theodp writes: Before iTunes, Netflix, MySpace, Facebook, and the Kindle, 17-year-old Shawn Fanning and 18-year-old Sean Parker gave the world Napster. And it very was very good. The Observer's Tom Lamont reports on VH1's soon-to-premiere Downloaded, a documentary that tells the story of the rise and fall of the file-sharing software that started the digital music revolution, and shares remembrances of how Napster rocked his world. 'I was 17,' writes Lamont, 'and the owner of an irregular music collection that numbered about 20 albums, most of them a real shame (OMC's How Bizarre, the Grease 2 soundtrack). One day I had unsupervised access to the family PC and, for reasons forgotten, an urge to hear the campy orchestral number from the film Austin Powers. I was a model Napster user: internet-equipped, impatient and mostly ignorant of the ethical and legal particulars of peer-to-peer file-sharing. I installed the software, searched Napster's vast list of MP3 files, and soon had Soul Bossa Nova plinking kilobyte by kilobyte on to my hard drive.' Sound familiar?
theodp writes: That his 28-year-old whip-smart, well-educated CS grad friend could be unaware of MacWrite and MacPaint took Dave Winer by surprise. 'They don't, for some reason,' notes Winer, 'study these [types of seminal] products in computer science. They fall between the cracks of "serious" study of algorithms and data structures, and user interface and user experience (which still is not much-studied, but at least is starting). This is more the history of software. Much like the history of film, or the history of rock and roll.' So, Dave asks, what early software was influential and worthy of a Software Hall of Fame?
theodp writes: Over at CNN, David Goldman opines that you need a touchscreen for Windows 8. 'The ability to touch, tap, swipe and pinch on Windows 8 computers is what makes the new operating system come to life,' Goldman writes. 'You can still use Windows 8 without a touchscreen, but that's kind of like tossing aside the remote, getting up, and repeatedly pushing buttons to change the channel on your TV.' Just 5% of Win 8 laptops sold through Dec. 15 had touchscreens. At $500 or so, the Asus VivoBook with its 11.6" screen is the cheapest touchscreen Win 8 laptop, which helps explain why many are settling for budget u-can't-touch-this Win 8 laptops until prices fall, which is expected to occur in mid-2013.
theodp writes: Apple iOS parents, reports GeekWire, can pick up the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas in app form for their kids this holiday season for 99 cents. The interactive storybook app is also available for Xmas gift-giving by Windows 8 parents, but they'll pay $4.99 for a version that lacks the features available in the $0.99 iOS version. Which raises some interesting questions: 1. As concerns are being raised over a new Digital Content Divide, is it cool to have owners of the cheapest computers pay 5x the price charged to the most elite consumers, especially for an inferior port of an existing app from the same vendor? 2. Why exactly does a port of an existing app have to be sold at a price which so vastly exceeds that of the original — is it mostly due to economies of scale, difficulties of cross-system app development, or pricing shenanigans?
theodp writes: The NYT's Steve Lohr reports that his has been the crossover year for Big Data — as a concept, term and marketing tool. Big Data has sprung from the confines of technology circles into the mainstream, even becoming grist for Dilbert satire ('Big Data lives in The Cloud. It knows what we do.'). At first, Jim Davis, CMO at analytics software vendor SAS, viewed Big Data as part of another cycle of industry phrasemaking. 'I scoffed at it initially,' Davis recalls, noting that SAS’s big corporate customers had been mining huge amounts of data for decades. But as the vague-but-catchy term for applying tools to vast troves of data beyond that captured in standard databases gained world-wide buzz and competitors like IBM pitched solutions for Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave, 'we had to hop on the bandwagon,' Davis said (SAS now has a VP of Big Data). Hey, never underestimate the power of a meme!
theodp writes: Back in the day, getting traction for a new programming language was next to impossible. First, one needed a textbook publishing deal. Then, one needed a critical mass of CS profs across the country to convince their departments that your language was worth teaching at the university level. And after that, one still needed a critical mass of students to agree it was worth spending their time and tuition to learn your language. Which probably meant that one needed a critical mass of corporations to agree they wanted their employees to use your language. It was a tall order that took years if one was lucky, and only some languages — FORTRAN, PL/I, C, Java, and Python come to mind — managed to succeed on all of these fronts. But that was then, this is now. Whip up some online materials, and you can kiss your textbook publishing worries goodbye. Manage to convince just one of the new Super Profs at Udacity or Coursera to teach your programming language, and they can reach 160,000 students with just one free, not-for-credit course. And even if the elite Profs turn up their nose at your creation, upstarts like Khan Academy or Code Academy can also deliver staggering numbers of students in a short time. In theory, widespread adoption of a new programming language could be achieved in weeks instead of years or decades, piquing employers' interest. So, could we be on the verge of a programming language renaissance? Or will the status quo somehow manage to triumph?
theodp writes: Bill Davidow is the real Silicon Valley deal. Commenting on how Silicon Valley has changed over the decades, Davidow is not impressed, dishing out harsh words for Facebook, Apple, Google, and others. 'When corporate leaders pursue wealth in the winner-take-all Internet environment,' concludes Davidow, 'companies dance on the edge of acceptable behavior. If they don't take it to the limit, a competitor will. That competitor will become the dominant supplier — one monopoly will replace another. And when you engage in these activities you get a different set of Valley values: the values of customer exploitation.'
theodp writes: When it comes to industry buzzwords, 2012 is shaping up to be the Year of Big Data. And to paraphrase the late Notorious B.I.G, writes Aberdeen's Mollie Lombardi, mo' data means mo' problems. In Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave, Teradata Chief Analytics Officer Bill Franks (aka Dr. Insight) offers execs and getting-up-to-speed techies a welcome look at what to do when Big Data opportunities knock. But in its effort to stay vendor-neutral, the book pretty much avoids name-dropping specific technologies. So, how about it — what specific open source or vendor software/hardware technology is your organization using to tame Big Data? Is anything working surprisingly better — or worse — than you originally thought it would?