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Android

Journal Journal: The $100 Android tablet

In the run up to Santa season I see dozens of 7-9" Android tablets in the retail market with Android 4.0, capacitive touch screen and decent performance. A lot of them now marked "sold out". I think it's amazing that so much technology can be made so cheaply in such a small package. This is awesome.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why I pirate

On 9 October 2012, the game XCOM: Enemy launched... launched in the US. Unknown to me, the EU launch date was to several days layer, 12 October 2012. Maybe. Yet, 9 October 2012, I received an SMS from Gamemania.nl a dutch gaming retailer chain, that my copy was ready to be picked up. So I left work early that day to arrive 17:54 in front of the store. Doors pulled almost shut, store had already closed and refused to serve me. Very well, I thought there are other stores in the world, so I bought it the next day at Free Record Shop in Amsterdam. Then when I came home, I tried to install. First I had to install steam, which crashed, crashed and crashed some more but finally I got it working and had to create an account. Then activate my email. Then I installed the game and was told it was not released. What? If the game was not released, what was I holding in my hand? Note the error message mentioned nothing about a region or what would be the release date. Just not released. By google came to my aid and I found that throughout Europe, the game was available for sale but not yet ready for install. I read this from angry users posts. Not a single forum had an official answer yet. Not yet and counting. Even the official release date was less then clear. But I know my Internet, if Steam, Dutch retailing, 2kgames/firaxis couldn't/wouldn't help me, maybe some pirates would? thepiratebay itself is of course famously blocked in holland but there plenty of mirrors around. So I checked and yes, full downloads were available in various flavours for a total cost of ZERO bucks! And if you had issues, then the supplies answered your question in minutes. Not like the hours, days and counting before getting a reply from people I had payed money too. Many a reply to a piracy story has had comments similar to my story, so what is so special about it? Nothing. Just that after years of downloading, I have with MMO's gotten used again to paying and I didn't have any issue with paying for this game, if it had worked. But I do have an issue with paying 50 euro's for a game that can't be played and that now that I have read the forums I have seen is filled with bugs. Bugs the official forums have no answers for but that are fixed on piracy forums. To repeat myself, for this game the people that wanted me to pay did:
  • Act as if my giving them money is a favor they are doing me and only when they feel like it, opening hours be damned.
  • Not reply in a timely manner (or at all) to complaints
  • Treat Europeans as second rate customers for no reason (what are they afraid of, that a world-wide release will overload the servers)
  • Break consumer laws by selling a product not fit for its purpose (a game that can't even be installed is obviously not a fit product)

Meanwhile, the pirates offer:

  • Early access
  • No charge
  • Free, fast useful support by computer experts.
  • Service available any day of the week at any hour.

Sometimes the anti-piracy people complain the content industry can't compete with free. But come ON! I had PAYED already and the companies just said "no". Meanwhile the group that doesn't want money, said "yes". This is like paying a hooker to have an headache while your wife is stuffing your wallet full of money and begging for sex. Something ain't right!

And this is why I pirate. Because how else can I send the signal that I am not a sheep who will just keep turning the other cheek? Sure, there are sheep who advocate just that, just wait 3 days, it is not the developers fault etc etc. FUCK THAT! Nothing is every anybodies fault and I as a consumer should just take it all and keep quiet.

NO! And that is my reason why I post about being a pirate. Because just downloading alone isn't enough. Consumer boycotts don't work, there are to many sheep drowning out the silent protest of people like me who just see no other option but to not pay to make it clear I expect more service for my cash.

Because I see no other option. Mails go unanwered, forum posts get ignored, I can get my money back from the store and the sales clerk don't care, not his problem. How can I HURT that manager who thought it was a good idea to do a staggered release, hurt that Steam admin who didn't just flip a switch to prevent customers getting angry. How can I even get the companies involved to acknowledge my existence?

I can't. But I can keep my money in my pocket. That doesn't solve anything but it is a lot more fun having impotent nerd rage with cash then without.

Anyone want a beer over the backs of game developers who haven't learned that if they want an income, they need to tell their managers to not upset their customers?

AMD

Journal Journal: Intel, AMD "Windows only" chips are about software patents 3

Both Intel and AMD came out last week with chips that are focused on "Windows 8 first" and don't even pretend to be openly documented or available to all. That both would so suddenly reverse course on being open was a surprise. There are good reasons why Microsoft needs advanced access to integrate their software with innovative new processor technologies, and why AMD and Intel might be persuaded to cooperate. Together they are defending the "Wintel PC" ecosystem against the world's largest corporation by market capitalization, Apple, who is engaging in "vertical integration" by designing software and processor and other platform technologies together in a way that optimally balances the tradeoffs between what hardware best does and software best does. That is powerful leverage. But for Intel and AMD - and you and I - this is a trap and the consequences of this solution are dire.

It's about software patents. By Microsoft convincing Intel and AMD to focus on Windows only for the launch of these new power technologies, to secretly work with Microsoft on development, Microsoft get a jump start on the software patents. While the hardware interface is obfuscated Microsoft has six months to a year to file for patents on every possible software use of the hardware interfaces they can think of to use it. You can bet they're churning out patents by the hundred as I type this on things anybody reading the plain specifications would find obvious but the patent office will not. Microsoft will own utterly all the software uses of this hardware innovation, and by extension prevent all progress it enables that Microsoft does not control. Because of the ridiculous way patents work, this hands Microsoft complete control not only of these innovations but the entire systems which use them, of which they compose only a miniscule part.

Then when the facilities are openly documented and the open systems come out that leverage these technologies: BAM! Software patent lawsuits out the wazoo, and the Windows monopoly is protected against competition and progress for another human generation - unless Intel and AMD are killed utterly. Much like Samsung makes the touchscreen and owns huge patents on the technology, and then Apple and Microsoft sue Samsung for making devices incorporating touchscreens because they patented software that interprets certain software implementations of swiping and tapping.

As an unintended consequence Intel and AMD -only- get to move forward if Windows moves forward since Microsoft has all the patents on using the technologies they invented. By selling Microsoft this advantage for whatever they got in return, they've mortgaged their future to a single vendor and lost their ability to compete in open systems against ARM and Android. They've sunk their own boat. They can expect that Microsoft will use that lever to best advantage against their "partners" Intel and AMD, as Microsoft never misses a trick in that regard.

Intel has announced that "future platforms" with their technology will be open to Linux. AMD has announced that "Hondo" is being retrofitted with Android. Unfortunately, it is already too late. They have been cooperating with Microsoft secretly for many months before these announcements. The first patent applications on the most obvious uses of this hard-won hardware innovation are almost certainly already filed, with more to follow.

Don't pay to make yourself a victim again. Avoid these chips and anything tainted with this technology. Make AMD and Intel start from scratch, open from the start, if they want your money. At least then the open software implementations have a fair shot at establishing free and open prior art before Microsoft's lawyers have a chance to file their stupid software patents. Only with open hardware with well-documented interfaces available from the start can progress move forward, and even then only if the people who want to do interesting useful stuff step up and publish at least one way to use it before somebody who wants to control it utterly and prevent others from using it can whip up their patent thicket applications and beat them to the patent office.

Censorship

Journal Journal: Slashdot has a tyrant 11

I adore /. for its purity of thought, its perfection of moderation that lets me see all the words writ by any who would write, even though most have little useful to say.

The egalitarianism of the moderation system is perfect in its design and execution. It's a beautiful thing. Some seven years I've read and subsumed every comment reading at -1, and learned quite more from the -1's than the +5's. Among other things I have the 2^8 days read in a row achievement, and that was just when I was logged in. You can be assured that if you've writ a comment on /. in the last seven years, it's likely I've read it. If you've been wondering if anybody bothered to read your work, rest easy.

Even though I've posted things when I was a drunk ass and would like to erase them, I appreciate that you can't take /. comments back or edit them once posted, and worked that to my advantage.

