Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs tribute

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was stubborn, but less than the statistics on pancreatic cancer. He died at 56, at the pinnacle of an extraordinary and way too short career, after having fought till his last breath.

Through Apple, he marked my professional life more than anybody else in the technology industry. I'm not just an “Apple fanboy” since 1985. After I finally could touch and buy a Macintosh in France, I had the chance to know Apple from the inside and share, with extraordinary people, a vision of informatics for humans, for “the rest of us”, that is radically different from the one that was imposed on the business world.

My first contact with Apple predates my love-at-first-sight of the Macintosh. Among our neighbors in Orsay was Giancarlo Zanni, then CEO Apple France. I played with his daughters, my brothers were interns at Apple. At 14 year-old I was hooked by “l'informatique” but I couldn't legally work.

Many years later, in 1997, after a professional reconversion that drove me back to my first technological love affair, I landed an internship at Apple Europe, then got Apple as a client during my first adventure as a freelance. Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple (he was paid by Apple to buy Apple back, as we half joked at the time) and Apple had a product catalog shock-full of 15,000 references. He handsomely turned around a company that was 15 days from bankruptcy, a company the entire IT industry was laughing at. That this industry and many others aren't laughing anymore at Apple now is quite an understatement.

I have had the chance to see Steve Jobs in person on stage at several occasions, in Paris, in Cupertino, in San Francisco; those were even better experiences than seeing him on videos. Some are dismissive of his use of superlatives and his “reality distortion field”, but he really had a larger than life presence and gold in his hands: a vision and the means to make it come true. For one Steve Jobs, how many uncharismatic CEOs are out there bragging about grand ideas that will never see the light because they do not have a fucking clue about what the company they're managing is doing?

Apple's marketing is a wet dream for many marketing folks, who have some difficulty realizing (or admitting) that it's all about good design of good products that sell themselves. The recipe Jobs imposed when he came back in 1997 of not announcing a product before it ships, and especially to only design things that do “just what's needed and just well”, is an absolute departure from the old methods of competitors: empty announcements of vaporware, obese products plagued by plethoric features lists (the strict equivalent of the pissing contest among geeks).

For the past 25 years, all my personal computers have been made by Apple, and I didn't have to depend on IBM or Microsoft. I'm confident this will continue for years to come, considering the recent developments in personal computing and the choices ordinary people make when they're free to chose their own tools. This is the second time Apple has to run without Steve Jobs, definitely this time, but contrary to the Sculley-Amelio era, the company is prepared and stronger than ever.

I've read comments of people who are astonished by the reactions to the death of Steve Jobs. Those public manifestations coming from ordinary people around the world are concrete proofs that he influenced his epoch. Not getting that is just a display of ignorance.

While I am confident on a professional level about what Apple is preparing next, I am personally sad about Steve Jobs' death, sad for his family, and probably a bit nostalgic of a past era, a page that has been turned too suddenly and too soon. I do not ask you to comprehend that, just to respect this sadness.

After the Nokia Ovi Store carelessness, it's now Motorola who's allowing strangers to get access to your private information on their MOTOBLUR portal. Exactly like Nokia, Motorola does not bother to validate the email address you enter on your profile, and sends a welcome message straight to that address:

Bonjour Francois, Félicitations! Vous avez créé avec succès votre compte MOTOBLURMC! Nous vous écrivons donc pour vous souhaiter la bienvenue dans notre grande famille. Vous êtes maintenant prêt(e) à vous connecter à MOTOBLUR et à profiter d’une vie sociale branchée.
(Pardon their French, it's Motorola Canada.)

In this case, since it was my own address and it serves as the account ID, I was able to request a password change and access the account:


An almost complete profile with phone number, phone IMEI, access to contacts, phone location and the ability to wipe the phone remotely!

motoblur wipe phone

Since Motorola does not provide any way to delete the account I'm not going to do anything beyond changing the password and opting out from the Motorola marketing spam that's now arriving in my mailbox (thanks Francois!). The poor schmuck might just have made a typo on the email address, and it's Motorola's entire fault to send out the keys to their client's profile without the simple step of verifying it actually belongs to the right person.

(I'm documenting this trick for myself to remember, but it can be useful for others…)

Apple, on its Apple Developer Connection site, has a bad habit of not providing small or separate SDK downloads for iOS or Mac OS X development. This means, for example, that I have to download a 4.3GB bundle for Xcode 4 and iOS SDK 4.3 to get one of those. Problem: I'm living on a small island where the local postal-and-telecommunications monopoly is better at finding ways to milk everybody to death rather than providing a fast, stable and affordable internet connection as part of its public service duties, so it's simply impossible to download gigabytes of data without being disconnected at least once. The fact is that I've never been able to download anything on ADC without fail.

Thanks to the Unix roots of Mac OS X, we have curl to the rescue. Here's how to resume a failed download on ADC:

  1. Let's say you have started to download the file xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final.dmg but the download has been interrupted. Usually, Safari will happily pretend that the download has completed, but the DMG archive won't load. If you check the file size, it's less than it should be.
  2. Check the Finder Info for that file and look in the More Info panel where it comes from. There will probably be several URLs (because of redirections), take the first one. For me it's‌xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final/xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final.dmg
  3. Connect to ADC to reauthenticate
  4. In the web inspector on the ADC page, go to Storage then Cookies and note the ADCDownloadAuth cookie and its content. In curl parlance, this will translate into something like: -b "ADCDownloadAuth=<cookie value>;"
  5. And finally, in Terminal — assuming you are in the same path as the download file, get there or give the full path to the -o file option — both the -C - and the -o file options will tell curl to resume the download exactly where it stopped, and the --retry 100 will automatically retry up to 100 times in case it fails again (so it'll work unattended):

curl -b "ADCDownloadAuth=<cookie value>;" -C - --retry 100 -o xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final.dmg‌xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final/xcode_4_and_ios_sdk_4.3__final.dmg

Et voilà !

