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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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, September 28, 2002
16:29 - iSync ho!
http://www.apple.com/isync/

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iSync is out.



I haven't tried it myself yet, but the first word from the underground is no less terse than "it rocks".

Now to find out...
Friday, September 27, 2002
19:43 - iChat gets critical thumbs-up
http://siliconvalley.internet.com/news/article.php/1471311

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I was initially leery of how well iChat would go over in what's certainly a well-saturated market of instant-messaging clients and networks; the people who IM as a lifestyle are a demanding bunch, and while most people's choice of IM client derives from whichever one most of their friends are using, they have been known to switch clients if something clearly better presents itself. The field has its own punditry and intense critics, and one feature not "nailed" can earn an IM client an irrevocable panning.

So I'm pleased to see that Bob Woods, managing editor of a site called "InstantMessagingPlanet", has officially come out not just as a Mac user, but as a staunch supporter of iChat. He spends two pages rhapsodizing about what's good about it-- the auto-logging feature, the ease of importing "avatar" pictures, the little status messages you can set that are immediately visible, and the general cleanness and crispness of the interface. He mentions, quite rightly, that the UI isn't distracting like clients such as AIM and ICQ are (especially on Windows, where they're full of weird web links and ads and confusing UI geegaws).

But I don't think he goes quite far enough in saying just how well the UI, which reminds him of "a vertical iTunes", is pulled-off. This UI has been very carefully crafted. It has a whole suite of sound effects that, while most people swiftly turn such things off (like with that horrid CLACKETY-CLACKETY typewriter noise that someone thought would be a good thing to enable by default in ICQ), actually manages to complement the user interface rather than complicating it. An instant-messaging system does hinge on audio cues, so you know when someone's sending you a message while you're working in other windows. But instead of ICQ's nerve-grating Pokémon "Uh-oh!" noise, a new message in iChat simply pops up-- transparently, in the upper right corner-- with a soft "thPop!" sound. (It even "splats" visually onto the screen, as though it were a blob of Silly Putty flung at you from someone deep in the innards of your LCD.)

New messages during a chat session are signalled by a gentle modulated "woop" sound. And when people come and go in your Buddy List, they make a very soft "swoosh" noise as the list rearranges. (Naturally, these are all independently configurable. You can even set up custom sounds and behaviors on a per-user basis, which I think is pretty damn cool.)

It takes a great deal of inspiration and UI expertise to design a sound scheme that doesn't make me want to turn it off. I like how iChat sounds. But I wouldn't dream of running ICQ with the sound effects on, no matter how the silence cripples my ability to keep track of contacts.

The iChat workflow is also rather different from what I simply never realized was really maddening in ICQ, before it introduced the single-window message/history mode, which is still only a half solution. In ICQ (and presumably AIM and the others), you have your list of buddies, and when one of them sends you a message, an indicator by their name blinks. You don't get to see what the message is until you double-click on it. You can then use the same window to write a reply, and then you can keep it open to continue exchanging messages in that window. Once you're talking in this manner, the conceptual difference between a series of single-window messages and a "Chat" becomes rather muddled. (Chats generally can involve multiple people, and text is sent continuously, rather than in one-shot messages. But the distinction is far less meaningful than it used to be.)

In iChat, there's no indicator for when someone has sent you a message; the message simply appears in the upper-right corner of the screen, floating, and it never interrupts whatever application you're working in. If you click to bring the message forward, it solidifies and expands to offer you a "return message" box. You can close the window, or enter a message; if you do the latter, the window expands to a full-size interactive "chat" window, and Apple makes no distinction between that mode and a "Chat" as other IM clients have defined it. If you've sent more than one message in the conversation, you're "chatting"-- so the program doesn't mince words, it doesn't make you juggle multiple windows, it doesn't make you reach for extra commands to switch modes. It just does what you clearly want to do. You can add more people to an in-progress chat, and every such conversation is logged automatically if you choose (saved logs open up in iChat windows so you can scroll back through them in the same application interface). The chat keeps going, interspersing timestamps every few minutes (very helpful!), until the chat's members leave by closing the window.

This means iChat doesn't even need to have the Buddy List or Rendezvous contact list windows open, or even for the iChat program to be running. OS X keeps a "stub" version of iChat running at all times, if you configure it so (with a checkbox in Preferences), so if someone sends you a message while iChat isn't running it simply starts it and splats the message at you. You can control your availability status and send messages to other users entirely from the chat-bubble icon in the System Menus up by the clock. The only reason to pull up the contact-list windows is to see who's around.

