Apple Switching?

March 20th, 2003

Fitting in rather nicely with a discussion Simon and I had in the comments on this posting, John Dvorak argues that Apple are about to begin a switch to an Intel-based architecture.

I find the idea that Apple will spurn the x86 family and go straight for the Itanium somewhat plausible, in that – initially at any rate – going for a high-end chip family would allow Apple to avoid being sucked into the commodity hardware quagmire. However, I'm still not entirely convinced. In particular, I don't see Apple trying to incorporate any form of Windows compatibility into a new OS for multiprocessor systems.


Studios take TV on DVD and rerun with it

March 20th, 2003

One of the most interesting aspects of the rise of the DVD is that it's revealed a huge demand for box sets of TV shows. This article discusses how the US networks have caught on, as well as some of the problems studios face in satisfying that demand, such as the cost of securing rights to reuse original music from older shows.

As anyone who has read this weblog for long has probably noticed, I'm a big fan of box sets. Watching a season of a show like Buffy in large chunks rather than week by week really points up just how carefully a well-written show builds storylines and develops characters.

[Via I Love Everything]


"I know it sounds really sick but it's not."

March 20th, 2003

I had no idea that the "Away" message your Instant Messaging client leaves was such a big deal. This article (NB/- New York Times article – free registration required) reports that college students in the US, taking advantage of the permanent internet connections in their dorms, are turning the away message into an art form. It's not enough to tell people that you're not around – you have to explain that you're in the shower, or that you're out on a date (so don't wait up!), or else give a brief hint as to how your day's going so far. In the best of all possible worlds, your away message will be so good that it prompts your friends (who know you're not there, remember) to leave comments about the message itself.

The amount of effort being devoted to the creation of away messages is dwarfed only by the amount of brain power being applied to the analysis of the meaning of the away messages:

Not surprisingly, the real message in away messaging is between the lines. "I see away messages providing a venue for developing, nurturing and controlling the social network," said Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University who taught a class last semester that analyzed away messages.

The primary function is "to position yourself within a social circle and not lose your stature," Professor Baron said. Even a message saying someone is sleeping or showering has a bigger purpose: "I want to tell you where I am because I don't want to be left out of the loop. Away messages are working overwhelmingly on this subtle underlying level."

I think this is paying the phenomenon far more attention than it's due. I can't help but think that people who have time to think up custom away messages umpteen times a day have way too much time on their hands. After all, how many people change their answering machine messages several times a day? What is it that makes IM any different? I suspect that most of the students whose activities are described in the article will soon change their behaviour after graduation, as they find themselves with less free time and no permanent internet connection. On the other hand, perhaps they'll simply transfer their IM obsession to text messaging.

Admittedly, I do have a bit of a blind spot about Instant Messaging in general. I see IM as a wholly inferior version of email, primarily because it demands that you be available at the same time as your correspondent and lacks the facilities for archiving and searching past responses which even a basic email client provides. In fact, since Switching I haven't bothered to so much as fire up iChat or explore other IM options on OS X. (Naturally, having started to write this post has prompted me to take a trip to Fire to download what looks to be the only decent OS X-native multi-protocol IM client.)

[Via Techdirt]


Rendezvous no nearer

March 19th, 2003

It's been a while since I've heard anything of the proposed David Fincher/Morgan Freeman adaptation of Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama. Judging by Freeman's recent comments I probably shouldn't hold my breath.

It's nice to know that Freeman is still committed to the project, but if they're still trying to persuade backers that the story really isn't an action movie then they've got a long way to go yet.

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Enter Captain Bush, stage right…

March 19th, 2003

From "Rough Justice IV" (The Movie Inside President Bush's Head):


[Saddam Hussein, CEO of IraqCo, stands at the head of a long table where his lackeys sit in terrified obedience. He toys idly with an AK-47. Around him, the warehouse is filled with crates with labels like "POISON GAS" and "PLAGUE" and "HERPES."]

SADDAM: Gentlemen, the time has come to take action. As you know, IraqCo. has once again turned record profits. But I will not be satisfied until the entire city is bent to my will.

LACKEY #1: The first step would be to get rid of Police Captain George Bush.

[Saddam whirls and fires, riddling Lackey #1 with round after round of machine gun fire. Growling, he grabs a can of petrol, douses the lackey, and sets him on fire. He grabs a crowbar and beats him as he burns, garrotes him with a piano wire, and detonates a bomb under his chair. He turns to a complicated panel of screens and buttons behind him, summons up a screen that reads "Lackey #1's Family" and shows a woman and two children sitting at a kitchen table. He hits a button labeled "Destroy" and a his men watch in horror as a herd of gigantic radioactive camels stampede through the kitchen, obliterating the family. Saddam laughs maniacally, controls himself, straightens his hair, and turns back to the table.]

SADDAM: I advised you not to mention that name. Still, our late friend brought up a good point. Captain Bush must be destroyed. And gentlemen, I have a plan…

[His voice fades as we pan up to reveal a shadowy figure in the rafters - it's Bush!]

BUSH (quietly): Keep talking, Sad-man.

VOICE (in an urgent whisper): George!

[Tumbling through a high window, a little out of control, we see young Officer Blair. Expertly, Bush catches him just before he falls to the floor below.]

BUSH: Goddammit, Tony! I told you not to come. This is my war. You could lose your job. Or worse.

BLAIR (with boyish esprit de corps): Nobody lives forever, eh wot? If you want to do this without me, well, you'll just have to fight ME, too, you will.

[Despite himself, a grim, manly smile crosses Bush's face.]

BUSH: All right, it's too late to send you back. Just stick close to me, and stay alertified…

[Stealthily, Blair behind him, Bush starts to inch along the rafter...]


You can just hear the 70s theme music playing…

[Via Making Light]

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Star Wars Secret Diaries

March 18th, 2003

The Very Secret Diaries of Star Wars Episode IV are a hoot. My favourite so far is probably The Very Secret Diary of Princess Leia Organa, Vol. 1.

Day 2:
Vader. Robot torture device. Needles. Mind probing truth serum. My day thoroughly sucked ass. Good thing Empire doesn't know that Rebels substituted LSD for serum supply at their suppliers six months ago. LSD effects bloody loopy and cause random babbling nonsense, ensuring the Empire gets incredibly useful information out of me such as "I'm a pony! I'm a pony!" Vader ended the session and went off to kill suppliers. Yay stalling time.

Why does everyone always bitch about my hair? Stormtroopers were pointing and giggling at me and making comments about donuts. Oh, come on! YOU try finding new out-of-the-way-yet-creative-and-royal hairstyles sometime and see how easy it is. I'm a busy girl, I can't Crystal Gayle it all the damn time.

[Via little ms. "sweet and innocent."]


Where's the rest of me?

March 18th, 2003

That just isn't natural.

What on earth does the poor beast look like when its owner isn't holding it by its … um … skin?

[Via MetaFilter]

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March 18th, 2003

Have you ever felt the desire to contemplate your very own zen garden wherever you are, whatever the time? Now you can, provided that you have a PalmOS-based PDA and a copy of Zen Garden. No to mention a pretty good imagination, particularly if you have a PDA with a mono screen.

[Via MemeMachineGo]

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Playing With Time

March 18th, 2003

Playing With Time is tremendous fun: a collection of shortish (mostly under 500KB) Quicktime movies of time-lapse and high-speed photography.

Watch Cape Cod disappear beneath the waves over the space of 7,000 years. See just how cats use their tongue to lap up milk. Observe a cymbal vibrating furiously, with a single second's motion stretched out across eight seconds.

A classy site with a neat, tidy design and tons of content; all in all, an exemplary online exhibit. And did I mention how much fun it is?

[Via Amygdala]

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Is there a philosopher in the house?

March 17th, 2003

Brad deLong finds himself a tad confused following a visit to a museum. Or should that be a visit to a "museum"?

Guaranteed to make you stop reading and go "Hmmmm…"

[Via ext|circ]

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March 17th, 2003

Davezilla is worried that his cats have been up to something while he was out.

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Oh Jeremy!

March 16th, 2003

Don't Watch Newsnight, a piece of Paxman fanfic by one "Darth Ewok". You'll never watch Jeremy Paxman's on-screen performances in quite the same way again, I promise you.

Actually, you might just swear off current affairs tv completely, lest you start pondering why Jeremy Vine was known as Paxman's Mini-Me…

[Via Making Light]

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The Thoughts of Chairman Bruce

March 16th, 2003

Bruce Sterling spent some time at the recent SXSW conference chatting about futurology in his usual entertaining style. Fortunately for those of us who don't migrate to Austin, Texas every March there's a transcript. Here's Chairman Bruce on ubiquitous computing:

One aspect of this that's being underplayed is ubijunk. The first wave of ubicomp isnt going to work very well. Then you end up with stuff that's just waiting to be turned off or picked up or thrown out. What happens if you walk into a room that's experienced the blue screen of death? What if there are buggy rooms? Who do you call? The difficulty of cars has always been the planned obsolescence of cars. What happens when you try to drive an obsolete smart vehicle? It still thinks it's smarter than you, and it's been in a couple of wrecks. Its GPS map is 18 months out of date and you drive right over the edge at 80 miles an hour. Bad maps cause you to blow up the Chinese embassy. What if it's in your clothes? I have an ID tag in my underwear, and I wash it one too many times. There's a whole Philip K. Dick world of hilarity here.

[Via Boing Boing]

1 Comment »

Completely Useless…

March 15th, 2003

The Completely Useless Guide to Babylon 5 – it does exactly what it says on the tin. See, for example:

Apostrophe Syndrome
Infectious disease that all SF writers suffer from at some stage in their career. The most notable casualties on B5 are the Narn, although far too many of the lesser alien races have succumbed to the problem to a greater or lesser extent (I still feel slightly sorry for the Pak'ma'ra who obviously did something heinous in an earlier life, and, if they carry on the way they are, will soon become the P'ak'm'a'ra.)


Sinclair, Jeffrey
Last Commander of Babylon 5. Well, apart from Sheridan. And Lochley. And whoever was in charge after that until it was finally decommissioned. (see: Careers).

The first point has JMS – and pretty well 80% of writers who deal in tales featuring alien species – bang to rights, but the fanboy in me feels obliged to point out that Sinclair was the "last commander" of the Babylon 5 space station because his successors in the post all held the rank of Captain, whereas he held the rank of Commander.

OK, so I too spent far too much time thinking in far too much detail about B5. But that was a few years ago now, and I'm over it. Honest.


1 Comment »

Dad of the Year?

March 15th, 2003

Inspired by a toy tank he bought for his son, this guy built his son a 1/5 scale model of a WWII Sherman tank. And being a geek, he's documented the project and put details online.

What a guy!

(I'll bet a pound to a penny that he's mulling over ideas for scaling it up a bit further so that he ride around in it himself. Wouldn't you?)

[Via User Friendly Link of the Day - see entry for 15 March 2003]

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March 14th, 2003

Movie Poop Shoot presents Joss Whedon's Peanuts. Simply wonderful.

[Via Amygdala]


Teaching the kid a lesson

March 14th, 2003

Patti posted an astonishing story about a group of people she encountered with some very strange – no, come to think of it, make that "idiotic" – ideas about parenting.


Disappearing Act

March 14th, 2003

Some of you might have noticed that some time around half past two yesterday afternoon (GMT) this site disappeared. My web host was hacked and a lot of user files were deleted, so the site had to be restored from backup. Then my ISP's routing went up the spout (again!) so I couldn't even get online to check when the site was back up. Apart from the wonder that is my precioussss my lovely new iMac, this has been a really bad week IT-wise.

Fortunately no posts were lost, and all but the last couple of comments posted were rescued. I do still have email copies of the comments, so I should be able to restore them somehow, but not right this minute.


Coughing and spluttering

March 12th, 2003

Just a quick note to explain why I may not be posting much this week.

First of all, I'm off work with some sort of 'flu bug, feeling extremely grotty. Which means that I don't feel much like spending time web-browsing, which means that I can't find lots of lovely links to post about here.

Second, I've got a new toy to play with: a brand new Apple iMac, complete with 17" LCD screen, 1GHz CPU and 80Gb of hard disk. (Of course, today would turn out to be the day my ISP suffered a massive loss of connectivity and routing during my very first Apple-powered login, one that lasted through much of the day and is still causing occasional routing losses even as I type this. I'd best post this ASAP, before Demon's connectivity goes down the toilet again.)

With any luck I'll surface again some time nearer the weekend, but in the meantime I commend the various "Weblogs Worth Watching" to the right of this post to anyone looking for an interesting read.


Farscape finale

March 11th, 2003

Just one post tonight, to lament the passing of Farscape.

Unfortunately the show's cancellation was only announced as the last episode of what turned out to be the final season was being shot, so the writers had very little opportunity to adapt the storyline to give viewers a sense of closure. Even so, as it turns out the final episode did a pretty good job of wrapping things up in that unique Farscape style. You'd never see a Star Trek series close with the show's two major characters being killed off just after they'd decided to get married and confirmed that one of them was pregnant.

(I know, if season 5 had gone ahead as planned the writers would have had to find a way to bring them back. But it was still a fine way to undermine a dangerously feel good ending.)

Bad Timing was a strong end to a fine series. To my mind Farscape was easily the best science fiction TV series since Babylon 5, a rare mix of humour and high drama which was never less than entertaining and frequently brilliant. A lot of the credit goes to the regular cast members, most notably Ben Browder, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgeley and Wayne Pygram, but most credit should go to the writers, who were never content to deliver Trek-style platitudes or neat little moral lessons where they could mix up the standard space opera formula a bit and stretch the characters a bit.

I'd like to think that the "To be continued…" sign at the end of the final episode was a promise rather than an aspiration, but if we never see Crichton & Co again I think we all got our money's-worth.


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