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January 30, 2005

What happens when a bass nerd with some fancy new basses and a photo nerd with some fancy new equipment get together? Spectacular bass guitar pictures happen. These pictures look at least as good as the ones I've seen on the manufacturers' web sites, and boy, did I look at a lot of bass manufacturer web sites last fall when I was shopping for new gear. We made my basses look so good, I don't want to sell any of 'em, but that was the whole point, originally. (The Alembic and Ibanez bass were bought to replace the Modulus and MTD Fretless.)

Apple's Tipping Point is a pretty cool graphic representation of what I consider to be too much credit given to Apple marketing. I've followed the computer market professionally for the past 12 years at least, and Apple's marketing has been horrible for quite a long time. Clearly, Steve's return has concided with a lot of really good marketing decisions, but I really don't think this was all due to a master plan. I suspect that they've just gotten a lot better at responding to demand, instead of just building whatever they decided the world needed. People have been asking for a low-end, inexpensive Mac for 20 years. At what point are we to believe that Apple finally caved in and decided to build one? I suspect that this (the positioning of the Mac mini in a previously ignored price point) is nothing more than a response to the fact that the eMac wasn't very popular. It makes sense now, but that doesn't mean that this has been part of an overarching multi-year strategy. If it was, then why wasn't there a G3 Mac mini at a similar price point, back in the days of the $1,800 iLamp?

I don't use Windows very often anymore, but occasionally I do have to QA my development work using Internet Explorer 6 for Windows, since it's the most popular browser. I do this via VMWare on my home Linux server. The last time I booted my virtual Windows PC was a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't run it for quite a while and had a lot of Windows Update stuff to catch up on, including Windows XP SP2. Since VMWare doesn't emulate the CPU (it just provides fake peripherals that it remaps to the real peripherals on your system via the host OS), the guest OS can see the real CPU and all of its features. SP2 enables a security feature in the Athlon64 processor that VMWare doesn't support. So, after the SP2 update, my virtual Windows PC wouldn't boot. However, two things made me quite happy. First, VMWare knew what was happening and just said "I don't support this particular feature". Their support forum had a concise answer with several very useful links to Microsoft's knowledgebase, and specific directions on how to disable this feature. Bravo! In both VMWare and Microsoft's case, this is exactly how things should work. OK, I understand that not every new CPU feature is supported in this sort of software, but the error message was descriptive enough that I could understand the problem and the feature could be turned off easily. One little tweak, and it's fine now. Nice! And best of all, Microsoft turned on security features by default. That's the way it should be. It should be locked down tight at first, and you should have to explicitly reduce security on a case by case basis only when necessary... but without an unnecessary amount of research to figure out what's going on.

Speaking of security... if you like security weenies (and I do, I'm a total security weenie wannabe), you might like going to DEFCON sometime. Kim and I went to DEFCON X and it was pretty fun. There are plenty of security groupies, who talk like this guy, and spell "own" "pwn" and so forth. A persistent geek prank is to figure out a way to trick people into looking at one of a few well-known, really disgusting pictures, such as Goatse (Wikipedia link, don't worry).

Now you have the background information to understand why airpwn is a hilarious prank. If you were using a wi-fi connection to browse the web, the internet was 100% goatse for you. I'm sorry I missed it.

Speaking of browser security, Elves Of Valinor Warn Of "Critical Security Flaw" In Palantir Browsers.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, there's a pretty detailed screen-shot based Lord of the Rings storyboard site. I found it as I was searching for what I think is an extended scene - the one featuring Sauron's army chanting "Grond! Grond! Grond!".

January 19, 2005

I've been reading The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas P. M. Barnett. This is a brilliant book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in global politics, which should basically mean anybody who voted in the last Presidential election. (See my earlier comments on his presentation, which I saw on C-SPAN.)

In case you weren't aware that Ann Coulter is a total wacko, here's a nice movie clip where Ann Coalter trash-talks Canada. Tucker Carlson piles on. What amazing insight on global politics. "You're smaller than me therefore you should be kissing my ass." Quite a contrast from The Pentagon's New Map.

In case you missed it, Fiid and Susan had a kid!

This guy wishes someone would pay him to sire their kid. If they can stop laughing at his web site (and resume!!), maybe...

Even the Hulk has a blog.

I've always hated advertisements, but there aren't many effective ways to actually find out about products without them. It bugs me to think about how much things would cost without advertising costs built-in. Giant searchable databases like Google, and recommendation engines built on top of giant databases such as's, make advertising less necessary. Advertisers are really just trying to get prospective customers to consider their products; advertising is inherently extremely inefficient because even taking demand creation into account, there are still vast numbers of people who see or hear advertisements who aren't interested. If the only people who see your ad are people who asked to see it or sought it out proactively, it ceases to be an advertisement and becomes sales collateral (a brochure, a promotional video, etc.). Jeff Bezos understands this.

