Drewloid's Blog

Archive for February 2011

Wired’s columnist simply nails the whole Apple subscription hoo haw.  And it is funny as hell.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/02/alt-text-apple-subscriptions/

I saw this on DaringFireball this morning and read it.  This is the funniest shit evah.

http://blog.jamiemurai.com/2011/02/you-win-rim/

Not funny for RIM, of course, but funny for me.  This is a way way way worse experience than my team shipped in Windows CE Platform Builder in 2002 when we integrated a CEPC emulator.  Which I would not have thought possible.  Not impossible in the sense that what we did was horrible, which it was not, impossible in the sense that what my team did 9 years ago was … NINE YEARS AGO.  Which is like a billion years in technology industry time.

Dear RIM:

I have a small suggestion for the proper developer experience.  I go to your web site, enter a little bit of information and click ‘go’.  I come back in a few minutes with some fresh coffee or soda and a cute little demo app is running in the simulator on my computer and I can play with it.  I then click another button that launches a wizard that walks me through the process of building the demo app and shows me how to make some cute little modifications and then gets my new app running in the simulator.

I am ready to rock and make your platform viable in the face of brutal competition in only 10 minutes of my time.

Duh.

This is why I like Gruber, he calls people on their shit.  http://daringfireball.net/2011/02/eleventh_hour

But let’s be real about this Apple rumors game.  It is a game, meaning it should be fun and entertaining and probably even a little stupid and pointless.  It is a game.

Arguing over the veracity or quality of one’s “sources” is completely ridiculous.  It’s a bit like two monkeys fighting over who has the best poo for flinging.  It’s still poo.

Google says they are taking action to identify and return higher quality sites in search*.  Yup, that is what they say.  When I see it in the results that is when I will consider switching my default search engines from duckduckgo and bing.  But last night, and even of today, I am not seeing the change.

I have a really simple search that I’ve been using.  “How do I change my water filter”.  Very simple.  On duckduckgo the top three hits are fixya.com, partselect.com, and purwaterfilter.com.  On google, the top three are ehow.com, ehow.com, and answers.com.

Now Google is probably in a tougher position than duckduckgo.  Duckduckgo can probably get away with filtering content spam sites from Demand Media.  Google would probably get sued.

But that is not my problem.  My problem is content spam sites with useless crap at the top of my search results.  And until Google fixes their search results, they have no chance of being my default search provider again.  But that probably doesn’t matter, they have probably lost me forever anyway.  What they need to care about is to prevent a flood of defections.  Saying you are fixing a problem without actually fixing it will delay those defections.  Unless there are people who make a switch because they are annoyed by meaningless chatter.

Just as the world is better off with a *huge* variety of media sources to take sips from the giant pie of advertising dollars, so is the world better off with no single dominant internet search provider.

 

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/finding-more-high-quality-sites-in.html

I have to admit that I haven’t actually read this announcement, just a couple of blog sites that reference this announcement.  Like I said, I don’t care what they say, I care about the results of search queries.

State-of-the-art processors.  All-new graphics.  Breakthrough high-speed I/O.

I’m really not sure what to make of the new macbook pros.  One could say some things about Apple like “they are sitting still because they think they are making enough money on the line”, or even “they are milking the macbook pro line.”  But that is not the Apple I know and love.  They wouldn’t give PC vendors a whole year of catch-up just because they are greedy.  The PC vendors are on the ropes and Apple has a lot of forward momentum.  Now is the time to put the coals to the fire and run up the score.

Apple would do that if they could.  So if they don’t, it means they can’t.  Like many people, I’ve been watching the rumor mill going nutty about what might be in this latest refresh.  Sadly, NONE of the exciting stuff has shown up in the top of the line notebook hardware the PC industry has to offer.  No LiquidMetal cases.  No SSD for the OS partition.  No 1440×900 display on the 13″.  No lowered pricing.  They even weigh the same.  Thunderbolt is the most exciting part, and that’s pretty boring since there isn’t anything we can buy that uses it*.  Snoozefest.

The most interesting part of the whole announcement is the battery life numbers, which have been reduced to 7 hours across the line from 10 hours for the 13″ and 8-9 hours for 15″ and 17″.  Ars Technica acknowledges this could be from the faster processor and graphics, and is more likely from Apples “new, more rigorous battery tests.”  Well, having worked in the area for a while, I can quite assure you that that degree of hit on the battery life numbers is not due to the processors.  And why the hell would they reduce the numbers with new tests?  From a marketing perspective, I would not do that.

But business is the reason for the new battery numbers.  It simply isn’t  good that the Macbook Air looks like it has poor battery life compared to it’s bigger siblings.  Now everything looks like it lines up properly.  And if the Air line has the highest margins (as is suggested by some of the teardowns), then if I was running things I would sure as hell get rid of the perception that there is a battery life advantage in the Macbook Pro line.

Because mobility is not only the future, it is the only thing that matters.  Nobody actually needs the faster processors for anything they really use – like email and web work and document creation, etc.  Only a tiny minority of users benefit from the fastest processors.  Speeding up the MBP line with SSD boot partitions isn’t going to make a difference to anyone, and if they care, they can buy an Air or get an optional SSD.  A higher resolution display on the 13″ won’t improve Apple’s competitive position sufficiently to be worth the bother.  LiquidMetal is either not ready or not worth the bother.

It’s not just that the new MBP’s aren’t exciting because Apple doesn’t need to do it, it’s that there isn’t anything exciting left to do with them at this point in time, and there hasn’t been for 2 years.

 

*Except monitors – Apple describes this as “Thunderbolt digital video output”.

Gruber is telling us all the good stuff that the Apple subscription policy has for us poor users.

http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/02/23/app-store-subscriptions

If it is so good for us and adds value, then it is worth the 30% charge and Apple can drop the bit about how the in-app offering has to be at least as good as the deal a customer can get anywhere else.  That is ultimately the only part anyone is actually upset about, and it is the most blatantly questionable (I’m not a lawyer so I won’t say illegal) part of the terms.

I’m sure Apple will make plenty of money without that restriction.  And if they don’t then market is clearly saying that Apple isn’t adding enough value.

Don’t let Apple steal your money.

I like to beat on the so-called music industry for their strange beliefs that they deserve a high fee for delivering very little value to the end user.  It’s fun and most people don’t argue with me, so it’s a little like relieving myself in brown pants.  It gives me a nice warm feeling and nobody really cares.

I read this little case study today over on techdirt:  http://www.techdirt.com/blog/casestudies/articles/20110217/01444113148/case-study-how-ted-learned-that-giving-it-away-increased-both-popularity-revenue.shtml

There is nothing surprising about this, as this is the way it has been in the music industry for quite a while.  Peter Gabriel was saying long ago (like, last century!) that he really didn’t care about his music being pirated, because he didn’t make any money from the recordings and the piracy was clearly increasing the demand for tickets at his live shows.  That is because there are freaks like me who will do something crazy like go see David Byrne 3 times in as many days and drive 1000 miles to do it, and then go see him again 4 months later when he comes back to town yet again.  Live performances are scarce and the recorded music is easy to get.  And in a world where all media is digital, it is infinite.

I’ve seen this idea lots of times and in different places, but today it got me thinking about how many different ways is it possible to apply this concept.  I was just watching the new Radiohead video on YouTube.  Once upon a time music videos had value – enough value that the MTV network was created to air these videos and also show advertisements along the way.  The cable channel was a scarce resource and so were the videos as there were no other outlets where you could see promotional videos from bands.  MTV charged the labels money to show the videos after a while.  Money money money for the thing that was scarce.

Of course the world is different today and the video is free, at least in Radiohead’s case.  When I saw Radiohead a couple years ago – clearly being able to see them live was the scarce thing.

When it comes down to it, the things that are scarce are physical objects, people, and experiences you have shared with other people.  So a great shoe or clothing shopping experience at Nordstrom is scarce somewhat like being able to go to the Radiohead show.

So I’m wondering to myself if giving away an infinite resource is going to become an integral part of selling everything?  There sure do seem to be a wide variety of products for which this is true.  A huge portion of the value of the iPhone is all the free apps that are available on Apple’s App Store.

I think one implication of all this is that marketing campaigns are going to continue to get more and more interesting and creative.  Think of all the products you buy or see for sale that have something that is freely available as part of the environment that leads to the purchase of the product.

