Oct 262012
 

I realize the title isn’t terribly descriptive, but it’s the last thing I wrote for this entry (aside from this sentence) and at this point every one of my brain cells is begging for a quick death.

By now, anyone who reads my blog knows about my deeply-seated and thoroughly corrosive hatred for Gizmodo – the site that I affectionately refer to as Jizzmodo. They’re a cross between TMZ and Engadget – if Engadget were penned by lobotomized macaques. They feign reporting the tech beat and, like most shitty free content providers in that market, they misreport on Apple consistently and shamelessly. Anything that Jizzmodo writes that has “Apple” in the title is guaranteed to be the narrative equivalent of a morbidly obese man wiping his ass with a bath towel.

The most recent “writer” to be designated as this week’s Apple bitcher is Sam Biddle, one of Jizzmodo’s legion of interchangable keyboard-wielding turds. Biddle’s turn at the piñata involves crafting one of the site’s bread-and-butter  specialties: attempting to scrutinize a successful Apple product launch using an ancient and thoroughly-debunked – but at one time contentious – piece of Apple “dirt”. Because Apple’s products are so much ridiculously better than anyone else’s, there’s actually only one issue that qualifies as “dirt” to the company’s critics. Yep: just when you thought we’d heard the last flapping of pendulous jowls on the topic, Jizzmodo wants to talk about how Apple’s latest product announcements will make the Chinese labor situation worse that it was at one time reported to be (which turned out not to be close to true). Let’s dive in and see what Mr. Biddle cares to offer us in the way of facts. Spoiler alert: there are none.

So many things are made in China: DVD players, handbags, adorable shoes, kitchen gadgets, watches, t-shirts, laptops, and more. Some of them are made in happy, shiny factories. Some are born out of deplorable labor conditions that ruin and cost lives. We usually don’t know which.

I’m personally unfamiliar with the “happy, shiny factories” in China. If you were expecting Biddle to give you an example of one of these jewels of humanitarian manufacturing…well…welcome to Jizzmodo. You’re in for a loooong read. If Jizzmodo’s typewriter monkeys had to be bothered to source their inflammatory exposition, the site simply wouldn’t exist.

But it’s different with Apple and its widely publicized manufacturing process: From Cupertino, we hear about the meticulous process created to make your perfect iPhone and iPad mini. From China, we hear about how that process involves child laborers,

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!

Every once in a while, the tuberculosis expectoration that is Jizzmodo prose can still raise one of my eyebrows. Biddle throws this out casually – of courseApple employs child labor. How do you clean those shell casings? Actually, as documented in Apple’s 2011 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, of the 229 audits performed, there were a total of 6 cases of underaged labor – and these were caused because the companies “had insufficient controls to verify age or detect false documentation”. And what did Apple do when they found out about incidents of underaged labor? They had the children returned to school, made the supplier pay for the child’s education at a school of their choice, and made them pay the child at the same wages they received when they were working while they did it. In the 2012 report, there wasn’t a single case of child labor discovered. What does that tell us? Apple is interested in the quality of life of its employees up and down the supply chain because it’s the right thing to do. When they discover a violation, they take transparently-described steps to make it right, and then they go out and check it again. Iterative, demonstrated improvement. But Biddle  blurts out “Apple uses child labor” as if it were just a part of their core business. Fuck you, you lazy hack. You shouldn’t have a job writing for a PennySaver.

impossible expectations, and brutal management. And we accept it. We didn’t used to put up with Chinese labor violations—so why now? When did owning the best phone become worth letting people get hurt? Decades ago—decades which feel particularly stretched from today—concerns over the Chinese labor behind beloved American brands lead to investigations, outrage, boycotts, and, most importantly, reform. Nike shoes and Gap jeans flirted with grim stigma: They were tainted goods. An increasing number of Americans, armed with voting dollars and a vague sense of globalized ethics, didn’t feel comfortable wearing sweatshop apparel. They didn’t want to buy things that were made by children who lost fingers or women on half-day shifts in cramped sewing machine bunkers. Because dollars spent that way justified the process. When you wittingly buy something that creates bad for people anywhere in the world, you’re in on it—that’s simple enough. Their loss is your Game Boy.

We threatened to stop buying these things, or at least turn our nose up at them enough that the companies in question actually changed. In 1998, the New York Times reported on Nike’s Chinese atonement:

The campaign against sweatshops has gained momentum in the West in the last few years. Last month, for example, Nike Inc. bowed to pressure and agreed to far-reaching changes in labor practices at factories that churn out its shoes. Nike said it would raise the minimum age for new workers to 16, admit outsiders to inspect the factories, and improve air filtration to meet United States factory standards.

I’m pretty sure I’m older than Sam Biddle – old enough to actually remember the anti-Nike movement in a context that wasn’t distorted by the perspective of someone still wearing pull-ups. The reason this is relevant is that equating the sweatshop conditions tacitly endorsed by Nike to the conditions at factories like Foxconn is a fucking joke. Employees in real sweatshops were publicly beaten on the factory floor for falling behind schedule. Female workers were forced to pull down their pants in front of factory doctors to prove they were menstruating if they wanted a leave. I’m sure Jizzmodo’s editors are banking that the basement-dwellers that eat up the anti-Apple sentiment secreted daily don’t remember what real sweatshops were like. This selective – almost exclusive – treatment of relevant facts bundled with a lot of hand-waving and presented as an op-ed is quintessential Jizzmodo. It is why reading most of the site’s offerings will make you insane – or at least make you stupider.

And then Apple started making something more glorious and wallet-penetrating than Jordans, a manic status object which made Apple the largest company in the history of capitalism. The latest iPhone—the best phone ever made—is also “the most difficult device…ever assembled,” according to Foxconn executive who spoke to the Wall Street Journal. But, he added ominously, “Practice makes perfect.” Good thing, because perfection is what we expect after a year of aching anticipation, media hype, and general silicon lust. But in this case, practice meant pushing an already overworked, underpaid, underaged staff beyond the breaking point. According to China Labor Watch, fights broke out between employees, and workers went on strike on the iPhone 5 lines. Foxconn varyingly denied and downplayed the strike. Naturally. No workplace will ever admit its practices are causing workers to punch each other because they can’t cope with work.

I’ve worked in 2 places where people have attempted to – and in one case successfully managed to – punch one of their coworkers in the face. And these were places with fewer than 100 employees. So a reported fistfight in a factory employing 100,000 people is…what is it exactly? It’s a pile of shit stuffed into a box labeled “I need pageviews” and served up to people who either want to scoff at it (fanboys obviously) or cheer it on.

Paying into this system with a trip to the Apple store ought to be more than distasteful—we need to look hard at ourselves, our pockets, and Chinese strangers and think whether funding exploitation is fundamentally wrong. The reflection will only become more and more pressing: This week, the iPad mini joins the iPhone 5 as potential tumult kindling, using an almost identically perfectionist manufacturing process, and held to Jonny Ive’s crazed standards. “With tolerances measured in microns,” the iPad mini’s design page reads, “mono-crystalline diamond-cut edges, and sleek metallic finishes, iPad mini was designed and engineered to incredibly high standards.” It’s hard to say what this industrial gobbledygook means, other than the fact that it’s really, really complicated to make.

Paying into what system? The system that panders to shitty tech sites’ borderline libelous accusations of child labor – as opposed to pandering to a system that uses real child labor? This evil system where people get pissed off at each other – for reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the working conditions? And what’s your alternative to “funding exploitation”, Sam Biddle?

/crickets

I especially like the line “It’s hard to say what this industrial gobbledygook means” coming from a site that pretends to have technology credentials. I guess there is no level on which Jizzmodo doesn’t suck balls.

And after we’ve all appreciated such an amazing physical object, there’s no going back—not for us, not for China. Absolute perfection is the new standard, and once that standard becomes a marketing boon and engine for making a tremendous amount of money, Apple would be out of its corporate mind to retreat.We’re locked into this now, already taking perfection as a given.

Since Steve Jobs returned to Apple, was there a time that the company wasn’t obsessed with perfection? And how exactly does Apple wanting to produce and our desire to use more impressively designed and engineered technology translate into additional hardship?  From Foxconn’s CEO stating that the iPhone 5 was the hardest product to make? Something, something, something…it just does! At least rotund fraud Mike Daisey actually cited things in his rants – lies, granted, but at least they were specific. Biddle’s piece is a baselessly equating the evolution of Apple’s devices with misery for the people assembling them. I’d say he should be ashamed of his crayon scrawl, but no one at Jizzmodo has any shame left to leverage.

Foxconn’s scoffs and denials notwithstanding, our consumer role in the harming of Chinese laborers is clear.

That we pay them to assemble a product at wages superior to what they’d earn working a field? Got it.

The iPhone 5 is dizzyingly engineered, and requires equally dizzying manufacturing processes—something Apple actually created an HD video bragging about.

Using some industrial gobbledygook I don’t know anything about.

The minute complexity of the thing is a selling point, not a liability. If it didn’t require such masterful construction, it wouldn’t be an iPhone. And if it weren’t an iPhone, our Western gullets wouldn’t be foaming for it at the expense of Eastern lives. The construction is masterful. The iPad mini, which enjoys the same industrial perfection as the new iPhone, may very well subject those who build it to the same rigors.

Not that I’d care to do a little research on the topic. It’s all gobbledygook anyway!

We don’t know for sure yet, but there’s no reason to assume making a sophisticated, small tablet is going to be any kind of break for the workers.

You don’t know anything, Sam. Pick up a fucking book and write about something you do know. Throw down one fact – one thought-through argument. Or better yet, just stop writing altogether.

Either way, we already love the Mini for its industrial neatness, as we have and always will with the iPhone 5 and beyond. Who’s going to ever stop loving chamfers? So we should allow Chinese Laborers to better their lives making things for Westerners, but only if those things are of low quality or require little skill. But no matter how clean the lines and matte the metal, we still complain. Which has nothing to do with anything, but since I’ll probably be writing for sites of this caliber until I drink myself to death, I may as well run with it. It scratches! It’s making some kind of strange barely-audible rattling noise! It’s taking too long to ship! So the labor machine runs faster. Workers are asked to do more with the same bodies and same training, as if industriousness were as simple as turning a knob. It’s unfair, and it’s funded by us.

I have to work too hard for someone that makes more money than me. It’s unfair. Maybe Biddle sharpened his cynical worldview at an Occupy Wall Street protest. I’m hoping another round of protests springs up for the express benefit of not having to read him again anytime soon.

A causal chain here is short, neat, and cruel: we moan about the most infinitesimal of possible flaws with the wonder phone, hold up fists of money for it, and gripe for it to arrive.

I’m interested in this hypothetical “we” person. “We” is a hackneyed writer’s trope that attempts to engender camaraderie by joining the reader with the writer. It’s about as lazy and pandering as writing gets, but considering the forum, that’s certainly par.  If you think about it for a moment, the closet thing to this “we” entity is sites like Jizzmodo. “(M)oan(ing) about the most infinitesimal of possible flaws with the wonder phone” is their entire fucking business model – unless you count faux-humanitarian drivel like this. They are the bitch machine that runs this entire ring of oppression. But please, Sam, ignore all this irony and tell us more about why we should hate ourselves.

Apple tells Foxconn to run a tighter ship, and an already tight ship is squeezed to a breaking point.

Smashing metaphors together into an incoherent blob: another Jizzmodo specialty.

Foxconn pushes its workers to work harder and faster to satiate American detail lust. As substantiated by an account of fistfights on the iPhone 5 production line. Workers who are already working inordinately hard and fast, for very little money, and most likely, because working this aching onerous factory job is a little better than subsistance (sic) farming in a remote Chinese village. Remember: Some places in China are worse will never be a sound argument for Foxconn—cleaning septic tanks with a brush is better than with your tongue, but neither are good.

Now THAT’S a relevant analogy – it’s how I felt during the entire exercise of reading Biddle’s piece.

And so there they are, a seemingly inexhaustible pool of hundreds of thousands of workers who want something better than bad, and can be replaced at any time, for any reason, because people literally line up outside Foxconn for a brutal, monotonous place on the assembly line.

They line up to be treated like interchangeable pieces of shit. Man – those Asian people are weird.

These expendable workers are shoved harder and harder because we, indirectly, ask them to be. We demand the production, which worsens the production. And nobody can claim ignorance.

I’m not claiming ignorance – and because this is an issue that probably bought Nick Denton his 2nd diamond-encrusted yacht (christened PASSWORD) – very few people with access to the internet can claim ignorance. What people do to rationalize the existence of companies like Foxconn is ask themselves “what’s better?” Yes, the existence of a shitty, backbreaking agrarian alternate universe is a sound argument for Foxconn – and unlike Jizzmodo’s poorly-written, hilariously unsourced, Apple-bashing flavor of the week, I’m going to tell you why. Not too long ago, this country was fueled by the backbones of farmers who left their plots and plows for the allure of urban living. They were joined by immigrant workers in performing the tasks – shuttling the coal, cleaning the cisterns, manning the sweatshops – that made this country run. Their children, and then their grandchildren, were afforded the opportunities to become better and better educated. They graduated from colleges, then graduate schools. They ascended the class ladder to become doctors, lawyers and CEOs. Look at the biography of any successful person over the age of 50 and read about what their parents did for work. Many parts of China are still in the process of transforming from their ubiquitous rural roots to lifestyles that are more affluent. The road there, like the road beaten – and built by – the lower class in this country 100 years ago sucks a lot of the time, but it’s one that must be traveled.

Foxconn scandals make regular headlines.

Because everyone – including the scut peddlers at Jizzmodo – thrive on them.

It’s possible your PS3 is built with this same kind of forced-march, pressure-cooker mentality. It’s possible your HTC tablet is made illegally by underage, underpaid kids. It’s possible almost every major gadget company has just as much sweat on its hands as Apple—and if we knew they did, they’d deserve all the same scrutiny and scorn. But we don’t know.

Biddle doesn’t know. For those of us interested in knowing – or who aren’t too lazy to write something without backing it with facts – or those of us who don’t have a horribly-argued ax to grind, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there about child labor abuses – real ones – at Samsung’s own factories. Not the ones they contract for assembly; the ones they run. Microsoft’s contracted facility had a mass suicide threat this year. But it’s easier for Biddle – again lamely attempting to enjoin his readers with the “we” convention – to feign not knowing. The entirety of his piece consists of shrugged shoulders and one unfounded allegation after another.

That’s the entire world of difference—we do know how bad it is on the iPhone assembly lines, and we keep feeding them dollars. When you spend hundreds on your Apple handset, you slide that credit card with knowledge of where and how it came to be. You know about the suicides, the strikes, the fights, the cramped dorms, the on-site therapy, and the explosions. When you trade your money for a phone that comes from one of these places, you’re guaranteeing that more phones will be built just like that. You’re saying, at the very least, That’s bad, but not as bad as me not having this phone.

You’re also playing a part in the industrialization of another country – providing an opportunity for that person, or perhaps that person’s children, to have a better life than the one they came from. It might be jarring, depressing and exhausting, but it’s opportunity just the same. And if you think for a second that by choosing not to buy that phone, if it were made 10 million times every quarter, would benefit those lives, you’re a straight-up jackass. Just like Sam Biddle.

We’d never say that about a shirt or a shoe or a blood diamond, which shows just how much tremendous cultural power Apple has. Cachet that kills.

The only thing it shows is how superlatively shitty that comparison is. And in a piece littered with wrenchingly putrid pustules of the written language, that’s saying something.

Apple now sells things good enough to displace the commonsense ethical judgments we’d normally make—China has always been far away from us as shoppers, but it’s never been so far out of reach that bad labor always escapes reform. The iPhone, it would seem, has reached that distance.

Reform, you say? Kind of like all of the work Apple is doing with their supply chain? The audits and reporting that no other consumer electronics maker can hold a candle to; or partnering with the FLA, which none of these other “we don’t know for sure they’re bad because we’re too fucking lazy to research it” tech companies have the character or backbone to do? That kind of reform? But those facts wouldn’t help Biddle’s DURRR APPLE BAD point. Not that anything he’s written does either.

Conscious or not, I made the choice of super-phone over other humans when I went to the AT&T store last month. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t, but it’s too late: I’m complicit in whatever bad is happening in Shenzhen. But with no reason to believe things are getting any cheerier at Foxconn, I have to ask myself if it’ll be the last time. Or, at the very least, wonder when we started caring more about cool new gadgets and less about the suffering of other people.

For God’s sake, Sam, rise above the bullshit emo self-reflection and listen to your conscience. Return that iPhone before your 30 day return window closes. And please – never buy an Apple product again. If you truly believe all of the things you’ve written – about your purchase directly contributing to other peoples’ abject misery – you’d be a horrible human being if you didn’t march that evil device right back to its sweatshop facilitators and tell them to shove it.

It’s much more likely that your shame and outrage is manufactured by a machine much more efficient that anything that exists in Shenzhen. It’s the Jizzmodo pageview machine, one of the most sustainable contraptions on the planet. Fueled by 5th grade prose, unsubstantiated hyperbole and outright lies, it converts literary shit into Gawker gold. Now Sam: grab your shovel and get back to work.

 Posted by at 3:36 pm  Tagged with:
May 302012
 

I’m guessing we all saw it, given that we’re all tuned in to most things Apple. I won’t link to it, because Gizmodo is the tech site equivalent of a Love Canal sturgeon. It’s penned by Douchebag’s Row Member Jesus Diaz, as if you needed any other reason not to seek it out.

The piece in question lists 10 things that would have irked Steve Jobs if he was alive today. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write about Apple’s challenges, but there’s a way of doing it that doesn’t make you look like a piece of shit – which Diaz is, without question. I won’t go into the list, which, true to the form of the author’s body of work, is filled with poorly-written half-truths. What I will do is show you the header graphic.

Stay classy, Gizmodo

I’d recommend that Jesus Diaz lose his job, but that recommendation could apply to any one of at least a dozen pieces he’s written. It also assumes that the scumbag Gawker network produces anything that isn’t a stone’s throw away from this afterbirth. In my fantasy life, I dream of the day that Gizmodo gets tired of having to ban a third of the commenters following anything Diaz writes and he’ll be be kicked to the curb. Maybe then Gizmodo will assume some level of decency in its reporting of tech news. But we all know that pieces like this fit exactly into the niche Gizmodo has built for itself. It’s too bad there’s such a large market for them.

 Posted by at 11:10 am  Tagged with:
Mar 292012
 

Tim Cook visits the new Foxconn facility in Zhengzhou. See if you can pick out the Gizmodo headline from among our five contestants:

  • Tim Cook tours iPhone production at new Foxconn plant
  • Tim Cook Tours Foxconn’s New Zhengzhou Plant During Trip To China
  • Glorious Apple Leader Surprises iPad Minions with Foxconn Visit and Smiles
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook visited new Foxconn iPhone plant during China trip
  • Apple’s Tim Cook Visits Foxconn IPhone Plant in China

Gizmodo: the source for important Lego-related news.

 Posted by at 11:55 am  Tagged with:
Feb 282012
 

Looking back through the roster of shitheadedness that is Douchebag’s Row, I’ve noticed a trend that may explain my particular level of contempt for its inductees: all of these guys are old enough to know better. By my logic, once you’ve been banging a keyboard on the tech scene for awhile, ignorance is tantamount to trolling. The latest bust to be carved is that of Jesus Diaz, Senior Contributing Editor for Gizmodo and a person who proves that experience does not necessarily require advanced age when it comes to being an asshole.

Diaz represents the next generation of blogger, one who has consistently shown that he’s learned much from his elder hit-whores. In addition to a less-than-perfect grasp of English diction and grammar, Diaz’s prose is possessed by the slap-worthy self-righteousness common to countries that lie between the Prime Meridian and the former USSR. His ubiquitous presence in the comment sections of not only the articles he writes, but on most of the articles on the site, throws the window into his douchebaggery wide open. So much so that the site actually banned him from commenting temporarily because of how abusive he was (“no link for hit whores” policy suspension due to sheer hilarity of the incident).

No DBR induction ceremony would be complete without a sampling of Diaz’s stylings, so here are some of my favorites:

About the decline in Steve Jobs’ health being the reason for his cancellation of a Macworld appearance in early 2009:

“According to a previously reliable source, Apple misrepresented the reasons behind Macworld and Jobs’ keynote cancellation. Allegedly, the real cause is his rapidly declining health. In fact, it may be even worse than we imagined”

The source, of course, was anonymous, but it didn’t keep them from dolling up the entry with some classy artwork to go with their unsubstantiated story:

Dicks...again

About the tight security surrounding Apple’s products, likening their tactics to those of the Nazi Gestapo (an excellent critique – and use of TMA’s douchebag trademark – from DED here).

“No, Tom (the story’s source) never lived in Nazi Germany, nor in East Germany, nor in the Soviet Union, nor in Communist China. He lives in the United States. For sure, he has never been scared of losing his life nor the ones he loves, like thousands of millions in those countries. But he knows how it feels to be watched, to always be considered guilty of crimes against another kind of state. He knew how it felt to have no privacy whatsoever when he was working right here, in a little Californian town called Cupertino, in a legendary place located in One Infinite Loop.

Tom knew about all that pretty well, back when he was working at Apple Inc.”

Lesson for junior link-baiters: few things bring in the link love better than comparing something trivial to the greatest atrocity of the 20th century.

His objective review of iPad app ecosystem:

“The iPad app store is now showing more than 100,000 apps available. That roughly means about one hundred apps that are actually awesome. Which, mind you, it’s about 97 more than everyone else. I don’t give a damn about the rest.”

To give you a sense of the kind of respect that Diaz’s posts elicit, the post was promptly followed by a flood comments listing awesome apps. Even now, Apple’s lame app store continues to hinder the iPad, evidenced by the fact that the company can’t seem to make enough of them.

His scintillating review of Apple’s latest OS, Lion:

“It breaks my heart to say this, but Mac OSX Lion’s interface feels like a failure.”

Another critical mistake on Apple’s part that has crippled Mac sales – oh wait – I mean the mistake that’s encouraging Macs to sell like crazy in a PC market that’s turned to shit. Almost had me there, Diaz.

His continued work reviewing the developer preview of Mountain Lion, an OS that won’t ship until this summer. That didn’t prevent him from giving it 3 stars, or for continuing his whiney detractions summarized thusly:

“It’s the antithesis of Jon Ive’s minimalistic design, all essence devoid of artifice.”

Maybe you meant “substance” instead of “artifice”? Or maybe your incorrect sentence structure mangled your point and you meant Ive’s design was “essence devoid of artifice”? Maybe I fell asleep 3 times trying to decipher the shitty writing that is your trademark.

And his latest contribution, a questioning of Apple’s tactics in acquiring the trademark for the iPad from a bankrupt troll:

“Proview—the former owners of the iPad trademark in China—is suing Apple in California for “fraud by intentional misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, fraudulent inducement, and unfair competition.” Are they right? This is how Apple tricked them. You be the judge”

If you were at all concerned that based on “You be the judge” that the evidence presented would be balanced, you need only look to the piece’s graphic – and the fact that the words were written by Jesus Diaz – that the facts would be somewhat tainted with an already-drawn conclusion.

Diaz does away with any illusion of objectivity in his summary: “Oh Steve, you dirty rotten scoundrel. How much I miss your ways (seriously). Between this and Mountain Lion’s Don Corleone approach to App Store features, you keep stealing my heart even after you are gone.” The practice of having a third party secure trademarks to prevent no-worth companies like Proview from milking the value of words is common, but don’t let a well-known business tactic jam the gears of your hate machine. That last sentence had a chance at some resonance if people didn’t already know you sold your heart for pageviews, just another Gawker whore holding onto his post at Gizmodo in the face of withering unpopularity (check the number of banned comments accompanying anything he writes) long after his co-contributors realized that there was life after penning lopsided anti-Apple screed.

So after what seemed like an eternity watching Jesus Diaz peg Apple for hits, TMA welcomes him into the hallowed halls of Douchebag’s Row, where Luddites and petulant children are embraced with equal warmth. Perhaps some day, during one of his SEO tantrums, Diaz will hold his breath long enough that we’ll all be free from his mangled, amateur, straw-man prose.

Feb 172012
 

As much of a resource as Gizmodo is for the latest Lego news, it’s part of Gawker and, well I guess I can put a period after that. Because they make a lot of their money writing dick things about Apple, the company stopped inviting them to press events long ago. When Gizmodo bought a stolen prototype of the iPhone 4, they were dicks to Steve Jobs when he asked for it back. Their site went on to register millions of pageview from stories about Apple’s stolen phone. The editors involved escaped prosecution for the crime, apparently because they were under 18. The San Mateo County DA had this to say about their journalistic integrity:

“It was obvious they were angry with the company about not being invited to some press conference or some big Apple event…We expected to see a certain amount of professionalism-this is like 15-year-old children talking.”

Unsurprisingly, Gizmodo also reads like 15-year-old children writing. So why would the highly-esteemed Gray Lady share anything with populist hit-whores more interested in pageviews than actual journalism?  For acting like populist hit-whores more interested in selling copy than actual journalism. That’s right: it looks like the New York Times has been Gizmodoed, which can either mean having Apple bitch-slap you with your press card or having your trade show pranked. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things it could mean, but I’m only halfway through my first cup.

The real victim here is Times tech guy David Pogue, who was locked out of the Mountain Lion preview given to dozens of his tech press peers, and – how do I say this kindly – some people that were not. He was reduced to pulling impressions from other writers before he could get his hands on the developer preview, which was made available to all the unwashed through Apple’s Developer Center yesterday ($99 annual membership to ADC required). The shame is that Pogue’s reviews do right by Apple and he had enjoyed a Mossbergian level of access prior to the hilariously unsourced singling-out of the company for its labor practices with Foxconn in China. He should check in with those Business Section guys and thank them for “breaking out the gimp” on his career.

Update: Gruber confirmed what commenter Spade mentioned: Pogue had the same level of access as the rest of the technorati. Apparently he was next in line for an interview with Schiller.

Feb 152012
 

There’s a lot of stuff covered on the Apple beat daily, usually by multiple blogs. Because I tend to dwell on one topic and post infrequently, I’m going to try something a little different: taking some of the headlines from my RSS feed and commenting on their gist. The news items are plucked somewhat randomly, as 12 other blogs usually post something on the same issue within 20 minutes of each other. Some other pieces are thrown in for “color”. I’m hoping this is a way for me to add a small amount of original commentary on topics I’d either never get to or before they are processed to death by the technorati blogging machine. Comments/suggestions are always welcome.

RantSS for 2-15-12

Your iPhone’s Privacy Sucks Because of Apple—and Even Steve Jobs Agrees – Jizzmodo

We’re taking the address book permission issue and blaming it on Apple, because Google Analytics tells us that baiting people in possession of common sense accounts for 93% of our traffic. We even found a video of the brilliant dead guy who ran the company being quoted on a somewhat similar issue out of context.

Did Samsung just reveal a Galaxy Note 10.1 for MWC? – The Verge

Samsung makes a 5.3″ Galaxy Note, which is a giant phone with a stylus; they also make a 10.1″ (7″ and 8.9″) Galaxy Tab, which are tablets. The “10.1” Galaxy Note” is either a PR screw-up created by the confusion inherent in maintaining a product line consisting of a bajillion undifferentiated knock-offs or of jamming a phone into a 10″ tablet is sheer deperation. Both possibilities are even money.

How Realistic Would a Robot Have to Be for You to Have Sex with It? – Jizzmodo

Read about the trending topic at all the Jizzmodo IRL meet-ups.

Apps uploading address books is a privacy side-show compared to DPI – TechCrunch

Deep Packet Inspection is a lot more intrusive than what Path did. Here’s a bunch of companies that do it now! Did we mention that more than 50 other apps do what Path did? Have we covered how Apple’s address book permission policies allow Path and others to do these things? Did we mention that TechCrunch enjoys 100% editorial independence from potential influencers like CrunchFund?

Video: Photoshop CS6 Content-Aware Move, Extend Makes Us Drool – Mac|Life

Here’s one feature that you can use to justify spending $600 on a program that’s now 90% feature redundant with programs costing 5% as much. Remember to fasten your bib prior to buffering.

News: Realmac Software releases Clear – iLounge

Absolutely every other tech site has reported on this app and I’m stumped as to why this is. It’s maybe the 12th most useful and 3rd prettiest app in the most crowded category of the App Store, but I predict it will be upheld as an example of app excellence because you can pinch, spread and pull to manipulate the UI. For this reason it will also be a deserved object of competing platforms’ ridicule.

FLA head describes Foxconn plants as ‘way above average’ – MacNN

/cue Change.org response about 1. the FLA being paid plants with no objectivity, 2. use of the term “average” and a warning to guilty westerners that “average” in Chinese means life-threatening and/or soul-sucking. 3. Apple having too much money, gotten through arbitrary means and compounded at an interest rate derived from the value of the souls and backs of cheap, exploited labor.

Congress Wants Answers From Apple On Apps Stealing Address Book Contacts – Cult of Mac

Dear Mr. Cook:

I really don’t have a clue about technology, but I do know that your company receives the vast majority of technology coverage in the media today, which means my political future could stand to benefit from your answering my questions relating to an ongoing issue that has only recently been getting media attention. Apple has a track record of answering inquiries issues from elected officials, so I have a better than average chance of being able to parley this letter into some future favor among this country’s younger voters.

I’ve cut and pasted something taken from various blogs across the intertubes that I think frames my inquiry, and juxtaposed it against an excerpt from your own developer guidelines in a way that I think makes it look like something important. The following is a list of questions, most of which overlap each other, that I will have a young person on my staff, Felipe Mendoza, to translate the answers to in “elected official speak” for me. I’ve added a respond-by date, because I want it to look like I mean business.

Sincerely,

Some generic politician

Some trumped-up title

Some subcommittee that does nothing

Apple: iOS update to require user permission for apps to access contacts – Macworld

Last call for all editorializing about Apple’s contacts permission policy, 7 day extension granted to all blogs who want to bitch about how it should have been done sooner.

To Read, Or Not To Read – parislemon

Sigh.

Dec 202011
 

As common as the articles telling Apple what to do with its cash or making out Apple users to be members of some kind of cult is the story bitching about how the company defends its intellectual property. They usually travel from “Steve Jobs said great artists steal” to “Apple’s patents have no merit” in under 500 words. These articles just stop short of abolishing the practice of defending intellectual property and the current patent system, although every other word seems to say exactly that. These hit pieces pop up every time Apple files a lawsuit, so it wasn’t shocking to see it exhumed once one of Apple’s claims actually got some traction, which happened yesterday. The International Trade Council agreed that HTC infringed on one of the 10 patents subjected to the body in 2010 for “data detectors” – the hyperlinks that allow your iPhone to recognize dates and phone numbers and forward them to the appropriate apps – and gave HTC until April 19 of 2012 to engineer a workaround before its phones face an injunction in United States.

Mat Honan’s “If Apple Wins We All Lose” is an archtype of this kind of rhetoric, and it’s no surprise that it came from Gawker Media’s Gizmodo. It’s surprisingly worse than most of the word count published on this topic, which makes it kind of fun to take apart.

Yesterday’s news that courts had ruled against HTC in favor of Apple was a tidy little victory for Apple. But HTC is just an initial skirmish in a much larger fight. The real war is against Android, and if Apple wins that, we’ll all lose.

Apocalyptic topic sentence echoing apocalyptic byline: check.

The iPhone was like nothing that came before. And Apple should be able to protect its innovations and intellectual property. But the Cupertino Crew doesn’t just want to do that; it wants to kill Android. It wants Google’s mobile OS to go away. No settlements. No licenses. Dead. Jobs said as much, very explicitly.

This philosophical “middle ground” between the ability to protect one’s intellectual property and not having a patent system has to be restated several times throughout pieces like this. It’s what I like to call the “standard disclaimer”. Even though every other word in the article is going to be a slam against both the patent system and of Apple’s claims within the system, because the author doesn’t want to come off as a (bigger) moron, he’s obligated to pay it lip service.

There are two avenues Apple can take to achieve this victory: the marketplace and the courts. I’d be all for Apple winning fair and square in the marketplace. It’s okay for consumers to decide the victor in this fight. But it’s not okay for a handful of judges and lawyers to dictate the direction of technology. For Apple to win in the marketplace—and I mean total dominance here, the kind of thermonuclear war that an apoplectic Jobs described in Walter Isaacson’s biography—it would require both innovation on a massive scale, and real price competitiveness. Realistically, that’s not going to happen. It’s already impossible, at least in the next three years. Android’s foothold with consumers is already too strong. Its phones are too inexpensive, and Google and its device manufacturing partners are too committed to Android for it to fail completely.

So the marketplace and the courts are mutually exclusive venues–the only 2 options for companies to achieve market dominance? Interesting. I always imagined the marketplace as a complex organism subject to many axes of competition, both quantitative and qualitative – price, quality, design – to name a few. Some of these axes can be protected by intellectual property law. The details of how this property is protected will always be up for debate, but you can’t make an argument that no system is better than a broken one. Apple is a company with a history of being fucked over on the intellectual property playing field. Their biggest mistake was made with Microsoft, a mistake that was exploited during the absence of their leader. That mistake factors largely into how Apple perceives the value of its IP and the lengths it is willing to go to protect it.

So that leaves the courts, where Apple keeps pressing its case—largely against device manufacturers. That’s not okay. The patent system is broken. Deeply, and profoundly so. The system that was created to foster and protect innovation, now serves to strangle it dead. Apple has real innovation. And real invention. So why act like a cheap patent troll, taking advantage of a body of under-qualified legal professionals to make decisions about which technologies consumers will be able to use? Does that bother anyone else?

Again, Apple is not responsible for how “broken” the patent system is in this country. Its only choices are:

1. To defend its intellectual property.
2. Not to defend its intellectual property.

If Apple does not defend its patents, it will forfeit future rights do so. This is common knowledge in all businesses that are can be governed by patents, and it’s certainly not “trolling”. It seems as though Honan saying that because the system is, in his opinion, broken, that Apple has no right to defend its innovations. This rhetorical masturbation has become the trademark of Gizmodo’s writing.

Granted, the iPhone was a sea change. So was the iPad. And Apple ought to be able to protect the innovations and intellectual property that set those devices apart. If Apple was only competing on iron-clad patents—if it was just forcing its competitors to think way out side of the box, that would be great for innovation. But it’s not. Apple is playing the same stupid games everyone does in the patent wars today.

Here we go again with the Apple deserves to defend property/Apple doesn’t serve to defend this property. Apple subjected 10 patents – patents that were granted by the USPTO – for consideration by the ITC. One of them was found to be infringed upon. Is Honan’s stance that none of these patents merit protection? Apparently they don’t rise to the “iron-clad” standard that is the foundation of…oh, I guess this “iron-clad” proviso doesn’t exist in any of this country’s current patent law. Could it be that Mat Honan is making up legal terms in an attempt to generate interest on a topic that has been beaten to death, resurrected and beaten to death again about 500 times?

A little bit about patents: For something to be patentable, it must be (or at least it should be) novel and non-obvious. You should not be able to find existing examples of it in prior art—in other words, when you look at the history of similar products, whatever you’re patenting needs to be unique.

I admit I laughed out loud at that. Mat Honan, obviously an officer of the USPTO, is going to educate us about patent law. Allow me to secure my bifocals and Number 2 pencil.

Now, certainly, some of Apple’s good stuff is novel. No one had ever seen anything like the iPhone prior to 2007. Yet clearly some of the things Apple is gunning to protect are, well, obvious.

Oh wait – you mean that’s it? That’s your entire lecture? Jesus and I thought I needed to go to school for this. I thought there was an entire government agency dedicated to this – one which apparently didn’t share Dr. Honan’s opinion about what’s patentable.

What Apple won the rights to in this most recent HTC case, was basically a patent on the act of recognizing patterns and acting on them—like when you tap on a phone number in an email to launch your dialer and make a call. Thing is, Google was recognizing numerical strings (including phone numbers) and tailoring search results to them long before the iPhone came out. Dating back to at least 2006 (maybe earlier) you could enter a UPS tracking code into Google, and it would parse that number, ping UPS and return tracking information at the top of the search results. It would do the same thing with phone numbers. It basically did everything the iPhone did, short of make calls. Was it non-obvious for a mobile phone to do what a search engine was doing? I don’t know. I certainly think it’s debatable, yet this is the issue that Apple just beat HTC on.

Actually, some people that know what they’re talking about when they get behind a keyboard provided a concise history of the ‘647 patent, one that predates whatever Honan thought Google was doing with UPS tracking codes. As a matter of fact, it was granted in 1999. If journalistic integrity was valued in the blogosphere, this catastrophic misstatement of fact would put a site like Gizmodo out of business. Sadly, the “durrrr Google did something like this first” smoking gun is as factual as the author gets.

Likewise, the iPad also had many novel features—like that genius subtle backside curve that makes the device so easy to pick up off a flat surface. But if you look at what Apple wants to get Samsung to drop—the bezel and the rounded corners and the rectangular shape and even the color—it’s clear that Apple wants Samsung to try to make something that goes against good design principles established well before Apple rolled out the iPad.

This is not what Apple did. It is what your site’s flametarded editor said, illustrated by flametarded Photoshops to depict Apple in the worst possible light at the expense of the facts. If you’re interested in what Apple was actually trying to do when it made recommendations to Samsung about how it could change the design of its tablet so that it didn’t infringe on the iPad, you would know that if Samsung had decided to do one thing differently, it would not be infringing. The Xyboard? Not infringing. Apple did not say “do all of these things at once”. I swear Gizmodo is trying to make the internet stupider one post at a time.

I think a lot of this can be blamed on Apple’s past history. It lost big in the courts once before. And it’s determined not to do so again. In some ways, Apple is becoming the George Wallace of technology companies. In 1958 George Wallace lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Alabama to his opponent John Patterson, who campaigned on a more virulently racist pro-segregation platform than Wallace had. In response, Wallace said he’d never be out-segged again. Nor was he. In 1962, Wallace stormed into the Governor’s office and national stage on a campaign of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Apple’s Wallace moment came in 1994, when it lost a massive legal battle after the courts ruled that it could not prevent Microsoft and HP from shipping computers with graphical user interfaces that used the desktop metaphor. Apple argued that its copyrights were being violated, but the court decided Apple’s copyrights weren’t afforded patent-like protections.

This paragraph actually elicited a verbal response from me. That response was “Wow”. It’s like the entire universe of comparative anecdotes compressed into an infinitely small point and then exploded with the intensity of a billion novae. What the fuck does a racist politician’s segregation platform have to do with a company defending its IP? The best I can come up with is that Apple is supposed to be riding an unpopular practice (defending Honan’s “softer than iron-clad” IP) harder the second time it had the opportunity to do so (the iPhone) after not having the opportunity the first time (against Microsoft).

(Of course, it didn’t help that Apple wasn’t the first company to ship a computer with a graphical user interface, mouse and a desktop metaphor. That was Xerox, which had all that on its Alto. In fact, the original plan for the Macintosh business unit was written surreptitiously on a Xerox Alto during off-hours at Xerox PARC. So it goes.)

It’s curious how, after claiming to have read Steve Jobs’s biography, Honan could misstate the Xerox PARC anecdote so egregiously. Misrepresenting the PARC story is fundamental to those wishing to dismiss any claims Apple may have on its intellectual property. After all, didn’t they rip off poor Xerox?

But something changed in between the time the Macintosh was released in 1984 and when the iPhone rolled out in 2007: software patents. They weren’t widely applied until the 1990s. This happened to co-incide quite nicely with Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. And by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, it was game on. And so, in 2007, when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, after scoring big points with the crowd on the iPhone’s features, he did a little endzone dance for the competition, crowing that the company had patented the Bejesus out of its fancy new phone. It had learned its lesson in fighting Microsoft on copyright rather than patents, and was clearly determined to out-patent anyone else in the then-nascent smartphone market. Now we’re seeing the fruits of those patents. They’ve afforded Apple some significant victories. But if you look at the past as prologue, as Apple seems to be doing, I don’t think it’s so clear that it would ultimately be good for Apple to kill Android in the courts. And it certainly won’t help consumers.

In other words, Apple felt it had been duped and out-maneuvered by Microsoft, so it wanted to take whatever legal measures were available to defend its intellectual property with the iPhone in 2007. I guess Honan gets paid by the word. At least I hope he does.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine Apple had been successful in its suit against Microsoft. Imagine Microsoft had been prohibited from shipping Windows 2.0 or Windows 3.0—or, by God, Windows 95—without licensing the hell out of it from Apple. Where would we be? Without Windows there to pressure Apple to Build Something Better, things would be very different in Cupertino today. After it lost its case with Microsoft and saw its market share dwindle to nothing, Apple had to innovate like crazy. Had Apple won, it never would have had to transition from the System 7-era to Mac OS X. It never would have had to buy NeXT. It never would have had to bring prodigal son Steve Jobs back into the fold. Without Mac OS X, there would be no iOS. And without iOS, no iPhone, no iPad.

/takes massive bong hit

So you mean, like, intellectual property rights actually kill innovation? I mean, that’s like totally the opposite effect of what the people designing the system want it to have, maaaaaaaan! Imagine that…under my fingernails…a tiny universe might exist! Thought experiment maaaaaaan!

George Wallace used segregation as a bludgeon, quite effectively, to win elections. But today, it’s clear that he ultimately injured himself, Alabama, and the nation as a whole for very many years to come.

Keep banging that drum, Mat. I know your totally relevant recounting of an obscure southern election jammed into the mold of IP defense tactics is going to make the Harvard Business Review any day now. Or Worst Fucking Analogies Ever Quarterly. One of those two.

I’m all for seeing Apple defend its intellectual property. But Android is a healthy force in the marketplace. If Apple can destroy it there, more power to Tim Cook and company. But if Apple beats Android in the courts rather than the marketplace—if it out-segs Google instead of out-innovating it—that may be great for Apple, but it will be bad for society, bad for technology, and ultimately bad for Apple.

Third time’s a charm, I guess. You’re not for Apple defending its property, Mat. You’re for a generalized defense of intellectual property based on some criteria you don’t even define very well. But please, feel free to squawk like a racist Eric Schmidt with your “patents are the antithesis of innovation in the marketplace” horseshit.

And of course, the great irony is that so much of the amazing innovation that Apple pulled off over the past three decades can be traced back to its willingness to swipe ideas from Xerox. Steve jobs was fond of quoting Picasso, saying “good artists copy, great artists steal.” If Apple does succeed in crushing Android in the courts, where will it get its next great idea? My guess is that it won’t come from a lawyer.

So there’s your wrap-up, which touches on the mandatory “iron-clad” talking points present in any piece that slags Apple for defending its patents: a misrepresentation of the Xerox PARC story and the standard out-of-context quote from Jobs about Picasso, wrapped up with a quip about how ironic it all is.  Where will the next great piece about Apple, Android and the intellectual property landscape in this country come from? My guess is that it won’t come from Mat Honan.

Oct 042011
 

I think the dissection of everything Apple prior to their product announcements has finally bitten them a little. Leading up to today’s announcement, people (present company included) got wrapped up in case designs, mock-ups and, most egregiously, extrapolations of the iPhone 4’s current feature set – and we projected these fantasies onto a phantom device that became known as the iPhone 5.

In addition to all this iPhone cosplay, a second device emerged: the “iPhone 4S”. It was hypothesized that the 4S would attack the low-end market, would share some traits of current iPhone 4, but would also be “enhanced” – something I dismissed as ridiculous. The 4S was viewed as sort of like the 3GS – a phone that in retrospect got a bad rap – mostly because it looked the same. Even though it was markedly faster and had a better camera than the 3G, because it didn’t look different, it didn’t represent a significant improvement over the iPhone 3G.

Now that the announcement is over, we know that the 4S is it. There is no iPhone 5. But why am I getting such a whiff of disappointment? Let’s think about what the iPhone 4S turned out to be from a hardware perspective:

  • A5 processor
  • 8MP camera
  • Intelligent switching antennae
  • Siri intelligent personal assistant

Now what isn’t it?

  • A wider, (maybe) higher-ppi screen
  • A new case design

So what was the iPhone 5, really? It was an over-piling of the least plausible, least corroborated rumors about the 4S piled onto some mythical device. So why all the hate (AAPL is down 3.75% as of 3:00 EST)? Because we bought into 2 things: a device called the 4S that would be a “bargain device” – a fucking ridiculous premise to begin with – and the fact that Apple “had” to do something radical over and above it – whatever that something radical was. What we got was a cheaper iPhone 4 to chip at the low-end market (which I, and a lot of other people, called) and almost all of the predicted device improvements included in the new 4S (and at least one no one called – the smart antennae).

I expect the hate to flow into the comment sections of Gizmodo and Engadget articles on the 4S like the Dark Side through Anakin. I may have spent some time in the fantasyland of the iPhone 5 as well, but I have no one but my irrational self to blame for it.

Apr 202011
 

A lot of people roll their eyes when they catch wind that Apple is suing someone over “look and feel”.  And when TMA says “roll their eyes”, he means “holler soprano through knotted panties”. To wit:

“This just in.. Ford sues the whole motor industry for copying the Model T. 4 wheels.. Check! Steering wheel.. Check! Combustion engine.. Check! I know.. Crazy huh?”   –Some Engadget douchebag

“Clearly subjective. The “user interface” is nothing like IOS outside of the square app options. This suit is rediculous and I hope Steve Jobs dies already.”   –Classy Gizmodo commenter (currently “unstarred”, but with SJ comment and rediculous spelling, it’s only a matter of time)

So why does Apple continue to fire lawsuit salvos from behind its “walled garden”?

Because you didn’t design the iPhone. Neither did Samsung (LOL@the Samsung fantards, BTW). Apple did. And the way the intellectual property protection system works in technology, if you invest in something, you patent it. It could be highly technical and difficult to reverse-engineer or not so technical and trivially easy to rip off. Sometimes, the “easy to rip off” stuff is harder to get right than the components that support it. The particularly uninformed have a hard time grasping this. Someone had to do more than think of this stuff. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t you. That’s why you’re not bringing products to market and “trade dress” is a part of what’s protectable.

*ahem*

Like any system designed to protect, the trademark and patent system in this country can be abused. TMA isn’t claiming to agree with the specifics of every Apple claim with regard to “look and feel”, but the overarching rationale behind them is hard to knock. This isn’t about Apple trying to extort annuities in the form of licensing agreements from companies, a strategy that dying whales like Microsoft and Nokia are clinging to. This is about protecting the enormous investment Apple made in developing a product that was unlike anything before it, but is serving as the copy-glass original for everything since.

  • RSS
  • Twitter