It’s getting wearisome, but I feel I must, at least somewhat longer. I’m talking about posting links to stories evaluating the various tablet devices on sale now, with an eye to the holiday season. Today’s item is an article in the Times by its technology editor and it’s aimed at sorting out the various KINDS of machine, according to what they will and won’t do. It’s interesting too in that it makes the prospective purchaser focus on what the actual need or desire is that the gadget is supposed to fill. No more of this “Oh, Bob might like one of those tablet things”. Well those tablet things break down into several sub-classes, each of which has capabilities and price tags that vary often greatly from the others. It’s an effort on the writer’s part to help people make good decisions, but they have to cooperate first.
Some doctors love poking around in the records of the illnesses that plagued important people, now, safely, long dead. What killed Mozart? Napoleon? Dickens? Why was Hitler’s hand trembling like that? Did Abraham Lincoln have Marfan Syndrome? The dead make the very best ‘patients’, in the etymological sense. They have to ‘suffer’ the crude pawings of biographically minded MDs, as their shades can only hope that the physician proceeds prudently and with an eye to the evidence. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the way the living hope their physicians proceed. Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough; the medical lives of famous writers is a new book by John Ross, M.D. The author has rounded up the medical histories of some Eng Lit big guns: Yeats, Orwell, Milton, and William S. hisownself and has tried to throw some light on how their ailments affected their writings. Dr. Ross suggests that Shakespeare knew a lot about syphilis because he saw it up close: in himself. Maybe, maybe not. No way to be sure. But that’s part of the fun of post mortem diagnosis. There is no morbidity/mortality conference to show up your mistakes and no harms is done to the subjects, who are, after all. dead. Abibael Zuger, M.D. reviews the book at the link below: (Maybe a holiday gift for that medically minded Someone?)
Bruce Schneier had a good reputation in the somewhat recondite field of cyber-security. He runs a company that advises on such matters, and his writings on the topic make sense and easy to grasp, as long as you are not down too deep in the engine room of check-digits and authentication strings and other apparatus of the security wonk’s trade. The link posted here goes to an interesting survey piece in which he compares the current digital user scene to the feudal order of medieval society in the West, and by that I mean, roughly, the lands west of the old Roman limes or fortified border that marked the Empire off from the barbarian lands to the east. Anyway, back to Schneier. His comparison is just that; a comparison. But a lot of what he says is direct and right on point.It does seem as though a kind of ‘digital feudalism’ is emerging, or even, that it has emerged and is functioning as the de facto social order in Digitopia. In feudalism, there were vassals and lords. The vassal surrendered something to the lord, in return for protection. That ‘something’ was service of one sort or another. The digital vassal surrenders something to Amazon, or Google, or Apple or something. In return, the vassal gets protection: automatic updates, auto backup, etc. The security of these services is much greater that that any individual could get personally. But the ‘service’ the individual yields can be fiscal, in that s/he is more or less bound to buy the Lord’s products and pay the Lord’s fees. OK, medieval society was a great deal more complicated than what we read in the college history texts, and that’s because it had people in it. People always mess up everything, mostly by not fitting neatly into one of the categories they were supposed to fit into, and they were tolerated because they could do something interesting or useful. Anyway, read it here:
I wish all our readers a very safe and happy Thanksgiving Day, and urge all to drive carefully, avoid overeating, avoid discussing politics and the recent election. When we take a quick look at the world around us, we have a lot for which we can be truly thankful
The effort by Google to wire up Kansas City with super-duper high speed internet service gets a nod of approval by Technology Today. The author of the post points out that the promise is very great, and that it might augur the way forward for providing more of the USA with really good online service. There are a few clouds. Google is not saying much about the economics of all this. Some industry observers say that the rates the company is assessing to the KC customers are way, way below actual costs. Google’s pockets are deep ones indeed, but not even that estimable company could run a national re-wiring project by charging below cost rates. So, the business side is a little murky. If the company just wants to get experience with something like this, or plans to hand the demonstration project off to some other agency or business, once it has found out what it wanted to, well, that might make more sense.
I have been trying to keep our readers up to the mark on the tablet scene, although I will say freely that I didn’t post about the Apple Mini. And I ‘m not sure why. It may be that I have a sneaky feeling that anything Apple does is well covered in the media, or it may simply a kind of ‘Apple fatigue’….let’s talk about something else for a change. Well, the Winter Solstice will soon be upon us and that means Holiday shopping will soon be in full swing. Already the dreaded sound of Christmas carols can be heard in our various temples of commerce and Greed, while all the ‘shoppers’, aka citizens, proceed with their endeavours totally oblivious to the contradictions contained in the music on one hand, and their single-minded fixation on Getting Stuff, on the other. No matter. Catonian censoriousness is not a useful attitude of mind. I see I digress, again. My point at the outset was to alert you to an item in the New York TImes, to the effect that a large number of tablets are on sale this season and this plethora can complicate the buyer’s choice. Not exactly news to faithful readers of these lines, but there it is, finally, in the Times. It’s a useful overview of what and where, but it certainly is no real product review. It can help you orient yourself to the choices. Since we may as well be candid about this, it’s only the truth to say that people are really thinking about these things as gifts for themselves, so they want to spend wisely. “To a really swell girl”, from Ellen (the really swell girl). I see that I have used a word no young person today would use:”swell”, but “quod scripsi scripsi” as a certain Roman civil servant once noted. So, use it with caution as you battle the crowds.
This won’t take long. It’s just a link that adds a follow-up to the story about the downfall of CIA Director and four-star general David Petraeus. The link goes to a story about the extent of Federal intrusion into online documents.
Gummints world-wide are asking Google to turn over data on what users in the respective countries are doing online. Do you want to bet which gummint is in the lead in such requests for user info? In fact, this gummint’s requests exceed the requests of all other gummints combined! It has to be some place that hates freedom, right? Well I guess that depends. (Hums) hm hm hm mh mh mhhhhhh, hm hm m m hmmm hmmm. You hear it played and sung at ball games and stuff. But don’t take that ‘freedom’ stuff too seriously. I don’t think the people there do.
Steven Sinofsky was in charge of the WIndows 8 development program. It was an important post to fill and a lot rested on his coming up with a decent successor to the older Windows platform versions. But he was, how shall we put this, not an easy man to be around. He was termed ‘abrasive.’ There are some shorter, earthier and more graphic ways to say that in the demotic forms of speech in use today. He was regarded as very , very smart in an organization in which ‘smart’ is nothing. ‘Smart’ is what everybody there has, has to have. Being smart is like having a pulse, or regular breathing. It’s where you start. It’s the ante. But perhaps Sinofsky got a little too abrasive for his own good. He had conflicts with Steve Balmer, current MS president or whatever the top dog gets called. And at a recent ‘retreat’ of MS biggies at a pricey resort, he made it pretty clear that he was not having a good time there, had not prepared anything to present, although the other division chiefs had, and most of what he had to say about 8 was to be found on the blog, and if the other execs hadn’t bothered to read the blog, why should he go over all this again?. He left early, with places to go and people to see. One of those people was Balmer who apparently told him that enough was enough. There was some anodyne hoohaw about this or that, but Sinofsky was done. Not many tears were shed, it seems. We’ll see about a second act. It seems to be another instance of Liebling’s Law: “if a man of adequate complexity of mind proceeds in a sufficiently perverse way, he CAN succeed in kicking his own ass out the door and into the street”. Si, A.J.
The descent of Gen. Petraeus from the shrouded heights of the CIA into French bedroom farce, and not a very good one at that, has taken over the news outlets. The GOP and its candidates are probably glad, since the spotlight is off their misery and onto somebody else’s. Counterparts at intelligence, if that’s the word, agencies all over the world are having a good laugh at DP’s expense. Once we get past the sneering and snickering, the more thoughtful among what H, L. Mencken called the “Booboisie” might ponder how David P was caught out.The FBI got in on what seemed to be some cyber-stalking and unraveled the anonymized source to find out who sent the messages. This takes access to a large body of traffic. Can the Feds get into user information so easily? Well, it seems they can. For years the FBI has had a program called CARNIVORE for accessing and reading email traffic. How often is it used? How? By whom, and under what permissions and with what safeguard? Now you run along, Silly, and don’t ask questions about things that don’t concern you and that you wouldn’t understand anyway. Go watch Dancing with the Stars, or NASCAR. NASCAR is always fun. Big, shiny things moving fast! Now beat it.
A while ago I commented in these lines about the introduction Google was having to the messy world of municipal politics. In this world, you can’t just write an optimizing algorithm and have that be the end of the story for whatever problem you’ re dealing with. People are involved, with their resentments, expectations and limitations all working at full pressure. To recap. Google has a project called Google Fiber and the plan was to make a demonstration of the capacities of a municipal very high-speed Internet service. The demonstration site selected was Kansas City, Ka. The G ran into non-technical, not optimizable trouble in selecting what portions of the town were chosen for installation, and on what time table. But some people are just grabbing the bull by the you know what and are not waiting for the best solution.