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
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, June 16, 2002
19:40 - The White Man's Burden
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/channel/highlights_heat.html

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The National Geographic Channel today had a series of "Into the Fire" shows, with a group of American thrill-seekers and photo-journalists traversing the Sahara on fan-driven parasails with 4x4 support vehicles. Looked awfully fun.

Except that when they were in Chad, they had to spend a lot of time dodging rebel groups and anti-American sentiment. (Wasn't Chad one of the nations we'd listed as being known terrorist-harborers?) One of the team members' son was kidnapped (and later released) while they were there.

At one point, they came across a giant Mercedes truck with what had to be at least thirty men on its back, their bags of goods hung out over each side, perched precariously atop the mound like a Dr. Seuss drawing. It's a very National Geographic kind of visual-- gosh, look at the local laborers and how poor they are, and yet how carefree and simple their lives! Oh, for the purity of such a life. Do be a dear and turn up the A/C, would you?


At least, that's the impression the show seems to want to give; after the trekkers have conversed with the men on the truck in French (and convinced them with some difficulty that they were private citizens and not in fact agents of the American government (Oh, oui! Tres bien!), the adventurer told the camera what he had heard from the man he'd been talking to.
"He asked, 'Why are you so rich and we are so poor? Why are you driving this luxury 4x4 vehicle, while we're all piled up in the back of this truck? Why doesn't America give something to us, so that we can have it a little easier?' ... Kind of a hard question to answer."

Yeah, maybe it's hard to answer when you're sitting there in the Chad desert among thirty of these guys who already distrust you. But sitting here at home, I have two answers to offer:
  1. We've tried that. We've been sending food aid into countries like Somalia and Chad and Ethiopia and the like for decades now, and we've observed that the only thing that ever happens to it is that it gets intercepted by warlords and turned into guns to kill other warlords. (Then why don't they send in the US military to stop the warlords? What, you mean like in Mogadishu?)
  2. Why are you so poor? Because you live in a bloody desert. Chad has no useful arable land. Where do you expect wealth to come from? Buried treasure in the oases? An efficient manufacturing and ore-processing industry? The cultural purity of smiling local laborers? Look, some countries just happen to have more means to create wealth than others. America is rich because we took off from the most technologically and industrially advanced nation in Europe and annexed ourselves a gigantic landmass comprising every biome on Earth, full of enough natural resources to secede and become our own planet. Then we proceeded to advance the state of the art in agriculture, mining, civil engineering, and every other field to such an extent that if America hadn't existed, the planet would still probably be in the latter phase of the Industrial Age. That's why we're so rich.

To what extent are we obliged to divest ourselves of the wealth we have ourselves earned and inherited in order to even out perceived imbalances between ourselves and countries that haven't been so lucky or so diligent? Why is it our responsibility to make up for Chad's standard of living just because they can't make any food of their own? I mean, yes, I understand the whole thing about charity and all, and I'm all for it. If we're that much more comfortable, and would feel that much less of a pinch from giving some up, then by all means we should if it means raising the standard of living for people whose lives consist of traveling hundreds of miles a week on a towering truck and dodging armed rebel factions and warlords in order to obtain some semblance of subsistence in the middle of a famine. Not doing so makes us decadent and monstrous, and would mean we deserve the looks of disgust we get in the countries that would prefer to see us all dead.

But when there's such genuine inability to comprehend why Americans should have it so good-- why they should have air-conditioned SUVs and the wealth it takes to jaunt about the Sahara in a parasail just for the fun of it-- well, there's a certain point at which it becomes pointless to try to explain it. This isn't a world where righteousness and purity wins, much as the fundamentalist Muslims would like to believe that it is. Living a life of ascetic inconsequence and submission to the teachings of some ancient book don't make one rich or one's country supreme. This is a world where personal achievement and natural advantages will rule. It's called competition. It leads to capitalism and democracy. That's why we have SUVs, and why people living in the desert think we're evil.

We're not interested in empire. That age is long over, and we'd taken ourselves out of that game long before the European nations started to do so. We have our recipe for achievement, we've set up the tools we need to vault forward into the future, and we've tried to bring the rest of the world along for the ride-- but some of the world would rather stay behind. That's fine; far be it from us to dictate their domestic issues. But they don't get to blame us for it or knock down our skyscrapers just because they're pissed off that they're not the ones making Levi's and McDonald's burgers.

I dunno. I'm just sick of being made to feel guilty that our country has succeeded. Thanks a lot, National Geographic.

After all, can you imagine how poorly it would reflect upon the American people if, having started out with all the advantages we had, and with all the potential afforded us by our social and political system, we didn't become the dominant player in the world?
Saturday, June 15, 2002
11:15 - Humboldt? They should have known better...
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/06/14/BU236636.DTL

(top)
You know that Subaru ad, that sweet little story about the girl and her mom driving out into the woods in their Forester to release their bunny into the wild?

Well, Subaru has had to pull the ad, because of the complaints of rabbit fanciers.

The Chronicle reported the rabbit brouhaha on Wednesday. On Thursday Mark Darling, vice president for marketing at Subaru in Cherry Hill, N.J., said he had made the decision to pull the ad.

"Unfortunately, the message yielded an unintended conclusion, that being a domestic rabbit was released into the wild," said Darling. He said the critics were a "relatively small but passionate group, and, quite frankly, we have other things to attend to and do not need the distraction."

In other words, "Jesus Christ, you people! Get a frickin' grip!"

I've been very unsympathetic toward people who want certain things taken off of TV ever since Beavis was forced to stop saying "Fire". You don't like something, grit your goddamned teeth. You don't see me lobbying to get The 700 Club taken off the air, do you?
Friday, June 14, 2002
15:05 - Hey, lady, it's not 1997 anymore
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-000041149jun12.story

(top)
Did everybody see this? The principal of an elementary school in Santa Monica has banned "Tag". Yes, that Tag. The schoolyard game with "It". Because being "It" damages kids' self-esteem.

"This is all based on safety," said Samarge, also in her third year as school principal. "It has nothing to do with anything else except to reduce injuries for the kids."

But there was that statement in the school newsletter that seemed to trigger the debate. In the third paragraph of an article titled "Safety on the Playground," the piece reads: "The running part of this activity is healthy and encouraged; however, in this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates."

I'd love to see the playground equipment in Santa Monica parks. Big spongy plastic spheres, probably, sitting in a foot-deep bed of foam-rubber shavings. "Okay, class, take out your safety pencil and a circle of paper..."

Some people won't be satisfied until we live in a Nerf world, where kids can be allowed to roam free through the back alleys and schoolyards without the parents having to do anything themselves to take an active role in their development. If what they're concerned with is preventing more Columbines, you punish the bullies for specific acts-- don't blame the victims and refuse to lift a finger against the perpetrators because they're on the god-damned football team. And by banning "Tag", you're making kids think about ostracizing individuals years before they'd normally have started doing that anyway.

Give kids a chance to grow up among their peers, at their own speed. If you're trying to send them the message that when they grow up, the world will shield them from people saying offensive words and being ruthless in society and business-- you're condemning them to failure, and ensuring that the backlash from them will be one of intense racism, sexism, and nationalism from people who grew up frustrated that they were never allowed to work these feelings out. But if you send the message that they can succeed if they try, and people who cheat and bully you get thrown in the jug if you stand up to them-- that's healthy.

At least this article makes it sound like the parents at this school think the principal needs a new line of work-- like, say, lunch-lady. Good.

13:42 - What Makes a Zealot?
http://apple.slashdot.org/apple/02/06/13/1854211.shtml?tid=107

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The other day, the Gartner Group published the results of a study that concluded that from a Total Cost of Ownership standpoint, Macs are significantly cheaper to buy, own, operate, maintain, repair, and upgrade than PCs are. "Up to 36 percent more cost-effective", reads the report, which (like most Gartner studies) costs $95 for a copy (hence no direct link).

Someone posted regarding this story on Slashdot (follow the link), and it may as well have had an icon next to it of a bucket with CHUM printed on it. Slashdot, after all, is the nexus of ultra-budget-conscious Intel-hardware geek opinion; there's no way you can get away with claiming that Macs are cheaper than PCs without all the Linux geeks in the world whipping themselves up into a fervor with hardware price listings intended to prove that they can make a top-end computer, comparable to a $3000 one from Apple, with under $400. That's what they're all about, after all-- right? The whole point of Linux is effectively "free computing", and the lack of any requirement to have to spend any money on software.

There are a whole lot of people in the comments defending Apple, though, and providing real-world examples (from the business and home and education markets) that support the Gartner numbers. These arguments are all very much what we've seen before, nothing new here. But halfway down, you start seeing a different kind of argument being made. To paraphrase:

"I would buy a Mac tomorrow, I really would-- except for one deal-killing thing: the Mac Zealots."

Here we come to what is probably at the crux of the whole Mac-vs-PC debate: the smaller Apple's market share gets, the louder the Zealots get. And the Zealots are counterproductive. They drive away more potential business from Apple than they attract, though their only goal in life appears to be winning Mac converts. How can this be?

It's pretty simple, really. It's nothing new, and it's very human-nature. See, it's never really been about quality, or ease-of-use, or software availability, or DVD burning. It's been about Macs being different. The more the world standardizes on Windows, the more the Mac becomes seen as an outlying "freak" ghetto-- and no matter how many facts and studies the people in that ghetto can quote, and no matter how compelling their demonstrations and their visibly happier lifestyle is, Wintel users are made all the less likely to switch-- purely because of what the Mac world looks like:

A cult.

Let's think about this for a minute. Yes, all the jokes have already been made, about Steve Jobs being the David Koresh of the computer industry, about the legions of followers who dress like him and eat like him and worship the ground on which he walks. Yeah, yeah. But it goes beyond jokes, and I'd like to explore that a little bit. How are Mac Zealots similar to Religious Zealots? Really?
  • We believe we have a "better way", and we want to advertise that fact
  • We see unhappiness in the world around us (people who hate Windows), and we want them to be happier and live up to their full computing potential
  • We want to reward the Company itself for its products, by winning more customers

We even use religious vocabulary: "winning converts", "proselytizing", "evangelism". We look at this in very much the way as an evangelical religious group does: we honestly believe that our way is better, and that other people would thank us in the long term if we could get them to See the Light.

What does this sound like? Mormons, if you ask me. And no matter how happy Mormons look, how compelling they can make their case, how much proof they can show that their way is better-- most of us resent the hell out of it.

It's the same way with the Mac. PC users know, deep down, that the Mac is probably better. (Why else would so many people be so adamant about plumping for it?) But the more their friends pressure them, the more they flaunt the virtues of their platform, the more the PC users are likely to simply dismiss it out of hand. It complicates things. They have a solution; they know it's not ideal, but what is, in this workaday world? Most PC users, even those who grudgingly acknowledge under pressure that the Mac offers an awfully attractive package, simply wish Apple would just hurry up and go out of business, so they can get on with their humdrum lives. At least it won't seem so humdrum if there aren't these freaks rubbing their noses in it all the time.

Again, it's all because Macs are "different". They're simply not what people are used to. Even the most tolerant and open-minded among us will have an aversion reaction to something that's different; it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's in our biology. It's how human societies evolved: we're wired to do pattern-matching on ourselves and our neighbors, and to formulate alliances based on commonalities between us and them. Similarly, we treat those who are different from us with initial distrust, because biologically they're less likely to be family, and more likely to kill you for your food. It's a genetic-survival thing-- we protect our own bloodline and try to drive away others. The Infinite Mind had a great article on that a while ago, read on NPR. We're wired to be racist. It's only in the last couple of hundred years that we've decided to actively override that hard-wiring through social consciousness; now that it's no longer evolutionarily beneficial to stick within our own kind, we may be able to move on and allow miscegenation to take place. ("May", I say, because on an evolutionary time-scale we're in a freakish spike of circumstances that may well pass in the blink of an eye-- a couple of thousand years, that is-- and return us all to a hunter-gatherer state where racism is again evolutionarily important.)

So it is with Apple. Let's look at how Macs have been regarded throughout history:
  • 1984: When the Mac is first introduced, PC users dismiss it as a "toy" because of its icon-and-menu-driven interface, its upper-and-lower-case letters, and the fact that it can speak. Everybody knows, after all, that a "real computer" is command-line and can only produce beeps.
  • 1990: As Windows 3.1 gains popularity, people ridicule the Mac because it's slow and monochrome. Apple jumps straight to 24-bit color while the PC market is using EGA graphics, but it takes them years to notice.
  • 1995: Windows 95 is released, making the PC slow. Now people ridicule the Mac because of its one-button mouse, and claim that Macs can't be networked or read PC disks (both untrue). They also rail against how expensive Macs are (which is true). Why buy a Mac? Apple is going out of business.
  • 1998: The affordable iMac is released, to widespread derision in the PC world. Everybody knows a "real computer" is a beige box, after all. Yet the entire consumer electronics industry is colorful and translucent within a year, every single computer shown in movies or on ergonomics posters is an iMac, and eMachines makes direct rip-offs of it. Now PC users ridicule the Mac because it doesn't have a floppy drive, even though the only thing they use one for is to reinstall Windows. Meanwhile, the iMac popularizes USB for the first time.
  • 1999: The iBook is scorned as looking like a purse or a toilet seat, even though its design (and handle) makes it extremely durable and extremely portable. It also has AirPort, though nobody notices until Dell puts it in their laptops a year later and claims that they were the first to do so. PC users continue to ridicule Macs for not being networkable. (Meanwhile, OS 8-9 can mount drives remotely across the Internet.) The "Megahertz Myth" gains traction, and becomes another easy target for derision.
  • 2000: The "Digital Hub" apps appear. iTunes has to be seen to be believed, and iMovie becomes the gold standard for home DV editing. PC users scoff at DV editing: Who would ever want to do THAT? iDVD brings DVD burning to the desktop for the first time ever. Who would ever want to do THAT? Now people ridicule the Mac for its old and unstable and drab-looking OS, now that Microsoft is making noises about moving the desktop OS market onto the NT/2000 line.
  • 2001: OS X is released, addressing every complaint anybody has ever had about the Mac OS. But PC users ridicule it for being too colorful and slow. Subsequent releases make it much faster (when has that ever happened in the PC world?), and suddenly the whole UNIX user base is interested. But PC users still find things to complain about. Not enough games. Cutesy-looking hardware. That damn one-button mouse. Still too expensive. Apple is still going out of business (neat trick when they're making a profit). They're in a hardware dead-end with the PPC lineup, so don't buy a Mac-- in two years they'll be standing at the end of an alley, looking around uncertainly for the next PPC chip, which doesn't exist, and they'll be caught completely by surprise! Intel is the only way to go. They obviously have no plan for the future. They should port OS X and the iApps to Intel and make beige boxes! Macs suck! Everybody knows that. They can't be networked! They're monochrome! Windows XP rules, even though we hate it!

No company on Earth has ever been more diligent at addressing the market's complaints and requirements than Apple has. How frequently has Microsoft brought out some new innovative feature that genuinely enhances people's lives and creativity, or taken some decisive action to address a serious and long-standing concern on the part of their consumers? Why isn't that a determining factor in which company a buyer patronizes?

If we were all Vulcans, the above historical breakdown would be ludicrous. Logically speaking, the complaints that people have about Macs are spurious and keep being addressed in a way that never happens on the Wintel side. Unless your sole buying criteria are initial purchasing cost or software availability, it would be a no-brainer to go with a Mac.

But we're not Vulcans, and our subconscious tells us to use Windows. Yes, it sucks-- we all know that. But 95% of the market can't be wrong, can it? It's certainly easier to just go with the flow. Besides, what's the point of complaining about Windows' shortcomings? They won't get fixed-- or maybe they will. Who cares? It's much simpler to just learn to live with them than to fling ourselves into an orgy of oohing and aahing over a platform that takes such pains with its hardware and OS and applications as to make them works of art that are a joy to use. Who has time for that? I mean, look at these Mac people-- they love their Macs so much that their Macs become a way of life. You don't see us Windows users spending so much of our valuable time writing gigantic blog articles about how great Windows is, do you? We know it sucks, and we get on with our lives. You Mac Zealots are doing nothing but proving that having a better platform just makes you less productive.


....Hmm. And I suppose there's a point to be taken there. And that's really what I'm getting at: Mac Zealotry is a weird phenomenon. The true outspoken zealots may make up less than a percent of the computing world at large-- they're actually a small minority even within the Mac community-- but they're visible as all hell. (Notably, Linux Zealots make up a much larger segment of the Linux community-- because Linux is inherently designed to be a rebel's OS.) And when a PC user hears "Macs", he hears the shrieks of people like-- well, me, heh-- telling him that he's an unethical and brainwashed moron who's artificially limiting himself by using an inferior computing platform. And that makes him think, "Well, I don't care how good the Mac is. I ain't sharing a platform with him."

Am I saying that Mac evangelism is to blame for Apple's small market share and ever-unclear future? Only partially. Zealots have two effects. On one hand, yes, they tend to unnerve the very people they try to convince and convert, just like the Mormons on the doorstep with their gleaming smiles and their Dapper Dan hair and their smart pressed shirts and ties. (That's unnatural! Begone!) But on the other hand, it's because of the zealots that Apple still exists. That less-than-one-percent is responsible in no small part for buoying Apple's sales through the bleak times, for defending against the ridicule and slander and dismissal from the tech press and the general PC-using public, and (importantly) for creating what's become a very large network of websites committing to electronic permanence some of the foundational precepts that underlie our ideals as Mac users. The Mac community wouldn't be anywhere near as vibrant-- and, I daresay, neither would Apple-- without sites like MacSurfer, As the Apple Turns, MacInTouch, Think Secret, and MacKiDo. Zealotry doesn't entirely backfire-- it does do what it sets out to do, to a certain degree.

Just about everybody who works in technology probably has at least one friend or acquaintance who's a Mac user and is unceasingly "at him" to switch-- or at least to be suitably impressed by the things that the Mac can do. The Mac user might use "shame" tactics, demonstrating how the Mac is the platform that anyone who craves elegance in software design should be using. (Yeah, I know-- sorry.) The PC user is expected to ooh and aah, and being in that position makes people feel manipulated. So for most people, even though they might be impressed by the Mac, and even though they might honestly want to humor their Mac friend (hey, after all, he's a friend), the attitude of evangelism goes into the "con" column rather than the "pro". That's what we have to watch out for. Johnny, one of my co-workers, mentioned the other day how he has a friend who's been "working on him" for years, and is making slow but steady progress-- the friend thinks he's won a major victory by Johnny's recently buying an iPod. (Johnny doesn't think so-- he just really really likes the iPod. But he has slated a TiBook purchase for the near future.) The key to that is slow, steady, and non-confrontational advocacy, not zealotry. Nobody likes to feel preached to. Nobody likes to feel that their decision, their expertise, their entire technological experience is "wrong".

So why do I write all this Mac stuff here? Hey, I don't know-- I just find it interesting to do. I'm still astonished to find that a double-digit number of people are reading this site; I never expected more than myself and a few close friends to ever stumble across it. The purpose of this blog is for me to write down what's in my head so I can save it for later and find out what I was thinking on such-and-such a day. More often than not, I was surprised to discover-- because I never set out to focus on such a thing-- that what's on my mind is Mac stuff. I'm interested in finding out why I think the things I do on the subject, and this helps me organize my opinions. And if it succeeds in pleasing Mac-using readers or in convincing PC users that the Mac is worth a second look, so much the better.

I'm uninterested in being known as a Zealot. Even if I get labeled as one purely because Mac stuff makes up the majority of the content here, I'll fight that epithet. I try to cover as much negative Mac stuff as I do positive, and I try to explore the myriad sides of each given situation. As friends like Paul know, I'm often more of a devil's-advocate in one-on-one discussions than I am here-- I'm the one who has to be reassured by them that Apple isn't making some huge mistake by some move or other. I do have some goals-- I want to defend against slanderous attacks against Apple, like those that are frequently leveled in high-profile web forums, and I enjoy discussing Apple's prospects with people willing to engage in serious debate. I enjoy helping to spread the word about new products and good news. And I also enjoy trying to distill my feelings on Macs into opinion pieces that explain just what it is about their hardware and software that makes people like me willing to lay down our lives in order to see it survive.

Apple needs its zealots-- they've been around long enough that their existence must be factored into Apple's very business plan. But their influence is both a blessing and a curse, and Apple is succeeding today in winning back some market share in spite of them as much as because of them.

I hope this recent "Real People" ad campaign does something to alleviate that pressure. The people in it aren't Zealots for two reasons: 1) They're carefully chosen to be non-threatening and in positions of vulnerability, and they're on TV-- they're not friends that you don't want to risk offending, so what they're saying isn't directly aimed at you; and 2) it's actual advertising by the Company itself. People are leery of advertising that's not done by the actual company. They wonder, what's the company doing wrong if they have to have flunkies and spies infiltrating my circle of friends? Is there some kind of initiation ceremony? Where's the hidden camera? At least if it's coming out of the TV, it's in a familiar tableau, and passive. That may be the biggest stroke of insight in that ad campaign: it's a non-threatening counterpoint to the Zealotry in the real world, something that would-be switchers have a hard time getting past. Without the ads, the act of switching to the Mac seems like an act of joining a cult or buying a copy of Who's Who. With the ads, the act makes the transition to one of buying a product. And if there's anything Americans are comfortable with, it's buying a product.

The pieces are finally in place; Apple is at last in a position where it can begin to appeal to the PC market at large on its own terms, rather than as a kooky alternative underground rebellion. As the ranks swell, the Zealots will become less and less visible, less and less confrontational-- and less and less of an impediment to more people switching than ever before.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
22:17 - So this is what Xbox advertising is reduced to...

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When all else fails, remember "Sex Sells". And if you're marketing to the adolescent g4m3r d3wd demographic, so much the better.

BY XB0X & WE GIVE U B00B!!!111`!1``


14:09 - Never underestimate the ingenuity...
http://www.iheartny.com/xicons/

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Go to this site and scroll down about halfway, to the "IheartNY Dock Lawn" entry.



I'm sorry, but that is just cool.

Also look through the further pages on the site for more excellent examples of this guy's talent. This is what people mean about how the Mac encourages people to go nuts with their creativity. (Like Dan Schimpf, whose slogan is "Serving the Mac Community for About a Week Now". He visited WWDC last June, and was so inspired by Cocoa that he went home and wrote MacJournal-- which won first place in the student competition of the 2002 Apple Design Awards.)

12:57 - Truth had better not be stranger than fiction.
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,53071,00.html

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Marcus Aanerud (may God have mercy upon his soul) sends me this link to a Wired article describing a set of "slash" fiction stories by Jezebel Slade-- homoerotic fan fiction starring Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Slash is homoerotic fan fiction that is usually written by women, for women. The stories detail erotic encounters between pop culture figures. Usually the works feature lead characters from popular movies or TV series: Spock and Kirk from Star Trek; Luke and Han from Star Wars; Mulder and Krycek from the X-Files; and Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

According to her website, Slade's stories were inspired by the 1999 TNT movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley, which chronicled the early history of Apple and Microsoft, personified by Jobs and Gates. Slade is at pains to point out that her fiction plays off the characters in the movie, not the real Gates and Jobs.

Slade's first story in the series, I Have What You Need, details a "missing scene" from the movie. Although it's not entirely clear from the text, the story appears to take place after Jobs shows Gates the Macintosh for the first time. Written in first-person narrative from Gates' point-of-view, Gates tells Jobs he "has what he needs." Jobs thinks it's software for the Mac, but quickly finds out Gates is referring to something else entirely.

I told you I don't understand celebrity worship. At least, not... gaah. Yeah, "good luck sleeping the rest of the week" indeed. Grr.

11:17 - What We're Up Against
http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD38802

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Via Cold Fury, which has a slew of good stuff up ever since his DNS and hosting issues have been sorted out: a MEMRI excerpting of an article by Suleiman Abu Gheith, one of the al Qaeda mucky-mucks, explaining why we need to kill him and everybody who looks like him.

"We have not reached parity with them. We have the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons."

"Christianity is as bad as Islam because it kills people and rapes children," people whine. Yeah, well, I'm no big fan of that. But read this article, I dare you, and tell me we don't have bigger fish to fry. And fry them we must.

09:53 - Geoffrey Nunberg
http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/writings.html

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Every time Geoff Nunberg's name comes up on "Fresh Air" on NPR, I turn the radio way up-- because I've come to look forward to his columns the way I look forward to new Apple product releases. Nunberg is a Stanford linguist who has worked at Xerox PARC, and as is frequently plugged, has a book of his collected columns called The Way We Talk Now.

A little while ago, he had a piece on journalistic that focused on the word roil; I found it to be so much fun I nearly had to pull over into the breakdown lane, the better to try to absorb it all. (How fortunate that it happens to be online!) And just the other day there was another piece by him, this time on the concepts of "moral equivalence", "moral relativism", "moral majority", and all other things "moral". It isn't online yet, more's the pity, but I'll be certain to link it here when it is-- because I'll likely be referencing it in anything I write in the future on those topics or anything I might be able to relate to them. This guy rules.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
01:28 - Regarding Euthanasia
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/06/AnAtheistsDeath.shtml

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    "The Doom of the World," they said, "One alone can change who made it. And were you so to voyage that escaping all deceits and snares you came indeed to Aman, the Blessed Realm, little would it profit you. For it is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there you would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast."
    But the King said: "And does not Eärendil, my forefather, live? Or is he not in the land of Aman?"
    To which they answered: "You know that he has a fate apart, and was adjudged to the Firstborn who die not; yet this also is his doom that he can never return to mortal lands. Whereas you and your people are not of the Firstborn, but are mortal Men as Ilúvatar made you. Yet it seems that you desire now to have the good of both kindreds, to sail to Valinor when you will, and to return when you please to your homes. That cannot be. Nor can the Valar take away the gifts of Ilúvatar. The Eldar, you say, are unpunished, and even those who rebelled do not die. Yet that is to them neither reward nor punishment, but the fulfilment of their being. They cannot escape, and are bound to this world, never to leave it so long as it lasts, for its life is theirs. And you are punished for the rebellion of Men, you say, in which you had small part, and so it is that you die. But that was not at first appointed for a punishment. Thus you escape, and leave the world, and are not bound to it, in hope or in weariness. Which of us therefore should envy the others?"
    And the Númenóreans answered: "Why should we not envy the Valar, or even the least of the Deathless? For of us is required a blind trust, and a hope without assurance, knowing not what lies before us in a little while. And yet we also love the Earth and would not lose it."
    Then the Messengers said: "Indeed the mind of Ilúvatar concerning you is not known to the Valar, and he has not revealed all things that are to come. But this we hold to be true, that your home is not here, neither in the Land of Aman nor anywhere within the Circles of the World. And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Ilúvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield, until life was reft from them. We who bear the ever-mounting burden of the years do not clearly understand this; but if that grief has returned to trouble you, as you say, then we fear that the Shadow arises once more and grows again in your hearts. Therefore, though you be the Dúnedain, fairest of Men, who escaped from the Shadow of old and fought valiantly against it, we say to you: Beware! The will of Eru may not be gainsaid; and the Valar bid you earnestly not to withhold the trust to which you are called, lest soon it become again a bond by which you are constrained. Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose. Nonetheless, many ages of Men unborn may pass ere that purpose is made known; and to you it will be revealed and not to the Valar."

...

    But Atanamir was ill pleased with the counsel of the Messengers and gave little heed to it, and the greater part of his people followed him; for they wished still to escape death in their own day, not waiting upon hope. And Atanamir lived to a great age, clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy; and he was the first of the Númenóreans to do this, refusing to depart until he was witless and unmanned, and denying to his son the kingship at the height of his days. For the Lords of Númenor had been wont to wed late in their long lives and to depart and leave the mastery to their sons when these were come to full stature of body and mind.

...

    But for all this Death did not depart from the land, rather it came sooner and more often, and in many dreadful guises. For whereas aforetime men had grown slowly old, and had laid them down in the end to sleep, when they were weary at last of the world, now madness and sickness assailed them; and yet they were afraid to die and go out into the dark, the realm of the lord that they had taken, and they cursed themselves in their agony.

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, Akallabêth

This was my Bible in high school, and I still think it has some valuable metaphorical guidance on this issue. (No, I'm not a literalist when it comes to following the Silmarillion. But I'm not above recognizing when it has a point that happens to be applicable.)

21:26 - I can't believe what I'm seeing.
http://www.sunspot.net/la-fi-universal12jun12.story

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Somebody pinch me. It looks as though Sony's and Universal's record divisions have woken up suddenly having grown a brain, and they're doing what we had all considered to be the impossible dream: they're releasing music as digital singles, for less than $1, and whole digital albums for $10. And what's more, this music can be burned onto CDs.

The songs will be distributed first by Liquid Audio of Redwood City, Calif., whose audio format provides better sound quality than MP3 files. Liquid Audio delivers music to dozens of online retailers, including CDNow, Amazon.com, Best Buy and Sam Goody.

Liquid Audio files are scrambled so they can't be freely copied from computer to computer. But Universal has decided to let buyers burn the files onto conventional CDs in unscrambled formats, meaning they could be copied or moved freely from that point.

The major labels have resisted the idea of letting consumers burn downloadable songs because they believe it would encourage piracy. But Kenswil noted that songs are widely being pirated, so "you're not keeping anything from being open [to piracy] by copy-protecting the download."

This could get really interesting.

21:10 - Some will say...

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There are hundreds of Mac-related websites out on the Net. Many of them, like MacKiDo in part, are dedicated to debunking myths about the Mac (like "Apple is going out of business" and "Macs can't be networked" and "Apple funds international terrorism" or whatever is the most popular one of the day).

I considered having a page like that on my site, explaining point-for-point why I use Macs. But I decided not to. Why?

Because people have read all of my arguments before. By the fifteenth time you see a page dicussing the Megahertz Myth or Type/Creator codes, your eyes have glazed over-- and if by that point you haven't been convinced that Macs are worth a second look, another such page isn't going to help.

But the urge is still there. We feel compelled to do Apple's secondary marketing, to evangelize Macs to our friends, to wear our iPods as conspicuously as possible (and show them to anybody who will stand still) and to demonstrate Macs in electronics stores to uncertain browsing customers, unwilling to leave that job to the employees of the store.

Some (within the community) will say that that is indicative for absolutely certain of the vitality of the Mac platform and the company behind it, and that we'll sooner see Yamaha go out of business than Apple.

But some will say that the fact that so many people so fervently want to defend the Mac means that deep down, we're deeply insecure and uncertain about Apple's future, and we think that the louder we toot our horns, the longer reality will be kept at bay. As long as we keep patting each other on the back and telling each other how great we are, it won't matter that the world has passed us by and not missed us one bit.

To that I say codswallop-- and not because I think it's not true. I think it is true that there's a whole lot of circle-jerking going on in the Mac community. But the trouble is that zealotry is so hard to tell from genuine well-informed opinion and evangelism.

Want to get snubbed hard? Find a reporter who has written an article that Rails Against Windows, yowling about how hard it is to use and how horrible the Registry is and everything. Drop him an e-mail noting that the Mac has no Registry, and that installing and deinstalling applications is no more difficult than dragging a single icon from one place to another. Then, when he turns out to actually know a good deal about Macs and how they have a number of problems of their own, witness the tone with which he brushes you off with two or three sentences about "Apple zealots who mail him with exhortations to buy a Mac". (Yes, voice of experience.) Be dumbfounded, then ponder writing a much more detailed response-- but then stop, realizing how thin a line that distinction is.

It's one thing to say that "Apple r00lz and WinBl0zw Dr00lz!" all over a website. But it's another to sit and analyze all the pros and cons of the situation, draw detailed conclusions, and then present them in some kind of online context without being lumped in with the preceding group.

Take myths, for example, like the one about Apple going out of business. Amiga people still linger about, claiming that the Amiga will rise again, and that the machines they made in 1991 are still perfectly serviceable today. How do we address the claim that Apple is going the same way, without appearing to be the same kind of people?

Some markets tend naturally toward monopolies. These are usually the really-big-ticket markets, the utilities and public services. Electric power and phone service are natural monopolies. No new companies can get into the market, and once one company turns into a minority and becomes marginalized, it's doomed. But other markets are anything but; with low buy-in for new competition, the next market leader in flashlights or donuts can bubble up from nowhere overnight.

Technology is one of the latter-- especially software, especially today. The "next big thing" is always just as likely to come from some genius in college as it is to come from Microsoft or HP. MP3 players tend to be made by companies that nobody had ever heard of a few years ago, if they even existed (SonicBlue, Archos); video cards are in a market where the leader position is only something that can be held onto for a year or two before someone else comes out of nowhere and kicks the rest into a ditch.

Remember Conn? They were the biggest maker of musical instruments in the country back in the 50s (MST3K fans who with horror remember the "Mister Be Natural" short will recognize the name and shriek.) But once the Japanese companies came on the scene, Conn became relegated to a tiny sliver of the market-- I'm told they still exist, though their products are dirt-cheap and piss-poor quality. Still, musical instruments are a market that can support lots of competition; all it takes to make and sell a trumpet is some know-how and a few pieces of equipment and some raw materials. It isn't like making a car, where you have to be a giant corporation just to enter the market. Besides, Conn was able to revamp its business plan so that it didn't need to be the undisputed market leader in order to make money for its shareholders; it can coexist with Yamaha, make money on a certain segment of the market, and hopefully expand out from there. Southwest Airlines did the same thing, improbably, starting out with three local routes in Texas and expanding beyond all expectation purely through a novel concept: dispensing with amenities and running what amounted to a bus line with mini-skirts, for rock-bottom prices. Now they're a gigantic success story, the only airline that didn't lose money after 9/11.

I don't think computers are a market that tends toward monopoly. There are some mitigating factors (like the requirement for interoperability) to the matter, but there is no reason why the entire world has to be standardized on a single platform. Granted, when it's a near monopoly, software makers have a hard time justifying creating versions of their products for the bit players, and so those bit players get further marginalized in markets like business. And so it's easy to imagine that once a company drops to below, say, 3% market share, the number of companies making software for it will drop below critical mass, and that platform will stagnate and die.

But as it turns out, software doesn't quite work that way-- specifically because of the low-barrier-to-entry nature of the software market. Whole companies, for example, make very healthy business cases making Mac-only software, and all kinds of other companies are perfectly healthy putting out the extra effort to produce Linux and Solaris versions of their products. It's only mismanaged software companies which are unable to maintain a business case for making their products multiplatform. Sometimes it's a necessity to kill off a minority platform version, depending on the company's specific circumstances, and it does help if the minority company makes life easy for the developer by providing a platform which is easy to develop for-- but a well-designed port only takes a few engineers and a few months, and the numbers usually work out such that it's worth the investment.

Besides, software companies are quick to jump when the wind changes direction. Now that the Mac is a hot platform again, software companies left and right are bringing out updated OS X versions of their software, after letting it stagnate under OS 9 for years. And more and more companies are emerging as game-porting houses, bringing more games than ever before onto the Mac side-- when those games aren't made dual-platform from the outset.

But the fact does remain that few Macs exist in the marketplace, and so they're marginalized in the public perception. Advertising is the only way to combat that, and the retail stores in high-traffic, high-income malls-- and now the in-your-face marketing campaign unveiled on Monday-- are two prongs to that attack. Apple is profitable, but they still need to grow that market share in order to stimulate their stock price and lure back more software developers, whose absence is not the kiss of death-- but does make things inconvenient.

So when people assume that just because Apple is small, they're doomed-- there really is more than Amiga-esque raving behind the defense against that assumption. It's very difficult for those of us in the community to see the importance of distinguishing between the two stances, and to understand the perceptions of the opposition and how not to play into their hands. That, I believe, is really at the heart of Apple's problems-- Mac Zealotry, or the perception of Mac Zealotry, drives away more people than it attracts.



Whew... this turned out a lot longer than I thought it would, and all because I had to get that "Mister Be Natural" reference in there.

20:22 - Oh good, bragging rights after all.
http://www.audiocoding.com/download.php

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Thanks to Matt Robinson, here's evidence that AAC audio encoders for programs like WinAmp are in fact illegal.

This site is collecting some kind of fund to make the encoder freely licensable, and there are DiVX-esque open-source versions available. But from the look of it, QuickTime 6 will be the first free AAC encoder for general use.

17:53 - Yeah, what he said.
http://www.coldfury.com/Entries/00000071.html

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Interesting how lately I keep seeing variations on this same sentiment, over and over, in blog after blog after blog (including mine):

As recently as a couple of years ago, I thought that both sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict had to share the blame equally for the ongoing trouble there. I felt sorry for the Palestinians, who had been "forced from their homes" - surely they deserved a country of their own as much as the Jews did? Surely they deserved to live in dignity, with the respect of their neighbors? Why were the Israelis so adamant, so doggone unreasonable, in their refusal to return to the 1967 borders? Well, allow me to state this here and now: I was an ill-informed idiot, guilty of forming an opinion without relying on actual facts. I do that now and then, unfortunately.

But no more. The Israelis are burdened with no more of a moral obligation to return the West Bank and Gaza to their tormentors than the US is to return Texas and California to Mexico. Less, really, because the Mexican government hasn't sworn to destroy us, and most important: the Mexican people don't support such an idea. Nor do I remember anybody dancing in the streets of Tijuana when the WTC came down.

As far as I'm concerned, the Palestinians can rot.

And yes, this is in response to something-- namely some damning poll results that indicate that whatever contagion has taken over the brains of the Palestinian populace, it's not something that we can combat with any human medicine that isn't copper-jacketed.

How much further does this have to go before we confront the fact that we're dealing with people who-- to paraphrase a Lileks column from several months ago-- can be fluent in English and conversant with the mechanicals of a 767, and yet unable to accept that its pilot could conceivably have plunked the plane into the ocean as an act of suicide, because he was a Muslim and Muslims don't do that?

We're not engaged in a political negotiation here. This is a first-contact situation with an alien invasion force, and we're going to have to start treating it as such.

Time to start hiring Babylon 5 writers into the Cabinet.

17:20 - Brilliant.
http://timblair.blogspot.com/2002_06_09_timblair_archive.html#77655269

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This post by Tim Blair, a parody of all those "I am a political refugee from Africa and would like to send you $15 million, just give me your bank account number" e-mails that no doubt everyone has received a couple of hundred times over by now, is genius.

17:16 - Premium Arabic Family Programming and Entertainment Worldwide™
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/355bqppp.asp

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Here's something else that I'm not willing to even say much about-- just to urge you to go and read it.

Any Muslims in the audience feel like standing up in outrage over this kind of thing happening under the aegis of their faith? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

13:51 - How to judge speed...
http://www.macnet2.com/index.php?itemid=161

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Another article at NacNETv2 by John Manzione, in which a few good questions are raised: one, whether a computer's "speed" is best measured in large tasks completed per total time, rather than in instantaneous responsiveness or clock speed; and two, why so many people will claw their own eyes out over how much they hate Microsoft-- but will still use Windows.

The first thing I noticed about his Dell was the speed. He was running Windows XP pro and it was wicked fast. Well, let me rephrase that… it appeared wicked fast. Windows (actual windows, not the OS) opened in a split second. Programs launched instantly (except IE), and with his broadband connection, even surfing the net was fast. Now, I know VPC is far from fast, but it was adequate for teaching me how to do things on various Windows operating systems, so I was able to navigate the OS without a problem.

I was impressed, at first. It even looked like the Dell would crush my Dual GHz Tower in just about every benchmark test. Then I started to do some actual work. I launched Office and started typing. Once I had typed a few hundred words I ran the ‘Spell-checker’ and found that spell checking a document wasn’t very fast. It took longer to find the word, suggest an alternative, and then make the change. I did some other things in Office and discovered that the Mac Business Unit really did write a better version for the Mac. The Mac version not only looked better it worked better, and faster. I don’t want to get off the subject, but I just don’t understand how Microsoft could release a product that looks ten times better on the Mac than it does in Windows. Have you ever seen the interface of Office in Windows?

This jives with my experience. I've noted before how Windows is extremely fast, even on fairly crappy hardware-- at least, when it comes to opening windows, moving stuff around, doing basic interface stuff. That kind of functionality has been moved way down deep into the kernel, and so no OS X machine will compare to it if what you base your opinion of a machine's speed on is how fast a menu pops up.

But if the task gets done faster, then that means that the speeds of the two systems are really a lot more comparable-- just that it's very easy to skew one's results one way or the other by tuning your sample set toward what one or the other does better. Want to prove Windows is faster? Get subjective analyses and whatever measurements are possible of how fast the interface works. Want to prove Macs are faster? time an individual task to completion. Different people will appreciate different kinds of speed.

And is the Mac really faster at completing tasks? Well, let me quote this bit first:

For a good 30 minutes, non-stop, I had the following operations going on;

1. Checking and answering email
2. Reading and responding to posts in the MacNET forum
3. Listening to ‘Dirty Vegas’ with iTunes
4. Burning a CD of some of my favorite songs my SUV’s CD Player
5. Organizing a photo album with iPhoto
6. Uploading images to my iTools with iPhoto
7. Downloading an episode of ‘Enterprise’ with Limewire
8. Scanning a QT movie of ‘Roswell’ that I had made.
9. Working on a logo for MacNETv2 (we’ve been told the ‘Aqua-esque’ logo doesn’t do it anymore)

I was doing all this at the same time, with no lag in speed. The PowerBook never choked, never crashed, never over-heated. I kept jumping from one application to another, multitasking like never before.

I didn’t notice I was doing all this until my wife looked over, saw my fingers jumping all over the keyboard, and asked what I was up to. It was then that I realized just how much I had going on at the same time. I was surprised, and impressed with my PowerBook and OS X.

While I doing all this I called by buddy Tim. I gave him a hypothetical to answer; I asked him how he would do all the things I had been doing on his Dell. I didn’t tell him that I was doing it on my PowerBook, only that if he HAD to, how would he do it on his Dell. I asked him this because I really wanted to know if a PC could do it.

He spent a couple of minutes thinking about it, then said he had to think about it some more, and would call me back. I suppose we wanted to try it on his Dell or look through his applications to see if it could be done. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at his house while he was trying to figure it out.

An hour went by and he called me back and told me it “couldn’t” be done. “Not all of it” he said, “Not half of it” he admitted. I then told him about my PowerBook experience. He didn’t believe me. I had to tell him “how” I did it, what software I used, and how much RAM I had installed before he was convinced. His response was “I gotta get me one of those, how much are they again?”

Apocryphal? Maybe. Believable? For me, sure. For others, doubtful. But these are the kinds of tasks we do every day, and none of it sounds alien-- because we have first-hand experience in doing all these things. We know how well each one of these tasks would interact with the other tasks, and we know how much or how little thought is required to do each one. And for Mac users, things like iTunes and iPhoto are such no-brainers that the programs themselves get out of the way and invite you to do other things at the same time. Using software that's less well-designed, you're always thinking about menu options and folders and preferences and filenames. But those things are nowhere to be found in the standard workflow of iTunes or iMovie or iPhoto; with them, it's about the content, not about the programs. When what you're thinking about is music or photos, suddenly everything becomes so much more obvious. It's like the third or fourth year of skiing: up until a certain point, it's labor-intensive, requires all your attention, and is stupefyingly tiring and not at all enjoyable. But as soon as you get to the level where you don't have to think about it anymore, you're not fighting your body, you're not thinking about your feet-- you're just whooshing down the slope with music playing in your mind.

So even assuming that the software to do all these things is available for Tim's Dell, it's going to take him longer to accomplish the list, and he's going to be a lot more tired-out by the time he reaches the end, no matter how fast his menus pop up.

We ended the phone conversation with his rant about how Apple should port OS X so that it would run on his Dell or at least make PC versions of all the ‘i’ apps. He even dared to say that since Microsoft made Mac versions of PC software that Apple should return the favor. Although he is a die-hard PC user, he hates Microsoft. Nevertheless, Microsoft is the brain of every PC out there so I don’t quite understand how a PC user could hate Microsoft.

The entire ‘Apple’ experience is not only about hardware. It’s about hardware and software, the OS and the “i” apps, the yin and the yang of the Mac. Now that Apple has decided to take on Windows head to head I can’t imagine Apple porting anything to the PC.

Exactly. Apple's profitable right now, making software that works with known hardware. It's not in their interest to make free software for Windows users. Why should they? The only possible benefit would be to make Windows users feel less revulsion at the Apple logo. The iPod is already doing that-- it's not designed for Windows, but Windows users are buying it anyway and putting up with the inconveniences of not having iTunes for it. And in some cases, it's convincing them to buy Macs.

But the iPod isn't a computer, and it's not software. If you had a Dell, and Compaq wrote a piece of kickass music-management software, would it convince you to buy a Compaq? No, it would convince you that buying a Compaq isn't necessary because they'll just make the software available for your Dell. The entire crux of the allure of the iApps is that they're Mac-only. What reason would a Windows user have to buy a Mac if iTunes and iMovie and iPhoto were going to be made available for his PC?

To say nothing of OS X. Why would someone buy a Mac if Apple ported OS X to the PC platform? It would mean they'd have to test zillions of new drivers and support an infinite proliferation of new hardware configurations-- and for what? So they could sell a few more copies of the software, at the expense of all those Macs that they would have sold to "switchers"?

As one of the respondents to the article notes, the exchange witnesses the age-old phenomenon of Railing Against Windows: Yes, Microsoft is evil and Windows sucks. But using something else is a suggestion that's so far beyond the pale as to be unthinkable; whether it's Windows or Outlook or IE or whatever, the majority of the world will yell and scream and rant and rave-- but they'll never switch. Because, after all, you know, Macs suck. Everybody knows that.

It's one of the strokes of genius at Redmond: they know to only spend enough money to make the software just good enough to hold and grow market share, but not quite bad enough for people to look for alternatives. That's how they make the profits they do. You want to talk about pragmatic? Microsoft owns the term. And there are some aspects to intense pragmatism that I as a geek, with some ideals of technological right-and-wrong, find appalling.

I must reiterate: I don't want Apple to take over the world. I think that would be bad for everybody. Apple would make a very poor status quo. But they do make an outstanding alternative, and they have perfected the art of playing the minority and the underdog. They make magic. Apple is not perfect, and they make a lot of mistakes. But when one considers their unparalleled software design standards, their oracle-on-the-mount UI guidelines, their idealist approaches toward software development and build tools and hardware integration, and their vision and genius in repeatedly coming up with new things that make a concrete and immediate difference in what people are capable of doing-- they are a great beauty that's derided and sniffed at rather than recognized for its achievements, and the world by and large would rather see them exterminated in the name of standardization and uniformity than to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I think that's wrong.

All I intend by the writing I do here is to convey the way I feel as someone who takes part in this shared hallucination, to plead for a fair and open-minded appraisal of the things they do and create, and to root for the home team. We've all gotta have something to believe in, after all, and Apple has been better than any other object of faith at rewarding me for it.

09:57 - Dear Lord, defend me from your followers...
http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/news/0602/12baptists.html

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I'm not even going to say much of anything about this; just go and read it.

On Tuesday current convention President James Merritt of Snellville backed Vines, saying "historically, he is on solid ground." Mohammed married a girl of 6 and consummated the marriage at 9, Merritt said. "In my book, that's a pedophile."

Christians and Muslims have "fundamental differences," Merritt said. "The God they worship is a God of works and a God of fear. The God we worship is a God of hope and grace and love and mercy."

The Southern Baptists' president-elect, the Rev. Jack Graham, also supported Vines' position, warning believers to "look carefully at who they're following and what they believe."

An angry Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the Baptist leaders' remarks "completely irresponsible and deeply offensive."

"This hands a victory to terrorists who want to drive a wedge between Christians, Muslims and Jews," he said. "This could harm America's interests worldwide."

Looks to me as though we're headed for a war between Christianity and Islam after all, no matter how much the rest of us have tried to avoid it.

In the 60s, everyone assumed the next big war would be thermonuclear. In the 90s, people said it would be a war of information-- defending economic and financial data against Chinese and Korean hackers. But now it's looking more and more like the next big war will be bloody, dirty, and holy-- and it may as well be fought with swords and shields and picks and shovels. Thanks to the miracles of religion, we're cast backwards by millennia.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
23:36 - I'll take a Cold War over a Holy War
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/business/1448072

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Looks like we're starting to get oil from Russia now.

Reports surfaced last week that Russian oil loaded on a tanker in Greece was bound for the United States. An Exxon Mobil spokeswoman would say only that the company does not comment on specific crude oil purchases.

Imagine... a future in which the US doesn't have to depend on Saudi oil, because it comes from Russia-- now an ally.

Of course, this is what we've been trying to do now for years, and the impetus for great conspiracies like "The US government itself perpetrated the 9/11 attacks so that we could have an excuse to eliminate the Taliban and run pipelines through Afghanistan to the Caspian oil fields". But, well, regardless of what some people will see it as a sign of, it's still a plenty good idea.

23:21 - Now that I wasn't expecting...
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0611LIFESTYLE-LEISURE-ARABS-GAMESHOW-DC.html

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My oh my. I must admit that I had no idea there was an Arabic version of The Weakest Link, must less that it's emceed by an evil little horn-rimmed Lebanese woman who scandalizes the Muslim world-- at least, the ones with TV-- with her audacity and criticism of the losing players.

'She's a bitch,'' said Dabbah, a barman in Beirut. ''There's no need to humiliate people just because they don't know the answer. God help her poor husband.''

Reams of newsprint have been dedicated in Lebanese papers to criticizing and even insulting Khoury's stern manner.

And while younger women tend to admire her bold approach and older women have grown to respect her, some still take a more traditional stand.

''She behaves just like a man,'' said Mona, a school teacher and avid watcher of television games shows. ''Who does she think she is? She should be more polite and feminine,'' she said of the crop-haired presenter who always appears in a sharp black suit.

I'd never thought of game shows as being listable among Barbie dolls and tight jeans as our premier weapons against Islamofascism, but...

22:55 - Curiouser and curiouser.
http://www.recipe4dvd.com/103/

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It was also pointed out to me by the Cap'm that the Apple DVD-R discs I bought from Fry's yesterday might well be only $5 each (as opposed to at least $10 for the competition) because the discs are "General" media rather than "Authoring" media, and therefore less versatile. Follow the link above for a run-down of the differences between the two-- the cheaper discs are artificially prevented from being used as "cutting master" discs, the idea being that they're priced for consumer use and crippled so people can't use them to copy DVD movies, while the "Authoring" discs (which can be used to create master copies) are much more expensive. The drives themselves are different too; they use different wavelength lasers (635nm for Authoring, 650nm for General), and neither drive can write to the other's discs.

(Note, by the way, that the consumer drive-- the Pioneer DVR-103/A03, which Apple calls the SuperDrive-- can also write DVD-RW, CD-R, and CD-RW discs; the laser is compatible with those formats. The pro drive, the DVR-S201, can only write to the Authoring discs.)

Now, I went searching for other DVD-R media, and this is what I found at Memorex's site:

http://www.memorex.com/products/product_display.php?cid=41&pid=39&oid=43


These are the discs I saw at Fry's; note that the SRP is $10. However, there's no mention in the specs, the related FAQs, or any other discs in Memorex's catalog of whether these are General or Authoring discs. But if it's true that General and Authoring discs and drives are not cross-compatible, then these would almost have to be General discs-- or else Memorex would have a whole lot of unhappy customers with DVR-103 consumer drives unable to write to the discs.

So, yes, it's true that I hadn't researched this when I posted this morning, and it turns out I still have a point purely by accident. But hey, I'll take what I can get!

22:30 - I have a new aspiration.
http://www.paulkrassner.com/homersuppressed.htm

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Here, go check this out... it's Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) introducing a live performance by satirist/humorist Paul Krassner. There's an MP3 of the intro to download, well worth the 1.6MB.

Dan Castellaneta, who does the voice of Homer on The Simpsons, graciously agreed to introduce my performance, which he did from an offstage microphone in order to maintain the image of that blustery cartoon character.

Aww. I always enjoy seeing voice actors do their signature voices live; it's such a trip, seeing familiar voices come out of totally unfamiliar figures. I'd love to see Dan do Homer live. But this is still funny, regardless.

21:31 - MBU != Microsoft
http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/06/GoingLimp.shtml

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Egad. Looks like I have some explaining to do.

Brian Tiemann, ever the Mac optimist, greets the new Apple advertising campaign with undisguised glee. It is directly targeted at trying to convince current users of Windows to switch to the Mac.

First of all, "undisguised glee" wasn't the intended attitude. I thought, in fact, that I'd spent most of the article being worried about potential pitfalls and potential accusations that could be leveled at Apple over it. I have my worries, and I'd hoped I'd made them clear. Apple is playing chicken with Microsoft here, and I have no delusions that it is anything but a guy on a Schwinn hurtling toward a big rig down the bed of the Los Angeles River.

Granted, I've been very optimistic about Apple lately. But I like to think that that's because I have reason to do so. They moved back into Mariani One. They have a larger and more diversified product lineup than they've had in years. Every week someone else in my company shows up with an iPod.

But that doesn't mean I think the current ad campaign can't backfire. I did say as much.
Thus Brian assumes that Microsoft will continue to support Office for Mac fully, leaving the way clear for Apple to move into Microsoft's living room and then head for the dining room to eat Microsoft's lunch.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Microsoft has a third alternative: go limp. It can deemphasize Office for Mac without any formal announcement. Keep working on it, but not as hard. Put less effort into "Macifying" it, make it feel less organic and less like a Mac application. Put less effort into usability. Put much less effort into trying to make it run rapidly on underpowered PPCs under OSX. Use no Altivec instructions at all. Worry less about deadlines; less about bug fixes. Worry less about trying to maintain feature parity on future releases. Leave out a couple of critical features "because there just wasn't time to get them in". Make file-format compatibility a bit less reliable. Cease making an attempt to use OSX threading to improve performance.

True. But that's always been true, and there's a reason why we haven't worried about this prospect as much as we otherwise would have:

The Mac Business Unit.

Office and IE for the Mac aren't written by Microsoft proper. They're written and maintained by an insane bunch of shrieking zealots within the bowels of Redmond known as the Mac Business Unit. These guys are nuts. There are no bigger Macophiles outside of One Infinite Loop-- in fact, they give Apple itself a run for its money when it comes to championing the cause and pushing the envelope. It's because of the MacBU that IE on the Mac has a number of features that it doesn't have on Windows (sidebars, cookie management, etc.), and that Office v.X has features that Office XP doesn't (transparent and antialiased charts, QuickTime export).

For Microsoft to "go limp" and stop pushing their products to be substandard on the Mac would be a bigger and longer slide than if their Mac products right now merely had parity with the Windows versions, and were produced by the same people. They're not. The MacBU people would fight any such edict from the top with the ferocity of cornered tigers; they've had to do it before, and they've won their little niche which they guard fiercely.

I'm not saying it can't happen. I'm not even ruling it out as a consequence of this latest attack by Apple; if we see the MacBU get disbanded, we know that it can be interpreted to be a lot more than a threat-- it would amount to finding not just the horse's head on the pillow, but two or three of those assassination-centipedes from Episode II curled up inside it. But I am saying that when it comes to the MacBU, this isn't a question of Microsoft "going limp". It's a question of their having to pulverize their own bones before they'll start to droop.

Sometimes it seems like Mac users are blinded by their optimism. They just don't understand how vicious real competition can be. Do they really think that Microsoft is just going to roll over and let Steve Jobs steal their market share?

No, and that's why I remain quite worried, as I had hoped to convey.

I think that we have very good cause to be optimistic these days. I can't help but comment happily on all the positive news I see being announced and all the uplifting indicators I see around me every day, and sometimes I genuinely have a hard time finding a gray lining.

But when I see one, I do point it out. Or at least I try.

Without Office, the Mac is dead in the water. That's so true as to be a given. But I'm unwilling to accept that Steve Jobs has undertaken this attack without thoroughly thinking it through. Hell, he's been through scuffles with Gates over and over in the past. He knows exactly what Microsoft is capable of. He's many things, but he's not a stupid man; and "five times bitten, not shy anymore" isn't much of a credo for any CEO worth his one-dollar-a-year.

Yes, I'm an Engineerist too, and my idealism stems not from religious fervor and a belief that Apple can do no wrong, but from repeated experience and observation that Apple is the biggest proponent I know of the kind of technological elegance that drives the geeks I know to excel. Geeks may be pragmatic to a fault, but they will bend over backward in order to promote the technology that they consider "right".

And when we look at the history of Apple since Steve's return, yes, it may well all be astonishing coincidences and dumb luck-- but when you follow the timeline from the start of the OS X project, the colorful original iMacs which made home computers sexy and desirable pieces of art and put Apple back on the tech map, the pro-level laptops that IT guys and executives can't keep their hands off of, then a return to a motif of white plastic and stainless steel-- more conservative, but more artistic still-- and then the retail stores, and finally OS X itself and the Xserve-- these aren't random successes thrown together in a bizarrely coincidental sequence. They all fit together in a timeline that must have existed as a skeleton strategy as far back as 1997. The fact that it's worked out is astonishing in itself. By all the odds, Apple should have died years ago. But instead, they're turning a profit quarter-over-quarter.

I try not to come across as "blinded"; I really do. I confess to surrounding myself with enough Apple-related news that I have a skewed view of the technology world. But I think I can justify a fair amount of optimism regarding Apple, and if Steve does indeed know what he's doing, this ad campaign could pay off big.

09:25 - "Apple stuff is always more expensive!"

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I was in Fry's last night grumpily buying a new UPS (my year-old CyberPower UPS demonstrated its cost-effectiveness by responding to a morning power failure by going dead and never coming back to life), and I picked up some DVD-R blanks for a project I'm working on.

Every single brand of discs was at least $10 per. There were three-packs at $30, two-packs at $25... and that's just DVD-Rs, not the DVD-RWs which are about $25 each.

Except the Apple-branded DVD-Rs, which are $25 to a 5-pack.

Hey, there's no shame in buying the better value, now is there?
Monday, June 10, 2002
18:32 - Some first-rate eclipsing here at Lord's...

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Here are some photos of the solar eclipse that just got finished. We've got the shadows of the trees on the wall of our building, with each aperture between the leaves acting like a pinhole, with the crescent shape clearly visble in each one; and also we have the image of the sun itself, taken through the Mylar of two floppy disks pressed together. (Who said floppies didn't have their uses?)


17:44 - That's encouraging.
http://www.apple.com/switch/questions/online/email.html

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From the E-mail page:

The Mac doesn’t need application extensions such as .doc or .xls to open files, but your PC-using friends still do — don’t forget to add the extensions when emailing them files.

Aha! So Apple does still value the advantage of not having to use stupid filename extensions. The 10.1 extension-hiding debacle still fresh in my mind, I'm leery of the NeXT-heads in Apple right now who seem determined to force the Mac to adopt this PC hack as a native standard, and the seeming defeat at their hands of the old-guard who valued type/creator codes and filenames that can be changed at will without icons and app bindings going poof.

But if this quote is any indication, Apple still knows what's important in computing. The extension-hiding functionality is a way to provide compatibility on files that we download and send out to Windows users on the Net or on CDs, but now that that's in place they can focus on making sure the time-honored Type/Creator code functionality remains the supreme way of doing things within the Mac.

As it should be.

17:30 - Here's a little gem...
http://www.apple.com/switch/questions/applications/index.html

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In the "Applications" page, there's this little beauty:
Use the best tool for the job

You may need to run custom software that only works on a PC. That’s fine — do whatever you need to do to get your work done. Keep that old PC around and share files with the Mac, or use Virtual PC to run a Windows environment on your Mac. (Despite what you may have heard, we’re pragmatic idealists.)

I love these guys.

17:02 - Wow, this is gutsy stuff.
http://www.apple.com/switch/questions/index2.html

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Here's a whole section of the "Reasons to Switch" site that had been sort of hidden under a "More Frequently Asked Questions" link.

There's tons of stuff here. Fully illustrated, side-by-side comparisons of the iApps versus their Windows competitors, including subjective cheap-shots about the latter's interfaces and feature sets and licensing terms and so on. Compatibility lists for digital cameras, mice, CD-RW drives, all kinds of peripherals. Application comparisons (like Office).

What gets me most is the iApp pages. This is the most shameless, barefaced attack on Windows at the software level that I've ever seen from Apple (who has formerly relied on vague homilies about how the Apple software is "great" and "easy to use") Finally they're laying out the cards so Windows people can see the comparisons for themselves. There's a lot of editorializing: If you want to do an and/or search [in WMP], an exact search, a string search etc. (great for databasing, but… music?) And If you decide you want to change the order of the buttons on your menu [in MyDVD], it’s easy to do. Start over. There's also a fair amount of marketing-ese on the Apple side. It's like a combination of the hype-packed terminology found on the product pages and direct UI critique of competition like Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker. Whether the comparisons are misleading and biased is not really up for question-- obviously it's tilted toward the Apple products (the Windows software doesn't get screenshots, and the space is used for the aforementioned cheap-shots about things like how you have to pay for an upgrade to WMP in order to import MP3s, and how Windows Movie maker doesn't export video in DV format or do lossless editing). But this is the kind of marketing that sells product. It's dispensing with the fair-play and charging into the brush on the competition's own terms. Bill must not be terribly happy today.

Notably, though, these comparison pages don't seem to say a word about the Mac's performance being better-- presumably because they're comparing Macs (of any speed) to Wintel PCs (of any speed), so speed comparisons are sort of meaningless. Instead, they're letting the user letters do the talking-- and many of them do say they found the Mac to be faster. (Than their two-year-old PCs, no doubt, but still the message is clear.)

This is a big step for Apple. It's bold and audacious, and I hope it doesn't end up backfiring on them somehow. But it's exhilarating to see something like this get off the ground. Twenty Percent Ho!


13:54 - Moof!
http://www.thinksecret.com/features/jaguarmiscellaneous/

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The Dogcow is back!

That's right-- Clarus, the beloved long-time mascot of the Mac OS underpinnings, has returned in Jaguar, in the Keyboard Menu. (She's the icon for "Character Palette", which I suspect is going to be a full and expanded version of Key Caps which will let us index and access all of the Unicode characters and browse through them without having to type numbers blindly.)

This can only be the result of the efforts of the legions of Dogcow fans out there who have been lobbying Apple for some new obscure appearance of Clarus. Some have inserted her into their iBook lid logos, some have hacked their Print Preview panels to put her in there-- but now, by popular demand (and no doubt as the result of some engineer who loved Clarus as much as the rest of us did), she's back. Yaay!

Also take a look at the other stuff in this Think Secret update-- there's ODBC stuff (super-cool for server-admin types), the new Calculator, contextual menu, the new Get Info panel, and Bluetooth and Rendezvous. This stuff is going to be so much fun to play with.



Chris reminded me of (or made up) the fact that the reason the Dogcow was dropped from OS X in the first place (or, rather, simply not included in its usual location) was that it was offensive to Muslims-- to whom the dog is the dirtiest animal, more so even than the pig. So they kept it out in order to be, er, PC. But now, if Clarus makes it to the final release, can we take this to imply that Apple is making a subtle little statement here-- an offhand snub to the Muslim community in light of recent events? How un-Apple... but how deliciously interesting a prospect.



11:35 - Apple Goes On the Offensive
http://www.apple.com/switch/

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You know how in war movies with Mel Gibson in them, there's always this point towards the end where the music rises in hopeful and grand chord progressions as the small, outnumbered good-guy force of underdogs realizes that their hordes of opponents are confused, demoralized, and surprised by their ferocity-- and starts waving their weapons in the air, shrieking battle-cries, and charges to the slaughter?

Looks like today's the day. Apple has gone on the offensive.


It's been rumored for years that the big thing holding back Apple in the marketplace is simply that their advertising sucks. Yes, the ad spots are always very cute and very clever and always win Clios. But they don't sell Macs; they just make people smirk. What we really need, all the rumormongers have said, is to see some "real-world" stories of people who use Macs and why they prefer them over Windows machines. Something to bring the awareness into the mainstream. Something to play on the public's frustration with Windows PCs. Something to look the customer in the eye and tell him that Macs are not only not a forgotten and dusty computing aberration from the 80s, but they're a vibrant and sexy platform that everyday people can join.

It's sort of like the "Dell Dude" ads, though nowhere near as smarmy. It's still targeting artists and professionals rather than baggy-pants-wearing teenagers and g4m3erZ. This is "Dell Dude" for adults.

What is it? It's the result of that effort Apple made several months ago to get people to e-mail in their stories of switching to Macs. Apple has taken those letters, sifted through them for the ones that were the most original and marketable, then contacted the people who wrote them and sifted through those for the ones that are the most presentable on camera. (I'm just guessing here, but it seems to be the sensible thing to do.) Then they posted the e-mails on the website and filmed TV spots for eight of the most photogenic people with the most appealing insights. They seem to have turned up a lot of IT professionals (who talk about how they work on Windows because they're paid to, but use Macs at home because they want to) and artists and writers who aren't big computer people, but love how the Mac lets them do things they never thought they could do without reading lots of "For Dummies" books.

Chris, playing Devil's Advocate as always, wondered whether this was "astroturf"-- isn't that a great term?-- in other words, a "faked grassroots" campaign which is really just copy written by Apple and read on camera by actors. That's a Microsoftian tactic (remember their "Freedom to Innovate" campaign?). But I don't think that's what it is, and not just because he put me in the position of defending these spots. I myself would agree that if this is astroturf, it's an unforgivable and crappy thing to do, and would entail a major loss of faith in Apple on my part.

But it looks real to me. And to Chris too, after we watched the spots. These people don't look like actors, and the letters are all different styles. (My favorite goes like this:

I bought the iMac for the following reasons:
1) Mac OS X
2) Mac OS X
3) Mac OS X
4) Very nice hardware
5) Easy to setup hardware
6) Did I mention OS X???
7) Me to play with OS X Development Tools

This isn't marketing-ese, I don't think.)

And the "Real People" stories are only part of this new site, which merits a whole tab at the top of the apple.com website, "Switch". It has top-ten lists of reasons to buy a Mac, questions people have about switching (along with detailed answers about issues switchers might face in transferring e-mail address books, web favorites, photo collections, applications, and so on), press quotes, and-- boy, this is brash-- a How-to-Switch Guide which walks you through the step-by-step process of getting your important files off your old beige box and onto your new Mac.

What this takes is a whole lot of confidence. Apple just hasn't had that before. Morale in the marketing department probably just wouldn't have supported it before OS X became stable, and certainly not before OS X was released at all. Only now do they have the courage of conviction to help them push both the OS and the hardware; they know that critical mass is hitting right about now, and it's the perfect time to start the big push into the mainstream consciousness. OS X will live up to the hype, now. (One of the letters talks about how the Mac works as advertised-- which to a jaded consumer of computer stuff is about equivalent to saying that it cures cancer and feeds starving countries and gives the world reason to join hands and sing.) So will the iApps, and so will the hardware. Now's the time to present the Mac as an obviously better solution, and chances are that the public will take it seriously.

That takes balls. But what takes even more numerous balls is what this campaign is implicitly doing to the Wintel world: it's a full frontal assault, for the first time in... well, since the 80s. Apple has studiously avoided directly antagonizing Microsoft for many years now, because they know what happens to companies that get on Microsoft's bad side. (Remember what happened when the newly-returned Steve decided to make Netscape the default browser on the then-new OS 8? Bill Gates called him up and asked, "So, how should we go about making the announcement of the cancellation of Microsoft Office for the Mac?")

So now Apple is shaking their AK-47s and screaming down out of the hills onto the opposing forces which no doubt do have the power to crush them without much effort if they decide to do it. What does this mean for Apple's relationship with Microsoft? It's a crucial one, if only for Office and IE. And Office represents one of the biggest bullet points in these "why switching won't turn you into a troglodytic tech orphan" pages. The Mac can't make a case for itself in business without Office. AppleWorks just doesn't cut it. What happens if Bill decides to lash back at Apple for this little incursion into his territory?

But that's just it: I don't think they can. Even though these antitrust trials seem to be succeeding only in handing Microsoft great victories both in terms of money and legal precedent for future monopolistic practices, I think attacking Apple right now is something they can't afford to do. It just wouldn't make good PR. How would they do it? There are plenty of cheap shots they could take-- they could paint the Mac as a "toy", they could make fun of its "obsolete" UNIX core, they could fling imagery of swirling Windows software proliferation at the screen like an AOL ad. ("Your Bonzi Buddy can't follow you onto the Mac! Please don't leave me behind!") But if Apple has calculated this correctly, the public is catching on to the grass-roots whispers that the Mac is a hot place to be-- critical mass would give the public the ability to see the Microsoft attack for what it would be, which is bitter and petty FUD.

There hasn't been an ad campaign like this since the early 90s, when a kid wanted to play with a dinosaur CD-ROM that his father just couldn't get working on their PC. Finally, the kid gave up and left. "I'm going over to Billy's house," he said. "They have a Mac."

That was the last we saw of Apple before they turned sycophantic and abstract in their advertising, and lost the ear of the market and slipped into obscurity. Time was that the guy in the record store could get a cruel laugh from the audience by replying to Homer Simpson's mention of "Apple Computer" with "What Computer?" But now, it seems, their testicles have grown back, and they're loaded for bear.
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© Brian Tiemann