the return of PointCast

This time it's called the "MacOS Tiger RSS scroller". I've already gotten multiple requests to clone this into xscreensaver and the damned thing isn't even out yet! I guess I ought to generalize the various text-sourcing savers (starwars, phosphor, apple2, fontglide, and gltext) so that it's easier to bulk-configure them to point at intardweb resources. Not enough people know about the glorious banality of ljlatest, I suspect.

I should pitch this new "Push Technology" to a VC. I think we can make big money by filling your screen with ads while you're not at your desk.

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33 Responses:

  1. WOW... that's amazing.

    And you would make a lot of money with that idea.

  2. vxo says:

    But still, nothing will compare with the pure usefulness and meaningful content of running the output of fnord through starwars and/or apple2.

  3. petdance says:

    Hooray for the shellac

  4. aor says:

    I am moved to thank you for ljlatest. It's the screensaver on a computer hooked up to my TV (through phosphor, I think). Sometimes I'll start staring at the scrolling awfulness and not snap out of it for a half hour or more.

    • bodyfour says:

      It's even better when it comes on the internet kiosks at the bar... "wow, I'm drunk and these people are still unbearable"

      Plus there's something oh so karmically correct about a group of us drunk assholes pointing and laughing at some 14-year-old complaining about the cold, uncaring world. The internet has heard your prayer and chosen to mock you.

    • romulusnr says:

      i had to stop using ljlatest on phosphor (as well as stop using a few other great xscreensaver hacks) because it had roughly the above effect on my family when I wasn't home.

  5. iheartezra says:

    hey i have no idea who any one onthis post is but your name showed off on a google search so i figured yeah might as well

  6. treptoplax says:

    I just pipe lynx of my friends page into phosphor... surprisingly useful considering that it was a 2-minute hack.

  7. internebbish says:

    A friend of mine worked for Pointcast and got to witness one of the great dot com clusterfucks of the era. He cashed in his hundred thousand shares and used them to buy a couple of bags of groceries.

  8. Just be sure to have the caching server ready before you release the product lest it will be banned by IT managers PO'd that it just ate their bandwidth. Might be more popular if it played pirated movies snarfed over BitTorrent too.

  9. God. I remember the first time I ever went to visit an ISP (WorldChat?) and they were going on and on about how great pointcast was. I think I may have even been young enough to think it sounded like a cool idea.

    • taffer says:

      I've only ever seen crap like that running on PHB's desktops/laptops.

      • kensey says:

        I had the Most Annoying Co-worker Ever when PointCast flatulated its way onto the Internet. I'm sure you've all had him too. Every time he saw something new on Wired's front page, it was going to Change the Internet. (There was no Slashdot back then; if there had been, he would have gotten nothing else done, ever.) "Netscape is going to be your OS!" " is going to replace all other mail servers! Look, it has a help link next to every item!" And if you didn't get just as excited as he was, you were obviously just not as "with it" as him and couldn't see what was obviously The Future.

        This guy introduced me to PointCast. It's probably just as well that my work machine ca. 1995-96 was a 486; it let me see the thing for the slow, bloated, bandwidth-sucking pig it truly was. I think it lasted all of two days and then I killed it.

        Later, he couldn't understand why I formatted my own hard drive in disgust and revulsion after he and the manager installed a beta of "Windows 96" (back then it really was tentatively called that) that they downloaded off over the Windows 95 install I had finally gotten to something resembling stability. It had intolerably slow menu-windowshade animations that you couldn't turn off. "If I want to suck up my CPU with something useless, I'll just run Doom 2, thanks." He thought I was the most ungrateful bastard in the world for not being all excited about Microsoft's latest bad GUI idea.

  10. tfofurn says:

    Well, the fundamental idea is to turn idle monitors into televisions. Once there's a television on, users will be powerless to return to doing what they wanted to do!

    As an undergrad, I worked tech support for a year at a business school. Somebody thought Pointcast was so great, they went around and installed it on every machine in the lab. If my memory serves me, there was no automated way to do distributed installs on those machines, so somebody wasted a few hours on it.

  11. fgmr says:

    Hey, I never asked you to clone it into xscreensaver! I was just pointing out some other activity in that space.

  12. lohphat says:

    I actually have the last PointCast 2.6 win32 installer just for posterity.

    Ah I miss the good old days when first year marketing interns ruled the world with their fresh new ideas.

    Oh wait...

  13. substitute says:

    I am now having flashbacks to the educational software company I worked at where they licensed PointCast as "EduCast" to "grow a push technology user base in a vertical market and leverage our good will among educators into a dominant position in this emerging media space".

    And then they fired me and were destroyed by a merger. Good times!

    I wonder what happened to Marimba? Last time I looked they were trying to make a whole company out of basically Windows Update.

    • treptoplax says:

      They were bought out by BMC. The new big idea, so far as I can tell through the haze of buzzwords, is an unholy - excuse me, compelling to dynamic IT organizations - marriage of automated patching and groupware.

    • It's still around, making sure I have the latest cycle-sapping version of a virus scanner on my machine at work.

  14. naturalborn says:

    The entire VC world thinks that pointcast was dearly beloved by consumers but put out of business by all those damn network administrators banning it from their systems. I'm not making this up.

  15. I hope that none of you is still using the web because it's already been PointCast.

    I'm surprised that you didn't reference your prescient PointCast rant.

    • jkonrath says:

      I especially like how now points to an ad for a UK mortgage site.

    • mark242 says:

      They recycled that article for their RSS feature! Those bastards!

    • jwz says:

      Eh, I de-linked that one years ago, mostly because I didn't think it was very well written, but also because (silly me) I thought Pointcast was long dead!

      • wfaulk says:

        Your major failing in that rant was the notion that the people that loved Pointcast actually used their computers. Remember, it was, what, 1994?, and most of the suits hadn't yet learned to use their computers to do anything any more effective than play solitaire. (Not that it's a foregone conclusion that they're any better today.) In particular, the things that they considered work didn't involve their computers, namely, schmoozing with other execs. And since Pointcast kept them abreast of their (at the time) ever-increasing stock portfolios and related financial news, they were all over it.

        The fact that it used push technology — to be able to actually use something that a buzzword described — surely gave them a woody, too.

        Your rant applies perfectly to the rest of us who did real work, though.

  16. 21cdb says:

    Probably the only reason they used RSS is they don't know about /usr/share/dict/words; it's more "demoware as OS feature" nonsense, designed to show off Core Image.

    (See Also: Dock "poofs", button drag "poofs", "genie effect" window minimizing, Expose, and.. um.. Quartz.)

  17. flipzagging says:

    Everybody who does web-tech stuff is saying "it's like 1995 again!" I have mixed feelings about that.

    If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently, if anything?

    • jwz says:
      • 1995: I'd have tried a lot harder to prevent the Collabra takeover of Netscape. Though I did try pretty hard, so I don't have any reason to believe I could have succeeded.

      • 1998: I'd have tried a lot harder to make the mozilla source code we released actually compile into a working browser, probably by trying to force the release of 3.x instead of 4.x.

      • 1999: I'd have tried to re-open DNA Lounge without doing any remodeling at all. If I hadn't spent a penny, we might have been closed for a few months instead of more than a year.

        • sjn says:

          but then your regret would be :

          2001 I regret not remodeling the DNA as I would not have been sued by all those people when the balcony collapsed on them while they were waiting for the bathroom.

          I remember my last shift working at the dna under the old owners, circa 1997, i was standing by the stage and got a good sized bump on my head when a portion of the balcony's floor fell down on me.

    • airmax says:

      micro$oft screensaver, it would not bother to check if user is at his desk or not before starting ads scroller each 5 mins.

      great fun reading you. thnx. =)

    • I found this also for windows that isn't as impressive but like pointcast also. Screenshot of it on one of my systems at

    • marvel_m says:

      How to make it works via proxy?