Mac OSX Tiger - one day early

I can report that I got my OSX Tiger delivered by courier to my doorstep today rather than tomorrow. Must be some kind of mistake from Apple's side, but not worse than the early delivery that Engadget told us about a few days ago.

Can't say I'm sorry ;)


The country of Ingmar Bergman

According to the Swedish tabloid Expressen, all Swedish public service television productions must, from now on, be mixed in such a way that speech and music are not present at the same time. That means that there can be no discrete background music in scientific TV shows (imagine an exciting Discovery show without dramatic, low-pitched music in the background), for instance. The fitness and aerobics program host in the article is, for obvious reasons, rather upset.

And the reason to all this, you wonder? The former Swedish news anchor Claes Elfsberg, who ended his public career not to long after accusations of him sexually harassing colleagues by sending them dildos, got himself a new job as “viewer ombudsman”. He thinks the “no music while speaking”-question is the most important issue that he has been working with since he took the job.

“There are people that feel shut out when they have difficulty hearing the dialogue, typically because there are music in the background. They get sad and switch off the television.”

Hello Claes, maybe it is time for you to really retire now. Swedish public service television has been world-leading in producing captions for the hearing disabled for ages. With an increasing part of the population becoming older and older, no wonder a lot of folks get problems with their hearing. And it doesn’t matter whether you sit in your TV sofa or in a restaurant. Maybe you can tell them to switch on those captions?

Stop this nonsense now! This decision is about as smart as restricting roller coasters to 5 mph, since all the infants and retired people that cannot go in today’s coasters might get upset otherwise. I can understand why Bergman holds dialogues in his movies sacred and background music-free, but do we really need to Bergmanize our TV shows too?

This is probably one of the most stupid public sector-decisions I have heard about… for at least a month. And then I haven’t even gotten started about the enormously idiotic way public service media in Sweden is funded; by a special “TV fee” that has its own huge organization (headquartered in Sweden’s northernmost city Kiruna) just for ADMINISTRATING the fees. 200 employees. Is it just me, or could it maybe make sense to fund public service media from regular income tax?

Nokia is coming back

It all began a few weeks ago, when Nokia launched their 8800. It sent me into my worst we-wants-it-yesss-my-preciousss-attack since the Mac Mini. My problem is that I'm starting to get seriously 3G addicted, and have a hard time to consider buying a "regular" tri-band phone. The looks of the 8800 are really making me think that addiction over, though.

And now today - the new N-series! The N90 with its rotating camera with a Carl Zeiss lens is definitely the coolest-looking new phone I've seen in a long time. Too bad it doesn't come with 3G. The N91 has awsome tech specs (according to Engadget, but not Nokia's own site), boasting a 4-gig hard drive, 3G and WiFi! Why the *%#¤ didn't they put a video conference camera on that one? I'll probably end up with N70 in 3G version... (too bad ;)

It seems like Nokia once again is finding its way back to making phones we want.


Update: I got an anonymous comment from a Finnish IP number that said that the N90 was a 3G phone. Finnish IP... hm... who could that be from? Now Nokia has also updated the sites, revealing that every one of the N-series phones will support 3G.


It's the environment, stupid!

This morning’s leader in The Economist woke me up. Having been a dedicated Boy Scout, and even studying ecology (voluntarily) in High School, I sometimes imagine myself being a responsible environmentalist. It was tough for me when I was buying a new car last fall: should I buy a fast, sweet, practical and fossil-fuel consuming station wagon, or should I buy an ethanol-enabled, slow, not-so-good-looking Ford Focus? In the end I decided to choose the gasoline car – just this last time (promise!). I sincerely believe that I won’t buy another gasoline car in my life, ever.

Anyway: I wanted to discuss the next green revolution: Economic valuation of eco-systems and their preservation. It seems more and more likely that we will use market mechanisms to regulate global emissions and common resource exploitation, and that it really works. The idea is nothing new – I even remember trying to pass an internal party bill about “emission rights in emission bubbles” back in 1991 (yup – even I have been a young politician-wannabe). For an update on global initiatives in the area, read the latest Economist. Spice it up with the World Bank report: “How much is an eco-system worth?

I think that it is very sad that the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet) aren’t the ones I will vote for in next year’s general election. They have three serious problems:

1) They are really, really left-wing. Of the Swedish parties, only the “former” communists can challenge them on anti-capitalism. This means that we end up with two left-wing parties – with slightly different views on how to protect our environment.

2) The party agenda is nothing but wide. Visit their website, and it is quite hard to find their solutions and attitudes regarding environmental issues. It is easy, however, to find their thoughts about work life, living and people’s health.

3) They seem to think that saving the environment means sacrificing everything else. That is basically the same rhetoric as when they first got in to parliament, in 1988. In order for the greens (in Sweden and elsewhere) to have a significant impact, they need to present solutions that save the environment while helping the economy, not strangling it. That means global solutions. Miljöpartiet doesn’t even have a single information page in English, if someone non-Swedish would get the idea to contact/cooperate with them.

