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
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
 2/21/2005 -  2/27/2005
 2/14/2005 -  2/20/2005
  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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 7/19/2004 -  7/25/2004
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  7/5/2004 -  7/11/2004
 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
 6/21/2004 -  6/27/2004
 6/14/2004 -  6/20/2004
  6/7/2004 -  6/13/2004
 5/31/2004 -   6/6/2004
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 5/17/2004 -  5/23/2004
 5/10/2004 -  5/16/2004
  5/3/2004 -   5/9/2004
 4/26/2004 -   5/2/2004
 4/19/2004 -  4/25/2004
 4/12/2004 -  4/18/2004
  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
 3/29/2004 -   4/4/2004
 3/22/2004 -  3/28/2004
 3/15/2004 -  3/21/2004
  3/8/2004 -  3/14/2004
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 2/23/2004 -  2/29/2004
 2/16/2004 -  2/22/2004
  2/9/2004 -  2/15/2004
  2/2/2004 -   2/8/2004
 1/26/2004 -   2/1/2004
 1/19/2004 -  1/25/2004
 1/12/2004 -  1/18/2004
  1/5/2004 -  1/11/2004
12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
 12/1/2003 -  12/7/2003
11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
 10/6/2003 - 10/12/2003
 9/29/2003 -  10/5/2003
 9/22/2003 -  9/28/2003
 9/15/2003 -  9/21/2003
  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
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 8/25/2003 -  8/31/2003
 8/18/2003 -  8/24/2003
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 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
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 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, June 22, 2003
02:49 - Best Adult Swim Packaging thingy Yet

(top)
There were some other good candidates earlier tonight, but this one has it hands-down:

OMG!!!1 w3're iN!!!
TOLD YUO WE CUD DOit!!!1
OMG OMG OMG!!!11
Fa7aL C0oL + C0rdless Overr1d3 OWN J00r TV b0x!!!
A/S/L????/
YO!
DON7 DRINK teh H@TER4DE!!!
NO HaTInG oN AniMe!!
NO H4TiNG oN C0m3dy!!!
cus hating is teh s uck
[d00dz]


And the bug in the lower right is [4du17 sWim].

UPDATE: I speak a lie! This one's even better!

A lot of you have been asking about the music.
As usual, there is no simple answer.
The tunes in the action block are usually listed at the end of the night.
The tunes in the comedy block are orphans from the massive Turner Music Library.
This presents a problem which involves lawyers and contracts.
We're trying to work out a joint custody agreement.
That way you could adopt a track from the website.
If it works out, we'll be looking for good iPods® they can call home.
[adult swim]


Me! Memememe!



01:15 - Tomorrow

(top)
First let's get all the caveats out of the way. I'm sure that tomorrow, The Steve's keynote at WWDC, which will be broadcast to the Apple Stores to be shown live on the big-screen theaters, will not disclose anything particularly interesting, despite all rumors to the contrary. Oh, sure, maybe it will go over some planned features for 10.3/Panther; maybe he'll even give out some beta CDs to attendees. But no miraculous new hardware. Or if he does mention hardware, it'll only be to acknowledge existence of the PPC 970, which until now has only had the most sidelong of confirmations from IBM that it "could" be used in Macs, despite the fact that its Altivec-alike unit is pound-for-pound the spitting image of the one in Motorola's G4s, and not a word from Apple itself. But because IBM last year had said that even the most optimistic estimates put quantity 970 shipments in late summer or fall of 2003, and we're only in June now, surely there won't be any actual machines announced tomorrow. I'm sure it'll turn out that the leaked spec graphic from Thursday night was just a practical joke by some swing-shift web-goon whose job was immediately put up for auction, even on a weekend, in swift and terrible retribution from on high for this blowing of any surprise Steve might have had up his sleeve, getting everybody's expectations all pumped up for nothing. I'm sure it means there won't be any such animals unveiled tomorrow. The Boxes O' Mystery in the Apple Stores will surely turn out to be advertising materials, boxes of carefully-guarded-under-pain-of-death leaflets and flyers and cardboard mock-ups to stand around the retail floors and wow the visitors with their Ive-ian visual goodness, even though they have no actual physical substance and can't be bought or anything. Absolute secrecy, we all know, is required for the pallets full of the tools of whatever Apple's newest misguided ad campaign will turn out to be tomorrow. Or maybe they will be 970-based Power Macs, but there will only be like ten of them per store-- an experimental pilot run, hot off the fab from IBM, squeezed out in acceptance trials even under woefully inadequate yield numbers just so that Apple could have something-- anything-- to sell this week. I'm sure they'll cost like $6000 each, commanding a terrific price premium, being a super-exclusive limited edition whose purchase will be up for lottery among the clamoring throngs in the Apple Stores and at WWDC, where the attendees have all spent at least $1500 each just to be there, and so what's another $6000 between friends? The rest of us mortals will have to gaze from afar, and morosely click open the Apple Store online, there to find the very spec graphic that was at the center of this brouhaha Thursday night, but attached to Power Mac G5 models with astronomical prices and mocking "Shipping September '03" tags on them. Or maybe they will actually be shipping in quantity, through some amazing miracle, but they'll suck-- they'll be bottlenecked by some idiocy of motherboard design, where sure, the chips will run at 2GHz, and the CPU bus will run at half that, but the PCI bridge will be fatally flawed or the ATA controller will be some cheap-ass off-the-shelf thing that keeps defaulting to PIO mode 2, or the OS will heavily depend on double-length integer math, which Altivec doesn't support natively, so performance will suck, even if they manage to get the 64-bit "Sméagol" build of 10.2 out tomorrow as well. These über-honking dual-G5s at 2GHz will probably resemble a 700MHz Pentium III at best. Oh, and they'll probably come with last year's ATI and NVidia cards, or have outdated drivers, or all the game companies will simultaneously announce the cessation of all game development for the Mac platform tomorrow, rendering the new machines useless for any and all purposes under the Sun.

Now that that's all out of the way:

I will be at the Valley Fair Apple Store tomorrow morning between 9:00 and 10:00, in eager anticipation of the keynote being broadcast to the video screen inside. I will also be carrying my AmEx, which to this date has been used for almost nothing except buying Macs (the one exception to which CapLion knows about); house or no house, I've still got plenty of justification for spending whatever money these new things are going to cost. I've still got plenty of space left in the ol' home equity. Plus I need one. Yeah, that's right. My current machine was brand-spanking-new in January of 2000. That's over three years old, an age that Wintel PCs in this day and age are lucky to see intact. Yet who can blame Macs for seeming slow, when someone is always around to come up and say, "Damn, Macs are slow! Why, I played with one the other day, and it was slow as hell!" And I'd ask, "What model was it?" Thinking, Bondi Blue iMac? Barbie-purse iBook? Blue & White G3? And he'd answer, "Oh, that beige one downstairs." Meaning a Performa 6400 from 1996. Well, hell yeah it'll be slow! But look, it's still perfectly serviceable, right? Still indispensable to its department? Nobody ever throws a Mac away-- they keep it around until it's hobbling around on a cane, as much for sentimental reasons as for the fact that they've come to depend on it being there and working the same way every day, year after year. Small wonder people always have the impression that Macs are slow-- the average Mac that the non-Mac person gets to play with is like five years old. And chugging along strong.

My G4/450 is in need of a new keyboard, and its power supply fan has been replaced once in defiance of the warranty stipulations, but other than that it's running and jumping like an adolescent puppy. Should I succumb to the siren call of a new machine with twice as many CPUs each running three to five times faster than corresponding G4s clock-for-clock, and then again five times faster by clock frequency than my current machine, plus 64-bit benefits and PCI-X and Serial ATA and no CPU bus bottleneck and DDR RAM, I still won't be able to bring myself to just hurl my 450 onto the dung-heap. I'll have to take it to work and set it up in the lab as a server, or in the corner of my desk as a test workhorse, or put it in the closet to stream MP3s over AirPort-- something to keep it happy while it lives out its days, something to help it feel useful as it ages. The digital equivalent of a rocking chair and a pocketknife and a nice big pile of whittlin' wood.

If it forgets who I am and tells me to get off its damn lawn, I'll do so right away. It's earned the right.


00:35 - Today

(top)
We're rapidly closing in on the house. I don't have photos (bad me, I know-- but you try keeping track of a digicam and camcorder and charger for the latter, between the old house, the new house, and work, while carting a truckload of random detritus each morning, and forgetting my iPod so we have to listen to whatever CDs Lance happens to have in his car-- and maybe Capri is an overly sensitive-eared dog, but I for one can't find it in my heart to blame him for burying his head under the pillows when he hears Angela Shrieking Lansbury in Sweeney Todd, which, don't get me wrong, is a fantastic piece, but it's also Sondheim, which means steam whistles and angry shouting and chords never before heard by man or dog)-- but I will one of these days, I still promise.

In any case, we got a lot done-- the carpet was installed last weekend, so now the key milestone is to get the bathrooms painted so the guy who installed it can come back on his own, non-Carpeteria-employed time and redo our linoleum. (Sorry, whoever built the house, but floral-pattern floors don't do it for me.) So now the public upstairs bathroom is the deep Fresh Herbs green, and Lance's bathroom is the Ripe Currant red, the red that takes about nineteen coats before you can't see any brush strokes anymore. (I think there are still some in there, but you can't see them if the lights are off, so there!) The living room is also furnished except for the TV and other electronics, the octagonal kitchen table is in, and so is the bistro table in the breakfast nook. My awesome couches have been wrestled into my room, to the detriment of the door trim, which made a gap 28.5 inches wide, through which we had to maneuver a 28.75-inch couch. But we got it in. The couch came out the better of the two.

