Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Current reading [ 6:43 PM ]

Current reading: Isaac Asimov, It's Been a Good Life (review forthcoming); Jane Christmas, The Pelee Project: One Woman's Escape from Urban Madness (because it's set on Pelee Island); Ansen Dibell, Plot (for my ongoing self-education in fiction writing).

Monday, December 30, 2002

Ottawa camera stores [ 9:57 AM ]

John Lee lists and rates the camera stores along Bank Street. There are a lot of them. (via Manifesto Multilinko)

Fire alarm [ 9:55 AM ]

Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like a fire alarm going off at 4:15 am. It's at times like that where you actually consider whether the additional sleep would be worth being burned to a crisp. Incidentally, no one evacuates when the fire bell goes off. This is foolhardy but true: think about car alarms, where false alarms outweigh the real thing by just too much for anyone to take them seriously any more. It rang for twenty minutes and then we all went back to sleep.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Ast�rix et Ob�lix [ 6:16 PM ]

Ast�rix et Ob�lix: Mission Cl�opatre misses some of the manic energy, characters and actors from the first live-action Ast�rix movie � the actors who play Panoramix and Caesar have been replaced, and the village des irr�ductibles gaulois is barely present � but it's silly, and fun, with lots of the usual sly humour you expect after the first movie (and the books, for that matter). Watching it in French, subtitle-free, was a bit of a challenge for me, especially when Jamel Debbouze (whom I last saw in Am�lie) is on the scene.

Apple II emulators for OS X revisited [ 6:01 PM ]

As it turns out, OSXII (see previous entry) doesn't need quite as much horsepower as the VersionTracker page intimated (it must have been an error, or an earlier version). It runs on my iBook (G3, 600 MHz), but it's not quick: text scrolling in particular is slow. Its UI and disk-image interface are infinitely better, however, than KEGS (see previous entry), which requires editing a preferences file in order to boot different disk images. I'll try to keep tabs on both of these Cocoa/OS X Apple II emulators as they are developed.

Note to Gizmodo: read the comments [ 5:51 PM ]

Blog posts are viral: what someone posts in their blog can be reposted all over the place. The problem is, what happens if the initial post turns out to be not entirely correct? Do corrections and clarifications proliferate at the same rate as the original post? Case in point: iPodHacks had a story about the iPod's apparently dwindling battery life and Apple's apparent indifference to it, and Boing Boing picked it up. But the comments in both the iPodHacks and Boing Boing entries contradict that story, or at least offer alternative explanations: the dwindling battery life may be traced to problems with the iPod 1.2 firmware (since corrected with version 1.2.1) or with additional features, such as the alarm, which it's recommended you switch off, or the clock. (I've noticed a drop-off in battery life since the 1.2 firmware update, myself, but I've assumed it was the firmware rather than a failing lithium-polymer battery.) Now, I don't know which explanation is correct, but I appreciate that there's a debate about the source of the problem. If nothing else, Gizmodo should have at least considered the alternative explanations from the comments instead of just posting an entry that only takes into account the original posts (and it was posted after some of the relevant comments were made).

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Digital radio in Canada [ 11:01 AM ]

Digital radio in Canada is having some growing pains, to say the least: it's an interesting concept, but receivers are expensive and there are few stations. It will take a while before the network effect will kick in.

Warren Kinsella, blogger [ 8:20 AM ]

And if future PM PM isn't enough for you, how about a blog by so-called Prince of Darkness Warren Kinsella? Warren actually sent me a note about this blog way back when, after I wrote a little bit about his book over a year ago. (via The Weisblogg)

Paul Martin, blogger [ 8:11 AM ]

"To be honest, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know what the hell a blog was — I joked that I thought it was something that might climb out of a swamp." Paul Martin, MP, explains why he has a blog. (via D)

Friday, December 27, 2002

Peter Jackson on Faramir and Shelob [ 12:57 PM ]

Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens discuss some of the changes they made to the film version of The Two Towers.

On the changes to Faramir's character:

We wanted the episode with Faramir in this particular film to have a certain degree of tension. Frodo and Sam were captured. Their journey had become more complicated by the fact that they are prisoners. Which they are in the book for a brief period of time. But then, very quickly in the book, Tolkien sort of backs away from there and, as you say, he reveals Faramir to be very pure. At one point, Faramir says, "Look, I wouldn't even touch the ring if I saw it lying on the side of the road."
For us, as filmmakers, that sort of thing creates a bit of a problem because we've spent a lot of time in the last film and in this one to establish this ring as incredibly powerful. Then to suddenly come to a character that says, "Oh, I'm not interested in that," to suddenly go against everything that we've established ourselves is sort of going against our own rules. We certainly acknowledge that Faramir should not do what Boromir did and that he ultimately has the strength to say, "No, you go on your way and I understand." We wanted to make it slightly harder, to have a little more tension than there was in the book.

And, explaining the absence of Shelob from the film:

Frodo and Sam and Gollum's story, we felt, was the psychological story of this film. Aragon and the whole Helm's Deep story and the saving of the people of Rohan story was like the action story. We didn't really want to have the action story, the Helm's Deep climax, at the same as having Frodo and Sam start their own action story by fighting a giant spider. We just felt that would be too much. So we wanted to keep them strictly as the psychological characters. That was the reasoning, really. And we've got a great spider scene for the third film.

(via TheOneRing.net)

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Another Apple IIgs emulator for OS X [ 11:02 AM ]

Lots of Apple II emulators (and ROMs) linked at emulation.net — one of which, KEGS, is an OS X-native Apple IIgs emulator that was originally developed for HP-UX (!) and has since been ported to Cocoa. (see previous entry)

Are home theatres in a box inexpensive, or merely cheap? [ 10:42 AM ]

Slate asks whether home theatres in a box are any good. The verdict is basically no: you can get better results by building a home theatre system from components, but you'll pay more to do it. But the author finds a few HTiBs that do surprisingly well for the price. (see previous entry)

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Crikey! [ 12:54 PM ]

Don't bother with Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course; Jen and I rented it Friday night, expecting a bit of silliness. The movie turned out to be surprisingly ponderous � scripting things killed the doco spontaneity of the TV program � and the acting and production values were rather poor. Not sure why the screen kept switching between 16:9 (for the Irwins) and 2.35:1 (for everything else) either. As is too often the case with unfunny funny movies, the best bits are all in the trailer. Sometimes two-minute trailers imply a funnier movie than it's possible to make (which is sort of a Borgesian way of looking about this � not that it makes any sense to bring Borges into a discussion of Steve Irwin, but there you have it).

G4 required for Apple II emulator? [ 12:46 PM ]

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with the notion of an Apple II emulator for Mac OS X (VersionTracker) that supposedly requires a minimum of a 450-MHz G4 processor (the Apple II had a 1.02-MHz 8-bit 6502 processor) and that, according to one VersionTracker reviewer, is "slow" on his 550-MHz TiBook? (But see this caveat about VersionTracker reviews.) Oh well, it's an alpha. Optimize, optimize, optimize. (via Boing Boing)

Saturday, December 21, 2002

The McWetlog's New Features [ 10:13 AM ]

I upgraded to Blogger Pro yesterday, even though I've been muttering about moving to Movable Type for months. After trying Movable Type on the OARA home page, I decided it just wasn't for me: it requires a lot of configuration and fiddling, and didn't match well with my pre-existing template design tendencies. I don't have big blocks of time to work on site design � change tends to be incremental around here � so I just wanted to post entries and be done with it. Blogger Pro has most of the extra features I wanted (except categories and comments), it's very similar to the free version, and everything is quick and works well, so far.

Upgrading to Blogger Pro now allows me to offer an RSS feed for use in news aggregators like NetNewsWire Lite. I thought I should mention some of the other ways you can enjoy � presumably � this weblog, not all of which are related to the Blogger Pro Upgrade.

  • A stripped-down mobile version is available. AvantGo users can add this as a custom channel, and those with wireless gadgets like the Danger Hiptop (AKA T-Mobile Sidekick), wireless Palms, Pocket PCs and smartphones can use it as well. It can also be used as a low-bandwidth version for people on slow dial-up or who have text-based browsers. I doubt, given my verbosity, that surfing on a mobile phone would be a good idea, and bear in mind that if you're using GPRS on anything but a Hiptop/Sidekick, you're facing per-kilobyte bandwidth charges. Since AvantGo does not have OS X support, I haven't used it in months; I'd be very interested to hear from mobile users how this page looks on their devices.
  • The RSS feed mentioned above can be used in (at least) two ways:
    • in a news aggregator like NetNewsWire Lite, which runs on OS X (my condolences if you do not use OS X); or
    • you can use Bloglet to subscribe to the RSS feed via e-mail.
  • If you're really, really interested in this weblog (in which case I have to wonder), you can join the mcwetlog-discuss discussion list and argue back and forth about my posts with . . . well, the other guy who's subscribed to it.

That should keep yis busy for a while.

The Two Towers [ 9:12 AM ]

I saw The Two Towers on opening night, but I've been too unwell to do a proper blog entry on it. Fortunately, Brian Tiemann, that Tolkien übergeek, has a detailed analysis of the film, so I can refer you to that for the bulk of it. I'd like to add a couple of things, though.

Visually correct in every way, though I thought the steep slope into Helm's Deep was gratuitous. Gollum was marvellous; the Black Gate was astonishing; Osgiliath — which has been abandoned for centuries — was an impressive if overdense ruin. Oliphaunts: frigging huge! (Compare one against the humans in the foreground. Now think how big a contemporary Elephas or Loxodonta is compared to a human. Pick your jaw up off the ground, and ignore the square-cube law.)

My father wasn't so sure about the way Faramir was handled in this movie, and I have to conclude that the character could have used some more polish. At the same time, I think Jackson made the right choice: it foreshadows the father/son tension between Faramir and Denethor, and it follows from the decision to make the Ring as much a temptation as it was supposed to be. Another failure of the books: Faramir, in The Two Towers, was much too capable of resisting the Ring. But the movie had a major plot gap: if Faramir wanted the Ring so much, why in hell didn't he just take it? Why'd he leave it on the hobbit?

Arachnophobia notwithstanding, I was really hoping to have the movie end with Shelob. The last line of the book —

Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.

— would have made a great cliffhanger. Could other items have been tightened up to accomodate it? Or is Jackson paring down The Return of the King so much — and there's a lot to cut, after the Ring is destroyed, but he'd better not get rid of "The Scouring of the Shire"! — that there's room?

But I told myself after the last film that these films have to be watched on their own terms: watching them with an eye on the books, as Harry Potter fans are wont to do, spoils the fun; accepting them as interpretations that must stand on their own feet is better. Does The Two Towers work? Oh yes, my precious.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Dial-up Revelations [ 9:03 PM ]

Meg, who, if you recall, spent last month in Paris (see previous entry), had to rely on slow and expensive dial-up Internet access during her stay. As a result, she shares several revelations about using dial-up that don't occur to you if you're used to broadband. For example, XML-based web services like NetNewsWire and Sherlock 3 are a godsend, because they minimize the fruitless surfing, banner ads and other extraneous downloading. (via megnut, appropriately enough)

Another Will Farrell Switch Ad [ 7:39 AM ]

Another Will Farrell switch parody, hidden in the bowels of Apple's site. In QuickTime. (via MacSlash)

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Virtual PC 6 [ 12:10 PM ]

Virtual PC 6 has been announced: it's not only supposed to be faster in OS X, but allows you to launch Windows apps, and even access the Windows Start Menu, directly from the Dock. That's just spooky. (via MacMinute)

Garmin's GPS Handheld [ 12:09 PM ]

Palm Infocenter says that GPS-maker Garmin will release a Palm OS 5 handheld with built-in GPS next month, which immediately gets my attention, though field-note software like the Stick-e suite, which accepts GPS coordinates, would be required, and that particular package is no longer being developed.

Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard [ 12:08 PM ]

How does the new Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard get so thin? By removing the number keys. If you ask me, that's impractically small; I hope they keep the regular-sized keyboard in production for those who want a bigger keyboard.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Canon's OS X Scanner Drivers [ 6:26 PM ]

Canon has released OS X drivers for its flatbed scanners. Now Epson isn't the only OS X game in town. (via MacMinute)

Red-bellied Snake [ 6:15 PM ]

Oh dear. On our advice, a gentleman turned in a Northern Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata), that he had caught six weeks ago (back when releasing it might actually have been possible), to Heather at her store, and now I've got it. Since red-bellied snakes are slug specialists, and some may not eat anything else, this could be a problem: you try finding slugs in winter! Not that there was much choice given the time of year. He'd apparently been offering it sowbugs, which I don't think red-bellies eat. With any luck, I will get it to eat earthworms. Because of these snakes' diet, few people keep them in captivity, but I have managed to find a couple of care pages online: one by Rick Milas and one by Kevin Stanford.

The snake itself is about eight to ten inches long and seems healthy. It was certainly lively when I transferred it into its new cage, what with its musking and lip-curling. (Red-bellied snakes don't bite, but they curl their lips when defensive. No, it doesn't make sense to me, either.) It's gray-phase, probably a male (if I had to guess; visually sexing this snake was not easy), and actually quite cute.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

[ 7:22 PM ]

Matt buys a new car: it gets exceptional mileage and has lots of room. Joel Davies compares cars to Macs and finds the most Mac-like car on the market. I think the gods are telling me what car to buy.

[ 7:15 PM ]

Does Microsoft Internet Explorer seem faster than other browsers because it uses a non-standard call when connecting via HTTP to a server running Microsoft IIS (instead of Apache)? Would Microsoft encode a cheat at both ends so that its own products talk to each other faster than they do with the competition? Would Microsoft do that?

[ 5:11 PM ]

I received SMS spam from these fine folks today, who want to scare you into buying a bit of quackery to protect you from "cellphone radiation" — since digital phones generate much less radiation than analog cellphones, and since only digital phones can use SMS messaging, this is fearmongering of the tinfoil-hat kind. I'm not impressed with the idea of SMS spam, nor am I impressed with the way the mobile phone company's customer service representative handled my inquiry, seeing as I pay for every incoming SMS message I read.

The more disturbing question is, how on earth did they get hold of my cellphone e-mail address?

Friday, December 13, 2002

[ 5:51 PM ]

Former Ottawa Citizen publisher Russell Mills has settled with his former employer, CanWest Global, whom he sued after Leonard Asper made disparaging comments about him after firing him as publisher. (see previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

[ 5:50 PM ]

Because I have a few ideas for video projects down the road, I was interested in finding out more about DVD duplication and replication (the two are not the same: duplication uses high-speed DVD burners; replication is pressing the disks). Mac Addict has a short piece in the January 2003 issue that explains the differences between the professional formats (DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10) and, interestingly, refers to CustomFlix as a means for first-time entrepreneurs (hi there) to produce DVDs with minimal outlay. The cost per unit is steep, but the up-front charges are comparatively negligible. Unfortunately, they ship (and pay) only within the U.S., which eliminates them as an option for yours truly. Finding a DVD replicator nearby took some doing, but I did find one near Montreal, which has a minimum press run of 250 disks. Not impossible for what I've got in mind, actually, and uses real DVDs rather than DVD-R. We'll see how things stand when I'm closer to actually having something to replicate. (Never mind what; it's barely on the drawing board. I don't even have a video camera.)

Thursday, December 12, 2002

[ 6:18 PM ]

My baby red milk snake can eat a pinky mouse, but it takes an hour to do it. Meanwhile, one of my non-feeding normal corn snake babies has died; the other three non-feeders — these are snakes that have not eaten since their birth last August — are thin, but very much alive. And my adult Great Basin gopher snakes, black pine snakes and corn snakes are now in hibernation; at the moment I do not foresee breeding the wandering or flame garters next year, so I won't encourage it by hibernating them this winter. So endeth the snake update.