(Incidentally, because iChat is woven into the system, it sets itself to "Idle" after there has been no activity on the computer for a set period of time, which I believe is ten minutes. Most clients can't tell whether you're working in other applications or what; but iChat can monitor keyboard and mouse input and use that to determine whether you're "idle" or not. I had iChat up, and Kris moved his machine's mouse to wake up the sleeping monitor. The iChat client running on that machine signalled mine and I heard the "swoosh" of the list rearranging before I heard the twong of his CRT turning on. Now that's slick.)

One side effect of this setup, though, is that iChat provides no mechanism for sending messages to offline users. ICQ and the rest do this; I'll be interested to see whether people find they miss this feature. Bob Woods doesn't even seem to have noticed; nor does he mind the fact that iChat's input line is only a line, rather than the full text input area that other clients give you. (This has the effect of psychologically making you limit the size of the messages you send. This may or may not be a bad thing.)

File transfer is very bloody easy; you can drag files right into the input line. Sending Web links is a little weirder; you can enter a URL or an e-mail address, and the receiver iChat will convert it into a link. Fine. But you can also use Command+K to insert a link, which gives you a window to specify a URL, and then assigns that URL to a string of clickable text (e.g. "Link") in the input window, which you can change to whatever you want. Interesting decision, there.

Woods has a few complaints about iChat; the Help is lacking in a lot of key information, which is a common source of shame for Apple-- sparse Help documentation is a perennial problem in almost all of their software. The other thing he doesn't like is that you can't group your contacts-- he uses the AIM metaphor of "folders", though I think that's ridiculous for a means of organizing people. I'd prefer the "groups" metaphor of ICQ.

The only thing keeping me from using iChat more than ICQ right now is that all my friends are on ICQ, and iChat only talks to AIM. (One would think that since AOL owns both AIM and ICQ, they'd find a way to merge the two. Huh? Huh?) Because while ICQ, after some six years of development, is still a rough-hewn and shoddy piece of poorly tested perma-alpha code that gets in my way as much as enabling me to communicate, iChat is smooth, polished, helpful, clean, and seems to be begging me to use it.

We've got an ad-hoc iChat network here at work, with all the company's Mac users popping in and out of each other's Rendezvous lists without any configuration necessary beyond running the program. (Woods wonders how iChat will interoperate with "Windows-based PCs that can use Rendezvous". Uh, isn't that kind of a moot point? You can't interoperate with something that doesn't exist...) It's very useful for telling where everybody is; whether they're "In Lab", "In Cubicle", "Away from Desk-- Back Shortly", "At Lunch", "In Meeting", and so on. Fortunately, most of my department has now made the plunge and gotten Macs, so it's actually useful in a critical-mass kind of way too.

When Microsoft decides they want to own a market, they whip out the checkbook. When Apple decides they want to get into a market, they throw out all the preconceptions and figure out what it would take to do it right. And by God, they deliver, too.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
00:57 - Failed Product Names

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"The Nerd Turd"



00:28 - The geeks are won
http://www.byte.com/documents/s=7620/byt1032475416823/0923_bar.html

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According to this article in Byte, Mac OS X has the Linux desktop world thoroughly in rout-- and has just about captured the hearts and minds of anybody with an eye toward development, as well.

I happened to install Mac OS X on a Mac Power8500 back in 1999. That was a pre-pre-pre-beta, and not much besides the installation worked. Aqua wasn't in that version yet, and so I quickly decided that Mac OS X was going to be a nonissue for me.

Meanwhile, I continued to be generally unhappy with the Linux desktop environment. Recently I went to give a speech at a conference and was startled to see all these cool Mac iBook and PowerBook laptops. It being a Linux conference, I was convinced they all had Linux running on their notebooks. But then, a young geek of maybe 19 or 20 sitting next to me in a conference room opened up his iBook. I was immediately attracted by a very intriguing and pleasant desktop on the laptop's gorgeous screen. I looked closely and it wasn't anything I knew, certainly not Linux. The kid's wireless card worked flawlessly while Linux on my IBM Thinkpad insisted there was not enough signal where I was sitting. Then, I recognized the unmistakable dock bar of Mac OS X.

I watched in jealous disgust as the guy next to me fired up a terminal window and ssh'ed to some server and ran a pine mail session. During the conference I saw maybe 20 or 25 people running Mac OS X. They outnumbered the few people usually coming to Linux conferences with FreeBSD, NetBSD, or OpenBSD on their notebooks. That's it, I decided. I am going to get a Mac OS X laptop, too. That was a few weeks ago.

Indeed.

This guy goes on to explain how a true geek can, with a certain amount of hassle, download and compile the necessary tools to turn an OS X machine into a first-rate development platform. Though I must say, this guy "gets" the Mac about as well as Kim Komando does, which is to say not at all. He sneers at the GUI mindset and the concept of only using the Terminal when you have to, instead of spending all of your time in the Terminal and only resorting to the horrors of GUI-ness when you want to try watching a DVD or using the Web or some similarly obscure task.

One thing he seems not to understand is that of most of the UNIX tools he describes obtaining, most don't have to be downloaded in source form, tweaked, supplemented with independently installed libraries, compiled, or anything. Pico, Pine, Python, Perl, and even all kinds of software that doesn't begin with P either exists by default in the OS, or can be downloaded in a packaged binary form. Even hard-core Linux and BSD types understand the convenience benefits of using packages where one can get away with it, and because the Mac is a self-contained and predictable platform (unlike Linux, which can be in any of about thirty-four thousand different distributions and OS layouts), it's a matter of downloading a disk image, opening it up, and running the installer. And even that, of course, is a whole lot uglier than the typical native Mac application, which you install by opening up the disk image and dragging the application to whatever folder in your hard disk you want to keep it in. (You can even run it from the disk image if you want.)

He also gets a number of details wrong. His own TiBook's screen isn't 14.1 inches, it's 15.2. Jaguar isn't based on FreeBSD 3.4; it's been updated to the codebase of FreeBSD 4.4 and 4.5, as you can see from the excellent Timeline of UNIX History by Éric Lévenéz (if you're a UNIX geek and you don't have a copy of this printed out and strung across your wall, you're a L0oZ3r). And he doesn't appear to "get" any of what makes Cocoa applications so cool-- he shows the three lines of code needed to create a Cocoa list box, with proper marveling awe, but he quickly retreats to the comfort of his home-grown C/C++ projects and integrating QT and such into them (Fie! Pfaugh!). Ah well.

One of these days, the hard-core geeks will all-- to one degree or another-- come to understand what having a consistent and predictable GUI with limited input options and attractive, efficient layout means to the user, even to the expert user with high demands on an OS.

What I find encouraging about all this is that for over a year now, we haven't heard any grousing about "candy-like UI buttons" or "Fisher-Price kiddie toys" when it comes to OS X. We don't hear people refusing to give the Mac a second glance because "It only has one mouse button!" Instead, all we hear is the tappity-tappity of the keyboards of iBooks and TiBooks, stretching out AirPort fingers to each other, gleefully discovering iTunes and iDVD and .Mac, whispering a furtive eulogy for the traditional derision heaped upon Apple by anybody who knows how to use a command line.

Now the only stumbling block that remains is all those Windows users...

00:05 - Blog 54, where are you?

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Apologies-- my blogging, and my general presence and attention to e-mail and such, have all suffered this week; they're likely to continue to do so until I'm done with author review, which currently is keeping me after work for at least two hours each night.

Oh, but it'll be worth it-- why, just imagining the day when it's all done makes it all worthwhile. Because, see, then I won't have to do it anymore.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
02:28 - Additions to the Lilexicon
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0902/090402.html#092502

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This paragraph, regarding the Gore speech, is gold:

It’s been pulled apart by wolves all over blogland today, so I’ll leave it alone. Substance aside, the speech made me glad I don’t have to listen to this man very much; he manages to combine pretentiousness and contempt in a way that demands a new word - pretemptuous, perhaps. Or goratory. He’s a better extemporaneous speaker than Bush, but that’s not exactly a rare distinction. Bush often seems distracted, as if he has just realized there is a weasel in his pants and he’d best finish up and get out of here so he can tend to this here weasel. And when he gets wound up he’s often like a man with a wheelbarrow full of rocks going down a hill, trying to keep his balance and his cargo intact. I don’t care. He’s good with a prepared speech, because he has a secret weapon: he means it.

And he goes on, and it's all bullion of one sort or another.

One doesn't have to think, by the way, that Bush is a first-class extemporaneous speaker or possessed of unusual academic intelligence to have a respect for how he's stuck to a set of ideals that one can forget are important in the moral fog brought on by our being a rich and ease-loving people.

I didn't vote for him, but I certainly wish I had-- because now we know what we'd be doing today if Gore had carried the day in November 2000.

Probably be picking up after something bigger and badder than 9/11, just on a hunch.

01:40 - Do Not Read This Post (under penalty of law)
http://www.ilovebacon.com/092402/l.shtml

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Here is the translation of the lyrics to an unspeakably bizarre Flash animation that made the rounds a few weeks ago. I honestly wouldn't recommend following either link, incidentally, unless you have a very healthy sense of humor regarding sex.

Which, incidentally, is something I am growing to value very highly in a culture in this day and age: a sense of humor, especially one about sex.

01:21 - A thousand words (plus a few more)
http://www.reason.com/hod/cartoon.pb090602.shtml

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Via InstaPundit, this cartoon is all kindsa cathartic.



By the way-- the ar-Rahman list recently produced a message that contained a large collection of very gruesome morgue photos of Palestinians who had evidently met very violent ends. The title was "Pictures from Jenin", and naturally anybody with an inclination to react based on gut instincts and raw emotion (rather than first-hand news reports, UN findings, and counting the actual number of distinct bodies in the photos-- it was about four) was supposed to respond with a great rush of pro-Palestinian mania and rise up to defeat the bloodthirsty Jewish menace.

But this time, after-- what, six months?-- it finally went too far. For the first time, a number of people on the list, both Muslim and otherwise, who evidently (like me) had been signed up for the list without their even knowing, piped up. Finally... at long last, people who are horrified by the list members' deep-rooted hatred for everything in the world besides themselves, and who have had enough of being told that al-Jazeera is a less biased news organ than CNN, that the US and Israel slaughter Muslims by the tens of thousands every day, that the Taliban were justified in blowing up the cliffside Buddhas because the angels can't enter the house of Allah when false idols are standing outside the door (yeah, real powerful monotheism there, guys), and that the world's destiny is for every last human to be a Muslim living under the global Caliphate and Sharia law, and won't that just be so great?

People have been grumbling things like "Better watch the anti-semitism, fellas, or this stuff you're posting just might end up in the hands of those who may hold doubts about your allegiances." (To which the response, of course, is "I have no allegiance but to Allah-- I love living in the US, but fuck America if they pursue their immoral and unfounded war in Afghanistan and Iraq, where all people are good and right and live in the service of Allah".)

I didn't want to post a message of my own saying "Too late for that". But I do have to say, the most unsatisfying thing about all this is that after they die, fundamentalists will never find out they were wrong.

16:35 - Instant Multimedia Community Blog
http://www.dotmac.info/

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A new site has sprung up called dotmac.info; its purpose seems to be to provide a general "umbrella" site for .Mac members to publish links to all their iApp-created media-- web pages, iMovies, iPhoto galleries, and so on. It has listings for "most popular" and "most recent additions", showing the appropriate resources regardless of what sort of media they are.

With potentially the whole Mac-using community being a part of this, or at least all those Mac users who are deeply enough immersed into the whole multimedia iApp experience "thing" to see the value in paying for .Mac and using the built-in mechanisms for publishing their stuff, it seems to me that this site might well end up giving iTools/.Mac the one thing it lacks through Apple's own hosting infrastructure: visibility. Like iCalShare.com, this site lets people register and be seen and categorized by interested people just browing for content. Apple doesn't provide this functionality for privacy reasons. But a third-party site like this... it's entirely opt-in, and given the amount of creativity that it purports to concentrate into one place, the sense of "community" among Mac users is likely to skyrocket as networks like this begin to congeal.


Hmmmm. Listings of people's published screen saver slideshows... Backup and Virus-scan tips... links to relevant articles, reviews, comics, and such... personal calendars... and a customized link button. Methinks we've got the beginnings of a whole new kind of use for the Internet. E-mail, then FTP, then Usenet, then IRC, then the Web, then P2P file-sharing, then blogs... and now, the granular, homogeneous, person-by-person Web is clumping together into structured enclaves, where one person or company provides the infrastructure and the look-and-feel and the tools-- and everybody else provides the content.

I've seen this happening myself, with my own site (fanart.lionking.org). I've seen it happening with other art archives, with Blogger/BlogSpot and LiveJournal, with Yahoo Groups, and with numerous other such constructs going back as far as Geocities and AOL. It may well be that this is the form which the coming-of-age of the Internet will take.

15:46 - Cream of the Crop
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,544315,00.asp

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Wow... this is interesting. The latest PC Magazine "Editor's Choice" comparison chart is in, and of the four machines reviewed there are two high-end workstations and two entry-level all-in-ones. Of the latter, one isn't a PC-- and it got higher marks.

Yep-- the iMac got four out of five stars, and the Gateway Profile 4 XL got three.

That part isn't really what got me, though. It's the other two machines-- the Gateway 700XL (nearly $5,000) and the Voodoo F-550 Imola Orange 2200+ Titanium XL-9000 Venus Turbo 2 (a whisker short of $6,000).


The Voodoo is orange. And translucent. And illuminated from within. Oh yeah-- it's got some good hardware specs too. (Except no LCD.)

But the Gateway.... (are you ready for this?) ... doesn't come with a floppy drive. Shock and horror! Can this be? Surely a computer company damns itself who includes not a floppy drive! Has Gateway no thought for the future?

Nah, they've finally seen the future; it just took 'em four years to admit to it.

Wow. Quite a lineup, quite a lineup. I'm gonna go get me one of those orange Voodoo things and some aftermarket spoilers and decals. Mmmmyep.
Monday, September 23, 2002
15:58 - Some things are as stupid as they seem
http://www.coldfury.com/archives/000424.php

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Great post at Cold Fury today-- a delicious juxtaposition in Mike's hometown newspaper between dueling editorialists, one of whose theses is thoroughly supported by the news of the day (in the same paper) and the other of whose winds up squashed into the ground by same. As Mike puts it:

Yep, they sometimes juxtapose Dowd's droolings with Charles Krauthammer's razor-sharp writing, and I swear it's kind of jarring, like putting a filet mignon on a dinner plate next to a steaming turd. Or really, it's more as if they present us with an annoying, buzzing, bloodsucking insect and then thoughtfully provide us with a really large flyswatter just as a favor.

He quotes both columns at length, and to my mind they speak for themselves-- it should be self-evident which side has its head in the clouds and which one is fixated, however damned pragmatically, upon planet Earth.

11:30 - With experts like these, who needs the clueless?
http://www.cmug.org/pulpit/Komando.html

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David Lang has a withering article in CMUG that demolishes Kim Komando's lame-ass iMac review from a few days ago, the one in which she spends two months trying to get used to using Word on a Mac instead of on Windows XP, and at the end grudgingly acceding that it's competent at word-processing, though bringing nothing to the table that Windows doesn't already.

Lang quotes Steven Levy regarding the one-button mouse:

When Apple tested a two-button mouse, Tesler recalled, "people made a lot of mistakes. With two buttons, people would constantly be turning their heads from the screen and looking at the mouse. . . . When we did experiments with identical everything, except the number of buttons on the mouse, the people who used a one-button mouse said it was easier to pick up. I realized that when you used the mouse, they were pointing. Pointing, and tapping with the finger they were pointing with. There was no mental model for pointing with more than one finger. So we got rid of the second button. . . ."

In a world where Apple is ridiculed at every turn for stubbornly continuing to include a one-button mouse with their computers, even though they've spent the past twenty years fine-tuning the OS interface and applications so users won't need more than one button, and where it's generally assumed that a one-button mouse is significantly cheaper than a two-button one and therefore Apple is just being "cheap", I happen to think that it represents consummate purity of purpose for Apple not to bow to the misguided pressure and go to a multi-button mouse. Even though it's obvious in every other aspect of the computer (well, except possibly the power supply) that Apple uses no cheap parts and spares no expense (just compare the LCD screens of the iMacs to those of, say, the Profile 4), people still assume that the mouse is just a way for them to cut corners. Doesn't it seem just a little bit strange that a company so focused on User Interface would skimp so visibly on the mouse, and nothing else? Is it so hard to imagine that there's a reason behind the single button?

It probably isn't of interest to a huge number of people, this retort by Lang; but if you happened to read the Komando "review" and found yourself seething, go check this one out. You'll feel a whole lot better.
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