June 1, 2000 (Thursday)
I've been talking for some time now about revamping these pages, particularly the diary pages, breaking them up into smaller pieces for faster load times, and so on. Well, this is it. (15 June 2000)
Your comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
"Towers of Orlando"
June 2, 2000 (Friday)
It's been well over a year since I started this silliness, yet because of the hiatus from August through November of last year, there is still not a year's worth of this project to evaluate. I think I'll take a few steps back and give the thing a good looking over soon, probably around the end of next month, when there is a full 12 months' worth of material to go over. If you have any comments, suggestions, or complaints about this project, now is a really good time to speak up. Leave your thoughts in the Comments. You can make the comment private if you don't want the rest of the world (yeah, all three of the people who actually read this) to see it.
June 3, 2000 (Saturday)
June 4, 2000 (Sunday)
"At the Galaxy's Edge"
I used to make quite a few pieces of fractal art. I got away from it mainly because of the lack of free or affordable tools to make things worth making. The years have passed and more tools have come to the fore. There is even a contest for fractal art (at least one) now. Click on the picture above to check out the page.
June 5, 2000 (Monday)
Lamenting the loss of DOS
The new version of Windows, Windows Millennium Edition (or Windows ME) will not come with the ability to boot to MS-DOS. I understand that DOS is still there, lurking deep beneath the surface, but getting to it is a difficult process and is not intended to be done.
While DOS is an unituitive and arcane OS, difficult to learn and convoluted in its syntax, it is still very powerful. Even Linux comes with a command line. In fact, Linux is a command based OS with the Graphical User Interface running as a shell program. Many tasks are better handled procedurally and from a command line or batch file.
Most people nowadays, however, don't want to take the time to understand any of how the computer on their desktop (or lap or palm, as the case may be) works. Everything has to be manipulated as some form of extended metaphor, and if something doesn't fit the metaphor, they don't understand it. DOS is not a metaphor. DOS is closer to the actual machine. In order to effectively use DOS, one has to understand some of the actual workings of the machine, things like disk drive structure, memory allocation, Interrupts, ports, files, directory hierarchies, and file allocation tables. People today would rather think in terms of desktops, folders, and icons. Granted, it's easier, but you lose something in the translation, too.
DOS, you obdurate bastard, I, for one, will miss you.
"Somebody calls you"
Imagine, if you will, the above eye set in a face cropped from just below the nose to the mid forehead, expanded to cover 1152 pixels width -- there, you have my Windows wallpaper.
Keeping things in perspective
Today I downloaded a picture of the Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew. This single picture file is twice the size of the first hard drive I owned.
June 6, 2000 (Tuesday)
June 7, 2000 (Wednesday)
We may just be on the verge of finding out how fragile this new global economy is. The rumors are flying that Microsoft might be moving to Canada. With the international character of business today, this would mean very little to Microsoft in terms of their operation (the U.S. anti-trust suit aside). Businesses have no constraints on them anymore, with the "Free Trade" paradigm in place and organizations like the WTO and the World Bank pressuring all countries to let business run things the way they want to unabated.
Pure Laissez Faire Capitalism is NOT a good thing to turn loose on a global scale. Mark my words. Things will get really bad when it turns out that businesses can have more determination as to individual rights than governments. Do you really want Bill Gates, Steve Case, Paul Allen, Warren Buffet, and Ted Turner running your life? On the other hand, some would say they already are, through the lobbyists and campaign contributions. For a look at our future, rent Bladerunner.
TANSTAAFL revisited (TANSTAFS) -- There Ain't No Such Thing As Free Software. Much of the Freely distributed software today has taken the FREE out of the equation. In earlier times, Shareware and Freeware were available to anyone who wanted to download it, no strings attached. The shareware authors made their money, if indeed they made any at all, from voluntary payments based on the honor system (or guilt system, if you will).
Nowadays, it's entirely different. Shareware has metamorphosed into two distinctly different creatures: Crippleware, which stops working after a specified period if you don't pay for it, and Adware, which displays banner ads whenever the program is running, sometimes even sending information about your machine back to the Advertising firm.
In some respects I can understand the Shareware Author's need to recoup their investments. Software Development tools for today's modern computer platforms doesn't come cheap. Often it runs in the thousands of dollars. Additionally, the knowledge about the systems takes time and more money to acquire. Still, Crippleware and Adware do not seem the way to go. If you're going to make the investment and develop the software, offer it as a purely commercial product.
I could write for days on this subject. It has, indeed, been the topic of many a conversation, and newsgroup thread. Again, Bill Gates ends up at the heart of it. He founded Microsoft on what I consider an unethical tactic. He sued individual computer owners for using what they presumed to be freely-distributed software that Gates had bought the rights for. The story of this sleazy deal is detailed in a book called Hackers by Steven Levy. This book is best sought at the public library or in a used book shop, as it seems to be out of print. It's a fascinating account of the early days of computing, including the beginning of the Gates philosophy of "what the market will bear," the MIT Model Railroad Club, the Phone Phreaks, and more. Excellent read for anyone interested in the history of computing.
