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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 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
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
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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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, January 21, 2006
20:57 - I always thought they had a certain pallor

(top)
Hey, CodePink? I can do crappy Photoshops too; look:



(Original, via Tim Blair.)


14:23 - We like the cars, the cars that go boom
http://www.apocalypsemotorworks.com/

(top)

The Merc will be trundlin' itself down the western coastline from Portland, Oregon to San Jose, California sometime around 1/18/06 and will make a return trip up the western asphalt a week or so later.
If ya see/saw the car fire an email my way lettin' me know where and what ya think!

This morning it was parked right along Capri's habitual daily walk route; the website address was written on the trunklid in red electrical tape, so I looked it up.

I wonder if it was just coincidence that he parked it across the street from a guy who is reknowned in my circles for having retro-engineered vehicle after vehicle, from a van that had its own IP subnet back in the early 90s to a Toronado whose flip-around headlights had been replaced by tubes containing launchable Estes-powered missiles, controlled by a switch on the dashboard?

I sent off an e-mail to find out. I love teh Intarweb.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
01:27 - Cracks in the wall
http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/index.cfm?NewsID=13624&Page=1&pagePos=8

(top)
Looks like the hysterical theories of Apple's media-download sales hurting studios' bottom lines are starting to lose some credibility:

NBC making a connection between podcast success and broadcast ratings success is significant because it's the first evidence that new video platforms are additive because they "provide more entry points into a show for consumers", the report explains.

Offering shows through iTunes is attracting new viewers who may not otherwise have tuned in, Frederick Huntsberry, president of NBCU Television Distribution said: "Consumers have choices, and we are not reaching all consumers with one technology," he said.

. . .

Far from destroying audience figures, online distribution is boosting them - and consumers like to watch good television shows more than once, executives say.

Who knew?

UPDATE: That's also not what a "podcast" is, guys. The term isn't already starting to get redefined, is it?

At least it's not like Creative's, uh, creative attempt: Personal On Demand Broadcast.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
17:02 - Welcome news
http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/imac-coreduo.ars/4

(top)
Evidently the Intel iMacs aren't orders of magnitude faster than their G5 predecessors on native software... but Rosetta performance, which is arguably more important at this stage, is encouraging:

When an application launches, the system looks to see if it's a Universal Binary. If not, the application is launched using Rosetta. Rosetta runs in the same thread as the application, and translates blocks of code as they come up. The translated code is then optimized, and is cached for reuse. So if an application is reusing the same piece of code, you will see a performance benefit, since the translation needs only occur once.

When Rosetta was announced, there was a lot of speculation over how well it would work. In a news post from August 2005, Hannibal wondered if it would be "usable, mostly usable, or barely usable." I'm here to tell you it's usable.

The world of operating system and platform emulation is a somber one; you seldom hear anyone crow giddily about the speed of any full-scale emulator. If Rosetta earns a "usable" from Ars Technica, I'd say it's already off to a better start than most emulators in recent memory.

Via Daring Fireball.


11:31 - Sleight of app

(top)
Damien Del Russo has revamped his site to use iWeb, with its built-in component-driven blog publishing features. Very nice-looking, I'd say—and that "image reflection against a black tabletop" thing that debuted in iChat AV and iTunes 5/6 and FrontRow seems to be rapidly becoming an Apple trademark. Here's Damien's impression of iWeb:

I am really loving this iWeb. It took me a little bit to figure out how to upload it to my own website instead of .Mac, but now that it's set up it is pretty awesome. I'll eventually need a tool that will synchronize my web site folder rather than upload the entire thing every time, but I am sure something like that already exists (iWeb keeps track of what is on .Mac but not what is in a published folder, so everything looks unpublished).

I haven't figured out how to edit the characteristics of the Nav bar, but otherwise editing in iWeb is a real dream. I've been working in Pages since it was released, so the alignment features and inspectors are very familiar. I just love - LOVE - how Apple UI is so consistent - iWeb took about 5 minutes to figure out given that it's basically a *simplified* Pages for the web. Just great.

I think you are right, there will be a lot of sites with similar looks and such. I hardly modified the theme, just adjusting a couple fonts and dropping a movie into a blog entry (sweet). But full customization is just under the covers for those willing to play with the masks and colors and really move things around the format.

Oh, one semi-tricky thing I had to figure out. iWeb doesn't really have a save file - you can't just back it up and load it on another computer. If you lose your computer or have a drive crash, your .Mac iWeb site is pretty much dead, as far as I can gather. You certainly can't download a site into iWeb. However, I did manage to locate a sort-of save file. In the home/Library/Application Support/iWeb folder, there is a file called Domain. That is your iWeb stuff. However, not all the content is copied into that file, so just backing that file up is not really a legitimate site backup.

Also, if you name any page with a space in it, .Mac is happy but web sites like Geocities are not pleased. Notice all my areas are one work - I didn't want underscores in my Nav bar!

Hopefully Apple will improve the save setup in the next release, as I think it is a pretty major flaw. It doesn't affect the easy operation, but it seems a little overly constrictive. iPhoto and iTunes were very similar in their early releases, having inflexible library locations and such - now they're much improved. Until then, I'll just have to backup Domain from time to time and be sure the rest of my content is already backed up (it is).

It's clearly a 1.0; there are some stylistic issues that I don't find very well thought-out (the still-frame at the top of the Movies page, if it's automatically generated by iWeb, seems to mislead the viewer into thinking it's an embedded movie file whose download has stalled mysteriously about halfway through), and its HTML markup apparently lacks a great deal in the compactness department (via John Gruber, who's continuing his revealing series on the adventures of the hapless Brushed Metal). But those things will no doubt be ironed out in time, just as Pages and Keynote have been steadily getting remodeled according to users' needs.

This illustrates something interesting about Apple's software efforts lately, though: every app they bring out seems to defy our expectations of its mission. iWeb, it was widely believed ever since the first post-partum analyses of iWork, would be an HTML composition program, perhaps a consumer-oriented competitor to Dreamweaver or GoLive, a stylish Mac answer to FrontPage. But that's not what it is; rather, it's a component-driven, drag-and-drop, theme-oriented page builder that bears as much resemblance to a traditional HTML editor as Pages does to Word.

For that matter, Pages itself—which many thought was the sneakily anticipated challenger to Word—is no such thing. It's more of a page layout program, something you can use to create awesome-looking newsletters, brochures, résumés, and other printables, all leveraging a vast array of exquisitely designed templates and giving you knobs and hooks with which to alter it to your own taste—but not much to encourage you to strike out on your own. True, professional-level layout controls are available in the sub-panes and sub-sub-panes of the Inspector floater, but if you don't know they're there—and most users won't—the program is less a word processor and more a style-conscious design assistant. The very fact that you have to type over "lorem ipsum dolor" sample text in all the layout boxes, rather than starting from scratch entering your own text, ought to tell us all we need to know about the program's goals. It may not have been the first program to tackle this approach to page design—focusing on the end product rather than the skills and steps needed to get there—but it's certainly caused us a great deal of flusterment trying to fit it into a box where we can interpret it properly. If not a Word challenger, how do we relate to it? What does it do? What's it for?

Pages isn't the only other example of this philosophy either. Remember when iPhoto came out? People fell all over themselves punditizing over whether it was a Photoshop challenger—you know, a cheap, consumer-oriented app designed to help Apple throw off the shackles of the Adobe Beast, for whatever that would have been worth. But iPhoto is and was nothing of the sort. Nor was it an "image viewer", as others insisted it would be, following the tradition of iTunes as an "MP3 player" (another misapplied set of terms in the long run). iPhoto, rather, was a tool specifically built around digital photography, not generic images you might have floating around in your Pictures folder from years of downloading off the Net. Its mission was never to replace Photoshop in image manipulation, or Preview in image viewing; hell, it has no functions for image creation at all. It's just about digital photos—taking over the process from downloading the photos off the camera and sending them to the printing services or other output mechanisms, hiding the unnecessary trivia of "files" and "folders" from users uninterested in such things. And in that regard, by stepping into the niche previously occupied only by low-rent vendor-specific apps that came on the driver discs packed with digital cameras, iPhoto helped to define an entirely new product class. It focused on the end product—the content it helps users create—and not the process or the tools necessary to do so.

In fact, the same case can be made of just about every app Apple has brought out in the last five years. Everything from iMovie to Aperture has been mischaracterized as an assault upon the fat-cat apps that define a well-stocked Applications folder on the Mac; yet every one of them has been designed with a purpose in mind that largely hadn't been thought of before. iPhoto aimed to make it just as easy to create those cool hardcover photo books and order cropped and edited prints as it was to snap the pictures in the first place. iTunes aimed to get users to stop thinking of "MP3 files" and "folders" (as they'd been trained to do over years of experience with apps like Audion and WinAmp) and instead to think in terms of "artists" and "albums", and to move all their music from their bulky CD racks into the ephemeral but infinitely flexible and manipulable digital interface of the computer. iMovie and iDVD freed us from the similarly tortured vocabulary of traditional digital video production, riddled with esoteric editing terms and codec tweakage and the necessary limitations of working with huge video files juggled from one disk to another, and changed the paradigm into camera->drag-and-drop-things-into-order->DVD. GarageBand, similarly, aimed to allow people to create music using as much or as little help from synthetic instruments and loops as they wanted; it wasn't the first loop-driven music composer app, but it certainly made it a no-brainer to whip out a song, melding the manipulation of sampled and synthesized instruments as it did, and removing all of the inherent software objections to changing tempos and keys even after the music had been recorded. Even Keynote wasn't quite what people expected—a Powerpoint killer; instead, it was designed to help you make a dazzling presentation with effects nobody had ever seen before, in no time flat. And of course we've all hashed out in gory detail how little Aperture has in common with Photoshop.

Bob Crosley wrote me to note the following:

I agree with you completely that the iBook is due
for an Intel conversion soon, since it's very
unattractive, price-wise, in it's current
configuration.

But you note that an iBook user could get by with the
software currently installed on their iBook. Actually,
this isn't true if it follows the course of the iMacs.
The iMac has had Appleworks dropped from the Intel
version. Apparently Apple didn't want to upgrade it,
and it must work poorly under Rosetta.

An Intel iBook owner (MacBook) will need to either buy
iWork, or use MS Office, or Open Office to get basic
office functionality. I view this as a significant
setback for the Mac out of box experience, as you need
to buy new software right away to make it usable for a
lot of users. 30 day trials for iWork and Office are
on there, but that's not a substitute for having
everythign you need out of the box.

Indeed, and the loss of AppleWorks—while inevitable and long-expected—is a surprise to me at this stage. Why? Not so much because it means Mac users are left without a solution for word-processing in a consumer-level computer—I find TextEdit is actually feature-rich enough to allow me to do 90% of my writing work in it—but because spreadsheets are now lacking from the package. iBook buyers won't be in a position to drop $500 on Office just to get Excel. And without AppleWorks there to take up the slack, they're left without an obvious alternative that Apple can endorse.

My dad spends a lot of time using the AppleWorks spreadsheet—doing baseball stats for his rotisserie league. He doesn't necessarily even need file-format portability—he doesn't send his files around to people; he just uses it to crunch numbers—but he needs something. I daresay his experience isn't that unusual, either.

But what can Apple do? AppleWorks belongs to the earlier era of Mac app design, where Apple made defeatured, not-very-compatible equivalents to well-established programs that would otherwise cost lots of money (or that weren't available on the Mac). AppleWorks was specifically meant to give people a low-cost alternative to Office, one that didn't necessarily have great file-format compatibility and far less than anyone could consider feature parity, but at least it let people write term papers and do their rotisserie stats. But it's old, it's decrepit, and it has no future on Mac OS X—and it's being left out of the Intel Mac game altogether, it seems.

But though a lot of us thought iWork was destined to be the replacement for AppleWorks, it didn't turn out to be anything of the sort; as we should have been able to foresee, its components have so far failed to resemble anything like a Microsoft Office competitor. (A good thing, too, considering Microsoft's recent renewal of its pledge with Apple to keep producing Office for the Mac.) Rather, it's attempted to solve different problems from the ones already being solved. It saw a niche and moved to fill it, rather than leaping into an already crowded and cutthroat market in which it would have been an upstart underdog. With that in mind, it seems only natural that Apple has dragged its feet in bringing out a spreadsheet component app for iWork; doing so would mean treading directly on Microsoft's turf... and besides, what unexplored niche opportunity is there in the spreadsheet space? What problems in spreadsheet-land aren't currently being solved for casual consumer users, the way Apple was able to pinpoint in the page-layout and presentation spaces? How can Apple create a uniquely OS X-style spreadsheet program that brings more to the table than just giving users an excuse not to buy Excel? And do they even want to? If the answer is to do a traditional, AppleWorks-style spreadsheet app to add to iWork (perhaps with really zippy graphing/charting, or whatever they can gratuitously show off in demos by integrating Core Image into it), can they do so without antagonizing Redmond? I hope they know what they're doing, because right now it looks like they've got a big hole in their story for consumer buyers.

Naturally it's dangerous for Apple to assume that the problems everyone is already solving are the wrong ones; in some cases the fact that a given solution has been around forever is nothing more than a confirmation that it's meeting the correct need, not an indication of a misinterpretation of the market that exposes an opportunity. But that seems to be the philosophy underlying almost all of Apple's software offerings since Jobs' return: applications whose classes we think we know, but once we see them and work with them, they change how we approach computing altogether.

I don't know how well iWeb will do in penetrating the market or changing the face of the Web; but its mission fits in very well with the rest of iLife: taking your music, photographs, home movies, and creativity, and mashing it all together so that with just a few clicks you can turn it into a sharable form that everyone else can enjoy. It's sort of discouraging that this is still a fairly unusual concept in software design today.

UPDATE: Bob expands on his own thoughts, speculating on the possibility of mining KDE for the missing Office chunks.

Even putting aside the question about trespassing on Microsoft's territory, I'm leery of the idea that they'd do a direct port of any KDE app. Safari technically only uses Konqueror's rendering engine, not any of its front-end UI (fortunately); and that's because doing a good rendering engine is damned hard, the stuff of years-long ideological journeys by development teams whose names become legend. I'm not too sure Apple can't just whip up a spreadsheet app from scratch if they wanted to, or—if they're feeling lazy—just port the spreadsheet component from AppleWorks and redo its UI. They've clearly inherited a lot of their apps' skeletons from the NeXT days (Pages is actually almost a bytewise copy of a component-driven layout app demoed in 1989 for NeXT), but these guys have shown they can get down and dirty if they want to. I just don't know that a spreadsheet is something they can get that excited about, even if it's a necessity for spackling shut a hole in their sales story.

UPDATE from Bob:

It gets stranger. A report on the new iMacs on
Macintouch verifies that Appleworks is missing. But it
also reports that if you sync to an old Mac,
Appleworks gets copied over and it runs great under
Rosetta. So Apple had other reasons to essentially
kill it off.

I can't imagine MS saw it as a threat!

Not unless they were being really petty, for reasons that would evade me. This doesn't look like an accident, though... there's got to be a story behind it. Maybe Apple wanted to release a spreadsheet component for iWork '06 but didn't have it ready in time, and just really really wanted to get people off AppleWorks (and tell everyone that every app they're bundling is universal, even if that means cutting the ones that aren't)?


11:09 - Why I don't trust analysts
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1891873,00.asp

(top)
Here's the latest rumor getting flung like offal by the simians of of the "Go on record predicting everything, and eventually you'll be right" tech press:

Industry analysts and others have confirmed that Intel Corp. has formed an internal "Apple group." This group, formed in the wake of Apple Computer Inc.'s decision to base its next generation of Macintosh computers on Intel processors, is comprised of engineers and sales staff.

. . .

"Apple feels the pressure of the market and needs to deliver low-cost, high-performance products," Margevicius said.

Margevicius noted that Intel makes not only processors, but entire motherboards, including modules for wireless networking.

He said that if Apple should move away from its previous practice of designing its own motherboards and use, for example, Intel's Napa platform, this could lead to economies of scale, which could reduce Apple's costs and costs to the consumer.

"If Apple is looking to grow the platform, they have to be cost-competitive," he said.

"Apple's finally moved to Intel CPUs like we've always wanted. Good start. But now they have to use generic Intel motherboards and PC hardware, or else they're DOOOOOOOOMED!"

Gah. Will it ever end?

Via JMH.

Monday, January 16, 2006
21:55 - Mr. Butts' Opus

(top)
Is it just me, or are those "Truth" anti-smoking ads really getting—not just sanctimonious and condescending, like they always have been, but completely illogical as well?

This latest one features the familiar megaphone guy in the city streets loudly informing people that methane—methane! Like from cow butts!—is found in tobacco smoke. "Maybe the Marlboro Man would feel more comfortable riding... a cow?" he smirkingly asks.

And this proves... what?

I'll bet there's carbon in cigarette smoke too. And you don't wanna know what kinds of places you find carbon.

I'm no fan of smoking. If you'd asked me in high school, or even just a few years ago, how I felt about cigarettes, I'd have cheerfully signed a ban-it-and-cart-'em-all-off-to-camps petition. But: hey, "Truth" people? Your smarmy and transparently cynical attitude has made me just about do an about-face in the interest of preserving one of our dwindling examples of free will and the personal responsibility that comes with it.

At least they segued right into the "Butt Out" episode of South Park, where the kids face the evil Rob Reiner and his anti-smoking terrorist tactics.

"Wow, it's like—smoking gives people just a little bit of joy, and you get to take that away from them! You're so awesome!"

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