Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hiring the bad guy?

They say crime doesn’t pay, but apparently writing malicious software does. Ashley Towns, the 21-year-old Australian who wrote the first iPhone worm called Ikee has managed to land himself a job programming, you guessed it, for the iPhone.

The company that hired him is called mogneration and Ashley announced his new employment via Twitter:

The original Ikee worm did nothing more than change the background of your jailbroken iPhone, but since then more malicious versions have been created when someone else modified it into the Duh worm or Ikee.B.

The issue at hand with Towns being offered a job is that it looks like a reward for the worm he created, setting the wrong example for others to follow.

Read more at BBC News and Graham Cluley’s blog

Matthew’s Opinion The author of this news piece

I can see why some people are taking issue with this. It’s a combination of the fact Towns created malicious software with the fact he has never apologized for the problems he caused people who got infected. Now he has a job and it looks like Ikee was the main reason he got noticed.

As Graham Cluley rightly points out, what about all the other programmers out there who didn’t create a worm for the iPhone? Should they now start doing high-profile software releases to catch the media’s attention and get them noticed by another company? No, they should not. Instead, if they take the white hat approach and help find problems, report them to the relevant companies, and don’t go public, they’d probably have as much success with finding a job and have a lot more respect from their peers too.

Towns may still find himself in hot water; as Sophos’ Paul Ducklin points out he has actually broken the law by accessing people’s iPhones without permission.

The fact that people are taking issue with this is ridiculous. I don't condone creating a worm or a virus or anything else malicious (especially as the owner of a jailbroken iPhone 3G S). However, he showcased his talent. Granted there are tons of talented developers out there and maybe everyone deserves a shot. The point is that you can't give everyone a shot. You can't even know all of who is out there.

So what do you do? You meet people, you look in the paper, you check resumes, you watch the news. You give the shots to the people with whom you cross paths. Fortunately for Ashley, he crossed paths with everyone when he hit the news.

And think about it from Mogneration's standpoint. Free publicity for them. The business of business is business. Think about that. Bottom line - they got a talented developer, he got a job, everyone gets the publicity. Should they hire a no-name who will do less for them financially because it's the right thing to do? Absolutely not, a company should always, and more importantly during an economic downturn, do what it takes to survive. When the government subsidizes private tech businesses (which may not be that far off in the US after recent events) then the company can do the right thing and make less money. Until then, I applaud Mogneration for seizing opportunity.

By the way, this has been done in technology for years. People hiring the enemy be it from an opposing company or someone who wrote malicious code. The gaming industry has hired ex hustlers and cheats to look out for people trying to rip them off. There's another one out there. I can't remember it...oh yeah, the government turns people state's evidence to get information. The best person to have on your team is the person who's been getting the better of you all the while.

So forget the socialist agenda that everyone deserves a fair shake and realize that Ashley Towns did what it took to get noticed. The company did what it took to turn a buck. That's what being in business is about. Making money. If other developers had the chops to stand out from the pack, they would have already.

Grow up America. This pansy, "we are the world" holding hands with candles is why we're in the shape we're in. We used to be cut-throat. We used to take no shit. We used to be competitive. We owe China tons of money. The middle east wants to kick our ass. Japan beats us senseless in academics. We can't stay friends with the Russians. Iran keeps kicking sand in our face. And where is our eye? On giving free healthcare to millions of Americans (many of whom are here illegally) at an expense to the honest tax-paying citizens.

Where's that edge? Gone and if I hadn't taken an oath to support and defend this country... I would be too.

EDIT: For the record, I posted most of this comment on the site that sourced the article and they denied it. The big babies post the story with an editorial opinion by the author and don't have the stones to entertain other opinions. I understand it's geek.com but are you that much of a bunch of sissies that you hide in your cave and refuse to entertain differing viewpoints? Take down your comments section at the very least. Shut Matthew up, preferably and just throw us an ort of news as you see fit. Oh mighty, geek.com, Lord of the Manor, please allow us peasants some drippings from your table. The point is, if you open yourselves up, man up and allow alternate viewpoints and then defend your stance. Putting your head in the sand is not professional and you look like a sissy.

Another EDIT: My comment is now there. Imagine that. Funny how that works. I'm not going to speculate on what caused it. Whether they came to their senses, felt their manhood was hurt or panicked that I was on my way with a sledgehammer. I don't know. But it's there now.

