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
Tal G in Jerusalem
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
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, May 5, 2006
15:59 - I want some
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDNZzseSeJ8

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Via David.


15:43 - It's always Origami to me
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/04/technology/04pogue.html?ex=1304395200&en=00097c0b0

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David Pogue isn't exactly an unbiased source, but his appraisal of the Ultra-Mobile PC Handheld Edition 2006 Professional (aka Origami) is not flattering. Microsoft evidently has yet to learn that there's a difference between innovation for the sake of solving real problems and making people's lives better, and doing things Just Because You Can.

And as with Boot Camp, there's probably a lot less to Microsoft's actual product than it seems at first. Microsoft doesn't make the device; they leave that up to companies like Samsung. The UMPC is really just a standard and some add-on software, such as on-screen thumb-sensitive keyboards, as well as the ability to respond to stuff like resolution-switching buttons integrated into the device's case. Fundamentally it's just Windows with some extra drivers.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I do echo the inevitable question: Why?

Via evariste, Chris M., and others.


13:23 - Cruise missile

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He may be a nutcase and an arrogant putz, but if that documentary they showed last night on the making of Mission Impossible III was in any way accurate, Tom Cruise is some sort of katana-wielding, Ducati-riding, hip-shooting, wire-dangling, NASCAR-driving superhero who does all his own stunts as a matter of personal pride.

I guess maybe being an Operating Thetan has its rewards after all, huh?

(Now to check into who bankrolled that documentary...)

Thursday, May 4, 2006
01:04 - Meet the new boss

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So now Alltel Wireless is "the world's largest network", huh?

Great. How long will it be before the Giants are playing in "Alltel Park"?


23:12 - Mysterious alien species sighted

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G4, the video game network, is running this peculiar Trek 2.0 thing, where they show classic Star Trek episodes in a shrunk-down pane in the middle of the screen, surrounded by wide margins containing scrolling trivia, cliché counters, and (at the bottom) a chat-room style fan comment ticker where the show poses certain theme questions from time to time based on the episode's plot points and people logged in from all over the Internet post their responses in pseudo-real-time. It's pretty silly and a bit annoying, though at least the trivia is interesting on occasion.

Tonight they were playing the episode with Trelane, the proto-Q who toys with the Enterprise crew until he's called back inside by his ethereal parents. Early in the episode, the question on the chat board (and I don't know where in the plot it came from exactly) was: What primitive species prey upon themselves?

People were shouting out various responses that quickly started becoming tongue-in-cheek—hornets, and lawyers, and the like. I saw the question out of the corner of my eye as I made a sandwich, glanced at the responses, and yelled at the TV: "'Republicans'! C'mon, someone say 'Republicans'!"

And at that very instant, the screen scrolled, because one of the users had just said Republicans!

You can always tell the cool kids, because they're so very unpredictable.


15:59 - Boot Cramps
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1957215,00.asp

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PC Magazine's Jim Louderback seems to be engaging in a bit of self-parody regarding Boot Camp, though it's difficult to tell—for all I can see, he's being partially serious:

All of this leaves me with just one thing to say: Would you buy a Windows computer from this man [insert picture of Steve Jobs]? This is a guy who has been ripped off by Microsoft for 20 years: Do you think he's about to just up and join the enemy? I doubt it. "Boot Chump" is just a Trojan horse, designed to get Windows users (aka chumps) to sample Macintosh hardware. Once you've laid out a few kilobucks on your BC system and been frustrated a few times with Windows limitations, what are you going to do? Jobs's bet: You'll start spending more and more time in OS X, until you—too—become one of the pod people. It's sad to see so many of my compatriots being turned into lemmings. Perhaps they'll wake up and smell the Apple pie in the sky—and realize they've been taken for a ride. But I doubt it. Because I'm a firm believer that once you start using a Mac, your IQ begins to creep downwards, inversely proportional to an increase in your AAF (Apple Acceptance Factor).

