Part 38 of elf's Apple PowerBook G4 Journal

The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit


Fri May 02 08:53:02 2008

"Steve Jobs doesn't need a sales force [in the corporate world] because he already has one: employees like the ones in my company."
—Mark Slaga

Business Week's cover story by Peter Burrows titled, “The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit” is about Apple's indifference to the corporate world:

Millions of consumers are seeing the Mac in a new light. Once an object of devotion for students and artists, the Mac is becoming the first choice of many. Surging demand for the machines led Apple to predict revenues will rise 33% in the second quarter, to $7.2 billion, even in the face of an economic slowdown.

What's less obvious is that the enthusiasm is starting to spill over into the corporate market. It's a people's revolution, of sorts, with workers increasingly pressing their employers to let them use Macs in the office. In a survey of 250 diverse companies that has yet to be released, the market research firm Yankee Group found that 87% now have at least some Apple computers in their offices, up from 48% two years ago...

Apple is getting help from an unlikely rival: Microsoft. Vista, the latest version of the software giant's Windows operating system, looks like it could turn out to be one of the great missteps in tech history.

Page Up


Fri May 02 23:12:48 2008

An amazing interview with Larry Page about uncertainty and risk-taking. I am amazed at the genuine optimism at the company— the people there actually believe they can change the world.

I look around and all I see are miserable people who have lost hope.

Update Sat May 03 09:17:06 2008: I find people in the digital world to be far more optimistic than those in the real world. Perhaps because the anonymity that the digital world offers, gives people a safe harbour from prejudices that are so easily manifest in the real world.

Happy Birthday, Spam


Sat May 03 15:13:19 2008

The first recognisable e-mail marketing message was sent on 3 May, 1978 to 400 people on behalf of DEC - a now-defunct computer-maker... The sender of the first junk e-mail message was Gary Thuerk...It invited the recipients, all of whom were on Arpanet and lived on the west coast of the US, to go to one of two presentations showing off the capabilities of the System-20.

It took until 1993 before it won the name of spam— a name bestowed on it by Joel Furr— an administrator on the Usenet chat system. Mr Furr reputedly got his inspiration for the name from a Monty Python sketch set in a restaurant whose menu heavily featured the processed meat.

"Spam reaches 30-year anniversary"

Risks of Stupidity

Sat May 03 16:24:39 2008

A practical observation on the risks of stupidity was made by the German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord in “Truppenführung”, 1933: "I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"

Hanlon's Razor, Wikipedia

Coding C With Emacs

emacs development

Thu May 08 09:49:38 2008

A couple of handy tips for those coding in C with Emacs. The first bit of code automatically saves all open buffers (ideally, it should only save source-code buffers) and starts the compilation process in one shot; the function, save-and-compile-program can be bound to a single key to speed-up the process:

;;; save all files then run M-x compile
(defun save-and-compile-program()
        "Save any unsaved buffers and compile"
        (save-some-buffers t)
        (compile "make -k"))

;;; bind it to a key-sequence (or an F-key)
(global-set-key "\C-cc" 'save-and-compile-program)

The next tip is helpful for those time when you have your source buffers arranged in a certain way and the compilation-buffer decides to whimsically re-arrange them; the library compile-frame comes in handy because it puts the *Compilation* buffer into a separate frame ("separate window" in modern terminology) leaving your buffer arrangement alone.

Both these tips were used for many years to make Emacs a more agreeable development environment.

A Web-based Emacs

software editors emacs vi

Thu May 08 13:33:50 2008

A few weeks, someone on #emacs mentions how nice it would be if you could embed a HTML rendering engine (like Gecko) into Emacs (this is currently not possible (but not impossible) as Emacs has no hooks) as w3m browsing has its limitations.

The discussion then continued to alternatives: if you can't embed an HTML engine into Emacs, then the alternative is to embed Emacs into the HTML engine. This would likely mean using either Flash, Javascript or Java as a starting point. I was surprised to find that there is already jslisp, a LISP interpreter written in Javascript.

After the announcement that vi, the arch-nemesis editor, is already available as a web-based entity, it does not bode well for Emacs' technological prowess to be a laggard.

$45 credit for Canadian iPods bought pre-2004

Thu May 08 19:53:04 2008

Apple has settled a class-action suit about battery capacity, by offering all owners who iPods bought before 2004, an Applesotre credit of $45. Information on how to file a claim is available at: after the settlement is finalized on June 20.

The Jesus Laptop

olpc xo jesuits scifi clarke

Fri May 09 17:45:24 2008

It is three thousand light years to the Vatican.
—“The Star”, Arthur C. Clarke

I took Thursday and Friday off, expecting the delivery of my long-awaited XO laptop. Fate (thy name is Brightstar) has conspired against me, yet again, as the laptop has been stuck in customs for the last three days (because the distributors (Brightstar), who have confounded me at every step of the way, did not declare a customs value for the shipment; the OLPC Foundation volunteers have been superb in helping me sort out this mess).

As I was reporting the details of my travails on #olpc, I noticed two nicks with "sj". I cracked a joke about the Jesuits being interested in the XO, only to be told that they (Boston College is in the neighbourhood) had in fact demo'd the laptop at the Vatican (at which point I solemly vowed that was the last Jesuit joke I was going to make.)

Then, to answer someone's question about Jesuits, I posted a link to the eponymous Wikipedia article and as I was browsing it, I noticed that a scifi novel, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, featured a Jesuit priest (Brad Pitt has bought rights to the novel and is planning to play the priest in the movie). Strangely, there is no mention of Dan Simmon's novel, Hyperion, which also features a Jesuit.

Finally, the entry for The Sparrow has a link to the entire text of Arthur C. Clarke's short-story, The Star which features a similar plot.

Ikea: Then and Now

hardware philosophy

Sun May 11 08:31:04 2008

Cinema Verité

humour cinema bond

Mon May 12 22:26:38 2008

What better way to celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth than getting the Guardian's very own 007 to recreate a great James Bond adventure?

"You can go faster," Duncan says. "The car only comes into its own when you actually accelerate."

"So you're saying that to truly enjoy the car I have to break the law?" I say. But I understand Duncan's frustration. I'm an annoyingly cautious driver. The speedometer of this Aston Martin goes up to 220mph, and I haven't once exceeded 70mph.

"OK, I'll overtake that lorry. But just this once." I gingerly touch the accelerator. "Oh my God!" I yell.

I'm suddenly going 100mph and the car is so smooth it feels like 30. I've never seen a lorry vanish so quickly in my rear-view mirror. I feel like Han Solo in hyperdrive, or Jeremy Clarkson. It feels fantastic. No wonder the rich and boorish love themselves.

The name's Ronson, Jon Ronson

Also of interest will be the new editions of the entire Bond oeuvre.



Mon May 12 22:34:55 2008

My XO laptop finally arrived. First impressions and pics are on my OLPC journal.

Automatic Tags

software etags emacs

Tue May 13 09:13:30 2008

This next bit of code from my .emacs is for automatically updating the TAGS file when it cannot locate a particular tag (presumably you've written a new function since last running etags and now you want to jump to it):

;;;  Järneström Jonas> A smarter
;;;  find-tag that automagically reruns etags when it cant find a
;;;  requested item and then makes a new try to locate it. 
;;;  Fri Mar 15 09:52:14 2002

(defadvice find-tag (around refresh-etags activate)
  "Rerun etags and reload tags if tag not found and redo find-tag.
If buffer is modified, ask about save before running etags."
  (let ((extension (file-name-extension (buffer-file-name))))
    (condition-case err
      (error (and (buffer-modified-p)
		  (not (ding))
		  (y-or-n-p "Buffer is modified, save it? ")
	     (er-refresh-etags extension) 

(defun er-refresh-etags (&optional extension)
  "Run etags on all peer files in current dir and reload them silently."
  (shell-command (format "etags *.%s" (or extension "el")))
  (let ((tags-revert-without-query t))	; don't query, revert silently
    (visit-tags-table default-directory nil)))

Explosive Reflected

software screensaver

Thu May 15 18:22:10 2008

Explosive Reflected is the current screensaver on my Mac. It has a few options that the user can tweak; however, the defaults are quite pleasing.

The installation is multi-lingual (Japanese/English) and a bit eccentric— double-click the .zip, mount the .dmg, open the "English" folder and copy the .qtz file into the appropriate folder: "All Users" or "Current User".

XP on XO


Thu May 15 23:02:29 2008

In other explosive news...

If XP runs, then OS X can't be far behind.

#emacs as NY

Tue May 20 17:38:30 2008

After reading an article by Joan Acocella in the Smithsonian Magazine, it occured to me that #emacs was a lot like the NY she describes— random people walking into a room and asking for help, or complaining about a problem they're having, and complete strangers offering advice or helping them solve their problem, while other clusters of people discuss various random topics.

Yet Another Mac Mini


Thu May 22 14:13:12 2008

Another Mac mini has been ordered— 2GHz with Superdrive, 2GB RAM, keyboard and mouse. This Mac will be used as an experimental test-bed for integrating Macs in a student lab environment within the department; the Macs currently in the department are used by faculty and staff. This year, there was a request to upgrade a lab, currently populated with PCs, with Macs.

Internet Map


Sat May 24 10:25:21 2008

Inspired by an XKCD cartoon, the internet address space has been mapped. There is a poster available for sale. I requested my boss to purchase one for posting on the blank office wall.

"Electric Computers"

Sat May 24 10:58:11 2008

On March 19 Quanta delivered 20 ocean containers of merchandise, described on the Bills of Lading as “electric computers,” to Apple, Inc. Neither Apple, Quanta, nor any other company has ever used this product description for any shipments to the U.S.
ImportGenius Blog

Improper Advances

photography cats

Sat May 24 16:46:45 2008

As I stopped to photograph the neighbourhood during the Golden Hour I felt a presence at my ankles.
Looking down, I noticed a cat caressing its sides against my pants. It darted away just as I went
to photograph it [L]. It then rubbed against a street sign post [M] and then proceeded
to perform some acrobatics on the sidewalk [R] (no doubt in the hopes of impressing me).
Clearly it had an itch that needed scratching; unfortunately, I am not so easily impressed.

Mars Orbiter Photographs Phoenix Lander...


Mon May 26 23:24:30 2008


I listened to the Realaudio stream of the Phoenix lander mission control on Sunday. I found it quite tense listening to the descent countdown, "...80 meters, 70 meters, 60 meters, 50 meters, 40 meters, 30 meters, 27 meters..." at which point I knew the retro rockets had fired and it was nearly home. Then I realized that I had goosebumps on my arms. And then it landed safely.

Macs in Magazines

Sat May 31 11:29:45 2008

The first photograph, which appeared in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business magazine, is of IDEO's offices where it seems everyone uses a Mac (how do they tell the Macs apart without identifying stickers?). The middle photograph is of a profile of Bill Nye and just off the corner is an Apple keyboard and a black Macbook (the lamp that he has is also a pretty cool design). The final photograph is of Andrew Stanton, animation director at Pixar, with a PowerMac (I think) under his desk, who recently consulted with Jonathan Ive on the design of WALL-E.

The Secret Army Grows


Fri Jun 06 17:50:55 2008

A 36 in. Cinema Display box and 3 smaller boxes were delivered to our mailroom today. The medium sized box is a 15 in. MBP; the smallest is probably AppleCare (or TimeCapsule?); I don't know what the large box is (a PowerMac?).

My boss thinks I am leading a secret army of Mac users in the department.

