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After thinking and reading about it more last night, I decided to write a little more about what is in my opinion the most interesting new feature of iOS: Apple allowing AdBlockers. The consequences are much further reaching than one might initially realize and here’s why: it’s all part of the Big Fruit’s plan to control you! That’s right, I said it!
Let me explain. When the internet was first envisioned and designed, it was all about standards; HTTP for instance allowed anyone with a standards compliant browser to access the same information, without the need for a proprietary program, while still allowing much flexibility in the consumption of the device. Laptops or desktops of ANY brand could access ANY information and service. What a glorious concept, and it worked amazingly well too. When new form factors came to be, all the needed was an Internet Browser and the world was at their disposal. It’s kind of a like a standard formulation for gasoline or motor oil: any car that sticks to the standards can run on fuel from any brand.
And then Apple had a great idea: let’s not cooperate with all other tech companies in expanding capabilities of the standards (HTML5 etc.), but create our own infrastructure. Let’s try to provide as much functionality on our platform that can NOT be used on another, and the App Store was born. Of course simplicity was its main selling point and on that front it certainly delivered. If you can only buy gasoline from one brand, your choice of where to pump becomes a lot simpler doesn’t it? Never mind that that first iPhone didn’t do half the shit others did at the time, it was moron proof and anyone can figure out how to point at what he or she wants. All of a sudden, Apple was in the middle of almost everything you do, controlling just about every aspect.
Of course the rest of the tech world wasn’t gonna sit by idly and kept developing. Google jump on the App bandwagon and created its own proprietary world, as people all over sang the praises of simplicity! At the same time, forward thinking engineers all over the world pressed on improving standardized protocols and methods, in the original spirit of the internet, but most businesses put way more effort into developing Apps for the big two platforms, than into creating a portal that can be universally accessed. You see, for super high-performance things like games, there’s no way around getting native optimized applications, but there are many many examples in which we the people would have been much better off with a proper website.
So where are we now? 8 years after the introduction of iPhone, more than 80% of smartphones in the world run Android, Apple is below %15 and Windows Phone, arguably the most elegant and modern is stuck in single digits, with miserable app support! With all this bitching about ‘the man’ keeping the little guy down, this time we’ve clearly done it to ourselves! You can buy a perfectly modern Lumia for under $100, but we’ve gimped its capabilities by supporting Apple, and now it’s about to get worse.
You see, allowing AdBlockers is a direct attack on Google, which makes its money from ads, but it also hurts the companies doing the advertising. Who would pay money for serving a message that doesn’t get delivered? So what is the solution? Forget about advertising on the web, make an App for the iPhone, because that’s where the AdBlockers don’t work! In turn that leads to less development for the World Wide Web, which leads to less functionality for possible new competitors until they ‘catch up’ in the app department, or exactly what the original inventors of the internet tried to prevent!
As I write this I’m just amazed at how quickly this is already coming to a head. The path towards this was laid out while ago, and the oddest thing is how quickly Apple has turned into the bad guys from 1984 they so famously warned us for! The bottom line is that proprietary stuff is something that should be avoided as much as possible. Apple has already proven repeatedly it often bets on the wrong horse (G5 cpu anyone? Firewire? 3.5 inch screens?) and now we find people invested in that eco-system limiting themselves because they’re trapped; and it’s only starting…..
No more lowercase i necessary, Apple will now bring you the pencil! It’s so amazing, it doesn’t even need an eraser! Never mind that Jobs said that if something has a stylus, they didn’t make it right. Never mind that artists want to use industry standard apps like Photoshop (which runs on the Surface Pro beautifully I might add), we’re making them learn new ones! Even though Microsoft has already shown it’s certainly possible to run a desktop-strength OS on a truly mobile device, the big Fruit is doubling down on insisting iOS the the way to go; exactly as I have predicted by the way. So while Windows users can now utilize Premiere Pro, Sibelius and Pro Tools in their world, Apple customers are still learning new programs and enduring a wildly different experience at home than on the road. Oh right, Apple makes things easier for us……….
Anyway, I’m tired of regurgitating the same points; there was one thing, largely overlooked by most, that was, in my opinion, the big bomb shell dropped during that latest Big Reveal. You see, Apple will now allow Ad Blockers for mobile Safari in the App store! I’m still amazed at how many people are to this day not aware of their existence on desktop browsers, but, as I’ve written about on these pages before a few times, in my world it’s hard to venture onto the Internet without them. The benefits are clear: not only do they remove all that utterly distracting visual litter, they also reduce the load on your machine and your connection, sometimes dramatically so. Most web pages themselves consist of little more than text, and it’s the circus of ads that takes all the processing power (Flash anyone?) and bandwidth. Especially on older/slower computers it can make the difference between owning a paper weight or a functional machine believe it or not. For that very reason alone, I believe the makers of this crap deserve the hard time they’re about to get….
But what could this seemingly small change of policy mean? Amazingly enough, it was a Dutch show that prompted me to write all this. In DWDD, regular Alexander Klopping was invited to discuss this topic, because this is a show run by people who recognize the value of quality newspapers and journalism, and understand the current way we finance it. We need to collectively, for the greater good, support rabid investigation, independent and unrelenting, on ALL subjects, even the ones we might not personally be interested in. We can leave it up to commerce, the American way, because the ‘free market’ will ‘automatically’ weed out the weak players. But with Fox News as the flagship result for such a policy, there’s no need to explain how that’s a bad idea….
One thing is very interesting: getting a printed paper with a full subscription does not necessarily cost more than not getting one. That’s strange no? It’s a LOT of paper and delivery added on! So I wonder: are there ads in the digital version? I bet there are, but since they are so easy to defeat, advertisers pay less, am I right?
Now let’s do some math: according to Wikipedia the New York Times had 2013 revenue of almost $1.6 Billion. All digital access costs $455 per subscriber per year, so it would take 35 million people go all digital, assuming costs stay the same. They would probably go down if no print was necessary, plus keep in mind: this is without needing any advertisements, with all revenue coming for subscriptions. This means no need for the infrastructure of selling ads, a much leaner company even less susceptible to outside influences! Or, it would take 100 million people paying $3 a week…… or, if I can really dream, what if American collectively decide it’s worth turning into a national asset: for $5 per citizen in tax per year, it could be run! Sounds like a great deal to me.
Speaking of great deals: as I watched the great reveal of the 6S Plus, all I could think of was Zenfone 2 $199, 6S Plus $749…… $199 versus $749…… even if the prices were reversed, I’d still prefer the Asus, but that’s because of my specific needs. There’s just no reasonable justification for spending almost 4 x’s the money unless you’re wealthy, and that’s the problem. Buying something to achieve some status, when you really can barely afford it in the first place doesn’t make you look good, it makes you look stupid. Put that Zenfone 2 next to a 5S and you know what I mean!
Is this day and age of fear and paranoia, fewer and fewer of us are seeing the negative side of our obsession with safety. How could you ever be too safe? Well, today in an article in the NYT, there was a perfect example of what can happen when you are, although specifically this is about the ‘behavior’ of a car….
Quite possibly the most dangerous thing in our everyday lives is driving: more than 35,000 people die every year in the US alone in a car accident and after years of decline, fatalities are on the rise again. Google has been testing fully autonomous vehicles for quite some time now, and they have logged more than a million miles driven without causing a crash! They’ve been hit by others, but it was always the human’s fault. It’s really incredible how advanced these machines are, navigating not only the insanely complex physical world we call home, but also reacting to and even anticipating the behavior of the humans doing the same. But sometimes the rules don’t solve all the problems one encounters on the road! The New York Times writes:
“Google’s fleet of autonomous test cars is programmed to follow the letter of the law. But it can be tough to get around if you are a stickler for the rules. One Google car, in a test in 2009, couldn’t get through a four-way stop because its sensors kept waiting for other (human) drivers to stop completely and let it go. The human drivers kept inching forward, looking for the advantage — paralyzing Google’s robot.”
How funnny! You see it happening to people too: old ladies that really are too afraid to be driving, waiting, waiting, waiting……… The right of way HAS to be taken, a certain amount of ‘aggression’ is necessary to navigate reality where the ‘rules’ sometimes are treated as nothing more than suggestions.
