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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Thursday, March 9, 2006
20:03 - Just trying to be more like the PC world, Apple?
http://www.tuaw.com/2006/03/09/apple-to-outsource-tech-support-to-india/#comments

(top)
This doesn't sound like great news:

The India Times reported today that Apple is planning to set up a massive tech support center in Bangalore, India its first tech support center outside of Cupertino. The article says that Apple will hire 3,000 tech support workers in India by 2007, with up to half of those to be hired this year.

As many commenters have already noted, not only is this not Apple's first non-Cupertino call center, there is no call center in Cupertino to begin with. (It'd be bordering on criminal to house a fundamentally location-independent phone support cubicle bank on land this expensive.) Apple Support is handled in Texas, Ohio, Canada, and elsewhere.

But not, up till now, in a place where thick accents and poor line quality—the things that have driven companies like Dell to abandon outsourced phone support, and the things that we Mac people used to be able to use as a reason to choose Apple instead of a company that outsourced—are notorious.

You know, I'd been under the impression that the consensus was settling on the computer industry that outsourcing—whether of phone support, security, development, QA, or whatever else—was a bad idea. I thought all the bellwether companies had tried it and found it so lacking in dividends that it was becoming accepted that it's worth every penny to keep your business-critical business in-country. I have friends who have to deal with outsourced development and QA teams; however good the quality of the work might be, some realities of the Earth we live on are simply insurmountable—such as the fact that you can't schedule meetings with people halfway around the world, conference calls have lag time of up to a second as signals have to be reflected around the planet using satellites, and so on. This is frustrating enough in development; but what about when you're talking to customers? That's even worse for your corporate image. What can Apple be thinking?

I was reading Marcus Ranum's Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security the other day (highly recommended), and in an aside he said this:

There's an important corollary to the "Action is Better Than Inaction" dumb idea, and it's that:
"It is often easier to not do something dumb than it is to do something smart."
Sun Tzu didn't really write that in "The Art of War" but if you tell IT executives that he did, they'll take you much more seriously when you counsel a judicious, thoughtful approach to fielding some new whizzbang. To many of my clients, I have been counselling, "hold off on outsourcing your security for a year or two and then get recommendations and opinions from the bloody, battered survivors - if there are any."

From the sound of the seething from the commenters here, Apple might be lucky if it gets to count itself among those survivors.

19:25 - "Don't worry, the menu's in English"
http://www.rahoi.com/2006/03/may-i-take-your-order.php

(top)
Here's a restaurant that cowboys would do well to avoid.

Man. This is some of the finest distilled Engrish I've seen to date. And it even gets better and better the more you read...

Via Paul S, who only owes me a Diet Coke because I knew from the first couple of lines to hide my keyboard somewhere safe and waterproof.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
14:47 - Moonwalking Bird
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2313437742679492340

(top)
Uh, Nature? You don't need to imitate us. Really. It's okay.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
19:55 - The Apple Stare
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2006/03/06

(top)
The Penny Arcade guys have done it but good, now.

I never thought of myself as the sort of hipster that would appreciate the Apple experience. What I am though is a proud dad and it turns out that’s just as good. I’ve already burned a DVD of lil’ Gabe, created a slide show of his pictures and sent them off to the grandparents. After a day I had my own .Mac site made using iWeb and I was photocasting by Sunday.

I can’t say much more than what Tycho already said. It’s just really fucking good and that’s all. I found that any time I had a problem this weekend it was because I was over thinking something. I was looking for some sub menu or a hidden setting when what I wanted to do was right in front of my face.

Add in the fact that it plays WOW like a dream and I’m set. I’m not ready to star in one of those annoying switch ads but it’s safe to call me a convert. I’m not going to ditch my PC anytime soon but I actually get excited when I think about using the Mac.

Today's installment in the continuing saga really does capture the feeling well. You end up turning the pages in the little instruction booklet with vintage-comic-book tweezers so you can be sure to absorb every intricately crafted word according to its intended placement and timing, and you find yourself smiling over font choices and line drawings of gender-neutral human hands and computer outlines, even when the instructions say things like "Press the power button to turn on your iMac".

Something weird has happened with Apple. Over the last four or five years, Macs have taken on a mystical, otherworldly aura such that people who are taking their first steps into the platform are doing so without any prior expectations that have any bearing on reality. Time was that everyone had encountered a Mac at one time or another—say, a decrepit and decal-stained Performa in a high school math classroom, or a gaudy clamshell iBook brandished by some insufferable friend. Such experiences were ubiquitous, and everybody thought they knew what Macs were all about: weird, counterintuitive computing, a gunky one-button mouse that didn't move fast enough, no good applications, and an interface that made you feel like you were walking on beach sand. Pretty, but you kept getting sucked down into moist pits.

Those old Macs are gone now, though, and today's hipster class hasn't seen a Mac except in the movies. It's a whole new ballgame now, and the modern Mac world—with its iPhoto and iWeb and GarageBand and .Mac and iSight and backlit keyboard and Pages and Mail and Exposé—has no analogues in anyone's living memory. I keep expecting Gabe and Tycho to snark about how the one thing you can do in Windows that you can't on a Mac is right-click—ho ho ho—but so far they seem too busy giddily learning their way around a genuinely welcoming system to air age-old and irrelevant gripes.

It's such a different world now that it's no longer hip and cool to show you're above being affected by Apple Magic. It's actually managed to become hip and cool to show how thoroughly won over you are by it.

