The Promise

(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)

This time, things will be different.

That’s been the message for months now.  This time, we’re not going to hire whatever random school’s assistant will take the job.  This time, we’re not going to pay lip service to “winning the right way” and promptly drop ten games. This time isn’t going to be another dose of “Same Old Vandy.”

Now is different.  Now we have a young, energetic coach who believes in the program and wants everyone else to believe.  Now we have upgrades to the facilities, to the tailgates, to the locker rooms.  Now we have multi-star prospects poached from big-ticket programs, guys with three and four and five stars who mockingly try on a Vol hat before declaring “it doesn’t fit” and choosing us.  Now, we have YouTube video going viral and Twitter accounts whipping up the faithful and blogs to bang the drum.

And now, it’s our turn.

We have been made a promise: that things are going to be different.  Now it’s our turn to hold up our end of the bargain.  We have to watch.  We have to show up.  We have to be black and gold from stem to stern.  We have to scream, and shout, and sing, and carry on like it’s the end of the world.

If you’re a student, use your tickets.  Make it the whole day.  Start early, stay late, on time and on target.  If you’re a season ticket holder, fortify yourself however it takes and be prepared to be leather-lunged and sore-footed by day’s end.  If you’re local, and you haven’t got tickets, climb over the fence.  If you’re not local, tune in.  Find the stream.  Find a radio.  Wear your black and gold.  Throw up the VU at everyone and no one.  Blog.  Tweet.  Don’t let anyone in a Commodore shirt walk across the street from you without “WHO YA WIT!” even if you’re three thousand miles from campus.

We don’t know how this is going to work out.  Nothing is certain, and we could still find ourselves looking up at ten losses despite everything.  This is a bet – that we can change the course, that we can turn this thing around, that we can transform Vanderbilt football into what it once was, what it should always have been, what it can be going forward.  But James Franklin, his staff, his administration and his student-athletes are going to lay it all out there to make it happen.  They have promised us everything they’ve got.

What are you prepared to do?

The Galaxy Tab

“It’s like when you take the pan of brownies out of the oven because you think they’re done, but they’re not done, and you just end up with a gooey mess.”

I tasked my double-second-cousin-in-law with the initial test of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1″ because she’s the only one in the household who carries an Android phone.  (The rest of us rock two iPhones and a Blackberry Torch.)  After a little playing around, I thought that I should staff the evaluation out to someone who was already familiar with Android, so as to diminish the familiarity bias I have for iOS.  And since she’s never used an iPad either, it was a true test of the utility of the Android tablet qua tablet rather than in comparison to anything else.

The early reviews were not good.  The settings were complicated, and everything seemed to take an extra step.  The thing was too difficult to hold in portrait mode (probably due to the wrist leverage from its length) and everything was generally optimized for landscape anyway, which sort of undercut the Kindle app.  But the Kindle app itself was fine, and she was able to create and start up an Evernote account without a fight.  Plus streaming video from SyFy seems to work just fine, and she seems to be happy with the Redfin app (they are house-hunting, as you would expect anyone living with me to do).

For my own part, I was a little put off by the inability of one of the flagship Android devices to run the Economist application, which was annoying.  But then, maybe I didn’t have the download preferences set properly to allow non-Market downloads, which might be necessary.  I did find apps for Twitter, Foursquare and Evernote without a fight, although the UI was not as satisfactory for any of them.

Most puzzling, though, was the utility of the Google apps themselves.  The Maps app was fine until I got into Street View, at which point I could only navigate by dragging the little pegboard man to a new place – where the view would then be reoriented.  The tradition “just click on the line down the street to advance down it” familiar from the web – or the iPhone – wasn’t there, and that was a little surprising.  The Google Reader app, meanwhile, wasn’t materially different from the mobile version of the Reader website.

Long story short: it’s not terrible or unbearable by any stretch.  They seem to be enjoying it perfectly well.  But after a night and a day of experimenting with the combination of the latest OS and the newest hardware, I would be hard-pressed to offer a typical civilian user a good reason to take it over an iPad.  The only legitimate cases to be made for it are either highly technical or ideologically colored; it’s not going to win on price, weight, screen clarity, speed, app selection or ease of use. Although if you’re willing to use your Google account for everything, it does do a superior job of integrating with those services (and backing the tablet up to same).

So…will keep poking away and see what’s doing.  But I’m not expecting this to make a major dent in my current mobility assessment.

flashback, part 36 of n

I don’t remember quite when I first started in on Slashdot.  My UID is below 125K, so I was kind of late to the party.  I think I came in on a link back from one of the incarnations of Mac OS Rumors back in the old days.

For me, Slashdot was the daily diary of the boom.  The emergence of Linux, the famous Halloween memo, the return of Jobs, the Mozilla project, the new Star Wars movies, all kinds of things.  Slashdot was indispensable.  That green layout exists in my mind behind a loop of HFS songs, Eddie from Ohio, and my earliest MP3 downloads, all playing out on the screen of a PowerBook G3 running Mac OS 8.6.  The days when I would do ridiculous shit like try to club together an external SCSI drive so I could try to book my PowerMac 6100 into MkLinux…and then try to telnet into it from work.

