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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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, February 4, 2006
19:09 - Welcome to 2006, Gorak

(top)
Steve Jobs is fond of using the "clock" metaphor for describing transition periods: "On the clock of Mac OS X transition, we're at 9:00."

Well, I'm going to use a similar metaphor here. I think that with regard to videos and movies, we are today about where we were in 1996 with respect to music.

Remember 1996? MP3s were becoming quite popular, and the reason for it was that you could finally afford big hard drives (a gigabyte or more) that you could use to store significant numbers of them, and the Internet (especially on college campuses with T3 lines and in-room Ethernet jacks) was fast enough that people could transfer 5MB files around without much hesitation.

Sure, the tools for creating new MP3 files were rudimentary and unpolished. I remember the process: I had to use a Power Mac 7100 in the Mac lab to rip my CDs to AIFF files (a process which took about twenty minutes per song and which resulted in 60MB files on disk), because the CD-ROM drivers for the various Wintel PCs around my student house were so flaky that you couldn't rip them without getting those notorious clicks and pops and skips. Only the Mac did a good enough job, but others had different luck. And then I had to FTP the files to the Windows PC on my desk in my room—one at a time, because scratch space for those huge files was at a premium—and then use a DOS utility to encode the AIFF files into MP3s, crunching them down to 1/12 their original size. And then, playing the files was no walk in the park either; we had WinAmp, that great new breakthrough, and MacAmp and Amp for Unix, that let us double-click on a file and have a song start playing, at something pretty close to its original quality. It even had little graphic-equalizer bars and volume sliders. Man, what days those were. We had plenty of time to admire the interface, because we couldn't do anything else with our Pentium-90s while our MP3 files played—it took up all the horsepower our CPUs had to spare.

But it was obvious that what we were looking at was the future in the making. Clearly things would get better. MP3 creation would someday be a lot faster, a lot more reliable, and a lot more direct. We didn't necessarily think that any big-name companies would get into the game—MP3 files were, after all, the antithesis of the kinds of corporate alliances and copyright shell games the media companies liked to play—but we were confident that at the very least, hard drives would get bigger, processors would get faster, and one day we'd be able to amass vast folder hierarchies full of MP3 files that represented our entire music collections... and other people's too, because file sharing was becoming so prevalent that not having a copy of a particular song in the morning was no excuse for not having a copy of that song in the afternoon.

iTunes came as a bit of a shock to me, as it did to a lot of people. Of course, once I saw it, what it represented was as clear as any such lightning-bolt idea; it signalled the death of the old conception of digital music, of piecemeal utilities and of rudimentary front-end player programs, of clicks and pops and skips, of infinitely customizable "skins", of anarchy, of unreliability. Now the new paradigm, and one we could all get on board with, was: Get your music from your own CDs. Convert them to MP3s and store them all on your computer, and organize them with a few gestures like the Sorceror's Apprentice. In other words, no more ad-hoc organizational schemes with folders inside other folders and long cumbersome filenames on files of unknown provenance. No longer was it easier to get a song of acceptable quality off of Napster than to rip it from your own CDs; suddenly, because importing your CD music was so straightforward and foolproof and even fun, buying music on CD—even if just to rip it and throw away the disc—became a viable option again, even for cynical information-wrangling college kids.

That was 2000, and the era of 1996 was over. It was only a matter of time (though it, too, seemed far-fetched before it happened) that Apple would pull the necessary strings to get the iTunes Music Store open and move us all onto the AAC platform, weaning us into the world of piecemeal 99-cent song downloads (on the newly available broadband networks, though it wasn't out of the question even on modems), and putting the final nail in the coffin of the P2P solution for anyone who's remotely law-abiding as their primary or preferred way of getting music. When we had a guarantee of audio quality in the song we were getting, a buck seemed like a miniscule price to pay in exchange for not finding out that all those 274 copies of what you thought was the latest Madonna song was actually a virally-spread monologue of Madonna haranguing audio pirates (or simply an encoding of the song with annoying audio flaws).

