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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  4/4/2005 -  4/10/2005
 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
 2/21/2005 -  2/27/2005
 2/14/2005 -  2/20/2005
  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
 10/4/2004 - 10/10/2004
 9/27/2004 -  10/3/2004
 9/20/2004 -  9/26/2004
 9/13/2004 -  9/19/2004
  9/6/2004 -  9/12/2004
 8/30/2004 -   9/5/2004
 8/23/2004 -  8/29/2004
 8/16/2004 -  8/22/2004
  8/9/2004 -  8/15/2004
  8/2/2004 -   8/8/2004
 7/26/2004 -   8/1/2004
 7/19/2004 -  7/25/2004
 7/12/2004 -  7/18/2004
  7/5/2004 -  7/11/2004
 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
 6/21/2004 -  6/27/2004
 6/14/2004 -  6/20/2004
  6/7/2004 -  6/13/2004
 5/31/2004 -   6/6/2004
 5/24/2004 -  5/30/2004
 5/17/2004 -  5/23/2004
 5/10/2004 -  5/16/2004
  5/3/2004 -   5/9/2004
 4/26/2004 -   5/2/2004
 4/19/2004 -  4/25/2004
 4/12/2004 -  4/18/2004
  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
 3/29/2004 -   4/4/2004
 3/22/2004 -  3/28/2004
 3/15/2004 -  3/21/2004
  3/8/2004 -  3/14/2004
  3/1/2004 -   3/7/2004
 2/23/2004 -  2/29/2004
 2/16/2004 -  2/22/2004
  2/9/2004 -  2/15/2004
  2/2/2004 -   2/8/2004
 1/26/2004 -   2/1/2004
 1/19/2004 -  1/25/2004
 1/12/2004 -  1/18/2004
  1/5/2004 -  1/11/2004
12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
 12/1/2003 -  12/7/2003
11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
 10/6/2003 - 10/12/2003
 9/29/2003 -  10/5/2003
 9/22/2003 -  9/28/2003
 9/15/2003 -  9/21/2003
  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
  9/1/2003 -   9/7/2003
 8/25/2003 -  8/31/2003
 8/18/2003 -  8/24/2003
 8/11/2003 -  8/17/2003
  8/4/2003 -  8/10/2003
 7/28/2003 -   8/3/2003
 7/21/2003 -  7/27/2003
 7/14/2003 -  7/20/2003
  7/7/2003 -  7/13/2003
 6/30/2003 -   7/6/2003
 6/23/2003 -  6/29/2003
 6/16/2003 -  6/22/2003
  6/9/2003 -  6/15/2003
  6/2/2003 -   6/8/2003
 5/26/2003 -   6/1/2003
 5/19/2003 -  5/25/2003
 5/12/2003 -  5/18/2003
  5/5/2003 -  5/11/2003
 4/28/2003 -   5/4/2003
 4/21/2003 -  4/27/2003
 4/14/2003 -  4/20/2003
  4/7/2003 -  4/13/2003
 3/31/2003 -   4/6/2003
 3/24/2003 -  3/30/2003
 3/17/2003 -  3/23/2003
 3/10/2003 -  3/16/2003
  3/3/2003 -   3/9/2003
 2/24/2003 -   3/2/2003
 2/17/2003 -  2/23/2003
 2/10/2003 -  2/16/2003
  2/3/2003 -   2/9/2003
 1/27/2003 -   2/2/2003
 1/20/2003 -  1/26/2003
 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
  1/6/2003 -  1/12/2003
12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
 12/9/2002 - 12/15/2002
 12/2/2002 -  12/8/2002
11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
 11/4/2002 - 11/10/2002
10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
 9/30/2002 -  10/6/2002
 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
 9/16/2002 -  9/22/2002
  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
 8/12/2002 -  8/18/2002
  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
 7/22/2002 -  7/28/2002
 7/15/2002 -  7/21/2002
  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  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
Friday, May 6, 2005
22:32 - More Stupid Tiger Tricks
http://daringfireball.net/misc/2005/04/tiger_details

(top)
John Gruber is putting together a list of Tiger features and observations as comprehensive as only he can make it. Don't miss what you can do with the new Dictionary app and the "pane" view that you get if you press Control+Command+D while hovering over any word in any application. (Let go of D and keep holding the other two keys, and keep moving the mouse around. It's trippy.)


16:51 - In defense of unoriginality

(top)
The prevailing chic in the comic-book and animation world for the past couple of decades has been an ironic, satiric take on the world of superheroes. It (arguably) started with The Watchmen in 1986 or thereabouts, and in recent years it's reached full flower in Tartakovsky's Justice Friends and all the Space Ghost-derived incarnations that make up the Adult Swim panoply. Pixar took it mainstream with The Incredibles.

But I couldn't help noticing something. A certain plot device just keeps cropping up in these kinds of anti-superhero stories, over and over again; it seems that whenever a writer wants to come up with a plausible or realistic plot to justify a superhero universe, he universally reaches for this device. It's the "Evil supervillain—a disillusioned former hero—wants to engineer a catastrophe so he can pose as the savior that renews respect for heroes fallen from public acclaim" thing.

The Watchmen did it (Ozymandias). The Incredibles, penned as it was by the great Brad Bird, did it (Syndrome). And as I was reading Kurt Busiek's Astro City story "The Tarnished Angel" featuring Steeljack, I found myself looking for the introspective former hero living alone in a dark mansion who'd inevitably turn out to be plotting a manufactured disaster for himself to thwart. "Him? no... Him? No... wait—Him!" And lo and behold, El Hombre was exactly that.

Something about the nature of these post-modern superhero stories just lends itself to this cynical, hopeless, amoral plot twist. In the application of the subterfuge you always see in the real world to a universe where one expects to see moral certainty and incorruptibility in the heroes, this device is sort of a slam-dunk. Yet it keeps being used, over and over.

I guess it goes to show that if the execution is good enough, fans won't notice, or care. The Incredibles was just way too good for any significant outcry to have arisen over the fact that its primary plot point, seemingly groundbreaking and bold, had already been turned hackneyed by earlier ventures into this already middle-aged subgenre. Bird's script centers on a textbook play... but we forgive it, because the overall story and its presentation are just too damn good. And while earlier outings that used it were underground and obscure, this one's a PIxar film that's on every home video bookshelf by now.

I just hope that's the end of it, and nobody tries to do this again. Because now people will notice.


16:32 - This guy might need an intervention
http://mfdh.ca/writing/scoop_diary_archive/04-1111.html

(top)
Via BrianD comes this story/adaptation that's just a little bit too well executed for its own good.

Nadim Zero leaned back in the booth and boasted that he had made the Red Sea Run "in less than twelve miles." Reading Salim's blank look he continued: "I've outrun British customs boats. She's fast enough for you, old man. What's the cargo?"

"Only passengers," replied Salim smoothly. "Myself, the boy, two clerks, and no questions."

Nadim Zero chuckled. "What is it? Some kind of local trouble?"

"Let's just say we'd like to avoid any...American entanglements."

It wasn't until I reached the end that I realized that this was done by Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming, the guy behind the Darth Vader blog. I should have seen it earlier—the Canadian diction should have been a giveaway. After all, no one country is big enough for two people this terminally geeky...

Thursday, May 5, 2005
00:26 - A breadtangle of pizza
http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Round_Rects_Are_Everywh

(top)
Here's a story that Kris pointed out, on the invaluable Folklore.org repository of ancient Macintosh history:

Steve suddenly got more intense. "Rectangles with rounded corners are everywhere! Just look around this room!". And sure enough, there were lots of them, like the whiteboard and some of the desks and tables. Then he pointed out the window. "And look outside, there's even more, practically everywhere you look!". He even persuaded Bill to take a quick walk around the block with him, pointing out every rectangle with rounded corners that he could find.

When Steve and Bill passed a no-parking sign with rounded corners, it did the trick. "OK, I give up", Bill pleaded. "I'll see if it's as hard as I thought." He went back home to work on it.

Bill returned to Texaco Towers the following afternoon, with a big smile on his face. His demo was now drawing rectangles with beautifully rounded corners blisteringly fast, almost at the speed of plain rectangles. When he added the code to LisaGraf, he named the new primitive "RoundRects". Over the next few months, roundrects worked their way into various parts of the user interface, and soon became indispensable.

It's a great little story, with illustrations and everything. And you know... it seems that with the latest few rounds of new products, Steve has rediscovered his boyhood romance with RoundRects, and worked them into everything from the Mac mini (and the widget dressing of its website) to the shape of the iPod shuffle and various power supply designs. Now, too, it's hard to miss that RoundRects have made their way into Tiger as well, as the new bolder selection shape that appears every which where, from the Finder to Mail to the window that pops up to help you resolve .Mac Sync conflicts. They're all shaped like the outlines on no-parking signs. Hell, they've got some old, old code to do it super-fast, so why not?

It's all about the Steve, and the Steve is all about wacky whims...


19:14 - Do they give a Nobel Prize for "attempted chemistry"?

(top)
Just a thought, here.

On 9/11/01, two of the four hijacked planes successfully hit the two towers of the World Trade Center. The other two planes and their targets, however, have sort of become a footnote to history, understandably—if only by sheer dint of numbers of casualties and lasting damage to the national psyche.

However: we know that Flight 93, the one that went down in Pennsylvania when the passengers rebelled, had been targeted at the Capitol building; and Flight 77, the one that hit the Pentagon, had a flight path with deviations that suggest that it was originally steering for the White House, but couldn't find it and went instead for its secondary target.

In the years since 9/11, the predictable response has been twofold: from one side of the nation has been the implacable call not just for justice against the actual perpetrators of the act, but for a thorough worldwide cleansing of the ideology that would give rise to people inclined to follow in their footsteps... and from the other, a sense of reservation and reluctance, born of the fact that the buildings that toppled were the World Trade Center buildings, symbols of commerce and American financial dominance and—to some—hives of "little Eichmanns", the people really pulling the levers that directed American actions that they found abhorrent (globalization, investment banking, free trade, capitalism, et cetera). The strike on the Pentagon just sealed the deal (repeat after me: military-industrial complex). In other words, the way 9/11 went down, it's become irresistibly branded as a big blow against America's economic might and hubris—not its political clout or identity as a nation.

The success of the terrorists' mission has to be scored at about 65%—they hit half their primary targets and missed two, but hit a secondary target. The targets they hit differ significantly in symbolic impact from the targets they missed (or hit as second choices). However, this result could have gone any number of different ways, largely dependent on nothing more than accidents of timing, luck, and serendipity.

What, then, if things had happened a little differently?

What if the timing had worked out another way, so that different targets had been hit first, and passengers on different planes had started hearing the news on their cellphones and begun making plans to rebel and overthrow the hijackers? What if the weather or pilot error had forced other planes to make new decisions as to where to aim, rather than the ones that did?

What if it had been the Capitol and the White House that had been hit, and the World Trade Center had been missed entirely?

How would that have affected America's response to 9/11? How would we have reacted if, instead of it being a symbol of our financial global dominance and a privately owned office building full of thousands of civilian employees of regular companies and tourists that had been destroyed, it were the symbols of America's political power that bore the attack's full brunt? What if, in the months following 9/11, nobody thought—for there would have been no outward reason to suspect it—that the "little Eichmanns", whose buildings were still standing intact there in Lower Manhattan, had anything to do with the terrorists' motives? What if, instead, on the evening news each night we found ourselves staring at two shattered national monuments in Washington D.C., the graves of hundreds of Senators and Representatives and possibly the President?

Would we have reacted differently? Would we be asking ourselves "Why do they hate us?" Would our youths be protesting in the street against military response? Assuming he survived, would they be calling Bush Hitler? Would they be talking about appeasement and understanding and compromise?

And if not... why the hell not?

Better yet: since we live in a world where these things didn't happen... why the hell do they?

People discussing issues like hate-crime laws make lots of airy claims that "intent shouldn't be a factor" when determining how to punish someone—an act of murder is an act of murder, regardless of the motivation, right? Only the commission of an act should be punishable—not the attempted or intended commission of that act. If someone's convicted of attempted murder, it's pretty typically a lesser sentence than for successful murder. Seems to make sense, but... not if you think about it too hard.

Because if we treat 9/11 only on the basis of what the terrorists successfully accomplished, we run the risk of missing the whole point of the act, and reacting in a manner that attempts to solve all the wrong problems.

We have to measure our response according to the symbolic and concrete impact that 9/11 would have had if the terrorists had succeeded in hitting all their primary targets. Because that's what they would have done if only they'd been able to. They didn't choose to hit only the buildings full of "little Eichmanns" and our military headquarters, and leave our representative government and its symbols intact. If Allah had been on their side, they'd have taken out both towers of the WTC, the Capitol Building, and the White House. And we'd be reacting today based on the aftermath of that kind of horrific spectacle that would have been all the more dreadful than 9/11 already was in the real world.

Some people are able to cloud their moral judgment by justifying 9/11, to some degree, as a righteous attack upon America's economic hubris, rather than upon us as a people. Yet I don't think they'd be able to do that if it were our national symbols and monuments, the historic and irreplaceable buildings that Americans of all political stripes revere as the home of politicians among whom just about anyone can find representation in past or present history, that had been turned into rubble-filled craters. There'd be no denying who it was that was the attack's targets. And there would be no confusion or equivocation as to the appropriateness of the response.



Imagine that none of the buildings pictured here, or the people inhabiting them, existed anymore. Not just half of them, or well-armored substitutions for some of them that are easily rebuilt—none of them. Imagine all of them going up in the same plumes of smoke that covered Manhattan for that week in September.

Go on: imagine it.

That's the world in which those people live who back the War on Terror. Not the world where nature and humanity conspired to turn the attack into something subtly different in symbolic character, and considerably less horrific, than what it was intended to be.

Hell, if all the planes had missed, even if miraculously nobody had died, even if the plot had been foiled at the ticket counters—we should still be reacting the same way, with the same far-reaching plan to reshape the Arab world and snuff out Islamic fundamentalist terrorism by spreading secular democracy. Yet imagine how intense the domestic and international resistance would have been then.

Just a thought, but—why should there be any difference?


UPDATE: Yeah, I know the "hate crimes" thing is a bit glib. Go too far into the "punish intent rather than deed" direction and you're in Big Brother territory; yet too far in the other direction and you end up adjudicating things solely on the basis of body-count, and the judicial system becomes some sort of non-sentient organism responding to stimuli in a coldly linear manner, which just isn't a sensible way to deal with humans and all their irrationality. Then there's the "intent should matter when deciding punishment, not when deciding guilt" argument put forth by South Park, which seems to make sense, but takes some mental gear-grinding. The point is, we don't have to do any psychological tricks in this case to find out what the terrorists' dream outcome was, and we'd be deluding ourselves to proceed on any other basis.

UPDATE: I also realize Bush was in Florida on 9/11; but that, too, was dumb luck. It's not like the terrorists could really have planned around that.

UPDATE: Greetings, Rantburg patrons—and thanks for the kind words!


12:55 - The tiger can't change his spots. Oh, wait—he did! Good for him!*

(top)
Apple's already seeded the first build of 10.4.1. Tons of bug fixes, ranging from the obscure to the egregious. So far nothing explicitly targeting Mail, but they clearly have a full plate. (One of the bugs that's already bitten me, and is reportedly fixed in this build, is that on some iMacs it sometimes goes into pinwheel mode after waking from sleep or screen-saver and never comes out.)

They've also fixed that bug where Spotlight and the iTunes Music Store and the iPod mini belt clip weren't covered by patents. (I wonder what that means for Longhorn? Can something be "prior art" when it only exists as a demo and a bunch of coffee-stained storyboards on the walls in Redmond?)

* Apologies to Jack Handey

Tuesday, May 3, 2005
02:13 - Mostly Harmless

(top)
Random thoughts on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie:

• On the whole, it didn't feel significantly different from the old BBC series, from which it even borrowed the theme music. It's like what the BBC series would have been if it'd had more money. Rather than, say, having been remixed and reworked to better fit the necessary composition and timing of the big screen, the way Lord of the Rings was (with such staggering success). With this one, they were working from a half-done screenplay by Douglas Adams, and I don't think they were willing to toss out anything he'd done himself, even if that meant certain scenes—like the whole opening sequence with the bulldozers, or the animated Guide sequences, which are mostly just slicker, Internet-age versions of the corresponding cuts from the series—just don't flow right. Some things work best on the printed page, and that includes Douglas Adams, I'm afraid.

• Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin: inspired genius, and it works perfectly. In fact, it's almost like it's right out of one of those "ideal dream cast" posts on fan sites.

• The old Marvin design from the series waiting in line at the Vogon DMV (or whatever it was). Excellent.

• Zaphod was interesting. They managed to work in that whole business about him splitting his brain in half, which only was imposed on the story in later books, presumably by Adams trying to figure out some way to account for this bizarre two-headed, three-armed character he'd dreamed up seemingly without thinking too hard about how such a thing would look or function. I liked this interpretation. Would have liked to see him get his second head back at the end, though, just for some closure; having him stagger around in half-brained stupor is fine, but really can't be left as the final state of things.

• Slartibartfast was marvelous. They resisted the urge to make him a cross between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Gandalf, as is so easy to derive from the books; here he's got actual character interest and doesn't come across as something we've seen a hundred times before.

• The "Point of View Gun" was an excellent, and oddly poignant, addition. (And it gave Trillian the opportunity for a genuinely snort-worthy one-liner.) Though I think they sort of screwed up in leading the viewer to think that Magrathea is the planet where Deep Thought is...

• Ford—well, not sure what to think about him. Being black and being American were two things I never would have expected from him, and I'm not all that sure it works too well. But the movie provides an oblique reason for his name (they never mention "Prefect", a joke which would have been lost on anyone not English and not born before about 1960) more successfully than the book does.

(Incidentally... one of the weird things I've noticed in talking to friends and reading reviews is that everybody mentions how Ford is indeed a hoopy frood and muses over the merits of him being American-voiced; but nobody anywhere seems willing in the same context to bring up his being black, whether to describe it as good, bad, or neutral to the story's presentation and texture and Adams' original description of the character. As though just having the temerity to notice such a thing amounts to a gross faux pas. Talk about an elephant in the room. It's like if someone did a movie of Othello with an Asian guy cast in the title role, just daring anyone in the press to mention it. Or if Peter Jackson's Elves were all dutifully multicolored like Vulcans in deference to modern sensibilities, Tolkien be damned.)


• Trillian—another inexplicably American casting choice. She was good, but I really think the movie loses a lot by sacrificing some of its quintessential Britishness in these decisions.

• Oh, and the whole subplot about keeping Earth's destruction a secret from Trillian (and Zaphod's complicity) was a good comon-sense addition that added a lot to the plot. I's a startling oversight in the book, now that I think about it.

• Magrathea's factory floor is one of the best pieces of eye candy I expect to see all year.

• The holographic head warning visitors off Magrathea was cool (and filmed in 3D, incidentally), but I really don't think they had to go through the song-and-dance about the whale and the bowl of petunias, even though it's bedrock Adams and therefore inviolable—I just don't think stuff like that helps a movie adaptation, and in fact just distracts from any attempt at plot they're trying gamely to knit together.

• Same goes for that atrocious "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish" title song. Seriously, do they have to amplify every one-liner by turning it into a clumsy showtune that runs the original gag into the ground (quite literally, in some regrettable cases)? It's one of the aspects of slavish Adams-worship that I think does the story itself no favors at all.

• Arthur was about as good as could be imagined. Not much to say about him—he was just Arthur. Though I don't buy him being the one to pilot that escape craft thing. Since when do Ford or Zaphod or even Marvin let the monkey-creature do anything?

• I want that toast-slicer lightsaber thing. It seems like a genuinely good idea.

• They captured the look of the bridge of the Heart of Gold perfectly, but the ship itself sure doesn't look like a running shoe to me.

• The animated Guide sequences, superfluous though they might ultimately be and serving only to mime out the already perfectly evocative narration of various outlandish scenes, were done by Shynola, who created that Junior Senior video that amounts to the best use of 6,480 pixels I've ever seen.

• The Vogons were marvelously executed, though their ships were hardly what I'd describe as looking like they'd "congealed".

• Deep Thought is pretty funky. The idea of an ultracool city-sized computer with a velvet-draped office for a terminal must seem dated by now, somehow, so they went the wacky route.

• At least they avoided most of the potentially irritating digressions for which the book (and the series) were so famous: no "Mostly Harmless", no Eccentrica Gallumbits, no Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster ingredient list, no rhapsodizing about the virtues of towels, not even the bit about locking up the computer with making tea. The story might be thought to be the poorer for it, but it's really not that necessary.

• There was apparently a planet somewhere on Magrathea's factory floor shaped like Douglas Adams' head.


Overall, good, not great. I really think they could have done more with it if they given themselves a bit freer rein with elements such as what turned on-screen into stilted and awkward dialogue, especially in the protracted introduction scene on the bridge of the Heart of Gold, and forced jump-cuts in and out of the Guide as a narrative device. They did manage to give us better characterizations of Arthur and Trillian than the book deigned to show us, which I think is all to the good.

Now all I want to know is, why was the movie prefaced with trailers to the Herbie and Pink Panther remakes, Valiant (Disney's first post-Pixar CG venture), and Sharkboy and Lava Girl? Having to sit through those, and then endure the omnipresent Fandango ad, and the moronic CG "cow-moo box" THX logo bump, left me in no condition to be very charitable toward the first fifteen minutes of the movie at all.

