And another thing…

…everybody from the EFF to Jon Stewart is howling about mean ol’ Apple sic’ing the San Mateo DA on the poor Gizmodo blogger who is a shining martyr to freedom of the press WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAHHHHHHMBULANCE. I will now puncture this self-righteous circle jerk with one word:


Go back and look at that again. More specifically, look at their archives. Two days before Gizmodo’s big breaking story, they published more or less the same thing – with specs and pictures, no less. And what have we heard from Apple? Not a mumbling word. Not so much as a takedown notice for the pictures.

So quit with your crocodile tears, people. If Jason Chen and Gawker Media don’t want to be treated like criminal suspects, maybe they shouldn’t have committed a fucking crime. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Pity level = NEGATIVE INFINITY.

Area Point Missed

So ever since Himself posted his small note on Flash, the chorus has come up loud and long from the paste-eaters. “How can he criticize Flash for not being open when Apple controls the whole iPhone ecosystem WAH WAH WAH FREE FREE FREE FREE SOFTWARE FREE MUMIA WAH” et cetera. As usual, they are missing the point.

Obviously, Apple controls the iPhone ecosystem – it’s their product. You can disagree with this if you like, and you can build a good case that they shouldn’t keep such a tight grip on it. But when Himself is beating the drum for open standards like H.264 and HTML5, it’s because nobody else controls those. As long as Steve Jobs runs Apple, you will never – EVER – see support on the iPhone OS for any sort of closed system run by somebody other than Apple.

The tedious workup again: Adobe makes tool. Apple allows tool. Tool becomes necessary to a non-trivial percentage of iPhone/iPad applications. Suddenly, Apple’s production is dependent on making sure they don’t break support for Adobe’s tool – and more importantly, Apple is at the mercy of Adobe for upgrades and fixes to said tool. Do you think Himself will ever yield that kind of control to any company, let alone one as Mac-negligent as Adobe (who have JUST NOW, nine years on, released a fully-native version of Photoshop for OS X)?

As an aside, I’ll point out that I think the assertion that cross-platform makes for shit is pretty apt. Remember the early days of Java, with “write once crash anywhere”? How about now? Java apps are insanely slow and look like shit – unless you employ native API calls. At which point you’re not cross-platform anymore, and you may as well skip the Java.

Now, all of this sets aside stuff that should be obvious to anybody who supports computers for a living: Flash is a buggy, CPU-hogging, security-breaching sack of shit whose main application in 2010 seems to be stupid Facebook games and insanely annoying ads. I have yet to see a use case for Flash on a phone – which is handy, because I have yet to see Flash on a phone (other than lecture demos and Flash Lite, neither of which gives me any reason to think the whole thing would run great on a mobile handset).

The ongoing wailing about Flash on the iPhone boils down to one thing: people are still trying to create the desktop computer on a handheld device. It’s not going to happen on Himself’s watch at Apple. It’s just not. Whether it happens in Mountain View, or Redmond, or with HP’s acquisition of Palm, is up for grabs. But “Windows Everywhere” was an actual Microsoft slogan for a while, and the need to tie everything to Windows is what killed their mindshare and made them an also-ran everywhere off the desktop. Apple is taking it one step further and asserting that the future of mobility computing bears no resemblance to what you’d do on a desktop – and that it is THE future of computing to go in that direction. If you don’t buy it, just count the number of OS X sessions at this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference. I’ll wait. Oh, back already? You see my point.


My first review at NewestJob went pretty well, all things considered. I did ask outright “what does ‘exceeds expectations’ work out to in percent salary?” but nothing came of it. After, as I sat out at the cafe under the overhang and watched the rain drift in, I thought about what an easier environment I’m in relative to 1997-98.

Think about it – we have Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 instead of System 7.5.3. More to the point, we have Windows XP SP3 instead of Windows NT 4. Our operating systems are a hell of a lot more robust than in years past. And they run simpler computers, too. No more mucking about connecting a Jaz drive via SCSI, not when thumb drives with more storage than a Jaz are handed out as promotional items and tossed as too small to be useful. No Zip disks. No floppy drives. Precious few CDs and DVDs, and those burned internally from within the OS rather than on an external burner with Toast or some other third-party contrivance. And of all my currently supported users put together, I can’t think of more than two with personal printers – neither of which I can recall ever supporting.

The network is so much easier to deal with, too – all TCP/IP all the time. No AppleTalk. No Netware. No NetBEUI. No more mucking about with print queues and waiting for Novell to turn out a Mac client. Getting on the Internet is no longer a function of what floor you’re on, and having a Mac no longer means pulling cable three floors through the closet to find the one Ethernet switch set up to pass AppleTalk. No Token Ring cable, no LocalTalk cable, hell, no cable at all half the time thanks to pervasive 802.11 coverage. No screwing around with modem pools. Or modems. No “dialing up” into anything. VPN connects in about 5 seconds. Email is based on IMAP, instead of some hodgepodge of gateways and proprietary LAN mail systems – or worse yet, Lotus Notes.

And most of all, Apple Remote Desktop. Any of my Mac users are just a couple clicks away, whether I’m at my desk or off in a shared cube – or at home on a couch, or on a couch at the cigar store, or in a Starbucks in Birmingham. Only the need for a physical presence when network connectivity is inoperative keeps me from running my operations full time from the third-floor balcony by Peet’s – or from the third base line at Pac Bell Park.

The point is this: after some time and distraction, I am back doing the same sort of thing I was doing six years ago, and in the intervening years, the job itself has become simpler than ever. And six years ago was miles easier than six years before that, when I first came to the business. Maybe by 2016, I really will be able to do the whole thing off an iPad while lounging on the patio at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans….

Ze plot, she ees thickening…

So now one of Gizmodo’s editors has gotten a search warrant executed and his house raided. It appears as well that Gawker Media is going to push back claiming immunity under California’s shield law that protects sources for reporters.

I have a sneaking suspicion that dog ain’t gonna hunt. Mainly because the law says “no warrant shall issue for…the source of any information.” A full description of the notional iPhone 4, with specs and stats, would certainly constitute information. Even pictures could be so construed. But that ain’t what’s doin’. What’s doin’ is that Gawker Media, through its employee, took possession of actual property in a manner that, under California law, probably rises to the level of stolen goods.

Now I’m sure there will come the usual parade of First Amendment absolutists who think all reporters should be protected from everything for all time, to which my usual response is: you obviously have never seen NBC. But Jason Chen’s little exercise in balls-to-the-wall journalism is not going to get the same protection as, say, Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers, and rightly so – because while details of the iPhone are certainly newsworthy, they do not rise to the level of a compelling public interest. Even so, with California’s shield law, he would probably be in a position to skate if they hadn’t paid $5000 – a felony-theft level of cash – for property that was not the seller’s to sell.

As it is, if I’m Gawker Media’s lawyer, I’m skipping over the righteous pontification and heading to the part where I hope the DA might be open to pleading down to something that doesn’t involve jail time.

Area Penny Drops

Well, it looks like the Nexus One isn’t coming to Verizon after all. Don’t know what the logic is there, but given that Google is actually pimping the Droid Incredible on the Nexus One ordering page, one suspects that the Nexus One in CDMA form is less capable than what will be out there later. It’s also very possible that Verizon was not amenable to the notion of ordering a phone elsewhere and using it on their network, where by “very possible” I mean “I would bet my house, my car and my testicles”. It’s not like you can easily pop back and forth between networks, or like Verizon offers monthly service without a 2-year contract, so there’s no percentage in paying $530 up front when you have to eat a contract anyway.

Couple that with the whole “we’re not doing any more work on the 3G” reports coming out about the Nexus One, and you can make a good case that, as we always said, I need to wait until the contract is up in September before making a decision on which way the phone should go. More than ever, though, it does look like it’s going to be the new iPhone, and the combination of iPhone OS 4 features and presumptive iPhone HD hardware modifications make that a worthwhile wait. Now if it would just come unlocked so I could get it on a Euro SIM for travel…

I hate to say I told you so. Except I totally don’t.

Years ago, when one of the ten most pivotal books of my life finally got a film adaptation, it was derided as liberal fantasy and a sure sign that Hollywood was full of radical whackjobs. And I shot back in some online forum – I wish I could remember where and link it – and said that if V for Vendetta had been released in the 90s, every right-winger imaginable would have done himself physical harm pleasuring himself at the notion of one lone man striking back against the oppressive hand of big government.

And sure enough, now that it’s 2010 and “I fear my government” is again the acceptable default conservative position, here we go, right on cue.

It’s not often I can truly be a FIGJAM, but this is one of ’em.

Another test

Back to the netbook. I am actually composing this one live on the website rather than falling back on some sort of client-side piece. Besides, the MacBook Pro is currently doing a Time Machine backup from scratch and I don’t expect it’ll be done before morning.
Largely this is just so I can write a long-form entry. My fingers are slipping a little more than I remember, but it pummels the hell out of working on the iPhone to compose a blog post. I’m sure my fingers and wrists are going to be sore tomorrow, because the posturing involved in having this thing in your lap is kind of a show.
I think I heard somewhere that iPhone OS 4 incorporates the Bluetooth keyboard support currently in the iPad. If that’s true, I might sell this thing outright and just pack a Bluetooth keyboard to the old country at Christmas.
I should be watching the Giants – they were doing well at first, but as soon as my attention slipped they started losing. Kind of a show.
I’m actually starting to wonder whether it’s worth trying to put together some ridiculous outfit for Maker Faire. It’s going to be hot as hell, most likely, and unsuitable for things Victorian or Chiba City-esque.
Okay, four posts in a day is plenty. I think I should be working on anonymizing everything anyway…

Jersey Shore In Cyberland, or, Privacy And Its Discontents

A few years ago, over a few too many glasses of sangria at the local tapas lounge, a bloggery friend of mine opined that there’s something generational about the current approach to privacy. They’ve taken Andy Warhol to the logical endpoint, she said, and it doesn’t matter anymore what you’re famous for, as long as you’re famous. Thus we wind up with a bunch of orange mooks with too much hair product as America’s biggest entertainers of 2009-10.

This also sprang to mind as I considered Facebook’s continuing sodomy of user privacy. Today they announced that sites using Facebook Connect data – that use of the Facebook ID as a login for other sites – will now be allowed to retain that data indefinitely, rather than deleting it after 24 hours. Which basically means that any site that touches your Facebook identity now has the right, in perpetuity, to all the data of every other site or resource you access via your Facebook identity.

Basically, Facebook’s arrogating itself the right to sell your whole presence online.

The whole appeal of Facebook was based on three things: it was exclusive, it was granular, and it was authentic. You were pretty much entering a gated community, and though you had to trade under your own name, you had control over who saw what and when. It was pretty much the key to putting everything online, knowing that you would control who got what.

Well, the gates flung open in 2006 – first some carefully selected corporations became the first non-edu addresses from which you could sign up (disclosure: I was at one of them, and did, largely out of the need to sign up for everything but also to keep track of our recalcitrant campus sales reps). Then before long the floodgates were thrown open and anybody could join. Big problem, which made the ability to have granular control all the more important.

And then, over the last twelve months, Facebook has used its seemingly endless redesigns to slowly cut away at what you can or can’t hide. Your friends list. The groups you belong to. Your interests. Your location. Things you probably filled in without considering that Facebook might unilaterally decide that all that information would be made public.

But they did. And with today’s announcements at f8, Facebook has nailed their colors to the mast: they stand for maximizing the amount of connections and mineable data, and user privacy be damned. So the first two essentials have been tossed, and that makes the third worse by far: all of this is traceable to your actual honest-to-God identity.

I don’t know if this is all down to the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is of the generation that has made an idol of celebrity, or if maybe he’s just too young and too geek to think about the bigger picture. Or maybe it’s because Facebook’s growth has continued despite all these shenanigans. Or perhaps it’s just the bottom-line realization that getting money means coming up with an ever-greater crop of data to harvest (an apt metaphor in the land of Farmville). But mark my words: the next big thing will be a way of social networking that returns granularity and privacy to the system.

The Third Device

When the One Laptop Per Child project produced the XO-1, and Asus followed with the EEE PC, they probably thought they were inventing a whole new type of device – a laptop, certainly, but of a different sort than the kind business types lugged around. But as the netbook emerged, the new-look interfaces slowly gave way to Windows XP. Ultimately, the netbook pretty quickly became just the smallest and cheapest style of laptop, rather than something new.

This is about to change non-trivially. When Google finally gets its Chrome OS on netbooks and into production, the result will be something that is less than a notebook – essentially a large-screen portable web terminal. Meanwhile, the Kindle has exploded as a whole other type of portable device – and one with an underappreciated permanent wireless connection, at that. And then there’s that gadget of Apple’s…

We have computers, desktop and laptop, and we have phones. This third device is meant to combine the relative portability of a phone with some of the enhanced power and larger display of a computer. There are necessary tradeoffs for size and power, and they have been met with various techniques (e-ink display by the Kindle, a phone OS by Apple, custom Linux OS and interface by many netbook manufacturers, etc). We’ve been comparing these things to computers, but it might be more reasonable to compare them the other way…to phones.

Set against this, the netbook becomes the flip phone. It relies on a hinge to give you two equal-sized spaces for input and display, and as a result tends to be a bit on the thick side. The Kindle and its peers are the bar phones: one piece, light and thinner, but compromised in terms of display and input by the limitations of space. And the iPad is, of course, the iPhone: one big display, virtual keyboard, trusting that its input model will minimize the compromises posed by a software keyboard.

I bring this up because I’m still struggling with the netbook. 1024×600 is a bit of a show to squint at, especially with all the other UI bits and bobs that go along with Firefox – because the web browser is pretty much the sole app in use. Sure, I have Skype and something to stream Absolute Radio and a Twitter notifier, but 96% of what happens on that netbook happens in a browser window. And its performance in full-screen streaming video, compared to the iPad, is abysmal.

(It doesn’t help that I’m doing less text entry than I’d anticipated. I should be, but I’m not; this is being pounded out on the same MacBook Pro as ever. Maybe once I get Drivel reinstalled things will be different; I just can’t handle blogging from a web interface.)

This is not to say that I will be putting my netbook on the market in any hurry. There will be no major shakeups in the home electronics situation before September, in all likelihood, owing to the necessary wait for the new iPhone and the debate on whether to let work start picking up the check for good rather than just reimbursing my personal phone. And the temptation to lay out for a Nexus One and use T-Mobile’s monthly no-contract scheme for a while is very strong.

Containment vs eradication vs…

Look, there’s no excuse by now. We’ve been over this a hundred thousand times, and there is simply no logical ground on which to argue that the President of the United States is anything other than an American citizen born on American soil. To argue otherwise is a sign of profound ignorance, racism, or mental defect.

And yet, this is apparently still quite a thing, judging by the recent spat of what I can only describe as Confederate protests. Let’s be blunt: the “Tea Party” movement is nothing less than the manifestation of 20th-century Southern politics on a national scale, in which assorted “big mules” (financial interests and the property-owning elite) whip up a frenzy among the working classes to lash out against The Other – usually the implacable menace of the Negro, but just as frequently some combination of communists, Jews, Papists, Yankees, or whatever. The communists have been made over as socialists and Teh Gheys are now up where the Catholics used to be, but for the most part, the forms and styles of the clowns out honking their horns on April 15th are not materially different from the crowds that howled Strom Thurmond to the Dixiecrat nomination in Boutwell Auditorium back in 1948 – or who boosted the Ku Klux to its highest membership in the 1920s.

The key thing you can say about the teabaggers is that they tend to be 1) white and 2) old enough for segregation to be living memory, which would presume roughly age 50 and up. This is not just limited to the South – even if they weren’t out there cheering Wallace with their parents, they are old enough to remember a time when “we didn’t have all these problems.”

In the long run, you can make a case for containment. We can circle the wagons and wait for the majority of the teabaggers to die off, while long-term demographic trends surrounding immigration and racial minorities grind away at the power base of their movement. But as Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead. So what if we require relief now?

This is not to say that we should be dragging teabaggers into the street and shooting them. I am assured that “the son of a bitch had it coming” is no longer a legal defense to murder even in the state of Alabama, and besides there’s that whole five thousand years of Judeo-Christian morality in the way. What I am suggesting is that the movement itself needs to be defenestrated – that something has to happen to lance the boil such that marching around with guns telling the President to go back to Africa is so patently unacceptable in society that even to be associated with it is poisonous.

Here’s the problem, though: the teabaggers have their own society and their own media environment. They have an entire cable news network, several national talk-radio outlets, and endless Internet commentary to tell them how right they are. They live in a reality they have constructed themselves, and anything that conflicts with their reality can be rejected out of hand as a creation of the enemy’s media machine, or “political correctness”, or some such. There’s no recourse to reason or logic, because they have their own reason and logic. When an entire political sub-class can turn on a dime in a year with regards to the menace posed by the unchecked executive power of the Presidency, good faith bargaining is not on the cards.

The really scary bit is this: I don’t even think something like Oklahoma City in 1995 would break through the shell anymore. I really do think that a major incident of right-wing terrorism would be greeted by the ‘baggers as either a proud blow against government tyranny or as some sort of government trick to try to discredit them, and they’d plow right on along. At that point, I guess the only question is whether the shock would be enough to shear off the less fanatical and reduce the numbers even further – but given this country’s attention span, I’m not sure that’s feasible. And to be honest, I absolutely believe that another September 11-style attack would not result in a rally-round-the-flag-and-President effect. If some mass-casualty catastrophe happened now, I guarantee that Republicans in the House would enter articles of impeachment the next day. To be honest, if the Republicans get control of the House, I fully expect that before January 31, 2011, some GOP member will introduce articles of impeachment – or at the very least, commence hearings on “the birth certificate” or some other talk-radio fabrication.

So what’s my solution? I don’t have one, because there isn’t one.