fox@fury
Proteron: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Tuesday, Oct 28, 2003
Sam, I read your open memo at the Proteron site today, and it left me with questions.

I've been an avid Mac user since I got my 128K Mac in 1984. As a former helpline staffer at the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, writer for MacWEEK Magazine, marketing assistant for Dantz Development, and software developer for Casady & Greene, I completely understand the plight of "the little guy", but in this particular example I feel that your venom is unwarranted.

Your open memo is based on the claim, reiterated on the LiteSwitch X home page, that "LiteSwitch X was the original application switcher for the Mac OS". This is both 'disappointing' and 'dishonest'. The first application switcher for the Mac OS was "Switcher" written by Andy Hertzfeld (with special thanks given to John Markoff and Bud Tribble) while under the employ of Apple Computer in 1985. Apple pioneered the technology you're claiming they pilfered, and they did it when the Mac OS was barely one year old. Over the intervening 18 years countless "little guys," Proteron among them, have come out with application switchers building on Apple's foundation. Surprisingly, very few gave any credit to Andy, John, Bud or Apple for the original innovation.

While I agree that Sherlock likely crossed the line in replicating Watson functionality, I don't feel the same sympathy for Proteron. On the aforementioned LiteSwitchX page you scream in 48-point letters (using Apple's corporate font, no less), "Dear Apple: You forgot some important features" in OS X 10.2. Beneath this accusation you simultaneously berate Apple for remembering them in OS X 10.3. I'd suggest not using the 'gloat' and 'sympathy' cards at the same time. They tend to cancel each other out.

LiteSwitch X is a very elegant product, but it has clearly borrowed more core functionality from those applications that came before it than it adds to the table. As long as LiteSwitch doesn't violate patents and look-and-feel copyrights that's fine, but it's poor form to cry foul when someone does the same to you. If, on the other hand, you feel that Apple has impinged on your intellectual property rights then I would suggest pursuing legal action against them. Writing an 'open memo to Steve' that you know will go unanswered seems to me to be little more than a 'mouse who roared' ploy for attention.

I noticed that you've recently released LiteSwitch X 2.1 with support for Panther. I wish you the utmost success with it.

Car Shopping - Prius
Monday, Oct 27, 2003
Weekend before last, my Mom flew up from LA to visit. Rachel and I made house for her and I picked her up at the airport on Saturday. This was the day after the Prius was officially released (though I've been on the wait list for two weeks already), and so we took the chance to go to the dealership for a test drive.

The Prius is a pretty car. I've been putting off all test driving for weeks because until that Thursday I didn't have a valid interim license (different story, DMV is evil, doom doom doom, all that stuff). They had one on the lot, in a powder blue with the beige interior. It's roomy, pretty, different in the way that the New Beetle was different, but with more function behind its form. We saw the tiny engine and the bigger liftback.

We took it for a test drive.

First off, it has more power than my Civic EX. Yes, the EX has 124hp compared to the Prius's 110, but in the low ranges the torque of the electric motor has my VTEC beat. Maybe it's because my car's nearly 7 years old, or just because it needs an oil change, but I don't think it could make 0-60 in 10.9 seconds.

Second off, the car is nice. The seats feel more like suede than fabric, and the interior really looks like it was built for people. There's almost nothing within reach that isn't either open space, a control, or a storage compartment. the dashboard is disturbingly deep, but the windshield has better visibility than anything else I've driven and though the split-rear-window has been disparagingly compared to the ill-fated Aztek, it more closely resembles the liftback of a Mercedes C320. Visibility is a little low in the back, but it's above the horizon and the increased forward and side visibility afforded by the design makes up for it. We took it on the freeway and brought it up to a quiet 75mph with no problem at all. I've read the top speed is about 103mph, and considering that I've only broken that with my Civic maybe four times in the last seven years I don't think it's a big problem.

What can I say that you can't read in all the reviews? We saw another one at the lot, since the dealership got two. The second was in the red, and it was stunning enough for me to switch my order from the black to the red. That car was being driven off the lot as we were leaving, purchased by someone willing to spend $2,000 above sticker to jump to the head of the three month waiting list. No honor among thieves. Err, car salesmen, that is.

Leaving the dealership Mom, Rachel and I went to Steven's Creek to check out Subarus, since they're my other interest and it makes sense to drive both in quick succession for comparison's sake.

TheFerrett's Three Rules to Sex
Tuesday, Oct 21, 2003
Three principles of sex that, even if you don't agree with them, will probably make you think.
New thing learned on Sunday, Oct 19
Monday, Oct 20, 2003
I've been thinking about adding a 'new thing learned today' sidebar to Fury. I think I literally do learn something interesting new every day. I haven't built it yet, but I really wanted to use it last night, so now I have to write it in a post instead.

Last night I learned that in no circumstance is it optimal to determine whether a soldering iron is cool enough to leave unattended by means of touching the tip of the soldering iron with your finger.

The most irritating part is that for a few days I have to try using another fingertip for putting in my contact lenses. It's harder than I thought.

Ow.

Downstairs at midnight
Friday, Oct 17, 2003
It's 12:02am and I'm downstairs in my townhouse, with my powerbook in my lap, thinking about a lot of things. To share...

Rachel and I went to dance class today and it was a lot of fun. It's a pleasure to be in any dance class Richard teaches, even (especially?) if I already know the dance. It's the only time I can really focus on technique and cure myself of bad habits on the dance floor.

We're working on costumes for the Halloween Gaskell's Masquerade Ball. We're not doing anything fantastically involved, but it should be cool if we can pull it off.

My mom's coming in to town this weekend. It's the first time in a long time that mom's come up just to see me, since I usually come down to LA more often. I'm looking forward to showing her my home. I'm so house-proud. I'm so proud that this is probably the first time I've ever actually used that term.

My dad's business is selling today. It stirs up a lot of emotion. The house is in escrow, and will close in a few weeks. Piece by piece it's coming undone. I know this feeling isn't fair, since we have the important things, the memories, the pictures, the writings, and a whole lot of stuff, but the exchange of things for cash has a dehumanizing effect even in the best of times. I'll get over it, but right now I'm still a little under it.

A handful of people at Google read my weblog, and I know a few did when I was being considered for employment, but I don't know if my coworkers know about my dad's death. It's not something that's come up in conversation, but one of my coworkers is going on vacation for two weeks with her husband and new baby to visit both sets of relatives back east. We were talking about families, and I just wanted to tell her to cherish these times, these visits, because you never know what might happen before you see them next. Playing it in my head, it all sounded so morbid. I didn't say anything.

Susie and I are both looking at getting Priuses ('Priae'?). I have a deposit down on one up here, but there's a 60-90-day wait list. They officially arrive in dealerships today, so I might be able to actually see one this weekend. I'm still looking at other options, like the Outback. I finally got another interim license until the DMV gets me my real one (another story) so I can test-drive.

Tomorrow's Friday Night Waltz. Rachel and I both need new dance shoes. I'd rather not break mine in at Gaskell's, as three hours of dancing in new shoes would kill my feet. I don't know how we'd find time to get shoes for tomorrow night.

I'm thrilled that iTunes for Windows has come out. I'm really interested in hearing the download stats for the Apple Music Store in the coming weeks and months. This is a great move for Apple, though I was surprised to read that Apple expects to do little more than break even on the music store. Instead, the whole thing is a vehicle to sell more iPods, where the real money is.

Work is fantastic, and that's enough said about that for right now.

I can't find my beard trimmer, so my goatee gets longer and longer, held in check only by a small pair of scissors in my bathroom.

The house is almost entirely unpacked, and looking good. I hosted a brunch last weekend and it felt so good to entertain. Bagels, lox, and friends. The perfect Sunday morning.

I have this weird irregular heartbeat thing about once a day. I need to get it looked at, as it's been going on for months. They'll hook me up with a portable EKG for a day or two, where I'll press a button and take notes whenever I feel anything odd. I can't really describe it other than to say my heart feels like it wants to yawn but it can't. I'm looking for a good doctor and I'll make an appointment next week.

Wednesday night Rachel and I went to a corporate night event at SF MOMA. We got to see the Chagall exhibit and a few other collections. Chagall's never blown my socks off, but they had a fascinating display of 19th century photography, a James Turell installation (if you've never seen any James Turell, find out where you can see some and do it. That stuff blows my socks off.), a gallery of the lifestyle of asian prostitutes, as well as a standing collection of mid-20th-century art including Magritte, Jasper Johns, Rothko, and Lichtenstein.

