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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Friday, October 31, 2003
15:13 - What if you threw a bomb party and nobody came?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44857-2003Oct30.html

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Everybody's linking to Charles Krauthammer today, and so I'll jump on the bandwagon, if only because it's a pretty good summation of what a lot of one-off essays around the blogosphere have been piecing together, bit by bit, for months now. It's sort of a status report, a checkpoint on what those of us who have been paying attention have known from the start would be a long, bitter trudge, rather than an effortless magical transformation. (The only difference being that we evidently decided that just because something is hard doesn't make it not worthwhile.)

It's a short column, and I could nearly quote the whole thing. But I won't.

Our enemies in Iraq have learned these lessons well. The car bomb of Oct. 12 was aimed at the Baghdad Hotel, housing not just large numbers of Americans but much of the provisional Iraqi government. It would have been the equivalent of the two Beirut bombings in one: a psychologically crushing massacre of Americans -- which would have sparked immediate debate at home about withdrawal -- and the instantaneous destruction of much of the pro-American government, a political decapitation that would have left very few Iraqis courageous enough to fill the vacuum.

The bomber failed. Most significantly, it was Iraqi police who assisted in shooting up the car at a relatively safe distance and thus preventing a catastrophe. The car bomb campaign has, however, continued with singular ferocity since. The war in Iraq now consists of a race: The United States is racing to build up Iraqi police and armed forces capable of taking over the country's security -- before the Saddam loyalists and their jihadist allies can produce that single, Beirut-like car bomb that so discourages Americans (and Iraqis) that we withdraw in disarray.

Who wins the race? If this president remains in power, the likelihood is that we do.


Maybe this is why suddenly a whole bunch of liberal Democrats, politicians and bloggers alike, are coming out of the woodwork and endorsing Bush. Zell Miller. Roger Simon. A bunch of others. (Read the post for some great one-liners and links to the original sources.) Suddenly people are realizing what even this Democratic Underground seething fury-boy (passed on by Andrew Sullivan) has suddenly evidently come to realize:

regardless of right or wrong.
we dont want to be associated with supporting the killing of our own troops.
that would be political suicide… we dont want to be associated with “supporting” Iraqi resistance.
something like that would make us (dems, libs, progs, whoever) look terrible and just give the opposition fuel.

And who knows-- maybe even some of them think that supporting terrorists against our own troops is wrong for other reasons than merely "political suicide". I mean, hey, I don't expect miracles-- there's a long way to go on the ol' rehabilitation trail for some of these people. But it's a positive first step, as they say.

A couple of days ago, there was the oddest feeling, among my friends and in my inbox, that there was a chill wind a-blowin'... that people were suddenly digging in, taking sides, and lashing out at each other in a cross-spectrum all-out free-for-all, tearing apart old friendships and turning implicit trust into bitter disappointment and betrayal. I watched this happen in various LiveJournal comment pages, and I wondered if the witching hour of All Saints' was upon us-- if all the usually friendly and occasionally sarcastic back-and-forth over the past two years was finally about to give way to all-out ideological war.

Well, the situation seems to have been defused somewhat... but from the look of these links, the Left is sitting on top of a big frickin' juicer. There's this enormous sharp wedge being driven right up into the middle of the movement, and we're already seeing everybody to the right of a certain line start to peel off and join the world of the practical, gritting their teeth if necessary, but knowing that if forced to choose between supporting the War on Terror and lying down with people who shriek "Zionazis!" if you so much as breathe on them wrong, there are some things that are worse than war.

After all, if even Democrats are now saying things like this:

"I remember the day, and it wasn't so long ago, that liberals like me were attacking our government for supporting dictators. Now these new "liberals," or whatever they want to call themselves, attack our government for taking down dictators. "

... then they'll have to be quicker on the draw to catch up with Lileks, but better late than never.


14:32 - Enter the Matrix
http://www.macosrumors.com/

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Mac OS Rumors has the following bit of info:
Apple expecting major surge in cluster computing sales: According to reliable sources in Cupertino, Apple is hiring new staff to coordinate large-scale purchases of G5 systems (currently only PowerMacs of course, but soon to include Xserves and possibly the rumored Xstation) for use in clustering systems - scientific, educational, business, and governmental applications primarily.

