Friday, 29 July 2011

08:45 – It’s interesting, in the same way that watching a train wreck is interesting, to watch the maneuvering of FIGS (France, Italy, Greece, and Spain) versus FANG (Finland, Austria, Netherlands, and Germany). The former, along with Portugal and Belgium, are pressing for fiscal union so that they can pillage the wealth of FANG to support their own spendthrift governments and moribund economies. FANG legislators and voters are perfectly aware of this, and very unlikely to allow it to happen. Smart money is on the Eurozone and then inevitably the EU itself fragmenting into one group of rich, productive northern nations and a second tier of poor, unproductive southern nations. Look for that to happen sooner rather than later, possibly even before the end of this year.

On a related note, I see that the ratings agencies have downgraded regional Spanish debt, a likely preliminary to them downgrading Spanish sovereign debt itself. Spanish and Italian bonds are already selling at historically high yields, and their most recent auctions have failed to sell out. They’re both at the point now where one or two more straws will break their backs. And the EU bailout fund has insufficient resources to stabilize either of them, let alone both. Nor are Germany and the other wealthier EU nations willing to throw more money down that rat hole. I suspect that the FANG nations have already decided to let nature take its course with the weaker nations. Everything the FANG nations are doing now is aimed at damage control for their own economies and their own citizens.


Work on the biology book continues.


12:21 – Apple has finally carried through on its threat to disable ebook reader apps that allow purchasing ebooks from within the app, bypassing Apple’s store. Talk about the height of arrogance. Apple demands 30% of revenue for doing nothing, and further insists that publishers and distributors price their works on the Apple store no higher than elsewhere. In effect, Apple demands 100% of the profit (or more) on all sales.

For example, let’s say I publish an ebook on Amazon.com for $3.00 list price. For each ebook they sell, Amazon pays me 70% of that $3.00 and keeps the other $0.90 to cover its own costs. If Amazon updated its reader app to meet Apple’s requirements for in-app purchasing, Amazon would still pay me the $2.10 royalty, but would have to pay the remaining $0.90 to Apple as Apple’s 30% cut, leaving Amazon with $0.00.

So, as of last night, Amazon updated its iOS app to remove the in-app purchasing option. Someone using an iOS device now has two options. First, they can purchase a book from Apple’s store (which was the whole idea all along; Apple was embarrassed because almost no one was purchasing ebooks through their crappy store). Second, the iOS user can fire up a browser, navigate to Amazon.com, and purchase the ebook manually. Way to go, Apple. Nothing like screwing your users in a money-grab that has no justification.

A lot of bloggers seem to think this change will let Apple grab a lot of ebook market share, on the theory that iOS users will take the easy way out and just buy from the Apple store. I don’t think so. It’s easy enough for an iPad user to buy the book directly from the Amazon or B&N site, and I think Apple’s going to see some pushback over this nasty little scheme. Furthermore, I have purchased hundreds of books for my Kindle over the six months since I bought it, and I have purchased none of them using the Kindle itself. In every case, I’ve ordered the book from the Amazon web site on my office or den PC and later downloaded it, via Wi-Fi or USB, to my Kindle. Every Kindle owner I know does it the same way, and I don’t know any smartphone users who buy directly from their smartphones. They all buy from a browser running on their PCs and then sync the book to their smartphones and other reading devices.

So, Apple may get a few more ebook purchases from iPad users, but probably not many more. IIRC, Apple to date has sold via the Apple store an average of about one ebook for each Apple unit capable of displaying ebooks. Their nasty little scheme may bump that to maybe two or three ebooks per device, but I doubt that it will threaten B&N’s market share for ebooks, let alone Amazon’s.


14:03 – Ruh-roh. I just shipped the last of the chemistry kits I had already made up and boxed. I have the sub-assemblies necessary to make up another batch quickly, but I’m not sure that batch will last me until the backordered component arrives.

Meanwhile, I do have all but one of the components necessary to make up another 60 or so kits. That means we can put together the main sub-assemblies (chemical block and small parts bag) and assemble and box up 60 more kits, missing only that one component. Once it arrives, it won’t take long to add that one component to each box and then tape them up and have them ready to ship.

Speaking of taping them up, it turns out to be good that I bought much more packing tape than I thought I’d need. U-line had the stuff on sale for $1.69 per roll, which was half the normal price, but only if I ordered a case of 36 220-yard rolls. So I did, thinking it’d be a lifetime supply. As it turns out, I’m using the stuff much faster than I though I would. The large priority-mail flat-rate boxes are one-foot cubes, so I figured I’d need maybe three or four feet to seal the top and bottom middle seams, plus maybe another four feet to seal the edge seams. Call it eight feet per box. At 660 feet per roll of packing tape, I figured I’d get something like 80 or 85 boxes per roll. Then reality intruded. I’m taping the crap out of these boxes, because the last thing I want is to have one come apart in transit. Incredibly, I ran out of tape on the first roll after sealing only 20 boxes, which amounts to 33 feet (10 meters) of tape per box. Still, that means my 36 rolls of tape are enough for 720 boxes, so I should be good for quite a while longer.

14 thoughts on “Friday, 29 July 2011”

  1. I’ve bought a book through my Kindle. For no reason other than I could. It was the only time.

    Speaking of Apple, I spent the past week in New York City, and while I was there, one of my traveling companions wanted to go to the Apple Store at Central Park. They are doing some form of renovation and have clad the building in white painted plywood. The resulting structure is a large cube. You descend into the building via a glass staircase, and then circle around the stairs to sample the various Apple products. It wasn’t until I left the store (I went in to escape the heat wave NYC was experiencing, not to shop!) that I was reminded of the Kaaba and the tawaf. All that was missing was the kiswah. I hadn’t noticed any particular circumambulation, apparently the Applefisti pray in either direction.

  2. Re FIGS: maybe they could join a “US Dollar zone”? They’d be happier, surely? (Sadly, only 1/2 tongue in cheek.)

    Re Apple: I probably would already own an iPhone and/or iPad if Apple didn’t control what applications they’ll let me run; now they want to control the functionality of the applications too as a revenue grab? I’ll stick with my notebook and non-smart Nokia phone, thanks.

  3. A friend who taught Unix programming 40 years ago (now a lawyer), tells me that his former teaching cohorts say the landscape has changed–and Microsoft is the new IBM (on a mission to self-destruct), Apple is the new Microsoft (control freaks), and Google is the new Apple (way back when it was innovative). He also claims that Linux is in trouble as a desktop, because developers have completely abandoned project after project before they are finished, and moved to iOS, where they can make some money for their efforts.

  4. Thanks as always for the updates.. from debt economics, to chemistry sets, to Colin peeing on your floor. Is he learning at all yet?

    One suggestion.. when you talk about news you read (like ” I see that the ratings agencies have downgraded regional Spanish debt”) it’d be nifty if you could link in the article where you saw it if possible. More than once I’ve read your comments about daily news (especially with the Euro crisis) and had to hunt at the Economist or Google News to find out what daily development you’re referring to.

  5. My Amazon ebook experience is almost the opposite of this.

    I started with the Kindle app on a Droid (after a while reading a paragraph at a time became unnoticeable), then bought the Kindle proper a month or two later. I only added the app for a PC last week, mostly out of curiosity, and to download/transfer a free copy of something from Project Gutenberg. I haven’t yet tried to read anything on the PC.

    I do spend about half my time on the road, and usually don’t want to drag out the laptop after work, even to search for/download new content. The Kindle book browser / downloader works well enough – a few seconds for a download on the 3G.

    Apple is, well, Apple. Every once in a while I’m tempted to get away from the horrible Windows experience, but each time some Linux weirdness or Apple obnoxiousness makes me reconsider.

  6. “I was reminded of the Kaaba”

    Whenever I got to India I stay at the transit hotel at the Singapore Airport. Beneath the glass covered desktop there’s a little card pointing toward Mecca. I always move it a few degrees.. :p

  7. He also claims that Linux is in trouble as a desktop, because developers have completely abandoned project after project before they are finished, and moved to iOS, where they can make some money for their efforts.

    It’s been 10 years since I first used Linux (Red Hat 7.1 if I recall correctly). Over the years I moved from Red Hat to SuSE to Gentoo to Kubuntu and so forth. Over all the years I listened to one Linux zealot after another declare how Linux was going to kill Windows and OS X. Here we are 10 years later and Linux never exceeded 2% of desktop market share and Microsoft and Apple are both still very profitable and successful. As a home user desktop OS, I think it’s safe to say that Linux is never going to be the “killer app” that they all hoped. It’s always just going to be a hobby OS (the server market is a different story) and probably always sit below 5% market share.

    Part of the problem is the computer geek demographic that always mistakingly believes that it represents a cross section of the average computer user and so what they want is what everyone wants. In reality, most average people view their computer as an appliance. They want to turn it on. Do x, y, and z. Then turn it off. They don’t care how it works, but they may care that it has a trendy brand name. Most geeks never really understand or get this. I consider myself a geek and I get it, but then I spent part of my geek career working for ad/marketing firms so I was immersed in these realities.

    The majority of Linux users I’ve met fall into one or both of these two catagories: übergeeks and/or broke:

    Übergeeks: They’re using Linux because they get great geek “street cred” to do so and they’re idea of a fun Friday night is tweaking config files and trying out different X window managers. This is why I call it a hobby OS. It appeals to people that enjoy having an OS to mess with. (Sort of like those people that are in their garage every Sunday night twisting wrenches on their car. Not because their car is broken, but because they like to twist wrenches on cars.) There’s, of course, nothing wrong with this. So long as they realize they’re always going to be a small minority of desktop computer users.

    Broke: They use Linux because it’s free. They’ll give you all of these well-prepared speeches on the glories of open source software and other such apologetics, but at the end of the day Linux is the ‘ramen noodles’ (or ‘government cheese’ if you prefer) of operating systems. They use it because they don’t have the cash (or don’t want to spend the cash) for Windows and Office or the Apple-branded hardware that OS X demands. The teenage and college crowd typically falls into this group.

    The real thing that bugs me above all else with Linux users is their zealousness and evangelism. They just can’t seem to wrap their head around, “How about you use whatever desktop OS you like to use and let everyone else use whatever desktop OS they like to use and just shut the hell up about it.” Maybe somebody actually likes using IE and Office on Windows.

    Apple and Microsoft are going to do whatever they can to seize as much market share as possible and generate as much profit as possible. They’re a corporation in a capitalistic economic system and so they’re obligated to their shareholders to do just that. A for profit business exists to make money, pure and simple.

    Myself, I found a -nix based desktop OS that works well for me. It’s called Mac OS X and it does everything I need it to do and does it in a manner that I like. YMMV.

  8. > The real thing that bugs me above all else with Linux users is their zealousness and evangelism. They just can’t seem to wrap their head around, “How about you use whatever desktop OS you like to use and let everyone else use whatever desktop OS they like to use and just shut the hell up about it.” Maybe somebody actually likes using IE and Office on Windows.

    I’m sure most aren’t like that; you just notice those who are. People in mould of Stallman, as opposed to Torvalds.

  9. No, Chad speaks the truth. I’ve noticed the zealots myself, as has Ray. Perhaps most Linuxen aren’t zealots, but enough are that they become the vocal minority. Even Ubuntu, the most “normal” of all Linux, often has geeks ruling the forums, making those who don’t intuitively GROK the OS feel stupid. Those geeks are the same as the ones who produce charts proving FF users are smarter than IE users. Trust the Register to print that bit of “news”.

  10. Jim wrote: “Whenever I got to India I stay at the transit hotel at the Singapore Airport. Beneath the glass covered desktop there’s a little card pointing toward Mecca. I always move it a few degrees.. :p”

    Don’t get caught! They have a fairly strict sense of “justice” in Singapore.

  11. Well, sure, the vocal minority always gets noticed. My own experience in the seven years I’ve been using Linux exclusively is that that minority is a very small minority. Of course, my view may be biased by the fact that about 99% of the help I’ve gotten has been from Brian Bilbrey, Greg Lincoln, and Ron Morse, all of whom are very nice and patient guys. And another part of that may be that I try to find a solution myself by searching the web before I post a question on a forum. I think it goes a long way toward avoiding nasty responses if the questioner makes clear that he’s tried to find a solution and tried this, that, and the other thing with no joy. Then, when he asks the question, experts understand that he really has tried himself, and they’re much more likely to respond helpfully.

    Also, I note that over the years no one–and I mean no one–who’s complained about nasty responses on the forums has ever bothered to buy a support contract from Ubuntu. In my opinion, the free help one can get for Linux is miles ahead of the free help that Microsoft provides for Windows. In either case, if you’re really helpless, you’ll probably need to pay to get help.

    I do disagree about Linux being for hobbyists and geeks only. My Linux skills are about like the average Windows user’s Windows skills, which is to say almost nil. I use Linux because it just works. Same thing with OOo, which does everything I need to do and does so reliably. In fact, I went to OOo before I migrated to Linux, because I got sick of Word corrupting my documents.

  12. Myself, I found a -nix based desktop OS that works well for me. It’s called Mac OS X and it does everything I need it to do and does it in a manner that I like. YMMV.

    Too many horror stories posted here in the past by Ray(?) about the nasty things OS/X has done to permanently trash files.

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