Can kicking

I’m trying to define exactly what it is about Obama I’m finding so dissatisfying. It’s not necessarily his politics. He’s more or less center, I’m center-left on most things. We’re not that far apart. It’s not his pragmatism. I’m a pragmatist, too. God knows we could use more of that in our politics now. No, I think what it is is how he seems to get his ass handed to him so often.

Compare and contrast with Bill Clinton, the Great Triangulator. Clinton often didn’t seem to stand for anything, but in retrospect, I was more consistently happy with his tenure while it was happening than I am with Obama’s. After the mid-terms of 1994 culminating with the federal government shut-downs of 1995 and 1996, you could always see what Clinton got as part of any deal. He didn’t get everything he wanted, but he got something. As hard as the right tried to minimize him and hand him defeat, he always seemed to come out the other side with at least a partial victory. At least, that’s how I remember it.

These days, Obama talks a good game, but he doesn’t seem comfortable in his presidential skin. There are flashes of presidential behavior (Bin Laden), but for the most part he seems like one of those overly obsequious parents who never stops negotiating with a willful child and, ultimately, never seems to make any headway in stemming their willfulness. For someone who ran such a masterful campaign to win the Presidency, he seems to have no idea what Americans think makes a successful president.

A classic example is the 14th amendment option (the one that says the debt of the United States will not be called into question). At a very early point in the debate, Obama said he would not exercise it. No, it had never been done before and, yes, had he done so, it would have likely ended up in court, but it was an option. It was a negotiation ploy. It was a freakin’ stick! Instead, he got all professorial and appealed to his opposition’s better angels. Guess what? They don’t have any. At least not when dealing with him. They know better by now. In any event, Clinton’s position on the 14th was that hell yes he’d use it “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.” See?! Sounds like a president to me.

Three times he put the extinguishing of tax breaks for the wealthy out there as his objective towards reaching a more equitable solution to our budget imbalances. Three times he kicked the can down the alley until next time. What happens when there are no more next times? Clinton understood far better (and sooner) than Obama that in order to lead you have to look like you’re winning every once in a while. Obama never seems to win. Health care reform, for example, was so watered down and limp as to have seemed hollow at best.

Even when he wins, it smells like a defeat.

Quick Barred

Anyone know if there’s a way for me to unleash some angry birds on the Twitter app’s annoying new Quick Bar?

Jobs and the average man

In my last missive, I mentioned that Steve Jobs’ appearance at the iPad 2 event played upon my sentimental side. Therefore, it should not be a surprise when I take umbrage at this statement buried in the story I linked to before:

But the health of Apple’s chief, who runs the most highly valued tech company in the world, is more important to shareholders than it is to most of its customers, said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst focusing on personal computing.

“I don’t think the average person cares what’s going on with Apple’s leader,” she said.

Seriously?

There have been, in the history of American industrial culture, a large number of extraordinarily talented leaders, but some rise above all the rest (for good or bad): Henry Ford, Bill Gates, John Rockefeller, Mark Zuckerberg, and Walt Disney just to name a few that randomly pop into my head. Certainly prominent among those would be Steve Jobs, the guy who founded not one, but two wildly successful companies with high profiles in our popular culture. He’s the guy who’s fronted every significant introduction of game-changing products from Apple over the past 27 years, from the Mac, to the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad. He not only embodies the creative genius and charisma of someone like Walt Disney, who reshaped the entertainment industry multiple times, but the business acumen of someone like Bill Gates or Henry Ford who both had clear visions of the future and the sheer willpower to make them happen. He is, without doubt, the single most talented CEO in America today (and maybe the world).

So yeah, I think the “average person” is aware of and cares about what’s happening with Apple’s leader. But, you know, that’s just a hunch. I don’t know that many average people.

150

One hundred and fifty. That’s approximately how many days away we are from iPhone 5 (assuming Apple sticks to it’s mid-summer refresh scedule), yet as mainstream a website as CNN.com (via Mashable) is already posting “rumor round-up” stories.

Crazy.

The tone of the story (reported there and elsewhere) is that Apple will be making changes to the iPhone in order to somehow squash the raging bull of Android sales. I don’t think that’s quite right. I think Apple makes products they think will sell like crazy and very purposefully doesn’t fixate on the competition. I’m not saying nobody over there thinks about market share, but it’s not the way they measure success. Apple likes to be insanely profitably and insanely great. Market share’s for show-offs.

So anyway, here are the new features the new Jesus Phone will supposedly have:

  • A higher megapixel camera. Maybe. The iPhone already has a kick-ass camera. Megapixels aren’t everything. The lens and processing software are arguably more important than the size of the image being recorded. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more MPs in the next phone, but not because Apple’s playing a “who’s got the best specs” game.
  • Larger screens. Again, maybe. There was a rumor a little while back that the iPhone would be losing it’s home button, but I think Gruber nailed it. I don’t expect that button to be going anywhere. So, if the screen’s physically bigger, it will not get that way by stealing space away from the phone’s “chin”. It’s possible they’d steal space from it’s “forehead”, but it seems to me that the screen would still need the same number of physical pixels as the current screen (only larger). One of the things that makes the iPhone easy to develop for is that it’s screen comes in two sizes: 640 x 960 for iPhone 4 and exactly half that (320 x 480) for all the others. It seems to me they wouldn’t want to introduce a third size not based on those proportions. Besides, the Retina Display is not even a year old and massively beautiful. Seems early for a big shake-up around the screen.
  • Slide-out keyboard. No. I think Jobs would have to be way more than just on medical leave for that to happen. He’d have to be stone-cold dead and five years buried. Plus, Jonathan Ive would have to have been kidnapped by Chechen rebels and held in a mountain top lair. I just can’t see this happening ever.

There’s also a rumor of a smaller “iPhone nano” floating out there again. Not sure about that. Seems to me the icons and other chrome on the current phone is about as small is it can get and still be useable. Unless they’re dreaming up a non-app phone, like an iPod nano with a phone attached as opposed to what we have now which is like an iPod Touch with a phone. Not sure moving away from the App Store ecosystem is a direction they’re likely to go. Also smells too much like a feature phone.

I guess we’ll know in about 150 days (assuming one doesn’t show up in bar first).

A slice of Apple’s pie

Today, Apple finally announced their subscription model. As with other transactions in which Apple is the middle-man, they’re requiring a healthy chunk of the resulting revenue:

“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

I think that’s emminently reasonable. Apple’s iOS is, after all, a very large and generally self-contained ecosystem that’s already made many, many people rich (I’m looking at you, angry red bird). The potential to sell to these consumers is proven. And Apple isn’t calling this a “transaction fee” or in any other way sugar-coating it. It’s an access fee. The toll for the road. You, as the developer or the content creator or whatever, would not have access to the roughly 160 million iOS devices (and their owners) had Apple not created them.

I’m sure a lot of people will look at these terms and thing they’re onerous, but nobody has to play by them. Publishers could always create web apps to deliver content. But then they’d be bypassing the App Store and all those people who habitually use it to find new things to keep their fingers and eyes occupied. Or, they could focus on Android and their subscription payment option (as soon as it’s developed, anyway).

In the mean time, I look forward to seeing what content creators do with this new lease on life. The New York Times, in particular, seems well positioned to make itself in to a new kind of news delivery service that could dominate marshmallowy players like CNN and Fox.

 

Chrome is where the heart is

Recently, the pinheads at Google decided to drop support for h.264 video playback by changing the way the <video> tag works in future versions of the Chrome browser. It’s not that I think Google’s pinheads are more or less pinheady than anyone else’s, but this is an especially egregious sin since we were just beggining to see some sanity taking shape regarding video playback online, across all devices and browsers. Instead of leading us into h.264 nirvana, they split off for no other reason except they wanted to screw iOS and prop up their own “standard”. But I’m not here to argue the politics of their decision.

Chrome had been, up to that point, my default browsing axe. I liked it because it was standards-compliant, fast as all hell, and cross platform. As a person who makes a living developing for the web, I like to support tools that work the same way everywhere. Since I use a Mac, Internet Explorer is not an option. Since I like tools that work everywhere, I have traditionally eschewed Safari. Firefox was my go-to tool for a long time, but it started to feel a little crufty to me and didn’t seem as fast as Chrome. So anyway, I was so pissed at the pinheaded change of course at Google that I jumped ship to Safari (being the best of the two real options available). I used it for about three weeks. Tonight, I jumped back to Chrome. Not for any big reasons, but for all the small ones that make a tool feel well-worn and comfortable.

First off, I appreciate Chrome’s combination of URL and web search in one field. I got so used to it that, even after three weeks, I couldn’t remember to use the search field in Safari. Not even once. It’s such a logical and useful way to approach search that needing two fields seems silly to me now. Second, Chrome has a far larger universe of extensions. There were a few in particular that I used daily and could find no substitute for in the far smaller Safari stable. Third, Safari, while a nimbly renderer, presented me with several endless spinny beach balls every day. It was infuriating. There seemed no rhyme or reason and the app was essentially useless until it worked itself through whatever internal quandary was facing it. Lastly, I kept running into small inconsistencies with how Safari handled long text fields (like this one). Gmail, Squarespace, WordPress, etc. It was like they all kinda worked, but not quite. As a guy who lived through the dark and dismal days of the late-90’s on the Mac, I have zero tolerance for things that kinda work. I’m sure I’m disappointing some associates, but at the end, I just didn’t find Safari to be flexible or reliable enough to be the one app I use more than 90% of the time I’m facing a computer screen.

Regarding my original complaint, the <video> tag still plays h.264 for the time being. I’ll cross that bridge when Google forces me over it.

 

Bachmann v. Clinton

In a Bill Clinton/Michele Bachmann smack-down, you have to pick POTUS 42 each and every time.

I think what America needs as much as anything else is to stop conducting its politics in a parallel universe divorced from reality with no facts.

Source.