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February 28, 2002

Slower, Older, Worse!

By Glenn Fleishman

Walt Mossberg has a pretty funny line in his review (on his free site) of the new SonicBlue Rio Riot player: But I have seen the iPod, and so the Riot looks and works like a larger, slower, predecessor product, when in fact it has just gone on sale this week, nearly four months after the iPod. He goes on to praise a few of the Riot’s features, which at $399 hits the same price point as the iPod: it has a 20 Gb drive (like a similarly price Nomad Jukebox), works on Macs and Windows, and has a big screen which is uses.

But Mossberg prefers the iPod. It still tinier. It uses the fast FireWire interface. It synchronizes with a PC-based list of tunes. And it’s simpler to use.

Posted by Glennf at 9:45 PM | TrackBack

Coarse Print

By Glenn Fleishman

eBay continues a tradition of actually explaining changes to their user agreement in plain English. I’ve spotted this elsewhere on occasion: not only are we appropriately notified far enough in advance so that we can stop being eBay members if we don’t agree with the new terms, but we are also given an English summary of the contractual changes. Bravo!

Posted by Glennf at 8:28 AM | TrackBack

February 25, 2002

It's Flow Important

By Glenn Fleishman

Irrespective of my earlier post in which I said Dan Perkins isn’t a journalist, per se, he did make a good point in the NY Times article he was quoted in about blogging: the fact is that blogging itself may or may not be important or useful for the individual qua individual, but it’s what ____ _____ calls the flow — the array of other pages driving traffic to your post — that makes a blog serve a purpose outside of personal satisfaction.

After a year and a half of blogging, I’ve started to get both a reputation among colleagues and to get article assignments because of this and my Wi-Fi/802.11b blog. The consistent output of words flows outwards; links flow inwards; I become more Google-ized; I become more credible.

I can see why cartoonists would be and are embracing this. (See not only Perkins’s site, but also The Norm, in which the cartoonist is blogging in his character’s persona; and my personal favorite, Chris Baldwin’s Bruno.) A cartoonist can pick up an several hundred to several thousand dollars per year when they are added by a single paper. An extra few thousand to tens of thousands of readers could be the momentum that convinces someone to write their newspaper or vote in a cartoon contest for new strips to replace Spiderman (the world slowest moving strip: Monday, Spidey wakes up; Friday, he’s brushing his teeth).

Bruno’s creator, Chris, has scraped together an interesting living through dedicated fans who buy his self-published books, commission artwork, loan him money via Bruno Bonds (repayable with interest) to fund the books, and otherwise buoy his spirits while he creates his masterwork.

I was exchanging email with the creator of Foxtrot, Bill Amend, the other day after I noticed that dub dub dub foxtrot dot com displayed this message: Bill Amend has decided to take offline. This was fascinating, because when I interviewed Bill in late 1998 for an article on the Internet’s effect on cartoonists, he was excited about the possibilities, but reluctant to get too interactive with his readers. He’s in a lot of papers, and it could be risky to open up the floodgates. (The creator of Frank and Ernest, that cheery inoffensive goofy strip that everyone seems to carry - it’s sweet - gets hundreds and hundreds of emails.)

Bill’s new site is on his own at It’s much more personal. He puts his email address up. It’s homey. It’s like the Web pages of yore. But it’s his voice, not his syndicate’s. When I asked him why he moved to his own home, he said that the syndicate just can’t do things because they’re fun. He thought he’d better interact with his loyal fans and give them what they wanted. Now that’s the real voice of the Net, isn’t it?

Posted by Glennf at 1:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Where We Dump

By Glenn Fleishman

John Markoff has a superb story in this morning’s New York Times about how the U.S. and other countries are dumping all of our old electronics in China and other less-New-Economy-oriented countries where workers with no safety equipment disassemble toxic or dangerous components, and dispose of parts in such a way that it leaches into groundsoil and the water supply. (I had heard a couple of years ago that China was going to ban what are called end-of-line shipments, in which dead computers are simply offloaded to them.)

More coverage: the report Markoff covered was issued by BAN (Basel Action Network), a Seattle-based group that seeks to enforce implementation of an accord reached in Basel, Switzerland, for limiting the export of toxic materials from a group of industrialized nations to countries outside their purview. Stories also appeared in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer (cover story), Seattle Times (front of Local News), and Tacoma News-Tribune (cover story). For more stories, follow this link to n news source search on the topic.

The San Jose Mercury News’s story notes at the end: Hewlett-Packard will pick up your unwanted computer equipment — whether it’s made by HP or not — and recycle it in the United States for a nominal fee. Functioning computers are donated to charities, while others are refurbished and resold. Those that can’t be salvaged are recycled properly without adding to landfills. For details, go to

Who was it who said that the computer revolution was a clean revolution? Just ask the folks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, too, who have seen billions of gallons of typically potable water used and discarded, often polluted until recent years, in the process of making silicon and other components. Yes, in a state with perpetual water crises and cyclical droughts, they have a water-intensive industry. It would be like putting papermaking plants in the desert. (They probably do that, too.)

King County, the county in which Seattle is located, is a national leader on the topic of recycling computer and electronic components, as the county and city and whole Northwest have been in reclaiming our sordid outputs into useful inputs. The county has a special project called the Computer Recovery Project. Launched as a test in October 2000 as a public/private partnership before banning computer monitors from our dumps, the CRP was wildly successful.

Monitors can be disassembled, and the lead glass of the tubes smelted to extract the lead and the glass. Only a few plants can perform this task, so the cost is relatively high to transport these heavy monitors cross-country to Pennsylvania. The coordinator of the program told me that it’s unlikely new smelters will open because of the industry’s transition to LCD displays, which do not require lead in their construction.

Last week, over President’s Day weekend, Staples ran a free promotion nationwide: bring in old, dying, or dead equipment and get some coupons. They’d give you a trade-in on working, newer equipment, and a coupon for $20 off $100 or more in purchases that weekend for dead devices. We dug up a couple hundred pounds or more of useless stuff: two monitors that wouldn’t stay on, a dead computer (dead power supply, stripped out memory and hard drive), old printers long gone. I believe that Staples collected million of pounds of gear nationwide. They had pulled in maybe half a ton the day we went in at that one store, which was the morning of President’s Day itself.

Posted by Glennf at 10:23 AM | TrackBack

We Blog - No, Really, WE BLOG

By Glenn Fleishman

Another ass-backwards story on blogging, now in the New York Times. Bob Tedeschi is no Luddite, nor is he unfamiliar with Internet culture. He knows technology. So I ask how he wound up with a Ecommerce story on blogging which opens with a recital of the statistics and then a practically open dismissal of blogging’s future (damning through faint praise, I guess) before addressing the business side.

Further, his choice of a journalism figure blogging away on their own dime wasn’t Doc Searls, Paul Andrews, Dan Gillmor, J.D. Lasica, Jim Romenesko, Deborah Branscum (or even yours truly), but Dan Perkins, a cartoonist who does This Modern World. I like the cartoon and Dan is a political thinker. But he’s no journalist: he’s an essayist and advocate. He doesn’t write reportage. Joe Bob says, blog fu.

I don’t mean to trot out the usual suspects every time someone mentions blogging and journalism, but we have some folks who are doing the real deal: reporting on their site, writing analysis, interviewing people, creating something bigger than synthesis involving new facts. Commentary is good and interesting, but it isn’t Big J or little j journalism. (Journalism’s tradition only spans to the late 1800s, if that, in its current form; commentary stretches thousands and thousands of years.) But another way: journalism is asking other people why things work the way they do, and trying to ask enough people to paint a picture of the truth; commentary is asking yourself.

Of course, in the way of these things, the central part of the article was quite solid, showing quantitative and qualitative interest, and the development of business-oriented blogging. Tedeschi missed mentioning that Pyra ( had a strategic investment from Trellix, which has a business software business. I found that omission odd, especially since Trellix leads us to Dan Bricklin, a business-software pioneer.

Posted by Glennf at 7:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 24, 2002

Mother of All Atheists

By Glenn Fleishman

Dave Weinberger made me happy with this observation today about hearing Richard Dawkins speak at the TED conference: It genuinely irks me that he recklessly conflates all religions as if they all reject science, all insist on blind faith, and all appeal only to the weak-minded. Deepak Chopra followed up by suggesting Dawkins was a fundamentalist and a bigot, and, Dave notes: He then spent his twenty minutes trying to erase science’s distinction between observed and observer, using indeterminacy and quantum leaps as his proof points.

Atheists who treat atheism as a religion irk me, too. I used to be arrogant enough to think that I could sort out all of reality through my own filter. Growing older has presented me with more insolvable propositions that have opened my mind into understanding that there is no possible way to understand all of reality, nor dismiss the beliefs of billions of people. I’ve also started to appreciate that every single person’s expression of religious belief or spirituality is different than everyone else’s, dogmatic theologians and zealots aside. Even the strictest observer has their own thoughts and spin; dogma tries to deny these differences.

