The signs on the Tappan Zee Bridge have been flashing the ominous warning for days now, and today the bill comes due: TAPPAN ZEE BRIDGE JOINT REPAIR BEGINS 4/24.
Which, according to news reports I'd read a couple of months ago, entail even thicker steel plates bolted across the joints than they used last fall, where 1.5 inches of raised plate—in seven or eight places in sequence—while probably not enough to cause damage to a car traveling at highway speed (well, unless you drive straight over the sharp raised bolt ends), are certainly enough to cause thousands of cars to slow down to 15 mph to crawl gingerly over them. Leading, of course, to a daily traffic backup stretching all the way to Connecticut.
Reports are that this time the plates will be even worse—2.5 inches, if I read them correctly. Traffic this morning was okay since they haven't actually started the work yet, but starting tomorrow it's going to suck mightily.
In April 2009, preparation work began on the deck surface for the installation of new bridge joints on the main span and west deck truss sections of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Once the preparation work is completed, steel plates and asphalt transition ramps will be installed for the joint replacement work on the main span. The transition ramps, covering the entire width of the bridge at each bridge joint location, will consist of approximately 50 feet of asphalt leading up to the steel plates and will gradually thicken until the ramp is flush with the top of the roadway plate(s). It is anticipated the asphalt ramps will provide a smooth transition over the roadway plates thereby minimizing impacts to motorists. Additionally, the ramps are to encourage drivers to continue traveling at reasonable speeds.
Well then. Maybe it won't be so terrible after all.
The installation will occur at the three bridge joint locations on the main span section of the bridge. This arrangement is scheduled to be in place for several weeks with all plates removed from the main span in September 2009.
So suppose you've been stuck doing research at the South Pole for the last ten years or something, and you have no knowledge of what's become of the Internet in your absence.
...Okay, maybe even that hypothetical isn't valid. But still, work with me here.
CollegeHumor.com—those purveyors of some of the best and most slickly produced expressions of self-referential tongue-in-cheek youth culture not just this side of Robot Chicken, but in pretty much any medium anywhere—have given us a great NSFW video that should get us all up to speed.
I love that its production values are so top-drawer as to be beyond even the faculties of the biggest-budget Coca-Cola ads of the 1990s... and it probably cost them like a thousand bucks to make. Though the BustedTees gag is probably the best part, if I'm forced to pick.
This is a little disconcerting—a site that I, in all my Luddite snark, might have created myself a year and change ago, but now I find myself in its crosshairs because I've had to go and take the plunge on the real thing. For purely business purposes. And that's all. Honest.
I'm not sure if it speaks worse of me that I'm now someone who's part of a widely recognizable and mockable group—or better of me that I escaped being this guy just in time.
UPDATE: Last Year's Model, another example of the fetishization of being behind the curve. I wonder if this is a trend we should be expecting to gain more traction...
PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff buries the lede nicely in this article that waxes pessimistic about Linux's ability to gain ground on Windows even in the face of Vista and its attendant stagflation:
Let's look at what really happened when a good portion of early netbooks shipped with Linux: They were returned! Consumers did so because netbooks targeted the least tech-savvy, most cost-conscious rung of the market. Not exactly a good fit for Linux, which, while a great OS, can get a bit confusing at times (i.e. adding apps, updating drivers, finding things in the varied distro interfaces, etc). Microsoft was pushed into offering Windows XP on netbooks because manufacturers were desperate. If they didn't replace Linux, the market would have suffered an untimely death. Against its own best interest, Microsoft has allowed netbooks to extend the life of Windows XP.
Now let's look at Linux offspring Android's opportunity to take it to Microsoft and Windows.
As you know, I've been running Windows 7 Ultimate for months. It's a good OS and could make people forget about Microsoft's Vista blunders. Windows 7 Starter is the low-end edition in the Windows 7 line. Interestingly, under Vista, "Starter" was only available in third-world countries and the abysmal "Basic" was the low-end, entry-level OS in the Vista line.
Windows 7 Starter doesn't sound much better than Basic. Running just three apps at once could be a buzz kill for almost any user. (What happens when Internet Explorer or FireFox opens multiple tabs? They're seen as separate processes in Windows. Does this mean Starter will see those tabs as separate apps? I hope not.)
Certainly that's a good point; Linux-on-the-desktop types are inevitably those who are "too close to the situation"—they are technocrats and evangelists for whom a "novice" is someone who's only written desktop apps from packaged APIs, rather than rolling his own. It's as difficult for someone who's become used to living in GNOME and updating apps via apt-get to imagine what it's like to be a tech-unsavvy end-user perusing the aisles at Best Buy as it is for an iPhone user to imagine having to look for a pay phone and refold a gas-station map.
But... wait. What? Three applications at once?
I'd love to know what the sales stats are that have told Microsoft that their godawful proliferation of Windows "editions" in Vista has been so successful that rather than simplifying their product line, they should now expand it further.
And to try to eke out a new slot at the bottom of the food chain... by restricting the number of applications you can run? God. That's... diabolical. It's like a crippled shareware version of Windows. Why don't they just make it ad-supported while they're at it?
I guess it makes a certain amount of sense to some degree. Some (perhaps many) users honestly don't need as many as three concurrent apps; those are users for whom the nominal cost of an entry-level PC or even a netbook is prohibitive, so why not lower the barrier to entry while locking out power users looking for a bargain? Sure, I get the reasoning. It's classic market engineering. It's been as successful for Adobe as it has for the auto indus... erm. Wait. Lemme get back to you on that.
But regardless: Three apps? That's got to strike even the most undemanding user as petty. It's a purely artificial restriction. It goes the "Vista Chrome" restriction one better by withholding yet another bit of end-user freedom and capability that it doesn't cost Microsoft one penny to grant, except in the sense that it might cost them the price of a higher-tier version of Windows if some penny-pinching power user determines he could get away with using a cheaper version. Do those kinds of users exist in the kinds of numbers as would be offset by new users at the bottom tier who until now just haven't been able to come up with the cash for Vista Home Basic?
Linux isn't getting anywhere on the desktop anytime soon; that's not at issue. But I would argue that part of the reason is that it presents the bewildered user with so much of the kind of choice that Windows is promoting—the kind where you don't know just what the hell you're supposed to do, and just wish someone would tell you what the right choice is—that it paralyzes a user into ineffectiveness. You get bogged down in infrastructure and maintenance, and far from disappearing into the woodwork like an OS should, it becomes the end-all be-all of computing. Which, for an OS hacker, is great. But for someone who just wants to get everyday communications and work done... it sucks.
And as for Ulanoff's sidelong conclusion:
In that time, Linux rose up and, as we all expected, finally dominated the desktop landscape. Many millions of Linux distros were downloaded and installed. Dell, HP, Acer, and others watched in disbelief as systems pre-installed with Linux rolled into homes and businesses around the world.
Wait. That's wrong. NONE of that happened. Linux's golden opportunity—three years of Windows market stagnation—did virtually nothing for Linux's market share. Oddly enough, it didn't do all that much for Apple's desktop share either.
Er.... it didn't? Maybe "desktop share" is deliberately deflecting the point, but... this doesn't much sound like a company that's sitting around lazily not taking advantage of a market opportunity, and this is just an example of an inherently wasteful government agency recognizing reality and deciding not to reinvent the wheel at three times the price. All based, dare I say, on demand.