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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, January 14, 2007
19:20 - Here we go again, again
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/business/yourmoney/14digi.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&r

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Not only does the iPhone have to contend with the "You can't put third-party apps on it" argument, it's also got the ever-popular "Waaahhh! DRM is teh suck!" thing to listen to, now from millions more people who never bought iPods but did have cellphones. So now it's the New York Times' turn to whine like a hippie with a tomato plant in his foil-lined kitchen window box:

Apple pretends that the decision to use copy protection is out of its hands. In defending itself against Ms. Tucker’s lawsuit, Apple’s lawyers noted in passing that digital-rights-management software is required by the major record companies as a condition of permitting their music to be sold online: “Without D.R.M., legal online music stores would not exist.”

In other words, however irksome customers may find the limitations imposed by copy protection, the fault is the music companies’, not Apple’s.

This claim requires willful blindness to the presence of online music stores that eschew copy protection. For example, one online store, eMusic, offers two million tracks from independent labels that represent about 30 percent of worldwide music sales.

And approximately zero percent of any music anybody's ever heard of.

I'm not going through this again, except to say that we can probably look forward to plenty more of this bullcrap, until such time as one of these lawsuits meets with a judge that uses an Ogg-Vorbis-playing music device made of hemp and kelp and decides that Apple's brought happiness and joy to too many people to be allowed to live.

Via JMH.


18:45 - Windows/386 is on the attack!
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4915875929930836239&q=windows+386&hl=en

(top)
Microsoft was once a vibrant, hungry start-up company innovating left and right... right? The current Vista-era rot is a recent thing... right?

... Right.

I was told to skip to the 7-minute mark in this promotional video used to sell Windows/386 against OS/2 back in the late 80s. But I watched the whole thing, because I wasn't going to miss a moment of it. This stuff's gold even in the boring segment.

I especially loved the part where the guy asks, "What is that, OS/2? We aren't finished evaluating it yet!" And she replies that no, it's Windows/386, whose chief selling point is that it looks just like OS/2. And apparently it doesn't need to be evaluated too or anything.

What kind of marketing effort must it have been that had to implicitly acknowledge that OS/2 did absolutely everything better than Microsoft's own product did, including run Windows apps?

Saturday, January 13, 2007
21:55 - All the cool cars are in Detroit
http://web.mac.com/btman/iWeb/Site/San%20Jose%20Auto%20Show%202007.html

(top)
Unfortunately, I'm in San Jose.

Friday, January 12, 2007
19:41 - New Era, New Acolytes

(top)
What's struck me in recent days about the revelations that the iPhone will not be open to third-party app development is the near-unanimity of the Mac punditosphere in panning the decision.

Usually, when there's negative reaction to some Apple announcement, it's tempered by a groundswell of support both from thoughtful analysts with a sober long view and a feeling for why Apple might have made such a decision, and from the dyed-in-the-wool anything-Apple-does-is-by-definition-good ranks. But not here. Pretty much everyone thinks this sucks, and probably rightly so.

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

The iPhone, he insisted, would not look like the rest of the wireless industry.

“These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”

I think Steve might have bitten off more than he can chew. He thinks that because Apple managed to nail the balance of conceptual simplicity and customizability in the iPod, after a long history of doing similar things with the desktop computer, he has an implicit insight into the phone market's dynamics that the phone makers haven't been able to capture up till now.

I think it's entirely likely that Steve plans to aim the iPhone at non-geeky customers, the kind who would have avoided buying Blackberries and Smartphones because they're too threatening and weird; if so, then a closed platform makes sense, because the target market wouldn't be likely to try to hack their phones anyway. But at the same time, maybe it's a bit premature for John Gruber to conclude:

Remember back in November when Palm CEO Ed Colligan was quoted saying, with regard to a then-hypothetical Apple phone, “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Guess what? They’re just walking in.

Yeah, and they seem to be stumbling, too.

Apple, Inc. is being positioned as "the next thirty years" of the company—a new direction, a new focus that encompasses mobile devices, phones, set-top boxes, and—who knows—probably TVs and home audio gear and stuff, with desktop and laptop computers still the core of the business, but a far less important slice of the pie than before. (The parallel to Sony has been noted in several places already, much good may it do Apple.) But while it might be the right direction for a company following the lucre, especially for a Steve who envisions a world where every technological gadget that people interact with sports an Apple logo and a Jonny Ive design, it's a move that comes with some possibly unforeseen traps—not least of which is a whole new set of customers. Phone customers, in this case. People with a different set of expectations about what their gear can and should do than, probably, Steve Jobs has in mind.

He may have explicitly set out to change people's expectations of their technology, to literally reinvent the industry just through the contact high of his presence. He may even succeed, in the long run. But in recent interviews, he's acting like he's taken aback that people would have any negative reaction at all—that it hadn't entered his mind that people would shun the iPhone just because it's not open to third-party software. They're not following the script he's got laid out for them, honed and tweaked from years of experience with computers and iPods. Trouble is, they're not all the same people. (For the first time, for example, I am not part of his target demographic at all.) And just as he gambled and won by bringing the iPod to Windows, garnering such a huge audience overnight that it engulfed Apple in the tsunami of money that enabled it to buy its way into this new era, now he's gambling on marrying Apple technology—and black-box design sensibilities—to a market that potentially has a lot of money to spend. But it is a gamble... and it might not pay off.

Fortunately, there's an upside: Steve has six months to change his mind, essentially without technical cost. A reversal on his stated policy would make headlines; it's not the kind of thing he's accustomed to doing, nor the industry watchers are accustomed to seeing him do. But Apple, Inc. is a new company, serving new markets; and Mercurial Steve Jobs might have to do some dancing if he wants this new transition, like so many before it, to benefit from the charmed life that's followed him through an endless stream of improbable technical and political victories ever since he returned to the company.

UPDATE: It does sure look like the lockdown is at Cingular's behest.


11:04 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bandwagon

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Everybody noticed at the time, during the demo, that Steve was showing off the iPhone's iPod capabilities by playing—gasp—Beatles songs. All the live commentary trackers I was watching made the immediate leap: Beatles in the iTunes Store! At least, that's what we expected Steve to say next.

But he didn't. Still no Beatles in the Store.

It isn't often that sort of thing happens, is it? I mean, he's deeply embroiled in the necessary negotiations; and he knows that the audience is fully expecting and hoping for the Beatles announcement any day now. So this almost amounts to a bait-and-switch...

Thursday, January 11, 2007
23:07 - Web 3.0

(top)
What, so now I have to rely on spam to deliver me the hot new headlines?!

From: crucifixionsquavering@account.ru
Subject: Exec: Peter Jackson will never work for me again
Date: January 11, 2007 8:36:30 PM PST
To: (me)

WATCH HWYI LIKE A HAWK THURSDAY! THE ALERT IS ON!


Sym bol: HWYI
On: PinkSheets
5-Days Target: $2.80
Long Term Target: $8.00

Rumor's circulating and keeping the focus on the company's news.
We pick our companies based on there growth potential.
How many times have you seen issues explode
but you couldn't get your hands on them?
We Love this company and at anytime they can put out major news
and the price can triple.
New news expected this comming week.


ADD HWYI TO YOUR WATCHLIST NOW! WATCH IT TRADE ON FIRDAY 12 JAN!

Geez, forget about those last-century news delivery mechanisms.


22:50 - Uhhh

(top)
Uhhhh.

Uhhhhhhh.


19:07 - Holy duck boot! It's a cat
http://lostgarden.com/2006/12/wii-help-cat-lesson-in-interaction.html

(top)
Via Cabel Sasser, a great analysis of that most puzzling and fascinating user-interface element of the modern age: The Help Cat, by Nintendo.

I can't help but sit and nod at the conclusions it draws. No matter how difficult such concepts would be to fit into traditional software that isn't intended to be "playful", the theories behind it seem to be sound—as we should be able to see intuitively by the fact that it makes people want to get the hints it presents, rather than brushing them away with a bark of annoyance like the "Show Tips at Startup!?!!" dialog in Windows or Office.

As Cabel says, it's great stuff in particular for interface nerds. But it's also a little disheartening, in that it implies that the engineers at Nintendo not only have stumbled upon an insight the rest of us haven't—they probably understand this stuff better than anybody outside (or even inside) Apple, to the point where while we struggle with the concepts in blog posts, they're already engineering whole products around them. It makes me feel like a freshman grinding his way through a nuclear physics text, barely grasping the dumbed-down versions of the theories in it, while outside the window a fission plant chugs away, supplying power through a process that to me might as well be magic.

Or, perhaps more aptly, getting a boot to the head from a Shaolin master.


13:41 - What a difference six years makes

(top)
With people starting to make noises about Leopard involving a completely new look-and-feel to replace Aqua (not to mention a resolution-independent one), it's a bit jarring to realize that Mac OS X is about six years old now—long enough for a lot of us to not remember what it was like in the before-time, in the long-longago. OS X has been smooth and polished to look at for almost that entire time, and it's been eminently usable for at least four of those six years (remember back when you couldn't drag a selection rectangle around a few icons on the desktop without the whole system stuttering to a halt?).

If we're about to embark on a whole new journey into the unknown interface, it might be instructive to look back into the year 2000, when John Siracusa reviewed all the Developer Preview versions of OS X, including the Public Beta, which I still have tucked away somewhere. His review of Developer Preview 3 is indicative of his pessimism: it contains phrases like: The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I believe that Mac OS X DP3 has its heart in the right place. Ouch.

But rightly so. DP3 had goofy things like "Single Window Mode", the fonts and window decorations were still half in the old Platinum world, the Apple logo did nothing but take up space in the middle of the title bar, and the Dock was so bad in both concept and execution that Siracusa deemed it "a total write-off". He's still no fan of the Dock even today, but looking at the state it was in back when OS X was a blue-sky design exercise, it's hard to blame his reaction then.

Nowadays it's easy to take for granted the slickness and unity that binds the OS experience together, especially when the few warts that it does have—clunky Spotlight, awkward disc burning, sometimes-slow device recognition—rear their heads. We ought to bear in mind that when people got their first look at OS X, it was at a stage when the most creative thing you could really do with it was think up names for the spinny rainbow cursor that everyone spent most of their time staring at. iTunes didn't even exist, for Pete's sake. (We did, however, have "Music Player".)

Man. It sure was revolutionary, even with all its problems; but they did have an awfully long way to go—longer than I ever realized at the time. It's only in retrospect that it becomes clear just how much they have accomplished. And while it won't ever be as big an architectural jump as the OS 9—OS X transition was, I hope the next interface generation they embark on isn't quite so riddled with false starts and ill-conceived ideas. Though Siracusa might disagree with me on a few major points, such as the non-spatial Finder and the inelegant file-typing scheme, I think the forces of righteousness do tend to win the day within Apple.

I'm tempted to go install the Public Beta on my old G4...


11:45 - Death of a Legend

(top)
Aw! PenIsland.com expired and got squatted.

And thus an end comes to a major player on lists like these.

UPDATE: Oh wait. It was PenIsland.net. Which is still there. So never mind.


04:05 - I'll see your irony and raise you zincy

(top)
What with those fourth-wall-breaking Alltel Wireless ads featuring caricatured stand-ins for the mascots of the various other cellphone carriers, and the Pizza Hut ad with the delivery guys from Domino's and Papa John's shamefacedly eating the Pizza Hut pizza—I find myself wondering if there are any rules about this sort of thing on the books, either legally or as part of the policies of the cable companies' ad-space market? You know—an ad campaign that specifically plays off of some competitor's ad campaign?

Suppose, for instance, that you saw one of the "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC" commercials. Then, immediately afterwards, suppose you saw an ad for some PC company, looking almost the same, starring very similar-looking "PC" and "Mac" characters (or, hell, even the same actors—why not?), but this time stumping for the PC side?

Or, say, if you had a Jack in the Box ad with Jack making fun of other fast-food places' burgers, followed immediately by a Burger King ad featuring the King beating up Jack? Or a Zune ad touting the 3-plays-3-days thing, followed immediately by an iPhone/iPod ad making fun of limited wi-fi sharing and talking up full Internet connectivity and the like?

There's the question of trademark infringement, sure—you can't directly use another company's characters or mascots without a big disclaimer (as the Alltel Wireless ads demonstrated). But if the basis of the ad is just a general concept, something that's easily recognizable and easily mockable—why wouldn't an ad agency want to make an ad that deliberately plays off someone else's campaign, and then specifically buys space so as to have their ad appear right after the competitor's, so the viewer sees a direct marketplace battle taking place right in front of him, in the interstices between TV show segments?

There's the argument that a cable company that allowed companies to do this sort of thing to each other wouldn't be in the business of selling ad space much longer after they tried it, as the targeted competitor stomped off in a huff. But I don't know, honestly. I tend to think that sort of thing would make for great watching, and it'd bring in the eyeballs that the cable company and both advertising parties need. It would have the look and feel of a political debate, an argument-and-rebuttal dialogue taking place during every commercial break. It'd be real live entertainment, and no less balanced than it is today, where one company's ads might only appear on different channels or in completely different media from its competitors.

Why hasn't this technique become an established, mature art form over the decades? I can't bring myself to think it's just because nobody's tried it, fearing the wrath of the cable companies and the yanking of their advertising space. Are there laws about this sort of thing? Or is it just professional courtesy?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
00:25 - Did the world only recently go insane, or was I just not paying attention?
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlebusiness.aspx?type=media&storyID=nN10328385&fro

(top)
So, wait—Apple didn't check with Cisco before calling it the iPhone?

If that's true, then Apple's legal department has made one of the biggest, most incompetent blunders in technology history. Enough so that this will be what people remember about the iPhone ten years from now, just as the Newton is remembered for nothing so much as "Eat Up Martha".

17:13 - Cream of Regret

(top)
I've been informed that "normal people" have comments on their blogs. Now, I don't know what these so-called "blogs" are that these alleged "normal people" maintain, but apparently it's something that all the cool kids do these days. Lest I appear out-of-touch, I'd better get me some of those penny whistles and moon pies, and also blog comments. 23 skidoo!

Note: this is the first substantial change I've made to the afternoon's worth of code that this blog's software comprises in over five years. As though the abject lack of CSS or any real design aesthetic wasn't a big enough tipoff.

Let's hope it isn't the precursor to a lot more, once the comment-spambots find it.


12:40 - Canciona non grata
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/10/BAGPQNG2MM1.DTL

(top)
Oddly Enough™!

How's this for an only-in-San Francisco story:

Members of the Baker's Dozen, the renowned, all-male a cappella singing group from Yale, are pummeled outside a New Year's Eve party after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

. . .

The 16 singers showed up late to the party wearing preppy sport jackets and ties, and launched into "The Star-Spangled Banner."

A couple of uninvited guests started mocking them, and allegedly the words "faggot" and "homo" were tossed -- and so were a couple of punches.

The loud noise drew relatives from next door, who promptly ordered the house cleared.

The Yale kids, most of whom were staying with a family a block away, began heading home.

But witnesses said one of the uninvited guests -- who happens to be the son of a prominent Pacific Heights family -- pulled out his cell phone and said, "I'm 20 deep. My boys are coming."

According to Rapagnani and others, the Yale kids barely made it around the corner when they were intercepted by a van full of young men.

"They were surrounded, then tripped -- and when they were on the ground, they were kicked," Rapagnani said.

According to police reports, the cops arrived about 12:40 a.m. to find 20 people fighting in the street.

To the police, who were out in force to keep a lid on New Year's, it looked like just another drunken brawl.

But according to Rapagnani, "This was not a fight -- it was an attack."

San Francisco: more angrily elitist than Yale.


11:29 - Whither iPod?

(top)
A while ago, while comparing the iPod and Zune form factors, I said:

It also explains why people are waiting so eagerly for the fabled "True Video iPod", the one with the screen that's supposed to cover the entire rectangular face of the device and feature an integrated touch-screen that fades a software version of the scroll wheel into view when you touch it. On paper, it seems the ideal solution. The fact that it would necessarily eschew buttons that go "click" when you push them, and would pick up fingerprints and annoying scratches all the more easily, and would require some extra non-software way to poke the thing if it locked up and you had to reboot it, makes me skeptical that this is at all the solution Apple has in mind, though.

Well, whaddya know. Seems Apple had the same thought: if your controls are going to be "soft", with a touch-screen and a pointing device manipulating controls that are created in software on demand, then you've got the same kind of paradigm shift in interface that they had in moving the controls of iTunes onto a mobile device in the first place. Apple learned long ago from the debacle that was QuickTime 4 that rather than trying to recreate the controls from one medium in a medium that doesn't support them—like by making a virtual thumb-wheel volume control in a software video player—you should use controls that work within the constraints of the medium you're working with, and take advantage of its good points too. So the iPod, instead of having a slider for volume (which would have been unwieldy and imprecise), used the scroll wheel, which took advantage of the human thumb's natural tendency to move in a stroking, circular path. It turned the hand into a cylinder and piston, which turns out to work quite well.

But it's dependent upon the ability to physically move a piece of plastic in that same circular path, which is why the touch-sensitive versions of the click wheel have never been quite as tactilely satisfying as the physically rotating wheel of the first-generation iPod: your thumb slides along the surface and you have to consciously guide it in a circle, rather than stiction keeping your thumbtip in contact with the part of the wheel you're touching as it rotates, the circular path coming from its natural movement. And a touch-sensitive screen with no implicit boundaries would only have exacerbated that problem. So rather than trying to emulate the wheel in software, Apple shook itself to wakefulness, cast off its self-imposed constraint of sticking to known and iconic interface elements, and threw out the wheel metaphor altogether.

The multi-touch interface is so dang cool, they're going to have to put it on the rest of the iPods soon—if not the nanos, then at least the full-size iPods, the ones with the 80GB drives, ten times the size of the one in the $600 iPhone. Those of us who buy iPods primarily for their all-encompassing capacity, so we can carry whole seasons of TV shows around with us without a care about manually picking which ones to sync and which ones to leave behind, can't be satisfied with a mere 8GB. And we'll take an iPod with a full-size hard drive over one with wireless and phone capabilities any day.

Next to the iPhone, the interface of the current iPod looks like a 1984 Mac next to OS X. It's crisp and clean, but it's not cool anymore. I have to imagine that the June iPhone debut will coincide with a rollout of a whole new iPod lineup: the nano and shuffle will probably stay unchanged, though the nano's screen might get an upgrade, just to incorporate the iPhone's color scheme and navigation elements. But the full-size iPod might well lose its click wheel, in favor of a multi-touch interface like the one on the iPhone. Sure, it won't look as iconic as people are accustomed. But these days, the click wheel is not, in and of itself, an asset. It's been compromised over the years by well-intentioned efforts to miniaturize the technology and consolidate the controls for reliability, and it's no longer the overwhelming slam-dunk that the first-gen iPod's wheel was. What's more, Apple seems to have come up with something even better.

Who else could have?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007
11:06 - Here we go again
http://www.macrumorslive.com/

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Ajax Stevenote feed here.

UPDATE: AppleTV.

And goddammit, a %$^&#$ cellphone.


UPDATE:


Yyyyyeahhhh.

UPDATE: There's a proximity sensor on the top so when you bring it to your ear, the display and external sound shut off.

Apparently it runs full OS X and has the highest-res LCD screen evar, like it's a tiny little laptop (or, uh, tablet).

This thing looks insane.

UPDATE: Geez. You know what this is? It's the True Video iPod AND the Mac Tablet AND the iPhone.

Steve, you bitch.

UPDATE: Meanwhile...

UPDATE: "So let's compare this to some of the other phones out there..." And the crowd bursts out laughing. That's why Steve is the showman: the very atmosphere is his instrument.

UPDATE: That thing looks huge.

... But I do have to say: the interface, as presented in the web demos, makes my brain twitch.

UPDATE: Since Apple is taking this opportunity to rename itself from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc., it looks like they just might be renaming Mac OS X to simply OS X.

I wonder if that's pronounced "Oh Ess Ecks", too?

UPDATE: If it weren't for the phone, I would buy this in a heartbeat. As it is, I wish (as does Damien Del Russo) that there were a way to buy it without the Cingular plan, so you could just use it as an iPod with wireless web browsing and e-mail and the like. (I'm told that in the UK, Apple will be forced by law—like all cellphone makers—to offer a version without a contract.)

But that interface is something else. As far ahead of the iPod the Zune's interface was, this is that far beyond the Zune. Without a touchscreen, it's not quite feasible—but I still wonder how long it'll be before the rest of the iPods will be updated with the same look-and-feel. Surely the top-end iPod (which still fills the market niche with the full-size hard drive, while the iPhone is only at the nano level when it comes to capacity) will benefit from the widescreen form factor or something like it, even though without sacrificing the click wheel they're kind of stuck. Maybe they do plan to sacrifice the click wheel, though. It's nowhere to be found on the iPhone; check out how you scroll.

Here's what I wonder, though: why no mobile iTunes Store? They've got everything I kinda-sorta-predicted, technology-wise; all that's missing is the actual software that would browse and download over wi-fi or the cell network. Surely it can be added in a firmware update, maybe even by launch time (June). Though if they'd planned it, they could have demo'ed it too; maybe they've decided that, as many points as it would score over the Zune, it's just not important to the user base.

But man, that would've been a lot of points.

UPDATE: The keynote is one of the funniest, most animated ones I've seen in a long time; Steve was almost giddy throughout it. Clearly having a grand old time.

And John Mayer said that Apple makes the world more fun, and thus is "like the exact opposite of terrorism". That's, uh, kinda cool.


11:01 - Problem solved
http://www.tuaw.com/2007/01/09/greenpeace-greens-apple-store-san-francisco/

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Despite the EPA's obviously biased opinion otherwise, Greenpeace has declared Apple to be Teh Evil for Mother Gaia—not because Macs are dirtier than other computers, but (I guess) because they're fun and people like them. At least that reasoning would be consistent for them.

It would also explain why they think this is a worthwhile use of Earth's precious electricity:



Guys, Steve is already a tree-hugging hippie. You want to drive him to the other side in anger?

Monday, January 8, 2007
03:33 - Lay it on me, Steve
http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=196800670&pgno=1&que

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JMH sends this five-page InformationWeek article purporting to demonstrate how OS X has it all over Vista—and that's even before whatever might happen tomorrow.

I'm trying not to be gratuitously partisan here, but that UAC stuff does look pretty heinous.

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© Brian Tiemann