Monday, December 5, 2011

Geek Links of the Week - 05DEC2011

Just when you thought it was safe to come back to my site, I bring you...

My Geek Links of the Week!

Link #1: Your Android Phone Is Secretly Recording Everything You Do
"If you have any decently modern Android phone, everything you do is being recorded by hidden software lurking inside. It even circumvents web encryption and grabs everything—including your passwords and Google queries."

This "Carrier IQ" controversy is just now blowing up. I won't belabor you with links to other summaries because there simply are too many. This may not only affect Android but the jury is still out on that one.

Here's my take on it- the developer of the software missed a key feature: turning it off. What it does makes sense as a feature-improvement data gathering service similar to other features in Windows, MS Office, MacOS, iOS, and countless other products that count how many times you use a specific feature and how you use it. The one things most of them have: a way to turn it off. The big problem here isn't that there is a piece of technology to track how you use the device and send back usage stats and data to a 3rd party, it's the fact that there is no way to disable the feature once the user has  decided NOT to consent to this "feature."

This will blow over soon but it is a major breach of trust in a very popular platform.

Link #2: Why Hypercard Had to Die
"Does anyone really believe that Mr. Jobs genuinely 'thought you could do everything in Cocoa and ProjectBuilder that you could do with HyperCard'? He was far too intelligent a man to believe any such thing.  One may as well say that you could do everything with a magnetized needle and a steady hand that you could do with a text editor. Or that you could do anything with Roman numerals that you could do with Arabic numerals. Or that you could do anything in INTERCAL that you could do in Common Lisp.  And so forth.  Jobs was almost certainly familiar with HyperCard and its capabilities. And he killed it anyway. Wouldn’t you love to know why?"

-Stanislav Datskovskiy

I used Hypercard for about a month when I was about 12. My "Computers" professor (yes, I had a class in Junior High simply called "Computers") got his hands on a couple of them and we played with it for several weeks before they had to go back to wherever it was he "borrowed" them from.

My second favorite quote from the article...
"Jobs supposedly claimed that he intended his personal computer to be a “bicycle for the mind.” But what he really sold us was a (fairly comfortable) train for the mind. A train which goes only where rails have been laid down, like any train, and can travel elsewhere only after rivers of sweat pour forth from armies of laborers. (Preferably in Cupertino.)"

This is what bothers me about Apple today and its current slate of products: they look the same, they all work the same, and most of the apps on the iPhone/iPad can generally be classified into several categories. What is different about that? How can you think "outside the box," to continue the overuse of an over-used pun, when the box is a wall-in garden and overseen by an army of overseers that must approve your app? Unfortunately I see too many other platform manufacturers going this direction as well (Windows Phone, Android to a certain extent, etc). What made the PC so cool 20 years ago was the ability to customize it to the n'th degree and write code or develop a periferal device to make it do whatever you wanted. I think that utopia died in 1994 when we connected everything to the internet. OK, now I'm sounding like an old geek-fart.

Link #3: The Psychology of Nakedness
"Looking at a naked person filled us with sexual desire, and that desire induced a form of mindblindness. Instead of seeing the individual as having agency, he or she became a means to an end, nothing but a vessel for our satisfaction. Kant was describing a phenomenon known as objectification, in which seeing a body turns the entire person into a physical object."

This may seem to fall into the "well-DUH!" category until you read the entire article and realize the impact of exactly what they are saying. When a person reveals even slightly more skin than they did just a moment before the brain shifts more toward objectification. I can't summarize it better than that. Read the article... }B^)

Link #4: Complaint: medical "copyright over your comments" contracts are illegal
“When I walked into the offices of <the Doctor>, I was looking for cleaner teeth, not material for an Ars Technica story. I needed a new dentist, and Yelp says <the Doctor> is one of the best in the Philadelphia area. The receptionist handed me a clipboard with forms to fill out. After the usual patient information form, there was a "mutual privacy agreement" that asked me to transfer ownership of any public commentary I might write in the future to <the Doctor>. Surprised and a little outraged by this, I got into a lengthy discussion with <the Doctor>'s office manager that ended in me refusing to sign and her showing me the door.”

-Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica staff writer

Amazing. You go to a dentist's/doctor's office and give away your right to publicly say anything about the services rendered? I doubt this will pass legal scrutiny but the idea is simply absurd. I'm not going to pay for a product or service if I cannot tell others in person, in print, or online, what I think about it. Most of the time I don't but that's not the point.

Link #5: Institutional memory and reverse smuggling
"Institutional memory comes in two forms: people and documentation. People remember how things work and why. Sometimes they write it down and store that information somewhere. Institutional amnesia works similarly. The people leave and the documents disappear, rot, or just become forgotten (as it were)." -an engineer

What would it be like if you were a new engineer and given a set of 30 year old specs and schematics. Your new job is to figure out what the heck this thing/plant/process is all about and be able to not only explain it to someone but redesign part of it or add a new feature/thing to it. Sounds totally cool. This guy almost had to do it in real life, except he wrote most of the specs/schematics he was now studying. The company had lost many of the docs but this engineer had "unofficially" made his own archive. How does he now smuggle the intel BACK into the company? Great geek read.


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