March 2003

Monday, March 31, 2003

Presenting The Map Room [ 9:25 AM ]

I can now announce the project I was working on. Presenting The Map Room, a weblog about maps. It's meant as a way to feed my lifelong interest in maps by giving me an impetus to go out and find and learn things about them. I'm not an expert on maps, mapmaking or cartography -- in fact, I know very little about them -- but hopefully I'll know more in short order. Let's see what happens.

More spondylitic fun fun fun [ 9:21 AM ]

My sacrum and right hip flared up yesterday, which caused me all sorts of pain, made it very difficult to walk, and slowed me right down. Haven't had that particular part act up that badly in a while.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Arctic condoms [ 8:46 PM ]

Florence's response to the Japanese ice cream post: "How about musk-ox flavoured condoms?" (Well, not really -- Northern humour, I guess.)

Japanese ice cream [ 2:22 PM ]

Japanese ice cream flavours include various fish and seafood, ox tongue, chicken wing, fried eggplant, and cactus. (via Boing Boing)

Saturday, March 29, 2003

PowerBooks, PowerBooks, PowerBooks [ 4:35 PM ]

The 17-inch PowerBooks are finally starting to show up; John Manzione has some first impressions and follows up with a more detailed look. Meanwhile, Wei-Meng Lee's take on the 12-inch PowerBook over at the O'Reilly Network is worth checking out.

Videophones [ 4:30 PM ]

Slate's Brendan Koerner on the videophones used by reporters on the frontlines: "Transmissions over the setup average 128 kilobits per second (64 kbps per satellite phone), which makes for jittery streaming images that wink out whenever the camera shifts too much. That's no great bother if a reporter merely wants to get his or her visage beamed back, but it presents serious problems for journalists aiming to capture actual movement -- pretty much an unavoidable staple of armed conflict."

Friday, March 28, 2003

Apple in Canada [ 11:25 AM ]

Some good news for Apple users in Canada: Think Secret claims that Future Shop will sell Apple products using the same store-within-a-store concept found in CompUSA stores. And some good news for Apple from a Canadian newspaper, with this glowing endorsement in the Globe and Mail.

CSS [ 11:22 AM ]

I've learned a lot about CSS (cascading style sheets) this morning while putting together a new project. No, I won't say more than that at the moment. Suffice to say that I've learned enough that this site is going to have to get a revamp to make the code cleaner. Again.

Freedom Cleaners [ 6:45 AM ]

French Cleaners in Modesto, California is burned by vandals, allegedly because of the word "French" in the name. This reminds me that during Britain's pedophile hysteria, mobs went after a pediatrician because they were confused about the sign on the door. Les Américains se rendent fou. (via Matt and Oliver; see previous entries: 1, 2)

Thursday, March 27, 2003

A look at the Sony TG50, with blatant Amazon affiliate links [ 8:55 PM ]

Staples had a Sony Cli� PEG-TG50 in stock today, so I gave it a good going over (see previous entry).

It runs Palm OS 5, has a 320 x 320 screen, built-in Bluetooth and an integrated thumbboard instead of a Graffiti area.

It looks great: the case is very nice and I love the overall fit and finish. The screen seems good (hard to tell in-store), though as usual I find Sony's high-resolution font to be too thin; I prefer the hi-res font Palm uses in its Tungsten T.

I hate the buttons; the absolutely tiny up/down switch is an atrocity, but the jog dial's presence makes up for it a bit. I'm not sure what to make of the thumbboard, partly because I don't have much experience with them. The keys were rubbery and it felt too small; I kept tapping keys with my thumbnails rather than my thumbs, to be more precise -- I have big hands. The keys seem to be able to manage with full-thumb contact, though, since when I forced myself to use my entire thumbs I still got good text. The keyboard is smaller than the NX70's, on which I found thumb-typing easier. I'm still more comfortable using Graffiti, though the thumbpad may well be faster.

The TG50 has built-in Bluetooth, which in my books is a plus, and comes with an SMS application; I expect that using the TG50 for SMS would be an order of magnitude more comfortable than tapping it out on a phone. I have no idea what SMS via Graffiti would be like.

It's a Sony OS 5 handheld, which means it'll take the new Memory Stick Pro cards, and that means that the bundled multimedia apps, which require the data to be on the card, won't be limited to the earlier Memory Stick's 128 MB maximum (see previous entry).

My impression is that it will do what it's designed for rather well; it's just that it's not quite in sync with what I'd like; I still think I'd prefer the Tungsten T, which also has built-in Bluetooth, but has a Graffiti area and is C$50 less.

It's not pork-barrelling, it's PATRIOTISM [ 12:31 PM ]

U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa wants to stop a post-reconstruction Iraqi mobile phone network from using the worldwide GSM standard -- which, Issa says, was invented by the French! Instead, he wants Iraq to use the competing but less established (at least outside North America) CDMA mobile phone technology -- which just happens to have been invented by Qualcomm, which just happens to be headquartered in Issa's district and just happened to contribute money to Issa's campaign! Gizmodo, Mobitopia, The Register and Unstrung have the story. I'm sure American cell phone companies that use GSM (AT&T, Cingular, T-Mobile) will be very interested to hear about this little shenanigan.

(Background for Canadian readers: Fido and Rogers AT&T Wireless use GSM; Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility use CDMA.)

Update 3/28 6:57 AM: This balanced article provides more background and context (via Slashdot).

Maps of Iraq [ 12:17 PM ]

Rebecca isn't the only weblogger to link to the collection of maps of Iraq at the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. It's because these maps provide far more detail than the media's graphics. And since I'm terribly keen on maps of all sorts, this is just what I was looking for.

More site updates [ 9:46 AM ]

Minor supplementary fixes to the "About" section led me to completely overhaul the contact pages. There are now separate pages for e-mail, instant messaging, SMS (not operational yet) and snail mail, as well as a page dedicated to reptile questions. Old links to the old system should forward properly; let me know if they don't, or if all of this looks weird on your system.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Tungsten W [ 3:23 PM ]

The Palm Tungsten W, a GSM/GPRS wireless data device that doubles as a phone, is coming to Canada on April 23 through Rogers AT&T Wireless (via Richard). Brighthand has a review of the Tungsten W.

Site updates [ 11:30 AM ]

Inspired, it must be said, by Jason's site redesigns, I finally went through the About section and gave it a thorough scrubbing. My biography and résumé have new URLs, and the fun facts, copyright, privacy and tech sections now have their own pages. Plus the usual optimizations you get when you code on your local computer with BBEdit Lite rather than Pico on a terminal window.

Still to come under "About", probably: a revamped page of my embarrassing old photos, a rewrite of my bio, and a general FAQ.

I've also got to revamp my contact page, perhaps creating multiple pages for different tasks (a McWetlog contact page, a résumé contact page, a snake-buying contact page, etc.).

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Fighting Saddam by blaming Canada [ 8:33 AM ]

Another McCarthyite eruption targeting Canadians, this time from a seller on eBay. That'll show those Iraqi bastards. (see previous entry)

Automatic Keynote presentations from RSS newsfeeds [ 8:25 AM ]

Keynote's XML-based file format leads this technology addict to suggest that NetNewsWire take RSS feeds -- XML-based news feeds that can be found on many news sites and weblogs (including this one) -- and build Keynote presentations from them. NetNewsWire's creator thinks it's a good idea. Jobs suggested something like this when he introduced Keynote in January. I can't speak to the technology, but I can see a problem with RSS 0.91 feeds with descriptions that have full-length entries, rather than just headlines or a summary -- again, like mine. (via Anil's Daily Links)

Monday, March 24, 2003

"Asshat" [ 10:43 PM ]

The latest pearl discovered by the denizens of #mefi: Asshat: The Official Site for the Best Word Ever.

Predicting Panther penury [ 8:22 PM ]

You know, it makes no sense to guess that a company is going to do something, and then criticize that company based solely on that guess. But that's what Dan Knight is doing by assuming that Apple will charge full price for OS X 10.3, and criticizing them for doing so, even though there is no evidence one way or the other. (In fact, I recall an interview with Phil Schiller during Jaguar's release where he said that Apple charged for a full upgrade every 18 months, with a free upgrade in between.) The Jaguar upgrade was billed as a features release; if 10.3 focuses more on technologies (X11, 64-bit compatibility, for example) Apple will be hard-pressed to charge for it. I'd expect a free (or $20-30) upgrade, and if I were a gambling man, that's where I'd lay my money.

Keynote themes [ 8:17 PM ]

Leave it to third-party developers to try to make a living by offering add-ons, plug-ins and themes for Apple's software products. (There are lots of third-party special-effects plug-ins for iMovie, for example, and, if I'm not mistaken, themes for iDVD.) Now it's Keynote's turn. Most of the themes I've seen so far on Keynote sites (see previous entry) have been unimpressive -- even the so-called "premium" themes for which you have to pay. These themes, on the other hand, look pretty good, but at US$10 each, you're not likely to pick one up unless you're quite certain that you want that particular theme. (I could use rainforest, jungle or other nature themes, for example.)

Apple should consider releasing an expansion pack containing additional themes and clip-art, third party or otherwise, once the installed base of Keynote users reaches critical mass.

The Geneva Conventions [ 8:06 PM ]

One more on the Iraq thing. It seems to me that if people are going to charge that one side or another is in violation of the Geneva Conventions, it would help if they knew what those Conventions actually said. So here is a collection of the complete texts of the Geneva Conventions (as well as other treaties). Of particular relevance is the Third Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Essential reading. One I found particularly interesting is the prohibition against false surrenders, i.e., pretending to surrender, then ambushing the troops you surrender to -- it makes sense if you're trying to protect surrendering troops in general, so that armies don't shoot them on the principle that it's better to be safe than sorry. (posted to MetaFilter)

Update 3/25 8:28 AM: Slate's Explainer and Jack Shafer on the Conventions.

Iraq's Olympic nightmare [ 8:01 PM ]

Saddam Hussein's son Uday has been in charge of Iraq's Olympic program, and that hasn't been a good thing for Iraqi athletes. You'd think that the IOC would have done something by now. Except, of course, that it's the IOC. (via Instapundit)

Freedom's Mustard [ 3:36 PM ]

Oh, you've got to be kidding me. (via D)

Behind the decapitation strike [ 1:30 PM ]

Newsweek reveals some of what was behind last week's strike against a "target of opportunity" -- the strike that started the war and that may well have killed Saddam Hussein or others. (via Mr. Lion)

War protest in my neighbourhood [ 12:28 PM ]

I don't live in downtown Ottawa any more; I'm sufficiently far away from the core that I don't expect to see protests on my street. Nevertheless, I saw this anti-war demonstration pass by at noon today:

Photograph of anti-war demonstration from my apartment

My guess is that it's from the nearby CEGEP. Probably a couple hundred, all told.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

MOO III: The verdict [ 11:17 PM ]

My brother's verdict on Master of Orion III: "Don't bother." (see previous entry)

A little bit about Keynote [ 4:33 PM ]

Last September, John Gruber wrote something that, while on another topic, is directly applicable to a consideration of Apple's new presentation software, Keynote:

Given a choice between two otherwise unmarked software packages, one labeled "more features", the other labeled "better designed interface", most Mac users will choose the latter. Mac users value attention to detail and intuitive, consistent, attractive interfaces.

It's worth bearing that in mind when reading Macworld's recent review of Keynote, which, while praising it for its interface and graphics, criticizes it for not having as many features as PowerPoint. One passage is worth noting: "the fact that Keynote does not include many functions essential for controlling presentations may discourage PowerPoint veterans from switching just yet."

Granted, people who make full use of all of PowerPoint's features will have a problem with Keynote's more limited feature set. But arguing that Keynote isn't as feature-filled as PowerPoint is beside the point. For one thing, PowerPoint costs four times as much, and expecting feature-to-feature parity with a new program that sells for a quarter of the price is a bit rich. The two programs aren't necessarily chasing the same markets, and don't necessarily need to offer the same features: each has strengths (graphics, extra features) that some people will value more than others.

Not only that, but features aren't always the point; Steve Jobs, at his last keynote, made this point about features (while talking about how no one uses bookmarks in web browsers): "You only use what you understand. It doesn't matter how many features are in a product if you don't understand them, because you can't use them."

I started using PowerPoint over three years ago and not once did I learn how to do builds and transitions. Though I knew they existed, since I saw them used in other people's presentations, I either could not find or did not bother to look for them -- I can't remember which. For whatever reason, PowerPoint's interface didn't exactly encourage me to play around. A feature I can't find isn't worth anything to me. With Keynote, on the other hand, I was able to find just about everything in short enough order (though it took me a while to figure out how to edit master slides).

The other question is whether I need the feature. How many Word users actually make use the Track Changes feature -- especially if they're not in a corporate environment? Now, self-running presentations is a feature that I could see a use for, but I haven't actually needed it so far in my presentations. I suspect that while veteran PowerPoint users -- if such a species exists -- may miss certain features, I suspect that most of us, who need to throw a presentation together once in a while and who aren't masters of the form, will not.

Of course, I could also see a use for scripting Keynote, and I was also surprised to see that Keynote does not have AppleScript support. In fact, Sony Ericsson Clicker (see previous entries: 1, 2), which uses AppleScript to control applications (rather than mapping keystrokes like the Keyspan Digital Media Remote), requires that you install GUI Scripting before you can control Keynote with a mobile phone. (More on GUI Scripting.)

So I can see quite a bit of room for improvement for the next version of Keynote: self-running presentations with timings, AppleScript support -- and a better clipart gallery than what came with version 1.0.

Even so, in my experience, Keynote is not only easy to use -- it absolutely clobbers PowerPoint in that category -- it's actually fun: you actually look forward to using it, and even try to find excuses to make presentations. Which means that the OARA is going to get really sick of it before long. . . .

(See my previous entry about Keynote.)

Clint Eastwood, snake keeper [ 1:49 PM ]

From a profile of Clint Eastwood in this week's New Yorker:

"He's been this way all his life," Ruth Eastwood [his mother] said. "One time, he had thirteen snakes. When he was four, we discovered he was allergic to dogs and cats, so he collected snakes. I guess he's kind of a supernatural person.

I wonder which ones.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Fred and Barney light up [ 10:35 AM ]

Fred and Barney light up: TV cigarette ads from the 1950s and '60s include the Flintstones lighting up and John Wayne touting the Camels that would later kill him. (via Boing Boing)

The International [ 7:47 AM ]

The International, the joint Amtrak-Via train between Chicago and Toronto, may be killed unless Michigan increases its subsidy, but Michigan is expecting something from Amtrak in return.

Crazy Apple Rumors makes it to the bigs [ 7:20 AM ]

The brilliant Crazy Apple Rumors story about Bush demanding a recount in Gore's election to the Apple Board of Directors has made it to the Hot News page of Apple's site (MacMinute coverage), causing Moltz to respond in a peripatetic manner (similar to what happened to me when I made Crazy Apple Rumors). Congrats, guy.

Apple's Canadian prices [ 7:14 AM ]

This complaint that Apple charges Canadians too much for their Macs, with accompanying documentation, doesn't take into account Apple's past practice of not dinking too much with their prices. As I noted in a recent Slashdot post, Apple doesn't revise prices until they revise their products or their US prices; otherwise, their prices would bob up and down with every currency fluctuation. For example, the 5 GB iPod (US$399) was initially introduced at C$599 in November 2001 and stayed there until its price was reduced to US$299; when the price of the 10 GB iPod was reduced to the US$399 point in July 2002, its price in Canada was C$629 -- the price increase reflected the decline in value of the Canadian dollar in the meantime. The Canadian prices of the items Harrison complains about will probably be adjusted on their next revision if the Canadian dollar continues to strengthen. But Harrison should consider that what he argues cuts both ways: if the Canadian dollar drops, does he want Apple to apply price hikes instantly?

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Translating Ast�rix [ 5:41 PM ]

The Ast�rix series is rife with cultural gags, puns, wordplay and regional accents in the original French that would be very difficult to translate, I thought to myself when reading it (in French). The English translations I browsed seemed to miss half the fun. One of the English translators, Anthea Bell, discusses these problems and explains the solutions she arrived at. Interesting stuff. On a related note, I once read Le Gal�re d'Ob�lix in German, which substituted a bunch of silly, mostly regional German jokes (sometimes not an oxymoron). (via languagehat)

Bluetooth troubleshooting [ 4:26 PM ]

Note for future reference: if Bluetooth on Mac OS X isn't functioning properly (e.g., Address Book can't hook up with the phone, System Preferences crashes when you try to access the Bluetooth pane), yank the Bluetooth adapter out and plug it back in. That worked just now. (Wonder what happens when it's built in?)

