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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, December 8, 2002
16:55 - Libertarianism Uplifted

A lot of Libertarians are fans of famed sci-fi author David Brin, apparently; enough so that they invited him to give the keynote speech at the Libertarian Party National Convention in July 2002.

What they didn't count on, though, was that Brin would take the stage, peer deeply into all their souls, and deliver an hour-long monologue that systematically deconstructed all the dysfunctionality of traditional Ayn Rand-ish Libertarianism-- everything that's dismal and unbendingly idealistic about it-- and through exorcising these demons of hypocrisy and misguidedness one by one from the audience, he sets up in their place something he calls "Cheerful Libertarianism"-- a new way of looking at everything.

My friend who pointed this article out to me-- the five-page transcription of the keynote speech, which contains links to the questionnaires and references Brin distributed to his audience-- said that by the time he was ten minutes into this speech, the audience was grumbling and making petulant noises. But by the time the hour was up, he'd earned from them a standing ovation.

The gist is that we in the US today are really a whole helluva lot better off than any society ever has been before in the past-- and rather than looking backward at some mythical Golden Age of Enlightenment in framing our vision of the ideal state, we can reassure ourselves that we're actually on our way to a better time in the future, and preaching doom-and-gloom isn't going to help. And the way we can help bring it about is by accepting compromise and applying steady pressure, rather than by demanding to turn this festering decadent cesspool of a society on its head.

I can't pick out a single bit to quote. It's all a tremendous amount of fun, a startlingly good read. (Hell, it's David Brin. He uses the word freeping in front of the national convention of a major political party.) I think anybody with a passing interest in Libertarianism, or in politics of any kind, will find it fascinating-- and will be just as glad to discover all the little gems embedded in it as I was, without having to be guided to them by a <BLOCKQUOTE> in some weirdo's blog.

One thing I will say, though, is that when it comes to incisively searing through the layers of irony and nomenclature that obscure true meaning in ideology today, I haven't seen much that's been this effective. And considering the reaction it evidently got from its audience, I suspect that goes for many others too.
Saturday, December 7, 2002
20:59 - Titan T.P.

Well, I just saw Treasure Planet.

They say that in sci-fi stories, you get to break one rule-- and the rest of the universe has to be internally consistent. That works really well, under most circumstances. Some of the best sci-fi can get away with that kind of world-building by making sure the rest of the tech is either absolutely impeccable in its design, or never mentioned.

But Treasure Planet isn't sci-fi, really-- it's more fantasy than sci-fi, and the big space rule they break-- "don't worry about whether there's air to breathe"-- lends more to the animators' ability to turn the movie into an unapologetic style piece than to allow writers with a sci-fi bent to go nuts with the world design. Instead of trying to rationalize how wooden ships and 17th-century dress blend in with insterstellar solar-sail-based FTL technology, or why Silver's arm can do all that kickass neuro-integrated stuff but they have to drag in the solar sails by hand-- the furthest they take the explicit sci-fi infrastructure is artificial gravity, which is crucial to a plot point. Other than that, they simply don't worry about it-- they take old-world architecture and speech and dress for granted, and the result must have been very liberating for the animators.

That said, the story wasn't fantastic. I found myself silently predicting all the plot jinks before they happened; it wasn't the most convoluted thing I've ever seen, and parts of it were unbearably saccharine. There were some moments of brilliance in the dialogue (Doppler's crack about doctorates, incomprehensible to the younger audience, I found immensely gratifying), and there was genuine character development that sticks to your ribs after you leave the theater, unlike Atlantis. There's a lot to like.

But overall the impression I get is that someone in Disney has been living in the cave of the animation industry a bit too long, where actual feedback from the box office and the social currents about which way the pop-cultural winds are blowing have no effect; it seems like someone saw Titan A.E. and saw in it The Future of Animation, failing to notice that no matter how good it looked, that movie flopped. And-- surprise-- Treasure Planet appears to be doing just about as well in the box office, meaning that Disney has had to release an earnings warning for the current quarter.

Disney is thrashing these days, as is the whole animation industry; but Disney is the biggest bellwether, obviously, and they're not sure where to take things. The formulaic song-medleys of the 60s and 70s gave way suddenly in 1989 to The Little Mermaid, sending animated features into a new rarefied stratum of Broadway-musical structure, a genre with astounding new possibilities-- but they got stuck in another formula, which was only solidified by the unexpected gold vein of The Lion King, a success that Disney has been desperately trying to recapture. The subsequent few films were huge-budget mega-projects that met with limited meme penetration, and when things like The Iron Giant and Shrek (and Disney's own CG experimental branch, Pixar, with its series of mega-hits) started to do better than the big formulaic super-productions, they started to flounder.

First, Empire of the Sun-- another mega-production-- got slashed very late in the process from a big-budget but soulless behemoth into a light-hearted, edge-pushing, injokey romp, The Emperor's New Groove. Then, Lilo & Stitch took the NASA "smaller, cheaper, better" route still further and brought out a small-budget but big-scope breath of fresh air. But while both of these have been modest successes, they haven't been Lion King-like gold-mines; and DVD sales have been such as to reinforce Disney's core target market of parents with small children, who want bare-bones videos to pop into the player and entertain the little ones, not the big 2-disc Special Editions. Which is why Disney has just announced that they won't be releasing any more of the big 2-disc Special Editions, after The Lion King comes out next year. None after that, unless their fortunes change.

But anyway. Treasure Planet, like Atlantis, also betrays that Disney is terrified of the anime revolution, and they're desperately trying to integrate some of the appeal into their movies that will attract anime fans-- but it's not working very well. They still don't understand what it is about anime that anime fans like. (Hey, I'm not saying I understand that, myself-- this is hard stuff to get a handle on.) And besides, many anime fans refuse to watch Disney movies out of principle; anime, to them, is the "un-Disney"-- like using a Mac or Linux as a form of protest against Microsoft. Any attempt Disney makes to court these people will just breed more resentment. If Disney wants a slice of the anime pie, they may have to settle for distribution rights to things like Spirited Away. That works best for everybody, instead of trying to force both Miyazaki and Disney to try to be something they're not.

But Treasure Planet is a great style piece, if you like style pieces; it's a visual feast, and it does stimulate the imagination and spirit to about the same extent that Titan A.E. did, which (to me, at least) is not an insignificant amount. I think they may be getting a handle on this new genre of animated feature.

I just hope each baby step toward that understanding and expertise doesn't keep costing them an unrequited $140 million.

17:21 - Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb

It seems Steven Den Beste need not be worried that the UNMOVIC position of having their findings subject to censorship and weeks of vetting through Officious Channels will derail the US from getting the real answers (and fast!), because we've been doing a little inspectoring of our own.

It's like a well-written spy-movie misdirection plot: seventy-five minutes into the story, it looks like the bad guy has outsmarted the hero, who is now at his mercy, trapped, tied up, with a gun to his head... and then he looks up, grins, and delivers a smug and devastating line as the plot takes a second sharp left turn, revealing that everything is going according to his plan, that the bad guy walked into a trap just as carefully crafted as the one that it had seemed the hero had been caught by.

Running circles around the UN arms inspection headed by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, the Iraqi government dropped a massive pile of documents – its reply to the UN Security Council demand for a full accounting of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – in the laps of the international media Saturday, December 7, before allowing Blix a peek. The presentation was accompanied by yet another formal denial that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

The 11,880 pages on CD-Rom, landing with a thud in Baghdad, will not reach UN Headquarters in New York before late Sunday, exactly on the dot of the Security Council deadline.

Washington in any case had no expectation of substance from the UN inspectors.
Thursday, December 5, the White House declared it already had “solid evidence” that Iraq does indeed have weapons of mass destruction. Where did that evidence come from?

. . .

This project is in the hands of a special multinational task force made up of special elite units and armed with combat helicopters and aircraft, spy-planes and satellites. Unlike the Blix outfit, which is based in Baghdad, the alternative investigators are fanned out across the country. One well-placed source disclosed: “Our men in the field know where 90 percent of Saddam’s missiles and unconventional weapons systems are located, even the mobile ones that are moved from place to place every hour. We are keeping them under tight, on-site observation because when the war begins we want to be there before Saddam orders his men to hit the triggers.”

According to our sources, this highly sensitive, elaborate and secret inspection project has been going for more than three months. Its success could pre-determine the course of the war before it begins. Its members are drawn from the United States, Britain, Jordan and Turkey and possibly Israel. They operate under the Special Forces command at Al Udeid in Qatar and its sub-command in the Jordanian base of Mafraq.

For the purpose of the search, Iraq has been divided into 16 squares, each the province of an elite unit for a set period. The Talil air base complex in north Iraq, for instance, with its air fields, missile bases and air defense batteries, was assigned for the first three weeks of December to US special forces.

And in contrast, gallingly:

The story going around the Gulf, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, is that in the week since the UN inspection team started work, it has been well penetrated by Iraqi agents.The most disturbing aspect of this - and the reason for the sharp responses coming from the White House - is that the spies have managed to fit "electronic jackets" on the UN measuring instruments, which throw them off and make them emit false data. The technical assistants, some from Arab countries, are also thoroughly infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence.

But it's okay, because we knew that would happen all along.

It's looking to me as though there are these special teams of multinational operatives who know what job needs to be done and do it, implicitly trusting each other as partners in a "special relationship" between nations... while the top-level, internationally visible US bickering in the UN and the press has simply been a set of opinion probes to see who's willing to be an ally when crunch time comes, and who would rather stand in the way. None of it affects the evidence-gathering or the war effort, but it will affect how friendly and open and cooperative we're going to be with certain other nations in the future.

As CapLion puts it:

Looks like this is shaping up to happen rather quickly, and it also looks like we'll have bombs for Christmas, but the troops will be back for New Years.

Once again, Dubya has been underestimated and will probably pull another of his trademark I'm a lot smarter than that, stupid moments soon. I love when that happens.

This is another one of those things that, when flung into the winds of the blogosphere, will catch and gain runaway attention in no time. Spread the word, eh?

16:45 - Aw, that's no fun...

China is starting a concerted campaign against signs and other literature written in badly translated English:

"There are many 'Chinglish' words on road signs, public notices, menus and signs describing scenic spots, which often puzzle foreigners," Xiong Yumei, vice director of the Beijing Tourism Bureau, was quoted as saying.

The signs feature misspellings, obscure abbreviations and jarring word-for-word translations of Chinese characters into English.
Some examples: "Collecting Money Toilet" for a public toilet, and "To take notice of safe, the slippery are very crafty" on a sign warning that roads are slippery.

And thus dies a great and cherished art form. Well, I guess it's a bit much to expect that this initiative will have much effect; but even so.

Ah well... Japan has always had a much better sense of style with their Engrish-- instead of just simple misspellings and grammatical errors, it's a joyously vacuous need to attach random, meaningless English sentences to completely unrelated contexts-- often containing bizarre and obtuse "informative" factoids. Like shopping bags and restaurant signs that say "Elephant family are happy with us. Their dancing makes us feel happy", or "Switzerland: Seaside City", or "Greenwood: 'To go to greenwood' means 'to become an outlaw' in English". Oh really?

Long live Engrish!
Friday, December 6, 2002
18:07 - clickety-clickety d-e-l-b-a-s-i-c-.-e-x-e

Now that the venerable BOFH-style stories have lost much of their cachet, the culture of propeller-beanied metaphysical UNIX gurus lurking in darkened basement server rooms having given way to today's brightly-lit corporate certified IT Professional landscape, it's given to us to assuage our longing for vicarious tales of times gone by with stories like this one: "The Case of the 500-Mile E-mail".

Geeky, yes. Funny, yes. Oddly poignant-- yes, that too.

17:54 - Get Out Your Irony Board

Victor David Hanson has evidenly worked awfully hard on this piece, "America Upside Down". So go give it a read.

In contrast, a group of Islamic academics recently met at a conference in Cairo entitled "Why do they hate us?" The symposium sought to examine Muslim culpability for the latest outbreak of Western terrorism against Islam.

"One could argue that we simply asked for it," the chairperson of the American Studies Department of Cairo University remarked. "I can envision a scenario in which we deserve all we get from America. In some sense, I'm ashamed to be from the Middle East. It is humiliating really. And unless we go to the root causes of Western hostility, there may well never be peace. We should examine very carefully our construction of the Western "other," and our culpability for the attendant frustration and sense of helplessness that drives an angry young L.A. surfer dude, a Texas ranch-hand, or a bare-naveled Miami skateboarder to blow themselves up along with Middle Easterners across the globe — and then rethink what the Egyptian or Saudi regime really stands for in the world today. They see our gender apartheid, our religious discrimination, our racial castes, tribalism, and autocracy — and then all that sexism, racism, and homophobia just overwhelms these idealistic-but-impotent American kids, causing them to strap on some bombs and strike a blow in anguish, as it were, against the patriarchy of imams, mullahs, and sheiks."

The sad part, however, is that he had to explicitly state that this was a parody (in the title bar). The fact that this is likely to be less than obvious to some readers makes me shiver.

15:28 - That's very silly.


...Which means, of course, that it'll probably sell.
Helmet Ears

Yes we’re completely serious. These have been tested to 175mph and will allow you to appear silly whenever you feel like it. The idea of being pulled over and lectured/screamed at by an agitated officer while glumly sitting on your red-hot Blackbird/Hayabusa/ZX12 with droopy bunny ears does admittedly have a sort of humor potential.

(Go to the site and search on item number 3350.)

14:08 - How easily we forget...


Those of us who are proficient with computers seldom are reminded of just how needlessly baffling they are to those who aren't-- and more importantly, how many more there are of them than of us.

What's funny, of course, is that while Scott Kurtz is a Mac guy, or at least posts the occasional Apple-positive strip-- if he'd had these characters talking about a Mac, there'd hardly have been an opportunity for a joke.

(Apologies to Scott.)

13:24 - Of Mistake Is You

You know, I'm getting really, really sick of hearing the words "Make no mistake".

Politicians have been saying "Make no mistake" ever since 9/11, as though it were coined on that day: "Make no mistake-- we will hunt down and destroy the perpetrators." "Make no mistake-- terrorists will have no place to hide." "Make no mistake-- we will make no mistakes." Give it a rest already!

It's another of those phrases that stops making sense at all if you think about it too long, like "all in all" or "by and large". What, are they honestly trying to prevent us from making mistakes? If so, is it Engrish? I can picture sitting down in class to take an exam, and the professor at the front of the room says: "You are have one hours for complete of test. Make no mistake!"

I wonder what the phrase sounds like in other countries where people are supposed to interpret it as a warning. Does it sound determined, or just dorky? How does Al-Jazeera translate it? "If you make no errors, we will destroy you." Huh?

Maybe it's al-Qaeda-esque code language, designed to awaken CIA sleeper agents like the Mossad agents recently redeployed undercover by Sharon in response to the Kenya attacks. Every "make no mistake", coupled with the sentence that follows it, is really an encoded message to some deep-cover operative. With the number of times we've heard it from Bush and Rumsfeld and Ashcroft by now, there should be a veritable army out there in the underground, launching secret shadow-war machinations with every televised speech.

Or maybe I've just been reading too much Seanbaby lately.
Thursday, December 5, 2002
01:29 - Who doesn't like Santa Claus?


Hokay... do we chalk this one up to "rampant anti-Americanism in Europe" or what?

I mean, with the start of December always comes an inexorable tide of commercialism, and with it comes the inevitable backlash of sarcastic riffs on the "true meaning of Christmas" (which, as Tom Lehrer and Trey Parker both have so memorably illustrated, is in fact the commercial spirit in and of itself). Our whole economy is centered around the gift-giving season. We feel guilty for being such tools of it all, but we console ourselves with these bits of self-effacing humor, and head to the malls anyway, tired smiles and all, and we toss small bills into the Salvation Army kettles to help soothe our spirits as we rush from Crate & Barrel to Crown Books.

But is this really necessary?

Eckhard Bieger, a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, said he is all for the holiday season, gift exchanges and family celebrations. But he believes the twinkly-eyed old man in a red costume is a commercial fraud.

"Santa Claus is a creation of the advertising industry and Coca-Cola to further commercial interests," Bieger told Reuters.

"I don't have anything against Christmas presents and don't want to disappoint children," he said. "My aim is to put St. Nicholas back at the center of attention rather than this Santa Claus figure, which is just an empty shell."

You know, the simple fact that most people in the world don't know that Santa Claus has anything to do with Coke says to me that Santa Claus as an icon no longer belongs to Coca-Cola, nor stands as a meaningful representation of the blatant US-stoked cultural imperialism that puts McDonalds and Levi's into Russia and Saudi Arabia, where they so clearly aren't wanted.

This guy is tilting at windmills, in that kind of petty and futile way that we see when the Southern Baptists boycott Disney movies because the company has pro-gay-rights policies. It's an action that has no possibility of causing even any discomfort to the entity that the complainant has a problem with, and it's an action whose nature is completely divorced from the nature of the offense in question. If what this guy has a problem with is crass commercialism in the Christmas season, this stunt is going to do nothing but deprive kids of the biggest source of joy in the whole year, while allowing a few Concerned Adults to feel morally superior and untainted by the tawdry dreck that Christmas has become.

It's seemed to me from time to time that the long-term result of the Politically Correct No-Fault Nerf World era is going to be a generation of kids who have grown up without ever learning to have genuine fun, take honest risks, or learn any hard knocks first-hand-- and they'll have become adults incapable of joy, strength, or humanity.

This just seems like more of the same. Ho ho ho to you, merry sunshine.

UPDATE: Besides which, as pointed out by Hiker, the whole "Santa Claus was invented by Coca-Cola" thing is a myth anyway.

Visit snopes.com's Cokelore page for this and a bunch more fun stuff, including the full history of the "anti-Islamic message" thing I posted about a while ago. Hey, did you know that that logo not only says "No Muhammad, No Mecca", but also contains a sideways image of a guy snorting coke?

19:28 - So that's what we've been missing

There's been speculation about this in the past, but apparently it's for real: IP over FireWire. Apple just released a preview of it today.

