June 2005 Archives
June 27, 2005
Siting the Iter fusion reactor is, once more, close to being agreed. Blimey. To say this is 'delayed' is putting it mildly -- I first heard about the project in a course of lectures in Sydney, back in... no, I'm not kidding... 1989. Sometimes I wonder if there's an equivalent of critical mass related to the pace of a project, and one's enthusiasm for it. Certainly, I'm delighted to work on projects that complete in between six months and three years -- anything much longer and I fear I'd get bored. Which is, I recall, one of the main reasons I didn't take that aeronautics degree, back in... 1990.
Aaanyway, I'm back from probably the best few days' walking I've ever had. Utterly, utterly marvelous. Pictures and stuff to follow. Promise.
June 17, 2005
This is a concept I dimly recall hearing previously, but only really swam into my consciousness this evening, driving down the M6 while listening to an amusing rant by Philip Pullman to Eddie Mair on PM. The item concerned reports that some schools are pushing pupils to drop English Literature GCSEs in favour of Media Studies, which the establishment casually assumes is a bad thing. Pullman suggests -- and he's not alone -- that we shouldn't be so dismissive, that Media Studies is the natural heir to that pillar of classical education, rhetoric. And I think he may have a point.
We've never been so assaulted by materials and publications designed, with considerable skill and application, to drive home some point for a paying customer. Call it advertising, call it publicity, call it propaganda -- structurally, it's all the same. Perhaps understanding the techniques and tools is essential armour for today's youth? And ironically, if Media Studies can teach skepticism, it's a lot more use than much of science teaching.
Anyway, I'm in Leeds for a couple of days. Then possibly Cumbria for a couple of hills, weather and accommodations permitting. If I can get GPRS dial-up working via the new phone (replacement seems rock solid, fingers crossed), there might even be pictures. Don't hold your breath.
While I'm in ranting mood: if anyone else is suffering unwanted direct marketing calls -- in my case, mostly from Toucan Telecom -- you should make sure you're registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
If you are, and have been for at least 28 days -- say, eleven months or so -- Toucan's complaints procedure is listed on this page (scroll down). Be very firm in demanding to speak to at least a Customer Service Team Leader. First-line Customer Service Advisors are polite but ultimately not effective.
Note that before a complaint can be escalated all the way to the Office of the Telecommunication Ombudsman you must complete all the stages of Toucan's procedure. I'm one step away.
(Linkage: Otelo's 'How to Complain' page; crucially, keep a detailed record of your dealings with the company.)
[update, 2-Sep-2006: just to be clear -- you're most likely one of dozens of people a month who arrives at this page having googled for 'Toucan Telecom'. This is the personal weblog of Jonathan Sanderson, a TV and web media producer. I am not a customer of Toucan; I do not use any of their products, and thus cannot offer an opinion on whether they're any good or not.
It's more than a year since I had any contact with them, having had my complaints dealt with by their senior call centre staff. However, the comments below suggest that they continue with the sales techniques that annoyed me so much.
I've updated the link to Toucan's complaints procedure; the other links above appear not to have changed. Particular thanks to those of you who've left comments offering helpful suggestions, and to everyone for keeping your comments factual and personal. I've not had to censor any... yet. :-) ]
Ugh. Hell's teeth, that's been a dull morning. You'd think buying insurance would be straightforward, what with so many companies competing for my business and so on. But no, it's all backwards. One ends up spending hours giving the same details to each company, and asking the same questions. And in every case, some stupid loophole opens up, rendering the entire conversation pointless. For me, the crippling factors are the usual bêtes noires of being self-employed, occasionally working from home, and having a stupidly expensive laptop that I dare to use for work, carry in a car, and so on.
I propose two things for the insurance industry, beyond the obvious eternal damnation in the flaming pits of hell:
Firstly: stop pretending that people like me -- ie. self-employed, working in multiple fields and at multiple work sites, at some of which we also live -- are unusual. We're not, most of us just lie because it's the only way we can get covered. Car insurance is a huge issue here, since getting covered for business use can be nightmarishly hard, as a result of which many people just wing it on an unaltered domestic policy. Which is, of course, illegal. This is plain wrong, and it's the industry's problem to deal with it because there are only going to be more freelancers in the future. The banks have got an awful lot better at coping with us in the last ten years: it's time you did too.
