27.July 2000

Joel Spolsky describes a new and even more insidious attack on your privacy, soon to be in an operating system near you.

I've cleaned up and updated my "Ad Attack" piece with the new information.

26.July 2000

Defining chutzpah:

"In his final days as state insurance commissioner, Chuck Quakenbush approved contracts obligating California taxpayers to pay more than $1 million in legal fees to lawyers representing (him) and his top staff in investigations of wrongdoing."
-- L.A. Times

25.July 2000

RIAA warns Napster will cause the death of culture. Mmm, don't think so.

Fool on the Hill: Per hour, an author would make more bagging groceries, yet people continue to be compelled to write.

And more foolishness:
"To grow, Microsoft needs to get people to pay for the same software over and over again, and the only missing ingredient there is 'what's in it for the consumer?'"

24.July 2000

Another great day on the Bay. Checked iwindsurf late in the afternoon and was surprised to see Coyote well into the 20s, with not a breeze under the sunny sky outside the office.

That's it, we're done here!

Amazingly, traffic on 101 created no delays, and I was on site by 5:08, well less than an hour from revelation. My next spot neighbor was in to rerig bigger from 5.3, but the vision of the bar graph over 20 encouraged me to go 5.1. Perfect.

Bit of a slog out, then nicely powered, then fully powered as the waves got big and rolly outside. Still needing to learn port-side jumps, but got to snapping some jibes on the faces. That's why they call it windsurfing after all... And some good starboard air, only somewhat polluted by all the JetA exhaust coming out of SFO.

The fog was down hard on the coast range north of us, parked just north of SFO, covering the SSF hill like a big frosted cake, and I suppose the city was up in there somewhere too.

But all sunshine and happiness off Coyote Pt., past 7pm.

23.July 2000

Creeping feeling... after routing from Doc Searl's mention of fruit and vegetable washing to P&G's tryfit, I got this taste in my mouth. Not a good taste, not a bad taste, but... a taste. Did the web page do that? Nah, couldn't be...

Joel Spolsky's piece about Microsoft going Bonkers agrees with me. "Microsoft is pretending like there's no way to (X) and they're going to solve this problem for us. The whole document is exactly like that." That's the sense I get of their vapor, too. Worse, they have used, and do use and will use these kinds of announcements to quash competing developments of what could be better products.

21.July 2000

Science News reports that Mental ills attract alternative therapies, summarizing work reported in the July Archives of General Psychiatry.

Their blurb is short, and the facts sketchy, but the idea suggested is that alternative therapies are more popular with the mentally ill than with the mentally well.

Think about it.

20.July 2000

I'm not that big on cars these days, and wasn't all that crazy about driving one to work for the first time in months, but I needed to get somewhere on a schedule.

Then I saw a Honda S2000. I resisted the Miata, but I want one of these. (I'd point you higher up on the Honda site, but they really load it down with a lot of junk... and I couldn't find a good picture of the car, either. This one is an interesting picture, at least. I like this one, too.) I doubt I'll actually buy one, but I'll enjoy wanting for a while.

Maybe Jeanette's fender bender brought "new car" to mind. Our functional teen-aged Sentra had a rear corner smushed, and the insurance company says it's "totaled." Still driveable, but I guess body damage is considered intolerable (at least for collision coverage!).

Behind Door #1 was a check for $750. Behind door #2 was our dented Sentra, unrepaired, and a check for $700... Ah, we'll take the car! (and the check.)

The story of the butthead on the other end of the mutual mishap is pretty interesting, too. He was pleasant as can be, thought we could just forget about the minor damage and drive on. Jeanette insisted on having the police come. And when the Garden City cop showed up, the guy launches into a confabulation about how Jeanette rammed into him, and she should get a ticket.

The cop -- fresh from a bloody fight -- finally told the guy "I know what you're trying to do. You want her insurance company to pay for your damage. But I don't see a violation here, and I'm not going to cite anyone."

When Butthead talked to our insurance adjuster, the story was even more interesting. Now it was Jeanette who was fresh from a fight, with blood on her sleeve. Yeah, right.

A word to the wise: Don't talk about "the case" with the other party. Exchange the essential information about insurance and so on, and write down some notes about what happened. Keep one of those handy accident report forms in the glove box, and fill it out, with a diagram of who was where, when.

Not everybody you meet in Garden City -- or anywhere else -- is honest and upstanding.

16.July 2000

The headline says "what every writer should know," but every reader should know most of what's here, too. Great reference site for basic and not so basic information about statistics, polling, margin or error and so on.

So who's this Robert Niles guy? Beats me, but he's got some great content, well presented.

15.July 2000

Good documents: Succinct list (linked to more detail, of course) of quality writing techniques for this new medium.

Today's web wandering turned up this site, with some very nice calligraphy. It's also beautifully implemented as a website.

ICANN and the scramble for domain names. I read somewhere that in less than half this year, 5 million domain names had been registered, with a pace of 40 a minute. Since I haven't plunked down my $70 for my very first domain name yet, this is of interest to me, if for no other reason than that there's 5 million choices I can't make.

But do the arithmetic: $350,000,000 for assets that expire in 2 years (then pay up again if you want 2 more years). $2800 a minute being generated out of electrons and magnetic domains.

