box of Jack

Altering “The Deal”

20:05 PST - May 12th, 2014

I’ve not heard of the Moves app until recently, after they were acquired by Facebook. What does the app do? It tracks your movement and produces an automatic diary of your activity. How much you walked, cycled, drove, etc. When they were acquired, they stated that there were no plans to share their data with Facebook. Two weeks later, they announced a change in their privacy policy that would allow them to share their data with Facebook.

Daring Fireball sums it up perfectly. He quotes Darth Vader, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” (In typical bad guy fashion, Vader had promised he’d free the Princess and Chewbacca in exchange for capturing Han, he changed his mind after Han was delivered to him.)

Merlin goes into a related rant about companies actively collecting your data and selling it to third parties. Especially one worrying rumor about how cable companies record and share information about exactly who you are, where you live and what you watch.

I’ve also been feeling this frustration lately. We all sign up for things with a vague understanding of what “the deal” is. We each have our different interpretations but we all expect a basic level of “don’t fuck me” from the other party. But some of the more sensitive and arguably astute people are feeling that we’re getting fucked more than usual. People are actually reading privacy policies now. People are groaning with frustration each time an acquisition is announced. People are cynical of “free” and increasingly see it as a shameful deal with the devil.

We are Lando Calrissian, we’re staring down at our friend and mentor encased in Carbonite and realizing the full weight of our disloyalty. We’re staring at the betrayed hostages, the bargain was supposed to save them but now our orders are to take them away to be tortured and made an example of. Our friends are doomed, our city is doomed, this entire rebellion is doomed. Great work, idiot.

It’s probably not as dire as I make it out to be, but it’s a shitty trend. These companies all start out with the best of intentions and they genuinely mean it except that eventually they realize they’ve given over control to outside interests that demand investor value. “Value” which, in software terms, means insane growth every year at the cost of all else.

We had a deal, guys. It’s our own stupid fault for not getting it in writing, for not reading the fine print, for not imagining all eventualities that would result from this bargain we’ve made. But I thought the deal was there because we trusted each other but now your part of the deal was sold to someone else and I’m left feeling like the teenager that was dumb enough to fall in love. Never again, I tell myself as I sit in the dark, listening to sad music and writing angrily in my journal. I’m never falling in love again.

Stay Put

21:02 PST - October 26th, 2013

Follow your dreams, do what makes you happy, love your work, etc. I feel like in the past 5 years we’ve been bombarded with this message and while it’s kind of re-assuring, it also rings a little hollow. Yes, there are necessary compromises to be made in order to do something that’s both fulfilling and a valuable contribution to society but at the core of it I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if my dreams are terrible and unwanted?”

I was watching some of the talks from the XOXO festival that happened in Portland recently, a gathering of makers of all the things that you can create independently today. Dan Harmon, creator of the TV show Community, gave a keynote that resonated with me. Mostly because he seems like a pretty miserable guy who’s trying to do something good in the world and he’s turned his attention to the internet in particular.

Here’s the bit that struck a chord with me:

My mom, when she would take me to the mall when I was a little kid, would always tell me, “If you get separated from me; you stay put and I will scour the mall for you. Because, if you don’t do that, if you don’t stay put; if you keep looking for me while I keep looking for you, we can theoretically never find each other.”

Kind of a creepy mom.

But it stuck with me, the logic of it. And I often think of it when I think to myself, ‘What am I supposed to do next in my career? Is this joke funny or should I do one that I think other people are going to think is funny that I don’t think is very funny?’ The answer is always follow your bliss, always follow your bliss. Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you. Stay put.

The internet gives you more power to do that than ever before but it also gives you more temptation to not do that. And you see that guy that’s at #1 on some search engine who’s dancing around and doing that. You wonder, ‘Ok, it’ll be hilarious if I do a parody of that. Then Absolut Vodka will buy my Google ads and I’ll be able to monetize the internet. You don’t want to monetize the internet, you’re having fun right not because it can’t be monetized. That’s it. You’re getting away with murder on it.

Here’s the talk in full:

Timeline of Google Maps for iOS

23:38 PST - December 12th, 2012

Ok, I’m going to keep blogging about Apple until I think of something better to do with this site. Let’s talk about this Google Maps for iOS thing that was released tonight, just over 3 months after iOS 6 was released and Apple switched over to its own mapping data.

I believe that everything is as it should be. It doesn’t make any sense for Apple to rely on it’s #1 competitor to provide a core OS service. It doesn’t make sense for Google to pray that iOS users all give up because the maps suck. That’s just inviting another company to come and eat your lunch (whether it’s Apple, Nokia, Tom Tom or whomever).

From the point of the consumer: everybody wins when there’s more competition. Hell, I’d love it if Apple released a maps application for Android (they definitely won’t).

My understanding of the timeline

The Maps app has existed on iOS since the very first iPhone in June 2007. It’s Google’s map data and Apple’s UI. Basically, Apple control exactly what goes into the app but they rely on Google’s servers to supply them with all the important information. The Maps app remained largely the same, getting small updates here and there until September 2012.

