Hanging out ALL the wash

* I’m going to be in training pretty much all week, and on vacation after that, so this is the quickie dump of everything I might have been blogging about.  Hang on tight, here we go…


* So the Nexus 5 has dropped at long last, alongside an Android 4.4 that’s meant to be lighter and easier to put on more limited hardware.  Between that and the Google Play layer, it’s possible Google might have licked the fragmentation problem going forward, as evinced by Moto putting the updated camera software for the Moto X onto the Google Play store to circumvent Verizon’s reluctance to push the update.  Notable too is the fact that the Nexus 5 doesn’t work on Verizon, alone among national carriers.


* Unfortunately, if you have the Galaxy Nexus, you’re out of luck; there will be no Android 4.4 support for it.  This is tantamount to Apple declaring that iOS 7 won’t run on the iPhone 4S at all; it may seem like an outrage but Google explicitly commits to no more than 18 months’ update support for Nexus devices. Still, it’s more than you’ll get from most phone manufacturers or their carrier partners (see Verizon above) and goes a long way toward explaining why Google is moving more and more stuff into Google Play Services rather than Android proper.  Of course there are other reasons too.


* The Nexus 5 includes a chip to enable some of that voice-recognition a la the Moto X, which is apparently part of the Android 4.4 code. That plus the tight integration of Google Now suggests that the forthcoming Google Watch will basically be a Google Now terminal that connects to your phone for its network connection and location info – and that, all by itself, is a far more intriguing and attractive package than the dog’s breakfast Samsung slapped together for the sake of being first out of the gate.


* Samsung actually had a developer conference in San Francisco last week or so, pushing its own ecosystem that sits atop Google.  Amazon went this route, sort of, what with building on top of the Android Open Source Project and forking from there, but Samsung is basically just slapping their own stuff over top of full Android and then asking people to develop for that rather than Android proper because of their commanding market share among Android devices. Shameless doesn’t begin to cover it, but then, Samsung’s entire approach to mobile phones has always, always been “better to seek forgiveness than permission, and better to just pay the court costs than either.”


* Meanwhile, the wife has finally gotten her iPhone 5S, which means I will finally be able to risk replacing the battery in my old 4S without leaving her high and dry.  A 4S in very good condition (year and a half old with protective plastic on it most of the way) and a fresh battery, running iOS 7.0.3, ought to be a perfectly viable everyday phone for at least another year and maybe two…and thus insurance against suddenly no longer having my work-provided device.  Also insurance against doing anything rash like splashing out on an unlocked Nexus 5. =)


* Speaking of electronics, the nerdosphere is going crazy today at the news that the FAA is revising rules on use of electronic devices during flight.  And yet, the main thing is merely the prospect of having them on during takeoff and landing – they must be held in the hand or placed in the seatback, they have to remain in airplane mode, and voice calling is still a no-no.  It’s not the olly-olly-oxen-free that they seem to be crowing about on Gizmodo or the Verge, and it drives home one of the most annoying things about flying: the people for whom having to stop playing Candy Crush long enough for the plane to reach 10,000 feet is an insurmountable crime against their freedoms.


* And while we’re on crimes against freedoms – it should be obvious right now that the main result of Edward Snowden’s revelations has been to give the entire rest of the world a club to beat the United States with.  I thought the big bugaboo was that O NOEZ WE R SPYIN ON MERICANZ!!!!! and yet all we seem to hear these days are details about how foreign citizens were having their metadata harvested and how other countries’ leaders were being spied on.  

Seriously.  Google “ECHELON”.  Or “ONYX.” This is not exclusive to the United States.  In fact, a lot of this isn’t even news.  I present to you an excerpt from William Gibson’s Zero History, published in 2010, between Hollis Henry and Hubertus Bigend:

 “Two,” he said, “counting you.”

“I can’t work that way,” she told him. “I won’t.”

“It won’t be that way. This is entirely less…speculative.”

“Wasn’t the NSA or someone tapping your phone, reading your email?”

“But now we know that they were doing that to everyone.” He loosened his pale golden tie. “We didn’t, then.”

Yes, three years ago, the ubiquity of NSA access to electronic communications was enough of a fait accompli for a major author to include it as a throwaway plot reference.  This is not new, and it didn’t remotely start with Obama, and the idea that it could – or should – be somehow made to go away altogether is to betray a profound ignorance of how the world works and how easy it is to put toothpaste back in the tube.

