The Northern Spy – An Apple By Any Other Name

The Northern Spy

With the announcement this past week that 

Volkswagen was to embrace the electric era by changing the corporate name to Voltswagen, the Spy decided to research the matter of pending corporate name changes and related issues. He made some fascinating discoveries. 

And, in an exclusive to this intrepid reporter comes word on internal debates at Apple between those who want to embrace the current name and are trying to sell the slogan “An Apple a day keeps MS away,” and opponents who not only feel that trivializes a vulnerable population but also point out that the fruit de jour seems dictates a change to “Avocado Corp.” instead. Apparently the sides have arrived at an impasse.

Hewlett-Packard, which in 2015 split into two companies, one called HP Inc., and the other Hewlett Packard Enterprises (publicly traded), has discovered that the association with sauce is not so sweet after all, and will again change its name to, simply “P”. The company will trademark that letter of the alphabet and anticipates collecting royalties on every use of it by others. A spokesperson, confiding anonymously, remarked, “If Canada can charge pastors, writers, academics, and politicians a word tax for, speeches, lessons, articles, and books, we should be able to collect royalties on a letter of the alphabet.” Google’s parent company is reportedly planning to seek a restraining order prohibiting P’s actions.  (Conflict warning: As a church treasurer, the Spy must track all sermons and other publications of the local church, calculate, and remit the word tax to the government annually.) 

Yet another inside report to the Spy conveys plans of a major political party to patent the word “lie” and take legal action against any politicians and corporate executives of other parties who do not tell the truth, on the grounds that since their party owns the word, they have exclusive rights to all actions associated with it. Meanwhile, several former party members plan to launch a counter-lawsuit to defend their own right to lie. The Spy has reliable information that they tried to sell a plan to tell the public that a certain DC gathering so maligned by the press was just a Sunday School picnic on its way to Central Park that got lost. They were booted because everyone knows Central Park is in Burnaby BC, not DC, so the story wasn’t sufficiently believable to spread.  

Returning to corporate news, the Spy notes a recent announcement that Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway (lots of track to and in Mexico as well) plan to merge, creating a North-South behemoth of a line out of the tie that binds the rails. Discussions around a new name have coalesced on MACR vs just MAC (Mexico-Arctic-Canada) with proponents of the former noting that “R” for “Railway” ought to be included, and those in the latter salivating over a brand fight with Apple. Lost in the discussion is that fact that CP does not at this point reach the Arctic. However, the Spy supposes that a railway’s reach should exceed its grasp, or what’s a merger for?

Sounding some more serious notes:

For those unfamiliar with the enterprise, CPR was once the largest private entity in Canada, before activist shareholders gained control of the board and “maximized their share value” by selling off its hospitality, tourism, real estate, forestry, and  petrochemical businesses, voting themselves a large dividend, then disposing of their shares, leaving behind a single business. It was also joint owner of CN-CP telecommunications, sold to Rogers for a song because CP and CN apparently saw no future in that line of work–long the Spy’s prime candidate for worst business decision in the history of the country. Perhaps this merger is a serious effort to redeem that business by becoming bigger and better at the one enterprise they have left. The first east-west Canadian transcontinental railway is about to become the first north-south North American transcontinental railway.

The merger is unlikely to get adverse regulatory scrutiny because it is an end-to-end joining of two non-overlapping businesses, not a ‘cut-positions-and-gain-efficiencies’ plan. Rather, it ought to open up more north-south shipping opportunities in both directions. Besides, in the Spy’s view, the closing or forestalling of north-south pipelines for political reasons creates an opportunity for rail shipment of petrochemical raw and finished products. Sure, rail has far more potential for pollution than does a pipeline, but so far it’s only the latter that are politically incorrect. (Another disclaimer: the Spy once worked for CPR in office, operations, and telecom positions, and his father was in their engine maintenance division for over forty years. He has good memories.) 

The difference between “low” and “high” tech

was brought home to the Spy rather dramatically this past month when his rototiller engine failed. What a contrast. OTOH, the Spy delights in making ancient (circa 2008-2012) computers run the modern OS software, keeping boxes that Apple wants us to replace running with a few minor hacks. OTOH, his BCS 725 tiller was built in 1976, and with a new engine and a little TLC could last another forty-five years. There are reportedly still people using Apple ][ computers from that era, but only for nostalgic reasons. That tiller is a workhorse, best in class, and the modern imitations mere toys with a 2-3 year life expectancy at best. Ahem.

By contrast, USB sticks of five years ago have too little storage for today’s use. Ditto portable drives, servers, and other “high” tech paraphernalia. Gamers are never satisfied with the speed of their CPUs, memory, and monitors. No one can get enough storage. The Spy recently upgraded his house server (mainly for backup) from 12T to 32T in total drive space, and his Internet connection speed to 1G. It’s never enough. This isn’t a complaint, just a sign of an extremely immature industry whose products are mere toys to what they are becoming. The days when it can build a product that lasts on the market for forty years, and is still manufactured in much the same configuration may come, but we’re not close. Perhaps IT should stand for “Immature Technology”.

Consider the case of CentOS Linux, the free and  open source version of workhouse Red Hat Linux, and OS that powers many servers, including the one the Spy uses to run WebNameHost and related sites. His server is on version 6, now obsolete, but migrating hundreds of web sites to a new server is onerous, so he toughed it out. But ever version 7 is EOL in 2024 and version 8 will not only be EOL in December 2021 but is the last one to be produced, cutting its planned life by eight years. Instead, Red Hat will concentrate on CentOS Stream. However, Stream is a pre-release version of RedHat, not a Post release one, and so will not be suitable for production servers. Users such as the Spy will have to switch to Ubuntu or Debian Linux, then migrate all applications and users–a massive undertaking. Worse, cPanel, the interface he and his customers have known and used for many years, does not run on either Ubuntu or Debian. Bummer.

Ongoing remarks on the cancer journey

Today we revisit the oncologist to determine what if any path lies forward for Joyce. A month off has ameliorated the side effects somewhat. We shall see whether the crab has become emboldened by the chemical layoff. So, a short column this month

See you all again next month–DV.

–The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics and Assistant Dean of Science at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He completed his fiftieth year as a high school and university teacher in 2020. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His various columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), since the early 1980s, and he’s been a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 2019 and have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. since 1972. 

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Arjay Enterprises: 

  • The Northern Spy Home Page:
  • opundo :
  • Sheaves Christian Resources :
  • WebNameHost :
  • WebNameSource :
  • nameman :

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Books: 

Author Site:

  • Publisher’s Site:
  • The Fourth Civilization–Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed. ):

Other URLs of relevant interest: 

  • BC Government COVID site:
  • TWU COVID Info:
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About the Author


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