Archive for November, 2006

More damned comment problems

November 20, 2006 7 comments

Damned Expression Engine is losing your comments or rejecting them, some of the time for no apparent reason.  Depending on what I hear from pMachine hosting, I may start looking for a database expert to get me moved over to WordPress.

If your comment gets lost, or is rejected, believe me, I’m trying to fix the problem.  I don’t want to miss your comments.

Next morning… and thus begins the finger-pointing.  pMachine hosting says “It’s a software problem, please post in the forums” where there is an incomprehensible blizzard of entries on “comment problems”.  IT’S THEIR DAMN SOFTWARE!  which I am paying for.  If I have to post in a forum where someone will tell me; “Hey N00b, RTFM, ROTFL!!!!!!!!!” I will just use free software and to hell with them.

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

China certainly is lucky to have us around to tell them what to do

November 20, 2006 1 comment

Commerce secretary Don Evans says China isn’t reforming it’s economy fast enough, a call echoed by President Bush this week.

Riiiight… this from the country that has a budget deficit of over two billion bucks a day.  That’s like marriage advice from Henry VIII.  It’s like John Ashcroft doing a rap album.

“You know, if you let me write $200 billion worth of hot checks every year, I could give you an illusion of prosperity, too.”
- Lloyd Bentsen, 1988

Take your time, China.  Take all the time you need.  Change slowly and carefully – you don’t want to turn a nation of a billion people on its head overnight.

Seriously, the national debt will sink us long before Al Queda ever gets the chance.  And we have plenty of misguided subsidies and other economic policies of our own.  Blaming China for our troubles is more sidestepping than stepping up.

The impracticality of torture

November 20, 2006 6 comments

Like our more conservative fellow Americans, China is big on the death penalty, and on using torture as an instrument of security.  Now a China official admits to torture, estimating that “at least 30 wrong verdicts were handed down each year because torture had been used.”

Mr Wang’s unusually frank comments appeared to be part of a campaign to tackle problems in the judicial system, and shore up public trust. He said suspects’ rights needed to be protected by stopping the use of illegal interrogations involving the use of torture.

He said illegal interrogation existed to “some extent” in local judicial practice. “Nearly every wrongful verdict in recent years is involved in illegal interrogation,” he said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Even the Chinese think the information you get from torture is unreliable.  But Dick Cheney knows better.  He thinks it’s essential to our national security.

Categories: defense, Politics

Old magazines, or the reason there’s no place to set down a coffee cup in my house

November 19, 2006 1 comment

Old magazines are a conundrum to me.  I subscribe to periodicals that are really interesting to me, so when I’m done with them, it’s correspondingly difficult to throw the damn things out.  They pile up and finally I started dropping them in doctor’s offices and coffee shops with a sticker on the front that says;

Too good to throw out
Like it?  Just want to finish reading it?
It’s yours – take it home!

But the time consuming part is going through the stack putting on the stickers and bagging them up for distribution, which I tend to do on Sunday when I have the house to myself.  It isn’t easy going through the leftovers of my addiction.

“Ooh, that was an interesting article…”  (sits down to read about radiocarbon dating, hog farm waste, nanoscale carbon-tube solar energy experiments, or an Indian ruin in New Mexico)… There’s New Scientist, National Geographic, The Economist, MIT Technology Review, Scientific American, or my son’s old back issues of American Scientist or Nature…  I still can’t bear to part with back issues of American Heritage Science and Technology.  I could just sit right down and read them all over again.

Which is why it’s so damn important to GET RID OF THEM!!!

Categories: Personal

The New Atheists

November 18, 2006 3 comments

(article by Gary Wolf)

(article by David Biema)

(article by Sam Harris)

A number of popular magazines have run cover-stories or large features on “The New Atheism” lately, prompted by the success of new bestselling books from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, E.O. Wilson, and Daniel Dennett.  The basic spectrum runs something like this: Dawkins and Harris have evangelicals in a tizzy over their frank description of Christianity as a myth and over religion in general as a source of oppression and violence.  Dennett and to a much greater extent Wilson, while no less atheistic, are searching for common ground with religionists.

Dawkins is a lightning rod and has become a symbol of strident, “intolerant” atheism by saying that defending even moderate religion gives cover to religious extremism.  He is in favor of an end to religion altogether, the sooner the better.  But when you actually read anything by Richard Dawkins, or hear one of his lectures, you might realize the perception of arrogance is simply that he is speaking a very unpopular message in bluntly honest terms.  Not that arrogance can’t be found in New Atheism, though – just visit the far less civil atheist blogger PZ Meyers, whose rhetoric leaves almost no motivation for common ground between athiests and religionists (especially when he gets riled up about apocalyptic millennialism)

I like PZ Meyers and enjoy reading his weblog, but long story short; religion isn’t going away anytime soon, so we are all going to have to learn to live with one another on this planet.  Not to say Meyers should change – he has probably shocked some religionists out of their torpor – but I can identify more strongly with E.O. Wilson’s quest for common ground with Christians.  Our starting point should not be “Christians are all idiots and should be like me,” but “What common ground can we identify as a starting point?”

For example; many Christians believe in preserving, not exploiting, the Earth; I agree.  Christianity theoretically requires public officials to be scrupulously honest with public funds; I agree.  One of the tenets of Christianity is that mercy and compassion are more important than strict adherence to the rules; I agree.  Christians believe that Islam is a false religion; I agree.  (Of course, I also agree with Muslims that Christianity is a false religion – the sword has two edges!) 

With this and other common ground identified, there are substantive differences that I have with religionists.  These fall into two categories; disagreement with their religion and disagreement with how they practice it.  As much as possible I extoll the attractions of a secular society in which people are free to practice their religions, as opposed to a religiously-driven society which inevitably ends in oppression.  There is already a recipe book for this society in our Constitution, which we should be defending, promoting, and teaching to our children. 

Bottom line; spirituality is not the patented invention of Christianity, and intellect is not the sole proprietership of atheists.  If someone wants to wall off an area of irrationality in their lives where they choose to believe in a god, that is their right as free men.  I am more concerned that they agree to our secular compact for society.  The Christian’s right to swing his religion around ends at my tax dollars, which is to say at the boundary of our schools, our courthouses, our laws, and our science.  The founding fathers made no mistake when they made no mention of God in the Constitution.  But they again made no mistake by guaranteeing the freedom to practice individual beliefs.

This would be a good time for atheists to come out of the unbelieving closet.  Let our Christian neighbors see us as the individuals they have always known.  Staying hidden only lets the perception of atheism fall to the loudest, and in many cases the least palatable, expressions of what should be a humanistic way of being.

We are going to be together on this Earth a long time, we atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists.  For thousands of years we’ve been killing one another over our disagreements.  Let’s stop doing that, and stop compelling thought, speech, and personal taboos of one another.  We can discuss and persuade one another with safety only in a society where everyone is free.  The next few centuries might make all the ones before – even this one – seem like a dark age. 


  • (You are reading a second rewrite of this post.  My apologies if anyone thought the first one was better – it was much longer and I thought, poorly organized.  If anyone wants that original text for any reason, let me know.)

  • If you think there’s a War! On! Christianity! going on, check out this post by GeekMom on Elwed’s blog, where she answers the question, exactly what would a secularist war on religion be like?
  • Vjack over on Atheist Revolution has a good response to Elton John, who had called for banning religion and an equally good view of the summary issues at the Salk Institute Forum on Science and Religion
  • And Red State Rabble takes PZ Meyers to task for ‘Darwinian Fundamentalism
  • After viewing this video of Neal DeGrasse Tyson responding to Dawkins at the aformentioned Beyond Belief conference, a phrase which comes to mind is; when trying to persuade someone, have you created a bridge between his position and yours, or simply condemned him for being on the wrong side of the stream?  (The video is worth watching if only for an hilarious comment made by Dawkins in response)
  • update January ‘06 – While I have no problem with frank discussion of Christianity’s factual deficits, PZ Meyers seems to have lost perspective and purpose.  Meanwhile Dawkins, having found himself in the midst of a blow-up over the subject of children and religion, appears to be stepping even more carefully while not diluting his message.  So I have added the Dawkins Institute to my sidebar links in place of PZ Meyers’ Pharyngula.
  • Update, 30 March 2009 – how we do change over time.  After the whole “Expelled” debacle, I have completely lost patience with the Christianists, who deserve only mockery.  Off come the gloves, forget all the conciliatory things I said above.


