Die Twitter!

Starting last summer, my twitter account started getting hijacked to send out marketing spam. No biggie, I thought, I’ll just change the password. A few days later, hacked again… then again… then again…

I unhooked Twitter integration from all my other sites and services, pulled all the app permissions, and even wrote a quick app to generate a random 14 character super-strong password (mixed case, special characters, numbers, etc.)

Then… yup! Hacked again.

Twitter would catch on to the hack each time, after my account started spamming random adverts all over the place. They’d disable the account, and email me to change the password.

I don’t use Twitter much. I didn’t have their native apps installed on my phone, nor my computer. I don’t even like Twitter very much. So eventually I just decided to leave the account disabled, figuring that eventually Twitter would tighten up their security.

Then a couple of days ago, I got email telling me the account had been hacked again. I never had re-enabled it after that last hack, but sure enough, when I went to the site I could login using my random generated password no problem.

So that’s it… I’ve killed my twitter account.

I have more than 140 characters of ideas about what Twitter can do with themselves.

 

Developer Backlash from the Windows 8 Preview

So… the first public peek at Windows 8 was not well received by the developer community. At the heart of the issue is the focus on HTML 5 + Javascript for native Windows 8 apps.

If you wanna see just how bad the developer reaction is, then just check out the comments section from the Channel 9 posting of the Windows 8 preview video.

That’s very nearly universal dissent you see in those comments, and lots of it. There is hardly a kind word to be found in the comments at all.

If you don’t think that’s a big deal, keep in mind that channel 9 is operated by Microsoft and targets the Microsoft developer community. A group of more than 2 developers almost never agree about anything, so seeing universal anger like that does NOT bode well.

Many of the comments were very thick with sarcasm too:

WOW! Finally Windows gadgets get the focus they deserve! I always thought these puny gadgets were never going to amount to much but Microsoft making them full screen is just sheer genius.

— DeathByVisualStudio

Yeah, that’s about right. There was also this gem here:

The ultimate comeback of windows media center. The biggest success in the history of software. Thank God I can finally see what the weather is and get my stock prices

— Kevin

Look, even if we’re all wrong about Silverlight and WPF getting side-lined here, it doesn’t change the fact that MS has been doing a horrible job conveying to their developer base any sense of a coherent strategy going forward. It seems to many of us like MS hasn’t got a fucking clue what they are doing, and is just flailing around aimlessly. Even if that isn’t true, that’s the impression… and that’s not good.

Fail Loop

This gem is part of a code (C#) example that we got from a vendor recently. This exact same pattern appears multiple times in the example.

It stands out because it does manage to work correctly…

using (FileStream rdr = new FileStream(contentInfo.FullName, FileMode.Open, FileAccess.Read, FileShare.ReadWrite))
{                    {
    index = 1;
    while (true)
    {
        long offset = (index - 1) * chunkSize;
        long remaining = contentInfo.Length - offset;
        if (remaining < 1) break; // Stop processing, at the end of the file

        // stuff that doesn't ever touch the index variable 

        index++;
    }
}

Gasoline Boycotts – How much do big oil companies care?

Recently I’ve gotten a rash of Facebook event invites, emails, and other general online suggestions that I should participate in various gas boycotts. The proposal is that we all setup a a single day where no one in the country buys any gasoline at all.

Sadly, there is no single organizer for these protests, so there are literally hundreds of different groups advocating boycotts on different dates. But, aside from the logistical challenge, I’m still confused as to exactly how  people think this kind of boycott would achieve anything.

These groups either claim to want to “send a message” to the “big oil companies”, or they claim that this will “hit them in their bottom-line”. These groups are run by idiots.

How does not buying gas on one day matter to the “big oil companies”?

Have you actually thought about this at all? It isn’t like I buy my gas straight from big oil… sure, the local gas station’s signs have BP logos all over them, but BP doesn’t actually own and operate those individual gas stations. It isn’t like the money flows from my debit card straight into some big oil company’s bank account.

