Friday, December 30, 2005

Nikon P1 - Day 18

I visited Henry's last night to talk price protection — every retailer's favourite words.

Henry's was no different than any other retailer since Timothy Eaton passed on. He was uncomfortable with the idea. His initial reaction was to screw his face up in a knot. After that his anxiety level rose. He told me that the other retailer was being stupid. He told me that he didn't want to lose me as a customer but …. He told me that the other retailer often employed bait and switch tactics and that he may not actually have any of the cameras in stock. On the plus side, the other retailer was closed so he couldn't call them to find out. I believe that when he wandered off for a few minutes to look something up that he did attempt to call them.

He told me that they were selling well at full price and that there was no need to reduce the price.

That made me feel warm and fuzzy. I told him that I was one of the people who had helped reduce his stock and that I had done so in part because I expected him to stand behind his product and his price.

All's well that ends well. I received a refund of $80. I turned around and spent $60 of it on an AC adaptor, the EH-62. It's a rip-off but whatcha gonna do? Anyways, I essentially got it for free so I'm pleased.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

On Marketing Copy and Adspeak

I am reviewing the SD cards on the Henry's site. When I purchased my camera, I also bought a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB SD card.

I think that this was the most appropriate card for me but I am wondering what other options there are.

Higher up the ladder from my card is the Extreme line. These offer 20MB/s transfer speeds. The Ultra II offers 9MB. This is what the blurb says about my card:

  • SanDisk Ultra II Secure Digital cards have a minimum sustained write speed of 9 megabytes (MB) per second and a read speed of 10 MB per second

The blurb uses precious space to highlight a ten per cent difference in performance depending upon the immediate usage.

I decided to look at the house brand card as well as the Sandisk offering below mine, find out what kind of performance they offered. Here's what I am told:

  • High transfer rate for fast copy/download

The house brand gets an even better pitch:

  • Memory that is optimized for your Digital Camara! (sic)
  • Henry's Performance Memory allows digital cameras and digital media ot (sic) work better together
  • Faster write times + less time waiting = better pictures

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nikon P1 - Day 15

Henry's has a 21 day price protection plan. It's not as good as Black's which lasts for 60 days but it's reassuring.

I am headed downtown today and I've been wanting to got talk about a printer and an AC Adaptor. I thought that I'd check out some other pricing for the P1 and noticed that Black's is offering it for $500 and Downtown Camera is offering it for even less.

I am definitely going to pass by Henry's and see whether their warrant is any good.

On Anderson Cooper

I am watching Anderson Cooper 360 right now.

It was on. It's 5:30 a.m. I could sleep but…

My first impression is not good.

Who is his guest? A supermodel — Petra Nemcova.

She is on to commemorate the tsunami of a year ago in which her boyfriend died.

How did Anderson introduce the piece, which is called, "Petra's Story"?

"… the horror that could not be spoken."

If it can't be spoken, why is there a show on it?


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Shiira - A new widget

I'm typing this post from a widget.

Shiira also offers a browser widget. The window is currently about four inches by three. The text is fairly small, perhaps 5 points. I can't tell.

It's kind of fun though.

Shiira, a new Mac browser

I am writing this post in a Shiira window. I don't know what Shiira means, but it is a web browser that comes out of Japan. That doesn't mean anything in particular but I suppose that it's worth noting. Anyways, it's a nice, clean browser. I have already forgotten how I found out about it but it has now shown up on an O'Reilly site.!+Arigatou+gozaimasu! Turns out that a new version has just been released — version 1.2. I'm gonna go download it now.

Mac Training

Yesterday I was involved in Mac training. I need to know how Palm Treo's interact with Macs.

We are being taught a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with what we need to know. One of those things is the Mac's speech recognition.

I'm playing with it now at home. It's kind of fun.

Isn't it nice to have a computer that will talk toy?

Mac OS 9 used to have some fun aspects. One of my favourite was how it would speak alerts.

It didn't just read the alert. It would preface it with some exclamation or other. My favourites were, "Blast!" and "It's not my fault".

