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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  4/4/2005 -  4/10/2005
 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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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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  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 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, February 20, 2005
21:36 - What if Star Trek were more like Apple?
http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/588/588117p1.html

(top)
Marcus passes this along: the Usenet post from J. Michael Straczynski where he offers, with characteristic reluctance and humility, to take the mantle of the Star Trek universe onto his shoulders, and his cue for the accolades from the fans who were awakened from their slumber by JMS' clarion call. And a considered response from IGN's KJB, who finds the whole thing just a tad creepy.

It's hard not to be of two minds on a matter like this. Installing a personality cult saved Apple, but can it save Star Trek? Or—considering that it involves a nuke-n-pave and rewrite of the entire chronology and universe—would it be like more of a Great Leap Forward?


18:07 - So you want to destroy the Earth
http://ned.ucam.org/~sdh31/misc/destroy.html

(top)
It's harder than you might think.

Have movies lied to me again?!


14:39 - I know what I want for Christmas
http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/40168.htm

(top)
Via Marcus. Ain't technology wonderful?

It's not quite as cool as making them explode, but it's probably just as satisfying.

Friday, February 18, 2005
17:08 - Robots that turn into blingwads
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6989380/

(top)
Know what I just can't help but think about this?



Myers: No, no, no! He was supposed to have _attitude_.
Silverman: Um... wh-what do you mean, exactly?
Myers: Oh, you know, attitude, _attitude_! Uh... sunglasses!
Lady: Could we put him in more of a "hip-hop" context?
Krusty: Forget context, he's gotta be a surfer. Give me a nice
shmear of surfer.
Lady: I feel we should Rasta-fy him by... 10 percent or so.
[the resulting dog is rather... proactive]
[all stare at it w/o any expression]
Myers: Hmm... I think he needs a _little_ more attitude.
[Silverman blackens in Poochie's sunglasses]
All Three: [variously] Oh, yeah, bingo. Yeah, that's it! There it is,
right there! I love it!

Maybe Poochie will die on the way back to his home planet.

UPDATE: Just wondering... do they all have to have the same teeth-clenching expression? What is this, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Are they all just different renderings of the same perpetually angry character? Boy, can't wait to see the Road Runner fleeing for his life with a murderous expression on his face.

UPDATE: It also reminds me of this.

UPDATE: You know, it also strikes me that this pointy, fury-eyed vision of The Future™ will probably look as risible fifty years from now as Marvin the Martian's floating-platform world or the Jetsons does today. You know, perhaps we don't live in a world any more clueful than the one our grandparents built.


16:24 - Poor Man's Segway
http://tlb.org/scooter.html

(top)
Ah, what geeks won't do.

Segway This guy's version
Safety features Everything is dual redundant. For example, "in the unlikely event of a battery failure, the system is designed to use the second battery to operate the machine and allow it to continue balancing until it is brought to a safe stop." There is no redundancy or backup system. It is not even robustly made. Loose wires literally dangle out the bottom. In the fairly likely event of the software crashing, a wire coming loose, a component failing, or the batteries running low, the wheels will stop and the entire kinetic energy of the system will be used to accelerate my head toward the ground.


It's not like it's that complex an engineering problem. But I guess this does give one a renewed sense of respect for the degree to which the actual Segway is refined, in a way that Mac users might find spookily familiar.


11:37 - Now we need a grant to teach it in public schools
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/children/kidtalk.mspx

(top)
This is a hoot (via Marcus): a Microsoft page teaching parents how to speak l33t, so they know what their kids are up to.

It's important to remember that the leetspeek community encourages new forms and awards individual creativity, resulting in a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. However, there are a few standard terms. The following is a sample of key words that haven't changed fundamentally (although variations occur) since the invention of leetspeek. The first series is of particular concern, as their use could be an indicator that your teenager is involved in the theft of intellectual property, particularly licensed software.

It's actually about as good as I could expect a page like this to be, given the audience and the tone the company has to strike; it actually gives a little insight into the dynamics of how this stuff works. I can't decide if it'd have been fun to write up a page like this, or if it'd been hell...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
03:44 - Baldy Babies

(top)
Okay, so what is it with casting directors' handling of bald characters in movies and TV? Specifically, why is it that whenever we see a "younger" version of some well-known bald character, the "younger" version is bald too—and yet usually looks nothing like the older version?

I noticed this in the latest Star Trek movie, where the villain is supposed to be a younger genetic clone of Picard—which the audience is supposed to buy despite the fact that the guy looks, acts, and sounds nothing like Patrick Stewart. The only thing the two characters have remotely in common is that they're both bald—the villain's hair having been obviously shaved, as though that makes the audience look past his big puffy lips and his narrow pointy jaw and his high-pitched mellifluous voice that all add up to about the least "Picard" character ever.

I mean, couldn't they have found some actor who had a little more in common with a younger Patrick Stewart? They could have left his hair on, and I'd still have bought it, provided the mannerisms were there, like in that one Q episode with the Academy flashback. Baldness alone does not a character make.

And then there's Smallville, in ads for which I've noticed that the teenage version of Lex Luthor is intended to be recognizable as Lex Luthor because... he's bald. I've only caught glimpses of him, but it looks like the same weird impulse at work: never mind casting an actor who actually embodies the character we're looking for; just get someone and shave his head! instant Lex Luthor!

I don't know what my point is with this. It just bugs me.


18:14 - I have the touch

(top)

I was all set to buy a Canon Digital Rebel for the Alaska trip I'm planning. I figure I have six months to get good at using it, or at least to convince myself through lots of muttering and tinkering that it makes more pleasing photographs than I could get with a little pocket-sized point-and-shoot.

I'd read countless reviews, all of which glowed. I'd looked at the product history since its 2003 introduction, during which it's become one of the most popular digital cameras out there. I'd talked to camera geek after camera geek, discussed lenses to buy, accessories to scrounge, beanbags to make (for quickly grabbing shots out the car window, to steady it on the windowsill). I'd gone to pricegrabber.com to find well-rated stores with criminally low prices at about 40% of MSRP. I'd placed the order.

And the day I do so is the day that the Digital Rebel gets discontinued.

How do I do it, huh? The same thing happened with the armoire and TV stand combination I bought last year: after searching for weeks to find the perfect style at the perfect price, I placed the order, only to find that the manufacturer had just killed the entire line, and since all the online furniture retailers just drop-ship from the factory and don't retain any inventory of their own, dozens of stores kept saying they had the units in stock, only to call me back after I placed the order and tell me that the manufacturer had shipped out the last unit the day before I placed my first order (of many, all of which I eventually gave up on).

Maybe I should live in New York, where people don't seem to have these problems.

Anyway, I'm not too worried—the reason for the Digital Rebel/300D's being discontinued is allegedly that it will soon be replaced by a newer, more studly model, presumably at the same price point, with 8 megapixels instead of 6 and the second-generation image processor—in other words, a stripped-down version of the new 20D rather than the (now-discontinued) 10D that the 300D was based on. Makes perfect sense. All I have to do is wait. The guy I talked to at the online camera store told me that his information confirms these rumors (the announcement is supposed to be at PMA this weekend, so this is all the same stuff we all go through right before a Stevenote); I can either get a better camera for the same money, or pick up a clearance-priced 300D for a song.

Gee, I sure hope the actual photography is this much fun.

UPDATE: Whew! Thank you! Boy, I posted this just in time, huh?


16:52 - Your tax dollars taking the day off
http://www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/Kyoto_Count_Up.htm

(top)
This is cute: take the projected costs (to signatory nations) and benefits of the Kyoto Protocol between now and 2050 (as agreed upon by parties on both sides of the aisle), assume a linear progression and full participation, and implement in JavaScript. (Via Tim Blair.)

Wow. Oddly hypnotic, isn't it? I just love watching money so well spent.

Doesn't work in Safari, for some reason, but other browsers handle it fine.


13:30 - iChairman
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/2/15/162223/276

(top)
According to Drewthaler of Daily Kos, Howard Dean will be to the Democrats what Steve Jobs has been to Apple.

I was working at Apple the day Steve came back, and I've been in and out of the company a few times in the years since. I've watched with interest as he literally reshaped the company into what it is today. I wanted to write a bit about the parallels that I've seen, and how I think Dean's chairmanship will be good for the Democratic Party.

Some of you are saying: "But Drew, Apple doesn't have a lot of marketshare. They are hovering in the single-digit percentages and the market is literally dominated by the other manufacturers. Is that really the model we want?"

You'd be almost right in that concern, but for one thing. Computers and politics are not the same. Computers are expensive physical objects, and there's a lot more inertia in the computer world.

There is one thing Apple did not have in 1997, and now has in spades. Something that is the lifeblood of any political party:

Influence.

An interesting read, if a little pie-in-the-sky. I'm always a bit leery of attempts to draw parallels between historical events, particularly ones in very different kinds of circumstances, because you inevitably end up with "Israel = America = Nazi Germany" kinds of comparisons. And there's been so much improbable success on the Apple side of the equation since Steve's return, success which I don't think necessarily would have been repeated if it were played all over again in a parallel universe, that modeling one's own trajectory on it seems rather foolhardy. When your big variable is the charisma of an extremely exceptional individual, the slightest flutter in that charisma can bring the whole edifice down. I think most of the computer world has pretty decent respect for Steve Jobs, even when they think he's a nutcase—his accomplishments are difficult to deny. But Howard Dean still has to build a portfolio of such accomplishments to overcome the caricature he made of himself last year.

Also there's the factor of autocratic control. Jobs has it; he rules Apple according to his personal vision, down to the last little screw and pixel. He's about the best illustration there ever was of why a benevolent despot can be great for a company, but would be a horror in a position of political power. Not only would it be worrisome for Dean to have that kind of control over his followers—but I don't think he would anyway. The Democrats are as broad a spectrum as the Republicans are, ranging from the loony fringe (visible as it insists upon making itself) to the rational center. There's a whole lot of mixing up and down the scale, perhaps more than usual, these days. But that doesn't mean that Dean can outline some grand vision and they'll all follow it. We're talking about people's opinions and values here, not a product launch cycle.

If the Democrats want relevance, they're going to have to earn it, by presenting a platform that people want, that they're willing to pay for in the marketplace of ideas. Jobs' vision managed to achieve this, through Mac OS X and the retail stores and the iPod. Will Dean be able to sell his vision to the American public any more convincingly than he did in his candidacy? What's his iPod?

I guess we'll find out.

Via Aziz Poonawalla.


13:15 - Freeeeooow!
http://hitchhikers.movies.go.com/main.html

(top)
Surely I must be in some beautiful dream.

First Tolkien, and now this... a big-budget, high-production-value, well-acted, adapted-for-real-for-the-big-screen version of The Guide?

Douglas Adams was working on a screenplay for it when he died four years ago; since he's credited along with Karey Kirkpatrick, I guess this is it. Great glory and splendour, as Sam put it.

Because from the look of the trailer, it's got the potential to actually be very, very good. No slavish adherence to the book's silly contrivances, as the 1981 BBC series and Ralph Bakshi both failed to see was a good idea, to the detriment of their respective products. No Infocom-esque obsession with trivialities like what the Dentrassis eat or the Betelgeusian national anthem. Instead it looks like it'll have real plot, real timing, real actors, real special effects, and perhaps a reimagining of the Guide itself to account for the fact that in its conception, Douglas Adams essentially prognosticated the Internet itself. The plot appears to cover several of the books at once (Arthur yells "Tricia!" instead of "Trillian"); and if it ends less depressingly than the books did, in what amounted to a fit of pique by an Adams who'd grown sick of the series, this could be a real marvel—everything relative to the old BBC series and the books as the Jackson movies were to Bakshi and the LotR novels.

Maybe I'm just getting my hopes up too high. (Marvin doesn't look much like I'd imagined him, but then, neither does Ford. Zaphod, though... spot-on.) But if nothing else, I suppose this tells me I really ought to have been paying closer attention to the movie rumor sites, huh?

UPDATE: I guess the only place to see the full trailer is at Amazon. And here's a bigger version; share and enjoy.

UPDATE: Okay, here's something I've never understood:

The motto stands - or rather stood - in three mile high illuminated letters near the Complaints Department spaceport on Eadrax - "Share and Enjoy". Unfortunately its weight was such that shortly after it was erected, the ground beneath the letters caved in and they dropped for nearly half their length through the underground offices of many talented young complaints executives - now deceased. The protruding upper halves of the letters now appear, in the local language, to read "Go stick your head in a pig", and are no longer illuminated, except at times of special celebration.
At these times of special celebration a choir of over two million robots sing the company song "Share and Enjoy". Unfortunately - again - another of the computing errors for which the company is justly famous means that the robot's voices are exactly a flattened fifth out of tune and the result sounds something like this, only slightly worse...

The joke in the book, however, ends with "...Except at times of special celebration."

My question is this: Why, if the slogan only reads "Go stick your head in a pig" through an unfortunate lexicographical and geological accident, would the company write its official song around the accidental meaning? Doesn't this expansion completely ruin the meaning of the joke by reversing its sense? I always assumed the "special celebration" was some kind of Bastille Day sort of thing where the locals all made fun of the giant corporation and mocked the fallen edifice that stood as a testament to its hubris, while the company obligingly lit up the sign in a good-natured self-effacing gesture. But according to the radio and TV series (which, I realize, came before the books), the company apparently adopted "Go stick your head in a pig" as its official slogan? I don't get it.

It was funny in the books. But the BBC series, when I saw it, was just full of little moments like this where it took a joke I knew and loved and just dragged it out, way too long, to the point where they'd ruined the humor with needless complexity and ambiguity.

And whenever the director decided to silence the background music and draw in the camera for a close-up while Marvin delivered a line like And that... was with a coffee machine, it was like getting smacked in the face with a 2x4 that had JOKE printed on it.

I know some are BBC-series purists, but for my part I couldn't stand it.

Monday, February 14, 2005
22:03 - They can't have not thought of this
http://blog.kordix.com/marv/archives/000400.html

(top)
Marcus sends word that not only is Napster's condescending "Do the Math" campaign—pumping their subscription-based, home-phoning music-rental system as a smarter alternative to iTunes—is not only disingenuous and a bad deal for consumers, but it's also going to eat Napster alive as geeks start doing this:

Three computers, one fast networked drive, and a few dedicated people: Turning Napster's 14 day free trial into 252 full 80 minute CDs of free music.

Each song can only be burned after the duration of the track length has elapsed in realtime:

14 day trial = 336 hours = 20,160 minutes of potential music = 252 80 minute CDs

Computer 1: Dedicated to downloading new music off of Napster
Computer 2: Dedicated to building WAV files for each CD
Computer 3: Dedicated to burning CDs

All computers share one fast networked drive where new files are downloaded to, converted WAVs are saved to, and CDs are burned from.

And that's the configuration for a maximal ripoff. It's trivially easy to get huge amounts of free music (though not this much) if you just set up a single machine and do some casual leeching through WinAmp as described in the procedure.

All for free. For $15 a month, you can keep doing this indefinitely. And there's nothing Napster can do about it.

Now perhaps we see why the pay-per-song, legitimately-and-outright-owned model of legal music downloading is good not only for the consumers, but for the music store: iTunes gets to collect its fee at the time you download the song, after which any piecemeal re-ripping (along the same lines as what's described here) is much less of a risk because the person has to pay for each song; there's no way around it. But with an unlimited-download, monthly-fee system, it's unenforceable.

How long before Napster finds itself simultaneously battling untenable hosting fees and lawsuits from the record labels who suddenly realize that they're not collecting any money from this unquenchable spigot of essentially unlimited free music downloading?

That mascot is poison, record labels, pure poison. Napster may be "a far cry" from its original incarnation as the P2P app that fathered every other P2P app out there; but it's no less a liability to the music industry in its present guise, as said industry will find out to its detriment quite shortly.

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