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|Tuesday, February 6th, 2007|
|Conspiracy theories and the Internet
What seems like a long time ago conspiracy theories abounded. Most of them were never heard of because people had no way of spreading them. The paper press existed along with radio, and TV news, but they would only carry those stories that were within the bounds of "good taste" and checked for accuracy. The New York Times had the motto "All the news that is fit to print". Their counterculture competitor, The Village Voice, started publication in 1955 with the motto "All the news that fits".
I could site examples for hours of how the print and network media has gone from one to the other, but that is not the point of this posting.
At one time radio programs were meant to be of value. In the United States, every time a radio or TV station renews its license it must show proof that it serves the "public interest". These days it's just a formality left over from a time long gone. Music and entertainment radio always had news programs of some sort, in the 1960's all news radio debuted.
All news radio had a problem, it ran out of news. If you watch any of the all news TV networks, you see that while they do cover the news, there are all sorts of special reports and other fillers. This did not work for radio because in essence most of them are too boring to the news radio audience. If they wanted entertainment, they would listen to different stations. A marketing genius came up with the idea of talk radio.
Talk radio is like having a conversation with a many people, and if you have a telephone you can join in too. There are radio psychologists (remember the character from the "Big Chill", or Frasier), sports radio, political radio, Jewish radio and so on. If there is a subject that you can talk about, there is a radio show for it.
Technology has advanced, you can listen to the radio programs on your computer over the Internet. If you don't want to sit around to hear them, or are busy when they are on, you can download them for later listening. This broadcasting to iPods (and other pocket audio/video players) is called "podcasting". It was popularized by Apple adding the capability to its iTunes product. It's not the only podcasting tool, but it is one of the best and most popular.
The concept has been expanded. I suggested about a year ago that programs should be available for download to seed interest in them. Other people have had similar ideas and a system called Democracy TV was created (I had nothing to do with it). Democracy TV is a product of the Participatory Culture Foundation. http://participatoryculture.org/
To the user it's a big glitzy front end to all sorts of video players and content providers. If you have a fast enough computer, a fast enough Internet connection and a lot of patience you can look at hundreds of programs from "classic" (out of copyright) movies, to news reports, to video weblogs, and so on. I'm sure you could find all of the content presented more easily with a search engine, download tools and video players. The advantage of Democracy TV, is that you don't need them. It combines them all for you.
You can search lists of programs, and see them arranged by "channel". There is even a preview channel which lets you see 30 seconds or so of random programs to whet your interest. Once you have chosen something to watch, it downloads the programs for you in the background and notifies you when they are ready. It will also play them in a unified player, so the programs look like programs on your TV, instead of several players that have different looks, and different controls.
Bringing us back to the topic of this posting, I saw a post on a mailing list for one of those conspiracy radio programs. This one claims that John Lennon was killed not by Marc David Chapman, but assassinated by a person who worked for a company employed by the CIA. The assassin may have been working as the doorman where Lennon lived. The advertisement for the program goes on to name other cases where the New York Police department arrested and then the courts convicted people having nothing to do with other murders, possibly also CIA assassination victims.
I'm not going to bother to listen to the program, IMHO the person who killed John Lennon was Yoko Ono, whoever shot him was just finishing what she started.
|Sunday, February 4th, 2007|
|More on the 18 year old Macintosh.
I previously mentioned and 18 year old Macintosh SE that I have been playing with. Except for the hard drive, it had been given to me a few weeks ago in working condition. No surprise about the hard drive, a Macintosh repair book, called "The Dead Mac Scrolls" so old that the publisher included instructions on how to order it in the Soviet Union, had several pages devoted to those particular drives. By 1991, they were problems and many had been replaced. The author of the book suggested that one could mix and match parts from dead drives to make a working one, but one needed many drives to do it. I guess that's why you don't have a MiniScribe hard disk in the computer you are reading this on.
The hard disk was 20 megabytes, and keeping with the theme of the day, I replaced it with a 50 megabyte drive. I could have gone much larger, as much as 20 gigabytes (100 times the size of the original), but left it close to what it had. The computer has a SCSI disk port, so I can always add an external drive.
The original Macintosh up to the Macintosh Plus, used a strange keyboard. To force use of the mouse, it had no arrow keys. Otherwise extremely well designed and built, it was poorly designed in one very critical point. It used the same coiled cord as a telephone handset. However it was wired differently and if you used a telephone cord, you would destroy a chip inside the keyboard, and it cost about $100 to repair it. That's were books like the Dead Mac Scrolls would come in handy, the replacement chip was less than $5, and if you had the instructions, you could replace it with a screwdriver.
The Macintosh II had a much better way, it used a serial bus, similar to today's USB, called the ADB (Apple Desktop Bus). Apple used the ADB until the iMac (a span of over 10 years) when it replaced it with the USB. The SE was the first compact Macintosh to use the ADB.
While ADB keyboards are no longer made, and are difficult to find in computer stores, there are many of them on the used market. My favorite is the 1995 Apple Extended Keyboard, called the Enterprise. It was named after the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise, because it was so long. When they first appeared at Apple, employees parked small model airplanes on them as a joke. The name stuck. It's a wonderful keyboard, with a good feel, good spacing between the keys, and yes it has arrow keys. It also has a numeric keypad and function keys.
Since it is ADB, it works fine with my 1988 Macintosh SE, even with the much older application programs and operating system.
The second thing I added was a printer. A co-worker bought an iMac to replace his old Macintosh Duo laptop which had been stolen. The Duo used a 680x0 (Motorola design) processor, the iMac used an IBM designed PowerPC processor. For many years after switching, Apple included software compatibility, so you could run 680x0 programs on a PPC Macintosh, but by the time he bought his iMac, it had been dropped. The iMac also dropped both the ADB and serial (as in modem and printer ports), replacing them both with USB ports.
This left him with an early version of Microsoft Word, which he could not run and a 1992 Apple StyleWriter II printer. I had at one time a StyleWriter, they were nice little black and white inkjet printers. Made by Canon, they worked well, and for the time (1990 or so), produced decent printout. I don't know what was different between them, the StyleWriter II looks the same, but it uses different ink cartridges and has a function to clean the print head. They use the same driver and look the same.
It's a "dumb" printer, it has no ability to print text or anything else. It can only print a bit map set up exactly for the printer itself. While printers going back as far as the original Epson printer relabeled IBM, and sold with the PC, printed bit mapped graphics, they all printed text by converting the characters to bit maps in the printer. This type of printer became popular after Microsoft Windows on the PC replaced DOS. They use Windows functions to generate the bit map, and if you run a DOS program under Windows, it intercepts the text going out and converts it for you.
Since the text conversion functions already were part of the Macintosh design from the beginning, it was simple to use it for printing. Microsoft was in on the game. By the time the StyleWriter had come out, Apple had licensed Microsoft's TrueType technology. Adobe pioneered the concept of fonts being programing instructions, not bit maps. An Adobe PostScript font was a set of instructions on how to draw a character, instead of just little bit maps of what it should look at. Adobe kept their technology well hidden and for many years, if you had a PostScript printer, you needed both bit mapped and PostScript fonts.
Microsoft and Apple changed this. Note that Microsoft Windows was still in its infancy at the time. TrueType did the same thing in a different way. Apple included programing to generate characters as they were needed using TrueType technology. The advantage of this was that you no longer needed a PostScript printer and lots of screen fonts to get a decent printout or display. Adobe later countered with Adobe Type Manager, which did the same thing. ATM was bundled with many word processing programs in the mid 1990's almost five years after TrueType was part of the Macintosh Operating system.
In the Macintosh operating system of 1984, or so, there was no TrueType, and programs of that era did not support TrueType fonts. So when I connected the StyleWriter II to the Macintosh SE, and tried to print out a test page using the 1985 vintage MacWrite 2.0 I had, it would not print well. It used the screen fonts, and as everyone knows by now, what looks good on a screen looks terrible on a printer.
Since I had been given his copy, along with his license to Microsoft Word when I bought the printer, I installed it and printed a test document using TrueType. Not bad for a 15 year old printer. Not as good as a modern inkjet printer, but certainly passable.
So while it's relatively slow and lacks memory, it still is a usable system, capable of word processing. I wonder how many '286 computers are still around and as usable?
|Wednesday, January 31st, 2007|
|Faith in the future
Not that the world will exist in 10, 100, 1000 years, or that we will all be flying in rocket cars before the end of the decade, or there will be a base on the moon, with scheduled Pan Am flights, on anything like that.
Something simpler and so common place that people may not bother. We have a tangerine tree in our yard. It's now fruiting. Far more tangerines than we can do anything with. Last year, I made dried tangerine peels and froze the fruit. I still have most of the peels and all of the fruit. I bought the dryer to capitalize on the cheap vegetables and fruits in the summer. Buy them cheap, dry them and eat them now. As you all know it never happened. The war destroyed the crops in the north and there were shortages instead of surpluses.
So now I am wondering what to do with the tangerines. I have found out from experience that canning supplies and equipment are not sold in Israel. The closest you can get are the fancy glass jars with wire bales and rubber seals. The kind you see in a kitchen holding old pasta, and dust, mostly dust.
They are not even usable for canning, they are made out of glass that is not heatproof. They will crack and break if you heat it too quickly or put near boiling liquid in them. I decided to use them to my advantage. I had three of them, two one gallon and one about a half gallon, tall and thin, for storing spaghetti. Unfortunately, they have sat around for so long the gaskets have rotted. My wife went looking around and I asked on several mailing lists for names of vendors of replacement gaskets.
I was told to try 4Chef, www.4chef.co.il a store with a good website that sells all sorts of kitchen items. I could not find them in the web pages, though I found the jars, and an email to them was answered within 24 hours telling me they did not sell them. The other place is called Pilpell (pepper) here in Jerusalem, and they had the jars, but were out of the gaskets. They suggested to try again next week. They also had jars similar to the ones that Hellman's mayo used to come in before they switched to plastic. The empty jars cost more than the full ones did.
Using my inventiveness and understanding that they will have to stay refrigerated, I sealed the jars with plastic wrap and rubber bands.
What I made was brandied tangerines. In each gallon jar I put 2 kilo tangerine segments, 1 kilo sugar (which is too much it seems), and 3/4 liter of brandy. I cooked the peels in water until soft and added them on top and covered them with the water.
The smaller jar was made with just peels. I filled the jar, and put in a half kilo of sugar and a half a bottle (375ml) brandy. I took the leftover peels in water, brought them to a boil and added 2 kilo of sugar. I cooked them down until the peels were candied and the water was mostly gone. I put them in mason jars I found. I did not have bands or lids for them either, so they were sealed with plastic and have to be refrigerated.
Luckily last summer we bought a used Coca-Cola style refrigerator. The kind with the big glass doors and a large compressor. It worked fine when we bought it and a few weeks ago stopped working. It was warmer inside than outside (75F/60F). We had it repaired and now it works fine.
I'm scrounging around for more mason jars, but I'll probably have to buy the lids and bands overseas and have them sent by mail.
|Thursday, January 25th, 2007|
|Yes, it's really a computer
Before Apple made the Macintosh, they made the Lisa. Some people have heard about it, and often it is touted as a marketing disaster. IMHO it was a victim of Moore's law. If you sit on something too long, eventually the technology will pass you by.
As the Apple II was old technology, rehashed in the II+, IIe, IIc and eventually the IIgs, Steve Jobs was already thinking of what to do with the future. He had brought computers to people's desktops. The Apple II, was the most successful home/office computer until the IBM PC was cloned. When IBM developed the PC, they had anticipated a market of 250,000 computers. Their machine was higher priced than the Apple, and they did not think that it would compete in places that price mattered.
Jobs decided that he would make a computer everyone could use. The Apple II was just too difficult for the average person to use. The graphical user interface had been invented around 1968. It featured pictures, images of actual documents, and a pointing device, now known as a mouse. The Xerox Corporation expanded upon their work and published their research. Jobs thought this was the way to go, and started development on the Lisa.
Xerox's own GUI based "personal computer" was never sold. It was to be manufactured by the division that made typewriters, and fearing that it would kill off his division, the person in charge prevented it from being made.
Development proceeded well on the Lisa, until Jobs was able to arrange a tour of the Xerox development labs, called PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). When he saw what they had done, he called a halt to development of the Lisa GUI, and wanted it redesigned to match the PARC one. This delayed the development of the Lisa, and later the Macintosh, which was a stripped down Lisa.
Bill Gates, ever the smart negotiator, had a contract to develop software for Apple which included the ability for Microsoft to offer a competing GUI product for the PC one year after their products were released for Apple, or by a certain date. Apple missed their target by enough time for Microsoft to come to the market first without violating their contract. However most people believe that until Windows/95, the Microsoft GUI was by far the lesser of the two.
The Lisa was an expensive machine. It had a megabyte of RAM (more than a PC was capable of), expandable to two. The original Lisa prototypes used 5 1/4" floppies, the later ones used the then brand new Sony 3 1/2" ones. It had a hard drive, something which made the original IBM/XT a very pricey computer. All in all the Lisa sold for about $10,000 when it came to market. A similarly equipped PC/XT was in the $7,000 to $8,000 range.
It was just too expensive and lacked applications. It did not sell well. It was not the GUI, it was the price. in 1984, a stripped down Lisa, called the Macintosh, with 128k RAM, and no hard drive, sold like hot cakes at 1/4 of the price.
Apple released a product called MacWorks, which let a Lisa run Macintosh software, and the second generation of the Lisa was remarketed as the Macintosh XL, but it did not sell well. A large quantity of Lisa's were sold to a company on a close out, who ended up dumping them in a Utah landfill. Many of us live in hope that when the owner of the company dies, his will will be read and it will reveal that they were placed in an old mine shaft and will all be found, brand new in the box. The ones in the landfill were old ones stripped for parts before dumping.
Not very likely. What exist are it, and they are deteriorating with age. Many parts are no longer made and can not be found.
A Lisa fan decided that he did not want the the Lisa to die and for the last six years or so, has been working on a Lisa emulator. This is a program that will run the Lisa operating system and programs on a modern computer. Besides all of the technical issues, there are legal ones. The Lisa ROMs (Read Only Memory) chips, containing the programing to start up (boot) the computer have been disassembled and published. This means you can read what instructions are in them and how they work.
However, they and the Lisa operating system (called the Lisa Office System) have never been released to the public. You can see how it works, but you can not legally distribute the files needed to make the emulator do anything. While many of the companies that made computers in those days are long gone, Apple is alive and well. The copyrights are still in force, and there is someone around to enforce them.
Until the development of an emulator, it did not matter. Even if you took the files and made your own ROM chips, the only thing you could do with them is install them in an existing Lisa. You simply could not build your own (for any reasonable amount of money). Now there is a demand for them and a demand for the Lisa O/S and the ROM images.
Maybe we will be lucky and Apple will release them to the public.
BTW, I'm not going to point you to the emulator. The first release, which came out a few days ago, is full of bugs. Now that they've been spotted, let's give the developer time to fix them.
|Wednesday, January 24th, 2007|
|It's only a picture of a robot, dear
After a Winter break Battlestar Galactica is back. It left with many unanswered questions, and returned with more.
For those who have not been following it, it has become the Sci-Fi hit of the decade. Loosely (very loosely) based upon the 1970's TV series, it takes a different turn. In the original series, a race of lizard people created robots called Cylons. You probably will recognize them, they have no eyes, instead they have a short, but wide red window across their face, with a red light that moves back and forth in time to the appropriate 1970's robot scanning noise.
There was a war with the humans and all that was left was a fleet of ships, led by the Battlestar Galactica, looking for a new home with a lost colony called Earth.
The new series starts out on another footing. Man created Cylons as a race of intelligent robots to work for them. They rebelled and after a war there was a truce. Blade Runner, anyone? 50 years later, the Cylons are back, this time they are not all robots. They have created a sub race of organic Cylons. For some unfathomable reason, the organic Cylons are all good looking women and handsome men, and what is truly puzzling genetically compatible with humans. Not identical but genetically compatible.
It's never discussed, but did they leave out appendixes? A uvula? And the silliest question of all (which you will see why it's silly soon), if they are all grown in a tank to maturity, why are they mammals? Or have sexes?
In the beginning, being machines, they have no names. One of them, played by ex-model Tricia Helfer, is model number six. Or as she puts it, "there are 12 models, I am number 6". If you are over 40, you get the significance of that, if you are not, you probably don't.
Since they were so physically compatible with humans, they infiltrated the humans. To the point of having affairs with them. Number 6, on purpose, to gain access to the human's defense mainframe on their main planet, called Caprica. Another posed as a human named Sharon. She was a model number 8. Sharon did not even know she was a Cylon, but after random acts of sabotage were committed on Galactica, she began to suspect. She is told he baby died, but in reality it is taken from her and hidden among the humans. Later the Cylons capture it.
Being machines, Cylons don't die, when their body is destroyed, their consciousness is downloaded into another body.