I wonder what toys OS X has to offer on this front.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Wish for Kings

John Robb writes:
Based on the non-response of Rice to Tim Russert on the question of what authority the US President based his decision to wire tap Americans, it seems to me that the President violated the law. Expediency is not an excuse or a basis for authority to violate the constitution.
This is incorrect. Expediency is always an excuse for obviating democratic principles.
Bush spoke about this today too: He defended the surveillance plan as legal, saying his authority to approve it came from his constitutional powers as commander in chief. What the heck is this?
Many in the U.S. today, follow the model of the tyrant. Elect a commander-in-chief and give him total authority for a fixed period of time. The current example of course improves things greatly as while the individual tyrant may eventually have to leave office, after all eight years is not forever, if you can keep the war going then you have absolute authority indefinitely. It's a win-win. I'll steal this line from Lewis Lapham — the United States has a wish for kings.
It gets even Nixonian: In the radio address, Bush said sternly that information about the program had been "improperly provided to news organizations." "As a result," he said, "our enemies have learned information they should not have." Bush's discussion of the program was a dramatic turnabout for a president who tends to stick to his plan: On Friday, he told a television interviewer that speaking out could jeopardize national security.
Did President Bush reveal who he thought his enemies were?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

That Hurt

Joy McPhail, a former provincial NDP parliamentarian, just drilled a huge hole through the Prime Minister.

The discussion is on the Paul Martin's methods of dealing with Gilles Duceppe during the debates — in French versus English.

Hugh Duffy, on CTV NewsNet, made a fatuous statement about the courage of the Prime Minister in taking on the separatists.

McPhail responded by stating that there are many words that can be used to accurately describe the Prime Minister but courageous was not one of them.

The line was delivered both casually and brutally. Duffy, the empassioned defender of the PM was speechless.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What was the question again?

The English-language debate is now on.

The second question, directed at the Prime Minister, was about guns and gun control. The Prime Minister launched into his prepared pitch on some proposed handgun ban legislation.

What the Prime Minister did not see was that the man asking the question was standing in front of his gun collection.

You can say that your opinion differs from someone asking you a question. That's legit. However, to forget about the questioner and simply launch into to your pitch seems rather gauche.

A Gem on CNN

I just watched Jack Cafferty read this email from a viewer named Norma:

This makes perfect sense within the war on terror. The enemy hates us because of our freedoms. If we get rid of our freedoms, then they won't hate us anymore.

I don't have it verbatim. I'm gonna check the CNN Transcripts page later to see if it shows up there.


CNN Transcripts - December 16

And Norma in Richmond, California: "Bush's abrogation of the Bill of Rights makes perfect sense in the war on terror. Since terrorists hate us for our freedoms, if we get rid of our freedoms, they won't hate us anymore. We'll all be the same, and peace will then prevail. See how simple it is?"

I've been pondering the networking component of my camera. The manual is not very clear. They rarely are.

After considering it for a while, I started to play with it again. The other day I wore myself out screwing around with it. I wore the battery out too. Somewhere I read a review in which the reviewer pondered the value of the AC Adaptor. This would have been a good time to have one.

Yesterday, having had enough of the camera for a while, I decided to re-install my printer drivers. I have a Brother MFC-210 multi-function centre. I've always had problems getting it to do anything except print and photocopy. The scanning and OCR were unreliable. Unreliable in this context means that I could get them to work until I needed them to work.

I uninstalled the printer and scanner drivers. I then downloaded new stuff from the Brother web site. Incidentally, their website has changed and not for the better. It's hard to find a product and then it uses a tiny little window to deliver any information about that product. I didn't notice anyway to expand the window.

Over about an hour, I got the machine to print, scan and convert text. The software it uses for the latter is from a company called Abbyysoft. Their application is called FineReader. It is embedded in a programme called Presto!PageManager from NewSoftInc. The combination is a little clunky. That being said, I'm using version 4 and they are now up to version 7. Mac support is spotty though and I would be unwilling to upgrade to something newer.

In the end though, it works. Abbyysoft OCR works well. It converted two scans with zero errors. It even accurately caught the missing space after a comma in one place in the text. This is a great improvement over my past experiences with some variant of OmniPage. I'd be willing to buy this if I had a genuine need for it. I don't work with written documents however so… I just looked at their website. The last Mac version was v5 which was released in November 2001. It did not run natively under OS X.

Why is this at all important? Because in order to do these things, I had to take the printer off wireless and plug it directly into my PowerBook. Then I had to go back to the network once the drivers were in place. Yuck!

Anyways, it all worked after a brief struggle. The process forced me to go through all of the problems with wireless connectivity again. Thus, when I went back to the camera, it all made sense.

Yesterday, I read that the camera would only work on WEP networks. That's not true. It will work with WPA networks. I'm not sure if this is as secure as it would be if it were WPA2 so I'll need to do some more reading.

I connected to the Mac, launched the wireless configurator. Deleted the old profiles. Created a new profile using WEP. Tested it, it worked. Changed the router to WPA2. Created another profile using WPA. Tested it, it worked. This took no more than five minutes to configure and test.

Anyways, today I was able to activate the auto-transfer mode. Take a picture, watch it appear on the computer. Only takes a second or so. The images are only about 350KB in size as I'm not using maximum resolution.

End of the Ice Age?

From CNN's site:

President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Republicans congressional leaders had lobbied fiercely to make most of the expiring Patriot Act provisions permanent, and add new safeguards and expiration dates to the two most controversial parts: roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries.

Feingold, Craig and other critics said that wasn't enough, and have called for the law to be extended in its present form so they can continue to try and add more civil liberties safeguards. But Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have said they won't accept a short-term extension of the law.

Must play hardball.

From CNN's site:

If a compromise is not reached, the 16 Patriot Act provisions expire on December 31.

Frist changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time. He immediately objected to an offer of a short term extension from Democrats, saying the House won't approve it and the president won't sign it.

"We have more to fear from terrorism than we do from this Patriot Act," Frist warned.

This is typically disingenuous. The government passes the laws it chooses. The Patriot Act is a choice. The components of the act are determined choices. It would not be difficult for the government to pass a law with support from both sides of the house. It only becomes difficult when a policy of no retreat is in effect.

Somewhere, I recently read that the ice may finally be breaking in the U.S. That it may soon be possible to disagree with the administration without being framed as a traitor or as incompetent. We'll see.

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

"It is time to have some checks and balances in this country," shouted Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "We are more American for doing that."

I don't think that it is really, "more American". The Republicans are stating very effectively that, "more American" means, "Father knows best". Having said that, this is the first time in years that I've heard someone disagree in this manner with the administration on the issue of what is best for the United States.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On Debate Number 1

I'm watching the first election debate. The current issue under discussion is about gay marriages. I'm disappointed in Martin's response. He spent his time attacking Steven Harper. Harper has two clear points on this issue. If he was running the government, he would have or allow an open vote in Parliament on the matter and then abide by the outcome. In his view, an open vote includes letting the cabinet vote its conscience. His second point is that he would not use the Not Withstanding clause to deal with the issue. What was Martin's response? That Harper has to come clean on the issue. What more does Harper have to say to satisfy anybody? Unlike the other politicians, Harper generally states what he will do. The others talk about intentions and their feelings. Very rarely will they commit themselves to anything concrete and typically when they do, they renege on it. Helicopters and the G.S.T. are a couple of examples.

The CBC Holds Firm

Soon after the election campaign began, I was watching Politics on CBC Newsworld. There was an insane Canadian woman named Susan Murray on the segement titled, The War Rooms. I don't think she is really insane but she does tend to froth at the mouth from time to time.

I turned on Politics this morning and there she is again. I was hoping she'd be gone. I actually wrote an email to the CBC asking them to put her to pasture for the duration. It didn't work.

While she isn't yelling much, she is losing her coherence. I've watched her on TV at least twenty times and she is normally able to speak at a rapid rate without losing her flow or her grammer. That is not the case today. It's weird to watch.

She is able to restrain herself when the NDP strategist Brad Levigne speaks but you can hear her pulse pounding when Sandra Buckler, the Conservative strategist opens her mouth. She might be posturing but I think she genuinely hates the Tories.

Nikon P1 Day 3

The camera didn't come out of the box today so it's not much of a day.

Doing some reading however, got me thinking about the state of the camera nation.

I've been chewing over getting a digital camera for some time now — for years I guess. What changed that caused me to go out and get one now though? Why this one?

Over the last year, I've been looking at various cameras, primarily Nikon, but those of other manufacturers as well. A month or so ago, I was wandering along Yonge Street looking in the windows and saw a beautiful new camera from Panasonic. The brand line is called Lumix. The camera I saw that caught my attention was the LX1. It's a pretty camera. Even the packaging is appealing.

The camera has few features that I like. It has optical image stabilisation. It's compact although I guess that there are many competing products that are that as well. It offers a 16:9 perspective. It's got 8.4 mega-pixels. The gem feature however is that it offers RAW format pictures. However, after reading about it, I came away without any hunger to possess it.

The Digital Camera Resource Page doesn't have a review yet on the P1 but … I like Nikon. I've had a 35mm SLR since about 1988 that still works well. A company that offers that kind of quality earns credibility.

Back to why now

I have been considering various options but none of them excited me. I'm thinking specifically of cameras like the 7900 or 7600. They look okay but are nothing to write home about.

This camera has 8MP which may be the most that Nikon offers, at least in a non-DSLR. It has the toy feature of wireless connectivity. Curiously, I think that this may hurt the camera's sales. When I was in Henry's and brought up the feature, I got blank stares from the staff. I'd called another store prior and the guy there told me that he didn't know how it worked. He was willing to try it out but that store closed too early for me to get there. I arrived while the gate was being locked.

Getting the wireless to work required an installation on the computer. It was relatively straightforward in the store. The salesman made a curious statement at the time that the first image was being transmitted. He said that if we'd used a wired connection, we'd be done already. I replied that while his statement was true, so what. I pointed out how easy it was to get to work.

While he was putting the kit together for the sale, the saleswoman with whom I'd originally been speaking wandered back over to ask how things were going. She gave him the sale which was good since she'd really done nothing whatsoever and looked really, really tired. Those were both points that she made during the sale. As he gave her a brief explanation as to how it worked, he mentioned that he would be setting up their Macs the next day so as to demo the wireless feature in the future.

If they get on this pony and ride it, they may make some sales. They made one this week because a customer wanted something and was willing to teach the salesman how his product worked. If nobody in the store (or in another store) knows how this product works, they will be requiring the customers to provide the impetus and imagination for the product. This doesn't bode well for Nikon. Imaginative customers are not the norm. I know that after working in retail for several years. New design features need to be sold in order for the product to be sold.

This salesman had the right amount of energy for the day. He was also willing to suspend his disbelief while we tried out the camera. In the past, I've seen PC salesmen trying to talk about Macs in big stores like Best Buy or Future Shop. They weren't trying to sell any Macs. They were trying to sell PCs. They used the Macs as foils for the PCs. It didn't do Apple any good. At the end of the day, I think this was one of the causes for Apple to create their retail chain. Owning the stores was the only way to get knowledgeable and committed staff who wanted to sell Macs.

Anyways, given that I can't get what I want for $500 — meaning 8MP (or at least 6), 5x optical zoom, fully manual controls and the ability to generate uncompressed images (i.e. TIFF or RAW), this camera gives me what I want for now.

Next year, I'll see about getting those features although I won't hold my breath for the 500 bucks.

p.s. When all was said and done, I paid a lot more than $500. The camera was actually $540 CDN and I bought a few accessories including two cases, a spare battery, an extended warranty and a 1GB SDII card. The salesman messed up on printer promotion and I also want the AC adaptor so I'll probably go back next week to pick those up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Aside on Bush and the Woodrow Wilson Center

Speaking of the WW Center, Bush gave a speech there today. He made a claim that the world was better off now that Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. At the end of the day, Iraqis may be better off but I have no inkling as to how the world is better off. I know what a supporter would say but I don't know why I would believe it.

Bush moved an inch on the issue of faulty intelligence. He provided nothing of course on how any decisions were made nor anything regarding misuse of intelligence; nothing on whether intelligence was ever a meaningful issue either. True to nature, he can say naught but that the right decision was made. Well, I guess he wouldn't be Bush if he admitted otherwise. You'd be able to hear a pin drop from around the world if Bush ever admitted to being wrong.

