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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Saturday, November 15, 2003
15:46 - Oh, that evidence
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,103176,00.html

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You know... it seems to me that the administration could have saved itself an awful lot of grief by simply releasing information like this before its entire integrity was called into question.

Friday, November 14, 2003
18:52 - Holiday Season Blitz
http://www.ipodrocks.com

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Well, this is new.

Apple is kicking off the holiday season by playing the entirety of its rather healthy-looking hand with a new site called iPodRocks.com; it's aimed at kids, mostly, and is fully Flash-animated much like the VW ads (which, I've got to say, are quite a bit better done).

These ones are funny, though. There are your usual "What's an iPod?" and "How does it work?" sections... but then there's this very large "Convince your parents" section which tutors kids in various nefarious methods by which to cajole their folks into buying them iPods. Approaches range from coupons offering clean teenager's rooms ("not necessarily my own") and home-cooked meals (dangerous!) to an online grade calculator that they coded in Flash just for the hell of it. And through it all there's this bouncing, anthropomorphized iPod with a prehensile set of earbuds that jumps around and visually illustrates the whole shebang.

It's immensely silly, and not a little bit patronizing. But who knows-- it might pay off. Apple's holding all the cards right now when it comes to digital music, and the opportunity to cash in on it isn't going to ever be any more lopsided in their favor than it is right now. If they can make a killing on iPods this holiday season, their balance sheet's going to look mighty pretty come Q1. And that'll only be the beginning...


12:55 - Enough old-food mockery to go 'round
http://www.candyboots.com/wwcards.html

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This lady soooo wants to be Lileks.

Reading it is like reading Cracked magazine when your subscription to MAD has run out, but even Cracked had the occasional funny morsel.

...Okay, no, it didn't. But this site is good for a chuckle or three.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
13:24 - How To Do It
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/11/12/national0350

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Wesley Clark's going to show us all up by catching Osama bin Laden.

Alan: Hello children!

Jackie: Hello!

Wesley: Hello!

GC: Hello!

Alan: Well, last week we showed you how to be a gynaecologist, and this week on "How to do it", we're gonna learn how to play the flute, how to split the atom, how to construct box-girder bridges...

Jackie: Super!

Alan: ...and how to catch the notorious terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but first here's Jackie to tell you how to rid the world of all known diseases.

Jackie: Hello Alan!

Alan: Hello Jackie!

Jackie: Well first of all, become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right, so that there'll never be diseases anymore.

Alan: Thanks Jackie, that was great!

GC: Fantastic!

Alan: Now, how to play the flute. Well, you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside.

GC: Great Alan! Now, we have Wesley, who will tell us how to catch Osama bin Laden!

Wesley: Right-- you talk to the Saudis, and you pressure them to jolly well help us out, and then we take their crack Saudi commandos to where Osama is hiding out on the Pakistani border and we run up and catch him!

GC: That's just wonderful, Wesley! Well, next week we'll be showing you how black and white people can live together in peace and harmony and Alan will be over in Moscow showing you how to reconcile the Russians and the Chinese. Till then, cheerio!

Alan: Bye!

Jackie: Bye bye!

Wesley: Bye!

GC: Bye!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003
02:54 - Did someone say they wanted good press?
http://www.time.com/time/2003/inventions/invmusic.html

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I'd missed this little item, but Damien has corrected that oversight: Time has named the iTunes Music Store as its "Coolest Invention of the Year".

Enter Jobs. Back in April, Apple's CEO revealed that he had spent the previous year negotiating an unprecedented deal with all five major labels and thousands of independents. His iTunes software, which had previously been nothing more than a place to store and play digital music on a Mac, would become a gateway to the Music Store, where you could easily find and save music to your hard drive, CD or iPod music player—no subscription necessary, just 99¢ per song, or $9.99 for an album. Competitors tried to match that price but couldn't come up with a service as free of restrictions. They said Jobs had been given a sweet deal by the labels because Apple, with its miniscule share of the computer market, was never going to be a real distribution threat. "The Mac world is a walled garden," said BuyMusic.com vice president Liz Brooks. "The PC environment is like the Wild West."

Then came iTunes for Windows, and suddenly there was a new sheriff in town. Not content with creating a music store for PC users that was a perfect clone of its Mac counterpart, including all of the 400,000 songs Apple now has the rights to resell, Jobs added a couple of cool new features, the best of which was a monthly allowance you can set up for your kids to govern their online purchases—a godsend for any parent trying to curb an offspring's downloading habit.

Jobs has one more reason not to be concerned about the competition. "The dirty little secret of all this is there's no way to make money on these stores," he says. For every 99¢ Apple gets from your credit card, 65¢ goes straight to the music label. Another quarter or so gets eaten up by distribution costs. At most, Jobs is left with a dime per track, so even $500 million in annual sales would add up to a paltry $50 million profit. Why even bother? "Because we're selling iPods," Jobs says, grinning.

That may make iTunes the most benign-looking Trojan Horse in software history. The Windows crowd can get iTunes free, and it offers almost all the same functionality as the paid versions of MusicMatch and Real One, two PC-based rivals. But iTunes is the only music application that will work with the enormously popular iPod, and it has features—like its powerful search function—that are unrivaled. "Once people are locked into using iTunes, the game's over," says Charles Wolf, an analyst at the New York City-based Needham & Co. investment bank. "They could sell an extra 2 million iPods because of this." And the margins on these devices make the Music Store's arithmetic look like child's play. Each $499 iPod returns as much as $175 in profit, Wolf says.

Ooooo. We've heard the rumors to this effect-- that iPods make money, while the iTMS doesn't-- but haven't heard the actual numbers before. $175 a unit on the iPods? Dayamn-- that's pretty sweet. Earlier, Jobs told Newsweek that if Apple could make a sub-$100 iPod, they'd do it in a heartbeat... but these kinds of profit figures must be awfully hard to pass up, while the market lasts. This means they could theoretically cut unit prices by almost 40% and still profit; but why do that when the sweet spot of the bell curve, the people still willing to pay $300-500, still hasn't passed the adoption wave yet? I'm sure prices will drop eventually, but as yet there's no compelling reason for it, not while there still aren't any real competitors out there that even approach the iPod's iconic form factor and interface. Two years on and still the runaway champ? Jobs knows when he's got a winner.

Such calculation may also explain why iTunes doesn't support Windows Media Audio files—a Microsoft format that Bill Gates had hoped would become the music-industry standard. If iTunes becomes the player of choice for PC users, it would be a blow for Microsoft's grander audio ambitions—and may well unearth the hatchet that Jobs and Gates buried back in 1997.

What? Unearth the hatchet jobs? Er, wait... never mind.

Anyway... that's not the only interesting iTunes news of late. Marcus points out this Wired article, which reports that iTunes is changing the face of campus social interactions:

Aubrey said Wesleyan students are enjoying a new parlor game -- going through music libraries trying to guess what their owners are like. At any one time, 30 or 40 iTunes libraries are available on the campus network, which is shared by about 2,000 students.

"This one playlist had a lot of German techno," Aubrey said. "We predicted this was a kid wearing a mesh shirt who wanted to be a Nazi." At a party shortly afterward, Aubrey recognized the playlist and asked whose music it was. "They pointed to this kid in a mesh shirt with a swastika on his arm," Aubrey said.

When Aubrey showed his own music library to a friend, she said it belonged to a "wimpy, skinny kid who liked to sit in his room a lot, which is myself."

"We were right on several counts," he said.

Students are starting to realize they must manage their music collections, or at least prune them, to maintain their image, Aubrey said. He confessed to deleting a lot of stuff himself.

"I had a lot of show tunes I had to get rid of," he said. "And a lot of punk pop from my earlier days like Green Day and Blink-182."

