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Archive for August, 2005

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Teach Your Children Well…

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

OK, so one of our neighbors is having a Discovery Toys party (think old fashioned Tupperware party, but the molded plastic is for the kids, not the parents), and my wife got invited. Here is the front of the postcard they sent to the house:

Speaking as a guy who has some experience photographing children, I’ll betcha a dollar that when they finally got the kid to smile just right, they stopped trying, even though the book she’s reading with her mom is upside down.

Remember folks – your customers may be illiterate, but the folks with the checkbooks aren’t! :-)

Categories: The World Wide Weird | 2 Comments »

The Five Hour Immigration Window

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

As that guy on Everybody Loves Raymond used to say, “Holy Crap!” How come I didn’t hear about this when it happened?

A virus caused the U.S. Customs computer system used to process passengers arriving on international flights to shut down for several hours Thursday [August 18th], leaving long lines of impatient travelers, officials said.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the virus impacted computer systems at a number of airports, including those in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Laredo, Texas.

The worst delays appeared to be at Miami International Airport, where as many as 2,000 people waited to clear immigration, airport spokesman Marc Henderson said.

At New York’s airports, customs officials processed passengers by hand during the shutdown. In Los Angeles, they used backup computer systems to keep passengers moving.

I can see the future news article now: “The terrorists entered the country by shutting down the immigration computers last August, and then using the confusion and lack of access to centrally stored no-fly lists to sneak through customs undetected. At the time, officials believed the shutdown was due to an otherwise harmless computer virus.”


Categories: Political Rantings | Comments Off on The Five Hour Immigration Window

Guess Who’s On a Stamp? Everybody!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

When I was a kid, they told me that you had to be dead to have your picture on a U.S. Postage stamp. Now, apparently, anyone can do it.

Another meaningless tradition yields to commercial progress…

Categories: The World Wide Weird | Comments Off on Guess Who’s On a Stamp? Everybody!

iBook – The New Cabbage Patch Doll

Friday, August 19th, 2005

OK, so you’re the Henrico County school system of Richmond, Virginia, and you have 1,000 used Apple iBooks on your hands. You decide to sell them to the community for $50 each. What happens? Well, first 5,500 people show up, some of them at 1:30 in the morning to get a good spot on line. Then you open the gates and this happens:

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl’s stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

One woman . . . was so desperate to retain her place in line that she urinated on herself.

I think we need to stop calling those folks on the web Mac Zealots

Categories: Tech Talk | Comments Off on iBook – The New Cabbage Patch Doll

Follow the Tipping Hat…

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

OK, first things first: Hat Tip to Yishai over at Digital Irony for reminding me that a search for your own URL in Technorati works as a trackback system for folks using Blogger which, as far as I know, doesn’t provide trackback functionality on the individual posts.

Second, a big old “right-backatcha” to Punditmania for giving me my first official Hat Tip.

Let’s hear it for the unknown bloggers – one big happy family…

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | 1 Comment »

Hey Dude, You’ve Got OS X!

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Well, that was fast:

Several sites reported this week that crackers had managed to install the developer-issued version of Mac OS X for Intel on non-Apple machines, including Dell laptops. One site has posted video purportedly of Mac OS X booting on a non-Apple-approved Intel-based PC.

Apparently, the Apple approved Intel machines have a chip (Intel’s Trusted Platform Module) that the OS is supposed to need in order to run, and someone found a way to bypass this check. This is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as this:

Apple has been vague about whether other operating systems — such as Microsoft’s Windows — will run on the new hardware (it has, however, said it will not sell or support other OSes)

As I’ve written before, this is the real win for Apple. If Apple hardware becomes a direct competitor to Dell and HP, you’ll see entire corporate IT departments doing deals to outfit their users with Apple hardware. Apple will go from a niche player to a major competitor in a multi-billion dollar industry, almost literally overnight.

The articles I read just after the Intel announcement seemed to imply that they were definitely avoiding this scenario, and I’m glad to see that either a) those writers didn’t know what they were talking about, or b) Apple has backed away from that exceedingly stupid stance and is now considering it.

It would be a new user base for them, and they’d have to work out a different customer service model in order to deal with the mass markets. For instance, they probably don’t want to be in the business of supporting Windows, but they have to be able to explain to corporate clients exactly how they’ll get support. Still, even a fairly large CRM investment seems to be worth taking the company’s hardware unit to the next level of competitiveness…

Categories: Tech Talk | 3 Comments »

Sign of the Times…

Friday, August 12th, 2005


Categories: Blogging about Blogs | 1 Comment »

(Another) First Look at Vista

Friday, August 12th, 2005

InternetWeek has a pretty good tour of Windows Vista, Beta 1 (with copious screenshots).

