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News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: November 1997
|26 November 1997||"Your birthday's on Christmas? That sucks, dude!" - Stan Marsh to Jesus, The Spirit of Christmas|
Here's a story with a lot of implications: Chroniques Failure Prompts Debate About French Internet [NY Times, free registration required] A popular French electronic newsletter has shut down for lack of advertising revenues.
The loudest point the story makes to me personally is that collecting URLs, writing pithy observations and distributing them can take a great deal of time and encroach on one's day job. <sarc>Nope, haven't felt that at all...</sarc>
Another enlightening piece of the story is the included graph of "Languages on the Web" -- according to the Babel Survey, 82.3% of all web pages are in English; German is second with 4% and all others are much less common. If one were to parallel Web languages with operating systems, English is Windows, Deutsch is MacOS and everyone else in the world is Unix. I don't quite know where to go with that metaphor, but it's an interesting thought experiment (to me, anyway)...
Finally, the real point of the story can be summed up with this quote:...people who were planning to launch their own French-language Web site wrote to Cloutier asking, "If you failed, how can we hope to succeed?"A good question.
Thinking about spamming? Watch your back for legal action... Juno Jumps on Spammers [Wired News]
News.com is having trouble serving pages today, but if you can get through, see Monopolizing the Conversation by Margie Wylie. She opines that Microsoft can't really complain about the nastiness directed at it; they've got plenty of places to get their message out...
- MS Readies Office for Macs [News.com] Now they're saying January. Waiting patiently...
- Apple to ship Mac OS 8 upgrade in January [InfoWorld] Version 8.1 has a number of fixes that I'm looking forward to getting. And it's going to be freely downloadable, supposedly in December..
- The Microsoft Word 97-98 Converter for Macs is now released. Note to Word 5.1 users: the Read Me doesn't quite emphasize this point enough: YOU HAVE TO TELL THE INSTALLER where your Word Commands folder is; otherwise the translator files will just end up at the top level of your hard drive (and won't work).
|25 November 1997||Recommended viewing: Anastasia. The animation wasn't as nice as a real Disney flick (especially the faces), but it's still very fun.|
Dave Winer's been very occupied with programming, but today we got a fine DaveNet out of him: Thanksgiving 1997.
I've updated the MACH 1 pages (my a cappella group) to include our new members.
David K. Every of MacKiDo has struck me as a great example of the classic Apple Evangelist; very, very loyal to 'the cause' to the point of saying just about any nasty thing about anyone who sins against Apple in the slightest. (I was going to write a Scribble about his public feud with Dave Winer called 'Of Daves and Diatribes', but the time slipped away from me).
I dislike the slant of the MacKiDo site (which is why it's not on my links page); anyone who writes something Mr. Every doesn't like gets lumped into a section called 'the DarkSide'. If criticism is well-written and well-reasoned, it will stand on its own; it doesn't need to be pumped up with religious overtones or labels like that.
But I come not to rag on MacKiDo, I come to say there may be hope! After flaming a tech journalist, he got a fairly polite reply that gave him pause and made him think hard about his approach -- see his essay Words Mean Things.
I don't know what this self-evaluation will mean for his future writings, but I'm heartened by the potential for a new perspective from him.
(Note: I've unsubscribed from the EvangeList. The news I got from it, I can get elsewhere on the Web. The smugness-times-ten I can do without. It reminded me too much of an extremist church I was a member of for a misguided year; 'Everyone else is lost, even those who think they're saved! We're the only ones who know The Truth! You don't even need to listen to outsiders to know they're already Wrong!' I left that, and I left this.)
|21 November 1997||very gray day outside. time for lowercase.|
It's time once again for Weekend Reading:
- Report: Telemarketers May Not Actually Care How You Are Doing [The Onion]
- The scam of working at home [Akron Beacon Journal]
- Why Microsoft means mediocrity [SJ Mercury editorial]
- How to Avoid the Most Common Win95 Problems [AnchorDesk] See suggestion #4. Is this any way to run an operating system? What kind of world is it where the answer to 'how can I clean up my hard drive' is 'Don't; buy a new drive'?
- AOL Lawyer Says Spam Is Here To Stay [TechWeb] Prediction: in the next U.S. presidential election, one or both of the major parties will release a flurry of spam to customers of major ISPs (AOL, Netcom...). It will backfire, ticking off a large segment of the online population and resulting in bad publicity and possibly hacker attacks in response.
- Story Minute: Wall Flower by Carol Lay [Salon]
|20 November 1997||"In case you people need reminding/Don't tell the outside world about 'the Blinding'"|
- Moxy Früvous, Love Potion #9 live last night...
Here's a headline you don't often see: Mac OS 8 Outsold Windows 95 In August [Newsbytes News Network]
Any Dilbert fans out there? You'll probably enjoy Mission Impertinent, the account of Scott Adams' impersonation of a high-powered consultant [San Jose Mercury News]. The article has a bunch of RealVideo content but is plenty of fun even without the multimedia experience.
America Off-Line: Gingrich's Unfulfilled Internet Promise [Washington Post]. Seems the electronic publication of various congressional records, votes and other data is rather behind schedule. Surprise!
Apache, the most popular web server software in existence, has been ported to Rhapsody. [MacWeek]
Have you received the popular 1997 Darwin Awards e-mail about 'Larry Waters' and his balloon-powered flight in a lawnchair? Believe it or not, that e-mail is almost factual (!). In 1982, Larry Walters of North Hollywood, California did launch himself into the sky as reported. Some of the circumstances were exaggerated, though. Also omitted is the fact that he later committed suicide in 1993. For the real story, see:
|18 November 1997||Forecast: Next update likely to be Thursday 20 Nov. Scattered winds and precipitation planetwide tonight and tomorrow. Partly cloudy thereafter.|
In "The Difference Between Web Design and GUI Design", Jakob Nielsen makes many of the points I wish all makers of web pages would take to heart; most importantly, you don't know what someone may be using to view your page. It may be a desktop Windows machine, sure, but it may be a TV, a handheld device, an under-the-cupboard kitchen appliance, who knows? Smart lessons to take from that are don't use elements that require a specific browser on a specific platform, and don't assume a minimum or maximum screen size. Not everyone will have an 800x600 view of your site, so don't build your graphics and navigation toolbars to 'fit' best in that size space. WYSIWYG web editors make it way too easy to make this mistake.
How then should one design? Sorry, don't have time to write a full 'good HTML form' Scribble right now, but a couple of simple things are: use table widths that are percentages of the window size (not fixed pixel widths), and test your site with different browsers and window sizes!.
From what I can tell, this fellow Gets It and writes well about It. Check out his other "Alertbox" columns for more valuable insights.
Noted without comment: NT 5.0 won't ship by mid-1998 [News.com].
Sub-$1,000 PC sales slip [ZDNN]. Compaq is dominating the under-$1000 PC market, with 67% of that market segment. And Apple's sub-$1000 offering is...where?
AFCs Snarl Developers [PC Week]. Wading through this acronym-laden article isn't really necessary; the gist of it is, developers using Microsoft's Java will have trouble running their applications on anything but Windows. Surprise.
|16 November 1997||Law & Order/Homicide crossovers are fun. Weird thing is, the actor who played the white supremacist who died in the first crossover is back in the second as a psychologist type. Jarring!|
Yes, it's indeed Sunday. Yes, I'm at work. Yes, I'm less than thrilled about that, but I've got a 'special project' due... So why am I spending my time posting again? Procrastination...
From Computer Retail Week, a retailer's cautiously positive evaluation of Apple's latest moves: "We'll all try to 'think different' about the new Apple. Seriously." by Kevin Ferguson. My favorite line:"So, to Apple, on behalf of longtime Mac users everywhere, we'll 'think different'. We just have one request of you: Be different."
Spencer F. Katt, PC Week's rumor-spouting cutesy cartoon character, had a weird item this week about Apple possibly buying SGI. Um...huh. Don't know what to make of that, and that's the only place I've seen the rumor, but it would be pretty big news... (SGI is a major player in the digital movie effects biz, among many other things).
Microsoft Office for MacOS is now supposed to be available in mid-February, a delay of a couple of months. Sigh. Patience.
|14 November 1997||Page...getting...long... Must... archive... soon...|
I was happily surprised last night to see Northern Exposure's Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) on ER as Mark Greene's dad. Nice to see & hear him again! In fact, it was the best ER I've seen in a long while, mostly because Greene wasn't being an absolute <expletive>.
Gandhi was no pitchman by Bill McKibben in Salon. I don't particularly agree with his analysis, but I haven't organized my thoughts about it enough to put them down. There's a Scribble in it once I find the time...
Take a Billionaire to Lunch: The real reasons why Microsoft is so desperate to fold Internet Explorer into Windows 98 by Robert X. Cringely of PBS. (If it's not there, try its expected permanent location.)
