Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - December, 2001
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December 2001
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lots of portable cd players

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Friday, December 28th


Sick and tired of seeing Kate Winslet naked? Now there's hope!

Here's a new feature for your "home theater PC": Trilogy Studios has plans to release "Movie Mask" software [ ] which allows you to watch your favorite movies (and, presumably, ones you aren't so keen on, too) with all the graphic violence and nudity tastefully obscured by computer-generated images.

In The Matrix, for example, they show the hits from gunshots being covered by brightly-colored Batman-TV-series-style "BAM" and "POW!" balloons. Or, to save you from being endangered by a glimpse of Kate Winslet's breasts in Titanic, Movie Mask will apply computer-generated clothing to any frames in which she would otherwise be shown in the nude.

And, as an added bonus, Trilogy Studios also claims that their product will even overlay the swordfighting scenes in The Princess Bride with Star Wars accessories such as light sabres, just in case you felt the movie suffered from the director Rob Reiner's decision to use old-fashioned steel blades in the film.

You could probably add some brightly colored "BAM!"s and "POW!"s too, if you wanted.

Wednesday, December 26th


USPTO to the rescue:

As we last left off, the entire first production run of Dragon and the Hawk on DVD has been detained by the US Customs department because the pressing plant, located in Korea, had not correctly filed the paperwork and fees to be licensed to use the official DVD logo on products sold in the United States (even though it had gotten all that taken care of for other parts of the world)--and, despite being one of the largest DVD manufacturing plants in the world, nobody had noticed this regulatory deficit until the Dragon and the Hawk shipment happened to hit the docks.

Up until just over an hour ago, the shipment was going to be held there until the manufacturer got all its paperwork straightened out and the news of said straightening wended its way through the twisty little corridors of the customs department bureaucracy.

...but that was then, and this is now, and the customs department called to say that validity of the DVD Logo Licensing Corporation's ownership of the official DVD logo was being contested in a claim filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office. I don't know the details, but the point of the call was to say that the customs department was willing to release the DVDs, as long as they could be positively identified as legitimate copies made under the direction of the registered copyright holder before the USPTO ruled on the aforementioned dispute. If, however, the USPTO did issue a ruling before the shipment got picked up and shipped elsewhere, then all bets were off.

Fortunately, there are times when postively identifying the rightful copyright holder of a music or video product is easier than you might think. "Do you have a copy of the DVD on hand?" "Yes." "Look on the cover." "Yeah?" "See, that's me." "Oh, okay."

They say they think they can have them sent out tomorrow. Here's hoping.

Sunday, December 23rd


When you're crazed enough to send the very worst:

December is a time of short days, long nights, and a universal determination to convince the gift-buying public that your product is the perfect Christmas Gift, no matter how utterly inappropriate or absurd it is.

RadioShack was an early contender, with their pre-holiday flyers hawking a "Christmas gift idea" that I certainly never would have thought of, the "Mouse Cleaning Kit." Maybe I'll be branded forevermore as being among the great technologically unwashed for admitting to this, but up until I'd seen the flyer in question, I hadn't even known that there were such things as mouse cleaning kits.

Though, in my defense, I should point out that I really don't like mice; never have. I got spoiled using digitizing tablets long ago and I'll put up with trackballs if I must, but mice are way down on the list of desirable data entry products. So, since the only mice around here are the Sun optical mice down in the server room, maybe it's not so eggregiously uncouth that I'd have missed some of the details of modern mouse hygiene standards.

Some tried-and-true bad gift ideas keep surfacing, year after year, somewhat like I'd imagine a really old pickle would if it had been stuck at the bottom of a pickle barrel for a year or two. For example, the "name a star after a loved one" scam, where in exchange for a mere fifty bucks, any one of the many "name a star" companies will send you an ornately inscribed parchment that will proclaim to the whole word that your gullibility level is of truly stellar magnitude.

The interested reader who might be unfamiliar with the legal status (or lack thereof) of the large assortment of companies in the "name a star" business may wish to gaze into the International Astronomical Union's FAQ on the subject [ ].

Another tried-and-true bad gift idea is that of registering a domain for someone who doesn't know what to do with it, especially if you've signed your soon-to-be-former-loved-one up for a hosting service which they can enjoy paying the fees for. One thing that might be even worse is if you threw an embarrassing site together on their behalf, especially if it included a lot of pictures from some office parties that the recipient might prefer not to be showing up in image search engines all over the world.

By and large, if somebody wants a personal vanity page of their own, they probably already have one.

. . . or at least twenty or thirty partially completed ones, scattered randomly across as many free hosting sites.

But the winner of this year's "worst last-minute perfect holiday gift" award goes to the ad I just heard on the radio which asked the rhetorical question, "what could be a more perfect holiday gift for that special person in your life than a gift certificate for laser hair removal?"

Um . . . I think I could come up with a long list without a whole lot of effort.


My first Academy Award nomination:

Okay, "Drive-In Academy Award," but we're talking about an honor bestowed by none other than Joe Bob Briggs himself [ ], who is without a doubt the most prestigious one-man academy in or out of a parked motor vehicle.

Quoth Joe Bob:

Drive-in Academy Award nominations for Trygve Lode, as the hunky villain who likes to use young girls as guinea pigs, for saying "I want them FOUND and dealt with NOW!"

(Oh, yeah, in case you're worried, I didn't really expose any of the women in the movie to cedar chips or force them to eat dry pet food pellets of any kind.)

Thursday, December 20th


America Online to the Rescue:

Why do programmers get Halloween and Christmas mixed up?

Because OCT 31 == DEC 25

It's an old joke, but it's still one of my favorites.

. . . at least it is when I'm not living it, which does seem to be the situation at the moment.

The release date for the Dragon and the Hawk on DVD and VHS was originally supposed to have been Halloween, 2001; though the mastering and production processes that led up to all those shrink-wrapped VHS tapes on the store shelves had their share of problems and minor delays along the way, they did make it off the production lines with time to spare.

The DVDs, on the other appendage, are still sitting behind lock-and-key in California. I didn't even get the real answer for why they were being held up until last Friday afternoon. Up until then, I'd been told daily that they'd be released the following day (except for the time I was notified that customs had released the shipment . . . except that they turned out to be someone else's DVDs).

video cover

Turns out that the replicator, one of the largest DVD manufacturing plants in the world, hadn't taken care of the paperwork and fees required to use the official DVD logo in the United States. Now, it's not like this plant isn't fully certified and tested--or even that haven't taken care of the filings and paperwork for the rest of the world--but, somehow, they'd neglected to get the necessary documents filed in the US. Ooops.

So, technically, a decent proportion of the DVDs that are on store shelves are illegal to sell in the US, at least if they bear the current incarnation of the official DVD logo on their packaging or label. You probably hadn't noticed.


Neither had the US Customs Department, at least up until my movie got in. Apparently this has been going on for at least the past nine months without anybody noticing, but until they update their licensing to use the official DVD logo on products to be sold in the US, the entire shipment will sit in storage in the California Customs Department.

And, so, over the weekend, Fotokem rebuilt the DLT masters and we got new film separations for all the labels, inserts, and so forth (whew!) and Sanyo/Verbatim out in Indiana was willing to do a rush job that would get the first shipments out by the end of this week. I think they're doing the assembly and packaging today. With luck, there should be enough to satisfy at least the pre-orders.

What does AOL have to do with all this? Well, um, I still have to squeeze in the occasional signing and promotional event and, even if the DVDs aren't really in stock, I can at least pretend. People like having a tangible sample they can look at or handle, and retailers like to see what a product will look like on a display when they do have it in for real. I don't know if you'd gotten some of the AOL "Zillions of hours free!" CDs that are packed in the DVD-style cases, but, as it happens, they are just regular DVD cases.

A little bit of "Goof-Off" adhesive label remover and some check prints of the printed material later, we have, not an actual Dragon and the Hawk DVD, but an incredible simulation.

signing session with Julian at media play

Just so you know, I should warn you that when you get a real Dragon and the Hawk DVD, it doesn't come with a thousand free hours on AOL--but I can offer you unlimited free hours on Nyx Net [ ] :-)

Thursday, December 13th


The Postmaster Always Pings Twice:

one day's renewal notices from Network Solutions
One day's renewal notices from Network Solutions

It's not easy being a postal employee this Christmas season. It's bad enough that everybody from Neiman Marcus to Mark's Ugly Ties, Inc., has to get their annual Christmas catalogs out to all the rows of hopeful mailboxes that line the suburban streets, opening for the postman like millions of baby birds eager for warm gulps of freshly regurgitated partially-digested worm entrails.

. . . er, or something like that. I guess I should have come up with a more festive metaphor.

Anyway, . . .

But, this year, the holiday season brings a few extra challenges.

Anthrax, for one. Granted, in most cases it's turned out to be pudding mix or something equally non-infectious, but it's best to be sure about these things.

One simple test is to mix the suspected biological warefare agent in question with chilled milk and beat at high speed for three to five minutes. If it thickens into a smooth, puddinglike material with a distinct vanilla or butterscotch-like aroma, it's probably pudding. If, on the other hand, inhalation of the airborne spores flung upwards and dispersed into the air by the rapidly spinning electric beaters striking the mound of finely powdered, concentrated pathogenic material that's floating atop the surface of the milk results in severe bronchial inflamation, high fever, and death, then, um, well, . . . sorry.

But forgetting about anthrax and Christmas catalogs for the moment, it's also that time of year when Verisign (in its Network Solutions avatar) emits the renewal notices for a decent chunk of the domains that hang out here in the treehouse.

One per envelope.

Oh, boy.

1001 letters from network solutions on the wall

Now, I do have a lot of domains registered with Network Solutions, mostly because they used to be the only game in town. I'm not always certain that the current state of affairs is a great improvement. I actually liked the idea of having top-level domains mean something other than a new marketing opportunity for registrars, but I realize that notion fell out of favor years ago.

... If, on the other hand, inhalation of the airborne spores flung upwards and dispersed into the air by the rapidly spinning electric beaters striking the mound of finely powdered, concentrated pathogenic material floating atop the surface of the milk causes bronchial inflamation, high fever, and death, then, um, well, . . . sorry ...

While Network Solutions does have its head-start in the domain registry marketplace going for it, it also has to deal with the handicap of being the most expensive contender. Taking a hint from the guiding philosophy of far too many other websites ("when in doubt, try to be more annoying and inconvenient to any potential customers"), they're really trying to focus on redoing their interface and options at least weekly. Presumably this is intended as some kind of electronic hazing ritual and they figure that anyone dedicated enough to run the gauntlet and make it through to the moment of finalizing their order with Verisign will forevermore be far too loyal to even contemplate switching to another registrar.

Sun Sparc Ultra 1, Sparc 20s, and some Axil 311 servers

Now I'm already dealing with one problem with Network Solutions; specifically, their being happy to accept and process payment for the registration of a friend's domain that I happen to be hosting here ... but not showing it as having been renewed, even after about two months of hassling them about it, which they've dealt with simply by not returning any messages at all.

So, with several hundred domains coming up for renewal this holiday season, and an imuplse to do some registrar-shopping, I ended up moving this batch to a registrar with the unlikely name of "Go Daddy Software," [ ] the baby of Bob Parsons, formerly of Parsons Technologies (which he sold to Intuit back in 1994).

As much as I'd like to say that the whole process was relatively painless and was all completed in a reasonable span of time, it wasn't. Once I'd sifted through the domains I wanted to work with in this particular pass and got everything ready to go, I ran into the unexpected complication that their servers were misconfigured and would crash when I tried to transfer domains.

And thus ensued a week of time-wasting exchanges with their customer service staff. I'd say, "hey, your servers are generating thus-and-such internal server error, but if you change such-and-such environment variable, it should fix it (or at least let me get far enough to find the next error lurking in your system)." They'd come back with something helpful like, "you need to have cookies enabled in your browser; go to the tools menu and [...]"

I'll show you customer support

And so we went through the week; I'd suggest that, though I'd enabled cookies before trying to use their site, if my browser settings were hosing their IIS environment variables, they'd probably discovered a security hole even bigger than Microsoft's usual fare.

I did learn one thing, though: never attempt to use sarcasm on a clueless technical support person; it does not work. As much as you might appreciate your own attempt at wit, you'll still end up with someone completely seriously telling you that you just have to install Internet Explorer and you should ask your ISP to walk you through this if you need help--even in response to a question in which you made it clear that you are an ISP.

But the whole process did eventually get taken care of; Bob Parsons himself responded that they'd get on it and fix their servers--and, lo and behold, they did, in a lot less time than I'd spent asserting to his tech support minions that I have Microsoft Internet Explorer and that no matter how many times I reinstalled it, it still wouldn't fix their IIS environment settings.

In the end, I didn't even have to change any of my browser's cookie settings.

. . . or mail the technical support staff cookies with anthrax.

which, in my own little way, made life a little easier for the United States Postal Service, . . . at least until next year--because I could only renew the registration for a period of one year when changing registrars.

Thursday, December 6th


This Message is Brought To You by the Australian National Continence Management Strategy: ]

So how come the US government doesn't have an organized national toilet mapping program?

(The above link shamelessly swiped from the Daily Aardvark [ ])


"X" marks the Box:

New Legends for the XBoX from THQ

No doubt by now you've noticed Microsoft's plan to copy Sony's PlayStation 2 marketing coup of last Christmas with their own entry into the video game system arena, the XBOX.

Last week the gang from THQ [ ] and a crack team of gaming journalists from The Washington Post, USA Today, Gamespot, IGN, Maxim, Game Informer, et al, dropped by WarriorQuest International [ ] for the official unveiling of New Legends for the XBOX [ ]--complete with a day-long intensive training seminar for the programmers, marketing representatives, and journalists alike on traditional Japanese swordsmanship and basic stunt fighting for film and video.

japanese swordsmanship practice

japanese swordsmanship practice

Said Aaron Boulding (IGN Xbox) about the day's event, "That stunt training stuff kicked a whole lot of ass. If they can take a bunch of unathletic game journalists and make them look even somewhat coordinated in one afternoon, then they could turn all of us into a lethal fighting force within a few weeks."

Personally, I think Aaron and company are being too modest here. Having seen them in action, I was pretty darned impressed with the show they put on with just an afternoon's practice; I certainly had the urge to sneak off and get in a whole lot more practice myself before I get started on my next movie.

japanese swordsmanship practice

japanese swordsmanship practice

WarriorQuest's Mark Steven Grove, who organized and led the days events, also captured their performances at the end of the day on video and the folks at THQ's HQ popped over the game's musical score, so we may just end up with a bonus video of these folks in action.

One caveat, however, to any purchasers of New Legends or any of the other games for the XBOX: Mark is not included free with every purchase.


the New Legends development team from

(New Legends, the New Legends logo, Infinite Machine, Inc. and its logo are trademarks of Infinite Machine, Inc. THQ and the THQ logo are trademarks of THQ Inc. Microsoft, Xbox, and the Xbox logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.)

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