Monthly Archives: March, 2006

From The Book

“Well,”, said Sam Gamgee, “I’m back”. And so am I, after nearly a month of travel; back to unpacking, clearing my in-tray (which now supports a pile of sufficient height that I’m hoping it may topple over and clear itself), and catching up with all the other things I should have been doing during March.

Of course, all of these might have been done more quickly if it weren’t for the fact that my new MacBook Pro arrived while I was away, so the first thing I had to do after kissing my wife, of course, was to set that up. The Apple migration tools are very good; I just plugged the old laptop and the new one together during the installation, and all my applications, settings, documents, photos, bookmarks and so forth were copied across with no trouble.

So this is my first posting from an Intel-based Mac, and so far, everything is working very nicely.

The new power connector is very neat, but it does mean that all the old Powerbook power adaptors I have lying around won’t work until somebody produces a convertor cable.

There are a couple of apps which don’t work under the Intel and I’ll need to wait for upgrades – NeoOffice and Final Cut being the main ones – but the fact that I’ve only hit a problem with these two is quite remarkable when you consider just how many apps and utilities on this machine were compiled for a completely different processor architecture. The Rosetta emulation technology is really very good and most normal apps and utilities just work.

Otherwise, frankly, it’s not very different from my old Powerbook except that it’s noticeably snappier and has a bit more disk space, and that’s just fine with me! As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke… just make it go a bit faster.

Paypal mobile

Ah – I’ve been wondering how long it would take Paypal to get into m-Payment schemes. Now they have.

Go south, young man

I think most of my readers live in the northern hemisphere, and I’m sure most of you (being the sort of chaps and chapesses of whom Baden Powell would approve) will know how to find the Pole Star at night, and hence know which way is north.

But if one finds oneself in the southern hemisphere, looking up at the Southern Cross instead of Ursa Major, how does one find south? Here’s the answer. So now you know.

Here’s the real thing, from my balcony tonight. The Cross is lying on its side in the top half of the image and the pointer stars are in the lower half. So south is probably somewhere near your scrollbar.

Southern Cross

And, incidentally, if you want to explore the night sky in a little more detail, you could do a lot worse than install Stellarium


Apologies for those of you who didn’t sign up to this blog so you could see my holiday snaps! I’ll be back at work soon…

I climbed Table Mountain today. It’s not too strenuous a climb, really, but the temperature (around 90F today) made it more of a challenge. There was almost no shade on the way up; this photo is from one of the few spots which was out of the noonday sun:

Platteklip Gorge

I met this chap on the top. He seemed remarkably unconcerned by the proximity of humans.

A lizard on Table Mountain

Light through trees

On the slopes of Table Mountain…

Light through trees

Tea time

I’m at the impressive Rhodes memorial with a spectacular view over Cape Town.

I’m also drinking Earl Grey, and reading John Buchan. Seems appropriate, somehow.

Holiday snaps

I was going to post a picture or two from a boat trip yesterday in Cape Town, but I emailed some snaps to John and he beat me to it.

I’ve taken to carrying a little IXUS 750 with me almost everywhere I go, and one of the things I’m appreciating more and more is its ability to record video clips. I’ve never been one of those people who likes to spend much of their holiday looking through a camcorder viewfinder. I have a very nice camcorder, but I normally only use it for making corporate demo videos; I don’t carry it around with me.

Occasionally, however, there are scenes which require something more than a still image, and it’s great to have something on my belt which can record them. Here are a couple of little Quicktime clips from yesterday:

(You might want to right-click and download them. They won’t stream very well unless you have quite a fast connection.)

How Apple Ate the World

A nice article in the Times by Bryan Appleyard about what makes Apple so interesting, as it approaches its 30th brithday.

Airline safety

I’m writing this on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town operated by the low-cost airline Kalula. We had the usual departure delays that one expects from budget airlines, but otherwise I’m quite impressed; the seats are spacious and comfortable and the staff are friendly.

What will stick in my memory, however, was the safety briefing, which was a hoot. Extracts that I can remember include:

“In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the panel above your head. Please stop screaming and pull the mask towards you, which will start the flow of oxygen…”

“In the event of a landing on water, you will find beneath your seat the latest fashion in lifejackets. Please place this over your head and tie the straps securely around your waist, as you may actually survive this…”

“…please help children, and passengers acting like children….”

“Please ensure that your mobile phones are switched off, as they may interfere with the aircraft systems, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end up in Zimbabwe.”


A fountain at Montecasino, which is Johannesburg’s (somewhat mild) answer to Las Vegas. Pretty fountain, though.

Montecasino fountain

Portable Apps

Here’s an interesting site:

A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB thumbdrive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug, none of your personal data is left behind.

There are portable versions of most of the current Open Source apps – Firefox, GAIM, Thunderbird, Abiword, OpenOffice…

Contrasts continued

Yesterday I visited Soweto. Among the shanty-town-type areas this was one of the more palatial residences:

A house in Soweto

We visited one of the smaller one-room houses and met this man and his wife:

Soweto family

He said it was a good house because it was very close to the water pipe:

Stand pipe

There was one bed, which most of the family shared, and he slept on a straw mat on the floor.

Beside the straw mat on the floor was his mobile phone, with headphones plugged in so he could listen to MP3 files.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser