Introducing O.W.L.S.

December 2nd, 2013

Introducing O.W.L.S.:

Putting O.W.L.S. into commercial use will take a number of years as it takes ages to train owls to do anything and we only just thought of it this morning.

I can but echo the first comment on that post: Well played, Waterstones. Well played…

[Via Sidelights]

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LET Eggs=N+1. LET Baskets = 1.

August 7th, 2012

Getting beyond the particulars of how Mat Honan had hackers use social engineering to get his passwords reset and his iOS and MacOS devices remote wiped, for my money here's the key lesson of the whole sorry saga:

I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can't put a price on.

This isn't just about Apple – it's about all the corporations expanding from their original niches into as many corners of our online life as possible.1 Having a single sign-on is scary, and only gets more so as the uses of that ID expand over time.2

I'd like to think that scares like this would motivate Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the rest to get this stuff right lest the public be discouraged from signing up for all the different services they offer, but I fear that convenience wins out all too often.

  1. For what it's worth, I haven't enabled iCloud on my Mac Mini or my iPod Touch. Not because I foresaw this sort of problem; it's just that I don't see the benefit of iCloud. I bought my iPod Touch as a replacement PDA, not a device for accessing the internet on the move. In any case, given that when I'm at work I'm not in range of an accessible WiFi service, so my iPod Touch isn't going to be accessing iCloud anyway.
  2. I dread the day when Apple finally make some feature I really want/need insist upon having access to iCloud. That might be my cue to take a close look at whatever the successor to the Nexus 7 turns out to be.

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An Internet for the incurious

June 30th, 2012

James Bridle, on Amazon's seductively convenient mix of books and infrastructure:

The great fear of the Internet is that we will be washed away in a tide of information, that the sheer scale of everything will overwhelm us, and that that everything is inferior, condemning us to wallow in the mud at the foot of an ever-receding Parnassus. And yet one of the many things the Internet has taught us is that surface quality of media comes a poor second to access, whether it's typographically inhibited self-published fan fiction or barely discernible YouTube camera-phone films.

What makes the Kindle unique is what makes Amazon unique: its physical presence is a mere avatar for a stream of digital services. In the spirit of its parent, it is more infrastructure than device. And it is as infrastructure that it disrupts, as its biblioclastic name intends.

[Via cityofsound]

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Someone buy that man (or woman) a thesaurus

December 19th, 2011

The Email Person at Amazon Web Services is Really, Really Excited.

[Via Waxy.org]

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Better left unposted?

August 22nd, 2011

Unedited Thoughts About Technology:

Microsoft

The most mindblowing thing in technology right now is your inability to make products that people love (with very few exceptions). Brilliant, creative people work for you, and they have seriously incredible ideas. You have more money than Jesus Christ's rich uncle. I have these crazy high expectations, these hopes that you'll blow me away and you totally let me down. Just try making something other than an Xbox that I can fall madly in love with, and that more than 5 other people will buy because you didn't wait until 3 years after the rest of the market to launch it? Please? Also: I can't fucking believe you won't have a real tablet until 2012. I guess we can use it to liveblog the end of civilization. It better be so good Jesus Christ himself rides down to earth on it, if you're going to take that long. People like Skype, though, and Windows 8 looks alright maybe, so good job there. I guess.

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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The Internet Operating System defined

March 31st, 2010

Tim O'Reilly's The State of the Internet Operating System is being linked to all over the place, with good reason. It's a wide-ranging survey of the state of the internet, and the fork in the road that's fast approaching:

I've been talking for years about "the internet operating system", but I realized I've never written an extended post to define what I think it is, where it is going, and the choices we face. This is that missing post. Here you will see the underlying beliefs about the future that are guiding my publishing program [...]

We are once again approaching the point at which the Faustian bargain will be made: simply use our facilities, and the complexity will go away. And much as happened during the 1980s, there is more than one company making that promise. We're entering a modern version of "the Great Game", the rivalry to control the narrow passes to the promised future of computing. (John Battelle calls them "points of control".) This rivalry is seen most acutely in mobile applications that rely on internet services as back-ends.

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Uranium Ore

August 22nd, 2009

The customer reviews for Uranium Ore at Amazon are a hoot:

Ok for cleaning teeth, not so great for killing ants.., December 3, 2007

By Nero Goldstein "Bemused by a Muse" (The Great Nation of Texas)

Picked this up for use in one of my kid's 'diversity' projects in school (Great Success!), and stuck the leftovers in the cabinet next to the baking soda.

Ran out of toothpaste, and remembered how you're supposed to be able to use baking soda to clean your teeth, so of course, I accidentally used this instead, and Wow! all I can say is, my teeth have never been cleaner! They sparkle, they tingle, and for some reason, they STAY clean now, no matter what. Highly recommended!

However, when I ran out of that fire-ant killer powder stuff, I figured I would try some for that too.

Big mistake!

Boy, it sure did not kill those ants!

Fortunately, those suckers get slower as they get bigger, so I have been able to use a shovel to take care of most of them, one at a time though, the sneaky devils.

And the darn trash man refuses to take them away..

I would have given this product 5 stars for the teeth and the project on embracing diversity, but I deducted one star because of the giant mutant ants.

[Via The Early Days of a Better Nation]

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Nicholson Baker on ebooks

July 27th, 2009

Nicholson Baker meets the Kindle:

It came, via UPS, in a big cardboard box. Inside the box were some puffy clear bladders of plastic, a packing slip with "$359" on it, and another cardboard box. This one said, in spare, lowercase type, "kindle." On the side of the box was a plastic strip inlaid into the cardboard, which you were meant to pull to tear the package cleanly open. On it were the words "Once upon a time." I pulled and opened.

Inside was another box, fancier than the first. Black cardboard was printed with a swarm of glossy black letters, and in the middle was, again, the word "kindle." There was another pull strip on the side, which again said, "Once upon a time." I'd entered some nesting Italo Calvino folktale world of packaging. (Calvino's Italian folktales aren't yet available at the Kindle Store, by the way.) I pulled again and opened.

Within, lying face up in a white-lined casket, was the device itself. It was pale, about the size of a hardcover novel, but much thinner, and it had a smallish screen and a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom made of tiny round pleasure-dot keys that resisted pressing. I gazed at the keys for a moment and thought of a restaurant accordion.

[Via The Awl]

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A wholly self-inflicted scar

July 26th, 2009

In the wake of the Kindle/1984 fiasco, you've got to give Jeff Bezos credit for issuing such a straightforward apology:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

The next question is what Amazon will do differently next time a supplier screws up and supplies them with a title they don't have the appropriate rights to. Will they…

  • Stop selling the title and compensate the rights holders out of their own pocket, leaving the books on customers' Kindles?
  • Contact people who purchased the edition of a book they should never have sold to them and offer their customers a different, legitimately published, issue of the title?
  • Send purchasers an email giving advance warning that as of date/time X the title in question will be disappearing from their library and their account will be credited with a refund?

Interesting times…

[Via rc3.org]

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Seller's remorse

July 17th, 2009

Have Amazon just sounded the death knell for the e-book?

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for – thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people's Kindles and credited their accounts for the price. [...]

Alternatively – just possibly – could this be a devilishly cunning plan by Amazon to rid the world of DRM by providing a highly visible demonstration of exactly how little it means to 'buy' an e-book when it's 'protected' by DRM, thereby prompting a boycott of the Kindle that'll persuade publishers that their customers just won't stand for such strongarm tactics?1

Just another reminder that the 'Rights' referred to in the phrase 'Digital Rights Management' are those of the publisher, not the customer.

[Post title stolen from a comment by ross_teneyck.]

[Via James Nicoll]

  1. No, I don't think so either. As far as I can see the book publishing world is still – with a few honourable exceptions like the Baen Free Library – a decade or two behind the music industry on DRM. They'd probably be quite relieved if the level of demand for e-books would please disappear for a decade or two so that they could carry on selling books the old-fashioned way.

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