Back in 2015, I created a set of 5120x2880 deep space desktop images for my then-newish Retina iMac, using images from the Hubble space telescope.
Recently, the Hubble team released the absolutely mind-bogglingly-massive Hubble Legacy Field image…
The snapshot, a combination of nearly 7,500 separate Hubble exposures, represents 16 years' worth of observations. The ambitious endeavor is called the Hubble Legacy Field. The new view contains about 30 times as many galaxies as in the HUDF. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time.
The image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe's birth in the big bang.
Despite those staggering figures, this image still represents only a tiny portion of the sky, covering roughly the area taken up by the Moon in the night sky.
I downloaded the 700MB 25,500x25,500 PNG version of the image, and set to work making some new 5120x2880 desktop images. You can read more about the process in an upcoming post, but for now, here are the resulting images…
As part of my research into Frankenmac, my homebuilt Mac clone, I stumbled across this page at Intel that lets you easily compare CPUs across generations. Just click the Processors button, then choose a family (Desktop), then choose a CPU family (7th Generation Intel Core i7).
Click directly on a processor's name to go to its data sheet, or click the Compare box to add it to a comparison. Select as many as you like; the final layout includes horizontal scrolling to display those that don't fit onscreen at first.
I found this site useful when selecting a CPU for Frankenmac. Comparing the 6th and 7th generation Core i7, for example, the 7th generation has a slightly faster clock speed, faster RAM, and support for Intel Optane memory, whatever that might be. Based on these mild differences, and on Apple not yet shipping a Mac with the 7th generation chip in it, I chose the 6th generation Core i7 for Frankenmac.
I use the date function quite often in scripts, mainly to append date/time stamps to filenames. For example, something like this…
cp somefile $newtime-some_other_file
That particular format is the one I use most often, with the full date followed by the hours and minutes in 24 hour format: 2017-04-12_2315, for example. I use this one so that filenames wind up sorted by date order in Finder views.
Once I move beyond that format, though, the vagaries of date string formatting leave me dazed. Enter strftime.net, where you can build any date string you like using a point-and-click editor with real-time previews:
It doesn't get much easier than that.
Back in August of 2015, Apple removed the distinct online store from its web site. The new store is integrated through all the pages of the site, which is a change for the better. However, I used to enjoy simply browsing the store itself, but this change mostly ended that pasttime.
The one (good) notable exception to "no store browsing" is the Refurbished and Clearance Store, which is still linked at the bottom of every page on Apple's site. This is a great spot to look for deals on used but reconditioned Apple gear, typically for 15% to 20% less than brand new.
The site is nicely laid out, with links on the side of the page to each type of equipment. Click in, click around, browse at will.
To make it easier to jump into a given section of the refurb store, I took the top-level links and tossed them into a Keyboard Maestro macro group set to activate a pop-up palette:
You can download this simple macro for your own use, if you wish.
Now a browse of the refurb store is only a keyboard shortcut away. Good for me, bad for my wallet.
I recently needed a gradient background for a page I was making. My usual method of creating gradient backgrounds is to muck around in my image editor until I find some combination I like, then futz around in my text editor getting the syntax just right for CSS gradients across all the browsers.
But then I discovered the Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator from ColorZilla. This handy tool lets you create gradients directly in the browser, and it outputs all the required codes for full browser support. The UI is very much like any image editor's gradient tool:
Drag the slider thumbs, click them to change the colors, click along the gradient to add color stops, etc. This tools works like a charm, and saves me a bit of time and aggravation whenever I need to make a CSS gradient.
Ever wanted a "light" weather check web site, free of ads and other visual clutter? One that you could maybe even use from Terminal? Then you want wttr.in.
Sure, you can use it from your browser, i.e. see the weather in Boston or Montreal, by just appending the zip/postal code of interest to the URL, i.e. http://wttr.in/95014. If you omit the location, wttr.in will get the location based on your IP address—for me, that's never anywhere near correct when I'm at home, though.
What's really neat is you can use it in Terminal, too, via curl:
$ curl wttr.in/80301
The output is graphical, but done so with text characters (click for zoomed version):
At a glance, you get a few days' worth of conditions, including temperature range, wind speed, visibility, and precipitation. There's even animation—check somewhere with thunderstorms, and you'll see flashing lightning bolts.
