Random Thoughts

* A few weeks back, I had the misfortune to catch some CNBC show where a random scientist was being interviewed and some remark was made about how there need to be more scientists in Congress.

No there don’t.  There don’t need to be more doctors in Congress.  There don’t need to be more businessmen.  You know why?  Because there’s absolutely nothing preventing a Congresscritter from asking a scientist for information. Or a doctor. Or a businessman.  Government doesn’t run like a business, so the thought that a CEO would somehow have a better grip is ridiculous.  Government doesn’t snap to and do exactly what you demand, so a surgeon would be lost in the tall grass. Basically, what we need is what Great Britain has: parliamentary government, with no separation of executive head-of-government and legislature, plus a highly professionalized civil service.  That, more than anything we supposedly get from separation of powers, would get us back to a more center-seeking model.  A truly ironic thought as we head to the 4th of July.


* For that matter, the number one thing that Great Britain has over us right now is that their Tea Party is a mockable fringe that is considered beyond the pale by most of the country, rather than being in the drivers’ seat for the Tories.  Sure, David Cameron is worried about local elections in some spots, but the BNP is not setting the agenda for the Conservative Party.  British politics completely lacks that Southern-style religiously-motivated social-conservative aspect that has completely owned the GOP these last twenty-plus years.  Which is ironic for a country that we split off from over religious freedom, a country with a hereditary monarch who is head of the state church.  Happy Independence Day!


* Verizon Wireless has very impressive LTE speed.  Verizon Wireless has ridiculously overrated network coverage.  I mocked AT&T for “more bars in more places” but Verizon’s vaunted largest network seems to permanently run at about 2 bars everywhere I am unless I stand next to a tower.  As a result, my iPhone’s battery life is struggling – right now, it’s lost more power than the three-year-old-and-running-a-beta iPhone 4 I’ve been using to play podcasts nonstop for over two hours, and I’ve been trying to use the 4 to do some browsing and other stuff (with varying degrees of success; beta is still beta, and at one point I had to delete and reinstall Podcasts to get it going again).


* I don’t know what’s stranger: that I routinely walk out the front door with $2500 worth of amazing electronic wizardry in a bag over my shoulder, or that $2500 doesn’t seem like that much money for a laptop, a tablet and a mobile phone.  And this being June, it made me think that since my father died in 1998, the world has changed radically.  Never mind the iPhone – routine cellphone ownership and pervasive use of computers in the workplace were just becoming a thing. Broadband, text messaging, Wi-Fi, GPS, social networking, HDTV, digital media…as long as you can afford $99 plus a two year contract, you can basically do fucking magic by 1980s standards.  Just don’t try doing it on beta software, not if you’re trying to do production work.  The iPhone 4 is back in the drawer.


* So during the ten-day weekend a while back (a LONG while back at this point), it was announced that Super Bowl L has been awarded to San Francisco.  Meaning, of course, to Santa Clara, where the new 49ers stadium resides.  Resides in the middle of nowhere, to be honest.  Sure, there’s an Amtrak line nearby and a light rail track cutting straight through and they appear to be putting in a huge parking deck, but let’s be honest: all the action other than the game itself will be in and around San Francisco.

This is sort of the deal that pro sports teams angle for: build your team a nice new arena, generally at taxpayers’ expense, and you’ll be rewarded with A Super Bowl, or An All-Star Game.  Besides, if you don’t, they’ll move to Los Angeles (NFL) or Las Vegas (most everyone else).  In this case, a one-off event where the bulk of the action is happening 40 miles north.  Great job, Santa Clara!

Actually, right now, there are riots in Brazil over this – about the amount of public money going into the World Cup (and presumably the Olympics) when social services are strapped. And this in perhaps the most soccer-mad of all nations. But they’ve figured it out: big-time sports largely revolves around the siphoning off vast public monies to the benefit of the leagues and teams and federations.  And that – rather than any social instability – is why FIFA is so concerned about the rioting in Brazil.


*Speaking of riots, what the hell is going on down in Texas? The GOP tries to outlaw abortion by regulatory death (so much for the heavy hand of government regulation), is stood up by a legit filibuster for almost 12 hours, and then after forcing a close to the filibuster because of an alleged breach of a Senate rule, passes the bill after midnight in violation of a Senate rule.  I’ll probably have more thoughts on this later, largely around why the Feds reading your email isn’t a patch on the fear one should have of a state legislature getting full of themselves…


* Meanwhile, DOMA gets thrown out on equal protection grounds, Prop 8 remanded to the original ruling, and with no governor or attorney general willing to defend it, odds are pretty good that it’s a dead letter at this point. For all intents and purposes, gay marriage is legal in California. SF PRIDE this weekend will be a circus hitched to a tornado with a generous admixture of Mardi Gras, Wrestlemania, and a hanging.  Although in light of the Court’s turn on the Voting Rights Act, that’s a particularly unsavory and inappropriate reference.  Odd, isn’t it, that the world has supposedly changed enough since 1965 to invalidate VRA, but not so much since 1787 that the Second Amendment shouldn’t be a blanket license for unlimited private ownership of military weapons.


*The confluence of Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin and the functional crippling of the Voting Rights Act is unpleasant but informative, and drives home for me the point that we are still at least 25 years away from being able to treat the South as if it were any other part of the country. Segregation is still living memory, and there are people dismayed at the coming of VRA who have lived to celebrate its effective demise. That shouldn’t have happened.  VRA is in theory authorized until 2031, and that’s when we could get away with dumping sections 4 and 5.  Not now, and not in a world with the kind of voting shenanigans seen in 2012 – if anything, you want to repair Section 4? Apply it to the whole country.  Meantime, Texas and Mississippi have already announced they’re moving forward with their Voter ID program.  For fucksakes, rednecks, at least make an effort to pretend you aren’t dying to shit on the brown people.


* So apparently Edward Snowden didn’t realize this would be such a big deal, didn’t expect that Hong Kong would be as restrictive of freedom as he found it, took the job in the first place with the intent of ferreting out information about classified programs, says he has information to release about the US spying on other countries…

I’m done.  I’m through. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but civil disobedience relies heavily on buy the ticket, take the ride.  Rosa Parks didn’t high-tail it out of Montgomery.  All Edward Snowden has done is prove that he is incredibly naive and appallingly stupid about the world outside his laptop – in other words, your typical Silicon Valley Millenial techie type.  All he needs is a neckbeard and a Google hoodie. By and large, what he’s succeeded in doing is striking up a string of international incidents, making the story all about him, and completely distracting from the fact that we still need to have a conversation about the balance between domestic surveillance and national security.  Sure, he did something important, but he also did a lot of stupid shit that’s going to bury the important bits.  Hero?  No.  Asshole?  Utterly.


* The great challenge in life is not changing the world, it’s learning how to cope with a world that doesn’t change.  And to borrow a line from the great Sinatra, I’m for whatever gets you through the night – be that prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Section 4

“We’re going to arrest anyone who commits a crime in front of this security camera. Now unplug the camera.”

That’s the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was unanimously re-authorized in 2006 by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by George W Bush, but which today had section 4 struck down by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote.

Section 5 is what everyone was concerned with. Section 5 is the “preclearance” section, which basically says that jurisdictions that have a history of voting discrimination have to have any changes to voting law cleared by the Justice Department.  There have been over 30 such cases since the last re-authorization.

But section 4 lays out the formula for what constitutes a history of voting discrimination. Section 4 determines who is subject to the preclearance requirements in section 5.  And the Supreme Court tossed out section 4, on the ground that its formula and requirements as crafted in 1965 are outdated and that the country has changed; thus the Congress should rework section 4.

Two thoughts:

1) I’m sure Paula Deen and George Zimmerman will be relieved to hear there is no longer racism in the South.  Trayvon Martin may have a dissenting opinion, except he doesn’t because he’s dead.  So it goes.

2) In a Congress that won’t pass routine debt ceiling bills to authorize the money they’ve already spent, in a Congress that can’t pass an operating budget for years at a time, is there any chance whatsoever that the GOP will ever – ever – vote out a replacement for section 4 that even bothers to put its dentures in? In a world where the Republican party is indisputably of the South, by the South and for the South, the Court has asked the South to take charge of patrolling its own racism.

So does this mean an immediate return to Jim Crow? Not as such.  But stand by for things like an end to early voting, tighter restrictions on absentee balloting, ever-tighter mandatory ID requirements, and shorter polling hours on the big day – anything that tightens participation and makes it tougher to vote.  I don’t think the state of Alabama would have the balls to redistrict itself to eliminate the majority-minority districts and guarantee 7 GOP representatives from the state in the 2014 elections, but right now, there’s nothing to prevent it; they could do it and the only recourse would be a lawsuit after the fact.

SO basically the two memes floating around Twitter are both right:

1) “Privilege” is never having to worry about your rights being up for a vote.

2) Two justices appointed by Junior Bush just shitcanned the Voting Rights Act, but hey, Ralph Nader said there was no difference between Gore and Bush anyway.


The penny drops

It’s not looking good for young Edward Snowden. Flees Hong Kong ahead of an extradition request from the US – and color me shocked that the Chinese government punted – only to fly through Russia en route to – where? Ecuador, apparently, via Cuba. The optics are not good.

Far worse than the optics, though, is the prospect that he is now leaking information about how the US spies on other counties. It’s one thing if you’re concerned about how much the US is intruding on the lives of its own citizens – that’s a conversation that needed to be had ten years ago when Rob Watson of the BBC was interviewing me about it on a street corner in Georgetown, but as with so many things, let’s overlook how long it took Americans to notice there was an elephant in the bathtub and instead celebrate the realization that the circus is, in fact, in town.


Other nations don’t have Fourth Amendment rights. Foreign countries – some actively hostile to US interests, many additional ones passive-aggressive in ways that would draw the envy of any southern sorority girl – are in fact legitimate targets of espionage. The days of “Gentlemen do not read each others’ mail” are long past. Intelligence gathering beyond our borders is a huge part of the reason we have a National Security Agency in the first place.

More to the point, it’s going off the page. Edward Snowden depicted himself as a martyr to privacy and the rights of the individual, and his defenders pointed out that he was hardly the indiscriminate naïf that Bradley Manning proved himself to be, because he was detailing the surveillance of Americans by their own government. But if he’s now discussing our intelligence arrangements vis-a-vis other nations, it seems to me he’s gone frog-sticking without a light. One almost expects him to pull the same “citizen of the world” dodge that jerk from Facebook tried to employ in the interest of ducking his taxes.

Nevertheless: buy the ticket, take the ride. Actions have consequences. Blowing the lid off the American intelligence machine at home and abroad is likely to have even more. Doing so in conjunction with a jaunt through countries whose leaders make up a nontrivial chunk of the USA’s official Legion of Doom for the last fifty years…it’s not the best way to present yourself as a simon-pure defender of constitutional liberty.

There is a very real possibility that when the smoke clears, Edward Snowden will prove to be a highly idealistic, highly unrealistic Millenial techie too far up his own ass to contemplate the real-world consequences of what he has done.

Seven! 7! SEVEN!! VII!!!



So I have a beta of iOS 7 running on my old iPhone 4.  I did not want it on my production phone, because I’m not an idiot and I don’t use beta operating systems on mission-critical equipment.  I also recognize that putting a beta OS on a three year old smartphone is asking for terrible performance, so any concerns about speed, responsiveness, etc. will have to wait until a shipping version hits my carry phone.

Also a reminder: the 4 has a T-Mobile prepaid SIM and no data service.  This is basically an iPod Touch from 2010 with the additional phone functionality of a MOTOFONE F3 glued on.  Some functions may not be present at all or highly limited.

With that:


* The look of the thing, much-debated, strikes me for now as change for the sake of change.  This isn’t an overhaul of the design, this is a re-skinning for the sake of appeasing people who were bored of the old UI. The underlying functionality is the same – everything is where it was, this is literally just new chrome – and I don’t know if it’s just the newness, but it feels challenging in a way that recalls the move from Mac OS 9 to OS X.  And given what a radical change that was, it’s a bigger conceptual leap than should be necessary from iOS 6 to 7.

* When you zoom in the Maps app, you get a tiny scale bar in the upper-right corner.  I don’t think I’ve seen a scale reference on any smartphone map ever.  This is extremely cool and useful.

* Filters are a colossal waste of time, but it’s one of those things, like streaming radio, that are apparently the price of entry these days.  Could be worse; at least they’re not all cutesy animal names like Flickr’s filters.

* The touchpad to enter your passcode shows the background picture through the buttons when pressed.  Or through the hairline thinness of the buttons themselves.

* The new window-card app switcher is more or less a straight lift from WebOS, right down to the flick-up-to-dismiss. RIP WebOS, proof that it was really the best challenger out there to the iPhone had it only had smarter partners.

* Speaking of straight lift, Yahoo would be well within their rights to be FRISBEE pissed at the new Weather app.  I mean, it’s the same goddamn app.  It’s Samsung-caliber duplication.

* The prospect of Google Now-ish functions in the notification center is something I like, but when it’s bright and sunny out and the thing says “Partly cloudy conditions with low visibility” something needs work.  It hasn’t been sufficiently overcast all day.

* Although many will say it’s a rip-off, the new Control Center is something that the OS has needed since…well, arguably since day one.  One-touch access to the camera (remember when double-clicking the home button was the camera shortcut?) or the calculator (how often do I need that at the gas station?) or the timer (okay, if I cooked anything that needed a timer this would be good), plus iTunes controls, one-touch for AirPlay (basically the stuff at the far end of the old app switcher).  Best of all, one-touch for brightness, airplane mode, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.  Yes, it’s kind of crowded-looking, but I’m not sure how to clean it up; I’m just grateful to have it at all.

* I also like the new Calendar approach: opens to the day, from which you can back out to the month, and from there to the year – but I don’t dig having not even a dot on the date in month view to show something there.  The List view is also missing, which is something I’ve gotten a lot of utility from in the past.

* Handy that the clock shows how many hours ahead or behind the other world cities beyond your time zone are.

* The white translucent (or just plain white) backgrounds to everything really drive home the point: the white iPhone is the de facto “default” now.


I know and accept that this is the first public cut at re-inventing iOS.  Yes, it’s too clever by half IMHO, but it’s also the first cut.  One hopes that by October, when I expect a new iPhone, the UI will be polished and refined from months of contact with developers attempting real-world use.  As always, you have to trust the process.

Of which, etc.



* Shout out to Friends =)

When September Ends

“You know if we’d lost here in Vietnam, I think it might’ve driven us crazy. Y’know, as a country.”

-The Comedian to Dr Manhattan, Watchmen (1985)

Alan Moore was right. It did drive us crazy. It exposed the limits of America in the 1960s, it made us feel like everything we thought we knew was suddenly not to be trusted. Stalemate against a third-rate Soviet satellite state, corruption in the Oval Office leading to resignation, then the shock of an energy crisis and the coming of stagflation, and then Iran…nobody who saw Argo should wonder how Reagan could win so handily in 1980. People just wanted to forget it ever happened.

Flash forward twenty years.

The first decade of the 21st century was an unmitigated disaster. A controversial election, ultimately awarded to the candidate with fewer votes by a score of 5-4. Then, a rag-tag group of terrorists hits a royal flush on the last card. The country freaks out, the leadership capitalizes, and we go down a rathole of fear and paranoia and blind stupid panic for years. Incompetence is piled on incompetence. A great American city drowns. The economy treads water. The housing market inflates and collapses. The banking sector shits the bed, the economy implodes, and God sends us a messenger in the form of the ex-mayor of Wasilla to show us just how far we sunk. And so, we hand the reins to the nice colored fella…

…and we wake up the next morning and agree to forget how we got here.

The GOP was only too happy to hit the reset button and pass the buck. All the better: they could play scorched earth, launder their brand behind the “Tea Party” label, and rely on a tired nation not to want to re-litigate the past. Yes, we have tens of thousands of troops bogged down in two foreign wars, unemployment is skyrocketing, banks need massive taxpayer bailouts, General Motors is on the verge of collapse…and that’s just how it was when we woke up. No thought to how we got here. Not a lick of consideration to the root causes. Most importantly, no attempt to make sure it won’t happen again. Stock market is running away again, banks are steaming along knowing they have a rescuer of last resort, unemployment – real unemployment, not the formula figure – is still double digits, and the Republicans are running further to the right with every passing election cycle.

I think September 11 drove us a little crazy. It drove us into a world of pant-shitting terror and the kind of stupid that comes when you’re so scared you’ll hurt yourself, like the guy who sees a snake and breaks his leg trying to run. It led us to freedom fries and burning Dixie Chicks records and endless “reality” television and ever-more-drool-faced cable “news”. And we were so embarrassed at what we did to ourselves that we decided to make a fresh start from where we were, without ever correcting what got us there.

