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
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
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 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
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 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
 10/4/2004 - 10/10/2004
 9/27/2004 -  10/3/2004
 9/20/2004 -  9/26/2004
 9/13/2004 -  9/19/2004
  9/6/2004 -  9/12/2004
 8/30/2004 -   9/5/2004
 8/23/2004 -  8/29/2004
 8/16/2004 -  8/22/2004
  8/9/2004 -  8/15/2004
  8/2/2004 -   8/8/2004
 7/26/2004 -   8/1/2004
 7/19/2004 -  7/25/2004
 7/12/2004 -  7/18/2004
  7/5/2004 -  7/11/2004
 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
 6/21/2004 -  6/27/2004
 6/14/2004 -  6/20/2004
  6/7/2004 -  6/13/2004
 5/31/2004 -   6/6/2004
 5/24/2004 -  5/30/2004
 5/17/2004 -  5/23/2004
 5/10/2004 -  5/16/2004
  5/3/2004 -   5/9/2004
 4/26/2004 -   5/2/2004
 4/19/2004 -  4/25/2004
 4/12/2004 -  4/18/2004
  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
 3/29/2004 -   4/4/2004
 3/22/2004 -  3/28/2004
 3/15/2004 -  3/21/2004
  3/8/2004 -  3/14/2004
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 2/23/2004 -  2/29/2004
 2/16/2004 -  2/22/2004
  2/9/2004 -  2/15/2004
  2/2/2004 -   2/8/2004
 1/26/2004 -   2/1/2004
 1/19/2004 -  1/25/2004
 1/12/2004 -  1/18/2004
  1/5/2004 -  1/11/2004
12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
 12/1/2003 -  12/7/2003
11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
 10/6/2003 - 10/12/2003
 9/29/2003 -  10/5/2003
 9/22/2003 -  9/28/2003
 9/15/2003 -  9/21/2003
  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
  9/1/2003 -   9/7/2003
 8/25/2003 -  8/31/2003
 8/18/2003 -  8/24/2003
 8/11/2003 -  8/17/2003
  8/4/2003 -  8/10/2003
 7/28/2003 -   8/3/2003
 7/21/2003 -  7/27/2003
 7/14/2003 -  7/20/2003
  7/7/2003 -  7/13/2003
 6/30/2003 -   7/6/2003
 6/23/2003 -  6/29/2003
 6/16/2003 -  6/22/2003
  6/9/2003 -  6/15/2003
  6/2/2003 -   6/8/2003
 5/26/2003 -   6/1/2003
 5/19/2003 -  5/25/2003
 5/12/2003 -  5/18/2003
  5/5/2003 -  5/11/2003
 4/28/2003 -   5/4/2003
 4/21/2003 -  4/27/2003
 4/14/2003 -  4/20/2003
  4/7/2003 -  4/13/2003
 3/31/2003 -   4/6/2003
 3/24/2003 -  3/30/2003
 3/17/2003 -  3/23/2003
 3/10/2003 -  3/16/2003
  3/3/2003 -   3/9/2003
 2/24/2003 -   3/2/2003
 2/17/2003 -  2/23/2003
 2/10/2003 -  2/16/2003
  2/3/2003 -   2/9/2003
 1/27/2003 -   2/2/2003
 1/20/2003 -  1/26/2003
 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
  1/6/2003 -  1/12/2003
12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
 12/9/2002 - 12/15/2002
 12/2/2002 -  12/8/2002
11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
 11/4/2002 - 11/10/2002
10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
 9/30/2002 -  10/6/2002
 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
 9/16/2002 -  9/22/2002
  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
 8/12/2002 -  8/18/2002
  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
 7/22/2002 -  7/28/2002
 7/15/2002 -  7/21/2002
  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Wednesday, March 13, 2002
18:16 - Bring On the God Rays

(top)
You know, there's an awful lot of really cool stuff that happens during the day. Stuff that I never get to see because I'm at work. I get up, shower, drive in to work in the bland self-absorbed 10:00 hour, when the day is so busy revving itself up that it doesn't have any time to attention to spare toward making the weather or the light or the colors interesting. Then, by the time I'm ready to go home, it's either after dark (in the winter)-- a featureless mass of headlights and vague shapes; or it's winding down into a summer evening, the stillness setting in. Summer evenings are awesome in their own right, but that's only a quarter of the "day" periods that I ever get to experience during the week.

I seldom see something like today, for instance. On the way back from picking up my car from the dealer's, where Kris kindly dropped me off, the clouds were bunching into those fire-edged, cottony formations-- the ones that look simultaneously menacing and exuberant. We don't get thunderheads around here, not like in the Midwest; instead, when we do get interesting clouds, what we get are these miniature versions of them: unruly mobs of clouds, clustering together, breaking off to join new unions, waving their white-hot edges and shouting anti-Sun slogans. My route back to work took me west, and the sun was right in front of me as I proceeded-- but it was masked by these crowds of clouds and kept out of my eyes. Instead of having to squint, I drove home through a valley where the air had suddenly seemed to turn to gold. The glints off the cars around me seemed to wash together; the freeway was bright, polished, carefully crafted. No smog stood in the way. And in the distance, the mountains-- normally friendly masses hemming my line of sight, today they were ponderous hulks, about twice as tall as usual; the clouds were perching on the crest of the Santa Cruz Hills, their tops stretching into the blue, and their bottoms melting into a vapory haze which obscured the real line of the hilltops. Good photographers know that the judicious use of cropping can make a mountain look twice as tall or a valley twice as deep; in this case, the clouds did the cropping for me, and I felt like I was in Switzerland or Mordor or something.

And, naturally, where the sun was obscured by a riotous cloud, the cloud couldn't hold back the beams of light that shot down through any convenient gaps through that misty vapor. They're what Hiker calls God Rays, those things that shoot out of clouds (along with angelic choirs) to wreathe Moses or Simba with Hero-of-the-Movie-ness. In this case, they weren't shining on anything in particular, but they certainly did put me in mind of those light towers in Manhattan.

Crop out the tops of the WTC towers, a photographer might say, and you can make a photo of them look like they extend on up forever. And they would, if only they weren't earthly physical structures. Well, now they're not, and they do.


Marcus Aanerud, way back when (on February 7th, to be exact), noted that the paranormal activity sightings around Ground Zero are going to be the stuff of many a network-TV special in years and decades to come. Hiker's observations would seem to bear that out. After all, these lights that we've just created are the ghosts of the buildings. It's like a cropped photo or a blurry matte painting-- all vertical lines, no sense of finality. There's nothing substantial to them, but they make visible what we all know is there.

Eventually they'll be turned off, and something else will be built on the site. I still have a silly guilty sort of desire to see the towers rebuilt exactly as they were-- they were ugly and gauche, yes, but they were so perfect for what they tried to represent. All vertical lines, no features to break them up. They were as close to "infinitely tall" as anything can be that isn't made of light-- your eyes would follow them upward until you simply choose to stop looking, and it looked no different at whatever floor you stopped on from wherever you started. It just kept going and going. At some point you chose to crop the photo your mind took, and what registered in the deep, dark recesses of the mind was an image not unlike the Tribute in Light: all vertical lines, going up forever.

We have a corporate marketing graphic that shows a city skyline with one impossibly tall building in the middle-- it's (I believe) one of the WTC towers, Photoshopped to extend about six times as high as any of the other buildings in the picture. The top is ringed with our circular logo. It's a silly sort of picture, meaninful only in marketing-ese, only when part of a PowerPoint slideshow full of bleary bullet points. But it's an eerily haunting image now, because it evokes that same weird feeling: It's an ugly, featureless building, yes. But it achieves the reach of Babel. A world of cultural exchange, spiraling upward until the ground is lost to view, and continuing on until the clouds catch on it and erase its upper limit. Whether it's a cloud or a corporate logo, it puts the upper reaches of the edifice into the realm of the impossible-- and yet it was there. It was a monument to so much that the modern world meant. It was the embodiment of success. I can only hope that whatever goes in there in its stead can capture so much meaning and symbolism.

It even stretched higher than airplanes flew.

14:10 - QuickTime Screaming Server
http://www.apple.com/quicktime/products/qtss

(top)
I've been fiddling with the Quicktime Streaming Server today; aside from a few nasty surprises (like the fact that MP3 streams don't downsample-- they have to be encoded separately at a low bitrate in order to stream properly over an earthly Internet link), it's pretty darn cool. The playlist editor, for example, has got to be the studliest piece of JavaScript programming I've ever seen. It's all done in a Web browser interface (so it can run on all kinds of different platforms), and yet they don't let the limitations of client-side Web programming prevent them from doing the kind of UI design they're known for doing:


You get two columns; on the left is your available media folder (with subfolders), and on the right is the playlist you're editing. How do you choose files from the left listing to insert into the right? Well, you click on the file(s) and drag.

No, no-- how do you do it in the web interface?

I told you. You click and drag.


Let me tell you, as someone who knows how horrific JavaScript programming can be, this is ballsy stuff. And it works in just about every browser, too. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this-- it's certainly the first time I've ever seen a desktop UI metaphor as simple to use and difficult to program implemented in a Web interface. It could well be a first. Go Apple.

Meanwhile, Network Computing Magazine compares QT Streaming Server 4 to the RealNetworks and Windows Media servers; while Apple's is free (and serves MPEG-4 natively), Real's is expensive as hell if you go beyond the free 25 users-- the price points quickly ramp to $2000, $4000, and beyond. But at least it serves good-quality media, according to the review. Windows Media Services, much to my glee, fares much more poorly than both the others:

Microsoft Media Services' images scored dead last in four of our five quality tests. Unless you're an all-Microsoft shop, you can do better. Then again, it is free if you're already using Windows 2000 Server. And if you're using anything else, you can't have it anyway, since Windows Media Services isn't available as a standalone product.

Ahhh. That's (downsampled) music to my ears.

13:35 - A Little Family History
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/03/fog0000000468.shtml

(top)
Steven den Beste celebrates the one-year anniversary of USS Clueless with a cool little summary of how the solar system works, how Earth and the Moon work, and how bizarre it is for life to have arisen here-- whatever you personally feel that means in terms of all those Big Questions™.

It also explains why the apocalyptic situation described in The Time Machine, as I just discussed, isn't feasible.

12:09 - I've seen the future, brother-- it is murder...

(top)
I saw The Time Machine last night.

When I came home, I was full of cynical things to say about it: Stupid, stupid movie. Very beautiful, but very stupid. So badly acted... so unimaginative... so devoid of social commentary in favor of sensationalism and effects, so "Rollerball remake". Hiker smirkingly asked me whether I wished I could go back in time to prevent myself from watching it; I said yes, but the fact that I'd be able to would preclude myself from ever acquiring the ability to travel in time, and--

But then the conversation turned elsewhere, I went to sleep, I woke up, I called AppleCare to ask about an obscure OS quirk that I'd noticed, I took my car to the dealer to get the brakes sprayed with a fresh coat of shellac-- and in the shuttle on the way to work, listening to Danny Elfman music on my iPod, I started thinking about the movie again.

And you know what? I actually really, really liked it.

And I'm not sure why. I mean, c'mon: it's an apocalyptic vision of the future, specifically the future of New York-- a future where scientific progress backfires on us, civilization collapses, and humanity goes not only into feral mode but into a state where some memory of our present technological advancement remains: enough so that the Morlocks have designed their state of being in a manner that's informed by knowing what came before.

It's a thoroughly depressing view of the future. And you know, I think that's exactly what I like about it.

See, I've been steeped in optimistic, idealized visions of the future: in Trek, humanity solves all its problems and turns happy and jolly and harmonious and builds ships to spread our message of peace-love-recycle all throughout the galaxy. Sci-fi and video games repeat this same theme, or a variation on it, right and left. Humanity is always advanced, noble, and embattled by hostile, bloodthirsty alien races. We may face challenges and threats, but the core of our human culture is always intact.

But strangely enough, it's movies where humanity gets razed to the ground and has to start anew where I'm feeling a certain amount of stirring of the heart lately. Titan A.E. is about humanity reduced to a scavenging few, struggling in the alleyways of spaceports for their very survival. A.I. shows a New York that gets submerged under flooding seas and then glaciers. Final Fantasy X quite unwittingly uncovers the root of where this all comes from, I think: it shows Manhattan under its protective dome, its buildings shattered, and the World Trade Center towers-- standing but gutted.

It's a world that can't exist now. No more WTC means no more Final Fantasy X. It's been erased from the bifurcation tree of our potential futures, and it's been firmly moved to the realm of fantasy.

The future of Final Fantasy X can't exist now. Not the way it was portrayed. All because that one detail is no longer valid. And just that one provable detail somehow makes thinking about the future just that much less depressing.

See, you can look at Star Trek and think, "Yeah, it's utopia." But what does that say about how the future will actually turn out? It's going to have to be worse than Trek. No transporters, no replicators, no dilithium. Whatever we do end up with cannot be any better than utopia-- it can only be worse. So what the hell's the point of striving?

But movies like A.I. and even shows like "Futurama", in which the New York skyline sits buried and crumbling underground, WTC towers and all-- well, they say the following to me: This potential future sucks, but it's fantasy. There are better things in store for humanity than this.


