Friday, 4 July 2008

On the subject of Bill Gates retirement

I've waited a long time to talk about this. I was all ready to rant and rave about the torrent of lies that the media would put out. As it turned out, however, one of the nice things over the last couple of weeks is that there have been pockets of journalists who've have taken the time to actually accurately portray Bill Gates career in the computer industry. In the past journalists and news outlets have seen fit to repeat the myths that Bill and Microsoft have propagated. On his retirement though they seem happy to point out that Microsoft is not responsible for most of the innovations it gives it self credit for, and even fewer that the general public give it credit for, and contrary to popular belief Bill Gates is not one of the greatest technical minds of his generation. What he is a great business man, and his company has succeeded by putting business first, often at the direct expense of innovation and technical improvement.

However you feel about the man however he is one of the defining figures of his generation and as an economic entity he has the power to change the world, and I'm glad to say in his retirement he intends to spend more time using his fortune to rid the world of some of it's real problems through the Gates Foundation.

As for the computer industry, well the era of Microsoft's domination is slowly ebbing away, but I'll leave it to Richard Stallman as ever to present the ethical compass for the industry in this rather nice piece at the BBC:

Thursday, 3 July 2008

In this new fangled age of TrueType support in Emacs it's really useful to know the names of the Monospace fonts installed on your system in the format that Emacs understands. If you are on a Linux/UNIX system running Xorg with fontconfig installed then add this function to your .emacs file

(defun list-monospace-truetype-fonts ()
"Provide a list of available monospaced truetype fonts on this
(set-buffer (get-buffer-create "Monospaced Fonts"))
(call-process-shell-command "fc-list :spacing=mono:scalable=true family | sort" nil t)
(setq buffer-read-only t)
(switch-to-buffer-other-window (current-buffer)))

You can set these fonts in a number of ways, currently I am getting the most joy using this form:

(defun safe-set-initial-font (fontstring)
"Set the default frame font"
(interactive "s")
(setq initial-frame-alist
`((font . ,fontstring)
(background-color . ,(face-background 'default))
(foreground-color . ,(face-foreground 'default))
(horizontal-scroll-bars . nil)
(vertical-scroll-bars . nil)
(menu-bar-lines . 0)
(height . 40)
(width . 80)
(cursor-color . "red")
(mouse-color . "green")))
(setq default-frame-alist (copy-alist initial-frame-alist)))

That's pretty nasty, but it gets round a bug where opening a new frame results in a different font being used.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Things that happened yesterday

Hmmm   I am aware that I should put more technical content here, trouble is I don't have much to say at the moment.   Work is dragging on with the same old problems with different hardware.   Outside work I am actively working on something  (smallish) using Erlang to get my skills in that area up to scratch before starting something else (still smallish, but bigger).

In the mean time here are a couple of things that happened yesterday.   Firstly, Nicole and I both had pictures shortlisted by for their new Munich city guide.

Nic's photo is a day-shot she took in Karstadt, a department store in the center of Munich, it's a really cool shot.   Mine is a more typical, boring tourist shot of the Olympic centre.    We have no idea if they'll make it into the guide, but it is nice to be picked.    

Having been shortlisted I downloaded the current guide to have a look.   It's sort of a an offline google maps with tourist guide data for the points of interest.   It's OK, and handy to have on your laptop/PDA/Smart Phone when you travel I guess.    I imagine that this sort of thing will get a lot smarter with widespread adoption of always connected, location aware devices like the iPhone 3G.

In the evening we went t Tollwood, which sounds like a sleepy village in Surrey, but is in fact a culture festival in Munich.   To me it looked a little bit like the medieval festival a few months earlier, but with fewer silly costumes and more cultural diversity.   Still, it was fun and their was a good selection of food to choose from.