Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blog #17 The Great Pre-Christmas Day Massacre

While I was posting my blog #16 last Saturday morning, Fake Steve Jobs was sending us a pre-Christmas Day present of sharp satire. A series of posts which evidently had many tech tongues wagging according to the listings on Blogrunner. Go to any one of the recent Secret Diary of the Fake Steve Jobs posts. At the bottom you’ll see the word LABELS and in orange, FSJ SHUTDOWN DRAMA. Click that orange legend, and when the complete thread appears, begin reading it from the bottom post, “I’m Weighing an Offer from Apple.” When you finish that one scoot up to the next one, “So Now Apple is all Pissed Off,” and so on up to the top, “Breakfast with an Apple Lawyer.” This gathers the entire thread, and before reading any further here you should start from the bottom post and read up.

The posts begin quite offhandedly with the cryptic line, “I’m weighing an offer from Apple.” This post is illustrated by a cartoon like drawing of an overweight racketeer-looking type flashing mucho greenbacks. This was posted at 4:28 pacific time, which would be 7:28 EST(since FSJ lives in the Boston area). The next post, time 7:40 am PST was titled “So Now Apple is All Pissed Off.” This post was in the Fake Steve persona. But the next post, Thanks for your Support, was disquieting. What was disarming about it was that it was delivered not in the persona of the fake Steve but in the voice of Dan Lyons. I think this is what snookered in people, who were used to the satire on fake Steve’s blog being in the voice of Fake Steve, not Dan. Particularly piercing was the supposed list of Lyon’s assets that Apple’s lawyers had purportedly sent him, implying that they might be in imminent danger of being appropriated. Scott Carp in Publishing 2.0 had one of the more perceptive of the early comments. He began it by saying, “I can’t be 100% certain, but I’ll wager that Dan Lyons, AKA Fake Steve Jobs, is staging what, if it does turn out to be fake, one of the most brilliant bits of satire since A Modest Proposal.”

Well, comparing it to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” may be stretching things a wee bit, but the series of posts did add layer upon layer of subterfuge. In Thanks for Your Support FSJ further engages our sympathies with that illustration lined in hospital green of a person on life support, and all of that bs about how he really loves Apple as a company, etc. Then he opened it up for comments, and as Carp pointed out, one comment gave the game away. “Alright commentards, you all are a huge bunch of idiots, fools, and hypocrites. This is so obviously fake. Don’t you get it??? Jesus people, everything on this blog has been a parody, a satire, a joke. What evidence do you have that this is real? None.”

The “I’m feeling a little bit better now” post, further heightened the drama by supposedly revealing what Apple was upset about. But it was the final post, Breakfast with an Apple lawyer, which brought the whole thing to a head. First he set the scene in Lyons voice, with the lawyer explaining that everyone at Apple really admired his blog, and they thought he should take the next step in his life, which was to discontinue the blog and move on to other things. And the Apple lawyer offered two hundred-and-fifty thousand dollars to shut down FSJ’s blog.

FSJ, “I'm like, Dude, do you realize that guys like Nick Ciarelli don't write their blogs because they want to hurt you, they write their blogs because they love Apple? And do you not also realize that you could put a lot of this stuff to rest simply by announcing product roadmaps instead of living under the cone of silence and locking yourselves down like some kind of weird Scientology cult and threatening to ruin people who write about you?” And so it went, Lyons giving a much needed dressing down to the Apple lawyer over their running Nick Ciarelli’s Think Secret out of business. I think most of us were nodding our heads in agreement every step of the way as we read that dressing down.

FSJ even got to the heart of Apple as a company, quoting the famous Think Different ad campaign. “But you guys put Martin Luther King Jr. in your ads. And John Lennon. You had Gandhi in your ads. Gandhi, dude. Think about that. Think about what Gandhi did in his life, what he stood for, the price he paid for freedom of expression. You drag out a symbol like that, it's a pretty loaded reference, isn't it? It's a pretty powerful metaphor. I mean Gandhi is not just some celebrity dipshit singer like John Mayer. He's not some guy you'd trot out just to flog a product. You drop the G-bomb and you're trying to say something about the kind of company you aspire to be. But now you're paying off reporters to stop writing about you? What the fuck has happened to you guys?”

The so-called Apple lawyer built up his offering until it reached half a million which was the straw incurring FSJ’s final wrath. Then the post ends with this paragraph, “By then he'd already put on his coat and picked up his briefcase and was on his way out the door. After he was gone I called Tony Clifton and told him what happened and he's like, Well, my friend, you really screwed the pooch on this one. A half million? And you turned it down? Well, good for you, you dumb prick. It's like I always say – some people deserve to be poor. Merry Christmas, moron.”

