g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
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12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Friday, August 18, 2006
23:00 - The rich get... better cars

(top)
Over the past twelve months or so I've noticed a sudden, marked increase in the number of super high-end cars traveling around Silicon Valley. Generally I can expect to see maybe one every four or five days—a Ferrari or an older Rolls-Royce. But this evening, on the way home from work, on the ten-mile stretch of 85 between De Anza and Camden—indeed, within the space of about two miles—I saw a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, a Maserati Quattroporte, and then two Ferraris in close formation: a yellow F355 and a red 328.

Plying this stretch of road I've also recently seen at least two Bentley Continental GTs, numerous Ferrari 360s and 612s and other recent varieties (I saw a Scaglietti on the way down the mountain from Santa Cruz today too), all kinds of Lotus Elises, a vintage Maserati 3500GT, and a pair of Lamborghinis—a saffron Gallardo coupe and a silver Murciélago roadster—that I've seen traveling in tandem from time to time, and ran into them both in the Apple parking lot yesterday when I was buying my Mighty Mouse.

I'm not sure what's going on lately, but it almost seems as though the Valley is getting back to the way it felt in the mid-to-late 90s, back when anything seemed possible.

I hope we can do it better this time around...

Thursday, August 17, 2006
13:55 - Cut off their tails with a carving knife

(top)
I just picked up a Wireless Mighty Mouse. I intend to use it at home in conjunction with my wireless Apple keyboard, both via Bluetooth, so I can sit in my comfy chair across the room from my computer and reply to iChat messages without having to get up and walk over. Lazy? Yeah, sue me. But up till now I've been getting by using the Zoom function and the keyboard-based mouse pointer controls, which are cumbersome at best. It's given me quite an appreciation for what one has to go through if one doesn't have access to the full suite of input devices.

But for the past year, I've become accustomed not just to always having a mouse at hand, but having a Mighty Mouse. The scroll ball has become such a part of my life that I now find myself writing horizontal scrolling elements into my software, like a test tracking system with an embedded navigator that does Column View-style hierarchical pathfinding. Without a horizontally-scrolling mouse wheel/ball, it's a lot more cumbersome. I understand you can get horizontal scrolling by holding down Shift while you scroll or something, but if that's not available, I shudder to think what the usability will be like.

At home, I could have bought a plain old wireless mouse for my comfy chair at any time—but the lack of a horizontal scroll wheel (and the Mighty Mouse's pixel-precise scroll ball) has become all but a dealbreaker. So the revelation that the Mighty Mouse has finally come unwired is what I've been waiting for.

Lest you imagine that it's just a Mighty Mouse without a cord, though—it's not. There are some key differences, immediately apparent.

• It's heavier than the regular Mighty Mouse. Part of it is the two AA batteries, but even without them installed it's a heavier unit. Sliding it across the desk is a much more purposeful affair now, just about like it was back in the days of ball mice.

• It's "looser". By that I mean the bottom plate (which is attached to the mouse's internal bulk) and the outer shell, which move relative to each other to register a click, are not held in complete snugness, as they are on the wired Mighty Mouse. This plus the aforementioned heaviness means you can hold the mouse by its sides and shake it forward and backward, and it gives off a dull, sproingy "thwunk" as the bottom plate freely floats and gets caught by the side-button harness. This might just be a poorly pushed tolerance in my particular mouse, but it's going to be hard to know for sure.

• The acceleration curve, for some reason, is different from the one on the regular Mighty Mouse—and, of course, it isn't adjustable. Specifically, the wireless mouse is less linear than the wired one. Not so much that it becomes unusable, but it would certainly take some getting used to. And that would likely be fairly difficult if I'm using both a wired and a wireless Mighty Mouse on the same computer.

It's also a bit different in behavior from the wireless Apple Keyboard, in that it seems to take almost a full minute for the system to re-acquire it after you turn it on (the keyboard is up and running after only about ten seconds from the first keypress). The power switch is a heavy slider on the bottom that covers up the laser optics fore safekeeping when the mouse is not in use; you can't really turn the mouse on or off without gripping it tightly enough to "click" it while you move the slider.

The laser optics seem very solid. The original Mighty Mouse doesn't have any of the Insane Juming Pointer Syndrome that so many other optical mice do, but it does have a relative of it, namely the tendency for the pointer to suddenly leap into a random corner of the screen at inopportune times, usually right when I put my hand on it to start moving it. I haven't seen any of that with the laser-based wireless version yet, though I'll have to watch it like a hawk for a while yet to know for sure. If it stays well-behaved, I can only hope they move the regular Mighty Mouse to the laser mechanism soon.

If you have both a wired and a wireless Mighty Mouse on the system, they share the same System Preferences pane and settings, even though their acceleration curves are different. This means that the Tracking setting that's appropriate for me when the wired mouse is connected is a bit too sensitive when I'm using the wireless one; the only solution I see is to keep changing the setting back and forth whenever I grab a different mouse, but that's clearly sub-optimal. I might just have to get used to the higher-sensitivity acceleration of the wireless mouse. It's not like I'll be doing a lot of high-precision mousing with it, after all—I'll most likely be using it on surfaces like the cushiony cloth arm of my comfy chair, which no doubt the laser sensor will help with. Still, it seems strange that the two mice should have different acceleration profiles. Maybe the next version of the wired Mighty Mouse will feature the laser sensor and the revised acceleration curve.

Speaking of the System Preferences, notice a new addition at the bottom, which might have come with this version of the software, or might have been delivered in an intervening update and I'd just never noticed:



Check that out at the bottom: "Zoom using scroll ball while holding [ ^ Control ]". Now that is a feature that I intend to use. Sitting in my comfy chair, up pops an iChat message; and instead of using the regular Zoom keys to zip in to a prescribed magnification level, and then pressing them again and again to jink in a little more incrementally, and then another keystroke to zoom all the way back out, with little control but what's preset in the preferences—I'll just hold down Control and scroll-ball my way to exactly the zoom level I need. Awesome.

It's not without its annoyances, but so far the wireless Mighty Mouse looks to be as close to an ideal solution for me and my situation as can be found. At $69, it's no bargain—but then, that's what they were charging for their previous wireless mouse without any of the Mighty Mouse's extra-cool features. I have a feeling I won't be suffering any regrets anytime soon.

But I still like the wired one better.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
19:14 - Eppur si muove
http://scienceblogs.com/strangerfruit/2006/08/go_usa_were_2_kind_of.php

(top)
According to this poll on a Science Guy's Blog with a link to a Robert Fisk book in the sidebar, the U.S. ranks 33rd out of 34 polled countries in acceptance of evolution, edging out only Turkey, with 44%.

Yeah, not too inspiring. Surely great fodder for anyone who would like to use it to demonstrate America's woeful international aspect and endemic stupidity. "It's not that the bear dances well, but that he dances at all!" they'll chortle. And yet... somehow the world keeps turning.

Is there some reason why they didn't poll (or publish the results from) countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Egypt, and India, where perhaps the "acceptance" number might be lower still than America's?

Is there some reason why they didn't poll (or publish the results from) countries like Russia, China, Australia, or Canada, where presumably their "acceptance" numbers would have been a lot higher, and surely poll data would have been easy to obtain?

What about countries like Israel, whose "acceptance" figure might well be pretty damn low—but who somehow manage to keep contributing to the world's scientific and technological wealth far beyond the measure of their population?

I spent my youth being as indignantly anti-religion and self-congratulatingly pro-science as this guy is, and went to the most science-oriented college available accordingly. In the intervening years since I graduated, though, I've learned to let go of the all-too-easy assumption that just because someone is religious, or even that he prefers religious explanations of natural phenomena over scientific ones, means he's an ignoramus or a doofus. A humbling roommate experience will do that to a guy.

Certainly it might help to assuage the inevitable cognitive dissonance that arises from seeing a poll like this and having to face the reality that somehow, despite it all, America is still America. And that maybe it's not despite these facts that it is so, but maybe, in some way, in part, because of them.

No, we won't be shifting to the spiritual metric system anytime soon. But that doesn't necessarily mean we're just too stupid to. Maybe we've got our reasons. They might even be good ones.

Via Daring Fireball.

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© Brian Tiemann