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:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, October 20, 2002
13:37 - I have no idea what to say about this.


Aimed at video game enthusiasts with deep pockets, publisher Capcom (www.capcom.com) says its upcoming $200 "Steel Battalion" title, plus bundled game controller, will hit store shelves Nov. 19...

But Capcom says "Steel Battalion"— a futurist battle-mech simulator played from a first-person perspective — uses the most elaborate interface ever created for a game and thus requires a special controller.

The controller sports an unprecedented 40 buttons to position the nearly two dozen battle-mechs and their assortment of weapons.

Seriously. Not a flippin' clue.

13:03 - Just for the record...


Update: Brian Tiemann comments. He misses the point: When the Mac's marketshare falls to a certain point, there will begin an unstoppable downward spiral as developers stop stupporting it and users are forced to leave because the software they need is no longer available. Many an elegant wonderful usable marvelous candy-colored design has died because of market forces.

I wasn't missing the point; I was ceding the point, and making a different one.

Yes, I know it's inevitable that the cheaper and crappier solution will always win. But is that any reason to gloat over the death of the competitor who had the audacity to try to hold itself to a higher standard? I mean, you know that the other computer companies hold Apple in higher regard from a business standpoint than the average consumer does. Apple has billions in the bank (and while they posted a $45 million loss last quarter, somehow their cash assets grew; doesn't sound to me like a company that's on the brink of bankruptcy); and though they've been steadily going out of business for twenty years now, Compaq has been merged, Gateway's only got a few months left at best, and Dell looks to be the only real contender to survive the dot-com crash. And yet they all look to Apple to tell which way to run. They see Apple as a survivor, a harbinger of public taste, and a pioneer with arrows in the back. They all let Apple come up with the cool designs, and then they copy them. And their advertising and marketing-speak betrays that they consider Apple the team to beat: Gateway's "iMac-killer" machines, Dell's blatantly false claim to have been the first to put 802.11 into its laptops (Apple did it a year earlier). They see Apple continuing to be wildly successful, when all the numbers and common sense says they should be long-dead history. And they do it while earning an insane amount of customer loyalty, the kind Dell or Gateway or even Microsoft would kill for. Seems to me they're doing something right.

Part of the difficulty here is that both of them are talking about something different than I am. What they're saying is what should happen, because of coolness and happiness and the search for elegance. What I'm saying is what will happen, because of market realities.

Yes, and that's the difference between what we're arguing for. I know what the market realities say. I know that it's inevitable that everybody's elegant and well-designed system will eventually be replaced by something unspeakably pedestrian. But my argument is, why try to hasten that process? Apple is a force of good in the industry today. As I said above, the other companies rely on Apple to push the envelope on cool new features and designs (and to take the fall if they're misguided). I think innovation would stagnate without Apple around, just as MSIE's development froze solid as soon as Microsoft had driven Netscape from the market.

I happen to think that what should be is worth fighting for; I don't intend to just roll over and pee on myself because of the overwhelming burden of the futility of it all. While there's still a chance that the ideals of elegant design will remain alive, I'm going to fight to prevent the inevitable from happening. Maybe that makes me completely disconnected from reality. Maybe it means I'm taking the role of the Taliban, who should have surrendered the instant it became clear who would win the war. But I think that if something should be, then it's worth defending. There's always a chance, isn't there?

By the way, Brian's problem with Excel was, well, with Excel and not with Windows or the x86, and it probably would have failed the same way on OSX.

No, that's not what I was getting at. My beef is with Excel, yes; but more accurately, my beef is with this cult of software shittiness that we've all embraced with such gusto. We encourage, with our dollars, the intense mediocrity of software written to Microsoft's standards, instead of software written to Apple's. Companies everywhere talk about crises of perceived quality, yet they refuse to do anything about the lack of design guidelines and expectations that software written in the Mac tradition has.

I'm not naive enough to believe that there's no buggy software for the Mac. Of course there is. But when the paragon of software quality that we all admire is Microsoft, and we keep gleefully gobbling up the turds they keep flinging out the door at us (and begging for more), then software is never going to get any bloody better. Mac software has design ideals and guidelines that are followed in the software development community to a much greater degree than even the best commercial Windows software written by the paragons of design that we consider supreme. If more people would pay attention to how Mac software was written-- or at least take some goddamned pride in what they write-- then we would all spend a whole helluva lot less time bitching and moaning about our "stupid computers" and buying anti-virus and and anti-spyware and Registry-cleaning software in a dogged attempt to pretend we know what the fuck our computers are doing.

If Excel had been written by Apple, you can bet that at the very least, that "Document was not saved" error message would have been just a trifle more helpful.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
13:33 - Is your God FAST enough?

I swear, that is the current slogan on a banner outside the church that stands between my workplace (coincidentally right across the street from One Infinite Loop) and the local Togo's sandwich shop.

Certainly well-educated and sophisticated Americans would never think that icons of their religion could ward off evil, could they?

This was before the creation of the Macintosh, however, and before it fell behind in technical performance and in market performance, and before Steve Jobs returned from the dead to lead the Mac faithful to the promised land. His presentations at various MacWorld's are virtually indistinguishable in style and substance from a revivalist minister, and his disciples routinely wave various icons towards the x86/Windows volcano to stave off extinction.

Sometimes the icons look like jelly beans.

Hhhyep. Here we go again.

Computers are about more than a column of numbers.

The fastest Xeon in the world wouldn't have enabled me to save my Excel spreadsheet yesterday.

But three-year-old CPUs don't prevent me from enjoying the process of rummaging through my songs in iTunes, or video-editing in iMovie, or using an OS that doesn't have a Registry. The user experience, and the existence of the software in the first place, is of much greater importance to Apple, and to Mac users, than raw CPU speed. If Apple had decided at the outset that the most important selling point for their computers was going to be speed, then Macs would have been a lot faster. Maybe they'd have used Intels. Maybe a lot of other decisions would have been made. But they certainly wouldn't be Macs as we know them today. In fact, make price another paramount initial goal, and Apple would probably be dominant today. And the software would probably also be about as good as Windows software.

They didn't make that decision, though, and the result is a fundamentally different kind of software. It's software that the user enjoys using. Regardless of the speed of the CPU. My three-year-old G4/450 can video-edit just as well as my brand-new iMac at work. Sure, the final export time is a bit different, and I appreciate that. But it's not what I lose sleep over. What would give me the night sweats is not a world in which Macs never got faster than they are today. What would drench my pillow-- in sweat and in tears-- is a world in which the magic of technology and software is completely commoditized out of existence, in which the whole world-- without exception-- sees computers as something to cope with instead of something that makes them feel good.

To people who use Macs, this distinction is self-evident-- enough so that it's impossible to put it into words. But to those who don't, the bottom line-- the numbers, the economics, the statistics-- all resolve out to a resounding thumbs-down.

Wintel machines win on the objective. Macs win on the subjective. Trouble is, only one of those can really be measured.

I'm sure everybody has had a variation on the following experience: Your company decides that it's going to implement a new billing system, a new sales-tracking system, a new project-management system, a new e-mail system-- something to replace the chugging workhorse the whole company uses. The new system looks great on paper. The numbers are awesome; it's so fast, it's so interconnected, it's so modular, it's so made by a partner company-- er, I mean, it's so cheap. Great things are expected. But once the new system is in place, it turns out that the user-interface is a disaster, the stability is abysmal, and its newness and unfamiliarity are not the only reasons why the company's employees come to hate it so quickly. They're subject to huge downtimes as the company tries desperately to make it work. But no matter what those numbers in the sales brochure say, even if they're accurate-- nothing alters the fact that the employees all wish they could go back to the old, "inferior" system.

If only there were a way to know that would happen beforehand, right? A way to quantify the user experience, the stability, the ease with which it allows people to do their work-- with the same ease as one can quantify the number of clock cycles per second or simultaneous transactions or RAM footprint? Oh, if only. That's the problem with subjective analysis. That's the problem with trying to argue in favor of a system that "feels right" over a system that has great numbers in its bottom line.

Den Beste is right to characterize Mac advocacy as a "religion"; those who aren't a part of it just don't "get it", and to them, the acolytes' actions are incomprehensible. Why would an otherwise intelligent, educated American deliberately choose such a dumb path?

As people reading this site know, I'm not religious. But in a case like this, I understand religion's appeal. It's the unprovable, the unmeasurable, the magical aspects of technology that Apple has dedicated itself to upholding. The unforgivable sin of Microsoft, in my eyes, is of cheapening the magic of technology. They've turned what was the stuff of Star Trek into the stuff of supermarket discount aisles. And damnably, for most of the world, that's "good enough".

Macs will probably always be slower and more expensive than PCs. Those goals are pretty much mutually exclusive to subjective software elegance.

However, as an engineer, I realize that speed and optimization can always be added to a system later; but ideals of elegance, once lost, are lost forever. That's why my chips lie where they do.

I know that it's intellectually satisfying to be able to resist the basic human temptation toward standing in a crowd chanting at the words of a demagogue on stage. It's satisfying to be able to point and laugh at the throngs of dupes, secure in not being part of any such foolishness.

But, well, before I got my first Mac, computers were all just about numbers to me too. I certainly didn't write or draw or program or do as much of anything creative then, either. I might be as derisive as Den Beste is of religion as a general concept. But as for what religion can do for technology, I've been made a believer.

I know that makes his viewpoint consistent and mine inconsistent. But, well, as Big Daddy says, we've got a little saying down here on the bayou: Blah!

UPDATE: CapLion has a few thoughts on the subject:

In short, the Windows world is the bumpy, rocky, boring back road. The Mac world is the super sleek highway.

What's the difference here? In the Windows world, you accept the bumps and potholes as a given, and you build to adapt to them. In the Mac world, you make the road better.

Friday, October 18, 2002
22:27 - A new power rises in the North

Evidently the Dark Lord himself has gone into real estate, and now Hiker's apartment building has fallen under the shadow of Barad-dűr.

Apparently Sauron goes in for a salmon-pink ensemble these days.

21:56 - The man can preach

Did anybody happen to catch Tom Friedman's Commonwealth Club speech from September 25, rebroadcast on PBS radio (and presumably elsewhere) tonight?

It was interesting-- he seems to have been able to steer a narrow course that ties together the Left and Right sides of the post-9/11 political landscape in a way that I haven't seen a single person do before. He drove right to the point-- "Islam sees itself as God 3.0, Christianity as God 2.0, and Judaism as God 1.0-- and yet for some reason (must be because America and Islam, the proponents of the older versions, sabotaged God 3.0), Islam has failed where the older versions have succeeded wildly. This they see as wrong and in need of swift rectification. Therefore, because there's been both a 1.0.1 and 2.0.1 reformation, bringing those two religions into the modern world, we need a 3.0.1 reformation in Islam as well." Effective metaphor, and he didn't breathe a word about 9/11 being caused by American imperialistic arrogance or support for Israel. In fact, he said quite the contrary-- al Qaeda is driven by cognitive dissonance arising from a "deficit of dignity", and as Friedman noted, dignity is at the heart of most of what really makes people mad.

(Later, he pointed to India as the perfect example of a modernized Islamic nation: a country in which the President is Muslim, the Muslim women demand (and receive) equal rights at mosques in Hyderabad, and the richest man in the nation is a Muslim software engineer. Interesting point.)

But then he turned around and laid out some milestones for us to follow, which included "being a good global citizen"-- working to curb our SUV culture and global warming and so on. Okay, fine-- he almost lost me there. But his motive was about making sure we're living up to the standards we demand of our enemies in a modern world, and making sure we don't come across as contemptuous in our attack on Arab Nationalism (or whatever the term of the week is)-- because the beneficiaries "can smell contempt at a hundred paces". Better to make absolutely clear that we want them to change in order to succeed, not because we want them to fail.

He said invading Iraq was not an imperative-- and here he went off course for a bit. He said he wasn't at all afraid of Saddam's WMDs, because Saddam's not suicidal; if he uses a nuke, Baghdad gets flattened. Well, okay, fine, but what if he gives nukes to terrorists? I'm not worried about a nuke or smallpox in a SCUD. I'm worried about it in a Cessna.

He mentioned that his travels have indicated that the "70% in favor of war" poll numbers don't appear to have any basis in reality-- but neither would the opposite be true; instead, most Americans are ambivalent and nervous about this war, because right or wrong, imperative or long overdue, this war is seen as one of choice, whereas Afghanistan was a clear-and-present-danger kind of thing. I think that's probably true, but I do feel we have more to lose from wrongly guessing that Saddam isn't readying WMDs than from wrongly guessing that he is.

He ended on a point about the globalization of communication and technology, sternly noting that the Internet has as much power to make people stupid as to make people smart. After all, the chief reason 90% of the Arab world believes the "4,000 Jews were warned to stay home from the WTC that day" thing was that "they read it on the Internet"-- which, to a great deal of the world, is a more legitimizing honorarium than having seen it annotated in a scientific journal.

I didn't agree with all of it, but I did sit in the driveway with my radio on and my lights off for half an hour so I wouldn't miss any of it. The man's no apologist, but he's no dupe either. I hope there are highly-placed ears in his audience.

15:36 - Windows Moment of Zen

Well, actually, "hour of rage" would be more accurate.

I spent the better part of an hour putting together a spreadsheet in Excel, using a template I'd constructed whose purpose was to allow our team to write test plans and then save them as comma-separated-value files, which they could then import into the web-based test-plan database using an integrated script.

After the spreadsheet was completely done, with all the text immaculately formatted and all the sort-ordering the way I wanted it, with the cell formatting all perfect, the section divisions aligned properly, and everything all ready to go... I went and clicked the "save" icon.

... 'Scuse me?

I click it again. "Document not saved."

I cannot believe my eyes, yet they are not in the habit of deceiving me. This application, this piece of software, is flatly refusing a command. "Please save the file." "NO." No explanation; no excuses. "I don't have to explain myself. I have better things to do than obey your pitiful commands, human."

Okay... maybe I'll "Save As", and export it as a CSV directly. "Save As", I click. it gives me a dialog about how this will cause the sheet to lose formatting. Fine, I know that. I click OK... and then, er... nothing. I check the Desktop. Nothing.

I try everywhere. I can't save on my remotely mounted Mac. I can't save on the central server. I can't save on my own local bloody Desktop.

Out of disk space, perhaps? C: 14.8 GB Free. Hokay, no, that's hardly likely. Excel files are REALLY HY))00GE LOOLOLOL!!!11`, but not that huge.

Interestingly, the filename as reported in the Excel window's title bar keeps changing to whatever I've tried to save it as, regardless of whether it's been successful or not. And each time I bring up the "Save As" dialog, the filename has a different extension and presentation. Sometimes it's got quotes around it. Sometimes it's got .xls at the end, sometimes it's got .csv. Either way, it seemingly has no bearing on the format of the file as I requested it to be saved. Not that there was any output file in the first place.

"Reboot the machine," suggest co-workers. Yuh-huh. After an hour's worth of work, I'm not going to simply reboot and have to type all this crap back in. But the options are looking fewer and fewer.

Finally I try opening up a completely new spreadsheet, copying the data from the first sheet, pasting it into the new one. This loses all the formatting, but at least most of the data gets transferred okay. And I try saving, and... lo and behold, it works.

A reboot and another half-hour's worth of reformatting work later, and finally it's ready to go. And it happily lets me save the file this time, without any indication of its earlier mood swing. "Oh, I'm innocent as the day is long! You wouldn't wanna hit lil' ol' me, now?"

Sometimes people in the company wonder why our team has been writing our own infrastructural tools for QA progress management, test-plan tracking, document archival, bug management, and so on. "Why don't you just use stuff like Excel and Project and Word?"

Because I like my software to work, thank you very much. We've written our own database software so we don't have to put up with this garbage. And when two or three guys in a company-- whose job descriptions don't even include toolsmithing-- can write more reliable software for a purpose like this than Microsoft has been peddling for twenty years, the fact that this answer isn't self-evident makes me weep for the future of humanity.

This crap doesn't even trap end-of-line characters when you save as CSV. Christ.

11:18 - Well, it's progress.

Recently I sent in some Feedback to Apple regarding the installer presentation of their applications-- the iApps, QuickTime, and so on. Specifically, I told them that having the disk image pop up a blank white window with a file in it called "iTunes.pkg", with a generic "package" icon, is daunting to newcomers to say the least.

See, here's the thing. Barring StuffIt archives (which expand into HFS+ folders in much the same way that ZIP files work in Windows), when you download a new Mac application, you first get a .dmg file-- a flat, extension-bearing, meta-data-less Disk Image file that you can mount as a "virtual disk", a native HFS+ environment from which to drag or install the application. You double-click on the .dmg file, and it mounts the Disk Image, which shows up as a white generic "disk" on the Desktop; you open up the Disk Image, and install the application from there (whether by dragging or by running an installer script).

Now, this has a number of advantages. For instance, it means the app developer gets to put the EULA screen right into the Disk Image, so you have to Agree to it at the time you double-click on it to mount the image. It means you have a read-only, disposable source from which to copy the files, which you can then unmount freely (or it goes away when you shut down), and a single definitive "archive" file that you can keep around for future reinstallations. So, no partially raided unZIPped folders floating around the system after an installation procedure that says "You can now safely delete the rest of the folder" or whatever. Disk Images can be burned directly onto CDs, encrypted, password-protected, and signed with security certificates. It's a very "clean" installation method, and conceptually very elegant.

But for newbies to the Mac platform, it seems unnecessarily complicated. They're used to a world where you download a single file-- either a ZIP archive, or a self-extracting, self-installing EXE-- and double-click on that. These methods have their drawbacks (ZIPs expand to folders, and you must then find the "setup.exe" file and run that-- though WinZIP does know to look for that file and run it automatically; and self-extracting EXEs, while they can incorporate all kinds of features, they can also incorporate viruses and Trojans tragically easily). But from the user perspective, it's simpler. You usually only download one file and double-click on it, and then "a bunch of stuff happens" and the app is installed. It's a weird, opaque procedure, and at the end of it your Registry has another layer of pollution to deal with, but as far as most users are concerned, it suffices.

So the Mac has front-loaded the complexity of the installer procedure; in order to ensure that you can install an application by drag-and-drop, anywhere in the system you choose, Apple has chosen to stick with some otherwise unfamiliar-to-Windows-users hoop-jumping in the initial download/extraction procedure. Newcomers to the platform, as has been the case a couple of times here at work, find themselves bewildered: "I double-clicked on the file I downloaded, and then there was this... little white thing on the Desktop. Now what do I do?"

And it doesn't help when Apple's own software is distributed in Disk Images that have no user-friendliness whatsoever.

Some application developers know exactly how to present an application in its Disk Image window:

Others, unfortunately including Apple, don't. Their installers are scripts (well, that makes sense, considering that it's fairly important that this stuff gets installed into the proper locations in the system, and that it gets authenticated properly by an administrator), and they're presented in a very stark and austere way. What's the newbie supposed to think? Is this my application? Do I drag it somewhere, or... what? Just double-click it? Experimentation will yield the correct result, but it's still a mixed signal that gets sent to the user, who may already have seen a .sit archive and a properly-designed drag-and-drop installer, as well as Windows-style ZIP archives. How many more installation methods does he have to know about?

So I wrote in to Apple, asking that they consider prettying up the Disk Image windows of their downloaded software. They can set background images in folders; why not use one, like OmniWeb does, to convey critical instructions to the user? They can make icons really big and demonstrative; why not do that? They can use long, friendly filenames, without extensions. Why not do that? And would it kill them to use custom icons for the Disk Image objects themselves, mounted on the Desktop?

Well, here's the installer window for QuickTime 6.0.2:

...Okay, so they've made the icon bigger. That's a start, I guess.

Actually, wait... it's probably just that I'd set my global icon-view options to use icons that size. Never mind.

Thursday, October 17, 2002
01:37 - Uh...

...Is this for real?

A short film called iBrotha, starring Neil Rayment from the Matrix sequel, has just finished shooting in London.

The independent production is about a young man so obsessed with Apple Macs he becomes a Malcolm X-like revolutionary, fighting computer bigotry -- by any means necessary.

"It's about that whole religious fervor that grabs Mac users the way it doesn't with users of other platforms," said writer/director Jake Barnes, who described himself as a "recovering Mac addict."

Brother Copland emulates Malcolm X -- in a way. (Copland is the name of Apple's aborted operating system in development before OS X.)

Rayment, 30, and his twin brother Adrian feature in the upcoming sequel Matrix Reloaded, as a pair of kung-fu fighting villains. The menacing twins play rogue viruses, roaming the Matrix in all-white attire and silver dreadlocks.

The iBrotha movie features a multicultural cast of characters, including Brother Ive (after Apple's lead designer, Jonathan Ive) and Brother Newton (Apple's discontinued handheld computer). It also stars an early Macintosh, the 512K.

Bizarre, if true.

The movie's website is dedicated to the memory of Rodney Lain, a popular online Mac columnist who wrote under the iBrotha moniker. Lain committed suicide in June.

What a way for a pundit to achieve immortality.

01:27 - From Inside the Fortress

Many people have gotten the mistaken impression in the past that I work for Apple. (A reasonable guess, I suppose, except that if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to write so much about this stuff-- NDAs and the like, to say nothing of the loss of mystique that would go with the territory.) I don't. I'd like to someday, but I don't.

But this guy does: Ken Bereskin, who seems to have a marketing-blog type thing in which he showcases Jaguar features on a semi-daily basis. I've seen links to the page here and there, but only thanks to Kevin did I finally go and check it out.

Boy. If nothing else comes of this momentous week, I'll at least have about ten new indispensable sites (both blogrolled and not) to peruse regularly.

01:14 - Not just for Americaners

Speaking of Switch ads, here's another something forwarded by Judson: the Japanese Switchers.

There's only eight of them, and the text probably won't render if you're using an English version of Windows (which probably muddies the campaign's message a bit). But it's still cool.

20:56 - Macs, and the men who love them


Everybody's been making their own spoof "Switch" ads, both Mac-heads and sneering PC people alike. If this is the second time or more that you've come to this site, there's a fair chance that you've already seen some, and probably have an opinion or two, one way or the other, about the "Switch" campaign and its popular knockoffs.

Well, this one's... different, I must say.

You thought Mark Frauenfelder and Ellen Feiss looked like nutballs and dweebs? They've got nothin' on this guy.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
18:13 - For Freedom and Liberty for Teeth

I got my braces off today. Wheee! Here are the pointless and horrifying before-and-after photos (sorry, I didn't have time to doctor up the "after" one so it was in black-and-white with bad lighting and messed-up hair and a fatalistic mope on my face-- er, wait, was that supposed to be the "before" picture?):

I've had them on for almost three years now-- they were installed in February 2000, and I'd completely forgotten what it was like without them. It almost feels like my mouth is numb all over, now, without weird sharp metal edges poking me everywhere.

But it still feels really cool, and I've never had straight teeth before-- so I've been walking around all day randomly grinning at people. I'm sure it's freaked everybody out at work, so now it's the online world's turn. Heh!

This particular orthodontist has a nicely honed sarcastic sense, too:

12:57 - True Colors

Judson directs us to this story on Daring Fireball, another nice Mac-centric blog (boy, there sure seem to be a lot of those out there that I'd never known were there), in which the author has taken up the "Microsoft Switcher" astroturf scandal from yesterday and drilled it down to the hairy necessaries. The author, John Gruber, has pieced together the complete timeline, deciphered the facts behind the press' reactions, and put together a fair amount of well-done analysis of the situation.

There are lots of embarrassing aspects to the story. The stock photo. The blatant falsehoods (such as the insinuations that neither Office nor Internet Explorer are available for the Mac). The marketing-speak that permeates the entire article. That it reeks of a juvenile response to Apple’s Switch ads. But the most damaging issue is the idea that the entire article was simply made up, that it’s a fabricated testimonial which Microsoft tried to pass off as the true story of an actual person.

Bad marketing is one thing. Bald-faced lying is another.


Microsoft fessed up to the bad marketing. But they’re sticking to the claim that there exists a legitimate author of the article. In other words, Yes, it was poorly done; but we didn’t just make it up.


The details of the switcher article, however amusing, are not important. The real story is that at Microsoft — indisputably one of the most powerful, most successful corporations in the world — it is standard operating procedure to fabricate customer testimonials.


The Daring Fireball is most definitely not an anti-Microsoft web site. I’m not opposed to Windows — I’m opposed to blatant lying.
Caught in a lie, Microsoft stupidly chose to lie again. This is the exact sort of situation “No comment” was made for. Better still would have been to simply fess up and admit the whole thing was a sham, but that’s a lot to ask from Microsoft.

Which is why I find it interesting that one of the complaints I hear leveled against Apple from time to time-- that they stretch the truth and rely on subjective selling points or outright rigged tests in order to preserve the illusion of competitive speed-- only really holds up in a world with no Microsoft. Is Apple's truth-stretching really worse than Microsoft's made-up customer testimonials, monopolistic bullying, legal untouchability, and blatant attempts to actively thwart the customer's needs and desires in the realm of digital media consumption? If dishonesty is a deal-breaker for using Apple products, why isn't it a deal-breaker for using Microsoft products?

I like supporting a company in whose very products you can see that quality and "making technology do the right thing" is the primary goal, rather than "putting another hook in place to collect a fee from partners or customers". Apple's motive is to make great technology, and they take that mandate extremely seriously. That is why I think they ought to get some respect for their efforts, instead of the world reflexively rewarding Microsoft for recognizing that being driven by profit is better for the bottom line. That's not an earth-shattering conclusion; it's not some great ineffable secret that only Microsoft knows. But Apple is consciously taking a different path-- committing themselves to excellence, even though it's less efficiently profitable.

Again, such a decision becomes a luxury in a time of crisis. But we're not in a crisis in the computer world-- we're still in a golden age (especially on the Mac side). And so I'm not going to squander my opportunity to support what that luxury decision can do for us.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
02:09 - Mr. X? ...Do I cross the final frontier?

One of the best things that's come out of the link that Lileks bestowed on me on Monday is all the people who have dropped in and said hi, many of whom have their own blogs that I've been checking out in due course. I've been hearing a lot of kind words on everything from my writing style to my taste in psychotic animated cartoons. My head's still spinning, but in a good way, I think. Thanks, everybody.

One such blog, by the way, is Mike Silverman, who's got a number of flattering things of his own to say, and a fine blog to put them in.

Funnily enough, something he said in this same post got me thinking, especially in light of tonight's Simpsons episode, the one from several years ago in which Homer moonlights as an Internet gossip columnist by the name of Mr. X, exposing scandals and shady dealings that the mainstream news is too cowardly or too incompetent to cover properly.

As a side note, finding blogs like this is one of the neatest things about the 'blogosphere' -- it kind of reminds me of the early days of the web, back in 1994 and 1995, when the web was new and exciting, and surfing around looking at people's individual home pages was a lot of fun. You'd go from home page to home page, reading people's opinions, links to their favorite things, maybe a picture or two, and you really got a taste of that person's personality. Most of that early spirit of the web appeared to be long gone, but with the expansion of blogging, I hink it has simply evolved into a new form. Blogging, by its very nature is personal. People's personalities and opinions are what make any blog worth reading. James Lileks said that reading a few of one's favorite blogs is like sitting in a coffee shop with a bunch of smart and interesting friends. Exactly!

...Or, as Lance sneeringly quotes Fritz the Cat, "A bunch of goddamned intellectuals sitting around trying to out-intellectual a bunch of other goddamned intellectuals with their thumbs up their ass." Depends who you ask, I guess.

If you asked Kent Brockman, he would have said that opinions should be left to professional licensed newsmen on TV, not some yahoo with a dancing Jeebus on his web page.

Sure, there's still plenty of Geocities-itis out there on the net. But Mike's right-- blogs have raised the bar, lifting the personal voice back up above the noise that it had almost drowned in. That's what I find interesting about the Internet; it's got no inherent structure of its own, and so it will develop its own architecture just through the act of living and growing. Networks will form of their own accord. Codes of conduct will congeal. Communities will form and split and merge and fork and re-form. And the technologies and the tools will keep evolving, without any limit to their usefulness as long as the interconnected substrate is there.

Whether it feels more like a college coffee shop or a Borg cube is subject to debate. I suspect the jury will remain out for some time yet.

01:33 - So much for UFS, then...

This eWeek article, pointed out by CapLion, describes a fascinating new development: journaling support for HFS.

That's right... even though OS X could initially be installed on Unix-style UFS filesystems (minus Classic functionality), and even though the BSD heritage of Darwin would seem to make it more at home on UFS than on Apple's traditional HFS+, it looks as though Apple has taken the high road when it comes to server-class filesystem design.

The Mac requires lots of meta-data in its filesystems. It can do without multi-forked files, as is in evidence with OS X's new "bundle" architecture rather than resource forks to handle text-string repositories, embedded graphics, and the like. And it can get by even without Type and Creator codes, a fact which has caused no small amount of consternation among traditionalist Mac users who refuse to give up our ability to associate different files of the same type independently with different applications, and all applications to be independently known to the system and to each know which file types it's capable of opening, without resorting to the ugly and error-prone hack that is the Registry, as Microsoft was forced to do through poor planning (or malice).

The first version of OS X could be installed on UFS instead of HFS+, if you so chose. The benefits? Better server-class performance, less tendency toward fragmentation-- the usual UFS benefits. The drawbacks? No Type/Creator codes. There was some talk about "Extended UFS Attributes" being checked into the FreeBSD 4.x codebase about a year ago, but it's unknown exactly what their purpose was, or whether they might have been intended for use with the Mac. (I e-mailed Jordan Hubbard at the time, and even he didn't know.) The upshot, after all was said and done, was that OS X ran most richly on HFS+, and UFS gave it server-class fault-tolerance, but only as the result of some really ugly and regrettable hacking and slashing of features from the OS.

Many of us pleaded with Apple not to follow the path that it seemed they were aiming for: a migration away from HFS+ and onto UFS. It looked as though they were trying to wean us off of the need for type/creator codes, resource forks, custom icons, content indexes, files that operated just fine without god damn bloody blasted filename extensions, and all the other little goodies we'd all gotten used to-- for the sake of being able to run on UFS, so Apple could sell servers.

For a long time, it looked as though that was a reasonable fear. OS X 10.1 implemented the new extension-hiding thing, and it looked at first like a poorly-disguised attempt to force us into the world of filename extensions so Apple could dispense with Type/Creator codes once and for all. (It's since become clear that this move, while painful to think about too hard, actually results in vastly improved seamlessness across platforms with negligible diminishment of user experience-- while simultaneously moving us from the model of "immutable file type and creator application" to the far more useful "immutable file type and mutable opener application"; I've made my peace with the per-file extension-hiding feature, and I think it was a stroke of genius-- exactly the strategic move Apple needed in a crucial spot.)

But we'd also noticed that along the way, Apple had hired quite a few notables. Jordan Hubbard, head guru of the FreeBSD project, was now Apple's chief UNIX development guy. And with the demise of Be, Apple snapped up two of the company's most central filesystem-development architects, one of whom was Dominic Giampaolo, as noted in the eWeek article. In what would that result? we wondered. Who went seeking who? Did Apple need Be's filesystem expertise, or did the ex-Be guys just need a job that kept them away from Windows?

Well, it seems we now have an answer. And we no longer need to fear that Apple will take away our beloved HFS+, abandoning it in favor of the more primitive but more sturdy UFS. That's not going to happen.

Whereas they could have forced us onto UFS and then implemented FreeBSD's "Soft Updates" mechanism (similar to journaling, or at least accomplishing the same goal in a rather different way), Apple has leveraged Giampaolo's know-how into a fresh new journaling layer for HFS+, ready within weeks to be deployed onto XServes just in time to be coupled with the XServe RAID system (which is scheduled to ship before year's end). Apple heard the masses speak, and they responded.

What I think we can conclude from this is that a) Apple doesn't hire big-name minds indiscriminately, without a plan for what to do with those valuable neurons; and b) when the user base speaks up with a No, no, no, NO! ... Apple listens, and does what it takes to change it to a chorus of Yes, yes, YES!

...Moon... Pie! ... What a time to be alive.

00:51 - Don't read this just before bed

Seriously. Not a good idea.

Blame Makali for this one.

22:29 - So that's why the Dogcow is MIA from Jaguar...

Mac OS X, because it's fully Unicode-based, can run applications in native Arabic and Hebrew text, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and all the other fun languages that come with the system. (It's really cool how it's structured: you use the International pane to list a preference order for languages-- selected from a list of several dozen character sets and input methods-- and then, every application has a "strings" file (kept separate from the binary bytecode, as with the old editable Resource Fork) for each language the application developer decided to write it for. The application matches up the "strings" files that it has with your preferred languages, and picks the most-preferred match. Pretty slick, if you ask me.

Arabic is already supported in Jaguar. (I can go straight to arabic.cnn.com, for instance, and have all the text show up in beautiful anti-aliased right-to-left serpentine fonts.

But apparently they're going a bit further now. I'm not exactly sure what the ramifications are of this article, but it certainly sounds as though Apple isn't divesting itself from the Arab region or anything.

It is being developed by a team at Arab Business Machine (ABM) who represent Apple in the region.

The world-first sneak preview at GITEX shows the Arabic fonts already rendering beautifully smoothed by Jaguar's Quartz Extreme graphics system.

"It will be a fully Arabic operating system, including numerals," explains ABM's Product Development Manager, Ghassan Bendali.

"And it's easy to reboot back to English language at any time."

I don't know how this compares to Windows (if it's like the other languages Windows supports, you have to install a separate version). "Reboot back to English"? I dunno-- don't they just mean "restart your applications"?

Interesting times... interesting decisions.

22:15 - Think Different Again?

I'm not sure how I feel about this:

Okay, so it's a good picture, very artistic--like all the "Think Different" ads have been. (Although this is the first time we've seen the slogan in about a year... what'd they do, resurrect it for the occasion? It feels like a relative who'd just gone home after a three-week visit, turning up on your front doorstep again with suitcases and an apologetic smile, mumbling about having missed the plane.)

I'm curious, though. Why didn't Apple post one of these for Arafat? Huh?

I'm evidently not alone in wondering this, either:

We're getting our fair share of emails (40 and counting as of this posting) complaining that Jimmy Carter doesn't belong on Apple's home page, regardless of the well-documented political views of Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. Many point out that there is a clear feeling that this year's Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to Carter for his accomplishments per se, but rather as a "slap in the face" to President George W. Bush for his administration's policy regarding Iraq. Clearly, as evidenced by our Mail's In box, there are a healthy amount of conservative Mac users out there who do not feel that Apple's home page represents their views even though they love their Macs. We wonder if Apple knows, in the words of one email, that, "they are alienating many of their customers by posting Steve's propaganda? Can you imagine the outcry if Ronald Reagan was featured on Apple's home page, instead?"

So I guess that explains that. Apple is not exactly known as a company that embraces right-wing ideals, and nor do Mac users leap to mind as some of the world's most conservative. (Hell, it's an "artist's computer", after all.) But that's not exclusively the case, as I guess should be self-evident.

Well, fine. It's your company, Steve, and you can do what you want with it. But as an artistic statement, this was kinda tacky.
Monday, October 14, 2002
20:44 - GPUL Ho!

Wow. I was so caught up in political and Microsoft stuff today that I completely missed the official GPUL/PPC970 announcement by IBM that occurred today.

The new IBM chip is derived from the computer giant's Power4 microprocessor that powers its high-end Regatta servers. When available by the middle of next year, it will range in speeds from 1.6 gigahertz to 1.8 GHz.

Chekib Akrout, vice president of microprocessor development at IBM Microelectronics, said the PowerPC 970 will have plenty of application now in low-end servers and will have uses in high-end desktops in the future.

"Middle of next year", huh? I like the sound of that.

Things are sounding pretty rosy to me.

19:20 - ...The hell was that?

It's been about an hour since the sun went down. But not in the upper atmosphere, where this evidently just happened:

It came from the south, most likely Vandenburg AFB, where they've got five of these missile tests scheduled. this one certainly looked funky, though. (The first picture was right after it apparently was disarmed; while I was still focusing my camera, it changed from a bright point to the diffuse blotch you can see in the photo.)

Still waiting to see something on the local news about it... looked awfully cool, though.

UPDATE: I still haven't seen any official reports on the news, but Paul sends me this:


Ain't the Internet grand?

16:54 - We Have the Way Out

Again via Kevin. This is too funny. I swear, I am paralyzed. I couldn't make up stuff this good.

Oh wait, I did:

The article stars an anonymous "writer" from a royalty-free photo library who...

Some amazingly observant Slashdot patron has discovered the very stock photo that Microsoft used. And I thought I was joking.

The page got Slashdotted, someone at Microsoft noticed they'd been caught, and they took this latest example of an "astroturf" site-- in which imaginary legions of imaginary people unite to support the great (imaginary) ease-of-use and innovation of Windows-- down. Fortunately, Google has it cached if you missed it the first time.

... I honestly don't know what to say about this, other than to simply laugh until my guts bust. Microsoft can't even do FUD properly anymore, it seems.

So what was it, Bill? A marketing ploy that you thought people wouldn't see through? A joyless intern who was desperate to gain some sort of enjoyment from his daily work? Or was it just some kind of internal prank that nobody was ever supposed to find out about?

They could have taken a photo of some employee. What, did nobody want to be photographed in association with this kind of thing?

Read the comments, too, by the way. they're fantastic:

HEY! Thats the same chick I met on IRC last night!


Even better...On what seems to be the remnants of Caroline Woodham's (photographer's name just below picture):

www.svidaho.net/~cw/index/ GIF's/Apple%20Logo.gif

"Designed and Maintained on a Mac!"

Simply unbelievable. I wonder if this woman's picture will show up on t-shirts soon? She's royalty-free, after all.

I just can't help myself. It's not every day Microsoft does something this monumentally stupid. This is bad even for them.

13:49 - I'm getting so tired of this.

We recently moved all of our outsourced e-mail to a new internal Exchange server. The reasoning was that Exchange admins are cheaper than UNIX admins, and Windows Is The Standard™.

The mail server has now been down for about twelve hours, and nobody in IT-- including the dedicated Exchange guru we had to hire-- has any idea what's wrong.

My patience, it wears thin...

12:40 - Good to see they're keeping busy

Why, look. Microsoft has just posted a "Switch" campaign of their own. Hey, they've never come up with an original idea thus far; why start now?

The article stars an anonymous "writer" from a royalty-free photo library who says things like:

I am a freelance writer; I demand the best in mobile computing. There's a much greater choice of portable computers and features, for less money, on the Windows platform. My laptop came with 512 MB of RAM, a 15" screen, a DVD player, and Windows XP Home Edition preinstalled, for $450 less than a comparable iBook. My recommendation is to go straight to Windows XP Professional; the extra features for mobile users are worth it. See Which Edition is Right for You? for more information.

"Why, Windows™ gives me the flexibility I need in my busy life as a [insert job title], as well as the power to excel in today's most demanding game titles. .... to the extreeeeeeme!"

Seriously, does any of this sound like it was written by a volunteer from the public? Or am I just irredeemably biased?

This "person" compares Office XP Professional™® to AppleWorks (never mind comparing it to Office v.X or anything), and IE on Windows to Netscape on the Mac. And then she goes on to provide step-by-step instructions for going through the bizarre wizards ("you'll need to know your ISP's name (e.g., MSN®)") inherent in setting up Outlook and dial-up access. She provides a helpful caveat about hardware drivers, and then the piece closes with an "Editor's Note": Now that we've successfully converted our writer to a Windows PC, we will be working on getting her to try a Pocket PC. Stay tuned for more developments! Oh, I can hardly wait.

I don't know what's more pathetic: that they try so hard, or that even with all their resources and effort, they fail so badly.
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© Brian Tiemann