iGet It

Ok, I get it now.

I already wrote my last post on why tablet computers will be near-useless devices, though they may sell. [summation: it's the input device, stupid!]

So I won't wade backward into that.

But I get it now. I get the deal with the iPad. It will sell of course, not as well as the iPhone, which was a revolutionary device. It will sell for a while, and then eventually be replaced by something that does the same job.

You see, I underestimated Apple. The one thing that you can be sure of is that they didn't just pull this idea out of their ass. They've been selling high-priced digital commodities for a while now, and they know how to test a product. They know how to design something that people will buy. The failure of analysts and tech commentators (and me, though I'm not either of those) is to think that Apple is a company that designs computers. No. They design products.

Some articles have made comparisons to the iPod as not being an actual innovative product. Nothing new really, except a new shape, and limited feature glut. True. But the big hole filled by the iPod was filled by iTunes.

Back in those days, most people either used Winamp or Windows Media Player to play their unorganized mp3s they scored, mislabeled, off of Napster and its latter day siblings. Both of these are a bit unwieldy, especially for someone who doesn't really know what an mp3 is, other than a music file.

Then comes iTunes. Clean white space, easy to see buttons, and no annoying things like "bitrate" that anyone has to "understand". It connects directly to you mp3 player, which has an identical look and feel, exactly and every time. Furthermore, you can download organized, clean mp3s through the same program. $.99 was a pittance to pay for such ease of use. And this brings us the Apple we know today.

This is all the App Store has done. It's made navigating programs and features on a smart phone as easy as buying an mp3.

And the iPad is just taking it a step further, to "computing". I put computing in quotes, because as anyone who really knows a computer knows, the iPad is not really computing.

And this is Apple's genius. Because I would estimate, off the top of my head, that 75% of computer users do not know how to use a computer.

This week at work, I watched a co-worker almost buy a new computer because a pre-installed Dell program kept crashing. I watched people unable to sign on to webmail for hours try sending faxes instead. I watched my boss try and save the contents of his old computer, which was "ruined" by a broken power plug, try and back up his media files, only to say "fuck it" when he couldn't easily move his Adobe software, because he had lost the product key. I watched a co-worker who actually knows how to use Macs very well screw up his forehead in frustration when I tried to explain to him that drive partitions were not just a "Windows thing".

It's 2010 here, people. Or as I like to call it in such instances, TwenTen.

In the year TwenTen, isn't it time you stopped being embarrassed by nerdy kids who can set up POP forwarding? Shouldn't there be some product you can buy that doesn't get that damn "Facebook virus" every time you have thirty-three browser windows open? Why haven't "they" designed a computer that's not "so goddamned stupid" that it has so-called "file format problems"? In this year of personal computing, I would pay, like, $1000 for something that doesn't suck.

The iPad's innovation is that it's made the entire PC part of the UI. It's thin. There's nothing behind it. There's nothing behind the curtain... just the curtain.

The iPad is the cheaply bound, pasteboard hardcover book of computers. Sure, it's made well, I bet. But it's going to be bought by people who leave their computers on planes, let their kids smear MacDonalds grease into them, and who drop them while trying to find their car keys. It's going to be bought by people who typically render EVEN USER-FRIENDLY MACS useless within a year and a half.

The iPad is the OLPC for the middle-class american adult.

Frankly, it's about time. It's about time we cut these suckers loose. It's funny that computers are trending in the extreme user-friendly direction about the same time as I'm learning Linux prompts. There's a rift opening up, and it's time we cut the cord.

Don't get me wrong. I like helping people who can't use their computers. I don't even make money off of it. But being the go-to guy to fix the email or the database or the printer makes me feel good, and I can teach people a thing or two in the process. But after the sixth time resetting the router, and the tenth time stopping someone from paying $50 an hour to have some stranger break their hard drive, I'm starting to think there are certain people who just need something they can use. You can't follow people around forever, waiting to catch their grape juice as it tumbles towards their keyboard. Maybe it's time we gave these people a glowing, scratch-resistant screen, and let them curl up on the couch to play Internet.

And it doesn't seem a bad device for that. Hey, if all I wanted to do was go online and watch video, then maybe I'd get one. But strangely, I'm one of those people that actually uses a computer for all kinds of complicated stuff. Internet, music, games--my cell phone does that crap. If I'm getting a good processor and large screen, I'm organizing text files. I'm archiving data. I'm piloting efficient networks for my friends and family. I'm harvesting the Internet for usable information, cataloging, and making available to myself for re-use. I'm syncing my life throughout all my devices, not just one pretty one. I'm restoring and recycling old computer pieces, building computing appliances to run my stereo, my alarm clock, my hydroponic garden, and whatever else. I'm learning about how computers work, and experimenting, and trying cutting edge software and information technology. And I'm fixing other people's electronic things when they break. For all of those things, I need an actual computer.

So maybe there is a new device here. There is an Internet portal, designed for everyone who only needs the Internet, but has no use for a computer. And maybe the devious part is, this will let computers function on computing, and portals do the porting.


"I know the rest."

from the unconscious literary engine that is spam email:

As I told you, it occurred to them that I might be an engineer. You know the rest, don't you?" "Yes," answered Benita softly. "I know the rest." Then they plunged into the reeds and were obliged to stop talking, since they must walk in single file. Presently Benita looked up and saw that she was under the thorn which grew in the cleft of the rock. Also, with some trouble she found the bunch of reeds that she had bent down, to mark the inconspicuous hole through which she had crept, and by it her lantern. It seemed weeks since she had left it there. "Now," she said, "light your candles, and if you see a crocodile, please shoot." XXIV THE TRUE GOLD "Let me go first," said Robert. "No," answered Benita. "I know the way; but please do watch for that horrible crocodile." Then she knelt down and crept into the hole, while after her came Robert, and after him the two Zulus, who protested that they were not ant-bears to burrow under ground. Lifting the lantern she searched the cave, and as she could see no signs of the crocodile, walked on boldly to where the stair began. "Be quick," she whispered to Robert, for in that place it seemed natural to speak low. "My father is above and near his death. I am dreadfully afraid lest we should be too late." So they toiled up the endless steps, a very strange procession, for the two Zulus, bold men enough outside, were shaking with fright, till at length Benita clambered out of the trap door on to the floor of the treasure chamber, and turned to help Robert, whose lameness made him somewhat slow and awkward. "What's all that?" he asked, pointing to the hide sacks, while they waited for the two scared Kaffirs to join them. "Oh!" she answered indifferently, "gold, I believe. Look, there is some of it on

I like to think that just reading this engages some primal mental switch to, I don't know, sell my household gold, or assassinate a political figure, or whatever. Some sort of semiotic, micro-fictional prion. It's the barebones of meaning, the infinitesimal and therefore most basic and pure evil, the smallest symbolic amino acids, just complicated enough to reproduce themselves, and shut-down the system they've infected.

I don't know what to make of the subject matter. But if other hypno-triggers from SF are any indication, it is probably post-colonial, and somewhat related to voodoo.

The real question is, if I published this as micro-fiction, would I be guilty of plagerism? Or is the involuntary replication of unconscious mind triggers considered fair use?


Talking with machines

On the Twitter microsyntax front, Project EPIC is working out an emergency syntax for Haiti rescue communication efforts.

It's interesting to me because the syntax expression itself is not new, as it just uses hashtags. However, it utilizes hashtags for pre-set message components, as befitting important communication relay elements.

From the link above:

Our team and collaborators are proposing a Tweet-friendly hashtag-based syntax to help direct Twitter communications for more efficient data extraction for those communicating about the Haiti earthquake disaster. Use only requires modifications of Tweet messages to make information pieces that refer to #location, #status, #needs, #damage and several other elements of emergency communications more machine parsable.

EXAMPLE1: #haiti #imok #name John Doe #loc Mirebalais Shelter #status minor injuries

EXAMPLE2: #haiti #need #transport #loc Jacmel #num 10 #info medical volunteers looking for big boat to transport to PAP

EXAMPLE3: #haiti #need #translator #contact @pierrecote

EXAMPLE4: #haiti #ruok #name Camelia Siquineau #loc Hotel Montana

EXAMPLE5: #haiti #ruok #name Raymonde Lafrotune #loc Delmas 3, Rue Menelas #1

EXAMPLE6: #haiti #offering #volunteers #translators #loc Florida #contact @FranceGlobal


Need/Offering Descriptor Tags
#medical of #med
#volunteers... can shorten to #vols
#financial or #money
#information or #info
#supplies [list specific supplies needed]

Data tags
#name [name]
#loc [location]
#num [amount or capacity]
#contact [email, phone, link, other]
#photo [link to photo]
#source [source of info]
#status [status]

End Tag
#info [other information]

Overall order is not as important as tag-descriptor connection.

In a time of crisis, it makes sense to not quibble about whether slashes, backslashes, other symbols, or certain pre-set abbreviations make the most sense. And so, they've actually put something together quite sensible--they've basically converted a twitter post in a DB data record, with hashtag delimination. Any firehose sniffing program should be able to pick out and synthesize the relevant information from this list of tags.

They don't have any parsing programs showcased on the site, but they are live, tweeting with this syntax (@epiccolorado), and it shouldn't be too hard (for someone other than me) to build one pretty quickly.

There are some things I really like about this.

- It's simple. It takes a convention people already know, and re-uses it.

- It's basically making a simple little code book. One could print out the list of commonly-used tags on an index card, and in only a few seconds put together a message readable to the network of people looking for this format.

- It is indentifying a basic sentence structure, on a level up from "twitter syntax". This is new for Twitter semiotics. If you look at a commonly used syntax, such as the re-tweet, you will see a variety of different amalgamations of the syntax. Some put the "RT" first, or last, or some are now using "via" rather than "RT". Some RT only the last person in the RT chain, some put the first, or some put all. None of this matters, of course, because the message is still getting across. But with this EPIC format, the order of the tags matters, and yet is still a bit flexible. It leads with the identifier, "#haiti", and then continues in a line of primary, secondary, data, and then additional information tags to shape the message in an understandable way. The simplest way of forming a regular sentence is with [Subject] -> [Verb]. Then, you can expand that to [Subject] -> [Verb] -> [Object]. And then, [Subject] -> [Verb] -> [Object] -> [Adjective]. And then, [Subject] -> [Verb] -> [Adverb] -> [Object] -> [Adjective]. You get the idea. The position changes depending on what language you use, but our system of language is basically a database, assigning values to these different data types in a particular record, and then parsing the record in conjunction with other records. This EPIC format is doing that with the basic information types for crucial rescue information.

- It's readable by humans as well as machine. Anyone looking at a tweet in this format could tell what it means. In this way, it fits into the main trending flow of #haiti tweets, but also can be pulled out from the noise. It is a very ingenious, although simple, middle ground between incomprehensible DB record, and common language sentence. This is where I see the microsyntax on Twitter heading... some common, comprehensible ground between XML script and common language punctuation. It is an understandable written language, but syntaxed to be capable of being metadata.

It will be interesting to see how well this works in Haiti, but thinking ahead to the next disaster, they should print up laminated index cards with these tags on them, and syntax examples on the other side. They can air drop them, or distribute them with Twitterized cell phones. The beauty is that anyone can contribute to the information collection, using whatever means happens to work: cell phone, SMS, Internet, Twitter app, or even potentially voice. Add geotagging to the metadata, and you are getting near instant, localized, specifically formatted information from the ground. It should be pretty easy to go back and rank the tweets coming in, as DB reports are verified, bumping up users who provide good information. Any responder on the ground could easily be linked into the overall real-time awareness DB, without having to transfer on phone and radio, or waiting for confirmed contact. Report is made, and then the responder can go about his/her work.

Just wait until this sort of thing goes audible. Ten codes, the codes police and dispatch use over the radio, are currently being phased out all across the country because they are not unified, and sometimes cause confusion in hectic situations. But these are merely translations. One ten code stands for something else. What if they were syntactical codes, to let a computer or human listening know what sort of information was being read over the air? What if we are started using a vocal "click" to denote a hashtag, so the next spoken word would be known as an indexable primary or secondary tag, giving additional meaning to the data spoken next? It would be "plain speech", but plain speech imbued with metadata for easy compilation into DB style records. With voice-to-text-capture on the radio feed, there could be one open channel, with everyone speaking at once. The computer would capture the speech, complete with hash tags, and publish it to a readable timeline on the screen. The radio metadata (the unit's number is already included silently in the broadcast in current technology) would allow the dispatch or the particular units to follow the timeline of only particular units, say, involved on that particular response. You could listen to the open feed for instant vocal communication, or you could filter the feed to particular data tags.

Language has a great potential for cyborgization. Cybernetics is an extension of our logical thought processes, so there is no reason why our thought processes can't increase our computerized tools by interfacing our current age-old communication techniques with our new technology. Speak the future.

t = slow

"Tar pitch is a viscoelastic polymer. This means that even though it seems to be solid at room temperature and can be shattered with a hard impact, it is actually fluid and will flow over time, but extremely slowly. The pitch drop experiment taking place at University of Queensland is a long-term experiment which measures the flow of a piece of pitch over many years. For the experiment, pitch was put in a glass funnel and allowed to slowly drip out. Since the pitch was allowed to start dripping in 1930, only eight drops have fallen. It was calculated in the 1980s that the pitch in the experiment has a viscosity approximately 230 billion (2.3x1011) times that of water."

-via Wikipedia


Tablet Bleck

Every so often I read an article about tablet computers, and I get so disgusted I sent out a burst of Tweets about it. But since these articles are picking up pace, I'm just going to write one blog post, and then try and get over it.


1. First, to define the bust: just because they sell a lot of them for a couple years, and you see a lot of jerks carrying them on the plane or in the coffee shop, does not mean they are a success. I predict this will be a fad. Everyone will talk about tablets for a couple years, maybe even buy a bunch of them, and then everyone will be on to the next niche gizmo.

2. The main reason: screen vs. keyboard. The Internet has been drifting away from Flash, which means that although there are some pretty nifty graphical interfaces out there on the Net, the content is largely text-based. Having large screen real estate helps with text, but the fact is, the Internet is 50% contribution, as much as it is consumption. Typing is the main interface between brain and Internet. Voice is good enough for phrases, but try saying "backspace, backspace, backspace, highlight, delete, cut and paste", and then do it with a few key strokes. You have ten fingers, but can only say one word at a time. Brain scanning is not there yet. And gestures... well, until I see a multi-touch screen that responds as fast as a physical button, a keyboard is simply going to win. Even mouse and keyboard together is faster and easier than touch screen and keyboard (there's been a touch screen in the center of your laptop for about ten years now).The hunt-and-peck folks might be able to get by with a screen-keyboard, but anyone who types regularly over 60 wpm is going to need keys and physical buttons. Slowing down the data entry interface to make a slick device is like taking off the steering wheel of the car to make the dashboard smoother. Sure, you could pilot your auto with a fly-by-wire joystick. But who would want to? Same goes for screen data-entry. Just wait until you need to CTRL-ALT-DEL your touchscreen.

3. It's not a cell phone. I LOVE my iPhone. Why? Because it let's me use my phone and mp3 player in such a way that it takes over a lot of my use for a computer. It fits in my pocket, it is light, fast, and convenient, and it allows me to do things I couldn't do with any other device. A tablet computer is none of these things. It is too big for the pocket, too slow for real typing, and unless the screen is as big as my laptop, it's a strange web-browsing, media-watching niche between small and big enough. You don't want a cell phone the size of your laptop, and you don't want a laptop as small as your cell phone. And,

4. There are already netbooks, and they are on their way out. This is the sort of fad I see tablets becoming. Just like it was cool to have a mini-laptop, it will also be cool to have a giant iPhone. For a while. If battery time is good, it could be a way for people to have a cheap, more portable computer. But still, it is an awkward size. Given the choice, you will either carry your smart phone, or use your real computer. The main effect of notebooks has already taken place, and this is:

5. Gadget evolution. Notice how there are no mice the size of bears, and no bears the size of mice? How about how there are no mice of various sizes, and no spectrum of bears. Evolution causes entities to find a particular niche, and become specialized for that niche. There is no need, and no likelihood of survivability, for a species to exist in various sizes. The species will either evolve large or small, and then tend to stay that way. Same thing goes for technology. Netbooks had their effect. We realized maybe our laptops were too big and too expensive. But very few people carry around a 7" Asus anymore. 10"-14" produced the greatest survivability, and so netbooks got bigger and more expensive, laptops got cheaper and smaller, until we got to a certain equilibrium. Same thing with cellphones. The screen got bigger, touch screens multiplied, features became standardized. But in the evolutionary genus of Internet-capable devices, this speciation has already occurred. Tablets are going to be a post-facto dinosaur. The are going to arrive on a scene filled with competitors, and not bring anything new enough to survive.

6. But what is new about a tablet? What niche could it fill? Basically, it adds a giant touch screen. What could this be good for? Games, media playback, maybe other highly-visual apps like AR schmaltz, or synced environment control. eBooks, maybe? All of these seem pretty specious at best. It could compete with the PSP and Nintendo DS, perhaps--devices with input interfaces specific to their use. This is what the tablet will be--a bright, shiny, relatively expensive (for its niche) device that engenders applications specific to touch screens. The iPhone app store was a huge success not because of the touchscreen, remember--it's true innovation was portability and mobility: putting applications in your pocket and in the palm of your hand. Now that this has been accomplished, what apps will be tailor made for your fingers, and your lap? I could make a sexual joke here, but perhaps you already see my meaning. This device is bringing innovation to a place where it doesn't have any room to expand. I see a lot of board game apps in the tablet's future.

Now, I could be totally wrong, and maybe there is some amazing application out there none of us have foreseen. Maybe this will replace barcode scanners, Symbols, and other larger handheld devices. But still, we are looking at a marginal niche at best. Until someone re-invents the keyboard--not just overlaying it onto a touch-screen--the keyboard is going to be the main interface for the Internet. Nothing else can keep pace.

Dr. Yes

The opening titles to the first James Bond film. Excellent on multiple variables.

If you don't remember the film, the three blind men are in the first scene, and the credits fade into this shot. If you were wondering what that part means.

Build it; now un-build it!

How do we know that ruins ever were "finished" buildings?

How do we know that present day squelette-ready sites are not "finished" buildings?

Is a building always in a state of building, and a ruin always in a state of ruination?

What ruins a building, and what builds a building?

What builds a ruin, and what ruins a ruin?

What is the qualification for "abandoned"?

Is the purpose of a building to be used for the purpose it was designed for?

Is any building abandoned by its owner, at any stage in its building/use, qualification to be a failed building?

Are ruins purposeless? Who owns ruins? Do ruins suit these new tenants?

Buildings hold purposes, ruins hold questions and secrets. Or is it the other way around?




Tremble, Human

"Humans can run, but frankly, it would be futile to do so."

And there endeth the lesson on another object case in the futility of bipedalism.

Quaking in fear is always safe to do, of course.

However, I will be taking bets on who will be eating from the other's mangled, cybernetic, zero-gravity-forged metal corpse: a swarm of mecha-cockroaches, or the all-powerful RO-BALL!


what the fuck, literally

I'm really tired, so I'm not going to write anywhere near as much as I could. But I want to say simply that this NYT Books article absolutely disgusted me.

It disgusts me that Chabon, Eggers, and Wallace are supposed to be the "great male writers" of our time.

It disgusts me that Mailer, Roth, and Updike are supposed to be the "great male writers" of any time.

It disgusts me that anyone, woman or man, would be comfortable with this analysis of our current state of sexuality in america.

It disgusts me that anyone, woman or man, might possibly read an article like this an not get as disgusted and upset as I am right now.

There is an un-severable, bloody-uterine-appendage connection between sex and writing. It is thick, rigid, wet, tight, and secreting out of any literature. Not just the overtly sexual writing, and not just the graphic writing. If you read the sex of any of these listed authors, you are reading the most stilted, white, middle class, faux-intellectual, marginal american sex ever. This represents the worst that the american sex drive has to offer. Virginized christian america is more interesting, because it at least has a hang up, and teenage pregnancies. For goodness sake, if I wanted to re-read the tender violations of mainstream sexuality, I could read Cosmopolitan.

The problem with all of these authors, is that they set up a false dichotomy between the "mainstream facade" of american sex, and the "violation of the facade". All of them, in their own degree, are inflating a blow-up doll, and then knocking it down. I would hazard a guess that this represents 1% of americans view on life. They have a certain view of sex, and then worry themselves sick about the few contradictions of that view they are able to discover.

The rest of america, is fucking. Or they're watching porn, or watching VH1, or watching each other fuck on cell phone video, or hating sex, or killing people who have sex, or raping people (like, actually raping people, not just insulting them) or putting pictures of their penis on Craigslist. All of this is going on, 24 hours a day, and we're supposed to act like anything Dave Eggers says about sex is relevant?

Of course nobody is going to capture the complete package. But claiming that a high-brow novelist is even close to the truth is like a New Yorker treating their own sex life as anthropological archetype. Which they do, by the way. As do people from all over the country, all the time, 24 hours a day.

Everybody in this country thinks they know how to cure everyone else's sex life, while they can't see the problems with their own, while they watch other people have sex on TV, while they have sex themselves. This incredible non-stop orgy of the mind and body and everyone else's mind and body IS american sex. One of Burroughs' speed dreams about aliens and assholes is a lot closer to the truth than a novelist's Anytown, USA. The thing the NYT, and all of their canon miss, is the SPEED of sex. It is happening, all over the country, all the time, accelerating. Britney Spears' naked crotch is BREAKING NEWS in this dimension! What dimension is the NYT living in?

Alright, part of my anger is that I just wrote a novella outlining this basic concept, and to see wet blankets like the above names cited as "america's male authors" cuts into me like a 9" plastic stripper heel.

But apart from that, it really kills me that americans can continue to be so blind about their own sex lives. You can read all the literature you want, whether it be misogynist novelists or french feminists. But if you still cannot see the sex going on out the window in the middle of the street in the daytime, if you still cannot plug literature into your body as well as your mind, if you still cannot talk and read about sex while having actual sex, then how can we say we've progressed past or through anything? The key to sex in literature is not that literature IS sex, it is that we read with our eyes, think with our minds, speak with our mouths, and write with our hands, and then turn right around and use these VERY SAME body parts to pleasure ourselves and others. A metaphor is a working link, not a costume. Literature does not "take the place of", but "connects between". As it is for words, it is for body parts.

okay, well thanks for listening. I'm off to bed.