g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
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  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
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 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
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 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
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  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, September 1, 2002
00:14 - Fanatical Muslims Discover the Earth is Round

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I'm honestly not trying to mock indiscriminately, here. But... well, possibly the less said the better.

'AZAAN' - AN AMAZING DISCOVERY
Azaan: An incredible medium for the proclamation of Tawheed of Almighty Allah and Risaalat of Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam, the sound of which constantly echoes around the globe.

Amazing though it sounds, but fortunately for the Muslims of the world, it is an established fact. Have a look at a map of the world and you will find Indonesia (an Islamic country) right on the eastern side of the earths central landmass. Indonesia consists of numerous small islands, the principle ones amongst them being Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Saibil, all of which are well known. It is the largest country in the world, with 180 million inhabitants. The number of non-muslims here is negligible.

As soon as dawn breaks on the eastern side of Saibil, at approximately 5:30 am local time, Fajar Azaan begins. Thousands of Muazzins in eastern Indonesia commence proclaiming the Tawheed (oneness) of the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omniscient Allah and Risaalat (Universal Apostleship) of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam.

The process then continues and advances towards the Western Islands of Indonesia. The time difference between the eastern and western islands of Indonesia is one and a half hours. Hence, one and a half hours after the Azaan has been completed in Saibil, it echoes in Jakarta on Java island. Sumatra then follows suit and before this auspicious process of calling Azaan ends in Indonesia, it has already begun in Malaysia. Burma is next in line, and within an hour of its commencement in Jakarta, it reaches Dacca, the capital city of Bangladesh. No sooner the calling of Azaan ends in Bangladesh, it has already prevailed in western India, from Calcutta to Srinagar. It then advances towards Bombay and the environment of entire India resounds with this august proclamation.

Srinagar and Sialkot (a city in north Pakistan) have the same timing for Azaan. The time difference between Sialkot, Kota, Karachi and Gowadar (a city in Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan) is forty minutes, and within this time, Fajar Azaan is heard throughout Pakistan. Before it ends there, however, it has already begun in Afghanistan and Muscat. The time difference between Muscat and Baghdad is one hour. Azaan resounds during this one hour in the environments of Hijaaz-e-Muqaddas (Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah), Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq.

The time difference between Baghdad and Alexandria in Egypt is again one hour. Azaan continues to resound in Syria, Egypt, Somalia and Sudan during this hour. Alexandria and Istanbul are situated on the same geographical longitude. The time difference between eastern and western Turkey is one and a half hours, and during this time it is echoed with the call to prayer.

Alexandria and Tripoli (capital of Libya) are located at an hours difference from one another. The process of calling Azaan thus continues throughout the whole of Africa. Therefore, the proclamation of the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam that had begun in the eastern islands of Indonesia reaches the Eastern Shore of the Atlantic ocean after nine and a half hours.

Prior to the Azaan reaching the shores of the Atlantic, the process of Zohar Azaan has already commenced in eastern Indonesia, and before it reaches Dacca, Asar Azaan has started. This has hardly reached Jakarta one and half hours later, then the time of Maghrib becomes due, and no sooner has Maghrib time reached Sumatra, then the time for calling Isha Azaan has commenced in Saibil! When the Muazzins of Indonesia are calling out Fajar Azaan, the Muazzins in Africa are calling out the Azaan for Isha.

If we were to ponder over this phenomenon seriously and studiously, we would conclude the amazing fact that: 'There is not a single moment when thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Muazzins around the world are not proclaiming the Oneness of Almighty Allah and the Apostleship of the noble Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam on the surface of this earth!' Insha-Allah, this universal and continuous calling of the Azaan shall not cease until the Day of Judgement, and we should all make du`a for the same, AMEEN.

(Translated from Tameer-e-Hayaat)

Yeah, that sure is an amazing discovery, all right. I can hardly contain myself.

Sure beats the hell out of that whole artificial cybernetic vision thing that Wired covered.

15:14 - Who is Johnathan R. Galt?
http://www.islamic-news.co.uk/

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I've been hearing a fair amount about "cyber-terrorism" lately, on NPR and elsewhere-- in the context of a different way groups like al Qaeda could attack Western interests, ranging in severity from defacings of websites (which mostly amount to sending the message "Hey, if we can do this, think of what else we can do! Mwa ha haah!"-- even though the ability to deface a website implies nothing about someone's ability to access completely unrelated national-security resources; this isn't a movie) to being able to shut down power grids and access missile launch systems and so on.

At the very least I've expected to see some scrawlings on websites here and there, perpetrated by those doe-eyed Clear Guidance youths or some such. What I didn't see coming, though, was defacements of Jihadi websites-- like this one, which I saw linked from Tal G's blog, of www.islamic-news.co.uk.

(It's apparently remained like this for at least a day or two. If it's put back the way it was soon, I've saved a web archive of it.)

The defacement is signed by a Johnathan R. Galt, with a link to his own site, which appears to be a surprisingly comprehensive lising of Jihadi websites all over the world-- including references to their contents prior to 9/11, and lots of fascinating stuff like Egyptian year-2001 calendars printed months prior to the fact, with September's featured picture being of a jetliner crashing into Manhattan. And a ton more.

There's a worrisome angle which implicates the CIA in a lot of what's been going on, which sends off a few "conspiracy theorist" warning bells in my head:

America's CIA helped Osama and the Taliban overthrow the Soviets in Afghanistan. Maybe Osama bin Laden is still on the CIA payroll? And perhaps they arranged for him and the higher-ranking Taliban to escape .

...But the links are fairly damning, as are dozens more that involve the CIA later in the site, and I'm left wondering why we haven't heard more about this guy? I can't even find a reference to his name in the InstaPundit archives.

As for the Islamic News defacement itself, it appears to be an appeal directly to Muslims, though it's far from clear how Muslim Mr. Galt is. Interspersed with quotes from what appear to be Islamic scholars doing things like debunking the Palestinians' right to the land in Israel and calling for Muslims everywhere to stand up against the hijacking of their faith by fanatics who appear to want to destroy Islam by fighting for it are lines like:

Is it any wonder that the people of the world have developed  a fear and sometimes open hatred for Muslims when they see:  terror videos for sale at a mosque . This is madness, it's a blasphemy against Allah, and it must be stopped.

 We have decided to cooperate with the authorities here in Britain andin the USA. Britain must not be used as a base for world-wide Islamist terrorism.  The evidence we have of Islamists activities against India regarding Kashmir  will be given to the Indian authorities. We will help the Russians battle  the evil of the Saudi-Wahhabi sponsored Chechen Mujhadeen. We will help the Israelis overcome  Arafat and his goons .

(I'm not sure what all the weird extra characters are about. Maybe it's steganography. I dunno.)

I'm still looking through these links. And here I thought I'd be able to get some work done today.
Friday, August 30, 2002
01:15 - Has everybody seen this?
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/

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ConsumerFreedom.com is running the following full-page ad in Newsweek (among other places, I wouldn't doubt):


I can't describe the initial shock and eventual dawning joy I felt upon turning to this page. It felt like I was back in the 80s again-- and I only say the 80s because that's as far back as I can remember with any sentience, and this whole nothing's-my-fault thing has gone steadily downhill throughout my life. I can only look back as far as possible to have any inkling of a world where you could get away with running such a deliciously audacious ad, without having to worry about joyless middle-aged busybodies writing angry letters and getting laws passed to prevent anything so offensive from ever seeing the light of day.

An acquaintance that I had the chance to listen to as he held forth in Canada this past weekend talked about what he called "the Your Own Fucking Fault Amendment", which is the subject of a letter he has sent to his Congresspeople every year since he was eighteen. It's pretty much what it sounds like: If something happens to you that can be shown in court to be your own fucking fault, then you are divested of any right to file a lawsuit to claim damages for it.

Probably not something we'll see taken terribly seriously at any level higher than Third-Tier Coffee-Making-and-Dry-Cleaning-Picking-Up Aide, but now that sites like ConsumerFreedom.com are feeling confident enough to run ads that they know are bound to offend (or, possibly, incensed enough to no longer fear the consequences for it), there may be hope yet.

09:38 - What didn't they enhance?

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Jeezum crow. Look what the venerable little Calculator utility does now:

...Among about a dozen other kinds of conversions (weights and masses, speed, power, temperature, etc).

It's almost pointless to talk about finding Easter eggs (like how if you write "Rosetta! Rosetta! Rosetta!" in Ink (Rosetta was the code name for Newton's handwriting recognition system), it responds with "Hey, that's me!") when one just keeps running into goodies like this right out in the open.

09:08 - Ball 1...

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Apparently, in preparation for eleventh-hour negotiations this morning ahead of the supposedly imminent baseball strike, three undisclosed teams called their owners and said that they wouldn't walk. Work out a deal, they said, because they're backing out on the strike.

I wish I knew which teams those were. We might still be thanking them fifty years from now.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
23:02 - Moments of Canadian Zen

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Now that I've got my USB cables all untangled from the unpacking process, I've got my big pile of photos imported into iPhoto, and once again I have to say that whatever the situation with Nikon's service department, the CoolPix 885 takes hella' sweet pictures. Kodachro-oh-ome, my ass... gimme 3.2 megapixels any day.

But that aside-- there were a few sights in Toronto that I treasured. One of them wasn't actually Canadian so much as Ford; it's what you find if you open up the trunk lid on a Ford Focus sedan.

Isn't that awesome? It reminds me of nothing so much as that "Pong: It's Not Just a Game" meme. It's like a hyperactive little video game. Pull the handle, and you pop out like Mario. Wheee!

Lance suggests that the handle is for the benefit of kids stuffed into the trunk by their deadbeat dads, so they can eject to freedom while hurtling down the interstate. I guess that makes more sense than what I had in mind-- I suppose the mob isn't going to use a whole lot of Ford Foci.

But then, in the TTC subway, there was this:

Read the text in the posted... read the small-print caption at the bottom ("Take away the anger before it takes away the girl"). Then look at the setting.

Above the third rail in the subway.


It's Humpty-frickin'-Dumpty. Whatever hideous incident of young-girl-incited violence took place that felled an innocent bystander from a precarious wall or ledge, you just gotta admire a place where a public service announcement can get away with being placed in so deliciously ironic a position.

I just couldn't let it go unphotographed, now could I?

19:47 - Inking Well

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I sneaked over to Elite Computers today to snatch up a Wacom Graphire and plug it in.

Boy, am I glad I did. Not that I think the handwriting-recognition stuff in Jaguar is useful at all for anything but showing off-- but because that showing-off is going to be so unabashedly fun.

Pick up the pen and start writing anywhere, and a little yellow translucent college-ruled paper rectangle pops up, and you write on it. It grows as you continue writing, to whatever size you need, until you pick up the pen or pause and it renders the text into the current application.

Or, alternately, you can pop up the floating InkPad, which operates much more like the old Newton stuff: you write directly into the pad, and the words are rendered at the insertion caret as the system determines that you're done with them, using a very attractive and casual marker-style font. You can erase bits of already-rendered text by scribbling through them. And you can switch to Sketch mode and draw diagrams and doodles. When you're done, press Send, and whatever you've just drawn or written is copied into the current application.


Like the Newton system, lots of words are recognized improperly at first. But it learns. You can correct improperly rendered words by holding down the "back" side of the rocker button on the Graphire pen and tapping a word, and it will pop up a menu of likely alternative words-- arranged in order of likeliness, with capitalization alternates at the top, and a copy of your original writing at the bottom so you can see what you wrote.

(I was excessively gratified by what happened in the screen shot to the left: apparently, Elvish names from The Silmarillion have been dutifully entered into the dictionary by some sainted engineers at Apple.)

Oh, and that's not all. (Duh. Is it ever?) Both the yellow ruled "write anywhere" sheets and the InkPad (in both text and drawing modes) are fully pressure-sensitive. So the lines of your text are darker or lighter depending on how hard you're pressing, and sketches can be heavy or light-- and the edges are even "wet" and antialiased, like in Painter.

It was only after a while of aimless fiddling that I realized what I'd done: I'd written an entire e-mail to a friend at work, complete with an embedded sketch of a network diagram in smooth antialiased pencil-looking lines, entirely with a single input device and a single application. It put me in mind of the documentation for the DOS version of POVRAY back in 1991 or so, when the README tried fumblingly to explain in plain text how constructive solid geometry worked: "If this were a Mac, I could put a drawing in here to show you."

Along with the caption above that drawing, lovingly rendered: "I hove tarible Loudwriting."

19:35 - The Price of Honesty

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When I picked up my copy of Jaguar on Tuesday at ComputerWare in Sunnyvale, my brain bubbled up from under a hazy blanket of 36 hours of non-sleep to remind me that Apple had announced a "Family Pricing" thing, where you could get a single copy of the OS which was licensed for up to five computers within a household, for $200. Since we have four machines in our house, I figured, hey-- since a single copy is $129, that's a pretty sweet deal-- $70 for peace of mind. Because otherwise, I'd almost certainly have only bought the one copy, or at most two, and installed it on multiple machines (because there's never been any Windows-esque protection in the Mac OS against that). It's one of those "I don't like doing it, but it's mostly out-of-sight/out-of-mind and seems to be condoned by the company anyway" sorts of things. After all, it's not like I'm pirating the OS outright, is it? They can't honestly expect someone to pay full price for four or five different boxed copies just to install on four or five different machines all under the same roof?

As quoted by Think Secret:

Explaining the recently-announced 5-unit family pack for Jaguar, Bereskin said that it was intended for households who "wanted to find a more affordable solution for staying legal." While the Mac OS X licensing agreement only allows installation on a single system, there is no Windows XP-style activation: "We've never put copy-protection techniques into our software."

This is an admirable attitude, I think. Rather than trying to enforce above-the-board software use through onerous and invasive anti-piracy schemes, they've chosen to give people the option to pay incrementally more for peace of mind. They've found by now that enough people who do multiple installs from a single boxed copy realize that it's not right and wish there was a better and feasible other option; and they've given them that option in the form of an officially sanctioned multi-unit package right at a pricing sweet-spot. If you're already paying $129 and you have the slightest bit of guilt about installing it on multiple machines, the $200 family pack is a bargain even if it were just for two licenses. And you get five.

He did say, however, that businesses cannot buy a family pack, and that there has been little interest shown below 10-unit licenses.

In other words, if you're a business, you can't just cleverly cut your OS upgrade outlay by 80% through this method. Way to see that loophole coming, guys.

I like it. And so did the guy at ComputerWare who pulled the family-pack box out from under the desk, noting under his breath the Windows XP Activation stuff and the $300 pricing. Yeah, I'm glad I'm not having to weigh that decision.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
16:43 - Breathing Oregon's Second-Hand Smoke
http://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/natural_hazards_v2.php3?img_id=4

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Okay, so the dingy brown haze that's still hovering over the Valley is in fact the result of those month-old wildfires in southern Oregon, as a Mercury News article last week confirmed with a very telling image from the National Weather Service which showed the smoke drifting very clearly southward, blown down along the coastline and pressed up against it by the prevailing ocean winds. Since we're right on the coast here, we get the easternmost swirls of that still-cohesive mass of smoke, oh joy.

The picture above isn't the same one, but it's very similar. The page I've linked to has a whole lot of other pictures of the event over the past month, and it's very cool to browse through. It's a little bit hollow, though, considering what the air outside looks like.

Other than that, though, I'd say that this is extremely pleasant summer weather. Just yesterday it was 98F outside; Lance and I spent the lunch hour prowling around a Sunnyvale outdoor shopping center, without much more than a vague sense of it being sort of warm and nice out. Try doing that in, oh, I don't know, Toronto.

I like this place. Even if we have to put up with the occasional side effect of living on the frontier.

16:24 - Flying the Banner

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This must have been put up during the week while I was out-- most likely, over the weekend when Jaguar was released.

This is the first banner Apple has posted on their freeway-facing building since 9/11, at which point they replaced it with a huge flag that lasted at least six months. That wall has stood banner-free since then, and now they're jumping back into full swing with this puppy.

It's the first time they've really tooted the OS X horn in a major ostentatious way-- it looks to me as though Jaguar is the first release that Apple is really confident about showing off to people. And it is, really; it's so full of little goodies that a user can spend hours just fiddling with stuff and having fun, and an impartial reviewer can get so immersed in it that he might end up forgetting entirely about the WinXP machine he's supposed to be comparing it to. Presumably that's the idea.

Incidentally, the next release of OS X (10.3, I'd assume) is going to be called Panther. I wonder whether they'll keep going with this marketing-the-code-name kick...
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
19:45 - Wow-- this place looks deserted...

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Well, I'm back from my week-long annual romp through the wilds of rural Ontario, bookended by wild bouts of carousing through the suburbs of Toronto (lemme tell you, Jack Astor's makes one kickass cranberry lemonade). Those whom I was spending the time with know how good a time I had, and everybody else would likely find a recounting of the whole affair to be tedious beyond mortal words, so I won't try.

I'm also just now passing my 36th hour of awakeness, so I implore your forgiveness for any residual addlepatedness. I had a lot of fascinating conversations with Torontonian friends about Canadian history, their view of "American culture" (a concept which I only seem to hear about when I'm in Canada-- to us, it's just "stuff"), socialism, federalism, patriotism-- you know, the usual stuff a bunch of guys in a rental car talk about on their way to a Toys 'R' Us in quest for an exceptionally rare re-released Generation-1 Optimus Prime that's being held on reserve by some kindly but bemused toymonger. But that will all have to wait for another time, when I'm feeling less like I've just driven four hours from Toronto to Detroit, watched movies all night to keep from having to succumb to less than three hours of pointless sleep, then returned the car in the wee hours and puddle-jumped to Chicago and then run bleary and bag-laden through the underground passageway between O'Hare's B and C terminals (it's a law of nature: the more your first-leg flight is delayed getting into Chicago, the higher the probability that your connecting flight will be on the other side of that jangling subterranean neon tubule), and then found myself luxuriating in gape-mouthed glee at the LCD screens in the back of every single seat throughout coach on a United Boeing 777 to San Francisco-- after which ending up waiting for no less than three hours on the sidewalk while my car-equipped savior made the circuit through the airport's interior no less than four times before completely fortuitously bumping into me in the cavernous new SFO international terminal because I happened to be inside making a raspy phone call of defeated despair to another friend to come get me, just as he-- the aforementioned savior-- walked past on the way out to his car.


So, yeah. I'm a little loopy at the moment. But I did have the presence of mind to pick up a nice fresh boxed copy of Mac OS X 10.2, aka Jaguar; since installing it on my work iMac, I've been giggling in helpless glee at the new features that are of the nature typical only of the most recent of Apple design: a single keystroke that makes the screen zoom smoothly (with what should be a swoooosh sound, but isn't, dammit) to a prescribed magnification level, which centers on the magnified mouse cursor as it moves-- it has to be experienced, honestly. And the smooth white swish of the flash-and-fade screen-blink upon alert errors that is also new amongst Jaguar's accessibility features. And the recently discovered hack (now neatly encapsulated, within hours of its discovery, in a compact GUI tool by Pliris) which lets anybody with Jaguar and a hardware-accelerated OpenGL video card run the OpenGL screen savers (like Flurry or the gorgeous zooming/panning/cross-fading slideshows) as your desktop background. I'm telling you right now, run the Beach slideshow as your Desktop image and let it shine through a red-tinted Terminal window at 43% transparency, point it at your typical hard-core UNIX geek, and just watch his lip start to quiver and his skin peel away like Goldmember in Waikiki. And to say nothing of the vastly improved Mail, which has so far displayed an uncanny accuracy with the pieces of wildly disparate spam I get-- and as I fine-tune it by correcting its rare (less than 1 in 20) missteps, it's visibly improving its accuracy. This stuff just makes me want to roll around on the floor weeping. I'm serious. iTunes' UI honestly brings tears to my eyes, and this stuff is all just more of the same, if not better. Geek candy. Nerd crack.

Ah well. It'll be a few days yet before I have a cheapo Wacom tablet with which to try out Inkwell, and I have yet to see what Rendezvous can do with the playlists full of sonorous Tolkien readings with which the upstairs iMac is laden. But as compelling as that prospect is, the bed beckons me.

But so do ten-day backlogs of Lileks and den Beste. Dammit.
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© Brian Tiemann