The Northern Spy
AAA (Adventures, Acronyms, and Anticipations)
The land of the frozen north
shivers this November 25 in the grip of winter, its icicle-breathed inhabitants huddling in their igloos, even the dog teams at their feet not wanting to venture out into the blizzard. For his part, the Spy, who successfully warded off the snow last year by purchasing a snowblower to replace his then nonfunctional arm, and who tried the same this year by mounting four winter tires, finds himself facing a major snow clearing job before tomorrow's family birthdays--white Friday, so to speak.
Speaking of birthdays, it is one month to Christmas. Have you bought your mother's Christmas present yet?
Meanwhile that great land to the south, marked on some maps as terra incognita celebrates thanksgiving mid-winter and more than a month later than in Canada, while it prepares to engage in shopping as a blood sport tomorrow (as this is written). The online bargain sites and aggregators of same are going nuts as we speak. Expect Apple to do well with slightly discounted products, though the company hardly needs a sale to push more boxes out the door when it is growing at three times the industry average. However, competition being what it is, expect Canadian retailers to get in on the act as well.
iSteve didn't wait for Black Friday to pick up ninety-eight more acres (about 40 Ha) of additional land in Cupertino, purchasing the HP campus, as the latter consolidates in Palo Alto instead. The new campuses doesn't adjoin 1 Infinite Loop, but it shouldn't be that hard to build a subway under the freeway from one to the other (helicopter pads might be overkill). True, this project is a little less ambitious than buying a bankrupt European country as suggested in this space last month, but the purchase does have a similar flavour somehow.
Well, iSteve's gotta have some place for those twelve thousand plus new employees in that town alone the past year to hang their hats, and HP needs far fewer, so.... Meanwhile, the Spy hastes to assure his reader that there is no truth to the rumour that the city name will shortly be changed to iCupertino.
Speaking of comments made here, the Spy recently observed that down at the AirBook level some convergence with iOS seems to be taking place. This seemed to alarm some readers, who perhaps had visions of sugar iOS plums dancing on their desktops. Not so. The Air is a hybrid device—part mobile, part laptop. It understandably may end up a convergence focus, with features from both sides of the spec sheet. That does not mean the desktop will see the mobile OS, though there is bound to be other cross pollination up and down the product line as time goes on. Interesting that there was less reaction to the suggestion that towers for the desktop may be about to go the way of the Apple ][--no longer a product of our time.
Update adventures and awkward alerts
The Spy attempted to update his (replacement) iPod Touch to iOS 4.2, and got the very informative message: 'There are purchased items on the iPod "blah, blah" that have not been transferred to your iTunes library. You should transfer these items to your iTunes library before updating this iPhone. Are you sure you want to continue?' One is offered the choice of "continue" or "cancel" but with no information on the consequences of either. Since Apps don't sync back to the iTunes library automatically, what to do? A little searching revealed the menu item "file==> Transfer purchases from blah blah". That seemed to do the trick. Easy enough in sum? Yes, but shouldn't warning messages come complete with consequences and avoidances, or better yet, with a third button to fix the problem so a person need not guess? The Spy has noted before that the user interface in iTunes seems awkward. This is yet another instance of that class.
What's more, given how iTunes is used these days, and given that Apple is adding a Mac Apps Store, isn't it about time iTunes became a subsection of an iStore, rather than the framework or shell application for so many other things? The paradigm should be: Launch the Apple iStore, pick your department, then buy music, mobile apps or computer apps. Let's hope.
The iOS update itself seemed to go well, but the Spy will be sure to iUpdate his readers on any gotchyahs he encounters.
Speaking of upgrades, the Spy continues to be relatively pleased with his new 8-core MacPro with snow Leopard. It's only faster than the Quad PowerPC in some things, and the OS offers no noticeable improvements to the casual user from previous editions, but the old Quad was making noises like it was getting ready to go to the great technology graveyard in the sky so SHTBD.
AADOTY (abominable acronymic decision of the year)
goes uncontested and untendered by unanimous decision to Elections BC (British Columbia), who ruled in rejecting a recall petition that the abbreviations MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly—sorta like a State House representative) and HST (Harmonized Sales Tax, Hated Stinkin' Tax, or Hand Some To me) counted not as one word each, but as three each, putting the petition over the legal limit of two hundred words, and invalidating all the canvasser credentials as well. Wow. Can you imagine the response if Twitter were to do the same thing? Organizers plan to re-submit, of course. The Spy is certain much of value was achieved by this sage decision. ROTFHLHTHO. (hysterically, his typing hands, that is.)
Product upgrade of the month
OTOH, goes to Scrivener, the organizer cum word processor par excellence for novelists and screen writers. The Spy has been using this product in previous versions for some years now, but version 2.0 from makers Literature and Latte brings new organization and features that are well worth the first upgrade charge in some time. Settings and options galore, this is novel writing word processing as it should always have been.
Keep your novel organized by chapter and scene, and on screen in suitable fonts for writing, but export into files with pre-set formats suitable for a particular publisher. Export only some chapters if you have non-sequential subplots you want read sequentially by an editor. Group elements, doodle on the corkboard, outline, go full screen, move chapters or scenes around by drag and drop--Oh, yes! Of course there is a lively user forum with plenty of opportunity to get and give advice.
To date, Scrivener has only been available on the Mac, but the company is working on a Windows version. Pity. All the new users such a move will bring into the fold would have been far better off buying a real computer instead of continuing to struggle with a cheap, unreliable, and insecure imitation knockoff.
But hey, Scrivener is the real thing. If you're a writer, run, do not walk (virtually of course) to the Literature and Latte site and buy or upgrade this masterpiece for creating your own GCN (great Canadian novel). It makes life as a writer so much easier. On second thought, do we need a new saying: "trackpad, do not mouse..."?
Only bug noted thus far is that if the current working line is highlighted (option for that of course) its text can disappear from sight when the cursor is in the adjacent line. Disconcerting, but harmless. It is still there, and returns when you mouse away.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and so on--
the Spy and his family have every reason to be thankful to the Lord of Heaven this particular season as daughter-in-law Jen managed to survive that Mexican hotel explosion unscathed by virtue of sleeping in for ten minutes and so being slightly late walking past the death zone. A big-time lifeguard-first-aider like her husband (that's my little boy) Joel, she was able to render assistance to some of the injured. At times like these you realize more than usual what a thin line we all walk between this life and eternity.
are usually the order of the month at about this time of year, but those can wait till January 2011. The task looks too easy this time—bigger hard drives and more memory for less money, no breakthroughs in CPU design, and Apple garnering a larger and larger share of a bigger and bigger technology pie. Should the recession finally end (maybe late in the year) expect iSteve's little company's growth to turn exponential. And does anyone really think MS will still have the same management team at the end of the year, even if they did manage to pick up UNIX at a garage sale?
Until then, and as two-year-old granddaughter Elianna says: "Seeyuh". (It's all one word.)
--The Northern Spy
Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor and chair of Computing Science and Mathematics as well as (now former) Senate Chair at Trinity Western University. He was also on the board of CIRA, operator of .ca. He's written two textbooks and several novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.
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