The Google Cookie Monster

So everyone is up in arms because Google is using some nefarious tricks to bypass browser cookie privacy provisions.


Ok, So Google isn’t living up to its “Dont Be Evil” motto. Big deal.


However, let be clear here….. when we use Google and all those free Google services, do you really think Google is providing all this out of the goodness of its heart?? Seriously??


Of course not. As the Facebook IPO demonstrates so well, our personal information is worth money to advertisers – and worth a lot of it too.


So, taken to its logical conclusion, when we use Google and all those free Google services, Google puts tracking cookies on our machines, we effectively trade our this personal information for the use of Goolge services. Good trade, right??


Now, what do you expect Google to do in this market place? Facebook and its personalised advertising are beating down Google’s alley. Why do you think Google is fighting back with Goolge+ and including Google+ in its search results? (remember the kerfuffle that caused? Well, for a short period of time, anyway). You really expect them to sit on their hands when theres a way of collecting even more data??


You really need bigger excuses than putting some noses out of joint to pass on making money.


There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Google should be honouring web standards like the P3P standard that’s at the centre of this latest kerfuffle. the web with out standard is a bad place to be. But I’d argue that this is a natural occurrence in the evolution of standards. We’ll find a middle group between the privacy needs to users and the  need for advertisers to make money.


So, grow up techy people – the world outside Silicon Valley DOES NOT CARE!

PS – The US store chain Target uses almost the exact same techniques coupled with a little nifty statistics to tell when you’re pregnant.


PPS Go watch This Week In Tech Leo Laporte and Co have some excellent opinions on this.

Why Silverlight Should Stay

Mary Jo Foley just published a post discussing the future of Silverlight.

I’m not a Silverlight Developer by any stretch of the imagination. I never played with it. Never touched it at all.

Then, for the Flying Shakes website,  I had to have the control below in a web form. Naturally I turned to Silverlight.



With no knowledge or experience of Silverlight it took me 90 minutes from idea to working control.

And yes, I realise that I could write a HTML5 version of that now. But it would probably take much, much longer (don’t nobody suggest Flash).

Silverlight is good, not just for rich client experiences it allows us to build, but also because its part and parcel of the tools we Visual Studio devs work with every day.

The flip side to this, of course is the user perspective.

Here in the UK we have Sky satellite television. The reason why I like them so much is that they are fairly technology friendly. Besides streaming on the go (iPad, iPhone, etc), you can log on to their Sky Go website to stream on-demand or download and watch on your desktop offline.

This experience is delivered by, wait for it, Silverlight. The impressive part of this whole thing was the Sky Go Desktop Client. Its an offline Silverlight application, popping straight out of the browser and installed silently.  Was downloading from my queue 10 seconds after hitting the download button.

Satisfied does not even begin to describe it.

I HTML 5 may be the bees knees, but there is still a business case for keeping Silverlight around.

I’ll consider HTML 5 a contender when we have the same level of support and tooling for it as we have now for Silverlight.

The iPhone 4S: A Rose by any Other Name (a Response to Dan Gillour)

Dan Gilmour thinks Apple made a bit of a blunder by calling it the iPhone 4S rather than the iPhone 5 .

Sorry Dan, But I disagree completely.

On Google Plus I put the following argument forward:

I want to mention that Apple always thinks long term. They called it the 4S because:

  • Its convention – the minor versions (yes, this is minor, or we would have got a form factor change) always have a S appended to the name of the last major release.
  • Apple have something big on the horizon. They have big plans for the next major release of the iPhone. They want to reserve the "iPhone 5" name for that release.

The iPhone, the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4 have all been major releases and have all sported form factor redesigns.

The iPhone 4S specs may seem to be major (in a parallel universe where all phone manufacturers but Apple went bankrupt in 2007), but they merely bring Apple to PARITY with Android.

The iPhone 5 is going to be the release that makes Android play some serious catchup.

Another important thing to note is that Apple would never every call it the iPhone 5 just because people want it to be the iPhone 5. I’m sure it was Steve Jobs himself who said something along the lines of “People don’t know what they want, they just think they do”, or words to that effect. People have no idea what they want out of an iPhone 5. People don’t know what they want until Apple shows it off to them and they go, “Yeah, I want that”.

Everyone is acting like Steve Jobs’ influence has gone. Nonsense. I think even Leo Laporte said yesterday that he got the impression that the reality distortion field was no longer there. What other company spends 53 minutes repeating what it announced at it’s last press conference and then spend half an hour on a new iPhone and Siri? Oh yeah, then announce as an after thought, “Yeah, we’re on Sprint”. That’s a Steve Jobs keynote if there ever was one,only without Steve. The only thing that changed was that we noticed it.

My bet is that’s it’s the same reason why Steve jobs wasn’t there: not major enough.

When there’s a One More Thing to announce, he’ll be there.


PS – Pardon the Shakespeare reference.

Hitting a home run in a Chilean Mine.

The capsule carrying a rescued miner arrives to the surface from the collapsed San Jose mine where he was trapped with 32 other miners for over two months near Copiapo, Chile on Oct. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

(picture from the Big Picture Blog’s constantly updating post)

By now, everyone has seen the awesome pictures of the (currently on going rescue) of the Chilean miners.

The Phoenix capsule, built by the Chilean Navy and partly designed by Nasa is a remarkable feat of engineering. The fact that it works, not just the first time, but the 23nd time and counting is astounding.

As a programmer – where engineering software is my day job – it puts things into perspective.

Very little of what I write works the first time (or the 23nd time, for that matter). I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to engineer something that 33 lives (more if you count the rescuers who went down in the capsule) would depend on, never mind that little intsy bitsy requirement of having to work the first time. The pressure must be immense.

I take off my hat to those engineers.

Earlier this week I listened to Episode 5 of This Developers Life. The episode is entitled simply “Home Run.”

That and these awesome, moving, emotional, heart-wrenching scenes got me thinking.

The home run those engineers just hit out of the park (I’m mixing sports metaphors up here, aren’t I?) with the Phoenix Capsule will be told and retold as if they were Babe Ruth legends.

In truth, it is a feat far, far more awesome.

A word about FaceBook privacy

I left this comment on Paul Bucheit’s Friendfeed Thread:

Paul: I get value out of having Twitter and FF completely public. Thats not the issue. The issue here is that FB was originally sold as a private service. Another thing. You and I may have seen value out of being completely public, but the only value to anyone about Grandma Indinana being completely public belongs to the knitting accessories advertisers.

And Followed it up with this one:

And for the record I don’t have a FB account. In the old days, snail mail mostly guaranteed privacy for your communications by virtue of the fact that your communiques were physically sealed by you. That essentially is the analogue version of FB pre privacy changes, albeit not at scale. In other words, privacy was implicit in the social convention of exchanging snail mails. With FB, people expected this social convention to extend, at slightly greater scale, to the online medium. Since, thats essentially how FB was marketed in the beginning. Now, FB has single handedly challenged the privacy implicit in this social convention, changing the default implied to a public one. That is the problem

I think the last comment sums things  up nicely. But do read that thread for a wide variety of opinions.

@Arrington and the Crunchpad.

The internet is awash with the news that the CrunchPad is dead. More accurately, dead on arrival.

I won’t regurgitate all the original details, which you can find here


This morning (or this afternoon, depending where you are), Mike posted an update.

The letters attached make for interesting reading (even if they are long on legalese).

Originally I wrote a couple of long paragraphs before confusing even myself.  But I’ll quote Mike:

There is just no way to argue that TechCrunch is not the joint owner of all intellectual property of the CrunchPad, and outright owner of the CrunchPad trademark. The CEO of Fusion Garage has spent nearly six months this year working from Silicon Valley and our offices. Most of the Fusion Garage team has spent the last three months here working with our team on the project. And our key team members have spent time in Singapore working directly on the hardware and software that powers the device. Fusion Garage emails and their own blog, before it was deleted, acknowledge this. We have also spent considerable amounts of money creating the device, paying the vendor and other bills that Fusion Garage wasn’t able to.

What’s even more absurd is the idea that we somehow knew about Fusion Garage’s intentions to break off the partnership before a couple of days prior to the device launching. Until November 17 we had every reason to believe that Fusion Garage was our trusted ally in creating the CrunchPad. We received nearly daily emails confirming that everything was on track. Raising funding for the project was a goal but wouldn’t have been necessary for some time; besides, we had U.S. investors lined up and ready to put money into the venture. Fusion Garage admitted to us on November 18 that the news of them pulling out of the partnership was “out of the blue.”

There is quite simply no way we will allow this company to move forward on this project. The extent of their fraud is only now becoming clear to me. The audacity of their scheme is staggering. We believe that they engaged with us until the last possible moment to get press attention and access to our development resources and cash, and then walk away hoping that we’d do nothing.

Other Options


Disclaimer: What I’m about to do here is be incredibly naive and view the world for a moment the way a programmer does: neat, ordered and sensible.

I wonder what solutions there are to this mess (besides legal proceedings). One is to throw money at the problem. And no, I’m not suggesting mike buys the company, or the rights.

Its interesting that Mike planned to have ChromeOS running on the CrunchPad at the launch. Although the CrunchPad predates the relase of ChromeOS, it is the the very epitome of the types of devices the creators of ChromeOS envisioned running ChromeOS on.

So I think that Google, indirectly, has a stake in the success of the CrunchPad.

So, and this may seem un-orthodox, but I suggest that Google should buy out FG. Google has the money, after all.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Mike gets on with his Crunchpad. Google gets a posterchild for its ChromeOS (plus being able to contribute significantly to the device software to make sure the Google Experience is up to standard).

ChromiumOS is opensource. The crunchpad started out is short life as an opensourced, crowdsourced project. I can’t imagine a better match.

There is a market.

There is a market for that device, even with the iTablet looming on the horizon. I.e, Me. I’m sitting on my couch right now as I type this. A CrunchPad would be much easier than my Dell Laptop. 

Knowing Apple, the iTablet will be expensive (even if its a contract device). The CrunchPad will be far cheaper (between $300 to $400 as far as i know).

Besides the price issue (and the little matter of a global recession), rumour, as well as logic has it that that Apple will impose an App Approval Process for the iTablet. And an App Store. The pros and cons of a such a move are for another post when we have more substantial information.

This stands in stark contrast with the CrunchPad

Mike says that the CrunchPad can be hacked to run Windows 7 (that would be awesome) and ChromeOS (and by extension any Linux based OS including Android).

(Actually I think Mike should have a version with no OS preloaded)

I’d much rather buy a Crunchpad I can write my own apps for. And before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy (since I like the App Store), I will not tolerate an App Store for anything approaching a work machine.

And after all the problems developers are having with the App Store, I have no intention of writing Apps for the iPhone (Apple does have the chance to change this, mind you).

Not being able to write apps for my iPhone frustrates me to no end. There are too many roadblocks.

However, with the promise of the CrunchPad, I drool at the App possibilities. Being a totally open platform, the possibilities are endless. Whether one uses ChromeOS ( more properly, ChromiumOS), Linux or Windows 7, the underlying hardware will be exposed for the developer to use.

Public Opinion is heavily in favour of the CrunchPad. Public Opinion is squarely behind Mike Arrington (yes, this includes me).

Hopefully it will live.

PS. For a fascinating discussion on the CrunchPad, listen to MacBreak Weekly 169: This Is What Happens Larry

Social Networks at Work

IF you’re surprised that I’ve gone so long without posting here properly, its because I’ve been spending so much time on Friendfeed.

Friendfeed suits my style so much better than blogging. With its link/article centred comments threads, it allows short comments about a particular subject that aren’t a blog in length. Its suits my free ranging style, commenting of just about anything that I’m interested in.

Two incidents this week, both well publicised on Friendfeed illustrate the power of the social network.

The first, and arguably most public, is the PR battle now erupting between Thomas Hawk (the photographer) and his supporters on the one side, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on the other. In the middle there are a few moderates keeping a steady and cool head.

Thomas Hawk:

After purchasing my family membership and visiting the museum today I was forcibly thrown out of the museum by two museum security guards at the direction of the Director of Visitor Relations Simon Blint.
My crime? Taking a photograph from the second floor stairs in the SFMOMA’s atrium (an area where the SF MOMA’s own website explicitly says photography is allowed).