There's no denying that the gold rush is making a mess out of the .com/.net/.org namespace. And new top-level domains (TLDs) are doubtlessly needed. But the prospect of a free-for-all ($70-for-all?) brings with it the prospect of a web where damage will not be as easy to route around, and we'll have more words to guess to find -- or correct errors in -- addresses.

The Next Visicalc Is it a compliment or the kiss of death? As the author, Dan Bricklin points out, better to be the next Visicalc than the next Multiplan, SuperCalc, DOS 1-2-3, Sylk, ContextMBA, CalcPerfect... I used ContextMBA once upon a time, and all those bits are now heat.

Bricklin also has a 1995 essay about why allowing software patents after some decades of a different development model is a really, really bad idea. But now that it's the law, we all have to play that way. :-/

My first song in MP3, The Revolution Will Not be Televised. Dave Winer made it available as part of his current infatuation with the medium, and the peer-to-peer (P2P) world of Napster and Gnutella. What took me so long? I don't live on campus these days, I have my own music collection on vinyl, polyester and polycarbonate, and my first tries with RealAudio and MyMP3 didn't work.

They were more interested in pushing more ads my way than providing any kind of meaningful support. The bits eventually faded into the background where I hope they won't screw up too much of my Win95 system. RealAudio in particular seems more like a virus than an application. "Upgrade available..." Great, does this one work? 'Cause the last one was hit or miss.

Last week, I downloaded the latest MediaPlayer from Microsoft, figuring they had a better chance of making something work with Win95, and also because I was tired of the irreversible hosejob my visit to MyMP3 had done on my file typing.

So far, so good; things are working since I went with the Monopoly. The Revolution may have been Monopolized. (Just not the soundtrack for it.)

13.July 2000

I thought the joke was that the software demo was supposed to go really well, and the real thing would suck. One explanation is that it's truth in advertising; I mean the description of things not working, and no useful help being available... sounds like my experience with the stuff!

11.July 2000

UCITA just made it onto my radar. It stands for Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act, and I think the proper pronounciation of the acronym is "You Cheeta." That's my inference from the scorecard, anyway, with "Software & Information Industry Association in favor, and a very long list of organizations opposed.

Ed Foster's Gripe Line describes some ways to mitigate the damage, but none that look available to the poor schmucks at the consumer end of things, where it's "click OK," or cancel.

The first two of the top 12 problems are enough to convince me:
Validates post-payment disclosure of terms....
Validates fictional assent...

9.July 2000

I was touched by a title loan without really knowing what the deal was. A "friend of a friend" stole a car from my daughter, to go try and get his car back after it'd been repo'd. It's a long and ugly story, with an eventual happy ending. Another time.

Sixty Minutes gave me a clue tonight. I don't know what Idaho has going, but Florida allowed 22% per month interest (on title loans), thanks to some legislative sleaze by the former Speaker of their House, in 1995. Guess old brother Jeb was asleep at the wheel signing that one into law. (It's been repealed, but other states are still allowing this sort of outrageous usury.)

There's something about a Southern accent... with the ex-Speaker responding to the question of whether this was ethical or moral. "Ah have no moral compunction about this..."

One wonders what the man does have moral compunction about. Shame on the do-gooders who are so high-minded as to keep people from doing what they want to "for their own good," as if they're too stupid to look after themselves, eh?

6.July 2000

I see the Idaho Statesman finally figured out how to put news online, and has more than an plea to buy their paper at their website. Who says Idaho is backward?

They're still protecting their rag, though. No hint of anything op-ed showing, so I can't point you to my letter that I hope they ran this week, supporting Planned Parenthood. The "National" and "World" news links dump you into USA Today. Yuk. That website does look better than the hard copy, though.

2.July 2000

Earthlink's "webmail" service allows its users to check their mail from machines other than their desktop, like the library's, or a friend's. When hotmail came up with this, it was hot; now it's one of life's little necessities.

Their implementation looks like minimal wrapping around mail.com's service. EL delivers eyeballs to mail.com's advertisers, and they get to tout a useful feature at little or no added cost.

Coming in the front door, it looks like a reasonable deal: "free private access anywhere email," and we all know it'll be served up with an ad sausage, with waits to bounce off doubleclick dozens of times. Coming in from EL, I expect something better. I tracked down a feedback link, and told 'em:

I would like to see a web mail interface that is not dripping with advertisements and that does not wrap URLs with a useless self-promoting frame.

If I were willing to put up with that garbage, there are plenty of FREE services available to me. We're paying $20-some a month for FAST, EFFECTIVE, PRIVATE and non-coercive internet access.

I do appreciate the availability of web mail, and it was an important factor in our choice of your service. But its format is not consistent with a service we're paying for.

After offering their "sincere thanks" for me writing to them, they gave me a tracking number. In less than 3 hours, the response came in:

You've reached the Mail.com Customer Service department. For your issue you will need to contact Earthlink's customer service department.

They gave me the 800# to call, but somehow it didn't seem like a fun thing to do. I've tried EL's email responsiveness; they come back with something useless and obvious ("We're sorry, but the service parameters of webmail or not under our control") a month or two after you bother them, with a quote header that says "you wrote" your complaint on the same day they answered it.

1.July 2000

The development of Idaho's upstanding moral character got a boost today, with a new law in force to require the Stars and Stripes to in school classrooms, and to have the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, or the singing of the Star Spangled Banner be "offered" at the beginning of each school day.

It seems so fitting with the recent US Supreme Court ruling...


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org


Thursday, 08-Mar-2001 20:49:48 MST