Monthly Archives: June 2013

Too hot for Starcraft II

Unfortunately today’s heat wave precludes me playing starcraft ii. The heat generated from the fan, coupled with the heat in the house makes it impossible to play.

Edit – although if I played naked it might work. And put a bucket underneath to catch the sweat. And thanks to all of my training I have salt-tablets to deal with dehydration and a camelback to keep hydrated… Naked co-ed starcraft … Some things can never be unsaid or unseen. 

These shoes were made for filibustering, and that’s just what they’ll do



Last week Wendy Davis wore these shoes for 13 hours to filibuster an end-run around women’s reproductive rights. Who would have known. I wonder if the minimalist dudes will chime in about how the extra padding of the shoes was the reason she needed a back-brace.

Minor rant. Texas cares so much about Women’s health that they have the highest percentage of people who have no medical insurance – about 1/3. And when the federal government tried to expand that percentage their governor refused to take part. Again, what was Lincoln thinking?

They care so much about Women’s health that they are forcing a special session of the legislature that violates all of their procedural processes just to get this law passed.


My next marathon is going to be done in these shoes.

Welcome to California – The Jews, the Bomb, Gay Rights, DOMA and the South

In the 1930’s, the Nazi racial policies forced many Jews to leave Germany and head to the UK and the United States. Chief among those fugitives was a physicist named Albert Einstein.

Those refugees gave the USA a critical talent advantage at a critical juncture in world history.

Instead of the bomb being built-in Germany, it was built in the USA, and Adolf’s reign of horror ended after 12 not 1000 years.

The history of the world has been thus far, when you cause people to flee due to intolerance they go elsewhere and make the elsewhere better.

With the recent DOMA ruling, we are about to witness a similar migration of talent, and companies that hire talent away from places of intolerance.

It was delightful to read this article today. I especially loved this quote:

Bank of America is far from alone in grappling with the problem that some of its employees apparently have a powerful incentive to exit Texas that they didn’t have at the start of the week.

Texas has made hay about how corporate friendly they are, and they might be… But in a world where global talent competition is fierce, I want to be in a place where a gay man wants to live not in a place where a gay is denied the right to marry and all the rights that flow from that.

Companies will quickly realize that intolerant states are a bad place to be and will move fast.

Mark this day in history, it’s the day the intolerant south opted out of the 21st century.

And to all you folks who are looking for a place where you can get married and start a company, come to California…




Damn you iOS

One of the coolest and amazing parts of the Android system is how trivial it is to create content in one application and share that content with another application.

I can trivially take a picture, and then use smugmug to upload it and wordpress to blog about it.

With iOS it’s a pain-in-the-ass to get the content out of the device onto the app I want.

Why iOS which is built on top of a BSD kernel has such an unbelievable and crappy file system abstraction layer is an enduring mystery to me.

edit: Why am I using an iOS device, you ask? Because I was given as a gift an iPad Mini. I am planning to replace that eventually with an Android tablet.

bing! I want – bing! to – bing! – tell you – bing! something

One of the most irritating aspects of the Android user experience is the bing-bing-bing of notifications.

When you buy a new phone, it downloads all the apps you had in the past. Those apps have default configurations that cause notifications to be put in your notification inbox and to make noises.

And so you play this game of whack-a-mole killing the sound notifications only to have it go bing! at the most inopportune time because some app you forgot about decided that it was the time to go bing! as part of some vain re-activation play.

I wish, wish there was a global way to control these frigging notifications globally…

How SCOTUS failed us again…

I’ve been reading a new book called Fear Itself that describes the unholy alliance between the South Progressives and Racists and the Northern Progressives that created the New Deal.

What the author can not explain but describes is how Southern Progressives and Racists who wanted to see a more robust active social order for the white man wanted to keep everyone else in their place.

Without those Southern Progressives the New Deal doesn’t happen.

At the same time their racism defined the limits of the New Deal.

An example of this is the voting process. The Federal Government wanted to create a Federal ballot for the military for state elections. The Southern states, leery of any federal involvement in their peculiar institutions (how about historians start calling them evil?) … did everything in their power to prevent the emergence of a Federal vote. Net effect during the Second World War, the men fighting the war couldn’t vote.

Which brings me to the SCOTUS decision. The only reason we don’t have a federal ballot is so that states can gerrymander outcomes to their majority preferences. And the only reason we have that is because we have states that want to preserve power for one majority at the expense of another majority. And the only reason that ever existed existed is so that the White South could guarantee that no slave would ever get a vote.

In a less elegant way, states want to preserve the right to exclude certain groups from participating in the democracy and so want control over the ballot.

What the Supreme Court did was to ask Congress to come up with new rules. The Supreme Court made the right technical decision. The problem is that the right technical decision coupled with political reality translates into less Federal oversight.

And that causes me alarm.

And all of this would be – well academic in interest – if it wasn’t for the Republican party’s desperate attempts to prevent the wrong groups from voting during the last election.

And so when I see these decisions it reminds me that the project of democracy in America is still a rough work in progress. And if we want a better America, we all have a lot of work to do.

The good news is that time is on our side if we don’t lose faith.

