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
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, April 3, 2004
23:27 - Downfall of Society™
http://usa.asus.com/products/vga/event/gameface/feature.htm

(top)
I don't know whether to be amused by this, disgusted, or really disgusted. This bears more thought.

It's a technology for ASUS video cards called "GameFace". It's a way to put a webcam window over your gaming screen so you can, well, make it even less necessary to ever, like, get up from your chair or do your work or anything.

:: GameFace Elevates Online Gaming ::

Winning is not enough. You got to demoralize your opponent, actually see their faces of defeat and then talk some more trash to get complete satisfaction. GameFace allows you to see the opponent's various facial expressions during the game as you outplay and outmaneuver him. Follow up with witty trash talks to really rub it in. With GameFace, online gaming reaches a whole new level.

I clearly don't have that killer instinct. I must be old before my time.

Last night, a bunch of friends were over, and when the topic of discussion inevitably turned toward the doin's of the Evil Stupid Shrub, I retired upstairs (contrary to popular opinion, I don't enjoy alienating friends). I listened to the discussion wafting up from below, though. And at one point the gathered cronies all noted that they fit into the Boomer generation, some toward the beginning of the generally recognized birthdate window, some toward the end, a period that predated my own birth by some twelve years. "We're all a bunch of grumpy old curmudgeons," they agreed. Lance yelled up to me: "Hear that, Brian? You're surrounded by grumpy old curmudgeons!"

"I'm working on it!" I shouted back down.

:: Play on the job ::

Have you ever tried to play games in the office, but are afraid that your boss might pop up from behind? GameFace helps you in this area as well. Simply point the web cam to your boss' office and activate the GameFace feature when you are playing. Your boss' every movement will show up on your screen immediately. Never get caught again.

ASUS: Taking American Industry Down From the Inside!™

:: TV input ::

Don't want to go off line yet, but your favorite show on channel 9 is about to start? GameFace allows you to open up a window for TV viewing while you are still battling online.

When Dave Attell visited Charleston, West Virginia on "Insomniac", he stopped by a house where a LAN party was being held. The players in question, he discovered through interviewing them, had all been playing for twelve or thirteen hours straight. The only bidirectional conversation he got in the house was with the host kid's mom.

Got that? Dave Attell of Comedy Central's "Insomniac" came into this kid's house with cameraman and boom mike operator in tow, and attempted to interview some ten guys playing Unreal Tournament. And none of them showed any interest in talking to Dave-- none of them could even stand to turn away from their keyboards long enough to pose for a snapshot. With his camera and his nationally-known famous face, he couldn't compete with the game.

Something tells me the GameFace TV Input feature won't get a whole lot of use.

Then again, maybe I just don't understand my own damn generation.

Friday, April 2, 2004
16:52 - "Evenin', Sam." "Evenin', Ralph."
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1560194,00.asp

(top)
But.. but... but... how can this beeee?

Gateway Inc. is closing its 188 retail stores and laying off 2,500 employees as the shakeout of the acquisition of eMachines Inc. continues.

Executives with the Poway, Calif., company announced Thursday they will continue to expand its retail distribution options both in the United States and around the world as they close down their own stores, which should occur by the end of the month.

. . .

Industry observers had said even before the acquisition that Gateway's stores were a double-edged sword for the company. While they offered a place for Gateway to demonstrate its wares, they also represented an expense that many competitors, such as Dell Inc. didn't have to carry.

Yet somehow, inexplicably, the Apple Stores persist in looking like this:



Stupid Apple. Don't they know, they can't possibly succeed in retail? Hello? Hello-o?

Bryan Chaffin of The Mac Observer has some cogent thoughts on the respective strategies of the two companies.


14:47 - I've seen the future, baby-- it is POWER
http://www.macosrumors.com/33104L.html

(top)
Naturally, nobody knows how much credence to give the content of the Mac rumor sites, of which the granddaddy has got to be MacOS Rumors... over the years, it's had its credibility shot down to nil and raised back up to stratospheric levels so many times that it's impossible to know whether to treat it as a source or oracular information, or a place for entertaining fantasy. (My suspicion is that just about all rumor sites are honest at heart, or try to be-- nobody actually sets out to hoodwink the Mac community, with a few notable exceptions like SpyMac, home of the infamous iWalk hoax.)

But MOSR has had a high enough hit-to-miss ratio in the past few years that I still keep it in my bookmarks, and I go there occasionally just to whet my appetite for things that are all but assured to appear eventually on store shelves, even if perhaps not as soon as the rumormongers should like us to believe.

So if you're interested in knowing where the POWER architecture is going to lead IBM in coming months, check out this page. It's anybody's guess how accurate it is, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on:

The first-generation G5s used in current PowerMacs are PowerPC 970 CPUs, based on IBM's POWER4 architecture using a 130 nanometer silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process. The Xserve G5 is the first example of Macs that will be shipping based on IBM's new PPC 970FX - a faster, cooler, reduced-power version of the 970 created around a 90nm process.

