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~Mail follows today’s post~

And I got to see a copy of Shopper UK. Wow! The only British computer magazine I’d ever read regularly was Amiga Computing, years ago, and I remember sitting down with it along with my former art director and stealing ideas from it. Computer Shopper is every bit as well-designed. American computer magazines are just… sterile and boring.

A yearly subscription from the States costs as much as a new Athlon motherboard upgrade, but they’re tempting me.

Speaking of which, I’d best get back to that article.

Browser Wars, Episodes III and IV. In a surprise move, Opera Software released a free version of their lightweight Opera browser yesterday. Much like recent versions of Eudora, it will be advertising-supported, with a paid version without the ads.

Also, Neoplanet, the maker of browser overlays, announced a Mozilla-based browser to be released in late February. Neoplanet was one of the strongest thrid-party contributors to the Mozilla project and released a technology preview browser early on. (Neoplanet’s main product has always used the IE engine.)

This is good news, with IE showing signs of MS laziness and complacency and Netscape seemingly having lost its will to live. Neoplanet and Opera may be small and scrappy enough to give MS a run for its money, much as a smaller, nimbler, hungrier Netscape did six years ago.

When I checked, the Java-less version of Opera v5 had received more than 900,000 downloads. This looks promising.

My biggest objection to Opera 5, besides its lack of the great ctrl-Enter shortcut (and I don’t care what anyone else says, I happen to like keeping my hands on the keyboard when I’m using the Web–I’ve been doing it that way for six years and I’m as fast as anyone) , is that it doesn’t start rendering the page as quickly as Netscape, let alone IE. IE renders what it has, then adds the images. Netscape does this to a lesser degree. Opera waits until it has the majority of the site downloaded, unfortunately. Why can’t it take IE’s approach?

But there’s a lot to like too. A button to toggle image loading–there are three settings. One ignores images and uses ALT tags, one renders empty boxes the size of the images in their place, and the other loads all images. Want the best-possible speed online? Turn the images off, then toggle them on as-needed. The zoom feature is also very nice–and it scales the whole site, not just the text. The speed, once it’s downloaded all the images, is outstanding. The accuracy seems good–I tried it out by visiting each site on my portal and looking around, and it rendered all of them sensibly. And at 2 MB, any computer can afford to have a Web browser.

I’m reasonably pleased with it. I’m thinking a high B+, you know, 89 percent.

My time off has let me catch up on some reading. I read way too much Calvin and Hobbes (“You got mud all over the house! Look at you! AIEE–THE COUCH! WHAT’D YOU DO?! DID YOU WALK ACROSS THE COUCH?!”), but besides that, I read Rubert Lutz’s Guts, which reads like a manifesto but is loaded with great ideas and insights, and One More Time, a compilation of Mike Royko’s best columns that’s far, far too short. Even if all 7,000+ columns he published, plus the contents of his file cabinets when he died, and every news story he wrote for The Chicago Daily News before he became a full-time columnist, were made available, it still wouldn’t be enough for me.

I neglected to mention him in my interview, but the late, great Mike Royko probably influenced me as much as any other writer, with the possible exception of the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. I mentioned Dave Barry in that interview, and Dave Barry is one of the best newspaper columnists there ever was, but Royko was darn near as funny and generally had much more important things to say. There’s a stash of his stuff here  for those of you who’ve never had the privelige. (And some of it’s not in the book! Score! Another fix!)

When taking an editorial writing class as a senior in college, we each had to bring in the work of two columnists we felt was outstanding. We fought over who got to bring in Mike Royko columns. A few months later, he was dead. We’ve been looking for another ever since, but replacing him is like replacing Joe DiMaggio. You don’t.

I’ve created a “Best Of” page. It’s a little dubious. First, it lists the Top 50 entries. I have about 80 entries total. It’s a little like a band creating a Greatest Hits record after three regular records. Second, it’s based on page reads and not quality. Living, against insurmountable odds is marooned at #34, but it’s much better than “Thanks to a Glitch, We’re Now At Day Two,” the current #1. Third, it’s only stuff from this site and none of the previous content is included (kind of like a greatest hits collection that only includes stuff recorded on that particular label). Fourth, my hits count, and that’s the reason why the current #1 is there–I probably viewed that thing 120 times myself because I was making subtle changes to the design and then looking at them again.

But it’s surprising how the best stuff does have a tendency to rise to the top in spite of all this. I had to go back and re-title everything, since it mostly had the same title. Now I understand the value of titles in Manila. And hey, ‘Til Tuesday released two “Best Of” compilations, in spite of only recording three albums!

I’m hoping this’ll make the site a bit more useful.


From: Rodrigo Zamora
Subject: Re: Sound Blaster Value

I think I mistakenly called the OEM version the Value!.  I think you are right that the real Value! is no longer produced (although many of the online retailers call the OEM version the Value!) . There are a few minor differences, but as you say it is the same core.  I would bet the majority of people would not miss the few differences like digital cd input. Whether there is a significant difference in quality is probably more subjective than anything, but I have not actually compared them so I do not know for sure. Anyway, my point is that for the vast majority of computer users, the differences are not significant, unless of course they really do want the software.

I could have sworn that I saw a clone of the first Live!Drive earlier this year on the Hoon Tech site, but either my memory serves me wrong, or they do not make them anymore.  Perhaps they were forced to stop making them because I don’t see any other reason why a company could not make a clone of it, but I can’t seem to find any.  Sorry about that.

later, rz

I think you’re right about the Value vs. the OEM version.

Thanks for looking into the clones. Too bad they don’t seem to be available anymore.


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