Ottawa Citizen eliminates local arts coverage [ 8:37 AM ]

The corporate shittification of the Citizen continues, as it lays off its local art reporters.

Shuttle data recorder [ 7:36 AM ]

Columbia's flight data recorder has been found. (via Instapundit)

iPod software update reportedly fixes low-battery errors [ 7:23 AM ]

Consistent with Apple's tendency not to admit bugs or errors until they have a fix for them (see previous entry), iPod Software Updater 1.2.6 was released last night; it reportedly fixes the problem of dwindling battery life that has been reported by iPod owners in recent months (see previous entries: 1, 2). Here's what happened: the iPods were reading a temporary low charge as an empty battery, and shut down prematurely. Apple claims that this fix should restore expected battery life -- particularly in terms of standby time. Apple says I should expect 10 days of standby time; I've been getting substantially less than that recently. Will keep you posted if the update doesn't perform as expected. (via MacMinute)

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation [ 9:59 PM ]

The Gettysburg Address as PowerPoint presentation. (via Brian)

Al Gore and Apple [ 9:58 PM ]

Al Gore has been named to Apple's Board of Directors, and I have to say I'm rather disgusted by the juvenile and overly partisan comments about it on various Apple discussion boards. It's just a seat on a corporate board, people. Grow. The fuck. Up.

iRaq [ 3:08 PM ]

This has got to be the strangest attempt at mixing Macs and current events that I have ever seen. It's also totally stupid -- war with Iraq means an opportunity for Apple Stores in Baghdad? -- but we'll leave that for another day.

MWJ on iMovie [ 9:00 AM ]

The latest issue of MWJ has an in-depth look at iMovie 3; it suggests that its reported bugs and performance issues are likely to due to the application having been completely rewritten in Cocoa (complete rewrites will invariably introduce new bugs), and its vaunted direct export to iDVD 3 is simply an Applescript that takes advantage of the QuickTime file format. If you can spare the money for it, MWJ is worth reading.

More on Speaker vs. Tories [ 8:37 AM ]

No sign of backing down on either side: the Premier accuses the Speaker of partiality; the Speaker gets the backing of retired House of Commons clerk Bob Marleau, both Opposition parties, the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Toronto Star. And don't miss Michael Bliss's denunciation in the National Post.

.Mac address book sync issues [ 8:25 AM ]

My online address book on .Mac is not syncing properly with iSync and my computer's Address Book. New data is synced properly, but changes and deletions are not incorporated. Under these circumstances, Apple suggests uninstalling and reinstalling iSync (more documentation through .Mac if you're a subscriber).

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Bug publishing iCal calendars on .Mac [ 1:38 PM ]

There seems to be a bug with publishing iCal calendars on .Mac. I've got two calendars published there; lately, When I publish something that starts, say, at 1:30 PM, it appears on the web version as 3:30 PM -- two hours out of whack. Others on the .Mac discussion boards are getting different results: five hours out, one hour out. As far as I can tell, this has happened only within the last couple of weeks. I haven't been able to see whether this is also the case with subscriptions, or whether this is a bug specific to web publishing, but the latter is my suspicion. (They've also revamped the web template for calendars, which might be connected.) I do think it's probably a server bug rather than something client-side; it doesn't appear on iCal proper or any of my synced devices. Hopefully something easy to fix.

Master of Orion III's release schedule [ 1:03 PM ]

There is a problem with Master of Orion III shipping only a few weeks after the Windows version. If it ships at the same time as the Windows version, it benefits from the buzz generated by that version (� la Warcraft III). If it ships months after the Windows version (as is too often the case), the game developers will at least get a sense of how popular the game will be: an insanely successful game on the Windows side will be worth porting; but if the Windows version bombs, at least you know in advance not to commit resources to a port. The problem with a delay of a few weeks is that word gets around from the early adopters, who, in this case, are giving MOO 3 mixed reviews at best. (My relatives continue to investigate.) Just enough time, in other words, to kill sales of the Mac port, but not enough time to do anything about it.

More on the Eves budget controversy [ 12:39 PM ]

The controversy of the Ontario government tabling its budget on television, rather than in the Legislature, refuses to die: the Speaker has hired an expert to examine whether the Eves government's move violates constitutional conventions. Meanwhile, the NDP and the Taxpayers Federation are on the same page, and the Globe and Mail's Murray Campbell wonders whatever happened to Eves's purported managerial competence. (see previous entry)

Liechtenstein [ 8:43 AM ]

Whither Liechtenstein? Apparently, it's a return to the ancien r�gime . . .

Tony Judt [ 8:30 AM ]

Tony Judt, ostensibly reviewing a book, effectively demolishes the U.S. war party's Europhobic myths (Old Europe vs. new Europe, Europe's purportedly higher levels of anti-Semitism), which -- surprise surprise -- are fundamentally uninformed. Tony, as a historian of modern Europe and an effective critic of the postwar intelligentsia, knows whereof he speaks, unlike the Republican war philosophers. (via MetaFilter)

Next year in Birobidzhan [ 8:08 AM ]

Whenever I was looking at a map of the Soviet Union, I would often notice a small territory, on the Manchurian border, labelled "Jewish Autonomous Region." I always wondered what that was about, though none of my readings on twentieth-century Russian history revealed it. But it does have a history. Learn more about the history of the Jewish Autonomous Region: Stalin's Forgotten Zion. (via MetaFilter)

More on Moore / Bluetooth adapter arrives [ 7:44 AM ]

Damien Barrett and John Moltz weigh in on the latest off-topic Moore emission, as does Crazy Apple Rumors. I was planning to work on an article-length response last night, but my Bluetooth adapter showed up. So I was busy playing with my phone all night instead. Priorities, you know.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Pierre Igot takes on Charles Moore [ 11:45 AM ]

Bravo! Pierre Igot takes on Charles Moore for his Applelust editorial last Friday (see previous entry), objecting both to Moore presuming to speak on Canadians' behalf and to publishing a political screed on a Mac site (via Pierre's Betalogue). From private e-mail over the past few months, I've discovered that I'm far from the only one who has a problem with the notion of using Mac sites' audience to advance a political agenda; it seems that most of us thought we were the only ones who felt that way. You'll probably hear from me at length on this subject shortly; the responses to Igot from Moore and Applelust editor David Schultz will require something, I think. I'm already working on something. In the meantime, I shudder to think what Moltz will come up with about this.

I wish I knew Applescript [ 10:16 AM ]

The more I use a Mac, the more I find that Applescript would make my life easier. Problem is, despite its purported ease of use, I've yet to find an introductory tutorial, and I'm feeling just a wee bit intimidated. I'd really like to learn it, though, because I can think of all sorts of uses for it.

For example, I'd like to come up with a script that does the following whenever I receive an issue of MWJ in my inbox:

  • Copy the attached .sit file to my MWJ directory (~/Documents/MWJ);
  • Unstuff it; and
  • Open whatever was unstuffed (a PDF file with the same name, less the suffix) in Acrobat Reader.

Since Mail is scriptable, and you can set its rules to run an Applescript under certain circumstances (like receiving e-mail from MacJournals), this is eminently doable. I just wish I knew how.

Whyte Avenue fire [ 9:17 AM ]

A fire destroyed several businesses in my old stomping grounds along Whyte Avenue in Edmonton last Thursday night. Florence grumbles that Whyte Avenue is the only interesting place in the entire city -- we lived and spent most of our spare time in the area -- so it figures that a good chunk of it would go up in smoke. I'd have to agree with her. One business that was destroyed was an exotic pet store called Scales and Tails, which I've never seen, since I got back into reptiles after I moved to Ottawa, but whose loss is nevertheless being mourned.

New toys [ 9:00 AM ]

Computer upgrades over the weekend:

My iBook now has 640 MB of RAM (installed it myself; it wasn't difficult), which seems to make a difference. Mac OS X does make use of it if it's there. I expected faster load times (particularly after quitting the application earlier) and less disk access, but I also seem to be getting better battery life as a result of less-frequent disk caching of the RAM. This means my old 256 MB stick of SO-DIMM PC100 SDRAM is for sale; I'm entertaining offers . . .

I now have a scanner: an Epson Perfection 1260 Photo. (The "Photo" in the name indicates a slide adapter, which I don't need because I have a better one for my Nikon Coolpix 995, but it was there.) Its most important feature, aside from being the least inexpensive Epson scanner at the store (I don't need higher resolutions than its 1200 dpi, really), is its OS X compatibility. Epson scanners seem to be the best in that respect. Updated TWAIN drivers are available for download from Epson's web site. I tested the scanner yesterday morning with Image Capture and it worked quite well; a 300 dpi scan captured an image at very good quality, better than I've encountered with my previous scanners.

Since my Bluetooth adapter, which has yet to arrive, will take up one of my iBook's two USB ports, I've also picked up a USB hub that doesn't crash the computer while it's asleep. An earlier, cheaper hub caused the only kernel panics I've ever experienced on OS X. It's a four-port hub from Asante, and so far it works as it should.

(While I was at B. Mac, picking up all this stuff, I got a chance to examine a 12" PowerBook. Yowza, that's some nice case material. So small! I went halfway to pairing it with my cellphone via Bluetooth in front of a fascinated sales rep -- at least I know the Bluetooth on my phone actually works.)

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Moore writing about something other than Macs on a Mac site -- again [ 12:23 PM ]

Pardon my FrenchFreedom, but what the fuck does this have to do with computers? Not satisfied with ruining the content on Low End Mac with his rabid, possibly intolerant and certainly off-topic ravings (see previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4), Charles W. Moore has an editorial about Carolyn Parrish's dumb "American bastards" comment (see previous entry) up on Applelust. I'm going to say this again and again: publishing non-Mac content on Mac sites dilutes the value of those sites. Whatever Low End Mac's got, it's infectious. Can't Moore find somewhere on-topic to publish his stuff, or is Free Republic all full-up? If nothing else, this man needs a warblog.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Speaker vs. Government [ 7:04 PM ]

It's highly irregular for a Speaker of the Legislature to call on government backbenchers to vote against the budget, but no less irregular than the government presenting said budget outside the House. For those of us who take parliamentary procedure seriously, that's extraordinarily improper and antiparliamentary -- if not antidemocratic. Reminds me somewhat of the "democratic" government-by-referendum of Napoleon III: manipulative direct appeals to the populace instead of through representative institutions. (French historians would not consider that a flattering comparison!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Using Sony Ericsson phone as GPRS modem over Bluetooth [ 11:36 AM ]

These instructions on how to use a Sony Ericsson T68i as a GPRS modem with AT&T Wireless in the U.S. will probably be applicable to using my Ericsson T39m with Rogers AT&T in Canada (via Mac OS X Hints). The trick is getting GPRS working on my phone; why on earth does it say "GPRS not allowed" when I've ponied up for a data plan?