Categories: Religion

Visit a Normal Backyard

November 17, 2006 3 comments

You never know what kind of surprises will drop into your inbox   :wow:  Dan is the financial manager at one of my jobs, and he has a terriffic knack for spotting wildlife wherever he goes.  As he says, “New to blogging and new to birding and new to photography.”

In his first post he describes how he got started at all three, and treats us to an urban fox family,  a private moment in the life of a robin, and an incredible shot of a top-predator bird made while he was on vacation.  Check it out – A Normal Backyard.

(He says; “Nothing professional about this blog” but my first blog post was something like; “Testing, testing, is this thing on?”  :red:  )

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Dawkins on the “scale of error”

November 16, 2006 6 comments

I just finished watching both sections of Richard Dawkins’ reading from his new book at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, VA.  Now, I’m quite prepared to dislike Dawkins for his disavowal of moderate believers – a mistake, if he happened to care about my opinion – but other than that he is a wonderful lecturer and author.  I have read several of his books on evolution but have not read The God Delusion yet.

Someone told him that Liberty University had dinosaur bones that they had labled as being “5,000 years old”.  Dawkins joked that he was bad at maths, but he figured out that would be like saying New York and San Francisco were 70 yards apart.  Then one of his readers crunched it and said no, it would be 22 feet.

Having driven across the country a few times – endless hours in a car, stopping at roadside diners, seeing the changing landscape, days gone by; a wonderful experience, really – to mistake that for a distance of 22 feet puts creationism into perspective.  And since non-experiential quantities (quantum mechanics, the distance to stars, geological time) are so difficult for the human brain to grasp, such comparisons are a handy tool.

There’s a second half to this post, but I can’t think of it just now.  Will come back and update later when it comes to me.

Categories: Science & Technology

To Kill A Mockingbird

November 12, 2006 6 comments

MrsDoF and I went on a nice date last night, to the local Chinese restaurant for some excellent soup and eggrolls, then to The Normal Theater to see the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

This is what we call a “great movie” not only because it is a compelling story beautifully filmed, directed, and acted, but also because it uplifts human values. 

The danger in watching a movie like this one is that it makes most of the drek oozing out of Hollywood today look like garbage.  But to be fair, most of the movies made in 1962 were probably crap, too.  Something this good just comes along once in a while.

Only suggestion I’d make to the Normal Theater volunteer staff is; the decent thing to do would be leave the house lights down for thirty seconds or so while the credits roll – to let viewers use their hankies in privacy. Both women and men cry at certain movies but men dislike anyone to know it.

Categories: Movies, Reviews

Apple Briefing: a PC guy looks at Macs

November 12, 2006 8 comments

I spent an entire day in the clutches of an Apple Executive Briefing in Chicago, 32 floors up some building that would be big news anywhere else in the state.

And you know what?  It was great.  I don’t think I’m violating the non-disclosure agreement by saying they treated us wonderfully, had presenters whose advanced knowledge made the trip worthwhile, and I left feeling a lot more comfortable around Macintosh computers than in the past.  This is in stark contrast to some other industry briefings I’ve attended, which were little more than glorified sales pitches. 

It also led to two VERY long-winded posts which I decided to combine into a single printable .pdf document for those who are really desperate for reading material.  Or if you prefer, you can read the whole thing online below.

Day two: notes from the review:

As a tech-support guy I think it’s a disservice to our students not to expose them to different platforms so I’d like to have some Macintosh computers in our labs.  So I asked a number of unpleasantly pointed questions that I know I’d hear if I start proposing any Macs in our exclusively1 Windows environment. We covered a lot: 

  1. A working overview of OS-X and how it evolved into the super-robust operating system that it has become. 
  2. Xserve line of servers, which I have learned in the last year are really first-choice machines. 
  3. An overview of integrating Macintosh with Microsoft Active Directory. (I wish our network administrator had been there – some of this session went over my head)
  4. And finally a review of the iLife suite, which it turns out actually contains some useful stuff (and one seriously flawed component, iWeb)

Yes, I was impressed with what I saw.  The smooth integration of the Apple platform is as far advanced over Windows (Vista included) as Olympic figure-skating is over a middle-aged couch-potato on rollerblades.

Apple history and OS-X overview

At some point, Steve Jobs, the brilliant but mercurial CEO, left the company to form NEXT, whose sole product seemed to be a snazzy computer interface without a platform.  John Scully, who sold sugar water to kids, took over and started “the beige era” in which Macs became even less distinguished or useful.  His sole accomplishment was the development of a crappy PDA; The company foundered.

…until the predictable happened when Apple bought NEXT (making Steve Jobs even wealthier) and brought a spark of creative vision back to the company.  Then product development took off again and the company started coming back.  But in spite of being in full control of both the hardware and the software, Macs really didn’t seem much more stable than Windows computers.

Then came OS-X, which trashed the previous core of the Mac OS and built an entirely new foundation based on FreeBSD – a strong, stable UNIX clone.  OK, now we’re talkin!  In one step the Mac OS went from also-ran to industrial strength. 

The next step took place last year with the announcement that Apple would dump the Motorola/Power PC chip and use Intel’s new Core-Duo chip.  This would allow greater Windows system integration – even let an Apple computer run Windows.  At the same time OS-X has been expanded to be able to integrate fully with Windows networks.  And most of the hardware out there today works on both Windows and Mac.  So there’s no such thing as a “Mac” printer or monitor anymore.

The message for me is that the Apple company is willing to change to bring its strengths to the computing world.  I respect that.  Mac culture is still smug (hopefully that will diminish) but at least they have something to brag about.  In my opinion they really didn’t, before. 

The third revolution after OS-x and Intel for the Mac was “Universal” – a system for software developers so they can literally code once and output for both the PowerPC and Intel platforms.  This works impressively well. 

A huge list of changes have been made for Windows system compatibility.  Some of these are as simple as dumping ‘Stuffit’ file compression in favor of the more familiar .zip (which is built into the HFS+ file system) to the option to use whatever keyboard you like.  The mouse has gone from 1-button to 5-button and works very well. 

Click on the “Spotlight” search (looks like a stylized letter “Q”) and type in a PC term, and the Mac will automatically translate it to the corresponding Macintosh term.  The spotlight can be used to search for files, for metadata, or even as an application launcher for those of us who do not enjoy figuring out cute little icons.

One of the differences in OS-x over Windows is that the applications in OS-x are actually useful, fully-powered and integrated.  If you are used to using Windows ‘applets” and then having to spend a few hundred bucks to buy a professional application if you want to get real work done, this will come as a welcome surprise.  It actually changes the bottom line on the cost-effectiveness of a Macintosh.

For example, iChat is a video chat application that uses the industry-standard ‘Jabber’ protocol that is also used by Google Talk.  It is as slick as any standalone video conferencing application I have seen and slicker than most.  It includes file transfer to long-jump over transfer-protocol complications.  And the iChat server software is bundled with OSX server.

BonJour is a network discovery app similar to AppleTalk without all that AppleTalk chattyness.

Automator is a scripting dealie (robot icon) that can create standalone apps or finder plugins.  Automator scripts can be included in Widgets, which are html- and java- driven applications that you can create.  Basically if you can do it with a web page, you can do it with a Widget, and then some.  This concept will be familiar to anyone exploring Windows Vista.

Two crucial areas where Apples are still crippled in relation to Microsoft systems is that Microsoft still has not opened the NTFS file system (buy a license if you want access, chump) and there is no Microsoft Access database program for Macintosh.  I am sure this is not accidental.

OSx server

With OSx being a UNIX variant, it is only natural to put it in the server room, so Apple has developed a line of truly kick-ass servers.  This is the kind of engineering that I have wished for on Windows servers, with super-fast FSB, extremely slick construction (about the only component you can’t hot-swap is the motherboard), and SATA RAIDing that beats most SCSI setups for cost-effective speed delivery.  (At least that has been our experience on campus where Xserves are beginning to show up in a few server rooms)

Xserves and Xserve RAIDS can gang up for scalability to any desired size from single unit to collective supercomputer.  This probably works in a way similar to a Beowulf cluster. 

I won’t go into the details of the domain tools.  Basically they are very slick, commercial UNIX-type domain tools with Windows Active Directory flavor.  I am still trying to digest the extremely detailed handout from this part.

There are three levels of support for Xserves.  You pretty much pay for what you need, but for anyone just getting into using Mac servers, the top level would be a good idea.  It’s also worth mentioning that if you buy – don’t quote me, but I think it was more than 3 – Xserves, you get a parts kit so you can hot-swap and get back up and running right away.

OSx Server comes with really snazzy server monitoring tools (and you can create Widgets aggregate their output).  If you aren’t in an Active Directory the domains are full LDAP and as I mentioned before, there are bundled media feeds management tools.  The Apache web server is a full-GUI setup – not a feature in my mind because I never had a problem editing config files but what the heck.

And saving the best for last – no CAL’s!  You don’t buy client licenses – they’re unlimited.  The number of clients is limited by bandwidth, not by your pocketbook.  Expect to see CAL’s go away from Microsoft’s payment model as they now have to compete with ‘free’.  The fact that Microsoft has just inked an agreement with Novel (SUSE compatibility, anyone?) is a hopeful sign.


Communication is the biggest single problem in any organization.  How to get everyone on the same page, knowing what they need to know?  The iLife suite of applications can go a long way toward this goal, and it’s bundled.  But no one knows what ‘i’ stands for in iLife.

I have mixed feelings about iTunes.  On the one hand, it’s a great management program for various media including media files, and it probably runs just fine on a Mac.  But it’s buggy on a PC and no one needs that aggravation. 

Also, iTunes is fully DRM equipped.  I am suspicious of DRM because in my mind it is the next big data extinction event.  You know how there’s tons of data from old satellites and space probes, to say nothing of old word processor formats, but no current computer can read it?  Expect Digital Rights Management to tank the next wave.  Music, images, video, all lost because of “license not found”.  It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.  This is not unique to iTunes, but infects the whole media industry.  When they’ll wise up, no one knows.

First thing I do when I get licensed media, is rip it to an unlicensed format.  Then I have a prayer of keeping it.

Universities can store enormous amounts of in-house created audio and video created files on Apple’s servers, though, with authenticated access for students and faculty… for free.  This is a great move on Apple’s part and a huge contribution to society.  So iTunes ends up being a net contribution in the long run, probably.

iPhoto is a very slick image-management program that handles all the basic camera-to-web and printing tasks with clever integration.  In an organization most users will never need anything else, but when they upgrade to the professional version (Aperture) it’s a superset of the same familiar interface so you save tons of learning-curve time.  If you’re tired of Photoshop, check out the linked demo to Aperture.

(ugh!) Garage Band

I register disgust here because of the name, “Garage Band”.  Check out the link and think of the corporate applications for this application, and then ask yourself why Apple would saddle it with a name that torpedoes any corporate interest in it? 

But that objection aside, think of using Microsoft Windows Movie maker or Photo Story.  Now imagine if those applications didn’t suck, and you have Garage Band, an actually useful way to create multimedia publications for intranet or web.  Or instructional videos for your customers to be distributed with your products (how much does your company spend providing tech support for your customers?)

Like iPhoto, GB will suffice for most users in your company. when somebody’s job description gets video-specific enough to need Final Cut, the learning curve is smooth.  (Just imagine going from Windows Movie Maker to Adobe Premiere – gaaak!)

