Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Freud's Resurrection (and Geek Wednesday)

Before we get to Geek Wednesday, a brief note about the state of our culture and our media. For the Washington Post today (here and here) is reporting that the Foley fiasco could spell the fall of the neocon version of the Republican Party.

Now I don't give a damn whether the G.O.P. collapses under the weight of the past six years' tyranny or not: the GOP itself is no more inherently evil than the Democrats are good. I align myself with the Dems in this country because they have more good people at the moment, and are far more likely to give government back the moral intelligence it needs. Otherwise, they are both group labels, with no more meaning than the "do not remove" tag on a mattress.

But why in the name of the hounds of Hell (Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Crawford Ape) did it take a sex scandal to get people talking about exorcising these ghouls? What does it say about our cultural consciousness, that after nine months of plutocratic lethargy followed by five years of outright tyranny, oppression, incompetence, murder, deceit, fraud, and criminal neglect of the affairs of government—we can at last talk about expelling them? Why does a prurient affair involving a Congressman flaying his bacon while IM'ing teenage boys finally wake us up? It makes me want to resurrect every Freudian theory I rejected about ten years ago.

I'm sorry folks, my chile is just too damned hot right now for Geek Wednesday. CAT—GET OVER HERE. NOW...BLOG!

Geek Wednesday

Jesus, what an attitude. Hey everybody, it's Night the Cat again, back with another Geek Wednesday. While my human goes off and gets himself a cold shower, let's talk geekery, just us reasonable creatures.

Charles Cooper thinks the Google $1.6B YouTube purchase is a shoe that's still in the air:

YouTube indeed may become the future of contemporary entertainment, but right now it's still a site where I goof off and watch dumb cat videos.


Maybe, in fact, the dumbass here is the human, Mr. Cuban, who thinks Eric Schmidt is a moron. Makes me want to go watch some dumb human videos (it's known as the evening news).

Obviously, Google knows what it's doing—they don't pull deals like this out their butts. My only question on this whole deal is: don't you people read anymore? Does everything in your world that's of any conceivable entertainment value have to be packaged as TV? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you humans are crazier than feeding time at the dog pound.

Now, what else has been going on in your geek world since last week? Ah, Microsoft: the people who brought you the BSOD (blue screen of death) and who will be bringing you, sometime next year, the sine qua non of software plagiarism (which will be laughably protected against piracy!), are now about to unleash another daring feat of techno-thievery, IE 7, now in RC1.

It's got tabbed browsing, which Opera invented ten years ago. It's got usability and security features that have been in Firefox, Opera, and even Netscape for years—except that, like most plagiarism, it copies them badly or incompletely. Check out the design of the toolbars in the picture (IE7 above left; Firefox 1.5 below right; click the graphic for an enlarged view).

IE7: the refresh button's too small, there is no personal toolbar (even the menu bar isn't a default, you have to call it up yourself), and what about that page ranking for the blog here? It was "5" on IE6 this morning! Now it's "8" (we wish).

But let's look at the bright side: the installation went smoothly, though it tried to set up MSN Search (Google politely rejected the effort); the "quick tabs" feature is a modestly interesting (if less useful) variation on a theme that Opera has had for awhile (clicking on the quick tabs button renders the window as a group of previews of all open tabbed pages); the tabs are moveable (again, a feature Firefox has had for some time) and pages load no less unpredictably than in IE6.

Ah, let's face facts, people: IE IS STILL A PIECE OF SHIT. If you're still using it, you're nothing but a dried-up hairball. I'm sorry, but those are the facts.

So imitation's weakness will always and inevitably get its comeuppance, and to judge by the stats, IE is getting its due in a steadily decreasing market dominance.

Here, we mostly use Safari; but in the Wintel realm we still like Firefox, whose version 2.0 is now in RC2 and is looking very solid indeed in both Windows and on the Mac (Ars has a good review here). But Opera also has features that make it a must-download as well: automatic session saving (you have to download an extension in Firefox to get that); active mouseover previews of tabbed pages; free community and individual pages, including blogging space; and a company led by geeks who know their stuff and care about innovation and quality—check out C-Net's interview with their CEO, HÃ¥kon Wium Lie (cool name!). Here's his assessment of IE:

It's the same formatting, and it's a Trident engine which, when introduced in IE 4 in 1997, was wonderful. It gave us many things that hadn't been seen on the Web before. And they have introduced things like XHTTP request, for example, so I don't think everything Microsoft does is bad.

But I do think now would have been the right time for them to say, "We haven't maintained this browser for five or six years, and we should really give it a good update." But they haven't.

The chrome around it has changed. They now have tab browsing. Well, Opera invented tab browsing probably 10 years ago, and now it's here with Microsoft. They've fixed some security issues. They've fixed some longstanding bugs, but only a subset of them. These bugs have been reported for years and years, and I think it's been huge cost to the Western world with all these Web designers having to deal with bugs in IE 6.

They had to work long hours to make sure it renders in all versions of IE and also with the standards-centered browsers like Firefox and Safari and Opera. It would have cost Microsoft only a tiny amount of development resources in 2001 and 2002, but they left the problems linger.

OK, enough Microbrain bashing for now...what's our favorite computer and software maker up to now? They keep churning out those goofy ads; basking in the glowing reviews of the new 24" iMac and the Mac Pro; looking forward to another record-breaking financial quarter; and getting the Leopard ready to pounce. And taking on the enterprise realm.

Huh?!? Apple playing with the big dogs of corporate geekery? That wasn't some kitten in the blogosphere saying that—it's columnist Tom Yager of InfoWorld. Here's part of his pitch:

Apple accepts that raising user and administrator productivity is the responsibility of the core platform. As Macs achieve 64-bit ubiquity -- a journey furthered by the September delivery of new 64-bit 17-, 20-, and 24-inch iMac one-piece desktops -- and the Leopard (OS X 10.5) operating system/application platform stalks its way to a spring 2007 release, Apple is promising the benefits of next-generation nimbleness and power to the desks, laps, and consoles of users and server administrators alike.

Even non-Mac users acknowledge the advanced usability. So why do most purchasers of commercial and enterprise systems ignore Macs when they get serious about buying?

Yager goes on to cite some longstanding misconceptions and false assumptions, such as:

“It’s a proprietary platform.”

If that objection is a showstopper for you, where do you propose to go? HP, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and Apple are all in the business of selling proprietary solutions.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mac platform is more open than many. Macs will run software written for UNIX- and POSIX-compliant operating systems -- although code written in native languages must be recompiled for the Mac from source code. The Mac runs Java client and server applications directly using a Java virtual machine that Apple developed, validated, and maintained. Two Java application servers, JBoss and WebObjects, are bundled with OS X Server. OS X includes stable editions of dynamic languages, including Perl, Ruby, PHP, Python, and JavaScript. PDF, HTML, XML, and OpenGL are among standards implemented as OS X platform intrinsics, again, using designs developed in-house.

Well, if we start seeing Macs in cubicles, then pigs will fly and politicians will be honest and morally upright. And we'll all be pedaling our PC's. Just click that graphic to learn more about that: I just wouldn't expect to get much done (try pedaling and typing at the same time). I'm waiting for the server model to come out—it'll be a version of the old slave ships: the sys admins will pedal to keep the server up (hey, that $100 laptop from MIT has a crank, right?—but then again, they're also putting engines onto chips).

I'll just wait for all those wonderful things to happen...I've got 8 lives left. See ya around, folks.

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