As a daily bicyclist in L.A., the land of the car, I’m somewhat of an anomaly, although less and less these days. Many drivers will cross WAY into the opposite lane of traffic to leave insane buffer zones while passing me, some stop in the most ludicrous spots, for NO apparent reason other than panic, the fear of colliding with a bike. I would say a couple of times a year I find myself in a dangerous situation because of someone else’s action in trying to ‘be safe’.
I highly suggest watching the movie “Surrogates“. It describes a future in which people have decided the real world is too dangerous to go out into, but of course ‘experiencing’ it is the definition of living, so they come up with a system of artificial humanoids through which one can live vicariously. Staying home, all kinds of sensors in the surrogate relay sensations back to your system which allows you to feel everything as if you were there……
Here’s one for all the musicians out there looking to use Windows instead of iOS or Android: you can now run (just about) all your favorite apps from Android on a Surface or other tablet! I installed Bluestacks last night on my Dell XPS 18 and it works better than I expected. My go-to app for Jazz charts has been iRealB Pro and it works amazingly with this combo, including downloading charts from the forums directly, transposing music and even running the practice backup tracks with bass, piano and drums! What’s more, when I plugged a USB cable from my Kronos in, the sound started coming through the mains of that synth! After some tweaking, I was able to run it in a 4×3 aspect ratio window, enable tablet interface for iRealB so I could see the list and search box to the left, and the full chart to the right, with more than enough room to keep an iPad sized PDF on the right half of the XPS. Just KILLER…..
Even more amazing, games work excellently too. It was so cool to see Angry Birds 2 on an 18.5″ screen and still play it with a touch interface. Performance was excellent, although loading times seemed ever so long. I was able to install the Amazon App store, Google Play and all the apps I’ve paid for on both platforms. Amazingly, Bluestacks is completely free!
So, do you think Apple would ever allow this? Instead, they are supposedly releasing the iPad Pro, an, undoubtedly exorbitantly priced, King Size version of the gimped platform that’s been losing market share rapidly in the tablet world. No OSX because they stubbornly stick to the path laid out a long time ago by the “visionary” Jobs, the man who declared that 3.5″ is the perfect smartphone screen size. As a matter of fact, OSX still doesn’t even have touch support at all, as Microsoft perfects that combo of full usability with an overlay of simplified touch control that gets better every time. I can run Sibelius on my pad; I do not have to buy and learn yet another piece of software, just because of some arbitrary decision to separate form factors into incompatible OSs.
For an ecosystem that is supposed to be the easiest, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it’s exactly what I’ve been predicting would happen. The iPhone is getting more behind in functionality with every generation and as Apple struggles to catch up, it pays the price for its lack of forward thinking, having to add on functionality that wasn’t envisioned, leading to instability and unpredictable code! iOS 8 was already a bug fest, with more crashing and app incompatibilities than any version before and 9 will be worse, mark my words. And that’s with breaking compatibility for apps that are not that old!
On OSX the same thing is happening: when I hear my Mac-head friends talk amongst each other, they often discuss how a new version of OSX does not support the relatively new version of Protools or other DAW. It’s pathetic, when you realize that the newest version of Sonar works on Windows XP from 13 years ago, and I can still install software from the 1990’s on Windows 10.
It’s been called a game changer sight unseen, not in the least by me! And you know what? After using it for a few days I’m convinced it deserves to be. No it’s not perfect, but nothing is, not even that fancy iPhone 6 Plus, and this wonder of tech does a lot that that piece, at almost FOUR times mind you, the price doesn’t!
There are plenty of places on the web to read up on the boring details: 1080P screen, 2GB of RAM (double what the iPhone 6+ has!), 13MP camera, modern quad core SOC. The screen is somewhat dimmer than the latest and greatest, but trust me, it looks excellent! It runs Android 5 with Asus’ software, called Zen UI, on top. I was worried about that, as many manufacturers really overdo it and I prefer the esthetics of plain Android, but I have to say: Asus did a fine job actually! And it’s doing lots of software updates, improving this thing with every version. Some of the earlier reviews complained of bad pictures, but the camera has seen MAJOR improvements and the ‘low light’ mode is brilliant!
