g r o t t o 1 1

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

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

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

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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Monday, November 25, 2002
05:03 - When Harry Met Sully

Today's Bleat has some great stuff about pizza, but some even better stuff about Monsters, Inc.

He covers pretty much what I would have said about it, so there's not much point in my adding to it here; his reactions and mine seem to have been fairly close to identical. We clearly have very different attitudes regarding little kids, but this movie did the nigh-impossible: it starred one in a major role and managed to endear her to me. Quite an accomplishment. But, as with all things Pixar, pulled off in a way that makes it seem effortless.

Considering the amount of effort that does go into their movies, that in itself is no mean feat.

One thing to note regarding realism and facial expressions and the like: The tragicomical scene in which Sully watches what he thinks is Boo going through the trash compactor-- is that not the most unbelievable set of facial expressions you have ever seen on the big screen, bar none?

And that ending... far from being the unfortunate sappy-corny-fourth-wall-breaking lounge lizard crapstravaganza of Toy Story 2, or indeed from being the off-into-the-sunset truck-out or the happy-triumphant-together pomp of so many other movies of the genre, this one went into a class all its own. Possibly the most novel ending, in an emotional sense, that I've ever seen on an animated movie.

Fortunately they provided those "outtakes" during the credits, to make sure we roused ourselves from our thunderstruck hearts-wrenched-to-the-side reveries and were all laughing helplessly again before we headed out to the parking lot. I knew they wouldn't let us down.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
21:09 - The OS That Would Not Die

Kris points me to this article on MorphOS, which is a new effort to modernize the Amiga platform (sigh, yes, Amiga) and rebuild it as a global OS that stands at the center of another new breed of unique applications.

It's supposed to be PPC-based, meaning it can currently (or will shortly) run on Open Firmware PPC boxes (read: Mac clones) and some older Macs.

An interesting read from a technical standpoint, but still more so from a sociological one. How many times has the Amiga burst into flames and hatched again, now? Surely nobody really expects that this effort will go anywhere-- but it's a testament to the iron will of some people who refuse to stop believing in the dream their computers represented, even if that dream lives on now only in their memories.

Doomed, but valiant, as Kris puts it. It's possible to respect the latter even if the former is true-- and to leave open the possibilities just in case it does have a chance. Sometimes, after all, discretion is not the better part of valor.

18:47 - Views

One of the comments in the MacSlash article linked to in the last post got me thinking. It noted that one thing on the Mac that Windows has not yet got around to adopting is the hierarchical list view.

On Windows, you've got a whole series of views available-- from "icon" (and now "thumbnail", which does previews of previewable file types, not actual custom icons or anything) up through "list" and "details". But something that I'd never really noticed, or at least it never leaped out at me until I started thinking about it, was that the three different views on the Mac-- icon, list, and column-- are fundamentally different styles of viewing files, each with their unique metaphors and capabilities... whereas the views on Windows are a continuum, each setting gradually making the icons smaller and adding more information. Icon view lets you move the files around to arbitrary positions, while list view sorts them by some criterion; but that's about the only major difference. It's still just a list of files. The folders in Windows are listed at the top, and to see what's in them, you have to open each one in a new window (or in the same one). At one extreme, you've got placement freedom at the expense of visible information. At the other extreme, you've got strictness of placement but more information at hand.

And that's fine, to a point.

The difference in philosophy, however, lies in that on the Mac, each different view has unique advantages-- it's not just a preference along a spectrum, where the user decides what an acceptable compromise is between placement freedom and information visibility. On the Mac, there is no confusing one view from another-- they're all very different, with very little conceptually in common with each other, and no unnecessary gradations or "hybrid" views to confuse the user. And some folders work best in a particular view-- something Apple understood way back in the dim times when the multiple-view model was first being developed.

Icon view lets you scale up your custom icons to 128x128, arbitrarily, smoothly. You can place the icons anywhere you want in the window, snapping to a grid if you want, or sort them by a criterion. Some limited information is available as subtitles (like image dimensions, folder contents, etc), but this view is best suited for things like collections of pictures, so you can see them all and their contents at a glance. I also kinda like using icon view for applications, sorted alphabetically. The reason for this is that in icon view, there's no direct, inline way for getting down into a folder. You have to double-click on a folder to open it, either into a new window or into the same one. Then you have to deal with multiple windows, or Back buttons-- and that's kinda ugly. So I use icon view for folders that are by their nature flat, where I know I won't have to do any mining, where I won't need any details on the files. Everything I need is right there in the one view.

Then there's column view, the newcomer in OS X, the NeXT immigrant. This one is a whole new metaphor for a lot of users-- but its strength is in folder navigation, the direct opposite of icon view. There's extreme strictness of placement here (only alphabetical listing), and there's also no more object information available than in icon view, except for a selected item (which gives you a pane full of data and a preview). This view is tuned specifically for navigation. Zoom back and forth up and down folder trees, finding what you need without any double-clicking or multiple windows, and with an unmistakable visual record of where you are in the system (just scroll back and forth to see the whole path). Because I don't generally need to see big thumbnail icons or rich item data for all my files, I tend to use this view most frequently; if I'm trying to go directly to a known location and bring up a file, it's highly optimized and extremely efficient.

And then, in the middle, there's list view. It sounds pretty straightforward-- a list of files, with all the data for each one listed in columns, sorted by whatever column you click on. It's like the "details" view in Windows. But what makes the Mac's list view fundamentally different from Windows-- and what makes it unique in its operation and keeps it from being just a point along the continuum between placement freedom and navigational speed-- is that it has a unique feature of its own, a feature that Windows still apparently hasn't adopted. That is the ability to expand any folder in the list, inline, by clicking on the triangle next to its name. This gives you a view that's optimized for item data, while de-emphasizing icon placement and (to a lesser extent) navigability.

That's the three views and their conceptual strengths: placement (icon), data (list), and navigation (column). Each view is tuned for its respective goal, with an ideal in sight that serves the feature's design criteria. I can't help but feel that the Windows implementation of its various views had none of these ideals in mind; the designers in that case were evidently more concerned with putting more elements into the "Views" menu than the Mac had, rather than in making each view genuinely and uniquely useful.

In other words, "Views" in Windows is really sort of a slider-- a selector that moves from "big movable icons/no visible data" to "small icons in a list/lots of visible data", with several notches along the way. But if you want a completely different navigational style, you have to go to the "Explorer" view, which you have to enable via the "Explorer bar" menu option, and which gives you a hierarchical tree view. This places navigation outside the standard workflow and divorces it from the listing mechanism itself; you have to know it's there, and you have to contend with the bizarre inverted tree structure which places the Desktop at the top, followed by "My Documents" and the folders on the user's Desktop, among which is "My Computer", followed by the disks. Clicking on folders in the navigation pane opens them in the view pane, but folders are all that's listed in the navigator-- no files, even if they're at the same level as the folders you're looking at. If you're browsing one folder, you can't tell what's in another. It's really easy to get lost in a filesystem that only operates by folder names, rather than by visual feedback that tells you what files and how many of them are in each folder in your navigation path.

This method fits with the now-common Windows method of putting a hierarchical navigator on the left and a view pane on the right, regardless of how inapplicable it might be (IIS, the various Administrative Tools), and regardless of how easy it is to get confused about what you've clicked on, double-clicked on, and collapsed, with the potential for mirroring of hierarchical information from one pane to another. But many of these things let you remove panes, or add new ones, according to taste and need. It's a conceptual model that starts out very small and austere, but forces the user to tack on more and more panels and toolbars to get more functionality-- but which only ends up muddling the workflow.

A filesystem might be hierarchical, but people's brains aren't. When you think about how to move through your disk, you want to pick a single viewing method and be able to do everything in it-- and so your viewing methods are best presented in a flat, equitable manner, with as few choices as possible, with each choice customizable within its own parameters but without forcing the user to hunt down adjuncts in order to make it work properly. Icon, List, Column... pick one depending on what you need. The other two will always be available right there if you change your mind.

And that's the kind of thing Yo-Yo Ma is talking about.

16:51 - What's that they say about imitation?


Sure, it might be "flattery". But as any reader of Jhonen Vasquez will understand, nobody likes to be confronted with a "Jimmy the Homicidal Maniac."

Not Johnny. Jimmy. Mmy. Remember him?

I can't add much to this that CapLion hasn't already said. In fact, some of these are likely mock-ups and/or fakes. But AquaFinder isn't.

Check it out, but make sure you have a bucket handy.

Presumably the whole reason to do this kind of skinnery is "eye candy", because without the information-field-query-based navigational system of the real iTunes or the automatic everything-just-works of the real Dock (though ObjectDock does at least attempt to be a proof-of-concept that harnesses the Dock's practical benefits and not just its looks), that's all this can be. And yet it doesn't matter, somehow, that this stuff looks like ass.

I just don't understand something fundamental about the mindset. Why would you imitate something for its beauty, and then make your imitation so ugly?

Apparently, some Windows users will do anything to get something that looks like a Mac onto their desks-- anything-- except, of course, buying the real thing.
Saturday, November 23, 2002
17:25 - That, too, is unlikely to help

I haven't yet been able to find anything on this online, except for a brief blurb in the BBC World Service headline crawl, which didn't link to a story (yet); I'd only heard the details earlier on the radio, on the way to Emeryville.

Apparently Israel has just banned all Palestinian fishing activity off the coast of Gaza; the reason for this is an incident earlier today, in which a Palestinian fishing boat strayed across into Israeli waters. The coast guard approached and tried to open a channel, to get the boat to turn back; but as the cutter got closer, the fishing boat exploded.

They're not sure whether it was a terrorist operation or not; but a sound bite from the Israeli officials called it "a suicide fishing boat".

What, so now they're using suicide as a method for fishing too?

I'm reminded of the Radioactive Man shoot-- Bart walks up to "Milhouse" and says hi, whereupon Milhouse responds by... exploding. "I didn't do it...I didn't do it! I wished him well!"

So next I suppose we're to expect suicide restaurants-- "Hi, I'd like a cheeseburger." "Yes, sir: BOOM!" Or suicide auto mechanics-- "Aha, it looks like a clogged fuel injector. I know how to fix this: huh-BLAM!" Or suicide news anchormen: "And today in weather-- a cold front will be moving into the area this evening, with increasing KABOOM!"

Hint, guys: it doesn't work any better for endearing yourself to world opinion, either. Time to try something else.

UPDATE: Thanks to CapLion, the story link has been added.

16:53 - Pompitous of Googoogajoob


I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say... "Huh?"

Yes, yes, I know the song. But... well, all I've got to say is, that's one helluva lot of quote marks.

Yes, I know it looks like an inexplicably stupid Photoshop job. But it's not; it's an inexplicably stupid actual decal job. That's just part of the mystery, I guess.

11:43 - Blogging from the line

Just 'cause I can.

The employees are a little concerned that the AirPort signal won't reach to the coffeehouse two doors down, but it's pretty much okay as long as you're facing the store. They want people to be able to have coffee and surf from their tables, after all.

A homeless guy with a shopping cart walked by me and said, "It's not too late-- you can still get a Hewlett-Packard."

"And get my dick burned off? Shyeah," I told him. He got a kick out of that (once I explained the situation).

So far they've given out Krispy Kreme donuts, little frisbees, trial versions of CorelDraw, and a couple other rounds of stuff; right now one female employee is going up and down the line getting a count of Switchers who are here-- they've got extra goodies for them.

I switched three years ago; does that count?

Oh, and iChat with Rendezvous is fun-- everybody's name comes up next to their picture, and then you can scan the people waiting in line for faces that match; then you can say hello already knowing their name. How cool is that?

UPDATE: Photos are here. The store is one of the new smaller "30-foot" layouts, with no theater and no software aisle down the middle-- instead, software is stacked on shelves along the back walls. The checkout counter is also at the back instead of right at the door, and the Genius Bar is in the middle of the right-side wall.

Steve Jobs didn't turn up, though many expected him to-- Pixar is right down the road, after all. Apparently he's been lurking about the place over the past few days, though. One of the employees pointed to one of the hanging translucent sectional signs, where you could see the backwards image of the label on the other side of the sign ghosting through. "This is the kind of thing Steve gets on our case about," he said. "He'll make us put in a thin sheet of opaque Plexiglas between the two sides of the signs, like other stores have had to do." Talk about perfectionism. But the effect, it can hardly be argued, is well worth it.

As they opened the doors, the employee who did the ribbon-cutting said this was the fiftieth store to open. Something tells me this little venture has been at least somewhat successful.

09:19 - Another one of these damn things

I'm off with some friends to go wait in line at the grand opening of the new Apple Store in Emeryville. See, I don't have enough t-shirts from these things yet.
Friday, November 22, 2002
00:54 - Today's Hottest Laptops

Boy, The Reg is on quite a tear lately.

And now for proof that some laptops run hotter than a badger. A 50-year old scientist, previously healthy, burned his penis after placing his laptop on his, err lap, for an hour. Oh, he was fully dressed in trousers and underpants, according to this letter printed in the Lancet, the UK's best-known medical journal. (reg req'd, free.)

The following is not for the squeamish:

... which you can go and read if you so choose.

Apparently, in the Windows world, it's common practice for laptops ('scuse me, portable computers) to carry warning labels like the following:

Do not allow your portable computer to operate with the base resting directly on exposed skin. With extended operation, heat can potentially build up in the base. Allowing sustained contact with the skin could cause discomfort or, eventually, a burn.

Which, as the article notes, occurs even through pants and underwear. Charming.

The laptop in question? Why, according to Google and an astute reader of the article, that would be a Dell Latitude of some description.

This mystifies me. Here in my benighted world of iBooks and PowerBook G4s, I'm used to sitting here on the couch downstairs, watching Star Trek, blogging with my computer sitting quite comfortably on my lap. It's pleasingly warm, but under no stretch would I consider it "too hot". The possibility of being burned doesn't enter the equation.

