"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Apple Watch

09:31 Tuesday, 30 September 2014

If you're into reading lengthy analysis pieces, this is a good one on the Apple Watch, written by a guy who maintains a blog devoted exclusively to watches.

I'm persuaded that my wrist will ultimately be sporting a tech device of some kind, probably called a "watch." It probably won't be a v1.0 Apple Watch. I also didn't buy the first version of the iPhone.

With the iPhone, I was skeptical of a v1.0 product from a company that had never made a phone before. I figured I'd let everyone else figure out if it was any good, and if it was, Apple would make the second iteration even better. Specifically, I was disappointed with the absence of GPS in the first iPhone. The second iPhone, iPhone 3G, had GPS built-in, and I took the plunge.

With the Apple Watch, the deal breaker for me in v1.0 is its "splash resistance." The current read is that you shouldn't take it in the shower with you. Well, I've run in rain that's been coming down at a rate greater than my water-conserving shower head, and since this device is intended to replace a Garmin sport watch with heart rate monitor, it doesn't make the cut.

Presumably v2.0 will be waterproof enough that you'll be able to run in the rain.

I don't believe Apple will necessarily be iterating watches like it has phones, so I'm not certain that there'll be a clearly defined v2.0 Apple Watch one year after the first watch ships. My guess is that at some point in the product lifecycle, there'll be an "improved" Sport version with greater water resistance. Whether that takes twelve, fifteen, eighteen or twenty-four months is anybody's guess I suppose.

I do anticipate that there will be early adopters who run with their watches in the rain who report that they had no problems; but there will also be some that have adverse outcomes who will whine loud and long about it.

I'll just wait until Apple makes one that can survive a sudden cloudburst.

FBI and Apple

09:57 Friday, 26 September 2014

I think the "conversation" we're about to have regarding whether or not information technology manufacturers and developers must provide law enforcement with the means to access any given user's data will be an interesting one.

I'm afraid it's not going to end well for privacy advocates. As with Google, the prevailing argument will be, "You can trust us! And it's really for the greater good!" At least with the government, there's some foundation of accountability, however dilapidated and unused.

As for "trust", I live in a gated community. Say what you will about the social implications, the idea is that only people who are invited or authorized have access to the property. In reality, it's merely an inconvenience to honest people because anyone can always just follow someone in. But that's not the point here.

We provide the local sheriff's office an access code for the gate. We periodically review the gate access records because things like vendor codes get shared around and we have to change them from time to time. We noticed that the sheriff's code was being used a lot, and wondered if there was some kind of undercover operation going on that we didn't know about, or if the code was just compromised. So we changed the code and informed the sheriff.

A few days later we were having a little birthday luncheon for some of the staff, and we were waiting for the pizza to be delivered. The manager can see the gate from her desk, and saw the pizza delivery guy drive up. She had her hand on her phone to open the gate for him, but she saw the gate open on its own. When he delivered the pizza, she asked him how he got in the gate. He gave us the code he used and asked if we were going to disable it. We said we were, and asked him who gave it to him, he just said, "Someone."

It was the Sheriff's code.

So, yeah, those NSA guys never looked at anyone's private data to satisfy their own curiosity. The TSA guys never ogle the strip-search screens, or steal stuff from travelers.

And, of course, Google isn't using its vast trove of data to shape the legislative agenda to its own advantage.

The "Good Guys"™ can be trusted!

Stanford and Google

11:17 Thursday, 25 September 2014

There was an interesting piece in Propublica on Tuesday that was headlined "Stanford Promises Not to Use Google Money For Privacy Research." The premise of the article was based on a single sentence in a document filed by Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society (CIS) in a court case seeking some funding from a civil penalty imposed on Google in privacy lawsuit. The sentence was, "Since 2013, Google funding is specifically designated not [to] be used for CIS's privacy work."

Following publication, Stanford representative Jennifer Granick responded in a blog entry on the CIS web site, refuting the Propublica article's premise, and maintaining that Stanford's research is in no way encumbered by the aims or wishes of financial donors, including Google.

The court filing containing the misleading sentence is available online, and read in whole, is at pains to suggest that CIS is independent and its academic integrity is intact, as evidenced by the fact that results of their research have been used against Google in the past. Which is, of course, very encouraging.

