Monthly Archives: March, 2005

How to Use the Dial Phone

Lots of interesting stuff to be found on the Internet Archive. For example, there’s a 1927 AT&T training movie on how to use the new phones that had just come out with dials. It’s a silent movie, of course. For more about the Internet Archive, I strongly recommend this great talk by Brewster Kahle, its founder.

Update: Ironically, coming back 18 years later to update some of the links, I had to use the Internet Archive to find things again… including the AT&T movie, which was still on their site but not under quite the same URL!

Pipe Dream

PipeDream snapshots

A lovely bit of animation

Mouse adapter for those with shaky hands

This is cool. It’s easy to forget how many in our society can’t use the technologies we’ve come to depend on.

It’s also very interesting that IBM decided to release this as hardware when, presumably, it could easily be done in software.


I came across this acronym in a posting to a mailing list by Susan Kitchens. PBTKATC is a neat description of one of the problems which plague so many computer systems today, cause so much lost productivity, and to which, sadly, nobody in the technical community seems to have a good answer yet:

Problem between the Keyboard and the Chair

iPod Camera connector

The iPod camera connector will be available before long. It’s on The Apple Store (U.S.). No details yet, though.

Mac Mini VGA contd

Following on from my earlier post about the VGA output on the Mac Mini, there is at least a partial solution described here – there’s a hidden contrast control buried away on System Preferences under ‘Universal Access’. Tweaking that in conjunction with the monitor brightness & contrast controls certainly seems to help a lot.

In the meantime, we decided to order a Dell 2001FP display for Rose…. Should be here in a few days… but I don’t have any regrets!

How to Start a Startup

I like Paul Graham’s essay on How to Start a Startup. An enjoyable read with lots of good stuff. For example, he says that having great people is more important than great ideas:

What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can’t save bad people.

and this is an interesting viewpoint:

In technology, the low end always eats the high end. It’s easier to make an inexpensive product more powerful than to make a powerful product cheaper. So the products that start as cheap, simple options tend to gradually grow more powerful till, like water rising in a room, they squash the “high-end” products against the ceiling. Sun did this to mainframes, and Intel is doing it to Sun. Microsoft Word did it to desktop publishing software like Interleaf and Framemaker. Mass-market digital cameras are doing it to the expensive models made for professionals. Avid did it to the manufacturers of specialized video editing systems, and now Apple is doing it to Avid.

Henry Ford did it to the car makers that preceded him. If you build the simple, inexpensive option, you’ll not only find it easier to sell at first, but you’ll also be in the best position to conquer the rest of the market.

It’s very dangerous to let anyone fly under you. If you have the cheapest, easiest product, you’ll own the low end.

The Book Stops Here

A very interesting Wired article by Daniel Pink on what I think is one of the internet’s greatest creations: Wikipedia.

The Tyranny of Email

It’s about two years since Ole Eichhorn wrote an article about The Tyranny of Email, but I’ve only just discovered it.

Worth reading.

Follow-up: This one‘s also good if you’re worried about email overload.

iPod Shuffle – the missing manual?

Scott Knaster has written a very useful article on the O’Reilly site:iPod Shuffle Tips and Tricks

Recommended for all Shuffle owners.

A quick test

MarkDown experiments

Please ignore this post. I’m just learning about [MarkDown syntax](

MarkDown is:
* a syntax for writing structured text which is more readable and more writable than straight HTML
* a tool for converting the text into proper HTML on posting

In general, I’d rather store my posts in HTML, I think, but MarkDown seems to be sufficiently widespread (and available as a Perl command-line conversion tool) that I don’t anticipate any problem in getting my data out again if I decide to store it in MarkDown format. Mmmm…

Certainly much easier to write than HTML. And it’s a standard WordPress plugin. You just have to enable it…

Follow-up – I found that the plugin was also used on comments, which confused some people. So I’ve disabled it for now, which is why you can probably see the above as raw markdown source. Fortunately, that’s pretty readable too!

Mac mini VGA output

Mmm. It’s too bad. I bought a Mac Mini today for Rose, which is in all respects lovely, except that the text just isn’t quite crisp enough on my VGA monitor. There’s something about the analog output of the Mini, via the DVI-VGA converter, which is not quite right. And I don’t think it’s the converter.

I’m far from being the only one with this problem; see this substantial discussion in the Apple forum, for example.

It seems pretty likely to be fixable in firmware, once Apple really acknowledge the problem. Until then I have to decide whether to return it or to get a DVI monitor…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser