Scripting News for 4/12/2007

City life 

After breakfast at Saul’s this morning, I stopped in at Long’s Drugs, nearby, to pick up a fan. It’s still cool in Berkeley, it’s only April after all, and the Bay Area never gets all that hot, nothing like the south or the east, so houses here don’t have air conditioning. But we will have a few days of 100-degree heat, and on days like that you must have a fan. Last summer I got there too late, they were already sold out, so this year I resolved to get there early. They had a good selection, and I was able to get the kind of fan I like. $20. Another item off the to-do list.

While walking through the aisles, looking for other things, batteries, soap, I overheard a conversation between two store clerks. What were they talking about? Imus, and how he had been kicked off MSNBC, and they expected he’d be kicked off CBS too, and he was getting what he deserved. It was amazing how much they had to say about it, and how what they said exactly mirrored what was being said on the cable news.

In the NY Times they say he got caught in the 24 hour news cycle, he never had a chance.

We witnessed something that looked to me a lot like the Kathy Sierra storm that swept the blogosphere a few weeks ago. I knew Imus like I knew the people who were being hunted in blogland. I liked to listen to his show in the 70s, he was fresh and different, irreverent, interesting. I feel sorry for Imus, and I think it’s sad that he’s going out this way. I hadn’t listened to him in many years, but I haven’t forgotten how the young version of me saw him as a role model.

At the same point in my life that Imus made me laugh, so did Kurt Vonnegut. I loved his books when I was young, and I made a point, four years ago, to re-read most of his books, so I’ve got an updated appreciation for how wonderful they are. And they were made more important for me because I shared his writing with my uncle, who had (I felt) a similar sense of humor, of irony. Like many others of my generation, Vonnegut formed my perspective on the world, on mysticism, and politics, on the smallness of everything we care about. If you’ve read Sirens of Titan, my favorite Vonnegut book, you know what I’m talking about. No spoilers here!

And while I shared Vonnegut with my uncle, I shared Imus with my younger brother. He was in NY, where Imus was broadcasting; he’d record cassettes and mail them to me in New Orleans, where I was in school. Getting a tape of Imus was like getting a bag of fresh bagels or a Sunday NY Times. Love from home.

I hope Imus finds something satisfying to fill his remaining time. Maybe he’ll become a podcaster or a blogger. It’s smaller than being a radio star, and we have witch hunts here too, but here they can’t shut you down for being rude. At least not yet!๐Ÿ™‚

Response to Motion to Reconsider 

On March 27, Michael Risch, a partner at Russo & Hale, filed a motion to reconsider a ruling that denied them the right to represent UserLand shareholders in an action against me.

We filed a motion today to deny their motion. “Counsel’s mistaken view of the law regarding shareholder actions, which they display again in this Motion, is not a proper basis for granting a motion for reconsideration.”

Sitemaps, day 2 

I now have my sitemaps implemented for scripting.com.

There’s a sitemapindex file, that points to all the sitemaps.

By design, some never change; others change frequently.

I’ve added the auto-discovery link in robots.txt.

There’s a lot of room for optimization, for sure.

I followed the instructions for pinging the search engines, I tried Yahoo, Google, Ask and Microsoft; and none of them acknowledged that they accepted the ping, in fact they all returned cryptic error pages. Not a good omen!

AppleTV, day 2 

I think I understand AppleTV, after setting it up, playing a few video podcasts, copying some pictures into its screen saver, and reading about its limits on various weblogs.

I’ll give you the punchline before the details.

If you’re technically proficient enough to read this blog, AppleTV is not for you.

I’m not sure who it is for, but you don’t need it. You’re much better served buying a Mac Mini, or the equivalent Windows box (maybe a cheap laptop).

AppleTV seems designed with the same philosophy as the PCjr of the 1980s. The PC was super popular, a juggernaut, and IBM felt that the “home user” (i.e. idiot) couldn’t handle all its power so they created a scaled down machine, with a crippled keyboard. Problem is people wanted a PC, not IBM’s dumbed-down vision of a PC. (They secretly wanted to kill the PC because it was destroying their mainframe computer business.)

AppleTV is an exercise, for me, in discovering what it won’t do. Most important to me is that it won’t play the AVI files I create when I scan DVDs using Handbrake. On the other hand, my Mac Mini, with VLC installed, does. Yes yes, I know I can hack up my AppleTV to get it to be a Mac Mini, but I’m lazy, and I’ve already paid Apple for the Mac Mini.

And why do I need synchronization with iTunes, when file sharing works so well on the Mac? It’s pretty easy, I don’t think AppleTV’s syching is any easier.

True, the Mac Mini costs at least $599, and AppleTV is $299.

Anyway, I don’t like AppleTV, but I have a TV in the kitchen that didn’t have a computer, and I spend a lot of time working there, so I will keep trying to find something useful that it does that the Mac Mini doesn’t already do much better.

Etienne Deleflie: “Why doesn’t someone come up with a Linux box that just hosts VLAN?”

Earl Moore says I miss the point of AppleTV. “I could turn a 5-6 year old loose with the Apple TV and they could watch cartoons or movies galore without assistance.”

I don’t think there’s a connection 

Adam Curry wonders if the legal difficulties we’re having around UserLand are the source of some technical problems with his RSS feed, which is hosted on a UserLand server.

As far as I know, there is no connection. I don’t work at UserLand, haven’t worked there in almost five years, so any problems I have are not likely to effect your RSS feed.

But you never know, Murphy works in strange ways. I suggest sending an email to Lawrence, in the meantime.๐Ÿ™‚

Why TPM deserves an award 

Scott Rosenberg has taken a hiatus from writing political essays, but he just published another great one, about why we should pay close attention to the coverup of the firing of the nine US attorneys. Whether the President was a Republic or Democrat, makes no difference, if the US attorneys were fired to subvert with the election process, it’s a scandal of huge proportion, that undermines the fairness of the US justice system.

What many don’t know, and it is not widely reported, that if this is a replay of Watergate, then the role of Woodward and Bernstein is being played by a community of bloggers, Talking Point Memo, founded by Joshua Marshall, who was at the first BloggerCon, and who will be at the Personal Democracy Forum in mid-May in NY (I will be there too). When I see him, I hope to shake his hand, thank him and congratulate him.

Meanwhile I read in the Guardian, yet another conflicted and self-serving piece from a MSM publication, saying that blogs didn’t turn out to be such a big deal after all.

If someone were to ask me what the future of blogging holds (and I am asked that frequently) I would say that in the future, mainstream press people will give up their fight with blogging and accept us as sources of information and perspective that enriches what they do, instead of being in conflict with it.

To me blogging is not just protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, it is also an instance of the Second, the right of the people to keep and bear arms. When the justice system is corrupted by the executive, we have the right and responsibility to reform it, with words, and with actions, as Marshall and his crew are doing so admirably, so Americanly (if that’s a word).

We were meant to have an active and armed citizenry in the US. As long as people like the TPM community feel empowered, we have a chance of keeping our intellectual life rich and informed. Keep up the great work, it’s important, and appreciated!

A rational comment policy 

I hosted my first online discussion group in the early 80s. I’ve been on mail lists, a multitude of chat systems, hosted a web DG, then turned it off, brought it back, turned it off again, etc etc. After all that, I’ve arrived at a comment policy that’s more or less what Will Fernia outlines here:

“I don’t mind anonymous comments if you have something worthwhile to say. If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, I won’t approve your comment even if you do put your name on it. (And sometimes even worthwhile comments that aren’t quite relevant or that speak more to other commenters than what I’ve written don’t get approved. People can start their own blog and say whatever they want and no matter how many happy badges I put on my blog, I can’t do anything about that.)”

The main difference in the way I do it, is that like many others, I use the WordPress feature that requires a commenter to be approved the first time he or she comments using a specific mail address. It seems to work pretty well. If someone abuses the priviledge there are easy ways to deauthorize them.

For the most part, these days, the comments here are fairly productive, abuse is not allowed, strong opinions are allowed, even strong opinions that disagree with mine, as long as they’re on-topic, and not personal.

I see the comments space as largely belonging to the readers, and I don’t comment there myself too frequently. However I will respond to a direct question if I have something to say and feel it would add to the discussion.

24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jim Reese on April 12, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Maybe this link will help with your AppleTV.

    http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20070408191127553

    Jim

    Reply

  2. I saw that, and that’s the point — I don’t want to convert anything. If it ran Mac software, there would be nothing to convert.

    Reply

  3. Posted by heavyboots on April 12, 2007 at 8:29 am

    Hey Dave,

    Somewhat OT to the topics you’ve posted this morning, but speaking of political essays, you might find this a fun read. It’s Iacocca going to town on the current administration:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17516.htm

    Reply

  4. I really don’t get what Apple is thinking with respect to the video formats the AppleTV supports, but it is consistent with the video formats the iPod supports. At the very least, they should make iTunes transcode .avi videos into a supported format so they can be viewed on the iPod & AppleTV. Hell, I’d probably even pay for an upgrade to QuickTimePro if that would make them feel better about the whole thing.

    Reply

  5. I wondered from the outset why you bought an Apple TV. You already had the Mac Mini in your home entertainment system. Everything you discovered was easily ascertainable from reviews.

    To me, it looks like Apple is mainly putting a camel’s nose under the tent to develop the iTunes store as a new distribution channel for movies and TV in competition with DVD’s, cable, (just like several other nascent video-over-the-net schemes such as Joost, Amazon Unbox / TiVo, Xbox Live).

    Clearly doing it for three hundred bucks will get it into more homes than doing it for six hundred plus bucks. You’re not the target audience. But I’ll bet there is one.

    Reply

  6. Question: How do you know IBM’s secret motivation for PC Jr?

    Reply

  7. >>even strong opinions that disagree with mine, as long as they’re on-topic, and
    >>not personal.

    Smart policy and the comments on this site reflect a lot of good knowledge. Sorry again about the other day on the Google earth discussion. I’ll endeavor to keep on topic in the future…

    Reply

  8. Michael, I bought the AppleTV because I felt I had to know what it is, and I wasn’t getting the gestalt from reading the reviews. If Apple had a review policy for bloggers I could have saved the money, but as far as I know they don’t have one. Not a big deal, and you don’t see me complaining. I would look at more of their products if they provided review units.

    Reply

  9. Michael, there was a great diaspora from IBM in the late 80s and early 90s and I got to know a fair number of ex-Boca people, and over drinks in many bars in many cities I heard the story of how IBM fought with itself over the PC.

    Reply

  10. Re MSM and bloggers

    I think relying on bloggers for info and perspective–and admitting it–is becoming more common on the “softer” journalistic fronts. Amanda Berne, a former SF Chronicle food writer, would bring in bloggers for perspective, and give them light-of-day attribution. I remember when she did a piece about Pizzeria Delfina’s no-corkage policy, she went to Alder of Vinography.com for a quote. It wasn’t a piece about blogs–Alder was just a good quote source. I recently got interviewed for a documentary, largely because of my food blog.

    On the other hand, the Chronicle recently ran a piece that basically said, “these online folks don’t know what they’re doing as reviewers.” I don’t think that’s the tone that the original author intended, but that’s how it got interpreted in the food blog community.

    Reply

  11. Posted by a z on April 12, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Have you tried using Handbrake to convert the file to mp4’s AVC format instead of avi? I’ve been able to get files in mp4 format to play in iTunes. Don’t know if that will work with your AppleTV, but it may be worth a try.

    PS: mp4 conversion will take a while!

    Reply

  12. Posted by Al Willis on April 12, 2007 at 9:55 am

    The 1.0 version of Apple TV is just for getting content you buy from iTunes to show up on a TV. That’s it. It was never intended to be a universal video playing device. Apple TV plays whatever QuickTime plays.

    The syncing is actually a killer feature, since you can do things like sync unwatched episodes of TV programs, movies or podcasts without much effort. Filesharing requires the user to have to track what has and hasn’t been watched. With smart syncing, users don’t have to deal with that.

