Here’s this article again. It get rewritten every year or so. The dystopian take is that we’re headed for the “pod living” in some Asian countries, but the US has so much land, people will move to other places before living like this in aggregate. We’re just not bound by lack of available land like Japan or Hong Kong. If nothing else, the financials will basically make it happen.
“Contrary to popular belief, Netflix did not kill Blockbuster,” Keyes said. “Blockbuster actually had a better opportunity to be Netflix today than Netflix did, and that’s what I was hoping … to accomplish.”
I’m watching the Netflix documentary on Prime. It paints a sympathetic picture of Netflix (at least, so far), so I don’t understand why it’s not on Netflix. I’d like to understand why this is the case. Anyway.
In 2007, Blockbuster’s foray into DVD’s-by-mail was going pretty well. They had successfully navigated bringing up a complicated service, and getting a couple million customers. Even though they were still hemorrhaging money at the time, they had something. Around that time, major Blockbuster stakeholder, Carl Icahn, refused to pay the current CEO, John Antioco, his bonus, so he left. Icahn installed Jim Keyes, formerly of 7-11. Keyes wanted to “double down” on the physical stores, and scuttled their postal offering. The documentary has Antioco and the guy running their by-mail service on camera explaining all of this, so this isn’t second-hand hearsay. Yet, here’s Keyes, 10 years later, in 2018, saying that he was trying to lean into the subscription offering, and blaming all of their troubles on banking. I mean, say that you nixed the offering because you had insurmountable debt problems, and hoped that cutting it loose would help you refinance in the current market, but don’t claim that you were hoping to be a “better Netflix than Netflix” when you killed the service.
And, of course, Keyes continued to collect his $750,000/yr salary and $500,000 bonus, in the same year as the company was filing for bankruptcy. This is the disconnect in the American oligarchy. We Americans pride ourselves on our supposed meritocracy, but if we really had a meritocracy, Keyes would only have been able to collect his bonus if he had successfully navigated the banking climate back then, and procured a better exit strategy for Blockbuster than selling it wholesale to Dish. He’s rewriting history here, and I’m betting it’s because he’s looking for another gig. Wikipedia doesn’t list his age, but the date of his MBA puts him still in his early 60’s.
We’ve reached a point with the web now that you can go back pretty far, and still get to actual, reported sources. There’s no running from history when Google makes it so easy to find, and major web sites’ content management systems have gotten so good at keeping their links working…
With the advent of electric and autonomous vehicles, the amount of software required has grown exponentially. That means newly formed teams must grow overnight, which has two extremes of competing difficulties.
I have watched firsthand as a Napolean-esque CEO fired great talent because the CEO’s hardware background didn’t permit comprehension of building a creative, software team. I’ve seen a frustrated director literally (and dangerously) slam a glass-top, conference table while summarily dismissing managers for being honest about the overwhelming deluge of software defects. I’ve watched dozens of corporations believe a revolving door of low-cost staff augmentation from offshore corners of the world may outperform a more-expensive-per-salary team.
Legacy transportation companies making the transition from the ECM-centered software development world to the vehicle-as-a-network-of-computers world should probably rethink their software development methodology, tools, and processes as part of the move. If you adopt a completely-new development platform, but continue to use the legacy process — and the middle management that has been running it — you will transplant 25 years of technical debt into the new paradigm, right at the start. It would seem to be the very definition of the job of “information” and “technology” officers of the company to recognize that their company’s software development systems are 25 years behind the current “meta,” reject the entrenched power structures that have restricted progress for decades, and bring in new people who understand modern software development to setup new teams, tools, and processes.
Well, I guess, that would be the approach if you wanted the company to stay relevant for the foreseeable future. However, if your goals are otherwise, it might not make sense. For instance, if you just wanted to spend the next 10 years collecting stock options to exercise at the opportune time — say, for instance, when you know the company has slid into technical irrelevance to the point of becoming an irresistible target for acquisition by a company which has its software development act together — then your approach to the technical debt problem might be different than mine. It might look a lot like doing nothing at all. Which would hardly be surprising. I mean, look at how much companies in the US are willing to sacrifice long-term success for short-term profits, and how well rewarded such behavior is. You wouldn’t be able to fault people inside the company if they look like they are following the exact same strategy, personally.
The biggest issue humanity faces right now isn’t “rogue AI” — it is narrowly selfish people using computer technology to exploit other people in various ways (or at least create a technosphere which does that, with extensive intrusive monitoring and attention direction).
HN finally had a thread about the crypto elephant in the room. This comment contained a truth about the present situation, but the underlying problem is much broader. The mortgage crisis revealed the same structural issues. If you replace the weak phrase “narrowly selfish people” with the proper term — i.e., psychopaths — you can begin to see the general problem.
Whether it’s all the malfeasance around crypto — NFT’s, exchanges, DAO’s, etc. — or colluding to sell bad mortgages to fuel the mortgage-backed securities market, or liquidating excess capacity in your supply chain for short-term cash flow, raising prices, declaring record profits, and then giving yourself a massive bonus for your great work, while at the same time denying workers a raise to at least keep up with the inflation you’re causing, it’s all the same thing: psychopathy. That is, being fine with profiting handsomely while someone else suffers directly and visibly from the decisions you’ve made to do so.
Sideloading would enable bad actors to evade Apple’s privacy and security protections by distributing apps without critical privacy and security checks. These provisions would allow malware, scams and data-exploitation to proliferate.
As if malware, scams, and data-exploitation apps don’t already exist in the App Store. I would argue the opposite of what Apple is claiming, in fact. If some scammer was tricking people into installing a sideloaded app that stole all your data, word would get around, and the traffic pointing to that app would eventually die off. Instead, what we have are lots of crummy apps in the App Store, doing specious things, with Apple’s implicit blessing, with an overwhelmingly-spammed review score. And these things are stubborn.
This guy has made waves pointing out how widespread the problem is.
Apple’s recalcitrance around their walled garden smells funny to me. I get it. I mean, when there is literally no other option for people, you get to act as a middleman on every transaction. But how much money is enough for a company which vies to be the world largest market cap from month to month? Whatever that figure might be, they surely flew past it a long time ago.
Steven Sinofsky, once a huge wheel at Microsoft, for a very long time, is writing a series of articles chronicling the halcyon days of the early PC business at Substack. I can’t quite bring myself to subscribe, because most of it is free already. Plus, there aren’t many surprises for me, since I was living it during that time.
When Windows NT was introduced, I was quick to jump on board. I was already experimenting with Linux towards the end of ’94. But then I saw a disc of NT 3.5 (not even 3.51 yet) on someone’s bookshelf. He said he wasn’t using it, so I snapped it up and installed it. For the next 20 years, I would dual boot my PC’s between Windows and Linux. I only used Windows for gaming, but for that use, it was obstinate. I tried every incarnation of wine and Crossover and PlayOnLinux and everything else. Nothing has ever let me run Windows games on Linux well enough to warrant getting rid of a native partition.
The content of the slide above is of no consequence, as is pretty much the case with all presentation slides. What’s interesting to me is the little toolbar on the top, left side. It’s from the early Office XP days, back when Microsoft was new and cool. “Before the dark times. Before the empire.” Seeing it evoked a visceral response. As a computer nerd, those really were interesting and exciting times to live through. From the article, that screencap is from 1992. Competing against giants like IBM, HP, and Sun, Microsoft’s eventual dominance was anything but sure at that time. And that’s what’s prompted me to write this anecdote.
In 1995, my Fortune 250 company didn’t even have an internet connection yet. I was using a phone line, and a modem that I conned my boss into letting me get. It was over this modem that I downloaded all 54 floppy drive images of Slackware Linux, on a computer running Windows 3.11 with Trumpet Winsock, connecting to a free SLIP dialup bank in California.
At first, I was much more into NT than Linux. I skipped Windows 95 entirely. I don’t think I ever had a computer that ran it.
I remember how easy it was to setup a dialup connection in NT. By 1996, I was running a dual Pentium Pro with 384 MB of RAM, SCSI hard drives, and a $2,500 video card to do FEA work. The total cost was about $10,000. A coworker got a SGI Indy to do the same sort of work, to the tune of $80,000. The company still didn’t have an internet connection, so he also got an external modem, and hired a local ISP to come set it up. The guy came and screwed around with the connection for 4 hours. I kind of razzed him, by pointing out that it took me all of 15 minutes to configure the same thing on NT. That’s how smug I was about NT versus Unix at the time.
The best part was still to come.
For the next week, the ISP guy still couldn’t get that Indy on the internet. Every time it would connect, the kernel would segfault, and the machine would crash.
But that’s not the best part.
The ISP guy worked with SGI to patch IRIX to fix the modem driver, and finally got it working. My coworker left it connected to the internet all the time to get his email. Things worked fine for a few weeks.
Then the company got a T1 internet connection, and then connected our facility to the main office via a sonet ring. I was really looking forward to not needing my dialup connection any more. But, the first morning, no one could access the internet. Complaints were made. Investigations were performed. Our internal IT would fix the problem, and then it would come back.
Here comes the best part.
Finally, someone realized that computers inside our facility were getting the wrong gateway address to get to the internet. They realized that they were picking up the IP address of my workmate’s Indy, which was advertising itself as a route to the internet, and since the number of hops from computers in the office to the Indy were less than skipping over to the central office, they were preferring its modem, and the Indy’s phone line would choke from the load.
I recall very clearly that there was a simple checkbox in the dialog for setting up a dialup connection in Windows NT for advertising the connection to the LAN as a route to wherever you were connecting. It was on by default, but when I was running through the process, I quickly realized that this was NOT what I wanted, and un-ticked it.
And I felt pretty smug about being serious about NT at the time.
I stuck with NT as my primary interest until some time around 1998 or so. Then Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza released Ximian Desktop for Linux, which made Linux on the desktop really pleasant to use. I wasn’t doing analysis work any more. I had transferred to become the system admin of all the Unix machines in the advanced engineering group, so running Linux was a perfect fit. After that, it was pretty much all Linux, all the time, until switching to Macs just a few years ago.
How do you deal with Microsoft’s crap on a daily basis?
I don’t use Windows 11. On Windows 10, I modify the installation image with DISM, removing as much of the unnecessary and user-hostile stuff as possible…
I make extensive changes to the registry that disable all the unwanted stuff. Some of these settings are not documented, and even the documented ones are likely to change without notice or become re-enabled by default in subsequent builds. For this reason, to avoid such unpleasant surprises, I prevent any automatic updates.
There was a time when I was reinstalling Windows XP so often that I made a “slipstreamed” install disc with Service Pack 3 pre-integrated, but this is on a whole other level. If I’m being honest?… I kinda want to try it. If I’m reading the blurb on Microsoft’s docs correctly, DISM is not, in fact, some tens-of-thousands-of-dollars corporate thing, but something that ships with every copy of Windows? That can’t be right, can it? In any case, I never want to hear about how much “work” it is to run Linux any more, when this is what it takes to run a copy of Windows that Microsoft doesn’t actively sabotage on a routine basis.
Crypto, like meme stocks, is a poor replacement for the American dream. A functional nation would end gerrymandering, pass campaign finance reform, end the filibuster, abolish the undemocratic U.S. Senate, tax great wealth, institute public healthcare and build a social safety net to ensure that no one in our very wealthy country slipped all the way through the financial cracks of life and was ruined. But that’s not the American way. The American way is to cheer on the few lucky ultra-rich people, and fete them as heroes, and look for a way to emulate them, although such a thing is mathematically impossible.
The bitterest irony, perhaps, is that while the regular folks flock to crypto because they think it’s a utopian land of opportunity for the little guy to make a buck, it is, in fact, largely controlled by a small cartel of rich investors. Just like everything else.
As a programmer, who maintained his own email server, directly on the internet, from his home, for many years, I understand the problem of spam better than a lot of other people. It’s tricky. I get that. But, come on, Google. You have 100% certainty that this stuff is garbage, and can be zapped before it even hits the junk folder.