V7 (July)

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Steve Bogart

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20 July 2001

Well, the announcements at Macworld didn't include fabulous new kinds of hardware as rumored, just incremental bumps in value to the iMac and somewhat bigger improvements in Power Mac speeds and prices. Ah well; Jobs did show some significant improvements to Mac OS X that are coming in September, and after my initial disappointment, I'm coming around to Brent Simmons' point of view:

...the most important thing for Apple to do is to make OS X really usable. And the single biggest key to that is performance. // Did they demonstrate that they're doing that? Yes. OS X 10.1 is scheduled to ship in September, and it appears to be loads faster. // Thanks, that's all I wanted.

I give Apple good marks for doing the hard thing, knowing that the most important thing to do is make what they have better, and running the risk of disappointing people who expected something glitzier. // This isn't a movie premiere -- this is a computer company telling you what's up. And the point of computers is, it really is, to help you get your work done.

Many interesting pieces from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer lately:

  • Power Pays [PBS NewsHour]
    [Lee Hochberg:] As California has starved for power, its utilities have come begging for the excess electricity generated by the Columbia [River]'s public hydropower dams. There are 29 of them along the Columbia River, from Portland, Oregon, to British Columbia.

    The small county utility that runs the dam was able to sell enough power last year to generate $88 million in profits, that in a sparsely populated county with only 75,000 people. ... Some in the area have gotten wealthy beyond their dreams.
  • Capitalism in Cuba [PBS NewsHour]
    [Paul Solman:] Here you pay not in Cuban pesos but in U.S. dollars, officially allowed after the Russians pulled out. Tourism and foreign investment contribute to dollars now reaching, it's estimated, more than half the Cuban population. In short, it seems like capitalism is taking root. ... On the other hand, many Cubans still think capitalists are pigs, business is dirty, and that all production should be sold to and through the state...

    [Restaurant owner:] A private restaurant can only sell certain things. You can't sell beef or lobster. You can only have 12 seats.

    [Paul Solman:] Some paledars ... have responded with hidden rooms. Others have simply given up.

    [Sugar mill foreman:] We don't have much choice but to apply some of the formulas of capitalism to resolve our problems. ... These are just methods of organizing production. We still have our benefits: Social equality, health care and education for all. We are not making any concessions to capitalism; all we're doing is applying certain techniques.
  • Cuba Special Report, part 2: Blaming the Blockade [PBS NewsHour]
    [Paul Solman:] "Stop the blockade." It's a refrain we heard at almost every stop in Cuba... Even though Cuba now gets goods from all over the world, the U.S. embargo is still the number one excuse for Cuba's economic failings.

    [Elizardo Sanchez, Cuban dissident:] I believe the embargo is the best ally this totalitarian government has, because it justifies its failures. When there's no medicine or transport, or food, everyone says, "it's Washington's fault."

    [Sanchez, cont.:] For decades, the government has liked to present an image of itself as a little David against a giant Goliath. The day they lift the embargo and normalize relations as you've done with Hanoi, for example, or China, that will be the beginning of the end for this government.
  • Comeback Cities [Washington, D.C.] [PBS NewsHour]
    [Clarence Page:] For those who were not familiar with the nation's capital, the front-page Washington Post headline probably caused some double-takes. "More Whites are making D.C. Home," it said. ... Freed at last by open housing laws, new waves of middle-class blacks are following middle-class whites to the suburbs. Census figures show more blacks live in the D.C. suburbs now than live in the city, and whites are moving back to the city.

    A lot of black residents worry that returning middle-class whites will take over. That's the paradox of being black in America. We worry when white people leave, and we worry when they move back in. America spent the first half of the 20th century building its cities up, and the second half tearing them down. Now, slowly, our cities are getting another chance... Maybe this time we'll get it right.
  • What Is News? [Condit-Levy] [PBS NewsHour]
    [Carl Gottleib:] CNN has done Internet polls, which are pretty much meaningless as we understand them, to find out whether or not the Congressman should take a lie detector test. What's that all about? It's the creation of news to appear that there is more to a story than exists.

    ...[V]iewer erosion, because of mistrust, doesn't happen overnight, it happens over time. And if you look at the households using television for news over the years, they've come down dramatically. And every time we have one of these stories that we drag on forever, present something as news that isn't really news, that really turns out to be a better yarn than it is informative, I think we alienate our viewers just a little more.

Assorted selections from my copious backlog:

Update on 'West Wing's recent troubles.. [Washington Post]

[Former writer Jeff] Reno said Sorkin's compulsion to take full credit for "West Wing" was needless, since he was so obviously the heart of the show: "While it's his prerogative to write the show himself, the way he goes about it is at the expense of other people on the show."

Everything will be fine, [Sorkin] says, just as soon as he can settle back into work. Says Sorkin: "What remains true is that everyone here is very committed to the show, committed to each other, and we know that once we start doing our work again these other things will slide away."

Flagging Interest by Michael Kinsley [Slate]

Apparently, the House now counts on the Senate to save it from itself on flag-burning the way the Senate depends on the House to stop campaign-finance reform.

Flag worship is the emptiest form of patriotism. It has no direct connection to the values that really make America exceptional.

What's Cheney Hiding? by E.J. Dionne [Washington Post]

One of the central principles of the Bush administration is to be as little like the Clinton administration as possible. On some matters, that's a very good idea. This makes you wonder why Vice President Dick Cheney has been so adamant in refusing to release information about his energy task force.

Tony Snow, the conservative commentator, wrote in a 1994 column: "If the Clinton administration comes to an unhappy end, the president's political epitaph will read: Secrecy did him in." Snow argued that the president "wants to cook up deals, issue orders and take credit -- without interruptions by voters or journalists." Now that's an interesting thought to ponder in 2001.

Good Software Takes Ten Years. Get Used to it. [Joel on Software]

Mistake number 2: the Overhype syndrome. When you release 1.0, you might want to actually keep it kind of quiet. Let the early adopters find it. If you market it and promote it too heavily, when people see what you've actually done, they will be underwhelmed.

Make sure you can survive for 10 years, because the software products that bring in a billion dollars a year all took that long. Don't get too hung up on your version 1 and don't think, for a minute, that you have any hope of reaching large markets with your first version. Good software, like wine, takes time.

Update on Philip Glass: His Success, Like His Music, Keeps Repeating [NY Times]

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