Shame and anticompetitive hijinks

24 05 2012

This week, Apple pulled one of Rogue Amoeba’s iOS apps, from the App Store. Reportedly, little explanation was given. I think I might know what’s going on here.

Apple has a history of taking ideas from existing iOS apps, building them into newer versions of iOS, and then making the app essentially useless. It is kind of a dick move when you think about it for half a second. I know people like to associate that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” phrase with Steve Jobs in particular and Apple in general. Unfortunately, when hardworking independent developers get screwed over, everyone loses, even Apple.

Of course, the developer is going to take the brunt of the blow in the form of lost sales. Users who are not aware of the app from whence some iOS feature came will not know that there may be some better alternative, still on the App Store. This might keep the user experience from being as good as it might. In the end, Apple is hurting itself a little by potentially alienating developers. I know, personally, that if I worked my ass off on an app that I was proud of and Apple came along and ripped me off, I would reconsider developing for Apple’s platforms in the future.

Maybe I am completely wrong about all of this and I am just overreacting. I really hope I am. Hopefully, Rogue Amoeba’s app goes back up on the store and they go back to making money from it. Thanks for indulging this rant.


Ping is a mistake for Apple

1 09 2010

Today, Apple announced that they are opening their own music-centric social network called Ping. This might be a good idea if it were an independent company, but not Apple.

Ping screenshot

Screenshot from September 1 Apple music event

The big problem lies in Apple allowing users to comment on artists, albums, et cetera. As someone who spends a fair amount of time on YouTube, Digg, and other places  that allow user comments. The problem with having an open forum where anyone can say anything is that anyone can say anything.

On YouTube, in particular, discussion is not nearly as rich as one would like and is laden with swearing, bad grammar and spelling, trolling, and off-topic discussion. Apple, which is so concerned with its outward public perception, may be biting more than it can chew by hosting user-generated content, especially semi-anonymous comments that are only tethered to their respective authors by an iTunes Store account.

Apple has had, one more than one occasion, deleted threads and posts in their discussion forums. It has, albeit with limited success, deleted applications from the App Store based on its content. In one case, Apple was worried about bad press. In the other, Apple was worried about about general public perception of its social and cultural values.

Unless Apple wants to get into the business of moderating what could very well turn into a never-ending, ever-increasing deluge of comments, this is going to be a mistake for a company that obsesses over its public image as much as Apple. I certainly believe that Ping has a chance to be a very popular platform for the discussion of relatively unknown, indie music, where trolls and the like are not likely to turn up. Discussion on more popular music will be completely useless due to the inevitable torrent of comments, most of which will undoubtedly be asinine and pointless.

I could be wrong, but I do not think that Ping will turn out the Apple is pitching it. Then again, what has?

Update: Told ya.

Shame and migrations

1 07 2010

It turns out then, when trying to bootstrap a Ruby on Rails application after pulling it down from a repository, it is really important to set up a database for the application before you try to start it. Yes, like a pony and pony food, any web application needs a database to function properly. Before you start, run

rake db:create


rake db:migrate

The create command will create a new MySQL database on your local machine, unless you specify otherwise. The migrate command will configure the database with all the tables and relationships that are needed for it to work properly. The configuration instructions are in the applications model and migration files.

That way, everybody is happy and you don’t look like a complete noob in front of half the development team for two weeks. Not that, uh, that has ever happened to me.

God as a thought-ending cliché

22 02 2010

I recently watched an excellent Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture several times. In it, he made an excellent argument for the origins of the “Intelligent Design” theory and how to confront it in the public discourse.

He brought up the instance of Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds in human history. Tyson listed his major achievements, most notable of which were his understanding of gravity and the motion of the planets, as well as Newton’s somewhat flippant creation of calculus. However, when it came time for Newton to explain the perturbations of the planets’ orbits by one another’s gravity, he was stumped. With what he knew, Newton could not account for this perturbation and could not understand how the planets remained in stable orbits around the sun. Rather than delving into the problem with a rational mind and keen intellect, he simply surmised that a great, divine power was at work. Possibly the greatest mind in Western culture was confused for a moment and explained something away by claiming that a god did it.

The problem with simply chalking a natural phenomenon up to the supernatural is that it instantly ends all analysis and intellectual work. Thought and investigation on the matter simply stop. Not only does the former investigator not have a good explanation for the phenomenon, the entire human race is poorer for it. It took nearly a century after Newton’s death for the perturbation of the planets to be adequately explained with science.

The same thing is happening in the case of intelligent design and evolution. The reason that evolution should be taught in the science classroom and intelligent design is not is that the possibility of evolution has scientific evidence behind it. ID does not have any scientific evidence behind it, just a bunch of idle speculation and lack of curiosity about the world. Science requires a curiosity about the world and its workings. ID discourages investigation and curiosity. Therefore, it cannot be considered science or a part of a proper science curriculum.

Shame and iPhone app approval

13 11 2009

Apple has been touting the relatively high number of applications as a measure of success of their iPhone OS platform since the App Store got big. However, this brings up that “quantity versus quality” argument. If you take a look at many of the applications on the App Store, you will find that many of them are lacking in features, quality, and utility. From there, we can easily lead to a discussion of Apple’s often inconsistent application approval process, where excellent applications may be thrown out for arbitrary reasons.

Apple has even started driving away some very talented developers with its App Store policies or, in the case of Joe Hewitt, developer of the iPhone Facebook app, the existence of an application approval process in general. Ultimately, who does this benefit and who does it harm. In the short term, it harms developers and consumers who live inside the Apple-approved ecosystem. In the long term, it will harm Apple, should they continue to do business as they have since the App Store went online in July 2008. However, as a publicly traded company, Apple is compelled to achieve maximum profits in the short term.

Apple relies heavily on advertising and word of mouth. While its products are increasing in popularity, the Mac and iPhone are hardly default choices in their respective markets. Apple would therefore benefit from pumping up the number of approved applications in the store to make the iPhone and iPod touch more appealing. This is probably why we see so much crap in the store. Apple is not concerned with maintaining quality on the App Store so much as they just want to help out their ad agency.

This is not the entire reason for inconsistency in the App Store approval process. I do not know first- or even second-hand how the approval process goes, but I suspect it goes something like this.

  1. Application binary arrives at Apple’s App Store offices for approval.
  2. App is installed on a device using ad hoc distribution or some other method.
  3. The lone reviewer of this app subjectively decides whether the app is worthy of the App Store.

My point is that the application approval process is very subjective. An application may have a good or bad chance of approval, based on who is reviewing it. These reviewers probably have a list of criteria thumbtacked to their cubicle walls and decided whether the app meets those criteria.

Apple needs to get on the ball with making the application approval process much more consistent and less arbitrary. They also need to clean house and get rid of all of the junk that no one is really going to need. They also need to work to retain experience developers by giving them preferential treatment in the application approval process. If a developer is on version 2.0 of their product or higher, chances are they are doing some quality work and need to be let through. It’s the newbie developers pushing free or $0.99 apps that need to be watched more closely. Also, most of us can handle swear words. There is no reason to throw out an app because of a dirty word in a screen shot.

Apple used to be the Lexus of consumer electronics companies. Only the best would do. Now here they are with a botched application approval process, letting useless crap in and driving experienced,enthusiastic developers away.

Shame and the media

3 11 2009

Tonight, the IUPUI Freethinkers had their weekly meeting. The topic this week was the media. The ultimate consensus was that the media has developed some serious, deep-seated issues.

Extremism sells and most news outlets are corporate entities or owned by corporate entities. This is the unfortunate truth. Unfortunately, extremism does not make for good reporting. It does not serve the American people well. Until we start demanding en masse decent, in-depth reporting, we simply will not get it from the corporate interests that own our media.

Fox News and MSNBC both engage in the presentation of polar extremes as rational, mainstream methods of political thought. The truth is, they are not even close. They are political extremes that do not inform the populace or encourage civil discourse. They are simply talking heads. They just make noise.

Since ideologues in the media come down on issues so cleanly and predictably, however, politicians can make them part of their strategies. Politicians, in particularly fierce races like last fall’s Presidential race, can fine tune their arguments to divide and polarize the American public, to create dichotomy where none need exist.

It is necessary that we as a nation stand up and announce that we have the right to clear, concise and in-depth news reporting. We deserve to hear the whole story without major facts and events being cherry-picked to suit some egotist’s or capitalist’s agenda. We need to know what is going on out there. We cannot just trust that the people with the loudest voices will let us know what is really going on.

The Daily Show – “For Fox Sake”

Shame and caffeine

2 11 2009

I am a caffeine addict. As a demonstration of how truly pathetic I am, I have not broken myself of my attachment to the nectar of the geeks. Don’t get me wrong. I think that caffeine can be pretty awesome in some cases. However, as hypocritical as this sounds, it probably should not be a daily habit. Withdrawal is just no fun.

Yesterday, I had no caffeine whatsoever and it felt like somebody parked a tractor trailer on my head. It was one of the worst, most vicious headaches I have had for a while.

Caffeine withdrawal can have a number of unpleasant symptoms, mostly headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and irritability, though it varies from person to person. When caffeine consumption becomes a part of your daily habit, it can be a difficult habit to break. The physical symptoms that I described earlier are just one part of caffeine withdrawal. There is also a psychological component. You get used to picking up a bottle of soda or a cup of coffee. It is just part of your routine.

Caffeine, to me, is a good booster. It should act as a “safety net.” If you feel like your energy or concentration is waning, then it should be there to give you a little boost until you have completed whatever it is you are working on. I think that it should not be used first thing in the morning and it should not be a source of energy. I think it is much better to get your energy from healthy food and sleep. I feel sluggish and depressed after I come down from caffeine. After going a couple of days without it, I find that I can focus better and get through my day much more easily.