BUS 1201 (Introduction to Business 1) - Autumn 2014 welcome

Welcome to those about to begin BUS 1201-004 (Introduction to Business 1) with me for the Autumn 2014 semester.  We start on Thursday, 4 September at 10:00 in 3BC55 (Buhler Building).  

The course outline can be found on this site (under Teaching above) as well as Nexus (for those whose registration in the course has been confirmed). If you are on the waitlist, you should attend the first class as I will be discussing your options.

See you soon.

- David

I'm hiring.

I'm in need of a research assistant for the next three months (concluding 24 March) to help me prepare for a book I will be writing.  The position calls for someone with excellent library skills and the ability to track down rather obscure data and information.  Minimum 10 hours per week.

The position will start on 20 January 2014 and conclude on 28 March 2014 (10 weeks).

Position description and how to submit an application.

Flagged Mail messages to OmniFocus (revised)

For quite some time, I used a small script from Hunter Hillegas that would send any flagged messages in Mail to the Inbox in OmniFocus. The script ran on my main server at home, which is always on with Mail running. Peter Borg's excellent Lingon 3 triggered the script every minute. This was handy because I could flag a message when I'm out and about and it would appear in my OmniFocus almost immediately. Brilliant.

Since upgrading to Mavericks and moving all of my mail to FastMail, however, something broke and the script ceased to work. I thought about getting in touch with Hunter directly, but soon realised this was a teachable moment and that it was time I started to learn a bit of AppleScript. And so, after tinkering around for a good hour or so, including taking a tip from a MacRumors post, Hunter's original code remains, but with modifications to the early bits where multiple IMAP accounts (and their Inboxes) were originally defined.

Here is the code:

A slight change in workflow.

The recent release of Mavericks and the complete re-write of Keynote has forced me to reconsider my workflow. I use Keynote every day for teaching and writing some client reports. I know the '09 version very well, but haven't quite taken to the new '13 version. Some user interface decisions are bizarre, to the say the least. A good example is how sliders are now used to create space before and after paragraphs.

The main issue for me, however, is that Keynote files no longer sync between my computers using SugarSync. Others were having this problem with the 1.X version of SugarSync, but for some reason I wasn't affected. At least not until Keynote '13. Keynote files are actually packages (or bundles, as some call them), and these don't play well with sync services such as SugarSync. To be fair to SugarSync, I recall reading in the past that they do not support Mac bundles such as those created by Keynote, Pages and Numbers.

After spending days struggling to find a decent sync solution (one of which involved setting up ChronoSync to poll all computers on my network to check for changes every 5 minutes), I decided on BitTorrent Sync. I had tried it before but couldn't find a use case. Alas, BT Sync struggles with Keynote '13 files as well, but its sync capabilities with all other files is superb. By the time I ditched Keynote '13 for the previous Keynote '09 (a decision which took much less than a week to actually make), I had already gone all in with BT Sync, thus rendering SugarSync (which is still excellent) unnecessary.

I've also recently pulled my old late-2008 Macbook Pro out of retirement. It's now (again) my main computer. The iMac is now downstairs serving as the house server. Everything syncs to it, and it syncs to everything. It has seven hard drives hanging off of it: two to do versioning of my work files (each every five minutes, alternating), three as nightly clones, and another two as backups of my versioning disks. If that sounds ridiculous, that's because it is. It also takes care of hourly backups to Amazon S3 using Arq. My 11" Macbook Air sits quietly on my desk beside the Macbook Pro, waiting to be taken out of the house on weekdays. Because it is synced in real time using BT Sync, it's always ready. If not synced automatically, moving files between all three machines (new versions of software, for example) is easy using Dropzone, and I always have each machine's screen open using the built-in screen sharing feature of OS X.

Other apps I've been using recently:

  • Sente: after a good friend had been pestering me for years to try this, I finally caved. Reading and making notes on articles on my iPad is a treat, and these notes are synced to my computers.
  • I still use PDF Expert on the iPad to read miscellaneous pdf files, for example assignments submitted by students. I have it sync with a specific folder in my Dropbox account which serves as a bit of a repository of random stuff. (At one point, I had students submit assignments via email, and one of my computers would run an AppleScript that would strip the message of the pdf attachment and upload it to this Dropbox folder. Thus, it would be available instantly on my iPad.)
  • I moved back to the open-source version of TextMate after playing with Sublime Text for over a year. The alpha of version 2 apparently doesn't like to have application settings synced via Dropbox (unlike Sublime), so I've ensured my various config files are up on gist for future reference. I still write mostly in LaTeX. I will do the odd file in markdown and, where necessary, convert it to .docx using pandoc.

Celebrating a retirement!

A dear friend, mentor and world-class scholar retired this month.  Professor Paul Wilkinson has been at York University for 40 years.  In that time he has established himself as a foremost authority in several areas, including tourism geography, recreation planning and environmental management.  Paul was my PhD Supervisor from 1997 until 2001.  He was a hugely positive influence during these formative years as I developed into a full-time academic.  It goes without saying that I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

Congratulations, my friend.  Sorry I couldn't be there to help you celebrate.  

David

Manitoba Aviation Council – Annual Conference

I was honoured to be asked to speak at this year's annual Manitoba Aviation Council Conference in late April.  I attended the 2011 Conference (but was unfortunately out of town for the 2012 event) and found it to be an excellent opportunity to see and hear what is happening in all aspects of commercial and general aviation in the Province.  I'll be speaking broadly about the Canadian aeropolitical scene as viewed through a New Zealand lens, using as the title of my talk The Canadian aeropolitical landscape: lessons from New Zealand.  I'll speak to issues of market access and withholding rights (ownership/control) and bring in a comparative assessment of the role of airports in the context of commercial airlift.  Canada and New Zealand are not hugely different in many respects, but there are some stark differences.  Much of this can explained by geography, government policy and economic development objectives. 

It's out...

After quite a few years in development, this was finally published in late 2012.  I'm pretty proud of it, and the credit certainly goes to Tim for pulling it all together as a cohesive whole.  It offers loads of excellent advice – and not just for those writing Dissertations and Theses in Tourism Management.  Between the three of us, we've been at this for quite some time, so plenty of collective wisdom contained within...

Not Another Mac Podcast #86 - guest appearance

I was a guest on episode #86 of Not Another Mac Podcast, a podcast run by Mark Greentree out of Australia. This was a real treat because it is one of my favourite Mac-related podcasts. I find every episode has at least one topic (often more) which is relevant to my workflows or interests. If you're a Mac user, you'd do well to subscribe via iTunes.

In the episode, we talk about how some things in the Apple ecosystem often do not work and then discuss issues surrounding building a home theatre system using Apple-provided tools. We then round things out with our picks. Mine were Sublime Text 2 and iGist.

Listen to the episode.

My Sublime Text 2 settings

I recently (and finally) made the switch to the Sublime Text 2 environment. So far, I’m loving the power and extensibility of this text editor. At first, I didn’t think I would enjoy editing JSON files as a means of changing the user settings, but I’m actually enjoying it. Here are the settings I’m using (see this gist for the most recent):

{
"caret_style": "phase",
"color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Twilight.tmTheme",
"theme": "Soda Dark.sublime-theme",
"dictionary": "Packages/Language - English/en_GB.dic",
"font_face": "Source Code Pro",
"font_size": 18.0,
"highlight_line": true,
"hot_exit": false,
"ignored_packages":
[
"Vintage"
],
"line_padding_bottom": 1,
"line_padding_top": 1,
"remember_open_files": false,
"open_files_in_new_window": false,
"scroll_past_end": true
}

I find myself switching fonts every few days, just to experiment. For now, I quite like Adobe's Source Code Pro, but I think I might try Ubuntu Mono fairly soon. Menlo is a classic, and still one of my favourites.

