a glob of nerdishness

November 14, 2011

Triumph of the Nerds

written by natevw @ 10:27 pm

I love the history of personal computers — we’ve gone from the Altair 8800 to the Kindle Fire. We’ve gained so much, but I worry we’ve lost sight of something along the way.


We’ve gone from blatantly complicated devices that Only Nerds Control, to superficially simple devices…that Only Nerds Control.

Somehow it is cheaper to build iCloud on top of a new $1 billion data center across the country than on, say, a couple hard drives attached to an Airport Extreme in my living room and yours.

One billion dollars.

That’s what storing our data is worth to Apple.

They aren’t the only ones giving away the mainframe to sell the…the what? “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer…”

…though that’s not always the full story. Of the biggest datacenters: only Google and Facebook simply sell our Attention. Amazon mostly asks for our Acquirings. Apple hopes to earn our iAllegiance.

It’s worth, by their estimation, over one Billion dollars.

The end result is that Personal Computers are no longer quite what they could be.

We’ve outsourced backups, we’ve outsourced shared storage, we’ve outsourced network security. These were once luxuries of only the dedicatedly computer-savvy.
We value these luxuries enough to give up whatever it is the big iron gets for providing them.
We’ve outsourced ourselves.
We’ve gotten some very accessible technology — in exchange for our previous privacy, our former fraternity and our iNdividuality.
Us nerds escaped centralized mainframes for complete computers we could call our own.
But now we’re escaping back to centralized mainframes which complete computers we could call our own.
Our users’ computers, or perhaps the computerized “users” themselves, we can now own.
And we’re finding it quite profitable.
Is this okay? Or —
Is this some 1% winning?
Is this just economies of scale?
Or is this a tragedy of the commons?
The joke is the jocks start with the power in school, which buys them nothing, and the nerds end up with the power in the rat race, which buys them yachts. A better triumph of the nerds would be changing the world order, rather than controlling it.
Or so I suspect.

September 10, 2011

You are never alone

written by natevw @ 7:00 am

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.


Should you google that to help decide, you’ll find that:

  • I’ve copied two paragraphs verbatim from a Catechism
  • nerd version: Instructional FAQ
  • cynical nerd version: Instrument of Sheeple Opium

Some healthy cynicism is warranted: I’m quoting from the translation of the Westminster Larger Catechism accepted by the “Orthodox Presbyterian Church”. Read that like a DNS entry: “Orthodox” names a split among Presbyterians, who have denominated themselves apart from the Church, which in this case refers to Protestants who left the once-Καθολικός religion, that as far as those go was an (eventually three)-way split between Abraham’s sons.

If you think that’s cause for concern, just imagine the mayhem when half the “Orthodox Christian Reformed [protestant] Church” members fall into heresy.


Like all our goals,


Jesus Christ — who BTW can raise sons for Abraham out of rocks — promised that he would never leave what he’s created alone.

That’s why I’m struggling and remain dogmatic about this The Goal: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Goals are hard, and staying sure of Them is harder, especially when our minds let Goals lead us into jaols lest They fade into ghosts.

Practically imposible. Severe budget constraints.

But if God is not dead, whether we killed him or not.

Then that is a comfort.

Which you may call a crutch.

You may be right but I’m a perfectionist, and while time has proven very competent at making humanity and its Goals, bigger.

It seems They never get, better.

Or closer; on their own.


Here’s to the crazy one.


September 9, 2011

Goals 2: Lost in Zen York

written by natevw @ 5:00 pm

So the question is why?

Obviously, our goals are the why we have other goals.

but what’s The Goal?

I mean, why have the goals in the first place?

To recap: we have goals, and goals whose goal is to make those goals possible, but What’s. The. Goal. ??

To back up a bit: do we have big goals that we attain by setting little goals? Or do we have little goals that we achieve by big goals?

Or both?

I’ve now written “goal” so often, it’s feeling like ghoul and reading like gaol. Which is either a typo, or a British correctional facility.

goal goal goal goal
goal goal
goal goal goal

Or only one?


Zen and the art of zen writing…maintenance.)

We may disagree on The Goal. Even though neither of us probably’s actually really figured out — learned? — what it is yet, even.

(Do they really still spell jeeaol that way, in the English translation of English?)

At least I haven’t, which is probably why I’m a bit dogmatic.

(fully figured out the goal)

To be continued.

p.s. — it’s not Learning.

June 26, 2011

The Continued Adventures of ShutterStem

written by natevw @ 12:33 am

The working motto is that ShutterStem is “trying to make taking photos fun again”.

And it’s this nebulous dream, and that’s okay for now.

Some moonbeams for holdy paws:

  • so iCloud is a relief. I doubt they even sync metadata, but at least Apple finally woke up and realized that they needed to do something about the iMac sitting at home not being useful most of the time.
  • sync was gonna be the killer feature that made the world beat a path to ShutterStem’s door, but giving everyone a private server without needing everyone to be a devops ninjas and/or having to make hardware etc. etc. is a Hard Problem even with a CouchDBs at ones’ disposal.
  • so it’s nice that iApple have tackled the low-hanging fruit and the 90% may soon have something practical, useful, and just works, while still meanwhile I “trying”
  • what is an ShutterStem? then?
  • the medium-term goal is just a collection of tools that shows off why I heart CouchDB and how it can help a small niche of photographers who insist on doing some things the hard way (=my dad and me and you if you want) get things done a little more easily and better…ly
  • so you’re rewriting stuff again and this will never be finished?
  • probably? look. this is not just an audacious dream of a platform for photos, but it is also a platform for a bunch of audacious ideas about how the web should just connect people to extensions of their own selves and to extensions of each other, rather than be the warrantlessly searchable home of all our eggs in one basket. this kinda stuff takes time, filing out all the paperwork through the proper channels and whatnot if you aren’t impressed with ill-fated shortcuts

French Revolution?! Where were we. Oh yeah…

  • photos fun again?

So I’ve had this vague notion that my photography hit some something and then wasn’t fun anymore. That’s really all this little ShutterStem hobby is about…playing with the slightly more “revolutionary” side of some neat technologies to somehow somewhere get back to the days where I were outside taking pictures that were fun to look at again and again. It doesn’t matter that App Stores are evil or any other stupid politics… I just wanna help make some photo app that kinda surprises and delights even in its nichey nerdishness.

So what’s the wall, where maybe should I push for revolution?

I wonder if it’s…if it is related to my capacity for mental inventory? I have a bunch of gadgets…but I know where each one is, and all its accessories. I have piles of books…but I can picture each one on the shelf in my head. I have tons of deadtree and digital documents…but I can generally track down the one I’m looking for. I even know where, within our two-year old’s scattered arsenal of real and supposed toys, the better part of half our kitchen utensils likely lie….

But I might as well be backing up a bazillion blurry photos, because that’s the haystack that one day my brain stopped looking for needles in. And I wonder if that’s when photos stopped being fun?

So besides being OpenDoc, besides being Unhosted, besides being W3C or RFC-worthy or maybe instead of any of all of that, ShutterStem just needs to help me [help anyone] INTERNALIZE THE INVENTORY. Helping as only computers can help. ing.

  • Q. Does that mean I’m starting over with yet another prototype(s) instead of shipping some sort of v1.1?
  • A. Meh.
  • If you’re sticking along for the ride I’d hate to bore you.

May 22, 2010

The right Orwell

written by natevw @ 12:39 pm

I’ve sneered at Apple for calling the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad “revolutionary” when their App Store’s economic model seems a bit outmoded. But the devices are impressive, and while Orwellian comparisons referencing the 1984 ad are fun I haven’t been totally convinced of the analogy. Thought control is really more Google’s goal: knowing the world’s information and making it universally adsensable. All Apple control is the means to publication (German: Publikationsmittel) on their revolutionary new cropland.

Orwell’s 1984 wasn’t about a revolution and its metaphors are more apt for pervasive, world domination type situations. Orwell did write another book, however: a much funner read that just happened to be all about a revolution. So without further ado, I present:

The Animal Farm SDK Agreement

I wonder — what will be this revolution’s “Four legs good, two legs better” moment?

January 29, 2010

A story NOT about iBooks.app

written by natevw @ 10:35 am

Some fellow perfects the bound book. He threatens to have drawn and quartered anyone who tries to make a similarly improved book. Then he says to the writers, “If I like what you write, I’ll bind it as one of my books and give you most of the profits.”

Some experienced writers say, “Silly books, clay tablets are so much better at knocking sense into people. Part ye from my paddock, fellow!”

But this man’s books are very well made. And so long as you don’t write a sequel to one of his own stories, or speak against his friend the mayor, you can make a good bit of money writing bound books. Most writers respond, “Books are clearly the future, and look how good they are for the readers!”

But there’s this other crowd. They’re not really writers, because they spend most of their time patting themselves on the back and talking about politics and how the future isn’t clay tablets or bound books, because papyrus scales so much better. Some of them are stitching their scrolls together so they can be read kind of like books. These scroll-books are a bit awkward to page through, but you can read them in any library branch and even sign some of them out for a few weeks.

Now the interesting part of this story is that scrolls and, by extension, scroll-books can actually be used on clay tablets and between any sort of book cover, including our book-binding fellow’s. The analogy is falling apart now, so I’ll finish explaining my previous post more directly.

No cheap, flimsy Chrome OS netbook will have more necessary features or be more pleasant to use than the iPad. I am also sure that native, platform-specific applications will always be superior to web-apps. What I am saying is this: until we can develop native iPhone/iPod/iPad/iPony applications with our First Amendment rights intact, making “native Chrome OS applications” (i.e., web apps) is the only way to publish independent software for Apple’s newest and best devices.

June 22, 2007

Highschoolers’ likely iPhone fall

written by natevw @ 11:28 am

Last night, at a farewell party for a teacher my wife worked with, the iPhone came up in conversation. I asked some of the teachers if they thought any of their highschoolers would show up next fall with the $.5K + $XX/month device in their pocket. Yes, “there’s always at least one kid who shows up with the latest and greatest”. The end of June is a great time to release a phone for students with summer jobs — late enough to have some cash, early enough to not save it all for winter.

During the summer, what more technology does the average highschooler want to use than their cellphone, iPod, email, and Web? A few highschool haunts like MySpace and eBaum’s World might not work, as Apple seems to have decided that Flash only belongs to the “watered down, kinda-sorta looks like” version of the Internet (Jakob Nielsen would agree). However, there are plenty of gathering sites that don’t make prominent use of Flash, to say nothing of the dedicated YouTube client that comes installed. With all the features and fashion of the phone — and with credit card companies always eager to take on new victims — the iPhone could easily be a big hit among students.

June 19, 2007

Reality Gameshow

written by natevw @ 12:08 pm

“When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained.”

Sounds like television ratings explained, but “The Lady, or the Tiger?” predates the first televised game show by almost sixty years. I wonder if there was advertising around the gladiators’ Colosseum in ages past?