MonthAugust 2004

The dramatic news from the Apple Expo: Phil Schiller is *funny*!

I think it would be fair to say that people were pitching their expectations low when it was announced that Steve Jobs would not be doing the keynote speech in Paris for Apple; instead, Phil Schiller, the worldwide veep of marketing, would hold the clicker. What! No Reality Distortion Field?

But instead he had a quite different weapon: humour. Shows an iPod ad, with the dancing silhouettes putting whirling dervishes to shame: “I wish I could dance like that,” he sighs. Which is wonderfully amusing coming from this chubby guy. But it was just one of a long linst of bon mots (hey, we’re in Paris) through the speech. There’s the music store, with “groups like Maroon 5, Bond and.. Schiller”. Turns out there really is. Then he sits down to his first demo: “let’s hope the Demo Gods are with us,” he says. (Jobs would never, ever say that.) And later: “Here’s what we call Steve’s Feature” – and he shows the slow-motion slide of something or other. It all comes over as very subtle mickey-taking against himself, the objects, our perceptions; he shows a speaker that you plug your iPod Mini into and everyone goes ooh because it’s so vast on the screen. “Yeah, it looks like it’s 80 foot up there,” he quips.

It makes you realise how uptight Jobs actually us when he speaks, the constant tension that’s actually there even though he’s completely in charge. Schiller’s a stand-up. Well, he proved it.

Tis the season to be tweaking.. Paul Thurrott

John Dvorak one day, Paul Thurrott the next. At the latter’s blog are some (?alleged?) pictures of the new HP iPod.

Ah, so Paul, will those play WMAs as you forecast in January (“to add support for WMA format to the iPod by mid-year. You heard it here first”). I don’t think iTunes offering internal WMA->MP3/AAC conversion counts, really. Just say: “I was wrong.” I managed it, so can you.

To be fair I should also put up my list of predictions for this year, as they’re now behind a paywall, and so less easy to pick apart. (Here’s the Slashdot thread from it. Note that a lot of the predictions there are the posters’, and that the link back to The Indie page is now 404 – we reorganised.) The majority (of mine) remain or have come true. One I recall being wrong is that a virus did appear with a malicious payload. Oh well.

If I ever organise myself sufficiently I’ll put it on the site somewhere. I’ve done the HTML conversion; now it’s just a question of completely overhauling the site, with new index, directories, and CSS.

Oh yeah? Survey this!

The long wet summer has finally got to them over at ZDNet. Another rainy day, another daft press release, and pop! Result: at last, what everyone needs to know about what journalists think about the plethora of useless surveys, at Take your surveys with a pinch of salt – ZDNet UK Comment. It’s been a good irony harvest this year, even if the wheat’s been a bit damp.

The message for PR people? Most surveys are junk – save us all the bother unless you know what makes a statistically valid one.

And like magic, the phone disappears!

In a bar last night, I noticed as a young kid walked in and approached a couple who were sitting – quite far inside the bar – and opened out a sheet of printed paper and started giving them some spiel.

He looked South American, and small; and I did wonder why he’d gone so far into the bar, when there were lots of other groups of people nearer the door. The couple shook their heads at him while he did his spiel – it seemed (I was standing a few yards away) like some quasi-religious thing for which he was seeking donations.

Seemed like. After a while he gave up and went. Out.
And a moment later the guy leaps up and yells “Hey! Stop that kid!” Under cover of the sheet of paper, the kid had nicked the guy’s mobile phone. Unfortunately for the kid, they guy was wearing running shoes.

I’m fascinated by these scams, and the variety of scams. That one is essentially a magic trick: distract the audience while you do something else. Tell me what scams you’ve witnessed, or experienced. (419 emails don’t count. Too common.)

“The ads are for OCD… or blogging”

Ah, John Dvorak (PR mag writer and author)has a blog. Perhaps he’ll find the time to re-explain how Apple is moving completely to Intel chips, as he forecast in March 2003 (“within the next 12-18 months” – leaves one month. Perhaps Phil Schiller will have One Last Thing that’ll really surprise us at MacExpo.)

He’s also using Google to provide AdSense ads to help fund the blog, but complains: Below is the fabled Google Adsense which is supposed to match these little blurbs (below) with the site content. 90-percent of the time I’ve noticed that the ads are for OCD or some other form of disorder. If not that, then blogging.

So, working perfectly, then.

Actually when I visited the ads were all political, befitting the big pic of JFK (the dead one) on one post.

Tricks of the Trade

What a wonderful set of insights at Tricks of the Trade – I’ll look at the grease smeared on my car’s battery terminals after its services with new-found interest now.

What I’m wondering though is: what are the scams of the trade(s)?

The intersection of art and computing

A reminder from Neil Mc over at Complete Tosh: Looking forward to Paris MacExpo of the amazing visit that Apple arranged for hacks and guests to the Musee d’Orsay last year.

Usually it’s thronged with people (I’m told). This time it was virtually empty, because it’s a huge gallery, and most people were drinking and talking. But the chance to look at these amazing pieces close up, to see how an artist’s style developed over the years (Pisarro’s work was especially fascinating..), was just mind-blowing.

I’ve never been an art nut. I’d rather climb a cliff than walk around an art gallery on holiday. (That’s ‘cos I like climbing cliffs.) But that was definitely the most fascinating time I’ve ever spent so close to fantastic art. I doubt I’ll ever get the same chance, unless Apple does the same this year.

Neil’s piece is also worth reading for the description of the press facilities at the Expo show (which wasn’t at the MdO). Personally, I just hung around the place elsewhere in the building where we were led to interview the big honchos (Jon Rubenstein in my case). That had reliable WiFi *and* coffee. And I could get a phone signal. Just a hint, Neil.

At last, Dave Winer is famous in Illinois, and all because of blocked email

Come on, surely by now everyone knows that Dave Winer single-handedly created the blog, RSS and for all I know the Easter Bunny. But now he’s famous in Illinois.

As in this exchange, where he was talking to an ISP support guy because they were blocking port 25 (outgoing mail).

He asked what mail server I was talking to. I said mail.userland.com. He said “That’s weird because that’s one of Dave Winer’s servers.” I said “I am Dave Winer.” He said they usually don’t get famous people coming through this small town in southern Illinois.

Actually, blocking of port 25 is one of those other pieces of spam “collateral damage”, and very significant. When I’m mobile I use the Postfix program on my laptop to send mail. Most organisations are happy to receive it, but some are protected by Sorbs, which blocks email from dynamic IPs – and as Im on dialup, I have a dynamic IP. Of course the aim is to block email from Trojan-infected spam drone PCs.

The trouble is that I can only see it getting worse: as email has to be more and more verified to reach people, how will those on the move verify themselves? Dave’s problem is just a microcosm of what’s going to keep happening, Except we won’t all be so famous as him. Not ever for 15 minutes.

Browsers vs aggregators: why browsing’s better

A few weeks ago I paid for the full licence for NetNewsWire, which is a very nifty news aggregator for RSS/XML/etc feeds. I bought it because I’d been using the Lite (free) version long enough, and it was time to reward the writer.

So howcome I’m now back in my browser, looking at sites such as TechNN: Your #1 Source for Technology News? Simple: you miss so much when you’re aggregating. You don’t get pages like TechNN, and its sibling Macsurfer, which are collections of links, frequently updated, to sites around the world. Sounds simple, but so is Google just a load of pointers.

Compare that to “reading” a site in an aggregator: for many sites, the RSS feed is only a few lines. (I send the whole content, but I’d probably change if I had a gazillion readers.)

And you just don’t get the zeitgeist when you read in an aggregator. You don’t see whether someone has comments or not; whether they have a neat design, or something more appropriate to a colour-blind schizophrenic; what sort of things are getting advertised (not that I care, but that’s part of the zeitgeist too); and where they link off to.

So I’m back to running my regular script which opens a whole stack of pages, which I pile through. True, I can open a web page directly from NetNewsWire, but it’s not the same.

Maybe it’s like the difference between supermarket shopping online and actually going there. You don’t get to see if the raspberries are grungy or not. You don’t spot that item you’ve been hankering after. Aggregation takes away some of the spontaneity. So, back to browsing.

Moving to Linux; and self-amputating superendowed spiders

Michael Pollitt finally got sick of spy/ad/bloat/virusware on his Windows machine and shifted (gradually) to Linux. Here’s his story, following last week’s tale of someone who moved from Windows to a Mac.

In science, there’s Survival of the Biggest which is about, and I quote, “a spider so well-endowed that it self-amputates before sex and self-destructs afterwards”. Hmm.