I'm using Brett Terpstra's excellent package for using ST2 to write in markdown, something I am doing more and more of lately (especially given it is painless to convert a markdown file to .docx or .tex using pandoc). Speaking of which, I've not quite got the pandoc package (SublimePandoc) working, so definitely something I'll need to tinker with when I've the time.

Oh, and I've replaced the ST2 icon with this one.

Loving and syncing text files

For all the reasons you'll find around the intertubes, I heart text files. They work for me because they let me just write as opposed to fiddle with formatting and stare at overly-busy toolbars.

For formal documents, most of my writing takes place in LaTeX. LaTeX files are simply text files with a .tex extension and which feature, in my case at least, rather lengthy preambles that tell the TeX engine installed on my computers how to typeset/format the final document (usually as a .pdf). For instance, all of my course syllabi, memos and papers begin (and often end) life as a LaTeX document. I've automated the document creation process such that I have two master preambles set up in TextExpander: one for a 'standard' LaTeX document and another for a memo that contains a hard link to my University's logo.

Writing in LaTeX requires a text editor. There are several dedicated LaTeX editors for the Mac that I've played around with, but I've since just settled on a standard text editor. When I made the move to LaTeX a few years ago, I immediately bought TextMate. In following the discussions over the future of version 2 (including listening to Marco Arment discuss it on his podcast), I found Sublime Text 2. For the past month or so, it has been my default editor, even though I've yet to formally purchase it. Sublime handles LaTeX typesetting quite smoothly, and it does a great job of Markdown processing (even though I'm not a huge Markdown user) using Brett Terpstra's add-ins.

That takes care of the more formal writing tasks. Like many others, I also do quite a bit of other writing that doesn't need the power of a full text editor. Examples include comments on student papers, review notes for a journal article I've agreed to referee, various lecture notes associated with a specific course, extensive snippets of notes and text relating to the house and cars we own (like what kind of headlights to buy if needed), a detailed overview of tech-related projects (one of which - backups - I wrote about earlier), meeting notes, draft meeting agendas, notes from telephone calls, and so on. For all of this, I use Brett Terpstra's nvALT. This app has transformed my workflow in terms of idea captures, scratch notes and draft-writing exercising. I even slipped Brett $20 a few months ago as a way of saying thanks. I should probably do it every year.

Keeping all of my notes in nvALT synced between my MBP and my MBA is critical, but easily achieved. My nvALT notes folder (holding standalone text files in copious quantities) is synced using SugarSync to their cloud. This means all of my notes are available at anytime on either of my two computers. The problem, however, is accessing and, more importantly, editing text files on my iPad. I needed a way to make those text files on SugarSync that nvALT points to available on my iPad. I tried a number of options, including dedicated software such as Simplenote, but I wanted a bit of choice as to which text editor on the iPad I could use to edit those text files. Eventually, I found a solution.

It is amazing how many text editors have been written for the iOS environment, and thanks to Brett Terpstra for tirelessly, and cleverly, doing a stocktake. As mentioned above, the text files I use nvALT to access on my computers live on SugarSync's servers. On the iPad, however, using specific text/writing apps to access these after starting in the SugarSync app on iOS can take more than a few taps (after you've pulled the file down locally to your iPad).

My solution involved Dropbox, as most of the better text writing apps on the iPad (e.g., Nebulous Notes, Notesy, Textastic, etc.) make use of it. Running SynkPro, I set up a sync routine that mirrors the text files folder on my Macbook Pro that I view with nvALT to a dedicated folder in my Dropbox. This makes everything available instantly on my iPad. When I edit and save a text file on iPad (I'm using Textastic these days), SynkPro senses immediately the changes in the Dropbox folder updates the file in my master text files folder on my Macbook Pro. And because the MBP is synced to my MBA via SugarSync, a text file that I edit using Textastic on my iPad gets propagated to both my Macbook Pro and Macbook Air in seconds. In essence, it is a simple but effective sync loop that allows me to write and edit pretty much anywhere.

As you can tell, text files have become the primary form of information, data and notes on all of my devices. One final note on fonts. I'm not a font junkie, per se, but I do appreciate a good monospaced font with some anti-aliasing thrown in. These days, I'm partial to Monaco in nvALT and Sublime Text 2, but for years I used nothing but Inconsolata.

Workflows – backups

I've been wanting to write something up on workflows for quite some time. My career and daily activities centre around information. I generate and collect information, parse it, process it, repackage it and, eventually, disseminate. This takes time and energy, and finding new ways of making everything more efficient is, I think, generally positive.

Backups

I subscribe to the notion that data need to exist in several physical places, one of which should be offsite. Following this, my backup strategy more or less looks as follows:

There are several obvious components. The multiple hard drives, all named after Belgian cities or towns, form the physical backbone of my local backup procedures. In addition, I also make use of two cloud services for off-site storage, syncing and archival purposes, as I'll explain below.

The heart of my backup is a series of clones that are updated using SuperDuper! each night as I sleep. Using a simple shell script (powered by Lingon 3), three USB hard drives (Desselgem, Klinge and Lobbes) are mounted at 12:55am every night. Each of these drives are 2.5" drives and at least 500GB in size. (Klinge is actually a two-bay enclosure holding two WD Caviar Black 7200RPM drives in a RAID 1 configuration.) Beginning at 01:00, SuperDuper! launches and clones my primary computer (a late-2008 15" Macbook Pro) to each drive. I allow 1.5 hours for this to happen, after which Lingon 3 launches another shell script that unmounts the drives. The benefit of having a shell script doing the mounting and unmounting is that these drives are only used once a day (in the middle of the night), so there is little rational reason to have them spining when not needed.

As mentioned, another key part of my backup regime is off-site storage. This is managed in two ways. The first is an "occasional" clone (2.5" size) that is kept at my University office. I say "occasional" because, truthfully, I'm not that diligent in keeping this off-site drive up-to-date. Much of the reason for this is the ubiquity and ease-of-use of the numerous cloud services which are available. I use two: Amazon's remarkable S3 service and the excellent SugarSync. I'll describe how I use each in turn.

Amazon S3

S3 is great because it offers excellent reliability (although I've not really tested this extensively) at a reasonable price (US$0.125 per GB of storage per month). I use S3 to back up my key work and personal files. For my work files, I use Arq to poll my MBP every hour for any and all file changes. These get subsequently uploaded to S3. I keep all of my personal data in a large sparsebundle with heavy encryption. This is duplicated on S3, and I use Panic's Transmit (on an ad hoc basis) to mirror the contents to a separate S3 bucket. I've quite a few other S3 buckets. One is is little more than a place to put large files that don't fit anywhere else but, eventually, I think I might need. A good example is miscellaneous Skype recordings that I make when discussing research with overseas colleagues. I record the conversation, but have little interest in keeping the large file on my hard drive at all times. Thus, I've set up DropZone to allow for a drag-and-drop to this S3 bucket.

I also have several other S3 buckets that have been useful for longer-term storage (yes, I am aware of Glacier, but am waiting for apps to leverage the API). One functions as archival storage for my lecture recordings. I've recorded every lecture and public event I've spoken at since 2004. Narcassistic, perhaps, but having access to these comes in handy every now and then. All of these recordings clock in at nearly 10GB, and I don't need to keep anything prior to, say, 2009 on my MBP or any of my local backups. With S3, storing about 7GB of my old lectures costs a paltry US$10 per year.

Another S3 bucket I use for archival purposes contains old CVs. In academia, one's CV is a record of their life. We use it to demonstrate our activities and, ultimately, remind ourselves of what we've done (and at what pace). There is really no rhyme or reason to when I elect to upload a CV to this bucket; it seems to be more or less random these days, thus begging for some kind of automation script.

