Screen Sharing in Snow Leopard

Just discovered that you can create a shortcut to open a Screen Sharing connection. Essentially you do one of the following:

  • Using Automator - Use the “Run Shell Script” action with the following text:

    open vnc://

    You can use either the dotted-quad standard IP address or the machine_name.local Bonjour syntax.

  • Using Safari - Type the following address in the location bar:


    When you hit return, Screen Sharing launches and connects to the specified computer. Again you can use the dotted-quad or Bonjour syntax. You can now drag the shortcut to the Desktop and double-click that to connect.

Though I have not tried, I’m guessing that you should be able to connect to any VNC server.

The article I found is in Apple Discussions.

Markdown and "Little Languages"

David Sparks @macsparky and Katie Floyd @katiefloyd in their MacPowerUsers 37 podcast talked about Markdown and MultiMarkdown. I actually used Markdown - see John Gruber’s Daring Fireball Markdown Syntax - in a project at work in which I had to generate documentation formatted as docbook. Fortunately there was a Markdown to docbook translator called Pandoc and it performed (almost) flawlessly - I had to add in a small macro in (ugh) UltraEdit to clean up the generated documentation so the Eclipse postprocessor would be happy with it.

This led me to recall a chapter I had read in Jon Bentley’s highly recommended programming book “More Programming Pearls: Confessions of a Coder” (ISBN 0-201-11889-0). Jon talks about what he calls “little languages” in Column 9, in which he describes a language as ‘any mechanism to express intent’ - thus the linkage to Markdown. Notations or languages such as LaTex, TROFF, and Markdown are akin to other “programming” languages such as C and FORTRAN in that they instruct the computer to process input and generate output. It’s just that these little languages hide a huge amount of complexity in their brevity and let us get on with the things we want to do instead of worrying about the actual syntax of the final output (docbook XML, HTML, instructions to a typesetting system…)

PS This post is written in Markdown within the RapidWeaver application for Mac OS X. The Markup Plug-In for RapidWeaver comes courtesy of André Pang, source code hosted at GitHub.

My Flickr Photostream

Just got started on Flickr. Do drop by and visit my photostream! I’ve also got some pictures on TwitPic – these are usually the spur of the moment shots from my iPhone. Enjoy!

The woe of travelling with an iPad, internationally

My partner recently went on a trip to the UK. She brought her Windows (name redacted) laptop and the iPad. We had done some research on the use of pay-as-you-go data micro sims and found out that either Orange (link to Orange iPad plans here) or O2 (link to O2 iPad plans here) would be fine as each had (free!) micro sims you could get at their shops specifically for the iPad. On arrival she duly went to an O2 shop and got the micro sim. On inserting it she found to her dismay that she needed to connect it to iTunes to download some O2 settings (see O2’s weblink here) which then would be transferred to the iPad – must be the O2 specific settings UI or something. She had, at this point, already transferred her library to the Mac Mini and was syncing to that, and decided that it would be better not to perturb anything by syncing the iPad to iTunes on that Windows laptop.

Morals of the story:

  1. Inserting a micro sim does not mean that you’ll get immediate connection

  2. In most cases you’ll need a portable Mac with your iTunes library

  3. There are some carriers which have over the air activation, but you’ll have to look for them

I am dumbstruck at how difficult it is to just take the iPad out of the country and get data access via cellular networks. We almost take ubiquitous data access here in the US for granted.

On another note, Katie Floyd and David Sparks over at the Mac Power Users podcast (Episode #36) talked about Katie’s recent travel to Blog World Expo with just her iPad.

One important fact I took away was that she brought along her Airport Express! This is precisely what I did on our driving trip along Route 66 – and it came in handy once in a hotel which had just the RJ-45 ethernet connector in the wall. I’ll need to get another as the one we have is now serving double duty as a wireless extender and audio streamer.

Re: the iPad, overseas travel, and cellular data – Apple, carriers, can we do better? Over the air activation, really, pretty please...