Anyway, we also took Capri to the dog park off Hellyer. I swear, that dog was brought up in a finishing school; as soon as he was off his leash, he started trotting around with the other dogs; but when they started running and jumping and wrestling, he watched quizzically, head on one side, ears up inquisitively, with that look one can imagine so well: What in the bloody hell are you playing at?! And then he decided it was his duty to sniff every single square inch of grass in the entire fenced-off area. This took some time, but what the hell, it made him happy.

He's taking to the new house quite well, though. Which is all to the good, because he's perfectly color-coordinated for it. Here's where I flagellate myself for not having remembered my camera, because I need visuals for this: being a tricolor collie, he's black and brown and light brownish-gold with a white neck-ruff. And the house colors? Black (couches), light brownish-gold (walls) and brown (the one accent wall) and white (ceilings and trim). One of these days I'll get a pose on camera and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, it's early to bed for me tonight. I'll be up early.


14:01 - Rockin' Website of the Day
http://www.concepthouse.com/products/Fluid/

(top)
I went to this site seeking the "Fluid" screensaver (thanks to a tip in MacAddict), but while waiting for the download, found myself stunned at the things they've managed to pull off with the website design.



Go ye and look, if you're using Safari. (I checked using IE on both Mac and Windows, and it doesn't look remotely right. Does it not support these features?) They've got curved-boundary layers with alpha blending, CSS up the wazoo, and gorgeous text layout. All in a very small amount of back-end code, and no frames. I'm floored.

Oh, and the screensaver itself rocks, too. Randomizer is indeed the way to go; it's always fun to see a surprising selection of ways your monitor might look if it were a CRT in its last death-throes. Amazingly, the fluid effects render almost perfectly smoothly on my G4/450. I'd love to see how it looks at work. (Or on one of Monday's Mystery Machines.)

Plus you can install a "Theme Server" and serve your themes to other Macs on the local network; the screen saver is Rendezvous-enabled, so it will automatically discover Fluid themes being served from anywhere else on the LAN and let you run them. Even the randomizer will cycle through the networked themes. Sweeet.

Saturday, June 21, 2003
13:59 - Sew up that damn cat bag!
http://www.deskmod.com/panther/

(top)
Paul sends me this set of images (and related Slashdot thread) purportedly of some new features of OS X.3, "Panther", which we'll be seeing for real on Monday.

I'm, uh, skeptical. Some of these pictures look rather unpolished, somehow, and "un-Apple" in style, though that can be attributed to two things: 1) These are early, in-development snapshots; and 2) Apple's "style" is changing quite dramatically for 10.3, which doesn't really surprise me. No more pin-stripes in the title bars, and they're much less pronounced elsewhere. (So long, in other words, to the stylistic nod to OS 9 and earlier, which is what the pin-stripes were.) But a little more odd, to me, is the decidedly Windows XP-like tone to a lot of stuff. The new "Video" button in the iChat screenshot, for instance, is green and bulgy, just like in XP. The disk-inspector thingy ("Xdrive") looks garbled and confusing in layout (what's it supposed to be, anyway?), and what's up with the "About Finder" window with its tagline of The Macintosh Desktop Experience? What, Mac OS XP? Is that it?

But aside from that, the new features look cool. Labels are back-- whoopeeee! Just in time, too-- I'm about to need labels a whole lot now. Folder actions! A "Security" system preference! Neato revamped Activity Monitor. But the big thing seems to be this "Exposé" feature; I can't quite figure out what it does (GIR: Whatsit doooo? Whatsit doooooo?) "Exposé allows you to temporarily see all of your open windows at once, so you can easily click on any window to bring it to the front." Um... yay! I think! From the look of it, it takes all your overlapping open windows and Quartz-shrinks them all so they can tile onto your desktop; they're all a perfect scaled-down image of their former selves, and you can then grab one with a click. Rather neat. I'm sure it'll make great eye-candy in the demo, too.

Who knows what else lurks in those other subtly redesigned and reorganized System Preferences... I guess we'll find out on Monday. If this is a hoax, it's a pretty ballsy one to pull two days before the truth comes out.


13:41 - Oops
http://forums.maccentral.com/wwwthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=news030619powermacg5

(top)
I guess this is further evidence towards Thursday night's little G5 web-flub being the work of a hapless web-gnome (rather than, for instance, a hack attack from outside).