The hors devours were very yummy, but the high point of the evening was the band. They were playing good seductive lounge-y music and had a fantastic female vocalist. "Whatever Lola Wants" and the like. Bass, Guitar, Drums, lead vocals, and an exquisite Theramin player.

Theramins are so cool. I've heard them before, but usually in the context of B-movies. I'd never seen one being played, let alone so expertly played. The man could make the Theramin sound like a pedal-steel guitar, a jaw harp, or a flock of birds. Within I was playing my own 'air theramin' and I know I just have to give one a try. Turns out that at about $350, they're not as expensive as I'd thought. Even cooler, I discovered a MIDI-compatable Theramin player, which seems almost impossible, because everything about the Theramin is analog, and totally nonconducive to traditional composition.

I've been thinking more about ambient displays, looking at possibly hardware for the house, and had the realization that many ambient displays exist as the causal interface between the trajector and the landmark, that is to say, the display doesn't just convey information, its very implementation is in some way tightly related to the resulting reaction triggered by the display. When you think about it this way, any step in a causal chain could be seen as a display, and the 'interesting' displays are those that are either naturally ubiquitous, or otherwise ignorable or conditional. I don't expect this to make sense yet, but hopefully it will soon.

Fury's been getting a lot of google hits today because google thinks a post I wrote two years ago explains why The West Wing wasn't shown as expected Wednesday night. The real answer is that NBC shelved the episode for two weeks so it wouldn't compete with the Baseball playoffs or world series. West Wing will be back on October 29th.

That's it for now. I still need to get down to coding the site, and I have half a mind to do a drastic redesign, beyond the Fury 4.0 designs I was passing around a few months ago. At the very least, there will be a complete rewrite under the hood.

That ought to be some good fodder for comments. I'll talk to y'all tomorrow!

Dotcom Storytime: Sector ZZ 9 Plural Z Alpha
Thursday, Oct 16, 2003
Before there were any dotcom stories I used to ride the bus to junior high school every day. Attending a magnet school, I and most of my classmates were bussed in from outside the school's area.

One of my best friends in junior high, and pretty much my only local friend, was Josh. Josh lived a few blocks away from me and together we explored the depths of geekdom. He taught me how to use two 10-sided dice (err, 2D10) to simulate a hundred-sided die and I'd challenge him to read tiny passages from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and time me to see if I could find the passage within 60 seconds. We both camped out in the computer lab (ahem, back of the math classroom (with a teacher I didn't discover until three years later was a post-op transsexual (not that there's anything wrong with that))) every lunch, playing Sands of Egypt and Hunt the Wumpus on donated CoCos, a Kaypro II, and an Osborne.

We weren't alone. We were part of a cadre of geeks. Erik, Vincent, and a few others. One thing that set Josh and I apart was our innate competitiveness. We'd always try to one-up the other. I'd let him play with my Colecovision, and a month later he's show me his Intellivision. We both took the SAT in 9th grade.

Nevertheless, there were differences between us. I had a self-deprecating bent, and Josh didn't ever let up. I would admit to vulnerabilities or insecurities as a part of who I am, the step backwards that can lead to steps forward in relationships. I still do this even now, though only with a few friends who I know are either ultra-supportive (Karen, Rachel) or who will be critical (Ammy, Ali), and I expose that side of me to one friend or another, depending on whether I need a confidence boost or a reality check.

Back then I didn't know myself very well, and I certainly didn't understand other people as well as I do now. Back then I based my sense of self-worth on the respect of those around me. What thirteen-year-old doesn't? At any rate, in the ninth grade Josh and my relationship changed. Maybe it was that I wasn't confident enough in my geekiness, or just that I didn't feel right sequestered away in the 'computer lab' or that I started dating that year, but the rest of the group tightened up, and as they endured the perpetual social ridicule of the non-geeks, they turned that antipathy towards me, the sub-geek.

This shift turned out to have significant consequences in my life. The next year when we all went to high school I left the magnet program to go to a high school with a very strong all-around AP program, but not a hyperfocus on one area, as is typical of the high school magnet programs. Josh and that group went to a math and science magnet. Though he still lived closer to me than any of my friends in high school, we had virtually no communication. We'd see each other rarely at competitive events like Academic Decathlon, where we each represented our schools, but we really didn't do anything more than measure each other up.

