On walkabout in life and technology

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

Classic article by Paul Graham in 2009 called Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they're on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals.

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting.

One of the reasons I went indie is to stay on my own maker’s schedule.

The Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades

Brilliant post by Wil Shipley on his blog called The Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades, well worth a read:

Right now developers selling through the Mac App Store face a lose/lose choice: either provide all major upgrades to existing customers for free (thus losing a quarter of our revenue), or create a “new” product for each major version (creating customer confusion) and charge existing customers full price again (creating customer anger).

Here’s hoping Apple is listening.

On Digital Hoarding

Melinda Beck writing in the WSJ in Drowning in Email, Photos, Files? Hoarding Goes Digital presents a fact-less and ridiculous claim that we are doing something wrong by storing all the emails and files that we do. In the article, she equates the rest of us, people and companies alike, with those crazy nutters who fill their houses with junk.

My take: We, especially businesses, need to keep all old emails under law in case of subpoena, just like individuals need to store tax records. We need all our old work files as they are referenced in later works. We need our music and photo files because we no longer have their physical equivalents (or have to buy them again and again in case of media). In short, we’re not hoarding, we’re filing, scrapbooking and holding on to our possessions that are no longer physical.

But let me respond to the article.

You're Being Stalked

In the same vein as an earlier article on my blog, Giving Yourself Away With a Facebook Login, Alexis Madrigal writing in the atlantic in I’m Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web quotes Joe Turow saying:

If a company can follow your behavior in the digital environment -- an environment that potentially includes your mobile phone and television set -- its claim that you are "anonymous" is meaningless. That is particularly true when firms intermittently add off-line information such as shopping patterns and the value of your house to their online data and then simply strip the name and address to make it "anonymous." It matters little if your name is John Smith, Yesh Mispar, or 3211466. The persistence of information about you will lead firms to act based on what they know, share, and care about you, whether you know it is happening or not.

She refers to the WSJ investigation called the Web’s Cutting Edge, Anonymity in Name Only, also worth reading.

iPad 4G Misleading

As reported in the Verge, Apple’s iPad ‘4G’ advertising labeled misleading by Australian watchdog, may be banned. The same can be said for the fictitious 4G on my iPhone 4S.

As a proud Aussie, I am a fan of the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and Australia’s Trade Practices Act that supports them. In short, companies cannot lie or mislead customers in any way, or the ACCC can nail them and force them to make things right.

As an Aussie living in New York, I see the lies and misrepresentations of American companies every day. Most advertising here would violate the ACCC rules, from misrepresenting the rate on mortgages or insurance pricing, to the total cost of mobile services to the service levels offered themselves.

We all know that Obama created a Consumer Protection Agency with support from Congress with the express purpose of doing what the ACCC does. Yet Congress then defanged the organization, removed its funding and refuses to even nominate its first leader. It’s too bad for the average American consumer, they will continue to pay more for less service, and companies will continue to get away with misrepresentation.

“Let the buyer beware” capitalism only works when the buyer has a better option. That is not the case here.

I hope the ACCC wins this round, and that other countries including the USA take note.

Freemium Simulation Games Prove Stupidity

I don’t get the allure and popularity of freemium time-based simulation games like Farmville, DragonVale, Tap Zoo, and Smurfs Village. Yet these games are the top grossing games on the App Store. So I decided to take one on to see if I can find the ‘it’ factor that makes these games so enjoyable, popular and profitable, without paying real money to short-circuit the game.

tl;dr (Too Long; Didn’t Read): You have got to be out of your mind to find these ‘games’ enjoyable or worth spending money on. They are slow, skill and challenge lacking, chore-based, time-draining, naggy, annoying proofs of stupidity. The only conclusion I can draw from this experience is that people don’t value their time, have no self-respect and are just plain stupid to be playing and spending money on these products. “Men in Black” got it right: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it”.

Giving Yourself Away With a Facebook Login

Applications that require a Facebook login are doing so to gain access to you, your name, your friends, your location, your personal details. They are not using the login because they are too lazy to create their own.

Hilton Lipschitz Right Here Right Now

My wife asked me why I deleted Draw Something this week, as we were both enjoying drawing pictures with each other. I told her that Zynga purchased them, who Zynga were and why I did not want them to have access to my information. See Facebook and Zynga Face Lawsuits over Privacy Breach and Facebook in Privacy Breach from the WSJ alone.

She was surprised. She innocently assumed that the Facebook login needed in Draw Something was a good thing, to help identify her to her friends and to help her find other friends to play with. She did not consider anything beyond that.

When I showed her the page on Facebook that listed the apps she had given permission to and what data they could access, she was shocked. She realized that her personal details were now available to unknown parties to do as they pleased without her active consent. She immediately removed permissions from all apps except for iPhoto.

I suspect that she is not the only one out there with the same perspective. That the Facebook login on a web site or game is perceived to be innocent and only needed because it’s better to remember one login and password than hundreds, so better for users. Knowing that the Facebook login is really giving access to your private information to others to use and abuse at will is a different matter.

