Blogs Dec 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm


Is there honestly a difference between being stupid and being uninterested? The effect seems the same in any situation.
When my sister got an Android phone, I helped install a bunch of really useful apps on it for her. If she got a Chrome Laptop, she's basically fucked.

Plus theres the fact that this is a based cloudOS, when you dont have an internet connection, its utterly useless.
Oh and if you think the system is going to be rock solid stable because your restricted from installing crap/dangerous apps? Think again!

Things will find a way to fuck up, even with a walled garden.

You'd think after how wrong so many pundits were about the iPad, they'd learn not to stick their foot in it so deep without waiting to see if there is a market for it.
@ #1

The adage goes:
What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?
I don't know, and I don't care.
@ #1

Of course there's a difference between being stupid and being uninterested. Are you an expert on absolutely everything you own? If your refrigerator breaks, can you fix it? What about your gas grill? Your TV? Can you tell me what the current model is for syntactic processing in the brain? Or the exact process a cell goes through when reproducing?

Probably not. That doesn't make you stupid. Everyone has certain things they're interested in, and certain things they're not. If we all tried to know the ins and outs of every piece of technology in our lives or the specifics of every field of study, we'd go crazy. So people learn everything about what they're interested in, and learn how to use the things they're not interested in, and the can be perfectly functional people. That doesn't make them stupid.
@1: Yes, they are the same. Anyone who drives a car without understanding why the manufacturer specified that particular gap for the sparkplugs is a complete idiot. Obviously.

Well given that the iPhone is still selling strong, a bigger iPod makes sense. I think most of the haters (im one of them) balked at the price. Galaxy S doest impress me, I can get the same thing for 250$ on Ebay. Then again, every desktop PC ive ever owned was one I built myself.

Amen, brother. Your point is one that needs to be made more often, and more forcefully.
@2, 3 - Modern browsers can store offline data, so it's not true that it will be useless without an internet connection. Less useful, for sure, but clearly Google is aiming this for a world where people have a pretty ubiquitous connection. Because that's not quite the case now doesn't mean it's a bad strategy.

And of course all systems will have problems, but crashes are mostly abstracted away, too. App crashes on the iPhone, for example, aren't all that intrusive, and that's by design. An app crashes, you launch it again. Typically takes a matter of seconds. There are no cryptic error messages.
I get really excited about computers. I use a mac, but I have parallels, so I simultaneously run mac, windows, ported linux apps via X11 and unported apps via a virtual machine. I draft batch processes with perl, and use a crontab to send myself reminder emails.

All that being true - I just don't give a shit about my phone. I want it to make calls, receive calls, browse the web, check my email and play cribbage. I have a G2 with Android, and I know I could root it and change the annoying screen timeout, but I just don't care enough about the phone. I would rather just know that absolutely every time my wife calls, my phone will ring.

And I would rather spend my free tech time bug-chasing for mozilla.
Anthony is right.

I have one friend who has a whole rack of computers in his basement, all of which he built himself. I think of him a super geek. I have no doubt he'd build a phone himself, if that is possible. He is not stupid. He'd probably hate Chrome, and its restrictions.

My father is a retired architect/engineer. All he wants a computer to do is web browsing, email, and the occasional letter. That's it. No games. No programming. No spreadsheets. He doesn't own a cell phone, and doesn't want one. He is not stupid by any measure. He just isn't interested, nor does he have any need, for a lot of technology.

I haven't spent any time looking at Chrome, but I'm sure it would probably be perfectly adequate for his needs. Why should he be required to spend a bunch of money on a complex powerful computer that he doesn't need?
I don't like the concept of "cloud computing" for one simple reason - your data is not under your absolute control. If all your files are sitting on a server out in Kentucky, then how do you know if someone that is not you is accessing it? I don't trust that when Republicans are in power they won't just decide they should see your files (to make sure your not a terrorist, of course). And the Democrats will probably hand over your data to the Republicans if they threaten to call them commies. Best to just keep your data in your own hands. But if you're stupid, then go right ahead.
OK, Anthony, I am going to play devil's advocate. Iran, people got killed for twittering about protesting. A cloud OS can instantly give all of your data to whatever central server they want as soon as you log in. It's like having a yahoo email account.
What's the problem? There are profound implications for democracy. Apple's creepy and opaque requirements for what can be in their store give any thinking person pause, as does the complete inability to install an adblocker program. Open source software is a huge step toward democracy, and the principles behind it are worth suffering for. At least a little bit.
@6, @7: But what's the functional difference? In the end, what's the difference between not knowing something because you're stupid and not knowing something because you don't care about it?
@16 The difference is that in one, you're stupid, and one, you don't care. The functional difference is that people who bitch about walled gardens claim that everyone who has a different opinion is a general idiot because they don't care about computers.