I have another S3 bucket that houses various iterations of my many DevonThink Pro Office (DTPO) databases. These can be quite large, like my lecture recordings, but having older copies may one day come in handy just in case (knock on wood) something drastic happens to a particular database. DTPO is, however, a solid application, and I've never had a serious problems. Still, always better to be safe than sorry. Finally, my entire Dropbox folder is copied and updated to S3. This would seem a bit superfluous (given Dropbox uses S3), but it's peace of mind. As it turns out, this is not the only place where my Dropbox is backed up (see below).

One good thing about the S3 service is that you can choose the geographic location of your buckets. For instance, my work and personal buckets are located in Singapore. This geographically balances SugarSync's servers being in the United States.

SugarSync

One of the challenges with working with two computers is keeping things synchronised. I find SugarSync manages this beautifully. My other computer is a 2011 11" Macbook Air. It is what I use when I travel or head to the office, and it drives all my Keynote presentations. Despite its importance in my workflow, however, the MBA is little more than a modern equivalent of a dumb terminal. It doesn't get backed up because everything on it already exists in several other places. With SugarSync, if I'm in my office (or overseas), the minute I save a file it is automatically pushed up by SugarSync to its servers. Because it is also running on my MPB at home, SugarSync senses a change in the file in the cloud and immediately pulls it down. Seamless. This can be pretty magical when, for instance, I'm in New Zealand working and my main computer in Winnipeg gets updated within seconds.

Versioning

I've read about how important versioning is for coders and programmers, but I think it can be equally important for writers as well. I've tried git, but I didn't really take to it. Maybe in the future, but not right now. I wanted a cleaner way of managing versions of working files, and I think I found one. On the MBP, I use ChronoSync to copy to an external hard drive (called Malderen in the figure above) new versions of files created. It does this by using the application's built-in scheduler, which launches every five minutes and pushes to that external hard drive any new versions of files. So, while SugarSync pushes up the most recent version (and overwrites the previous version), Chronosync is instructed to copy over the new file but not erase the previous one, thus creating a local versioning system. I can go back to any version I was working on that will be at least older than five minutes. And, I can keep as many as I wish. This has come in handy a few times. As a backup to this versioning process, I have Malderen copy itself to another hard drive (Latinne) whenever the latter is mounted. The obvious weak link is that Latinne needs to be mounted manually. The problem is that I can easily forget to do this for, say, weeks on end. In my defense, Latinne is a large 3.5" drive inside a rather noisy enclosure, so I don't want the enclosure running all the time.

I mentioned Dropbox earlier. I use this service to work with colleagues all over the world. It is extremely efficient. I mentioned above that I mirror the entire contents of my dropbox (under 2GB) to Amazon's S3. I also apply version control on my entire Dropbox. Every 10 minutes, Chrnosync checks my Dropbox folder for any updated files and these subsequently get copied to Malderen.

Wrap-up, and some caveats

There are a few things in my backup workflow that get triggered manually. First, keeping my numerous and large DTPO database in sync between two computers is not feasible using SugarSync. When I am actively using multiple databases, the constant changes would trigger endless uploads (and downloads) to SugarSync servers. This seems pointless, and thus I resort to a manually-triggered ChronoSync script (they call it a synchronizer) that copies over new databases from one computer to another (wirelessly). This can take time, and I have to remember to do it, but it works. The same holds true for my personal sparsebundle, which contains peritnent family information and documents. Keeping this on two computers without using the cloud means another manual ChronoSync script/synchronizer. Some might say cumbersome, but it is manageable.

This entire backup system has been years in the making, and is constantly being refined. That said, I've finally got it to the point where I don't worry too much about data loss. Years ago, while a grad student in Canada, the 486 computer that my Masters advisor let me use for my own Thesis work succumbed to a then-common boot sector virus. I didn't lose anything, but I thought I had. Since then, I've practiced what some might call overkill when it comes to backups, but I've never lost anything of importance for more than two minutes. Knock on wood.

