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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Thursday, February 14, 2002
09:53 - Some Ernest Talk at BSDCon
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/24060.html

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The USENIX BSD Conference has been the site of some fairly entertaining dialogue from Apple, particularly Ernest Parkabar, according to The Register. This includes numerous interesting barbs at Linux and Microsoft, and colorful metaphors (bringing Mac OS X up to FreeBSD 4.x status is "like porcupines mating").

There's the to-be-expected smirking about how BSD is now three times more popular on the desktop than Linux; but more interesting is the general tone, that Apple has sent two staffers (including Jordan Hubbard) to cement the company's ties to the BSD community and to encourage X11 developers to bring their apps to Mac OS X.

This should actually be a pretty easy sell. All the tools are there; Aqua and the Interface Builder are surely more attractive development foundations than fighting with X. To say nothing of the much bigger potential market (though that market is of the willing-to-buy-Apple-hardware set rather than the build-a-cheap-box-from-parts-at-Fry's set).

Something that's bound to be attractive in any case is the preemptive multithreading than Mach offers. Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD all have preemptive multitasking, yes-- that's a fundamental feature of any UNIX. But preemptive multithreading (the ability for individual programs to efficiently run many tasks at once) is something that only Mach has in a mature state-- it's been built-in since the beginning. Linux is only just now starting frantically to try to stack it on top of the already Gothic-looking kernel; FreeBSD is further along in its efforts, but it still isn't at a really usable level. So that's a definite plus point.

At any rate, it's definitely good to see Apple maintaining its commitment to that whole "Hey, we've got UNIX inside!" thing they've been touting. And Parkabar sounds like he's a hoot.

09:07 - Gonna be sparse around here for a few days...

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I'm going to be in Toronto for the weekend, so don't expect there to be much in the way of bloggage here until Monday night.

I must say, though, that the airport today was the least backed-up that I've ever seen it. Not only was there no three-hour line for the X-ray machines, there was no line. At all.

So now I've got two hours to sit and read fragments of newspapers. Er-- wait! I have The Net! All hail Wayport!

08:58 - Oh that's right, everything is a web page now!
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=27946&cid=3004066

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Someone on Slashdot has posted the source for a Windows Instant Messenger virus that's been running around the net.

... Instant messenger virus? Hmm... this code looks like... HTML and VBScript. Almost as if... as if... the Instant Messenger thing parsed HTML and VBScript.


But of course it does. Just like everything else in Windows, the Instant Messenger is just another modified IE window. Meaning, just off the top of my head, that people can send you messages out of the blue containing code that will execute as though opened voluntarily in a browser window.

Do I have to explain how monumentally stupid this is?

Instant Messenger clients have pretty much standardized. They have a certain feature set and nothing more. The text window is for TEXT, not for formatted HTML and JavaScript and popup ads and what-have-you. This is exactly the kind of "Oh, let's add features because it's easy, regardless of risks they might introduce" thinking that has pervaded Microsoft for the past seven years. Allowing IE to open BMP images. Putting lots of half-assed checkbox features and pretty colors into Pocket PC. Making everything in the OS into a web page and every application into a browser.

Some have talked about software developers needing to be licensed. If they were, I doubt many people at Microsoft would pass the exam.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
23:40 - He may like the Xbox, but at least he thinks like me...
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/021202.html

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A couple of days ago, James Lileks expressed dismay over the fact that modern driving simulators are lavishly rendered and geographically accurate, but you don't get to enjoy any of it because you're too busy racing.

I want a relaxing driving game. I want to start in New York and end up on the Santa Monica pier, and I want to stop at motels, watch local TV, step outside and hear the crickets before I go to bed. Flight sims give you this sense of real-time ordinary life; why not driving games?

Bingo. This goes right to the heart of what my fantasy has been for years and years: a driving simulator where you can just travel freely on any road, going wherever you want to go, exploring the entire world-- the same kind of thing you could do in real life if not for the realities of having to buy gas, pay for hotels, take time off work, deal with car trouble, get pulled over for speeding in strange states, and so on.

