Part 35 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

Macbook Air Surgery


Fri Feb 01 10:17:42 2008

iFixit surgeons are up to their usual standards in dis-assembling a Macbook Air. Battery access requires the removal of 19 screws.

"I, There's the Point"


Fri Feb 01 20:36:08 2008

If I were asked to choose my favourite Shakespeare play, I would have to choose, "Hamlet", because of the number of common phrases which originated in that play and which are still in use to this day.

There is debate, however, whether the words we repeat today are in fact the actual, solemn words that Shakespeare wrote. In, "The Case for the Folio", Jonathan Bate, who was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Random House to investigate this, suggests that printing errors, transcription errors and editor's mis-interpretations have produced a Shakespeare that may not be entirely original.

The scholarly editing of Shakespeare began in the eighteenth century, when the model for such activity was the treatment of the classic literary and historical texts of ancient Greece and Rome. The recovery of those texts had been at the core of the humanist Renaissance. The classical procedure was to establish which surviving manuscript was the oldest, the aim being to get as close as possible to the lost original, weeding out the errors of transcription which had been introduced by successive scribes in the centuries before the advent of print. As Shakespeare began to be treated like a classic, the same procedure was applied to his texts. The eighteenth century also witnessed his rise to the status of national genius, icon of pure inspiration. That image required the imagining of a single perfect original for each play. Shakespeare couldn’t be allowed second thoughts— would imply some deficiency in his first thoughts. So it was that over time, there emerged a preference for early texts over later ones and a belief that the editor’s job was to restore a single lost original, something approximating to the text as it came ‘pure’ from the hand of Shakespeare...

...The early printed texts contain many certain and many more possible errors. Hence the industry known as Shakespearean editing. Hundreds of editions have been published over the past three hundred years, all different from each other in numerous particulars. If we start looking at some famous lines in the early printed texts, the problem of textual variants quickly becomes apparent. Consider the opening lines of Hamlet’s two most famous soliloquies. (Note that in the early modern printing-house `v’/‘u’ and ‘i’/‘j’ are interchangeable.)

First Quarto: ‘O that this too much grieu’d and sallied flesh / Would melt to nothing,
Second Quarto: ‘O that this too too sallied flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolue it selfe into a dewe,
First Folio: ‘Oh that this too too solid Flesh, would melt, / Thaw, and resolue it selfe into a Dew:

First Quarto: ‘To be, or not to be, I there’s the point,’ [‘I’ = `Ay’ = yes].
Second Quarto: ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question,
First Folio: ‘To be, or not to be, that is the Question:

Also of interest in this topic is, The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum, just published in paperback by Random House.

Bose MusicMonitor Computer Speakers

hardware speakers

Sat Feb 02 11:14:36 2008

I just saw an ad in an old issue of the NY Times Book Review for Bose MusicMonitor computer speakers. They were originally released in Japan in November 2006 and I think they have been recently released (October 2007) in North America; the photos on the Bose site show them next to a Macbook Pro (though the photo seems to be missing the audio cable from the speaker to the computer's audio jack, which should be on the left side). If you are looking for small speakers that fit in the palm of your hand and that can fill an entire room with great sound, I would recommend them you give these a test-listen.

I am a fan of Dr. Bose's speakers and they are perfect for the music I listen to. More than 10 years ago, I bought a pair of Bose Powered Partners, amplified "bookshelf" speakers that are the size of a loaf of bread (one is under the table and the other is under the bed), for $500 from Bay Bloor Radio. I still use them today to listen to MP3s (now playing: Pavan of Alfonso by William Lawes from the album, "Heart's Ease — Music for viol consort from the late Tudor and early Stuart age")and when I watch DVDs on my laptop. I also bought my dad a Bose Wave music system (radio, CD and MP3 CD player with remote) which he enjoys everyday.

A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down

food tea biscuits

Mon Feb 04 07:00:50 2008

One can easily forgive the English their quaint eccentricities when one discovers an entire website, with an entirely preposterous name (Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down), dedicated solely to the meticulous review of every biscuit available for sale in United Kingdom of Great Britain, a few from the continent across the Channel and not a few from around the world, sent via post by fellow eccentrics. But what is one to make of an entire book, available for sale at your local Amazon, dedicated to the subject? Here is an excerpt from a typical review (I am currently enjoying reading Biscuit of the Week reviews from the past):

My suspicions were aroused immediately by the box, which was a long rectangular affair rather than the squarish ones of old. Inside the sheet of shiny dark brown paper over the top of the compartments, is no longer to be found. What we do find is that today's Cadburys finger is a much smaller affair than its forbear, hence the different shaped box. Perhaps the effort of giving birth to giant and mini ones has left it stunted. Now this could simply be the Wagonwheel effect at work but I'm sure that they are genuinely smaller. However, they still seem to taste the same which was a welcome relief. The pale biscuit core quietly goes about its business, providing a crunchy vehicle on which the chocolate can ride. Its always known its place and doesn't attempt to interfere with the flavour of Cadbury's chocolate. However, the role of the biscuit shouldn't be downplayed given the number of people who have told us that they like to use theirs as a drinking straw. It begs the question: Which came first, the Aussie Tim Tam slam or British Cadbury Finger Straw?

So if the above review is your cup of tea, the next time you find yourself in a supermarket aisle, pondering your choice of confection from the vast variety on display, there is only one correct course of action possible before you reach for that package— consult the experts who have dedicated their lives to a very English custom.

The discovery of this website began with a discussion of job-interview ettiquette on #solaris with my observation, "when you are offered tea or coffee at an interview, it is a test of your social skills— they want to see whether you slurp your beverage loudly or sip it quietly." Then Peter observed "Never take the last chocolate bourbon." which I, in an embarrassing display of ignorance, confused to mean, "chocolate bonbon". A few Wikipedia clicks later, I landed on a Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down, proving that there are undiscovered places on the internet, covering subjects hereto unimagined.

Seminar: "Sub-Primes and Supersolutions"

Mon Feb 04 22:19:03 2008

Sounds interesting...

The Department of Mathematics at Ryerson University is pleased to announce the following seminar:

DATE: Thursday, February 7, 2008
TIME: 1:10 p.m.

Dr. David Saunders
Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo

Title: Sub-Primes and Supersolutions

The recent subprime crisis has led to a period of unprecedented turmoil in credit markets, with far-reaching implications for the broader economy. I will examine some mathematical issues relating to the credit crunch, with a particular focus on credit risk for financial institutions and the pricing of over-the-counter portfolio credit derivative securities, such as the collateralized debt obligations which have been the focus of so much attention during the current crisis.

ALL FACULTY, STUDENTS, STAFF AND GUESTS ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND. Light refreshments will be provided starting at 12:45 p.m.

iPhoto Photobooks and Calendars on Sale


Mon Feb 04 22:53:54 2008

Today, when I went to purchase a Photobook, I noticed a 20% off coupon valid until Feb 29, for photobooks and calendars. The discount code is provided after you click "Buy the Book" button.

Submarine Cables


Wed Feb 06 15:47:30 2008

The Museum of Submarine Telegraphy in Porthcurno, England, has a display of wrecked cables bracketed to a slab of wood. Each is labeled with its cause of failure, some of which sound dramatic, some cryptic, some both: trawler maul, spewed core, intermittent disconnection, strained core, teredo worms, crab's nest, perished core, fish bite, even "spliced by Italians."
—"Mother Earth Mother Board", Neal Stephenson

A great article by Neal Stephenson, written back in 1996 for Wired, about submarine communication cables between continents. It is of particular interest after the recent rash of mysterious cable cuts around the world and the new 1.92Tbps trans-pacific cable that Google is involved with. Many of the characters he describes in the article are similar to ones in Cryptonomicon and there are several references to Victorian England.

It would be interesting to enter the GPS co-ordinates, sprinkled throughout the article, into Google Earth and locate those points of interest, especially the cable landing stations— 35° 11.535' N, 139° 36.995' E, IDC Cable Landing Station, Miura, Japan.

It was worth taking the day off from work (didn't feel like braving through another snow/freezing rain/freezing drizzle/more snow/40kph wind storm) to read it.



Thu Feb 07 17:42:11 2008

The morning after the snowstorm: a photo panorama (1200x568) of the neighbourhood side-streets taken on my walk to the train station this morning. As luck would have it, my train was late so I never made it to the seminar. I also took some pictures of downtown on my walk from Union Station to work; the first picture is of a statue in a public park at Front Street and Victoria Street, the second is a panorama of the United Metropolitan Cathedral (hidden amongst the trees) at Queen Street and Church Street.

Update Fri Feb 08 15:05:28 2008: Also taken yesterday, a snow-covered red maple tree which also looks spectacular in the Fall.

Update Sat Feb 09 06:11:23 2008: deleted 2 panoramas because I didn't feel they were very good.

Parity IV

apple dollar

Fri Feb 08 00:02:11 2008

Back in September 2007, I compared the prices of various Apple products available in US and Canadian stores. There was a noticeable discrepancy, despite the Canadian dollar achieving parity and exceeding the American dollar.