Maria Wetterstrand, official spokesperson for Miljöpartiet, got back from maternal leave this Monday. She is one of the most intelligent and analytically skilled persons in the Swedish Parliament today. In my dreams, she will transform the party by tackling those three problems. It would be good for the environment.


Off to London

Maja and I are off to London for a few days work with clients + some chilling during the weekend. And our one-year-old Max is with his grandparents ;)


Things that make you go… hmmm.

For the ones of you that do not know: Swedes pay the highest (relative) taxes in the world. We are the only country in the world where more than 50 percent of GDP are absorbed as tax. UK is at about 35%, and Japan at 25%, for example.

It is nice with taxes. It is a good model for how people in a community finance shared and public operations. I even hope and believe that we (eventually) will reach the kind of happy and enlightened sci-fi communism that you can see in Star Trek. But it will not be in my lifetime, and probably not in my grandchildren’s either.

Today, our rather new Minister of Finance Pär Nuder presented the government’s “spring fiscal policy bill”. Its purpose is to lay out the direction for Sweden’s long term fiscal policies, but also make necessary adjustments to the current year’s budget. Due to the fact that the state’s income from tax was not quite as high as the budget had suggested, some minor adjustments were made. These adjustments are made so that Sweden's deficit this year not will be too large, but we are still talking about a deficit. Now to why I choked on my coffee this morning, reading an SvD article:

“The public authorities had to contribute last year to make plus and minus match. Now we are given notice that we don’t get those money back, and have to contribute once again.” The words are Annette Carnhede’s. She is chairman of Sweden’s trade Union for Civil Servants.

I am speechless. I cannot understand how an educated human being can speak about allowance to authorities in such a way; that a lowered allowance could be considered as a “contribution” from those authorities. From my perspective, that person’s perception of reality is severely distorted.

In some kind of sick way, maybe it all makes sense after all. If you are born and live in the only non-communistic country on earth where more than half of GDP consists of taxes, maybe you start to think that “contribution” is something mainly derived from the public sector. And if you stop from furthering raising those taxes when the public sector’s perceived needs are greater than tax income, then that is a great sacrifice made by the public sector.


Schooled or skilled?

Sweden’s largest daily Dagens Nyheter runs an article today, claiming that Swedes are becoming overqualified for the jobs offered in the country. 37 percent of all employees think that they have more education than their job requires, up from 18 percent in 1974. The article is then partly blaming the government with its goal that 50 percent of all students should move on to college. The other ones to blame is supposedly the natural business cycles: students graduating in a recession have a hard time finding a job, and when times get better the newly graduated students get hired since they have “fresher knowledge”.

I am not entirely sure that this is a good reflection of how things really are (and if it is – then things are really sad). If the most important knowledge students gain at university can be categorized as “fresh” - then they are not learning how to learn. Something I have criticized for a long time is the tendency to immediate (and uniform) specialization that Swedish university students are being subjected to. For some reason, Swedes tend to deeply appreciate and respect the specialist, and at the same time think that the generalist is a rather vague and meaningless person.

If you are a Swede pursuing an international business career you might be better off pursuing a different path towards a degree, though. Most people in Swedish banks have bachelor or master degrees in Small Business Economics, but this “employee stereotype” is almost amusing when you compare it to the people at a US or UK bank (still searching for article link). If you start working for an investment bank or a consultancy in London you are more likely to have studied something else, such as political science or history. In Stockholm you end up having everyone specialized – in the same way (sounds pretty general to me).

Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit, but my experiences from studying both computer science and small business economics at Swedish universities are rather distinct. Today’s curriculums are better than the ones from 1994, and nowadays software engineers are also being taught that they should be able to communicate orally (scary!) with colleagues, hold presentations, think about user interface and other “irrelevant things”.

My conclusion is that Swedes still have some learning to do – and the subject is life-long learning. An acceptance and embracement of a generalist view is more important in a world where we don’t know for sure what we will be doing in the future. It is important to have skills, but it is essential knowing how to gain new ones.


Definitely Dead On Arrival

Wired just published a very good article about the new hi-def formats that are the standard candidates for tomorrow’s DVD players: Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. The article argues that these formats will never fly, since we most probably will download our movies rather than shipping them on pieces of plastic.

Of course Wired are totally right. In case you have any doubts after reading the article, consider this:

The Compact Disc was launched in 1979, and had a capacity of 650 MB of data. The DVD arrived in 1997, being capable of holding 8.5 GB. You’ll see the first HD-DVDs this year, maxing out at 30 GBs of data.

Summary: In 25 years, the data capacity of “pieces of plastic” has increased 46 times.

The first groundbreaking modem for phone lines was the 300 bps Hayes Smartmodem, in 1981. There has been a lot of development since then ;) Last year, ADSL2+ was widely available, giving the end user 24 Mbps.

Summary: In 23 years, the data capacity of consumer WAN networking has increased 80.000 times.

Of course our DVD players will end up supporting at least one of the new formats, but it will not matter. As a commercial phenomenon for carrying movies to our living rooms, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are definitely DOA.