Archive for September, 2010

No fake bills

September 29th, 2010

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The charming Caffe Cento in South Park takes a lot of forms of payment. Hell, they even take American Express! But one form of payment they DON’T take? Counterfeit money. Nope, not even if it looks real. Don’t even try.

Job responsibilities

September 29th, 2010

Fuck the Bartender

Spotted at the Cat Club at 8th and Folsom.

UFO Response Team

September 24th, 2010

Alexia Anthem spotted a UFO Response Team vehicle on 19th Avenue. Have aliens landed somewhere in San Francisco?

UFO Response Team on 19th

Google is Evil

September 24th, 2010

Google is evil, and now I have proof!

1. Go to http://www.google.com
2. Type in “Google is evil” (without the quotes) and do NOT press enter
3. PROOF!

(Note: requires Google Instant, so this will not work on phones.)

Credit for this goes to 2600′s Google Blacklist.

Bathroom etiquette

September 23rd, 2010

Floor piss problem

Enjoy urinating on the floor? Better stay away from Noisebridge, where your poor potty manners will be chastised by the above passive-aggressive note.

Anti-radiation hysteria is endangering lives

September 22nd, 2010

Here in San Francisco, a group of anti-radiation activists is making headlines and creating a pointless debate about the “dangers” of radiation. Believing themselves to be white knights, they want to get rid of radio and cell phone towers to “protect” people from radiation.

The result? It’s more difficult to get a cell phone tower built in San Francisco than just about anywhere else. And now mobile phone service in San Francisco is horrible. There are dozens of spots in the city where coverage simply doesn’t exist. And all because of one group’s anti-science hysteria.

But here’s the kicker: the lack of coverage — not the radiation — is a threat to the public.

Why?

What if there was a car accident? Or a shooting? Without cell coverage, you either won’t be able to call 911 at all, or your call will drop.

In emergency situations, seconds count. Not being able to make a phone call can mean the difference between life and death.

Would you want to end up on a feeding tube, permanently paralyzed because some nutjob thinks cell phones are giving them cancer? Don’t let a fringe group’s anti-science fantasies cause real-world harm. Tell your politicians to say NO to these lunatics.

Android: not the droids you were looking for

September 22nd, 2010

When Google first released Android, it was presented as a modern, open-source operating system for phones. It sounded great; all the hip buzzwords and you can write programs in Java? Who wouldn’t want this?

But Google’s strategy for selling the OS was… odd. The OS would be sold through a chain of resellers. And Google’s license agreement allows modifications to the OS at any point in the chain.

The reseller chain starts at the manufacturers, who build a phone and install Android. Now unlike PCs, phones are proprietary devices. Even though Android apps are portable between devices, the OS itself is not.

Every piece of hardware on every phone, from the motherboard to the graphics to the input device, varies greatly from one phone to the next. Google relies on the manufacturers’ ability to develop drivers and other custom software to fit their phone. Many of the handset manufacturers went a step further, changing the look-and-feel of Android entirely.

Next in the reseller chain is the phone companies. When a phone is sold through (for example) Verizon, they often “brand” the phone with a new name, a new look, and even more custom software.

This approach of allowing resellers to modify the OS before it reaches the user has a number of unintended consequences that damage the user experience.

What’s wrong with Google’s approach?

Openness

Many of the phone companies lock down the phone to prevent unauthorized applications. Users can still get apps from the Android Market, but these applications are limited to those approved by Google. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the App Store on the iPhone works exactly the same way.

For a lot of people, the idea of Android being “open” didn’t just mean that the source was available, it also meant you could install any software you wanted. But if the OS is locked down to outside applications, then it’s not open in this respect.

Even Windows Mobile allows users to install any applications they want… and Windows Mobile is closed-source!

This app lock-down is only possible because Android’s reseller license agreement doesn’t prohibit locking-down the phone. Google could have specifically forbid this practice in their license agreement, but chose not to.

Security

Let’s say an Android system component was found to have a security vulnerability. Unlike Windows, iOS, Linux, or other systems, Android users can’t just download the patch directly from Google. Users have to wait for the patch go from Google, to the handset manufacturer, and then to the carrier, before it has any chance of reaching them.

With Android there’s always two steps between Google and the end-user, even for critical security patches. Google simply cannot update the end users’ devices since updates could break proprietary software and drivers installed further up the chain.

And it’s not just critical software patches. Even minor patches tend to take a long time to get to the user’s phone — if they ever make it!

In general, software vendors don’t like to issue patches because it means spending money. With Android, resellers have to integrate Google’s patch into their custom versions of Android, then perform QA to make sure it all still works. This is very expensive, and it means resellers will often hold out on even the most important security updates.

