What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

I was looking for a book to read and found What the Dog Saw on the office bookshelf. I have really liked the Malcolm Gladwell books I read in the past so decided to give it a try.

This book is a collection of articles that Malcolm Gladwell wrote for the New Yorker covering a wide variety of topics.

My favorite articles include Cesar Millan the “Dog Whisperer”, the story of Grey Poupon, and Enron.

Gladwell’s writing is superb, witty, and never strays to far from the point even when it is taking a winding path to get there.

From Gladwell.com:

What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer” who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and “hindsight bias” and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.

“Good writing,” Gladwell says in his preface, “does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.

I rate What the Dog Saw a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone.

The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet is a science fiction series written by John G. Hemry writing as Jack Campbell and consists of 6 novels centered around Captain “Black Jack” Geary and the Alliance Fleet. This is good old military science fiction space war stuff.

I listened to these novels as audiobooks from Audible. Christian Rummel does a great job narrating all 6 of the novels and brings all of the characters to life. When adding up the playtime of all six novels you get 60 hours of space battles, political infighting, and military atmosphere.

This is not my ordinary type of reading, I usually go with something lighter, but The Lost Fleet had been recommended to me so many times that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I am glad I finally picked it up, they are pretty great for what they are. Military space battles with some real military thought put into them.

I listened to all 6 of them one after the other, just couldn’t stop myself. And now I am on to Jack Campbell’s Beyond the Frontier series.

The books that make up The Lost Fleet are:

  1. The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
  2. The Lost Fleet: Fearless
  3. The Lost Fleet: Courageous
  4. The Lost Fleet: Valiant
  5. The Lost Fleet: Relentless
  6. The Lost Fleet: Victorious

What the publisher has to say about Dauntless:

The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century, and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who has emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief.

Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend.

I rate The Lost Fleet series an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who loves science fiction and has a taste for the military.

Make an Icon for Mac Yosemite

How to make a new folder icon for your MAME games is pretty easy with a handful of steps. This is the process I followed; there are other ways to do it using other tools. I used Preview, Adobe Photoshop, and Xcode’s Icon Utility.

Step 1: Get the Icons

I like JohanChalibert’s OS X Yosemite Icon set that he has posted on Deviant Art, but you could search around a bit and find many different icon sets that would be a great place to start.

Download the icon set, unzip it, take a moment to read the readme file, and then find the folder icon you want to use as a starting point, I used GenericFolderIcon.icns. Right-click the Icns file and open it in Preview.

Step 2: Export the Base Icon

Preview Inspector Dialog Box

Preview Inpector

Now that you have the icon set open in preview you can see that it is made up of 10 different graphics. By opening the Inspector (Tools > Show Inspector or Command i) you can see the details for each graphic, like the first graphic is 1024 x 1024 pixels in size at 144 dpi.

Right-click menu

Export As…

Right-click the “1” graphic and choose Export As…, change the Format to PNG making sure the Alpha checkbox is checked. I kept the default name of GenericFolderIcon.png.

Step 3: Editing the Graphics

Now I download the super large version of the MAME logo from MAME Dev. This is what I want to put on the front of my folder icon.

  1. Open both the GenericFolderIcon.png and the MAMELogoTM.jpg files in Photoshop.
  2. On the MAME logo in the Layers panel click the padlock icon to convert the background to a regular layer.
  3. Using the Magic Wand tool with a Tolerance of 12, Anti-alias checked, and Contiguous unchecked click the black background of the logo.
  4. Photoshop delete background image

    Delete Background

    Click the Delete key to remove that black background then Command D to cancel the selection.
  5. Photoshop adjust levels

    Adjust Levels

    Open the Levels panel (Image > Adjustments > Levels… or Command L) and under Output Levels make both sides “0” which will make the entire logo solid black.
  6. Photoshop pasted MAME logo

    Pasted Logo

    Then Select All (Command A), Copy (Command C), then switch to the GenericFolderIcon graphic and Paste (Command V).
  7. Photoshop resize MAME logo

    Tranform Logo

    Initially the MAME logo will be huge compared to the folder so you will need to transform it to fie. Transform (Command T) then while holding down the shift key to keep the ratio of the logo locked start resizing the logo until it looks good to you.
  8. In the Layer panel switch the mode to Overlay.
  9. Create an “fx” layer with an Inner Shadow, I like the settings Blend Mode: Mulitply, Opacity: 36%, Angle: 128, Distance: 9px, Choke: 0, Size: 21px. Play with it until you find something you like.
  10. Photoshop add fx to the logo layer

    Adjust Logo

    For my tastes the MAME logo is still too strong, I want it to more closely match the Apple Applications folder Icon. So back in the Layers I turn the Opacity of the logo layer down to 38%.
  11. Save that PSD file early and often so you have something to go back too if there are any problems or you want to make adjustments later.

Step 4: Saving the Graphics

For a complete Apple icon you need 10 images.

icon_16x16.png
icon_16x16@2x.png
icon_32x32.png
icon_32x32@2x.png
icon_128x128.png
icon_128x128@2x.png
icon_256x256.png
icon_256x256@2x.png
icon_512x512.png
icon_512x512@2x.png

The “2x” images are saved at 144 DPI while the others are saved at 72 DPI.

It can get a bit confusing at this point, but keep in mind that icon_128x128@2x.png is really 256×256 at a resolution of 144 DPI while icon_256x256.png is 256×256 at a resolution of 72 DPI.