Secondly: stop believing your own hype about being customer-focussed, and take a fresh look at the whole business model. It sucks, and it must be losing you customers through people just not bothering with cover.
Why, for example, is there nothing like an eBay for insurance? A site where prospective customers could list their requirements, and where insurers could bid for that business. Hmm... actually, that's not a bad idea.
(before anybody bleats in a patronising fashion: yes, my car and video/computer gear are all covered appropriately. Though it wasn't easy to insure the PowerBook for business use. No, 'bunging it on your house contents' doesn't work, read the policy again.)
I rarely remember my dreams, at least beyond whatever John Humphrys is stropping about at 7:25. But this morning, for some reason, I have a vivid recollection... of teaching maths typesetting in LaTeX to twelve year-olds.
What the hell was that about?
June 16, 2005
Sorting through a pile of old links on my desktop, I find this story at O'Grady's PowerPage about a new Crumpler store in New York, which will do custom builds of their already-barking range of bags. I'll confess to being somewhat jealous that this service isn't (yet) available in the UK, even though I already have two Crumpler bags and very likely don't need any more just now, thanks.
Short review; they're brilliant bags. Longer review; I have a cycle courier bag of theirs (a Seedy Three), and one of their laptop bags (a Whack-o-Phone). They're both extremely well-designed, superbly made, and have stood up to ridiculous levels of abuse in the time I've had them. Plus there's this whole 'ah, you know' thing that goes on between two Crumpler owners when they pass in the street. It's like Mini drivers waving at each other... only with shoulder bags.
There's a bonkersly-large range of bags, all with baffling names, and never available all in the same place to look at, dammit. Computer stores sell (some of the) computer bags, camera shops (some of the) camera bags, and bicycle shops... what's that? Oh, you've spotted the pattern, huh? OK. Check online at the mad, confusing, oh just face it irritating as hell Crumpler 'corporate' site, or maybe this UK-based online retailer makes a bit more sense. I bought my Whack-o-Phone from an Apple shop, but the Seedy Three came direct from the UK importer, following an extremely amusing conversation with one of the staff as she unpacked her colleague's example to give me an idea of how big the thing was. And what he was having for lunch. And exactly how far through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas he'd got.
Highly recommended. There might be better bags around, but Crumplers would beat them up, then go out and get hammered before picking up a Fendi and taking her back to a swanky hotel.
It's apparently now possible to fit a Hummer with some form of infra-red camera mated to a projection display (Engadget, Egopedia). Unusually, this display isn't projected to overlap the view through the windscreen; it sounds like it's not a true head-up display, which augments the normal view with the enhanced-contrast infra-red image. Ironically, I suspect this may fix one of the problems with conventional aerospace-derived HUD designs when they're applied to cars. Let me tell you a story...
A few years ago (2000?), I toddled to the NEC for one of the Tomorrow's World Live events, a slightly bizarre mix of high-tech trade show and... well, bear in mind that TW was in the depths of naffness at the time, so you can probably work it out. There was some interesting stuff kicking around, however, and I ended up with several items for How2 out of it.
One thing that attracted my interest was a demonstration on the Jaguar stand. They had an XJ rigged up with a full-on military-style holographic projection HUD, neatly mounted in the roof head lining. The system was, I was told, essentially ripped out of a Harrier jet, most of the work involved being in integrating it with the car in a neat fashion. You can bolt things to a military jet, but Jaguar owners demand that they be fitted, I suppose. This was a prototype, but the PR flack proudly proclaimed that it was intended for full-on production 'within two years.'
The demonstration involved climbing into the car and gazing at a huge (and impressive) projection TV showing a recording of a night-time drive down twisting country lanes. You lined up the HUD to your seating position, and a switch allowed you to turn the infra red view on and off at will. The difference was spectacular. Night vision systems are a little grainy, but that nonsense you see in the movies? They're actually not that dissimilar in practice. The really clever thing is the holographic technique that allows the projected image to hang far enough away that you don't have to shift focus, since it appears to be overlaid on the world outside in all three dimensions. Very clever, and very effective.
