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19 November 1999

Catching up some today. Heavy on links, light on comments...

Sad, unexplained suicide of South Park actress:

  • Mary Kay Bergman, voice-over actress, dead (with an illustration containing her SP characters) [CNN]
    Since 1989, Bergman held the position of the official voice of Snow White for Disney. Sometimes credited as Shannen Cassidy, her 14-year career included voicing work in this summer's "Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace"; the 1996 Disney film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," in which she read Quasimodo's mother; and this year's critically acclaimed "The Iron Giant."

    [Her attorney] says Bergman had shown no signs of depression, and that her death has come as a surprise to her family.

  • RealAudio clips of Mary Kay Bergman interview []

Microsoft trial: (Psst, is unclaimed. Anyone got a good use for it?)

Robert X. Cringely's pretty-good analysis & summary of the decision:

  • And Your Little Dog, Too: Judge Penfield Jackson Opens Up a Can of Whoop Ass on Microsoft but Misses a Few Points in the Process []
    [p.100] ... Compaq is threatened with the loss of its Windows license if the MSN and IE icons aren't kept on the user desktop. This is, in effect, Microsoft threatening Compaq with death.

    [p.104] [Hewlett Packard] found that making the boot sequence changes mandated by Microsoft 1) dramatically lowered its percentage of users who registered their products, 2) dramatically increased the number of support calls, and 3) led to an alarming decrease in the percentage of HP customers who said they were happy with their purchase. This was because Microsoft demanded HP remove a registration screen and a tutorial...

    [p.144] AOL was allowed by Microsoft to bundle Netscape Navigator with its software, but was not allowed to tell users how to find the copy of Navigator on the CD.

    I am reminded of a wonderful moment during an interview at Microsoft when the company was strongly arguing that IE was and had always been intended to be an integral part of Windows. So I asked Steve Ballmer what part of Windows was IE for the Macintosh? He didn't have an answer.

Cringely's 10 remedies (link first seen on the fine, new-to-me site Backup Brain) are a bit much; to my mind #s 2, 3 and 4 would be appropriate and more than sufficient, but that's just me:

  • Hit Me, Slap Me, Make Me Write Bad Code: Bob's Ten Point Plan for Civilizing Microsoft []
    Many companies that work with Microsoft have been told from time to time that Redmond can't quite decide whether to help them or to put them out of business. That is a direct quote. But here is the part most people don't yet understand: Microsoft even competes with its CUSTOMERS. If you are in a position to influence software purchases at a major corporation and oppose some Microsoft product, the boys and girls in Redmond will do whatever they can to make you regret that move. And that's MY definition of monopoly: a company that can abuse customers and still maintain market share.

I'm not exactly a libertarian, but I hear a lot of the arguments; here ESR tries to talk some sense into knee-jerk reactionaries:

  • Why Libertarians Should Not Love Bill Gates by Eric S. Raymond []
    ...the hero-Gates crowd is ... teaching non-libertarians that libertarians cannot be relied upon to condemn behavior that is clearly wrong.

    If we are not willing to be part of the market 'invisible hand' that non-coercively punishes Microsoft for its misbehavior, we invite the argument that only coercion will do.

    The only principled response to the facts is to condemn both the DOJ and Microsoft. That one party is a villain does not make the other a saint, and even the fact that one side is clearly using coercion does not automatically redeem the other from the charge of having behaved badly.

Other news:

  • Bible Belt has nation's worst divorce rate [CNN]
    No state has been more embarrassed by the divorce problem -- or more willing to confront it -- than Oklahoma. The state's civic leaders, so often outspoken in promoting family values, see an irony in the statistics but find no easy explanations.

    "There is very strong pressure: If you're going to have an intimate relationship, it has got to be in marriage," says Dr. Stewart Beasley, president of the Oklahoma Psychological Association. "When you get that pushed down your throat, it doesn't give you a whole lot of options."


  • Wall Street nightmares over Y2K bug? Not exactly [SJ Merc]
    There may not be a dial tone on the nation's telephone system one minute into the New Year but it's likely to be the results of an overloaded network as millions of curious people check to see if their phones actually work in the year 2000.

  • Philips to use tiling technique for large, flat displays by "late 2000" [EE Times]
    The Rainbow techniques go beyond "mechanical tricks" to hide the physical seams and "play electronic and optical tricks as well," ... The seams of a 38.6-inch display constructed by Rainbow from a 2 x 2 matrix of 19.3-inch panels are completely invisible, he said, "whether you're five feet away or two inches away."

    ...2 x 2 matrix of 15 inchers, tiled to obtain a 30-inch display with a total display cost of $1,600 or under... SVGA resolution [is that all?]

  • DVD encryption broken by Bruce Schneier [Crypto-Gram]
    It might be a bitter pill for the entertainment industry to swallow, but software content protection does not work. It cannot work. ... ask anyone who tried software copy protection.

    The fatal flaw is that the entertainment industry is lazy, and are attempting to find a technological solution to what is a legal problem.

    It served no one's interests for the entertainment industry to put their faith in a bad security system. It is good research, illustrating how bad the encryption algorithm is and how poorly thought out the security model is.

  • Yeesh: Do not entrust a password to Windows CE [TBTF]

I never heard about this decision at the time (July); not sure why:

  • Excite Wins Playboy Lawsuit []
    On June 24, the court ruled that the search sites' sale of the search keywords "playboy" and "playmate" to third-party advertisers which operate adult entertainment sites does not constitute trademark infringement or dilution.

    But legal experts said Thursday the decision ... failed to clarify whether selling trade marked search terms to a third party is generally considered infringement. ... the court effectively skirted the issue, ruling narrowly that the terms playboy and playmate are generic ...


  • Bill Bradley: Al Gore's debate coach [Salon]
    Gore fails to mention ... that Bradley was one of his key advisors when he prepared for two of the most celebrated debates in his career.

    [In 1993] Gore went on Larry King and did a bang-up job -- and he used Bradley's Louisiana Purchase line. ... Unbelievably, the Gore 2000 team trotted out Bradley's Louisiana Purchase-NAFTA comparison again this year -- but this time, to slam Bradley.

  • Unbearable Lightness of the Political Beat by Molly Ivins [Sacramento Bee]
    [Questions Bush should be asked:] You've already brought on some foreign policy advisers -- Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle. They're all Cold War conservatives. What is it about their world view that appeals to you?

    Do you believe your father was right when he decided at the end of the gulf war not to go to Baghdad and take out Saddam Hussein, even though we had 500,000 troops on Iraq's border?

    Hispanic Americans are increasingly in favor of lifting the pointless U.S. embargo on Cuba. Your brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, wants to maintain the embargo in deference to his Cuban supporters. Where do you come down?

Psst...instead of saying 'last yadda yadda of the century', etc. and annoying the third of the population which will take issue with your premise, why not say 'last widget of the 1900s'? Clumsy, sure, but no one will be able to argue with you. Just a thought.

More next week!

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