Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   fucking Silverlight
Wednesday, August 13 2008
Aside from bouts of computer work, I'm mostly a blue collar man these days, and it's not just that I'm sporting the least-kempt facial hair of my life. Sometimes I'm down at the greenhouse site, digging its foundation further into the stony clay. Sometimes I'm under my car working on the fucking brakes. I installed two brand new brake cylinders on the back wheels and then turned my attention to the front, which soon proved similarly impossible to bleed. Every time I've ever had brake work done, it's always cost somewhere between $500 and $1000. Now that I have experience working on my own brakes, I find myself wondering if most of that cost goes into unsticking the bleeder valves, breaking them off, and then saying fuck it and replacing the calipers or brake cylinders. And brakes are an easy opportunity for a shop to rip off a customer, since most people wouldn't be able to visually discern a difference between new brake equipment and the old rusty stuff.

At some point today on my streaming online rock station I heard a song called "Something in the Water" by a band called The Jealous Girlfriends. It stood primarily with its sonic dynamics, twice lurching from a fairly ordinary Sebadoh-style male-vocal-and-driving-guitar riff to a shimmering guitar/synth combo featuring female vocals. And the lyrics sung here were that perfect mix of mysterious and well-grounded that I love:

The noises through the wall are teevee and sex
Repeat your opinion until it all makes sense
And it's all you can do to keep your head above it
It's the only truth
There's no way around it

This is a quasi-video they made for this song (which is sync'd with video from a live performance)

Gretchen has been interested in the Summer Olympics only insofar as it includes basketball. She will Tivo whole eight hour stretches of broadcast just so she can fast-forward to the last hour, so long as that last hour is basketball. Normally she's only interested in women's basketball, but she's so starved for her summer basketball fix that she's watching men's games too. Still, only a fraction of the basketball games being played are being broadcast to American audiences. The only ones we end up seeing are ones in which the American teams are playing. But Gretchen is interested in how a number of foreign teams are doing even when they aren't playing America (Fuck Yeah!), particularly the Russian and Australian women's teams. To watch those distinctly unAmerican games, she'd have to do it online. Tonight I set her up with a laptop so she could watch comfortably while seated on the teevee room couch. The only problem was that the Olympics were being streamed exclusively through Silverlight technology, and Silverlight is an obscure Microsoft-developed plugin that must be installed. For obvious reasons, I take a very dim view of websites that demand the installation of plugins, particularly when Flash is widely available and works perfectly well.
There can be only one explanation for the fact that the Olympics can only be viewed on the internet through Silverlight, and it has to do with Microsoft and their nefarious plan to control all information exchanged throughout the entire Universe (including between two Japanese Beetles stacked up on a corn tassel). The only reason Silverlight exists is because Microsoft fears losing control of the desktop platform to "rich web experiences" of the sort that Adobe Flash provides. And since Flash, a technology outside the control of Microsoft, has become the de facto standard for developing rich web experiences, Microsoft feels the need to crush it. So they've come up with a competing technology, one they tout as superior to Flash. But superiority, even if it were the case, is no way to win in a world where no one has your plugin installed and there are no developers writing code for it. Microsoft has benefitted from such network effects ever since it licensed BASIC, but this is case where it's trying to horn in on an existing locked-down market. They're like Wordperfect trying to compete with Microsoft Word, but with a lot more money.
And when you have a lot of money, the best technique to roll back some of the network effect benefitting a competing rich media environment is to secure a monopoly on some popular web-based rich media experience, and then force it to go through your Johnny-come-lately crapware. To get this deal, Microsoft must have spent a shitload of money. My guess is that they're paying for all the bandwidth and site engineering. In return, millions of people will install that infernal Silverlight plugin so it will be there when they launch their next salvo in their insurgent war against the deeply-entrenched Flash.
Tonight I installed Silverlight, but only on that one laptop, and then only for the duration of the Olympics. I can't say I was impressed by its performance. For one thing, there was no fullscreen mode like you get in, say, YouTube. What they had instead was a large screen mode with layers of banner ads around it. And in this mode it ran like shit, with unwatchably-jerky video on a 1700 MHz machine. Such jerkiness is completely unnecessary; the fullscreen YouTube video isn't any jerkier than the small-screen version (because all the pixels are mathematically enlarged by the same amount on the fly, a technique that wouldn't work if you insisted on surrounding the video with non-expanded banner ads, as the Silverlight Olympics site does).

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