I did install the Google Now launcher, but am using Asus’ email, contacts and calendar apps. They’re excellent! One of the great things about Android is that you can choose your default apps of course, unlike in the land of the Fruit. Another awesome thing right out of the box: this thing supports recording your calls! It’s built right in to the dialer! Voice recognition is beyond excellent, although speaker is not the best. It’s fine, but I have heard better. USB OTG: works like a dream, just plug in a USB stick or HD and use the File Manager App that comes with phone, just like you would on a regular computer. It evens allows me to access my shared drives on my main machine through Wifi.
Here’s another awesome feature: this phone supports dual SIM cards! As I moved my home line to an AT&T mobile, and my main line is on T-Mobile, I can now be connected to two separate providers. Each SIM is individually controllable too, although only the first can provide data connectivity. You can text and call through either though.
All in all, the Zenfone 2 is an incredible deal. Even its construction, while not top-of-the-line milled aluminum, is fine; it feels great in the hand, and does not flex. It always cracks me up when people who sing the praises of the mighty iPhone and its fancy materials, cover it up in some ugly case; cause they can’t afford to buy a new one if they break it! Like the grandma, who put plastic over her good couch, they probably made fun of.
Zenfone 2 runs all software I tried as fast as anything I’ve seen, and even though the GPU might not be the fastest, every game I’ve tried runs perfectly smooth, including GTA. The quad core CPU ATOM in here IS as fast as anything out there and makes it a joy to use. All in all, this thing is better than I had even hoped and all those three-and-a-half star reviews out there are, in my opinion, wrong. It might warrant that rating if it were $750 like the iP6+, but for $199??? This is better than 5 star material baby!
This morning I dropped by beloved little Moto G and the screen shattered….. ;-(…..that’s never happened to me before and it didn’t even land on concrete, it just hit right on a corner. Well, it only cost me $180 and lasted 15 months. As a matter of fact, it still seems to work fine underneath the spider web of glass, and replacements are only $6. Might get it fixed, but I decided to just order a Zenfone 2! Just like originally announced and unlike the rumors that popped up, the $200 model does come with the 5.5″ 1080P screen, 2GB of RAM and a quad core Atom CPU. In addition, it supports dual SIM cards which brings me to my next point.
As some of you know, I switched my cellphone number to T-Mobile a little while ago, from the AT&T network I used for years. After using it for six months or so, I can certainly say that I took a step back in coverage, although when the signal is good, I get way higher data speeds now. My boss has T-mobile too, Dave has Verizon so we’ve been able to really see the differences and Big Red does have an advantage. For instance, in Panama City, FL, Russ and I could not even make a call, in the airport! Mind you, it’s one with only 6 gates or so, but still. Overall, reception is just fine, here in L.A. it’s excellent, and at my house better than AT&T, and sometimes even Verizon let’s us down. Now, I ported my home phone number to a GoPhone and now I will be able to put both sims in my new phone, effectively giving me access to TWO cellular networks on one device!
Right now, I’m in the process of porting it over to H2O, a reseller that uses AT&T’s network, which will give me 500MB of LTE data, plus unlimited calling, (international) texting and even at monthly $10 credit for calling internationally, for….wait for it……$27 per month including all taxes and fees! I was paying $34 a month for my landline, with no long-distance, not even voicemail or call-waiting.
So, I ordered the $199 Asus Zenfone 2 which should arrive Thursday. For $299 shipped, you can get the version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but either can take a microSD card, so the smaller one is more than good enough for me. I’ve been making due with 8GB for the last year and a half. It’s pretty incredible I’m about to get a modern phone, with higher resolution, double the RAM for a quarter of the price of an iPhone 6+! Keep ya posted!
Many, many people talk about the government “printing money”, but very few understand what that even means. I’m not going to pretend that I know all the ins and outs, but I’ve tried to get to the facts at lot more than most and it’s certainly not as simple as many think. One of those is that major inflation has NOT resulted, at least yet, as predicted by so many from the rounds of Quantitative Easing by the US government since the Great Recession. The Federal reserve held $800 Billion in treasury notes before beginning to buy more at the end of 2008; by June 2010 that figure had grown to $2.1 Trillion. As of October 2014 the amount was $4.5 Trillion. As far as the possible effects go, I think Wikipedia has a very fair and balanced explanation:
Quantitative easing may cause higher inflation than desired if the amount of easing required is overestimated and too much money is created by the purchase of liquid assets. On the other hand, QE can fail to spur demand if banks remain reluctant to lend money to businesses and households. Even then, QE can still ease the process of deleveraging as it lowers yields. However, there is a time lag between monetary growth and inflation; inflationary pressures associated with money growth from QE could build before the central bank acts to counter them. Inflationary risks are mitigated if the system’s economy outgrows the pace of the increase of the money supply from the easing. If production in an economy increases because of the increased money supply, the value of a unit of currency may also increase, even though there is more currency available. For example, if a nation’s economy were to spur a significant increase in output at a rate at least as high as the amount of debt monetized, the inflationary pressures would be equalized. This can only happen if member banks actually lend the excess money out instead of hoarding the extra cash. During times of high economic output, the central bank always has the option of restoring reserves to higher levels through raising interest rates or other means, effectively reversing the easing steps taken.
Increasing the money supply tends to depreciate a country’s exchange rates relative to other currencies, through the mechanism of the interest rate. Lower interest rates lead to a capital outflow from a country, thereby reducing foreign demand for a country’s money, leading to a weaker currency. This feature of QE directly benefits exporters living in the country performing QE, as well as debtors, since the interest rate has fallen, meaning there is less money to be repaid. However, it directly harms creditors as they earn less money from lower interest rates. Devaluation of a currency also directly harms importers, as the cost of imported goods is inflated by the devaluation of the currency.
The bottom line is that it’s a very involved and complicated process and that oversimplified statements about it should be dismissed! It does NOT automatically mean devaluation of you currency! Money is the oil of the economic engine and sometimes you need more oil to keep the motor running smoothly! I’m not saying the Fed did everything right, the end result is not known yet, but all the Monday Morning Quarterbacks I hear bitching about it are getting on my nerves.
A couple of nights ago, I was listening to some talk radio on the way home from a gig, and a seemingly very knowledgeable woman came on to talk about all of this. When the subject became infrastructure, she started making even more sense. Where has all this QE money gone? Well, the Fed buys bonds from so-called “Primary Broker-Dealers” of the NY Fed, according to their own site:
Bank of Nova Scotia, New York Agency, BMO Capital Markets Corp., BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Barclays Capital Inc., Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Daiwa Capital Markets America Inc., Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman, Sachs & Co., HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., Jefferies LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, Mizuho Securities USA Inc., Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, Nomura Securities International, Inc., RBC Capital Markets, LLC, RBS Securities Inc., SG Americas Securities, LLC, TD Securities (USA) LLC, UBS Securities LLC.
These organizations sell bonds to the Fed, and funnel the money into the real economy, so it ends up in all kinds of areas. The woman on the radio had a suggestion: if there is another round of QE, invest directly in infrastructure programs! Bridges, roads, telecom….. You know, it’s our money, and putting it there has two great effects: improving our land, and putting cash in the hands of people who will spend it, instead of adding it to a stash of dough just sitting in a bank account. In a way it’s a miracle that this hasn’t really happened yet as America’s bridges crumble!
The other day I watched a debate between Bernie Saunders and Rand Paul that might have shown a glimpse of the problem we have in Washington. It was about a bill to make sure that seniors in the US have proper nutrition. Saunders explained that there are many who are in full-time institutions because they can’t feed themselves, which could be prevented with far simpler methods, like daily checkup at home by someone. Paul responds by saying “Only in Washington can someone suggest we can save money by spending!”. Even when Saunders responds with factual examples, the mindless rhetoric from the ‘right’ continues. It’s exactly such short-sighted thinking that is bringing us down in my opinion. Rand Paul asks why, if spending $2 Billion saves us money, why don’t we spend $20 Billion and save even more, is there no limit?! Mister Saunders answers: the limit is when seniors don’t go hungry. How is it possible we have such numbskulls ‘representing’ people?
That’s it, there will never be another Tuesday night Jam at Cafe Cordiale. As a matter of fact, after this Sunday’s final show, there will be no more Cafe Cordiale. It’s hard to believe, especially when you saw how incredibly busy it was last night, that this scene will cease to exist. In typical fashion, with a house packed to capacity, at 12:30 the lights came on and everybody was asked to leave….. only in the land of the idiot will a business owner squander such an amazing opportunity to make some money. I guess Peter and his family made enough already off the backs of broke musicians to retire comfortably!