Chambéry

We have a habit of visiting places in their off season. The season counter to the best time to see the city, sight, or spectacle. Our habit is not deliberate. Just a matter of when our time is available to take a break and explore somewhere new for a weekend.

We took an early morning train to Chambéry. A pretty town with a beautiful lake and stunning surroundings of alpine mountains.

Early morning frost from the train
Early morning frost from the train
Inside the older SNCF train
Inside the older SNCF train
Mountains form a background to most views of Chambéry
Mountains form a background to most views of Chambéry
Monument and mountains in the distance
Monument and mountains in the distance
Elephants at the base of a monument
Elephants at the base of a monument
A group protest outside the Town Hall
A group protest outside the Town Hall
Fortifications within Chambéry
Fortifications within Chambéry
Balconies
Balconies
A courtyard in Chambéry
A courtyard in Chambéry
Tree lined street in Chambéry
Tree lined street in Chambéry
Building being restored
Building being restored
Modern building in Chambéry
Modern building in Chambéry
Glass structure around a building
Glass structure around a building

Musee Savoisien

Umbrella display outside the museum
Umbrella display outside the museum
Coin collection
Coin collection
Coins held for closer inspection
Coins held for closer inspection
Wooden objects from the region's past
Wooden objects from the region’s past
Ceramic pots
Ceramic pots
Wooden farming equipment
Wooden farming equipment
Swan feeding with neck below the water
Swan feeding with neck below the water

Lac du Bourget

Plane taking off over Lac du Bourge
Plane taking off over Lac du Bourget
Looking out over Lac du Bourget
Looking out over Lac du Bourget
Lac du Bourget
Lac du Bourget

Hefty Mac Pro

The older Mac Pro is heavy. Particularly when you are lifting it above your head trying to find a balance between delicacy and suppressed panic. After all, you have thousands of pounds of equipement above you and a lot of potential wasted time, if you make a mistake.

After continuing problems with the remaining NVidia GT120 graphics card in my Mac Pro, I decided to remove the second graphics card. I had previously switched to a new Radeon card and that was good. A few OS X updates later I heard the original problems were fixed, so I re-installed one of the spare GT120 cards.

Mac Pro with two graphics cards installed
Mac Pro with two graphics cards installed

Since then numerous graphical problems have returned. All of the type that suggest the graphic’s card memory is still being mismanaged or not freed properly. Applications using IOSurface are subject to the faults.

After running a few experiments I concluded just having the GT120 card in my Mac Pro, even without a display attached, was enough to cause problems.

I opened up my Mac Pro, trivially removed the card, and began to close the computer back up.

Then I made a mistake.

The screw head on my screw driver fell off into the computer.

What followed was not fun or even remotely entertaining. Over the next half hour to an hour I found myself stripping out all I could from the Mac Pro. Lifting and tipping the still very heavy box around. Listening all the time. Tracking the location of that lost screw head.

Somehow it got trapped between two layers of shielding. I could not see it but I could hear it.

Leaving the screw head in the computer was not an option. A loose piece of metal inside a computer can only lead to catastrophic problems. The screw head had to come out before I could get on with my day.

Eventually I had the Mac Pro above my head, slowing lifting and lowering different edges, hoping for a sighting of the screw head – even a sight behind a grill or enclosure would have been something.

Nothing. I saw nothing.

I am persistent. I also have few other choices but to carry on.

After what felt like too long and after my arms were straining to control the weight, I saw the screw head. It had fallen out. There was no reward of a tink sound, just silence, but I could see the screw head now and hold it close in my hand.

Nervously I put the computer back together. The seconds between pushing the power button and hearing the “hardware is fine” chime were eternal. It was going to be alright.

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Electronic Signature on Delivery for E-mail

I quietly launched a new Mac application today. It is the result of a few weeks of dealing with various offices, administrators, and bureaucracies.

We are deep into the paperwork side of getting our new home built. The last weeks have seen a distinct uptick in the number of tasks we need to instigate and manage. Doing this in another language and within another culture is testing.

One key difference between the Anglo-Saxon and French approach to business is how each culture deals with e-mails and correspondence.

I am using the phrase Anglo-Saxon to clump Australian and British notions together for this topic. The two countries are close enough in style to consider as one.

The Anglo-Saxon approach to e-mails, and correspondence in general, is to reply fairly rapidly. Within days to a week. A reply is typically expected to say thank you and that your request is being processed. Even when no action is immediately possible, or when difficulties to fulfil the request are met, a reply is still expected.

The aim being to keep you in the loop and informed about delays. The Anglo-Saxon business ideal is to offer lots of feedback and statements of progress. Writing to an organisation and hearing nothing for months would be a cause for concern.

The French approach is different. A more taciturn approach until the task is done. If there are problems or difficulties, the reply waits. From us, with Anglo-Saxon expectations, that behaviour can appear to be avoidance, neglect, or simple inaction. It can be frustrating not knowing what is happening. It becomes easy to imagine nothing is happening.

For the British at least, the French have a reputation of being bureaucratic and slow. Like most stereotypes, and it is a stereotype, this is not true. The difference in most cases is a lack of communication.

So how to alleviate the problem – if only a little?

E-mail receipts and notification reports have been helpful. Much of time I can reduce my stress simply by knowing an e-mail has arrived. If I learn the e-mail has been read, even better.

The Mail.app application on OS X does not insert the required information to ask for automated receipts. Automated receipts are reply e-mails sent by various computers along the way as your e-mail is delivered. The replies let you know the e-mail arrived and, sometimes, that the e-mail has been read.

I wanted to add these requests to some of my important e-mails. So I wrote Miln Mail Receipt.

Miln Mail Receipt
Miln Mail Receipt

Mail Receipt is an experimental application that adds those few optional extras into my outgoing e-mails. I do not use it every time; in fact there are only a handful of e-mails that I do want receipts from. The flood of automated replies would become a problem in their own right, if I asked for them in every outgoing e-mail.

Miln Mail Receipt is a way of embodying a means to quickly turn on and off read receipts in OS X’s Mail.app. Something to deploy when dealing with government departments and important requests that deserve the nearest equivalent to an electronic signature on delivery.

Like most Miln products, Miln Mail Receipt is also an experiment. This is my first application written in Apple’s new Swift language. Thus it took longer than I would have liked and lacks some of the originally planned abilities. But it works and does what it needs to do.

Miln Mail Receipt is available to download now and is free. I hope it reduces your stress too.

Navigating Gare de Lyon Part Dieu

Navigating Lyon‘s large Part Dieu train station is difficult enough for a sighted person but for a blind person it must be a nightmare. Thankfully the station has something installed that I have yet to notice elsewhere.

Around the station are tracks denoted with raised markers on each edge. The markers are plastic strips that form static permanent ridges, effectively paths, around the station complex.

A simple, presumably effective, addition that makes the station a little more accessible.

The paths extend throughout the station
The paths extend throughout the station
Raised edges denote paths for the blind
Raised edges denote paths for the blind