Still, it's very curious why that sentence ever appeared in the filing in the first place. Presumably, these are all very intelligent people, and these kinds of documents are very carefully edited and vetted before being submitted to the court. No explanation is offered, apart from "Why I phrased it that way, I don't know. It was six months ago and a completely different context."

If I had to hazard a guess, it might be that they wanted to appear to be a bit deferential to a financial contributor, a bit of a fig leaf. I can imagine that some people at Google might object to their financial contributions to academia being used against them. Why give money to Stanford if they're only going to use it to potentially extort more money from the company in exactly this form? I'd guess that it's a sotto voce aside to Google, "We're not using your money against you. So, you know, keep writing those checks!"

Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society may be independent, and its virtue may be intact; but that sentence seems to suggest that they recognize how it might look, taking money from Google and doing research that might be potentially damaging to Google's corporate interests. It doesn't look good.

The easy fix is simply to find other sources of funding, and accept no money from the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and so on. But that's where all the money is these days.

So I guess we should all just trust CIS, like we're supposed to just trust Google that everything's all on the up-and-up.

I'm sure that'll be just fine.

Uninformed Speculation on Boeing and SpaceX

09:22 Wednesday, 17 September 2014

So NASA has awarded two contracts to develop the U.S. "space taxi." I don't know if that was the original idea or not. Normally one vendor wins an award, though sometimes they "team."

Maybe the contract was designed to be awarded to two companies, but I doubt it. There's some precedent for this with the Navy's LCS program, where two competing designs were built and tested, and the Navy said they'd take… both!

I suspect that what we may be observing here with both LCS and the low earth orbit (LEO) space vehicle is that there is some urgency to the requirement. The navy was retiring FFGs (small, relatively low-cost frigates built in the 70s and 80s) faster than it could make up force requirements to the combatant commanders (CENTCOM and PACOM), (each combatant command has naval "presence" requirements, with fewer hulls, ships have to remain on deployment longer) and it needed new hulls quickly. Our deteriorating relationship with Russia, and our reliance on Soyuz for access to the International Space Station, give some urgency to our manned LEO capability. We might get locked out of our own house!

The competitors can take advantage of that urgency by threatening protests if the award doesn't go their way. Protests can take years to resolve, and that's time that's simply unaffordable, so we wind up paying twice for the same capability.

The protest system is another part of the federal procurement process that has been gamed by large corporations and members of congress protecting large players in their constituencies, though it's all couched in very clever language purporting to look out for the interests of the taxpayers. Mostly it's about protecting the interests of large corporations with lots of lawyers who can throw lots of paper at the government.

My guess is NASA wanted SpaceX, but had to pay a Boeing tax.

Aviation Week & Space Technology is usually all over this stuff and would normally be where I'd go to find out whose ox is being gored here, but even they were kind of hazy about it, at least to my reading:

Bolden and other NASA human spaceflight officials have repeatedly argued for a two-vehicle approach, both for redundancy and to hold down costs through competition. However, Congress has proved skeptical of that approach, largely because it would cost more. The agency has requested $848.3 million in fiscal 2015 for commercial spaceflight, although it is more likely to receive funding at the $646 million fiscal 2014 level under the continuing resolution lawmakers are expected to approve before recessing for the November elections.

In which case, even if NASA really wanted two vendors, it suggests the Sierra Nevada down-select was more likely due to Boeing's superior ability to throw lawyers at the problem, and huge influence in Congress.

Boeing is a storied company with a great history and builds some great planes. But they are also a huge, ossified bureaucracy, and while the Atlas launch vehicle is much more expensive than Falcon 9, the larger part of the delta between the two awards is likely internal Boeing costs.

We should probably begin thinking about regulating the size of corporations.

More Perspective

09:34 Tuesday, 16 September 2014

This is likely to be a long, rambling post, which is a sure way to lose readers. But it's also kind of the way I sort through some of my own thinking. I'll do my best to be entertaining along the way. If you accompany me, you have my gratitude and appreciation. I think I'll get you back home.

Friday morning I dropped by the Apple Store to have my iPhone 5s looked at. The screen was kind of separated from the body near the top. Not a lot, but if you pushed on the screen a bit, you could see it move and if you looked at it from the side, you could see the top of the screen was higher in profile than the bottom. My first thought would be that they would just swap it out, like they did last year when I brought in my iPhone 5 with a cracked screen. Back then I thought I'd have to pay an "incident fee" as part of AppleCare, but they just swapped it out under warranty.

This time, though, they said they'd replace the screen at no charge. I was surprised at first, but then I recalled reading that Apple had installed the capability to do screen replacements at Apple Stores. I figured that would be fine, and the guy said it'd be an hour, so I spent some time browsing around Barnes and Noble.

Came back after an hour and a rep came out to see me and said that after they'd swapped the screen, the phone failed some diagnostic tests so they were swapping out the whole phone. It's refurb, but for all intents and purposes, it's a new phone. Pristine body and screen. My son will be pleased. I bought a case right there because I figured if I didn't I'd drop it as soon as I went outside. Normally I don't use a case.

For me, this was both delightful and also unremarkable. Apple has always exceeded my expectations when it came to fixing something with one of their products, including replacing a 24" LCD in an iMac that was 2 years out of warranty. Maybe everyone doesn't have that experience, but it's always been mine. So apart from my general satisfaction with their products, OS and apps, they have a pretty large bank of goodwill with me.

That doesn't mean I think Apple is perfect, or can do nothing wrong. It just means that when they screw up, it occurs in the context of an experience where they've always done more than just "the right thing" for me.

Anyway, it was a good morning.

That evening, I drove up to Charleston with a lovely woman named Mitzi to attend a wedding. (Parenthetically, we relied on Apple Maps to get us there, and it was unremarkable. It just worked.) The bride is the daughter of Mitzi's college sorority sister and one of her best friends. Her friend suffered a serious brain injury a few years ago and was fortunate to survive, though the consequences will be lifelong. I enjoyed meeting her and her husband who has been a stalwart partner through it all. Wonderful people.

On Saturday afternoon, we hurried to the wedding, which was outdoors in a park along the bank of the Cooper River. It was 87 degrees, and the humidity was high so the heat index was pretty high, and everyone was dressed pretty formally. Apparently there was a delay in the arrival of one of the groom's family members, so the wedding didn't start on time. There was no tent or awning, we were all just seated out in the sun. At some point, most of us left our seats and gathered beneath the shade of one of the two large trees near the ceremony.

Mitzi kept telling me she thought I was "taking it so well." Truthfully, I was unimpressed with the organization of the wedding, nobody seemed to be in charge and there was no indication anyone was thinking about the comfort of the guests, many of whom were elderly. But I wasn't angry or complaining, we were there, we weren't leaving, what good would being angry or complaining do? So it was just "grin and bear it," and while it was very uncomfortable, I enjoyed meeting Mitzi's friends.

The missing family member finally arrived and then the person I assume was the wedding planner was urging everyone to hurry back to their seats. It was an interesting ceremony. There was no clergy I could identify, I assume someone was a notary public or something, because there were two men kind of officiating, both fairly young. Their remarks didn't seem to follow any familiar text that I'd heard before, so I assumed they'd each written their own.

As I was listening to these two men, I was thinking about the utility of a marriage ceremony. Truthfully, I'm not sure how I feel about the notion of marriage anymore, but it was interesting listening to these two young men kind of articulate their ideas about it. Each spoke of the future, and happiness. Each acknowledged there would be challenges. One spoke of the "infinite possibilities" symbolized by the two rings.

That remark really struck me, as it seemed utterly wrong. I recall thinking, "Really?! Infinite? Starting right now, the possibilities begin to shrink!" I've kind of held onto that thought for the last few days, but more about that in a moment.

It was also at that moment when I had the thought that if a marriage ceremony required an "official" it probably ought to be someone much older, someone with a different perspective. Because what those two young men were telling the bride and groom were not things that would bear much resemblance to reality in the years ahead.

But then I also thought that by the time you get to that point, you're pretty much beyond the reach of any sage advice. The ceremony, I suppose, is really just to mark the occasion, and not to impart any meaningful guidance.

I recall thinking, "Those poor kids, they haven't a clue."

Of course, neither did I, when I got married. Nor do I believe anyone could have given me a clue if I'd wanted one. It's something you have to experience, and the clues and the lessons come in their own time at their own cost; and each and every one will have a cost.

I recall thinking about the "infinite possibilities" the younger of the two officials seemed to be extolling as one of the virtues of marriage. In an abstract way, yes, the "possibilities" remain "infinite," only in the context of the infinite of infinities. One of those infinite possibilities will be excluded the first time the groom meets a pretty girl on business trip. Or it should.

And there will be some nights when one or both will lie awake in bed, praying, if they pray, or hoping desperately that one or more of those "infinite possibilities" isn't in their immediate future. We've all been there. If you haven't yet, you will be.

The domain of infinite possibilities isn't exclusively of happy ones. I must say that the bride is already acutely aware of that, through her mother. I suppose that's why the tone of naive optimism in the "infinite possibilities" utterance was so dissonant.

"There're things that'll knock you down you don't even see comin'." - Springsteen

Ironically (The Fifth Fundamental Force of the Universe™), it is through shrinking possibilities that we experience "growth." Every moment, every choice, excludes an infinity of possibilities, as if carving away a piece of wood or chiseling a block of stone, until character is revealed.

So it's not a "bad" thing, but it is a sober one. And I guess that's what I think was missing, some sense of sobriety, of gravity.

But they were in love, and everyone was happy, so who am I to rain on their parade? I was just a stranger who offered them his best wishes for success and happiness in their marriage.

The reception was a lot of fun, a great cover band, The Velvet Runway. Dancing, great food, super time.

Made it home on Sunday just in time to watch the great Apple/U2 controversy convulse the internet.

It's funny. I don't follow a lot of people on Twitter. I learned this many years ago when blogging was new. There were a lot of high attention-earners that I read, some of whom I engaged with from time to time. Some of them may be familiar to you, Scoble, Hugh McLeod, Jeff Jarvis, the Instapundit™, some others. At some point I realized that what these guys were doing was competing for attention. They didn't offer a unique perspective from the standpoint of their experience, they would just write things for the sake of getting ranked on Technorati.

That's not to say that from time to time they didn't write something worthwhile, maybe they did. Mostly though, they were just being provocative, or sycophantic suck-ups to higher attention-earners, for the sake of garnering attention. It's kind of like Fox News or Limbaugh, just with the tech bent. And it worked, because I was often provoked. I was also going through therapy at the time (best education I ever had), and I was finally learning something an old friend once told me but I didn't quite get his meaning, "Pissed off is no way to go through life."

So, since I wasn't getting a unique bit of insight or some other added value from giving those guys my attention, especially Scoble, I just started deleting them from my RSS feeds. Life was better.

I don't have to argue with every dumb idea on the internet because nobody has that much time!

So I kind of carefully curate who I follow on Twitter. I follow some media outlets, some government accounts, a commercial entity or two, but a lot of individuals. For the most part, they offer me a meaningful perspective different from my own that adds to my view of an issue or subject I'm interested in. I don't always agree with them, but almost none of them write things simply for the sake of being provocative, to attract attention.

Then right on the heels of the other great internet outrage, stolen nude celebrity selfies! comes the Apple/U2 outrage.

It's as if a whole bunch of Walter Sobchaks suddenly appeared in my tweet-stream. "They stuck U2 in your iTunes library!?"

I mean, it's all like, "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!"

Twitter is great for pointing to interesting things, maybe the occasional observation. It's also great for humorous quips, expressions of joy or grief or even anger. It's less great for channeling meaningful thought. In fact, it pretty much sucks at it. But, people try to do it anyway, which is why you see these occasional "tweet-storms" with multi-part tweets. Must say, not a fan.

Anyway, free U2 was a bad idea. I agree that they bungled the whole sorry idea. First, they shouldn't have done it. I know U2 and Apple have some history, but I suspect that was mostly a Steve thing and Steve is gone. And, lets face it, U2 isn't exactly the new hotness, now is it? So I totally didn't get why they did it, but I didn't really care either. It's a free album. Big deal.

Well, guess I was wrong about that!

If you think that’s a bad analogy you’re effectively arguing that your iTunes account is not your property. And yes, that has implications.

Hunh! I guess maybe I'm out of my element, but how did I know we were talking about unchecked aggression here?

@blach @lucvandal @dwiskus If this was Google, the people falling over themselves to apologize would be falling over themselves to attack.

Now Google, there's a worthy fuckin' adversary.

Of course, every nano-second that goes by, Google's gathering more data on everything it can and doing God only knows what with it in its data centers with exactly zero transparency. But, you know, that is not the issue here, Dude!

I don't get it.

I guess I don't inhabit the multiple alternative realities Chuq Von Rospach inhabits. On the one hand, "in reality, there are some bigger issues where they have a point, and that shouldn’t be ignored."

But on the other hand (Reality? Two paragraphs later, in any event.) "That said, this isn’t a big issue."

Big? Bigger? Biggest?

Obviously, I'm out of my element.

On a bored night, I engage on Twitter, noting the previous nude celebrity selfie outrage, and our incapacity for focusing on anything really important. Chuq, at least, deigns to reply.

@daverpvb @drance if you study history (and I mean history, not what they teach you in two semesters of school), this has always been so

Wherein I'm not sure if he's suggesting I know nothing of history or just saying "Shut the fuck up Donny! You're out of your element!"

(The subsequent reply tweet from me references the practice of inserting other products in the products you're buying. Not a perfect analogy by any means, but about as worthy of outrage.)

Marco Arment weighs in, with a rather nuanced, measured post that, based on at least what I've been able to observe personally is wrong in one factual element:

Instead, Apple set everyone’s account to have “purchased” this album, which auto-downloaded it to all of their devices, possibly filling up the stingy base-level storage that Apple still hasn’t raised and exacerbates by iOS’ poor and confusing storage-management facilities.

I have iTunes set to auto-download purchases from other devices, which is the only way iTunes auto-downloads on your Mac as far as I know. The U2 album didn't download on any of my devices. Not my MacBook Pro, not my iMac, not my iPhone, not my iPod and not my iPad. So the album exists as an album in the cloud that might play if I chose it, or if it came up in shuffle, but it's not physically present on any of my hardware, taking up any of my precious storage space.

So, anyway, at least we're manning the barricades against unchecked aggression by Apple and bad musical taste.

Glad we got that covered.

Marco and Chuq imply it's a matter of trust. As I mentioned in the beginning, at least with me, Apple has earned a large bank of goodwill by consistently doing more than just the right thing in the case of hardware repairs. I've never really had any other issues with them, other than the discontinuation of homepage.mac.com and the ham fisted way they announced the termination of development of Aperture. In every other respect, especially those most significantly affecting my pocketbook, they've been more than reasonable.

Twitter and the internet in general have a way of distorting "reality" (see Chuq above). They alter our perspective in not always good ways. Yes, the laser-like focused outrage regarding the death of Michael Brown seems to have yielded some good outcomes in the near term. But it's too early to tell if that kind of focused attention can be sustained. Any reasonable reading of recent "history" (if I'm not out of my element), suggests it cannot.

The competition for attention by commercial entities has compromised our ability to maintain focus, as very smart, very savvy learning organizations have learned how to manipulate it. Sometimes those smart, savvy organizations can be utterly wrong too, as in the Apple/U2 case. This isn't the attention they wanted. Not that it was merited in any case, just that they can miscalculate. But they will learn, and the calculations will continue.

When we "take the bait" we exclude those infinite possibilities of other, more urgent, more meaningful matters that might benefit from a little attention.

So hopefully I've closed the loop here, and you've found the journey at least mildly entertaining.

I wish you well.

Apple Is Doomed

10:52 Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I suspect it's all of a piece. America's infatuation with "capitalism" (scare quotes because the biggest capitalists are usually socialists at heart - bank industry, defense industry, auto industry); its focus on "competition" (scare quotes because the notion of competition underlying most of America's myths ignores things like network effects); Darwin's theory of evolution and the misunderstood notion of "survival of the fittest" that has made "competition" the central organizing principle of much of western civilization. The dominant narratives of the 20th and 21st centuries have been conflict and competition. The World Wars, the Cold War, the multiple wars in the Middle East, capitalism versus communism or socialism. East versus west. The "clash of civilizations."

Everybody loves a good fight.

So it's little surprise that we find ourselves where we are. A planet that is being rendered unsuitable for the life that evolved on it. Massive social inequality. Governments driven by fear to crush civil liberties, the notion of privacy. Corporations, driven by greed to do the same things.

The thing is, we never really look at the ideas we're fighting about. We're only interested in picking winners and losers, choosing sides.

It's as if life was nothing but sports.

Today, for the next few hours or so, until it comes around again, a favorite narrative is how Apple is doomed. The WATCH is a snoozer, which rhymes with LOSER! Steve Jobs is DEAD! And Apple is too, it just doesn't know it yet.

That's the sports narrative. Apple's on top, for the moment, and it's only an interesting story if it falls. So that's where the focus is, Apple will fall!