But one thing troubled me. The HUD screen was large, as HUDs go, but still small compared to the car windscreen. It amply covered the road ahead, but peripheral vision was outside its limits. I knew that situational awareness for jet pilots was an issue when using fixed IR devices, and I mentioned that the headlight beam spread was much wider than the area covered by the HUD.
The PR flack shifted uncomfortably, which was odd, so I continued the train of thought. What effect does enhancing the central field of view have on one's attention to peripheral vision? By offering a better view of the road, does the driver end up paying less attention to the roadside? Literally 'out of sight, out of mind'? More squirming from the PR flack.
With impeccable timing a lone pedestrian wandered into view at the side of the road. Completely unseen by the HUD system, he popped into my awareness roughly a dozen metres away. Instinctively I flicked the wheel and tried to steer away, which was stupid on several fronts. Firstly because I was watching a pre-recorded movie in a stationary car, and secondly because the car was going to miss him anyway, and swerving like that could easily have steered me into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
I looked at the PR flack. 'How well has this system been tested? And not technically, I mean for human factors? Can you demonstrate that it actually makes night driving any safer?'
At which point, I was asked to leave the stand. Incredulous, I pressed the question, only for two very large security guards to show up. The request to leave was repeated, politely but very firmly. I was clearly no longer welcome at the Jaguar stand. The PR flack refused to even give me his name, but I like to think that this was the last bad decision he made in that job.
You see, I was at the show on a press pass. So I toddled off to the media centre and snagged the Jaguar release covering the HUD system. Lots of proud mention of how it was going to be available in XJs in a year or two, and of how thoroughly tested it was, but no mention of human factors at all. It looked like they simply hadn't done their homework.
At which point, I spied a chap from the Telegraph who I vaguely knew via New Scientist bashes at British Association meetings. I showed him the release, and told him my tale. 'Bloody hell!' he exclaimed, as he ran to the Jaguar stand to see for himself.
I never did find out if he ran the story, but Jaguar never delivered the system. Cadillac, apparently, do offer something similar -- I wonder how well-tested it is?
June 15, 2005
That is, when Hollywood makes trailers for things they just don't 'get': the trailer for Wallace and Gromit - Curse of the Were Rabbit is up. I lost count of all the Thunderbirds references, but it's a duff trailer thanks mostly to the appalling soundtrack. I refuse to believe it had anything to do with Nick Park.
Still, I can hardly wait for October 7th. There's blurb and stuff at the official website to keep us going until then.
June 14, 2005
But before I do -- this post from Gus Mueller reports on new stuff in the .Mac software development kit 2.0, due any day now. Anyone's who's used Coding Monkey's SubEthaEdit in anger will appreciate just what a significant development this is: if you haven't, let me briefly explain:
SubEthaEdit is a text editor. That's all it does. But it lets several people type in the document at the same time, and each person sees everyone else's changes, in real time. It was designed for pair programming tasks, but it's found favour for taking conference notes collaboratively, and on the couple of occasions I've used it for writing scripts it's been unbelievably cool. What's clever isn't so much the concept -- other similar systems do exist, I'm told -- as the simplicity. SubEthaEdit automatically discovers other copies of itself over the network, and allowing other users access to your document is as easy as dragging their icon from a list.
It sounds like the .Mac SDK will allow similar sorts of operations over the net. Better, as Mueller points out, it should take a problem that's been theoretically possible -- but plain hard -- and make it relatively straightforward. This is a big deal, because now the problem becomes: what do we do with this stuff?
I'm starting to think that Apple's real risk in the Intel transition is nothing to do with the processors at all. It's long been the case that once you've got over the joy of unpacking your glorious new Mac and actually started it up, it's... well... it's exactly the same as your crufty old Mac. Desktop, laptop, whatever -- all Macs are basically identical, which is one heck of an achievement. If Intel-based Macs are discernibly different, then frankly Apple will have failed and it's game over. Many Mac users won't even know if they're on PPC or Intel, and nor should they have to.
No, the risk is that we, Mac users, will be so distracted by the coming Third Age of Mac-Kind that we forget what the Mac is supposed to be about. Which is: making previously-impossible stuff easy. Stuff like typesetting pages, image manipulation, video editing, cataloguing, and real-time collaborative document editing.