[ 6:01 PM ]

Keep track of new third-party Sherlock channels at Sherlockers.com. (see previous entry)

[ 12:46 PM ]

Just in time for the holidays (and just as I start thinking that I might purchase a few such items in the not-too-distant future), a report that the quality of consumer electronics has plummeted in recent years, and that even buying from top manufacturers (i.e., Sony) is no protection against it. (via Slashdot)

[ 12:06 PM ]

Mac pundits who lack the technical expertise or knowledge of the computer industry to say something insightful or useful about the Macintosh platform tend to fall back on armchair-quarterbacking Apple's business decisions, as though some schmoe whose primary qualification is that he bought a beige Power Mac G3 five years ago gives him as much insight into engineering, marketing and pricing decisions as the professionals Apple employs. Not that I'm saying that Apple's decisions can't be subjected to user scrutiny, but rather that it really does help your case to know what you're talking about. A little bit of internal consistency doesn't hurt either.

Which is why Ben Wells's article arguing that Apple should release a low-cost Mac makes no sense whatsoever. First he compares Apple's build quality and customer satisfaction to BMW, but goes on to say that Apple must nevertheless compete on price to build market share. Presumably, that means that Apple must sacrifice build quality and customer satisfaction, to the detriment of its brand image: trust me, you would rather have people not buying Macs because they're too expensive than have people not buying Macs because they're crap.

Wells argues for a Mac priced under US$700. He outlines a scenario under which people would flock to the Mac platform, enticed by low-cost computers they could afford. Not that he has any data (or even any anecdotal evidence) that suggests that people are staying away from Macs solely because of price — that people would ditch that eMachine in an instant if a bastard-son-of-Macintosh LC was available at a lower price.

But here's the trick. Apple can't compete on price because it can't compete on volume. It's not just a matter of maintaining the 28 per cent gross margin on their hardware. Intel chipsets are cheap because there are lots of them; PowerPC processors are more expensive than Pentiums and Apple has to design its own motherboards. Dell can make a profit at a price point at which Apple would lose scads of money, as it tried to sell a product that would seriously underperform the Dell. All in the name of building market share, of course — at which point most pundits will point to Apple's four-billion-dollar cash reserve, which has been spent many times over in the minds of Apple pundits who want more R&D, more features and lower prices all at once. Let me emphasize this: Apple can only survive by positioning itself as a premium product — i.e., a better product, not a cheaper product. You can't have both. When it comes to the Macintosh ecosystem, if the brand image fails, the ecosystem collapses: Apple must stay on the quality side of the equation to protect its brand image.

Then he says the following, which strikes me as stupendously obvious:

I'm no businessman, but it makes good sense to me.

No kidding? Of course it makes sense to him; he hasn't bothered to do any research or learn anything about engineering or marketing, which might shatter his little bubble. This is purely a thought experiment.

Apple, are you listening?

Sigh. Every two-bit Mac pundit says this, as though what they have to say is worth listening to. Of course Apple isn't listening, guy. You just said you're not a businessman. You have no qualifications that make your article anything more than the idle daydreams of a long-time Mac addict. Do you honestly think that Apple is going to commit millions of dollars in product development and lose money on each unit sold simply because you're nostalgic for the Macintosh LC?

And finally, in another sure sign of a Mac-head's daydream pretending to be insightful commentary, once he's done arguing that Apple needs to do something without offering any business case for it whatsoever, he plays computer designer, and lays out the specs of this low-cost Mac that Apple needs to sell. Does he know how much the components cost? Of course not. Does he have any appreciation of the engineering required? Of course not. (Referring to a cube form factor, he argues, "With a bit of ingenuity, Apple should be able to squeeze in not only a 3.5" hard drive and a CD-ROM, CD-R, or Combo drive, but also leave room for a second hard drive." He makes it sound so simple — just add a little bit of ingenuity!) Does he have any market research to suggest that this bugger would sell, or that it addresses a consumer need? Of course not. But does he expect to be taken seriously, and does he expect Apple to listen? And does Low End Mac actually believe this instance of cyberwanking is somehow useful?

Hell, I'm surprised that you're reading this little weblog. I don't pretend that my rants are all that useful, and I certainly don't expect Apple or anyone else to take them to heart. (And it's not like I haven't played computer designer either, but at least I did a little digging around.) But I have to laugh — or something — whenever someone proposes something so foolish, so seriously, on a site that purports to provide useful commentary (and religious kookery, and pledge drives).

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

[ 10:17 PM ]

David Wasserman's Illustrated Hiking Trails of the Canadian Rockies does the same thing that my trails section does — he and I have even hiked the same trails — but he's a lot more thorough. (He, ah, doesn't take years to upload his photos, either.)

[ 10:13 PM ]

Retailers continue to fight the proposed levy on flash media and MP3 players (and a concomitant increase in the levy on blank CDs and cassettes); here is their web site. From their FAQ page I notice that the proposed $21/gigabyte levy on hard-drive-based MP3 players has been reduced: a 20-gigabyte player would have a $113.22 levy applied, rather than $420. It's still unreasonable to apply the levy to blank DVDs and flash memory, though. (see previous entry)

[ 8:17 AM ]

Rattlesnakes that look after their babies. Japanese pitvipers that digest frogs at extremely low temperatures. Vipers that use retained feces as ballast. An emphasis that all snakes want is to be left alone and that even venomous snakes rarely bite unless they have to. And prose like this: " Is there anything cooler than a snake or more evocative of such a rich sinusoidal range of sensations? Snakes are beckoning. Snakes are terrifying. Snakes are elegant, their skins like poured geometry." A herpetologist waxing poetic? No — it's yesterday's New York Times (free registration required), with an amazingly positive article about vipers and pitvipers that, wonder of wonders, gets it right. (via Q Daily News)

Monday, December 09, 2002

[ 5:06 PM ]

My ankylosing spondylitis has flared up again, and has been delivering regular beatings to me since Friday morning. Under the circumstances, when I cannot sit, stand or lie down for extended periods without pain, and when I cannot be out and about for more than an hour at a time without having to sit down, blogging is a little lower on the list of priorities. I've been managing as best as I can, and Jen has been tremendously helpful. In the end, a quiet, relaxing weekend was the best thing for me, one highlight of which was Jen and I lying on the bed yesterday afternoon with my laptop, laughing ourselves senseless as we read the annotated version of The Eye of Argon. I think I'm getting better, though, so more posts may be imminent.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

[ 4:32 PM ]

Department of We'll Believe It When We See It: "[Privy Council Clerk Alex Himelfarb] said the public service has to pay more attention to helping its employees better balance their work and home lives because 'balance makes us better at the job, makes us less disconnected and more aware of what it is to be neighbours in our communities.' ¶ And Mr. Himelfarb, known for his blunt and unorthodox style, said workers have the right to demand that balance."

[ 4:31 PM ]

How the Disposable Sofa Conquered America is yet another interesting article from the New York Times Magazine (free registration required); it discusses IKEA's troubles with, and eventual success in, the U.S. market:

In the course of its market research, however, the company identified a change in the way postboomer Americans view their material possessions. It seemed that the line between durable goods (things like refrigerators or furnaces, which are expected to last forever) and soft goods (things that turn over at the speed of fashion) was blurring. [. . .]
The next step, according to Christian Mathieu, external-marketing manager for Ikea North America, was for furniture, the mother of all durable goods, to cross to soft. This involves a greater leap. ''Americans change their spouse as often as their dining-room table, about 1.5 times in a lifetime,'' he said. As he saw it, this was a habit that no longer made sense. People no longer died in the home they were born in; why were they lugging their grandmother's chintz from one house to the next to the next?

Despite IKEA's obstensible environmental responsibility, their chief innovation was to make furniture inherently replaceable. (And affordable, at least in the context of its European market — in 1997, I saw what appeared to be a simple dining room table retail for 2500 DM in Germany, which is IKEA's biggest market.)

[ 8:18 AM ]

Current reading: Neil Gaiman, American Gods.