And so The Time Machine is the same kind of thing for me. Just as I can't believe that we're on the brink of having Earth destroyed by the Drej and humanity banished to the forgotten corners of history, I also can't believe that lunar demolitions operations will destroy the moon, knock it out of orbit, and cause earthly civilization to implode upon itself. I'm just not buying it. I can accept the down-to-earth, leisurely future of Bicentennial Man. I can accept the gritty industrial texture of Pitch Black or Dark City or Total Recall. I can accept the sterile utopia of Star Trek. I can even accept the premise of The Matrix-- hell, I can't disprove it, can I?

But these futures depress me. They all do. Because they all can happen, exactly as depicted. And they all represent the loss of some critical part of our humanity.

But then, the futures I can't accept... now, those I enjoy. Because I don't have to worry about them coming true.

10:26 - AirPort Happiness

(top)
So here I am, sitting in the lobby of the VW dealership, waiting for the shuttle van to drive me to work after dropping my car off for its 35K mile service. I sat down at a table, opened up my laptop, and lo! A wireless network.

It's really kinda exhilarating to see how this sort of thing is proliferating. While some articles in the tech press will moan about how the tech industry will remain stalled until we all have cheap broadband, small companies-- like car dealerships-- are installing AirPort networks right and left. No security, no worries-- just convenience for their customers.

Eek! The shuttle's here. Later...
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
18:21 - Not a bad point-- but still...
http://instapundit.blogspot.com/?/2002_03_10_instapundit_archive.html#75008660

(top)
A reader of InstaPundit has an interesting (and seldom represented) perspective on automated traffic surveillance and tickets issued by cameras and computers.

Namely, he's actually glad it's going this way now-- it's much less embarrassing and invasive not to have to talk to a cop.

Okay, granted... it's a type of confrontation that we (or at least most of us) have to deal with so seldom that we just don't have any kind of comfort level when it does happen. It's far easier to just see that flash in our eyes and go "Aww, dammit!" and then move on, chastened. (After all, it's been documented that a large percentage of auto accidents occur very soon after the driver in question had just been in a heart-pounding near-miss, or had just been pulled over and released. It's very disconcerting. You're about as shaky as a kid at a piano-recital awards ceremony. You're not alert, your mind is spinning, replaying the incident over and over, the road ahead of you is the last thing on your mind. You're a fender-bender waiting to happen.) This new system will probably reduce accidents, free up police man-hours, save money, all that good stuff.

But still... slippery slope, people. Slippery slope. The 1984 scenario always starts out with the best of intentions.

17:42 - C'mon, Canada! Let's have some of that good lovin'!
http://rtnews.globetechnology.com/servlet/RTGAMArticleHTMLTemplate/C/20020312/gtb8?t

(top)
Hey! Why don't we get stuff like this down here?
Microsoft Canada, in partnership with Apple Canada, has launched www.machemistry.ca. The new site for Mac-using professionals is part of The Chemistry Project - a Canadian program that explores and promotes good chemistry between the two companies, and Mac owners. Machemistry.ca visitors are invited to experiment with Microsoft Office v. X, Microsoft's latest suite for the Mac. They can take a fun personality litmus test, listen to an original hip hop anthem for the Mac user called "Just a Little Irreverent", and learn from high profile Canadian celebrities who are Mac masters.

Whine! We want an original hip-hop anthem too!

Granted, it's Microsoft... but the Microsoft Mac Business Unit (MBU) has long been considered one of the cooler parts of the Beast. You know, bringing it down from the inside and all that. Big on the Mac; wanting to promote the Mac; willing to make the Mac versions of their Windows software better than the Windows versions. And this looks like just the kind of thing they'd do. Kudos to them. But dangitall, it takes Canada to come up with something like this...

12:03 - Preach it, brotha!

(top)
Now this is a talk I'd love to hear.


Computing Fallacies [or What is the World Coming To?] - Michi Henning

======================================================================

Fallacy 1 Computing is Easy
- Teach Yourself C++ in 14 Easy Lessons
- CORBA for Dummies
- Complete Idiot's Guide to Win32
- Java for Morons
- Windows 98 Unleashed

[now examining different areas - non books]
- Brain Surgery in 14 Easy Lessons
- Bridge Design for Dummies
- Complete Idiot's Guide to Contract Law
- Air Traffic Control for Morons
- Ballistic Missiles Unleashed

We are special in the IT industry in that we can find these fallacies. This
talk is an hour long bitching session for everything that has annoyed me in
the last 20 years.

Fallacy 2 Computers Allow People to Do things They Could Not Do Otherwise
- All you need is a good work processor to create a great doc
- All you need is a great spreadsheet to make accurate sales predictions
- All you need is ...