When we ask 'what's next?', we should not -- must not -- be referring to Intel CPUs.
June 12, 2005
While this new phone might crash rather a lot, the camera is genuinely impressive. To give you some idea; this snap of my dining table festooned with accounts paperwork (ugh!) was taken with my old Z600. That's the full-quality output from its camera. Click it for a popup of the K750i's results (250k JPEG that's about twice the size of your screen; save it and open it in something that scales pictures, like Preview). Note that I've dropped the JPEG quality somewhat to make the file smaller.
There are, of course, much better cameras -- but this is good enough for mucking about shots. I still hanker after a digital SLR, but digital compacts can go hang, frankly.
So I had a huge and somewhat witty post mostly written about my escapades trying to convince Orange that I (a.) exist, (b.) am who I claim to be, and (c.) should be allowed back into their big happy family despite (d.) confusing them mightily because they failed to close my account properly eighteen months ago, and according to their database I was already a customer with the same number I was now attempting to transfer back to them. All of which was complicated by my (e.) not being able to proffer the requisite thirteen separate sources of identity and address confirmation, on account of my gas and electricity being provided by the same supplier, despite the fact that they are -- much to my ongoing irritation -- treated entirely independently by unsaid supplier, to the extent that not only are the bill layouts entirely different, but both arms of the supplier send multiple inspectors to read the meters. Often on the same day. On occasion, at the same time. Once, it was the same person... with different appointments on his job sheet, the poor lad. He'd been walking in circles all day.
However, since I seem to have written a précis, I shall spare you the long version. The bottom line is that I finally have a new mobile phone, replacing my decrepit-to-the-point-of-being-held-together-with-gaffer-tape Z600 (and the not-even-gaffer-tape-can-save-them-O2) with a shiny new K750i and Orange.
The K750, then. It is, quite frankly, an object of tremendous marvelousness. If you've seen the immensely-popular K700... it's not like one of those, only with a 2 megapixel autofocus camera and a Memory Stick Duo slot. In terms of solidity, design coherency and general oozing of classiness, it's right up there with the T610. I've even managed to hack something in some OS X plist somewhere to get it working with Address Book and iSync while Apple get their act together, which makes me sufficiently happy I can almost put up with it not being a clamshell or flip design. Ah well, one can't have everything.
One also can't have, apparently, stability. The daft thing keeps locking up on the screensaver, currently with a half-life of around four hours. Yes, you read that right: it crashes several times a day. Turns out, I'm not alone: one thread, and another, and a third.
Dear Steve: can we get that Apple iPhone now, please? Thanks.
Some random linkbloggery; so, I'm trying to find out what the developer gossip is from WWDC -- whether people's code really has compiled to Mac OS X on Intel. Cocoalicious came over, as did NetNewsWire and MarsEdit, and Delicious Library too. Yay! Expect to see a crowing Apple press release about how marvelously it's all going, any day now. Anyway, along the way I read about a chap called Eric Albert, who's revealed to have been working on the Intel transition at Apple. Now, I'm sure I used to read his blog, but I'm stuffed if I can find it in my subscriptions, so I head over to Eric's site. I skim through and my eye alights on a link to this story about doing laundry at Google.
Where do I want to go today? Oh, you know, I'm just meandering around.
June 11, 2005
June 10, 2005
In lieu of iTunes 4.9 and its integrated podcast directory, here's the BBC's links page for their own feeds. So you can now snag From Our Own Correspondent as well as In Our Time.
June 9, 2005
A reminder for anyone confused or otherwise distracted by all the Mac crap flying around on this page of late: Radio 3's Beethoven downloads have started to appear. Symphonies one through five available as I type.
[update 10/6: iTunes users might like to explore ctrl-clicking (or right-clicking) on the tracks once they're in iTunes. Get Info then click the Options tab: you can set the track start time, which allows you to skip the three minutes of the Radio 3 announcer's introduction. I'd imagine something similar is possible in other mp3 players. Note also that the downloads are only 128kbps stereo, and don't have full tag information. Notably, the 'Composer' line isn't set -- you can add that information in the same info panel in iTunes.]