Today though, I have a different issue. Once upon a time at /. there was a particularly difficult user: twitter. Twitter's a guy. He's got issues, but he knows his shit and he's tapped into the tech vein that we crave.

/. is a good thing, but it has one thing I cannot in good conscience bear. Somebody on the /. staff has it in for the user "twitter", and unlimited modpoints such that even referencing the name "twitter" is proscribed. I'm not OK with that. twitter was an idiot sometimes, quite open about his sockpuppets, and gaming the /. system. He was also one of the most prolific posters of timely and interesting articles. Whether he was good or bad is irrelevant to me - that some moderator can transparently banish him so thoroughly that I dare not mention him for fear of being modded instantly from +5 to -1 just for mentioning him, is.

I'm an American, and this looks like prior restraint of speech to me.

I love me some /., but this is a game I won't play.

If /. can't bear the mention of twitter, maybe I should try Reddit. I hate the Redditor thing, but maybe it's better than a site that pretends to be purely open except that it can't bear "twitter". Reddit looks to me like a site more open to dissent than one that can't bear a twitter.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The +5 comments achievement 1

I'm really getting annoyed by the +5 comments achievement thing. A long time ago I hit 2 to the 7th +5 comments. I'm sure I've had 128 more since then. Why don't I have the 2 to the 8th achievement? Is there a cap?

The new user interface increased the difficulty level considerably, but I think I've earned that 2 to the 8th achievement and I want it NOW.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Congratulations Hemos 2

Hemos, a co-founder of slashdot.org started his new job on 8/15 as a program manager at Google. This according to his Twitter

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple tops the S&P

Today at the close of the market Apple became the largest publicly held corporation by market capitalization. At $337.17 billion Apple's market value came to more than the prior number 1, Exxon which closed the day valued at $330.7 billion. Apple has had an amazing run up in the last few years, growing over 320% in the last 32 months. Most attribute this to the strengths of new products the iPhone and iPad, which between them account for two thirds of the company's revenues.

User Journal

Journal Journal: R.I.P Foredecker 1

Foredecker, a longtime slashdot user passed away on July 23rd of Melanoma. We had many a rollicking argument, he and I - and it was a lot of fun. I'll miss him.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple's Market Cap is halfway to the top 1

Years ago I started posting about the incredible growth of Apple's Market capitalization. This spring they passed Microsoft in market capitalization to become the second highest publicly held US company by market capitalization, after Exxon Mobile. With the ebb and flow of various market issues they swelled to 15% more, and shrank to parity again, before charging ahead again with a vengeance.

Today Apple split the difference. Apple is as many dollars ahead of Microsoft as they are behind Exxon Mobile today. If the trend of the past few years continues then soon, perhaps as soon as next year, they will probably bridge the gap and become the largest.

User Journal

Journal Journal: MSFT is 90% of AAPL 2

Less than a month ago Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization. Market cap is a fairly artificial representation of the value of a company, easily swayed by sentiment and whatnot - however in capitalism a thing is worth what it will bring and on that day these two companies outstanding shares met parity. This was an astounding moment in history, because even ten years ago Apple was a thirtieth its size or less, and Microsoft was more than double its current size in market cap. To achieve this meeting it's of obvious necessity that the small one that grew did things most excellently well, and the big on that shrunk did things - let's be generous - somewhat less well. Less than a month later, today Apple's market cap reached 110% of Microsoft's.

It seems that in economics as well as physics, thing have mass. The larger a thing is and the more motion it has, the harder it is to stop. So it is with large companies that they seem to have a certain mass that makes them difficult to turn. When a company is clining toward much growth, like Apple is, it takes a major action to turn it from growth to decline. Microsoft took this turn once in January of 2000, about the time Steve Ballmer was made CEO. When a company is declining, it takes a major action to turn it toward growth, much as Apple did in 1996 when, coincidentally, Steve Jobs was acquired with NeXT. Absent a major action, companies tend to stay on their same course - within the scope of the economy at large.