In the second season we end up with two Sharon's (as opposed to number 8s, of which there are many), the 6 that was on Caprica is called "Caprica 6" and a new Cylon (possibly number 1) is called "Diana", played by Lucy Lawless, of Xena fame, without the fake "American" accent.
The problem with two Sharon's, is that somehow there are two, both of which remember being on Galactica. One was resurrected back in the Cylon fleet, one was on Caprica before the other died. The one on Caprica becomes pregnant by a stranded Galactica officer. They go back to the fleet and later she joins the human military.
However, more importantly to our story, is number 6. There are several. One exists only in the mind of another character. The one who is the Cylon hero of Caprica, "called Caprica 6", hangs out with him and Diana. Meanwhile there are many 8s, now referred to as Sharon's, lots of 6's and a Diana or two. A 6 appeared on Galactica, sowed some fears and dissent and disappeared. Another showed up later as a prisoner of war, and killed herself with an atomic bomb on a well populated human ship.
Now the third season is back in swing, and without giving a away a too many details, Sharon (the mother) is back among the fleet, having retrieved her daughter from the Cylons. She brought with her Caprica 6. Diana decided that her quest in life was to see the face of G-D (the Cylons are monotheistic, the humans are pagans). This was precipitated by Lawless leaving the series.
Timed just to peak interest in the new (half) season, Playboy magazine has a several page spread of Tricia Helfer (Number 6), most of it nude. I'd give you more information, but you are not going to get any.
|Thursday, January 18th, 2007|
|An 18 year old computer
Yesterday I was talking about the old Macintosh computers I was given. Today, I actually did something worthwhile with them. I have a friend who will be dropping by some old hard drives he has, so I was waiting for him. He was not able to come by yesterday or today, and I used what I had.
The SE came with a 20 megabyte SCSI drive inside which was dead. It also came with a 50 megabyte drive in an external case, which still had its termination resistors (terminators) on it. The drive that was in the PowerMac did not. This is backwards, external drives should not have termination resistors. Either the case they are in has switchable termination, or you add an external terminator if it is the last device in the chain. Internal drives must have termination resistors on the last one.
Of course, the drive in the case used different termination resistors than the one in the computer. The one in the case was 50 megabytes, the one in the PowerMac was 2gigabytes. So I took the internal drive that was in the PowerMac and put it in an external case I had. Booting the PowerMac from a MacOS 8 CD in an external drive (the internal one is bad), I was able to install System 6.0.7 onto the drive. It would not let me install System 7.5, but I copied each floppy to a folder on the hard drive. Note that although I could install System 6.0.7 on a hard drive via a PowerMac running System 8, it would not run 6.0.7.
I then connected the newly formatted and installed external hard drive (with an external terminator) to the Se. It booted fine. Under 6.0.7, the System 7.5 installer ran and found the files in the folders instead of asking me to mount floppies. That was good, the SE has an 800k floppy drive, System 7.5 was only released on 1.4meg floppies.
I found out the hard way, you can have two system folders on the same partition, and use various programs to switch between them BUT if you have one system folder in one partition and another in a different partition, you can't switch. The SE boots from the first partition by NAME on the drive with the highest SCSI address.
With all of that sorted out, I wanted to replace the dead hard drive in the SE. The 2 gig drive would be nice, but since it was missing its terminators, I could not use it. The 50 megabyte drive was more in keeping with the drives of the times, so I decided to install it.
To open the old single unit Macintosh computers, you need a special tool. It has a long Torx T10 screw driver on one end and a special device to pry open the computer without damaging the case. It's soft plastic and a screw driver would chip pieces out of it. Luckily had still had mine. It took a while to find it, but I did. For those of you who have never stuck your hand inside an open monitor or TV set, it has hidden dangers. There is a large vacuum tube which can easily shatter sending little pieces of glass all over the place at a high velocity. Luckily I have never done it, but some people have.
The other problem is that the tube has a very high (about 15,000) volts on it. It can give you quite a shock, possibly fatal if you touch the high voltage section with the power on. It holds its charge and can give you a shock for days. The SE and the later compact Macs have special devices in them to "bleed off" the charge, so they are safe in about 15 minutes, but I would never trust them. :-)
Home fixit books back in the old days suggested that you used a screwdriver with a wire attached to discharge the tube, and I've done it my fair share of times. Often with a big bang. However you never want to do it in a Macintosh, to do so would burn out a chip which at this point is impossible to replace. You need a special tool to do it. It consists of a high voltage probe, a high value resistor and a wire with an alligator clip attached to it. These are the clips with serrated jaws you often see on battery jumper cables, but much smaller. For some odd reason, here they are called "crocodiles" instead of alligators. I don't have an official one, but I made my own about 15 years ago.
I opened up the SE, and found that I was not familiar with them. I have never seen the inside of an SE before, all I have see where the SE/FDHD (SE's with 1.4m floppy drives) and SE/30's. They use a different method of attaching the drive bracket. The SE/30's bolt it to the front with two bolts. This SE bolted the drive bracket with four bolts over the motherboard. To get to them you had to disconnect all of the connectors from the motherboard and remove it.
The two bolts on the front were there, but the held they case to the metal frame.
The drive inside was a MiniScribe drive made in 1988. Presumably it was installed by Apple at the factory, so the computer is 18 years old. Then I made a starling discovery. The compact Macs before the SE used a 5 volt alkaline battery to keep the internal clock running. The SE used a lithium battery. SE/30's used a 3.6 volt battery in a socket. The battery is half the length, but the same width as a AA battery. I've replaced many of them in my time, but since they are hard to get here, I usually use 3 volt CR-2 camera batteries. Eventually they fail, but it takes several years.
Since I had been using the SE, I noticed the clock was correct. The internal battery was ok. Good thing. It was soldered to the motherboard. Ouch. Since I had gotten a spare CR-2, I was planing on replacing it, but for now, I'll leave it. I'll have to look up how to just in case.
I put the "new" drive in, and found the screws do not line up. It's in with two screws instead of four, which means a sharp bang, or dropping it could cause it to bounce up and break the CRT. Not very likely, I hope. For some reason, when you add memory to these old computers there is a problem with voltage regulation and the screen shrinks. On the Plus and older, you have to adjust the voltage with the computer apart, on the SE, all you have to adjust is the screen hight.
Since I am a coward around high voltage, I cheated. I marked where the height control was set and moved it a little to the "higher" side. I closed the computer up and it looked ok, and booted ok. I went to put in a floppy and it would not go in. I tried to wiggle it and could get it in, but the shutter would stick. I shut it off, opened it up and played with the position of the bracket. No matter what I did, it would still not work. I took the drive out and it was stuck in "floppy inside" mode. Oops. Since it was out of the computer, I released it with my finger and put a disk in. It had stuck due to hardened grease from lack of use. By putting in a floppy and popping it out by hand, I was able to get it to work normally again.
I put everything back together, and checked it out. The drive booted, the floppy worked, the screen was a little small, but looked ok. I think if you make it much larger, it starts to look distorted. Another thing to look up.
Now I have a working, usable 18 year old computer.
|Tuesday, January 16th, 2007|
|It's timing that matters
I have been going through my things to collect all of my Macintosh software. I have disks and backups going back to 1990 when I bought my first, a "Mac Classic". This was Apple's first move into the low cost market. It was an almost obsolete, but still usable Macintosh SE for less than half the price of an SE. There were lots of models of SE's from the cheapest, which had one meg of RAM and two 800k floppy drives on up. The biggest difference to users over the previous model, the Macintosh Plus was that it could be expanded and used a serial bus, called the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) for it's keyboards and mice.
The original Macintosh up to the Plus had an annoying habit with its keyboard. Not only did it not have arrow keys, but it used a cable that looked, and in a telephone, worked the same as any handset cord. Plug it into a Plus as the keyboard cable and you would burn out a chip in the keyboard. The chips cost around $100 from Apple, who was the only supplier, plus labor. Since it was caused by user error, it was not covered by the warranty.
The ADB is very similar to the USB now in vogue. You just plugged devices in (but not with the power on) and they would tell the computer what they were. I have ADB keyboards, mice, and a trackball. There were also ADB modems, and other devices, the one that comes to mind was a small scanner, I don't remember if it scanned documents by waving it over them, or business cards by feeding it, I never had one.
The SE was also available with up to 4 megabytes of RAM, and an internal hard drive. Some people with double sided tape and guts made a 2 floppy and hard drive SE. Later they were upgraded to use 1.4 megabyte floppies. The best of the all was an SE/30, which was an SE with what started out life as a Mac IIx motherboard and was redesigned to fit the case and use the SE power supply and display. In the late 1980's the SE/30 went for well over $5,000 and in many ways was worth it. It had four memory slots that would each take 4meg of RAM, and later when 8 and 16 meg memory modules became available, a company called Connectix sold a patch to allow it to use up to 128meg of RAM.