In fact, I'm blaming the AAF for a wide-range of habits espoused by supposedly "creative people." I'll bet it's responsible for tattoos, piercings, and the wide-spread adoption of the phrase "no worries." In fact, I believe that most of today's societal ills can be either indirectly or directly attributed to Apple. Widespread hearing loss? Blame the iPod. Carpal tunnel? Blame the Newton. Upswing in hernias? That Infinite Loop idiot who decided to put a handle on the first iMac—and started the whole luggable trend. No, Boot Camp is just the latest diabolical piece of Steve Jobs's grand plan to dumb us down and mangle our bodies. It's no coincidence that all this is happening just as Jobs has taken over as the head of Disney (which also owns ABC). Pretty soon we'll be good for nothing but sitting on our butts and watching TV. So go ahead and Boot Camp if you must. But don't come running to me when your mind and body prematurely degenerate. I'll be smart, fit, and enjoying my real Windows computers, while you ooze slowly into the Pixar-Disney-ABC swamp of mindlessness. Chump.

I mean—hell, you make the call: brilliant satire, not-so-brilliant satire, or bewilderingly obtuse sincerity? If it's the latter, I don't know what he's doing writing for PC Magazine and not for Daily Kos.

He points out a number of fair criticisms of the Windows-on-Mac experience, but I suspect that the overarching theme of all this is akin to those parody Mac OS X reviews that complained that all your favorite Windows defragmentation and anti-virus and registry-editing tools don't work on a Mac: no, you can't expand a non-expandable Mac, but why would you expect to? Yeah, the "runs Windows faster than a PC" thing is subject to qualifications, but what isn't? The Mac mini doesn't make a great high-end gaming machine, but who does that surprise?

What leads me more than anything else to think this is a joke is the following:

Speaking of building computers, if you like building your own computers, you are out of luck again. Apple's not interested in a DIY Mac, nor is it concerned with the case-mod culture of the PC. Oh, I guess that doesn't matter; lemming-like Apple fans aren't interested in actually doing anything different with their cookie-cutter computers that aspire to "Think Different" but, like that old Pete Seeger song about little boxes, "all look just the same." The really creative computer users are the case modders who build extravagant designs to house their systems. And that's just not possible if you aspire to run Windows and simultaneously "Think Different."

Right. Because people creating content—that's not creative. What's creative is modifying your computer's case so you can bathe in a different color of light as you consume the latest $80 Boobarella Jones game.

And using an MP3 player that says "Creative" on it, instead of following the white-earbud crowd like a lemming. That's the ticket.

Assuming this is a joke: nice job.


15:27 - I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy
http://www.starwars.com/episode-iv/release/video/news20060503.html

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Can this possibly be true?

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you’ll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

G'wan. This has got to be a trick. They wouldn't toy with us like this, would they?

Has there been a coup? Did Real Lucas come back to defeat Bizarro Lucas? Do we dare get our hopes up?

Via Daring Fireball.

UPDATE: Aziz Poonawalla (aka "fledgling otaku") claims credit.


13:43 - Bad press season for Toyota

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Boy, Autoblog is full of stories that make it sound as though Toyota's days at the top of the automotive heap are numbered. There are quality problems with the Avalon, for one thing. Commenters rightly point out that the Avalon is built in the U.S., whereas most other Toyotas are built in Japan. But that doesn't explain why the Japan-built Camry seems to be stumbling in the wake of the Ford Fusion. Apparently even the interior fit and finish is crappy, which used to be unheard-of for a Toyota. And I'm sure this doesn't help matters either.

Maybe this just proves that as car companies reach a certain age and size, they inevitably run into a bevy of problems with quality control and efficiency, no matter what country they're based in. But if Ford and the other domestics are looking for an excuse to rally (which I'm sure they are), this will probably do nicely.

UPDATE: Longtime Toyota driver CapLion has reactions.


13:26 - Unclear reaction
http://www.improveverywhere.com/mission_view.php?mission_id=57

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BrianD sends this account of an infiltration prank undertaken by "Improv Everywhere", in which about eighty random people put on Best Buy employee-lookalike clothes and went into a Manhattan Best Buy to pose as employees and take photos until they got kicked out.



I'm worried that I'm starting to really lose my sense of humor or ability to enjoy the kinds of pranks that were de rigeur in college, because for the life of me I can't figure out what's supposed to be so funny about this. I mean, it's like, "Yeah, we sure showed those Best Buy employees! That'll teach them to... uh... work!"

One of the participants' comments summed it up for me:

I was actually surprised that my kids didn't feel a little disappointed by the prank itself, because there was no, like, "big moment." Keeping on a game face and seeing their dad do something so... I don't know... ridiculous and silly and "daring" was obviously entertaining enough.

