that "duct tape" silliness

So, Peter Seibel interviewed me for his book. Then Joel Spolsky wrote this weird article about me based on that interview where he called me a "Duct Tape programmer". Peter asked me what I thought about it. I responded:
It's such a strange article, in that it's mostly favorable to my point of view but with such a breathless amazement to it, like he's just discovered an actual unicorn or something. "Look, everybody! Here's a hacker who actually accomplished things and yet he doesn't fetishize the latest fads that I and all of my friends make our living writing about!" There's this tone to the thing like he just can't imagine that someone like me can exist. He's impressed but he doesn't really believe in it, this mythological creature he's discovered. And of course the whole "duct tape" thing is vaguely insulting, and a perfect example of what we call "damning with faint praise".

So I guess to the extent that he puts me up on a pedestal for merely being practical, that's a pretty sad indictment of the state of the industry.

In a lot of the commentary surrounding his article elsewhere, I saw all the usual chestnuts being trotted out by people misunderstanding the context of our discussions: A) the incredible time pressure we were under and B) that it was 1994. People always want to get in fights over the specifics like "what's wrong with templates?" without realizing the historical context. Guess what, you young punks, templates didn't work in 1994. They also like to throw stones at Mozilla, and how much 4.0 sucked and how mozilla.org decided they needed to rewrite it all in 1999, so that jwz code must not have been any good, right? The peanut gallery always fails to understand that I was talking about an entirely different code base that pretty much ceased to exist by early 1996, thanks to the (at the time completely unwarranted) Collabra rewrite, and that has never been seen by the outside world.

Around 1998 I pushed for Netscape to open source both the 3.0 and 4.0 code bases, since the 3.0 code base was the one that included a mail reader that actually worked, but they wouldn't let me do it.

Peter wrote his own response to Joel's article that goes into more detail with some more excerpts from the book.

I really enjoyed reading Peter's book, by the way. (The parts that I'm not in, I mean.) You should buy it.

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My ongoing Kafka-esque nightmare of dealing with Palm and their App Catalog submission process.

A few days after the Palm Pre was released, I wrote a couple of programs for it: a restaurant Tip Calculator, and a port of Dali Clock. These were, as far as I'm aware, the 2nd and 3rd third-party applications for Palm WebOS that were ever available. I got on this boat early.

So why are they still not available in Palm's App Catalog? That's a very good question. This is my story about attempting to simply distribute this free software that I have written, and how Palm has so far completely prevented me from doing so.

The main problem here is that the only reasonable way that exists to distribute software for the Palm Pre is to get it into the App Catalog. On Palm's previous operating system, PalmOS, you could download and install applications from anywhere. There was a thriving software ecosystem of third-party applications for the Palm Treo, Centro, and their decade-long history of PDAs before that. You could (and I did) buy third-party software that ran on PalmOS on random web sites, or buy it in physical stores on CD-ROMs.

But taking a page from Apple's play-book, Palm has now decided that they have to be the one and only gate-keeper for all the software on your Palm Pre, in a way they never did on the Treo, Centro, or any of the earlier PDAs.

So if you, a developer, want to get your software into the hands of your customers, you have to beg and plead and wheedle Palm to distribute it for you.

Shortly after I wrote those applications in June, I mailed a few people inside Palm trying to figure out how to get them into the App Catalog, so that normal people could actually run them. In July, Palm publically asked for submissions for the App Catalog. I submitted my apps, signed up for their application-submission web site in July, printed out ten pages of PDF legal documents, signed them and scanned them back, then signed up for their web site again when they threw away the previous web site and created a whole new one in August, and basically jumped through dozens of hoops -- literally dozens of email exchanges -- from July through September.

They had all kinds of ridiculous requests and requirements, like, "It's a corporate policy that all of the applications use a version number less than 1.0.0", even though Dali Clock is already at version 2.31. But whatever. I jumped through all their hoops.

Finally, in mid-August they found a hoop I would not jump through. They said:

Required: You can only distribute your app via the Palm App Catalog. Do not make your app available on your website or anywhere other than the App Catalog.

They were objecting to the existence of the source code and binary executables on my Tip Calculator and Dali Clock web sites! I responded:

This is absolutely unacceptable, and frankly I find it offensive that you would ask for this.

This is open source software, and I will distribute both source and binaries any way I see fit, and give permission to anyone else to do the same.

If this is a requirement for inclusion in your app catalog, then I will stop developing for your platform at all.

Look, I'm on your side. I've been rooting for Palm for years, primarily because of the openness of the old PalmOS platform. But if this is your new direction, forget it. I use the Pre every day, and believe me when I tell you that you have exactly two advantages over the iPhone. First, a physical keboard. Second, a more open development environment and the goodwill of your developers. Apple has been shooting itself in the foot over its app store policies lately, and their idiocy has been your gain. Don't screw this up. If you try to maintain as much control as they do over the applications available, you are going to be a footnote. Did the vast numbers of applications available for PalmOS teach you nothing?

A few weeks later, I got a response asking to have a conversation about my objections after signing a non-disclosure agreement! I said no, obviously.

Finally, in September, I got a reply from Joe Hayashi (I don't know what his position is, but apparently he's somewhat higher up in the food chain than the folks I had been arguing with before) who said, "We aren't asking that you remove the binaries or source of your apps from your web site, and we aren't restricting anyone from distributing their source code, open source license or otherwise." Well, actually, that's exactly what they had asked for, but I was willing to assume that what he was trying to say was "we have now changed our crazy policy." Great. Problem solved, right?