What good is it? Well:

As you already know, products such as the iPod and digital video cameras already use Firewire ports. In the future you may be able to assign future products with an IP address while connected via firewire, opening the door for networking video cameras and other devices. Imagine being at an editing studio, plugging in your DV camera and having it being accessible to every computer on your network in conjunction with Rendezvous. That camera is now accessible at 400 megabits a second anywhere on the network. We are talking about major speed and potential here. Other great advantages for IP over Firewire include the ability for older machines to work on future networks and faster networking with laptops with lower-speed ethernet connections.

Rendezvous, FireWire, the Digital Hub devices-- are they all jigsaw pieces in a vision of the home or studio or office that involves a unified access protocol for peripheral data transport and TCP/IP networking? Broadcasting MP3s from an iPod Web server or AppleTalk share? Multi-CPU clustering? All at speeds in excess of that of Gigabit Ethernet (as soon as the newer versions of FireWire are available, which is reported to be soon)?

Who knows where this will lead. Presumably they've got some compelling business case for this, and a killer app waiting in the wings that will seem obvious as soon as we see it but which nobody will predict coming. We'll just have to wait and see.

But the crucial bit is that they're actively working on making this a reality-- it ain't just speculation anymore.

19:09 - He Says What We're All Thinking


Ahh, good old K&K.

And just for old time's sake and blatant me-too-ism, one of mine:

09:09 - Not that it surprises me


Huh. Look who's being featured on Apple's "Pro/Music" site: Hans Zimmer, my favorite film scorer.

“Today, it’s amazing what you can do on a PowerBook,” he says. “It’s a more democratic system again. You don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars. You just need to have some good ideas and be able to put them into action. And you have to have talent and musicianship.”

Lots of good stuff about the orchestral composition process and his company's history, too, for anyone who's interested.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
00:50 - Tending Towards IBM


Whatever it is you think is evil about Microsoft, IBM in the 1950's and 1960's was vastly worse. It's true that Microsoft has done things with its contract negotiations with OEM customers which effectively locked out competitors, but Microsoft's sins pale in comparison to the kind of things IBM used to do.

. . .

Folks, on the "evil computer empire" meter, Microsoft hardly registers.


Just give it a few years, and a little more "network effect", and a few more federal judicial victories and government contracts to establish a de jure monopoly to bolster the current de facto one. And then everything this article says was so evil about IBM will be absolutely true about Microsoft.

The article makes a great case for why Microsoft should not be allowed to reach the point where it becomes IBM, the way it was.

17:24 - Xserve Has the Way In

Mike sent me this link: a Network World story (reposted at MacCentral) covering the growing grass-roots movement toward OS X as a stable, simple, robust UNIX.

"Macs and management. Have you ever heard the expression 'like herding cats'?" asks Shane Wilson, coordinator of network services at Centre College in Danville, Ky. "Macs have always been this way."

The advent of Mac OS X 10.2, however, is changing that attitude. Network managers who formerly managed Macs with proprietary software and hardware can now use some of the same software they used for their Intel- or RISC-based servers and workstations to manage Macs. Mac OS X for the first time really supports standards-based enterprise qualities such as security, protocols and tools, which make management easier.

The article goes on to cite testimonials from IT managers of places like the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Architectural Research Consultants in Albuquerque, and Anchor Group in Sacramento. Xserves are apparently starting to pop up everywhere, as people realize that they're extraordinarily easy to deploy and maintain-- as opposed to the typical steep learning curve and attendant high cost of expertise for UNIX/Linux servers-- as well as being far more flexible and powerful than the clumsy Windows servers that so many IT guys are wrestling unnecessarily with, sitting in server rooms poking at physical consoles and KVM switches instead of having any real remote access or peaceful coexistence of multiple services on a single machine.

Riddell uses the Mapics ERP application with Windows and Macintosh clients. He explains that even though he has not always been a fan of Macs in his network, he is softening with the advent of Mac OS X.

"Recently with Apple's OS X, I have completely changed my stance, and I am seriously considering the new XServe servers for a few minor Web projects," Riddell says.

On a related note-- I just sent in a message to John Polstra, author of CVSup, my favorite FreeBSD/UNIX mirroring application. CVSup's strength is the ability to track file creation, deletion, and modification, and propagate those changes very efficiently to the client machine (for backup or mirror purposes)-- using Rsync, it transmits only the crucial data, minimizing bandwidth usage. "Runner" processes zoom ahead and index the filesystems on both sides, communicating information about changed files back to the actual data-transfer processes, which transmit simple attribute modifications, appended data, RCS/CVS checkins, and finally (if all else fails) the entire file. This makes for an extremely fast and extremely bandwidth-stingy mirroring mechanism, and I love it.

There's one thing CVSup can't keep track of, however, and that is when a file is moved (or renamed). Because most operating systems, including UNIX and Windows, track files uniquely by their paths (e.g. /usr/local/www/data/index.html or C:\Program Files\Whatever\index.html), if you rename or move a file, the operating system has no idea of that file's history. As far as the OS is concerned, if you move /home/foo/1.txt to /home/bar/2.txt, it's a completely new file, and CVSup has to transfer the entire thing. It has no choice.

Not a big deal, you say? Well, what if I told you that I ran an art archive where each artist has a directory whose name is based on their displayed artist name. Let's say the artist has 1000 files in that directory, adding up to 100MB. Now let's say the artist changes her name. This means the name of the directory changes; but CVSup can't determine that the 1000 files under the new directory are really the same 1000 files that it had been tracking all this time under the old directory, and so it has to send delete commands for all the old files, and transfer all 100MB of the files all over again to put them in the new location.

Is that not the most inefficient thing you've ever heard? But that's the way it is on the operating systems that we all run our servers on.

But... the Mac's HFS+ filesystem has something I've mentioned once or twice before: the Unique File ID. The OS can track files not just by their paths (which is an ugly, frowned-upon, secondary "safety net" method), but by the Unique ID. This means that you can do such tricks as pointing an alias to a file, moving the target file around, and having the alias still work. Or put MP3s into your iTunes database, reorganize where you keep all said MP3s, and iTunes will still know where to find each one. Or configure your browser to find its "helper apps" in one folder under Applications-- and then decide to move the apps somewhere else entirely, and yet your browser will still work just fine.

And what's more-- if CVSup were retooled in an OS X build to take advantage of the Unique File IDs, it could track not only all the cool stuff it already knows about, but file renames and moves as well. And the above-mentioned scenario would result not in 100MB of extraneous network activity in the wee hours, but maybe 1K worth of control data that tells the CVSup client to simply rename the directory, as was done on the server.

(Sure, operating systems without the benefit of Unique File IDs might be able to employ some massively complex heuristics to determine whether a file with the same checksum and other attributes, but with a different path, is really the same as a file it had previously known about. But that is intensely inelegant-- we already have a better way, right here.)

So this could mean an Xserve would present a significant operational advantage not only over a Windows server, but over other UNIX platforms as well.

Sun thinks the Xserve is no competition at all. I dunno, methinks they could stand to quake in their boots just a tad more. Apple servers are no laughing matter anymore.

16:54 - The AOLization of the Internet

Some e-mails that are circulating around the company, sent by Outlook users, now have this charming little footer:

NOOOO! Beware, citizens! Resiiiiist the colors! RESIST!

These are the rewards we reap: software that embeds ads for newer versions of itself-- really crude ads, at that-- into the content created by users of the program. Even content that is read by users of other e-mail programs. (This thing assumes I'm using Outlook too. The sick thing is that it stands fair odds of being right-- that the recipient is a legitimate target.)

Then there are the "iWon" popup ads that you get if you surf to microsoft.com, and the ads threaded throughout WinXP. And don't forget-- It's better with the Butterfly™®©!

Welcome to the future, everybody. It's too late to get pissed off about it now.

Thank you very fucking much, Bill. You big genius you.

13:41 - Spam funny

You know those Klez worms that are still clogging up everybody's inboxes with subject lines like "A special new game" and "So cool a flash, enjoy it" and "Investor relations for you"? You know how they seem to mutate themselves every time, so you have variations like "A new game" and "So special a flash" and "An WinXP patch"?

Well, I just ran across the best accidental example yet:
Subject: Fw: Idiot relations for you !

Hoo-boy, sign me up!

13:15 - The Islamist-Controlled Media

Ever wonder why Islamic terrorism cases are so frequently reported as being perpetrated by "unnamed gunmen" or "militants" or "freedom fighters" or pretty much anything except for "Islamic terrorists"?

Well, wonder no more, because Charles Johnson has posted a link to the Canadian Islamic Congress' grading scheme for demeriting Canadian media outlets for any reporting that doesn't portray Islam in the best possible light at all times:

1. Identifying Muslims by their religion when they are involved in violent acts = 100
2. Interring [sic] that Islam is intolerant and an extreme religion that teaches, endorses or condones acts of violence = 90
3. Use of the term "Muslim Terrorists" = 80
4. Use of the term "Muslim Militants" = 70
5. Use of the term "Muslim Extremists" = 60
6. Use of the term "Muslim Fundamentalists" = 50
7. Propagating negative stereotypes = 40
8. Being culturally insensitive, for example to religious practices, dress code, food or social customs = 30
9. Selective presentation and analysis of events and the use of popular "experts" = 20
10. Failing to offer a balanced view on political events = 10

Granted, that's Canada. But if pressures like this are widespread, it would explain a whole lot.

Meanwhile, European countries are one-by-one banning Kosher food. Yeah, that sure sounds like a massive Zionist conspiracy's in charge of everything, don't it?

12:08 - TechTV Gives FireWire the Nod

And this one's no Russian test lab using five-year-old equipment.

Maxtor provided us with two similar 5400 rpm external hard drives, the USB 2.0-based Personal Storage 3000LE and the FireWire-based External Storage 3000XT. With our 1.3-GHz Pentium 4 test system equipped with 1GB of PC800 RDRAM, we loaded up SuperSpeed Software's RamDisk XP Pro and created a 700MB virtual hard drive. The low latency of our RAM disk as well as its solid-state performance allowed us focus on the performance of each interface using the similar external drives.

. . .

While USB 2.0 may not be the ultimate hard drive interface, its ability to read at a rate of 6MB per second matches the maximum write speed of a 40x CD recorder. Focusing on the MP3 transfer rates (Test 2), FireWire offers a significant advantage over USB 2.0, besting it by nearly 48 percent in write speeds and over 70 percent in read speeds. (Yet another (indirect) reason Apple iPod owners are so happy.)

We will soon revisit this particular test with a 7200 rpm hard drive, but the results are likely to remain consistent. In addition, notebook-sized hard drives such as those used in the iPod can be powered by a 6-pin FireWire interface whereas USB 2.0 would require an additional power supply/connection.


11:16 - Really Big Shoe

Jackie Mason was on "Forum" this morning; he was holding forth in what I'm sure has become the archetype for the comic Yiddish delivery, with his thick crunchy accent and rambling speculative inward kvetchings that have spawned so many homages throughout entertainment, from characters in Mel Brooks movies to Rabbi Krustovsky.

Michael was asking brief questions about Jackie's career, and then sitting back and letting the master work. One story that he told, though, I found particularly revealing. Jackie talked about a recent occasion when he hired a young Palestinian comic (yes, apparently there was one) to be on his show. Mason then faced a torrent of media attention over whether he had any problem working with the guy because he was a Palestinian. I'm paraphrasing, but Jackie recounted his reaction as being, "Well, is he coming here throwing bombs, or is he coming here telling jokes? He's not in Israel killing people, he's here to make people laugh. I'm not so hateful as to blame him for the things some of his countrymen do. If we've learned nothing else as a people, it's that we have to be above that kind of nonsense."

And then, the comic in question repaid him for this by publicly spewing vicious anti-Israel, anti-Sharon, anti-Jewish rhetoric, and Mason fired him. And the press again leaped all over him, taking up the comic's claim that he had been fired for being Palestinian. Said Mason: Did I hire him or what? I knew he was Palestinian when I hired him. Why would I fire him for that reason? The press completely ignored the real reason for kicking the comic off the show, and turned Mason into the bad guy.

I don't know anything from any other source about this incident-- I'm just going by what he said on the air this morning. But it's an interesting case study anyway.

Later Jackie explained why Jewish comedians are such a common thing. When you're persecuted throughout the world, and you have no power to fight back, you laugh at your predicament. When you're a studious and intellectual people, you engage in self-aware, self-effacing humor. Now, I'd like to know why the Palestinians haven't tried this? It's a much bigger and more effective form of passive resistance than Gandhi ever came up with: it's the ability to sow memes throughout a society, positive memes, that go through phases of derision and resentment-- but eventually become nostalgic, endearing, and treasured. Today, it can hardly be denied that the Jews are stronger as a people and as a pop-cultural influential force than they ever have been. And not one of them ever had to blow himself up on a schoolbus in order to achieve that.

UPDATE: Oh, wait. Rabbi Krustovsky actually was played by Jackie Mason. I guess that would explain that.

Tuesday, December 3, 2002
02:14 - The MP3 Mafia

Here's a Robert Cringely column (thanks, Kris, for the link) with an interesting take on the whole digital-piracy/Big Media thing:

Well, right there we have a problem. People LIKE epic films, but even with the best editing and animation software, there is no way some kid with a hopped-up Mac or PC is going to make "Terminator 4." One can only guess, then, that people will continue to go to movies and eat popcorn and watch on the big screen despite how many copies of DivX there are in the world.

Peer-to-peer movie piracy is practical only in the manner that any organized crime is practical: It works only as long as the host remains strong enough to support the parasite. Tony Soprano can't run New Jersey because then everyone would be a crook, and there would be nobody to steal from except other crooks. No more innocent victims. Same with movie piracy, which needs a strong movie industry from which to steal. If the industry is weakened too much by piracy, the pirates begin to hurt themselves by drying up their source of material. It is very doubtful that this will happen simply because the pirates, too, want to go to movies.

But the same is not true for records. This is simply because technology has reached the point where amateurs can make as good a recording as the professionals. The next Christina Aguilera CD could be as easily recorded at her house (or mine) as at some big recording complex out on Abbey Road.

Another "They cannot create, they can only destroy" metaphor. Where have we heard this before?

Oddly enough, that sorta segues into Cringely's interestingly related anecdote:

That's when the record companies and publishers will appear to actually embrace peer-to-peer and try to make it their own.

This will be a ruse, of course, the next step in the death of a corrupt and abusive cultural monopoly. They'll say they will do it for us. They'll say they are building the best peer-to-peer system of all, only this one will cost money and it won't even work that well. There is plenty of precedent for this behavior in other industries.

My favorite historical example of this phenomenon comes from the oil business. In the 1920s, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company had a monopoly on oil production in the Middle East, which they generally protected through the use of diplomatic -- and occasionally military -- force against the local monarchies. Then the Gulf Oil Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, literally sneaked into Kuwait and obtained from the Al-Sabah family (who still run the place) a license to search for oil.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company did not like Gulf's actions, but they were even more dismayed to learn that Gulf couldn't be told to just go to hell. Andrew Mellon, of the Pittsburgh Mellons, was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and he wasn't about to let his oil company be pushed around by the British Foreign Office. So Anglo-Persian and the Foreign Office did their best to delay Gulf, which worked for several years. They lied a little, lost a few maps, failed to read a telegram or two, and when Gulf still didn't go away, they turned to acting stupid. As the absolute regional experts on oil exploration, they offered to do Gulf's job, to save the Americans the bother of searching for oil in Kuwait by searching for them.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company searched for oil in Kuwait for 22 years without finding a single drop.

So in other words, beware the seeming enlightenment from Big Media when it finally comes.

I often speak loudly and angrily about how much music I would buy if only I could simply swipe my card, plug my iPod into a kiosk and suck it up-- instead of having to carry a stack of jewel cases to the register to be rung up, unlocked, demagnetized, and put in a bag for me to take home, unwrap, peel the stubborn little pieces of gummy label stickum off the cases, pop them one at a time into iTunes, rip-and-sort, and then squirrel away the physical discs into some deeply buried box in the closet, never to be seen again.

And I know the age is coming when the end-to-end portable music pipeline is a reality. But if what Cringely is saying is true, we'd best be wary of the "solutions" Big Media comes up with-- because no way is it going to match the ideal ethereal egalitarian infrastructure that we dream about. Not unless we let the self-publishing industry reinvent media before the Content Czars can rewrite the rules in their favor.

We gotta keep 'em on their toes-- not least by supporting companies like Apple who see sound business in legitimized space-shifting of media, via integrated software and hardware without unnecessary DRM. Disney and Bertelsmann and AOL-Time-Warner will be using their whole arsenal in the coming years; I for one am glad of the allies we have here and now against them.

01:47 - Those Mysterious Hands

MST3K fans far and wide, gather round and hear a tale-- a tale of a man... and a monsterrrrr! Namely, a black-with-red-hand-pattern-robed cult leader, and his ghoulish turkey-drumsticked Igor. I refer, of course, to that most infamous MST3K episode of them all, Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Specifically, this is a behind-the-scenes look at how the movie was made, including some rare glimpses into why it was so eye-poppingly bad, and just what the farging thing was supposed to be about. (Well, okay, it doesn't really reveal much about that. But it does explain Torgo's legs, the weird jump-cut-laden driving montages, and the inexplicable attire of the "wives".)

I discovered, by the way, that the new MST3K DVDs that Rhino is releasing (such as the Volume 1 boxed set, hint hint) actually contain not just the broadcast riffed-to-bits movies, but the original, un-MST'ed versions of the movies in question. Ain't DVDs great?

Though that's still small comfort to those people who want the entire library, and yet weren't fortunate enough to be able to record them all when they were on the air. Rhino can't release all the episodes, because each one contains a copyrighted work-- the lampooned movie in question. And a lot of the owners of those movies have not given Rhino permission to redistribute them on video, MST'ed or not. There are a lot more of those than there are of the episodes that they can release, more's the pity.

But the magic of TEH INTERWEB comes to the rescue! mst3kvideos.com is the home of a guy who's taken the exhortation KEEP CIRCULATING THE TAPES to heart; he refuses to redistribute copies of any episodes that Rhino is releasing commercially, but for the cost of media and shipping he is making tapes off of master VHS/DVD copies-- and he has the entire library available for perusal, trade, or purchase. Huzzah.

Ahh, Prince of Space. Ahh, Hercules Against the Moon Men. Ahh, Mister Be Natural. Come to meeee.

13:19 - WE HAV3 TEH WAY OUT!!!!!1111`

Is there no end to the shameless Microsoft FUD?

First they put up a site exhorting people to move from UNIX servers to Windows-- a site that ran on FreeBSD until someone caught them. Then they conjure a fake anti-Mac "Switch" campaign out of public-domain clip-art and in-house consultants, which is also immediately debunked. Then an internal document is leaked which reveals that even Microsoft can't justify running its own Hotmail service on Windows servers, in the back-end where performance and stability really count.

Heaven forfend they should break this winning streak. After all, whether based on lies or not, it's working, right?

So now they've posted a totally impartial study which finds that (gasp!) Windows servers are cheaper to run than Linux.

Windows 2000 servers are cheaper to run than Linux ones, sometimes, says an IDC study which was by strange coincidence sponsored by Microsoft. The study will come as welcome relief to Microsoft salespeople who have been parroting the 'cheaper than Linux' line to general disbelief, but whether anyone else will believe it is another matter.

Particularly since the study is quite obviously stacked in ways that would make a Linux machine incur costs that it never would be subject to in the real world, and it still can't manage to come up with a resounding Saddam-esque unanimous recommendation of Windows. A Microsoft-funded study still finds that Linux is a better and more economical server platform in most circumstances.

Why does anybody believe a word Microsoft says, after this track record of illegal abuse of power, shoddy and incompetent workmanship, and outright lies to the consumer and enterprise public in order to support its business case?

What's it going to take-- an Enron-esque financial scandal?
Monday, December 2, 2002
03:05 - Oh really.

On the way back from squash, the BBC World Service anchor said-- in a voice that denoted great momentous import-- that Iraq had just admitted to having tried to circumvent UN weapons sanctions.

Namely, they admitted having imported (or tried to import) aluminum tubes of the type used to make missiles. And they claim that they wanted them only for the purest and most innocent of civilian and humanitarian purposes. Of course.

(Not that this will have any effect on the strident calls for the US to get its greasy mitts out of innocent Saddam's backyard.)

Looks to me as though if Baghdad's bag of tricks is this limp and empty, then the days until real reckoning can well and truly be counted in single digits.

23:27 - Well, that was needlessly topical...

Geez, when was that Simpsons episode done?

It's the seventh Sideshow Bob episode, the one where Bob and Krusty are reconciled at Krusty's farewell show. In what was the obligatory fiendish murder plot, though, Bart was hypnotized by Bob and wired up as a suicide bomber.

Somehow this seems way more inappropriate than, say, showing the "Homer vs. the City of New York" episode (the one with the World Trade Center and the Khlau Khalash vendor).

20:44 - Unlimitations

Sometimes it's just nice to be using a platform where they did it right the first time.

So, I shopped around, and picked up FireWire Direct's 200GB SlimLine Ultra III model. They offer up to a 320GB solution, but 200 is more than enough to capture all the audio and video I'd ever need in a remote situation. So, I decided on that one.

Plugged it in, formatted, and presto. 200GB volume on my desktop. Boy, I love Macs.

I wondered how today's operating systems would get around the latest in the long string of internal mathematical limitations in the ATA/IDE standard. First it was LBA, "Logical Block Addressing", to get past the 528MB limit (16 heads x 1024 cylinders x 63 sectors/track x 512 bytes/sector) by mapping physically impractical "virtual" dimensions onto usable internal ones (such as pretending the disk had up to 255 heads); then it was Extended Int13 Modes to push past the 8.4GB limit (the same formula with 255 virtual heads, the ATA maximum). Various BIOS and OS implementations handled these solutions differently; some solutions were buggy, some were incomplete, and few were reliable. Today's equivalent of these monuments to early-day buffer-size miserliness is the 137GB limit imposed by the ATA standard maximum 65536 cylinders.

(Here's some reference on the subject.)

ATA-6 is the new-ish standard that dictates hardware that can support disks larger than that size, and newer FireWire devices-- like the bridge used in CapLion's disk-- can address all 200GB (and more, for larger models). And OS X can handle large 48-bit-addressed disks natively, as could OS 9.

I'm distressed to hear that Windows, including XP, hasn't really addressed this yet.

"Current Windows operating systems (98, NT, ME, 2000, XP) do not have native support for hard drives larger than 137 GB. Western Digital has included a conroller card and drivers to address this operating system limitation. During installation, hard drives larger than 137 GB must be attached to the controller card and the drivers for your operating system must be loaded properly to avoid the risk of data loss."

. . .

Update: Ryu Connor, one of the gurus at Tech Report, says:

You need an external enclosure whose controller understands more than 137GB of space. That is where the limitation lies, not with the operating system itself.

Update 20021202: Ryu writes again to tell me that as far as he can tell such an enclosure isn't yet available. Oh well...

No, not for USB2, anyway. (And Windows does need to be Registry-hacked in order to support large disks out of the box-- provided you have a 48-bit LBA BIOS.)

Seriously, I'm not feeling any schadenfreude about this. It sucks. I hope someone figures out a solution for the PC side before long, because what with video-editing and DVD-ripping (--er, creating) and the like, 137GB isn't going to remain a tenable ceiling for much longer. The server implications alone are worrisome. I don't want to find out my e-mail or my digital photo prints were lost because someone was running a Windows server that couldn't address the whole 320GB disk someone chunked into it.

I will say, however, that it's nice to have 200GB disks that run off bus power, without an AC adapter. Almost as nice as not having to worry about any of this stuff in the first place.

17:37 - Pomegranates Kick Ass

It's pomegranate season, and has been for some time now; and you know what that means:

Life is good.

(Look at that crappy haul, though. A couple weeks ago I was picking up pomegranates in Safeway that were netting me whole glass tumblers full of seeds. These ones are nice and tart, though.)

