> Perhaps the highly anticipated moment that I’m going to contextualize today is totally inevitable, in a way. For years, there’s been a rumbling that Apple would take its knowledge of the ARM processor architecture and bring it to its desktop and laptop computers. Next week, at a virtual Worldwide Developers Conference, the iPhone giant is expected to do just that. Of course, many will focus on the failed partner, the jilted lover of the business relationship that led to Apple’s move to vertically integrate: Intel. But I’m interested in the demise of the platform Intel vanquished on its way to taking over Apple—and the parallels that have emerged between PowerPC and Intel over time. Today’s Tedium dives into Apple’s long list of jilted processor partners, leaning closely on the shift from PowerPC to Intel. Keep Apple happy, or else.
> Cognitive scientists have identified a number of common ways in which people avoid being gullible. But con artists are especially skillful at what social scientists call framing, telling stories in ways that appeal to the biases, beliefs and prominent desires of their targets. They use strategies that take advantage of human weaknesses.
Good collection of cons.
Cross post: https://theconversation.com/why-do-people-believe-con-artists-130361
Touch And Go
> Pondering the disastrous fate of the HP TouchPad, an early tablet based on WebOS that’s best known for being the subject of a well-remembered fire sale.
> In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST—and a return to permanent standard time—would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward” or “fall back.”
> They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington and Florida have now passed laws aimed at moving their states to DST year-round.
This is interesting. There are definitely costs to shifting clocks, but that still leaves the question of what the ideal daylight hours are.
Point Of Saturation
> 75k - The number of restaurants around the world that use the Aloha point of sale system. Aloha is an industry stalwart that has managed to stay relevant while often still looking like it was designed in 1998.
Plus some NCR history.
Mistakes Were Made
> Take the time to learn about ERP software, and it’s easy to realize small errors compound quickly. It might seem like we’re going to be dunking on SAP here, but as we previously noted during our recent dive into updates to NFL quarterback statistics, when you’re really, really good at something difficult, you’re allowed more errors than others. By any measure, SAP is a titan of logistics and widespread enough as to be vital to the world economy. So when they fail, they fail in ways that have some spectacular consequences.
> Case in point: the Halloween without various Hershey’s candies.
> However, when the SAP Hana system they were “upgrading” to took three years to get to operational use, Lidl dumped the project … after spending well more than half a billion dollars. The move was reported not through a lawsuit but a simple memo that explained “the strategic goals as originally defined by the project could not be achieved without the retailer having to spend more than it wanted.”
Oh well, we tried, thanks for the money!
St. Helena Airport
> Your average flight from Washington, D.C. to St. Helena Island, located in one of the most remote parts of the world, would be a very arduous affair, a flight that would take nearly two full days, and at least three distinct layovers along the way—first in Ghana, then in Johannesburg, then a refueling stop in Namibia—before you got to your destination. If there’s a delay at any of the three stops, it might compromise the entire trip, because if you don’t make your connecting flight, you’re screwed. And once you’re there, you’re not leaving for a while. I’m endlessly fascinated by these far-off connections, these obscure airports that few people would ever think to travel to—and St. Helena is somehow more hopelessly obscure than the rest. But you’re going to know a lot about it by the time you finish reading today’s Tedium. Strap in—we’re talking about odd airports.
All Penn, No Teller
> Why Penn Jillette kind of makes sense as a tech magazine’s back-page columnist
> But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle.
Some good quotes and links here.
Doing Things The Wrong Way
> Rules have a time and place, and “doing things wrong” is just a matter of your opinion, man.
Planned Obsolescence: Innovation Versus Preservation
> We keep making old stuff significantly less useful in the modern day, sometimes by force. We cite problems things such as security, maintenance, and a devotion to constant evolution as reasons for allowing this to happen. But the net effect is that we are making it impossible to continue using otherwise useful things after even a medium amount of time. I’m not even exclusively talking about things that are decades old. Sometimes, just a few years does the trick. Today’s Tedium ponders planned obsolescence and how it theatens preservation.
Smartphones, Except Landlocked
> Phone lines, while not initially designed to transfer binary data, turned out to be a good enough way to do so—up until the 2000s, at least. From sending faxes to browsing the Internet, people relied on effectively the same copper wires they used with Ma Bell-leased telephones. But while most of the personal tech evolved towards greater connectivity, landline phones mostly got better only at the ergonomics of calling and dialing. Today’s Tedium is dedicated to the few ones which dared to be smarter.
Plus this great anecdote:
> The mild criticism (“not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped” was all that was ever written about the phone) pushed Sugar to send a message to all 95,000 service subscribers, asking them to send an email to Charles Arthur, the newspaper’s tech editor.
Adventures In Interactivity
> That book was Creating Adventure Games on Your Computer by Tim Hartnell. The book taught me how to make rudimentary text adventure games on my Apple ][ as a kid and prompted a recent adventure of revisiting the classic text adventures of the past. So grab a torch and get your map making tools ready because today’s Tedium is an exploration of text adventures through the years. Try not to get eaten by a grue along the way.
