Category Archives: Recently Observed

The Very First Spam Email

Just ran across this and thought it was interesting…

This is believed to be the very first spam email ever sent, back on May 3rd, 1978:

DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T. THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY OF COMPUTERS HAS EVOLVED FROM THE TENEX OPERATING SYSTEM AND THE DECSYSTEM-10 <PDP-10> COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE. BOTH THE DECSYSTEM-2060T AND 2020T OFFER FULL ARPANET SUPPORT UNDER THE TOPS-20 OPERATING SYSTEM. THE DECSYSTEM-2060 IS AN UPWARD EXTENSION OF THE CURRENT DECSYSTEM 2040 AND 2050 FAMILY. THE DECSYSTEM-2020 IS A NEW LOW END MEMBER OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AND FULLY SOFTWARE COMPATIBLE WITH ALL OF THE OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 MODELS.

WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE THE 2020 AND HEAR ABOUT THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AT THE TWO PRODUCT PRESENTATIONS WE WILL BE GIVING IN CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH. THE LOCATIONS WILL BE:

TUESDAY, MAY 9, 1978 – 2 PM
HYATT HOUSE (NEAR THE L.A. AIRPORT)
LOS ANGELES, CA

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 1978 – 2 PM
DUNFEY’S ROYAL COACH
SAN MATEO, CA
(4 MILES SOUTH OF S.F. AIRPORT AT BAYSHORE, RT 101 AND RT 92)

A 2020 WILL BE THERE FOR YOU TO VIEW. ALSO TERMINALS ON-LINE TO OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 SYSTEMS THROUGH THE ARPANET. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT THE NEAREST DEC OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXCITING DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY.

It was not well received.

[Source: Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978]

Here’s a message worth spreading…

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

Jack Vance

Maske-Thaery by Jack VanceI’m rediscovering my love for the old novels of Jack Vance. His protagonists drive their stories like none other; his aliens are the most alien; his other-worlds and other-societies are as amazingly immersive as they are completely, freakishly strange.

I was afraid revisiting these stories that I had loved as a teenager would not hold up. I’m happy to report that they do.

This one, Maske: Thaery is my favorite, followed closely by the five books in his epic revenge space opera, The Demon Princes.

Not All Good Product Reviews are Good News

Anyone who wants to study the human hive-mind we’ve become, just go online to purchase something. Now, I think I’m fairly normal, though perhaps a bit ahead of the curve as far as technology goes. I’m what you’d call a moderate early adopter. I’ve been shoping online since it was a “new” thing in this world, and it’s gotten to the point where I won’t buy anything unless I read some reviews about it.

Just recently, however, I got burned — and I should have known better. This was a lesson for me, and I want to impart it to you, too, so you don’t have to learn the hard way.

My lesson: if there are no bad reviews, that is also a warning sign.

My example is a company called StackSocial. I was suckered into a great deal on a pair of Bluetooth “noise canceling” earbuds for a measily $24. Just low enough for it to be an impulse buy. I’ll make a long story short: they’re crap. But I read the reviews and there was nothing negative about them, just a lot of unaswered questions and warnings that it takes a while to receive them.

There’s no refund on the deal, that was stated up front, so I’m stuck. However, I thought, I should go leave a negative review to warn others away. Well, guess what? StackSocial, and all the sub-mirror sites that it goes under (Cult of Mac deals is the one I got suckered by) moderates their reviews and DELETES anything negative!

I’m not pissed off that I got a crappy set of headphones. I should have known better — but for the price I took a chance, and I’ll live with that. What pisses me off is that they are dishonest enough so as not to let their customers give their opinions. They offer a forum for customers to give reviews but don’t permit anything but good reviews.

I will not stand for that, and I will not be silent about it. This practice tells me that they know what they’re selling is crap! Sure, Amazon.com sells some crap too, but they’re honest enough to, one, give you a refund if you’re not happy, and two, let you warn others away from crap products. StackSocial silences you so that they can unload their crap and make sure you’re stuck with it.

I strongly recommend you do not do business with StackSocial.com or any of their StackCommerce network sites until they change this policy.

