* Posts by Rambler88

48 publicly visible posts • joined 19 May 2010

The enemy of my enemy is my, well, temporary ally: Apple and Microsoft in pact against Google


Safari already works with DuckDuckGo

"Apple’s Safari web browser will work with DuckDuckGo"

I've been using DuckDuckGo on Safari 6.1.4 for about a month. For all I know there is further functionality to be integrated. In fact, if you want to switch search engines, you do have to change preferences, there's no UI switch. Perhaps that's it.

I just use it for search, and it works pretty well. I've had to go to Google a couple of times, but I normally leave it in DDG and usually don't notice a difference, except the absence of that "Big Brother is watching" feeling.

I do wonder about Yandex sometimes. (DDG is somehow based on Yandex.) Russia is not exactly Switzerland, and Yandex is all over my access logs so often it gives me the creeps.

Without a smartphone your reptile brain gets a workout


I've got a smartphone for personal use and a dumb phone for business use (which includes hours-long interviews). I'm ditching the smartphone (which always runs out of juice when I need it), using the dumb phone for personal stuff, and going back to a landline for the business. I'm old enough to know quite well that a smartphone does nothing essential for me, let alone anything that's worth the trouble. (Is there any such thing as a well-designed, bloat-free smartphone that's any good for voice? I gave up looking.) Having a desktop (three of them, actually) and a small laptop, I need a pocket-sized, badly-designed computer-cum-low-end-camera that can't be away from a charger about as much as I need a second ... appendix.

Tata says USA rejecting HALF of Indians' work visa requests


--However, Mukherjee told the news site that this is not necessarily the case. “At the junior level (in the US), it’s probably less expensive to hire someone locally than taking someone from India. Everyone thinks getting someone from India would be cheaper, but it’s not true – it’s more expensive at the junior level,” he said.

Very recently I was having a rather intensive professional conversation with an IT person at a US IT-based company with $80B+ annual revenue. This person has spent a couple of years training lower-level people IT people based in India. Now the offshoring is moving up the ladder, and the company is replacing him and a couple of hundred other mid-level IT people with staff in India. The management's statement was that if they had to hire three (or more, with no limit) offshore Indians to replace one American, they'd do it.

If three-to-one or more is acceptable for offshored personnel, perhaps one-to-one is acceptable for imported personnel as long as they can get the visas. Facebook and Google are pressing heavily for more tech visas, and I doubt they're only thinking about senior people. I doubt that all of the very numerous Indians here are in senior positions. Perhaps Mr. Mukherjee is lying. I once read about an Indian businessman telling a lie, and I suspect that there have been other instances of which I'm not aware.

--Gartner has warned that “risk mitigation and contingency planning are strategic imperatives for enterprises with outsourcing deals that utilise India-based talent”.

Gartner is not lying. My source's comments about the extreme incompetence and dependency of the offshore staff in India bears this out. Those people don't get any smarter when they're shipped over here. Or more likable. Or more intelligible. Or more to be trusted with access to critical data.

Much of the widely-alleged benefit of offshoring sounds like a typical tunnel-vision fantasy of a stereotypical accountant. As with IT, there are a lot of Indians here working in accounting. I wonder if any of them are pushing both offshoring and importing--and perhaps steering their employers to particular staff sources in India. Of course I wouldn't want to suggest that anyone is taking bribes. No American businessperson--much less a government official--would ever do such a thing, any more than an Indian businessperson would offer a bribe.

Adobe reports great re$ult$ but loses CTO Kevin Lynch to Apple


Cortez in Cupertino?

I've been making my living with Adobe products (running on Macs) for since the 80s. (And just recently, I gladly handed over the cash, again, for the non-rental version of CS.) Adobe has always been distinguished by a very tight focus on the preferences of **intelligent**, **knowledgeable** **end-users** doing **real work**, and **non-IT work** at that, work that must in turn **meet the needs of the end-users' customers**. Macromedia did a pretty good job of the same thing.

I'm not worried about Adobe. Their strengths predated Lynch. And in the real world, having a mature product is not a problem, as long as it works better than the competition. The Japanese gained domination of the auto industry by producing cars that needed to be replaced less frequently than Detroit's. Those cars were also rather prosaic in appearance, a strong contrast to Detroit's once much-touted glitz. Adobe's own elimination of the unlamented, once-entrenched but never-matured Quark is an even better example.