It's getting to the point where that's possible, if not inevitable. Flight simulators now map very crisp satellite imagery onto selected regions of the world; it'll only be a matter of time before everybody has enough disk space (if the map detail is kept locally) or bandwidth (if it's streamed from a server on demand) for the entire world to be mapped, and you can explore any area you feel like without the terrain expanding into big flat bitmap chunks as you land or suddenly giving way to generic "filler" terrain. That's coming, and it's only a couple of years away.

Likewise, and this is only likely to be a little further off, a driving simulator could map all the roads in the country-- terrain and elevations and vegetation would have to be modelled a lot more finely, but it's doable-- and buildings and bridges and mailboxes and retaining walls and other cars could all be modelled fairly simply.

The barriers standing in the way of doing that today, or with any given level of technology, is simply a matter of storage space and CPU power and RAM availability and bandwidth, and those things will all increase with time. But there's a slightly more annoying problem, too: national security.

Flight simulators like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Fly! are apparently barred from going into more detail with their terrain maps than GPS units are allowed to display, because of the possibility that such detailed locating mechanisms could be used for targeting in, oh, a terrorist attack involving a guided missile. Legal regulations limit the precision of GPS devices (as used in cars and hiking gear) for precisely that reason, and so presumably any further detail to which sim games might go will be hampered by this little issue.

Unless, of course, all the roads and map elements are given a certain, imperceptible amount of mapping jitter... just take the map layout, apply a grid to it, and do a very slight deformation to all the points on it, warping the map to fit. That way the location data would be useless for anything real. This would be less feasible for flight sims than for driving sims, but not insurmountable. Even the tiniest of warpings to the map would put the uncertainty of the accuracy of any given point well into the hundreds-of-feet range, which is comfortably beyond the feds' limits of discomfort.

So, yeah-- don't worry, James. It's coming. Yeah, I was disappointed as hell to find that 4x4 Evo denied you the pleasure of just driving around in beautifully-rendered mountains exploring in favor of reckless racing; but one day it will all be here-- the game where you get to drive to Santa Monica, the game where you get to fly to Great Slave Lake, the game where you get to walk around town and talk to storekeepers. That's the future of gaming that I'd like to be able to enjoy.

21:18 - Okay, that was a rather surreal little scene...

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I was in Taco Bell waiting for my food. As I stood there, a girl came in the side door carrying two Round Table Pizza boxes (there's a Round Table across the intersection). She passes the pizzas over the counter, and the Taco Bell guy hands her a bag full of tacos. They exchange brief pleasantries, and she leaves.

I had to blink a few times. No money exchanged hands-- just food. It was like the barter system! "Do this often?" I wanted to pointlessly ask.

Makes me wonder what the world would be like if the only possible businesses were restaurants-- like we'd passed the Shoe Event Horizon, only with food. People would make food, exchange food with each other, buy things with food... hey, it's like the Martians from War of the Worlds who don't bother with food because they just suck out the blood from their victims and thereby bypass all that tedious digestion stuff. Hey, we've already taken the first step-- and I saw it, right here, tonight!

C'mon, everybody: Shut up, Brian!


19:10 - It's not going to get any better, folks...
http://finance.lycos.com/home/news/story.asp?story=26200929

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Goodie, another security vulnerability in Passport and Hotmail.

In this instance, however, the keys to the exploit are actually hidden within the source code for the Hotmail login page. The code, visible to anyone knowledgeable enough to select "View Source" from the menu of their Web browser, reveals a "hidden" field that -- when populated with the desired username, saved as an HTML file and executed in a Web browser -- produces the targeted user's "secret question."

"Cisco Kid" -- the nickname for the hacker who helped to develop the exploit, said Microsoft simply has no good explanation for leaving something so central to authentication in plain text.

One would think, "Gee, XP has been released, Passport is in use, and all this centralized user-management and privacy and authentication stuff is surely all figured out and bulletproof by now, isn't it?"

Well, guess what: it isn't. It's not getting any better. Every time some new Microsoft service comes out, there's a whole series of security exploits in it just waiting to be discovered. They're never going to "get it right". It's just not going to happen. If you're waiting for them to amass enough knowledge and expertise not to make stupid mistakes like embedding cleartext challenge data in the page source at Hotmail, you may as well wait until the heat-death of the universe before using Passport or .NET, like I'm doing.