On Human Nature and the Bush Administration

David Biette in Washington, the director of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is on the CBC speaking with Don Murray.

The focus of their discussion is the peculiarity of having the United States enmeshed in the ongoing federal election. Biette explained that it makes no sense to him. He concedes that softwood lumber is an issue, even a big issue, but wonders repeatedly why the Canadians can't just grow up and deal intelligently with the U.S. on all the issues.

I'll leave aside the obvious point that, as an NDP strategist points out, "Just Win, Baby!"

Regarding dealing with the elephant, I don't really know what's going in the collective mind of the U.S. administration. My feeling however is that they are being petty — perhaps that just because pettiness is their GO TO position on every disagreement. I don't really remember Carter or Ford or Nixon — I remember them but not any meaningful activity as concerns cross-border behaviour. For the most part, Reagan, Bush the Elder and Clinton all dealt well with our governments, both Liberal and Conservative. Bush the Younger however, doesn't get along with anybody except his poodle, Tony Blair. As an aside, I don't ever remember the leader of a government being called a poodle before. Especially the leader of a nation with troops in the field. While the noise that trickles out of Britain these days doesn't look promising for Blair, he has done quite a job in maintaining power given the opinions of some. Of course, his opposition is in total disarray. They have abandoned the Premier League leaving Labour to fence with itself. The situation is much the same here where the Tories abandoned the game, leaving the Liberals unchallenged for over a decade. With such an opposition, almost any leader can look strong. Voters really didn't believe there was a point in voting or even paying much attention.

A CBC reporter who is riding the Liberal campaign bus informs us that the party consultants' question is whether the Ambassador's election statement qualifies as, "Mana from heaven or chocolate-covered mana from heaven."

Anyways, the Ambassador is backing down from his remarks. Personally, I feel that he should have kept his mouth shut in the first place. The points he made should be made behind closed doors. It didn't help that both the NDP and the Tories stated that he should mind his own business. This is an improvement from the last election when Steven Harper was almost slavish to White House opinion. Well, actually to the prospect of an opinion.

To my original point though, more so than most nations, the U.S. talks big. Often they walk big but regardless of that, they always talk big. The biggest thorn in our national relations right now is softwood lumber. This sore has been there for decades and since the Bush government took power, it has become an infected and oozing sore. The tariffs charged on the wood crossing the border are so huge that they block out any light that may be coming from another source. Until the U.S. deals with this, they have little credibility on any other issue.

I don't think that they have any credibility on this issue but worse, I don't hear anybody saying that they do. David Biette's point that we should take care of all our business can't be heard until the softwood issue goes away.

Last point on Bush. In years past, Canadians who spoke on the matter, particularly those of a conservative bent, directed much of their criticism regarding the relations between the two governments at our own Liberal government. Steven Harper, the Leader of the Opposition, beat that horse to death in the previous election. Loudly crowing, "Ready, Aye, Ready!" to any who would hear him, Harper even made a special trip down to the U.S. to bend his knee to any who would notice him. This week, he told the U.S. administration, politely, to go fly a kite.

Yes he bent his words to blame the Liberals but the attitude he used to hold is gone. People are beginning to believe, even to talk and write about it, that national relations will be poor until Bush leaves office. A change in government might improved the situation to one you could call mediocre but I feel that there is now something of a consensus that Bush can't get along with anybody who possesses a shred of self-respect. Again, only the poodle is golden in Washington.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nikon P1 Day 2

Taking pictures is easy. Whether the pictures are any good is another thing.

The wireless doesn't work though. This is very annoying as it did work when I was in the store before buying the camera. I called Nikon technical support. They didn't give me a good first impression. Despite telling the agent that I had a fully functional wireless network that had been running for over six months, I was asked to make sure that the computer was using DHCP. Offhand, I'm not sure what impact that would have on the camera but I found that it was easier to agree than to discuss.

Anyways, the upshot is that I'm getting an installation error that I did not get yesterday at the store. Hmmm… of course, at the store, I only installed the wireless connection software. Maybe I'll attempt that again. It was when installing Picture Project that I encountered the error.