Uh, yeah, I guess. I kept expecting them to explain what the point of the prank was—whether they were trying to expose some kind of objectionable business practice or show up the Best Buy employees for being incompetent or deliberately screw with customers or something. But apparently it mostly amounted to getting a thrill out of taking videos and photos inside a store whose company policy forbade it, and then enjoying the sugary treat of being able to tell the cops, "Hey, I know the law, and it's on my side, maaan."

This sure proves something or other, but I simply can't figure out what.

UPDATE: More from BrianD, in e-mail:

Now, granted, they didn't make everyone smile. :-) At least you could say that what they "showed those Best Buy employees" depended on which layer of the employee hierarchy you are referring to. The various "classes" of employees looked at the event through different interpretive lenses. The prank picked up a Rorschach's quality. As such pranks usually do. "What do *you* see?"

It is interesting how threatened some people, usually people in authority, become about objectively harmless things like a bunch of people all showing up wearing the same outfit. No one was "impersonating an officer", or acting unruly, so there are no complaints on that score. Or, rather, the only complaints that could be be made is that the folks running around in blue shirts *could* impersonate a Best Buy employee, or act unruly.

However

(1) If the intent was to defraud, they'd send one or two fakes, not dozens.

(2) If your security system relies on the scarcity of blue shirts and khaki pants, I don't want to see how your data base is secured.

(3) Very few civil liberties would survive that standard. "You can only do foo if there is no way you could do mischief that way."

(4) Freedom of speech includes defending speech you don't want to hear. But that isn't just politically controversial speech. . . it also includes silly speech. It is interesting how silly much political discussion becomes. . .. and at the same time. . it is interesting how quickly silly pranks pick up a political dimension.

Well, to me, it looks as though the "point" was to rile up the security guards and go "Ha ha, look at the security guards freaking out over a bunch of people doing perfectly legal stuff." Well, are we supposed to believe that the security guards overreacted? What if we were in their shoes? Do we imagine we'd act any differently, confronted with this situation? I'd like to think it would occur to me that such people are far more likely than not to be up to no good—to sabotage the customer experience, for example, or to sneak into the stockroom, or to make a huge scene of some kind that would attract the news media and be bad for Best Buy's PR. I can't conceive, for example, of being a security guard and looking at all the infiltrators in the store and reacting any way other than swiftly booting them out. I'd expect to be fired if I just sort of giggled and let them do their thing, and rightly so.

So many of these demonstrations of "people power" or whatever are so laser-focused on their own viewpoint because it's the only way it makes sense to do what they do. If they stopped to put themselves in the shoes of the people they're pranking, who are just going about their business and making the best decisions they can, they'd probably shuffle off in shame instead of tormenting these poor underpaid worker bees. I've come to believe that most things that occur in the world can be broken down into perfectly rational responses by all the individual players—things might look chaotic or overwhelming on the macro level, but each person in the machine is just taking the information available to him and making whatever decisions seem best in his frame of reference—and looking at it that way, I find it harder than ever to subscribe to conspiracy theories and such, just becase the Occam's Razor response always seems to work out so well. Things happen for a reason—not because of fate, but because of people just doing what people do—and absent a huge and localized change in human nature, I have a hard time imagining how any major event that depends on individual decisions could go differently than it ever does.

Probably that's what gets to me about this prank: it does represent such a huge and localized change in human nature. It's people deliberately acting in a way that any rational actor would find threatening or at least worrisome, and then jeering at the "normals" for reacting like I imagine any rational actor would. I mean, what do they expect to happen? That their act of social engineering would spontaneously spread throughout the city and everyone would burst into highly illogical but joyful acts like bartering poetry for coffee and giving people free piggyback rides to work? Society works the way it does because we've all figured out what stimulus-response decisions make it sustainable with the least hassle and energy expenditure; if there were an easier way to live, we'd be living that way already thanks to thermodynamics. If people think they're going to inspire the world to be a more magical place, they're welcome to try, but I hope they aren't going to be too miffed when they fail.


12:44 - Jaws of iLife
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/04/wmine04.xml&sSheet=/

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I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this story, which has been circulating in the Australian blogosphere, the Mac blogosphere, the political blogosphere, and probably a few other ones as well.

The iPods, programmed with country and western music for one man and hip-hop for the other, were passed to them down a 4in-wide plastic tube poked through a gap in the rock fall.

Too bad they couldn't fit a PSP through there. Anyway, I find it interesting that Country & Western music has an audience so distant as Australia... but then I find I've underestimated that genre every time I hear it, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Nor should I be surprised that the other guy is into hip-hop. When you're stuck in a mine, everybody's worlds collide. And the iPod shall be the Great Cultural Mediator of our time. Be it so!

Via JMH.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
13:07 - Just wondering

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How come we haven't heard anything out of North Korea lately?

Did they just sort of, you know, go away?

Tuesday, May 2, 2006
20:38 - Optical inch
http://www.shaveeverywhere.com/

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Wow. So this is an official Philips/Norelco ad site, huh?

Work-safe... but I'd still recommend headphones.


13:50 - Malwhere?
http://daringfireball.net/2006/05/good_journalism

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John Gruber is all over the latest breathless AP piece on the cataclysmic collapse of the house-of-cards that is Mac OS X's virus/Trojan/malware security.

I love this bit:

The bugs reported by Ferris are legitimate bugs, but to my eyes (and Rosyna’s — who thinks Ferris is counting the same TIFF rendering bug twice), they’re all just ways to make an application crash, one of which has already been fixed in 10.4.6. But Ferris reports that this one, regarding Safari, “causes the application to crash, and or [sic] may allow for an attacker to execute arbitrary code”. Emphasis on the may in “may allow”, apparently, because the only thing his examples do is cause Safari to crash.

Anything that causes Safari to crash certainly sucks. And presumably Apple is working not just to fix these particular bugs, but to fix the architecture of Safari to make it less vulnerable in general to these sort of bugs in the system’s image-parsing routines. But the genius here — and I’m not sure whether the credit goes to Ferris or Goodin, so let’s just credit them both — is in the leap from bugs which, as Ferris originally described, “may allow for an attacker to execute arbitrary code”, to bugs which, in Goodin’s article, “potentially [allow] a criminal to execute code remotely and gain access to passwords and other sensitive information”.

Because, see, in Ferris’s original report, he meant “may” in the sense that they may, or they may not, but that he didn’t actually know whether it was possible and has no evidence that they could. But in Goodin’s AP story, that changes to “potentially”, which means “capable of being but not yet in existence; latent”, which is good journalism because “potentially allowing a criminal to execute code remotely” is much scarier-sounding than “definitely allowing a jerk to crash your web browser”.

I remember an early Dilbert strip that went like this:

Mail room guy: "It could be between one and a million."
Staffer: "It could be a million."
Executive: "Experts say a million."

Using that same awesome technique, I must point out a critical bug in iTunes 6.0.2: you can only set a star rating of 2 or less, because any rating you select is immediately doubled by the software. This can cause annoyance or can result in the loss or theft of critical information such as passwords and bank account numbers.

Well, it's true!

Anyway, Gruber also points out Apple's new ad campaign (and accompanying web campaign) that started circulating yesterday—timely, considering their "Viruses? What viruses?" message. I don't know if we can credit Apple for being clairvoyant here, but it certainly seems to be timed as though to counter these dumb AP articles and other recent ill-aimed volleys on subjects like Boot Camp from tech press denizens who would desperately love to not have to learn a new operating system.

Still, though, those ads are quite silly, and every bit as spoofable as the "Switch" campaign. Expect to see merciless parodies every-which-where starting nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnow!

First person to do one with "PC" playing video games and "Mac" standing around sulking gets a prize!


12:55 - Magic fridge! Magic fridge!
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5335052961100771158&q=magic+fridge&pl=true

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Hip hip hooray for Google Video, for picking up where the old AdCritic.com left off.

Between stuff like this and the Crashy Smashy Jetta spots, it seems we've got some pretty good ads on TV these days.

Monday, May 1, 2006
11:29 - The Passion of the 9/11

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I'll just say this about United 93: I'm surprised they were able to make this movie without turning the terrorists into Eastern European skinheads or something.

There's plenty more I could say about it, but... I don't think I want to.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe just this: one thing that it makes clear is that everybody who was watching the live news coverage understood that we were at war before the towers collapsed. There was that period of confusion between the first plane hitting and the second, during which everybody right up to the top could not—or would not—believe that it was anything but a horrific, incomprehensible accident. But the instant that second plane disappeared behind the WTC, everybody suddenly knew what was going on and what it all meant. The towers collapsing, later in the day, was just to add insult to injury; the attack and all its implications had already been established. Which means that all those conspiracy-heads running around in circles over controlled demolitions and external missile packs can kindly just go find something more useful and socially redeeming to do with their time, like practice burping the alphabet.

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© Brian Tiemann