Category: computer

A Tale Eternally Retold

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I railed against the boycott of Chick-Fil-A and Ender’s Game so I guess going into a lot of detail about the recent kerfuffle will seem a little redundant.

I’ll do it anyway. People are rarely smart enough to learn a lesson the first time it’s taught, and just as the same ridiculous scenario plays itself out repeatedly I will have to contribute my part to the cycle to hopefully enlighten those engaged.

In summary: Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript & co-founder of Mozilla who was recently promoted to CEO, had to almost immediately resign from the company amidst protest from customers over a donation he made to Proposition 8 back in 2008, which was the extent of any anti-gay sentiments he’s ever exhibited (in all the material I’ve read on the subject, I haven’t even seen an anecdote about him being anti-gay.)

There are plenty of things wrong with this story:

  1. The inherent hypocrisy of sites based on JavaScript, which I remind you was created by Eich, while boycotting the Firefox browser because he was the CEO of Mozilla.  Why wasn’t JavaScript also horribly tainted by him?  Oh, because boycotting JavaScript would have been too difficult, and political action is all about convenience.
  2. At least similar boycotts (the previously mentioned Chick-Fil-A and Orson Scott Card ones) were based on the currently stated beliefs of those targeted. As I mentioned earlier, aside from the donation to Proposition 8, six years ago, Eich hadn’t done anything else to indicate he was anti-gay. So is this a zero-tolerance matter?  Also, is there a stature of limitations?  Should we question people if they ever used “faggot” in a derogatory sense to assess whether they’re fit to be a part of society (or earn a living)?  That might exclude a big part of the population, if my experience growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was any indication. Hell, should the movie Monster Squad be purged from all media?
  3. One unanswered question is whether he’s donated to other organizations.  Would that have mattered?  The fact that several other Mozilla employees donated significantly more to support gay marriage didn’t spare the company from the wrath of boycott.  Can one ever repent to the satisfaction of the gay rights community or is there no hope for you once you’ve transgressed them?
  4. I wonder if anybody who supported the boycott has heard of McCarthyism and the related practice of blacklisting.
  5. A particularly ignorant comment related to all this was: “My internet browser should not have a political agenda.” This person probably meant “My internet browser should not have a political agenda other than my own.”  Because Google has certainly made their agenda clear, which would exclude their Chrome browser and especially their search engineMicrosoft’s Internet Explorer is also excluded.  Besides which, at what point can one draw the distinction between the CEO of a company and the political agenda of it, let alone all of its products?  I suppose the taint can go all the way down, as Chick-Fil-A’s product was turned into the poultry of pure hate by its CEO’s views.

I think Big Gay Al said it best in the episode of South Park titled “Cripple Fight“:

It’s up to us to persuade, and help them see the light, not extort them to.

Forward Unto Future

Sexy Digital Librarian
Sexy Digital Librarian … of the future!

Now that I’ve got a new job and a new home (although something of a transient one) I decided to solidify my residency (besides the usual vehicle registration/driver’s license/voting things) by getting that oft-neglected of public privileges: a library card!  I promptly borrowed a book, but not in the traditional manner.  No no, I  stepped into the future (of today) and borrowed a book digitally.  The process was surprisingly seamless, thanks to Amazon’s partnership and the fact that I own a Kindle.  I felt so high tech and stuff, and it’s always good to cut down on handling big old, smelly books.  Actually, libraries make a lot of sense since I never re-read a book anyway and have gone through tons of effort to discard the tons of books I’ve accumulated over the years.  There were just a couple of hiccups with the process:

  1. The list of books available to borrow is embarrassingly lousy.  It’s kind of like looking through the list of discounted (and free) non-public domain titles available through Amazon; tons of stuff from fly-by-night publishers and authors you’ve never heard of and probably suck.
  2. In the olden days, you had to keep track of when the books were due or else incur the late return fee (a staggering 25¢/day at the New York Public Library!)  Now I get a nifty reminder from Amazon that the book will be automatically withdrawn from my Kindle in a couple of days.  This had the added benefit of stressing me out just enough to finish reading the damn thing.  So, nice that I’ll avoid any fees but lousy to have my e-mail nagging me.

Overall, it’s been a pleasant experience.

The Cloud is the Future, and you WILL Like It!

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The companies have spoken, and they have stated that you will live in the cloud, so far as using a computer is used.  It comes with its benefits … but also its perils.  Hey, it’s convenient, I can re-install OSX on my MacBook, and just by logging into my Apple ID I can get back all of the programs I used to have (the ones purchased through the app store, at least) without needing to fumble around with installation disks or hunting down the software online.  Convenient!  I also didn’t have to worry about losing any important data, because I had that on Google Docs.

But then the dark side reared its ugly head.  Like when iTunes, for whatever reason, decided to ignore the external hard drive I’d directed it towards for my library and started dumping all of the iOS apps onto my meager SSD.  The result? It turns out you can shove seven pounds of shit into a five pound sack!  I would have thought it a physical impossibility, but the partition became bigger than the drive was capable of holding.   Not only was the SSD screwed, but it was also unfixable (or at least that’s what I had to conclude after hours of trying to simply format the damn thing.)

Or there’s my recent foray into using Windows 8.  After installing Chrome I was annoyed that I had to log in to my Google account (one of many) just to start using some free extensions.  Sadly, this also signaled to Chrome that I wanted to make the browser just like it was the last time I logged into Chrome with this account.  The next thing I knew my browser was hijacked and loaded up with extensions (half of which didn’t work,) bookmarks I hadn’t looked at in years, and a really hideous theme I’ll convince myself I once used as a joke.  So then I had to remove all that crap, because the cloud had decided I wanted it there.

Or maybe there’s Microsoft’s own SkyDrive.  In Windows 7 (and OSX) there’s a convenient application I can install which will allow me to access these networked drives like I would any other folder on my computer.  Not so in Windows 8.  If you want to browse your SkyDrive without using your web browser (which might allow you to drag and drop files between the local and networked drive) then you need to go whole hog! This is the cloud, after all, and how could you not want to embrace it fully?  Try to log in to SkyDrive and you’ll be forced to sync the account with the computer, so that your login and the SkyDrive login are one and the same (and equally susceptible to being compromised?) and the Windows Live Mail app will be accessing the related email account, even if you’d rather your mail went through some other program.

So the cloud:

  • It will make decisions for you.
  • It will kill your hardware.
  • You have no choice!

WordPress uses Google Authenticator … as an excuse to get your phone number!

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I logged into WordPress today to write my annual music of the year post.  I was greeted to a message encouraging me to sign up for dual authentication to better secure my WordPress account.  I figured, okay, I use to it to keep another service I frequently use secure, so why not here.  Oddly, and unnecessarily, WordPress requires you to give them your phone number to authenticate me so I can authenticate myself going forward using Google Authenticator.  That’s rather amusing, actually.  If I’m already able to get into the site because I’ve had a cookie keeping me authenticated all this time–and never disputed the access–why do I suddenly need to supply them with my phone number at this point just to see a QR code?  Why couldn’t they authenticate me using the e-mail address already tied to this account?  Oh, right, because these assholes want any excuse to get more personal information on me.  How about before I make myself more secure from the hackers that WordPress wants to convince me are just dying to break into my account, they make an effort to assure me that I’m not going to be pestered by a dozen advertisements a day from some god-forsaken call center because these assholes asked for my information unnecessarily?

Mobile Phone Dilemma Revisited

Man on ridiculously huge phone

I listen to the This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast.  In the most recent episode (September 22, 2013) one of the guest hosts, Brian Brushwood, remarked that even though the subsidized iPhone 5c (16GB model) cost $99 up front, it would end up costing $1,000.  So once again we have tech guys showing their inability to understand money.

Let’s break this down:

  • Up front costs = $99 + $36 activation charge = $135
  • Monthly Charges ( AT&T Nation 450 + 3GB/mo Data Plan) = $70
  • Total Contract Cost = $135 + $70 x 24 months = $1,815
  • Price of iPhone 5c 16GB without a contract = $549

Subtract the retail price from the total contract cost and we get $1,266.  Is all of this attributable to the horrors of being on contract?  Well T-Mobile has an unlimited talk & text + 2.5GB of data plan for $60/mo.  Verizon has a similar no-contract plan for the same price.  So assuming you want somewhere in the range of 2GB+ of data a month your premium for being on contract with AT&T is $10/mo, which adds $240 to the price of that iPhone.  That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but it only totals $789, which is $211 short of Brian’s claim of a $1,000 price tag.

Heck, even if you go with one of the cheaper MVNO‘s, say Airvoice Wireless, you’ll be paying $40 a month … but only getting one gigabyte of data! At least in that case, the $30  discount from AT&T will bring you to a total cost of that colorful iPhone of $1,269 if you’d gone with their contract.  However, that’s not an entirely fair comparison because you are getting less service for that price (2GB of data less.)

So once again, the alarmist claims that a “discounted” phone is anything but are completely unfounded.  Not surprising, since these are tech people; if they understood money they’d be in finance!

Along those lines, I did recently switch to Airvoice Wireless. As I’ve mentioned previously, I really only use about half a gig of data a month so the $60/mo I was paying for the calls and data seemed unnecessary.  It wasn’t a seamless process and required about an hour on the phone (using my Google Voice account through Gmail, thank goodness I had a backup!) to actually get things up and running after a half day of no service.  Which goes back to another of the anti-contract arguments: you lose the ability to jump from one service provider to another without incurring penalties.  I suppose one needs to define “penalty,” because I’ve ported numbers twice now in my life and both times required significant effort on my part to resolve the problems that providers had with the process.  Who wants to go through the anguish of changing phone providers all that often?

Well, I guess tech guys, who I imagine are inherently masochistic.