Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Mo' Movember

Well, it's over.   I think the mo turned out fairly well! It's too bad about the lighting in this last shot.  Unfortunately, it was so dark out today that I had no natural light at all in my livingroom, and so I either had to go with 'too dark' or 'wow, is that what you look like under a flash?'  I went with the former.

I'd like to thank everyone who's donated so far; I've managed to raise $260 at this point.  Donations are still open, if you haven't had a chance to contribute, and I'm pretty sure they will be at least until the end of the week.

Thanks again everyone for helping out!  As promised, a time-lapse movie of the mo growth is forthcoming, but it's a bit of work to get the photos all lined up right, so it may take me a few days to get it out.   I'll be sure to post it here when it's done.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movember Update: Day 11

Movember Mugshot, Day 11
So, the Mo is progressing fairly well.  My hair is pretty light, so it doesn't show as well in the photograph as it does in real life, but it's coming along nicely.  Now that it actually shows up, I'll likely post updates somewhat more often than I have so far (which is not at all). I've been taking daily photos, and when all is done I'll be putting together a quick little time lapse movie of my Mo growth.  It should be good for a laugh!

I'd like to say a big thanks to all the people who have donated so far!  I really appreciate your contribution!  For anyone who would like to donate to prostate cancer research, but hasn't had a chance yet, please drop by my personal Movember page; your help will be greatly appreciated!

Escaping Mac Mail RSS

Don't get me wrong, the Mac Mail RSS reader is pretty good. If you've just got the one computer, and don't have any desire to read your RSS feeds when you're away from home, then it's an excellent choice. It's shameful, however, that MobileMe – Apple's service for syncing your data between Mac computers – doesn't even try to sync your RSS feeds between Mail clients.

This lack of ability to keep the RSS feeds in my Mail client on my desktop and my laptop in sync (let alone on my iPad or iPhone) has led me to start looking for a replacement RSS reader. As disappointing as the lack of sync is, I quickly discovered the even more shocking reality that there's not even a way to export my RSS feeds from Mail. Go, look ... you won't find anything... I'll wait.

As it happens, there's this standard, which is useful for moving RSS feed information around, called OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), which is a subset of XML (eXtensible Markup Language). I'm not a big fan of XML but there are times when it's useful, and in this case several major RSS readers have implemented an OPML import/export so that you can move your RSS feeds around. It would be really handy if Apple implemented this as well.

Unfortunately, Apple's oversights get worse. Not only can you not sync RSS feeds between computers, or export your RSS feeds, you can't even view the URL of your RSS feeds within Mail so that you could manually copy them to another device or program. Go Apple!

This only leaves one option: manually digging through the files that Mail saves out to keep track of your feeds. This is a task that is beyond the average home computer user, which effectively means that most Mac users who start using Mac Mail as their RSS reader are stuck.

Fortunately, I'm not the average home computer user, and I know where to find these files that Apple writes, and I know how to read them .. so I could go in and cut and paste all those URLs into another reader. But I'm too lazy for that, so I wrote a program to do it for me. This wasn't quite as easy as I expected, since reading in the XML plist files turned out to be a bit of a trick. As much as I don't like XML, trying to describe how I hate XML plist (the format Mail uses for these files) would completely derail this post – Apple really screwed the pooch on that one.

Eventually I gave up on the program being super-portable, and just used someone else's library to read in the plist files. I had been hoping that I could post a script here that anyone could save on their Mac and run to generate an OPML file, but the plist debacle meant that other stuff would need to be installed. Oh well.

In the end I got my OPML file, and I've imported it into Google Reader. Several of the iPad RSS readers will import their feeds from Google, which works well enough.

I'm posting my script below, free to anyone for personal use. In order to make it work you'll need to first install two libraries on your system.

Making it Go

In "Terminal" (which you can find in Applications -> Utilities), type the following two commands:
gem install builder
gem install plist

Once you've installed builder and plist, click on this link. It will download an archive file that contains the script.  When that's done, in your Downloads window double-click on the "MacRSStoOPML.tar.gz" entry; that will decompress the archive and show you a new Finder window with the archive you downloaded and the script that was in it.  Double-click on "MacRSStoOPML" (it'll have a grey box-like icon) to run it.  And you're done!  You should now have a file called "opml.xml" on your Desktop, which lists all of the RSS feeds you were reading in Mail.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mo Fruits, Mo Flowers, Mo Leaves, Mo Birds - Movember.

That's right, it's Movember again!

For those that don't know, the month formerly known as November has been given over to the goal of raising awareness of prostate cancer, accomplished by men the world over  making a commitment to grow new moustaches (a "Mo").  Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, men commit to growing a moustache for 30 days to raise funds for cancer research.  Last year, global participation in Movember raised CDN $47 million!

I'm taking part for the first time this year, and a couple of mornings ago I got myself a nice clean shave.  I'm now waiting for enough to grow in to start trying to decide what sort of mo I'll grow!

Hopefully, a few of you will decide to support my face fuzz with a donation, which you can easily do here. In return I'll commit to new growth on my face, and to regularly posting updates here and on my Movember page, which I'm sure will generate much controversy and hilarity.

The Movember movement aims to increase awareness of prostate cancer and to promote screening (testing before detection of any symptoms), for obvious reasons.  Unfortunately, here in Ontario not all men have equal access to the PSA test (Prostate-Specific Antigen test).  The Ontario Ministry of Health has chosen not to provide the PSA test as an early detection measure as they have with cervical and breast cancer screening.  The Ministry web site says it best:
In men without symptoms (screening), PSA testing is not paid for by the provincial health plan. A man can have the PSA test if he is willing to pay for the test himself. However, it is hoped he will make this decision only after discussion with his Health Care Provider.
 The Ministry's explanation for this is that they don't believe the current PSA test is reliable enough to be used as a screening measure.  The statistics they quote say that, of every 100 men over the age of 50 screened, 4 or 5 will have prostate cancer: three will be detected, and one or two will go undetected by the test.  That seems like a fairly decent result to me, when one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and twelve Canadian men die of prostate cancer daily.

Perhaps some enterprising souls will write to the Minister and encourage her to support prostate cancer screening.

In the mean time, please visit my Movember page;  enjoy a few laughs at my expense, and please donate if you can.