If the phone model didn’t sell well, it’s difficult for manufacturers to justify spending any money at all on testing. In this case, there’s a good chance the patch will never be available.

Who to Blame

Despite strong sales, it’s clear Android hasn’t lived up to its initial hype. But is this Google’s fault? Yes and no.

Android’s default setup is actually quite nice. The ill-fated Nexus One, designed and sold by Google, ships with a default Android OS. It’s open in the sense that users control which applications they can install. And Google releases patches for the device in a timely fashion.

All other Android phones are released by third parties, so they don’t get timely updates. And apps can be locked out of them entirely. Is this Google’s fault?

Like Microsoft, Google isn’t forcing the phone manufacturers to update their software. The core OS components and drivers require developer and QA resources to be upgraded.

But what about the other components? Say the SSL validation component, or the web browser, or the e-mail client? Google could use a software updater (similar to the Chrome updater on Windows) to keep these components up to date automatically, and out of the control of resellers.

Sure, the drivers may not be upgradeable. But the kernel is only one part of Android. The other pieces could be upgraded individually without breaking comparability with existing phones.

And what about the so-called “openness” of the phone? This is a contractual issue, as it comes down to what Google is willing to ask of their resellers. There’s no technical reason that Google can’t force the manufacturers and phone companies to allow any app on their phone.

However, at this point it seems the carriers especially are scared of openness. What if someone developed an app that allowed users to bypass paid features, like SMS or tethering? This impacts the bottom line of a phone company, so it’s a scary proposition — for them. For their users, it would be awesome.

If there’s one thing Apple showed the world, it’s that a handset manufacturer can stand up to a phone company — and win. Google has the opportunity to take Apple’s users-first approach a step further by demanding openness on all Android phones.

Conclusions

By compromising on their values, Google has allowed the promises of Android to be forgotten.

Google needs to step up and make sure all Android installations are secure. With updates in the hands of resellers, there is little they can do.

Furthermore, the closed nature of Apple’s iOS drove both users and developers to Android. But the locked-down Android they got in return was exactly what they had run away from.

Two steps to get Android back on track would be an auto update mechanism and a reseller license agreement to make the phone truly open.

How I fixed my broken wifi after the Mac OS X 10.6.4 update

September 16th, 2010

Yesterday I grudgingly let Software Update reboot my computer to install Mac OS 10.6.4. After it booted up, the wifi was dead.:(

Now my first thought the router wasn’t working, but my iPhone and my other laptop were still connecting just fine.

I looked in the network settings and found the IP address was invalid. It appeared to be a global network address, not a 192.168.0.* address for my internal network. How puzzling.

After some Googling around, I found several “fixes” which did nothing, including holding down Option-Command-P-R while the system boots to clear the configuration, deleting a network config file, removing and re-adding the Airport connection… nothing. Just a waste of time.

Finally I figured out a working solution on my own. The problem turned out to be DHCP. See, normally DHCP is the protocol that assigns an IP address to your computer. Without it, you’d have to enter the address manually.

Here’s what I did:

  1. From the wifi icon, at the top of the screen, select “Open Network Preferences.”

  2. Select Airport from the list and click the Advanced button.
  3. Select the TCP/IP tab
  4. In the “Configure IPv4″ drop-down, select “Using DHCP with manual address”
  5. The “IPv4 address” box becomes available. Here’s where you enter an address. (See below)
  6. Disable Airport, then turn it back on.

If you’re wondering, the IP address you enter will depend on your configuration. I entered 192.168.0.8 and there’s a good chance that if you have fewer than 7 other computers on your network, that will work for you as well. This part may take some experimenting and knowledge of your router’s typical assigned IP addresses.

Straight Eye for the Closeted Guy

September 15th, 2010

I want to pitch an idea for a TV show I had*. It’s like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but in reverse; a group of straight men have to help a gay man stay in the closet.

The straight guys help the closeted guy act straight. He needs help to dress poorly, get his home sufficiently messy, and drink cheap beer. Of course he also has to develop, for example, a pony tail. And he MUST learn to talk about sports, cars, and electronics.

Finally at the end of the episode, his beard arrives and they go on a date. Will she suspect he’s actually a homo in disguise? Oooh, the suspense!

* (Okay, I know I live in a city where everyone says “I don’t own a TV” but somehow is able to post about the latest Mad Men episode on Twitter. So let’s cut the shit and stop pretending for a moment: you watch TV, get over yourself.)

New signage for Los Coyotes

September 15th, 2010

Los Coyotes signage

Recently, Los Coyotes on 16th took down their awning and replaced it with a big “TAQUERIA” sign. So if there was any doubt previously about whether Los Coyotes was a sit-down restaurant, or perhaps was one of those enchilada-only establishments, this big red sign should clear things up for you.