Posted by Glennf at 2:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 21, 2002

Confluence on Ice

By Glenn Fleishman

A few dates into our acquaintance back in 1997, my fiancee and I discovered that her father and my parents had grown up at roughly the same time in Poughkeepsie, New York (local Native Amer dialect for little mud huts on the river, apparently). Her family, Quaker and Presby; mine, Jewish. Her father grew up more on the farm side of things; mine in the township outside the urban area.

We found another good intersection on Wednesday. Jim Shea, Jr., went to high school in West Hartford, Conn., with Lynn, and she knew him somewhat, and even skied with him once. Jim’s father and grandfather competed in the Olympics as well; his grandfather was killed by a drunk driver just a few weeks before the game.

While watching coverage of the gold-medal-winning runs of Jim Jr., they mentioned his grandfather had been a gold-medal-winning speedskater in 1932. As mentioned earlier in this blog, my grandfather’s cousin Irv Jaffe, was also a multiple medal skater. Turns out, they were teammates. In fact, they’re both mentioned in the book, Frozen in Time.

Posted by Glennf at 8:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Exceed the Need to Speed

By Glenn Fleishman

Last July, a New Haven car rental company made headlines because it used a monitoring service in its cars to charge renters $150 every time they exceeded 79 mph for more than two minutes. A man who was charged $150 twice complained, and the state, rather than point to the contract he signed to use the rental car that apparently mentioned this proviso, defended his right to speed.

Okay, so perhaps the company didn’t disclose enough, but some reports made it clear that the fee for speeding was displayed in large type and required initialing. The State of Connecticut just found the firm violated the Unfair Trade Practices Act, and told them to stop and refund fees. (Oddly, the stories last July indicated the same thing, but the state must have needed to go through a formal process that just ended.)

Because there were competitors in the market, I thought it was perfectly legitimate for the company to state its terms, ask people to behave reasonably, and monitor their behavior. They were a private company, for chrissakes, not the government. And you consented to the monitoring and the fines (at least in some versions).

Around the time the news story broke on this, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow produced one of his This Modern World panels on the subjects. I wrote Tom (actually Dan Perkins) about the issue and how it was hardly in the same league as government monitoring because it was voluntary and there were other options. He wrote back that he was stunned that anyone would defend the company, but he saw where I was coming from even though he disagreed. We both agreed that New Haven is full of people trying to rip you off, as I can testify from five years of living there (Dan lived there at one point, too).

Of course, the hilarious side story to Acme Rent-a-Car (their real name) was that it turned out that many national and regional rental car agencies are monitoring cars all the time through a variety of services. So far, these companies have used this for good: locked your rental car keys in the car? Great, they can send a signal and remotely unlock it. Car stolen? They can find it. Shouldn’t that bother people, too? No, it’s not the government. Then tell me again what’s wrong with Acme’s policy. (Oh, yeah, they tried to justify it on the basis of expense: wear and tear. So why can hotels charge $150 if you smoke in a non-smoking room even if it costs them $5 to clean it? Not that I want smokers to have that right.)

Posted by Glennf at 8:10 PM | TrackBack

Alternate Worlds in AP's Google Coverage

By Glenn Fleishman

Doc Searls writes on AP’s misfire on Google’s ad announcement: I covered this for the NY Times (see the link in Doc’s story), and it was interesting to see the rollout of the news. Because the AP is picked up by so many papers, their mischaracterization of what exactly was involved in the pay-for-position change cascaded across the country’s breakfast table. Interestingly, Google response was, in part, to email Doc Searls and ____ ______. Google gets the chain of credibility.

Posted by Glennf at 6:25 PM | TrackBack

ReplayTV 4000 flaws (but I still love it)

By Glenn Fleishman

Our ReplayTV 4080 started showing ads a couple days ago when the display is paused. Yup, ads. Riocentral: story and play your entire music collection. An ad from the parent company. Bad idea, dudes! This is viral marketing; how many of us see this and then want to tell our friends to go out and buy a unit?

My complaints about the unit:

1. Doesn’t have a display to quickly show what’s currently recording. (Hack: exit all programs and use Channel Up or Down, and it switches to the currently recording channel.)

2. Doesn’t offer an extended list of conflict resolution when you have many programs that want to be recorded at once.

3. Doesn’t have a simple, record this program once option.

4. Doesn’t merge multiple programs with the same description.

5. Must delete programs individually; you can’t tag programs and then hit delete. Tedious.

6. Can’t review a list of upcoming scheduled recording.

7. It lacks a preference observation algorithm so it doesn’t record on its own.

8. The distinction between guaranteed programs and not guaranteed ones is strange. If you guarantee a program, it’s always recorded, but not always. It’s unclear what limits unguaranteed programs.