Summary
Function supports the World Wide Store management team and the 2+Billion online business. The position manages day to day publishing requirements such as image updates, third party loads, pricing changes, new feature enhancements, application improvements and application testing. Position also supports product launch deadlines, managing graphic and business resources to achieve business objectives. The job includes the ability to manage resources, prepare appropriate documentation based on business requirements, delegate tasks to team members, effectively and clearly communicate project status and manage project risk. Project Manager will have direct reports and is responsible for coordinating with world wide counterparts.

Poor guy.

It's rare, though, that the unfolding of these little dramas is so cut-and-dried. This couple of weeks is going to be one for the ages; when the Apple Soap Opera is released on DVD in twenty years, this will be one of the highlight episodes.

Thursday, June 19, 2003
01:42 - Someone better invent a cat-proof bag
http://www.macnn.com/news/19826

(top)
First the TIME/iMac debacle, and now this: some silly person has once again blown Steve's show.

Apple has seemingly inadvertently posted specifications of upcoming Power Mac models on its online Apple Store. Under the Power Mac G4 section, a list of specifications describes "the world's fastest personal computer" as containing . . .

Don't look if you like surprises.

I'm kinda let down by this. Not by the specs (not gonna complain about these, is all I'm sayin'), but by the fact that they couldn't keep the wraps on until Monday. Steve will have some hapless web-monkey's head on a plate.

Assuming, of course, this isn't a hoax. The wording on the specs is a little odd-- somewhat ambiguous and choice-y. There's apparent corroboration from commenters, but it could be an elaborate gag...

I guess it all comes down to how much I feel like believing conspiracy theories these days. I'm not saying it's time to break out the crop-circle flatteners and put on the tinfoil hats, but it wouldn't be amiss to save up a few Gs...

Spotted by J Greely.

UPDATE: DAMN TEH INTARWEB!!!11!1`


19:44 - They're coming
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/channelnewswwdc.html

(top)
Hurry! Get your 1.42GHz Power Macs before they're all gone! Apple's discontinuing them!

As mysterious boxes seep into the channel, inventories of the current Power Mac G4 lineup are getting slimmer and slimmer, a trend that started weeks ago. At this point, the high-end 1.42GHz model -- the most popular Power Mac -- is nearly gone, and Apple has told distributors and resellers not to expect new shipments. While there are a fair number of the mid-range 1.25GHz models in the channel, the low-end 1GHz, like the high-end, has generally been cleared.

This comes as Apple has reportedly been supplying its Apple retail stores with boxes scheduled to be opened Monday afternoon, and not before then, first noted by MacRumors earlier in the week. According to Think Secret sources, some Apple stores have already received the boxes, while others expect to receive them later this week (but still in advance of the Monday keynote). As can be expected, security around these boxes -- which reportedly come in multiple sizes -- has been tight.

There's always, of course, another explanation...

(Of course, as AtAT has it, the "mysterious boxes" are probably full of human kidneys on ice.)


19:32 - He asked for it
http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=560222

(top)
My favorite has to be this one, by far:




13:02 - Where's that music coming from?
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,59270,00.html

(top)

Steven sends me this interesting link: a Wired article on a few enterprising music aficionados who have managed to develop a workable business proposition around iPods.

Instead of piping bland background music over tinny speakers, enterprising music promoters are loading hundreds of hours of hip tunes onto iPods and renting them to restaurants, nightspots, clothing boutiques and hair salons.

"It's hard for (smaller independent) labels to get exposure, and it's hard for stores to get the right music," said Lara Wiesenthal, the brains behind an iPod music service called Activaire. "I really get the perfect music into the stores, and it allows me to disseminate the labels' music to a different audience."

. . .

Wiesenthal has licensed hundreds of songs from nearly 100 independent labels, most specializing in cutting-edge electronica.

From her library of nearly 100 GB of songs, Wiesenthal can tailor about 30 hours of music for each client. She often creates special playlists for different moods -- upbeat or mellow -- or different times of the day.

"The point is to provide the stores with more music than they were used to, and to make it automatic, hands-off," she said. "The iPod makes it really easy. They can even hit different playlists for different moods -- one for the morning, the afternoon or evening."

Every three months, Wiesenthal ships a new iPod to her clients with a new selection of music. The clients return the old iPod via package delivery service.

"Bill... bill... junk... bill... <clunk> oh look-- the spring music is here!"

One of his nonpaying clients, Roger Main, general manager of the Adriatica restaurant/lounge, said he's delighted with the service.

"I'm a technophobe. I didn't know how it was going to take care of us," Main said. "But it does a great job. The bartender chooses the playlist. It's better than a jukebox. The establishment controls the mood, not the customers."

Porter said he's been trying to find a way to market independent music for years. He experimented with mix tapes and custom CDs, but was never able to provide the variety and convenience of using an iPod.