Since Apple recently introduced a 32GB iPod Touch, I decided to check the price of an iPod Touch. In September, the 8GB model cost CAD$329 (USD$299); today, it costs CAD$319, a reduction of CAD$10. The 32GB model is CAD$519 (USD$499).

I'll just wait here in the corner.

Wounds of Destruction


Fri Feb 08 13:06:40 2008

A couple of derelict buildings were recently demolished on Church Street, just south of Dundas Street. Since I had my camera with me yesterday, I photographed the empty lot. I remember one of the buildings being a crowded antique store (where a person was murdered last year, after the building had been empty and long abandoned for 10 years), and the other being a cafe (with a middle-eastern name, "Elifaz" I think) with an outdoor patio. What I found interesting after the demolition is the pattern of paint that remains on the side of the adjacent building, a low-cost hotel for tourists.

World Press Photo 2008 Winners


Sat Feb 09 06:07:26 2008

A gallery of the 2008 World Press Photos. I didn't think the winning photo of the soldier resting was very compelling.

Love, etc.

courtship love

Wed Feb 13 12:18:54 2008

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day a much anticipated day by nerds everywhere, celebrating the publishing of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

On a day when couples typically get together, we, the loveless (though harbouring secret crushes), shall observe some break-ups and rejections: Starbucks dropped T-Mobile for AT&T to provide 2 hours of free WiFi to customers (a faculty member who visited Manhattan when the iPhone was announced noted that there was free WiFi in nearly every street corner of the island except in Starbucks stores), T-Mobile dropped Google as their mobile search provider and selected Yahoo, who rejected Microsoft's 44B buyout offer and is discussing alliances with Murdoch and Google.

"Experiments in Ethics"


Sun Feb 17 15:13:14 2008

...studies of the way people think and act can never replace ethics. You don’t solve moral problems with a show of hands.
—Paul Bloom reviewing “Experiments in Ethics” by Kwame Anthony Appiah

A great review of an interesting book:

If you are standing outside a bakery with the smell of fresh bread in the air, one study showed, you are more likely to help a stranger than if you are standing outside a “neutral-smelling dry goods store.” If someone drops some papers outside a phone booth, you will be more willing to help if you have just found a dime in the coin-return slot. If you read sentences with words like “honor” and respect” you tend to be more polite, minutes later, than if you had read sentences with words like “obnoxious” and “bluntly.” And then there are a host of well-known demonstrations, like the classic obedience experiments of Stanley Milgram, that you can get your average person to do terrible things, even to torture and murder, just by configuring the situation in a certain way.

Microsoft Loves Danger

microsoft danger google android apple xbox

Sun Feb 17 19:16:04 2008

Just after the announcement to buy Yahoo, Microsoft announced that it had purchased Danger Inc., makers of the Sidekick, the first phone that got Google owners interested in Andy Rubin, who now works for them as part of the Android project.

I also read that Robert Scoble cried after viewing a demonstration of a Microsoft project that will be unveiled at the end of this month around the time when Apple releases the iPhone SDK (and rumours say an announcement of an iPod price-cut (which is what I'm waiting for) as iPod sales fall while Mac sales increase— naturally, newer models of Macbooks are also predicted.)

Now that Sony's Bluray has won the battle, I wonder what Microsoft will do about the XBox, a project which has lost about $4B during its existence, which uses Toshiba's now defunct HD-DVD media.

Update Mon Feb 18 19:38:52 2008: The upcoming Microsoft application is rumoured to be "WorldWide Telescope", a desktop planetarium like Stellarium. Yawn. Until I have a realtime telescope on my desk, it's as useless as looking forward to a lunar eclipse that will take place next Wednesday which the forecast says will be cloudy. This project just seems to be a showcase for the Photosynth software that stitches images together.

Update Mon Feb 18 20:11:29 2008: Microsoft issued the following statement regarding the Xbox and the HD-DVD media:

We do not believe the recent reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace, As we've long stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles, and Xbox 360 continues to have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best selling games in the industry.

David noted that the built-in drive is DVD and HD media is played via an external drive. I predict a Bluray replacement drive for the Xbox.

It should be noted that Bluray uses Java as the mechanism to handle on-screen menus and DRM; HD-DVD used Javascript and XML to handle menus.



Mon Feb 18 08:34:53 2008

It looks like a manila envelope, but it's actually fleece-lined vinyl sleeve for the Macbook Air.

Surprisingly, I read about this in the newspaper...clearly I don't subscribe to enough Mac-related feeds.



Tue Feb 19 08:55:41 2008

HD-DVD, the heir apparent to DVD, is no more as Toshiba announced that it would shutdown production and manufacturing of HD-DVD players and media.

Convention dictates never to speak ill of the dead, however in this case I say, good riddance! HD-DVD was a half-assed solution which benefited manufacturers over consumers as it required minimal re-tooling of manufacturing plants and minimal changes to players. Bluray, in comparison, is clearly better engineered and offers a higher capacity now (50GB vs. HD-DVD's 30GB, dual layer) and in the future (HD-DVD maxed out at 51GB (triple layer) while Bluray maxes out at 100GB (quad layer, standard optics with firmware upgrade; 200GB in six layers, experimental))).

J. Crew


Wed Feb 20 15:54:39 2008

Just before Valentine's Day, RSS feed had an offer from J. Crew for free shipping with any purchase over $150. Having seen their ads in the NY Times Magazine, I clicked through and sat through their Flash presentation (a bit low-res, but nicely done) for a sunflower-yellow ladies handbag (but only because the model was as attractive as the Roman scenery).

The Flash presentation for Men's Essentials had a really nice looking canvas messenger bag ($128). (Aside: I gave up lusting after the Belstaff Colonial bag) So I added it to my shopping cart and checked for details about shipping to Canada— they shipped to Canada! (and Japan!) (Aside: The Gap does not ship to Canada nor does it allow Canadians to purchase from their online U.S. store. Boooo!) The only two things that worried me— finding something that cost a minimum to get me past $150 and how much Customs duties were going to cost and how they were going to be processed.

I found a vintage t-shirt for $27 and added it, thus meeting the conditions for free shipping and I completed the purchase. Soon afterwards, I received an email confirming my purchase and the next day, I received a UPS tracking number. I was able to track the package using the Mike Piontek's excellent Delivery Status widget. I should note that UPS' online tracking is quite superb, giving arrival and departure times at each hub and at the border as it cleared customs (early Friday morning, I noticed an Exception on my package as it arrived in Ft. Erie, ON. I emailed J. Crew's customer service wondering if I had missed selecting an option at checkout and by 9:15 AM I had a email response telling me that it was normal and not to worry. Impressive response time.)

The package was estimated to arrive on Tue. Feb 19th; it actually arrived on the 18th (which was also a new holiday in Ontario). Wow again! I noticed that the Customs fees (about 10% of the total cost) and GST were charged directly to my credit-card, eliminating the hassle of paying the courier. Very nice.

In light of their excellent customer service and order processing, I would have to say I would shop at J. Crew again (as long as the Canadian dollar has the upper hand), and would recommend it without hesitation.

Lunar Eclipse

astronomy photography

Thu Feb 21 15:56:23 2008

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
—Horatio, "Hamlet", I.v.

Environment Canada had forecast a cloudy night for Feb. 20 (last night), so I was rather shocked to find that the moon was perfectly visible as I walked from work to Union station.

Walking home from the train station, the moon was still lighting the night sky, so I decided that I would try to photograph this event. The last time I tried was about 5 years ago with my Canon S30 (3.2 MP) camera. At the time, my unfamiliarity with the camera caused the resulting pictures to be less than stellar. This time however, I was using a Canon S60, a 5MP "prosumer" with the same zoom (3x) as the S30. I had no expectations on having any usable photographs; I hadn't even unpacked the tripod.

I took the first picture at 9:45PM. I rested the camera on the balcony railing for stability and tilted it upwards to a near vertical with the lens zoomed to maximum, set to Program mode (let the camera do everything) with an exposure bias of .67 (as it was low-light I thought I should over-expose) and the moon looked like a white blob with a bright halo. Next, I set the exposure bias to -1 and the dark notch of the earth's shadow was more evident (see image "eclipse000", click for a larger view. Note also a celestial body in the bottom left and the underside of the balcony above me, on the right hand side.)

Next, I decided to use the Tv mode of the camera, which allows me to set the shutter speed while the camera calculates all the other settings. My first shot was at 1/8s (this was the value it was left at, the last time I used this mode, so it was randomly chosen) and camera set the exposure to f5.3 (the maximum), Exposure Bias was set to 0, producing a photograph with both the moon and the shadow having better definition. I then tried 1/4s, giving an over exposed blob. This meant that I was going the wrong way and had to reduce the shutter speed, not increase it. So I jumped to 1/20s then 1/30s and reviewing each photograph after taking it by zooming in maximally). At 1/60s I was able to vaguely discern the shadows of the lunar mare at the edge of the earth's shadow (see image "eclipse001").

