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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, May 19, 2002
01:48 - What a Wonderful World
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/05/Thereisgoodness.shtml

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We may be a bunch of money-grubbing, self-centered, gun-toting, simplistic, anarchistic cowboys with bulletproof hair-- but we return each other's property, at least on occasion, as Steven den Beste found out.

I'm reminded of a story that happened to me back in 1996, during that godawful set of trimesters when I flamed out of my sophomore year and spent the fall quarter at home taking classes at Mendocino College so I could build up a good GPA and petition UASH in the winter to let me back into Caltech. I was taking the highest-level math class the college offered (which actually was about equivalent in content to the Math 2 class that I was supposed to be taking at Tech, though not as rigorous), as well as creative writing and a couple of other time-fillers. I also carried around a sketch notebook, which was filled with... erm, well, material of an intensely personal nature. It didn't have my name in it, nor my address, or any other identification; just a title page warning unauthorized readers of what content lay beyond.

And I lost it one day, in the math classroom. I apparently just left it sitting there. The next day, panicked, I asked my math teacher and the teachers who used the room after my class whether anyone had turned it in; I asked the campus Lost & Found repeatedly over the next few days whether it had turned up. No luck; never any leads. Eventually I gave up, figuring that at least nobody at the college knew me or knew that the notebook was mine, so I would at least be spared embarrassment.

So imagine the gear into which my brain shifted when a few days later, the notebook appeared in my home mailbox, in a plain brown wrapper, with no return address or note or explanation. Imagine the paranoia of my subsequent week or two. Imagine my rocking back and forth on my heels in a fetal position, mentally cataloging every face I knew on campus and retracing my steps, over and over and over. And I never did find out who it was, not to this day.

Yeah, humans aren't inherently evil. But some of them are sadistic mofo's.

14:14 - The Free Spirit
http://www.dreamworks.com/spirit/

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Opening on Memorial Day, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is going to be one of those films that seems perfectly timed these days.

True, it's about horses, which means it will probably generate a huge new fandom among 14-year-old girls. But beyond that, it's the spiritual successor of The Lion King more than anything else in the past decade-- produced by Katzenberg, animated by John Baxter, music by Hans Zimmer, and the same color keys and visual style that made TLK what it was.

I just saw a "Making of Spirit" half-hour special, which went over the filmmaking techniques behind this movie-- it's the most ambitious blend of traditional 2D animation and computer/3D imaging that we've seen to date. All the characters are 3D-rendered as much as they are hand-drawn, in a technique that seems to be a new form of "rotoscoping"-- not in the sense that they're "cheating" by filming live actors and then animating over them, but in the sense that it lets them use 3D to develop the characters in live space as deftly as Pixar does with their characters... but then the 2D animation is overlaid with all the character and nuance that comes from the best Disney 2D art. The result is characters who are more alive than I've ever seen in any previous animated film, and more realistic in all their movements. It's one thing to do them all in CG, like in Dinosaur; but this blends the best of both worlds.

And this in a movie based on the most difficult of all figures to animate, the animator's nightmare: the horse. Even John Baxter had to spend months studying before he was ready for this project.

Anyway, the film is not about "belonging" or "finding true love" or any of that schmaltzy, overused gunk. This film is about freedom, and it's about America. The huge landscapes of the American West are as much a character in this film as any of the cast are; and the story is about a horse who refuses to be broken, upholding a theme banner of individuality and freedom being the highest of aspirations-- and supremely worth fighting for.

It's a sentiment that will be very timely, it seems, now that America is being roundly criticized throughout the world for its individualism and its commitment to personal freedom over and beyond the "common good". While we're taking fire for the things that we're only just now remembering that this country stands for, it's going to be a ninety-minute balm to see wild mustangs, bald eagles, grizzlies, bison, and elk against the backdrops of Monument Valley and the Grand Tetons, and have it be presented as the very romantic paradise that it's never been shown so unabashedly to be on the big screen before. This is, after all, the first time an animated feature has been shot in CinemaScope-- and they're doing it because it seemed blasphemous to film these landscapes any other way.

I don't know-- we'll see whether it's any good. But it looks like it may well be another of those film projects that's done for the pure joy of bringing certain images and a certain story to life-- like The Iron Giant and The Rescuers Down Under-- where in the triumphant whoops of pure fun we remember just why it is that Hollywood could only have happened here.

13:51 - "As Chaste as the Pope"
http://www.hour.ca/columns/c_messy.asp?id=958

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You know... this whole "Pedophile Priests" thing may have caught everybody off-guard, or so it would seem from how unthinkable all the news organs claim it is. Well... you know, if you're the kind of person who's devoid of humor, and who thinks The Simpsons is blasphemous and whose idea of biting social satire is Ziggy, then yeah-- I'm sure it's come as a complete surprise. But for those of us with senses of humor, those of us who watch South Park and read Preacher, this is old, old news.

The schtick of the lascivious priest with the outlandish tastes and appetites is such an old gag that it's become a stereotype. My favorite line on the subject is by Nathan Lane, in Jeffrey: "Perhaps you didn't hear me. I am a Catholic priest. Historically, that rates somewhere between chorus boy and florist. Now c'mere, you big lug!"

Small wonder, to me, that so many of the best comedians are self-described "ex-Catholics". And as Glenn Reynolds noted a little while ago, Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) took the stuffing out of Susan Sarandon over her fatally unrealistic approach to fighting terrorism, her insistence that we understand what is behind the hatred the Islamic world has for us. "Getting us to understand that," he said, "is like asking black people to understand why the Klan puts on pointy white hats."

Reynolds then notes, "Why is it that among the entertainment crew it's the comics who are disproportionately making sense on this stuff? Is it because they're the only ones whose jobs allow them to tell the truth?"

So, you know, we could have seen this coming long ago if more people had paid attention to the kind of raucous, "inappropriate" comedy that so many people are so concerned about shielding their youngsters' eyes from. I've always been of the opinion that when we allow ourselves to laugh at life, to stop taking everything so damned seriously, to see the ridiculous in every aspect of life (including-- and especially-- the things we hold dear), only then do we become capable of making rational decisions and taking effective action when problems arise. The instant we start treating some things as "sacred", that's when we deliberately begin blinding ourselves to the truth-- because you know, nothing in life is sacred. It's just not. Pretending that it is makes us rigid and stubborn and vulnerable for when they turn out not to be sacred-- and instead turn out to be child-molesters.

Humans so desperately want to believe in absolutes; but you know, those of us who don't weren't caught by surprise when this story broke.

Anyway, the linked article covers a book by Charlotte Poe (another "ex-Catholic") which describes the depravity of many of the past Popes, among a great deal else that's eye-opening and bizarre.

Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was apparently a flaming fag who spent vast sums of church money on Mardi Gras-like parades, spectaculars and banquets. He slept during the day and spent nights adorning himself with priceless jewellery and frolicking with his numerous boyfriends in the sumptuous rooms of the Vatican. Paul also was into voyeurism and bondage, it seems, and liked nothing more than to watch naked men being racked and tortured in the papal dungeons. It was said that during a particularly vigorous session on July 26, 1471, Paul died of a heart attack while being sodomized by one of his favourite boys.

Another poofter, Leo X (1513-1521) was said to have invited guests to lavish banquets with up to 65 courses - banquets, by the way, at which little boys jumped naked out of puddings.

...Though not surprising.
Saturday, May 18, 2002
16:01 - George Lucas Apologizes for Episode I
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/entertainment/film/newsid_1945000/1945447.stm

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In this BBC News article from April 23rd, George Lucas admits that Episode I was stupid, silly, disappointing, and overmarketed. He promises that Episode II will have 2/3 less merchandising tie-in-ry, and he touts its lack of "silly characters or kids" as a big selling point.

It takes a big man to cry. But it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man. And it takes an even bigger man to spend $115 million, earn four times that in the US alone, and admit that artistically it was a piece of crap.

Thanks, George. This is all I needed to hear. You're back on top now.

11:27 - I've got some blue face-paint around here somewhere...
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/05/Warriorengineeringandsold.shtml

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There's a chastening article at USS Clueless about how innovative Dell and Microsoft are-- just that where they excel is in manufacturing and in marketing, respectively, rather than in engineering. And because I'm an engineering geek, I (and other Mac advocates) tend to focus on engineering innovation when we compare Apple to these companies.

Lots of good points, and the "warrior-vs-soldier" metaphor is pretty apt (Steve looks ridiculous on stage even to us, but dammit, those presentations are just fun, pure and simple). But:

Of course, Microsoft is also ruthless and voracious and relentless, but deep down all companies are (though perhaps not to as great an extent). The real point is that at Microsoft engineering serves marketing, rather than the other way around.

That is Apple's biggest problem: the engineers are in charge. First we come up with the next big thing which is insanely-great. Then we figure out who we're going to sell it to. Or maybe not; maybe we just wait for the world to beat a path to our door. (World? uh, World? Hey, where are they all?)

That's the warrior mentality: prove how cool you are, and wait for people to follow you. That's not how soldiers work, though, and soldiers will beat warriors nine times out of ten.

First you figure out who the customers are and what they want. Then you design something to satisfy them, and you ship it. That's why WinCE is a success and the Newton is a dusty memory.

Yes, that's true-- but, again, this is using examples from a decade ago, when Apple was floundering. The Newton was a solution-looking-for-a-problem, to such a degree that the world greeted it like a helicopter landing in ancient Rome.