How could a company use video?  How about making job descriptions on video instead of in print, showing actual tasks?  Or menued tech support DVD’s for your products?  Task training documentation on video?  Quick sales-support videos?  Field-service documentation?  (Picture an industrial installation with mixed-media documentation.  In an upgrade planning session, everyone could see exactly what’s down that tunnel.  Or a field technician having procedure videos on an iPod in the field with him.)  This need not be limited to corporations – how about military training applications?

In addition to Xserve media distribution and iTunes, there’s a bundled application called iDVD.  It makes slick DVDs for playing on a regular television, which can then be sent off to a media duplicating company for a distributable product. 

Apple’s websites show examples of individuals making groovy media productions of their family photo albums and that’s cool and everything, but hey Apple, THINK OF ORGANIZATIONS!!!  That’s where a desperate need exists for improvements in communication and where Apple has an enormous advantage over Micrsoft. 

Sorry to end on a negative, but one application I really didn’t like is iWeb.  It’s as slick as any other Apple application but is limited to a number of rather sucky templates which you cannot change.  Granted it is not intended to be a substitute for Dreamweaver, but there is no way even for production professinals to create new iWeb templates.  So if your company wanted to make a custom iWeb template for your employees to use, they couldn’t do it.  How about an iWeb development kit, Apple?

I am planning to use an Apple for a while to improve my Apple support skills – and maybe credibly be able to sneak some Apple pie into the menu where I work.


I’ve been supporting Windows machines for 11 years now, and it has always been the platform of choice for getting your business done. Yes, it was buggy and bloated and kludgy and an obvious copy of Apple’s software but it worked and it ran on whatever hardware you could cobble together from spare parts. 

And while I don’t want to seem ungrateful to my hosts, Apple is still their own worst enemy for changing the corporate perception that Macs are toys.  I couldn’t tell if my attempts at explaining this got through or not.

This is not a prejudice; it is the voice of experience.  Corporate executive decision-makers were in the trenches even before what Apple disparagingly refers to as the “beige era” when John Scully almost sank the company.  They remember Macintosh computers as the incompatible machine used by that excitable fellow with the jeans and long hair, who made the pretty stuff.

Macs couldn’t open files from anyone else’s computer, and no one else could open their files.  A simple floppy disk couldn’t go from one machine to the other.  Network connectivity was spotty at best.  And for all this, the Macintosh cost a king’s ransom.  It’s no use protesting that the Mac could too do all those things; the longhaired guy said the same thing.  Even the simplest connections meant buying more stuff, and involved setup procedures, to accomplish what any two PCs could do without spending another cent or another minute. 

Oh, but after the beige era came the Crayola years.  Remember the iMacs?  Bright primary colors.  The only other objects manufactured in those colors had the “Fisher-Price” logo on them.  You think a guy in a $1,600 Armani suit wants to walk into a meeting carrying one of those?  They could be the greatest computers in the world but he won’t touch them.

And NOW Apple has the temerity to mock its intended buyers with their smart-assed “Mac vs. PC” ads?  Executives and long-time PC users identify with the PC guy, but in the Apple guy, they see that kid who showed up for a job interview in jeans and acted like the whole company was a joke. 

Nice job, Apple.  Your ads are clever and funny but you’re making a big mistake.  You think those ads make me want to buy a Mac?  I’m not interested in being the offensive little twit.

But suppose by some accident an Apple computer does find its way into the corporate world.  The computer itself has been restyled – a bit too girlie but not bad – which is great until you turn it on.  Then we’re back to the bouncing, twirling, smooshing, swooshing, Crayola-color interface with the cutsie names.  Instead of a computer made of day-glo plastic, the interface itself simulates da-glo plastic.  It’s a pretty effective disguise for the robust machine underneath. 

Apple has a very cool CEO, but sometimes the distinction is muddled between being cool and trying to be cool.  As a PC user I’m a lot less concerned with being cool than with doing actual work.

