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
Thursday, August 27, 2009
06:21 - Still thinking different after all these years
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/26/AR2009082603925.html

(top)
Jason Snell:

However, in contrast to Microsoft--which offers a confusing array of full and upgrade versions of Windows, all of them requiring that users enter a unique serial number in order to prove they're not pirates--Apple continues to rely on the honor system for Mac OS X. Not only does Snow Leopard not require the entry of any serial numbers, but the standard version of Snow Leopard is a bootable "full install" disc that doesn't actually check for the presence of Leopard in order to install. This also means that if at a later time you want to wipe your hard drive and reinstall Snow Leopard, you won't have to first install Leopard and then run a separate Snow Leopard upgrade on top of it. (That sound you hear is a thousand IT managers sighing with relief.)

Whoever is behind this philosophical cornerstone of the Mac OS X experience (be it Steve, or just someone who thinks an awful lot like him), I hope he never leaves.

It's not unlike how Apple has always treated its digital property, such as iTunes DRM; they've always seemed to be less interested in jealously guarding every possible penny (the way a record label or movie distributor would be) than in creating a positive user experience. Pricing, unboxing, downloading, installing, sharing... it's all engineered to be inviting, effortless, natural, and mutually respectful, to the point where people who complain about obtrusive DRM or installation headaches look like cranks.

The obvious downside is that it's a huge risk. Giving customers this much leeway looks like an invitation to have your lunch eaten. Pirated Snow Leopard installers will be all over the file-sharing sites, available for anyone to grab and use. iTunes DRM has been cracked, and even without that there are ways around it, especially with DRM-free music downloads, which give customers free rein to purchase once and then distribute freely, just like in the bad old days.

But apparently Apple can either absorb this hit to their bottom line (not surprising considering their ascendancy, but interesting considering what might happen if their fortunes begin to falter), or their customer base is somehow more honorable than the public at large.

I wonder if the latter is a self-enforcing phenomemon? Apple customers consider themselves "too good to cheat" (or at least they feel a camaraderie with the company as a kind of thank-you for not loading up their OS install discs with registration keys), and non-Apple customers think of Apple as the land of the goody-two-shoes, not worth venturing into even for the free stuff?

And if so, would that help explain the Mac's long-standing charmed life in the malware/virus arena?

Whatever the underlying reasoning behind this approach to the market—whether it's the result of careful social engineering and intricate calculations, or just a happy accident—it sure seems to be serving Apple well. I just hope it doesn't all come tumbling down once they reach a certain critical mass in the marketplace.

UPDATE: David Pogue (via Chris M. in comments) says:

The App Store Effect says this: if you cut a software program's price in half, you sell far more than twice as many copies. If you cut it to one-tenth, you sell far more than 10 times as many. And so on.

It's a little counter-intuitive, but this principle has paid off beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The numbers are staggering: as you've probably heard, iPhone/iPod Touch fans downloaded 1 billion apps within 9 months. Some iPhone programmers have become millionaires within months--yes, selling $1 software--because of this crazy math. $20 may sound like more than $1, but not when 1,000 times more people buy at $1.

I can't help wondering if Apple has the App Store effect in the back of its mind with Snow Leopard. If the previous Mac OS X version sold for $130, then Apple would need five times as many Snow Leopard sales to equal the revenue.

Well... maybe that's true as a general rule, but not if Snow Leopard requires that you already own Leopard. The number of new Snow Leopard buyers isn't going to wildly outstrip the number of buyers of previous OS X versions based on a 90% discount, because it's only available at that discount if you've already bought the previous versions. Otherwise you have to drop $169 on the "box set" Snell describes, which includes iWork and iLife. And that's not small App Store potatoes (though it's still a bargain compared to a typical Windows license).

If Snow Leopard were available as a standalone product for $29, that would definitely be one thing. But the fact that it's not is such a major point that I'm really surprised Pogue missed it. (Unless it wasn't common knowledge back in June.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
07:03 - And the radio is on, and the radioman is speaking

(top)
And the radioman says the Beatles are going to be coming to digital download soon.

How many times have we heard this prediction before?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
05:54 - Megawoosh
http://www.mach-es-machbar.de/english/index.php5

(top)
If this isn't somehow fake, I am in awe of this guy's stones:



I can't help but ask, since you can't exactly fire-and-adjust too easily—wouldn't it have made more sense to build a target zone with more cushioning around the center, instead of a hard wooden platform to smash into feet-first?

Real or not, it's a damn fine piece of minute theater.

Monday, August 24, 2009
10:48 - California driver comin' through

(top)
Is this something that's becoming suddenly more prevalent just in recent weeks, or am I only just now noticing it?

I refer to the practice of everybody driving in the left lane of a multi-lane highway or parkway. Normally. At the speed limit. During lightish traffic. With nobody in the right lane to pass.

It's getting to the point where I can round a bend, observe a half-mile of highway ahead of me, and notice that every single car in visual range is happily trundling along in the left lane. And I can simply stay right and pass them all.

Is the right lane now the new official passing lane? Is "keep left" now the law of the land? Because if so, that's fine; I can deal with it, no problem. We can start importing right-hand-drive cars and be happy. But I just want to be clear on things first.

I've been trying to figure out what it is that makes people do this; and all I can think is that they believe they are themselves going fast, fast enough to justify hanging out permanently in the left lane. They think they're saving themselves effort by not having to switch lanes to get around slower people in the right lane.

But the fact is that they're going so slow themselves that they're not passing anyone on the right; they're just blocking other people from passing them. Yet rather than admit to themselves that they are only traveling at the prevailing speed of traffic, and not materially faster, and switching to the right lane accordingly, we instead get to witness this absurd spectacle of a line of grim, chin-jutting contestants to determine the fastest driver below a firm and inviolable mutually agreed speed ceiling, where dropping to the right lane signals an admission of defeat.

UPDATE: Further observation seems to indicate that the cause, insofar as correlation implies causation, is cellphones.



06:28 - Chocolate Reviews: Amano Ocumare, Jembrana, Montanya, and Madagascar

(top)
The latest arrival from Chocosphere is four 70% single-origin bars from small Utah manufacturer Amano, and I think they're all good enough to warrant some serious recognition.



The packages, as has been noted elsewhere, appears to be a more or less bald attempt to ape Amedei; and they could hardly choose a better archetype, as the 50g size of Amedei's bars and the elegant white lettering on black background with gold and silver trim is a surefire way to make a product look high-class—a fact that Safeway's in-store brand (Safeway Select) took full advantage of until, inexplicably, about a year ago, when they redesigned all their packages to be more generic, downmarket, and ugly.

Amano's 56g (2oz) bars are divided into 15 little squares about the ideal size for tasting; not so big that you have to subdivide (like Lindt's), and not so small that you're tempted to take two or three. The aromas of these four bars are all intense and alluring, and yet they're vastly different in flavor character, hinting at the variety to come.

Because once you start tasting these bars, you realize that there's hardly another source on the market that can produce such a varied spectrum of flavors. Even some of the single-origin-focused makers I've tried earlier, such as Pralus with its "Pyramide" of eight widely-spread sources, somehow confers an overall common musky flavor to all the bars, diverse as they are; and lineups like Valrhona's vintages (Palmira, Gran Couva, and Ampamakia) seem somehow to taste faintly of peanut butter. Amano's, however, all seem to have genuinely come from different corners of the world, yet all have fine texture and melt.

Ocumare: A very "traditional" chocolate flavor, yet underscored with a deep muskiness. You'd have to compare this to a single-note bar like the Lindt 85% to get a good yardstick; yet this one has several additional dimensions to it beyond just the basic cacao you taste initially. Pleasant, but might take a little getting used to for a beginner, and the aftertaste is a little bitter.

Madagascar: Expecting an intensely sour, puckery prune flavor like with the Domori Sambirano from the same region, I instead get a pleasantly tart, citrusy burst that merely accentuates rather than overpowers the underlying chocolate. I don't know what it is about the Domori that makes it so nutso with its tartness, and why nobody else seems to have noticed it in reviewing it; and I'm certainly not saying I dislike it, as I'll happily buy more Domori any day of the week. But this stuff from Amano, with a light red-brown color that indicates it's definitely made from the same stuff as Domori's, is just a whole lot more approachable.

Montanya: This bar is presented with great fanfare by its packaging as being a highly unique, limited-production run of bars made from cacao grown uniquely in high-altitude mountain regions (whereas most cacao is grown on flat plantations near sea level). The batch is small because the orchards can only be reached on horseback. Now, I don't know whether it's the climate that affects the growth of the beans, or the beans themselves having evolved along different lines, but this cacao tastes nothing like any 70% I've ever had. If I didn't know better I'd think it was milk chocolate. It's light, fluffy, fruity, and frothy; the package suggests it'll taste like marshmallows, and I'll be damned if that's not exactly what I taste. In fact, the phrase that leaps unbidden to mind is "Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptions Fudgemallow Delight". I don't know how many more of these bars Amano plans to drag out of the jungle, but I'd recommend picking up as many as one can get, if only for the sheer novelty of a 70% bar that tastes this airy and light. Put it up against the rich, complex, dark Lindt 70% for some real entertainment value.

Jembrana: A Balinese chocolate that I've warmed to in the course of working my way through it. It took me a while to realize what I was tasting in it, but eventually I recognized the "Circus Peanuts" flavor that I'd seen in Villars a couple of Halloweens ago. It's perhaps meant to evoke banana, but the effect is one of a very indistinct yet intense fruitiness, somewhere between apricot, banana, and peach. Finishing off the flight with one of these is like dessert after your dessert.

In short, Amano seems to have its game well established. I'm not hesitant in the least about counting them among some of the best manufacturers I've tasted.

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© Brian Tiemann