Which is how we got here, now. Am I disappointed in Barack Obama over his failure to curtail runaway NSA surveillance? Sure, especially when he campaigned against it five years ago. But I also know full well that had he shut it down in any meaningful way, the first successful terrorist attack would immediately lead to charges that he had kept us from being warned, kept us from defending ourselves, that his indifference to the terrorist threat had let it happen. Hell, that’s already the gist of the constant drumbeat of Benghazi!! from the GOP and its amen corner in the press. Imagine an attack on the scale of the Boston bombing, where the suspects aren’t reeled in by the end of the week, and imagine it happens six months after the NSA publicly shuts down the PRISM project. Guaranteed at least 66% chance of impeachment in the House within a month.

Obama’s had five years to shut this thing down. The Congress has had seven years to raise hell about it. The American people have had four trips to the ballot box where they could have held their elected officials to judgement over the invasion of privacy and the surveillance of an overreaching government. But nobody does. Maybe it’s because we’re still scared, maybe it’s because we don’t much care, but maybe it’s because we’re ashamed to go back and openly look at how we got to the point of needing that program in the first place.

Ronald D. Moore, in his Battlestar Galactica reboot – to this day, perhaps the best artistic comment on September 11 yet – put in Commander Adama’s mouth the cutting sentence “Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done anymore.” That day may be here, it may not. But it needs to come soon. We as a nation have to confront what we did ourselves, and what we were complicit in allowing others to do in our name. We can’t agree to forget, we can’t agree to disagree, we can’t hush it up in the name of comity and good feeling – especially when those who were let up off the mat use it as an opportunity to pull the knives out again and blame others for presiding over the mess they made themselves.

I don’t know what it’s going to take. It’s not as simple as clamping down on big finance and taxing the ridiculously rich and muzzling the watchdogs of the surveillance state. It’s going to take some sober reflection, and some admission that we ourselves lost our damn minds, and acknowledgement that we handed the bullets to Deputy Barney Fife instead of Sheriff Andy Taylor. And we will need to learn and accept what we did wrong so that hopefully we won’t do it again the next time something bad happens.

But on current form, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Nobody likes to admit they were wrong. We don’t do contrition. Not in America.

Second thoughts

* Apple really is convinced they have the power problem licked. If they’re really allowing “true” multitasking and doing automatic background updates of apps and revamping the UI to the point that transparency is the new skeuomorphism, then either the 2013 iPhone will have an i7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM and an arc reactor in back, or it will be dead every day by 10:30 AM.  Door number three implies that Jony Ive and his gang actually graduated from Hogwarts and have licensed a Time-Turner or similar.  This one is the grand bull moose gold medal “I’ll believe it when I see it” of updates.

* No iWatch.  No iTelevision. No competition for Google Glass.  Let the howls of outrage commence.  And yet, when you think about it, the new-look iCloud is something that has to work to make possible all that other bullshit.  After all, centralized notifications – delete one place and it’s done everywhere – is the sort of thing you’d want working on any notional iWatch, correct?  Once iCloud is in place to act as the backbone for everything you want to pass between machines, it’s easier to just hang a watch off the same service.  Or a television. Or contact lenses. Or whatever.

* Note that iTunes Radio is free and ad-free with iTunes Match, which I’m already paying $25/year for.  Don’t know if that will do for Spotify or not, but iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match and now iTunes Radio are all part and parcel of something I’ve been thinking about for a while: ten years ago, Steve Jobs was pitching the Mac as “the hub of your digital life.” Your digital camera, your iPod, your CD collection, all flowing through your Macintosh.  Now, in 2013, the aim is plainly for iCloud to become that hub, for better or worse.  It’s not unlike what Google has wanted you to do for years now, although in Apple’s case it seems to be more about  “make sure all your devices are concurrent” rather than “be the central repository at which everything looks.” 

* Yes, this new iOS cribs shamelessly from Android, Windows Phone, and the late lamented WebOS.  I think at some level Apple has decided “screw it, if everyone is going to steal from everyone then we’re just going to take what we want and to hell with it.”  The result looks like all the best bits of other interfaces while still remaining iOS – the learning curve won’t be sharp at all.  At least we can hope.

* The filters thing is entirely out of hand.  I’m so over filters.  It’s getting ridiculous.

* Automatic web search from within Siri…using Bing. How things have changed.  If this were Yahoo, it would be huge, and sort of make sense – as it is, it’s just a little bewildering; the last thing Apple needs at this point is another frenemy relationship like the one that led to the Maps fiasco. Although having Wikipedia in Siri will do nicely.  Save me the time of launching Google, speaking the search term, scrolling down to the Wiki entry and tapping.

* It seems like the white iOS devices are now the official “default,” much the same way that the MacBook Air has become the “default” Mac. And much as I prefer the black, I think the white legitimately looks better without a case, especially with those well-lit low corner shots with the gleam of the chamfered aluminum.

* Once again, I’m convinced we are looking at October.  It usually takes four months.  Look for the next-gen iPhone to arrive with the fall leaves.

First impressions

If there’s a take-home theme to Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, it’s this: Apple wants you to have a continuous and contiguous computing experience from your Mac to your iPhone or iPad.  Maps and iBooks come to the Mac, iOS notifications come to the Mac, and iCloud becomes even more of a shared linchpin holding it all together.  This is a low-key use of the kind of web services Apple has always struggled with – hopefully lightweight enough that it will be reliable, or at least more reliable than some of the iCloud stuff has been in the past.  (Aside: the iDisk was basically DropBox ten years before DropBox, so I’m not sure why it went away or why people thought Apple needed to buy DropBox.)  

After the last week, too, I wonder how many people will want to have iCloud Keychain sharing all their passwords and credit card numbers.  At the very least it’s something people need to think about. Rands nailed it: “I barely trust iCloud to keep my bookmarks.” He’s not the only one, either.

12 hour battery life on a 13″ MacBook Air?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY FUCKING MONEY. At the very least, 9 hour battery life on an 11″ MacBook Air means I will almost certainly scale down to the 11″ next time out.  And at long last, something they desperately needed to announce: a new Mac Pro. This thing has been so long coming that it has to be a blockbuster – and on present form, it looks like it could be.  I mean, three simultaneous 4K displays on the built-in graphics?  And the thing is built in the USA at that…

If there’s one mission for iCloud, it’s “suck less.”  And iWork is alive – and apparently turning into its own web-based service as well.  None of this document-sharing stuff from 2009 or so, real honest-to-god Pages and Numbers and Keynote on the web.  Given the track record of Apple’s web services in general, this is not going to light a lot of lamps unless they have changed the way things work on the back end in a BIG way.

And now the much-awaited iOS material…and the Android influence is unmistakeable.  The massively lightweight fonts that have taken over the mobile space have finally been adopted by Apple.  And the look – lighter color, thin all round – is definitely unlike anything that existed on the platform before.  If there’s an overarching theme to the new iOS, it’s “Piss on you, Scott Forstall” – there’s nothing remotely skeuomorphic here.  And it looks like the true multitasking relies heavily on the same sort of battery life tricks in Mavericks.  If it works, it will be amazing.  If not…the phone will be a brick by lunchtime.

Meanwhile…iTunes Radio is real. What exactly are we aping here? Spotify? Pandora? Whatevs. Phone, FaceTime and Message blocking AT LAST.  And activation lock that will prevent you wiping and reusing a phone.  As theft deterrents go, this is pretty much all NYPD could realistically ask for.

A lot of people are going to be talking about Apple catching up to Android or Windows Phone or whatever else, and to some extent they’re right. But at the same time, the message on iOS has always been “we’re not going to do this until we can make it not suck.”  It’s why there was no 3G or App Store in the beginning, it’s why cut-and-paste took until iOS 3, it’s why multitasking was such a limited function until now.  But more than anything else, it means that everything this time out had better pay off.


I miss it.  I really do.  I miss knowing that the whole technology world – hell, a non-trivial chunk of the real world – is focused on what my company is about to announce, about to release, about to do to change the game.  I was there for the Intel shift and the iPhone announcement – hell, my co-workers thought I was going to be onstage in a bunny suit at one point.

That was then.  Now I’m getting set to cluster around the live stream with the rest of the peasants. I’ve only even been up to WWDC once since leaving Cupertino Hexachrome Fruit Holdings, and the IT track sessions I need haven’t been on offer in some time.

So what are we expecting?  On paper, realistically, there’s nothing we should expect beyond developer introduction to iOS 7 and Mac OS X 10.9 (assuming the ‘annual updates’ talk from last year is real).  The Great Mentioner seems to think new MacBooks and some sort of streaming radio product are likely, with a new or heavily revised Mac Pro behind that (an appropriate intro for a developer conference) and perhaps a goosed-up AppleTV.  The non-tech world will howl with rage and grief when the new iPhone is not announced, because they are idiots and cannot read history or do math.