19:00 - Imagine if you will: A world without chocolate...
http://hikeryote.blogspot.com/2002_02_10_hikeryote_archive.html#9653875

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Hiker blogs about a worldwide cocoa shortage (the horror!):

The space at the grocery checkout reserved for candy bars will be a void, and the void could be filled by anything... like more tabloids! And more tabloids leads to more rumors about celebrities, which leads to massive trouble for Hollywood. The lawsuits and bad blood would destroy the entertainment industry. All because you can't get a KitKat.

Hmm... you know, "Tabloids" actually sounds like a decent candy...

But I don't think there are any two English words more horrifying than the last two words in his post.

18:55 - Yay, Telstra!
http://it.mycareer.com.au/opinion/macman/2002/02/14/FFXM2MNFNXC.html

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Here's a sane, reasoned article that lays out the facts about Apple and its place in the computer industry without any flowery prose but with plenty of optimism-- just the kind of thing that puts dimples in our cheeks.

But what made this one notable for me was the addendum at the bottom:

Telstra, which had previously said gloomily that it wouldn't any time soon be supporting Mac OS X on Australia's biggest Internet service, has relented and recently told anxious Mac users that it was training staff in OS X and would be up to speed by April.

Hear that, everybody? Not every PR announcement about a company's support for Macs is about how they're stopping it. It's starting to go the other way too, now, for the first time in a while. This along with the new interest among game developers in OS X as a design and build platform makes for some pretty encouraging under-the-surface news.

10:59 - EU wants to regulate orchestras' noise levels
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/entertainment/music/newsid_1815000/1815904.stm

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Have you ever wondered what America would be like if the Teamsters and AFL/CIO ran the government? Well, you need wonder no more.

The directive has already been agreed by Britain and other EU member states and will receive a second reading in parliament later this month.

The parliament wants to reduce the decibel limit of noise in the workplace to 83, the point at which workers have to wear hearing protection.

A single trumpet is said to play up to 130 decibels and the ABO fears that the directive would effectively silence performances.

Libby MacNamara, director of the ABO, told BBC News Online: "It will stop us playing any loud music whatsoever, affecting almost of all of the pieces played by orchestras."

Well, they've certainly succeeded in making me speechless.

10:51 - Okay-- three points on that one.
http://www.appleturns.com/episode/?id=3559

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On As the Apple Turns yesterday--

...Candid talk from Apple's senior director of hardware, Greg Joswiak-- who, as his name indicates, also holds the enviable position of being the world's first sentient being cloned from the spliced DNA of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Maybe I was just in the mood for it, but I don't know when the last time was that I laughed so hard at work. But I'm sure it was at something else on AtAt.

09:30 - Yeah, I knew the old fart was cool...

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Greg Kihn, the aging rocker who does the morning show on KFOX (San Jose's classic rock station), just took a few minutes in one of the little interstitial monologues to talk about how his son Ry just got himself an almost-new G4/733 from eBay (for about $1100) and the necessary software to outfit himself with a digital recording studio and start recording tracks like Jars of Clay does.

Greg then went on to mention how he has one of the original iMacs-- "Back then it was the fastest thing in town, and now it's the slowest thing in town"-- and said he's probably going to be getting one of the new iMacs later this week. I oughtta keep my ears pricked up.

(In the next interstitial he mentioned how Apple used to give the station new equipment to review and talk about on the air-- but those days seem to be gone.)

Now if only KFOX would provide their online stream in something other than Windows Media. Grrr...
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
00:11 - Dunno if Britney'll like that, though...
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/02/fog0000000315.shtml

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I seem to have oversimplified a bit in my blue-sky blatherings on software and music piracy-- specifically, in trying to lump music and software piracy into the same bucket. This really doesn't fly as much as I'd hoped it would, as USS Clueless points out in a direct response (wow, a first for this young blog!).

I find myself trying to apply the same kinds of standards to the question of pirating music and pirating software; it's not staying put in my brain. I can't keep the argument steady. Some days it seems that exactly the same rules apply to the two industries, and other days I find myself trying to write about them in the same paragraph and failing to complete sentences in the same hour that I begin them.

