Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Astroturf in Vogue as it has been for years...

The Clinton campaign has kicked off an outrage over some planted questions. The crime: it appears that the campaign staff planted some questions with the people in the audience. The worry: That Hillary Clinton is dishonest and that we're not hearing the real conversation because of all of this fake banter.

This crap unfortunately goes on all the time.

Recently FEMA was caught hosting an entire phony news conference, for example. The public by now must be getting suspicious. You would hope. They're asleep from my experience.

Looking back at some of the things I've seen first hand, the core of the outrage stems from the phony glow that comes from a staged conversation as opposed to real dialog. This is the core issue, actually. People want to be able to engage in actual conversation -- it makes for more honest dialog and more accountability.

And a lot of people's bullshit meter goes off when they witness the phony stuff in action. The problem is that a good portion of the population simply can't tell the difference. Worse, a good portion of people out there simply see no problem with stuff like the above two examples. A good friends daughter is involved in writing phony articles for a magazine for companies that want that hallowed glow. What's the difference between an article like that, and an actual product review by someone independent?

The difference is everything, but you as an honest listener will never know. The daughter saw no problem with it. Her mother seemed somewhat more troubled, but was unable to see exactly what I saw as a problem; If the article had the words "advertisement" over the top of it, I would not have seen the problem either.

Or maybe the appropriate words "astroturf" would have been better -- phony grass roots, in other words. A shill. Someone posing as an honest observer but in reality paid by the party receiving the goods. Whatever it is, it's wrong.

I'm certain that the main problem with the Clintons in this case is that their campaign staff has been caught. This is probably a rampant issue in the political space -- in a democracy there's no place for it. My experience was with the news, Joe Barr, a long time ago, experienced it with an OS/2 message board -- Microsoft staff posing as "helpful" people, supposedly were there to help people with OS/2 problems, and yet somehow they ended up steering people to Windows every time.

The practice goes back a long way, actually. Bogus letters to the editor in colonial times, for example, were cited as defense for some of the stupidity I observed on an on-line chat forum. "This is common practice in the industry" the people attempting to sweep in under the rug hissed.

I'll never forget what I said in response to that at the time: "Common practice? -- by whom?"

Funny, I never got that last question answered...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

TV Links has been shut down.

What a sad day. It certainly was possible to find new movies on the aforementioned website -- but mostly I used it to watch old MASH reruns and a host of documentaries and TV shows I had never heard of.

The implications are rather stark: Help people pirate content, and you will be shut down.

Worse, though, is that someone in the UK is now in the slammer for more or less helping aggregate pirate links -- for being a middle-man in the game of piracy.

I found TVlinks from about a year ago, and was simply amazed at the list of shows and documentaries and everything in-between. I thought it was just my geekyness that brought me there, until my next-door neighbor had a network outage -- and the first site his son of 20+ years pulled up to "test" connectivity was none other than TVlinks.

We talked a bit about the content on there and I realized that it had become more than a TV Guide -- it had hit a hallowed space -- almost a "google" for everything video.

At the heart of all of this is the question of illegal activity -- was he really breaking the law? (TVlinks only pointed at people that were breaking copyright). Can't you go to just about any search engine and find copyrighted content in a matter of seconds?

I guess the real question is whether or not Google, Yahoo and MSN are next. If you can cart away a guy who ran something like this in his living room what can you do to people who actually have pockets of cash?

Google, MSN and Yahoo should do more than watch the outcome of this one -- they should pool their resources and pay this guy's legal fees. If he was pointing to copyrighted content wouldn't that make it extremely easy for the copyright holders to always find people breaking the law? Isn't that a useful function of the site? Is that illegal, in other words?

These are hard questions, but I think you can all read what I'm saying -- they have arrested the wrong thief in this equation. All of the search engine and other types of aggregators of content should sit up and pay serious attention. Google cannot possibly know (without serious cost) the true holders of the copyright to the endpoint content they aggregate (arguably, this is only slightly different than what TVlinks was doing). Suing or arresting people that run search engines for pointing to copyrighted content is not the answer, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Post Ohio Linux Fest

Pictures are filtering into my inbox:

It was a great time. I'll write more about it later. It wasn't much bigger but it was definitely well-attended and the speaker content was top-notch -- Kudo's to Joe Xonker Brockmeier for the way the talks were arranged -- I found myself easily attending a lot of the talks in the Linux International room.

Talk soon!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Russian Schools Convert to Linux by 2009

Let's hope our own educational system follows suit. The article on


Monday, September 17, 2007

Linux Freedom

Never cries. I've been pondering a lot about things to be thankful for lately. I have a lot -- I'm a grandfather as of last Wednesday. I have a fun job. My depression has long since ceased being something more than a nuisance in my life. Amazing stuff. Freedom Never cries:

The title reference is to a Five-For-Fighting tune that honestly didn't make a whole lot of sense the first time I listened to it. It has a way of growing on you, however. The album (Two Lights) is truly a work of art. It doesn't hurt that the guy is a fan of Mustangs -- He's even got a song on the album about his 65 mustang.

Probably my favorite song on the album, however, is a song about life called "The Riddle". It's a very complicated tune (reminds me of the song 100 years, if you've ever heard it). The riddle, "there's a reason for the world", is about life -- about why this world exists (for us to be together) and why love and community are so important.

So we're full circle ;) Back to Linux. The community is getting together soon in Ohio.

See ya there! -=FeriCyde=-

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ohio Linux Fest, 2007

Well, it gets crazier.

We've selected the keynotes, and the planning is in full swing. This will be year 5 -- and my Dad is even involved.

What other stuff, you say? How about -- classes the day before. Affectionately called "OLFU" (rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it!), this broadens the event considerably. What else? Google sponsoring the after-party? Free beer? Who knows what kind of madness lurks in the hearts of the planners (FeriCyde knows!).

Get Registered Now -- that's all I can say. If the event shapes up to be anything like the last couple of years, it's going to be extremely hard to come down from. I'm bracing myself now.

Other stuff going on in my life... Work Work Work. Brulant is the right place for me -- it's creative, high speed and for the Love of Linux, so much what I need to be about these days. There will be Brulant people at OLF -- ask me in person if you make it to the event.

More blogging between now and then.
Talk Soon!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paris Hilton was Strip Searched!

I know what you're thinking -- this post has nothing to do with Ohio Linux Fest and / or Mustangs, and you'd be right. Almost. Ohio Linux Fest is about to announce it's Key note speaker list, and it won't involve Paris Hilton -- or Mustangs for that matter.

It will be something positive, enlightening and very party-oriented, but no, sorry, no strip searching of hotel error-ists (Pun_mode=1, sorry).

Yeah, that was a cheap way of getting your attention. I just finished reading CNN -- is there some other news besides Paris Hilton and gory car-crash stories going on? Maybe something positive about people doing something besides making a train-wreck out of their own and other peoples lives? I could bop over to Fox news and get the fair and balanced look at the latest Republican agenda, for some kind of weird balance.

Except, it's not -- it's two different, Network-oriented views that somehow seem to leave out good news. What abot the millions of kids in life that are doing something non-Paris oriented? Like the two young guys I met last night (one loves tennis, the other golf, both going to business school)? Somehow they've failed to make the headlines. In order to be famous, they need to drive on suspended licenses and [do I really need to mention all the crap Paris has done here that falls outside of the bounds of positive social behavior? Do I? It might increase my Google page rank, but I just can't bring myself to it in this context].

Ohio Linux Fest is not going to be a Paris Hilton event -- it's going to be something positive and deep (deep, Paris, just in case you're somehow reading my blog, is a term referring to things that tax the intellectual aspects of being human.) FWIW, I doubt Paris reads my blog. For one, it's about things (as mentioned) that are constructive and intellectual, but for another, she's probably too busy right now reading the bible and enriching her life planning new reality-TV episodes.

OLF is, however, going to happen September 29th of this year, in a large hotel (Sadly, not the Hilton) in Columbus. Expect somewhere between 1200 to 2500 people to attend. We're not sure, it looks like this year it may be wildly more popular than last, so hold onto your hats ;)

As for the hotel being strip-search, I'm happy to report that the likely-hood is probably very low. Most of us are likely to party after the event (the after-event party at OLF is legendary, for those of us sober enough to remember it). We try not to drink and drive on suspended licenses too. The wild OLF-goer partying involves spouting near-religious views on the GPL, vi-vs-emacs and all the other Linux-hacker-culture type stuff -- in other words, just exactly not the kind of stuff you'd find in Paris or even the news media's limited attention-span.

All-in-all, I'm pumped. We're in the final 100 days of registration and I have all of summer to enjoy till the event, so I'm a happy guy. See you all there!
(PS: don't forget to register if you haven't already -- it's free!).
((PS: Shameless_plug_mode=1);)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No I haven't died...

You know a blog post is late when it begins with a title like this.

I have been extremely maxxed on the work/work side. I've achieved a sort of work-life "balance" that is so tipped to the work side that the phrase "work-a-holic" doesn't quite get the dimensions of the beast. Part of it is my emergence from the battle with depression (I think I can proclaim victory, but it's not over -- just beaten into submission).

I'm who I am, and I can live with that; I guess the biggest issues I've faced have been my own haunting fears (things that will get you in the end if you don't face them). Some have been rather hard to face, others just plain funny.

I think the biggest issues have been dealing with my creative side and the fact that I have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to making people laugh, or making something that didn't exist before. When it comes to creativity, my basic thoughts are that most people have it inside of them, but its mystery and connection to the almighty scare them away from using it. When it comes to creativity and being accepted as a male, a third fear is added.


