Any Party Whose Assistance Is Deemed Necessary

From Apple's response:

The government says: “Just this once” and “Just this phone.” But the government knows those statements are not true; indeed the government has filed multiple other applications for similar orders, some of which are pending in other courts. And as news of this Court’s order broke last week, state and local officials publicly declared their intent to use the proposed operating system to open hundreds of other seized devices—in cases having nothing to do with terrorism. If this order is permitted to stand, it will only be a matter of days before some other prosecutor, in some other important case, before some other judge, seeks a similar order using this case as precedent. [pg. 3]
In addition, compelling Apple to create software in this case will set a dangerous precedent for conscripting Apple and other technology companies to develop technology to do the government’s bidding in untold future criminal investigations. If the government can invoke the All Writs Act to compel Apple to create a special operating system that undermines important security measures on the iPhone, it could argue in future cases that the courts should compel Apple to create a version to track the location of suspects, or secretly use the iPhone’s microphone and camera to record sound and video. And if it succeeds here against Apple, there is no reason why the government could not deploy its new authority to compel other innocent and unrelated third-parties to do its bidding in the name of law enforcement. For example, under the same legal theories advocated by the government here, the government could argue that it should be permitted to force citizens to do all manner of things “necessary” to assist it in enforcing the laws, like compelling a pharmaceutical company against its will to produce drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection in furtherance of a lawfully issued death warrant, or requiring a journalist to plant a false story in order to help lure out a fugitive, or forcing a software company to insert malicious code in its autoupdate process that makes it easier for the government to conduct court-ordered surveillance. Indeed, under the government’s formulation, any party whose assistance is deemed “necessary” by the government falls within the ambit of the All Writs Act and can be compelled to do anything the government needs to effectuate a lawful court order. While these sweeping powers might be nice to have from the government’s perspective, they simply are not authorized by law and would violate the Constitution. [pg. 26]

This is why the government must not prevail here.

Oh, Apple has a bunch of other fantastic reasons in there too. Read through the response. It is amazingly well explained, clear, and not terribly legal (at least through the end of the main document). In fact, after reading it thoroughly, I don't see how the government can hope to win here in the end.

I don't think they want to win. I think they want a fight. Hopefully one that goes all the way to the Supreme Court (and the fight over Scalia's seat makes it all the more delicious). And this gives congress and the next president legal "cover" to push for "reform" in the next term, after the elections. They're stirring up controversy in an election year. And, frankly, I think it is pretty overtly targeted more at one party than the other. Though they'll be happy for bipartisan help when they push for their New and Improved Patriot Act III - Smartphone Edition (and, sadly, I don't think Mrs. Clinton has done much to illustrate restraint here either).

Which is as sad as it is absurd. It obviously won't work. It can't actually work to do what they say they want (to fight the terrorists), because you know, you can't outlaw math.

But you'll sure hurt American technology companies in the global market while you're trying. And who wins then? Mostly China.

A New Site, A New Effort

So, I've heavily neglected my site for a long, long time.  I have actually been adding content, and working on projects, just not writing on the blog at all.

That stops now, I swear.  At least for a little while.

I've moved over to Squarespace.  The primary reason is that securing and running Wordpress myself hasn't proved a lot of fun.  I could do it, and stay on top of it, but in practice I don't, and bad things happen.

So welcome.  I have some new things coming to this space.

More Bad News On the Tablet Front

So, ASUS announced their two new Eee Pads today at Computex. And, they really look beautiful. Simple, clean design. Aluminum edges, thin, and according to Engadget, "neither was particularly heavy". But then there is this (from Anand):

There are two versions of the Eee Pad, a 12" and a 10" model. I'll start with the 10" first as it is the closest competitor to the iPad. The EP101TC runs Windows Embedded Compact 7 (Windows CE based) and uses NVIDIA's Tegra 2.

Windows CE? Seriously? Well, maybe the 12" will get some Android-love...

The 12" Eee Pad shares little in common with the 10" version other than the name. The EP121 uses a CULV Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

Well, that's a better option than Windows CE, I guess, but we've already seen tons of tablet-style PCs. Without an OS specifically designed for a finger-friendly touch UI, the system really breaks down. Sure, certain applications that are designed with a touch interface in mind will work fine, but then you end up trying to configure the thing in the control panel, or use multiple tabs in your browser, and you start to see where the paradigm breaks down. In other words... If you need to use a stylus, then you've already failed (and there's a difference between needing a stylus, and being able to use a stylus when it suits you). And then there's this, from Engadget: "The EP121 wasn't booting at all". Oh, so it doesn't actually "run" Windows 7. It has a Windows 7 sticker on the glass. I see. Sign me up!

Switching back to the Tegra 2 powered 10" tablet, we get this (again, from Engadget):

An NVIDIA Tegra-powered EP101TC was powering on, but its Windows Embedded Compact 7-based interface was still noticeably buggy, and the touchscreen quite unresponsive. The UI certainly looked attractive enough, and our swipe motions across the capacitive touchscreen were handled admirably, but ASUS definitely has a ways to go in terms of functionality. We wish we had more impressions to share, but it looks as if we'll have to wait for a less half-baked iteration to really dive in.

It does look attractive, I suppose, but if I'm going to switch from the iPhone OS platform (abandoning all of my existing apps), I'm sure not going to do it for a Windows CE device. Not at this stage anyway. Perhaps after Windows Phone 7 comes out and matures for a while and proves itself in the market (assuming that those two OSes are effectively the same, and can run the same software, which isn't at all clear). Otherwise, I think Android is the best hope of a real iPad competitor. But this, along with news that many Android tablets are also not even close to ready, doesn't bode well at all.

Again, the hardware looks good on both devices. As far as the thinness and weight, the EP101TC is effectively the same exact weight as the iPad (675g vs Apple's quoted 0.68kg), and is actually a little thinner at 12.2mm (vs. Apple's 13.4). I haven't seen word on the exact dimensions of the 12" part, but I'd guess it is probably quite a bit more hefty and with a Core 2 Duo in there, certainly a bit thicker (and no word on if it will be a fanless design either). But hardware without the software is useless. And, frankly, if it is this early with the OSes not booting or not running well at all, then it is quite possible that those specs will change before the actual release. Again, hopefully these are just "early" looks. But Computex was supposed to be the big coming out party for the iPad competition. This really isn't a great start!

If everyone and their brother knew that Apple was working on a fancy, magical tablet for so long, and had all that time to prepare, then what the heck is taking so long? If what Apple put out was "just a big iPod touch" then why didn't you just put out a big Android tablet three days later?

Me thinks that it wasn't as easy as people may have expected.

Update: MSI apparently also showed off their Windows 7-powered WindPad 100 and Android-powered WindPad 110 at Computex (though apparently only talked about the Windows 7 version in their press conference). According to Engadget, MSI isn't even sure if they are planning to bring the Android tablet to market, and the model they showed certainly just seemed like a mock-up (stock Android only, not even remotely customized for the tablet). I can't say much else about these other than this: Wow, take a look at the cheap plastic ugly.

Update 2: More bad news... The quoted 10-hour battery life on the 12" Windows 7 Eee Pad? Apparently, that isn't quite as simple as it seems either. According to Cyril over at Tech Report, the announcement was for "10 hours of battery life for the docked config". So, that battery life only applies to when it is docked into it's keyboard dock, not to the Eee Pad itself in "normal" usage mode.

Adobe CS5 Installed

Just got Adobe CS5 Production Premium installed about an hour ago. Looks pretty nice so far, though I haven't done much with it yet. Noise Reduction and HDR stuff in Photoshop looks nice. Encore still looks very Adobe-ugly, rather than Adobe-clean, but I'm sure it is fine. Good timing since I just got my new Blu-Ray burner in, and I have to burn a Blu-Ray disc for the Bangor kiosk.

There will be more of this later.

Can't wait for Episode 6, Telestream!

Om nom nom nom nom

Dinner tonight: Grilled buttermilk marinated chicken breast, with grilled Brussels sprouts. Jenn marinated. I'm grilling. EDIT: We had wheat egg noodles with butter as well. Everything was delicious. Especially the grilled Brussels sprouts, which I wasn't too sure of ahead of time. Just lightly steam them first, and then throw them on the grill on skewers. Fabulous!

Android Tablet? Ain't No iPad Killer Yet.

I've been busy both at work and at home (at home I've been reconstructing my erased hard drive), with little time for writing in-between. Frankly, I admit, the time I could have been using to write has been used for beer instead. And I'm really okay with that decision. So, faithful reader, I'm going to instead refer you elsewhere for an interesting article and make some inane comments of my own and act like this is real content. That is, after all, what WordPress is all about, right?

One of my favorite writers over at Ars has a story up today about some recent hands-on time he had with the current crop of fancy-pants upcoming Android Tablets which use the super-hyped NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. The results?

I've been a big booster of the idea that an Android- or webOS-based tablet could be superior to the iPad in a number of key respects, so I was prepared to be wowed by the demo units. And I was kind of wowed... but not in a good way.

As one of the major sponsors of the summit, NVIDIA had a strong presence. Their booth at the exhibit hall featured three different Tegra 2 tablet prototypes, all running Android. As I poked around at the different apps available for demo purposes—a Web browser, the Cooliris-based Gallery application, an AIR-based prototype of the newly launched Wired tablet app, and a short game that involved guiding a football player down the field—confusion began to set in. The performance stank. It was a stutter-fest. Worse-than-Nexus One performance was not what I was expecting from these prototypes.

Resizing pages with the Web browser was jerky and uneven. The Gallery app stuttered a bit and generally wasn't nearly as responsive as it is on my Nexus One phone. And the Wired tablet app was just awful, running as it did on Adobe's AIR platform. If you compare the demo app to the Wired iPad app released Wednesday, the difference is night and day in terms of performance. All three tablet prototypes were a huge let-down.

He goes on to say that he spoke to some of the Nvidia reps at the event about his issues with the prototypes and they basically just regurgitated PR-speak about how the Tegra 2 was "teh r0x0rs!!11one!" The whole article is worth a read, so check it out.

Wow. That's really a bummer.

Like Jon, I'm really looking forward to see what HTC, ASUS, and others bring out to compete with the iPad later this year. I'm absolutely interested in an iPad in theory. I've really wanted a good tablet-form-factor device for a long time. Up until the iPad, though, none of them really worked out when you actually got down to trying to use them (and I've tried a number of them out). The Windows tablets available so far have been absolutely terrible (if you ever need to pick up a stylus, you've already failed). The iPad may look somewhat lackluster on paper, but until you try one out, you really have no idea what they are like to use in the real world.

However, in my opinion, the current iPad really has one major issue that I don't see Apple addressing any time soon: the file system.

I'm really fine with Apple hiding the complexity of the filesystem on my phone. Would it be nice to be able to use my media management application of choice (rather than the junk that is iTunes) to sync music, video, and images over to my phone? Absolutely. J. River's Media Center has FAR better options for managing media, converting, and syncing that media to a handheld than iTunes could even dream of handling (in fact, you can't even load my full media library into iTunes without suffering through numerous crashes and without being forced to convert many of the files to other Apple-blessed formats first). However, there is some benefit to using iTunes for the sync. It makes managing the content on the phone relatively simple and self-contained. I just use MC to sync the content I want on my phone to a folder on my hard drive, use iTLU to sync that folder to iTunes, and then have iTunes just sync EVERYTHING it contains over to the phone. At my house, iTunes is only used to sync the phones, and never really "manages" any content on it's own.

The difference on a phone is that I'm using my phone mostly to consume content on the go. I'm listening to music and podcasts, viewing the occasional episode of Breaking Bad synced to the phone (or, more often, using AirVideo), listening to podcasts, looking up recipes on Big Oven or AllRecipes, reading email, and browsing the web. I don't, very often, use it for creating content (unless you count the occasional text message, tweet, or brief email as "content"). When I do actually create something "real", it is mostly notes in the Notes app (or occasionally things in Evernote). To get files onto the phone if I need them, I just use Dropbox (or AirSharing if I need something larger than I want to dump into my free Dropbox account). Either way, I generally don't really need to save this content out, re-edit it on my computer, and then round-trip the documents back to the phone. It just isn't an appropriate device for that type of use very often. Therefore, the closed and inaccessible file system really isn't A Big Deal.

On the iPad, I think it would be an entirely different situation. The iPad form-factor would open it up to being used as a content creation device as much as a content consumption device. I'd want to be able to open Word or PowerPoint documents up on the iPad, edit them, save them, and then edit them some more on my desktop machine, then put them back on the iPad, and so on and so forth. Even more, imagine a Tablet version of Illustrator or Photoshop? How about a tablet friendly audio editor, or a video editing suite that can round-trip with Final Cut? While these things are all possible with the iPad's locked-down file system, each application handles things a differently, and there are many ands, ifs, and buts when you get right down to it. Want to choose what application you want to use to open up one of those files in your Dropbox? Better hope the makers of Dropbox thought you might want to, because if not, you're out of luck. Since there's no filesystem, you can't just browse the files on your iPad in a "finder" and then choose what app you want to use to open them. You can't edit a document in one app, and then switch over to another app to tweak it further, unless support for that exchange has been specifically built into both of the apps by the developers (and then you can't come to rely upon this capability, because version 2.0 of one of them might break this support).

Look, I understand that complex file systems confuse novice users. But someone explain to me why can't we just have a simple shared "My Documents" folder, that is accessible via traditional USB-mass storage means on your computer and then let all the apps on the device play in this space? You can hide all the other complexity of the file system, but let us have this one special folder where we can easily stash our stuff. For a device in this "space", this feature is a must-have, not a "would-be-nice-if-it-did". Having each and every app vendor completely re-invent the wheel while stuck inside of their own little storage fiefdom is absolutely not a viable long-term option.

I had (and still have, really) great hope for someone to make a good Android-based competitor to the iPad that will fill this need for me. But, the clock is ticking, and this early look does not bode well for the revision 1.0 of the competitors. It looks a lot like the first ones out of the gate will have a very HTC G1 kind of feel, and that isn't a good thing at all. Here's hoping that Stokes saw only a cross section of some of the worst examples, or that the improvements over the next 3-4 months will be dramatic beyond belief, but somehow I doubt it. What concerns me the most is the implications this report has for the timing of the release of the final products. By the time we get something competitive actually shipping, January will probably be just around the corner, and with it, the announcement for the iPad HD or 2.0 or whatever. And say-what-you-will, but Apple is probably going to come on strong with the next rev of the iPad. They are taking this market very seriously.

So, like Jon, I still have a lot of hope for the Android Tablet future, but this isn't really a good start at all.

PS. Oh, and no. Chrome OS is not really what I want at all. Again, I want a content creation and consumption device, and not everything can or should run inside a browser.

I Am Not a Smart Man, But I Know What Erase Means

Note to Self: When using a disk cloning utility to save your system image so that you can wipe the drive and set the partitions up in a more sensible manner, it is best not to save the backup to a partition on the drive that you plan to erase. If you do this, you may accidentally delete said image when you proceed with the repartitioning process and not realize that the image has been deleted until you are ready to restore it. Ugh... Not a brilliant move.

There Was a Dream

"And it comes in black and it comes in whiteAnd I'm frightened by those who don't see it."

It reminds me very much of Jacob's Ladder. This is not a bad thing.