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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, May 5, 2002
15:42 - Everything but blogging this weekend...

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Much apology for the lack of blog content here (yeah, I'm sure hundreds of people are just getting all itchy and restless over it). I've been spending all day yesterday and today in video-editing, picture-obtaining, and application-filling-out for the under-the-wire application for The Amazing Race that my dad says we have to enter. It's due on Wednesday.

But I just finished editing the video to under the required 3 minutes (actually, it's 2 minutes, 59 seconds, and 21 frames) and transferring it to VHS. And now I'm about to head over to the beach or something.

See, this is what I mean, about weekends being my time to "relax". I think this is how I relax.
Friday, May 3, 2002
03:33 - Random Responses to Random Observations
http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=makali&itemid=45887

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Matt Robinson has some observations about stupid UI decisions in the world. I'd like to take this opportunity to add my own comments, and thereby to call attention to his own laugh-out-loud blog.
  1. Trillian has "emotisounds" enabled by default now. This means that when chatting on IRC or ICQ, or.. whatever, and someone types "OMG LOL!!!1" my computer makes a hideous giggling sound. Gah! I really worry about some people who type "LOL". They seem to do it a hell of a lot, and I can't help but wonder if they really are "laughing out loud" or just sniggering and stuffing more lard and coke down their throats. People who express their emotions with acronyms scare me. Actually no, they piss me off; it highlights an increasing inability for people to communicate effectively with each other.

I've wondered about "LOL" for a long time. Now, I'm under no illusions that anybody who types "LOL" ever means that he's actually, physically, laughing out loud. The likelihood of that is pretty frickin' slim. But that's not what gets me. No, what gets me is this: People have overused "LOL" to the point where they have evidently forgotten what it stands for entirely. Nothing else can explain how it gets used periodically these days:
"LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!"
A variation on the venerable "hehehehe", which I have loathed with a secret burning passion ever since I first encountered it being spewed by AOLers back in 1994. An abbreviated, iconic shorthand, that form was popularized apparently as some kind of attempt to appear as some kind of technological superstar-- you're playing your keyboard like a guitar! Wheedle on those two keys, and it sounds like you're laughing to the guy on the other end! Boy-howdy, you can sure make that fingerboard sing! Hehehehe!

But somehow it got mated with "LOL"-- an onomatopoeia mingled with an acronym-- to form "LOLOLOLOL", which evidently the same AOLers can read fluently. I don't know-- to me, it can mean only two things:
  1. "Laughing out loud out loud out loud out loud"
  2. Something that sounds sort of like "Low low low low low low"

Sure, accuse me of being pedantic. But I challenge anyone to read out loud a passage of text containing "LOLOLOL" and not read it as one of the two possibilities above. And then, I further challenge, I dare you to ever attempt to use it again.

"LOOOOOOOOOOL!!!"
This one is just precious. It completely abandons any pretense of being an acronym-- I don't think any AOLer, even, could type this while under the impression that "Laughing out out out out out out out loud!" is a meaningful expression. No, this one is just "LOL" that's been streeeeeeeetched in order to affect more emphasis.

It's silly, it's obvious, it's cheap. But still, I would dare somebody to read it out loud with a straight face.

And for extra credit, immediately follow it with "And DROOOOOOOOOOL!"


The other point to which I must respond is this:
  1. Microsoft's OLE (and later ActiveX, COM, COM+, etc) gimmick when Win 3 and 3.1 came out was that "Whee! Look, you can put bits of Excel inside Word!" thing... Which was alright for some things I guess: it's convenient to be able to edit some figures in a report document without having to load up Excel and reimport the table. They overstepped the line when Outbreak Outlook Express used this same functionality to show HTML in email using Internet Explorer's rendering engine though. Aside from the whole huge virus/trojan/worm issues that this caused, I'm pissed off that advertising companies can send me mail that requests images from their servers which allows them to set cookies that link my email address to the web pages I visit (and thereby allows them to build up a profile on me in order to send me more unwanted advertising). And the virus issue just will not go away. The only way this will stop is if Microsoft rewrites Outhouse Outlook Express from scratch and makes some fundamentally different design decisions about what their product should and shouldn't be able to do.

My response to this is brief:

"...Or, conceivably, if people will ever take the apocalyptically drastic step of using some other program than Outlook or Outlook Express for their e-mail."

