Category Archives: Thoughts

Apple's Future is Exciting

Sayeth Steve Jobs:

You know, there’s a porn store for Android. Anyone can download them. You can, your kids can. That’s just not a place we want to go.

But then, there’s this:

What is that? It’s the Porn Store for iPhone, aka “The App Store.” Get real. Apples doesn’t want you to run Apps because they want full control of the revenue the iPhone generates downstream. That’s it. It’s not about privacy, it’s not about children, it’s not about anything other than corporate strategy. And I predict it WILL come back to bite Apple in the butt.

Then there’s the now infamous section of the iPhone 4.0 SDK that bans the use of non-native apps on the iPhone.  But let’s get real, shall we? As Gruber said, this is about only one thing: once the apps are portable, the device lock-in is compromised.  It’s not about multi-tasking, although, there’s probably truth in that, it’s not about new APIs, although, there’s probably truth in that too.  But it’s about corporate strategy: keep people on Apple products in the Apple ecosystem.

Let’s not forget that Adobe has built its CS5 master suite with a new feature it’s been proudly touting: the ability to compile Flash apps as iPhone binaries.  So they are the ones with egg on their face since that feature is simply pointless now.

If I were Adobe, after the peak of sales after the release of CS5, I’d announce that it’s the last Adobe suite to be released for Mac.  No more Photoshop, no more Lightroom, no more Illustrator.  Maybe even cut off Adobe Air.  You could pretty rapidly destroy the enterprise presence for Apple, as people decide if they want to keep working on Macs, given the lack of true enterprise quality tools.   It would be an interesting corporate strategy. (Update: They say nope.)

If I were Apple, I wouldn’t worry too much.  Businesses are now a small subset of Apple users, who are, more and more, college students and home users.  And those users would rather buy iWork, and maybe a few more apps Apple wasn’t producing (such as Office or Pixelmator).  No big loss, right? Or is it…?

Once Apple loses the “it’s better for graphics” thing, then it might be labelled “not for serious work.”  Microsoft runs some ads pushing a new image: Macs are okay for home use, but you need Windows to do any real work.  And then “real workers” start switching back to Windows at home.  Maybe.  But it would make for a grand corporate strategy.

It’s interesting that once again, the computing landscape is full of action.  I can’t wait to see how Apple behaves in the next few years.  It may well deliver some of the best software ever.  Then again, soon enough, I might be using Windows 8, an Android phone, and an HP Slate. Either way, the future is exciting.

Nothing Is Permanently Retired

At about one minute fifty-five seconds and without any jam, a fairly faithful replication of an album version of a song shouldn’t be a setlist standout. But, by many accounts, the 12/31/09 offering of “Demand” is a notable and curious point in a long setlist. It’s notable not because it was flawlessly performed (although it was inarguably done justice), not because it contained inspired playing (but fun, sure), but rather, because it hasn’t been performed since November 1996, over 13 years ago. Having been shelved for so long – and very likely to be stashed away again for some time – makes the performance special. But why? Why does it matter, why do we enjoy ourselves so much if Phish plays one of their rarer songs rather a well-jammed version of than one of their more common songs?

At heart, I’m a stats geek. Maybe not like Zzyzx, but certainly I’m interested in the stats. I’m incredibly interested in Phish setlist construction, and hope that one day I find myself in a situation where I can interview Trey about it. “Why,” I would ask, “does a song like, say, Camel Walk, only appear every 50-some-odd shows? Is that intentional? Why premiere Glide II only to drop it seemingly forever? Are there ever permanently retired songs, like, perhaps, No Dogs Allowed, Dear Mrs Reagan, and Jennifer Dances? Can we ever expect to see Eliza again?” I would assume that, like most musicians, Phish collectively enjoys playing some songs more than others, but is that reflected in the setlist? If they don’t like a song, why would they play it at all… or write or perform it at all? Maybe it’s purposeful that they “create” rarities? I wonder, do they maybe love playing Harpua, but intentionally not overuse it so that its appearance heralds a special show? Why not just unleash a hose of rarities during a tour knowing it would make fans very happy[1]? Unless these some songs are purposely rarities? Will Alumni Blues ever rejoin the setlist as anything other than a super-rarity?

What about common songs? Is Trey aware that AC/DC Bag has opened no fewer than SIX shows since November 1? Did Phish decide to showcase Kill Devil Falls more times than any other song off of Joy because they feel it’s the best song, or was that just coincidence? Are they purposely playing songs like Llama less frequently, or are they simply not remembering it during on-stage setlist construction? Will Time Turns Elastic get its due, in time, when it is a rarity?

In the end, the whole debate is, at the same time, pointless and essential; it is, one on hand, irrelvent, and on the other, the heart of what makes Phish so interesting. If they played rarities all the time, they wouldn’t be rarities and a large part of the fun of Phish shows might be lost. But we all go to see them play, and even songs of which I’ve personally grown a bit tired, such as Stash, still manage to steal the set from time to time, most notably night one of Festival 8. It’s not so much what they play as much as how they play it. I’ve learned that even Character Zero, once you get past the lyrics, can be just as interesting a jam vehicle as Mike’s, YEM, Jim, or Bowie. And yet, I’m still kind of hoping for a bust-out. Despite that, certain songs – for me, Moma, for example – are a bit of a letdown, because I’d rather hear something else I like better. I suppose if I have to hear a jam, I’d rather that jam stem from a song I’ve yet to hear live than a song I’ve heard 10+ times before.

When I look at the NYE setlist, I think the highlights, musically, were Ghost, Rock and Roll, and Piper, three fairly common songs. I also think Demand was awesome (mostly given the infrequency of its appearance?), and Swept Away into the most uncommonly jammed Steep I’ve ever heard is a high point, largely because it was an especially unique performance. So it’s a mix of both quality jams, song frequency, and performance uniqueness that made this fun. A prior night of the run included Gotta Jibboo > Wilson -> Gotta Jibboo, again, two fairly common songs that provided a notable highlight as well. It’s not just about rarities, that much is certain.

But why should we care about stats, right? What good are stats anyway? All they do, one might argue, is allow you to measure your own satisfaction comparatively, an expressly non-Phishy attitude. What good is seeing Buffalo Bill or Brother if you don’t like those songs as much as, say, Divided Sky or Possum except that one can say they’ve seen a rare song?

I think the conclusion is that it’s a mix of all of that: great jams, cool people, uniqueness of an individual performance, and the fact that the setlist remains an unknown all provide a different dimension of interest, and it’s all of that that can make a Phish concert so fun. It’s not about comparison to others’ shows, but rather, a comparison to my own show history: a re-affirmation of the fact that I can keep seeing the same band without ever tiring of the process. As much as I love the great jam, there’s still a moment in between songs when I’m jumping out of my seat with excitement that the next song could be something crazy.

[1] I realize that there were scores of rarities this tour, but I’m talking a total blow-out, something like “Set 1: Brother, Alumni Blues, Dog Log, Glide, Anarchy, In a Hole, She Caught the Katy, Sparkle[2], Have Mercy, Harpua > Buffalo Bill“.

[2] …Just seeing if you were paying attention.

This post originally appeared on the phish.net blog.

How Apple Can Win Me Back

At Kroc’s request, I’m compiling a list of what Apple will have to do to win me back.  It’s not a long list, and it may not be exhaustive (meaning I may arbitrarily add more to it), but here goes:

  1. It’s time to regulate App Store approval process.  Consistency and transparency needs to be key.  I’m a web developer and I participate in the tech community.  To see Cocoa developers get screwed after spending all their time, energy, and capital writing an app only to be unceremoniously, silently rejected with no explanation is to see pure evil.  This is pretty much my main request.
  2. However, I’m tired of the iPhone being shackled.  Unlike Eugenia, I don’t have specific requests like enabling EDGE on Pay-As-You-Go phones, but I’m tired of the iPhone being a closed platform.  I do not believe in “it’s Apple’s playground, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”  It’s my device. I bought it, I own it.  I want to theme my phone.  I want to run background apps.  And I sure as hell don’t need Apple telling me which apps are not suitable for me to run (outside of those that actually do harm to my phone and/or me, e.g. malware, spyware). It’s time to open the private APIs to the public, duplicate functionality or not.

That’s it.  I maintain that OS X is the best desktop environment today.  I *love* my Mac and I love how integrated and “at home” I feel with it.  I don’t want to give it up.  I certainly don’t want to go back to Vista (although 7 is nice so far) or start running Ubuntu or Fedora on my iMac.

I think OS X/iLife and the iTunes/iPhone combos are awesome.    I think the Cocoa frameworks are just genius, and they inspire programmers to write beautiful and slick applications rapidly.  I want Apple to do the right thing.

Just for comparison, I have nothing but warm feelings about Amazon.com, despite some issues people have had with them. See how Jeff Bezos stepped up and took personal responsibility for a recent fiasco.  That’s how a CEO should behave.  A big company I respect.  I trust and respect Google.  But Apple leaves me with a metallic taste in my mouth that I know isn’t good.

I hope things change, but I’m not holding my breath.  Then again, stranger things have happened.

Why Degrade Gracefully?

I got thinking today, as I near roll out of an internal helpdesk app heavily using jQuery, why we bother to degrade our scripts so they work without javascript. I get it: some people have javascript disabled in their browser… but my question is this: so what?

Javascript is a core part of web experience today.  In fact, I’d say that, on the desktop in the full browser front, if your browser doesn’t support at least HTML 4, javascript, and CSS 2, you’re not playing with the right tools.  After all, we expect that people can parse HTML, why not expect that javascript is a pre-requisite for web usage?

javascript

Some of us go to great pains to make sure our sites work should a user have javascript disabled.  But I’m actually considering the opposite: hiding certain critical elements if you don’t have javascript enabled to ensure that each visitor is on an even playing field.  Wrapping submit buttons in jQuery’s append() method, submitting data on click(), and plentifully exchanging JSON data via AJAX throughout ought to properly cripple participation of those who opt out of script execution on my site.

It all comes down to this: if you want your site to reach the widest audience possible, you need to anticipate that the client may not allow you scripting capability.  Conversely, on our intranet, and maybe one day on my websites, I’m doing the opposite: if you want to use the site, you’ve got to enable javascript: if you don’t, well… your loss.

Why Windows 7 Won’t Turn Microsoft Around

Roughly Drafted has an incredible article about why Windows 7 won’t turn Microsoft around. It’s totally accurate: Microsoft is missing the boat over and over and over again.  If I were in charge of Microsoft, here’s what I’d do:

  1. I’d immediately begin a very public plan to phase out Trident and replace it with Webkit over the next two versions of IE.  I’d blog about it endlessly so everyone knows that while Trident will exist (with extended CSS and HTML 5 support, natch) in IE9, it will be a new, fully Webkit based browser by version 10.
  2. Developers, developers, developers? Start bundling Python and Ruby with Windows to encourage cross platform development.
  3. At the same time, it’s time to release a statement granting the freedom for developers to implement .NET on other platforms.  Fighting Mono in any sense just means more people won’t ever want to touch your tainted tech.
  4. On that note, I’d start looking at free.  It’s time to start giving away Visual Studio.
  5. I’d stop the artificial versioning.  Microsoft actively cripples their products.  They handicap their server OS to not recognize RAM until you shell out cash for a more expensive version.  Look at Citrix, who accomplishes this without the same aftertaste: XenServer is free, no limits.  But certain non-essential features are part of an enterprise package.
  6. The cost of software is destined to approach free.  Office software is too expensive, and it’s why people are seriously looking at Google Apps and other office suites.  We’re all beginning to realize we don’t really need Excel, Outlook, and Word as much as we thought.  Once we can convert our PST files, the rest is just getting used to an alternative.

We’re witnessing the collapse of a major entity, I think, and it may take decades, but you can see the cracks now.  Zune doesn’t make money.  X-Box doesn’t make money.  Bing is never going to take any significant traffic from Google.  Windows isn’t generating the revenue it used to.  IE is less important than ever.  Office is finding its way onto fewer and fewer computers.  Linux is coming into its own.  Netbooks will almost certainly, in time, be owned by Chrome or something like it.  Windows Mobile is stale and unpopular on phones today with no suggestion that it will ever be able to compete with iPhone OS, Android, WebOS, or Blackberry OS.

Windows 7 is shaping up nicely; my department at work is enjoying our testing and can’t wait to deploy it.  But that doesn’t mean we’ll make a push to deploy it, we’ll just let it leak in.  And so will many others, most likely.

If you look around carefully, you’ll see the tectonic plates of technology shifting, as slowly as they always have, but as surely as they’ve ever been . Don’t miss it: what will one day be an exciting history is unfolding before us.

On Gay Marriage

Just read an article on how Miss California has launched a campaign to protect “traditional marriage“.  It makes me laugh a little.  Are people so naive that they actually believe that gay marriage is not destined to be accepted in just a few years time? The parallels to other moments in American history couldn’t be clearer if it were outlined in Sharpie.  Within a decade (two if we foolishly put a fundamentalist in the White House… God Forbid), gay marriage will be seen as no different than interracial marriage.  I think back to how our country, not so long ago, felt that alcohol was so bad that we banned in our constitution.  We Americans are so short sighted.  In time, we’ll look back and laugh at ourselves for this even being an issue.

Furthermore, let’s be serious, why does gay marriage bother anyone anyway? It doesn’t infringe upon any of your rights. It’s truly a case of “this doesn’t affect me, but I insist you don’t do it.”  It’s holier-than-thou nonsense.   The fact that these so-called protectors of traditional marriage feel strongly perplexes me: Burt Bacarach is still right: “what the world needs now is love, sweet love.”  Those lyrics don’t work when you replace “love” with “exclusionary dogma”.

You don’t have to advocate homosexuality to “be okay” with not limiting marriage via law or constitutional amendment.  Legislating hate and discrimination is the most un-American thing we can do.   We’ll all look back at Miss California the way we look back at people like James Earl Ray, who felt they would be seen as martyrs and voices of reason, but instead just look like fools.

I’m not anti-Chritianity (or any religion at all, for that matter) but – boy, oh boy – those fundies do a good job at making themselves look foolish.

It’s Not a Spoiler, Bub

I think once something airs on TV, it’s no longer a spoiler.  It’s just what happened.

It’s courtesy to wait a bit for the West Coast, but if they’re bright enough, they’ll know to tread cautiously online until they’ve watched something big.  I’m thinking Lost, House, ER finale, etc.

I think it’s fair to wait until a movie is available on DVD for a bit before assuming everyone who wants to watch it has. I think it’s proper to say “Spoiler Alert” when talking about a movie twist.

I think twist endings in books should always be properly notated.  Books don’t generally have must-see-it-now appeal, so it’s always a potential spoiler.

It’s unfair to force people to not discuss something fun and current, like “last night’s Lost,” simply because you were too tired to watch it.  Yes, it will ruin the surprise.  If it’s important to you, either watch it or remove yourself from the conversation.

It’s not a spoiler once it aired. It’s just what happened.