I visited the Nikon website at There is a link to download the software there. Of course, it requires registration. This is annoying as I have a newly purchased camera with an evidently disfunctional CD. Anyways, after much screwing around, I found that I couldn't download anything.

When I spoke to tech support, I was informed that nobody could download anything as they were having a problem with some database or another.

Update: I just re-installed the network image transfer software. It works. Hopefully, the CD will offer working Project software. At least I can use the camera and dump the pictures onto my PowerBook. I have a 1GB SD card from SanDisk but I'd rather not fill it up without being able to dump the images.

I may go out tonight and take some pictures.

Nikon Coolpix P1

I bought a camera.

It's a digital, wireless camera from Nikon — the P1. I bought it at Henry's.

It's cold outside so I am leaving the camera to warm up before I try it out. The battery is being charged. It's lithium ion so I'll let it charge fully before I test it out.

This camera is tiny. When I took it out of the box, I almost missed the actual camera. Even in the packing, I could touch my finger and thumb around the camera. It is really tiny.

The fun stuff, well, we'll see. However, the most noteworthy function of the camera is that it is wireless. Yes, a wireless camera.

I haven't bought anything at Henry's since about 1988. Eons ago, I won a Nikon N2020 for selling a lot of Kenwood stereo equipment. In 1988 I purchased a Sigma 200mm zoom lens for it. It was $250 at the time. The camera still works fine. I just took the batteries out of it earlier today.

I've spent the past few months reviewing digital cameras. My first feeling was to buy a Nikon.

Now that's magic. That's the tagline from a Nikon Coolpix commercial I just saw while writing this. They mentioned without mentioning my camera. Nothing specific, just an image of a camera beside a portable computer and a statement that the camera was wireless.

Oy! This is a small camera. I don't know where they put the wirelss circuitry but ostensibly, it lies within.

I have some reservations. This camera has only a 128mm lens. It does not offer raw or tiff format files. It only offers JPEG. I had to spend $120 on a memory card, an SD 1GB card.

There is a Nikon with a 5x lens. There is a Panasonic Lumix with image stabilisastion. I could have gotten a sweetheart deal on a printer if I'd bought that one. Oh well.

I'm about to take my first picture.

America's Next Top Model

Go down to the docks and see what the hookers are wearing.

Fun talk from a fashion expert. Yes, it's re-run but it's fun nonetheless.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Good one

In boxing, that's called leading with your chin.

Eric Sorenson, the CBC reporter, comes up with a nice way to characterise the Liberal response to the Conservative election promise.

"Don't give people 25 bucks a week to blow on beer and popcorn," Reid said during a panel discussion on CBC News: Sunday. "Give them child-care spaces that work. Stephen Harper's plan has nothing to do with child care."
For what it's worth, I think that Mr. Reid's statement really does state clearly the Liberal Party's viewpoint on who is competent in our society. It's not an issue of whether the government can be more effective in spending our money, it's whether there is such a creature as a citizen.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Repeal the Clarity Act. Don't repeal the Clarity Act. Jack Layton now states that he would not repeal the act. The Liberals accuse him of flip-flopping. This goes to show how twisted the Liberal's view of reality is. Layton is saying what he'd do before the election. He has changed his mind. In a discussion, he points out that several things caused him to change his mind. Given that he is making these statements prior to the election, I say more power to him. By the way, the Clarity Act is a political peculiarity. It is about what its name states. It's actually about requiring some clarity in a referendum that might break the country up. Revolutionary? Yes! Well-named as well. Two thumbs up to Stephane Dion.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Email Posting

I just sent my blog and email and it posted. It was very quick.

This is nice.

My inability to get this to work in Radio was why I decided not to use the Radio Userland software. I couldn't get it to work.

I just visited the site to get the correct URL. They are now up to version 8.2. It has probably been three years since they released 8.0; maybe more.

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

- Sir Winston Churchill

test post by email

This is a test.

In the olden days, the umpire didn't have to take any courses in mind reading. The pitcher told you he was going to throw at you.
— Leo Durocher


On Severe Tire Damage

In writing the previous post, I visited David Siegel's site to see what was still there. This site has been up for a decade or so. I've read the above-linked essay several times over the years.

