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News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: August 1998
|27 August 1998||"Soup is Good Food"|
--Campbell's Soup slogan, chosen because I'm rather under the weather but enjoying a lovely, satisfying bowl of Campbell's Vegetable Chunky Soup. Good stuff.
Well, it's about bloody time: From its introduction, I've liked the idea of the Zip drive (and I do own one), but I felt that it was overpriced for what you got. The media in particular seemed exorbitantly priced - $15 per disk even when purchased in quantity? Pull the other one!
Sure, there's the argument that it's cheaper than the equivalent 70 floppies, but it still felt like I was being gouged every time I bought one. Finally their pricing takes a turn for the better:
Of course, they don't say what the individual per-disk price has changed to (if it's changed)...
- Iomega Celebrates Shipment of 100 Millionth Zip Disk with Price Drop; Marks First Time Iomega Branded Zip Disks Drop Below Ten Dollars [Businesswire]
Iomega Corp. (NYSE:IOM) celebrated the shipment of its 100 millionth genuine 100MB Zip(R) disk with a price decrease, lowering the price of the disks to $9.95 each when purchased in a 10-pack.
Another fine Dr. Fun cartoon:
- When managers read Usenet [Dr. Fun]
If you're not familiar with the acronym, just think about it, it'll come to you...
Sometimes you can't avoid it: the rest of today will Microsoft Schadenfreude Day here on the show - the enjoyment of their misfortunes.
Not a terribly gracious thing to essay, granted, but there it is. They just make it too, too easy. "Pride goeth" and all that...
Rats, ship, sinking:
- Taking the fifth: Why Microsoft has more than executive image at stake with Windows NT 5.0 by Robert X. Cringely [PBS]
[Windows NT 5.0] seems to be in one of those perpetual holding patterns, never quite ready to be released. The new shipping deadline for NT 5.0 is summer of 1999 and impatient corporate buyers are expressing public doubts about Microsoft even meeting that goal ... the NT group is short of top programmers and managers and losing more every day. What's amiss here is that there are major internal doubts emerging about NT 5.0 and nobody wants to be the champion of a product that can't be made to work.
The last two paragraphs of the column are particularly engaging reading as well, but I don't want to over-quote.
Raise your hand if you're surprised by this news story. Now raise your hand if you're surprised these memos were found...I'm genuinely surprised:
- Microsoft planned to sabotage competitors [Red Herring]
If [the Christmas beta of Windows 3.1] was not running on MS-DOS, it would show users fake error messages.
[Microsoft vice president] Mr. Cole considered going well beyond using the detection feature to give users questionable warnings. In the documents, he suggested making Windows 3.1 malfunction if it detected DR DOS. ... The plan was to blame the problems on the Digital Research operating system.
In the ongoing discussion of how to prevent rival products from running well with Windows, [Senior Vice President Brad Silverberg] wrote, "The most sensible thing from the development standpoint is to continue to build dependencies on MS-DOS into Windows."
For intentionally writing (or even seriously discussing writing) code that will deliberately cause other companies' code to fail, they deserve whatever legal scrutiny they get.
Telling your programmers to write code that fails is NOT serving your customers, is NOT "innovation", and is NOT giving your customers what they have asked you for (all of which are Microsoft's descriptions of its own behavior). God. What a bunch of power-mad ... misguided ... nouns fail me ...
Oh, and there's some new bug in Microsoft Access 97, 95 and 2.0. Data gets corrupted. The usual. Another fine example of the stellar QA you can expect from an innovative software company that actually has the massive resources at its disposal to test its software pretty thoroughly...if they chose to...
And finally, a magazine editor - gasp - praising an industry exec? Not only that, but an APPLE exec? Bar the door and fetch me a cup of java!
- Apple turnaround is a Jobs well done [Computerworld]
If nothing else, the birth of the iMac means there's still a force out there that can compete against the staid Intel-based PC world -- albeit in the consumer space for the time being. Real innovation in the PC space is alive and well. And where competition and innovation thrive, consumers (at home or in the enterprise) benefit.
In a world of bloated inventories and thin profit margins, Apple sits atop a pile of iMac advance orders -- for a floppy disk-less, odd-looking machine that sells for $1,299, no less.
True, some order-makers are Apple diehards fired by pent-up demand. But most "Mac nuts" aren't nuts at all: They're just people who believe the Macintosh was the best, most complete, friendliest PC available. What does Jobs know that the Wintel world doesn't?
|22 August 1998||"Those who can, do. Those who can't, nitpick and whine, moan and groan, and generally make themselves pains in the tooshes to those that do."|
--.sig of Sharon from Beaumont
All right then. Missed a lot of big news events this week. Trying to play catchup...
A different kind of Clinton humor:
- Clinton Chastises Hillary For Failure To Produce Male Heir [The Onion]
"As my tenure as president enters its twilight, my wish for a male heir remains unfulfilled," Clinton told reporters at a White House press conference. "Unless my wife Hillary bears me a son in the next 17 months, the glorious eight-year reign of the Clintons will come to an end."
Avoid: I was thinking 'The Avengers' would be a decent movie to go see sometime -- pretty far down my list, but at least on the list -- but everybody's saying it's pretty awful.
- CNN - Review: 'The Avengers' is retro-boring [CNN]
"The Avengers" is real, real no-good, though its obsession with style and color makes it a reasonable piece of useless eye-candy. A great, big, boring multi-million dollar piece of useless eye-candy.
Toni & Pete didn't like it at all either. Good enough for me, I'm staying away.
Jon Katz on Geeks:
- Geek? What Do You Mean, Geek? [Synapse]
[from a reader:] "...people who are unnaturally obsessive and frighteningly well-informed about what they do.... A geek remains that fidgety, socially unsure person - until they touch anything electronic or technical. Then they become the modern Supermen!"
I love the phrase "frighteningly well-informed"...
NT this, NT that: But...but...there's a really great quote in this one!
- Microsoft looks at Windows NT beyond 5.0 [CNN]
Simplicity also will be a key going forward, Allchin said, predicting further automation and interfaces that react to a user's needs.
Further automation != simplicity.
Further automation = (possibly) greater productivity, but:
Further automation = more code ?= more bugs != simplicity.
And finally, comics!
|16 August 1998|
WORKING LOTS STOP WORKING BUTT OFF ACTUALLY STOP WILL RETURN TO POSTING ASAP BUT NOT BEFORE WEDNESDAY STOP AUDIENCE PATIENCE NOTED AND APPRECIATED STOP
|8 August - 15 August 1998||"God either is or isn't. If God doesn't exist, not all our belief can create Him. If God does, then not all our doubts can unmake Her."|
--Father Richard Craemer, John Ostrander & Tom Mandrake's The Spectre #61, published by DC Comics
Fun with language(s):
1. Mark Twain eviscerates the German language (very funny, especially if you know a little German, but also very long):
- "The Awful German Language" by Mark Twain [H. Churchyard]
Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page and reads, "Let the pupil make careful note of the following exceptions."
Actually, I found German reasonably consistent when I took four years of it in high school. English is supposedly the really hard language to learn as far as exceptions, weird pronunciations and nonsensical rules...
2. I hereby do extend an apology to everyone I've ever thought of correcting on the matter of the use of 'their' to indicate a single unspecific person. It's so much simpler to say 'their' than 'his or her' every time you mean 'someone', and it's really OK to do so:
- Singular "their" in Jane Austen and elsewhere: Anti-pedantry page [H. Churchyard]
So it seems that it was only in the late 18th century or early 19th century, when prescriptive grammarians started attacking singular "their" because this didn't seem to them to accord with the "logic" of the Latin language, that it began to be more or less widely taught that the construction was bad grammar. The prohibition against singular "their" then joined the other arbitrary prescriptions created from naïve analogies between English and Latin -- such as the prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition.
In the category of things I was not aware of (yes, I just ended with a preposition): I've always generally expected that the bigshot newspapers had really trustworthy editorial boards; seems that may not always be the case:
- 20 Reasons Not to Trust the [Wall Street] Journal Editorial Page [FAIR, from RobotWisdom]
An interesting daily survey-of-media page:
I stumbled on some writings of Penn Jillette, the verbose half of Penn & Teller. Some funny stuff.
- The Least I Can Do -- Really [Sin City, Penn & Teller's site]
I believe the simple fact that astrology and lotteries and psychics are just scams to steal money from people who are bad at one or more branches of math. But I think the government should never stop anyone from advertising anything anywhere. As much as I hate phony psychics (redundant), I would still fight for their rights. Maybe "fight" is too strong a word, but if mobs were stringing up psychics by the neck and hanging them until dead, I would certainly clear my throat and show strong disapproval in my carriage.
See more of his columns at http://www.sincity.com/penn-n-teller/pcc.html
Obligatory NT-is-not-the-second-coming article:
- Microsoft Admits NT Trails Solaris [Techweb]
In terms of "server years," where one server runs for 12 months or 12 servers run one month, there are 20 or more reboots on NT vs. "single-digit" reboots for Solaris, an attendee told CRN. The results were part of a presentation given by a Microsoft executive at the summit.
I'll keep on with (roughly) weekly posts through the end of August. I'm actually liking this pace; I get more time to gather stuff. Once September rolls around we'll see if I get back to more frequent updates.
|1 August - 7 August 1998||"Veni, Vidi, Velcro" - I came, I saw, I stuck around.|
-- .sig of "Zard"
Moxy Früvous gets press attention!
Cool. Great band; see them if you ever, ever can.
