By Collin Allen

Google Analytics and Mint

November 20, 2005

Shortly after Google Analytics was released, I gave it a shot. Several days after properly setting it up, I still wasn’t getting results. Today, I read that it doesn’t work in Safari. So much for depending on Google for stats.

As a full time Safari user, I gave up on that front and purchased Mint, an easy to use (and wonderful to look at) web stats generator by Shaun Inman. While it doesn’t have graphical pie graphs like Google Analytics, it sure makes checking out my stats a breeze. Some webmasters go all-out and get very detailed with stats, but me, I just what to have a general idea of what’s going on and what’s hot. For the cost of the average shareware app, Mint reports all this and more with a clean, refreshing style. I couldn’t be happer with it. To top it all off, there’s a simple Tiger widget included in the purchase which displays total visitors.


November 19, 2005

Jaron Brass showed me a great little tool for checking the life of your PowerBook (or iBook) battery, coconutBattery. It works by doing the appropriate ioreg command and extracting the relevant battery information. It can report the number of charge cycles, the current and maximum charges, and the age of your Mac. I wasn’t even aware all that information was even available to software running on every Mac. In any event, it’s time for me to buy a new PowerBook battery, and coconutBattery helped me easily make the decision by showing exactly where my battery life stands.

Xbox BIOS Tips for Mac

November 18, 2005

For those working on a Mac doing Xbox modifications, here’s a tip for handling BIOS files. Some Xboxes, such as the “version 1.0,” require a 1 MB sized file, but not all are distributed this way. On the Windows side of things, there are a number of tools available for dealing with Xbox BIOSes, however there’s nothing specifically made for Mac. With a little bit of command-line work, you can combine files without any special tools except the operating system. To join files, the general syntax is:

cat bios512KB.bin bios512KB.bin > bios1MB.bin

You’re simply doubling over the file to obtain the 1 MB sized one the Xbox needs. It can be repeated four times for a 256 KB BIOS. Or, if your Xbox is wired with a switch into multiple banks, you could combine two separate files using cat and the redirection operator > to build a custom BIOS, and switch between them as needed.

While I haven’t tried, I’m sure the Unix ‘split’ utlity can slice a file and do the reverse of the above (something along the lines of split -b 512k bios1MB.bin). Just be careful, as not all BIOSes are designed to be sliced into smaller pieces. Hopefully these two built-in tools should get you through any Xbox BIOS issues on the Mac.

Inside Microsoft's Xbox 360

November 17, 2005

This is how it all starts. AnandTech has done a great job disassembling an Xbox 360 and documenting it along the way. It actually looks like it may be easier to disassemble than the original Xbox, provided you have the right tools.

I’m impressed with the change in Xbox controller styles. While I was not one of the many who complained about the sheer size of the original Xbox controllers, I find the new style to be a delight to use. Wireless capabilities are a nice touch, too.

I read elsewhere that the Xbox 360 also has a battery to retain the date and time settings, which caused some problems with previous Xbox softmods. It can also be configured to use a network time server, such as (or, if you prefer “Apple time”).

The launch is less than a week away, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick up one of these new machines with minimal hassle. We’ll see about that.

Update: AnandTech posted another article, this time covering the Xbox 360 motherboard’s layout, ICs, and buses.

Apple's "Black Stick"

November 17, 2005

In all the official Apple Service Source guides, where detailed take-apart information for every Apple product is listed, they make references to a tool called only the “black stick.” It’s used for prying open plastic cases without chewing up the edge like a metal screwdriver would. However, they don’t mention what this tool really is or where to obtain one. RadTech, makers of my favorite iPod cases and polishing solutions, sells what seems to be the tool Apple uses. However, they sell this nylon pry tool for a ridiculous $7. For a strong plastic stick. Being in need and not knowing where else to get it, I ordered one not too long ago. After receiving it and noticing some information stamped on it, I did some searching and found out they’re manufacured by Menda, makers of various lab tools. I also managed to find an online distributor with a website that works. So, if you’re in need of an iPod opener that won’t mark up the case, and which doubles as a handy soldering tool, get your “black stick” from ESD Systems for $1.59.

Update: Buy this stick from Stanley Supply. It’s sturdier than the pointy stick and makes opening iPods and Mac hardware a breeze.