June 8, 2000 (Thursday)
The weather's improved vastly. It's starting to look like summer with the hot sun and the cool breezes blowing through the tops of the tall sumac trees. The innocent tender greens of spring are giving way to the mature, sultry shades of summer.
Yesterday, a sure sign of summer, the city milled the street in front of my house in preparation for re-paving. The dirt and rocks and dust were awful. They used a tractor with a cylindrical rotating broom on the front of it to sweep, followed by a couple of the street Zambonis. It would have taken six men with brooms an hour to do what they couldn't quite manage in three. Construction types, all pumped and macho, would rather do something poorly with a machine than do it well by hand.
June 9, 2000 (Friday)
Last night the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars played the longest scoreless game in the history of the Stanley Cup finals. It was well into the third overtime when Mike Modano (who I still maintain has to be Ricky Nelson's love child) redirected the puck quite smoothly into the net for the winning goal. Game six is Saturday night in Dallas. We got a new TV yesterday with a bigger screen. You know where my butt will be planted from 8:00 until whenever on Saturday. If the Devils win, the season will end. If Dallas wins, for one thing it will be a near miracle, the game will go to the seventh game back in East Rutherford, NJ. It's been an excellent series.
Well, the orange cones are back on the street this morning, and they went door to door having people move their cars. I suppose some hot, stinky asphalt is in our immediate future.
Looking at the layers of pavement under the current street surface is a bit like a geologist looking at rock strata. What I see in this cross-section is the deterioration of construction methods. The asphalt pretty much all peeled right off, leaving mostly the Portland Cement Concrete Pavement on the bottom layer. For the most part the concrete (no, it's not cement -- cement is that gray powdery stuff they mix with water, stone and sand to make concrete) pavement is still intact. Had they repaired the cracks and potholes using accepted ASTM* and civil engineering methods when the problems arose, the asphalt topping would never have been required on this sundae.
I suppose a lot of it is due to human impatience, and the importance we place on our everyday business. To repair Concrete pavement would require a little more effort, expense, and several days more time to allow the patches to cure. We couldn't possibly shut down a block of a street that the taxi company and produce company uses for more than an hour or two. It would interfere with business. Never mind that the taxi company and produce company have truncated an alley and two city streets with their buildings and fences. In America, we think of the short term, never considering the long term consequences of our actions. We need to stop this.
* American Society for Testing and Materials
June 10, 2000 (Saturday)
June 11, 2000 (Sunday)
The images I've posted here over the past week all have at least a fractal element to them. I've created either the whole image ("Blue Cape' & "At the Galaxy's Edge") or part of the image with fractal generation programs. AOL has nice selection of these programs. So does ZDNet. I'm sure there are others out there, too, and I'll probably eventually find them. Some of the ones I've been using are "Quat," "Tierazon," "Flarium," "Iterations," and (of course) the ever reliable Fractint and Winfract.
Here's a snip of what I'm using as my Windows Wallpaper this week:
"The Earth and Moon in Fractal Space"
June 12, 2000 (Monday)
THE FIERCEST COMPETITOR OF ALL
by Gerry McGovern
"It may not be the most visible thing I'll do this week, but it's the most exciting thing of all," Bill Gates said as he handed out the first of over 4,100 scholarships of a Millennium Scholars Grants fund set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates is a titan of the modern age, a figure so powerful and brilliant that most of his peers exist in his shadow. He epitomises that ultra competitor and absolute entrepreneur. He is a visionary. He is one the most financially generous givers to charitable causes. His company, Microsoft, is more than a company. It has a power and influence that many countries do not have.
"Microsoft will find that there are limits to how large and powerful it is allowed to get," I wrote in January 1998. It seemed inevitable to me then that Microsoft was on a collision course with the US Government and legal system. As powerful a business entity as Microsoft is it cannot hope to openly challenge the authority of the US Government and legal system, and get away with it.
Microsoft failed to recognise that the Government was not tackling it simply with regard to what software should be linked to what, or who had the right to innovate and compete. By Microsoft being contemptuous and arrogant towards the Government and legal system, what in fact it ended up doing was challenging the Government's right to govern and the legal system's right to establish the law. Such challenges can never be allowed to succeed by any country that wishes to remain a cohesive entity.
What the US Government ultimately feared was that Microsoft was becoming an independent State beyond its control. It could order Microsoft to do things but Microsoft was simply going to ignore it, brush its wishes aside as a parent brushes aside the wishes of a child.
In private, Governments can and do bend to the wishes of powerful companies. However, it is lethal for a government to be bullied and humiliated in public. Microsoft has repeatedly done that.
Maybe Microsoft believed the hype and tripe by so many libertarian techno journalists and commentators, that speed and technology and the Internet had essentially made government irrelevant? These deeply na´ve people chattered on about how the Internet was borderless and how it would route around any attempt to control or legislate for it.
