Thursday, August 30, 2012

Samsung vs. Apple vs. the Rest of Us:

I can't bear it. I'm going batty listing to Leo Laport's TWIT show (This Week in Tech) #368. Leo, Adam Curry, Fr. Robert Ballecer and Nilay Patel discuss the Samsung vs.Apple lawsuit, which Samsung lost (so far). I think it was Patel who summed up more or less as follows: Samsung tried to copy Apple's product. Apple made a great product. Samsung's job is not to copy Apple. Samsung's job is to make a different great product.

So let's talk about pianos. Steinway makes a great product. The job of other piano companies must be to make pianos that are distinctly different, not to copy Steinway. 59 keys perhaps instead of 88; white keys only, perhaps. Oval keys, not rectangular. Keys that lift up instead of pressing down. Six pedals instead of three, with entirely different functions.


The piano is a great product, and great pianists are wonderful because they use competing products that share very similar user interfaces. The various piano companies have to innovate under the hood unless they license each other's patents, but the user experience is much the same. And that's great for pianists.

And let's discuss Microsoft Windows. Please imagine that when Microsoft released Windows 95, they licensed the right to their user interface to one manufacturer, Dell perhaps, and all the other companies had to develop some other great, very different-looking product in order to compete. What an awful nightmare! Microsoft did the opposite, standardizing their user interface and encouraging all hardware and software Windows companies to stay with their standards. The resulting consistency was wonderful for us all,

It's terrible that Apple's brilliant iPhone and iPad GUIs are not standards that other companies can be encouraged to follow, for the benefit of all of us. (I know that any company can pay a small fortune to license these GUI rights from Apple; that's not the same thing.)

Leo and his TWIT friends have it wrong. It's time for Apple to follow Bill Gate's insight that consistent GUIs are great for customers. And it's time to admit that the Samsung vs. Apple lawsuit is just an example of how hard cases make bad law.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I was a political DJ today:

When I create my classical music shows on WPRB, I try to be apolitical. I know my listeners want to hear music, not political opinions they may not share. But today, as the Republican Presidential Convention kicks off, I completely lost it. And I'm not very repentant. Here's what happened.

At 8 a.m., as required, I gave the rather blah weather report for the region near Princeton, NJ. And then I said, "But that's not the weather report you want to hear, is it? Here's the report for New Orleans."

I launched into today's and tomorrow's weather there, noting the rising predicted wind speeds (up into the sixties). I could not keep the glee out of my voice. The best I could do was not to say what I was thinking, which is this:

Hey, you Republicans: when God gives you a hurricane, relax and enjoy it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

When God Gives you a Hurricane...

Republicans have plans to abort the RNC early if a hurricane strikes. In my opinion, that is wrong. When God gives you a hurricane, you should not abort your plans. You should just bring them up as lovingly as you can.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

FIOS is happy to serve us, or so they say...

We switched to FIOS at the end of 2011. We are happy with the result, although I spent three complex months figuring out how to make Verizon fix almost $100 per month of overbilling for services that Verizon eventually agreed were unwanted, promised to be free, or charged at inflated prices. Anyway that was then. I just got this announcement from Verizon:

Effective August 29, 2012, the FiOS Digital Voice calendar feature will be moved to a new system.  Existing calendar entries will not be transferred to the new system and will not be available after August 29, 2012.  Customers should review and make note of their calendar entries prior to August 29th, and will be able enter them into the new FiOS Digital Voice calendar after August 31, 2012.

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you in the future. 

Your Verizon Team 

Thank goodness I am not relying on this calendar. Reviewing - heck, just finding - all calendar entries that one wants to keep can be slow, tedious work. I got this announcement on August 23 at 8 PM. People who relied on this calendar system and are currently on vacation: good luck to you. I'm sure you will agree that Verizon gave you plenty of warning.

By the way, please note that Verizon's new, replacement system will be available after the old one is shut down. There will not be even one day when people can systematically move appointments from the old system to the new one. Perhaps, on August 30, people will put their appointments on some other system altogether, if they're not happy with scraps of paper.

Here's a hint to Verizon: if you want people's business, give them more than a week's notice whenever you decide to pull a rug out from under them. It's just possible you have competitors who are more thoughtful. You never know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catch 22, General Mills!

The New York Times has an article about websites that are illegally collecting information about children without explicit parental permission. The article quotes a spokesman for General Mills who said that GM does not collect the original child’s e-mail address and sends only one e-mail to that child’s friend.

How do they know that they send only one email to a child's friend?

In order to make sure GM sends only one email from Bobby Bevling, who played one of their games, to his email friend Curt Cremable, GM must keep a database with the names of children who played at their website like Bobby, and the names of children they have already emailed, like  Curt.

I believe that is exactly the sort of data about children that it is illegal for them to collect.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Forcing Multitasking on myself. Why?

I sat down a few evenings ago to edit my current novel. But first, I turned my iPad on and set it next to me, so that if any of my opponents in Words With Friends or HeroAcademy played their turn – as they were likely to do – I would be alerted to stop editing and, instead, think hard about my next move.


Why should I carefully set up an excellent distraction, ensuring that I would not be able to concentrate on one thing? Fortunately, I came to my senses, turned the iPad off, and put it away in another room.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

McDonalds Espresso: Excellent !!?

On a long auto trip home, we stopped - for the restrooms - at a McDonalds in the middle of Ct. I asked, feeling doubtful, whether they made espresso, since I did not see a typical espresso machine anywhere.

Of course, I was told. The clerk pressed a button on a coffee machine labeled "espresso" and at once some coffee poured into the cup. It tasted freshly made, it tasted good, and it was not the slightest bit bitter. Remarkable, I'd say.