9. No button to move a day ahead in the program schedule, which can span two weeks.

10. The low-res mode which gives you 80 hours needs to be improved. I hope they develop better algorithms (or 200 Gb hard drives become cheap).

Posted by Glennf at 6:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Me, Profit, and InfoWorld

By Glenn Fleishman

InfoWorld’s long-time columnist Brian Livingston sent out part one of two email columns on how I’ve turned into a profitable, fun, well-indexed ecommerce site. Don’t everyone rush to their servers to follow my lead (it’s a niche), but my motto is, “Scraping the Crumbs Off the Table of ECommerce.” My alternate motto is, “Rooting Around for Change in the Cushions of ECommerce’s Couch”.

Posted by Glennf at 11:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 20, 2002

The Google Pay-for-Position Deal

By Glenn Fleishman

My brief in Thursday’s New York Times on Google’s new arrangement. Google is being its usually clever self. These ads are still clearly labeled as sponsored links at the right of its actual search results in different colored boxes, so consumer advocates should be pleased. But they’re using a combination of round-robin and survival of the clickest: your ad gets put in competition against other ads, and you are always charged the lowest possible price for the optimized highest position. If you bid low and have a high clickthrough rate, you pay the least amount necessary for that combination (clickthrough times bid) to put you on top. It really has no impact directly on Overture’s business, but it’s an interesting way to quickly test out ad ideas in the marketplace. Google automatically drops adds that get less than five clickthroughs in the first 1,000 impressions to save its advertisers money on ineffective campaigns, as these ads tend to be objective driven, but brand oriented.

Posted by Glennf at 6:50 PM | TrackBack

February 19, 2002

eBay Identity Theft

By Glenn Fleishman

A few weeks ago, someone stole my identity (temporarily) on eBay. I was mystified at the time, and eBay (which handled the problem beautifully for me) also was at a loss. My password is not subject to dictionary attacks and comprises letters, numbers, and punctuation. My email account was not compromised. I have never spoken my eBay password aloud or stored it on my computer. I haven’t accessed the account at insecure locations. So how was it ripped off?

Turns out I’m not alone. A PC World editor was similarly hijacked - and she and eBay have no explanation, either. eBay may have a mole, or may have someone who has figured out how to manipulate DNS temporarily to redirect outbound email to specific domains. This would allow someone to generate a password change request, intercept the email, login, and change the account. In my case, the hijacker was trying to sell digital cameras with 7-day auctions (which eBay said was weird - usually the auctions are quick to get in and out). They required international money orders for payment, too. Bells should be going off.

Anyone else hijacked?

Posted by Glennf at 11:09 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

February 15, 2002

Egg Sucking

By Glenn Fleishman

It may be impossible to hide one’s true nature in a blog because even the most technical of blogs are personal endeavors. Thus, I have reasoned that Dan Bricklin is an awfully nice fellow. You merely need to read the way in which he writes about events, and the events he chooses to write about to feel that way. Dan is one of the inventors of the original spreadsheet program, VisiCalc, and he has continued to stay involved in software development in a career that spans decades.

A few days ago, I sent him a “gramma, I want you to suck an egg” note in which I expressed a great desire for permanent per-day links on his blog as I wanted to link to an item. He wrote back that they were working on it, and many others had had the same wish. Today he wrote that they put that feature into the combination of software that he uses to blog (some from his company Trellix, some from Pyra/Blogger, which Trellix invested in). You can read about what led him to this process at his first perma-link!.

Dan posted photos from Demo 2002, including some from the day before. If you scroll down to the photos of press, you’ll see a picture with a couple of pals of mine: the fellow on the left I don’t know, but then there’s Pete Lewis (Personal Technology editor, Fortune; senior editor, Time Inc.), a mentor and buddy; Dan Gillmor (SJ Mercury tech columnist), who I’ve met and corresponded with several times; and Steve Manes (Forbes tech columnist), a Seattle-area colleague and friend. I recognize some other faces, but can’t attach them. Lower in the page you’ll see Dan Gillmor and his brother Steve. Steve writes a very smart column for InfoWorld - some of the most relevant writing in the IT magazine, side-by-side with Ed Foster’s.

