Apple's latest greatest — and a modest proposal for Mail

Apple took the wraps off its next-generation operating system, code-named Tiger. The desktop version of Tiger sounds like it's got some neat features, particularly an improved system-wide search function and something called Automator. Automator sounds like the Macro Recorder I used to use on WordPerfect for the PC back when an IBM XT was the hot machine in the office. Automator will let those who do not know the Tao of Applescript to reach the same state of zen when it comes to avoiding repetitive tasks.

Tiger Server sounds like a good deal, too, including a Weblog server based on Bloxsom, that will allow administrators to create a powerful publishing tool by simply checking off a box.

I have two suggestions, though, for Apple's commendable Mail application.

The first should be super simple for those smarty-pants Apple folks:

Please, dear Apple developers, let me move from an open message to the next message in my list with a simple keyboard command. Every major e-mail client, save Mail, lets me do this. Instead, if I have a pile of mail, I have to open-close-select-open to get through my Mail mail when I'd really like to just COMMAND-] or COMMAND-something to get to the next message. Please can someone write that little bit of really good functionality into the application?

Here's my second request, and one which, if implemented, will really set Mail apart from the pack. Let me explain:

The Tiger version of Safari will support RSS, so that you can assemble and create RSS feeds in your browser.

But who wants to read all that in your browser when it's so much easier in your mail application? Why not let Mail also retrieve and display RSS feeds? Over on my PC, where I”m using Outlook, NewsGator integrates terrifically well with Outlook, letting me drag and drop RSS feed items, save them, forward them and do everything else that I would normally do with any mail in Outlook. Can Apple's Mail do the same thing? I hope so!




Canada votes Liberal — but barely — and the markets yawn

Paul Martin's Liberal Party won a minority government in yesterday's general election. Investors, currency traders, bond traders — the whole lot of them — didn't seem much interested. Here's a sampling of reaction from some Bay Street economists:

Andrew Pyle at Scotia Capital:

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin pulled off a rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick that would have made Harry Potter proud, as the Liberals defied the pollsters and formed a comfortable minority government in Canada . . . Some fiscal erosion emanating from a coalition government might follow in the year-ahead, simply because of the diverse fiscal agendas and political objectives of the political pairings. However, given policy lags, not to mention the precarious nature of minority governments, spending initiatives would likely unfold slowly. A commensurate reaction from monetary authorities would likely only evolve over time, not immediately. Similarly, the Bank will approach any near-term currency volatility in a cautious fashion, if at all. In fact, in a recent speech, Governor Dodge noted that central banks should avoid smoothing “unnerving” short-term currency volatility. Simply put, a minority government should not hinder (1) Canada/US spread compression and (2) or the longer-term CAD appreciation trend.

Robert Spector: Merrill Lynch Canada

Given that the financial markets had largely priced in a minority government, we don't expect any major near-term movements in FX or fixed-income markets. Over the medium term, however, we continue to be mindful of two factors regarding minority governments in Canada. First, historically, minorities have lasted roughly 18 months, and there is the potential for some volatility in currency and bond markets related to this outcome, particularly since at the margin, it represents a movement to the left.
Secondly, political factors rarely dominate movements in Canadian financial markets— the dominant macro trend of the day will largely govern.

Douglas Porter: BMO Nesbitt Burns

This will likely lead to an increased reliance on issue-by-issue coalition building as NDP support will not be enough to ensure the confidence of Parliament. Canadians are likely to head back to the polls within a year. Before that, left-wing issues will predominate in the forthcoming Parliamentary session—health care, municipal finance, the environment—but fiscal policy might not loosen as much as it would under a Liberal minority solely propped up by the NDP. Although there is no majority government, Canadian markets will be relieved by the results. Bonds won’t face pressure from as large a ramping up of government spending and the Canadian dollar should face less uncertainty of a deadlocked House.

New favourite beer

Your blog author hoists a sample of the good stuff at Granville Island Brewery in Vancouver earlier this year.
Photo: Greg Robinson

Of course, expert beer drinkers — that is to say, most of the adult Canadian population — know that you cannot have just one favourite beer. There is a beer for after the ball game; a beer with chile; a beer you drink while watching Hockey Night In Canada; a beer at lunch on Saturday after your morning chores are done; a beer for fishing; a beer for poker; a beer for drinking with the boss; a beer when you're drinking one with your wife. In short: Any expert beer drinker has several favourite beers.
Mind you, on any beer drinker's list, there will be some trends: You are either a fan of craft brewers or you're happy with what the giants brew. You are with Molson or you are with Labatt. You ask for ale or you must have lager.
For the record, then, I seek out craft brewers but when I need a giant, his name is John Molson, and I'll gladly drink an ale or lager.
But today I'd rather have a stout. Which brings me to my new favourite beer. While picking up a case of Wellington Brewery's Honey Lager this afternoon, I spied what is called St. Ambroise Black in my local Brewers' Retail. A colleague of mine is a fan of the stuff brewed by McAuslan Brewing, the Montreal brewery behind the St. Ambroise brand, and I happened to be in the mood for a stout. St. Ambroise Black is actually an oatmeal stout.
Well, it was good call, if i do say so myself. It's good enough that I'm adding it to the rotation of beers I routinely purchase.

Here is my list, in no particular order. Feel free to post yours in the comment section here.:

Canada's kids pick up pace of music downloading

A new study out today suggests that the level of free (unauthorized in some circles) music downloading picked up again in May, despite attempts by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to sue Canadian music uploaders. Of course, CRIA's day in court turned out to be an absolute nightmare. Not only did it lose on a very limited legal question, but the judge went way past that and ruled that he did not believe there was anything illegal about peer-to-peer download services.
Over here in the media, we tried to present a slightly nuanced version of the judge's ruling, namely, that while music downloaders appeared to be off the legal hook for now, the activity downloaders engage in today could bring some legal headaches tomorrow, particularly if CRIA wins on appeal or Canada's federal government modifies Canadian copyright law.
But the public, by and large, interpreted the ruling to mean: Bombs away! Trading music files is legal in Canada!
“At the end of 2003, following the much-publicized RIAA action in the U.S., the reported use of peer-to-peer services by young Canadians dropped sharply. Our research now indicates that free download activity has bounced back significantly. Free downloads are too hard to resist, despite greater awareness of intellectual property issues surrounding music,” said Kaan
Yigit, who directed the study of recent downloading activity in Canada for his firm, Solutions Research Group of Toronto.
SRG found that in the spring 2004, one in two teenagers (aged 12-19) said they had downloaded music files in the month prior to being surveyed. Now that's down from spring 2003 when two-thirds of teens in Canada would have said yes.
But, as SRG, that is a higher ratio than Winter 2004 when just 40 per cent of Canadian teens said they downloaded music within that last month.
For their survey, SRG polled 1,600 Canadians in May 2004. The firm says its survey is accurate to within 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Message to Paul Martin: It's the economy, stupid!

[CTV.CA column] When Bill Clinton beat George Bush in the 1992 U.S. Presidential race, he did it with a slogan that had an immediate resonance with American voters: “It's the economy, stupid!”
In 1992, Clinton was trying to beat an incumbent whose popularity had soared after the first Gulf War. But despite Bush's foreign policy successes, many Americans saw a domestic economy in recession and decided that was enough to opt for change.
So Clinton attacked Bush where he was weakest — on economic issues — and won a surprise victory.
Clinton understood that a lot of political heat can be generated by so-called wedge issues like gay marriage or a controversial war in the Middle East. But voters, at the end of the day, want to know that they'll be able to pay the mortgage, help put their kids through school, and enjoy a comfortable retirement.
That's why someone should have sat down with the brain trust running Paul Martin's foundering campaign and said: “It's the economy, stupid!”
Martin, of course, was at the helm for one of the most remarkable periods of Canadian economic prosperity and yet, he's hardly talked about that during the election campaign …. [Read the rest at]

Bloggers get press passes

The Associated Press is reporting that bloggers are welcome to apply for press passes for the Democratic National Convention in the U.S. The Republicans, on the other hand, are a tad nervous …

“Blogs Welcome at Dems' Convention”
Coverage of this summer's political conventions could be a little more colorful than in the past: Democrats have invited bloggers to apply for media credentials for the party's bash. Republicans remain unsure how to handle the brash voices filling the brave new world of political blogs.
“….For traditional media, both big parties generally rely on rules established by committees of journalists for getting passes to cover Congress. But no such procedure exists for blogs.
Bloggers with Democratic credentials will get the same access as any other media to most of the FleetCenter in Boston. If they need assigned spaces, they'll be asked to pay for phone, furniture rental and other expenses just like mainstream journalists . ..”

NY Times under fire

The New York Times is taking it on the chin from all sides recently.
(The Jayson Blair scandal is one thing — something that was 'solved' with some new editors.)
The new charges — one critic is from the right and the other is from the left — suggest that some serious rot has set in at what once/is one of the world's great newspapers.
The shot from the right:

“The Worst of Times: A Once-Great Newspaper Has Adopted a Radical Agenda?
The New York Times has transformed itself from a news source to an ideological journal, writes Bill O'Reilly. “In almost every section, a Times reader is confronted with liberal ideology.”

The [more thoughtful and, if you ask me, damning] shot from the left:

Unfit to Print:
By Michael Massing
…The leisureliness of the Times's coverage is especially apparent when compared to that of its top competitor. In recent months, The Washington Post has stood out among US news organizations for its sharp and insightful reporting, in both Washington and Baghdad. Hardly a day goes by that the Post does not publish some revealing story about conflicts within the Bush administration, debates within the intelligence world, Coalition policies in Iraq, and the relations among that country's ethnic, religious, and tribal groups. During the prison scandal, the Post ran an eye-opening three-part series (“The Road to Abu Ghraib”) on the abuses that had occurred not only in Iraq but also in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and Qatar—part of a “worldwide constellation” of secret US detention centers.
When it comes to Iraq, the rivalry between the Times and the Post has become “A Tale of Two Papers,” the one late and lethargic, the other astute and aggressive . . .

Massing's original criticism of the NY Times is also an important read on this subject.

Remarkable candour by a newspaperman on his own newspaper

Roger Ebert, of course, isn't just any newspaperman. He's one of the world's most famous newspapermen (and I'm using that term not to exclude women who work for newspapers but in the hopes that readers will attach some of that old-fashioned, blue-collar, Matthau-and-Lemon-in-The-Front-Page moxy to the term).
That kind of reputation, no doubt, lets him get away with this column in his paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, that is simultaneously an apology, a rallying cry to colleagues and readers, and a denunciation of Conrad Black and David Radler, the two men who have bought, run, and sold hundreds of papers in their day since they nabbed that first one in Sherbrooke, Que. in the 1960s.

” My beloved Sun-Times has taken some body blows recently. The news that our former top bosses were apparently pirates came as a shock; knowing that the paper was solidly profitable, I assumed they were merely skinflints.”

Radler and Black are now under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the U.S. Justice Dept. on allegations they improperly received millions of dollars in payments from Hollinger International Inc., the company they controlled that owns the Sun-Times and other papers.

Purdy: "The Country North of Belleville"

The Country North of Belleville
Bush land scrub land –  
     Cashel Township and Wollaston
Elzevir McClure and Dungannon
green lands of Weslemkoon Lake
where a man might have some
     opinion of what beauty
is and none deny him
          for miles —   

Yet this is the country of defeat
where Sisyphus rolls a big stone
year after year up the ancient hills
picknicking glaciers have left strewn
with centuries' rubble
          backbreaking days
          in the sun and rain
when realization seeps slow in the mind
without grandeur or self deception in
         noble struggle
of being a fool —

A country of quiescence and still distance
a lean land
     not like the fat south
with inches of black soil on
     earth's round belly —
And where the farms are
     it's as if a man stuck
both thumbs in the in the stony earth and pulled
         it apart
          to make room
enough between the trees
for a wife
     and maybe some cows and
     room for some
of the more easily kept illusions —
And where the farms have gone back
to forest
     are only soft outlines
     shadowy differences —

Old fences drift vaguely among the trees
     a pile of moss-covered stones
gathered for some ghost purpose
has lost meaning under the meaningless sky
     — they are like cities under water
and the undulating green waves of time
     are laid on them —

This is the country of our defeat
     and yet
during the fall plowing a man
might stop and stand in a brown valley of the furrows
     and shade his eyes to watch for the same
     red patch mixed with gold
     that appears on the same
     spot in the hills
     year after year
     and grow old
plowing and plowing a ten-acre field until
the convolutions run parallel with his own brain —

And this is a country where the young
          leave quickly
unwilling to know what their fathers know
or think the words their mothers do not say —

Herschel Monteagle and Faraday
lakeland rockland and hill country
a little adjacent to where the world is
a little north of where the cities are an
we may go back there
          to the country of our defeat
Wollaston Elzevir and Dungannon
and Weslemkoon lake land
where the high townships of Cashel
          McClure and Marmora once were —
But it's been a long time since
and we must enquire the way
          of strangers —