Failed Oracle

I (sometimes) write stuff here because I find some stuff fascinating, or ground-breaking or weird. More often than not, I tend to express some kind of prophecy, because who doesn’t look at the future and make some bets, right?

Well, I apparently suck at it.

Apple TV

A decade ago, I wrote that I was excited about the possibilities inherent to the AppleTV. I did it again a couple of years ago.

Despite the many rumors and excitement, Apple TV is simply going nowhere. There’s a variety of reasons for that, but predominantly, it’s in the name : it’s about TV. Sure, it helps put on TV stuff that comes through AirPlay, and consume content that isn’t going through <insert the normal way you get your TV here>, but it could have been so much more. Open up a way to plug stuff in there? blueray players and really smart DVR are on the horizon. Lift the ban on emulation (within legal constraints, of course), and all that retro-gaming stuff is a done deal. At the very least open it up as a network access point, or a network extender.

But the years pass, and we hear a lot of exciting rumors (none of which anyone but the US denizens care about), and it’s still mostly a netflix/itunes/airplay box.

Multipeer Connectivity

I did several talks on Multipeer tech, spread the gospel, etc.

I wasn’t alone in that, judging from NSHipster (2013):

Multipeer Connectivity is a ground-breaking API, whose value is only just starting to be fully understood. Although full support for features like AirDrop are currently limited to latest-gen devices, you should expect to see this kind of functionality become expected behavior. As you look forward to the possibilities of the new year ahead, get your head out of the cloud, and start to consider the incredible possibilities around you.

But apart from AirDrop, and Continuity (when it works) is there any serious uses of the technology? If you answered yes, are there any outside of Apple?


Why am I talking that nostalgic trip? There is a battle of sorts waged in the Apple punditry about the iPad. Is it a failure? Is it underrated? Underused? What’s its future?

I have an opinion, but given my track record, I’ll keep it to myself.

One things for certain though: cool tech that appeal to geeks such as myself, or to old-timer Apple people (such as myself, again) don’t necessarily go the whole way. Revolutionary the iPhone may seem, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool device, it’s actually not revolutionary, and wasn’t at the time. What made is special is that Apple used all of its creative genius and tech know-how to make the best damn phone they could and it was a success. But just remember that originally, we weren’t supposed to develop apps for it. Apps are arguably what makes a smartphone popular (I’m looking at you Metro). Cool tech is all well and good but it has to become widespread use to be relevant. And the mechanics of that process baffle me, and I suspect they baffle most commentators, whether they realize it or not.


Anonymity Isn’t The Problem, You Are

Excellent debunking of asking for real names to prevent abuse, usually thought to be the number one reason for people who behave badly on the interwebs.

I’ll let you read it. There, you done?

My Bad

I have had that opinion for a while, despite my evidence of the contrary. I come from a time when nicks, handles, and pseudonyms were the norm. I always had trouble writing under my own name or using anything but my handle for communication. Hell, even day to day, I use something that can be regarded as an alias : Zino. However, I never shied away from giving my real address, or phone number. It’s out there, you can find it fairly easily. I won’t pick up, mind you, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As I read this article, I was thinking of why I don’t feel like using my name. It could be from the habit of using handles for most of my adult life, or because my name isn’t me. I very seldom turn around when someone actually uses my birth name.

So why did I assume other people who use handles to spout abuse were using it to hide their identity rather than out of comfort, like me?

Honestly, I have no idea. But I will try and stop to say that there are trolls on the internet more than anywhere else because internet promotes anonymity.

What Gives, Then?

Weeeeeeeeeeell. Not to get too political, but I tend to agree that we live in a post-facts world. The reasons and examples are well described in the article, but in a nutshell, the ‘web gives you an opportunity to voice your opinion more readily than any other medium. And opinions are increasingly considered as important as facts (if not more).

I have an opinion on curly braces position when I write my code. The fact is, it matters little to none for the compiler or the quality of the program in the end. It makes it more legible for me to have it a bit more compact, and if hard pressed on the topic, I can probably concede to the other style (while secretly still using mine, probably).

I have an opinion as to how public money (ie tax revenue) should be spent, and therefore a fairly strong opinion as to what the level of taxes should be. The only way I can turn it into facts, though, is to vote and convince others to vote like me.

Internet would allow me to select (or invent) facts to support my opinion and present a case that it should be everyone’s. Who’s going to fact-check me, or challenge my opinion? People with different opinions who will select a different set of facts, obviously.

The problem isn’t the anonymity, it’s the way you discuss things. Internet allows everyone to shout something to the world. Most people tend to forget that this amazing new way to exercice a right (yes, it’s a right) comes at a cost: the world can answer.

Trolls seek to elicit that answer by any means necessary, so I’ll just set them aside, we’ve always had them. People systematically playing Devil’s Advocate, or going for getting a rise for more personal reasons have always been around. We just didn’t hear them as much because they had to go through a bunch of filters (physical proximity, newspaper and tv editors, etc…).

But people who are convinced that their opinion is right have now the ability to express themselves. It’s up to us to remind them that everyone with the access they enjoy has the same right, and opinions not only can, but will, be challenged. If you can’t take it, your opinion is de facto useless.

So what’s that jibber-jabber about facts? Facts are supposed to be the thing that everyone agrees on. Then you use that fact to promote an opinion.


– computer geeks have been mostly looked down on by society throughout their short history (cf almost every single movie and tv show)
– computer geeks are needed in every sector that functions better with a computer, due to the increasing complexity of computer systems
– computer geeks are human
– most humans require validation and recognition to function as part of a group

Opinion #1:
Computers, and by extension computer geeks, are not bringing anything new, they are just new tools to help creative people build new things. They should therefore be glad if they aren’t badly treated anymore, but not to the point of expecting the rock star treatment.

Opinion #2:
Now that computer geeks are needed pretty much everywhere, it’s time to take over the world and teach all these bullies who’s boss.

Opinion #3:
Computer geeks finally got the recognition for the intuition they had since forever: the computer did change the world. They deserve to be integrated in the society, as every other profession.

Facts support those 3 opinions, so why be surprised when your favorite geek exhibits any of them? They can even change their opinion in the middle of a sentence! None of those are facts, though. Facts are about what has been and what is. Opinions are about what should be. And what should be is by definition debatable. And debate is the single reason for the internet to exist.

But I’ll add another fact to the pile : I do not have to share my opinion, and neither do you. The simple fact that I do doesn’t make my opinion any more or less valid than it was before. It just subjects it to an open debate, and all the pros and cons of it.

I am of the opinion that sharing and discussing things is better than the alternative, but if you forcibly shut me up, it doesn’t make my opinion less valid. If you invalidate or complete the facts I am using to prop that opinion up, though…

For all of those who still have trouble differentiating the two, I suggest reading a bit of Plato. The guy was a mastermind at asking questions to test the opinions of others.

One last thing

An unverifiable opinion (something that is supported by too little facts) is called a belief. You basically replace some of the facts that you build your opinion on by other opinions. Opinions include taking an example (a highly selected example, most of the time) and promote it to a fact. These are OK to have, as long as no fact comes in contradiction to any of the opinions at the base of your reasoning.

For instance? I believe that the human race as a whole is compassionate, despite many proofs of the opposite. According to my previous paragraph, it should crumble, right?

Wrong. Because the core “leg” so to speak of that belief is that people who have done bad things can indeed change for the better. And there are examples, sure, but no fact supporting that claim. It’ll just have to stay a belief up until the point where we can definitely prove or disprove the notion of free will.


Blind Faith

“the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%”

(from PNAS)

“The death in May of Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was the first known fatality in a vehicle being operated by computer systems.”

( from NYT)

It’s not that buggy software is a reality that strikes me, it’s that people think that either software is magic (for users) and therefore requires no attention, or that it will get patched soon™ enough (for “powerusers” and devs). The problem is that beta-testing, which is the new 1.0, shouldn’t be optional or amateur.


[Ouch] The Joy Of Migration

So, out of the blue, and to escape from a dickish choke hold on my public facing infrastructure, I decided to switch back to administrating my own installation on a VPS…

First off, you think you are good at system administration when you have a lil server at home that has been running since forever and that you maintain, right? Wrong. Installing a production server from scratch is a totally different thing. You do not have the luxury of your comfortable habits and scripts that work just so on your tiny little environment. Everything has to be re-thought, as well as re-configured.

Private-facing daemons have to be secured (less than 4h after the original installation, I already had 3 script kiddies trying to brute-force my root password… seriously), everything has to be hooked up to talk to each other, some wanting to talk to localhost, others to the public facing IP address…

And then, you start setting apache up. Yes, I use apache rather than nginx. Sorry. I happen to know my way around apache (kind of), and nginx baffles me. Anyway… Let’s say that vhost management in apache is full of silent and deadly pitfalls. It took me 4h to realize that and didn’t actually point to the same thing. I will skip talking about LetsEncrypt for now, as I have many things to say about it, mostly positive, but the initialization process was painful, to say the least, although not all of their making. So, instead of ranting now because I haven’t slept much, I’ll save it for later.

I may go into specific details later, but suffice it to say that those were 24h full of “fun”. Yes, even though it prevented me from having a good night sleep, even though I have lost some hair, it is quite an intellectual challenge, and while the whole voodoo-vs-science tinkering reminds me a lot of programming, it feels good to “mentally masturbate” (as some of my friends call it) about a different topic.

I especially wanted to highlight the overwhelmingly positive factor that is Hover, which is just plain awesome. Their interface is clean and clear. Their rates are a steal. And the support I got for helping me with the DNS migration was just jaw dropping fantastic. A fella named Marty picked up the phone at 8:15 his time (.eu domains are ‘tricky’ to transfer), and while he was a thorough professional, the conversation felt no different than with any other of my geek friends, exchanging local news and anecdotes. 12h later that ‘tricky’ process was done and dusted, with a 20 minutes enjoyable phone call, and 4 emails. If that’s not a fantastic customer service, I don’t know what is.

As a conclusion, I will just say that if you find that some services and/or pages are broken, drop me a line!

Mood : tired