Most importantly, by that stage (in 2003), hard drives had grown to the point where you could safely store all the music you were ever likely to buy in your lifetime, and have room to back it up. Processors were fast enough that the CPU energy required for MP3/AAC playback was down in the noise, and we could stick iTunes in the background and have it serenade us while we played the latest CPU-sucking video games, or just watched the built-in visualizer shimmer along at 70 fps. Digital music had become infrastructural.

And that brings us to 2006.

I have on my desk an iPod video, which I bought for the new book. I've bought several music videos from the iTMS, for the purpose of testing and enjoying alike. I've also bought a number of TV shows to see how they work. On top of that, I've used iTunes' built-in convert-to-iPod function (and iSquint for movie formats it doesn't like) to see how well that works with my existing movie files I've accumulated over the years.

How does it stack up? Pretty well, I'd say. About as well as digital music worked in 1996.

I've been a skeptic of the whole let's-add-video-to-iTunes thing since almost the day we first heard of it. People started talking about how it was the obvious next step now that the color-screen iPod handled photos; even before that, the first-generation iPod had a video-playing Archos Jukebox device to compete against. Why did I feel it wasn't critical to the iPod's success to add video capabilities? Well, leaving aside that it apparently wasn't... I thought that it diluted the iPod's purpose, and it would make the process of feeding it unnecessarily complicated.

Digital music is a pretty straightforward proposition. Or at least it seems so today. Pop in a CD, click a button, and a few minutes later you've magically got digital versions of your songs that you can broadcast all over the house. Plug in your iPod, sync them up, and head off on your bike; no loading up of CDs necessary, no worrying about skipping, no agonizing over playlist contents. There's no fuss, no muss; you hardly even have to think of words like "files" or "formats" anymore, which is how it should be; that's the whole point of iTunes.

But where does video stand with all this? It's hardly as streamlined. Sure, if you buy videos off the iTMS, they're pretty good quality—the frame rate and the visual fidelity and the audio are all top-notch—but the resolution is still only 320x240, which is not archival quality. You're still not able to dispense with your DVDs if you want to collect your favorite TV shows; TiVO still has a market. And why is this? Well, it's because hard drives are still too small to support videos on the same scale as they can with music. We have to pick and choose what we download and import.

It's even worse when it comes to full-length movies. A 22-minute TV show bought for $1.99 from iTunes can run about 100MB; that's hardly unreasonable compared to the quality/size ratio you find in DiVX AVI files on the P2P networks, but it means if you buy a full season of South Park, you've just eaten up nearly two gigabytes of your hard drive, or about 1% of a typical drive on a computer that's not necessarily brand-new. On a disk that's already half-full of music files and digital photos, that's not small potatoes. And it's not even DVD quality. For that, we'd need about four times the disk space as we're currently using for our 320x240 videos; full-resolution feature movies will eat hard drives like popcorn.

It gets worse. Your computer's hard disk might be 250GB, or twice that nowadays; but what about your iPod? Even a 60-gigger won't be enough to hold all of a person's hoarded video collection converted to computer-based digital goodness; you'll have to whittle down your collection into playlists of episodes you want to have on your person. You have to sit and think about what to jettison.

And jettisoning files isn't a trivial matter. In the case of iTMS-bought videos, the file is the only thing you've got; say you've spent $22 on a complete season of Drawn Together, but now you've watched it and you decide it's just taking up space on your disk. What do you do? Do you delete it? If so, you'll have to buy it all over again if you decide you want it back, because currently the iTMS doesn't support on-demand re-downloads of previously purchased files (a feature that it seems they ought to be able to provide, if they have your purchase history and all). Their official recommendation is that you'd better back up all your purchases. And so you do... but then you realize that the disk space investment in supporting your video collection isn't just the size necessary to store the files—but the size necessary to back them up as well. So now you're plugging in external 500GB backup drives and burning through stacks of DVD-Rs just trying to stay ahead of your video-watching needs.

