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Archive for April, 2010

I Love Chocolate, But…

2010/04/24 1 comment

I love chocolate. It’s true. Nothing makes me happier that having the sensuous feel of a piece of rich chocolate slowly melt on my tongue.

So you can imagine my surprise when five years ago I found a dirty truth about our chocolate. Most of the world’s chocolate is harvested by child slaves. Yes, that’s right. Not child labor. Child slaves.

I found that children in the producing countries are often lured away from their families. Perhaps an eight year old boy is told he looks like a strapping athlete. Would he like to grow up to be a football star? He can get his big chance if only he comes right now. No, we’ll tell Mom later or we’ll miss out. And he’s gone.

Gone to a farm where he and others like him would spend grueling days working on the chocolate. At times fed stuff that we would consider unsuitable for our pets. And nights locked into what anyone would call a prison. If they try to escape they are beaten. This was not some story of human cruelty in the days of Mark Twain. This was in my time, and I was horrified that it could happen at all. I’m gullible that way.

I boycotted all chocolate for a while and told just about everyone I knew about the situation. After a while I heard of some chocolates that were fair trade that controlled the entire supply line to make sure this did not happen.

Over the next year or so, the news came more into the mainstream though of course it never got the coverage that really important news stories like who some celebrity had breakfast with. Good news! There was enough ruckus to have people start talking about laws on the import of chocolate. And the chocolate companies were feeling enough of a sting from the public to pay some attention.

But the companies felt that government intervention was not the way to go. They formed a coalition to plan for controls of the supply line. They would provide a program of certifying farms as being slave free, including having their own agent perform inspections on the farms.

Life was good. I could go back to my chocolate.

Come this Easter I found this article which said since Easter was a time for such heavy chocolate consumption, that it was also a good time to review the effort of the chocolate companies over the preceding year and give them a report card. The news was absolutely dismal. Basically the companies were doing a lot of “work”, but most of it was talk about what they might do and lots of PR about the talk of what they might do. Nothing concrete had been done to significantly reduce the number of kids in this situation.

Needless to say, I’m off chocolate again. And mad as hell. Mad at the companies for not taking their position seriously. And mad at me for being stupid enough to believe it without further research.

I’d love to hear others on this. And please, pass the word along in every way you can.

–Al-

Categories: Personal Tags:

Apple, ARM, Lawsuits….Oh My!

So Apple is considering buying ARM, the makers of the processor chip for the iPhone. Their processors are also used in a large variety of devices including printers and netbooks. There’s even talk about it taking the market leader role from Intel’s atom processor.

Two interesting statements in the short article

1) Apple could make the processors more “Apple-ized”.

2) Apple could potentially block ARM processors from being used in rival smartphones,

The first may be unfounded at this point, but does give Apple the option to make changes which not only improve Apple products, but degrade others. The second really requires no further explanation and sounds right up Apple’s alley.

One of the “rival smartphones” companies is, of course, HTC. If you follow the industry at all, you’ve heard about Apple’s lawsuit against HTC over it’s Nexus One product. The lawsuit is still going so we’ve yet to see the long term outcome. However, we’ve already seen the short term outcome in a delay of the Verizon Nexus One. Think of what delays mean in this competitive fast-paced industry. And Apple was able to deal that to HTC without a conviction.

Now think what Apple could do to HTC with control over ARM whose processors power the Nexus one and others in HTC’s line. Not that Apple would ever dare to actually cut HTC off. But the wildly popular iPhone could start using most of ARM’s capacity, and it would not be unreasonable to say that the owner of the company has first dibs on output. So Apple controls both the amount of product, and the distribution of the product, but it would never use it to unfair competitive advantage. If you believe this I have some ocean-front land in South Dakota I’d like to offer you for sale. Think Microsoft buying Intel.

One of the great things about being old is having the benefit of history. Many of the people in the tech industry today may not remember when Apple was producing its first Macintoshes. At that time Apple filed suit against Microsoft for having a Graphical User Interface. To read the article now is funny, with Apple claiming sole ownership of “the existence of windows on the screen, the rectangular appearance of windows, windows could be resized, overlap, and have title bars” because together these were more than the sum of the parts. But back then Apple was as serious as it is now about the HTC suit.

The funniest part of that episode was that the idea for the GUI wasn’t Apple’s! Xerox’s PARC had done a huge amount of work in the Dark Ages. Xerox said they “had invited the Macintosh design team to view their GUI computers at the PARC research lab; these visits had been very influential on the development of the Macintosh GUI”. In a fun turn of events, Xerox in turn sued Apple as a defensive move. If the court ruled that the Mac interface was copyrightable, then Xerox wanted if to be clear the copyright was theirs.

I hope enough anti-competition concerns come up to block the ARM sale. And as far as the HTC lawsuit, I hope the results are similar to Apple vs Microsoft. Apple got claims to very few items, amongst them the trash can icon. Very useful for storing their strategies.

–Al-

Categories: Tech Tags:

The not so Theoretical Heavy Hand of Apple

2010/04/20 4 comments

Those of you who know me in real life know that I’ve been disappointed by the launch of the iPad. I was at least as eagerly expectant as the general public at the beginning. But the product that came out was almost the opposite of what I’d hoped.

The product itself has many cool features. The form is nice. The interface is great, though I would have very much liked a stylus. I’ve heard complaints about the weight, but really the weight is very reasonable for what it delivers.

But the Apple policy on the machine is incredibly autocratic and arrogant. I don’t care how pretty it’s worded or how much concern is expressed over performance and stability, the intent is very simple. As an user, Apple has full control of what you can install on your machine. And as a developer, Apple has full control over what you’re allowed to publish.

So is this control theoretical? Is it just Apple leaving its options open in case it has to clamp down on real problem software? I found these three articles to be of interest taken together

So the first article is a completely expected story of Apple clamping down on an application that most would say is perfectly ok. This is Mark Fiore, a Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist whose app was rejected because it “ridicules public figures”. Imagine that. A political cartoonist poking fun at public figures. The story is kind of scary if you follow some of the links to other incidents.

But Apple is no so tough, is it? In this story Apple backtracks and says that the Fiore app banning was a mistake. Just a bit of confusion. Oh, it’s not Apple’s intent to censor in this way.

But in the third article we see the real Apple. Here Steve Jobs says both that banning Fiore’s app was a mistake and would be in the app store soon and “However, we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and Android phone.”.

That porn statement is powerful. It says that Apple can badmouth any applications it does not like. And it says it’s not apologizing for having the control to treat any application it does not like as garbage.

Well, Apple, I want my Porn. The first piece of Porn I want is Firefox. And Chrome. And, by the way, Internet Explorer if Microsoft would make it just because  you opt to install Safari  on Windows. And the reason why I want these specific pieces of Porn is because another piece of Porn you block is Flash. It’s one of the most widely used pieces of software on the web, but you feels it’s your role is to singlehandedly banish it.

When Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows, the Internet community was up in arms because that gave MS an unfair competitive advantage. I hope the community rallies twice as strong against Apple for not only bundling Safari by default, but making sure the user cannot change that choice.

So yes, Steve. I do want my “Porn”. I will not be getting an iPad. And I will be trading my iPhone for an Android phone soon.

–Al-

Categories: Tech Tags:

So What Is This Blog About

2010/04/14 1 comment

Good question. But probably one without a good answer.

I’ve been running a couple of other blogs for fun. And those do have an answer to that question. They had focus. You could say “this blog is about x” even if it was more my personal view on the subject than anything else.But I’d sometime have something I found interesting,but which did not fit the blogs. And so I threw it away. So I finally decided I needed a blog about Al. Specifically, I needed a blog that could be about whatever the hell I wanted at any point in time. And could even use the word “hell” if I so chose.

Sometimes it might be tech. Sometimes it may be social issues. Sometimes it may be about windsurfing. Ya just never know. But pull up a chair and sit a spell. Might turn out to be fun!

–Al-

Categories: Personal