Sure, the gas station owners would really notice, and they may even be inconvenienced slightly. But the gas stations aren’t the ones that set your gasoline prices.  And gas stations don’t pay their big oil suppliers on a daily basis either; they tend to pay their gasoline bills on a monthly or quarterly basis.

It really doesn’t matter to the big oil company on which specific day any particular individual choses to pump gas into their little car.

And what message are you planning to send with this boycott? It isn’t like people are advocating a day of not driving, so just as much gasoline would be used up that day anyway; boycott or not. The small fraction of people that would normally have chosen to buy their gas on boycott day would just have to fill up the tank a day earlier or later; but they’d need to buy exactly the same amount as they would have had there been no boycott at all.

Unless you actually reduced the actual usage of gasoline, it doesn’t matter exactly when you buy the gas. But  even if you did manage to get everyone in the U.S. to stop using gasoline for one day the best you could achieve by a one day reduction in gasoline usage would be a 0.27% drop in oil company profits (and that, only if you make the false assumption that their profits only come from gasoline sales).

Let’s put that in perspective…

Let’s assume that we had boycotted, successfully, for one full day last year. And we further assume that during the boycott we also didn’t use any gas either. And then we made the (blatantly false) assumption that all oil company profits come from U.S. gasoline sales.

How much would it matter to big oil?

Well, using the simplest math possible; such a boycott in 2010 would have reduced Exxon Mobile’s bottom-line by around 67 million dollars. So yeah, Exxon would have only made 30.43 billion in profit, instead of the full 30.5 billion that they actually reported last year.

I’m sure big oil is just terrified of those gasoline boycotts and is slaving away right now trying to find some way to appease those disgruntled U.S. motorists.

How Apple Will Lose the Mobile Computing Race

I’ve heard several people say that “Apple is the new Microsoft”. These people are wrong; dead wrong.

Apple is the new Apple. They’ve not changed in the last 20 years, not even a little bit.

Google is the new Microsoft, and Apple is going to lose the mobile device market to Google the exact same way it lost the desktop market to Microsoft 20 years ago.

How is this going to happen? First you have to know the history.

Let me tell you a little story…

Back in the 80’s there were two companies; Apple and Microsoft. Suddenly Apple comes out with a magic new product way ahead of the competition. Enter the Macintosh. The Mac was guaranteed to change personal computing forever, and everyone knew it before the Mac even hit the shelves. There was media hype and gobs of nerd excitement well in advance of the Mac’s debut. And the Mac delivered spectacularly on all of its promises.

But Apple insisted on near complete control of the entire platform; hardware and soft. They were terrified that someone else might come along and spoil the pure awesome.

Apple used deliberately unusual hardware, and controlled it with an iron fist. Only Apple and a few licensees were allowed to make Mac hardware. The 3rd party accessory market was as restricted as Apple could make it too.

Programmers could make applications for the Mac of course, but Apple maintained tight control over how applications used the hardware and interacted with the OS. Developers played in the sandbox, but it was Apple and select partners that created the majority of useful Mac software.

Apple was also territorial about who could sell their precious. Macs were distributed mostly through select retail partners. Anyone else that wanted to sell a Mac paid full retail price –which made it very hard to compete with Apple’s preferred retailers.

Because Apple had tight control end-to-end, the Mac was a very stable and reliable computer. Most of the software was also high quality, which made the Mac a joy to use.

On the other side, you had Microsoft. They weren’t really a hardware company though. They concentrated on making a decent operating system and left the hardware to other companies that specialized in that sort of thing.

There was a lot of compromise and cooperation between Microsoft and the hardware makers though, of which there were many. They created a large market with a wide range of different systems, each with different capabilities, quality, and prices. Microsoft just did what they could to make sure that Windows worked reasonably well with whatever crazy-ass hardware the other guys came up with.