However, for a most complete, unblinking view of the man behind the FSJ curtain, you need wander no further than this URL: http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2007/12/23/daniel-lyons-cries-wolf-the-real-bill-gates-behind-the-fake-steve-jobs/

Clicking on the above URL brings up a report written by Daniel Eran Dilger and published by RoughlyDrafted Magazine which takes a more sinister tone to the so-called attempted Apple FSJ legal shutdown. The piece was entitled Daniel Lyons Cries Wolf: The Real Bill Gates Behind the Fake Steve Jobs. It goes on to report that “When the New York Times fingered Lyon as the writer of FSJ, it was revealed that his wit wasn’t exactly splashed around equally. “Mr. Lyons clearly used the Fake Steve persona to further some of his own interests and positions,” the Times noted. “For example, articles in other business publications and their journalists were a frequent target of criticism from Fake Steve, while Forbes got off comparatively easy.” The subjects Lyons cast the most derision upon are targets of Bill Gates: Linux, Google, Apple, and particularly the personality of Steve Jobs. That’s no coincidence.”

And the article goes on to say, “The most obvious example was Lyons’ unwavering message about the dangers of Linux, the crackpots behind open source, and the safety of clinging to Microsoft. While Lyons now downplays the documented fact that he spent years ‘on message’ as a Linux detractor, he was actually one of the primary proponents of SCO in its insane legal circus threatening to sue any company that used Linux.”

“If you’re getting the impression FSJ is Bill Gates’ ventriloquist dummy, an attempt to counter the ‘frustrated businessman’ PC character played by John Hodgeman in Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ ads that Gates finds so irritating, a way to seed Microsoft-friendly ideas about the dangers of Linux in a post-SCO world, and a way to publicize Gates’ efforts to compare with Jobs at Apple, then perhaps it’s no coincidence that Gates had carefully prepared his opening line at All Things Digital to say “Well, first, I want to clarify: I’m not Fake Steve Jobs.” Was he trying to sound less uptight and wooden, or just calling attention to a blog carefully on-message with his talking points in an effort to extend FSJ’s fifteen minutes of fame so that he’d get his money’s worth?”

Prior to returning to Apple, Jobs actually described Microsoft by saying “they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product […] I have no problem with their success, they’ve earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products.” With straight talk like that the real Jobs makes FSJ sound like a emasculated ninny who confuses weak profanity for powerful phrasing. Is FSJ a parody of Jobs, or just a saccharine layer of frosting on top of the same old Microsoft-enamoured cake Lyons has long baked up at Forbes?

When asked about Lyons’ FSJ impersonation at All Things Digital earlier this year, Jobs said, “I have read a lot of the Fake Steve Jobs posts, and I think they’re funny. But I don’t know who it is.” In contrast, Gates’ parallel response to comments about the Get a Mac ads was bristled and irritated. The article further reported on the real Steve Jobs’ reaction to Apple’s legal team’s so-called crackdown on the FSJ blog. When asked about Lyons’ latest spoof series of being legally challenged by Apple, the real Steve Jobs responded directly to panicked users’ emails, “I think this is a joke, and I think you fell for it.”

Reading FSJ will never be quite the same again.
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Postscript for Dan Lyons. LINDON, Utah, Dec. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The SCO Group, Inc. ("SCO") (Nasdaq: SCOX - News), a leading provider of UNIX® software technology and mobile services, today announced that it received a Nasdaq Staff Determination letter on December 21, 2007 indicating that as a result of having filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel has determined to delist the company's securities from the Nasdaq Stock Market and will suspend trading of the securities effective at the open of business on Thursday, December 27, 2007.

Said Groklaw: Too bad they claimed so much more, because the end game isn't turning out to be so much fun for them. What is the moral of the story? I'd say it's that you can't stop Linux or FOSS with manufactured lawsuits. Oh. And don't sue IBM unless you actually have a case. I think we can all agree on that, after the lawyering we've been privileged to observe since 2003.
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YouTube has released its 10 most memorable clips of 2007 according to the Technology Blog of the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the top videos was the pathetic “Leave Britney Alone” wail, made by Chris Crocker, and which has been played on television ad nauseum. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHmvkRoEowc

Then there was a video of a piano playing kitten. Nora, the piano playing cat captured more than ten million views and launched a CD. It also was the favorite of the S.F. Chronicle poster.

