Marco.org • About ▾

I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

What a great day to go to a barbecue!

I don’t know how long this has been here, but I just found it.

They’re making progress.

Chrome OS is a computer operating system that Google recently unveiled. It is a potential rival to Apple’s Mac systems.

My favorite part of the WSJ’s announcement that Eric Schmidt is resigning from Apple’s board.

A question for the lawyers and those more educated than me on the FCC

Presumably, Apple, Google, and AT&T will need to issue official responses to the FCC’s inquiries.

Will these responses be considered public records? Or is there any other way that the general public will be able to see them?

In another #tumblrs IRC in-joke, I got a book today from Ben Gold, who has promised but failed to bring a pie to my office, or arrange for one to be sent, for over a year. Every few months, he promises a pie again, he fails to deliver again, and we give him shit about it again.

Today, something finally came of those promises, and it’s actually more amusing than receiving a pie, although decidedly less delicious. The gift message read:

Do you and Langer have any idea how difficult it is to ship a pie? Make your own damn pie! -bengold

I love having internet friends who are just as weird as me.

Do any New York car-rental places offer cars with manual transmissions?

Use ImageMagick on your webservers?

This thread just solved a big convert performance bottleneck for me, in which basic image operations (resize, sharpen, etc.) would take orders of magnitude more time than with older versions of ImageMagick and would saturate multiple CPU cores for far too long.

The symptom is easy to spot: you start seeing convert sticking around at the top of top with >100% CPU usage on servers with a lot of cores (4+) when doing operations that shouldn’t take that long.

Apparently, OpenMP isn’t very good yet for many-core, high-volume usage.

Compile ImageMagick with --disable-openmp and performance skyrockets.

Network Solutions renames their services for added obscurity:

You see Network Solutions has decided that the service called “Domain” was much too obscure and difficult to understand and so it’s much clearer if we now call it “nsWebAddress”. Huh?

Also, “Web Site” was so obscure that it was better changed to “nsSpace” or “nsBusinessSpace”. And you know those “SSL Certificates”? Well, that was way too confusing, so let’s call them “nsProtect”.

Ah, Network Solutions… this sure looks like a better way to serve our needs, like you’ve always strived for in the past.

Amazon S3’s usage reports are hilariously obtuse

Thanks for making me download a CSV to tell me that this bucket used 217578109693560 byte-hours yesterday. That’s very precise, and I admire the fine-grained number you’re providing for me if I really needed it.

But I really just wanted to log into the web interface and see an approximate total in gigabytes.

It’s only a race to the bottom if you make it one

In nearly every critique of the App Store, developers and journalists cite the “race to the bottom”: the supposedly inevitable price drops until an app reaches $0.99. They make it sound like you can’t sell an app in any reasonable volume at any higher prices, and you’re forced by the market to lower your price until you’ve hit the bare minimum that you’re able to charge.

Fortunately, it’s bullshit.

You usually need to have a $1-3 price if you intend to rank very highly on the storewide Top 25 list, and being on that list will generate a lot of sales. But that’s not the only way to conduct your business.

You can easily sell an app for more than $3 if you simply recognize that you probably won’t be on the Top 25 list. In reality, this might already be decided for you: if your app isn’t likely to appeal to an extremely wide audience, you probably won’t make the Top 25 at any price. And even if you do target a wide audience, there’s a lot of competition for those spots — statistically, you probably won’t get one.

The root of this problematic race-to-the-bottom thinking is the assumption that you can rely on the App Store to do all of your promotion for you. This simply isn’t the case. The App Store can promote you in three main ways:

These are all fleeting, unreliable, and completely out of your control. They’re all gambles. Any gain you receive from App Store promotion is a nice bonus, but you can’t depend on it to sustain your business.

You need to do your own promotion.

Yes, the old-fashioned way, just like any other product launch. Blog about your app. Try to convince influential people to write about it. Buy ads on relevant sites. Spread the word: the App Store probably won’t do it for you.

This shouldn’t be difficult if your app is good. You’ll need to get the ball rolling, but once enough people try it, they’ll spread the word for you — just like any other product.

Visibility is more important than price.

You can try to gain visibility by lowering the price, and that sometimes works a bit. A much better method is to increase visibility externally. Lower pricing generally only help your chances of getting in the the Top 25 rankings, and once you’re in the list, you can drop your price to manipulate your position within it. But if you’re nowhere near that Top 25, it’s not because you’re charging too much money: it’s because nobody’s seeing your app.

Here’s where that $0.99-inevitability myth comes back into the story: it’s only relevant if you’re completely dependent on the App Store for visibility. If you’re doing your own promotion effectively, you can charge a higher price*, sell in a reasonable volume, and build a much more sustainable business.

* Keep in mind that “a higher price” for the App Store still means, generally, less than $8. But there’s a big difference in profitability between selling something for $5 and selling it in not-much-higher volume for $1.

(via jwock, The Macalope)

I like dstrelau’s OS X interpretation.

Do you have a computer?

Do you care about any of the files you’ve ever saved? Music you’ve bought from iTunes? Documents you’ve written? Pictures you’ve taken?

At some point, you’re going to see this icon flashing when you turn on your Mac. (I don’t know what Windows PCs do these days for this. Probably a BIOS message about not finding a boot volume.)

This icon means: My hard drive is dead.

(Usually. It literally means that it can’t find a bootable hard drive. But hard-drive death is by far the most common cause of this symptom.)

I get emails from friends about once a month asking what this means, quickly followed by a sinking feeling that I need to tell you this, and you almost definitely don’t have a backup of anything, and you’re going to ask me about data recovery, and I’m going to need to tell you that it doesn’t usually work, and you’ve probably lost the photos from your great European vacation or your baby’s first steps or the last four years of your life.

Here’s a quick primer on the reality of hard drives:

The only way to secure your data is to back it up.

I cannot stress this enough: BACK UP YOUR DATA.

If you’re on Windows, search MSN Bob Live Bing or whatever it’s called this month and figure out how to back stuff up. It will probably involve a lot of dialogs, information balloons, wizards, and explanatory text all over a translucent interface with an overuse of pastels.

If you’re on a Mac and you have OS X 10.5 or better (check: is the Apple icon in the upper-left gray?), it’s a lot easier. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Buy an external hard drive that’s bigger than your computer’s built-in hard drive. These hardly cost anything these days. Seagate and Western Digital are great brands. Look, here’s a terabyte. Want to save desk space and power cords? Here, a compact 500 GB disk. Lowest cost possible? A full-sized 500 GB disk.
  2. Plug it into your computer. It will ask if you’d like to use this drive for Time Machine. Say yes.
  3. Whenever your computer is at your desk, leave the external drive plugged into it and turned on.

That’s it.

A quick note about external drives: Many laptop owners buy external drives for extra space because they fill up their main drives. That’s nice, but that’s not a backup because those files still only exist on one hard drive (the external), and any hard drive (including externals) can die at any time. You should have an external drive dedicated exclusively to backup, and that’s exactly what Time Machine does.

We know, collectively, as geeks, we’ve let you down with backup procedures in the past. They’ve been tedious and easily forgotten. But OS X’s Time Machine is so easy and automatic, and external drives are so big and cheap, that there’s no excuse anymore.

Nearly everyone has lost data because it wasn’t backed up. It happens to the best of us. But it should only happen once.

20 TB.

Instapaper Pro is featured in a book! Thanks, Josh Clark, for including my app.

(The book was published during Instapaper Pro 1.3’s reign. The current version is 2.1, which is much more awesome than 1.3, if I do say so myself, which I guess I do, although I’m certainly biased.)

I took one thing away from this. Talking about healthcare reform with these people is futile. If you’ve read much that I’ve written, you know that I don’t say this lightly. Normally, I support dialog with anybody over anything—and I get excited over almost any kind of civic engagement. But this was miserable.

Forget dialog. Let’s go into bulldozer mode.

Dan, after braving a healthcare town-hall meeting and being overwhelmed by the crazy Republican whackjobs who try to “win” arguments by screaming their illogical, incorrect points more loudly than the people who try to engage in civilized, educated discussion.

This is a pretty good summary of modern political discourse in the United States. It’s the Democrats trying to do what makes the most sense but having insufficient balls to get anything done, the Republicans putting their fingers in their ears and shouting “LALALALA!” and blocking every initiative simply because they’re sore about not being in power, and a handful of sensible conservatives wondering where their party went.

This is also the brand of politics that media coverage is quick to gloss over—quick to conceal behind some false notion that violence is on both sides. Do not believe it. Americans trying earnestly to gather with their neighbors and engage in discussions about health insurance reform should beware of every account they read that depicts town hall disruptions as generic, two-sided violence.  Beware, because these descriptions are false.

The health insurance reform debate in this country is not a fight between two violent sides. It is a peaceful discussion that right-wing mobs are trying to stop and prevent.  Tonight they used violence in Tampa to successfully stop that peaceful discussion from happening.

Fists Pounding on Glass, Right-Wing Violence Stops Tampa Town Hall (via AZspot)

Planet Calacanis

I’ve seen a lot of people quoting and linking to Jason Calacanis’ recent article, The Case Against Apple—in Five Parts, in a positive light. But I can’t. It’s ridiculous.

Let’s start with an easy one:

Sure, everything on the Mac platform costs twice as much …

[…]

I over-pay for Apple products because I perceive them to be better (i.e. Windows-based hardware is 30-50% less–but at 38 years old I don’t care).

I don’t need to get into this very much with this audience, but for the people standing in the back who just came in and missed the last few years of one of the internet’s favorite arguments, Apple simply doesn’t have a low-end lineup. Their hardware is very competitively priced to similar hardware from other vendors. They just don’t compete in the ultra-low-end market, which is better for their shareholders since nobody makes any money there.

But that’s OK, reality doesn’t seem to apply to this article. His first main point is that Apple should open iTunes to media players from other manufacturers:

Another radical visionary, Steve Gillmor, has been hosting this discussion since Apple’s draconian iTunes updates led smart people to downgrade their software. Think about that mind bomb for a second: people downgrading their software to maintain their freedoms—is this a William Gibson novel?

Where are all of these “smart people” who are downgrading iTunes to maintain their freedoms? And which freedoms? The freedom to break Apple’s DRM? The freedom for Palm to violate the USB spec by identifying the Pre with a different vendor ID?

Steve Jobs is on the cusp of devolving from the visionary radical we all love to a sad, old hypocrite and control freak—a sellout of epic proportions.

Why is the entire company attributed to Steve Jobs, personally? When was Jobs ever not a control freak? What significant change are we “on the cusp” of? Are any of Apple’s recent actions surprising to anyone?

Of all the companies in the United States that could possibly be considered for anti-trust action, Apple is the lead candidate.

Really? Have you seen the food industry recently? How about retail? No? Were you just focusing on technology? What about the sorry state of broadband and local ISP monopolies that defraud the FCC for millions every year?

The truth is, Google has absolutely no lock-in, collusion or choice issues like Apple’s,

…unless you’re an advertiser or a small web publisher…

and the Internet taught Microsoft long ago that open is better than closed.

Yeah! Microsoft is much more open than Apple. Let me just get this homebrew app to run on my Xbox 360. And I better not scratch that game disc when I take it out of the drive, because I can never back it up, which is just as well since I could never play a backup copy. Oh, and I hope I never switch away from the 360, because it’s full of TV shows I bought from the Xbox Live Marketplace and their DRM prevents me from watching them on anything else.

There is no technical reason why the iTunes ecosystem shouldn’t allow the ability to sync with any MP3 player (in fact, iTunes did support other players once upon a time),

iTunes supported other players before the iPod existed because it was based on SoundJam, which supported them, and it would have been difficult to be competitive in that space without supporting any devices.

Once the iPod became the only highly demanded MP3 player in the U.S., the demand for iTunes to support other players vanished.

And there’s a big technical reason why modern support for other devices is a bad idea: Apple doesn’t have the rights from the music and movie publishers to allow the DRMed files from the iTunes Store to play on non-Apple devices. Sure, they could license their DRM to other manufacturers, but Microsoft did that with PlaysForSure. Look at how well that turned out.

Without support for iTunes Store purchases, customers could rightfully get very angry with Apple for saying that iTunes “supported” their new Zune before they bought it and realized that they couldn’t play any of their purchased media.

save furthering Apple’s dominance with their own over-priced players.

The best competition against iPods right now are Zunes.

Where price differences exist for comparable models, they’re minimal. And their respective sales volumes seem to indicate that people are willing to pay the ~7% premium for the Apple devices. I’d hardly consider that difference large enough to call iPods “overpriced”.

On my trips to Japan, China and Korea over the past couple of years, I made it a point to visit the consumer electronics marketplaces like Akihabira. They are filled with not dozens, but hundreds, of MP3 players. They are cheap, feature-rich and open in nature. They have TV tuners, high-end audio recorders, radio tuners, dual-headphone jacks built-in and any number of innovations that the iPod does not. You simply will not see those here because of Apple’s inexcusable lack of openness.

I live and work in New York City. We see stores selling those around here all the time. Calacanis is from Brooklyn. He knows about these, too.

Almost nobody buys them. Not because of Apple’s “inexcusable lack of openness”, but because they aren’t very good and don’t come anywhere close to the quality of Apple’s offerings.

Think for a moment about what your reaction would be if Microsoft made the Zune the only MP3 player compatible with Windows. There would be 4chan riots, denial of service attacks and Digg’s front page would be plastered with pundit editorials claiming Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were Borg.

Why, then, does Steve Jobs get a pass?

He doesn’t. Neither does the rest of his company. Any device manufacturer is welcome to make MP3 players compatible with Macs and OS X — they just need their own sync software. That’s hardly unreasonable.

On to the iPhone:

Apple’s iPhone is a revolutionary product that has devolved almost all of the progress made in cracking—wait for it—AT&T’s monoply in the ’70s and ’80s. We broke up the Bell Phone only to have it put back together by the iPhone.

No, we broke up the Bell Phone only to have it put back together by deregulation and mergers that happened many years before the iPhone existed.

And I think Verizon Wireless would dispute the implication that AT&T has a monopoly on wireless telecom today.

Simple solution and opportunity: Not only let the iPhone work on any carrier, but put two SIM card slots on the iPhone and let users set which applications use which services. (Your phone could be Verizon and your browser Sprint!) Imagine having two SIM cards with 3G that were able to bond together to perform superfast uploads and downloads to YouTube.

This concept is so completely ridiculous that I question whether Calacanis lives on the same planet as the rest of us.

For this to even happen would require that:

I am absolutely stunned at how awful of an idea this is.

This is where I stopped reading the article during my first pass, but enough people kept linking to it that I figured I’d give it another shot. It didn’t get better.

We over-paid for your phone—which you render obsolete every 13 months, like clockwork

Over-paid? Value judgments aside, whose fault is it if you paid a price you considered too high for something that you didn’t need?

Render obsolete? The original iPhone, now two years old, runs every application just as well as the iPhone 3G and has nearly all of the same capabilities except for the handful of features that the 3G explicitly added (e.g. 3G radio, true GPS). The iPhone 3G is so good that Apple’s still selling it. The 3GS is such a relatively minor update that almost no 3G owners are paying the premium to upgrade yet.

I haven’t yet met an original-iPhone user who felt that their phone was obsolete. “Obsolete” means something very different than “no longer the newest model.”

And what if they didn’t do this? What if they didn’t release a new iPhone this summer? Imagine the bad press and negative speculation they’d get.

—and then signed our lives away to AT&T.

Your life is a 2-year phone contract — like every other carrier offers with the subsidy for every other phone — that, as of this year, is now optional if you don’t want the subsidy?

Opera’s mobile browsers are “full of WIN,” as the kids like to say these days. If you’re a Windows Mobile or Blackberry user, you’ve probably downloaded them and enjoyed their WINness. The company started an iPhone browser project but gave up when faced with Apple’s absurd and unclear mandate to developers: Don’t create services which duplicate the functionality of Apple’s own software. In other words: “Don’t compete with us or we will not let you in the game.”

Where’s all of this demand for Opera? (And where are those “kids”?) They’ve seen success on other mobile phones because every first-party mobile browser before Mobile Safari was terrible.

Now, I agree with Calacanis on this point: that particular App Store policy is terrible, and does stifle competition. I’d love to see alternative browsers and email clients on iPhone OS.

That said, Opera is a poor example because the demand for alternative browsers on iPhone OS is close enough to zero to be considered a rounding error.

Apple took Google’s innovative and absurdly priced phone offering, Google Voice, out of the App Store and is currently being investigated by the FCC for this action.

Yes, but I wouldn’t be so quick to jump on Apple for that one. It could very well have been AT&T’s demand. Hopefully the FCC investigation will shed more light on how and why that decision was made.

Calacanis was almost making a point… then this happened:

How long before Apple decides to ban a Twitter client in favor of an Apple Twitter-like product? Seems crazy, I know, but by following Apple’s logic you should not be able to use Firefox or Google Chrome on your desktop.

Simple solution and opportunity: Let people have three or four phone services coming in to their iPhones and perhaps charge a modest licensing fee for those types of service.

I think we’re on that other planet again.

This, unfortunately, is the fate of Calacanis’ piece: he has some good points, but they’re buried in so much off-base ranting and misplaced frustration that it’s difficult to take any of it seriously.

Someone name Marco

(sic) The opening of Jason Calacanis’ non-response to my post. Damn. He really got me! I’m just “someone name[d] Marco”. It’s obviously not worth the courtesy of figuring out who I am or giving my last name, since I make that information so difficult to find on my site. I’m just some guy who’s not nearly as important or well-known as Jason Calacanis. Classy.

9:15 AM: AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH

9:16 AM: My present goes back into its box and I head to the Apple Store, fully expecting them to tell me I’m stuck with it. (But at least I know they’ll tell me in a very nice, calm way in powerful air conditioning while surrounded by metal and glass.)

9:55 AM: I explain to the Apple salesman that I know I’m out of the return period, and I’ll gladly pay the restocking fee, and I just really hate the glass screen, and now that there’s another option, I’d like to take it if he’d accept the return. I luck out — in addition to the usual niceness and reasonability that I’ve come to expect from Apple employees, this guy’s a non-glossy enthusiast, too, and was very excited for this morning’s new option for himself. He gladly takes mine back with no hassle (the restocking fee, in this case, was worth every cent) and apologizes that he doesn’t have the matte models in stock yet.

10:01 AM: Laptop’s gone and the money’s back on my card.

10:20 AM: New laptop with “antiglare widescreen display” ordered from Apple.com. Net cost of the swap: $250.

31 days after I bought one, and after waiting for two revisions and 10 months for it to become an option, Apple finally offers the 15” unibody MacBook Pro with a matte-screen option.

You have no idea what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. “Living will” or no, it doesn’t matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.

If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

Southern Beale: Don’t Talk To Me About Death Panels (via AZspot)

You don’t need to charge $0.99. I’d happily pay more. I’m not the only one.

I hate watching video on my computer, and don’t have cable TV. Instead, I have an Apple TV and an Xbox 360 with Netflix’s on-demand streaming app.

I wanted to watch this. iTunes doesn’t have it for rental and it’s not available for Netflix streaming, so I put it in my Netflix DVD queue.

But since I hate DVD menus and the Xbox 360 isn’t a great DVD player (too much fan and disc noise, no deinterlacing even over HDMI outputs, and awful remote-control angle), I usually rip movies with Handbrake, deinterlacing if necessary, and play them with the Apple TV.

Except this time, the plastic disc holding the 8.5 GB of MPEG-2 was scratched too much and couldn’t be reliably read by either my DVD-ROM drive or the Xbox 360 for playback. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it can’t really be avoided, although Netflix is very good at minimizing it. I went to their site and told them it was scratched, and now I need to wait two days for a different plastic disc with the same MPEG-2 data that hopefully isn’t scratched so my computer can read it and bypass the trivial encryption and remove the prohibited user operations and strip the menus and convert it to the format that works best on my TV because it’s not the same format as older TVs and I don’t want to buy another box with another remote and another video signal to collect even more dust in my “entertainment center” that needs to exist to hold all of these boxes that all do the same things but with different publisher deals and content availability and in slightly different and incompatible ways.

This all seems so archaic.

One reason HD-DVD died and Blu-Ray has had a slow pickup is that the geeks like me, who buy the cutting-edge technology before it’s mainstream, are completely disinterested in dealing with discs. Every time I put a disc into a drive, I feel like I’m waiting for a VHS tape to rewind before I eject it and drive it back to Blockbuster: that feeling that this seems completely unnecessary with modern technology and it’s probably not long for this world.

Our grandchildren (and, for the younger generation, even our children) will probably never hear a dial tone or busy signal, use a tape rewinder because we told them the expensive VCR would wear out its motors if it rewound too many tapes itself, bring the empty case up to the Blockbuster clerk to get the real movie, or be disappointed to open their new CD’s case and find that the spokes have cracked and are rattling around inside. Do you think they’ll be shuffling movies around on plastic discs transported by mail or automobile and exchanging them for different ones because they’re too scratched to play?

In a series of escalating IRC in-joke deliveries to my office, I finally got the fabled pie delivered yesterday, courtesy of Nostrich and Langer.

The shipping label implied that it was from someone in #tumblrs, but the associated gift message was not included anywhere in the box, so it was just a random pie that appeared to be from a pie-making farm sent by a stranger from the internet. Naturally, we decided it was probably safe, and we ate most of it yesterday at the office. Thanks!

(We were later able to eat at Dallas BBQ without dying, so the pie definitely didn’t do any damage — any reduction in my body’s immune system would have made itself immediately obvious upon stepping foot in that “restaurant”.)

Naturally, it will suffer an Internet fate worse than that of the MacBook Air, which was ridiculed in its time for how underpowered, overpriced, port-poor it was. The tablet will be called a fanboy’s gadget, a netbook with a fancy logo on it, and why would anyone buy that instead of the Nokia N101 or something which has a higher-megapixel camera and Ogg Vorbis support. Or, why not just keep your iPhone/iPod touch?

Except whatever. Except the MacBook Air was awesome, and clearly this is what the rest of the MacBook line will look as soon as Apple can pack enough CPU and battery into the same enclosure.

Neven Mrgan on the rumored Apple tablet-like device.

Many of Apple’s products are ridiculed by tech geeks when they’re announced, but then a few years later, we all have them. The most extreme example of this so far has been the original iPod, which was greeted with disappointment, negativity, and doubt for nearly a year after it was introduced.

I have to agree on the MacBook Air, which was also ridiculed like crazy on introduction (I’m guilty of it, too). But the Air is awesome.

When I used one, I was constantly frustrated with its performance, limitations, and screen resolution, but I can’t deny that it’s an awesome computer to handle and carry. I was just using it wrong: I demand more capabilities and higher performance out of a laptop than most people. But it won’t surprise me at all if my next laptop, maybe in 2-3 years, is an Air.

Apple is incredibly good at designing products that we really want, even if we don’t recognize that immediately because we’re blinded by the past or obsessed with the wrong metrics.

I’m sure I went to Coney Island as a young child, but I don’t remember it. I saw it tonight for the first time as an adult.

It was crowded, shady, and creepy, especially in the carnival section. But we got great hot dogs and saw excellent fireworks.

There are two clashing worldviews. There is my view, that a human being is in charge of his or her own life and, with sustained focus, can reach higher and higher achievement every week, gradually approaching (and maybe one day reaching!) a virtuous, peaceful, and happy life.

The other view is more of a victim mentality: that life happens to you, that infinite frustration and suffering are unavoidable, that the only reasonable way of coping with such an awful world is to attack whoever seems to actually enjoy life — because surely they are dishonest or crazy and must be brought back down to Earth.

Jake Lodwick

Crash Test Dummies featuring Ellen Reid — The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead (CD, video, XTC song that it covers, Wikipedia article about the song and backstory)

I’m trying to replace all of my DRMed music in iTunes. Most is available for iTunes Plus upgrades, but there are a few odd tracks that they probably don’t even have the rights for anymore, so I’m on my own for them.

This is an interesting one. Back when the movie was new (15 years ago… wow), I bought the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack. It’s a great album, featuring a lot of great bands from 1994 and a handful of great songs, including this one, that were never part of their respective bands’ full albums. The CD got scratched beyond recognition many years ago, and at some point in the various moves that one does between middle school and age 27, I lost track of it, so I ended up buying this track from iTunes a while ago.

Neither iTunes nor Amazon MP3 had this available for download, so I just bought the used CD from Amazon for $4, shipped. Used CDs are apparently worth very little, but somehow, a few massive dealers can still afford to shuffle them around for very little profit (given the cuts by Amazon, the post office, and the manufacturer of the bubble envelope, I’d be surprised if there was even $1 in profit here).

Now I have my DRM-free copy, along with the rest of the album that I had mostly forgotten about, and I’m listening to it with a great fondness for the catchy, often good, and often amusingly terrible music of 1994.

The first photo I’ve found, from here, of the 15” MacBook Pro’s new matte-screen option that I ordered last week.

There are no apparent surprises (fortunately). It looks exactly like the 17” unibody matte screen. I saw a lot of those at WWDC — about two-thirds of all 17” unibody MBPs I saw there were matte — and they looked great in person.

It looks very similar to a the MacBook Air’s bezel with one key difference: the Air’s rubber gasket is gray to blend in with the metal’s color. On this new 15” matte screen, just like the 17”, the rubber gasket is black. It’s surely an intentional design choice: I bet, without that slight black accent, the bigger machines’ screens look too bare.

Update: Here are some much better pictures, especially this and this.

Aren’t we all getting a little old for this?

“This is where we blow stuff up.”

Jamie Hyneman — who, to be honest, did not actually use the word “stuff” —

Right. He used the word “shit”. The New York Times protected the world from that.

Nostrich found this gem the other day:

As a reminder of the stakes, several staff members have affixed over their work spaces a color photocopy of Paul McCartney pointing at the camera and the warning, “Don’t foul this up.” (Actually, only one of these posters says “foul,” where the employee, like an editor at a family newspaper, has taped it over the original word.)

This marvel of awkward writing obfuscates the actual text of the posters, which read, “Don’t fuck this up.”

Their full policy for profanity is explained here. But this explanation, in an article about “word-bombs” and containing the word “cuss” in the title, is more enlightening:

The New Yorker and this newspaper both address an educated readership, but the magazine prints the actual profanity, while The New York Times does not. And very rarely does the paper print those obvious, winking, letter-word stand-ins. As The Times’s two-page stylebook entry on obscenity says, “An article should not seem to be saying, ‘Look, I want to use this word but they won’t let me.’ “

We’re all civilized people here. We’ve heard it all. What are we trying to protect by not using swear words where appropriate?

The children? They know all of the swear words already. They learn most of them through occasional slip-ups by their parents. And when they get to school, they share knowledge with the other children and quickly learn the rest.

Granted, they may not know some of the lesser-used, more sexually-charged terms — and even if they know the words, they probably don’t know their detailed meaning except that they’re “bad words” and can be saved up and used for ammunition in playground arguments.

