Showing off his iPhoneAfter German phone carrier T-Mobile has recently started selling the unlocked iPhone for the ridiculous price of 999 Euros, now also Orange in France published their price for the unlocked version of the Apple cellphone: 749 Euros. Luckily for Germans, the EU is a customs union, so they can pretty easily order it in France and have it shipped to Germany -- even the higher shipping won't make up for the 250 Euro difference.

I also hope that the court which ordered T-Mobile to sell the phone unlocked (still a temporary injuction, IIRC) will follow up and make them sell it for a realistic price eventually. Right now, my guess is that the hefty price tag can not be considered effectively complying with the court order. Yet, even with the current price, some competitors start taking advantage of the situation: T-Mobile competitor Debitel (well, sort-of-competitors, they are resellers for carriers such as, you guessed it, T-Mobile) started handing out a 600 Euro signup rebate for people buying the iPhone over at T-Mobile and subsequently getting a contract at Debitel. Interesting.

On other news, German grocery store chains are still selling the (aging but still pretty good) Motorola RAZR for little more than 100 Euros, unlocked and without a contract.

(Image CC by-nc-nd licensed by Graft Flo on flickr).

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Sorry to say this, but it seems like Apple is doing a pretty good job at curbing the users' joy about new and improved features by the severity of the bugs that have slipped through into the final release. (Don't get me wrong, as I work in the software business I know and understand how hard it is to catch all bugs -- but that doesn't make the remaining ones any more fun ;) )

Some people, including me, experience that their keyboards become unresponsive intermittently, mainly but not exclusively on the Macbook/Pro laptops. This has been described many times on the net, for example by the "Apple Gazette".

For most people, the problem seems to boil down to these key points:

  • It happens after waking up from safe sleep
  • While the keyboard becomes unresponsive, the trackpad and its button are not influenced
  • No apparent spikes in load or similar reduction of overall system performance are noticeable
  • A reboot remedies the situation until the next time it is triggered (possibly by a safe sleep cycle, see above)

So far, I was unable to find a confirmed solution for the problem, but some readers suggest that the problem has not (yet) reappeared after they reset their NVRAM and PRAM as described in this Apple help document (if your Apple boot sound becomes so loud your neighbor across the street could hear it, you did it right).

Note that this issue was not fixed by the recently released OSX 10.5.1 update (though it fixed a pretty bad data loss issue, so you want to install it).

If you experience the issue too and want to share some thoughts, or if you have other household remedies at hand that may heal "spontaneous keyboard loss", please feel free to leave a comment.

Update: The PRAM reset did not help; after waking up my laptop, I still frequently experience the loss of my keyboard. But as reported in the comments, Apple tech support frequently tells people they know about the problem and they're working on fixing it. Let's hope that's true.

Update 2, 12/19/07: Apple released a software update that is supposed to fix the problem. Please read my followup post.

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Today, I received my first MySpace invitation spam ever, featuring some text along the lines of:

Hi gorgeous i loved your profile you want to have great time... blah, blah...

Sadly for her, I am not a MySpace member and probably never will, but when I almost hit the "Report Spam" button, I realized that myspace has a proactive approach against spam from their members (also described in their privacy policy). The end of the mail reads:

If you want to block any emails from MySpace members in the future, you can click here: Or send a single blank email with the subject line "BLOCK" to: privacy (at) myspace (dot) com You can also block future email or direct any other inquiries by regular postal mail to: MySpace, Inc. 8391 Beverly Blvd. #349 Los Angeles, CA 90048 USA

After making sure the mail was not a phishing attack, I went to the provided link and put my address on MySpace's block list and now I am fairly confident this first invitation spam message will also have been my last.

As they tend to live off the sharing of private data, social networking sites almost never deserve praise for something they do privacy-related. This, I believe, is a notable exception.

(Note: A double opt-in system would be even better, yet that would defeat the purpose of "inviting one's friends" into a social network, who have not opted into the network (yet) by definition.)

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See, people, I am not that bad ;) I am just 58 percent geek: 58% Geek

(Yet I need to say "did you ever solve a complex computer problem while in the shower" is a mean catch question and a geek dead giveaway that I stepped right into ;) )

(Thanks for the link, Kai!)

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An homage to the famous 1970s arcade game Space Invaders, seen on an office door at the University of Karlsruhe:

Space Invaders

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As we established before, X11 on OSX 10.5 Leopard is, at least kind-of, broken.

Gladly, there are numerous community efforts to bring our tragic hero back on stage. For example, like in OSX 10.4 Tiger, it is possible to deactivate the XTerm window starting up every time you start X11. It has just become a little more complicated.

First, this is what has changed with launching X11 on Leopard (as described on

In Tiger, when you launch X11, it runs .xinitrc, and .xinitrc runs xterm (unless you comment that line out).