Fallacy 3 Computers Increase Productivity
- The sound effects in this presentation will make all the difference
- It only took five hours to format this memo
- The shading on this pie chart is simply superb
- The icons on my desktop are lined up perfectly
[sound of car screeching to a halt for each bullet point]

We still produce exactly the same amount of letters as in 1945. Back then it
was okay to have 3 or so typos per page without re-typing the entire letter.
Nowadays, we rewrite the letter many, many times, changing fonts, format
etc. We are no better off in terms of letters produced.

Fallacy 4 Programs Help Their Users
- What can we do that will force an upgrade?
- What can we do for the next release that might sell?
- How can we kill the competition?

Fallacy 5 If It's Graphical, It's Easy
- Single click, double click?
- Where is the #$%^@!! menu??
- Which part of the UI does *not* do something?
- With a GUI, anyone can be a
- System administrator
- Programmer
- Typesetter
- Accountant
- Statistician
- ...

Double clicking is politically incorrect in terms of RSI. We have to
re-learn to use single click or to type on ergonomic keyboards.

There are so many UI features that we only learn by accident eg. double
clicking the title bar, dettaching the toolbar.

Why is the minimize button beside the close button on the title bar? This is
equivalent to have the eject seat button right beside the light switch in an
aeroplane.

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. M$ paperclip. Eyes start to follow
Michi as he walks back and forth across the stage. [Histerical laughter].
It's in principle a really good idea, something that monitors your progress,
but when it starts to interrupt your work, by telling you a joke, it is
ethically wrong to release this to millions of people.

Fallacy 6 Computers are Getting Faster
- How long does it take for your PC to boot?
- How long does it take to
- start your word processor?
- load a web page?
- compile a program?
- how long did it take
- five years ago?
- ten years ago?

We have come along and destroyed all the gains we have made in hardware.

Fallacy 7 Programs are Getting Better
- How often do you need to
- animate your fonts?
- embed live information from the web in a document?
- perform a Fourier analysis?
- create a pie chart with alpha blending?
- create a pie chart?

99% of all documents are written to be printed on paper.

His wife was trying to save a 2.2MB for a 2 page Word document on a floppy
disk. Plain text, default font, left aligned. There was one email address,
underlined. After 17 minutes of searching, he found a way to turn off this
email address highlight off. The document was then saved at 800KB.

Fallacy 8 Programmers are Getting Better
- Average education time 2 years?
- How many students coming out of university know what a core dump is?
- Written an Excel macro? You are qualified!
- Average retention time in a job 18 months

Great programmers have a greater amount of short term memory slots. Most of
these people will have written some assembly at some stage in their lives.

Fallacy 9 Programming is About Date Structures and Algorithms
- How many times have you written a linked list?
- How many times have you used STL?
- How many books have you read about HCI?

We spend so much time designing our API's, but who taught us whether we
should return a boolean or an integer as an error? We are not taught to
design.

Fallacy 10 Open Source is the Answer
- Economic model is doubtful
- Source code is useless
- Motivation for Open Source is inappropriate for most software
- Nerd culture is counter-productive

We write software for peer recognition. We write fancy structures because
'it's cool', but not particularly useful.

Fallacy 11 Standards all the Solution
- Usable standards are created only years after the fact
- Standards are foul compromises

Fallacy 12 We are Making Progress
- Progress in data structures and algorithms have been remarkably slow
- Progress in management techniques has been remarkably slow
- Progress in quality assurance has been remarkably slow

We put all the not so good programmers into quality assurance, when really
it is the hardest part.

Fallacy 13 The Industry Knows Where it is Goling
- Today's clever hack is tommorrow's solution to take us into the next
millenium
- There haven't b een any new ideas in a decade
- We have run out of ideas, so we rehash old ones

Oh My God! It's All So...Depressing!

So What Do We Need?
- 'Progress' is detrimental to progress
- Focus on design
- Realistic growth expectations
- Legislation
- Code of ethics
- Growing up!

The best UI people on the planet are those working in the car industry.

We need to make it a criminal law to change certain API's. There are
potentially huge impacts. When we produce a new drug, we can't just release
it to millions of people without some sort of testing.

We have to stop doing things just because they are fun. Nerds are not the
people to run this industry.

Useful Reading
- Donald Norman 'The Design of Everyday Things'
- Alan Cooper 'The Inmates are Running the Asylum'
- Alan Cooper 'About Face'




11:06 - Go Go Sinfest Playas!
http://www.sinfest.net/d/20020312.html

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They mocked The Lion King; they mocked Beauty and the Beast. Tatsuya's ability to render an epic movie down into a four-panel strip has become legendary. And now... Lord of the Rings gets its turn. Yaay!

09:50 - Benchmarking Fallout
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/35/24378.html

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Damn, The Register is hard to get to these days. I don't know if they're being constantly hammered by linkers-in from their coverage of the now-infamous C't benchmarking brouhaha, but whatever it is, they've certainly got the world keeping an eye on them. As some of the loudest online backers of Linux and Mac OS X and protesters against the Microsoft hegemony, they've got a torch to bear now, whether they like it or not.

They've just posted a page full of responses from users about their Mac benchmarking results article from yesterday. The first one in particular, by researcher Justin G. Cordesman, is particularly worth reading.

As for SSE2 vs. Altivec, SSE2 is a toy by comparison. Its architecture does not offer the range of generalized high precision capability that the altivec instruction set does. It is filled with bandwidth limitations, particularly its tiny number of harder to use registers that make it nearly impossible to keep the pipeline full, and it is capable of basically no parallelism whatsoever with the regular FP unit on the processor (which means it must start and stop each unit to switch back and forth, and the lack of generalization makes this an excruciating performance penalty). The small number of registers in particular makes the P3 a better scientific computing processor than the P4 for real world applications because the P4's pipe is too deep to keep it filled. This can be graphically demonstrated with fully optimized applications that force significant branching on real world data.

The rest of the responses on the page are less in-depth but also useful-- except the last one, which so beautifully exemplifies the pouty attitude of so many zealots in any community-- "You don't agree with me? You won't do everything I say? Fine! I'll take my ball and go home!" Promptly upon which the ball spontaneously deflates.
Monday, March 11, 2002
22:08 - Oh, how can I be so skeptical?
http://www.cbn.com/living/amazingstories/groundzero/wtc-praimnath.asp

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First read this article, a True Tale of Survival recounted at The 700 Club by someone whose faith in God was what saved him from certain death, not just from the WTC towers' debris crushing him as he rushed from the building, but from the plane itself crashing through the window where he worked.

One spin on the article is by Sgt. Stryker, who takes exception (and quite rightly, I think) to the guy's selfishness in worldview that lets him think that all those good and miraculous things that happened on September 11th were because of the Power of Prayer, specifically his prayer, saving him from death while all those other people in the towers (all of whom, apparently, weren't praying enough) died.

That in itself's a pretty good read. But when I read the original interview on CBN.com, the only thing that went through my mind, and perhaps it's just me being callous and faithless and cynical, was "How likely can it possibly be that this is true?" And the second was "If it isn't, who's going to try to prove that?"
Gorman: He made it through the crash, but the wing of the plane was blocking his only means of escape.

Stanley: This plane was at an angle and the wing hung in my office door 20 feet away.

I cried, I prayed, and the entire ceiling came down. The furniture was mangled. The tables, the computers, the walls, the ceiling -- everything came down.

And I prayed, saying, "Lord, send somebody, anybody." And out of this smoke I saw the light. It was a flashlight somebody had.

I said, "Lord, just this one time more. If you give me the strength, I'll be able to do it."

I stood up, and I felt so powerful that I could have done anything. When Samson got up and shook off his enemies, that's how I felt. And I said, "This wall is no match for me."

I started clawing my way, climbing, climbing, punching, hitting until the man on the other side saw my hand and my head. And he said, "I can see your hand." I said, "As soon as you can see my head and hand, you just grab and yank me through."

Brian Clark, afterwards I got to know his name, he grabbed my hand and my head and he pulled with all his strength, and I squirmed my way through to this opening.

Gorman: Stanley and Brian miraculously made it down to the lobby, but the entire concourse was engulfed in flames.

Now... I'm not claiming to know the truth of the details of what happened on the 81st floor of Tower 2. I wasn't there. But I have seen the video of the crashes a number of times, and I do seem to remember something about a huge fireball that immediately erupted out the sides of the buildings where each plane hit. The violence with which the plane hit the building, pulverizing all parts of it almost instantly, and the force with which its fuel tanks exploded, would have resulted in the three or four floors above and below the plane being reduced to a gas plasma within seconds, if I have a reasonable grasp of the physics involved. The wing was hanging in the office door and blocking his way out? Er... unless he was miraculously protected from the heat and flame pouring from a torched 767 fuselage so that all he saw between him and the wing was mangled furniture and ceiling tiles and computers falling down, and not a white-hot wall of liquefied metal and building material and jet fuel, I must admit to being a tad skeptical. Damn me and my callousness and squalid pragmatism, but something about it just doesn't stroke my nerve endings with the soothing exhortations of Inspiring Obvious Truth.