If in the future every (scarce) physical product you buy includes an infinite and free component, we really will be moving towards a world of infinite resources and nobody will be able to deny it.

Thursday is Steve’s birthday.  It is reasonable to suggest that Steve Jobs has done more than anyone else to get computer technology mobile and available than anyone else.  He is definitely in the top 10.

Wish him a happy birthday!

http://www.happybirthdaystevejobs.com/

Whether you own or lease that new thing you just “bought” makes a pretty big difference in your legal usage rights and you need to be aware and think about such things, unfortunately.

I’m following the whole Geohot vs. Sony thing at some distance.  See:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2011/02/otheros-class-action-lawsuit-geohot-sony-now-share-same-charge.ars

and the deep down and dirty detail at Groklaw:

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20110218181557455

I freely admit that I haven’t taken the time to read the groklaw part in deep dark detail so there is a small possibility that my opinions are specious, but I doubt it.

There is a lot of complexity in the GeoHot case but it kind of revolves around the basic tenent of ownership and usage rights.

Suppose you buy a car, or better yet, an SUV or a Jeep.  You probably expect that you can drive that sucker on any road you damn well please.  Heck, you probably expect you could take that Jeep on things that aren’t roads.  You might think you can commit crimes of trespass with it.  Or even use it in the outright commission of a crime, like using it as a getaway car when robbing a bank (I pretty strongly recommend against this stuff by the way, particularly the bank robbing, you *will* get caught).

Now let’s suppose you lease the car.  You will sign a big long lease agreement that you may or may not read.  But you probably still expect you can drive it on any road you damn well please just the same as if you bought it.  For the most part that is true, but you’ll pay some penalties at the end of the lease if you exceed certain usage parameters that affect the value of the car at the end of the lease.  The car companies are fairly upfront about this stuff when you enter into the lease, and I expect that there are probably some truth-in-lending laws that require the car dealer to educate you on these details.

Finally, consider the case of renting a car from a car rental agency.  On the big island of Hawaii I can tell you true, the rental contract will quite explicitly tell you that you *cannot* drive the car on any road you damn well please.

Typically in our society, a person who owns a thing is also purchasing the right to use it however they choose.  Which is why most software is actually licensed, not sold.  Check the license agreement on bit of packaged software sometime.  When you license something, you are only purchasing certain limited usage rights, not ownership of the actual thing.  You are a renter.

Most computers come with software in them, and that software is licensed.  In other words, you might “buy” a computer, but you are only licensing the software, and you get only some usage rights.  The catch is, with most computer gadgets, like game consoles and phones, basically what you bought is a brick without the software usage rights, and bricks are pretty cheap at most of the building supply stores I shop at.  The vast majority of the value is in the software, which you only licensed.

So this is where stuff like the GeoHot thing gets fun.  When you buy a PS3 (or pretty much any CE gadget these days) you are buying a brick and a software license, and the software license that you are agreeing to places limits on how you are allowed to use the brick.

GeoHot, and everyone else who wants to run Linux on a PS3, does so at the pleasure of Sony and their licensing terms which are subject to change at Sony’s pleasure.   Before anyone gets confused here, with the Cell processor in there I can tell you there are no shortage of very reasonable and legal reasons why someone might want to run Linux on a PS3.

But Sony really doesn’t give a rip about that.  Sony sold you that brick and software license for the express purpose of selling you more stuff along with that brick.  They were pretty nice to actually sell you the brick, but anything that makes it actually useful is something they only licensed to you.  So while I think GeoHot has a pretty good chance of fending off Sony suing him (especially if he raises the money to hire good lawyers), I think Sony has an equally good chance of fending off the pe0ple suing them for taking away the “Other OS” option.

I’m not making any judgements or anything about all this, it’s just business, and in the tech business we make widgets so we can make money.  For the most part I am on the side of Sony and Apple and Microsoft and whomever makes widgets because we make them to make money and we want to sell them to you under the terms that maximize our revenue so I can get a paycheck.  So if 1% of 1% of 1% of you want to use it in such a way that I’m not going to make any money from you, I really don’t care about your whining that you can’t use your brick the way you want.  Too bad.  I didn’t make it so you could hack it, I made it so I can make my house payment.

As an employee of a tech company I want to make this point fairly clear.  Back in the days when Netscape was going to change the world, Marc Andreessen was quoted as saying something to the effect that he and his company were going to make Microsoft Windows “irrelevant” or some such puffery.  Being an engineer on the Windows team at the time I thought that was a bit, ah, dumb, for him to say such a thing.  Because as a member of that team, I and about a 1000 other really really really smart guys were going to take personally the idea that Marc Andreessen was going to deprive us of our income we were using to make house payments.  We were not likely to let that happen without a fight.  I think everyone knows who won that one.

So don’t expect a lot of sympathy from Sony or any of the rest of us who make widgets when we don’t support you in using it in a manner that doesn’t make any money for us.  I’m glad you are having fun hacking and have the time to do so; the bank expects me to spend my time making the house payment.

Personally, I think Sony is more in the wrong and they should really ignore the hackers and protect themselves from any harm.  But they are still in their rights to decide how you can use their licensed software.  If you don’t like the terms of the license, don’t buy it.

But it send a clear message that Sony owns the functionality of the PS3 and they are going to tell you how you can use it, which I think oversteps the boundary of reasonable use.  If Sony’s policies are that they are going to force you to accept their upgrades onto the brick you bought, then you didn’t buy the brick, you leased or rented it and Sony still owns the brick.  If I buy a PS3 I think I bought the right to decide whether it has a current version of the software on it.

The problem arises is that I don’t think very many people read these license agreements.  I mean really, there is a big long thing you are supposed to agree to every time you want to use something.  Seriously, that’s just dumb.  Nobody is reading 80 pages of license agreement when they are hot to play a new game (or every time Apple changes their damn App Store policies).  Let’s face it, the brick (whether it be a PS3 or an iPhone) is pretty useless if I don’t agree to those licenses.  And I didn’t buy it to use it as a brick, the bricks at the building supply store are lots cheaper and way more durable.

There is no truth in lending law for the software license agreements, and there isn’t going to be one unless somebody gets going with some consumer protection action.  And that is unfortunate.  Because it doesn’t serve the customer, and the whole reason we are in business is to serve the customer.

Beating up on GeoHot may be perfectly reasonable, but it’s bad business.  I am against buying products from companies that beat up on their customers.

I will be seriously stoked if Apple stuffs 8 or 16GB of flash into the new MacBook Pros for the OS and paging drive, as is being reported by some of the rumor sites, such as http://www.macrumors.com/2011/02/21/new-macbook-pros-to-carry-larger-trackpads-dedicated-ssd-for-mac-os-x/

One reason is that I really want a new Mac to replace the one that was stolen out of my truck a year ago right after I moved to Kona.  I make no secret of the fact that even with the weaknesses of OSX, the MacBook Pro is undeniably the benchmark in PC hardware.  I can’t wait to bootcamp Windows 7.  Having an SSD for OS load and paging will seriously make the thing zip along while still providing tons of storage with a standard rotating magnetic media hard drive.  I’d love to have a big SSD, but that’s just not truly practical yet from a price perspective, and a small 64GB SSD like in the little MacBook Air is just a little too small – I expect I would still need to use an external drive much of the time.*

But the big reason, the real reason, the honest and true reason, is because Microsoft and Intel produced specs to enable PC manufacturers to do this for Vista.  Yes, Vista.  Which would make the whole deal simply loaded with irony.  It would be another example of Apple following a Microsoft innovation and figuring out how to be successful with it.  I love that sort of thing.

 

 

* Ok, I’ll admit, I’m stretching.  For the majority of my usage, 64GB with a 1.5TB portable external drive would be just fine.  I think a 256GB SSD needs to hit about $200 for the momentum to really move to SSD, which looks to be roughly 24 months off.  The problem then will be that the standard drive with be 1TB.  I would happily trade a 500GB spinner and $100 for half as much SSD 😉



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  • Roberta Koral: Hey Drew..Andrew ar Andy, whichever you prefer. I just found your blog. Roberta here.
  • globularity: Sharp analysis. -Davoid
  • Stephanie: What a marvelous article, thanks for writing it "friend."

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