But Steve Jobs wasn't anywhere in the neighborhood when the Newton was developed, and the nature of Apple has fundamentally changed since he returned. Now, they come up with things like multi-colored computer cases (can't say that didn't catch on-- even the hideous "Flower Power" one actually sold very well, to women), DVD burning (adoption is slow, but ramping up), adjustable-neck LCDs, wireless networking, and the iApps (which they know from experience are the bread-and-butter of computing today). The Xserve is a perfect example-- they went into the market very humbly, by going to all the potential customers and finding out what each one wanted, writing it down, and building to those specifications. When Steve took the stage to announce the Xserve, it was the most horseshit-free keynote he'd ever given-- he listed specifications, he showed off the innards, he talked about service, he held a Q&A session. He knew that it was a market that wouldn't swallow the typical marketing line that sold other Apple computers, and he wanted to prove that Apple could play the numbers game too. It's a field where Apple isn't taken seriously at all, because of the historical geek-driven "cool" of the rest of their product line.

With machines like the iMac, Apple is now accused of developing products in which function takes a back-seat to form; but you know, those products sell.

Whereas Microsoft now seems to be in the business more and more of inventing solutions-looking-for-problems, even more so than Apple. Like that tablet PC-- introduced in the same week that Sony discontinued their existing one due to poor sales. People had been expecting Apple to bring out a tablet PC for a year or two, but they didn't-- because they realized nobody wanted one. There have been tablet PC prototypes running around inside Infinite Loop ever since the first PowerBooks; there are always all kinds of weird one-offs in the labs. But they only develop the ones that really seem to have the potential to sell. Instead of the tablet PC, they brought out an MP3 player that now seems to have become archetypal. Similarly, Apple has stayed out of the PDA market lately, saying that "I'm not sure that's a very fun place to be right now"-- and I don't blame them. They have engineers with PDAs. They've seen how people use PDAs for two months and then you never see them again. Instead, they've made it so people can use their iPods as contact managers-- which is the killer app of PDAs anyway.

Sure, they still make mistakes (Cube), but their track record in recent years has been a whole lot better than it was in the Dim Years.

Now, this is still solving a different problem from the one den Beste points out-- that Apple is still acting like "warriors" rather than "soldiers":

But that's still working on the level of trying to use engineering to win rather than using marketing.

They're becoming more sophisticated warriors. They're still not soldiers.

And my response is to draw a parallel with which I'm rather uncomfortable, but which I've been dancing around now for months: When you're outnumbered twenty to one, you'd better be warriors and not soldiers-- it takes different tactics. Al Qaeda didn't march into New York in regimented units, and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade don't confine themselves to IDF military targets.

If Apple behaved like soldiers, they'd be a distant memory by now-- not holding their own against an industry in which they're barely a radar blip, and turning a profit too.

Maybe that means the best destiny for which they can hope is a glorious death in battle, or something. But I do know Apple is still with us, after being "irrelevant" and "going out of business" for fifteen years running. And maybe there are some freedom-fighter rebellions that are worth fighting...
Friday, May 17, 2002
02:39 - Queen Kaitlyn

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If I were to pick out one thing that simply does not work for me in Star Wars Episode I and II, surprise-- it's not Jar-Jar. Though he ranks right up there. His role in Episode II is so brief that it doesn't really bug me, which takes down his average a bit.

No, the big problem I have is: Natalie Portman.

Sure, she's a very good physical actress, bearing the mantle of "teenager queen with funky headdresses" in the first movie, and "white-clad action heroine" in the second. But... her delivery is just so ... well, anything but "regal". She sounds like an LA high-school kid. She has a breathy, dimply lilt that makes her sound like she's about fourteen-- even in Episode II, when she's supposed to be ten years older than in the first movie.

Compare this to Carrie Fisher, whose Leia was brash, strong, clear, and adult. There's an absolute world of difference between the way Leia says "If money is all that you love, then that's what you'll receive", and the way Amidala says "You'll always be the little boy I knew on Tatooine".

Now, I don't mean that I demand the two to sound alike. But I do mean that I have trouble taking seriously someone who sounds like Drew Barrymore or an MTV veejay trying to pass herself off as a planet's Queen. I had enough of that reading the Oz books way back when.

18:23 - The Case for the Empire
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/248ipzbt.asp

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Somehow I had a feeling that the pundits would descend upon Star Wars with searing insight into the Lucasian political universe as it applies to today's world, especially since Episode II is so overflowing with political ideas and mind-bending imagery of change. (Seeing the end of the film, with the clone stormtroopers marching into the proto-Star Destroyers, taking off to defend what we think of by that point as the "good guys" against the evil separatists, against a fiery red sky, is quite an "Uhhh..." moment.)

So here we have The Weekly Standard making the case for the Empire. You know, "freedom fighters" and "rebels" don't seem to ring so sweetly with us Americans these days anymore, do they?

I had been hoping to see Episodes 7, 8, and 9, when it seemed likely that they would exist-- if just because the end of Return of the Jedi seemed so anticlimactic. How many Jedi, exactly, "returned"? Why was it so good for Galactic society that they did? With the Empire destroyed, what does the Rebel Alliance propose to do in order to govern in the Empire's power vacuum? And how would they do it better than the Empire (which we saw only as interior shots of military spaceships, rather than everyday life on the planets, as in Episodes I and II)? These are questions that undoubtedly were originally intended to be answered in the third trilogy of movies (which may yet be made-- who knows?).

But it's interesting, isn't it, to see how a movie's point can change as the world circumstances that surround its making change?

11:12 - Still scraping off the limpets...
http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0,10738,2865868,00.html

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This time it's Stephen Somogyi at ZDNet with a glowing outlook for the Xserve-- noting that it's an entrant into what's likely the very most demanding sector of the market, with the very most stringent product requirements, and Apple's offering is extremely competitive. Not even "for a first try" competitive-- I'm talking best-of-breed. It's a 1U box competing with 2U boxes, because the 1U competition is significantly more expensive for the same features (or significantly less advanced for the same price, as you prefer).

But what ZDNet article would be complete without some moron in the TalkBack at the bottom with the obligatory "Apple sucks! All their products suck! The only people who would ever buy Macs are morons who don't know what a real computer is!" post. (Although as is happening more and more frequently these days, such posts get ripped to shreds almost unanimously by their follow-ups.

This one's just priceless, though.

I hate to go inserting reality into all this heady fantasy, but...

Remember that Apple is the company that can't convince more than 1 in 20 people to buy one of their machines in the consumer market. This is a market where the Apple faithful were willing to overlook the shortcomings of the original I-Mac having no direct means of backup or even an easy method of transporting data from one machine to another, not to mention NO method of connecting a different monitor when the internal one fails.

No, the I-Mac's 2 biggest selling points: A different colored box and the fact that it isn't Microsoft. Someone buying machines for a server farm isn't going to be making the same numb-skull decisions as the people that bought the I-Macs because of fruit colored translucent boxes and a consuming hatred of Microsoft (not necessarily undeserved, mind you).

So if Apple can't do any better in the market they're best suited for (naive first time buyers, ABMers, and force of habit graphic artists) what in the world makes them think they're going to make it in a highly competitive market where they've never had a presence before and where the people making the buying decisions aren't going to be as influenced by what color the box is that houses the guts? Yesterday I actually saw someone spend a paragraph talking about the pretty LEDs on the new Apple server and how much fun it would be to watch the CPU load indicators change.

Everyday we're seeing at least one story about an insignificant niche player trying to play puffer-fish. Does anyone wonder why?

This is the future of web advertising, folks! It's not too hard to figure out who paid for the Intel java ad in the middle of Anchordesk, but I'd bet a significant amount of money that all these stories on Apple are bought and paid for just like the Intel ad is. In radio and television there's a law requiring sponsors contributing over a certain percentage to a particular program to disclose their involvement. This is the reason for "billboards" ("Tonight's episode of Friends is brought to you by..."). But in web publishing there is no such requirement. That's why we have the Apple ads disguised as content.

I have seen some jokes about the "Steve Jobs field of reality distortion" the last few days. Everyone seems quite amazed by it but the explanation is really quite simple and easily explained in the digital world of ones and zeroes. You take a special piece of paper including the words "Apple, Inc." and the name of some bank in Cupertino. On the line that starts "Pay the amount of..." you place a 1. You then begin adding zeroes until the distortion field achieves the desired level. Here's a little chart:

Tracking the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field:

No zeroes: Distortion too small to be measured.
1 zero: Threshold of visibility. Distortion barely detectable.
2 zeroes: Slightly more noticeable but still barely evident.
3 zeroes: Much more noticeable but reality still clearly visible.
4 zeroes: Now we're getting somewhere. Reality still slightly visible but extremely hard to see.
5 zeroes: You mean someone else besides Apple makes computers?
6 zeroes: What's reality?

I really don't have any problem with ZDNet getting money from Apple. They are in a publishing business that is advertiser supported and I can't blame them a bit for capitalizing on willing customers. And if Apple is giving them a lot of money then I would expect to see a lot of Apple ads. That goes with the territory. Remember, I'm the guy that doesn't see all advertising as the ultimate evil that some of the other forum posters do. I'm not even running ad-blocking software so that nice Lycos ad at the top of this page and the Intel, IBM, and Oracle java ads on the start page have gotten more than the occasional glance from me.

And I'm not so naive as to think for one minute that all those pro-Apple articles by DC and others are just some of the staffers finally realizing what a wonderful product Apple makes and feeling guilty for ignoring it for so long. I just have a problem with the presentation. The java ads have a little arrow pointing to them saying "Advertisement" (like we wouldn't have figured it out on our own). I'd say it's kind of unnecessary for them, but I think it would show a great deal of honesty to put the "Advertisement" moniker at the beginning of stories like these. There really are people out there that don't realize these are just as much commercials as the Lycos ad at the top of this page.

I won't bother picking this apart, because it's already done quite well by some of the other respondents. But I just had to make note of the delicious little logical leap he makes about halfway through, and then treats as fact for the rest of the post: that Apple is paying-off the columnists at ZDNet and other tech sites to write Apple-positive articles. You see, because only a moron would say anything positive about Apple on his own steam.

Look: Apple isn't perfect. They do some pretty repugnant things of their own. Their repair and service channel, for instance, leaves a lot to be desired, as I hear frequently from Marcus (who works in an Apple Certified Reseller service shop). And they're pigeon-holed into some technology that isn't on all counts the best in the field, and sometimes their marketing is misleading when it comes to performance. (I'm well aware that the G4 is a laggard when it comes to integer and floating-point math, which is why the marketing tends to focus on graphics and media processing, which is dependent heavily on vector operations, where the G4 completely blows away the competition.)

But these are details. Take your telephoto lens and zoom way, way, waaaaaay back, and see where computers are today compared to where they were twenty years ago, or even ten. Macs and PCs are neck-and-neck, technology-wise. They both do the same things, they both run the same kinds of software. It's no longer an argument between command-line proponents and GUI lovers; it's an argument between very subtly different flavors of GUI, with similar feature sets, whose only differences are in the details of implementation.

So what's the selling point that Apple brings to the table?

New stuff.

They think of new stuff. Like LCD monitors on adjustable swing-arms. Wireless networking. DVD burning. Digital video editing. Portable music players that you simply plug in, wait a few moments, unplug, and go.

The reason it's so hard for me to word this in such a way that it's convincing is because once you've been a part of the Mac community for a while, it all becomes so obvious that this is the winning team that when you start trying to explain it, you start sputtering. You quote examples, you take pictures, you write long-winded repetitive articles, you get more and more frustrated as it just doesn't sink into the listener's skull. Eventually, you probably just give up and learn to ignore the cacophony of people jeering at you and your candy-colored lickable so-called "computer".

I haven't given up yet, and I'm not about to-- after all, now we have the press on our side. And more importantly, we have the geeks on our side-- at Slashdot, The Register, Ars Technica, and elsewhere, you'll find legions of developers and innovators toting TiBooks and G4 PowerMacs, their eyes bugging out when they see the comparison curves in FileMerge or the almost obscene level of Object-Oriented visual nature of Project Builder or the flexibility of Cocoa. You'll see a whole new generation of technological movers-and-shakers who are growing up in an era where Apple represents cool rather than retarded-- and so in the next few years, we're going to reap the rewards as these people start running new software companies, writing killer apps, and running IT departments.

And that's why the Xserve is perfectly timed and perfectly targeted.

Pretty soon, the people who say "Macs are for losers!" will be looked at with the same expression as you would reserve for someone who says "Air travel is for idiots! Rail, man, that's the only way!"
Thursday, May 16, 2002
21:55 - Captain on the bridge
http://www.denbeste.nu/

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Over at USS Clueless, the Cap'n exhorts us to eschew stupid political correctness in favor of having a little honest fun. Hey, don't worry, man-- I'm way ahead of you on that front. (Though politicians aren't likely to follow suit, not when there's stonewalling to do. Remember when Dogbert petitioned Congress to ban the obscene lyrics in opera? "Senator, I think we've found something else to keep us from doing real work!" "Ooh-ooh!")

He also explains what it is that Microsoft really wants from its monopoly-- not the death of rival software companies, but the preservation of their exclusive right to own the desktop. No virtual machines, no meta-environments, no write-once-run-anywhere platform-independent stuff. No portability-- just Windows.

This doesn't exactly make me feel better than if they simply wanted to kill Netscape and Java out of meanness and pettiness. In fact, it's worse. It means they're far more concerned with maintaining the status quo of their monopoly than with innovating-- innovation is something they do only when it suits them, and by this model that's the only way it makes sense. Don't innovate unless it helps to crush a potential threat to the platform monopoly. If that wasn't their focus, it would mean that IE and .NET and the Xbox are all genuine expressions of inventiveness that they just happened to give the leverage of monopoly in order to hawk them. And it seems that's not the case.

One would think that a company this repugnant would have no support at all among the buying public. But, of course, these issues take a lot more thought and effort than simply using Windows like a good boy.

21:08 - Yes, but...
http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0,10738,2865677,00.html

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Everyone's favorite Wintel-weenie-turned-Macophile, David Coursey, offers some thoughts on the Xserve.

He brings up a few points which may not have been discussed before, and tries to head off the usual brain-dead knee-jerk feedback through tempering statements of his own against his positive observations. (Naturally, the feedback is still brain-dead and knee-jerk.)

But like I've been saying, the press is now very consistently on Apple's side, as hasn't been the case in a long time. They've gotten over their prejudices. Now if only the rest of the world can do as much.

16:59 - An Army of Chakotays

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Just got back from seeing Episode II, and my sound-bite verdict is that it's very good. Certainly a hell of a lot better than Episode I, though that's not much of a stretch. It's about halfway between Episode I and the other three in "feel", and that's more progress than I'd hoped for.

I won't trouble getting into the plot details (of which there are far too many to deal with anyway-- talk about convoluted storylines); I'll just say one thing: Lucas has finally figured out how to integrate a prequel into a series, and that has made all the difference.

Episode I suffered from repeated plot-point references to other Star Wars movies, but it made the ridiculous mistake of referring to events which would happen later in the series-- the most obvious example being when Qui-Gon tries to use his Jedi mind-tricks to get Watto to sell him that engine or whatever-it was, and Watto said "What, you think you some kind of Jedi or something? You mind tricks don' work on me!" Which only has a place in the script if the honest exchange to which it refers-- the "These aren't the droids you're looking for" scene from Episode IV-- has already taken place in the series. You canNOT do the same scene twice by playing it with a twist the first time and playing it straight the second time. Vice versa is fine. They do it all the time. But not the way they did it in Episode I.

But this time around, while the references to other SW movies abound, they're done properly-- which is to say, they don't detract from the impact of the antecedent scenes in later episodes, and in fact they help to foreshadow them. When Anakin feels that his mother is in pain and rushes off to save her, with all the consequences that ensue, it's not just a pre-reference to Luke rushing off to save Han and Leia and so on in Bespin in Episode V-- but it's a foreshadowing of the event, invoking the same issues. The only difference is in scale (here in Episode II, it's a quick personal vendetta, whereas in Empire it's a much larger-scope decision that results in cataclysmic revelations and so on). First comes the small-scale event, then later there's the large-scale mirroring event. Much better done.

It was good to see the droids back to their familiar selves, but I could have done without C-3PO's ad-libbed quipping. "This is a drag!" "I'm beside myself!" C'mon-- this isn't Nickelodeon. This we don't need.

And as we all noted when coming out of the theater, Episode III is going to have to involve some kind of cataclysmic event that knocks Galactic technology backwards by a couple hundred years before it looks like the stuff in Episode IV. The stuff we're seeing in the early episodes is straight out of Star Trek-- smooth, shiny, aerodynamic, computer-generated. But the stuff that we see in episodes IV through VI are angular, blocky, utilitarian, and heavily detailed in that way that only the hands of skilled model artisans can make it. And going from the insanely fast pace of the battle scenes in Episode II to the leisurely, spare clank of Episode IV will be trippy indeed.

Oh, one other note: Jar-Jar's role in Episode II was blessedly brief. And if he was only there so as to appear as the lone, unexpectedly courageous Senator who makes the audacious proposal to the Senate, then I'll live with it-- as long as we don't ever have to see him again.

Looks like Lucas is back on track. I'm glad to see it.

And the story is getting big now, at last.

11:20 - If I tell myself it's going to suck...

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Our whole engineering department, as is our company's tradition when there's some huge blockbuster movie event opening, is going out to see Star Wars today.

I've read enough early reviews to know that it rocks, it sucks, and it sucks rocks. I'm not holding out any hope that it will be anywhere near as good as we thought Episode 1 would be until we saw it. But word is that it's at least fun.

The showing is at 12:45, so we need to go get some early lunch and then go stand in line.

We're earning our pay, honest!

11:15 - Gardeners in the Garden of the Dead
http://freshair.npr.org/dayFA.cfm?display=day&todayDate=05%2F15%2F2002

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Looks like I need to pick up a copy of this week's New Yorker.

It features a photographic gallery of the WTC site over the past several months by Joel Meyerowitz, who was interviewed last night on NPR's Fresh Air. It was one of the best such interviews I've heard in a long time, and what's especially weird is that earlier yesterday I had just been thinking about the WTC site, what it must look like today, and what they might build there.

He talked about his first panoramic shots that he took of the site in late September, when it was still smoking, lit by stadium lights.

He talked about walking past an escalator every day that led up to a second-story day-care center across the street from the site, frozen in ash-- he went up there and found all the cribs and tables smashed up against the far wall, where the force of the buildings' collapse had driven them, from through the WTC-facing plate-glass window.

He talked about visiting the Fresh Kills landfill, which had been closed just months before 9/11 (it had been "completely filled up"), and was reopened to accept all the rubble from the buildings. Said rubble appeared as though it had all been cataloged, tagged, and stacked without regard to its initial purpose-- fire trucks stacked eight high, steel girders and office equipment, and a larger-than-life human-figure Rodan sculpture lying on its side right next to a piece of the airplane.

He talked about some of the relics he's acquired from the site-- most notably, a 2-foot-long piece of steel that a cleanup worker had given him, which had a Bible heat-welded to it, opened to the "eye for an eye" sermon.

He talked about the kind of memorial he'd like to see there: in among whatever buildings get put in, a forest made up of 3000 trees. They would be pines of various sorts, natively from whatever countries the various victims of the attacks were from (80 English firs, 100 trees from Germany, or whatever the numbers are). Then each tree could represent a person, to anyone who might want to visit the site, in an abstract way.

He talked about what the WTC site looks like now-- it's a huge, 16-acre pit, which the workers (the "cleaners") call the Bathtub. It's almost completely cleared and smooth; it has a single column left from the South Tower, which people are still attaching photos to; the plan is that when all the cleanup is done, they'll take down that column, drape it in flags, put it on a flatbed truck and then on a barge, and send it out to sea to float wherever it will.