There was the Obama girl clip from a political parody group called Barely Political. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ860P4iTaM

But in the opinion of Little Eddy the most remarkable video of the group is called the Battle at Kruger, and pits a pride of lions against a herd of water buffalo. Chasing the fleeing water buffalo the lions cut a young buffalo calf from the fleeing herd and ran him into the river. When a crocodile attempts to pull the water buffalo further into the river the lions manage to drag him back onto the shore and out of the crocodile’s reach. The herd of buffaloes returns to chase off the lions one by one and believe it or not, they manage to rescue the young calf, who rejoins the herd. It is one of the most dramatic videos I have ever seen. I guarantee if you have any interest in nature and in the drama of life itself, you will watch this video with utter fascination. A running commentary by the people in the car who were witnessing it as it happened helps explain parts of it.



Other videos include Chocolate Rain, an Original Song by Tay Zonday, The baby-faced 25-year-old with the low singing voice who became famous -- and featured on VH1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwTZ2xpQwpA

A vide0 entitled “Me singing “what goes around” Justin Timberlake, by Esmee Denters, who recorded herself singing in her bedroom in Osterbeke, Netherlands, and who caught the attention of Justin Timberlake who signed her to a record deal, and appeared at the end of the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Grnh7Qin8

“Otters Holding Hands” is one video that is bound to stroke the hearts of both animal lovers and people lovers. You can view the scene for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epUk3T2Kfno

Others include “Paris in Jail: The Music Video, which is a parody of the famous heiress set to one of her songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k66epna2Sss

Soulja Boy Tellem -How to Crank That - instructional video. The famous rapper teaches us clumsy fools how to dance like him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLGLum5SyKQ

And finally, UFO Haiti. Two flying saucers are captured flying over Haiti. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up5jmbSjWkw
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Okay you thought George Orwell was paranoid and a little creepy right? With his prophetic 1984. Well it didn’t happen in 1984, but its on the FBI’s agenda for 2007. What’s on the FBI’s agenda? you might ask. A biometric database of us all, that’s what.

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007; Page A01

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. Critics say that such government initiatives should not proceed without proof that the technology really can pick a criminal out of a crowd.

The use of biometric data is increasing throughout the government. For the past two years, the Defense Department has been storing in a database images of fingerprints, irises and faces of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghan detainees, Iraqi citizens and foreigners who need access to U.S. military bases. The Pentagon also collects DNA samples from some Iraqi detainees, which are stored separately.

The Department of Homeland Security has been using iris scans at some airports to verify the identity of travelers who have passed background checks and who want to move through lines quickly. The department is also looking to apply iris-and face-recognition techniques to other programs. The DHS already has a database of millions of sets of fingerprints, which includes records collected from U.S. and foreign travelers stopped at borders for criminal violations, from U.S. citizens adopting children overseas, and from visa applicants abroad. There could be multiple records of one person's prints.

"It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society."

The full, scary story is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/21/AR2007122102544.html
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For any of you Mac users out there, and especially any of you who upgraded your system this Yuletide season, here is a list of add ons you might be interested in: http://lifehacker.com/software/mac-os-x/rebuild-your-mac-with-20-useful-downloads-315981.php

The list includes mostly free programs, Adium (multi-protocol chat client when iChat isn’t good enough, Caffeine (one-click sleep from the menubar); DiskInventoryX (see what files are taking up the most space on your harddrive); Firefox (when you need more than Safari, however Little Eddy prefers Mozilla’s OSX based Camino); Geek Tool (Desktop image overlay); Google Earth (mapping tools with built-in flight simulator); Growl (Universal system notifier); Hazel (not free: $22 license required – cleans up your stacks); InstantShot! (Screen capture utility with more features than Grab); iSquint (convert video files to an iPod -friendly format); KeePassX (Secure password database – not Leopard compatible but with a workaround); MagiCal (Menubar monthly calendar dropdown); Mozy (Online backup utilit, 2 GB space for free); Quicksilver (Application launcher and keyboard interface); TextExpander (not free: $30 license, free trial available – Global text substitution utility expands user-defined text snippets to phrases and form letters); TextWrangler (Full-featured text editor from Bare Bones that beats the pants off of TextEdit); Thunderbird (Mail Client); Transmit (Not free:$30 license, free trial available – The best FTP client you’ll find on any platform); The Unarchiver (when Stuffit Expander doesn’t know what that .TAR file is, the Unarchiver will); VLC media player (The Swiss Army knife of media players, VLC will play all the movie files QuickTime chokes on. It can also rip DVDs, too) http://www.therealcaffeine.com/how-to/rip-dvd-with-vlc/

Going to the lifehacker.com article referenced above will not only bring you all the text above, but it includes a download link following each item so that you can easily add the one of your choice to your collection. Plus it references you to two other lists of downloads you might be interested in. So this is the week of Christmas and New Years. Exchanging gifts is the order of the day.
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And for another byte of the Apple, from the business pages of the New York Times comes the story, “Inside Apple Stores, a Certain Aura Enchants the Faithful.” By KATIE HAFNER Published: December 27, 2007

It was 2 o’clock in the morning but in the subterranean retailing mecca in Midtown Manhattan, otherwise known as the Apple store, it might as well have been mid afternoon. Even late at night, there are customers on the floor of the Apple store in Midtown Manhattan. Apple now makes about 20 percent of its revenue from its brick-and-mortar stores.

Late one night shortly before Christmas, parents pushed strollers and tourists straight off the plane mingled with nocturnal New Yorkers, clicking through iPod playlists, cruising the Internet on MacBooks, and touch-padding their way around iPhones. And through the night, cheerful sales staff stayed busy, ringing up customers at the main checkout counter and on hand-held devices in an uninterrupted stream of brick-and-mortar commerce.

The party inside that store and in 203 other Apple stores around the world is one reason the company’s stock is up nearly 135 percent for the year. By contrast, high-flying Google is up about 52 percent, while the tech-dominated Nasdaq index is up 12 percent.

The popularity of the iPhone and iPod and the intended halo effect those products have had on sales of Apple computers are behind Apple’s vigor. But the company’s success in retailing, as other competitors struggle to eke out sales growth, has been the bonus.

Apple now derives 20 percent of its revenue from its physical stores. And the number is growing. In the fourth quarter in 2007, which ended Sept. 30, Apple reported that the retail stores accounted for $1.25 billion of Apple’s $6.2 billion in revenues, a 42 percent increase over the fourth quarter in 2006. . . .

The close attention paid to detail in the stores’ designs, such as the maple veneer tables used for product displays, gives the impression that Steven P. Jobs himself, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, signed off on every square aesthetic inch of every store.

“Apple’s retail offering is very compelling,” said Andrew Neff, senior managing director at Bear Stearns, “but the other key is the product. The retail concept ties in very much to the product.”

But the secret formula may be the personal attention paid to customers by sales staff. Relentlessly smiling employees roam the floor, carrying hand-held terminals for instant credit-card swiping. Technicians work behind the so-called genius bar, ministering to customers’ ailing iPods, MacBooks and iPhones. Others, designated “personal trainers,” give one-on-one instruction and lead workshops.

The policy has given some stores, especially those in urban neighborhoods, the feel of a community center. Two years ago, Isobella Jade was down on her luck, living on a friend’s couch and struggling to make it as a fashion model when she had the idea of writing a book about her experience as a short woman trying to break into the modeling business.

Unable to afford a computer, Ms. Jade, 25, began cadging time on a laptop at the Apple store in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Ms. Jade spent hours at a stretch standing in a discreet corner of the store, typing. Within a few months, she had written nearly 300 pages.

Not only did store employees not mind, but at closing time they often made certain to shut Ms. Jade’s computer down last, to give her a little extra time. A few months later, the store invited her to give an in-store reading from her manuscript.

“Everyone is free to use the Internet and do anything they want — within reason,” said Paul Fradin, the general manager of the SoHo and 14th Street stores. Visitors spotted surfing pornographic Web sites are quietly asked to leave, and are escorted out.

Visitors can bring almost anything they like. Ms. Jade showed up nearly every day with her full set of notes, and enough food to see her through a few hours of writing.

“Whenever we ask consumers to cite a great retail experience, the Apple store is the first store they mention,” said Jane Buckingham, president of the Intelligence Group, a market research firm in Los Angeles. “Basically, everything about it works. The people who work there are cool and knowledgeable. They have the answers you want, and can sell you what you need. Customers appreciate that. Even the fact that they’ll e-mail you a receipt makes you feel like you’re in a store just a little bit further ahead of everyone else.”

This could be part of the reason that Jack Graham, 16, visiting for the holidays from Worcester, England, spent at least an hour each day of his visit at one of the three New York Apple stores, his parents sitting by patiently, happy to watch the crowd.

“These stores are going to become iconic places that people go to see when they come to New York,” said Mr. Gartenberg, the analyst. “Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and Apple’s great glass cube on Fifth Avenue.”

As for Ms. Jade, whose modeling career is advancing, she has yet to buy a computer from the Apple store. But she is still welcome to check her e-mail — and stay as long as she likes.
Full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/27/business/27apple.html
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And now, dear reader, as we leave 2007 have a very Safe and Happy New Year!

The Real Little Eddy