So much for the four-day work week [ 10:05 AM ]

Then again, maybe not: the PQ steps back from its four-day work week proposal. (see previous entry)

Ticketing bullies [ 9:58 AM ]

Giving schoolyard bullies a ticket, as the City of Edmonton plans to do with its by-law prohibiting bullying people under 18 in a public place, isn't the answer. Apart from the fact that the City may or may not have the authority to make such a law (municipalities' powers are strictly limited by provincial legislation), and the likelihood that police are not likely to take enforcement seriously, stopping bullying will only work if the institution with a fiduciary duty to the kids takes responsibility for stamping it out -- viz., the school. Granted, schools are doing a better job now than when I was going through the system, when I was told to "ignore them" when confronted with a dozen or more tormentors, but I still don't think they're taking the problem as seriously as they should. Maybe if they were to lose a few lawsuits launched by victims, even adults years after the fact who still deal with the emotional scarring that occurred, they might wise up. But giving bullies -- I hate the word, it doesn't convey enough nastiness -- a ticket? Please.

Complaining about the ports on the 12" PowerBook [ 9:01 AM ]

Rob McNair-Huff doesn't like the fact that the ports on the 12" PowerBook G4 are on the left-hand side. He objects on aesthetic grounds: unlike his old PowerBook G3, with its ports on the back, "[w]ith this machine I have to look at the mess. Aesthetically, this is a bad move. Functionally, it works." (Surely we aren't seriously going to argue for the primacy of form over function?) He goes on to say:

One other thing that having all of the ports on the left side of the machine eliminates is the possibility of a third-party developer coming up with a docking station of some kind for this machine.

I have two things to say about that.

  1. The port arrangement on the 12" PowerBook is almost identical to the current version of the iBook, which has been around for nearly two years.
  2. The iBook's port arrangement would never support a docking station. Oh, no.

(via MyAppleMenu)

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Word styles [ 11:21 AM ]

Pierre has a point: Microsoft should have been making it easier for Word users to make proper use of styles, rather than messing with additional features and altering file formats to break forward compatibility. It's just as easy for styles to bollix up a document in Word 2000, XP or v. X as it was in Word 2.0 (where I spent my M.A. and the latter half of my B.A.) or Word 97 (where I spent my ill-fated Ph.D.) -- if not easier, now that the application keeps trying to predict what you want to do.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Time limit on coming-into-force provisions [ 1:15 PM ]

Senator Tommy Banks is proposing a ten-year deadline for bringing an Act, or a provision of an Act, into force. As it stands, once federal government legislation receives Royal Assent, it's still not in force unless it's explicitly brought into force. In some cases the coming-into-force date is specified in the Act itself, but in most cases, discretion is explicitly given to the Governor in Council (i.e., the cabinet) to bring the Act into force at whatever time they choose. What applies to Acts can also apply to portions of Acts: at my job at the Department of Justice, our office master copies would have pages of provisions -- sections, subsections, paragraphs -- that had not yet been brought into force, even if the provisions were passed a decade ago or more; keeping track of what provisions had or had not been brought into force was a major undertaking. I'm not sure whether Sen. Banks's solution is the right one, but what he describes as a problem certainly exists. The missing piece is the reason for which these Acts and provisions were left in limbo; I don't have the answer to that, but I presume that there must be a reason in most cases.

New Sony handheld [ 10:16 AM ]

Brighthand has a review of the Sony Clié PEG-TG50, which has just been announced for the U.S. market (see previous entry). It has some interesting features, including Palm OS 5, built-in Bluetooth, an integrated thumbboard, and better battery life than Sony's other OS 5 handhelds, but still has some of the quirks that plague other Sonys. (The buttons, people, the buttons!)

More Sony Ericsson phone news [ 8:14 AM ]

More on the new Sony Ericsson CDMA phones, including the first Bluetooth CDMA phone (see previous entry); whether a carrier offers them will depend on the application platform the carrier has standardized on (via Mobitopia). Meanwhile, unlocked Sony Ericsson P800 smartphones are starting to turn up on this continent -- Todd at the Wireless Zone, where I bought the Rogers AT&T phones, said a customer had brought one in the other day -- but you'll have to pay US$1,000 to get one.

Ottawa light rail [ 7:19 AM ]

Progress on the Ottawa light-rail front: the City proposes a north-south electrified line running from south of Ottawa Airport to the current Bayview station, then east to downtown along Queen or Sparks. The catch? Federal funding for it is up in the air. Here's hoping.

Wetas [ 7:16 AM ]

My father spent a month in New Zealand; last night, I quizzed him about what he saw, including unique wildlife like wetas. He's not sure, but he thinks he saw cave wetas. No tuataras munching thereon, though.

Ragdoll cats [ 7:15 AM ]

Ragdoll cats have interesting personalities, a devoted following, and a very, very strange creation myth. (Update 3/11: posted to MetaFilter)

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Emotional trauma and autoimmune disease [ 9:21 PM ]

This article about the links between emotional trauma and autoimmune illnesses is profoundly relevant to my own experience, though I will not go into the details of that here. Suffice it to say that I can certainly see the connection, even if my experiences were dissimilar to the example given by Maté (no one ever accused me of repressing my emotions).

Rottweilers and pit bulls; it's like that with snakes, too [ 7:39 PM ]

Are rottweilers and pit bulls the problem, or is the problem the people who want to own them? "'It's sad that people make such poor choices with dogs,' [Shelagh MacDonald, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Humane Society] said. 'They don't put the work in and then end up with a dog like that. Why isn't gentle and friendly at the top of everyone's wish list for a dog, especially when you have children?'" It's like that with snakes, too, I'm afraid: there is a certain element who wants dangerous, and go out of their way to get bush or gaboon vipers; likewise, there is another element who wants big, and gets Burmese or reticulated pythons. On a more benign level, there is considerable demand for snakes that are beautiful even if they are not friendly: emerald tree boas come to mind. While gentle snakes that are beautiful (corn snakes) or impressive (bullsnakes) are popular, the snakes that are underrated are those that are not flashy but extraordinarily gentle: Baird's rat snakes, glossy snakes, etc. Pity.