But I can't begin to imagine how the Adobe mindset will mix with Apple. I can imagine only three scenarios: 1) Lynch will leave Apple within two years, after getting nothing done. 2) Lynch has lost his mind--in which case his stay at Apple may be a long one, but will mean no change at Apple. 3) Lynch's arrival at Apple will prove to be analogous to Columbus's arrival in the Americas, with similar results for the indigenous population and for the technological level of the territory.

Adobe thinks outside box, nixes retail Creative Suite packaging


1) Since Shuttleworth took Linux out of the running as a possible general-purpose user OS, walled gardens are looking more profitable for the long run.

2) If, or when, software makers go too far in abusing subscription systems, pirating software will become respectable, and the hacker infrastructure will evolve to meet the need for user-controlled software.

3) One thing that won't happen, of course, is the development of real open-source alternatives.

McAfee dumps signatures and proclaims an (almost) end to botnets


Re: Huh?

Let's not be judgmental, now. McAfee's doing pretty well for a bunch of junior guys in a converted warehouse in Bangalore.

Oh. You mean that's not what they are? You say INTEL owns them??!! Odd, that. To their customers, they certainly seem like a bunch of junior guys in a converted warehouse in Bangalore.

How private biz can link YOU to 'anonymised' medical data


"legal authority to access identifiable information may be provided through the consent of the citizens concerned"

--Which you will have to grant in the EULA you must sign in order to receive treatment. Simple as that.

Obama's new cyber-security tactics finger corrupt staff, China


the cloud's silver lining (for hackers)

The more centralized are our data systems, the more vulnerable they will be, and the greater the incentive to hack the centers.

Ubuntu's Shuttleworth embraces tablet terror: Our PC biz will survive, too


Earth to IT...

There are such things as non-IT content creators. We need PCs too. Having been burned by Ubuntu, I won't be looking at Linux again, except maybe in 5 to 8 years time if a Linux OS has developed a real track record as a serious desktop OS for people who aren't full-time OS hobbyists.

Meanwhile, if I have time to indulge my curiosity about Unix, I'll play around under the hood of my Mac. That knowledge, at least, I'll be able to put to some use.

Why you need a home lab to keep your job


Re: The Catch-22 Secnario

"In my last job, the IT dept finally admitted that some of us know more about the system we develop for that they did and gave us (very reluctantly) local admin rights on our dev machines."

Now you know what it feels like to be a user.

Apple, Google tumble off top 20 trusted companies list


Re: At least bike gangs are safe....

There's a lot to be said for consumer activism...

The Death of Voice: Mobile phone calls now 50 per cent shorter


I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going.

How many of the users just never have anything to say that takes more than 15 seconds?

Me, I regularly conduct three-hour business interviews on the phone. Once again, no-one seems to be looking at what businesses do--or at what they need. Voice is dead, the PC is dead. And Lenovo's PC sales in China are soaring. China's where all the work is being outsourced to. Surely a coincidence.

Record numbers of you are reading this headline right now


The icon says it all

Here's to you!

For a chaser, may I suggest...


... or perhaps try it with a nice peaty single malt.

Bad news: PC slump worse than feared. Good news: It's Friday


"these new devices continue to lengthen the time between PC upgrades."

This is a good thing for the desktop PC. It will reduce the time consumers spend beta-testing new OSs. It will hopefully reduce the frequency of disasters like Vista and Win8. It will make PCs more usable for the real work they were designed for.

Perhaps someday the marketing geniuses in Redmond and Cupertino will receive the astonishing revelation that small mobiles on the one hand, and larger screen-and-keyboard kit on the other, are (drumroll) two different product classes, for two different uses, with two incommensurable markets. (Cue gasps from the media at the brilliance of this insight.) Desktop machines are (gasp) for work that can't be done on small mobes. (Cupertino may have a vague inkling of the two different markets bit, but at no time have they ever glimpsed the "work" part. The Mac's virtues have always been as a smooth interface for gaming and entertainment, and any other functionality was purely incidental, and forbidden if possible.)

Perhaps in 20 or 30 years *n*x will support non-IT "work" too. (Just joking. Wanted to see if you were still reading. If it ever does happen, the documentation will be written in Chinglish.)

Latest exoplanet discovery is a virtual CLONE of Earth


I'm overweight as it is.

What would the gravitation be like on a rocky planet with a radius 1.5 times Earth's?