I had a good, creative day, yesterday. Some things I had been pressing against finally broke like they should have (barriers) and something came into being. I worked a dozen different directions -- and a long day. Brulant is a different place. It's hard to explain, but from what I can tell, I'm here for all of the right reasons and it makes me smile.

Driving home after a thunderstorm (I drove the Orange Mach 1 -- the weather report indicated a "bad convertible day"), I rolled through 271 and Cuyahoga national forest. Mist covered about 1/3 of the view and I felt an unusual mystical connection -- alive, human -- the gentle sound of rolling V8 thunder behind me. I know this doesn't probably sound like it all goes together but I guess you had to be there.

In the mirrors I spot a white GT convertible rolling up slowly behind me. As the car pulls alongside, I see the driver. Smiles -- thumbs up. Mustangs are crude animals. They have suspension issues, fit and finish problems and for the most part are "just barely practical (see prior posts). But they're also something else. And it's not just me. Suddenly, for just a couple of seconds I feel that I'm not the only one who understands this.

Some things have died inside of me over the past few months. I'm letting go of some of my bewilderment at the stupidity of the world. I'm not saying I'm ready to forget it -- just that I understand that it happens and that some people are destined to simply be thieves and liars -- and that they have to live with their choices. Those choices inevitably change their worlds in subtle ways that everyone around can sense, but not necessarily see in an overt sense of the word "perception". As tiny as that sounds, the fact is that its enough.

I'm not dead, and neither are they, in the sense that they're still walking the planet. Still, it's a death of a kind that brings not a sense of anger, but simply pity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A stupid Question: Where Are The Microsoft Fanboys

"Why doesn't Microsoft have a cult religion?" The answer is simple: cults don't form in the mainstream. Should Microsoft be concerned, though?

This is such a treasury of poorly misunderstood ideas (the article, the headline, and the article that spawned the discussion). First, there's the premise: That there aren't people that are outside of employment at Microsoft that are "fanboys". Tons of them exist. I run into them from time to time in my work and hobby life.

They're not all that organized, from what I see, but they're there. The lack of organization isn't "simple", though. I think a multitude of vectors contribute to the situation. Microsoft software itself is typically copied, joined and sometimes (upon rare occasion) created. Since it's often last to the game, the enthusiasm is often found in people that are last to the party (and don't mind being in that space). In other words, while the "coolness" factor of the technology is at its peak, the fan-base forms there -- then Microsoft gets into the game, and the stuff becomes more or less an appliance. About as exciting as a refrigerator.

In a business setting, for some people, a refrigerator is very exciting, however. These people don't necessarily get their jollies blogging about it, though. They're probably not going to form a user group to gain knowledge and network. In short, by the time Microsoft gets into the game, the technology is often boring as paint.

Then there is the open factor; Think of a typical car club -- imagine the "stock Ford 500 fan club". These people drive their (completely stock, maybe some racing stripes added for flair) Ford 500s to some nearby event to talk about how nicely the air condition and all-wheel drive features work. Yeah, even the visual is boring, sorry. I'm sure it will fade with time.

Already faded? Yes, I'm sure it is -- the fact is that, though the Ford 500 may be a decent piece of equipment, it's a late arriver to a rather saturated game of family sedans -- and the mostly stock part? Well, most people that buy a 500 don't buy it to mod it in any way shape or form. That might void the warranty, after all. It might cost more (it's an appliance, more or less, to them).

This is another reason why no one cares about Microsoft enough to get passionate about it -- they won't open their main product-base up to the enthusiast crowd. With the hood solidly welded shut, no one cares.

Face it, their latest operating system (or is an innovative program to help memory companies sell chips? You decide) is a veritable pig in a land of pure-bred stallions -- most of the people I see talking about it treat it with all of the enthusiasm of a root-canal at the dentist. "Oh yeah, I might switch to it later this year after I get more memory for my home computer."

Sure, some of it is the underdog effect, but these factors greatly outweigh that issue -- I look to my Ford Mustang for inspiration here. I have two of the beasts. One of them, a Mach 1, is very stock. It won't be forever. The other, a GT, has barely any stock parts left on it. I take it to shows -- I'm thinking of joining a local club for the hell of it (and because I love the things -- they're a blast). Part of the reason I love em' is that you never know what someone is going to do to trick theirs out. Mustangs are definitely not the underdog.

The reason so is not because there are so many of them (there are) -- the reason is more related to the dimensions of open source. In 1996, Ford stuffed a new motor in the Mustang GT that was very proprietary, for example -- you couldn't change the heads without changing the computer, and they weren't very helpful with the companies that wanted to sell after market parts.

It took em' a while, but they learned from it. They're back to helping these companies so that there will be a healthy after-market. They realized that not playing this game wasn't going to bring them the after-market -- it was going to kill the fan base.

Microsoft might possibly learn from Linux (and Sun) -- to get that needed enthusiasm in the community they need to open the hood of their products. They need a bit more than that (and maybe I'll talk about that later). For now, the fans are going to rally around things that give them a reason (and the freedom) to be passionate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's happening in my own back-yard...

Einstein once said "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

In my own back-yard, you have an overworked, under appreciated school network admin, getting ousted from his job for switching his school district to Linux. Besides the inevitable security bonus, lowering of costs and so on, obvious to anyone that's used Linux, the fact that Linux and education simply makes sense is being tossed out.

They aren't just tossing out the idea -- they're tossing out a human being who was attempting to take them to a higher level. I'd suspect (haven't seen everything behind the scenes here -- just been following from the news headlines, which can be tricky) -- I'd suspect that this administrators choice to switch to Linux made people (teachers) in the school district second-guess a decision.

Faced with ditching the warm, comfortable world of windows, someone commissioned a "survey" by an "outside technology firm" to get results to make a new decision -- hire someone who will do what I can only imagine is this school superintendents (and probably a lot of powerful teaching staff's) "no-brainer" choice; Switch to Mac or Windows Vista (I have no idea, but I've seen a lot of stupidity in my day about what Linux can do -- this is my speculation, I'll freely admit).

Why is Linux in education so valuable, important, and likely frightening the piss out of Microsoft and Apple? Because unlike proprietary offerings by these companies -- this operating system comes with the source code (the instructions behind how to make *everything* about it happen). With the source code, some industrious students -- 12-18 years of age, could possibly do more than run the stuff given them -- they might get involved with learning about how the computer operating system works, and not only improve Linux -- they would improve their own aptitude and lives.

What I'm saying is that this guy was making more than an obvious choice for saving the district money -- he was potentially opening up a whole new world of choices to some children that would never get exposed first-hand to Linux any other way.

And that, my friends, is a crying shame. Someone who's superintendent Michael Johnson's boss needs to commission a study into *his* aptitude -- it looks to me like possibly he's micro-managing a network admin -- one who was about to change the world in a town in Ohio. Maybe with some good results, a descision about the superintendents' job shed some light on the situation. In the mean time, I'd go along with Mr Einsteins' evaluation of the universe and stupidity.

I'm not totally sure about the universe either, but I do know that Linux is changing the world -- the only thing holding it back right now is stupidity.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Creativity and Destruction

Look no further than the recent headlines and you can see that it's much easier to destroy than to create.

I've spent a lot of time over the past couple of years here on my blog, exploring what it's like to be an American creative male. Some of what I'm talking about, what I'm about, is universal and not grounded in our culture -- it's everyone, not even limited by gender.

I strive for creativity in my life. The word is not necessarily appreciated -- creativity is what we know of God. We can feel his love if we're lucky, but it's hard not to see the world around us as a creation. When I'm in the zone -- writing shell code, putting in a blog entry (like this one), I'm creating.

Something is there -- a thought, a piece of my mind, that wasn't there prior. It's an amazing feeling.

It's not always there. I've blogged about that too. It can be terrifying when the spigot of creativity shuts down for whatever reason -- I think I have to be balanced for it to happen the right way. Balanced in life, in happiness, in my marriage, in my career. When it's all balanced, amazing things flow from my mind and fingertips and I look back and think "man, where did that come from?" I think it's one of the reasons people are put on earth. We're here to imitate the creator. To make, not destroy.

All of the recent events remind me of how precious a gift life and creativity are. That destruction is for the fools in this world. From the people blowing up tanker trucks in Baghdad, to the small minds like the guy that shot 30+ classmates -- destruction simply doesn't prove much to me.

It isn't limited to twisted sheet metal and bullet-ridden bodies. The small, petty, political ways that people use negativity against each other to take someone down. I'm weary of it all. Over my career, I'm simply amazed at the stupidity. The "friend" that spends all of his time complaining behind your back whilst you busily solve the problems of the day. "I'd have done it like *this*" he brags to a co-worker or worse, a boss. Often they miss the fact that the target audience is fully aware that they're not being anywhere near creative. Still, it never ceases to amaze me how much critical commentary can be confused with creative production.

Something to bear in mind. Listen to critical feedback with a careful ear. Never miss an opportunity to share with people like this. I'm all about improving what's there. For what it's worth, the people that want to join your creative endeavors are themselves, often the creative type. The ones that always seem to have commentary, but never quite seem to get to that point where they themselves create or contribute -- these are most often the ones that are doing the most pretending. The creative poser, so to speak.

And they can be destructive. Their words become the bullets. The dead bodies are the lost opportunity to make the world a better place. Been there, done that. A word to the wise: Find people that understand, respect and protect your creativity. It's far to easy to work with people that are just as quickly tearing down the hard work you're producing.

And as the news so easily illustrates through black and red -- it's far easier to destroy than it ever is to create.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shfting Gears

Spoiler: This post is not about cars...

Some people would argue that there is a fine line between insanity and creativity. I take issue with that statement -- there is no line.

Speaking directly to the creativity part, I'm about to unleash a series of articles (two series, actually). One series is technical and all about what I've been all about for the past couple of years -- Package Management Framework (PMF). PMF speaks directly to the way that enterprise-class environments are managed. It's a philosophy that embraces automation and aligns it with Change Management procedures that inevitably exist in large-scale environments. It speaks directly to the work and I'll be providing articles and coding examples to back it up.

The second series will be on Ohio Linux Fest -- specifically how to roll your own. This series will likely make its way to (editors of LXer, you've had your warning! ;).

Yes, I'm enjoying my new job. Some of my most creative moments are coming online, let me tell you.

Till then!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Good Signs!

Dad and I went to the Cleveland auto show Saturday, and determined that the show has turned about as droll as we've seen it in a long time. But we still had a good time, some steak, some ice cream and some wine. Good signs -- Dad, if you're reading, we're on for as many years of this as you can stand ;)

I just started my new job -- and it's my birthday (yippee). I consider this a good sign -- and a hell of good birthday gift. 44th year on the planet, I'm more me today than I was last year, thanks to some really difficult waters and some unexpected (and unwanted) learning experiences. Regardless of this, I have to say I have few regrets in life.


Life has dealt me some seriously weird blows lately. Besides the usual FeriCyde insanity, that is ... If you could ever use the word "usual" and my persona in the same sentence ... Getting some things off my chest, which, as cathartic as you might hope it would be, turned out to be extremely difficult on the execution front. I am truly blessed with some really good friends. I wish I understood the context for why things happen the way they do -- all I can say is that someday, all of this will make sense.

All of this, as disjointed as it may seem, is not complaining. It's mostly good, in other words.

To my dear friends and the angels in my life: Thank you for the most awesome birthday gifts...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Exciting Developments!

I've just accepted a new position, Technical Architect for The new job expands my possibilities and I'm grateful for opportunity. Life in general has dealt me new cards every so often -- rarely does it deal me aces like this. Work is a huge part of life. In general, you spend more time at work than at just about any other activity short of family -- and I tend to put a lot of passion and creativity into my work.

The new role is more of a consulting bend than prior roles, although I've been in and out of several companies in North East Ohio -- and the word "permanent" as a job description continues to baffle me. If the company is out of business (like, say, Redicon corporation -- 1992-1996) was the job "permanent"? Is any technologically focused discipline "permanent"? Our language has not kept up with the times. I strive for permanence in my life, but continue to see the technological landscape as such an ever-changing thing that none of our usual constructs can apply.

I start on my birthday (I consider this to be a good sign). Stuff like this used to stress me out quite a bit -- now I view it as a gift -- so the stress, comparatively so, is very minimal. Other things take their place. Family issues, my wife's Mom in the hospital, for example, are far larger items.

The message here is that everything has perspective. Getting through complex things in the past, such as chaning jobs, has prepared me for this moment. I look back over the past 2 years with gratitude for all that has transpired. Remember this when the crazy-ness of your life overwhelms you. You're here for a reason -- and although that reason may not be apparent to you in the present, you have to know that sooner or later you'll have the explanation.

Monday, February 05, 2007



You get the feeling that cars are just so unsafe these days, and the magic bullet is technology. Here's a nice quote from our Friends at CNN/Money:

Great. Let's augment cars to have features to make up for insipidly lame drivers. I see all the gadgets coming -- soon cars will brake when they see you tailgating (some cars have this already), slow you down when you're speeding (Bonus points to the first manufacturer who integrates the cruise control with a radar detector) and automatically stop when you fall asleep at the wheel.

Speaking of which: Are we going to be allowed to drive in the future?

Let's put some of my sarcasm in perspective. I drive a Mustang GT in the snow around Ohio. Think it's dangerous? Possibly, but no more so than an unloaded 60's era pickup truck (Yeah, I know I'm reaching pretty low for comparison there, but bear with me). It makes up for it on the 99% of other days when the pavement is dry, or marginally wet in the summertime (I'm sure it's still dangerous for morons that forget they're pushing over 300 ft-lbs of torque).

What I'm driving at (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) is driver responsibility. We're packing cars with a ton of electronics, safety controls and the like and I'm sure that in the future some deaths *will* be avoided thanks to these devices. And that I suppose is worth something (We are, after all, talking about human life here). But I can't shake the feeling that a part of the drive to push this crap into vehicles wasn't manifested by people of the passive generation learning to drive. These people think of the steering wheel of their car like the remote on their TV, or worse, the game controller on their PS3 -- they can't imagine that the SUV they've been driving just might have its origins in heavy duty trucking hardware. Stuff like that had all of the precise handling characteristics of decent Lowe's handcart whilst giving you the ability to drive over logs in a forest. It was a decent trade off in the beginning of SUV-land.

Yeah, I know it didn't have to be that way, but there is a root in what I'm saying here: Heavy hardware comes at a price. So one solution is simple; Make the future generations of SUVs off of car chassis and let the buying public imagine themselves to be the off-road types in safer hardware (before you get outraged at this bait and switch, this happened already, just in case somehow you missed the news over the past, say, 5 years).

Face it -- 99% of these puppies will never see mud in their lifetimes, which is just as well, given the payload. No, I'm not talking about hauling golf clubs or computer hardware or some other fragile payload -- I'm talking to any parent of 3 that has ever done time cleaning the back seat of a station wagon (er, sorry, cross-over-SUV!) that has seen items like jelly sandwiches and soda pop smeared over 80% of the area -- and we're talking smooth freeway driving here. Take that same trip and payload off-road for a few minutes and we'll see the backseat *painted* in jelly with a soda-pop veneer. The coverage will likely be closer to 100% and if you've leased the thing you'll need an extra clause in your insurance to cover cleanup.

What I'm really saying is that it's too bad it has to come to this. The solution for some of this could be had with a bit more emphasis on good driving techniques. Let's try not tailgating people, for example. Maybe slow down in heavy traffic situations -- get off the damn cell phone while we're at it.

I do a lot of driving and it's amazing to me how many drivers are on a cell phone around me on the freeway. I have a bright yellow Mustang GT -- the 3 times it was almost smacked all had one thing in common -- a driver on a cell phone. The thing is so obvious its like driving a warning beacon with stripes, yet people are oblivious when they're talking away.

I gotta wonder, too, what the road conditions are going to be like with all of this safety hardware. Maybe this is the only way. Possibly when the machines take over driving to and from destinations, things will in fact be better.

We inch closer every day. Remember life without cell phones? Neither do I. Driving without traction control, anti-lock brakes (yeah, these things are good) -- a lot of things are quickly popping into existence, and soon we'll see a point where the amount of computer hardware in a car will rival that of a data-center today. We've already crossed that line a few times in the past, so this isn't all that hard to predict.

I don't know where I was headed here, except to whiners'-ville. Maybe I'm just wondering out loud if a bit more common sense could be shoveled into the equation where it belongs, and less of this computers-know-best interference and demand could be avoided. Maybe I just like the crudeness of my pony-car, and worry that someday it'll shut down on me when I'm trying to enjoy myself. Whatever the fear, it's getting more real by the year.

Please Ford, keep stuff like this out of the Mustang Experience -- I'll take a bit of crudeness and joy, any day.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ohio Linux Fest 2007!

You read that right, we're planning the OLF, and it's gonna be the best Linux Fest ever, near as I can tell.

I think we've hit critical mass, as far as an event can go. If it's anything like last year, and you're a Linux Geek, you're gonna be sorely disappointed if you don't get to go. Watch this space for announcements (and of course,!).

What is Ohio Linux Fest? The best Linux geek party you can imagine. Imagine a community event that makes trade shows look droll and boring. Mainly because most trade shows are droll and boring, that's not all that hard. It's got trade show like stuff going on, but mostly it's got stuff going on that focuses on things only a Linux geek could love -- talks about technology, tech celebrities, parties. You can't imagine, so don't -- just go to the event.

It's a ways off (don't panic!) -- September 29th, mark the day!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Brand Deletion Continues...

Looks like Ford is dropping out of the minivan market (See and focusing their efforts on the Station-wagon market.

Did I say Station Wagon? oops. I mean, Cross-over SUV market. Yeah, that's what they're called -- God forbid you should do something boring, even if it might work to keep your customer base coming back next year.

For what it's worth, I'm not a minivan kinda guy. I understand the need though -- and recently after driving my Dads' Honda Odyssey came decided that in my eyes they hadn't gotten the appreciation they deserved. I was stuck in one for about 16 hours with 5 howling nieces and nephews over the course of about 4 days. The trip made me appreciate the utilitarian value of the beasts all that much more. Birth control is also under-rated (just kidding guys -- your constant replaying of Spice World will never be forgiven, though).

Anyway, Ford deleted the FreeStyle brand. Poof! You want a boring ole Minivan, ya gotta shop somewhere else. If you're sensitive to domestic brand, that's likely Chrysler, which makes some of the most boring sheet metal this side of Detroit.

Ford probably just moved a host of customers over there, actually. The Edge thing is really cool -- it does look a lot cooler than a Minivan -- and I can see why they might sense a change in the wind. But honestly, why take the risk? Maybe they feel there is no risk. I haven't driven nor owned a recent FreeStyle, so i have no idea how pissed off the customer base is going to be.

The point is this: Ford is big enough to rob a minivan from somewhere else in its vast expanse of sister companies and related partners. They could have *something* on the lots to at least call a FreeStyle. Nope, you're gonna have to adjust to the crossover station wagon SUV mentality real quick or pound salt.

What about next year when some market sensitive clod decides that station wagon/crossover SUVs are going out? What brand name will you concoct/delete to make that market switch? Maybe all this fretting is for not. Maybe by then all Ford will make are F150s and Mustangs.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Ford Mustang ... STATION WAGON?!?

What? Did you read right? A station wagon Mustang?

In case you haven't heard, Ford is considering a Mustang station wagon and 4 door "coupe" version of it's Mustang.

Hey, I can understand the temptation -- the folks over at Chysler have been doing something similar with the awesome Magnum wagon, and new Challenger.

A couple of thoughts -- the Challenger thing is a nifty ride, but I've always thought that Chrysler polluted the original recipe by doing what they did -- and I'm not alone.

The Magnum is a different story -- if I was going to ever own a wagon, that'd be the ride. It simply looks like something so bad-ass that, well, it gets a nod of approval -- but it's its own brand, after all. It's not a Challenger Magnum station wagon, it's a Magnum in its own right.

Circling back to the Stang. Ford needs to do something similar -- call it what they want, make a Mustang-like wagon or 4-door, but please Ford, listen closely -- Don't pollute the Mustang brand with 4-doors and Wagons.

For starters, the V6 version of the Mustang already comes close do doing this. The only reason I'm somewhat forgiving of the V6 version is that they've done such a wonderful job of making it have some power and economy -- and not all kiddies should be roaming the country-side with 300 horsepower, after all. My nephew owns one -- it's sounds awesome.

But all kids, from 10 to 60 love the Mustang -- the present brand wealth has provided Ford with a much-needed shining star in a sea of bland brand neutrality and at a much-needed time. Ford, where Trucks have been job one for the past decade, has done so well with the Mustang and done it right for quite a long time. It would be such a shame for them to blow it by making something so ordinary as a wagon out of the thing.

What could they do instead (besides watch Chrysler dealers continue to suck away future family-oriented sporty car buyers with stuff like the Magnum and Challenger)? Well, I'm all about suggestion...

The Ranchero

What ever happened to this vehicle? Remember the days when Ford made a two-door car-based truck? Well, they likely still own the trademark to the name, so why not do some retro exploitation. It can use Mustang parts -- even the sheet-metal (say, look just like the Mustang concept stuff they're throwing around, even). But have it use a different name, that's all.

People will say stuff like "Look, it's just like a Mustang in the front" -- but enthusiasts will gleefully say "Yeah, but I own a real Mustang. And mean it too.

Some other parts-bin suggestions: Take the automated side-doors off of a mini-van and create a two-door Wagon that has long-ass doors that automatically open (on track-like rails) so that the front and back seats are instantly accessible. The thing will look like a Mustang-like Nomad, in other words, and use the hardware parts used to make a mini-van work. Make a 4-door version, a truck-like version and a station wagon. All of them can use similar parts, the Stang chasis and front end -- for sure the engines -- and the Ranchero brand. Yes, even the 4 door. The Ranchero is dead, but breath some life into it and see what happens.

That way someone gets the coolness of 2-doors, the utility of mini-van and the sporty-ness of a Mustang all in one shot -- but please, if you do this, Don't call it a Mustang -- you'll blow the brand and the entire idea of what the Mustang stands for, completely.

While We're On The Subject of BRAND

Listen closely Ford : Please stop tossing out brands like yesterdays trash. Why, oh why, the 500? Why not the Taurus again? What's with you people? People go back to dealerships years later to buy the same car they had last time if it worked for them. If you spent time managing a brand, all the time it takes to create one and so on, why the hell do you toss it out like this?

Honda still makes the Civic, Toyota still makes the Camry, and so on -- the people that buy these cars like to believe that they're going to be able to get another one in a couple of years.

Let's take a real-world example, very close to home. My wife loved her Ford Probe (yes, at one time, that was going to be the Mustang, so it belongs in this conversation). The Probe was a Mazda 626 re-branded. It was a damn good car for a lot of reasons -- sporty, with a hatchback, good utility, gas mileage and so on. Ford and Mazda got into some kind of stupid pissing match or whatever, and *poof* it's gone one day.

And we were looking to buy one, at just that time. Luckily for us (or possibly not) Mercury was re-branding the Ford Contour as a 2-door. It had a hatch, some other probe-like features -- it was the same formula for the car as the Probe, in other words. That car (the *new* Cougar) was really cool at the time. By the way, Ford, I distinctly remember riding on a Ferry at Put-in-Bay with my wife, the proud owner of a 1999 Cougar in the summer of 1998 (We were among the first to buy the car). Riding right next to the car was a fairly new, last generation Cougar owner and his wife. Man was he pissed about what Mercury had done to his Cougar -- but my wife fell in love with the car. Among the reasons was the color, Melina Blue -- purple, which they quickly quit making available, mostly due to the country's aversion to variety.

Anyway, the Cougar was well designed but so poorly manufactured that within 75,000 miles I was about ready to scream -- every trip to the dealer was a $500 bill. That is, if you don't count the sunroof track, which was a 1500 dollar bill, and a joke.

Why make something so good, so bad, you ask? It wasn't a truck, is only my guess. It's all academic, because when we went to replace the Cougar I decided to step in and limit my wifes' options -- we were going to look at Honda, Toyota and Acura (Honda, again). She chose an Acura RSX -- but lets suppose, Ford, you had done your job, and kept quality at Job #1? She might have been in the market for another Cougar.

Except, you decided, in your infinite brand-killing wisdom, to simply stop making them.

Now, some people might point at lack-luster sales figures and say that was justified. Maybe the sales were related to quality problems -- I'd say that would be partially true, but even more likely would be the fact that not all Probe buyers found their way to Mercury dealerships -- two wrongs, in other words, likely lead to something far worse than one.

Let's suppose instead that Ford still made a quality vehicle, called the Probe. My wife might still own one -- a new one, and not an Acura. By the way, she loves the Acura. It's very dependable, handles like a dream and it's got the exact same formula -- it's one of the few two-door hatchbacks on the market. Oh, and Honda isn't perfect -- Acura is dropping the RSX this year. Great idea Acura...

The lesson here is real-world. People are brand focused, and it's hard to focus on targets that are constantly disappearing in the night like so many blurry road-signs. Ford, please look at Mustang sales as a stunning, stark example (similar to the F150) where you are doing everything right.

So, what else, besides the brand, is right about the Mustang?

Let me count the ways:

  1. It's sporty, truly: The V8 works, the V6 is good enough for most people and there's no suppressing the "grin-factor" of opening the throttle on a Mustang.
  2. It's Fun (see the above).
  3. The Mustang has a truly usable back seat. Some people might argue with this statement. These people are forgetting that mostly kids will be riding back there. Most reasonably-sized people can fit back there, I'd argue. People that don't agree with this statement need to try and sit in the back seat of the last generation Firebird/Camaro (and, yes, I've attempted to do *exactly* that, and failed -- that is if don't count putting your feet across the seats, making it into a '3-seater'). I'd argue that this factor alone cost GM the customers that were looking at the cars in any realistic sense near the end of its last run.
  4. It's personal. There's something about the Mustang that's more than a car, in other words. Like a coat that you've fallen in love with, there's something more about the Mustang that makes you forgive it for all of its other faults. Extremely impractical tires, scary winter driving (I live in Ohio and yes, I've driven many, many miles in the Snow in my Mustang GT), piss-poor trunk space -- it's got a list of things that make it, um, have character. We're willing to forgive all this, because it's more than a car to us.
  5. It's recognizable as a Mustang. You never mistake it for something else. If it has 4 doors or looks like a wagon sometime in the future, all of this could change.
  6. It's practical, after all (just barely). You can drive it work, you can still haul a set of golf clubs in the thing. It can carry 4 people -- it's not a Corvette, in other words. It's not a Honda S2000 (Despite being a short guy, when I sit in an S2000 I feel like I'm riding in glove-box with wheels. I have no idea how tall people perceive the thing). It's still usable as a vehicle and so, arguing that it's truly impractical depends upon what you want to do with it. For a lot of people, it's a very usable car.
Are you listening Ford? Your executive summary may include stuff like the Magnum or the Challenger, but please don't go out there and start shooting holes in the Mustang brand by making variations that water the brand down to nothing-ness. People still haven't forgotten the Pinto-based Mustangs of the mid-70s (1974-78) -- some Mustang enthusiasts will even go so far as to say that those were really "Mustang IIs" -- not real Mustangs because they were so far off. I'd argue otherwise -- they were close enough to the formula.

In other words, please, please make more sporty family-friendly vehicles, but brand them with names that will make people recognize them as non-Mustangs. People aren't stupid -- if you make a Mustang-based wagon and it has Mustang parts on it, they'll still proudly point at them and feel the inclusion -- but the lack of Mustang name will make the Mustang owners have just enough exclusion so as not to be offended.

That's my suggestion. That, and stop killing off your brands. People need to come back for stuff and have that feeling that something good will be there year after year -- not necessarily unchanged, but the formula for success should be incorporated each time. That's really why the brand mention is in this article -- keep the formula the same, but change the ingredients that vary often enough to make it all fresh.

And yes, I do so love my Mustangs. Good job there.

Paul Ferris has been writing on-line for the past 8 years or so, mostly about computer software He's had several Mustangs, his first, in high-school, a 1969 coupe, his present fold includes a 2004 Mach 1 and a 2000 GT convertible.