g r o t t o 1 1

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

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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



Cars without compromise.





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Sunday, February 16, 2003
05:12 - Pixel Pushers
http://www.shynola.com/j_s/j_s_download.htm

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I once dreamed of being able to create pixel art like this-- and not even pixel art that moved, either. It's seeing stuff like this that makes me realize there are some things I'll never achieve, no matter how little sleep I allow myself for the rest of my life.

There's just something so refreshing about watching this video. I can't describe it. It's like... low-pixel-count animation was never ever meant to look this good. As a technical and artistic achievement, it's unassailable; as a style statement, it's stuck in my brain forever now. You'll have to look for yourself.

"Shynola", huh? That's a name I'll have to remember...


04:55 - It's sort of all about oooiiiil
http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/RRiraqWar.html

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A reader sends me this link so as to inject it into the "warblogger" discussion. It's a theory that the Iraq war is not about fighting terrorism, or about oil per se. It's in fact about protecting the monetary context of Iraq's oil rights, which are currently scheduled to switch from the dollar to the euro as a trade currency, which would reduce the US' buying power by 20-40%.
Although completely suppressed in the U.S. media, the answer to the Iraq enigma is simple yet shocking -- it is an oil currency war. The real reason for this upcoming war is this administration's goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard. However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves. This lengthy essay will discuss the macroeconomics of the `petro-dollar' and the unpublicized but real threat to U.S. economic hegemony from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.
Now, bear in mind first of all that this article was posted on that paragon of unbiased academic writing, IndyMedia. And while it has lots of facts and figures to back up its postulates, I can't help but note that a) it's ultimately founded on a guess, and b) it depends on a tacit acceptance of the idea of a total censorial blackout of this damning angle by the all-powerful US government.

I'm not one to dig up my own facts and figures at 3:00 AM to bolster or disprove a thesis like this. But my gut tells me this isn't what's going on. Quite frankly, Iraq's oil is not that important-- not so important that Bush would instigate the largest lie in US history for it (making unpopular war on a sovereign nation for self-serving reasons never made clear to the American public?) and risk being made an international pariah if such truth ever came out. What with all the talk of "political capital" and deals struck with the UN in the interest of answering charges of unilateralism, and Rumsfeld playing up the derisive Franco-German anti-Americanism bloc as a moral foe... can you imagine Rumsfeld or Bush having to answer French or German claims in 2004 that the war wasn't in fact about what Powell had tried so hard and so doggedly to convince them of, but was instead just some petty price-fixing maneuver over Iraq's oil (most of whose output goes to France's TotalFinaElf anyway)?

It's an interesting idea, but it's a theory that presupposes a level of diabolical subterfuge that borders on 9/11-was-engineered-by-Bush conspiracy-theory territory. I'd say it's more a matter of food for thought experiments than a stroke of enlightenment.

But that said, and my skepticism out of the way, I can now press the plunger and inject this puppy into the general discourse. I'll let those with more facts and mad bl0gG1ng sK1lLz than myself take it from here.

Saturday, February 15, 2003
06:27 - Arrowed!
http://www.homestarrunner.com/tgs2.html

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No sane person should care about this, but of course that's why I find it of such grave importance: There's a new addition to "Teen Girl Squad", the newest running gag at homestarrunner.com.

(If for some inscrutable reason you want to know where this meme of doom came from in the first place, it's right here.)


06:10 - Warmackin'
http://www.macstumbler.com/

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Marcus sends me this link to a nifty AirPort-network-scanning doodad for OS X. If you want a more visual idea of what kinds of precious bit-carrying airwaves are bending around you than what shows up in the system menu bar, this looks to be an invaluable tool.

I'm just wondering why Apple doesn't provide a tool like this themselves. Surely some "advanced" options, to view all available networks and their signal strength in a more useful format than the little four-level icon, would be a worthwhile addition to the Internet Connect window (or somewhere similar)?

This'll be an interesting thing to have along next time I'm in an airport. I swear the baggage-handling machinery was emitting an 802.11 signal the last time I was in O'Hare...
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
22:51 - Who fixes plumbing problems in a flash?
http://crustacea.nhm.org/~dean2/crab.html

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This is the creepiest damned thing I've seen in a long, long time.


(And yes, I'm even including this among the runners-up.)


14:34 - Nauseating Cartooning

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Okay-- just as an aside or a preamble, towards those who tar Little Green Footballs as a "hate site", I just have to wonder at Charles Johnson's reaction to the recent death of Arab News cartoonist M. Khalil, creator of hundreds of blatantly offensive, blatantly anti-Israel and anti-American cartoons, and how it jives with that accusation:
Arab News cartoonist Mahmoud Kahil has died following surgery in a British hospital. Kahil was a talented illustrator whose gift was, unfortunately, often misused in the service of a corrupt regime. On the day of his passing I choose to remember and respect his talent, and think of what he might have achieved if nurtured by a free society.
Somehow I can't imagine, say, an Aryan Nation site posting a message like this over the death of, say, Spike Lee.

With that in mind, here's something that makes me wonder just what the ACLU thinks it stands for these days: the USA PATRIOT Acrt Show. Nothing less than a gallery of some of the most vile and tasteless post-9/11 cartooning this country (and the world) has yet seen, presented as a celebration of civil liberties and freedom of speech, things that have (evidently) been beaten out of workaday Americans by FBI agents going door-to-door with sjamboks and electrodes on a daily basis for the past eighteen months.

It's no surprise that Ted Rall is one of the featured "artists"; but the site gathers together dozens more like him, from all over the world, united by a common voice that speaks out from under the crushing heel of American patriotic brainwashing, braving the horrors of post-9/11 state censorship: 9/11 was Amerika's just reward.

(I'm not even going to include an inline thumbnail of any of these, because each one carries a red tagline: CARTOON CANNOT BE USED IN ANY WAY WITHOUT ARTIST'S PERMISSION! Yessir! Go to the site yourself if you're that curious.)

Some of these cartoons proudly carry the banner of "BANNED" (well, at least, one of them does); it waves it like an arm-tattoo, claiming that the cartoon was pulled from papers due to Big Brother's omniscient information-filtering mechanism. Never mind that the papers actually pulled it because it was offensive and tasteless, not because it antagonized The Party. I mean, come on-- what are these people snorting? Why is it so hard to distinguish a nation of uncensored weblogs and mostly-peaceful un-cracked-down-upon anti-war demonstrations... from a police state? Why is it that the hip and urbane treat Soviet-era propaganda posters and tales of the KGB as quaintly amusing and attractive, while at the same time whimpering about those with unpopular opinions being mercilessly silenced right here at home? Doesn't anybody see the existence proof in action-- or, more accurately, the lack-of-existence proof?

I don't know if the ACLU thinks it's being heroic and honorable in sponsoring this presentation, but it's certainly succeeded in turning one person into a contemptuous skeptic.


13:51 - Safari Forges Ahead
http://www.apple.com/safari

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Safari users, fire up your Software Update thingies-- there's a new beta out (v60).
The Safari Update 2-12-03 improves the compatibility with popular web sites based on Safari user feedback, further improves the performance of loading web pages and Flash content, adds support for XML, increases standards conformance and delivers improved application stability. The update also enables access to web sites that offer self-signed security certificates.
From my initial impressions, it's a lot faster at large-table form performance, something that was lacking in the earlier beta; it's also got proper text-dragging handling, and lots of other things seem greatly improved. URL completion seems much more demure now. Table layout and reflow (quickly resizing the window a whole bunch to make it re-layout everything in real-time) is very snappy-- though, unfortunately, it still doesn't hold a candle to the velvet-smooth reflow of that same page in IE on my Windows machine, and that machine is a mere 667MHz. Ah well.

Safari still doesn't have keyboard focus/navigation for drop-down menus, and I'm still seeing issues that might be specific to my workplace network, where almost every page fails to load one or two objects in the course of loading; it seems like it's not being aggressive enough with retrying requests where packets get dropped, or something. I wonder if there's any way to troubleshoot/debug that. And this beta won't have any fixes to the monstrous list of comments and TrackBacks that users sent to Dave Hyatt the other day; we'll have to wait another few weeks for that, I daresay.

Posted form data still loses the final CR/LF at the end, for some reason; and lines with italics in them are leaded more than lines without, which makes paragraph layout kinda gross. That's really gotta get fixed.

But I'm very pleased with the changes so far. This is shaping up to be the real deal.

