Starring the Computer

[Starring the Computer][] is a great resource. The link takes you to the appearances sorted by year, but you can also see the list of films and television shows listed by title and, I think, by machine.

*Interestingly, one of the most memorable television episodes in my memory is an episode of [Banacek][], starring George Peppard, in which a computer disappears. It was probably my first experience of a [locked room mystery][].

[Starring the Computer]: http://starringthecomputer.com/featuresyear.html
[Banacek]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banacek
[locked room mystery]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked_room_mystery

Vintage Computer Ads

The internet is an amazing thing. There is actually a site for nothing other than [vintage ads][1]. To be clear, the designer in me loves looking at older designs both out of simple curiosity about history as well as for inspiration in my own design projects. On the history front, it’s always fun to see what was novel and noteworthy for a given moment in the past, and so the Computers and Software subsection of the Vintage Ads site is especially interesting. [Check out what they have from the 1940s alone][2].

[1]: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/
[2]: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/computers-and-software-ads

Pixelmator Tutorials

I have switched recently to a MacBook Air. (I had offered to buy a new computer for my wife, but she doesn’t like new computers and preferred to take my MacBook Pro instead — I did, at least, outfit it with a new 128GB solid state drive before handing it over to her.) We have also purchased a Mac Mini to be the household computer, and it will also be where I do my downloading and cataloging of photographs from my fieldwork. The Mac Min will become, in essence, a production machine for me in addition to being a homework machine for our daughter — and perhaps, one day, a production machine for her.

I decided that I would not load up the MBA with all the software I had on the MBP. Photoshop and Illustrator, for example, just don’t work very well on a small machine I find. Luckily, for me, I have purchased both Acorn and Pixelmator in some of the bundles that various Mac software developers offer now and then. Even better, Pixelmator has a really nice collection of tutorials.

What is an app?

The American Dialect Society, which earlier this week named the term ‘app’ word of the year, has the following definition:

> The shortened slang term for a computer or smart phone application.

But Ian Bogost thinks it’s worth [thinking a bit more about](http://www.bogost.com/blog/what_is_an_app.shtml), and it is more than simply smaller functional units, a la the unix philosophy, with each one performing a specific task and that complex tasks require piping data through an array of applications:

> The app is a mixed blessing for computer aesthetics, just like music sampling is for music. On the one hand, we get many variations of the same thing that can surprise us when refashioned in different permutations. But on the other hand, we get fewer coherent, complete takes on things. And there’s a risk that deep meaning slowly seeps out of every unit as each does less and less. Apps and web services like Foursquare and Facebook give us a preview of this potential future agony, one in which the most basic chunk of meaning is the conveyance of a piece of data from a database to a screen and back again.

The things you end up teaching yourself

One of the applications to which we were introduced at the NEH Institute on Networks and Networking in the Humanities — which goes by the hash tag nethums by the way — was a Carnegie-Mellon application called ORA. It and its companion application, AutoMap, are very useful tools for network analysis and visualization.

My difficulty with the applications was simply in getting them to run on my MacBook Pro. The problem was, is, that ORA, AutoMap, and their installers require an older version of Java than is included with Mac OS 10.6. With 10.6, Apple dropped the versions of Java 1.4 and 1.5 that they had been carrying and only provided 1.6. Java 1.4 is still available, but navigating Oracle’s site to get it, and getting it onto my MacBook was a longer road than I wanted to travel.

Now that I am back home, I got the good word that ORA had been updated. Great news! I headed over to the site only to learn that the Windows and Linux versions had been updated to version 2.2.2 but the Mac was still back at 1.6.9.

Sigh.

Two routes now lay open to me, if I wanted to run one of the newer versions on my Mac:

  1. Pick up a copy of VMWare Fusion or Parallels and run either Windows or Linux in a virtual machine, or
  2. Determine if there was a way to run the Linux application on Mac OS X (which is also a certified *nix now).

I had just spent a fair amount of money on corpus linguistics text — I’m working on refining a notion of “corpus folkloristics” — and so the idea of spending more money on virtualization software as well as for a copy of Windows is less than appealing. (I am already about to buy a copy of Windows 7 for our home desktop, but Microsoft offers now family pack the way Apple does, and so multiple copies of Windows is a little out of my price range for now.)

So, let’s go with the second option: run Linux apps on my Mac.

A page on Simple Help promised me a complete walkthrough of the process, the first step of which is getting Fink on my MacBook. (I had been using MacPorts before upgrading to 10.6, but the upgrade had broken it and so I was okay switching to Fink.)

Oops, no binary installer for 10.6. I was going to have to install it from source. Luckily, the Fink Project has a page up that walks you through installing from source. It does a pretty good job of getting you through everything, and it even tells you to run:

/sw/bin/pathsetup.sh

which would suggest to a command-line novice — I’m not quite a noob! — like me that, well, my path is going to be setup for me, which makes it all the more maddening when you enter:

fink selfupdate

and get the command not recognized response. Uh oh. And so I double-checked my PATH environment:

echo $PATH

and got all the usual suspects:

/sw/bin:/sw/sbin:/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:  
/usr/local/mysql/bin:/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:  
/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/subversion/bin:/usr/bin:  
/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/X11/bin:  
/opt/local/bin:/usr/local/git/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin

What’s going on? I closed the terminal and started doing some reading up on editing my PATH when I decided to double-check my work and ran fink selfupdate again. What do you know, it worked! Here’s the trick: I forgot to follow the directions and open a new terminal window after the initial installation.

And so I taught myself to follow directions.