It may very well be true, and in that case I'm completely without adequate words to describe how impressed I am. But now that the emotions of the moment have had six months to amortize out, I don't think it represents harshest sterile humanism for me to react with a perked eyebrow rather than a gaping mouth.

Especially if we're only just now hearing about it, and on The 700 Club rather than on any major news organs' human-interest stories.

20:45 - Towers of Light
http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/03/11/nation.remembers/index.html

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Ah yes.... I was sort of looking forward to this, ever since they proposed it. It sounded like one of those really tasteful kinds of memorials.

Evidently the beams can be seen from 25 miles away. I wonder how that compares to the searchlight on the Luxor in Las Vegas? I know I can see the shaft of light from at least ten miles out of the city when driving up I-15 at night.

(Odd thought: No, "Luxor" is not some weird hacker-speak for "luck"... though if they were trying to design a casino for hackers, it would be the perfect name.)

19:10 - Some worthwhile reading on 9/11+6m...
http://muslimpundit.blogspot.com/?/2002_03_01_muslimpundit_archive.html#75006380

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Adil of MuslimPundit takes the opportunity to summarize the thoughts of numerous sane Muslim commentators from over the past several months; the column is a fairly chewy one to get through, but if you're anything like me, you'll want to stick with it to wring out every last little morsel. Good stuff. Very insightful.

17:36 - System 1.0 thru 9.x: A History
http://lowendmac.com/musings/02/0311.html

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Anyone who's curious about the developmental history of the Mac OS, I encourage to read this article at Low End Mac. It's a quick skim through the features introduced from 1984 through today, and it's very enlightening and fun, especially from today's "been there, done that" perspective.

I'm addressing this specifically at Windows users who may know the complete history of when Windows got this or that feature, but may have little or no analogous historical interest in the Mac side. This isn't a we-did-X-first pissing contest: just a retrospective. And you may find it interesting. Hey, I'd like to see a similar look at Windows history. Just because I like this sort of stuff.

16:25 - Ahh, that's better.
http://www.appleturns.com/scene/?id=3619

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Yeah, call it "damage control" if you want. But while As the Apple Turns primarily bills itself as a lighthearted comedy news-type site about as seriously to be taken as "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", the fact is that they've built up a pretty respectable history over the years of accuracy and reliability. Their rumormongering is limited but almost always correct (they were about the only ones to correctly predict the announcements at MWNY last year). Their links and commentary are always on-target. And their readership always seems to have useful information with which AtAT can fire back against dubious benchmarking results that seem to fly in the face not only of years' worth of core marketing specs, but of independent analysis and objective results in the commercial field:

First and foremost, c't itself admitted that the G4 should have mopped the floor with "the x86 FPU with its antiquated stack structure and eight registers only"-- so why, when the G4 was shown to be half as fast as the Pentium III, did the magazine just say "gee, we guess the G4's no supercomputer" and then saunter away, hands in pockets, whistling a jolly tune? Doesn't anyone think it's strange that they failed to mention that the SPEC2000 test, as compiled, utterly ignores the G4's Velocity Engine registers, which are what gives that chip its supercomputer-class, greater-than-gigaflop floating point performance? What c't did is tantamount to forcing you to write with your toes and then telling you that your handwriting sucks.

What's more, while the industry just loves SPEC benchmarks, faithful viewer Mark Davis reminds us that they've always been biased towards Intel processors, in part because the SPEC code just floods the chip with a constant stream of perfect instructions and let it work at peak efficiency, which is nothing like how real software is processed. As you may recall from Jon Rubinstein's "Megahertz Myth" spiel, Intel's recent chips take a speed hit from the recurring need to clear and refill those extra-long pipelines due to incorrect predictive branching-- it's that whole "pipeline tax" thing. With the SPEC test, there are no data dependency bubbles, and therefore no pipeline tax, so Intel's chips perform better than they would in actual battle conditions.

Ah yes, I knew there was something fishy. Of course, you have to dig down a level into the facts to get this interpretation, and there are still more mitigating factors (like the one about C't's compilers not being SIMD-enhanced either), but the thing about the SPEC benchmark being tuned for a completely non-real-world-like environment is really the big corker. Just another result of the PPC architecture being the underdog in rudimentary tests (like judging it purely by clock speed, or running tests that never introduce a branch misprediction bubble into the Pentium's long pipeline). I deal with this kind of thing at work all the time; network benchmarking companies use tools like SmartBits and Chariot to test the limits of networking equipment; unfortunately, the traffic they send is either so uniform and well-behaved as to hide all the benefits of our product's real-world adaptivity, or so bogus in its construction that our software can't deal with it with anything like the same efficiency as we handle realistic TCP/IP traffic in a real-world network environment. So the benchmarks favor the more simplistic technology, while it takes a good deal more delving and research to find out how those second-order conditions affect the results-- and a lot more explanation and spin to get people to accept it.

