g r o t t o 1 1

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

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
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  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
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 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, November 17, 2002
00:11 - Tribute (or nepotism)

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On Home Movies tonight, which is the first show Cartoon Network plays in its "Adult Swim" block, there was a scene at a public indoor pool where McGurk was trying to learn to swim.

On the wall in the background was a poster that said ADULT SWIM 10:00-1:00.

Sweet.
Saturday, November 16, 2002
02:42 - Preaching Laughter

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It's been remarked here and there in the blogosphere that comedians seem to be the public figures who most frequently exhibit that they have heads securely welded to their shoulders. Forget political demagogues and religious leaders; from the mouths of comedians does all-too-frequently come wisdom. Free of the strictures of political correctness, unafraid to offend any particular "aggrieved" group among their audience (who waives their right to be offended by the act of purchasing the tickets), comics get to say things that so many other figureheads with wide reach are muzzled from saying.

I just got back from seeing a Lewis Black show at the Punchline Comedy Club in Sacramento with my folks. Black is the "angry comic" guy on the Daily Show and elsewhere on Comedy Central; I haven't seen much of him to date, but I'll have to keep an eye out for him in the future. Nothing quite beats seeing him from four feet away and at ankle level, with our dinner-theater table actually touching the edge of the stage.

Anyway-- after nearly an hour of gut-busting material covering Halloween costumes, Enron-esque CEOs, candy corn, drinking water, his Jewish upbringing, and creationists, he suddenly dropped to a serious tone and posited that in life three things are really important: patriotism, faith, and humor. He said that the biggest reason that our current enemies are our enemies is that they've "been wandering the desert for thousands of years and never run into a knock-knock joke. ...Guess that's the price they pay for living in tents." He went on to claim that if only there were a tradition of humor in the Islamic world, nobody would have ever been able to stand in front of a group of men and say in all seriousness that if they blow themselves up in the name of Allah, they'd be met in heaven by 72 virgins. "They'd recognize it as the punchline of a joke!"

I've said that kind of thing before here, myself; after all, I haven't seen a whole helluva lot of evidence for comedy and not-taking-oneself-so-damned-seriously in that community. Unless you count the cartoons of M. Khalil of The Arab News, which I don't believe fits the description of "humor".

Anyway... on the drive home from Sacramento, I encountered what one of the featured comedians (whose name I can't remember) described in great detail having encountered the night before: an immense bank of fog-- "Tule fog", they call it-- that rolls off the Sacramento River and blankets Highway 80 all the way across the Central Valley. And when I say "blankets", I mean "fills with a palpable mass that light cannot penetrate". The Central Valley is our own little Midwest; it has Eppie's and Quizno's restaurants, which don't exist in the Bay Area, and used-car dealerships are closed on Sundays for church. But I didn't get to see any of that on the drive home. I got to see fog. It would be ineffectual to describe it in numerical terms: I could say how I could only see twenty feet ahead, or couldn't see past two of the reflectors on the edge of the freeway, and it would tell you nothing useful. It's only marginally more effective if I tell you that I couldn't see the approaching headlights of the cars going the opposite direction on the other side of the median, or that the only way I could tell I was going under an overpass was that the air and the sound suddenly and briefly grew thicker and darker-- after which the subtly changed light allowed me to see the beads of water gathering on my windows and migrating backwards. No, I think the only way I can convey what it was like would be to say how on a 75mph freeway, I was going about 60, hunched forward over the wheel, hands gripping it at the top, jinking back and forth as my vision-- which petered out after the second reflector, meaning that I couldn't tell whether the next reflector ahead would be in a straight line or a sudden curve-- told me to react on the basis that there might be a car right in front of me, or there might not, and I'd never see it until it was too late-- gritting my teeth and yelling Jeez! . . . Crap! . . . Fuck!! . . . into the night.

I shot out of the fogbank with a whoof sound right at Vacaville, which I could tell because of the giant tall tombstone-towers on the sides of the freeway which advertise malls and the stores in them. And shortly afterwards, I was back in the mountains, and then I was back in the Bay.

No wonder geeks like California. Travel fifty miles, and it's like you've traveled to a different state, only in virtual reality.

15:18 - A different kind of "Switcher"
http://bantha.cjb.net/john

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Is it just me, or is this just a bit uncalled-for?

It's a whole "Switch" ad parody advocating moving north. Go watch it and see. And here's an article in The Ottawa Citizen which provides some more-or-less impartial analysis and background.

Now, I realize that Apple is a company whose clientele is not known for being a bunch of Limbaugh-listening, Falwell-watching flag-wavers. And I know what Mr. Jobs' personal leanings are like, as evidenced by the recent front-and-center Jimmy Carter tribute. But I for one really don't appreciate the ad campaign and the corporate trade dress being hijacked in order to spread "Bush is a monkey" memes. If Apple has any bones in its body, they won't appreciate it either.

I'm not saying it should be taken down or anything... I just think it's in poor taste, and I'm not used to seeing things in apple.com-looking trim that I consider "in poor taste".

05:06 - Zoinks!
http://corsair.blogspot.com/2002_11_01_corsair_archive.html#84529599

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Corsair has found a truly frightening photo. Go look if you dare.

Lance said it looked "like a doctored Michael Jackson".

I replied, wasn't that a redundant term?


By the way-- via InstaPundit, here's the page that the picture comes from-- it's a fully annotated chronology, and a laugh riot. But nowhere near so much as the estimable webmistress's hate mail page. Boy, they'll let just about anybody on the Internet these days, huh?


Friday, November 15, 2002
21:44 - Duff Man is thrusting in the direction of the problem. Ooh yeah!
http://www.hevanet.com/peace/microsoft.htm

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It's an ongoing documentation effort by one Michael Jennings, entitled Windows XP Shows the Direction Microsoft is Going. The author prefaces it with this statement:

The author wrote this article because of the need to give his customers fundamental information about the direction Microsoft wants to take them. Few people have the technical background to understand fully the advantages and disadvantages of software as complex as an operating system. Without fundamental information, it is difficult for non-professionals to understand the advice of professionals.

The author is not anti-Microsoft in any way. There appear to be management problems at Microsoft, but the author would like any problems to be fixed, rather than have the entire world suffer through Microsoft doing poorly. Because he has spent considerable time trying to understand the problems, and because he cares deeply about fixing the problems, the author is, in that sense, "more pro-Microsoft than Bill Gates".

That said, give it a read. I'm going to bookmark it and keep an eye on future additions.



Then again, this guy seems like a bit of a ranter, with more concentration on making poorly-bolstered blanket claims than on listing empirical evidence. In contrast, the virtual memory feature in the Linux operating system works extremely well. Really?

Ah well. It's a good resource, but I'll probably have to keep looking if I want the Definitive Reference.

Thursday, November 14, 2002
01:18 - Easter eggs in plain sight

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I'd discovered this one a while back, but Chris just ran across it today, and I couldn't help but think it was a good candidate for a little bit of time-lapse blogtography.

In Mail, how narrow can you make the "Date Received" column before it loses all useful data? Let's fuh-find out.



One...



Ta-ha-hoooo...



Thrrree...



There's still more space-dust here...



The times go away...



The date collapses again...



The title of the column changes to "Date"...



Down to slash-delimited format...




It was at this point that Chris, who had concluded somewhere around the sixth variation that whoever coded this had had way too much fun doing so, looked at his screen with scrunched-up eyes and a tense smirk, and burst out, "SHUT up!"


00:58 - Yo, yo! Ma! KnowhutAhmsayyn?
http://www.apple.com/switch/ads/yoyoma.html

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Yo Yo Ma is a Switcher, according to the newest ad.

These are getting more fun, not less, with time.

(The ads from Japan are also up on the main TV ads page.)

23:50 - Virii
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/11/Virusmarketing.shtml

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Steven Den Beste has a post which claims that the lack of viruses on the Mac is a sociological/economical phenomenon, rather than a technical one.

I'd rather not get into the speculation over things like the vulnerability of OS9 and prior releases to viruses, other than to mention that the biggest risk in a virus lies in its ability to propagate itself, which in Windows manifests as a gleeful romp through Outlook and IE and IIS (after all, I'm sure Klez does a whole lot more damage in simple dental chafing over how many times it appears in people's inboxes, rather than in actual damage to people's systems). The Mac OS, while potentially more fragile in its memory structure, was much less likely to be exposed to worm-style exploits because the Mac lacked badly-written and widely-used vectors like Outlook. But that's a separate issue.

I just wanted to clarify something:

MacOSX is protected against that if properly used, as is WinNT/2K/XP. Of course, if a user routinely runs with an administrator account, they discard this protection. I don't. I have an administrator account on my Win2K systems which I use when need be, such as to do installations, but I routinely run with a "Power User" account, which does not permit me to seriously damage the system by mistake. I do that deliberately. I'm not a fool and I don't generally do things which are harmful, but this represents a level of protection that I choose to use, in part because it protects me from hostile programs which actually do end up fooling me. Unfortunately, a lot of people have gotten in the habit of routinely using an administrator account and by so doing they are throwing away one of the best protections their systems give them, to protect them against the actions of those who write hostile programs, even for OSX.

You can't discard this protection in OS X, though.


The fact is that unless you go under the hood and perform some serious monkey-wrench tweaking, you cannot log in with an administrator or "root" account in OS X. Admin security in OS X is done via the "sudo" model, in which any system-altering action (such as new software installations, modifying file permissions/ownership, or the unlocking of system-wide preferences that you have locked) must be authenticated by a designated admin user (of which there can be more than one) entering his own password. This establishes that the person who is using the current login session is the rightful owner of that account, and has the rights to perform an administrator-level action. (Non-admin users, by the way, can install software and such from within their own login sessions-- by entering an admin user's username and password.) It's on-demand action-level security, not session-level security (which, by the way, is prone to hijacking by malicious local users if the rightful user leaves himself logged in). Each unique action is assumed insecure and prompts for admin authentication. System preferences which alter global settings are unlocked at login time for admin users, but can be locked again at any time. Thus, the "root password" is irrelevant (the root account can't be accessed in the default installation, even from the command line), and for any new and potentially system-altering action, the user is given a challenge to prove he's a trusted admin, and a psychological reminder that the requested action is potentially dangerous (which may in fact be the more important benefit).

I've written our project-management system at work based on this model. Any data can be viewed by anybody; but anytime a user attempts to execute a data-altering command, he is prompted for a login and password. This has the dual effect of authenticating the user and making the user think twice about what he's doing. It's prevented a huge number of user errors that were a matter of daily maintenance to fix in our earlier system, which happily and transparently accepted any data-altering action from any user who had logged-in and authenticated once upon starting the client app.

The fact that so many people choose to run their Windows machines via administrator accounts is a symptom of the "convenience and security are orthogonal goals" axiom; if the system makes it unnecessarily inconvenient to operate in a secure manner (e.g. by running as a standard user and only using the admin account when absolutely necessary, or by using a "Power User" account, which offers limited admin power), then the user will choose to operate in a less secure manner (e.g. using an administrator account for day-to-day computing). Logging in and out of desktop sessions is inconvenient, and, today, something a user rarely wants or needs to do. If admin tasks are not made a part of the standard and convenient workflow (as OS X and best-practices UNIX server platforms do it), then users will make them part of their standard and convenient workflow, regardless of the risk involved.

Whether OS X is or is not inherently more or less porous than Windows is, again, a side issue. The crux of this particular point (granted, only one part of the larger thesis) is, however, based on the assumption that OS X admin security is done on the same asking-for-trouble model that Windows uses-- and that isn't the case.

19:50 - They're already doing remakes

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Last night I saw the new Fellowship of the Ring DVD boxed-set Director's Cut edition.

Well, let me backtrack. The evening started innocently enough, with a nice relaxing episode of South Park-- the new one with the boys in Tolkienian costume trying to return the One Porn Tape to the video store. Oh, how sarcastic. I love how Trey and Matt are clearly well versed in the real story, but they decided to cast the kids' version in a funky cross-bred D&D milieu for the purposes of the episode. (I didn't, however, enjoy watching it in the presence of a female acquaintance who insistently peppered the show with commentary that set my teeth on edge: The black kid's name is Token? <gasp> Oh my God! It's like, "the token black kid"! Ha haah hah! I wonder if they realized that?)

But the topic came up of the new edition of the actual movie that had just been released, so at 10:30 I decided to run down to Hollywood Video and pick up a copy, as well as some tacos on the way home. This I did, and we cast the One Disc into the DVD Player of Doom (never mind that there were three others remaining to be thus consumed). And lo, sleep was not to occur until about 4:00 AM.

This new version is for the fans. If nothing else were to make this evident, it would be the thirty minutes of alphabetized names of members of the official Tolkien Fan Society that has been tacked onto the end of the credits. I mean, good lord.

But the movie itself-- well, it feels more like the book now. The texture is completely different, and it's as much a result of a new and more leisurely sense of timing (supported by a completely rewritten and re-recorded score by Howard Shore) as of the new expository material that's been added throughout. There are more names, more fragments of history, more little pieces of texture tossed in-- and more of "Tolkien's Greatest Hits" (as defined at the infamous Bakshi movie review at the Tolkien Sarcasm Page), the memorable little quotes that punctuate the nice atmospheric little scenes that didn't add enough to the story to be included in the theatrical version. Midgewater Marshes, for example, gets coverage here: "What do they eat when they can't get hobbit?"

There's a new framing scene at the beginning, with Bilbo narrating a version of the "Concerning Hobbits" prologue. It's good stuff to have, and it fleshes out the Shire nicely. But my reaction to it was... well, ehh. What I found so fascinating about the theatrical version of the movie was how Jackson was able to allude to so much of the story, so many of the plot elements, through brief little scenes masterfully photographed and textured by music-- without having to make the scenes overly long or resort to too much exposition. Gandalf, as he holds out the envelope for Frodo to slip the Ring into it, conveys everything you need to know about the intensity of the contrast between the seeming innocence of the circumstances and the cataclysmic importance of this tiny little act. It's masterful directing that conveys the essence of several textural threads at once, all in a few crucial seconds of screen time. In the new version, scenes like that one (though not that one specifically) get lengthened just a teensy bit-- enough to change the flow and the rhythm of each one, just to the point of making it feel like a page read out of a book, rather than a multifaceted lens through which to view a piece of complex character interplay. The theatrical version had tight storytelling and timing. This one is more leisurely-- it takes its time, and it doesn't leave things to the imagination.

Many of the added scenes bring a great deal of depth to the story, and there are some great bits: Gimli's Khuzdul curse at Haldir, for instance, and the first look Frodo gets at the face of one of the stone trolls (which gives way to Sam's face sliding into view). Aragorn and Boromir nearly come to blows on a couple of occasions (in scenes that just don't seem to work properly, even if they do bring some more memorable book dialogue to the table). We hear the names Elessar and Valinor and Nenya and Sméagol. We hear hobbit drinking-songs. And we get to spend what seems like an eternity watching Galadriel pass out gifts, in what I knew would have been far too tedious to have made it into the theatrical version. (I was right. It's even sorta painful for me, as it is, and they still omitted several crucial gift-givings.)

Some sound effects have been changed in quite odd ways. The sound the palantír makes as Gandalf tosses the cloth back over it is now a very human snarl, instead of the staccato, bestial screech of the original version. And when Frodo sees the road go all fish-eye ("Get off the road!"), this version indicates the impending danger with a loud, high-pitched keening shriek. Subtle it ain't. I'd say most of the new sound effects are a bit over-the-top, in fact, and less than masterful-- as are a few confusing new camera angles, like the weird top-down shot with the blinding white back-light in Moria. (What the hell was up with that?)

Props to Howard Shore, though. The new score keeps the effective themes of the original, while bringing some new structural support to scenes in which the new melodies seem much better suited to the situation. Gandalf's The road goes ever on song as he arrives is now underlined by a score piece, to take just one example; the big heroic "adventure" theme that you hear as the party takes off from Rivendell is now tighter, without the weirdly off-tempo drumbeat, to cite another. But not all of the musical cues are improvements. Some feel distinctly out-of-place, like they were transplanted from a Disney movie or something Pouledorisian. The effect is that the textures of a whole lot of scenes have been changed very subtly but very deeply. It has a profound effect on timing, on mood, and even on character development. I'm still trying to decide whether it's successful overall.

In fact, I'm undecided on the whole movie, come to think of it. The new version is great for completists-- it has a lot more depth and world-building. But it's not as good a movie. It's just not as tight or as finely crafted as the original. It feels like a suit that's been altered over and over again, with material grafted from one place to another, and with a whole new dye job. It might be a better showpiece in the end, but it just doesn't have the purity of execution that the original had. If I were to pick a "definitive" version of the movie to point to and to prop up on a pedestal, I'm still leaning toward the theatrical one, even though the new one is so deeply geared toward the hard-core fans' cravings.

But I take heart regardless. Because in this day and age, when our most beloved directors are working full-time at hacking away at their own senses of integrity (E.T. with walkie-talkies, midichlorians, etc), Peter Jackson has shown himself to be one of those directors we'll be treating as a worldwide treasure and locking in a cryogenic chamber thirty years from now. He's doing something he loves, purely for the fans-- because he himself is the biggest fan there is.

From Meet the Feebles to the top of the world in one fell swoop. It's a phenomenon in the making.

14:05 - Progress Bars

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I was just burning a CD in iTunes, something I don't normally do very often, while trying to reproduce a problem that Joe User described in burning non-iTunes-created MP3s onto CDs. (I wasn't able to recreate the error. I hate when this happens-- everything works perfectly for the self-described advocate, but things break unaccountably when performing for an impartial third party who is prepared to pull no punches about things that break.)

But I noticed something that I think is new in iTunes 3.0: a timer on the CD-burning progress bar. I don't think earlier versions had the countdown. I don't burn many CDs, but I seem to recall that the last time I did it, there were separate "Burning" and "Verification" stages, and no timer for either one. This is a nice change.

And it brings up a little example of the Mac OS design sensibility, something that I find makes Mac apps (particularly those written by Apple) consistently more enjoyable to use than their Windows counterparts. That is the guideline that If you must display only a single progress bar for a process, that progress bar should cover the entire process, not just whatever intermediate subprocess you're in at the moment.

For the longest time, for example, Windows was coded so that if you had dragged a group of files from one disk to another to copy them, the progress bar would show only the progress on each individual file-- resetting as each file was copied-- rather than the entire process of copying the files, which is the command the user gave ("Copy this set of files"). Recent versions of Windows fixed this, by showing two progress bars, one of which is for the overall process; but the second bar is still reminiscent of the uselessness of the old way, fluttering between "empty" and "full" in an endless seizure-inducing flicker.

(Another favorite of mine is how Windows 2000 has a progress bar in one of the text-based startup screens. It's probably the shortest phase of the startup process, and only one of four or five major steps, the rest of which don't have progress bars. You wait for thirty seconds to get to the progress-bar screen, which then takes five seconds; then you wait another thirty seconds for Windows to come up and log you in. Joyous. Whereas while the gray-screen initial phase of the OS X boot process can be quite long, the progress bar that comes up after that phase completes is much more representative of the time actually required before you can use the machine.)

OS X has been reaffirming Apple's commitment to the usefulness of the "whole process" method, in areas like app installers and CD burning. It does make tons more sense-- after all, the user wants to know how much time is remaining before he can start using the machine again, not how long it is until the next in an opaque and mysterious series of steps, its description meaningful only to the software itself, is undertaken. There is some unavoidable inconsistency, naturally, and different programs handle it differently: the Installer program has no way of knowing how long the update_prebinding task ("Optimizing") will take, so it continues to report "Less than a minute remaining" while the "Optimizing" phase takes the five to ten minutes or so that it ends up requiring (though recently they've added a live-updating percentage counter, which is helpful). And iTunes gives you the slowly-rotating "barber pole" bar during the "finishing" phase at the end of a burn process. But other than that, a progress bar on a Mac typically means your meaningful progress, not just a piece of moving feedback to reassure you that the computer hasn't crashed.

It's a minor thing, but it's the minor things like this that Apple engineers sweat over.



UPDATE: Reader Jeff Borisch adds this rejoinder:

Silly Boy, the fluttering progress bar is part of the Windows PSYOPS campaign to make Windows appear much faster than the Mac.

"See look at that progress bar, this PC here is getting much more work done while the Mac whose progress bar just sits there practically still"

My point is, perception of performance is more important than reality.

My Mac advocate boss is repeatedly disheartened when he sits at the 2GHz Dell we have in the office and is astonished at how fast the screen redraws compared to his mac with 2 1GHz processors. I say "But do you get your work done any faster when you sit at this PC."

Not to mention when we unboxed said Dell, there was a clunking from inside the case. it was one of the exhaust fans and the baffle that sucks air over the processor flopping around unattached, doing no good at all. Good thing that P4s have that processor cycling overheating protection. Feh!

Touché.


Wednesday, November 13, 2002
20:56 - Fine Olde Debate Fodder
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,692149,00.asp

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John C. Dvorak has a tirade in PC Magazine about the ubiquity of porn spam.

So where is the government and where are the anti-obscenity laws? According to most sources, anti-obscenity law enforcement had been largely curtailed by (gee, what a shock) Clinton. In fact for most of Clinton's administration, the various pro-family, Christian, Christian-right, and vocal conservatives complained bitterly about the whole situation.

PBS did a Frontline Report called "American Porn," which made the same accusations. Regarding the documentary, Ann Hodges of the Houston Chronicle wrote: "Frontline has no fear of placing blame. Bill Clinton's administration opened the door to a porn explosion on the Internet, it says. In her rebuttal interview clip, former Attorney General Janet Reno said dropping porn prosecutions was a matter of establishing 'priorities.'"

The worst offenders in this regard have been the free speech advocates who make the dubious claim that somehow a photo of someone performing an unnatural act with a horse is "free speech." First of all, who's talking? I have been a libertarian as long as I can recall, and have always been baffled by the concept that something other than words spoken constitutes free speech. Even the printed word, according to our Bill of Rights, needs to be mentioned separately (freedom of the press) since it isn't obviously covered by the definition of free speech. But I digress. There has been a long history of anti-obscenity lobbying in this country. Lenny Bruce got arrested for doing nothing more than cussing in a private nightclub in San Francisco some years back. What he did was deemed illegal. Today, graphic images pour out all over, and this is legal. What's wrong with this picture?

I'd argue that "speech" is in fact a larger concept than "people speaking", and "the press" is a very specific concept centered around the free flow of information. Free Speech does not imply Freedom of Press, nor is the reverse true.

Freedom of speech is invoked (and rightly so) to protect all kinds of artistic expression, including physical media and software, regardless of the medium, against thoughtcrime policing on the individual level. Freedom of press is about making sure that the government can't censor the newspapers, or restrict the flow of opinion and facts (beyond matters of classified information) through publicly respected news-dissemination organs.

The difference is subtle, but it's meaningful. It's just not meaningful in the way Dvorak means it.

But either way, obscenity laws have fought with the free-speech laws for a long, long time, and they've reached a balance. Dvorak does indeed have a point in that there should clearly be some form of regulation upon unsolicited porn being sent by traceable companies to minors' inboxes (to say nothing of other people's inboxes who aren't interested in, er, what they have to offer).

But how much of this stuff actually originates in the US? How much actually comes from Europe, Southeast Asia, or offshore interests specifically created so as to be free of laws banning this kind of thing? Crack down at home, and the business will just shift all the more to the Cocos Islands and Tonga and Niue.

The best answer may have to be the inelegant semi-solution of client-side filtering. Mail in OS X has a heuristics-based spam filter that is doing an excellent job for me-- I still have to weed out maybe five or ten pieces of spam per day, but lest I think it's missing a lot of the offending messages, I just have to look in the Junk folder to see that it's correctly catching and filing-away about a hundred per day. And the rate of false positives is extraordinarily low; the only ones I'm seeing are messages that can easily be construed as spam by all criteria you could name, but that I happen to want to receive. (This is easily fixed via the learning mechanism.) And my daily Klez ration has dropped from about fifty copies to maybe two.

I suspect all popular e-mail programs will do this in the not-so-distant future; most will probably not be perfect. Either way, it means lots and lots of wasted bandwidth, as the spam continues to be spewed all over the Internet, possibly even rising in frequency as spammers try desperately to raise their "hit count", while network administrators (with filtered e-mail) remain blissfully unaware of just how many of those little LED flashes on the LAN switch represent spam mail. I can easily see things getting to the point where over 99% of a network's traffic is spam mail, crowding out legitimate e-mail as well as other application protocols from the infrastructure. But that may yet be the best we can do.

It's not an easy solution, otherwise I'm sure we'd have found it by now. But I don't think things can go on like this much longer.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
00:21 - The iPod's Second Christmas

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At the side of the Bayshore Freeway in Mountain View, the perennial Apple billboard has just recently attained a new coat. The current slogan, next to an iPod on a plain white field, is:


Hello, stocking.




Cute... very cute. And you know, a seasonal advertising skewer like this isn't something Apple is prone to doing, aside from the usual back-to-school promos.

Considering what a sought-after item the iPod has become in the year since it was first released, though, this kind of ad is pretty much a no-brainer. And worth an appreciative giggle from passersby.

00:16 - Just your average, run-of-the-mill 13-hour workday

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Ah well. At least I got a lot accomplished in the post-seminar hours-- and again, the food was far too good and far too plentiful during the day.

Two down, one to go.

18:35 - Yet another perspective...

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Today in the seminar, during the breaks, Chris and I were able to check e-mail and do other random online work through a bit of OS X geekery. He linked his TiBook and his Handspring Treo together and used the Treo as a wireless modem; then he turned on AirPort and Internet Sharing, and I was able to attach to his wireless network and surf through his cellphone/PDA seamlessly. As could the guy with the HP laptop running XP, if he'd so chosen. (And assuming it had a wireless card.)

One side note: What is it with people who buy PC laptops and then never remove the market-fluff decals from the handrests? How much fun can it be to use a year-old laptop with labels declaring TAKE YOUR MUSIC TO GO-- Rip MP3s! Burn Customized CDs! and 1 month of free Internet access included with purchase! plastered all over the exposed flat surfaces? Do people just not realize they can remove these things, or do they actually like the way they look? Do they think it improves the resale value-- if they leave the decals on, the machine will fetch a higher price on eBay even if they keyboard is covered with finger gunk?

And to think I thought it was bad when people left the little foil Intel Inside <insert logo chime> stickers on their computers.

(He also had his laptop on what looked like a little black bun rack-- a wire grille that kept the laptop elevated from the desk, for airflow purposes. Now, I know the iBooks and TiBooks can get nice and toasty... but apparently this guy's HP can be downright hazardous if you don't take proper heat-conduction precautions.)

ANYway. After we had done our quite visible net-geek thing a couple of times, and shown it to the instructor who looked at the rig with what seemed like sincere appreciation, he then started up a new segment of the class with the statement: "Now, I know some of you Mac people might disagree, but most people buy computers for usability, not for functionality. In other words, most people don't go for the whiz-bang features; they go for what's easiest to use."

The implication being that Macs are groovy from a feature-set standpoint, but dad blast it, compared to Windows, they're just too hard to operate.

To say I was caught off guard would be to put it rather mildly. But if that's a popular sentiment, well... Apple's certainly got a lot of battles to fight, don't they?
Monday, November 11, 2002
23:00 - Blog? Huh?

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Not much blogging today-- and probably not for most of this week. I'm at all-day seminars, which begin at some ungodly hour of the morning and involve my driving up to San Francisco and back, followed by several hours of actual work, supporting our current mad dash toward release.

At least they feed us well there, though.

Anyway, I'm off to see The Ring now.

04:12 - A little trans-border soul-searching
http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg.asp

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In the interest of not offending my Canadian friends, I don't want to say much here, other than that this article is worth a read and a ponder.

Well, I will say one thing: observations that we on the underside of the border absorb an awful lot of criticism from those on the upper side are, to my mind, fairly accurate.


Note, however, that I'm not saying I entirely agree with the piece.


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© Brian Tiemann