Microsoft made a decent enough OS, but what they did really well was make programming languages, compilers, and development tools –all that stuff you need in order to make software for the regular folks. Microsoft made it easy to develop applications for Windows, and they stayed out of the way as much as possible. They didn’t put up a fight when developers released software to compete with Microsoft’s own, and they didn’t stop developers from extending the operating system itself in new and unusual directions.

Microsoft was later than Apple in coming out with a good GUI based OS. Windows wasn’t too pretty nor much fun compared to the Mac; especially at first. But PCs were cheaper, and came in a variety that fit different people’s needs and budgets. The most important thing was that a Windows PC could do everything that a Mac could, though not always with the elegance of the Mac. People often preferred a Mac, but they could (and did) settle for PCs instead.

In the end, what killed Apple the first time around was Apple’s own paranoia. All by itself, Apple couldn’t evolve the Mac hardware nor the OS fast enough to keep up with a young and rapidly changing personal computer market.

All Microsoft had to do was try and keep up while other companies raced forward with new ideas.

Now jump forward 20 years.

There are two companies; Apple and Google. Suddenly Apple comes out with a magic new product way ahead of the competition. Enter the iPhone. The iPhone was guaranteed to change mobile computing forever, and everyone knew it before the iPhone even hit the shelves. There was media hype and gobs of nerd excitement well in advance of the iPhone’s debut; and the iPhone delivered spectacularly on all of its promises.

But Apple insists on near complete control of the entire platform; hardware and soft. They are terrified that someone else might come along and spoil the pure awesome.

Apple uses deliberately unusual hardware, and they control it with an iron fist. Only apple is allowed to make iPhones, and the 3rd party accessory market is as restricted as Apple can make it.

Programmers can (and do) make applications for the iPhone of course, but Apple maintains near complete control over how those applications use the hardware and interact with the OS. Developers are allowed to play in the sandbox only if they use the specific tools that apple permits. Apple and a few select partners make the majority of the useful iPhone apps. Most developers that make apps to competes with Apple’s own are denied access to the app store; which is the only way users can obtain apps for the iPhone. Apple will even deny an app if they just don’t like what it does.

Apple is territorial about who sells their precious. The iPhone is (currently) only distributed through one network in the U.S., and apple exerts enormous control over how that network does business. AT&T had to wait to roll out 3G services until there was an iPhone that also supported it. There were other mobile phones sold by AT&T that had  3G support as much as a full year before, and AT&T had deployed the network hardware long before Apple’s 3G iPhone came out.

Because Apple is in such tight control, the iPhone is a very stable and reliable smartphone. Most of the software is also of high quality, which makes the iPhone a joy to use.

On the other side, you have Google. They aren’t really a hardware company though. They make a good mobile operating system, but have left most of the hardware in the hands of companies that specialized in that sort of thing.

There is a lot of compromise and cooperation between Google and the many hardware makers. They have created large market with a wide range of different Android phones with different capabilities, quality, and price. Google just does what it can to make sure the Android OS works reasonably well with whatever crazy-ass hardware the other guys come up with.

Google makes a good mobile OS, but what they do really well is provide cloud services –services developers can use to make useful mobile software for the regular folks. Google makes it easy to build applications for Android, and supply much of the cloud services free of charge. They stay out of the way as much as possible, but give developers a way to distribute software through a centralized app store, with very few restrictions. Apps can also be obtained through independent channels too. Google doesn’t put up a fight when developers release software to compete with Google’s own products, and they don’t stop developers from extending the Android OS in new and unusual directions.

Google was later than Apple with a smartphone. Android isn’t quite as pretty compared to the iPhone; though it is rapidly getting there. Android phones are cheaper, available for nearly any network, and come in a wide variety of forms to fit different people’s needs and budgets. And the important thing is that an Android Phone can do anything that an iPhone can; sometimes even with the same elegance as the iPhone. People often prefer the iPhone, but they can (and do) settle for Android phones instead.

In the end, what will kill Apple the second time around is Apple’s own paranoia. All by itself, Apple cannot evolve the iPhone fast enough to keep up a young and rapidly changing mobile computing market. Their treatment of developers is pushing them to other platforms fast.