[Edit 12/6/2005: link fixed]
June 6, 2005
Looks like I don't get to be smug. It's rather hard to tell, since all the sites offering live updates from the ongoing WWDC keynote are basically maxed-out, but it sounds like Apple are moving the Mac to Intel processors exclusively, with the first machines appearing next June and the transition being complete late 2007. 'Leopard,' Mac OS X 10.5, is due in the middle of that timeframe.
OK, I've found an accessible feed:
There's a 'completely transparent' emulation layer called Rosetta (uh... wasn't that codename used for the Newton's handwriting recognition system?), fat -- excuse me -- universal binaries are indeed the application delivery system, the cross-compiling Xcode 2.1 is available today. Rosetta has been demonstrated running Excel, Quicken and Photoshop PPC binaries on an Intel Mac (but note that it's not clear if Rosetta works in the other direction too -- ie. x86 emulation on a PPC).
The only new product so far is what's likely to be the most sought-after Mac on the black market ever: a 3.6GHz Pentium-based developer-only unit, sold for $999, available in two weeks and to be returned at the end of 2006. Heh.
Microsoft and Adobe are on board, by the sound of things. Well, they'd have to be, really. And Mathematica was ported in something like two hours.
And that's it. That's all the keynote news. Wow. For once, it really was developer-only.
As for the rest of us... hmm. My lumbering old desktop G4/933 will have to soldier on for another year or so. Buying a dual G5 right now would probably be a good idea, but come the end of the year or early 2006... well, one might as well wait for a multicore PIV. And I'd best budget for a round of software upgrades, too, ugh. But otherwise... I guess it doesn't make much difference. Weird.
As a sometime member of the Malet Lambert School Hypothetical Upper Sixth Form Physics Poetry Reading Circle, I've long held the deepest admiration for Scotland's second most-famous poet, William Topaz McGonagall (Wikipedia article). His seminal work, The Tay Bridge Disaster, merely hints at the depth of talent and breadth of his work, my personal favourite being the spectacular Attempted Assassination of the Queen:
God prosper long our noble Queen,
And long may she reign!
Maclean he tried to shoot her,
But it was all in vain.
For God He turned the ball aside
Maclean aimed at her head;
And he felt very angry
because he didn't shoot her dead.
There's a divinity that hedgeth a king,
And so it does seem,
And my opinion is, it has hedged
Our most gracious Queen.
Maclean must be a madman,
Which is obvious to be seen,
Or else he wouldn't have tried to shoot
Our most beloved Queen.
Victoria is a good Queen,
Which all her subjects know,
And for that God has protected her
From all her deadly foes.
She is noble and generous,
Her subjects must confess;
There hasn't been her equal
Since the days of good Queen Bess.
Long may she be spared to roam
Among the bonnie Highland floral,
And spend many a happy day
In the palace of Balmoral.
Because she is very kind
To the old women there,
And allows them bread, tea, and sugar,
And each one to get a share.
And when they know of her coming,
Their hearts feel overjoy'd,
Because, in general, she finds work
For men that's unemploy'd.
And she also gives the gipsies money
While at Balmoral, I've been told,
And, mind ye, seldom silver,
But very often gold.
I hope God will protect her
By night and by day,
At home and abroad
When she's far away.
May He be as a hedge around her,
As He's been all along,
And let her live and die in peace
Is the end of my song.
I'm particularly fond of the seventh verse.
But now, I read a scandalous theory purporting to be of academic extraction, to the effect that McGonagall may not have been a serious poet after all, but in fact a sly and mischievous performance artist merely purporting to be a serious poet for comic effect. There shall be thunder in the Highlands at this slight and slur, I assure you, and no stone shall be left unturned to unearth the perpetrator of such vile and insidious perfidy!
Comments for this blog are finally back -- hurrah! -- and I feel compelled to link to the Einstein Project, the Newton hardware emulator that's in far heavier development than seems plausible for a platform that officially died eight years ago. Hmm... must get my 2100 running again, I miss it...
