LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You know you're screwed when...
Every woman in America says you sexually harassed her, and you're not even a Senator yet.
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
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In This Issue...
One Cleaver Kid Making Decisions about Trek
It's important to understand that patterns of behavior repeat themselves in The Valley. If you believe these are unique times we live in, I submit that you just aren't remembering the last time this happened. The Valley undulates between boom and bust. We have a fairly pure form of capitalism, and so the ride can be a bit violent. But this means you can expect the roller coaster ride to repeat itself as people repeat formulae which have worked in the past.
One pattern I've noticed is how new technologies like to move from a centralized computing formula to a decentralized computing formula. We first saw this with people moving from time-shared mainframe accounts to having their own processor on their desktop. The mainframe has never gone away. No technology ever goes away completely. (Somewhere in the world someone is loading a program from a tape drive.) Most of us own microprocessors. If you read this rag, you probably own several, plus have access to many at work.
Decentralization is mostly about who is holding the keys to power. With mainframes, the operators held the keys and you only gained access when they wanted you to have it. In batch environments, your program would be scheduled to run when its turn came up, which was usually by priority and then a First In, First Out queue. If your output was in any way security sensitive, you might be expected to appear at 3 AM to receive it. The operator didn't want a security breech on his watch.
Having your own microprocessor means your program runs when you say it does. If the program tosses exceptions and ends prematurely, you don't have to wait in line to make your fix and run it again. You can have all the computing time your kidneys can stand. Decentralized computing drove great leaps of productivity in the 1990's. (When you were a kid.)
I used to have an account on a mainframe that General Electric owned. GE sold their excess computing time which occurred during non-business hours. I bought this time to get support for a BBS program I was running. I also had a charter account on AOL, another mainframe. As the internet became a more developed environment, time-share accounts started to dwindle. AOL extended its life by telling people that it was the internet. People who weren't savvy about configuring dialers, dealing with modem drivers, and who had never heard of TCP/IP flocked to AOL because it was what the internet wasn't, easy. But as the public learned more, and operating systems evolved to understand TCP/IP and a whole host of other protocols, the public learned they didn't need the centralized model. The centralized model was replaced with the decentralized internet.
Lately, I've noticed people saying a few phrases that I had heard spoken about AOL. Most notably, I heard someone say that Facebook was the internet. The little wheels in my head started spinning. I've sat through this movie before. In the new case, as with the older example, the person saying this was wrong in the empirical sense, but was accurate in the sense that to them Facebook is the internet because this is where they spend all of their internet time. But... Facebook is centralized computing. The pattern suggests that centralized computing will be replaced by decentralized computing. If this is right, Facebook will have a life in which it grows very quickly, hits a plateau, and then will be swept away by a decentralized model which provides the same service as Facebook, but doesn't have any of the costs. (I'll tell you in 2 paragraphs how Facebook isn't free.)
It just takes one clever kid to kill a big monolithic company. One kid with an idea, a few computing resources, and a lot of Diet Coke. I've known a few people who wrote programs that over-night took away marketshare from dominant competitors. Their edge was their program did it better, or did it cheaper, or both. Just as Netscape told the world it didn't need an AOL account to use the internet, one person defining a set of protocols, and language could sink Facebook. (Examples: Linux cripples UNIX System 5 sales. HTTP allows anyone to publish anything on the internet, killing newspaper publishing, and then changing many brick and mortar industries. In both cases, one person defined the need and built the first example which inspired others to join in and change the world.)
I am not a member of Facebook. I keep hearing how after you tell Facebook not to make some piece of information public, Facebook then introduces a new feature, and ends up making all your information public until you find some preference which you must switch off. Until you learn about this feature and find the preference, your laundry is hanging out. Facebook has done this several times, and it strikes me that Facebook has a slightly predatory attitude towards its members who are actually their product. The customers are those whom Facebook sells access to your information and ad placements based on that information. This is a very important distinction. You are not the customer when you login, you volunteer to become product. You surrender personal information, and for that payment, you are allowed to play games, scrawl on someone's wall, etc. (As I said, Facebook isn't free.)
The question is, do the economics ad up? Is it really worth it to you to hang out your personal information for a little access? At the moment, half a billion people have said yes. There are two scenarios in which I could envision people jumping off Facebook as they did with AOL. The first scenario is if there were a large-scale theft of personal information from Facebook which caused a great amount of identity theft. Most people on the internet have no idea how much data they are leaking as they surf. But on Facebook, it's worse. If a thief breaks into one database, they can stroll off with the personal information of half a billion people.
The second scenario is the introduction of a disruptive technology. This goes down the same road HTTP and Linux traveled. Each was a disruptive technology which tossed markets into disarray. HTTP may be the single most important invention of the late 20th century. It has touched almost everyone on the planet. If one distilled all of Facebook's functions, and then built a structure which mimicked them, but kept all data in the hands of its owner, power would shift from the central authority (Facebook) to the owner of the data (you). The central authority could no longer publish your information against your will.