(Though, of course, that's a pipe dream. Every bit as much as is the possibility of open-source software producting professional-grade, easy-to-use, consistent and useful consumer desktop software.)

That is all.

02:04 - See, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

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So at about 7:30 PM today, this being a Friday evening, I was sitting at work getting my iMac all outfitted for CVS and code building. (David had just joined the cabal, setting up his new $999 iBook today for the same purpose-- so I figured I should follow suit, especially considering the CVS chalk-talk Chris had just given a couple of days ago for the benefit of us tool-writing QA people.) Don't ever tell me I don't know how to party.

I installed the free Developer Tools from Apple; it comes with CVS, among many other things (such as ProjectBuilder, the descendant of the NextSTEP framework builder application). Then I downloaded a tool called Concurrent Version Library (CVL), a CVS front-end for OS X (and Windows and OpenSTEP) which automates the checkout/edit/checkin process of CVS. Very nice.


Then I noticed a tool in the Developer folder: FileMerge. I opened it up. Ah, very nice-- you select two files (either by file-browsing, or by dragging the two files into two little wells). (It's also fired-off from the Comparison tool within CVL.) Then you press the Compare button.

And... well, it's a nice graphical diff utility. But wait... uh, hold on. Look... look at how it displays the differences. Gray bars that expand smoothly with those little curves in the central gutter, with an arrow indicating which version of that diff to use. You can select each one and specify the behavior. The differences are marked in the scrollbar with little tick marks.

And... look what happens when you scroll down. The diffs... they smoothly flow upward so the diffs in the middle of the screen are visible straight-across. They shift smoothly-- with the curves bordered by antialiased lines that morph to the new shape as you scroll.

This is a diff tool?!

Chris was driving the computer as we discovered this-- and when we saw the behavior of the diff bars as he scrolled down, he and I both erupted in laughter-- the kind of raucous, exhilarated laughter of discovery, the kind of laughter you emit when you see an impossible injoke in a movie, or a gorgeously-turned Lileks phrase, or some righteous caption-contest entries, or a masterful mind-warp like at the end of Fight Club or The Game. We sat there playing with it for a good five minutes, not believing what we were seeing. Then Chris said, "Okay, who signs POs around here? I have got to get myself a Mac."

See, this is exactly the kind of thing I'm on about. This is a diff tool-- one of those things that's so pedestrian and so rudimentary that the full functionality that the everyday coder needs from it was present in command-line tools ten years ago. But when Apple engineers come along and get their hands on it, they see the opportunity to make it damned cool-- using the advantages of Quartz and Cocoa to their fullest, they throw in a feature which-- while it doesn't add more to the functionality of the software than, say, a simple straight line or two from one side to the other would accomplish-- has the elegance and beauty and style to make a jaded programmer's heart go boompdy-doomp. The functionality was there in Quartz, it was easy to add, it made it look really bloody cool-- and they didn't go overboard. They did it in such a way that you have to just sit and stare and play with it, a big dopey smile on your face, thinking ahh, yes... this is the way it's supposed to be. It doesn't get in the way. It doesn't slow things down. It just makes the programmer feel like someone just turned on the air-conditioner on a sweltering summer day.

This isn't Microsoft's every-function-on-the-planet-plus-ToolTips-on-every-damn-thing kind of design ethic. This isn't the slavish drudgery of producing gray tools for dead-eyed coders to use late into the night in order to meet an impossible deadline.

This is the joy of creating, made manifest in the very tools that the creators themselves use.

I don't think I've ever before seen such a clear, simple, self-evident illustration of what makes Apple Apple-- and how impoverished the technology industry would be without them.

19:22 - Doom III is comin'
http://www.macgamer.com/news/item.php?id=5113

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Seems Doom III is in imminent danger of being released. It's supposed to have an all-new 3D engine, something that's head-and-shoulders above today's standard crop.

The 3D games produced by id Software have been in three distinct stages: the Wolfenstein era, the Doom era, and the Quake era, which is still the current one. We've already had our Return to Castle Wolfenstein; now, I suppose, it's time to revisit Doom.

I always sort of assumed Quake was the successor to Doom, though-- not just in inherited technology, but also in storyline. I suppose that if I'd bothered to look any deeper into the story (such as it was), I'd have discovered that the two game series had entirely different settings and premises. But, well, as far as I could ever tell, both were primarily concerned with shooting everything that moved-- and hey, they were certainly good at what they did, right?