[ 8:17 AM ]

"Welcome to zombo.com. This is zombo.com. Welcome. You can do anything at zombo.com. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself. Anything is possible at zombo.com. The infinite is possible at zombo.com. The unattainable is unknown at zombo.com. This is zombo.com. Welcome to zombo.com. Welcome." (via someone on the MetaFilter IRC channel (#mefi), probably quonsar)

[ 8:11 AM ]

Despite early skepticism and threats to cut the program, Maine's laptop program, which put an iBook in the hands of every seventh-grade student, seems to be doing well, with positive feedback and encouraging results from the trial run last spring. (via The Mac Observer)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

[ 5:07 PM ]

There are a few web pages out there that talk about using a Sony Ericsson T68i mobile phone (or some other phone with Bluetooth, but usually the T68i) with Mac OS X software (Address Book and iSync). O'Reilly's Wei-Meng Lee talks about using a Mac to send and receive SMS messages via your phone and using iSync and Bluetooth. Insanely Great Mac's Michael Flaminio provides a more general introduction.

Now that both Fido and Rogers are selling the T68i, this is all the more interesting to me. I've wanted a syncable phone for some time, but an iSync-compatible Bluetooth phone has not been available in Canada until this fall. What's holding me back? Price, mostly: the T68i is an effing expensive phone. Also, the Amazon reviews complain about higher than average signal loss, which would be a problem for me, since I'd plan on using such a phone in rural areas. But those complaints may have more to do with the quality of American GSM networks than the phone itself.

[ 4:52 PM ]

One of the things I noticed when I began working as a teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo was the sheer number of students whose grandparents apparently grew ill or dropped dead just before exams were supposed to be written or final papers were due. (Like, four.) At the time we TAs were suspicious about this, of course — we'd heard stories about students who, not realizing that instructors do compare notes, managed to lose three grandmothers during their undergraduate career — but I don't think any of us were aware of just how widespread this phenomenon actually is.

Now there's a problem here: I knew it then; and several commenters on this MetaFilter thread know it too. While it beggars belief that so many grandparents could drop dead just before exams or final papers are due, university students are at the age at which their grandparents may start dying. I knew then that I wouldn't want to be the one who got stuck dealing with the one time it was for real. Some commenters on the thread have had their professors deal quite harshly with them when they actually lost a grandparent — or so they say. As you can see, this excuse is plausible because it's possible, but, like a too-well-known grift, it's so widespread and so ingrained in academic culture — profs do talk — that it's no longer taken at face value.

[ 4:50 PM ]

Thanks to the availability of the Sherlock SDK, third-party Sherlock channels are beginning to emerge. Two good ones are the dotmac.info channel (add channel) and the Canada411 channel (add channel) (via Slashdot). And Apple may be adding more of its own channels soon.

[ 4:49 PM ]

There's no point in my recapitulating Rebecca's most recent post on food production, which is, of course, excellent, so go and read what she says and what she links to. In particular, Michael Pollan's New York Times Magazine article (she's linked to him before, and with good reason) about the ethics of eating meat vs. vegetarianism, and the middle ground at which he arrives. Also be sure to check out her links about free farming practices, and about that Joel Salatin character, who manages to turn a healthy profit by doing so.

Monday, December 02, 2002

[ 4:44 PM ]

Holy shit! Now what?

[ 12:15 PM ]

Federal executives are getting sick not because of overwork, but because they have little to no decision-making power. "Whether new hires or long-time bureaucrats, they all say they joined government gung-ho to make a difference and end up wanting to quit because they can't."

[ 12:14 PM ]

The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre will shut down in five weeks, probably as a result of the City of Ottawa's proposed cut of their funding (see previous entry) and the Centre's ongoing fight with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

[ 12:13 PM ]

Former Globe and Mail editor William Thorsell is a fan of passenger rail, which, he says, beats airplanes for humanity and freeways for capacity. A counterpunch, perhaps, to Jeffrey Simpson's recent columns critical of VIA Rail (see previous entry).

[ 12:12 PM ]

If you're wondering why Bernard Landry seems to have lost touch with reality, bear in mind that he faces the classic dilemma faced by nearly every PQ premier: he's trapped between a militant party that presses for ever greater commitment to the separatist cause, and a public for which, by and large, separation is the last thing on the agenda. If he doesn't listen to his militants, his party will fall apart; if he does listen to them, his party will lose.