May, 2013 back to Feb, 2010: (nothing)
The iPad Apple announced today is, from what I understand, an oversized iPhone—which is great, in my opinion, especially considering it's cheaper than analysts expected. But web developers have already noticed that this mega-iPhone is missing one tool: Adobe Flash.
What's Flash? Only the most ubiquitous proprietary format on the Web. It plays videos on YouTube, handles file attachments in GMail, tells interactive stories on the New York Times, energizes punch-the-monkey online ads, and….
And, it's proprietary. Adobe owns the file formats and the only tools that produce and play Flash files properly. That means YouTube, GMail, New York Times, and just about every web browser on the planet depend on Adobe to function, because Adobe has the right to dictate what happens with Flash files.
Flash isn't the only proprietary software out there. Mac OS is proprietary, as is Microsoft Windows. Internet Explorer is proprietary. Microsoft Word is proprietary. But here's the thing: they're commodities. You can replace Microsoft Word with a Google Doc; you can replace Mac OS with Linux. You can't replace Adobe Flash with anything.
Deep in the lush, disorienting Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, a silverback mountain gorilla and his wives patiently munch berries. Nine human beings watch, immobile. Every morning a ranger uncovers broken branches and excreted berries to find the nomadic group's newest camp. The eight awed white tourists in his tow quietly snap as many photographs as their cameras will allow, careful not to disturb the creatures. Only 650 of the animals exist in the world.
In the forest of the Impenetrable Internet, technology companies analyze queries and clicks in their own journeys to piece together migratory patterns and learn more about the elusive human race. There are half a million times more Internet users than mountain gorillas in the world, so you'd think it would be hard to single out any one person from the masses. But Internet users forget: every step they take is through these companies' territories.
The companies set up security cameras. They can watch all the human beings they like.
They probably know you're reading this.
Jan, 2010 back to Sep, 2009: (nothing)
Full disclaimer: I am a man.
And that, many assume, makes me better at computing than if I were a woman.
To me, such reasoning is, on the surface, patently absurd. What possible difference should testosterone or estrogen make in typing or programming skills? Yet here I work, sifting through resumes and interviewing candidates during my last few days of software engineering, and nary a woman has sat across from me. All my engineer coworkers, past and present, are men. Even at school, lecture halls infusing 200 students with computer knowledge would never seat 10 women. I can only conclude that there is a huge absence of women in computing.
And so, runs the thinking, it must be women's choice.
Aug, 2009 back to Oct, 2008: (nothing)
My website, for whatever ludicrous reason, comes up as the #1 Google Search result for Kisambaa.
Since I am now considered the authoritative source on Kisambaa, I should explain a bit about it: it is the native language of the Sambaa people in Tanzania, who live east of Arusha and just across the border from Kenya. How are you? in the afternoon is onga mshi, and the correct response is tiwedi. I do not know the formalities for morning, nighttime, thanks, or farewells. In fact, I know practically nothing about Kisambaa.
I found a website called Ethnologue Report which says 664,000 Sambaa people exist. I would take that website's information with a grain of salt, however: its entry on Swahili suggests that Kiswahili only has 540,000 mother-tongue speakers, while in reality Zanzibar alone accounts for 1,000,000 Swahili people and I expect a significant subset of the younger population of Dar es Salaam (population 3,000,000) also speaks Kiswahili better than any other language.
Factoid: most native Kisambaa speakers know Kiswahili as a second language.
Sep, 2008 back to Jul, 2007: (nothing)
Was there always so much great stuff on the Internet, or am I just better at sifting through it nowadays?
Through a fantastic video-browsing program (from parodies to porn and everything in between) called Democracy, which I heartily recommend, I stumbled across a short film entitled Massacre at Murambi. A beautiful, five-minute-long work of art. Watch it.