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Steve Bogart

News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: February 1998

27 February 1998 It's already way past midnight. Why am I doing this? Why don't I go to bed?
My instinct for self-preservation is, as usual, seriously lacking.
[Morning update]
No more Newton: After a long hard road of: technological difficulty, then technological achievement, then insufficient marketing by Apple, then being spun off [yay!], then being un-spun off [uh-oh], Newton is now officially discontinued. With this possibility being discussed constantly on all the rumor pages in the last month, this is no surprise, but it still just seems like a waste. Sure, what they say makes a bit of sense (concentrate on one direction and go) but it seems to me they could have still done what they want to do with an independent Newton, Inc. working separately on its own profitable goals.

Ah well. So passes the glory of the world.

New Scribble: WebObjects, Here I Come

New Scribble-related page: Scribbles I Hope to Someday Write

For major geeks: A page full of the collected programming wisdom of some fellow I don't know, Richard O'Keefe. I don't know the man, and I don't know all the languages he talks about, but as a programmer I can still get quite a bit out of what he has to say. Two nice examples:
All of the effective programmers I know write their comments first, explaining what the code is for and how come it works, and then write the code to fit the comments.

It was designed to make it easy for skilled programmers to WRITE large object-oriented programs. It is obvious to any fair observer that it has accomplished these goals. It was _not_ designed with readability, formal verification, or protecting idiots from themselves in mind.

Once again I've run out of time, but I leave you for the weekend with this intriguing Jon Katz essay on, well, that:
26 February 1998  
Babylon 5 fans: TV Guide has an interesting interview with the Great Maker:
The DES-II key has been cracked, in only 40 days this time. Join in the effort to bring down RC5-64! Win money!
25 February 1998 I only have a moment, so here's a quick one...
Aaaaaagh! And apparently, U.S. headline writers wouldn't fare too well either. You know, I couldn't make something up to be this ironic...
24 February 1998 "Oh, I get it -- back on that old 'time is money' kick, eh?"
"Not back on it, Joe -- still on it."
--"Snowball in Hell", They Might Be Giants, Lincoln
This weekend I was in something of a funk and was feeling unmotivated to continue my site exactly 'as is' any more; the thing I most felt motivated to do instead was to write long unhappy rants about work and life and about how I need a change. The problem was, I knew that "Steve Bogart's Personal Dramas" is not a site that anyone would visit more than once, so I just avoided doing any site updates for a few days.

Lucky for you (and me), Monday brought a wealth, no, a treasure trove of stories that I found interesting and that I felt like telling people about. The bullet has been dodged, and I feel like posting again!

In fact, there's too much in my satchel for one day. Here's a small selection of the good stuff I found (more will follow in the coming days):

Entertainment news:
Oh, I get it -- back on that old 'Apple is important' kick, eh? No, still on it...
Various stories from Wired...
That'll have to be it for today. I may not post again until Thursday, depending on my busy-ness; it's too soon to tell...
23 February 1998 Help Wanted: Telepath. You know where to apply.
--bumper sticker
Buy one commercial spot, get one free? The low ratings for the Olympics are costing CBS a large chunk of cash:
In the grand tradition of the Onion, see more fake news from Snoot. Very funny stuff:
Genius at work: Check out the excellent Gates-as-Borg photo in this column. Too bad production of the t-shirts has been stopped; I would have been quite tempted to get one...
From Michael Lewis, author of Liar's Poker, comes this chat about the pace of change in the computing industry:
19-20 February 1998 And you may ask yourself: "Well, how did I get here?"
-- Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime
You know, it's ironic: Just when I get an influx of new readers (hits are up significantly), various things start hitting assorted fans and I wind up with insufficient time to do a good job on the site. Aarrrh! (Sea captain noise from the Simpsons.)

I'll be back in the saddle as soon as I can, but expect no Friday update; hopefully I'll get a posting in this weekend though.

The following are the links I planned to put up this time around; they just lack any sort of salt, sugar or other seasoning from me. I'm sure I would have had devastatingly witty things to say about them, so just pretend I did and everything will be fine, yes? (Note to self: package and market 'Steve's Page: The Home Game').

Here they are, all alone (mostly):

So for those who are curious, the Wrench of Exceeding Size that's been thrown into the works around here is that one of the upper-level Computing staff, Manager of PC Support Mark McCracken, gave his two weeks' notice on Tuesday. He's heading to Dallas to work for Microsoft (which, let's face it, is about as surprising as it would be for me to go work for UserLand or Apple, i.e. not very). Replacing him in today's IT job market at the salary we can afford to pay will be, shall we say, a challenge.

In the meantime, while he's gone and we haven't filled his position, more support duties will be falling to the rest of us. Since I held that position before he did, many people still think of me as Support Boy and will fall back to calling me instead of the remaining support staff. It's therefore fairly likely that I'm going to be Much Busier Than Normal for a while.

If you happen to know someone in the St. Louis area interested in a PC support position who likes the benefits of an academic environment and might be interested in applying, by all means have them e-mail me...

18 February 1998 Ran out of time for a full post today; among other things, a Wrench of Exceeding Size has been thrown into my job environment that will have repercussions for months to come. More details when I can...
Recommended without comment:
A question for you, while I have your attention: Does anybody out there know much about mid-size TVs (25"-27")? If you were going to get one, what brand would you get? (I know, I could ask this on a newsgroup, but I'm just curious if I can effortlessly exploit "my" audience's knowledge for personal benefit ;). Responses to bogart@wuolin.wustl.etc.
17 February 1998 'Twas a bit of a slow news day yesterday (President's Day and all), so here's some random stuff to occupy you.
Followups on previous days:
Do you worry a lot? Here's more to worry about: a (potential) virus from Mars...
Comics: They're bandwidth-intensive, though, so wait till you're on the fast connection at work. ;)
Avoid These Games: Not that they're bad games -- it's just that they will take over your lives (speaking from experience, of course).
16 February 1998 "Knock Knock" (who's there) "Kosh" (Kosh who?) "Gesundheit!"
-- Captain Sheridan on Babylon 5
Just don't do it: You know that oh-so-clever Valentine's Day (or now Presidents' Day, I suppose) animation you're planning to forward to twenty of your closest friends? The one that's over a few hundred K in size? DON'T SEND IT. PLEASE. Give your systems administrator (and your recipients') and the Internet a break. Need more reasons? Okay; given that you're probably not the one who programmed the .EXE file, how sure are you that there's not a virus in there? Anh? Do you want to be responsible for screwing up your friends' computers?

Please, just send an e-mail note or a card. End of public service announcement.

Uh oh:
That's it for today, but don't miss yesterday's edition (a rare weekend posting).
15 February 1998 "XML is going to be the file format for the rest of my career in the software business"
--Dave Winer
First, a thank-you to Chris Gulker for linking to me from his News Page. Check out the other news pages he links to as well as his collection of columns he's written; good stuff!

Thanks also to Jorn Barger for linking to me from his own news page, the Robot Wisdom WebLog. Check it out for many, many links that go way further afield than mine.

Another scary story from Wired: With only an anonymous, unproven accusation against him sparked by the contents of his web site, a user support technician in Atlanta with an excellent record was fired from his job. Strangely enough, he has no legal recourse:
"While the First Amendment protects Damen's right to articulate his viewpoint on his Web site, it does not bar a private employer from firing him for doing so."
Granted, his site might make co-workers uncomfortable, but one would think that what he did in his off-hours (if it's not against the law) would not be sufficient grounds for firing. Guess not.
Absolute brilliance: I laughed out loud at several of these; you will too.
Valentine fun: In the grand Suck tradition of finding nothing good to say about anything while being funny enough that you don't mind, here are some Life-in-Hell-style descriptions of "Men and Women to Avoid": You really need images on to get the full humor. Warning: they put a really annoying frame at the bottom of everything.
Have you been watching the Olympics?: Nope, me neither. Still, I get a sense of what I'm missing from Salon:
Go ahead, I dare you: Care to quantify how much time you've spent debugging/babysitting your Windows machine and compare it to a Mac user's experience? This columnist went to the trouble of figuring up his wasted Mac time...
Rumor Control, again: Thanks in part to what appears to be a deliberately misleading article in TechWeb (see direct rebuttals from StepWise and VVI), lots of people are panicking about the future of Rhapsody. To provide a reality check, here once again is Ernst D. Bunker: I'm looking forward to both MacOS 8.2 and Rhapsody; the hard part will be figuring out which one I want to put on my machine...
13 February 1998 "Hang up and drive."
--bumper sticker
Maybe I'm just dense: There was a brief flurry of stories on Thursday about how FileMaker, Inc. has introduced its new logo, "an elegant dark gray and blue original logotype bearing the company name." First, let's give them the benefit of the doubt that this is somehow newsworthy. That said, take a gander at the following: Here's what I don't get: not only did the stories not show the logo in question, not only does neither the FileMaker site nor the Claris site present the new logo, but nowhere on either site does it even mention the news that one's on the way! ("See, we've got the press release department over here, and the web site department over here, and, well, they don't talk much.")

There's nothing quite like a coordinated PR effort, I tell ya. My!

Weekend Reading: And oh yes, Happy V-day to those that have Vs, though I am not currently one of your number.
12 February 1998 Today's an all-Apple day...
Thinking about buying a G3 machine? Wait a few days. According to MacInTouch, next week Apple will be reducing the price of the G3 machines as follows:
G3/233 Desktop: $1699
G3/266 Desktop: $1999
G3/266 Tower: $2499
See MacInTouch for the whole list of expected price cuts.
QuickTime gets its due: The International Organization for Standardization has adopted QuickTime's file format as the basis of the next multimedia standard, MPEG-4. Reasons for choosing Apple's format include: the ability to scale content to differing transfer rates, support for several file formats across platforms, and the already-widespread adoption of it for many multimedia uses. In other words, it's the best thing out there, so let's formalize that...
Chip report: Check out this instructive graph of the power consumption of the latest Pentiums versus the latest PowerPCs versus the human brain. Given that the performance of the PowerPCs is equal or better to the Pentiums in the graph, what does this say about the Pentium's efficiency? Um...
For your Mac: A set of free desktop pictures by Rachel Robbins. They're pretty cool.
11 February 1998 I've been ordered to start growing some sort of facial hair for the opera that I'm in. Cool, an excuse to look scruffy!
The pie-man speaks: Silly man and pie provocateur Noel Godin explains the Bill Gates incident. Of special note is that someone from within Microsoft provided the pie throwers with the details of Gates' itinerary...
So what would Microsoft define as predatory practices? A small company is suing Microsoft for, well, just read:
"TV Host says it trusted Microsoft so much, it let the company in on its strategic business plan. Eventually, licensing talks with Microsoft broke down. And then Microsoft began developing its own TV guide, stating it would build it into Windows 98 for free."
All together now: "Why the $%#* did you trust Microsoft?"
Finally, after a year of bickering: The fight between the two 56kbps modem "standards" (US Robotics' x2 and Rockwell's K56FLEX) is finally over; modems based on a single standard should be coming out starting next month. This is good news.
Is AOL endangering itself?: As you've probably heard, AOL is raising its all-you-can-eat price by a whole twenty-four dollars a year. Reactions from Wall Street are positive; they think this will help AOL's bottom line. Reactions from trade magazines are negative, as though $2 a month is such a huge deal that people will leave in droves.

Personally, I think customers' inertia will be very strong; who wants to change their e-mail address? Who wants to install even more (and more complicated) software? For most people I'd bet that's worth $2 a month.

10 February 1998 "If at first you do succeed, try not to look astonished."
--bumper sticker
The dangers of automation? Here's a scary story about a woman who was just trying to send an e-mail (albeit a critical one) to a company and triggered a mailbomb toward her own account. Apparently, their e-mail accounts were configured so they would refuse mail (even the 'feedback' address!) and there were automated counter-measures that used ridiculous criteria to invoke themselves.

Moral: Include a human in the counter-measure-invoking loop.

(If there was a human who decided to start the mailbomb after seeing only her four fairly innocuous e-mails, he/she should take a long vacation so as not to be so aggressive and jumpy.)
Signs and Portents: As Don Crabb points out this week, there's a lot of Big Stuff going on at Apple lately, most of which is cause for cautious optimism (especially the snail ad, which according to many is getting Apple positive attention for once). For a pithy summary of recent events, check it out:
Outlook? Really?: From Australia comes this tidbit of exclusive news:
"In late May or early June, Microsoft will release Macintosh editions of the Outlook 98 desktop information manager and the FoxPro 98 database."
Still no Access, but it's a step! I'm glad they're waiting until June to truly release Outlook; I have a copy of the current (not widely released) Mac version, and I have to say it reeeeally needs improvement. Hopefully they'll fix it up before release.

Oh yes, the article is also very positive about Office 98 too (reportedly due around the end of this month).

9 February 1998 Wedding's over. Jammin' Toast is over. The show isn't for another month. Now I can hopefully start to catch up on everything...
In spam/scam news:

The government is beginning to address the many complaints it has received about junk-mail and scam artists on the Internet.

Do you receive (and consider) offers to join multi-level marketing efforts on the Internet? Here's a breakdown of such a message and a listing of exactly what's wrong with such things. Recommended! You MUST READ this VALUABLE HOW-TO series of reports on how the MMF Hall of Humiliation led a scam site to change its tactics : Finally, you know those 'four reports' that are sold for $5 each as the 'valuable product' in money-making scams? They are are available FOR FREE on the home page of a reformed scammer. SAVE YOURSEFL $$$$!!! (spelling error intentional for extra-ironic pseudo-authenticity):
Maybe I'm insufficiently Americentric, but it seems to me that the original models for the Winnie the Pooh characters should be on display in their home country, not ours. Ah, well.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are returning as Buzz and Woody! To me, that's just as important news-wise as the headline:
6 February 1998 That's funny...the number of hits I've been getting has been spiking in the last couple of days without any concrete promotional action from me. I'm puzzled, but hey, don't let me stop you...
Allegro con moto: Curious about what's coming in the next major version of the MacOS (codenamed Allegro)? Well, you won't hear much from Apple, but some of the rumor sites are attempting to build some sort of picture. Take these reports with a grain of salt, but if some of this stuff is true, Allegro is looking rather excellent:
Shocked, I say! Free e-mail services (Juno, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, others) have apparently been over-reporting the number of actual active users they have (versus the number of people who signed up once out of curiosity and never came back). Also interesting to note is the last paragraph; I know at least one person who does exactly what they're talking about.
Weekend Reading:
5 February 1998 "I have nothing to say in my little space today."
--Milk, of Evan Dorkin's Milk & Cheese
Gates Pie: I can't condone pie-ing a man in the face. But it makes for a heck of a story when Bill Gates is the recipient.
NEW APPLE AD: Last night Apple started broadcasting a new ad that doesn't use famous dead people and vague "we're creative, goshdarnit" narration. No, this ad actually makes a specific point - namely, that the new PowerPC G3 processor is way faster than the fastest Pentium II. You go, Apple!
Finally, a hilarious parody piece for those few of us that read a lot of Mac news sites...just go, you'll like it:
4 February 1998 Well, I'm back, but due to Jammin' Toast '98 I won't really have a lot of time for personal page work until next week. Here are a couple, though...
But... but... : In a paean to the Post Office, James Coates reminds us of the rich-content capabilities of sending atoms instead of bytes (i.e. ACTUAL MAIL!), and that this revolutionary system is usable "for 32 cents and a tiny bit of patience on your part." Worth reading for some perspective.
Well, I'll just have to make sure I see this one then:

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