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News, Pointers & Commentary: October 1997
|31 October 1997|
OK, I'm back briefly.
Recommended weekend reading:
- po's tao of dough - A Po Bronson article in Salon on how money is our last great taboo. What one phrase sticks in my head from reading it? "One hundred seventy thousand dollars." You'll understand when you read it...
- I haven't read these others, but they're probably worth checking out: the index to each article in Salon's Money Week coverage
- Fighting Fire With Fire by the MacOS Rumors staff. The story of Jim Carlton, the Wall Street Journal, situational ethics, and competition in the tech journalism business. Scary in many ways...
- Apple Recon: Don't Be 'Short' Apple -- Everyone seems to be indicating that there will be huge things announced by Apple (and possibly Oracle) on November 10th. These huge things may well drive Apple's stock up. If I only had the money to risk...
|29 October 1997|
Mac folk: There's a new RC5-64 client with better networking code and a less-hyper rate indicator. Get it & run it! Don't forget to enter your own e-mail address, not a team name's. Teams will be handled differently and will be made possible sooooon.
Hoax alert: You may receive a forwarded message with a story from a 'former AOL employee' warning of a treacherous privacy-invading cookie that AOL version 4.0 may put on your hard drive. This warning is false; see the CIAC report at http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html and http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/library/blbyol5.htm.
Incidentally, http://ciac.llnl.gov/ is the first place you should go when hearing about a new virus. They will almost always have news about it and an analysis of whether it's real or fake.
And in chapter 74 of the Jobs-as-CEO soap opera, there is the official Apple denial that Jobs has declined to take the CEO spot [MacWeek].
It's been fun seeing all the convoluted syntax in all the news stories ("...Apple has denied reports that Jobs has decided to decline...").
Maybe all this is being orchestrated to give Apple maximum attention? Maybe Jobs is playing the media like a harp? Hmm.
|28 October 1997|
Dark Gray Monday: As I'm sure you know, the stock markets took a header yesterday [CNNfn].
Funny thing, though... amid 498 stocks in the S&P 500 going down and one remaining unchanged, Apple alone went up (see Apple Defies Gravity [Computer News Daily]). And A.G. Edwards upgraded Apple from 'reduce' to 'maintain'. Huh. Curious, that.
Incidentally, take a look at that URL for the CND story (i.e. run your mouse over it). Nasty way to organize your content!
Well, looky here: Steve Says He's Not The Man For The Apple Job [TechWire]. Looks like all the 'reliable' sources of rumors may have been misled this time.
|27 October 1997|
It's Apple rumor time. Again. Let's see, the latest gossip goes as follows:
- Steve Jobs will take the CEO job permanently, which will be announced possibly as early as today.
- Apple and Oracle are talking about merging.
- In January it will be announced that the MacOS will be ported to the Intel platform (or perhaps it may already be done by then?). This is in the category of 'way out there' rumor, meaning that it's just a personal theory. I haven't read news or rumors on anyone else's site about the possibility, nor have any Apple engineers been surreptitiously e-mailing me. Let's just call it reading between the lines of various announcements and hints...
Remember, in Ric Ford's report on his phone call with Jobs, he mentioned a "confidential plan that I expect to expand the Mac market substantially next year". Hosting MacOS on Intel is the most substantial way *I* can think of to expand the Mac market...
Profound thought for the day, found on Daniel Berlinger's News from the Digital Prairie site: "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now." [Japanese saying]
Recommended Reading: A high-level e-mail thread, observable on "scripting.com": Gates to Carlton on Apple, then Dave Winer's reply and Gates' followup in More Email with Gates. Some of the exchange refers to the 1985 memo from Bill Gates to John Sculley, also posted by Dave W. All juicy stuff.
|24 October 1997|
Enlightening reading: Steve Ballmer (big man at Microsoft) had a Q&A session with the press recently, and Microsoft has posted a transcript (it's long, but worth a look). Very interesting stuff; he covers many topics. (They also have more links to various speeches of his.)
The most amusing part was when he recommended that Apple innovate its way out of its troubles. This is coming from Microsoft? <cough>!
Also, as has been pointed out in numerous places, it's instructive to mentally replace 'Java' with 'Windows' and vice-versa in any comments coming from Microsoft and see how they treat similar situations drastically differently when it's their own product they're talking about. They sure seem to want it both ways. Ballmer says:
"We don't ship [RMI] with Windows. It's part of this Sun operating system. We're not trying to popularize it. If customers want to use it they're free to. We put the RMI code up on our Web site and people can download it, and it's certainly there and available. But we don't see any reason for us to bundle it, us to package it, us to promote it in their products..."