PRISM: The real horror story and the price of freedom.

In earlier posts on my blog, I talked about how implausible the system Mr Snowden described was.

My frustration was that Mr. Snowden focused on the wrong problem. The problem isn’t that the US government can spy on you in real-time, the problem is that the only defense we have against snooping is a thin black line of judges who get to decide what part of our lives is or is not private. And that thin black line is easily swept aside in the name of protecting the people….

Every time I take off my shoes to go through security, I am reminded that Osama won. Everytime I see a bit of my freedoms curtailed, I am reminded that Osama won.

The price of victory in this war on terror isn’t just the astronomical number of dead, the waste of resources and the loss of will, it’s the loss of freedom. The only way we win is if we are still a free society …

We chose as a society to protect our skins over our freedoms. And we willingly gave up our freedom one small piece of a time.

I live in the free-est country on earth, and it has prisons where the writ of law doesn’t hold.

I live in the free-est country on earth, except I can’t take a backpack to a hockey game anymore.

I live in the free-est country on earth and all of my communications are spied upon.

30 years ago I could open an account with my name. Now I can’t do anything without leaving a trail of identification papers and blood droppings…

It’s easy for me to sit here at my computer and wonder what the price of freedom is and whether I would pay it. Is losing my life or worse my son’s life the price I am willing to pay to preserve our freedoms? Would I be willing to live in a freer society if it meant that the terrorists could strike more easily?

I don’t know.

But I do know I gave up many freedoms because of this war on terror. I gave up so many that the idea of the government spying on me, no longer is the most worrisome part of this war on terror.


How ATT and Verizon turned mobile software into the new growth industry

Yesterday, I had the misery of replacing of my phone.

When I originally bought my Nokia cell phone, I bought it with the expectation that I would get an early upgrade in about a year. Given that the phone was free – thanks to a bug in the OS – the theory was that in one year I would buy a better phone at a reasonably discounted price to replace my aging and dying Nokia E71

Except ATT, and now Verizon, changed the rules of the game and the early discount no longer applied.

Which sucked for me… but it really sucks if you are hardware manufacturer…

In the hardware business, you really need to get people to upgrade to the next model to make money. If they don’t upgrade, then you make less money. It’s really that simple.

Storage as a hardware business is awesome because storage is like a consumable… as long as you are creating data you are buying more storage. Once you use storage it’s no longer re-usable for another purpose without deleting data and data never gets deleted.

But to upgrade to a new cell phone you need a compelling value proposition at a reasonable price.

With the early discount model the carriers had turned what could have been a two-year upgrade cycle into a one year upgrade cycle. And had allowed more share of wallet to go from software vendors to hardware vendors… Folks who could spend were spending more on hardware over two years than on software.

The carriers have now reversed that policy which means that the prices after one year have gone up.

This is really unfortunate for hardware manufacturers. To deal with the sudden increase in price, hardware vendors must either make the product more valuable through faster innovation, or figure out how to make the hardware cheaper or accept slower growth.

Changing the rate of innovation is hard. In fact, I would almost argue is impossible. Hardware rate of innovation is ultimately tied to Moore’s law. So you have to cut prices which is also sucks because it affects margins. Or you accept slower growth which isn’t so bad … other than the part where your shareholders ask you to do things like hand over your cash hoard and demand a dividend … and let’s not get into the employee retention thing.

All this means less profit for hardware vendors which means less innovation etc…

A slower hardware innovation adoption rate, however, is fantastic for software vendors. Unlike hardware, software vendors are able to continuously add value to devices without an upgrade cycle. In addition,for subscription services as long as the vendor adds incremental value the average sales price doesn’t have to drop …

So what does this mean?

If you consider the amount of money that the median first world person has as fixed or slightly declining over the next 10 years, then software vendors can capture a bigger share of the wallet.

Let’s be very specific:

Suppose a customer is will to spend 600$ very two years on a phone. In the old world, the customer could buy a 200$ one year, and a 400$ the next. With the new policies the customer spends 200$ and 600$ the next year because there is no discount. So the customer – unless he sees a compelling value proposition decides to not buy the 600$ phone which frees up 400$. That 400$ is available to spend on incremental software services on his phone. Although it’s certainly true that not all that money will go to software, but some of it will. And the really cool piece of news is that folks who were buying early upgrades have enough disposable income to actually want to buy more software services to extend the value of the device they already own.

If I was a software service vendor like Evernote or Google or Microsoft this is the best piece of news I have heard in a very long time… More money to spend on services.

If I was a hardware vendor this would suck. And the market agrees which explains the collapse of Apple shares.

And if I was Microsoft trying to grow my platform this would also suck because

  1. It means that growth of Windows Mobile will be slower as it takes longer for people to buy new phones.
  2. Given the investment consumers are making  in services, the stickiness of  incumbent platforms may increase over time.

My only hope if I am Microsoft is that they can somehow create faster software innovation that motivates people in the next upgrade cycle to switch … This is possible … in principle (bing is number #1 in search – right?) … 

And if I was blackberry, I would pray there were a lot of people who loved me…

And if I was anyone else trying to build a cell phone platform, I might be looking for a new strategy…