Where are these libertarian voices now? Why aren't they rushing to support Microsoft's cause against the big, bad Government? They are strangely quiet. Perhaps they are quiet because if there's one thing they hate more than the Government, it is Microsoft.
As a young man, Bill Gates was reputed to say that he would find it hard to work anywhere where he was not in charge. But there are politicians and civil servants in charge of the country and judges in charge of the law. Companies like Cisco and Intel have learned to work with the Government, to, where appropriate, give them their day in the sun.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has rubbed too many noses in the dirt. In so doing it elevated things beyond mere right and wrong to a point where it seemed to be challenging the very institutions of the State. The State is wily operator and the ultimate survivor of the modern age. Those who challenge it have found that it is the fiercest competitor of all.
The above piece was used with permission of the author. It was first published yesterday in an e-mail list called "New Thinking." For New thinking archives, please go to: New Thinking Archives. [NOTE: This link no longer works.] If you'd like to subscribe to New Thinking, Send an email to: email@example.com with the word subscribe in the body of the message. An automatic acknowledgement should be returned to you by e-mail within a few minutes. [NOTE: I haven't tried this, so I don't know if it still works or not.]
For other Nua lists and information, visit their main website at http://www.nua.ie.
June 13, 2000 (Tuesday)
Somehow in all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the fact that the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup managed to get left out of my notes here. Not that I wanted either Dallas or New Jersey to win, but since I have been following the playoffs and making note of the highlights (as pertaining to my own interests in the process), it seems remiss should I fail to mention who won the cup.
Scott Stevens of New Jersey won the Con Smythe trophy for Playoff MVP. His career-shattering hit on Eric Lindros in the conference finals was as clean and nasty a hit as I've ever seen in Professional Hockey.
Okay, here's the question. Once I convert my web pages to the new format, should I retain the old format for the up-till-now archived diary pages, or should I convert them to the new style? I will, regardless, break the archived pages up into smaller pieces. My current plan is to make each month four files -- first through the eighth, ninth through the sixteenth, seventeenth through the twenty-fourth, and twenty-fifth through the end of the month. What do you think? PLEASE give me some input, people. Ideas are much appreciated and all will be considered. Mistakes, design faux pas, etc. pointed out will be tremendously appreciated.
I've managed to get all the kinks worked out of the layout, so that it works right in Netscape (by doing some formatting tricks I really didn't want to use). The only two differences now are that Netscape doesn't seem to support the hover style attribute for links, and the way it interprets the justify value of the text-align parameter. Those two things aside, I've gotten everything to look pretty much the same in both browsers now.
June 14, 2000 (Wednesday)
I haven't had a signature on my e-mail for quite some time now, not since the penultimate crash on my old machine. Today, I found a wonderful quote, and made it my .sig:
"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them--every day begin the task anew." -- St. Francis de Sales
The following is an excerpt taken from a much longer piece, originally distributed by the Red Rock Eater e-mail news service (Monday, June 12, 2000 issue). Such a short excerpt should not be taken as necessarily representative of the entire piece, or indeed the series. The whole of the essay may be read at The Somewhere.com Commons RRE Archive.
The Microsoft Ruling
We should congratulate the government on its clear-cut victory in the Microsoft case. The pundits have swung into action, of course, and they would have us believe that it's now illegal to be successful and have popular products. But that's silly. The great majority of successful companies are not facing antitrust suits, and the market is full of products that are a lot more popular than Microsoft's. That such arguments are even made tells us something.
In fact, the government's victory is all the more impressive for the obstacles it was up against. You will recall that the viability of the government's case was long in doubt because most of the potential witnesses refused to testify for fear of retribution. It's a good thing that Microsoft's executives put their evil intentions down in e-mail that the government could subpoena. But the case was still limited, and this trial should just be the beginning. The government should now turn the case over to the Justice Department's organized crime unit, which should start perjury investigations against the Microsoft executives who were caught lying under oath. Once Microsoft executives start going to prison, perhaps the software industry's code of silence will finally crack. Then we can have a proper trial on all of the issues that this trial left out. Microsoft's claims to support innovation are already absurd, given that the company's whole modus operandi is to prevent innovation. But in a real trial perhaps we can finally "get" the extent to which Microsoft has used its ill-gained monopoly power to stifle progress.
The Red Rock Eater News Service is an e-mail list of news, commentary, and information, organized by Phil Agre of UCLA. It usually deals with societal aspects of the technology revolution. The list is sent out generally five times a week. Phil writes many of the offerings, but also has some excellent guest commentators. If you're interested, subscription information is Here.
June 15, 2000 (Thursday)
Well, here it is! My all new, improved Diary page layout. Over the next several days, I'll convert the archives to this format too.
Here's a piece I recently had published in Lost and Found Times No. 44 -- it's untitled.
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