Shuttleworth on Patents

Will Goring, 29 Nov 2011

the biggest mistake microsoft made was to decide that patents would be an effective defence against new competitors

because that stops you from really innovating yourself

so Microsoft wasted most of a decade, thinking they could use patents to defend the castle.

Meanwhile, others were innovating for real.

– Mark Shuttleworth, IRC Q&Q

I’m pretty sure Microsoft wouldn’t see their patent portfolio as a mistake. Remember; that portfolio allows them to make more money out of Android than they do out of their own mobile OS, and that’s without having to do any of that tricky, expensive innovating

Otherwise, Shuttleworth absolutely nails how the patent system is broken and why that needs to change.

How To Get Me To Try Your Twitter Client

Will Goring, 09 Nov 2011

Support TweetMarker.

Seriously, that’s it.

OK, so why? You have to ask? I use twitter on four different devices (2 desktops, my phone and my iPad) most days, and I simply can’t be bothered scrolling through tweets I’ve already read. TweetMarker takes that pain away from me by allowing my various devices to sync my last read tweet. It’s simple and it works.

I’m not saying I’ll definitely use a twitter client just because it supports TweetMarker, but I am saying I won’t use one that doesn’t.

iOS, Security & Charlie Miller

Will Goring, 08 Nov 2011

In case you hadn’t heard, the security researcher Charlie Miller has had his iOS developer program access terminated after posting a malware proof of concept to the App Store. His response:

OMG, Apple just kicked me out of the iOS Developer program. That’s so rude!


That’s putting it mildly. Since then he’s found out that he’s also barred from re-entering the program for a year. Could have been worse I suppose; I wouldn’t have been astounded if it had turned out to be permanent.

The thing is, I don’t think this is just rude; I think it’s wrong. I know the internet is full of people shouting out that this was clearly against the terms of the App Store and that Charlie should have expected this response, but I’m sorry; I disagree. Well, partially. I guess he should have expected it, what with this being Apple and all, but just because it was predictable doesn’t mean it’s OK, and I feel their response was both disproportionate and, ultimately, unproductive.

The proportionality of Apple’s response isn’t really something with an objective measure; either you think they were justified or you don’t. My opinion is that, while I can understand Apple wanting to take a hard line on malware in the App Store, it wouldn’t kill them to take a slightly softer approach in a case like this, where they had been informed of the vulnerability, no malicious payload was in use, and it was an important disclosure of a security vulnerability. I’d have thought deleting the app in question and having a frank exchange with Charlie about Apple’s expectations in similar situations would have sufficed.

Not only would it have sat better with me morally, but it would have been a better outcome for everyone, Apple included. Their PR department might not like it when someone points out that their platform isn’t immune to malware, but it’s an important thing for end-users to know, and I guarantee that even the marketeers like it a lot more this way than they would if someone less scrupulous had found the exploit first and started using it maliciously in the wild.

Counter-Productive Anti-Piracy Measures

Will Goring, 05 Nov 2011

Eurogamer has posted an approving report about the anti-piracy measures in Bohemia Interactive’s new game, Take On Helicopters, and how, in one case they outed a pirate by having him post about its visual degradation on their support forum. That’s great if your goal is to make pirates look stupid, or if you think you earn some kind of kudos by sneakily getting them to effectively admit to you what they’ve done, or even if you just don’t like pirates and want to ruin their fun. But… are any of those really the goal of anti-piracy measures?

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John Gruber on Marco Arment on iPhone 4S Speed

Will Goring, 26 Oct 2011

I didn’t notice the speed increase.

– Marco Arment, Official in-depth review of the iPhone 4S

It’s easier to notice by going back to the no-S iPhone 4 for a few hours.

– John Gruber, Daring Fireball

While I don’t doubt for a minute that going back to the slightly slower device for a while is much more noticeable than going to the slightly faster one, I’m pretty sure the increase would pass me by as well. Why? In my just-over-a-year of owning one, I’ve never once thought my iPhone 4 was slow. Since I got it phone performance is something which I basically never have to think about. That’s why those new-fangled multi-core 1GHz+ Android handsets have never appealed to me, and it’s why the speed bump is the least appealing feature of the 4S to me.

RIP Dennis Richie

Will Goring, 13 Oct 2011

It’s been a terrible month for the industry. First Steve Jobs, and now Dennis Ritchie, inventor of C, and one of the key developers of unix.

His name may not be so well known as that other, equally tragic but more high profile passing, but his influence on computing - his legacy if you will - is every bit as pervasive and wide ranging; many would say it’s more so. His impact on me personally was certainly much greater.

To this day, I still consider myself a c programmer at heart and, were my employers to allow it, I’d probably fall back on using it for performance-critical parts of any project I write. As it is, the last time I wrote c professionally was five or six years ago, but that doesn’t reduce Ritchie’s influence being felt; C may be out of favour with large, non-technology, companies, but in it’s place they use Java; a direct descendent of that language.

Gaming aside, all the computing I do, I do on operating systems based on or derived from unix. Even my mobile phone (along with a significant percentage of the smartphones in the world,) is a distant descendant of the work he did 40 years ago at Bell Labs.

Put simply, it’s impossible to imagine my life without the influence his work has had on it; c/c++/Java/other-descendent-language and unix have been inexorably entwined in my hobby and my job every day for about as long as I can remember.

RIP Dennis.

A Simple Ruby Runner Script

Will Goring, 12 Oct 2011

Recently I’ve been spending a bit of time getting properly acquainted with Ruby, to which end I’ve picked up a copy of the famous ‘Pickaxe book’, and have been working through the early chapters to give myself a good grounding the language and its core concepts.

So far it’s all going well; the book is excellent and, while it’ll be a while before I’m applying for Ruby programming jobs, I think I’ve got to the point where I can start putting together trivial programmes for my own use. Which is where the book seems to have left me a little high-and-dry. There’s a chapter on how to structure your source directory, which all seems sensible, but when it comes to running your code it leaves you with cding into the source directory and running something like:

bash % ruby -I lib bin/some_ruby_script

That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s a lot to type every time I want to run something, and it’s sensitive to the CWD, so symlinking it into $PATH or something isn’t an option.

The book then goes into detail about how to package your code up as a Gem and install it on any machine, but that’s more effort than I want to go to for system maintenance scripts and the like, which are only ever going to be run on the machine they’re developed on.

All of which is a long winded explanation of why I wrote this:

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RIP Steve Jobs

Will Goring, 06 Oct 2011

Wow. When I set up a blog to capture my more technical thoughts, I never imagined that the first post would be about the passing of Steve Jobs.

If I’m honest, I find it hard to know what to think, and I don’t really have a lot to say; it’s not like I knew the man. And while he had an enormous, if indirect, impact on my life, who can’t say the same? What possible insight could I have, or what thoughts could I share that aren’t currently being repeated across the internet by anyone, no; by everyone who loves technology?

None; I’m just another consumer who loves the products he steered his company to create.

So I won’t quote or link to his Stanford address; you’ve already seen it.

I won’t share anecdotes about my life using Apple products; Google can show you more moving ones if you care about that.

I’ll just say that he was a great man; a visionary, and that our entire industry is worse-off for losing him.

RIP Steve, the world’s going to miss you.