The October Reading List

Some of the things i particularly enjoyed reading in the last month:

  • How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future: The story of the car start-up that jump-started the electric car revolution. The Model S looks great.
  • Dawn of a New Day: Ray Ozzie bids good bye to Microsoft. It’s funny how whenever someone talks about the future of cloud computing i can’t shake the feeling that Larry Ellison was just way ahead of the times in the mid-nineties.
  • A Tech World That Centers on the User: Adapted from Nick Bilton’s new book “I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works”. “When people want to know how the media business will deal with the Internet, the best way to begin to understand the sweeping changes is to recognize that the consumer of entertainment and information is now in the center. That center changes everything. It changes your concept of space, time and location. It changes your sense of community. It changes the way you view the information, news and data coming directly to you.”
  • The Most Popular Phone in the World: Hint: They are not talking about the iPhone.
  • 3-D Printing Spurs a Manufacturing Revolution
  • The Story So Far: Indie game developer Matt Rix on the making of his game Trainyard.
  • Visualizing the Creative Process: Brilliant illustration of the creative process by Dan Cook.
  • The State of the Internet Operating System: This one’s old, but i had not gotten around to reading it until now.
  • The Web Means the End of Forgetting: I’m not quite convinced that the loss of “forgetting” is an inherently bad thing, but i’m sure it will take some time to adapt, both as individuals as well as a society.
  • Why Warhammer Failed: The title says it all.
  • Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review
  • The Data-Driven Life: The article presents an interesting argument that data analysis can be a viable alternative to psychoanalysis when it comes to making well considered and measured decisions in our life, without trying to understand ourselves. “When we quantify ourselves, there isn’t the imperative to see through our daily existence into a truth buried at a deeper level. Instead, the self of our most trivial thoughts and actions, the self that, without technical help, we might barely notice or recall, is understood as the self we ought to get to know.”
  • A chat with Microsoft Principal Researcher Bill Buxton: Part one, two, three.
  • Tuning Canabalt: Some good advice on being lenient toward the player that i completely agree with.
  • What is data science?: Nice general overview of the field and its tools.

Previously & previously.

Please excuse this brief interruption: I’ve been fiddling with the server that runs this website, so if things are broken or seriously out of whack it would be swell if you could let me know: christoph [at] engadgeted [dot] net. Much appreciated.

On File Management in OS X

Lukas Mathis’ Mac OS X Lion commentary is among the best i’ve read and covers pretty much all the bases, but one point in particular stuck out to me:

By now, it seems obvious that Apple isn’t interested in rethinking the Finder. Instead, the goal seems to be to de-emphasize it. Thus, Launchpad, a home screen for the Mac. I suspect that Apple wants people to use Launchpad as their default way of accessing their Macs, rather than the Finder. I further suspect that Apple would like it if applications took over management of their own files, similar to how iPad apps do this.

Which strikes me as a somewhat terrible thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, the Launchpad seems like a good idea and a useful addition to the Dock, but just because Apple decided to completely ignore the daunting challenge of rethinking file management in iOS doesn’t mean this problem is solved. Look no further than the horrendous state of file management in Apple’s own iWork apps for iPad for proof that what we now have in iOS is by no means adequate or satisfactory. File management is one of the cornerstones of creating your own inter-application workflows in personal computing, and defining somewhat efficient workflows is an area where the iPad is still lacking. I’d say the dire limitations on moving data from one application to another is what’s holding the iPad back as a proper work machine. I’d be happy with any solution that solves this problem without resorting to the traditional files & folders model, but just pretending this problem doesn’t exist won’t cut it.

Khoi Vinh on iPad magazines:

In my personal opinion, Adobe is doing a tremendous disservice to the publishing industry by encouraging these ineptly literal translations of print publications into iPad apps. They’ve fostered a preoccupation with the sort of monolithic, overbearing apps represented by The New Yorker, Wired and Popular Science. Meanwhile, what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps like EW’s Must List or Gourmet Live. Neither of those are perfect, but both actively understand that they must translate their print editions into a utilitarian complement to their users’ content consumption habits.

Scroll or Flip?

Oliver Reichenstein on the age-old question whether to scroll or flip through content, a question that has garnered new attention in this age of the iPad:

How do you navigate content on the iPad? Scroll or flip? In 1987, the biggest neck beards in tech held conference on the Future of Hypertext and there were two camps “Card Sharks” and “Holy Scrollers” and they had an epic fight over the following question: Should you scroll or flip pages on the screen? Who won the fight?

Google’s best deal, ever

David Lawee, Google’s vice president of corporate development, apparently said that their Android acquisition was Google’s best deal ever.

Which begs for an interesting comparison: Google acquired Android, Inc. in 2005, for a rumored $50 million or something like that. Microsoft acquired Danger, Inc., another Andy Rubin venture, in 2008 for a rumored price around $500 million. One of these ventures went on to become a dominant force in the smartphone market. The other resulted in the Microsoft Kin debacle. Just saying…

Wii are selective in our outrage

We might also do well to note how closed mobile development was before the iPhone. I know I’ve told this story before, but in a JavaOne conversation with O’Reilly people about how to get Java ME books moving, I said that everyone with an interest in ME (myself included) had figured out that getting your apps to end users was effectively impossible, and that with the network API often disabled for third-party apps, there wasn’t much point in writing ME apps anyways. My suggestion for an ME book that would move copies would be one which provided “the names, e-mails, and phone numbers of all the carrier and handset executives you’d have to go down on in order to get your apps on their phones.”

Wii are selective in our outrage

Firesheep

Firesheep is a Firefox plugin for sidejacking sessions on your local network:

When logging into a website you usually start by submitting your username and password. The server then checks to see if an account matching this information exists and if so, replies back to you with a “cookie” which is used by your browser for all subsequent requests.

It’s extremely common for websites to protect your password by encrypting the initial login, but surprisingly uncommon for websites to encrypt everything else. This leaves the cookie (and the user) vulnerable. HTTP session hijacking (sometimes called “sidejacking”) is when an attacker gets a hold of a user’s cookie, allowing them to do anything the user can do on a particular website. On an open wireless network, cookies are basically shouted through the air, making these attacks extremely easy.

This is a widely known problem that has been talked about to death, yet very popular websites continue to fail at protecting their users. The only effective fix for this problem is full end-to-end encryption, known on the web as HTTPS or SSL. Facebook is constantly rolling out new “privacy” features in an endless attempt to quell the screams of unhappy users, but what’s the point when someone can just take over an account entirely? Twitter forced all third party developers to use OAuth then immediately released (and promoted) a new version of their insecure website. When it comes to user privacy, SSL is the elephant in the room.

This has always been a problem, but it’s probably never been this easy to exploit. You can download the plugin on github.