pyehouse
27Oct/110

Occupying the Occupation

I've been reading the Occupy Wall Street movement for awhile now. I'm sure many have. I'm interested for several reasons; I believe there is an inequity though I don't know that I've managed to put my finger on the precise nature of it, there is potential for a great deal of change which may be good or bad, plus change is just exciting. One common complaint is that there is no single message other than expressions of fiscal inequity among the occupiers and that there is no one single voice to represent this growing movement. I believe that if the movement goes on for very much longer, someone is going to make an attempt to scoop up these people and try to wield them like a big heavy club. I only hope that when that happens that person is the right person doing the right thing.

The first observation I had about all of this was that I hadn't noticed it at first. Here was this group of people protesting, making a lot of noise in one of the most populous and newsworthy cities on the planet, in my own country, and there was virtually no news coverage of it. I have watched as it gained more traction among blogs and indie news sites but still heard nothing coming from the standard media outlets. Then when that coverage did come, there was a definite bias against the occupiers with very little by way of attempts to glean what it was they were there to protest.

Now as I hear news reports come in, many times the protests and the reactions to same are peaceful. Sometimes they are not. Perhaps there is bias because of the news sources I had to rely on early on but it seems to me that the police reaction has been over the top in a handful of cases. Unacceptably so. There is fear everywhere. Protesters who fear for their livelihood which has driven them to protest, and who fear for their lives because they don't know what the official response will be. Police who fear that riots will ensue. Politicians and powerbrokers who see this emotion and power, chaotic and untamed but present, and fear that they will not be able to combat it or control it.

Emotions are running high and as interactions escalate into more violence, as fears are realized, more will be drawn into this movement. An opportunity will be made visible. Someone will step forward who seems to "get it". Who knows how to talk, how to charm, how to cajole the crowd. They will become the leader, not because they were elected but because the protesters will see them as someone who represents them well, who can be the front man or woman to present their needs to the powers that be. To get things done. And things will get done. There is a power here, deep, hidden but there. It's possible it will disperse, though that will still leave the undercurrent of frustration and anger and fear to latch onto. It is also possible it will be harnessed. They say nature abhors a vacuum. And historically we see that this sort of movement, this sort of power, rarely goes unclaimed for very long. I only hope that we don't regret who takes the reins.

Filed under: personal No Comments
19Oct/110

Yahoo and Apple, A Study In Contrasts

I'm not going to discuss differences between how the companies have been run, the dramatically different arcs each has taken in recent years, or the products each has gotten into. I am instead going to talk about something many might find a bit odd on my blog. I'm going to talk about stock prices. More specifically, stock valuations in relation to quarterly earnings reports. Large companies typically provide "guidance" on quarterly revenues. This represents their estimate on what revenue will be in a subsequent quarter. It is supposed to be used to gauge the possible performance of the company for investors. Wall Street analysts, however, typically offer their own guidance. So depending on who you listen to and how different the analyst expectations are from the business' expectations, investors may have quite a different reaction to results.

Rewarding Success With Disdain

By any measure, Apple's Q4 2011 results are spectacular. They posted their second best quarter ever at $28.27 billion in revenue, which was second only to the quarter immediately prior which clocked in at $28.57 billion. This in spite of the fact that this past quarter would have included the lull leading up to the release of the iPhone 4S, a period of time where users considering a new device typically hold off until the latest gadget is out and available. Apple also mentioned this was their first $100+ billion fiscal year in terms of revenue. In fact, so sure is Apple that they're doing well, they have indicated they expect to have $30 billion in the next quarter, which would include the holiday season. You would expect, therefore, that this sort of performance, something any company would be absolutely pleased by, would warrant an increase in stock price, wouldn't you? Not so fast. Apple typically sandbags their estimates, indicating lower revenue guidance on a quarterly basis and always exceeding the mark. This time around Wall Street apparently took this into account and pushed their expectations higher than Apple's. Apple's guidance had been $25 billion. Wall Street expected $29 billion. The final total of $28.27 billion was well over the Apple numbers but didn't quite reach Wall Street's much loftier mark. The result? Apple was trading 6% lower in after hours trading last night.

So let's recap. Apple says they expect to make $25 billion. Wall Street figures they are wrong and expects $29 which is technically higher than any quarter in the company's history. Apple almost makes the mark but misses, coming in at $28.27 and posting the second best quarterly results in the company's history, but still exceeding their own guidance. Wall Street responds to this sort of success by trading at reduced prices.

Rewarding Failure With Interest

Now let's consider Yahoo. Yahoo also posted their results yesterday. Their earnings fell 26%. Their ad business is in decline. They have had a turbulent time at the executive level, with questionable leadership moves. Their search share is diminishing. I've written on Yahoo's decline and missteps on multiple occasions. Analyst predictions, however, were lower than the announced results. You would expect that perhaps with Yahoo not doing so well, in spite of what the analysts predicted, the share price might still be on the decline. (I think you know where this is going) Nope. Yahoo traded up in after hours activity.

I imagine that analysts would say they are doing the public a service by trying to see through the manipulation that companies attempt by announcing estimates that are too high or too low in an attempt to alter public perception. The problem is that the analysts have almost as much to gain by altering what people expect. What's worse is that you end up with real results which are ignored in favor of propped up numbers which have no bearing on what is actually happening.

What about the future of Yahoo visible to the trading public warrants an increase in stock price, especially based on the numbers they released? What about the future of Apple visible to the trading public warrants a decrease? The answer to both is "nothing".

I suppose I should be thankful though. As should anyone who believes Apple is a strong healthy company with plenty to look forward to. It seems like Wall Street salivates over the notion of Apple falling on their faces. The more that view becomes pervasive, the more buying opportunities become available to those who see the numbers for what they are.

Filed under: tech No Comments
17Oct/110

Java Resurgent: Not So Much

In Pursuit of the One True Programming Language

Java logo Cringely had an interesting take on Java. I must confess, I love Java, warts and all. And while it has been awhile since I really got involved with Java development, I've watched from afar and seen that more of its issues are being worked out. I think the thing that drew me to it in the first place was the potential of 'write once, run anywhere'. I say potential because it was never really a reality. Java is still solid on the enterprise server but then that was never really the issue. 'Write once, run anywhere' was supposed to be the promise for client developers to be able to create an app that was truly cross platform. And it works to a point, but still there are problems.

In any event, Cringely clarifies his position that it's the JVM and its potential resurgence that he is considering. i.e. having a single platform which provides solid performance and good flexibility across platforms so that you can target that and call it a day. Moreover he ties that performance in with the promulgation of SSD over HDD and the fact that the bottleneck will cease to be database seek times due to hardware inefficiency and simple runtime inefficiency due to platform. His comparisons are mostly to Ruby but apply to any interpreted language. He notes that the JVM provided threading and memory management at a time when it was mostly done with greater difficulty with existing tools (e.g. C++) at the time.

C++ has been getting more of these features, whether through add-on libraries or through language updates. It is supported on almost any platform you care to mention. What C++ lacks is the enforced standardization of things like data types (which are still in some cases hardware implementation dependent for C++ but have set size definitions in Java) and UI frameworks. There are C++ frameworks which are cross platform capable and allow for a single application to be built for any supported environment but as with Java they must target the lowest common denominator in terms of functionality, often lag behind native enhancements and still do not typically look quite like they "belong" since there is usually a noticeable difference from native apps.

The point here is that C++ is not far behind Java in terms of offering many of the comforts which the JVM provides. Note I say the JVM. It is the JVM and the backing libraries which provide all of the functionality. The Java language is just a front end. JRuby is an example of being able to target the JVM with a language other than Java. Which still ties in with Cringely's point. But here is where I differ.

I don't think the JVM will see a resurgence, as much as I might like it. The biggest point Cringely seems to be making is that as more emphasis is put on CPU performance because disk performance improves enough to make seek times negligible, the JVM will see more projects in lieu of things like RoR and CakePHP. I disagree though. Right now the JVM is already available for those projects for whom performance is so key that it is needed. Right now, database performance is a common factor among all web server implementations. Put another way, optimizations for database access affect all implementations roughly equally. So again, any optimization happening now is still going to determine your deployment language. That won't change with database performance increasing. If anything, it might even make those scripted languages more useful because you've already cut some of the performance bottlenecks and you can afford a little more slack on the logic performance.

Additionally, as C++ evolves, it seems to be closing the gap in the number of toys you enjoy with Java. So the ease of development is decreasingly an issue. Which means you can get your performance gains, with possibly more deployment options, and equal development ease, by switching to C++ in lieu of Java. Not now perhaps but in the timeframe Cringely is considering for JVM uptake.

And while OS X is still not a majority market share, it's numbers are increasing. And Java is in a somewhat nebulous state at the moment. Apple has deprecated their JVM. Java apps are not allowed in the Mac App Store nor on iOS. Oracle has announced Java 7 but has not announced a timetable for availability on OS X. That's a big hole.

All in all, I would love to see Java make a comeback and be more widespread than ever. I truly enjoy developing with it. I just don't see it in the cards.

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14Oct/110

Silver Linings

I have been hard pressed to focus on the blog of late. My 9 year old daughter plays soccer and several days ago, during practice, was on the receiving end of a kicked soccer ball. Unfortunately the ball was kicked by one of the dads and from about 10 feet in front of her. She did not lose consciousness but was knocked to her back. He apologized and she got up on her own, which is likely why my initial reaction wasn't more visceral. She has, however, been diagnosed as having a grade 1 concussion, the symptom in her case being a lingering headache that has persisted the entire week. She is getting better and the CT scan today revealed no subdural bleeding, so I think it's only a matter of time before she gets better.

I don't think I need to say this, but there is no reason to kick the ball hard when playing with 9 year olds. There is nothing they learn from a projectile moving more quickly than they are likely able to react to in response. You prove nothing more than that you are a grown up acting very irresponsibly around other people's children as well as your own. I don't think I need to say this, but then I wouldn't have thought I needed to say it before, either.

Filed under: personal No Comments
12Oct/110

BlackBerry Dying On the Vine

I almost feel sorry for RIM. It's bad enough that what was once the golden child of the smartphone world, at least among business users, is now being taken out back by these upstart iPhones and Androids, but now the reliability of their centerpiece, their BlackBerry Messenger service, is being called into question due to an outage that is going on three days and is affecting world wide communications among its users.

The Register reports ongoing problems despite RIM's reassurance that all is well. And they note that the most affected are non-BES users, those who are perhaps on individual plans or business users who operate with smaller companies that can't afford their own BES server, even the free BESX variant. Given that the competition is moving in on RIM's turf because of their popularity with just this crowd, this isn't going to give RIM any traction to fight off the relative newcomers. Additionally, it seems some BES users also appear to be affected, further eroding support for the platform. But the worst part of all of this is the continuing denial on RIM's part that anything is wrong.

It's one thing to admit that you are not sure what is causing the problem. That is bad but given the complexity of a system with the size and scope of the BlackBerry Messenger service, it's believable. It's also understandable if you point out that you think you have the problem licked but that you are waiting to know for sure. It's almost commendable if you then enlist your customers, asking them to let you know of any further feedback "to assist in troubleshooting" the issue. But to keep telling the world you've got it fixed, only for the world to reply that, in fact, you do not... that shows not only a continuing technical ignorance about the problem but a completely myopic approach to customer relations that is only going to further alienate a shrinking customer base. RIM can ill afford to lose more customers over something that was supposed to be their strong suit.

In fact, there has always been a longstanding argument that the BlackBerry was the only enterprise-worthy smartphone, that the others simply weren't ready to play in a big corporate environment. RIM could point to two things, the manageability of their devices in a corporate environment and their relative stability, as points of comparison with their rivals which made RIM look like the better choice. Well, the manageability side has been less of a comparison point given the options available for iPhone and Android devices in the corporation and now the stability of RIM's services is being called into question. Overall, not a good week for RIM.

The best thing RIM can do now is admit the problems are ongoing rather than trying to cover them up and, of course, fix the problem. But if they continue with their head in the sand approach, when they come up for air they may find they're left standing with far fewer customers than when they started.

