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Comment David's Amazing BBS from the 1990s (Score 1) 245

My first BBSs were single line and used my own software written in Basic and then Turbo Pascal. I loved to be original and people enjoyed my software, even when it wasn't as reliable as it should have been. Back in the day, if your software crashed, your BBS would be down until you got home ...

I eventually bought someone's failed BBS project through The Recycler, yesteryear's equivalent of Craigslist. It had a six-line serial adapter and Microport Unix. I never liked Microport but it did work, after a fashion, and my six lines were quickly humming. Unfortunately, as we say in the Internet world, the revenue model was never what it should have been, although I remember being thrilled when my first subscriber check – $60 for an entire year! – came in, from one of my favorite users. I wanted to be a general purpose home for eccentrics, with both dating and discussion parts equally balanced. I have never had a more successful social life before or since. We would have roughly monthly meetings at various local venues, and a pretty substantial number of people would turn out. It was relatively easy making a geographically based community, because most people lived nearby thanks to free local calls and pricey "local long distance" ones.

There were a couple of bad apples, who trolled like crazy, but it was definitely a fun environment, and my six lines were always busy. I had the first three lines for the paying users, two for non-payers and one for administration. I set up a "holding tank" for new users and those who had been troublesome, which was a forerunner of today's ultra-complex moderation systems. It didn't work all that great since I have never been a big censorship supporter.

I still remember the one user who loved Werner Erhard's The Forum and kept posting about it, even though people were totally sick of the topic from minute one. I eventually set up the typo corrector (which changed "teh" to "the" and other similar conveniences) to change Forum to Murof. Made him mad as a hatter, but all in good fun.

Even though the system vanished due to a failing disk drive in the 1990s I still have fond memories of it. And I still have friends who are former users. Wish I'd kept a copy of the software. It did some pretty cool things. For instance, the dating questionnaire let you answer questions in your own words if one of the prepared answers didn't work for you.

What I really find sad about today's environment is that we are no longer open to much unique, different or eccentric. I tried creating a social network of my own, but I wasn't able to get anyone excited about it. It was unique, and different, and just not what people wanted. The world wanted the uniformity and impersonality of Facebook, not the informality and homey atmosphere I wanted to provide. The big city, not the small town.

Nowadays I'm a photographer instead of a programmer, with almost 2000 friends on Facebook. So you can teach an old dog new tricks. And honestly, I'm glad my photographs never crash.

Comment Re:Maybe, but risks offending high paying customer (Score 1) 318

Why would Comcast mess you over more than AT&T DSL/Landline?

Down here in South Florida, Comcast is 10x faster than AT&T at about the same price, and they have always billed me honestly. AT&T, by contrast, has added huge, incomprehensible fees to their bills, making $50 or so in announced charges turn into $80.


Comment Re:Yeah... (Score 1) 589

Try the Leaf, which is $26k after the credit - that's about the same as a VW Golf Diesel, and is much cheaper to run if you don't drive long distances.

Admittedly I'm not sure how non-rich people are going to come up with the $7.5k to pay in advance for the full price, even if they get a tax refund a year or so later. In that sense, the rich or at least upper middle class are the only people likely to afford it.

That being said it's a lot cheaper than the Tesla Roadster, and definitely worth considering if you want to drive an interesting car without spending a lot.


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

In the market for cars, there is no equivalent to software that yanks the wheel out of your hands and changes course on its own free will. It should be very easy to use computers; all you need to do is follow the instructions on the screen. As long as you follow those instructions, you should not get into trouble.

Malware completely breaks that trust and has no connection with someone going into a car with no driver training, or driving like a madman.

Having an "expert button" might be a reasonable idea. But remember, for every Slashdot user, or person who basically believes in the Slashdot philosophy, there are at least 100 ordinary users.

It's interesting that Apple does not appear to be actively trying to prevent people from jailbreaking their iPads or iPod Touches. Apple has some obligations concerning the iPhone and its interoperability with telephone networks that make jailbreaking genuinely probematic to them.

I seem to remember iPad was jailbroken using a fairly straightforward and well known exploit; if Apple had wanted to prevent it, they could have.

Just some food for thought there ...


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

The balanced perspective is between the worlds of freedom (being able to install any application I want) and Jobsian Tyranny (being able to install only what Steve approves).

Both philosophies serve their respective devices well, which is my point.

I am glad Windows has served you well.


Comment Re:Important services unaffected (Score 1) 36

So I was saying, "Gee, this is sad, iPad gets almost 1,000 comments about its closed nature and the Palm Pre can only muster 28 about the outage?"

It was worse than that. Looks like most of them are about lousy iPhone coverage!

So I should chime in. To keep this on topic, I can say that my Palm Pre's Sprint coverage didn't work at all where I live, and if I wasn't using it as a development device, I would have taken it back.

My iPhone works fine in the Pittsburgh area. It drops calls almost identically to Verizon phones in the same area. Sometimes it's actually a little better, other times it's a little worse. Pittsburgh is very hilly - its topography is similar to the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles - so truly excellent cellphone service is probably not feasible. But Verizon and AT&T are both about equally mediocre, with Sprint way behind. (I haven't tried T-Mobile in a while so I will ignore them.)

I think the real problem with iPhone is that AT&T didn't realize how geographically concentrated iPhone use was going to be, and did not plan accordingly. Last year, the AT&T network failed at South by Southwest in Austin due to the huge concentration of iPhones suddenly descending on the place. This year, no problem at all, because AT&T beefed up their network and things worked fine.

Now I wonder why on earth they couldn't do that for the Bay Area, since by now they know what they need.

So if you are in a random place in the USA, instead of NYC, the Bay Area or other hotbeds of iPhone use, your AT&T service is probably fine, as mine is.


Comment Re:haha (Score 2, Interesting) 1067

Apple's App Store has sold billions of dollars worth of apps, and has millions of happy customers. By any reasonable criteria it has achieved greatness.

As for iPad, yes, I think it's the best thing out there for the purpose it serves. It's a portable device to browse the web, and it lets me use over 5,000 programs designed exclusively for it, almost all of which are interesting, fun to use and available at very fair prices. Not to mention almost 200,000 iPhone apps.

Have you tried one?

What device would you consider better for that purpose?


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

Of course Apple is anticipating this with iPhone OS, which doesn't allow unsigned software to run at all. You really should be completely impervious to attacks as long as you stick to the closed world of iPhone/iPad, which makes life a lot easier for everyone save virus writers.

That's the real dilemma created by advocates of software freedom. A closed system has genuine advantages and that's what scares many of them. The fact is that a non-free system is actually better for most users.

I'm not saying I like that fact, or that it's a good thing, but unfortunately it is still a fact.


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

Of course he is a little stuck if you do in fact lose the installation disks, as many of us absent-minded folks do.

I think you can just use the normal Unix passwd command to change the password in single user mode.

Or simply buy a copy of Snow Leopard, since they are available everywhere for $29.95, boot the system and change the password as you outlined.

It would be comparable in difficulty, or maybe even harder to do the same thing on Windows or Linux, so I'm not sure where this particular example gets us.


Comment Re:That Super Car already exists (Score 2, Insightful) 1067

That last paragraph is exactly why Apple devices are locked down. You can't mess up your iPhone or iPad unless you deliberately set out to do so.

It's a good deal for a lot of people. Admittedly, almost none of then are Slashdotters. In my case I have both an iMac and an iPad and love both of them for what they do.


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

Should someone who is not an expert have to know and do all those things just to have a car?

Time has value. The more time you spend fixing things, the less time you have for being creative, or spending time with your girlfriend, or whatever.

You have the freedom to do those things, but sometimes the freedom from having to do them is more important.


Comment Re:haha (Score 2, Informative) 1067

It was a genuine virus that propagated via Bluetooth and MMS. The phone was a Nokia 6600, a device so confusing it took me forever to figure out how to run the web browser. I remember it was an odd sliver of an unmarked button that did it.

The virus spewed advertisements for some sexual web site and was a big embarrassment to my friend, who was a middle-aged female. It was all pretty funny until she got the bill.


Comment Re:haha (Score 1) 1067

Of course a Macintosh is no more locked down than a Windows or Linux computer, so there is no issue if we're sticking with computers. My primary computer is a Mac, and i run a ton of open source software on it. The great appeal of it compared to Linux is that I can also run top-grade commercial software like Final Cut Pro, Xcode, etc. In short, it is the best of both software worlds on one computer.

A few years ago, I encountered an extremely destructive cellphone virus that was spewing MMS messages out of a friend's phone until I found the eradication tool. Cost my friend a lot of money. Since that happened I have gotten a lot more sympathetic to advocates of closed systems, at least for cellphones and related products.

Of course the iPad I'm typing this on is not a cellphone, but leverages the development of a cellphone OS. So it theoretically could be open but isn't. Still, there are amazing things in the app store, and developers and customers alike seem pretty happy with the truly remarkable burst of creativity that has come with these devices. Maybe a closed platform isn't so bad ... Have you seen the music apps for this thing? Amazing.


Comment Re:haha (Score 4, Insightful) 1067

I feel your pain, I really do.

But what if your old car would go to random places all of a sudden and crash into brick walls at random times? And when you went out to browse your porn half the time your car would get a flat tire while you were out there and a bunch of punks would beat it up and you'd spend hours and hours getting it to work halfway decently.

So Steve Jobs glides up in his gleaming white Gulfstream V jet and says, "Hey, I have a cool car that drives better than anything on the planet. We make sure you can drive on this excellent network of safe roads, and leave the potholed, poorly made old style ones behind. You know, I'm sorry, but not only did those maintenance guys do a lousy job, they had no taste."

So you take a look at his roads and sure enough, everything is gleaming and works and there are no strange brick walls to be found, anywhere. But ... there is something missing ... something important!

"Where's the porn?" you ask. "And how about Rush Limbaugh and National Review?"

"Oh, the porn hurts the kids, and National Review makes fun of our sacred cow Obama(tm), You know, we are all Democrats here, even if we don't quite admit it," he says. "Don't worry, though, you can use Safari to browse any web site you want."

"And you know what, we know you want to look at porn and we're a big company and can't approve of that garbage. But all you need to do is run Safari or the movie player and you can find that junk you want, just not on our shiny roads. So you go a little out of your way for it, but your experience is still safe and when you're back you will be assured that your car will still work, instead of get banged up."

And isn't that funny, that might just be better for porn, actually, because you are always safe. How many native porn apps do you have on your computer? I would bet, none. How many porn web sites do you visit? If you are concerned with this issue, probably quite a few. The point is, the makers of porn are not stupid, and they will bring you what you want.

The App Store does have some downright sad speech restrictions. My Obama IQ game, for instance, was not approved until after the 2008 elections were safely passed. Pretty pathetic, no? Not that one anti-Obama game was ever going to tip an election one way or the other, but the sales would have been nice to get.

Complete freedom of speech is preserved on the Internet. The App Store is not a vehicle for free political or sexual expression, and to me, that's OK. As long as you can browse the web, you are free.

Some people who argue against Apple just don't realize how horrible a task it is to eradicate a piece of spyware from a Windows computer. I used to work in IT and my experiences in trying to devirus a computer were just plain horrible and pathetic. Fortunately I've been an almost exclusively Apple user for many years and since I started being one, my computing experience has become far better and smoother and more fun.

So I have a balanced perspective. Would it be nice if the new iPad was totally free? Sure.

But isn't the App Store a great invention, something that helps even small developers like me make a few bucks?

In the past couple of years I have bought far more App Store applications than Mac applications, and most of my Mac applications were made by, guess who, Apple. App Store applications are cheap, and they are easy to buy and use, and a lot of fun. And most of my App Store applications are from small developers, not Apple. So if you are looking at which business model serves the small developer, it might just be Apple's.

This is not a perfect world. It's a tragedy that evil people deliberately set out to ruin other peoples' computers in pursuit of a few bucks. But they do, and the iPhone software model stops them cold. If you're sick of having to be paranoid about evil people running your computer, you might prefer if it was run by Steve Jobs, as opposed to running it yourself.

That's a trade a lot of people want to make, and I'm sorry, I really can't blame them.


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