That first night we also announced that Shock ‘n’ Awe had, not certainly, but almost positively probably killed Saddam Hussein in his golden bed. A tell like that costs you your pants elsewhere.

Then, for no fucking military reason whatsoever, we managed to outrun our supply lines on Day Two, but, fortunately, PFC Jessica Lynch, the Pat Tillman of Iraq*, single-handedly wiped out a battalion, or something.

Then we took Baghdad, and realized we’d only brought enough MPs to guard the Oil Ministry. Fortunately, Don Rumsfeld was there to explain to us that that’s how it goes.

Doghouse Riley looks back on Gulf War: Part the Second.

23.03.2013 • Permalink

Self-publishing

This is why I don't self-publish. Yes, I could do it. But it'd suck up a huge amount of time I would prefer to spend doing what I enjoy (writing) and force me to do stuff I do not enjoy (reading contracts, accounting, managing other people). The only sane way to do it would be to hire someone else to do all the boring crap on my behalf. And do you know what we call people who do that? We call them publishers.

Charles Stross explaining why going it alone isn't necessarily the best option.

21.03.2013 • Permalink

Responsive web design must be responsive, because breakpoints and also: responsive! We consider responsive web design the only responsible responsive response to respondents, and “responsive” buzzes by as the buzziest of bywords. (see also: paradigm, shift) Responsive content is more responsive that non-responsive (ie. bad) content because responsiveness, also mobile. Breakpoints. In summary: responsive, responsive, responsive, responsive, responsive. Furthermore, responsive and also Hallelujah, too.

(Every goddamned blurb.)

18.03.2013 • Permalink

Bruce Schneier writing about Internet privacy for CNN:

Welcome to the end of private conversations, because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text, or social networking sites. And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and where the government accesses it at will without a warrant. Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we’ve ended up here with hardly a fight.

Not only that, the people who saw it coming were ridiculed as paranoid luddites.

17.03.2013 • Permalink

Death of a Reader

rss iconIt probably should’t come as a huge surprise, but the mighty Google is shutting down Reader, its RSS service, on July 1st. Much wailing ensued from the (apparently too-few) diehard users, and within hours, several “Save Google Reader” plea sites were up and running.

I’ve used Reader for 6 or 7 years, so this move admittedly stings a bit, but I guess it makes sense. Google already stripped a ton of functionality from Reader, killing most of its sharing features and adding them to Google+. If you think Google needs more justification beyond “screw you, freeloader,” here are a few reasons I can think of:

  • Cost/gain: Though the cost of running Reader probably isn’t prohibitive, a lot of Reader’s functionality has been moved to Google+. “But I have paid, by giving them my personal information for their targeted ads for years.” Newsflash: Google doesn’t actually care about you, and Google Plus is far better for data mining.
  • Focus: In addition to a RSS feed reader, Google has self-driving cars, non-emasculating self-surveillance devices sci-fi glasses and a Brazilian social network to contend with. Clearly, Reader needs to go for the sake of focus.
  • The Twitter threat: Like many others, I use Twitter primarily for news items these days. Twitter is also moving their business model in this direction, having realized that giving people a platform to speak doesn’t necessarily mean they have anything interesting to say, even at a mere 140 characters. Anyway, Twitter is popular, and sees far more usage than…
  • Google+: Certainly the biggest reason Reader is dead. Google+ isn’t growing fast enough for Larry and Sergei’s liking, despite all the helpful shills users who endlessly point out you’re an idiot for not using it over Lamebook (it’s so last year), and a bigger idiot for not seeing the value of hanging with condescending elitists the far more interesting people on G+ (because your friends and family suck). Killing Reader allows Google to strongarm re-align users with the glorious walled garden not-out-of-beta-as-of-yet Plus, competing with Twitter even further.

It’s a simple business decision, and no matter what the evangelists claim, Google isn’t making products out of philanthropic idealism. Thankfully, there are many alternatives out there, like NetNewsWire and Vienna for Mac, or Newsgator for Windows (provided its still around), RSS Bandit et al. – not to mention Opera browser. I’ve long wished Opera would add RSS feeds to Opera Link – like they do bookmarks and notes – that sync with their browsers and My Opera; if they do, they can probably grab quite a few users.

So while the shuttering of Reader sucks, it’s hardly a disaster. RSS was created to be open, and as such, there’s (probably literally) thousands of ways of using it. What will cause the most problem, as far as I can see, is synchronizing feeds between devices, the sort of thing an Internet powerhouse like Google can do with ease. (Another potential opportunity for the “new” Yahoo!, perhaps?) On the other hand, you can bet your ass people are already working on it.

It was a pleasant ride, but now it’s over. Just make sure you export those subscriptions, or be even more daring and start over fresh when the suns finally sets on Reader this summer.

Updated: Google’s apparently removing the RSS extension from Chrome as well, so they’re clearly washing their hands off the whole RSS phenomenon.

14.03.2013 • Permalink
missive from an idiot

I’m a rapper I know words

In yesterday’s post, I used the word onus. It’s not a word I use all that often, English being my second language and all, so I headed over to Merriam-Webster to make sure I was using it correctly. For some reason, there’s a comment section there too, which is where I found the above exchange. Satire, great comment, or greatest comment?

UPDATE: Merriam-Webster has removed comments. More’s the pity, but I certainly understand.

12.03.2013 • Permalink

Privacy on the Web

 

FacebookPrivacyIf you’re one of the people who post those interminable screeds on Facebook DEMANDING I change my privacy settings to THIS and THAT because you don’t want your dinner photos seen by others, please unfriend me now and get it over with. Just make sure you send me your email address so I can get in touch with you later, because I still want to be your friend. Yes, really. It’s just that I just can’t be bothered updating the damn settings every single time Facebook decides it’s time for a mix-up.

Before you call me an asshole: I don’t mean to be make light of your very real worries about strangers impinging on the privacy of your kids, but if you do worry, the simple truth is you shouldn’t be posting this stuff in the first place! The Internet isn’t the unknown frontier any longer; we know how it works, we know the sort of people who lurk there, and we know the protection of your private life is a total clusterfuck – often by accident and just as often by design, because most services are run by people who rely on selling you out to get paid.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, especially on the Internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s sister got fucked over by Facebook’s arcane and capricious privacy settings, and had a public tantrum over it. (Though ultimately knowing which side her bread was buttered on, she lectured the offending user in “net etiquette” instead of blaming the culprit, Facebook itself.)

Honestly, the Internet, as a whole, isn’t the sort of place you’d want to leave your kids. Facebook and its ilk get hacked quite publicly on a regular basis – often enough that even the most traditional news outlets report on it (Usually! With! Added! Sensationalism!). Some hackers do it for the lulz, others for gain. The intrusions we hear about are the ones so big that they simply can’t be ignored, but I can’t be the only one to assume there are scores of attacks we never hear about at all. Statistically, some of them have to be successful in gaining access.

Hackers aside: sometimes you just plain forget to log out and boom! – your account is stolen. Happens all the time. And let’s go even further: a lot of people with an Internet connection out there still haven’t quite figured out email yet, and trust me, they’re on Facebook too. In short: ignoramuses, parasites and troublemakers – do you really feel safe sharing the minutia of your daily life with this confederacy of dunces?

Ultimately, what gets uploaded to the web stays on the web, whether you like it or not. Scrape down your profiles, and close all your social media accounts, but if you uploaded it, you have no guarantee there won’t still be a copy cached on some forgotten server out there. You can try bending the Internet to your will – I’ll applaud your efforts – but at the end of the day, the onus on keeping your family safe online is on you, not me.

11.03.2013 • Permalink