Personally, there’s only one thing I want out of iOS 7: a granular way to see what apps are slaughtering your battery.  My brief experiments with Google Now and Saga are demonstrating that pervasive constantly-running location services are even worse to deal with than the constant screen-use-and-refreshing of Twitter that made me take it off the phone.  Battery is the key.  Battery is everything.  Battery is why the first iPhone had no third-party apps or 3G radio or GPS.  Make sure my damn phone will last all day and I’ll be happy enough.

One hour left.  You better have something pretty damn slick up your sleeve, Auburn man.

Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death

Once again, much as I hate sounding like a bong-watered granola shaver, the Dead Kennedys had this nailed in the Reagan years.  After all, think about it: where are you going to go for mobile phone privacy or computer privacy when Microsoft, Google and Apple are all mobbed up with the NSA?  You’ll need something based on Linux and I don’t mean Android, but even if you can get that securely – Verizon and AT&T and Sprint are mobbed up with the NSA and there’s no reason to think T-Mobile isn’t, and even if you don’t roll with them, every MVNO is backboned off one of them, so what good does it do you?

And even if you go to all those lengths – you have your Ubuntu laptop and your Ubuntu-based phone and you’re on some carrier that miraculously isn’t giving the NSA anything, and don’t say you’re using Skype over Wi-Fi or FaceTime or Google Hangouts – once you’ve done all that to secure yourself, ask: what about the party at the other end? Because unless they’re doing all the same stuff, you may as well not bother once the other half of the conversation is wide open.

Let’s face it: cypherpunks and BitCoin enthusiasts and the truly paranoid are all over this already, but Ed Earl Brown isn’t really stuck into this particular issue.  Mostly because even if he cared, Ed Earl Brown isn’t in a position to actually do anything about it. Even if he could shop around for a broadband provider who won’t sell you down the river, can you trust them?  (Could have trusted Speakeasy back in the day, but they got eated.) Wireless company?  I mean sure there’s Working Assets or whatever they’re called now, but unless something has changed, their MVNO backbone is Sprint.

That ship has sailed, that horse is out of the barn, that genie is out of the bottle, that metaphor is befucked, people.  The time to nip this in the bud was in 2006 or so.  Instead we find ourselves in the position implied by Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: technology has run out ahead of law and culture and the fix will have to be legal and cultural.  We cannot technologically prevent this kind of snooping and data aggregation, especially when Google and Facebook have it at the heart of their business model – all we can do is make the improper accessing and misuse of that data legally, morally and culturally unacceptable.  Which, in light of current levels of huffing and puffing online, we might actually be able to do something about.  Maybe.  But forget about un-ringing that bell right now.  In a world where people not only walk around with a personal GPS locator in their pocket but feed their location into Foursquare and their friendships into Facebook and a steady diet of their surroundings into Instagram, we’ve already proven that we’re too fond of the toothpaste to put it back in the tube.

Conspiracy theory

What if Barack Obama really was opposed to the excesses of the Patriot Act and the general mad panic induced by the War on Terror?

What if he tried to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, but was constantly thwarted by Republicans who raved about the horror of unleashing these mutant super-terrorists on our poor defenseless country?

What if he tried passing a health care plan that was basically the GOP alternative to the Clinton plan in 1994 – one well to the right of Nixon in the early 70s – and saw it shot down by a Republican party who reflexively opposed anything he endorsed or proposed?

Wouldn’t it make sense at that point for him to think that the best way to get rid of something he opposed would be to endorse it and wait for the GOP to lash out at it and try to tear it down?

And wouldn’t it make sense for him to make a big splash about the Patriot Act and the wholly-legalized surveillance state, knowing full well that the Republicans would immediately attack it with the same ferocity they attacked anyone opposed to the Patriot Act during the Bush years?  Especially with libertarian-pinup-boy Rand Paul as the fashionable face of Silicon Valley Republicanism, one who would no more be able to lay off an attack on the Patriot Act than your correspondent would be able to turn down a plate of barbecue and a glass of bourbon?

Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for Barack Obama to leak the PRISM program himself, knowing that the GOP would immediately attack it, and thus cripple a surveillance-state program he could never undo himself without being savaged by the right as soft on terror and a secret Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer?

Think about it.  I’d say there’s at least a 10% chance this is completely true…