Why no one wants to talk about push by Kate Maddox in Advertising Age. It sure does seem to have dropped off the map...
Ellison says Apple has a CEO favorite on News.com. The last best guess I heard was Ed McCracken, formerly of SGI, but don't hold me to it.
Betting the Back Forty by Don Crabb in MacWeek.
|13 November 1997||Oops, I lied...I can fit in a couple of quick ones today.|
Hey, it's snowing outside!
MacOS Rumors has a somewhat annoying (but less annoying than Don Crabb's) way of archiving its content: they have their main page, which is updated daily, then there's a link at the bottom to "yesterday's news" which is a sequentially-numbered archive page. Fine. Great, even.
The problem occurs when I want to point to today's news without having to change the link later; since they don't put up the numbered archive page of a day's news until the next day, I have to wait a day to point to it unless I want to go back and fix links the day after I post them (I don't).
There's a simple solution that they could implement: When done posting today's news, make the archived copy of that page immediately instead of the next day. I could then point to the permanent location from the start. Not too difficult, and it doesn't require any other changes in their scheme. I should request that but haven't made the effort yet. (Come to think of it, my own daily 'news' isn't in a permanent place until weeks later...hmm...only my Scribbles are in one place from the very beginning...hmm. Requires more thought.)
All of which is a very roundabout way of saying there was some interesting stuff on their site yesterday that I can now point to: speculation about what was missing in Monday's press conference and why. Also, on the day before, they mentioned statements from Oracle's COO about an Oracle investment in Apple. Don't count Apple's stock out yet; looks like there's plenty more news coming up in the next few months...
Odds & Ends:
The writer of The Gods Must Be Crazy has written a follow-up worth reading: The Gods Must Be Crazy II [Insanely Great]
Want a concise rundown of what's different about the PowerPC 750? TidBITS has a well-written summary. (They also have an earlier article about the 601/603/604 processors if you're curious).
Help for your website: A decent set of web design tips is collected at Sucky to Savvy. I'm proud to say I already do most of the things they recommend on our site.
The CompUSA/Apple store-within-a-store sounds great, but what would it look like? Apple has a picture.
|12 November 1997||Sorry, was swamped all day. Won't post again until Friday, most likely.|
BUGS, BUGS, BUGS: Gosh, Wintel folks just don't have it easy. Let's see, there's a particularly ugly Pentium (and Pentium MMX) bug that's surfaced [News.com]. No fix from Intel yet.
Internet Explorer 4 has a bug (on Windows 95 only). Microsoft has posted a fix [News.com]. I haven't bothered to install 4.0 yet on my Win95 machine at work; see the trouble I saved myself? Rushing to upgrade software when there's no compelling new feature you need often causes oneself unnecessary trouble.
Finally, not quite a bug but a troublesome thing for those who desire Pentium II machines: Pentium II Power Consumption Exceeds EPA Guidelines [PC World]. The chips alone can consume over 30 watts, the Energy Star limit for an entire system(!). This means that government agencies have to jump through a number of hoops in order to buy systems using the chips. Now there's a movement not to improve the chip but to change the law to accomodate the chip. Gee, that makes sense... (Psst...the PowerPC 750, aka 'G3', works at least as fast and uses oh, about 5.7 watts when running at 266 MHz... [Motorola])
Apple's store seems to be pretty darn successful so far... $500,000 in sales in the first 12 hours. [News.com]
We had a spam storm recently here at the Olin School; someone asked a large group of people a couple of questions via e-mail, and some respondents 'replied to all'. This could be considered an honest mistake on the part of the first couple of people who did it.
However, this precipitated angry messages from various people, ALSO sent to all recipients. This is somewhat less forgivable.
Then there were (as my boss calls them) the 'third-order boneheads' who sent out messages complaining about the people who were responding angrily to the initial mistaken messages (got that?). Some of these folks (you guessed it) sent their annoyed e-mails to the whole list instead of only to the people they were ticked off at...duh!
It took a while before it all died down. From the account of one Fred Moody (usually a rather pro-Microsoft writer), there are many similar boneheads at Microsoft (who'd have thought?): Microsoft Will Self-Destruct [ABC News]
|11 November 1997||"Have you got any Dorchester (he asked, expecting the answer no)."|
"I'll have a look, sir...no." - The Cheese Shop sketch, Monty Python
Wrap-up reports on the not-that-Big Day:
First, my take: What's frustrating is that each of the things announced was good, even very good, for Apple and its customers. They just didn't live up to the pre-event hype generated by Apple and others.
Where's the NC announcement? Where's the new extra-cool eMate (or will it be bMate) 1000? Where's the strategic partnership with Oracle? Who's the bloody CEO going to be? Why didn't Jobs mention that the developer release of Rhapsody for Intel is shipping as of last week? Aren't there supposed to be some low-end (sub-$1000) Macs in the near future? And on and on... Their invitation and press release implied a lot more was going to happen than did. The next time Apple's PR machine cries 'Wolf!', it's unlikely they'll get as much attention as they did this time.
- San Jose Mercury News: Interview with Jobs. Quote: "We announced so much new stuff today, and that's enough."
Note: This article looked absolutely bizarre/infinitely long in Internet Explorer 3.0 (both Mac & Windows) but fine in Netscape (both platforms). I'm fairly certain it has to do with the repeated use of the tag
<HR NOSHADE SIZE=-1>. Size=-1?? What the heck? Anyway, if you're using Explorer, your best bet is probably to View Source of the page and read the interview that way, or even save it as text and open it up in something else.
- Apple's summary of the day's events, with pictures
- Wired: Fireworks but no Bombshells from Apple
- Computer Reseller News: Jobs Targets Dell
- ZDNN: Kick some Wintel Butt!
On the non-six-colored-fruit front, beware mass e-mail solicitations for charities and petitions and 'good causes', and don't start any of your own; they last forever and will haunt you long after the initial idea has faded. See ZDNN's When E-mail Appeals Backfire.
Site note: I've finally added a 'last updated' timestamp at the top (automatically generated by Frontier, of course). I find, though, that I now feel even more pressure to constantly keep adding things. This isn't healthy...
|10 November 1997||A time of revelation|
Many secrets are being revealed: Apple's big coming-out party is today, the X-Files episode last night tied up many loose ends, and this weekend I learned a great deal more about a personal matter than I knew before. Answers are everywhere!
APPLE'S BIG DAY (updated 2:40pm CST):
Hm. It seems not as much was announced as was expected. See MacNN for a brief summary, or the Reuters report, or Apple's own page for the company line. Did the Board nix some of Jobs' plans at last week's meeting, or was this all he was planning to unveil at this event? It's certainly nowhere near what Apple Recon was saying would happen.
The stock market was decidedly unimpressed too; the stock price was up about 7% during the day but then fell back to where it started and even went down.
One big piece of the new strategy, http://store.apple.com/, is now online. (2:15pm CST)
Courtesy of MacInTouch, here are the places you can get the RealAudio broadcasts of today's event: ZDnet and C|net. (Note: I never got through ONCE to either link during the event. Live webcasting still has a long ways to go!)
Teaser on Apple's site: What does this mean? (answer: new chip, new store, new factory)
To observe the latest developments from 1:00pm CST on, go the same places I'll be going: the links at the top of my links page.
Not quite sure what to make of this, but it's definitely Big News: WorldCom buys out MCI [ZDNN]
Finally, in the category of Happy Rhapsody News, two fairly positive perspectives from (of all places) PC Week:
|6 November 1997||Strange how some days when little seems to be going right, all it takes to get me in a much chirpier mood is one big honkin' Pepsi. Alert: Sugar high ahead.|
A Frustrated Customer Speaks: Their server seems to be a bit overloaded so it may take a while to connect, but the most satisfying rant I've read in days is there: The Gods Must Be Crazy - A Look at Apple by Chuck Downs [Insanely Great]. Key quote:It's funny, but the way people scoff at my Mac devotion, you'd think I must really be out of touch. But I'm not. I'm on the internet, doing web pages, making CDs, creating spreadsheets, writing letters, and balancing my checkbook. And I have been for 10 years, all on my Mac. And it ain't broke but once, and I did a clean system install, and it has hummed along happily ever since.To be fair, in my experience Macs are not quite that close to the land of trouble-free computing, but you can see it from here and could probably throw a rock and hit it.
Ever have trouble remembering my URL? Try this: http://bounce.to/bogart/ :)
Bounce.to is a free (advertising-supported) service that lets you have a short, reasonable URL that you can direct anywhere and change when necessary. Let's say I leave this place someday and move all my pages; I can make it easy for people to find me again by re-directing my
bounce.toentry to my new location (and notifying everyone of that URL before I leave, obviously). Cool.
