Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is $40m a fair price for Tweetdeck?

Alan Patrick thinks not:

Is it a fair price – no, of course not, its a Bubblenomics business case. In any “normal” economy, paying $40m for a zero-revenue feature that uses your own platform to organise what are essentially SMS’s with pictures into columns, is completely daft. You can build that for a few hundred thousand and probably bribe a user base the size of Tweetdeck’s to comeover for far less – but it’s BubbleTime, and in BubbleTime its all about the urgent acquisition of eyeballs (remember them from Dotcom 1.0) Now!

It’s a harsh description of Tweetdeck, but a true one.

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Byword updated with Markdown support

Now this is really rather fine. Byword, which is my weapon of choice when it comes to writing pretty much everything, has been updated with support for Markdown syntax. If Markdown doesn’t mean anything to you, then don’t worry about it to much1. If, on the other hand, you want it, you’ll probably want Byword too.

Byword’s Markdown support extends to a preview mode, so you can actually see what your post will look like like. And your blogging platform doesn’t need to understand Markdown: all you need to do is copy and paste the HTML which Byword outputs.

Byword is available from the Mac App Store, and there’s a free trial available for download from the Byword store.

  1. Actually, do. Markdown makes it really easy to do things like footnotes, which you might like.

Why Google is being disingenuous over H.264 and WebM

Jonathan Ballerano:

“Another interesting twist is that Google fired the first shot a month before the patent call, bydropping support for H.264 from its web browser, Chrome.  Google did this in the name of openness and performance, but it is disingenuous on both counts (not to mention that these were reasons for adding H.264 in the first place).  H.264 is an open standard, and there is a “free beer” open-source implementation of the standard, called x264, that anyone can use or modify.  Furthermore, H.264 has a performance edge because hardware manufacturers have licensed H.264 to implement high-performance decoding that frees up the CPU, increasing battery life.  WebM decoding will require new hardware, obviating all of this work and license-paying that was made as part of an industry-wide effort.  Ironically, Chrome continues to license Adobe’s proprietary Flash Player, for which Adobe licenses H.264 (the extra software layer makes it inherently less efficient than decoding built into the browser).”

If ever there was any doubt in my mind that Google’s dropping support for H.264 in Chrome and adoption of WebM is more about hurting what it sees as competitors rather than being truly open, Jonathan’s thoughtful piece removed it.

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iPhone isn’t the only thing sending your location to Apple. Your Mac does it too

There’s been something of a storm over the “discovery” that your iPhone contains a database file which includes details of where you’ve carried your phone, and that this information is sent back to Apple (with your consent, although as often happens you probably didn’t read the license you gave to Apple, did you?)

But your iPhone isn’t the only machine sending location data back to Apple: Your Mac, if you’re running Snow Leopard, does it too. As does Safari 5, even if you’re running it on Windows (I think).

Last July, two US Representatives sent some queries to Apple over how it was handling personal information, and Apple responded to them in a detailed letter [PDF download]. That letter contained details of what location data Apple collected, and how it is used. As well as covering the uses of the data it collects from iPhone, it included details on Snow Leopard and Safari.

First, Snow Leopard:

So, whenever you make a location request – and that will presumably include any application which uses CoreLocation, such as the excellent NetworkLocation – OS X does a little look around, checks out where you are, probably notes which WiFi hotspots are available, and sends that data back to Apple. It doesn’t, of course, contain any data which could connect that location to you.

Again, your location is transmitted to Apple. But it’s not connected with you, personally.

Why does this matter? Well, here’s the point: Location services don’t happen by magic. To make location services work, companies have to collect data about where you are, and that data has to get stored somewhere. In the case of your iPhone, that’s on the phone. With CoreLocation on Snow Leopard, that information sits, anonymised, on a database in an Apple server somewhere.

If you want to take advantage of software which knows where you are, that data has to be gathered, moved around, and stored. It shouldn’t be a surprise. There are no magic pixies inside your iPhone, your Android phone, your Mac, your Windows PC, or even your browser gathering this stuff up. It’s databases. And they’ll live on, somewhere, not because people are evil and “WANT YOUR DATA TO SPAM YOU” but because if it doesn’t you can’t have the services work well and reliably.

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The iPad’s lack of a file system

Don Reisinger on why the tablet won’t replace the laptop:

“The operating systems lack worthwhile file systems, a more robust interface and all the other things that people will find in the operating systems running on notebooks.”

I’m not sure what Don means by “a more robust interface”, but I think he’s wrong about the importance of files systems. A file system is an abstraction, a metaphor, not something that’s set in stone. Not once in using the iPad have I pined for “a file system”.
What I want – and what people care about – is simple: “can I read and create the documents that I want to read or create?” I don’t need folders, volumes, and all the other baggage. I just want my stuff to be there.

links for 2010-12-16

Google Nexus Two to “break carrier control”? Not likely

Image representing Nexus One as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Rumours abound that Google is working with Samsung to bring a phone that’s being touted as the “Nexus Two” to market. Even though Eric Schmidt made it pretty clear in an interview with The Telegraph that there would be no Nexus Two along the same lines as the Nexus One, it actually makes sense for Google to get behind this. At the very least, it needs a phone out there that’s running stock Android so that developers have something that isn’t encrusted with crapware and “value added” interface elements.

Inevitably, because it has the Nexus label attached, this has got commentators spinning. Kevin Tofel, at GigaOm, has written a post on “5 ways a Google Nexus Two could break carrier control“, which, I think, epitomizes the kind of froth which surrounds Google and phones. 

Now I should say up front that I have massive respect for Kevin. He’s one of my favourite writers on mobile, and him and James Kendrick make the mobile section of GigaOm a go-to site for me. But I’d file this post under a “miss” for him. It’s a little like writing a post on “5 ways Apple could improve Windows” – nice speculation, but just not going to happen. 

Why not? Simple: Google has precisely zero interest in “breaking carrier control”. Far from it, in fact – consider how the company “amended” its position on network neutrality in order to get into bed with Verizon. If it’s willing to drop its principles faster than a hot potato to curry favour with mobile phone carriers, why would it rock the boat? 

What’s more, the vast majority of mobile phones are sold direct, though carriers. Google’s experiment with selling phones direct was a resounding failure (which is why “Nexus Two” won’t follow the same model as Nexus One). The company has managed to gain traction and support from carriers who want an alternative to Apple, which they see as a far greater threat. Why would Google undermine that? Answer: It won’t.

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Why Quora works

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Quora of late, both on the working level of “getting answers to stuff” and the meta-level of understanding why it works. And I think I’ve worked out why it works so well.

One simple trick: You’re only allowed to answer a question once. This forces users away from the kind of debate mode that you get in virtually every other site of its kind.