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7 February, 2003

TurboTax Activation Update

Last month I provided some links about the product activation feature in Intuit's TurboTax software. ExtremeTech recently published a detailed hands-on article about this (it's actually the first of a two-part series).

In short, contrary to Intuit's claims, you must activate TurboTax even to use it its "crippled" or "trial" mode... But the more serious problem lies with requiring Intuit to either answer the phone or have a server available to respond to the installation program's requests. Should Intuit go out of business or be acquired -- or if its communications lines were to go down -- there would be no way to install and then use the software you've bought. In any mode at all.

Intuit's ultimate motivation, of course, was to increase their profits. I'm sure that their number crunchers assumed that everyone who used an illegal copy in the past will now go out and buy it. Yeah, right.

So far, Intuit has invested money in the activation technology, they (probably) have needed to increase their support services, and they've lost many loyal customers. But they have received more than their share of publicity -- virtually all of it negative.

I wonder if they still think product activation was a wise move?

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Visual Thesaurus

An annotated, interactive graphic thesaurus:

Plumb Design's Visual Thesaurus is both an artistic exploration and a tool to explore, study, and analyze the structure of language. By displaying the interrelationships between words and meanings as spatial maps, the Visual Thesaurus translates language into a visible architecture

This Java applet is very impressive.

(via Jody Cairns)

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Haggis Recipe

The Dreaded Haggis:

  • 1 sheep's stomach
  • 1 sheep heart
  • 1 sheep liver
  • 1/2 lb suet, fresh (kidney leaf fat is preferred)
  • 3/4 c oatmeal
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1/2 ts pepper
  • 1/4 ts cayenne
  • 1/2 ts nutmeg
  • 3/4 c stock

Wash stomach well, rub with salt and rinse. Remove membranes and excess fat. Soak in cold salted water for several hours. Turn stomach inside out for stuffing.

Cover heart and liver with cold water, Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Chop heart and coarsely grate liver. Toast oatmeal in a skillet on top of the stove, stirring frequently, until golden. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Loosely pack mixture into stomach, about two-thirds full. Remember, oatmeal expands in cooking.

Press any air out of stomach and truss securely. Put into boiling water to cover. Simmer for 3 hours, uncovered, adding more water as needed to maintain water level. Prick stomach several times with a sharp needle when it begins to swell; this keeps the bag from bursting. Place on a hot platter, removing trussing strings. Serve with a spoon.

If this sounds good to you, go here for many additional haggis recipes. If you're in a hurry, just pick up some canned haggis. Or maybe vegetarian haggis is a better choice.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Building Microsoft Communities

Microsoft, it seems, has a strong desire to build "communities" of users who advocate their products. Robert Scoble, a fellow Microsoft MVP, has some advice for Microsoft. It all makes perfect sense. But, of course, it falls on deaf ears in Redmond.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

A Quick Spelling Test

Take this 50-item spelling test. I'm embarrased embarrassed to admit that I missed 30% of them! I guess that's the result of easy access to spell checkers.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Dumb Laws

The Dumb Laws site lists hundreds of odd laws, collected and categorized for your amusement. Are they for real? You be the judge.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

A Strange Network Hack

I received the following email this morning:

Recently, someone hacked into my network. This person was not vicious from the stand-point that they did not infect my systems with any viruses. However, what they did leave behind was a PDF version of your Excel 2002 Formulas book (approximately 10.5 Mb).

I guess someone thinks my book is so good, that it needs a wider audience!

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Altered Polaroids

Visit Michael Going's gallery of altered Polaroid SX-70 photos.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Personal Computer Demo: 1968

Watch some very interesting early computer demos.

On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962. The public presentation was a session in the of the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco, and it was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Watch the L.A. Traffic

If you can't be there to experience the joys of driving in Los Angeles, at least you can watch it via a web cam.

Posted on 7 February, 2003


YellowTail, written by Golan Levin, is...

...an interactive software system for the gestural creation and performance of real-time abstract animation. Yellowtail repeats a user's strokes end-over-end, enabling simultaneous specification of a line's shape and quality of movement. Each line repeats according to its own period, producing an ever-changing and responsive display of lively, worm-like textures.

In other words, it's kind of cool.

(via MetaFilter)

Posted on 7 February, 2003

The Theory of Relativity

Einstein's theory of relativity, explained using words of four or fewer letters.

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Where Are They Now?

You've probably seen this 1978 photo of the original Microsoft employees. The Albuquerque Tribune describes what these 11 people are doing now.

(via Pop Culture Junk Mail)

Posted on 7 February, 2003

Michael Jackson

Curiosity got the best of me. I admit that I watched that Michael Jackson show on TV last night. Well, most of it. I turned it off when the commercials started coming at five-minute intervals.

We'll probably never know how accurate that portrayal was. The interviews claims to have spent eight months with Jackson. Of that, less than 30 minutes of video was actually shown. But those clips clearly demonstrated that Jackson is, perhaps, the strangest celebrity in history. As reported here, Jackson isn't very happy about the editing.

Back in 1993, a 13-year old boy accused Jackson of inappropriate conduct. The boy's declaration is available at The Smoking Gun. The case was settled by the exchange of a large sum of money.

Posted on 7 February, 2003