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Home > Weblog w/e 30.6.2001

Saturday 30 June 2001, 23:55 BST
Jesus Lives!
When I was fifteen, I wrote my first parable. I wasn't very good at it, but I soon got loads better, as the bits of me that are Godly became better developed, and hairier.
Chuck "Looka!" Taggart has a classic Harlan Ellison quote:
"Why do people keep insisting that I join the 21st Century? I LIVEin the 21st Century! I just don't want to be bothered by the shitheads on the Internet!"
So, I'm guessing that lawsuit isn't going away any time soon then...
Research suggests that internet users are more tolerant of divergent views than the average person. So maybe we aren't all just reading sites that reinforce our prejudices after all... [Via Plastic]
Michael Young isn't happy about Tony Blair's abuse of the term "meritocracy." Since Young coined the term in the first place, we should probably pay attention.
It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.
[Via MetaFilter]
Neat photo.
Bob Cringely goes to great lengths to get a DSL connection. I mean, the wireless WAN is all good geekish fun, but the telescopes are just a bit over the top.
Friday 29 June 2001, 23:50 BST
Emo Philips is back. But you might not recognise him. I had no idea that back in 1991 Emo made the original film which was remade with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro last year as Meet The Parents. [Via The View From Here]
Jim Ellis, one of the founders of Usenet, RIP.

(And no, he didn't become a multimillionaire as a result of his role in creating the most robust, scaleable online discussion forum yet invented. Making money wasn't the point.) [Via MetaFilter]
Suzy Hansen interviews astrobiologist David Darling. Fascinating stuff, though I find the long timescales involved in searching for life elsewhere in the solar system a bit depressing: I'd like to think someone will have found solid evidence of extraterrestrial life, even if only in the form of microbial life, before I'm gone.
ShouldExist. Geek dreams up for discussion. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Pudding. [Via Haddock.org]
L Ron Hubbard, musician. Oh boy... [Via Memepool]
Thursday 28 June 2001, 23:40 BST
Good day/Bad Day for Microsoft. On the one hand, as expected the US Appeals court threw out the order to split the company up and referred the case back to a different judge. It remains to be seen what new remedies will be put in place, but it's difficult to see anything short of an enforced split making much of a dent in Microsoft's dominance of the market.

On the other hand, Microsoft have announced that Smart Tags are not going to be arriving with the final version of Internet Explorer 6 after all. Mind you, they'll still exist in Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft haven't ruled out the possibility of reintroducing them in IE at some unspecified later date after refining the concept a bit. (Activating them via an opt-in meta tag would be a good start!) Even so, it's pleasing that even Microsoft's spokesman admitted that "external feedback" had been a factor in the decision.
Jack Lemmon, RIP. No doubt we'll see a film or two shown as a tribute on TV this weekend. Wonderful as he was in Some Like It Hot and The Odd Couple, I hope they show his best film, Billy Wilder's The Apartment.
Britney Exposed! Probably not what you're expecting... [Via Memepool]
Wednesday 27 June 2001, 23:50 BST
If you dislike the prospect of Microsoft's Smart Tags adding links to your web pages, you'll probably want to check out the Smart Tags Weblog, where Dave Winer explains how to turn them off. A lot of the discussion at the site relates to server-side stuff, which is very necessary for folks running complex sites with dynamic content but is overkill for a simple site like this which consists of static HTML pages. Essentially all you need to do is add the following meta tag...
<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">
... to the <HEAD> section of each page.

I'd prefer that the default behaviour was that sites were required to insert a meta tag to give permission for the use of Smart Tags. Why should I have to keep adding meta tags as Microsoft think up new ways to screw with my content? Nonetheless, this is a start. I'm not under any illusions that this sort of action will dissuade Microsoft from implementing Smart Tags, but if enough web users find that Smart Tags do nothing on the sites they visit then it's just possible that they might decide that they're a nonessential feature and Microsoft will let it die out in future Internet Explorer updates. [Via frownland]
Have you ever noticed how many actors have had roles in both Star Trek and thirtysomething? Spooky.