    Reply

  13. Amen on TPM. What’s good is that, as this story broke, some in the MSM acknowledged the role of Josh, TPM, and/or TPM Muckraker. NPR acknowledged it on All Things Considered. So did Terry McDermott in the L. A. Times.

    There’s a darker side to this, however. Drudge: a channel for right-wing rumor mongering and a springboard for spurious scurrilous nonesense to ricochet into MSM. Drudge, unfortunately sets far more news agendas than Josh Marshall.

    Reply

  14. Another amen on TPM.

    This ongoing attempt to resuscitate the Constitution is a nice group effort from all corners of our American work and information spaces: MSM reporters, blogs, amalgams (think the great Froomkin of the Post), front-line govt. workers, True Conservatives (Fein, Sullivan, et al), GOP US Attorneys, and of course Helen Thomas.

    Plus, bonus, the great irony: Woodward, hero of Watergate, comes out of this looking like a fool/poltroon/coward/idjit.

    — stan

    Reply

  15. Apple TV is an appliance for all of us. Just because I can explain how it works or know how to enable SSH doesnโ€™t exclude me from wanting one or two or three (I plan to have 1 per TV eventually).

    Don

    http://strick.wordpress.com/2007/04/12/technically-proficient-โ‰ -anti-appletv/

    Reply

  16. As for converting video files, http://visualhub.net/ is what you want imo. Don

    Reply

  17. Not sure how else to get a hold of you Dave but wanted to ask if you were planning to host a Bloggercon this year. There are some timely subjects that could be discussed – ethics/civility/upcoming political races.

    Reply

  18. TPM has a videoblog too –

    http://www.veracifier.com/

    Reply

  19. Posted by Diego on April 12, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    I agree with Don. Apple TV is just meant to be an appliance. The fact that it can be hacked in many ways, and I’m sure more to come, is also a bonus. That will get it more sales than it would if it was just locked down. That in itself was a small change in tune from normal Apple. They even came out and said, hey hack the thing, we don’t mind.

    There is something to be said for trying to keep things simple, non-geeky. Just look at the success of the iPod. To watch TV, listen to music, most people don’t care what video format it plays. Some people don’t live on the internet nor do they care if the Apple TV can play AVIs, WMVs. They just want to click, click click and watch a movie (or whatever).

    Reply

  20. I just started trying the update to the robots.txt file to point to the sitemap file. The trick for Yahoo is the URL prior to the ping?

    Its not just yahoo.com. The doc at http://developer.yahoo.com/search/siteexplorer/V1/ping.html shows the request address to start as http://search.yahooapis.com/SiteExplorerService/V1/ping

    I gave it a shot and it respnded happily:
    Update notification has successfully submitted.

    Reply

  21. why doesn’t someone come up with a linux box that just hosts VLAN. Codecs could upgrade from the net automatically… it would play anything …. from anywhere.

    cant be hard to do.

    Someone should start a site that defines open-source hardware projects where people can flesh out specs for products that a manufacturer can just come along and imoplement it . … and give 10% off to anyone who made a contribution to the spec.

    Reply

  22. OK, Alex, I’ll take Imus for $2,000 …

    A Midwesterner and West Coaster, I never heard him, or of him, until the mid/late ’90s. Then I was struck by his crass and uncharitable views on Bill Clinton. But maybe he evolved, or devolved, away from the guy you remember from your yout’. I saw that happen with Royko, who was an honest-to-god hero in my eyes when I was a kid but who seemed to turn ossified, crabby and even a little small-minded in later days. In any case, I agree with those Long’s clerks, and I don’t partake of cable news or ranting talk shows — Imus got what was coming to him. Not that he doesn’t have a right to brainlessly spew whatever he wants; he does, of course. It’s just that he doesn’t have a right to the platform he had.

    Reply

  23. RE: Fans, you could have bought 43 more: NY Post

    Reply

  24. You said “like getting a bag of fresh bagels” – great metaphor. This really made me smile when I read it.๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

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