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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, July 27, 2008
07:23 - We'll give it a fair shake
http://www.autoblog.com/2008/07/27/top-gear-pilot-thats-a-wrap/

(top)
Well, at least the studio audience seems to be bullish on the U.S. version of Top Gear:

Filming for the NBC pilot for Top Gear has wrapped. Speculation about the show's format and hosting choices has left Top Gear fans hoping for at least a decent representation of the popular British show. Some of those prayers may be answered , as NBC brought in a number of BBC folks, along with the original Top Gear producer, the assist in the pilot's taping. The show follows the BBC version's format, right down to the set details. Also, as noted earlier, the "star in a reasonably priced car" segment gets carried over. However, the driver might come as a bit of a surprise (a really awesome surprise, at that). The signature top-notch video production viewers expect is there, though it must be said that the geography of the United States offers a richer variety of visual possibilities than you might be accustomed to seeing on Jeremy & Co.'s show.

One key to the BBC Top Gear's is the camraderie between the presenters. As such, it's probably a little unfair to compare the Top Gear of today, 11 seasons in, to a crew just coming together for the first time. Still, Corolla, Foust and Stromer are off to a good start. Their interactions during taped segments were wildly entertaining, enough to distract the show's own crew members from their tasks. Each host fits into his own role, but not the exact molds laid out by Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow. Corolla's razor-sharp wit is on full display. Causing at least one member of the audience to say, "That is the most funny Adam Corolla has ever been."

As I said earlier, for every The Office, there's a Whose Line Is It Anyway?. More of the latter than the former.

But I'm looking at it this way: Top Gear with Adam Carolla has got to be better than The Man Show without him.

What the hell. At least the studio seems to understand that it's dealing with some delicate chemistry here. I had a conversation with a haircutter a little while ago who professed to be a fan of good boutique-brand dark chocolates, and showed me a half-eaten bar of some chocolate he'd bought at Starbucks, rebranded from some unknown company obscured by the packaging; like most people, he was horrified when I pointed out that Ghirardelli is now owned by Lindt, and Scharffen Berger by Hershey. He went into a near tizzy over my related observation that Chipotle was a McDonald's property for three years; but I carefully explained that when these companies buy up smaller boutique brands these days, it's because they're trying to build up a portfolio to cover market segments, not because they're trying to impose a uniform, mass-produced product on the whole marketplace. Food companies in particular, and especially companies making things like chocolate, are acutely cognizant of the fact that the super-subtle distinctions in texture and flavor are precisely what makes one brand valuable over another, and the absolute last thing on their agenda would be changing the production process or even the staff at the factory of a chocolate company they'd just spent a bunch of money to acquire, entrenched fan base and all. Scharffen Berger isn't going to start tasting like Hershey's, any more than Chipotle burritos were ever in danger of tasting like French fry oil, as I continued to point out, to Mr. Hairdresser's great reflective relief.

So while NBC might have some internal forces pushing for some expedient liability-limiting measures in the formulation of Top Gear, somehow I get the feeling that they have a stronger sense than usual that it's imperative that they get it right—otherwise they might as well not have bothered investing in the show to begin with.


Saturday, July 26, 2008
19:34 - You may all address me as "Creepy Uncle Brian"
http://julietiemann.blogspot.com/2008/07/wed-like-to-introduce.html

(top)
Congratulations to my brother Mike and his wife Julie:


Amelia Kate Tiemann. Awesome!



12:12 - Completing the square

(top)
You know what we need?

Wi-fi enabled iPods (e.g. the iPod touch and iPhone) need to have AirTunes. The ability to stream music and video from an iTunes source elsewhere in the house, the same as Apple TV does.

Doesn't that seem like a logical next step? I mean, now that there's Remote, which lets you use your iPhone/iPod touch to start a computer with iTunes (or an Apple TV) playing from its own library (or one it's streaming from elsewhere), why not have the device be able to do the playback itself?

So suppose you're sitting downstairs in the living room or the garage or out in the backyard. You want to watch some of your archived TV shows or listen to your audiobooks or podcasts, but you don't want to have to go inside or upstairs—you just want them to play at handheld size. No need to go up to your iTunes computer, sync your device, dink with the playlists and sync preferences to make sure the right ones get on the device, disconnect, and go back to what you were doing—you could just pop open the "AirTunes" app (which works just like the "iPod" app, except with syncing/streaming preferences), browse, and start playing.

