Monthly Archives: August, 2011

Here’s to the crazy ones…

The wires are buzzing with the news that Steve Jobs is resigning from Apple. Everyone knew it had to come, but he will be greatly missed, and the web is gradually filling with tributes of one sort or another.

The thing I have always loved about Apple was that they broke so many rules, and did so with such glorious success.

Conventional business wisdom will tell you, over and over again, that you should focus on your strengths, cast off all else that hinders, and aim to commoditise whatever complements your core business, rather than getting into it yourself. Microsoft don’t make chips, and Intel don’t make operating systems.

Apple, on the other hand, weren’t listening. They gradually grew to sell hardware, accessories, operating systems, applications, for mass markets and niche markets. They even did what many people thought was bound to be a disaster: opening their own retail outlets! But they then turned them into, per square foot, the most valuable retail space in the world. Having covered pretty much everything in conventional computing, they plunged into the notoriously difficult mobile phone market and, well, you know the story. Oh, and by the way, they sell a few books and some music, too.

When you think about it, doesn’t the fact that Ford doesn’t even sell petrol seem, well, a bit unadventurous?

To understand more about the man who made this happen, I recommend this page of quotes from Steve at the WSJ.

Or, for a bit of nostalgia, you can’t do much better than the posters from Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ campaign:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The Sandbrowser

Mmm. You can now download C/C++ apps to run within Google Chrome.

So the browser really is becoming an operating system. Or, at least, a sandbox. Soon, I expect, you’ll be able to download full VMs and run them in the browser, at which point the whole idea of displaying web pages will be just one service your browser provides, in much the same way that driving a graphics card is just one function of your current operating system.

The main difference between your browser and your operating system will then simply be whether they think of the network, or the disk, as being the primary filesystem…

New toy

I’ve been having fun with my new Panasonic GH2. A very nice toy.

All this and it shoots 1080p too 🙂

Lion Finder crashing repeatedly

Geeky post to help those who might be Googling for this stuff. To anyone who saw the title and came here hoping to read about an accident-prone safari guide, my apologies.

I know people have mixed experiences with Mac OS X Lion, but for me it’s been almost all good, and I’m very happy with the upgrade.

I did, however, run into a curious problem today on one of my machines, which took a while to sort out. The Finder was crashing and rebooting repeatedly, each time asking me if I wanted to restore the windows it had been displaying before.

I tried all sorts of things: moving stuff off the desktop, deleting the Finder’s preferences file, unmounting drives, booting in safe mode… but in the end it proved to be the Trash that was causing the problem.

I started Terminal (which is always in my Dock, but you can start from Spotlight if you don’t have a Finder running) and did:

sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash

…after which my world came back to normality again. (You’ll need to type your admin password).

Hope that’s useful for someone out there!

Analogy for the day

Today’s thought-provoking quotation comes from The Knight Foundation’s John Bracken:

“Print is the new vinyl.”


Aargh! These people really annoy me!

I had a call from a nice lady named Celine at Comantra. She told me that they were a Microsoft support partner and the information they had about my PC suggested that there was a problem with the Windows operating system and that my machine had been compromised by malware and viruses. If I was sitting in front of my computer, their support team would be able to help me sort it out…

Now, this was not the first time I had been contacted by similar organisations, and I wanted to find out more, so I asked about the name of the company, got their phone number (08000488005), got her name…

And then I yelled at her.

Ask any of the chaps, and they’ll tell you that old Q, for all that he may be rather excitable sort of fellow sometimes, is not really given to yelling, but these scams really annoy me. They pick on the nervous and vulnerable and get them to fork out cash for a service which in all probability they do not need. Certainly, they know nothing about your computer – not one of my computers has run Windows in the last decade or so, for example – and how would they tie it to your phone number anyway? Unless they happened to be involved in the malware business themselves, perhaps… Anyway, in the past, when I’ve started asking difficult questions, they just hang up, so I wanted to play along to make sure I knew who was culpable. They know they’re guilty of misrepresentation.

If I’d had the presence of mind, I would have used the rather nice response that I heard someone on a podcast recently recommend for telemarketers of all types. He would listen patiently and then ask, “I have a question. Why don’t you get a job that makes peoples’ lives better instead of worse?”

Not less, but better

Nice quote from Kevin Kelly on the (excellent) Triangulation podcast:

The solution to bad or stupid ideas is not to stop thinking. It’s to have better ideas.

Similarly, the solution to bad or stupid technology is not to get rid of technology. It’s to create better technology.

Breakfast at Auntie’s

An interesting start to the day today.

At an hour at which all civilised people should still be tucked up in bed, I presented myself at the dear old BBC Television Centre to be interviewed on the Breakfast TV programme. I was then whisked upstairs to do the same on Radio 5 Live before coming back downstairs again to do a slight variation on the theme on TV again.

And the reason for all this early-morning scurrying through the rather charming maze that is the BBC?

Well, it’s about 20 years since the start of the World Wide Web. (Do you remember when we used to call it by its full name to distinguish it from the more common arachnean use?) So they’ve been running various anniversary features and interviews, and the old webcam story is always a good light-hearted one when most of the rest of the day’s news is about economic collapse!

It’s hard to pin an exact date on the start of the web, but it’s usually taken to be Aug 6, 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee posted a message on a usenet newsgroup describing the project and telling people where to get the code if they wanted to try it out. Hence the 20th-birthday celebrations today. It seems amazing to me that undergraduates leaving college next year will have been born after the web, and will never have known a world without it.

One of the first things I remember doing with the web, probably some time in 1992, was writing a web server which was effectively a blogging tool, though it would be a long time before anyone would have called it that. It showed a page and let you type something at the bottom; that ‘something’ would then be appended to the page with a timestamp. I used it for a little while as a lab notebook, but not very seriously or for very long. I was really just experimenting with the idea of web pages that could alter themselves… And of pages that could be edited through the browser itself.

Status-Q came much later: my first post here was not until early 2001, so it’s a relative youngster. But it has at least, I realise, been going now for more than half of the life of the web.

Anyway, here are links to recordings of the radio and TV interviews in case anyone’s interested.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser