XKCD suggests a universal converter.
This story about mistaken email identity reminds me of a tale from college.
Phone numbers on campus were, in dorms at least, more or less permanently set — room XXX would have phone number YYY, and it would stay that way. If you moved, your phone number changed. And if you knew that Dave lived in 213, you knew what is his phone number was — generally, one more that his neighbor to one side, and one less than his neighbor on the other.
This scheme was in place for years, and campus telecom liked it that way.
Well, they built a new rec center on the far site of campus, and the number allocated to the raquetball court reservation desk was a single digit off my friend M’s dorm room. He got LOTS of wrong numbers, often starting early on Saturday mornings. Campus telecom wouldn’t change either number despite his complaints, so he got creative.
He started accepting reservations, and giving out confirmation numbers.
It took about a week, but pretty soon the number for the raquetball courts changed. I can’t imagine how many irate players screaming about their confirmation number were involved, but 20+ years later it still makes me giggle.
For my whole career, I’ve been aware of babble and noise coming from “research” firms like Gartner and IDC. Their publications are, nearly always, bizarrely wrong or completely irrelevant to reality, designed mostly to please consultants who cite them and clueless CIOs who read them and feel clever, but neither pursuit has traditionally been tightly coupled to reality.
One of the drums they’ve adopted to beat loudly and often is the supposed decline of Apple, so much so that they declared Apple would suffer a DECREASE in Mac shipments this quarter — an announcement they made in advance of Apple’s own quarterly reports.
They were, of course, very very wrong, as Apple reported double-digit Mac sales growth in the period.
Apple’s sales figures not only contradict both IDC and Gartner figures, but also both firm’s market conclusions. IDC specifically reported that Apple’s Macs “lost market share over the past year. In U.S. shipments, Apple slipped to become the No. 4 PC maker, dropping from the No. 3 spot to come in at 10 percent market share, a 1.7 percent decline.”
IDC’s incorrect assessment of Apple’s double digit U.S. growth percentage as a year-over-year “decline” also calls into question its ranking of Apple as the fourth largest maker of conventional PCs in the domestic market, as the narrowest possible interpretation of Maestri’s “double digit” growth would essentially tie Apple with Lenovo in U.S. sales, according to IDC’s own figures.
More importantly, it also means Apple’s Mac sales continued to outpace the overall industry. Both firms reported that Apple lost share in the quarter. However, IDC estimated the U.S. PC sales increased by just 6.9 percent. Globally, it reported that PC sales fell by 2 percent in the quarter as Apple’s Mac sales grew by 18 percent.
Gartner estimated that U.S. PC sales grew at a slightly faster pace of 7.4 percent, still far behind the “strong double digit growth” Maestri reported for Macs. And Gartner’s numbers portray Apple and Lenovo as being even closer than IDC’s, suggesting that there’s no way Apple could have experienced a “double digit” percentage in growth without surpassing Lenovo to become the third largest vendor of conventional PCs in the U.S., behind HP and Dell.
Even more damning is the way they calculate PC vs. tablet sales:
In calculating their PC “market share” numbers, both IDC and Gartner include low end netbook and hybrid devices and Windows tablets. IDC also counts Chromebook web browser devices, but both firms exclude sales of Apple’s iPad from their PC sales figures.
If they had included iPads and other tablets in their PC figures, they would be forced to recognize Apple as being the largest computer maker by a wide margin. Despite much media handwringing about Apple’s year-over-year decrease in iPad sales, the company still sold 13.3 million iPads globally in the quarter, more than Samsung, Lenovo and Asus (the next three largest vendors, according to IDC) combined.
IDC, Gartner and Strategy Analytics have a long history of presenting carefully contrived data in press releases clearly designed to flatter their clients and denigrate their clients’ competitors, with Apple being a common target.
Beyond just serving the public relations needs of their clients, however, data promulgated by these marketing firms helped to obscure major shifts in the technology landscape, such as the clear and obvious shift away from conventional PCs that began with the appearance of iPad in 2010.
Fortune has an interesting backgrounder on how these estimates are created, and for whom, and (as you may surmise) reality doesn’t enter into it. Pleasing their clients does, and their clients are the other PC makers.
All of this is h/t Daring Fireball.
Tired of hearing about the Cloud? I’ve got just the thing.
As suggested by BoingBoing, let’s celebrate by watching Buzz Aldrin punch a moon-landing-denier in the face.
It has come to my attention that there exists a “no-code” website creation tool from Adobe called Muse.
Muse, like countless such tools before it, purports to allow a user to create and manage a site without writing any code. This is a laudable goal.
As with most such tools, the work is done locally, and the tool only sends the files to the web server when the user is satisfied they’re ready. The actual transmission of the files from the user’s machine to the web server is hidden.
Fifteen years ago, we could be pretty certain that the transmission was happening using FTP, a venerable protocol that has fallen COMPLETELY from favor because it’s staggeringly insecure. Nothing about it is encrypted — not even usernames and passwords. This means any fool with a sniffer can own your web site, which is generally considered a problem.
For this reason, FTP usage has dropped off considerably in recent years; I don’t think I’ve run a server with FTP enabled in over a decade. There is, however, a work-alike protocol that leverages the excellent SSH libraries to create a secure, encrypted transmission channel. It looks like FTP and acts like FTP, but under the hood it’s secure. This is a good thing. SFTP has almost completely replaced FTP as a result.
And this is why we know Adobe hates you, because Muse, a tool introduced in 2012, does not support anything but FTP, and they’re not planning to add SFTP any time soon. Their actual advice is to use an external FTP client if you need a secure channel.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
Dear Adobe: DIAGF.
A long time ago, there was the boom. It was fun. It always is, with other people’s money. Then the boom stopped, and I needed work. I got a pretty good opportunity freelancing, and made a real living at it for a while, largely because I spent a good chunk of my suddenly “at liberty” time figuring out a new web technology called cascading style sheets, or CSS.
What they actually do isn’t important to the story, but I’ll note they were weird and different and confusing, and suggested major changes to the way web pages got built. That the change was a huge improvement, semantically speaking, didn’t make it easier for the folks mired in the old way. But I wasn’t, and so I waded into the deep end of CSS work unencumbered with “how we used to do it” -ism, and with a very serious weapon on my desk. A guy named Eric Meyer, see, had written a book called Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide (for O’Reilly, obviously), and I made it my bible.
With it, I managed not to go bankrupt. With it, I kept my house and my car and even had some money to spend on fun things. I was still leveraging these skills years later, in 2007, when I joined my current employer.
Because, in no small part, of that book, and of Meyer’s active participation in developer forums and the CSS-D listserve. And I’m certainly not the only person who has that kind of story about Meyer and his book and his activism.
I don’t do that sort of work anymore. I still find it fascinating, and I still read the blogs and now Twitter feeds of lots of the people who defined markup and web work in the early 2000s, which is how I found out that Eric Meyer’s young daughter had cancer, and how I found out, a little while ago, that she died on Saturday. She was six.
Today, apparently, is the day of the service. Web people all over are making their Twitter avatars purple, in honor of Becca Meyer, who had a favorite color as only children can. And this is where nerds make you cry.
In HTML and CSS, colors are typically specified by a six-digit code in hexadecimal, like #FF0000 (which is a red). You can, though, use just basic words for some colors. “Red” works, as does “blue” and “black” and even things like “lightcoral”.
There is an organized movement online now to include in CSS4 the named color “beccapurple”, equivalent to #663399, as a memorial.
I think that’s mighty fine.
This brilliant bit about beating Dragon’s Lair has been widely linked, but that makes it no less deserving of your time if you haven’t seen it.
This is one of those articles that’s so true it hurts. Here’s the first bit:
All programming teams are constructed by and of crazy people
Imagine joining an engineering team. You’re excited and full of ideas, probably just out of school and a world of clean, beautiful designs, awe-inspiring in their aesthetic unity of purpose, economy, and strength. You start by meeting Mary, project leader for a bridge in a major metropolitan area. Mary introduces you to Fred, after you get through the fifteen security checks installed by Dave because Dave had his sweater stolen off his desk once and Never Again. Fred only works with wood, so you ask why he’s involved because this bridge is supposed to allow rush-hour traffic full of cars full of mortal humans to cross a 200-foot drop over rapids. Don’t worry, says Mary, Fred’s going to handle the walkways. What walkways? Well Fred made a good case for walkways and they’re going to add to the bridge’s appeal. Of course, they’ll have to be built without railings, because there’s a strict no railings rule enforced by Phil, who’s not an engineer. Nobody’s sure what Phil does, but it’s definitely full of synergy and has to do with upper management, whom none of the engineers want to deal with so they just let Phil do what he wants. Sara, meanwhile, has found several hemorrhaging-edge paving techniques, and worked them all into the bridge design, so you’ll have to build around each one as the bridge progresses, since each one means different underlying support and safety concerns. Tom and Harry have been working together for years, but have an ongoing feud over whether to use metric or imperial measurements, and it’s become a case of “whoever got to that part of the design first.” This has been such a headache for the people actually screwing things together, they’ve given up and just forced, hammered, or welded their way through the day with whatever parts were handy. Also, the bridge was designed as a suspension bridge, but nobody actually knew how to build a suspension bridge, so they got halfway through it and then just added extra support columns to keep the thing standing, but they left the suspension cables because they’re still sort of holding up parts of the bridge. Nobody knows which parts, but everybody’s pretty sure they’re important parts. After the introductions are made, you are invited to come up with some new ideas, but you don’t have any because you’re a propulsion engineer and don’t know anything about bridges.
Would you drive across this bridge? No. If it somehow got built, everybody involved would be executed. Yet some version of this dynamic wrote every single program you have ever used, banking software, websites, and a ubiquitously used program that was supposed to protect information on the internet but didn’t.
Go read the whole thing.
BTW, Quinn Norton makes similar points here.
Over on the Medieval Arts Resource Twitter, we find this bit of complete brilliance:
Tragically, these sounds may go extinct.
Also, if you turn on too many of them, your officemates may have strong feelings about your own survival. Exercise caution.
A three-word phrase that should trouble you: Accidentally Turing-Complete.
A Reuben’s tube is an apparatus used to demonstrate standing waves in physics; it’s akin to the gas lighter in your fireplace, but with sound added. At certain frequencies, the flames will vary according to the standing wave produced in the tube.
Things get exponentially more awesome if you make a 2-D tube, and apply more interesting music. At the link, the vid is cued to the music, but it’s really worth watching the whole thing.
So the net was aflame over Mozilla naming known homophobe Eich to CEO, and he was (rightly) out of the job just as quickly.
Having Condi Rice on the board of Dropbox is insanely worse. She’s objectively pro-torture, and represents the administration that put the NSA programs in motion — and now she has a position of authority at a company that holds users’ potentially private data?
Fuck a BUNCH of that. Might be time to DropDropbox.
I have been in this meeting a thousand thousand times.
In fact, it was a meeting like this one that prompted the conversation that birthed the NoGators.com domain name.
Unless you have built your son his own “working” Mission Control panel, you are apparently not in the running.
Use an Apple device? And by this I mean any iPad, iPhone, or Mac?
Then you need to install all available OS updates with a furious quickness, for there is a security bug to end all security bugs in the SSL code on your device. All platforms are affected.
It’s a seriously bad, bad, bad bug. It may be the worse security bug of all time. No certificate validation is happening, which means that site you think you have an encrypted connection to might not be who they say they are. That’s an ID thief’s dream come true.
This bug is bad enough that it’s entirely possible that it was deliberately introduced at the behest of the NSA. The crypto we use daily relies on provably unbreakable encryption, so the only vulnerabilities they can exploit rely on broken implementations; this is a known tactic that the NSA and similar organizations have used. The timing certainly works.
You can check to see if you’re vulnerable using this site. On a Mac, you’ll need to use Safari to get the best possible reading, but it’ll mostly work with other browsers.
Shoring up the argument that it’s part of a deliberate effort: an even worse bug has subsequently been discovered in the Linux GnuTLS code.
Skipping the technical stuff, the takeway for you, the Heathen reader, is that you absolutely MUST upgrade your iOS devices and Macs today, right the fuck now. Full stop.
Fortunately, Apple makes this pretty easy. Just go to Settings -> General -> Software Update on an iPhone or iPad, or to (Black Apple) -> Software Update on a Mac.
My company routinely deals with government entities that have legitimate security concerns, so it’s not surprising that, sometimes, I receive mail that is digitally signed, or has some encryption component.
Usually, this is done poorly, which is no surprise, because mail encryption is still not seamless. However, yesterday I got a mail that Outlook won’t open at all. Instead, I get this:
The hilarious part of this is that the mail opens fine with no hint of trouble when read from my Mac’s Mail.app client, or from either of my iOS mail clients. Security, Microsoft style!
Back in the boom, we tried to use online meeting tools, which inevitably led to shit-tons of time wasted at the head end of every meeting trying to get LiveMeeting to work.
It never really did.
In the years since, other companies have entered this space, and some of them are basically flawless. Trouble is, the good ones cost money, and most of our customer IT orgs are (a) cheap and (b) too paranoid to let their people use GoToMeeting, so we get forced into trying to connect with the execrable “Lync” — i.e., rebranding LiveMeeting bullshit — across the Internet.
MSFT makes their products so that they’re effectively free, but never bother solving for corner cases — like, say, a cross-site meeting that’s not all on the same network or active directory domain. Worse, Lync has no end of weird foibles and fuckups. For example, if you end up on 2013 instead of 2010 (which will happen if you upgrade Office), it’s no longer possible to join a meeting without having corporate credentials on the hosting party’s network.
That’s fine, though, because obviously nobody ever wants to meet with people outside their company, right?
CHRIST. It’s enough to make you want to strangle someone.
Someone has made a regexp crossword puzzle.
Thirty years ago, on January 22, 1984, computing changed forever. The ad was a teaser; remember, it ran only once, but during the Super Bowl (Raiders 38, Redskins 9), so it’s safe to say lots of people saw it.
Jobs’ demonstration of the actual machine two days later made it clear that Apple was playing the game at a higher level than anybody else. Remember, at the time, the IBM PC was state of the art for personal computing: huge, bulky, unfriendly, and based on a command line interface. There was no sound beyond beeps and boops. Graphics were a joke on the PC, and required an add-on card. The GUI Jobs demonstrates here is, by comparison, from another planet. The technical information he outlines is similarly cutting edge, especially for a mass-market computer. To say this was an exciting development is to understate things by a couple orders of magnitude. The Mac changed personal computing in enormous and profound ways. Jobs’ examples of IBM missing the boat may seem grandiose, but he’s fundamentally right.
(Something else to keep in mind: in this video, Steve Jobs is twenty-nine years old.)
I didn’t join the Mac faithful right away — in ’84, I was in junior high. I made it through high school with a TRS-80, a cartridge-based word processor, and a cassette tape drive as my mass storage. (Bonus: without the cartridge in, the CoCo booted straight to BASIC.)
I went to college in 1988, but since my campus was more PC than Mac, I bought an AT clone that turned out to be the fastest machine in my whole dorm. That was kind of fun. It also turned out that computers made sense to me in ways that other people didn’t get, and so I stayed in the Windows world for a long time but for some very rewarding side trips largely because people were paying me to do so.
But I got there eventually, mostly because of how awful Windows became, especially on a laptop. In late 1999, I was traveling a lot, living out of a laptop, and writing lots of Office docs. Windows 98 on a laptop was a dumpster fire in terms of reliability — crashes were frequent, and the idea of putting your laptop to sleep was just a joke. Windows couldn’t handle it, so you were forever shutting down and rebooting. Then a friend of mine showed me his new G3 Powerbook. In the days before OS X, Macs were only a little less crashy than Windows, but it was enough to catch my eye. The functional sleep/wake cycle, a big beautiful screen, and a generally more sane operating environment closed the deal, and I made the switch in early 2000 to a 500Mhz G3 Powerbook.
What’s interesting now to me in retrospect is that I realized I’ve been on the Mac side for nearly half its life. I’ve used Macs way longer than I used PCs (1988 to 1999). I see no future in which I switch back. Had Apple not switched to a Unix-based OS, I’d probably have gone to Linux for professional reasons — and, honestly, desktop Linux would probably be a much better place. (Having a commercially supported Unix with professional-grade software written for it, running on premium hardware meant fewer people worked to make Linux on the desktop viable for normal humans.) Instead, Apple built OSX, and changed everything again.
Original Macs were sometimes derided by so-called “serious” computing people as good for design and graphics and whatnot, but not for “real” work; by shifting to the BSD-based OSX, Apple gave the Mac the kind of hardcore underpinnings that Windows could only dream out (and, really, still doesn’t have). The designers and creatives stayed, and a whole extra swath of web-native software people joined them as the Mac (and especially the Mac laptop) became the machine of choice for an entire generation of developers. That shift has been permanent; if you’re writing web code in Python or Ruby or PHP, you’re far more likely to be doing so on a Mac than on Windows simply because the Mac has so much more in common with your production servers than Windows does.
The end result is that the Mac platform is in better shape today, at 30 years old, than it’s ever been.
I tallied it up the other day. I’ve had five Macs as my personal machine, counting the G3 I bought back in ’99. I’ve bought two others for my household — a 2009 Mini that serves as my media server, and a 2012 11″ Macbook Air I bought Mrs Heathen last Christmas. Somewhat hilariously, in doing this tally, I realized that (a) I never owned an “iconic” square Mac like the one in the video above; and (b) four of my five Mac laptops have looked almost exactly the same: the 2003 Titanium Powerbook G4 (1Ghz, 512MB of RAM, and a 60GB hard drive — a very high end configuration at the time!) was one of the first of the “sleek silver metal” Mac laptops, and that style was carried over to the upgrade I bought in 2005, though by then they were made of Aluminum. In 2007, I made the jump to the Intel-based Macbook Pros; the bump in power was pretty huge, but the chassis was substantially the same.
My 2010 update didn’t look much different, and the only significant visual difference between the 2010 model and the one I bought last fall is that my new one doesn’t have an optical drive and is therefore slimmer.
Eleven years is a long time for a product to look pretty much the same, especially in computing, but I’ve yet to see anyone complain that the MacBook Pro looks dated. That’s what paying attention to design gets you. I suspect that, eventually, the Pro will get a more Air-like profile, but right now the power consumption and temperature issues mandate the more traditional shape.
Anyway, Apple has a minisite up about the anniversary. It’s fun. Visit.
Herein, Jobs says
Like, when you make a movie, you burn a DVD and you take it to your DVD player. Someday that could happen over AirPort, so you don’t have to burn a DVD — you can just watch it right off your computer on your television set.
Someday, maybe, sure.
The following is a screenshot of a recent communication I had with Dell after I requested information about some new employee machines:
The areas in the red boxes are random advertisements inserted into every message this guy sends me. He can’t turn it off. I get different ones on every message.
That’s completely fucking bananas. What idiot marketing droid came up with this shit? Sweet Jesus, man, how did that ever survive the light of day? Think about it: every message sent by our actual REP includes spam.
Marketing people, man. I just can’t get past the fact that someone in Austin thought this was a good idea.
The New Deal is the latest mumbo-jumbo middle-manager fantasy about software.
Let me save you some time, and paraphrase what it says:
We have no idea how software gets written, but we have the vague sense that software is hard, and we know lots of buzzwords.
Commander Strax has an excellent Christmas message.
Turns out, if you spend enough time on ISS, you might need to unlearn some habits once you come home.
If Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo amuses you, well, here’s something in German.
(It’s only this trip through the Buffalo… page that I notice the assertion that any number of repetitions of the word “buffalo,” terminated with a period, is a grammatically valid English sentence.)
As of today, it has been 41 years since a human walked on something other than the earth.
First, though, I’m gonna need a really fucking hot gas burner.
This came up in conversation lately; I was pleased to see it’s still floating around. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw it was via USENET on a mainframe in the late 1980s.
Ars Technica has a great history of IBM’s now-mostly-forgotten Windows competitor. Definitely worth a read if you’re a computing greybeard like me.
Inheritance is a way to retain features of old code in newer code. The programmer derives from an existing function or block of code by making a copy of the code, then making changes to the copy. The derived code is often specialized by adding features not implemented in the original. In this way the old code is retained but the new code inherits from it.
Programs that use inheritance are characterized by similar blocks of code with small differences appearing throughout the source. Another sign of inheritance is static members: variables and code that are not directly referenced or used, but serve to maintain a link to the original base or parent code.
My super-goofy yet awesome keyboard has returned from its hospitalization rejuvenated and shockingly clean. It’s possible that they were able to build their own Wiggins out of the hair I’m sure they found inside it.
This caps a series of home/office logistical tasks I feel inordinately happy about sorting out, including:
- Something called “mudjacking”;
- Getting the retarded tablet fixed;
- Repairing the front door lock;
- Returning a client laptop to the client 8 months late;
- Acquiring a haircut;
- Getting an annual eye exam;
- Having AT&T hook up the goddamn cable; and
- Having AT&T come back out and fix the broken cable box 2 days after installation.
Obviously, your go-to source for the accurate time was, and remains, Big Ben — even if you can’t see it, you can HEAR it, right?
But what if you wanted to be as accurate as possible? Obviously, if you’re far from Ben, you’d hear the chimes later than someone quite close to it — with the speed of sound being about 1,126 feet per second, it matters.
Fortunately, there’s a map you can consult, with concentric rings showing the delay from “true” time.
At Hot Pepper Game Reviews, games are reviewed by presenters only after they’ve eaten a very, very hot pepper.
For example, here’s the review of the new Kingdom Hearts game after eating a habanero. The habanero is also the co-star of the Gunpoint review.
Apple is, at this point, sort of like Alabama. They’ve been so good for so long that the press in both cases just can’t wait for some imagined comeuppance, and so the new pattern we see after every Apple event is a litany of folks explaining how much the company has lost its way post-Jobs, and how it’s obviously drifting and leaderless, and how they’re completely over. Indeed, after the event yesterday, Apple shares fell 5%, and they remain significantly below their 52-week high of $705.
Well, if this is what “over” looks like, I’ll damn sure take it. Apple remains one of the most profitable companies in the world — in fact #2, behind Exxon Mobil, and the dollar gap is less than 10% despite the fact that Exxon has 2.5 times the revenue of Apple. They continue to sell just about as many phones, tablets, and laptops as they can make. As a consequence of being a money-printing machine, they’re also sitting on a cash mountain of about $147 billion.
And yet, as I write this, a single share of AAPL sells for about $470, which values the company at only about $427 billion. That’s still enough to make it the most valuable public company in the world (ahead of Exxon, Google, GE, etc.; its old rival from Redmond is waaaay down the list), but it strikes me as low.
Why? At this price, the firm’s P/E ratio is 11.7. That’s a rate that implies an over-the-hill firm in a mature market (e.g., it’s not far from Exxon’s P/E, or Microsoft’s). And note further that this ratio includes in the value of the firm all that cash, which (when factored in) would depress the P/E even further (to less than 8, if my math is right). That’s absurd in a world where Apple prints money at this rate. Google’s astoundingly less profitable, and its P/E is 26. Even at Apple’s lofty $700+ price per share last year, its P/E didn’t suggest it was too expensive.
I’m certainly no investment advisor. Make no mistake. It sure seems to me, though, that nitwits claiming Apple is over are riding backlash and not meaningful analysis.
Youtuber Smarter Every Day has a really, really fantastic piece up wherein he uses a super-high-speed camera to capture the act of firing a rifle underwater. The resulting discussion of the strange bubble pattern is really fascinating and accessible; check it out.
This analysis of the Surface debacle over at Microsoft is pretty astute. (Via Bill Shirley on Twitter.)
“Hey, I need to figure out how many times I’ve done [thing I do with email], so I need to gin up a fancy search.”
(Fiddles with native search tools. Curses.)
“Hey, didn’t I see something about a cool search utility for Apple Mail somewhere?”
(Checks local notes.)
“Yup, sure did! And there’s a free trial! Man, this is gonna be easy!”
(Downloads. Installs. Runs.)
(The sad thing is that this doesn’t represent even most of my mail; I don’t have anything like complete archives for stuff pre-1999/2000, which for me means 12-13 years are missing. On the other hand, the index will happen faster as a result.)
Update: I have been alerted that the chain was NOT magnetized; this’ll work with 50m of normal bead chain, apparently, which makes it even MORE awesome.
This is a short SF story presented as a bug report to Twitter, regarding the failure of their API to limit result sets to tweets from the past.
You should go read it.
In MSFT operating systems, it’s basically impossible to block Microsoft’s domains because they get treated specially and do not use the normal DNS system.
Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.
That every few months, it decides my .OST file is fucked, and that I need to delete it and re-download all my data.
All eight fucking gig.