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
Saturday, September 8, 2007
01:23 - The man likes his explosions

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I particularly love the bit with him marching.


The Best Homemade Explosion Video EVER - Watch more free videos

Via Mark.


23:06 - THIS... IS... SLAPSTICK!!!

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I present the most gloriously, hilariously wrong display ever:



What I love is that if you saw this knowing nothing about the film, it sort of looks like he is laughing. Hard enough for his head to go flying off. In the middle of battle.

That could be a great movie.


20:15 - Who will come and live a life devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call rootmarm?
http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1658545_1657686_1657663,00.ht

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Leave it to Time to figure out a way to blame the Ford Model T for global warming and Middle Eastern wars, and thus to name it the second in a list of the 50 worst cars of all time.

Well, that's just the problem, isn't it? The Model T — whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse's "disassembly line" — conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers' boots. And by the way, with its blacksmithed body panels and crude instruments, the Model T was a piece of junk, the Yugo of its day.

Yeah, except the alternative for most people wasn't a Prius, it was nothing. Curse you, Henry Ford, curse you for taking away our precious Gaia-friendly horse-drawn carriages! Curse you for making poverty that much less unbearable and the social ladder that much more climbable! Curse you for disrupting the Natural Order of Things!

UPDATE: A couple of cars later:
The Bi-Autogo does enjoy the historical distinction of being the first V8-powered vehicle ever built in Detroit, so you could argue it is the beginning of an even greater folly.

Yeah, bite me.

UPDATE: Generally speaking, the grammar and proofing in this article are atrocious. Is this the standard to which Time is held these days?

UPDATE: CapLion, astonishingly, expands on the sentiment.


13:50 - And a squirt of espresso
http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/s83522y/event/index.html?internal=g4h5jl83a

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Watching the Stevenote, I noticed that Steve pointed out several times by way of introducing the wi-fi capabilities of the iPod touch that "other companies" had tried the same thing and "failed"—he used the word "failed" four or five times, almost gratuitously. But he never used the word "Zune".

But he also said that he thought he knew why the other companies doing wi-fi music-player devices had failed, and how Apple could succeed in their place. He didn't say it in so many words, but the answer would appear to be ubiquity. Microsoft's proposal was that the Zune's networking capabilities were sufficiently compelling even if limited to nothing but squirting songs to other Zune users. Unfortunately, this was a chicken-and-egg problem; squirting would have been a neat feature if Zunes were as ubiquitous as iPods, or indeed if it were released first on iPods. But Apple realized (perhaps spontaneously, perhaps by sitting back, rubbing their chins, and letting Microsoft do their market research for them in a reversal of the usual "Microsoft R&D South" joke) that a far better proposition would be to piggyback on the ubiquity of something else: the Internet itself. Because that is what people using iPods are really interested in, not simply other iPod users around them. What they all really care about is the content, not the "social".

So making the iPod touch into a Web-tablet like the iPhone is the backbone of the device's value-add, because it taps into the resource that people really want. But that's not enough, otherwise people could just whip out their laptops instead. No—Apple realized that part of the Zune's model was valuable: the part that's focused on music and music sharing. But it's not the "social"... to coin a phrase, it's the music, stupid. Hence the wi-fi iTunes Store.

If you like some song you're hearing on the radio, you can just look it up and buy it right then and there, all by yourself. That's way better than having to hook up with someone else in the gym or the coffee shop, isn't it? In the Zune model, you can't just listen at will and anonymously to other people's broadcasting music libraries—you have to make actual human contact with the person you're squirting songs back and forth with; so if there were a central music store to get the tracks from, it's functionally the same as if you got the song directly from the other person. You still have to talk to him, find out the name of the song, and so on. You might as well just grab it from iTunes. And then you don't have to worry about it disappearing in three days, either, or having to buy the song once you got it synced back onto your PC, or juggling "points", or any of that folderol. About the only downside is that you can't squirt songs back and forth in the middle of the Australian Outback where there is no wi-fi base station; but if that were your use case, you could just borrow the other guy's headphones for long enough to listen to that crucial song while you wait for help to arrive.

Besides, this way you can also get music that doesn't come from other people's hot tips—just your own exploration and previewing. Some people don't want to be social in order to get more music. Sure, it's great if you've got the moves; but part of owning an iPod is that you don't have to interact with other people in order to enjoy your music collection. The "social" isn't a prerequisite. It can come later. Especially if you're cool enough to have an iPod touch.

Maybe that's the asshole model; maybe not. But Apple knows it sells better than requiring people to become schmoozers. Especially phony ones who just want other people's music.

