Still seeking contributing editors

Apologies for the erratic posting schedule this week — next week’s should be back to normal. (If you or someone you know is interested in sharing interesting digital media news with a couple thousand folks a day, be sure to ask me about being a PlaybackTime contributing editor.)

When only the very worst Mac software will do

One of the more popular Mac sites is VersionTracker, which tracks the latest versions of most Mac software using a pleasant (albeit personality-free) newest-first list format surrounded with as much advertising as possible. It’s useful, and (like many useful things) boring.

In contrast, the bitchy PerversionTracker much more entertaining.

The highly trained PerversionTracker staff locates the very worst of Mac software. We search the web for 15 minutes a day — so you don’t have to!

How can you not love a review of the horrible-but-strangely-revered Opera brower that starts like this?

Using Opera is like slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes, and then discovering that your formerly comfortable shoes have been surreptitiously filled with broken glass. As you make this realization, a troupe of baboons rounds the corner, baring and snapping their grisly teeth. They howl and begin to chase you. Knowing youÂ’re the only fresh meat for miles, you start running from this horrible Ape Menace, suspecting that you have somehow fallen into the hands of the Global Monkey Conspiracy. As the simian horde draws closer, in your desperate panic to get away, you slide into a steep ravine. As you strike bottom, you awake, in bed. It was all a dream. You are safe, asleep, and your computer has only non-Opera browsers installed.

Answer: You can’t not love it.

"We don't serve your kind here…"

Dive Into Mark, a great blog whose name inevitably conjures slightly disturbing imagery when read the first few times, has a cool article on how Mark used Apache and the mod_rewrite module to stop evil spambots, spybots, and unwanted robots — by definition, those that don’t respect the Robot Exclusion Standard — from stealing his bandwidth, content and email addresses.

Some will say that the Internet is a public place, and if I don’t want something abused, I shouldn’t put it on the Internet. Well, that’s true. It is also true that if I don’t want to get mugged, I shouldn’t leave my house, and if I don’t want calls from telemarketers, I shouldn’t have a phone. But I like leaving my house, I like having a phone, and I like having this web site.

Amazingly, a particularly evil — if not malicious, then programmed by friggin’ idiots — “plagiarism prevention system” called Turnitin hit his site nearly 20,000 times in January, using up over a gigabyte of transfer bandwidth in the process.

It's official: Microsoft goes DVD+RW (which means you will, too)

During last year’s WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference), Microsoft demonstrated integrated rewritable DVD support with DVD+RW on during a preview of the next major release of Windows.

Now, Microsoft has officially stepped off of the fence by announcing that they’re joining the DVD+RW Alliance. It’s clear that DVD+RW will be the rewritable DVD format of choice for Longhorn.

DVD+RW has three important advantages over DVD-RW:

  • It’s faster
  • It supports random writing
  • It supports defect management

In other words, DVD+RW it acts more like a mass storage medium than DVD-RW. But unlike DVD-RAM (which is also most of a mass storage medium than DVD-RW), DVD+RW discs with DVD-Video content can be played in most (and almost all new) DVD Video players.

Realistically, this means that the competitive recordable DVD formats — DVD-RW and DVD-RAM — will fade off into the distance. As Hans Driessen, a spokesperson for Philips and the DVD+RW Alliance, told IDG News Service:

The DVD+RW Alliance claims its format is the better one because DVDs created on a PC can be played back on most DVD players and DVD-ROM drives in PCs. This is not possible with DVD-RAM, which uses a disc in a cartridge. DVD-RW offers compatibility only when discs are created using a special recording mode, limiting edit capabilities, Driessen said.

If you’re in the market for a DVD burner, I highly recommend the Sony multi-format drive I discussed in my DVD burn-off story from a couple of weeks ago.

Game over, Atari

Asteroids. Centipede. Crystal Castles. Gauntlet. Marble Madness. Missile Command. Pong. Tempest. Robotron: 2084. Star Wars.

Some of the finest arcade games ever made were created by Atari Games Corporation, the arcade division of Atari. In 1996 Midway purchased it and renamed it Midway Games West. Sadly, Midway recently decided to close down Midway Games West. Nolan Bushnell told NY Daily News:

It makes me sad. You get a strong parental feeling toward things you create. And it’s distressing when they fall to earth under somebody else.

