Part 34 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

Lessons in Ettiquette

woz iphone manners

Tue Jan 01 09:42:11 2008

I was quite surprised to read about this event that took place at the Valley Fair Applestore when the iPhone was released.



Wed Jan 02 22:41:05 2008

Most people who read obituaries are familiar with the two most common euphemisms used— "died suddenly" to mean "committed suicide" and "confirmed bachelor" to mean "homosexual". Hugh Massingberd, the recently deceased obituaries editor for the Telegraph of London set new a benchmark for obituary writing by using, "cataclysmic understatement and carefully coded euphemisms"; here are some of them, quoted from Massingberd's obituary by Margalit Fox, in last Sunday's NY Times:

Double-walled Mugs

glassware tea

Sat Jan 05 21:27:02 2008

On New Year's Eve, I was surfing around looking for glassware (champagne flutes specifically; a bit late, I know) when I stumbled upon an page with double-walled beverage glasses made by Bodum (my mom has a Bodum coffee press and a teapot, both of which were gifts).

By the time I decided what to get, it was New Year's Day and I chose a pair of 13 oz. double-walled mugs— though I had forgotten about champagne by now, I was thinking, instead, about my morning tea (Twinings English Breakfast) in a 8 oz. porcelain mug, which never holds enough tea to sustain me through an entire morning Globe and Mail newspaper— by the time I get to the Report on Business, the tea is finished.

I had already drunk my morning tea when I was told that the mugs had arrived last evening (Canada Post online-tracking indicated that the item was still out for delivery as of this morning; feh) so that report will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

However, I drank some Tropicana orange juice in the mug and I have to report that it was a novel experience. The geometry of the mug's wide mouth is such that your nose is permitted to approach the surface of the juice and smell the oranges. I didn't find that the orange juice tasted any different, but smelling the orange juice while drinking it, definitely enhanced the experience. I would recommend it.

The 13 oz. Bodum mug (pictured on the Bodum homepage), made from borosilicate glass is featherlight (compared to my 8 oz. ceramic mug); it is also microwave and dishwasher safe. The only caution noted for any double-walled container is that ice-cubes should be added after the beverage and metal spoons should not be used to stir beverages.

I should also note that the Green Beanery is a Canadian non-profit company.

Update Mon Jan 07 18:35:47 2008: I have to say that I rather enjoyed drinking tea in this mug. First, because of the larger volume it can hold and second because it envelopes your nose with the delicious aroma, when you go to sip the tea. Highly recommended.

Jobs on Rand

design "raul rand"

Mon Jan 07 11:56:42 2008

I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. If you want options, go talk to other people.
—Paul Rand, attr.

Steve Jobs discusses his association with Paul Rand (the only choice, no one else was considered or asked) who was hired to design the logo for NeXT Corp in 1993.

Google Grows Up


Mon Jan 07 13:42:36 2008

But there has never been a company whose influence extended so far over the media landscape, and which had the ability to disrupt so many existing business models. And its competitors share a vague worry that Google is more or less out to rule the world.
—Ken Auletta

The New Yorker has an article about Google and how other companies feel threatened by its dominance. It includes lots of juicy trivia like, "Microsoft sells Office in packages that reportedly produce profit margins of about 70%", and, "All of this makes Google an attractive employer. The company, which now employs about sixteen thousand, receives more than a million résumés a year, and through much of 2007 hired about a hundred and fifty people a week—half of them engineers."

Macworld 2008 Bingo Card


Mon Jan 07 16:27:21 2008

Macworld 2008 Bingo Card. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, next week, at 12:00EST.

Update: Tue Jan 08 18:17:30 2008: Today Apple announced new dual 3.2 GHz quad-core Xeon Mac Pros and new XServers. Guess Siracusa should have waited until tomorrow before releasing the Bingo Card. It also means that since there wasn't enough scheduled time to make this announcement during Macworld, expect a packed keynote with new announcements, like iTunes with movie rentals, which is almost guranteed.

