Ten years

Before 2007, I was not a fan of Apple Computer, Inc. I was a Linux user through and through, and a strict advocate of Open Source software. I considered OS X to be a waste of perfectly good Unix software. I scoffed at Apple’s overpriced, underperforming hardware.

That all changed ten years ago today, when my wife Solveig got her first iPhone.

I had no interest in the iPhone following its initial announcement, but Solveig really wanted one. She’d been a happy PowerBook user for a few years (after gamely suffering through Linux on various PC laptops I subjected her to), and she thought the new phone looked compelling. I thought it looked over-priced and over-hyped.

Then came the infamous price drop in September. Solveig put her order in, and on September 12th her new iPhone arrived.

After she set it up, she let me check it out. Not that I was particularly interested in it, but I’m a geek and here was a new gadget, so I had to try.

In less than 60 seconds of using it, I knew I was holding the future in my hands.

Less than two weeks later, I not only had an iPhone of my own, I also had a MacBook Pro to go with it. I had immediately and completely switched computing platforms, and I haven’t looked back since.

I’ve been a Mac user for 10 years now, and I remain amazed by the surface area of this platform. I’d been a Linux user for 10 years before that, and in that time I got a feel for most of the internals of the operation system. I’ve written Linux kernel modules, libraries, daemons, X11 applications, you name it. I stayed on top of Linux kernel and userspace updates, and there wasn’t a part of the operation system I wasn’t familiar with. OS X, on the other hand, is a different beast. Some of that comes from it’s semi-closed-source nature: there are parts of the operation system that just aren’t open to me. But much of it comes from the fact that it largely Just Works: I now take for granted so many things on macOS that on Linux would’ve required recompiling a kernel module or hand editing modelines in an XF86Config file. Still more comes from all of the functionality built-in to macOS that’s not part of (or at least not mature on) any Linux distro. Ten years in I still feel like a novice on this platform, but that’s OK, because I’m also more productive now on macOS than I ever was on Linux.

I have to close with saying that I am also now a fan of Apple, Inc. I’ve been a citizen of the internet for almost 30 years, and life online is very different now than it was when I got started. Thirty years ago, hackers were the big threat on the internet, while corporations and governments were rather benign presences. Today, hackers are relatively easy to defend yourself from, while corporations and governments exploit the internet to surveil and track individuals in ways that most people would find highly objectionable but have no idea about. Apple is one of the few companies that stands up for citizens’ rights, and it makes devices that help people protect themselves from emerging threats. We’re at an inflection point in history, and Apple is on the right side of it.

I look forward to Apple’s tenth anniversary iPhone event today, on my own personal tenth anniversary of first using an iPhone. And I have my wife to thank for it.

Flying Slug

A solitary slug, dangling in midair, suspended by a strand of slime from a leaf six feet above. Is this a thing? I’ve never seen it before. 

The interaction between criminal law and social norms

Matt Levine’s latest Money Stuff column at Bloomberg explores the fuzzy line between antitrust violations and simply minding your manners. The difference is not as obvious as you might immediately think:

What would make those calls criminal? If Dimon said “don’t hire from us and we won’t hire from you,” and McFarlane said “you have yourself a deal,” then that would be bad. “Going forward, the DOJ intends to proceed criminally against naked wage-fixing or no-poaching agreements,” the Justice Department announced last year, and it noted that informal “gentleman’s agreements” can still count as criminal conspiracies. (“There have been no improper agreements and we continue to hire from each other,” says JPMorgan, and Barclays “insiders vigorously rejected any suggestion that such an agreement was entered into” and pointed out that it keeps hiring from JPMorgan.)

But what if Dimon was like “hey all this hiring is rude and you should stop,” and McFarlane was like “I suppose it is rude, we’ll stop.” What if Dimon called McFarlane and just said “really?” and waited in silence until McFarlane was like “yeah, okay, fine.” I have no idea what anyone said to anyone else. But it does seem to me like leaving a senior job at one bank to become the CEO at another, and then poaching a ton of senior people from your old bank all at once, is kind of rude and disruptive to your old friends and colleagues, and you might not want to do it, not because of an illegal “gentleman’s agreement” but out of a general social sense of gentlemanliness. (Or you might forget your manners, and be reminded, and repent.) What if Barclays really did slow down its hiring of JPMorgan employees because it concluded that there was a social norm against all that hiring? Isn’t a “social norm” just another name for a “gentleman’s agreement”? Isn’t it a shared informal understanding about what should and shouldn’t be done? Does that make it an antitrust violation?  

Chicago Checklist

My 8 year old was worried about me packing properly for my business trip in the morning, so she made me a list.

You Are Not Google

The tools used by the big tech companies that are household names are probably not the tools you should be using for your company.

You Are Not Google is chock full of good examples that explain why.