11Oct/110

Genius

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. -Albert Einstein

Apple - iPod nano with Multi-Touch

12 Key Features Apple iPad Lacks

Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities. - Oscar Wilde

Apple Releases iPod

Genius always finds itself a century too early. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apple Predicted Siri 24 Years Ago

The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apple - iLife - iMovie

To see things in the seed, that is genius. - Lao Tzu

Apple - OS X

Apple - Safari


Steve Jobs was a genius. No, he did not personally invent everything Apple produced during his tenure. No, he did not even push Apple engineers to directly invent everything they produced. Rather, he was inspire what he saw around him and he used his vision to create products that simply worked and worked simply. Apple products have a reputation, be they hardware or software. To the naysayers and detractors, it centers around form over function, imitation and naive simplicity. To the proponents and fans, it centers around form fitting function, inspiration and naive simplicity. The art is in making what was once complex, simple. Part of making products that appeal to people, not merely to consumers, is making them appealing. The design of Apple products is not simply a marketing ploy, it is one of the defining characteristics. The simplicity of design is not a dumbing down but a purification. That is the genius that Steve Jobs brought to Apple.

11Oct/110

Poor Qwikster. Netflix Hardly Knew Ye.

Netflix logoSo, as reported on TekGoblin, Netflix has now renounced their pronouncement announcing Qwikster, the spinoff which would have split the DVD rental business off from the streaming business. I had written previously about the Netflix saga and as before I don't think Netflix has done themselves any favors but I also don't think they are dead in the water. I also received one of these automated emails and my first thought was that perhaps the Qwikster Twitter guy was just asking for too much money.

If nothing else, I personally like the fact that they listened to the customers complain about now having to split activities across two sites and have decided to keep things in one house. From a business perspective though, it certainly does come across as being indecisive, which is never a happy-maker with the shareholders. It's the right decision, but it shouldn't have to have been made as Qwikster should never have seen the light of day. Still, that's easy to say in retrospect.

Initially I took the message, particularly the announcement of no new price changes, to be a positive thing, perhaps an indicator that they had secure new licensing to replace Starz! once it goes away, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am of this. If they had secured new licensing, they would want to shout about it, not obscure the fact. The rest of the email discusses addition of new content now, under existing licenses. It doesn't mention anything about what will be available in a year or two. And then there's the whole Qwikster flip flop.

On the one hand, eliminating Qwikster before it actually had a chance to start was, as I said before, the smart move. Frankly, it should have been done before Qwikster was even announced. No one outside of a board room should have ever heard of it in relation to Netflix. Then, when it was announced, customers got angry. It was bad enough that prices went up but then to force them to maintain essentially two lists of content to view and rate was just silly. Even from a technological perspective, the two sites could have shared accounts and data. There was no need to tell customers they couldn't manage lists in one location. It was a stupid move. But they addressed that with Qwikster's death, so kudos earned and given.

But the rapid switch in strategy makes one wonder why the sudden change in direction. Again, at first I took it to be a good sign that Netflix was willing to listen to customer dissatisfaction with the Qwikster split and do something about it. But then if it made sense for the bottom line to do the split and now they have decided against it, what reasoning did they use? Because customer dissatisfaction with the split mostly seemed centered around managing those two queues, a technological issue that could easily be addressed without giving up whatever economic incentives the split would have provided. Yet now those incentives don't seem so important anymore. I can only think of two reasons.

One is because there are new licensing agreements coming soon and so they plan to try to stir up as much goodwill as possible to win back lost customers in order to make the new content available to as many viewers as they can. As a result, they keep the DVD rental business within the fold and continue to play nice with those who make use of the service, in order to quell the discontent. That would be swell but then why keep us in the dark about it? Why not delay the Qwikster launch until they have the new licensing wrapped up and can announce it alongside Qwikster's death. Instead, we get an email telling us prices won't be going up and oh, we've added a bunch of new content lately or will add more soon. That new content is simply from existing licenses. It doesn't represent the premium content which Netflix is tussling with Starz! over. (Or was until the deal went bust) What of that?

The other reason why Netflix might want to bury the idea of splitting the DVD business out is because they believe they may need it to survive. With negotiations dead with Starz!, the Netflix team has no doubt been courting other content providers to find more premium content to show viewers. If they had no luck, they would need to stave off elimination until they could get someone to work with them on terms that would not further alienate their base due to price hikes. In this, they would look to become the next Apple, arm twisting content providers into a more consumer friendly model with consistent pricing at lower rates than the content owners want to accept. But if they couldn't find anyone willing to license to them on such terms, they would have no choice but to keep the DVD business around to keep profits up.

The interesting thing is that in this second scenario, we wouldn't necessarily know it if it happened. We would see Qwikster buried soon after it was announced, we would see some PR come out about new content now available (but under current licensing), and then we would see... nothing. Nothing further would need to be said because the negotiations would be taking place with various content owners. And if they won a new license, you can bet we would hear it trotted out and used to show that Netflix is a great bet. But if they failed to secure new licensing, you would continue to see the DVD rental business pursued relentlessly, with perhaps an apology concerning not being able to transform the industry or something to that effect.

I'm an avid Netflix user. I like it and hope the model thrives, especially because it's pretty friendly to Mac users what with Netflix built into the AppleTV. I hope they secure new content licensing. I don't know if they would survive if new premium content required a higher tier of pricing or some sort of pay-per-view option, as that is ground already well-tread by other services. In some respects Netflix is attempting to commoditize movie and TV programming, making it something much less expensive than it is elsewhere and far more accessible. I think this is to be commended and insofar as Netflix continues to be a player in this arena, I'm rooting for them. I just hope they start showing some consistency.

10Oct/111

Review: OtterBox Defender for iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 (and the soon to be seen by all the cool kids iPhone 4S) is a lovely phone. I don't mean it is good at being a phone, I mean it is quite literally lovely to look at. I love Apple kit as much as the next Mac-head but I don't think I'm speaking solely from bias here. I'm willing to state there are other non-Apple phones which are quite nice to look at, too, for example. But for all the attractiveness of the iPhone 4 and it's newer sibling, it feels fragile. With essentially a glass shell with only a metal band around the edge, it seems ripe for the breaking.. a sad notion. Of course, that is where cases come in and while there are many cases to choose from, I don't think they come much better than the OtterBox Defender.

The first thing you're probably wondering is why I'm reviewing a case which has been out for quite some time. Put simply, because I want to. But if you absolutely must have a proper answer, given the iPhone 4S is coming out and everyone and their grandmother has already pre-ordered the things, there are likely more than a few people out there who are going to be looking for a good protective case for their work of art phone. And while it may be that new reviews will crop up for cases, even new reviews of old versions, I wanted to put my own review forward to let others know the pros and cons.

A few tidbits of info first. The case itself is a nearly full enclosure meaning there are some contact spots which are left uncovered. For example, the Apple logo on back is exposed for artistic reasons. The speaker and microphone areas are revealed and while there are flaps to cover the charge port, headphone port and mute switch, they can easily be flipped open and so I wouldn't count that as a proper enclosure. The point is, unlike some other OtterBox products, you will not want to test this one by submerging the encased phone in water. It will get wet. Quickly. You will not be happy. You have been warned.

The case itself consists of two plastic frames which clip together to provide a mount point for the rubber skin. The front frame provides the cover for the screen while the rear frame provides the cover for the camera. The rubber skin provides the rest of the covering. There is also a belt clip which provides a convenient method for carrying the encased iPhone 4/4S. Note that while I refer to the iPhone 4S, and while the dimensions of the iPhone 4 and 4S are identical, looking at the Apple site to compare the two phones it seems that some external bits (the mute switch for example) are slightly out of place on the 4S and so the iPhone 4 Defender case might not work for the 4S. OtterBox has created an iPhone 4S specific case so you would be advised to use that one if you purchase a new iPhone 4S.

The Pros

It works. If I say nothing else about the OtterBox Defender series, let it be known I said this much. I do not consider myself a clumsy person but in my attempts to hold my iPhone 4 correctly, I have dropped the thing many times, typically when I was in a parking lot full of loose gravel or around demolitions or toddlers and other destructive materials. In all such situations the phone has come away unscathed. Even the case's front screen covering has been resistant to damage, a big plus given the abuse mine has received as it has meant I have not had to replace the case. When you are looking at protective cases, the single most important attribute you should consider. Here, we give full marks.

The rest of the pros lie in what the case does not do. It does not seem to interfere with the signal strength, not that I saw anyway. I also found that whether using it in speaker phone mode or as a regular phone, I could not only hear the other party just as clearly but they found no difference when listening to me speak.

My protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, I am apparently not as dexterous as I would have you believe. Taking that into account, the OtterBox Defender makes the flaps pretty easy to manipulate in order to plug a jack in, plug power in or hit mute. I don't know that these flaps are strictly necessary given the bits they protect are still in recesses and thus protected as well as anything else on the device but that they are there does not seem to represent a major difficulty in getting to the protected parts.

The Cons

So what's the yin to the aforementioned yang? As a friend of mine put it "You've turned one of the smallest phones in the world into one of the largest." While not strictly true, the overall effect of enshrouding your iPhone 4 in a Defender is to give it additional substance. Whereas an uncovered iPhone 4 seems to slip elegantly into a pocket, attach a Defender case and you feel as though you have weaponized your pants... which in this case isn't nearly as fun as you might think. They do provide a belt clip, which I use, but ... well... it's a belt clip. I have absolutely no fashion sense and even I recognize the faux pas involved in using a belt clip to hold your phone. It feels something akin to carting your Prius around in the bed of your Ford F450.

Also, the screen and camera covers collect ... dirtiness. You might have heard about the iPhone 4's oleophobic glass treatment, designed to resist the oily smudges left by human digits. You haven't? Neither has OtterBox. Perhaps they can't add it to the protective film they use, but regardless, it isn't there. As for the camera cover, it took awhile before I realized that in fact I was not going blind, nor was there a mysterious fog in my apartment... no, the odd look to my iPhone photos was immediately replaced by crystal clarity when I removed the phone from the case. I've used a Qtip to clean the camera cover and that has helped somewhat but for whatever reason that cover seems to be a dust magnet.

The Conclusion

Overall, I'm pleased with my purchase. It does just precisely what it says on the box. I don't have a landline, so my iPhone is my sole means of communicating with those outside my cave. Thus, I have a more pragmatic view of my iPhone than as a fashion accessory. But then I also don't think of much of anything in terms of fashion accessories, so my view may be somewhat skewed. I will say that if you have somewhere to put it (like, say, a purse) where it is out of sight and not likely to rip a hole in your pocket, the added bulk isn't so bad once you are handling it. And the screen can be kept relatively clean with the occasional wipe down from your shirt or other available clothing. For guys who don't have man-purses (or whatever the hell they are called), you're going to have to either go with the belt clip or man up and put that sucker in your pocket. I don't know if it would necessarily stop a bullet but I imagine there would be some intense negotiation before it got through.

9Oct/110

Seth Godin’s Forever Recession

Seth Godin wrote of what he calls the "forever recession" on his blog. His opening quote:

There are actually two recessions:

The first is the cyclical one, the one that inevitably comes and then inevitably goes. There's plenty of evidence that intervention can shorten it, and also indications that overdoing a response to it is a waste or even harmful.

The other recession, though, the one with the loss of "good factory jobs" and systemic unemployment--I fear that this recession is here forever.

In it we see his thesis statement, that we are all talking about the recession when in fact we are feeling the effects of two recessions. He goes on to discuss the recession that we can't really fix and that we should in turn embrace the coming revolution (which he mentions in the post title). In essence I agree with him, but I don't know that everyone will be capable of embracing the coming change.

The loss of production capability in the US due to competitive failures (driven mostly by labor costs which will only fall with a great deal of pain) is putting increasing numbers of people out of work. This production is moving to facilities outside the US because, frankly, they are too cheap to compete with on price. And as Seth notes, these jobs "can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported". You can get the same quality of goods from overseas as you can get locally in many cases, and the buyers in the US by and large look at price once quality needs are minimally met.

The problem comes in moving toward that new future where "everyone has a laptop and connection to the world" and so "everyone owns a factory". Not everyone has a skill set that lends itself to that sort of environment. The person who works on the line at an automobile manufacturing facility (or any other manufacturing facility) is not prepared to take on the kinds of tasks one can source over the internet.

Am I being arrogant when I say this? No. Not everyone is cut out for producing content for consumption on the web. And I mean content in the broadest sense. Music, art, writing, software, these are the primary outlets on the web today. Not everyone is cut out to produce something in one of those categories. I daresay the majority are not. Even with training, many will still fail to make the standard for making a living in that world. That doesn't make them any less of a person. These people might be very good at what they do, sharp as a tack, but not be cut out for these kinds of jobs.

My point in all of this? There isn't a clearcut progression from point A (factory jobs which are disappearing in the US) to point B (jobs which Mr. Godin describes as part of the new way). I suppose that means I'm less pessimistic than he is. I think the way is cleared for those who are already in a computer related job to move from the more typical 9-5 style desk jockey position into the job/gig based situation Mr. Godin describes, but I don't see much room in the new world for those coming from the production line. Not without a great deal of retraining and a great deal of pain. More, perhaps, than he sees. For my part, I hope I'm very very wrong.

7Oct/111

Richard Stallman is a Jerk.. and Wrong

The title of this post is pretty indicative of the tone and content of this post. If you worship at the altar of Richard Stallman and promote all things Stallmanesque then I contend you are not likely to enjoy the rest of this post.

How to be a Jerk in Just 102 Words

First, I'll let you read what Richard Stallman decided needed to be said in response to the death of Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone." Nobody deserves to have to die - not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs' malign influence on people's computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

Where to begin? Mr. Stallman, you clearly have strong feelings about the free software movement, I get that. Clearly you can get a lot more mileage by being caustic than sweet, particularly when you still feel you need to generate traction in the mainstream. But your attempt at riding one man's popularity into his grave in order to promote an agenda while maligning his contributions seems designed solely to backfire and alienate you from anyone aside from your most devoted fans.

I am not alone in finding your statement repugnant and disrespectful, no matter how you might attempt to soften your stance (i.e. "Nobody deserves to have to die"). Even those who might agree with your stance on free software appear to be taken aback by your (call it what it is) callous, opportunistic abuse of another man's death. You seem to oppose corporate entities making hay off the work of others, yet even some of Apple's biggest competitors refrained from stepping on this moment. Whatever goal you might have hoped for, you have only shown yourself to be petty and bitter and unwilling to grant that another person's life might have offered worth to the world in spite of your opposition to their principles.

And How to be Wrong, Too

And let's take a look at those principles, shall we? You dislike that Jobs promoted a device which is "designed to sever fools from their freedom". So glad to see you take a shot at the living. I think you miss the point. If Mr. Jobs were still alive and asked if he designed the iPhone or any other Apple device to be in some way less free, I imagine he would have said that wasn't the point, that in fact most people do not care. His goals were simply orthogonal to freedom, in the sense of which you speak. It wasn't on his radar. The freedom Mr. Jobs espoused was the freedom not to be bound by the limitations of poor design. Of complexities which distract the user from creating. Of dealing with tools which never saw the word "No".

I find myself forced to admit you have made positive contributions in your efforts to push the free software agenda. But I find it shocking that you can be so oblivious to the positive influence Steve Jobs had on the world. I am not the type to build someone up beyond where they deserve to be, but you have to admit that inasmuch as your drive and determination has pushed a movement, Mr. Jobs' drive and determination has pushed industries (plural), and has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to do more to create and produce and communicate.

And my final point on the matter... put up or shut up, Mr. Stallman. The mass appeal of Apple products does not lie purely in marketing muscle. They are appealing specifically because they are well designed, highly polished and focused on what consumers need. They simply work. More importantly they get out of the way to do so. While there are well designed free software products which can make a similar claim, the most common refrain of casual users is that when compared to non-free solutions, functionality is either missing, poorly designed or difficult to understand. In short, the tool gets in the way of the worker. Perhaps if the movement which you champion so vehemently (and yet are serving so poorly with this sort of vitriol) was more capable of producing software that serves the user more effectively, you might gain some leverage. Until then, deal with the fact that most people are not interested in what you are pushing. And try to learn what it means to actually respect another's accomplishments rather than attempting to tarnish someone's image in order to further your own cause.