Archive for the ‘Mac’ Category

The Commodities Widget

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Commodities widget

I know it’s been a while, but the sequel to the broken Oil Price Widget is now here. The new widget not only shows the oil price, it shows a set of other futures, currencies and indices as well. I named it the Commodities Widget, even though some of the things it shows are not strictly commodities.

The new data source is INO.com. They are probably the web’s best free source for futures contracts. Clicking on any chart in the widget will bring you to the corresponding INO.com page with more details and longer-term charts.

Download: Commodities Widget.

Instructions: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger or higher is required. If you’re using Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it. If you’re using a browser other than Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, unarchive it and place it in /Library/Widgets/ in your home folder. Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it.

Repair Your Old Mac Cheaply

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The display of my almost three year old MacBook Pro went black a few weeks ago. I was unwilling to send my MacBook Pro to the landfill* just yet, so I started looking at repair opportunities. I did not buy the $349 3-year AppleCare support plan when I purchased the computer. The scary part is that had this happened a few weeks later, the AppleCare plan would have done me absolutely no good anyway.

I suspect that getting the repair done by Apple would cost a small fortune. This is impossible to know however, since Apple does not post typical repair prices. On various message boards, the prices quoted are in the $700-800 range for LCDs, and up to $1500 for logic boards.

It is possible, but potentially hard, to fix it yourself. iFixit is a company that offers manuals, tools and parts necessary to make repairs to Mac products yourself. There are two problems with this however: Correctly diagnosing the problem, and customs if you live outside the USA. As far as diagnosing the problem goes, I knew the backlight was the culprit, since I could vaguely see the picture on the display even after it went black. But as I quickly found out, the backlight not working is a symptom of multiple conditions. One is that the lamp is broken. This requires replacing the screen. Another is a problem with the connector cable. This is a cheap part, but quite a tough repair. The third, and most costly possibility, is a problem with the logic board.

Unable to correctly diagnose the problem, I turned to third-party repair. I found Vfxroom, a small company in Toronto that does MacBook Pro repairs. They also fix most other Apple products. Anything from spill damage to logic board errors can be fixed. Kevin, the owner, correctly diagnosed my problem as a logic board failure. He pointed out the component that was damaged, and was able to fix it without replacing the logic board. There is no way I would have been able to do that myself!

In the end, the repairs came in at a modest CAD $385, a meager 20% of what would have probably been the cost of replacing the logic board by Apple professionals. Now, I have a perfectly good 2.16GHz MacBook Pro that will likely last me another few years.

(*) Laptops are e-waste. They may contain dangerous materials such as mercury, cadmium, lead, brominated flame retardants, beryllium oxide and many more. These pose severe health risks to humans and animals if disposed of improperly. Many of these accumulate in animals and propagate up the food chain, causing e.g increased risk of birth defects if pregnant women eat fish. Some substances accumulating in fish are known to be carcinogens, such as dioxins and PCBs. Be sure to return e-waste to a certified handler WHICH DOES NOT EXPORT THE WASTE TO DEVELOPING NATIONS! The people who repair laptops so you don’t have to buy a new one quite as often are environmental heroes in my mind.

The US Dollar Index Widget

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Will the USD continue to tank, or will the greenback make a comeback? Follow the day-to-day movements with this widget for Mac OS X.

The US dollar index is computed from the exchange rate with the Euro, Yen, British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Swedish Krona and the Swiss Franc. It was introduced in 1973 and was initially set to 100. Since then, it has been as high as 160 and as low as 75, where it is now. If you’re an international investor with US-denominated assets, you almost certainly want to track the US dollar. If you’re an American, you should definitely be concerned with the decline of the dollar as a result of your government’s policies. Lowering interest rates makes the dollar less valuable. And that means inflation and more expensive imported stuff such as oil.

Graphics and idea are from Fabian Graciano. Yeah, that’s why it looks so much more awesome than my previous widgets :) The data feed is graciously sponsored by INO.com. Thank you! Comments, requests and bug reports are very welcome! Just leave your feedback on this website. I’ll do my best to respond.

Download: US Dollar Index Widget.

Instructions: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is required. If you’re using Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it. If you’re using a browser other than Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, unarchive it and place it in /Library/Widgets/ in your home folder. Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it.

The Doom-O-Meter

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Wouldn’t it be nice to be the first to know when something big happens? To get that alert to run for cover delivered automatically to you in time?

I give you the front row seat for Judgement day: The Doom-O-Meter.

The Doom-O-Meter works by querying various webpages for important indicators such as the price of gold (and other important commodities), as well as looking at the amount of activity on certain internet forums where well-informed individuals exchange breaking news.

A formula works on all these indicators, and computes a single number: The Badness. We then take the base two logarithm of the Badness to get the Severity. The Severity is displayed as a dial which goes from 0 to 10 (mathematically, the Severity can go above 10, but I don’t think it’s likely. If it does happen, the possible technical breakdown of the Doom-O-Meter will be the least of your worries!). Also, some cool background images will indicate the Severity of the current situation.

If you’re using Mac OS X, I encourage you to download the small Dashboard Widget version of the Doom-O-Meter, so you can stay on top of the situation at all times (or at least the time you spend in front of your Mac).

All suggestions for improvements, new data sources, etc. are much appreciated. Bug reports are also welcome :-).

The Oil Price Widget

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

UPDATE: This widget no longer works. Please consider the Commodities Widget instead.

Apple Mac OS X (version 10.4 and above) has this neat feature called dashboard. It lets tiny programs, called widgets, run as an overlay to your screen when you press ‘F12′. There are widgets that show the current time in any timezone, hurricane advisories, stock quotes, your computer’s vital stats, and much more.

I’ve got a certain desire to stay updated on the price oil, since it’s often related to world events. For instance, a spike in the oil price might mean a hurricane is headed towards the Gulf of Mexico or that there is more unrest in the Middle East. So to satisfy this urge for oil price updates, I’ve created the Oil Price Widget. It works on Mac OS X Tiger and gathers information from 321energy.com, which is displayed in a small window on the dashboard.

The Oil Price Widget on my dashboard

Download: Oil Price Widget.

Instructions: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is required. If you’re using Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it. If you’re using a browser other than Safari, click the download link. When the widget download is complete, unarchive it and place it in /Library/Widgets/ in your home folder. Show Dashboard, click the Plus sign to display the Widget Bar and click the widget’s icon in the Widget Bar to open it.