I like Ubuntu. Or at least I liked it a few years back when you got a very nice functional desktop out of the box … but that is a different gripe.
I really like an OS that updates the software for me. Really, downloading and installing updates is for chumps! Way to go, Ubuntu!
But here’s a feature that has been bugging me for years: the system pops up a window saying “hey, I’m going to update the system software for you.”
And I’m like “sure, go ahead, be my guest!”
Then it’s like “okay, please give me the administrator password.”
And I’m like “well, okay . . . but . . .”
Each time the computer pops up a window unbidden offering to do me a favor in exchange for my password, I am wondering when some bastard will get around to writing a bit of malware that offers to do something nice for me in exchange for my password. Maybe a web site can launch a convincing-looking software-update window and prompt me for a password. It is going to be epic just how many users can be convinced to type their system passwords into a malware site.
If you are a part of the system that has access to do heavy lifting, please do not approach the user asking for a password. It teaches the user that “hey, its normal for your computer to pop up some window and ask for a password and when that happens you should totally humor the computer and give it your password.” You want to update my software? Great! You want to check with the person using the computer to make sure its a good time? Great, ask away, tell them your plans. But when they say yes, just fricking do it, and don’t ask them for their password.
I am skeptical of Facebook’s long-term prospects, but as a guy who has worked at his share of Silicon Valley startups, and as a guy who has taken a modest loss on FB by betting on an opening-day bounce, I have got to give them credit: their IPO “flop” means they got it right, and hopefully made the stock market a slightly better place:
1) By setting their price at, or in this case, above what the market will pay, the company’s investors make the most money off their stock. If there’s an opening-day bump, that means they left money on the table for the underwriting bankers to profit from.
2) By being such a “dud” hopefully they dampen future expectations that a hot IPO should “pop” on the opening day. The true value of the stock market is as a mediator of investment. Speculative trading is just white collar gambling.
And unless the company totally implodes before their lock out period, I am not worried about the rank-and-file employees either. In pre-IPO companies employees are typically awarded options at a very modest fraction of the stock’s future public price. Most Facebook employees are probably looking forward to some windfall in the near future; Some will become rich, many others will be able to afford a house on the peninsula, and more still will be able to zero out credit card debt, student or car loans.
Valley companies that want to succeed look out for their employees. Even at an old public company like Cisco, we get to purchase our public stock at a 15% discount, which means the employees get some nice equity action even in a down market. I won’t be crying a river for Facebook employees any time soon.
Remember pets.com? Back in the Dot Com Bubble, they had this awesome business plan to sell pet food … using the Internet! They had a Superbowl commercial, than they died like so many other startups when the Dot Com Bubble imploded on itself.
So, my Bubbledar pinged when I saw this headline this morning:
Yes! A billion dollars for an iPhone app that takes pictures that look like Polaroids. But you don’t just get the app, you get the iPhone users who have been uploading their photos to social networking sites, because that is a key demographic that Facebook has yet to crack!
A few years ago, Zuckerberg thought $500 million would be a lot of money to acquire Twitter. Fun story here:
Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.
– W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885
Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:
“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”
In contrast with the “today” of 1940:
“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”
I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.
And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .
But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940’s “today.”
But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .
These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.
Last week I dug through several menus to try and unsubscribe from all the spam LinkedIn sends me. Today I got another email and at the bottom was an “unsubscribe” link that I clicked on. Here’s what I got:
Not only is this not an unsubscribe feature, LinkedIn gets bonus points for trying to sign you up for MORE e-mail.
Instead of screwing around with the half-dozen sub-menus again, I dropped them a feedback saying that this burns up good will, damages the brand, discourages me from engaging, and may in time lead me to delete my profile. There’s more than one way to search for resumes online.
My home town, Chicago, the city of broad shoulders and ambition, is where the wealthy have pushed the workers and the workers have pushed back. Jane Addams, as my memory serves, founded the Hull House back in the 19th century, to look after the needs of working people: meals, health care, education, general community services. At a time when class divisions were sharper than they are getting to be today, Jane Addams bucked the conventions of her time to push for the American ideal: that we all, regardless of class or wealth, merit a helping hand, a warm place to sleep, and nourishment for our bodies and our minds.
Growing up in Chicago, getting educated in the Chicago Public Schools, the sense of perpetual struggle for a better, more equitable future, I think it gets in to your blood. People come looking for a better life, and they find that sometimes they have to push a bit to realize that better life, if not for themselves then at least to give their children a shot. We’re all passing through those gates, at our respective levels of society, and the struggle never dies and the struggle must never be forgotten.
Now I live in the Silicon Valley, where people struggle and strive, and while the ultimate aim is to make the world more comfortable and efficient, the focus is pretty far removed from the front lines of class warfare. Even so, I ride the train every day past miles of walled mobile home parks, and I wonder if there’s more going on beneath the surface than us privileged IT folk know.
“In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her. That is class warfare. Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top 1 percent is not.”
Arguing over the margins, in the grand scheme of things, describes my day job.
and we need heroes
who stand up to giants
who carry a big bat to home plate
though the pitcher is throwing money
balls and the umps are in on the fix.
I’m no hero and my bat is nothing to brag about, but I relish those occasions when I do get to step up to the bat and swing, however ineffectually, at a ball I’m not allowed to hit. Its the Chicago in me. I owe more.
Yesterday I got Dr Sick Wife to drop me off at the Santa Clara Convention Center so Mr Sicker Light-Headed Husband wouldn’t miss any PYCON. After an awkward twenty minutes of asking people there for the lighting and LED conference where the Python was, I checked my smart phone and noted that … PYCON is *MARCH* 7th.
So I took the light rail home and told $BOSS I was on PTO (well, I call it MLK day due to Puppet Training) I then slept a lot, and did other things sick people do that don’t bear repeating in a professional context, and watched Dr Who save the Earth on TV, slept some more, and I am feeling way better today, which means I feel regular sick, not super sick.
So, I’ll be WFH today. Trust me, whatever this is, you’re lucky to miss out! I don’t normally get sick so this is a novel experience … I’ll likely be seen in the office next week, though if I’m coughy or sneezy I’ll keep that train wreck at home, because, as you might gather, you don’t want a piece of this!
If you’re attending PyCon, I look forward to seeing you there … next month! Hopefully I won’t be light-headed!
I was poking around my CloudFlare Control Panel, and pulled up stats for the past month, from Oct 11 to Nov 11. It says it had blocked a bunch of attacks on my site, and consequently saved me over 5GB in bandwidth.
I said to myself, "I pay for bandwidth! Maybe this free service is saving me money?!"
“Really,” I said, “I pay for bandwidth, so if CloudFlare is saving me bandwidth, it is saving me money!”
But 5GB seemed kind of high. So, I checked my invoices from RackSpace. Here is the outbound bandwidth I have been charged for this year:
RackSpace charges me on the 11th of the month, and, conveniently enough, I started using CloudFlare around October 11th. The highlighted line above is my first month on CloudFlare. It is my lowest number of the year, and it is conceivable that I could have totaled 9.5 GB in October since I pushed more than that in February. I’m skeptical that they are saving me as much as they claim to be, but for a free service to speed up my web site and save me even a little money . . . that is a good deal in my book!
Note to modern web designers: since the displays are becoming wide and short, please do not squander vertical screen space. Here’s a good example of what not to do:
Viewed full size, you see a window that is 705 pixels tall. The OS claims 24 pixels, the web browser claims 90 pixels, and the web application claims 250 pixels. So, by the time you hit the actual content, 50% of the window has been wasted!
Squinting into a tiny pane to read news makes me angry. Google, you can do way way better than this!
Leonard Kleinrock tells the story of the Internet’s birth. First word was LO:
And then, he shows us the world’s first router, which they were going to throw out:
My first experience of the Internet was a 1200 baud dialup connection to a USENET host that connected upstream twice a day at 2400 baud. That would have been around 1992 or 1993. (I was a broke highschool kid who couldn’t afford the $30/mo+ for a proper Internet connection.) My first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org, and I lost that address when my network uplink failed to pay his phone bill. Oh well!
When I started college in January, 1995, and had access to labs and labs and labs of computers directly connected via Ethernet, with Mosaic and Netscape installed, it was like I had found my Nerd Nirvana! It only got better when I took a C programming course on the Sun workstations in the basement of the DCL . . .
A friend posted a link about some iPad App that will show you recipes. My reaction was one of being condescendingly underwhelmed, and here’s the gist of what I’d really like to see in a “cookbook app”:
“Will it plan a week’s menus based on seasonal ingredients and give you a shopping list? Because that’s the fucking time-consuming part the computers need to fix.
Any clown can convert a menu book to an App . . . and any clown can find a recipe, drive to the store, spend 45 minutes trying to find some ingredient they don’t know about which is out of season, pay a bunch of money, get home, if they still have the energy maybe cook something sorta edible . . .
. . . but this being the 21st century, an electronic cookbook ought to be able to suggest recipes for you based on the ingredients you have ready access to. (In your pantry, in your growing region, partner with a supermarket…) I have found a website that does a mediocre job of this. This thing is begging to be invented.
Anyway, what I’m saying is–cookbooks in an app–that’s like lets transcribe 15th century technology into silicon. I say hell no, with all this information technology let’s leverage the information to really make it easy for the people to cook healthy, inexpensive meals at home. THAT is the revolution that will make us all better off.”