Meanwhile, Google was working on two (2) big features. Turn-by-turn navigation - basically what a conventional GPS unit does with the first-person perspective and the voice announcing when you need to turn. iPhone had directions but it didn’t give you direct assistance like this, it just gave you a top-down map and you were supposed to follow along on your own.

The other feature was vector-based maps. Up until then, all the maps were bitmap-based which is kinda like having someone stitch together a whole bunch of photos. Vector-based mapping is a far more intelligent way to store the data and is remarkably smaller in size so it takes a lot less time to download and is a lot easier to cache for later use (at the expense of requiring more CPU).

From what I can tell, turn-by-turn navigation showed up on Android some time in October 2009. And the vector-based maps showed up in December 2010. Meanwhile, the iOS Maps application got none of this love. Why?

Well, the rumors say that Apple and Google were negotiating over these things. Apple obviously doesn’t want Android to have the superior mapping experience. Google wants to collect more user data for advertising, like using Google Latitude to encourage people to link their GPS location with their Google account. Somehow, these negotiations fell apart. I’m sure there’s a convincing case to be made for both sides being the asshole. But at the end of the day, Apple needed a Maps experience that wasn’t ancient and sluggish. So in September 2012, they switched over to Apple maps. Which has turn-by-turn directions and vector mapping (but loses important things like transit directions, street view and Google’s decade of mapping experience).

Now, 3 months later, Google has released it’s own separate iOS maps application. And it has turn-by-turn and vector maps. And all the Google Maps features we’ve come to love.

Review: SwitchEasy NUDE case for iPhone 5

21:42 PST - October 10th, 2012

Years ago, I managed to drop my iPhone 3G in the bathroom and develop some vanity cracks in the top right of the display. Last year, I dropped my iPad in the bathroom and caused huge cracks all along the screen.

I realized that the added bulk of a case far outweighs having to run my fingers over cracked glass (and being unable to read web pages from the toilet, heh). And so, I’ve turned to SwitchEasy NUDE for iPhone 5. I have previously owned the SwitchEasy Colors for iPhone 3G and the SwitchEasy NUDE for iPhone 4.

Shipping was super fast. I opened it up and found the plastic case, 2 screen protector films, 1 back protector film, a wipe and 2 plastic connector protectors.

I cleaned my phone up and down with the wipe. Then I tried the screen protector… and failed miserably. Air bubbles everywhere. Not just little ones at the edges, I mean big ugly ones all over the place. Same story with screen protector #2. Same story with the back protector. I didn’t have this much trouble with the iPhone 4, I think the glass must be made differently. Or I am just terrible at this.

The plastic case itself is great. Snaps easily into place. The case feels a little rushed to market because the lock button and the volume-up button didn’t “click” properly. I had to take the case of and loosen up the buttons a little. Now everything’s working perfectly.

The case itself is super light and super thin but feels strong. I trust it because I dropped my iPhone 4 several times on to the sidewalk and the phone was perfectly safe. Shame I wasn’t smart enough to put on the screen protector, the case itself doesn’t offer any front protection. I guess I’ll just take that risk. Yes, it increases the bulk but it’s minimal and it’s a worthwhile trade-off for me.

#6

18:55 PST - August 26th, 2012

This Apple vs. Samsung thing drives me crazy. Listen, it doesn’t matter if Apple are greedy and trying to hurt a competitor because what they’ve done is totally legal. Stop trying to assign personalities to these companies and assuming morality is equal to legality.

Fact is: Samsung took a long hard look at everything on the iPhone. Then they copied it. Apple has a right to protect its inventions, so they exercised those rights. America is still a country where you can make something and have a reasonable expectation that someone isn’t going to rip it off.

And don’t feed me that horseshit about rounded rectangles and how a full touchscreen display is obvious, it’s not. If it was so fucking obvious then why didn’t RIM, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc. build a full touchscreen phone and then proceed to sell millions of them? Do these companies deserve to stay in business if they can’t build something so fucking obvious? Do they hate making money? I have a problem with making any kind of investment into a private company that doesn’t intend to make any money and you should too.

Is this decision good for consumers? In the real world, probably not. It probably means more companies will sue each other and stop innovating. In my magical fantasy world, it means that all Android phone makers will be like, “Fuck you, Apple. We’re not going to copy the iPhone and we’re going to build something that’s 5 years ahead of the iPhone. We’re going to build something so beautiful and perfect that everyone will be saying how obvious it was all along and everyone will question whether Apple is out of ideas.”

Because I’m bored of everyone trying to build a better iPhone. There are some pretty glaring problems with the iPhone. Android and Android partners need to blow that shit out of the water. I want them to make iOS look as outdated as Windows 95. I want them to make a two-day battery life look like the fucking Middle Ages. I want all the stellar apps to come to Android first because it’s an awesome place to be. I want to buy a fucking phone that is still relevant 2 years later and has all the latest updates and major apps. Let Apple try and sue you for having better apps or longer battery life or customer support.