All Google has to do is try and keep up while other hardware and software companies race forward with new ideas.

This same exact pattern of behavior is repeated with the new iPad.

The situations are so similar it is almost insane that Apple can’t see their own doom coming.

There are some major differences between now and 20 years ago, but none of them bode well for Apple.

Google is in a much more competitive position than Microsoft was 20 years ago, and Android is a much better product to pit against the iPhone than Windows was against the Mac.

Perhaps the biggest difference between now and then though is that Apple wasn’t crapping all over their software developers back then. Apple did limit developers in some ways, but never in the arrogant and insulting way they do now… and especially not through any legal or contract trickery like the iPhone developer agreement.

Apple is also much more blatantly motivated by pure monetary greed. Twenty years ago, it felt like the Mac more about a vision of excellence, making a better tomorrow, being different, and enabling new and wonderful possibilities. The iPhone today though is clearly just a cash cow. Apple’s every legal and marketing move is so transparently profit motivated that it doesn’t even fool kindergarteners.

There is no greater vision behind the iPhone like there was the Mac; behind the iPhone it’s just dollar signs, abused developers, and shackled customers.

So long Sci Fi Channel, but I doubt you will be missed…

The Sci Fi Channel has always been one of the most confusing failures in American Television. Now, they have decided that the reason for the suckitude must just be the name of the channel.

So they are changing the name to “Syfy”. Somehow they think that this move will make their crappy shows appeal to a broader range of people.

Reading an article at TV Week about I have to say, the reason this network sucks has never been clearer…

Thinking back on the successes of the Sci Fi channel, and there are some, you end up with a list that goes a little like this (in no apparent order):

  • Stargate (and variants)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Dune (mini-series)
  • Eureka

They also had a lot of successes with second-run shows like Doctor Who. But there is one thing that all of these have in common…. they are actually Science Fiction shows.

In the article one of the founders, Mr Brooks, says this:

“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi”

Oh!

I noticed!

While the Sci Fi channel was making cash from a couple of decent first run Sci Fi shows,They were dumping all their time and money into funding the absolute most amazingly bad screenplays I’ve ever even heard of.

I mean… “Mansquito”!

WTF?

And that bastardization of Earthsea?

My 9th grade creative writing class wrote better screenplays than that… and I went to public school in a backwoods part South Carolina!

So yeah, we noticed the distance between your network and Sci Fi… really… we did.

Mr Brooks also had this to say:

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular”

You know… I get the distinct impression that the problem with the Sci Fi channel isn’t that the market doesn’t like Sci Fi shows, the problem is that the management at the Sci Fi channel themselves don’t like Sci Fi shows.

I think one of the commenters from the TVWeek article (posted by “tijir”) said it best:

Kind of funny, some of the biggest shows on television would be a perfect fit on Sci Fi. I’m talking about Heroes, Terminator Sara Conner Chronicals, Chuck, Fringe, and Smallville. Showing that “general” audiences like fantasy/sci fi programming and the one channel that could give it to them big time is “re-branding” itself as siffy.

So Sci Fi managment… go ahead and change the name. It isn’t as if the Sci Fi channel has actually been helping put decent content on the air anyway. The few successful shows you’ve had would have been just as well off, if not better off, on other networks anyway.

I do not expect your network to survive the name change, but after over a decade of watching you guys shit all over the genre you were named after I don’t think I care if you make it or not anyway.

I’m just annoyed that someone actually got paid real money to mismanage an entire network for so long.

Should I hate Orson Scott Card?

Card opposes gay marriage… should I avoid reading his brilliant fiction books? WTF!?!?

In a recent entry over at “geekdad”, one of wired’s so-called blogs, Matt Blum wrote a piece contrasting his love of the book Ender’s Game with his hatred for the book’s author, Orson Scott Card. The source of the problem seems to be that Card has, especially in more recent years, been a very vocal opponent of gay marriage. We can find Orson’s viewpoint very clearly stated in a piece that was published on the Mormon Times web site.

On one side of the argument we have a brilliant writer that makes a convincing and logical argument and on the other we have a hyper-reactionary hate monger that simply cannot deal with opinions that differ from his own.

Sadly, in this case the hate monger is Matt Blum.

For the most part, Matt is struggling with a problem that faces a lot of people in a celebrity obsessed internet culture. Any person of any minor fame will have their entire personal life splattered all over the place… and what we often find is that the people behind great works are not always good people. The knowledge sometimes impacts our ability to appreciate the work itself.

But in this case, what I find truly annoying is how Matt and many similar people treat Orson Scott Card, especially over his opposition to gay marriage.

Matt seems to have bought into the left-wing activist’s propaganda machine which preaches that it is wrong to even question the whole “gay rights” thing, especially in regards to gay marriage. He has other views that I can pick on in this piece too.

…about anti-semitism!

Contrary to the opinions of the political correctness crowd, including Matt, many people have legitimate complaints about Jews, Jewish culture, the Nation of Israel, etc.

Just because the Jewish people were treated badly in Germany half a century ago doesn’t give them a free ride to be forgiven for being ass-hats today. There is a lot to dislike and disapprove of in Jewish politics and culture, just as there is in any culture.

Pointing out those flaws doesn’t make you an evil bastard. But here in the home of free speech Jews appear to have earned a permanent “get out of jail free” card.

Anyone that says anything even mildly disapproving about anything that can be related to the Jewish is instantly flagged an anti-Semite… which is apparently something REALLY bad despite the fact that no one seems to actually know what exactly a semite might be… but everyone here sure does knows that you are a truly evil fucker if you aren’t down with the semites!

He is quick to label anyone that disagrees with anything Jewish in nature as an anti-Semite…  with the expected references to Nazi Germany of course.

By the end of his post, matt resorted to just picking on Sean Connery for a statement that he made in 1987 (where he offered the opinion that there were some cases where it was OK to slap a woman with limited force)… a viewpoint I can disagree with in general, but that did made sense in the original context of Sean’s interview… it certainly wasn’t as offensive as it was made out to be in the resulting media spin.

There are at least a few legitimate arguments to be made opposing gay marriage, and Card successfully makes one of those. Card even managed to make his point without having to bring in the religious angle, which is admirable considering his audience was Mormon and it would have been much simpler for him to just play the God angle.

But Card didn’t do that, and that is part of the reason why Card is such a fantastic writer. Instead he breaks into history, politics, law, and science to make a rational argument in support of his opinion (something you don’t often see from the religious right these days).

I’m sure the underlying reason that Card is so passionate about this topic is motivated by his own religious views, but unlike most religiously motivated bull-shit out there, Card’s argument holds some water when held to non-religious analysis.

I disagree with Card’s overall viewpoint of course. I personally don’t see the merit in ANY form of state recognition of marriage, gay or straight. Card does talk intelligently about why there is a legal idea of marriage though:

 “The laws concerning marriage did not create marriage, they merely attempted to solve problems in such areas as inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on.”

Card is a smart guy, but in my opinion he missed a vital point… the areas of “inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on” do not need to be solved via legal recognition of marriage. It could just as easily be solved via standard contract and tort law.

Ironically there is already precedent for this in the legal system. Prenuptial agreements are an example of how contract law is used to extend and/or modify the standard rules of legal marriage. Divorce agreements are another example.

As it stands though, the existing legal institute of marriage is extremely discriminatory and unjust towards a sizeable group of citizens. It is as repressive to these people as slavery was towards black Americans. I would argue that legal marriage law is also highly discriminatory towards heterosexual people that just aren’t married or don’t want to be. Certainly the tax system punishes single members of our society very harshly indeed.

But I still respect Card’s argument. It is well thought out, logical, and well presented. Which brings us back to Matt’s problem… what do you do when a creator of great work holds personal opinions that you strongly disagree with?

Well, first, it probably doesn’t help to come off as a total ass-hole like Matt did. I mean, by the end of his post he devolved into plain and simple name-calling.

How very mature Mr. geekdad, what a role model for your kids!

The geekdad “blog” over at wired is generally aimed at parents. In my opinion most of the writers over there seem to have some really silly ideas on parenting. These are the kind of parents that are shoved so far up their kid’s ass that their kids will turn out to be worthless adults that just live in their geekdad’s basement until they’re 40… but since the blog does aim at parents, it brings up the question:

Should you let your kids read a work if the person that created it also teaches ideas you don’t agree with, or even find outright hostile, immoral, etc?

Well… you can be a narrow minded ass-hole and just steer your kids clear of such works… protecting them and making sure they grow up to believe only what you want them to. Or you might choose to teach them how to fucking think for themselves so they can make up their own minds when it comes to contentious political issues…

So I recommend you burn all of Card’s books and add his name to your fucking net-nanny firewall or whatever…

I’m not advertising for you…

The South Carolina DVM expects to use my car’s license plate to advertise for the state… we’ll see about that!

Every few years the state of South Carolina sends me a new license plate. For some reason, they just can’t pick a color and design and stick with it. But this time… they have really managed to pissed me off.

Here is the new license plate that arrived in the mail yesterday.

First of all, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the plate being pretty. I was fine with the plain white & blue plates with the high-visibility red font they used to use in the 80’s. The purpose of the plate is to give police a way to identify the car. That’s all it has to do. But if they want to spend my tax dollars making it all pretty then that’s OK with me.

What gripes my ass though is that “TRAVEL2SC.COM” written at the bottom of the plate.  Never mind that it’s in all upper-case… it’s the idea of having it there at all that pisses me off.

I don’t mind branding to some extent. If you make some physical thing that I buy and you want to have your name on it then that’s fine as long as your branding isn’t over-the-top annoying and doesn’t negatively impact the usefulness of the thing you brand. Take my car for example… it has the Toyota logo on front and back, and on back the word “Toyota” and the model of the car. That’s fine with me. If someone looking at my car likes it, they might find it useful to know what kind of car it is so they can see about getting one themselves. I always like to be able to look at other people’s car and know what kind it is too.

Same with most things and branding… as long as you keep it kinda subtle, tactful, and out of the way.

Advertising is a different matter though. I fucking refuse to advertise for you, especially not for free.

Take my car as an example again. I went to several car lots before I bought my car. One of them had a car that I liked, but it had a big-ass steel logo for the car dealer bolted onto the back. The dealer logo was actually larger than all the Toyota logos combined. I asked them if they could order me the car without the logo or remove the logo and “repair” the hole that the bolts would have left.

They looked at me funny and said they couldn’t do that. So I told him that the only way I’d buy his car is if he gave me $100/month each month I owned it or knocked off $7200 off the price ($100/month times the 6 years I’d financed the car for). He laughed thinking I was joking… so I got up and walked out of the sales office.

I ended up buying the same car from a dealership that had a simple “sticker” logo that I could remove. I made sure they knew that the only reason I bought their car instead of the other guy was because I could remove the logo.

Its just a thing with me. I will allow you to brand my stuff if you can do it tactfully… but I’m not running around throwing someone else’s name in everyone’s face. That’s why I don’t buy a lot of name-brand clothing lines. If your logo is the prominent feature of the shirt, then fuck-off! You aren’t charging me $20 to $40 for a shirt AND getting me to do your advertising for you.

But in this case with the license plates, it is even more offensive to me. The state requires that I have a license plate, and I have no alternative vendor I can go to get a plate from. I could buy a “custom” license plate from the state that doesn’t have advertising on it… but why should I have to pay $50 more for the “privledge” of dodging having to do the governments dirty advertising.

In the end… duct tape came to the rescue:

I’m serious… I will not advertise for you. I don’t give a damn if you are the government or my mom. If you want me to advertise for you…. pay me!