Apple is in rapid ascent and Microsoft is level or declining slowly. This is true this past decade generally, and in relative terms between these two companies, literally. It's vector math. It should surprise nobody then that even though they met parity less than four weeks ago, today Apple's market capitalization exceeded Microsoft's by 10%. Yes, there were some fools claiming that Apple was in a bubble that would pop - at this point it's clear whose bubble popped, and it's not Apple's.

Most market analysts are re-raising their estimates for Apple for the third time this year on news that Apple - despite having enviable production ramp skills and capacity - can't make their products fast enough to meet an ever swelling demand for iPads and iPhones. Apple may be forced against their will (gasp!) to increase prices to slow down demand to meet production capacity growth before people start rioting at their stores. And the new products aren't stopping either - an "Apple TV" is on the way for fall release, each in-demand product has innovative enhanced products in the engineering pipeline. There are rumors - rumblings really - of something much, much more. Meanwhile their competition is standing around with their mouse in their hand wondering what happened - no real competitive products are announced that launch before the end of the year.

And then there's the applications. You see, these widgets are worthless to you unless they do what you want them to do. Apple has this covered with a rich suite of over 200,000 applications that are available in an application store that's embedded in each product. Just give them your credit card number once, and anything anyone ever thought of to make your widget do, it can do. You can even make it buy you more Apple products. You can buy nearly any song, movie or book you've ever heard of too. Someday maybe you'll buy a car with it. The competition? Flat-footed here as well.

Why is Apple growing while other PC vendors are stagnant? It's because Apple doesn't rely on Microsoft for permission for what to invent, and can extract margins through product differentiation. Mainstream PC vendors are dependant on pricing of Windows to maintain their profitability in a cutthroat market Microsoft invented, where the software is king and the platform is a generic low margin product - the manufacturing margin of which is completely less than the variability of the pricing of Windows. HP, Dell, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo and the rest could not risk being the most expensive product in that field and so had to sumbit to Microsoft's permission on what they could invent, or Microsoft would raise their licensing fees to where they could not compete. This is changing now - HP has bought Palm, Dell has Android slates of a kind. This isn't because Microsoft permits it, but only because these companies know now that to surrender to Apple without an answering product is the more certain course to death. For some of them, it's too late. The change is the important thing. Control once lost is difficult to regain. In driving it's easier to avoid a skid than to recover from one. Microsoft is clearly skidding.

The surprising thing is that analysts are re-iterating a "buy" recommendation for Microsoft, with lower estimates. Microsoft hasn't released an innovative new product that took the market by storm since, well, Windows XP in 2001. Every few years they move the buttons around in Office and produce a new skin for Windows, but except for total foul-ups like Vista there's been nothing new of note for a decade - certainly nothing newly profitable. They have however found numerous ways to dissipate their immense profits including their mobile phone efforts, gaming consoles, online services and search. Looking forward, there's nothing promising in the pipe. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Nil. W7 looks like another routine OS update that will continue to generate revenue. The new office? No. They released a forefunner to their new Windows Phone 7, the Kin. At last report that platform had moved a credible number of units over two months for a single girl scout selling cookies, not a global IT monstrosity partnered with the nation's largest wireless company. This doesn't bode well for their Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft, even as it's falling, continues to attempt to leverage every part of their once formidable dominance into every product. The Windows Phone must have Bing! It must have Silverlight apps and key into Office and Exchange. They don't get that the inevitable interconnectedness of every bit they makes is what's causing their products to be toxic. This is not a "buy", this is "do not want". The company hasn't given growth in over a decade, and it has no prospect to. It has no place in your retirement portfolio. Stuffing your cash in a mattress is a better deal.

I'm tired of this line. That this would happen has been obvious for years. If you can't be bothered check the weather you deserve to get wet. The climate changed. Get over it.

Cellphones

Journal Journal: Rumor: 500 Kin Phones 9

When Microsoft's Kin was released a month ago, it came with the usual sequence of tittilating leaks (project Pink), a swell of coverage leading to liveblogging of the release press conference, and an advertising blitz impressive in its scope. Since it's supposed to be a social phone of course it has numerous fansites including Facebook and Twitter. Of course there's a Wikipedia page where we learn that these phones aren't just a derivation of the SideKick, but a preview of the much anticipated Windows Phone 7:

"Both KIN and Windows Phone 7 share common OS components, software and services. We will seek to align around a single platform for both products as well as consistent hardware specifications."

Today there's a rumor circulating that Microsoft and Verizon have sold a total of 500 phones, of both models. It derives from a single unsourced rumor post on the Silicon Alley Insider blog on the Business Insider website. The news is going viral. Absurd as the idea is, Verizon doesn't give sales numbers and Microsoft is unlikely to comment. Support for the notion that the phone is doing poorly can be seen at Amazon, where the phones selling for $349.99 and $500 initally are now available for $0.01 and $29.99 respectively, and a month after general availability you can still be the first person to review the products.

Even Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNET is asking the question.

So I'll ask you: Did you buy this phone for yourself? Your kids? As a review item? As a gag gift? Have you ever seen one in the wild? What do you think this means for Windows Phone 7?

User Journal

Journal Journal: iPad (was NSFW, but now OK) 1

Edit: I'm cleaning up my /. profile so this is no longer NSFW. Edited portions are end marked [edited][/edited] and portions redacted because they might be offensive but lack editable content are marked [redacted /].

NSFW? Yeah, I'm going to use some rough language.

My first pair of iPads came today. Let me preface my journal article by saying I've not been a fan of Apple for 25 years, and I'm not now. I got my start in IT on Apples mostly, but I had moved on. Steve Jobs is an obsessive controlling ass bent on world domination, a control freak of the first order and those aspects aren't a huge draw for me. His platforms aren't going to be something I desire as an end result because most aspects of them spring from that evil part of his psyche where he must control what I do with them. I would vastly prefer an Android tablet that obeys me without reservation.

Moving on... They come to the dock and I have to fight to gain control of both of them. Not one person in the building isn't gathering 'round. "The iPads are here!" I had to tolerate a certain amount of fondling before I wrested control of them. Ultimately I had to remind folk they had work to do. These ones are mine because they're thin clients for a VDI solution I'm presenting so I get dibs. I'm sure the entire staff will have their own in time, starting with the sales folk.

They come out of the box remarkably basic: An iPad, a tiny box with a mini CD and booklet, one wall power to USB converter, and a USB to iPad charger converter cord. It came fully charged. I've unpacked Apple products before, so I know that this simplicity is a ruse. I power it on, identify myself and link to our wireless. Like that I'm on Google and Gmail and I'm already impressed. The gesture interface is impressively intuitive, more responsive than XP. The thing doesn't appear to have a "top". Whichever edge is uppermost is the top. That was disconcerting for all of fifteen seconds, and then I'm showing a coworker a website by flipping the thing out, and the screen auto-orients. Awesome. My favorite question, from an IT pro with 10 years experience: [hushed] "can I hold it?" It's a precious thing now, but they'll be flipping it onto the passenger seat on their way somewhere a year from now. Today they treat it with reverence because it's rare.

It came with a Citrix client, which admittedly was a bit of a pain to get registered with our restrictive environment. It would have been easier at home. Citrix gives me control of my many servers and desktops. Windows and its apps are a bit of a nuisance using this tech, but it works. It has 3G, but that's not registered yet so I have to deal with our restricted wireless networking.

I can't fiddle with the thing today though - I'm off to the client site where it's to be a VDI client. On the way in I should have covered it. We gathered many of an envious stare, my iPad and I. Today there was only one person it didn't inspire envy in - and he whipped out his own. "Let me show you which apps you need first. My daughter likes these ones."

What I learned: this thing is hot. Completely hot. It's the kind of hot that Armani and Gucci and Burger King would kill for. Shiny doesn't even begin to describe it. It's a geek magnet. It's a chick magnet. It's a people magnet. Having one is like being completely plated in gold. People don't just want to fondle it, people want to associate with you for being one of the special people who have one. I'm not prone to that type of attention seeking, but DAMN it felt good. I'm pretty nerdly but with this in my hand I'm notable, interesting and sexy. The damned thing doesn't have to even be TURNED ON.

Now we earn our NSFW rating: [edited]Oh my goodness[/edited]. This thing could be completely [redacted /] inert and it wouldn't matter. You could [edited]incubate[/edited] three chicks at a time by waving it in a crowd. I have no idea what the [redacted /] thing is capable of and I don't care. I need six more of them RIGHT [REDACTED /] NOW.

User Journal

Journal Journal: IDC thinks Microsoft can sell 30M phones in 2011

IDC, the same company that predicted an overwhelming start for Windows Vista [pdf], is predicting that Microsoft will Sell 30 million units of their phone OS next year. Originally taken to mean Windows Phone 7, Microsoft later issued a correction to state that the number reflected all of Windows Mobile OS including version 6.5 which is currently in the market. Actually, being laughed out of the market would be a better description.

Microsoft Windows mobile operating systems for smartphones market share is in free-fall having dropped from nearly 20% in the quarter ending October 2009 to 6.9% for the quarter ending March 2010. It's losing 50% of its share every six months and the rate is accelerating. At a flat rate that's 1.5% share in 1Q2011. Including the accelerating rate of decline gives somewhere south of 0.7%. Negligible. Fringe. 0.7% is in a projected 500M unit market is 3.5 million units which at $15 a pop doesn't even start to pay for the cost of development, let alone any marketing money. And that's if they launch an awesome product in 1Q2011, which seems unlikely. 3Q brings 1/3 of that and past then it's zeros all the way down.

Microsoft is having IDC float these ridiculous numbers so it can push phone vendors and carriers into line - into giving up control of their user experience, into giving Windows Phone 7 preference over competing solutions, into giving up margin to get share. The message is simple: "You dare not ignore the overwhelming market power of Microsoft. You dare not argue. It is useless to resist us." The truth could not be more clear, nor more different. Microsoft is not in charge here - they're not even relevant with a <7% share. By giving up control of the user experience the phone vendors give up the differentiation that is the value they can add - their work that makes their platforms special to them is the thing that turns their product from a generic commodity to an object of desire. By giving up their margins they gain nothing but the opportunity to lose even more money - which is not their goal. By playing along with this the network providers likewise give up everything that makes them special. The smart executive will tell his Microsoft weasel: "You told me that story a year ago. Come back when you have product." The dumb executive will swallow this hook, line and sinker and fire up the co-marketing scheme without proof of product so keep an eye out for stocks to short because dumb executives run their companies into the ground.

Meanwhile, as you're all well aware Microsoft Friday reorganized its entertainment division. It's not an accident this happened on the Friday leading into a US holiday weekend any more than the announcement that the BP "Top Kill" failure was. What you may not know is that this is part of an escalating sequence of reorganizations that started in Windows Mobile nearly two years ago - and it's the third or fourth of such. Each time the reorganization goes higher up the tree and now this iteration has CEO Steve Ballmer directly in charge. Obviously there would be no need for a top-level reorganization if the product were on track, so expect the schedule to slip past Christmas and into next year or alternatively for the product to suck so hard that the level of vacuum is scientifically interesting.

Next year is too late. Nothing less than a perfect product will do, and even that is probably not enough. Nobody's going to believe a Microsoft funded IDC report in the face of actual shipping products with huge margins - not anybody who wants to survive anyway. Mobile is different. Two years is forever in mobile. A year from now to start to try to gain traction on a new OS and find developers willing to take a risk on the the continuous delays is just impossible.

In short it's game over for Windows Mobile and not too long thereafter for Windows as well. You see, there are these tablets...

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