When the law is an ass…

June 7th, 2014

Some patent lawyers sent me a few bits of paper this week.


I reckon there’s well over 1000 pages here, shipped at, I imagine, vast expense all the way from Atlanta to my recycling bin here in Cambridge. The big box in the foreground brought them here. The slim envelope in the background is for returning the half-dozen pages that actually need my signature.

I’m not blaming this particular firm for this foolishness: they are probably obliged to provide me with hard copies by some outdated regulation kept in existence by extensive lobbying from FedEx and Xerox. But you’d think they could find an alternative. Like emailing PDFs. Especially since (a) I don’t need to read them to sign the bits of paper and (b) their client is Google…

Anyway, now you know where the trees have gone.

The race is to the Swift?

June 7th, 2014

swiftI love my Mac and iOS devices, but writing native apps for them has always been made somewhat less pleasurable by the programming languages available. Objective-C (which is behind the typical app on your iPhone or Mac) has its merits, or at least, had its merits when it was designed 30 years ago, but things have moved on quite a lot since then. And don’t get me started on the abomination that is AppleScript…

That’s why, amongst the panoply of geeky goodies that Apple announced at its developer conference this week, the thing that interested me most is their new programming language, Swift, which looks rather lovely. (You can find excellent introductory talks about it here.) It’s early days yet, but may be good enough that, henceforward, people will flock to Apple’s development environment because of, rather than despite, the language.

It’s not clear whether Swift will be available anywhere other than on Apple platforms, and there may be a certain degree of deliberate lock-in here. But that’s better than the old situation where Objective-C was available elsewhere, but nobody really cared.

All of which may help to explain why the book The Swift Programming Language had been downloaded by more than a third of a million people within the first 24 hours of anyone knowing the language even existed.

What Ike was like

June 7th, 2014

This is a splendid article by Val Lauder, about Eisenhower’s personal feelings on the D-Day landings.

When we passed 45 minutes, and he could no longer ignore his aide’s anything-but-subtle glances at his watch, Ike said he would take three more questions. I do not remember the first two. Nor will I ever forget the last one.

Strongly recommended.

My father-in-law was one of the 101st Airborne paratroopers to drop behind the lines.

No fond return of love

June 3rd, 2014

Mrs Beltane … was an elegant blue-haired, stiffly-moving woman of about sixty, who imagined herself to have seen better days.

I do like Barbara Pym.

Ring cycle

June 2nd, 2014

There are three different organisations that send me their publication, called ‘The Ring’, from time to time. Yes, three different publications.

Each of them no doubt had a witty and original reason for coming up with the name, but I also can’t help feeling that some classic text on “how to run a successful development office” must emphasise the need for names that make your members feel part of an elite circle, an inner ring…

Anyway, since these three are amongst the very few things that come through my door and don’t go straight to the recycling, I must just get used to the fact that all my reading matter has this somewhat toroidal flavour.

But perhaps I need one ring to rule them all…

The summer of our dis-content?

May 31st, 2014

Is this a bug, or a marketing cliff-hanger from Apple, do you think?

Decline and Fall

May 21st, 2014

We visited the Roman fort at Hardknott Pass yesterday: a favourite spot of mine.


However, this chap looked at me as if to say, “Romans? Ha! They came and went, but the sheep live on!”