Mark Cohen is GM, Product Technology at Fairfax Media which is the most fun a job can be while still being legal. On weekends he may be found meandering along Bay parade with a coffee in Malabar. This is an old personal site (you can find Mark Cohen at his new vanity url. All views expressed are solely are my own. Except maybe the ones about short-circuit evaluation in SQL.

Consolidating stuff

Long time no post.  I’m intent on somehow getting back to blogging in some way, shape or form.  I’ll be over at a better vanity url – if you’re wondering where I’ve gone.  This blog still gets a surprising amount of visitors so I’ll leave it here.

Mark Cohen

ls: illegal option — -

This post is just to save the next schmuck who has rvm crash mid-install on OSX Lion from the pain of cleaning up.

If typing
gets you
ls: illegal option -- -
check for an alias in your terminal. (Just type alias).

If you have an alias set for “ls” just type unalias ls

google-keywords: bash linux osx ls broken headbutt wall rvm install xcode command line tools

Anzac Rifle Range – time to close

Over the last few weeks noise from the Anzac rifle range has been getting excessive. It’s sounded like a WWII front-line for three or four days this week, and the entire weekend has been non-stop. I’m not sure what’s going on down there but a bit of googling today was the first time I discovered the govt is looking to close the rifle range down. I could not possibly support this more.

The NSW Rifle Association is expectedly miffed as is the Shooter’s Party (we have such a thing? Really?) – but this is not in their back yard. They’re fighting the Commonwealth government in the courts and apparently Penny Wong is the minister who’s portfolio this falls within. If you think the Anzac Rifle range is in the wrong place you should tell her. From what I can tell it look alike the closure of the range is still going to happen in Feb.

As the crow flies, it looks like about a 1.5 km from my house to the Anzac Rifle Range – with a lot of houses between me and them. Yet this is the noise in my back garden today:

My house to the Rifle Range:

View Larger Map

The Malabar Headlands are the focus of a vocal local lobby group, who would like to see all the lands turned into public open spaces and nature reserve. Now that would be amazing.

[EDIT] Just found there is actually a tournament on this weekend. The “Queen’s Prize

Some ideas for iPhone photography

I’ve become infatuated with the camera on my iPhone. The phone has lately become my favorite camera, with the added bonus of being able to receive calls. Seriously, this camera can be made to sing. Here are some of my favorite ideas for iphoneography.

1. Macro madness
I put a few posts up a while ago when I discovered what some blu-tak and the lens from inside an old cd rom could do.  This is still one of my favourite ways to get cool pics, but I have since moved on to a macro lens I bought from photojojo.  I bought both the fish-eye and wide-angle/macro lenses but in truth I almost never use the fish-eye because I don’t like the rounded edges I can’t seem to escape.  the macro and wide-angle is on my keychain and I play with it often.

I modified the magnetic ring to fit without obstructing the flash, and I fitted the ring to my case instead of directly to the phone (I drop my phone so I can’t *not* have a case)

Modified magnetic ring

This took five minutes with some side-cutters and a small metal file to smooth it.  You can see in the picture that the ring is off-centre.  This is the second ring – both were originally centred but have kinda drifted.  I guess it’s caused by me keeping my phone in my back pocket and sitting on it too much ;)

Cosmos flower macro

Cosmos flower taken with iPhone macro

2. Social photography

Get yourself Instagram (free app).  Seriously.  It’s cool.  The old-school polaroid style of photos, and the square format, are both great.  Fun and easy.  But the social side of it is where it’s at.  You can browse heaps of great photos and discover people who inspire you with their photos.  Many pictures are not iphone pics, and are visibly SLR quality.  But hey, if you’re finding inspiration take it for what it is.  And once you’re on Instagram, follow @homework – it’s a bit of an experiment some people are doing where each week they’re posting an assignment.  You do your assignment and then use a hashtag to “submit” it.  Cool huh :)  Instagram can also post to Posterous, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

3. Make the World Miniature

A friend introduced me to TiltShiftGen – this app is the best I’ve seen so far for creating tilt-shift  effects (as shown below).  The app is not free, but is only a couple of dollars to buy.  It offers you the ability to adjust all dimensions of the effect – saturation, blur gradient, brightness, contrast, and so on.  And it can save in high resolution so you can print the pictures should you wish.  I took the picture below from the window in the reception of some really nice offices in the city, while waiting for a meeting.

A Sydney vista

A Sydney vista, after TiltShiftGen

4. Make Compositions

We noticed a lot of compositions in instagram, and a couple of days ago a friend spotted Diptic.  this app makes great compositions and once you pull them into Instagram you can overlay the instagram effects and do stuff like this:

Diptic composition, colour changes via Instagram

5. Get a better camera app

The iPhone camera app is okay for most use but sometimes oyu want to be able to have better control over exposure, white balance, and so on.  I like the app Camera+ but would fault it for working off it’s own storage space, and you have to explicitly tell it to save each photo to the camera roll.  This is a little irritating.  The app is currently selling for $1.19 in the Aussie app store, which is a bargain for what you get.

6.  Experiment with even more effects

I found an app called picfx, which has a collection of great effects that can be applied to photos – again useful before pulling into instagram.  It is currently selling for $2.49 in the Aussie app store, and it’s one of my two picks for effect apps worth having (second to follow).  Here’s an example of the cracked paint effect – one of my favourites – applied to a macro shot of a New Guinea Impatient flower in my garden.
Impatient in my Garden. +picfx

Another effects app worth having is an app currently selling for $1.19 is 100 Cameras in 1.  This app allows you to apply effects basically as overlays on to your photos, but they are really easy to apply and to vary in strength – and you can apply one on top of another until you get to your desired effect.

7. Editability is key

Last but not least ye olde faithful, Adobe Photoshop Express – a free app – is a must-have.  You can crop, straighten, adjust saturation, contrast, etc and apply some nice borders.  It’s a necessary addition to the iphoneography toolkit.

If you have an iphone I hope I’ve given you a couple of ideas to play with and get more value out of your phone camera :)

A different kind of retail Christmas

There’s no Festive Season Card from The Cohens to you this year.  No New Year’s card either.  No Happy Holidays Card.  No Christmas card.  See, I did some maths – as I sometimes do – and I worked out how much we could do for the same cost as sending New Year’s and Christmas wishes to all our friends who we really do appreciate and wish the very best for the new year.  Instead of making an annual donation to the Dead Tree department at Hallmark Cards, and another to Australia Post, an executive decision was made to introduce you to Gilbert and Samwel and Cristina and Marcela instead.  Like me, all working in the retail space.  Kinda.
This is Maria.  She is 29 years old and needed to borrow some money tofish to salt and onsell, in San José – Chiclayo, Peru.  1/4 of your Christmas Card went towards helping her.
This is Gilbert, in Kisii, Kenya.  He needed a loan to help him buy a cow to help feed his family and generate income.1/4 of your Christmas Card went towards helping him.
This is Mercedes.  She needed a loan to add more products to her grocery store in Leon, Nicaragua.  1/4 of your card went towards helping her out.
This is Samwel.  He probably isn’t as angry as he looks.  1/4 of your Christmas card went towards helping him expand his dairy farm and retail outlet in Kisii, Kenya.
So with no cards and no affiliation and no agenda of any kind, we’d just like to wish you a very happy holiday season, and all the best for the new year.  Your nonexistent cards just changed the world for the better, in a little way. Here’s wishing you a change-the-world-for-the-better kind of year.
Best wishes,
The Cohens

If you’re interested in more details:

Are iPhone 4 shortages a Strategic Failure?

iPhone 4 Shortages

It only takes a Google or Twitter search to see how widespread the current iPhone 4 shortages are although Apple’s press releases seem relatively quiet on the subject. This is a global problem for Apple.

@aaronaqua says “Went out to get my iPhone today… All sold out. True Story.”

@chris_1129 says “god I hate the stupid iPhone 4 shortage :(

@IMIeLow says “All the iPhone 4g 16gb are all sold out and theres a wait list for over a month :( (”

@BenStanley says “I asked the Universe if I should by an iPhone 4 and it said, “Sorry, we’re sold out, try back tomorrow.” Damn Universe.”

I find this interesting beyond the fact that millions of people have gone crazy for a product which could be considered to be defective. Smart Company ran an article titled “iPhone shortage hits Australia – here are three alternatives” on Thursday 6 August, indicating how frustration is leading potential iPhone buyers to consider – and buy – competitive Smartphones.

@ytravelblog saysIphone‘s are all sold out in Oz for an unknown time so we are going to get Android phones instead. Go Google!”

@xoxoSia says Ok… the shortage of iPhone 4′s in Canada is getting really annoying :| … and i ain’t willing to stand in line for 5 hours!! boooo

@dmckafka told @m_neko Samsung Galaxy S, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, HTC Desire, there’s no shortage of Android models that meet or surpass the iPhone 4

I have also anecdotally observed acquaintances are buying Android phones as they’re not prepared to wait indefinitely for their Smartphone-Fix. Effectively the Apple Hype Machine has got masses of people wanting a new feature-rich smartphone but unable to buy an iPhone. So a percentage of them will naturally gravitate to the other leading smartphones, with Android mobiles best poised to capitalise.

I suspect that future historians will look back on this as the key error that allowed Apple’s firm grip on the smartphone market to be loosened. The Windows Phone 7 product managers must be kicking themselves to pieces, with nothing available until October at the earliest.

Delivering Happiness – Book out this week

This week Tony Hsieh’s story hits the proverbial shelves in the form of his new book “Delivering Happiness”. I’ve been fascinated by Tony Hsieh and the business approach taken by Zappos for some time, and so I signed up to the Delivering Happiness blogger program to get my hands on a prerelease copy of the book  

The book itself covers some great ground and describes in detail where Tony came from and how entrepreneurial he was in his youth. I loved and identified the stories about how he tried to start businesses to make money as a kid and was blown away by the realization that the last fourteen years of his working life have pert much amounted to yields of capital generated to the order of a hundred million dollars a year.  Wish I could say the same!

The book describes some great details about why customer care is important and talks broadly about the philosophies that made Zappos into the company they are and made them such an appeal acquisition for Amazon

The team that backed the book are on Twitter at @dhbook and there is a supporting site at

The book is on amazon at

I also have an extra copy of the book, available to someone in Australia. Leave a comment saying why you want it and I’ll pick someone to send it to. 

RIP Dr Seuss

I often put my little guy into bed at bedtime and when work hasn’t consumed all my energy I like to have a little left to read with him.  As it’s school holidays my wife took the kids to the library and stocked up on books.  So tonight we had a choice and we decided to read Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr Seuss.

When we got to the end of the book my little guy saw two blank pages.

“Blank page” he declared.  He flipped the page.

“Another blank page” he said, and flipped again.

“More blank pages” he said as he flipped a few more.

He closed the book and put it down.  He thought for a while and then then said “I think Dr Seuss forgot to finish this book”.

“Maybe…” I replied, choking on a laugh.

“It’s too bad because now he’s dead.” He told me earnestly.

At which point I lost my self-control and he wanted to know why I was laughing about something so serious.

He makes a good point though.  It would be very sad to run out of time before your book is finished.


I bought the Macheist nanoBundle 2 – which ends tomorrow – and one of the apps in it is an app called MacJournal. I just noticed that it can publish to a blog, which would make it a handy offline blogging tool if it works. If you’re reading this then it does :)

They’ve just thrown Tweetie for Mac into the bundle. It’s a nice Twitter client but won’t be winning me over from Echofon. Funnily enough, I bought Tweetie 2 for the iPhone and haven’t gone back to Echofon on the iPhone​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

New Zealand Summer Day

Hangin’ at the pool, sitting in the shade. In three minutes there’ll be a cold beer in my hand.

As spectacular as they claim New Zealand is in the tourist ads on tv, it is. And then some. One thing I don’t understand is why so many kiwis are in Australia. But then maybe I should come back in winter to get my head around that ;)

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