Author Archives: Rip Rowan


I’m sure we all know about Scott McClelland’s kiss-and-tell book condemning the Bush presidency.

What you may have missed was former Senator Bob Dole’s email to McClelland regarding the book.

Dole reportedly sent McClellan an e-mail saying every presidential
administration has "miserable creatures like you … who don’t have the
guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or

Ouch!  But all too true.  If McClelland really believed that the Bush presidency was off-track, he should have done his best to change it, or quit.

Free Health Care

From: Stuff White People Like (edits mine):

Though their passion for national health care runs deep, it is important to remember that white people Democrats are most in favor of it when they are healthy. They love the idea of everyone have equal access to the resources that will keep them alive, that is until they have to wait in line for an MRI.

This is very similar to the way that white people Democrats express their support for public schools when they don’t have children.


Psystar: White Dwarf or Black Hole?

Psystar announced it’s $399 Mac clone “OpenMac” Monday, April 14.  Within minutes their website was taken down, reasons unknown.

Today the website came back up, and the name of the product has changed to “Open Computer”.  It’s still the same package, though: you get a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 Processor, 2GB of DDR2 667 memory, Integrated Intel GMA 950 Graphics, a 20x DVD+/-R SATA drive that is Lightscribe-capable, and four rear USB Ports.  More importantly, you get a licensed copy of Mac OSX 10.5 “Leopard”.  Psystar claims the $400 machine is roughly equivalent to a $2000 Mac.

At issue is Psystar’s ability to resell Leopard for use on its clones.  The Leopard EULA specifies that Leopard is for use only on Apple-branded machines.  Psystar asserts that the EULA is anticompetitive.

Surely Psystar is aware that they face an immediate legal battle from Apple.  So the question is: are they prepared to fight it, and do they have a plan to win?  It seems like they might have a case, but Apple will probably be able to get a temporary cease-and-desist order, which may keep the thing locked up for years.  And odds are Apple will eventually win out.

Though the odds are small, however, this could spell the end of Apple’s monopoly on Mac hardware, which would change the landscape irrevocably.

Harry Potter and the Golden Turd

Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling testified today in her lawsuit against Steven Vander Ark for his unpublished book, Harry Potter Lexicon.  Rowling claims that the book, which is based on the popular website of the same name, "constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work."

Hardly. Vander Ark has clearly put in a significant amount of work on his part, including creating a timeline of all the events in the Potter universe.  When his work was just a website, Rowling was tremendously supportive, saying

This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an
internet café while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a
bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing). A
website for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home.

However, now that the work is to appear in print (read: for profit), Rowling is out for blood.  Shame on her.  It ought to be obvious that Vander Ark’s work in no way compromises sales of her (absurdly lucrative) Potter franchise.  On the contrary, it probably complements sales well, in much the same way that companion books support Tolkien’s sales.  Surely she cannot in any way claim that the sale of a copy of Lexicon equates to a loss of sale of any of her material.

I liked the summary offered by Vander Ark’s defense group:

In support of her position Ms Rowling appears to claim a monopoly on
the right to publish literary reference guides, and other non-academic
research, relating to her own fiction. This is a right no court has
ever recognized. It has little to recommend it. If accepted, it would
dramatically extend the reach of copyright protection, and eliminate an
entire genre of literary supplements: third party reference guides to
fiction, which for centuries have helped readers better access,
understand and enjoy literary works.

Indeed.  Cliff’s Notes beware!

Moreover, Ms Rowling appears to be a sniveling, whiny muggle when she claims

I don’t want to cry, because I’m British, but the [Harry Potter books] meant setting aside my children.

Snork.  Well, thank you, Ms Rowling, for unselfishly setting aside your family obligations to devote your time to the betterment of humanity through fantasy fiction.  What a philanthropist.

She also stated

Should my fans be flooded with a surfeit of substandard books — so
called lexicons — I’m not sure I’d have the will or heart to continue.

Oh, please, Ms Rowling.  Your fans have already been flooded with a surfeit of substandard books: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to name a couple.  Perhaps you should sue yourself.

Besides the fact that she simply has no case, I want Rowling to lose the suit because she is so unimaginably petty.

Martian Headsets

A must-read from Joel Spolsky on the travails of conforming to "standards".  Here’s an excerpt, in which Joel is discussing Microsoft’s recent decision to make IE8 conform strictly to W3C standards:

I looked at my watch.

Tick, tick, tick.

Within a matter of seconds, you started to see people on the forums showing up like this one:

I have downloaded IE 8 and with it some bugs. Some of my
websites like “HP” are very difficult to read as the whole page is very
very small… The speed of my Internet has also been reduced on some
occasions. Whe I use Google Maps, there are overlays everywhere, enough
so it makes it ackward to use!

Mmhmm. All you smug idealists are laughing at this newbie/idjit. The consumer is not an idiot. She’s your wife. So stop laughing.

Entertaining and interesting.  Go read it.

Google Notebook

If you aren’t already familiar with Google Notebook, you probably ought to be.

Combined with a very nifty extension for Firefox, Google Notebook allows you to very easily collect and organize content from all kinds of web sources:

  • Right-click on a page or selected text to immediately capture the text or URL to the page, or add your own text directly into the notebook
  • Drag and drop content into different notebooks with sections, and add labels to categorize by topic
  • Invite collaborators to allow several people to work together
  • Use search to find information in your notebook

Like most things Googly, it is curiously elegant and powerful.  For example, if the information you’re collecting is location-based (say, hypothetically, you’re finding disparate activities you might want to do in Barcelona, and collecting the clippings into a notebook) you can choose to view all notes on a Google map.  It will place pins for each clipping onto the map.

Betting on the Racetrack

IBM is promising a new breakthrough in storage using new "racetrack" memory based on spintronics.  The technology will enable a potentially order-of-magnitude increase in memory storage.

the researchers expect spintronics to move into the third dimension,
with 3D racetrack memory devices that will be even faster and cheaper,
since they won’t be dependent on the miniaturization dictates of
Moore’s Law.

What I found more personally interesting about the story, however, is the inscrutability of the technology.  Now, I basically understand the technology underlying ICs, conventional memory, hard drives, and the like.  Of course, I couldn’t detail the engineering or physics, but I’m comfortable that there really isn’t anything about a modern computer that I find technologically out of reach.  This, however, is over my head:

"Recent developments in the controlled
movement of domain walls in magnetic nanowires by short pulses of
spin-polarized current give promise of a nonvolatile memory device with
the high performance and reliability of conventional solid-state memory
but at the low cost of conventional magnetic disk drive storage,"
according to the abstract for the article in Science.


Sweet, Sweet Irony


Idaho Senator John Goedde sponsored a bill to increase fines for speeding in school zones.

Then, on the day his bill was to be debated, he received a ticket for doing 32 MPH in a school zone.


Dumb Protest of the Year Award

A small group of truckers protested high fuel prices today by doing their part to consume as much fuel as possible, driving around the White House in circles.  What a bunch of imbeciles.  I guess having the entire interstate highway system subsidized isn’t a sufficient freebie.

What do these people think the government is supposed to do about high fuel prices?  Offer a credit?  Set a price ceiling?  Invade Iran?

Surrender Monkeys? Au contraire!

Check out "War Nerds" on the French.  I gotta, say, this was a fun read on French military prowess.