Slashdot was also the first place I saw community moderation on a message board.  And it pretty much worked.  You could set your filter at +3 and pretty much be assured of skipping the dross that plagues almost every other comment forum on the Internet.  It was innovative, to say the least, and I wish it existed on more sites.

I don’t know when it dropped out of my regular rotation.  It still has pride of place in the “Geek” folder on my bookmark bar, although the days when I run through those folders are long gone thanks to RSS. I last commented on the site one time in July last year.  Before that, my prior-most comment was in 2007, and before that in 2004, so it’s not like I was a particularly active member lately; it probably didn’t survive the transition to an Apple job where sitting at a desk hitting refresh was no longer a daily option.

But hearing that Rob Malda – whose infamous proposal to his girlfriend inspired part of mine – is stepping away from the monster he created?  Even if it’s not part of my life now, it really struck home how long it’s been since those early days in DC, and how long I’ve been gone from there, and – most of all – how many years I have in the industry now.  Next year makes fifteen.

Where does the time go?

Out of touch

A couple of months ago, I turned off push-notification on my iPhone’s connection to work mail.  I was getting sick and tired of the constant stream, and wanted to drive home the point that the correct way to reach me was through the appointed channels, not by personal email.  And somehow along the way I wound up turning off push notification for my primary personal account as well.

I also shut down my Facebook account (although I haven’t yet nuked it from orbit) to prevent unwanted family sniffing – plus it occurs to me that I kind of need to start my social networking over and actually go by the dictionary definition of friend rather than the Facebook definition.  My whoever, whatever, what-the-hell-I’ll-follow-you content has been passed into a couple of Twitter accounts, and I find that I check Twitter far more than email or any social network.  That is, when I’m not shutting off the iPhone altogether on Tuesday nights.

I find, too, that email is starting to slip through the cracks if I don’t address it right away.  Things get lost in the shuffle, buried in the daily digital avalanche – and it’s not nearly as bad as it’s been in years past, when I subscribed to a listserv that pummeled my mailbox with daily digests when it wasn’t sending a firehose of individual messages.  I have to make a conscious effort to go back and look and be sure email hasn’t gone down the rathole.

So why has this happened?  Part of it is because Twitter is such an effective means of having a constant social stream – unencumbered by terrible games, spam links (mostly), enormous pictures or the need to provide information that constantly gets unwillingly shared.  Twitter is fully pseudonymous and doesn’t care if you have multiple accounts (I’m responsible for several).  And Twitter can be had anywhere – website, laptop app, phone app, or even converted into a stream of text messages if you’re not on one of those asshole US cellular carriers.  Hell, in 2007, I ran my Twitter from my tourist phone in the UK, with great success.

But part of it is also because email itself has gone by the boards.  I don’t have much to email about anymore.  Everything is a tweet or a text, or else a blog post, and punching out email on a phone is problematic if the mail is longer than, say, a tweet.  Making the mobile phone the locus of computer communication has, of necessity, curtailed how much you have to say.  Spam is still out of control in some sectors; two of my accounts literally stop hundreds of spam emails a day.  Talking on the phone?  Means of last resort.  I haven’t felt the need to routinely converse on the phone since 2004 sometime, and have discussed elsewhere the creeping dread that comes with the ringing of a telephone, so strike that.  And forget about snail mail.  Maybe a postcard from friends, but that’s about it.

Maybe I’m just making a conscious effort to do my socializing in person these days.

What Steve Did For Me

The tale has been told time and again, but there I was, sitting outside at Cafe Du Monde on a gray December morning in 1996, waiting on a plate of beignets and sipping on some cafe au lait, and I looked at the USA Today business section.  They were announcing that Apple was acquiring NeXT for $400 million and that Steve Jobs would be returning as a special assistant to the CEO.  I wasn’t a technology professional at all – I was a grad student in political science – but I’d been a Mac user for two and a half years, and I was well-familiar with the constant doom-talk around Apple Computer.  And I said to myself, “well, this is it, we’re going to live or die on this one.”

I got word of the resignation today on Twitter, while sat in front of a MacBook Pro and an iMac, working on setting up the new deployment solution for imaging machines with Lion.  Since September 1997, every nickel I’ve earned has been, in some measure, a product of working with Apple products.  Four jobs on two coasts, fourteen years next month – in a career that I fell into because I spent three years noodling around with my Power Mac 6100, squeezing that extra 20K out of the system heap and paring the excess out of the System Folder.

Apple made a computer that anyone could use.  They made a computer that a lone dork could teach himself how to support without a lick of actual training or instruction, enough to pass an interview and get hired for workstation support.  That was Steve’s first tour of duty.  His second one was saving the company and making it viable enough that “Apple specialist” has paid my freight for a decade and half with no signs of slowing down.

And when I moved out here with no job and no immediate prospects, within three weeks I was working…at Apple.  Where I did get the formal training, and a 401(k), and stock that tripled in value by the time I sold it, and a company discount on buying my car and on my cell service, both of which I still rely on.

So yeah.  When I plummeted out of academia and nearly to my death, there were a lot of people who held the net.  But when you get right down to it, that net was manufactured by Steve Jobs.

