January 20th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

By Request: Mark Osborne, "More"

Yesterday was hectic, busy, and weird -- mostly pleasantly so, but too hectic, busy, and weird for me to get any writing done, sorry. I had something I was going to write tonight, but I just had a long and fascinating conversation with kukla_tko42, and this came up. In the context of another discussion we were having, she wanted to see my reaction to one of her favorite things, and she showed me Mark Osborne's 1998 Academy-Award-nominated six-minute claymation video "More," hoping it would help illustrate one of her points.

I didn't understand a single second of it. When the end credits started rolling, I looked up at her and said, "What the hell did I just watch?"

So we went through it again, with her narrating it. Now I sort of understand it, maybe, I think, but I ended up neither liking it nor relating to it. I think it's trying to poke me in the same empty spot that an awful lot of Terribly Meaningful and very emotional poetry fails to poke me at. So give me a hand here, will you? As many of you as can spare the time to do so, go watch "More" and then take a paragraph or two to talk about it in the comments to this journal entry? How do you interpret it? What actual story is it telling, and what does that story symbolize or mean to you, and how do you feel about the message you're taking away from it? Because even poking at it for a while, and talking about it with someone who generally can explain things to me even if nobody else can? I'm still in the dark here.
Brad @ Burning Man

Apple = Evil

Apple used to be like Google, committed to doing no evil. Going all the way back to the original 1984 Superbowl ad for the Macintosh, Apple was a company that differentiated itself from its competitors, especially from IBM and Microsoft, for its commitment to personal empowerment. Not only were Macintoshes as different from Windows boxen as, well, to cite another of their commercials that fewer people saw, as the telephone was from the telegraph, but the reason that they insisted that was important was that the Macintosh was a box that put you in charge, not some overpaid expert, not some faceless Information Technology priesthood, not even them.

Long before Seattle caught up with them in terms of usability, you could see this going the hell out the window when, starting with around System 7, they started obscuring the internals of the operating system. It used to be trivially easy to fix a Macintosh on the rare occasions when something broke, because every piece of the operating system was self-contained, clearly named, and extensively documented. Starting around the early 1990s, they started doing the same crap that Microsoft has always done of naming bits of the operating system with weirdly random incomprehensible short strings of letters and digits, and then spreading them all over the System Folder so that the odds were you couldn't just remove one, or change one, without breaking the dozen other things that you didn't know where to look for them, just like Windows is with DLL files. And, indeed, they've even managed to make it worse since then. I had occasion a few months ago to try to help a friend with MacOS X try to debug some problems with his Internet connection, and even the parts of the operating system that were supposed to be user-operated were muddy, unclearly labeled, and undocumented, with important operating system options that I know for a god damned fact that that Mach brand UNIX kernel underneath it supported carefully walled off and hidden. Apple has far surpassed Microsoft in the evil that is, "You'll use your computer the way we tell you to, Boy."

And that, the gods help us, was before they became a music industry shill. Because after spending time in company of such monstrous evils as Sony's music marketing division, the people who brought you the infamous Sony rootkit, Apple's standards for what is and isn't acceptable behavior have descended all the way to moral leprosy. Witness the ongoing malevolent evil that is the way that they managed the Quicktime codec.

Every few months, whether it produces any actual improvement in the product or not, Apple releases a new version of the Quicktime compressor/decompressor for video and music files. Every time they do, it breaks everything out there other than their own software for displaying *.mov files, forcing you to either go without any video that's in Quicktime format that was produced in the last few months, or download the latest free Quicktime Player. And I have come to dread the popup message that warns me that the movie I'm trying to watch requires a newer version of the free Quicktime Player, do I want to download it now, more and more every time, because every single one of the last three times I've been backed into doing so, they've managed to top themselves in the Pure Evil market. At this point, they've even managed to outpace Real Networks in the Pure Evil rankings, and I refused to do business with them ever again.

Starting several patches ago, Apple made it so far as I can tell impossible to install Quicktime Player and its codecs without also installing iTunes, and iTunes is the single worst-behaved piece of software that I've had on my computer in years. Patch before before last, or maybe the one before that, it acquired the default behavior of adding another piece of software to the Taskbar that would run continuously, sucking memory and cycles, specifically to keep any other music player like Winamp from launching automatically. If you set Winamp to be your default music player, iTunes would not only ignore your preferences and make itself your default music player, but they installed a virus on your computer (well, I consider it a virus) to change it back to them every time you changed it manually. And until you figured out how to disable that piece of software, it would launch itself again every time the computer rebooted, even if you manually killed it. I eventually figured out how to defeat that, right before Apple put a preference setting in to turn that behavior off. They put it in an obscure piece of software, not in the Quicktime preferences themselves or in iTunes, but at least they had it in there, right?

Last patch, they moved it yet again, to an even harder place to spot. Even knowing it was probably in there, it took me over an hour to figure out where they'd moved the off-switch for that obnoxious piece of malware to keep it from Trojan Horsing my music settings. No, by the gods, if you want to be so selfish as to not let them spy on every MP3 on your computer, they are going to make you work for it, every couple of weeks for the rest of your life. And I had mostly, reluctantly and grumblingly but mostly, reconciled myself to this, only to find out this morning that with yesterday's semi-mandatory Quicktime download, they managed to "improve" on it. Not only had they moved the preference setting to stop that Trojan taskbar program from launching yet again, but they ignore their own preference settings to hijack every media format to their player, and they hijacked my Firefox settings. If I go to Quicktime Player and check the preferences, I see that I have, in fact, specified that they are only to use their player and plug-in for Apple's own proprietary formats, that is to say, only for the things that they're the only one to support. Then this morning, I click on an MP3 link (the one in this morning's Something Positive) and instead of opening Winamp, it opens the Quicktime Plug-In. So I check, and sure as heck, contrary to the preferences I'd set in their own program it has set Quicktime Player, iTunes, and/or Quicktime Plug-In to be the default player for every music and video and graphics format on my PC. It's going to take me at least half an hour just to reset it, maybe more. And based on my experience the last time they came up with a Pure Evil upgrade, I'd just about bet good money that they've installed something on this computer in yet another obscure place, the gods forbid but probably knowing them a hidden rootkit or something, to change it back.

I'll no longer open or click on *.ram or *.rm3 or any other Real Media extension because Real Networks pulled crap like this once. I won't do business with someone who hijacks my machine, against my stated wishes, for the purposes of violating my privacy by sending themselves over the Internet a record of every song I listen to and every video link I click on on the Internet, for them to do whatever they want with, without even telling me about it, even if they only do it once. So now Apple has done this to me four times now in a row. It being Apple, like a dope I put up with it, in part because I felt like I had no choice but also probably out of some vestigial respect I once had for them from back in the mid to late 1980s when I remember them so fondly. But this shit has got to stop. If I can't figure out how to un-fuck-up my computer quickly, and if it doesn't stay un-fucked-up this time, I'm yanking the whole damned thing out by the roots if I have to reformat my hard disk to do it, and at that point, you can stop sending me links to anything in *.mov format. Because when your media player software manages to surpass both Real Networks and Windows Media Player in Pure Evil, you've managed to impress me.