And before anyone comments on the fact that Mogeneration and Ashley Towns are both Australian and I should, in turn, shut the fuck up myself. Remember that I support both of those. It's the simple minded socialists at Geek.com who are ridiculous and, incidentally, from Pennsylvania so my comments about this country, it's current administration and political standing all APPLY.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All time low in customer help; all time high in attitude

Just yesterday, a co-worker and I were talking about GameStop and how they need to hire 8,000 folks for the holiday season. With 2 in town, we almost contemplated picking up some shifts there for some Christmas cash. Laziness may have gotten the better of us and in the end it never happened. It's just as well because I had an experience there today that was so awful it bears repeating for the Internet audience now.

On October 28th and 29th, I told you all about some lackluster customer service issues I had (accessible, here, here, and here). I can't be sure if it's specific to the south, this town, this state or maybe it's just a function of time that I'm becoming a curmudgeon in my old age, but I often feel disappointed, dismayed and discontent at the level of service and respect I receive from the titans of the minimum wage industries.

Here's today's event. I had a list of video games that I no longer play and figured I'd trade them in at the local GameStop for whatever few pennies they deemed they were worth. I suppose they were worth zero in my home and it was worth my time. However it wasn't worth the undue stress on my heart from the surge in blood pressure.

Here is how it all played out. I walked into an entirely empty store, save the one employee fighting with a roll of stickers behind the counter. After she wrestled with her self-adhesive opponents for a while, she chose to acknowledge me, for which I was grateful. I explained that I wanted to tally the worth of my wares and determine if I would bother trading them in. She agrees to do the job for which she is paid so I wandered around the store looking to squander the $3.85 I was prepared to receive in trade.

When I come back to the counter to make sure something shiny had not distracted the clerk I found all of my games in envelopes; torn from their homes in the cases in which they had spent all of their lives. She explained that she was preparing the transaction. I allowed her to continue only long enough to gather my wits and reply "I just want to know how much they're worth before I decide if I'm taking them home." She tells me, "But you're going to get the card and you'll get more money." I'm less than interested in a card that costs me money every year but will save me $5 every two years. I reminded her once again that I just wanted the monetary value and that I did still, in fact, own these items.

Her answer was a roll of the eyes, a toss of the stickers and a drawn out, sigh infused, "Fiiiine." And that's when it happened. That's when the heard skipped a beat, I blinked one too many times and started to feel the room move a la The Incredible Hulk. Luckily after enough run ins with bouncers, cops and other peoples balled fists over the years, I've learned to recognize this feeling early.

I turned to look at Linda who has also learned to recognize this behavioral pattern in me and found her clear across the store in hopes her distance was alibi enough that she's never met me. It was apparent that I needed to end this quick before control was no longer an option. I said, "Tell you what. I'm gonna go ahead and take these home with me and I'll come back when there's someone here that is more apt to provide service." and I walked out before she could muster the cerebral energy to know what just happened. As I hit the door, I heard an, "I'm sorry" that had a tone that was a mixture of I just got my hand smacked sheepishness and I think I'm still right indignance.

I'll go back later to finish off the one-two punch with the manager.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Waxing intellectual on Apple's future

Lately, there has been talk about Apple's upward motion and momentum and the possibility of them overtaking Microsoft in the quest to reign supreme in the tech world. There are more and more articles cropping up so I figured I'd smear my pseudo-intellectual feces across the digital landscape as well.

I can see the monetary value of the company overtaking Microsoft fairly easily, but that's only if the market share does not. These companies, just like most things in life, grow too quickly and end up getting bloated and overvalued. The rarity and scarcity of Apple products (usually due to their price points) keep the value high. They are elusive and fancy and innovative and the demand for them is particular and higher than the supply flying off the shelves. This makes them a hot ticket item as a company and therefore, worth more.

Apple is famous for 2 things as a company - their marketing and their innovation and on a smaller scale, their secrecy. Simplistic packaging designs and sleek looks make them intriguing and sexy and there's usually some killer app that makes it a "must have." The fact that it's a "can't have" for most people is awesome for them in value. Flooding the market with Apple products will devalue each product. Innovation drives sales, sales drive value. More sales equal lower value. Think of the Internet bubble. The price keeps going up because everyone wants into what seems like a good thing. The price ends up having no relationship to the value of the company. As soon as someone heads for the exit, everyone else scrambles. The average Joe (not the plumber) ends up holding Herman. Not to mention that, economically speaking, the law of diminishing return wants us to keep apples off the plates of hungry consumers. I don't know if you know that law but here's an example - you love a good Filet Mignon right? Eat it 30 days in a row. Same satisfaction on day 30 as on day 1?

Apple and I get along so well because we're both very ADD in our approach to things. We get into it, do it over and over, get to a decent point and then stop. It's a rate of return thing. The first year you took on a new hobby, your skills were improved dramatically and then more slowly as time went on. Growing in leaps and bounds spurs innovation whereas hitting the plateau is de-motivational. They end up with lots of half started stuff but because of their secrecy... it's easy for those ideas to never come through to fruition; nobody knows, nobody is disappointed but the uber geeks that watch the WWDC live (like me). Now... they grow and overtake things, they'll have the same amount of irons in the fire and complete more of them. Apple has always been a niche company. Even with its growing market share, it's still a niche. It's like a Mercedes-Benz. Your car dies, you need a vehicle you get a vehicle. You're not gonna leave a Dodge or Saturn dealership to see what Mercedes-Benz has to offer. You buy the Benz because you want a Benz. The salesman there do next to nothing. Either you want it or you don't. You have a reason or you don't. All the flashy graphics and glossy screens in the world won't make Apple buyers out of standard users (with shallow pockets). But make Apple accessible to everybody. Lower the PPU (price per unit) and shove them down everybody's throat and John Q. Consumer has no choice but to get it. Why is it cool then? Where is the elite feeling? Where's that control of the status quo? It's all gone and they're just another computer.

I don't see this flooding happening and I think that's by choice. People sell many units to make money. Apple is already doing that. The secret of their success applies to their business model across all products. They control the hardware AND the software. You don't get Sony, Dell, Gateway, etc trying to stuff more shit into a PC, slap an OS on it and make it look more appealing than its competitor's version. It's made by Apple, for Apple and there's no compatibility or interconnectivity issues and you retain the exclusivity of making your limited customer "part of the club." And customers pay a premium for that status.

MP3 players got huge and Creative Labs got in on it, as did every other schmoe out there. An iPod is an MP3 player, but nobody calls it that. It's just an iPod. Now when you talk about mobile music you just say iPod if you don't know what the person owns. It's become the Xerox/Kleenex/Rollerblade of portable music. A brand that stands for an entire industry's worth of a single product.

Steve Jobs got thrown out of Apple on his ASS and was gone for years. He started another company and made it appealing to Apple. Apple bought it and he rode that deal back into his own company from which he had been ousted and look at him today. Back on top. Motherfucker, please. This guy is not stupid. He's a marketing genius. Look at how he's marketed himself. Broke loser hoping for Bill Gates' table scraps 15 years ago is now back in power in one of the most profitable companies in the world and Gates is long done with MS. Jobs has had plenty of opportunity to use Apple's innovation to take them to the next level but why? The business of business is business. He's there to make money. He does exactly that by making cool shit on a smaller, carefully planned level. He controls the supply of everything since it's all done in house and he feeds us one little nibble at a time at a premium to the point that we forget what we're paying and we're just thankful the lord of the manor has allowed us his drippings.

So that's why I think the monetary value of Apple will increase and overtake Microsoft but the market share never can. The last 2 reasons for that is that 1) MS scored with windows 7. They took us from XP which rocked to Vista which was an unpolished turd and then made themselves the saviors of their own flop with 7 (hell, it's got MY eye). I half wonder if it wasn't a planned failure - Vista that is. They did it before with Millenium; that's no secret. They're back on top in the novelty world with wide-eyed geeks drooling over the cool factor and will stay there unless Apple steps up it's game on the computer side of the house; and 2) Apple can't live in the enterprise any more than crabs can live on a bald pussy. They don't have the foothold in that terrain. Windows dominates client services and linux/unix (true command line style) with it's low overhead has the server side processing and cloud computing angles covered. Apple never wanted the enterprise and I can't imagine they do even today (Except to maybe put iPhones in the hands of CEOs).

There's a method to Apple's madness and I think it's very carefully controlled by Steve Jobs. He's not looking for checkmate vs Windows. In the arena that he plays, he's already got it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What if...

If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how he inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia , would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

If George W. Bush had misspelled the word "advice" would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?

If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?

If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans , would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved.

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can't think of anything? Don't worry. He's done all this in 5 months -- so you'll have three years and seven months to come up with an answer.