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28 October, 2002

The St. Louis Arch is 37 Years Old

On this day in 1965, the St. Louis Gateway Arch was completed. I was a lad of 13, and a resident of St. Louis (the the place where I was born,  raised, and departed from).

Connecting the two legs of the arch was a big deal and a major engineering feat -- but I barely remember it. Since then, I've ridden to the top of the arch three or four times. I do remember that. If you have the chance, don't miss it.

Posted on 28 October, 2002

A New Trend in Business Communication?

I can't help but notice a disturbing trend: Threatening letters that assume the customer is guilty.

  • The Business Software Alliance, in conjunction with Microsoft, has been doing this sort of thing for quite a while in the form of a "truce" campaign targeted primarily to small businesses.
  • A few weeks ago, the MPAA made the news by sending warning letters to more than 2,000 university presidents.
  • Last week, the RIAA and the MPAA sent a mailing to large companies to be on the lookout for song or movie swapping that might be going on internally.
  • Now, Microsoft has sent a letter to some computer resellers in the UK. The letter states that Microsoft Office sales have declined, and it implies that this may be due to the reseller selling illegal copies of Microsoft Office:

"Recently you have been buying fewer copies of Microsoft Office Professional from authorised Microsoft original equipment manufacturer distributors. We understand that competition for business is intense and that it is getting even tougher. Some system builders try to undercut their competitors by selling and installing copies of [software], making the situation worse for those selling licensed Microsoft software."

These mailings are sent in the spirit of "education," but I doubt that most recipients view them that way. These organizations, of course, are free to send out anything they like. Only time will reveal how the "treat-your-customers-as-thieves" business philosophy will fare in the long term.

Posted on 28 October, 2002

No More Baseball = The End of Summer

The 2002 ML baseball season is officially over. Congrats to the Angels for creating the most exciting World Series since 2001.

Over the past seven months, watching baseball has been my primary form of entertainment. I've watched the better part of at least 150 games during that time. And now my entertainment has gone away for five months. But the Microsoft Office 11 Beta is due any day now. I guess that will have to serve as my new entertainment.

To me, the end of the baseball season signals the official end of summer. It's time to change my work attire (sweatpants instead of shorts), and the lawn will need mowing only once every 4-5 weeks. And that "setting the clocks back" thing is another signal. But the surest sign that summer is over? The stores are already started displaying their Christmas Crap.

Posted on 28 October, 2002

Ed Foster on Sneakwrap

InfoWorld's Ed Foster writes about sneakwrap -- the growing trend in which a product is accompanied by an agreement which states something to the effect of: "by opening and using this product, you agree to...".

As you'll see, this practice now extends to many other products besides software. Ed provides this example, submitted by a reader:

"I just returned a digital camera because it had a hardware shrink wrap license," another reader writes. "They said that anyone in my household could use it but I couldn't lend it to anyone else. There were many other silly things also, like I agree not to try to return it to the company but I could try my luck at the place I purchased it. One interesting thing, if I purchased it as a gift, I could give it to the person and the warranty would still be valid. How nice of them."

You can't lend somebody a camera that you own!

If this is actually true, I am completely dumfounded, shocked, and bewildered. I've sent an email to Ed in an attempt to get more details -- such as the brand of the camera.

Here's a link to a previous Ed Foster column on the same topic.

Posted on 28 October, 2002

Emusic Picks Part I: Female Vocalists

For downloading music, I've already mentioned why emusic.com is really the only choice worth considering. For a flat (and very reasonable) monthly fee, you can download as many songs as you like, including complete CDs with a single-click. These are real MP3 files, and are not crippled by Digital Rights Management.

Here are links to music by some of my favorite female vocalists available at emusic.com:

Posted on 28 October, 2002

About Faces

Singer Michael Jackson started out as a cute little kid. Over the years, he has transformed himself into something that is difficult to describe, and about as far removed from "cute" as is possible. Click here to take a quick trip back in time and see the many faces of Michael Jackson (Flash).

Speaking of faces... researchers at three Australian universities are working on The Human Face Project. They've created what they term the "average face" for three population groups. Michael Jackson, I think, is about 4.25 standard deviations from the mean.

Here's a guy who just can't get enough of his own face. Beginning in 1998, he has taken a photo of himself daily -- and they are all available at his web site.

And this site lets you build a face.

Finally, here's a beautiful MPEG movie (~1 Mb) that morphs female faces of various races. I don't know the original source of this item. If somebody knows, please get in touch so I can provide the proper credit.

Posted on 28 October, 2002