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News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: December 1997
|30 December 1997 -
4 January 1998
|Happy New Year...Look, honey, it's a huge, HUGE bunch of links!|
I'm going to be away for a bit again, so here's a bonanza of reading material to peruse for the next several days.
I think this is the most I've had in one edition...is it too much at once? Should I spread it out over several days? (If I weren't going away, I would.)
Incidentally, the macro I wrote yesterday is already on its second version; now I've got it automatically plugging in the name of the site in the little brackets after a link (instead of my typing it in each time). I occasionally have to fix capitalization or rework the name ('News' becomes 'News.com', etc.), but it's a definite net plus for me. Making proper attribution easier means I'm more likely to do it. Aha!
Happy New Year Dave!: Dave Winer has sifted through all the 1997 DaveNets, come up with highlights, and organized them by topic - Apple, Java, Life, Microsoft, Push, and Software. They all make for great reading; set this aside for when you have a good bit of time.
- DaveNet 1997 Recap [Scripting.com]
General Computing Stuff:
- Crushed by Microsoft: What I learned [News.com]
Scary story about how Microsoft drove a company out of business and then left the technology category undeveloped afterward. Ack!
- Disk-drive leap doubles capacity [SJ Merc]
Bigger cheaper hard drives from IBM! Woo!
- Microsoft Does Not Flinch [TechWeb]
Could also be titled "Microsoft says 'Nyah Nyah' to DOJ".
- Watching what you watch by Emily Kay [LAN Times]
A discussion of how much (or whether) companies should monitor what their employees are doing with their Net access.
- The Web's immortality by John Dvorak [PC Magazine]
Thoughts on archiving, updating and 'pruning' content. Good reading.
- Companies buying Internet addresses for the names [CNN]
Hey, think I should buy up the domain name 'www.SteveBogartisaNutJob.com' just in case? Of course, someone could then just buy up 'www.StevesScribblesSuck.net', and then where would I be? Seriously, there's just no way you can buy up enough domain names to stop detractors from detracting.
- It may be 'Yikes!' for Yahoo! [ZDNet]
My eyes glazed over by the end of this article, but it does forcefully make the point that Yahoo's stock is priced like no other in the world, and one should probably be a bit wary of it.
- New Year's Resolutions by Don Crabb [Abbott Systems Inc.] (and, necessarily, its eventual permanent location once it moves from its current address...sigh)
Don Crabb lists a number of things he thinks Apple should be doing. Most are spot on!
- Windows NT on Power Mac G3 by David Ferri [MacInTouch]
Too much fun! Think emulating NT transparently on MacOS can't be done? Think again...
- Dear Steve #8: Introducing Steps 2 and 3 by Charles Martin [MacCentral]
Some fine advice for Mr. Jobs. Think Fast, Think Better.
- Reality News [MacNN] has some juicy updates on OS 8.1, Allegro, and Rhapsody.
Do the letters DVD get your attention every time you see them?: I'm not quite there, but occasionally some stories do jump out at me:
- Conflicting Technologies Killing DVD [TechWeb]
Yes, apparently ninnies run the technology business. You may not have suspected it, but just for the record, they're ninnies, every last one. Especially Circuit City.
- DVD-Audio standard near [News.com]
They point out an interesting thing I hadn't thought of: Audio CDs with seven times the storage capacity of a CD may be quite expensive simply because of the cost of creating the content.
Just because I can fit Philip Glass' Satyagraha on one CD instead of 3 with room left for pictures, interviews, a copy of the entire score and some short video clips of the opera, does that mean the price will drop to single-CD levels ($12-17)?
Um, probably not.
And finally, the return of Weekend Reading!:
- There have been a couple of new MMFs Of The Week. Check out the latest on the hilarious crusade against numskulls looking to get rich quick!
- Also, totally unrelated to the above link, visit the Home Page of Karen Liddell, a multi-level marketer who wishes everyone to know that she profoundly regrets sending out that chain letter. Read and learn!
- World's Oldest Computer Comes Back To Life [TechWeb] And you can write a program to be run on it!
- The Web's year of living slowly [Salon] The frantic pace of change on the Web is slowing down a bit. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
- And finally, No boom, no bust [Salon] -- a pithy summary of the year's events.
Wow, this edition took me a while. Hope it keeps you pleasantly occupied for many, many days...see you in '98!
|29 December 1997||...snowing again...hard this time...|
It's streamlining season!
First, yesterday I upgraded to a newer/better desktop Mac at work -- a 7500/100MHz/24MB/4GB with OS 8 instead of a 7100/80MHz/40MB/1GB with OS 7.6.1. I'm very excited; sure the clock speed's only a little bit faster, and sure I'll want to get some more RAM since it's so cheap, but the switch to OS 8 is so, so nice and I really needed more storage space. The 4GB drive was only $320 through APS...
It was also a good excuse to clean up & reorganize my files (which was a sorely needed measure).
Also on the refining front, I just wrote a handy Frontier macro so with a single keystroke in Internet Explorer I can make a link to the page being viewed and choose for the link text either the page title or the first
<H1></H1>pair that occurs in the page. It saves me some typing drudgery when I want to make links on this page. (Plus, it flexed my brain for a few minutes to make it work the way I wanted. Always a good thing.)
[Gratuitous baiting: Hey Windows folks, don't you wish you could add menu commands to your favorite apps with a couple of minutes' work?]
Anyhow, enough about me. How about some news?
Apple was picked as Stock of the Week by the SF Chronicle, with one analyst saying 'buy' and another (the famous David Coursey) being neutral. Best Quote (from Coursey, after he points out all the reasons one might choose not to buy Apple):"Despite it all, Apple remains an intriguing company. That is the tragedy of all this. The sad thing is that my Mac is far superior to my Windows machine."
Press Clippings: Continuing with the neutral-to-good press Apple's getting:
- Sifting Through Myths, Facts About Apple -- Charles Piller [LA Times]
- A New Payoff For Patient Mac-o-Philes -- William Casey [Washington Post]. A look at the upcoming Microsoft Office bonanza.
Windows folk: There's a new beta of Opera available (beta 11, 12/20/97). Getting better all the time!
Gotta get back to work. More tomorrow, then another break until the following Monday...
|23-28 December 1997||Don't miss Monday's edition below, also posted today (12/22).|
- David Pogue: It's a Wonderful Machine [MacWorld] Where would we be if the Mac had never been invented?
- David Pogue (again): The Apple Doomsday Scenario [MacWorld] What is it exactly that Apple fans fear will happen?
- Programmer battles Microsoft [Reuters/News.com] The author of some PC accounting software (!) is being forced to distribute IE 4 with his product to take advantage of certain code libraries. He's not happy.
- Combatting Job Stress [SJ Merc]
- Steven Johnson: Is the computer interface a new artistic medium? [FEED] Deep thinking, good reading.
- Steven Johnson: The Joy of Text [FEED] A lament for the missing text-processing/searching/comparing engine that wasn't included in Mac OS 8 (but is rumored to be in Mac OS 9, out next summer).
I'll be off taking care of holiday business for the next several days. See you on (probably) the 29th.
|22 December 1997||Saw "Tomorrow Never Dies" yesterday. It was fun!|
Wish Teri Hatcher had had more screen time, though.
Am I changing or is PC Week? They've got a surprising number of goodies again this week:
- Peter Coffee: In "Research shows computers can be murder", he discusses the physical and emotional reactions people have when software doesn't work as expected; you're probably familiar with the phenomenon. Best quote:"Software shouldn't even attempt to do what it can't do reliably."Sure, I spend some percentage of time being frustrated with various anomalies in the MacOS, but that's nothing compared to the fury I feel several times a day at the stupid obstacles Windows puts in my way or the unexplained Microsoft PausesTM (patent pending) which crop up whenever I'm trying to do something that should be simple.
Hey, maybe Apple could advertise the blood pressure benefits of using an operating system that behaves predictably and reliably...
- Van Name & Catchings give their wish list for the new year, and I agree with just about all of it. Best quote:"The time humanity loses waiting for Windows to boot must be in the thousands of person-years per year. That silliness must stop."
- John Dodge has some fun predictions for the new year. (The page doesn't display properly in Opera, though, and I can't tell why from the page source. Puzzling.)
John Dvorak has some nice things to say about the Opera browser beta. [PC Magazine]
Don't send that file! You know, that 'cute' Santa Claus animation, or that great blinking Christmas tree, or the funny Rudolph splatting into a window. Why not? It's huge and wasteful and can bring the recipients' e-mail systems to their knees! See the remarkably civil Mercury News article "E-mail blizzard can freeze small networks". [SJ Merc]
What can you do if you just have to share that cute thing with a friend (or twenty)? Find the animation on the web and send the address of the file instead (i.e. the URL, e.g. http://blah.blah.com/big-cutesy-thing.exe). The recipient will download the whole thing if and when they want, and your e-mail wil be no more burdensome to the recipient's system than an ordinary text e-mail.
My ideas for the site redesign in January are coming into focus now. It's more of a tweaking than an overhaul: add some more permanent/resource pages, consolidate the menu bar, enlarge its type, add a columnist-type photo, and vary the color! I still love the dual blue, but some variety might be nice; perhaps a different color pair for each month? That would be an easy thing to do manually, but I want to find an easy (and backward-compatible) way to integrate it smoothly into my existing Frontier workflow structure. It'll probably take twenty minutes or so, maybe 30.
Have no fear, I still intend to keep the general text-oriented nature of the main page so it loads quickly.
|19 December 1997|
Well, doesn't that take the cake! A group of anti-Microsoft folks has hired Bob Dole to help in the fight for a "competitive electronic marketplace." [ZDNN] I guess one could look at this two ways:
I lean more toward the first.
- Cool, now Gates has to face off against someone who really knows how Washington works, or
- Hey, what's a Republican doing attacking a company for succeeding in the marketplace?
Stop the presses! Microsoft statements found to be untrue by major computing publications! You know how Microsoft said it's not feasible to separate Internet Explorer from Windows 95 without breaking Windows? PC Week says it's easy. Wired does too, and adds that Microsoft is exploiting their customers' ignorance.
Tobacco exposure: Virginia Representative Thomas Bliley posted more than 800 previously-confidential tobacco industry documents on the Web yesterday. [ZDNN] It seems there are no colossal revelations in them but plenty of indications of a pattern of deceptive behavior over the decades which (in the words of Henry Waxman, D-California) "complicates the issue of immunity". I like the sound of that...
Finally, on Wednesday MacOS Rumors posted a pretty plausible theory as to what the heck happened on November 10th, Apple's Big Day -- Oracle's own financial bad news made it unwise to be announcing a revolutionary partnership just yet. (Scroll about halfway down the page to find it).
Thanks in part to the over-selling and under-delivering in November, now Apple's stock is bumping the bottom again. Gee, it sure would be nice to have a CEO...
|18 December 1997|
Mac Office news: Ric Ford's MacInTouch has posted notes from Ian Crew on yesterday's Office 98 for MacOS demo. Nifty reading.
EIGHT?: MacCentral says there are at least eight more versions of the MacOS planned, which is more than anyone else has implied. Presumably, by the end of that road Rhapsody could take over?
Pop Quiz on the top Net news of 1997 [SJ Merc] Find out how closely you've been paying attention to the wired world.
|17 December 1997||Time heals all wounds, or at least I hope so.|
Windows folks: I've been shown the light, and I want to share it with you. Have you been hoodwinked into thinking that Netscape and Internet Explorer are the best (or even the only) browsers still standing? I was. Do you think their features are 'as good as it gets'? I did.
Enter Opera, an independent browser made by Opera Software of Norway. Opera is: compact, customizable to the nth degree, stable, well-designed, reasonably priced, and (most importantly) so fast you won't believe it. I downloaded the beta version of their next release, and within a couple of minutes it won my heart away from Netscape Navigator 4.04 as my browser of choice on Windows. I plan to pay the $35. This is worth it.
It launches quickly. Pages load very quickly, and you move back and forth instantly among pages that you've already been to; it makes you wonder what the hell Internet Explorer and Netscape are spending their time doing while making you wait for them. I'm sure one key factor is that Opera was written from scratch and not based on Mosaic. (By the by, I run it on a Pentium 133 with 32MB of RAM; not exactly top-of-the-line, eh? It's said to run well on 386s, even!)
There are keyboard shortcuts for just about everything, which let you work faster. You can ditch the progress bar, the status bar, the button bar and even the menu bar to maximize the amount of space on your screen for page viewing.
Opera's neatest trick (that I've found so far) that neither of the major browsers has: you can zoom in and out on the page, viewing it at anywhere from 20% to 1000% of 'normal' size (this feature is also accessible with a single keystroke, and also extremely fast).
I can't possibly do it complete justice here; read their Introduction page for more of their claims (which have so far turned out to all be true for me). Then download it, try it and enjoy. (It's only a 1.1MB download!)
Oh, and Mac users: they are planning to make a version for the MacOS. Glory be!
|16 December 1997||If at first you don't succeed, parachuting isn't for you.|
-- Bumper sticker
Busy day - one of our two VAXen blew a power supply, so I have to figure out how to move the execution queues & other functions over to our other node. <shudder> Thus, my afternoon's pretty occupied, but here are a couple of tidbits:
Microsoft flips the bird at its customers and the judge:
- Analysis: Redmond to Judge - [Expletive Deleted] [Wired News]
- Microsoft offers to strip out browser [SJ Merc]
- Microsoft really pushing the limits - Dan Gillmor [SJ Merc]
Revisiting Usability: This extra-long article (too long for a well-designed web page, perhaps?) is chock-full of web design wisdom: Fixing Web-site usability [InfoWorld]
Starship Titanic is (according to Web Week) a great example of Effective Use of the Web to Provide a Humorous Experience. I haven't visited yet, but the things they say about it sound promising. Check it out when you have some time to waste.
|15 December 1997||Happy Birthday to you/Happy Birthday to you|
You look like a monkey/And smell like one too
-- mean-spirited children
Nothing much news-wise today...this weekend I re-did my Macintosh page, adding some new pointers to cool software. Added a new quote. Tweaked the about me page. That's pretty much it. Seeya tomorrow.
|12 December 1997||Call me, let's do lunch/When I get time for girls|
I'm working on things/To astonish the world
-- Joe Jackson, "Song of Daedalus", Heaven and Hell
Extra-large edition today: a reward for those hardy souls who have been stopping by faithfully but starting to wonder 'how many more days am I going to give this guy?'
Microsoft wins some, loses some versus the Justice Dept.: They won't be fined $1 million a day, but they do have to stop strongarming companies into bundling Internet Explorer.
- Judge erects roadblock for Microsoft browser [SJ Merc]
- Experts debate decision's impact on Windows 98 [SJ Merc]
- The government vs. Microsoft battle has only begun - Dan Gillmor [SJ Merc]
thessasource has a couple of reeeeally optimistic editorials today: Apple Will Be Great in 1998! by Ron Logee and Microsoft Opens Door, Invites Apple In by Scott Ripley.
I like optimism as much as the next Mac partisan, but after all this time I confess to feeling like a perpetual Cubs fan; we're always saying 'wait till next year'. We'll see. (I do have to say, the fact that Microsoft keeps pushing its software delivery dates back does give Apple a pretty clear field to make some noise next year.)
Hey buddy, can you score me some data? You may have seen a Reuters report this week about a survey showing people becoming 'dataholics'. Jesse Berst dismisses it as silly [AnchorDesk]. I mostly sympathize with Berst on this, though the people who responded to him (at the bottom of his page) do bring up one or two good points.
From the world of spam: On a panel at Internet World, notorious spammer Sanford Wallace and spam fighter Jason Catlett had a civil conversation about the future of e-mail advertising. [ZDNN]. It's interesting to see where they agree.
However, I'd like to take exception to Wallace's analogy about spam cleanup being part of a sysadmin's job and crime being a necessary part of a policeman's job; neither side of his comparison rings true. He seems to think that cops don't wish there were fewer crimes committed because then they'd have less to do. Is it just me, or isn't that ridiculous on the face of it?
Apple's store had $12 million in orders in its first month of operation. That's, um, pretty good.
Weekend reading: (Just caught myself wondering, why do I separate these links from the others? I don't know. I guess I consider them 'leisure reading'. Not that the others are all news, but...pfah. I don't know.)
- The Ayatollah Who Came In From the Cold: John Le Carré's Outrageous Attack on Salman Rushdie Keeps the Flames of Censorship Burning [Salon] Highly recommended.
- Our campus bookstore had a sale recently, and I got a cheap book of great Annie Leibovitz photos of various celebrities. While doing a net search to find out if she had a site (she doesn't), I stumbled on this story which I didn't hear about when it occurred in 1994: Photographer Annie Leibovitz sues Paramount Pictures [Court TV].
Seems she sued the makers of Naked Gun 33 1/3 for using a likeness of her Demi Moore naked-and-pregnant photo to promote the film. She lost, and I think the judge justified his decision well. There's some very interesting reading in this brief on fair use and what constitutes a legally protected parody!
- I used to watch the McClaughlin Group every week (now ABC's This Week conflicts with it in St. Louis, and I prefer Sam, Cokie & George). If you've ever watched the McClaughlin gang, you'll like this Tom Tomorrow cartoon [Salon]
- Managed Care at the Symphony (humor)
Finally, in the 'Oh, for crying out loud' department: Those ridiculous dancing Intel drones are now dolls, and they're selling like hotcakes. [CNN] Why in tarnation are the clean-room costumes called 'bunny suits'? I don't understand.
Hey, hope this bushel of stuff keeps you happy for few days. Next posting: Tuesday!
|10 December 1997||I won't be posting tomorrow (it's an ugly week, lemme tellya). Come back Friday for a bunch of goodies.|
Courtesy of Dave Winer's Scripting News: Java: Shooting Blanks [Upside], an extensive update on Java's progress or lack of it. My favorite quote, and this could be applied to just about every new software release out there by every company:"I want the stuff they've already got out there to work better, instead of them releasing new, broken stuff." -- Arthur van Hoff, CTO of MarimbaNote that a good part of the appeal of Mac OS 8 is that Apple did spend time making the underlying OS work better/crash less. MacOS 8.1 (due by January) is supposed to continue this trend. Refreshing! (and boy, did the MacOS need the overhaul).
Also from DaveLand: An alpha version of Frontier 5 for MacOS or Windows is available for downloading.
Finally, remember I expressed suspicion/hope that MacOS for Intel might be part of The Plan? This week's Reality [MacNN] elaborates quite a bit on the possibility.
|8 December 1997||Watch for a slight redesign come January...|
So, how was your weekend? I was able to cross three concerts, some bills and a bunch of laundry off my list. Feeling somewhat content.
How do you define 'winter'? PC Week reports that Microsoft Office 98 for MacOS will ship 'by mid-1998'. This is after many many pronouncements from Microsoft that it's 'coming this winter' (in fact, their site still says so). Um, which is it? Or does 'winter' include, say, May?
Oh, and the next release of Office for Windows may have slipped to 1999...
Web designers, take heed: Jakob Nielsen has posted an updated analysis of Web design principles: Changes in Web Usability Since 1994. It shows screenshots of some of the sites analyzed in the 1994 survey; I had forgotten how ugly corporate pages used to be!
Also, an old but still very relevant article of his referenced in the update is one of my favorites, Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time).
One other useful link for webmasters is Web Review's Site Usability Evaluation using various rules of thumb. It's a useful page to visit now and then just to remind yourself of things you may have lost sight of.
|5 December 1997||It's snowing!|
Recommended TV: I have such a backlog of cool links to share, but no time to organize & present them properly. Once I get time, boy, you just watch out...in the meantime, I recommend spending some quality time with some promising-looking episodes of the best shows on TV:
Tonight (Friday): Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC, 9:00 Central. "The Subway" - A showcase episode for Andre Braugher (Frank Pembleton). You'll see why many people (myself included) think he's just about the best actor on TV.
