Monthly Archives: November, 2001


Since I can, for the moment at least, count myself among that small elite group known as Mac Users, I have a whole new world of aesthetically desirable devices to tempt me. Chief among them at the moment is the iPod.
Stewart Alsop thinks so too.

Hanlon’s Razor

One of my favourite quotes is known as Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.

Like many people, I was unaware of its origin. But today I received an email from Joe Biglen:

I did a search for Hanlon’s Razor on the internet and was surprised that no one seems to know the origin. The author was my late friend Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton, Pa.

A number of years ago, the people that wrote the Murphy’s laws book decided to publish a second book and asked the public to contribute their own ‘laws” as part of a contest. My friend sent this in and it was accepted and printed with his name in the credits. The ‘prize’ for winning was 10 copies of the new book, one of which Bob gave me.

Bob was a very literate man with a wry sense of humor and I believe the razor “Never attribute malice to what can adequately be explained by stupidity” is his. If you would change the wording on your site to reflect this, I would appreciate it. Bob was a great man. He had a keen sense of history, but unfortunately, illness and an untimely death prevented him from being further published. I think it would be fitting and appropriate if he got the recognition he deserved for this.

Joseph E. Bigler

Agreed! Web pages appropriately modified to give credit where it’s due. Many thanks, Joe.

See also the more recent entry.


I’m reading a Nokia white paper describing how their new Multimedia Messaging Service will allow you to send images, animations, video clips etc from phone to phone. I quote:

Now, people receiving messages can be expected to genuinely react: with big surprise, laughter, tears or even with the wildest excitement.

This would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that it is taken from a perfectly straight paragraph in a serious document. Who writes this stuff? How do they live with themselves?


I was walking into town today, talking on my mobile using an earpiece. On the rare occasions when I do this I wave the phone visibly in front of me just so passers-by know I’m not actually mad, in much the same way that I prominently hold up high any small items I may be carrying around stores to make it clear to any undercover security guards that I’m not about to slip them into my pocket and make a dash for it.

Despite the fact that I occasionally use these headsets myself, I still haven’t got used to others using them. I often find myself feeling benevolent towards somebody who seems to be suffering from a mild case of care in the community before realising that they’re probably high-flying executives (closing some multi-million-dollar deal) whose very batteries I am unworthy to recharge.

But the earpieces seem to be much less in vogue these days, so if you want a new way to make people think you’re mildly dotty, you might like to try this.


On Mark Pilgrim’s weblog there’s a nice page about what’s wrong with RedHat’s installer.
I agree. That isn’t to say that there aren’t things wrong with Microsoft installers too, but more people have been indoctrinated with Microsoft jargon than Linux jargon, so, especially at the earliest stages of installation, you must speak in language they understand. Apple, of course, are the long-time masters of this. They generally explain things in a way that can be understood by people who don’t know either set of jargon.

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