What would be needed would be a service which registered your profile. It would direct people's computers to your profile much in the way DNS translates an URL into an IP address. These registration servers might be similar in function to HTTP servers in that they can be owned by anyone, and run on virtually any modern hardware. These servers in turn would need to be in a planetary registry. (Again, just like DNS.) At this point, you don't need Facebook so long as you have the tools to build the equivalent of a Facebook wall, and you can find someone with a server, or host and register your own. This is exactly how every other service on the internet works.
As for games, we're already beginning to see companies putting their games on the web, some Flash-based, and others in HTML 5/CSS 3. You should be able to login to your "wall" and surf over to a game. Your profile could pass data to the game company which unlocks the game for you. This data could bring back a saved game as well as provide payment information. In this way, your "wall" could be the one system you need a password to. (Think of single sign-on for the internet where you hold the keys and the lock.)
In The Valley, we see technologies come and go, ideas come and go, and companies come and go. In our form of capitalism, most of the products have short shelf lives when compared to other industries. (Such as baking bread, or making steel.) Most companies do not make it to their 20th anniversary. Although it is not impossible that Facebook will beat the trend, I believe it is much more likely, that some clever kid, ignoring his homework, will create a technology that destabilizes Facebook. And that's when you observe another Valley tradition and short the stock!
A family member of mine has been in and out of hospital this past month. Happily, the problem has been sorted out, and they are getting better everyday. While I've been visiting and playing taxi driver, I've noticed not all medical facilities take care of the needs of those of us who are in the hospital, but are not patients. By that I mean, some of these joints actually want you to drink a soda which does not originate in Atlanta.
Open Enrollment has started. If you're unhappy with your health care (assuming you have health care) now is the time to make changes. Since most Doctors know the same stuff, and all the pharmacies have the same pills, perhaps it's time to evaluate your health provider by the soda machine they keep. Luckily, my HMO does serve Diet Coke, so no changes for me.
I was watching an episode of Mythbusters where they were testing several anti-gravity myths. Of course, none of the myths worked. To negate gravity, you would need to distort space-time 180 degrees out of phase from gravity. Then, two ideas struck me.
First, if you could manipulate space-time in the manner required, it would mean you were manipulating at least four dimensions of the universe. One of those dimensions would be time, which means time machines would be a naturally derived technology from anti-gravity. TARDIS ride anyone?
Second, doesn't it seem stupid to you that there were turbo lifts aboard the Starship Enterprise? I mean, think about it. All of the gravity was artificial. Why install gravity plating in the turbo lift? Why not just have open shafts where there is no gravity? You wouldn't fall down the shaft, and it would stop all that waiting for turbo lift cars, and you'd never get a car where someone had cut a huge fart before getting out.
If you think of it, in the time of Kirk and Spock we will have had astronauts for two hundred years. They would have had skill sets that included work in zero-g. In fact, there should be some people in Star Trek who were born in space and zero-g is normal for them.
Yeah, I get it. They shot Trek on stage 9 at Paramount Pictures. The whole thing was faked, just like Ronald Reagan's hair color. But there was a number of things in Trek that you could tell were not well thought out. In half the episodes there was money being exchanged, and in the other half, no one needed money. It's like they couldn't figure out their position on socialism.
Another mistake was the distribution of personnel on the Enterprise. If the mission is to seek out new life, and new civilizations, wouldn't you expect about two thirds of the crew to be wearing the blue science uniform, and at least half of those people to be Ph.d.s? I know, Star Trek was sold as a western in space. But at the same time the original series was on the air, we were sending Ph.d.s to the moon. If we were to build a huge starship to explore the galaxy, we'd load the well-educated first. The red shirts, not so much.
Researchers Discover Research Doesn't Attract Women
Researchers Now Researching Football Scholarships
Heard in the halls of various software companies.
"Absolute power isn't good enough."
"Libraries wouldn't need to cut their budgets if they also hosted a bar."
"Oh, God! Do you still work here?"
"What's the most polite way to tell someone to go piss-off?"
"You're being contradicting."
"No, I'm not!"
Time to stuff my bird... and I need to buy a turkey.
They pay me to think. These are my thoughts. Do you think they are getting their money's worth?
Remember: The Crapolla contains my personal opinions. That's right they're mine, so get your own! And you kids get off my lawn!
Although written with the software professional in mind, my mind tends to wander all over the place, and I sometimes write about politics, mass stoopidity, dumb things I saw, and whatever else comes to mind.
From time to time, I use salty language, thus The Crapolla is not intended for children, or certain people from the Christian Right.
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