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
Sunday, October 23, 2005
11:57 - No, it's okay—you don't have to build Apple IIs
http://hooptyrides.blogspot.com/2005/10/dear-steve-jobs-please-build-apple-iis.html

(top)
This guy—"Mister Jalopy"—tells a touching and inspiring story:

It is difficult for me to overstate the importance of the Apple II. I still remember the smell of unwrapping my Apple II. The disk boot command (PR#6) is burned into my brain with greater clarity than my social security number. As if it was in my hands right now, I know the exact weight and shape of a Hayes Microcoupler. My GBBS bulletin board had all the K-K00l M0dz. And even though I was only 14, my friends and peers were rocket scientists, lawyers and college professors.

. . .

Woz got it. Thirty seconds after unwrapping an Apple II, you were opening the lid and connecting ribbon cables. It was respect. Apple extended respect. And Apple was respected by my rocket scientist buddies and myself. Apple extended the respect through meaningful manuals, a documented architecture and a generally awesome computer. Nothing was hidden. You could POKE and PEEK your way through the whole machine.

Sure; I agree. Lots of people built their early computing careers around the Apple ][ or ][+ or //e. I'm sure a lot of mature geeks credit the early Apple machines with awakening their tinkering natures, and for the time when such things were relevant, when companies weren't actually packaging dial-in BBS gear or MIDI equipment at commodity prices, Apple ruled the roost.

But then the author yanks the wheel:

Steve Jobs, build open systems. Build new business models. Apple owns the box, they should call the shots. Don't pander to the media companies. Don't adopt standards that handcuff us forever. Build for rocket scientists and teenagers.

When Jobs asked Scully to leave Pepsi and come to Apple, he said, "Do you want to keep selling sugar water or change the world?"

Now I ask, "Do you want to keep selling DRM'd Desperate Housewives episodes or change the world?"

Steve Jobs, please build Apple II's.

Uh... what?

Is this just another "Put Ogg VOrbis in I-Tunes or appal is DOOOOOMED!!!11oneone" commandment in sly disguise, or something?

The guy doesn't give us any details as to what has become his mighty exhortation. Apparently he is scandalized by the fact that Apple supports DRM, which means Steve has sold out to The Man™ and no longer makes computers that tinkerers can enjoy. He leaves us to draw our own conclusions; so as best I can, here goes:

He wants Apple to stop selling DRM'd content through iTunes, because it was much better when Apple was not wildly profitable, they did not make software and digital media devices that half the world is crawling over itself to get, and we were all trading crackly MP3s on Gnutella.

He wants Apple to pander to the tinkerer's market, the one that today thrives by buying cheapo PCs and running Linux on them. He wants Apple to somehow compete in that sector, as though it can bring things to the commoditized landscape that a zillion companies have spent the past twenty years mostly going out of business selling, and now only eke out an existence by providing them for free and selling service contracts.

He wants Apple to "respect" its users—by, oh, I don't know, making a top-notch development environment available free to anyone who wants it, and by providing a public bug reporting system that anyone can use to report flaws in Mac OS X or any of its software, or for that matter by implementing a form of copy-protection that is less restrictive, less crippling to abuse-prone usage like CD burning, and more geared toward users' perpetual ownership of media files than anyone else's. DRM is evidently a sign of a scandalous lack of trust in Apple's users, which is in no way justified by the fact that when Apple trustingly put a "Connect to Shared iTunes Library by IP" feature into iTunes 4, people had figured out within a day how to leech tracks out of each other's Libraries, effectively turning iTunes into the world's slickest P2P app.

He thinks that what Apple is doing right now, by reinventing the way we approach audio and video media content and putting it piecemeal into the hands of the consumers, by establishing a new paradigm for professional digital photography and by enabling a new generation of digital filmmaking, is not just not "changing the world", it's somehow the antithesis of it.

(Does this stuff cost lots of money? Sure it does. But this doesn't. Even if you're a poor high school student, or an ex-engineer who has "thrown [his career] in the trash bin", Apple technology is within easy reach.)

He probably thinks that when Apple sells copy-protected iTunes songs by putting secret codes into the caps of bottles of sugar water, the company has sold out everything it stands for.

Well, maybe it's sold out everything it stood for in 1980, when the Internet wasn't on every desktop and TiVo wasn't in every bedroom. The West isn't Wild anymore. It's a different world now, with vastly different business opportunities, and every company that wants to make a profit selling computers—even Dell—is doing so by appealing to customers' desire not to have to tinker inside their boxes. 14-year-old basement-dwelling geeks who hobnob with rocket scientists get their kicks these days by writing viruses, not by inventing hardware playing with breadboards and soldering irons. Even if they hadn't all but vanished with the last WWIV BBSes, the ones Apple might ever want to court would never buy anything from them anyway.

Apple's choice isn't between "selling out" and "making Apple ][s", it's between "selling out" and "making nothing". I'm reasonably happy that they've chosen the path that means they get to keep existing, and that after all the hand-wringing it looks like they've given up so little of their innovative spirit in the process.

And you know what the funniest part is? That black-and-white picture in the middle of the article, with Steve and Woz and someone standing proudly around an Apple computer? The one that is being used to exemplify the bygone Golden Age of openness and trust, when they wrote nice manuals but otherwise didn't trammel you with case screws or media alliances or "standards"?



That's an Apple //c.

A closed system.

(Via Steven Den Beste.)

UPDATE: Brummbar has a good deal more.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
11:16 - This is a test of the emergency free speech system
http://www.jp.dk/english_news/artikel:aid=3334090/

(top)
Now that's what I call a "demonstration":

Internet collages threatening Denmark and daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten with death and retribution have begun circulating on the internet after the newspaper published caricatures of Muslim prophet Mohammed

Bombs exploding over pictures of Danish daily Jyllands-Posten and blood flowing over the national flag and a map of Denmark are among the images circulating on the internet after the newspaper printed twelve cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed last month.

Daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported that the internet collages, posted in the name of an unknown organisation calling itself 'The Glory Brigades in Northern Europe', showed pictures of various tourist attractions in Denmark and stated that 'The Mujahedeen have numerous targets in Denmark - very soon you all will regret this', amongst other things.

Another picture showed soldiers, armed with bombs, over a map of Denmark, with blood spattered over parts of the country.

The front page of Jyllands-Posten featured prominently on many of the four collages. The newspaper has been criticised by Muslims for printing the cartoons, and was forced to hire security guards after receiving hate mail and death threats over the telephone.

The newspaper asked illustrators to make the cartoons after reports that artists were reluctant to illustrate a book on Mohammed for fear of Muslim retribution. The daily's editors said the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark.

Got your answer yet?

Via LGF. The cartoons in question are here; I find this one particularly apt.


08:01 - WE DIDN'T LISTEN!!!

(top)
Boy, Trey and Matt show no signs of slowing down. At this rate, South Park will outlast The Simpsons—because here in the, what, ninth season? ... it's showing no signs of the rot that eventually started to consume the latter. In fact, it's only getting more and more ambitious and ingenious.

Last night's episode, the season premiere, certainly covered a lot of ground: Katrina, global warming, and The Day After Tomorrow, the parody of which was thoroughly brilliant right down to "Cliché Dissenting Republican". Also they covered the media's miserable performance: "We're reporting mass deaths, looting, rioting, rape, murder, and even cannibalism here." "How awful! You mean you've actually seen these things happening?" "No, Tom, we're just reporting it."

Before they started blaming the broken beaver dam and floods on global warming, though, they had to put up two equally deridable groups of premature blamemongers, in the interest of presenting some semblance of impartiality; and whereas one group blamed the dam breakage on George Bush, the opposing group of rednecks blamed it on Al Qaeda. What's funny is that whereas we all heard plenty of people in the real world making the former claim ("George Bush doesn't care about beavers!"), I never heard anybody making the latter. Trey and Matt had better watch out, or people will notice them pointing out uncomfortable truths they didn't even intend to expose. Then Comedy Central will have to screen a Trey/Matt vs. Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert deathmatch.

Oh, and as for Adult Swim: I don't know what "Dangerdoom" is, but whose-ever idea it was to have Matthew Lesko record a couple of promo spots for it, pelting through a park in his question-mark suit, babbling and yammering incoherent syllables, and then yelling DANGERDOOM! into the camera, deserves a freaking medal for all-encompassing awesomeness.

UPDATE: Aha. That should be entertaining...

Thanks to Ben D. for the link.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
13:19 - Gadzooks
http://applexnet.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1633

(top)
No, they don't do anything halfway, do they?

Of immediate interest to me is Aperture, a new $500 iPhoto-on-steroids package that looks to be squarely in the Final Cut Pro class. Professionals only, please. And preferably people with 30-inch monitors. Two of them.

I've also never seen so lavish a product page for anything out of Apple. Heavy Flash usage, lots of video tours, and some really excellent professional testimonial videos that get the message across very well indeed. I guess H.264 is already paying off.

New Power Macsquads. They've been predicting quads since the early days of the G4, remember that? Finally they're here. Dual-core G5s, dual-CPU, for $3300.

(But CapLion notes that you can put together a Mac now for $18,000. It's one hell of a machine, though, at that price.)

Updated PowerBooks, too, though their biggest selling point seems to be brighter, higher-resolution screens.

All in all, a day for the photography and video pros, it seems. Which stands to reason, considering where it took place: at PhotoPlus Expo in New York.

I wonder how Adobe feels about this? Apple's finally starting to really chisel at their market. Premiere is (reportedly) leaving the Mac platform, as Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express have the high-middle and low-middle ends of video production sewn up. Now I wonder if Photoshop's days are numbered...

I hope not, because if Aperture exposes (heh) nothing else, it's that Photoshop has evolved to the point where manipulating photos is barely even a concern to it anymore—and a program like Aperture that really does tackle pro photographers' needs head-on will probably suck away a whole market that mistakenly thought it had all it needed. I mean, hell, you can't even order photo prints or create one-touch Web galleries from Photoshop. You can't even import photos from your camera! What is this? But it's become something that's indispensable for Web designers, graphic artists, and SomethingAwful geeks, for just about every feature it has that has nothing to do with photography. Aperture ignores that market and aims squarely at those people that Photoshop once served, but that it does no longer.

Someone at Apple has seen a prime opening and the company pounced. It just re-cemented the Mac as the platform of choice for pro photographers. Nice move.

UPDATE: So this is what Core Image was all about. Methinks this has been planned for some time... maybe even ever since iPhoto was first conceived.

Also, it strikes me that no matter how nice Apple plays with the Wintel world, whether it's using Intel processors or buffing iTunes for Windows or making the iPod USB-only, the Mac is never going to be endangered as long as stuff like Aperture and FCP and Shake are only available for the Mac. Besides, I'll bet they make a pretty penny on those 30-inch monitors, and this software makes great strides toward driving sales of those things...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
20:28 - nth time's the charm

(top)
I've got to admit that the new ad campaign for Napster is actually pretty effective.

When the current incarnation of the Napster service debuted at the beginning of the year, with its "Do the math" campaign, the ads all featured that strange little cat mascot and lots of stylized clip-art, the message of which was unclear at best. What makes it better than iTunes? Uh... well, you don't have to have one of those trendy iPods to use it! Yeah, that's compelling.

They didn't seem to know how to present their argument, and certainly didn't have any of the iPod's cool on their side. Which is interesting: for a certain class of music consumers, the ones who don't care about owning their music and who are comfortable with paying a monthly fee for the ability to rotate through the entire available library, it actually isn't a bad deal. If you don't mind that the music will go away if you don't pay your monthly fee, and you've got a fast enough connection to support frequent download sessions, it can in fact be an attractive proposition. Yet Napster didn't seem able to articulate that.

Well, now they have. The new ads feature a gray, staticky, "underground radio" sort of motif, with an ethereal voice whispering from the airwaves at you as your TV loses control of the vertical and the horizontal:

You don't have to OWN music... to have music... to enjoy music... to discover music.... 1.5 million songs... unlimited access... Bye Buy Music...

And much as I hate to admit it, that actually works pretty well. It gets the message across in such a way that those people who would prefer Napster's model of music downloading will immediately understand what makes it different and worth their attention.

Now, I still don't think that segment of the music-buying public is all that big, and I don't think iTunes' market share has that much to fear. Napster still doesn't provide the user any sense of permanence or independence; long-term listening habits and personalized playlists aren't really possible under this model, unless you plan on paying $15 a month forever to keep accessing the files on your own computer. The system is also still prone to abuse, such that I think an eventual backlash from the labels is all but inevitable. I think the market will continue to favor iTunes' model, especially as it extends its reach into video and the possibilities of personal ownership of TV programming and movies. But from now on that battle will be fought on the basis of the two systems' objective merits, rather than on who has the better marketing.

UPDATE: CapLion wrote about this tonight too, and I swear I hadn't seen his before I wrote mine.


13:52 - Reason #1287 to love Chipotle

(top)
It's not just the food that makes Chipotle such an awesome restaurant: it's also the general atmosphere. Irreverent little signs everywhere, expressing sentiments from "Good for your soul and your nasal passages" to "Work where you actually want to eat the food".

Today, the maintenance truck was out in the parking lot (possibly to fix the acoustics? Naaahh); and it had this sticker in its window:



I love this place.


13:03 - Rolling crumple zone
http://www.redstaterant.com/archives/1203-Wary-of-the-Chinese-Auto-Industry.html

(top)
Via InstaPundit—you know, it is possible for Excursions and Suburbans to seem safe by comparison:



Worst... crash test... ever. Good job, China.

Of course, it occurred to us over lunch that if you're heading into an accident, and you see one of these things, steer toward it—it'll provide a nice soft cushion.

UPDATE: Hmm. You suppose Isuzu knows about this?


The headlamps and lower body cladding are different, but other than that this appears to be a direct crib off a ten-year-old Isuzu Rodeo. And who knows what, if anything, is underneath.

Do we have a new picture to put next to the definition of "Cargo Cult" or what?

UPDATE: Kevin at Atomic Glee has lots more examples of how committed the Chinese auto industry is to keeping its eyes on its own paper.

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© Brian Tiemann