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.

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.

March 4, 2011

Not embarrassed

written by natevw @ 11:14 pm

When you’ve been taught that shipping an embarrassing “version one” means you shipped early enough, then it’s hard to be embarrassed by such a release.

On the self-imposed deadline of February’s end, I called the progress I’ve made on ShutterStem so far and named it “version one”. By the time I got around to actually tagging the “1.0″ release in version control, the source code had already gained an additional contributor with support for an additional version of OS X. And a bit of documentation.

Two months ago I had whittled down the insurmountable task of going from version 0.1 to version The World Is O’ertaken, into a outline of requirements in an otherwise empty repository branch called “take_two”. These requirements focused on a primary metabolism of the amateur photography workflow: breathe in, pick images to share, breathe out.

It’s interesting to see how version 1.0 differs from its original requirements; projects always do and are often better for it. It’s less fun to see what suffered for the deadline. Hence the “early enough”: it sets up like a <artistic analogy regarding difficulty>, it looks like a <deprecating humor regarding homeliness>, and certain parts got shipped in a <one hundred percent half-assed state>.

But it works.

I was sitting around the house one evening, pouting about how pitiful my project was as I used it on an iPad. My wife was nearby with her laptop, helping me collect images into baskets. Organizing the same photo library, via completely different devices, over only the local network. The mainframe across the room was no longer just a big hard drive behind a big screen, but also a server — and not even the server! — as we relaxed over on the couch and enjoyed paging through photos together.

I think it’s got a shot.