Same thing with Google. We look at them like we do another sports team. We don't look at what they do, we just look at where they are in relation to their competitors. Oh, sure, their fans, like Apple's, have their "reasons" why they like or admire them. They're "open." Mostly, they're "not Apple." But nobody who likes Google really looks too closely at what they actually do.

So, yes, Apple is doomed. It's a corporation, it's not guaranteed eternal life. If Apple disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, there would still be companies manufacturing tech. Someone else would be on top, probably Google. And the narrative would be that Google is DOOMED!

That's not a very interesting story. It's certainly not the important story.

The important story is the one that's hard to grasp. It's hard to craft narrative around it. There's no readily identifiable protagonist and antagonist. No hero and no villain.

It's a story about ideas, "memes," notions that get in our heads and compel us to do things that aren't, strictly speaking, rational.

It's the story about why we get all up in arms about celebrity nude photos being stolen from online servers, but accept the death of 30,000 citizens every year in automobile accidents. Normally death is a good story. "Bad person kills many people with gun, car, hijacked airplane!" But a technology that kills 30,000 of its users every year, to say nothing of all the other impacts, that doesn't manage to get our attention.

It's just the cost of doing business.

Yes, Apple is doomed. The magic is gone. Celebrate or lament as is your preference. You'll find a new hero to root for soon.

It doesn't matter. It's just narrative. The ongoing story we tell ourselves to explain the world to ourselves.

It's fiction.

The big news, such as it is, is that we're all doomed. We're all trapped in our narrative. We cannot conceive thought outside of a narrative construct, which has to have conflict.

So we're all doomed.

The joke's on us.

We don't need the WATCH to know that it's later than we think.

Which Six?

10:52 Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I've got an AT&T shared data plan, and my son is on it. The way it's worked out, every year I'm eligible for a subsidized upgrade. My son gets my "old" iPhone, I unlock his "old" phone through AT&T and pass it along to his sister, who's currently on my old 4s on another carrier. (Hopefully she hasn't shattered the screen this time. My iPhone 4 repair effort, while initially promising, ultimately failed. It was that old "more parts left over than when you started" thing.)

So it's a cinch I'm going to be getting a Six. The question is, which one?

I reserve the right to change my mind, but my feeling right now is that I'm more inclined to go with with the plain Six and eschew the Plus.

I'm good with the battery life on the 5s, I normally just stick it on the charger in the morning for an hour and it's good to go for another 24 hours. On a busy day, I might have to hit the car charger on a commute, but that's exceptional. The Six reportedly has better battery life than the 5s, so the extended life of the Plus isn't a compelling advantage.

Likewise, I think most of the improvement in the camera will come from the software and processor changes, more than the optical image stabilization in the Plus. I'll be interested to see the results of testing with image stabilization, but I don't think it's the kind of thing that would make me embrace the larger form factor.

As a camera, and I do use my iPhone as a camera quite often, I think the smaller form factor of the Six will be advantageous.

Of the camera improvements, I'm mostly interested in the video. I've begun experimenting with video on my micro four thirds cameras. I'm not sure how much I'll pursue it, but it's interesting to me now. The 240fps slo-mo feature in the new iPhone is intriguing, as is the 60fps video. Coincidentally happened to view a video online today about real estate videography, and the photographer used 60fps frame rate to move quickly through the house, and then a 30fps playback that yielded a very graceful sense of flow in the camera movement.

I'm going to be traveling on the 19th, but I'm fairly confident that when I have the opportunity, if they're in stock, I'll be buying a Six. I've got a 32GB 5s because the 64GB models were sold out last year. 32GB is a bit crowded for me, so I may shoot for a 128GB model, though I know I can get by on 64. Might depend on what's in stock.


16:00 Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I read a lot of negative comments about the WATCH in my Twitter feed. A lot more than I expected. I suspect that some of that has to do with Apple being Apple and people not wanting to appear to be fanboys or sycophantic worshippers of false idols or something. Maybe there were a few legitimate criticisms in there, but I didn't see many. I unfollowed one guy who was making criticisms about technical matters that were just factually wrong. So, good for them. Glad everyone hasn't imbibed the Koolaid™.

Now I get to share my thoughts to my vast audience in the, at least, high single-digits.

I haven't worn a watch in years. There are clocks everywhere. I'm retired, I seldom need to know exactly what time it is, and when I do, I look at my phone.

So, I don't need a watch.