"When the iPod came along, it was so easy, it was beautiful," he said. "You edit out all the bad stuff, all the filler songs, and you give people beautiful music. There's an endless supply, and it's always cutting edge and hip and cool."

The legality of some of these variations is rather questionable-- if more people are going to be doing this, they're going to have to go Weisenthal's route and license the music in question. But that said, it's hard to deny that this is a cool idea.

I've actually been toying with a similar plan for piped music in the new house; I could pick a central spot, like in a hallway or at the edge of the living room, and dig out a recess in the wall and edge it nicely. Then I'd tap the power line and attach a permanent power supply, and run audio cable throughout the walls to all rooms where I want them, and drop the endpoints into a splitter outside the recess. Then I'd pop in an iPod. You'd be able to dial up whatever music you want, or just let it play at random or in a playlist or genre or something. And if you want to refresh the music list, you could pop it out and sync it to the host computer.

I'd been thinking based on a custom swiveling top-mounted snap-dock, in fact, where you could plug the iPod in at the top and then swing it down into place; but now that the 2nd-gen iPods are out and have base-mounted docks that contain power and audio out and FireWire/USB2, the proposition becomes that much easier.

Of course, this is all just a silly pipe dream. I wouldn't actually do this.

Or would I?!?

UPDATE: Bah! Kris is way ahead of me, sort of. He's had a computerized house-control system forever, called "James", which until just recently consisted of the LCD and keyboard and trackball of an old Mac Portable mounted on the wall, and used for monitoring open windows and doors, temperatures, and so on. A little while ago he replaced it with an iBook (James Jr. II); and it's now being used as the music broadcasting point for the house. See, it has iTunes 4 on it, and shares music over AirPort from his main desktop Mac. Then, the audio out is piped to his main house stereo. That way the wall-mounted machine doesn't need to actually store any of the music-- it just relays it. And it's controllable using iTunes' own interface.

It's got an Orrin Hatch detector, too.


11:22 - Oooh. How you say, ze OUCH.
http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters06-17-110548.asp?reg=EUROPE

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Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi:

"They missed a good opportunity to shut up," Berlusconi told reporters in response to French criticism of his decision not to meet Palestinian leaders during a recent trip to Israel.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said this week that Berlusconi had "not satisfied the European position" by holding talks only with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his June 9 visit to Jerusalem.

"I went (to Israel) as the prime minister of Italy. There's no way France can issue criticism over something that was the sole right and responsibility of the Italian prime minister," Berlusconi said, clearly bristling with irritation.

His choice of words in telling France to keep quiet precisely echoed comments made by French President Jacques Chirac earlier this year when he criticised east European leaders for their staunch backing of the U.S. position on Iraq.

The man may be under investigation for corruption, but he's still the leader of a major European nation-- and it seems to me that if major European leaders are going to start tossing barbs like this, and hold steaming grudges over French paternalistic sneering just like the Americans do, well-- might this be the beginning of the meltdown of the EU?

FRANCE: The Italian government has not satisfied the European position, and is acting in an irresponsible and unilateral manner, something we've come to expect of the Americans, but unbefitting of an enlightened European nation. Italy has missed a good oppor--
ITALY: France, you just missed an excellent opportunity to kiss my ass.

I understand Italy is beautiful this time of year.

Via Tim Blair.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
19:47 - Overnight Ubiquity
http://www.bangkokpost.com/Database/18Jun2003_datacol61.html

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This is a riot. It reads like a parody, but from the look of what's on the cited USB.org website, it's not.

At the end of last year the USB Implementation Forum met _ Microsoft is on the board of directors while the chairman/president is Jason Ziller of Intel _ and decided that the matter was perhaps too clear, too transparent to the customer. Rotten customers were asking what version USB was installed on a machine and if it was USB 1.1 they thought it inferior to USB 2.

The Forum came up with a clever way of dealing with this.

In December it announced that henceforth USB 1.1 would be called USB 2 and USB 2 would continue to be called USB 2.

To help the public grasp this subtle distinction USB 2, which was the old USB 1.1, would have ``Full Speed'' added to its title and USB 2, which was USB 2, would have ``Hi-Speed'' added.

Not only did the consumers not get the subtle beauty and usefulness of this change. Neither did the retailers.

They, unstudied clods that they are, thought that if a device said USB 2 they could sell it as being to the old USB 2 standard. In their ignorance they did not realise that USB 2 could be USB 1.1 or USB 2 depending.

No kidding. So, as Kris says, all Macs back through the original 1998 iMac actually have USB 2.0 now! Excellent! That's got to be the easiest adoption curve ever in the history of computing. (Except for all the documentation that will have to be retroactively corrected.)

