g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, January 13, 2002
23:07 - Hello? Anybody read any Steinbeck lately?

(top)
Okay, this is something that's been bugging me ever since I got online.

People are using the word "Okie" as though it were a perfectly innocent word, a cutesy variation on "Okay". But to many people, particularly people from Oklahoma-- or to anybody who's ever known or read anything about them in the past seventy years-- that word is a very offensive, pejorative term. Sort of like "Redneck" or "Yid".

Maybe I should be happy that our language has effectively lost a potential word of cultural derision from its vocabulary. But I can't help but think that the people who say "Hey, let's go to the movies!" "Okies!" would choose different wording if they'd ever read any of the literature that was specifically written so that that period of American history should not be forgotten.

22:56 - Thanks, Southwest, For Another Outstanding Flight

(top)
Once again, I've been reminded of why it is I enjoy flying Southwest. The flight attendants, with their flippant manner and easy (if occasionally stock) comedy, do an excellent job of making you forget that you've just been through a process of having your car searched, your laptop and iPod sent through the X-ray machine in a separate tray, had to say good-bye to your loved ones before the security checkpoint, and been subject to random bag searches at the gate-- and let you feel like everything's normal again. Sitting on a plane and laughing is so very therapeutic these days.

"If we could just pretend to have your attention for a few minutes, we'd like to go over the safety features..."
"Electronic devices must be turned off. If we catch you using an electronic device before we've said it's okay, you will be voted off the island."
"Smoking is never, never, never, never, never, never permitted in an airplane lavatory."
"We will be dimming the lights in order to enhance the beauty of our flight attendants."
"We'll be arriving early into San Jose, as we promised; unfortunately, we're only 25 minutes early."
"Remember, cell phones must be switched off until the front doors have been opened. If you've slipped and accidentally turned on your phone, please feel free to slip and accidentally turn it back off."
"For your own safety and the safety of those you may fall on, please remain seated..."
"Please remain in your seat until we have pulled up to the gate and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. When that happens, please feel free to unbuckle your belt, move to the center aisle, and go absolutely nowhere."
"Since we've gotten you into San Jose 25 minutes early, please go out and tell whoever's meeting you that Southwest got you in 25 minutes early. Because we know that if we got you in 25 minutes late, you'd be out there telling your friends all about it."
"If you have a connecting flight this late on Southwest, please look at the video monitors in the gate area for connection information. If you have a connecting flight on another airline, well, we simply don't care."
"One more thing: If you enjoyed your flight today, this was Southwest, and your flight attendants were Dale, Maya, and Jennifer. If you didn't enjoy your flight, this was Northwest, and your flight attendants were Bill, Hillary, and Monica."

You go, Dale. And long live Southwest.

Now if only my left ear had popped on the way down from 37,000 feet. Ow ow ow.

22:39 - These People Don't Get It...

(top)
Okay... lately I've been seeing a lot of people's reactions to the Lord of the Rings movie like "All this plays like a giant game of Myst, with Ring's mythical characters never making the leap from virtual reality to real" and "It's still for teenage boys" (the Dec. 24 People magazine that I found in the seat-back of my homeward flight) and "It's like a 'Dungeons & Dragons' game, with your archer elf and axe-wielding dwarf and block-headed swordsman" (paraphrased from various reviews and friends' reactions).

Well, duh, Einstein. Tolkien's books were published in 1954-5. Where do you think D&D and Myst and every other fantasy incarnation came from? Did you think LotR is unoriginal because it doesn't take such ideas to a dramatic new never-before-seen level? What, were you expecting them to add hip-hop songs and trans-dimensional vortexes leading Aragorn and Gandalf into the worlds of Star Trek and the Matrix? Gyeesh. I'm just waiting for someone to accuse it of being ripped-off from The Sword of Shannara.

LotR doesn't need to apologize for being what it is. Just because it's been endlessly copied, imitated, followed-up, expanded upon, and used as the inspiration for pretty much the entirety of fantasy fiction in the modern post-Shakespearean world doesn't mean that it needs to be updated to outdo its louder imitators that made it to the big screen or the PC gamer shelves first.

But then, these are people coming to Tolkien's world with little or no background. They could care less that Tolkien had been dead for over ten years before Willow was made (which, by the way, has been marketed in a DVD release as "Before there were hobbits..."). They have no idea, nor do they want to, of who was first to market, as it were. It's all about market appeal and merchandisability. Isn't this always the way? The first crack at something is pure at heart, idealistic, and captures a cult following-- but then it's the bastardized, efficient imitators with the marketing know-how that grab the public eye and dollar. It happened with VHS vs. Betamax. It happened with Windows vs. the Mac. And now it's happening with Tolkien's descendants vs. Tolkien.

Geez, it's weird how these few topics I tend to cover regularly keep intersescting with each other, huh?

In any case, the only two complaints I've ever heard from more than one person about the LotR movie are that (a) "It's too long!" and (b) "It just cuts off in the middle of nowhere!" Well, duh. Okay, maybe it wouldn't have killed PJ to put in a little "Thus ends Part One of The Lord of the Rings; stay tuned for Part Two" message at the end. But come on, folks. I know it's asking a bit much of people to expect them to have read the books before they see the movie-- that defeats the entire purpose of making a movie (it's to bring the story to a new medium so it can exist independently from its parent medium). Bakshi made the mistake of gliding over important plot points because he figured most people in the audience knew the story already-- and we can't expect that. Not in 1977 when "Frodo Lives" grafitti was still showing up in subways, and certainly not today in the Phantom Menace-ized, Harry Potter-ified, in-dash-gadgets-to-read-you-your-e-mail world where nobody has time to read anything thicker or more frivolous than Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But damn... we're talking about the greatest story ever told here. It gets chopped up, cut down, rearranged, shuffled, and subtitled for our discerning 21st-century tastes, and still we're not satisfied. We marvel at the movie, but it's too damn long. We're a society that would complain about an adaptation of the Arthurian legend because that stuff about the sword in the stone wasn't believable enough or took too long or only appealed to teenagers. So cut out that Lórien crap, or that Caradhras scene, or that whole nonsense about the Second Age. Yawn. Boring. Tell me what happens; I'll be on my cell phone.

Nah, I've got a better idea. Let's just tell people about how the DVD director's-cut edition of Fellowship will probably be well over four hours long, and the fans for whom it's intended will gobble it right up. This is our movie, thanks. Go watch some MTV videos. We'll be with you in five hours.

08:43 - Wrapping up the weekend...

(top)
Well, it's just a few hours till I get on the plane to come home from Chicago, and I probably shouldn't even be typing this now, because I don't want to waste any of the dwindling time left doing things I could do anywhere. So I'll keep this brief.

Chicago is a city unlike any I've been in before; the downtown is long and strung-out along the lakeside, and the size of the buildings I just can't get over. But beyond that is the sense of history that's all over the place-- even more so than in some Eastern cities. You really get a feeling of how the city has changed and evolved over the years-- unlike a lot of things in the Midwest, there's a geometry to the place and an inherent sense of direction. The river in the middle of the city is actually still in its original bed and as full as it always was, unlike in LA or San Jose. And the way they light up downtown with purple floodlighting is really cool.

I'll write more about this later, most likely. Time to get back to what I was doing (e.g. ignoring my e-mail and stuff).
Thursday, January 10, 2002
09:38 - Interesting.

(top)
So it seems that Southwest, while it's the only airline that appears to have been relatively undamaged by the recent 9/11-related airline woes, has had to alter a few fundamentals in its trademark process in the interest of security. Namely, they can't just give out those plastic boarding cards anymore; they also have to print out a little "Boarding Document" card and write the number from the plastic card on it. They also require both the plastic and the paper cards and your ID in order to board.

Not that I'm complaining; it's all relatively transparent to me (just one more thing to hold onto, and one more checkpoint where I need to pull out my wallet), but it's interesting to see the various concessions that each airline has had to make lately.

09:09 - Hey, this stuff's pretty cool...

(top)
I gotta say, $7 for a day's worth of wireless Internet access in the airport is pretty dang cool. Lets me take care of all my morning net chores while I'm waiting for the guys with the rifles to go the other direction.

Anyway, I'll be in Chicago till Sunday night, so probably no bloggage till then.

Eek! The ticket line just opened up. Must close..
Wednesday, January 9, 2002
21:12 - Microsoft is Caught (Again) Ballot-Box Stuffing
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/story/0,,t269-s2102244,00.html

(top)
Can you believe this? Not for the first time, an online poll (this one deciding whether Java or Microsoft's .NET initiative was the more popular choice for building web services) has been abused by Microsoft itself in order to "prove" the superiority of their products.

Before the ballot-box rigging:
Java 69.5%
.NET 21.5%



After:
Java 12%
.NET 75%



All because someone at MS sent around an e-mail saying "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET!", and apparently everybody did.

See, that's what I'm talking about, with ethics. It wasn't just people casting a single honest vote-- even assuming the employees in question were able to justify their own work on .NET as qualifying as "building web services" in the sense intended by the poll. No, this was people setting up scripts to try to cast multiple votes, people manually voting over and over again... hey, never mind whether anyone will notice or anything. Just rock the vote! It's the American Way! Hey, the public supports it!

Maybe any company would have acted this way in MS's position. But I know the people in my workplace wouldn't, and I don't think we're unique. No, I think it takes a special kind of person to work at Microsoft. And that's why Americans love 'em.

18:42 - Hey, at least they keep up with the news...
http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2002-01-09

(top)


See, I like Penny Arcade. It's never malicious enough to make me angry, but it's just incisive enough to force me to make sure I'm aware of my foibles and those of my compatriots.

And for what it's worth, if you look at their main page, the authors of the strip are clearly not anti-Apple in any way. Which does my heart good, to see a strip so closely oriented around gaming that isn't predicated on a deep-seated and searing hatred of Macs. Maybe I've got it all wrong.

And hey, at least we're being good comic relief to somebody, right? :)


18:04 - The File-Sharing Generation Enters its "80's"
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2002/nf2002013_5627.htm

(top)
Hey, take a look. Trojans installed silently by file-swapping programs.

What this says to me is not so much that file-swapping is inherently evil or anything. No, what I see is the end of the Free Love era of Napster and the countless Naplets.

I could go ahead and draw the parallels if you want me to: AIDS and other STDs, along with general social change, brought about the end of the freewheeling hippie era. And in the same way, we can't be sure-- if we're running some file-sharing program-- that it isn't installing some silent password-snooper or URL-logger against our wishes.

But while that's an obvious parallel that's easy to op-ed about, there's the other, less obvious, less awareness-sensitive, more insidious side. And that's the fact that file-sharing programs aren't free anymore. That's right-- you fire up your P2P application to snarf down some free music, and you end up paying for the privilege.

Perhaps not in the sense that you pay-per-play, as with the recording companies' services, or in the sense that you pay each time you log on, or even in the sense that the programs are commercial. I'm talking about the fact that the Internet in general, including its grass-roots-grown software, is becoming ad-ware.

Take a stroll around your favorite fan websites. Do you see a single one these days that doesn't have banner ads, pop-up ads, pop-under ads? You'd understand the big commercial sites like ZDNet embedding huge ads in the middle of articles that the text has to wrap around, but now it's extended even to the personal labors-of-love that gave the Internet its unprecedented reach. Seanbaby.com has banner ads. As the Apple Turns has banner ads. In fact, if you find a site that doesn't have banner ads, chances are that it's only because the author is independently wealthy and can afford dedicated co-location bandwidth on a scale that most people are unwilling to commit their resources to it.

And the same goes for software. I was shocked to find that LimeWire (the Gnutella client for Mac OS X) now has a "free" (ad-laden) version and a "commercial" (ad-free) version... until I discovered that just about everybody else now operates by the same scheme. AudioGalaxy has banner ads. KaZaA has embedded ads. Advertising, often for companies with very shady reasons for existence (X-10 cameras for spying on your neighbor's wife? Online gambling? Porn sites?), is becoming the lifeblood even of the independent, individualistic shareware that got the file-sharing generation off to its start.

So before too long, I would imagine that the financial gap between paying for music (on a CD, or from the official online music services) and getting it for "free" via P2P apps will shrink, until inevitably it will vanish altogether. Why can't you make a TV show and put it on the air? Because the airwaves are heavily regulated and the financial barriers-to-entry are very high. Who pays for the TV shows that do make it onto the air? Advertisers. And if you don't have advertisers, you have to nag the viewers, like PBS does.

It'll take a long time, certainly; the Internet, by its nature, fosters free exchange of thought like nothing ever has before. But not if that thought involves serving multi-megabyte chunks of data to thousands of clients per day. That costs bandwidth. And bandwidth isn't becoming "too cheap to meter"-- the only condition where file-sharing could conceivably remain truly free. Instead, the supply of bandwidth is growing only very, very slowly, and it remains very expensive. Infrastructure is costly, and someone has to pay for it. And that means that unless the Internet's infrastructure somehow becomes irrelevant-- and, like, soon, before its costliness leads to oligopoly and regulation, like TV has-- then we're going to see a long, slow, steady decline in how "free" our Internet experience really is.

Hiker notes:

In the 1980s software piracy soared as people stopped wanting to PAY for stuff...

... and before long, pirates and hackers were putting ads for their BBS in, prefacing the software with annoying demos, and using them to transmit viruses. :)



13:59 - Lileks and den Beste Duke it Out
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/010902.html

(top)
For the past couple of days, James Lileks has been taking an ergo-centric, optimistic, let's-dig-a-little-deeper stance on the new iMac and on Apple's future, while Steven den Beste of USS Clueless has used it as an opportunity to accuse Apple of spinning its wheels and doing cutesy wow-effects marketing rather than trying to achieve any substantive innovation in things like, oh, performance.

Read both these guys. They're about as diametrically opposed on the topic as you can get within the Mac community-- on the one hand you have the people who believe so fervently in the Apple vision that they sometimes allow new-age ergonomic theorizing to prevent them from recognizing mistakes on Apple's part; and on the other hand you have the perpetual pessimists, the people who think Apple is a sinking ship to which they'll cling for as long as they can but who won't weep when they finally let go.

Well, you know, the ship has been "sinking" for about 15 years now. And there haven't been too many new barnacles growing during that time.

It should be pretty obvious which side I come down on. I think Apple has a relatively bright future, especially since they've managed to show such energy in recent years. You don't bring out products like the iPod and the new iMac, and absorb lamented failures like the Cube, if you're feeling the lethargy of doom. Apple is not a dying company. They have as much cash reserves as they always have-- more, even. They're actively focusing on an area of product in which they've traditionally been lacking: software, particularly free software like iTunes and iMovie and iPhoto that integrates into the system and lets you simply DO stuff. It's true that the PPC is in a long, painful slump; but while we're waiting to hear how that will turn out (and I don't think Apple is out of options short of switching to the x86 architecture), Apple is hardly sitting on its hands. We're getting more and more cool stuff every few months. It's all fitting together like puzzle pieces. Every time a piece of iSoftware is announced, the next day the office is full of people showing off how much you can do with it and wondering how we ever got by without it before. People who traditionally pooh-pooh Macs, like my product manager here, have been coming up to my desk to see iPhoto and make feet-shuffling noises about the iDeskLamp. "Yeah, I'm thinking maybe I'll get one for my wife," he growls. Yeah. Sure.

Another thing: Going to Macworld and seeing the clientele there... they're not just grizzled veterans, white-whiskered propeller-beanie-wearing paunchy Santa Claus figures from the 80s. They're goateed 20-something code-monkeys. They're wide-eyed teens. They're artistic women and agitated family men. The Mac community is growing, and it's drawing in converts from all walks of life. People are coming to the Mac. They're seeing the decay in the Wintel world and the college-dorm-room idealistic chaos of the Linux world, and they're beginning to see what the Apple vision is all about.

It's not about power or speed, though those things are nice when we can get 'em. It's not about taming your computer in a power trip. Apple is about changing the way you think about yourself and your creativity. They genuinely want each user to have the tools to open up his or her mind and show off what's inside, and regardless of whether the frosty base of the iMac houses a 700MHz G4 or a Sparc or Itanium CPU or whatever, the primary goal is to get those tools into the hands of the user.

To quote Lileks:

A friend at work, for example, uses a common MP3 player - one of those RealPlayer POS programs, I think. It also plays CDs. Whenever he inserts a CD, the program converts everything to MP3s and sprays the files on his desktop. He deletes them; the MP3 player still thinks they exist, and keeps a reference in his playlist. He’s tried to turn this off, but can’t figure out how, and so like most computer users he has learned to trash the files and live with the error messages, because he is too busy using the computer to figure out how to fix it. It’s a criminal abuse of the user, and reflects the general lack of panache that characterizes many Windows products. Say what you will about Jobs - and I think he’s a smug flaming egomaniacal jerk in oh so many ways - you get the sense that he insists that these programs be cool, goddammit, and they are. And by “cool” I mean they look right and run right. I’ve yet to meet any of these new Apple apps that didn’t behave exactly like I think it should.

That's exactly it. See, we're not just brainwashed zombies who keep pouring money into a doomed company because we think we may one day be allowed to bear Steve Jobs' children. That's not it. We've just had enough experience in the computer world to understand exactly what Apple is trying to do. They just want to create software that makes you think, "Ahhh... now this is what computing is supposed to be."

And I think that's a dream worthy of being rewarded with my dollars. Especially if it means I get to come along for the ride. Wherever it takes us.

13:23 - Yet another utterly annoying, nearly perfect gizmo gem from those shameless bastards at Apple
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2002/01/09/notes010902.DTL

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A SF Gate article that makes me giggle. This is somebody who gets it. And stay tuned for more-- if success is measured by how much op-ed buzz a new product provokes, the new iMac is a runaway hit already.

11:33 - Macworld SF
http://homepage.mac.com/btman/PhotoAlbum1.html

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At any rate, Macworld was quite cool. It seemed very much alive, especially around the dozens of new iMacs set up for people to play with. See the link for the page I set up using iPhoto-- warning, it contains one picture of me with facial hair and Kris making a very strange face.

It seemed that more floor space had been sold this year than last, which is a good sign. And people were snatching up the free iMac posters like there was no tomorrow. So it would seem that at least within the expo-going Mac community, the new iMac is a home run-- or at the very least, people are recognizing it as the same kind of thing that starts out funky but will grow to become a phenomenon, just like the original.

I talked to Don Witt at the Daemon News booth, thanking him and his organization for the recent review. He suddenly got all excited and seemed interested in setting up some kind of technology conference/book signing type of thing. He also said they're packaging a copy of FreeBSD Unleashed with another (more beginner) book in a CD package they sell, and they're apparently moving a lot of copies. So that's good news-- I hadn't had much feedback on sales except for a couple of royalty statements which probably aren't very representative of the long run. So that was cool.

There was hardly a non-LCD monitor to be seen, by the way, and about 90% of the software being demoed was for OS X. So it looks like wide-scale adoption is really happening. Awesome! There were also some really ostentatious booths, like the Procreate one with its rows of Quicksilver-G4s-and-17"-flat-panels on easels, a rig which must have cost $100K just for the hardware. Looks like people are willing to spend money, which I wasn't expecting in this day and age.

It may be a sign of real renewed energy.

10:32 - Sorry, teacher-- here's my note...