...What? No, I'm not going to cut the pomegranate in half! Every seed is precious! Each one must remain inviolate and pristine, until I eat it, which I cannot do until they have all been removed. The opening of a pomegranate and the extraction of the seeds is a long, laborious ordeal of dedication, and it is richly rewarded at the end. Thus is it spoken in the Holy Book of Brian.

By the way, I got some Torani pomegranate syrup (grenadine, in the fine print); that crap tastes nothing like pomegranates. It's all sweet and stuff. Plus it tastes like it was made from an entirely different fruit; even if I dumped in a whole glassful of lemon juice, it still didn't taste anything like what I was hoping for. It tasted like cherryade and Hawaiian Punch and corn syrup. What's up with that?

Hesh wants citric acid!

15:50 - Image Issues

Reader Neil McKeown alerted me to this weird, weird problem that seems to have affected a number of images on or linked to from this blog page. From various comments at the site where this is being discussed:

Secondly, and even worse, Windows versions of Internet Explorer, mostly 5.5 and 6.0 get thoroughly confused by a file that identifies itself as .jpg but contains XML. When you try to load one of these inflated images with Win IE 5 or 6, it spins endlessly, trying to figure out what to do. From that point on, you have completely lost your ability to view images in that browser session. Even if you go to another site. All graphics loading will spin endlessly from that point on. Only completely quitting and relaunching Win IE fixes the problem.

Don't believe me? Try it yourself. I've seen it reproduced on at least five different Windows machines. I've even reproduced it myself on Virtual PC.

It doesn't seem to affect Mozilla-based browsers, or any Mac browser. But you must appreciate the danger and/or irony here -- designer on Mac OS X generating lethal .jpgs, hapless Windows browser locking up when they visit the site.

It's hard to say where the blame lays here.. Adobe or Microsoft? Either way, if anyone knows anyone in a position of influence at either company please bring this to their attention, as it makes the web a suckier place to be for everybody.

Update: The problem may be specific to certain combinations of tainted images and HTML. The following URL reproduces the problem consistently for me on Windows XP with IE 6 (under Virtual PC): http://www.snapclub.com/wintest.php

. . .

Obviously, at some level the blame lays with Microsoft. There shouldn't be anything I can put on my webpage to destroy your entire ability to view images.

. . .

The "XML" you see is actually an XMP packet. XMP is the Adobe-defined open metadata format for metadata. It uses RDF as its data representation hence the comment it "looks like XML".

Microsoft and Adobe worked together to identify the problems Windows Explorer had with JPEG files that contained application-specified data. This problem appeared not only for JPEG but TIFF files as well. The latest XP service pack fixes the known issues related to Windows Explorer and these files, include some bugs that can corrupt such files and make then unreadable at all if you use Windows Explorer to edit the metadata in the file.

Note this appears to be a different issue than the one you are reporting about Internet Explorer being unable to display such files.

Marc Pawliger
Photoshop Team,
Adobe Systems

. . .

However, there are some people who _don't_ realize what's going on and need to be made aware. My web site, Snap Club, for example, allows users to upload images from their hard drives. Every so often, someone uploads a JPEG that contains this extra data, and from that point on all the Windows IE users who visit my site lose the ability to view images.

They think my web site has a virus or something. They never come back.

Neil reported that some images on my site that were causing trouble were the larger versions of screenshots which I linked in with thumbnails, which always did work, as in this post. But these images work for me on my IE 6.0, so it seems to depend heavily on individual platform combinations.

One poster did comment that a mogrify command can strip out the offending IPTC header, so I'll add that to my posting script and run it against all my existing images, so it shouldn't cause any more problems... please keep an eye out, though, and if you're using Windows and you see this happening, please spread the word. Mac-using bloggers and website owners in particular, take note. (Does this happen at lileks.com?)

Pretty fugly problem, if you ask me.

UPDATE: Oh, and it should be noted that it is not "malformed" JPEG files that are causing this to happen. It's simply JPEG files that-- quite legally-- use an RDF text block in their headers (which Adobe's Mac software does as a matter of course), which is something that IE chokes on, thinking it's XML that it has to parse and execute.

This is an IE problem, pure and simple, and the onus is on Microsoft to fix it, not on website designers and bloggers who happen to use Photoshop or other software that writes RDF or XML headers. But we'll "fix" up our files anyway, just to be good citizens and clean up after Microsoft's mess yet again.

10:59 - Pravda

Heard among the book plugs on "Forum" this morning:

Hi, Michael... I'd like to recommend a book-on-CD, entitled What the Heck is Going On in the Middle East? by [something] Fayed ... it explains what's happening in Palestine, and portrays the Palestinians as regular people just like you and me, and explains what drives them to become "suicide bombers" [Serious-- you could hear the quote marks. -ed]. It overturns a lot of the myths we've grown up with, about the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the Arab-Israeli war. You can listen to it in your car... really important stuff for people to hear.

Yeah. If something is on CD, then it must be true. Especially if it has a cutesy, unassuming title.

I guess that's why it had to be plugged by the author's brother, huh?

09:33 - This is an Intervention

Is this article by Collin May about his Northern homeland an accurate portrait? I hope not, but the evidence seems to support it.

Still, this sort of collective surrender to tyranny on the part of my fellow citizens doesn’t occur in a vacuum, there is a broader cultural context for this absolute lack of responsibility and self-respect on Canada’s part. As the National Post reports, in the name of inclusiveness and equality, Canada is progressively eliminating the freedom of its historic institutions, including the church. Canada is becoming little more than a vast humanitarian waste land, without substance, imbued with arrogant and unconsidered self-righteousness, and saddled with a detestable and corrupt government. And I’m afraid that Canadians like it that way.

It's a tragedy, really, if this state of affairs has come about as the result of a long-standing passive-aggressive backlash against all things American. After all, maybe I'm blinded by perspective, but... it seems to me we've done all right for ourselves, in the grand scheme of things, health care or no health care, two-party system or no two-party system. Seems to work for us.

If our solution has less architectural elegance than others, well... this wouldn't be the first or last context in which something that's engineered to be less than efficient turns out to be more successful than something that's been overengineered following the very best of intentions.
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© Brian Tiemann