Monthly Archives: July 2012

Wall Street Journal opinion page editors = stoned college freshmen?

This morning Ars Technica called my attention to an incredibly ill informed Wall Street Journal opinion piece trying to downplay or eliminate the government’s role in creating the Internet. In making his argument, the author makes the mistake of conflating Ethernet and the Internet. My problem with the piece goes deeper than that, as I explain in a comment I made on the Wall Street Journal’s Site

The Internet isn’t the same thing as Ethernet. L. Gordon Crovitz’s failure to understand the distinction undermines the point he is trying to make, but in the end that doesn’t matter, because this piece isn’t journalism. It doesn’t even rise to the level of the editorial page of a high school newspaper. It is little more than stoned adolescent fantasy. Its the sort of silly stuff stoned college freshmen waste hours on in their dorm rooms when they should be doing their history reading.

 

The Internet is a complex phenomenon. It is the result of interactions between other complex phenomenon. It is ridiculous to argue that it would have come about if one of the major forces present at its inception, gestation, and early maturation had never existed.

 

The Federal government provided substantial funding, staff, facilities and strategic direction for the development the Internet and ancestors. Federal grants and state funding flowed to the public and private universities that developed the Internet. Federal and state money underwrote Internet access for undergraduates across disciplines which helped demonstrate and generate demand for commercial Internet access. Federal, state and local regulation helped create a regulatory environment that allowed the earliest dial-up internet service providers to take hold, and enabled the BBS systems that proceeded many of them. And lets not forget the importance of Moore’s Law. We wouldn’t have the Internet we have today if we didn’t have cheap semiconductors and integrated circuits, and we wouldn’t have had those things if the federal government hadn’t helped kindle the semiconductor industry with piles of defense money until it got to the point where it could be self-sustaining.

 

Those are just some of the highlights of how government was an essential factor in the creation of the Internet. Perhaps it could have happened without the government’s involvement, but it didn’t. If L. Gordon Crovitz and the WSJ are going to convincingly argue for an alternate reality, you are going to have a much better command of the facts of reality than L. Gordon Crovitz and the Wall Street Journal’s editors have demonstrated.

 

Time to put away the bong, boys and get serious because understanding the difference between Ethernet and the Internet is just the start. Or perhaps its time for the rest of us to stop taking the WSJ seriously and read it like we’d read an overdue history essay from a stoned college freshman.

I’m quite forgiving of stoned college freshmen (been there, done that), but as long as the Wall Street Journal is still treated like more than just another sleazy Rupert Murdoch tabloid, I’m going pretend it should be held to higher standard.

The Best Cheap Tablet Doesn’t Exist?

The Wirecutter reviews the options and finds that Google’s new Nexus 7 is the best cheap tablet. Along the way, they don’t make a very convincing case for why you’d actually want to spend $200 on one. They do, however, accidentally make an excellent case for why someone would want the rumored, hypothetical, cheaper, smaller version of the Apple iPad.

Apple’s Tim Cook Mr. Popular at retreat of media execs.

The¬†NYTimes¬†reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook has a very busy schedule of private meetings with media company executives at the Allen Co. conference in Sun Valley this week. It’s a reminder of how far Google and Amazon have to go withtheir digital media strategies.

I don’t think media companies love Apple; consider all they did in trying to beat back Apple’s dominance in distribution of digital music, and realize that there is more of that to come with movies, TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. Even so, they can’t afford to ignore Apple, and they sure as hell don’t trust Google or Amazon either?

But her they are, already doing a good business selling their wares through iTunes in dozens of countries, eager for face time with Tim Cook to hear about and influence Apple’s plans, while Google and Amazon are still trying to secure enough content to start selling a full range of downloadable and streamable digital media beyond the US. Right now Apple’s addressable market for media oriented hardware and content has to be 2-3x as large as either Google’s or Amazon’s, and their penetration of that larger market is much deeper as as well.

My problem with “ink” on the iPad and other tablets

I’ve been making a point of trying to depend on paper less by relying on my iPad more. I purchased a Wacom Bamboo stylus to making inking/drawing easier, and using it with a few different apps.

The experiment has been instructive, but frustrating. I think the iPad’s overall utility is much higher as a result of Apple’s decision not to design around the use of a stylus, but one result is that the iPad is much worse for drawing/inking that one would hope. Apps deal imperfectly with my strong desire to rest my wrist on the screen, and, more frustratingly, the drawing precision is quite poor compared to my favorite fine-tipped pen on paper.

These issues had me considering whether a tablet with a high-precision radio-frequency drawing surface, like a Microsoft Surface tablet, or certain Android tablets would be a better paper substitute. I think they probably would be better, but I realize that they are unlikely to be sufficient. One of the best things about paper is that I can make a quick sketch on a sheet of paper and then refer to that sketch as I make a revision. That way of working isn’t going to be practical on a tablet, because the screen is too small to display the old sketch while creating a new one, and I can’t “tear-off” the screen.

Of course, it all comes down to tradeoffs. With a tablet, I have the ability to revise a sketch in-place without suffocating on eraser rubbings, but that’s not useful in every situation. A tablet makes it practical to have portable archive of old sketches that I can access from anywhere.

For now though, I think I’m best off with my pen and paper. I can always take a photo if I want a copy online.