Monthly Archives: January 2006

Disney + Pixar, now what about Apple?

So, Steve Jobs has all but succeeded in selling Pixar to Disney. Time will tell if this goes down the similarly to when he sold NeXT to Apple, and then routed out much of the existing leadership and took control.

What I’m wondering is what I’m sure a lot of other people are wondering: What happens with Apple? It’s not news that Apple is already been becoming more of a consumer electronics and entertainment company.

I have to wonder if the switch to Intel chips isn’t a step towards divesting the computer part of the business in preparation for a merger of the remainder of the company with Disney. At the very least, it will make it easier for Apple to rely on 3rd parties to do more and more of the design and manufacturing of Macs.

It’s really about time, too. The time where it was really necessary for vertical integration between operating systems software and personal computer hardware is past. On the other hand, vertical integration between media devices, operating systems, applications software and media is clearly at hand if we ever hope to see this stuff working smoothly together.

I mean, come on, as just one example, converting DVDs for viewing on both the iPod and the various microsoft personal media center devices basically requires the use of 3rd party software of uncertain legality.

That said, there are plenty of good reasons for Apple not to merge with Disney, one of them being that it leaves them in a better position to do partnership deals with other content companies.

I guess we’ll see in a few years, won’t we.

The Wonders of HDTV

What I really love about wide screen HDTVs is that there isn’t much widescreen HDTV content, so the sets stretch everything, making everyone on TV look much “thicker.” As a result borderline anorexic celebrities look much more like average americans. Perhaps we’ll see a dip in various body image disorders for a while until the content catches up with the technology. Of course, at that point, we’ll be able to see just how “lousy”: “a lot”: “of these people”: “really look”:

The Problems With Photo Software

I have a new camera, and I am once again annoyed with the available tools for downloading the photo files from my camera and organizing them on my computer.

What I want is pretty simple, I think:

# Automatic download of images when I hook up the camera or compact flash card
# Ability to automatically download both JPG and RAW (CR2) files
# Automatic organization into folders by shooting date
# Preservation of filename from camera
# The option of storing those folders on a network volume
# Ability to quickly and annotate one or more files at a time with captions and keywords.
# Metadata storage in-file so it is available to other image management applications
# Index of metadata for fast searching
# Fast generation of high quality thumbnails
# Fast scrolling of thumbnails when browsing images
# Option of a flat view of directory hierarchy when browsing images
# Nondestructive “tweaking” of images (levels, color balance, crop, sharpening)
# Easy export of images at arbitrary file sizes and quality levels for e-mail, etc

I’m happy to use more than one application to get all these features, as long as it makes sense in terms of work flow. I don’t mind using one app to acquire the images, another to organize, another to make basic tweaks as long as the transitions fit with my workflow. I don’t want to have to go back and forth between different apps, saving ever time.

So far, I haven’t found anything that works quite right. Continue reading

WMF Expliot? What? Me Worry?

A nasty Windows exploit was uncovered recently that could provide yet another route for viruses and other malware to infect your computer and generally crap in your Cheerios.

This has been brewing for at least a week now, but with all good people being away for the holiday, it either hasn’t gotten as much attention as it has deserved because everyone is wondering how their pants suddently got so small, or it’s gotten too much attention because there hasn’t been much other technews to report while digesting piles of Christmas sweets.

Now that it’s the new year though, more of Microsoft is back from using up some of their 4+ weeks of vacation a year before it expires, and are trying to reassure people who are freaking out about the fact that there still isn’t a patch for this thing. One of the people doing the reassuring is Jesper who describes himself thusly:

“a Senior Security Strategist in the Security Technology Unit at Microsoft. My job is to explain to our customers how to run Microsoft products securely, and to the extent that it is needed, help the product groups figure out how to make it possible to do so.

Jesper has some good tips on mitigating exposure to this exploit here: Jesper’s Blog : Conscientious Risk Managenent and WMF

Unfortunately, he can’t resist the opportunity to trash the people outside of Microsoft who have been working to bring the details of this exploit to light. One example, when explaining how an unofficial non-Microsoft patch against this vulnerability works he says it does so “using basic rootkit technology” (no innuendo in that description, none at all). Elsewhere he complains that the people publically sharing information about this vulnerability “make it possible for even criminals who barely know how to use a computer to exploit this issue.”

So, lets break this down. The people who are sharing the information that Jesper complains about may well be making it easier for criminals to exploit the issue. They are also making it possible for people like the fellow who released the patch to get something out there while half of Microsoft was off skiing at Whistler (or someplace with better snow this year). It would be a lot easier for Microsoft if independent security researchers kept info about this vulnerability under their hats until after the holidays, so you can forgive Jesper for being cranky. (The photo in his blog masthead makes it look like he had to come in early from SCUBA diving in the Virgin Islands to whip out a blog entry for Microsoft’s concerned customers.)

Unfortunately, this vulnerability has been around for years and Microsoft hasn’t done anything about it. Not a suprise really, since they designed it into the OS in the first place. I have some sympathy for Microsoft, its got to be hard to find and patch all the security problems that have been incorporated into Windows over the years. Who was to know back in 1995 that security would be be a big issue in a world where every computer was networked to every other computer? I mean, come on, it was 1995! Microsoft was too busy giving demos to developers about how their new Internet aware dev tools let you do remote SQL queries over the net by sending freetext passwords in e-mail. They were much too distracted with kicking Netscape’s ass and controlling the Internet to worry about unforseen things like network security. And please, who was even thinking about creating restricted exectution environments for untrusted code running in a Java-like virtual machine (besides James Gosling, I mean). And then, you know, as the years wore on, there was a monopoly to exploit before the feds caught up to them.

So, it seems our choice is either to trust Microsoft, again, and hope that some smart little punk out there somewhere doesn’t figure out an exploit of his own before MS gets around to fixing things, or to actually share as much information as possible in order to understand and guard against this problem, with or without MS.

Harvey Danger, still DRM-free

Appearantly the latest “Coldplay”: CD comes “locked down with DRM”: and comes with a “handy little card”: outlining all the things you can’t do with the CD you just bought. Things like play it on your iPod, or return it because you can’t do shit with it.

Even more amusing, it’s the Indian release of the album that comes so loaded with shit.

The solution is obvious, screw Coldplay, and screw Virgin Records. Go and “download a high quality, DRM-free encoding of Little by Little”:, the latest album from “Harvey Danger”: If you like it, you can donate or buy a DRM-free physical copy, complete with cool album art and an awesome bonus disc “directly from the band.”: