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December 30, 2001

Fog Sets in at Airports

By Glenn Fleishman

Kodak warns about high-intensity X-rays used in screening checked bags, as well as the potential for pull-aside scanning of carry-on luggage that will fog and damage unexposed film. I was alerted to this by Alan Reiter, wise wireless man.

Posted by Glennf at 9:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 24, 2001


By Glenn Fleishman

I’ve had an exciting few days. My fiancee and I have flown back east from Seattle to visit her family. We stopped through southern New Jersey to visit her wonderful 95-year-old grandmother, who has all the machinery still ticking at full speed even as her senses fail her. (Her brother, also living in the same Quaker/Friends-run retirement facility asked her while we were there, “Are people living too long?” She replied in the affirmative, “Yes, I think we are living too long.” She’s not in pain right now, but she’s ready to move on.)

In the middle of the night staying in a lower floor of the community, at about 3 a.m., I was woken up by a voice through the ventilation system crying over and over, “I don’t want to die!” I don’t know the resident in question (we were below the hall Lynn’s grandmother is in, but down quite a ways), but I was very sad about it.

I feel like shouting that at times, but I’m afraid it was someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s rather than a cri de coeur. It was surreal. I was afraid I was dreaming; afraid I was not. Most of the residents you meet at Medford Leas are happy, active, and at peace with their lives. None of them talk like fatalists. Part of the Quaker ethic at work, too, I think.

From existential fears shouted in the wee hours, we moved on to the bright lights of Times Square and its vicinity. We stayed at a huge discount at a nice hotel on 51st and Lexington. The experience was great until they screwed up a luggage situation at the end. Through the concierge, we managed to get tickets to Proof (currently featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh) on Saturday night. We visited friends of Lynn’s way up in Riverdale that afternoon, then saw the show.

The next day, we had breakfast with a favorite friend of mine, now about six months pregnant, when the concierge called: she had dug up tickets for The Producers! Holy mackeral. By the time we agreed to the price (which was very reasonable - so reasonable we assumed Nathan Lane wasn’t performing the matinee), they were sold. She called us back later, though, with more tickets, and we were in.

Holy Katz, but The Producers was great. It’s certainly by far the greatest live performance I’ve even seen of any kind, and the show itself is terrific. We’d bought the soundtrack a few months ago, and had been enjoying it. But the acting and stage business and dialogue and - well - everything was just phenomenal. It’s pretty much the ultimate Broadway musical, and they just shouldn’t try to write another one again.

From the theater, we were supposed to meet a car out front that had picked up our luggage at the hotel and would take us to Penn Station. The show got out about 5.45 pm and we had a 6.30 Amtrak train. We were just a few blocks away, really, but luggage was the big thing: you can’t check luggage at Penn Station any more. No lockers, no baggage check. They’re just not set up to screen left luggage.

But the hotel refused to release the bags: the concierge (really a third-party in the hotel who handles tickets and transportation) had dropped the ball or the hotel had, and without our claim slips, they wouldn’t give the driver the bags. He should have met us at the theater and taken us back to claim our bags. Instead, I think he gave up.

We rushed cross-town by foot to escape the theatre district, which was letting out all its matinees, grabbed a cross-town cab to Park and 51st, ran a cross town block, managed to finally get the hotel to give us bags, had the doorman get us a cab which took us to Grand Central.

Ah ha! Weren’t expecting this plot twist, eh? I knew that Metro-North runs a train with just enough time to transfer (I thought it was 20 to 30 minutes, but it turned out to be 5) to the Amtrak to Hartford. We ran through the station, bought tickets, hopped on a very full train, and arrived in plenty of time to get on the Hartford bound Amtrak.

And it was well worth the fuss to see The Producers, we both agreed. Especially since we got here and weren’t trapped in New Haven for the night. I lived there five years. Another night wasn’t what I wanted right now.

The multi-modalism of this post refers to our means of transport. On this trip, we took, in order: town car to the airport, two planes cross country, monorail to the car rental agency, rented car to and from the retirement community, monorail to the new Newark International Airport Train Station (incredible), NJ Transit to Penn Station, cab to the hotel. The next day, subway, express bus, express bus, subway, subway. Yesterday: subway, subway, cab, cab, regional rail, national rail.

And you wonder why we’re tired?

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December 19, 2001

Transforming Event

By Glenn Fleishman

Boingo Wireless launches tomorrow. I wrote about it in a brief for the New York Times and in a long article for my own 802.11b Networking News. This launch will most likely transform Wi-Fi public space access from a niche market to a national infrastructure and hasten the integration with cellular networks. Boingo is moderately sized at its launch, but started by a guy who also built from spit and whiskers Earthlink, one of the largest national ISPs.

Posted by Glennf at 9:49 PM | TrackBack

December 18, 2001

Twisted Hat

By Glenn Fleishman

I did a very twisted thing today. I installed Red Hat Linux 7.2 under Virtual PC 5 for Mac OS X. Yes, folks, watch the man on the high wire! Linux running under Intel chip emulation on a Unix platform that can also emulate PC and Mac OS 9. Ta Da! It’s nifty. I’m curious to test its compilation speed versus the native speed of OS X compiling stuff. It’ll also be nice to have multiple environments on the road. My next Seattle Times column will be about tri-platform Mac-in-puting: Unix, OS X, and Windows-via-Virtual PC. On all other platforms, you’re limiting to a single platform per boot (mostly). (The WINE emulator to run Windows programs under Unix is an application emulator, not a processor simulator.)

Posted by Glennf at 9:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

iBook Price Blowout

By Glenn Fleishman

I don’t usually post items of a purely price-based nature, but geesus m. christopher: MacConnection is offering the $1,200 Apple iBook for under $900. Here’s the link, but you have to call to place the order, which is even weirder. Do they have a phalanx of incredible up-sell telemarketers who will sell you high-margin doodads?

The order info is in an image, so it can’t be scraped, either: another way to escape the comparison engines, and possibly the ire of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (discussed a few days ago in this space).

This is probably the best deal of all time for one of these puppies. It has a CD-ROM, not a DVD/CD-ROM or DVD-ROM/CD-RW. Otherwise, the specs are great. $200 of the rebate is instant; another $100 requires a form to be sent in to Apple. You have to buy the puppy by Dec. 31, 2001.

Posted by Glennf at 1:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 17, 2001

Not Our Imagination

By Glenn Fleishman

It turns out that it’s not our imagination: spam is getting worse. Fortunately, I recently switched to Entourage X, a component in Microsoft’s Office v. X for OS 10.1. I reviewed this for the Seattle Times a few days ago. Entourage offers some tradeoffs, but it has powerful junk mail sorting and rulesets. I was able within a couple days to consign the worst incoming nonsense to the trash without reading it, and virtually all of the rest hits a spam folder I can look at and delete all of in a couple seconds.

The admirable Michael Fraase, mentioned in this space before, hits the spam target dead on in an article about how he’s taken to filtering major ISP’s email. Likewise, Adam Curry is wondering if he should just abandon email. ____ ______’s difficulties are documented as well, but he points out, There is no alternative other than to stop using email altogether.

That’s the reality of the commercial marketplace. You could be like Lawrence Tribe, legendary defender and analyst of the First Amendment and simply tell people that their mail is heading for /dev/null: Professor Tribe will not be online until at least January 28, 2002. He is taking a break the essence of which is: no more e-mail until the break is over! Understand, please, that this means your message will NOT be forwarded to, or read by, Professor Tribe or by anyone on his behalf. Refreshing!

But could any of the rest of us get away with it? Not likely.

I like Adam Curry’s notion of using existing tools, such as Userland Radio and other software, to create channels of email between known entities. That’s what I was getting at the other day in the sense of using whitelists, not blacklists: let me define who I want to hear from, not a list of those who are banned. Some telephone companies offer a whitelist service in which some callers get right through, while others listen to a brief message explaining that unsolicited phone callers should hang up or be in violation of federal law for disobeying the message. As I’ve been using Entourage over a few weeks, I’ve gradually increased my whitelist by using the This is Not Junk Mail link on mail Entourage thinks is junk mail and adding mailing list rules, adding folks to my address book, defining individual pieces of email as not junk.

Meanwhile, the group at had and has a solution for this problem, but it requires a lot of sign-off by application developers, email users, and mail transfer agent (MTA) builders like sendmail and Exchange. It’s not impossible, and it’s a beautiful and elegant (and legally binding) solution. Unfortunately, it requires too much buy-in to work across the whole Net. Yet.

Posted by Glennf at 9:18 PM | TrackBack

Just Read the TelePrompTer

By Glenn Fleishman

Saints preserve me, but I’ve been nominated as one of the best bloggers of the year. You can vote here. The award is called the Scripting News Award, but I’m sure it will simply be known as the Bloggie in the future. (Not to be confused with the Bored of the Rings’s boggies.)

Posted by Glennf at 9:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 15, 2001

Sharing Well with Others

By Glenn Fleishman

____ ______ writes: Here’s something really boring. Some spammer is using my email address as the return address on a lot of spam. Result? Thousands of bounces coming back at me, interspersed with spam directed at me. Is email dying? 

The fact that you can send email from practically any email server that you have access to with any arbitrary return address should be relegated to the dust bin. Perhaps we can’t close down all open relays (mail servers that allow anyone on the Internet to send email to anyone else via them). But we can stop an old practice: there’s no good reason any more that someone should be able to send email from a return address that doesn’t belong to them.

There should be mechanisms that would authenticate this, like, for instance, authenticated sendmail. I maintain that this change wouldn’t imperil anonymity: you can still get anonymous accounts which have their own policies and enforcements about the amount of email that’s sent out. No, what it means is that no mail server should accept email with a From address that doesn’t have a keyed authentication message that uses an algorithm that cannot be forged: digital signatures, for instance.

It might impose a computational burden. It might impose an adminsitrative burden. But when you find out that mid-sized ISPs employ four to a dozen employees whose sole job is to deal with email and related abuse - much like the dozen employees in the New York transit system who flatten dollar bills, no kidding - there’s little reason to not impose this cost.

Posted by Glennf at 2:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2001

Meet the Megway TH

By Glenn Fleishman

The Megway TH: Let’s say you could walk somewhere in 20 minutes. This device will get you there in 18 1/2 minutes, 19 minutes tops.

Posted by Glennf at 7:25 PM | TrackBack

Your Pricing May Vary

By Glenn Fleishman

J.D. Lasica wondered in regards to some pricing at where they say that they can’t show it on an individual page: “…why [] can display the price in my shopping cart but not on the product page. Does it have to do with shopping comparison bots, where Amazon’s price would compare unfavorably? Or does it have to do with Amazon’s arrangement with its big retail partners like Target?”

It’s a funny world, ain’t it? gets co-op dollars from manufacturers to promote their goods. Co-op dollars are a huge point of contention between chain/large stores and independent stores (bookstores, electronics sellers, etc., etc.). Co-op dollars are ostensibly a way for manufacturers to push sales by encouraging retailers to advertise goods that they might otherwise not promote. Retailers get their advertising subsidized.

It’s a dirty secret, and has been surprisingly forthright about aspects of it. The term in the book industry is merchandizing. Back a couple years ago, Doreen Carjaval of the New York Times wrote what I thought was a very unfair article with a chip on its shoulder on the front page of the paper about how was accepting co-op and other merchandizing dollars to promote items in their What We’re Reading section and other places on the site. The article was unfair because it made it sounds as if were doing something that didn’t conform to industry practice.’s response was quite good: they said, you know, we shouldn’t be toeing the line, we should be more upfront than other folks in the industry, so they added a link on pages that had support dollars attached that explained this. They became (and still are, I believe) the most transparent retailer in this regard.

This is one reason why I was annoyed last summer when they started messing around with pricing, shipping, and surcharges: I felt they weren’t keeping in mind that they were confusing the consumer enough that it bordered on misleading the consumer. After a discussion with some folks at the top of the company (after my appearance in the WSJ, the LA Times, and on CNBC commenting on this problem), I accepted their explanation that it wasn’t an attempt to mislead, but rather the top brass didn’t quite understand how much they were tweaking.

Since that point, prices have been essentially fixed: discounts have remained, and the special order (4-6 week on order books) surcharge was further made transparent through a special note on pages on which the surcharge applied. They did learn this lesson, and they did once again become the most transparent retailer.

Back to the issue of why they can’t show these prices. If you accept co-op dollars, you also agree to not advertise products below a minimum price. It’s a shady area in that manufacturers are not per se allowed to set prices for goods; retailers may charge what they will. But manufacturers can choose to sell to some merchants and not others as long as the reason they choose not to sell is based on fair principles: that is, they can’t choose to not sell in a black neighborhood or because another merchant told them not to sell. But they can restrict sales based on conditions, or not sell at all.

They also place these conditions on co-op and merchandizing money. If you take the money, you don’t advertise below MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price). For the purposes of the Web, manufacturers have apparently agreed that the price covers the Web page on which the product appears, but once it’s added into a shopping cart, that’s a private transaction. This does, as you suggest, also limit the ability of comparison engines (such as my own to provide the actual lowest price.

The reason for preserving MSRP is to prevent price-cutting retailers from using co-op dollars as a tool to undercut other retailers in the same or similar channels. Manufacturers must protect the channel fairly or face problems from the government and the retailers.

Hope that suffices as my understanding of the issue!

Posted by Glennf at 7:05 PM | TrackBack

All Power to the Processor

By Glenn Fleishman

Henry Norr writes a very detailed column about power consumption in computers and coming improvements that Intel and Microsoft are shepherding through. It sounds a little familiar, as the sleep mode that’s planned is very much like Apple’s standard sleep mode (which Norr talks about late in the column). It’s a welcome and cool development.

Disturbing bit of info in this article: Apple’s iMacs chew up about 35 watts in sleep mode! I’ll start shutting my machine down for the 16 hours a day it’s not in active use at home (savings at 10 cents per kwH = about $20 per year). I’d switched from a 19-inch Sony (17-inch visible area) to a true 17-inch Apple Studio Display a couple months ago and, in the process, reduced my monitor’s usage from nearly 150W and 35W in standby to about 40W and 5W in standby (savings in both modes together, about $40 per year).

It just struck me how buying energy-efficient equipment is a way to invest in the energy futures market: if electricity actually starts costing what it requires in environmental management to make up for usage, that $40 per year could be become several hundred. That was part of the thinking behind why I bought it - but it’s also wicked beautiful and sharp and bright.

I’ve read some other accounts that describe how server farms are becoming more efficient per unit, as manufacturers have finally gotten into the swing of making server systems (like what are called blades that slide into a case, as one example) that don’t consume as much power as a consumer PC.

Ultimately, the predictions made last year for power consumption by the Internet fall short because they relied on predictions by Exodus, Level 3, and others, the business model for which has collapsed along with dotcom demise.

Enjoy this blast from the past courtesy of The Seattle Times from an article on all the new Internet server farms and colocation facilities being built in 2000: It is estimated that projects already in the works will add at least 200 megawatts to City Light’s power load, which hovers around 1,200 megawatts. One of the new Internet operations - City Light won’t reveal which one - will consume 105 megawatts by 2002. I would love to see the revised numbers: 10 MW?

According to my fellow techies in Seattle, cages are empty at all the “colo” facilities in the area. Some of the facilities were smart and always had closed doors on the cages, so you couldn’t see in. Others, with open mesh or similar arrangements can’t hide the emptiness from their remaining customers. That simple black door might make a big difference in what you can charge for colo with a straight face.

Posted by Glennf at 5:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 13, 2001

What a Difference a Day (Earlier) Makes

By Glenn Fleishman

Macworld Expo contacted the entire Mac universe yesterday to inform us that Steve Jobs’s keynote address would be moved to Monday, Jan. 7, from its normal Tuesday morning/opening day slot. The reason: unknown. The content: who knows. The amount of discomfort: high. I’ll be paying over $100 on my slim freelancer budget (some of which may get reimbursed depending on how much coverage I can file from down there) to make that change.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) overlaps Macworld completely for the first time ever, I believe, and I’m assuming that either Jobs knew he’d be upstaged on Tuesday morning by CES, or had to be there for an equally important event. We’ll find out. The Apple booth on the show floor at Macworld won’t be open except to press and analysts following the keynote; the show itself opens the next day.

What gets my goat is not the change: these things happen. There must be a good reason or they wouldn’t have changed a multi-year pattern at the last minute. No, what gets me is this quote from the press release: Charlie Greco, president and CEO of IDG World Expo [said] “We’re thrilled to move the keynote up to Monday, and begin the excitement a day sooner.”. What a blatant lie.

It’s one thing to issue a press release with a spin on a problem that you think that has some verity and that most people will believe. It’s another to cover a massive inconvenience that might cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expense across thousands of people and not apologize.

The press representative for Macworld Expo sent out email to press folks later in the day apologizing and offering assistance. My contact at Apple’s PR firm called me and the first words out of his mouth were, I’m sorry for the short notice and the change. Thanks - I mean it. The Macworld Expo press release should have been honest. We apologize to the thousands of attendees, press, analysts, and vendors who will have to change their plans or will now be unable to attend - but we believe this change is worth it, and we had no choice. Our travel agency stands by to help you make the most affordable change, and the speech will be Webcasted live.

I know, I know, I’m bitching about small things, but it’s critical that we not be lied to. Macworld Expo wasn’t excited: they were frightened, angry, irritated, inconvenienced. Apple knows it. Nobody blames nobody. But let’s have some honesty, folks, and an apology.

Posted by Glennf at 2:37 PM | TrackBack

Happiness is a Warm DSL and ReplayTV

By Glenn Fleishman

Two good pieces of personal technology news: Covad emerges from bankruptcy shortly with a plan towards profitability and enough cash to reach it (home and work DSL is Covad + Speakeasy); my ReplayTV 4080 arrived a couple of days ago, and after hours of drilling and mess, I got an Ethernet cable connected and programmed the unit. It’s slick. The on-screen design is beautiful, and the broadband connection makes it possible to transfer programs with other people.