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Sorry about the lack of bloggage yesterday (that is, assuming anybody is actually reading this thing). Yesterday-- well, I think the Wendy's burger I had on Monday night was imbued with evil, or perhaps it was haunted by Dave Thomas' unquiet spirit. In any case, it made my Tuesday very unpleasant, and I didn't feel much like reading e-mail, blogging, or indeed doing very much besides lying curled up in a fetal position. But that's passed, it would seem, so back to your irregularly scheduled blatherings.
Tuesday, January 8, 2002
09:13 - Time to go see it in person...
http://www.macworldexpo.com

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Today Kris and I are heading up to San Francisco to see the iMac in person. If nothing else, it'll be that annual infusion of confidence that can only come from untold thousands of enthusiastic people all interested in the same things you are...
Monday, January 7, 2002
00:39 - Lileks Comes Through In the Clutch
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/

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Looks like I was worried needlessly about whether Lileks would pan today's keynote offerings; apparently I should just get some sleep and quit worrying. He says:

I have to smile at the people who scoff at the movable screen - how many times do you have to reposition the screen? they ask. Well, at least once a week I call my wife in to look at a picture or a snippet of video, and to get the best angle she has to sit in my chair while I lean over and type commands. The pivotable screen is tailor-made for showing other people what you've done while you sit at the keyboard - a small thing, sure. Sure. But it confirms my suspicion: that bastard Jobs is watching me. I have a kid, I shoot movies, I take pictures, I make CDs of music and DVDs of family events so we can actually watch them now and then without digging through a box of tapes; I like to carry my entire music collection wherever I go, and every so often my wife pops in to look over my shoulder. It's as if they designed a computer that conforms exactly to what I need.

And he defends iPhoto, the new picture management doohickey, with equal vigor. Ol' Lileks is a harsh critic of Apple when it's deserved, but I can always seem to depend on an uplifting, reassuring analysis from his direction when I'm wandering in a mist like I have been today.

18:52 - Uh huh.
http://www.apple.com/imac

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... Right.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love it. I really, really love it. Like a good brainwashed Mac person, I think it's the most perfect design a computer has ever had. It's only a matter of guessing the time frame during which every other computer manufacturer will follow suit.

But ... um. I hate to say it like this, but... that's it?


First off, the iMac is now every bit as fast as the top-end PowerMac G4 towers-- and for $1799 you can now get a machine that annihilates the performance and feature set of the bottom-end tower and matches that of the mid-range tower. $1000 extra on a G4 tower's invoice now buys you... what exactly? Slots for expansion (which nobody does anyway)? The safety of a "traditional" design? Heck, it doesn't even buy you a monitor.

They didn't announce an upgraded PowerMac line, and I can't figure out why. It seems to me that only a fool would buy one between now and whenever the new lineup is announced-- which had better be soon, or else that whole segment of Apple's product line will be all but derelict... and that's a lot of fat to not reap.

I theorize that maybe, just maybe, the reason the G4 towers weren't upgraded today was that Steve wants to wait for the G5 lineup to be available in quantity-- and by that I mean real G5s, not the Apollo G4's that he's supposedly toying with the idea of calling G5's in a marketing move befitting Intel. If that's the case-- if he's holding off purely so he can be honest about it-- then I'm happy.

As for the iMac itself... well, it's awesome, yes. But let's review the iHype slogans, shall we?
  • "To Go Where No PC has Gone Before." Hmm. Not sure how that works. Sure, it's a very innovative design, and nobody has done it before. But does that really fit the slogan? No, not like something totally new (like, say, a tablet PC would-- but then, Apple wouldn't have been the first to market with a tablet either).
  • "It's Like a Back-Stage Pass to the Future." Hmm... well, maybe, if you're talking about "The Future" in that sense that "Mac OS X is The Future of the Mac". You know, the obvious stuff. Duh, I didn't think OS X was a stepping stone on the way to OS 9.5. And yeah, Seal says the iMac is as futuristic as you can get. But a testimonial from Seal does not a Future make.
  • "Full Speed Ahead: Lust Factor Ten." Okay, I'll give 'em this one. I feel that good ol' Apple Lust throughout my loins.
  • "Beyond the Rumor Sites. Way Beyond." Um... this one is where I have trouble. I remember seeing a proposed design sketch of the new iMac design-- or something very much like it-- six or eight months ago. And the rumor sites have been taking the idea of an LCD-based iMac as a given for at least that long. Same with iPhoto, not to mention the MIA G4 towers. I guess what they're evoking here is that the rumor sites with their design-an-iMac contests never really came close to what Apple's design has turned out to be.
  • "This one is big. Even by our standards." Really? Not unless your standards are now set by last summer's Macworld in New York, where audiences were underwhelmed by a mostly not-there offering; only the QuickSilver speed-bump lineup can trace its heritage to that date.

