Jet stream

Today, I shook hands with someone who wasn’t a direct family member. First time in 15 months. I’m not one for handshakes. I take note it has happened and want to wash my hands as soon as possible afterwards. I needed to move towards life after the pandemic. This was a small step towards that. Random handshakes happen. Mental note, buy and carry pocket sanitiser. Then still wash my hands.

My work calendar now has tentative international travel dates. I’m not going anywhere until I’ve had my second vaccination, and the digital Covid vaccination passport is available. But now I have places to go to. I was reticent about agreeing to travel but it’s a matter of getting back on the horse.

While travelling I used to pack light, move fast and do so with purpose. Who knows what the airports are going to be like over the next few months? Pack light and wait. With purpose.

L-filipe-c-sousa-0nUcd4-pp5k-unsplashPhoto by L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash


Amazon's brain, but portable

I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary of joining Amazon Web Services. More than half of this has been spent at home without any face-to-face meetings with colleagues. Or anyone else. I thought this would weaken my connection to the company. Surprisingly, Amazon’s corporate culture is so strong I’m more “Amazonian” now than I have ever been.

It’s not strong in the “cheer for the leader and wear the T-Shirt” way. It’s intellectually strong. One day you realise you are using the lingo and looking at everything through the prism of the Amazon decision-making system. Subconsciously, I start tagging work things with leadership principles. Are we diving deep in this meeting? I see the invention where is the simplification? Who has the ownership of what’s happening here? Who makes the decision and implements it? Is it me?

I’m a big supporter of the heuristics concept. Mental shortcuts that rely on prior experience from which you can make snap decisions. Now I take the time to see if the data is 70% of the way there first, heuristics getting a 30% weighting in the decision-making process. How Amazonian of me. Trust me, I roll my eyes at that last line too. (Or I used to.)

At some stage Jeff Bezos recognised he could no longer make every decision so he wanted a mental model that any employee could apply to a situation. Well, he built one. I can tell you that it silently installs when you least expect it to, doesn’t appear to need a reboot, and it works at work. It’ll be interesting to see what the software updates will look like after he steps away from the company in a few weeks.

Daniel-eledut-a8KNFpidIPI-unsplash-1

Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash


macOS still has a few interesting tricks

Having lamented the bland state of the Mac in a prior entry I went out and ordered an M1 MacBook Pro during the week. What precipitated this was receiving a small piece of code that chugged on my (obsolete as of macOS12) MacBook Air.

A late-night Slack message to the developer asking her if she could use Grand Central Dispatch, so more of the weakling processing cores on the now ancient Intel CPU would do some work in parallel, turned out well. Those changes made; the application zoomed along.

This dramatic improvement, using an OS feature that is nearly a decade old, had me digging back into macOS to see what had changed since I stopped paying attention years ago. It was a quick read, not much has changed. But it still has some nice tricks up its sleeve so we'll carry on.

This will be my third Macintosh processor architecture transition. There was the 68K to PowerPC transition between 1994 and 1996. Then the PowerPC to Intel transition from 2005 to 2007 and now we are in the middle of the move to Apple Silicon. I enjoyed the 68K to PowerPC move and we went from System7 to OPENSTEP in the same five years, maybe I’ll enjoy this move too.

I suppose I had better go buy a dock for it.

Serhii-butenko-zx2Vc1zPDIs-unsplash1

Photo by Serhii Butenko on Unsplash


Lock in PTSD

I suspect some people are suffering from “lock in” PTSD. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see masses of young people, and those in their twenties, clogging the streets up now that the pubs are open. Most of them have spent months not drinking with friends and not screwing people who may not be friends. They think they have to catch up.

Those who are healthy and perhaps vaccinated, but dragging their feet when it comes to reengaging with the world? That may be a surprise and should be a worry. I’ve been speaking with people who tell me that they have relatives who are afraid to go out and do things. Here’s my completely unscientific advice, do what it takes to get them out of the house. Do anything.

A socially distanced walk with those who are unvaccinated or a tea/coffee/drink with those who are is good for the soul. If they are vaccinated send them in to get to the drinks, you can have them outside.

Part of the clean-up of the Covid mess is going to be in helping those who can’t move past these months of stress.

Nathan-mcdine-q8YJZe4SeDQ-unsplash-1Photo by Nathan McDine on Unsplash


The Mac used to be exciting.

I stopped buying Macs in 2012. At that stage Apple's disinterest in the Mac was apparent to anyone paying attention. It was all crappy keyboards and the odd incremental update from then on. What with the western world opening in the later half of this year I was thinking of replacing my stalwart travelling companion, the 11" 2012 MacBook Air, with the latest model.

With the idea of a purchase in mind I was browsing the magazine racks at the local newsagents when I realised the Mac focused titles I would have expected to be there were gone. MacUser, MacWorld, et cetera, et cetera. It turns out they have been gone since 2015. I appear to have not been the only one who noticed Apple’s boredom with their computer business. Publishers and their subscribers did too.

Tragic.

The high watermark for the Macintosh was in the late 90s and the early 2000s.  The company had its back against the wall and every step had to be a step up and away from disaster. MacWorld and the WWDC brought crazy new innovations in the operating system and hardware. I remember the mad scramble to get off the rusting System 7 family and on to something modern. The journey there was exciting. MacOS Copland was a collection of pieces, Gershwin existed only in some product manager's imagination so they had to buy in the tech from the outside. No need to rehash that piece of history again. At every conference for three years there was a roadmap with a ticking clock of six-month releases for System 8 (Tempo), 8.5 (Allegro), System 9 (Sonata) and Mac OS X. They shipped all of them when they said they would and each release brought killer new features. Then it all slowed down to a crawl until MacOS 11.

I did not notice if there was an iOSUser or iOSWorld magazine. I would be disappointed, but not surprised, if there was. But iOS isn't exciting either.

(Again) Tragic.

Daniel-korpai-HyTwtsk8XqA-unsplash1Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash


Endless study

They say in technology that if you’re not studying something new then you’re already behind. I’ll admit there were times in my career where I did feel like I was behind the technological curve. But never enough that I was willing to do anything about it. Now things are different, I worked while going to college and it feels like that once again.

This isn’t a nauseating “my employer is so amazing” brag but I say one thing about Amazon, you are always studying for something. It’s not like you have a choice, it’s built into the job. If you stand still, you are going to get run over. Not only by your peers, most of whom would dismantle the television set in front of you and rebuild it with lasers if there was nothing else to do, but also by your customers.

Getting close to two years with the company, a week hasn’t gone by where I haven’t had some reference material open studying for this or for that. It’s great for expanding your knowledge of technology but I’ll admit there are some study nights that take more willpower than others.

Martin-adams-_OZCl4XcpRw-unsplash-1Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash


Character creation is its own nightmare

Making my own player character for a Dungeons & Dragons game drives me a bit mad. I usually spend my time on the other side of the screen attempting to keep player created chaos from imploding the universe I have created. Accepting that no one is interested in listening to my novel, it still takes the first ten minutes of the first session for me to understand my plans have been thrown into disarray.

The player characters start rampaging across the landscape faster than my pre-written notes and improv skills can keep up. The strategy I have evolved for dealing with this is that of a world that continues moving around them as they pass through it. They decide to do something in one place, something else happens elsewhere. You might be the player hero but the world keeps turning, and everyone who isn't you has been busy.

As a player I find I suffer from Dungeon Master brain during character creation. It is not enough to just come up with a concept I find myself over engineering my characters during creation because I can see their potential downfall were I running the game. “What about this race, with this subclass, and these feats? How will the powers scale at mid to late game? What if I multiclass? Are there unique combinations of abilities that can trigger off one another to give me an advantage?”

However, I am not running the game and whatever pitfalls I foresee may not be the pitfalls I will encounter. Even the term pitfalls is incorrect, they are “gameplay opportunities.” Though that might not be the phrase I will use when I look down at my character sheet and realise that the spell I chose not to take earlier is the one that could have saved us from the total party kill that just happened.

It might be for the best if I create a replacement character now. See you in a week.

DicePhoto by Alperen Yazgı on Unsplash


It's not about local news

I groan anytime I see someone from the Australian government claim their battle against the tech giants about media royalty payments is to ‘protect local news.’ The largest beneficiary of this action is News Corporation, who demolished local news during its global expansion in the last century. Big tech did not kill local media, they just picked the cadaver’s pockets at the scene of the crime.

Facebook verses the Australian Government is a proxy for Facebook verses News Corporation. Google, hoping for one less regulatory problem, signed a global licensing deal with News Corporation earlier this week. This will be Google’s last deal of substance on this matter in English speaking countries. Any other companies hoping for a payment are now out of luck.

Facebook is going to be a tougher nut for News Corporation to crack as Mark Zuckerberg sees Rupert Murdoch as a relic. What remains of the Murdoch empire, after the sale of its content assets to Disney, is a collection of red ink bleeding newspapers and TV stations propped up by the river of money generated by Fox News.

Rupert was smart to sell off the important parts of Fox at a time he could get a premium for the assets. This tilt at Big Tech to collect fees is just an attempt to squeeze the last of the juice from his old media lemon. Zuckerberg knows that and he would rather go to war with Murdoch’s Australian government proxy rather than make a payment to what he sees as an irrelevant company.

Zuckerberg is just looking to do to Murdoch what Murdoch did to local news.

Orlando-gutierrez-49ha7YTMLkw-unsplash1Photo by Orlando Gutierrez on Unsplash


EU has health lessons to be learned

I’m not happy with the European Commission’s actions this week but I think the EU will now emerge from the pandemic with a better sense of what is important. A harsh set of lessons at a terrible price. 

The vaccine delivery issue is one of policy and research funding. The United States unleashed a torrent of money to manufacturers with Operation Warpspeed, $10B or more. The EU put up $3B with the idea that Europe, home to the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world, just had to prime the pump and the free market would do the rest.

When everyone is a buyer the market operates in one way, attention moves to those spending the most money. Both the US and the UK governments took a hands on approach to ensuring vaccine started moving and they spent the cash to make it happen. For a Union accused of being happy with statist intervention at a drop of a hat, the fact that EU members national governments were put on the sidelines, with the expectation the invisible hand of the market would take care of everything, is a surprising turn of events.

That said, Germany would probably be the only vaccinated nation in Europe were governments given free reign from the beginning. Angela Merkel’s vaccine summit with the German Pharma industry on Monday will be a return to hands on statist intervention but with a continental emergency focus. Macron has already leaned on Sanofi to assist in the finishing of hundreds of millions of doses of someone else’s vaccine later this year. France’s failure to develop their own vaccine has to sting. It should, France being the home of the Pasteur Institute. The organisation that used to be at the forefront of thought in biological and disease science. National pride demands a rethink on France’s anaemic funding of scientific research. It remains to be seen if any such rethink will happen.

How about Ireland, would Ireland been better off going it alone and buying its own vaccines on the open market? No. With a population of 4.49 million Ireland would have found itself at the back of a very expensive queue when it came to a vaccine purchase order. Buying as part of the Bloc means Ireland has seen constrained supplies but the deliveries do happen and see jabs being put into arms. Turbulence ahead for sure but the EU will come out the other side of the vaccine delivery fiasco, bruised, battered and hopefully a bit bowed as well.

Moments of learning require humility.

EU1

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


The Fall of the House of MAGA

I can see the tactical case in Big Tech looking to crush Trump and scatter his followers today, but strategically I think the timing is wrong. This would have been a finishing move were Trump a private citizen. When done to a sitting President of The United States it's nothing but an opening to long term grievance with his tens of millions of voters.

Anyone who loves the United States as much as the MAGA types say they do had to have looked at the footage from Wednesday and seen a country that looks fragile. Even amongst those I know who make my eyes roll when they tag their Instagram photos with #nomask or #liberaltears there were feelings of embarrassment about the Washington riots.

Wednesday night and Thursday, Trump was beaten and to his supporters he looked weak. There were a litany of excuses from MAGA believers, he was just one man fighting a rigged system, his advisors were terrible, but it was over when he conceded. Then Big Tech, which has been gutless throughout the Trump years, showed up on Friday with permabans and social media app delistings. In doing so they gave MAGA a new target and it is a perfect target as MAGA never has to concede to it.

Unlike Biden there is no final vote with Big Tech. You can fight it forever and never lose because the battle always continues. I think that moving on Trump and Parler at the same time, while Trump is the sitting US President, has reenergised part of Trump’s voter base and this energy will carry through even after he leaves office.

There's also the point that Trump's political opponents are looking at this and thinking that at another time Big Tech could move on them. Such thoughts lead to the conclusion that if Big Tech can challenge a sitting US President then it is beyond time that Big Tech gets regulated and broken up.

The Fall of the House of MAGA, so close in the middle of the week, has now become MAGA Forever. All because Big Tech couldn't wait until Trump was a private citizen before acting.

Jose-unsplash.1jpgPhoto by Jose M. on Unsplash