P.S. My CSS overflow rule cuts the long lines above so I've used a zero-width space to force line breaks, but you should get the gist.
P.S. 2: Added the --retry 100 option to let curl automatically resume the download in case it fails again.
P.S. 3: Just found this script from Michael Tyson which automates all the manual steps above (won't retry automatically, though it's easy to modify it). Very handy!

All of a sudden I started to find the following line in most of the web pages I was browsing, including ones I made where I'm sure I didn't place that code:

<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;"></div>

I googled and binged and yahooed the whole interwebs but couldn't find any explanation. Then I searched my browser plugins directory and found the culprit: wpa.safariextension which is part of the DivX Inc. plugins galore installed with DivX for Mac.

Since these DivX plugins do not bring any value, but on the contrary bring very bad memories from the RealPlayer era of shoddy tactics (“Click here to get a better video experience" my ass!), you can safely trash them and be done with this cruft.

You're welcome.

My friend Adam Greenfield recently complained about the over-engineering culture at Nokia:

I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve.

It’s not that the NFC-based, phone-to-object interaction didn’t work. Of course it did: it had been engineered perfectly. But what it hadn’t been was designed. Those responsible for imagining the interaction apparently wanted to protect users against the (edge case!) contingency of someone making off with their phones and running up a huge vending-machine tab.

Today, I found out that the Nokia Ovi Store team could actually learn a few things about privacy and security from their engineers.

Yesterday, I received the following email on one of my personal addresses (name changed to protect the guy who used my email address to register):

Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 12:18:17 +0000 (UTC)
From: Nokia account
To: francois_@…
Subject: Welcome to your Nokia account

Hello Francoisxyz, and welcome aboard!

To experience the full suite of Ovi services, all you need to do is visit Alternatively, if you would like to update your Nokia account details, please visit

Please verify your email address by clicking the link below:

If clicking the link does not work, copy and paste the URL in a new browser window instead.

Thank you for joining and we hope you enjoy using Nokia services.

All the best,
Your friends at Nokia

Someone had used my email address to register on Ovi. The confirmation email looked quite standard and I ignored it, thinking that the registration wouldn't go through without my confirmation. (I receive a certain number of similar emails, I guess it's the price to pay for being among the first to grab my first name on popular services.)

Then today, I received this from

Welcome to Music

Hi Francoisxyz,

Welcome to Ovi, the place to discover and download new music. Make sure you put this email somewhere safe because you'll need it in case you forget your Nokia account username - Francoisxyz. You won't be able to log into Music or any of the other Ovi services without it.

Your music, your way

There are millions of tracks from today's top artists and the legends of yesteryear on Ovi, spanning everything from dance to classical to rock. It's easy to get started - you can search for specific tracks, albums and artists or simply click through the genres, charts and playlists to see what's hot. If you want to know more about exploring music on Ovi, check out our help and troubleshooting page.

We're glad to have you with us.

What. The. F…! I immediately requested a password reset, which was nicely delivered to (you guessed it) my email address, and logged in to to delete this profile. What I discovered at this point is that the profile was already filled in with the guy's real name, mobile phone number, country of residence, and various other personal information (I noted he likes being spammed since he authorized Nokia to send him any promotional info by both email and SMS). It took me about 10 seconds to find his Facebook profile and remind him that he should be a bit more careful when (ab)using someone else's email address.

As for Nokia, especially for a platform that wants to compete with the Apple App Store, this is appalling. Anyone who has a vague idea about security and privacy would not design a process where one can complete a registration process with a fake email address or worse, in this case someone else's address with the obvious risk — that I just illustrated — that personal information might be passed to a stranger.

If these examples are typical of the way Nokia designs things nowadays, I'm not betting on the wedding with Microsoft to stop that platform from burning.

Now let's see how long it takes for Nokia, which I'm sure cares about their customers privacy, to fix that security issue in their registration process…

[Update 28 Feb. 2011] I'm not sure whether the Nokia folks really understand the problem. Case in point, this tweet from @NokiaHelps:

@ubiquitic Account registration is verified either by email or tel. no. depending on selection during account registration. ^JR

I've proved above that Nokia does NOT verify the email address, no matter what they say. And verification by phone number does not alleviate the problem if, when the registrant has entered someone else's email address by mistake, the later receives the acknowledgment emails I have received and which allowed me to gain access to — and delete — an account that didn't belong to me.

Let me summarize the problem for short attention-span marketing/support folks:

If someone enters a wrong email address in their Nokia profile, anyone receiving the “confirmation” emails from Nokia will be able to highjack the account.

Is that clearer ?

Seen a minute ago from the Mac App Store, while updating an application:


What the heck, Apple? If you are trying to confuse your users with modal dialogs written by robots à la Microsoft, then yes I do see one internal inconsistency here.

The Open Melody Software Group has just released Melody 1.0 for beta testing.

If you are using MTOS 4, and/or MTOS/MT 5 do not suit your needs, you should keep an eye on Melody.



(Yes, I know, it's the geek inside me who forced me.)

P.S. And Ubuntu managed to release 10.10 on 10.10.10. No small feat, and with the obligatory compliment to Douglas Adams.

Why Movable Type?

On my professional blog I have started a series of articles to explain why Movable Type is an excellent choice as both a CMS and a blog engine.

Google AdSense pearl

The joy of Google AdSense:


(As seen on the Angry Drunk feed, no permalink alas.)

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