I am now reading it again.

What I said in my previous post, is akin to what Siegel wrote in his essay. He wrote:

Netscape 1.1 is an important advance and a significant achievement. Without it, designers like me wouldn't be entering the fray and raising their voices. My site would be just another gray gas station on the side of the road if it weren't for the 1.1 enhancements. (Now it's a shiny, colorful gas station on the side of the road.)

Getting people with other talents into the programme is a major development. It only happens because those other people see an opportunity to utilise their talents in a new environment, in a new way. It also means that they see the potential to use tools in a new way. Their imaginations are forcing them to do something.

p.s. Incidentally, while few would call the SourceForge a pretty site, it is certainly much improved today over the site I first visited a few years ago.

Diversification within the software development world

For the longest time, open source and free software was often characterised by homely graphic design.

Websites that supported such software, like SourceForge were a blight upon the senses. The graphics were garish. Nothing fit inside a browser window unless that window was full-screen. Even then, not always. Fonts and colours made things unpleasant to read. Controls were not helpful.

The documentation was typically pitiful. People depending upon documentation were typically pitiable.

You had to really want this stuff in order to partake.

Recently however, I came upon a link to a site that lists a handful of open-source programmes that run on Mac OS X. The site is called, Open Source Mac. It calls itself a simple list of free, open-source software for Mac OS X.

Forget about any of the software, the site itself is appealing. It has rich, juicy icons for each of the apps that are featured. The typography is simple but appealing. The font sizes and colours help organise the page. This astonishes me.

What does any of this mean?

I think it signals a sea change.

This site, is not one like, A List Apart. It is not a font of design technique and consideration. It has no mission statement like, "FROM PIXELS TO PROSE, CODING TO CONTENT". I'm a big fan of A List Apart, even though I lack the skills to exploit the knowledge that they profer.

It's not a site like David Siegel's Welcome to my Casbah. This site is one of the first that I used to frequent after reading the writer's critique of Netscape Navigator 1.1. Was it even called Navigator at that point?

This site, is merely a listing of software — a simple listing.

One of the programmes that they recommend is titled Xfactor. Xfactor has a lovely icon. The home page is simple and pleasing to the eye.

This is a huge development.


Because it means that the open-source has penetrated past the early adopter stage. People with the skills to put up such pretty web pages weren't working with open-source software a year ago. People who could create nice icons weren't working with open-source software a year ago. People who could write well and were willing to were not working with open-source software a year ago. For certain, they were not putting together the graphics and the layout of free software and lists of software. Check out TUCOWS for what things could look like. I know, that's mean. I will say that TUCOWS looks wonderful in contrast with its previous appearance.

This development is critical for two reasons. First, it means, as I alluded to above, that people other than the hardcore geeks are looking at open-source without a jaundiced eye. Second, it means that other talents are being introduced into software development.

Consider that in the light of Apple's inroads into the unix or linux communities. People with different perspective and different talents are being welcomed into the insular open-source developing community.

Where will this lead?

Cheney Speaks At DeLay Fundraiser Monday Night, Up To $4,200 A Plate…

Posted on December 5, 2005 at 8:27 PM.

Protesters bearing signs that read "The GOP is in an ethics free-fall" and chants of "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Dick Cheney Has To Go," greeted Vice President Dick Cheney as he stopped in Houston on Monday to speak at a campaign fundraiser for embattled U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay.

Cheney spoke to more than 300 Republican supporters, many local political leaders, who paid anywhere from $500 to $4,200 to attend the private fundraiser. GOP heavy-hitters like Texas senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who were scheduled to attend, stayed in Washington, D.C., to attend the White House Christmas dinner.

How I Spent Christmas

From the Houston Chronicle

Skips White House party

Cheney missed the White House Christmas party, a celebrated Washington event, to attend DeLay's fundraiser, which attracted about 300 people.

For $4,200, donors attended a VIP reception, took photographs with Cheney and received recognition at the event. For $2,100, attendees rubbed elbows and took photos with DeLay. Regular tickets, just to have a seat at the table, cost $500 per person.

Some things just don't change.

Monday, December 05, 2005

on Bush and Speechifyin'

I'm listening to President Bush speaking, live from Kernersville, North Carolina at the Deere-Hitachi plant.

Early on in the speech, Bush stated that there was a crucial need to reduce reliance on foreign sources of energy. What's one of his ideas? Build more ports to increase the ability to import liquified natural gas.

Who thinks of this stuff?

On fiscal responsibility, Bush states that there are too many politicians in Washington who preach responsibility but who vote against spending cuts. By all accounts, Bush has never resisted a single spending bill in any meaningful way. A while ago, perhaps two years, a reporter asked Bush when he was going to crack down on the wild spenders in Congress. Bush replied that Congress was doing exactly what he asked of them and that in terms of spending, he had zero complaints to make.

Well, you get what you ask for, I guess.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

On a profitable Canadian company

Canadian retail is a tough business if you can't dominate your market.

Major retailers such as The Bay or Eaton's, have either failed or done poorly in terms of making money.

Eaton's, the original department store, is no more. The Bay, the centre piece of the oldest company in the world, The Hudson's Bay Company, the 335 year old, Company of Adventurers, doesn't make a lot of money.

Another Canadian retail icon, Canadian Tire, despite being in the sights of some major U.S. juggernauts like Home Depot, makes money hand over fist.

Years ago, when Eaton's was in the throes of its death rattle, the powers that be in that company decided to shoot their last wad by discarding all of the company's past and embracing the future fully and with their eyes closed. They discarded the iconography of the old, successful company. They discarded the business of the old, successful company. I'm sure they would have rolled old Timothy into the lake if they thought they could have gotten away with it. They spent a small fortune on advertising. They gave themselves over to some expensive consultants who drove the company into the ground so that they couldn't even meaningfully benefit from the substantial real-estate which the company owned.

Eaton's became an advertising monster for brand names. Calvin Klein was advertised heavily. I don't know if Eaton's sold a single t-shirt but they spent tens of millions advertising the brand. I doubt that CK could have afforded to spend the money that Eaton's did. My own suspicion is that customers heart rates climbed and then they went to go buy CK stuff elsewhere. There were other brands too but CK is the one that sticks in my memory.

For long years, I remember thinking that what Eaton's should do is develop their own line of clothes and other stuff. Growing up, I remember many people owning Viking brand kit, or Sears Kenmark or The Bay's Beaumark. Those were appliances and electronics but the mentality was the same. I was given and bought many house brand articles of clothing over the years.

By the end however, Eaton's could no longer sell their own brand. The Bay can't sell their own brand. I badly need an overcoat and I've visited two different Bay stores but all I've found is overpriced brands and coats that aren't particularly good. The cheapest coat that I desired at The Bay cost over $600. I don't have any statistics but I bet that if you charted the price that people are willing to pay for a coat (as in after the fact spent), you would only find a small fraction willing to spend that much money on a coat which didn't have a genuinely powerful brand cachet like a Hugo Boss. Fifty per cent of their floor space is given over to products that generate twenty per cent of their sales. Most people who do wish to spend that kind of money, who do want to be fashionable, won't go to a stodgy department store. They'll go to a store with a sense of fashion and style.

See, it doesn't have any hinges.
So, that's part of what makes it better.

This brings me to Canadian Tire. They have a widely ridiculed series of commercials that showcase products that are introduced at Canadian Tire. Today, I watched a commercial about a new, hingeless windshield wiper. I suspect that many people will buy this wiper. In the past, they have introduced various generators and power converters that bizarrely, spark conversations. What's more, the general feeling about some of their new products value versus their price, is that the pricing is pretty fair. That's impressive.

Their advertising is not anything like that which Eaton's spent money on or what The Bay does today. Canadian Tire eschews the 'lifestyle' type of advertising with beautifully shot imagery and uplifiting music but no or few words. Canadian Tire has dense, informative commercials that grind through all of the special features that differentiate their new products from the worn-out standards that their customers have been forced to live with over the years. I'm sure that David Ogilvy would approve.

These commercials give lessons on how products work in general and how new technology improves life. People who buy, or even consider buying, these products are capable of selling them to their friends and neighbours.

People eat this up. They also spend their money at Canadian Tire.