Now that Google+ is open to the public (and you can add me to your circles here by the way,) some of the first people who have joined are the people eager for an alternative to Facebook. Obviously, the first few people on the network were the geeks and techies who wanted first access to assess it for features and usability so they would write about it, tell the world, and use it for themselves. I was more than happily one of those people – after all, it’s my duty to tell others about it, right?
Well, after that, the next few people to sign on were people who were desperately looking for an alternative to Facebook either because they have issues with Facebook and it’s privacy policies, dislike the way Facebook handles data, have had it up to here with Facebook’s design changes, or they dislike Facebook for some other reason. Naturally those people tend to be vocal about their dissent and departure. What’s been unexpected though in the past few weeks and months has been exactly how vocal Facebook users on the other hand have been defending their platform against anyone perceived as a threat. While Twitter users don’t seem to have much problem talking about Facebook or Google+, and Google+ users tend to look at Facebook with a little disdain but prefer to speak instead of the merits of Google+ as opposed to denigrating Facebook, Facebook users actively dislike any mention of Google+, and will go out of their way to be vocal about it, even if it’s mentioned in passing. What I don’t understand is why.
So the blogs have been buzzing recently thanks to a report that for SpaceTime Studios, the developers of the popular mobile MMO Pocket Legends, has found that its Android version is simply more profitable than the iOS version of the same game.
SpaceTime runs Pocket Legends for both platforms, and since the game is an MMO, anyone on any platform can play with each other. But SpaceTime noted that they’re seeing more sales from its Android customers than from its iOS customers. Does this mean – as many tech news sites have jumped to the conclusion – that Android owners are somehow more willing to shell out for apps than iOS users? Does it mean that developers should all switch to building games for Android now?
Well, what exactly does it mean? I know – partially because unlike a number of people who have covered the story in a couple of places, I’ve actually played Pocket Legends (on my Android phone, no less,) understand SpaceTime’s business model, and get what they’re really trying to say here. Let’s dive in after the jump.
Well, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Verizon Wireless finally has the iPhone 4. But I’m not getting one, and I’m a very happy Verizon Wireless customer and have been for years: since my first cellular phone, in fact.
My decision has nothing to do with Verizon Wireless, or some misguided love for AT&T (I actually rather dislike them, but not because of the company, just because for my professional gigs I can’t get their PR folks to reply to my e-mail to save my life) or any disaffection I have for Apple (in fact, I’ve been frequently accused of being too much of an Apple fan, even though I pride myself on liking their products but being willing to call them out when appropriate) but instead my decision based on a couple of things: timing, technology, and trends.
As I said in the title – this is just me. If you’re eager and chomping at the bit to get an iPhone 4 next month as soon as they’re out, by all means more power to you – drop AT&T like a hot rock, especially if you live in an area with horrible service (service that AT&T knows about and yet refuses to improve, but is perfectly comfortable charging you massive Early Termination Fees to leave) and want to switch to a carrier that, you know, actually works. Me though, I’ll hang on to my Motorola Droid just a little longer.
Hit the jump, let me explain what I’m on about here.
When story broke a few days ago about researchers in Scotland managed to build a 1,000-core processor, I was amazed. As someone who’s actually spent some time in a CPU fab, I’m more than impressed at the skill and design that had to go into making a processor with so many cores in it – and before you whine, no, it’s more than just making a really big processor and dabbing lots of cores on the board – there’s more to it than that.
Even so, and even as impressed as I am, an old column by John C Dvorak called Why Isn’t the Desktop Moving Forward? popped to mind immediately. After all, as Mashable noted, this new thousand-core processor could speed up systems at least 20 times…so what would we do with all of that power? Do we need it?
Let’s discuss behind the jump.
Let me set the stage: a few months ago I got a semi-threatening e-mail claiming that someone – someone I didn’t know – knew my Web host’s security hardware and what’s installed on it, and that they knew how to exploit it. They implied they had already exploited it, and that it was my fault for not knowing or understanding “IT Security.” Now – I’ve worked in IT since I was an undergrad in college, so I know a thing or two – I’m no subject matter expert in security and intrusion prevention, but I know a thing or two. The e-mail came off a little ranty, and when they spammed all of my e-mail addresses with it, I just set up a mail rule to trash it before it hit my inbox and called it a day.