Documents recently acquired by rumors include a memo which states that "we now expect yearly systems sales directly attributable to clustering/grid computing applications to exceed 50,000 units in 2004 and 80,000 units in 2005." The memo goes on to state that indirect sales for systems that will distribute loads across multiple computers in less formal environments could eventually double those numbers. Xgrid, Apple's distributed computing technology suite, is under heavy development and Apple is hard at work on other aspects of its hardware and software lineup to take into account rapidly growing demand for these technologies -- not just industry-wide, but also very particularly in terms of consumer interest in Apple itself, following the much-publicized Virginia Tech G5-cluster supercomputer.

Hearing sales projections like that is pretty unusual; I don't know what credence to give this news, but if this ZDNet article is anything to go by, the high-end Mac-based supercomputing market may well be turning into a surprising cash cow.

A supercomputer formed of a cluster of Macintosh G5 PCs has inched higher in the list of the world's fastest machines, ahead of all but two rivals -- and its performance could still improve, according to the system's architect.

According to the latest performance figures fromVirginia Tech's Terascale Cluster, nicknamed the Big Mac, the system is computing at 9.55 trillion operations per second, or teraflops. That puts it behind only Japan's Earth Simulator, at 35.8 teraflops, and the ASCI Q supercomputer, at 13.8 teraflops. The figures were posted in a report by Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the top 500 list.

The Big Mac is turning heads in the high-performance computing world because it has been built for just over $5m (£3.2m), from off-the-shelf Macintosh PCs, in about six months. Top-ranked supercomputers traditionally cost hundreds of millions of pounds and can take years to construct...

The cluster was assembed from 1,100 dual-CPU Macs using IBM's 64-bit G5 processor. Varadarajan said the university paid the full $3,000 price tag for the PCs, and said he had at first considered using processors from Intel or AMD. Intel's Itanium 2 was too slow, while AMD's Opteron was too expensive, Varadarajan said. He said he is planning to upgrade the cluster to Apple's new Panther version of the Mac OS X operating system shortly.

Reports are that the guys doing the Virginia cluster are being approached by people from places like Lawrence Livermore Labs, and Varadarajan is sending them the plans quite happily. Never a Mac user before buying the G5s, apparently he now also has Mac desktops and laptops all over his office.

And this is before they've even announced a G5-based Xserve.

When that happens, and once the mysterious Xgrid project is formally announced (whatever it is), I guess we can expect to see a whole lot of focus coming out of Cupertino aimed at pushing Macs as high-end workstations. And from the sound of it, it's a bargain at the price.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
23:51 - The meme spreads
http://makali.livejournal.com/197902.html

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A friend of mine has come to a few conclusions about iTunes:

So what've I been doing with iTunes? Well firstly I've been learning to forget about pretty filenames and well-arranged sound files. The point of iTunes isn't that it helps to organise your file system (though it can). The point is that it completely replacesyour file system when it comes to music. With iTunes you aren't supposed to care how files are named, or arranged; it does all that for you, but incidentally — on the side, as it were — it keeps things tidy behind the scenes at the files/folder level too. It's quite a thing to get your head around. But then you have to take a step back and ask what the point of the exercise is.

Previously I'd been using MusicBrainz to maintain ID3 tags and arrange my music into folders with my own nice naming scheme. All very tidy. I ended up with a very neat folder system with files arranged by artist, and named by artist, album, track number, and then name. That means when I browse the folders, I see albums grouped together and I can do things like drop them onto winamp to play them in order. At the root of it is the same system I use for everything I do on my computer, and it's not my way of doing things, it's the computer's way of doing things, and I've simply fooled myself into thinking that it's convenient. What you forget over time is that these are "detail oriented tasks". You spend ages arranging things just so, editing tags, moving files around. What for? There're are always exceptions that break the system; like a compilation CD by various artists. Suppose I want a track from that CD - do I look for the artist who sang it, or under "various artists"? It's not a big problem, but it's something that computers were created to deal with for us. Using the file system restricts you to a single way of organising your files, and any other request breaks the system. These are things that sap my attention, and attention is my big limited resource. I have more and more to do, and less attention span to spend on doing it.

Why, yes.

Apple's trying to introduce a new way of thinking about what a computer is for, and what it does, and how the user is supposed to approach it. Of course, most users aren't going to spend all this time analyzing how the software works and thinks; they're just going to use it, and either like it or not like it, and keep it or ditch it accordingly. But apparently iTunes is different enough in this kind of philosophy from how typical Windows software operates that various people are predicting a rather seismic shift in how Windows apps will start to be written in coming months and years. Whether customers demand it, or developers start seeing a new angle to shoot for in the design space, it's a very real possibility.

And besides, as we can see, some people are getting it.

Also:

But that leads me on to my third and final sucking-point for iTunes: it's very much biased towards the legal usage, which is something that Windows users don't often see. Now I'm not accusing Windows users of being thieves, while Mac users are model citizens. But the proportion of warez users is higher in Windows - to the point that it's a user base that free software actually caters for in its design. Mac users get the lap of luxury and succumb gradually to Apple's siren song - spend, spend, spend. It's usually worth it, but it does change who you are as a person. Mac users really do think different(ly). See, winamp works really well with a huge collection of random music files, while iTunes works much better with an album collection that you own, that you've imported. I mean, to the point where iTunes very cutely allows you to drag and drop album cover art onto the browser, to attach to the current album, which will show whenever you play the track in future. The line is a little more blurred now that Winamp has a "media library" that works quite a lot like iTunes, but who the fuck uses that anyway? It's hidden behind the lightning bolt, as if it was an embarassment. Anyway, when the music comes from ... let's say "diverse sources", with patchy tagging and strange filenames, then iTunes isn't so perfect any more.

As many have noticed. I'm sure it's a little awkward for people to try to find fault with Apple for pandering to the paying consumer audience rather than the nudge-nudge-wink-wink audience, but that's exactly the nature of this schism that's being suddenly brought into the light. Yeah, everybody knows Macs are more expensive-- and that's not just the purchase price, it's also a general threshold of tolerance and expectation for how the computer interacts with your life. The Windows world, with its rock-bottom component-by-component systems and its intensely competitive gadget market and its wave after wave of ware-so-free-they-pay-you-to-use-it, thinks of computers as being something you use to the minimum extent that you have to pay for it, and virtue is found in gaining more utility for free. But the Mac world is much more willing to treat computing as a service-- not in the sense of "renting software" and such bonehead concepts, but in the sense of paying for premiums, purchasing class upgrades, making deals with a firm handshake rather than a clandestine nod and smirk. Many find this attitude to be elitist and snooty, and for good reason-- it's the same reason people distrust aristocracy. And they way Mac users look at Windows users is very much the same way that well-heeled Republicans view the hoi polloi, at least in all the stereotypes. Let them eat cake! Small wonder there's resentment.

Anyway-- the whole article is quite well thought out; there are a few incorrect bits (no, QuickTime does not rear up and poke at you to upgrade it to Pro every time you launch iTunes; and as for copying files to your consolidated iTunes Library folder, what about turning off the "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to Library" checkbox?), but overall he's nailed it, I think.


13:38 - Bloggers GOOD! Bloggers BAD!

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To hear Bill Gates say it, Microsoft is all happy-happy-joy-joy on the subject of blogs.

But what's interesting about this is a couple of things. First, it actually built in these common parts that show information, notification, services, that a user might really be interested in seeing when they're working on their main application, without popping up a window that covers it. For example, the time or their buddy list or a slide show, which, of course, you can add and remove these tiles here -- or even an RSS-feed built right into the sidebar. (Applause.) And you want to hear blogging or about to blog when they get -- who is going to be the first person after the keynote to go and post on their blog. Scobel, OK. Well, we'll see. It's going to be a race. But the best part about this is not that we have this functionality built into Windows. The best part, like everything I'm going to show you today, is that this is part of the platform. This is part of the SDK that you guys are going to get, you guys can write to it, and we think you can do great, great things with this.

(Via InstaPundit.)

And this blog that I mentioned a couple of days ago, which solicits customer feedback for input into Longhorn, would seem to be all part and parcel to that attitude.

....Eeeeeexcept, apparently, for when employees' blogs reveal Microsoft's dirty little secrets. Like, for instance, trucks bearing deliveries of G5s to the Redmond Campus on One Microsoft Way, as this hapless fellow documented.

"To my mind, it's an innocuous post. The presence of Macs on the Microsoft campus isn't a secret (for everything from graphic design work to the Mac Business Unit), and when I took the picture, I made sure to stand with my back to the building so that nothing other than the computers and the truck would be shown — no building features, no security measures, and no Microsoft personnel. However, it obviously wasn't enough.

