|Sunday, November 10, 2002
01:24 - Monitors Confuse Brian
I saw an ad for this Samsung monitor in this month's Road & Track. 24" LCD, 1920x1200, HDTV-ready, with a 3D Virtual Dolby Surround sound system attached.
That's a whole lotta monitor, I thought. Especially considering the ad's slogan: DigitAll envy. A 24-inch digital LCD? Good heavens that must rock. Certainly beats the crap out of the 23-inch Cinema HD Display. What must it cost?
No price in the ad, naturally; it directs me to samsungusa.com, where after digging for a while to get to the page linked above, I found still no prices-- just links to retailers.
But I did find out something interesting: This monitor isn't digitAll at all. The input is analog RGB or CVBS.
Isn't that just a little bit disingenuous?
Ah well; surely it must at least be fairly price-competitive, right? I'd expect that what with all these features it has, with the sound system and the HDTV hookups and the TV tuner and all-- I'd say, oh, what-- about $2000, right? After all, the Cinema HD Display doesn't have those extra funky bits, and it's $3500-- but I have to assume that it's priced higher than the median for the feature set, as Apple products tend to be. Yes?
Well, here's what MonitorOutlet says:
Retail Price: $7,299.00
Our Price w/ Free Shipping: $4,452.00
Um... how's that?
Almost $4500, and that's the reseller's price-- reduced by nearly $3000 from the MSRP? Huh? Who's taking the bath here?
Anyway, there's also this guy-- the 240T monitor, another 24-inch LCD, this one a combo analog/digital one. Okay, cool-- it's not quite as nice-looking as the 241MP, but it does take digital input. Same HDTV 1920x1200 resolution and all, and speakers. And wall-mountable. Neat.
But what they don't tell you, though, and only comes out if you download the PDF, is that the maximum resolution of 1920x1440 is for analog-- the best the digital input can do is 1280x1024.
What does MonitorOutlet quote, price-wise?
Retail Price: $6,749.00
Our Price w/ Free Shipping: $2,997.00
Again, I don't understand where this monstrous discount comes from. But even assuming the latter price is where the supply-and-demand curves meet, is this monitor really worth this kind of scratch?
I'm sure there's something I'm missing.
CapLion: Of course it's analog. Has to be able to hook up to a $500 eMachine, after all.
Me: Though if there's a market made up of people who buy $500 eMachines and $7200 monitors, I'd like to get a peek into their living rooms...
CapLion: Of course there is. They saved so much on their computer, see.
18:49 - Daily California Affirmation, with Stuart Smalley
It's rapidly getting so that Sunday is the spiritual center of my week-- not in any kind of go-to-a-building-and-kneel sense, but in a sort of mutant Thoreau sense.
Sundays, you see, I get to wake up extremely late, like after noon (usually because I've been up till at least 5:00 in the morning working on something). I have a leisurely lunch, catch up on pending e-mail backlogs, and either work on whatever parts of the site or book or whatever still need working on since last night, or revel in the fact that there's nothing more of such work to do right now. And then I strap on my iPod, pull on some shoes, and head up into the hilltop neighborhoods of South San Jose for a nice long soundtracked sunset walk. I find a nice place to enjoy the view and the weather, I sit there for a while watching the clouds with some appropriate music alongside, thinking appropriately expansive Whitman-esque thoughts, and then I head home. Then I laugh myself hoarse at Adult Swim for the rest of the night.
I should point out, by the way, that the iPod has a very bizarre sense of humor sometimes. With well over a thousand songs in its library, and the random-play setting turned on, the oeuvre with which it serenades me as I march up the hills is usually very diverse, and often oddly fitting. Yet it seems to zero in, with irritating frequency, on "Sit On My Face", by Monty Python. Sometimes it pulls it up at the most inopportune times. I don't know what it's trying to prove, but it's got me peeking over my shoulder now on occasion, looking for the hidden cameras.
The fact that when I left the house, the first song it played was "Shaking the Tree" from the Peter Gabriel studio album that it's on, and the very last song that it started playing two hours later as I came within view of the house again was "Shaking the Tree" from the Secret World Live tour album, didn't do much to allay my paranoia.
Anyway, tonight I took advantage of the fact that the rain had cleared from our neighborhood for a while to head to the highest point I could find in the general area and watch the clouds break across the valley. I made my way to the top of Silver Creek Valley Road, which winds its way through gated communities and posh country clubs to a narrow hilltop pass beyond which no houses have yet been built; the road on that side winds down into the Hellyer valley where there are some dot-com business parks, but the steep canyon and hillside in between is as yet uninhabited (though lined with manicured trees and polished stonework medians). At the crown of the pass, I scrambled up the hill from the sidewalk to the knob right above, and found myself at the end of a ridgetop with an exquisite view of the southern end of Silicon Valley. I found a relatively dry patch of ground and sat down.
One of the nice things about living in a place without any bugs, by the way, is that I can go up to a grassy hillside and sit down and stare across the valley as the sun goes down. It's something I take for granted until I go elsewhere in the country, where such a pastime would be suicide, a selfless sacrifice to the clouds of pests which seem to inhabit every other place I've been to. There just don't seem to be any here.
Actually, I lie. There was one mosquito-- a very inexplicable one. It hovered about two feet above my head for about ten unbroken minutes, wavering from side to side. Picture this: I'm sitting with my back to the hilltop, and there's a gentle breeze coming from behind me and rolling out away from me down the hill. This mosquito seemed to be trying to fly back over the hill, but perhaps it was just a wuss-- it couldn't make any headway against the breeze. I couldn't figure it out. But if all mosquitoes acted like this, I'd have nothing against them at all.
At any rate-- there I was, at the bald peak of a hill about a thousand feet up, gazing out across the Valley to the Santa Cruz Mountains on the other side. I was facing westward, right toward the setting sun. But in between myself and the sun was a huge, dark bank of cloud-- it was clearly dumping rain on the valley floor below me, but I was far off to the side and above it, and I could see its upper contours as well as its lower draperies of moisture. The entire bank was moving slowly southward, toward my left. Its upper edge sloped downward to the right. As the clouds moved left, the sun sunk lower; it never actually came out from behind the cloud bank, but rather followed the moving contour of the clouds as the upper edge sank lower and lower, fading southward. And because of the wisps of high moisture that made up the only cloud presence against the blue that domed the rest of the sky, the sun was creating a deep orange flood across the western sky-- which backlit the slow, trundling cloud bank with edgework of orange and pink. Far from the indeterminate haze of a Midwestern horizon, where you can't really tell whether there are clouds in the distance or not against the milky white sky, these clouds were all razor-sharp against the blue, with clear and detailed texture that looked near enough to reach out and grab hold of. Every few minutes, a jet emanated from the cloud bank, slowly descending, bound for the San Jose airport. Orange and gold light glinted off its wings as it crossed my plane of vision.
And me without my camera.
I sat there for almost an hour. The music that came on my iPod as I watched the clouds' edges burst into orange flame was the final "Farewell to Neverland" score track from Hook, a long orchestral piece that fit the scene better than anything else I could have dialed up, except possibly Beethoven's 6th. The recurring theme played a few times, the way I'd remembered playing it in Band back in high school. The light began to fade; the sun, though I couldn't see its position exactly, was surely below the immovable cloud horizon by now. And the music rose to the unmistakable John Williams Fantasy Finale-- grand, royal chord progressions, the kind that can go with no possible visual but a sunset like the one I was now watching, and the words THE END. A couple of birds fluttered by as the chords faded and the track ended. I waited a couple of seconds, taking a deep breath, letting it all sink in, serene and happy as I've ever been on one of these Sunday walks, as relaxed as I've ever been sitting on a grassy hillside with nothing to do but watch birds and--
SIT ON MY FACE, AND TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME!
I swear. I love my iPod, but some days it can be such a butthole.
04:40 - Misunderestimating Bush
Earlier this week, Tim Blair made the oft-since-quoted remark:
Thus far, the reputed idiot Bush has graduated from Yale and Harvard, made a stack of cash in the oil industry, become the first consecutive-term governor of Texas, defeated a dual-term VP for the Presidency, and led his party to yesterday's extraordinary triumphs. Let his opponents keep calling him stupid; if they do, within five years Bush will be King of England, the Pope, and world Formula One motor racing champion.
CapLion has an expansion on this, as do a number of other people from blog to blog.
Bush is not Dumb. Oh no. He is by far one of the most crafty, intelligent politicians of his time. Anyone, which is to say most everyone, who underestimates him is in for surprise after surprise.
Bush knows people think he's the dim bulb in the drawer, and he's using that to a downright amazing advantage at every twist. Remarkable.
I've been wary of the malapropisms-as-proof-of-stupidity thing since 2000, because they seemed to exhibit a major distinction from those of (for instance) Quayle: Quayle's stemmed from a kind of willful ignorance, a seeming goat-skulled insistence on focusing the theses of so many speeches directly on some outrageously incorrect claim or assumption. What a terrible thing it is to lose one's mind.
But Bush's stumblings are more like stuttering. One's mind and mouth travel at slightly different speeds, and the result is a missed shift here and there. I know first-hand that this kind of poor verbal footing is not indicative of lacking mental capacity; I have close friends whose minds, among the most agile I've ever run across, are masked by unfortunately poorly-tuned speech machinery. I know better than to ignore the thoughts in question just because they aren't being delivered with the teflon texture of an Oxford don.
Actions and accomplishments speak reams, and I think those who continue to ridicule Bush for his podium presence alone-- which oddly enough don't even include Matt and Trey (That's My Bush never seemed to play on this aspect of the president's persona)-- are themselves going to look sillier and sillier as time goes on.
|Saturday, November 9, 2002
21:52 - Hail the Great Innovator
Via CapLion, who exhibits no small amount of glee at this WaPo article explaining point by point why Microsoft's brilliant new "Tablet PC" revolution is about as insightful and innovative and crucial to the future of technology as the Pen PC was back in the mid-80s. (Remember that thing?)
Unlike other handwriting-recognition devices, tablet PCs normally leave your scribbles as "ink" on the screen. This divorce of ink from text fatally compromises the tablet PC's usefulness.
First, if your writing is unreadable on paper, it will look even worse after being digitized as ink.
Second, ink is an inefficient, incompatible way to store words. An 11-page handwritten document measured 422 kilobytes, a lot to download in e-mail or fit on a floppy disk. Ink files can't be edited on anything but a tablet PC, and e-mails written in ink may be unreadable in many mail programs, especially those on a cell phone or handheld organizer.
The tablet PC software offers only limited, clumsy ways to transform ink into text. In Windows Journal, the core handwriting-input program, you can select up to a page's worth of ink, then navigate to the Actions menu and select "Convert handwriting to text" (a tricky maneuver with a stylus); the software will offer its interpretation as well as alternative transcriptions of any words it's unsure of.
With most other applications, you need to invoke a foreground window called the Tablet PC Input Panel, which accepts your handwriting, converts it in batches and pours the results into the current document.
If you leave your ink as is, the tablet PC will still do some transcription in the background, which lets you search inexactly through an ink document: It correctly found one instance of "compact" but thought it had located three more in the words "control," "comfortable" and "computing."
Take care to write slowly and precisely in cursive or print and the tablet PC may perform quite well. But if you rush, things go downhill in a hurry. (The tablet PC just interpreted that phrase as "Things go downhill or, a henry!") Its suggestions for alternative spellings can resemble the rantings of an increasingly deranged poet, such as these interpretations of "Christine": "Christie, Caroline, Caustic, Carotene, Carthorse, Christ-ire."
At no time can you see a tablet PC's transcription in real time, letter by letter, which blocks you from learning what parts of your writing confuse the software. It breaks the feedback loop that lets users of other pen-input systems -- Palm handhelds' Graffiti, Apple's Ink for Mac OS X and Microsoft's Pocket PC -- improve their accuracy.
The tablet PC software, in turn, isn't programmed to learn from your use of it.
This setup has been puzzling me all week. Half a decade ago, Apple's Newton MessagePad 2000 transcribed my handwriting with impressive accuracy while running on a far weaker processor. Can't Microsoft do better today?
But, naturally, one of two things will happen:
1) The Tablet PC will fail miserably, a victim of reality and its own nature as a solution looking desperately for a problem (and a dozen companies gambling that Microsoft knows what it's doing will suffer a great deal in the process); or
2) The industry will pigheadedly create applications for Tablet PCs, crappy and useless as they are, and this non-learning-your-handwriting and non-convertable-on-the-fly garbage will become The Standard, because people always believe Microsoft knows The Way To The Future.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the genius of what most of the world thinks is the most innovative company in the world.
Ask a kid why, and he'll tell you "M1cr0s0fT m4kes H4L0 !!!11` Xb0X ROOLZ!!!"
Ask the man on the street why, and he'll tell you "Well, everybody uses Windows, so it must be the best... right?"
Ask a random person watching TV why, and he'll tell you that those ads on the History Channel which show companies seamlessly interconnecting all their subsystems using .NET and Tablet PCs and XP desktops clearly demonstrate Microsoft's brilliant and unique vision for the future-- and the way they say "From Microsoft" at the end of each ad (with the falling tone, the conspiratorial and reassuring sidelong smile: From Microsoft :)) is proof positive of the company's benevolent, down-home goodness and innocence.
Ask the federal judge why, and she'll say "Any company that can make itself into a monopoly on the strength of a shoddy, ripped-off pile of unstable spaghetti code and two decades of illegal and destructive and detrimental-to-the-software-industry corporate actions makes that company worthy of every government protection."
Ask eWeek why, though, and Timothy Dyck will explain how Microsoft is really innovative-- and just what we'll buy ourselves by refusing to see what Microsoft wants the computing industry to become. Now that it's proved that they can't do anything monopolistic enough to warrant punishment, they're setting about methodically shutting out all computing that uses open and free standards like, oh, say, ASCII text, HTML, JPEG and GIF, MP3, and MPEG.
Sound like a rosy future to you?
If not, too bad, because now there's nothing to stop it.
14:15 - It's the Comic-o-sphere vs. the Blogosphere...
Here's what the artist of Ozy and Millie has to say in parallel to the above strip, which is part of a series:
I'll be blunt. I'm seriously upset about the election results. Now we have two years of unchecked George W. Bush. I hope you conservatives out there in readerville will be decent enough not to write me, either arguing or gloating; it won't diminish my fears that a lot of things I believe in are going to take serious abuse in the next two years, maybe longer. So I spent today walking around being depressed and drawing political cartoons. I feel a little better. (And no, I didn't draw while walking around. Although my drawing table does have wheels, so I guess it's theoretically possible.
No, I won't gloat. Not now, anyway. I might, however, two years from now.
This seems to be a popular sentiment among comic artists these days, in any case. Ah well-- at least Boondocks has shut up a bit about the Bushistas forging poll results so as to look like there is more than zero popular support for a war to obtain Iraqi oil and spread some good ol' White Man's Burden.
Doonesbury, predictably, has been forecasting doom just like Simpson. But then, Trudeau is attacking blogs while he's at it, so while I still think there's humor there, there's a clear train-wreck of a decline in realistic focus. Such a shame.
If all the comics are left-leaning, and all the blogs are right-leaning, and the comics run their own commentary pages, does that mean we have to make up our own comedy?
Jeez. Even Red Meat has gotten obliquely political. That's a first.
14:11 - Instead of... a block party?
Okay, this is amusing. Fox News anchor makes a bit of an embarrassing live stumble on a story about Jennifer Lopez.
Seems almost as though the writers were trying to trip him up... well done, boys.
|Friday, November 8, 2002
21:47 - Gadzooks, that's funny.
The most recent freaky thing from Frank Cho, via Marcus:
The Superfriends versus Space Ghost, at a monkey knife-fight. Dear lord.
21:32 - Unpleasant Little Surprises
In all the recent musings over the commitment to quality in Apple software and the ideals of design which are upheld for the express purpose of directly benefiting the user, it's easy to get the impression that I feel Apple can do no wrong. And yeah, there are some days when I feel that way, especially when my Mac looks like an inviting oasis that I can only reach after trudging through a day-long wasteland of Windows ennui.
But Apple's far from perfect, as I have mentioned and demonstrated here from time to time-- and possibly not often enough. My musing on file-browser sort routines has had a fairly long aftermath, both positive and negative, for example. J Greely sends the following, by way of keeping me honest (in that "The Pravda of the bloggers. -- the New York Times" kind of way):
So here's one that's been amusing me recently: I have a directory that
contains JPEG files name 00.jpg through 30.jpg; if I try to open them
all in Preview, the order they load in depends on the mode I'm viewing
the folder in.
Viewed as Icons, arranged by name, the order appears random: 00, 03, 01,
25, 24, 21, 14, 19, 30, etc. Viewed as a list, arranged by name, they're
in reverse order, except for 20, which comes between 03 and 02. Only
when I select them from the Columns view do the files load in ascending
order. Doesn't matter whether I select with Command-A, click-and-drag,
or painstakingly shift-click them in order. Only one view does the right
thing, and the other two "think different".
Touché. This is indeed broken, and I (among others) have submitted this via Apple's handy-dandy Feedback page, as this is certainly a step backward in functionality from the OS 9 days. Isn't it ironic, as Greely notes, that the Column view-- the new, NeXT-derived one that was greeted with such suspicion from the long-time Mac-heads-- is the only view that does it right?
Another long-standing and very stupid bug, which I wrote in with months ago but isn't fixed even in Jaguar, is the following:
Cute, huh? If you are using List view, with large icons, if you click on a filename to change it, that filename jumps up by several pixels (as though it were still aligning itself with the default small-icon geometry, which is almost certainly what's going on in the code). It's an obscure and (probably) little-used mode, though, and the reason the bug still exists probably has a lot to do with the fact that Apple's QA staff likely uses that mode about as frequently as they fire up a Windows 3.1 box for its user-interface nostalgia. (It probably also has to do with the fact that this is purely a cosmetic problem.)
But Apple is working on these things; with every new release there's a new tweak to the general user interface, a new piece of polish that wasn't there before-- either bringing OS X's functionality to a par with OS 9, or taking it beyond in cases where it's already reached parity. Windows file-sharing consisted of third-party SMB tools operated from the command line in 10.0; in 10.1 it became integrated in the form of typing a URL into the "Connect to Server" box, of a strict and difficult-to-remember form. In 10.2 we got name browsing. 10.3 will undoubtedly bring domain integration and further tweaks.
There's always fine-tuning going on, and seeing everything from the bundled Utilities to the appearance of the file-copy dialog box gain extra levels of spit-shine with each update is, to be honest, rather exhilarating. The fact that it's (in many cases) compensating for existing shortcomings and flaws that shouldn't have been there in the first place is sort of a side issue. It's just fun.
And it demonstrates that Apple knows what areas, no matter how trivial, are weak-- and is committed to sharpening them all up, across the board, with time. Some fixes are simply prioritized further into the future than others.
I'm sure glad to see, for example, that the Installer program now prompts you automatically for an administrator password, as soon as you launch it, rather than flatly stating in big letters that you "need an Administrator password to continue", and making you "Click on the lock to make changes". Somebody noticed, and it got fixed.
And there was much rejoicing.
19:19 - Root Causes
Via Aziz Poonawalla's UNMEDIA list, here's an article in City Journal by Theodore Dalrymple that's well worth reading. The topic is France, and the current state of social affairs in the immigrant ghettos that has till now gotten very little attention-- though after reading this, it seems as though weeding out the Attas and the Moussaouis from the world would be like mowing the lawn one blade of grass at a time.
If you have any interest at all in France and its historical stature, give it a look. The first few paragraphs might elicit a smirk of schadenfreude, but by the end you might have a tear or two welling up.
Even if it is by their own hand, France is in a state for which we can be excused for offering pity, not just jeers.
18:22 - I feel ill.
At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law right off the bat-- You know that sinking, sickening feeling you get in your gut when you find yourself watching a show on TV about the Hitler Youth, the death camps, or about the rise to power of the Nazi party-- and whatever show it is features a lavishly recreated recitation of some piece of vile propagandist rhetoric from the mouth of some high-ranking politician or some fire-in-the-belly soldier or some utopian author? You know that feeling you get when you're listening to something you know is just so desperately wrong, so terribly cruel, and yet the person saying it is utterly convinced of its truth and rightness, and bolstered by victory and surging popular support?
I swear, I haven't felt like this since my last visit to MEMRI.
Good Law, Good Economics
By David R. Henderson
It's hard to believe that the Microsoft case is Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's first excursion into antitrust. Her decision reads as if written by someone with a nuanced understanding of the complex series of precedents that constitute modern antitrust law. In antitrust cases, knowledge of the law must also be supplemented with an understanding of economics. Here, too, the Judge shows a grasp of key principles, especially the crucial importance of incentives in encouraging innovation.
. . .
I would, of course, have preferred the Microsoft case not come to this. After all, for the next five years, Microsoft will operate under onerous regulations that none of its competitors will face. Still, had the dissenting states had their way, Microsoft's principle assets would have been expropriated
A judge who has just finished handling the first, and, most likely, the biggest antitrust case of her life, has done a great service, not just for Microsoft, but also for consumers. More important, she has ably defended the property rights and rule of law that protect the freedom and wealth of us all.
Who is this guy? Does he honestly believe the things he's saying here?
I don't know what to say about this. I've been staring at it for a full day now, and I still don't know what to say.
Capt J.M. Heinrichs, who sent this to me, does, though:
I would like to read this article as humour or parody. Unfortunately, I
checked the author's credit at the end and was unsurprised to note a
potential view of interest.
At one point, he gives the Judge marks for rejecting a Sun Microsystems
request to penalise MS for 'improving' Java, a known open standard. Without
meandering through details, the author has no knowledge of the history of
computers, PCs or otherwise, save MS History of Computing.
And to someone with no understanding of what engineering is all about, or what other companies have contributed to the technology industry and what Microsoft has done to them, (and not to mention to someone on Microsoft's payroll,) I'm sure this does look like a great victory for an innocent company against greedy and groundless plaintiffs. I'm sure it doesn't look at all like some greaser kicking a puppy in the teeth, laughing, and having the Mayor drive up and hang a medal around his neck for his service to the city.
Microsoft will operate under onerous regulations that none of its competitors will face. Jesus Christ. And this is TechCentralStation publishing this garbled piece of suck-up?
Fortunately it's Friday, and I won't have to think about Microsoft or their products for another two days.
15:59 - Pleasant Little Surprises
More and more since OS X was first released, and most of all with Jaguar recently, the experience of using the operating system has been one of constantly discovering cool new features. One of the most common sounds in and around my cubicle these days is "Whoah! I didn't know it did that..." upon stumbling across some feature, either a long-standing part of the Mac OS that has been translated seamlessly to X, or a new piece of operational polish that's really bloody cool. I love running across little things like how if you double-click on the column-sizing thumb at the bottom of each set of scrollbars in Column View, it automatically resizes that column to fit the contents-- and if you resize the column so it's too narrow for one of the longer filenames, the text on that file alters its kerning on the fly to scrunch more letters into the visual space. I love playing with the software Apple keeps churning out-- iTunes, iCal, iSync, the .Mac features like the Screen Saver Publisher-- and realizing just how much value they keep packing into these machines for free, just as a perk for those who have already paid the price of admission by getting a Mac. And I love how we're now in an age where if I take my laptop to all kinds of different places, whether connected to Ethernet or not, with the prevalence of AirPort base stations in surrounding buildings, the task is to prevent the machine from setting up a valid network connection, rather than fuming over TCP/IP settings trying to get it to create one in the first place.
Damien Del Russo e-mails me with a cool anecdote along these same lines, regarding potential methods for accessing the Internet wirelessly from an airplane:
Well, I wanted to let you know that there is actually a pretty cool way to
do it! I found out yesterday when I got my D-LINK Bluetooth USB connector
in the mail. I hooked it up (i.e., plugged it in - no installation
required) and linked it to my T68i telephone, because I want to iSync the
phone numbers and calendar from my wife's Palm to my telephone (and on our
Macs and iPod of course LOL). Anyway, much to my surprise I see that the
iBook can use the Bluetooth telephone to dial an ISP and get internet
access! Anywhere I have GSM service, in fact! Now most of America doesn't
have GSM yet, but a network is being rapidly built. And it's the standard
in Asia and Europe.
So, check this out. When I go with my wife to Thailand, we could,
technically, take a photo, plug the camera into the iBook, (auto) load it,
dial into an ISP in the USA using the GSM/Bluetooth phone and D-Link, upload
to my Apple iDisc, publish to a new web page, and email the URL to friends
in, like, a minute. Perhaps PCs can do this is well, but is it likely that
the user would discover this ability *by accident??????*
I daresay that even if they did discover such a thing by accident, they'd be in a much worse mood upon doing so; if my experience is any indication, wrestling with Windows, even if the end result is successful, is just inherently draining.
10:27 - On Idealism
The last couple of posts got me thinking. Perhaps a little reflection on the nature of idealism is in order.
The last post indicates that I'm a pragmatist when it comes to politics; but anybody who's been paying any attention to this site for any length of time knows that when it comes to technology, and to Apple, I'm anything but. I come off like a raving campus sign-waver, I realize.
Here's the thing: ideals are fine things to have, and I believe everybody has certain ideals that they'd pursue... if only reality didn't have that nasty habit of getting in the way. Libertarianism is a fine set of ideals from a political viewpoint. But the realities of life today preclude those ideals from making total sense. They're good things to have in the room, up on the shelf, peering down at the people making the decisions; but they can't be the only things that go into a policy. The reason I want to see a Libertarian treasurer is that it would provide push-back against government expenditures and taxes; it wouldn't be a policy-making entity in and of itself, but it would provide a necessary counterweight, something to help keep the money flow sane. Reality dictates a balance of power as the most stable and effective system we can hope for.
But... when ideals can in fact make a difference, I feel that it's no inconsistency to try to pursue those ideals as fervently as possible. In technology, for instance, I'm no idealist in most cases-- believe it or not. As a software engineer, my life is ruled by expedience, and even more so as a quality engineer. My entire existence revolves around how my definition of good enough meshes with the company's marketing and sales needs. It's all about compromise and common sense, and sometimes a less-than-perfect product is the answer when market realities demand it.
However, in certain cases (*cough*Apple*cough*), I see a company that is uniquly situated so as to stand effectively for a set of ideals that I find admirable. Apple is about open standards, ease of use, Human Interface theory distilled to its finest essence, design elegance, and quality of product. Under most circumstances, I'd say "Hey, you know, those are nice things to have... but reality says it's not feasible. Better to just compromise and settle for good enough." But that would only hold water if Apple weren't a successful long-term company that keeps staying afloat (and even gaining, in credibility if not in market share) even in the face of all predictions of doom. And through all this they've stayed true to their ideals. And that, I feel, is something special. It's something worth aligning with. It's something worth fighting for.
You've got to pick your battles. The trick lies in making a convincing case that you've picked the right ones; and maybe I haven't. But at least there's a reasoning behind it, and I think it's consistent.
It certainly feels right, anyway.
09:44 - W00t!
Wow, look-- I'm part of a demographic! I feel sooo like I belong. :)
Judson has a theory that being a Simpsons fan and a Mac-head makes for a Libertarian. (He cites me rather flatteringly as an example. Thanks!) I wouldn't be surprised, given the prevalence of such sentiments in the blogosphere; there seems to be a Simpsons quote for every occasion, and I continue to be startled at how many high-profile bloggers have telltale links specifically to Mac resources.
I wouldn't quite say I describe myself as Libertarian, though. I certainly didn't vote a straight Lib ticket or anything. I'd like to see a Lib as attorney general, and maybe one as Treasurer, but other than that there's policy to be made that I think the Libertarian agenda is just a little too unrealistic for. Sure, those are fine ideals they've got-- but there are realities of life in this complex world that just have to be left to a central government to handle. And I don't place individual rights above all other priorities under all circumstances; for example, I think racial profiling is a regrettable but necessary means of protecting the public. No, I'm not a fan of the feds pawing through the carry-on bags of every Arab-American who gets on a plane. But I do think that makes a whole lot more sense, and inconveniences a whole helluva lot fewer people, and gives a hugely better impression of the government's intelligence and common sense, than patting down old ladies and single parents with kids in tow.
Yes, we need to be alert for individual liberties wherever possible. But we don't have to be damn fools about it.
That's why I wish there were an Anti-Idiotarian party to vote for. Too much to ask, I know; politics is, by definition, the art of making the people happy with your actions and opinions. And even with this week's Republican landslide, and even with all the efforts of all the bloggers with all their loyal readership, it still isn't the majority of the public who thinks like we do. Most people need to be told what to think, and need to feel like an R or a D, if they take an interest in politics at all. My friend Chris has a set of Laws, the Third of which is: I am not the target audience. It's a mantra we should all repeat to ourselves as often as possible.
Just remember: by definition, half the population has an IQ of less than 100.
09:27 - Time for a change of tactics?
Thomas C. Greene of The Register reports on the backfiring of Microsoft's attempts to slay Linux through FUD:
The Beast has hired a research crew to do a bit of attitude sampling among the Great Unwashed in the US and abroad, and has found that slagging Linux is not winning it any points. In a company memo posted by Eric S. Raymond here we learn that regular folks are both eager for a Microsoft alternative and generally respectful of the open-source concept.
We also learn that bombastic hoots by Steve Ballmer likening the GPL to a virus are in fact offensive to many people. Outright lies, like Ballmer's claim that Windows is, overall, cheaper than Linux also haven't been playing well, the researchers discovered.
Well, duh. Who likes a petty, land-grubbing dictatorship who kicks any underdog who dares show its face?
What this might mean we're almost afraid to ask. But apparently we can expect Ballmer to start waxing sentimental about how wonderful Linux and the GPl are, second only to Windows and the license that keeps on taking.
"In the short term, then, Microsoft should avoid criticizing OSS and Linux directly, continue to develop and aim to eventually win the TCO argument."
Not that they need worry. After all, if they commit monopoly crimes, the worst they can expect as chastisement is the DoJ sending some infant judge to set off across-country toward Redmond on a tricycle, there to lie on the ground and make colicky fussing noises while Microsoft goes about its business.
|Thursday, November 7, 2002
02:11 - Another Most Excellent "Installer" Window
It's how things oughtta be.
Thanks to Mike for reminding me to keep an eye on the progress of this stuff. It's the Dream That Would Not Die... and Chimera is getting very smooth indeed.
Still not enough to unseat OmniWeb, but it's getting there...
20:49 - Winter is in effect... nnnnnnnnNOW!
It was summer yesterday...
That's how it is in the Bay Area, though. Summer lasts about six months. Right up until yesterday afternoon, it was warm, even hot-- the same kind of clear, boring, clear-sky conditions that characterize California weather from April through October.
Then, last night, while I was relaxing in the hot tub... suddenly the wind rolled over me like the sandstorm from The Scorpion King, tossing an armload of pine needles from nearby trees into the water and on my head. A glance upward revealed swathes of angry, fast-moving clouds hunching over us. We hurriedly covered up the tub and retreated from the first prickly raindrops.
This morning it was drizzly, and there was some detritus on the roads, but not too bad; it still looked like summer still existed, somewhere, deep beyond the current battle front. But after work, well...
Work ended rather... abruptly, shall we say. I was perusing the comments upon a recent LGF post (sorry to hear about Rasheed, Charles), when the iMac screen suddenly went dark. Stunned silence... then I realize that the silence is fairly total. The one or two other late workers and I stand up, prairie-dogging out of our cubicles, silhouetted against the emergency lights. The hell?
"First rain of the year," I note. "A branch falls on the power lines, or the substation arcs. It's how we know winter's arrived."
And indeed, the streetlights and traffic signals at the intersection between us and Infinite Loop are darkened. With nothing useful that can be done work-wise, I pack up my iPod and head out.
The parking lot, this time, is filled with debris. I'm talking matted. Branches, leaves, pine needles, pine cones, large pools of standing water. The wind is driving sheets of rain into my face, rendering pointless my attempts to shield my laptop by sticking it into my shirt... and as I start the car and pull out into the intersection, trying my best to behave with the rest of the drivers as though it's a four-way stop even though my windshield wipers-- which haven't seen action in six months-- are sticking and shuddering across the glass, I realize that the NPR station, KQED, is just static.
Seems the transmitter's been hit. Hokay... I turn to KCBS, where I learn that large parts of the Bay Area are in chaos. The mountain highway to Santa Cruz is at a standstill (as it always is under anything but ideal conditions). Mill Valley and the Buena Vista Hills area of San Francisco are blacked-out. The Richmond/San Rafael Bridge has been shut down, because construction equipment on the bridge was being blown around by the wind. And as the traffic reporter relates from a caller on the Bay Bridge, who witnessed it as it happened, the transformers at the toll plaza suddenly shot huge blue sparks into the air as a gigantic electrical arc zapped across the station-- and all the lights on the bridge went out.
It was summer yesterday, I will reiterate. And tonight there's a Winter Storm Warning in effect-- which in these parts means "watch out for water on the road, and drive really carefully. And stay out of flash-flood gullies!" Heavy rain is predicted throughout the coming week.
I'm home now, and there are candles burning here and there. The power's on, but it hasn't been that way all day.
Sure, the weather's boring here most of the year. But when it gets interesting... boy, does it get interesting.
11:48 - Okay, now what?
I just got the following e-mail:
From: "NELSON DANDY" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed Nov 6, 2002 8:00:54 PM US/Pacific
Subject: URGENT HELP
> From: MR NELSON DANDY JNR.
> E-Mail :email@example.com
> ATTN: THE DIRECTOR /CEO.
> Dear Sir,
> URGENT ASSISTANT
> You may be surprise to receive this kind of message
> from me since
> you do not know me personally and we have not met
> before. The purpose
> of my introduction is that I am MR. NELSON DANDY
hello mr. nelson dandy i don`t know who r u but i can
help u on certain rules of my own made see u r
investing some heavy amount in my account i don`t mind
but the govt will mind certainly so i bhave more than
4 accounts if ur relly interested u can contact me i
want 100% of bank interest than only iam reddy for
> JNR, the first son
> of DR.NELSON STEVE DANDY, who was recently murdered
> in the land
> dispute in Zimbabwe. I was furnished with viable
> information from the
> world trade center here in Amsterdam-Holland and
> decided to write you. Before the
> death of my father, he had taken me to Spain to
> deposit the sum of
> THIRTY FIVE MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED
> STATE DOLLARS ONLY (USD$35.5M).In a security
> company, as if he has foreseen the looming danger in
> Zimbabwe.This money was deposited in a Box as Gold
> and Diamond to avoid much demurrage from the
> security company. This amount was meant for the
> purchase of new machines and the chemicals for the
> farms and the establishment of new farms Swaziland.
> This land problem came when the Zimbabwe president
> MR ROBERT MUGABE introduced a new land act that
> wholly affected all rich farmers and some few black
> farmers. This resulted to the killing and mob action
> by Zimbabwe war veterans and some lunatics in the
> society. In fact a lot of people were killed because
> of the land-reformed act of which
> my father was one of the victims. It is against this
> background that I and my family who are currently
> staying in Amsterdam decided to keep the money in
> Madrid Spain,since the Law of the Netherlands
> prohibits a refugee (asylum seeker)to open any
> account or to be involved in any financial
> transaction of this magnitude. As the oldest son of
> my father, I am saddled with the responsibility of
> seeking a genuine foreign account where this money
> could be transferred without the knowledge of my
> Government who are
> bent on taking everything we have got. The
> Netherlands Government seems to be playing about
> with them.I am faced with dilemma of investing this
> amount of money in Netherlands for the fear of going
> through the same experience in future since both
> countries have similar history. Moreover, the
> Netherlands foreign exchange policy does not allow
> such investments from asylum seekers. As a
> businessman,whom I have entrusted my future and my
> family in his hand, I must let you know that this
> transaction is risk-free. If you accept to assist me
> and my family, all I need you to do for me is to
> make arrangement to make a trip to Madrid Spain so
> that you can
> non-resident account which will aid us in
> transferring the money into my account you will
> nominate in your country or elsewhere. This money I
> intend to use for investment.
> I have options to offer, first you can choose to
> have certain percentage of money for nominating your
> account for the transaction, or you can go into
> partnership with me for a proper profitable
> investment of the money in your country. Which
> options you choose, feel free to notify me please,
> contact me with the above E-mail address or call me
> briefly with the above telephone number and I will
> call you back for more details on the subject. I
> implore you to maintain the absolute secrecy require
> in this transaction.
> I wish you the best of luck.
> Thanks and God bless.
> Sincerely yours
> MR. NELSON DANDY (JNR.)
a) Someone replying (in full dupe mode) to a Nigerian Scam Letter, who somehow managed to get my e-mail address as a Bcc: recipient; or
b) A bizarre variant on the NSL in which it's engineered to appear like someone replying to the NSL in full dupe mode. Perhaps to attract unsuspecting do-gooder recipients of the reply into e-mailing the poor sod who appears to be falling for it, to warn him off. For the purpose of-- what, I don't know. Harvesting a single working e-mail address? Seems like an awful lot of work and social engineering.
One possibility assumes immense moronicity in the people involved. The other assumes a quite astonishing level of Machiavellian plotting and espionage-type forgery.
And these days, thanks to Klez and friends, I honestly don't know which is less plausible.
09:47 - The Burden of Proof
"It's all a matter of perspective," some say. "What we call terrorism others call fighting for survival."
Well, check this out, via LGF:
I went to see the minister of education at his home in Riyadh. Mohammed Ahmed Rasheed and half a dozen deputies, men in long white robes and headdresses, arrayed themselves on chairs against the walls and worried their beads. They talked fondly about time spent at American universities — Stanford, Indiana, Oklahoma, Michigan; Khedir al-Qurashi, the vice minister for girls' education, spoke of his love of Hoosiers basketball.
They were defensive about American suspicion of the religious hard-liners' influence on boys' schooling. "Why don't you go to Israeli math textbooks and see what they're saying — `If you kill 10 Arabs one day and 12 the next day, what would be the total?' " demanded one deputy. Agreed another: "If 5 or 8 percent of our curriculum has to be changed, then 80 to 90 percent of the content of American media has to be changed."
Huh. Yeah. Why don't we?
Why don't we confront the blatant hypocrisy in our own mass media? Why don't we wake up to the obvious hegemony of the Zionist conspiracy in everything we read, hear, think, and teach our children?
Every week the blogosphere uncovers some new example of what's being taught to children in Saudi Arabia and Egypt-- to recite that Jews are "apes and pigs", that learning math is less important than memorizing the Koran, that the US is a hypocritical Jewish-run entity who can't stop the Righteous from learning the truth about Jews. But this is terribly one-sided. Why don't we rub our eyes and wake up to the much worse irrational zealous anti-Muslim bias in our own popular culture?
Could it be...
...that there isn't any?!
These guys seem to understand the principle of the statement that "information wants to be free", but as yet they exhibit no comprehension of the reality of the world in which that principle applies. How best can I illustrate it? Hmm-- okay, I know: Only one of these societies in question has a blogosphere.
Those who wish to apologize for the unbelievable level of irrational, taken-on-faith, absorbed-from-the-imams anti-Jewish hatred that can be found in the Muslim world need to help out their cause by uncovering one example of what this interviewee is accusing exists. Just one.
Will their failure to do so convince them of anything but the even greater power and penetration of the Zionist Conspiracy? No, probably not.
But hey, all our laundry is out in the open, dirty or not. Paw through it. Go right ahead. Information flows freely here. Nothing's stopping you. You can see all the ideological weapons we have at our disposal. We have nothing to hide.
Of course, that's the mistake the Minbari made.
|Wednesday, November 6, 2002
23:29 - FoxTrot-- always good for a giggle
Did I mention how much fun this stuff is?
23:26 - Hee hee
UPDATE: But it's okay, because Microsoft has just put a single button on its Tablet PC that emulates the Ctrl+Alt+Del keystroke. Now that's innovation!
21:38 - iPod World Tour
Okay, this kicks ass. "iPods Around the World".
This is what I mean when I say Mac people have fun with their technology.
UPDATE: CapLion concurs. Yeah, how many "RioRiotZone" and "DimensionAddict" sites do you see?
ANOTHER UPDATE: This one could have been a Coke ad.
20:12 - Huh huh huh. It's incredible.
A whole shelf of these, and candy novelty-type-things like them, was in the supermarket right next to the Valrhona and the Godiva, which undoubtedly turn away their creased faces with a sniff and an upturned nose at having to share shelf space with such... monstrosities.
But somehow I'm encouraged to see that the candy industry has become so audacious all of a sudden. (One of the other delectable offerings was "[gummy] rats in a [sour-powder] bucket", and another was a set of dispensers of liquid/syrupy material billed as "toejam", "pus", and "boogers", among other things.)
There's a sour revolution going on, in fact, and I've never been happier. Except for the unaccountable prevalence of watermelon, raspberry, and green apple flavors in everything? What the hell? What happened to the good old favorites-- lemon, orange, grape, cherry? Adding citric acid to those flavors was a perfectly fine idea. And yet they've gone about inciting a new shift in the flavors that make up the candy landscape, perhaps the most significant since the early-century shift away from flavors like plum and quince and horehound.
It's a dirty trick someone's pulled on me. A sour revolution! My fondest dream come true! And yet... and yet... it's soured by this bizarre cultural shift, which for the life of me I can't imagine is demanded by the public.
(But then, this summer, in rural Ontario, I stopped at a store that billed itself as the World's Biggest Candy Store or some such-- a claim that is probably not unfounded-- and the kindly lady inside told me, much to my amazement, that the candy companies are being flooded with feedback that kids just can't get enough of watermelon, green apple, and raspberry. Huh. Go figure.)
Ah well. I think that even with all these startling new developments-- even with sour-powder toilets with candy plungers; even with Sour Starbursts; even with Sour Skittles; even with Nerds Ropes; even with the sudden universality of sour in every checkout aisle-- nobody has quite gotten the formula as just right as Goelitz, with the Jelly Belly "Sours" mix. It's the right flavors, and the right level of acidity. It has the perfect balance between flavor and kick, between dissipation speed and corrosiveness.
And they've dispensed with those five awful new flavors they tried to add to the mix a couple of years ago.
Yeah, I'm happy.
16:30 - Oh good-- All Is Lost after all
Nope, they sure don't disappoint.
Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday's loss was devastating. We truly face dark times.
The light in this darkness is you, and the tens of millions of
people like you, across the nation and around the world, who
will stand for a vision of hope, and not be blinded by the
politics of fear.
With Paul Wellstone's recent death, we've all been thinking
a lot about heroes. What defines a hero? And when do you know
that someone is a hero?
To stand up when it's darkest and continue the fight. That's
heroism. To fight against the odds, for something that matters.
That's heroism. To step forward, when the rest of humanity
seems to be in retreat. That's heroism.
You are heroes.
And when you step forward, you will not be alone.
We will be there, with you.
Three weeks ago, we honored four heroes, who stepped forward when
much of Congress was in retreat -- Paul Wellstone, Rush
Holt, Jay Inslee, and Rick Larsen. You came forward for these
heroes with a tremendous outpouring of support -- thousands of
volunteers and more than one million dollars in contributions.
Holt, Inslee and Larsen all won their races yesterday. And
of course, we all know Paul Wellstone would have won.
In the end, we will win.
We will win by rebuilding a new political will founded on
vision that goes beyond the tactics of fund raising and
triangulation. We will win by projecting a vision of hope
for our country and the world that is too compelling to deny.
We will win by supporting exciting new leaders on a
political landscape filled with dinosaurs.
Bush will try to position our loss as his mandate. But
remember one thing: less than 20% of the American electorate
voted for GOP candidates. Nearly as many voted against, and
far more stayed home. There is no mandate.
With your help, we will fight the coming onslaught.
We will support heroes in the House, like Minority Whip
Nancy Pelosi, who led an overwhelming majority of House
Democrats to oppose the Iraq war resolution. We will support
heroes in the Senate, like Senator Robert Byrd, whose eloquence
brought us to tears in the Senate debate on Iraq.
It's time to make a fresh start. We will demand quality
leadership in these difficult times. The Democratic party must
find its voice, represent its members, and promote the broad
interests of the American public. We will accept no less.
Thanks for everything you've done.
We stand together, with you,
- Wes, Joan, Carrie, Peter, Doug, and Eli
Wednesday, November 6th, 2002
PAID FOR BY MOVEON.ORG PAC
"Dark times" indeed. Hey, weren't conservatives supposed to be the ones who live in the past, don't accept existence proofs, and can't recognize which way the winds are blowing?
10:56 - New Laptops
Oh yeah-- nearly forgot to look.
Looks like the rumors were all pretty accurate: new iBooks at 700/800 MHz, priced under the four-digit point; and new TiBooks, up to 1GHZ, with Bluetooth and a SuperDrive. Neato!
I don't know how much DVD burning people are going to want to do on the road, but hey-- it's a nice checkbox item. Radeon Mobility 9000-- cool. 60GB drives-- cool. And the entire range of models comes in at under $3000. Super-cool.
This'll probably be the last major rev of the TiBook; in January it'll be lighting three candles on its current form factor, and the time will be ripe for a replacement. I can't begin to guess what direction they'll go in this time.
Now that Best Buy is commissioning knockoffs, it's probably just about time to forge ahead again.
My prediction: it'll be made of an aerogel.
10:45 - So there's a market for this, eh?
Cool that it exists. Looks like a no-brainer kind of product, and genuinely useful (enough so that Apple is plugging it on its own site).
But I just have to say, I love the logo graphic.
|Tuesday, November 5, 2002
01:32 - A Republican Sea Change?
The final tabulations aren't in yet, but it looks like we got the House, Senate, and largest Governor turnaround.
It's only a matter of hours before the stunned, then bewildered, then tearful "All is Lost" e-mail from MoveOn.org arrives.
Me? I voted all over the map. (Kinda hard to do otherwise when you're in California, where your choice of governors is a coin-toss between an idiot and a crook.)
But I won't complain a bit to see the air let out of the head-in-the-clouds Leftern ilk, after this past couple of weeks. (And this past year, for that matter.)
01:20 - What is wrong with some people?
You know, there are content producers in this world, and there are content consumers. I don't hold that one group is inherently superior to the other; people are just inclined differently. Some people create, because it's in their nature; and some people hoover, because it's in their nature. That's fine. Diff'rent strokes and all that.
But I've just got to say: it takes one hell of a content consumer to write the thing quoted at the end of today's Bleat. And I don't mean that as a compliment.
If it's any consolation, James-- the good Fairy can only dream avariciously of being someone who has so much e-mail to answer that it becomes burdensome. And his anonymity is proof enough of the shame it causes him.
The rest of us consumers are fueled by 91-octane Bleats. Don't let one guy with a bomb-laden harbor dinghy cause an oil crisis for the blog world. Gratitude? A four-digit inbox means five or six digits' worth of grateful-- but silent-- readers.
22:27 - Blockbuster Courts Gamers
...And does a pretty piss-poor job of it, too, according to Penny Arcade.
Obviously this ad is intended to get gamers interested in renting games from Blockbuster. So they decided the best way to do that would be to lure us in with an unflattering caricature of our subculture. I can just imagine a table full of advertising execs trying desperately to pin down the defining characteristics of that most sought after of all demographics, the 18-24 year old male. "They wear funny clothes like a clown or a hippy," says one exec before he takes a long pull from his coffee coolata. "Their hair is really messy," says another as he tries desperately not to think about his erectile dysfunction and the devastating effect it has had on his marriage. "I saw one today at the mall and he seemed very extreme." They all nod and murmur in agreement. "So what we need then is a messy-haired clown who seems vaguely extreme." Then they all pat each other on the back and joke about who is buying lunch. Jackasses.
I love how caricature cuts both ways.
Anyway-- good, I was hoping for a new reason not to rent from Blockbuster, now that the statute of limitations on public disgust over their censoring of Reservoir Dogs has pretty much run out.
16:22 - PC Mag Gushes over the XServe
Here's something you don't see every day: a PC Magazine article about an Apple product that has nary a true negative point in it.
About the worst it gets is:
Configuring the server, user accounts, and services was a breeze. In fact, service configuration in Mac OS X 10.2 Server is so easy that it actually confused us on some points. For instance, we had trouble enabling file services for Windows. But after looking for 20 minutes, we found the single Windows File Sharing button right in front of our face, hiding in plain sight. Too easy.
Yep. You know, I've been leery for a while now of the XServe-- we haven't heard very much about its success in the marketplace since its introduction, like for instance whether Apple's in fact selling any of them. (This is, after all, a huge experiment on their part, and a tremendous gamble on the machine's ability to overcome widespread mistrust of the Apple name in enterprise-class IT environments in order to make inroads against the likes of Dell and Sun.) But if the comments at the bottom of the article are any indication, there are at least some of these things selling, and those doing the buying are finding their purchases to be well worth it.
I just installed an X-Serve with the configuration tested and conclude it's everything you mentioned and more. Also available are net boot and net imaging. The server pages me if there are any problems with heat, drives or processors (no calls so far!) The dual gigabit ports plugged into my Cisco gear simply works as billed, fast! I set up a video stream and connected a lab of 25 computers to the stream and it played wonderfully. Set up is simple, performance is reliable and trouble free. We have Windows XP, Mac OS-9 and OS-X clients connecting and it's just been rock solid. Money very well spent!
It doesn't get much more five-star than that.
One thing I have to wonder, though: is the author of this article a secret Hewlett-Packard shill?
...Each drive is controlled by its own 100MB master interface to maximize the data througHPut, leaving even Ultra 160 SCSI drives in the dust...
Pretty strange way to encode secret subliminal marketing messages, if you ask me.
10:13 - Here goes nothin'...
Last election, I was completely unable to find my polling location, even though I spent an hour both before and after work looking for it.
Maybe I'll have better luck this time. Armed with a map from Sherlock, which describes a location completely at odds with what the address on my sample ballot would suggest, I might just make it.
After all, MoveOn.org has been flooding me with message upon message all this past two weeks, begging me to get out the vote and help wrest the undeserved power away from the evil warmongering Bush cronies.
I'll vote, all right. Wouldn't want to disappoint them.
|Monday, November 4, 2002
01:51 - Helpful Error Messages
A couple of days ago, my Windows 2000 machine ate itself-- or at least it did a darn good impression of eating itself. Upon boot, it presented me with the following clearly stated message:
NTLDR is missing
Press any key to restart
Well, a couple of astute readers mailed me to point out that I should check the floppy drive. Because, see, that's the standard error message that the newer NT-based Windows variants emit when there's a non-bootable floppy in the drive, and when (as is typical) the BIOS is configured to boot from the floppy first and then the hard drive.
(We'll leave aside for the moment the fact that a) Macs deal with non-bootable floppies by ejecting them before proceeding automatically to the next bootable device, and b) Macs haven't had to deal with floppy-boot-sequence issues for years anyway.)
I was pretty sure that there wasn't a floppy in the drive, but it was at work and I wasn't, so I had to wait until today to check. So I did, and lo and behold-- there it was, a disk in the drive. I ejected it and pressed the "any" key, and the thing booted right up. Fancy that.
Now, naturally this makes me feel pretty silly. But at the same time-- and it isn't only wounded pride talking, I'm pretty sure-- it occurs to me that they could possibly have made that error message (NTLDR is missing) just a little more informative... couldn't they?
This, bear in mind, is Windows 2000-- the core of the new, enterprise-class Windows platform family, the rock-solid foundation upon which the Businesses of the Future™ will be built. And yet somehow I recall that the old and primitive versions of Windows-- 98, 95, 3.1, and the MS-DOS that they ran on top of-- seemed to have had a much more useful error message when the machine encountered the stupefyingly uncommon boot-device configuration of a floppy in the drive. I believe it went a little something like:
Non-system DISK or DISK error
See, it had that ever-so-helpful word DISK in it. Twice, even. It led the user to conclude that maybe, just maybe, the reason the computer wasn't making with the taskbar and Bonzi Buddy was just perhaps something to do with the DISK.
In other words, MS-DOS had a more informative error for one of the most common unrecoverable boot conditions than an OS written twenty years later does.
Are they getting stupider up in Redmond as time goes on, or just more malicious?
UPDATE: I believe I know what happened. The floppy in question had once been formatted as a WinNT/2000 boot disk. Since that time I had reformatted it for use as a conveyance for random data, and it was empty. However, the reformatting didn't clear the NT bootblock from the MBR, and upon boot the disk still thought it had a valid NT loader to invoke. I needed to have done a low-level format (or fdisk /MBR) to get rid of the bootblock.
This doesn't much excuse the opacity of the procedure or the user feedback, or the stone-age retardedness of the PC BIOS architecture (can't they make it so that if one boot device fails, the BIOS skips to the next one?!). But at least I know what the machine was trying to say.
21:20 - Snotty Germans!
Here's a comment thread regarding the news coming out lately that there will be an iBook/TiBook speed-bump sometime this week.
First, the kicker-off (interestingly modded to "Troll"):
Apple's next step
A better move would be for Apple to sell cheaper Mac's - I can't afford an iBook and I don't want an iMac or an eMac:
I want a Mac about the size of a SPARCclassic, with a fast 3D card, a dvd+burner and all the rest of the Apple goodness, but with no monitor. I've got my own perfectly good 17" sony. Why can't I get one of those!
Followed-up immediately by the following riposte:
I have the same complaint about...
BMW. What's up with those snotty Germans? I really want one of their M-Series cars in the form factor of a VW Bug with a 1000 CD-Disc Changer & MP3 Player w/ OGG support (Fraunhofer can stick it! Snotty Germans!), corinthian leather and all the rest of that German goodness (Can you say that?). I've got my own tires from my old car but those arrogant sausage eaters won't sell me a Beemer without tires. Why can't I get one of those!? Why do I have to pay the tire tax?
BMW is never going to have a large market share if they don't let customers buy the cars the way they want. They will just be a niche car company selling expensive cars to really arrogant, snotty people that think they are superior to everyone else. Plus I hear their owner likes to wear black all the time.
Bravo, suh. Personally, I'm partial to the clamor for a 23" Cinema Display that you can wear on your wrist.
Some people still just don't seem to "get" the Mac; they think Apple's a company trying to surf the same business plan as Dell, with millions of options tailored to individual customers' needs, and with infinite variability resulting in rock-bottom price.
That's not what Apple's for. The point of a Mac is that it's a whole-widget piece of engineering. It's targeted at users who want to sit down and enjoy their computing experience, comforted by the fit-and-finish of a product that's put together from bits to screws by the same company with the same guidelines of style and substance. If it costs more than an econobox, well, things do. Macs aren't econoboxes. People who think they are, or who think Macs are supposed to be hot-rods for kooky versions of Linux to run on while the case sits open on three sides with mineral-oil ducts running through it, are completely misinterpreting matters.
To some, the ultimate aspiration of a PC is to be an infinitely personalized, Frankensteined musclecar, complete with rear spoilers (and front-wheel-drive) and a giant air scoop sticking out of the hood and obscuring the driver's vision. To some, it's all about having a virtual equivalent of a messy room, something to laze around in, something that's full of digital odds and ends and sharp things to stub your toe on. But it does the job, it doesn't smell too bad, and hell, it'll have all of its parts individually replaced within six months anyway, so who cares what it looks like?
But for some people, the whole point of a computer is to facilitate work and play-- to provide a clean, welcoming, attractive environment in which to interact with electronic data. It's a well-maintained and janitored city park to stroll through, as opposed to a cluttered backyard. City parks cost more to maintain, it's true-- but for some people, that's a fair price to pay.
That's who Apple sells to.
18:30 - DMCA Breach in Progress
Let's take a look under the hood of a certain recent e-mail message, shall we?
The following is an e-mail sent from within an enterprise, by a user running Outbreak-- 'scuse me, Outlook, to an Exchange server, destined for another employee accessing that Exchange server via IMAP. This is how the message-- a multi-part message with a Base64 attachment, which I will abbreviate with an ellipsis-- appears in the recipient's e-mail program. Only the names and addresses have been changed to protect the innocent.
From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Nov 4 17:33:56 2002
Received: by exchange.somecompany.com
id <01C2846B.5133FFA0@exchange.somecompany.com>; Mon, 4 Nov 2002 17:33:17 -0800
Return-Receipt-To: "John Doe" <email@example.com>
Disposition-Notification-To: "John Doe" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft Exchange V6.0.6249.0
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2002 17:33:17 -0800
From: "John Doe" <email@example.com>
To: "Joe Recipient" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
"The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary." - =
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2//EN">
<META HTTP-EQUIV=3D"Content-Type" CONTENT=3D"text/html; =
<META NAME=3D"Generator" CONTENT=3D"MS Exchange Server version =
<!-- Converted from text/rtf format -->
<P><FONT FACE=3D"Arial" SIZE=3D2 COLOR=3D"#000000"> =
<P><I><FONT SIZE=3D2 FACE=3D"Times New Roman">"The only place where =
success comes before work is in a dictionary." - Vidal.</FONT></I>
Notice anything.... strange about this message?
If you're at all familiar with the raw-source structure of MIME messages, you will. I'll give you a hint: a proper MIME-encoded message would be a little bit longer.
There is no MIME separator at the end of the encoded attachment. It just breaks off. There should be a ------_=_NextPart_001_01C2846B.5133FFA0-- after the end of the encoded section, symmetrical with the one at the beginning of that block. But there isn't.
This means the attachment does not show up in any e-mail client that properly parses MIME. (Of course, it shows up just fine in Outlook, which doesn't give a rat's turd about requiring things like </TABLE> tags or closing MIME separators.)
This problem occurs whenever a user sends a message via Outlook to an Exchange server, and the recipient retrieves the message via IMAP. It doesn't happen if the recipient uses POP3, nor if the recipient is on a remote server to which the message must be relayed via SMTP.
Because, you see, Outlook communicates with Exchange in an internal DCOM-based proprietary Microsoft format. I'm sure it's very nice, and provides all sorts of nice features and hooks for Exchange to handle the message with, and it makes things nice and smooth when Outlook clients retrieve the message via IMAP.
But if Exchange has to relay the message on via POP3 or SMTP, it must translate it from its internal format to the standard mail format. The bitch of it is that it uses an entirely different rendering engine to serve the message to an IMAP client than to convey it via POP3 or SMTP. The internal structure of the message is totally different depending on what protocol you're using to access it.
And the IMAP translator is broken. People using IMAP, and clients other than Outlook, are out of luck when it comes to attachments, because whoever wrote this brain-dead translator apparently didn't allocate a big enough buffer for the message or something, or simply didn't bother to emit the closing separator because hey, Outlook doesn't require it-- and it just cuts the hell off.
You know, I have had it up to here with this crap. The software Microsoft produces is utter garbage, and it actively deters customers from doing work. This isn't a tool, it's an impediment-- and whoever is responsible for writing it, if there were such a thing as certification for software engineers, should be stripped of his or her credentials.
Those who promote Microsoft as some kind of paragon of software design and recommend it as a provider of mission-critical enterprise-class software-- this kind of incompetence is what these people are endorsing. This is the mediocrity to which we're condemning ourselves by not demanding that software be held to a higher standard than the bare-assed minimum that can be sold to the unsuspecting, overworked IT manager and the petty corporate bean-counter.
Some companies have already had to pay for this kind of negligence. Motorola, for the better part of the year 2000, had no e-mail at all because their Exchange server went completely belly-up-- and the Microsoft experts who they'd hired to come out and work on it full-time were unable to fix it for months on end. No internal e-mail communications. None. All because someone decided that Microsoft is the Way, and that anybody who doesn't go with the flow is just building sand castles while the tide comes in.
These kinds of stories are going to get more frequent, too-- not less. Sooner or later the failure will be quite catastrophic, and we'll weep for deliverance.
But by that time it will be far, far too late.
Thank you very much, Your Honor.