PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

April 11th, 2006

Thundereggs are Go

Last weekend we went to a rock and gem show put on by the Mt. Hood Rock Club. The wife and the girl are both crazy about rocks, but even I have to admit they had some cool, cool stuff. The rather large exhibition hall was chock full of display cases, food vendors, and tables and tables covered with rocks. You could find anything from huge single crystals of selenite to slabs of fossilized sea life, hundreds and hundreds of polished spheres of everything from quartz to fused fiber optics, and thousands of cut and polished gemstones.

The Oregon state rock is the thunderegg. And you could find them in thin polished sections, beautiful half-sections, and raw whole spheres.

The wife could not resist the lure of the thunderegg. Picking out an unbroken thunderegg is like playing the Lotto. It could just be an ugly rock, or it could have something wonderful inside. She picked out a fairly large one from the Thunderegg booth, and handed it to the seller to set it up for cracking. He placed it in some serious long-handled tool, and tightened an adjusting screw until the thunderegg was snug. My wife then bore down on the handle, slowly increasing the pressure, until a loud crack was heard.

Thundereggs are not very attractive in their unbroken state:

But when you get a nice clean crack, the inside can be quite impressive. The wife picked a good one:

One side had the typical mass of quartz crystals lining the cavity:

While the other had a crystal formation called “Angel’s Wings”:

Not unlike a gambling fiend, I think my wife is hooked. In addition, the kids took part in a rock and gem Easter Egg hunt on the lawn. Picture the spectacle of a mass of small children clearing an entire lawn in a matter of mere moments. I suspect we will go back again next year.

April 11th, 2006

White Screen of Death

So, the wife and I are loving our new, Intel-driven iMac. It’s gorgeous, it’s fast, and so far quite well-behaved.

The only drawback is an ironic one: For lo these last few years, our antique blueberry iMac was too slow and too outdated to do any of the cool things. Like watch video, for example. Even when we upgraded to OS X (1.2) we were behind the curve. Software was already coming out that required OS X 1.3.

So it was with barely-contained glee that I looked forward to having a state-of-the-art computer again, one that could actually run the software that was currently available.

Except it can’t. Because it’s too new. A lot of the software out there doesn’t play well with the Intel chips, and unless you have the ‘Universal Binary’ for that application, performance can suck, if you can run it at all. There are patches available for some applications. Others (like my copy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) have Universal Binary patches coming out ‘real soon now’.

Another drawback was the keyboard. I tried real hard to give myself carpal tunnel syndrome a couple of years ago, and as a result can’t type on a standard keyboard for any length of time without causing a lot of pain in my wrists. The beautiful sleek white iMac keyboard had to go. So I went out yesterday and bought an ergonomic Microsoft keyboard that was “OS X compatible”.

Please note that this is a VAST improvement over the situation even a half-dozen years ago, when you could not find Mac-compatible keyboards outside of the Apple Store, and none of them were ergonomic.

So, I get the new keyboard home, read the instructions, and pop in the install disk. The box says the software is compatible with OS X 1.1-1.3. I have 1.4. But I figure once the keyboard is installed, I can find the appropriate upgrade to get it up to full compatibility pretty quick. The installer does its thing, the keyboard software gets installed, and the computer tells me I have to Restart. No problem. I hit “OK” and the screen goes black.

Then the screen goes white. And stays white. For a long time. The keyboard doesn’t respond, and the mouse doesn’t respond, so I do a hard restart. Same thing. Now a cold sweat has broken out on my brow. I can’t very well find and download the updated driver if the computer won’t boot, can I?

I started thumbing through the OS X Tiger ‘Missing Manual’, and start trying various tricks. No luck. I try booting in ‘Safe Mode’. No luck. The next step would be to boot from a CD and check the hard drive, but the install disk for the keyboard software is still in the drive. So now I try various tricks to get the disk out. FINALLY, one of the tricks works, and the disk pops out. As soon as the evil Microsoft CD is out of the drive, the computer miraculously boots up normally.

Well, normal up until I get an error message telling me I have an unrecognized keyboard. This was to be expected, so I told the iMac it was a standard 101 key ANSI keyboard, and opened Camino to search for the upgraded driver.

Except the ‘r’ key didn’t function. No ‘r’. You type ‘r’ and get no text.

I shall leave it as an exercise to the reader to imagine how much fun it was to find the appropriate keyboard software, when the kinds of search terms I could enter were ‘micosoft’, ‘egonomic’, ‘keyboad’, ‘poduct suppot’, etc. It was entertaining.

Nevertheless, the upgrade to keyboard compatibility with OS X 10.4 was found, installed, and the keyboard now works perfectly, including all the little specialty bells and whistles, like volume controls and dedicated ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons.

Now if only Aspyr would get off their collective butts and get me my Universal Binary for KOTOR, I’d be a happy guy.


I got an email from my wife this afternoon:

“Can you tell which lette on the keyboad is not functioning coectly?”

Just shoot me.


I restarted, and the ‘r’ is back. But I’m keeping my eye on it. I still have the receipt for the damn thing.