Proper Hacking Disrespect

I have to admit to an act of proper disrespect. I have been staring at a Lifehacker article [Link] for a couple of weeks and finally, this week, I stopped at the southron Barn and Ignoble in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill – no such facility in Marshall county, which is probably why the county is named for the old reactionary – and purchased one of their Nook Simple Touch eReaders.

I have to admit that this was less a matter of “screwing up my courage” as it was the skittery anticipation of deep pain over how much extra cash I was going to outflow to the Alibam Dermatologist and to the conscript moneygrabbers of Huntsville. But having gotten beyond a n almost 0.2 increase in cost I went ahead and acquired the beast. Then I came home, downloaded the rooter, and ran afoul of Lifehacker’s OS hubris. 

Usually, not always, Lifehacker is good about telling you which OS they are talking for and about. When they do fail it is because they are talking for and about WINDERS and they fail by assuming that is all there is and everyone knows this. So I spent a half-day figuring out how which pieces of code to gather to perform the instructions written for WINDERS. This is less fun than it seems since people who write WINDERS instructions write about menu actions in prescribed programs while people who write Apple OS and Linux instructions write about operations. So not only did I have to reverse engineer menu instructions into operations, I had to figure out which clients to perform the operations with. I am a bit embarrassed to mention that second part since it is about 0.01 of the total. Finding clients to do something in Linux is either dead simple or impossible (doesn’t exist.) Happily the latter almost doesn’t exist itself. Linux is so client rich it makes WINDERS look like the Sahara and Linux clients are coder intuitive almost always so have shorter learning time and less learning effort than WINDERS clients.

And no fracking RIBBONS!

So I registered my Nook Simple Touch and did all the rigmarole required except for almost losing it and reducing the slab to shards because it wouldn’t take my gmail password. I finally managed to get it to synch manually despite totally inaccurate internal directions. Once more we have a case of the folks who write the messages not knowing what the menu tree looks like. (Not that there is a manual for the thing that I can find.) But I began to understand why Android isn’t considered to be Linux. It technically is Linux but all the worthwhile useful extras that volunteers put in have been excised by Gooey for the sake of increasing the bottom ledger line.

Then I rooted the thing and the menu nonsense went through a catastrophe cusp into La Brea tarpitland. I have to admit being remiss because I haven’t struggled with a tablet before for anything like this depth or duration. And it is an even greater crushing disappointment than UNITY!

I should also mention that all this was punctuated by three charging sessions for the NST because all of this involved a lot of on/off operations – they really saved at LOT of MONEY on that crap switch! – and inserting/extracting micro SD cards. Add in two restore operations to factory state and this project has cost me something like 24 hours of my time. This is the true cheat! These slabs are expensive in how they waste time. If this is a tool then my microwave is a computer controled optical lithography foundry.

Having said that however, the $150 (NST + microSD + TAXES!) is a goodness. It does what I want which is let me read eBooks – when the Yankee government gets the price down to where it should be – and do PDA-ish things. I don’t really want to play games on this thing unless EMPIRE or PERFECT GENERAL are available? I just want to read/send email and do calendering away from Castellum SCP.

And the time and cost were worth it from the satisfaction of beating the thing into submission despite the stercus instructions and the sulfurous slime mold that is Android. Will make me very happy when I can buy a LINUX! tablet.

I am also happy with a display of proper disrespect for both Amazing and Barn and Ignoble. The former is the stronger, because I didn’t pick one of your stercus eReaders to hack. I had been warned and I can now affirm that B&N builds better eReaders than Amazing. But it is also a disrespect for B&N to pull out an increase in functionality that they could have done from scratch for no more cost. Both of them deserve any undercutting the Yankee government does to their bottom line when they whack the eBook publishers for conspiracy and terrorism.

Information Irony

Today has been a morning of irony. Thursdays are in many ways the best day of the week: the gym is as empty as it gets when I am there as those of decaying resolution roll over for a few minutes more sleep, or something; it is my last exercise day of the week, Fridays and Saturdays are overcrowded with those frantic that another week not get by without them doing something ‘good’, and Sunday the gym is closed in persecution of those who are not observers of the local religious mysticism customs; and I get to listen to the best – usually – podcasts of the week.

This morning the podcasts were the BBC’s “In Our Time” and a Canadian podcast named “Search Engine”. The latter used to be a CBC podcast but since it has the subject of IT and society and this obviously appeals to a rather specialized demographic of geeks and nerds, its price to listener ratio evidently got too high and CBC canned it. Its announcer/protagonist, in the best tradition of modern journalist as Greek hero, did not take firing as an end to his adventures and found another paymaster whose identity is a bit unclear to me, evidently a regional television organization or some such.

The irony enters in the subjects of the two episodes. In the IOT episode, the subject was the trial of Charles One of England; in the SE episode the podcaster was continuing on his crusade about copyright oppression in “the land of frogs and dogs”. [1]  I could make some conspiracy comment about the latter’s cancellation being a matter of the IP oligarchs suppressing him, but I shan’t.

Anyway, the irony comes about in the subjects. Here, on the one hand facilitated by a life peer, Melvyn, Lord Bragg, is a tale of a monarch who has royally micturated the populace of his organization domain and they have placed him on trial for demanding they adere to certain practice they find unreasonable. On the other hand, there is an on-going story of organizational oligarchs demanding that the citizens of their domains refrain from certain practices the citizens consider unreasonable. Both are, in a sense, about information; the one over the form of religious services and the other over the form of publication usage. [2]

Neither the tyrant nor the information oligarchs were/are interested in the desires of the general populace, only their own desires. In the historical case, the tyrant denied the court’s power to try him and as a result he was discorporated rather than just set down. In the current case, an civil war is now ensueing where the general populace find ways of subverting the protective, suppressive means of the oligarchs, a situation ominously similar to the civil wars that preceeded the trial.

I shall defer any further comparisons. Selah.

[1]  That’s a quote and while it does satsify the Kingston Trio’s criterion of “offending almost everyone”, it is rather too good not to use.
[2]  I use publication rather loosely here as any form of information – text, sound, audio – that is sold and/or broadcast in some means.

Bridge Toubling Water

OK. I have to admit to having a soft spot for the One Lapbox Per Bairn project up at the wonk shul on the Charles. Hence my interest was grabbed this morning by an article about its sorta director speaking at the latest TED conference on the subject. [Link] So I immediately went and observed the video of his presentation. [Link]

I am pleased to report that the mixed signals that come out from and about the project are just as ambiguous as ever. Nicholas Negroponte (“Black Bridge Nick”) has indeed stepped down as director of the project but is staying on as something-or-other.

And the article says that Negroponte wants to make the OLPC lapbox into something that everyone copies but what he talks about at TED is making something no one will steal. Once more we have to wonder at the chemical dependencies of the traditional media.

Nonetheless, this ambiguity – some would call it blatant contradiction – engendered some consideration of the relationship between the OLPC and the netbook phenomena. The CNET article claims that Negroponte claims that netbook manufacturers have imitated the wrong things. Since his presentation mentions not netbooks nor any manufacturer except the one making the OLPC lapboxes we have to wonder if combusting shrubbery was involved here?

The commonality of the netbook and the OLPC laptop, both of the genre herein labeled itty bitty lap box, is how it differs from what is around and available. Negroponte and his OLPC program epitomized this in their antithesis to the Yankee republic’s Every Child Left Behind program that reduces the American educational apparat from baby sitters to robots. Simply put, the OLPC programs transcends the education organizational paradigm by putting learning back in the hands of students and returning teachers to teaching, not what is mandated but what is asked. Simply put, the reinvention of the log.

The netbook is similar. It is a statement of what people want in the way of an information device. Think of it as occupying an environmental niche intermediary between one’s principal computer, whether laptop or desktop, and one’s contemporary equivalent of the hand axe, the cellular telephone. And since it lies in between these two, the price should be in between as well.

Cellular phones cost but have no price, at least in the Yankee republic. That is, we pay nothing directly for cellular phones but indirectly through peonage to the provider. And except for those who have too little common sense and too much fashion nonsense, or some other dementia, we only pay $500-$600 for laptops or desktops, so the price of the netbook shouldn’t be more than $250-$300. In fact, if OLPC can build their box for $138 in its next incarnation, then we have to ask why a netbook should cost more than $200?

The problem is that the manufacturers don’t like this. They have tried magnificently to convince Joe Consumer that a netbook should, because of its extreme miniaturization, cost twice or three times a laptop. Here lies the root of their dislike for OLPC for it makes of them liars, scalawags, and bounders, true scions of post Adam Smith corporate oligarchy.

So my hat is off to Black Bridge Nick and his windwill nuking. His cause is just and we who want to do real work will owe him much for educating children and ourselves. Even if he has struck a perfidious deal with MegaHard.

The nature of the netbook, as something as close to disposable as a cellular phone, is that we do not want to have to put a kilodollar of software on it, especially if it gets busted and we are stuck with licenses frozen in place on junk. This, in my mind is the best reason for open software on the netbook, consistency of economy, and it is a point than Black Bridge Nick should ponder well.