And again ( the following day):

One allegation that has been raised is that Blint threw me out because he felt that I was shooting down a low cut blouse of one of his employees sitting in the atrium below where I was shooting. The photo above is a photo that I snapped of Blint as he was publicly admonishing me from the floor, that’s him with his arms crossed there — he’s about the size of an ant in the photo.


I can vouch for the absurdity of shooting down a low cut blouse with  14mm lens from the top of those stairs

The comments are prolific on both these posts with a number of differing viewpoints about Thomas’ account. While most are not explicitly for or against, there is a searach for a middle ground between emphasising Photographers Rights and the way in which the situation was handled. Just do a search for “Simon Blint” on Friendfeed. Here.

SFMOMA responded with this Press Release:

Last Friday an incident occurred in our museum in which a visitor was asked to leave the building. We stand firmly behind the actions of our director of visitor services, who acted appropriately to ensure the safety of the museum’s admissions staff. He took measures to protect another staff member who according to witnesses on our staff and among the general public was being photographed in an inappropriate and harassing manner. SFMOMA welcomes over 600,000 visitors annually; disputes and disagreements between our guests and our staff very rarely occur.
This was not an issue relating to the museum’s official photography policy. In fact, SFMOMA recently made a policy change to allow photographers to take pictures of the permanent collection, the architecture of the building, and the museum’s public spaces.


The comments on this link on Friendfeed are quite interesting, you can find them here. Most are wondering why the other side of the story is not being told here (Since all the information we have is from Thomas). I can understadn them drawing a line under the incident. I’d want to as well:  the issue of Photographers rights has well and truly been highlighted.

This whole discussion has gotten way out of hand. Someone even posted a link to Simon Blints Facebook page ( Which I will not link to, on principle). On the one hand, this will dominate any Google searches for Simon and potentially portray him in the wrong light. On the other it portrays him as on his toes, looking out for the needs of his employees and visitors alike (tenuous, I know, but still).

Do I think Thomas should have blogged this? Yes indeed. Do I think both sides could have handled it better. Yes again.

In closing, Jeremiah Owyang said the following:

Thomas Hawk’s skewering of Simon Blint: Thomas is a community leader (and photo site CEO) he needs to wield his power with responsbility

And you can see the level of discussion that generated below:


The other one, which I am less informed about is a solely a twitter affair. Usually Twitters popup in my feed entirely out of context. This time, however almost my entire page way covered in Twiters between Jason Calcanis of Mahalo and Andrew Baron.

And boy were the insults flying back and forth.


It takes up the first page and a half of this FF search.

That last entry in the picture above refers to this chart regarding Mahalo traffic numbers:


And that’s how this whole thing kicked off. Exactly what was the bone of contention, I’ve no idea.

Again, the power of social networks was leveraged since the combined communities of Twitter and Friendfeed were spectators to the whole debacle.  What ordinarily would be solved via email just a few years ago, now is thrust on to the Internet for all to see.

What is particularly troublesome of this kind of behaviour across multiple social networks is the effect that they have. No matter who was in the right or wrong, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

These two incidents also shows the difference in format between two highly successful social networks (can you even describe FF as a social network?). It emphasises that we can either interact with the content or which each other. Interacting with the content gives us a starting pint for conversation, interacting with each other, apparently, can be much shakier.

Of the two choices, I would rather join a discussion centring on something solid, a blog post, link, photo or even an informative twitter.

Online Aggregation – a la FriendFeed

If you read regularly, you’ve probably begun to wonder where i’ve been these past few weeks. I’m not blaming you.

Between FriendFeed and exams there aren’t enough hours in the day.

FreindFeed itself is great. Being able to aggregate so much data in one place is very useful. FF ( as FriendFeed is shortened to) supports 35 ( or more) services directly and more through the use of the RSS feed(s) that you can add.

Robert Scoble is the prime example of this. The sheer amount of online output the man generates makes you wonder if he ever sleeps.  Go on, click the link and admire this river of news, posts, tweets, videos and photos. Then take a look at how many friends the guys has- well over 10,000 people as friends ( people that either are subscribed to him or he subscribes to). FF has a Friend of a Friend feature that add some of his friends posts to your home page on FF. This gives you a tremendous amount of noise to wade through.

And combine this with all your other friends. This gives you a long, long river of news to read through.

However, FF is not a true social networking site. It aggregates data from a huge amount of sites. But your Friends are nothing more than people you’ve subscribed to for their feed. Its rather like saying that because you have a subscription to the NYT you are their friend and they’re yours.

To reinforce the point there is zero information about you save a picture – which suits me as you’ll notice I don’t have an About Me page ( I’m thinking about putting one up, though). And I’m dithering on what picture I should put up.

Jennifer Woodward Maderazo made the point that its very personal having all this information in one place. Possibly. It depends on what information you share. Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk have no problem with this – they’re subscribed to practically every service available. I mean, its darn interesting to see what photos Thomas favourites on Flickr. I’m sure its possible to figure out his taste in photos and his political leanings from his content. Even how he likes Mac and  Microsoft solely for its Windows Media Centre.  But there is no real, personal  information being shared here.

On Jennifer’s second point about no real interaction – come on!! I comment more in FF than outside, often commenting as a post comes in, and as part of a conversation. I like a lot as well ( comments and likes are another way if discerning peoples taste – but no real information is there. See above). If there is anything to suggest its no otherwise the case, its that comments don’t follow items as they are ReShared or posted within FF. This inevitably leads to fragmented conversations and a reduction in interaction. Also blog and FF comments should be synced in some form that will lead to even more interaction.

And Jennifer’s last point about information overload is just plain wrong. We have fine grained control of what turns up in our feed. from hiding friends of friends completely to hiding on a per-friend-per-service basis ( you can also blanket hide a service entirely – so no Twitter tweets show up from any friend, ever).

The Flickr favourites feature I mentioned above is a compelling reason to join Flickr ( I’m with SmugMug and intend to stay – you’ll see my photos show up).

One thing that is surprising is that FF is slowing taking attention share away from Google Reader. Not just when it comes to commenting, but I post links that I find interesting. Steve Rubel, for example, tweets and posts links fairly often that point to interesting material – I share some. But those don’t show up in my Shared items to your right ( from Google Reader Shared items). I’m thinking of some way to integrate them together using the FF API.

Another reason is the Imaginary Friend feature. I currently only have one at the moment – MarsPhoenix. If that sounds familiar to you its that lander NASA just put on Mars’ north pole. Its got two blogs and a twitter feed. This Friend combines them into a one feed with posts from both blogs mixed in with the numerous tweet updates and makes it dead easy to follow via FF or RSS. These appear as fart of my feed on the FF homepage along with everything else, making it doubly useful.

FF is literally Google Reader gone wild (rather than Twitter). Its subscriptions based. And, one up on Google Reader, shares all of your online activity back to the community. Its not even Digg (I can’t remember the last time I logged in to Digg).

Many belive that Robert will be going on about another service in a few months time. But FF has the traction ( its many services and thus audiences that it serves) and the leverage (the huge number of adopters it has at the moment) to survive. It straddles the difference between a true, thoroughbred networking site like Twitter ( or Facebook, if you prefer) and the disconnected consumption of content of a RSS reader. Its perfectly situated to bridge the gap between all these disparate services.

Link of the Day

via Scott Rosenburg:

Pentagon’s Accounting Mess – Yet Another Federal Software Quagmire (cf. the IRS, the FBI, the FAA, etc.). An account of the Pentagon’s failure to upgrade its ancient mainframe-era accounting system; the tale unfolds in a building in Indianapolis the size of 28 football fields, and explains why the U.S. military cannot be audited. The Pentagon literally cannot tell you how much it has spent or what it has purchased. If you ran your family this way, they’d disown you.

Err, this is the 21st Century and this should not be too difficult to accomplish.

And they’re still using COBOL?? What can I say?

<humour> Solution? Call Microsoft </humour>

Aprils Fools 2008 (and a little late at that)

I think its becoming a tradition here to list some of the funnier April Fools Day pranks:

  • Read – Space bot demands to be called “Dextre the Magnificent”
  • Read – Google’s gDay with MATE searches the future
  • Read – Think Geek’s Betamax to HD-DVD Converter
  • Read – Qualcomm’s HandSolo
  • Read – Virgin and Google form Virgil for Mars expedition
  • Read – Xbox 360 Wireless Helmet, Board Game

More Google pranks here.

TUAW has a round up of the Apple Pranks.

Three from Sun Microsystems: