So, What About That iPad?

I don’t really follow Apple stuff. I’ve worked on Apples from time-to-time but the last Apple product I owned was the Apple ][+. (First computer I ever owned. Learned programming on it.)

Back then, I, of course, favored Woz of the two Steves. The engineer over the sales guy. The guy who had built the machine, not the guy who had sold it. And some of the other Steve’s failures seemed to vindicate that viewpoint. (Though, even though the NeXT was never very successful it did show Jobs’ dedication to making a quality product.)
But clearly, I underestimated the guy. He was the CEO of my beloved Pixar, and now is a major player at Disney. And he brought Apple back from the almost-dead.
However, the two most interesting things he’s done, to me, are the iPod and the iPhone. Both products were introduced into a seemingly saturated market. They were both, from a technical standpoint, not all that impressive, at least on paper. They were both relatively expensive.
And both ended up dominating their markets. The iPod, factually, with something like 3 out of 4 all music players being iPods. I’m not a gadget guy, don’t have any real interest in an MP3 player, but do find the iPod sort of pleasing despite that.
The iPhone “only” has 30% of the phone market. But it dominates the mindspace. It’s the iPhone, largely, that has contributed to this idea that the computer of the future will be a phone. (This makes a whole lot of sense, and has been semi-predicted in many ways over the years. I always figured a computer that you carried with you, but that hooked up to available screens and keyboard/mouse set ups, would be ideal in many ways.) I don’t really need a fancy phone (or, truth be told, any cell phone) but I might get an iPhone for development purposes.
So, all the noise about the iPad is amusing. People’s hopes were incredibly high—one of the hazards of being so amazingly successful. Will it be successful? I don’t know. The iPod was very clearly an MP3 player and the iPhone a phone. I’m not sure what the iPad is, really. An eReader? Well, it could be successful, then, depending on how books get to it—where’s the iBooks store?
Also intriguing to me is that one of its main flaws being cited is that it doesn’t support Flash.
From a developer’s standpoint, I’ve seen this sort of battle play out many times. Back in the ‘80s, a machine had to support DOS. Microsoft worked very hard to make sure that there was a lack of confidence in any non-Microsoft solution (even though there were many better ones). In the ’90s, the battle was over running Windows programs—again with MS doing every dirty trick in the book to break competitors both at the low end (with DOS) and at the high end (with OS/2).
That’s why MS destroyed Netscape and then essentially abandoned the Internet. Their purpose wasn’t to try to compete on the Internet so much as it was to make the Internet non-competitive with Windows. (Many advances were made to allow programs on the Internet more like desktop applications, but since they weren’t supported by the dominant browser—Internet Explorer 6—things stalled until Netscape reincarnated as Firefox. This is why Google has Chrome, too; they have no desire to see MS dominate browsing again.)
But the de facto winner in all this is Flash, which is now pretty clearly “The Platform”. iPhone apps may be great, but people want their Flash games. MS (finally) responded with Silverlight which may, eventually, overtake Flash—but which also doesn’t run on the iPad.
However, Silverlight’s very existence suggests that Microsoft realizes that it’s lost the mobile OS war, and Windows CE, while not technically dead, isn’t going to secure their monopoly.
Nobody cares if the iPad runs Windows.

Today Is Not That Day, Part 8: Weird Science

You know, the sort of cowardly stupidity (combined with awesome arrogance) described here is pretty run-of-the-mill in today’s schools.

The part that won’t get mentioned much, if at all, is that the principal was apparently so astounded by the 11-year-old’s science project—so baffled, so dazzled, so stunned—that he thought not only was bomb a reasonable interpretation of a motion detector but also, having cleared up his confusion after much expense and hysteria, that counseling was a reasonable suggestion for the child and his family.
Being a bureaucrat, of course, means that it’s never your shortcomings that cause these problems. It’s not that you’re too stupid to have a basic grasp on not just electronics but human nature and current events (quick, name the number of times an eleven-year-old has blown up his school!), nor even that you should handle such a situation to delicately cover-up your ignorance.
No, take it to the mattresses every single time and insist that anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable with your ignorance is probably psychologically disturbed.

So, How Radical Are You?

I was watching Stossel’s new Fox Business Channel show (“Stossel!”), and he had on the Whole Foods guy to talk about health care. This is a great plan: You can get anything on this plan. (And snake oil is expensive. I thought I should try to find a job with these guys.) Stossel had a good mix in the audience, and a communistsocialistprogressive to attack any ideas that didn’t involve the government taking over the most intimate of choices we make.

As a sidebar, the progressive version is such an easily repeated lie, it reminds me of—well, of every other progressive lie I’ve been swamped with in my life. “Single-payer is the only way to get universal coverage.” As if the government’s first move isn’t going to be to make that coverage a lot less universal to save costs. As if “medical treatment” had no metric of quality, just so long as everyone gets some.

Anyway, the lefty guy didn’t have anything in the way of substance—not his fault, there really isn’t a good case to be made, especially in light of the universal failures of the schemes at home and abroad—and so he accused the two of them of being Grover Norquist acolytes.

I, and both Stossel and Whole Foods guy John Mackey (and I hope most people) regarded this ad hominem with bemusement. The progressive wanted to equate their distaste for a state-run health system to a desire to destroy Social Security, Medicare, roads, apple pie and motherhood.

I don’t really know who Norquist is. He seems to want to cut government in half, which is something I’m cool with. He then wants to cut it in half again. I’m pretty sure I’ll be cool with that, too. He’s anti-FDA, NEA and IRS. These strike me as good things to be against.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that Ruth Anne commented in the Cargo Cult thread:

Could you clarify this? My husbands thinks it means you want to legalize drugs. I don’t disagree about the bad effects of the ‘War on Poverty’ and the probable bad effects of the ‘War on Health’…

In short: Yes. I’d phrase it differently. I’d like to see a whole class of laws simply go away. The same power that allows the government to regulate drugs also allows it to threaten vitamins and other supplements.

I used to believe that the Democrats were the party of civil liberties. After listening throughout the ’80s to the damage done to civil liberties by the War on Drugs, I could not help but notice the hypocrisy of not repealing it in the ’90s. In fact, as soon as a Democrat was in charge, it was like the gross expansion of government powers was a feature, not a bug.

Needless to say, I wasn’t any more surprised that the Democrats didn’t curb the Patriot Act in 2009 than I was that the Republicans didn’t curb spending.

What am I getting at? Well, the scourge of drugs is a problem; probably one of the worst we face today. (I’m so anti-drug, I extend this to a great many prescription drugs. See the latest reports on how anti-depressants are largely less effective than placebos.) It’s right up there with—well, with a massive, intrusive, all-consuming government.

Let me tell you, if I had to choose between our current monstrous government or a country without drug abuse, I would probably take the latter. (Maybe partly because I think the stupidity of drug abuse feeds into the stupidity of big government. But still.) But that’s not the choice.

Our monstrous government is particularly inept at social engineering. There have been successful wars on drugs in the past. They were won by rounding up all the suspected drug dealers and killing them. That’s not something we can do, even if we wanted to.

So, if I want the government out of drugs—and sex, and health, and safety—does that mean I want a country full of drugs (and diseased helmet-free whores)?

Shockingly, no.

And this is sort of a problem. We used to have a church and society that enforced relatively homogeneous ideas of normalcy, decency, morality and other things that do the actual work of holding society together.

The whole question of what to do about that is a whole ‘nother post at least. But it’s also actually tangential to the question of government control. Because the War on Drugs hasn’t appreciably reduced the amount of drug use, as far as I can tell. And government has a particular talent for both undermining traditional morality and destroying civil liberties in a draconian and semi-random manner.
So, yeah, in short, if you have a question about whether I think the government—particularly the federal government—should be involved in, well, just about anything, my answer’s probably going to be no.