It also had a Motrola 68030 processor, which had extra instructions, was twice as fast and included the capability for virtual memory. That capability was not used for several years.
The SE and the SE/30 had an expansion slot. It was a NUBUS slot similar to those on the Macintosh II, but instead of the socket being on the long edge of the card, similar to an Apple II or a PC, it was on the short edge of the card. The cards also had to be smaller to fit into the case. There was no hole for a connector to the outside world, so they had to have a special connector on a cable which was fastened to the back of the case. I had one with an Ethernet card. there were also cards to add a color monitor.
The Classic had no such aspirations. If I remember correctly, it came as a single floppy unit with a 20megabyte hard drive and sold for $1,000. For another $100 or so, you could get an upgraded package, which had two meg of RAM, and a 40meg hard drive. This was a good deal, because you could not upgrade the memory directly on a Classic. The SE had four memory slots, the Classic had none. The memory was permanently attached to the motherboard. If you wanted to upgrade, you either bought an upgrade Card which sold for about $100, or bought a 2m version to start with. Along with the bigger disk, it had the memory card installed, and two empty slots. For $100 total, you could go out and buy a pair of one meg memory modules (that's what memory cost in those days) and put them in yourself.
It was an interesting time for Apple, people had complained that their computers were too expensive. New users could not afford them, old users could not upgrade. When they released the Classic, people complained that they had bought their old machines with the anticipation of a high resale value, and now they were worth a third of what they had cost.
Apple also came out with an LC, which was a small pizza box computer, with color capability (16 colors?). It used a faster processor, a 68020, and was limited to 10 megabytes of RAM. No competition to the faster more expensive machines with 68030 processors and much bigger memory limits. The LC had it's own expansion slot. It would take a regular NUBUS card with an adapter. No need for special cards. But there were several I know of. One was a cache card for faster processing, another had a 68030 processor and or a floating point processor (used mostly by Excel at that time). There were also ethernet cards. But it's shining glory was an Apple IIe card. Add the card, plug Apple II floppy drives into the back, and you had a combination Macintosh and Apple II. Almost everything that ran on the Apple II, II+, IIe and IIc ran on it. If you ran ProDos instead of AppleDos, you could use part of the hard drive and dispense with the floppies. Since most people had floppy based games, the disk drives were very popular.
CD-ROM games were not popular, a CD-ROM drive was well over $1,000. AFAIK, no one ever produced a CD-ROM drive/controller card for the Apple II series while they were made. You can now buy a card that goes into a real Apple II (not the LC though) that connects it to a microdrive or memory card.
Compared to the five year product life of the SE/30, the Classic and the LC were gone quickly. The Classic became the Classic II, which was an LC motherboard scrunched into a Classic case (still black and white with no gray), the LC became the LC II (same computer with a 68030). The Classic II became the Color Classic which was an LC II, scrunched into the Classic case with a small color screen, and there was an LC III, but I can't remember what was different from the LC III. At some point the LC III (and maybe the LC II) were put in a large case with a real color and sold as a Performa. The Performa line went on for a long time, until it was dropped for the iMac, and then brought back as the eMac.
I had a good year or so with my Classic, eventually trading it and some cash for an SE/30.
So now as I am trying to piece my life back together as it were, or at least the Macintosh software part of it, I find that I need old computers to make sure things can be read. Once I read them, I can move them to newer computers and burn CD-ROMs. I may need the old computers to run the programs. Apple has changed processor architectures twice since then, from the Motorola 68000 line to the IBM developed PowerPC line, to the current Intel line. At one time you could run 68000 programs on a PowerPC, in fact the first PowerPC ran at 66mHz and emulated a 68020 faster than a real 40mHz 68040 ran its programs. Since the extra instructions provided by the 68030, 68040, and the doomed 68060 were used only by the operating system, no one missed them anyway. It also according to rumor, as no commercial machines were ever produced, ran them faster than a real 68060.
Up until MacOS 8.6 came out, the 68020 emulator was built into the operating system. With 8.6, you could no longer run the 68000 programs. I have an emulator called Basilisk II, which runs under Windows (now XP) and I think there are ones for the Macintosh. Now that Apple switched to the Intel processors, they included a PPC emulator, but not a complete one. It will run on OSX PPC programs. Enough to keep people going, but not for those with "history".
Motorola manufactured the PPC chips for Apple, and could never produce low power G5 chip at all and had so many production problems with their G5's that Apple never bought any. What the bought was produced by IBM, and they were not cheap. Compared to the IBM G5 chips, the Intel ones are cheap. The first Intel iMac, came out at half of the price of the best iMac, and was almost four times the speed. It had a better screen, better graphics chip, a bigger and faster hard drive, etc.
I feel sorry for all of those people who insisted on buying a G5 computer between the time Apple announced the Intel machines and actually delivered them. You had to really have needed one.
But I'm back in the saddle you might say. Night before last someone dropped off an SE. It was marked that it had 1 meg and a 20 meg hard drive. It actually had four meg of RAM, installed by someone who did not know you had to tweak the screen, or it "shrunk" and a dead hard drive. An external hard drive (50 meg) came with it and so did a 7200/75 PPC Power Macintosh. That one had a working hard drive, but a flaky CD-ROM. The computers were free, but I had to promise to back up the data on the hard drives.
I've finished backing them up. I installed a copy of TOAST, the famous CD-ROM burning program, hooked up a SCSI CD-ROM burner I had, and since the SE only had an external drive, hooked that up too. I had some problems due to the internal drive on the PPC not being terminated. It came from a external case and the person who installed it did not know it needed to have terminators on it. But it was done. To be paranoid, I made two copies of each disk, each on a different brand of blanks, and verified them. Now as long as I don't loose them, they people will have their files back.
Last week, I was going through my Macintosh repair book collection and noticed one was missing. It was called "The Dead Mac Scrolls", a pun on the Dead Sea Scrolls. My wife went to see where the original were found on her Christmas break. She works for one of the few schools in the country that is closed for two weeks at Christmas. That's not why she works there, it's also one of the few schools in the country that has an English language library and a real certified teaching librarian (her).
I did not have to go so far, I found a copy of "The Dead Mac Scrolls" in a bag with the keyboards.
|Sunday, January 14th, 2007|
|A career limiting move for the CEO of YES.
YES, the local satellite company is definitely dropping Star World. To me this is a CLM (career limiting move) for the CEO of YES. HOT has established that they will not listen to what customers say, YES, could of had the opposite. Why they choose to also take the attitude "we don't care, you will take what we have to offer" is beyond me?
Dropping Star World makes good business sense. It was giving away for free what people wanted and now will be forced to pay for. Not Star World itself, but bits and pieces, chosen because the company wants them, and provided with the extra feature of Hebrew subtitles. Why give away for free, what people will pay for? Why show unsubtitled programs when you can get a much bigger audience with them?
In the real world it simply does not work that way. For example, people want to see programs when they are current. No one wants to watch "American Idol" (I should just leave it at that), but they do. And they want to see it when it happens, not read about it on the Internet and see it next week. Leno, is 3 days behind. If it's on at night in the U.S. on Monday, the same show, with subtitles, is aired Wednesday night at 11:30.
Why isn't it on Tuesday night, a few hours after being shown, and at a more reasonable hour? So that it can be subtitled? But who cares? The jokes just don't translate. The subtitles show that the person who writes them is fluent in Hebrew, but does not understand English. No one wants to listen to an interview and have what the person said translated into the "same meaning", instead of the same words. It just makes no sense.
I can see someone talking at the water cooler, "Joe Shmoe said ......... on Leno last night". Until someone who speaks English comes up and says "no he didn't, he said ........, don't you understand English?". Suddenly from cool to fool. Instead of being a smart person who follows the world at large, he seems awfully provincial, stupid and ignorant.
The same with American Idol. Star World shows it twice, in real time as it is being broadcast for people who want to stay up, and at night for those who don't. But the delay is a matter of less than a day. From 3am Israel time until 8pm. Not three days.
Star World shows the Simpsons five times a week, the tax payer supported Channel 1, shows them once a week. Nowhere else in the country are they shown. Star World shows "Enterprise", no one else shows any other Star Trek, and what was shown, years ago, was never finished. If it wasn't for other sources, I would have never known how the last three years of Enterprise went (until Star World picked them up), or how Voyager or Deep Space 9 ended.
They also show TNA Wrestling, popular with teenage and older boys. Many comedies end up here, usually two years behind on Star World, often 4 to 5 years behind on local TV.
IMHO, it simply does not matter. The people who want the programing are willing to pay for it. They don't care if it is subtitled or not. The mother of a friend of my 11 year old was interested in the Cartoon Channel because watching will help her son learn English. She was complaining at the parent teacher meeting that the school does not spend enough time teaching their fifth grade students English. Everyone educated here in public schools for the last 30 years speaks English. Often not well, but speak it they do. Many want to see English programing because being able to understand English makes them more marketable for "high tech" jobs. Jobs that pay far more than the average wage of about $1500 a month.
People who spent their lives in religious schools and don't speak English, are of no consequence in this case, they won't own a television set and therefore won't buy premium channels.
So how will this be a CLM for the CEO of YES? Simply that people are now more aware of what they are getting for their entertainment shekels. They are both more aware and less satisfied. I was quoted in an article in Haaretz as saying: "Mendelson, a YES subscriber who lives in Jerusalem,is also considering a private satellite dish and says that in the meantime, he will go over his YES bill "with a fine-tooth comb. I'll probably drop a lot of the extra packages so that I'm not paying for stuff I don't want."" http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/812658.html
The article also said "Other furious customers predict that these recent decisions will only step up the amount of illegal downloading that takes place here. "People will realize that if they have an Internet connection, it doesn't cost them anything to bootleg," said Geoffrey Mendelson, who immigrated in 1996 from Philadelphia."
This sentiment was echoed by the Jerusalem post, without quoting me, but giving a URL to find the downloads.
I'm sure every customer of YES who hears about this will be doing the same. In the end, if customers do drop HOT and migrate to YES, they will pick up more customers. The problem with that is more customers means more expenses, but not more profits. What makes profits (or offsets losses) are sales of premium channels. IMHO there will be a lot less of them.
People who have long term commitments to HOT or YES, will keep them to avoid cancellation fees. If they do, they will most likely reduce their packages to reduce their expenses so that they can use their money somewhere else. This will reduce profits.
I'm old enough to remember cigarette commercials on television in the U.S. (dropped in 1963). One I remember was "Are you smoking more, but enjoying it less?" It was an inducement to switch brands of cigarettes. Now that we will be paying more, but enjoying it less, we are likely to kick the habit. Or at least, get the programs we want, when we want them, from somewhere else.
Too bad I don't have the time and money to start a service that delivers TV programs via the Internet.
|Monday, January 8th, 2007|
|Sit down, I'm not buying this gadget.
If you know me, you know that I like kitchen gadgets. Sometimes too much. I buy them and they languish. Part of it is that I am too lazy, and too well trained to set them up. For example, we rarely use a food processor. We have two, one for meat (which was a kind gift from someone going back to the U.S.) and a dairy one which came as a package deal with our Kenwood mixer.
I'm too lazy because I don't like to take the effort to disassemble them, clean the dust off of them and then do it all over again to wash them when I'm done. I always had trouble at work with espresso machines. The machines could be gray from old coffee and the milk steamers brown from rotted milk, and no one would clean them. I ended up cleaning the machine twice every time I would use it. I had to scrub it before I would make a cup of coffee and because it was dirty, clean up after myself. No wonder I often drank tea.
I'm too well trained because I went to school to learn how to cook Chinese food professionally. In 1975, a Chinese chef chopped all their vegetables, fish and meat by hand. Mixers were used for dough, and grinders for ground meat, shrimp or sausages, but chopped things were done with a cleaver. I've never gotten over that, and still to this day, chop things by hand. Whether it's a single tomato and a cucumber for salad, or food for ten, it gets chopped by hand.
During the summer there was a mayonnaise shortage. We only buy Hellman's mayo because we like the taste. Israeli mayo is sweet, like Miracle Whip. Too sweet for our taste. So sweet that when I make macaroni or potato salad, I add mayo, vinegar, pepper and sugar to it, but the Israeli mayo is too sweet even if I don't add any sugar.
The shortage may have been caused by the war, but more likely it was caused by a change in packaging. Hellman's mayo used to be packaged in these nice glass jars with plastic lids. They were great for storing things that did not need to be heated. The new package is a plastic jar like peanut butter. However they are so flimsy, they melt in the dishwasher. I think the reason the Hellman's disappeared from the shelves was that the importer wanted to sell out all of the glass jars so that when the plastic ones appeared, people would not complain.
That's the way Israeli's think, sometimes I wonder if Eric Blair, who under the pen name George Orwell, wrote "1984" was Jewish. His "Big Brother" would have made a perfect Israeli bureaucrat. ironically, his anti-hero "Emmanuel Goldstein" was Jewish. I'm not sure whether it was a reflection of the antisemitism of the 1930's and 1940's or something more. One of my favorite scenes from the movie (beside Suzannah York in the woods), is a discussion at the communal lunch table, where someone is saying, "I hear they are going to increase the chocolate ration to 25 grams next week".
Then Winston Smith, the protagonist, goes back to work at the Ministry of Truth and has to change an back-dated newspaper article announcing the chocolate ration being set at 30 grams to saying it was set to 20 grams.
Same here with mayonnaise. If you don't see any glass jars you can't complain the jars were glass. Both YES and HOT are about to pull the same trick. The Ministry of Communications says it's OK by them, you pay for a package, but no one ever guarantees what's in the package. Written contracts and promises made by salesmen, web sites, etc. don't count.
The lack of decent mayonnaise led to my asking around for any local substitutes. I never found any, nor were any recommended. One brand I tried had some sort of oil or additive I was allergic to. It also tasted awful, and was runny. Many people suggested that I make my own. I did a lot of research by STFW'ing, and found it was easy, but not cheap. Hellman's uses corn oil. As long as I was eating their product, I wasn't going to change it. If I was going to make my own, I'd have to use olive oil.
Tastes better, less fattening, but very expensive. Twice the price or more than corn oil, which is already expensive because it has to be imported. There is just not enough corn grown here to make oil from it. Gearing up I bought a hand blender. Those things that look like a stick with a motor on one end and a blade on the other.
Actually, I did not buy it, my wife did. I let her decide what to buy and she bought a very nice Braun one. 300 watt motor. The stick part along with the blade comes off in a twist and can be put in the dishwasher. The important point though is that since I did not buy it, I did not pay attention to the price.
Eventually, a hidden voice decrees "the mayonnaise must flow" and it magically reappears on the shelves. Expensive compared to the local stuff, but cheaper than buying the corn oil and making my own. Therefore I never make my own, and the hand blender sits in anticipation of its use.
I have wanted to use it a few times, but since it was not used, I had to decide whether to make it meat, milk, or parve (neutral). Since I wasn't sure and did not know the price, I was waiting until I really needed it.
Friday afternoon, on a mailing list, someone advertises a new hand blender made in Switzerland for sale here. To avoid the limitations on posting outright "for sale" ads by businesses, they post it as a "service". Normally I ignore those types of ads.
But I bite, I emailed back and asked for a URL. The person providing them as a service, replies. I look at her specs and the specs on the website. They have 4 models, none of them match. The website lists things like power (is it output or consumption?) of the motor, weight, etc. It's so vague that when she emails me exact model, I can't tell if it is 140 watts, or 200 watts. They have submodels but don't tell you which.
It's a nice unit, the mixing part is stainless steel instead of plastic. It comes with removable blades and a Plexiglass little food processor brown. Having made a lot of money doing contract programing for Rohm and Haas in the late 1980's, I'm partial to Plexiglass. The package price, including VAT, is 700 NIS, about $160. The same unit in the U.S., made in Switzerland with special 120 volt motors, sells for $135. Considering we have a 16.5% VAT and some sort of luxury tax on Swiss kitchen appliances, the price is reasonable in comparison.
The Braun unit came with one permanent blade, a wall bracket and a plastic tumbler type thing. It's at least 1.5 times, maybe twice as powerful as the one I'm looking at. Over the weekend I look at adds in the newspaper for similar items. No, I can't read a Hebrew newspaper, but I can tell a stick blender from a TV star. One place has a cheap to the point of being disposable, unit for 20 NIS ($5), if you buy more than 100 NIS ($25) in other things. Decent looking ones are around 150 NIS.
Today, I take the Braun unit down from the shelf and look it up on the Internet. I go to zap (http://www.zap.co.il
) and do a price comparison. Zap is like every other online price site. No one has it at that price for real, but you can get a good idea. Zap had several dealers selling the Braun unit for 137 NIS (under $30). If I really could get them for 137 NIS, I can buy five for the price of the Swiss unit.