Even better, there’s a site called MyReplayTV that lets you program your unit remotely. Every time the unit connects (initiating the connection so that it’s not exposed on the Net - I have it behind a DHCP/NAT combo), it carries out the tasks you handled through the Web site. You can delete programs, add items to record, modify your custom settings, and so on.

Posted by Glennf at 11:20 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2001

Dense, Dense, I'd Love To

By Glenn Fleishman

My friend Mike Daisey wonders what the hell I meant by yesterday’s post, especially my reference to a Damon Knight story (the name of which I can’t recall).

I feel dense. What the hell does this mean?, he writes.

Okay, so in the story, a guy is researching making an electronic magnifier, and he drops a metal rod on two battery contacts and discovers that he can view the past through his contraption. Not the distant past (that works, too), but a millisecond ago. And anywhere in the world. At any magnification.


It freaks him out, though the story is told quietly and from the third person . Very dispassionate.

He decides to release the technology everywhere. He makes up a bunch of units, packages them, sends them untraceably through the mail, and then kills himself (if I remember right).

Historians using his device track him down eventually (it’s hard because you can look anywhere - and eveywhere - and he made himself somewhat untraceable). When they view him at various time, he’s looking into a mirror at them (more or less) and making this gesture with his finger. He knows he’s talking to the future.

Blogging is sort of like that: you think or hope you’re talking to both the present and the future. With all of the archiving tools and projects, it’s possible and likely that we’re Janus: talking out of both sides of our mouth to the fore and aft.

Posted by Glennf at 3:15 PM | TrackBack

December 11, 2001

Oz Never Did Give Nothing to the Tin Man

By Glenn Fleishman

Google gave back a piece of the Internet’s heart to the public this morning, a piece that I thought was lost forever. Ephemeral writing: Usenet posts dating back to 1981. Previously, Google had the chunk from 1995 to present which they bought from in early 2001. That was 500M items; another 200M were added from folks’ attics, CD-ROMs, and other sources. Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, told me that some publisher had produced a set of CDs years ago with a retrospective archive of newsgroup posts, but no one seemed to have the full set. (I wrote a short item about it for Wednesday’s New York Times.)

In 1981, I was in short pants, using my Ohio Scientific Inc. (OSI) C1P 6502-based computer with 8K RAM/8K ROM/Kansas City format tape deck interface to program in machine code. Meanwhile, my elders were assembling the Internet. I looked up Jon Postel’s name coupled with 1981. Jon was one of the founders of the Net, and the guy I like to think of as holding the Internet together with his bare hands. When he died, I worried the Net might fade away like an expanding universe, as the strong atomic force broke down. It didn’t, which is testament to his colleagues, friends, and the professionals who run things on occasion.

I found this post from him in an early TCP/IP digest (email turned into a newsgroup post, I think): It is really very important for everyone to notice the deadline for completing the cutover to IP/TCP and the elimination of NCP from use in the ARPANET. The deadline is: 1 January 1983. That is 14 and a half months from now. Really not much more than a year. Boy, does that speak volumes. The amount of time allowed for the transition. The non-standard name. Arpanet. It’s like peeking into the formation of the universe through the Hubble. I get shivers.

This reminds me strongly of sci-fi writer Damon Knight’s story about a guy who develops a method of viewing the past by accident. When the full impact of his ability to see anyone’s actions anywhere ever settles in, he goes slightly mad. Later historians viewing him see him stand in the bathroom looking at the mirror, raising one finger up, then down, then up.

Posted by Glennf at 8:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 10, 2001

Smoking Gun

By Glenn Fleishman

According to reports in the New York Times and elsewhere, a tape of Osama bin Laden’s first reactions to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks has surfaced. The tape allegedly reveals something that I had suspected from the very start: In another section of the crudely produced tape, bin Laden’s comments suggest that the plot’s ringleaders did not tell all the hijackers that their mission would end in death.

It’s one thing to maintain operational discipline among an elite group of a few people who know they are going to die. It’s another to have a couple dozen people all retain that focus over multiple years and difficult times. The money that funded these missions contributed to the ease in which the terrorists floated through countries and societies: less money and less difficulty would have meant less commitment to their goal.

Posted by Glennf at 3:16 PM | TrackBack

December 9, 2001

Soul Inside (ding Ding ding DING)

By Glenn Fleishman

Possibly the best use of money ever (outside of hunger relief and medical research) and critical to the future of the planet: Gordon and Betty Moore donate the multi-billion seed money for preserving species as humanity growth reaches its peak. The Wall St. Journal ran a wonderful story on it. Two excerpts:

Gordon Moore, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp., has made the first down payment on a 30-year, $31 billion plan to prevent the mass extinction of species by saving crucial wilderness areas and biodiversity “hotspots.”

…Environmentalists say the emergence of the new Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as a major funder of biodiversity protection will energize the field, in the same way, they say, that funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in recent years has revitalized global health efforts. Conservation International hopes to use Mr. Moore’s gift, to be spread over 10 years, to attract an additional $1.2 billion in private money and $4.5 billion in public investments to complete the first phase of the long-term plan. Last year, the Moores committed $5 billion in Intel shares to endow the foundation.

Posted by Glennf at 6:12 PM | TrackBack

December 7, 2001

Extremism in Opposition to Liberty is a Vice

By Glenn Fleishman

It’s time for Mr. Ashcroft to be forced out of his position and replaced with an Attorney General who is familiar with the Consitutition and statutory U.S. law. The fact that he defends arbitrary treatment of citizens and non-citizens in the U.S., separate non-standard (non-military) treatment of foreign resident or visitors, and criticizes criticism of attacks on liberty all disqualify him from the job.

I have no problem with the government detaining and deporting people who have violated the terms of their visas. That seems like a good thing to me in a variety of ways. The INS doesn’t ensure reasonable treatment of non-citizens in far too many arbitrary venues, hearings, and methodologies too complex to go into here, but a deal’s a deal: if you’re here illegally, then you should expect you will have to leave and/or be prosecuted.

But I don’t understand at all why normal rules of evidence, procedure, and habeas corpus are being suspended for specific classes of human beings when our courts are among the greatest in the world. Yes, there’s still bias: you’re more likely to be on death row in Texas if you’re black than white for the same magnitude of crime adjusted for population percentages.

Our courts on the whole, however, are a daily exercise in the best aspects of democracy. Even military courts aren’t awful institutions. But the tribunals the Bush administration put into place suspend all rules, violate all principles, that this country was founded on.

Do we need to take to the streets and protest? What action on the part of us as citizens will help our fellow citizens understand that this is how it all begins? First you take away the rights of people who aren’t citizens. Then you take away some rights from classes of citizens the government doesn’t like (interviewing 5,000 men who fit a loose description with no specific facts; detaining people without immediate representation, etc.). Then you start tightening up the laws around a variety of areas that keep people from being able to adequately protest. Perhaps a high-government official even decries protests as anti-patriotic. And so it goes into concentration camps, racial cleansing, etc.

It’s not a very slippery slope. It’s straight down. The courts are our only defense against executive power that runs amok. Start taking people out of the courts, and you remove the blocks on executive power.

Ashcroft must be forced out and replaced with someone who will support justice in the name of liberty. I have never felt more akin with gun owners and defenders of gun owning rights than I did yesterday after hearing Ashcroft.

Posted by Glennf at 11:35 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 6, 2001

Classic Bezos

By Glenn Fleishman

The Washington Post conducted an online interview and Q&A with Jeff Bezos today, and it’s a good study in his changing rhetoric on the company. As usual, it combines a high degree of prefab statements - you’d be prefab, too, if you were talking to the media for an hour to five hour a day every day of your life - with the kind of cheerful honesty that Bezos always delivers. One statement struck me in particular as a classic example of his mode of expression:

It turns out that operating a network of physical stores is a very difficult business and that the set of skills you need to be a great operator of such stores is completely different from the set of skills you need to be a great e-commerce company.”

If you take this statement apart - one that I’ve heard from him for several years, in fact - you see lots of interesting structure in how he conceptualizes the retail world. First, he recognizes volume: a network of physical stores. Second, the statement encapsulates the evolving throught process: it turns out… Third, it acknowledges that chains of stores aren’t a bad idea: the set of skills you need to be a great operator of such stores - especially important because they have so many bricks-and-mortar stores as partners now. Finally, it implicitly and modestly addresses’s own ability: the set of skills you need to be a great e-commerce company.

Another aspect of this rhetoric is Jeff’s classic parallelism: I’m sure there’s a formal Latin term for this, but it’s very common for him to parallel task or ability for bricks and mortar versus task or ability for ecommerce. The approach allows him to balance the two instead of playing them off each other as direct competitors. It defines larger realms into which both sets of players are dominant or successful. (Elsewhere in the interview, he says that online sales will be about 15 percent of retail but not until about 10 years - from when they started or 10 years from now, it’s unclear from context, but I believe he’s looked at 2005-6 not 2010.) continues to evolve as their extensive partnerships and co-branding replaces the one-stop shop. It still amazes me how much is under their tent, and I expect that in early 2002, we’ll see some of the elephants get retired and a few clowns promoted.

Posted by Glennf at 2:32 PM | TrackBack

Qwest drops its in-house ISP service?

By Glenn Fleishman

I’m not sure if this is news or not, or just underreported, but appears to be fading away as Qwest moves its DSL customers to a co-branded MSN service. Read their FAQ which is full of weasel words. It makes me crazy. Try these:

Under the agreement, MSN will become the preferred Internet Service Provider (ISP) for some Consumer Internet Access customers. Qwest and Microsoft® are working together to provide consumers with best-of-breed MSN content and services via Qwest’s Internet infrastructure. This means bloody nothing to the average consumer reading this. In plain language, Qwest decided to get out of the ISP business because MSN could do it better and offer more. Simple, clear, direct.

One of the benfits: * MSN easy-to-use software and tools designed to deliver an exciting online experience to consumers. Yeah, email is really exciting.

Also: * MSN POP3 or MSN Web-based e-mail services including Messenger, Hotmail® Web-based e-mail, and Search that are already among the most popular in the world. I like to make my decisions based on popularity rather than how well something serves my needs.

Email can only be forwarded to new MSN accounts: E-mail Forwarding - forwards e-mail directed to your e-mail address to your new MSN e-mail address.

* E-mail Auto Reply - automatically sends your new MSN e-mail address back to anyone who sends an e-mail message to your old e-mail address.

Now here’s where I have to be fair: the services that MSN is offering are, in fact, substantially more robust, well-tested, and extensive than Qwest. Users will be getting a lot more than they had: more storage for Web sites, authenticated outbound email (which means you can use it on the road and it’s a positive anti-spam initiative at MSN), etc. Laundry list of stuff. For most consumers, this is actually a good move.

So why can’t they just say that?

This change may open up the DSL market again: customers of Qwest may have initially signed up because Qwest made it this easy, all-in-one, all US West-later-Qwest-branded experience. With more logos in the process and more partners involved, regional and national ISPs may be able to pick up service by offering it over Qwest’s DSL local loop.

Posted by Glennf at 2:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 5, 2001

Cat's Cradle

By Glenn Fleishman

____ ______ has a very sweet bit about a great cat he was once owned by (no one owns cats, as we know). He wrote:

…that was a long time ago, and cats don’t live that long. By now Nurse must be gone, but I’ll remember her spirit as long as I live. What a great cat!

Not to soil the sweetness, but this reminded me of a story from The Onion, as many things do these days: something along the lines of, child must be comforted after father remarks on seeing Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM logo with a kitten saying meow, That cat must have died years ago.

Posted by Glennf at 8:52 AM | TrackBack

December 4, 2001


By Glenn Fleishman

The real reason that Enron went bankrupt is revealed in the AP photo below. Workers not only had Aeron chairs, which cost between $500 and $1,000 each, but were allowed to take them with them when they left. Or weren’t stopped at least. (You can tell from this photo that the chair has the full set of adjustments, which puts it in the $700 range when purchased singly.)

Posted by Glennf at 9:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ginger Grief

By Glenn Fleishman

I’ve been getting some grief from fellow bloggers for saying I liked what Ginger turned out to be. But my point isn’t that Ginger itself is necessarily so cool as it is an instanciation of cheap, massive computing power used to run a consumer device for a previously impossible result.

Posted by Glennf at 3:00 PM | TrackBack

Egghead Story

By Glenn Fleishman

It’s a short story and it goes like this: in 1998, when I was conference chairing the first Web Marketing Conference for Thunder Lizard Productions, an attendee pulled me aside and politely reamed me out. He was one of the founders from Surplus Direct (if I am remembering the name right), which had just been acquired or merged with Egghead. Surplus Direct was one of the reasons that Egghead got out of retail: they were making a ton of money selling overstock and returns, while Egghead couldn’t get enough margin out of retail new products.

The fellow’s complaint was that was being mentioned left and right as a success. He pointed out quite rightly that it wouldn’t be a success until it had proven it could turn a profit and be a viable business with earnings and repay its debt. Quite so. It’s ironic, therefore, that this sensible and clever person tied his fortunes to a firm like which starting at bad went to worse and now is acquired by the selfsame

He wasn’t wrong at all, but he wasn’t able to infuse Egghead with the same stripped down profitable mentality that his firm had before the acquisition.