Hillbillies and American culture [ 10:15 AM ]

It's ostensibly about Hollywood exploiting Appalachian people (and rural people in general) as popular entertainment, in a look-at-the-rubes sort of way, but the interesting meat of this story is a look at how culturally connected eastern Kentucky actually is, and what so-called hillbilly country looks like nowadays.

Badly built British books [ 10:01 AM ]

Badly built British books: Slate's Christopher Caldwell on British publishers' habit of putting out expensive hardcovers with glued (rather than sewn) bindings and non-acid-free paper, which makes even quality hardcovers start to fall apart after a few years. (Update 3/10: posted to MetaFilter)

Friday, March 07, 2003

Warped PowerBooks [ 11:18 PM ]

Damien reports that 12" PowerBooks have a design flaw: excess heat from the CPU and hard drive warps the case so badly that the slot-loading optical drive cannot eject CDs properly. Ouch. Even worse, there are reports that Apple doesn't want to cover the cost of repairs. (Am I still the Apple apologist, Geoff?)

Bluetooth adapter delayed AGAIN (Update: It's been shipped!) [ 10:41 PM ]

The Apple Store has delayed shipping on the Bluetooth adapter for a third time; they now say (ha!) that it will ship on or before Wednesday the 12th. The problem is that they don't allow their resellers to sell the Bluetooth adapter, and USB Bluetooth dongles aren't exactly easy to come by, so it's a little hard for me to take my business elsewhere. Don't they realize how bad it makes them look to delay something three times? If it's going to take forever to ship it, say so at the outset, you fuckwits. Saying that it will ship in one to two days and then taking two weeks (or more!) just raises false hopes again, and again, and again. (see previous entry)

Update 3/8 7:46 AM: "Please note that product availability can change rapidly, and it is possible that your order may ship much sooner than we anticipate. You may even receive a shipment confirmation between the time we send this email and the time that you read it." Indeed: I woke up this morning to another e-mail saying that the adapter has in fact been shipped! What a system.

Tax law and statutory interpretation [ 11:14 AM ]

One of the most important things I took away from my two-day statutory interpretation course last June was that it was not enough to simply read a statute (a law, a regulation) at face value: how statutes are interpreted, especially in terms of provisions that may or may not be ambiguous on their face, has a mountain of case law behind it. It was quite fascinating and, well, quite beyond me in the details -- I am, after all, not a lawyer. But I thought of that course when I read that the Supreme Court has read a six-year limit on collecting back taxes into the Income Tax Act, on the basis that such limitations generally exist in most statutes.

Introversion in the workplace [ 11:07 AM ]

More on introversion (see previous entry): this Globe and Mail review of a book about being an introvert in the workplace: "The workplace can be filled with many pitfalls for introverts and often requires skills outside of their comfort zones. They are also not valued for their contributions, which get overlooked because introverts lack the glibness, glitz, hustle, and effortless socializing that is prized." (via Richard)

This says a lot about my own experience in the public service, where reservedness (or, in my case, being in too much goddamn pain to play the social butterfly) is interpreted as hostility. The tips in the article match, to a T, the advice I was given to smooth things over in the workplace. It's all bollocks, of course: a hyper-extroverted work environment doesn't value good work as much as it does good company.

Sony handheld news in a nutshell [ 9:13 AM ]

Recent news about Sony's Palm OS handhelds:

Sony's new Clie PEG-SJ22 handheld is, by all accounts, little more than a rebranded SJ30; the new SJ33 adds the hardware of the T655 to the SJ case and price point (Brighthand, Palm Infocenter); both the SJ22 and SJ33 have better buttons than the now-discontinued T series; and the TG50, a thumbboard-based OS 5 handheld with built-in Bluetooth that does not use the NR/NX/NZ-series clamshell design, has been released in Japan (InfoSync World, Palm Infocenter).

Sony's chairman likes the Palm OS so much he'd like to buy the company (Brighthand, MacMinute, Palm Infocenter).

Users of Clies running Palm OS 4 (S, SL, SJ, N, NR and T series) should be aware that they will not be able to use the new, higher-capacity Memory Stick Pro cards, which limits the maximum capacity to 128 MB or so -- which limits the usefulness of the built-in MP3 players on the N series, NR series, SJ33 and T655 handhelds, I think.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

How to extend your iPod's battery life [ 5:13 PM ]

Tips on prolonging the battery life of your iPod include switching off the alarm, keeping it at room temperature and avoiding hard-drive access (via MacMinute). Will that address the reports of dwindling iPod battery life? (see previous entry)

Hyatt on tabbed browsing [ 5:07 PM ]

Safari's Dave Hyatt has written a long entry on implementing tabbed browsing and the UI decisions behind it. Interesting reading for those following the browser wars (especially the campaign to get tabs into Safari).

Mobitopia likes Bluetooth on the PowerBook [ 4:46 PM ]

Mobitopia's Russell Beattie plays with a 12" PowerBook G4 at a store, notices its built-in Bluetooth, and proceeds to pair his Nokia 7650 with the computer and have some Bluetooth fun. Note that he accomplishes all this with a Bluetooth phone that isn't compatible with iSync.

Stalin killed to prevent nuclear war? [ 1:59 PM ]

Was Stalin assassinated to prevent him from launching a nuclear attack on the United States? "'The circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of non-fortuitous death,' said Jonathan Brent, a professor of Russian history at Yale University. 'And to support this further, we now have solid evidence, non-circumstantial evidence, of a cover-up at the highest level.'" (posted to MetaFilter)

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The New York Times on Maine's laptop program [ 7:46 PM ]

This New York Times article on Maine's laptop program, and the positive feedback it's generating, is all over the web, Mac and otherwise, today. (see previous entries: 1, 2)

Bluetooth adapter delays [ 7:24 PM ]

Groan. Apple has delayed shipping on the Bluetooth adapter again (see previous entry). While this isn't a total surprise, since there were many reports of delays last summer for this very gadget, I'm surprised that these delays are still occurring and annoyed that I have to wait two weeks (or more!) between buying a Bluetooth phone and actually using Bluetooth. One more two-day delay and I will have to conclude that Apple's listed shipping times (the adapter is still listed at 1-2 days) are deceptive.

Book review: Reptiles of the Northwest, by Alan St. John [ 12:25 PM ]

Reptiles of the Northwest, by Alan St. John. Lone Pine Publishing, 2002. Softcover, 272 pp. ISBN 1-55105-349-7

This is a marvellously well-done little book whose only fault, if any, is that it skimps a bit on information about the animals themselves; facts about their diet, reproduction and behaviour are condensed into a paragraph each. Instead, we have a field guide worthy of the name, that tells you where and how to find them, and how to identify them, and provides very good subspecies data (a rare thing nowadays), excellent range maps, and beautiful photography. Most enjoyable are the field notes at the end of each species description, in which the author tells a story about finding the animal in question in the wild (often so that it could be photographed for this book). This feature alone makes this book one of the most unique field guides I have encountered in years, and reminds us that a field guide is essentially about encountering and interacting with animals in the field -- and this point is ably illustrated by the often-funny photos of snakes dangling off people's ears or lizards biting their hands.

Universities too focused on research at the expense of teaching? [ 8:54 AM ]

If the problem for undergraduate students is that universities are, by and large, "so preoccupied by research that they place undergraduate education way down the list of priorities," the answer is to attend a smaller university, one without an extensive graduate program (and concomitant assistants and research programs), where there is a greater emphasis on educating undergraduates. Though, according to at least one report I've received, doing that in the U.S. would be dodgy, the faculty at smaller Canadian schools can be quite good, as anyone who attended the University of Winnipeg (like me) can attest.

Sharing an Internet connection via Bluetooth [ 7:58 AM ]

TechnoHappyMeal has a couple of methods on how to enable Internet sharing over Bluetooth, so that you can surf the Internet on a Bluetooth-equipped handheld like the Palm Tungsten T, using your computer's Internet connection. One mostly uses the command line; the other automates the process with AppleScripts. Apparently the method provided by Mac OS X Hints doesn't quite work. They're rather big on Bluetooth over at TechnoHappyMeal. (via Studio Log)

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Landlord likes snakes [ 10:50 PM ]

So this morning the manager of this fine building asked Jen about all the cages he saw us bringing in when I moved my stuff in. When a manager or landlord asks this kind of question, herpers get nervous: we usually think that it will be followed up with a demand to get those damn snakes out within the next 24 hours or else. But it turns out that he's a nature freak and a former iguana owner, and he was simply dying of curiousity (and wants a tour of the collection). I've yet to run into any sort of landlord trouble myself; though I've heard of people running into problems, many landlords, it seems, don't know, don't care or are dead keen on it themselves. Sometimes times change for the better.

rsync [ 2:55 PM ]

I've wondered whether there was a way to work on web pages locally, but upload any changes automatically on a regular basis. Think in terms of web site synchronization: instead of working on the pages directly on the server, work on a local mirror of the site on your own computer, and sync up any changes you make at the push of a button. As it turns out, a command-line utility, rsync, has been installed on my computer all along. Must investigate, though it looks complicated in the usual UNIX way.

Romeo for Sony Ericsson phones [ 2:50 PM ]

One more on things Sony Ericsson: Romeo, which, like Sony Ericsson Clicker (see previous entries: 1, 2), turns a Sony Ericsson Bluetooth phone into a remote, except that it's freeware (and in beta). (via Slashdot)

New Sony Ericsson phones [ 2:25 PM ]

It figures. The day after I buy an Ericsson T39m, Sony Ericsson announces five new phones, including the first Bluetooth CDMA phone (via Gizmodo). Slashdot discussion.

AppleScripts for Sony Ericsson Clicker [ 7:49 AM ]

You don't expect big companies to support little applications, but Apple -- yes, Apple -- has released several AppleScripts for the Sony Ericsson Clicker (via MacCentral; see previous entry). I have my Ericsson T39m, an iSync-compatible Bluetooth phone, which I bought yesterday (see previous entry); once the Bluetooth adapter arrives from Apple -- they report that shipping is delayed until tomorrow -- I'll buy the software, which now costs US$12.95. More on the new mobile phones anon.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Lehrer profiles [ 8:24 AM ]

Most recent profiles of Tom Lehrer note that he is (a) not dead, and (b) not doing comedy any more because he thinks it's hard to have a sense of humour about what's going on nowadays. Compare this Sydney Morning Herald profile, published yesterday (via MetaFilter), with this San Francisco Weekly profile, published nearly three years ago (via Ceej). See also this interview at The Onion AV Club.

Why iSMS? [ 7:54 AM ]

iSMS lets you forward your e-mail as text messages (SMS) to your cell phone, but, seeing as the SMS-enabled phones that I've encountered already have an e-mail gateway -- [tendigitnumber], for example -- this $10 piece of shareware seems unnecessary: just forward it to the cell phone's e-mail address. Unless I'm missing something here. (via Mr. Barrett)

Discussion list deleted [ 7:47 AM ]

The only ones interested in this weblog's discussion list were spammers intent on selling millions of e-mail addresses (which, thanks to the Mailman interface, required me to delete them rather than ignore them), so I've killed the list. So much for that little experiment.