Heaven forfend! Or, hey, just choose to share only certain playlists. (And sharing is off by default.) But in any case, it looks like iTunes is flushing out the posers, dorm by dorm.

The infiltration goes on apace...


19:46 - Ladies and Gentlemen, the Loyal Opposition
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/uclicktext/20031112/cm_ucru/whywefigh

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1. Read.
2. Weep.

NEW YORK--Dear Recruit:

Thank you for joining the Iraqi resistance forces. You have been issued an AK-47 rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an address where you can pick up supplies of bombs and remote-controlled mines. Please let your cell leader know if you require additional materiel for use against the Americans.

You are joining a broad and diverse coalition dedicated to one principle: Iraq for Iraqis. Our leaders include generals of President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s secular government as well as fundamentalist Islamists. We are Sunni and Shia, Iraqi and foreign, Arab and Kurdish. Though we differ on what kind of future our country should have after liberation and many of us suffered under Saddam, we are fighting side by side because there is no dignity under the brutal and oppressive jackboot of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority or their Vichyite lapdogs on the Governing Council, headed by embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

Because we destroyed our weapons of mass destruction, we were unable to defend ourselves against the American invasion. This was their plan all along. Now our only option is guerilla warfare: we must kill as many Americans as possible at a minimum risk to ourselves. As the Afghan resistance to the Soviets and the Americans' own revolution against our former colonial masters the British have proven, it will only be a matter of time before the U.S. occupation forces become demoralized. As casualties and expenditures rise, the costs will outweigh the economic and political benefits of occupation. Soon the American public will note that the anticipated five-year price tag of $500 billion, with a probable loss of some 4,000 lives and 10,000 wounded, is not a reasonable price to pay to get our 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing to the West each month. This net increase, of just 0.23 percent of total OPEC (news - web sites) production, will not reduce U.S. gasoline prices. At an average of 35 attacks each day, an hour does not pass without an American soldier coming under fire somewhere in Iraq. Ultimately the American public will pressure their leaders to withdraw their harried troops from our country.

It is inevitable. Our goal is to make that day come sooner rather than later.

This from Ted Rall, who if you questioned his patriotism would fly into a fury.

What is the matter with these people?

(Via Emperor Misha I.)

UPDATE: Oh yes, and lest I neglect to point it out, this was written on Veterans' Day. I'd been expecting to see throngs of brain-donors staging their usual anti-war protests against the veterans' parades, but I guess they were too smart to pick a fight with a bunch of people who had been trained in various forms of unarmed combat. Pity.

However, Rall's thing is, if anything, worse.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003
18:56 - Talk about "embedded journalists"

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Via LGF:

AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT SATTAR KARIN ADMITTED THAT HIS OFFICE IN THE MAHMOUDIYA, BABIL PROVINCE OF IRAQ HAS BEEN USED TO COORDINATE ATTACKS AGAINST COALITION FORCES. TWO SYRIAN NATIONALS WERE ALSO INVOLVED. (AL-SABAH, IRAQ, 11/9/03)

Maybe we should sic our own reporters on them and have 'em duke it out.

Operation Desert Fox™ for real this time!


15:20 - "I invented homeland security"
http://www.moveon.org/gore/speech2.html

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After reading the text of the Gore speech (at Aziz's suggestion), yes, I acknowledge the many explicit details he outlines regarding the Patriot Act and its political overtones. But you know... I noticed something else about this speech. Namely, that it's probably not quite what MoveOn.org was expecting; their lavish praise of it (which is mostly what I was pointing at in my earlier post) has to have followed a few sideling glances and furrowed brows from those in the audience.

Gore's stance, in a nutshell, is that our efforts at shoring up homeland security are insufficient. That the moves we've made are secretive at best (if we give them the benefit of the doubt) and, at worst, smack of the gulag. His biggest beef is with the search-and-seizure and arrest-without-trial parts of the Patriot Act.

And you know, he's not going to get a whole helluva lot of argument from me on that. I don't like those parts of the Patriot Act any more than the next guy. A case can be made for their necessity in a shadow war, yes, and it's been pointed out that the infamous "library records snooping" clause that Gore flashes for the camera has never actually been invoked. But still, that's small comfort for the civil libertarians in the audience.

But that's just it. Gore's speech is designed to appeal to those for whom civil liberties and security are both paramount goals, and seeks to find a better balance between them than what's currently on the books.

Where Civil Liberties are concerned, they have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, “Big Brother”-style government – toward the dangers prophesized by George Orwell in his book “1984” – than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.

Hmm. Anti-big-government. Anti-Big-Brother. Anti-Orwellian-Nation.

Sounds to me like he's more conservative than Bush in this speech.

I don't know what MoveOn.org initially thought of this speech-- obviously they lapped it up, because it was delivered in front of them directly, and was a broadside straight at Bush. But they must have realized at some point that what they were applauding was a libertarian's call-to-arms... not the self-blaming, dictator-supporting, Stalin-apologist agenda that's at the corner of the International-ANSWER-style Left that's usually so well represented at MoveOn.org.

This is why I think the 2004 election is going to be so interesting. To beat Bush, the Democrats are going to have to find ammo that will serve them. The economy apparently is no longer in their quiver. Iraq is not gaining traction as enough of a "failure" for the American people to blame Bush for it. What's left? Security and individual liberty... and in order to beat Bush, the Democrats have to effectively be better at both of those things than the Republicans are.

Can they stump for smaller, less invasive government and better, more effective security against terrorism without selling out the entire rest of their statist, centralist platform? Can they pursue these goals without, in effect, becoming Republicans?


12:40 - Dissension amid the cabal?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A24179-2003Nov10?language=printer

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So, conspiracy-mongers: the Joozineks control all media and politics, and rule the world by proxy, right? And Bush is just a puppet on strings fighting a client war for Sharon against all his Arab neighbors? And all wealthy Jews are a part of the secret cult that directs the world's finances and keeps America rich, the Middle East poor, and the Republicans in power?

Well, then-- what to do about George Soros' $15.5 million in donations to MoveOn.org and others, intended to oust Bush?

Is Soros cruising to get his ass busted down by the International Zionist Conspiracy? Or is this all just part of some evil scheme that's just too complex for mere mortals to comprehend?

Soros has the right to give his money to whomever he wants to (Campaign Finance Reform Act notwithstanding). But you know... that's the point, isn't it?

Monday, November 10, 2003
19:28 - The verdict is in
http://www.arstechnica.com/reviews/003/panther/macosx-10.3-1.html

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John Siracusa, at Ars Technica (pointed out by Steven), has posted an exhaustive review of Panther. We're talking like fifteen densely packed pages, full of in-depth analysis of everything from the history of window management (leading up to his may-as-well-be-used-as-PR piece on Exposé) to an aesthetic guide to the pin-striping on window title bars to a discussion of filesystem metadata. There's enough here to eat up an afternoon, and lt leaves one rather breathless at the end.

His verdict? Short answer: Yes, with an "if"; long answer: No, with a "but". In other words, he's about as ecstatic as a really really hard-nosed and demanding tech-head can ever be expected to be. He gushes with praise for Exposé and Safari and Fast User Switching; he's guardedly favorable about the new look of the system and the performance situation; and he's flapping his arms and screeching about a few things that verge on the too-esoteric-to-care-about (namely, the Finder, in which he goes off on a purist's tirade about "file browsers" and "spatial Finders" that leaves my eyes throbbing). He's also disappointed to see that Apple isn't really committed to enriching the metadata in the filesystem, which I take to mean Type and Creator codes-- after all, Siracusa (if I recall correctly) is the guy who sponsored an online petition a while back to get Apple to dump the new cross-platform-friendly per-file extension-hiding and "opener app" typing scheme in favor of the old-style Type/Creator-code structure, which was indeed more elegant, but quite frankly just isn't as useful or portable as the new way is.

At the outermost level, there's criticism to be made of the sesqui-annual $129 price tag, and smirking to be done over the confused and half-hearted "big cat" branding, as well as real questions to be raised over UI changes that may indeed be done more for the sake of solidifying jobs in Graphic Arts and Visual Design than for real usability. Siracusa is fair, as seems to be his hallmark-- he points out both the good and the bad sides of these developments. He does love him some Apple, but boy is he a hard-ass about making sure they live up to his dream.

I think the guy has a few pet rocks in his brain, but on the whole he draws up a very well-developed analysis of where Panther is and what it's got going for it (and where it stands to improve). Certainly a lot of his nits do bear picking, and I hope Apple reads his piece and takes at least a few parts of it to heart (we really gotta get better long-file-listing handling and a real multithreaded Finder, for example). Considering cases like Dave Hyatt the Safari-meister/blogger and the ever-expanding user feedback structure (now incorporating crash trackback and bug reporting into most applications, not just pages at apple.com), we've got every reason to believe that there are people at Apple who read Ars Technica religiously and know John Siracusa the way Linux geeks know about Eric S. Raymond. And in the marketplace of ideas that is the Apple software design lab, we're sure to reap the benefits.

Because while there's something to be said against the system changing aesthetically and functionally as much as it has between Jaguar and Panther, let it never be said that Mac OS X is stagnating for lack of will to tweak it.


17:38 - The Easily Impressed Orphans

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MoveOn.org calls this speech by Al Gore "remarkable":

"I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy.

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America."

According to MoveOn.org, Gore was "not mincing words". Well, if he's trying to make Religious Reich salsa, he's going to have to mince these words a little bit finer, because I don't see anything "remarkable" or "damning" or even "new" here. Just more expansive rhetoric about all the freedoms we've given up, though I've yet to hear anybody actually be able to name one way in which Americans are less free than we were before 9/11. I guess Gore must have listed some in his speech (the e-mail links to a streaming webcast version of it, which I'm not going to waste time watching), but MoveOn.org doesn't seem to have seen fit to have listed any in this call-to-arms-- preferring instead to use this vague and spurious digest, with its implicit assumptions of decimated civil liberties, as its above-the-fold banner.

The rest of the e-mail encapsulating it fairly pees on itself with glee over how amazing the speech was. Guys, just a note... the more you do this, the more people look at you with pity rather than with sympathy.


15:38 - I can feeeeel the muuuuusic
http://web.media.mit.edu/~jpatten/

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I'm usually not one to endorse willfully kooky new interface ideas that seem to be designed solely for the purpose of being New and Different. But this guy might well be on to something here.

I'm a PhD Candidate in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, where I design new interfaces to computers based on physical objects. These tangible interfaces aim to let people take advantage of the skills they already have when using a computer, instead of having to develop new ones. Recently I've been focusing on the theme of the interactive workbench. I've developed some technologies for quickly and accurately tracking the movements of objects on a tabletop surface, and several applications of this technology, ranging from musical performance to business simulation.

This "interactive workbench" involves several Oreo-sized knobs that you can place anywhere on a flat, featureless table; sensors track how you move the knobs, sliding or rotating them, and attaches interface elements to them that are projected from above you. The deal is that the knobs are something you actually touch, bridging the gap between the physical satisfaction of analog controls and the ever-redrawing universality of digital display feedback.

The way that the knobs "bind" to the projected lines and connection points is really pretty cool. It's playing a few tricks on your mind, when you see how the lines representing decision-trees sway and spring back and forth when plucked-- there's got to be some oddness about how you don't actually feel any physical resistance corresponding to the projected elements; but I can certainly see this system having its uses. Check out the chemical-reaction demo. Sweet.

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© Brian Tiemann