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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Sunday, March 29, 2009
21:16 - The lady doth protest too little, methinks
http://www.automobilemag.com/features/by_design/0904_2009_bmw_z4/index.html

(top)
Robert Cumberford, the resident design guru at Automobile, has weighed in this month on the new BMW Z4, calling it "the most beautiful BMW roadster since the Albrecht Goertz-designed 507":

That this second-edition Z4, with its folding hard top, luxurious interior, and classic long-nose/short-deck proportions, is biased more toward boulevards than racetracks doesn't detract from its charm at all. Such "semisoft" sports cars have enormous appeal, as Jaguar has shown for more than seventy years, from the 1935 SS 90 to today's XK, and indeed as Ferrari demonstrated with the 250GT California and the 365GTS/4 Daytona Spider.

. . .

Quite apart from the hormonal aspect of its design, the new Z4 has been masterfully sculpted by a bold yet delicately refined hand. Surface development conflicts that marred previous BMW Zs have been perfectly resolved. I was entranced by the rear corners, where concave and convex surfaces, flowing lines, and changes of color and materials converge without a single clash.

Really? Not a single clash? Not even this one?


Seriously, is that apologetic little writhing and squirming surface necessary? I fail to see by what stretch the clumsy collision of these two creases is remotely elegant or natural. It looks as though two completely independent design teams, one working from the front and the other from the rear, met at the Promontory Point of the door seam and found only then that they'd brought incompatible gauges of rails—so they left the rail ends wandering into the salt sands, pocketed their golden spikes, and ran for the hills before anyone could find out what a blunder had been made.

I like the front of this car, sure (though the headlights are a bit much, they're better than the late-Bangle things on the 5-series); and Cumberford is justified in his appreciation of the rear, much though it might seem he's still enraptured by that bizarre cloth-skinned Gina concept that he reviewed last November and any concepts it might have bequeathed to this car, such as the neat little ducktail spoiler and the concave surfaces underneath it. But just as Automobile was excoriated by its readers for unequivocally praising the original Z4 Coupe's lines when it was unveiled (saying something like "There can be no debate now", an assertion which was given the lie almost immediately in chastening reader letters by the armload), it seems that they've taken the position of "Laud the new and denigrate the old, even though we loved the old when it was new"—a position that seems increasingly, and distressingly, common.

I'm no automotive exterior designer (though I did always sort of want to be one); but if that rear flank were up to me to finish, I think I could hardly do worse than has been done here. I'd simply abut those two peaks together—forming a sharp cusp between the two sweeping curves, much though the current designers seem to have loathed the very idea—and left it at that. There's no way it would have looked clumsier or less half-assed than this comedy of errors.

Saturday, March 28, 2009
07:12 - Dreams suck

(top)
Okay, while we're on the subject of recurring college dreams...

Last night I was at some kind of formal party where my meager accomplishments were cast in shadow by those of some of my long-time rivals (I have no idea who they were in retrospect, but I think my brain made up some composites out of my high school nerd club posse). One in particular, now a tall, dark-haired, debonair character in a tuxedo, was thrilling the crowd surrounding him with a tale of the chemical compounds he created as an undergrad. (Legitimate ones, I mean. Like as part of a thesis.) He even had some kind of a projector set up to show on the wall one example that was the one with the longest formula he was able to create before the semester ended:

Al2O4Mg2(H2S4Ga2N7Cl4)4K4Si4BeMgFe2F4C6H10

...Or something like that. Completely ridiculous, I knew even within the dream. And yet he was telling everyone how he'd made it, step by step. I felt I'd be able to remember it all after I woke up, if only I could make out what he was saying; but it was all muffled ever so slightly by crowd noise and droning background music:

"It's just your basic aluminum dioxide, except then you just [mumble mumble] and add some [mumble] and titrate it until you've got [mumble] acid..."

"...And then I returned it to the bath of [mumble] at [mumble] degrees under the fume hood and slowly dissolved [mumble] into it until the concentration was [mumble]..."

Clearly my brain knew how to make this stuff; it just wasn't willing to tell me.

Aaargh!

Thursday, March 26, 2009
17:49 - How about a prequel? Everybody loves prequels
http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewTVSeason?id=309024119&showLC=t

(top)
It's been said that the big challenge in doing a prequel to a successful property is that you can't reuse any of the characters you've already built into your brand, unless you concoct some drivel about how they all knew each other as kids, or shoehorn time-travel into it so you can inject the star power of the now-aged stars of your previously successful show into your new struggling one. Nothing ever works well; at best, you end up with Jar-Jar Binks, and at worst, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.

To avoid this—to develop a new spin-off property that takes place prior to your big successful brand and yet trades on the hallmarks that earned it its fan following—you have to somehow come up with a way to make it compelling and attractive in its own right, with a whole new scale of world-building only barely hinted at previously, yet still inextricably tied to the universe in which fans are invested.

There's plenty of story to tell in Caprica, by the look of things. It sure looks like fun.


09:25 - Please be April Fool's
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=19598

(top)
C'mon, California. I turn my back for a year and this is what you do? Run out of money and start scheming to ban black cars because of the profound effect it'll have on environmental effects we can't even tell for sure are happening? Don't make me come over there.

Jet-black automotive paintjobs could be regulated out of existence in the US if proposals under consideration by the California Air Resources Board are followed through.

Apparently the CARB is getting hot under the collar about the extra carbon being consumed by California residents turning-up the air-con to cool their sun-drenched black cars. The Board has already set new rules in place that will force manufacturers to increase the solar reflectiveness of future paint coatings, as well as improve the thermal efficiency of automotive glazing. It believes more stringent rules in this area could save nearly a million tons of CO2 per year by 2020.

Someday we'll look at this stuff and laugh. Today is not that day. Today we're reduced to treating your choice of car color as a grand expression of personal liberty in the face of tyranny.

Via CapLion.

04:07 - I'm sold
http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.19049

(top)
Because you can certainly install it sideways.

Via Chris.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
06:37 - Get thee off yon treadmill
http://pc.ign.com/articles/965/965535p1.html

(top)
Anyone who's ever spent boatloads of money on a gaming PC, and dreads doing it again, don't. OnLive is here.

Before I dive into what OnLive is and how it works, let me start by saying that you should read every word of this article as this service has the potential to completely change the way games are played. If it works and gets proper support from both publishers and gamers, you may never need a high-end PC to play the latest games, or perhaps even ever buy a console again. That is not an exaggeration.

Just announced at this year's GDC, OnLive is an on-demand gaming service. It's essentially the gaming version of cloud computing - everything is computed, rendered and housed online. In its simplest description, your controller inputs are uploaded, a high-end server takes your inputs and plays the game, and then a video stream of the output is sent back to your computer. Think of it as something like Youtube or Hulu for games.

The service works with pretty much any Windows or Mac machine as a small browser plug-in. Optionally, you will also be able to purchase a small device, called the OnLive MicroConsole, that you can hook directly into your TV via HDMI, though if your computer supports video output to your TV, you can just do it that way instead. Of course, you can also just play on your computer's display if you don't want to pipe it out to your living room set.

When you load up the service and choose a game to play (I'll come back to the service's out-of-games features in a bit), it starts immediately. The game is housed and played on one of OnLive's servers, so there's never anything to download. Using an appropriate input device, be it a controller or mouse and keyboard, you'll then play the game as you would if it were installed on your local machine. Your inputs are read by the plugin (or the standalone device if you choose to go that route) and uploaded to the server. The server then plays the game just like it would if you were sitting at the machine, except that instead of outputting the video to a display, it gets compressed and streamed to your computer where you can see the action. Rinse and repeat 60 times per second.

Allegedly all you need is a cable-class Internet connection, and the playability is as good as if the thing were on your local machine. I would imagine it all comes down to the fact that gaming is an immersive experience: just as once you're in the middle of a DVD movie you no longer notice the occasional MPEG artifacts in the black areas, once you get subsumed into the gameplay such that you're concerned primarily with the experience and not the utter perfection of your HDMI signal, you'll never notice that it's coming over the net rather than making your own hard drive and video cards belch smoke. Assuming lag and latency are kept under control, I doubt many gamers will really notice a difference. And before long it won't even be a question anymore.

Because the benefits of going this way are huge. Never again will you have to spend $3000 on a gaming rig and $500 on a new video card or set of DIMMs every year. The company handles all the upgrading of the hardware and puts it on server-class blades; the back-end is always top-of-the-line. And as a customer you never have to sink the purchase cost into a game; just rent play time on anything on the market, with no strings attached and no box to use up space on your shelf. This is going to change the way the economics of gaming works on a fundamental level. Before long it'll seem the height of vanity to build your own gaming system and maintain your own library of purchased titles rather than just tuning in for some on-demand fun.

There's a bunch more that this announcement entails, but it's probably best delivered by the company itself, in a live press conference today at 7:00 PDT from GDC. Tune in if you'd like to see it in action...

UPDATE: Been watching the live comment stream throughout this; it's hilarious to watch people's reactions. Early on, everyone was laughing at it, calling it a joke, not believing it was anything worth paying attention to... they kept saying things like "Play Crysis and then we'll talk". And then they demo'ed Crysis, and I started seeing things like:

HOLY CRAB

All of a sudden everyone's sitting up and taking notice. The vast majority of commenters are talking about picking their jaws up off the floor, talking about how this is the end of the console wars and the harbinger of world peace. It's bowling them over.

When they mentioned the fact that there's no potential for piracy in this system, everybody's reaction is: "LOL I beg to differ!" and "Someone always does figure it out"—And I just have to ask... how exactly do they expect it can be pirated? Some scurvy buccaneer is going to hijack the data center and take over all the hosting bills?

They keep asking about the price now. "I sure hope this isn't too expensive, like I couldn't see paying more than $150-200 for this"... somehow I doubt it'll cost that much. It'll be mostly a subscription thing; nuts to those who hate subscriptions, but I'd say that's way better than plunking down the $700 or so that some people are tossing around. However, the comments al universally went "Subscription? NOOOOOO!" as soon as that was mentioned. Apparently they think it'll be like $250/month plus the cost of a "console", as though that little decompressor box even counts as a "console". C'mon... they have to price this competitively or else they may as well not bother.

I mean, hell, they're demo'ing it playing via a browser plugin. All the "console" is is a glorified decoder box and Ethernet switch so you can do it on your TV. It's not going to cost hundreds of dollars like an Xbox or PS3. Hell, I'd be surprised if they sold it at component cost; more likely they'll work out some subsidized deal like that Roku thing that does Netflix.

A lot of people think the controller looks dorky, and most people want the "L I V E" buttons to go away.

They can't seem to get it into their heads that this isn't a "console" that will have "exclusive titles". This encompasses all platforms; they can serve anything from any platform, all from inside the big cloud. I can't put it any better than the commenter who said: "Lmao dude just glue all ur previous consoles together lol"

They also think that Microsoft will copy this within weeks; or that they and Sony and NVidia et al. will be sending in teams of ninjas any moment. But what's the point of any gamer signing up with a branded exclusive when OnLive will be able to deliver all the same games from Microsoft, Sony, and anyone else who tries it, unless they release them as "exclusives" that only run on a putative Xbox Online or Sony Online service that they'd have to develop for as a whole separate console?

And now they're wrapping up... and announcing that there are demo PCs and Macs out in the lobby for everyone to try it for themselves. That should put paid to anyone who thinks it's all a giant rig.

Now I just want to see what Penny Arcade has to say about all this...

UPDATE: We have our answer.

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© Brian Tiemann