If you don't know something because you don't care, you just don't know that thing. If you don't know something because you're an idiot, you're an idiot always.
@16 - You're presupposing that we *should* care; that caring about computers is necessary and de facto a good thing. I would argue that that isn't the case. Pro cyclists can't take their bikes apart. That's why they have mechanics. Are the cyclists stupid because they don't know how to fix the bikes? Or are the mechanics stupid because they don't know how to race them?

Either way, I think you're question is stupid, fwiw.
What we need is legislative protection that makes it possible for us to not care, so we can just treat the computer like another gadget that some specialist knows how to fix and go about our lives. The fact is that yes, cloud computing and the centralization of data is a threat to privacy and intrusive information harvesting by governments and corporations, but a few simple laws could make this a non-issue.
Oh oh oh oh let's nerd fight about operating systems! This can totally end well. To summarize for people who won't read it, you wouldn't buy a car with a hood wielded shut, why would you buy an iPhone you can't install programs on, or any computer you couldn't program on? Moreover to your point, it gives me hope that consumers would be so stupid as to buy a car with a wielded shut hood, it's job security for me, but if the person buying the phone wanted my opinion? I'm not going to lie just so that in the hypothetical future I might make a few more dollars.

I think using the car analogy with computers is an awesome one, I've used it before several times. If we're going to assume the, change your own oil/tires manual driver is some kind of computer guy, you can probably compare that to a geek squad employee. The hardware inside the computer, while relevant, has become so astronomically large that it's really no longer about just having a machine, but what you can make that machine can do for you. It's like the difference between a car and driver that will get you to New York, and another that will barely get you on the freeway and you wonder how they turned it on. If the user doesn't know how to drive it, it's just a giant paperweight.

"Real" computer users, the everyday pick up the cell phone to marvel at how amazing text messages are kinda of user, don't care about what's under the hood, but what makes computers so different from cars is that with cars, you're always allowed to open the hood, and make changes, look around, check the hoses, where's the equivalent in computers? You can't open up an iPhone and go, hey look at the processors go, and trouble shoot your problem. When the check engine light on the iPhone goes off, where do you plug it in to get a vague code as to what it thinks the problem is (they should aspire to more, but I'm really going with this car thing)?

It's unmistakable that there's a market for people who just want say, facebook applications, but in my experience you could put a users facebook profile on a large pile of shit, and they're still going to love it because there's a facebook profile. Capturing a market of people willing to buy anything for a moment of happiness isn't news, and it isn't a relevant item as far as I'm concerned. I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit of an asshole when it comes to buying electronics, if I'm not allowed, or am locked out of, changing the item I just spent hundreds of dollars on, or they force me to spend even more money to buy a program to where I can maybe create applications for it if they approve of them. If you don't want my opinion, don't ask for it, but the majority of electronics out there? Including my own phone that I hate? Are pretty much all shit that you'll one day soon throw in a landfill. Is the iPhone 8 out yet? Can it finally send picture messages?
Meh...I don't have an iPhone because Apple is overpriced, AT&T sucks ass and Apple censors the apps available based on content.

You're not stupid if you buy something that meets your needs at a fair price.

You are stupid if you throw money at the newest shiny gadget without learning what its strengths and weaknesses are and how it stacks up against the competition. That's not analogous to knowing how to replace the transmission in your car, by the way.

On that basis, I'd say that people who buy this aren't necessarily stupid. OTOH, based on the same criteria, people who buy an iPhone probably are.

Flame on, motherfuckers.

That questions makes you sound stupid.
Mental note: this Anthony Hecht guy is smart and reasonable!
I don't care. This is boring. This is stupid. Do you have a girlfriend?

Oh, hell! iTunes just ate my hard drive.

Help! Will you fix my computer?

Microsoft Bob was ahead its time it seems.
Anthony (and Paul), that's all well and good, but it comes down to this: either you can administer your computer, or you can let someone else do it. And experience has proven that if someone else (Apple, MS, Google, whomever) does it, they're gonna do it primarily in *their* interest (with tracking, censorship, etc.), and secondarily in your interest. You choose. Just sayin'.
I agree with those who point out that there are privacy and "control of data" issues with cloud computing. I personally wouldn't be comfortable keeping my stuff *only* in the cloud, though I am comfortable keeping copies (backups, etc) of stuff in the cloud. A ChromeOS computer (or an iPhone, etc.) would never be my only device, and I would never (yet) trust the cloud with primary data. But that's what's great about digital stuff - it costs me next to nothing to have multiple copies in multiple locations.

@15 - Does Wal-Mart's control over what can be in their store give you pause? It's their store, they can sell (or not sell) what they want. There's no democratic principle that says you should be able to buy anything you want by whatever means you want.

@26 - Apple doesn't administer my iPhone. I administer it. Without jailbreaking (which is easy), I'm limited as to what I can do, but that doesn't mean Apple is in control of my specific phone.
@27: Fair point. I guess my concern about Apple's control comes from worrying about their market share. I'm concerned that we're going to transition over to a more closed system for accessing teh interwebs, that instead of using my PC's browser to spam up Slog with comments, I'll use an app bought through iTunes. What if iTunes doesn't approve of The Stranger's content? What if Safari is too clunky (I know: it's a stretch) to access Slog, because that's convenient for Apple?

The underlying supposition of this is that we are using teh interwebs to serve as an important connector in a democracy. I think of the web as a neurotransmitter serving to communicate between disparate and unruly little neurons (you, me, Fnarf, 5280, Kim in Portland, for example) (but not Will in Seattle), and I think this is vitally important in a flattening world. I Skype my friends in Nicaragua, for example, and couldn't maintain a relationship with them very well using the technology of 20 years ago. We have seen that the web can be choked and used as a means to control information - China - and so anything that reeks of control raises my antennae of concern.

As it stands right now, I can't go to Sprawl-Mart and buy my weekly supply of Old Wimmums Take It Up The Nostril from Farm Animals porn, but I sure can find it on the internet. I think that's a good thing. Right now the internet in the west is unruly, messy, chaotic, and deeply democratic. That includes being susceptible to mob rule, a definite downside, but I much prefer it this way than Apple's way.

With time, hopefully, these worries will dance away on the wind like dandelion seeds, but in the interim I lean toward fretting about maintaining democracy. After all, it's we the people who stand to lose.

FWIW: I fucking love my iPod touch.
@28 - Totally agree. It should be noted, though, that with the notable exception of Flash content, Apple hasn't shown any desire to restrict web browsing in their products. They restrict apps, but they've been big supporters of the open web, including major contributions to the open-source engine that powers much of it (WebKit) and some amazing new JavaScript frameworks (SproutCore) used to make the web more powerful, and so on. Google is clearly very interested in advancing the state of the art on the web as well, all of which enables richer and more powerful free communication.

I take your point, though, that these companies could decide for competitive reasons of their own to stop supporting these technologies, and considering their combined market share, that could be trouble. FWIW, I don't think that's likely.
We're missing a couple of things here:

1. The reality is we've lost control of our data already. Look up what a "botnet" is and how enormous they are. How sure are you that the contents of your computer are private right now?

2. For ordinary people, the cloud will be a more reliable protector of their data than they are. Be honest now, if your laptop died today, how much could you retrieve from backups?

3. The real question is, what are the unintended consequences? I completely agree that it's fine not to be interested in how your computer works. But it's essential that the minority who does is *able* to know. These are the people who will create the next generation of life-changing gadgets. They won't have the freedom to do that if we end up living in a hermetically sealed ChromeOS monoculture.

I don't think that's an immediate danger, but if we're worried about ceding control to cloud operators it ought to be for the right reasons.
@30 - There's nothing about ChromeOS or iOS that prevents that enthusiast minority from being able to know how they work. You can create all kinds of apps for iOS that Apple would never agree to sell in their store. You can distribute them to the jailbreak community, if you like. You can get into the guts of the OS via jailbreaking, and the courts have already held this as perfectly legal. There's no less "freedom to tinker" on these platforms than there is on Windows. Microsoft doesn't endorse or provide instructions on digging into the core of the OS, but you can do it if you want. Same on these platforms. In fact, since these systems are built on open-source platforms (Darwin, Linux), you can do it more easily.

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