Re: A Letter to the Developer Community


Please read the above first before reading the following:


That this kind of stuff happens at conferences is both not surprising and totally unacceptable.  We live in an age where we should be above this kind of crap.  Unfortunately, between the above and postings like this from a Rails conference a couple of years ago I guess we still have a long way to go.

9/11 ten years later

I remember that morning so well. I had a doctor appointment, so instead of going into work like I normally would, I left the house later. My appointment was sometime after 9 in the morning, so I left some amount of time early.

Now our house is located in a town about a half hour north of NYC. If I stand at the end of my driveway I can see the Hudson River. My car was parked in the driveway, and as I was about to get in I heard an airplane flying by. I looked up and saw it flying on a southward path along the Hudson. I now know that that was Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

I was driving to my doctors and listening to the traffic. Almost immediately there was a commotion about a plane hitting the north tower. At that point everyone assumed that it was a small plane that hit it by accident. I kept flipping through the stations and was hearing a lot of confusing comments about what happened.

Sometime after 9 a traffic report helicopter was reporting about a plane hitting the south tower. At that point I heard this exchange:

Radio Announcer: Excuse me, don’t you mean the north tower?
Traffic Reporter: No, a second plane hit the south tower. We know because we barely got out of the way before it hit.

At that point I knew we were under attack by terrorists. Honestly, I was scared.

Once I got to the doctor’s office I asked if anyone knew what was going on at the World Trace Center. This was the first they had heard of this, and two women working in the office started to cry because they had boyfriends or spouses that worked there. I barely remember the doctor appointment itself.

After that, I started to drive to work, but then it hit me – the bridge I take (the Tappan Zee Bridge) is closest bridge to New York City over the Hudson. Perhaps the other bridges will be taken out or worse. I was talking with my boss on my cell phone and told him I was turning around and going home. Of course he understood.

While I was driving the first tower collapsed. I was in something like shock at this point. I knew I had to get home to my wife.

Once I got home I stood in the living room and watched as the second tower fell.

That afternoon I spoke with a coworker of mine, a Post Doc from Germany. He had found out that one of his best friends from Germany was travelling with his pregnant wife on one of the planes. It was their first visit to the US.

When my kids came home from school we told them. They told us that the school went into lockdown mode. They said that every once in a while the main office would call their rooms asking for one of the children to be escorted out. My daughter told me she saw some people crying in the hallway. My son, who was younger, said that they thought it was a bear or a gunman outside of their school, sinc the schools were not telling them what was going on. They saw the video playback of the towers collapsing and they just couldn’t believe it.

I forget if it was the next day or the day after when I finally drove into work. There was a spot on the Tappan Zee bridge, near the Westchester side, where you could see the towers standing. I used to do a quick turn to look at them every day. Now all I saw was the cloud billowing up towards the sky. I knew the buildings were gone, but it was still so surreal.

These days I still think about the people who lost their lives in that incident, and how lucky we have been to not have had another, and how grateful I am for all the people who have prevented these kinds of things from happening here. I also think of the people who have lost their lives in other incidents of terrorism around the world, and of the wars that have been fought since then. It has changed our world view, just like the raid on Pearl Harbor did back in 1941.

There are a couple more thoughts I’ve had relating to this:

  • In America, we need to get beyond the idea that Muslims are terrorists. It doesn’t work that way. There are Muslims who are terrorists, true, but there are also Christians who are terrorists. And atheists, and Hindus, and whatever belief system you can find. It’s not the religion that defines a terrorist; rather, it is often the perversion of a religious system that is used to justify these heinous acts.  Add in a charismatic leader and people who feel helpless and you have a recipe for disaster.
  • I agree with Bruce Schneier – the only two things that have made a difference in dealing with terrorists on airplanes are (1) locks on the cockpit doors and (2) passengers are now more conscious and watchful for people acting suspiciously and are willing to take action (the brave passengers on Flight 93 have served as role models for all of us). The other things that have been tried (like the new full-body scanners) are just security theater that do little to truly make us safe. I do think there is a role for the TSA in helping to find terrorists, it’s just that they haven’t figured it out yet, so they go with the easy “solutions”.

So long, Steve Jobs, and thanks for all the fish!

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO. You knew something was going to happen someday, but this still took everyone by surprise.

I was fortunate enough to be in the audience at the last two Apple Worldwide Developer Conferences. I got to see Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone 4 and iCloud. Great performances both times.

Consider that he started Apple, was shown the door, started NeXT, came back to Apple with NeXT, and for the most part the Mac is a NeXT machine. And don’t forget that during all this he also helped Pixar become the powerhouse it is today.

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be developing mostly for Apple products I would have laughed. I love the products, and I love developing for them. I thank Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple for making this possible.

I wish him well.


Whenever I see an article like this it makes my blood boil:

Android steals 20% of tablet market from iPad over past year (Boy Genius Report)

This is what ABI Research (the source of the information in that article) actually said:

Worldwide annual media tablet shipments are expected to top 120 million units in 2015. While not quite as strong as traditional PC or smartphone annual sales, media tablets are emerging from the shadow of non-handset mobile devices and rapidly coming into their own. Android media tablets have collectively taken 20% market share away from the iPad in the last 12 months.

Why am I upset? Is it that I’m a Apple fanboy (How dare they say anything bad about my beloved iPad)?

No – what’s at issue is that there is a difference between shipments and sales, and how that’s being presented to the public in a confusing way by the tech press. Vendors are cranking out Android Tablets at a fast and furious pace and are filling their sales channels with these devices. What is not being reported is how many are consumers or enterprises actually buying. The term that’s used to describe this is channel stuffing.

Here’s what I see is the problem. I’ve used a Motorola Xoom, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, a RIM Playbook, and an HP Touchpad. What they all have in common is that they feel like incomplete products, like they were rushed to the market. They all see the success of the iPad and think they have to put a tablet device out there NOW.

Unfortunately, they have rushed out these devices and need to get good press. So the easiest way is to put a lot of devices into the channel so that they can report high shipment numbers. This works for something new, but unless the device starts selling the channel fills (at best) or starts flowing backward (the result of returns from stores). Not a good situation.

I wish that the vendors had instead taken their time, made sure they had a solid product on their hands that stood out from the crowd, and then put it on the market. Instead, they all play up the same features – play Flash (a bad tablet experience), multi-tasking (which can make all tablets feel slow and laggy – including the iPad), and linkage to some-or-other app store. In short, nothing spectacular that makes me want to buy them. Some vendors also play up the number of devices (we have several in both the 10 inch and 7 inch formats). To me, this just increases the market confusion.

And consumers are buying few of these devices. And for those who buy, an unacceptable number are being returned.

It’s a shame. I think they are blowing a great opportunity here by rushing, and they are ceding market share to the iPad. The iPad is a great device, but I would like to see a creditable competitor shake things up here.

Ideas are easy

This quote sums up what’s wrong with software patents:

Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.
– Sue Grafton

As long as we allow people to patent ideas without a requirement for them to embody it in a product then the patent system is useless.

By the way, here’s another quote that I think is relevant to today’s patent situation:

I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.
– Ulysses S. Grant

Please write your representatives today. And the president, too.

More on patents from Mark Cuban

This blog entry by Mark Cuban is spot-on with respect to software patents. His main points are:

  1. Get rid of software patents.  Copyright is good enough protection.
  2. Get rid of process patents.  If you want to patent something, make it, then patent it.
  3. The current patent reform legislation does nothing to address the problem of patent aggregators (or “trolls”).

His last paragraph sums up what we need to do about the legislation in the US:

If you care about the issue of patent trolls, you have one month to encourage your Congressperson to amend S.23 and/or H.R. 1249 to include limiting damages from “non-practicing entities” (aka, trolls).

Get writing/emailing/phoning your representatives in Washington (both the House and the Senate).

Here is a place where you can find out who is your congressional representative.

Here is a place where you can find out who are your senators.

Now get writing!

HP Sells 612 TouchPads on Woot

How’s that price cut working out for you, HP?

Seriously, I really wanted to like this device (I’m a long-time Palm developer), but it’s heavy, feels cheap (due to the plastic) and it’s slow.  Also, you have to do a lot of contortions to have a “regular” WebKit-based web app run in the browser (because WebOS intercepts touch events).  Palm (and, later, HP) have not done a good job of developer outreach, which might have mitigated the problem.

Right now WebOS devices are flying towards the “lost opportunity” category.


Appsterdam and the patent fight

Mike Lee is a very interesting character. What I really like and respect about him is not so much his achievements (which are considerable in and of themselves) but the fact that he knows he is free to speak his mind and does. I’ve found the things he says and does fascinating.

Take The Appsterdam Movement for example. It’s a very interesting idea – find a location where the laws and the overall environment are friendly to people from all places on they earth to live and work, then enhance it and encourage independent developers to join him. After traveling to various parts of the globe to check out candidate cities he chose Amsterdam in The Netherlands (hence “Appsterdam”). It’s an interesting experiment that I think warrants monitoring closely.

Now, With the rise of patent lawsuits going after indie developers Mike has done something wonderful. Patent litigation is expensive, time-consuming, and takes time away from indie developers that could be better spent building new products. To deal with this problem Mike has helped organize the “Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund“. In addition to helping indie developers to fight these lawsuits, the team is also planning to take the fight to Washington to help enact meaningful patent reform. Very big goals, and they will be going up against some large, powerful and well-monied parties.

I stand with Appsterdam on this. I think software patents are a bad idea, and I think that a requirement for enforcing a patent should be that you produce and attempt to sell a product that includes the patent. I’ve never heard of any innovation that came out of a patent lawsuit.

At some point a sane person has to stand up to this nonsense and say, “Enough!”. Thanks, Mike!

My new digs

This is my latest attempt at setting up a blog. I was previously using iWeb and Mobile Me to just play with those tools and get a sense of how limited they are. Believe me, as a blogging platform, iWeb is so heavy and limited.

Now I’m doing the WordPress thing, with my Twitter feed on the side. I’m also using Blogsy on my iPad to write entries (like this one).

Let’s see what happens.