Monday, December 10, 2007

When You're (a) 64

Has it really been 25 years since the Commodore 64 has been introduced? A Technology article, Commodore 64 still loved after all these years, says it's so. I'm one of the 17 million owners of one.

Most of my memories of the 64 are pleasant -- playing around with Basic and Assembler, starting my record collection database, going online at 300 baud, and watching my hair grow while waiting for a program to load off of the disk drive.

"Computer nostalgia is something that runs pretty deep these days. The memories that people have of this machine are incredible," McCracken (Harry McCracken, vice president and editor in chief of PC World -- no relation to Phill) said.

Twenty-five years ago computers were an individual experience; today they are just a commodity, he said.

"I don't think there are many computers today that we use that people will be talking about fondly 25 years from now."
Sadly, I think he's right.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Ratatouille for the Ears

The title of this piece is an allusion to the animated movie about a Parisian gourmet rat. The following quote, taken from a article, In Defense of Audiophiles, made me think of a scene in that movie where the main character was waxing orgasmic about the symphony of flavors in a well-constructed dish:
But there are some things that only a really good home stereo, playing well-recorded CDs or vinyl LPs, can give you: the texture of an instrument (the woodiness of a bass, the golden brass of a trumpet, the fleshy skin of a bongo); the bouquet of harmonics that waft from an orchestra (the mingling overtones, the echoes off the concert hall's walls); the breath behind a voice; the warm percussiveness of a Steinway grand; the silky sheen of massed violins; the steely whoosh of brushes on a snare; the undistorted clarity of everything sung, blown, strummed, bowed, plucked, and smacked, all at once—in short, the sense that real musicians are playing real instruments in a real space right before you.
For what it's worth, many of us are losing the chance to appreciate quality music. Whether because our music collections are primarily in MP3 format, or because our "stereo systems" consist of tiny speakers or earbuds, we -- as a consumer group -- are dining on "fast listening."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Risky Behavior for an Honorable Man

I should be too jaded about things like this coming from the Bush administration, but news about the head of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) himself being under investigation is just too mind numbing. It has been alleged that the head of the OSC had retaliated against whistle-blowers among his own staff members and improperly dismissed whistle-blower cases brought to the agency by others. This hardly seems like something that someone from the Bush administration would do.

The primary mission of the OSC is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing. The head of the Office of Special Counsel is the "Honorable" Scott J. Bloch, a Bush appointee who was confirmed on Dec. 9, 2003. Prior to this, Bloch served as Associate Director and then Deputy Director and Counsel to the Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Justice. As such, someone might find it a bit odd that Block is withholding from federal investigators copies of personal files that he deleted from his office computer.

According to Bloch, his personal computer records are not relevant and the investigation into his activity is a "fishing expedition." However, people are finding it just a tad suspicious that Bloch had technicians perform a seven-level wipe on his laptop computer as well as on those of two of his aides. Overwriting the hard drive seven times was supposedly done as part of a virus removal procedure.

This is apparently a new type of virus removal that I'm not familiar with. But Scott Bloch is an honorable man and we must take him at his word on this. I just hope that he does not engage in the same risky behavior that got all three laptop computers infected in the first place.

"Thank you 1 800 905 GEEK™ - you gave us such peace of mind."
-- Karl from Texas