A Computer Company | tyler.io

Things I want a computer company to be

  • Hardware manufacturer
  • Operating system vendor
  • Model for how to build the best software for their platform
  • Good corporate citizen
  • Inspiration

Things I don’t want a computer company to be

  • Music store
  • Music streaming service
  • Television studio
  • Movie studio
  • News aggregator
  • Fitness studio
  • Advertisement company
  • Bank
  • Credit card company
  • Bookstore
  • Subscription podcast service
  • Messaging platform
  • Video game distributor
  • Cloud storage service
  • Online meetings host
  • Email service
  • Health platform
  • Internet proxy
  • Software gatekeeper
  • Arbiter of other company’s business models
  • The entire amount of commerce
  • Monopoly
  • The Police

Source: A Computer Company | tyler.io

I self-hosted my “cloud” applications on my home network for years and years. It was a LOT of work. I finally gave up and gave my digital life to Google. Then I recanted Google, and gave it all to Apple, and then doubled down. When I look at the list like this, I get really unnerved about how much of my life would be lost if my Apple account got blocked, deleted, or stolen. My fallback position is that I ran Linux on the desktop for 19 years, and it works even better for the kind of work I do than macOS. I could switch back, and leave a lot of this list behind.

This is half the reason I haven’t given up on 1Password, and let Apple’s keychain have all my passwords. At least, if I lose my Apple account, I would still have my credentials to get into everything else.

I’ve been using my Apple email for my account name on web sites for several years now. I should probably go back to using my actual address, which I can forward however I like…

Home Assistant

Open source home automation that puts local control and privacy first.

Source: Home Assistant

I’ve been through MythTV, Plex, Zimba, and OwnCloud, and eventually just given up on each of these self-hosting categories, and fallen back to using established service providers. This whole field of self-hosted home automation looks very cool, but even if I decide to go down this road, at this point, I’m just going to get into bed with HomeKit.

It’s kind of scary how much of my life now revolves around Apple. They do a lot of messaging about respecting the vast trust we users put in them. I know that doesn’t necessarily prove anything on its own, but they unquestionably have the best track record for trustworthiness among the big tech firms. They are certainly the most financially-aligned with user rights and privacy, and that’s really the only metric that matters. As long as Apple primarily makes money selling hardware, and their services are fundamentally just icing on that cake, then I think we’ll continue to get along just fine.

The Biden administration has already done a lot of interesting things to put a check on big tech and monopoly power, though we’ll see how this plays out over the next couple of years. I think some new laws should be written to codify these executive orders to direct regulatory agencies, once they’re proven in practice and tweaked. Otherwise, the next President can just reverse these things, which we’ve already seen through Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. It’s become a game.

Anyway, I hope Apple — like other monstrous companies — can read the prevailing winds, look at their balance sheet, and decide to let a little profit slip through their fingers in the name of giving users a little more privacy, a little more respect, and a little more freedom.

iOS 15, Humane

Apple could help us set conditions for how and when we use certain apps.

This way, we could set boundaries for ourselves, on our own terms.

For example if you’re struggling to use Tinder responsibly, you could create a condition that you can only use the app while FaceTiming with a friend.

Source: iOS 15, Humane

There are some really interesting ideas here. I think Apple could make some hooks in the OS to support a 3rd-party app to implement them.

Comments from the HN thread about this:

And its followup:

iOS 15 Could Include New Food Tracking Feature – MacRumors

Bloomberg in April also said that there will be notification updates that will allow users to set notification preferences based on current status, which Jewiss says he can confirm. As outlined by Bloomberg, users will, for example, be able to tweak how notifications are delivered when they’re awake, working, sleeping, and more.

Source: iOS 15 Could Include New Food Tracking Feature – MacRumors

I’ve wanted this for 25 years. So much so, that I paid a patent attorney to do a patent search before I was going to try to add this feature to Pidgin on Linux. The lawyer said that IBM was sitting on a large portion of my idea, but couldn’t explain where the wiggle room was, since he was on retainer to them.

I read through the relevant patents, proved to my satisfaction that he was correct, and decided it wasn’t worth my time to pursue. However, I also thought about just going ahead and adding the functionality anyway, and seeing where it all went, but I wimped out on that too.

In any case, I’d still love to have the capability to do this, even 2 decades after I came up with the idea. I don’t understand how this isn’t a thing already. I mean, IBM saw the embryonic concept enough to patent it, years before I ever thought about it. Why has no one ever implemented this yet?

In Apple Antitrust Trial, Judge Signals Interest in Railroad, Credit-Card Monopoly Cases

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will decide if Apple has operated an illegal monopoly, and she’s already made it clear that she is thinking about how previous precedent-setting cases involving AmEx and a St. Louis railroad apply to the new digital economy.

The question of how to define a market in the case is a central issue. Is the market confined to distributing apps on the iPhone as “Fortnite” videogame creator Epic argues? Or, as Apple contends, is the market just devices on which videogames can be played?

Source: In Apple Antitrust Trial, Judge Signals Interest in Railroad, Credit-Card Monopoly Cases

No, the real central issue is that we’ve now left one of the biggest decisions about how the world economy should work in this modern day in the hands of one poor judge. It should be Congress that is writing laws to govern how this should work, but they no longer do that. The only thing Congress does any more is play with the tax code at the behest of their biggest campaign donors, and then spend that money on those donors’ interests.

The US had a great run. The post-war boom was unprecedented in world history. Except for the continued disgrace of post-Civil-War race relations, the US established an economy and power the world had never seen before. And then we threw it all in the trash, first by the invisible hands of the military-industrial complex and the deep state, and then by very visible hands of modern-day billionaire robber barons.

The party is over now. There’s nothing special about our government anymore. It’s all been captured by the oligarchs, just like every other government. There’s nothing to distinguish the actual result of our form of governance from any other on the face of the earth. The people running the show do whatever they want, whenever they want, and to whomever they want. Whereas big-J journalism used to hold them accountable, and public pressure forced reforms, now big companies in traditional media (and disinfo efforts in social media) smooth everything over and make it all go away.

Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China – DNyuz

Apple still appears to provide far more data to U.S. law enforcement. Over that same period, from 2013 through June 2020, Apple said it turned over the contents of iCloud accounts to U.S. authorities in 10,781 separate cases.

Source: Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China – DNyuz

That’s an average of over 1,500 cases a year.

The documents also show that Apple is using different encryption technology in China than elsewhere in the world, contradicting what Mr. Cook suggested in a 2018 interview.

The digital keys that can decrypt iCloud data are usually stored on specialized devices, called hardware security modules, that are made by Thales, a French technology company. But China would not approve the use of the Thales devices, according to two employees. So Apple created new devices to store the keys in China.

Makes sense.

Apple has tried to isolate the Chinese servers from the rest of its iCloud network, according to the documents. The Chinese network would be “established, managed, and monitored separately from all other networks, with no means of traversing to other networks out of country.” Two Apple engineers said the measure was to prevent security breaches in China from spreading to the rest of Apple’s data centers.

Apple said that it sequestered the Chinese data centers because they are, in effect, owned by the Chinese government, and Apple keeps all third parties disconnected from its internal network.

They darn well better. I’m quite certain that China’s Ministry of State Security desires personal data on Americans on a level that rivals even that of the NSA.

China has been stealing intellectual property from all across the globe for decades, and now they don’t even have to fool with it any more. Anyone wanting to do business in China has to hand over all the keys to the kingdom, literally and figuratively. No muss; no fuss! You want allowed into their vast, growing, and under-fleeced market? You give China anything it wants, in the form of information and control. That’s the deal; take it or leave it.

And, as it turns out, basically every company on the planet is taking that deal, for the sake of their sales, their share price, and the personal wealth of their officers and board members. What a bargain!

In return, we peasants get labor-subsidized iPhones. They’re already $1,000 computers. Who knows how much they would cost if they weren’t being assembled by people making $5/day. What a deal!

So everyone is getting something from this situation, and there’s no one left to complain. Ergo, it will not change for the foreseeable future.

How Big Tech got so big: Hundreds of acquisitions

For decades Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google gobbled up their competition to become behemoths of the tech industry, which has drawn attention from Congressional leaders and other critics who claim they’ve stifled innovation in the industry.

Source: How Big Tech got so big: Hundreds of acquisitions

If the government had said, “You know what, guys? You’re big enough already,” most of those acquired companies would probably have continued to offer a nice living to their founders and employees. And the employment market for talent would be richer for it. And taxes would have been paid. But, no, the government bends over, and lets these vertical monopolies accrete ALL the profits in their sector, while they stick out their hand for the next campaign contribution.

I had written this as a draft, and then watched The Laundromat. Not as entertaining as The Big Short, but just as approachable in its treatment of what us arguably one of the most byzantine, global subjects in modern history. I can’t find the final scene online in order to link it, but Meryl Streep’s last line is a powerful summary of the problem I’ve been complaining about here for some time.

“Now is the time for real action. It starts with asking questions. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes, relative to any other segment of the population. These political practices have come full circle and are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait.”

Global mega corps like Apple can no longer hide behind the excuse that “everyone is doing it” when it comes to using essentially-slave labor in the orient, and a offshore tax havens to avoid paying corporate taxes, while they accumulate… <checks Google>… two hundred billion dollars (give or take) in their cash on hand. I predict, at some point, they will be pressured to change both of those practices. Maybe that will lead to a domino effect, and to laws being changed. I’m not holding my breath, but I can envision a scenario, even if it’s one in “fourteen million, six hundred and five.”

Scam iOS Apps Still Raking in Millions in Revenue on App Store – MacRumors

As of writing, the scam app “Star Gazer+” is still listed on the App Store with 4.5 star average rating and over 80,000 reviews.

Source: Scam iOS Apps Still Raking in Millions in Revenue on App Store – MacRumors

As I keep saying on comment threads all over the internet: you cannot trust any review system. They’re all being gamed. They are worse than useless. They are actively hostile against users. Apple, Google… everyone should immediately take them all down and start over. Congress ought to ban Amazon’s system entirely. Right now. Forever. I’m not even joking. It’s that bad.

I guess I still give some credence to reviews on Steam, but only barely, and only because, when I read them, I’m reading about indie games, which don’t have the kind of money behind them to rent a room full of people in a 3rd-world country for a month to publish thousands of fake reviews.

Microsoft Released a Bizarre New Surface Pro Ad and It’s Hoping You Won’t Notice It’s Pure Gaslighting | Inc.com

Microsoft made a point of mentioning that price point–since the Surface Pro is cheaper–but it’s worth mentioning that it means the MacBook Pro in question is sporting Apple’s new M1 processor. It raises an interesting question: How do you compare two things that are not at all like each other? And, maybe more importantly, why would you?

Source: Microsoft Released a Bizarre New Surface Pro Ad and It’s Hoping You Won’t Notice It’s Pure Gaslighting | Inc.com

Whatever sales figures Microsoft might release about the Surface, they are continuing to struggle to sell these units. How do I know this? Because of jumbled and confusing ads like the one referenced in the article.

The kid in the video complains about not having a stylus or a touchscreen, but you can get both of those things in an iPad. The only reason alluded to in the ad about why you wouldn’t just want buy a tablet in this scenario is “gaming.” LOL WUT? You can’t pay me to believe that people are buying a Surface to play games that you couldn’t play on a MacBook.

Microsoft continues to try to sell people on the idea that the Surface somehow bridges a theoretical gap between a laptop and a tablet, but if that market segment exists, it’s very small. And, when your competition has so completely dominated the tablet end of that spectrum, any effort to wedge a hybrid device into that market gap is going to be difficult at best.

The issues with using a touchscreen while it’s not-horizontal have been beaten to death, and I won’t rehash them here. I know 3 people who have Surfaces, and they seem to like them. But I watch them fumble around with their keyboards as they switch between tasks, and wonder why they put up with it. Microsoft is betting they can make money selling to people who don’t mind living in the usability gap. Maybe they can, but they’ve obviously not created a segment-defining product the way the iPhone and iPad have.

My advice to Microsoft’s advertising department would be to simply sell the devices on their merits. The people who are interested want to live in that “convertibility” space. Market that. Play to that strength. I don’t see it, but there are people who do. Sell to both of them.

Apple Developer Program

In the endless internecine wars about Apple on “Hacker” “News,” there’s a common complaint that the Apple Developer Program costs $99/year. I can never get my head wrapped around that particular protest, as though it were some great barrier to entry. To put it in perspective, I subscribe to <deep breath> Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Now, Apple One, Office365, PS+, and Xbox Live, and that’s just off the top of my head. Most of them are for purely-optional entertainment, and all of them cost more money than the developer program. I suspect most people who frequent the board pay for several of these too. So, in comparison, the $99/yr for the developer program is not a lot of money. It’s certainly comparable with other optional digital services. It’s less than a single restaurant lunch per month.

You can complain that it’s not right to charge for the program, purely out of principle, but I look at it as though the developer program has a cover charge to keep out the riff raff, and I don’t think this is a bad thing. We all know how much junk is in the App Store as it is, and how long it takes to get a review. Imagine if they didn’t charge for the opportunity to submit apps? How much quickly-abandoned junk would suddenly appear, and how long would it take for proper apps to get approved?