« January 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

February 22, 2005

The Art of Negation in the English Language, Vol. 2

It’s amazing how stupidly naive some people in the world can be.

Today’s topic of Darwinism comes from the following:

Apple Computer founder and community speak on Tiger leak defendants

First off, I’m not going to get into the right or wrong battle of pirating software. That’s a rant in and of itself. This topic isn’t about the piracy. It’s not even about the legal ramifications of inaction… It’s more about why the use of the English language is flawed. Still curious about what this is all about? Read on.

Ok. I’ve been reading some of the babbling about one of the recent lawsuits that Apple has out there. Some of you may have heard and/or read about it. Months ago, someone posted a pre-release developer version of the upcoming version of Mac OS X, aka Tiger, on a fairly popular Mac BitTorrent site. Apple, finding this out, promptly sends a letter to the site with the information and stops the distribution of the torrent file. Then Apple turns to the person that created the torrent file and promptly slaps a lawsuit on the guy for breaking the Non-Disclosure Agreement that the dood agreed to before he gained access to the files for Tiger.

Now, for those that don’t know how all this works, in the software development community, when you’re given access to a chunk of stuff from something that’s a pre-release, 99% of the time, you’re required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement or NDA. Companies in the Tech sector are very touchy when you’re dealing with something as high profile as Apple’s upcoming OS release. So when Apple sees something like that out, available and “free”, they had to do something.

Ok. So after reading the info on that link above and the accompanying interview with the “defendant”, it’s kinda sad when you look at it. Let’s look at the situation:

We have Sonny, a pre-med student who was given the seed-key for a build of OS X by a developer friend. To use said seed-key, Sonny had to sign up for an account on the Apple Developer Connection site. Signing up for an account on the ADC site, there’s an NDA that you agree to before you can get an account.

Ok. The beginnings of something potentially bad is set up. Sonny, going onto the site after NOT READING the NDA, but agreeing to it, proceeds to used the seed-key to download a developer’s release of Tiger.

Alright. Nothing wrong so far. This is where things go bad though.

Sonny, thinking that it won’t be a big deal to share the files with some other people on public access Mac-related message boards, gets instructions from some of the users of those message boards on how to create a Torrent of the files and then how to access a “controlled” BitTorrent site so they can download it.

Alrighty. Let’s pause here to examine the situation. We look at Sonny. Pre-med student with a scholarship to a university in the Southeastern U.S. Assumption that I’d make there is that Sonny would have to be a fairly bright boy. My big thing here is that Sonny, having more than half a brain, should have known what he was doing here.

This isn’t a case of a company trying to “punish” someone. This is the required action that is needed to maintain precedent for keeping their legal workings intact. If Apple let this go, the enforceability of their NDA would go down the tubes. It’s just like in the case of a copyright or trademark holder. If someone infringes their work, if they don’t attempt to defend their rights, they can lose them.

Is Apple being “evil” because they’re doing what they need to in order to keep their legal stuff working? Absolutely not. In the world of “intellectual property”, you ether defend it or lose it. There is no middle ground there. Apple fights for their rights because their business demands it. When you’re out front, you have to keep ahead or you lose your edge.

What of Sonny? Well, stupidity isn’t a license to break the law. If that were the case, the need for the legal system would cease to exist. Trying to play the Pity Card is nice and all, but will prolly have little effect in the end. Yeah, you’re a college student. You have no money. You’re life is going to be ruined. How truly sad. That’s something that needs to be thought of before you do something that you know is wrong. It’s the age old adage, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

But all this goes beyond the story there.

The fun comes in from that article link at the top there. There’s a set of 25 “quotes,” purportedly from several Mac developers and one of the Mac legends, Steve Wozniak, arguing against Apple’s reasoning, yet not… Confused? Yeah, as well you should be. The court case itself is a slam dunk. Apple is clearly within its rights to take this guy down, and rightly so. My fun starts with all these quotes.

There is a LONG string of “Yeah, the kid did something stupid. I don’t agree with his actions. He shouldn’t have done it and should be punished. However…”

It’s the “however” that intrigues me. The English language is a funny thing sometimes. This is one of those times. You examine how this little verbal construct of the “however” comes into play and it’s amazing. What’s sad is that we all do it. (Yes, I do it too, it’s just the way we are.) Someone can write the most excellent piece of logic or someone can make the most eloquent verbal argument. Then something strange happens. There’s a pause. “However…” It’s one little word that can destroy a 95% of coherent thought. But why is that, do you ask?

I’m going to pull one of the quotes from the link and illustrate my point. John Gruber, the author of DaringFireball.net said:

“What these guys did was both foolish and wrong, and stupidity is not an excuse for wrongdoing. Apple has every right to pursue and punish individuals who are bootlegging their software.

However, I believe that everyone involved, including Apple, sees that no good would come of pursuing their legal remedies to the maximum possible extent. While these misdeeds warrant punishment, a protracted legal case could well cause the personal and financial ruin of these individuals. I think that would be incommensurate with the nature of the infraction, and I would hope that Apple realizes that, too.”

If you examine what just happened there, it was actually something significant. The concept of the term “however” creates what I like to call “The Art of Negation”. The individual who is quoted here made a fairly bold statement in the first paragraph. The moment that second paragraph starts (and I’m going to do it myself right here) however, everything that was said in the first paragraph means absolutely nothing. Someone can make the best setup for an argument and a little word like “but” or “however” can destroy the entire setup. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I think this, but I’m going to contradict myself and then explain why my thinking is wrong.” We take the time to set things up when we’re getting ready to make an argument, and then with one little word, we throw everything we just spent perfectly good brain cells on out the window.

I think it’s more a situation of people needing to be “politically correct” most times. We are expected to say one thing, and we say it up front so people can see that we’re thinking what the masses are thinking, then turn around and go, “but that’s not really what I think and here’s why.”

Of course, I’ve found in some cases, it’s just because people aren’t thinking before they say something.

Acting without thinking. Yeah.

Oh, and Apple’s still in the right, BTW.

That one’s for free.

February 11, 2005

"Virgin Galactic Flight 136 for Europa now boarding at Astralgate 16"

Months ago, I had been loosely following the Ansari X Prize competition. For those that aren’t familiar with the X Prize, it was a competition to see who could build a privately funded reusable spacecraft, launch it into “orbit”, return to earth and then repeat the launch, orbit and return. The winner would be the first private group to ever reach space… and would receive $10 Million.

The reason for all this, beyond the geeky reasons of just doing it…

Tourism. Yes folks, forget that criuse. Don’t worry about that train trip. Why go to Yosemite when you can hit the ice covered fun of Ganymede? Don’t want to go that far? Why not just take a jaunt to the Moon for the weekend.

What brought this topic on? Well, I was running though my morning news on MSNBC.com and ran across this:

FAA outlines guidelines for space tours

The Federal Aviation Administration has started discussions about guidelines for space tourism. Is this a good thing? I dunno. When I was in elementary school and Jr. high, space stuff was all the rage and I thought it was really cool. We spent years trying to figure out how we could get into SpaceCamp. A trip on the shuttle would have been a cool thing. Yes, even at one point, I was considering the Air Force Academy to lead toward being an astronaut. (I had the grades, but other things got in the way and the idea fell to the wayside.) After all those years in school, Astronomy is still the only kind of science that I can really stand. So the prospects of being able to vacation in space has a certain level of appeal. Stargazing out there would be tres cool. And it seems that it’s close to being a reality. Why? Well, look here:

Yes, that’s right. Move over Boeing. Baibai Airbus. And who needs “Atlantic”. Virgin is prepping to take the world (or at least those with the cash enough to try it) into the stratosphere and beyond with Virgin Galactic. According to the website, they’re planning to start trips to outer space in 2-3 years. Yes, before 2010, you can be chilling in at Rudy T’s on the Moon.

Will it really happen though? Really, only time will tell. Until last year, it was virtually impossible. With the advent of the X Prize and the winning ship, SpaceShipOne (yes, very original name… I wonder how long the marketing guys took to come up with that one…), we’re a step closer. Now all we need is some type of sub-space portal and we’ll all be set.

Yeah. See you Space Cowboy.

February 1, 2005

"Illegal use of colors... on the offense..."

Someone here at work earlier asked me about my opinions on a website design. While there wasn’t anything “wrong” per se, there was plenty wrong. Confused? Good, I thought you’d be.

The page seemed fine from a design structure standpoint. There were a few designy things that I never would have touched, like icky looking tabs and the placement of some things… lines around the side navigation when it’s already broken off on the page by a background color… But the information on the page looked, in a completely black and white world, functional. But that’s where one side of it ends.

It’s the ever popular Form vs. Function argument… However, in a world where form is usually sacrificed in the name of function, I like to point out that people can make things that fit both bills. There are plenty of examples.

iPod, Mac mini, G5 Tower, iMac… Apple is very good at getting the Form AND Function thing going. IKEA is another great example… I think it all comes down to one word.


Simplicity, designed correctly, can overcome any potential issue in almost any arena.

The problem that the aforementioned web design has is that it’s using way too many colors and not in a good combination to boot. It’s got this bright blue header with way too much info, blue tabs underneath, then it has a big gray bar through the middle. In the content area we have a nasty electric green side navigation area, a white text area and then this nasty 1970s light and dark avocado thing going on… Nasty.

The biggest problem it has is that it’s way cluttered… and then you toss all those colors on top and you have a horrible mess.

Why? Now I’m going to rail on a specific color here, just, well, because I can. And if you really like this color, please, there’s no real offense intended toward anyone that really, really loves this color. It’s more about the horrible uses that I’ve encountered over the years. These are just my observations in the 15 years i’ve been designing things…

Green. I firmly maintain that the color green shouldn’t be used for anything but grass and trees (and things that come from them). There are very few things in this world that look good in the color green. If things were really intended to be green, the Big Guy Upstairs would have made them green to begin with. I think my intense loathing of the color green came when I was working at UVSC. A year or two after I started working there, they changed the name of the school and the school’s colors. In true democratic fashion, the administration said that the students would be the ones to vote on which colors the school should adopt, and when they chose this cool dark maroon and gold combination, the administration promptly announced that olive drab and bleck gold were the colors. For the design geeks here, that’s Pantone 3435 and 109. Uncoated. It looks HORRIBLE on paper… especially on uncoated stock. Business cards? Hideous.

What that decision, the work I was doing in the television studio was set back a bit too. We had to update all the graphics standards I had come up with for the television courses. And they tried to force us to use the new colors. Now, I don’t know who many people out there realize how horrible green looks on television. It’s not a pretty color on TV at all.

I think 6 years of dealing with that craptastic PMS 3435 made me jaded… I dunno. Just my thoughts there. Take them for what they’re worth. About $0.21. :P

And avocado is just wrong. In any decade.