Particle Debris (wk. ending 7/15) Some Skeptical Inquiry

| Particle Debris

It’s been an interesting week. Apple didn’t launch Lion, but that doesn’t mean we at TMO just sat around. All of us dug in and posted some really good introductory articles to help get you get ready for Lion day. In case you haven’t looked before, on the TMO home page, click on reports popup in the beige banner, then select “mac os.” Then click on the Lion link.

My own reaction was summed up earlier today, namely, the more I use Lion, the more I like it. I think you will too.

There’s a new iPad app called “Star Trek PADD.” It makes your iPad look like a Personal Access Display Device (PADD) from Star Trek: The Next Generation and uses the LCARS style interface. That’s the good news. The so-so news is that all it does is allow you to search through a database of Star Trek TV information, and for that you get to pay $4.99. Even so, considering that I just saw an iPad showcased in USA Network’s “Burn Notice,” I suppose that the app will show up sooner or later in a Star Trek movie. Maybe you just gotta have it, but it looks like a geek money grab to me.

PADD app

Star Trek PADD app

One of the constant scuttlebutt items in Silicon Valley is all about which company is bleeding talent and which company is scooping it up. Nowadays, that seems to be Facebook. Check out: “Facebook Sucking Talent From Google, Apple, Microsoft.” Of course, left unmentioned, is that companies like Google and Apple have talent to burn, so the impact isn’t as great as one might be led to believe. Even so, the infographic is illuminating.

There was a time when the ISPs resisted the idea of playing policeman when it comes to the behavior of their customers. ISPs had more independence and looked out for their own business and customers first. Nowadays, with the Imperial Entanglements of content creators and ISPs (NBCU + Comcast), they are more willing to take up the cause of piracy. Even so, the ISPs appear to have liked the idea of a graduate response, in principle. Here’s some background on the shift in ISP attitude at CNET: “How committed are ISPs to graduated response?

Apple thinks that the best and easiest way for most users to upgrade to Lion is an overlay update with Software Update, changing only the system files necessary to transform Snow Leopard into the big cat. However, some people, including yours truly, have had a preference in the past for starting with a clean slate, the so-called “clean install.” Iljitsch van Beijnum at ars technica likes the idea as well, and here’s his treatise on how to do exactly that: “Yes to Lion, no to cruft: get a clean start with manual Mac migration.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about how it seemed to me that Netflix could have handled its new customer plans better. The perspective there was how to ease customers, more gently, into the Netflix agenda for the future and continue to differentiate Netflix from the competition. Even so, it helps to understand the nuts and bolts of the Netflix business, and the Wall Street Journal believes that the blunt force trauma was exactly intended to alarm customers and drive them to drop their DVD-by-mail service faster that they would have liked. The decision includes a risky wager by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Read it here: “Reed Hastings Doesn’t Want You To Pay More For Netflix. He Wants You To Stop Using DVDs.”

More background data is here in an article that references the above but also provides some interesting statistics. For example, in the evening, Netflix accounts for almost 30 percent of all downstream traffic on the Internet and the number one end user device is the Playstation 3. (I didn’t expect that.)

SkepticWhere did I put that secret document?

Years ago, when the Mac vs. PCs wars were in full swing, Mac advocates, especially in the government and aerospace industries argued that the use of Windows was almost criminal negligence when it came to protecting America’s secrets. Fast forward to 2011, and we’re deluged almost daily with reports about how foreign hackers are penetrating our military and government systems, especially military subcontractors. Is there a connection? Why is our military security so poor? What differentiates a really good, secure system from a routine Windows network? Costs? Is Windows still the problem? Or failure to migrate to Windows 7? I don’t know all the answers, but this is food for thought. The Department of Defense says, “24,000 files swiped in March from military contractor systems.” Just in March. When will it end?

A good way to understand how Google thinks, especially Sergey Brin and Larry Page, is to read Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex.” Barring that, here’s a pretty good article that goes into how Google thinks, its priorities and its strategy: “Google has 3 priorities, and enterprise IT isn’t one of them.”

Finally, one of my own theses for years has been that the Internet doesn’t, itself, contain the information, wisdom and training to diagnose the veracity of the Internet. As a result, one can get wrapped around the axle and be influenced by half-truths — especially if one has grown up on the Internet, accepting everything at face value. One word for all that is the Internet echo chamber, a process where by the weight of volume substitutes for facts. Of course, the respected Sascha Segan doesn’t fall for that, but he gets some of the frustration off his chest in this plea: “Stop the iPhone 5 Rumor Insanity.” It’s a reminder for all of us to be better skeptics.


Main image thanks to



Re: Netflix raising the cost of DVD borrowing. NetFlix _has_ answered it quite directly. Dave Pogue spoke with a Steve Swasey. At the end of the article, Swasey says this:

We were not able to fulfill the requests for DVDs at that cost.?

To which Dave opines:

I?m afraid that?s the best answer we?re going to get, short of the conspiracy theories.

Steve’s answer is as direct as one can get, but I fear that far too many people today don’t understand what he’s saying, probably because most people don’t understand the workings of the free market. It’s simple supply and demand. When the demand outstrips the supply, prices go up to control the demand. So, Netflix can’t sustain what they are doing, so they raise prices. (What do they teach kids in school these days…?)



I’m reluctant to give up DVD-by-mail unless I can stream all, or very nearly all, the videos I want. The idea that Netflix wants us to drop DVD service reminds me of the color TV quandary of the 1960’s:

Consumer: When the networks broadcast more color programs, then I’ll buy a color TV.
TV Execs: When more people own color TV’s, then we’ll broadcast more color programs.



I’m glad to hear that your appreciation of Lion has increased over time. Transitions are always stressful at their beginnings, but I suspect your experience with Lion to be a harbinger of that of the wider Mac user community.

The article on Reed Hastings is not at all surprising, and his position on DVDs makes sense. Since the purchase of our ATV2, the real added value of Netflix, at least in our household, has been its streaming service, which complements that of Apple. I appreciate the added value of the DVD mailing service to those consumers who lack broadband access, however given the increasingly competitive market, I have wondered how much longer Netflix would be able to sustain that model.

Regarding the ‘Facebook Sucking’ diagram, it would be more illuminating to know a bit about the demographics, including job descriptions or titles and tenure of persons moving between these companies. Looked at differently, an alternative interpretation is that FB is simply the lowest sink (i.e. bottom of the barrel).

As for Google’s priorities, I think it is as simple as Larry Page being candid, and lacking a business filter required of a CEO. There is little doubt that Google are committed to their enterprise efforts, and want to effectively compete against MS for that market; however this was not Page’s original vision, and he simply has not made that intellectual leap, despite having resumed his leadership of the company. His staff will see that he catches up.

I could be wrong, but the DOD’s problems with security strike me as symptomatic of the broader malaise in cyber security writ large, which remains more reactive than proactive. It seems we have yet to take, more than a ‘bird’s eye view’, but a high orbital view and build security planning into our OS and supportive systems development, i.e. ‘If we build this, how do we make it safe and what emerging technologies could defeat those safety measures in near term and X years out?’.

The rumour mill piece is timely, and has implications beyond iPhone 5 (or 4S). I think the broader Mac user base may have fallen victim to this just this past week with several people in the Twitterverse opining that Apple was ‘late’ in releasing Lion, despite the fact that Apple never published an actual release date beyond ‘July’.

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