Tech Week in Review

Naughty Microsoft, Mac Plus Web Server retired, more iPod uses, invisible TiBook improvement, learning from Windows XP, hijacking the Internet, and DeCSS wins.

Dad, Billy is Being Naughty Again

Last week I commented on the Microsoft lockout of non-MS browsers from the MSN home page and how stupid it seemed. Tim Berners-Lee, who essentially invented the WWW, was interviewed by Dan Gillmor this week on "When I see any Web site claim to be only readable using particular hardware or software, I cringe — they are pining for the bad old days when each piece of information need a different program to access it," Berners-Lee said. Hear, hear, I say. Listen to this man.

Berners-Lee also weighs in on the browser standards issue. "No browser implements all W3C standards perfectly," he noted. "That said, there are many which implement them to a high level which are cut out of the MSN site — most notably our own." Amaya, the browser authored by the W3C itself, is available in precompiled binary form for several platforms. Notable by its absence from that list is any Macintosh platform (either the Classic Mac OS or OS X). I'm curious to hear from any readers who have used Amaya. If you've used it, particularly if you've compiled a binary that's running on the Mac OS, I'd love to hear from you.

Perhaps the most telling quote from the article is this one: "There was a time when I would have believed that the ethos of the Internet, and understanding of the importance as an independent medium, was pervasive enough to ensure that things would be acceptably open. However, the latest events have shown that this is not the case, and legislation is therefore required before we can have the sort of world in which I want to live, work, and bring up children." I couldn't agree with him more.

RIP, Mac Plus

The Macintosh Plus Web Server was retired last Saturday. While it's been replaced temporarily with an SE/30, it will soon be gone forever.

Bob Kolquist, its maintainer, notes, "I decided to retire it because I was going to have to move it, and I just have not had the extra time to keep it up." The torch is thus passed on. Are there any readers who are willing to donate either bandwidth or server colocation for a Mac Plus Web server? If so, please get in touch with me and perhaps we can keep the spirit of this amazing project alive.

iMore iUses iFor iThe iPod

People just keep thinking up more and more uses for the iPod other than its "intended" purpose, playing MP3s. Mac OS Planet has an interesting article about using the iPod as a journalist's new best friend for recording interviews. Expanding on this a little bit, it probably wouldn't be too incredibly difficult to hook up a halfway-decent microphone to a small FireWire-based expansion board and turn this into the lecture recorder of the 21st century. As a student, I would find this infinitely easier to use than a microcassette recorder, since, with some creative manipulation of the jog dial functions, you could instantly jump forward or back a few seconds in a recording to skip a short break or to review a part you missed. And, of course, no more buying those annoying little overpriced tapes.

Couple this with some decent speech recognition software, and you'd have a replacement (or at least a great load reduction) for the dictation secretaries in many doctors' offices. Just give your dictation into the iPod's expansion mic, and when you're done for the day, plug it into your secretary's Mac and have it upload the audio. This could, theoretically, activate an AppleScript to process the audio as speech, using something like iListen or ViaVoice during the night, and the secretary could clean up the resulting text as necessary the next day.

Sounds pretty useful to me. At $399, that would pay for itself inside of a month with the increase in productivity you'd see by removing the majority of menial dictation duties from someone in the office.

Invisible Improvements in the TiBook

Rob Art Morgan of Bare Feats has proven once again that sometimes the most significant changes to a new model of Mac aren't the ones that Apple trumpets like crazy. Usually, this is because the change fixes a bug or problem that Apple unintentionally allowed to slip through final testing. In the case of the TiBook, FireWire performance was about half as fast on the January 2001 TiBook as on the May 2001 iBook. Considering professionals expect the fastest of everything, this was perceived to be quite an issue in the potential TiBook market. The latest revision of the TiBook has fixed these problems, Morgan reports.

OS X Learning From Win XP?

Hey, it might sound silly at first, but there have — at least since Win 95 — been a few nifty features in Windows that the Mac never really had. A lot of people really liked — the reasoning escapes me — the Taskbar. One of the things I find most useful is the ability to go to the Run: prompt and type "telnet" and check my email with Pine. Gene Steinberg has put together a list of what Apple can learn from Windows XP. The built-in firewall and fast user switching are rather dubious contenders, but the other three are all good ideas. (For information on why running a software firewall on a box that isn't dedicated to the task is a bad idea, see SamSpade's explanation of personal firewalls.)

How Do You Tell If an Accountant Is an Extrovert?

He looks at your shoes when he's talking. David Nagel of CreativeMac has a very Onion-like piece congratulating Microsoft on integrating sounds and pictures into Windows XP. Give it a read and laugh.

XP? Fuhgeddaboutit. Get a Mac!

James Coates of the Chicago Tribune says, "there rarely has been a more appropriate time to consider dumping Bill Gates' enormously popular world of Windows and moving over to the Macintosh minority." Why? Well, his reasoning is sound: If Microsoft is going to call XP the "must-have" upgrade, and it's so much better and so much different from older Microsoft OSes, and you're going to have to buy a new computer to run it anyway (XP won't run well on any PC whose parts are primarily from 1999 or before), just get a Macintosh. Hey, it might be a bit of a backhanded compliment, but if OS X is enough to put Coates into "hog heaven," as he says, Apple is doing something right. Bring it on, Microsoft. You got nuthin' on us.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall — to Microsoft

There's a big fight going on that nobody knows about. It's the fight to allow the W3C, the organization that controls Web standards, to use royalty-bearing patented technologies as standards. Of course, this would involve paying a royalty to the patent holder, which spells trouble for the free, open Web. Tim Berners-Lee has again spoken out against this, but the thing that jumped out at me from The Register's article about it was the part at the bottom, where The Register claims "taming Big Blue's lawyers represents the W3C's biggest challenge yet." Big Blue. That's right, IBM.

Hold on a second. IBM? Who? Does IBM not realize that unless someone (or, more probably, a lot of someones) gets in the way of Microsoft's attempted hijacking of the Internet, there won't be an Internet as far as 90% of the world (i.e., those running an OS from Redmond) is concerned? Without an Internet, how does IBM expect to make use of their royalty-bearing patents? After all, Microsoft (despite recent chest-thumping) has quite often displayed a grand disregard for any sort of common standard, preferring instead to create their own and shun those who don't use the new MS-proprietary "standard."

DeCSS Wins!

The Copy Control Association, one of the organizations behind the DeCSS injunctions that prohibited the DeCSS source code from being distributed, has been "handed its head" by a California appeals court, according to an article on The Register. Three cheers for the First Amendment!

Now, who wants to bring down the DMCA?

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson