Happy birthday google, You're not evil. Yet.

13 years old this month. Just old enough to be a teenager. In fact, you are not only a precocious teenager, you're a hipster teenager:

  • You're convinced you know everything,

  • When we tell you we need something, you suggest we need something else,

  • iPhones are too mainstream for you, and you won't use them,

  • You don't use Facebook. You have your own social network. We've probably never heard of it.

  • You have the appetite of a teenager and gobble up everything in site.

  • Your ads are obsessed with we what to wear, what to read, and how fat we are.

On the other hand, Apple is more like the parent of a teenager:

  • We can only use apps that they approve of,

  • As long as we're under their roof, we live by their rules,

  • Developers have to watch their language or they will get sent to their room.,

My hatred of sans serif

There is enough evidence out there of the approaching apocalypse. I don't  need to add more fuel to the fire. But I can't help myself: this is an issue that has gone unadressed too long.

Everyone using sans serif fonts. Stop. Please stop. God may forgive you, eventually. I won't.

Pay attention: sans serif is for headlines and callouts. It's not for body text. What is wrong with you people?

Somewhere along the way, we all drank the Koolaid and started using sans serifs, like Arial and Helvetica, as the font for our body text. Not having any real reason to do it, we simply accepted it and then promoted its use like it was the Gospels. Even my trusty blogspot, owned by Google, the last bastion of Internet Freedom, those saints whose motto is 'Do No Evil' , even they have imposed this scourge on us. There is no way to change their font unless you manually edit the html.

There is a simple reason why you use serif fonts for the body text: it's more readable. Study after study has shown that people read text faster and with greater comprehension when the font is NOT sans serif. Apparently the little hooky things and flourishes on each letter in a serif font serve a purpose: they help the brain assemble the letters into words faster.

Still, no one seems to care. They continue printing everything in a font that was designed to be used in headlines only. Why? Because the graphic designers have somehow taken over the asylum. It's as if the head of the Science Faculty is Oral Roberts and now we are all presenting evolution as 'this other possible alternative to Seven Days'.

I know my lamentations will fall on deaf ears. But maybe there is one single designer out there who has half a clue. Maybe just one website art director who understands that content needs to be understood, not just pretty. But I doubt it. Web Designers are to the Internet what the Pharisees were to the Jews. Put that in your hat and eat it.

Austin police to go knocking on doors of people with open wifi

Earlier this week, officers at the Austin Texas police department announced a plan to search out everyone running open wifi connections in town, in order to "warn" them about potential dangers of running an unprotected network. These dangers included exceeding the number of connections permitted by the ISP, or inadvertently allowing someone to piggyback on the wifi and conduct illegal operations. No word on whether it was legal to spy on residents in order to find out whether or not they had unsecured wifi networks.

I have to wonder: if it's not illegal to have an open wifi network, why is the police department wasting resources advising people on what is mostly a civil matter (violating the terms of agreement with an ISP, or copyright infringement)?

More important, what about the benefits of open wifi networks? The Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it best:
Missing from the [police department's action] is any recognition of potential benefits to be gained from publicly sharing one’s wireless access point. Lately, the virtues of contributing to any shared commons tends to be overshadowed by fears of bad actors (both real and imagined).

The speed of light got broken. Big deal.

It seems the world of physics was rocked this week when a team of European scientists announced that they clocked neutrinos going over the official galactic speed limit. While all the world reels and rends their shirts, and says, 'whither Albert Einstein?', I say, meh. And so are a lot of other people.

The tried and true reason to refrain panic is that everything is preliminary. These are anomalous results of an experiment, and nothing more. Other scientists have to verify the results, other scientists have to duplicate the effect, and only then can everyone panic.

Even then, there is no reason to panic for one simple reason: Einstein's theory of relativity never actually said that particles can't go faster than the speed of light. Rather, the mathematics dealt with the behavior of bodies as they approached the speed of light. And even then, it dealt only with the observable behavior of bodies approaching the speed of light.

The notion that nothing can go faster than the speed of light is an inferred result of the theory, not an implied one. The theory only implies that we can't observe anything accelerate past the speed of light.

What happens if it's verified that neutrinos do indeed travel faster than the speed of light? It's hard to predict. The second postulate of relativity (the speed of light is a fundamental constant, independent of the observer) would have to be revisited and assessed again. But perhaps they will find that the speed of a neutrino is itself a fundamental constant, and we have an adjusted postulate that abandons the speed of light altogether.

But, more likely, nothing is going to come of this. Anyone remember Cold Fusion? Anyone remember how the world of physics was turned on its ear when researches in Utah announced fusion at room temperature? Everyone was doing backflips over the implications, right up until no one else could duplicate the results, and the experiment turned out to be a flawed ball of cattle crap.

My money's on cattle crap.

Netflix Netflux up

Just when you think a company is well managed, they start spilling their coffee on their pants. And so it is with Netflix.

Remember how a few weeks back, Netflix was the king of the New World? They were trading at $300 per share, they were the masters of their domain, and it looked like the sky was the limit.

Today, they are trading at $130 per share, and suddenly Netflix is the fat kid in grade eight who just let out a loud fart int class. No one wants to sit next to Netflix. And everyone is scratching their head, wondering what happened to the Golden Boy? The thing is, no one thing happened. A bunch of things happened.

They lost content.  Starz provides much of Netflix's most up-to-date streaming content, and that deal is set to expire, leaving a hole in their offering. That comes on the heels of competitors entering into the streaming movie space. But fear not. With a shrinking content base and increasing competition, they did the only logical thing ...

They raised their prices like pimps at a Shriners convention. No one likes a hike of 60%. Sure, their subscription rate remains fairly reasonable, but the hike was sudden, sharp and reeked of arrogance. It was like throwing a bucket of cold water on a rocking dance floor. Total buzz kill. That's when the real bleeding began. Their Facebook pages filled with flaming comments. Their subscriber base shrank. Their core users began to get very pissed off. So, they did the only logical thing ...

They 'Apologized'. Really. If the CEO had been a little bolder, he would have wiggled his fingers as he air quoted the word 'sorry'.  The apology was so "heartfelt" and "sincere" that it took up multiple pages, and more than 10 paragraphs. Sensing that he was losing his credibility, in the middle of his apology, the CEO did the only logical thing ...

They announced Qwikster in the middle of the apology, as if the apology was the minor bookkeeping chore to get out of the way, and Qwikster was the real reason people should be paying attention. But Qwikster is nothing more than the original business concept of mail-around DVDs. But now if you wanted to use both services, you had to pay almost twice as much, and you have to go to two different sites, with two separate rating systems. But Netflix knew it was important to make this announcement, so they did the only logical thing ...

They gave a name that reeked Dotcom crash and Also Ran websites. Maybe it was forward thinking. Maybe they knew that the service was headed to the same graveyard as Napster and Friendster. With that in mind, they did the next logical thing ...

They announced it at the height of No One Is Paying Attention Season. August is perhaps the worst time to announce a new commercial venture: everyone is on holiday. The only other time would be immediately after Christmas, when everyone is broke. But, fear not, for Qwikster is so new and unique that it is going to be a marketing slam dunk, according to the geniuses that must have done countless minutes of homework, crossing the i's and dotting the t's because, of course, then followed the only logical thing ...

They forgot to secure the Qwikster Twitter account. Somewhere, in the bowels of the Netflix marketing department, there is a project manager with his head in his hands. He had only one job. Get the Twitter feed going. But @Qwikster was already taken, by Jason Castillo who appears to be somewhat of a slacker. This is one of his recent tweets:
Dang nothing to eat tf lls :P ima ask my dad for money for I can go buy somthing

Words fail me. This is now the Twitterland face of Netflix's DVD subscription service. It's enough to make you wonder if the grand plan is to actually kill of the mail order side of the Netflix business.

Which browser sucks?

Although I agree this is an obvious question, the real question is: by how much does a browser suck?

The only way I can objectively measure the suckability is by getting a consensus from the crowd. The table below shows the number of pages found on the Internet for each browser and how much it sucks.

The results are surprising.

Opera sucks 17,200,000
Firefox sucks 14,300,000
Chrome Sucks11,900,000
IE Sucks6,400,000
Safari Sucks 6,350,000

So there you have it. Opera rates highest on the suckability index, while Safari just barely beats out Explorer for least suckiness.

Which just goes to show you how much you can trust Google ...

Since when did we get discipline?

I was at the liquor store today and I noticed that they didn't have any more of the little airplane sized bottles of booze any more. The man at the counter told me they weren't selling them any more. What is up with that? Doesn't anybody drink at work any more?

Which programming language rules the internet?

Rather than arguing about which language is the greatest, let's look at some statistics about which language has the most popularity on the Internet. Below is a list of the number of pages found for each language, through a Google search. I've included markups as well, just for shits and giggles.

Visual Basic123,000,000
Objective C38,000,000

HTML and PHP have the same number of found pages. That implies to me that Google has some arbitrary rating system that approximates certain large numbers to a common number.

My server is from the future

My server is running ten minutes fast. I was going to adjust it, then I realized that it could be my talisman. So I will rephrase:

My server is from the future. Ten minutes in the future. I have a second server that pings it every minute. It is my reality heartbeat monitor. Any time the second server gets no response from the server in the future, it sends me an email and a SMS text, warning me that the apocalypse may happen within the next ten minutes. Then I casually move away from any glass windows.

The winds of change blow and sometimes suck back

Did anyone notice the earth begin to shift under their feet month ago, when Nokia and Microsoft announced their partnership? Probably not.

Likewise, no one is paying much attention to the changing wind. In particular, what omens are being blown in with the announcement by Samsung that it will carry Microsoft Windows on its tablets, in addition to Android? For Google and Apple, these are ill omens. For people considering an investment, this is an opportunity.

Everyone who has discounted Microsoft has stopped thinking of the long game: what is the world going to be like in five years? Let me draw you a picture of the future:

In the future, you are going to carry your computer in a holster. When you walk in to work, your desk is going to be clear except for a wireless keyboard and a flatscreen monitor. But no tower computer. Not even a laptop.

In the future, when you sit at your desk in the morning, the first thing you will do is take your smart phone from your hip and plug it into a small docking station. This will connect you immediately to the monitor and keyboard. And now you have your computer.

Just a few years from now, your phone will have sufficient computing power and sufficient memory to act as a full-fledged desktop computer replacement. You will store all your files and data in two places: on the cloud for backup, and on your hip for immediate local access.

This isn't a big prediction. It's not a stretch of the imagination. But its implications are monumental, because everything that was previously on your desktop will now be on your phone, including all of your business applications.

That's right. Within the next few years, your phone will not only contain your spreadsheets and documents, but it will contain your word processing and spreadsheet software. Your email client. Your text editors. Everything.

And where do you think they're going to get this software? What one company is best positioned to provide full powered software programs to the next generation of phones and tables.

You guessed it: Microsoft.

Microsoft is going to be the butterfly of this decade. It's had the snot kicked out of it by pundits and hipsters alike, every since it missed the boat with smart phones. Those who are wiser than other in the ways of the mobile revolution have completely written MSFT off.  I suspect they are going to be eat crow soon.

Two bots act like typical Internet asses

It had to happen eventually: once you get a smart enough chatbot, you want to get it talking to itself and see what happens. What follows shouldn't be any surprise, for two reasons:

1. The developers of the chatbot are attempting to simulate human conversation, and human conversation is clogged up with ego.

2. The developers of the chatbot are basing their learning database on real conversations on the Internet, and the Internet is clogged with assholes.

So it shouldn't be a surprise when the conversation descends rapidly into bickering.

This is not artificial intelligence, although this is what people are trying to pass as artificial intelligence. This is only artificial learning, where programmers optimize search algorithms to pull suitable answers from a massive database.

True artificial intelligence is situational. The bot responds based on the context of the discussion rather than on correlations with stored contexts. The difference is subtle but distinct.

Google Maps gets dicked around

Someone has taken rebellion a step further than anyone expected, and painted a crude dick on the lens of a Google Maps camera.

Or maybe it's the outline of Bert from Sesame Street.

The password conundrum

There are many things that bother me about the Internet. One of them is administrative arrogance, and I can think of no better example than the nazis at GoDaddy.com.

Not only do they mandate minimum limits to their password, which is understandable, but they won't allow any password that doesn't contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase and doesn't contain numbers.

In their zealous efforts to protect us from ourselves, GoDaddy has decided that we have to invent complicated passwords that we are more likely to forget. This means that we have to write the password down somewhere, which automatically defeats the purpose. Ironically, GoDaddy's attempt to make our passwords more secure makes them less secure.

The best solution to the password problem is a private algorithm that constructs the password for you. The algorithm should result in a long password, but one that is so random to outsiders that it can't be cracked. Here's an algorithm I no longer use, one that was unforgettable:

1. Take the domain name of the website into which you are logging.
2. Take your middle name
3. Pick a "favorite" number - one that you've decided is the number you will always use (eg 314)
4. Sub out every vowel for the number 1.
5. End it with the domain

My password for GoDaddy would become: g1d1dd1c1ll1314.com

There is no password cracker in the world that could guess that password. At the same time, because it's based on things that are obvious only to me, I will never fail to enter in the correct password, regardless of how many different sites I have logins and passwords for.

Code Fail - The naming of classes

At my place of work, I am mired up to my ass in the alligators of legacy code. The system is like steep side of a river bank, with layer upon layer of sedimentary code deposits. Homebrew framework on top of homebrew framework.

At times, I feel I have wandered into the cyclomatic graveyard: the place where old code goes to die. Just recently, I stumbled upon the deeply hidden class. I think the developer had much bigger plans for it. Perhaps the earth was hit by an asteroid and he perished in the great Code Freeze:

class bigClass2
   var $inClassArr;
   function bigClass2()
      $this->inClassArr = array();

   function dynamicSort($sortorder)
      usort ($this->inClassArr, $sortorder);

I am afraid to go hunting for the original bigClass, which obviously wasn't big enough.

Demographics are changing, and its the old geezers making progress

If you thought that kids these days are embracing new technology at the fastest rate, you would be wrong. A recent study by Neilson found that old folks are finally coming round.

According to Neilson,  usage of tablets has among the elderly has almost doubled in less than a year. The number one users of e-readers are people over 55.

What's even more surprising is that use of techno-gadgets among kids is actually shrinking.

It appears you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.

Amazon figures the tablet market out

Why has it taken so long for people to figure out they can't square off against the iPad and win?

Why did the Playbook and TouchPad crash and burn? Because they came in at the same price as the iPad.This is a strategy that failed against the iPod and the iPhone, so why did they think it would succeed against the iPad.

 I have to assume it was because HP and RIM were living with their heads squarely up their own butts, arrogantly assuming that the power of their own brand was enough to compete with the Apple brand.

But now Amazon is about to move in to the market, and take on the iPad with their own tablet. And they'll probably win, if winning means taking a bite out of iPads current monopoly. Why will they win? Because they're going to price themselves at half the price of the iPad.

Such a positioning move implicitly acknowledges the dominant position of Apple, which is something neither HP or RIM were willing to do, and now it is contributing to their ultimate demise. But Amazon doesn't lose any face by admitting that Apple is better. After all, few people see Amazon and Apple being in the same space. One retails products. One makes retail products. It's like comparing Wal Mart to Sony.

Hopefully, Amazon stays with this strategy, because it will be a winner. I will gladly buy their tablet, if it's under $300.

And, secretly, I hope it makes Apple drop their iPad price to under $300. Because I'd rather buy one of them ...