ReaderPocalypse

Google today announced that they’re shutting down Google Reader on July 1st. It’s a product they’ve willed out of existence, with a steady stream of neglect. That’s why this quote seems a little two-faced:

“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites,” SVP of Technical Infrastructure Urs Hölzle writes in the blog post. “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined….”

Of course it has. It’s been broken for months for many people and Google did nothing about it. They’ve decided to put all their eggs in the Google+ basket and gave up on Reader a long time ago. And Google honestly wonders why usage declined? Because they abandoned the ship! Nobody knew is coming on board a sinking ship. Google is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is that with Google relinquishing its overwhelming majority of the RSS Reader market, this might just pave the way for others to “innovate” in “the space” and give us something new and better. And, as many have already joked, that’s when Google will swoop in and buy them. UGH

One of the competitors, Feedly is down for the count tonight. Too much traffic in the wake of Reader’s demise, I bet.

But who can replace Google Reader for me? Here’s what I need:

  • Web-based, not an iPhone or iPad app
  • Keyboard controls, to help me zip through all the feeds I like to read quickly
  • Preferably, able to import my current list of subscriptions from Google Reader, but that’s optional
  • Something that will get through the proxy filter at work.

It doesn’t need to be free. In fact, I’d happily pay for this service, just because it makes it less attractive a company to be bought up and dismantled by the likes of vultures like Google.

Google also announced the departure of Android guru, Andy Rubin, who’s moving on to other projects at Google. I’d put my bets on a Google Watch. They need to catch up faster to Apple than they did with the MacBook Air, so now they’re trying to catch up to the rumors of what Apple might be doing. (Seriously, take a look at the Chromebook and tell me it doesn’t just look like a cheap MacBook Air, years later. Hey, it’s got a Samsung logo on it, so the pattern holds…)

How “You Bet Your Life” Was Saved

I have a few DVDs of this show in my collection. I could watch them all day. Groucho Marx was awesome in them, and I almost want to get a Netflix subscription just to watch more.

Still, there is a story behind how the show didn’t get destroyed, and Groucho’s grandson tells the tale. A warehouse in NJ — not a half hour from where I live, I imagine — shipped the reels to Groucho rather than destroying them. Groucho didn’t realize quite how many reels there were:

I rushed over to my grandfather’s house and sure enough, there were five UPS trucks parked in front. Each driver was wheeling dozens of boxes of film into the house.

“Where would you like us to put all of this?” one of the drivers asked me. “There are over 500 boxes and each box contains ten reels of film.”

5,000 reels of film, I thought to myself, as I watched the small army of UPS drivers putting boxes in any empty space they could find, including a now-vacated bedroom that once belonged to Groucho’s last wife from whom he was now divorced. I couldn’t help thinking this was beginning to resemble a scene from a Marx Brothers film, as boxes of film were stacked to the ceiling, literally taking up entire rooms. I also thought back to the man from NBC, who told me there were “a few boxes of film,” an understatement if ever there was one.

By the time the UPS drivers left later that day, my grandfather’s house – which was quite large – was filled from end to end with boxes of “You Bet Your Life” reels. And even though I knew my grandfather was angry, I was grateful that we had managed to save “You Bet Your Life” from extinction by NBC.

Sesame Street: Closeted Apple Fans

Mark Evanier linked to this great video of The Count counting the “You”s in YouTube:

Television shows and movies don’t like to show recognizable logos, for various reasons. Sometimes, as with an MTV reality show, they blur everything out. If it’s a hat with a logo on it, they’ll put black tape over the logo. They’ll use odd camera angles to avoid showing the logo. Whether it’s because they don’t want to be seen endorsing one company over another, or that they’d rather save those logos for the people who buy product placement in such shows, we see it happen often enough to almost not get distracted by it anymore.

However, I laughed at this Sesame Street video for the lengths they went to pull this trick off. Here are three shots with interesting camera angles

  • Quick! Put the kid in front of the camera! Move the camera to the left, to awkwardly block half the screen AND the logo!


  • A Post-It Note! Wait, not, that’s probably just a “yellow sticky” to avoid copyright issues there, too:


* Put a statue in a convenient spot!

Though the more I look at it, the more the angle is wrong. I think they had to go in with a video editor to scrub out the Apple icon here:


To be fair, though, this guy is NOT using an iPhone:

This Talk Is For Geeks and Nerds

Stick with it to the eight-three-naught mark. That is where he drops his bomb. Post-bomb, it is a strong talk that makes lots of sense. I give you now, Guy Steele:

iPhone 5S Rumor – Genius or Financial Pain?

There’s a rumor from a usually reliable source (iMore) that the iPhone 5S might hit shelves as early as August. This is either the genius of Tim Cook in managing his pipeline, or the stupidity of Apple in setting themselves up for a big fall.

Let’s start with the stupidity: The biggest purchasers of the 5S will be people like me who are currently on their 4S. We’re not eligible to get a subsidized phone until October, though, so we can’t buy the phone for the first two or three months it’ll be out. Sales out of the gate will appear “low” for that reason, and the usual link-baiters will point that out, the stock with sag, and woe be to Apple for another couple of months.

Genius: This means steadier sales for the first three or four months the phone will be out. Every time a new iPhone is released, it sells out and people jump on the waiting list. If a large portion of potential purchasers of the phone have to wait until October, the pool of people buying the phone will be smaller at first. So Apple won’t have a problem keeping the pipeline full of phones, selling what they have without putting anyone on a waiting list. And sales of a new phone will be spread across two quarters, boosting quarterly earnings twice. Plus, that gives Apple extra time to build up stock for when October hits and all the 4S owners show up to upgrade.

It’s a plan that makes sense when you think about it for longer than thirty seconds, which puts it out of the range of so many anti-Apple tech and finance blogs, plus Wall Street.

Monoprice is doing HTML Wrong

Wrong form type there

If I have to spell it out:

“Primary” would indicate a singular selection. This form uses checkboxes, which means you can choose more than one option. Radio buttons would be the correct input in this situation.

Shocker! More Anecdotal Evidence that DS9 was a B5 Rip-off

The following is not surprising. All it does is help to confirm everything we’ve known for the last twenty years: That Paramount committed theft in the creation of Deep Space 9. Obviously, this is the internet and the source needs to be questioned, but he did include a full name, so there’s some believability there.

More at the link. This is excerpted from a comment by Steven Hopstaken:

Paramount and Warner Bros. both agreed that Deepspace 9 would be the show that would launch the new network and there wouldn’t be room for two “space” shows on the network. I was told they purposely took what they liked from the B5 script and put it in the DS9 script. In fact, there was talk of leaving the B5 script in tact and just setting it the Star Trek universe. I had to keep rewriting press release drafts while they were trying to make the final decision.

Refactoring

This is one for the programming geeks, and particularly relevant for the Ruby geeks here. This talk is awesome:

Katrina Owen goes over a refactoring example by showing some clearly ugly code, then setting up the tests to establish what it does, and then setting up a model object to segregate the refactoring. It’s a little piece of magic.

More on That Tesla Blow-up

I posted about the original review here last week. But then things boiled over, including Elon Musk posting charts and graphs to prove that the reporter was wrong, if not lying. There was much back and forth.

Here’s Engadget’s editor-in-chief, Tim Stevens, to sum it all up and explain how everyone is wrong and the whole mess makes everything worse.

It’s been hard to miss, this brouhaha that’s been boiling over between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and The New York Times — specifically with reporter John M. Broder. Broder published a piece over the weekend called “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway” in which he panned the Model S for inaccurate range estimates and drastically reduced range in cold weather. In fact, about the only thing he didn’t hate was the tow truck driver who was ultimately dispatched to pick up him and the charge-depleted Tesla he had been driving through Connecticut.

Musk, likely still stinging from an even more vitriolic 2011 takedown by Top Gear, was quick to take to Twitter and call the article “fake.” He later backed that up with comprehensive data logs recorded, apparently, without Broder’s knowledge. That data, at least at surface value, shows the Times piece is at best misleading — at worst libelous.

My Third Tweet Ever

Just got my Twitter archive. Here’s my third ever tweet:

Remember, the iPhone was a $600 device when it launched.

My first iPhone was the 3GS.

An Appreciation of DuckTales

This here is your MUST READ article of the day. Every word of it is true, and it IS a shame that Disney so easily dismisses DuckTales and its cohorts from the Disney Afternoon days. Shameful, really.

DuckTales, the most successful show of Disney’s short-lived television-animation renaissance—and a show that kicked off a brief interest in syndicated afternoon animation from a host of media companies—has mostly disappeared from the limelight, to the degree that the company released around three-quarters of its episodes on DVD, then simply stopped. What’s fascinating about this is that DuckTales is a vastly entertaining show, with quality traits that go beyond its catchy theme song, and it’s incredibly easy to gobble up episode after episode of the thing. Plenty of cartoons from the ’80s and ’90s fail the nostalgia test, simply falling apart when re-examined through the lens of adulthood. DuckTales isn’t one, and returning to it as an adult reveals that there are hidden pleasures there that go beyond memories of what it was like to watch as a kid. For a show so breathless and action-packed, DuckTales takes its time, and that makes all the difference.

The Problem with Electric Cars

The Tesla works great in Silcon Valley because it never drops below freezing there. Drive it here in the North East and you run into some problems.

> I drove, slowly, to Stonington, Conn., for dinner and spent the night in Groton, a total distance of 79 miles. When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked.

Thinking About… Telephone Dialing

There are things we take for granted and never think about. Amongst them: The traditional way of laying out the buttons on a telephone. That 3 x 4 grid had to come from somewhere, though.

The man who designed it recently passed away at the age of 94. This whole New York Times article is fascinating, but here’s just a sampling:

In 2013, the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the touch-tone phone, the answers to those questions remain palpable at the press of a button. The rectangular design of the keypad, the shape of its buttons and the position of the numbers — with “1-2-3” on the top row instead of the bottom, as on a calculator — all sprang from empirical research conducted or overseen by Mr. Karlin.

The legacy of that research now extends far beyond the telephone: the keypad design Mr. Karlin shepherded into being has become the international standard on objects as diverse as A.T.M.’s, gas pumps, door locks, vending machines and medical equipment.Mr. Karlin, associated from 1945 until his retirement in 1977 with Bell Labs, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., was widely considered the father of human-factors engineering in American industry.

OK, one more awesome story:

An early experiment involved the telephone cord. In the postwar years, the copper used inside the cords remained scarce. Telephone company executives wondered whether the standard cord, then about three feet long, might be shortened. Mr. Karlin’s staff stole into colleagues’ offices every three days and covertly shortened their phone cords, an inch at time. No one noticed, they found, until the cords had lost an entire foot.

From then on, phones came with shorter cords.

Quote of Last Week

“I like the keys that song was in.”

  • Keith Urban, American Idol Baton Rouge, doing his best Simon Cowell impersonation, and then ruining it by saying it with a smile.

Why Apple Should Buy Nintendo

While I still fundamentally disagree with the concept that the Nintendo Wii was “just a fad,” MG Siegler still makes the best case I’ve read so far of why Apple might want to buy Nintento:

Nintendo’s Hardware Problem | ParisLemon.

I’m worried that instead they’ll go down the Sega road and just pump out cheap versions of their great old franchises to anyone who will take them. That’s why I’d love to see Apple step in and buy Nintendo, and let them operate as the independent iOS gaming wing of the company. If Apple wants to move hardware, it’s hard to imagine a better way than having exclusives on all of the Nintendo titles going forward (as well as the back catalog).