Then today, I got word from an anonymous tipper to my Gears and Widgets account (which isn’t really a secret, I’m firstname.lastname@example.org – drop me a line!) that someone was masquerading as me over at the ZDNet blogs, and that they just wanted to give me a heads up.
Sure enough, one Google search later, I found someone over there with the same name I was accused of having in that threatening e-mail (which my Web host, by the way, described as “pure fiction,”) and then someone else posting under my name, “Alan Henry,” with their own freshly registered account, where they were busily trolling other commenters. In their attempt to track down who the troll in their midst was, a few people there found my bio information at PC Mag, my LinkedIn profile, and deduced that their troll must be Alan Henry, the freelance writer, technology blogger, and author of sites like TechTV Forever, The Classy Geek, and of course, Gears and Widgets.
Sadly, they’re horribly mistaken, and in their fervor to take down their “Alan Henry,” made light at my experience, my blogs, my work, just about everything – so sure that I was who they hated. It hurt, a lot, and sure enough I both registered my own account to try and refute the claims and reclaim my identity, and submitted a ticket to ZDNet Support to take note of the issue and see what they could do.
Admittedly, I don’t have too much faith that they’ll be able to do anything although I hope they can. It’s difficult to try and moderate so closely any comments on the Internet, but it’s disheartening that this could happen. All I, the real Alan Henry, can do is sit back, hope it plays out, and hope that the issue doesn’t get worse or spread elsewhere.
Still, I make this post partially because I want to make it clear I’m not this person, but partially because I’m curious about other people’s opinions and experiences. This isn’t identity theft – nothing of tangible value is being taken from me – but it’s definitely annoying personally, and while professionally – as a writer – I don’t think it’s serious it does introduce some negative connotations of me on the Web that someone could find.
All I can do is wait for it to blow over, but what about you? Have you experienced anything like this – just having your name hijacked so someone can troll or comment on the Web either just because your name is convenient or because your name has some gravity behind it? How did you deal with it? Let me know what you think.
So Apple’s “Back to the Mac” event just concluded, and if you were a betting person and bet on some substantial new hardware today, you’d have lost some money. Don’t get me wrong, we got a brand new line of Mac netbooks in the form of the 13.3 and 11-inch MacBook Air, and we got some substantial improvements there that hopefully will make their way across the Mac lineup, but all in all the event was what most people predicted and the rumor mill expected: new Mac OS, new iLife, new MacBook Air.
Let’s hit the major points, shall we?
I covered this story over at AppScout today, but I think not only does it bear repeating, but it just sparks some interesting thinking about the way the Web works and who’s really a customer of whom on the Web these days. It’s surprising how many common URL suffixes are actually owned by foreign powers who may or may not have their customer’s best interests at heart – and certainly may not have the same passion for free and open speech on the Internet as those companies – especially if they’re American or European – may have.
Here’s a lift from my story, for those folks who don’t want to click the link:
For example, co-founders of the vb.ly URL shortening service Ben Metcalfe and Violet Blue both posted warnings today that the vb.ly domain had been seized by the Libyan government for first being in violation of their terms of service agreement, but was later clarified to mean that the content of the vb.ly site, which featured Violet Blue herself holding a green glass bottle while wearing a sleeveless blouse, violated Libyan Sharia law.
Additionally, the Libyan officials that Metcalfe and Blue contacted about the issue responded that .ly domains shorter than four characters were now to be reserved for use by Libyan businesses and organizations.
Worth referencing, as I did in the story, is Brian Metcalfe’s post at his blog and Violet Blue’s post at TechYum about the incident, complete with records and exchanges from Libyan officials about the matter.
The critical thing to note here is that Libya is the owner of every domain that ends in “.ly,” and when you register and purchase a .ly domain you’re not so much getting ownership as you are signing an agreement to use the domain with the cooperation of the Libyan government, and their domain registration authority, NIC.ly. So that means services that are commonly used by lots of people (myself included) like the bit.ly URL shortener, the ow.ly URL shortener, and the ad.ly advertising URL shortener, are all subject to the whims of the Libyan government for their terms of service agreements.
Now, not to paint the Libyans in too bad a light here: the country is a Muslim country and they’re guided by Islamic/Sharia Law – meaning that a free and open internet for all subject matter isn’t exactly one of their core principles, and is pornography and adult content is expressly forbidden by their morality code. When they learned who Violet Blue – co-founder of the vb.ly URL shortener – was and likely did a little research, they jumped to shut the shortener down, regardless of the fact that the vb.ly page is anything but unsafe-for-work (shown above before it came down) and the content of the URLs shortened by the service were likely in part adult material but certainly weren’t exclusively adult material – no more so than ow.ly or bit.ly, I’m sure.
It’s not the adherence to Sharia Law that bothers me here, it’s the fact that the Libyan government has stated that they want all sub-four character .ly domains to be reserved for use by Libyan businesses and local organizations. That in itself doesn’t bother me, but it’s the application of both of these rules that’s the irritant, and that has such huge consequences for the rest of the Web – Libya’s information officials are essentially using Sharia Law as a scapegoat and a convenient excuse to shut down vb.ly, and are immediately reclaiming it in line with this new “locals only” policy. Essentially, two very weak excuses for action that’s far more aggressive than is warranted.
If Libya wants to reserve URLs for internal use, that’s their business – they own the .ly suffix. If they want content that passes through .ly suffixed domains to be compliant with Sharia Law, that’s also their business. The problem is when they strong-arm their want into a battle over values, freedoms, and speech on the Internet by bullying businesses and other parties instead of simply making their case and asking for a change.
If Libya had said they weren’t going to renew the registration to Ben Metcalfe and Violet Blue when it came up because of these two policies and rules, I doubt there would have ever been this controversy. As it stands however, it means that every company that deals with a foriegn power for its domain suffix – especially those using .ly – stand at risk to be shut down immediately and without notice should they enter the crosshairs of that nation’s government officials.
As much as Verizon Wireless has gotten a great deal of publication, love, and overall approval from smartphone lovers and geeks alike for the release of the Droid by Motorola and the subsequent releases of other powerful exclusive Android phones like the Droid Eris and Droid Incredible by HTC, prior to their releases, leaks, and announcements, Verizon Wireless was the carrier that people begrudgingly signed on to because the voice and data networks were robust and covered the majority of the country – business signed on so they could get their employees cheap BlackBerry phones, and if you wanted a smartphone your options were BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, all on horrible horrible devices – the rest of us either had to jump ship for another carrier that had good handsets and smartphones, or we had to deal with feature phones or simple handsets because we couldn’t give up the network.
I’m in that boat – I was ready to jump ship to AT&T at the end of my contract last year just because I wanted a smartphone and Verizon Wireleess’ selection was awful; and then something glorious happened. The Droid by Motorola was released, and to this day I consider it one of the best technology purchases I’ve ever made, and I haven’t considered leaving for AT&T, iPhone or no, since then. The combination of a solid Android phone that’s not loaded up with Verizon Wireless’ standard suite of bloatware that you find on their feature phones and their amazing network, and even though I still think the iPhone is a slightly better device than the Droid, the combination of the Droid and Verizon’s network simply overwhelm the combination of the iPhone and AT&T’s network.
The odd thing is that I don’t know that I’m not the only one here. So how did this happen? Google and Verizon Wireless are closer now than they’ve ever been, and both are dedicated and determined to working together on Android phones. So did Google ride to Verizon Wireless’ rescue and save their image from cementing as the stodgy, old carrier with cheap voice handsets but good call quality, bargain basement smartphones for individual users, and the only way to get any attention from them is to have a BlackBerry and be on a business plan? Here’s a hint: I think so, and let’s dive into why after the jump.
I had all but written off Gawker/Gizmodo’s exclusive This is Apple’s Next iPhone as an item that everyone and their mother has covered at least once – and while I admit that I was as intrigued as anyone else at the story and found it incredible and unbelievable as anyone else, I have to say that it probably is the biggest scoop pulled on Apple to date, and the biggest gaping hole in their veil of secrecy anyone’s ever found.
The poor guy who was field testing the next iPhone is likely out of work at the very least (although I hope Apple realizes he just made a mistake) and probably would like to find another job quickly at the very best (I wouldn’t want that rep to live down at work every day). Still, it was a pretty rookie mistake, but it’s not one that hasn’t been made by people at all levels of an organization in any company in the past.
A simple case of human error shouldn’t be a big story. A company that treats such things as a firing offense is what’s worthy of criticism.
Now on the surface, I completely agree with Anil – he’s absolutely right. Every time someone in a company makes a mistake, it shouldn’t be some of the biggest news on the Net for the next several days, or if it keeps up like this, weeks. Additionally, I’d hate to be in his shoes, and hate to risk being fired or laid off because of a simple mistake – having a few too many beers at a bar and forgetting to pick up my phone.
Still, something about the statement nags at me a bit, and I wonder if Anil is being a little harsh because it’s clear we’re talking about Apple and the next iPhone here. Would he be as forgiving if, for example, a Microsoft engineer lost the next Zune HD prototype in a cab somewhere, and someone was smart enough to know what it was and sold it to Gawker for $5000? (the amount that Gawker paid – omitted from most of the articles about it – to get their hands on the prototype iPhone from their anonymous source)
Honestly, a Zune HD prototype found in the wild likely wouldn’t stir up quite so much media attention, but is that fact a good or bad thing? The reason why everyone’s busy covering this story – including mainstream media outlets like CNN – is because the iPhone is ridiculously popular in America and Apple has a long-held reputation for secrecy. Microsoft, for example, doesn’t have the popular product and doesn’t have the cone of silence over its labs. But when a 64GB version of the Zune HD was leaked on a couple of Web sites a few weeks back, tech blogs still covered it. Is that a bad thing, according to Anil?
What about a corporate employee or CEO who leaves a laptop on a plane or in a cab; a laptop that contains proprietary information about the company, or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about their customers? Sure – it’s orders of magnitude of difference, but we’ve seen heavier media scrutiny when a government contractor leaves a hard drive in a cab than this kid leaving a prototype iPhone in a bar, and we summarily expect that contractor or CEO to be fired for their negligence.
Sure, sure – a laptop with personally identifiable data on it doesn’t just harm the company, it harms its customers and the people whose information has been compromised; the impact is much wider than a simple prototype cell phone, so the consequences have to be broader to match the transgression – but they’re both still simple cases of human error. If the government contractor or the bank that lost the personal data fires the employee who lost it, are they equally “worthy of scrutiny?”
I’m in the camp where I would sincerely hope that Apple doesn’t cut this poor kid loose – he’s obviously got talent and a history of trustworthiness or else he wouldn’t have gotten the prototype in the first place. Even so, I can’t deny that when a hard drive full of credit card numbers or social security numbers goes missing, we as the public expect someone to be held accountable – we’re not in quite the forgiving mood that Anil is in. It’s possible it’s just because one affects us directly and the other only affects people interested and even then in a tangential way.
Still – I have to wonder if Anil’s perspective is colored a bit. By what, I’m not certain. If he read this, he would probably take me to task for using the slippery slope argument too much, and acknowledge that 140 characters isn’t a lot of space to get into nuance, and I agree on both counts. Like I said at the beginning, I completely agree with him, I just wonder if we should be so forgiving in this case, or – more preferably – maybe we should be more forgiving in all such cases.
Last week’s launch of the Apple iPad was probably a bigger splash than I expected in any possible way. I mean, I expected the product to be successful – any Apple product generally is, and the first Apple product to pave the way into an entirely new market will do well because it’s the first; but as of today Apple’s passed the 500,000 mark when it comes to iPads sold, and they’ve only been available for over a week. If trends go strong, Apple could very well rack up over a million iPads sold in its first month.
A lot of people like the iPad, a lot of people hate it, and there are both valid and completely invalid reasons on both sides of that line (I’ve written about as much about irrational Apple hate lately as I have about irrational Apple love) but the one thing that’s caught my eye is the visible explosion of the app market with the launch of the iPad. Selling apps is nothing new – the App store is populated with free and paid apps available for your iPhone, Android phone, Blackberry, and more, and for as much as I disagree with the people who claim the iPad is just a glorified iPod Touch, they’ve been available for iPod Touch users as well.
What’s different though is that with the launch of the iPad, all of the apps launched have made use of the iPad as a platform – somewhere between buying software for a shiny new computer (as well as downloading freeware) and apps for a mobile phone. Clearly Apple’s model is closer to apps for a mobile phone than software for a computer, but with the announcement of iPhone OS 4.0, Apple’s portable devices and tablets are looking more and more like computers every day.
The point though is this: the app market has exploded and people are willing to do two things:
- Buy apps by the bushel (but decline to pay for PC software)
- Buy apps but demand Web content remain free (within reason)
Let’s dive into both of these below the jump.