Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Curse of the Black Pearl

Having the trackball cease to function was a major dread for me while I had the Curve. Now that I have G1, the same thought is still in my head.

Apparently, all is not as bad - it's possible to replace the trackball, and they're actually pretty cheap, if you're not afraid of some DIY.

The G1 trackball unit is different and may not be as easy to obtain - let's keep eyes open and fingers crossed.

Below The Radar

Remember Google's fascination with massive data analysis?

Now behold the power of traffic analysis, applied to your phone records.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Android G1: Black > White

Backlight on the keyboard of the black G1 is significantly more visible anywhere between twilight and full light conditions than on the white G1. On white, the backlight blends the symbols with the light paint, rendering them practically invisible.

From what I remember about the brown ("bronze") G1, its keyboard is more similar to white than black, so this must be true for it as well.

Just my $0.02.

Friday, December 19, 2008

RIAA vs. The People: The Plot Thickens

This article at Ars Technica is the most detailed recap to date. Interesting one, too.

The end of lawsuits

...though the RIAA tells us it reserves the right to go after people who continue to ignore the notifications.

This is just hilarious. Nothing new, though - this is exactly the same amount of protection that people got after agreeing to "pre-litigation" settlements.

Chances of an individual to have been sued by RIAA were calculated less than to be hit by lightning, from what I remember. Now, when RIAA targets the ISPs - assuming they get traction - the response will be "preventive" and swift (one, two) - not only those who [ab]used the system will be impacted, but Joe the Plumber as well.

In other words, the situation will actually deteriorate - the ISPs are being given a good incentive and a good excuse to cap the traffic for everyone, and introduce market segmentation (think "gas prices", "pain threshold"), which they were severely lacking on the consumer side.

UPDATE: People start asking a reasonable question at last: who is going to pay for all this?

Android: App Hell, Part Deux

(part one)

From the Cupcake release:

Developer Tools
  • New features
    • Enable handset manufacturers to extend the Android SDK with add-ons. SDK add-ons will include:
      • system libraries to let developers use additional APIs provided by handset manufacturers or from other 3rd party vendors that handset manufacturers chose to include
      • emulator system images, skins, and hardware configuration to let developers test their applications on their Android implementation
Well, damn.

The way I see it, we're going to have Microsoft Java all over. Different manufacturers fighting over vendor lock-in features, and harming the rest of the population in the process.

I wonder how incompatibilities between vendor and hardware specific extensions are going to be handled in Android Market.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Penguins In Shcool


Mark my words - the story about a teacher threatening Linux distributor, my gut feeling tells me, is going to have wider repercussions for all involved in particular, and the community in general, than just a few laughs over an ignorant teacher.

UPDATE: Yep, there's been a followup, and more followup. That's the price one pays for being a geek. I don't think this is going to be the end of the story, either.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Handcuff Notes: Writing Fortran In Any Language

More than once I've noticed that working with quality source code is easy and pleasant in any IDE, of which I've seen quite a few, or even without an IDE.

Likewise, working with crappy source is painful no matter what IDE is used. It just falls apart and explodes in your face, leaving scars on your brain as its shards fly by.

Once again, the realization that good software engineering is in perfect accord with Wu Wei, comes with enlightenment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Voting With My Dollars: Thumbs Up To Sir Paul

Just bought the digital version (MP3 + FLAC) of Electric Arguments.

Do I like Paul McCartney that much? Not quite. There was a period in my life and period in his life when our tastes in music were somewhat similar, but basically no, I describe myself as being of Pink Floyd generation.

Could I get it for free from Internet just a few days later, maybe later today? Absolutely, yes.

Would Sir Paul notice? Probably not, he appears to be busy talking to his neighbors about the boars, and, in general, it seems that the whole anti-DRM thing is rather new to him.

All above notwithstanding, there are things more important than the fact that I don't like the album that much (at least yet, it might turn out to be an acquired taste). The most important facts to me are:

  • The album was released DRM free
  • Integrity is something that is perfected by example.

I've been saying for a long time that DRM is evil, and if the artists I liked would do the right thing, then I'll cough up the money. Today is the day.

For those wishing to put their money where their mouth is, here's the link, again: Electric Arguments by The Fireman.

Android G1 disappointments: likes to go AWOL on service

If you are looking at your phone and it says "NO SERVICE", make sure you're not waiting in vain.

It was consistently noted that once G1 loses the cell network, it takes it forever, if ever, to reconnect - one experiment lasted several hours, it never reconnected.

The cure for that is pretty simple: Settings, Wireless Controls, Mobile Networks, Operator Selection, wait until the scan ends, select your provider, voila, back in service.

Another interesting bit is that not all G1s are created equal: a black one loses the signal consistently in certain locations, white one stays on. I'm not saying the white one has a better antenna, may be just a coincidence - but there's about a month in manufacturing date between them, may be a hardware improvement.

Defective By Design: Netflix + Microsoft, Part Deux

Some companies never learn.

Not so long ago I ran into Microsoft DRM trying to watch a Netflix movie on an HD screen. Back then, I got away with some aggravation, few days of wasted time, some dollars spent on extra hardware - turned out that you had to have a digital connection, and that, in turn, ran smack dab into a TV hardware incompatibility issue. In other words, it was a pain I didn't have to go through except for brain dead decision of Netflix management to tie the knot with Microsoft.

And they're at it again.

Couple of days ago I wanted to watch a movie - and guess what, the quality you can get out of a thirty year old VHS tape is crystal clear in comparison to the quality I got. The movie was simply unwatchable. It was difficult to distinguish people in the movie, forget about facial expression. Titles were unreadable.

Why could that be?

A!!! I know. That's another round of Microsoft involvement - the Silverlight player. Oh, and the best part? They're laying off customer service, judging by description, not the tier-one drones, but tier-N specialists.

Damn, I should've known.

Some time ago, I almost ran out of Gillette Sensor Excel blades. Went to the store to restock, and, to my horror, found that all the blades from the new batch are significantly inferior to few leftovers that I still had. The reason was simple: Gillette was introducing the new Fusion series - which were not better by any stretch of imagination than the old Sensor Excel blades, but they had whopping five and a half blades instead of two, and, most importantly, there were fewer blades in the pack, and the pack was more expensive than the old one. The only option was to abandon Gillette brand completely and switch to the competition, but since there's a scarce supply of that where I live, I'm stuck with paying more for less.

Just like here - if I don't want to upgrade to Silverlight (which I have no intention of doing, thank you, it was more than good enough already), I'm screwed.

Well, speaking about money...

So, really, what do I do to Netflix to get back what they tried to fix that wasn't broken? Threaten them with cancelling my $1x.99 a month account? Yeah, sure, that's gonna scare them...

On the other hand, what's my loss? Significant. Acquisition decisions were made based on projected availability of high definition streaming from Netflix, in a range of several thousand dollars. Now it all crumbles apart, for they're pushing their inferior hardware that I have no intention of buying because it doesn't do what I want, and, again, Microsoft's Xbox 360, which I'm not going to buy on principle.

So, really, what are my options?

Hmm... Let me see... What is out there that

  • provides high definition content, in any resolution
  • has wide title selection
  • has wide format selection
  • comes with subtitles
  • is cost efficient
  • with availability that doesn't depend on content provider's whim (oh, by the way, did you notice that a lot of Netflix instant titles are now "available until $date"?)

What? Wait, you said it, not me...

Give me back my $1x.99 a month and go play in your own sandbox, and I'll be playing in mine.

UPDATE: this article might explain why titles are being pulled off Netflix instant play availability list.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Conspiracy Theory: UMA Will Die

Along the same lines as the conspiracy theory about absence of Google Talk on G1 -

Fact #1: mobile carriers charge customers for airtime.
Fact #2: UMA allows customers to talk using a WiFi connection (sometimes a flat fee is involved).
Fact #3: this strips mobile carriers from airtime revenue that could otherwise be produced.
Speculation #1: Carriers offering unlimited UMA calling on a flat fee basis realized, to their dismay, that a lot of people use it a lot.

Corollary: UMA will be a feature that is offered less and less in the future, until it disappears completely.

G1 may have been the harbinger.

BMW of Androids?

I wonder, is this the BMW of Androids I've been dreaming of?

Looks like one, for sure...

Of course, nobody heard of Kogan in this neck of the woods, but, honestly, I didn't hear about HTC before first rumors about Android hardware materialized, either.

Now, if only they could support UMA...

I Don't Trust You

Time after time, I see new and new social networking services. I could've participated in a lot of them, except for one reason: they all say:

Trust me.

Every time I hear somebody say "trust me", I can't help but think of -

  • Read my lips: No New Taxes
  • Trust me, there will not be a real estate crisis
  • No, we're not going to downsize
  • I just need your credit card information for verification purposes
  • Don't worry, your personal information is safe with us
  • No, we've never had a break-in
  • <ad nauseum>

The most hilarious of them all was a request for the Social Security Number when all I wanted to get was a stroller for my 3 year old (granted, it was in almost rural Illinois back in 1997, but I still remember it).

Back to the topic, there's a wide range of information I do not want to share with -

  • Where I am
  • What am I doing at the moment
  • How is my hardware doing (computers, home security, automation, you name it)
  • How soon I am going to be home - and whether I *am* home or plan to be away for a while, for that matter

This is nobody's business except the people I trust it to.

And not necessarily for legal purposes - was it Cardinal Richelieu that said "Give me seven lines written by the most honest person in the world, and I will find what to hang them for"?

I hate to invoke this rapidly becoming tired metaphor, but if your kid dies, crushed by the fallen garage door, you don't care much whether the installer had insurance.

If a social networking infrastructure gets hacked, you don't care much why your private data has leaked all over the Internet and is staying there forever - it's gone, too late to lock the barn door.

On the other hand, if it is you that defines where the information is kept, who has access to it and how it is distributed, you can be reasonably sure that it is within your control - as long as you trust in your abilities to understand what you're doing, and as long as the weakest link in the chain - the people you trust - remains trusted.

And another point - all these "trust me" services do, or will lock you in soon enough and start to do, charge for a service. Sometimes it is a little, sometimes not so little - but all of them, accumulated, will take a serious hit on your budget - and offer little or nothing of value in return. Oh, and you still have to trust them.

So, without further ado, introducing Clan Vault.

<Stay tuned>

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quote Of The Day: Rustic

I know what rustic is. Rustic is when country people get tired of their old junk and sell it to the city folk as art.

-- Tracy Hickman, The Immortals.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Google Sync Fiasco: And this is all I get?

On November 19th my phone gets crippled by Google Sync update, along with countless others.

On December 1st there is the first sign of recognition coming from Google, in a form of employee posting on a help message board.

That'll be 13 (thirteen) days to acknowledge a problem that is usually classified as Severity 1 (data loss, customers affected), and, in a way that does not reach the customers that may be affected.

I don't know what to call it - incompetence? arrogance? sabotage?

All this time, clueless (not necessarily stupid, but simply uninformed) people flocked in like moth to the fire, attracted by long awaited contact synchronization feature. Only to find it breaks their phones, renders them next to unusable, and loses their data in the process (no backup? we told ya, look up terms of service!).

It is still happening, even now. Sync hasn't been pulled off.

Time to invoke Hanlon's Razor?

Monday, December 1, 2008