...But the Latitude's processor is faster. That trumps all other benefits, including the ability to refer to these things (without risking legal action) as "laptops".

00:47 - Axis of Snivel

North Korea is still pouting that we found out about their secret successful nuclear bomb program, which (according to them) they've only been working on since Bush called them Evil a year ago (being called a nasty name, you see, is grounds for nullifying an international agreement).

'Cause, you know, a year's all you need to develop a nuke completely from scratch in the enlightened communist paradise that is the DPRPDRK.

So now they're banning all US dollars.

China's Xinhua news agency reported that North Koreans and foreigners will need to convert U.S. dollar accounts at the state-run Korean Trade Bank into euros or other currencies, quoting a letter from the bank.

North Koreans have had to adhere to the measure since November 18, the letter said, while foreigners will need to convert their dollars by December 1.

"Hotels, foreign-exchange shops and foreign-related services will receive no U.S. dollars from the start of December," a staff member of the Korean Trade Bank was quoted as saying in the Xinhua report.

U.S. dollar accounts will be converted automatically to euros if no declaration is made by the end of the month.

The dollar ban was a "political means" to react to increasing pressure from the U.S., an unnamed British diplomat was quoted as saying in the Xinhua report.

Uh, guys, you only get to take your ball and go home if you have a ball in the first place.

How come the world has trained itself so thoroughly to turn a blind eye when some country repeatedly backs itself into a dangerous corner and yet persists in refusing to admit it's ever, ever done anything wrong? Why is insane fanatical xenophobia and self-righteous rejection of reality seen as such a virtue?

19:39 - MS Windows Flaw Prevents Hacker Access

I've seen gags of this sort before, but this is a particularly well-done one. Scrappleface scores once again.

Thanks to Capt J.M. Heinrichs for the pointer!

19:24 - Dogfood

This is priceless. Literally-- after all, I can't imagine this kind of thing ever surfacing through legal means.

An older MS internal whitepaper from August 2000 on switching Hotmail, which MS acquired in 1997, from front-end servers running FreeBSD and back-end database servers running Solaris to a whole farm running Win2K, reads like a veritable sales brochure for UNIX, but concludes that the company ought to set the right example by ensuring that each division "should eat its own dogfood."

The whitepaper, by MS Windows 2000 Server Product Group member David Brooks, has been posted on the Web by Security Office, which says it discovered the item and numerous other confidential MS documents on a poorly protected server. There are a number of other fascinating documents posted, in which the careful reader will find a veritable treasure map for hacking the citadel, but the one I enjoyed best was the comparison between Win2K and UNIX.

And off it goes... long, categorical, and damning. Oddly enough, this whitepaper-- whose gist is that "If we were not Microsoft, moving to Windows would cost us an ungodly amount of money and technical woe and be 100% inadvisable. But we are Microsoft, so we'd better just lie"-- doesn't bear much resemblance to the TechNet whitepaper they released to the public around that same time, which claimed that the move to Win2000 was technically sound and financially advisable. (For Microsoft, I'm sure the latter was true. Not for anybody else, though.)

For example, TechNet assures us that, "administrators generally find benefit from porting 'cron' jobs to Windows Task Scheduler events. Both Microsoft Interix 2.2 and SFU allow administrators to port 'cron' files to Windows 2000 without any changes in most cases, allowing administrators to gradually transition scheduled events and scripts without impacting operations i.e. at migration scheduled events can still run as 'cron' jobs. After the migration, the 'cron' jobs can be migrated to Windows Task scheduler events. The Windows task scheduler has better integration with event logs."

But the whitepaper had found that, "using FreeBSD, such tasks are scheduled by the cron service. Jobs are scheduled by being listed in a file, one line per job. Changing the file is easy to accomplish using the command line (or rdist), and replacing the entire file is a good way to ensure that each server has exactly the schedule of jobs that the administrator intended. Jobs can be scheduled to execute once, or at intervals down to one minute.

"Although the Windows Task Scheduler service is fundamentally able to look after such jobs, the interfaces provided in Windows does not measure up to the task. The usual interface is the GUI, which is appropriate for setting up jobs on a machine at a time, is labor-intensive and error-prone.

"The command at is deprecated, is not able to schedule repeated jobs at a frequency of less than one day.

"The command jt was offered by the Task Scheduler team, but it is unsupported and awkward to use (it was intended for testing).

"None of the three interfaces offers an easy way to replace the current task schedule entirely. The team met the need by running the cron service provided in Services for UNIX. As described earlier, relying on Services for UNIX (or any other package subject to extra license costs) provides a bad model for other customer deployments."

UNIX geeks in the audience will read through this article as though it's a Christmas list. It's one for the archives.

17:33 - View from the sidelines

Ravi Pandya has some higher-level observations on the ongoing Mac/Windows brouhaha that bubbles up every so often around here.

Most people who use the phrase "disruptive technology" without reading Christensen's book seem to think it means a huge leap forward. In fact, his original meaning is almost the opposite: As a technology market matures, the industry leaders follow their most demanding customers past the point where the market continues to value marginal improvements in technology. This opens the opportunity for disruptive new entrants at the "low end" with products that are inferior by all the standard performance metrics but deliver superior value along some other dimension.

Good stuff. There are lots of highly compressed bits of academic detail in here that could be expanded to a fairly large discussion. But one upshot is that Apple does have value beyond simply trying to compete on "speed" terms. That's always been true and fundamental, after all, or else a Mac would be pretty much indistinguishable from Windows today-- and probably dead.

12:02 - Clever PR Tricks

Lance just woke up to convey to me the following fun little Microsoft tidbit.

Asheron's Call 2 ships today. They've been selling preorders now for months, to customers in as many as fifty different countries worldwide. But now, twenty-four hours before release, they've suddenly come out with a statement that says that "unless your billing address is in one of the following nine countries, you can't play."

Mexico isn't on the list. Australia isn't on the list. The Netherlands is, but Belgium isn't. Spain is, but none of Scandinavia is. Russia isn't. France and Germany are, but Ireland isn't. Half the EU isn't.

The rationale is apparently that the excluded countries don't have economies that are stable or strong enough for their new billing system. All the public statements they've released so far reek of badly-handled lawyer-ese, and the message boards are lighting up like Las Vegas Boulevard with livid users-- some forty percent of the users of Asheron's Call 1 live in countries that are now barred from participating in the new version.

The fine-print, after all, says that what you buy off the shelf is just the box and the little plastic disc; they're under no obligation to provide the $12.95 service to you, even if you've paid for the setup and installation. So a ton of people are out the fifty bucks-- but also out the months (or years) of gameplay they've been anticipating all this time. Because their countries aren't good enough, according to Microsoft.

Lance has had a great deal to say about Microsoft's mishandling of Asheron's Call 2, both in the sense of the structure of the game and storyline, and in the management of logistics. But this one really takes the cake.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
02:04 - Then there's this...

I was given this URL directly; I can't find it linked from the main Guardian page or any other big news site. I wonder why that might be (or whether it's likely to change).

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - About 100 passengers on a Disney cruise ship contracted a contagious stomach virus, shortly after more than 500 people on another cruise ship came down with a similar illness, Disney officials said Thursday.

Passengers and crew members on the Disney Cruise Line ship Magic became ill Wednesday. The ship departed Nov. 17 from Port Canaveral with 3,200 people on board and returns Saturday.

Disney will clean and disinfect the ship at sea, spokesman Mark Jaronski said. Disney's terminal and other locations also will be cleaned.

. . .

After the latest passengers disembarked, 573 crew members began cleaning the ship, emptying garbage cans and wiping down remote controls, clock radios, even Bibles. During the next 10 days, crew members will replace 2,500 pillows and dry-clean, steam-clean and disinfect every surface aboard the ship, which is 780 feet long and has 690 staterooms.

Is this the kind of thing they do in response to stomach flu?

Wait, here's the CNN story.

18:54 - Has the Afghan story gone cold?

"I am not sure whether to hope or fear it," says Polly Toynbee of (gasp!) The Guardian, in an extremely well-worth-reading article linked by LGF. It's a Long Hard Look at whether the war was worth it, and what the people there actually think-- unornamented by any editorial sanding-off of the clear joy the liberated Afghans feel toward the US, or of the cynicism the professionals and civil servants feel toward the UN aid workers.

It's all good. It's all valuable and worth your time. However, I wanted to zoom in on one point, the one that leads off the whole effort: women and burqas. Here's what happens when the reporter talks to a bunch of women to get their first-hand opinion:

At the Woman to Woman centre, 20 women of all ages were sitting on the floor, all them with burkas left hanging on pegs by the door. Despite the absence of outward change, were things getting better for them now that the Taliban had gone? There was a spontanteous chorus of cries, hands raised in the air, laughter, sighing, exclamations - my translator could not keep up with their energetic assertions that life had changed beyond recognition. This relative liberation - freedom to walk outside for many who had never left their one room in years - was hard to imagine. "I never saw the light of day in five years!" one widow said.

So why did they still wear burkas? A gnarled and toothless old woman from the countryside (who might be no more than 50 - already beyond the average life expectancy here) said she had worn hers since she was seven and she could not imagine the nakedness of going without it. But she thought the younger women soon would and should shed it. These women were the poorest, many of them homeless, uprooted by war, or among the country's two million war widows. "We wear the burka because we are still afraid," several said. It is too dangerous; and besides, the psychological effect of five years of terror is not easily erased at a stroke. How many thought they would take them off some time soon? Eight of the 20 raised their hands, mostly the younger ones, though only five said they had ever worn a burka before the Taliban came.

However symbolic they seem, the truth is that the burka is the very least of their problems, mere outward garments, easily discarded. The inner scars of the way women are treated here in this darkly savage place will be harder to erase. As the women talked of their lives, terrible stories tumbled out. Though none of them knew each other already, they wept when they listened to one another. Fahina, a woman in her 30s, wearing a thin black veil and swaying back and forth a little as she spoke, began to tell how she was beaten daily by her husband, a drug addict who had sold everything in the house. So why did this woman not leave a dangerous drug-addict husband who drained her money away? Because, she explained, she would have to leave her 12-year-old daughter behind with him. By now several other women were crying in sympathy.

At the start of this session, many had proclaimed that women should have absolutely equal rights with men, so I asked the translator if they thought it right and fair that this abusive father should keep the child. The translator looked at me nervously and whispered, "I don't think I can ask that." "Why not?" "Because it is our Islamic law, in the Koran, that after the age of nine a daughter belongs to the father." "But ask them if it is fair in this extreme case?" Quietly the translator asked them, and they fell silent and gazed down at the carpet. No one spoke until Fahina, the battered wife, said softly, "It is the law", with tears falling down her face.

Once the shutter of religion falls, the rest is silence. The women are indoctrinated so deep with it that their own inferiority is branded on their brains. Every time sophisticated Muslims in the west use sophistry to explain that the prophet was actually a great liberator of women, every time they fail to condemn outright some of the Koranic laws themselves and demand reformation, they help condemn women across the Islamic world to this self-immolating damage.

Contrast this with what women have been saying recently on the Ar-Rahman list:

Wendy I too am not muslim, but hey, even you've got to agree that islam is better for women then this crazy democratic garbage that Bush and his puppets like Blair, are trying to govern people under. For instance muslim women cover themselves and do not want to show their bodies, im all for that. Whereas western women do the opposite they show their breasts etc, and expect respect from us men, you've got to be stupid, the only thing their gonna get from us is the want to take them to bed. The only thing that i feel where the religion of islam lacks, in fact its not the religion its the people. Islam in all its purity does as they say liberate women, because the way i look at it, women will be only judged on their intellect and faith rather then if they are a 38DD chest size. One question though, why do so many muslim women not wear the hijab, or like in afghanisatan the RWADA (a womens group) are trying to oppose wearing the hijab, when it clearly states in your Quran and elsewhere that the muslim women are obliged to wear the Hijab!?! By the way Christian women are obliged to wear a headscarf to Wendy, so a hope your doing your bit for the Christian faith, whens the last time you saw a picture of Mary without her Hijab?

. . .

Another thing, for the person who thinks that we are opressed women in islam, i dont think so. Whats so oppressed about us huh?
Allah tells us to wear the hijab, ok? did you ever actually think with you brains and say why? or did you just listen what them ignorant ones say that Allah is opressing us, or islam....or whatever.!
How are we opressed when allah is trying to protect us? How are we opressed when we get sooooooo much respect from people more than the one who do show off there body like what keanbin said?? How are we opressed when woman were mentioned in the quran sooooo many times...not sure how many.... but alot mashallah!
Getting raped, isn't that oppression? Getting sexually harrassed, you dont call that oppression? Just being used as a sex material...AINT THAT OPPRESSION?? You tell me! Or is that just how kuffar live? like animals! And say that we are oppressed....Subhan allah! How many muslim woman do you hear everyday getting raped??? NONE! because Hijab is not just a peice of scarf on our heads, Hijab means a covering, and protection from people and eyes!

Whether or not the Koran actually decrees the hijab (Aziz has told me it doesn't), isn't it interesting to see how much more appealing the idea seems to women who aren't and have not been required to wear it-- who live in countries where they have the free choice not to?

I have no problem understanding that women who choose to cover up their bodies find that they're treated with more respect and are less subject to feeling worthless and objectified. But this is like a "voluntary security measure"--something women ought to be able to choose to do on their own, whether as a form of protest, or because it makes them feel more empowered and modest, or whatever the reason might be. It's something that only really matters and has meaning if it's a choice... if it's decreed for all women regardless of their personal feelings, capabilities, and level of comfort with how the world treats them, then it loses any significance that it would have had if it had been freely chosen.

I hope Karzai can keep dodging those bullets... and considering his situation, I'm not speaking figuratively.

16:03 - In the interest of balance

J Greely reminded me of something I think I'd mentioned before in passing-- a potential reason to root for the Xbox.