Because they fired him.

Reading through the TrackBacks and comments on his latest post, though, I'm struck by a common thread: not the inevitable Mac users surfing in from all the Mac rumor/news sites, but all the guy's friends and associates and correspondents saying things like "FUCK YOU MICROSOFT... My Next computer is a Mac. You lost my business."

That's a helluva way to get Switchers, though, isn't it? "I used to be a PC user... until Microsoft FIRED me!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
02:58 - Oh, but the color scheme is all wrong, though...
http://www.reallifecomics.com/daily.php?strip_id=1051

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Hee.



11:51 - Angry Young Men
http://www.techcentralstation.com/102703A.html

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This TCS column by Arnold Kling has some interesting observations, ones that I don't find surprising these days:

I did not feel this sort of discomfort in 2000, which was the one other year when I attended Pop!tech. Back then, a conservative or libertarian attending the conference felt like a Jew among a group of tolerant Christians. This year, a conservative or libertarian felt like a Jew among a group of Christians whose main topic of conversation was the despicable nature of Jews.

I'm in the midst of a heretofore quite pleasant e-mail conversation with someone (met through a channel that would probably have led him to believe I'm way more liberal than I am) whose LiveJournal consists alternately of long, passionate, emotional, artistic soliloquies about the nature of beauty and the beauty of nature and so forth... and vitriolic revulsion toward the Right and its icons. "I tend to view anyone or anything bearing a Bush/Cheney logo in much the same way that I view biohazard labels -- they are warnings that the contents therein are likely to be volatile, unstable, antithetical to human life, and quite possibly lethal," he says. "This public safety notice brought to you by Citizens Who Still Know How To Think Clearly."

(I haven't told him my horrible secret yet. I dread the inevitable day when I will.)

A few days ago, he told me that "In these terrible times, I would probably be arrested for treason for speaking the mildest of my views, so I usually just shut up."

And I turned to the TV, where there was C-SPAN coverage of thousands of protesters gathering on the Mall in front of the Capitol ("the U.S. Parliament", that is), dancing around effigies of Bush's head on stakes planted in the ground, chanting "Fuck George Bush!" on national TV.

Anybody catch the estimates of how many were arrested, how many beaten or killed by police?

No?

Darn.

For the curious, here is an extensive photo-blog of the event.

And here's what happens to dissenting opinions (held by pregnant women, no less) who dare to show their faces.

And I'm left not feeling angry, not hateful, not sad... just bewildered. What has happened here?

How is it that the Left, with its vaunted compassion for the "common man", can have so little respect for the average Joe on the highway that a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker (or, horrors, a Christian one) is grounds for automatically dismissing the person-- his life lived to date, his opinions, his accomplishments, his career, his family, his military service or charity work or lack of any of those things-- as "volatile, unstable, antithetical to human life, and quite possibly lethal"?

It's okay-- he's just a "mass", right? And the masses understand nothing.

Discouragingly, I'm seeing more and more evidence that there's some kind of rolling wave of illogic and thoughtlessness taking a grip on this country. There are plenty of people on the Left who are thoughtful and reasonable people, who acknowledge the good of the removal of Saddam while they criticize the success of the post-war rebuilding, for example. But such people would have found find few like minds in the crowds sponsored by International ANSWER and the Workers' World Party in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

For them, logic and morality and reality itself all take a backseat to the paramount importance of being right:

I'd also like to mention that I wrote this last May, when Iraq war supporters were still confidently insisting that weapons of mass destruction would be found. Well, guess who was right? That's right. The liberals were right about this. Ha ha.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis have nothing but contempt for the UN and the Western "peace protesters" who, for all their supposed compassion toward the Iraqi people, would only have succeeded in keeping Saddam in power. These protesters are doing no favors to anybody but themselves-- certainly not to Iraq. And I'll bet the Iraqi man-on-the-street would simply laugh in your face if you asked him if he was outraged that the weapons of mass destruction hadn't been found yet.

To say nothing of the fact that the implied logic of the above quote is that Bush "lied" his way into war, using a pretext that he knew was false, and that he knew would be revealed to be false... but then he somehow neglected to "lie" in the aftermath, planting some WMDs in order to complete the alibi. I mean, c'mon. A 14-year-old D&D player would be able to figure out how to make the story complete. As a leader, you get to be either an evil genius or an incompetent buffoon. But not both.

Further, the quote assumes that Saddam didn't actually have WMDs, and that a small-voiced but insistent cadre of liberals-- like, oh, Clinton, Chirac, Schröder, Putin, the UN inspectors, John Kerry, Wesley Clark-- had said so all along. It's pure revisionism-- 180 degrees from reality-- to say this, but people are doing it anyway. If they admit that Saddam had WMDs at all, they apparently suggest that he voluntarily and secretly destroyed them in the time since the inspectors were kicked out in 1998, even though doing so could have gained him no conceivable benefit, and was likely only to result in his ouster as he wouldn't be able to prove his disarmament to the UN's satisfaction. The mental gymnastics necessary to support this theory are astonishing. I would not want to try to debug the spaghetti-code inside these people's brains.

And yet, without irony, they call themselves Citizens Who Still Know How To Think Clearly.

Some hold that this raving sect of mentally incoherent logically-impaired sign-wavers is just a fringe, a cult of anti-personality drunk on the camaraderie that arises from the novel prospect of shared mass hatred of a single visible, iconic person. I think it's bigger than that, though. It takes a lot of effort to get people into the streets of the world's cities by the hundreds of thousands. This isn't happening by accident. It's lasted too long to be a fluke.

And I think there's something new going on. A nostalgic romanticization of Vietnam's hippies, perhaps, and the intense need to reduce the world to recognizable, bite-sized caricatures, icons, insightful parallels. Or possibly it's the second- and third-order fallout in the nation's collective mind from 9/11-- first was the shock and horror and patriotism, but then there was the freight-train backlash against it that has so violently uprooted the foundations of so many people's minds that all cognitive consistency is lost.

If this is what 9/11 has done to us in the long term, then bin Laden really did have a plan and a half, didn't he?


09:54 - Thank you for noticing
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=564&ncid=564&e=1&u=/nm/20031026/ts_n

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I only have one comment regarding this Der Spiegel article, linked by LGF:

"The fourth plane, according to bin al-Shaibah's questioning, should have hit the Capitol, the U.S. parliament ... U.S. authorities long suspected that it should have hit the White House. Only bin al-Shaibah's statement corrected the error," the magazine reported.

You know, it's funny-- I don't seem to ever recall any American, whether news anchor or redneck-in-the-street, refer to some other country's legislative body as "The German Capitol".

(I know how the "Russian White House" sounds, but that's what they call it, isn't it?)

Likewise, they keep saying things like "Defense Minister Rumsfeld". I have yet to hear anybody refer to a European politician as a "secretary".

So how come Americans know what a Parliament is, but Germans have to have "Capitol" explained to them? Who's more internationally conscious again?

Monday, October 27, 2003
23:40 - Half haste helps, but whole haste hinders
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_831848.html?menu=news.quirkies

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Hrrmph. Okay. Okay. Good. Very good.

You'll like this one.

Ahh, those wacky British place-names...

(I especially like how the family lives in a "bungalow". I am Cornholio! I live in a bungholow!)


23:35 - Save us from the giant clock monster
http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/longhorn_4051_01.asp

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Wow. Just... wow.

Kris sends me this link: three pages of screenshots of the latest build of Longhorn, the new version of Windows.

I don't know if there's even anything sufficiently snarky I can say about it. The pictures, quite honestly, speak for themselves. (And this is at what's supposed to be a Windows advocacy site.)

I share Kris' wonderment: isn't the purpose of a windowing operating system to maximize your usable screen real estate?



And regarding other screens on the site, are they at some point planning to try to make informational and configuration screens less confusing? I know it's a radical idea, but I hear it's all the rage. (Quick hint to Microsoft: conceptual groupings that overuse the word "and" are badly designed.)

These guys don't seem to have a clue what goal they're designing for. Though in fact they probably do have one, which is a good deal scarier.

And as Damien points out, somehow I don't think people will be lining up hundreds deep in malls to buy this...

UPDATE: Here's a Microsoft employee's blog where you can go to tell Microsoft exactly how you want Longhorn to work. And they'll change it accordingly! Really! No fooling!

How about: "Get rid of the blasted Registry, and make the interface into something that an actual human might want to explore and use out of simple interest, rather than something that exists to sell tech books and provide jobs to certified specialists."

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© Brian Tiemann