g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
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10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, July 19, 2008
16:37 - What makes a supervillain?
http://www.drhorrible.com/

(top)
Okay, this is freakin' awesome:



Neil Patrick Harris in his own Joss Whedon-helmed musical.

Stick it out past the first few minutes where it seems like it's not going anywhere. Trust me, it does. Damn, I'm glad to see that the art of musical theatre still finds expression in this day and age.

I do, however, wonder about the by-now well-worn "ironic superheroes" genre. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, it's not even really possible to play a superhero story "straight" anymore; the blockbuster movies do their best, but it's all they can do to avoid homages and injokes that render the whole thing tongue-in-cheek. The fertile ground these days is in this Venture Bros.-ish table-turning, where we empathize with supervillains and watch their political triangulations as they try to get in good with the Guild of Calamitous Intent/Evil League of Evil/Council of Doom/whatever guise the concept takes. It's all a much more "human" style of storytelling, and thus lends itself all the better to humor, acclimatized as we are to the kind of comedy that derives from people on the screen acting according to impulses that we all can relate to to an absurd degree of detail, right down to the mumbled turn of phrase and the passive-agressive apartment argument and the petty rummage for cash at the food court. Nothing's epic anymore; everything's personal. The world of fantasy has shrunk to human scale.

This may be hyperbole, but really—how many new productions do we see these days that aren't parodies or tweaked retellings of well-loved memories from childhood? We've been doing it for decades, what with The Wiz and Wicked and the like, but nowadays it's almost all we do.

Not that this is inherently a bad thing, or anything. I just wonder how the trend might reverse itself. We've exposed all the stories we know as a culture to several peanut-butter-thick layers of ironic reimagining by now, parodying and re-parodying them until there's nothing left to appreciate with any sincerity, but rather with a smirk and a knowing grin. So how, I wonder, does this culture manufacture more sincerity? How do we create something new that isn't a parody of something we saw as kids? How does Superman come about again?


Thursday, July 17, 2008
21:59 - Man, I can't wait till this thing debuts

(top)


Via Mark.



20:20 - There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium...
http://www.youtube.com/user/periodicvideos

(top)
Via JMH, the Periodic Table of Videos.

I used to spend my lunch hours in middle school poring over an old Time/Life book on chemistry; in the middle was a multi-page section with a picture and blurb for every element describing its nature, history, and name. I got to the point where I could call to mind the etymology of any element you cared to name—which Greek myth inspired the name Niobium, for example, or which fivefour elements were named after the town of Ytterby, Sweden.

But they didn't have videos of them all. Not until now.



19:39 - You will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters
http://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/5-reasons-to-avoid-iphone-3g

(top)
Wouldn't you know it: Apple is the new Microsoft—and the new Standard Oil, the new DeBeers, the new East India Company.

"This is the phone that has changed phones forever," Mr. Jobs said.

We agree. A snake oil salesman not satisfied with his business of pushing proprietary software and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology into your home, Jobs has set his sights on getting DRM and proprietary software into your pocket as well.

Yeah, that's his nefarious scheme, the end short of which he'll never stop: forcing us all to accept DRM. Because DRM isn't a means to an end (e.g. making money); it's an end in itself.

And wasn't the concept of "snake oil" a reference to something that didn't work as advertised?

There is a reason so much emphasis was put on the visual design of the iPhone. There is a reason that Apple is so concerned about unsightly seams that they won't even let you change the battery in your own phone.

And everyone just wails and gnashes their teeth over their inability to change their batteries.

Unfortunately, we are not. The extreme here is represented by Jobs and Apple. The iPhone is an attack on very old and fundamental values -- the value of people having control over their stuff rather than their stuff having control over them, the right to freely communicate and share with others, and the importance of privacy.

And the right not to have to pay a toll when you walk on the sidewalk, right? Right.

Apple's DRM system monitors your activities and tells you what you are and are not allowed to do. What you are not allowed to do is install any software that Apple doesn't like. This restriction prevents you from installing free software -- software whose authors want you to freely share, copy and modify their work.

You mean they get to dictate the terms by which you can use their service? Fie!

You can crack the iPhone and install whatever you can get to run on it, sure; and then feel free to bitch when your warranty is no longer honored, updates don't work, and you can't get any software that actually runs from the App Store.

Free software has given us many exciting things on the desktop -- the GNU/Linux operating system, the Firefox web browser, the OpenOffice.org suite, the Apache webserver that runs most of the web sites on the internet. Why would we want to buy a computer that goes out of its way to obstruct the freedom of such creators?

I love how they could only think of two examples of free "desktop" software before listing, uh, Apache.

I'm also reminded of the scene a few years ago in front of an Apple Store opening. Some old guy was walking past, saw the huge line, and asked nobody in particular what it was. Someone said it was for the new Apple Store. The guy looked nonplussed, and said, "Who'd want to buy an Apple?"

Um, all these people.

"Why would we want to buy a computer that" does all this vile stuff? Be... cause... it works?

But it's been a year and a half since Jobs, under pressure from the public, spoke out strongly against DRM and in favor of freedom. With great hesitation, he allowed a handful of files to go DRM-free on iTunes, but kept in place the requirement that they be purchased using the proprietary, DRM-infected iTunes software. Since then, he has done absolutely nothing to act on those words. In his movie and video ventures, he has continued to push DRM. And now he's bringing it to mobile software applications as well. It's become clear that those words were a ploy to defuse opposition.

Oh, yeah, it's his fault that nobody but EMI has opened up their libraries for iTunes Plus. It's his fault that the movie distributors won't allow their material to be bought or rented without a mechanism for enforcing playback rights. And it's unreasonable that you be required to buy iTunes music through, well, iTunes. Which, by the way, will happily catalog and play and sync any music you rip from CD or download from EMusic or get in MP3 or AIFF or whatever format from wherever. But no, no Ogg Vorbis, so no cookie, I guess.

These are people for whom MP3 is too encumbered, I have to keep reminding myself.

The truth is that there are thousands of software, music, and media creators who want to share their work more freely. It's funny -- as in reprehensible -- because Apple's OS X operating system was in fact largely built on software written by people who voluntarily made their work free to others for further copying, modification and improvement. When people have the freedom to tinker, create, and innovate, they make exciting and useful creations. People have already been writing their own free software to run mobile platforms. The telephone network is still standing.

Yes, it's built on software that was written under licenses less hollow-cheeked and muttering mad than the GPL, like the BSD and Apache licenses, which allow it to be freely incorporated into closed-source, for-profit products. The developers in question did this on purpose. Turns out that having corporate sponsorship dollars and telephony infrastructure behind you lets you make even more exciting and useful creations.

We know Jobs is afraid of competition, and is manufacturing threats and excuses. This is simply a business decision, and it's a kind of business we shouldn't support. Jobs wants the iPhone to restrict you because he wants your money and increased control is a means to that -- he wants to take as much from you as possible, give you back as little as possible, and keep his costs at the absolute minimum. He's trying to make sure that nobody writes software for the iPhone to do things that he doesn't want the iPhone to be able to do -- such software might make FoulPlay less foul, play alternative media formats, show the user exactly what's being communicated from the phone to the people monitoring it, or even disable transmission of that information.

Or, perhaps, nobody cares what they can't do with the iPhone, because they're all too busy enjoying what they can.

Damn sheeple!

But this, this is the best part. This is where this veritable sonnet of navel-gazing paranoia undergoes its volta and offers us a grand alternative vision:

Fortunately, we will soon be able to have all the convenience of a mobile computer that also makes phone calls without selling our freedom to Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, or anyone else. The Neo FreeRunner is a promising free-software phone, being developed in cooperation with the same worldwide community responsible for the GNU/Linux operating system. These are creators who want to share their work and who want you and others to be able to do what they did -- build on the work of people who came before them to make new, empowering devices.

Jobs built on the work of people before him too, only his answer is to kick away the ladder and try to prevent anyone else from doing what he did. His customers are fighting back -- according to Apple in October 2007, over 250,000 of the 1.4 million iPhones sold were unlocked by their users. Rather than embracing this, Jobs thinks it should be stopped.

We have a choice. The FreeRunner doesn't yet do as much as the iPhone and it's certainly not as pretty. But in terms of potential, the fact that it's supported by a worldwide community of people rather than a single greedy, dishonest and secretive entity puts it light-years ahead. We can trade our freedom and our money to get something flashy on the surface, or we can spend a little more money, keep our freedom, and support a better kind of business. If we want businesses to be ethical, we have to reward the ones that are. By not enriching companies that want to take away our freedom and by rewarding those that respect us, we will be helping to bring about a better future.

Go... go and hit the link to see the picture. I'm laughing too hard to embed an image here.

Can you even imagine? It took Apple with its willingness to break the logjam of bad smartphone interfaces in order to make a platform that people were actually willing to write good apps for, and this is going to show people the error of their ways, tear the veils from their faces, shake them from their hypnosis? This is what people would voluntarily carry around in their pockets and play Mah-Jongg on?

What iTunes sells is a promise of quality. That's the concept behind the App Store as much as it is behind the DRM-locked (and non-DRM'd iTunes Plus) music and video in the library: it's all organized properly and guaranteed to work. You don't have to do any of that tedious crap yourself.

And that's the division at work here: on one hand are the people who don't have time to do bookkeeping and quality control and who just want their technology to work, even if they have to pay a little more for it; and on the other, there are the people who actually enjoy it when things don't work quite right. Because then there's something to do, some mess to clean up, some Makefile to tinker with, some dependency to sort out, some angry Pravda editorial to write. And where would the world be without those?

I can't believe I once seriously considered listening to these men.

Via Gruber.

UPDATE: J Greely goes for the pithy one-liner, much like the Kung-Fu Master of yore.



06:20 - "More Than a Feeling", do my bidding
http://www.square-enix.com/na/company/press/2008/0707/

(top)
LOL WHUT?

Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of Square Enix™ interactive entertainment products in North America, announced the release of SONG SUMMONER™: The Unsung Heroes, on sale at the iTunes® Store worldwide (www.itunes.com) and available for play in English and Japanese on the iPod nano with video, iPod classic and fifth generation iPod.

SONG SUMMONER: The Unsung Heroes is a Role-Playing Game that transforms your iPod® songs into powerful "Tune Troopers" that you can control in battle! As the protagonist Ziggy, you will embark on an epic journey to rescue your brother from the clutches of the Mechanical Militia! Intriguing characters, an epic story and a tactics-based battle system combine for a rich RPG experience previously only available on home and handheld game consoles.

Um. All right then.

Via Steven Den Beste.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008
10:00 - La Donna MobileMe

(top)
Apple just sent out a rather contrite public message:
MobileMe services are now available.

We have recently completed the transition from .Mac to MobileMe. Unfortunately, it was a lot rockier than we had hoped.
Although core services such as Mail, iDisk, Sync, Back to My Mac, and Gallery went relatively smoothly, the new MobileMe web applications had lots of problems initially. Fortunately we have worked through those problems and the web apps are now up and running.

Another snag we have run into is our use of the word "push" in describing everything under the MobileMe umbrella. While all email, contact or calendar changes on the iPhone and the web apps are immediately synced to and from the MobileMe "cloud," changes made on a PC or Mac take up to 15 minutes to sync with the cloud and your other devices. So even though things are indeed instantly pushed to and from your iPhone and the web apps today, we are going to stop using the word "push" until it is near-instant on PCs and Macs, too.

We want to apologize to our loyal customers and express our appreciation for their patience by giving all current subscribers an automatic 30-day extension to their MobileMe subscription free of charge. Your extension will be reflected in your account settings within the next few weeks.

We hope you enjoy your new suite of web applications at me.com, in addition to keeping your iPhone and iPod touch wirelessly in sync with these new web applications and your Mac or PC.

Thank you,

The MobileMe Team

At least they're being up-front about it. And in any case, it's not like what they were attempting wasn't fairly monumental: a major new iPhone infrastructure launch, simultaneous with the blitz for the 3G and a series of iTunes and OS X software updates to support it all, along with the inevitable flood of new App Store users hitting the new network and web store. I'm surprised it went as well as it did.

I mean, hey:



And I love that they're obsessing over the connotations of a single bit of terminology. Hell, I remember when "Push" was the Next Big Thing, back in the Active Desktop/Castanet Marimba/Netscape 4.0 days. It was supposed to change the world. In the end all it did was change how we thought of the word "push". Apple judged that the time was right for it to make a comeback, and... turns out that history repeats itself. Ah well. Some things are just not meant to be...


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© Brian Tiemann