Part 23 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal
If the revolutionary concept of open-source
software was to become entrenched in the the industry, IBM saw
opportunities. But if Linux was destined to get bogged down in
industry wrangling, there was no sense in investing in it. [IBM] had
to accurately predict the future.
Feb. 2007 Report on Business
In the fall of 2001, IBM needed to decide whether to embrace Linux or
to ignore it. The decision could not be taken lightly— if Linux
succeeded and IBM hadn't invested in it, they could be left behind
(in the 1940s, it ignored the photocopier); if they did invest, and
Linux failed, they would lose millions, if not billions. So what did
IBM hired Open Options, a company in Waterloo, that uses game
theory (for a fee of CA$85,000) to help companies decide on
strategies. Some excerpts follow:
Some companies, such as IBM and Intel, wanted Linux to succeed,
while others, such as Sun Microsystems, seemed vehemently against
it. Then there was the possibility that Microsoft would sue to
protect its code, which cast a shadow over Linux's future even as
independent programmers beavered away at extending the code... IBM's
top people began devising preference lists: what they believed Sun,
Red Hat, Microsoft and a variety of other companies wanted to see
happen with Linux... In all there were about 8 key players in the
game, with 21 feasible options among them...
In the end, Open Options gave IBM two key pieces of advice. First,
it told IBM to hold-off on Linux, even though the company was ready
to start developing products... Second, [they] deduced that not only
was the threat of legal action overblown, but that the major lawsuit
could actully help Linux develop...
Game theory, [Martin Kihn] argues, works well on paper but can be
ineffective outside the lab. "People don't behave rationally,
particularly in business. It's all about personalities, who gets
along with who," he says... Hal Varian game theorist and economics
professor at Berkeley, agrees that the lack of human touch is a
fundamental weakness of the equation. Game theory worked in the Cold
War because the soviets, for all of Khrushchev's bluster about
burying the West, always ended up thinking rationally... In situations
where players are willing to harm themselves in order to minimize
the gains of other players— think of suicide-bombers or of a
bitter divorce settlement— game theory falls apart.
This was quite an excellent article (for a publication like the
Report on Business, that is) because it used accurate
analogies to describe complex technical concepts.
Updated Sat Feb 03 01:36:21 2007: fixed numerous typos.
Panther DST Patch Applied
This morning, I applied the Daylight Savings Time
Patch and re-booted. Everything went well. To verify, run:
10:48AM mathilde zdump -v /etc/localtime | grep 2007
/etc/localtime Sat Feb 3 10:48:03 2007 EST
/etc/localtime Sun Mar 11 06:59:59 2007 GMT = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2007 EST isdst=0
/etc/localtime Sun Mar 11 07:00:00 2007 GMT = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2007 EDT isdst=1
/etc/localtime Sun Nov 4 05:59:59 2007 GMT = Sun Nov 4 01:59:59 2007 EDT isdst=1
/etc/localtime Sun Nov 4 06:00:00 2007 GMT = Sun Nov 4 01:00:00 2007 EST isdst=0
You should see dates for March and November, instead of April and
October, in the last four lines. Note that the recently posted
MacOSXHint didn't work for me (specifically, the last command kept
giving errors) and the zdump command returned April and October.
Black and White Photography
I have recently begun experimenting (learning empirically rather than
by reading a text on the subject) with indoor black and white
photography. Being accustomed to seeing the world in colour, it takes
time to view at the same world in terms of hues, saturations and
values. For example, taking a colour photo of a bright red stop-sign
on a snowy street makes for a striking photo; that same photo in
black and white looks amateurish. I found that my first photos were
bland and washed out— there was very little contrast between
the dark parts and the light parts. I found that directional light is
very important in black and white photography because it creates
shadows and hilights.
The photo (paintpeel.jpg, my current desktop background) is of
some peeling paint near a window frame. It has been given a
desaturated bluish tint and the exposure and contrast have been
decreased and increased respectively, using iPhoto. A table lamp was
used to hilight the creases of the paint from the bottom. Compared
with paintpeel2.jpg (sienna tint) which was taken with just ambient
light (and also tweaked with iPhoto), paintpeel.jpg looks a lot more
Black and white photography is a lot more difficult than it seems
and a lot more complex than colour photography, which makes it easy
to take beautiful photographs.
In my opinion (and I've been writing this for a
while now), the Apple operating system is much better than Windows
—Walter Mossberg quoted in an Apple ad.