Well, I guess we're returning to the more-horror-than-action genre now, with Doom III. Whatever anybody might say about how video games desensitize people to violence and so on-- well, all I can say is that playing Doom II on the 486s in Blacker Hovse on those sultry Pasadena autumn nights was what got me primed for Vertigo comics, Peter Jackson movies, anime, dealing with Scurves, and just about everything that helped me through college and beyond. So yes, it did certainly have an effect on me. Good? Bad? I'm the one with the gun.

Oh, and by the way--

The possibility of DOOM III coming to the Mac seems almost a sure bet, considering the facts that id Software founder John Carmack has on multiple occasions publicly embraced the platform and every recent title from the company has been ported. More importantly though is the fact that Carmack himself first unveiled the new DOOM III engine on a Mac at last year's MacWorld Tokyo, which is also the one and only time the game has been publicly displayed since. For many the remaining days till DOOM III's next and official showing at E3 will seem like months, but you can be sure MacGamer will be among those attending to provide coverage of the title when the time comes.

Thursday, May 2, 2002
00:15 - Ahead of its time, I guess...

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A NewsRadio episode from 1996 or so had a line regarding trying to remove an embarrassing picture from the Internet:

"You can't take something off of the Internet. It'd be like trying to get pee out of a swimming pool."

20:30 - iPod envy
http://www.sunspot.net/technology/pluggedin/bal-pl.hot02may02.story?coll=bal%2Dpe%2D

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It seems that the iPod, expensive and comparatively low-capacity and Mac-only as it is, has managed to become the de facto archetypical MP3 player, the gold standard against which all others are measured. It's displaced the old Rios, the ones with the weird asymmetrical hand-held design, in the psyche of all reviewers. And now, reviews about the Rio Riot by SonicBlue seem unable to talk about the Riot without comparing it to the iPod.

Even better, they can't seem to bring themselves ever to award the win to the iPod's challenger.

Unfortunately, the RioRiot lacks the iPod's elegant design and glistening good looks. It has the feel of a prototype that was rushed into production, with control buttons that aren't as intuitive as the iPod's wheel-and-button combination. The Rio-Riot's power and earphone jacks look so much alike and are placed so close together that I nearly shorted out the device.

The company says the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is good for more than 10 hours, but mine conked out at closer to seven. Still, more than enough for jogging or most flights.

True, the Riot has more capacity. True, it's Windows-compatible. True, it has an FM tuner and funky software. But, well, it's no iPod-killer.

Seems Apple's made a universally accepted winner, for the first time in a long time. At the risk of sounding too sycophantic... Well done.

20:21 - Steven den Beste is a war criminal!
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/05/usageinflation.shtml

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Go read this post of his. Then you'll see that I mean it as a compliment.

19:51 - Now that's just cool.
http://www.pizzaidf.org

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Lileks' latest Bleat contained the rhetorical thought, "If Saudi Arabia had a Star Trek, do you think they’d put a Jewish Chekov at the helm?" To which Glenn Reynolds responded, "Indeed. Of course the phrase "If Saudi Arabia had a Star Trek," captures much of the problem all by itself, doesn't it?"

Here's another little example of the culture clash we've got on our hands: a website that allows anybody in the world to send pizza to active-duty soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces. $16.95 will buy a pizza and Pepsi for five soldiers, properly Kosher and everything.

This is the kind of moral support that I'll bet they'd just love to get, too. Imagine the morale in the IDF unit that's being widely accused of massacring civilians in Jenin, facts to the contrary notwithstanding. You feel about as appreciated as a Vietnam Marine at the end of his tour of duty-- and then a jeep rolls up with a pizza delivery box.

The symbolism is as thick as a deep-dish pizza crust. I mean, right there you've got what has become one of the most universally-loved, internationally-developed foods on the planet-- an Italian appetizer dish adopted by Americans and turned into the Great Equalizer, a shared circular entree pre-sliced into equal portions, serving everyone at the table simultaneously and democratically. It's the food of choice for up-too-late college students and Chicago restaurateurs alike. And it's portable, endlessly customizable, and can be eaten without utensils.

And now it can be delivered at the whim of anyone in the world to the front battle lines. Talk about cutting out the middleman; now the world can register its approval or disapproval of the IDF by voting with cheese.

Has the nature of war changed, or what?

By the way, be sure to read the "Messages" section of the site.


19:09 - Perspective from the Front
http://talg.blogspot.com/

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Tal G. in Jerusalem is a blog that doesn't tend to have a huge amount of content-- but that's okay, because there's more first-hand context from the very battle lines in a single posting there than there is in three screenfuls of your typical American blog.

Just today, for instance, the info bites come fast and furious:

James Lileks has a fine rant today. But one of his points is a criticism of Arab nations for not contributing to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps.

Actually, the squalidness of the refugee camps is intentionally maintained by the PA and the UN Relief Works Agency. When the PA was established in 1994 it decided not to aid the refugee camps because if their residents became too comfortable, they might abandon their dreams of returning to their grandparents' homes inside Israel's pre-1967 borders.

There is a camp called Shuafat which now falls within the boundaries of Jerusalem, but UNRWA etc. have steadfastly opposed efforts by the municipality to pave streets and install a modern sewage system.

Someone living in Shuafat found my cellphone which I had dropped, but I declined to go and collect it.

There's also this:

This just in: Arafat has backtracked on his agreement to jail Tourism-Minister-assassination-planner Ahmed Saadat and heavy-arms-and-explosives-smuggler Fuad Shubeiki in Jericho with British/American guards. Jailing them was part of the deal made with Israel for releasing Arafat from house arrest.

Sigh.

He asks whether the Israeli actions of late are likely to cause any kind of dent in the extremism of the more intelligent Palestinians, the ones who are willing to be rational-- or whether they'll just be driven further toward radicalism. The only positive alternative is that they'll instead be cowed by Israel's refusal to back down or be intimidated; but if they're weighing such options along with what must certainly seem to them like a glorious tactical victory for Arafat (Look-- the stupid Americans and the accursed Sharon let him go scot free, he doesn't even have to obey their outrageous demands of jailing extremists, and we have a new martyrdom cause on our side in the form of the Jenin Massacre™... Allahu akbar, man!), then it'll be a hard sell indeed.

It seems to me that if there were any "thinking Palestinians" out there who truly wanted peace, they'd be organizing demonstrations and protests against Arafat and demanding a halt to the counterproductive and abhorrent actions of their countrymen who strap on bombs and run into crowded coffee shops.

It's called an act of good faith. It can work wonders, when those who receive the message are willing to hear it. When the audience is civilized.

But, of course, when Israel commits such an act-- like, oh, say, releasing Arafat-- he may as well be laying his olive branch on a bonfire.
Wednesday, May 1, 2002
22:44 - Bluh.

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There hasn't been, and won't be, much in the way of bloggage for today. We had a long and gruelling network problem to plow through today at work, and right now I really don't feel much like typing. What I really feel like doing is lying semi-comatose on my waterbed and watching whatever well-worn Simpsons comes on in fifteen minutes. And then maybe I'll fall asleep or something.
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
13:05 - Dammit.

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Kris just got back from interviewing a job applicant over lunch. The guy said he had just come off a project at a FireWire solutions company; they were creating some kind of ultimate home-stereo/video system, with all the controlling and recording and management integrated and all the audio and video and other traffic traveling over FireWire. He said it was an extremely enjoyable project. You know, one of those things where you feel like you're changing the world, like you have the answer, like everything's going to be all right now.

But, he said, it got cancelled.

Why?

Because the company "got scared off by USB 2.0".

Intel's getting to be just about as petty with their Not-Invented-Here mentality as Microsoft is. They need to have their scrota eaten just about as badly.

12:59 - What, you just now noticed?
http://www.dorktower.com/

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Heh. Yeah, that's what I've been saying all this time...

12:56 - Seanbaby reviews Buzkashi
http://www.seanbaby.com/news/buzkashi.htm

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I was almost positive that I'd blogged this Seanbaby article before, but a cursory glance through the database tells me nay. And because I'm revisiting it over lunch and laughing so hard I'm having difficulty swallowing, I think it's only fair that I share the experience. Besides, even if I have blogged it before, it's worth doing so again. Just because.

