Yesterday's Big Speech

On January 27, 2010, the eyes of the world were focused on one man, waiting for news of what they would be talking about – indeed, what they would be OBSESSED about – in the coming year.

Barack Obama presents the iPad at his State of the Union speech.

Barack Obama presents the iPad at his State of the Union speech.

The day was kind of a blur, but that’s how I remember it.




Facebook is not ready for us

Our friends keep inviting us to join Facebook. They’re all there, merrily keeping each other posted as to what they’re up to, while we stay on the outside, out of ¬†the loop.

So feeling tempted, I sought a concise and unbiased assessment of the Facebook phenomenon, and settled for Wikipedia. It was there that I was reminded of the reasons we’ve shied away from social networking sites in general.

On this blog, we have full control over the content of the page you see (at least to the degree that I’m capable of wrangling this beast). On a social networking page, the host site may pollute your page with ads. They may comb the content of your conversations for hints on what ads you might “respond” to.

Worse, the history of Facebook is a long litany of breakdowns and outages resulting in the exposure of personal data. We also have a problem with the way they’ve played fast and loose with privacy policy.

Maybe at some point Facebook will evolve into a more stable platform. Some day they may have more respect for the personal content they’re entrusted with. If that day ever comes, we’ll reconsider our position on Facebook.

Until then, if you want to keep up on us, you’ll have to do it right here. And if we’re not forthcoming enough, you could actually send us a message and ask us a question. It may be Old School, but it works.

UPDATE – October 28, 2011: Every once in a while, we get close to caving in to the pressure to get a Facebook account. Then we read stuff like this…
Facebook says 600,000 account logins compromised every day


Big Brother Alert

Some disturbing documents and other information have been uncovered by some heroic sleuths in the IT world. (Hat tip to Infoshop News.) It relates to private information being handed over to the government by ISPs and cell-phone providers.

First off, if you have a cellphone, you should know that Sprint/Nextel “has provided GPS location data about its wireless customers to law enforcement over 8 million times.

The hero in the story is a guy named Christopher¬†Soghoian, a grad student in IT at Indiana University. He’s obtained a number of ISP “Lawful Interception Guides”, which detail what information is available to government spies and the process for obtaining that information. The Yahoo guide comes complete with sample¬†subpoena¬†language and other fill-in-the-blanks documents for opening the spy portals.

If you want to see this document for yourself, you can download it from Yahoo is not alone in opening the peephole for government spies. They also have similar documents for Cox, SBC, Ameritech, SBC-Ameritech, Cingular, Cricket, Nextel, PacTel, and GTE.

The ultimate gist of all of this is that you should treat the Internet like a telephone: assume that Big Brother is “listening” in on you. Don’t store sensitive information on anyone else’s server (I’m talking to YOU, facebook and myspace hounds). It’s best to keep your email on your own computer using Apple Mail, Outlook, etc.; but if you MUST use a web mail client (hotmail, gmail, etc.), then delete your mail as soon as possible (anything you wish to keep can be copied to your local computer).

Since this blog and the rest of the purplearth domain are hosted by Yahoo, I have downloaded a copy of Yahoo’s spying guide, but Yahoo has been rattling legal sabers with the cryptome site. So if this link stops working, discreetly contact us and we’ll get you a copy.

Shared Experiences

A man on the Moon

We regret that our younger friends have missed out on the experience of looking out at the Moon early on a summer evening, knowing that there are a couple of guys standing there and looking back.

We also regret that they’ve missed out on spending mornings with Captain Kangaroo and having dinner with Walter Cronkite.

Forty years seems like a long time until you’ve lived a little bit longer than that.

One Laptop per Child

A friend and reader writes…

I was wondering what you think about the 60 Minutes report in case you missed it

This story has been circulating in the geek press for over a year now. It goes something like this:

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is developing a rugged and inexpensive laptop to be distributed to schools around the world, and their goal is to bring the machines’ cost down to 100 dollars apiece. Here is the Wikipedia entry on it. Mainstream America was introduced to the program by a 60 Minutes segment last weekend.

This project is Really Cool for a lot or reasons that weren’t discussed in this report. In a way, it resembles the “put a man on the Moon” project in its stimulation of innovation.

I like the way they’re getting power from hand-cranked generators. I like the use of Open Source software (Imagine if Micro$oft were writing the software for this: it would be expensive and impossible to understand). I like the networking scheme, where the computers all communicate with each other directly, rather than thru a router or a hub.

I worry about what will happen to all of these machines once they get old and worn out. Will they be refurbished or recyled? Or will they end up in dumps, adding to the burden of toxic e-waste? I hope this team is thinking about that.

It can be amazing what people can build, create, or invent once they are provided with adequate tools. That’s why food aid groups hand out things like shovels as well as food. There will be many surprising benefits to come from the spread of these tools of communication, education and invention.


That’s the advertising slogan for the new version of Windoze, called “Vista.” The word “Wow” was splashed all over teevee screens, newspapers and web ads on release day.

Wow, as in, “Wow, look how much this software costs!”

“Wow, look how much more memory I’m gonna need!”

“Wow, look how much slower my computer runs with this hog!”

I could continue to write a long series of equally obvious “wow” lines.

I’m sure that’s not what Micro$oft had in mind when their marketing geniasses came up with that slogan.

iPhone, therefore iAm

Watching the furious pace of gadget invention during the past decade or so, we’ve been looking forward to a Grand Convergence, where we only need to carry one gadget instead of two or three. The “iPhone” comes close.

It has everything we like about current pocket organizers: an address book, calendar, and notes, along with a means of typing information into the thing. It has everything we like about the iPod: music, pictures and videos. It can connect to the Internet, we like that. It seems to be a complete hand-held computer, with a beautiful display.

A co-worker told me that he would rather have it without the phone. I tend to agree (putting aside my distaste for mobile phones). A mobile phone is a power-intensive device, and would drain juice from the rest of this gadget’s useful functions. It might be better for the phone to be a seperate device that can communicate both ways with the expanded iPod.
I would trade the phone for a fat hard drive, and I would give it a USB port that can be a master or a slave, enabling the connection of cameras, keyboards, disk drives, and other useful stuff. I’ve read that you can’t access the battery, which means you can’t swap it for a fresh one when it burns out. The next generation of this thing needs a reliable swappable battery.

And there will be more generations. It’s exciting to imagine what this device will do five years from now. I mean, compare the current crop of iPods with the first ones that came out.

Regarding the stink over the “iPhone” name. It was all over the press that Linksys came out with something called the “iPhone” a few weeks ago, so I was a bit puzzled when Steve Jobs trotted out his own device with the same name. But then, he also trotted out the “Apple TV,” which was previewed last fall as the “iTV” (another name already attached to someone else’s product). So given that this new phone won’t be in people’s hands and pockets until June, it may end up being the “Apple phone.” (Like the TV, it’d be branded with the Apple logo with the word ‘phone’ next to it.) Maybe it was all deliberate, that Apple is letting Cisco generate more buzz for the product by suing them.

As it stands right now, this is not a compelling product for our needs, but it may be for a lot of other people. After this product evolves for a few years it may work for us, especially if we can get it without the phone.

Disclosure: we own a tiny tiny piece of Apple.