After all, those RC5 benchmarks that I linked to last week were not by any internationally respected testing authority, but they did certainly describe a heartwarming speed advantage in the G4's corner on tasks like RC5 keypair checking (a task which, I daresay, involves a lot of branch misprediction bubbles-- which is why the P4 fared even more poorly than the P3 in that test).

And besides, there have been documented a number of design oddities in the Intel architecture that are there solely to make the chip perform better in the SPEC benchmarks-- they provide no benefit in the real world, but they do kick up those numbers.

This is why I'm so looking forward to the G5-vs-Itanium days. Motorola's chips will be running in the 2GHz range while Intel's struggle to break 1GHz-- and that without 32-bit backwards compatibility in the latter case. At least there will be that one presumption working in our favor, one less thing that has to be refuted and debunked.

It just really sucks when everything looks bad until you peer deeper to find the real story, as opposed to the real-world truth being worse than the idealized lab tests. Though from a scientific and technophilic standpoint, the former certainly feels more elegant and satisfying.

11:44 - Oh, and one more cool spam title...

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This one I just couldn't help giggling at, and for reasons that the spammer would never have been able to predict. It's an insurance thing, and it leads off with:
Subject: Are you and your family protected?

Yes, we are protected. We have gone down the stairs.

10:11 - Speaking of semantics...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1840000/1840865.stm

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From the BBC Online article "The Future of Computing is Flat":

Several companies such as IBM and Compaq have been offering integrated flat panel computers with offerings like the NetVista and iPaq.

Apple Computer, with the introduction of their latest iMac, has gone one step further, and committed itself to producing a line-up of flat panel computers.

Guardians of the Mother Tongue, my eye. If I ever write anything like this, even if I am up at 5:00 AM and barely conscious, I will have to have my blogging license revoked. Forcibly.

10:07 - Security Updates Redux
http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.gibe@mm.html

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Matt Robinson gives me an update on the "Microsoft Security Update" trojan-spam I talked about yesterday:

Ahh, a semantic attack! Cute. Microsoft "hotfixes" -do- follow the filename convention used above. Q216309 is the ID of a support centre article. Microsoft do issue security bulletins to interested parties by email (though they use PGP signatures... as if anyone'd check those!) It's a very convincing semantic attack, in fact. It's probably a trojan horse attack rather than a virus. Funny thing is, I can see a lot of Microsoft employees falling for this one ;)

That's a good point to bring up, actually: PGP signatures. The spammer/attacker should have included one. Who cares if it's not legit? Who would go to the trouble of decoding the signature and matching it against the source? Just having a PGP signature would be proof enough for most people of the update's authenticity. Why would they include one if it was faked, goes the logic? After all, they know they'd be caught if anybody thought to check it!

Yuh-huh. If.

I don't check the MD5 sums on software packages under UNIX as often as I should, or their PGP signatures. Just the fact that they're there is good enough for me. The ports system in FreeBSD automates the checking of the MD5 sums, but I've been conditioned for so long by a lack of problems with the ports I've installed that when I do see an MD5 checksum failure, I write it off as a bad MD5 checksum or a bug in the checking process. Which it usually is, but you can just imagine the risks involved.

That's what smart attackers will do: they'll dress up their trojans with the most official-sounding and official-looking stuff imaginable, and nobody will question it. It's like dressing up an assassin in a military uniform from a costume shop: it's all fake, but nobody will realize it unless they look really close-- and who's willing to look really close? It might be for real!

09:57 - Um... Steve?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/3/24358.html

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Well, I guess the game is up:

The German tech bible has put the latest dual G4s through the SPEC CPU2000 processor benchmark, and the results make dismal reading for hardcore Apple loyalists. C't found that the RISC-based machines running OS X fall severely short of expectations, being bested in the floating point tests by an eighteen month old Pentium III-based machine

You might still be able to buy one of these, on eBay.

Heh. Well, hey, what can I say. It's all been a big ruse, all along. 1x DVD encoding is just an illusion. RT Effects in Final Cut Pro are a sham. 120 fps in Quake 3, that never really happened.

Yeah, yeah. These are undoubtedly real specs and all. And I don't blame The Register for being a bit gleeful about this-- I can imagine many other people who won't be anywhere near as charitable (Unciaa, for one, and den Beste, for another).

But still... you know? Shozbot.
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© Brian Tiemann