  1. I make a Duplicate (Image > Duplicate) of the image so that I wont accidentally overwrite my full-sized PSD file.
  2. Photoshop image size 512@2x

    Image Size 512@2x

    In the Image Size panel (Image > Image Size… or Command Option I) adjust the resolution to 1024×1024 at 144 DPI.
  3. Then Save for Web (File > Save for Web… or Command Option Shift S) with the settings of PNG-24 and Transparency Checked.
  4. Click Save and in the Save Optimized As dialog box make a new folder naming it “MAMEFolderIcon.iconset”. The “.iconset” portion is important later.
  5. Name this first file icon_512x512@2x.png and save it.
  6. Photoshop image size 512

    Image Size 512

    Back to the Image Size panel adjust the size to 72 DPI Resolution and sized 512×512 (easier to make the changes in that order as adjusting the resolution will change the width and height). Resample should be set to “Automatic” or “Bicubic Sharper (reduction)”.
  7. Save this one as icon_512x512.png.
  8. Finished images for the icon

    Finished Files

    Now do that another 8 times adjusting the size and saving based on the file names above.

As the icon graphic gets smaller you could change it up to keep it distinguishable from other icons. Instead of using the full MAME logo you could use just an “M” or you could darken the logo, or anything else you can think of.

Step 5: Building the Icon Set

I am using the Icon Utilities tool that comes with Xcode. There are a lot of icon tools out there, the App Store is full of them, but I happen to have Xcode installed and decided this was the easiest way for me to create the finished icon set.

  1. Open the Terminal app and change the directory to where you have the MAMEFolderIcon.iconset saved. For me that was cd /Users/dnelson/Documents/Folder\ Icon\ Post/
  2. Then run the Icon Utilities app “iconutil -c icns MAMEFolderIcon.iconset

And BANG! You have your very own MAMEFolderIcon.icns icon set.

Step 6: Put your New Icon Set to Use

Find the folder you want to give your new Icon Set to and get ready for the magic.

  1. Select the folder, click on it once, than then Get Info (right-click and choose Get Info or Command I).
  2. Drag-and-drop the new icon set

    Drag-and-Drop

    Now drag-and-drop you new icon set on top of the folder icon at the top of the Get Info dialog box.
  3. Folder with new icon set

    Updated Folder

    And you are done!

It is a tedious process, but it is nice to have custom icons like this, especially for folders in the Doc. This process will also work for making icons for your game launching files.

Easy Launching of MAME Games in Mac OSX Yosemite

Sometimes you want to be able to launch a game by double-clicking an icon rather than going through MAME’s interface or using the Terminal. This method has the added benefit of letting you easily launch MAME with various options.

We are going to write a small shell script, save it as a command file, and make it executable.

If you have followed the directions in my previous post “MAME on Mac OSX Yosemite” you can follow these instructions exactly, if you have made changes or modified any steps, keep that in mind while working through these steps.

First off we write the shell script.

  1. 1. Open the Documents directory and create a new folder named “MAME Games”.
  2. 2. Open Applications > TextEdit and click Format > Make Plain Text
  3. 3. On the first line of the document enter “#!/usr/bin/env bash”. This is known as a shebang and tells the computer that we want to use the Bash shell to run our script.
  4. 4. Then for readablility’s sake skip a line and enter “cd ~/Documents/mame” on the next line. This changes the directory to your mame folder inside of your Documents folder.
  5. 5. On the last line enter “./mame64 robotbwl” which launches the MAME application and loads the Robot Bowl ROM.
  6. 6. Now save the file naming it “Robot Bowl.command”. The filename extension of “command” tells Mac OSX that this is a Terminal shell script.

We have created our script now we have to give it permission to be executable.

  1. 1. Open the Terminal app and end enter “chmod +x ~/Documents/MAME\ Games/Robot\ Bowl.command”, this modifies the permissions of the “Robot Bowl.command” file by adding the Executebale for everyone permissions to it.
  2. 2. NOTE: The back slash “\” in the code escapes the spaces in the directory path and file names, without those back slashes the code will not work.

That is all there is to it, you should now be able to double click on the Robot Bowl file to launch MAME and the Robot Bowl game.

Options

Now we are going to create a file that will launch the Robot Bowl game with the screen much brighter than normal. This can be really handy if you have a screen or a game that is dark.

  1. 1. Copy the Robot Bowl file we created above and name it “Robot Bowl Bright”. By copying the Robot Bowl file the copied file will have the original’s executable permissions.
  2. 2. Open the Robot Bowl Bright file in TextEdit and add the brightness option to it by changing the last line to be “./mame64 robotbwl -brightness 1.5” and save it.

Now launch the new Robot Bowl Bright file and you can see how much brighter it is, the background has become gray. Hit the Escape (esc) key to quit and launch the original Robot Bowl file and you should see that the background is black when launching the game from that file.

In the docs directory there is a config.txt file that contains many other options you can use to configure your launchers. The ones you will probably use most often are the joystick options.

The Dock

To make launching games even easier you can drag the MAME Games folder onto the right-hand side of the Dock by the trashcan. I don’t like the default view of folders in the Dock so I right-click the folder and choose “Display as Folder” and “View content as List”. Now I can click the folder in the dock and choose a game from the list.

You could get creative with this and have a different folder for different types of games or with different options enabled for the games.