Thanks to J Greely, who alerted me to this before I had a chance to check the site (which I've been doing a lot lately).

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
14:29 - That's a whole lotta storage.
http://www.apple.com/xserve/raid/

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I'd been wondering how the Xserve had been doing since its introduction last year. Apple making rack-mount servers? Fie! Vade retro, Satanas! I'd talked to one of the exhibitors at MacWorld and heard from him that sales were brisk, but it's always been difficult to gauge this sort of thing. 1U servers are supposed to be industrial and unsexy. It's not like you see them on people's desks or on sitcoms.

Well, somebody'd better tell Apple, because whether the thing is selling or not, they've committed wholeheartedly to applying the whole "Sex Equals Power" algorithm thing to the server space. They just released the Xserve RAID, and having seen it in action on the show floor, I can't imagine even the most stolid IT guy being able to keep from going all gooey over it. Just watching the stacks of blue LEDs going up and down the middle as disk access rises and falls is a trip. And from a pure technical standpoint, it looks like a real competitor. I treat Apple's bar-graphs with as much skepticism as anybody should who knows it's more for eye-candy purposes than to report actual real-world benchmark results; but I suppose it's pretty hard to argue with storage-space density measurements.
Do the math: the gigabyte-per-dollar ratio of Xserve RAID is the best in the world for Fibre Channel storage, and trumps most SCSI storage solutions as well. Xserve RAID offers up to 2.52TB of high-performance redundant storage at just over $4 per gigabyte -- a fraction of the cost of storage from Dell, HP, Sun or EMC. (as compared to pricing on their websites in February, 2003) The days of seemingly unlimited IT budgets are long gone -- no more blank checks for digital asset management -- so as an IT professional, you need to cut costs, without cutting corners. For that reason alone, we think you?ll appreciate our pragmatic approach to help you save huge amounts of data -- as well as a nice chunk of change.
I wonder whether they'll be taking heat for committing to ATA over SCSI. I know it raised a bunch of eyebrows when the Xserve first came out with these ATA drive units; I mean, sure, they're cheaper. (Way cheaper. Way way cheaper. Like 1/3 the cost and three times the available storage size. Not 15Krpm, true, though.) But some people do still demand the absolute best in throughput. I suppose that's one of the selling points of Xserve RAID, though: it offloads the disk-access load onto the storage-unit processor, so the server CPU doesn't have to worry about it. Essentially it's all the benefit that SCSI offers anyway; plus the Fibre Channel interface, which the guy at the Expo wouldn't even let me take a picture of because it was apparently brand-new and top-secret. (It'll offer much longer cable lengths than SCSI, for one thing-- it's optical.) I think the speed argument probably won't be much of an issue.

In any case, they've got a bunch of pages at the site that seem to flood the reader with reasons why ATA and Fibre Channel should give buyers no reason to pine for SCSI. Their slogan at the top of the site right now is "We Mean Business", and it does indeed look like they're pouring it on here.

This can either mean they're seeing an extraordinarily lucrative market for Xserve and Xserve RAID products, and they're striking while the iron is hot; or else they've had these products in the works for years, and they're just giving them the big fanfare of marketing hoo-hah that they'd always planned to, whether it ends up selling or not. We may never know, unless these products mysteriously vanish from the inventory in a couple of years.

Optimist that I am, I'm willing to believe that the Xserve has found itself a pretty healthy niche, and is growing in popularity (with a surge due now that Xserve RAID is out), and is helping to reestablish the Apple name in heavy-duty business. They've got a new 1.33 GHz Xserve out now too, and it looks as though they're serious about keeping things in step. So I'll give this effort the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe I'll do my part and pressure our IT guys into letting us have one next time we have to replace one of these auto-disintegrating Dell 1550s with their faceplates that don't lock properly and their CD-ROMs that fail and their Ethernet cards that stop working three weeks into service.


11:54 - Hey... stop that.
http://www.clevescene.com/webextra/2003-02-05/derf.html

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In deciding how indignant to be about this, I have to conclude that what's worst about it is probably that it's largely true, about lots of people's opinions of the world these days. I wouldn't say it's too far off. I mean, maybe not worded quite like that, but...

I'd like to see one of Europe, though.

UPDATE: Ask and thou shalt receive; Mike Silverman comes through in the clutch.

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© Brian Tiemann