Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

SeoulBrother is awesome:

I was practicing my flip-offs in front of the bathroom mirror before the video was shot — you’d think that if there was one thing I’d be good at… — and managed to stab myself in the gums with my nail. Adding injury to insult.

Here we are, baseball fans. The run-up is finally over and the candidates have been winnowed away and the two big dogs have taken the field, and all the planning and training and work is finally being put to the ultimate test, in the one match-up that really matters, the one for all the marbles. This is the big leagues, baby, and you put up or you shut up — it’s the World Series: OS X 10.6 vs. Windows 7!

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Oh, God, I’m so sorry. Tortured computer-industry comparisons to real-world events are the sort of awful thing you used to see in Suck, back during the Bubble, saved from uselessness only by the illustrations. Man, remember Suck? Remember the Bubble?

But, wait… Two-thousand was the last time the Yankees managed to win a championship. And it was awfully close to the last time that that Microsoft managed to produce a version of Windows that anybody cared about. And, hey, both the Yankees and Microsoft have long histories of dominating their professions, and of using that dominance to run up huge payrolls with — let’s be honest here — a near-decade of lackluster results.

But this year is different, right? The Yankees have put together what is basically an All-Star team, but with everybody wearing the same uniform. Microsoft is chock-a-block with some of the best minds that can be rattled out of a groove. But while both are, y’know, technically winning, neither is anywhere close to sustaining the legend that they drape themselves in, and neither is looking at their best days ahead. Both have managed to extend historic runs by using unsustainable models, be they desktop monopolies or anabolic steroids. The House that Ruth Built is a house of cards. And developers, developers, developers increasingly fail to care.

When even century-long punching bags like the Red Sox can humiliate the Yankees and go on to win it all — the same year of the Google IPO, by the way, rising from the Web that Netscape built — the very idea of a dynasty seems silly. In a world as dynamic and fluid as ours — in Web/Baseball/Everything 2.0 — the probability of winning twice in a row seems improbable, if not impossible.

But, then, there are teams that manage to do it, or have managed to do it lately, and do it well. I can’t quite bring myself to compare effete, brushed-metal Apple with mooks-and-meatheads Philadelphia, but both show the potential of sticking to solid fundamentals and, y’know, playing the game, instead of bouncing between starlets and bouncing between ad campaigns and relying on a huge mountain of cash to temporarily paper over profound holes in their line-up and long-term viability. A-Rod or Ray-Ozz, you can only buy yourself out of trouble in a thinking man’s game for so long. October is just one month out of twelve, and it’s Mr. November who actually matters.

But maybe the Yankees win and maybe Microsoft wins and maybe the rest of us will have the put up with yet another round of insufferable arrogance from the fat billionaire blowhard that runs, well, either one. Yes, ultimately, it comes down to what happens on the field, in the competition, and there’s enough lumbering muscle on both bullies to walk away with another round of lunch money. But for anybody with any heart, there’s nothing better than watching Goliath go down.

Why shouldn’t I be left alone, late on Friday night, writing error messages for obscure failure conditions?

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That question pretty much answers itself.

This message guarantees that the “obscure failure condition” will happen within fifteen minutes of the product shipping, and that at least one employee will flee the building, never to be seen again.

In 1983; in Torrance, California; in the arcade at the Old Towne Mall, a devastatingly handsome fifteen-year-old boy — taking a break from his usual hobby of seducing attractive older women — stands before a video game and nearly wets himself.

The video game has just screamed at him, and — Holy crap! — he did not see that coming. A giant evil-robot devil-head has just come tearing across the screen, eyes aglow, all malevolence and sharp teeth, bellowing loud enough to rattle the cabinet. “AAAARGHH!” goes the giant evil-robot devil-head, and our hero lets out a little yelp of confusion and horror and is consumed.

A lot of our hero’s games went like that.

The game was “Sinistar,” and if you’ve ever played it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The twitchiest of the twitch games — Robotron and Defender are two more famous examples — Sinistar was among the first coin-ops to use digitized voice, and, man, did it work. The sit-down version had stereo speakers, and the giant evil-robot devil-head would announce his presence like the coming of the end of the world: “BEWARE, I LIVE!” “RUN, COWARD!” “I HUNGER!”

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A while back, I found those recordings — there’s a bit of a cult surrounding them, and they’ve been repeatedly remixed into nerd music. I have the original samples on my iPod now, so that when I’m shuffling through sensitive singer-songwriters, a skull-rattling scream of rage will drop in every once in a while. Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, “AAAARGHH!”, Beth Orton…

And I love this so much that I’m making the audio available, as properly metadata’d MP3s. I’m technically breaking intellectual property law doing this — Williams Electronics holds the copyright until (seriously) 2102 — but because these files aren’t easily available through commercial channels, I think that there’s an ethical and cultural case to be made. (Even if that ethical and cultural case mostly consists of the word “Awesome!” repeated over and over.) If the copyright holder or someone with a legitimate interest in the audio asks, I’ll happily take the files down.

But in the meantime, twenty-six years on, our hero can once again have the piss scared out of him. Sinistar lives!

Aargh!
Beware, Coward!
Beware, I Live!
I Hunger!
I am Sinistar!
Run, Coward!
Run, Run, Run!

Also, all the samples are available as a ZIP file.

Reconciling religious differences can be one of the most difficult, most contentious parts of the already difficult and contentious business of raising children. My wife, for example, was raised Greek Orthodox and I was raised secular humanist and she’s just fundamentalist enough to refuse to acknowledge the fact that that I’m totally right. And so we’ve compromised, educating our boys in the traditions of both Christianity and common sense.

This has had some unintended consequences.

For example, Peter — my youngest and most doe-eyed son — has craft time at Sunday School, and despite the environment and the raw materials, he often produces pieces that are influenced by my philosophy as well as his mother’s.

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“Godse.cx”
Peter Knauss, Age 8

That’s my boy!

John Gruber, the proprietor of the wildly popular Daring Fireball, is funny, smart, an extraordinarily engaging writer, an insightful analyst and a Yankees fan. And therefore the scum of the earth.

Every year that the Yankees buy their way into the post-season — meaning every year — he replaces the logo on his Web site with some sort of gang sign. Those of us who are Daring Fireball fans but cannot abide an association with organized crime now have an alternative:

Damned Fireball

Damned Fireball is a Grease Monkey (for Firefox) and GreaseKit (for Safari) script that corrects the problem. If you just see code when you click the link above, then you need to install Grease(Monkey|Kit)1.

Go Dodgers!

Update (October 13, 2010): The goddamned Yankees are in the ALCS again and since I’ve finally moved to a Mac this year, there’s now a Safari Extension version of Damned Fireball.

Update (October 15, 2012): This time, I’ve moved to Chrome, so there’s now a version for it.


1. Man, doesn’t a Grease Monkey Kit sound like something you’d order from Amazon, and then really, really regret?

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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