New affiliation - University of New South Wales

I accepted recently an offer to be Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of Aviation at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.  Aviation at UNSW is a leader in aviation-related education in the Asia-Pacific, so it was quite an honour to establish a formal affiliation.

I am currently working with Dr Tay Koo at UNSW (and Dr David Tan of ANU in Canberra) on the use of error correction models for examining the relationship between airline supply (capacity) and visitor demand.  Tay, David and I have other projects that we are planning, but I also look forward to more years of fruitful collaboration with other staff in the School.

Pegged

In December 2010, my office at the University of Otago in New Zealand was packed up and the contents stuffed into a large, seaworthy container. Destination: Winnipeg, Canada (aka "The Peg" or "Peg City").

As of 1 April 2011, I shall be Associate Professor in the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Winnipeg. Conveniently, I shall retain an honorary position at the University of Otago in order to retain linkages and synergies formed over nearly ten years.

Despite some tantalising opportunities in Canada (some of which I may take up in due course), my research focus on the economic regulation of New Zealand's commercial air transport sector remains unchanged.

The Centre for Air Transport Research continues to exist, although its function is more or less restricted to dissemination activities associated with the three-year Tourism and Aviation: Critical Linkages project for which I still retain responsibility.

Centre for Air Transport Research

I have recently established a Centre for Air Transport Research at the School of Business in the University of Otago.

The Centre will be home to a recent FRST grant received by myself (as Principal Investigator), Dr. Niven Winchester from the Department of Economics at Otago and a leading consultancy firm, Covec, based out of Auckland. The Centre will also be home to graduate students studying toward higher degrees in air transport management, economics and policy.

Several notable consultants have already become affiliated with the Centre, including Shane Vuletich and Aaron Schiff of Covec as well as Mike Swiatek of Swiatek Advisory Services. Also attached to the Centre is Mr John Macilree, who is Principal Adviser, Air Services with the Air Services and Security Team at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.

The UK APD adjustment - some calculations

Much has been written in the international media re: the UK's decision to a) retain the APD (Air Passenger Duty) and b) increase the amount progressively and incorporate a distance factor.  Put simply, longer distance trips will attract a higher duty.  New Zealand and Australia are obviously concerned.

John Macilree has done some 'back-of-the-envelope' calculations which I more-or-less replicate below.  I then expanded on these and include estimates relating to CO2-e (radiative forcing) and the relationship to the (potential) price of carbon.

The following assumptions can be made:

1. A distance of 18355km for LHR to AKL, resulting in 1,342 Kg of CO2 (from the ICAO carbon emissions calculator)

2. A price of carbon at £13.36 (or €15.70) per tonne of CO2

The result is a liability to the passenger of £17.93.  This is significantly less than even the current APD of £40 (which is the reduced rate for carriage in a lower class), let alone the proposed levy of £55 from 1 November 2009 and £85 from 2010.

The ICAO calculator only covers CO2 and does not take into account the radiative forcing (RF) aircraft emissions.  Although not known exactly, work by Sausen et al (2005) indicated that a RF factor range of 1.9 - 5.1 is possible.  For our immediate purposes, a (reasonable?) factor of 3 can be used.  The resulting CO2-e footprint becomes 4.03 tonnes and the passenger liability rises to £54.  This is closer to what is proposed for the APD as of 1 November 2009.

Another issue worthy of consideration is the price of carbon.  In order to justify the APD rise to £85 in 2010, there would need to be at least a 60% increase in the price of carbon on the global market if a radiative forcing factor of 3 is used.  If a radiative forcing factor is not used (i.e., if just CO2 emissions are calculated), the price of carbon will need to at least treble over the next 11 months to match the APD rise to £55 on 1 November 2009.

Not surprisingly, this issue is generating quite a bit of attention in the aviation community.  IATA has called the decision a mistake, the European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) deplores the decision to reverse earlier considerations of a per-flight tax, and the US Air Transport Association has noted its strong opposition.