Monday, May 2, 2005
19:48 - Stupid Dashboard Tricks

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Try putting a phrase into the Dashboard widget, translate it to some foreign language (like Japanese), and then hit the Flip button to translate it back into English. Keep hitting the button to see how far the meaning strays from the original—or how long it takes to converge.

Also, press Command+R on any widget to reload it. No, really: press it.

Is that gratuitous or what?


19:40 - Wake me for the Baby Blues reruns
http://ravishinglight.blogspot.com/2005/05/quite-alive-you-find-me.html

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Looks like there's no reason for me to imagine that any great things are to be expected from the shambling resurrection of Family Guy.

Oh, but if I just wait long enough, Adult Swim will be inundated with a one-two-three punch of this, Boondocks, and American Dad.

Oh well. I guess that means I get an hour and a half more work done each night.


15:49 - Tigrification

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Oh yeah—insane amounts of writing wasn't the only thing that happened this weekend. I also installed Tiger.

I've been waiting for the final release for some time with considerable anticipation; none of its features really come as a surprise to me, but I haven't been able to see how it works on my main machines until the final version is out, because pre-release versions don't have a supported upgrade path and you can't install it over a production system without doing a nuke-and-pave when the real version is released. So now's the first time I've been able to see how day-to-day use actually works, and (with the exception of some warts) it's a beauty. Shame about those warts, though.

Positive things:

Installation: I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that the installation is a lot more streamlined, with fewer hidden tasks to get through; particularly, the ever-irritating "Optimizing System Performance" step at the end, just after the main progress bar completes and you think you're done, only to have to wait another ten or twenty minutes, has been greatly trimmed down. There's no "optimizing" step at all after intermediate tasks such as language installations, and the overall prebinding update at the very end (the final "Optimizing System Performance") only takes thirty seconds or so now. Boy, is that ever satisfying to see.

Overall: I love the new responsiveness of the Finder in reaction to external stimuli; this, more so even than actual mouse feedback, is what I think qualifies Tiger to claim it has teh snappy. Great new screensavers, particularly the RSS news ticker with the headlines swooping through cloudy space—it's like watching a TV commercial. Like Siracusa, I'm not too wild about the loss of the customizable button bar in System Preferences, but I'll deal—it does make it cleaner, and besides I've got some friends who despise the interface metaphors involved in these customizable toolbars and the Dock (namely, that you can drag something—moving it off the toolbar—and it disappears, vanishing to parts unknown).

Spotlight: sweet. I've already been using it almost unconsciously; just in writing the book, I've discovered a use for Spotlight that isn't really discussed in the usual boilerplate: I need to find something I put in a previous chapter, and I know exactly where the file is, since I've got the window open right in front of me—I just don't know which file the string I want is in. So why bother even navigating? I just put the search string into Spotlight, and up pops the file I want. Perfect.

Dashboard: Everything I hoped it'd be. At home, I've got it mapped to the big fat F13 key on my G5 keyboard. It's got a few perplexing painting bugs (try resizing a resizable widget until it's really big, then flipping it over), but with the out-of-box configuration it's pretty damn cool. The weather widget is just what I want. (And the "degrees" symbol has a pulsing "activity" light in it when it's acessing the network). Dictionary/thesaurus and calculator widgets: yes indeed. And there are already a bunch of good third-party widgets available at Apple's download site, including a Wikipedia widget and a package tracker. They still have that stupid iTunes controller with the rotary volume control, though, much to my dismay. But with the default loadout and the new widgets coming online, I'd say the coffin of Sherlock is finally getting nailed shut. The only thing left is a movie showtimes tracker, and I can get Sherlock out of my Dock for good. (I doubt this will come as much of a consolation to the Watson people, though.)

QuickTime 7: ground-up rewrite. I weep like Troi: Great joy... and gratitude. Great joy...... and gratitude.

Mail: Mixed feelings. Positives include a crisper interface, all the obvious Spotlight integration features (which means instant searching that will make my life so much easier), and a redesigned Signatures system that Apple implemented apparently down to the last "if" clause the way Chris suggested to them (cascading global and per-account signatures).

iChat: The new "current iTunes track" setting has started a number of conversations for me already.


Negative (or at least ambiguously weird) things:

Initial slowness: There's about an hour of really grotesquely slow performance during the first hour or so of the first uptime in Tiger. This is because of the Spotlight indexing process, as well as a bunch of other caches that have to get set up during post-install. Also, Mail has to migrate all your mailboxes to the new one-file-per-message format, which takes a long time. It gets better, but it's still not a great way to make a first impression.

SSH Agent has broken for some reason. Hopefully that'll get fixed soon; I hate having to type passwords to open up SSH sessions.

Mail: lots to gripe about here. I've filed sooo many bugs. Let's see here:
  • It's sloooooow. I used to be able to clear out a mailbox with several thousand messages in it with a single delete keystroke; the delete process would be over within half a minute. Now it takes an hour or more, and while it's doing that, it blocks other operations, like message deletions and moves within your Inbox. I was waiting for a bulk mailbox cleanout process to complete; while I waited, I read and deleted a few messages out of my Inbox. Then I switched to another mailbox, then back to the Inbox. The messages I'd deleted were still there, and wouldn't go away until the bulk deletion completed, hours later. (I eventually had to force-quit Mail and go in and delete messages a dozen at a time. This took a while on a mailbox with over 11,000 messages in it. I don't look forward to cleaning out my Junk folder in the future.)
  • The little activity spinner icon that indicated when Mail is busy is gone now; now I can't tell when Mail is still working on updating its caches or transferring stuff to and from the IMAP server, or if it's gotten confused and lost track of which messages are read and where they go. The little "clock" icons next to each mailbox don't cover the same set of information that needs to be conveyed.
  • The Tab key is now mapped automatically to "four spaces"... and you can't turn this off. Aaargh! What possible reason, aside from sadism, could inspire this decision? I put a Tab at the beginning of every paragraph I've ever written in e-mail; if I make a mistake or change my mind, now I have to got Tab-BACKSPACEBACKSPACEBACKSPACEBACKSPACE, bangin' on the keyboard like a chimpanzee, to correct it. Whose brilliant idea was this? I can see the utility of rendering tabs into spaces during delivery—it fixes many layout problems—but why not perform that rendering at delivery time, rather than while I'm still composing the thing? Gaahh!
  • Did I mention that it's slow? When my Inbox finally started deleting those messages that I'd deleted many minutes ago, I could watch them go away one by one: delete..... delete.... delete.... about once every two seconds. This is ridiculous. I know they've gone to a new one-file-per-message caching scheme, to support Spotlight, but this is not a usability improvement.
  • The buttons in the toolbar are stupid. The shapes are non-unique, the dull little arrow icons are non-evocative, and the default layout is dangerous (c'mon—"Reply" right next to "Junk" and "Delete")? Blaugh.
  • Smart Mailboxes are great, but why can't I organize them into folders? I want to create dozens of them, but I don't want them all sitting in the topmost level of my folder tree, guys.
  • Oh yeah—it's slow. Just replying to a message takes several seconds to pop up a reply composition window. What's up with that? (Well, on closer inspection, it appears that this can be blamed on the fact that Mail has to cache all the attachments in all your folders during its initial run, including your spam folders and all your old archives. Without the activity indicator like the old Mail had, there's no way to know this is occurring.)

Hmm. Looks like Mail is a big thumbs-down, for the first time since Cheetah Mail (10.0). Maybe they can address some of these problems. Lord knows they've got the bug reports to work from.

iChat AV: I only got to try this once over the weekend, with a couple of guys in England who were sharing a constricted-upload DSL pipe, but I'm sure I was supposed to see more than 20 total pixels for each person's image. I'm seriously, here: big fuzzy pixels—five across, four down. I should have gotten a screen grab. Oh well—at least multi-way audio chats work, which I guess is what we were doing—it was just an multi-way audio chat with a very dumb-looking visualizer.

Well, it's got some problems. But they aren't the kind of thing that can't be fixed, and I'm sure they will be. Apple engineers eat their own dogfood, and they're going to be using the released version of Tiger (and particularly Mail) from now on; there's no way they're not going to notice the problems I've noticed. This just indicates the extent to which major parts of the OS have been rewritten this time around; previous major releases have really just been tune-ups, and this one is a big architectural shift, with everything morphing to support Spotlight all the way down to the kernel level. There are some obvious gains to be reaped from this, but also some areas in which traditional ease-of-use suffers. 10.4.1 will undoubtedly bring much relief.

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© Brian Tiemann