At the other end of the Bathtub is a giant mound of fine-grained rubble, which the cleaners continually spread out over the open space and rake for human artifacts-- a shoe, a bone, anything that can be used for forensic identification. They just keep raking, and they feel compelled not to stop; some of them go back to rake even when they've put away their uniforms for the day. The guy that Meyerowitz talked to said that they were "gardeners in the garden of the dead."

I want to see these photos. I may have to go pick up a copy.

But then Fresh Air moved on to Paul Goldberger, the New Yorker's architecture critic; he talked about potential plans for things to put in where the WTC was. To my unabashed disappointment, he did confirm that it was very unlikely that they would build something similar to the previous WTC-- no mega-skyscrapers, primarily because nobody builds mega-skyscrapers anymore (the economics stop being in their favor after about 80 stories), but also because nobody's going to want to have their offices on the 100th floor of a building right where the old one was.

Sure, it would be a perfect act of defiance, but as he went on to say, there are other ways of being defiant than rebuilding exactly as it was.

The one thing we can't do, though, is leave the site empty of buildings. To do so, in one of the least trite usages of the term in the past eight months would be to let the terrorists win. Because if their goal was to eliminate the heart of the busiest financial center in the hated West, then it would become a colossal success. Especially, if Occidental Intelligence Briefing is correct, the World Trade Center towers-- more than any other landmark or piece of infrastructure-- were seen in the Muslim world as a symbol of global Islamic failure in defiance of what Allah had promised-- and so therefore it had to go. (I agree with OIB's author on the point that this should make us feel a bit better-- if what they wanted to destroy was symbols rather than infrastructure, then we don't have much left to worry about on the same front.)

Goldberger talked about "healing the skyline" with some kind of non-business-related tower, maybe something communications-related (like the CN Tower, and after all the WTC did have that gigantic antenna which could stand to be replaced) and/or an observation deck or something. Some kind of landmark which would suggest the WTC and place something significant into the void the towers left, but not something as imposing.

Presumably his comments will appear in the same New Yorker issue. I want to see what some of the proposals look like.

I'll see if I can find a newsstand.
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
01:43 - Did I ever mention how much I detest sports?
http://www.livejournal.com/users/branwyn/

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Via some random hey-you-might-like-this pointer from a friend, I had the opportunity to read this rather eye-opening entry in a Torontonian acquaintance's LiveJournal about what's happening up there in Hockey Playoffs Season.

First, go back to the end of January here (use the little date-picker thingy at the top of the page); you'll find a post I made on Super Bowl Sunday about how horrific and how damaging to society that I think sports are; but now that I've read this entry, I no longer worry that we have it bad down here. I can only thank my lucky stars that I don't live where I have to burrow into a hillside for several weeks every spring in order to avoid stuff like this:

And just when my baby had finally forgiven me (I spent 4h+ cleaning him) I drove him though downtown on a day when the Toronto Maple Leafs (as grammatically incorrect as that may be) won some game against some other team. I don't want to generalize and say that all hockey fans are idiots... statistically, that's fairly improbable. However, all of the ones that ARE idiots were certainly out in full force last night. OK, wearing a jersey I can forgive. Flying flags... well, alright. Honking your horns... besides being annoying, it's also somewhat dangerous... there were a couple of instances that night where I would have used my horn legitimately to warn someone of a dangerous situation... and instead it was taken as some fraternal hockey-brother greeting. If I did anything dangerous and someone honked at me to warn me, I certainly never knew. Still, people honk at newlyweds and that only mildly annoys me, so I must concede that the honking was only mildly annoying.

BUT, let me tell you what the remainder of the freakshow were up to. People leaning out of the windows/sunroofs (sunrooves? who knows)/trunks (no kidding)/doors (again, not a joke)/truck beds of MOVING vehicles, waving flags, swearing and challenging me when I gave them the finger (oops) and generally providing even more than the already considerable amount of danger that driving in Toronto affords. At least those people remained somewhat confined to vehicles that, for the most part, still followed the rules of the road.

Some of the pedestrians, though, were really pushing the limits. I waited for several lights to get through the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley because some "Leafs" fans decided to disregard the pedestrian crossing signals and march, proud as pie, back and forth across the street waving flags, blowing horns, and generally being drunken asses. When I finally DID get to the intersection, there was some completely brain-dead moron in the very centre of the intersection, pretending to direct traffic with a Leafs flag. As I rolled down my window to yell "Get the FUCK out of my way!" as loudly as possible at him as I drove past, someone in the group of pedestrians closing in on my right side hit, kicked or otherwise 'thumped' my car. Had I the presence of mind and a better idea who had done what, I would have backed up, in traffic, and broken their fingers. However, no such luck.

The horror. The funky horror...

00:43 - Die, Xbox, Die
http://www.msnbc.com/news/752209.asp?cp1=1

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I've had so many links to so many articles sent to me about the recent price drops in Sony's PS2 and the Xbox (both from $300 to $200) that it's hard to choose which one is best. But I particularly like this one, because it's from MSNBC-- where I can poke fun at its Microsoft-biased angle.

Because Sony manufactured custom components for PlayStation 2, initial manufacturing costs were high and Sony lost an estimated $50 on every console sold. Now, however, Sony has shipped 30 million PlayStation 2s and the economies of scale have cut the cost of manufacturing the console. In the same interview, House said Sony was making a profit on its hardware sales.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has sold less than 2 million Xboxes in the United States, and has faced significant problems internationally. Though Microsoft virtually sold out of hardware immediately after its November launch in the United States, Xbox sales slowed down in the beginning of 2002. The U.S. market seemed to be settling with Sony commanding approximately 56 percent of sales while Microsoft held a 24 percent share and Nintendo held on to approximately 20 percent.

But what MSNBC doesn't tell you is that the Xbox's $300 price encompasses a $150 loss per unit for Microsoft-- a huge loss-leader margin compared to the PS2, one that Microsoft hoped to make up in game licensing. I don't know how many copies of Halo that translates to, but that's about the only game that could possibly have contributed to success on that front, and I have a hard time believing that they could make up $150 per console even selling one $70 copy of Halo to every single Xbox owner. Even if every Xbox owner bought three or four copies, it wouldn't make up the loss. They're banking on each and every Xbox owner buying a library of some fifteen or twenty games (c'mon, kids, cough up $1400) in order to justify the console and its gigantic marketing blitz.

But now look-- they're selling it at $200, and I can't imagine that "economies of scale" can have reduced manufacturing costs all that much. (Granted, they're not marketing it much anymore, so that might make a dent.) But be that as it may, they're still losing at least half the cost of each console they sell.

On the one hand, Microsoft had better hope this spurs more purchases. But on the other, more console sales aren't going to translate to more game sales, especially not with as crappy a game library (Halo excepted) as the Xbox has; nobody's even making exclusives anymore. So maybe now more people will buy consoles and Halo, accelerating the suction out of Bill's pockets.

Maybe Microsoft had secretly better hope people just stop buying game consoles and do something else with that $200.

17:56 - More Xserve Comparisons

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Paul Summers, who is clairvoyant as to when I post new blog entries, writes me thus:

> Yes, it is.
> I can go to Dell and pay less than half of Apples asking price and come out with SCSI
> and RAID to boot.
> Anyway you slice it, nearly $8K for what is purported to be a server without SCSI is a
> rip. No doubt, Mac users will celebrate this as the "next big thing".

No, no you can't.

Dell Poweredge 1650
Dual PIII 1.13Ghz w/ 512K Cache
2GB 133MHz SDRAM
3x 72 GB UltraSCSI Drives
Embedded Raid
2x Copper GB Ethernet
Dell Remote Access Card
Cost: $10,336 With No OS (But to be fair, you could run FreeBSD and do nearly everything the XServe can do)

Now, the XServe comes with faster procs (debate if one wishes, but a 1Ghz G4 eats a 1.1 PIII for lunch), FAR more cache, ram that is twice as fast, 262 GB more storage space, and an OS with custom management goodies. And... it's $2500 bucks cheaper.

Granted, you don't get RAID nor SCSI disks. But, the machine is faster overall, and if you really must have RAID, an Adaptec 2400S is around $330 bucks. And, you'd actually be able to use it in the mac, as it wouldn't have all it's PCI slots full. (As the Dell would, with the two GB ethernet cards)

Besides, as I had forgotten until today, OS X has built-in software RAID... so if you really want redundancy, you can mirror your disks through that. Sure, it'd be slower; but it does get the job done. And Paul's hardware RAID is always an option.

By the by, remember that 220-odd GB number for the competition's storage that you wrote about at some length? I believe that was supposed to represent three 72GB SCSI drives, which comes to about that size. However, as the XServe has an extra drive, and uses bigger drives to boot, they indeed have nearly double the storage per unit.

If I were Dell, I'd be shitting bricks about now.

This same possibility occurred to me; I hadn't realized that Dell's HD sizes were so odd. But I guess that makes sense; so disregard those sections of my post from yesterday about how Apple's ad copy is misleading about total disk capacity versus the competition.

I don't know if Mike Dell is going to be rolling around in night sweats anytime soon over this, or having Steven the Dude hawk rack-mount servers (though I wouldn't mind seeing him cut his finger open on that PowerEdge front panel on nationwide TV every evening). But for the IT people who are worth their salaries, the Xserve is a powerful argument for treating Apple like a redoubtable contender.

Our own IT manager, when asked whether he wanted to switch to Xserves, thought for a moment, stared wistfully into the middle distance, and shook his head slowly and sadly with his chin in his hand-- which he described as being the head-shake of "I would if only I hadn't just spent the entire quarter's budget on brand-new server upgrades".

17:08 - Ars Technica's forumers dish about Xserve
http://arstechnica.infopop.net/OpenTopic/page?a=tpc&s=50009562&f=174096756&m=3050968

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It's really interesting to watch the dynamic as this discussion progresses. The first reactions are that Apple's asking price is way too high, and that it's "just another rack-mount server in a sea of equivalent competitors", and that the price is way too high:

Yes, it is [an outrageous price].

I can go to Dell and pay less than half of Apples asking price and come out with SCSI and RAID to boot.

Anyway you slice it, nearly $8K for what is purported to be a server without SCSI is a rip. No doubt, Mac users will celebrate this as the "next big thing".

If you're spending that much on a server, it had best have SCSI. Period.

Then, people start noticing that ATA drives really do just about as well as SCSI drives-- particularly if they're well-built. The MTBF on ATA drives isn't as high as on SCSI disks, they say-- well, that may be, but it all depends on build quality, doesn't it? These drives in the Xserve are pretty damn tip-top. Oh, and that $8000 price includes four of them, at 120GB each.

So then people start noticing that the Xserve has two gigabit NICs... that it has AGP4X... that OS X has built-in software RAID... that the Xserve would make an outstanding rendering workstation in a field where no Wintel or Linux machine could compete... that the CPUs and the RAM in the Xserve are much faster... and that the client software licenses for server administration are free and unlimited.

Then:

Half as much?! You better support that claim with facts!

and
keep in mind that version is fully loaded

Dual 1 GHz PowerPC G4, 2MB L3 cache per processor
2.0GB DDR SDRAM @ 266MHz

4x120GB Apple Drive Modules

CD-ROM drive
ATI Graphics Card Dual Gigabit Ethernet Two USB ports Three FireWire ports
Premium Support Plan
not to mention rack management software and unlimited licensing of OS X server -
$7,799.00

how much would a similarly priced dell be?

...And suddenly people start noticing that, as we like to say in the blog world, we can fact-check your ass. And so here are the figures for 1U Dell boxes tricked out to the same degree as the Xserve, as determined independently by at least two posters:

the dell

Dual Processor Intel Pentium III,1.4GHz w/512K Cache
2GB SDRAM,133MHz,2X1GB DIMMs
Windows 2000 Advanced Server with 25 Client Licenses
24X IDE Internal CD ROM Drive
PCI Riser,2x64bit/66MHz slots
3x73GB 10K RPM Ultra 160 SCSI Hard Drives
On-Board RAID5,3 drives connected to on-board RAID
Intel Pro 1000XT Gigabit NIC
$9,980.00
(PowerEdge 1650)e

And that's before you factor in any Microsoft client licenses, which (for an unlimited version) will run an extra $3295.

Then there's your typical "This can't be right-- all Mac users are zealots and all Apple products suck!" ranting from arrogant people who can't spell:

Qucik question. How many of you mac zelots have anything to do with IT? I can just imagine it. You'r showing off your IT department to a potential client and you proudly calim that you run a completly Appel shop. I would love to see the reaction you get from the potential client.

Also for most duties a *nix variant will kick a MS box hard. These days you only run MS if you ABSOLUTLY have to.

Alos I want to know if the servers OS can handel running for month's on end with out a problem. I know it's based of of BSD but how stabel is it when it's saddeled with the OSx GUI?

Is this Appels top of the line fully tricked out server? If so what happens when you need to upgraed to say, 4 or 8 procs? More Ram?

If this person had bothered to educate himself with even the slightest bit of OS X experience, he'd know the answers to these already: namely, that lots of Mac people run IT departments; that Apple isn't a pariah anymore; that people are proud to show off their Macs; that OS X is extremely stable in a server environment, GUI or no; that the G4 can be multicored to do true 4-way and 8-way SMP, for future higher-end models-- and so on.

I especially like this bit, right after the same person prices a competitor's offering:

Hmm, twice the power and BETTER harddrives. And only a grand more. Sorry IDE MTBF is no ware near what SCIS is. Also are the Appel HD's hot swappable? Plus you also get 2 onboard 10/100 nics. Granted the xeons have less cache but they are agine twice as fast.

Didn't even bother to read the specs, did he? These are the people making technical decisions in our NOCs, so it would seem. Hey, brain donor: yes, the Appel harrd drvies are hot swapabel. It says so rite on the paeg. Oh, and don't try to impress me with your two on-board 10/100 NICs. The Xserve comes with two gigabit NICs. And those Xeons are 2GHz Intels, and if I have to explain again how counting megahertz is not a linear measurement of overall system speed, then it's hardly worth bothering.

Fortunately, the guy gets roundly beaten up in followup posts by people who have by this point come to realize that the Xserve is a pretty damn sweet package. The Dells don't even come with cable-management arms. I know this from experience. And the Xserve does-- plus connectors and thumbscrews for four or five different kinds of racks and cabinets, a spare-parts kit, three PCI slots, three FireWire, two USB, that cool Allen key that locks out the ports and the CD-ROM, and let's not forget the unlimited client licenses. Want me to say that again? Unlimited client licenseeeeeees...

Then the guy who originally tried to say that a comparable Dell would cost $4000 jumps back in:

$4,324.00 (Nealy half the price)

PowerEdge 1650, Dual PII 1.13GHz w/512K Cache
2GB SDRAM, 133MHz,4x512MB DIMMs
2x 73GB 10K RPM Ultra160 SCSI Hard Drive
PERC3-DI, 128MB Battery Backed Cache, 1 Int, 1 Ext Channels- Embedded RAID

Oh good. Two small drives (and only one extra bay), slower RAM, Pentium II CPUs, and a case design that eats finger flesh. Plus you gotta buy those client licenses.

Yep. You can lick my sack.

No thanks. It probably tastes like Dell.

Why is it that the PC-bigot "takedowns" of Apple products are by such clearly repugnant people with such obviously false and refutable statements? Could it possibly be that... oh, I don't know, that maybe Apple is doing something right after all?

No, I suppose I must just be a "Mac zealot" who has never seen the inside of a server room.

But fortunately the majority of the discussion-- and not just here, but at Slashdot, ZDNet, and everywhere else that carries tech news, the opinion has followed this same trend: caution, ambivalence, or dismissal at first; followed by surprised interest; followed by paranoid delusional fascist ranting; countered by a groundswell of positive support and enthusiasm.

It'll be tough to shake off these barnacles of nay-sayers as we lift off, but I think we're on our way.

11:02 - More NDA Breaches: iChat Screenshots
http://www.thinksecret.com/features/jaguarichat/

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Quick-- suck 'em down while you still can.

I'm not warming to iChat very much. Yes, it has some cool features-- pictures, nice name formatting options, cutesy speech bubbles, the whole "local network" thing, and so on. But it also seems to be targeted even further downmarket-- or at least down-age-bracket-- than the existing iApps.

There are things that ICQ does, for instance, that I need from an IM client: a Privacy list, for one thing, where I can control who sees me online and limit it to a specified list of people. iChat appears only to support Online, Away, and Offline modes. Also, the text input field only seems to be a single line; I'm used to ICQ's large textarea input box. I like to type long messages and be able to see the whole thing. iChat seems like it'll work great for quick one-line messages, but is that really how most people talk?

In any case, iChat appears to be very incomplete right now-- a lot of the features, like user pictures and name formatting options, have FEATURE NOT YET IMPLEMENTED banners plastered over them. So maybe there's a long way yet to go, in design as well as in execution. But even so, I sort of doubt that iChat will be one of my favorite go-Apple-go banner-waver topics anytime soon. Ah well.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
00:29 - Humility

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I'd just like to show yesterday's and today's Bleats to everybody I know, especially the creative types, who's ever felt the old "why bother?" urge and thought about packing it all in:

Even Lileks has days where he feels irrelevant.

22:10 - Potential Xserve Liabilities
http://www.apple.com/xserve/

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Yes, it does have some.


First of all: the drive bays are not RAID. There are up to four independent drive modules, each on a different ATA channel, so you can maximize simultaneous access by putting complementary data sources on different spindles (as I discovered to be so damn effective on the lionking.org server), but it means that you can yank the drive with the OS on it. Yes, you can have up to 480GB of space available-- but with RAID, you'd have 120GB of guaranteed space.

(Well, actually more like 218GB-- about 2/3 the total space, as the math weirdly works out.)

But I'm told that 1U servers don't usually have RAID, at least not without special build-to-order options (which could potentially be added to the Xserve for the same cost as on a PC unit), and not with ATA disks, and not at the Xserve's price point. So that's probably not much of a worry, if I believe Paul.


Secondly: As I mentioned before, the decision to go with ATA disks is bound to upset SCSI snobs. Apple touts the fact that for a much lower cost than SCSI, you can get faster throughput, larger capacity, and lower running temperature. But I'm assured by my colleagues that SCSI is still going to be the bus of choice among true professionals-- that ATA still has many unfortunate limitations that SCSI handles much better, and that the temperature and capacity arguments are very marginal ones. I suspect that Apple will take some heat for the ATA decision, though it can't be denied that it keeps the price nice and low.

I'm aware of there being some problems with SCSI and Darwin-- apparently the two don't play terribly nicely together. That's why I have to have my SCSI scanner powered on when I boot my OS X machine, or else it won't load the shims to be able to access the bus; I can turn the scanner off and on as much as I want during uptime, but it can't be off during boot and then be discovered later. An Adaptec engineer told me a few months ago that this was a hot point of contention among Apple and the Darwin developers, and that it would seriously hamper OS X's abilities to compete in a SCSI-based server environment. So it strikes me that the decision to go ATA is in part a way for Apple to sidestep that SCSI issue, and that may well be the primary motivator, even beyond price.

I hope they plan to address the SCSI shortcomings, but considering their view that ATA and FireWire are the future, it may not be in the cards.


Item the Third: The "Server Monitor" application is OS X-only. This is fine for shops that already have Macs (education, creative, biotech) and for shops that are very large and buying pallets of Xserves and can easily afford to add an iMac or an iBook to the order for administration. But for shops (like the one where I work) that would be adding an Xserve to a server room populated with NetFinitys and PowerEdges running Linux, FreeBSD, and Win2K, and where there are effectively no OS X desktop machines in the company (and especially not any in IT), this would be a hard sell. I expect a lot of incredulous double-takes from IT purchasers who notice that they won't be able to get the full administrative feature set unless they buy a Mac on which to run the admin client.

Granted, the Server Monitor is a neato Aqua app, with lots of Quartz effects in completely gratuitous places (bets as to whether those status line graphs are antialiased?). But it seems to me that they're going to be under a fair amount of pressure to bring out a Windows version of the app fairly soon, if they expect goodwill among IT adopters.

But then again, the Server Monitor is not the total administrative package-- it's a value-add. (So is the Admin Tool, which is now client-server and controls all the stuff like Apache, FTP, DNS, and so on-- and is OS X-only.) But you can just as easily do all your admin work using SSH and the command line, like on any UNIX-- or even through the serial console, or the local video terminal. So as it occurs to me, this is "iPod mentality" at work: Basic functionality is available regardless of your platform... but if you want the full experience, you need a Mac. And considering the number of people in my company who are buying iPods without owning a Mac to use it with, and who a few weeks later end up nursing an iBook-sized hole in their credit cards, it could well be a piece of marketing genius.

Whereas Windows-type value-adds are software that you have to pay for through the nose, on a per-seat basis, Apple's value-adds (iTunes, iMovie, full iPod functionality, Server Monitor) are free software-- that you have to have a Mac to run it on. A value-add involves a carrot and a sale; for the Windows style, the carrot is functionality and the sale is a license to use a single copy of the software that provides that functionality. (And licenses are easy to be dishonest about, which leads to audits.) For Apple, the carrot functionality is free, but the sale-- which involves buying a Mac-- creates a Mac user in the bargain. It's an actual advantage of having small market penetration. Very clever. Whoever figured this out-- and managed to turn a marginal market share into a sales advantage-- deserves the Nobel Prize for Marketing.


Item Numero Cuatro: Some of the PR copy on the Apple site is rather disingenuous; I can't tell whether it's deliberately misleading, or just ill-informed. For instance, the 480GB of disk space is touted as over twice as much as the 218GB competition-- but that figure is accurate for a fully-loaded RAID5 system, not cumulative drive space the way it's counted for the Xserve. And on the Storage page, the copy says:

Pop in four 60GB or 120GB Apple Drive Modules into your Xserve systems and you can keep expanding your storage space exponentially — and affordably.

This is very bad, and I hope someone fixes it right quick. (It seems someone has already deleted the explicit mention of 218GB since this afternoon, from the main Xserve page.) This is linear expansion, not exponential. Something tells me that whoever wrote this copy had heard the term "exponential growth" and assumed that it meant "lots of growth", and put it in here without a second thought. Well, if any IT guys who understand what "exponential" means read the Xserve page and run across this little gaffe, they're going to think, "What else on this site is a misleading half-truth?"


Fithfthly: The Xserve only has a single power supply, not the dual/redundant one that one might expect. High-end servers need to have separate power plugs which can be attached to separate circuit bars, so the machine will stay online if a) a power supply quits or b) one of the circuits loses power. But I'm not too concerned about this, because I don't think many (or any) 1U servers have redundant power supplies. This is just competitive lock-step here-- but customer demand might mean Apple will have to try to cram another supply in there some damn how.



I suspect that these first few months of Xserve sales will tell Apple a lot about what the customers are really going to demand, and what tweaks they're going to need to make in the offering. For instance, Kris noted that Apple might end up having to stock third-party racks and cabinets at the online Apple Store, just like they stock third-party cameras and external drives-- because IT buyers, especially ones making big pallet purchases, will want to get all their gear from the same supplier. These kinds of questions, like the ones about whether customers will demand RAID drives or whether they'll consider the lack of a Windows version of Server Monitor a deal-breaker, is stuff that they'll have to learn the hard way.

But the good news is that out of the gate, they've built a machine that's designed slavishly to customer needs, and they've got a bloody good place to start from.

19:20 - Just for posterity...
http://www.apple-history.com/quickgallery.html?where=ns500.html

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This is the great-uncle of the Xserve: the Network Server 500/700 series.

Small wonder this guy didn't sell well. It ran IBM's AIX, which in 1997 was already one of the less well-favored Unices; the washing-machine form-factor didn't suit itself well to data centers or much of anything else, really; and nobody really wanted to take Apple seriously in the server market anyway, especially not with an OS that they had no experience with.

Granted, the Network Server had some nice features: tons of hot-swappable SCSI disk array space, motherboard blades (so you could swap out a CPU for a new one in about two minutes), and some pretty neat industrial design work.

But that wasn't enough to make it catch on; after all, it was targeted at the high-end server market, where companies want big iron, not poseurs.

The Xserve is going after the low-end to middle-range server market, where 1U boxes handle web-serving and video-streaming duties and can be tasked as video workstations or rendering nodes. Plus, it's running OS X, so it has the mindshare advantage of "eating your own dogfood"-- very important to those IT managers and CIOs who know their business.

Whereas the Network Server was a confused beast, a solution searching for a problem-- the Xserve is a best-of-breed injected into a high-energy market, one where it's going to make tons of waves, whether the entrenched server industry likes it or not. Apple's here to stay.

18:40 - SO sorry to hear that.
http://slate.msn.com/default.aspx?id=2065783

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Mickey Kaus, writing in MSN's Slate, tosses in this little befouling-one's-nest nugget at the end of an otherwise unrelated article:

A few months ago I predicted that Microsoft's introduction of Windows XP would spark the nation's economic recovery because, unlike its predecessors, XP "won't crash." Having now purchased a Windows XP computer, I can say I was wrong, not about the recovery but about XP, at least as evidenced by my machine. It crashes all the time! It crashed, in fact, while I was writing this item. ... How's that?

Well, what did you expect? Microsoft to make good on a promise?

It could just be me, but it seems that the more loudly Microsoft touts some new product and how much global importance they ascribe to it, the more likely it is that it will be a colossal flop. The XBox is writhing in its death-throes. .NET is a laughingstock. Windows 2000 was supposed to be the answer to everybody's fevered Windows prayers, and yet it took almost a year to become fully accepted in the enterprise-- and now Windows XP, far from leaping off store shelves and sailing into the air suspended by wires from the heavens to the strains of Madonna music, has shown "lackluster" sales figures. Once again, the only significant sales are going to be on new computers that come with it; more pundits than ever before, especially the not-so-computer-savvy ones, are saying "My current computer does what I need it to do, and I know how to deal with its idiosyncracies. I'm not about to install some new OS that I'll have to learn how to deal with all over again."

And never mind the people who refuse to upgrade to XP because of all the "activation" stuff and anti-piracy "features" and network chattiness and embedded Microsoft ads, or the fact that IT departments all over the tech industry are refusing to allow XP into their enterprises. And then there's Office XP, which the industry has greeted with a deafening yawn.

While on the other hand, it's the unheralded workhorse products that not only consistently make money for Microsoft, but gain them unqualified praise. Their mice, for example, are top-notch. And the games they publish, which are almost all bought from third-party developers, are often extremely good-- and have fierce customer loyalty. (Just ask your friendly neighborhood Asheron's Call player.)

If you step back a few paces and look at Microsoft, you see a very large, very confused company. They're being sued every which way for monopolistic practices, and they're working to increase their monopoly wherever nobody's watching-- at the same time. They're widely vilified for just about everything they make, yet everybody still unhesitatingly buys their products. World governments consider them a plague on humanity, while Microsoft claims to be so indispensable to international financial health that any punitive action against them could mean recession and ruin.

Microsoft is a tree covered with fungus and rot; it has healthy branches, but an equal number of dead ones-- and you can hear the groans from deep within its trunk as it threatens to collapse under its own weight any day now. All that it will take is just the right kind of storm, at just the right time.

13:29 - Duuuuude-Wear
http://news.com.com/2100-1040-912881.html

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Apparently Steven the "Dell Guy" (you know, the one with the cute little smile you want to hit with a brick) is soooo popular with the hip teen set that Dell is releasing a line of clothing, baseball caps, backpacks, and other accessories featuring his likeness and slogans.

The PC maker said its foray into Dude Gear is a natural extension of the commercials, which have made Dell more recognizable to consumers.

"Consumers can't get enough of 'Dude' so we've given them some stylish ways to express their enthusiasm," Kurt Kirsch, director of new business development for Dell's consumer group, said in a statement.

I dunno-- I like to think I'm part of a demographic that responds to a somewhat different kind of marketing than this.

Yes, I know I must invoke Chris' Third Law: I am not the target audience. But still... I find it discouraging that the target audience in question is so bloody big.

13:25 - Rumble in the Bundle
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,52452,00.html

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Here's a Wired News article about the "bundling" issue with Jaguar apps that's got a lot of idealistic Mac users flustered.

As to whether the functionality of Sherlock 3 and iChat represent a "Microsoftian" leveraging of OS prepackaging against shareware apps that already fulfill the same purpose, let's just say that opinions remain mixed.

One developer of a competing free-chat client -- who requested anonymity -- said Apple was perfectly within its rights to release whatever it wants with its operating system and that comparisons to Microsoft were unfounded.

Apple is not "bundling," he said, because unlike IE in Windows, iChat can be completely removed from the system without affecting the computer's performance. The chatter isn't tied into the heart of the OS. It's merely an addition, and users aren't stuck with it.

This sentiment was echoed by Apple spokesman Bill Evans, who said the company didn't think of iApps as being part of the operating system. He noted that purchasing the operating system by itself does not include all the iApps included with the software. Only new Apple systems come with all the iApps, because Apple considers these programs essential to its computing experience.

Possibly. And I admit that I feel a certain amount of excitement when I see that Apple itself is handling the development of a particular piece of software, because they've done such a good job with the iApps to date. (iTunes, for example, is absolutely best-of-breed when it comes to pure core functionality-- as a filesystem-path-independent music database, it's unrivalled. But it doesn't do "skins", or CD cover art, or a lot of the things that third-party MP3 players do, which means that the opportunity for those third-party apps remains.)

But even so, I'm skeptical that this argument will amount to much more than splitting hairs, if Apple should ever be called on the carpet for it.

Mac users are nothing if not forgiving of Apple, even when the company bites them. Sort of like a beloved dog. Oh, you must have scared him! The poor thing...


Honestly, I can't see that anybody's really done any kind of "wrong" here. It's either innovate regardless of whose toes you might step on, or sit on your hands so as to avoid displeasing your third-party developer community. Not a pleasant choice.

But Apple's been very gutsy lately, and is shooting for the stars (as we can see in the Xserve). And it's consistent with that stance for Steve to shout "Damn the torpedoes!" and steer for the open sea.

11:32 - And there she is.
http://www.apple.com/xserve/

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This is one well-designed case. Look at how they've handled those three PCI slots-- one of them is a combo PCI/AGP4x slot (presumably so the video pros can use these boxes for clustering, by using a top-end video card in the AGP slot). Two of the three slots are in use by default, for the second gigabit Ethernet card and the PCI video card; but in a build-to-order configuration that requires it, the riser swaps out for the AGP connector. Chris says "You don't get half of that in your standard PC 1U case."

Oh-- oh, and look. It has CPU activity light-bars on the front. Just like a BeBox!

And it has a standard DB-9 serial connector for input. Is this the first time Apple has included a PC-style serial port? Well done, in any case-- this box will play very nicely in a heterogeneous cabinet.

And it has a cable management arm. God help us, it has a cable management arm. What did they miss? There must be something...

11:05 - The Colors are Struck

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This morning, the big American flag that's been draped down the front of the freeway-facing building on the Apple campus since mid-September was no longer there.

I can only assume this means they're ready to put up a product banner like they usually have-- and that it's got to be something important, because nobody around here wants to be the first to strike the colors, even eight months on. "What are you, some kinda terrorist-lovin' company or somethin'?"

I suspect that this, coupled with the XServe announcement and the upcoming Jaguar, means we're about to see the start of the long-expected OS X advertising blitz.

It occurs to me, by the way, that sometimes it's really nice to be a small company that can make decisions about its campus ad banners by the seat of its pants. I'll bet that if it were Microsoft, they'd have a down-to-the-penny cost analysis of exactly how much money they were losing by having an American flag up there in place of an ad banner, and a projected end date for how long they could sustain it, and a recovery plan, and all kinds of board meetings to discuss the proper handling of the situation. When you're a company that big, you're just expected to have that kind of visibility and documentation.

Maybe Apple has that too. But grant me my delusions, will ya?

10:55 - "They did it right, right down to cable management."
http://maccentral.macworld.com/news/0205/14.server.php

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That's what the VP of IT for Genentech said about the XServe, mentioning on-stage that his company is going to be using it for BLAST clustering.

Ooh, and here's a neat little selling point:

[Customers] want problems solved, not a lot of finger-pointing. Hardware company refers you to software company, software company refers you to hardware company. Apple is fundamentally different, because we're designing the entire solution, hardware and software.

Very astute. How many IT guys have spent time on the phone with Dell tech support hearing about how such-and-such problem is the fault of Windows, and then calling up Microsoft's tech support only to be told that the problem is with Dell's hardware? Seems Apple is dedicating a highly trained server support team to the XServe, which is a really saleable application of the "whole widget" philosophy. This should please people.

Apple does admit that they're new to some aspects of server support:

They wanted speed. Really, really fast. In fact, the group that didn't want to touch anything wanted four-hour on-site support. We don't do this today. We've majored in learning how to do this in the past several months. And today, we're ready to do this. And for users who want to do this, we're providing them with a spare parts kit, so they can change stuff out themselves.

...But they're going to give it a shot.

Oh, and One More Thing™: a separate rackable storage unit called XServe RAID.
  • 3U height
  • 14 drive bays
  • 14 120GB ATA drives - in same hot-plug format as Xserve
  • 1.68TB
  • Dual 2GB Fibre Channel on system
  • 400MB/second storage throughput


RAID is all about data protection -- all critical components are redundant. Dual RAID controllers -- drives, power, cooling -- all redundant. 14 independent hard drives, and each RAID controller connects to seven of them. Each has an independent ATA controller that goes to the heart of the system. 128MB processor cache in the RAID processor. Redundant drive cache, redundant fans. Will be Available by the end of calendar year 2002.

Holy crumbs, is all I've got to say. The boys across the street have been busy... and they're aiming high.

If this takes off, I would imagine that in a few months' time, Apple will be a name that gets respect no matter who in what professional capacity you mention it to, a name that nobody scoffs at. It'd be like mentioning BMW. (With attendant snobbish connotations, I'm sure-- but I'll live with that, if it means nobody disses the actual technology.)

Let the good times roll...

10:08 - Yeah, baby!
http://maccentral.macworld.com/news/0205/14.server.php

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Here's full live coverage of the press event courtesy of MacCentral.

Looks like I was right about the thin-client administration tool:

New software: Server Monitor -- this is how you manage the hardware.

OS X Server and Xserve provide a completely headless operation, SMP optimization, UPS support, 2-terabyte file system support, Net-SNMP and MIB II, for OS X clients. Management tools include Server Admin and Server Monitor, Unlimited clients (windows server requires expensive server licenses).

There's a security lock, there's "no top to take off" (it just "slides out like a drawer"), SMART drive monitoring (so it can do predictive failure notifications), and the FireWire and USB and CD-ROM can be locked out.

The drives are ATA because "they're just as fast as SCSI and they offer real benefits in term of largest capacities". Yeah, and I bet it saves a ton on the bottom line, too. And ATA is plenty fast for most server stuff, too, especially if you keep simultaneous data sources on different spindles (though that's not in the cards for symmetric RAID). This is an interesting decision; I hope they don't get dinged for it.

Oh, and it's 1U. Hot damn!

Customers want to do:
  • file and print
  • web and email
  • database
  • QuickTime streaming
  • Computational (for example, Blast)


What they want from Apple:
  • Dedicated server platform
  • They want it to be rack-mounted
  • They want a lot of storage flexibility
  • They want serviceability
  • And they have to be able to manage these things remotely, so they want great remote management.


Looks like this could well be a winner...

09:56 - I guess it's pronounced "Ten-Serve"...
http://www.macuser.co.uk/macsurfer/php3/openframe.php3?page=/newnews/newsarticle.php

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Here's what we have so far:

Apple is currently holding a press conference to reveal details of its new rack mounted server solution - XServe. We will add to this story as details emerge...

Specification: dual 1Ghz G4, 256K L2 cache, 4Mb DDR L3 cache, up to 2GB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, 2 gigabit Ethernet ports, 2 66MHz/64 bit PCI slots, independent controllers for 60Gb or 120 Gb ATA 100 hard drive, 4 removable (slide in-slide out) drive bays for max. 480Gb storage, security locks, hardware monitoring to predict failures.

With four bays XServe has higher maximum capacity than rival servers from Dell, IBM and Sun that have just two or three; also has faster RAM; and it's cheaper - Dell PowerEdge 1560 $4277, IBM eServer X330 $5186, Sun Fire 280R $19590, Xserve $3999.

XServe only made possible by OS X - couldn't have done this pre-X.

Well, duh. A non-remotely-administratable, no-preemptive-multitasking, non-memory-protected OS would never have been able to fulfill the needs of server customers.

The price is what I find exciting here... the fact tha it's cheaper than its direct competitors is a huge coup, especially in the face of all the rumormongers who were worried that "like all things Apple" it would be a cool machine but just not cost-effective against the competition. Well, this should put paid to the cost argument.

(Sorry about that.)

Let's see what else comes out of this...
Monday, May 13, 2002
00:30 - Tomorrow's R/M-Day...

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May 14th is the day that Steve said, last week, that the wraps would be taken off of the new Apple rack-mount server.

It's anybody's guess what kind of machine this will be. What I've heard is that it will be 2U, with 4-way or 8-way multi-CPU configurations. I'd guess that it will have redundant SCSI disks, at least 1GB of RAM, and there's the remote possibility of this event being the unveiling of the long-rumored 64-bit G5 and/or that 400MHz system bus. Wouldn't that be something?

It would have to have a standardized video/input system, so that would mean it'd need to have serial ports, PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, or those integrated serial connectors they have on NetFinity boxes-- because if they have to rely on USB for input, that would seriously slow adoption. (Once again, we're held back by PC hardware from the Max Headroom Age.) Video out wouldn't be a problem-- Apple has always had standard VGA out-- but it's this input channel that could be problematic, especially under OS X.

Speaking of which, how is OS X supposed to run headless? I guess it doesn't really need to, considering that Windows servers are happily being deployed everywhere despite the stupid lack of good remote-presence software. (This, incidentally, is why I think open-source (and command-line-driven) OSes make much better servers. You can do everything remotely that you can do on the remote console-- everything-- short of physically opening up the box.) So maybe Apple will tout Remote Desktop as the solution of choice, or perhaps the unveiling will be accompanied by a software package that adds thin-client remote administration capabilities to OS X server: an OS X tool that lets you do configuration of the services on the server by making the changes on the local control panel, which then communicates them back to the server through a secure tunnel. That would be pretty cool. I think Windows might have something like this, but this is an opportunity for Apple to show how to do such a thing right. I've watched our IT guy spend enough time swearing at Microsoft's remote DNS administration stuff to know that there's room for improvement and a "usability vacuum" for IT people.


...On another note, I was just thinking about how cool InkWell could be. Considering that Preview and Mail have been majorly updated for Jaguar, it stands to reason that TextEdit has too; which means that because InkWell can be used in any application that takes text input, TextEdit might support it to such a degree that TextEdit can become a "note pad" app on the order of the Newton. Words you write would be converted to text, and drawings would be re-rendered on the fly as PDFs and incorporated into the document body right where you drew them (anti-aliased, too!). This would be child's play in Quartz, and just imagine showing it off to a Windows-using friend...

Another member of my team has now had his interest piqued enough by my and Kris' enthusiasm that he's playing with OS X on Kris' old iBook. He's already being indoctrinated in various Mac design philosophies, and it's looking rather like he'll be joining our ever-growing cabal before a whole lot longer.

The hard part, I think, is over-- Apple has pulled off a superhuman feat in getting OS X to where it is now. And now we're going to start reaping the rewards, of which Jaguar is only the beginning.

16:08 - Circumventing copy-protected CDs
http://www.vnunet.com/News/1131719

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Seems that a way has been found to sidestep the copy-protection on CDs from Celine Dion and Eminem: just cover up the corrupt outer data track (the one that makes PCs think the disc is invalid) with a black Magic Marker or a Post-it note.

This is good news, and further proof (as if any were needed) that there is no such thing as an uncrackable copy-protection system, although that axiom tends to be rendered moot anyway by the ineptitude of the schemes that keep getting put in place. (Remember how WMA got cracked within a day of the release of Windows XP? And remember DeCSS? And DiVX players?)

It won't affect me much, because I'll be boycotting any artists who release copy-protected CDs anyway. But for that overwhelming majority of people whose ethical codes allow them to call for the blood of Microsoft in the Slashdot forums and then turn around and buy Xbox games, this is a good tip to know.

12:33 - Oh yes: this little bauble...
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/7/25227.html

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Hey, did you know that Microsoft was convicted of software piracy and intellectual property theft, and fined 3 million francs in late September after a decade-long court battle?

It's true. And as The Register notes, all the usual news organs have been oddly (suspiciously?) silent on the matter.

Seems that when Micrososft acquired SoftImage, they "forgot" to remove some functionality that was covered under a contract with the French firm Syn'X, who wanted the code removed (and was legally justified in doing so, too).

Of course, Microsoft claimed innocence. Of course, they claimed that they were only innovating and acting in the consumer's best interest.

Of course, the penalty was a measly fine that Microsoft could have paid out of their parking-ticket budget.

I guess this story's going to have to spread through the blog channels, because it's not coming to light any other way...

12:07 - More history lessons
http://www.denbeste.nu/

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There's a lot of good reading over at USS Clueless lately-- not like that's significantly different from the normal state of things, but yesterday's post about the Mongol Horde (and the modern conventional-wisdom handling of it in colloqualisms and punditry) is just too fascinating not to share.

Why couldn't history class have been this much fun? (Oh wait-- in my case, it was. Thanks, Mr. Boynton.)

Also, scroll down a bit for the Cap'n's take on Europe's suddenly realizing that the Palestinian terrorists that they'd volunteered to take into their countries are... well, terrorists. Well, duh, guys. Think we dumb-ass Americans might possibly know what we're talking about after all?

11:35 - Computer Literacy™
http://www.mymac.com/mccormick/5.13.02.shtml

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I don't know if the story related in this article is apocryphal or not-- after all, I have a hard time believing that anybody, even an IT kid who spends all his time at home playing Dark Age of Camelot and launching DDOS attacks against anybody who defeats him, could be this openly hateful (especially in a work environment). But be that as it may, the article presents a valid point, one that I've made here before: that much of the politics of the computer world stems from the rift between those who believe that computer literacy is a sacred arcane trust that only an elite few should have-- and those who appreciate ease-of-use and system design that does not require computer literacy.

He'd never share how he had set up the dual monitors so I never asked. Had I asked I would have been figuratively beaten with his Computer Literacy. He was just hateful. Just like his older counterparts he had figured out that knowledge was power. He liked having power and he liked bullying any and everyone with it.

Windows just might be a fine platform but when you come across people so spiteful and so mean, no wonder they like keeping others in the dark. No wonder they hate the thought of a Macintosh where a user can do all that they want without the aide of their "computer literacy."

This was certainly a lot truer Back In the Day-- back when PCs had DOS and Macs had... well, the Mac OS. Back when you heard people say "The Mac is a toy" because they truly believed that computers should be hard to use-- and that graphical icon-based user interfaces were not just anathema, but poised to bring about the end of the world as we knew it. It's that same mentality that managed to take the fact that Macs natively supported 24-bit color when the best you could do on the PC was EGA graphics, and turn it into a liability for Mac users. "We don't need all that fancy color depth! Only computer illiterates need more than 16 colors!"

And even though Windows now incorporates all the most despised advantages that the Mac always had-- full color support, no more 640K barrier, icons, windows, a mouse-- Windows bigots, like the one in the article (and like the guy that Lileks butted horns with a couple of months ago), will scoff at Mac innovations like digital-video editing, DVD burning, wireless networking, and FireWire, and jeer about how "no real computer user would want to do that!"

I confess I've felt the urge to espouse that same stance-- I still do, on occasion, every time some AOLer puts "www." at the beginning of their e-mail address or sends me a message without realizing that their e-mail is set to return a NOT ACCEPTING MESSAGES FROM THIS SENDER message to me when I reply. I recall that back in 1996, when I was working for Pacific Internet, my co-workers and I would lament the fact that new ISP customers were coming in hoping to sign up for Internet accounts without even having set up the brand-new computer their son had just gotten them for Christmas yet. Time was, we recalled, that on our sign-up form we could say "Please be sure that you have at least six months' experience using computers, and be familiar with how to install applications and change system settings." Time was, we could expect ever single walk-in customer to have that kind of literacy. We could tell them "Open up the TCP/IP control panel", and they would have it done in seconds-- not like now, we'd say, when you have to explain to them how to click the mouse and what happens when you press the Start menu button.

AOL did have a killer-app of an idea: make their software so simple that that untapped well of millions and millions of potential customers would not be intimidated by the specter of having to have Computer Literacy in order to get on the Internet.

A similar view of the same political stance is visible in the Linux community. It's sour grapes, pure and simple: user interface design is really hard, and so is developing corporate buy-in for application support; so when Linux fails to provide a consistent and comprehensive desktop environment (KDE and GNOME are good contenders, but...) or decent commercial applications, the proponents respond by getting haughty. "A real computer is command-line only!" "Open-source software does everything that commercial software can do, and better!" "The only reason we don't support that hardware is that the company won't release their driver code for free! Damn them!"

It strikes me that anybody who takes an elitist view toward computer literacy is clinging to dogma-- not unlike the hard-line Islamicists, they shun the advances of "the dark side" by puffing themselves up with assurance of their own righteousness. If the other side is winning, it can only be because they're evil and/or cheating. Hoard your increasingly irrelevant knowledge and jealously guard it, because then-- though you may end up suffering in the here-and-now-- at least you'll be judged worthy when the Reckoning comes.

I dunno-- seems to me that it's an unwillingness to compromise that will only lead to self-immolation.

I'm glad that I use a Mac. I'm also glad that I maintain a certain amount of cross platform computer literacy. Not so I can use it as a club but as something that helps me help others. I often am vocal about the Macs' abilities but I'm not so blind as to believe they are the only real computers.

Maybe that's why Windows is hard and Macs are shunned. It's the people. Ironically, maybe that's why Macs are also easier.

Write an article about "Windows bigots", and the immediate visceral response is to wonder whether we're being "Mac bigots". Well, I like to think I'm a bit more realistic than that. Sure, you can chastise me by saying that all viewpoints are equally valid, that it's all a matter of what you were raised with, that the only reason I prefer Macs is because it's what I know, just as I'm dragging my heels over learning Python because I'm running on a pretty lean mixture when it comes to Perl-- it's what I know, and I know it well. (Which isn't to say that I don't know Windows, or Linux, or FreeBSD for that matter. I like to consider myself pretty well informed.)

But you know, if the last few months of world events have taught us anything, it should be that some viewpoints are better than others. Some cultures do have more merit in the context of the greater good of humanity than others. Some ideas are inherently superior to others.

I daresay I'm happier in my computing life than this IT kid is.

10:11 - Why, again, I don't read the TalkBack
http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0,10738,2865141,00.html

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At the end of a brief (if well-targeted) Jaguar wrap-up article by Stephen Somogyi at ZDNet, we get the following gem of a response, from a Dave Gould:

Sooooo..... what is new on the New New OSX that has not already been new on ALL the other OS's?

Nada

Here's a compatable networking Idea for Steve.... How about TCP/IP WITHOUT AppleTalk. Yea.. that's the ticket.

You see? This is the kind of thing we're up against. "Hey, do Macs have color yet?" "Macs can't be networked, can they?" "Without reading any of the relevant articles or having any first-hand experience with it, I know that OS X has nothing that Windows doesn't have!"

Yeah, it's fun to have a scapegoat in any society, a retarded uncle in the basement to make fun of (even when it turns out that said uncle has been developing cold-fusion in the hot-water heater). Better to mock him than to be seen associating with him, right?

"TCP/IP without AppleTalk"... good grief. Is it any wonder that I'd rather not associate myself with the Windows side?


By the way, the Mac OS has supported spec-compliant TCP/IP since about 1990-- long before Windows did. Oh, and Apple is now mainstreaming Rendezvous/Zeroconf by proposing it as a TCP/IP extension, while Microsoft wants to replace TCP/IP with .NET. Get that company the hell away from me.

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© Brian Tiemann