All your audio, video kit is about to become OBSOLETE


What I really want is a recordable voicemail message that sounds half as good as my long-departed cassette-tape answering machine.

And, to be quite blunt, I don't think that this time around I'm really going to want to ditch either my vinyl or my CDs. The low-res MP3s, maybe, but not the quality stuff.

Trust the cloud with my PRECIOUS? You gotta be joking


Re: Backup chaps, backup.

And a backup that relies on proprietary software for recovery--especially software from the likes of Microsoft or Apple--is not a backup either, not after the next round of planned obsolescence. Manual backup, chaps, manual backup.

Trolls and their ilk now file majority of patent suits


First thing we do...

And you can bet that a bunch of law firms are actively recruiting plaintiffs with promises of easy money. Probably many of those firms also defend such suits. What goes around, comes around.

FCC urges rethink of aircraft personal-electronics blackout


Re: Passenger generated electro-smog..

"but the sources of potential interference brought in by the passengers are not."

Amen. No telling what's coming from China next year.

"several identical devices operating together may actually exceed the immunity level of an aircraft system"

And if it's a popular toy, the RF-safety alpha testing will begin en masse on the day of release.

The best e-readers for Christmas


pixel dimensions of Nook e-reader screen; format exclusiveness

The article implies that the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has a "758 x 1024 panel rather than the 600 x 800 of the previous generation of E Ink-made screens".

According to Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/Compare-NOOKs/379003181/ the dimensions of the 6-inch screen are 600x800, with a resolution of 167 ppi. If this is incorrect, I'd love to know it--the specs are handy for making screensavers. Haven't had time to check with B&N yet, or to do much research. The display, in any case, is much clearer than those numbers might suggest--in fact, excellently clear, so much so that I can't see room for improvement in the resolution. (I've spent a lot of time doing QC on type, on-screen and on paper, so I'm hypersensitive to resolution.)

As to format exclusiveness, I gather that one can download conversion software to go from Word, etc., to ePub, and vice versa. So that looks like it might be an answer the issues of format and long-term ownership of the e-book, if one has the time and a bit of know-how.

I've only had the Nook a few days, but very impressed so far. Very intuitive interface--I figured most of it out in about an hour without looking at the manual.

Republican staffer fired for copyright reform suggestions

IT Angle

Depends on whose ox is gored

Suppose that IT--hardware and software--did not have the cash-flow and continuous employment that is guaranteed by dynamic obsolescence. Suppose its products, if they were any good at all, might remain useful indefinitely. Suppose that in some cases their value might not be recognized for years after they were created. Suppose that some products took years to complete. Suppose that, given the above, a living wage was not guaranteed to any half-competent practitioner, as is the present case with IT. In that case, both the extreme freetards and the "moderate" freetards might have different ideas about a 75-year copyright.

Tim Cook: Apple to manufacture Macs in US in 2013


Re: Phew!

I wonder if Shuttleworth remained conscious after he read that.

Android users: More of them than fanbois, but they don't use the web


"Perhaps people who spent hundreds on an iPad feel that they need to use it, even when better options are avaiable, to justify the expense?"

And perhaps also because fanbois are more likely to believe that "The Desktop Is Dead".

Microsoft to biz: Just so you get off XP, we don't mind if you go Win 7


Re: "Why wouldn't you allow consumers to boot from USB?"

They'd never do it anyway--it would let the users who know better than the support team how to fix certain workstation problems do it without getting caught. (They're the only ones who have a clue what booting from a USB means.) No going back to those days!

Apple's poisonous Touch silently kills the GNOMEs of Linux Forest


It's not over yet . . .

"...in creating iOS for mobile devices Apple, well, created iOS for mobile devices. It did not rewrite the OS X desktop that runs on Macs, nor did it try to re-imagine the desktop computing paradigm."

Still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that one.

State of Minnesota bans free online education


Strange. Probably is just a garden-variety bureaucratic glitch that's been journalized out of proportion. This really isn't the way things typically work here in Minnesota--if something like this crops up, they often do sort it out pretty quickly, as they seem in fact to be doing with this. (And as they did with the hair-braiding licenses.)

There are exceptions, of course. Bureaucratic insanity that favored established healthcare, pre-college education, or social welfare interests would probably be untouchable. But incredible as it sounds, even the people who collect taxes here are a pleasure to deal with.

I'm not just defending my home state, by the way. I moved here from New York f-----g City, my hometown, ten years ago.