But as den Beste points out, the two industries are on very different footings already; the software industry is still new, and they've never sold anything that couldn't be copied by users and hence manufactured without raw materials. The music industry started out in a publishing metaphor, under the assumption that consumers wouldn't be able to make free copies-- and then had to adjust to such developments as they came along.

So, okay, the software industry gets to price products into the hundreds and thousands of dollars, primarily deriving those price points from the large-scale corporate installations that account for their actual, measurable market share, rather than from how much Joe Hotmail is willing to pay for a copy of Photoshop before he gives up and grabs a cracked copy. This has been pointed out to me by numerous people-- the software world takes piracy into account in their business models, and pretty much always has.

Whereas music keeps getting sold for $15 a CD, of which less than a dollar might end up going to the artist. I refer to the Courtney Love article at Salon for an entertaining first-hand view of the subject, biased though it might be.

Software engineers don't tend to need, want, or expect to be compensated in the same way as Courtney Love has been.

So, yeah, music might benefit from being sold as a "perishable" item, like a magazine-- after all, Newsweek doesn't care if you Xerox it, and they put all their content online anyway. It's all ad-driven revenue. That's what all solutions seem to come back to: ad revenue. But let's extend the metaphor (I'm not actually trying to make a point here, just exploring the thought): Music could be published in online "albums", without much regard for digital rights or anything in the music stream itself-- plain old MP3s (or a clearly superior successor) would do. But the online "album" would be a website-- full of information on the band, biographies, reviews of the music, artwork, lyrics, message boards... in other words, the evolution of what currently passes for album art.

Are there ways to encourage people to buy original albums instead of doing downloads? Sure. Ironically, one of the best was lost in the transition from LP to CD: album art. There still is album art, but it isn't possible to do it well in 25 square inches. The old 12" album, especially if it had foldouts or multiple pages, could carry a lot of excess material over and above the material on the record itself. Two examples from the golden age of album art: Thick as a Brick, and Yessongs. But there may be other ways, such as holograms on the CDs.

Hey, screw the physical media-- let the imagination run wild here. A definitive web album for the music-- run by the record companies and with content produced by the band, and containing ads for revenue and possibly "pro" features (cool interactive games or streaming movies, for instance) to collect more fees, the fees currently realized by magazines in the form of subscriptions-- which has the music itself in the definitive, downloadable form. Sure, you could download the songs and then P2P them to each other. But why bother, if it's freely available right from the source, with so much value-added digital material available right there? I think fans would flock to the sites if they were definitive. A bare MP3 without all the attendant features would feel like a 2nd-generation copy of a movie taped off TV with commercials versus a DVD.

Are record companies currently padding their prices on the assumption that some CDs are going to suck, or be 14 tracks of crap and one hit, so they can count on getting the full price even from someone who just wants the one hit? Are most artists afraid of their own filler material, as Courtney accuses? If so, then a model where music is available in unfettered digital format online where people can pick-n-choose what they want to hear might indeed encourage artists who rely on filler to sort of fade away. But then, is that a bad thing? Probably not, except the big question that remains is one of numbers. How much would the loss of all that filler hit the labels? How much advertising would be necessary in order to make up for lost CD sales? How much money could they save by not having to make and distribute so many CDs? Is there an equilibrium among these variables? I suspect there is, but it isn't going to be at a point where the current number of active artists or the current market caps of the record labels would be able to remain the same. Those figures would have to change. A lot.

But now, the more I think about it, the cooler this seems. People do want to have their materials from a "definitive" source. They like feeling like they're getting the real thing, not a copy of a copy of a copy (even in digital media, it's still an uphill battle finding an MP3 that's free of encoding glitches or an MPEG where the quality is tolerable and the little end-pieces and bugs that get tacked on by the people who do the encoding aren't too obnoxious). The world of P2P is hardly one where pristine media is ubiquitous. Far, far from it.

I do have a lot of MP3 files-- about 90% of them are ripped from CDs I own, and almost all the rest are from friends I already knew rather than faceless Gnutella sources. I'm not exactly a typical example, I realize. But the problem with audio piracy is founded in the whole "high-volume copying" thing; making one or two copies to share with friends is noise, but putting it online for a million people to download is a big statistic. So I guess the way the industry needs to change is by looking at what people find compelling about P2P sharing, improving on that experience, and providing the same service for free and with better value-adds. Advertising is a small price for the consumers to pay for online albums... and we'd still be able to fill our iPods to our heart's content.

Let's just hope those numbers work out, eh?

(Oh, and by the way-- the aspersions in my previous post on this topic that I cast upon people making up excuses and justifications for piracy-- I wasn't aiming those at den Beste, but at the general atmosphere and mentality that I'd been picking up and responding to in earlier messages. No commentary on the ethicality of what den Beste suggests was intended.)

17:42 - QT6! QT6! QT-- aaaaAAAgh! Nooo!
http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2002/feb/12qt6.html

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Argh! So close and yet so far.

QuickTime 6 was previewed today at the QuickTime Live! conference; it would have been released for general download, except that Apple is delaying the release until the licensing terms for MPEG-4 are improved.

The MPEG-4 licensing terms proposed by MPEG-LA (the largest group of MPEG-4 patent holders) includes royalty payments from companies, like Apple, who ship MPEG-4 codecs, as well as royalties from content providers who use MPEG-4 to stream video. Apple agrees with paying a reasonable royalty for including MPEG-4 codecs in QuickTime, but does not believe that MPEG-4 can be successful in the marketplace if content owners must also pay royalties in order to deliver their content using MPEG-4.

“MPEG-4 is the best format for streaming media on the web, and QuickTime 6 is the first complete MPEG-4 solution,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “MPEG-4 is poised for great success once the licensing terms are modified to allow content providers to stream their content royalty-free.”

So at least it's for a good cause. MPEG-4 owes a lot to QuickTime-- its file format is based upon the QT standard, and Apple has been instrumental in its development-- but Apple thinks it won't take off unless the licensing body (MPEG-LA) allows people to provide content without having to pay a royalty fee for the privilege of using the codec.

Hmm... okay, so the biggest codec provider for the new standard is holding off on releasing the player until they can force the standards people to let random folks on the web post videos for free download. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. And it sounds like it has a fair chance of succeeding, too-- after all, MPEG-4 can't exactly take off without a player to let people see the content, and Microsoft is certainly doing everything in their power to get people to forget open standards like MPEG exist. Real seems to be supporting MPEG-4, but so far the licensing terms-- which Apple is protesting by not releasing QT6-- prevent anybody from streaming Real content in MPEG-4 without having to pay.

Seems to me that MPEG-LA has nowhere else to turn; they can hope that somehow Real/MPEG-4 content will take off, royalties and all, but I don't think that'll happen. Content providers will just use DivX, like they're doing now. If there's one lesson we should have learned by now about technology, it's that people will always adopt an inferior technology if it's free and the superior alternative costs money.

DivX is okay, but ill-supported outside of the AVI framework (which is decidedly non-cross-platform). If MPEG-4 can reach critical mass, the AAC audio, interactivity, and downwards compatibility will be a better deal all around than DivX, with its MP3-based audio and its focus on non-streaming movie content. We've got something good waiting in the wings here; MPEG-LA had better realize that and let people start jumping on board before Microsoft releases some competitor codec that only needs a foot in the corporate door before it'll be accepted as the de facto standard.

11:52 - iLuxo Has Arrived!
http://www.apple.com/hardware/ads/newimac.html

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The long-awaited Pixar iMac ads are up-- and they're quite funny indeed, as is anything Pixar makes. There are two of them-- one 15 seconds long, which should be called "Navel Contemplation"... and the other, 30 seconds long, which has the iMac shakin' its thang to a degree that only Lasseter could have envisioned.

The model doesn't even squash-n-stretch much, if at all; it's really a great example of why Pixar is the leader when it comes to CG animation and bringing just about anything to life. When 2D animators go for jobs at Disney, they're tested on their ability to animate a sack of flour in classic Frank & Ollie fashion. In 3D, the gold standard is Luxo Jr.

What's especially funny is how the little R2D2-like bleeps and chirps the iMac emits are so much like those in the Luxo shorts-- only different, like the iMac is Luxo's long-lost dot-com millionaire cousin. I'm glad they're playing up the resemblance in just the way I thought they might; people can't make fun of its lamplike shape if even Apple touts it as being related to a lamp, right? Besides, it's too cute to hate.

10:07 - Okay, that I like...

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Apparently someone in the press asked the captain of the U.S. luge team what his strategy was. He said, "Lie flat, and try not to die."
Monday, February 11, 2002
03:24 - Aaaaaahhh! Take cover!

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...Okay, so the powerful, penetrating wave of crackles and booms that swept over the Valley from about 11:55 to 12:30 were the fireworks from the Chinese New Year tickover-- it's really amazing hearing how much more lively this is than on December 31. Perhaps "lively" isn't even the right word-- maybe "apocalyptic" is closer to the mark. It was loud... and all that just from ground-level type firecrackers.

After I realized what it was (Homecoming? Terrorist attack? Oh wait, it's midnight and February!), it was really fun to listen to. Oddly reassuring to know that there are so many people living in San Jose having such a good time with the occasion. Happy New Year to all of those folks.

Homer sleep now....

19:27 - Piracy-- a different tactic
http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/02/fog0000000307.shtml

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This one's from USS Clueless; den Beste notes that the software and music industries are starting to rethink their strategies in order to exist in an environment where it is assumed that piracy will happen, rather than to simply try to keep people from doing it.

I just have one question, though: Doesn't that amount to the companies condoning piracy? And if so, why should anyone pay for software? If the companies are effectively giving away their software and music (which is what they'd be doing, if they don't try to enforce IP rights), what incentive is there for anyone to buy the genuine article?

As long as music can be reduced to audio, it can be redigitized and converted into an unprotected MP3 which can be distributed online. No amount of digital protection can prevent that. So far most pirated music is digitally converted mostly because that is still easy. But if it is made impossible technologically, an analog redigitization won't be enough worse in quality to affect this. And any computer with a sound card sold in the last ten years is capable of doing this.

The music industry must go through a psychology change. The problem now is that they see pirated copies as representing lost revenue. They count up each copy as one they were not paid for.

The customers don't view it that way. To the customers when they buy the material, they also think of themselves as buying the ability to make some copies of it. They want to be able to play in on their stereo, but they also want to be able to make compilations of the music in the order they like, and they want to be able to copy their favorite tracks or even whole albums onto portable players. This is not viewed by the customers as being piracy; it's considered a value-add for the product itself. It is part of what they think they are buying.

As long as the industry doesn't see it from that point of view, they will continue to try to fight the future. No industry can ultimately survive if it thinks of its customers as enemies; ultimately the industry has to adopt the point of view of its customers and cater to their desires.

You cannot sell someone what you want them to have. You have to sell them what they want to buy.

This genie first escaped with the first "product" that could be manufactured effectively for free, by the end user: digital data. It plays by different rules than physical objects which have to be manufactured by the company that invented them, for a certain cost, using certain processes. Certainly it's reasonable to suggest that we need entirely new laws to handle this kind of monkey-wrench thrown into Adam Smith's beautiful but second-millennium model of economics. But we're still left without any guidance as to what those new rules might be.

The industry has to start thinking of the glass as half full. The copies stolen are not lost revenue; what they are is copies of ones where were bought. If the pirated copies did not exist then the purchased ones would not have been sold. The pirated copies are actually an indirect source of revenue.

I get the feeling that there's a valuable and important point in here somewhere, but it seems to have gotten garbled somehow. Pity.

There is no technical or technological solution to this, and also no legal one. When 50 million people break a law, it is the law itself which is suspect.

Okay, fair enough. But if the solution is for the music and software industries to 'create its own equivalent of "cable TV"'-- to stop being old-school, ultra-conservative content vendors and become innovators in content delivery to a degree that hackers can't match, then it's effectively suggesting that the music and software industries will have to be completely torn down and replaced with something so different as to be unrecognizable. Pay-for-play (or tip-for-play) Napster? Ads embedded in Word? If the product is free, the only way for the producers to make any money is through the consumers' good will-- and I don't think any consumers will be willing to cough up thousands of dollars to support the development of software like Final Cut Pro or Maya. And can you imagine corporate enterprises with budget line-items looking like this:

"Corporate rollout, Photoshop; 1270 installations; total voluntary donation: $1,000,000"

Maybe the model of paying individually for pieces of software is all wrong. Maybe what we need is a model whereby companies develop software under government contract, provide it ubiquitously, and collect payment from the government in the form of taxes, or public utility bills. That's how we get our freeways and our sewer systems. It's that way because only the government is equipped to provide those things, and because you can't very well steal something that's ubiquitous, can you? It provides the fulfillment of the people's need so that nobody has to build their own roads or dig their own sewage ditches, because it's all handled for them better than they could handle it themselves.

Radio is a "utility" that nobody steals for the same reason. It's ubiquitous, and the costs for it are hidden in advertising. The key to stopping music piracy is to provide the equivalent of radio-- an always-on, at-the-fingertips source of on-demand music and media that can be received anywhere and without any explicit payment. This can be done; things were this weird at the beginning of radio, and they'll have to do the same kind of feverish standardization and technological development that they did back then. The question is whether the companies will be willing-- or able-- to be disbanded or restructured as appropriate to achieve these goals.

Until that's ready, though, the laws are the best they can be according to the current rules. Declaring a New World Order and saying that the old rules don't apply is not an excuse for breaking current laws. Yes, a revolution is coming, but don't go guillotining patricians just yet. You may be glad of the bargaining power you'll retain if the companies don't have to see you as such an enemy.

And for God's sake, let's lose the ludicrous after-the-fact justifications for piracy, huh? If you're going to break current IP laws, at least own up to it and show some good faith that you would pay for the software if you had the means. Don't make up stuff about how piracy is really what makes the world go 'round, and how people are all really entitled to having everything for free, and blah blah blah. "Suffering needlessly"-- Jesus Christ.

At any rate, it'd sure be nice to see WMA and SDMI completely fail and MP3 remain popular, wouldn't it?

16:42 - I saw this, and immediately thought of you...
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991910

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A large quantity of fossilized dinosaur vomit has been discovered in England.



A co-worker of mine apparently received 11 e-mails from friends pointing him toward this URL within about half an hour; he's rather dismayed that "fossilized dinosaur vomit" made so many of his friends instantly think of him.

16:29 - Moment of Zen
http://www.griffintechnology.com/audio/pwrmate.html

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PowerMate: The Ultimate Assignable Controller

The PowerMate has a beautiful polished aluminum finish and an amazing feel. The brilliant blue LEDs give it a floating futuristic appearance. And the glowing base dims and brightens to reflect the volume level of your computer. And we did not stop there. We included all of the small things that customers have come to expect from us including a pulsating base when your computer is asleep and adjustable brightness level of the glowing base.

Yes, but... it's... it's a knob.

Or am I missing something crucially important?

12:11 - Another for the MS Outbreak Files

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It has been a constant source of amazement to me that people are still willing to use Microsoft Outlook, even after exploit after exploit and vulnerability after vulnerability are revealed along with completely stupid workarounds or solutions from Microsoft. People just keep absorbing the risks and inconvenience, and then they're surprised when they get viruses or stealth ad-ware trojans.

This new revelation, posted by Bear Giles to the comp.risks newsgroup, is so good I have to simply quote it in its entirety.

Yet another Microsoft Outlook exploit is on the loose... and this time the arrogance of the recommended solution is breathtaking. The problem is the built-in support for UUENCODED text within the body of a message. Prudent programmers will use a starting pattern such as

"\n\nbegin ([[:octal:]]+) ([^\n]+)\n"


and subsequently verify that each line has the expected format. Even checking only the first few lines (e.g., verifying that the first character correctly encodes the length of the rest of the line) essentially eliminates any chance of a false hit.

Sadly, it will surprise few people that Microsoft cuts straight to the heart of the matter. If your line starts with "begin " (possibly with two spaces), Outlook/Outlook Express WILL interpret the rest of the message as a UUENCODED attachment. It doesn't need a preceding blank line, nor a following octal number. It doesn't need subsequent lines that actually look like UUENCODED data.

There are some reports on slashdot that later versions of O/OE have discarded the "view source" command, with the effect that the rest of the message is permanently lost to the user. The use of this bug as a DOS attack on mailing lists that use a 'digest' approach is left as an exercisefor the reader.

Naturally, it hasn't taken long for the malware writers to jump on the bandwagon. All you need to do to get around the "strip executable attachment" killjoys is to put the malware right in the body of the message! Just start a line with "begin 666 www.myparty.yahoo.com" and you're off and running!

Microsoft's official position, at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;q265230 , is stunning in it's feeble-mindedness simplicity. We, and by "we" I mean every person on the planet who may ever send a message to an O/OE victim user, or have a message forwarded to such users, are advised (with editorial comments) to:

* not start messages with the word "begin"

(actually, it's *any* line starting with the word "begin". And that's effectively a ban on the word "begin" for anyone using a mail agent with transparent line wrapping, e.g., the web mail portals that some ISPs are pushing.)

* capitalize the word "begin," even when used within a sentence. E.g., "We will Begin the new project when Bob returns from his vacation."

* Use a different word such as "start" or "commence." E.g., all training materials for new Visual Basic programmers shall henceforce refer to "start/end" loops instead of "begin/end" loops.

Microsoft's justification for suggesting a significant change to the English language instead of fixing their bug is given as:

"In a SMTP e-mail message, a file attachment that is encoded in UUencode format is defined when the word "begin" is followed by two spaces and then some data,..."

Needless to say there is no citation given for this "fact." That's probably related to the fact that UUENCODE was defined by UUCP, not SMTP, and that every encoder/decoder I have seen requires a leading blank line and a octal file permissions code.

But the damage is done - since malware is exploiting this bug we now get to put into place filters that don't just strip executable attachments or properly formatted UUENCODED blocks, we also have to strip *improperly* formatted UUENCODED blocks!

Bear Giles

Got that? Because of a bug in Microsoft's software, the entire English-speaking world-- not just people using Outbreak, but anybody who might send messages to anybody using Outbreak-- are supposed to avoid using the word "begin". We're supposed to change our use of language to accommodate this stupid software and its bugs.

What will it take? I've been asking myself this for the past four years-- What will it take for people to realize that Outlook is quite possibly the worst piece of network-capable software ever written, and that just because it comes for free on your computer does not mean that you have to use it?

But no, the world is content with things as they are. People would rather have a really horrible, shoddy, inconvenient, insecure product for free or cheap than to pay a little more for a product of much higher quality. This is why Microsoft has won: they realize that the key to sales is price, price, price, at the expense of quality, speed, security, convenience, ease-of-use-- everything. Just price it low enough (better yet, give it away free) and nobody will listen to a word the competition has to say.

Just wait until there is no more competition, and then you get to charge whatever you want.

11:22 - MT-NewsWatcher, huzzah!
http://www.smfr.org/mtnw/

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At last, at long last! I've been waiting since March 24 for the Carbonized version of MT-Newswatcher to appear-- and now it's finally here! Ha ha ha haaah! No more butt-ugly Classic windows taking up all the vertical real estate and underlapping the Dock so I can't resize the windows! No more choppy graphic display! One more step toward being Classic-free!

...Well, not quite. Apparently the new version doesn't take into account the Dock, so it still underlaps the Dock at the bottom of the screen. Shozbot.

But still! MT-Newswatcher is/was one of three Classic apps that I use regularly, and now that Photoshop is on its way, I'll soon be down to one: NiftyTelnet/SSH. I still need a telnet/SSH client with good session management, automatic login, window preferences, Command-clicking on URLs and other text, and all the other goodies. It still amazes me that nobody has seen fit to Carbonize NiftyTelnet/SSH or any of the other clients that do the same thing. How can people continue to ignore this functionality?

(And please don't tell me "Just use the Terminal"! C'mon... there's a command-line FTP too, but it hasn't stopped people from writing better FTP programs like Fetch and Anarchie.)

At any rate, MT-Newswatcher is finally here, and that's a big piece of my little usability puzzle. Good ol' Simon Fraser comes through in the clutch. Hip hip Hooray!
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© Brian Tiemann