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, June 30, 2002
20:57 - SSHazam
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=120131

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So it seems that while I was out, Apple released a security patch for the recently publicized SSH security hole, not two days after the fix was committed by the OpenSSH maintainers. Apple's patch comprises new versions of OpenSSH, OpenSSL, and Apache.

According to MacInTouch, the update still has a problem in the SSL components-- something that was addressed in a later update at CERT. (This whole SSH upgrade thing has been a major fiasco-- no fewer than three revisions of the OpenSSH patch were released for FreeBSD and other platforms, over the course of those two days, before they finally got it right.) Apple has evidently chosen to plug the most egregious hole first, and address the remaining bits in another update which we should expect within a few days. The same goes for the resolver vulnerability that has also been uncovered.

The crux of this, though, is that this is the incident and response that we were all waiting for that would prove Apple's commitment to being an earnest member of the UNIX vendor community. Previous security holes have had responses from Apple within a week or two-- about on par with companies like Sun and HP, but not competitive with what Linux and FreeBSD and Windows admins tend to want. (Windows patches are sometimes very timely, and sometimes lag by months.) People have had their eye on Apple to see how they would react to the "next big hole"-- it would be a make-or-break for the company in many server admins' eyes.

And considering the speed with which they've released this fix, I think they've laid down a pretty respectable line in the sand. Kudos to 'em.

20:38 - Back to the routine...

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I'm back from a nice long weekend visiting friends in the Nashville area. I enjoyed it a great deal-- playing disc golf, watching movies, meeting all kinds of new people who all seemed to know who I was-- quite an unusual experience, but not one I'm going to complain about.

Well, except for one thing: This trip did nothing to quell my hatred and loathing for cell phones. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Overall a trip to remember. And now back to the bit mines...
Thursday, June 27, 2002
08:25 - Justice is served

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What do I think of MCI/WorldCom folding? Good riddance, I say. They put those horrible long-distance phone ads on my TV, and they used Anderson to do their books-- the preferred method of late-90s conglomerates for Making $$$ Fast. Serves 'em right.

I refuse to give any of my money to any of these leeches who put ads with Carrot Top and Mr. T and Alf on TV. I swear, long-distance phone company ads are the worst thing about TV in this day and age, far worse than sex or violence or even the current season of Dexter's Lab. My phone exists for me to order pizza once a week, and I have absolutely no interest in using it for any purpose beyond that. I call long-distance maybe once a month. I can eat the bloody three bucks or whatever it is. If they want me to change that, they'd better get those damned ads off my TV.

No sympathy at all. Here's hoping AT&T or whoever does 1-800-COLLECT is next.

08:13 - Legacy of the 50s

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The answering machine of the atheist plaintiff in the Pledge of Allegiance case has been overflowing with "personal and scary" messages ever since the verdict was handed down; he's had to move his daughter, whom he was originally concerned with being "injured" by having to say under God, to a "safe place".

Now, even though I'm about as non-religious as they come, and a fierce proponent of the separation of church and state, I agree that this verdict was ridiculous and should be overturned. We made our bed in 1954, and now we have to lie in it.

But, you know, I don't think it speaks very well of religious people's supposed ethical superiority for them to be leaving death threats on someone's answering machine.

He's not Salman Rushdie, you know.

08:10 - Itty Bitty Nitty-Gritty Committee

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(Posting wirelessly from the airport, I am.)

With the G8 conference going on near Calgary, there's a group of anti-globalization protesters near there called the "Revolutionary Knitting Committee". They're sitting on the steps of the government buildings and knitting scarves and sweaters; their message is that "not all your clothes have to come from massive corporations".

Do these people have anything useful to contribute?

Knit me a pair of jeans for less than $20 and we'll talk. Then do it for each of my quarter billion friends, and see if you can still do it as a gathering of kindly little grannies with knitting needles, instead of becoming (gasp) a giant corporation.

You pathetic twits.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
00:14 - I'm outta here...

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Unless anything earth-shattering happens in the morning, this is probably the last post I'll be making until Sunday night; I'll be out on vacation until then. Here's hoping the world hangs together...

17:34 - Trailers, we got trailers
http://movie-list.com/l/lordoftheringstrilogy.shtml

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There are two new trailers for The Two Towers to be found online: a two-minute one that's awesomely cool, and a 3:30 one that's like the first one squared in terms of coolness (though it's a bootleg made with a camcorder in a theater, so it's all flickery).

Go get 'em, tiger.

17:14 - Nasssty Elveses!
http://gtexts.blogspot.com/2002_06_16_gtexts_archive.html#77950793

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I've seen this link kicking around various special-interest regions lately: it's an analysis of why the Elves in Middle-Earth aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Pretty silly and fun. But it also makes one think about the "mythological racism" inherent in stories like Tolkien's. All the merit that various characters have is in their bloodline and the purity of their ancestry, not in their deeds-- or at least, their deeds come to fulfill the high expectations that people have because of their blood. Star Wars has the same kind of thing going.

I've often thought about how the reason why we like stories like LotR and Star Wars is that it gives us a license to indulge in a kind of social outlook that's not politically-correct to espouse in real life; it's escapist fantasy, where racism not only has no negative connotations (anybody who is oppressed because of his or her race, effectively, deserves it), but it is the height of honorable aspiration.

I spent a lot of time being troubled by this, before eventually just deciding "Y'know, screw it"-- it's a story, and I think I (and most people) are capable of handling it as such, and separating it from real life. Just as it's folly to imagine that Quake causes kids to shoot up schoolyards, a study that sets out to prove that Tolkien's writings have inspired generations of white supremacists would probably turn up some pretty sparse results.




UPDATE: Aha-- I knew I remembered reading something high-profile about this before. David Hilvert sends me these two links to thoughts by David Brin on this very subject, both definitely worth reading if the above paragraphs haven't already made you reach for your mouse:

ttp://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/

http://www.kithrup.com/brin/starwarsarticle2.html


Tuesday, June 25, 2002
00:37 - Great. They let the Visionary Intel PC designers have a go at the WTC.
http://isntapundit.com/

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I don't know what the story is with these proposed WTC designs that Isntapundit (note spelling carefully) quite rightly stones to death here, but the WTC2002 design is looking better and better by comparison.

If this is what the architectural art world is like today, I'm tempted to imagine what we'd have been seeing if 9/11 had occurred in, say, 1959.

One shudders, then vomits, then shudders again.

00:24 - Oh. Right.

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Pursuant to the scanner tale... Chris and I were on the way to a movie. I was telling him about SilverFast, which I described as having "more features than I could shake a fucking stick at."

As I continued talking about it, Chris waited for a breath-pause to ask, "By the way-- can I borrow your fucking-stick?"

"I'm not done shaking it yet," I said.

We'd parked at the theater before we both stopped laughing.


...What? So we're easily amused.

00:05 - A Voice in the Wilderness
http://www.lasersoft-imaging.com

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My days of scanner purgatory are over.

Anybody who's stuck with me for some time will probably remember my scanner woes-- my Quixotic battles with the beast known as VueScan, my futile attempts to find an A3-sized scanner for less than $3000 or with anything but a SCSI interface-- it seemed my life was doomed to ignominious failure; the Gods of Scanners mocked my every scrabbling.

A few days ago, Think Secret published some screen-shots of native, OS-level scanner support in Jaguar, and my spirits were lifted-- perhaps, who knows, Image Capture will know about my Microtek 6400XL! Maybe, just mayhap, it will lift scanning from the dismal Pit of Despair that is VueScan-- in which your prescan and your full scan passes would have about as much bearing on each other's exposure levels as the Designated Hitter Rule has on wind patterns on Mars-- and give me the ability to transfer things from paper to pixels without physical pain again. Maybe...

...But that's in the future. Jaguar isn't out until "this summer", which we translate to mean "late September". So I'm again returned to my seat of peering at my screen and wishing it to convert itself into a Stargate that I could throw my sketchbook into and have its whole contents converted to JPEGs by the happy little Apple Elves.

Until Saturday, that is.

Saturday, my whole life changed.


I got an e-mail, out of the blue, from someone I'd only run into in passing in a forum somewhere, months and months ago. He said, "Hey-- I don't know if you're still having trouble with your 6400XL. But if so, I found this great piece of scanner software-- it's called SilverFast, and it supports your scanner natively."

No way, I thought. But I went to the website anyway.

And there it was. A very slick, well-polished, full-featured scanner program, with both a Photoshop plug-in version and a standalone version, for Windows (all flavors) and Mac OS 9 and OS X. It supports all kinds of scanners-- three columns' worth of manufacturers. Drill down into "Microtek" and you find pictures of each and every scanner Microtek has made in the last five years. They're all supported, including my 6400XL.

There's a $300 full version (with a demo) and a $50 "SE" version for the low-end. I download the demo and install it. I cross my fingers. I swear under my breath. No way can this be everything I'm looking for. I fire up the plug-in and do a prescan run. And instantly, the prescan appears, scrolling real-time as the data flows in from the scanner. It's non-blocking. I can keep doing things as it scans. And the pre-scan run is fast! Fifteen seconds and it's there, perfectly balanced!

It's then that I notice how perfectly polished everything in the interface is. This isn't just some bad port. This is a gorgeous, carefully laid-out OS X app. The buttons are all spaced right. The labels all update correctly and fit right. When I select a post-processing option of "Unsharp Mask", it gives me a pop-up palette with a "before" and "after" window, and asks me to select a piece of the prescan region; I do, and it snaps off a salute. "Yes, SIR!" And it hurriedly zips to the spot where I clicked, scans that little square, puts the results in the "before" window, does an unsharp mask, and puts the results in "after". Then it stands poised, ready for me to do a real scan and apply that filter inline.

I do a full scan, the tears streaming down my face. A progress bar pops up. It only takes up about 2/3 of the dialog box-- because the rest is taken up by a progressive icon of the scanned image... it updates pixel-by-pixel as the scanner travels down the length of the bed. And it's not just updating once per pixel height... it does one row of pixels then an antialiased row-- then it resamples that row (now that it's finished) and completes it, then goes on to do the next row antialiased. It's a smooth, feathered boundary-- an OS X-native effect, and completely unnecessary-- but the kind of thing that you do if you're a programmer who loves his work.

Fifty bucks has never so violently flown out of my pockets and into the Stargate of my screen.

The SE version is missing a few features from the full version, but not so you'd notice; it still has the contrast-o-meter, some of the post-processing, and all the positioning controls. The only thing it seems not to have is the weird calibration stuff that top-end graphics professionals would demand. But for my purposes, all my deepest desires have been fulfilled. I have since Saturday been drifting in blissful slack detachment, with the same kind of feeling in my limbs of a man who has just been released from a neck brace. My life begins anew.

SilverFast. I sing thee an ode.

And thank you to Chris Pople, the Voice in the Wilderness, to whom I owe my current euphoria.




It would still be nice if OS X could support discovery of SCSI devices that aren't necessarily turned on at boot time, but no! No no no. That's not a complaint that needs to be aired right this minute. That can wait.

Like until after Jaguar, if it's not in by then.

11:35 - And then there's the Tablet PC...
http://www.macnet2.com/more.php?id=26_0_1_0_M

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Journalists are starting to get their hands on Microsoft's tablet PC-- you know, the one they announced last year in the same week that Sony discontinued theirs due to nonexistent sales.

Handwriting recognition is supposed to be a big thing in the Tablet PC-- "best in the business", say the PR goons.

BEFORE YOU HIT those reviews, let me tell you that Microsoft forced us reviewers to sit through a day and a half of propaganda before it would hand over the test machines. The basic message of this indoctrination (which I understand the North Koreans could have accomplished in six hours or less) is simple: "Handwriting recognition doesn't matter."

Repeat that to yourself for a couple of days, and you'll be right where Microsoft wants you: Ready to accept a Tablet PC with way-less-than-perfect handwriting recognition but a vastly improved system for handling electronic ink on electronic paper. If this is enough for you--and it will be for many users--Tablet PC will make you happy.

Handwriting recognition doesn't matter. Handwriting recognition doesn't matter. Handwriting recognition doesn't matter.

Hmm. I wonder if John Manzione is convinced yet?

THE COMPANY CLAIMS its handwriting recognition is the best in the industry, which it may well be. But, even in Microsoft's own demonstrations, the technology doesn't work very well. Among other things, it's hampered by the most awkward method of making corrections that I've ever seen. Try picking the word you intended from a long list of nonsense "words" that use the same letter combinations, and you have the general idea.

Microsoft's handwriting reco doesn't learn by doing, either, so it won't get any better at mastering your particular handwriting over time. As it is, you can change your handwriting for the recognition engine if you like--just don't expect it to change for you. And people (like me) who print are especially out of luck: The reco is intended for cursive script only.

But remember: "Handwriting recognition doesn't matter."

The Newton is remembered best for its Doonesbury parody-- in fact, in the future, that may well be what Doonesbury is best remembered for, too. It was the height of the comic and an unmitigated coup for the forces of ridicule. No matter how loudly anyone yelled that the Newton's handwriting recognition learned over time and took into account things like printing vs. script characters and eventually became extremely, even uncannily, accurate, it was much more fun in the tech press to gleefully point and laugh at how silly the mistranslations were when you first took the thing out of the box.

What a user-experience nightmare. Can you imagine trying to sell a product that worked worst when it was brand-new? In a world where the first five minutes are absolutely crucial in forming a rapport between a customer and the gadget, trying to promote a product that learned about you while you learned about it had to have been a terrible, thankless task. What a heartbreak to see it so reviled by people who, quite literally, never gave it a chance.

But at least it could handle printed letters, not just cursive. And if Microsoft's software doesn't learn over time, it's taking the easy way out-- but it'll probably sell more. Isn't that a great microcosm of the whole Microsoft-Apple schism, right there? One company "does it right", but there are complications with "doing it right" that make people shun it in the marketplace. The other company copies it, does a shoddy job, but focuses on features that sell well-- and it wins the pot.

Seeing this happen over and over again is what makes me both so bitter about Microsoft's success, and so determined not to see Apple's good deeds go unrewarded. There must be justice in this world, somewhere.

11:25 - Jaguar's a-comin'
http://www.macnet2.com/more.php?id=26_0_1_0_M

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John Manzione, no ceaseless spewer of pro-Apple propaganda, has a gushing and bubbling reaction to Jaguar. He's as optimistic as they come, on this particular topic.

Ink

You think you know about ‘Ink’. But have you seen it? With a tablet you can input text anywhere, in any application, at anytime. With a click of a preference you can choose to write on a ‘Pad’ that instantly appears on the desktop when you tap it with your pen, or you can choose to use Ink’s writing pad. Simply start to write and the pad appears and converts what you write into text. And it works wonderfully. Nothing to learn, just write as you normally do. Apple has Ink doing all the learning, not you, so the more you write the better ‘Ink’ does at understanding exactly what your wrote. Palm must be nervous; I know I would if I worked there.

Networking

Starting with Jaguar you will no longer need to worry about how to set up your Network or Internet connection. It’s totally automatic, seamless, and transparent. Move into range of another Network and it seamlessly connects to it (if allowed). Want to share something on your computer with someone else in the room running Jaguar? With Rendezvous your Mac recognizes when a Mac gets in range and simply shows up on your computer. Start sharing right away, no fuss, no muss.

Apple has taken the extraordinary step to make your computer more secure, and at the same time more accessible than any other platform. You’ll get instant Firewall protection, and several options for file sharing, but the ability to share or connect to other Macs has never been easier.

I dunno-- I'll believe it when I see it. But I can't deny that I can't sit still, waiting.
Monday, June 24, 2002
02:05 - This conspiracy goes all the way to the top...
http://www.instapundit.com/archives/002001.php#002001

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Some of us aspire merely to be mentioned in passing by our friends in their blogs or LiveJournals. Some of us are tickled pink to be noticed by Steven den Beste or Glenn Reynolds. But...

LILEKS IN CONGRESS! A reader just emailed that Rep. Tom Tancredo was reading from Lileks' latest Screed on the House floor a few minutes ago.

And here I was worried about how carefully I'd have to watch my writing if I knew that more than a few people in my own social circle were reading it. Congress? Good Lord... I don't know what I'd be feeling if I were James right about now.

23:03 - The Last Laugh
http://boingboing.net/2002_06_01_archive.html#85195532

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Mark Frauenfelder, the Apple "Switcher" whom John Dvorak refers to as a "goofy looking schlub" who "looks as if he wants to wash a camel with cream cheese", turns out to be a co-founder of BoingBoing, a kickass technology-centric blog.

Given the choice between BoingBoing and Dvorak's PC Mag columns, I can tell you which I'd rather read. And I'm not alone.

18:51 - Now this is just sad.
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,263566,00.asp

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Dvorak is at it again.

Not content with his bizarre anti-Apple rant from a few days ago, or to let Andrew Orlowski's article in The Register take all the spotlight, John Dvorak has written a piece that staggers the mind with its petty crudeness of premise. He thinks Apple's new "Switch" ads are offensive as hell, and (like Orlowski) he ridicules each of the interviewed "Real People" in turn.

(I wonder whether the Real People knew that this was what they were in for? I suppose this is what Orlowski meant by the ad campaign being cruel and manipulative of Mac users.)

Says Dvorak:

Desperation. That's the word that comes to mind when I see the Apple "Switch" ad campaign, also referred to as the "Real People" campaign.

No, it's not desperation-- it's called confidence, you butt-nugget. Apple is turning a profit, their market share is growing, they've got a stable of best-of-breed software, a rock-solid and advanced OS, and computers that everybody's drooling over. Where the hell would desperation come from? This is Apple at the strongest they've been in years, and only now do they have the confidence it takes to run an ad campaign showing people telling real-life stories about their computing experiences and how buying a particular company's products has solved their problems. How the fuck is that offensive to anybody but a columnist who writes articles for that company's competition?

Read the forum discussions. At least the first twenty posts or so, before it devolves into the to-be-expected back-and-forth arguments between some PC guy who can't spell or comprehend what custom icons or drag-and-drop installations are about, and erudite Mac users defending Apple and trying without any success to beat certain basic concepts into this cement-skulled moron's brain.

Up to that point it's great:

Wow.  Criticizing the people on physical appearances and then saying that if these people are the future of Apple it's in trouble.

I thought Mac users were supposed to be the elitist ######.

And

Nasty smirk? You may want to take a quick gander at Mr. Dvorak's picture again...

And

Hey, John, I see you still haven't found your missing chromosome. Perhaps if you pulled your head out of your behind, you'd have a better chance of finding it. You sound scared, John. Scared that the rest of the world will find out the truth. Or do you just need to generate hits? It's about time Apple put it out there in plain sight. Macs are superior. XP is a cartoon created by a company with mediocre quality standards. Place a Mac OS X box next to a Win XP box, John, and even an idiot like you would be able to pick the superior Mac instantly. It is funny to see a fat old man criticizing others on their appearance, though. Keep up the bad work, John, you old fool. http://www.apple.com/switch/

The nice thing is that even the people in the forums who don't much like the ads seem well-disposed toward Apple. (Well, except for the odd person who outright rejects such antiquated concepts as "software innovation" as being a reason to endorse a company-- nahh, it's much more important to relegate that company to the dung-heap of history as long as you get to play fucking Neverwinter Nights.) But for the most part, Dvorak has no friends whatsoever in the forums anymore.

What a sorry, bitter, petty old crank.




UPDATE: Oh, now this is too cute for words. John responds in the forums:

I have no axe to grind and don't really care what machine people use. But I'm shocked by the support that the Mac gets on a column running in PC Mag. Of course this may be because the community is loading up on me with shills who will stop returning after the next column -- which I PROMISE -- will not be about the Mac or Apple. Sheesh.

Uh huh. In other words, "Gee-- I didn't think I'd get caught!"

This is the Web, you freakin' nimrod. You think you can post a piece of groundless, vitriolic anti-Apple slander on a website and be safe from Mac users finding out about it because they're not supposed to be reading a PC site? Don't tell me one of the premier technologists of our time is this old-media.

Really, this is pitiful. He read Orlowski's article, then decided that he could say wittier things about the funny-looking people in the ads than Orlowski did. So he wrote up what amounts to a parroting of the latter's piece, only less well-thought-out and less enjoyable even for the PC users in his audience, the majority of whom it turns out disagree with him.

And now he's whining because people have descended from the far corners of the Net to beat his sorry ass into the asphalt, when they weren't even supposed to see him. Jesus Christ.

How tragic to see a once-respected writer sink so very, very low.



16:02 - Just going over some old chestnuts...
http://www.lileks.com/screed/olivegarden.html

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I was reading the Olive Garden Screed again-- just dancing blithely down the park-path of halcyonity that is online journalism since last fall-- and a thought occurred to me.
"And from the Olive Garden it does seem very distant. Indeed, the whole messy and diverse concept of Europe seems very distant.
Around Birmingham, there is nothing but miles and miles of Alabama."



Apparently around Birmingham England, there is nothing but miles and miles of Belgium, Thailand and the Antarctic Ice Shelf.

Lileks' giggle-fit-inducing rejoinder notwithstanding, I had to wonder something: What does a British person think of the vastness of American territory? What must it be like, coming from a country where you can drive from one end to the other in a day, picking up an atlas of the Lower 48 States and trying to imagine what it's like to live in such a place?

The big cities are probably easy to imagine. Cities are epicenters of activity. Everything you need can be found in any city. A city in a country 3000 miles across isn't that different from London or Paris, not in terms of day-to-day living. It's when you start to get out into those big middle-of-nowhere regions on the map that it starts to get weird. Where do all those long, curving interstates lead to? What's out there in ... Montana? Utah? Kansas? What are people like there? Do they even speak the same language we do?

In fact, coming from England, where one can drive a hundred miles and find oneself surrounded by people whose accent is completely incomprehensible, no doubt it's terrifying to imagine what that difference can be, magnified a hundred times.

To a Brit, America must look the way Siberia or the Australian outback looks to us: a vast, unexplored wasteland, full of mountain ranges and rivers and forests and rampaging tribes of lawless natives, when you're lucky to find traces of humanity at all. It's the realm of loggers and trappers, mountain men and crazy religious isolationists. It's nowhere that a civilized person would go.

But that's just it: that's what's so extraordinary about America. You can travel 3,000 miles and find less difference in people's attitudes, language, and beliefs than you'd find in 100 miles of travel in England or Europe. You can go to the middle of Idaho or Nevada and find every evidence of the thorough penetration of infrastructure: well-maintained roads, post offices, tract homes, 7-11s, new cars, high-speed Internet. You're just as likely to find some blogging technologist in Butte, Montana as you are to find him in Silicon Valley. Rural America might seem eerily menacing to anyone who has seen Deliverance, but even the backwoods of Kentucky have clean restrooms in the gift shops of the Points of Historical Interest that dot the highways, and everybody speaks intelligible English and mows their lawns and washes their cars.

The uniformity of America is a phenomenon in and of itself-- it's not just a "default" condition, an inevitable result of people not caring enough about their regions' traditions to want to fragment into tribes and evolve into freaky mountain people. It's the result of the unique variables that led to America's formation in the first place-- this specific point in technological and political history-- coinciding with a vast territory being overrun by Europeans desperate for land (and willing to shove the existing native people into a ditch in order to get it), every one of those people bearing the same seeds of entrepreneurship that originally got this country moving. The fact that a burger tastes the same in Minnesota as it does in Arizona is not a failing on the part of America's people to all develop their own ideas about what's important; it's the natural result of a people's common goal realized at the personal level, the desire to succeed and to achieve. We're a people determined to maximize what each of us individually can do, and we happen to have an almost incomprehensibly big agar dish on which we can do it. With such a food-rich environment, small wonder we've become as productive and as greedy and as gluttonous as insatiable for more achievement as we have.

So when a Wal-Mart or an Olive Garden springs up in Butte or Birmingham, where some might see a sitcom parody of authentic culture or mercantile, I see another unprecedented phenomenon-- one of those things that seems weird and scary to anyone who didn't grow up in the middle of it, but which to us is the most natural thing in the world. It's not inherently evil; it's just different from everything that's come before.

15:23 - What, you thought they were going to stop with .NET?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/25843.html

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I'm not wild about the attitude and tone of this Register article (I'm getting vibes of unpleasantness from lots of their writers lately), but the gist of this article deserves attention.

According to Levy, Palladium is a hardware and software combination that will supposedly seal information from attackers, block viruses and worms, eliminate spam, and allow users to control their personal information even after it leaves their computer. It will also implement Digital Rights Management (DRM) for movies and music to allow users to exercise 'fair use' rights of such products. Palladium will essentially create a proprietary computing environment where Microsoft is the trusted gatekeeper, guard, watchstander, and ruler of all it surveys, thus turning the majority of computing users into unwilling corporate serfs and subjects of the Redmond Regime.

Yeah, and just wait'll Palladium is part of everybody's Windows machine-- and then gets hacked. Because it will. You know it will. Microsoft can't make a piece of rock-solid security software all of a sudden now, when for twenty years they've been unable to do that no matter how hard they've tried. Do you want to be in the vicinity when someone gains access to the desktops and hardware of every single Windows machine on Earth?

What's really frightening is the speed with which Microsoft's ventures in this direction are gaining in audacity and scope. Monopoly convictions or no, they're planting one foot firmly in front of the other and stomping off toward the goal of having Passport membership and Windows usership codified into U.S. law, thereby making Windows the only legal OS to run.

Couple that with the laws as they've been passed lately and the more recent Hollings-esque propositions, and you've got the makings of a world where software makers are liable for damages caused by their software-- a world in which open-source development would be impossible. With customers forbidden from revealing security flaws in software and software makers forced to protect themselves with huge legal defense bodies, soon the only people who can develop software will be the huge corporations. Individual people will be denied the right to publish software they've written themselves, and the egalitarian revolution of software will plummet to earth just as it's beginning to take flight. Meanwhile, who benefits? Why, Microsoft, naturally.

So it's now obvious where Windows will be in five years, and where Bill hopes to take it. Who's willing to stand up and shout in favor of this future? Anybody?

14:53 - What it all comes down to is...
http://armedndangerous.blogspot.com/2002_06_23_armedndangerous_archive.html#78108401

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Eric Raymond has the third part of his piercing look at Islam posted.

We will not be prepared to win the war against Islamic terror until we understand the following things:
  • Islam is a religion of war and conversion by the sword, not peace.
  • The primary threat of terrorism comes from Arabs and middle-easterners between the ages of fifteen and forty, and we must summon the will to profile accordingly.
  • We are dealing with religious fanaticism rather than rational grievances against America or the West.
  • Our enemies cannot be reasoned with or appeased anywhere short of surrender and submission to shari'a law.
  • Apologists for mainstream Islam are systematically lying to us about Islamic doctrine in order to shield terrorists who they know are acting in strict accordance with that doctrine.

The hardest challenge for Americans is to grasp is the fact that the evil of the 9/11 hijackings, the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the threat of al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction set off in American cities is not simply the evil of al-Qaeda. It is in fact the Koranically-correct expression of the tendency of Islam (Sunni fundamentalism) which is has been pre-eminent through most of Islamic history and now encompasses over 90% of the worlds Muslims.

We need to face the fact that we are confronting not just a barbaric and evil group of men, but a barbaric and evil religion. To protect ourselves, we must either force the complete reform of Islam (purging it of jihadism and its tendency towards periodic fundamentalist outbreaks) or destroy its hold over its followers...

To win the war on terror, we must understand jihadism and clearly distinguish it from ethical self-defense. We must be prepared not merely to counter fanaticism not merely by killing the fanatical in self-defense, but also by discrediting the doctrines and habits of thought that make fanatics in the first place -- whether they occur in the other guy's religion or our own. Islam has declared itself the immediate adversary of modernity -- but more than one world religion will have to go under the knife before our children can sleep in peace.

Pause a bit. Let this all sink in.

Ready? Good. Let's move on.

What Raymond is saying, then-- and what more and more people in the blogosphere, like Mike Hendrix, are coming to terms with-- is that our terrible choice is becoming clearer with each passing day. We must choose one of exactly two options:
  1. Surrender utterly to the will of fundamentalist Islam, or
  2. Destroy religion.

That's right... that's what it comes down to. The sad, tragic fact is that no matter how we try to rationalize the things that are happening in the world, we're on the brink of something unspeakably huge. We're engaged not in a war of economics or oil or land or oppression. We're engaged in perhaps the most significant war in all human history, a war of ideals-- on the one side, science and reason and secular humanism (which for lack of a better catch-all concept I'll call "science")... and on the other side, religion and blind faith and fanaticism and superstition (which for lack of a better catch-all concept I'll call "religion").

We've been fighting this war on the popular level for hundreds of years now, ever since the Renaissance and the rise of the middle class in Europe. Before that time, there was no science-- that was the realm of alchemists and ancient Greeks, and only those results of it that were irrefutable became codified by the religious incumbents, and what was left over was dismissed and shunned. Why not, after all? It's not like it really offered any answers that were better than what the priests had.

But times are different now. Scientific thought is respected, not distrusted-- it has taken us to the moon and fired nuclear power plants. It has leveled Japanese cities and given us flying buses that carry thousands of people around the world every day. None of these very tangible advances owe the slightest thing to the old religious thinkers, whose only purpose now seems to be to tell us which of those advancements we're allowed to use and which we aren't. They can't create anything of their own except rules.

We've been fighting minor skirmishes in this conflict now throughout the history of our country, getting more and more frequent with each new advancement. Roe vs. Wade. Brown vs. Board of Education. Free-speech issues polarize those who want the right to speak against those who want to suppress it, and in most cases these tiny debating figures cast vast shadows on the back walls of the hall: the shadows of these two forces that we're now beginning to see for what they are. The two biggest ideas humans have ever had.

These two ideas have never lived pleasantly together. But now their disagreements have reached a fever pitch; religion has fired the first shot of the full-scale war in the form of the jetliners in New York, and science must now decide whether to fight back or whether to back down and give up all of its hard-earned gains.

I don't think it's going to do so. As anathema as it is for a true follower of Islam to refuse the call to jihad as stated in the Koran, it is just as much so for science to retreat from what it knows to be true. And so the two sides are going to dig in and make their stand, preparing for a pitched battle that will begin just as soon as the participants become willing to accept the magnitude of this war and the choices we are going to have to make.

Those of us who see where this is all going tend to be agnostics and students of science (the two concepts are very much intertwined-- science is founded on logic and the ability to observe facts, and so by definition a scientist cannot "know" that there is or is not a God). We recognize the importance of religion in helping people to live their daily lives, to see beauty in an otherwise dreary and stark world, to hope for something to reward them for a life of hardships and struggle. It's a powerful human tendency, and we're not immune to its allure. Some of the best scientists I've known have been devoutly religious; to them, math and physics reveal part of God's mind and thereby a beauty unfathomable by ordinary humans. You know what? We believe that too; only we have different names that we give God. It's all to do with how we envision our roles in the Universe and how we go about unlocking the mysteries around us. God, to most of us, is that best part of each of us-- that piece of ourselves that makes us want to be good human beings and bring hope and light to our world. Nathan Lane's Catholic priest character in Jeffrey described it as a bunch of people at a picnic, batting a balloon around. Every time the balloon is just about to touch the ground... someone always reaches out to tap it back up. That balloon-- that's God.

But there's a big difference between that balloon and religious fanaticism. And that's what we have now come to realize is the enemy like none we have ever faced before. Organized religion, the drive to band together in huge groups and follow to the letter a document that advocates fiery and bloody death to nonbelievers-- that's the opposite of God; it's the absolute antithesis of what religion at its best is supposed to be about. And ever since September 11, we have known exactly what happens when religious fanaticism gains enough power on a global scale to take literally the prophetic words that call believers to arms. I've been writing since that day about how 9/11 is not a crime perpetrated merely by Muslim extremists, but by religion in general-- fundamentalist fanaticism of any stripe that decides that the threat posed by freedom and science and reason makes those things a worthy target for horrific fiery jihad. It happened to be the Muslims in this phase of history. In another, it could have been the Christians or the Jews or the Buddhists. When religion ceases to be one's personal relationship with God and becomes a cause worth dying for, then the true face of evil takes shape.

That is what attacked us in September. That is what is readying more attacks on us for the near future. And that is what we must realize is the enemy that we've been building ourselves up to fight for centuries. Galileo, Newton, Martin Luther, Copernicus, Franklin, Jefferson, Adam Smith, Lincoln, Watson and Crick, Einstein-- It's all been for this coming confrontation; the one that will define the future of humanity.

According to Mike,

But what if the unthinkable might possibly be true? What if the problem is not restricted access to the fruits of life in a relatively free and secular society, but a deeply-rooted and (in the case of Muslim fundamentalists) religion-mandated opposition to a free and secular society itself? A hatred and mistrust of the things we assume everybody naturally desires? At that point, the sanctified liberal idea of the sameness and unity of all human beings, no matter their culture or philosophy, falls apart. And, in falling apart, the liberal ideal leaves us with a bigger and more insuperable moral hole to fill in: how do you defend yourself against that which you cannot even comprehend? How does a society, any society, defend itself against an enemy it cannot or will not recognize? When even the validity of the concept of having an "enemy" in the first place is questioned, what do you do when the guns start firing and the bombs start going off in your neighborhood?

That's when we start having to choose sides for good. Those who refuse to come down on one side or the other aren't going to benefit from either side's victory. But in the meantime, they're the ones who are keeping us from seeing the real scale of this battle-- a scale that the other side already sees all too clearly. They're already operating on that scale. They're already attuned to images like giant buildings falling down in columns of fire. But we weren't, and we still aren't. That's why disbelief that 9/11 could have happened still hangs over us, and now takes the form of wishing to think of it as a fluke, a freakish aberration in history that nobody-- not even the enemy-- could countenance doing again.

That's just it, though. They can do it again, and they will. It will likely take another attack on the order of 9/11 or bigger to make us see that.

Fortunately, we on the side of science/reason/freedom have an advantage: the things that we believe in work. Science is on our side, and rewards us in ways that Allah does not reward his followers. We're the ones creating the weapons; the other side merely benefits from our ability to provide them. So in the long term, if we decide to escalate this war to the level that the fanatics believe they've already taken it, we will win. But only if we do acknowledge that those are the stakes.

Go to www.islam.org, where you will find a poll that shows you that the vast majority of the site's users believe that the "war on terror" is really, and has always been, a War on Muslims (or a War on Islam). They've been of this mind since the Eleventh. No matter how loudly we tried to proclaim that what we were fighting was terrorism, the enemy used every opportunity to give us to know that they considered Islam to be the victim of our retaliation. That troubled us deeply at the time. It still feels viscerally wrong. But the fact is that Muslims have felt themselves to be under attack ever since 9/11 because they had every reason to expect that they would be-- in terms of jihad, it was absolutely sensible for the West to declare war not on terrorism but on Islam itself. That makes jihad all the more righteous.

And so in turning to face the realities of this upcoming war and stare it in the eyes, we are going to have to ready not only our technology and our science in our defense, but we will have to use the very strengths of freedom and secularism to bolster them on the side where we are specifically being attacked. We have words. We have the ability to use words in a way that they're not allowed to, in a way that they can't fathom. We can barrage the world with ideas. We can blog to the high heavens. We can use flowery and poetic language like Suleiman Abu Gheith and friends. We can parody and satire and Photoshop our way into the minds of anybody with eyes and ears. We can fight on their terms, using the same ideological weapons that they use-- plus a little of our own poison of reason and logic-- to shatter any house of cards that they build up in front of themselves.


They want to fight a war of symbols? They think destroying the World Trade Center will make the United States incapable of trading with the world? Ha-- we'll show them what destroying a symbol is all about.

We've endured the WTC's destruction with anger and sorrow, but without a mosquito's wing's worth of damage to our strength as a nation or our financial power or our core values of freedom and reason. Can Islam withstand the destruction of the Ka'aba with the same resolve and stolid strength?

No, we probably won't actually do this. But can Islam risk it? Is that gamble worth this price-- is the destruction of another American symbol that important? And what symbol do they think will be more important to us than the World Trade Center and its 2833 civilian victims?

Our weapons are poised, and all we need is an excuse. Maybe posing a non-ignorable threat on their own terms, as in the picture at the right, will force a stalemate-- and a stalemate is the best we can hope for at this stage. But once we have the go-ahead to fire, we'll be committing to the greatest war of ideas this world has ever witnessed. It truly will be Armageddon.




UPDATE: Steven den Beste wrote about these issues, just five days after the attacks; he puts it in the terms that Theocracy is just the latest in a string of forms of authoritarianism which we have fought and will conquer: Slavery, Monarchy, Fascism, Communism. I wonder, though, whether Theocracy is possibly the oldest of all these (except possibly Slavery)-- and the most potentially upsetting to humanity as a whole when we engage it in war?

Also, den Beste's essay doesn't go to the extreme of our having to attack Islam, by name, on its own terms. That's something we're only just now seeming to want to discuss.



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