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Mayhem & Chaos Blog



The musings of Mayhem & Chaos



Published: 2010-03-26T15:13:06-08:00

 



Nexus One compared to iPhone 3gs

2010-03-26T15:13:06-08:00

Last week I switched to a Nexus One phone from Google with service on T-Mobile. My motivations were:

  1. I'm sick of Apple's lock-in crap and their shenanigans in the App Store.
  2. The iPhone is too closed.
  3. To develop for the iPhone you need to pay $100/year. Even if you never release an app, you can't continue running your own apps on your own phone once your dev subscription runs out. Screw you Apple!
  4. The T-Mobile version of the Nexus One should work flawlessly on EU mobile networks and make travel for me much simpler.

Here is my list of pros and cons for the Nexus One after a week of use:

Nexus One vs iPhone 3gs

Advantages

  • Open. Simply plug in and mount as a drive. You organize your SD card and put what music you want on it.
  • You can install applications without paying. And you distribute apps without Google's approval.
  • Android versions or some equivalent of all the apps I was using are available.
  • No more iTunes!!
  • No dicking around with ringtones. Use any mp3.
  • last.fm worked great driving in the bay area.
  • Pogoplug worked better. Still not awesome.
  • Its overall faster. Pages load faster.
  • Removable battery, removable sd card.
  • Camera is better and has simple flash.
  • The haptic feedback (vibrate feedback rather than audio feedback) is really nice!
  • The turn-by-turn navigation is really awesome. Really fun on a bike too!
  • You can tether your Nexus one!
  • Weighs less.

Disadvantages

  • External speakers not nearly as good as the ones on the iPhone.
  • No OmniFocus client (but not a great loss)
  • Screen gets oily and smudged. Need screen protector!
  • In bright light, the screen is hard to see! Automatic brightness adjustments are lacking or could be improved.
  • No timer app. Finding one means sifting through tons of crap.

T-Mobile vs AT&T

It seems that I don't get 3G as often as I do with AT&T, BUT, overall I would say that the experience of N1 on T-Mobile is overall faster than iPhone 3gs on AT&T. There are tons of factors that factor into this, but as a general overall impression, the 3G service on T-Mobile/N1 is more pleasant. Battery life is about the same on both phones.

Conclusion

I love it and I'm glad I switched. I feel much happier (because its open and not evil) and the experience is overall better. At the price of free and saving $30/month on the plan this was a complete no brainer. Buying a Nexus One as part of a T-Mobile plan should also be a no-brainer if having an unlocked phone isn't so important for you.

A big thumbs up all around!




Smartphones on Verizon and thoughts on the Pre

2009-11-05T10:52:06-08:00

Since I'm a big fan of my iPhone several of my friends have asked me when I think Verizon might get a similar phone to run on their network. I'm personally not sure if we'll ever see an Apple phone for Verizon, but now its clear that smartphones have arrived on Verizon and they are powered by Google's Android. Walt Mossberg says:

But this week, Verizon (VZ) is rolling out a device that finally gives it a more credible alternative. This new $200 phone is the Motorola Droid and it’s the first Verizon model to run Google’s (GOOG) Android smart-phone operating system. I’ve been testing the Droid, and while it has some significant drawbacks, I regard it as a success overall. It’s the best super-smart phone Verizon offers, the best Motorola (MOT) phone I’ve tested and the best hardware so far to run Android. I can recommend the Droid to Verizon loyalists who have lusted for a better smart phone, but don’t want to switch networks.

That pretty much sums of what my friends have been asking for -- take a look and see if any of the drawbacks are a deal-breaker for you. I think if you require an outstanding keyboard, then you may need to wait. But if the software flaws are bugging you, then worry not. Google and the open source community are revving the Android software faster than Apple is revving the iPhone software.

A few months ago I was patiently waiting for the Palm Pre to arrive on Verizon's network, but I think Palm has made two significant mistakes that actually threaten their survival in my opinion:

  1. It is horribly complicated to get an application published in Palm's application marketplace. Apple has made this easy and they have oodles of applications for the iPhone. A broken app store makes the Palm Pre much less appealing compared to Android or the iPhone. I don't think Palm understands the true importance of the App Store.
  2. Piggybacking Sync off iTunes. Palm, who has pioneered sync software for the original Palm Pilot is some fancy footwork into tricking iTunes into thinking the Pre is some sort of Apple device. Of course Apple doesn't like this and Palm and Apple have been playing a cat and mouse game of enabling and disabling the Pre syncing in iTunes. Who loses that game? You, the end-user.

How could you be so stupid, Palm? These mis-steps may very well be the end of Palm, since my feeling is that they bet the farm on the Pre. They got a few things right, but two very critical things wrong. I've loved many of their products and its sad to see the company mis-step so badly today.




Rupert Murdoch does not understand the internet -- that is good for us!

2009-08-06T14:09:15-08:00

Murdoch recently said that all of his web sites will soon be charging for access. In the era of free, charging people for news is a phenomenally bad idea. Especially when my beloved BBC News continues to be free!

But given that he sits on a bunch of biased media and is working to corrupt the previously unbiased media (read: WSJ), I have to applaud this move. If his empire that spews hate and disinformation is already starting to lose money, will people fork over money to get their propaganda?

Well, it appears that there is a group of people who clearly won't. Alternet says:

We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and cliches. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection.

The literate Americans are not likely to pay for their propaganda. Will the non-reality-based Americans pay and then forego something else or will they not pay and not get any news? That might be a step in the right direction, no?

In any case, I'm glad that Murdoch's empire is feeling the squeeze -- now I can only hope that Colbert and Stewart are still doing well. Afterall they are the most trusted news anchors in this country... on a comedy channel. Oh how sad that is!




M$ finally feels the pinch

2009-07-24T12:10:53-08:00

I've been waiting for Microsoft to finally feel the pinch in its bottom line. Its taken about 10 years longer than I wanted, but the moment has finally come! Between declining computer sales, Linux and Google Apps each of M$'s cash cows are under attack.

But, make no mistake -- M$ still has boatloads of cash on hand and is still making money. But the writing is on the wall that unless they can make a real course correction soon, their continued thrashing is going to effectively sideline the company.

Personally I've been leading a M$ free life for nearly 10 years now, so their influence hasn't really affected me in a long time. I almost don't care anymore, except for the decade of my life that was made difficult by crappy M$ products. It will be good to finally see M$ knocked off its promiment position!

(And its funny that this news comes right during the Open Source conference. :-) )




California is bankrupt. There is an easy way to fix it!

2009-02-11T13:50:58-08:00

California is broke. Collapsing businesses are leaving a giant hole in the state budget -- ouch. Now, the Governator needs to cut up to 10k jobs in california as a result, and that won't really stem the losses. Then, to make matters worse, judges decided that jails are overcrowded and that up to 40% of inmates need to be released in the next few years.

Ugh. That looks dire! But wait, there is a perfect solution:

  1. Legalize Marijuana. Don't decriminalize -- legalize.
  2. Tax Marijuana. Everyone knows its the largest cash crop in California.
  3. Stop drug enforcement on Marijuana, divert funds from D.A.R.E and other useless state anti-drug campaigns to help close the budget gap.
  4. Release all prisoners who are incarcerated for victimless crime related to Marijuana.

I don't know if this would effectively close the budget gap completely, but it would get us to stop wasting money on enforcing a drug war that is failing, especially for a drug that poses no harm for society. It would ease overcrowded prisons! Once the finances in the state get better, divert money from anti-Marijuana policies towards drug rehabilitation and no-BS drug education. And, how would corporate America look at this? They would love it, since they had a totally new market of people: Stoners!

Can you imagine if we scrapped the DEA and poured all that money into our education system? That, I think, would be the smartest thing the US can do for preserving its own future. The time has come -- it no longer makes sense to propagate the nonsense that Marijuana presents any kind of danger to the citizens of the world.

Oh, and if the religious right opposes this? Easy -- ask them to finance the Drug War. "You pay, we'll keep fighting it -- please hand over a few billion dollars to cover the tab." Watch them shut up post haste!

I hope Obama can lead the way on this!




What if McCain wins? Welcome to the Independent Republic of California!

2008-11-02T17:04:46-08:00

While driving home from the bay area last weekend I was worrying about what would happen if McCain wins the election this coming tuesday. Then with one thought the entire situation turned on its head and all sorts of interesting things would come about. Big things.

I think that if McCain wins, the will be rioting in the blue states. That in turn will fuel more economic uncertainty. More business will close, more pointless bailouts will be arranged. And within a few months of McCain taking office one really scary/exciting thing will happen: The US Government will become insolvent.

No one will lend the US anymore money. Without being able to pay its bills the Federal Government will cease to function and likely cease to exist in its current form. The United States of America will cease to exist. Then each of the 50 states will have to make up their mind on what to do -- suddenly there will be one less superpower and 50 new smaller countries.

For rich blue states, this will be good. For California it will be really good! California has all it needs in order to stand on its own and if all the federal taxes that are now sent to DC stay in the state it may actually be close to solvent. Add in one simple thing like legalizing and taxing Marijuana and we'll certainly have enough money to survive. Maybe California will stand on its own, maybe it will form a new country with Oregon and Washington -- fine by me -- we share enough values to make a reasonable country.

However, there will be lots and lots of problems. Obviously this is going to be very painful in a lot of ways that we can anticipate. But there will be come serious issues facing the state that will need to be considered and considered quick. Top concern in my mind? Immigration!

Why? Consider the red states that take in more money than they pay to the Feds. By definition these states are not solvent and their already thin programs to take care of their own people will suffer even more. I would bet that many of these states would turn into poor third world nations, with famine and boatloads of crime. What do people do who are poor and see no way out? Many would consider moving to where things are better -- like California.

These poor nations would be standing side by side with Mexico. Illegal immigrants to California would no longer be predominantly latinos, but we would go back to having Oakie immigrants much like we did during the great depression. Except these people would not be citizens of California, but foreigners. And California would only be able to take so many immigrants before the country's social program would be overburdened.

Those are grim thoughts. But the red states voting with their religious beliefs would get the chance to create nations suited for religious people where people of their own ilk can live together, ban gay marriage and pray in school. Fine! I think these nations would then also learn some harsh lessons on how to survive. Economic prosperity cannot be created by praying! Many states would have to learn harsh lessons that would drastically change the make-up of these states. It would be really ugly, but fascinating to watch.

So, am I smoking crack or does this seem like a real possibility?




Obama hair!

2008-10-01T10:38:04-08:00

Last night Ariel and I spent the evening cutting my hair:

(image)

Even though I can't vote in this country I feel that this upcoming election is probably the most important election in recent history. To that end, I support Barack Obama and I promise to keep this hair properly dyed and tidy through the election.

Obama campaign: If you'd like to use my hair or have me somehow support the campaign, please contract me. I'm eager to help!

PS. I stopped by the Democratic headquarters here in SLO and asked: "If I shaved the Obama logo into my hair, would you give me a free Obama shirt?" All I got was a curt: "No!". Lovely.




Too little, too late from the music industry

2008-09-22T16:35:01-08:00

Lots of places on the net are talking about the new music delivery format that SanDisk is launching. They are planning on delivering music on SanDisk flash memory cards complete with liner notes and without DRM. They are evening going to include a USB dongle so that people who may not have a flash reader can easily read the card on their computers.

Pretty clever and finally a step in the right direction -- especially the no DRM and the inclusion of liner notes! The only real problem? Its at least 5 years too late. The Audio CD has been in decline in the last few years and last year it took a drastic turn for the worse -- so bad that quite a few labels are near bankruptcy. To me, this signals that traditional means of delivering content are dying. People are increasingly getting their media off the Net -- whether its from a place like iTunes, Amazon or BitTorrent. People have iPods that do not accept physical media, so why would anyone go back to the store to buy some media that they may have no other use for once they've copied the music off it?

Personally I think this is a step in the wrong direction. People area tending towards buying music online, complete with instant gratification. My old CD collection sits around collecting dust and I feel guilty about this -- so much money was spent on those CDs, but since I've ripped them all into my collection, what use do I have for them? Now someone is suggesting that I buy music only to have these flash cards laying around that I probably won't have any use for after I copy the music off them.

Clearly this is a ploy by SanDisk to sell more flash cards. But why throw money after something so idiotic? Did you folks fail to carry out some basic market research?




OSCON Blogging

2008-07-29T10:59:46-08:00

All of last week I was in Portland for the OSCON conference and Tim O'Reilly invited my to guest blog the conference on the O'Reilly Radar:

It was a nice change blogging on a high profile blog -- my blog posts had a much greater reach. Thanks Tim!




Thoughts on Copyright Registries

2008-06-17T15:30:35-08:00

The Creative Commons invited me to sit on the "Developers of digital copyright registries and similar animals" panel tomorrow at their Creative Commons Technology Summit. The CC is asking the question: Should we create a copyright registry so people can find CC licensed works? The summit tomorrow is designed to answer this question and I'd like to post some of my thoughts here. When I first got involved with the CC shortly before their launch, I applauded their intent to create a copyright registry. After all, what good is a license when you can't find the licensed works? Unfortunately the possible liability issues in operating such a registry (e.g. if someone fakes a CC dedication the CC could get sued) killed that idea. Now, six years later, I think the CC should not create a copyright registry. Live and learn -- my experience with MusicBrainz has taught me a few things that make me believe that the CC hosting their own copyright registry is not the best idea. One issue is with scope and attention -- operating a registry on the scale of MusicBrainz is a lot of work and costs a bit of money to host. Unless the CC can make this copyright registry sustain itself, it could be a significant money sink. More importantly, consider this: Findability == good metadata. Take Flickr for instance -- there are gazillions of pictures. Those pictures that have tags and descriptions can be found in a meaningful manner and those that don't can't be found. Of course there are tools that let computers analyze what the colors in an image are, but they can't really tell us that a picture contains a beach and seagulls. Content without metadata may as well not exist -- if you can't find it, its of no use to you. This, of course, is the crux of the problem. But creating good metadata systems that collect useful information is really hard. Most content creators cannot be bothered to properly provide metadata for their content. Just saying the word meta will cause most people to glaze over their eyes and wish they were doing something else. And forcing people to enter metadata is a perfect recipe for gathering crappy and useless metadata. How do you collect good metadata then? Get fans to collect and manicure the data! They're engaged in the works created by their favorite artists. If you can provide the fans with a value proposition that makes sense, they will go to great lengths to collect good metadata. MusicBrainz has a constantly improving metadatabase because fans can organize their music collection using tools driven by the music metadata. Fans manicure a little bit of data at a time and reap great benefits of a cleaned up music collection. This value proposition makes sense and when coupled with peer-review of the data, the data improves constantly. This process is quite challenging to establish -- its not about the data or software that collects the data -- its about the community of people who are working to manicure this data. Without the community you can do nothing but collect rubbish. MusicBrainz has restricted itself to one knowledge domain -- the CC aims to cover all types of works. Fostering communities to cover all aspects of knowledge would be much harder than covering only music. I think the CC should not create its own registry, but instead use existing databases and connector technologies like DBpedia. DBpedia has managed to connect a lot of databases already (including MusicBrainz). The CC should identify/create/extend standards, protocols and best practices for creating, operating or augmenting existing projects to include the aspects of copyright registration it would like to see supported. I believe this would be the best use of the CC's efforts, since: It leverages existing projects/databases Pushes the bulk of the work onto other projects Many disparate data sour[...]



Proof that media company's lobbying efforts have gone too far

2008-05-28T13:43:35-08:00

The Canadians are thinking of taking the trend of border patrol insanity one step further. As if the security theater isn't enough to make people shy away from traveling, the normally level headed Canadians want to have border agents check your iPod for illegal content!

WHAT?? Seriously, they are proposing to inspect people's iPods for infringing content. I keep checking the date, but sadly its not April 1. I can't begin to fathom the problems associated with this:

  • Massive travel delays -- How long is a border agent going to spend inspecting someone's 160GB iPod with 40k songs on it?
  • Different countries -- What if you and your iPod come from a country where you can legally copy music off the internet and into your iPod? Isn't that/wasn't that legal in Canada?? Are border agents supposed to be in tune with all the IP laws from all of the countries?
  • Border agents are unsuited for this task -- How the hell are you going to train the bonehead inspectors to even have passing chance at doing this job right? The things they are asking of border agents require not only technical knowledge (imagine the horror of these idiots having to use all sorts of music players, not just iPods!) but also IP knowledge form all around the world.
  • Invasion of privacy -- Well, privacy has been lost a long time ago.

This is the most asinine proposal I've ever heard. This proposal is not based in any sort of reality -- can you imagine the damage it will cause to Canada's tourism? And the amount of tax money spent to enforce this? The money spent on this program and the damages from this program would dwarf the entire media industry in Canada. Save a broken incumbent industry by lining their pockets with tax dollars -- very clever for the media companies. Too bad it has far reaching and serious implications for the whole country.

Media company lobbyists need to be shot. Plain and simple -- seriously, who thinks up this shit? I'm confident this proposal won't go anywhere, but its really embarrassing for Canada that this proposal ever made it into the public light.




Email troubles

2008-05-20T13:37:41-08:00

The heat wave in California over this past weekend fried the disks in my community mail server and I lost all the email from over the weekend. If you sent me mail over the weekend, (either to rob [fat] eorbit [dork] net or rob [fat] musicbrainz [dork] org) please re-send it so I can respond to it.

Sorry for the hassle and thanks for your understanding.




FDA: High fructose Corn Syrup is NOT natural!

2008-04-03T11:29:34-08:00

Finally the FDA has done one thing right: Foods that contain Corn Syrup cannot be labelled as "Natural":

Products containing high fructose corn syrup cannot be considered 'natural' and should not be labeled as such, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said.

The decision is likely to cause a massive stir in the food and beverage industry, where a discreet battle has been raging over the status of the controversial sweetener.

Awesome! Anyone even slightly concerned about eating "Naturally" should take note. I hope this will raise awareness to the fact that corn syrup has laced nearly all of the foods you can buy at a regular store. Now I can only hope that manufacturers return to more realistic ingredients like sugar and evaporated cane juice, and not delve deeper into creating another evil sweetener.




Collective licensing is good for music industry, bad for artists

2008-03-28T00:21:25-08:00

Now that Jim Griffin and Warner Brothers are pushing collective licensing, I feel compelled to re-state my feelings about collective licensing. Let's boil it down to this:

Collective licensing solves a tricky legal problem, but creates an uneven playing field for artists.

At first glance collective licensing seems like a perfect solution. You have ISP's take a little money from users and then give that money to the music industry. Then money should flow to the artists to compensate them for "lost sales" due to P2P traffic. The keyword here is should.

If you go and sue P2P downloaders and get money from them, that money should flow back to the artists, right? Well, that's not happening. The artists haven't received any money from the RIAA & Co -- remember the music industry is full of rat bastards.

But, lets give the "music industry" the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Now consider this uneven playing field:

Record label sources said corporate bosses are still deciding on how best to split the money. In determining the payout, they said not every artist is owed money and it must be calculated with regard to the level of copyright infringement for each artist.

Just how do you intend to measure the infringement to pay artists? Given that the recording industry has proven itself completely incompetent (intentionally or otherwise) I don't trust them to do this right. Figuring out who deserves what turns out to be a hard problem fraught with many perils, unless you simply put the music industry in charge.

From everything I've learned about the music industry, they relish opacity in their accounting. Labels commonly hide behind numbers in obscure contracts which prevents artists easily asserting their fair share. The artists lose this struggle because they have to fight for money tooth and nail (with lawyers and accountants, who cose $$$).

The labels would love to have a spout of money turned on and poured directly into their opaque accounting cash cow. Little if any money would ever come out and then only the big artists sucking up to their labels will see any cash. The rest gets squat.

This makes life for indies harder and harder -- unsigned artists get infringed on just like signed artists, yet with this system the indies would never see any cash. Collective licensing could put the big labels back on top with an ever firmer grip on the music industry -- it would have the cash to squash the edgy Internet labels and Music 2.0 companies. The quality of music would continue to go down and the prices would still be kept high.

Ugh. No thanks. Please let the free enterprise and our legal system figure out the best approach! I feel that we're getting close to striking a realistic balance between the needs of fans, artists and the labels.

Say no to collective licensing!




Working business models are a must!

2008-03-10T16:35:31-08:00

While lots of my friends from the valley scoff at my conservative "income has to match or exceed expenses" approach to running a non-profit, I'd like to think there is some basic sense in adhering to the laws of business.

Case in point Divx recently shut down Stage6:

So why are we shutting the service down? Well, the short answer is that the continued operation of Stage6 is a very expensive enterprise that requires an enormous amount of attention and resources that we are not in a position to continue to provide.

While filling a need or building a cool site on the net is fun, the laws on the Internet apply to everyone: Success is expensive! Building a cool site like Stage6 may fill a need on the net. But if you don't have the business model to support your service, success will kill it. This sounds totally counter-intuitive, but hosting tons of traffic on the net isn't cheap -- especially if you're serving tons of video! Its important to have income match your traffic -- if you cannot derive cash from traffic, you're going to die. Its really that simple.

Wikipedia is in the news again, for the same reason:

"Imagine if the other top 10 websites in the world, like Yahoo or Google, tried to run their budgets by asking for donations from 14-year olds," said Chad Horohoe, a 19-year-old college student in Richmond, Va., who was until recently a Wikipedia site administrator, one of the 1,500 or so people authorized to delete pages or block users from making changes to articles. "It isn't sustainable."

Sad, but very true. A few years ago I had hoped that donations could help artists/musicians/hackers etc, but I think I'm finally done with that notion. People aren't willing to open up their wallets enough to really make anything serious happen. Hosting a site with donations? Yes. Paying a paycheck: Not bloody likely.

Case in point: MetaBrainz took in 16.5% ($14,780.59) of total income in end-user donations in 2007. Our hosting expenses were 13.6% ($12,240). But paying out one meager salary (at about 1/3 of market value) was 44% ($39,500). Our donations were not even close to covering that cost.

The moral of the story: You need a business model that works. Especially so, if you're in the non-profit sector since the "sell out to Google" model doesn't work. So, Wikipedia, find a model to license your pages for commercial use -- do it now!

Call me if you want me to pop in sometime and share my thoughts with you. :)