Posted by Glennf at 8:40 AM | TrackBack

February 14, 2002

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

By Glenn Fleishman

How did I miss David Weinberg’s blog? David is an entertaining chap. He has big ideas which he slices into small piece which, when consumed, reconstitute themselves in your brain. It hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt, like acupuncture. (I read that the Chinese don’t describe acupuncture as painful. I mentioned this to my Western naturopath at the time, and he said, yeah, but hey, they have a word for pain, it’s just not the word they use for acupuncture. I don’t find acupuncture painful precisely; there isn’t an English word for having needles jabbbed in you. Masochism?)

David writes JOHO, the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, and is a Cluetrain co-author. He’s a neat guy, too: I’ve had some fun email exchanges with him. He’s a former professor, and has interesting ideas on education. I spend too much time (especially when you add that to the time I spend reading Doc’s blog) reading his writing of all sorts. David has a new book about to come out that I am desperately trying to find the time to read the reviewer’s proof of.

Posted by Glennf at 8:02 PM | TrackBack

Geek Love

By Glenn Fleishman

If I had tried this, I wouldn’t be getting married in September. It’s certainly sweet. CmdrTaco (Rob Malda), one of the Slashdot founders and an obvious super-information-eating maniac, proposed via a Slashdot thread. It’s cute, it’s funny, and I would never have tried this at home, folks! (Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart.)

Posted by Glennf at 3:20 PM | TrackBack

Archive Mishegas

By Glenn Fleishman

I managed to mess up my Greymatter installation in such a way that it started renumbering. With some great help from the folks who run Greymatter’s forums, I was able to restore everything, but had to repost a few entries that are numbered out of sequence. I’m in the middle of writing five articles due this month for four publications plus finishing the manuscript revisions for Real World Adobe GoLive for Adobe’s upcoming 6.0 release of the product. (Next month: production of figures and pages!)

So my goal is to switch to Radio 8, but heck if I have time at the moment.

Posted by Glennf at 3:15 PM | TrackBack

Security Dividend

By Glenn Fleishman

Microsoft’s much-publicized security boot camp for its programmers has already paid off handsomely. The company is releasing a comprehensive bug patch for IE 5.0-6.0 that fixes six previously unreported problems that they rank from minimal to critically severe. If this is just the first wave 11 days in, perhaps Microsoft will go a long way towards restoring security and perhaps even be active about it in the future through testing and listening to its customers.

Posted by Glennf at 9:46 AM | TrackBack

O Canada!

By Glenn Fleishman

Have you ever met a Canadian you didn’t like? I ask Canadians to exclude themselves from this survey. I can’t recall a single one. During my trip with my fiancee and her family to Lake Louise (near Banff) last March, we encountered oodles of fun Canucks. It’s getting so you can’t say something nice about Canadians without a Canadian noticing it and saying something nice.

Posted by Glennf at 9:46 AM | TrackBack

Google Goes Business Class

By Glenn Fleishman

Google announced a new hardware and software solution for businesses on Monday: it’s a yellow box full of Google goodness. It uses their algorithms and methodologies to traverse intranet documents. You can get the lite version ($20,000, model GB-1001) that handles up to 150,000 documents (approximately) and can process about 60 queries per minute. The super-sized version in a rack ($250K+, model GB-8008, which is eight GB-1001’s) can handle millions of document and 750 queries per minute sustained, with peaks of 1,000 qpm (new term to learn).

This new hardware/software combo puts Google in competition with internal-indexing firms as well as their search-engine comrades who have offered business software solutions, like AltaVista. Having Googleware in-house may prove tempting to many businesses whose IT, marketing, and executive employees already perform all of their searches every day via Google’s Web engine.

The Google Search Appliance, as they term it, rotates brand inwards, like watching your eyes roll backwards in your head. Marketers may hurt when they see how a public service offered for free powers identical private services.

FAST/ has been using this model for some time, but with less branding success despite the high quality of their search results. FAST (traded on the Oslo stock exchange) runs the as its public face to demonstrate new technologies. It offers these same technologies as a hosted service, an in-house service, or shrinkwrapped software. Google is now challenging FAST through the brand.

The Google devices can be used as public facing search engines indexing a company’s documents, or as private, intranet search engines. Google spokesperson Nate Tyler confirmed that administrators can build different collections for different searches (products, marketing, whole site, etc.), as well as use templates for customizing the output.

Tyler also added that the templates can be built as XSLT documents, allowing the use of structured XML template generators for managing the output style. You can also take the raw XML output and work with it, too, which opens up a wide array of possibilities of combining Google’s search output with other intranet or Internet services. (XSLT is a whole other ball of wax; the new QuarkXPress 5.0 can generate XSLT documents with great ease, despite the program’s lack of other new features.)

True to Google’s Web nature, the appliance doesn’t mount directories and recursively search. Instead it follows Web paths provided to it. Tyler pointed out that internal directories can easily be traversed by mounting a directory via a Web server which Google points to. (Pretty efficient in its own way, and it relies on HTTP and throttling or other internal controls at that level instead of hammering file servers.)

Some folks at Slashdot and elsewhere expressed relief at Google’s new product release: they’ll finally have a revenue stream, these folks said, besides advertising. In fact, Google has quite publicly been providing hosted search services for a variety of large companies, and th revenue from these ventures has driven them towards what the the privately-held company has been intimating is either a current pro-forma-style profit, or a near-term actual profit.

Posted by Glennf at 9:46 AM | TrackBack

Google for the Masses

By Glenn Fleishman

Wait, don’t we already have that? ____ ______ states in reference to the Google Search Appliance: The product I wanted was a desktop Google for $20-$99 per year. I’m still reading tea leaves. He goes on to cite former Sun and Novell exec Eric Schmidt’s CEO-ship of Google as perhaps motivating them to the enterprise instead of the extraprise (or “extra prize”?).

It’s an interesting thought. I remember a client of my sold-long-ago firm, POPCO (motto: the lights are off, but we’re still ticking!), showing me Web Weasal or Net Ferret or something back in 1996: it was a desktop app that queried a bunch of search engines in the background and assembled results. Because the queries came from the desktop, search engines couldn’t easily lock them out. Other products from other makers (free and fee) followed, but they never caught on.

I’m not sure exactly why. It might be the newbie issue. A desktop search program is something that everyone might want to use and then you support a million people who don’t know how to program their VCRs (but can magically type illiterately into an email message).

What I think ____ is talking about (help me out here) is Google’s power turned towards indexing files on a local hard drive. I find that a different sort of business than what Google is in. Pushing their search into intranets via hardware is an extension of their mighty power. Pushing their optimized routines onto heterogeneous hardware and platforms makes them a consumer software company. (____, you run a consumer/professional software company - do you really want to wish that on Google?)

Posted by Glennf at 9:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 13, 2002

O Canada!

By Glenn Fleishman

Have you ever met a Canadian you didn’t like? I ask Canadians to exclude themselves from this survey. I can’t recall a single one. During my trip with my fiancee and her family to Lake Louise (near Banff) last March, we encountered oodles of fun Canucks. It’s getting so you can’t say something nice about Canadians without a Canadian noticing it and saying something nice.

Posted by Glennf at 8:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 8, 2002

San Jose, We Have a Problem

By Glenn Fleishman

We’ve lost Dan Gillmor. Not literally, just historically. In the excellent wisdom of IT professionals interacting with a reader base without understanding why people read what they do, the San Jose Mercury News reorganized Dan’s Web log archives as they transition to a new system. Rather than building a lookup table or a translation system that would allow old links to be directed seamlessly to the new system, they let them die, and die painfully (404). I’ve been dealing with this problem since 1996, at least, and never let old links rot and die. I wrote about this last April: Permanent URLs require advance design. But they’re not impossible.

I can point to a news article written in Netscape World way back in 1996 about my migration techniques for (Thanks to the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, I can point you to the article even though the archives of this magazine expired long ago.) It’s not rocket science, folks.

Posted by Glennf at 2:57 PM | TrackBack

Flash Humor

By Glenn Fleishman

I don’t usually get into the spreading funny stuff meme, but this is downright hilarious. Requires Flash and JavaScript. Mind altering. Quick. Laugh some.

Posted by Glennf at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

February 7, 2002

Small Okay, Large Problematic

By Glenn Fleishman

An appeals court handed down a decision on Wednesday that would spell the end to certain kinds of uses and interactions with images from indexing sites. The short story: thumbnails good, framing bad.

Posted by Glennf at 9:27 PM | TrackBack

Seattle Weeklies (uh, Strangers?)

By Glenn Fleishman

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a extremely fine story comparing the two local weeklies today. Stunning reporting on a subject that every reader of both publications seems to have an opinion on. The reporter got it right, too: the Weekly doth protest a bit too much that they aren’t aping the Stranger’s more popular features, down to the inside back page comics, and other details. It started a couple years ago with the Weekly running covers that were trying to be as provocative as the Stranger’s (which can be so provocative that you can’t bring them into a workplace).

My favorite Weekly cover story was Amazon.cult, a sour grapes story by a guy who had worked there for three weeks and was fired out of customer service for not being up to snuff. Then he whined about it in press months after it had happened. Much of what he said was true, but he was merely pointing out the obvious: in a high-pressure, cutting-edge company, the crucible is pretty damn hot and you either meet the cut or get cut. What insight. (You can read my sour grapes letter (2nd from top), too.)