This would be that there seems to be a general trend in the gaming industry toward console platforms, and away from the PC. This is happening through the integration of networking, high-definition video output, hard drives, and keyboard/mouse input into consoles across the board. This will equalize consoles with PCs as far as inherent architectural differences go; MMORPGS and other text-heavy and saved-data-heavy games could be played on consoles just as well as on a computer. I'm still skeptical in some cases (third-person shooters and RPGs that rely on printing huge amounts of tiny text to the screen work much better when you're sitting close to a high-res monitor than if you're sitting ten feet away from a big-screen TV, even if it is HD). But it seems that's where the industry is headed.

I can in fact see reasons why PC game companies would have an interest in developing for consoles instead of the PC, if they can get away with it. It's a standardized hardware platform; the APIs are guaranteed to work; and there would be no tedious development of convoluted installer scripts to deal with. Just press a disc and off it goes.

I can even see why it would be in Microsoft's interest to push game development onto the Xbox. Surely it would mean a huge reduction in R&D costs for them-- no more need to keep DirectX chicken-wired together, no more need to worry about new hardware drivers and security issues. If Microsoft were to shift their focus from pandering to gaming on the PC and to the Xbox, instead of trying to own both and push both ahead, then things could turn out quite well for all involved.

Because what it would mean would be a major shift away from what drives PC development. There would no longer be this mad headlong rush toward new video cards that push more gigatexels every week; instead, desktop PC development would slow down to a saner level. Since the gulf between games and non-game apps in demand on hardware has been getting wider and wider, suddenly there would be a whole lot less pressure on the PC market to forge ahead at the same breakneck pace. Intel probably wouldn't like this, and nor would NVidia and ATI-- and nor would Dell and HP, who wouldn't be selling as many replacement machines every two years anymore. But even so, it might be a good direction for companies like Microsoft to move in, if the economies of scale work out that way.

It's already been proven that as far as technological merit goes, a closed and dedicated box with a relatively low-powered CPU and other such modest statistics can hold its own against the software made for the most top-end PC hardware. Now the only things to overcome are the aspects of games that are uniquely "PC"-- and the cult of upgrades that currently defines the personal computer market.

If that happens, Apple stands to gain a lot of credibility. Suddenly the whole "speed" thing wouldn't matter so much anymore, either in perceived merit or in actual practical matters. Software availability (for which read "game availability") would no longer be as much of an issue. And an entirely different class of buyers would make up the majority of the market, buyers with different values and needs. I don't imagine that this kind of outcome could be a bad one for Apple. Or for Linux or FreeBSD or anybody else who doesn't currently have an entrenched gaming market.

So, maybe I ought to be looking at the Xbox as evidence of Microsoft's commitment to a future that I have no argument with. It's a long shot, and if it happens that way it'll be the first in a long series of Microsoft-related outcomes that turns out in a way that I find amenable. It could just as easily turn out that PC games continue to dominate the technological landscape and the Xbox ends up dominating the console market. But hey, there's a glass-half-full way to see everything, isn't there?

11:59 - Generation Xbox

That's what I'm going to start calling the invincible army of scaly little toad-children who crawl around the Internet, leaving slug-trails behind them all over the sites they infest, operating under the conviction that it's okay to steal a piece of artwork that someone has posted, remove the signature and copyright notice in a pirated copy of Photoshop, and then upload it to other sites like Neopets.com (or even the same site they got it from) under their own name.

And they've learned this code of ethics before they have attained two digits of age. And they never learn any better, in a distressing proportion of cases.

These are the same people who call me names for posting negative things about Microsoft, by the way, because hey, m1cr05oPh+ m4k3z the Xb0x-- and making a fucking video game system (and buying up independent multi-platform game companies in order to brute-force a saleable exclusive platform, and dumping it onto the market with prices subsidized by money obtained elsewhere in the conglomerate, just so as to undersell the established players and eventually own this market too) trumps any other alleged unethical behavior by the company. To them, any technical, legal, or ethical shortcomings of the company are rendered irrelevant, and and they'll grow up feeling benevolent toward Microsoft because Microsoft provided them their soma during their pre-teen years.

Ugh. Some days my inbox is just not a pleasant thing to wake up to.

Yes, I know that the Xbox has certain qualities-- both in its development style and in its target audience-- that set it apart from what usually characterizes Microsoft. And I don't mean to antagonize readers who have Xboxes but don't fit the description above-- they're cool.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
03:56 - More Mac-ish Musings

Just a couple, before I turn in.

Lileks pointed me towards the newly Cocoa-ified Transmit 2, an FTP program that I'd never noticed before now-- which is a shame, considering that it's by Panic, the company that writes such buffed-with-a-diaper-till-it-gleams specimens as Audion. Audion is an MP3-player app that I haven't had much use for since iTunes came along; it's the "traditional" style of MP3 player, in the sense that it's skinnable (Quartz transparency is something to behold in these skins!), has support for things like album art and liner notes, and it plays MP3s in filesystem order or by manually defined playlists (which seems hopelessly primitive now that I'm used to iTunes' means of navigation). But the program itself is superb, and its presentation is polished within an inch of its life, which is why I've continued to support Panic with registrations for each new version of Audion that they've released. These guys deserve plaudits for what they've made into a business and a labor of love.

But anyway, I was talking about Transmit 2. This is one slick little app. It's based on the ncftp core, which is widely used; and the interface is both playful (with local and remote file listings labeled "your stuff" and "their stuff") and practical (it opens directly into exactly the screen you need, with your favorites ready to hand, and all options easily accessible). It supports SFTP by a single selection in the main login screen. It has a live-resizeable preview drawer for all recognized file types. It even has a mirroring function and a remote text file editor.

All the functions and layout elements have the feel of a no-nonsense checklist, ruled by algebraic symmetry and space-saving aesthetics: "This pane goes here. This progress bar goes here. Here are the input fields you need to set up a session. Every button label is a verb. Destructive action buttons are separated spatially from the other buttons." The strict adherence to this kind of austerity of design leads to a reassuring, pleasing workflow that the user immediately understands without having to meander around timidly clicking random buttons until something happens. Everything here makes sense, everything does what you expect it to, and in using each function, it seems like folly to imagine it being done any other way.

"FTP That Gives Mac OS X A Great Big Hug." I tell you, it's impossible to stay in a bad mood when you're using software like this.

Incidentally-- today I was burning some ISO images of FreeBSD 5.0 DP2, and I had the opportunity to see how Disk Copy worked. The answer is very well indeed, thank you. Go to "File->Burn Image..." and select the .iso file when prompted. The machine sticks out its tongue, you drop in a CD. It sucks it in, burns it, and spits it out. You take a drink, sit there with your chin in your hand, and plot how to manage eloping with a computer.

02:19 - The Towers Regrow

CapLion has found a story on Mayor Bloomberg's unveiling of the new WTC No. 7 tower. Go give it a look if you're interested in what's going on with the site.

I do wish, though, that papers like The Independent would refer to the WTC as "Center" rather than "Centre". And maybe look up the proper usage of "principal" vs. "principle".

At any rate, Bloomberg certainly seems to be full of ideas...

