a glob of nerdishness

August 21, 2008

Fighting frustration: Bacon grease and cold water?

written by natevw @ 2:51 pm

Corporations don’t value my warm fuzzy feelings. Computers go bonkers. Code is hard to write well. Cars keep breaking down; colonies of mold keep forming on things once clean; creepy crawly critters keep coming through the walls; cats keep turning kibble into feral kittens; crooks keep on, who knows when they’ll be back.

Complicated issues don’t have concrete answers, or even easy questions. I keep letting myself settle into the sidelines — the world doesn’t spin the way I think it should, so I stand with my arms folded making cynical, sarcastic and even snide commentary on just how screwed up the entire shebang is.

I’ve been fighting fire with spoonfuls of rancid bacon grease.

Even in my best moods, I still believe that human pride trumps human progress, that people who set out to change the world end up content to just control it instead, that human history teaches history teaches humans little. So if success is simply continuing forward, why bother succeeding? Because failure is unpleasant? Because real men ship? Because my addled programmer brain has no other mode but to find the underlying patterns, implement the missing features, fix the major bugs, of THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE?

I’m not pressing on because I think I can fix the problem, clean up the mess, and squelch the fire. I’m pressing on because, yeah there are messes and I keep making more, yet the world is in good hands. I’ve been blessed despite my brokenness, and from what I’ve been given I hope to give a bit of cool water. And specifically, today’s next step: maybe some of that could affix a mess of pictures to something that resembles a map; I can’t fire myself just yet.

August 1, 2008


written by natevw @ 3:14 pm

I paid $359 for my iPod touch on March 6, and when it arrived I paid another $20 for the software upgrade that had come out by then. Last month, I paid $10 more to upgrade to the latest version. But after all the money I’ve spent on this iPod, I still don’t own it.

It’s an issue of control. I’m not referring to the fact that I have to send it back because its “Home” button stopped working. That’s a little bit of a bummer, but when the new one comes back all working and shiny and new again, the big bummer will still remain: my iPod is controlled by Apple, through iTunes its government handler. That last $10 upgrade enables iTunes to install third-party applications on my iPod. But even there, I can only decide what not to do with my iPod. It’s still Apple deciding what I can do.

Notice that this iPod I bought isn’t bundled with contract like an iPhone. It’s not locked to a cell carrier, there’s no “West Coast [telephone] network” it could take down, or anything like that. Anything nasty I could do with this iPod I could do with my Macbook at 5 times the speed backed by 20 times the memory. But users can’t do anything shady, or anything cool, without doing it through an application Apple has decided to carry in their store.

My first computers were my dad’s first computers. I learned to program mostly on an Apple /// that worked just fine even though Apple had probably long stopped supporting it. I have fond memories of playing StarBlaze on his TRS-80 Model 100, loaded from a squawky old cassette tape after a few tries. When I was given an eMate 300 by some friends, I was able to try out all kinds of old utilities from a Newton abandonware archive. Will my offspring be able to do the same sort of things with this iPod? Or will the encrypted applications I collect today no longer “authorize” by the time they discover the shiny obelisk in a box somewhere? Will they learn to use an old version of the developer tools and wonder why, if it works on the simulator, it won’t work on the device? Vive the jailbreakers! — immature as they act, I sure hope they’ve left good notes ten years from now. Otherwise, Apple really should just rent these things instead of selling them.

I hate to assume that a worst case DRM scenario will become the status quo, but it has become abundantly clear that Thoughts on Music was just a PR stunt. Apple loves them some DRM, and they’ve turned their top resources to a “revolutionary” new iPhone/iPod platform that has Digital Restriction Management at its center.

This bothers me as a user, and it bothers me as a software developer. It will cost another $99 to actually develop or test anything new on the iPod I bought. I’d gladly pay that, but I can’t. Our company is still waiting to get into Apple’s secret sharecropper society, though I put our info into the queue on day one. Thankfully we didn’t project any revenue from selling iPhone/iPod software — and now we never will, since one lesson we’ve learned from the whole “You don’t talk about iPhone club” mess is to not take for granted income so far out of our control.

If this dystopian ideal of Apple’s comes to their desktop, as some fear, I hope our little company has saved up enough for a few bays in a data center somewhere. Web apps have many huge drawbacks, but so does being a puppet on some big corporate headquarters’ string.