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News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: January 1998
|29 January -
4 February 1998
|If it wasn't for disappointment|
I wouldn't have any appointments
--"Snowball in Hell", They Might Be Giants, Lincoln
Well folks, it's time for yet another hiatus. Not because of work this time, but because of a happy occasion - I'm attending the wedding of two good friends of mine in New York City Saturday. I leave tomorrow (in fact, I should be packing right now...).
I'm turning the occasion into a minor east coast tour; after the wedding I'm visiting my ex-ex-ex-S.O. in Philadelphia for a couple of days. So, I'll be back in commission page-wise sometime around the middle of next week.
I'm running out of time here, so without much in the way of commentary, here are the things that have caught my eye lately...
- Best Buy quits selling Mac boxes [News.com] Sure it's bad news. But the way Best Buy was selling them wasn't doing Apple much good anyway.
- What is Apple Up to With Claris Shake-up? [Wired]
- Joel Siegel Preemptively Raves About Blues Brothers 2000 [The Onion] "I'm going to love it!" he says.
- Actually, the rest of that issue of the Onion is pretty great too. (My favorite headline: 'Earth Safe -- But For How Long?')
One of the best justifications I've seen for DVD so far: The inclusion of alternate scenes and endings!
Microsoft: Yes, even I'm getting a bit tired of talking about them, but wait! Here comes Bill with his poor-poor-us story!
- Gates: We're not bad guys [SJ Merc]
- Gates: Just leave us free to innovate [SJ Merc]
- Gates lashes out at press [News]
But let's not forget the view from the other side:
- Vaporware extraordinaire [Sm@rt Reseller]
I swear I've seen this movie before:
Yet another variation on 'Larry Ellison publicly hints Jobs might decide to take the job after all'. Brace yourself for yet another categorical denial by Jobs after a great deal of rumor-mongering and breath-holding by the press. What is this, the third time Ellison's done this? Already saw it, bought the t-shirt, read the novelization. I figure at some point poeple will stop paying attention to Ellison's cries of 'WOLF!'.
- Ellison: Jobs is best Apple CEO [News.com]
Unless, of course, Jobs has announced he's taking the job by the time I get back...
Other 'filtering/commentary' sites you might want to visit while I'm gone:
|28 January 1998||"Democracy is a beautiful thing, except for the part about letting just any idiot vote."|
Claris is no more: FileMaker Pro (a fine program but still not as thoroughly programmable as Access) is being spun off into its own company, and Apple is bringing the rest of Claris' software back into itself. Hmm, I sense a basic Works package being bundled with MacOS and/or Rhapsody...
- Apple dismantles Claris [MacWeek]
Apple, Apple, Apple...dumb, dumb, dumb: Do you know how desperate this makes you look? Do you know how little credit the geek community, the stock market and the rest of the educated population of the world give astrology? Is this the best you can do for an endorsement? Oy.
- The Astrologer Who Believes in Apple [Apple PR]
|27 January 1998|
Are you good with words? Salon is having a contest to improve computer error messages by presenting the user with an informative haiku rather than a cryptic phrase. Yes, it's just for fun, but the contest is nonetheless real.
- Haiku Error Messages [Salon]
|26 January 1998||No time to do any commenting today; these pretty much speak for themselves anyway...|
In Today's News:
- Compaq to buy Digital for $9.6 billion [News.com]
- Compaq, Digital heads claim end-to-end coverage [ZDNN]
- Clinton scandal all over Net [News.com]
- Yahoo! collection of the latest scandal stories [Yahoo]
More on Netscape & Java:
- Interview with Marc Andreessen [Upside] Extensive!
- An Open Letter to Netscape [stating the obvious]
- Good News for Java? [DaveNet]
More on Microsoft and PCs in general:
- They know what's best for you [Salon]"Perhaps Judge Jackson might not have been so flummoxed if he understood, as millions of PC owners and users do, that distributing products that don't work is standard operating procedure in this industry anyway."
- The New IRQ Scandal by Jim Seymour [PC Magazine]
- Microsoft Product Flaws Make Net Dangerous, Experts Say [TechWeb]"The flaws are so serious that one expert advises users not to surf the Web until a fix is found."Gosh! Or maybe one could just use a different browser? Nah...
- [Sen. Orrin] Hatch doesn't buy Microsoft's world view by Dan Gillmor [SJ Merc]
|24-25 January 1998||Delenn: "Now tell me of home; I have been away far too long."|
Lennier: "Beatlemania is back!" / "Well, we just got Pizza Hut and cable."
--Off-camera ad-libs by Bill Mumy (from Babylon 5)
More geek news: Netscape is backing away from Java, which doesn't necessarily spell trouble for the language but definitely changes the landscape.
- Netscape pulling back from Java commitment [SJ Merc]
- Java Loses Netscape [DaveNet]
- Relevant Mail to Dave Winer -- 1/24/98 [Scripting News]
It was the dawn of the third age of mankind...: I found today's little quote on the Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, an absolute treasure trove of analysis and behind-the-scenes information on the show, including an archive of the various posts the show's creator (J. Michael Straczynski) has made about each episode.
If you watch Babylon 5 and haven't visited this site, get ready for a treat.
- Can Hackers Break Into Print? [Columbia Journalism Review] Um, yes, why do you ask?
- Sam and Cokie Trade Deck Chairs on ABC's Titanic [Salon] This guy (Eric Alterman) really has it in for the Sunday political-analysis shows and goes after my favorite, the newly-renamed "This Week with Sam & Cokie".
He brings up some interesting points, such as the fact that all the hosts are millionaires. Say what you will, it's bound to change one's perspective about political issues. Should we really trust what they say? Are they asking the right questions?
The other, even more valuable, point he makes is about the issue of corporate sponsorship of the show by Archer Daniels Midland. Since his retirement a few months ago, David Brinkley (former host of the show) has been hired by ADM to be their spokesperson, and the ads have so far tried to present Brinkley in a 'newsman' sort of light even though he's not any more. Brinkley has taken a lot of flak from other newspeople about his new role. As Alterman points out, though:"Does David all of a sudden have conflicts of interest he didn't have when the ADM influence-peddlers were merely paying for his show, rather than directly paying his salary? Why does eliminating the middleman suddenly make you a whore?"Food for thought.
Still, for all that, I do feel like I get useful information and perspectives from watching the show. Call me a dupe, but there you go.
|23 January 1998||"When God created the world in seven days, He did not have to deal with the installed base."|
--Tim Wilson of Lucent
Busy news day yesterday: Microsoft blinked and Netscape made it easier for a hundred browsers to bloom.
Ain't competition great?: Instead of having 15-minute-delayed quotes for free (like dozens of web sites do), what if someone offered up-to-date quotes for free? Someone finally has...
"You copy, you infringe": In an interesting settlement, some online distributors of free CD-quality (pirated) copies of popular artists' music have agreed to stop doing it. There's a million-dollar fine, but the plaintiffs have agreed not to collect it unless the defendants do it again.
I like that sort of ruling - 'no harm, no foul this time, but you do it any more and we'll nail you'.
|22 January 1998||"If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base."|
--seen in an e-mail signature
New Scribble: It Just Ain't So: The FCC is not thinking about charging you for access; don't believe everything you read.
|21 January 1998||Still getting my feet wet with this post-from-home routine. I think I'll date my evening postings with the next day's date since that's when most people will encounter them.|
Most thought-provoking Microsoft piece in a while: David Shenk, author of Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, has a lengthy but worthwhile analysis of many things Redmondian in SLAMMING GATES: Is Microsoft-bashing good for you? [The New Republic]. A few choice quotes (I couldn't settle on one):There's a serious case to be made for containing the Microsoft behemoth, but it's getting lost amid the name-calling, corporate rivalry, and not-so-petty jealousy.
The complaints are just too numerous and plainspoken to be mere rival propaganda. Says one information-systems manager, "I hate Microsoft because I am frequently put in a position of solving problems that would not have come up if my customer had bought software from another vendor."
[according to MIT researcher and software designer Philip Greenspun]: Truly great software systems ... perversely tend to be extremely vulnerable to competition, because ... any individual component can be replaced by one that is engineered to the same spec. "If you're a bad engineer and you can't quite finish the specs and you think that the specs aren't really needed, then you end up with a nasty pile of code with lots of bugs, a system where the guts depend on everything else," where the software works only with programs created by the same sloppy engineers. Thus ... Microsoft gets rich not despite but because it produces inferior software.
More on Microsoft:
- Jim Louderback thinks Microsoft Office is much more threatening to competition than Internet Explorer (and I have to agree with him): DOJ is barking up the wrong feature [PC Week]
- For samples of the wiseass tack Microsoft is taking in the hearings, see Judge miffed at Microsoft on OS [News]
- Dan Gillmor thinks Microsoft might be intentionally trying to honk off the judge: Microsoft tactic: crazy like a fox [SJ Merc]
Former Apple CEO Gil Amelio has found a new job:
More About Junk:
- Spam site killed under threats [News] Famed spam-mongers Sanford Wallace and Walt Rines were kicked off their service provider after a deluge of vitriol (and some threats, apparently) headed the ISP's way. Does make one a little nervous, what? Undue pressure in the service of a 'noble' goal is still undue pressure.
- Interested in getting off direct-mail lists? Telemarketers' calling lists? Spam lists? Check out the Junkbusters Guide to Reducing Junk. LOTS of interesting information here.
56K modem detente? Lucent (K56FLEX) and 3Com (X2) are finally working in earnest to iron out the differences between their 56Kbps modem standards, which would be a good thing for all. Rockwell still needs to come to the party before anything can be finalized, but hey, it's a start.
- 56-kbps camps join hands [News]
|19 January 1998||I really needed this three-day weekend. For one thing, I caught up on watching my taped Babylon 5s, ER & Homicide...|
So, now I'm doing this from home. Feels a bit weird.
First, the big news of the day is of course that the Mac OS 8.1 update has been released. This time around, the triumvirate of major Mac sites (MacInTouch, "MRP", "MacFixit") is collaborating on their analysis and troubleshooting of the update:
- Mac OS 8.1 Download Page [Apple]
- Mac OS 8.1 Special Report [MacInTouch and MRP]
- Troubleshooting Mac OS 8.1 [MacFixit]
Wish I'd said that: Actually, I was just discussing this very topic with a friend yesterday: I'm very aware that I have to watch what I say in public posts on the Net because they will never go away (even if I delete document x, there is probably a cached copy living somewhere in a search engine or archivebot). The most succinct summary of that situation I've found is the title of this short piece (the piece itself is worth reading too :):
stating the obvious is a site I recommend visiting; it has a regular update schedule of M-W-F (unlike a schedule of 'when I get to it', like, say, me) and is pretty much always worth checking out. See their archives for some samples. My favorite thing they've posted so far is a rant by Carl Steadman on the Way Things Ought To Be:
- You Are What You Post [stating the obvious]
My favorite quote: 'Why doesn't my watch know what time it is?'
- I want things to work [stating the obvious]
I uninstalled Internet Explorer 4.0/Mac within a day after installing it because it just had too many annoying changes from version 3.01 and NO discernible compensating benefits. Some folks are now suggesting that IE 4 really isn't even finished; that we're being given beta-quality software. My experience does not contradict this...
(On a side note, it wasn't as easy to switch back to 3.01 as I thought it would be; after deleting the IE 4 app there were still some shared libraries that had been modified and caused weird behavior in IE 3.01. I re-installed 3.01 and everything's happy again.)
- IE4 for Mac: Cursed Are the Beta Testers by Doug Bailey [Boston Globe]
Apple's Earnings: Now that the dust has settled, there are some good in-depth looks at the nature of Apple's first-quarter profit:
- Apple in the black [Red Herring] - an interview with Apple's Chief Financial Officer, Fred Anderson
- RFI's Apple (AAPL.O) Q1 Earnings Report [Apple Recon]
- Apple gets a boost in Europe [ZDNN] "Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) European sales climbed 47 percent to $415 million in its fiscal first quarter?" Wait, that doesn't sound like Apple...
That's it for today (unless I get ambitious tonight). Good to be back!
|13-16?? January 1998||Gary's Law of Programming: n+1 trivial tasks are expected to be accomplished in the same time as n tasks.|
Okay, this is ridiculous. Work has expanded to fill all available cracks in my life and I need to take a break from the page updates to try and catch up. Expect the next update sometime around Saturday or Sunday.
This also seems like a good time to implement a fine idea from a friend: namely that I should move the site materials to my home machine so I explicitly compartmentalize 'working on my site' in a separate space from 'doing my job', thereby making the time I spend at work more productive and giving me more time to spend at home (or at least that's the theory).
So, I'm going to move the whole shooting match from Gromit (my work machine) to Judah (my home machine). You won't see a difference visually, but it will almost certainly make a difference to my updating habits and my ability to write longer pieces (since I won't be feeling pressure to get back to work).
Updates will likely be late at night or in the morning rather than typically noon-to-3ish. Weekends may enter into it as well.
Anyhow, thanks for stopping by and I hope to be back into the content-creation groove in a few days.
(The ironic thing is, my next Scribble is called 'Simplify, Simplify' and it's about a number of ways in which I hope to make more time for myself in the new year by doing things such as leaving MACH 1...I started writing it when I was in Iowa for Christmas and haven't had a chance to finish it...hmmm...)
|12 January 1998||Seen on a bumper sticker: "You can't fix stupid"|
Sorry folks, no update today like I'd hoped; I've been awake oh, about 30 hours now and it's time to head home and crash. Maybe tomorrow.
(But! The export-18-reports-from-MS-Access-to-my-customized-HTML-with-a-single-click routine works.)
|9 January 1998||I'm under an avalanche of everyone's last-minute, must-be-done-before-classes-start requests at work, so I'm a bit late and short today. I may post on Sunday though...|
Site news: I've redesigned things on the site somewhat.
Still to come: a photo at the top! You know, like a real columnist has. Also, this year I'd like to get a lot more Scribbles written, but so far I haven't even had the time to get enough sleep. I'll get into a sustainable pattern someday...
- In the toolbars at the top and bottom, rather than have a link for each and every section, I've slimmed them down by having a directory page which points to all the important and the not-so-important pages. It simplifies the "menu" interface a bit and calls attention to the more important sections of the site. Also, since the menu bar is shorter I was able to make it a size bigger (it was hard to read on Windows screens).
- Every page now automatically has a 'last modified' stamp which is easy to find and easy to ignore. Every page on the Web should theoretically have one (it's good practice), but it's a pain to do unless you automate it, which I finally have.
- I've added buttons to the bottom of a few pages, including this one.
- "Best Viewed with Any Browser" is a reaction against pages optimized for specific programs on specific platforms ("why yes, we only want 60% of all visitors to be able to see our page properly"). And yes, I've even looked at these pages in LYNX and they are readable.
- I added the button to get Opera, but it's animated, darn it. Luckily, since I put it at the bottom it's not distracting when reading today's entry, but still, I'd like a non-annoying button. I don't know if I'll keep it or not. And no, I'm not getting anything for putting it on, I just wish to promote a very well-written browser that isn't getting enough attention yet.
- I made the menu bars gray, more like the standard menu color on Windows and MacOS 8. Was the blue better? Should I vary the menu color with the daily-header colors? I'm interested in opinions if you have them.
MacInTouch has another report from Macworld by Henry Norr:
- Impressions from the Apple booth [Macintouch]
Salon has a decent summary of Macworld's news:
- Apple's profit and gloss [Salon]
Finally, a bit of Weekend Reading: Time's cover story/interview with Jerry Seinfeld about his decision to end his show:
- IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING [TIME]
|8 January 1998||When Cameron was in Egypt's land...let my Cameron go. [.AU sound file]|
--Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Jobs flap: As you may have heard, after Steve Jobs' keynote speech, he did a live interview with CNBC. The reporter started asking him questions about the CEO search, finally asking point-blank whether Jobs still rules himself out for the job. Jobs got ticked and left. Apple Recon is rather ticked at Jobs' behavior, and from a Wall Street perspective I can see his point.
For my part, I can almost understand Jobs' behavior. If some annoying reporter got in my face about something that 'we agreed not to talk about' on the air (and that I had basically already put to rest), I would be quite ticked and might well never give that reporter an interview again. However, I think a better reaction would have just been to say "We agreed not to talk about that. Do you have any other questions?" instead of walking off in a huff.
- The Good. The Bad. And The Ugly [Apple Recon]
But then, Apple Recon says there's no way Jobs and the reporter would have had such a prior agreement. I don't know which to believe.
Windows folk: Why did you buy Word, the last time you bought Word? Was it because you wanted the features or because you had to get it to read other folks' files?
Frankly, I was happy with what I could do in Word for Windows 6.0 on Windows 3.1 and only upgraded to Word 95 because it 'worked better with Windows 95' and then Word 97 because I had to read files from people who had upgraded.
What if Lotus WordPro and Corel WordPerfect and ClarisWorks could manipulate Word-format files seamlessly, with all the information and formatting intact? Would you be more likely to take a look at them as alternatives? I know I would.
Simson Garfinkel wants to fix that problem by having file formats be publicly known instead of proprietary:
Wired has noticed Opera. See what they have to say:
|7 January 1998||This morning I got gas at my local Shell for 96 cents a gallon on their 'dealer cost' day. That's ridiculous. How can gas still be so cheap?|
An actual $45 million profit for Apple! Plenty of Macworld keynote analyses to go around; I don't have anything to say beyond these folks:
- MacWorld San Francisco 1998: Keynote Report [MacInTouch]
- Getting what we wanted [Don Direct]
- Apple's Back in the Black [Wired]
- Jobs Wowed by His Own Thinking [Wired]
- Macworld Mix: Steve sez "Think Profit." [MacAddict]
Car Talk fun: I had no idea Apple and NPR's Car Talk were at all connected. Apparently there's plenty of mutual admiration there.
Also, for some silly late-Xmas fun:
- The Story of Apple and Car Talk [CarTalk]
MS changing course? Is it smart to tell the Dept. of Justice to take a flying leap, even if you believe you have the law on your side? Maybe not, if it gives you a really bad image... Microsoft is apparently realizing this.
- Microsoft taking softer public tack [Seattle Times]
|6 January 1998||See "Good Will Hunting." I'm floored that it was written by two of the lead actors!|
Jobs Keynote: Both of these should be live come 11:00am Central, but (based on past experience) good luck getting through.
- ZDNet's Live Macworld Keynote
- CNET Radio Live from MacWorld Expo '98 (has links to more than just the keynote)
At least when you install a new IE on MacOS it doesn't delete the old one. Or add buggy 'integrated' components to the OS.
When I want to ditch it (which may be pretty damn soon), I'll just throw away its folder.
Opera for Windows 3.0 is final. Still only 1.1MB! Hoo hah!
I want it for MacOS yesterday.
That's all the time I'm going to have today. Beginning-of-semester crunch, you know...
|5 January 1998||Hmm..what colors go with January?|
TV Junkie Steve: A couple of weeks ago I finally reached the end of FX's reruns of NYPD Blue; they were broadcasting them from episode 1 and had caught up with the present-day episodes. I was somewhat relieved, as I had been faithfully watching (and loving) those first 75 or so episodes for (~75/5 = ~15) weeks straight. It was fun, but now I could stop being chained to my set.
Just yesterday morning Andrea reminded me that TNT was going to be rebroadcasting all the Babylon 5 episodes in order, starting with a brand-new 'prequel' movie that very night. Well! Panic ensued, I bought some new videotapes, and I'm off again! I've been into Babylon 5 since mid-season 3, and now's my chance to catch up. I love cable.
Oh, did you want some news?
It's yet another Big Week For Apple, with the annual Macworld Expo providing opportunities for Big Announcements and New Products. Rumors are abounding, of course, and some new products have already been announced.
I don't have the time to track much of the goings-on in a timely fashion, so I'll just point you to the best sources of up-to-date news: MacInTouch, MacNN, Scripting News, and MacOS Rumors.
Microsoft and Washington: Slate (owned by Microsoft) has a column by Jacob Weisberg on whether Microsoft should be joining the influence-peddling game.
But of course, now Microsoft is being criticized for not playing the game well. Bah. I say MS was right to have avoided it.
I've run out of time today, what with all my behind-the-scenes tweaking and redesigning. More tomorrow, I promise.