But the real stroke of genius here is the Starbucks connection. What better way to tap into hipster culture than by giving iPod owners an incentive to go to Starbucks, just for the thrill of what amounts to copying songs straight from the PA system to your iPod? What could warm the cockles of the collective hearts of a Starbucks manager, a Starbucks full of iPod-using patrons, an Apple finance guy, and a music label honcho like hearing some cool song come on the speakers and seeing a dozen coffee-sippers whip out their iPods and start tapping away to download it? Hell, I don't even like coffee, and I feel like I might want to go to a Starbucks just to see this feature in action. This is the "social" that Microsoft misfired on: one where you can take part or not, depending on your taste in music. It's the commenters-on-a-blog model, where you can choose to participate or not, and you don't have to talk to anyone else if you don't want to; rather than the Zune model, where you have to make personal contact and ask each other for favors (and try to avoid using the word "squirt", especially in a gym context). This is why people like using the Web: they can do it anonymously, at-will, and with impunity. Starbucks will become the closest thing in the physical world to the Web if this takes off. One hell of a smart move for Starbucks.

Starbucks has ubiquity; the Internet has ubiquity; and the iPod has ubiquity. That's the winning combination for making a wi-fi feature compelling. But whereas the Zune had to have other Zunes around in order for the feature to work at all, the iPod's ubiquity is the least important part of this recipe; one iPod touch user in a Starbucks, or even just in his house, can browse and buy to his heart's content. But doing it in a room full of other iPod users, all of whom are enjoying the same community experience, and all of whom can choose to make eye contact and bob their heads and grin at each other, or not, at their discretion—that's the very definition of a positive user experience, and it's the part that will give Apple the most visible recognition out of all three pieces of the puzzle.

There is one thing that occurs to me about the iPod touch, though: Apple will now have to publicize a "Report my iPod touch lost or stolen" hotline. Because now leaving one of these babies in your stall at Bennigan's or having it jacked out of your car means someone out there has a direct line to the iTunes Store, with a preapproved conduit for draining your bank account one dollar, one tap, one slick little animation at a time.

Friday, September 7, 2007
15:28 - Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing
http://blag.xkcd.com/2007/09/05/footomobiles/

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Look what the author of the awesome xkcd comic found (via evariste): "Footomobiles". The Future of the Past.

I freaking love this stuff. I love inaccurate visions of the future, the older the better. I remember 1800s-era satirical cartoons describing the World of Tomorrow, showing "warfare in the skies"—giant platforms of land ripped from the ground and held aloft with hundreds of hot-air balloons, with Napoleonic-looking soldiers arrayed on top of them shooting cannons at each other—and pneumatic tube transportation anywhere in the world ("All right, who's for Bengal?").

What's really funny is seeing the Star Trek writers trying to grapple with the fact that we've steamrolled right over the projected "future history" of Roddenberry's imagining, with nary a penal colony ship sent into space and nary a World War III... nary even another moonshot since the original series went off the air.

But the best of all is when people make a prediction that's tongue-in-cheek at the time, ridiculous a few years later—and then reality a century down the road.

Thursday, September 6, 2007
12:35 - The Continuum agrees
http://www.apple.com/itunes/

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So here we are... another fine football game.

I think the most interesting thing about this iPod product rollout is that it's probably the biggest, most feature-rich, most product-diverse, and most significant for the long-term positioning of the brand that they've ever done... and yet the price spread at the end of it is so tightly compressed. You'd have thought this rollout would give users choices from $50 up to $700, right? Well, no: $399 is as high as it goes. Remember the days of $399 buying you the one and only 5GB iPod, and $499 for 10GB? Remember when $400 was considered a bargain? Well, now that is the price you can expect to pay for an iPhone—itself a device that was $599 before yesterday—and that's for something that's only an "iPod" in the most all-inclusive sense, where devices that are supersets of iPods (and have little navigation icons labeled "iPod", with an icon shaped like a classic wheely iPod) also count as iPods. If you're talking about the direct descendant of the 5G unit that started it all, the iPod classic, it's now at just over half the price of that device at its debut: $249. And just look at all the stuff it can do now.

Hell. I remember carrying around the first-generation 5G iPod in my shirt pocket and having it weigh down the fabric so much I looked like I buttoned my shirt wrong. The thing was like 3/4" inch thick and heavy as hell—and that was considered svelte and hip, compared to the giant CD-player-sized Nomads of the day. And remember the tiny finicky heat-sensitive monochrome screen, the big blocky pixels, the menu options in the classic-cool but anachronistic Chicago font? Hell, remember physical buttons? Remember the rotating navigation wheel? How ridiculous and quaint they all seem now... but at the time, in 2001, they were the absolute height of cutting-edge coolness. Remember those days?

Six years later, and the iPod lineup is still eminently recognizable to anyone transported forward from 2001. The iPod classic is the same basic form factor—a bigger screen, a slicker wheel, much much thinner, and all that, sure, but the height and width are unchanged from the very first iPod. Apple has managed to avoid the temptation to go to a flip-folding design (as some of the rumor sites' "2G" designs had it), a curvy asymmetrical model, a button-laden PDA or Nokia-esque tablet, or any of the myriad directions they could have taken it. They've stuck to this basic "look" longer, indeed, than they've stuck with any single computer body design. I guess they really nailed it the first time out; since then it's all been evolutionary tweaks.

And, of course, the addition of family members, both below and (now) above.

  • iPod shuffle. I remember when the shuffle was first introduced, in its USB-flash-drive-on-neck-lanyard form factor. I remember how ballsy a move it was: Steve stood on stage and boasted that the thing's lack of a screen was its best "feature". I remember the skepticism up and down the press ranks: what audacity! What contempt for consumers! To think that we would accept a reduction in features and pay extra for the privilege... bosh! ... well, time has proven that the gamble was a good one, and everyone seems to love the shuffle. Apple's UI guys are just that good: they knew that in a world full of $50-100 MP3 players with tiny illegible screens that tried desperately to cram in as much information and control as possible into a device smaller than your finger, it actually makes the user happier to not be able to control his music or see what's coming up next. Take out the screen. Do your music management on the iTunes side. Hit the "shuffle" button and be happy.

  • iPod nano. 4GB/8GB, same as before, but in an excitingly chunky new video-capable body. Now, for some reason I've never been wild about the nano, though everyone else seems to think it's just great; maybe that's my problem, though, since I've come at the whole iPod/iTunes world since Day 1 with the assumption that the device was meant to hold all your music and all your media, that you could just sync it up and go, and never have to worry about defining playlists that match the size of your iPod or manually dragging-and-dropping things onto it. My music/video collection has grown about commensurately with the sizes of the full-size iPods, and the point at which iTunes told me that "not all your music will fit on this iPod" was a day of mourning and gnashing of teeth, because it meant suddenly I'd have to put in a bunch of extra conscious effort in deciding what stuff should go onto the device, in what seemed like a big failure of user-interface design, an afterthought to deal with a weird corner case to account for those weirdo users with way too much stuff. But most people don't seem to have any trouble with that, and devices like the Apple TV are all predicated on the idea of limited space portioned out to only the most elect of your media; so I guess that's the way things are going, and I'd better get used to it.

    All that aside, the new nano looks stubby and weird, a far cry from the lithe and tall model it replaces. I'm not sure I like the way it looks. But then I had my issues with the original nano too—it looked too tall and space-wastey. This one looks screen-heavy and pudgy. But the fact that it plays video now, and does everything the full-size (classic) does, makes it a hellaciously attractive entry at $150-200.

  • iPod classic. This is the one that I'm instinctively drawn to, especially with 160GB available. Surely that would be enough to prevent me from having to pick and choose which of my South Park seasons to have available at the gym! And the new interface is hot as hell, with swoopy transitions and album-art background pans and—finally—a Cover Flow application that makes sense, what with the whole click-wheel-and-the-rotatey-and-GLAVIN. This is no consolation prize for not having wi-fi and a touchscreen, and it's no swan song for the iPod's venerable form factor; it's a solid and attractive device, and probably still the one I'd want, especially since it's at the $250-350 price point, formerly reserved for "budget" iPods. It's hard to say no to something that's worked so well for so long, and seems to have such legs left in it.

    But then again...

  • iPod touch. The big news is almost no news: an iPhone without the phone. Almost a no-brainer. We've literally been expecting this all year, ever since the first iPhone demos. Yet it's rather defeatured as iPods go, and hardly the "top-end" iPod; it has significant overlap with the iPod classic in both feature set and price, with the 160GB classic outpricing the 8GB touch by $50. What you give up in hard drive space you gain in wi-fi, touchability, and sheer coolness inherited from the iPhone's form factor. And that's got me wondering: Am I really still the kind of person who wants to keep all his music and videos and everything on his iPod's massive hard drive, and play it back on the imperfect and not-really-size-optimized screen? Or have I been going about all this sort of the wrong way? Can I have all the enjoyment of the most immediately interesting music and videos through the judicious use of 16GB worth of carefully crafted playlists? Is it worth giving up the (all-too-evanescent-anyway) benefit of grab-it-and-go syncing, if what I get in exchange is pinchable photos, rotatable videos, and YouTube and Google Maps and random web browsing whenever I'm in range of a base station?

    In other words, has the problem been me all along? Have I just not adapted my life enough to fit the model the iPod wants to impose on it? Huh. I guess I'd better get right on that...

    The question remains, though: why not an iPod touch with a 160GB hard drive? What's prohibitive about that—price? Battery life? Thickness? Market alignment? This is a question that anybody with $500 burning a hole in his pocket will be asking after today.

    The wireless iTunes Store just about looks freaky-cool enough to justify the price all on its own. Those animations are so fun-looking. Almost worth a dollar a pop just to watch. (Almost).

    One possible downside is that people might look at someone's iPod touch and assume it's an iPhone, until realizing that no, it's "just" an iPod—a defeatured iPhone. Sneer. Boo. My coolness evaporates as quickly as I thought it had bloomed upon buying the thing.

    But one thing's for sure: Zune users aren't getting any cooler.

  • iPhone. Still the same, but now available in 8GB only, and only at $399—the same price as the 16GB iPod touch. Drop the phone (and the Mail app), add twice the disk space. Maybe that'll be enough to keep the two devices from cannibalizing each other's coolness (to say nothing of sales). Surely now those people who object to phones but love the slick interface are well and truly covered. Indeed, just looking at the iPhone and its price and feature set almost makes me want to buy an iPod touch on the spot.

    Worth noting, interestingly, is that the iPod touch has a Leopard-esque reflecty-Dock, whereas the iPhone just has an opaque strip. I suppose the inevitable question is whether the iPhone's interface will be updated in a future revision to match the touch's, or whether Apple will try to keep them divergent. Surely they could have made them more similar for yesterday's tandem release; they're based on the same software and all.

    Speaking of which, now that we have an honest-to-God "OS X iPod", and yet the classic/nano iPods have such similarly bells-and-whistles-laden interfaces, what does that imply about the underlying operating system of those more lowly devices? They aren't running OS X as well, are they? And if not, just take another look at the iPod classic's interface animations—and compare them to the almost steam-punk Spartan-ness of the original 5G iPod's monochrome interface. If the classic and nano are still using the same basic software platform as they've always been using, well... that's almost as good a software-evolution story as watching the original 128K Mac OS transform into OS X.

    The price cut is big news, and naturally everyone's trumpeting it as proof that the iPhone's sales are in the toilet (and unfair to early adopters, though Steve's got them covered too); but I tend to think this is just the inevitable rejiggering of the price points in the face of the iPod touch. You take the phone out of the iPhone, don't increase the storage space, and what do you get? Surely not a $500 device. You've got to take it down to the $400 level or even less. People expect the high-end iPod to be $400, and what with all the anticipation surroundng this release, the "high-end iPod" necessarily had to involve a touchscreen and wi-fi. So where would that leave the iPhone? You can't take a $400 iPod, add a phone and Mail to it, and charge $200 more for less storage. The iPhone just isn't that much more than the touch, especially once you factor in the 2-year lock-in contract and all. They had to bring down the price on the iPhone or else it would look like they really were raking in the margins on a device that doesn't really contain any more technology than something else they're selling for $200 less. That's a lot of fat to try to justify not trimming. So they trimmed it. I doubt they'll regret it.


So that's it then: I'll get a touch. No—a classic. Wait—maybe a nano; that'll keep the budget down, and it plays videos. No, that doesn't make sense; I need something with big storage. Maybe a classic and a touch? No! Dammit!

That's the awful truth about this lineup: every piece of it is eminently attractive in its own right. There are no also-rans; there are no placeholders. Every $50 segment of the price curve on up to $400 is spoken for, in many cases by several iPods at once. Apple has probably never offered this much choice before; certainly they try not to, as choice is the enemy of user interface simplicity, and indeed of user happiness. But these choices are all so good, they'll probably get away with it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007
13:12 - T-t-t-t-t-t-touch me
http://live.macobserver.com/article/2007/09/apple_event.shtml

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iPod day, as expected. They're talking about Starbucks and wifi and all kinds of wacko stuff.

Heh. iPhone price cut ($399, 8GB is the only model). Cue analysts crowing that this means the iPhone is a flop.

Monday, September 3, 2007
14:38 - Car Wash Day

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Because some forms of labor are like a vacation day for the soul, or something.



No smartassery about bikini models, CL. Lance already beat you to it.


(By the way—those microfiber towels are a wonderful thing, but one gets a little tired of them while one is re-drying that roof panel for the sixteenth time...)


UPDATE JUST FOR EVARISTE: There'd be more driving unreasonably fast if my cooling system were working. This was Saturday:


Gimme a little time to get that part worked out; then the photos will probably get more interesting.

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© Brian Tiemann