So yes, I think the new iMac is outstanding, but I'm honestly terrified about the backlash from a) Mac fans who had their hopes inflated beyond all reason by an Apple pre-expo marketing push the likes of which that we've never really seen before, and b) the people on Slashdot and other bargain-basement-computing havens who are just itching for a chance to kick Apple for producing something that can be described by a sentence of the Mad-Lib format "It looks like a goddamned ______ (banal household appliance)". Witness the Cube (Kleenex box, toaster), and the old iBook (toilet seat). And now they're all gleefully calling it a goddamned desk lamp. C'mon, I thought you guys liked Luxo Jr.!

I'm also worried about the educational market. You can apparently still buy Indigo, Graphite, and Snow iMacs in the old style starting at $799... but for how long? Apple clearly doesn't want to be in the CRT business for any longer than it has to. One can only assume that they intend for the "classic" iMac line to go away before too long. And when they do, what then? Will the new style iMac have shed $500? Can that happen in the time frame for which they're willing to sustain legacy CRT production?

Most of all, though, I'm disappointed that the iMac really was the centerpiece of today's keynote. We'd all assumed at the very least that "Big, even by our standards" meant something on the order of new iMac, new G5 desktop lineup bringing the top speed to dual 1.6GHz Apollos, iPhoto, 14" iBook, and "One More Thing", the traditional place at the end of the keynote where Steve likes to whip out things like the iPod or the TiBook. Certainly the 2.5-hour keynote duration suggested something like that was on the burner; but nothing was forthcoming. And people like USS Clueless, intelligent Apple sympathizers, are looking at the iMac and letting forth the braying laughter of unbridled equine derision at the fact that that really was it. I can only guess what Lileks will have to say tonight.

So I'm not a terribly happy camper. I know I'm being one of those exasperating never-satisfied ungrateful bastards who expects the moon and will not be satisfied by anything less than the sun. But Apple, geez-- you got all our hopes up. You deliberately pumped us all up like the NASDAQ in 1999. And all because you wanted to recreate the astonishment that followed the original iMac announcement three years ago.

Steve, Steve, Steve... you can't engineer astonishment. You can't weave cobwebs into spun gold with just good intentions and a 2 1/2-hour song. You can't win the hearts of Dell users by being funky for the sake of funk. Magic is spontaneous.

But magic also grows of its own accord... and maybe the new iMac will grow to define the next phase of consumer electronics design just like the old iMac did. After all, people hated it when it was first announced (how un-Mac! You can see all the gross insides!)... and look how unpopular THAT has turned out to be.

Ah well. I'll be heading up to Macworld tomorrow to see the thing in person. Maybe, like most Apple products, it will turn out to be even more compelling in the flesh than in QuickTime. I wouldn't actually be too surprised.

I just hope Apple doesn't pay for this in any currency more dear than the usual reactionary rhetoric they endure.

07:16 - Hmm, that could be...
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/01/fog0000000115.shtml

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USS Clueless has an interesting take on the Time.com gaffe. To wit, Steve has known all along that the story would be leaked today, so he moved the keynote rather than try to muscle Time into changing their schedule around.

But then again, if that's the case, why did Time pull the article?

He thinks the new iMac is "hideous", though, so it looks like we may well be in for a few months of ridicule that will make the Cube Days look like the Golden Age.
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© Brian Tiemann