But I guarantee that your children have heard you say “fuck” at least once. You’ve definitely said “shit” within earshot, and they’re likely to be even more familiar with its more useful counterpart, “bullshit”. And, if they go to a Catholic school, they can probably tell you exactly where the Bible contains “ass” and “cock”.

So they know them. We know them. We know they know them. They sure know we know them. What’s the big deal?

Moreover, why is the artful dodge considered acceptable? We can tell, without a doubt, that Jamie Hyneman really said “blow shit up” and the Beatles Rock Band developers really hung posters that said “Don’t fuck this up”. So could any child capable of reading The New York Times. If everyone knows what they really mean, is that really any nicer, more civilized, or more pure at all than just reproducing these quotations faithfully?

Is there any question as to why the sequel to Meet The Parents, which frequently played on the joke that the main character’s last name was “Focker”, was called Meet The Fockers and was a tremendous hit among the same kinds of soft, pious, embarassed parents who won’t say “fucker” to save their lives but would laugh like crazy every time they said “Focker” in the movie and brag to their friends that they saw “Meet the… FOCKERS!” twice last weekend?

It just feels like, as a culture, we’re getting a bit too old for this sort of thing.

Mills:

Dr. John - Qualified

I’m old: I’ve been on Tumblr for 28 years. A long time ago, I posted maybe the best song ever, but that was before they’d implemented “Following,” “Reblogging,” “Liking,” comments, or tumblelogs: you just sent an email to Marco with whatever you wanted to say and sometimes he’d send an animated emoticon back. We called that “Being on the Radar Screen.”

[…]

Why don’t you follow Mills yet?

My combined contribution to You Look Nice Today’s Song Parts Dot Biz business, representing the best parts of 46 different songs, conveniently trimmed down to less than 9 minutes. (right-click, Save As)

This took a very long time, and should indicate clearly why I’m not in the music business.

I dare you to name all of the songs. Here’s a video that numbers them all for easy reference.

This is much better.

Due to limitations of dynamic range, the photo can’t do it justice. If you’re on the fence, go see them in person. Most Apple stores have one on display now.

This was completely worth the restocking fee on the opened return.

Here’s a nice design tweak (or side-effect of the unibody panel): the screen is inset slightly from the rest of the bezel. The combination of the black rubber gasket, this inset, and the increased rigidity of the unibody shell should significantly reduce or eliminate the keyboard-imprint-on-screen problem that was so prevalent on many previous models.

This is a bullshit movement. Oh, sure, there’s real emotions and real people, but it’s a limp cock being strenuously fluffed by a media on its knees for the right wing of this country. It’s a bullshit movement because it’s based on bullshit. It’s impossible to have a rational discussion when your opponent is merely throwing lies at you. This is not a fair fight because the people running the discussion at this point, the media, are allowing it to be so. It’s like we agreed to play baseball and an opposing player ran onto the field with a football, spiked, yelled ‘Touchdown,’ and the umpires said, ‘We’ll allow it. Six points. Who’s up to bat?’

The Rude Pundit (via cleversimon)

This is actually an option on Dell’s dual-Nehalem servers.

It would make a hell of a Memcache machine.

Or you could buy several cars.

I’ll say this for George Bush: you’d never have caught him frantically negotiating against himself to take the meat out of a signature legislative initiative just because his approval ratings had a bad summer. Can you imagine Bush and Karl Rove allowing themselves to be paraded through Washington on a leash by some dimwit Republican Senator of a state with six people in it the way the Obama White House this summer is allowing Max Baucus (favorite son of the mighty state of Montana) to frog-march them to a one-term presidency?

Matt Taibbi on the likely demise of the public option from the health-care reform bill (via AZspot).

The Democrats, and the Obama administration, do not have a mandate to pander to the crazy, screaming, ignorant wingnuts and their death-squad propaganda. We elected them to run this place and get things done after a decade of damage and neglect.

The Democrats proved during W.’s term that they had absolutely no balls and no ability to get anything done whatsoever. The Democrats would compromise, the Republicans wouldn’t, so the passed legislation was lopsided, ineffective, and often very harmful. I assumed it was because the Democrats just didn’t have enough power.

Now they have a lot more power, and should be able to pass nearly any policy initiative with broad support. And what’s happening? The Democrats are compromising and the Republicans aren’t. The resulting bill will be lopsided, ineffective, and harmful.

It’s the same old shit.

I expect as much from Congress, but I’m extremely disappointed in the ineffectiveness and lack of balls shown by the Obama presidency so far.

Giving up on the public option might be expedient. But we didn’t elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one.

Eugene Robinson (via AZspot)

The internet is becoming this thing where it’s just people trying to become successful on the internet by showing other people how to become successful on the internet.

Merlin Mann (via Langer)

Do you ever get tired of blogging the same old debunkment of every wildly unlikely, off-base, and misleading Apple rumor report every time a cheap rumor site writes about them to get a bunch of pageviews so they can earn 63 cents from AdSense?

Sometimes, I do.

There’s not much to say about the Apple tablet rumors except that there have always been Apple tablet rumors and nothing has ever come of them. Except that inexpensive portable touch-screen media computer with near-ubiquitous internet connectivity that we already have in our pockets because Apple released it two years ago and many of us are already on our second or third one. But nearly every rumor prior to its announcement was completely wrong. (Ask Kevin Rose for a summary if you’ve forgotten.)

I’m sure Apple is working on something really cool. Apple is always working on cool things. Most of them never get beyond prototypes. Some become real products — hopefully, only the best. The concept of a cheap tablet computer is so problematic, as we know it, that I can’t see Apple wanting to release one.

The biggest indicator that it’s not worth their trouble is to look around at who’s requesting it, anticipating it, and assuming it’s on the roadmap: Tech geeks and “analysts”. (Quick aside on analysts: It’s a hilariously corrupt business full of payola and bullshitters. But back to geeks.)

Tech geeks are terrible at knowing what they want from technology. (A faster horse.) It’s embarrassing, because we’re supposed to be the experts. But we suck at this. If you listen to geeks, you get products targeted at geeks, usually at the tremendous exclusion of design, usability, marketability, and usefulness to regular people.

Then, when someone shows us what we really want but were too narrow-minded to ask for, we ridicule it and say it’s too expensive or too small or too big or too limited or too closed or too underpowered or too light or too heavy or too ugly or too stylish. We trash it on our blogs and make fun of the people who wasted their money on it. Six months later, we want one.

Geeks are terrible customers, too. We’re whiny and demanding and entitled and self-important and high-needs, and we’re incredibly fickle. We switch products and services much more frequently, and for much more trivial reasons, than regular people. We have low tolerances, long memories, and little brand loyalty.

The products made by and for geeks can occasionally create profitable businesses, but aren’t likely to ever get mass-market appeal or noticeably change the marketplace, like Android phones or Ogg codecs or desktop Linux or social media cross-posting group dashboard follow feed management service frameworks.

In other words, targeting us is a terrible idea for a consumer products company. It has never been Apple’s business to target us. Therefore, whatever they have up their sleeve this time — if anything — is unlikely to resemble any of our predictions, assumptions, or expectations.

When they do announce their next product, we’re probably going to be disappointed by some seemingly significant aspect of it that turns out to be completely insignificant, and after six months of making fun of it and the people who buy it, we’ll all realize that it’s actually what we really wanted, fall in love with it, and buy one for ourselves.

I used to try to run a popular blog. I cared about timing posts for the weekday-morning rush and getting on Digg and getting meaningful comments and increasing my traffic and focusing my subject matter and becoming an authority and developing an audience and making enough money from ads to reach AdSense’s check-issuing minimum every few months and maybe actually breaking even after my hosting bill. For all of the trouble, it rarely worked, and the success definitely wasn’t proportional to the effort it took.

Then I stopped trying.

Now, I’ll post a major article on a Saturday at midnight. I’ll write posts without titles even though the aggregators can’t link to them. I don’t care about getting on the front page of anything. I’ll use as many words as I think are necessary even though most people will skim over it.

And, somehow, this works.

I now have a decently successful blog with a non-zero audience of mostly cool people that earns a small profit with tasteful ads that don’t rely on distracting people. My posts sometimes end up on aggregators even though I never try to promote them. And this all takes far less time and hassle than it used to.

Some of this is the technology: since I started writing online, web publishing has become much easier, and the quality of tools and hosting available for free has skyrocketed. But I can’t help but blame most of the turnaround on my change of priorities: I started writing for myself and for the sake of it, and I stopped trying to be successful or be my own boss or make money with AdSense. And it worked.

I can’t even write endings or intros or titles.

Use Memcache?

Upgrade to the 1.4.0 server and, if you’re PHP-based, the 3.x PECL module.

The server is much faster (I didn’t think that was possible), and the consistent hashing support in the PECL client’s new MemcachePool class makes server-pool management very easy. The biggest gain from consistent hashing is that you can add or remove servers from the pool without invalidating all of your existing keys — the more cache servers you have, the more important this becomes.

Oh, and if you want to test it with a bunch of servers without buying them, there’s a convenient Amazon EC2 system image with 1.4.0.

Possible new iTunes 9 screenshots depict Facebook social playlist integration, third-party device support

These all look pretty credible — much more so than the previous rumor shots. But this one depicts a feature that I have doubts about: supposedly it allows you to “import” (rip) DVD movies to your iTunes library.

Given Apple’s relationship with major content publishers, I can’t imagine them offering this. iTunes does allow CD ripping, but that’s much simpler and doesn’t require the precedent-established violation of the DMCA that DVD ripping does. The MPAA and its member companies are so paranoid, DRM-happy, and piracy-obsessed that they make the music industry look progressive.

The other screenshots show a few things uncharacteristic of Apple, too:

But if these are fakes, they’re very well done.

Anyone who smoked in an elementary-school hallway today would be thrown out of the building. But if you served an obesity-inducing, federally financed meal to a kindergartner, you would fit right in.

The New York Times

If you think it is okay to execute somebody under the current law, you also think it is okay to execute somebody who might be innocent. And it’s not one of those ‘mights’ like ‘unicorns might live in the sewer.’ It’s one of those mights that has likely happened before and very likely will happen in the near future. Before condemning Scalia and Thomas on this one, either make sure you’re also condemning the death penalty or recognize that you’re dealing in shades of grey.

Dan on Troy Davis

I’m finally giving this whole cold-brewing thing a shot.

Apple’s fairly dull FCC response

Apple pulled a Palin this evening by trying to bury this inconvenient news piece on a Friday night: their response to the FCC inquiry about the Google Voice rejection and the approval process at the App Store. Fortunately, even on Friday nights, tech bloggers are always on the internet.

Good analysis:

Nothing about Apple’s response is particularly surprising except for the flat denial that AT&T had anything to do with the Google Voice rejection. (And, despite Apple’s golden bullshit that it wasn’t technically “rejected”, I’m still calling it that.)

The meatiest part, for me, was the description of the app review process. Under even the most generous math, each reviewer only spends about 6-9 minutes reviewing each app. And given the high volume of games, I bet non-game apps are lucky to get 5 minutes: you can see pretty much every part of an app or simple game in much less time than a long, slow-paced game.

Unfortunately, this just confirms what I had deduced from experience. All of my submissions have either been for the Instapaper or Tumblr apps, and both connect to their respective web services (that I run) and require test user accounts for Apple’s reviewers (that I check periodically for activity).

I still believe that the approximately 6-day minimum wait time is artificially imposed to throttle updates to a weekly maximum, since updating constantly is a reliable way to game the App Store’s rankings, and to avoid wasting time reviewing apps for which the developers are likely to find a bug a few days after submission and need to resubmit.

This was the most interesting part:

There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly. Apple also established an App Store executive review board that determines procedures and sets policy for the review process, as well as reviews applications that are escalated to the board because they raise new or complex issues. The review board meets weekly and is comprised of senior management with responsibilities for the App Store. 95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted.

I expected the review staff to be bigger. But it probably is. There could be 41 full-timers and 40 more part-timers. There’s a lot of evidence to indicate that most (if not all) of the front-line reviews are by non-native-English speakers and on schedules that strongly imply that they’re offshore. This may be the cause of a lot of the frustrating rejections in which the reviewer didn’t understand something about the application or description that seems clear to most Americans.

I did not think that each app was reviewed by two reviewers. This is probably a recent change to improve consistency, which was desperately needed. The effective doubling of the front-line workload might have contributed to the Great Approval Drought of June 2009.

The weekly escalation meetings are interesting, but if 8,500 submissions come through each week, the chances that any non-critical edge case will actually be escalated are very slim, and the employees are probably highly discouraged from escalating. Apple is primarily concerned with minimizing Baby Shaker-type negative press, and that probably got its reviewer fired, so the reviewers have a strong incentive to err toward rejection — and with such a limited escalation capacity, most of those rejections never get a second chance.

I’m discouraged that Apple has seemingly settled on a 14-day target for the review delay. As I’ve said before, nearly all of my frustrations with the app review system would be solved or significantly alleviated if the delay was shorter — and the longer it gets, the worse the problems are. I’d love to have a turnaround time of 2-4 days.

But beyond this app-review procedural insight, the Apple response is pretty light on content.

There was no apology, no admission of guilt, and no indication that Apple believes anything is significantly wrong with their system or policies. But in this context, I wouldn’t expect anything of the sort. The purpose of this is to keep the FCC from prying further and causing potential legal or regulatory problems, so any concessions in Apple’s response could have had very expensive ramifications. It’s important to consider that when making any judgments about their attitude or language in this.

That said, I do wish that developers would get more information and communication from Apple. But this wasn’t the right setting.

Dear People Who Use LinkedIn Or Facebook And Invite Me To Your Network Of “Friends” Or Whatever They Call Their Respective Person Database Pairings

I appreciate it. Really, I do.

But I’ll probably ignore your request for at least a few months. Don’t take it personally — I just don’t have any reason to log into these sites more frequently than that. Especially LinkedIn. I’m not sure whether I’ve logged into LinkedIn in the last two years. I should really delete that account.

Two things about this disappoint me:

  1. That this tweet, which originated from a human last month, was harvested by Twitter spambots and is used periodically to make spam accounts seem legitimate.
  2. That it implies that Instapaper doesn’t work offline.

The latter bothers me more.

Cold-brewed coffee results

My first batch of cold-brewed coffee didn’t turn out very well.

One problem was filtering it. I don’t yet own a good coffee grinder (the best are the conical burr grinders). In fact, I don’t own a coffee grinder at all: since my pre-Brooklyn life involved very little coffee-making at home, I’ve just been using a Magic Bullet. (Really.) And it’s just as good as any other typical spinning-blade grinder.

The problem with spinning-blade grinders is that they don’t make a consistent grind. No matter how long you hold the button down, you’ll have some bigger chunks, some fine powder, and the full range of intermediate sizes, all mixed together. (If you’ve ever used a food processor, it’s the same effect: some stuff gets thrown to the sides too quickly and doesn’t get chopped enough, and the stuff in the middle gets puréed.)

The cold brew requires a very coarse grind because you need to use a lot of grounds to get enough flavor to matter. If you have too many small, powdery particles, they’ll either pass through your filter or, more likely at this volume, clog it.

And that’s what happened to mine: as I was pouring the mixture through my drip pot’s metal cone filter, it clogged the hell out of it and made it extremely difficult to strain the liquid out. (What did come out contained a lot of sludge from the tiniest particles that made it through.)

The most practical filtering method for cold-brew, I think, is a large French press, like this popular one that I have. But a French press is very sensitive to grind consistency. The filter mesh’s holes are large (by necessity), and it needs a true coarse grind with no fine particles to avoid making sludge in your cup. So you really need a high-quality coffee grinder.

(Alternately, you could just get your coffee ground at a French-press setting from whoever you’re buying the beans from, since they’re likely to use a nice big commercial flat-burr grinder. But then you’d be buying ground coffee, and I’m just not ready to compromise my morals like that.)

I took this as an excuse to finally order myself a real coffee grinder. I really had no excuse before, and my home coffee has never been quite as good as I want it, and I always have sludge at the bottom of the cup, and I’ll finally be able to use the French press effectively. Since I tend not to buy coffee grinders very often (I’ve purchased zero of them in 27 years), I went all out. I’ll have it in a few days.

But I did have some cold-brewed coffee that was full of sludge and took forever to strain. So I figured I might as well taste it.

Sip… hmm… there’s some coffee flavor there… but where’s the rest of it? It’s not like weak coffee: it’s like a strong-enough version of only the bottom half of the flavor profile.

Had I read the article that inspired this experiment more carefully, this wouldn’t have been a surprise:

Jim Reynolds, brewer emeritus and longtime taster for Peet’s Coffee & Tea, says he’s always considered the flavor of cold-brewed coffee to border on insipid and bland […]

Bingo.

Remember that first time you drank coffee, as a kid, and the taste didn’t quite live up to that amazing smell? Cold-brewing does a lot to close the smell-taste gap. Taste is in the chemistry, and exposing coffee grounds to hot water releases oils that won’t dissolve at lower temperatures. These oils are full of acidic compounds that give coffee its famous bitter bite. […]

I don’t disagree with this, but I interpret the mechanics a bit differently:

The paragraph ends with this:

Is it any wonder that so many people add so much milk and sugar?

And here’s where our opinions diverge.

Most people add milk and sugar because they’ve only ever had bad coffee as a result of extremely stale beans, not enough grounds to water, and awful coffee makers. Bad coffee needs milk and sugar to be palatable to nearly anyone. And most people have no idea what they’re missing. Listening to someone rave about the great coffee from their office’s new pod-canister machine or the great new brew at Starbucks is like hearing a repressed, middle-aged woman say “I’ve had orgasms before… I think.”

To them, cold-brewed coffee is probably an acceptable substitute.

But if you like what coffee really is, you need the full flavor, and cold-brewing just can’t get it.

I wish there was some way to channel all the stupidity on the internet into making a great open source mail client.

Gus Mueller

What time is it? I think I just blogged.

Jacob, utilizing the queue.

One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (via Benjamin Stein)

Seriously, though, it’s nice to see from the PS3 Slim Teardown that Sony has elected to use a very large fan — about 95mm — with a brushless motor and unusually large impeller blades. This allows it to push more air at a lower speed and, more importantly, a much lower noise level than smaller fans. (The huge, slow, quiet fans in a Mac Pro and many well-designed desktop PCs are 120mm, the diameter of a CD.)

The Xbox 360’s operational noise is almost embarrassing. This, alone, makes the PS3 much more suited for the media-centric roles that both companies are pushing their consoles toward.

I wish I cared enough about Blu-Ray (or games) to buy one.

My gadgets tend to work and not break.

A lot of people seem to have constant issues with their phones, computers, printers, hard drives, and other technology breaking or failing.

None of my technology ever breaks at the rate that I see from other people.

Even though it’s a bit presumptuous, my best guess is that I just treat my electronics better than most people.

Part of it is my background. I didn’t grow up in a rich family. I didn’t have a computer until the sixth grade. With the exception of the occasional Christmas present, I needed to buy all of my technology with my own money, even when I made $4.25/hour stocking shelves at a small grocery store at age 15. In high school, I paid $40/month of my own money for cable internet service. I didn’t have a cellular phone or a laptop until I graduated from college in 2004. Since it was difficult and expensive for me to get these things, I treated them extremely well, and I continue to treat all of my belongings with the same respect today.

I don’t put rubbery cases around my phone or foam sleeves around my laptop because I don’t drop them. I just don’t. I’ve also never spilled a drink on any of my stuff. (Although if I ever did drop my laptop or spill a drink on it, it’s insured, and yours should be, too.)

I’ve never broken or scratched a screen. I’ve always kept PDAs and iPhones in a dedicated pocket with the screen facing inward. The back of my Palm Vx had minor dents from having run into a few table corners, but the screen was perfect — that’s why you should keep your screened devices facing into your leg/butt, not toward the world.

I’ve only ever had two hard drives die, and they were the infamous IBM “Deathstar” 60GXP model that, along with the 75GXP before it, had record-setting failure rates and destroyed IBM’s reputation in the hard-drive business.

After two years of bringing it back and forth to work every day and being heavily used as my only computer, my PowerBook G4 didn’t have a single scuff, scratch, dent, or worn-away area anywhere on it. I never got the keyboard-on-screen imprint because I kept it in a backpack in an arrangement that only put pressure on its bottom, not its screen lid.

