Warranted Genuine Snarks
There are plenty of good reasons to make Mozilla Firebird your browser of choice, but here's another one specifically for blog readers.
A lot of blogs pop up comments in this teeny-tiny window that you can't resize. At least, you can't if you use IE.
In Firebird (and newer versions of Mozilla), type
about:config in the address bar, scroll down to the
dom.disable_window_open_feature.resizable property, double-click it, and set the value to true. Voila; all your windows are now under your control, like they should be.
I ♡ Firebird.
The Death of Palm
Nobody cares about PDAs these days, but if they did, they'd be
interested in the competition between Palm and Microsoft.
Unfortunately for Palm, these hypothetical observers are looking at
the wrong competition; Microsoft's already beaten Palm, and the
question now is whether Linux can mount an effective handheld
The problem with Palm is that its software is brilliant and
efficient in utilizing the limited hardware of handheld devices. In
1996, when the original PalmPilot came out, this was Palm's main
advantage -- the Windows CE that Microsoft ginned up to compete with
the PalmOS was too bloated to compete. It was slow and memory-hungry
where the Palm was lean and fast. Palm got smug about this, when they
should have been terrified about its implications.
If there's one constant in the computing world, it's that hardware
gets better, fast. The PalmPilot Professional, released in 1997, had
a 16MHz processor and 1MB of memory; the computer it would have hooked
up to for syncing was probably a Pentium running at 100MHz with 32MB
of memory. Today's HP 2215 handheld has a 400 MHz processor and 64MB
The unpleasant reality of operating systems is that there's a limit
to how far they can scale; the further away they get from their
original hardware target, the more kludgy they get. Eventually, you
just need to write a new OS from scratch, targeted to higher-end
hardware. So, MS-DOS gave way to NT, and MacOS Classic gave way to
the Unix-based MacOS X. And there's an interesting point there: Unix
historically ran on high-powered workstations and servers, before it
became a desktop OS; NT is architecturally based on the VMS server OS.
That's not an accident. The more high-powered a machine is, the
"cleaner" its software can be. If you're running on a 16KB machine,
you need to hack your way to maximum efficiency, but if you're on a
machine with 2GB, you've got plenty of room for abstraction layers.
Obviously, PalmOS is the hacky "efficient" OS that gets the job done
on low-powered hardware, where Pocket PC Mobile Edition (nee Windows
CE) is a comparatively clean OS that steals architectural principles
from higher-class computers. And now that a typical handheld is more
powerful than a typical desktop was in 1996, the advantages of the
high-end approach are more and more apparent.
For now, Palm is staying alive by retreating to the phone arena,
where hardware is still less powerful, and efficiency therefore in
greater demand; but this is obviously just a stalling tactic. In the
very near future, Palm is doomed. But Microsoft's not guaranteed
victory: Fundamentally, phones and PDAs want to be cheap, and as long
as the device makers need to pay a license fee to Microsoft, there's a
limit to how cheap they can get. But Linux is also a powerful, modern
operating system, and with a certain amount of investment from Sony,
Samsung, or Nokia, it could eventually do a bang-up job of powering
portable devices -- and free the manufacturers from the Microsoft
tariff. In five years, the competition in your hand is going to be
the same as it is in your server room: Windows and .NET versus Linux
Free Lunches, the Nonexistence Thereof
Remember that one episode of the Cosby Show where Dr. Huxtable goes through a budget with Theo and shows him that he doesn't have enough money to get by on his own? Well, Dwight Meredith does the same thing to spend-and-don't-tax Republicans:
The game works this way. We take the all government receipts as
estimated by OMB in its Mid Session Review and try to balance the
operating budget of the United States. In the 1990s, a consensus
developed that the Social Security surplus should be used to pay down
debt in order to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomers.
Almost every politician of both parties promised to do so, including,
famously, George W. Bush. Thus, it would be inappropriate to use the
Social Security surplus for purposes other than paying down debt.
To play, you start with $1,797,000,000,000. That is OMBs estimate of
FY 2004 receipts of the Federal Government ...
But as Meredith deftly shows, it's not nearly enough to pay for the expenses of the federal government, no matter how much pork you try to cut. There is simply no possible way to balance the budget without raising taxes.
Thankfully, we're currently ruled by the party of fiscal conservatives, tough-minded guys who make the hard decisions, people who realize that there are no free lunches, former CEOs who know how to balance a ledger. I'm sure that any minute now, President Bush and the Republican leaders of Congress will explain how and when they plan to raise taxes.
Coverups Get a Bad Rap
Since Watergate, it's been the received wisdom that the coverup is worse than the offense. But Timothy Noah, considering why the Nigerian uranium has become a big deal and Bush's other well-documented lies haven't, pokes holes in that theory:
The yellowcake lie landed on Page One solely because it occasioned
a brief and fatal departure from the Bush White House's press
strategy of stonewalling. "Bush Claim on Iraq Had Flawed Origin,
White House Says" read a New York Times headline on July
8. Glancing through the story, Chatterbox initially puzzled over
its Page One placement. Didn't we know already that Bush's
yellowcake line was a lie? Then Chatterbox realized that the
novelty component wasn't the lie, but the Bush administration's
admission that it had told a lie. In the Bush White House, this
simply isn't done.
Coverups might sometimes blow up, but as a general rule, they work.
If you don't admit to anything and nobody can quite prove it
conclusively, odds are you're fine. If you're engaging in a lot of
dubious behavior, as the Bush administration is, refusing to admit
to it is probably your best strategy.
But when Bush does get taken down -- permit me my naive optimism --
it'll almost certainly be on something that he covered up (because
there isn't any wrongdoing that's been done out in the open), and the
"coverup is worse" hypothesis will seem reinforced despite all the
successful coverups (you'll note that Reagan was never impeached for
Iran-Contra) that took place along the way.
Up up down down left right left right B A Start
The Wall Street Journal imitates Nintendo Power and reveals the secret codes for the ever-challenging game of "Find a Human at Customer Support," popular among many phone users. Some of my favorites:
Chase 800-CHASE24 Hit five, pause, then hit one, four, star, zero
American 800-433-7300 Press zero twice, then say "agent"
T-Mobile 800-937-8997 Enter your phone number
American Express 800-528-4800 Hit zero, pound, three times over
(ignore prompts that it's an invalid entry)
Apple 800-275-2273 Zero three times; if virtual rep answers, say
It's great to see that providers of the Find-a-Human game have kept up the old-school video game tradition of having to beat the level boss three times before he's really defeated. There's something to be said for that kind of historical awareness.
Changing on Internet Time
There's never been an obviously compelling reason for AOL to keep developing the Netscape browser (other than, you know, not wanting the AOL client to be at the mercy of Microsoft -- we're talking about actual dollars here); and it seems like AOL's just realized that. Apparently, all the Netscape/Mozilla developers employed by AOL have been let go. At the same time, AOL's transferred the Mozilla intellectual property and a small pile of cash to the Mozilla Foundation -- effectively, a nice severance package for the project.
Mozilla's always been a weird animal -- an open-source project that was effectively controlled and bankrolled by AOL. It's been successful, but there's always been a nagging suspicion that it was only successful in the way that Slate is; it's easy to succeed when you can serve as a small money sink to a big corporation.
Well, now we get to see how well Mozilla does without massive
corporate support. I suspect everyone involved is a bit nervous
(particularly those who've just lost their jobs in the midst of a
terrible employment environment), but if this works out, escaping
AOL's pushy little thumb could be a good thing for Mozilla. Here's hoping.
Due to a vacation in the wilds of Michigan's Cherry
Festival-centric north, I was out of media contact for most of the
weekend. You can imagine how weird it was, then, when I came back to
find that I'd somehow gone back in time to February, and the big topic
of conversation was Bush's lies about Iraq's supposed uranium
Fortunately, the alternate February I've gone back to is a more
sensible one, where people are holding Bush's feet to the fire and
mocking his more ridiculous claims.
Ever since Watergate, a "smoking gun" has been the standard for
judging any Washington scandal. Many a miscreant has escaped with his
reputation undamaged--or even enhanced by the publicity and
pseudovindication--because there was no "smoking gun" like the
Watergate tapes. But now it seems that the standard has been lifted.
You would think that on the question of who told a lie in a speech,
evidence seen on television by millions of people around the world
might count for something. Apparently not. The Bush administration
borrows from Groucho: "Who are you going to believe--us or your own
After I wrote a month ago about the Niger uranium hoax in the State
of the Union address, a senior White House official chided me gently
and explained that there was more to the story that I didn't know.
Yup. And now it's coming out.
It came to my attention that Condoleeza Rice is attempting to explain
to us that 16 words of outright falsehood isn't really all that much
in the context of a two hour speech, not all of which has yet been
proved to be untrue. How wonderful; I never realised before that she
had much of a sense of humour. I have never been a great fan of this
kind of reasoning, ever since an unscrupulous waiter once convinced me
(I was young and drunk) that one obviously putrid, blackish-green
prawn wasn't really all that much in the context of a very generous
paella. Three bloody days on the pot I was because of that one.
I may not have a classical music station on my radio, but -- thanks
to digital cable -- I've got two on my television. And unlike radio,
the television shows me what I'm listening to; as I write this, it's a
piece cleverly entitled "Concerto No. 3 in A Major". Which got me
thinking that classical music composers have it easy; after they're
done writing a piece, they don't need to sit around trying to come up
with clever titles for it. They just say, "Lessee, this is
my... third concerto, looks like, and it's in the key of A major,
And then I thought a little further and realized that this titular
laziness is almost certainly one of the reasons that classical music
is less popular than it ought to be. Fundamentally, people are lousy
at remembering arbitrary numbers and letters, and great at remembering
names. Everyone knows precisely which car a Ford Taurus is, but even
a Car and Driver subscriber like me will sometimes forget
exactly which model the Mercedes CLK 320 is.
Consider as evidence Disney's Fantasia, which has a bunch of
mainstream-popular classical music. According to the soundtrack listing,
the movie contains selections from: The Nutcracker, The Sorcerer's
Apprentice, The Rite of Spring, Night on Bald Mountain, Ave Maria,
Dance of the Hours, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and Beethoven's
Symphony no. 6 (Pastoral). Almost all of the selections are named,
rather than numbered -- even the Beethoven symphony has a
The conclusion is obvious: If classical music wants to be more
popular (and what anthropomorphized musical genre wouldn't?), it needs
real names. I propose a council of eminent musical scholars to go
through the significant catalog of music and assign names to every
piece. Every last little Violin Concerto No. X will become something
like "Oops, I Did It Again!", and classical music will soar in
Sometimes I'm so visionary I scare myself.
Stealing a page from Rush Limbaugh's book, the Lieberman campaign attacks Howard Dean:
An aide to Mr. Lieberman said: "Everyone wants a race against Dean.
Everyone has looked at the research, and he looks easiest to bring
down. He's positioned himself as a liberal, and liberals don't win
Yes, you'd sure hate to have those filthy, stinking liberals cluttering up the Democratic Party, wouldn't you? The worst part is, Dean isn't a staggering-left liberal. In saner times, when Lieberman wouldn't try running for the Democratic nomination on a Republican platform, Dean would have been considered a moderate centrist.
I'll vote for anybody against Bush, of course -- hell, even Lieberman would at least be an honest, competent conservative -- but yeesh.