Often when you go to a consumer electronics or retail store, their Mac setup is pretty pathetic; the salespeople don't know much about the MacOS so they steer you to Windows instead, the machines aren't set up properly, etc. etc. Sales staff are less motivated to sell Apple merchandise because they don't make as much money for themselves by doing so (Apple is cheap compared to other companies when it comes to 'spiffs').
With that said, it can only be a good sign that CompUSA is making a recommitment to Apple. Plans include a 'store-within-a-store' with Apple-trained employees. Imagine.
Fun Link for the day: From the Onion: U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past' :)
Farewell SPSS and MatLab: I often disagree with Don Crabb, but sometimes he calls attention to exactly the right things. A couple of major scientific software companies have recently announced the last versions of their software for the Mac. Shouldn't Apple be trying to lure them back? See Is the Mac dying as a science and engineering platform? [MacWeek].
That's going to have to be it for today. I'll be out tomorrow, so see you Monday (THE BIG DAY).
|5 November 1997||Too much stuff to put up today; saving some for tomorrow.|
(Didn't expect text here, didja?)
The mystery & anticipation surrounding the upcoming events on Monday, November 10 are continuing to grow.
MacOS Rumors says it hears it described as "the kind of thing you'll be seeing on the front page of every newspaper in the country the following day."
MacNN quotes a note from Steve Jobs to various important personages saying:"We're getting ready to unveil some very important and very exciting changes -- not only to our product line, but to the way we do business..."Finally, Apple is going great guns in trying to get media to attend; see their Media Alert today which promises "some milestone news as part of the Company's aggressive efforts to 'Think different.'"
I know I'll be glued to my screen Monday at 1:00 (Central, that is)...
Here's more on the Jobs-as-CEO dance: Jobs tells Apple insiders he's a stopgap CEO only [San Jose Mercury News]. Looks like he's definitely not going to be CEO but may well take the Chairman job.
One thing all agree on is that Monday will see the introduction of several new Mac models, powered by the unmatched-by-Intel G3 (PowerPC 750) chip. See News.com's Apple peels off new systems for a pretty good summary.
Got 10 minutes? Need a good laugh? You MUST drop everything and go read Andy Ihnatko's Manifesto and Statement of Purpose for his site, Andy Ihnatko's Colossal Waste of Bandwidth. "I am just such a person." Hee hee...
A phrase from an earlier column of his comes to mind as I wonder what in the world will be going on Monday. Read the first 3 paragraphs; "It... will... be..."
Lastly, my longtime friend Lisa Pellegrin has joined the webbed world! Stop by & say hi...
|4 November 1997|
A moment of silence for my step-granddad, Kenneth Volz. He died Sunday night; he was 88 years old.
I'd known him as "Pappy" since I was born. He loved to gather round a card table with us at the holidays and play Pinochle; we haven't done that for many years though. He had declined steadily over the last few years, losing his hearing and not wanting to use a hearing aid, getting emphysema (he smoked all his life) and having other complications along the way.
I'll be attending the funeral in Iowa later this week.
|3 November 1997|
The San Jose Mercury News had a cool article this weekend on Apple's 'Star Trek' project of several years ago, the porting of the MacOS to the Intel platform.
I still remain somewhat suspicious/hopeful that the idea has been revived at Apple and that MacOS on Intel will be announced by January and delivered some time next year. It just makes too much sense...why not make one's OS work on the machines that 95% of people are buying?
MacTell has done the unthinkable (and it's about time someone did): they're selling a complete Mac system for $999: 200MHz 603E chip, 16MB RAM, 1.2GB hard drive, 16X CD, 14" Monitor, keyboard, mouse. True, it's not quite up to today's power-machine standards, but for $999 it's still a heck of a good deal... (Note: I haven't bought a system from them, so I can't vouch for their quality).
Dave Winer's becoming a Windows user, at least for now...
I have to say, I am definitely looking forward to having Frontier available on Windows. On those occasions when I have to use Windows, at least let me have my Frontier!
Frontier's existence on the Mac is a huge part of what has kept me in the Apple camp for so long; the time it saves me and the feats I can perform with it have not been matched yet by any other piece of affordable software (and certainly not a FREE one like Frontier). I also feel the same way about BBEdit. If not for those two pieces of software, my loyalty to the MacOS platform would be much weaker (and I would certainly have finished fewer projects than I have, or would have produced inferior results).
Having Frontier's capabilities on Windows will be nice; I seriously doubt it will make me prefer Windows, but it will make dealing with the countless rough edges of Windows much more tolerable. Go Dave!