And then what about movies? A typical DiVX AVI rip of a full-length movie routinely runs to 300-400MB, and it's not at what one would usually call DVD quality (artifacts are usually visible). If they start selling feature films through the iTMS, they aren't going to be any smaller than that... and they'll suck up your disk space even faster. And they still won't be of a sufficient quality to replace your DVDs—nor will they look particularly good on your iPod screen. There's a reason why there aren't any movies yet in the iTMS, and I think this is it. Steve knows the infrastructure just isn't there yet.

Besides, even with broadband speeds it still takes a while to download a TV show episode, and a movie would be even worse. Broadband is becoming pretty ubiquitous, but it's not that ubiquitous. Many modem-bound people are unable to take part in this leap into the future. Meanwhile, video playback isn't any picnic on the CPU either, especially at high bitrates and today's extreme compression/decompression algorithms. It's not quite as bad as MP3 playback was in 1996, but it's not quite not either. It still takes up a lot of your computer's attention (to say nothing of your attention—video isn't something you can be as passive about in its consumption as you can with audio).

And to top it all off, there is as yet no standardized method for ripping a movie from DVD the way iTunes codified for CDs. It's a much more complex process, because CDs adhere to a specific and very simple standard (it doesn't even have any digital data such as a unique ID string or a table of track names); DVDs have all kinds of video tracks, overlays, menus, submenus, alternate audio tracks, previews, special features, and what-have-you. Tools such as HandBrake do a pretty good job, but they're hardly in the ballpark of iTunes. Even iTunes itself can't coherently handle the myriad of video formats that can ostensibly be converted for its own use; iTunes can play anything QuickTime can play, but the iPod requires MPEG-4 or AVC/H.264—and you'd better be prepared to do some fiddling and guessing and converting before everything works to your satisfaction.

I understand Clinton was just reelected. Independence Day was a fun movie. Have you seen that "Spirit of Christmas" video yet?

In other words, I'm still a bit reserved on the idea of fitting digital video into the same box of vocabulary as we currently use for digital music. It doesn't quite work the same. The organizational metaphors aren't as apt. The processes for acquiring new content aren't very elegant, and the infrastructure for storing it isn't quite adequate. Our collections of the stuff are still very ad-hoc, and we're waiting for a better format to come along (or at least more disk space) which will finally allow us to hoard our video collections at full DVD resolution, where we can access them through our computers and not feel like we're giving up some quality for the privilege.

The day will come when all those problems are ironed out. Right now, though, we're still making only tentative progress; and while collecting and enjoying digital music has become a part of all of our daily lives, thriving even on modest hardware, video is still the province of the adventurous and the lucky owners of cutting-edge eqipment. And until we've all got multi- terabyte drives, 3GHz dual-core CPUs, 7Mbps broadband, 200GB iPods, HD-DVD/Blu-Ray for backups, and an iTunes that can rip a DVD as effortlessly as it rips a CD, things aren't going to change much.

We've had ten years to practice the digital-music discipline. Video's only just now getting started.


13:16 - TImothy who?

(top)
In trying to answer what is undeniably one of the key questions facing us in the modern age, namely whether Islam is fundamentally at the heart of all the unrest and terrorism in recent years (or whether it's just individual people calling themselves Muslims who are going nuts)—there's an argument that keeps coming up that I just don't understand. It's the Timothy McVeigh argument. Namely: "Well, McVeigh was a Christian. Are you going to blame Christianity for what he did?"

This argument makes no sense to me. I would hope it's obvious why. But just in case:

Did McVeigh leave some manifesto claiming that Almighty God had commanded him to strike at the heart of the evil federal government?

If so, then there would be one nutball case of terrorism that could ostensibly be blamed on the guy's religion. But then: find me any other Christians who would have applauded what he did. (And Democrat and Al Gore crony Fred Phelps doesn't count.)

What would (or did) the Pope have to say about the Murrah bombing? Did he cheer it? Or did he condemn it?

Contrast that with the weekly calls for genocide emanating from the imams of the largest mosques in Riyadh, Damascus, Cairo, and Mecca, which have become so commonplace (and so tame compared to other stuff that's going on lately) that they haven't even made it onto LGF's radar in a while.

Instead of widespread horror at 9/11 being committed in Islam's name, we have this.

And now they're burning embassies. Over cartoons.

And while it might be only "a tiny minority of extremists" who agree with such sentiments and actions, they're numerous enough to form sign-and-pitchfork-waving mobs from Gaza to London. We're talking about millions and millions of people who, if they don't directly support terrorism, at least sympathize with it. Leaving one to wonder whether people like this represent a silent majority of Muslims (intimidated into silence by the sign-wavers)... or if there are really fewer of them than one would hope. Meanwhile, simple headcounts of the participants in the mobs (who are now apparently burning Danish cheese) speak for themselves.

If you can pin Christianity on Timothy McVeigh, then you can certainly pin Islam on these guys. But if you agree that McVeigh and his religion are separable elements—that Christianity didn't direct him to do what he did any more than Asatru told Hitler to do what he did—you still have to confront that pesky fact that these great crowds of people with all the curiously similarly-lettered signs think they're acting as directed by Islam. Who's going to tell them different?

To me, as someone without any religion and who cherishes our modern secular society and the right to blaspheme, it's rather an academic question whether these people burning embassies and decrying freedom of speech and our cherished right to blasphemy are "true" Muslims or only fake ones following a false vision. It's their actions that count, and it's those actions that need to change. Whatever needs to be done to change these actions needs to happen before Islam can be seen as free from these dangerous, belligerent impulses that are rapidly leading toward a civil war in Europe; and I'm caring less and less what those necessary steps are, especially because I'm not equipped to tell what makes a "true" Muslim and what makes a "fake" one.

But there are people out there who really ought to care about the distinction, and who need to purge their own religion of the terrorist element, rather than demanding that the rest of us "understand" it better, or washing their hands of those whom they deem apostates.

Our culture likes to make fun of religious figures. It's what we do. Either our culture will be the way of the future, or the culture where blasphemy is punishable by death. I am in favor of the latter culture becoming more tolerant of the former, not the other way around.

So: maybe Islam itself really does have nothing to do with these protests, or with 9/11, or with pandemic anti-Semitism, and so on. But these guys in the sign-waving mobs are all behaving as though Islam dictates them all. Just ask them and they'll tell you. So do we take them at their word or what?

I hope we can figure out the answer before the war starts. Islam's future depends on it, and all true Muslims ought to realize how high the stakes are and act accordingly.

I'm not talking about these guys. I hope.

UPDATE: Forget all this stuttering crap above. This is what I was trying to say.

UPDATE: Awesome. Now let's see if we can't do something about all those highly-placed religious leaders who disagree with this.

Friday, February 3, 2006
16:57 - That'll do it
http://www.tuaw.com/2006/02/03/mactel-dual-boot-contest-jackpot-tops-10-000/

(top)
As if there weren't already enough incentive for geeks to figure out how to dual-boot Windows on an Intel Mac: there's a bounty, currently up to $10,000, being offered for the first person to accomplish it.

No takers thus far. I thought it'd be easier than that... but then maybe that funky EFI neo-BIOS is proving a tougher nut to crack than anticipated.

Is there a similar bounty on getting OS X to run on generic Intel hardware? That one's the real toughy, isn't it?

Oh, and lest people think it's just Apple-denigrating information-wants-to-be-free nerds doing this, Delicious Monster is one of the biggest sponsors so far. They probably see quite a bit of value in making the Mac something that can ease Windows users into the Mac universe, allowing them to boot into Windows when they need to and yet only have to deal with one computer...