We geeks know this. We know that Facebook and Google know more about us than the IRS, NSA, CIA, FBI, TSA, DHS and any other TLA could ever think of combined (which is why they subpoena Google and Facebook first). We know that Google uses this data to sell us to advertisers. We know that Facebook uses this data in the same way as well as gives it away to platform developers. We also know that both Google (until recently) and Facebook did try to at least keep the data inside the wall as it were, but that third parties were given wide open doorways into this data and were not required to keep the data private. We know that anything Google or Facebook knows about us is given to and known by hundreds of others. And we know that we don’t know who they are.

We assume that non-geeks know this too. We’re wrong. They don’t. They don’t know that Zynga is not Facebook and not covered by the privacy policy and has access to all their personal data and uses it to sell them to others and does what it likes with it. They don’t know how much data there is to know - name, address, friends, location, shopping, preferences, sites visited, topics covered. They don’t even realize that Facebook knows where they are, and where they were.

Its funny how TV is not real when sometimes it is. We all offer the knowing smile while watching one of the CSI shows when the baddie gets caught because they leave their mobile phone on and the hot cop tracks them down, because it’s obvious that the baddie is too ignorant to turn their phone off. Most TV watchers don’t connect that to the device in their own pockets in reality. Or realize that Facebook and Google do the same whenever they use a product that has a one of their logins. The hot cop can track you down just as easily if you are on the lam and play Draw Something or check Gmail.

If you use a Facebook login on a web site or app, you are giving the operator of that site or creator of that app access to all your private data. And they can and do use it, they can and do give it away or sell it, all of it, and hundreds of strangers now know all about you too. Just from one innocent login.

I don’t know the best way to tell people what they are doing, because I don’t know how to get this information in front of them. Maybe this post is a start. You can help. Tell your non-geek friends, tell your family. Maybe we can help start to protect the privacy of those we know and love. And they can pay it forward.


Jason Fried, on the 37 Signals blog, sums it up in What clarity is all about:

Lots of people think simplicity is the opposite of confusion (“It’s confusing, let’s make this simpler”). It’s not. The opposite of confusion is clarity.

Markdown Quick Look

If you use markdown like I do on a Mac, you may notice that Quick Look does not render .markdown files as documents, instead providing an icon only. If you have tools like iAWriter installed (I used to), they install a Quick Look plugin, and the markdown is rendered readable.

For the rest of us, Brett Terpstra of Marked and nvAlt fame has released an update to Fletcher Penney’s Quick Look generator.

Check it out at Multimarkdown Quick Look With Style. I’m using it.

2012 iPad Essentials

Editor’s Note: This was written way back in March 2012 with the launch of the iPad 3. For updates see 2012 Year End iPad Essentials.

The new iPad arrived yesterday. Instead of restoring from a backup, I decided to build it clean and install only essential apps. Here are the ones (excluding games) that made it in the first 24 hours, pretty much in order of addition:

  • iBooks - I read a lot of ePub books on the iPad, and the new retina text rendering is so great.
  • Instapaper - Essential tool to save, search and read long form writing found on the net. Use it to archive all the cool articles I find.
  • TweetBot - The best twitter client out there, even better than my old favorite Twitterrific. Love the UI and the gap detection.
  • Reeder - Lovely RSS reader, for all my news and technology feeds.
  • FlipBoard - More news, from sources not followed in RSS.
  • Zite - Even more reading material, should I run out of the above.
  • Skype - For those who do not use Facetime.
  • Facebook - Cause I gotta share.
  • Keynote, Numbers and Pages - I have to iWork too. Most of my demos these days are on the iPad, and Keynote rocks.
  • iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband - So I can create, or play, or annoy.
  • OmniFocus - to keep me on track and remind me what I need to get done, synched across all my iDevices.
  • DayOne - to remember what I did.
  • Byword - to view and create notes, and write, replacing Elements for notes.
  • Penultimate - scribble notes, or draw diagrams to support my points, it’s my scratchpad.
  • xScope Mirror - to see how things look from the Mac.
  • TextExpander - to share my expansions, especially for notes.
  • Prompt - to get to servers when I need to, when Murphy’s Law strikes.
  • Textastic - so I can edit code anywhere, this is my “Emergency: Break Glass” app after Prompt.
  • Yojimbo - Key document and information backup.
  • 1Password - Of course
  • Soulver - A better calculation tool.

Of course, Mail, FaceTime, iMessage and iTunes Match were set up first.

Surprise dropouts (applications I though I would have loaded but did not):

  • Boxcar - Notifications when something happens out there - I don’t need the interruptions any more.
  • Readability - I’m an Instapaper man, I don’t need another.
  • IMDB - Never used it, seem to Google first, yet it has been on my iPad since the original.
  • OpenTable - I find myself calling restaurants directly instead of online booking these days, saves them money and I am more likely to get a table.
  • MacGourmet - Never take the iPad into the kitchen, so I don’t need the recipes. The missus just found out I had this. Oops.
  • StarWalk - I love this app, just never use it.

Note: The links above to the App Store are affiliate links, so if you purchase any of these products, I get a few pennies.

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter or @hiltmon on App.Net.