There is one Afghani thing everyone should see before their country becomes a smoldering terrorist paste-filled crater, or at least a deeper terrorist paste-filled crater: their insane goat-slinging national sport, Buzkashi. Buzkashi was started in the time of Genghis Kahn, but unlike other sports started in the time of Genghis Kahn like Synchronized Impale the Villager, Horseback Crotch Kick, and Female Horseback Crotch Kick, Buzkashi survived relatively unchanged all the way to modern day, give or take a few million tons of anti-personnel explosives.

The first thing you need for Buzkashi, besides a warrior soul prepared for death, is the game ball or "boz." To prepare it, find a goat. Now chop off its head and most of its legs. This probably won't finish it off... Afghani goats are raised on soil composed of 80 percent land mine and require either intense persistence or voodoo to kill. So after the chopping, you need to submerge it in cold water for 24 hours. This helps toughen it up so the corpse doesn't fall apart during gameplay. And before you ask, yes, this is the exact same technique that Joseph Stalin and Hitler would have invented if they dictated the policy of sporting goods manufacturing and were goats.

Word is that Seanbaby is now writing regular articles for The Wave, the first of which I managed by dumb luck to catch while I was at the car wash a while ago. So now I'll have to go pick up copies wherever I can. Seanbaby's stuff is not to be missed.
Monday, April 29, 2002
01:20 - Oh yes, thanks for reminding me...
http://hikeryote.blogspot.com/?/2002_04_28_hikeryote_archive.html#75990984

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Hiker's post on the same Transformers article that I mentioned reminded me of something I'd intended to say but forgot.

But consider this: the Decepticons were a short-sighted race that wanted to rule the universe by controlling its energy resources. They were proud, vicious, and specialized in sneak attacks. They had no compunctions about using us miserable fleshlings as human shields. Eventually they were reduced to cowering in caves on a remote asteroid that no one really cared about. Do they remind you of anybody?

The Autobot/Decepticon war spanned millions of years without any clear victor. In its wake countless planets were devastated by giant robots bent on violence. It is a grim lesson that we should take to heart, as we embark on what could be the longest, bitterest war of all time.

Indeed. Now, what I was suddenly reminded of was that when I was heavily into Transformers, through elementary and middle school when my room's shelves were covered with neatly stood-at-attention robots with their Tech Specs strips hanging perpendicularly like filing-cabinet tabs, there was some perplexity in the general adultitude about whether the Transformers were "appropriate" for kids.

The main competition for kids' hearts and minds at the time was G.I. Joe. In what must have been a formative precursor of the rift that would forever divide the macho jocks from the sci-fi nerds in later years, the kids of my school sifted themselves either into the G.I. Joe platoon or the Transformers legion. Nevermore would the twain meet, and we regarded each other as subhuman. You know-- kids can be so cruel, and all that.

I was loud about my disapproval of G.I. Joe. As a conscientious third grader, I voiced my disgust with little hesitation-- how could my fellow kids be such monsters as to revel in war, in the killing of humans by humans? How could they justify their fascination with such barbarism?

You see, I had a moral high ground: the Transformers, you see, weren't human. They were, in fact, not of this earth-- they were a technological impossibility, what with their arbitrary changing of size and their obviously-gratuitous-even-to-a-nine-year-old divisions into five-man themed groups. It was all a marketing stunt, and even at our tender age, we knew it. And that's what we loved about it, just as the nostalgists love it now. It was a story-- it wasn't something that could actually happen.

I remember overhearing my mom discussing the Transformers with another mom, either over the phone or over coffee or something. "But aren't they supposed to be these terrible, warring things...? How are they any better than G.I. Joe in that regard?"

I knew what the difference was. Maybe I couldn't have put it into words at the time, but I could tell how it all worked. I knew why I liked what I did and didn't like what I didn't.

The lesson Hiker suggests we learn from the Transformers is a cautionary one, while the G.I. Joe lesson that has congealed over the years is a threat. The Transformers teach by metaphor, G.I. Joe teaches by example. But while G.I. Joe is a paean to American might in arms, inexorable and unstoppable and not caring who or what gets in the way-- the Transformers' lesson is more subtle, more European: Don't throw away the good things we have in pursuit of the goal. But then, the Autobots' victory was always more in doubt with every passing set of end credits.

19:58 - Calling all nerds...
http://slashdot.org/apple/02/04/29/1127254.shtml?tid=107

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The obvious gag, that many people (including Paul) have noted, is that emacs now runs on eMacs.

