My favrouite picture from my holiday, and also testing Nokia Lifeblog’s integration with Typepad.
1. French culture is low, not high.
Think of France and you think of fine wines, museums, art, culture, right? That’s Culture with a capital C – the high stuff. Not the low everyday things. If you think this, you’d be wrong. French culture is all about the low-end: food, drink, the stuff of everyday living and making it all a pleasure. The food is better not because it’s cooked incredibly well (often, it isn’t), but because the French won’t tolerate rubbish ingredients. Compare the vegetable section of a French supermarket to an English one, and you’ll instantly see the difference: the produce is seasonal, it’s French, and it’s not ripened super-fast under glass. Even in the worst supermarkets, the only time I saw a non-French vegetable was some Israeli avocado’s – which weren’t selling well.
2. French? Fashion? Not in my lifetime.
Mention the French, and you instantly think of fashion – but you’d be wrong. What the French are good at is style, rather than fashion – which is actually something that the British are much, much better at. In France, most of the young people look like slightly less grubby versions of the old people, wearing slightly more colourful versions of the same clothes. They look great. They know how to accessorise like no nation on Earth. But that’s as far as it goes. When British youth is inventive, bold and fearless about what it wears, French youth is conservative and (dare I say it?) somewhat dull. Personally, I’m of an age where dressing like the French has started to appeal more, but then I make no pretense of being fashionable.
3. French TV. Oh God, the horror.
It’s not just that French TV is in French (which is a handicap for me, but probably not for the natives). It’s that it rivals Australian soap operas for awfulness. Even a high-culture version of Ben Jonson’s Volpone starring Gerard Depardieu looked like a BBC2 play from 1976. And as for the rest of it…
4. French pop music ended in 1965.
OK, now this is a severe generalisation, but the French appear to have decided en masse that pop music post-mid 60’s serves no purpose. Everything – even the upbeat psuedo-techno – sounds like it’s filtered through Elvis and Le Beatles. Star Academy, the French version of those awful search-for-a-star shows, is a case in point, with – I kid you not – a group song called Au revoir Le Professeur that resembled something that the Kids from Fame would have rejected as too chi chi. The two finalists of Star Academy – Gregory and Lucie – made Will Young look leading edge. While in the UK, mainstream pop stars like Holly Valance and Sugababes produce songs that at least sound like they’ve made an effort to be different, French pop stars all want to be Jonny Halliday. And that’s the worst thing: why do the French love ancient, leathery “rock and rollers” Halliday (107 years old and still bleaching his hair) and Michel Sardou? Sardou was on the final of Star Academy doing a duet with Lucie, who, the poor love, was valiantly attempting to strike up chemistry with a man old enough to be her grandfather. And all the while, her body language spoke of how much she wanted to be anywhere other than being embraced in a suspiciously vigorous fashion on live TV by the leathery crooner. Oh, and French is the worst language in the world to rap in – even Italian is better (see Jovanotti for details).
5. I love the place.
Despite their terrible music and oldworld clothes, I love the French to bits. They know how to live, even if they only know how to rock. I’m glad to be back, but I can’t wait to go again.
In a piece on The Register, Cormac O’Reilly speculates that the sale of IBM’s PC division opens up the prospect of Big Blue either buying Apple or forming a close partnership with it to sell Macs – possibly with the IBM label.
Technology journalism is littered with the words of nay-sayers who later had to eat large slices of humble pie, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that an IBM/Apple deal is about as likely as Dell being sold to Microsoft. However, there is one scenario where a deal between IBM and Apple would make sense – although it probably wouldn’t be one that Mac users would like.
There are two key reasons for a buy-out being unlikely. First of all, such a deal would make no sense whatever to Apple, which has both the cash in the bank to fight off a hostile takeover and the desire to remain independent. Although the years when Apple saw IBM as its main competitor are long gone, and the much-vaunted “Apple spirit” isn’t what it once was, few at the company would want to work for IBM. Steve Jobs, thanks to the success of the iPod and his involvement in Pixar, now has the potential to be the first big media mogul of the 21st Century, and would be unlikely to give up that chance. Nor would a sale deliver anything to shareholders, particularly as at the moment the stock price has been doing very nicely and profits have continued to roll in. Apple is neither financially nor culturally ripe for a takeover.
The second main reason is that it would make little sense for IBM. While there is a certain synergy with IBM’s strategies thanks to Mac OS X’s Unix heritage, IBM’s focus for most of its future products and services is Linux, not BSD, and diversifying the “pure” Linux message would only confuse the marketing. Owning the Mac platform would provide IBM with no additional benefits, and a foray into the consumer lifestyle market via the iPod would be far too alien to IBM culture. Who’d buy an IBM iPod?
One minor point that Cormac makes, though, does merit some attention: IBM’s lack of Apple as a signatory to its new PowerPC consortium. However, this is equally likely to mean that Apple’s commitment to PowerPC is less solid than IBM would like than meaning that the two companies are so close they don’t need to sign up. The Mac OS X on Intel project remained live, last time I heard, although it’s not what most people think it is (you won’t be able to run OS X on stock PCs, but instead will buy a Mac with an Intel processor in it). Perhaps, as happened with Motorola, Apple has seen the future road-map of the PowerPC and is less than impressed. Or perhaps Steve Jobs is simply “punishing” IBM for its slowness in getting faster PowerPC 970’s to market. Any of these explanations is more likely than an IBM/Apple buy-out.
There is, however, one possible option for a deal between the companies, and one which makes sense at least for Apple. I have to emphasise that this is complete speculation, and that I have no insider knowledge of this actually being true: but suppose, rather than Apple itself being sold to IBM, the company just sold the Mac to Big Blue? This would give Apple two big benefits: it would free the company to concentrate on the two things that have the most potential for growth, digital media and software (a Windows version of Final Cut Pro would sell faster than Apple could duplicate the discs). It would remove a huge chunk of expenses, in the form of hardware development of a platform that, even at the most optimistic estimates, has only limited potential for growth. And it would give Apple the chance to break free of the need to develop and support an operating system, something which is both expensive and increasingly difficult.
The problem, though, is that such a deal makes sense for IBM only if you believe that Linux is heading into difficult water, and there’s little sign of that. Or is there? Rumours have been floating around for a while that Microsoft is preparing some kind of major attack on Linux through its ownership of intellectual property that the open source operating system may infringe upon. If such an attack were to take place, it would be advantageous for IBM to own a “clean” OS capable of support its systems and platforms – and Mac OS X would be a perfect candidate. OS X is pretty scalable, runs on PowerPC, and there are some very neat technologies wrapped up with it – such as Xgrid – which would be attractive to IBM’s core markets.
It’s worth mentioning again that this is speculation, and that I think it’s unlikely at best. But why not? With perhaps four million iPods being sold this coming quarter, an Apple focussed on digital media makes much more sense than a company trying to sell boxes into a commodity market. Perhaps the time is right to look for a buyer for the Mac.
…and now being tested. Let’s see if this actually works…
Posting plug-ins for NewsGator Outlook edition are now available for Movable Type 3.0 and later, and TypePad. To use them, install the plug-in you need, and then go to NewsGator/Options (inside Outlook), Posting tab, and select and configure the appropriate plug-in.
Both new plug-ins are available for download here.
[via NewsGator News and Updates]
Apologies for the lack of updates: I’ve spent the last week or so in what you might call “moving hell” – that’s right, moving house for the second time in six months. I’ve now move into a new flat, with a new flatmate, and obviously that’s been taking up a lot of time.
Because it’s a completely new flat, converted from a house, getting connected has been more of an issue than you’d expect. There’s no phone line, which means that a BT engineer – that rarest of things – has to actually physically come to the address and install wires. Because there’s no BT phone line, I can’t get an ADSL line installed. And because we have no TV, I can’t get NTL to install cable (they need a TV to test that the cable box works).
All of which means that I’ve been finding out what it’s like to work in a completely mobile fashion, using public WiFi hotspots as well as connectivity through Starbucks’ T-Mobile deal. You might expect that, after always-on connectivity, being able to connect only for a few hours a day is a pain – but actually, it’s not only made work more productive, but it’s incredibly easy.
My daily routine at the moment is something like this:
9.30am – Starbucks. Pick up email, browse for any good stories or interesting items. Using NewsGator makes this easier, particularly for sites which have full-text feeds (Starbucks charges in 15 minute chunks, so the shorter the time I spend actually online, the better). Gasp at the overpriced coffee – how do they get away with it?
11am – Back home. Digest information, decide what I’m going to write, and do some writing.
2pm – Head to The Crescent, a pub up in the Seven Dials part of Brighton which has free WiFi. The Crescent isn’t actually the closest pub with free WiFi, but it’s the one I like best – nice food, and it’s lunchtime so I eat and surf at the same time. Using the Ziff Davis VPN, I post up anything that needs to go on Extreme iPod and send any replies to mail that needs sending.
4pm – Back home. Noodle around on work, and stuff to be sent tomorrow.
There are good points and bad points about this. The good points are that no permanent Internet means no distractions. I write about twice as fast when I don’t have the constant “ping ping ping” of email arriving. It makes me realise just how undiscplined I am about email – I read and answer quickly, when probably 95% of what I get really ought to be deferred until much later. When an average day sees 400 emails arrive, you spend a lot of potentially productive time reading email that doesn’t add anything to your working day.
One great thing: Starbucks/T-Mobile’s service allows you to buy time on your mobile phone bill if you have a T-Mobile phone. This is so much more convenient than putting in a credit card number, and probably more secure too (the T-Mobile hotspots are not encrypted, so you’d be putting your credit card number into an unlocked, public wireless network – not a great idea).
Secondly, battery life is key to doing this kind of thing – and it’s the one area that my most-used laptop, an Acer TravelMate C111, isn’t good at. The Acer sacrifices battery life for size, which means that you can end up running out of battery after less than two hours. Having to go home to charge is not good – and not every place with a wireless hotspot is happy for you to plug in your laptop. Were it not for the fact that the battery in my iBook is semi-dead, I’d much rather use that machine.
A good mobile phone is essential for this kind of work – and the one that I’m using, a Nokia 7610, is great. Battery life is great, the screen is great, everything about this phone is great. I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t forget, though, that not everyone can call you on a mobile – it’s common in the US for office phones to be locked against calling mobiles, particularly internationally, so don’t expect that everyone can get through easily.
The down side is that more and more people and companies expect you to be instantly available via IM and email, and are likely to want quick responses to questions. Annoyingly, if they don’t get an instant response, they tend not to follow up with a phone call. If there’s one thing that this has taught me, it’s that there’s a lot of value in just phoning someone straight away.
So could you do without a permanent Internet connection permanently? It depends on your work. For my work, I suspect it’s not sustainable in the long term, but works reasonably well as a stop gap. For others it might work better. I’m still looking forward to getting a permanent net connection back – if only because the iTunes Music Store is calling me…