21:18 - Wind Tunnels

Kris and Chris and I were doing our usual Mac dishing near my cubicle, when Mark, one of the engineers upstairs who had recently bought one of the new so-called "Wind Tunnel" G4 towers, walked by with a 2U rack-mount device balanced on his head, striding off in the direction of a lab somewhere.

"Hey Mark," Kris called after him. "You've got a noisy Mac, right?"

Mark didn't break stride. "I can't hear it next to the Windows 2000 machine on my desk."

The fact is that these machines are not all that loud. Yes, they are in fact louder than their predecessors-- about twice the ambient noise, or 3dB-- but the predecessors were and are extremely quiet. Kris, who has one of the Wind Tunnels at home, says that if the TV is on, he can't even hear the machine.

The moniker primarily comes from the noise the fan makes when the machine is first turned on (or rebooted). The CPUs in this model do suck more power than the previous ones (and they're dual), so the power supply is a beefier multiphase one than what my three-year-old 450 has (Kris speculates that this is all overkill in anticipation of the IBM chips next year). When the machine is powered-on or rebooted, there are several seconds before the temperature sensors kick in, and the fans default to an "atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed" mode that yowls like a cat on a fence. But it quiets down as soon as the temperature sensors come online and everything settles out.

We couldn't find the decibel meter that another co-worker (who isn't in today) usually has; next time we see him, though, we're going to try to get hold of the meter and do some real measurements.

But the upshot is that "Wind Tunnel" is a tongue-in-cheek epithet, not a derisive one.

13:36 - A thought on network effect

Den Beste has mentioned "network effect" several times as evidence that Apple is doomed and Windows will achieve 100% penetration. From his original article on the subject:

There is a marketing term: "network effect". It refers to the fact that for some kinds of products, the product becomes more valuable to each individual customer as more and more people buy it. Companies love this if they can get it, because there's no manufacturing cost associated with network effect, so the value (and potentially the sales price) of the product can rise and thus profit margins can increase.

The effect exists; I'm not going to argue that. It's a truism of humanity that the more the people around you do something, the easier it is for you to do the same thing.

But I have to wonder whether the effect will lead to where Den Beste thinks it will. I find myself thinking that the result of network effect on any given niche depends heavily on circumstance; it's not a foregone conclusion that it will lead to homogeneity.

My thought is that network effect is only really potent when the choice in question is in fact a choice. I'd say network effect was absolutely instrumental in Windows attaining the critical mass that it achieved in the mid-to-late 90s. Back then, a new computer user was an informed buyer, someone with geeky tendencies, who knew what a computer was supposed to do and what he wanted to do with it. He had a choice between Windows and a Mac; he weighed the merits of each, and eventually the fact that all his friends were using Windows because it was cheaper and had more software won out. That's network effect in its purest form.

But that's not the case these days. Using Windows isn't a choice, it's a default. New computer buyers don't know what operating system their computer runs any more than they know what encoding standard their phone uses. Network effect doesn't enter into the buying decision; when someone is getting a new computer, it's going to run Windows. Only if the user is savvy does he weigh the relative merits of Windows and the Mac-- and such users, though it may not look that way from within the blogosphere, are vanishingly few. They're not a significant part of the numbers which drive sales.

It's at a time like this that network effect actually can work in favor of the niche player. My personal experience tells me this. Time was, after all, that nobody wanted to use any Apple products; the Mac was seen as a "toy", the Mac OS was seen as limited and restrictive and unstable, and Mac users were usually simply called "gay" and left at that. (Network effect in reverse.) But these days, the situation is quite different. People come up to me to see my iMac and my iBook and ask questions about it-- what it can do, how much it weighs, how much it costs-- quite unprovoked. They're seeking it out. If I flash my iPod while in line for burritos, people's heads turn my way and I get to show it off to a genuinely admiring audience, rather than having to hide it from people who think it makes a statement about my sexuality. (I just saw an iPod on the title-card sequence for "Modern Marvels: Boys' Toys" on the History Channel.)

And that, too, is network effect.

Using a Mac is starting to be seen once again as something real people do. Everybody has a friend who uses a Mac-- and such people are more common than they were a couple of years ago, at least in my experience, anecdotal though it may be. The "Switch" ads are putting memes into the water. Everybody knows what an iPod is and what an iMac looks like. OS X gets high-profile billing in movies like Men In Black II. People create videos in iMovie and photo books in iPhoto. Apple Stores present hip and inviting facades to passers-by in high-income malls. There are more games being produced for the Mac platform than there ever have been since the mid-90s. These things enter the collective consciousness. And they're doing it more now than they used to.

One of the most common refrains here at work is "When I get my Mac..." --and a big driver for that is the fact that there is already that crucial seed of shock troops within the company who have already bought Macs and are visibly happy with them. That makes it easier for more people to consider, "Hey, now, maybe these things are worth looking into. Sure can't be worse than this Windows box, can they?" And when a friend sees my iPod and plaintively says, "God, everybody has one of those except for me!"... it means an imminent sale is dependent only on whether it turns out to be in the guy's budget for the month.

When those around you are increasingly making a certain choice, you're more likely to make that same choice yourself. I see that happening with Apple products more and more these days. But I don't see it happening with Windows anywhere near as much, because to use Windows first has to be a choice that one has to consciously make.

I suspect that network effect is only really valid in a plural market, is what I'm saying. It confers the most momentum to a product or company while that company is a minority and on the rise, but its potency falls off as that product or company achieves near-total penetration. Beyond that, other effects take over-- more volatile ones, depending largely on PR, economics, design, and luck. Anything can happen. But in a situation like we have today, I don't think network effect is really something Apple has to worry about as much. Instead it's an ally, as long as they can keep it fed and don't blow it.

Popular opinion toward Apple is curious among the casual and respectful among the savvy; the zealous are zealous as ever, but the hostile are a vanishing bunch. This is a much different environment from what it was two or three years ago. Apple is no longer a pariah-- and whatever its products' numbers might look like, the environment is a rich one for growth.

OS/2 failed because while it was a niche player with a similar position to Apple's, it didn't bring anything to the table that was compelling and hip, the way Apple does now. Good as it was, it didn't have an exclusive "killer app" that IBM could show off on TV and build consumer lust. There wasn't any reason for the man on the street to think, "Hmm, OS/2-- that's cool stuff, right? I oughtta go get me some of that!" Nor was there for Be, which had cool idealistic prospects, but nothing concrete for people to latch onto. But aha... Linux started off as a niche player, and it had the crucial network-effect ingredient that it brought something desirable to the table-- something that would overcome its minority position and gather adherents even in the face of overwhelming opposition from the status quo. Somehow that worked. Linux brought a concrete benefit to people who wanted to make an informed choice and achieve something specific. And that's what Apple is doing too; that's why Apple is better equipped to survive in its current market than, say, OS/2 was.

Or maybe I'm just on crack.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
01:42 - Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still doooooomed


And as the volume of PC sales continues to rise, and as Apple's sales continue to stagnate or even drop, that price disparity will only become worse, with the PCs continuing to fall in price due to economy of scale while continuing to rise in relative value compared to the Mac both because of improvements in technology and because of network effect. What this really means is that the "Switch" campaign is doomed; there will be little in the way of switching, and most of that will be Mac users switching to the PC. Apple's primary business will continue to be replacement units for existing users in a declining overall customer base.

Quick, somebody tell the eight people at my company who have all bought iPods and/or their first Macs over the course of the past year.

Someone remind them that they're supposed to be all dissatisfied with them and stuff, and want to switch back to the trusty Windows world. They just won't snap out of it. What's wrong with them?

And for God's sake, do something about the numerous people I know, both at work and elsewhere, who have gone from outright derision of Macs as of a year or two ago to curiosity, intrigue, respect, and genuine, money-on-the-table interest. Someone warn them before it's too late!

Doomed! Dooomed, I tells ya!

19:54 - Perceived Quality

Here's a meta-article about a C|Net review of the 17" iMac and its build and design quality as compared to similarly-priced HP and Gateway PCs. (Gateway is a particularly eye-to-eye Mac rival these days, considering the recent stunts like the Profile 4-vs-iMac ad, their retooling of the Gateway Country Stores to be more like the Apple Stores, and the "You can do all this stuff with Gateway!" ads for them-- though one that I saw the other day, in a promotion run by AT&T Broadband, gushed about the great online services offered by AT&T and Gateway-- while the camera zoomed in on the Ethernet cable plugged into the side of the iBook on the laughing actress' lap. Hey, props for recognizing visual style when it suits the ad setting, but points off for Photoshopping a piece of graphical ad-copy onto the iBook's screen when the camera zoomed in.)


Yes, Wilcox even cites the cables, and their tangle-free properties, as a indicator of high quality.

But more importantly, the review shows what you don't get with low-end PCs: high-end video cards. But even on HP's mid-range 883n - lineball with the iMac at $2,000 - HP resorts to an analog video card with an LCD monitor, merely to save a few bucks. The result, says Wilcox, is a blurry LCD, which compares poorly with the iMac's bright, clear 17" display.

Of all Apple's purported weaknesses these days, one of the least-often cited is "fuzzy/blurry/dim LCD screen". The display on my iMac at work still gets admiring stares from passing co-workers. It really does look good.

The review does note a number of legitimate gripes, though (I'm still scratching my head over the iMac's power button being at the back and flush with the body so you can't find it no matter what you do). And that's fair.

But the tech press as a whole is being very pro-Mac lately-- and not in a rah-rah way (which would betray the presence of idiosyncratic Macophiles on editorial staffs here and there, using any excuse to blurt out a sycophantic paean to Jobs), but in a critical and even-handed way. That's money, baby.

19:31 - Writing Without Reference

I'm sure we all remember the last time Kim Komando poked her nose into the fray and talked about how the Mac failed to wow her through its dazzling and inspiring unique abilities to run Word and Excel, and ignored all the iApps because she didn't do things like make movies or listen to music-- evidently they just weren't something she was wired to understand.

Now, I'm glad she's continuing to pay lip service to the Mac in her insightful and informative articles ("RAM is the area where information is stored temporarily while the microprocessor works on it. Random means the data can be stored anywhere in memory, and the microprocessor can go directly to them. That really speeds things up. Many computers will run faster with more memory."). But sometimes, reporting erroneous information-- even if one's market is small enough that it won't really matter-- just makes you look like a doofus.

The procedure is similar on a Macintosh. If you're using Mac OS 9 or earlier, select "About this computer" from the Apple menu when you're at the desktop. In Mac OS X, choose the Memory control panel from the System Preferences application.

Yeah-- A for good intentions, C for effort. There is no "Memory control panel" in System Preferences. If you want to know how much RAM is in the system in total, just use "About This Mac" like in the old days. (Since it's UNIX, though, it's less straightforward to ferret out how much RAM each app is using. But these days that doesn't matter either, thanks to transparent VM. When was the last time you got an "Out of memory" error, anyway?)

That's an interesting point, though. Nowadays, the only clear reason columnists like her can elucidate for buying more RAM is that it "makes things faster" (rather than enabling apps to run that used to result in errors, the former obvious reason). RAM has now become a transparent and nebulous under-the-hood concept, like using higher-octane fuel. Isn't that veird?

19:17 - Never is heard a discouraging word

Speaking of journalistic "switchers", here's an article in Business 2.0 by Shoshana Berger, lauding not only the Mac laptops but also the Move2Mac software with the cool logo.

The Move2Mac software made the whole process less painful than popping a pill. Using a USB cable, the program transferred my documents, photos, MP3s, and Web bookmarks to my new Mac. Best of all, it threw all of my Outlook Express contacts in a knapsack and made like a hobo across platforms. Switching ain't the 12-step program it used to be.

She clearly likes the imagery on the box too.

17:02 - The Mysteries of Life

WHY are there always SHOES on the side of the freeway?

13:12 - The Numbers Game

In reading this article, as with so many others like it, one gets the impression that there's nothing more to a Mac or to a PC than a column of numbers that add up to a grade. Slip in the Scantron sheet, count up the little pencilled-in ovals, and give the kid his score. A high enough score gets you into Stanford.

Indeed, if computers were really like that, this argument would have a lot of weight. Den Beste would be 100% right. The whole world should be using Wintel PCs, and anybody who consciously chooses to use a Mac is either heroically stupid, or just insane.

Well, computers are more than numbers. And while I hate to use the "Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" argument, I must point out that I can rattle off the names of eight to ten bloggers-- easy-- extremely high-profile bloggers at that, bloggers whose sites are read by tons of people, bloggers with very intelligent and educated readerships, bloggers whose opinions and judgments are respected and debated and talked about over the water cooler-- who all use Macs. Passionately, even.

I'm not prepared to dismiss their choices of computers and their opinions on technology as deluded lunacy from kool-aid drinkers who refuse to see the big picture. And I don't think most of their readers are either.

There is more to the Mac than numbers, and these guys all realize it.

This isn't necessarily a compelling case for existing Mac users to switch to the PC (though for some who are considering an upgrade anyway, it might be). That's not the point. The question is: why would any PC user in the professional graphics industry want to switch to the Mac? They'd pay more for a box which ran hotter, was substantially slower, was louder and provided fewer features. The only answer is a lame one: "Well, you'd be more productive using the Mac OS." I'm afraid you'll have a difficult time making that case. Ultimately, anyone can be productive on any system, and there comes a point where a 1.5:1 increase in compute speed affects productivity more than any esoteric issues about how pretty the buttons are on the screen.

Actually, there are two points to be made here. One is that compute speed is not the only reason why every DV and NLE house in the country is a Mac shop, standardized on FireWire paths and Apple software. Believe it or not, the user environment actually is important, as is build quality (my Dell server is popping components like a Yugo in summertime) and hardware lifetime (my three-year-old G4/450 is still eminently usable, but my PC at work-- which was built last year-- is already a pig) and vendor consolidation (who wants to play phone ping-pong between five different hardware and software vendors when trying to resolve a problem?). These are, granted, subjective issues to some degree. Statistics can be gathered for them, but it still tends to come down to taste.

The other point, however, is a very concrete one: ColorSync. It's the industry standard for color matching throughout the prepress and graphics industries. There's nothing like it in the PC world, and if it's not patently impossible because of the hardware variance or whatever, Microsoft has certainly not made any efforts to try. Some video card manufacturers have tools which try to sync your card to your monitor, but that's all these tools do. They should not be confused with ColorSync, which is a technology designed to be integrated throughout the production process. Color profiles for the output devices of the creator of an image are embedded into the image itself, and then when the image is opened on another person's Mac, the application-- all of which on the Mac are ColorSync-aware-- reads the profile, matches it against the recipient's own output devices' profiles, and displays the image with the same color characteristics as on the creator's machine. This integration is embedded throughout the output process, whether you're talking about printouts, lithography prep, or film. Professional graphics would be impossible without ColorSync. Printing houses charge extra if you bring in PC files for them to reproduce, because of the extra work they need to do in order to compensate for the lack of ColorSync data in the images.

And this is without even bringing up the Final Cut Pro argument. FCP has lots more features than Premiere and is a lot less expensive than Avid, and it's fast becoming the standard throughout the industry for those reasons alone. And here's the kicker: while all three of those major players in the professional DV editing market are available on the Mac, FCP-- the most popular-- is Mac-only. That might have something to do with it.

In other words, the reason why so many graphics professionals use Macs is that Apple caters specifically to graphics professionals.

Believe it or not, those graphics houses who know what the hell they're doing are aware that there is more to computing than whether you have a CPU that's twice as fast as last year's model or not. (These guys don't do a whole helluva lot of upgrades in any case; that's why, two years since OS X's release, FCP is still maintained synchronously for OS 9-- because so many professional studios don't upgrade, as a matter of policy as well as of expertise.) Without certain critical features-- among which can be counted such abstract concepts as "trainability", "consistency of interface", "stability", and "a single vendor", as well as such concrete examples as ColorSync and FireWire-- the work is impossible (or at least prohibitive) regardless of how fast your hardware is. Sure, do your DV editing on a PC if it's so much better for your productivity to do it on a 3.06 GHz processor than on a 2.4 GHz. But sooner or later, the process will have to pass through a Mac house, and then there'll have to be a price paid for breaking away from the established standard and taking the unnecessarily long and primitive way around, and you'll lose in days of overhead what you gained in minutes of saved rendering time.

There's a reason why journalists, like David Coursey, keep pulling stunts like "spending a month on a Mac" and then deciding at the end that they're not switching back. There's a reason why otherwise perfectly sane bloggers exhibit what must come across as complete irrationality by standing firmly by their Macs, dialing their iPods in bliss as they type out the columns that thousands of web-surfers read every day. And there's a reason why the "Switch" campaign says not one single word about speed and numbers. (Even in cases where the numbers would speak in favor of the Mac.)

That reason, as I've discussed before, is that anecdotes speak louder than numbers. And when a company has a vast grass-roots following that's determined to let the world know just how happy their Macs make them, let me tell you, it's not because the Scantron spit out a bubble sheet without any tick-marks in the margins.

It's because they know what's truly important in computing, and Apple fulfills it for them.

UPDATE: If you don't believe my second-hand observations on the nature of the video-editing community are valid, you can always try these first-hand observations instead:

You can't run a graphics house when every machine, even if they have the same brand and model of video hardware and display, will display colors and white balance differently. It's simply impossible to achieve reproducible results. Those who try and conclude that PC's are every bit as productive in the professional graphics industry are not in the professional graphics industry. They're little more than weekend warriors making uninformed decisions based on the fact that they can splack home videos together in Premiere.


Monday, November 18, 2002
01:26 - Everybody look what's goin' down

While out back watching for the Leonid meteor shower (the biggest particulate cloud won't be for another couple of hours, but it was worth a shot), we saw a light show of a different kind: a long stream of large military aircraft-- C-5s and C-130s and the like-- rising from Moffett, droning southeastward over our house in South San Jose, and then banking right and heading out to sea. Possibly toward Guam. In half an hour, we saw at least three of these, rising along the same flight path, one that I've never seen taken before.

You'd think something was up.

UPDATE: The later part of the meteor shower rocked. We saw several bolides (exploding meteorite chunks that created long, hugely bright streaks, displayed a flare-out at the end, and left a visible trail of smoke in the upper atmosphere); one of which looked to have penetrated down to about 30,000 feet. Quite a show...

19:50 - Grass roots grow a little deeper

Network Computing recently ran an article which featured my company's product in competition with all the relevant competitors in its category (naturally, we trounced 'em); our PR guy, as he usually does, forwarded it around for our edification.

I filed it away after a brief skim. However, Kris noticed a few unusual details that had evaded my eye (the emphasis is his):

For client machines we used 10 Intel Celeron 500-MHz white box PCs running Microsoft Windows 2000 and an Apple Computer PowerBook G3 connected to the [devices under test] at 100 Mbps through an Extreme Summit48 switch, and then to a dual NIC Dell Computer PowerEdge 2450 running Windows 2000 with routing enabled. A T3 (45 Mbps) link was simulated with a Shunra Software's Storm STX-100.

Our server was an Apple Macintosh dual 800-MHz G4 with 1 GB of RAM. We ran FTP, Apache Web server and the Apple Darwin streaming server and used Mercury Interactive's LoadRunner 7.5.1 to generate as many as 100 real TCP sessions. We broadcast "live" a large QuickTime movie set to nonterminating continuous loop. This movie output was, on average, 1.6 Mbps per stream.

LoadRunner let us generate real Windows TCP sessions, and we always ran enough users to oversaturate the T3. Our Web tests included simulating users downloading several multimegabyte pages as well as multiple small pages in succession.

We also tested transferring Web and FTP data simultaneously. We set a policy for a minimum of 20 Kbps per connection with a burst of 50 Kbps, a minimum of 500 Kbps per connection for Web traffic, and 20 Mbps maximum for FTP. We also tested streaming video while concurrently running 100 large Web transfers.

Looks like Macs are making a slow comeback!

Of course, everyone knows that in a totally rational market, this would never happen. I guess more and more people are just becoming irrational, what?

15:08 - Doc Pemberton was so worldly and ahead of his time

From the Ar-Rahman list, which has been blessedly free of blistering anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment for the past couple of months, ever since someone spoke up and mentioned that hey, this stuff is actually kinda offensive:

Oh. Yeah. Geez. No idea why I never saw that before. Hey, I've got some incontrovertible proof, by the way, that Barney the Purple Dinosaur is really Satan. See, just add up all the letters that can be interpreted as Roman numerals, and you get 666, or something. <yawn> Next...

Hey, and I thought all the good Doctor was trying to do was capitalize on the great taste of a narcotic with syrup. Time for everybody to switch to Mecca-Cola, eh?

(Ah well. At least our religious loonies more or less keep it within the family, or at least they keep the racist conspiracy theories locked up in their woodland cabins where they can't hurt anybody.)
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© Brian Tiemann