On the other hand, Microsoft doesn't want to let its licensees treat Internet Explorer 4 exactly the same way Microsoft wants to treat RMI; if Compaq or Gateway or Micron wants to just 'put IE up on their web site and let people download it if they want to use it', Microsoft threatens to pull their right to ship Windows 95 on their machines. Gee.
And Sun wants to stop Microsoft from shipping their Java-minus-this-and-that environment? The cheeky ingrates!
Another web design pet peeve (surprise, surprise): in the Ballmer Q&A transcript above, the apostrophes in the document don't display properly on non-Windows machines, because they're Windows-character-set 'smart' apostrophes. On a Mac you get a garbage character wherever there should be an apostrophe. On a Unix machine, I don't know what displays but I bet it's not an apostrophe.
ASCII has no universally standard smart apostrophe (or smart quotes either), so one should not use them in a web page.
Unless one is careless or one thinks only one platform will ever view one's content.
I just realized, I posted every day this week...I think that's a first! Don't expect it to continue forever, though... I'm thinking of settling into a more M-W-F pattern. We'll see.
Meanwhile, I'm taking the weekend off; see y'all next week.
|23 October 1997|
LOTS of stuff today...
The RC5-56 key has been cracked! On to RC5-64... start your engines!
Attention! Anyone who used to use the very-handy Macintosh Modem Init String collection assembled by Adam Engst and housed on www.mcp.com: it's MOVED.
Now you can find it at its hopefully-permanent home, http://www.tidbits.com/iskm/modems.html
I don't know when it disappeared from mcp.com, but it has to have been sometime in the last couple of months; I was using it from there not that long ago.
Why did it disappear with no forwarding placeholder page? One source close to the action said Hayden is "being bogus". Good enough for me.
Yesterday on "scripting.com", Dave Winer pointed to the "MacPerl" site (which I hadn't yet stumbled across but will right now put on my links page). He didn't say why he put the link there, nor was it mentioned in his "mail" area. Maybe it's new?
Anyhow, it's a fortuitous event: I bought myself the Perl "camel book" about two months ago in order to teach myself Perl , but have since gotten sidetracked and waylaid by a number of projects. I think this is a sign I need to get back in gear. :)
(Perl is a powerful language frequently used in CGI scripts. I currently use Frontier for all our CGI work, but Dave W. has indicated his focus in Frontier is shifting away from that and more toward website-building technologies. Learning Perl seems like a smart move, especially since Perl scripts run on just about any platform. Besides, all my geek friends say I should learn it.)
The site looks like a great resource. I'm sure I'll be using it, and I hope I get to it soon (the fates willing...).
Poor, poor Microsoft. How sorry I am that they are being scrutinized and possibly fined. How innocent they seem and what nice people they must be. Why, they'd never threaten a soul.
See what Dave Winer thinks in Moral Arguments.
Oh, and the MacInsider saga is at an end. They're shutting down for good. "MacCentral" has been following the story most thoroughly.
|22 October 1997|
Recommended Reading: Web development people are simple folk who don't care much about the big fights everyone writes so many column inches about, according to And that's what web developers do by Chris Tacy of the New York Times. (You may be required to register with them to see this story.)
I can sympathize with just about everything he says: I feel zero need to go away to a conference to learn how to do new things with some vendor's software; I learn what to use via poking around on the web and asking people who know.
Incidentally, people who know use BBEdit. ;)
In WebWeek recently they've been writing about how people no longer want their job title to be 'webmaster', since there are so many different functions one person can perform on a website and what's true for one company or department won't be true for another. (see Backlash Against Title of Webmaster in the Sept. 15 issue).
I like the 'webmaster' title in my case because, well, I do just about everything on our site from planning, design, HTML coding, and hardware setup to the programming of our interactive CGIs. To me, that's what a 'webmaster' does.
(Of course, I just remembered that 'webmaster' is NOT part of my official title; I just think of it that way. Oops.)
However, since I've been working hard on this new portion of our site I've had one other job title occur to me that I like almost as much and amuses me greatly: Steve Bogart, Organizer of Light. :)
|21 October 1997|
Yesterday Apple announced the new MessagePad 2100, minus the Newton name. The main difference is apparently more RAM and 'heap' space. Apparently I can upgrade my current Newton MP2000 for $99. However, I haven't used my Newton in ways that make me run out of RAM, (i.e. I don't browse the Web on it) (yet) so I'm not sure I need the upgrade. I can think of other, more pressing uses for $100...
MacCentral posted an interesting theory on the true nature of MacInsider, which has mysteriously returned from the grave.
