Part 37 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

Foolery

Tue Apr 01 21:44:08 2008

I would have to call today my most successful April Fools Day— I changed the #emacs channel topic to suggest that Emacs and Xemacs were merging (about six people fell for it); on #cinema, I suggested that Tarantino was remaking "2001: A Space Odyssey" (one person fell for it; though he is remaking "The Dirty Dozen") and finally, my main journal page suggested that I had switched back to Windows/XP (only one person inquired; this was not as convincing as I had hoped for as most people just read the feed).

There was a Time...

Tue Apr 01 21:56:23 2008

There was a time, not too long ago, when the sight of an iPod or a Mac in public was a great joy because the woman using it was a pleasure to look at.

These days, as Apple products join the mainstream, this is sadly no longer the case.

iPhone Sighting

hardware

Sat Apr 05 19:54:39 2008

Last Thursday, I was enjoying a blueberry yoghurt when I was called over to the hell desk with an iPhone question— a student came to us for help getting some photos off her iPhone. My colleague had plugged it into the USB port of his computer in the misguided hope of just copying the files off the iPhone. I suggested that installing iTunes would probably work better (the student, who had received the iPhone just two days ago, was surprised to learn that iTunes worked with the iPhone).

While my colleague was downloading iTunes, my boss mentioned that when he plugs-in his iPod Nano, it looks like a USB hard-drive; so should the iPhone (it's only taken him two weeks to become an iPod expert). I then did a bit of Googling and discovered that it would be even faster if we got the iPhone's WiFi activated and then the student could just email herself the photos.

The iPhone found the campus network and several others in the condo across the street, but was unable to get an IP. While I was Googling for a solution, my colleague told the iPhone to "forget the network" and then join the network again and that worked.

Hello Kitty! Emacs Colortheme

software

Sat Apr 05 21:44:24 2008

Alex Schroeder actually made my dream of a Hello Kitty! (of course, for litigious reasons it can't be called that) Emacs color theme, come true. It is just as I had imagined it.

My next challenge is a color theme called Eye Cancer (there are two equally acceptable possibilities for this theme).

Aside: as a rule, I would say that it is rare to meet an Emacs user interested in the visual arts. Looking at the small number of downloads of my Toronto photobook (6) when compared to the readership (more than 30). I should also note that Alex uses a Mac.

Love and Books

books philosoply love

Thu Apr 10 09:36:19 2008

Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed— or misguided— literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast.

Great essay, "It's Not You, It's Your Books", by Rachael Donadio in the NY Times Book Review about relationships that are made or broken based on reading tastes.

To me, at least, it seems like a reasonable enough criterion for narrowing down choices and making a decision; at one time I was prepared to date a woman, based solely on the number of Penguin books on her bookshelf.

Bookmarks are Obsolete

www google bookmarks firefox

Fri Apr 11 22:59:57 2008

Are bookmarks obsolete? For me they are— I can't remember the last time I bookmarked a website or a webpage nor can I remember the last time I visited a site via one of my bookmark.

My surfing habits involve visiting a site once every morning (APOD, comics); more than once a day (local weather, Google, Slashdot); once a week (e.g. New Yorker), or topical searching (e.g. Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, IMDB).

A combination of tabbed-browsing (one tab for weather, news, etc.), persistent browsing state (Firefox is configured to restore my previous session after every restart (set browser.startup.page to 3 via about:config)), RSS feeds and Firefox search plugins (Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, IMDB) have replaced bookmarks for me. It is faster for me to re-do a search on Google than to search for a bookmark I have saved.

Mobile Phones

hardware

Tue Apr 15 04:40:33 2008

A few weeks ago, my boss had an accident with this HP iPaq phone and broke the LCD screen (he was furious because it broke despite being in the "Premium" leather case made by HP). Since he was extremely dependent on the phone he decided to buy a replacement while the broken one was being repaired (that particular model of the iPaq, released in December 2006, is still the only phone that meets all his requirements). He was shocked to discover that the phone is no longer manufactured. I commented that this is not surprising because, of all the G7 nations, Canada is the third-world of mobile-phones; quite possibly the second reason why the iPhone isn't available here (the first reason being the iPhone trademark dispute).

My opinion was corroborated when I came across a blog with a table showing mobile phone penetration in various countries. Canada ranks 14th of 27 nations surveyed, with 19.3M subscribers and a mobile phone penetration of 59% (just below Australia with 20.8M subscribers and a penetration of nearly 100%). It fares worse in the 3G mobile phone penetration, ranking 22nd out of 25, just above the Czech Republic, China and India.

A few notable things about the statistics: African countries are missing from the survey, as is the Ukraine; countries with greater than 100% penetration (Italy, Greece, etc.) are an indication that people own more than one mobile phone— this was confirmed during a discussion on #emacs as one person from Hungary admitted to carrying 1 personal phone and 2 company phones.

Update Tue Apr 15 12:18:04 2008: David sent along a detailed summary of the reasons for Canada's third-world status in mobile telephony usage:

Perhaps the reason why Canada has low cell phone usage is because we have higher prices. This is especially evident in the mobile data plans. Thomas Purves says, "I would like to say that Canada is a 3rd world country when it comes to Mobile ICT, except you can clearly see from this chart that even Rwanda has orders of magnitude better Mobile Data service than Canada." Though things did improve a bit recently. Generally speaking though, we have an oligopoly in Canada:

It seemed innocuous at the time, but Rogers Communications Inc.'s last-minute steal of the Fido wireless brand from Telus Corp. in 2004 may be a key reason why Canada is the cellphone backwater that it is.

The deal could also be a factor for why the government is now getting involved in an industry that has been largely free of regulation since its inception more than two decades ago.

Applications for entry into an auction of wireless airwaves, which begins on May 25, are due March 10... In unveiling the auction plan in November, Minister of Industry Jim Prentice cited a lack of competition between existing operators that has resulted in high prices, lagging services and low usage.

Hopefully more competition will help matters.

Mac@IBM

switch

Wed Apr 16 13:51:18 2008

A surprising story about a pilot program at IBM to test Macs in the corporate environment. Twenty-four personnel were given Macbook Pros and after three months were asked their opinion on their suitability as substitutes for Thinkpads. Twenty-two people responded and of those, nineteen decided to keep their Macs (and install VMWare to run Windows-specific software); the remaining three, chose Thinkpads.

"U" R Invalid

software

Thu Apr 24 18:18:40 2008

I was reading the Common Criteria Admin Guide ("an internationally approved set of security standards which provides a clear and reliable evaluation of the security capabilities of Information Technology products".) and found an interesting caveat for Open Firmware passwords: do not use an upper-case "U" in your password.

Tools of the TeXperts

software

Sat Apr 26 21:24:15 2008

In a recent interview, Knuth answers a question about the tools he uses (he prefers Photoshop to Gimp for no apparent reason).

My general working style is to write everything first with pencil and paper, sitting beside a big wastebasket. Then I use Emacs to enter the text into my machine, using the conventions of TeX. I use tex, dvips, and gv to see the results, which appear on my screen almost instantaneously these days. I check my math with Mathematica.

I program every algorithm thatís discussed (so that I can thoroughly understand it) using CWEB, which works splendidly with the GDB debugger. I make the illustrations with MetaPost (or, in rare cases, on a Mac with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator). I have some homemade tools, like my own spell-checker for TeX and CWEB within Emacs. I designed my own bitmap font for use with Emacs, because I hate the way the ASCII apostrophe and the left open quote have morphed into independent symbols that no longer match each other visually. I have special Emacs modes to help me classify all the tens of thousands of papers and notes in my files, and special Emacs keyboard shortcuts that make bookwriting a little bit like playing an organ.

A "bitmap font"— welcome to 1995.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 37 / Last Modified: Fri May 09 18:58:28 2008