For the sake of clarity -- and because, if I turn out to be right, I want to be in a position to claim Ultimate SmugnessTM -- I'd like to restate my prediction for WWDC today:
I reckon Intel's getting into the operating system business, by licensing Mac OS X. They'll ship a custom version for very specific Pentium-based systems, targeted at corporate desktops. Apple will enable cross-compiling to fat binaries in an update to Xcode, and emulation layers will cope with everything else, with the likely and explicit exception of Final Cut Pro et al and possibly iLife (to avoid cannibalising high-end and home-user sales respectively).
I'm probably wrong, but hey, I've nothing to lose. And it makes about as much sense as all the other options. Now, pass the popcorn -- show's on at 6pm BST.
June 5, 2005
Cnet have published a story, jumping on a recurring scuttlebutt bandwagon, to the effect that at WWDC tomorrow Steve Jobs will announce Apple is dumping PowerPC and moving the Mac to Intel processors. The Wall Street Journal concurs (paid subscription required, but quotes via Paul Thurrot), but Mac gossip circles are surprisingly quiet on the issue. In fact, they're suspiciously quiet all round, with effectively no speculation about keynote announcements at all, for the first time I can remember.
So what's my take? I think CNet and the WSJ are extremely respected news sources, and their tone of reporting implies they're pretty darn certain about this story. So either Apple's moving to Intel, or two A-list news sources are plain wrong in the most embarrassing manner. I'll take option three -- they've been scammed -- or, most likely, option four -- there's truth to the story, but it's not what they think.
I don't buy Apple moving the Mac to x86. Sure, the G5 hasn't hit 3GHz yet, but in case you hadn't noticed, the Pentium hasn't gone very far of late either. The G5 still at least gives it a good contest, and in some circumstances trounces it completely. Intel are in the middle of a messy 64-bit transition; heat dissipation is considerably greater than the G5; any such transition would require heaps of advance notice for developers, during which time Apple would sell essentially no Power Macs. No, it makes no sense. I have no doubt that Mac OS X could run on x86 -- heck, I have little doubt that it is running on x86, somewhere in deepest Cupertino -- and fat binaries have been a feature of Mac OS and OPENSTEP for a decade or more. So it's all feasible, and in practice it likely wouldn't be that painful for users, but unless there's something I'm missing, it looks like commercial suicide between now and the time that the hardware were to become commonplace. Spectacular advances in emulation technology may be what I'm missing, but it doesn't quite ring true.
So what's the story? I can think of three options:
First: Intel is going to fabricate PowerPC processors for Apple.
IBM are up to their eyeballs in the custom triple-core PowerPC chip for XBox360, the PowerPC-based Cell processor for Playstation 3, and their own POWER6 server CPUs. It's possible they just don't have the capacity to manufacture the dual-core G5s Apple badly needs. This is a long shot, but it's not completely crazy. As I recall, Apple is a full peer in the PowerPC consortium with IBM and Motorola. I'd be surprised if they didn't have the rights to license the architecture.
I consider this fairly likely, actually. Wasn't there talk about AMD making PowerPCs for Apple, a couple of years ago, when things were going south with Motorola and before the IBM G5 deal? If AMD, why not Intel? Business is business, and if Intel have spare fabrication capacity they'd be loony not to fill it, surely?
Second: Apple are buying CPUs from Intel, but either they're not x86, they're not for Macs as we know them, or both.
It wouldn't surprise to see a new media centre product from Apple, combining a Mac Mini base-station and TV receiver with an iTunes Movie Store, and a slate-like remote control unit. And it would surprise me even less to see that slate unit run a variant of OS X, on Intel hardware. Remind me -- doesn't Intel basically run the ARM architecture these days? Um-hmm. And some of their laptop stuff is rather wonderfully low-power, too. And you'd expect such a slate to run something like Tiger's Dashboard -- no big deal if it can't handle Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, surely?
Thirdly -- and here I'm going way out on a limb -- it's not Apple who are going to make x86 Macs. It's Intel.
Intel are not, of course, Microsoft, and there's no reason they should like Windows any more than the rest of us do. Except that it sells them lots of hardware. Only... what if Longhorn were late again? Like, for example, it's not going to ship until mid-2007. That's another two years of Windows essentially not working, before Longhorn breaks lots of things anyway. If you were Intel, looking at likely sales over the next two to three years, would this look pretty?