Now Don Crabb is starting to change his mind about the 'Think Different' ad campaign. See his column "The Pride is Back".
There's another case, however, of a URL that's going to be useless or misleading soon. His columns get archived at 'dondirectN.html', where N is a sequential number for each column. However, the current column hasn't been mirrored yet at its eventual location ('dondirect8.html', presumably), so I'm forced to point to the generic 'dondirect.html', whose content will CHANGE the next time he writes a column and then this link won't point to the right thing.
Now I'll have to remember to comb through my old postings and change the URL to match the archived version whenever he writes his next column, and I can't guarantee that I'll remember to, thus I'll look careless because of the way his site is run. Rrrr.
How's this for a rule of thumb: Put new columns in two places -- the main high-traffic place where people always look on your site and the eventual archival location of the column. C|NET does this. DaveNet does this. Heck, I do this (actually, I just point to the archival place from the start, which seems to me to be more efficient).
And oh yes, the Department of Justice made some sort of announcement yesterday. (SJ Mercury ...notice, THEY leave articles where they put them!)
For enlightening analysis of the situation, as always, visit Dave Winer's "scripting.com".
|20 October 1997|
BIG sigh everyone.
Having worked oh, about 17 hours on it this weekend, the MBA bulletin is now 97% done! Of course, the polishing and tweaking always takes the other 90% of the time...still digging...
HOLY COW. It's been a while since the mere picture of a piece of hardware has made my jaw drop and my mind race. But it happened this morning.
See today's Reality column on MacNN for pictures of an upcoming series of PowerBooks. What's so stunning? In short: detachable 14-inch screen, usable in landscape or portrait mode. The keyboard and screen components communicate via radio. Whoa, cool.
In the same article they've got some screen shots of Microsoft Office 98. It looks a fair amount like their Mac Internet Explorer, which is both a) not surprising and b) better than looking like Win95. I'm kind of annoyed (but not surprised) they kept the little animated CPU hogs, but maybe it'll be easier to turn them off in the Mac version...
Finally, it looks like I must indeed note the passing of MacInsider from its prized place in the top section of my links. It is no more, apparently shut down by a direct assault from Apple.
MacOS Rumors is on its way back, however, which is cause for celebration.
|18 October 1997|
(posted a day early, but what can you do? <shrug>)
Highly recommended weekend reading: Another excellent series of articles from Salon:
The last two are excerpts from this woman's book, "Close to the Machine: Technophilia and its Discontents" (City Lights Books, $21.95, 189 pages). I kept feeling shocks of recognition while reading them. She knows exactly what she's talking about, and puts the programmer's mind and life so very perfectly into words.
- Elegance and entropy: Ellen Ullman talks about what makes programmers tick
- Disappearing into the code
- Sliced off by the cutting edge
In my current job I don't spend that much of my time in the altered state she talks about, but I have indeed been there and she captures it very, very well.
I'm going to have to get that book...sometime when I have the time to read a book...
|17 October 1997|
Hmmmm. Well, it's been a strange week for Apple-focused rumor sites.
- MacOS Rumors has had a "dispute with their ISP" and is moving to a new site; it's been down since Tuesday. They say they'll be back online Sunday.
- MacInsider abruptly ceased publication yesterday, posting a non-explanation on their site. So far theories fall into two camps: Apple's lawyers visited their offices and made some 'suggestions', or the owners got job offers from Ziff-Davis and/or NBC. Notably, MacInsider's sister site PCInformer is still operational.
- Finally, MacRumorMill (a site I rarely visited but tried to access once I got on this train of thought) doesn't serve pages at this point, throwing up a 403 Forbidden notice instead. Sometimes that can happen when a server is misconfigured, but...
No doubt there is a plausible explanation for each of these occurrences, but still it seems like a slightly suspicious set of coincidences. I'm spooked, anyway. I especially enjoyed MacOS Rumors, and I hope they do return as promised on Sunday.
Have a good weekend; I'm going to try to do a huge amount of work on our new MBA bulletin site all weekend and get a usable version of it ready by Monday morning. No, really.
I've got 17 pages of 47 done so far (which has so far taken 31.5 hours of scanning, planning, editing, formatting, etc., most of it outside of my normal work day), but I think I can do the rest of them all this weekend -- especially if I concentrate on getting just the remaining text up NOW and worry about the rest of the photos later. Time is of the essence. Wish me luck...
|15 October 1997|
Apple loses $161 million in Q4
Don Crabb has seen Office 98 for Macintosh and says it's not just good, it's very good [MacWeek]. I'm looking forward to it more and more. It sure would be nice to also get Microsoft Access for the Mac, though...