By the way, take a look at Slashdot; the most negative thing anyone's said about the eMac all day is, "Kind of ugly, I think... And this is coming from someone who's used Macs for a long, long time. They should just go back to the Color Classic form factor and forget about all this space-shuttle-nosecone concept."

The article is listed under the "Yum-yum-gimme-some department". Once upon a time, as Paul says, this thread would have been the "slow-proc dept" or "fruity design dept".

Ah, how times change.

18:49 - Hey, it was this or Cabbage Patch Kids...
http://www.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/04/29/transformers.ap/index.html

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There are others who tend to focus on this topic a bit more than I do, and with good reason-- I know I can't hold a candle to their all-encompassing grasp of the subject. My life doesn't intersect with the Transformers to anywhere near the degree that Hiker's does. But you know... it was an awfully big part of my life back in fourth grade, and the fact that I don't seem to be taking part in this new wave of nostalgia owes more to the fact that I simply don't like to collect stuff than to any disdain for it.

I'm perfectly happy to stand on the sidelines and smile as this phenomenon rolls by. And I'll certainly eat up any articles like this one that cover it.

Until relatively recently, Peter Cullen didn't know people like Weiner existed.

But now the veteran voice-over actor, who supplied the voice of heroic Optimus Prime in "The Transformers" cartoon, has met hundreds of admirers and attended a fan convention.

Despite the program's low-production values and cynical marketing purpose (even fans acknowledge it's something of a glorified toy commercial) Cullen said he and other actors took pride in making the stories wholesome.

Prime, who transformed into a big-rig truck, led the good-guy Autobot robots in war against the resource-depleting Decepticons, led by the sinister Megatron, who changed into a massive silver handgun.

"I wanted Optimus Prime to be strong and just and fair," said Cullen, who now plays Eeyore in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons. "I saw him like John Wayne, and did a little of that voice. ... I wanted him to be a super-hero, not stupid or off-the-wall. He never yelled or lost his temper. I think the kids appreciated that."

Hmm. Maybe this is why I grew up liking stories like Preacher.

Oh, and Hollings and the Content Faction, take note:

Meanwhile, bootleg copies of all 98 original cartoon episodes proliferated for years on the Internet, the complete set selling for $70 to $90. Now Rhino Home Video is releasing the program's first 16-episode season on DVD, which retails for about $60. Other seasons will follow.

A day before its April 23 debut, advance sales of that 17-year-old cartoon show ranked No. 7 on the Amazon.com list of best-selling DVDs.

Transformer fans even posted praise for the discs weeks in advance, rejoicing that they no longer had to pirate the episodes.

"No more downloading, encoding and video CD burning for me!" one fan wrote on the Amazon review section. "I want the real thing!"

Got that?

17:42 - Content vs. Technology
http://www.reason.com/0205/fe.mg.hollywood.shtml

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The battle lines have been drawn, says Mike Godwin. The Content Faction (Disney, Time-Warner, the record companies) and the Tech Faction (Apple, HP, the hardware and software makers) have thrown down their gauntlets and are assuming the sumo stance.

One way to understand the conflict between the Content Faction and the Tech Faction is to look at how they describe their customers. For the content industries, they’re "consumers." By contrast, the information technology companies talk about "users."

If you see people as consumers, you control access to what you offer, and you do everything you can to prevent theft, for the same reason supermarkets have cameras by the door and bookstores have electronic theft detectors. Allowing people to take stuff for free is inconsistent with your business model.

But if you see people as users, you want to give them more features and power at cheaper prices. The impulse to empower users was at the heart of the microcomputer revolution: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak wanted to put computing power into ordinary people’s hands, and that’s why they founded Apple Computer. If this is your approach -- enabling people to do new things -- it’s hard to adjust to the idea of building in limitations.

Yeah, exactly. And I should note that software can be written completely independently of any company-- it's a product that requires no overhead for production, so it can be created by a kid in his bedroom. It's more democratic even than garage-band music; you don't even need to cut an album. You can become famous for a breakthrough idea in software, purely by creating it. There's nothing more to it-- no distribution, no having to have connections, book gigs, coattail anyone, bribe anyone, anything. Software is still changing so fast-- fueled by hardware and infrastructure that's still changing and improving faster than any other technology at any other time in history-- that there are all kinds of ideas out there just waiting to be had. The software "industry" is still fundamentally an artificial layer pasted on top of a free continuum of thought that has no need as yet for such barriers and channels. It will one day, but not yet.

And that's why barriers on capability are such anathema to tech people. All they're doing is trying to give people superpowers-- and it's sometyhing they are able to do purely through thought and ingenuity. Who's going to avoid having or acting on a brilliant idea because of the potential legal details of what might eventually be done with it? Ideas don't work that way. The motto of software creation is "Because it can be done"; the motto of content creation is "Because it makes business sense".

The Content Faction may be right that what people really want is compelling content over broadband. It may even be the case that, if they were asked, most people would be willing to trade the open, robust, relatively simple tools they now have for a more constrained digital world in which they have more content choices. But for now, nobody’s asking ordinary people what they want.

Well, I'll tell you what I want. I want superpowers. So get your filthy laws off my computer, Hollings.

13:12 - Defeated by a ruse so hackneyed, it would make Stan Lee blush!

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Okay, these recent Simpsons episodes are getting so there's something bizarre and surprising and rewarding each week-- and that's not in any way a bad thing.

Last night's episode (which I have to assume is new, judging by the "Bin Laden in a Blender" web cartoon made by a dot-com company that dies in the bubble) took a pretty merciless pot-shot at Stan Lee. I don't know what kind of sordid story lies behind what seems like a growing animosity between the Simpsons producers and Stan Lee, but it's certainly out in the open now. They portrayed the man as an annoying, delusional, paranoid, bitter old coot, hanging around the Android's Dungeon and being so irritating that even the Comic Book Guy spent the whole episode trying to make him go away. One priceless scene has Stan Lee trying to convince a kid that he didn't need to buy a Batman figurine to fit into his Batmobile-- see, the Incredible Hulk can fit into it just fine. See? Rrrgh... <crunch> <smash> rrmph. There! Fits just fine. (Said Batmobile is now a broken shambles.) The kid beats a hasty retreat, and Stan Lee busies himself rearranging the comics randomly on the shelf.

To say nothing of the whole Incredible Hulk ending. This is certainly a lot less flattering a portrayal than Kevin Smith gave him. I wonder what lies behind all this?

UPDATE: Okay, so Stan Lee was actually the voice of Stan Lee. So he's just doing self-effacing humor. In which case he rules.

11:38 - Stage Three: Mockery...
http://www.raytracer25.btinternet.co.uk/iToilet/itoilet.html

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I'm just posting this so as to try to forestall a dozen ICQ messages which would otherwise probably be waiting for me when I get home from work, pointing me gleefully toward this URL.

Yes, yes. I've seen it.

Ho ho, very amusing. And yet, this kind of thing infuriates me no end. Not because of the Mac mockery-- we've all gotten used to that. Remember the iBrator? We all loved the iBrator. Some of my friends even had it as their desktop background for a while. This new incarnation is no different-- in fact, it's firmly on the hackneyed side, considering that it appears to be making fun of iBooks that left the market a year ago, even though the page is brand-new.

No, what really steams my cauliflower is the underlying attitude behind something like this. I mean, humor and satire is one thing. Mac parody sites are full of such stuff-- and it's all the funnier when it's written by someone who's a Mac fan. We like to poke fun at ourselves just like any marginalized group does.

But this kind of inflammatory ranting just makes my skin crawl:
The iToilet features dual pipe™ technology. This makes the iToilet flush twice as fast as a Pentium-based model!

* Well, if truth be told, Apple has yet to find a way to equal the superiority and speed of the Pentium, but Steve Jobs insists that adding the second pipe does make the iToilet flush twice as fast (Hey, we did it with the G4 and nobody realised!)

And...

Stupid boring idiotic people who choose to use other cheap inferior toilets (such as the ridiculously fast and super-reliable Microsoft "Toilet 2000" or "Loo XP") have to unclog the
old-fashioned way - by pressing the "unclog" button. We laugh in their faces because the procedure is just so much quicker and far more fun with the iToilet! To unclog, follow these simple instructions:

STEP 1: When the message box pops up telling you that the iToilet has clogged, simply click the restart button in the dialogue box. Keep clicking this button until you realise that it won't do anything anyway because the iToilet has totally frozen and is not responding. Proceed to Step 2

STEP 2: Press and hold the following keys on your iToilet keypad: Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Command+Esc.
This doesn't do anything either, so proceed to Step 3.

