The Northern Spy: Tempus Fugit
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The Northern Spy: Tempus Fugit

By Rick Sutcliffe

Or "Time flies like an arrow" ...

If we would marry Virgil's observations on its irretrievability to the unidirectional dictum of modern physics. "Time's a wasting," is an apt observation in any day and age, and for all that a week now seems a relative eternity in Internet time, we assume that the flight of time still takes place at the same speed in some external time-inertial frame of reference, call it eternity or what you will.

Certainly investors seem to have concluded that time has already flown for RIM, which benighted company resolved to solve its market share problems by appointing a company insider to be its great helmsman, only to see its shares plummet. Excuse us, but the Spy fails to see how someone who's been part of the problem these last several years can suddenly morph into the solution. It is for situations like this that the expression "changing deck chairs on the Titanic" was coined.

Frankly, the Spy doubts that Steve Jobs himself could save RIM now. If the greatest catastrophe that can befall a teacher or other person in authority is loss of respect, the greatest that can befall a high technology company when time is flying this fast is perceived irrelevance. The fifteen seconds of fame is over. The Spy's Fourth Law implies a corollary. Loss of mindshare precedes loss of marketshare, but the lag time is much less. Months will tell the tale, and the most strenuous efforts can only delay the inevitable. You did read here first about the impending Kodak bankruptcy, did you not?

Speaking of which, the former film company's woes (what is film, anyway?) have now been compounded by Apple's claim to own the firm's digital patents in view of joint work done on those projects. Kodak may not be able to raise much money under the circumstances, and is left hanging by a thread.

Oh, and there is a parallel aphorism that the Spy frequently uses in his classes to illustrate the difficulty of teaching the English language, with its confusing overlap of words sometimes used for nouns, adjectives and verbs in vastly different contexts. In the spirit of "Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo", it goes:

... and fruit flies like a banana

... which is likewise a propos of the slowly rotting MS hegemony, so well brought out in ironical relief by the Wisconsin decision to use money obtained from antitrust proceedings against MS, not to purchase more MS product at penitently self-serving reduced prices as they might have done a decade ago, but to purchase Apple product instead. The corpse of W*nd*ws is not yet cold from the self-inflicted wounds of arrogance and lack of innovation, but it's already starting to putrefy.

As RIM illustrates, the canonical next step is to fire the CEO and replace him with an insider who will say "We are already on the right track; all we need is a little time to do more of the same a little louder and people will re-embrace our vision." Sorry, but the enterprises has begun to follow the general public and embrace Apple instead. The movement has become a mass migration.

Simply put, we're getting little from anyone outside the Apple camp because there's nothing much to give. Nemo dat quad non habet (sometimes loosely translated as "A Scotsman cannae give ye his pants.").

Apple's startling (to some) quarterly results and its consequent propulsion into first place in market capitalization (ahead of Exxon) is but further evidence that the cusp has passed. The Spy expects Apple's share of the overall computing market to accelerate further over the next couple of years into the twenty percent plus range for desktops and laptops combined (though it will be far larger than reported if you call handhelds and pads computers).

The Spy does believe that Apple and the Google allies will have to come back together to negotiate patent sharing eventually rather than continuing to hand hundreds of millions to lawyers, but the cold hard reality these days is that Apple innovates and everyone else imitates. Microsoft got away with copying Windows from the Apple OS because of loose licensing, but the shameless coping going on now is doomed to failure.

Errare humannum est,

... but to really foul things up it takes a computer. The Spy was recently chided at Church because a mailing of popular devotional books abruptly ceased (and he's the guy who arranges such things.) Enquiry elicited the explanation that a Canada Post computer program checking address validity of the mailing list in question had inexplicably removed large numbers of correct addresses due to a "glitch", and the mailer had no way of knowing which ones had been removed unless the affected individuals contacted them. Supposedly we've been added back in, but won't know until we see them. Even if entirely true, the incident reveals an over-reliance on the computer software. There oughta be a backup scheme.

For the Spy, said redundancy is sometimes in the form of paper. He was reminded of the value of this recently when twice in a week he clicked on an old file only to discover that he had no program that could read it. Spreadsheets from before about 1997 can no longer be opened, and his older mark books kept in a proprietary program written in Pascal back in the eighties are also no longer readable. Good thing he has a filing cabinet full of paper copies, the ultimate backup.

And, lest you chuckle, consider the fate of data on other media such as tape, floppy disk, CD, and even Blu-Ray. The first two are gone, the third is going, and the last will never pick up all the business. Data, including music and video, is stored and retrieved from the cloud these days, not via physical media. The Spy does not expect any computers to have physical media readers five years from now, except for solid state "drives", and they likely built in. What will that do to your backup strategy?

Nothing remains static,

... including one's software experience. (and if you were expecting a proverb that starts "the more things change", it's French, not Latin.) The Spy has previously praised commercial backup program GoodSync, and been cautious about donationware competitor Carbon Copy Cloner. However, he has discovered that the speedy former has slowed down with time, taking ever longer to complete a backup (can't tell why), whereas the even speedier and much lighter latter has added features to the point where it is a worthier contender for backup honours than before. The only thing it now lacks is the ability to create jobs that can be run with a simple click (it has timed jobs, so this is a curious omission).

Likewise, things are shifting around a little among Bible programs for the Mac. Accordance is still the nine hundred pound gorilla, especially for scholars, but Logos is coming on, adding features and convenience. Their iOS reader took a huge step forward recently with the addition of the NIV to the basic package. The Spy uses that translation enough so that its omission made the package unattractive, compared with the better established (on mobile platforms) Olive Tree software.

He still prefers the latter, especially for its ease in side-by-side comparisons. Being able to pull up the Greek or Latin on the same page as an English version is a great advantage. And yet...and yet, on his Mac, for basic quick searches when preparing his adult Bible class lessons, he uses the simple Online Bible, which plugs along after all these years just being…indispensable.

As to cost, Accordance and Logos will set one back a grand or so depending on which book package you purchase. The Logos iOS reader depends on your PC/Mac purchase and is of little value with out it. Olive Tree and Online Bible give away the reader along with assorted public domain Bible versions and other books, then of course charge for individually priced modern translations still in copyright. In the end, the latter model is far less expensive, even if less comprehensive.

One more caveat: The latest Olive Tree package for the Mac runs only under Lion, and the Logos package requires an Intel processor.

Speaking of change and processors,

... have you got an office pool going on the date Apple will dump Intel as it did the PowerPC, and only sell hardware with A-series chips of their own design (and possibly manufacture)? The Spy has a sneaking suspicion it will be this year.

Do you have a pool going on the date Apple's share price will pass $500? $600? The month Apple becomes a trillion dollar company? On the date Apple will announce a dividend? Buy or build a chip fabrication plant? Announce their own network? Introduce a radically new television product? Buy a slightly used country out of bankruptcy?

Finally, if all that Latin is Greek to you,

... the Spy offers "Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum videtur" -- if you say something in Latin, it sounds profound..

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor and chair of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several organizations, including in the corporate sector, and participated in industry standards at the national and international level. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and six novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to Participate and you could win free web hosting from the subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:
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