There’s very little to go on here (you can’t really have an opinion on an OS without actually playing with it), but there are a couple of things that I find encouraging:

Virtual folders
Longhorn was originally going to ship with Windows File System, which was based on the SharePoint model of storing files. Basically, they were going to hide the Windows Explorer “tree” structure that has become second nature for most people, and ask you to find your files based solely on metadata (author, date, filetype, subject, full-text search, etc.). I believe it was pulled because beta testers couldn’t let go of the tree structure (a group I beta tested SharePoint with actually customized it to put the tree structure back in!), and because people didn’t trust the search functionality to rely on it completely for document retrieval.

Virtual folders seems like a good compromise. They sit side-by-side with the normal tree/folder model, but they aren’t shortcuts/aliases to files – they represent the files themselves (i.e., if you delete a virtual folder, you really do delete the files inside it).

Integrated Search
The article says the search is integrated in the OS, and works well and fast. Of course, all I can do at this point is trust the author, but given that Spotlight was my favorite feature of Mac’s Tiger OS, I’m glad to hear something similar is coming in Windows.

IE 7
Everything we’ve been hearing about (although it’s nice to finally read an article about what it can do, rather than rip it to shreds by characterizing beta bugs as evil security flaws). Tabs, RSS feeds, advanced security options, etc. This is catch-up for Microsoft, but at least it’s there.

Graphical Breadcrumbs
This sounds like a really cool idea. It’s basically the breadcrumbs we’re all used to seeing on the web, but each term in the trail is a menu, giving you options to navigate the tree starting from that point (including the virtual folders). It’s a very simple idea, but it puts the entire tree at your fingertips in a way that even the web doesn’t do. I hope it works as well as it sounds.

Translucent Window Panes
Silly thing, but I think it looks way cool…

Overall, what’s most encouraging to me is that they seem to have taken the opportunity to introduce new paradigms into the OS that weren’t there before (virtual folders, graphical breadcrumbs, and some smaller things like a revamped Start menu and User Account Protection). When I looked at Tiger, I was happy enough with the experience, but felt as though they missed an opportunity to make positive changes in how we interact with the machine – it was simply a nicer, faster version of what we already had (except Spotlight, as I mentioned above, and the Dashboard widgets, which I think are just a novelty). Maybe Vista will learn that lesson. Time will tell…

Categories: Tech Talk | Comments Off on (Another) First Look at Vista

Doing my Part for Daily Bleatage

Wednesday, August 10th, 2005

From Lilek’s Daily Bleat:

Back home; checked my mail, discovered to my horror that the Bleat looked like crap in Windows, fixed it…

I sent him a mail yesterday afternoon, so I can only assume he’s referring to me. Just goes to show ya – behind every cyber-celebrity, there stands an army of unseen amateurs keeping the lights on. Such is life.

He also unwittingly enters into a debate that Jeff Porten and I have been having for as long as I can remember:

For reasons I cannot understand the HTML program – GoLive, or StayDead, depending on your experience – refused to accept 550 pixels as the value for the table’s width. I’d type 550; it would revert to 74. I redid it cell by cell; no good. Until eventually it worked. Sorry about that. Monday and Tuesday have been redone, so they should work. All I can say is this: it looked fine in Safari and IE for Mac. Go figure.

Now, clearly there’s a problem with GoLive. But here’s the more interesting question: is the fact that it looked fine on the Mac a problem with the Mac or a problem with Windows? I would argue that if the HTML says WIDTH=74, the page should display with a width of 74. Even if he originally typed in 550. If GoLive changed the HTML back to 74, he should see it on his screen as 74. Two reasons: first, the browser should do what it’s told and nothing more; and second, by “fixing” it for him, the Mac browsers obscured the problem until someone (ahem!) brought it to his attention…

This site, incidentally, has a similar problem. Most of the rollover buttons at the top (which are still Java apps and not Javascripts – I know, I know – I’ll change them as soon as I have some free time. Maybe this weekend. Really. I swear) are in a cell with WIDTH=442, and have widths that total 424. In Windows/Internet Explorer, they appear in one, neat horizontal row, which is what I’d expect, given that 424 < 442. In Mac/Safari and Mac/Firefox, the "Cool Links" button on the right wraps down to the next line. Jeff has argued that if my HTML were clean, it would work on all browsers. I say that if I do a good job adding up my column widths, I should have a reasonable expectation that any browser would follow the rules and display them on a single line. If my HTML is clean, then it’s a bug in Safari and Firefox. If I’m missing something in my HTML, and IE is doing something to “help” me, then I say it’s a bug in IE. On the one hand, I hope the move to Javascripts makes the problem go away. On the other hand, if it goes away, then it just means this problem is inconsistent and difficult to reproduce, suggesting it will never get solved…

Categories: Tech Talk | 6 Comments »

An Endorsement for Iraqi Stability

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

It seems ICANN is feeling better about Iraq. At least that’s something…

Categories: Political Rantings | Comments Off on An Endorsement for Iraqi Stability

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