On the plane coming back from a long weekend in New York, we watched the new Battlestar Galactica movie again (it aired several months ago and we watched it then, but since we were on the plane there wasn't much else to watch so we watched it again). It's actually pretty good - not perfect, but decent, and far better than I expected from the Sci-Fi channel, which usually just cranks out really crappy original movies. One thing I noticed this time was that the special effects in space, and especially the CG camerawork, looked a whole lot like the Firefly series. Well, there's a reason: the same people did it. Here's an interview with the guy in charge of visual effects for both. Also, the casting is really well done. Edward James Olmos is great as always. James Callis is a little too fidgety but generally does a good job as a weasely Baltar. The best (and riskiest) casting job is of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck. I think it really works - she's tough, soft, angry, annoying, impetuous, heroic, and sexy all at the same time. Contrasted with Tricia Helfer as Number 6, she has a lot of youth and rough edges. I like the juxtaposition of the creepy, too-perfect synthetic human with the imperfection of Starbuck. Just lose the cigar. :)

January 18, 2005

On New Year's Eve, Kim and I went to see Les Claypool's Frog Brigade play at The Fillmore. This was Les's 17th consecutive New Year's concert at the Fillmore, and we met some folks from the Reno area who had driven through a snowstorm to get there. One of the people with them said this was his 13th year attending (he missed one year).

The band was wearing furs (caveman style) and Les had some kind of bear's head hat on. "Quest for Fire" was projected behind them during the whole show, with a few cuts from the beginning of 2001 spliced in right at midnight as Les broke out the Whamola and, wearing a monkey mask, "discovered" it the same way that the apes discovered tools (the bone used as a weapon) in the clip from 2001. Amazing. There were some really funny physical humor moments between the movie and the folks on stage that are impossible to describe.

Anyway a good time was had by all and we were still grunting at each other 3 or 4 days later and talking about cannibals and mammoths and stuff. And, of course, now I'm dying to see Quest for Fire, and we have even more respect for the mighty brow and jaw of Ron Perlman (in Quest for Fire and Hellboy, under a ton of make-up, you can still recognize him easily).

WildLupin has a bunch of great pictures from the show.

In case you've ever seen a piano recital in which someone was sitting there just to turn pages, did you know how much study and practice went into that art? Now you do.

Wired has an interesting (and, since it's Wired, fawningly flattering to the k3wl r3b3l h4x0rs) article about "The Shadow Internet". Even the name is something only a 13 year old could come up with. It reminds me of the Daily Show character, Lord Viper Scorpion (I'd provide a link, but so many people have apparently adopted this handle in an attempt to be ironic that I can't find any pictures). Anyway, I had no idea how refined the elite pirate rings were. I did know that my former co-worker (at Viant) Bruce Forest had a penchant for bridging "the scene" and the mainstream media. Bruce's company has even created an episodic drama called The Scene about it. I do wonder how much money these "scene" folks could be making if they had a day job and just created stuff instead of copying it and spreading it around. Unless you're making McWages, it'd probably be a better use of your time to just buy the damn DVDs instead of spending all that time searching, downloading, and burning, and that doesn't even take the cost of bandwidth, hardware, and blank media into account.

KernelTrap has a thorough interview with Richard Stallman, the most idealistic (and obstinate, stubborn) advocate of open source software there is. Thankfully there is no link to his music.

I got my first Tsunami-customized Nigerian Bank Scam email a few days ago. It's pretty funny.

There's a story about D's Diner, which is mentioned in a Les Claypool song.

January 12, 2005

It looks like somebody finally is making an attempt to use modern OS-level software package managers to manage Java libraries. It's about time. I haven't tried it but this is a good sign: JPackage

Room with a Moose has lots of good Invader Zim information. Best of all, there are finally DVDs of the animated TV series. If you like the Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, you'll probably really like it.

If for some reason you can't upgrade your browser to Firefox, you can use this online browser security test to see what vulnerabilities your browser has, so you can tell whether you need to update or upgrade.

A couple of weeks ago in the office, I was on the elevator and saw a very distinctive looking guy get on. Giant parka, pencil thin mustache and hairline beard, and most memorably, this watch. Awesome. The whole Iced Out Gear site is full of similarly hilarious stuff.

Platypus venom. Did you know there was such a thing?

If you have a G4 PowerBook, and you use Firefox, you should check out the G4 optimized version. It's noticeably faster. There's also some platform-independent Firefox Tuning info. I think the tuning was more effective than the G4 optimized version, but since they're both, I use both.

There's a BBC animated slideshow that explains how the tsunami developed from an earthquake into giant waves.

Apparently hospitals haven't been paying attention to what their doctors are doing: Program Coaxes Hospitals to See Treatments Under Their Noses. We have all sorts of fancy machines for patient monitoring, but it would appear that auditing doctors' decisions isn't being done. Well, I wasn't exactly imagining that healthcare administrators were terribly competent anyway. Now we have another reason to love the best healthcare system in the world.