The Citadel in Winter

The Citadel in Winter

I’m doing two things here:

  1. I’m complaining about the weather.
  2. I’m testing out MarsEdit, the offline blogging software.

Ever since leaving Microsoft Windows behind, I’ve been searching for a replacement for what is, to me, the best piece of software Microsoft ever produced — and gives away for free, to boot! — Windows Live Writer. It is as close to a perfect software app that I have ever used.

Sadly, and startlingly weird, is that it has no equal at all in the Mac world. Just about every other piece of software available for the Mac blows Windows software counterparts away, but in this one small niche, blogging, there is a vacuum.

Even weirder, there are a plethora of wonderful blogging apps available for the iPad. I know, I own most of them, but as much as I love my iPad — I’ve abandoned using it for most creative endeavors. It’s a media consumption device. I watch movies and read on it. In fact I found I read on it so much that I finally gave my beloved — and better for reading — Kindle Paperwhite away. The iPad is what is constantly in my hands.

I have a keyboard for it. But that means you have to carry two things around with you. And no, I don’t like the tiny keyboards that fit into a lid on the iPad — my fingers are too big. So it boils down to, if I’m out and about and want to write, I write on a laptop. If I’m at home, and can write on any device that’s lying around, it’s not going to be the iPad. The novelty has worn off. The iPad has settled into what it is: something without a keyboard.

So, yes, I could simply log into WordPress or Tumbler and write a blog, but what if I’m offline? Yes, I can bring up a word processor and write, then cut and paste it in later, and then format it, and then arrange the pictures.

Old hooky

But that’s why I miss Windows Live Writer so much. Not only did it do a perfectly good job as a word processor, but it handled graphics with perfection, and in fact had features that still dazzle me today. I could, for instance, simply click a button and erase the background of a picture, leaving only the subject … and it somehow always knew exactly what the subject was, and pixel-perfectly extract it from the rest of the picture. This beer bottle is an example.

This brings me to MarsEdit, which I’m testing now on a 30-Day trial. I would be more than willing to pay for a Mac version of Microsoft Live Writer, if they’d ever produce one. I’d pay $30 for it, easy. According to all reviews, this MarsEdit (which costs $30) is the closest thing there is. I’ve also heard good things lately about “PixelPumper” (which I recently deleted) but I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with it over the last year or so it hung around on my computer.

So this is a test to see how much I decide I like MarsEdit.

Regarding the weather … I was all happy that we had a spurt of warm weather up here in Chicago, a break from the Polar Vortex which made my apartment building look like some sort of arctic circle citadel. Naively I thought that meant spring was on it’s way.

No, it’s not. The Polar Vortex is returning with a vengeance. Just as the snow had started melting it looks like we’re getting several days in a row with more of the white stuff dumping on us … and I’m sitting here in my apartment freezing my nads off because I thought it would be awesome to live in the top corner apartment facing the northwest.

Little did I know the Polar Vortex would aim directly at my apartment and turn it into an icebox no matter how many heaters I have running.

UPDATE: MarsEdit is a fail. I had to log into WordPress and fix the formatting and adjust the pictures. The best editor for WordPress on a Mac is… WordPress.

Write It the Way You See It

It’s the principle!

It’s 4:30am and I woke up furious.

I was driving after a rainstorm, and directly in front of me the light had changed red. The road was really slippery, and my car slid right out into the intersection. Thank goodness the intersection was clear, and so I was able to back up to where I should’ve stopped.

No problem, right?

But no, from out of nowhere comes a cop who starts writing me a ticket for running a red light. I get angry and start arguing, and pull out my phone to video the whole thing, and that makes the cop mad. The cop says it’s illegal for me to video him.

Now I am really pissed off because I know that’s false. I tell him I am gathering evidence for court because I intend to fight the ticket. I also tell him that it is not against law, and that I have the law printed out and sitting in my glove compartment. Because, in real life, I actually do! You can photograph anyone at any time in a public place. Anyone – including an officer – who tells you otherwise does not actually know what the law is.

So the confrontation has really escalated, and now the cop has his hand on his gun.

Now here’s the funny part. At this point I’ve already realized that I’m dreaming. I know, on a whim, I could have the guy struck by lightning, or sucked into a black hole, or simply delete him from my dream. I have the power!

But no, I continue arguing with the dream cop. Why? Because it’s the principle!

Finally I do wake up, and now I can’t go back to sleep, and I’m laying here in bed dictating this into my iPad.