The following Apple ad appeared in the Nov. 19th, 2006
issue of the New York Times Magazine. It is a full-page
glossy cardboard insert with a smaller foldout attached to the inside
of the insert. The cover reads, “What is the difference
between a Mac and a PC?”
The inside cover reads,
Where do we begin? PC's are for the stuff we have to do, like
pie charts and spreadsheets. Macs are for the stuff we want to do,
like photos, music and movies. On a PC, viruses and crashes are
"normal". On a Mac, everything just works the way it should. And
unlike PCs, a Mac comes ready to do all the things you want the day
you bring it home. Sound like differences you could get used to? Read on.
Looking at the pics, I suppose I should have made closeups of the
Google Sketchup 6 Review
I just tried Google Sketchup 6. I have to say that's it's the
buggiest software I've ever used on a Mac. The online tutorials are
out of date (the interface between version 5 and version 6 has
changed drastically). I couldn't figure out how to display a
grid. There's no way to see the dimensions of a line as it's being
drawn. The dimensions tool sometimes works. There are drawing
artifacts when using the rectangle tool. Erasing 3D objects sometimes
Jim Gray is Still Missing
Jim Gray, a
researcher at Microsoft, is still missing at sea since
Jan. 28th. His friends at Amazon started a distributed
project to find him, his boat or the wreckage by using recent aerial
photography of the Pacific and human eyes. The project
uses Amazon's Artificial Artificial Intelligence— The
Mechanical Turk— and the S3 storage system.
Looking through his publications, in 2003 he wrote a Technical Report with
Leslie Lamport on distributed transaction commits.
Labs creates dead insects that are retro-fitted with clockwork
pieces. The art starts at US$200 and costs a lot more for custom
insects for art collectors who request certain species. The artist
scours the woods for dead insects but sometimes buys rare ones.
software "world clock" time
I was searching for information about patching the
Solaris boxen at work to handle the new DST changes and stumbled
across VelaTerra. I don't
typically mention commercial software but VelaTerra is worthy of a
mention if only for the sheer logistics of collecting the necessary
data to write software like this and ensuring it's correct. My Sony
Clié SJ33 PDA came bundled with similar software that shows
times in different countries.
New Mac Ad: Security
There's a new Mac
ad; this one's titled "Security".
Update Wed Feb 07 18:24:20 2007: I love
it! "Surgery" is a close-second for top-honours.
software emacsclient platypus
emacsclient is a mechanism whereby an already running copy
of Emacs can be attached to for editing files. Under OS X however,
one cannot invoke it by double-clicking on a file because the program
is not recognized as a .app. By using Platypus, we can trick OS X
into believing that it's an .app. The details are in <drewr>'s post.
software web pipes
And again, the Internet is not something you just
dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.
—Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
Yahoo!'s new Pipes service is a milestone in the
history of the internet.
Yahoo! Pipes— feed one
website into another and get something new.
I have to say the concept is quite clever; it remains to be seen
how useful this will turn out to be; i.e. will someone create an
aggregation that will be so useful that it will be used everyday by
nearly everyone on the planet?
Rolling Stone Comments on Apple
Even Rolling Stone magazine has gone
ga-ga over Apple's success.
Unix Tips for OS X
Benjamin Han has a nice page of Unix tips for OS
X. The Automator Python script (grabbed it from ilsa)
that combines multiple PDFs, works on Panther.
Sunday at the Village Vanguard
music "bill evans trio"
There is nothing more healing than good music.
—Ira Gitler, liner notes for "Sunday at the Village
Actually, I'm not interested in Zen that much,
as a philosophy, nor in joining any moverments. I don't pretend to
understand it. I just find it comforting. And very similar to
jazz. Like jazz, you can't explain it to anyone without losing the
—Bill Evans, interviewed by Don Nelsen for Downbeat Magazine, 1960
Listening to the alternate takes (not released on the original LPs,
but available on the re-issued CDs) of "Sunday at the Village
Vanguard" and "Waltz for Debby" (both on loan from the public
library), I was surprised how easily the Bill Evans Trio could not
only improvise distinct variations of the same piece but also do it
with such subtleness that convinces you that you didn't hear the same
piece just a moment ago, when, according to the track listings, you
I now also understand the aura surrounding Scott LaFaro— he was
the first man to play the double-bass and give the illusion that he
was playing a guitar— no one before him had even thought to do
that. Bill Evans recognized this genius and allowed LaFaro, not only
as a bassist but also as a composer, to share the spotlight.
Bushi No Ichibun
A recently discovered treasure via Freenode's cinema channel, is a feedburner
aggregator of Variety movie reviews (note that Variety.com doesn't
render properly in Firefox), where I read about "Love and Honor", the
final movie in Yôji Yamada's Samurai Trilogy, which premiered at the
Berlin Film Festival; the first two movies were "The Twilight
Samurai" (finally available on DVD on Feb. 20th) and "The Hidden
Blade", both recent additions my wishlist.
George Sadek, R.I.P.
A word is worth a thousand pictures.
George Sadek, founder of the Center for Design and Typography at the
Cooper Union School of Art passed away recently. He taught typography
and book design. The last paragraph of his obituary in last Sunday's New York
Some of his students went on to design for leading studios, including
Tibor Kalman's M&Co, and magazines like Spy. Ellen Lupton, a former
student, became the design curator at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.
Hmmm, I thought, that name "Ellen Lupton" sounds familiar...she
wrote “Thinking With Type”.
software convert vob imovie
DiVA converts VOBs into iMovie
friendly QuickTime MOV files. You also need the 3ivx codecs.
The whole reason for this exercise is so I can make a DVD of a VHS
tape, that was originally converted from a 16mm film reel, of my
parent's wedding. I already have a DVD made from the VHS tape which a
colleague at work generated. I want to see if I can fix some of the
artifacts, brightness issues and slight magenta tint of the film
Update Wed Feb 14 21:52:55 2007: Walking home from the
train station tonight, I realized around 8:30PM that if I had started
this DVD business a bit earlier, I could have given it to my parents,
today— St. Valentine's day. I knew that today was
St. Valentine's day only because Google
When you look at the logo, you may worry that we forgot
our name overnight, skipped a letter, or have decided that "Googe"
has a better ring to it. None of the above. I just know that those
with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety
Sadly, not only do I lack "true romance and poetry in my soul", it
seems that I exist in blissful detachment from social reality.
Knock, Knock. Who's There? Google.
I was recently forwarded an email from a Google recruiter, in case I
was interested in being interviewed for a position there. I thought
I would enumerate the reasons I am not interested in working for
- I am happy with my current job (it is importont to note that I
don't really think of it as a job— the secret to happiness is
to get paid to do what you love doing).
- I refuse to work in the U.S. (Google only has a sales office in
- Having worked in industry, as a contractor, I have experienced
the crazy hours and the delivery deadlines which caused my RSI
injuries. I much prefer the relaxed pace of academia.
- I don't have what it takes to work for Google— I haven't
done any serious (>500 line programs) programming for 10 years;
having RSI doesn't help the job requires long coding hours.
- I don't see where I would fit in Google. My skillset has now
become so generalized that I lack the depth in any specific topic to
be of any use to a company like Google.
- I lack the naivete of fresh graduates when it comes to what can
and can't be done. When things I didn't think were technologically
possible actually happen, I am very impressed. Rather than thinking
it's just cool, I wonder how the feat was accomplished.
- I am not enticed by the gourmet meals, the Segways, the scooters
and the cool working environments; I am happily accustomed to living
a spartan and acetic life, with a daily routine.
A recent Slashdot posting had a link to a great blog
internships at Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.
Searching for the Right Word
search google keywords
Jon Udell, who has defected to Microsoft, reminded me of one of
Google's shortcomings— if you don't know exactly what you're searching
for, Google can't find it for you. The other day, I was searching for
the chemical reaction that causes apples to turn dark after they are
bitten and left exposed to air. Searching for "why apples turn
dark after a bite" produces no results.
Had I substituted the word "brown" for the word "dark" ("why
apples turn brown after a bite") I would have gotten my answer; it
only took me about 5 minutes to find the right word. Welcome to 2007.
Here is what the future will bring: “Twenty Questions
Google”— the mythical search engine that asks you
questions to narrow the subject of interest and find the item you are
searching for. Here is an example:
Input: how deep is the ocean
1. Are you interested in the song by that name? or
2. Did you want to know the depth of the ocean?
Input 1: the song
Input 2: the ocean
- Composer and the history of the song
- Buy from iTunes
Google: Which ocean specifically did you want the depth
Google: Which ocean specifically did you want the depth
Input: all of them
UK “Get A Mac” Ads
A few weeks ago, Apple released Get A Mac ads that were localized for
the UK. I have to
admit that other than the one with the pie-chart ("hijinks,
shenanigans, ...") which was mildly amusing, the two characters,
played by David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb, a famous comedic duo
in the UK, did not endear themselves to me. I found them both rather
It seems most of Britain agrees. In my defence, I am a fan of Black Adder, Monty
Python, Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances,
Are You Being Served, etc.
A Review of HuginOSX: Panorama Generator
software huginosx "image stitch" panorama
HuginOSX, the enignmaticly named image stitcher, is quite possibly
the first Mac application that has frustrated me to the point where I
deleted it without ever getting it to work. The software starts with
a window that includes a file manager with impossibly small
thumbnails and many confusing and cryptically named controls. What I
was expecting, was a window where I could drop images, drag them
around to position them and then click a button to generate the
panorama. There would be another button marked "Advanced" which I
would click to display a dialog with additional controls. HuginOSX's
current interface looks like it was written by someone with a PhD in
image processing and it requires someone with at least a Masters
degree in image processing, to operate it. If I was rating this out
of five stars, I would give it a -1 for wasting my time.
hardware fashion ipod
Every February 14th, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is
released and this year's issue had the first non-supermodel, modeling
a swimsuit, on the cover. It also had the first use of an iPod as a
bottom by Marisa Miller. I think a blue Nano and two pink
Shuffle's would have been more interesting.
Solaris DST Check
Checking for Solaris DST patches is slightly different because
/etc/localtime is not used or linked. Instead, the zoneinfo files
are stored in /usr/share/lib/:
# zdump -v /usr/share/lib/zoneinfo/US/Eastern | grep 2007
US/Eastern Mon Feb 19 22:13:28 2007 UTC = Mon Feb 19 17:13:28 2007 EST isdst=0
US/Eastern Sun Mar 11 06:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 01:59:59 2007 EST isdst=0
US/Eastern Sun Mar 11 07:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Mar 11 03:00:00 2007 EDT isdst=1
US/Eastern Sun Nov 4 05:59:59 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:59:59 2007 EDT isdst=1
US/Eastern Sun Nov 4 06:00:00 2007 UTC = Sun Nov 4 01:00:00 2007 EST isdst=0
Leopard Seeks UNIX Certification
software unix leopard
According to the Leopard
Overview, "Apple will submit Leopard and Leopard Server to The
Open Group for certification against the UNIX '03 product standard."
Impressive. (Solaris 10 is UNIX '03 certified while Solaris 8 & 9
are UNIX '98 certified.)
When I read the announcement
for ToyViewer, it reminded me of a favourite Unix utility named
xv, the de facto Unix image manipulator (when the
first images were beamed back by the Mars rover, the JPL team used xv
to view them).
Much of the ToyViewer's functionality is already in iPhoto, but I
don't like having to import "throw-away" images into iPhoto just to
tweak the colourmap or rotate them; so ToyViewer fits that niche very
nicely. Since ToyViewer starts up a lot faster, I now use it as a
replacement for the abhorrent GraphicConverter, which came bundled
with my Powerbook. ToyViewer has a few shortcomings— every
transformation generates a new window displaying the transformed
image and transformations cannot be previewed in real-time.
Etch-A-Sketch On A Mac?
I'm surprised that no one has simulated an Etch A Sketch
children's drawing toy on a Macbook/Powerbook using the
Tremulous OS X
software games nostalgia
Tremulous, a free Quake clone,
based on the GPL source (which is included) from Id, is available
for the Mac. This game brings back memories of of playing
networked Quake II with my boss, after-hours in one of the Linux
labs. The manual is
required reading as the game is more than a free-for-all shooter.
Now, if I can only remember all the key-bindings and find a
server where the #emacs regulars play. Update Thu Feb 22 19:12:27
2007: For some reason, the game doesn't start when it's run from
the Application directory; it runs fine from the DMG. Very
Strange. I demo'd the game for my boss (first thing he asked
was— "does audio work?")... anyway, playing at 1280x1024 he was
mightly impressed. He's even more eager to buy a Mac now.
Why is TCP/IP impractical across inter-planetary distances? The answer
(PDF) can be found in a 2003 article in the IEEE Communications
“Waiting on the Weather”, The Oscars
“Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira
Kurosawa” is a new book written by Teruyo Nogami (the english
version was translated) who started as a script assistant and became
a production manager on Kurosawa's crew. The book was reviewed by
Gail singer in today's Books section of the Globe and
Mail, who recommends watching the movies (or at least watch the
trailers, which were as meticulously crafted as the movies
themselves) as a re-fresher before reading the book.
This Sunday, the Oscar's will be awarded; the show will be hosted
by Ellen DeGeneres who, I predict, will be as memorable as Chris Rock
(I had to think really hard before I remembered) who hosted it last
year. No one has even managed to match to Billy Crystal's skill at
hosting the ceremonies. The only surprise this year would be if
Scorsese won for Best Director; Hollywood is very unforgiving of
people who don't live in the neighbourhood. The only guaranteed win is
Helen Mirren, for The Queen.
If there was one person who I could thank to making me a
cinephile, it would have to be Elwy Yost, who
hosted Magic Shadows and later Saturday Night at the
Movies on TV Ontario, a government-funded educationsal TV
Google Visits Apple
pilgrimage "field trip"
Some Mac fans at Google decided to visit the Mother Ship and wrote
about it. While eating lunch at the cafeteria, they saw
Jobs and Ive.
iPhone: Hello Ad
The first iPhone TV
commercial premiered last night, just before 10:00PM at the
Academy Awards broadcast. It was broadcast again during another
commercial break. It's quite brilliant! total cost: USD$1.7M. It is a
clever allusion to the original Macintosh's "Hello" that appears in
cursive script on the computer's screen. The challenge now is to
identify all the "hello"s:
- rotary dial phone,
? "Dial M for Murder"
- Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy"
- Jackie Gleason, "The Honeymooners"
- Humphrey Bogart,
"The Maltese Falcon" "Key Largo"
- Marlon Brando, ?
- Jerry Lewis,
? "The Bellboy"
- Marilyn Monroe, "Some Like It Hot"
- Clark Gable,
? "It Happened One Night"
- Peter Sellers, "The Pink Panther"
- Steve McQueen,
"Bullit" "The Getaway"
- Richard Dreyfuss,
"The Apprentiship of Duddy Kravitz"
- Burt Reynolds,
? "Boogie Nights"
- Betty Rubble, "The Flintstones"
- Robert Redford, "Three Days of the Condor"
- Michael J. Fox, "Back to the Future"
- Harrison Ford,
"Patriot Games" "The Fugitive"
- John Cusack,
? "High Fidelity"
- Audrey Tatou, "Amelie"
- Kevin Spacey, "L.A. Confidential"
- (forgot his name), "Fargo"
- Dustin Hoffman, "Meet the Fokkers"?
- Will Ferrell, ?
- Sara Jessica Parker, "Sex and the City"
- Jeff Bridges, "The Big Lebowski"
- Billy Crystal, "When Harry Met Sally"
- Cameron Diaz, "Charlie's Angels 2"?
- Samuel L. Jackson, "Shaft"?
- John Travolta, ?
- Robert DeNiro, ?
- Ben Stiller, "Zoolander"
- Michael (forgot his name), ?
- ?, "The Incredibles"
Update Mon Feb 26 16:52:11 2007: <orchid> pointed to
Invisibles a puzzle site which erases the characters from a frame
and challenges you to identify the movie. My guesses for #324:
"Fargo", "Star Wars", "Shakespeare In Love" (but I'm told it's
"Babel"), "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington", "Julius Caesar", ?? (I'm
told it's "Cabaret"), "Around The World In Eighty Days" and
Emacs: The Hidden Fortress
It was just another ordinary day on #emacs when <jordanb>,
l'enfant terrible d'#emacs, asked if Emacs had a mode to
edit multiple change-logs. I suggested that using RCS or CVS mode as
change-log functionality is built-in. But he didn't like that because
he just wanted the ability to keep log of changes without needing an
actual file that was being revised.
I then suggested Diary, which he confused with Planner,
"that <sachac> thing that's 50 times more complicated than it
should be." Then out of nowhere, <johnw>,
magicien extraordinaire, suggests C-x 4
a. Amazing! Where did that come from? Wait, but
there's more... if you give a prefix argument (this is
undocumented), you can specify a file other than "changelog." Wow!
How do you discover that? "I guess that's the benefit of the few days
I spent reading the first 50 lines of every file in lisp/*."
(Reminds me of when I began reading every Unix man-page during one
summer I spent discovering SunOS on a Sun i386— I got
distracted by X11 programming somewhere around the letter "L".)