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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Saturday, February 13, 2010
08:18 - How Not to Compete
http://mattgemmell.com/2010/02/05/how-to-compete-with-ipad

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Matt Gemmell, speaking from the iPhone/iPad camp but with sincerity, has words for those companies gearing up to compete in the new iPad-defined version of the tablet space:

The greatest success will go to those who fully commit to the software. Your hardware must be good enough, but your software must be nothing short of excellent. Using an OS designed for a screen and a mouse and a keyboard, with or without a launcher or overlay as a token nod towards touch-based interaction, doesn’t count as remotely excellent. Customers want the tablet experience because they can focus on doing the things they want to do, and be free from the tyranny of computers which force an unfamiliar and abstract input mechanism on them, and software which assumes everyone is an idiosyncratic expert in the task they want to accomplish. Tablets are about people and goals, not machines and tasks.

It’s not possible to meet that expectation without designing it into the software from the ground up. Don’t sabotage your own efforts right from the outset.

That's well and good, but what he leaves unsaid is that the companies he's addressing ("Sony, HP, the JooJoo people; all of them") don't make software. At least, not OS platform software. Not software at the kind of scale that would take a serious stab at fulfilling his recommendations.

What he's saying is essentially that if you're going to make an iPad clone, you'd better make an iPad OS clone too, and an iPad App Store clone too, and a Cocoa Touch clone for your developers.

Palm's done it, and so has Google; that's great. but those are companies that have invested heavily in large-scale software projects throughout their history, and took the time—on an accelerated schedule, but nonetheless did it—to develop all the infrastructure necessary to create a whole software ecosystem for their devices completely independent of pre-existing OS platforms and all their attendant user expectations.

Sony, HP, and the rest of the guys planning to make tablets... what are they going to do? "Put Windows on it" was the traditional answer, and the reason why tablets haven't caught on since their inception a decade ago. But these guys can't exactly just write a tablet platform with all its accoutrements from scratch, especially if they're only starting now. They don't have any tradition of making products like that. They won't have any market credibility among their developers if they do.

Android and WebOS can be the answer, and probably will be. Android will likely become the Windows of the tablet world: licensable, open, and comes with a ready-made developer community and strong corporate backing from a respected player. (And I'm sure we're only weeks away from a Google announcement of a version of Android fine-tuned for larger screens.) If Sony were to make a tablet, that's what they'd do. Rather than trying to answer all of Gemmell's points on their own, they'll just partner with someone who already has. It's the same old game, just with a new set of pieces.

'Course, if Microsoft doesn't watch out, they'll be the only company in the tech sector with the resources to create an ecosystem for the phone/tablet space that hasn't created one.

Via JMH.

Thursday, February 11, 2010
20:58 - And Internet Jesus Wept
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_wants_to_be_your_one_true_login.php

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Urrg. I feel ill.

I TRULY DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON BUT I FEEL LIKE CURSING SOMEBODY OUT!!!!!! I CAN'T EVEN GET TO MY WALL OR ANYTHING !!!! I FEEL LIKE I'V BEEN PUNKED PUT IT BACK LIKE IT WAS!!! YA'LL ACT LIKE YOU WANT TO BE TAKEN TO COURT OR SOMETHING ,I DON'T HAVE THIS KINDA TIME TO BE FOOLING ARROUND ALL I WANT TO DO IS GAIN ACCESS TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE WHAT'S REALLY UP????????

Twelve pages of this and counting.

But as Gruber says, this is a perfect illustration of how deep the divide is between those who "get" technology and those who cling to the walls at the shallow end in a way that the former group simply can't fathom.

It's not the comments by the bewildered and misdirected Facebookers that form the illustration. It's the juxtaposition of them with the "helpful" tips interspersed throughout by clued-in observers:

• "Ha ha, you forgot to tell all these users to not just type www.facebook.com into their browser, but to right click and bookmark/favorite/whatever facebook and use that bookmark..."
• "type "facebook" into the address bar and hold down 'ctl' and press 'enter' ... Try it... :-D"
• "I did do a small experiment and logged out of FB. Facebook's login page is designed for a 1000 pixel wide screen. At 600 pixels wide, the login boxes are not visible...Perhaps the warning text should be updated to say, "Click here and scroll the browser window to the right." (Or is that to the left.)"
• "People, easy way, press F6 on your keybord, it is on the top raw of keybord, probably 7th button from the left, and then just type facebook.com and press enter button, supposedly the largest button on your keyboard..."

These are supposed to be "easy", obvious techniques, are they? Come on. Lest we all forget, a vast majority of people have no idea why a mouse has two buttons. Right-click? May as well tell people to compile their own kernels, and mock their ignorance when they don't know where to begin. These are people who don't know what a "location bar" is. These are people who think you have to put "www." at the beginning of your email address. These are people to whom the word "favorite" in the context of a website is just another meaningless tech term to ignore along with "web slice" and "ActiveX" and "RSS". These are people to whom the array of F-keys and modifier buttons on their keyboard looks like the cockpit of a 747. On fire.

And yet this isn't idiocy. These are people we all know and love. They're competent in plenty of other areas of life; they just don't happen to know any more about this one than you or I would know the intricacies of whatever they do in their daily jobs or hobbies. Computers aren't part of their monkeysphere... nor are their worlds part of ours.

Here's a hot tip for the giddy observers at RWW: not one of the lost and bewildered new arrivals is seeing past the first page of comments, so it does you no good to address your replies to them in the first place.

Which is just as well, because all it sounds like to them is "It's easy! Just hold down the discomboobulator lever with your foot, then press Ctrl+Magic+F45+VoidWarranty, click the fifth and seventeenth mouse buttons at the same time, chant facebook URL HTTP dot com Pentium login repeatedly, and then press Enter within 3.5 seconds when the page starts to load. Idiot!"

(And here's another tip for those people making snide remarks about "Sarah Palin supporters" and "teabaggers": I guarantee you that fully half the people trapped on that RWW page are kind, considerate souls who just want to get to Facebook so they can post in their Green Health Care for All to Stop GOP Global Warming communities. Besides, even the most erudite and thoughtful writers apparently turn into keyboard-banging gibbons when they venture into IM-land.)

The iPad is just the tip of the iceberg. A computer won't resemble a car with an automatic transmission until the people who design technology really, truly, and without contempt understand how to create interfaces that people like these can confidently use, and relish the opportunity to make it real.




And yet still, all that said: I thought Facebook was supposed to be where the people who were too smart and literate for Myspace went. I feel an inexorable welling of despair.


15:19 - Windows moment of Zen

(top)


Well then why in the name of high holy crap didn't you offer it to me before you made me spend two hours installing six or seven consecutive clutches of Windows Server 2008 updates that each required me to reboot before proceeding to the next clutch?

Sheesh. It's like you guys have a vested interest in wasting my time and your bandwidth. I sure am looking forward to doing this eight more times with varying versions of the OS today.

Incidentally, I find it hilarious how Windows Vista "gracefully downgrades" my OS experience to remove effects like drop shadows, translucency, and transition animations because it's decided that the video hardware in my machine—rudimentary and server-grade, granted, but contemporary 2009 technology nonetheless—is not fit to handle it... whereas when Mac OS X debuted in 2000, it fully and smoothly supported every one of those effects, system-wide, on hardware from 1997.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
19:23 - Of course he would say that
http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20100210/bill-gates-on-ipad/

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Bill Gates is publicly unimpressed with the iPad? Stop the presses!

“You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard – in other words a netbook – will be the mainstream on that,” he said. “So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’ It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’”

Not yet, you don’t. Keep in mind Gates said essentially the same thing about the iPod in 2004 only to launch the Zune two years later.

“There’s nothing that the iPod does that I say, ‘Oh, wow, I don’t think we can do that,’” he said. “There’s often, early in the new market, a few products that help get the category to critical mass. In the long run, people are going to buy what gives them the right price, performance, and capabilities. And does everybody want to have exactly the same thing? Probably not.”

Honestly, these kinds of sound bites from companies with competitive material interest in announced products like the iPad are generally as close to useless as you can get, aside from the entertainment value of deconstructing contentless marketing-ese. Such a company is all but required to say something dismissive and self-confident. You have to have some kind of response on the record, right? And you can't very well say, "We at Microsoft are genuinely very impressed with what we've seen, and consider the iPad [/iPhone/iPod] a milestone product against which we will define our goals going forward. It really demonstrates that our product offerings and strategy to date have been off the mark. Expect products from us that aim to do better." Not if you don't want your stockholders baying for your blood.

What it puts me in mind of are the ridiculously vapid and predictable post-game sports interviews where winning players all say something like, "Well, the whole team was all pulling just right, we went out there and did our best, and it all just came together," and the losers all say "We gave it our all, but it just wasn't there today." Just once I'd love to see a real sports interview show a guy saying, "Yeah, it was all me and my awesome home run. I kick ass, huh guys?" Or just follow the example of BASEketball: "Well, it was a team effort, and I guess it took every player working together to lose this one."

If there's any value at all to these competitive statements of confidence, it's that it occasionally gives us—accidentally, as a way of contrasting just how useless they want to make the present-day statement—a glimpse into how they really felt about past products. "Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough."

One can only wonder what they're really saying in the halls at Redmond today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
09:41 - No wonder the Taliban seemed like a good alternative
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/08/world/asia/08road.html

(top)
Boy, if there was ever a reason for Google Earth. Why isn't this road through the Kabul River gorge in Afghanistan on those lists of the worst roads in the world?

The Kabul-to-Jalalabad road was paved for the first time by the West German government in 1960. In the 1980s, it was almost entirely obliterated during the insurrection against the Soviet invasion. In the decade that followed, when the Taliban and other armed groups fought to control the country, the road was a blasted moonscape. The craters were so large that taxis would disappear for minutes at a time, only to reappear as they struggled to climb out.

It was a tough road, and it had its own dangers — stretches of roadway often collapsed or washed away — but speed was not among them. That changed in 2006, when a European Union-backed project finally smoothed the road all the way through. Now Afghans could finally drive as fast as they wanted.

And they do! The cars zoom at astonishing speeds, far faster than would ever be allowed on a similar road in the West, if there was one. Like Formula One drivers, the Afghans dart out along the sharpest of turns, slamming their cars back into their lanes at the first flash of oncoming disaster. Most of the time they make it.

At least on that one in Bolivia, people drive slowly, as the Top Gear guys recently found out. This sounds like it'd be too dangerous for the likes of the BBC to send three charismatic presenters to see in person, for a whole variety of reasons:

Over the centuries, countless invading forces passed through or near the gorge on their way to the Khyber Pass. Among them were a group of 17,000 British troops and civilians, who were massacred as they beat a retreat from Kabul at the end of the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1842. Dr. William Brydon, who rode into Jalalabad on a horse, was the only European to survive.

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