It's been a mantra of mine for some months now that business decisions tend to get made for very good reasons; if something looks absolutely retarded to the end user, a little bit of research will usually reveal that at the implementation level, or at the finance level, or at the executive level, somewhere along the line the decision made perfect sense-- and with that in mind, the whole rest of the decision's ramifications make sense as well.

But this one... whoo. I'd love to hear the explanation for this.

Wait, I bet I know. I remember when "letterbox" video releases were new, and some dimwitted malcontents got all up in arms about how it was "censorship"-- because it put those black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Even when it was explained to them that the original image was wide, and so those black bars had to be there because of the different shapes of the image and the TV, they still said it was censorship-- because it was shrinking the image to less than what their screens could show. They demanded that movies be released in pan-and-scan format, so it would use the shape of their screens to their full advantage. They even tried to organize boycotts of HDTV because it was inherently widescreen and "promoted" the evil letterboxing method.

So video companies started calling pan-n-scan "Fullscreen" or "Full-frame" so as to appease these people. Wonderful solution, don't you think? There's no longer any such thing as "inferior technology". Everybody wins! Everybody gets a gold star!

Now those same visionaries are apparently in charge of the USB consortium.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003
21:57 - To coin a phrase
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/003873.php

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Tim Blair links, and micro-fisks, this column by John Naughton:

In the current hysterical atmosphere, putting an anti-Bush poster in your window might result in a brick being thrown through it. Alternatively, of course, it might result in a ring at the doorbell and a neighbour saying 'Thank God someone has spoken out against this nonsense'. The point is that you cannot know in advance, and nobody is willing to take the risk.

Uh-huh.

That's the wonderful thing about our fascist police state: dissent is so easy, so protected, so mainstream, that you can formulate an entire genre of discourse about how your discourse is being suppressed and banished to furtive underground whisperings.

Whenever I see an article like this in the future, I'm going to think of it as the crushing of assent.


19:38 - Movable Object Meets Irresistible Force
http://workingknowledge.hbs.edu/pubitem.jhtml?id=3533&t=innovation

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Kris forwards me this tasty little book excerpt regarding the development of the Segway (then known as Ginger), and the fateful meeting in which Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and other investors met with inventor Dean Kamen and discussed development and marketing plans. The lesson everyone learned was that you don't ask for Steve Jobs' input unless you expect to have the whole thing turned on its ass.

"Because I see a big problem here," said Jobs. "I was thinking about it all night. I couldn't sleep after Dean came over." There were notes scribbled on the palm of his hand. He explained his experience with the iMac, how there were four models now but he had launched with just one color to give his designers, salespeople, and the public an absolute focus. He had waited seven months to introduce the other models. Bezos and Doerr nodded as he spoke.

"You're sure your market is upscale consumers for transportation?" said Jobs.

"Yes, but we know that's a risk for us," said Tim, "because we could be perceived as a toy or a fad."

If they charged a few thousand dollars for the Metro and it was a hit, said Jobs, they could come out with the Pro later and charge double for industrial and military uses.

Tim's eyebrows shot up approvingly. He looked at Dean, whose face was a mask, so he turned elsewhere. "Mike?" he said, looking at Mike Ferry for a marketing opinion.

"It's a good point," said Mike, giving his usual noncommittal response.

"What does everyone think about the design?" asked Doerr, switching subjects.

"What do you think?" said Jobs to Tim. It was a challenge, not a question.

"I think it's coming along," said Tim, "though we expect—" "I think it sucks!" said Jobs.

Fascinating reading.

Monday, June 16, 2003
01:38 - Doin' What You're Paid To

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I've often been vaguely worried whenever I find that some comedian or musician or other entertainment figure is also a lucid, well-spoken political voice. Every time some entertainer goes on a talk show or releases a statement or interview that shows him or her to be not just a freaky controversial headliner, but also someone with good ideas about some thorny issue or other, I find myself looking nervously over my shoulder. Because it means that these people quite often are eminently qualified to hold some kind of political office or other decision-making position, but-- because they had the talent for it-- they decided to do stand-up comedy or music instead. After all, being a star pays more and earns you more brownie points among the public than being a politician, right? And what does that say for the people who do end up in public office?

I'm put in mind of the fact that I could probably name twenty colleagues who would each and every one make the best IT techs in the industry. They could revolutionize the whole field of IT service and infrastructure, bringing a level of UNIX and Windows knowledge and security expertise and customer-friendliness to the job that is so often sadly lacking in IT departments. The only problem is that these people are also programmers, and so are they going to take the less-glamorous, lower-paying IT job if they can program for a living? Hell no. So we end up with IT departments staffed not by the people who are best at IT, but by those who aren't any better at anything else.

So it was with a certain degree of relief that I heard today's Fresh Air show on NPR, in which Terry Gross interviewed Colin Quinn of Tough Crowd fame. After some patter about Colin's war humor during the Iraq "episode", Terry asked him the following rather pointed questions:

TG: Were you in favor of the war in Iraq?

CQ: [tautly] Yes.

TG: Tell me-- have you had a change of heart at all, regarding your support for the war, now that it's being put forward that the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was supposed to have had have turned out to be... not as numerous as we'd thought, and that the Bush administration deliberately used misleading intelligence reports and exaggerated items so as to drum up support for the war?

Upon which Colin gave an insipid, stammering, rambling answer that amounted more or less to: Well, my support for the war doesn't mean I can't be proven wrong by later events. And I guess the way I feel is that while our motives in pushing for the war may not have been particularly "pure", I figure that, you know, we're the lesser of two evils here.

Got that? Between Saddam remaining in power and us removing Saddam, we're the lesser of two evils. He supported the war all the way, but it was the lesser of two evils. Children's prisons and mass graves are being opened and sculptors are raising new pieces of populist art and rejoicing in their newfound lives, and it's the lesser of two evils.

Even worse, though: the "evil" of the war was not based on the civilian casualties, of which there were ridiculously few, but on the idea that our information on Iraq's destructive capabilities was oversold. See, that's what's evil. The benefits of having fought the war pale compared to the possibility that it was fought under false pretenses.

I'd love to see the hearing, wouldn't you? This joint session of Congress finds that the war in Iraq was fought on the basis of false information; therefore, we have resolved on this date to remove all US and coalition military forces from Iraq, reinstall the rightful leadership of the Ba'ath party, and in the absence of the sovereign ruler Saddam Hussein (who we now consider to have been wrongfully executed in an unlawful incursion by our own armed forces), place the nation of Iraq under the governance of the highest-ranking Ba'ath official who can be found, perhaps Tariq Aziz or Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. Furthermore, we resolve to offer the aid of our military in rounding up all political prisoners who had been freed in the unwarranted invasion, and return them to the prisons where they had been serving their rightful terms; we will confiscate and reinter the remains of Iraqis that had been collected by family members from unearthed mass graves; and we will assist in the restoration of the hundreds of thousands of portaits and statues of Saddam Hussein that were so wantonly destroyed by our military forces during the incursion. We humbly seek the Iraqi people's forgiveness for our inexcusable actions, and we hope that time and our genuine wish to make amends for our wrongdoing can one day heal the terrible wound we have inflicted upon the Middle East. In our defense we can only say that we had considered ourselves the "lesser of two evils", but our inability to prove concretely that Saddam Hussein had the alleged weapons of mass destruction makes the US the greater evil after all.

As has been pointed out in numerous other places, if we can't find the WMDs, it's not just egg on Bush's face, if egg it is indeed. It's egg on the faces of Chirac, Schröder, Putin, Daschle, Hans Blix, Bill Clinton, and everybody else over the past twelve years who has known that Iraq had been in possession of WMDs-- and, because Saddam had failed to account for the destruction of said WMDs, that we had every reason to believe he still had them. He even threatened to use them on our troops. Wasn't that even one of the reasons advanced by anti-war leftists as to why we shouldn't invade? That our troops would be subjected to chem/bio/nuke attack? Well? What of that risk, eh?

Charles Osgood suggested the other day that perhaps the reason why Saddam kept giving every impression that he was armed to the teeth was not that he had WMDs and was trying to hide it-- but that he didn't have WMDs, and was trying to hide that. It was his only deterrent, the impression that he still had weapons, even if they'd all been sold to Yemeni taxi drivers by now. Maybe Saddam didn't even know his shorts were down, because his underlings could only safely comment on the beauty of his missing clothes.

But be that as it may, I'd come to expect comedians in positions like the one Colin Quinn is in to understand enough human psychology to understand what the WMD charge was all about: a saleable pretext for the war. Not, mind you, that without the pretext, the war was a bad thing; or, notably, that pretext automatically implies lie; just that the war needed to happen, but that it would never have gotten the approval it did under a different sale slogan. Even if Iraq had WMDs, that in itself was hardly sufficient reason to invade; North Korea very likely has nukes by now, but we're not invading. So may Iran, but we're not invading. Why? Because WMDs are things we can manage one way or another; but Saddam himself was not, by any means short of war. And just you try getting UN approval for the removal of a dictator, for the removal's own sake.

