Lit Nights Lead to Dark Days?

Depressed? Turn off the lights and go to sleep. That’s the conclusion of a study recently announced in Time magazine:

A study from Ohio State University Medical Center found that hamsters with chronic exposure to dim light at night showed signs of depression within just a few weeks: reduced physical activity compared with hamsters living in normal light-dark conditions, as well as less interest in sugar water (a treat for the hamsters), greater signs of distress when placed in water, and changes in the brain’s hippocampus that are similar to brain changes seen in depressed people.

I just spent the past three months in the Alaska summer. Hmmm.

But the upcoming Alaska night won’t be a solution, because I live in an age of cheap, bright LEDs, and all my gadgets have too many of them. See the story in Popular Mechanics.

The LED indicator proliferation is due partly to the litigious nature of consumer culture. (Hedge cites manufacturers’ fears of “failure to warn” lawsuits.) But most LEDs are added because product designers see no reason not to. “Often in the world of design, if you can afford to do something, you do it,” Hedge says. But even if a functional case could be made for each of these lights individually, in aggregate they just create sensory pollution and dilute the message each light ought to deliver: “Hey, something’s going on with this device.”

I love the accompanying illustration. It reminds me of my bedroom.

Kindle Touch

The update I applied seems to make the Kindle a bit more responsive. Some of the books—but not all—seem to have better typography (e.g., they have curly “smart” quotes rather than straight "dumb" ones). So I’d say the update was worth the effort to download and install, but nothing spectacular. Ultimately, when you have an iPhone (or an iPad) then the user experience of a Kindle is going to be pretty “meh” no matter what.

Updating the Kindle Touch

I got a Kindle Touch for my birthday last year, although it didn’t arrive until around Thanksgiving. It has been something of a disappointment. My one child got a Barnes & Noble Nook about the same time, and it is by far the better product. (I’m not alone in that assessment.) (While I’m sure about the Nook, I’m not sure about Barnes & Noble. I chose the Amazon product to access the Amazon market. If ebook readers used a common industry-wide format, the Nook would be a no-brainer.)

Anyway, the Kindle Touch is a few grams too heavy to be comfortable, and the user interface is … well, there’s no way to sugarcoat this: it stinks. You never know where to press because sometimes you press in the invisible right-hand zone to move forward. Sometimes you “flick” things up from the bottom. To go forward you tap the right side. To go backward you flick the left. And so on.

But I see there is a new firmware update for the Touch. I don’t know if it’s any good, but it can hardly be any worse. I’m installing it as I type this. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Still Waiting for the Kindle

Well, I won’t get my Kindle Touch until Monday, but at least now that the Fire reviews have all posted, people are beginning to talk about the Touch:

Awkward delays arise, and repainting of the e-Ink screen sometimes lags. But, overall, the experience is quite good and, in some situations, noticeably better than using the previous iteration’s buttons. This is especially true of picking items from lists or selecting text in specific areas of the screen—touch, even on a screen that isn’t especially responsive, is simply much faster than navigating via repeated button presses.

Also this: “But if your focus is on reading, I would actually recommend the bottom of the line model. It’s lighter and more comfortable to hold in one hand, and the touch screen doesn’t really make the page turning experience that much better.”

Where’s My Kindle?!?

So I got a new Kindle Touch for my birthday last month. Except I didn’t actually get it. I just got a promise it would eventually arrive someday Real Soon Now.

That’s okay. I can cope with delayed gratification. Except when suddenly everybody and their uncle is posting reviews of the Kindle Fire. Now I demand to know why the more exotic Kindles shipped before mine!

MySQL reinstallation notes

The other day I tried to create a view of one of my tables, and I got some weird message (not able to fork lock file PID on /tmp, or something like that, that appealed to the vestigial *ix programmer lobe in my brain).

Anyway, I believed what I read on the internet and did all kinds of things to fix it, all unsuccessfully. I wound up deleting my entire MySQL installation and reinstalling. I did that several times, in fact, because there’s no MySQL uninstaller, just lore distributed across various people’s blogs. I found this post helpful, but what I eventually used was this one.

But I have a little bit of wisdom of my own to contribute, and it is as follows:

Soon after installing MySQL, I created a file .my.cnf in my $HOME directory. It looks like this:

# The following password will be sent to all standard MySQL clients

(where abc123 is the real password, of course.)

Long story short: get rid of that file while you’re installing and testing the initial installation of MySQL.