Take “Garage Band” – please.  It is truly an insanely great, very cool application.  I can think of dozens of hard-dollar communication tasks for it, and it’s so simple even the guy in the suit can use it.  But here’s a little clue, Apple; that guy is never going to click on an icon that says “Garage Band”.  The name connotes crappyness, lack of professionalism, and the complete absence of business purpose.  It only reinforces the old image that Macs are toys. 

What can Apple do to bridge the last gap across institutional memory of the bad years?  Executive briefings like the one I attended are a great step.  But I also have a number of suggestions for Steve Jobs:

  • Dump the “Mac vs PC” ads, right now.  They’re the equivalent of negative campaign ads.  Instead, show us people we can identify with asking their co-workers; “How’d you do that?!” and getting the answer, “With my Mac.”

  • Read this article from Slate: Mac Attack: Apple’s mean-spirited new ad campaign
  • Create a few different, very businesslike but equally functional desktop themes.  We shouldn’t have to fight with the interface to reclaim our computer from the Crayola set. 
  • Make some ruggedized laptops.  I am unconvinced your sleek polycarbonate cases are as durable as the carbon-fibre frame and titanium shell of my ThinkPad.  And make a 3-year warranty standard;  I heard about the $700 motherboard replacement.
  • Rename “Garage Band”.
  • Make it possible for companies to create custom templates for iWeb.
  • Be careful telling us things like “Macs don’t crash”; we don’t believe you because we’ve seen Macs crash.  Saying “But we got better” is a claim, not a sales strategy.  At minimum, find a way to document the improvement.
  • Our companies spend a lot of money making cheap computers work and training employees to work with them.  Then our labor costs reflect the kludgy nature of the software that runs on them.  Work on expressing the cost-effectiveness of the functionality that is built into the Mac, including the short learning curves of its more advanced bundled applications. 
  • Work on that “institutional memory” thing.  Show an experienced PC user discovering a Mac and telling his co-workers about it.  You could make a very funny – but positive – ad campaign from it.

That should get you started, Steve.  I’ll give you all the help I can from this end but please stop shooting yourself in the foot by calling your potential customers idiots.

1We do have one Mac at present – an XServe RAID in the server room thanks to our network administrator’s research.  It performs so well that other colleges on campus are beginning to look at XServes.
Reflections from Day Two.


The briefing I attended was oriented specifically to Windows support people who aren’t very familiar with Macintosh computers.  I attended because, frankly, I’m an embarassment to the university when someone has a support question related to a Macintosh.  Lately, there have been changes that make Apple computers worth supporting.

The reason for my ignorance is a strong dislike of what I might loosely refer to as “Mac culture”, which can be described in one word: smug.  First, you tell me you’re better than me, but you can’t connect to my network, open my files, I can’t open your files, none of your hardware can connect to mine, and we can’t even share files by floppy disk.  The locator dits on your damn keyboard aren’t even in the same place.  That’s not ‘better’, it’s just different for the sake of different.  And don’t even get me started on the lack of a right-click context menu. 

Oh, but your computer never crashes, right?  Sorry, I’ve seen Macs crash – hard – over little mistakes and incompatibilities. But then there’s that trump card, “Macs are intuitive”.

I’ve heard many Mac owners brag that they never crack the manual.  (Fine, but you’re bragging about that?)  I remember the first time I tried to eject a floppy disk from a Mac.  On a PC this is easy: you push the button on the floppy.  I looked for the button.

“Oh, you just drag the floppy to the trash”, said the Mac owner.

Say, what?

“Just drag the floppy icon into the trash icon, and it will eject the disk.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

So over the years I have not developed a very strong appreciation of the “other” platform.  But I have watched the development of the company and product from afar.

Sorry this is so long – there’s a lot more but I am really tired of typing.  Sometime down the road I’ll do a similar report on my Linux experimentation.  It’s my view that innovation prospers when you get a bunch of people with different skillsets and tools in a room together and they start showing off and trying to one-up one another. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Ed Bradley dies

November 10, 2006 1 comment

I have not seen anyone mention that Ed Bradley, the super-cool badass reporter from 60 Minutes, has died of leukemia. 

Gone, but not forgotten.  I really liked him.

Categories: News, observations