Also, I keep waiting for the inevitable crash after the honeymoon—the first rude awakening, the first rants, the first railings against things they thought they'd be able to get used to but can't. I keep poising myself over my keyboard, as though it's somehow up to me to make sure the new converts don't make a potentially bad-impression-forming misstep, like accidentally changing the whole system's icon size or associating Word files with an app that stops working or that isn't the best thing for handling them (like the Pages test-drive). But so far this hasn't been necessary. I have to keep reminding myself that the Mac can take care of itself. It needs no spokesman anymore. It needs no apologist making the case for puck-shaped mice or recommended memory sizes or flower-patterned cases or even the two biggest historical stumbling blocks, slow CPUs and high prices. The CPUs are now a non-issue, and the prices are a gripe that's fading into the woodwork, clung to only by the same people who boast about not needing a BMW because they can get to work just fine in their '83 Corolla.

I wonder if Steve reads Penny Arcade. Surely at least someone has sent him these recent strips, and surely he's sitting in his office rubbing his hands and going, "Eeeeexcellent..."



16:25 - The Lord Loves a Hangin'
http://www.lyris-lite.net/fu_archives/000313.html

(top)
They get all the sex they want on TV, my overseas friends are fond of telling me. But violence? Nuh-uh.

John Kricfalusi won't exactly be thrilled. A decade after network censors in America chopped up his most famous TV show, the DVD of Seasons 1 and 2 is now being released in the UK - with the "Hanging Song" from "Out West" completely sliced out.

To obtain this category cuts of 3m 2s were required. The cuts were Compulsory.
Cut required to remove a sequence in which the subject of hanging is presented as comedic, fun and risk free, on the grounds of potential harm to the likely audience and in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether sex or violence is better or worse for kids to be exposed to. But this—censoring art without even any regard for age, in a way that seems designed merely as a dig at the caveman Americans and their primitive death penalty—should at least go to show that no supposedly "free" and "progressive" country has a monopoly on being mature about what kinds of artistic expression its people are allowed to see.

Via Cartoon Brew.


15:58 - Terrorism

(top)
It seems to me that a lot of people have managed to badly misconstrue the point of terrorism.

People assume that terrorist attacks are themselves a means to extract concessions from a population; that if you as a society give up these concessions, then the terrorist attacks will stop.

This is badly wrong. Terrorism in and of itself is not intended to extract anything from the population. Its purpose is to create terror. Its purposes are to raise the stakes, to change people's expectations and thresholds of pain, and to put people on edge. The real dividend of a terrorist attack is never the aftermath of the attack itself; it's the fear of the next attack.

After 9/11, and after Bali, and after 7/7, what was the immediate shift in the national moods in question? It was to harden against the terrorists, to band together in patriotism, to reassess one's cultural strengths, and to go to war in grand alliance. From the perspective of an outside party watching the fortunes of al Qaeda immediately following 9/11, or following any of the other attacks they've pulled off, it could only be seen as a colossal misstep on the part of the terrorists—a huge blunder that succeeded only in steeling the population against them.

But say that to an al Qaeda strategist, and he'd probably just smirk knowingly. Offer him the concessions directly, and he'd probably laugh and go on with the plans for the next attack. Extracting concessions isn't his job. Terrorizing us into thinking we have to give up the concessions is his job. Real terrorists can't be bought off with concessions. If they could, they'd just be extortionists, not terrorists.

It's true that terrorism has steeled people against the terrorists themselves, yes. We've exerted our righteous anger in cleansing Afghanistan and driven al Qaeda and the Taliban out of the headlines and into the funny pages. But in the meantime, we're bending over backwards to appease the terrorists' less-deadly co-religionists, the ones raging over cartoons and demanding the removal of Piglet coffee mugs from the workplace. We worry more about bestirring the fragile peace of the Arab Street than about being seen as weak and perfunctory in our anti-terrorism efforts. All out of the fear of another attack—an attack that might never have to come.

As far as al Qaeda are concerned, their work is done. They've started the wheels in motion. They sacrificed themselves, and in so doing won their hoped-for concessions—not for themselves, but for the rest of the world's Islamists.

Terrorism serves as a means for creating a backdrop behind peaceful social change—an unspoken understanding of what will happen if we don't concede things. "Limit our free speech," we tell ourselves, "or else we know what'll happen." No further need to explain. And no further need for actual terrorists—the specter of their possible existence is sufficient to give us the context for our decision-making. Without even realizing what we're doing, we pass out concessions like candy—all while telling the world we'll never bend before terrorists or accede to their demands. Gimme a break: we're acceding like puppets. We just don't think we are, because it's not the terrorists who are themselves directly benefitting. Their demands are a lot further along the way toward being met than they were in 2001, aren't they? By any outsider's measure, the Islamists are winning spectacularly.

I wonder if we would be so eager to equivocate in the name of multiculturalism and tolerance and understanding if we thought about it this way.


15:42 - Mac OS X HAX0R3D in 30 MINS!!!11oneone (if they create a shell account for you)
http://www.tuaw.com/2006/03/07/another-look-at-mac-os-x-security/

(top)
Damien Barrett pokes a neat hole in the recent claim that an OS X machine was trivially cracked. Namely, the owner of the target machine set up a script to create shell accounts on demand so hackers could SSH in and try local exploits. Local. Not remote.

True, local exploits suck and should be fixed. But this is no bombshell that Mac OS X is remotely exploitable out of the box. Hell, SSH access is even disabled by default, so even legitimate remote access isn't possible out of the box.

Keep trying, guys. Though with all the recent press, it certainly does seem as though Mac OS X has become a higher-profile target—it's actually an attractive proposition all of a sudden to want to be "the guy who cracked the Mac"...

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© Brian Tiemann