Steve Jobs Leaves Apple: End Of An Era (repost 8/2011)

You may love Apple computers and their devices including the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Or you may like Windows computers or perhaps Linux boxes. Whatever you like about your computer, whatever it may be, it was Steve Jobs and

Apple - The Rainbow
Apple - The Rainbow

Steve Wozniak’s abilities, vision, and salesmanship that has put one in your home.

Without Wozniak the engineer, and Jobs the guy with the vision, your computer would weigh half a ton and probably only be at your office. Back in the Homebrew Computer years the vision of a home computer was something that could display lights which if you could decode the binary message you would know the answer to 2 + 2. Bill Gates during those Homebrew years came up with the bright idea of selling and owning software starting with Basic. Not long after – it was licensing rather than owning software.

But Jobs had an idea that a computer could be more, and could be in many houses, not only in the homes of those who read Popular Electronics. IBM jumped on the bandwagon, but did not consider their PC market particularly important for several years. The hype in those early days made it difficult to determine what was going to be the best machine for business purposes. In those early years it was clear that IBM and DOS was more suitable for business rather than the Apple II. But still, it was Jobs that forced IBM’s hand to even making those smaller machines. Gates was clever enough to license both a DOS (disk operating system) and a Basic interpreter to

Altair with Cool Lights
Altair with Cool Lights

more than one computer manufacturer. He escaped an exclusive arrangement with IBM and every other hardware manufacturer that he dealt with.

In 1979 Jobs visited Xerox PARC and liked what he saw. He came away with the idea of creating a graphic user interface, a mouse for data input, fonts, an improved menu system, and an overall friendlier computer system.
Out of this came the overpriced and failed Lisa and the game changing Macintosh. With the advent of the graphic user interface, Gates saw that DOS had a finite life and worked on Windows. The first widely distributed Windows Beta showed it’s gaming strengths which led from Reversi to Solitaire. And later to Doom, Quake and Warcraft. OS X is still not a gaming platform, although a speedy iMac can run a number of game programs quite well.

Not long after the development of the Mac, the dapper soda pop expert, hired by Jobs as CEO, boasted he did not have a computer on his desk. He proceeded to force Steve Jobs out of his company. Steve Jobs then founded NEXT and purchased PIXAR which no one had a clue would ever amount to anything.


As Apple appeared headed to certain failure, Jobs returned as CEO and the operating system of NEXT grew into OS X. With innovations in portable devices in addition to a solid, crash “lite” operating system, Apple met with considerable success. Jobs always asked the near impossible of his engineers and designers. Smaller and smaller, thinner and thinner all things became. The Titanium Macbook Pro was the first Apple computer I used. Being less than 1 inch thick, with the first DVD drive, and OS X, which is an attractive shell over what is mostly BSD UNIX attracted me (after finding that I liked Linux as an alternative to dealing with the faults, flaws, and security weaknesses of Windows.) Using Intel processors brought Apple a long way and the ability to run Windows on the same machine was welcomed by many. Personally, I’ve decided I like my windows on it’s own machine.

The iPod changed the way we listen to music. In many ways the convenience is for the better. But in deference to the music geeks, I’ll admit that we find ourselves in a “low-fi” world. With the loss of the ability to hear all of the high tones, it matters less to me right now. After giving in to reason, allowing video on the small device was a big plus. The iPhone was a bold step and did work quite well the first day right out of the box. A fine interface, an attractive device, an interesting combination of apps that worked well was a different model than other companies had used. Yes, it was certainly and still is a relatively restrictive environment, closed, not user friendly to jailbreak and less friendly after being jail broken. But the trade off has been a reliable and fun to use device. The iPad is a good size for many older people and has caught on well as a tablet. It has caught on so well, that others, such as H-P have even given up trying to compete.

Starting with putting a friendlier face on computing and the concept of computers for everyone, Jobs thought different. Interface and design intersected in ways not before conceived of in the computing world. Computers, email, face-to-face communication via your cell phone or computer, ease of access to information, research, music, and software have changed the landscape of the world. Jobs played a role in this, as did many others. But I give Steve Jobs much credit for the role he played.

Since Jobs developed  pancreatic cancer, which is often deadly within a year or so, and later had a liver transplant, his health has been shaky. Somehow he has still managed to bring enthusiasm and new products regularly to Apple. A biography of Jobs written by Walter Isaacson was originally scheduled to be published in March, 2012 and was to be called iSteve: The Book of Jobs. Publication has been moved up to November, 2011 and the title is now the more serious “Steve Jobs: A Biography”. I didn’t take that as a good sign.

I’m not sure what Apple will be like after Jobs. I’m sure it will be a solid company and will continue to be competitive. But, it will miss the driving vision and uncompromising principles of Jobs. The engineers will be able to relax a bit, but I’m sure the next 15 years will be much different than they would be in the absence of a healthy, strong, and visionary Steve Jobs at the helm. I send thanks and wish Steve Jobs well and as pleasant a transition as possible.

Biology Culture Sports Medicine

Testosterone: Epitestosterone Ratio: Cheating or Genes?

(repost from 01/2011)

The Case Against Lance Armstrong” is the title of an article in the January 24, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. The case that is made within this article is based on in large part on what a few people with gripes against Lance have said. The other “hard” evidence is based on several tests detailing a very high Testosterone:Epitestosterone ratio. Before 2005 the tests normal was considered up to 6:1 and was then lowered to 4:1. Several tests over the years, which may have been Lance’s were considerably higher than this.

According to SI “Three results stand out: a 9.0-to-1 ratio from a sample collected on June 23, 1993; a 7.6-to-1 from July 7, 1994; and a 6.5-to-1 from June 4, 1996.”

Each time the ratio was found to be high, the “B” Sample was tested and found to not confirm the preliminary test. The second test is usually a carbon isotope test that is more specific to studying the makeup of the individual’s testosterone.

While the article goes on to say that one high number (of the T:E ratio) should be a once in a blue moon occurrence, there are significant genetic factors that can come into play.  A 2008 article published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism titled “Doping Test Results Dependent on Genotype of UGT2B17, the Major Enzyme for Testosterone Glucuronidationshowed that if an individual had two alleles for the UGT2B17 gene, there was a large chance that they would not test positive for cheating even after having taken a large dose of synthetic testosterone. The estimates were that 40% of individuals could pass the ratio examination just by virtue of having two copies of this gene. On the other hand with mixed alleles (ins/del) or in the absence of  this allele there was a fair chance that the ratio would always be abnormal. Estimates were that in a normal population, up to 9-14% of people would have a false positive result and fail the test.

It seems that if you have the del/del or ins/del variations of alleles, you are going to pretty consistently fail the test. The authors suggest that this gene should be tested and the results modified based upon the genotype of the individual.

Understanding the purpose of the Testosterone:Epitestosterone ratio testing and doing at least a brief look at  factors that might affect this test, not just once but repeatedly are important when an article such as the SI one is written. This specific gene and its implication on testing is widely known and has been covered in a variety of journal articles. The Canadian Medical Journal detailed, in an editorial titled “Doping, Sport, and the Community“, the difficulties in testing for Growth Hormone abuse and Testosterone. The editorial also mentioned research I came across elsewhere which indicated that many Asians (up to 40%) had the version of this gene that would give a false negative.

So, let’s get all the evidence out. And let’s make sure the public sees all the scientific information on the validity and the problems that exist with this particular test. For another perspective on heroes in American culture, you can seek out one of George Carlin’s last specials in which he expresses his opinion on hero worship and in particular on Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Dr. Phil.

The next test is to determine if the song “Bike” by Pink Floyd was written in a drug free state. In case you can’t make them out the lyrics begin:

I’ve got a bike
You can ride it if you like
It’s got a basket
A bell that rings
And things to make it look good
I’d give it to you if I could
But I borrowed it

Available video of Pink Floyd’s Bike (blocked currently at Youtube)

and if Pink Floyd is just not your cup of tea. Here is Queen performing their song “Bicycle Race”