Tuesday, Dec. 9: NYPD Blue, ABC, 8:30 Central. "Lost Israel part 2" - The 90-minute conclusion to a stunning two-part episode involving a very clever father who appears to be framing a mute homeless man for the murder of his son. I couldn't take my eyes off the first episode; they extended this one to 90 minutes because there was just too much good stuff in it. Don't miss this if you like cop shows even the least little bit.
Whoops! This just in: IE 4.01 requirement angers NT users [News.com]. Seems that in order to get the latest set of bug fixes to NT (the 'Option Pack'), you must install Internet Explorer 4.01 because that's the only way you can get certain DLLs. Says one ticked-off user: "Some people call it rape; Microsoft says they are just doing what their customers are telling them they need. I ask Microsoft this: 'What customer asked that IE be mandated in order to install the Option Pack?'"
|4 December 1997||Hopefully more tomorrow...|
No time today, so I'll make it a good one:
Check out the MMF (Make Money Fast) Hall of Humiliation site for a treasure trove of entertaining stories about stupid online scam artists and what schmucks they can be. The site's owner, Rolf, has as his mission "annoying the hell out of would-be scammers who waste my time and yours," which is a pretty worthy cause. Check out the 'MMF of the Week' link for the most recent stories. Enjoy!
|1 December 1997||I'd like to get to know/All the many people I could be|
If I just had the time/I'm sure I could find out which one is me
-- Joe Jackson, "It's All Too Much", Laughter & Lust
Sorry about the sparseness of updates lately; it might continue through December, as MACH 1 will take more of my time and my workload isn't letting up. Luckily I found some time today...
PC Week, frequently a less-than-favorably-looked-upon guest star here on the show, has put up a number of absolute gems today. Witness:
- SPAM BAD! Columnist Eamonn Sullivan hits a homer with "'Put a Spammer in the Slammer,' and other good works". He addresses the latest developments in spam fighting, and most importantly points to the BEST PAGE I'VE EVER SEEN regarding what you, yes you, can do about spam. Visit this page, read it, take it to heart, print it out and carry it around with you:
- Columnist Bill Machrone shares a way cool experience in "Computer-aided machining: Printing in solid titanium". Read his followup story (with pictures of the results), "Thinking in Titanium"
- Microsoft, the Undisputed Vaporware Champion: Microsoft backtracks on ZAW for Windows 98. "Oh, we're sorry, Windows 97 will have to be Windows 98. Oh look, NT 5.0 won't be out in mid-1998 after all. Oh, did we say Zero Administration Windows in 1998? Um, no. We didn't mean that either. But hey, don't forget: Where do you want to go [on some unspecified future date]?"
- Columnist Eric Lundquist: NT 5.0: Too late for a date in '98?
I pose my question again to the Great Computing Void: Why, oh why does the world keep buying into Microsoft's 'vision' and eagerly snapping up its software when the products are perpetually late and never as good as they promise?
And the Void answers: 'But that's what everyone else uses.'
And I sigh.
On the other side of the coin, there is in fairness the other Microsoft, the one that sometimes makes good software in spite of itself.
I noticed yesterday when launching Word 5.1a for the Mac that it was released on November 4, 1992. I'm still doing useful work with a 5-year-old piece of software, and can still read the latest formats used on the PC side thanks to the translators posted by Microsoft! Congratulations to Microsoft for making such a robust, useful program that thousands of people have not felt the need to replace even when they've had the option to.
Of course, writing such a long-lasting program has almost certainly meant lost upgrade revenue opportunities for the company. It may not be a coincidence that Word 5.x for the Macintosh stands practically alone among their products as an exceptional accomplishment in longevity; perhaps they learned their lesson. But whatever your other products and failings, Microsoft, thanks for Word 5.