Is it remotely possible that Intel have persuaded Jobs to license the Mac OS, and an x86 port at that? Apple could easily protect its core markets by not cross-compiling iLife or their Pro apps -- they stand to lose relatively little in comparison to the potential gain of zillions of corporate desktops, at Intel's risk.
I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm off to read John Gruber's take on all this. He's usually right.
[UPDATE: linkage to Jason Kottke (Intel making PowerPC), more from John Gruber (ditto), Fraser Spears (basically doesn't care, but thinks the PR is harder than the tech), Leander Kahney for Wired.com (Apple using x86 for Macs, because the hardware DRM allows them to do the iTunes Movie Store), Andy Ihnatko (something going on, but a specific type of Mac or something new, not 'The Mac' in general), Ars Technica (switch to x86 plausible), Doc Searles (Intel to make PPC). My favourite take, however, is Steven Frank's.
Incidentally, nobody else seems to be loony enough to have suggested Intel licensing Mac OS X, rather than Apple themselves using x86. So if I'm right, I'll be really smug. And I'd like to post for posterity the phrase: 'Mac OS X86', which is also inexplicably absent from view.]
Anne Robinson, Trinny and Susannah, Davina McCall, and the Daleks -- together at last!
OK, so last night's Doctor Who wasn't, perhaps, the best of the series... but it was worth catching for two reasons. Firstly, the Bad Wolf thing is now out in the open, with the Doctor noticing all the references through the series (there's even a BBC site at badwolf.org.uk). Secondly, the trailer for next week's episode, Bad Wolf, which appears to feature all the above-named.
Needless to say, I am not available for public engagements next Saturday evening. Oh, and while I'm on the Who thing: the series website has informatively amusing minute-by-minute accounts of the reactions of a test group of children. Personally, I'm most impressed by the commenter (aged 15) who notes that the Dalek, Slitheen, Reapers and the like cost a fortune, but the scariest creature to date has been... a kid in a gas mask.
BBC Radio. Worth the license fee on its own, frankly. Next week Radio 3 is having some sort of wall-to-wall Beethoven shindig, which I suppose is the sort of thing one expects them to do. But the sheer scale and audacity of the enterprise is surprising, even invigorating. Most astonishingly, they've somehow managed to negotiate their way through the morass that is the MU, and they're going to make all the symphonies available for download as mp3. This is, I think, an astonishing experiment, and a magnificent gift by all concerned to -- let's not be prissy about this -- the world.
The Scotsman delves deeper into the background to, and implications of, what they're doing:
Yet it may turn out that Noseda's Beethoven becomes the household version to computer-literate millions in China, India or Korea who have never heard of Karajan or Klemperer and could, in any event, never afford the price of a DG or EMI set.
To them, Noseda and the BBC Phil are the bringers of light and arbiters of art.
When, two or three decades hence, China is the world's largest industrial power, it will be Noseda's Beethoven that couples recall as their formative revelation, as our grandparents once savoured Toscanini's.
Such is the potential magnitude of the BBC's magnanimity.
As for our Melvyn -- well, over on Radio 4 he's been banging on about calculus again, bless him. His show In Our Time is available, I kid you not, as a genuine honest-to-goodness podcast, with a weekly-refreshing xml feed and everything. Fire up your favourite newsreader software, and listen to what you missed! Frustratingly, however, past editions are only available as streaming RealAudio, not downloadable mp3. Ah well, it'll come.
Joy of delis! Beech-smoked tofu last night, from what I still think of as the new place up the road, even though it's now been open for months. Stir-fried with beansprouts, noodles, cabbage and peppers, with a couple of little sardines crumbled over the top (I'd marinated them in honey, soy and chilli before frying them fiercely, so they were going to crumble whether I wanted them to or not).
Not, perhaps, something I'd serve to a guest, but I thought it was a riot.
June 1, 2005
When I win the lottery -- a probability that, come to think of it, might increase a tad were I to actually buy a ticket -- I shall most likely buy an Aston Martin. Barking mad, and the fuel consumption would make me wince every time I drove it anywhere, but there's just something rather glorious about Astons.
I think it's rather likely to be this. How barking? A dealership that's accessed by thumbprint, that stores cars in a vault, and... nuts. Love it.