Sony is working to integrate Discord into PlayStation consoles

By | May 3, 2021

Coming “early next year.”

Details on what that would actually entail are slim, and Sony’s announcement just says that the two companies are “hard at work connecting Discord with your social and gaming experience on PlayStation Network.” Whether that means a full-fledged Discord app coming to PlayStation consoles or a more limited integration (like connecting PSN and Discord accounts to more easily chat with friends off platform) has yet to be announced.

Source: Sony is working to integrate Discord into PlayStation consoles

Sounds like the first shoe to drop in the disastrous situation I described in the last couple of paragraphs in this rant. Maybe they are going to get serious about integrating the system with more and more-interesting services…

Mosaics of positions

By | April 30, 2021

How many people do you think would agree with me on everything I’ve ever written? Nobody, that’s how many.

Source: Mosaics of positions

This is DHH, creator of Ruby on Rails (my favorite programming stack), amongst many other accomplishments. I follow him pretty closely, precisely because I happen to agree with (almost) everything I’ve ever seen him write. I agree with all of his statements in this article. I’m not on Twitter, and have it blocked on my network. The only reason I’d change that right now is because I’d want to follow his tweets. Luckily, he blogs his longer thoughts on a site that has an RSS feed.

Why? Because of this line:

If I end up in a debate with an employee at Basecamp that hits identity bedrock…

That’s such a good phrase: “identity bedrock.” It perfectly encapsulates why controversial topics are so controversial. Like “core memories” in Pixar’s Inside Out, opinions about things such as, say, abortion, or health care, are literally the values we hang our metaphysical existence on. How we find our place in the world around us. How we navigate conflicts. How we ground our thinking in the face of confusion.

When you look at it like that, how could it not be contentious? How could discussing these things not be taken personally?

I think DHH (and Jason Fried) are onto something about making these social issues taboo on internal company communications platforms. This has made one side, in particular, very upset, and this is telling, but not surprising. The social justice warriors have valid points to make, and I actually support most of them, but it’s their collective effort to shove it all down everyone else’s throats — and badger anyone who dares to object to that approach — that has led to Basecamp’s decision to limit internal company discussion about these things. They have only themselves to blame for this turn of events.

FOLLOWUP: It occurs to me that I would bet actual money that the people offended by this are the same people who would have lavished praise on Twitter, Cloudflare, and Amazon for collectively cancelling Parler from the entire internet. Like, not the kind of people; the literal people.

Google Is Saving Over $1 Billion a Year by Working From Home

By | April 29, 2021

With Covid-19 restrictions lifting, more people are booking trips and hotels online, which is very good for Google’s advertising business. Google’s employees, however, are working from home and not traveling as much on the company dime — and that’s also good for its business.

Source: Google Is Saving Over $1 Billion a Year by Working From Home

As I said before, homeshoring™ — my word; my trademark — is saving companies a lot of money. I want to see a note in the annual report about how much Cummins has saved.

Unicomp, Inc.: Mini M

By | April 29, 2021

The Mini M buckling spring keyboard has the same mechanism, feel and general layout as the original IBM Model M (SSK) keyboard. With the much-loved buckling spring key design these keyboards have been prized by computer enthusiasts and robust typists because of the tactile and auditory feedback of each keystroke.

Source: Unicomp, Inc.: Mini M

I always said that when Unicomp made a tenkeyless version, it’d be a day-1 purchase. I just noticed last night that they started shipping in February, and I ordered one on the spot. I had a Model M on my 486DX2 on my first engineering job, and I still miss it. Now I will no longer have to.

I just hope I can put up with the noise. Measuring with my Apple Watch — which is pretty close to the calibrated decibel meters we have at church — my office has a background noise level of 32 dB. (Like the Geiger counters in Chernobyl, which maxed out at 3.6 Roentgens, 30 dB is the lowest level the Watch can read, so I wonder if it’s actually lower.) Typing on my WASD, with Cherry MX blue’s, produces 55 dB of noise, measured by my ear, and that’s with 0.4 mm o-rings on the stems, dampening the impact with the board. It will be interesting to see where the Unicomp comes in at.

Mighty’s master plan to reignite the future of desktop computing

By | April 28, 2021

We’re excited to finally unveil Mighty, a faster browser that is entirely streamed from a powerful computer in the cloud. After 2 years of hard work, we’ve created something that’s indistinguishable from a Google Chrome that runs at 4K, 60 frames a second, takes no more than 500 MB of RAM, and often less than 30% CPU with 50+ tabs open. This is the first step in making a new kind of computer.

Source: Mighty’s master plan to reignite the future of desktop computing

What a joke. This is just a cagey attempt to track user ALL behavior across ALL sites, without even needing cookies or web bugs or other such hacks. Even Facebook can’t track you across sites that don’t load their script. I have Twitter blocked on my network, but the famous VC investor Paul Graham is apparently all about it. Given the completeness of the tracking information you could get from this, it’s no wonder. The potential upside here has probably made it trivial to get the money to run in stealth for 2 years on this thing.

User DaveV1.0 had a good comment on Slashdot:

The modern browser is wicked stressful on computers.

TL;DR: We are doing it wrong.

This is because:

  • Web pages are now the size of entire operating systems.
  • We are asking web browsers to everything an operating system does on top of an operating system.
  • We are using web browsers to do things that should be done with other applications.
  • We are using a stateless protocol to do tasks that require states.
  • We are doing things that require high security in an inherently insecure environment with an inherently insecure protocol requiring bolt-on extensions.

We are doing it wrong.

I mean, yeah, there actually is a use for “Mighty.” We’ve made HTTP do things that Tim Berners-Lee never even imagined in his wildest dreams, thanks to building a Javascript runtime interpreter into every browser, and downloading an entire application with each page of markup. Even in my current Rails app, where I use very little Javascript, webpacker warns me about the size of my current bundle: 249 KB. For comparison, the page is only 30 KB. Thank God for caching, I guess.

User Perseids on “Hacker News” asked the CEO of the company about issues of security and privacy:

I can’t help but ask: As a security conscious person, how can you justify creating the service? You’ll have the data and access of everything your customer does online, which for your target audience is everything your customer does on a computer. For the individual customer this is worse than Google, Facebook, Twitter combined. Also, you’ll have an effective backdoor into every two-factor authentication, be it online banking, valuable Twitter accounts or AWS admins. There are massive monetary and political incentives to hack or infiltrate your service. Given your scale, you can’t have comparable security measures to the big players. And given your location (US) you’ll eventually receive national security letters forcing you to secretly sip off anything secret services or law enforcement wants you to.

He didn’t respond.

People with M1-based Macs aren’t going to care about the performance of their browser. There is so much extra computing power in those things, they’re begging for something to do. Might as well be crunching media-heavy web sites. Maybe there’s some hope that poorly-ported video games will smooth out with the extra cycles…

Whatever. The joke’s on them, anyway. At $30-$50/mo, by the time “Mighty” could reach any sort of serious market penetration, users will interact with apps rather than web sites anyway. With an i9-based MBP, Imgur can make even my computer wheeze, but that’s because they load, like, 50 thumbnails on EVERY page view, and half the posts on the image sharing site are now video. Like Reddit’s execrable web site, I can only guess this is a move to push people to their app.

No, the next big shift is not to centrally-hosted web browsers. It’s to get rid of browsers entirely. Watch for one of the big sites, like Amazon, to introduce an “app” for their site, which will be based on Electron. Either that, or they’ll just go with Apple’s new thing where you can run their iOS app on macOS, and dust off their hands. (Poor Microsoft, with no mobile, and poor Google, with no (real) desktop!) Web sites for the places big enough to make apps will eventually just be a pointer to their app.

Doorbell video captures police officer punching and throwing teen with autism to the ground – CBS News

By | April 26, 2021

A Ring doorbell captured footage of a police officer in Vacaville, California, throwing a 17-year-old to the ground and punching him in the face on Wednesday, according to the teen’s father.

Source: Doorbell video captures police officer punching and throwing teen with autism to the ground – CBS News

I think these kinds of incidents have always happened, but now that people can record and use surveillance footage to document them, and have platforms like Twitter and Facebook to post them publicly, we’re getting multiple, national stories every week about out-of-control law enforcement. I’m just wondering: Is there any point at which people who defend the police will ever stop saying that there are “just a few bad apples” in police departments, and start admitting that there must be a systemic problem with how America hires and trains the police?

Obligatory: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens This was originally written about mass shootings — and it is more applicable month after month, year after year, since it was first written — but it works just as well for policy brutality.

The REAL Reason McDonalds Ice Cream Machines Are Always Broken – YouTube

By | April 26, 2021

TL;DW: The McDonald’s corporation forces franchisees to purchase a particular model of Taylor ice cream machines. These ice cream machines are finicky, prone to error, and hard to diagnose, which makes franchisees call someone to repair them. By contract, only Taylor’s repair department is allowed to work on Taylor ice cream machines. It’s expensive. Service makes up 25% of their yearly revenue. There is a secret system to diagnose and repair these machines that most people don’t know about. Someone else made a device to attach to the machine, and an app to read what it detected, and started having some success at bypassing this slow and expensive repair process. McDonald’s told licensees that they could not use this system or they would void their warranty and breach their contract. Taylor is implementing a similar system, but which will continue to keep the franchisees dependent on them to fix the machines.

Gee… This sounds an awful lot like John Deere, huh? This is another good case study for the right to repair.

This is just another naked play to unethically and forcefully create a monopoly on some vertical slice of economic activity, which a perfectly-competitive version of capitalism would have fixed on its own. It’s what all companies strive for now.

The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots – WSJ

By | April 26, 2021

The U.S. government has built robust programs to track terrorists and criminals through warrantless access to commercial data. Many vendors now provide global location information from mobile phones to intelligence, military and law-enforcement organizations.

Source: The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots – WSJ

It doesn’t really matter how much protection from government overreach we write into the Constitution, if we allow companies to do the things we won’t allow the government to do, in the name of the Almighty Dollar, and then let the government get the power we deny them in the Constitution through those reprehensible actions, regardless. The whole thing has become a sham thanks to unbounded Capitalism, propped up by our government enabling Amendment-defying behavior by companies, and then looking the other way when it comes to regulating them, while reaching a hand out behind them for campaign contributions.

I just watched The Courier last night. Great movie. When I was young, I would find it so funny the way the Soviet characters would ridicule their Western antagonists, mocking capitalism and the community-destroying greed it produced. I don’t find these things funny any more, because it’s really hard for me NOT to see some truth in that kind of dialog now.

In the post-war, pre-military-industrial-complex, pre-Wall-Street-investment-bank days, I wouldn’t have argued it. Now, monstrous companies are running this country, trampling the balance of power enshrined in our founding documents, and the result has been the decimation of the middle-class, which is crucial to upward mobility. And this is, after all, the American “dream.”

We mock China for having a social score and sham elections, but we incarcerate more people per capita than any other country, and then revoke their right to vote in a system that aggressively prevents any serious change to the status quo. We fly the flag, spend millions on fighter jet passes over stadiums, sing the nation anthem, praise our armed forces, and it all seems to me to be just as jingoistic as military parades in communist countries. How is our system any better, in actual practice?

There is, at least, one important — perhaps critical — difference, but I’ll save that for another time.

Sources and parallels of the Exodus – Wikipedia

By | April 21, 2021

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of the Israelites. There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, and the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE (even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy). In contrast to the absence of evidence for the Egyptian captivity and wilderness wanderings, there are ample signs of Israel’s evolution within Canaan from native Canaanite roots. While a few scholars discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the exodus story, the majority of archaeologists have abandoned it, in the phrase used by archaeologist William Dever, as “a fruitless pursuit”.

The biblical narrative contains some details which are authentically Egyptian, but such details are scant, and the story frequently does not reflect Egypt of the Late Bronze Age or even Egypt at all (it is unlikely, for example, that a mother would place a baby in the reeds of the Nile, where it would be in danger from crocodiles).

Source: Sources and parallels of the Exodus – Wikipedia

These are the lead graphs from the Wikipedia page on the Biblical account of the Exodus. I’ve been watching this space for a long time, with some fascination. Every few years or so, someone claims to have proven that some detail of the story could not have been correct, so, therefore, the story is pure fiction. The biggie, of course, was that the Jews could not have been slaves who built the pyramids. Rather, it is now settled scholarship that the people who built the pyramids were patriotic Egyptians, who were paid and fed well for their work for the empire.

I would assume that Wikipedia’s editors would begin the discussion of “the consensus of modern scholars” with the most-significant pieces of evidence against the narrative being factual. (Wait. I thought “science” didn’t care about consensus? I guess that’s only climate science.) Anyway, the first issue is that there was no archaeological findings to establish Jewish habitation of the Sinai peninsula.

First of all, according to the Biblical account, they only spent 38 years in that region, which happens to be a largely featureless, wind-swept desert. This is one second of time, archaeologically-speaking, in a place that would actively obfuscate evidence of passage through it. These conditions would make finding a record of them difficult in the best of circumstances.

