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Comment image capture (Score 1) 208

There's many things that Apple might not have invented, but did nonetheless popularize.

It was IBM who "popularized" the PC among the ranks of accountants and economists and statisticians and MBAs who never felt the magic of the cramped Apple II keyboard or the 40 column display with no lowercase letters. These dullards constituted a far larger market than Apple commanded until the distant dawn of gadget manna.

For the tablet, some company that loomed large in the public imagination needed to step up and offer legitimacy that this wasn't just a niche product doomed to forever remain a niche product, just as IBM did with the original PC—this while Xerox already had the bones of the Apple Lisa/Macintosh with mice and networking in an advanced state of development within their research lab.

Funny how the worm turns.

The entirely of the PC revolution was set in motion by a combination of Leibniz/Babbage and the invention of solid state semiconductors and would have unfolded much as it has without any of the companies we know today who muscled their way into the vanguard of brand recognition by some combination of skill and luck (far more luck than usually admitted in the retrospective hagiography).

Bell Labs' attorneys soon discovered Shockley's field effect principle had been anticipated and devices based on it patented in 1930 by Julius Lilienfeld, who filed his MESFET-like patent in Canada on October 22, 1925.

Fifty years later, we arrive at Apple's founding moment:

The MOS Technology 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor that was designed by Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch for MOS Technology in 1975. When it was introduced, the 6502 was by a considerable margin, the least expensive full-featured microprocessor on the market, selling for less than one-sixth the cost of competing designs from larger companies, such as Motorola and Intel.

Innovation is a fifty-lap relay race around a marathon track. I'd also give props to Colossus, System/360 (mainframe), the Unix philosophy, and the massive scale of Google's data center search appliance (cloudframe). Apple never made it into this league.

Throughout this period the Colossus remained secret, long after any of its technical details were of any importance. This was due to the UK's intelligence agencies use of Enigma-like machines which they promoted and sold to other governments, and then broke the codes using a variety of methods. Had the knowledge of the codebreaking machines been widely known, no one would have accepted these machines; rather, they would have developed their own methods for encryption, methods that the UK services might not have been able to break.

The scope of PRISM is a big surprise? To anyone? Really?

It's pretty obvious with Coke that cultivating their global brand was their core innovation. This is less obvious with Apple, but closer to the mark than most suppose.

How Amazon Followed Google Into the World of Secret Servers

Pinkham was struck by how different the machines looked â" and how hot they were. Even then, Google was running its website on dirt-cheap, stripped-down servers slotted into extremely tight spaces. They didnâ(TM)t even have plastic cases.

This was at least as central to Google's business model as their brand-building Page Rank algorithm. And it requires building a robust data-center OS.

If I had to name one thing that Apple innovated outside of brand/fit-and-finish (and gleanings from NeXT) while doing the lion's share of the work themselves, it would be this:

The combination of the LaserWriter, PostScript, PageMaker and the Mac's GUI and built-in AppleTalk networking would ultimately transform the landscape of computer desktop publishing.

For me the iPhone is a story of execution, balls, and charisma. I regard the LaserWriter as more innovative in its separation from competing products than the iPhone, for all its sleekness. Spending $150 million to create the iPhone should buy you some kick-ass industrial design. A little more than that buys you Titanic, Avatar or John Carter. Kudos to Apple that the end result of their big, scary investment was more like Titanic and less like John Carter. Kudos that it was the right product at the right time. Still, it's spit and polish innovation, lacking technical depth.

For innovation on steroids, take a look at $1,000 genome:

Human Genome Project 1990-2003: $2.7 billion
Full genome 2007: $1 million
Full genome circa 2015: $1000

One fresh-faced combatant, Genia, has recently received a large grant, and issued a press release proposing commercial introduction at the end of 2014. Here's an older article describing the seriously impressive shit they are slinging together:
Geniaâ(TM)s Nanopore/Microchip Technology Gains Life Technologiesâ(TM) Support

Maybe they do, maybe they don't make this work. That's another clue that real innovation has a pizza baking in the Tokamak pizza oven. For the antipode, consider how Slashcode handles simple Unicode code points.

Comment Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (Score 0) 319

I dare anyone, especially after mr. Snowden's revelations, to contradict mr. Stallman's points.

Snowden's unprecedented disclosed of hard evidence from the inside was in no way revelatory to those of us who have followed the NSA story since The Puzzle Palace. Stallman's tiresome drone about the collectivisation of digital works as an inalienable freedom has been equally predictable for just as long. Here's the problem. RMS's political philosophy has all the subtlety of Benito Mussolini.

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

Let me rephrase RMS:

Everything within freedom, nothing outside freedom, nothing against freedom.

Did I miss anything? For some reason I persist in the view that the good society is far less polar in its optimal constitution. That's all I'm going to give you for a dare offered up (how generous of you) a decade after this debate widely circulated, and two full decades after the broad outlines were firmly in place.

Comment Re:Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra (Score 1) 115

Once again, Star Trek is ahead of the curve.

If you don't count noticing that the gear cogs of the antikythera could be made ever smaller and smaller by ongoing advances in Swiss craftsmen 1600 years later, then Star Trek was indeed ahead of its time in guessing that a large phone might become a small phone with batteries (the Baghdad Battery dates to roughly the same age as the antikythera) and a radio (1887) carried by some exotic flux such as neutrinos (as named by Fermi in 1933).

Comment Re:Lunar clocks? (Score 2) 91

On a sidenote, imagine the horror if all women of the world would have their period exactly synchronized!

From what I've been reading lately—in recent books—about half of the crabbiness is due to women not eating enough to compensate for their increased metabolic rate during their periods. Men also get crabby when we don't eat enough to replenish our willpower reserves. It takes willpower to make the generous response rather than the first lizard response that enters our brain.

Comment Dessica, New Mexico (Score 1) 385

What exactly defines a "good place to build"? If you define it as somewhere with low flooding risk, low earthquake risk, low hurricane risk, etc., there are lots of places in the middle of the U.S. that fit that standard.

Most of those places no longer exist. They blew away back in the 1930s, or had their milkshake sucked out by Homo Hoover.

Certain aquifer zones in the High Plains Aquifer System are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.

So your property is cheap to insure, but your futures contract on bottled water breaks the bank. Nice solution.

Comment genius knackered (Score 1, Interesting) 46

It's been so long since Google moved the bar on search in a substantive way, I've begun to wonder if they still hold true to their original vision. It was something about indexing and knowledge.

Does it take a miraculous growth spurt of Wolfram Alpha to remind Google that innovation is still possible, fifteen years later? No matter if you burst onto the world stage shaming Picasso, any corporation that sits on its hands long enough eventually becomes part of the problem.

For a while Google was so good one almost believed their principal technology was a time machine. Lately I'm beginning to wonder if the time machine has its dial permanently welded at 2010.

Comment Re:Don't think so (Score 1) 631

All Shuttleworth had to do was to put some logic into the "upgrade" box that warned people away from Unity whose present system configuration indicated that Unity couldn't possibly amount to a preferred experience at that stage of Unity's evolution—if ever.

Timing the introduction of Unity around an LTS on the old Gnome with an extra year of support would have gone a long ways to keeping some of us old farts in the fold while the new world order shook itself out.

No, the flow of traffic changed from driving on the right to driving on the left without so much as a single advance sign, or a well-marked alternate route driving on the accustomed side of the road. Also changed were the width of the lanes, clearance height on the underpasses, and the legality of making a left turn at a red light (which used to be a right turn), with no posted warnings.

Those of us driving larger loads were blind-sided and left to fend elsewhere, as fast as our little feet could take us there on short notice.

Comment Re:The old days (Score 1) 259

their methodology results in a pretty pricey setup

You're being pedantic in a way that's annoying and counterproductive, unless you're the kind of person who wallet thickens on discovering the following tidbit:

Audioquest Everest are the most expensive speaker cables in the world at over $21000 for 3m.

Oh come on. This does not properly belong in the category of "speaker cables". If it did, "taking a step back" would land you this:

Pear Cable Corporation's ANJOU Speaker Cable, a 12 foot length of which retails for $7,250

These aren't products, they are honeypots of rarefied nonsense. Navy Investigating Bills For $660 Ashtrays, $400 Wrenches:

The Navy is investigating bills from Grumman Aerospace Corp. to determine why it was charged $660 each for two aircraft ashtrays and $400 each for two socket wrenches.

The costs of the parts, manufactured by Grumman, were revealed during an inspection this month, said Cmdr. Tom Jurkowsky, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Naval Air Force.

Burch said the Navy officers who authorized the purchases would be disciplined and possibly dismissed.

First cross off anything that will get you disciplined or possibly dismissed, then take a step back toward the sane center. Is that so hard?

I don't build as many boxes as I once did, but it only takes a couple of hours a year to stay current if you know how to parse the tea leaves, and you pick a up quick booster shot from Ars Technica System Guide: July 2013.

When I've purchased bundled systems, I usually discover surprising limitations and short-cuts down the road unless one pays the insurance premium of buying twice the box you really needed.

Apple has a tiny product line, so at least with Apple any warts are soon well known, until the day comes that they change the software underneath you and deprive you of features you had come to depend upon, with little warning and no public rationale. Welcome to an ecosystem with benefits you can't refuse.

The Almighty Buck

Facebook Autofill Wants To Store Users' Credit Card Info 123

cagraham writes "Facebook has teamed up with payment processors PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe, in an attempt to simplify mobile payments. The system allows Facebook members (who have turned over their credit and billing info) to click a 'Autofill with Facebook' button when checking-out on a mobile app. Facebook will then verify the details, and securely transfer a user's info over to the payment processing company. The move is likely aimed at gathering more data on user behavior, which can be used to increase the prices Facebook charges for mobile ads. Whether or not the feature takes off however, will depend almost entirely on how willing users are to trust Facebook with their credit card data."

Comment the social graph colours all nodes (Score 3, Informative) 191

Traffic analysis is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and stored, the more can be inferred from the traffic.

The primary filter has always been traffic analysis. It constructs the social graph. I've heard that's worth something. An otherwise valueless company seems to trade on it.

Traffic analysis is what one can do effectively on a perversive scale. It puts the "focus" into focused intelligence, which would otherwise amount to extracting needles from haystacks concerning the detection of novel threats. Indeed, often the forest is worth more than the trees. The bits of business of an individual life are often less easy to read than a person's extended social footprint.

Fu..hrermore, in an electronic society where six degrees of separation is an overestimate by half, is there anyone in the population less secluded than a junior wife in a Mormon splinter town who couldn't be painted as a threat for having crossed digital paths with at least three shady characters over three decades of normal living?

The social graph colours all nodes. Does anyone think that members of the judicial oversight committee are required to bone up on Turing's use of log probability to establish meaningful discrimination thresholds?

Consider the four principal categories of metadata:
* who
* what
* when
* where

Looks harmless to me. What goes under "why"? Anything their little minds decide to write down.

Who: public school teacher
What: google search for "pressure cooker"
When: yesterday
What: google search for "backpack"
When: day before yesterday
Where: domestic residence, Springfield

Yet again, the metadata paints a compelling picture: moral turpitude. What could be more obvious among a law enforcement community prone to the syllogism that "I don't like the look on your face" equates to "disturbing the peace".

Checks and balances? Guess what? Metadata signs all cheques.

Comment Citizen GTA (Score 1) 396

It was delayed a year and performed like shit on PC when it was released. GTA was originally a PC game and they have been treating PC as a second class revenue stream lately.


The gaming industry has sensation seekers over a barrel. You're only satisfied with the latest and greatest, and you probably value being there and part of the crowd when it happens.

The primacy of first class revenue streams is not going to change until movies earn more revenue not on the opening weekend, but the weekend after—supposing it doesn't suck.

The new shiny! Ready, set, go ...

That group experience is what they are really selling here.

GTA was originally a PC game

I imagine you originally fed yourself by sucking on your mother's tit. What changed your mind?

Comment Re:Well, obviously (Score 2) 285

This would be no guarantee of security at all, since it would mean that the email service has everyone's keys and can decrypt everyone's email.

FTFY. The game theory matrices are completely different for capabilities routinely exploited or just held in reserve.

Such an approach would shift the risk profile from ad hoc to systemic. The major surveillance powers actually do manage not to blab everything they intercept onto public networks, which is is not guaranteed with ad hoc interception. There's that word again.

I really wish we took more of a belt and suspenders approach and encouraged encryption at multiple levels. That will never happen if we continue this business of casually equating insufficiency with irrelevance. Wouldn't it be nice if clear text didn't flood onto public wires at the first transient misconfiguration of the The One Armoured Pipe To Rule Them All?

Comment Re:OpenZFS related to ZFS on FreeBSD (Score 1) 297

What you seem to mean is that it will change hardly anything from the perspective of the people already supporting or enhancing ZFS.

One would hope that this nice umbrella will evolve into a single point of access to learn about the major initiatives planned or in progress. Sometimes these things turn into just another layer of non-information.

Especially if existing developers perceive the addition as not amounting to change.

Comment comedy of the hyper-competent (Score 2) 491

but I doubt there will be a perfect automatic speech translation in place that can immediately translate

No, not immediately, unless you count five minutes later and semi-automated as close enough. Man, do you ever underestimate the scope and resources of the surveillance-industrial society.

Not only do they have human ears for every language of the world on tap, but probably also strange fish who speak seven different conlangs, some of whom can place your Klingon dialect to America, central Europe, or Japan. These are the kinds of seriously strange people who inhabit comic book shops.

How quickly your call percolates through this system depends on precisely what shit list you're on. It's nothing more than a routing problem. At the highest level of alert, I would guess an unintelligible fragment is dispatched within fifteen minutes to enough desks to cover 99% of the world's spoken languages. And if that verdict isn't clear, another 30 minutes later they've covered Basque, Sindarin, Klingon, proto-Semitic, Esperanto, and Hungarian pig Latin. Obviously they can't route more than a tiny fraction of what they capture through the cauliflower-ears switchboard. Nevertheless, what gets expedited doesn't stand a chance unless so peculiar that it's permanently archived in the bootstrap corpus of automatic speech decoding. You better hope your off-the-cuff adaptations are incalculably different from your unknown soul-mate of cute obscurity who vanished from the planet five years prior.

At this stage in the process, they don't actually care if you're a terrorist. They care if you cast a large enough footprint of capabilities, connections, and motives to engage in terrorist activities, should you choose to take that path at the next spur-of-the-moment major life setback.

PhD in mathematics or synthetic chemistry? Strike one. Fluent in Farsi? Strike two? Too much money, or too little money? Strike three. Scuba license? Strike four. Longtime Tor user? Strike five. Loss of child custody? Strike six. Attend a Unitarian church? Strike seven. Caught exchanging short messages with another code orange individual, couched in a street slang that not even Henry Higgins crossed with a wind-talking Kimball O'Hara can decipher? Strike fifty-five. Congratulations, you've just a scored yourself a priority routing code on the cauliflower nexus for everything they ever capture that comes out of your mouth, which will be plenty, because you've earned a gold star for that, too.

The exact bumps and gradations within this filter-feeding behemoth have been refined with methodical vigour since about 1940, incorporating in their regression database everything that ever slipped through their fingers, where in retrospect the clue dawned either a little bit or a lot too late. There are small pockets of competence ensconced in these hidebound, dysfunctional organizations that would render Danny Hillis or Craig Venter the dumbest man in the room—or at least put enough fright on them to seriously consider the matter for the first time in their lives (perhaps excluding Danny's private lunches with Richard Feynman, or Craig's lunches near a reflective surface).

For the people who built this system, the Manhattan project was a one-shot dry run. Of course, any program on this scale that runs for sixty years with have more than the normal share of dysfunction, especially at the intake maw concerning the enormous flow of public funds, where the proud bow to the vain. My oh my, that can't be a fun place.

I bet the NSA has some seriously interesting psychological criteria concerning the men who ultimately take on these roles (the highest level of career functionary reporting to anointed bozos). That's one file the bozos will rarely see. The NSA probably has some internal Masonic order to guard over exactly this.

Make no mistake, though, it's a comedy of the hyper-competent.

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