Copyright ©1997-2011 Glenn Fleishman except as noted otherwise. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact Glenn Fleishman at glenn at glennf.com. Photo © 2008 Laurence Chen; used with permission.
Turning technology from mumbo-jumbo into rich tasty gumbo
In today’s Seattle Times, I write about the long dance Microsoft and Apple have kept up over the years seesawing over the equilibrium point where Apple is the honored opponent that keeps Microsoft from owning nearly 100 percent of consumers and the hated competition that’s stealing market share.
With Microsoft’s purchase of Virtual PC, Apple computers are just another platform on which Windows operating systems and applications can run. It’s another tool for cost conservation on Microsoft’s part: less porting of Windows software to the Mac or fewer ground-up projects means fewer costs.
I’ve joined the Movable Type club. I installed MT a few weeks ago to launch an AirPort wireless Web log and found it to be a breeze to install. I already had MySQL running, so it was trivial to have it use that database system. Setting up the entire thing went so well that I helped my office Jeff Carlson by spawning a new blog under the same setup.
I’ve been reading the documentation for a couple of weeks about exporting Greymatter blogs in a way that Movable Type could import them, and wasn’t sure if I was ready for the move. But I like MT so much that I had to take the leap. I shouldn’t have feared it.
It took about five minutes to reformat the templates in Greymatter into a fashion that Movable Type could import. The import operation took a few tries as I wasn’t setting all the permissions correctly, and I had to reset some of my Apache Web server configurations.
Now I’m set up. All the old comments migrated. All the archives created themselves. Nifty.
Jeff Walsh wrote today about blogging and journalism. Read his essay and this is my response.
I’m with you on all counts as a freelance print journalist, but for one thing: blogs aren’t journalism because there is no such as “blogs” — no monolithic Blog, Inc., that produces blogs of uniform consistency. The “intro to blogs” pieces you mention virtually always make the mistake of lumping blogs into a single category, like war blogs or journalism blogs or Hello Kitty blogs. The criticism leveled at blogs is almost universally decrying a specific form of blog out of thousands of categories. So syllogistically, all blogs are not journalism, some people write journalism in blogs, therefore some blogs are journalism.
Many blogs are first-hand accounts of what someone is doing, has seen, or has done; many blogs are summaries of what other people have written, said, or created; lastly, a small number of blogs are second-hand reports based on interviews or interaction with people who did, saw, or created. This third category of secondhand blogs are the closest thing to print reportage that exists.
I wouldn’t try to say that a given blog is or is not journalism, because journalism is broadly instanciating reality through the filter of the mind into the written or spoken word. That’s a large category, and in that definition virtually all blogs are journalism, even blogs that are intensely personal or based on interiority.
Rather, the attention on blogs is that it splits attention: journalism is about monolithic ownership these days and monolithic worldviews. Blogs are all about individuals and the millions of separate opinions. In representing blogs to a non-blogging audience, reporters seem drawn to sweep them into a single heap.
Why? Either because you can’t become an expert on blogging in the couple of hours a reporter has to write a story, or because a given reporters spends a lot of time in their single blog niche that they become obsessed with and write about blogs as if that niche is all there is.
No subject is monolithic unless you’re writing about that scene in 2001.
No, this is not a joke headline. The Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) at Microsoft just completed the deal, to be finalized this month, to acquire Connectix’s Virtual PC for Mac, Virtual PC for Windows, and just-about-to-be-in-beta Virtual PC Server software products. The MacBU has made several announcements over the last few months that have tied its products more closely into the Windows world, including a recent roadmap for an Entourage plug-in that will give it substantial Exchange server integration for group calendar and contacts; Entourage can use POP to work with Exchange for email currently, but with little added sophistication.
More on this, obviously, in an upcoming Practical Mac column in The Seattle Times. I’ll be curious to get Apple’s reaction, but this is certainly a strong indication of Microsoft’s continued commitment to development on the Mac platform — or possibly an escape plan. If they tweak Virtual PC to work fast enough, they could just develop Office for Windows and bundle Virtual PC with it as the Mac version…
The hue and cry has gone out far and wide, but Google has bought Pyra Labs, the folks who developed and run Blogger.com and all of its related projects. Blogger has over 1.1 million Web logs, and some number of those pay a fee for extra services.
Google has gradually swept into its purview Usenet (the only comprehensive archive and the collective memory of ephemeral posts of the Arpanet and Internet), images, and news. Adding blogs changes the equation as they’re suddenly connected with content creation.
My favorite book comparison today is The Making of Miami Vice: a $3.95 book published in 1986 that now sells for $75 to $150. It’s rare, baby! Keep those “Legends of Kiss” comic books handy!
Doc Searls writes about people he’d like to see have blogs who don’t. His list: I’d add Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Kalle Lasn, Watts Wacker, George Lakoff, James Gleick, Steven Levy, Alvin Toffler, George Gilder, David Isenberg, Dave Farber, Geoffrey Moore, Esther Dyson, Mary Modahl, Hal Crowther, Rick Levine, John Naisbitt, Randall Stross, George Lakoff, Mike Wallace and Peter Drucker, to name a few.
There’s a good reason virtually all of them don’t (except Rick Levine and possibly a few others whose names I don’t recognize): they’re paid so damn much for the pearls of wisdom or idiocy — depending on your opinion of them — that fall from their lips that there’s no currency in simply being read for free online. Most of these people have an immediate blogspherical distortion when they say anything meaningful in any medium: you can practically see the blogworld ripple outward from the shockwave generated by their utterances.
How many times do you see Farber, Dyson, Toffler, etc., etc., say something that’s spread to hundreds or thousands of blogs and print/online articles? The same effect that drives people to a few blogs more heavily than many others — see Clay Shirky’s essay that Doc references — works in terms of the non-bloggers, too. The people who have influence who don’t blog maintain that influence in part because of their sway over traditional media which disseminates their bon mots to the blogging world quite effectively.
(And an interesting second-order effect: Clay links to books in his essay via my isbn.nu book price comparison site. Because of the great interest in his essay, which has been linked from practically everywhere, I am seeing several hundred clickthroughs a day to isbn.nu, some of which obviously result in book sales on which I get commission. So the irony is that Clay wrote something for free and published it and I’m reaping the cash benefit. I’ll be sending him a thank you.)
Hilarious story in Wired News today in which they try to buy things mentioned in spam. Maybe it’s ironic instead of hilarious: most attempts to buy or get more info fail, but their addresses get resold to other spammers. Is there an entire spam-to-spam industry in which people are moving chits around representing money for email addresses? Possibly. The stuff they do manage to buy is mostly classified-ad fraud/misrepresentation stuff practically: photocopied instructions that tell you how to perpetuate what the spammers are doing or information that’s available for free (and not a 10th-generation blur).
Doc Searls is the most loss-attractive guy I know. From personal recollection and his blog, I believe I know about a dead PowerBook (just died), a dead PowerBook (bent), a misplaced AirPort Base Station (later found and restored), a stolen camcorder (replaced by his Net fans), at least a pair of lost glasses, and one or more lost cell phones.
Now someone’s gone and stolen his laptop and his glasses. I think Doc needs a proximity alarm—nothing is allowed to be more than about 15 feet from him, intentionally or otherwise.
David Weinberger scared me when I dropped him off at the airport a few weeks ago in SF: he was so beat that he dropped all his stuff sort of out in the unoccupied airport about 15 feet from the counter and wasn’t watching it. (Now you know, Dave!)
Me, I’m courting fate here, but I can’t think that I’ve ever had anything important stolen. Our car was professionally broken into several months ago and someone stole a cheapass cassette deck that cost < $200 to install a few years ago, so no great loss. (We replaced it with a CD player that has an auxiliary input stereo jack—and we always take the faceplate now, instead of the lazy complacency we’d gotten into.)
I back up my data to some ridiculous extents, making multiple tape copies and then cutting CDs from time to time of the data part of the transaction. It’s worked out. I’ve never really lost any personal data, but I’ve had hard drives go bad twice in the last year plus some cracker attacks which has resulted in extensive restoration from backups. I still need to improve how I backup so that I can make sure and always have a revert position instead of wasting whole days.
If you live in Seattle, come out and see me (for free) at the Macintosh dBug (formally, maybe formerly, the downtown business user’s group) meeting on Feb. 12 at 6.30 pm in the Seattle Times Auditorium. (See here for details.) I’ll be talking about wireless, Macworld Expo and related announcements, and my new book on wireless networking!
The most sensible single article on the Columbia loss that I’ve read appeared in today’s New York Times. In this article, the risks of space flight are dissected. As my colleague Jeff Carlson noted, we have to hope the astronauts were given as much insight into the chance of failure and other risks as were realistic.
Elsewhere on the Net, I’ve seen quotes from Richard Feynman appear from his conclusions after the Challenger disaster that have similar conclusions, but this heartfelt statement from a NASA official sums it up best: Capt. Bill Readdy, associate administrator for space flight and a former astronaut, said at a news conference yesterday afternoon: “Today was a very stark reminder that this is a very risky endeavor, pushing back the frontiers in outer space. And after 113 flights, unfortunately, people have a tendency to look at it as something that is more or less routine. Well I can assure you it is not.
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