There's a help page that explains lots of other options, like forcing metric or US units, and looking at weather by airport code.
I've long been fascinated by massive engineering projects, whether they be for ships or tunnels or skyscrapers…or in this case, a bridge.
The Millau Viaduct is an amazing structure in the south of France; it spans a deep and wide valley with incredibly tall pylons and an elegant design.
Photo by logopop. [original photo]
While browsing YouTube the other day, for something completely unrelated (isn't it always like that?), I stumbled on this excellent show about the construction of the bridge:
Just amazing what they did to get that bridge built—and without a single worker injury of any note, despite working hundreds of feet above the ground for four years.
I recently tweaked the look here a bit, greatly simplifying the fonts and lightening the visual weight of the site quite a bit.
As part of that process, I wanted to find a larger lighter yet highly legible font. So I went back to Font Squirrel, the same site I used in my 2014 redesign.
They offer a huge assortment of fonts, all licensed for free commercial use, with a nice set of categories and search engine. And free…though the tradeoff is a fairly heavy advertising load. After much looking and testing, I've got the site running on three font families: Open Sans for most of the content and sidebar, Open Sans Condensed for headlines, and Ubuntu Mono for code snippets.
As part of the cleanup, I was able to remove 40+ font-family and font-size statements from the CSS, and the site should scale a bit better on small-screen devices. (I'm still not completely happy with things, so expect minor changes going forward.)
Font Squirrel not only has a great collection of fonts, but they offer a free web font generator. Using the generator, you can create fonts that are embedded in your page, so that they're available even when users don't have those fonts installed locally. Just upload a font you're licensed to use, and Font Squirrel will create a web font, complete with CSS. Upload the converted web fonts to your server, copy and paste the CSS bit into your CSS master file, and you can use the fonts on your site.
There are 20 web fonts on the site now (two forms of 10 font faces across the three font families), and in total, they're 200KB in size—or less than the typical "larger" image I often post here.
There are lots of sites that offer free-to-use fonts; I really like the assortment at Font Squirrel, and the web generator is an added bonus.
Ever want to grab the cover art for some album? Or have you ever wanted the full-size icon from an iOS app? Or the cover image from a movie or TV show? A podcast's icon? Ben Dodson hosts an excellent web-based tool that lets you do all that and more: The iTunes Artwork Finder.
Usage is about as simple as it gets: Pick a category, enter your search term, set the geographical region, and click Get the artwork.
Note that this only works for things available from the iTunes Store in the specified region, so you can't use it to find cover art for that digitized copy of some obscure record you found at an underground music store in New York City back in 1973.
Also note that if you have your own web site, you can host your own artwork finder, as Ben has made the code available for all. I wouldn't recommend making it publicly available, though, unless you have bandwidth to spare—a single search for "Friends," for instance, returned about 25 high-resolution images.
Here's how I set it up on our family's web site; it's really easy to do, and it works great:
- Download the zipped archive from GitHub.
- Create a new folder on your server. I called mine getart.
- Upload the two files (php, js) from the archive into the folder.
- Add basic HTML tags (html, head, body) to the stub of HTML shown on the GitHub page, and save it as index.html in the same folder. If you like fancy and have time to spend, go ahead and pretty it up with CSS and layout. I just left it bare.
That's all there is to it; you can now look up artwork by loading http://yourdomain/getart (or whatever you called it) in your fave browser.
During today's recording of our The Committed podcast, Ian mentioned a site he uses to check for sometimes hard-to-acquire Apple products. The site, iStockNow, is very nicely designed and makes it really simple to check availability not only at your local stores, but also globally.
Start by clicking the left-side filters section for the products you'd like to check on, then view the map on the right to see where they're in stock. For example, a search for the 15" MacBook Pro Touch Bar in Space Gray shows that it's available throughout North America, except in Mexico City:
But if you search for a 42mm Apple Watch in Stainless Steel in retail stores, you'll see that most of North America is a sea of red. Zoom in on the map, though, and there are some stores with stock:
When you find a store with inventory—the green pushpin—click on it to get the details of that store's inventory:
If you're looking for something particularly hard to find—cough AirPods cough—iStockNow may just help you secure your item. According to Ian, at least, that's exactly how he got his AirPods!