- Moxy Fruvous's Maple Leaf Ragging [Washington Post]
At first they performed every song a cappella -- largely, Ghomeshi has said, so that they wouldn't have to lug instruments around. They won over the weekenders with their renditions of songs like "Green Eggs and Ham," a rap version of the Dr. Seuss children's classic. By the summer of 1991, Ghomeshi recalls, things had gotten "really crazy. We would show up at the Bloor theater and there would already be 200 people there waiting for us to busk."
...Ghomeshi credits their early experience busking as the key to the energy they pour into every performance. The show, he says, "is 100 percent entertainment all the time -- because if you're not they're going to walk away and buy an ice cream."
Apple Price Drop TODAY: Now G3 Macs are cheaper...see http://store.apple.com/
Buried way down on CNN's page...something that could be a Big Deal:
- Studies point to space as origin of life's seeds [CNN]
...more evidence that amino acids -- some of the basic building blocks of life -- came from space.
It boils down to chirality -- the property of a molecule to exist in mirror-image versions known as left-handed and right-handed forms.
The amino acids found in nearly all living organisms only exist in a left-handed form. Scientists have wondered how this could happen.
In 1969, a meteorite known as the Murchison meteorite fell to Earth, and recent analysis found it contains organic material full of left-handed amino acids. Some people said this provides evidence that amino acids from space may have seeded life on Earth.
Funny thing on CNN's site: At around 11:00am Central this morning, the top story on the home page was: Clintons leave behind troubles -- but only for a wekend. Sic!!
I checked back a few minutes later -- still there.
Now (11:15am) it's been amended to: Clintons leave behind troubles -- but only for a weekend.
Wonder how long that was up there...
Also, I wonder why it's Clintons leave behind troubles... instead of Clintons leave troubles behind...
For fun: The words to the songs Phoebe has sung on Friends.
- Phoebe's Songbook [Central Perk]
Hmm...hadn't really thought about that... You can run any number of different versions of Netscape on the same PC, but only one version of Internet Explorer. This interferes mightily with people who want/need to test their web pages in more than one version of each browser (which everyone really ought to do).
- Come on, Microsoft, give us a break! by Dan Shafer [Builder.com, from Scripting News]
After conceding that this is the developer community's second most frequently requested IE change (right behind faster performance), she concluded that the problem is too hard to solve because of operating-system- and Registry-related issues, and that emulation may be the only answer. Excuse me, but doesn't Microsoft own both IE and the underlying OS that is apparently making this important feature "difficult" to provide?
...Putting the comments at the conference in their best possible light, Microsoft is saying that IE is so deeply intertwined with Windows that it can't get out of its own way.
My opinion is that Microsoft can't/won't offer 'standalone', coexisting versions of their browser because they'd lose the ability to hide system-level upgrades under the banner of a 'new browser version' like they do now.
But by doing things this way they just end up looking bad, because how hard can it be to provide two or more different HTML-rendering engines on the same hard drive? Heck, I've got Opera, Netscape AND IE (version 3) on my NT machine. Why can't I get IE 4 without giving up IE 3?
Because that would mess up their Plan... (ominous organ chord)
A while back I was looking for The New Yorker's online edition, which I was certain would exist by now. Well, it wasn't in any of the obvious places and I couldn't find it with ordinary casual searches so I gave up.
I eventually stumbled on it while doing some other reading. Turns out it's kinda sorta online (hidden in a larger site) with a little bit of teaser content and the table of contents from each new issue, but it's not yet a full-blown participant in the Web:
- The New Yorker [Electronic Newsstand]
- Selections from the Current Issue [New Yorker]
- Archive [New Yorker]
Strangely, the page at the first link doesn't actually show the list of article links in IE 4.01/Mac...it's just blank (the links are discoverable if you View Source, though). Rather odd; that's why I included the second & third link.
More fun: Garrison Keillor has a fabulous advice column in Salon. Here's a particularly good edition:
- Lovers and Writers [Salon]
That's a pleasant problem to have, Introverted, the problem of stopping work for awhile and figuring out how to live. I recommend travel, unprogrammed travel. Get away from home, where your work is, and give yourself a period of solo wandering on the open road. ... You've worked hard in a focused way, and now you need a lack of focus and an inner sense of time, not the ASAP-time of the working world. Go where it pleases you, think your own thoughts, deal with loneliness, linger, dally, and you'll find your life again.
And yes, even more fun: Salon ran a contest to come up with wacky new company names based on existing companies. The winner was Disney + InfoSeek = DisInfoseek. Check out the rest...
- The Urge to Merge [Salon]
Pathetically, annoyingly, sadly, the day job is starting to take up so much time I can't make any progress on the night job, both of which take precedence over, well, everything else (except the occasional movie or dinner with friends, though that's suffering too). August is looking baaaad. I'm not even going to change the month color this time around because it's all just melted together for me at this point...
Hopefully I'll post again next weekend. (August 8-9)