Book Review: "The Innovator's Dilemma"

Sat Jun 07 18:09:30 2008

I put "King of Infinite Space" on hold to read "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton Christensen after seeing it mentioned in two different places within a single week. I rated it: 6++/4 in my review.

WWDC 2008 Preview

Sun Jun 08 11:21:22 2008

I don't know if it would be considered overly dramatic if I said that tomorrow, the world will be a completely different place, after the release of the 3G iPhone; and I expect that the Canadian cellular landscape is about to change (it would shock me if Rogers didn't offer an unlimited data-plan for $59.99-$69.99 per month).

As of this morning, here have been no photographs leaked of any of the hardware that will be announced tomorrow (I expect a feature confirmation leak by tomorrow morning if the past is any indication).

What is certain is that there wil be a tri-band GSM (UMTS) 3G iPhone with HSDPA and A-GPS (but will it work without cell-triangulation?). My boss is interested in an iPhone but only if it has standalone GPS because of the currently exhorbitant costs of a cellular data-plan in Canada; cell-assisted GPS was not an option.

The Ars Technica Bingo Card is available for those that like to play along.

What about FF3 for Panther?


Sun Jun 08 17:37:06 2008

<offby1> noticed that the minimum OS X system requirements for FF3RC2 was 10.4 Tiger. I sent the following email to Mozilla asking whether there would be a Panther build when FF3 was released:


I noticed that the minimum system requirements for FF3 RC2 for OS X is 10.4 Tiger. I was wondering whether when the final version is released, there will be a Panther build for the few remaining people still running PPC Macs.

I notice that the Windows build supports Windows Server 2003,Windows 2000 and Windows XP (which was released in 2001) but not OS X Panther which was released in 2003.

Would it be too much trouble to make a Panther build?

Thank you.

iPhone 3G


Mon Jun 09 15:08:56 2008

The iPhone 3G will be available on July 11th, $USD199 for 8GB (black) and $USD299 for 16GB (black and white). Here are the technical specs.

Update Tue Jun 10 13:40:28 2008: Keynote address is available in Quicktime.

Update Sun Jun 22 13:37:27 2008: The rumours say $30/month ($45 for enterprise with Outlook sync and push) for an unlimited data plan. This is in addition to a voice plan. There will not be a pay-as-you-go option.

Dennis Ritchie, 404

Thu Jun 12 09:28:41 2008

Object not found. The object /who/dmr does not exist on this server.

Send out the search parties.



Fri Jun 13 15:19:01 2008

The picture of the insect was taken today as I waited for the morning train.
The violet (love the detail in the center) was taken a few days ago in front of the Sony Center.
I find that pink, purple and blue flowers photograph vividly using the Tungsten White Balance
filter on the Canon camera. I am back to using my S30, as my S60 took a tumble and is malfunctioning.

From Fritz's "Metropolis" to Pitt's iPhone

cinema iphone

Sat Jun 14 22:48:15 2008

The science-fiction movies of the future will be called documentaries.
—A. O. Scott

Catching up on the New York Times Magazine issue devoted to architecture, I read A. O. Scott's article, "Metropolis Now", about architecture in the cinema, where he mentioned the film, "Code 46", with Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton who is mentioned in two recent news items, the second of which, notes that she was at a party for "Synecdoche", when Brad Pitt made a surprise appearance and showed his long-time friend, Katherine Keener, pictures of his kids on his iPhone.

Bienvenue à Montréal

Tue Jun 17 13:06:29 2008

You need Flash to watch this awesome Tourisme Montreal ad.

It puts Toronto's tourism ads to shame.

Book Review: "Flaubert's Parrot"

literature review

Fri Jun 20 11:11:12 2008

Isn't the most reliable form of pleasure, the pleasure of anticipation?
— Flaubert's Parrot, Julian Barnes

After some deliberation, I have decided that my criteria for scoring fiction should be different than that for non-fiction. While I read non-fiction for pure knowledge, I read novels for pure enjoyment, but the side-effects are just as valuable; the most important of which is distracting my brain from problems I am trying to solve, by forcing them into my subconscious and providing solutions faster than if I thought about them (answers usually arrive while I am in the shower or while walking home from work). Other side-effects of reading fiction include improving my vocabulary (I write the words down and look them up later) and adding to my personal database of quotations (first transcribed into my Hipster PDA and then typed into my file of quotations).

My review of Julian Barne's novel, Flaubert's Parrot, which I scored 6/4, is now available on my bookshelf; the parrot is a lovely metaphor around which an elaborate tale is crafted for the reader's enjoyment.

Kerning and Ligatures in Firefox 3

typography ff3

Sat Jun 21 08:30:50 2008

Firefox 3 supports kerning and discretionary ligatures, but Ralf Herrmann shows that it doesn't always do the right thing; the comparisons are made with Safari.

Update Sun Jun 22 08:41:14 2008: David mentioned that FF3 also has colour profile support, however, it's disabled by default because of performance issues on large photographs. In FF3, enable it via about:config and then set gfx.color_management.enabled to true. Note that this support is only useful if the images have a colour-profile embedded in them, otherwise there will be no visible difference.

No Answers for Movie Fans


Sun Jun 22 07:40:32 2008

A recent discussion of the Cohen Bros. masterpiece ,"No Country for Old Men", revealed a review of the movie, with user-contributed comments that posed even more questions than it answered.

The debate centers around a pivotal scene, at the end of the movie, which takes in the cordoned-off crime scene in the motel. The ambiguities in that scene make the movie all the more interesting in light of the final monologue that the sheriff narrates.

This is a movie that has to be carefully watched multiple times and has to be discussed with others because it is so nuanced that the first viewing leaves one feeling empty to the point of hating the unsatisfying ending. Once the discussion begins, however, the hunger for answers and for closure, is fed by all the questions that begin arising from deep beneath the surface that was only a moment ago calm and clear.

Slideshow: Giant Mushroom


Sun Jun 22 13:12:47 2008

This giant mushroom is actually a sculpture approximately 20 feet tall. It is currently on display at the Toronto Sculpture Garden at Church and King, directly opposite St. James Cathedral. Note the size of the man sitting on the park bench in the bottom left of the first picture. The door is about 6 feet tall and bottoms of the windows are about waist-high off the ground. The artist, Katie Bethune-Leamen, sometimes occupies the small office inside the base of the mushroom (third picture); she was not here that day.

On the Importance of Testing

Thu Jun 26 12:13:51 2008

There is no substitute for completely empathizing with a complaint unless you have experienced it first hand. Bill Gates' tests the installation of Moviemaker for XP; James Dyson tests the durability of one of his vacuum cleaners (I agree, that the video is a great demonstration of the durability, but how well do the Dyson vacuums (in general) actually vacuum dirt? I think that aspect of the demonstration is just as important— a vacuum that doesn't perform well might as well be broken.)

What is interesting is the involvement of the CEOs in usability testing. The advantage of being a CEO is that once you find a bug, someone else is responsible for fixing it.

Emacs T-shirt Logo

Thu Jun 26 16:14:11 2008

Inspired by the "I *heart* NY" logo, I designed an equivalent Emacs logo.
After I posted the first version, <sword> suggested adding a gnu on the heart
and <sellout> suggested replacing the heart with a gnu. I preferred the latter
suggestion (second pic) because it's a more subtle rip-off of the original NY logo.
The third picture uses American Typewriter typeface.

I haven't decided what font to use. I like the American Typewriter used on the original and the ITC family of the same font used in the left image. I used Rockwell Bold in the gnu image and it doesn't look heavy enough.

Update Fri Jun 27 16:45:20 2008: I added a third image with the gnu face and American Typewriter typeface.

iPhone Plan Rates for Canada


Fri Jun 27 12:24:59 2008

Rogers announced the "third-world country" "primitive-world" rates for Canada:

The plans (all priced in Canadian dollars, naturally) are $60 a month for 150 weekday minutes, 400MB of data, and 75 sent text messages; $75 for 300 weekday minutes, 750MB of data, and 100 sent text messages; $100 for 600 weekday minutes, 1GB of data, and 200 sent text messages; and $115 for 800 weekday minutes, 2GB of data, and 300 sent text messages.

Each plan also includes unlimited evening and weekend minutes (9PM-7AM), visual voicemail, and access to Rogers Wireless and Fido Hotspots. Sending additional text messages will cost 15 cents each, and additional data is billed at a rate of 50 cents per megabyte for the first 60MB, and then an additional 3 cents per megabyte. The price for extra weekday minutes varies depending on the plan, ranging from 35 cents to 15 cents.

Macworld article

Update Fri Jun 27 16:34:06 2008: David corrects me, saying that third-world countries have better terms...

Actually, there are third-world countries that probably have better rates than can be found in Canada. The numbers are over a year old now, but I don't think much has changed.

The other issue is that Rogers makes you sign a three-year contract: that's a long time in technological terms.

Update Fri Jun 27 18:31:27 2008: My estimate is that there will be about 10,000 iPhone users, across Canada, in the first year. I will be pleasantly surprised if there are more (by an order of magnitude at minimum). This is the land where the Blackberry (very popular with the corporate sector) was invented, so the competitive landscape in Canada is not comparable to markets around the world. RIM's share of the market will inevitably drop after the iPhone's introduction; the question is whether it will be significant (by which I mean, more than 10%).

Update Fri Jun 27 18:51:48 2008: Another good point regarding the lack of an unlimited data-plan, from Jack Kapica who tries to compare the iPhone plans of various countries:

All Rogers' plans are for a minimum of three years, and I know one thing for sure: I have no understanding of how much data I need now, much less how much data I will be needing over the next three years, or even if my usage will increase or decrease during that time.

Jack Kapica

Jolly Roger


Sun Jun 29 21:22:06 2008

As of Sunday, 9:21PM, there were 13,952 signatures on the online anti-Rogers petition, complaining about the iPhone rate plans in Canada (the news of the protests has been reported by CNN). The complaints are primarily about the lack of an unlimited-data plan, a 3-year contract and the decision that evenings begin at 9PM (phone calls made outside of the hours of 7AM-9PM are free; most carriers, however, consider 7PM, "evening"). It should also be noted that until last year, downloading 400mb of data on the Rogers network cost about $300; with the iPhone plan, it costs $30, so technically, their current rate plan is an improvement.

What follows is pure speculation on my part, about the reasons why Rogers has chosen to go this route. For the sake of argument, let's say Rogers announced the iPhone cost $100 and the cheapest plan cost $10 per month. What would happen? "Everyone" would buy the iPhone, or switch to it from another carrier. Why is this scenario impossible? The first reason is cost; the iPhone costs Apple a certain amount to manufacture and it costs Rogers a certain amount to sell. The second reason is the cost of the cellular network infrastructure— the cost to maintain it and provide good performace. As the number of users begin to approach capacity, either the network begins to degrade or calls are dropped and conversations are garbled.

So, given the current network infrastructure that Rogers has had in place, and assuming they have not upgraded it to accomodate the introduction of the iPhone, then the only way Rogers is able to provide good performance is by artificially limiting the number of users on their network. They achieve this by 1) making the cost of owning the iPhone appeal to a limited number of (rich) people and 2) by preventing those people from abusing the bandwidth during prime-time (7AM-9PM restriction).

If my assumptions are correct, then Rogers will not change its rate plans, at least not in the first year. They will evaluate the impact of the iPhone on their network and introduce new plans (with more generous bandwidth) next year.

As I finished writing this post at 9:40PM, I checked again, and there were 14,063 signatures.

luis fernandes / G4 PowerBook Journal, Part 38 / Last Modified: Thu Jun 26 16:41:43 2008