So the RSS feed looks the same to Thunderbird, but the rendered HTML is quite different.

Maybe that is what Dave is talking about. So for a genuine blog, making it an idea stream is less useful … but for a genuine idea stream, it looks great.

03/17/14; 08:57:08 AM

I refreshed the feed to this blog, in my feed reader Thunderbird. It did not work as I expected:

  • March 17 did not appear as a post

  • Each of the previous notes (Second March 17 Note, and Ideas setting in Fargo) appeared as posts.

I think I did something wrong. Not sure what.

03/17/14; 08:52:23 AM

I add this note/idea just to see how it works.

Still unclear: since this sends out a post to RSS only on the day/date, does that mean the feed will only update daily? If so, then it can only know that March 17 ideas are finished when the calendar rolls to March 18.

And then, if I go back to add to these idea notes, does the feed not recognize it? (I think that would be consistent with the previous way Fargo handled feeds, though I’m not sure.)

03/17/14; 08:48:23 AM

Dave just added the notion of an idea stream. Basically as I understand it, this will work just as before, except that the RSS feed will no longer send out a separate post for each idea (I notice Dave has added a lightbulb icon which now characterizes each post node rather than the rectangles seen in the posts below). Instead the day/date will be what is sent out, and the posts – the ideas – will be listed as part of that post. So, this post will go out under a “March 17” post in the RSS feed.

This makes sense for a prolific blogger like Dave. It also makes sense for a worknotes outline – I have one of those but leave it private rather than a named outline.

03/17/14; 08:44:08 AM

A lot of outrage has come in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. Though a lot of what has been reported was long suspected, people have reacted a lot more to images of actual documents (along with non-denials from the spies involved). But it also helped build credibility for the news stories Mr Snowden helped write, that the officials at the NSA and their congressional supporters (along with President Obama) were found to be lying every time they said the Snowden reports were untrue.

But here is the thing about spies. They break the law. In fact it is their job to break the law. And it is their job to break every law of every country except one law of one country.

Spies kill, poison, strangle, beat and maim, steal, burgle, forge, counterfeit, blackmail, extort, lie, defraud … think of any spy book or movie you have ever seen, along with stories documenting what spies and spy agencies have done since 1912.

The only one law that spies are not supposed to break? They are not supposed to betray their country. They are bound to obey the commands of their head of state and any relevant oversight bodies in their nation’s legislature and courts.

Of course, many spies break these laws as well. I am reminded of a press conference given by President Obama in the summer of 2013 about the NSA; when asked about the programs Mr Snowden had reported to the country, the President answered that he didn’t know about them, he only found out about them “like you guys, when I read it in the newspapers.” I don’t know if the President was fudging the truth when he said that, but we have seen reports of military commanders and spy agencies in several countries who disobeyed their heads of state when they deemed these heads of state to be not hard enough when it came to war. And there must be an attitude among the long-serving spies and military commanders about their elected officials, that this one or that is “not one of us” and will soon be gone come a new election, while the civil servants in the military and spy agencies will still be there.

03/12/14; 02:15:35 PM

(These are some thoughts on how the ATV could grow beyond the streambox it is now.)

A lot of writers have thought on how the Apple TV set top box might become, variously, a full sibling in the iOS family, or a gamebox, or even a $99 PC. Many Apple-watching pundits have predicted these things as being right around the corner, for some years. But the ATV remains a streambox and nothing more.

Most of the speculation circles around how to control the thing, and the predominant wisdom runs that an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad would be the logical choice to serve as controller. But with AirPlay, if you have these devices, you can stream through the ATV to your HDTV set now … so why would you need or want to have the ATV be the workhorse and relegate your other iOS device (with likely more computing power onboard) as mere controller? Or, looking at it the other way, spending $99 on the ATV and then $230, $300, $500 or more on a ‘controller’ does not make a lot of sense financially.

So this is my idea: take the Apple trackpad, pair it through Bluetooth to the ATV and use it as controller.

This would mean changing things a little bit:

  • this trackpad would need to include an onboard gyroscope and accelerometer

  • the variant of iOS on the ATV would have to be modified to include an onscreen cursor (more than one, actually)

You would control the trackpad with thumbs, moving the thing, tilting it. The onscreen cursor(s) show where your touches would affect the graphics onscreen. Tapping the trackpad would constitute a screen tap in iOS.

Adding the gyroscope and accelerometer to the trackpad adds to its cost. I could see that these could add usefulness to the trackpad with a Mac, though. Adding the cursors etc. to the ATV flavor of iOS would be harder to do. Maybe it would be too much.

I still like the idea though.

Another thought: iOS v7 added support for external game controllers, and though the market is not great, and maybe the support Apple has offered so far is not very good, these things could be used with the ATV. I would imagine that going this route would not be feasible yet – it would need an iOS upgrade (v8 maybe) along with a decent list of games that support the controllers on iPads and iPhones, before bringing it along to the ATV.

Another problem for this whole concept is its complexity. Touching an iOS device is so simple and natural; that is the whole genius of doing without a stylus on a pentop computer. But the idea is getting complicated, even cumbersome, with all the special gestures now. Adding the game controller also Balkanizes the platform further (along with needing 1080p resolution support for the games).

