Friday, April 30, 2010

To be fair ...

Environmentalists always seem to bitch about any energy technology that actually works. Now that the energy companies are rolling out functioning wind turbines, they're fighting them tooth and nail. If photovoltaic solar panels ever got cheap, they're probably fight them too. All that reflected sunlight flashes in the birdies' eyes and makes them squint.

Spill, baby, spill

Gee, we're pumping up thousands of barrels of a highly pressurized, volatile, flammable, liquid hydrocarbon sandwiched beneath unimaginable layers of silt and rock squashed down by all the metric tons of water flowing by in the chaotic currents of the Gulf of Mexico. What could possibly go wrong?

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms

Ah, Soviet science marches on ...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cyber War

Richard Clarke's track record as a bearer of bad news is pretty good. He's written a book called "Cyber War" which -- based on the Terry Gross interview I'm listening to now -- ain't just based on hypothetical cyber attacks in the future; he's also talking about stuff that's already happened.

Evidently, the Chinese have implanted logic bombs in the USA electrical grid. We've returned the compliment. He suggests it'd be a good idea if the electrical companies took their shit off the Internet. Gee, you think?

He speculates that our pals in the PRC will probably not want to destroy the USA banking system because -- I paraphrase -- we owe them some much freaking money. The North Koreans don't have this problem. Shit, they print as much American money as they want.

He adds that the North Koreans have honed their cyber attack skills in freaking 4-star Chinese hotels. So the Chinese aren't entirely our best pals. Or entirely sane.

Clarke's basic point seems to be our pants are down and our nethers are flapping in the wind. Yep. I've pre-ordered his book, natch. Will do a full review as soon as I read it. But I've got something to say and I have to say it now. It's a profound irony and I want the credit for saying it first.

The Internet was originally the Arpanet. It was created by DARPA -- the Defense Departments Advanced Research boys. OK, here's the gag. You ready? The whole point of the Arpanet was creating a self-contained communication system whereby defense spooks and advanced university researchers could still communicate with each other in the event of an atomic attack.

It was meant to be a double-secret private conversation. A cone of silence.

Not an open barn door.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

IPad redux

The iPad is basically the Newspad from Kubrick's 2001.

I.e.: a portable flatscreen with the functions of a TV set, a laptop computer and a cell phone.

In Jobs' vision of the future, there aren't many keyboard-based laptops. In Jobs' tomorrow, people walk around with something that looks like the Newspad. He figured it's a safe bet. This thing didn't exist yet. But people wanted it anyway. He decided to be the one to sell it.

Basically, Steve Jobs is trying to fill a relatively empty niche in the gadgetry ecosystem. Yeah, others have tried -- and failed. He's getting his foot in the door. Chances are, it'll have a lot of bugs. Thanks to the halo factor surrounding Apple devices, they'll sell a ton of these things to early adapters in black turtlenecks who want to look cool, plough the $ into R&D and make the device more elegant and functional over various product cycles. It's what they do. My guess is, the strategy will probably work.

People want this thing. People like portability, but they hate keyboards.

Me too. The truth is, the keyboard is a pain in the ass, a design compromise as ungainly as a throbbing cold sore. Nobody likes the keyboard. A touch-screen keyboard may be a kludgy solution. On the other hand, the magic iPhone slide-your-finger-like-that-dude-in-Minority-Report interface will probably work for most of what users want to do on the iPad. For the rest, really good speech recognition is probably just a matter of time. Jobs' vision of the future is probably right.

But I'll wait a few product gens until I buy one.