Apparently the distributed-mac server is on the fritz; if you're trying to get the Bovine RC5 client, try the mirror site at http://macrobyte.simplenet.com/mirrors/distributedmac/clients/
A note on conventions: what does all-lowercase text mean to you when someone uses it in an e-mail message? How about on a web page? I just naturally did yesterday's entry differently, but didn't think about the formal implications of all-lowercase text, or that it might be misinterpreted as simple sloppiness until today.
To me, typing in all lowercase means "i'm in a big hurry and can't even be bothered to slow down to hit the shift key". Or, alternately, "i'm feeling very low-energy today, or i may even not be feeling well, so i am speaking in this subdued manner."
Plain ASCII text is a richer communication medium than it usually gets credit for; when standard behaviors crop up like TYPING IN ALL CAPS = SHOUTING, it gains even more power. Is there a generalized interpretation for all lowercase? If there isn't, shouldn't there be? What do you think?
|14 October 1997|
can't talk now.
swamped again at work.
took yesterday off, came back to a large pile of e-mail questions/requests/problems in addition to my already-full plate of high-priority projects...
hopefully I'll be able to post later in the week...
In the meantime, a very quick link (can't help myself): if you have a Mac and a net connection, join the Bovine key-cracking effort! Download the newly-finished version 2.005 client from http://www.distributed-mac.net/clients/index.html. You could win $$, or at least put your Mac's idle time to good use.
For details on the whole key-cracking idea, see http://www.distributed.net/rc5/ and http://www.distributed-mac.net/
|9 October 1997|
New Scribble: Keep It Around: Musings on the archiving of content
A couple of notable RealAudio programs (also mentioned in the Scribble):
Hey look, actual non-negative Apple press (whoa!):
- The Education of a Mac Dad - USA Today
- An Upgrade Teaches Doug a Thing Or Two About Apples and Windows - BoardWatch magazine (a lot of geek-speak, but hilarious even if you don't get it all!)
|7 October 1997|
This may be a true story: At the celebration after the new Apple ad, Steve Jobs read this letter from a father to the crowd. A friend of mine also forwarded it to me via e-mail. As far as I know, it's genuine. Give it a look.
Apparently it's news when someone opens a Mac-only store: see Big 'Mac' Attack from Business First, a Louisville business weekly.
Finally, this is taken directly from the deal-mac website:
Yesterday evening at 1:05 Pacific, MacMall's web site refused to display. Instead, an error message was provided that included: "Windows NT error number 2 occurred." The message persisted well over an hour (and possibly the entire night), costing MacMall at least one possible sale.
Among NT's marketable features is its "mission-critical" stability.
deal-mac is very handy when you're in the market for any new piece of Mac software or hardware, and they clearly even have a sense of humor when provoked. I highly recommend a visit.
[private note to Chris T in Boston: try this link to get a Telnet client and this to get pkunzip.exe if you need it to decompress the program]
|6 October 1997|
More Quest than Data? - a thessaSOURCE editorial on the doom-and-gloom DataQuest report of a few weeks ago.
A C|Net Interview with Bill Gates. Useful to see where his head's at now and then.
Clicking for Godot - a fascinating Salon article on the nature of Art, audiences and interaction in our new world.
Dave Winer liked the ad.
Don Crabb wasn't as happy with it.
I fall more on the Dave Winer side of things. I do think there needs to be more, and more specific, advertising than just showing us pictures of great people who never touched a computer (and some who have), but at the same time I like the unifying principle they're pushing: it's not only OK not to follow the majority, but you may even be on the trail of something extraordinary.
According to today's MacOS Rumors, the superfast PowerMac 7700 due in November may not be called that but may have a new name entirely.
I like the idea of naming Mac models; compare 'Presario', 'Aptiva', 'Dimension', 'Latitude', 'Millennia', etc. with 'PowerMac 6500'. For that matter, compare 'Pentium' with 'PowerPC 750'. Names can be much cooler and easier to remember (and market) than numbers.
In that spirit, this name just came into my head; I'm sure there are more and better names out there, but I thought I'd submit it for consideration anyway: I'd love to have a computer named the Apple Hotshot. Who do I send it to?
|1 October 1997|
On a musical note: I've been listening to and loving Genesis' new album, Calling All Stations. It reminds me a lot of their older material; longer songs, more troubled emotions, a darker feel. Check it out if you like that sort of thing. I love it.
On a related note, for diehard fans of the band, Steve Hackett has apparently released an album called Genesis Revisited which gathers up various musicians related to the band in various ways and reworks several of the numbers from Hackett's era. Looking at the lineup of musicians and the liner notes, it looks right up my alley; I'm just going to have to buy it.