03/10/14; 11:08:26 AM

Netflix wanted to start streaming movies and TV shows. According to Robert X Cringely, this was always Reed Hasting’s plan. So, the company started designing a set top box. But this was dropped on fears that a very jealous Apple would ban all Netflix apps from iOS if Netflix sold a box competing with the Apple TV. The box went on to be sold off and developed into the very popular Roku box.

So Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and others, are software only. This means that there is no local storage and the quality of the stream you see depends on how good your connection is, right now, to the internet. UHD 2160p is promised to be coming from Netflix, but how many people in the territories Netflix serves have the bandwidth (to say nothing of usage caps in monthly service) to support 2160p videos?

There is a better way and it involves a box and distributed TV.

This is how I imagine the box:

  • it has storage (or a connection a la USB to outboard storage)

  • it has a CPU, likely either an ARM or Intel Atom SoC

  • it runs a minimal OS, maybe embedded

  • on this OS it runs a sharing or peer to peer software

How would it work? Much like Netflix now

  • Online (and possibly through the box itself) you create and order a list of movies and TV episodes you want to watch

  • the top of your list is downloaded to your box

    • downloading takes place all the time, whenever you are connected, in the background

    • the files are encoded at h.265 or HEVC at very high bitrates, BluRay quality

  • when a movie is complete on your box, you can watch it

  • after you have watched a movie or TV episode, you can keep it on the box or delete it

    • delete a movie and it frees space to begin downloading the next item on your list

But how is this better than now?

  • The quality is higher

  • the video is not dependent on internet connection or quality once it has downloaded

More, the box OS and sharing software connects to all the other boxes in your network

  • that is, other subscribers who are also on your ISP

And the videos you have get passed along, all within your ISP’s network, to other subscribers who have those videos on their lists

Because the files are passed around in the background and at all times, the connections of the ISP are never choking on a big portion for this one application.

  • Currently in the US, Netflix takes up about 1/3 of all bandwidth in the evening “let’s watch something” hours

I imagine that ISPs would still want to block this or hold it up for ransom, so they would have to be made partners in the business.

Indeed, I have long believed that book publishers should offer all their books like subscription libraries and deal directly with readers; likewise movie distributors, producers, TV networks et al. should be doing this – big ISPs too. Get the ISP onboard with a taste of sugar (percentage of revenues) and they will devote more bandwidth to it.

The Netflix Box is another instance of decentralization. Decentralization is necessary for individual freedom. If the Netflix Box is combined with the Blogging Box, and if every user (client) is also a publisher (server) we will all be better off for it.

03/10/14; 07:24:30 AM

One of the problems with blogging is censorship.

Blogging on a web platform like Blogger,, Tumblr, and so on, you live under the threat that the authorities who run the platform might at any time take a dislike to you or what you write, and censor it.

But the problem here is the gatekeeper, which derives from the larger problem of choke points.

Wherever a choke point exists on the web, there is the danger that somebody might put the squeeze on it. And choke you off.

This is related to the problem Dave Winer and Richard Stallman talk about concerning ‘walled gardens’ and ‘silos’ but it goes beyond that to something the Internet was created to solve, but which has been lost in the way we use the WWW.

I can save my data, what I write, on various hard drives in various places. If my house burns down, I can have backups elsewhere.

But there is only one line between me and the WWW. There is only one line between any of my readers and the WWW. So the ISPs involved could always block communication at one end (mine) or the other (the reader’s). And where does my text live on the WWW? Even here in Fargo, my text exists at Dropbox online. I have a copy here on my local machine, and I can dupe that copy on any number of hard drives in many locations – but Small Picture can only ask Fargo to find this text from the online Dropbox files.

We need something like the Freedom Box. But we also need distributed networks, many Freedom Boxes working in a system or network, using peer to peer sharing software, encrypting and sending each person’s blog posts on lots of other people’s boxes. Not only copying and backing up the posts, but making them available. That is: if you go to read my blog, normally you would find the posts on my own box. But if my box goes offline, the software would just route around the problem, in the original vision of the Darpa geeks who made the internet, and load up the posts from some other Freedom Box, probably the nearest box to where you are.

This gets us to the ideal of the WWW from the glorious days of 1993 and goes beyond them. In short, every computer connecting to the internet should be both host and client, and we should all be sharing one another’s content so none of it is vulnerable.

This is really really really important for users who live under and oppose oppressive regimes.

  • (And as Edward Snowden has shown the world, it is looking more and more like every regime is an oppressive regime. Or if it is not oppressive now, it soon will be.)
03/09/14; 12:12:53 PM

This week I watched Pirate Radio an enjoyable though middlin’ British picture celebrating the rock and roll underground (actually offshore) radio stations in Britain in the 1960s. Love that old music, it brings me back to when I was a kid.

Another sign I am getting into oldgeezerland!

03/09/14; 12:03:02 PM

I look over the ads for Bluray disks and I can’t find anything. The recent movies just don’t appeal. I cannot see paying for any of them. I barely want to spend the time watching them!

I suppose this is because I am too old, far beyond the target movie audience demographic.

But it also comes from years of buying DVDs and then never watching them!

A friend of mine, Tim, told me that Godard once remarked, “Owning a movie means never having to watch it again.” J-L was talking about owning 35- and 16-mm prints, much more costly than a BD version. But the psychology seems to be the same.

03/09/14; 10:54:25 AM

The greatest failure of science in the past 500 years is not thinking in terms of systems.

03/01/14; 11:18:11 AM

Last built: Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 9:41 AM

By SWP Pond, Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM.