A Line in the Sand

Vesper, by Q Branch
Vesper. Collect your thoughts.

I’ve been a fan of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball since it launched, and if you were to rummage through my t-shirt collection, you’d find a rather odd stack of DF t-shirts that basically chronicle the life of the site. When he and the team at Q Branch decided to launch Vesper, a note taking app, it was a foregone conclusion that I would purchase it. It’s a great app, and I use it often, and love the care and detail that these fanatics have put into this simple, delightful tool.

I was disappointed that it was $2.99.

Why would a trio of fanatics make an awesome tool that works exactly as it says it does, looks beautiful, launches quickly and never crashes price their app as if it were a throw-away? What the actual fuck?

Thank the gods we’re moving past this madness. The pricing on the app store has devalued the work of engineers and programmers and designers and it’s about time that it  absolutely comes to a halt. Panic has been pricing their apps higher for a while, and needs to continue, but when I brought that up to people, they pointed out that the functionality of their apps makes it more likely that they would be bought by people who do programming or design, and they know the gig. While Vesper is for everyone, while Transmit is not.

The OmniGroup also prices their apps at a sustainable level, and seem to be doing ok, but again, their apps are a bit more focused, and while the argument that Omni apps are also for a niche-ish market can be made, I own several and have used them for years. OmniOutliner was my go-to for notes before Vesper, even tho it really wasn’t designed for that.

The latest update of Vesper includes a line in the sand against the desperation pricing that is destroying great app development on mobile devices. Vesper will now cost a very reasonable $9.99, and I’m hoping there’s a way I can re-buy the app.

I spend $5 on a coffee, and $12 on a martini, which are even more ephemeral than the 1s and 0s of an app, and last quite a bit less. I spend at least $10 on a meal, and sometimes a shameful amount above that, and it’s not like I’m starving myself to redirect some of that money towards paying for good things. I am not alone in this, and if you don’t think the stuff that you shove into your $800 hand-held computer should work well and afford a life for those who make them, you are an asshole.

It’s 2015, people. Pay for the art you like. Pay for the work put in to make the great tools that improve your life. Pay for music. Pay for entertainment. And pay well, because your life is short, money isn’t the goal, and if you continue to focus on keeping it, you’ll find that old Montanan saying is true; Money is just like manure. If you don’t spread it around it’s just a pile of shit.

And so it begins

andsoitbegins

We’re just getting started, but it’s now time to get you involved. If you live just east of Helena, from East Helena, Winston, the Silos, all the way to Townsend, and you’re looking for true broadband, we need to chat!

Fiber-to-the-Home and gigabit speeds in Montana are not the stuff of dreams any more. We at TSI are actively working towards that ideal, but it will take all of us working together to make gigabit internet a reality in Montana.

East Helena is the first stop. It’s the test bed for our new ideas. We are deep into the planning phase of the East Helena network, but we need you for the next step.

In order to secure the required financing, we need to show that there are enough customers who are willing to pay for higher internet speeds.

The goal: 1,000 signatures.

Sign up here, now!

Benefits Corp – A Status for Our Future

Benefits-corp status: necessary - Treasure State InternetToday I had the opportunity to give testimony in support of Benefit Corporations at the Montana Legislature’s House Committee on Business & Industry. HB 258 is the bill, and the amazing Representative Kathleen Williams is the primary sponsor for this legislation, which was attempted in the 2013 session but didn’t pass as time ran short in the session. Happens, as we only have the legislature in session for 90 days every two years, but it sucks that this didn’t get through last time. Repeating work drives me batty, but Rep. Williams was cool, collected and on target with her opening and closing statements. (Quick shout out to Rep. Zach Brown, who we reached out to first to help us, and who has been super supportive from the get-go.)

The formality of giving testimony on a bill is interesting, but the best part of today was the overwhelming support of the bill. From the state Chamber of Commerce to several businesses, including mine, there were plenty of people there to show their support.

There were no opponents.

At all.

That’s a big deal.

The one issue is that even the committee members were a tad confused about the exact details. After all, the bill is 10 pages of very dense legalese, and many of them were just getting to see this for the first time. Lots to take in.

If you haven’t read the bill, don’t worry, here’s the basic gist of it:

A standard C-corp has one goal, and one goal only, by law and judicial ruling: make the shareholder’s money. That’s it. Nothing else can come above that goal. Nothing. If the board or the executive team do something that negatively impacts shareholder value, they can be sued, and by law, they will lose and it will suck.

A Benefits-corp has a goal that comes before making money.

That’s it. Generally, the goal that the company chooses needs to be a social or environmental good, and the activity done in support of that goal must be documented and audited by a third party organization, but that’s really the only difference.

Tax-wise, we’re still a c-corp, we still pay taxes, we still have the obligation to be profitable enough to remain in business, and we can sell stock and have investors so we can continue our business. We just have a higher goal that making money hand-over-fist.

What does this mean in the real world? Well, good question, and I’m going to speak a bit early about something that I’m involved in, but it won’t hurt to go public with a bit of this now, since I essentially did it this morning anyway.

Treasure State Internet, provided the Benefits-Corp bill becomes law, will have a stated goal of “Providing fiber-optic internet service connections, or, should the technology evolve to be faster in some other media then that newer faster media, to every home and office in the State of Montana”. Ugh, what a mouthful, and frankly, there’s a good chance that will be rewritten a thousand times before we lock it down. I generally say “The fastest fucking internet to every fucking home and office in fucking Montana.”

Because we fucking want to.

See, if a C-corp tried to lay fiber to Roundup, MT (to pull a place out of my hat) they’d have to get grants from the feds to lay that connection. Why? Because if they used their profits to do so, the shareholders would have every right to sue the living daylights out of the board and the executives for it. The ROI would be so low, and so far out, as to be considered zero by the market and, therefore, by the court. This is why true broadband internet service is slow to get to rural America. There’s very little in grants, and the big companies don’t want to deal with the headache.

But when we, a B-corp, decide to take some profit from our current income and re-invest it in laying a pure fiber-optic connection to Roundup, Two Dot, and Radersburg, we not only have the option, we have the responsibility to do so.

During questioning by the committee it became apparent that a few members were confusing “donating to a charity” with being a Benefits-corp. They aren’t the same thing at all. The donations are a great way for the company to support local arts, community events, and directly help their local communities, but those are generally “marketing” in a very real sense. They aren’t core to what the business actually does. A Benefits-corp, again, has the responsibility to use it’s profits not to line the pockets of shareholders, but to improve the world around it, in a very real, tangible way, in the course of it’s every day business. There’s a massive difference in those things, and I’m not sure how the confusion arose, I just hope that clears it.

We need this bill to pass. Sorry, it’s 10 pages of updates, and I know the fine folks over in the Secretary of State’s office that compile and control the Montana Code Annotated and the ARM, and I despise having to create more work for them. It’s not like anyone really enjoys mucking up the MCA. It’s a massive, complex, tedious expanse of text that most thinking individuals actively avoid touching in any way at all. However, this is needed. It gives us more freedom to do good for the state.

In fact, it’s the single easiest way to make the Last Best Place an even better place to live.

Visa Will Not Suffer Fools

Gruber was right to focus on this quote:

“I don’t know that it will, and I don’t care. As long as Visa suffers.

There’s something that these Cabal-MXC companies need to figure out really quickly, because, just like Apple with every version of iTunes, Visa has Terms of Service that these merchants agree to, and that Visa can change at any time. If you think for a moment that Visa isn’t looking at this and fuming, you’ve never read those documents that Visa sends out to merchants and banks. Banks have teams of lawyers pouring over these TOS’s all day, every day, and there’s nothing they don’t know about them, but they still get dinged when they aren’t doing something exactly the way that Visa wants.

Visa wants people using more secure systems – like Apple Pay and the other NFC systems developed that use tokenization. Visa can easily make it a contract point that NFC systems be in place. Why they haven’t is beyond me, but they could.

Much more likely, tho, and something they’ve done in the past, is what I like to describe as “Don’t Even Fucking Try to Make Us The Bad Guy” clause.

Some of you may remember getting gas in the 80’s and seeing “Save 5¢ per gallon with cash” signs on the pumps. You know why those went away? Because Visa and the rest of the credit card cabal[1] saw that and freaked out and put in a clause that says, basically, that you can’t offer products and services at two different prices in an attempt to mitigate our fees. Up until that clause existed, many businesses were doing just that.

I fully expect to see a clause in there that says that anyone pulling this MXC crap, or even just using older non-NFC systems, will incur the highest transaction fees until they also accept secure payments via NFC. To keep it from being anti-competitive all they have to do is put in what I’ll call a “We Fucking Hate Fraud And You, You Pricks” clause that basically makes people accept NFC systems or get hit by the highest transaction fees possible even if the card is present because giving out the card number to merchants is insecure and costly for Visa – and they absolutely hate to lose money.

 

Mysterious Other

Many people have had problems updating their iOS device to iOS 8 because they don’t have enough space. The weird thing is that many of us have plenty of space, except there’s a mysterious padding of yellow marked “Other” that is, well, unknown.

This has been going on for quite a while, and after some prodding from Wave and Gruber, I figured it was time to do some research. So, in pictures, here’s what I found. I started out by attaching my iPad mini to my Macbook and resetting it to basic settings. This wiped everything out of it, and updated the software to 8.1, which was dandy. It also meant that I had nothing much at all on the machine. Here’s what you see (and I did full screenshots so you can see the date and times of this, as the experiment lasted overnight).

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.24.11 PM

That bar along the bottom is the thing. I had the apps that come installed with the OS and nothing else on this, except for a few photos and such.  Here’s what my iPad showed for usage, both summary and itemized:

IMG_0069 IMG_0070

Everything seems fine. Now, to figure out what is filling the space, I did what I like to do when my TV is busy doing other things, and I want to watch a movie, maybe a TV show, from iTunes – I stream it to my iPad. So for this, I chose X-Men: Days of Future Past, and watched that, which took a couple hours. Here’s what I get after:

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In the first screen shot, I’ve gone from having 10.0 GB available to having only 5.5 GB available. And if we look at the size of the movie file from iTunes, guess how big it is. Yep, 4.5 GB. But notice that the second screenshot, which was taken at the same time, doesn’t show any change. In fact, Movies aren’t listed at all, still, even tho I watched one.

So I decided to watch another. Time for “V for Vendetta” because who doesn’t love that? I know, everyone loves it. So after a few hours, I thoroughly remember the 5th of November, but I still wonder about that mysterious other. So again, into the usage and here’s what I found:

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Now I’m down to a gig and nothing has changed on my itemized list. Well damn. Let’s watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier next because I enjoy the film and it’s getting late. So I fired that up.

Right about the time I get to the scene where Cap is taking on the terrorist on the boat, I get this notification:

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We all knew this was coming. Cap definitely weighs in at more than a gig, and that’s all the free space we had. But this is just a warning. The video still plays a bit more.

“You have three.”

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The video is done. Nothing more will play. At this point in the movie, which if I hadn’t seen it before I would have been livid that it stopped there, the action is just heating up, but I can’t play it. It’s failing. Stuttering and then just playing a bit of audio, then stopping completely.

So here’s where it gets interesting. I checked the usage again:

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Now down to a measly 208 MB, but the itemized usage hasn’t changed. Not good.

I go back to the video and try to watch it again. I get a few minutes farther, to this point:

IMG_0082

“Wanna see my lease?”

No, but I’d really like to know why video is becoming “other” and why I can’t delete it. That’s the only explanation. And with only 207 MB left, the iPad is not working well. But I decide to try to install a couple apps to see if I can get anything working. So I look for Facebook, and I can’t find it, but I install Facebook Messenger:

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IMG_0084

 

And here’s the screenshots of my two springboard pages:

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Again, not much there. But let’s see if we can install anything.

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Huh, it seems it’s going to install. That’s cool. But what the hell, where’s the actual Facebook App? I go into Settings to see:

IMG_0088

I have no idea, and solving that problem is beyond the scope of this article, but something is weird there. Anyway, it’s not the only weird thing. Now that I’ve installed an app, check out the Usage stats:

IMG_0091

Wait, what? I have free space again? I install a random app, and finally the OS deletes some mysterious other to be able to install stuff? This is new. So I decide to watch Captain America again, because I want to know if I’ll get all the way through it – and I did!

But wait, what’s the usage at now?

IMG_0093 IMG_0094

 

And other than the new app being in place, the itemized screen really hasn’t changed. So I came to my desk and got another screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 9.22.51 AM

Now, full disclosure, I knew this was the problem with what creates the mysterious other in the OS, and is causing so many issues. Now, I used to have a developer account I could access to see the names of the files that made up any particular category, and that’s how I knew what was causing this issue. The only new thing was that installing an app apparently deleted some of the other, but not all of it. And it’s very simple to fill it back up. It’s a bug, and easily reproducible, so I’m hoping that Apple fix it.

Going bald

No, I’m not suffering like several of my cousins, but will instead be voluntarily shedding my locks for the unmitigated joy of playing Uncle Fester in Grandstreet Theatre’s upcoming production of Addams’ Family Musical. I hope you will come see it!

Oh Rick, you’ve missed again

From Rick Hill on Facebook:

Rick Hill
Rick Hill

One of my liberal Facebook friends asked the other day what it is that conservatives are trying to “conserve?”

The answer is that conservatives are seeking to conserve traditional views about faith and family. We seek to conserve property rights including the right to benefit from one’s labor. We seek to conserve the traditional advocacy for smaller and less intrusive government. We seek to conserve traditional views of individual rights and liberties such as free speech, free assembly, right to petition, religious freedom, right to bear arms, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, equal protection, states rights and representative government.

All under attack from the left.

Oh please.  – Let’s break it down:

The answer is that conservatives are seeking to conserve traditional views about faith and family. – Which are discriminatory towards me, so no, you don’t get to keep being a bigot. Get over it, grow up, and be a decent human being. Jesus never said anything against the gays, lesbians, trans or bis. Your evangelical narcissists do, but they are bigots, and if you follow them, so are you.

We seek to conserve property rights including the right to benefit from one’s labor.  – But not at a fair wage if you’re not already a millionaire.

We seek to conserve the traditional advocacy for smaller and less intrusive government. – Except if you’re a woman, because then you want to stand between her and her doctor to tell exactly what she can and cannot do with her body and her health.

We seek to conserve traditional views of individual rights and liberties such as free speech, free assembly, right to petition, religious freedom, right to bear arms, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, equal protection, states rights and representative government.  – Whooo boy. Free speech – we’re having that right here, and while I want you to learn, to be smarter, and not say stupid things, it’s your right to do speak on anything, regardless of your understanding of it. It is our right to judge you on your ignorance, that’s part of the deal.

Free assembly – oh, you mean like the Occupy movement? Or maybe the crowds gathering in Ferguson? Oh, not those, eh?

Right to petition – no one is stopping you from doing this. No one. Find me some example of this, please.

Religious Freedom – your religious freedom is as sacrosanct as mine. A good way to think about this, tho, is that your religion is similar to your penis – you can have one, you can even be proud of it, but don’t wave it in public and don’t shove it down anyone’s throat.

Right to bear arms – go for it. I have no issue with responsible gun owners. I do think we should have background checks when people buy them, because we’ve so much proof that even just that dramatically decreases the gun violence we’ve been subjected to recently.

Now, this next part gets me. I know what you meant to put, but the order you put it in, Rick, is ambiguous and entertaining.

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure – yep, nothing new here, although you should be complaining about the militarization of police forces, but I don’t see you speaking up on that at all.

Equal protection – you want to be free from equal protection? Because you don’t think that everyone should be treated equally under the law? What the hell, Rick? Oh, this is your poor writing skills at work, eh? You want to have equal protection? Well, so do the liberals of the world. In fact, only the liberals do, because the conservatives act like they’d rather keep the patriarchy of the Old White Guys in place.

Freedom from states’ rights? Heh.

As for what you meant to say; that you’re conserving states’ rights, yes, as are we. We believe even in city and county rights, that they enact things first to see if they work or if they suck, and so we can have some experimentation and get it right before we take it nation-wide. But eventually, when we figure something out and realize it should be that way for everyone, we are going to take it nation-wide. Heck, your side does that, too, just not as often because it does require good ideas that can be proven to work.

Representative government – we have this. Like it or not, this is what we have. We vote, and the people we vote for do things that sometimes we like and sometimes we don’t and we have some issues with money adversely affecting the process, but overall, we have a representative government. Where we lack this is in keeping people out of power when they aren’t elected, but that requires we change how things work when people lose elections. And if I remember right, that would have directly affected you, so I’m guessing you really don’t go for that.

So thank you for spouting the platitudes, but you aren’t actually fighting for a one of them. You, and your party, are actively trying to destroy them all.