Certificate Assistant for Mac OS X

Well I had no idea this was coming stumbled across the feature when I was checking out the new Keychain Access app. In the Keychain Access menu, look for the Certificate Assistant menu item. As Apple states:

Apple – Mac OS X – 200+ New Features

Certificate Assistant
Easily request, issue and manage certificates for small workgroups with this utility that blends many functions of a commercial Certificate Authority at none of the cost.

Well, well, well. What have we here? This is a pleasant suprise – create my own little self-signed certificates and a CA using a Mac-based assistant? How easy!

Self-signed certs don’t do much good for public use of things like SSL or S/MIME, but can be very nice for testing or for securing private communications. An administrator could go and create their own CA, install the cert as valid on the machines in the local network, and issue people certificates for S/MIME on the LAN.

I’d been hoping for better X.509 tools for Mac since I started working at Xcert back in 1998. With the improved Keychain Access, Certificate Manager, client certificate authentication in Safari, and S/MIME built in to Mail and Entourage, it seems that things have finally arrived.

Bass player stretching exercises

To keep your muscles from getting too tight, or developing painful back problems or repetitive stress injuries, bassists should always take frequent breaks during their practice sessions and stretch often. Here’s what I usually do:

  1. While standing, bend at the waist and let your arms dangle down. Rotate arms in opposite directions, as if you were drawing circles on the floor. Let the shoulder blades separate as much as possible so that your arm and upper back muscles can stretch and get some oxygen.
  2. Roll your head around like a limp piece of asparagus.
  3. If I feel any pain at all, it is usually going to be in my left shoulder. Sit in a chair, place your right hand palm down underneath your butt, then take your right hand over your head and gently pull your head to the right and forward just a bit. This will stretch the muscles that connect your upper back and shoulder and run up the back side of your neck. Careful with this one. Don’t twist your head until you’ve returned it to a normal position or you could get a strain.

And as always, correct posture and good technique are critical during practice as well as when just sitting for long periods behind a desk, in order to avoid back, arm, and shoulder problems.

Due to the schedule between work and the kids, I have almost no time to get outside and exercise. But I’ve found that I can at least practice my double bass and get some cardio exercise right here at home…

Developing a practice plan

Way back, when I was practicing 4, 8, or even sometimes 12 hours per day, I used to write up these detailed practice plans to plan my practice time into the most efficient patterns possible. I’d break sections of music and exercises down into increments and plan for strict observance of frequent breaks and stretching to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

These days, I’m lucky if I have a full hour on weekdays to practice, and weekends seem to be good for putting in a few serious hours in. Now that I’m back into a regular practicing habit, I feel the need to make sure I’m covering all the stuff I am able to in the limited time space. Enter the return of the practice schedule.

This tends to evolve from week to week, or even day to day. So it’s interesting to me that I record here what I’m doing now and see how it changes in a few months…

Double Bass

  • 10 minutes: Scales/intonation
  • 5 minutes: break
  • 20 minutes: Petracchi exercises
  • 5 minutes: break
  • 30 minutes: Excerpts (currently Dvo≈�√�k and Trout quintets, Rossini duo, and L’histoire du soldat)
  • 10 minutes: break
  • 50 minutes: Bach Cello Suite No.3

Guitar

  • 10 minutes: Giuliani right hand exercises
  • 15 minutes: 100 Graded Classical Guitar Studies book
  • 5 minutes: break
  • 45 minutes: Bach Lute Suite in E Minor
  • 5 minutes: break
  • 15 minutes: Beethoven/Moonlight
  • 15 minutes: Flamenco

The lists are in order of priority and fail over: If I don’t have time to finish all of it, I still get some basic daily maintenance done. Let’s see how that works out for now…

After Tiger

Now that I’ve had some time to take the new Mac OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’ through it’s paces, I’ve found a few observations worth noting:

  1. Using the XHTML label tag doesn’t seem to broaden the clickable area of a form element. This was probably true before, but with Tiger’s accompanying Safari Version 2.0 upgrade, I’m using this browser more againhence the issue is noted. I’ve had Firefox as the default for at least the past six months with hardly a look at Safari, but many of the upgrades to this browser are interesting and I like to look at text-shadow now and then. Most browsers see the label area and make it’s box a clickable surface for whatever label element it is for. Not Safari, which is too bad. It’s a nice accessibility enhancement. Given all the other accessibility upgrades such as VoiceOver, this seems like an oversight.
  2. I love being able to use Command+Control+D in Cocoa apps to bring up an Oxford Dictionary definition of the selected word. Very convenient.
  3. The standalone Zhuyin Fuhao input method seems to no longer be present in the Traditional Chinese input method selections. Hanin has it though. Yingwen had a moment trying to figure out what happened, and once I showed her Hanin then there was another confusion the Candidate Window, which always just appeared automatically, and still appears automatically with Pinyin input, only appears in Hanin’s Zhuyin mode if you press the space bar. I thought there would be a preference to keep it active, but no. This doesn’t seem right to me, and Yingwen would certainly prefer if the Candidate Window was visible automatically, without the extra keystroke.
  4. From a user experience, Dashboard is way cool. It’s addicting to have all that info just an F12 away. When my parents-in-law were flying in from Taiwan last weekend, I was using it to check their flight arrival status. F12 there it is. I currently use the weather, calendar, clock, sticky note, translate, php reference, calculator, address book, and iTunes widgets. But with all that coolness and convenience comes this: The freakin’ applets install automatically from Safari. It is a big giant gaping security corn-hole. Apple is going to have fun trying to figure out how to plug that. While Apple has had an extraordinary track record when it comes to security, features like thisplus the gaining popularity of the platformwill make it a more attractive target for hackers and virus authors in the future.
  5. After the upgrade, my AirPort reception on my PowerBook 1 GHz 12″ seems to be about 60% of what it used to be. I’ve got adequate coverage in the house for WiFi, but it doesn’t seem to be as strong as with 10.3.9, and I get dropped from the network more often than before. Yingwen’s iBook is the same as before thoughshe’s having no problems whatsoeverso maybe it’s just me.
  6. Yingwen’s iBook (1.07 GHz G4, 12″) is remarkably more responsive under Tiger.
  7. The printer driver for my old Epson 740 now prints the pages in reverse order, which saves me the trouble of having to re-order multi-page documents since the printer prints face-up. Nice touch.

Music Saturday

I’ve been getting more and more back into my music lately. Gone are the days where I could practice eight hours and still have time for rehearsals and performances, but I’m getting in a solid hour or two every day which is good to keep the fingers loose. In the case of the double bass, one really must practice at least a little bit of technique on a regular basis to keep up the minimum amount of left hand strength required.

Petracchi

I have blog’d on this before. Petracchi’s book Simplified Higher Technique is a really sensible approach to double bass technique I think. These exercises are digestible and worthy of daily attention. As Rodney Slatford notes in the introduction, exercises 2, 7, 8, and 17 should be your daily workout.

As if I had that much time. Day job aside, the trick with my practicing double bass is that I live in a condo, and the kids go to sleep early. The only good time to practice is during the day, when I won’t annoy neighbors or wake children. I need a basement…

ISB Convention

Speaking of Petracchi – the man is coming to do a recital and masterclass at the ISB convention in June. The schedule of events looks quite interesting. And I see old friend Paul Bresciani is doing a talk on audition repertoire. Wow – I’d love to sit in the back and heckle Paul during that spiel. I wish I could take a week off and disappear to that event, but there’s just no way. I have in-laws in town and major projects kicking off at work. Perhaps next time…

Guitar

I’m making steady progress on the Bach lute suite in E minor, and my sheet music copy of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata 1st Mvt. finally showed up. I am working on transcribing some of Händel’s piano works into duos for two guitars. More on that process later as I figure out Sibelius.

The guitar practicing, by the way, is my answer to not being able to practice the double bass late at night. It’s quieter, and more portable. Gotta make do…

Pacific Collegium Concert

Here’s another shameless plug for the Pacific Collegium led by good friend Chris Kula, who are having another concert series with a June 3rd date in Oakland and a June 5th show in San Francisco. The program is entitled Couperin le Grand: Grand Motets – Sacred music of the French Baroque. Check them out. I am going to try to sneak out for one of these…

Chamber Music

I am finding damned near impossible to get together any groups to do the Dvorak quintet or the Trout. String players seem to be getting more and more scarce. I gotta figure something out here…