Can this possibly be far from being made reality? Or does it already exist and I'm just exceedingly unobservant?


Friday, July 25, 2008
11:26 - World of World of Warcraft
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rw8gE3lnpLQ

(top)
"Then you have to make your avatar get on the phone with your Internet Service Provider..."



I think the phrase "full of win" was invented for stuff like this.

The scrolling-through-EULA bit is gold.


Thursday, July 24, 2008
20:28 - Chicken at the Outback, cost a lotta dough

(top)
Blog comments take on the tone of the blog they're on. If it's a snark blog, the comments get snarky; if it's a profound philosophical blog, the comments get deep and notable. If it's a blog infused with relentless humor, so will the comments be.

The same goes for comic strips that have comments, and in particular I call to witness Achewood.

The strip inspires its commenters to a level of comedic performance art comparable to the strip itself. It's bolstered by the "chubby" system by which pithy wit is modded up by community vote and lame chaff is modded down; the result, far from resembling Coach Z attempting to freestyle, is extemporaneous exchanges like the one that begins with "sarrk's" comment, "Dang. I wish I could shout sweet piano music too" and continues from there—which I will forever imagine whenever in the rest of my life I hear a certain song.



20:05 - Can't give this away

(top)
It seems to me that the trend is for all the non-iTunes DRM-based music stores to shut down, one by one—and DRM-free MP3 stores, first with Amazon (and iTunes Plus) and now with Rhapsody reinventing itself yet again, springing up in their place.

To the pundits, this is all a very compelling case study in the efficacy and ethics of DRM, and will result in many solemn chin-rubbing conclusions. But I wonder... will this trend reverse iTunes' stranglehold on the market at all? Will consumers' buying habits appreciably change as a result of these moves? In short, does anyone who's not a pundit care?

iTunes' DRM always reminded me of some comedian's impression of Bob Dole back in the 1996 election: a snarling, petulant "You're not as happy as you think you are!"

I think most users just use what works and is obvious. The DRM in iTunes never presents a serious obstacle to the typical user, and it makes music accessible and cheap. Nobody wants to think about what company even makes the software that they use to sync up their music library to their MP3 players, let alone what happens if they want to try mixing music from a variety of different online stores and window-shopping among them to find out who offers the least onerous buying experience and the best long-term service. People just want to pick a solution and go with it. And while for a lot of people that solution is "anything that sells unencumbered MP3 tracks, even if they're not produced by anyone anyone's heard of", most people just buy an iPod, install iTunes, and make with the clicky clicky. Nobody else can offer that level of obviousness.

And so I look forward to seeing whether people like Rhapsody can succeed even by touting the fact that their music plays "everywhere, including on your iPod" now. One way or another, it'll make for some great punditry.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008
22:09 - Oh for the days of the Y2K problem
http://www.aol.com.au/news/story/Zimbabweans-battle-money-shortages-as-collectors-bu

(top)
Egads:

President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed an agreement Monday to hold talks about power-sharing to end the crisis and restore economic stability. But the news failed to move the exchange rate, since little cash is available.

House prices and lottery prizes are quoted in quadrillions _ that's with 15 zeros. Zimbabweans says it's only a matter of time before big ticket items will be priced in the quintillions, which have 18 zeros.

Official inflation is quoted at 2.2 million percent but independent finance houses say it's closer to 12.5 million percent.

One major commercial bank said its automated teller machines are not configured to dispense multi-zero withdrawals and freeze in what it called a "data overflow error." Software writers are busy writing programs to try to overcome the problem.

Urgent electronic transfers in trillions also take several days as electronic accounting systems grapple with transactions in 12 zeros.

Hurry, get your 100 billion dollar notes before they're worthless...

Via Mark.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008
14:52 - A lotta Loti
http://www.lotusevora.com/

(top)
Geez, who saw this coming? Lotus is unveiling three new models, starting with a new 2+2, the Evora:



This after four years of being essentially a one-model company—just the Elise and Exige, which are for all intents and purposes the same thing, and the Europa, which is about as distinct from the Elise as the Mini Clubman is from the Cooper. Looks like all those Elises that the Silicon Valley and New York markets have been snapping up have driven Lotus to an Apple-like level of confidence—the kind that spurs them to make a play for markets they'd all but abandoned.



Man, that's a sexy interior.

And it's got that two-intersecting-greenhouse-contour-lines thing from the Ferrari 575 Zagato, which I've never been a particular fan of, but it works pretty well here—and feels at home with the Elise-evolution tail treatment and front cowl. Very, very nice-looking car.

Plus it comes with a 6-speed manual. Exclusively. Take that, industry trends!

(It's funny, though: just as I'd figured Apple had run out of big cats to name operating systems after before going the "Snow Leopard" route, I was sure Lotus had no more "E" words to work with in either English or French, yet I was somehow sure they'd dig up some word out of left field that I'd never heard of before. But no, they went the Shadowy-Tech-Company-Conglomerate route and made up their own word, à la Acura or Elantra. Somehow I didn't foresee them doing that. But, hey, it could have been worse—I was ready to point and laugh at the upcoming Lotus Eclair.)

And to think I'd all but considered Lotus to be irrelevant a few years ago, and bought my Esprit at least partially because it was a relic of a nameplate that I thought would soon be just a memory. Hell, this might mean they'll still be around to make spare parts for a while yet. To say nothing of those two further models they've got in the pipeline, one of which is the new Esprit, something I'd all but dismissed as wishful thinking. I mean, how many of these kinds of dreams really do come true?


13:22 - A retrospective of failure
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2325941,00.asp

(top)
Interesting article at PC Magazine showcasing a pageful of great-but-unsuccessful ideas each for Microsoft and Apple.



Rather than making fun of obviously doomed flops, though, it focuses on ideas that actually were good, but failed for reasons unrelated to their own merits or lack thereof. Though sometimes just because an idea can't be made to work by the people who first envisioned it doesn't mean it won't be realized by someone else. The Microsoft list includes things like WinFS:

Bill Gates, in his own words: "There is a famous quest of mine called integrated storage, where you have not just a file system but more of a flexible object-type database: Things like your contacts, calendars, favorites, your photos, your music—and how you rate those things—are stored in a structured environment." WinFS was this system, the next-gen underpinning to Windows, and it was planned as part of Cairo, the code name for Windows 95. It's still a great idea. But making it happen? Not so easy.

I'm sure the Spotlight team would agree, but they'd do so with the satisfied smile of those who actually made it work.

What I enjoy, though, is the tone of both the lists in the article. It's clearly not written from the perspective of a partisan on either side, but it is well-informed, and the writers (assuming it isn't simply that one took one list and the other took the second) are well versed in the underground forgotten history of both companies, referring to their "dark days" and early successes with genuine sympathy. It's not snarky toward either company, but rather paints an appropriately wistful picture of how many different ways the tech world could have developed in those chaotic, euphoric times.

It makes me reflect on the fact that now that Apple has come out so dominant in the post-iTunes world, body-slamming its way to the top of the heap with one resounding success after another and taking investors and speculators alike on a white-knuckled space-tourism ride since the iPod's debut in 2001, and now that nobody treats it as a pariah or a subject of pity anymore—it hardly seems worthwhile or necessary to write all those reflective philosophical pro-Apple essays that were such the in thing a decade ago. When people were rubbing their chins over the "visible", floppy-less iMac and struggling to wrap their brains around what NeXT was and why it was a part of Apple now, it was a time that demanded philosophy, or at least encouraged it—a die-hard fan community that felt itself marginalized and misunderstood, with nothing else to really contribute besides a couple thousand dollars in solidarity/pity purchases every year or so, really couldn't do anything else but write.

But nowadays it's no skin off anyone's nose to say they use a Mac or use an iPod; hell, it's all but assumed to be the case, if you occupy anything resembling the frontiers of the tech-geek landscape. The Apple Store isn't a lame or dorky place to hang out, as some people have discovered to their complete surprise. Nobody whines about Macs' high prices or slowness anymore (partially, to be sure, because now that they're on Intel, there's no argument to be had on either count anymore); nobody even complains that the Mac gamer world is so small, because anyone for whom gaming is that important now has the option to Boot Camp or VM their Windows world right off their Mac. All the classic arguments against Apple have been addressed and, dare I say, settled. So there hardly seems a need for any of the old-school nervous, twitchy, screedy petulance that we—heh—I indulged in so frequently.

In other words... is this what "victory" looks like? Or "vindication"? Either way, Apple had better be enjoying it, because from here there's usually only one direction a company goes.

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© Brian Tiemann