New Emails, Old Tech
> What makes an email different from a web page? Depending on how it’s presented, not a lot—but they also might be miles apart. Things that might have taken a few minutes to lay out for a website can take significantly longer to do when targeting an email client, and with a lot of pain in the middle. With that in mind, I felt like it was good to talk a little bit about the process that goes into email, and where it’s really falling short. Today’s Tedium is an email … about email. Particularly where it needs a little modernizing.
GeoWorks GEOS History - The Other Windows
> Back in the early ’90s, it wasn’t a sure thing that Microsoft Windows was going to take over the market, even though they had a clear lead over many of their competitors, thanks to MS-DOS. In fact, one of the iconic GUI-based experiences of the era, AOL, hedged its bets for a while, creating and maintaining a DOS version of its iconic pseudo-internet software using an GUI platform few were familiar with: GeoWorks. It was an operating system for an era when it wasn’t even a sure thing we’d have a modem. Today, we do a dive into the world of GEOS. It’s a pretty fascinating place.
How OS/2 Powered the NYC Subway
> Vintage technology has powered the innards of the NYC subway system for decades—and sometimes, it surfaces in interesting ways. This one’s for you, OS/2 fans.
Old Computers, New Inspiration
> I’m not a newbie when it comes to conferences—I’ve attended many over the years, big and small, and my day job includes an element of regular conference attendance. But I’ve never attended an event quite like VCF East, the long-running computer festival that brings out so many old computers out of the woodwork that it’s not even funny. (It also brings out their fans, a distinct breed of human that isn’t afraid to futz around on something old for a while.) This past weekend, I got a chance to head up to New Jersey to check out the world of vintage, and I got to set my eyes on some fascinating old tech. It was my first go-around, and perhaps it won’t be my last. When I go to events like this, I tend to focus less on reporting and more on inspiration, tone, and taking something back with me—and with that in mind, I wanted to speak to a few things at VCF East that inspired me. Let me nerd out for a little bit in today’s Tedium. I promise you won’t get bored!
Enter The Matrox
> A fast GPU is a must for video processing and other image-heavy productivity tasks, but GPUs are really known for their ability to push the limits on popular 3D-driven games. There’s an obsession with this kind of performance, in fact—hence why folks can’t stop talking about whatever Nvidia and AMD are putting into their graphics chips next. But two decades ago, these two companies had a competitor—and that competitor did something unusual and surprising: The graphics card maker Matrox decided to simply drop out of the market for consumer graphics entirely—a move that seemingly would have sunk any other company. So what happened to Matrox? Well, let me tell you! Today’s Tedium talks Matrox, the misunderstood graphics firm that could never quite get 3D right.
The Ghosts of Windows 3.1
> The Philips CD-i was not a good system.
> But for some bizarre reason, the folks at Tandy, the parent company of Radio Shack, apparently didn’t get the memo and thought that it was worth mimicking the CD-i model for all it was worth.
> There seems to be evidence that Microsoft planned for Modular Windows to be used beyond Tandy’s devices. A 1992 InfoWorld article highlights the existence of a software development kit specifically for Modular Windows, which one would imagine Microsoft would not create for a single device that was already not selling well.
> 1994 The year that Microsoft released Windows 3.2.
The Sound Of Nostalgia
> The Sega Genesis, with its “Blast Processing” and blue mascot (who is getting a questionable movie makeover in the coming months), stood out for a lot of reasons, but one of the most subtle is something that it contained in at least one of its variants that not a lot of its competitors did—a headphone jack that could produce stereo sound. In a way, it was a nod to its sound chips, which were some of the best to be found on a video game console at the time and had more in common with the era’s sound synthesizers. Reliving those sounds in their best form hasn’t been easy in the modern day, however, due to challenges in emulating the console correctly. However, a challenger appears: The Analogue Mega Sg, a field programmable gate array (FPGA)-based console aims to recreate the experience. Today’s Tedium is a review of that console—and a little backstory on the biggest problem it tries to solve.
The Perfect Container
> Sometimes, it’s possible to create something that’s too useful, that is designed for a niche purpose but is so well-attuned to that purpose that it attracts other people, who find a similar value but different use case than was intended. And because of the sheer prevalence of said useful tool, it suddenly is everywhere—finding purpose as a cheap alternative to a trip to the local department store. If you’re the maker of that too-useful something, whaddya do? Well, in the case of the dairy industry, you use your political influence to try to ban all those college students from using milk crates. In today’s Tedium, we talk about the bizarre legal status of the plastic milk crate.
> “They are looking for people who are doing even the smallest crime, because, what we’ve learned is, those who will go out and steal a milk crate, for example, are the same people who are probably breaking into cars, breaking into your house.”