Where the Stranger beats the Weekly currently, in my opinion, is by running balls-out journalism. The Stranger sometimes overstates, sometimes gets it wrong, sometimes provides more opinion and analysis than solid fact. But, hell’s bells, they’re telling the real story of this city, and I believe changing the culture by exposing it to light and by involving more younger people in learning about the politic machinations of this town, which (as in every town) effect huge chunks of your life. How much you get paid; whether you’re evicted; what rent costs; property tax; civil rights (from sitting on curbs to freedom to protest a la WTO). This is an exceptional service, and not every paper can meet the challenge. I know Josh Feit through one of my officemates, and I had the chance to profusely compliment him the other day; he appreciated it, it was clear, because he gets piles of abuse for reporting without a filter.

The Weekly’s strongest point was providing that long-view, long-form news approach that the dailies can only handle occasionally, and that the Stranger isn’t constitutionally inclined to for reasons of attitude, staff, and the paper’s heritage. I hope the Weekly keeps moving back towards that solid news center, where they can have a unique spot in the town’s journalism. (And, selfishly, I hope they start running more technology reporting again; I wrote two pieces for them last spring before the Music/Tech editor moved to New York.)

Posted by Glennf at 8:44 AM | TrackBack

Reach Out and Market to Your Friends

By Glenn Fleishman

Not since the MCI calling plan that required you to give the numbers of up to 10 of your closest friends and family who you wanted to get a cheaper rate to call - which then led to them being marketed by the phone company - has a telco introduced a plan more dependent on downstream marketing than AT&T’s latest brilliant move. To quote Saturday Night Live, “Who are the marketing geniuses who came up with this one?” For $19.95 per month you can make unlimited long distance calls to other AT&T customers; 7 cents a minute to everyone else.

The New York Times story goes into some depth, but the salient quote in the press release is this one, which just kills me:

There’s a fairly good chance that calls to your friends and relatives will be included. And if they’re not already AT&T residential customers, just ask them to switch.

This is so Dilbertian that it almost hurts. Oddly that quote appears verbatim in the Times story without attributing it to the press release; either the executive is so on message that she can’t speak except in marketing phrases, or the reporter snipped it and meant to attribute it.

This is an amazing deal if, for instance, you make about 6 to 7 hours of phone calls a month just to AT&T customers. But the flat rate means that if you don’t make these calls every month, you lose out over a cheap per minute deal. It’s like a cell service plan.

I had AT&T service until a few weeks ago under a new plan that was supposed to provide a $25 gift certificate for signing up (it never came and they didn’t answer queries about where it was); and $1 per month off for using online billing. But the basic charges kept growing until we were paying about 50 cents a minute for calls on slow months.

I’d already switched our calling card to Net2Phone. Although they are known for PC-to-PC phone calls, the company has an incredibly good calling card deal. You pay a buck a month for the service and 3.9 cents per minute for long-distance made through a local access number or 7.9 cents per minute through a toll-free number. The pay phone access fee is the lowest I’ve seen: 45 cents the last time I checked.

Other calling cards have ridiculous fees: $1.50 to $2.00 for a pay phone surcharge and 45 cents or higher per minute on their default plans. Even if you pay AT&T an extra monthly fee, the card still offers stupidly high rates. Net2Phone as an Internet company provides full online self-service bill, refill, and call records, too. You can set the card to put more money on whenever the amount drops below a certain point.

For home long-distance, we just switched to Opex, a service recommended through a partnership with AAA of Washington. We also get a special rate. The details I don’t quite have all of, but I believe we’re at 4.5 cents a minute. (Why not just use Net2Phone at home? Because we’ve had the problem before of a calling-card company going belly up.)

Posted by Glennf at 8:20 AM | TrackBack

Heisenberg's Certainty: Unprincipled?

By Glenn Fleishman

The New York Times reports today on a letter written by Danish physicist Niels Bohr in the 50s that recounts the specifics of a meeting in 1941 with Werner Heisenberg, the attempted father of the German nuclear weapon. The letter is seen as finally putting to rest Heisenberg’s contention - examined in a book (which I happened to read) Heisenberg’s War which turned into a play, Copenhagen. The letter to Heisenberg was amended several times but never sent.