In Leopard, is just a launcher. All it does is run /usr/bin/login -pf $USER /usr/X11/bin/xterm. In other words, its only purpose is to run xterm (semi-)directly, by itself--it's not the actual X11 server anymore. When xterm starts, launchd sees it, notices that xterm requires X11, and launches the real X11 server (/usr/X11/ automatically.

In other words, there's no commenting out a line in .xinitrc anymore in Leopard. Instead, we need to change the launcher itself (as described in the very useful X11 on Leopard FAQ on macosxhints):

defaults write org.x.X11_launcher app_to_run /usr/X11/bin/xlsclients

Instead of xlsclients, we can alternatively run xprop (thanks, JP!). Both applications have the good habit not to do much (i.e. not to waste a lot of cycles/energy/water/CO2/whatever) and also not to open an annoying window like xterm does.

Hope this helps :)

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Gimp LogoOn our neverending bug journey though Leopard land, here we go with the next episode: in connection with the Gimp.

Apparently, Apple did not find time to test one of the (if I had to guestimate) most used X11 applications on the Mac with their newest version of X11. Therefore, X11 on Leopard crashes frequently with the latest Mac version of the Gimp image editing software.

Also, when you pick, say, the brush tool and move it over an image, the tool pointer sluggishly follows the mouse pointer around until, about 2 seconds later, they meet up again. This looks funny, but makes actually using the Gimp kind of impossible.

Fortunately, the bugs in the shipped version of Leopard can be resolved by installing upgraded versions of libX11 and Xquartz as described on the Wiki. This worked flawlessly for me, but make sure to make a backup of the libraries before you replace them, in case something goes wrong.

By the way: Does anyone know how to remove the XTerm window that always pops up when starts?

(Thanks for the link, Jean Pierre!)

Update: The RC3 version of Gimp from seems to lead to problems, even after fixing X11 as described above. However, until the gimp-app guys release the stable version (currently: 2.4.1), there is a community build available from Nasendackel (German). Good job!

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The recently introduced IMAP feature of Google's GMail seems to get increasingly more popular.

Still, in order to make popular email clients play well with GMail, they need some tweaking. Most notably, the default "Trash" folder assumed by most email clients will just create a GMail tag named [Imap]/Trash instead of actually putting the email into GMail's trash folder.

Though, the good news is, help is near! Lifehacker has an excellent tutorial on tweaks you can apply to Thunderbird in order to solve this and other problems and make the most out of the Thunderbird+GMail combination.

For the passionate Mac users, Jean Pierre describes how to choose the GMail Trash folder in Apple Mail.

On a side note, choosing a special Trash folder is slightly complicated in Thunderbird (editing about:config is pretty advanced, I'd say). Unfortunately, this contradicts the recommendations on IMAP4 implementation (RFC 2683), section 3.4.8 ("Creating Special-Use Mailboxes"), where it says:

In addition, the client developer should provide a convenient way for the user to select the names for any special-use mailboxes, allowing the user to make these names the same in all clients used and to put them where the user wants them.

For "Sent", "Drafts" and "Templates", this is indeed already very conveniently handled in the account settings dialog, yet for the Trash we need to edit special preferences, which is slightly confusing.

Interestingly, there is already a bug on this (and has been for a while). The good news is: According to one of the comments, this is fixed in the trunk, so we can hope to get this feature with the next major release of Thunderbird. :)

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I just noticed that during the last few weeks, through the projects I am working on and classes I am attending now, the number of programming languages I am handling on a daily basis has increased to six:

  • PHP and JavaScript, for AMO and similar
  • Perl, for Bouncer
  • Python, for Kubla CMS
  • C for my Systems Architecture and Parallel Programming classes
  • Visual Basic for an older in-house software project I am maintaining

(Let's not mention the occasional line of Assembler that programming assignments tend to require ;) )

I am excited: More variety spices this all up a little. Though sometimes the drawbacks in the respective languages become all too obvious when only days before you have done the same thing in another language with 2 lines of code and today you need 20 to do it elsewhere. But I guess the motto of the mutt email client does apply to programming languages too:

All programming languages suck -- some just suck less :)

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Guess I am getting closer to running a well-usable version of Leopard, but I am not quite there yet: Since yesterday, my Trash turns out to be always shown as "full":

Leopard Trash Full (Yes, Papierkorb is the German word for "paper bin").

So far, I haven't been able to figure out why this happens -- there's nothing in there, really. I even "sudo rm -rf"-deleted the .Trash folder out of my home folder, but it didn't help. OSX did automatically recreate it (empty!) but the dock icon won't change.

For now, I guess I'll have to live with an "overflowing" trash can -- if you have any hints though what else I could do, a comment would be very much appreciated :)

Update: It's fixed! It was a filesystem corruption in the fat32 filesystem. I ran a chkdsk which converted the "undeletable" file into one that I was able to remove. Thanks for pointing me into the right direction, Jean Pierre and Greg!

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