Well, I don't need or want five, but I might by two. One for parve and one for dairy. Whatever I am going to do, I'm going to start using the Braun unit for dairy. Now, if I could just figure out what I want to make with it.
|Sunday, January 7th, 2007|
|More on my friend's horse.
My friend bought his race horse last month at what was called a claiming race. Most harness races (the kind with the little buggies pulled by the horses) are claiming races. The track sets a price for the horses. If you like the horse and want to buy it, you claim it. This is good and bad. It prevents people from racing horse in a group with horses that are not as good. For example, if your horse is worth $35,000 or $50,000 you won't race it in a $25,000 claiming race. You also won't race a $15,000 or $5,000 horse in a $25,000 claiming race because it has little or no chance of making you any money.
The bad part is if you bought a horse, someone can buy it out from under you. This is what happened to my friend. His horse did not make him any money last month because the driver steered him into the rail. The horse was not hurt, but he was dazed and confused and did not come in well enough to make any money. The trainer, who is hired by the owner to feed, exercise, house and race the horse, fired the driver. While it would seem obvious that a driver who can't get a horse to finish, or drives him into the rail would be soon unemployed, he was back in the same race as my friend's horse.
This time he did two things. One he convinced a friend to claim their horse. The other is he used his horse to "box in" my friend's horse, so he could not run as fast as possible. Even with the sabotage, he came in fourth which paid $1,000. The bad news, is although he got the money, he lost the horse. I can guarantee you that he spent far more than $1,000 on the horse in the process of buying it and owning it for a month.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be anything he can do about it. There is no code of ethics for drivers, no policing authorities and if there are, they don't say it's wrong to deliberately drive badly. The claim was legal and the only thing they can do, is if the horse is raced again in a $25,000 claiming race, claim him.
I looked up the rules and there is an interesting twist to the claiming rules. If a horse is claimed, it becomes the property of the claimer the moment it leaves the starting gate. However if the horse wins any prize money, it goes to the old owner. This does leave some interesting questions, what happens if the horse drops dead on the track, or is injured beyond the ability to heal, such as a broken leg, during the race? Do you buy future horse ownership insurance?
What would have happened if the driver had injured the horse while preventing him from wining? Would the owner of the horse who paid $25,000 because the driver told him it was a good idea, loose the money? Would he treat the driver the way the driver treated my friend?
After it has aged for a while, the ketchup is getting better. The one without the extra salt is still too sweet, but it does not taste bad, and is better than "store bought".
The one that I tried to unsweeten by adding salt made a good French dressing. I had some garlic marinating in olive oil in the refrigerator for at least a month (yes, I DID forget about it), but it was still good. I added some of the salty ketchup to it, vinegar and water. It's really odd though now, because French dressing in a bottle from the U.S. is a tomato and oil and vinegar product, while in the local restaurants, French dressing is vinegarette. (oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, mustard, pepper and sugar).
Since it did improve with age, I'll call it "Burma Ketchup" in honor of Burma Shave, which only went to market because it improved with age.
I'm now looking to find some "vinegar mother" to make my own wine vinegar. You start with wine which is not very good to drink, and add the mother to it. The wine should be low in alcohol and without sulfites. The alcohol is converted to acetic acid (vinegar) by the bacteria in the mother, but too much alcohol or any sulfites kill it. That's why wine is sulfited in the first place to prevent it from becoming vinegar.
The way it works in nature is that both the yeast and the bacteria grow in the grape juice. As the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol, the bacteria convert it to vinegar. Without the yeast the bacteria would have nothing to convert. Eventually, the yeast run out of sugar and die or go dormant. Since I am starting with wine, I need to provide my own bacteria and it should be the one that I want, not some random bacteria out of the air.
I rarely throw out wine anyway. I just keep it in the refrigerator and use it for cooking. Not that we drink much wine, we have a little of sweet wine to usher in the Sabbath, but occasionally I like some good red wine with dinner. It should be interesting to see if I get anything out of it.
|Internet and sports/gambling.
A friend of mine purchased half of a racehorse. Actually he purchased a 50% interest in one, the horse is intact. At least for the moment. He had bought a share in one many years ago and lost money on it. This one he hopes is different. It seems that Delaware and now Pennsylvania has allowed race tracks to have slot machines. Not full casinos like Atlantic City. The slot machines do not have to be in the grandstand, the tracks can build a separate building for them.
This has converted the horse racing business from a small time operation into big money. Not thoroughbreds, but harness racing, where the horse drags a driver behind him in a little cart. Along time ago, the total money for winnings for these races was about $2,000 split among the top 5. No wonder he lost money. If you did not race your horse often, and have it win every time, there was not enough money to pay for feeding it, let alone all the other costs.
The slot machine operators are required to return a portion of their "take" (I won't call it winnings) to the track to pay for purses. Now a minor race has a purse of $15,000 or more. If you race an average number of races per year and your horse comes in third in each of them, then you can make about $75,000 in winnings. Obviously the winnings are cut to less than half by the cost of the horse and it's upkeep, but the second year is a lot cheaper as the horse is already paid for.
There is a risk that the horse won't run, won't finish in fifth place or better, or just plain drop dead. In his first race after being bought by my friend the driver ran the horse into the rail, which was not good for the horse and caused him to finish last (eighth).
He's running again today (his second race) and my friend sent out an email to all of his friends and family suggesting that they watch the race on the Internet. I'm the only one outside of the U.S., but it seems that I can watch it using the "dial-up" speed. It's not always working, it does stop occasionally, but hopefully it will work during the race, and I'll be able to recognize his horse and figure out what is happening.
It's not working too well now, the first race is almost starting, but the picture is "stuck".
I told him if the horse did not win, he should change its name to something that will make the horse get the "big picture". My suggestion was "soon to be dogfood".
|Friday, January 5th, 2007|
|Dropping channels,part 2.
The other shoe has dropped. YES is dropping Star World as of January 15.
If you are a YES subscriber or are considering changing from HOT to YES, send a FAX to YES's customer service department at 09-761-6139.
|Garfield versus Dogpile
I use Dogpile as my primary search engine. It's not a real search engine but one of the many "meta search engines"on the Internet. It takes your search and sends it to other real search engines, weeds out the duplicates and displays them in some rank, of which I have no idea of how it comes up with.
Last week, my wife comes home with a brand new Garfield 2 DVD. It's the original movie, with an optional Hebrew soundtrack. My kids don't care, although they are fluent in Hebrew, they prefer the English. The actors who do the voices are matched as best as local talent can be, but they are not the same. Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Bob Hoskins, Richard E. Grant and Rhys Ifans can be imitated, but not replaced.
In an early scene Garfield blasts "Cat Scratch Fever" on the stereo. My youngest son has been going around since then singing the opening bars (all that was played) of it. He got it wrong for a few days and was mumbling it until I made sure he got it right by repeating it slowly and clearly.
But so far, he hasn't gotten more than the opening "cat scratch fever". So I decided to look it up and see what the rest of the words are, and who did it. It's one of those songs, you remember, but not who did it. At least for me.
So I enter "cat scratch fever" into Dogpile and get several sources of useful information on the disease, a Wikipedia entry about the disease and offers of ringtones for sale. Item number 10 is the best of all:
"Cat Scratch Fever: Compare Prices
Low prices on Cat Scratch Fever products - Trusted merchants sell Cat Scratch Fever products at Bizrate.
Sponsored by: www.bizrate.com [Found on Ads by Yahoo!]"
Ok, I'll bite (but not click) WHAT ARE CAT SCRATCH FEVER PRODUCTS?????
It's the title song of an Album by Ted Nugent in 1977. There is also a Wikipedia entry on the album.
Turns out that in my extensive MP3 collection, I don't have it. Probably for the best.
|Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007|
|HOT is getting colder
HOT, the Israeli cable TV company is making more changes to their offerings. Not, IMHO good ones. If you were following my blog earlier this year, I went through the process of getting their competition, YES, a DBS (direct broadcast by satellite) system. At first we kept both. After two months it was obvious that the children's offerings on YES were enough to no longer keep HOT. We had to add the FOX news package, but dropped the sport one because my son who requested it, never watched it.
The move was precipitated by HOT dropping the Cartoon Network, a Turner channel. Actually Turner dropped them because they did not pay their bills. Turner Classic Movies and the Cartoon Network both went away, CNN stayed. I guess Turner felt if the pulled CNN, it would make it more difficult for their reporters, so they left it.
The day that HOT pulled Cartoon Network, I called and complained. It was "spin doctored" that HOT had dropped the channel because customers complained about the quality and repetition of the programing. I told them I wanted it and I would drop their service if they did not restore it. A month later, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post claiming that HOT had contacted every customer who paid for the Cartoon Network or TCM (we had both) and made an adjustment in their programing that satisfied them. Well, they never contacted me.
Being an unsatisfied customer, I left. I kept my HOT telephone line because it was so cheap (50 NIS a month with 2000 free minutes to BEZEQ lines) and my Internet connection because I had committed to 12 months, and I was in the middle of the second month.
I was very happy with YES's service and they offered something HOT did not, a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), a computerized device which is tied into the program guide and lets you record programs to its internal hard disk. The device is called a YES MAX and except for the lack of a way of getting the digital programs off of the hard disk in digital form, I really like it. SKY and a U.S. network either Direct TV, or Dish also use the same box.
HOT had by that time started their VOD (video on demand) service, but at the time it was all movies and you payed each viewing. HOT VOD required a digital cable box, which required a larger installation deposit, but no extra fee. YES did not charge us for installation or any deposit, but we did have to buy the YES MAX for 1800 NIS in 10 payments.
Now HOT has made more changes. The first is that last month they started charging for the VOD service. If you have a digital cable box, you were automatically charged 20 NIS a month for the privilege of having the VOD service. If you never use it and don't want it, you can only opt out by going back to analog cable, if it is still available. Going back to analog cable makes many channels included in the basic package unavailable, including BBC World, their news channel.
In effect, they have just raised the rates for digital customers 20 NIS with no notice. Meanwhile, they started offering their PVR, which is almost the same as the YES MAX (and may be made by the same people). The major difference is that you don't buy it. You rent it for 50 NIS a month for three years. Ouch. At least if you decide at some point to drop the YES service, you can always sell your YES MAX, it's your property. With the HOT unit you have to pay the same amount (50 * 36 = 1800), but you are committed to keeping the rest of the digital cable subscription for 36 months. I have no idea of what you have to do to get out of it if you loose your job, fall ill, or leave the country.
I will soon find out. HOT announced that they will drop BBC prime at the end of this month. Not make it a premium channel, but drop it entirely. Do I smell unpaid bills? BBC prime has always been a subscription service. It carries older BBC programing. Nothing current, but lots of good stuff. If you are in the U.S. and don't have it, it's a lot of old junk punctuated with the BBC programing that made PBS worth watching.
There has been a hew and cry among English speakers to keep it. Many people are threating to drop HOT and go with YES, who is keeping it. See http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/784099.html
In short according to Haaretz, "Apart from Hallmark, which broadcasts movies and TV series, danger looms over BBC Prime, National Geographic, Eurosport News and CNN".
A friend of mine with a brand new, less than one month old HOT PVR is furious. She watches Hallmark, National Geographic and BBC Prime. With them gone, there is no reason to keep HOT or it's PVR. We'll see if she can get out of her contract.
|Sunday, December 31st, 2006|
|You think your computer is slow?
I've been playing around with a Macintosh LC computer. I got it because it was available for the right price (almost free) and it fits my needs for my current project. Because of some personal issues, I've been quietly maintaining a low profile (hence the lack of postings here) and working on consolidating my junk, cleaning up my stuff and clearing my baggage in life. This Macintosh LC was made in 1991 and was "fully loaded'. It has 10meg of RAM and a 40MEG,
yes that's megabytes, hard drive. It also has a hard to find Ethernet card so that it can connect to my network.
It would have been better if it had the impossible to find Apple IIe card, but that's a different story and I'm happy it has the ethernet card. I had an adaptor for it to use a standard monitor and so now it works. The processor is a 16mHz 68020 made by Motorola. I had one in its day (with the Apple IIe card), and it was quite a zippy machine.
I'm wanted it because it has the ethernet card, so I can copy files to and from my file server. On the 40meg disk, I installed System 6.0.8 which was the last version that correctly read and wrote floppy disks from the original (1984-1987) Macintosh computers. Not that I have any, but as part of the project I'm working on, I may need to. It also runs System 7.5, which was the latest version that will run on it. System 7.5 is on an external hard disk I have, so I can switch back and forth.
The project I am working on is to consolidate my old Macintosh files, programs and disks and archive them. I have hundreds of floppy disks, several tapes with no drive to read them, and many CD-ROMs of programs, data and other stuff from the Macintosh computers we have and had over the years. Many of the floppies are unreadable, most are ok.
What I have found is that much of the software has disappeared. The companies went out of business, abandoned their products and so on. So I am collecting everything I have in the hope that I can find it if I ever need it. I've also found that just because I can read a floppy with a file on it, or have that file on a CD-ROM backup, it can not always be used. While I've kept my copy of Wordstar 3.3 which runs on PC/DOS (and still runs under Windows XP) which reads its own and files from the CP/M version. and my old copies of WordPerfect, etc, my Macintosh files are not so lucky.
Some of the older programs have disappeared. For example, my copy of MacWrite II, a commercial program, is gone. The floppies are gone, and it appears on NO backups. What happened to it, I don't know. I'm lucky that I have other programs to read the files from it, the best being WordPerfect 3.5e which was available for free downloads, but it is gone too. Gone from the net, luckily I have a several copies of it. However the original MacWrite, which was free, will no longer run on a Macintosh computer. Not a new Intel one, not an older PowerPC one running MacOS 9, etc.
I'm not the only one in this condition. One person offered me their old Macintosh computers, and asked me if I could get the files off of them to please do it. They don't have a way of transferring the files to something their newer Macintosh computers can read. The old ones have floppy drives, the new ones don't. It was an annoyance not a problem, because they don't have anything to read the files, documents written by their children. They used a word processing program that required a "dongle" (a piece of hardware to unlock the program) and it's long gone, having been lost or broken.
I happen to have a version of the program that was released when Apple dropped their own proprietary keyboards, where the dongle was connected, and went to USB, but before they could figure out how to produce USB dongles. I don't think they ever did, but this program will run in Hebrew mode without one. Without the dongle, the program will run only in English mode.
Assuming when I get their computer and turn it on, the hard drive still runs and the data is there, I will be able to give them a copy of their documents.
I've occasionally seen requests from people I can not help who wrote documents on PCs with obscure word processing programs that supported Hebrew, but the companys are long gone, and it seems so are their copies of the programs. I once copied some 5 1/4" floppies to 3 1/2" ones for a person who had been given a scholarly work which was quite important in religious Jewish circles that had been written using an unknown, and long defunct PC and program. Unfortunately the author had since died, and the only copy of the original files was on these floppies. I was able to copy them for him and put them on a CD-ROM for posterity, but could not help him with locate the program.
I hope he was able to find out what it was and to read the documents.
I also see requests from things people used less than ten years ago, but the company died in the bust of the mid 1990's or survived until the "Internet bubble" burst. It seems odd that no one has a copy of WordPerfect 6 for Dos or Windows with Hebrew support, they must of sold many copies, but I see requests for it and when I ask the requester to let me know if they are successfull, they always reply they are not. Either there is a country wide conspiracy to keep it from me, or there really are no working copies left.
Either way it's sad.
|Friday, December 29th, 2006|
|Ketchup, clones, and left handed sugar.
After a few days, I tried my home made ketchup, It was not bad, but far too sweet for my taste. I tired to "doctor" it by adding enough salt to make it palatable, but it made it inedible to my taste. Next batch, no sugar, and I'll try to add it slowly and figure it out. It's like Burma Shave.
Burma Shave, a shaving cream in a jar was popular in the U.S. in the middle of the last century. Their famous advertising was signs by the side of the road with progressive jingles or jokes. Such as "Don't stick your elbow", "out so far", "it may come home" "in another car" "Burma Shave".
Burma Shave as a disaster in the lab. No matter what he did, the chemist making it could not get it to work. It was either too runny, or too stiff. One day he needed a shave and went through his old failures. He found that one of them was perfect after it aged a month.
Maybe my ketchup will improve with age. :-)
According to Sky News, http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-13559473,00.html?f=rss
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of meat from cloned animals. I want to know what happened to the idea of taking meat cells and growing them in tanks. You get meat, but no animals. NASA was working on it. I wonder if it would be kosher. Technically it not's not really meat. It never came from a live animal, it had no blood, it was grown like a plant. It can't be slaughtered and you can't soak and salt it to remove blood, because there isn't any. This does not apply to cloned animals, they are still animals in every sense of the word.
A few days ago I was talking to a friend who had invested in left handed sugar. One of the great developments of the 1980's that had never come to market. What ever happened to it? All life on this planet is based upon the molecules being in a spiral. You've seen it, the DNA double helix. Many more simpler things are single spirals, but still spirals.
For some reason, the molecules twist in a right handed direction. At one time there was a theory that if you could make a sugar that twisted to the left, it would be indigestible. It would look like sugar, it would taste like sugar, it would be chemically identical to sugar. It would be sugar. HOWEVER, the human body would not be able to digest it.
As far as food goes, it would not be one. It would have no calories, no nutritive value, it would simply be sweet bulk. Great for kids, because the bacteria in their mouths can't digest it either, so no tooth decay. No problem for diabetics, eat as much as you want, it has no effect on your blood sugar. It passes undigested.
It seems to have passed undigested by the whole world. It was never produced in large quantities, never approved for human consumption and never sold. Was it a conspiracy by the sugar companies? Was it a failure to be reproduce-able in large quantities? Did the company run out of money and fold?
|Wednesday, December 20th, 2006|
|Ketchup and politics
As many of you know, John Kerry, who will try to run again for President of the United States has take it upon himself to visit Bashir Assad, the ruler of Syria. Israel has had a long history of abuse by the Syrians. In biblical times, they called themselves the Assyrians and desecrated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. They went as far as to convert it to a Temple of their pagan gods.
The remembrance of the retaking the Temple and the resanctifying it is celebrated as Hanukkah, which is now in progress. Assad is not much better, under his father, Syria took control of Lebanon. Lebanon is famous for its cedar trees and infamous for its poppy fields. Despite what people would like you to think about the Colombians and the Chinese, Syria is the world's largest drug dealer, selling far more opium (which becomes heroin) on the black market than the other countries sell opium or cocaine. The money is used to finance terrorism among other things.
Syria was forced out of Lebanon, but still supplies arms to the Lebanese terrorists. They provided "hit men" to kill the Prime Minister last year, and his nephew a few weeks ago.
IMHO to meet with Assad, is to give legitimacy to him and his band of terrorists. Among all the other things Kerry has done, this is to me the last straw. Kerry's wife, Teressa, is the widow of John Heinz. a former U.S. Senator, philanthropist and major owner of the Heinz food company.
I have decided that since in some small way every bottle of Heinz ketchup we buy helps fund Kerry's presidential ambitions, not to buy any more Heinz products. If he drops out of the race, apologizes for his attempts to befriend terrorists, etc, I may start buying them again. Meanwhile, that's one more thing to "go native" and buy Israeli products.
A friend was over on Sunday and mentioned that she made her own ketchup from tomato paste. I asked her to send me the recipe, but being impatient, decided to STFW and make my own. I found what looked like a good one at: http://healthy.hillbillyhousewife.com/homemadeketchup.htm
Tomato paste is rated by how concentrated it is. The rating is a "BX" number, I have no idea of what it means, except that the higher the number, the more concentrated it is. The author of the recipe must have used the thinner (and cheaper) 22BX tomato paste, I only had the more concentrated 28-30BX.
I found that I needed to add more of all the ingredients to make a similar ketchup. Here's what I did:
1. I took a 580 gram can of 28-30BX tomato paste and divided it between three 394 gram mayonnaise jars.
2. I added:
2/3 cup water (from the Brita filter).
3 tablespoons vinegar (I used the brownish "white" vinegar sold here).
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
4 small whole allspice.
1/2 teaspoon "kosher" salt (aka pickling salt)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
1/3 cup white sugar.
I mixed it all and tasted it. I put in too much cayenne pepper for my kids and guests. It was "just right" for me. I did this in two of the jars. I omitted the cloves on purpose.
The third, I decided to have fun and make a bar-b-que style sauce. I did not add the sugar, but added the following instead:
4 tablespoons black soy sauce (with molasses).
1 teaspoon liquid smoke.
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic.
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
The black soy sauce is used in Thai cooking. When I make it for myself, I use it in Pad Thai. My family does not like the molasses taste. I've found that the mixture of the black soy sauce and lemon juice, with a few anchovies, does a pretty good job of making the sauce for the noodles. Normally it would be used with lime juice and a fermented fish sauce.
It all tasted pretty good when I was done, but we'll see how it tastes in a few days.
|Thursday, November 30th, 2006|
|Atomic terrorism, not with a bang but a tourist
More on the Russian spy assassination scandal. According to Sky News, the Russian(s) that carried the radioactive poison were on British Air flights, and left traces of it on the airplanes. http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-1242482,00.html
It looks like the levels of radiation were low, but since it was four weeks ago, one can not be sure if it had been removed already and the original exposure to passengers was high. I think we can safely assume that the airplanes have been cleaned many times since them.
Now the airport security companies will have to add radiation scanners to their screening equipment.
I know most of you outside of Israel are thinking, why bother, it's only happened once in almost a hundred years of commercial aviation. Quite simply, terrorists read the news papers, watch TV, surf the web. According to some experts (or delusional paranoids depending upon your point of view), there are thousands of Arab students sent to the U.S. with the mission of gathering information that can be used for terrorist attacks.
All one has to hear is that a handful of radioactive dust grounded three airplanes, which is exactly what the Sky article said, and they will be sprinkling radioactive dust on airplanes. Imagine the chaos it could cause. I'm sure Iran has more radioactive dust then they know what to do with. :-(
It does not even have to be dangerous stuff. Just radioactive enough to set off scanners if an airplane is checked.
|Monday, November 27th, 2006|
|James Bond and the return of the cold war, part 1
Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel was called "Casino Royale". It introduces James Bond, a now familiar character. It also introduces SMERSH, a top secret Soviet organization that kills people outside of the Soviet Union. In the early 1950's all of the major countries used assassination as a means of political action. The U.S. had the CIA, the U.K. MI6 (Bond's employer), Israel had the Mossad, and the Soviet Union had SMERSH.
While I have no idea if there really was an organization known as SMERSH, there definitely was an assassination department of the KGB (the Committee for State Security) of the Soviet Union, and the CIA's was active. If there really was such an organization in the British government, or like the British manned space program so active in "Doctor Who" of the 1960's existed only in fiction, it really does not matter.
It existed in the mind of Ian Fleming and because of the popularity of his books and later the movies based upon them it existed in the minds of anyone who had read the books or seen the movies. Something like it, and James Bond, existed in the Second World War. Bond was an American and worked for the OSS, which later became the CIA. In the 1990s he was still alive and was interviewed by a local newspaper in Chestnut Hill, a part of Philadelphia.
He was stationed in the U.K. during the war and knew Fleming, however he claimed to be an administrator not a spy. Most likely it was the case, Fleming made up James Bond, his fictional character based upon many people, and he used Bond's name. He probably did not expect that his books would sell outside of the U.K. and James Bond (the real one) would ever know of James Bond (the spy).
In the earlier James Bond movies, SMERSH was quite active. However that was many years ago, the more recent ones had different villains. The latest installment of James Bond, the movie spy, just came out. Bond goes to Casino Royale to have a card game against a villain called "The Cipher". He is an agent of SMERSH, who used their money for something he should not of and was trying to win it back in a week at the Casino Royale. He had arranged things so that the odds would favor him, and there was no chance of his loosing.
Enter James Bond. He was there to beat "The Cipher" and leave him broke. SMERSH would then act on their own to eliminate him. It's a very interesting read, full of tension. No real high tech like the movies, the best technology found was a microphone lowered into a fireplace down a chimney and it was foiled with a loud radio. There is the usual car chase and plenty of action.
The new Casino Royale movie is said to be closer to it's roots in the book than the previous ones. The last few were all technology and more of the same stuff that had been in the past. The only thing that changed is that they kept getting new Bonds every few years. He was becoming more and more suave and upper class to the point where the distinction between Bond and Austin Powers was blurring.
This Bond is new and he's not the same. He's more of a spy willing to do anything for Queen and country and less interested in having a good time, partying with pretty "girls" with funny names, etc. In order to make it more relevant, SMERSH has been retired and replaced with terrorists. How well this plays out is yet to be seen.
However, the demise of SMERSH was too quick. Almost as if it was timed for the release of the movie, a Russian defector was poisoned in London a few weeks ago. It did not make the press, because he was poisoned with radioactive material and by the time it was discovered he was almost dead. Now he has died and it has made the world press. Traces of the poison and radioactivity have been found at the sushi bar he ate at and another bar he had drinks at.
I knew there were dangers in eating raw fish, but this is ridiculous. :-)
Between this and Russia selling an anti-missile defense system to Iran, it looks like the "Cold War" is back. Maybe we all should be watching Jericho more carefully.