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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  4/4/2005 -  4/10/2005
 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
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 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
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 2/14/2005 -  2/20/2005
  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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  8/2/2004 -   8/8/2004
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  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
  9/1/2003 -   9/7/2003
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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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  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
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  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
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  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
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  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
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 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, June 24, 2006
23:40 - "Hi, I'm a Mac." "And I'm Linux."
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,200728,00.html

(top)
Former Apple Advocates Switching Away From Macs!

That's the headline on this story at Fox News; Tech Gurus Say They'll 'Switch from Mac' is how eWEEK words it for the same story.

Who would blame a reader for thinking that the story was about people switching from the Mac to Windows?

But it's not. It's about the people (actually, person) switching to Ubuntu Linux. Not Windows. For Mark Pilgrim's purposes, Windows would be an even worse choice than Mac OS X, and the arguments he's made in favor of the Mac over Windows in the past all still hold. Not that you'd really get that angle from this story, let alone the headlines. One gets the feeling that the journalists thought they had a juicy scoop here—a reversal of the "Switch" campaign! Stop the presses—and were disappointed to discover that the switching in question wasn't back to Windows, but in the exact opposite direction, toward Linux. So they poked and prodded the intro text and headline and made the best of a bad situation.

That being the case, it's still funny that it's news that someone would switch from the Mac to anything.

Via JMH.

Friday, June 23, 2006
03:34 - Crack two
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/06/why_i_love_australia.html

(top)
A well-deserved pat on the back to the Aussies.

Such things don't happen in Australia. This is a place where, when the remains of a fallen soldier are accidentally switched with those of a Bosnian, the enraged widow picks up the phone late at night, calls the prime minister at home in bed and delivers a furious unedited rant -- which he publicly and graciously accepts as fully deserved. Where Americans today sue, Australians slash and skewer.

What—you mean this wasn't an exaggeration?

Bruno: Ooh! Ah, that's it. I'm going to report this to me member of
parliament. [yells out window] Hey, Gus! I got something to
report to you.
[Gus tends his swine]
Gus: That's a bloody outrage, it is! I want to take this all the way
to the Prime Minister.
[they go down to a lake]
Hey! Mr. Prime Minister! Andy!
Andy: [floating naked on an inner tube with a beer] Eh, mates! What's
the good word?
-- The Australian governmental structure, "Bart vs. Australia"

Sometimes this planet freaks me out, but other times I can't help but think it's gonna be aaaaaall right.


01:14 - My kingdom for a new punchline

(top)
"Our national security is at stake!"
"This is no longer a matter merely of 'honor' or 'economic impact'. This is for the protection of our nation. Anyone who would oppose that is a traitor!"
"You're either with me or against me!"
"Fear is a useful tool. It makes the electorate more... pliable."
"Our Founding Fathers had a solution for this: decimation!"
"We will destroy those who would strike terror into the heart of the most powerful nation that man has ever known!"

That's Marcus Crassus in the 2004 production of Spartacus, showing on the History Channel right now.

He calls himself "Commander-in-Chief"; he cons the Senate into backing his leading an army; he plots to end Roman democracy and make himself Emperor.

All that's missing is the Texan accent.

Okay, Hollywood, okay. We freaking get it already.

Oh yeah, and they're also promo'ing a series on the American Revolution by saying "The story of the Founding Fathers plays like a pageant... but in reality, the players were a diverse group, full of doubts and fears about their future." Yeah. The panacea word of the age: Diverse. Heaven forfend that something not be diverse.


16:38 - Super-serial
http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics58.html

(top)
Snort. Giggle.

I'll say this about the modern conservation movement: at least its much higher budget means we stand a chance of being entertained in the bargain.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
18:30 - Good news, everyone!

(top)
Futurama being renewed after all? TV Squad thinks so, as does The New New York Post.

Me, I'll believe it when I see it. It's not even a month since Adult Swim's bumps took the authoritative "We heard it straight from Billy West's mouth on his forum" road to say that there were four Futurama made-for-TV movies in production, but that that's all anyone meant by "new episodes". I'd love to see this new announcement pan out, but I'm not holding my breath.

Frankly, I think it ended on a seriously high note. I'd hate to see it come back and then suck.


17:12 - MacBook by Wurlitzer

(top)
Just a few days ago, Amit Singh figured out how to control the MacBook Pro's backlit keyboard.

Now, there's a CPU load monitor that uses the backlight, and—even better—an iTunes visualizer plugin that rules a great deal.

That plus the lightsaber function that uses the Sudden Motion Sensor—it's only a matter of time before people start using the keyboard's light sensor to prevent people from viewing the laptop's contents unless you're using a privacy scarf.

Now all they need is a way to remotely trigger the incendiary device in every laptop.

This planet freaks me out sometimes.


15:16 - Would you like to take a survey?

(top)
It seems that the latest trend in the automotive sales industry is overbearing obsequiousness. If that makes any sense.

These links are to Lileks and his experience with his Honda dealership, but it's all so close to what I've been through recently at the Audi dealership as to verge on the creepy. Here's my tale:

When I bought the A3, the salesman showed me all the electronic geegaws and demonstrated their operation, including the neato two-paned sunroof, which has a manually operated perforated sunshade that rolls up into the crosspiece between the front and back sunroof panes. We found, during this process, that the plastic latch that keeps the shade closed was broken.

The salesman got a stricken look on his face. "Tell you what," he said. "Take the car home today, and we'll get the part ordered for you and repaired right away. Just... just please don't tell anyone. And—" (here he drew close, conspiratorially) "—when you get the survey form, please, please don't mention this problem. There'll be a bunch of questions, Extremely Satistfied, Very Satisfied and so on—just say Extremely Satisfied on all of them. If you do that I'll get you a discount on your iPod adapter, I'll fill up your car with gas, whatever you want—you see some accessories you like, we'll get you set up. Just please don't tell anybody."

I didn't know what he was talking about, but he sure seemed sincere. So I took the car home and put up with the broken sunshade latch for a month while they back-ordered the part, which apparently was so perennially problematic that Audi was having to redesign it and send out replacements to dealerships all over the place.

But when they'd handed me the keys, they had given me a stern-faced warning, as though I'd just bought a Monkey's Paw: Behold, thou shalt soon receive a call from the dealership asking you to rate our performance. Take thee this survey form, which hath the questions inscribed upon it. Seest thou the levels of satisfaction: "Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied," and so on? O customer, we implore you: grant us an Extremely Satisfied on all the questions and we will forever be in your great debt.

Back in my cubicle at work, I filled out the form, uncertainly, not really sure what the hell I was doing, or who I was supposed to turn it in to. The questions were about the salesman's performance: How satisfied are you with the salesperson's knowledge about the car? Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Very Satisfied, Not Satisfied At All? How satisfied are you with the physical condition of the car at time of delivery? Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Very Satisfied, Not Satisfied At All? This harping on the "satisfaction" scale was irritating to say the least, and its weighting seemed really overbearing—am I really extremely satisfied with the dealership's ability to schedule my test drive, or does it qualify more as a very?—but the ominous portents laid upon me at the dealership seemed very sincere, so I circled the Extremely Satisfied answers on all of them.

Sure enough, the dealership soon called me. They asked me if I had time to take a survey about my purchasing experience. I agreed, and soon we were off and running with the questions on my sheet. Oddly, not only did the interviewer ask every question with exactly the same wording as it was printed on my sheet, she also recited the "satisfaction" scale, in its entirety, after every single question: "How satisfied are you with the level of expertise of your sales associate? Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Very Satisfied, Not Satisfied At All?" And she wouldn't let me interrupt or abbreviate the litany. Soon I realized that the sheet I'd filled out wasn't any kind of customer form to be turned in—it was a photocopy of the exact form the surveyor was reading from. It was a cheat sheet. To help me properly answer "Extremely Satisfied" in all cases, just on the off chance that I grew flustered during the questioning and couldn't think what my answer should be.

"Ah hah," I said impishly to myself. "I'll fix them." And when they asked the question about the car's physical condition upon delivery, thinking about the broken sunshade latch, I summoned my courage and said "Very Satisfied".

The change in tone was immediate and electric. The interviewer's voice suddenly grew soft and urgent. "Oh," she said. "Well, you see, here's the thing. Where it says Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, and so on, that's really a point system. We start out with five points for each question, and if you say Very Satisfied, we lose a point, and then Audi downgrades our dealership and we lose all kinds of benefits. What was the problem? Maybe we can fix it. Just... just please don't make us mark down a Very Satisfied..."

At this point I'm starting to feel like a pawn, but nowhere near as much a pawn as the poor interviewer, whose salary no doubt relies on my willingness to hyperventilate and turn cartwheels over my satisfaction level with the dealership's flexibility and nearness to my workplace. So I complete the survey, filling out the rest of the questions with dutiful answers of "Extremely Satisfied".

A month or so later came the service appointment where the latch was fixed. At its conclusion, the service advisor took me aside: "Keep an eye out," he said. "You'll probably be getting a survey call from the dealership, and then another one from Audi of America. Now, it's really important—"

"Extremely Satisfied," I said, nodding. "I think I know where this is going." He looked embarrassed, and chuckled nervously. But his eyes told me he thanked me for my indulgence.

And sure enough, two days later came the call from the dealership: "How would you rate the ability of the dealership to schedule the service appointment? Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Very Satisfied, Not Satisfied At All? ...How would you describe the quality of the work performed on your vehicle? Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Very Satisfied, Not Satisfied At All?" I answered each question through gritted teeth: "Extremely!" as rapidly as possible, as early as possible, trying to telegraph that I was aware of the "satisfaction" scale and that I understood the stakes of saying anything less than "Extremely Satisfied" in response to any question. Above all I hoped that the poor interviewer would just drop the tedious time-consuming satisfaction scale after every question and let me say "Extremely" so we could get on with our lives; but it wasn't to be: she doggedly pressed on for the fifteen minutes or so that the call took. At the end, she told me that this was just the survey call for the dealership, and I could still expect another one from Audi of America. Swell, I thought. That sure makes me Extremely Satisfied.

About three days later came the call from Audi of America. Exactly the same survey. Same questions. And same dogged unwillingness to skip over the "satisfaction scale", even when it was abundantly clear that I could retain an understanding of it in my mind in the ten seconds between questions. She also rejected my suggestion that we just use a numerical 1-to-5 scale (like Honda apparently does, according to Lileks' experience), which would save so much time. "Audi requires that we say the entire thing," she told me.

But we finished the survey, and all was well. That was about two weeks ago.

And then, yesterday, Audi of America called me. Again. To give me the exact same survey. Again.

Same questions. Same monotonous response scale. Same tensely muttered Extremely! after every question. And at the end of the survey, she asked me: "Is there anything else you would like to share with Audi of America to help improve our customer service?"

"Too many surveys," I said.

These guys—and apparently Honda too, and presumably every other car company—are so obsessively determined to ensure their customers have a good service experience that they're ensuring that I have a bad service experience. Seriously: I'm considering taking the car in again, to have a rattle in the back seat area looked at, but I fear to do so lest they pelt me with surveys again.

I'm sure they'll stop if I ask them to; I'm sure I'm not required to complete these surveys every time. But they're making me seriously consider not taking my car in to them for service purely because I don't want to face their customer service's overbearing obsequiousness. I suppose it could be worse—I'm sure I'd prefer this situation to one where I fear the service experience because the employees are rude and incompetent—but this way, it seems they've deluged themselves with so much data that it's flooded out any potential usefulness, and now serves only to drive away otherwise well-disposed customers. Not only do I feel like it's now a hassle to get something quickly fixed—an ordeal that will last me three weeks of waiting in trepidation by the phone—but I'm also on the hook to express my unblemished loyalty and exhilaration with their service, even when their guys leave a greasy thumbprint on my car's interior cloth A-pillar: they would rather have me come in and ply me with gifts from the catalog of Audi-logo golf shirts and keychains while they scrub the car from top to bottom, than for me to file a Very Satisfied on my car's condition when I got it back from the service bay. And they would rather tip their hand and explain the rules of the game to the customer, solving problems off the books, than follow the point system the company has so carefully set up to ensure proper evaluations of their various dealerships.

I'm glad the service industry is taking such notice of me and striving so hard to serve me. But I'd much rather they just did the job right rather than compound the existing problems with new ones.

UPDATE: Kenny B. writes:

Yes, every single car company does this now. It started in the late 80s and early 90s. The Big 3 started looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction (outside of making cars that weren't as crappy as the Dodge Reliant K) and they all settled on the CSI (customer satisfaction index). It started as a way to rate a whole dealership and those that were consistent under performers lost their franchise.

I worked at a Cadillac/Olds/Isuzu dealership at the time that this was becoming important to the dealers. We bent over backwards to keep the customer happy, but we didn't know which customers would get the survey. Then there was a change after I left the industry. The auto manufacturers started sending out the survey to every single customer of both the sales and repair sides. Dealerships quickly tied sales and service representative pay to the survey results and the rest you know about.

As for the dealership calling you, it was a dry run. They do not actually keep the survey results, they just want to find out what your answer is before you get the real survey from the manufacturer. GM often mails their surveys to the customer, but apparently Audi wants to be sure that they get your answer, even if you have to spit through your clenched teeth.

Kenny

BTW, how was experience with this e-mail?
Extremely satisfied, very satisfied, satisfied, not very satisfied, or not satisfied at all?

:)
Satisfied. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Har.

UPDATE: I don't know, either.


13:41 - Put another dime in the noise machine

(top)
Is there really something fundamentally different between the "right" and "left" sides of the blogosphere?

I like to think there isn't—that people who disagree on these matters do so as a result of rational reflection, personal experience, and numerous atmospheric influences great and small. My gut feeling is that we all believe the things we do for reasons that seem perfectly good to us all individually, even if we admit they're not wholly rational—like backing the Giants instead of the Dodgers. Get two die-hard fans of opposite teams in the room with each other, and they can have a great old time being human beings together; just don't bring up baseball.

But then I read something like this, and my mind spins.

For years now I've heard people bleating about the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and the "Rovian marching orders" and "cogs in the machine" and so on, and I've sort of instinctively assumed that it was at least partially meant tongue-in-cheek, like the way people on the right side repeat the same terms mockingly. I mean, nobody can actually believe this stuff, can they? If people like Kos are getting taken seriously by Newsweek and the DNC, all this obvious hyperbole must just be a winking indulgence that they abandon once they sit down to actually think about strategy?

I mean, they do all have real ideas that they understand vividly enough in their own minds that they can articulate them on their own, right? That's how things are on this side of the blogosphere, see. I'm a pretty small bit player, but I don't think it's out of the ordinary that I don't get any "marching orders". I don't receive stipends from some shadowy pseudonymous figure with a redacted return address. My thoughts aren't consumed with political action committees and fundraising and back-room deals—I don't care. What matters to me are ideals and who's willing to adhere to them and to what degree. Nobody's ever pressured me to stay "on message" or to write about some subject and not another. About the closest thing that comes to it is when some of my regular readers send me links to interesting Apple news. Is that it? Is that what "marching orders" are?

I honestly am feeling a little bit creeped out here: if the implications of these developments are to be believed, the reason why the Left side of the blogosphere—or at least the part that gets all the press—talks so fervently about conspiracies and shadowy message machines controlling the Right side is that they—on the Left—are the ones with exactly that kind of power structure. And they apparently can't believe that the "other side" can possibly exist without something similar and analogous. I don't give a crap what Karl Rove thinks; but these guys sure seem to think highly of Joe Trippi.

They're projecting. They proudly talk about the "netroots" in their message-controlled missives from the top, while their opponents just write about what they read and how they feel about it. There is no conspiracy on this side of the aisle, not that they'd ever believe me saying so—but there is one on their side, and they know it, and they're proud of having figured out how it all works—and so I must be lying. I and every other "right-wing" blogger: we must be getting our marching orders from somewhere. We must be getting mysterious evil funding. We must be getting paid and ordered to say what we say, because obviously nobody would do so otherwise.

It seems to me that the definition of "netroots" (a term I'm not going to bother using, because it's functionally the same damn thing as "grassroots") is people individually and independently feeling moved to speak out on subjects that matter to them, whether they agree with anybody important or not—and a significant enough number of them happening to speak to the same themes as to constitute a spontaneous and self-motivated movement. It does not mean a "noise machine". A "grassroots" movement does not need direction or message control or organizers or superstars. Such things are antithetical to the very concept. You can't summon a cargo plane by building a bamboo control tower and clearing a dirt runway in the jungle. And you can't create a grassroots movement by command.

The "netroots" wouldn't know a real grassroots society if it bit them in the ass. Which it keeps doing.

UPDATE: Michael W. says he long ago reached the following conclusion:

Yes, the blogosphere is split into unequal parts that are not mirror images of each other.

I decided that this viewpoint is going to stick until I can find, on the left, equivalents of:

Steven Den Beste
Victor Davis Hanson
Bill Whittle

that's it. I need to read truly eloquent, brilliant people who speak for their side who will also have the cojones to disagree with their party line and exercise independent thought.

Barring that, my opinion holds fast. I think that's a simple, high quality metric and I'd be happy to adopt another should one make more sense.

If I were to post this on my site I'd have reams of comments talking about the wonders of kos by people who really cannot tell the difference.

Such people would be fascinating to read, and I'd love to give them ear, if for no other reason than that they wouldn't be calling everyone "assclowns" or "motherf***ers" or any of the other colorful epithets so cheerfully invoked on every Kos page I've ever been suckered into reading. I like eloquent writing. It helps if it espouses views I can agree with, but eloquent writing has several points in its favor with me right out of the gate.

I see plenty of people asserting that Hanson is a bad writer, but not much of substance beyond that. Just the usual "LGF is a hate site, therefore anyone they like sucks" bilge. Tellingly, about the only leftish writer I really enjoy reading is Zack Parsons of SomethingAwful.com.

And the point about comments is surely true. I can't help thinking that allowing comments would be more trouble than it's worth. I'm glad InstaPundit is there as an example of a well-respected, high-profile blog without comments that I can use as a precedent and an excuse for my not having comments enabled on my blog. ...Oh no! I'm following marching orders!

UPDATE: More similar reactions rounded up by Charles.

UPDATE: You have to be kidding.

Maybe if people on the Left weren't so desperate to see everyone on the other side as hateful knuckle-dragging religious maniacs, or whatever, a lot of embarrassment would be saved.

UPDATE: Stephen Rider offers more anecdotal evidence for a similar point. I realize anecdotal evidence is no proof of anything, but dang, it sure seems like a common theme in my own experience. (More here.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
15:59 - Stop the Film
http://www.extortr.com/

(top)
One of Monty Python's less-funny sketches has gained a new lease on life, thanks to Teh IntarWeb.

As a friend notes, "the guy has also managed to create an idea that ends in 'Profit!' without missing steps." Meh—it's not so hard to come up with that kind of plan. The trick is finding one that's legal.

It's just a joke (obviously), but quite well done. And I love the "Step 1" icon on the front page.

Monday, June 19, 2006
12:57 - Boys and their toys
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199528,00.html

(top)
When these photographers tell you to squeeze in a little closer together, you pretty much gotta: they can't exactly turn the camera.

Once home to roaring fighter jets, this decommissioned Marine Corps hangar is now the world's largest camera poised to take the world's largest picture.

If all goes well, within days the hangar-turned-camera will record a panoramic image of what's on the other side of the door using the centuries-old principle of "camera obscura."

An image of the former El Toro Marine Air Corps Station will appear upside down and flipped left-to-right on a sheath of light-sensitive fabric after being projected through the tiny hole in the hangar's metal door. The fabric is the length of one-third of a football field and about 3 stories tall.

Now that is cool.

Via JMH.


11:47 - That Microsoft, they're always five steps ahead
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199814,00.html

(top)
Microsoft's iPod/iTunes-killer is on the way for real, it seems.

Most iTunes rivals charge monthly fees to access a catalog of entertainment, but some allow consumers to buy individual songs for about $1 each.

Microsoft's service will emphasize the pay-per-download, or a la carte, model, the sources said. A subscription component will also be offered, according to early accounts of the planned service.

Evidently this is a grudging acknowledgment that this model is better for consumers and more in line with what they want to do. For decades, music has been sold in something like a subscription model, where you have to take the bad with the good (as on CDs or the radio) or have limited choice as to how much ownership of it you have (you have to keep phoning home to the mother ship). The a-la-carte method that Apple has continually championed, going to the mat multiple times with the record labels to ensure that they wouldn't have to go to the label-preferred variable pricing model so they could charge more for in-demand tracks, is the first and only method that really gives consumers the true "ownership" of exactly the music they want. While some consumers might legitimately prefer the Napster style of subscription-based unlimited downloads of limited lifespan, market share certainly seems to indicate which model is most widely favored.

But it's difficult to say what exactly is the magic bullet that will make a solution as compelling as the iPod/iTunes combo. Is it the music purchasing model? The device's interface? The selection of available music? The ads? Any of these features can be had with other music players. My suspicion is that the iPod's "kleenexification" is really the major factor now: "iPod" has become its own genre nowadays, and whole aisles at major electronics stores are de facto "iPod aisles" now. No matter how good a competitor device is, it will inevitably look like a "cheap iPod knockoff", whether that's fair or not. However it is that Apple developed itself into this position, it's a technique that marketing students will be poring over for decades to come. Even if it's all just happy coincidence, being in the right place at the right time.

But there's one factor that probably does play a big concrete role in whether people choose iPods over the competition, and that's the heretofore unrivalled integration between the device and the music purchasing/organizing software. Linking the iPod with iTunes is a no-brainer. There's no "Unknown USB device" juggling; there's no importing files back and forth from some download website to Windows Media Player; there's no worry about incompatibility that makes a badge like "PlaysForSure" even necessary (for iPod owners, it's taken for granted that the music "plays for sure". Why shouldn't it?) Because the music store, the organizer software, the device, and even (in the Mac's case) the computer are all made by the same company and tuned to within an inch of its life to work in symbiosis, a user just has to plug an iPod in once to see how good it can all be, especially if he's ever tried to wrestle a solution together that involved three different companies who have never spoken to each other and have no obligation to make their software work in concert. Some companies, like Real, have put together two links in the chain—the music store and organizing software, for instance, or the organizer and the device—but nobody but Apple does all three.

But Microsoft, unlike anyone else so far, does have the potential to bring that kind of integration to the consumer. Microsoft is the only company with the kind of name recognition for customers to trust their solution as a "standard" they won't have to worry about turning into a tar pit as so many other mishmash solutions do. Of course it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will be able to deliver on such a promise—but if they play their marketing cards right, they can make the case unlike anyone else has so far.

Apple might just have its first real challenger now. And it's only taken them five years.

Via JMH.

UPDATE: Oh yes, and as for the nameless source who says Microsoft's new music discovery/purchasing service will kick the ass off iTunes' face:

One source, who has seen a demonstration of the service, said it was an improvement over iTunes.

"They have been developing technologies that have really good music discovery and community," another source said. "iTunes is the 7-11 [of music stores]. You don't hang out there."

And to think that all this time I didn't realize I was supposed to want to "hang out" at a digital music store. Lemme guess: a discussion forum?

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