Brian J.: Amazon Prophet

In my post earlier this year about Amazon Prime trying to go all-digital instead of being free shipping, I said:

But undoubtedly Amazon will offer ship-to-store for free someday, just like every other retailer does now (and did in 1990).

How ridiculous you might have thought it sounded. Amazon does not have physical stores!

But it’s December now, kids. Now we have Amazon Go:

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

Although, don’t forget, IBM predicted Amazon Go years ago:

It’s a NEW Feature

I’ve started to see this in my Twitter sidebar:

Funny, I thought there was a way to control what tweets I saw.

But that’s before Twitter decided what I really want to see is a stream of promoted tweets, items I might have missed out of chronological order, a list of people I might want to follow because Twitter thinks I should, and Tweets that people I follow liked.

I’ve thinned my Twitter usage a bunch. Partly because things have taken a political turn that I don’t enjoy and partly because Twitter keeps upping the noise ratio to the signal.

iPhones without Headphones: A Long View

And some of you think that Tim Cook is not an innovator!

Full disclosure: I hold some Apple stock, but half of what I once did. When the value of the stock doubled, I sold half, right at its peak because I wondered if the aura of Steve Jobs was much of the brand. It might well have been, but my remaining holdings are all house money now. Once in a while, I make a wise investment decision, unlike then I bought National Lampoon Media Partners, IPIX, or Salon New Media, or when I didn’t dump my SIRI immediately when they signed Howard Stern. Ah, well, live and live. I never learn.

And If You Append _nomap To Your Street Address, Google Won’t Rifle Through Your Mailbox

Google Announces “_nomap” WiFi Opt-out Option, Wants Other Location Providers To Go Along:

As promised, Google has announced a way for WiFi router owners to stop Google from including them in the company’s location database.

The opt-out requires a change in the name of the wireless network (the SSID) to include _nomap at the end of the name. In other words, if your wireless network is named “McGeehome,” you’d need to rename that to “McGeehome_nomap.” (And frankly, I’d prefer you use your own last name while you’re at it.)

Google is thoughtfully allowing you to change your internal naming of your personal property to keep Google from using it for its own data collection and profit.

Because your property and information belongs to Google unless you explicitly say it does not. Even if you don’t use Google. Because anything Google can dig up, it can use.

(Link via tweet.)

An Ounce of Feline Prevention

Google working on super-fast ‘quantum’ computer chip

Google said it is working on a super-fast “quantum” computer chip as part a vision to one day have machines think like humans.

Friends, we have the algorithm for a fail-safe prevention of a Skynet scenario right there: If we make the computers think like humans, we’ll be safe.

For example, if the computers think, after reaching a certain level of sophistication, they should simply use the network to share cat pictures and staged, marketing-driven ‘viral’ videos with each other instead of doing something useful like annihilating mankind. As a bonus, computers would more completely overwhelm the network doing these things at the speed of quantum, and they’ll knock themselves out.

I hope someone is checking this into GitHub right now for the good of mankind.

(Link seen in the Ace of Spades HQ sidebar.)

An Unannounced Boycott?

Firefox falters, falls to record low in overall browser share:

Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has plunged in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Huh. Can you think of anything that might have happened about two months ago that might have angered a large number of its users and caused them to change browsers?

Firefox blocked image

Correlation is not causation, but a sudden shift might not come just from the release of the iPhone 5S.

You Will Never Again Experience MfBJN The Way It Was Intended

Firefox 23 nixes support for outdated blink HTML tag:

Mozilla announced on Tuesday that Firefox 23, the latest version of its browser, will not support the HTML tag blink.

I’ve used that tag for years, off and on, on this blog. I’ll be sad to see it go.

Frankly, it’s just a case of the cool designers finally promulgating their disdain for a particular tag. Heaven forfend the hipsters start thinking that italics look weird.

(Link via VodkaPundit.)

A Small Worldview, Exposed

Dustbury linked to another one of those technology articles written in the hip, modern style that indicates an arch with-it fellow shaking his head at the backwardness of others.

The piece is entitled 12 obsolete technologies Americans still use. Mostly, it’s about the author of the piece ticking off items that he does not use any more. Hence, they are obsolete to him. They include:

  • Dial-up Internet
    In the rural areas of the country, which is most of the country but very little of the country where technology writers live, you have two choices, and it’s not fiber or copper or DSL or cable. You get to choose between dial-up, which is slow but inexpensive, and satellite, which is more expensive, slightly faster, and sometimes spotty. So, yes, many people still use it. Because it makes sense, and it probably suits their needs.
    Yes, I know, cellular offers a more technically challenging and sometime viable solution, but it’s not available in all areas either. Have you ever seen the little marker on your smart phone that says data is unavailable in an area? I have.
  • Dot matrix printers
    The author himself mentions multi-part forms, and that’s a no-brainer for me. The author must not have worked in an environment where this makes sense.
  • Landline phones
    It might make some fiscal sense for me to give up our residential landline phone, but the telephone works when the power goes out, brothers and sisters. In the event of a disaster, it might be your link to the world when your Internet and your cell phone chargers are unavailable. I’ll cling to it until such time as the phone company takes it away from me.
  • VHS and cassette tapes
    The author talks about the cloud and downloading music, but I’ve had enough hard drive failures and have seen enough services shuttered that I wouldn’t trust the Internet with my data anyhow. Besides, you can rip them to bits if you must, and you’ll find them very cheap at garage sales. So instead of ‘renting’ a movie for $2.99 or downloading a whole song for a buck, you can find whole albums for a quarter and movies you can watch over and over for a buck.
  • CRT TVs
    Confession: I just removed our last television with a picture tube. Not because it was not working, but because we dropped a dish box and now it was more important to hook in a DVD player and VCR (to play obsolete VHS tapes!). Also, I had an extra television I’d used as a computer monitor for a while. Otherwise, I would still have it. You know why? It still worked.

    If you hit any number of yard sales or thrift stores, you’ll find any number of old console televisions from the 1960s, complete with picture tubes, flickering some broadcast television. And you know what? They still work. Compare that to the longevity of other types of televisions. No contest, hey?

Oh, I could go on, but it frankly boils down to this: The ‘obsolete’ things still work. Vinyl records, cassettes, televisions, fax machines, the whole lot of them still fulfill a function and still work, so yes, people will still use them.

It’s easy to have the disposable attitude, I reckon, if you’re young and have not accumulated a number of things that work (which might never happen to today’s young, I reckon. Wait, instead of repeating ‘I reckon,’ I mean ‘by crackey.’). Or if you’re someone who trades in a phone every two years or a car every three. It’s a new mindset, one that most people outside the tech industry don’t share.

Facebook as Official Communications Channel

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the concealed carry motorist in Ohio who tried to inform the police officers that he was carrying a concealed weapon, only to be interrupted each time by the tough cop until such time when the weapon was discovered, whereupon the officer threatens him with bodily injury and death. I’ll tuck the video under the fold.

Courtesy of a Hot Air update, I see the police department has issued a statement on its Facebook page:

I want to assure our citizens that the behavior, as demonstrated in this video, is wholly unacceptable and in complete contradiction to the professional standards we demand of our officers. As such, appropriate steps were placed in motion as dictated by our standards, policies and contractual obligations….

I have to ask you, do you take postings on social network sites from official government entities as the truth? As an official in a government entity, do you think this really is the forum for official statements?

I dunno. Since it’s so easy to hack or spoof the social network sites, I don’t it’s a good idea. But I’m an old man. NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

Continue reading “Facebook as Official Communications Channel”

Perspective in the Geek World

Dale Franks at Q and O sees that Sun is just giving Solaris away these days, and he rightfully sneers:

Solaris isn’t some mystically wonderful operating system chock full of Sun’s proprietary goodness. It’s just freakin’ UNIX for cripe’s sake. They’ve been giving away a free UNIX-based operating system for years, anyway. It’s called Linux, and despite all its hype, it’s still where it was five years ago: restricted to the hard-core, geek community. Ask 10 average computer users what Linux is, and 9 of ’em will tell you it’s the blanket-toting Great Pumpkin kid from Peanuts. In fact, if Sun is giving away Solaris, I suspect it’s far more likely that they’re doing so because Linux is eating into their user base, and there’s a whole UNIX-based open source community that’s starting to eat their lunch.

Microsoft, on the other hand, owns the desktop. Look, the desktop OS is about as perfect an example of a natural monopoly that you can find. If you have a business–and this is more true the larger the business is–you can’t have twelve different operating systems running concurrently. If you do, your corporate IT division has to puff up like a tick just to support all the different configuration, software, and hardware tics that will result. So will your training section, because every time a typist/clerk has to move from the UNIX/StarOffice system to Windows/Office 200X system, you’ve gotta put them through a whole new training cycle to learn all the new stuff.

I’ve linked to Dale Franks’ posts before because he’s a geek with perspective. Software’s but a tool, and its silly factions of technology partisans make as much sense as contractors continuing to argue Bosch versus Black and Decker. Who, outside of those partisans and some salespeople, cares?

Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon the secret of open-source addiction amongst the geek community–not only do the developers get to write it, but they get to sell it, too, but they’re not very good salespeople.

Or maybe that’s not an insight after all.

Crunch Time

I’m reminded of a project manager who once used, “We all have to pitch in and give a little extra when crunch time comes….” when I read this story:

Within weeks production had accelerated into a ‘mild’ crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this “pre-crunch” was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don’t know how many of the developers bought EA’s explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title’s shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Remember to be Machiavellian with your employers because they most certainly treat you that way; once you’ve given them 50 hours for a crunch, they will expect 50 and will ask you for 60.

Another Helpful Error Message

Here’s a friendly error message courtesy of

Browser Bug?

Attention: There appears to be a bug in the web browser
you are currently using. Here are some ways to get around the problem:

  • To return to the page you were previously on:

    –click the BACK button on your browser’s navigation bar until you
    reach the desired page.

  • To checkout –click on the shopping cart icon at the top
    of the page and proceed through the checkout process using the standard
    server (instead of the secure server). You can phone or fax the credit
    card information to us.

Your Web browser is Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; rv:1.7.3) Gecko/20040913 Firefox/0.10.

Error handling by blaming the user and the user’s Web browser. Swell, Amazon. Undoubtedly, your developers have convinced your project managers that this is acceptable, when it’s clearly not.

Lazy Fare has a story featuring Carly Fiorina, head of Hewlett-Packard-Compaq-Digital, telling the information technology professionals who are watching their profession awaken after the party that was the Internet boom and stagger into the developing world for a quick bit of relief from burgeoning labor costs. Fiorina says:

“There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore.”

Right on, sister. Capitalism keeps our prices down as consumers, so as long as we continue to adapt as producers, we can continue buying stuff and make the whole world go around. I’m all for that, because I realize once all the jobs are overseas, the board of directors will realize CEOs will be cheaper over there, too. No, no, they tell themselves, it won’t happen to us…. just like the myopic IT career counselors told their charges in the 1990s.

But that’s the way business works, and society and government ought to let the businesses do their thing. I’m with you, Carly. Of course, I wouldn’t invest money in that sinking ship you’re piloting towards the crumbling glacier, but I’m with you.

Well, no, I’m not. Because the solutions she proposes are not laissez-faire capitalism solutions:

They outlined a list of objectives, including a doubling of federal spending on basic research in U.S. universities. Barrett derided Washington’s decision to spend as much as $40 billion a year on farm subsidies and just $5 billion on basic research in the physical sciences.

“I have a real degree of difficulty with the fact that we are spending some five to eight times as much on the industry of the 19th century than we are on the industry of the 21st century,” Barrett said.

The executives also urged a national broadband policy to allow more homes and businesses to quickly take advantage of high-speed data networks, much as Japan and Korea have done.

They also called for dramatic improvements in K-12 education in the United States, saying schools act more to block budding math and science students than to foster them.

Federal government should start throwing money to the technical industry the same way it throws money to all industry. Fiorina and her buddies don’t want laissez-faire capitalism. They want crony capitalism and are auditioning for the roles of “cronies.”

Techies Salaries Might Fall To Earth In Twenty Years

Doom, doom! they say. CNet News is reporting that United States technical workers are standing in line for the welfare cheese handouts at local churches and have begun selling their collections of new or leased exotic sports cars to keep in their eat-out-six-nights-a-week habits. No, wait. Actually, CNet is reporting that tech salaries are not rising as fast as they used to, they are, or maybe they’re really falling. Technical workers should be worried!

All right, first of all, I am not looking up at sour grapes here. Although I am not a real techie–a developer or admin of some sort–I am, even as a hanger-on to the IT industry, earning annually at 31 more than what my father earned at 45 after years of hard labor. So pardon me while I interject into the common IT thought a spot of perspective from here in the Midwest.

The median household income in these United States is $42,228 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All of you techies out there, compare and contrast this figure with what you take home in a year, and remember that this is the household income. Many households have two people working, sometimes more than one job each, to come up with their household income.

Not many Americans buy houses in fashionable neighborhoods at 25 or spend time each morning deciding whether to drive the Porsche or the Miata to work on any given day. An unfortunate number cannot have a spouse stay home with the kids. For some, McDonalds is eating out.

Now, I don’t mean to harsh your mellow employment, and I don’t want to attack tech workers or the economists who service them. I would prefer a little less hysterics in the media coverage of the economic sector and employment therein. Don’t panic, enjoy the high income while it’s there, but understand the economics of the situation will even themselves out. The pay goes up when the workers are scarce, and then suddenly everyone wants to do that job, and the pay stabilizes or comes down. Take what the field offers, but don’t expect it’s entitled to you.

And thank your lucky stars that you don’t work a job where your arms can get ripped off by an unforgiving amalgamation of steel and someone else’s ingenuity if your attention wanders, or a job that will make you walk slowly and slightly stooped after thirty years of toting and bending and lifting. For $10 an hour. For the rest of your life.

I Work Around

Here’s a little song for those who work with software out there. My apologies to the Beach Boys:

Round round work around
I work around
work around round round I work around
I work around
work around round round I work around
From job to job
work around round round I work around
It’s a real cool app
work around round round I work around
Please don’t make it snap

I’ve got little bugs runnin’ in and out of the code
Don’t type an int or it will implode

My buttons don’t click, the users all moan
Yeah, the GUIS are buggy but the issues are known

I work around
work around round round I work around
From town to town
work around round round I work around
It’s a real cool app
work around round round I work around
Please don’t make it snap
work around round round I work around
I work around
work around round round oooo
Wah wa ooo
Wah wa ooo
Wah wa ooo

We always make a patch cause the clients get mad
And we’ve never missed a deadline, so it isn’t so bad

None of the data gets checked cause it doesn’t work right
We can run a batch job in the middle of the night

I work around
work around round round I work around
From job to job
work around round round I work around
It’s a real cool app
work around round round I work around
Please don’t make it snap
work around round round I work around
I work around
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah

Round round work around
I work around
work around round round I work around
work around round round I work around
Wah wa ooo
work around round round I work around
Oooo ooo ooo
work around round round I work around
Ahh ooo ooo
work around round round I work around
Ahh ooo ooo
work around round round I work around
Ahh ooo ooo