What's really worrying is that while I remember just a couple a few of the characters from their appearances in thirtysomething - David Clennon was particularly memorable as Miles, the evil head of the ad agency Michael and Eliott worked at - I can cite chapter and verse as to the plots of the various Star Trek episodes they appeared in, even if it was just a single guest appearance. Omigod, I'm turning into a Trekkie! [Via Off On A Tangent]
Branding. Drunkenness. Drug Paraphernalia. Former mayoral candidates. Bar patrons showing off private body parts. It's not often you get all this in one hilarious story. [Via MetaFilter]
Tuesday 26 June 2001, 22:50 BST
Once Microsoft launches Windows XP to work alongside Office XP, their wonderful new product activation technology is going to lead to a lot more stories like this, only about Windows itself refusing to work without sight of an install CD. It wouldn't be so bad if there was any prospect that Microsoft would tell us all in advance exactly what sort of fiddling with your PC would trigger Office's demand for an install CD, but you can bet that all it'll take is some third party program updating a single .dll file and you'll be screwed.

I'd love to think that the coming debacle would persuade people to turn to non-Microsoft products, but I'm not going to hold my breath. [Via Techdirt]
Mind you, if anyone does feel that they've had enough of Microsoft and all their works, Rick Lehrbaum would like to point out that Linux is finally becoming a palatable desktop alternative. As someone who's twice made serious efforts to move over to Linux over the last couple of years, only to return to Windows 95 because I just can't be bothered with the amount of wading through help files required to set everything up the way I'd like it, I really hope he's right. Finally having scaleable font support in XFree86 v4 is a big step forward, as is the arrival of Opera for Linux as a serious alternative to Netscape. While StarOffice 5.2 is far from perfect it's plenty good enough for the occasional letter or spreadsheet.

Probably the last parts of the jigsaw for me are a) finding a Linux-based offline Usenet client as capable as Forté Agent, b) figuring out to my own satisfaction which listserver solution will be most practical so I can pick up running uk-po5 under Linux, and c) finding an email client that suits me. [Via CamWorld]
Is this man mad, or merely insanely self-confident? [Via MetaFilter]
Touching the Stars: making a planetarium for the blind. [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Scott Rosenberg on why AOL and Microsoft want to dominate the internet - ie, so that they can gain the power to steer users away from the internet proper, locking them into their proprietary networks and rolling the clock back to 1994. The big question is whether users, having got used to the wide-open spaces of the internet, will agree to be penned in.
Monday 25 June 2001, 23:45 BST
The BBC are planning to create another variation on the "reality TV" theme, this time by setting up a World War I-style trench, complete with tear gas, sleep deprivation, rats and maggots. I wonder whether the winner will be the person who makes most headway when they all go "over the top" to be mown down by machine-gun fire at the end...
Worship the Toast! [Via User Friendly Link of the Day]
LazyGecko.net: another eye-catching photography site, complete with a Photo of the Day. I particularly liked this one, and this one. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
A nice conservation story, but mostly just an excuse to point to a very cute picture.
Oh good, another way for ISPs to push ads at users: mail servers which will insert ads into any emails that pass through them (inbound or outbound!), tailoring the ads to the user's demographic profile, which the software can supposedly figure out by analysing the content of your email. I can't imagine any subscription ISP being dumb enough to inflict this on users who've paid for their ad-free POP3 mailboxes, but I can see a few "free" ISPs giving it a try. As one wise Plastic poster put it:
The Internet, teaching millions each day about the real value of a free lunch.
[Via Plastic]
Some tantalising images from The Lord Of The Rings. It looks better with each passing week. Roll on December. [Via Dark Horizons]
Sunday 24 June 2001, 21:30 BST
Notwithstanding the apathy engendered by Tony Blair's walkover victory, there are gratifying signs that political life in Britain might be anything but boring in the years to come. Roy Hattersley's declaration of war following the Blairite "coup" may sound a bit silly coming seven years into Blair's leadership of his party - it's not as if Tony Blair ever seriously pretended to be a faithful guardian of Labour's traditions - but now that ministers are so focused on "delivery" above all else there are sure to be some major rown with the public sector unions over the next year or two. On the other side of the Commons, if this article is correct in its analysis of the size of the task facing Michael Portillo (or whoever wins the Tory leadership) the Conservatives are also in for a turbulent few years as they agonise over whether to discard several core beliefs.

One really striking comment in the profile of Portillo is the suggestion that perhaps the entire 90s generation of senior Tories is "damaged goods" because of the legacy of the Thatcher/Major years. Could it be that even if Portillo wins he's destined to be his party's Neil Kinnock?
Online dating services for pets. No comment required, I think. [Via MetaFilter]
Politics is a minority interest. Don't worry, this isn't another set of heavy political links. It's an interview with Ken MacLeod, who might just be the best of the 90s generation of British SF writers. [Via rec.arts.sf.written]

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