Second of all, the Biblical narrative records that they lived as nomads, in tents, moving continually — as beduins — building no permanent structures. Most famously, the center of their mobile “city” was the Tabernacle housing the Ark of the Covenant, which was setup, torn down, and carried away at every location. In essence, they left virtually nothing behind to record their journeys.

Did these “modern” “scholars” never actually read the text they are disproving? I recognize that the position for the narrative being true is that you can’t disprove a negative, but even so, this is hardly the slam dunk they seem to think it is. There’s no contradiction with the account on this point.

Second of all, “modern” “scholars” take issue with a mother floating a baby down the Nile River due to the fear of crocodiles. Again, I have to ask: did these “modern” “scholars” even read the Bible? Moses’ mother would have put him in a basket of reeds, despite any fear of crocodiles, because not doing so meant certain death at the hands of the Egyptians.

I’m a fan of science. I’m a fan of archaeology. I’m a fan of Biblical history. There are parts of the Bible that seem incongruent to me, but most of the issues that “modern” “scholars” raise don’t seem persuasive to me. It just seems like trying to rewrite history to fit their worldview, as much as they claim is was originally written to fit the Jewish worldview. I could just as easily point to this documentary, which makes some very compelling arguments that the account is true, and that turn-of-the-century Egyptologists got the timeline wrong, and no one wants to go back and edit every book ever written on ancient Egypt.

Peter Thiel: Competition Is for Losers – WSJ

By | April 19, 2021

I am woefully late in coming to this understanding that monopoly is the goal of all venture capital. Peter Thiel, of Paypal, Palantir, Facebook “fame,” literally said this was the goal, in front of God and everyone, in a WSJ op-ed, seven years ago. Like the PG article from the other day, Thiel tells some whoppers to try to make everyone feel better about monopolies.

Even the government knows this: That is why one of its departments works hard to create monopolies (by granting patents to new inventions) even though another part hunts them down (by prosecuting antitrust cases). Source: Peter Thiel: Competition Is for Losers – WSJ

If this isn’t the most-lopsided statement I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what would beat it. First of all, the patent office does not “work hard.” An awful lot of patents are given out like candy for trivial things. Further, software patents — which I’m sure Thiel loves — have been one of the most business-stifling things to ever happen in modern history.

Second of all, the government has only ever stopped the very biggest deals. It would seem that the current “gentleman’s agreement” is that anything under about $30B isn’t worth talking about. So Microsoft buys LinkedIn and Skype and GitHub, when it doesn’t really make much sense for them to own any of them. All the FAANG companies run around, picking up interesting toys in the flea-market bins marked “less than $1B,” and the government doesn’t even bat an eye.

And the government certainly hasn’t broken up any monopolies since AT&T. Given that the “baby Bells” have all since re-merged into the duopoly of Verizon and AT&T — which, mysteriously, line up almost perfectly in their cell phone contract terms — I’m not sure that even this was worth the hassle for the customer. What I am sure of, is that lots and lots of executives pocketed lots and lots of money for all that M&A activity.

If your industry is in a competitive equilibrium, the death of your business won’t matter to the world; some other undifferentiated competitor will always be ready to take your place.

This reveals Thiel’s cognitive bias. These “undifferentiated competitors” — in his terminology — are small businesses that would make their owners a comfortable living, and provide good job opportunities in their local market. Yes, if it folds, someone else may come along and take your place. I feel that’s a humane cycle of life. Thiel thinks this is a tragic notion, when he can be the guy who provides the capital to corner a market, and then extract all the profits that would have gone to those smaller businesses.

Monopoly is therefore not a pathology or an exception. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.

Bullcrap. Utter VC narrative-spinning bullcrap. There are millions of small businesses being run out of business or bought up to further fuel multi-national corporate behemoths, who were too big decades ago, in this twisted game to become the largest companies in the world.

History is going to judge this period in human development as the time where we either decide how big is “big enough,” or whether we become a planet of corporations instead of governments. We’re running out of time to make the call, and if we don’t, we will eventually get the latter.

You can say that it’s unethical to tell Peter Thiel, “No, you can’t have any more,” but if we find the collective will to start doing that to the billionaires of the world, in another generation, it will matter more which company you work for, than what nation you are a citizen of. It already does in China, where working for Apple — as detestable as the working conditions are to Americans — it’s still one of the best jobs in the country. It already does in Alabama, where working for Amazon was seen to be so good — despite all the press to the contrary — that they overwhelmingly rejected the call to unionize. Those people would work for Apple or Amazon no matter what country they had to do it from.

(Makes you wonder who was running all the pro-union stuff in social media, huh?)