...Et cetera.

This isn't satire. This is vicious and bitter-minded venom. Satire wouldn't have lines singing the praises of Windows XP. The wording, the texture is all wrong for satire-- it points at a much more petty motivation for doing this kind of thing. Just hearing someone voluntarily standing up and cheering for Microsoft sickens me-- and the thought that it's not done as parody made it difficult for me to drive in to work this morning without veering off into a ditch.

Th guy claims to be a 3D artist with his own studio specializing in 3D Studio Max. Since he's in the industry, one would have to assume that he's familiar with the reasons why Macs are widely favored there. It's not because of Macolytes, it's because the machines are better suited to the task. And he's either railing against what he sees as a ridiculous contender against the righteous Microsoft hegemony, or else he's just got a very poorly developed sense of humor.

I'm going to mail him and find out. I certainly hope it's the latter; because people who take pleasure in kicking the underdog are not welcome on my planet.

11:13 - Gah!
http://www.apple.com/education/emac/

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I think that's the reaction everybody has had this morning to the out-of-the-blue announcement of the eMac. At least, once we realized it was for real, and not some kind of bizarre post-April-Fools joke.

It's a new edumacation-oriented Mac-- priced at $999 and $1199, which is what I would probably peg as its biggest weakness for its target market-- which seems to amount specification-wise to the new iMac with a 17" CRT and no DVD-R option, which brings the price down by about $400. Now, granted, it means Steve-o's "Death of the CRT" comment back in January may have been a tad premature-- so I'm wondering whether this machine has only been in development for less than four months or something.

It's a nice piece of design work. The speakers have covers (which they seem to have removed for a few of the PR shots). The screen is big, supports hi-res mode (1280x1024), and weighs 50 pounds (hey, built-in theft protection, as some wag pointed out). It has a G4. It has lots of FireWire and USB. The AirPort slot is right inside the optical-drive door, which makes me wonder-- yeah, it's easy to install, but it's also easy for a kid to yank it out... isn't it? ...Unless it's a PCMCIA card...?

So, hey-- it could be a winner. Sure caught us all by surprise. Nice pre-WWDC fanfare-less announcement, Steve. We never know what you're gonna do next, do we?

Naturally, because it's a CRT-based all-in-one, its shape is reminiscent of the orignial iMac (which, incidentally, is still being sold). What really gets me is how so many of the headlines are now cackling about the machine's lack of candy-like colors. "No pretty colors on this souped-up machine!" crows the San Francisco Chronicle. Has nobody been paying attention? For two years now we've been hearing groundless rumors being started by random pundits about how the TiBook will be available in several anodized metallic colors and patterns, how the iPod would soon come with snap-on color patterns, how the Luxo iMac would soon be available in black and green and ultramarine. Hello? They haven't been doing multiple colors for years now. That was an iMac stunt, designed to grab people's attention for Apple's comeback. And now that comeback has succeeded, and so Apple's design aesthetic has moved on to the current silvery-white and stainless-steel look. No, it's not "Snow", so all you resellers-- quit listing the iBook and the iPod and the iMac as "Snow", like you expect there to be new color options any day now.

I'm also hearing that some morons are still pissing and moaning about the lack of floppy drives in new Macs, and (bizarrely) acting surprised that this one doesn't have a floppy either. Why the crap should it? Macs haven't had floppies since 1998-- and good riddance to 'em. We don't need floppies. We have CDs. Burning a CD is now almost as fast as writing to a floppy-- so why confuse people with two forms of media that do almost exactly the same thing? What's the point of supporting an obsolete 80s technology when we have a perfectly serviceable replacement? These machines are designed to be online at all times, so they can share files over the network just fine. Boot floppy? Hey, Slick, Macs can boot from CD just fine, unlike PCs. No freaky BIOS settings here. Just hold down C while booting. "But it would only cost them like $5 to add a floppy drive, and then it could be compatible with PCs!" Yeah, and they'd have to make room in the case and design around it, and it'd be another component to worry about in a machine designed for simplicity. Look, floppies are dead, and the sooner you get used to that, the better off we'll all be.

And if your beef with the lack of floppy is because it interferes with your ability to run Linux on a Mac, well, I've got a few ideas for where you can insert that disk.
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