Yes, how could you not be sure that when somebody offers to host your personal data for free on their servers that nothing could possib-lie go wrong. Uh, PossibLY go wrong.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
I just got an email from a friend of mine, which might not seem particularly atypical, and this turned out to be hack-spam from his Yahoo account. What was jarring about seeing mail from him in my inbox is that he has been dead for six months.
IRL, we move people to cemeteries or other repositories of the dead and keep our interaction space for the living. On social networks and other digital interaction spaces, there’s no particular cost and some respect shown by leaving the presence of those that have passed as it was when they last touched it. But in time, all social networks will fill with the static presence of the passed on. It may be a little less cheerful to log in to facebook when your friend’s list is dominated by those who can no longer answer a poke.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
A day spent out reviewing alternate sites where unexpected underground obstructions impact construction means a chance to make new friends.
These days the attention we attract is welcome and fun.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I’m not sure who decides what apps are blocked on a country by country basis, but an awful lot of apps are blocked in Iraq and it seems like more and more.
OTT apps like Whatsapp and Viber sort of make sense. These apps are at war with the carriers, who claim the app is making money somehow on the backs of the carriers*, and they seem to be largely blocked from install in Iraq. One would imagine that was Asiacell’s doing, but I changed SIMs and that didn’t help.
But then I noticed that weird apps like Angry Birds are not allowed in Iraq—apps that makes no sense for a carrier to block. The advertising model actually works and ad-supported apps show (some) relevant, regional ads, as they should, in theory generating at least some revenue for the developers. Part of the problem may be that there’s no way for in-app payments to be processed out of Iraq and therefore developers of even “freemium” apps may choose to block their apps in the country reasoning that if they can’t make money, why let people use the app?
If so, it seems short sighted: ultimately payment processing will be worked out and even if it isn’t, Iraqis are allowed to travel to countries where in-app payments do work. Establishing a beachhead in the market, even without revenue seems prudent. Blocking users who represent neither revenue nor cost seems arbitrarily punitive.
* The carrier’s business should be to transport bits agnostically. They have no business caring what we do with our bits; no bit costs more than any other bit to carry. If they can’t figure out how to make money carrying bits, they have no business being in the bit carrying business. When they whine about a business like WhatsApp or Viber or Free Conference Call or Skype or Google hurting their profits what they really mean is that these new businesses have obviated a parasitic business that was profitable due to a de facto monopoly over what people could do with their bit carrying business.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I got through immigration in record time, no complications at all. Only a few questions about the power supply in my luggage at customs.
I thought I would get a cup of coffee from the stand an acquaintance operates at the airport, but I arrived as they were having breakfast. As this is Iraq, that meant I had to join them for a jovial breakfast of eggs, fresh tomato, cucumber, potatoes, and meat pastries while they told me funny stories about each other in a mixture of Arabic, English, and Spanish. They would not let me pay anything, a really pleasant and friendly welcome into the country.
But I couldn’t stay long, I had to take a taxi out to meet my friends at the arrivals lot, where the in car is a B6 Land Cruiser.
Monday, February 4, 2013
The desert just north of Basra is beautifully empty.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Dubai is an interesting contrast to Iraq. The first time I went through DXB from BSR it was more than a little culture shock. Getting out of the airport only amplifies the experience.
Jared and I had dinner at the Mall of Dubai and before eating had a little walk around the fountains – the largest dancing fountains in the world at the foot of the tallest man-made structure in the world.
Dubai is an good place to spot cars. Obviously the gold accented rolls is more pose-worthy than the $450k GTO. Then again they were probably posing with the license plate number which I think was 1, and therefore cost as much as 20 Ferrari GTOs.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
There are two things I always do with a new digital device, get a good screen protector and a good case. (And the biggest memory card that will fit).
The screen protector is pretty easy: I’ve used both Zagg and Armor Suit and prefer the Armor Suit, but not by much. Both work really well and I have an Armor Suit on my Motorola Razr V9x (still the best basic cell phone I’ve ever owned) that has lived in my pocket for many, many years without a scratch visible on the outer screen.
For cases I lived with an (almost iconic) yellow Defender case for my Blackberry Bold 9000 for about 5 years. It was awesome, indestructible, and fit the belt holder perfectly. Alas, it was no match for a random late night cab ride and early flight out of Dubai–can’t defend against that, can ya? Well, it lasted about 5 years, so no complaints. I contacted Otterbox to see if I could get a replacement silicone bit and they checked and only had 2 belt holsters left in stock from the entire product line. They mailed me those for free. Thanks Otterbox! (One did come in handy eventually.)
I got an iPod from United and, of course, got an Otterbox for it; one of the Commuter series. With a polycarbonate outer shell protecting the critical corners, and that backed underneath by a few mm of soft silicone, the iPod is extremely well protected. This is a well-engineered protection model, far better than just a layer of silicone.
A corner drop tends to generate very high localized pressure where the corner tries to merge with the hard surface it is being dropped on. Having the polycarbonate outer shell distributes that pressure load over the silicone underneath it resulting in a broad, gentile distribution of the impact load and minimizing the risk of localized overpressure which would crack plastic or glass.
Conversely, simple silicone sleeves without the polycarbonate layer, while adding critical padding and being fairly effective in most cases, can’t distribute the impact load nearly so effectively. This should not matter too much for a surface-to-surface drop where the impact force is distributed over the whole back or even an edge of the phone, but in a corner drop the silicone can be effectively mushed out of the way as the hard surface attempts touch delicate plastic or glass in a tragic romance.
I replaced the Blackberry with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and got a Commuter case for it. The case is very nice, not too big, but Otterbox did something very, very wrong. They rotated the polycarbonate tabs 45 degrees, covering the edges and not the corners. Why Otter, why? The case is still quite nice and it is the nicest looking and most comfortable I’ve found, but this is an odd engineering mistake. They talk about the “layers of protection” as a key selling point for their more expensive Commuter and Defender series, yet leave the most fragile corners protected by only a single layer. As protection goes, it is no better than the Impact since the corners are all that really matters.
The polycarbonate shell does serve to anchor the access flaps closed, which is an improvement over the iPod case, but this could easily have been achieved with a few well-placed polycarbonate fingers reaching around the case without making it difficult to assemble (too many fingers wrapping around the device make it impossible to snap the device into the polycarbonate shell).
Further, the textured silicone edges on the iPod case are actually really nice to hold, far more comfortable and slip-resistant than the polycarbonate edges of the S3 case (and make the iPod less likely to drop than the S3 as well). As an additional bonus, the iPod version exposes some textured silicone on the back surface making the case somewhat non-slip, while the S3 case is all polycarbonate on the back. Without some non-slip silicone on the back, the likelihood that the enclosed device will slip off a sloped surface and onto a hard floor or into a toilet or sink is much greater. While the case makes a disaster far less likely for the former eventuality, it is not waterproof.
While the Android OS just crushes iOS, and the availability of Android-specific tools and applications, particularly for security and encryption, makes it the best choice for a mobile device right now (though security, at least, is even less of a concern with a Blackberry – that’s the one thing Rim still has going for it – that and efficient use of data), Otterbox really could have done a better job with the case. Hopefully the S4 case will get it right.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
I learned two things about Futurama recently which added to my already deep appreciation for the show. The first is that the theme song came from a very cool song by Pierre Henry called Psyche Rock from 1967, which is on youtube. It was remixed by Fatboy Slim in an appealing way.
But what was most interesting recently was to see episode 10 of season 6, the Prisoner of Benda, a spoof of the Prisoner of Zelda but including what may be the first tv-episode publication of the proof of a relatively complex mathematical theorem in group theory as a core plot element.
The problem in the plot is that the Professor’s mind swapping machine creates an immune response which prevents swapping back in one step. So how do you get everyone back to into their original bodies? Well, as Sweet Clyde says, it takes at most two extra players [who haven't swapped yet]. As the entire cast, including the robo-bucket, have swapped bodies, the situation is pretty complex, but fortunately one of the show’s writers, Ken Keeler, has a PhD in applied mathematics from Harvard and found a proof, which is actually shown in the show (above), and then worked in a fast montage that restores everyone.
In the following table, the heading shows the character name of the body, row 0 shows the occupant of that body by the end of the plot’s permutations and before the globetrotters start the transformations. Rows 1-7 show the steps to restore everyone to their original bodies. Each transformation was animated as a pair using the two “extra players” except the last rotation to restore Sweet Clyde and the Bucket.