Thursday, February 2, 2006
18:13 - The Matrix, meet The Monkeysphere
http://www.pointlesswasteoftime.com/monkeysphere.html

(top)
Via BrianD—this guy's got it goin' on:

It was Darwin's observation of primates along with his assistant, Jeje (pronounced "heyhey") Santiago that caused him to deduce that humans and chimps were evolutionary cousins. As sophisticated as we are (compare our advanced sewage treatment plants to the chimps' primitive technique of hurling the feces with their bare hands), the inescapable truth is we are just as limited by our mental hardware as that tragic figure of American lore, Terminator 2.

The primary difference is that monkeys are happy to stay in small groups and rarely interact with others outside their monkey gang. This is why they rarely go to war, though when they do it is widely thought to be hilarious. Humans, however, require cars and oil and quality manufactured goods by the fine folks at 3M and Japanese video games and worldwide internets and, most importantly, governments. All of these things take groups larger than 150 people to maintain effectively. Thus, we routinely find ourselves functioning in bunches larger than our primate brains are able to cope with.

This is where the problems begin. Like a fragile naked human pyramid, we are simultaneously supporting and resenting each other. We bitch out loud about our soul-sucking job as an anonymous face on an assembly line, while at the exact same time riding in a car that only an assembly line could have produced. It's a constant contradiction that has left us pissed off and joining informal wrestling clubs in basements.

This is why I think it was with a great burden of sadness that Darwin turned to his assistant and lamented, "Jeje, we're the monkeys."

Lots, lots more. Go and read of it.

Also read The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed. This guy's got a way with them word-things.


15:26 - Representin'

(top)
I was in Target this morning buying some DVD-Rs. As I walked by the cosmetics section, I noticed that that most English of institutions, Boots the Chemist, seems to be making inroads into the US market by fielding an aisle in the cosmetics section, complete with blue Boots logos and everything.

The slogan: "Discover the British aisle."

Hee hee. Not bad.


11:18 - Now we go to Diane for a report on moronism. Diane?
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,183523,00.html

(top)
For some people, the temptation to cash in on a craze that's in all the headlines far outweighs any shame at appearing in public to be a pathetic, mewling infant incapable of responsibility or thought.

SAN FRANCISCO — A Louisiana man claims in a lawsuit that Apple's iPod music player can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

Apple has sold more than 42 million of the devices since they went on sale in 2001, including 14 million in the fourth quarter last year. The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, according to the complaint.

The iPod players are "inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss," according to the complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana.

John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana is inherently defective in design and is not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood that he'll use his own stupidity as an excuse to ruin your fun.

Seriously: who in the entire world, aside from a lawyer, can take this guy seriously? The counterarguments are legion:

Although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause noise-induced hearing isn't any higher, experts said.

"We have numerous products in the marketplace that have the potential to damage hearing," said Deanna Meinke, an audiology professor at the University of Northern Colorado. "The risk is there but the risk lies with the user and where they set the volume."

The Cupertino-based company ships a warning with each iPod that cautions "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume."

What more do you want, Mr. Patterson?

Oh yeah. Money. And for us to be more like France.

Apple was forced to pull the iPod from store shelves in France and upgrade software on the device to limit sound to 100 decibels, but has not followed suit in the United States, according to the complaint.

Via JMH.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006
17:54 - That's very silly
http://ldopa.net/2006/01/14/glterminal/

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Old skool, as the kids say.



But genius.


17:18 - Here's a stupid thought

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This has been bugging me for a little while.

We've all pretty much consensually determined that a secular society is better than a religious one, right? (I'm being mildly facetious here; bear with me.) It's reached the point where we've banished all mention of God from public offices and schools, we avoid telling strangers "Merry Christmas" lest we "offend" them with our amiable well-wishing, we force religious groups to explicitly accept members from other religions (however often that situation might come up), and we all wring our hands and act scandalized when the President says "God bless America" at the end of a speech.

It all but logically follows, because life is in fact pretty damn good in this day and age, that the less religion there is in public society, the better off we all are. Right? And the irreligious find plenty of reasoning herein for feeling more and more comfortable having left faith behind on the sidewalk many years ago.

Well, here's something I can't help but wonder:

The entire concept of justice and due process as we know it is founded on some pretty shaky principles: namely, that we can take a person at his word, as long as he has sworn an oath. We don't care what book a person places his hand on to swear—we just care that he has sworn.

Well, what is an oath to the nonreligious?

What's stopping a person from lying to a court if he thinks he can avoid charges of perjury?

The whole point of an oath was that it bound a person to the truth by virtue of punishment by a higher power if he lied. It took the onus of proving a witness' credibility off the human jurists. A person on the stand, after putting his hand on the Bible, would feel genuinely, honestly uncomfortable lying—not to say that he'd be actually incapable of doing so, because he believed that the oath meant what it said, and that he'd commit himself to hellfire if he lied. And as a result, a trial could be assured to be more truthful, with less effort on the part of the judge and jury to determine who was lying, than would otherwise be the case.

Well, what are we doing nowadays? This country is still plenty religious, but how do the aggressively secular countries deal with this issue? Do they still go through the motions of swearing people to the truth in court, even when they know it's a meaningless gesture that doesn't faze a would-be perjurer in the least? In other words, when the only punishment one fears is the one that can be doled out by a human organ—and an easygoing, rehabilitation-oriented one at that—what incentive is there to tell the truth if one thinks he can get away with a lie?

Now, I'm not naďve about this; I understand that even a couple hundred years ago, you couldn't exactly put a criminal on the stand, say "Do you swear to tell the whole truth" etc., and expect him to wobble and sweat and finally just spontaneously break down and confess. Someone who's willing to break laws or act as an accomplice to someone who does isn't going to feel much compunction about the fate of his immortal soul. It's about as silly as yelling "Stop thief!" at a purse-snatcher, as though he'll freeze in his tracks, turn around, and shuffle back to return the purse with a downcast moping apology.

But there's got to be a reason why we think it's worthwhile to bother swearing people to oaths. As society becomes less and less overtly religious, there are bound to be consequences of some kind in how the rule of law is perceived; because when people only fear the punishment of fallible and gullible humans, and no longer feel their lives governed by something higher and omnipresent, who wouldn't do more of the illicit stuff that only God could see?


16:02 - Calling Dr. Apple

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Apparently this only started happening in iTunes 6.0.2.

Try to create a Smart Playlist for songs matching, say, two stars. Go on, try.



It's doubling the selected number of stars as soon as you click it. That's pretty dorky, guys. How 'bout a 6.0.3 here before I start trying to take screenshots?

UPDATE: Bob P. notes that this bug doesn't exist in the Windows version.



How 'bout that?


15:00 - Sounds like fun
http://isc.sans.org/diary.php?storyid=1067

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When I saw someone posting a warning about this on a board I run, I was on the brink of clicking "Send" on the stern admonishment I was mailing them against spreading hoaxes that have been around since 1998. But then, well, I decided I might as well look. And "Blackworm" seems to be for real.

Over the last week, "Blackworm" infected about 300,000 systems based on analysis of logs from the counter web site used by the worm to track itself. This worm is different and more serious than other worms for a number of reasons. In particular, it will overwrite a user's files on February 3rd.

At this point, the worm will be detected by up to date anti virus signatures. In order to protect yourself from data loss on February 3rd, you should use current (Jan 23rd or later) anti virus signatures. Note, however, that the malware attempts to disable/remove any anti-virus software on the system (and does this every hour while the system is up), so if the machine was infected before signatures were deployed, obviously, that anti-virus software can't be expected to clean up the infection for you.

The following file types will be overwritten by the virus: DOC, XLS, MDE, MDB, PPT, PPS, RAR, PDF, PSD, DMP, ZIP. The files are overwritten with an error message( 'DATA Error [47 0F 94 93 F4 K5]').

Sounds like an excellent excuse to do some backups.

Me, I'll be over here, feigning interest.


09:44 - Now that's journalism

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Regarding the whole Jyllands-Posten cartoons debacle, I posted the following last night at Tim Blair's:

There’s not a better illustration of the entire mindset of the stunt than this one by Arne Sřrensen.

It seems to me that there are two possible purposes behind Jyllands-Posten’s sponsorship of this stunt: a) to prove their belief that Muslims are too mature to overreact to something like this, or b) to prove their belief that Muslims just need a match struck and they’ll explode and take all of the Western world with them.

The former seems far-fetched. It’s possible, as we all know of newspapers too blinded by moral relativism to have any idea what kind of backlash this would have sparked. But this doesn’t feel like that’s the case. I suspect it’s the latter.

And if it’s the latter, it’s succeeded beyond all imagination. Because now the whole world knows what happens. That poor cartoonist in his self-portrait sketch-- he tries to shield the paper (with its studiously inoffensive drawing) from prying eyes, but look how much good that does.

And what Leftist can help but sympathize with him?

I’d love to hear the Leunig/Rall/Fisk/Moore/etc reasoning that exonerates Hamas and its obviously popularly supported boycott versus the poor guy at the writing desk.

In other words, this may be a tipping point, where the Western Left finally realizes how fragile and precious a thing freedom of speech is, and that there are in fact some things worth fighting to defend.

And we’ll have Jyllands-Posten to thank for it.

Well, now look what's happening. Germany, Italy, Spain, and France are already recognizing that tipping point. Whether the newspapers reprinting the cartoons represent widespread popular opinion or not, they're consciously turning this issue into a bigger—much bigger—conflagration, one in which the long-anticipated clash between the diametrically opposite concepts of freedom of speech and religious law will finally occur in a forum that Westerners can't ignore: our own newspapers.

Eventually it'll show up on the evening news. The mainstream media won't be able to ignore the matter any longer, or refrain from publishing the cartoons without asking themselves uncomfortable questions about whether they're rank hypocrites of the highest order, affecting a sanctimonious stateless moral rectitude when it comes to politics and war, but meekly hiding when it comes to a story that touches on sensitive religious matters.

Sooner or later, our media decisionmakers will realize that allowing themselves to be intimidated by Islamic fundamentalism, and allowing themselves to be constrained by laws and guidelines that forbid ridicule on religious grounds, would forbid the ridicule of Christianity—one of our most cherished modern pastimes.

Besides which, they won't be able to ignore obvious outrages like, say, all people of Scandinavian descent being ordered out of the Gaza Strip, even if by some previously unknown terrorist group (hey, look where Hamas' career took it). And it's only going to get worse, too, now that the rest of Europe is joining the fray. Eventually the apologists for this kind of brittle cultural chauvinism will have to reluctantly take sides against it. CAIR will overplay its hand. And there'll be a whole groundswell of protest art—this time, braving all the inevitable comparisons to Nazi portrayals of Jews, and taking a stand against political correctness now that the stakes have been made clear to us. And who knows where it will all lead.

It may be too much to predict that we're witnessing the beginning of the great European cultural upheaval we've all been expecting. It won't be pretty, but it's better to have it happen sooner than later, because postponing it will just make it all the harder for everybody when it does happen.

UPDATE: Oh. Never mind, then.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
22:17 - We Have the Way Out

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For several years now, the default format for viral videos out on the Net has been the ubiquitous DiVX-wrapped-in-AVI. Files in the Real format are hard to come by, and QuickTime .MOV files, while holding on to a firm corner of the market, and after a few game attempts to try to get back in the running with MPEG-4, are still eclipsed in general popularity by the goofy-footed WMV format. I found during an experimental file-sharing search that of 245 matching results for a given query, 1 was a WMV; the other 244 were all DiVX AVIs.

Well, now might finally be the time when things are about to change. And the catalyst—naturally—is the iPod.

I'm finding that there are all kinds of any-movie-file-to-iPod-format utilities out there, both for Mac and for Windows; they'll all take pretty much any movie file, even your doughty DiVX AVIs, and convert them to the H.264/AVC MPEG-4 files that iTunes and the iPod use.

And because the iPod's screen is rapidly becoming a de facto standard, as ubiquitous and mainstream as NTSC, all these utilities have the very real advantage of being able to present you with a single big red candy-like button that says "iPod"; no fiddling with quality settings, waiting fifteen minutes, checking the quality and file size, fiddling with the quality settings, and trying again. Now it's just a single, known, widely accepted quality-for-size balance. It's not archival quality—320x240 is not full TV resolution, for one thing—but it's more than enough for the iPod and passable for magnified viewing, and the frame rate is full TV-quality, with no visible artifacting. For that kind of quality, 100MB for a 22-minute TV episode is pretty dang reasonable, and home movies and music videos will just thrive at such levels.

Of course, if you're on a Mac, the "iPod" export option has suddenly become ubiquitous. Whether you're making home movies in iMovie, converting your existing videos in the paid QuickTime Player, exporting a slideshow from iPhoto, or using a third-party utility that hooks into iTunes/QT's H.264 encoder, you just have to select "Movie to iPod" or something similar, and all the details are taken care of for you.



This might well be the tipping point that breaks the DiVX/AVI stranglehold. MPEG-4 alone didn't do it; WMV didn't do it. But the iPod might be the killer app that can.


18:16 - Now that's just silly

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What could conceivably be easier than the much-vaunted Mac installation method of a disk image window with instructions that say "Drag this icon to your Applications folder"?

This:



Naturally, the security-minded will quite rightly raise a finger and make lots of harrumphing noises. The folder alias, after all, might point somewhere completely other than the Applications folder; maybe it's your kernel plugins folder or something, and maybe the app is actually a Trojan that you'd be happily installing into your kernel.

But the usual force that appears to form an impenetrable bubble over the Mac platform and wards off all traditional virus pandemics remains in place: this isn't a rootkit loaded by some company's DRM installer; this isn't a surreptitious ActiveX control in a devious website; this isn't a keylogger piggybacking on some illicit spam mail. It's an app that's being advertised through word of mouth, by people who are in a position to give an authoritative yea or nay on whether any given app is legit or not. There's an implicit level of trust in these communities; if someone like John Gruber or Cabel Sasser endorses something, people slurp it down. If they don't, it never gains any traction.

And perhaps more important is my shaky theory of why nobody bothers creating malicious software to attack Macs in the first place: in order to do so, you have to own a Mac. You have to have spent the thousands of dollars on a boutique computer that smiles at you from the bottom of its shiny desktop every day. If you're a potential Mac-based hacker, you have to overcome all the forces of brand loyalty and cult membership that are absent in the Windows world, and direct your efforts toward destroying something you've put something of yourself into already, whether measured in plastic or people. A PC can be had with no emotional investment and hardly any of the monetary kind, and the hacker feels no compunction about attacking other Windows users or Windows itself. But what circumstances would lead someone to travel down the path of Mac ownership just for the dubious rewards of writing a Mac virus? Buying a Mac is a conscious decision, fraught with drawbacks (such as cost) and undertaken with open eyes for a concrete purpose. Who would go through all that just so he could turn around and stab the platform in which he's just become invested?

Hackers/crackers do what they do for the same reason we all do what we do: for the cred and the clan membership. Write a sploit, get your props. But if you've got a Mac, you've already got your community ready-made. There's no need to rebel against it. So people don't.

Which is why, when we download an app disk image and see an installation procedure that involves dragging a big icon about an inch across the window to another big icon, we know that not only will it not harm the computer, it'll be reversible with a motion hardly any more intricate, just like all the best Mac software—drag it to the Trash. Because fulfilling that kind of trust is the ideal toward which all Mac users with any programming expertise strive.

Monday, January 30, 2006
21:23 - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
http://www.2december.co.uk/

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This is good stuff right here.

"Triangle!"

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© Brian Tiemann