I said, "Thank you for changing your policy. When can I expect to see my applications in the app catalog?"

Now, they have apparently changed the rules again, and won't post my applications until I give them a PayPal "Verified" account, and (possibly?) pay them $99/year in order to give away my software for free. My last exchange with Palm, on Sep 14:

I wrote:

Can you tell me what the status is of my apps? Will Tip Calculator and Dali Clock be showing up in the app catalog soon?

Liz Benson wrote:

I'll check status on these and see if we can't expedite. I know we sent you a review on Tip Calculator a while back and that you had feedback on our feedback. I'll ask for a re-review and see where we are.
I wrote:
Thanks.

I replied to the last review email I got (and then it was all de-railed because of the "you must take the source code off your web site" demand, which has since been rescinded.) The other small code changes you asked for, I don't agree with, and I'm not going to do.

I consider both Tip Calculator and Dali Clock to be complete.

I would be happy if you would post them both as-is to your app catalog.

If you think the minor changes that you asked for that I'm not interested in making are deal breakers, then please just tell me that, and I'll give up.

Is this a PayPal "Verified" account? That is what is needed to get you set up on the new portal.

No, it's not, because I don't trust Paypal to have my checking account number. I'm happy with them only having my credit card number.

Please understand: these programs are free. I am not, and will never, be charging money for them.

If you're not going to post them without me giving Paypal my checking account number, then, forget it. I will just stop trying to get my code into your app catalog, because that's just one ridiculous roadblock too many.

I have written free software that I am trying to give away and so far this has involved 27 emails and ten pages of signed documents.

I understand that you're still trying to work the bugs out of your submission process, but seriously, this is downright Kafka-esque.

Please, just post the programs already. Or tell me you're never going to, so I can stop trying.

I am so frustrated by this.

It's been two weeks, and I have received no reply. In the months since this process began, other third-party developers seem to have managed to get their applications into the App Catalog. Apparently these people are better at jumping through ridiculous hoops than I am.

So at this point I think it's safe to say that I won't be developing any more software for the Palm Pre.

Maybe it's time to look into getting an Android phone again.


Update, Sep 29:

    Despite Joe Hayashi's claim that "We aren't asking that you remove the binaries or source of your apps from your web site, and we aren't restricting anyone from distributing their source code, open source license or otherwise", gregv points out that the license agreement that comes with the 1.2 Palm SDK that was released yesterday still contains the restriction that applications may only be distributed through the Palm App Catalog. Let's hope that this is just an oversight: that the company has, in fact, changed this policy, but that the paperwork just hasn't yet caught up to reality. An official statement from Palm to clear up these contradictory statements would be appreciated by everybody, I'm sure.

Update, Oct 6:

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But where's the remix?

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"Asshole Bomb".

Here come the airport rectal exams!
Uh-oh. Now that a terrorist has tried unsuccessfully to blow up a Saudi prince with a bomb shoved up his ass, the TSA is obliged to perform rectal exams on every flier for the rest of time. After all, once a jihadi failed to blow up a plane with his shoe, we all needed to start taking our shoes off. Then some knuckleheads believed they could blow up a plane with energy beverages and hair gel, so now we have to limit ourselves to 100ml of all liquids and gels, unless they're for babies or are prescription (because no mass-murderer would be so evil as to forge a doctor's note, which, as every junkie knows, cannot possibly be forged).

Now we found someone who was made to believe he could kill people with an asshole bomb, and so it follows that the TSA will have to ban -- or at least inspect -- our assholes.

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"The owner of the cows was 'very upset' by the incident."


Animal-cruelty charges dropped against Burlington County cop

During a bizarre hearing there yesterday, a Superior Court judge dismissed animal-cruelty charges against a Moorestown police officer accused of sticking his penis into the mouths of five calves in rural Southampton in 2006, claiming a grand jury couldn't infer whether the cows had been "tormented" or "puzzled" by the situation or even irritated that they'd been duped out of a meal.

"If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, 'Where's the milk? I'm not getting any milk,' " Judge James J. Morley asked.

Children, Morley said, seemed "comforted" when given pacifiers, but there's no way to know what bovine minds thought of Robert Melia Jr. substituting his member for a cow's teat.

"They [children] enjoy the act of suckling," the judge said. "Cows may be of a different disposition." [...]

Sex with cows is the least of Melia's problems, though.

He and former girlfriend, Heather Lewis, of Pemberton Township, are also accused of sexually assaulting three young girls over a five-year period, sometimes in Melia's Cottage Avenue home in Moorestown, where he was a patrolman, authorities said. [...]

During the course of the investigation, authorities also discovered child pornography on Melia's home computer as well as videos of him with the cows. [...]

Morgan, the prosecutor, said in court that the owner of the cows was "very upset" by the incident.


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my computah has a toomah

Mechanical tumor:

Mio I-zawa's "mechanical tumor" is a quivering hunk of fleshy, organic-looking material that expands and contracts depending on the amount of stress your computer is experiencing. Equipped with a series of motors and pneumatic actuators, the mechanical tumor pulsates gently when the CPU load is low. When the CPU load is high, the tumor's air compressor is activated, causing the lump of flesh to inflate.

Other biologically inspired interactive devices by Mio I-zawa include "external heart," a squishy latex heart on wheels that beats and rolls around in sync with the user's pulse... ...and "elastic cell," a system of 46 soft pulsating cells that react to human touch in a complex, lifelike way.

Previously, previously, previously.

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