Part 23 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

Open Options

game theory

Fri Feb 02 21:31:38 2007

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.
—Grant Robertson,
Feb. 2007 Report on Business article

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 they do?

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

software dst

Sat Feb 03 10:43:20 2007

This morning, I applied the Daylight Savings Time Patch and re-booted. Everything went well. To verify, run:

10:48AM mathilde[101] 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


Sun Feb 04 16:18:58 2007

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 dramatic.

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.

Mac Ad


Mon Feb 05 12:14:19 2007

In my opinion (and I've been writing this for a while now), the Apple operating system is much better than Windows XP.
—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 smaller brochure...

Google Sketchup 6 Review

software sketchup

Mon Feb 05 14:56:33 2007

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 works.

Jim Gray is Still Missing


Tue Feb 06 08:36:09 2007

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.

Insect Lab

novelties art

Tue Feb 06 12:51:53 2007

Insect 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

Wed Feb 07 05:32:40 2007

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


Wed Feb 07 09:47:37 2007

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

Thu Feb 08 13:04:01 2007

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.

Yahoo! Pipes

software web pipes

Fri Feb 09 20:55:25 2007

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.
Tim O'Reilly

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


Fri Feb 09 21:32:41 2007

Even Rolling Stone magazine has gone ga-ga over Apple's success.

Unix Tips for OS X

software tips

Sat Feb 10 20:18:14 2007

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"

Sun Feb 11 00:32:57 2007

There is nothing more healing than good music.
—Ira Gitler, liner notes for "Sunday at the Village Vanguard".

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 experience.
—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 clearly have.

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


Mon Feb 12 00:45:22 2007

A recently discovered treasure via Freenode's cinema channel, is a feedburner aggregator of Variety movie reviews (note that doesn't render properly in Firefox), where I read about "Love and Honor", the final movie in Yji 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.

Tue Feb 13 11:55:39 2007

A word is worth a thousand pictures.
—George Sadek

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 Times reads:

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

Wed Feb 14 15:53:58 2007

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 using iMovie.

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 reminded me:

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 immediately.

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.

google recruiting

Sat Feb 17 21:30:38 2007

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 Google.

  1. 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).
  2. I refuse to work in the U.S. (Google only has a sales office in Toronto).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 entry about internships at Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

Searching for the Right Word

search google keywords

Sun Feb 18 01:21:02 2007

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
Google: 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
  • Lyrics
  • Composer and the history of the song
  • Singers
  • Buy from iTunes
  • Sheet-music
  • MIDI
Input 2: the ocean
Google: Which ocean specifically did you want the depth for?
Input: pacific
Google: [Results]

Google: Which ocean specifically did you want the depth for?
Input: all of them
Google: [Results]

UK “Get A Mac” Ads


Sun Feb 18 17:20:29 2007

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 boring.

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

Sun Feb 18 17:35:16 2007

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

Mon Feb 19 08:19:22 2007

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 swimsuit bottom by Marisa Miller. I think a blue Nano and two pink Shuffle's would have been more interesting.

Solaris DST Check

solaris DST

Mon Feb 19 18:37:35 2007

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

Mon Feb 19 21:24:41 2007

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.)

ToyViewer Review

software toyviewer

Tue Feb 20 00:29:32 2007

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?


Thu Feb 22 12:26:31 2007

I'm surprised that no one has simulated an Etch A Sketch children's drawing toy on a Macbook/Powerbook using the accelerometers.

Tremulous OS X

software games nostalgia

Thu Feb 22 12:45:11 2007

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.


communication protocols

Thu Feb 22 17:05:48 2007

Why is TCP/IP impractical across inter-planetary distances? The answer (PDF) can be found in a 2003 article in the IEEE Communications magazine.

“Waiting on the Weather”, The Oscars and Cinephilia

books kurosawa

Sat Feb 24 08:19:54 2007

“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 station.

Google Visits Apple

pilgrimage "field trip"

Sun Feb 25 01:15:01 2007

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


Mon Feb 26 12:41:19 2007

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:

  1. rotary dial phone, ? "Dial M for Murder"
  2. Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy"
  3. Jackie Gleason, "The Honeymooners"
  4. Humphrey Bogart, "The Maltese Falcon" "Key Largo"
  5. Marlon Brando, ?
  6. Jerry Lewis, ? "The Bellboy"
  7. Marilyn Monroe, "Some Like It Hot"
  8. Clark Gable, ? "It Happened One Night"
  9. Peter Sellers, "The Pink Panther"
  10. Steve McQueen, "Bullit" "The Getaway"
  11. Richard Dreyfuss, "The Apprentiship of Duddy Kravitz" "American Graffitti"
  12. Burt Reynolds, ? "Boogie Nights"
  13. Betty Rubble, "The Flintstones"
  14. Robert Redford, "Three Days of the Condor"
  15. Michael J. Fox, "Back to the Future"
  16. Harrison Ford, "Patriot Games" "The Fugitive"
  17. John Cusack, ? "High Fidelity"
  18. Audrey Tatou, "Amelie"
  19. Kevin Spacey, "L.A. Confidential"
  20. (forgot his name), "Fargo"
  21. Dustin Hoffman, "Meet the Fokkers"?
  22. Will Ferrell, ?
  23. Sara Jessica Parker, "Sex and the City"
  24. Jeff Bridges, "The Big Lebowski"
  25. Billy Crystal, "When Harry Met Sally"
  26. Cameron Diaz, "Charlie's Angels 2"?
  27. Samuel L. Jackson, "Shaft"?
  28. John Travolta, ?
  29. Robert DeNiro, ?
  30. Ben Stiller, "Zoolander"
  31. Michael (forgot his name), ?
  32. ?, "The Incredibles"

Update Mon Feb 26 16:52:11 2007: <orchid> pointed to Filmwise 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 "Tootsie".

Emacs: The Hidden Fortress

software emacs

Wed Feb 28 21:40:28 2007

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".)

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 23 / Last Modified: Sun Feb 25 16:48:47 2007