The Atari name lives on as part of Infogrames, but the real Atari is dead. A moment of silence for our misspent youths…

Why Microsoft bought Virtual PC

Mac users are a teensy bit concerned about Microsoft acquiring the most interesting assets of one of the last great Mac companies, Connectix. Among other products, Connectix makes Virtual PC — the only thing between many Mac users and a shiny new Wintel box.

Execs from Microsoft’s Macintosh Business unit are being very careful to reassure Mac users that Virtual PC has a future. But Microsoft didn’t buy the Virtual PC line for the Mac product — they bought it for Virtual Server, which will presumably be productized as a feature of some future version of Windows Server.

Virtual Server allows one copy of Windows Server to host many virtual servers. These virtual servers each get their own operating system, including legacy operating systems like Windows NT (30 percent of Windows server customers are still using the 6-year-old OS) and — from Microsoft’s point-of-view — Linux. The important thing about all of this is that Virtual Server allows customers to migrate to the forthcoming Windows XP Server, since Virtual Server essentially makes OS compatibility a non-issue.

This is not good news for VMWare, a business that’s built on what will now be a Windows Server feature. It’s likely that once Microsoft has incorporated Virtual Server, VMWare’s audience will be limited to people who want to run Windows Server on Linux.

As for Apple, Business Week believe that this purchase may push them to productize the open-source Bochs x86 emulator. However, this makes zero sense — an x86 emulator without Windows is pointless, and so Apple would have to sell Windows with each copy of Mac OS X to make this useful.

Instead, Apple should immediately work on .NET compatbility through the open-source Mono project. This would allow the next generation of Windows applications natively on Mac OS without requiring Apple to license a copy of Windows for every machine they sell

Speaking of .NET, this is clearly the future of Virtual PC for Mac OS X. Microsoft already has a Common Language Infrastructure runtime — the standards-based subset of the full .NET runtime — available for Mac OS X, and Virtual PC is the obvious conduit for a commercial version of this. Virtual PC .NET would allow Mac users to run .NET applications at native speeds on Mac OS X.

Ricochet's ricochet

I’ve always dug the idea of Ricochet, which seemed like science fiction when I first heard about it years ago. As much as I like Wi-Fi, I’d prefer slightly-slower high-speed city-wide wireless WANs to “hot spots”, although a roamable combination of both would clearly be best.

Aerie Networks, which bought Ricochet’s assets, is in the process of lighting up the network again in Denver and San Diego.

Part of the challenge lies in logistics. Ricochet technicians have to systematically switch on the shoe box-sized repeaters that hang from thousands of street lights — some 3,200 in the San Diego area alone. First, the company must broker agreements with the cities and towns that own the light poles. Ricochet hopes cities will provide free access in exchange for allowing police officers to have access to the network wherever their patrol cars roam.

As much as I like the idea of Ricochet, it’s impossible for me to justify at $45/month. (Thanks, Kevin!)

Anti-TiVo Turner exec "steps down"

Jamie Kellner, the anti-viewer Turner Broadcasting exec famous for saying that skipping through commercials with a TiVo is “stealing” and that a “certain amount” of going to the bathroom during commercials is “tolerated”, is leaving AOL Time Warner. (Thanks, Chris!)

Color management for digital photography

Even if you don’t use a Mac, this Apple-sponsored tutorial on color management for digital photography is interesting for anyone who’s wondered how it’s possible to get consistent color across radically different devices.

The Windows equivalent to ColorSync is ICM (Image Color Management), a barely-realized version of which first appeared in Windows 95. The first serious version of ICM (which could be compared to ColorSync without fear of being laughed at) appeared in Windows 98/Windows 2000. [via VRlog]

Google buys Blogger…and?

Google recently announced that they’d bought the company behind Blogger, which provides tools that let people build personal weblog-type sites.

The blogging community went collectively insane, and several near-histrionic posts followed. Most predicted that the purchase of Blogger by Google would spur a renaissance in personal expression or similar Utopian visions. I’m pointing to none of them here, since many of them are from people I respect and who should know better. (You can Google for them, of course.)

Google’s purchase of Blogger was simply the easiest way to buy a million people who’ve demonstrated an interest in publishing personal sites, some of who might even pay for the priviledge.

It’s happened before, only GeoCities had nearly 5 million users when Yahoo bought them. Google’s purchase means that Blogger has a future, but anyone expecting a revolution in personal expression simply because Blogger-based sites will be reliable are setting themselves up for disappointment.

Posted in Web