I then kept stepping back through the pre-programmed shutter speeds 1/100s, 1/160s, 1/320s and reviewing each photograph at full magnification. It was 10:09PM when I achieved a break-through at 1/400s. The first amazing shot of the moon! It looked like THE MOON! You could actually see the features! Woohoo!

Rather than let the camera auto-focus, I decided to manually focus the camera to infinity and then proceeded to reduce the shutter speed to 1/500s and then at 1/640s I got a reddish moon! I was shocked!

The first picture ("eclipse01",400x200) is a crop of the full image at 10:19PM at 1/640s f5.3, manual focus to infinity, ISO100. The second picture ("eclipse01a", 320x200) was taken at 10:40 at 1/100s, f5.3, ISO100. The third picture ("eclipse02", 700x400) was taken at 10:44 at 1/10s, ISO400 just to see if bumping up the ISO produced anything useful (I would have to say, no). The final picture ("eclipse04", 1500x1145) (approximate totality) is another wide view taken at 11:03PM at 0.3s (long exposure).

As the eclipse approached totality I began to realize that I needed to increase the shutter speed as there was less light available as time passed. However, I was unable to get a good photo of totality either because I was getting cold or I was approaching the limits of the camera's optics.

Having seen what can be achieved with this camera, I would definitely buy a 10MP camera with a longer zoom. The only aspect that is beyond my control, is a clear sky on the night of the next eclipse (3 years from now). See you in 2010.

The Oscars


Tue Feb 26 22:17:58 2008

The 2008 Oscar winners had a few surprises— for best actress, I expected Julie Christie; for set design, I expected Jack Fisk) but the rest were as expected (though, Best Picture was an even match between the winner and There Will be Blood, hence the Best Actor award to Daniel Day Lewis).

David sent me a post with all the Best Picture winner's movie posters. I noticed that with two exceptions (Patton and The Sting), all the winning movies from the 1970s ("The Golden Age of Hollywood") had black and white posters (let's not dwell on 1976, again).

Update Thu Feb 28 18:58:58 2008: No Country for Old Men was the first movie edited on a Mac using a completely digital workflow (Final Cut Pro) to win an Oscar.

Shuffle Along

hardware ipod macbook

Tue Feb 26 23:08:10 2008

Apple recently dropped the price of the iPod shuffle to USD$49 (CAD$55) for the 1GB version, as a prelude to introducing a 2GB version. I was very tempted to buy one (I got as far as clicking on the "Buy Now" button at the online Applestore) until I read "Using iPod with multiple computers", that notes (at the very bottom), "iPod shuffle is intended for use with a single computer. You cannot load music from multiple computers or iTunes libraries onto iPod shuffle like you can with other iPods." I have a Mac at work, and also one at home. I don't think it's too much to ask that the iPod allows me to load music from either computer.

Also, Apple updated the lineup of Macbook and Macbook Pro (which support Multi-touch trackpads) notebooks. Appleinsider has a good summary of the updates. The biggest improvement seems to be CPU performance (even though the clock-speed increase was negligent) giving longer battery life and cooler operation.

How Nerds Destroy the World


Fri Feb 29 15:20:50 2008

The unfortunately titled, "Pictures for Small Children" comic strip, has a (im)pertinent cartoon about how nerds destroy the world; the punchline reads, " has never mattered how thin a computer is."

I happened to be browsing Twitter when I noticed that Wil Shipley had his laptop stolen at TED. I hope he had good backups, especially of any new code he had written. I remember reading that Bill Joy had written major improvements to vi which were forever lost to a disk crash and no backups (a few years ago, I emailed him and he confirmed that it was true).


iphoto "time capsule"

Fri Feb 29 21:18:18 2008

The 20% discount offer for photobooks and calendars from iPhoto has been extended until March 7th, because iPhoto refused to honour the coupon today, a Leap Day; undoubtedly due to programmer error.

Time Capsule, Apple's wireless backup solution, also works with PCs running XP.

Update Sat Mar 01 11:01:13 2008: A map of Toronto drawn in 1858 shows a very different streetscape than what I see today— Dundas Street is non existent, in its place, east of Yonge, is Crookshank Street and west of Yonge is Agnes Street, north of which is Alice Street, both of which do not exist today. Something that remains a mystery to me is why many of the intersections are asymmetrical. There is also an audio walking tour (60MB MP3) of historical Toronto available from the Toronto Public Library.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 35 / Last Modified: Mon Mar 24 15:13:04 2008