcosm of individuals working together to achieve a communal goal.



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