And yeah, I’m grateful.

Ave atque vale, Steve

Well, the day has come.

I’m not particularly worried about Apple.  Tim Cook more than has what it takes, Jonny Ive and Scott Forrestal are as good as it gets, the talent is there to carry on.  They can probably coast for at least a year just on what’s in the pipeline, especially given the caliber of competition in the mobility field.

More than anything, I hope this isn’t because Himself’s doctor told him “you need to start wrapping things up.”  The man changed the course of personal computing.  Twice.  He deserves better than that.

Well that was lame.

Bruce Pearl catches a three-year Show Cause penalty – meaning that any NCAA institution has to demonstrate to the NCAA why they need to hire him – and his assistants all get a year.  And Tennessee as a whole gets two years probation.  And Lane Kiffin and the football program get nothing, despite TWELVE self-reported secondary violations in a single year.

Tennessee get punishment for their NCAA violations?  LOL NO SIR F U ENJOY LOVING TONGUE BATH.  Absolutely fucking ridiculous how the Big Orange never seems to get blasted for anything…but then, you don’t want to burn your number-one snitches, do you?

The Shift

On my way back from running another 5K this past Sunday (not my idea, honestly, but I’m not sorry I did it), I happened to see a headline in the Merc saying, in essence, that the PC era was over.  This conclusion based on the ridiculously expensive purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google at the same time that HP was shopping their PC division and killing off WebOS (a real shame, as it might have been the most genuinely interesting iPhone challenger out there), along with the fact that Apple has passed Dell, and Microsoft, and…well, every other publicly traded company on Earth in terms of market cap.

I hadn’t really thought about this as a post-PC thing until today, when the developers of NetNewsWire (my indispensable RSS reader until this year) released their new hotness, an iPhone and Android app called Glassboard.  It’s basically another substitute for mass text, albeit slightly different to Beluga or GroupMe: you create a “board” and add people to it, and it becomes a permanent stream for text and photos.  Basically instant personal social network.

And I started to think about it – social networking really is starting to become a mobility phenomenon.  Skype just bought GroupMe, while Facebook acquired Beluga and turned it into Facebook Messenger.  Hipstamatic kicked off the mobile-photo-share space which was promptly exploited by Instagram and Camplus and Path (not to mention more esoteric options like With or Color).  And Twitter was built from day one on the notion that it could piggyback on SMS (thus the 140-char limit).

The thing is: how many of those options don’t require a PC?  Hell, how many of those options aren’t even available on a PC?  Factor in the location-based element to social networking – things like Foursquare or Loopt are basically worthless if you have to rely on a laptop to use them – and you wind up with the inevitable truth: social networking is most effective when it’s always on and always with you, and that means a phone.

Time was, a cross-platform killer app ran on Windows and Macs.  Now, the killer cross-platform app runs on iOS, Android and Blackberry.  The age of the personal computer is still with us, of course – what could be more personal than your phone? – but it’s important not to confuse a personal computer with a mere PC.

We Live In The Future

Just thought I would throw in a couple of links here to the mid-90s AT&T campaign tagged “You Will.” They predicted a whole bunch of stuff – WWAN, EZ-Pass, GPS, video on demand, videoconferencing, and so on and so forth – real heady stuff in an era where most people had no idea what the Internet was about.

Thing is, it pretty much all came true.

I mean, I have my iPhone which does all sorts of insane stuff.  I have my Kindle where I get my magazines, I have the EZ-Pass on my car for the tolls, I’ve remotely controlled other people’s desktops from 2500 miles away (something I first contemplated in 1997 when wondering if I could telecommute for tech support with the notional NeXTSTEP Mac OS), I’ve done video chat cross-country, and I actually have sent a fax (well, an email) from the beach, more than once.  And video on demand is the only way we see movies these days.

We really do live in the future. I don’t think I appreciate that enough.

I Hate Everything, Friday edition

Things that are pissing me off today, in no particular order:


1) My 401K/IRA balance.  I’m going to be working until I’m 70.


2) The fact that my employer uses a service that charges you $10 to download your W2.


3) The fact that my employer – WHICH RUNS ITS OWN CREDIT UNION – has replaced the ATM in my building with one that charges $3 to withdraw (after having been free since I started).


4) My credit union in the old country has a UI for downloading your statements that looks like it was written by some hayseed with a Geocities account in 1995 and not changed since.


5) Mac OS X Lion was built for people who presumably were familiar with using iPhones and iPads but NEVER EVER TOUCHED A LAPTOP IN THEIR LIVES.


6) Getting rid of the damned accent popups when holding a key requires COMMAND LINE CHANGES AND LOGOUT.  What. The. Actual. Fuck.


7) Not only is Google intent on forcing you to use your real name on Google+, apparently you need a completely filled out profile for Google READER as well.  Why the hell do you need personally identifying information to use a fucking RSS READER?  Well, duh, so Google can keep sodomizing your privacy for their own profit.  That tiger went tiger.


8) I still have glee to spend money on watches, sunglasses and laptops for which I have absolutely no justification.


Too early for Maker’s Mark?