Ironically, when it came time to go to college, I intended to leave the computer arena and focus on liberal arts but, through twists of fate to be chronicled in a later post, I ended up going to Berkeley, sealing my fate firmly in the forthcoming dotcom bubble. Josh went to Reed, studying math.

Years passed, school gave way to work and back to school and back to work and back to school. One day about three or four years ago, as I do at least a few times each year, I googled friends from my former lives to see what they're up to. I was surprised to note that Josh had finished his degree and come to Berkeley to get his PhD in math. At that time I was in the 'school' sweep of the pendulum and shared a campus with him, but I never looked him up. It might have been because, with only one current friend I'd made before meeting Josh, I'd completely moved on in my life, or it might have been because I knew that we'd instantly fall into that 'sass that hoopy frood' cooler-than-thou modality, and not only would it be sad to instantly devolve ten years, but I'd probably lose, not having even finished my bachelor's degree. Another year later I noticed he got engaged at Lake Tahoe and later got married.

Josh, like Denise, Carina, John, Steve, Jeff, Dahlia, Dana, Rhett, Ethan, Nellie, and so many other faded friends, only entered my mind in the abstract, thinking about how lives are like branches, winding, sheltering, separating and diverging from common origins.

So I was taken by surprise when I got a call from my mom a few days ago, asking if I knew that Josh was working at Google.

Way.

I went to the intranet and looked him up, and there he was. It turns out he finished his PhD in May and started at Google a few weeks before I did. Different building.

The first impulse involved dropping by his cube to say hi, flashing back to the scene in Hitchhikers when Ford and Arthur are sucked on to the Heart of Gold and Ford walks in to the bridge, intent on outcooling Zaphod. To follow that storyline though, his cubemate would probably end up being Maggie or someone similarly astronomically improbable, and the whole phenomenon is better left unobserved.

My second thought was that he mush have known that I was working here. In my six weeks here I've sent out a few company-wide emails, and was introduced at an all-hands meeting. Then again, he might have said hi and I might have just not recognized him. How's that for playing it cool?

I decide to loop in my cubemate and tell her the story. She asks if I can show her a picture of him. "I've met him! He was asking about you!" She goes on to tell me that he told her he talked to me but doesn't think I recognized him, and that now he'd have to plan some elaborate situation to surprise me with his presence...

I should probably just drop by next time I'm in his building. I'll just be sure not to ask him how he did on his GREs.

Thieves
Tuesday, Oct 14, 2003
My sister's house got broken into today.

They also broke into her tenant's house in back.

My mom and sister went to Home Depot to get doors to replace those obliterated by the thieves.

While they went to load one into the car, someone stole the other two.

Crap crap crap crap. Damnit. Did you know doors can cost over $200 apiece?

New comenting system!!!
Tuesday, Oct 14, 2003
So with the rash of blog comment spammers (where Movable Type based weblogs are particularly succeptable) I have all the more reason to implement my new commenting system. I have it all spec'ed out in my head, and it's my next Fury project, hopefully to be done in the next few days.

As usual when I change Fury, I strive to solve a problem at the same time as increasing functionality, so there will be some other very cool features to the commenting system as well.

You can see them all implemented by next week at the latest, or you can wait a few months until they get copied into Movable Type, Livejournal, and the other main blogging tools. :-)

'till then, feel free to ignore the silly spammers who can't even type a url right.

The 18-cent solution
Friday, Oct 10, 2003
The average cash transaction results in 4.7 coins being returned in change. It's all about the denominations. A research scientist took this to heart and work out solutions. The most obvious is to ditch the penny, but since that might never happen (the penny has some big backers) adding an 18-cent piece might be the next best thing.
Dido: Life for Rent - Review
Friday, Oct 10, 2003
I got the new Dido album, Life for Rent (admittedly not from Amazon, but from the Apple Music Store which, by the way, open to Windows machines next week!) and I love it. I haven't gone gaga over an album for several months, but I just love this one. It's so rare that I love an artist's first album, and then have them follow it up so well. Mmm... Music.
  
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Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at Fury.com since 1998.
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