Country Codes Poster


Mon Jan 07 18:29:36 2008

A lovely poster illustrating internet country codes and relative population size. Perhaps this is what Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska meant, when he said that someone sent him, "an Internet."

Somehow, I don't think so.

NetNewsWire is Free

software netnewswire

Wed Jan 09 16:11:20 2008

The best feed reader ever, NetNewsWire, is now available free. I have been using NetNewsWire Lite (which was free but with limited features) and can recommend NetNewsWire with no reservations.

Blonde Portman


Thu Jan 10 16:15:04 2008

Natalie Portman, appears as a blonde in My Blueberry Nights. She does look sexier in short hair, regardless of shade.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever see this movie.

Digital Storage Tax

Fri Jan 11 15:53:59 2008

A proposed levy on digital storage devices, known as the "iPod tax," has been quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal after opponents argued it assumed illegal behaviour on the part of Canadian consumers.

The proposed levies included a $2 tax on 1 GB removable electronic memory cards, $5 tax on digital audio players no more than 1 GB and an extra $75 on digital audio players more than 30 GBs.
CTV News

Macbook Air

hardware software macworld apple

Tue Jan 15 16:07:12 2008

Look out ... old Macky is back!
—Mack the Knife

( provided the best coverage for today's Macworld keynote; the Engadget coverage was spotty due to network problems and I gave up after page-reloads failed to connect.)

Nothing earth-shattering was announced today: software upgrades to iPod Touch (a major gripe with the the Touch/iPhone is lack of encrypted file/notes support; I still carry my passwords on my Sony Clié in CryptoPad which supports encrypted notes) and iPhone (still not available in Canada); iTunes movie rentals; upgrade to Apple TV (still no tuner, though) and the Macbook Air, "world's thinnest laptop" (which reminds me: the DEC Hinote also used a large manila envelope in its marketing) with a multi-touch trackpad.


Update Tue Jan 15 19:05:44 2008: I forgot to mention Time Capsule (wireless backup to an Airport basestation); this feature was removed from Time Machine when Leopard was released. I was looking forward to it at the time.

My First iTunes Purchase

software music

Tue Jan 15 16:23:05 2008

Last Saturday afternoon, as I was riding shotgun in a new car, programming the radio stations I happened to tune-in to a show on the CBC where a lovely ballad accompanied by an accordion, a penny whistle and beautiful guitar chord progressions was playing. At the song's end the announcer said it was "William Francis" by Chumbawamba (!). Yes, that same group that wrote the loud, obnoxious song that appealed to every drunk adolescent and juvenile delinquient who happened to hear it.

When I got home, I tried buying it on (non-DRM tracks and albums across the catalog), but regrettably, Amazon Music is limited to U.S. credit card purchases only. I didn't bother trying iTunes because I wasn't sure it would be available as a non-DRM track.

Last evening, I eventually decided to try iTunes, I found the track easily enough (search for "william francis") and noticed that the album was available as iTunes Plus (non-DRM) but my copy of iTunes so old that I was not capable of purchasing it without an upgrade.

So this afternoon, after the keynote, I finally got around to upgrading iTunes to 7.6, bought the track (3 or 4 clicks) and I had it. (I immediately made a copy onto my USB key for backup safekeeping).

Wow. What a great experience.

(I know, welcome to 2003.)

Update Sat Jan 19 11:51:08 2008: Before leaving that evening, I copied the "William Francis" onto a USB key, to play at home. I first installed it on aleph, my Sony Vaio running XP, and it played fine. I then installed it on mathilde and when I went to play it, a dialog box appeared stating that, "this computer is not authorized to play this track". That was strange... the icon for the track didn't have a lock in the top-right hand corner so clearly it wasn't "protected". Since it played fine on the XP, running iTunes 4, I selected the track (originally 256kbps AAC) and converted it to MP3 via Advanced > Convert Selection to MP3, copied the file back to mathilde and it played fine. The only thing I can think of, is that the version of iTunes on my Powerbook doesn't understand iTunes Plus tracks and needs to be upgraded.

All Things Seen and Unseen


Sat Jan 19 22:11:59 2008

When I began watching Zodiac, the film about the serial killer, something I couldn't quite identify kept bothering me—was it the editing? was it the acting? was it the costumes? (It's a period piece that begins in 1969) After three days of watching about 15 minutes just before bed, I realized what it was— the movie didn't feel like it was taking place in the 70s. And the reason for this was that there was no music from the era to set the mood. (Aside: Tarantino, like Kubrick before him, has a talent to skillfully pick the most appropriate music for each scene.)

In contrast, one of my favourite TV series "The Wonder Years" (with the lovely Danica McKellar, which ran from the late 80s to the early 90s, made excellent use of music from the 70s. Another movie from the 70s, All the President's Men, about the Washington Post reporters that exposed Nixon's presidency for what it really was, didn't seem to have any memorable music, but it felt like the 70s completely, perhaps because it was made in 1976. (Aside: I still feel that it was a travesty for Rocky to beat All the President's Men, Network, and Taxi Driver for the 1976 Oscar for Best Picture.)

Zodiac, which takes place in California also features a newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, and has documentary feel similar to that of All the President's Men. In one scene, despite, a Pong video game making an appearance, it still does not lend the movie the authenticity of a period piece.

It is somehow fitting that San Francisco, quite likely the largest concentration of Mac users, is the setting for the finale of another movie I recently watched, the 14th James Bond movie, View to a Kill, about rogue ex-KGB agent's plot to destroy Silicon Valley. The movie features an Apple IIc, operated by Tanya Roberts in a silky teddy (screenshots below), connected to the USGS earthquake centre and capable of plotting the seismic shocks and the location of the epicenter a few moments after the tremors.

Screen captures from View to a Kill showing (L) the Apple IIc displaying seismic shockwaves, (M) map of California with the quake epicenter, and (R) Roger Moore with Tanya Roberts and the Apple IIc on the bedside table.

New Version of Carbon Emacs

software emacs

Sat Jan 19 23:41:37 2008

A new version of Carbon Emacs 2008/01/20, based on Emacs 22.1 has been announced.

AI Suicides

software ai

Sun Jan 20 18:56:14 2008

Wired has a well-researched and well-written article on the identical suicides of two Canadian AI researchers pursuing machine sentience.

I think Google is the entity most likely to achieve sentience in the forseeable future only because of the corpus of information is has collected and is in the process of organizing.

Book Review: "Legacy of Ashes"

"book review" cia

Mon Jan 21 22:26:24 2008

A brief review of Tim Weiner's history of the CIA, “Legacy of Ashes” (4++/4) is now available on My Bookshelf.

Emacs Locale

emacs zsh iso8859-1 solaris

Tue Jan 22 22:55:10 2008

Whenever I pasted extended characters (like the degree symbol) from e.g. Firefox into Emacs which was running in a remote console, Emacs always managed to interpret extended characters as a cursor movement, thus re-arranging the contents of my paste in ways that required exemplary puzzle-solving skills.

Pasting the recipe for Apple Chips (found via a discussion on #perl about home-made popcorn and dehydrated apples) into my recipe file, was the last straw! After about a couple of hours of trying various suggestions and some vague hints from the resident #emacs curmudgeon, I managed to solve the problem.

First, let me describe my setup: I run a GNU screen session on my Mac at work and create a login session to the various servers I admin; one of the screen sessions is to a Solaris 9 server where I run Emacs (I recently installed Emacs 22.1). I can connect to this screen session from home via either my Powerbook or my VAIO running XP, depending on which room I am in. On my VAIO, I use WinSSH and on my Mac I use Terminal. I run zsh both on my Mac and on Solaris.

For everything to "just work", I had to add export LANG=iso_8859_1 to my ~/.zlogin file (make sure this is after you set TERM; doing it in my ~/.zshrc resulted in two "couldn't set locale properly" messages being printed whenever I logged in to the Solaris 9 server).

Emacs is highly dependent on the definition of the locale (LANG) when it interprets keyboard input, so it's very important that it be set correctly. When I tested pasting the characters into my bare zsh prompt, they were interpreted correctly. So the problem had to be either with Emacs or the interaction between the shell and Emacs.

Rules of Sysadmins


Thu Jan 24 15:14:45 2008

No.0: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Prepare a contingency for everything.
No.1: Learn from your mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable; graceful recovery is essential!
No.2: Failure is not an option.
Every problem has a solution.
Never say "No" when answering, no matter how stupid the request. Instead, say: "That's not a high priority."; "I'll look into it."; "I can't promise you anything."; "I'll see what I can do."
No.3: For every action there is an opposite & equal reaction.
Carefully consider the reaction to your actions— what you say and do; the policies you implement; etc.
No.4: Work smarter, not harder.
Whenever you think: "There's got to be a better way to do this", there usually is.
No.5: Nullius in verba.
Do not believe any user's statement without proof.
No.6: Always have backups.
Having backups of backups is nice too.
Check your backups daily.
No.7: Only people with a key to the room are allowed in the data-centre.
Everyone else must be escorted at all times when in the data-centre.
No.8: Never perform major hardware or software upgrades on a Friday.
Wednesday is the best day.
When things go wrong on Friday (see No.0) you'll spend the weekend fixing them.
No.9: When pulling cable, always pull more than you need.
10' extra is a good rule typically!. In a small office, make sure the cable can reach every corner.
No.10: Any changes to the system should be immediately tested.
New software installations, configuration changes, etc.
No.11: Never delete an old version of software until you are completely sure that the new version works.
See No. 10.
No.12: Never close your last root shell.

HIG Guidelines

software philosophy

Thu Jan 24 21:40:47 2008

I was browsing through the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and came across a section titled, "The Always-On Environment". Point 3 reads,

Avoid requiring users to reboot as a part of an installation or software update unless absolutely necessary. Your application is probably not the only one they have open, so a restart can come as a rude interruption.

Yes, Adobe, I'm looking at you!

Great Ads

advertising photography

Fri Jan 25 20:46:18 2008

In the world of advertising there's no such thing as lying, only expedient exaggeration.
—"North by Northwest"

A collection of creative advertising campaigns across the world. I never came across No, 15. the "Ultra Thin" Macbook Pro ad in any magazine I read (but then, I don't read many magazines).

My contribution are several TTC bus-shelter ads in Toronto, at King and Bay (summer 2003), advertising The Simpsons TV show; at Queen and Bay (Sep. 2004) advertising the Globe and Mail newspaper; and two views of the bus-shelter at Bay and Front (Apr. 2005), advertising the lacklustre Toronto Blue Jays.

Robert Capa: Lost Negatives


Sun Jan 27 23:22:52 2008

I haven't read today's NY Times' Arts and Leisure section yet but I found this slideshow of Robert Capa's photographs of the Spainish Civil War, long thought to have been lost but discovered in 1995— even now, there are more questions than answers.

When I first started taking pictures with a digital camera, I started keeping count of the number of photos I would take and compared it to the number of photos I would actually keep and the number of pictures I would consider "publishable"— exhibition or magazine quality. In my first year, I would say I was in the 3000-class; meaning that I took about 3000 pictures, 100 would be "pretty good" and out of those, there was 1 really good one.

That was three years ago. Today, I'm in the 100-class (99 pretty good, 1 really good one). I hope to be in the 30-class (29 really good, 1 perfect) in a few years— that's professional photographer class, in my estimate.

My rules are simple: know your camera, know your light (lighting is 98% of the shot) and frame your shot (the subject is important, of course, otherwise you wouldn't be photographing it).

Red Rocket


Thu Jan 31 13:32:15 2008

Long exposure photograph of a TTC streetcar (aka. Red Rocket) at King and Bay taken in Dec. 2004.
It was either the 504 or the 508 travelling westbound.
Camera used was a Canon S60 in Program mode. I focused on the building and waited
for the streetcar to enter the view and I released the shutter; I don't remember if it was
stabilized against a lampost (likely) or against my body.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 34 / Last Modified: Fri Feb 08 14:54:55 2008