Geography lesson for Europeans: The USA consists of 50 states, and state laws and general legal environments vary widely. The states have a status somewhere between that of German Länder and EU member states. There is a solid correlation between the extremes of regulatory insanity and Democratic party rule. The corruptibility of state legislatures is an axiom of American politics, but the degree of corruptibility varies widely.

Microsoft: It was never 'Metro,' it was always 'Modern UI'


The purpose of the US Patent & Trademark office is to just rubber-stamp everything and let the lawyer$ sort it out. There's probably no-one there who knows that "UI" is a generic term.

BOFH: Our Excel-lent new boss and the diagram plan


Re: Not quite accurate

You probably could do a macro that takes an MS Project file and translates it into a tarted up Gantt chart that will satisfy your boss's need for tarted up Gantt charts.

@ Vic: I worked for one Project Manager who didn't get the "I'm not your secretary" bit even when "and I'm getting $125 an hour" was added.

Surface slab WILL rub our PC-making pals the wrong way – Microsoft


some very strange possibilities here ...

This could be an interesting opportunity for Apple, now that Jobs is out of the way: letting OEMs sell Mac OS machines.

But they'll probably respond to it by imitating Win 8's touchscreen-only UI. That, after all, is the direction Apple's been going in ever since it was a gleam in Jobs's eye. MS finally one-upped them at their own anti-productive game, and it would be very unlike them not to respond in kind--even if it means playing catchup with MS for a change, and shooting themselves in the foot into the bargain, just as MS is doing.

Unless, of course, there's someone at Apple who isn't trying to channel Jobs ...

Bunging apps, files into virtual desktops ain't worth it - Gartner


Costs? Productivity? What's those?

It's largely just another management fad--something to talk about at meetings with other faddists and with potential suckers/investors. It's not as if all the execs pushing the purchasing decisions are playing with their own money, or staking their own functionality (such as it is) on the new systems.

As for security, the more unworkable the system is, the more frequently people will just work outside it.

Jaw-jaw no more-more as calls fall down tally of phone tasks


>> Any suggestions for a more appropriate moniker, folks?

I'm fine with "fondleslab". "Mobile" will do. I won't strain your censors with my suggestions. I've been waiting for a long time for some marketing genius to come out with a mobile . . . "telephone".

Important niche market that. Just as a lot of businesses--well, all of them--depend on, and spend lots of money on, computer functionality that requires a keyboard and a large screen, they also rely a lot on voice communications. You know, businesses--the same market that supports a little company called IBM.

Microsoft's Surface proves software is dead


Re: It's not free if it needs a dongle

Mr. Hagan and El Andy are right. Apple is an old hand at "dynamic obsolescence" for hardware--in a class with the Detroit auto makers in the 50s and 60s, and presumably with the same future. And the fanbois wouldn't have it any other way--if they didn't have a new latest thing every couple of years, they wouldn't know they were alive.

McAfee embraces managed services providers


it all evens out . . .

>> McAfee haven't been the most solid of performers over the last few years.

True, but executives making large corporate IT purchases are generally more interested in buzzwords than performance.

Windows XP update fails in infinite .NET patch loop


Re: Oh, grief!

>> If you did you would have seen the link to click to look at the info anyway.

I just looked at the article (from the US, at 19:45 GMT), and saw no "link to click to look at the info anyway"--not anywhere on the page. If it existed, then apparently this information leak has been fixed--presumably because it just encourages use of non-Windows OSs.


gee, thanks, Redmond!

@ Shannon: I can't blame the Reg for not having much to say. I've been worrying over this for two days (the affected computer is a business-critical machine), and looking all over the Web for information, and the only things to be seen are 1) a whole lot of p'd off users from all over the world, 2) massive silence from Microsloth, 3) smartasses (or an MS PR squad?) on every thread posting fixes that are quickly reported not to work, and 4) traces of closely similar instances from the past. At least the Reg makes it official, so I can show something to the lice at Trustwave ("false positives R us") if they flunk me for not having the latest security updates installed.

Count on MS to leave the world pulling its hair out when a brief statement would at least tell us we could stop wasting our time.

Lasers battle cattle farts!


Is DARPA looking into this?

Reminds me of a mention I once found in some military history book of (exact words) "camels carrying machine guns"--one hallucination I hope I never have.

I look forward to the satellite photos of Oz picked out in blue on nightside Earth.

Pirate island attracts more than 100 startup tenants

Big Brother

Re: The thing is.

>> Frankly, most people won't care. The US is mainly concerned about drug smuggling, diseases...

If the people working there don't need green cards, etc., it doesn't sound like they're going to have employment taxes (Federal income tax and Social Security) deducted from their paychecks and sent to the Internal Revenue Service. That's what's going to bring the Feds down on them if nothing else does. In the U.S., laws against illegal drug imports and (especially) illegal immigration are enforced far less rigorously than is the collection of taxes from employees. The IRS is a jealous god, effectively unrestrained by law or politics--the officials whose pay and patronage depend on tax collection are the last people to challenge it.

Swedish men ordered to present cervices in database flub


It's not a bug, it's a feature.

Wait until "Health officials in Stockholm County and the island of Gotland" are informed that no, it's not a mistake--it's the next step toward gender neutrality.

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS strikes Hyper-V first with Microsoft


A fool and his OS . . .

Next stage: Microsoft starts telling Canonical how to build Ubuntu to maintain compatibility with Hyper-V. This is an old, old story. But only to be expected. Shuttleworth jumped the rails a couple of years go. And today's Ubuntu won't be missed.

Google plan to kill Javascript with Dart, fight off Apple


"Google is apparently concerned innovation is moving off the web as we and Tim Berners-Lee know it, and on to the popular but fenced-off iPhone and iPad."

I'd love using a Web from which that sort of innovation, along with Facebook and the like, not to mention Unity and toy interfaces for mobile, has been moved off completely--and securely fenced off, with the locks on my side and the key in my pocket (until I drop it in the nearest unfathomable body of water).

As for handing standards to a body that will take ten years to get out the next version--having anything stay usable for that long is the dream of everyone who actually uses the technology, as opposed to those who market it and those who just wank off to it.

Psychology graduates remain poor for life, study shows


not poorly paid enough...

Unfortunately, at least in the U.S., "poorly paid" does not mean they are innocuous. Psych grads, in the clinical field at any rate, are, shall we say, a very distinct population, and are overwhelmingly dangerous lunatics when put in the positions of authority that their allegedly scientific qualifications give them, however ill-paid. If anything, the low pay makes them vengeful and thus even more aggressive.

@mark adrian bell: Nursing is indeed a demanding field with demanding training. But nurses (I deal professonally with a lot of them) nonetheless tend to hugely overestimate how demanding it is and how exceptional they are--they think it gives them the last word on everything, and I do mean "everything", ignoring the facts that there are many aspects of the sum total of human knowledge that nursing training doesn't cover, and there are many more demanding disciplines out there. In fact, a syndrome with significant resemblances to the clinical psychology syndrome.

Desktop Linux: the final frontier


But the desktop is dead, isn't it?

Desktop Linux = Linux doing real work. Until recently, it looked like a possibility. But Ubuntu and Gnome have now made it their official positions that OSs will no longer be optimized for the desktop. Instead, functionality must be compromised so the same OS can run on handhelds. When you see entire corporations with people doing their work on handhelds, you will see Ubuntu and Gnome penetrating the office.

For some other variety of Linux to do so on a large scale, to become a popular OS, they will now have to proclaim a total repudiation of the handheld as a primary device--and make a real and irrevocable commitment to that course, to assure a highly skeptical user community.

Somebody once said, "It's the user, stupid." But nobody listened. Unix geeks love the idea of slab-fondlers as the users whose opinion counts, because it confirms their own fantasies of being the techno-elite. The notion that the users who make the difference in the computer market (as opposed to the entertainment device market) are users who do important tasks on their computers and can often run those computers for that purpose better than the IT department can (which, granted, isn't saying much)--that notion is totally unacceptable. But it still determines market share.

That won't change no matter how much advertising Canonical buys in the Reg.

Natty Narwahl: Ubuntu marine mammal not fully evolved

Jobs Horns

The good thing about premature releases...

I'm glad Canonical released this now, rather than waiting until they got it "right". Don't forget that if Apple wasn't so good at getting stupid ideas "right", they would have eaten Microsoft by the early 90s.

As a long-time Mac user and frequent Windows user--that's using them for real work, and fighting them every inch of the way to keep them out of the way of my wetware--I was looking forward to an alternative. Ubuntu was looking like it was becoming what I'd been waiting for. I'd installed Maverick, and was waiting eagerly to find time to really learn it and start using it.

I'd have felt like quite the idiot if I'd put in that time, only to find out with the next update that Shuttleworth has Job's disease, and had decreed that henceforth all UIs shall be optimized for handhelds--i.e., that henceforth, computers shall be toys.

I have better things to do with my time than invest it in new products put out by new sets of unstable people. I waste enough as it is on the new products put out by the entrenched wackos. To me as someone who uses computers as tools, this not only discredits Canonical--it discredits Unix. Gnome's embrace of the same philosophy strongly reinforces this. It strongly suggests to me that Unix people are still basically what they were a couple of decades ago--geeks for whom the computer is an end in itself, with no respect for or comprehension of the reasons why the world buys computers.

Ubuntu was the only distro that looked like breaking out of that mold--the only one that looked like it might eventually become popular enough to run the applications that I now need Mac/Windows for. (You know--that software that "lusers" use.)

Now that Jobs has left the solar system entirely, I'm left with the prospect of relying on Windows for the rest of my life. (I'm old--I came on board with a Radio Shack TRS-80 with 48 kilobytes of RAM and no hard drive.) Ecccchhhhh!

Eventually, an OS will be developed that is capable of supporting industries that aren't declining. It's looking like the documentation will be written in Chinglish.

Ion readies book scanner for e-book buffs


Gutenberg still rules

Just another gadget that's meaningless outside of (maybe) a few small niches. The comments reflect the tech industry's tunnel-vision on the subject. Most focus on the time-efficiency of the device, which is a serious enough defect. But the real killer is the quality of the digitized text--which is useless for real reading unless days have been spent editing it. A couple of commenters note this much. What's even more rarely noted is that proofreading and editing isn't a DIY thing for the great majority of people, however literate they are (or think they are). And professional editing and proofreading is well on its way to becoming a lost art.

There has always been a disreputable (to professionals) segment of the publishing industry that markets the package rather than the text, to buyers who want the books for display rather than reading. These publishers allot their production money accordingly, and the texts are accordingly bad. Typically, these are "fine-binding" publishers. Occasionally, their pitch is fashionable typography. (Bodoni was the king of fashion typographers. His texts were notoriously bad.)

The appeal of DIY e-texts is, in a way, the continuation of this niche, appealing only to techno-suckers who don't anticipate actually doing much reading, of books or of any other sort of textual information, but want to say they're e-book collectors (or e-documentation users). (Professionally published e-books are, hopefully, better edited. But the quality of printed texts has degenerated too, and it's unlikely that e-books will be better.)

The real value of DIY e-texts, whether scanned for one's own use or posted on the web, is that someone has done the first step--capturing the keystrokes. That's a great deal of work in itself. But it's only the first step. Unless those texts have been proofread and edited to higher standards than all but a few can provide, using them for all but the most casual purposes is neither efficient nor reliable. (Recall Mark Twain's comment: "I never read medical books. You could die of a misprint.")

How to kill your computer

Jobs Horns

"Bad day at the office homage" video health warning

You have to warn people not to view that video while they're eating. I almost choked to death when the monitor hit back.

sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD was right on when he said "Install Norton on it". I've seen it work like a charm for PCs, and on several generations of Macs, too. I'm convinced that Peter Norton set out to develop a virus that people would not only install voluntarily, but pay for.

But there's better than that. After freelancing as a Mac operator at dozens of ad agencies and other firms (in the USA), the best way I've ever seen to inflict the maximum damage, anguish, and expense in the course of destroying a computer is to set up the permissions on an OSX machine so that no-one except IT can fix it.

How I saved the Macintosh

Jobs Horns

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

I remember back about then, in a type shop in New York, working on ads designed by a major agency touting Apple's desktop publishing capabilities. The ads were being produced on a dedicated DOS-based typesetting front end printing to a Linotype L300. The Mac-generated paper comps (mockups) we were working from were pretty awful.

The worm turned a few years later, when, at another type shop, I supervised production of a raft of IBM ads containing language which implied but did not state that the ads were produced on IBM equipment. They were, of course, produced from scratch on Macs using Quark, though the ad agency twiddled around with PCs and Pagemaker to produce mockups. That was back in the days of Quark 2 and 3. IBM was still pretending its ads were done on Pagemaker. Quark by then was the only wheel in town for high-end production, but even then, the better you knew it the more you hated it. Yes, some of us had been waiting that long for InDesign.