I do wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch when I run. I also carry my iPhone with me when I run, in case I get hurt and I back up the Garmin with Runkeeper, albeit, minus the heart rate data. I get that from the Garmin, which has a heart rate monitor. I know I can get a heart rate monitor to use with Runkeeper on the iPhone, but I'd still wear something on my wrist to be able to glance at time, distance and HR. I don't really care about pace until after the fact. I run based on how I feel, unless I'm running with a partner, in which case I may run based on how they feel. So the iPhone doesn't completely replace the Garmin for me.

I've considered a fitness tracker, but I was waiting to see what Apple would announce before trying one.

I'll wear a fitness device on my wrist, at least when I'm running.

But here's what makes the WATCH a guaranteed sale for me. My phone lives in my pocket. I'm often seated with it in my pocket. My least favorite thing with my iPhone, apart from holding it to my ear when making a call (I use speakerphone a lot), is removing it from my pocket when I'm seated. The thing that causes me to remove the iPhone most from my pocket, apart from using the camera, is a text message. And I don't know about you, but I get what seems to me to be a lot of them. So, I'll be sitting in the recliner, watching a movie, and a text comes in. (It's not the kind of movie watching experience where I need to turn on "Do Not Disturb." I'm just entertaining myself.) I have to struggle to dig my iPhone out of my jeans pocket to view the message and reply if necessary. It's a pain. I've dropped it getting it out of my pocket, but then it usually just falls into the recliner.

So now the phone's out of my pocket, and I reply or not, and then typically I'll just put the phone down on the little stool that serves as an end table at Action Dave's Cool-Guy Bachelor Pad™, which is also where three remotes and an adult beverage usually reside.

Two of the three times I've dropped my iPhone 5s were when it was sitting on a crowded stool-cum-end-table, and I was reaching for a remote or a beer while watching a movie.

When I actually cracked the screen of my iPhone 5, which took many more falls than the 5s, it was falling from that stool. Amazingly, Apple replaced it under warranty.

If the WATCH saves me from pulling my phone out of my pocket 20 times a day, it's a win for me.

If I can use it as a remote for TV, and iTunes (I use the Remote app on my iPhone already), that's another nice feature and one less reason to pull the phone out of my pocket.

I'm sure with HomeKit, there will be other remote-control features for the home that will be enabled on the watch, and allow me to keep my phone in my pocket.

The Pay thing is pretty cool too, but it'll probably be a long time before it comes to my credit union, alas.

It doesn't look too big to me, but that's a subjective matter of taste for most. Battery life has to be satisfactory, and recharge times reasonable. That's a bit of an unknown at the moment. I suspect it's not all we'd like it to be, but it's probably in the range of "good enough" or we wouldn't be seeing this announcement.

Consider also that I paid about $350 for my first Garmin (I'm on my second, I bought the second one at a discount). So I don't think it's "too" expensive. It is expensive, though.

I use an iPhone. I use it a lot. Anything that lets me use it without taking it out of my pocket or sticking something onto my head is a win for me.

And I'd just like to add that there were a lot of people who criticized the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad when they were all launched.

You'd think they'd get better at that.

Blogs Are Back, Baby!

11:31 Monday, 8 September 2014

I just renewed my registration for nice-marmot.net, so the domain is officially year old.

I'm often like Panasonic, "Just slightly ahead of our time."

Recently, some attention has been directed toward the control Facebook has over what their users get to see in their timelines, and the "experiments" performed by Facebook's social scientists without their subjects' informed consent (well, excluding the "Terms of Service" so-called "agreements."). Now Twitter is supposedly going to be manipulated by an "algorithm" too. "Algorithms," you will recall, are what examine every file that passes before the Eye of Sauron, er, I mean, "Google." What those "algorithms" actually do, Google isn't saying. Which should make everyone wonder and worry a bit; but that's another post. And many previous ones.

All of this nonsense began bothering me a few years ago. But Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and the like made all that "social" sharing so easy and convenient. I got a lot of comments on my pictures, lots of "likes." People seemed to enjoy the links I posted. But I didn't like how these unaccountable corporations were attempting to monetize our social interactions, and how they were amassing the ability to influence what we saw and heard. I was having a very nice time interacting with all my friends and "followers," but I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the implications that were growing simply too troubling to be ignored.

Finally, I'd had enough, and about a year ago, I quit.

Honestly, I do miss the easy interactions with Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr. I really do. Nice Marmot has been a very poor substitute. I know many of you might suggest that I enable a commenting service to increase the interactions, but comments attract trolls and I have neither the time nor the inclination to suffer those fools, so no comments here.

But there may be reason for hope. Apparently, blogs are cool again. Hal Rager has even begun updating his blog, now called blivet tool & die. Stavrosthewonderchicken is updating Empty Bottle a little more frequently. Many of the others in my "blogroll" to the right of this page continue to post with some regularity, especially Loren, Shelley and Garret and most of these folks go back to the turn of the century (heh) in their online blog origins.

Of course, blogging won't truly be "back" for me until Jonathon Delacour starts posting again. I hope he is well.

But blogging will likely never be as "big" as Facebook or even Tumblr. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. And with some of the tools being developed by Dave Winer, Facebook and Twitter can help more traditional blogs grow and expand their reach, especially if they choose to maintain a presence on those platforms, but also even if they don't. The bloggers who maintain a FB and Twitter account can bridge to those bloggers who don't. But there will still be a disconnect because the blogging band-and-forth that Brent Simmons discusses in his post linked to above can't take place between Facebook posters and non-Facebook users. Ideally, that might encourage some Facebook users to migrate to Dave Winer's tools to continue to enjoy Facebook, while engaging with the wider web outside the confines of Facebook's algorithm-managed news stream. Who knows? We can hope.

In any case, I'm encouraged to see some renewed interest in independent online voices, free of platform restrictions and exploitation.

Everything old is new again.


10:38 Thursday, 4 September 2014

I don't watch TV. I don't visit any of the major news networks' web sites unless there's something there that others have written was worthwhile to see. I don't visit The Huffington Post, Slate, Salon, or any of the other "new" media sites.

I subscribe to the New York Times online. I read what I can in The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and I'll likely subscribe to them soon. I listen to NPR in the car, and Diane Rehm online. And the 187 accounts I "follow" on Twitter help keep me abreast of what's going on.

The problem with news and information distribution in a market economy is competition.

Ever since Darwin, competition has been embraced as this great self-organizing principle that supposedly yields better outcomes wherever it is practiced. And it hides a multitude of sins.

The problem with competition is what the competitors want. In the case of the news "business," since it's based on advertising, the competitors want attention. And we've known since infancy how to get attention.

Which is why nearly all "new" media (specifically in the news and information area) sucks.

I avoid most of the advertising-based media because the "stories" are written to appeal to my amygdala, not my cerebrum. They are written, or shot, to provoke fear, incite outrage, or appeal to prurient interest. To some extent, this can be cognitively overcome, but that requires effort and energy that I'd rather spend doing something else. So, I just avoid as much of the hysteria as I can.

Then something happens in an area that I'm interested in, like technology. Because of my interest, I follow a number of people on Twitter who share that interest, not all of whom happen to share all of my views on everything, and not all of whom eschew the hysteria of new media, as I do. And, silly me, I sometimes follow links to pieces that turn out to be hysteria masquerading as analysis or commentary. Mostly they're just rants. But they're hysterical rants by high-attention earning people, competing for attention, on platforms that compete for attention as well.

Which pretty much guarantees there will be a complete and utter lack of perspective.

Now, I'm passionate about some things and perhaps my perspective on those matters is somewhat skewed. But I do think about that, and I'm confident that I'm at least somewhat rational about why I feel as strongly as I do about things like Google and its data-gathering efforts. At least part of my confidence is rooted in the fact that so few people seem to share my concern. It's kind of the obverse of "if you can keep your head about you when all around you are losing theirs."

So I like a good rant.

But a good rant requires perspective. The stuff I've been reading about iCloud and the celebrity nude selfies is just self-serving hysteria, manufactured outrage for the purpose of garnering page-views.

It's bullshit.

Sadly, I think a huge swath of the public has been conditioned to actively seek a stimulus for fear or outrage or prurient interest at all times, by the type of media we've allowed ourselves to create. Our interior experience of "normality" likely requires some sense of outrage or fear or sexual arousal, so people keep clicking on these stories, like rats in cages. If we weren't being force-fed it in our Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr "streams," we'd actively seek it out.

I actively try not to. But there are things we should be outraged about, and they get lost amid all the bullshit things media manufactures outrage about.

I'm not an optimist. I'm pretty sure we're witnessing peak civilization, or we're actually just past it.

We're trapped by our physiology, our ignorance, and our greed.

We're fucked.

That's my perspective.