Posted by Glennf at 2:57 PM | TrackBack

December 3, 2001

Radio, Radio

By Glenn Fleishman

I feel like I’ve lost my friends. My copy of Radio Userland stopped working somewhere around the time that I upgraded my OS X installation to the 10.1.1 release. Radio runs under the Classic emulation mode. Over time, I’d tweaked the blogs I subscribe to. I’d check Radio hourly, almost obsessively sometimes. When I was on the road, Radio was my lifeline back to the blog community, and especially that group of bloggers I consider friends and colleagues. Now, I must check many blogs individually. I’m at a loss. Someday soon, Userland says they will ship Radio for OS X, or even open a public beta. I hope Real Soon Now is really real soon now, so I can get those stations back on my tuner.

Posted by Glennf at 10:16 PM | TrackBack

December 2, 2001

IT's Cool

By Glenn Fleishman

The wraps are off Ginger or IT, a portable transportation device that may be the first piece of equipment that actually envisions the future by using the vast computational power now available for thousands of dollars - that was formerly only available for millions. Ginger is cool: a combination of bike, scooter, and car that uses processor power to stay balanced at all times. We’ll see how it shakes out, but it’s obviously the first substantiated instance of what should become the future we’re about to live in: cheap (processor) cycles transform cheap equipment.

Posted by Glennf at 10:02 PM | TrackBack

Cut the Cable Already

By Glenn Fleishman

I never went in for the digital cable modem thing because I didn’t believe it would last. My colleagues all told me how silly I was, and how the cable companies were ideally positioned to upgrade customer premises equipment, upgrade their cable ends and distribution plants, and offer superior service at an affordable price. Hah!

It’s not that I love the phone companies so much, but I thought DSL was an inherently more reasonable and potentially profitable service than cable modem bandwidth.

First off, there’s distribution. DSL is a one-to-one connection; cable is a shared party line. DSL involves a span of wire terminated in a DSLAM (DSL aggregator/multiplexor) port that is in turn aggregated and fed out (typically) over an ATM network routed into the Internet. Cable service involves lots of intermediate steps, and turns a set of thousands of cable customers into a large Ethernet network.

Second, the cable folks weren’t really prepared for real Internet needs and usage. It was hard (in the early days at least) to get static IPs and business service. A one-size-fits-all approach led to @Home restricting upstream bandwidth to 128 kbps to prevent customers from operating servers. A stupid idea. Effective network management could have easily blocked Web and other ports based on monitoring patterns automatically instead of using the schoolroom approach of revoking privileges because of a few bad kids.

Third, the telco and DSL provider pricing model wasn’t guaranteed to put them into bankruptcy. Sure, it was possible to get free installation, free DSL modems, and some free initial service, but $25 to $100 per month isn’t an unreasonable price for a service which, ultimately, is simpler to provide than voice calls.

Finally, telcos have been providing data services for decades, and I saw US West and then Qwest gets its digital act together over the last couple of years. (My dad continues to report remarkable service from Qwest: they just sent him a CD-ROM to upgrade his Cisco 675 modem to the latest software.)

Okay, one more point. I always felt that cable modem service was an effort by cable companies to make money off existing customers because they could. I thought that DSL service was an attempt to telephone companies to remake their networks in a way that would transform voice and data communications by reducing costs and increasing homogeneity.

Posted by Glennf at 6:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gifts for Mac Lovers

By Glenn Fleishman

My latest Seattle Times column suggests a number of gifts for Mac loving friends and family.

Posted by Glennf at 12:40 AM | TrackBack

December 1, 2001

Leave It to Shankar

By Glenn Fleishman

The Onion on Jerry Mathers:

“I saw Jerry Mathers on Entertainment Tonight a couple months ago,” said Barry Carter, 34, of Duluth, MN. “It was weird. He still has that baby face, but he’s, like, in his 50s now. I was like, ‘Whoa, look at Jerry Mathers, he’s getting up there in years,’ and my wife said, ‘Well, aren’t we all?’ I guess it’s true. I’m not as young as I used to be, either.”

The New York Times on George Harrison’s death:

“It’s a somber time — a lot of things are changing in the world,” Mrs. Benbough said. “You never really thought in terms of seeing this change, and then all of a sudden, wow. The Beatles were endless, but you realize that they are human too, just like everyone else.”

Posted by Glennf at 8:54 PM | TrackBack

Old Haunts

By Glenn Fleishman

Here are photos of my dad’s old furniture store in Fremont, California, now transformed into a train station. Actually, it was originally a train station, then became a furniture store, then a hot-tub store, and then fell into disrepair. It’s now part of a commuter-rail system that works apparently effectively in the east Bay Area. Pictures are of the cafe that occupies about half the building. I used to play in the store as a kid, and it was a goldmine: yellowing labels for weird old compartments. A neat warehouse. Train tracks. Hurrah!

Posted by Glennf at 3:38 PM | TrackBack


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