Monthly Archives: September, 2001


The next version of the Radio Userland package which I use to publish this weblog will apparently be “priced competitively with Groove“. It’s very competitive at present, being free! It sounds as if that won’t be true in future, which is a pity – I would have it was worth having it widely distributed as an introduction to Userland’s more powerful Frontier application.

But the comparison with Groove is an interesting one which had occurred to me before. On the surface they are very different applications, but they are both built on underlying platforms which are much more flexible and more powerful than the casual user might realise, and which have a certain amount in common. Groove promises quite a bit more, at present, but Radio delivers more reliably, in my experience. It will be interesting to see the next version, which will also – goody! – be available on Mac OS X.


Fidelity Investments has apparently made a huge move of its corporate infrastructure to XML. Story at ComputerWorld.


Small but encouraging discoveries today. I imported a large and very complex Powerpoint poster into OpenOffice, and, while it didn’t render perfectly, it was pretty darn close. I then discovered that OpenOffice was in some respects rather better than Powerpoint, because it has a concept of ‘styles’, much as in a word-processor. When you’ve formatted one text box as yellow text on a blue background with a red border, you can create a style from that and apply it to any other boxes. Modify the style, and all of the boxes change. Obvious stuff, really, but nice none the less, and not available in Powerpoint.

I explored a bit more and found another cute feature. When you create styles you normally make them dependent on other styles. A ‘block quote’ style, for example, is typically based on a normal paragraph but with larger left and right margins. In OpenOffice, you can view the list of styles as a hierarchical tree, so you can see exactly which ones are dependent on which other ones. Lovely.

The final discovery was that I could export my slide as SVG – a completely non-proprietary and open standard for scalable graphics – which I could then view using, for example, a browser with the Adobe SVG viewer plugin.

This is all exciting stuff.


Mac OS X 10.1 is out this weekend in the U.S. and by all accounts it fixes most of the remaining issues with the existing version. Current users can just walk into an Apple reseller for an upgrade CD. Steve Jobs, in his announcement at Seybold, carelessly neglected to mention how people in the UK can get hold of it, so I called our local supplier first thing this morning. There was a delay getting through, and the person I spoke to apologised for it, “We have about 5 lines all ringing at the moment!”

“Ah”, I said, “they probably want to know the same thing as me. I’m interested in OS X version…”

“Monday!”, she interrupted, with a laugh.

Newton had an apple – did Turing?

Here’s some Net folklore….
On BBC Radio 4 this morning they were discussing Alan Turing, and said that the Apple Computer logo was actually a tribute to him. He committed suicide by taking a couple of bites out of an apple which was laced with cyanide. I read elsewhere that this is apparently repeated by Sadie Plant in her book ‘Zeroes and Ones’, with the additional assertion that the rainbow background is the symbol for homosexuality, accusations of which drove him to it.

Now this is a good story, but there’s a different account in the FAQ on the rather good site:

Steve Jobs had worked during the summer at an apple farm, and admired the Beatles’ record label, Apple. He also believed Apples to be the most perfect fruit. He and Steve Wozniak were trying to figure out a name for their new company, and they decided that if they couldn’t think of one by the end of the day that was better than Apple, they’d choose Apple. They couldn’t think of anything better, so on April 1, 1976, Apple Computer, Inc. was born.

But they needed a logo. The first design included Sir Isaac Newton, a tree and a banner that said “Apple Computer.” Jobs decided they needed a less busy logo, one that would signify a brand. The second logo attempt was very similar to the current logo, but without the bite taken out of it. Jobs thought this logo looked too much like an orange. The third attempt was the logo that Apple still uses.

Take your pick. Somehow, to me, the latter sounds more plausible, if only because it’s not quite so neat. If it happened today, of course, Jobs and Wozniak would have discovered that was already in use by a record company and would then have had to think of something much less elegantly simple.


Disposable cellphones are almost with us. If that sounds ridiculous, think what people would have said a few decades ago if you’d suggested a disposable camera.
More info on how they are made can be found here. Apparently, they’ll be available within a month or so. Some models keep costs down by using speech recognition instead of a keypad and display. They only need to understand a few digits, of course, but this may be the first significant mass-market use of embedded speech recognition technology?


Yesterday I wrote that it is only a belief in an afterlife that can give any comfort to those involved in the tragedy. John Naughton referred me to Richard Dawkins’ article, which points out that belief in the afterlife caused the tragedy in the first place.


Jenny McCartney is rightly cynical about the condolences from Gerry Adams.


On a cheerier note, this can’t be true, but it’s a great story. Apparently the Advertising Standards Authority have told Möben Kitchens to remove the umlaut from their name, because customers might be fooled into thinking it’s a German company and that the products are therefore of a higher quality than is actually the case.

The web address of is a dead giveaway. They should have registered It’s still available…


Few events have demonstrated the power of modern media more than those on Tuesday. We’re used to receiving entertainment, sport and even news events from the far side of the world, but on Tuesday a tidal wave of shock and grief was transmitted around the globe. In the past, one would read about such events in the newspapers, several days after they happened, possibly accompanied by a black and white photograph or two. Now, we sit mesmerised by multiple repetitions of high-quality colour footage from all angles only minutes after the tragedy. We’ve even actually heard people’s final phone calls. Many of us walked around in an unbelieving half-dazed state for several days.

Is the world better as a result of this huge multiplication of grief? Of course, it also generates a huge multiplication of sympathy and support – I’m very proud of the way my country and others have stood side by side with America in so many symbolic ways – but since there’s very little practical action that even people right on the doorstep in NY can take, there’s nothing but a multiplication of frustration for the rest of us. Yes, we can donate money, but, frankly, that’s not what they need.

Perhaps the greatest good that can come from the media coverage is this: What was probably intended as an attack on America is being interpreted as an attack on the whole civilised world. That might just be more than the perpetrators, and others of their kind, had bargained for.


Lauren Sandler – “This rain is proof that there is no God”.
These are tough times for any religion to justify itself. My upbringing tells me that it is only the belief in heaven, in the fact that this life is just a temporary waiting room for better things to come, that can provide any real comfort for those involved.

Still, can we pick and choose like that? There have been a large number of church services over the last few days, and many sermons preached. I haven’t heard much reference to loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you, and especially not turning the other cheek.


There’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t been said about yesterday, the most infamously historic day of my lifetime. ‘Infamous’ is an appalling description. There aren’t even any suitable adjectives left. But I love the defiance of this amazing photo from the NY Daily News.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser