The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2015-05-13T13:46:57-04:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Let’s all chill out about the iPad sales numbers Nic Lindh 2015-05-13T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/ipad-with-case.jpg" /></p> <p>In its <a href="">second quarter 2015 report</a>, Apple revealed that iPad sales <a href="">are decreasing</a>. This naturally caused much gnashing of teeth in the Apple blogosphere. Is iPad a failure? Will Apple cancel the product?</p> <p>But if you think about it a little, comparisons to iPhone (of which Apple sold astronomical amounts) aren&rsquo;t useful or fair. </p> <p>iPhone sales are special in that carrier subsidies are making people upgrade more than normal, especially in the States, and your phone is a very intimate piece of technology that gets used hard every day, so at the end of a two-year contract, the device is usually pretty banged up. </p> <p>Not to mention the tragedy of broken screens.</p> <p>iPad on the other hand is usually used around the house or office and takes less of a beating.</p> <p>But most importantly, Apple still supports all but the original iPad with software updates. Is iOS 8 a bit pokey on older iPads? Yes, it sure is. Which hurts nerds, who are often super sensitive to lag, whereas &ldquo;normal&rdquo; humans tend to not really care when their devices are a bit slow. For the things most people do with iPad—Web surfing, email, social media, second screen, and reading long-form—it&rsquo;s acceptable for most people.</p> <p>Again, this is unlike nerds, who grind their molars every time Safari reloads a tab.</p> <p>I ride a commuter bus to work together with other office drones, and am always looking at how people are using their devices. Obviously I can&rsquo;t read the text on people&rsquo;s screens, but I can see if people are on Facebook or texting or playing games. (And can report it&rsquo;s been a while since I saw Candy Crush, so yay humanity!) </p> <p>In this completely unscientific study of other members of the disappearing middle class who happen to ride the same bus as me, there&rsquo;s about a 50-50 split between iPhones and Android phones, with the Android phones skewing to phablets, but the few tablets I see are all iPads (and a few e-ink Kindles)—I&rsquo;ve yet to notice an Android tablet. </p> <p>The thing that continues to amaze me is <em>how tolerant people are of lag</em>.</p> <p>And Android phones tend to have intolerable amounts of lag, especially when scrolling. Go-stop-go-go-stop-go-go-stop.</p> <p>The other day I watched a middle-aged woman playing a Breakout clone on her Samsung phablet and it lagged enough for me to want to throw the thing out the window just watching her play. <em>It&rsquo;s a twitch game! And it lags!</em> But she seemed unperturbed.</p> <p>Non-nerds are lucky they don&rsquo;t see or just don&rsquo;t care about device slowness—it saves them a lot of money.</p> <p>Knowing all this, it makes sense for iPads to be on the same upgrade cycle as laptops. People will upgrade their iPad when it breaks or there&rsquo;s an app they really want that they can&rsquo;t get. Until that happens, every new version of iOS makes it a bit more sluggish, but so what?</p> <p>And the things people do on their iPads are often the exact same things they would have used a laptop for. Turns out, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just a big iPhone&rdquo; is genius—once somebody is comfortable with their iPhone and their laptop implodes, why not spend the same or less money than a new POS laptop would cost on an iPad that they know how to use? It&rsquo;s a safe bet, there&rsquo;s almost no learning curve, and they&rsquo;ll have to spend just as much time administrating their iPad as they do their iPhone—basically none.</p> <p>If you view iPad a laptop replacement, it makes sense for volumes to be lower and replacement cycles longer. We will find out if this thesis holds water soon, if Apple stops supporting the iPad 2s with iOS 9, as seems likely. If so, there should be a pickup in sales as they&rsquo;re replaced.</p> <p>Putting on my nerd cap, I really wish Apple would get more aggressive about differentiating the iPad from a software perspective and make more out of the form factor, but keeping it a large iPhone is probably a much better path for the masses. And remember, Apple is interested in making mass-market products, not nerd toys.</p> <p>As an aside when it comes to tablets in general, the few non-iPads I see in the wild, while anecdata, speak to the troubles Google are having in that space. Don&rsquo;t know if it&rsquo;s chicken or egg, but the one thing that grabs me every time I use my own Nexus 7 is how few Android apps are optimized for tablets and how perfunctory most of those adaptations are. As an example, look at Twitter. Their Android app is terrible in general and full-on insulting on a tablet.</p> <p>For people who want a light-duty laptop replacement, iPad will continue to fill a need. A smaller-volume need than iPhone, sure, but a real need.</p> Tech terms you might be misusing Nic Lindh 2015-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 <p>For people who break out in hives when people misuse &ldquo;fewer&rdquo; and &ldquo;less,&rdquo; there&rsquo;s a decidedly cavalier attitude to technical terms in mainstream media.</p> <p>Here are a few terms that seem particularly confusing to people who make their living from gathering and transmitting information to the masses, people who should really want to understand how to use terms correctly.</p> <h3>Download versus upload</h3> <p>Downloading something from the Internet means to copy it from a server somewhere on the Internet to your computer. Uploading means to copy something from your computer to a server on the Internet. Think of your computer as being below the Internet on an org chart.</p> <p>You pull things down to your computer and push them up to the Internet.</p> <p>This is important for two reasons: 1) Get it wrong and you show you have no credibility when it comes to writing about technology; and 2) Nobody has been fined for downloading music or movies from the Internet. None people. People have been fined for making movies or music available for upload to the Internet—for making it possible for other people on the Internet to download the files. Which is a very different thing.</p> <p>Imagine your computer dangling below the Internet in the org chart of life and you&rsquo;ll get it right.</p> <h3>Write a blog versus write a blog post</h3> <p>Just as nobody sane would say they wrote a newspaper or that they wrote a magazine, nobody should say they wrote a blog. </p> <p>A blog is one entity and the individual articles are called posts. So you wrote a blog post. Just like you wrote a story for a newspaper or an article for a magazine, you wrote a blog <em>post</em> if you&rsquo;re referring to an individual piece of content.</p> <h3>Hack</h3> <p>Hack is one of those words that have many meanings, but when you say somebody hacked a computer usually what you mean is that person gained unauthorized access to a computer or network of computers.</p> <p>Usually this means the attacker has downloaded proprietary information, like in <a href="">the Sony hack</a>.</p> <p>A denial of service attack, on the other hand, is <em>not</em> a hack. A denial of service attack means unleashing a flood of malicious requests at a site, taking it offline. Which means the Web server is inaccessible, but does <em>not</em> mean there was any unauthorized access. (The denial of service attack <em>could</em> be used to trigger a vulnerability that then allows the attacker to get access, but that is less common and is certainly not implied.) </p> <p>So when a site goes down from a denial of service attack, that is not the same thing as the site being hacked.</p> <p>Also, if somebody leaves their phone unlocked at a bar while they go to the bathroom and you post a &ldquo;funny&rdquo; Facebook update while they&rsquo;re gone, you didn&rsquo;t hack their phone. You&rsquo;re just a terrible person and you should think about your values.</p> <p>For technical people, hack also means jerry-rigging a solution to a problem, as in &ldquo;This is really hacky, but we&rsquo;ll clean it up in the next version.&rdquo; Be aware when talking to technical people or reading tech sites that this usage is very common.</p> <h3>&ldquo;Logging in&rdquo;</h3> <p>Logging in to a computer means providing your credentials through a challenge-response system. Usually this means a user name and password. </p> <p>When you visit a website you usually don&rsquo;t log in. You just visit the site. If the site requires a user name and password to access, then, yes, you have indeed logged in to the site. Otherwise, you&rsquo;re just visiting the site. </p> <p>So please stop teasing your site in your newscasts by saying, &ldquo;Log in to our site at; There is no challenge-response. You are using words wrong. </p> <p>If you&rsquo;re a journalist you should care about using words correctly and not wanting to have to understand technology is not a valid excuse.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand it so it can&rsquo;t be important&rdquo; is not a great attitude.</p> Book roundup, part 18 Nic Lindh 2015-04-11T00:00:00-04:00 <p>For this installment of the book roundup there&rsquo;s not as much new reading as usual to talk about as I&rsquo;ve been binge-re-reading Terry Pratchett&rsquo;s Discworld novels since his passing and mourning the loss of one of the best humanity can produce. </p> <p>Rest in peace, Sir Terry.</p> <h2>Non-fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=aasif%2Bmandvi&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1423021629">No Land&rsquo;s Man, by Aasif Mandvi</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Witty, funny, and touching about being born in India, having a childhood in North England, adolescence in Florida, and living his adult life in New York City.</p> <p>Mandvi is witty and interesting and writes with great warmth about his experiences. It&rsquo;s a nice, short, pick-me-up book that will put a smile on your face and make you want to see Mandvi perform on a stage.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=idiot%2Bamerica&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1428802882">Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles Pierce</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Veteran journalist Pierce is very, very angry about the state of political discourse in America today. He&rsquo;s also a great crafter of prose, with scalpel-like observations that keep <em>Idiot America</em> from being just an angry rant on a blog somewhere. </p> <p>Pierce recounts the great history of cranks and snake-oil salesmen in America and how that history has now morphed into a media landscape based on what he calls the three Great Premises:</p> <blockquote> <p>Since right-wing populism has at its heart an “anti-elitist” distrust of expertise, talk radio offers the purest example of the Three Great Premises at work. A host is not judged a success by his command of the issues, but purely by whether what he says moves the ratings needle. (First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units.) If the needle moves enough, then the host is adjudged an expert (Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough) and, if the host seems to argue passionately enough, then what he is saying is judged to be true simply because of how many people are listening to him say it (Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it).</p> </blockquote> <p><em>Idiot America</em> succeeds in making you smile while you want to beat something into a bloody pulp.</p> <p>Required reading.</p> <h2>Fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=something%2Bcoming%2Bthrough&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1427845483)">Something Coming Through, by Paul McAuley</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Interesting near-future sci-fi after first contact with aliens who come to Earth and open up wormholes to 15 worlds, worlds the mysterious aliens encourage and help humans colonize. </p> <p>These same aliens have previously helped many other species, dubbed Elder Cultures, colonize the same 15 worlds and their incomprehensible ruins are scattered across the new planets.</p> <p>But humanity&rsquo;s benefactors remain unknowable, revealing themselves only through avatars that scrupulously keep to their main talking point of &ldquo;only wanting to help.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>Something Coming Through</em> does a great job of marrying the massive shock to humanity brought by the arrival of the mysterious aliens and the human capacity for adapting so that while there&rsquo;s a huge transformation of life on Earth, most people are still going through their ordinary lives and remain in their ordinary head spaces.</p> <p>Well written and with a plot that moves well, it was a bit of a slog to get through at times, with too much plot that didn&rsquo;t carry the story forward. Some judicious and merciless editing would make this novel one of the best of the year.</p> <p>Nevertheless, <em>Something Coming Through</em> is an interesting and enjoyable exercise.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=connelly%2Bburning%2Broom&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1419795553">The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Harry Bosch is a detective in the Cold Case unit of the LAPD, technically past mandatory retirement age, but doggedly working to bring closure to old cases.</p> <p><em>The Burning Room</em> finds author Connelly extremely comfortable with his creation and the novel putters along in the usual Harry Bosch fashion. </p> <p>It&rsquo;s not bad, but not special either, mostly following familiar groves. If you&rsquo;re a fan of the Harry Bosch series you&rsquo;ll like it, but most of its weight comes from familiarity with the character&rsquo;s journey. If you&rsquo;re the kind of lucky person who hasn&rsquo;t made Bosch&rsquo;s acquaintance yet, start with <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=the%2Bblack%2Becho&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1428803172">The Black Echo</a></em> and enjoy one of the best American detective series put to page.</p> <h3><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The Rivers of London series follows Peter Grant, a young London policeman who is brought into the supernatural division of the force and is trained to be a magician. The series is fueled by a strong and touching story arc that often overshadows the events in individual novels.</p> <p>This is the fifth installment in the series and is a good continuation. </p> <p><em>Foxglove Summer</em> has our hero visiting the English countryside to help the local police make sense of the disappearance of two young girls.</p> <p>Turns out, surprise, there are supernatural forces at work.</p> <p>The novel is fun and fast, the plot moving at a good clip, but it does little to advance the overall story arc of the series and with Grant away from his usual patch it feels more like an interlude than anything else.</p> <p>But if you&rsquo;re a fan of the series, definitely pick it up. If you haven&rsquo;t made Grant&rsquo;s acquaintance yet, start at the beginning with <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Midnight Riot</a></em> and enjoy.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=dark%2Bdefiles&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1428701504">The Dark Defiles, by Richard K Morgan</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Land Fit for Heroes is a trilogy about a broken, strange world which incorporates and subverts most &ldquo;regular&rdquo; fantasy tropes and centers on three protagonists: An openly gay (and despised for it) master warrior, a black alien race half-breed with a drug problem (who is also gay but female so it&rsquo;s not as much of a problem in the world), and a mongol horde-equivalent steppe warrior.</p> <p><em>The Dark Defiles</em> is the grim, feverish finale to the trilogy begun in <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">The Steel Remains</a></em> and wraps up many but certainly not all the mysteries of the series. Firmly in grimdark territory, Morgan&rsquo;s characters are scheming, sweaty, soiled, trying to make their way through everything a broken world can throw at them.</p> <p>I respect the subversion of fantasy tropes Morgan is aiming for here, but spent a lot of the series feeling like he&rsquo;s gone too far in the unlikeable-hero and stuff-is-strange directions, with large portions feeling like nothing so much as unpleasant fever dreams.</p> <p>If you enjoy your fantasy grim, Land Fit for Heroes is worth a clenched-jaw visit.</p> BlueBuds X and Jabra Revo Bluetooth headsets review Nic Lindh 2015-03-14T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/revo-and-bluebuds.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Jabra Revo and BlueBuds X with Apple EarPods for scale.</i></p> <p>Bluetooth headsets are rapidly becoming the way to fly, doing away with annoyances like having to <em>shudder</em> have wires connecting your headphones to your stereo. </p> <p>I&rsquo;ve used both the <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=electronics&amp;keywords=jabra%2Brevo&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1426387295">Jabra Revo</a> and <a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=electronics&amp;keywords=bluebuds%2Bx&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1426387336">JayBird BlueBuds X</a> for several months and they&rsquo;re both good for their intended purposes but have drawbacks.</p> <p>By their very nature of having to provide their own power, Bluetooth headphones add annoyances like having to remember to charge your headphones or you will indeed have a quiet and boring workout session. For myself I always make sure to top the BlueBuds off before each session—life&rsquo;s too short to stress about your headphones dying in the middle of a workout.</p> <p>The <a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=electronics&amp;keywords=bluebuds%2Bx&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1426387336">BlueBuds X</a> and the <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=electronics&amp;keywords=jabra%2Brevo&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1426387295">Revos</a> share, obviously, their lack of wires, but also the use of pleasant female voices to tell you when they are connected and disconnected as well as fairly odd interface schemes.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s being with the BlueBuds, which solve a real, albeit first-world, problem: Wires are annoying when you&rsquo;re working out. Less of a problem when you&rsquo;re on the couch, but at the gym or running, ugh, wires, amirite?</p> <p>Though no matter whether you&rsquo;re looking to rock out at the gym or you want to walk around your house listening to tunes without wires, you have to deal with the &ldquo;interesting&rdquo; control schemes on both these headphones.</p> <p>On the BlueBuds, you have to accept that the standard up volume, down volume, double-click to forward scheme has been transformed into, well, something. </p> <p>I, personally, can&rsquo;t understand it, whatever it is. And it involves volume up or down beeping. Seriously, I know you caught the click when you turned down the volume. I didn&rsquo;t need to hear a <em>beep</em> to know that. And the double-click, well, I don&rsquo;t know what the hell is happening there. I just want it to skip forward, but it doesn&rsquo;t. It&rsquo;s weird.</p> <p>The Revos, on the other hand, have this whole odd future thing going on where you can swipe on the right can to change the volume and click different locations to forward or backward.</p> <p><em>Sigh</em>. It&rsquo;s not good. Unless perhaps if you have way better eye to hand coordination than I do. It&rsquo;s a lot of moving your finger in the general area and guessing and cursing and wishing you were better at guessing where your finger is.</p> <p>The BlueBuds are tiny little things and you have a bit of an arts and crafts project ahead of you when you first take them out of the box. Since they&rsquo;re in-ears you need to find your tip size and since they come with flaps, or wings, if you prefer, that need to be fitted to your ears.</p> <p>After you find your size, you have to adjust the strap—through a pretty cunning mechanism—so it&rsquo;s snug against your head. Do not half-ass this step or you will be very unhappy in downward dog. Or so I&rsquo;ve heard.</p> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve gone through the setup, what you have is a set of headphones that, though a little bit of a pain to put on, will stay snug through pretty strenuous workouts and that sound &hellip; decent. The BlueBuds do sound <em>much</em> better than the Apple EarPods and are impressive for their size, but the bass is lacking for any anthems you want to crank at the gym to push yourself.</p> <p>But if you don&rsquo;t enjoy the bass you&rsquo;ll find them good. I&rsquo;m hoping the next generation will find some way to get more solid bass.</p> <p>Note that the set in the picture above have been fitted with <a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Comply S-500 tips</a>, which makes them sit better in the ears—an option I recommend, but note that fitting the tips on the BlueBuds will involve some <em>determined</em> pushing.</p> <p>The Jabra Revos, on the other hand, have a much more substantial size which gets you much longer battery life and an almost ridiculous amount of bass. The Revos are tuned for earthquake. Personally, I&rsquo;m a simple man and I do enjoy the bass, so it&rsquo;s not a problem, but if you like your headphones flat the Revos will probably annoy you.</p> <p>(Incidentally, why, oh freaking why, does iOS <em>still</em> not have a system-wide equalizer? <em>Shakes fist in general direction of Cupertino.</em> People listen to audio a lot on these devices&hellip;)</p> <p>Speaking of annoyances, one thing I haven&rsquo;t seen mentioned in any reviews is that Bluetooth is highly susceptible to microwave interference so every time I&rsquo;m cooking dinner and have to warm something in the microwave I find myself a little sad as the Revos start cutting out unless I go into a corner as far away from the microwave oven as possible until it&rsquo;s done.</p> <p>Note also that the Bluetooth stack in iOS (in my case an iPhone 6) does have a tendency to blow a gasket once in a while, leading to intermittent audio dropouts until you reboot the phone or turn Bluetooth off and on. It&rsquo;s happened on both these products, but strangely never on my car stereo. <em>Shrug</em>.</p> <p>Looks like <a href=";noredirect=1">&ldquo;Did you try turning it off and on again&rdquo;</a> will stay in the IT professional arsenal for a long time.</p> <p><strong>Final thoughts:</strong> The BlueBuds are excellent for exercising. The sound is a little weaker than I&rsquo;d like for the money, but acceptable, and the Revos are great <em>if</em> you can stomach a lot of bass. Cutting the headphone cords is a huge upgrade and it does seem inevitable this is the way of the future.</p> <p>Oh, and speaking of future, the Revos have power-up and power-down sounds that make my inner 12-year-old happy every time I use them.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The product links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which is greatly appreciated.</p> Naked root domain with Amazon S3 without using Route 53 Nic Lindh 2015-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 <p><img src="/images/memtest.jpg" /></p> <p><strong>This took me way too long to figure out, so I hope this post will save you some time.</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re the kind of cool cat who uses a <a href="">static site generator like Jekyll for your site</a> you&rsquo;re probably also the kind of cool person who wants to put your static site on <a href="">Amazon&rsquo;s S3</a> so you don&rsquo;t have to worry about a traffic spike taking your site down or your site getting hacked.</p> <p>But if you&rsquo;re like me you also want the site to use the apex domain, a.k.a. root domain, a.k.a. naked domain, that is, the site itself like instead of </p> <p><em>Cough</em> hipster <em>cough</em>.</p> <p>For technical reasons based in the history of the <a href="">DNS system</a> and how S3 (and platforms like <a href="">Heroku</a>) works, this is surprisingly difficult. </p> <p>Amazon, not being idiots, have solved this problem with their <a href="">Route 53</a> DNS service. But what if you don&rsquo;t want to use Route 53?</p> <p>It looks grim, since Route 53 have figured out what is essentially a hack of the DNS system and one that&rsquo;s mostly of use to them. Why would anybody else support this?</p> <p>From a technical standpoint the issue is that the domain name system expects the naked domain, or if you want to use the technical term, the apex domain (which sounds like a pretty cool band name) to be set up to resolve to an IP address but Amazon&rsquo;s S3 (and Heroku) does its own domain name resolution so there is no IP address to resolve to.</p> <p><em>Bother.</em></p> <p>But more and more domain name hosts are figuring out how to replicate this feat, and the one I recommend is <a href="">Cloudflare</a>. If you put your domain behind Cloudflare (which I&rsquo;ve been doing for years for the <a href="">Content Delivery Network</a> functionality and the hack protection they provide), they support what they call <a href="">CNAME flattening</a>, which means they support naked domains for things like Amazon S3 and <a href="">Heroku</a>. Which is awesome. And free.</p> <p>Incidentally, as I said, I&rsquo;ve used Cloudflare for years and am continually amazed that their base level service is free. Seriously? A free <a href="">CDN</a>? That&rsquo;s very cool but kind of nutty.</p> <p>So why not just use Route 53? This goes into a much bigger post about <a href="">Amazon Web Services</a>. A lot of companies are building their businesses on top of AWS and are very happy with it, but the thing with AWS is that it&rsquo;s incredibly flexible and that flexibility inevitably leads to complexity. AWS has a massive learning curve. </p> <p>S3 is sort of an outlier in the AWS eco system in that it&rsquo;s very straightforward: You create a bucket, you put files in the bucket, people can see the files. Boom. Simple. The rest of the AWS system is very much not so simple, including Route 53.</p> <p>Route 53 lets you do all kinds of very cool things with the DNS system, but if all you want to do is put up a simple static site for your business you&rsquo;ll get a headache real quick.</p> <p>Cloudflare keeps it simple.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s so great you can put your static site on S3 and have an apex domain point to it and not have to worry about any kind of server maintenance and upkeep. <em>It&rsquo;s very future.</em></p> Say hello to Brimful Podcast Nic Lindh 2015-03-01T00:00:00-05:00 <div style="float: right; padding: 10px;"> <img src="/images/operator-square-612.jpg" alt="Brimful Podcast logo" class="img-responsive" width="300" /> </div> <p>I love podcasting. I&rsquo;ve loved it since the days when listening to a podcast in the car meant burning it to a CD and loading the CD into the player in your dashboard. </p> <p>Dark days, those were. </p> <p>Podcasts have almost completely replaced radio and have provided me so many hours of enjoyment. Apart from the convenience of selecting from a smorgasbord of content at whatever time of my choosing, the <em>huge</em> leap is the breadth of content that&rsquo;s become available, content that&rsquo;s free from the economics of lowest-common denominator broadcasting. </p> <p>Whatever obscure thing you&rsquo;re into, there&rsquo;s somebody out there who&rsquo;s into it <em>more</em> and is talking into a microphone about it for you to listen to for free. This is truly a beautiful thing.</p> <p>And now I have my own. <em>Pinky finger to lip, maniacal laughter.</em></p> <p><a href="">Brimful Podcast</a> is a commute-length weekly podcast where I explain any technology in the news that week. The impetus for the show was my long-standing frustration with the inept way mainstream media covers technology and a desire to set the record straight. </p> <p>Hence Brimful Podcast. </p> <p>On weeks where technology hasn&rsquo;t been that visible in the news, I explain the technologies that are all around us every day and that most people don&rsquo;t know about, much less think about.</p> <p>Please take a minute to <a href="">check out Brimful on iTunes</a> and <a href="">visit the site</a>.</p> <p>And since I&rsquo;m quite the marketing maven, <a href="">the podcast even has its own Twitter account</a>.</p> <p>Do check it out and I hope you enjoy! Feedback is of course welcome.</p> Another shot of wet socks against net neutrality Nic Lindh 2015-02-20T00:00:00-05:00 <p>Last Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, my hometown paper The Arizona Republic printed an <a href="">amazingly harebrained editorial arguing against net neutrality</a>, which I contested on <a href="">this blog</a>.</p> <p>But it seems net neutrality is a big enough talking point for the GOP these days that they had to go back to the well once again with <a href="">Why Phoenix needs ultra-fast Internet</a>.</p> <p>Here&rsquo;s the sub head: &ldquo;Our View: Fears that rich corporations will rule the Internet are best answered by building a bigger pipeline.&rdquo;</p> <p>And boy howdy, it goes full histrionic against net neutrality:</p> <blockquote> <p>In nearly all respects, this planned regulatory scheme is a radical and destructive proposition. By enacting industry controls designed in the 1930s to regulate railroads, the FCC drastically would refashion the most dynamic engine of wealth creation of this generation into… a utility. A federally controlled tool shaped according to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats.</p> <p>This plan for so-called &ldquo;net neutrality&rdquo; is a myopic, investment-stifling solution in search of a problem in all but one theoretical respect:</p> <p>Especially in the residential market, the Internet pipeline as it exists today is too narrow, too short on bandwidth. Absent infrastructure improvements, in the not-too-distant future, the question of how to accommodate all the video-saturated uses planned for the Internet will stop being merely theoretical.</p> </blockquote> <p>&ldquo;A federally controlled tool shaped according to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats&rdquo; most certainly deserves a golf clap: fitting &ldquo;federal&rdquo;, &ldquo;tool&rdquo;, &ldquo;politicians&rdquo; and &ldquo;bureaucrats&rdquo; into that short of a sentence really should win you some sort of Tea Party Scrabble prize.</p> <p>So, good job.</p> <p>Unfortunately the premise of this editorial is completely wrong, as anybody who has paid any amount of attention to the Internet well knows.</p> <p>The problem is <em>not</em>, most emphatically <em>not</em> that there isn&rsquo;t enough capacity on the Internet. The problem is that the carriers want to be able to extract blackmail money from innovative content creators to not slow down their content.</p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how to put it more bluntly.</p> <p>Speed increases are great—personally I can&rsquo;t wait to see the things an order of magnitude higher Internet speeds will make possible and what companies will emerge from that shift. But speed increases will not take away the threat of carriers throttling content creators. And as speeds increase, the sizes of the content that gets pushed across the Internet also increases.</p> <p>A history lesson: In 1991 I downloaded the shareware game Solaris. It was (I think—it was a long time ago, obviously) about 600 kilobytes. It took <em>eight hours</em> to download. Which was worth it—it was an awesome game. Today the average home page is three times that size and pops onto your phone in less than a second. That&rsquo;s called progress.</p> <p>So, Republic editorial board, it&rsquo;s not a matter of increase the speed and then the problem goes away. Once the speed increases, the size of the content goes up. It always goes up. And the pathetic groveling for Google to magically come in and solve The Problems in the Name of the Market goes against the reality that the carrier market—or lack thereof—<em>is</em> the problem.</p> <p>Google is pushing Google Fiber to force the incumbent carriers to up their game because the current market is <em>not</em> a market—it&rsquo;s a monopoly or duopoly and Google is trying to disrupt it. How one huge company fighting the entrenched interests of an existing market means that the invisible hand of the market is working is difficult to comprehend. </p> Against net neutrality Nic Lindh 2015-02-17T00:00:00-05:00 <p>This morning The Arizona Republic published an editorial with <a href="">one of the worst arguments against net neutrality to ever waste innocent ink.</a></p> <p>Take it away, editorial board:</p> <blockquote> <p>Turning control of the Internet over to the FCC is an invitation to bring to a thudding halt the creative destruction that has marked the Internet from its outset.</p> <p>The changes wrought through a free, open, mostly unregulated Internet have been monumental, all in service to a ubiquitous, dynamic electronic web that evolves before our eyes.</p> <p>What part of that tidal flow of change might an Internet-controlling FCC impede in the name of lawyerly &ldquo;fairness&rdquo;? The spread of ultra-fast Google fiber? Wearable technology? Both those nascent innovations tread on someone&rsquo;s sense of fairness.</p> </blockquote> <p>Read those few short sentences again carefully—they are works of art when it comes to obfuscation. In those sentences, the editorial board manages to conflate two separate things not once but twice in a haze of purple prose.</p> <p>First, they mix up the <em>content</em> delivered through the Internet and the <em>distribution</em> of that content. Which is either so ignorant that you can only marvel at the arrogance of sitting down and writing a strongly worded opinion about something you don&rsquo;t understand or, more likely, a grossly cynical attempt at swaying the opinions of people who lack the grasp of basic technology by willfully lying to them.</p> <p>Second, the word &ldquo;fairness&rdquo; has two meanings which, again, are conflated. There&rsquo;s the actual meaning in this context, that of the content not being altered through things like artificial slow lanes, and the second an emotional response to perceived injustice.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m pretty sure the editorial board knows what they&rsquo;re doing by mixing those meanings, making people think the big bad government is getting involved in decreeing what is fair and what is not. (Can you smell the lurching liberal oppression?)</p> <p>The only thing <a href="">net neutrality</a> is concerned with is that the pipes don&rsquo;t mess with the content. No matter what the content is and where it&rsquo;s coming from. <em>There could not be less of a value judgment.</em></p> <p>Golf clap for managing to sneak that piece of sleight of hand in there, I suppose.</p> <p>If you haven&rsquo;t been paying attention to net neutrality and don&rsquo;t understand why I&rsquo;m getting all bent out of shape about what is one of the most important issues facing America, huge expanses of the Internet can&rsquo;t wait to inform you. <a href="">This is a good place to start</a>.</p> As the rage rages in the Tea Party’s rage Nic Lindh 2015-02-08T00:00:00-05:00 <p><img src="/images/american-flag.jpg" /></p> <p>Like a lot of rational people I&rsquo;m continually baffled by the far right and especially the complete lack of reality they display: <em>Lower taxes are always better for the economy! Sharia law in Detroit and Paris! Women can shut down pregnancy from legitimate rape!</em></p> <p>Facts simply do not matter.</p> <p>Paul Krugman, a man who has put in more time in the trenches than most, recently wrote in the NYT <a href=";emc=rss&amp;_r=0">about this issue</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>And the list goes on. On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk. If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.</p> </blockquote> <p>The rage is especially interesting. Go watch pictures from any Tea Party rally and you&rsquo;ll see a lot of older white people who are spectacularly angry. </p> <p>As they should be, if they were correct. If the things they believe were actually based in reality, their entire way of life would be under constant siege from gays, queers, hippies, immigrants and Muslims who have all joined in a slavering zombie horde with the sole purpose of eradicating God-fearing real Americans.</p> <p>Visit <a href=""></a> and you&rsquo;ll see an endless parade of debunkings of far-right Facebook posts and mass emails about Sharia law being enacted, troops denied service, and on and on.</p> <p>The big question, though, when reading the stories and seeing the videos is why anybody would choose to live that way? It must be a <em>terrible</em> way to live. Always angry, always looking over your shoulder, always afraid, always convinced of the near-collapse of civilization.</p> <p>And it is a choice, make no mistake. No matter where you live and what circles you travel, it&rsquo;s your choice if you want to spend your time eating TV-dinners in front of Fox News, never ever googling any outré statements they make. Your choice to scowl at the guy with the turban behind the counter at the Circle K, watching his hands for any sudden Muslim moves as he rings up your slurpee. Your choice to look at a newspaper and smugly dismiss what it says as &ldquo;lamestream media&rdquo; without even glancing down at your phone long enough to do a casual search for the validity of the claim. </p> <p>You have the same Internet as everybody else and you have access to most of the written history of Western civilization. </p> <p>But no.</p> <p>For whatever reason, and it&rsquo;s one I have a hard time fathoming, a large fringe of Americans are making the choice to live in a mental state of siege, convinced disaster is looming and only hyper-vigilance will save society from ruin.</p> <p>Why would you do that? Why would you choose to doom yourself to a life of anger, frustration, fear and futility?</p> <p>There are so many real issues we should be coming together as a society to address, but instead … rage.</p> Death Traps and Fury Nic Lindh 2015-01-30T00:00:00-05:00 <p><img src="/images/fury-wallpaper-4.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Credit: Fury Movie</i></p> <p>There have been lots of strong, gritty World War II movies that do their best to show you the horror of that conflict, like <em>Saving Private Ryan</em>, <em>Flags of Our Fathers</em> and the German <em>Das Boot</em> and <em>Stalingrad</em>. All brutal and unrelenting.</p> <p>But <em>Fury</em> is grimmer.</p> <p>It does have problems as a movie: The characters never become more than sketches—and mostly unlikeable sketches at that—and the plot is thin and unimaginative, relying on plenty of the tropes of the genre. And of course having your face rubbed in the horror of war isn&rsquo;t what anybody would call enjoyable.</p> <p>But it&rsquo;s technically solid, with the most intense battle scenes since <em>Saving Private Ryan</em>. Watching it, I thought the take-away (apart from war being really freaking loud) was that the Germans kept fighting long after they by any rights should have stopped and that <a href="">the M4 Sherman tank was a poor tank</a>. </p> <p>But <a href="">the Wikipedia article on the film</a> mentions it was inspired by <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=death%2Btraps&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1422660817"><em>Death Traps</em>, the autobiography of maintenance company officer Belton Y Cooper</a>.</p> <p>If you read <em>Death Traps</em> you understand the tone of the movie as well as why the eponymous tank is named Fury. The M4 medium tank was not just bad: It was a literal death trap for the crews manning it, so poorly armored it stood little chance against German tanks and German anti-tank weaponry. </p> <p>M4 losses were appalling, but thanks to industrial might the American army were mostly able to replace or repair the machinery. This lead to a lack of tank crews so severe that replacement infantry soldiers were sometimes given a day of training before being thrown into battle against veteran German forces. Naturally, this was a recipe for disaster.</p> <p>The obvious question is, why would the army of the nation with the strongest industrial base of the conflict go to war with such an inferior battle tank?</p> <p>Turns out the M4 was designed by committee to satisfy several incompatible goals (all the following blockquotes are from <em>Death Traps</em>):</p> <blockquote> <p>The armored and cavalry officers favored a large-caliber, high-velocity antitank gun mounted in the turret. The infantry officers still thought of the tank as an infantry assault weapon. The artillery officers thought that if a tank was going to carry a gun larger than a 37mm, the gun should conform to artillery specifications, which required a gun to be capable of 7,500 service rounds in combat. To meet this, a 75mm gun and larger would require a relatively low velocity. It apparently never occurred to the artillery officers that few tanks would ever survive in combat long enough to fire 7,500 service rounds.</p> </blockquote> <p>When battle tested it was obvious the tank could not take on German armor. But the great tank general Patton decided <em>that didn&rsquo;t matter</em>. Here&rsquo;s what Cooper has to say about Patton&rsquo;s decision favoring the M4 over the heavier, <a href="">better-armored M26</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>He said that the tanks of an armored division were not supposed to fight other tanks but bypass them if possible and attack enemy objectives to the rear. [&hellip;] Patton felt that because the M4 tank was lighter and required less fuel than the M26, it would be faster and more agile and was better equipped to perform the mission of the armored divisions.</p> <p>In an excellent argument that the M26 heavy tank should be used, General Rose [who was later killed in combat] and other field commanders resisted the higher-ranking Patton. The experiences in North Africa at Kasserine Pass and also in Sicily had convinced them of the superiority of German armor and the need for a heavy tank to offset it. However, Patton persisted in his view; he was not above a hassle. He insisted that we should downgrade the M26 heavy tank and concentrate on the M4.</p> <p>Patton’s rank and authority overwhelmed the resistance of the more experienced commanders, and the decision was made to concur with Patton’s view. SHAEF immediately notified Washington to deemphasize production of the M26 heavy tank and concentrate instead on the M4 medium tank. This turned out to be one of the most disastrous decisions of World War II, and its effect on the upcoming battle for Western Europe was catastrophic.</p> </blockquote> <p>Turned out the Germans did not care what U.S armored doctrine dictated and insisted on meeting the underpowered M4s head-to-head with superior tanks.</p> <p>The weakest point in the movie is the ultimate night battle with SS troops after Fury has been disabled—weak because the SS troops who were urgently headed for a different location would have simply gone around the tank rather than attack it over and over <em>from the front</em> while displaying Star Wars Storm Trooper shooting skills with their <a href="">Panzerfausts</a>—was based on a section of <em>Death Traps</em> in which a single and astonishingly bad-ass surviving tanker performed that same feat during an Allied advance:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the fighting around Hastenrath and Scherpenseel, the tankers, without adequate infantry support, performed almost superhuman acts of heroism to hold on throughout the night. It was reported that one of the tankers, in his tank on a road junction, was the only surviving member of his crew but was determined to hold his position at all costs.</p> <p>The lone tanker had previously sighted his 76mm tank gun down the middle of the road. He depressed the mechanism slightly and loaded a 76mm HE [high explosive—used against non-armored targets]. As the Germans advanced in parallel columns along each side of the road, he fired. The HE shell hit the ground about 150 feet in front of the tank and ricocheted to a height of about 3 feet before it exploded.</p> <p>The shock took the Germans completely by surprise. The American tanker continued to fire all the HE he had as rapidly as possible, swinging the turret around to spray the German infantry, who were trying to escape into the fields on both sides of the highway. Loading and firing the gun by himself was extremely difficult, because he had to cross to the other side of the gun to load and then come back to the gunner’s position to fire.</p> <p>After exhausting his HE and .30-caliber ammunition, he opened the turret and swung the .50 caliber around on the ring mount and opened fire again. He continued firing until all of his .50-caliber ammunition was exhausted, then he grabbed a .45 submachine gun from the fighting compartment and opened fire with this. After using all the ammunition from his Thompson and his pistol, he dropped back in the turret and closed the hatch.</p> <p>He opened his box of hand grenades and grabbed one. When he heard German infantry climb onto the back of the tank, he pulled the pin, cracked the turret hatch slightly, and threw the grenade. It killed all the Germans on the back of the tank and those around it on the ground. He continued to do this until all of his hand grenades were gone; then he closed the hatch and secured it.</p> <p>By this time, the German infantry unit apparently decided to bypass the tank. From the vicious rate of firing, they must have assumed that they had run up on an entire reinforced roadblock. When our infantry arrived the next day, they found the brave young tanker still alive in his tank. The entire surrounding area was littered with German dead and wounded. This, to me, was one of the most courageous acts of individual heroism in World War II. </p> </blockquote> <p><em>Death Traps</em> was written to be a dispassionate account of Cooper&rsquo;s experiences, but it&rsquo;s obvious he was still seething with rage and resentment about the lives he saw wasted.</p> <p>Read it, then watch <em>Fury</em>. And be happy you&rsquo;re not in an M4.</p>