A bit later, IBM moved all its advertising to Ogilvy & Mather, and I followed shortly afterwards. O&M finally persuaded IBM to drop the Pagemaker pretense, because O&M wasn't about to drop Mac/Quark, and O&M was big enough to talk strong even to IBM (and was giving IBM the first decent creative it had had for some time).

Another ad agency that had retained a small piece of IBM work was sucking up to Big Blue by running a small PC/Pagemaker section for IBM work. They called me in to see if I was interested in taking over for the departing lead for that section. The lead, whom I knew professionally, made it graphically clear why he was departing, and compassionately and successfully exerted himself to persuade me not to take over the disaster. One reason was that nobody in New York who was any good was willing to work on Pagemaker.

But now that it's accepted that graphics production is done on the Mac, all is transparency and light, no? Har har har har har har har ha-ck gakhhh -ahem.

The ad agencies claimed to be doing work that was actually sent out to type shops. After the type shops were proclaimed obsolete (that is, after kickbacks from the type shops were replaced by kickbacks from creative temp agencies supplying production people to the ad agencies), the agencies claimed that their designers were doing work that was actually being done by a separate in-house production department (staffed, back then, by former type shop people). The designers--you guessed it--just twiddled around producing more or less awful comps, and sent them to production to "take care of the details". They made a pretence of sending the digital files too, though they could rarely assemble all of them.

At one ad agency, they had three levels of this--the designers sent their comps and files to a department staffed by people they found more congenial than those awful production people. That department, after doing I know not what, sent the stuff to MY department, where the work was done that went to the press.

It's the designers, of course, or their bosses, who were interviewed by the trade press and the software vendors about production. As these experts walked the visitors through the "pre-press" department, we'd hear them explain how the work was done using technology that we had quietly stopped using months ago, or used for something else, or had never used at all.

It's the designers, of course, or their bosses, who you see in the Apple ads, and who were about all Cupertino ever knew about print graphics production in the digital studio.

The one constant through time is that if a moderately difficult job goes to press without problems and looks good when printed, it was probably not done by the person who is supposed to have done it, may not have been done using the claimed technology, and was certainly not done using the claimed techniques.

Yahoo! economist rebuilds ad empire with 'Magic Formula'


How many shoppers only want to see ads from the biggest advertisers?

That's how many will use Yahoo at all. And those won't be the best and brightest consumers, with the most money--but they'll be suckers that a certain type of business can make a lot of money with a big ad budget. That's why Yahoo has, last time I looked, under 20% of the search market, and falling. Bing doesn't seem to make much difference, judging from my access logs.

I run a small local business with local customers, in the U.S.. The national firms in my field, with the big ad budgets, are almost without exception solid sleaze, and many consumers in my price range know it.

I don't at all like having the bulk of my publicity dependent on Google, with its unpredictable ad rotations. So I tried, I really tried, to make use of Yahoo, both their local ads and the pay-per-click. Result--wasted money and no business. I couldn't even get listed in their local pages. And their PPC ads are directed to low quality audiences that eat up my PPC budget without result. The advertiser has no way to opt out of that, as one can with Google. (Yahoo were sued successfully for that practice last year, but only got a slap on the wrist.) The one or two calls I got through Yahoo were decided low-enders, and the Yahoo search strings that showed up in my access logs were clearly written by people with lower IQs than those who search on Google.

I don't know who's spending all that money on Yahoo's ad auctions. My guess is that it's organized con games trolling for suckers, or (more) legitimate firms that are still throwing ad money around in the grand old fashion. (Advertising firms know how to troll for suckers too.)

At least the word of mouth is finally kicking in for my own business.

The commercial cuckoo hiding in the BBC's global mission

Jobs Horns

What does the UK export?

The BBC. And, yes, the Reg. And the Economist. In sum, journalism, among other aspects of intellectual culture.

I'm an American (an ex-pat New Yorker) living in Minnesota, and the first news source I check every morning is the BBC. British journalism at its best is better than the best of the U.S.

Whatever happens, keep the BBC World Service. I've got nothing to say about the other issues.(Except that we've seen plenty of Murdoch here, and don't think much of him--the people who consume his products are not the sort who are likely to recognize his name. The "respectable" media--e.g., the New York Times--are often little better, so heavily spun that it's not worth the trouble of sorting it out.) The BBC World Service is a tremendous international asset.

I get my news on the Web now, but I'm not letting go of my old shortwave. As the article points, airwaves are freer than cables. That's not going to become less obvious in the future.