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Doctorow: Rivalry Keeps Google From Doing Evil

The Conductor Re:Good or Evil ... (113 comments)

You may want to consider using DuckDuckGo for searches. It anonymizes your search (until the G-men show up, of course) and doesn't tie into any other services.

about a year ago
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Microsoft CFO Quits

The Conductor Re:Microsoft is in deep shit now! (295 comments)

I had something similar to your experience at an airport. I saw 5 computing devices (not counting phones): a Macbook, two iPads, and what looked like an Android tablet, plus my own Linux laptop. Not a machine in sight running Windows. That would have been unimaginable as recently as a year ago.

According to the stats I have seen, this is the year that the number of Linux systems in use (in the form of Android) will exceed Windows systems. In current sales Android is already blowing out Windows and, for that matter, everything else on Earth. The year of desktop Linux has arrived, but not in the way everyone was expecting. High fives, for now at least.

about a year ago
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SSH Password Gropers Are Now Trying High Ports

The Conductor Re:Good ports ? (349 comments)

I was surprised to see how many networks allow connections on port 23 when, for example, all web browsing goes through a proxy. I think the reason is that Cisco routers use plain 'ol telnet for administration.

about a year and a half ago
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Nokia N9: the World's Most Underrated Smartphone?

The Conductor N9 = Amiga + 20 yrs. (176 comments)

The existence of things like the Nitdroid project and Jolla/Sailfish, plus the fact that N9 matched or possibly outsold the Lumia crud despite the massive disparity in corporate support, shows how good the technology was. The last time I saw this was...ooh it hurts to type this name...the Amiga. Commodore went under, not due to poor demand for the Amiga, which was profitable to the very end, but due to massive losses in PC clones that led them to credit default with their suppliers. They couldn't get parts to build Amigas anymore.

I hope that the prevalence of open source these days gives the keepers of the Meego flame more success then the Amigans had.

about a year and a half ago
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Why Gay Men Are Worth So Much To Facebook

The Conductor Re:The math is simple (270 comments)

I have always maintained that the existence of Target is a response to K-Mart trying to slug it out with Walmart on price, and losing, instead of building brand-equity and following their demographic upmarket into higher margin retailing (like Sears, who bought them, or Radio Shack, or JC Penney, etc.).

more than 2 years ago
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Open Source Tool Lets Anyone Redistrict New York

The Conductor Re:Eliminate districts (102 comments)

I like to describe it like this: First-past-the-post forces coalition building into the political parties, whereas proportional elections have coalition-building in the legislature. Gerrymandering is like coding theory: The party in control of the districts can trade margin of victory (bit error rate) for number of seats (data rate), but if you design for a large number of seats (high data rate) a small decline in popular support (signal-to-noise ratio) will cause a large number of seats to flip (catastrophic rise in bit error rate).

more than 2 years ago
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Steve Jobs Dead At 56

The Conductor Re:What he took away is more precious than given (1613 comments)

I would make a stronger point about the removal of the floppy: Apple has an indifferent attitude toward removable media generally. The iPod, as hardware, would make a perfectly serviceable external hard drive, but software support for this was thin, and we also have the absence of SD slots. The organizing principle seems to be to have iTunes managing data instead of a file manager. iTunes knows more about the (meta-)data and can handle it with more aplomb than a general purpose file manager. That comes at the cost of limiting its scope (taking things out again) to AV media and rinky-dink apps, and keeping removable media at arm's length (copy and import rather than open up and look inside); using iTunes to manage CAD files or source code would be ridiculous.

On Gnome, I don't have much complaint. With Ubuntu and a fast connection, it is very easy to add in stuff as you need it, "Golly, I need XYZ...sudo apt-get install XYZ". My bigger beef is with KDE, which seems to be built by people who have spent too much time looking at Macs in the Apple store and not enough time trying to use Macs to do actual work. More broadly, I find that everyone in the industry apes Apple too much; Apple has their niche, and serves it well, and profitably, but it can never be more than a minority of the market. Workhorse products serving the bulk of the market will be made by others.

more than 2 years ago
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Steve Jobs Dead At 56

The Conductor Re:What he took away is more precious than given (1613 comments)

That is sort of the crux though. Steve Jobs takes things out: the SD slot, the keyboard, the command prompt, the floppy drive. Taking stuff out makes it possible to simplfy the user interface. If anyone else did this, the product would fail in the market for being feature-poor, but he could get away with it because he was trusted (by some, not all) to do it well. Granted, some of the stuff Jobs took out should have been left in, the lack of fan on the early Macs comes to mind. That is the charisma, the RDF, or maybe just street cred for having introduced the Mac. Whatever it is, it accrued to him personally, not to Apple as an organization which went adrift whae he was gone.

That also explains the stupid holy wars that surround Apple:

  • Look at Apple's new product! It is so innovative and easy to use! (Because he took stuff out and simplified)
  • It is not innovative! Everything there was already done by others. (True, but that is not what makes it easy to use)
  • Apple's stuff is merely a toy! (It is lacking certain features, but that is the price of simplicity. You are not the intended market.)
  • Apple is an industry leader! Everyone copies them! (Now everyone else can take those things out without being accused of being feature-poor.)

more than 2 years ago
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Steve Jobs Dead At 56

The Conductor Re:What he took away is more precious than given (1613 comments)

I would say the walled garden metaphor misses the point, or at least it gets taken too far. A better way to think about it is delegation and trust. With Linux, you can, in principle, trust no one and collect all the cource code yourself and compile it. The next step is to delegate the job of compiling code to a distro, trusting them (or for Slackware, Pat) to use only open source software in keeping with the distro's community values. Various other relationships can go from there: you presumably trust your employer-provided laptop not to spy on you, and they trust you not to improperly divulge company information on it.

I would say that Steve Job's real innovation was to be cognizant of this delegation of trust, and he was good at getting people to buy in: Call it Charisma or the RDF. Apple products are offered as a package deal, take it or leave it. If you want the nice ease of use and aesthetic package, you have to play by Apple's rules. No modding, no tinkering, no exceptions, no whining. I never cared for the deal and always walked away, but I would admit that it is appropriate for some (most notably the very old and very young).

more than 2 years ago
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Are Google's Best Days Behind It?

The Conductor Yahoo Mail (283 comments)

Yahoo, well, can't say I have an opinion of what it is like now, haven't used it since 2004. Does it still exist?

A few months ago, I did an analysis of the list of parents' email addresses from the school drama club. Yahoo was the most common provider with about a third of them. After that was the local DSL or cable ISP. Third place was people using work email addresses. GMail was fourth at about 15%. Then Hotmail/Live. Only about 1%, myself and one other person, were using a paid 3rd party service. For the record, I use usermail.com and am very happy with them, and seldom use my Gmail account.

What conclusions can be drawn from that? I would say Yahoo-email's first-mover advantage is much more durable than Friendster's or Myspace's was. Or perhaps Facebook's is. I would think that a survey of younger people would have fewer yahoosiers and more GMailers

about 3 years ago
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Company Claims Ownership of Digital Messaging

The Conductor Re:Still time to challenge- not issued yet (325 comments)

Apparently, they need publicity to fleece some investors, to get the money they need to hire lawyers, to then execute their business plan of robbing everyone else. Multiple layers of corruption! Who here thinks the investors will get any return after the management insiders extract their bonuses?

more than 3 years ago
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Company Claims Ownership of Digital Messaging

The Conductor Re:Prior Art? (325 comments)

Not as old as SMTP, but older than ICQ, is the text-based talk program, which goes back to at least 4.2 BSD. And IRC and similar BBS type programs, as well as the VAX/VMS phone program, go back to the 80's at least. I know VMS phone had notification; can't remember if it had presence though.

more than 3 years ago
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Bitcoin Price Crashes

The Conductor Re:a philosophical primer on money for bitcoin mor (642 comments)

But what does it mean to be "backed by something real"? Very few currencies are redeemable for specie anymore. And being backed by a commodity isn't enough: Confederate bonds backed by cotton circulated in Europe until WW1, but their value tracked the prospect of redemption more than the value of cotton. Government currencies are backed by courts, who pronounce judgments and settle debt in terms of fiat currency: For a stark example, US account holders on e-gold.com quite emphatically cannot claim their gold, but only a court's judgment of its dollar value. And having courts enforce the value of a currency is not always enough either. The Zimbabwean dollar lost its status as money despite draconian efforts of the government to enforce it and ban alternatives.

But government courts are not the only institutions that can enforce the value of a currency. Rai stone coins on the island of Yap don't have much intrinsic value, and the one that sank to the bottom of the ocean has none but circulates as money just like the rest of them. They are not backed by anything other than tradition and social norms. If social norms are enough to turn a hunk of limestone into money, it could happen to bitcoins, too.

more than 3 years ago
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Bitcoin Price Crashes

The Conductor Re:a philosophical primer on money for bitcoin mor (642 comments)

Your larger point that money is a social phenomenon is valid. I like to describe money as "a claim on the labor of others", so money doesn't make sense in isolation.

Even so, that leaves unanswered how we keep score. A physical token of a well known luxury material? A book entry in a government-chartered bank? Or a cryptographically-verified transaction history of proof-of-work hash values? When confidence in banks rose, fiat money replaced gold coinage. The real bitcoin experiment is whether confidence in crypto systems is enough to sustain the bitcoin economy without the help of government courts. If the bitcoin economy matures from the mostly speculative transactions we have seen so far to a more stable role as an abstract claim on others' labor in a diversified economy, then it has as much claim to the title of "money" as anything else. I am not ready to place better then 50-50 odds that will happen, but it could.

more than 3 years ago
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Egypt Cuts the Net, Net Fights Back

The Conductor Dial-up to bypass (232 comments)

That concurs with my experience when I have to dial-up around the Great Firewall (which is blocking news from Egypt these days...don't want to give the natives any restless ideas...). I typically have to fall back to 9600 or 2400 bps, which is good enough to make an independent check on SSH key MD5 sums, at least. Modems signals are pretty standard down to 2400 bps, but the slower 1200 and 300bps standards are different between Europe and North America. Russia used North American standards, because the Soviets of the 80's were more accustomed to stealing American technology.

And I wish dial-up were more obvious to the Ubuntu packagers. Recent versions of Network Manager won't recognize Gnome PPP as a network connection and Evolution refuses to fetch mail, thinking it is offline. Arrrgh!

more than 3 years ago
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Google Hacked, May Pull Out of China

The Conductor Re:The government still controls the .cn TLD (687 comments)

The Great Firewall now has DNS poisoning. To go to Facebook with a SOCKS proxy you have to run DNS requests through the proxy, by either setting it in the about:config or using FoxyProxy. Another way is to have a UMA-capable phone use Wi-Fi to serve up GPRS on Bluetooth. The GPRS is tunneled inside the UMA and your Western cell carrier is efffectively proxying the connection. Straight-up GPRS roaming (as with an iPhone for example) is blocked.

All this is far beyond your typical Chinese netzien.

I don't rememember this being the case as recently as a year ago; it was just those stinkin' reset packets..

more than 4 years ago
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Palm Announces Killer New Phone

The Conductor Re:Palm who? (617 comments)

>didn't include a microphone
You can buy one that clips onto the athena connector.

more than 5 years ago
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Palm Announces Killer New Phone

The Conductor Re:would you buy a cell phone with NO support? (617 comments)

>The inability to make a backup of the PP directly into its SD card

It can if you cough up $10. Such is the nature of the Palm OS universe. Spport from Palm isn't so hot, but the open (and, well, elderly) nature of the platform permits wide-ranging aftermarket.

And as long as we are comparing to iPhone, it doesn't even have an SD slot.

more than 5 years ago
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eBay to Drop Negative Feedback on Buyers

The Conductor Re:Read--yes, read--the feedback (505 comments)

My idea isn't really all that original. The Sears Roebuck catalog didn't have credit cards or even the Federal Reserve System to clear personal checks. People paid C.O.D., and the post office acted as an intermediary. How was it paid for? C.O.D. charges, duh. We still see vestiges of this in the post office with postal money orders & strict laws on mail fraud. A modern version might have people opening the package in the presence of the shipper, who snaps a digital photo for the record.

The process would be opt-in (like, well, certified mail), and wouldn't really require Ebay's co-operation. FedEx, UPS, Western Union, or even the flippin' Post Office could just start offering the service. Buyers & sellers in high risk markets could start using it right away.

The human problems of trust introduced by the internet are basically the same as the trust problems introduced by the railroads 150 years ago (or by long distance Phoenician shipping 3000 years ago), and the solutions are similar. High-flying Silicon Valley companies have no sense of history, and are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

more than 6 years ago

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