The reverberations of our stroke in Iraq are being felt throughout the Arab world exactly as we'd hoped: the US can no longer be dismissed as a bunch of pansies who are afraid of blood and unwilling to strike back, strike hard, and strike perhaps irrationally. We're not, perhaps, nuking the moon; but the principle is the same. Ever hear of Nixon's "madman" theory? Let the Russkies think Nixon had gone mad and would push the button at the slightest provocation, without thought for whether the US would get destroyed in a nuclear exchange; that way the Soviets wouldn't launch an attack on their own, because they knew he'd scorch the earth in response? Well, this is that on a much smaller scale. We're not just lashing out randomly; we're taking the opportunity to clean house. Suddenly everyone's scrambling to get their shit together.

Whether we find the weapons or we don't, it really doesn't matter. Sure, it would be extremely nice to know where they ended up; it'd be very reassuring to find them, intact, and not sold to terrorists or kindergarteners. But it doesn't invalidate the war, make its outcome any more or less honorable, or make us "good" or "evil" depending on whether they turn up or not. I'm not saying "the ends justify the means," here; in our case the means of the war were also unprecedently benign. What I'm saying is that the whole WMD thing is a herring that's so red that those who treat it with earth-shaking massive-scandal-of-the-century significance are only making themselves look even more foolish than the people in San Francisco who still drive around with bumper stickers that say ATTACK IRAQ? NO!

Colin Quinn may be part of a beleaguered breed, a pro-war figure in Hollywood. But it seems to me he could have made a stronger case, with the opportunity handed to him as it was on a silver platter to behead Ms. Gross on live radio. Instead, he seemed more eager to sycophantically back down and cover his head with his arms and squirm away from her Glower Power, in the interest of keeping from being excused early from the show.


14:11 - Stirring the pot
http://www.looprumors.com/

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LoopRumors has a photo of one of the latest new Apple Stores, in Chestnut Hills, MA. And it looks quite a bit different from the Apple Stores we're all used to. Apparently this is the New Look for the stores, which they'll all be adopting over time (one is to assume).

Wood tables now instead of the smooth white curved display surfaces. The Genius Bar has been moved to the middle of the side wall. The checkout register has been moved to the back wall-- replacing the theater. This is the part that really startles me. They're getting rid of the theater? That was the coolest part! How are they going to do demos of new products? How are they going to hold how-to sessions? It was also a great draw for passers-by; who can walk by an Apple Store with a ten-foot-high star-power actor waving an iPod from the back wall?

I suppose one might draw a positive conclusion from this: that Apple needs to reclaim some floor space for product, floor space that was being "wasted" on the theater. If, say, they'd never had theaters before but were installing them, the cynical might conclude that Apple didn't have enough interesting product with which to justify all their floor space, and they were trying to pad it with space-hungry attractions. But that's the opposite of what's actually happening; maybe it means sales are so good that they have to dispense with the theater section in order to get all the stock out on display.

But somehow that idea doesn't sit right with me. I think it may simply be a good old-fashioned Bad Idea. And who knows-- maybe the photo lies. Maybe the theater is in there somewhere, just artfully hidden away.

Then again, no. Besides... where the hell's the software?

UPDATE: Tim reminds me that there are two major canned floorplans for the Apple Stores-- a 30-foot-wide one and a 45-foot one. It's the 45'er that has the theater. (This is aside from the big custom ones, like SoHo and Reston and such.) But the decor in this photo still does look quite a bit different; I don't remember seeing wood tables like those anywhere before.

Then again, I haven't been paying much attention lately.


13:35 - The Last Mile

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In case anybody's wondering why I haven't done any posting all weekend, well, it's because I've been painting all weekend. Again, yes. With conscripted labor, yes. Lance sat at the end of the upstairs hallway, cross-legged on a dais above a large kettle drum that he beat slowly with two massive mallets, the monotonous rolling rhythm infusing itself as a tic into all our muscles as we rolled the paint onto the walls in a grim, teeth-clenched unison.

But we made it. Though I spent most of the day up in Marin chortling and reminiscing and feasting with family who had flown out from Georgia and driven down from Ukiah, I got back just in time to help tie up all the loose ends, help finish untaping the trim, and dispose of the mountains of detritus and painting crap that had become piled on every flat carpeted surface. And now all the actual painting is done, the carpets are clear, and the Carpeteria installer should be arrivingggggg......... rightaboutnow.

After which begins the new phase of the marathon: moving. Couches go upstairs. Paint effects and crown molding go onto the bedroom walls. Electrical outlets get replaced where necessary. Bathrooms and kitchen and all non-carpeted areas get painted. Countertop tile gets replaced where it had to be forcibly broken out in order to get the dishwasher into place. Cabinets get refaced. New built-in pantry cabinets get made and installed. Deck gets built. Trees get planted. Front-yard landscaping gets done.

And some dire catastrophe occurs that I can't accurately predict, but that I know must be coming simply because it hasn't happened yet.

I hope it's nothing worse than the fact that I seem to have run out of checks with which to pay the carpet installers.

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© Brian Tiemann