Posts Tagged computers

Reading winmail.dat files sent to Apple Mac users Grant Jacobs Apr 03


Tip: an easy solution is to forward the mail to gmail.

Files sent by Microsoft Outlook users can have contents received by Apple Mac recipients as an attached winmail.dat file – that they can’t read.


Many on-line forums offer possible solutions to this problem. You could ask the sender to please send mail to you as either plain text or HTML-formatted email, not RTF, but many recipients will not want to pester an important client, boss or whatever this way! There are some programs (mostly commercial software) that claim to read these files, but successful results appear not to be a sure thing. Similarly, there are web services offering to convert these winmail.dat files if you upload the file to their site (with obvious security issues).

An easy solution if you don’t receive too many emails with winmail.dat files is to simply forward the message to your gmail account, log-in to gmail and read it there. Gmail will handle the contents correctly. You can also download the converted file if you need a local copy, for example to add an event to iCal.

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Structured procrastination, 2 Dec 2012 Grant Jacobs Dec 03

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Another edition of my irregular structured procrastination reading lists – have fun exploring these. (Geekier ones nearer the end.)

Sci-fi movie

Geneticist Ricki Lewis offers a review of Jim, which she says is more compelling than GATTACA. The movie can be viewed on-line. (If you watch it, let me know what you think.)

Gene-based dating

You think gene-based dating in sci-fi? It’s already with us. See also this twitter conversation. (There’s also a service that matches dates by their dogs.)

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New Zealand high performance computing on the road Grant Jacobs Sep 03

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The New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) is about to hit the road, touring a National High Performance Computing Roadshow through the country in September.

NeSi ties together the major high-performance computing available for research in New Zealand and the expertise and services needed to best utilise them.

Details of the day-long sessions are on their website.

Tim McNamara has pointed out that,

“There are two purposes of the roadshow. The first is to increase awareness of NeSI, ultimately to drive adoption. The second is to deepen connections within research communities. Part of each day will include splitting into sector-specific groups of researchers to discuss applying computation to their field.”

It’s not just about getting resources for yourself, but also sharing with others that use these resources.

The roadshow is on the week of Monday September 10th through to Friday 14th, with one day each at (in order) Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland.

NeSI provides access to three major computing centres (at The University of Auckland, Canterbury University, and NIWA) within the country and assistance making the best use of these.

The next call for proposals opens today and closes Friday, 21 September 2012. The eligibility for these resources is broad. Both academic and commercial operations are open to use them, research being a key element. (Or teaching in the case of the tertiary institutions.)

For laughs – I think it’s a pity it’s not NeSi (lowercase ‘i’): then it’d be silicon (think computers) with bright shining lights (neon)!

Don’t forget to offer your nominations for the inaugural NZ Open Science Award.

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Sunday shorts, 1st April 2012. Awards, bullet-proof hard drives and more. Grant Jacobs Apr 01


(Sorry, no April Fool’s joke here.)

Congratulations to Zoe Hilton for her Unesco-L’Oreal International Fellowship who ’won one of three fellowships awarded to young women in the Asia Pacific region’. Well done! More details are in the New Zealand Unesco news page and the New Zealand Herald.

There’s some wonderful historic quotes in From the Hands of Quacks (great title too). She writes infrequently, but very well. In addition to the recent quips it’s worth reading her account of a complaint in April 1839 by Joseph Toynbee warning Lancet readers of (Toynbee’s words) ’quack curers for the deaf’,

’[H]e sends his advertisement to the public papers,’ Toynbee wrote, ’for an enormous payment gets it inserted as a paragraph…[and] by the aid of the circulation of this puff…deaf people consult Dr. Turnbull; he makes his application, and takes his fee.’[4] Toynbee insisted this was a disgraceful and underhanded maneuver directed towards drawing in patients, who were left vulnerable to potentially dangerous treatments […]

Toynbee goes on to relate that the important element was study.

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Skim – free PDF viewer and annotator for Mac OS Grant Jacobs Mar 01


Lately I’ve been reading a lot of scientific papers. One of the tools I’ve been using is Skim, a free PDF viewer and note taker for Mac OS. Let’s have a peek at it.

skim-logoSkim is available at As I write it’s up to version 1.3.19*

They advertise it as being for reading and annotating scientific papers, but it ought to have wider uses with anyone who uses PDF files.

Best feature so far? – split view, which proves useful for viewing figures and body text referring to them at the same time, or to have the references section at hand while you are reading the text.

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Apple drops another cat at your door Grant Jacobs Feb 17


It’s Mountain Lion.

If you’re not an Apple computer user and are perplexed, Apple has announced an update to their operating system.

Looking down through the highlighted features you’d be forgiven for a first thinking few of the additions would be considered operating system features but are instead a list of bundled applications. (Gatekeeper excepted, perhaps.) ArsTechnica has a run-down on what’s on offer.


There’s is a marketing presentation element going on here to my mind. There will be services (and APIs) behind the scenes supporting these applications. The update is presented purely in terms of a consumers use of the OS. Also it‘s a preview; no doubt more details will be forthcoming.

That they’ve presented it this way is not very surprising, really, but what is there for those who want to interact more closely with the operating system?

What, if any, improvements have been made to the core OS. They don’t mention any. (Certainly there is no mention of ZFS, a modern file system many would like to see on Mac OS.)

In the comments Wired it’s noticeable that many are saying they’re sticking with Snow Leopard, the version of the operating system before Lion that is more Mac OS X oriented and less iPad or consumer device oriented.

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Free vector graphics for Mac (and Linux/Windows) Grant Jacobs Dec 08


If you are looking for a cost-free option to draw vector graphics on Mac OS X, consider Inkscape.

While it will not be everyone’s preferred solution–no one application ever is–it is cost-free, very capable and, thus far, stable.

Vector graphics featured early for Macintosh users. Those with longer memories will have experience with MacDraw or MacDraw II.

The key notion is that the image is composed of points, vectors (line segments), curves and other ‘shape’ objects. All of these can be represented as being on a very finely graded grid that can be scaled up or down in size. Areas bounded by lines, curves or shapes can be filled.

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The software developer’s generalisation dilemma Grant Jacobs Nov 12


xkcd nails it :-

I find when someone's taking the time to the right in the present, they're a perfectionist with no ability to prioritize, whereas when someone took the time to do something right in the past, they're a master artisan of great foresight.

I find when someone's taking the time to the right in the present, they're a perfectionist with no ability to prioritize, whereas when someone took the time to do something right in the past, they're a master artisan of great foresight.

It’s the classic dilemma, isn’t it.

Faced with coding a new bit of functionality, do you write the version that solves only your immediate problem or do you think ahead and try cater for future, more varied, uses too?

Perhaps you want to find that middle ground; lay it out enough that the opportunity for future generalisation is documented well enough and sufficiently in place so that you can move on in peace, having noted the opportunity and laid the tracks for future development without having expended too much effort.

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C’s founder is no more Grant Jacobs Oct 14

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Reading ArsTechnica this morning I learnt of the passing of Dennis Richie.

Several readers there pointed out that while programming geeks might ‘get’ why his passing is of note, the general public might not.

K&R-cover-250pxLet me try to enlighten you.

All the software you use, the operating system, the applications, the web browser you’re reading this with are written using a programming language.

Programming languages are designed to offer a human-readable script for programmers to create products. They’re programmer’s essential tool.

Dennis Richie is best known as the designer of the C programming language. He’s the ‘R’ in K&R of the well-known book describing the language.[1]

If there is a ‘foundation’ programming language, on which the computing world sits, it’ll be C.

Unix is a foundation operating system in the computing world. Dennis Richie was involved in the development of that, too. It was written in C.[2]

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Iconic Apple CEO Steve Jobs dies Grant Jacobs Oct 06


Today the Apple website features a full-screen image of Steve Jobs and a concise tribute, calling for thoughts, memories and condolences.

He lead a company and technologies that he put squarely in the public eye and would have to be one of the best-known names in the computer industry. Things he did had impact and got talked about.

The first computer I owned for myself was a Sundox, a Taiwanese clone of an Apple ][+.* (Apple’s Roman two was written with an inverted pair of square brackets. Geeky in a Star Wars kind of way.)

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