Most of the people quoted in the story, with the exception of Heisenberg’s grandson, see the letter as confirming that Heisenberg was a gung-ho bombmaker. The uncertainty still persists for me: if you were a German in 1941 meeting with a Dane, no matter how much your friendship and comradeship meant, would you have dared to suggest you were undermining the war effort? Or perhaps he hadn’t evolved to that point yet.

The book makes it clear that regardless of whether Heisenberg and his team were purposely delaying the bomb, they simply did not have all the pieces together to make one, and that after their capture when they heard about the bombing of Japan, they were surprised when they found out some of the details. (They were being bugged in the house they were held in.)

Posted by Glennf at 8:02 AM | TrackBack

February 5, 2002

Missing Blogs

By Glenn Fleishman

My Web server’s hard drive crapped out. The hackers killed me a month ago. Lots of time and effort to restore. Made a backup on Jan. 19. Meant to get the backup cycle up and running again. In fact, was just backing up the entire hard drive when it died. No warning. An IBM. First time this has happened to me in years that a drive dies, unrecoverably - made interesting beeping noises. There must be piezoelectrics in it that get triggered in these extreme cases. So I lost a couple weeks of a very few things: stuff that was only on the site and not stored elsewhere. Which includes my blog. Gah. More backups in my future. Everything else is backed up nightly, I swear.

Thank Goodness for Google. They captured my last few blog entries (between Jan. 19 and yesterday), so I can repost them when I’ve had some sleep. Thanks, Google!

Here are the important missing entries…

Sowing Memes

It was inevitable. My fiancee has started her own blog.

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Kitty Bud

One of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life was happening upon my cat at about 2 a.m. on the floor of the bathroom writhing around and purring, dental floss grabbed between her four legs. (“Dear Purrhouse?”) I was reading The Botany of Desire last night, a book about humanity’s co-evolution with four plants (apple, tulip, marijuana, potato). The author describes his cat’s daily doled-out visits to the catnip stand, and it reminded me of Early Grey’s wee hour escapades. The floss was mint-flavored. Catnip is a member of the mint family. The extract they chose was obviously too close to catnip, and Earl had fished the floss out of the trash. We wrote the floss maker, and got a couple replies as they tried to pass it on to the right department, but never heard back about whether they thought this was funny or not. I guess companies don’t “get” funny.

Postscript! Kitty lovers, don’t worry. We started flushing the floss after discovering some floss in the kitty’s dross. Kitty lived with us for about a year and a half; she belonged to a late roommate whose father and partner took the cat when they were ready for her. Here’s a very picturesque photo of the lovely Earl Grey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

United We Lie (for a discount)

I’m a United Airlines frequent flyer - Premiere Level - and have flown them almost exclusively for years. I’ve heard horror stories from others, but they have consistently been a great airline to me with very few lapses. I subscribe to one of their opt-in newsletters because a) they gave me miles to do so; b) they actually offer interesting deals that I sometimes use.

But I got a very weird discount offer from them today. I’m not inventing this.

Dear Glenn I Fleishman,

Send a message to the U.S. Olympic Team.

Get 10% off a future flight.

We’re longtime fans of Team USA. We’ve been flying them since 1980. To

training locations. Competitions. And events all around the globe.

Now, you can show your support and see the world for less.

Wish the athletes good luck in Salt Lake City. Send your personal

message to the team by February 25, 2002. Weâll send you a certificate

for 10% off your next flight. So, cheer them on. Write a few words of

encouragement. And inspire them all the way to victory.

It’s free and itâs easy. To post your message to the U.S.

Olympic Team and get your 10% off certificate, simply visit:

United. Flying America’s Team for 22 years.

So, what, they’re not going to tell the athletes that these are bought and paid for good luck letters? Very strange. Even better: the link didn’t work when I tried it, nor does it work at the moment.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Apple Hits 9 Digits

Apple announces a dual 1 GHz PowerMac. Their previous fastest model was dual 800’s, though they had a faster single processor unit. Because OS X has symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) in the kernel, many applications can treat the two 1 GHz chips like a single pool of processing power. Some programs (as I understand it) need to be rewritten, but others pipeline their operations through in such a way that the kernel handles it. I also don’t doubt Apple’s specs comparing two 1 GHz G4s with one 2 GHz Pentium IV. The G4’s pipelining stage is clearly more efficient than the PIV, and Intel has already talked about redesigning that huge bottleneck in future chip designs.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Snow Day

Lynn and I tramped about a bit outside after we had some rare snow in Seattle. It didn’t stick much, but it kept coming and going: a small flurrey, some rain, some sleet, some tiny hail. Some photos.

Posted by Glennf at 8:36 PM | TrackBack


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