And now it appears that some left-wingers in Germany want Snowden to testify in person about US spying in Germany. And it appears he is amenable. Basicaly, Edward Snowden’s biggest accomplishment has been to completely compromise the discussion of how we as a society come to terms with the technological potential of mass surveillance, because he’s managed to bury it under an avalanche of homeless-man’s James Bond skullduggery and some very legitimate questions about his motives and conduct.  

If Fast Eddie Snowden is serious about the freedom of American citizens from ubiquitous surveillance, he needs to get on the next plane to JFK and face the guns from within the United States.  His profile is high enough that merely disappearing him is probably not an option, and it’s a lot harder to ignore a potentially enormous legal kerfuffle when it’s right under your nose than when it’s packed away asking Russians if they’ve tried turning it off and on again.  Basically, the biggest impact of the Snowden incident was to score a crap-ton of money for Glenn Greenwald to take his high horse private with eBay capital,  Left, right, glibertarian, whatever: freedom means the ability to cash the check.


* The thing is, we knew this was happening years ago.  Hell, we asked for this years ago.  People assumed that the government could see and hear everything and wanted to know why they weren’t able to magically see the evil Mandarin terrorists before they struck.  And then – because they were evil Mandarin terrorists unstoppable by any means, instead of a bunch of holy-rollers who hit the one-outer of a lifetime – the government naturally proceeded to do what everybody assumed they could.  And they got exposed.  And everybody shrugged.  And then, for whatever reason, this guy makes a big deal of it and clutches the pearls, and it’s a story again – mainly because while the right will always lay down for a Republican president, the American left seems to love nothing as much as slagging off Democrats.  Better perfection than half-measures…with predictable results. “We should only spy on the bad guys” makes as much sense as “the airport screeners should only search the terrorists,” but nobody wants to draw the line – so much easier to just scream that we shouldn’t be spying, period.


* Ironically, Fast Eddie is now working for the Russian version of Facebook, which is ironic in the extreme.  Facebook and Google have built their entire business on data-mining your content to sell your info to advertisers, and the ever-deeper integration of Google Now is the biggest disincentive to take the Android route. Technically speaking, you don’t have to use Apple’s services on your iPhone – you can get all your music from Amazon, you can rip your DVDs with Handbrake for movies, you don’t have to use iPhoto Stream or iTunes Match or Find My iPhone if you don’t want.  Apps themselves you still have to get through the App Store, but hell, the original iPhone didn’t have apps.  You certainly don’t have to use Apple’s mail. You don’t even have to use a Mac – it’s not that difficult to minimize your contact with Apple goods beyond the iPhone to only the iTunes you use for sync.

But if you want to use the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4, it’s almost worthless unless you use Google services.  In fact, the entire home screen – the basic interface from which everything else proceeds – has been replaced outright with the Google Search app. That’s the point; Android is a mechanism to steer you to Google services so they can get the data and sell the ads.  If it were about selling Android devices, Google wouldn’t still be churning out iOS apps that are in some areas superior to their Android alternatives.  Google doesn’t care about the hardware; Google is selling services.  And Apple is selling atoms.  And Microsoft finds themselves caught in a world where software is increasingly free as in beer or too cheap to make money for any business with double-digit employees…and Microsoft still doesn’t have a new CEO.


* Speaking of people who are at a loss, it’s now basketball season.  And Vanderbilt doesn’t have enough scholarship players to scrimmage 5-on-5; in fact, technically speaking, we are two-deep at point guard and only ONE deep at shooting guard and small forward.  With some shifting and shoveling, you can kind of fudge it, but the fact of the matter is we have a total of three true guards for two starting slots and a glut of power forwards. So it’s going to be interesting to see how an undermanned and lopsided squad, picked to finish 11th in a 14-team league, plays out the season when they know they have nothing at all to lose.


* Kids these days don’t know how good they have it.  If I were ten years old and I could’ve had a Tony Stark arc-reactor shirt that glowed under the fabric AND a Nerf revolver that shot 60 feet and could be hammer-cocked and fired one-handed AND a Nerf sword or axe or MACE even AND five X-Men movies and three Iron Man plus Avengers and actual Marvel Lego sets AND a weekly Star Wars cartoon series?  I would have sold my soul on the spot for pennies on the dollar for that stuff.


* Tech support problems in a nutshell: “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”


* And now, we shut down the laptop for two weeks.  Won’t open it back up until Monday the 18th.  I hope.  We’ll see how it goes.

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