Later this year, Steve Jobs' 3GHz promise will be fulfilled by the PowerPC 975, based on IBM's POWER5 architecture.

Some have speculated that Apple could (not unjustifiably) call the 975 a G6, but we're betting on the 975 as a second-generation G5.

Second-generation PPC 975's will reach as high as 3.8GHz and could viably be used in quad-processor systems. A year later, the real revolution hits with the PowerPC 976.

They're talking about POWER5, POWER6, and even POWER7... I don't know much about these IBM chip designations, but it sounds as though this development effort has plenty of steam behind it.

Make of it, naturally, what ye will.


11:38 - I've seen things, I've seen them with my EYES
http://billhobbs.com/hobbsonline/003577.html

(top)
It's always rather dangerous to develop knee-jerk reactions to some proposed or current action with only words to go by, without the benefit of visual aids.

It took the nonstop video coverage of the towers burning to galvanize us all over 9/11-- without the visual record, without the images burned into our brains, how many of those American flags would we have seen flying from freeway overpasses in subsequent days and weeks? How many people would have stayed home from work in terror at what might happen next? How likely would we have been to read that "The World Trade Center buildings in New York City were destroyed today in a terrorist attack, and 3,000 people lost their lives" and conclude just from those sterile words on paper that this was something that affected all Americans and indeed all citizens of the world, and that it meant the Islamosphere would have to be reformed above all other priorities? Indeed, without going back to someone's photo-blog record or final photos before being crushed under falling concrete, the event rapidly abstracts itself away into our subconscious, allowing us to discuss related matters like the appropriate response and likely causes, without being paralyzed by the elephant in the living room. In that sense it's a good thing, our brains' ability to numb itself. But it can work against us too.

For instance, these are the guys who were killed in Fallujah; this is what they looked like afterwards.

(And this is what the author of the most widely-read Left-leaning blog on the Net says about the matter. It's as sickening as the photos in the latter link.)


... You know, this whole thing was supposed to be leading up to this link, where Bill Hobbs shows us exactly what the idyllic Alaskan wilderness looks like where Bush and his minions plan to drill for ooooiil, in some kind of dastardly evil scheme to make America more self-sufficient and less invested in the Middle East, and destroy some virgin Alaskan paradise to boot, the bastard!



...But it all seems very anticlimactic after the first couple of examples I gave. A reader recently pointed out that I have a tendency to sidle up to a topic, Riverdancing back and forth through vaguely related supporting items until I arrive at the point I'm trying to make, which apparently is a cool thing. Well, yeah, but it has a downside. Sometimes the dancing-around-the topic gets out of hand, and overpowers the main point, as you see here.

Ah well. I guess we've all learned something here today.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
18:50 - Hey, that's not bad...
http://www.comics.com/comics/hedge/archive/hedge-20040331.html

(top)
Speaking of weird juxtapositions of Bush and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy...



That's actually pretty funny. 'Course, I can't wait to see what they do to Kerry...


15:42 - Just wondering
http://www.boston.com/dailynews/091/politics/Bush_GOP_accuse_Kerry_campaign:.shtml

(top)
I've not yet made my mind up on this latest brewing mini-scandal, which touched off a banshee-like wailing and gnashing of teeth from MoveOn.org yesterday (regarding FEC rule changes posted on 3/11 that would broaden the definition of "political committees") charging that the RNC was setting out on a wide-ranging pogrom upon all dissent against the Bush administration. It seems to be related to this story, in which the Bush campaign is charging the Kerry campaign of funneling soft-money contributions from nonconnected groups into the campaign's coffers.

It's not yet clear what's going on. But I just noticed this odd little piece of cognitive dissonance while reading the Boston Globe story. Compare this:

The Bush campaign and the GOP say pro-Kerry groups are illegally spending soft money in the presidential race, and that Kerry's campaign is illegally coordinating that spending. The groups have contended they are operating legally.

''They're making a mockery of what the rules are,'' Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot said.

With this:

Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter accused Republicans of political gamesmanship.

''We take the law very seriously. Republicans can't stand the fact the American people want change, so now they are playing politics with the law,'' Cutter said.

Question, Ms. Cutter: How is it politically responsible of you or your campaign for you to respond to a specific charge against your organization by lashing out with a hyperbolic blanket aspersion against half the country's citizens?

Way to court those swing voters, there. <clap> <clap> <clap>


11:57 - Speaking without an accent
http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1326

(top)
Boy, this guy must run a hoppin' mailing list.

Brian sends this link: an article in Capitalism Magazine discussing "intrinsicism", or the practice of believing that your own frame of reference is without slant or "accent".

A worldview--i.e., a philosophy--is not normally something people look at, but something they look through. A philosophy is a frame of reference for understanding and dealing with the concretes (and middle-level abstractions) we confront in life. It takes a special act of reflection and abstraction to make a philosophy an object of cognition, rather than a means of cognition--i.e., to make it a "what" rather than a "how."

Unreflective people, which definitely includes journalists, are not aware that they have a philosophy at all. But they are inescapably aware of philosophies different from their own. So liberal journalists think that they are not using any philosophy, they are just looking at and describing events "non-ideologically." But when they see conservatives coming to what strikes the liberal journalists as "weird" conclusions, they know that the conservatives are led to them by their political philosophies.

Well worth a read. And naturally its lessons apply to those of all political persuasions.

Except mine, of course. (Heh.)


11:37 - Gee, think this guy's a Mac user?
http://www.syracuse.com/news/poststandard/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1080648930207645.xm

(top)
Dak sends this rare gem: a journalist who "gets" that elusive kwyjibo that is the Mac's market share.

Your neighbor drives home with his new BMW and the first thing you say to him is a wisecrack about his car's low market share.

You'd never do it. Nobody would. Most people drive Toyotas or Hondas or Fords, but that means nothing to the people who own BMWs. Right?

Then why are we constantly hearing about the Mac's low market share from people who ought to know better? I spent an evening checking out the actual percentage of Mac users, and I found numbers that ranged from 1.7 percent to 12 percent. That's a huge range, and the imprecision of the numbers tells a story.

And he tells it well.

The news isn't that someone's using the "car metaphor" or noting reasons for the wild discrepancies in market-share estimates; the news is that this doesn't appear to be a tech writer doing it, or a tech-oriented story. People are "getting it" across the board.

It's hard not to, as time goes on, really. Who hasn't noticed that the Comcast ads feature some seven different Macs in various shots of cable customers enjoying the Internet? Who's blind to the Apple Stores opening up in every fashionable shopping spot, drawing crowds of well-wishers that wrap around the block? Just the other day, when I was driving my new TV home in a rented U-Haul pickup truck, the radio was tuned to a San Francisco station running a tech-news call-in show; the show's premise was general interest and technical Q&A, but fully a third of the callers were Mac users discussing things like hugely complex printing solutions or digital camera use, and they kept mentioning their new G5s and iMacs and eMacs. (I got the feeling that the show's host was getting a little bit fed up with all the Mac people who kept calling-- but it's telling, at that, that when he answered non-platform-specific computer questions, he felt compelled to preface his answer with, "Well, here's how you would do it on Windows".) If the Mac's market share is really 1.7%, then something's overrepresenting Macs to an unbelievable degree in the media and pop culture.

There's certainly some of that-- after all, Macs are photogenic, so movie producers love them; and Macs are upmarket, so they'll show up in the lives of the movers and shakers who tend to end up on the airwaves more than otherwise. But that can't account for all of the discrepancy.

Al Fasoldt, this article's author, notes a few other possibilities. There's the lower new-Mac turnover rate, for instance. But he's right to start it off with the BMW metaphor: like a BMW owner, we Mac users really don't care if the market share is 1.7% or 12%. It doesn't affect us one way or the other. Because these days, as long as Apple keeps cranking out the products and the software releases and making the platform do what we need it to do, it's immaterial how many of us there are.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
17:55 - Takin' care of business
http://members.cox.net/macallan_the/GW/GWBush1_Start.htm

(top)
The Dean campaign thought it owned the Internet. Well, maybe they did for a while, but I'll bet this guy paid for his copy of Flash:



And put it to good use, too.


11:39 - Rubble rubble
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/006349.php

(top)
If you can't change their minds with documentaries, maybe you can do it with bombs.

An apparent attempt to blow up a McDonald's drive-in restaurant in northern Italy was foiled on Sunday but the suspected terrorist died when his car exploded with him strapped inside.

Witnesses said a man, later identified as Moustafa Chaouki, a native of Casablanca, drove his Fiat Tempra into the queue of cars waiting at the restaurant in Brescia, 100km east of Milan, at 10 pm. His car contained four cylinders of kitchen gas, each with a capacity of more than 70 litres.

...Or maybe you can't.

Commenter dorkafork:

I keep picturing the Hamburglar in a suicide bomber vest.

Ronald/Grimace in 2008!

Monday, March 29, 2004
23:00 - I have a new favorite number

(top)
...And it's "480p".

Meaning, I just got me one of them new-fangled teleo-vision sets for my bedroom suite. The room is still a mess, and not quite laid out yet for proper use as a secondary home theater, but now at least the building blocks are in place:



It's a 32-inch flat-screen CRT, with HD input capability, that I got for about the same price I was prepared to spend on a plain non-HD TV. (They were clearing out this model for the next one that was due to be shipped in in a couple of days, which meant I got this one at a $400 discount from the sticker price-- not a bad deal at all.)

And I also got a Philips DVD/VHS combo player with component video and digital coax audio out, and progressive scan, for $100. Fry's was selling off a palette full of these things; as I was standing in line to pay for the TV, I noticed that the guy behind me and the guy in front of me both had these same DVD players-- so I went and grabbed one too. The other ones on the shelves averaged $150, and didn't have progressive scan. I'm sure there's a downside to the one I got, but I have yet to find it.

Because the player and the TV both support 480p-- 480-line, full DVD resolution, and progressive scan instead of interlaced (so there's no flicker). Once I got everything hooked up properly, hot damn it looked cool! I've never seen a system with these features all hooked up as intended before; even our downstairs system, with a much bigger full widescreen HDTV display, doesn't have a component-video/progressive-scan DVD player on it, so I never really knew what I was missing. This is something else again, lemme tell ya.

So now I have to get an AV receiver/amp that supports digital coax input for the DVD player, 480p video switching, and 5.1 speakers so I can mount the rear channels on the wall above my desk. And then I can watch Cartoon Network in one of the most decadent settings ever designed purely around the newly-released DVDs of the Adult Swim shows.

Oh: and did I buy this using my Bush tax refund? Why, yes. Yes I did.


16:39 - Oh, for God's sake, Microsoft...
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/msnmessenger4.html

(top)
Oh, boy! We can all look forward to a new version of MSN Messenger for Mac this summer! Or, for those of us who just can't stand the wait, a beta has leaked out.



Joy!

Note with clasped fingers clutched reverentially under the chin the fact that Microsoft has apparently still not grasped what the "Aqua" color scheme is about, not even three years into Mac OS X's released life. You know how most competent third-party Mac app developers are capable of developing apps with icons that blend in perfectly with the OS X color scheme and icon design standards, with a perfectly balanced mixture of colorful and subdued, of realistic and stylized? Well, these subtleties have still managed to evade Microsoft, whose esteemed visual designers have seen fit to people their app's blue-horizontal-pinstriped toolbar (first seen circa WMP 7 for Mac, and since then redesigned by the WMP team, which someone should tell these guys about) with little blue translucent Duplo men. Or perhaps it's the aliens from the "Don't Drink the Emperor" episode of Futurama. Don't ask me where these guys draw their inspiration.

(Said WMP, by the way, like the RealOne player, doesn't bother using the standard Mac UI toolkits; the widgets in these apps are proprietary lookalike versions, so WMP 7 still looks like a Jaguar app even if you run it under Panther. Big bulging window control buttons. Stark title-bar pinstripes. It's like a time capsule!)

I have the distinct impression, when looking at Microsoft's Mac app design, that their designers have something of an inflated sense of "getting it". In other words, they stop listening as soon as they think they've grasped the essence of something, and then they run with it-- even if their impression is totally bonkers wrong.

"Okay," says the Apple guy running the visual design seminar at One Microsoft Way. "The user interface environment for Mac OS X is known as 'Aqua'. That name is a reference to w--"

"Water, yeah, we know," says the Microsoft guy seated in the front row.

"...Well, yeah, but not just water. There's a whole scheme of palette options here for you to use in building your apps. For instance, scrollbars and progress bars have a 'flowing' effect like water, because of their linear, 'flowing' nature; but lots of other widgets are--"

"Water, right, we got it. Make everything look like it's wet. Okay, I think we've heard everything we need to hear. Bob! You go design the Office for Mac box; make it look like the Incredible Hulk blew his nose over it. Ken! You do Windows Media player and IE; make the buttons look like you cut out stencils for the shapes in the toolbar and, like, blew up a water balloon right behind it and pressed it through the holes. Even for involved shapes like printers and envelopes."

"Duh, yeah, but, uh..."

"Don't worry, it'll look great."



The Apple guy waves his arms in the background: "Hey! Wait! No! You're not getting it! You're missing the point!"

But it's to no avail. Teams are dispatched to handle IE, WMP, and MSN Messenger, all giddy with the thought of Photoshopping to a new standard, one with bright colors and all those funky light effects they learned about in graphic arts class. They've all got a vision. And soon the seminar room is empty.

"Hello?" calls the Apple guy. "Anybody want to hear about antialiased text? Or the brushed-metal style and when to use it? Or meaningful icon design that suggests actions through shape and orientation? Or flat gray action buttons with iconic labels? ...Anybody? It's really important that all Mac apps have a consistent look and feel. Hello...?"

But no.


Look, I'm glad Microsoft is putting in the effort to bring its apps to the Mac. They don't have to do this, and the MacBU is certainly not the part of Microsoft with the greatest job security. These guys are hungry players, and they want the Mac to succeed. It's just that they so often seem determined to not get it.

Think that Send button is big enough? For cryin' out loud!

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© Brian Tiemann