Nearly every computer I’ve had hasn’t even suffered from critical component failure before it’s comically obsolete or I stop using it. My sister was using my handed-down 2001 PC for the last few years until something finally prevented it from booting a few months ago.

I’ve never lost my phone. (Or my keys, or my wallet.) Not even temporarily. I always know where it is, because I only ever put it in a handful of spots. Is it in my left-front pocket? No? Then it’s on my desk during the day or my nightstand at night.

When I hear people complaining that their iPhone screen cracked or their aluminum laptop is dented or they left their BlackBerry in a taxi, I can’t help but silently blame them and be glad that I’m more attentive and careful with my belongings.

This takes me back. (This, too.)

As I mentioned in passing yesterday, I got my first cable modem in 1999. It cost $40/month from Time Warner.

The modem, pictured, was huge and dumped out a ton of heat. Connection speed was limited only by its 10 Mbit Ethernet port. This speed limit was understandable, given that most computers at the time didn’t even have network cards, and few people wanted to spring for the expensive 100 Mbit option. (Many household computers in use at the time didn’t even have PCI slots.)

The modem never needed to be reset. The full bandwidth was always available. Outages were rare.

Now, a decade later, I wish I had that same reliable, consistent 10 Mbit/s service for the inflation-adjusted price of about $52/month from Time Warner (or anyone else, for that matter).

Instead, I pay Time Warner about $55/month for their high-speed tier, which supposedly gives me a 15 Mbit/s downstream. It rarely hits that speed because it’s grossly oversold, sometimes refusing to maintain even 2 Mbit/s of throughput in the evenings. My three-month-old service just failed, and I was offered a 7-hour repair window today so I wouldn’t need to wait until the next available appointment in 10 days.

I’d gladly switch to another provider if one were available. Cablevision serves the region, but they have a policy not to compete with Time Warner in any area. (I’m about 10 blocks away from a Cablevision-served area.) And Verizon has decided that my neighborhood, full of educated, middle- to upper-class young people, is the last priority for FiOS availability in the entire region — we might get it in 2010. They helpfully offer DSL service instead, with a maximum speed of 1.5 Mbit/s down.

I have never lived anywhere where I had more than two usable broadband ISPs — one cable, one DSL — to choose from.

The FCC is currently drafting a new broadband subsidy proposal. Let’s hope they get it right this time.

Marco.org’s Official Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Review, Complete, Printer-Friendly Edition

I’ve been using the betas on my home desktop since WWDC. Most things work, and I occasionally notice something that’s different. If you replaced Snow Leopard with Leopard, I probably wouldn’t notice for at least a day. (Replace Leopard with Tiger and I’d notice within seconds.)

When I use my laptop or my work desktop, both still running Leopard, I don’t miss any Snow Leopard features.

I preordered it from Amazon, but I probably won’t get it until next week, even though everyone else can get it on Friday. This doesn’t bother me at all, and I’m not going to put any effort into getting it sooner.

Some minor things are broken with certain applications, and I’ve hit a few minor bugs with the OS. Therefore, I don’t plan to upgrade my work computer or laptop for a little while, possibly until 10.6.1 or until application support is a bit better.

We’re likely to see software that takes advantage of new Snow Leopard APIs in the next few years. But there’s no reason to rush the upgrade and be among the first to hit compatibility problems. Day-to-day use is almost unchanged from Leopard. That’s a good thing, but it won’t make for a flashy release.

Upgrade when convenient. No rush.

GigaOM: How Big Is the Apple iPhone App Economy? The Answer Might Surprise You (via John Gruber)

This is part of the reason why there’s very little incentive for iPhone developers to port their apps to Android: I’d need to spend a similar amount of development time for a market that’s very tiny (and that I don’t personally use, which is more fatal). I imagine the numbers for webOS in a year will be similarly tiny relative to the iPhone OS platform.

Apple can’t stop reviewing iPhone apps

The iPhone is on top of the market with a lot of popular support, so journalists and bloggers know that any negative press will generate a lot of attention. Any anti-iPhone headline incites fans to defend it and validates envious people who take pleasure in the misfortune of the popular. Both bring a lot of pageviews and money. Therefore, the press and the public have very strong incentives to find flaws in the iPhone and yell about them.

If any iPhone application is malicious, destructive, or in extremely poor taste, it will generate bad press. Even if Apple stopped reviewing apps completely, they would still be blamed in the press for the effects of problematic apps. This creates a difficult position: Apple must attempt to be the gatekeeper in a market full of gray areas, but any decisions they make fall under intense scrutiny, and many decisions don’t have an indisputably “good” option.

Regardless of potential policy and implementation changes, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect perfectly smooth operation of a review system of this magnitude. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but the system won’t and likely can’t completely go away for the foreseeable future.

One possible solution is to maintain app review only for inclusion in the App Store and start permitting apps to be sold and distributed independently without requiring customers’ phones to be jailbroken. But this has a lot of technical and practical hurdles before it could be a high-quality experience, and I’m not confident that it would relieve Apple of the implied liability for the effects of bad apps.

Rather than fighting to abolish app review, it’s far more productive to guide and influence Apple, through both public and private interactions, to improve the system that we’re all, including Apple, probably stuck with for a long time.

Apple may possess the market lead for now, but I predict in a few years, it will succumb to challengers championing a more open approach. […] eventually, somebody is going to create a shiny computer phone that does all that iPhone does, without the restricted sandbox paradigm.

AZspot’s response to this.

I hear this argument a lot, but the market just doesn’t support it.

Very few people care about openness. The iPod dominated music players despite a lot of “open” competition, and iTunes dominated online music sales despite DRM and restrictions. Android is semi-open (at least moreso than the iPhone), and nobody knows or cares except geeks like us.

There are plenty of technological markets in which there has never been a dominant open player or option, such as game consoles, non-“smart” mobile phones, and nearly every type of enterprise software, but the markets still thrive and very few people complain about the lack of openness.

Personal computers are the only major exception to this, and there are so many other contributing factors that it’s difficult to apply their “open will always prevail” theory to everything else with much confidence.

As a sidenote, Google is an awful example of openness. They’re highly closed, proprietary, secretive, and inaccessible. It’s truly sad if they’re our only hope for openness in mobile computing for the foreseeable future.

How do you wash a whisk?

I can’t figure out a way that provides adequate coverage yet isn’t incredibly tedious.

Our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

Paul Krugman (via ambivalence, justinday)

Nirvana — Where Did You Sleep Last Night (MTV Unplugged in New York)

By far, Nirvana’s best album and one of the greatest records of the ’90s.

I won this album (and God Shuffled His Feet) from a radio station in 6th grade by being the somethingth caller. I hated it and eventually gave it away.

In 2005, I rediscovered it with more mature musical taste and it’s now one of my top-played albums in iTunes.

Ads via The Deck