James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States, and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book, China Airborne, was published in early May. More
James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009), are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book, China Airborne, was published in early May. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
There is a notable exception: Gmail. You can download all your mail via POP3 or IMAP but Google throttles the download speed:I have made piecemeal IMAP archives of my Gmail cloud archives over the years (via Thunderbird and also Apple Mail), rather than trying to do it at one go, so I had not noticed the restrictions the reader mentions. But they're worth bearing in mind. Of course, Gmail is so central a part of Google's offerings, and of its burgeoning for-pay business apps, that it is hard to imagine Gmail ever being turned off as a conscious business decision. Still, I feel better having my own backups, just in case.
I decided to create a local backup of my mails at Gmail a few weeks ago and have managed to download around 100,000 mails so far, i.e., the throttling is probably more restrictive than Google mentions. In the best case according to the information provided by Google, it would still take me around a week to download all my mail from Gmail via IMAP. There is therefore no efficient way to migrate your Gmail account to another mail provider. And if you want to keep all your mails and all your labels, you get each mail at least twice ('all mails' or 'sent' plus label).
I am still happy that the Google Data Liberation Front shows new signs of life after it had looked abandoned for years. At least for Gmail, however, it is not that useful. And I hope in any case that I do not have to migrate away from Gmail (or Google Apps for Business in my case)
I think the move to paid services is ultimately probably wise for all of us info junkies, except that the inclusion of RSS functionality on any given site may be hampered by the lack of Google's huge availability. Why code for it, or more to the point, provide it at all if even the dismissing eyeballs that reader provided are no longer there?I'm not going to bother with a paraphrasing of these posts for readers not involved in the computer world, since people most affected by these changes are likely to understand the arguments as presented above. I will say that what must have seemed to Google a simple, clear-cut business choice -- let's stop messing around with the "interesting" little diversions and concentrate on our mainstream products -- is having more complex "downstream effects" than most people might have foreseen.
One other side effect that has been under-discussed but that tails off of the google data liberation front (what a stellar name, it should be a not-quite-ready-for-prime time Brooklyn band name): the history of pages you've already read is stored in reader but I don't believe it exports with your feeds.
I can, today, search in reader for a lifehacker article about a shelving system that I thought about building during a bout of DIYness. That resource will be gone to me. Or a homegrown revolution post about a wild-cherry growing system that is self-sustaining. Or a Sullivan post that I have been meaning to email him about for two plus years. Or a Fallows post on civil aviation and comparisons to ask the pilot posts from four years ago before salon ruined their RSS feed system and I stopped reading salon.
Come to think of it, that's the biggest fear. When salon ruined their RSS feeds I went from 9 individual feeds i cleared daily to zero (RIP How the World Works, one of my favorite blogs of all time). Ditto for wonkette recently when they went to teaser RSS posts instead of full entries - I can't open posts calling John McCain "walnuts" and accusing him of senility at work! This angle is the Iran-news-access-by-proxy service google was providing through reader (not to compare my circumstances to those of the oppressed in Iran).
As we say in App Dev, the downstream effects and the lack of even a frozen "legacy system" for historical purposes are severe and, worse, not clear.
One bit of the risk analysis of using Keep or any other new Google product is their commitment to letting you get back your data. As you know, the Google Data Liberation Front is dedicated to helping people get their data out of Google in a standard format. Over time, it's been clear that this is an initiative Google takes seriously.2) I have relentlessly beat the drum for Google's "two-step" authentication systems for Gmail and other services, which radically reduce the likelihood that your account can be hacked from afar. Apple is only now playing catch-up with this feature.
So while it's a bummer that Reader is closing down, I can export my list of feeds in a standard format and use any of a hundred other RSS products. The same is true of all the other Google products I use.
Like you, I'm cautiously evaluating Keep. Whether I continue using it will depend on what the Drive integration looks like, specifically how easily I can export my Keep notes. [JF note: Also, whether there would be an iOS version, so I could sync it to my iPad. A plus of Evernote is that you can use it on just about any device or system.]
This is a key component of trusting cloud services, Google gets it at a ever deep level, and it's worth a mention.
I trust the statistics are for attacks wherein there has been at least one complete exchange of packets with the purported source. Eg the attacker has sent a packet, the destination has sent a packet in response, and something based on that response bas come from the purported attacker - such as happens with the TCP connection establishment handshake. If it is based solely on the source IP address of a single inbound datagram it will be very vulnerable to IP address spoofing. In that case, for all we know it could be the Duchy of Grand Fenwick spoofing IP addresses in their quest for Internet Domination (™).
Serious RSS users aren't into it for the luscious jpegged beauty. RSS feeds, taken straight, are a wall of text. That's useful when you want to let news wash over you, to scan screenfuls of headlines without waiting for extraneous pictures to load. When I want to absorb a lot of information fast--which is to say, always--I don't have time for Flipboard. I want exactly what Google will be taking away from me this summer.
My sense from afar is that an "oh, it's not really that bad" attitude is setting in about America's permanent-emergency approach to public funding. This is a reminder that it really could be that bad. And on that point, a scientist I know in California has written:It's not yet clear how much funding the National Labs will lose, but it will total tens of millions of dollars. Interrupting -- or worse, halting -- basic research in the physical, biological, and computational sciences would be devastating, both for science and for the many U.S. industries that rely on our national laboratory system to power their research and development efforts.Instead, this drop in funding will force us to cancel all new programs and research initiatives, probably for at least two years. This sudden halt on new starts will freeze American science in place while the rest of the word races forward, and it will knock a generation of young scientists off their stride, ultimately costing billions in missed future opportunities.
When I was a kid, in the 1970s, there were about 2000 'operational' weather balloon sites that released balloons synchronized to be in the middle of the troposphere at 00 and 12 UTZ daily.
When I did a survey of how many there were in 2000, there were about 800. There are myriad reasons, the relative poverty of many countries that can't afford to pay for the programs and geopolitics among them.
The number is about to drop precipitously due to a contrived crisis by a rich nation.
I am deeply ashamed for my country.
From: <email@example.com>To be precise, we live in a taxation-without-representation District rather than a state of any sort, and here the marital-property principle is called "equitable distribution" rather than community property. Either way, I'm looking forward to my share of the loot, knowing that one crore is equal to ten million rupees, which in turn is worth about $200,000.
Date: Sun, Feb 24, 2013 at 10:38 AM
The Microsoft is glad to pronounce you as the lucky winner of Eight crores Thirty Four lahks and Thirty Two Thousand INR,send us the following details for claims.
- To filter out smart users who would immediately recognize the scam, thus ensuring that only the most gullible users respond.
- To read in a way that an American with money might imagine a Nigerian would write (for the multimillion dollar transfer scams)
- To get past spam filters
- To fool the victim into believing the scammer is not very sophisticated and can be tricked by the victim
Of course we are very capable in the cyber area, and do apply our tools to collect against more traditional intelligence targets.What I like about this note is the reminder that many troublesome aspects of China now -- environmental ruin, dangerous factories, government bribery, and intellectual-property theft -- have their counterparts in the rapid-development phases of America, England, and many other countries. But the difference in scale, speed, and degree in China's case put it in a different category. (Plus, the other stuff was then; this is now.)
However what the Beijing is doing, brazen intrusions into corporations, media, legal offices, etc is far beyond the scope of our activities. The Chinese State is involved in outright systematic theft of our IP, technology, M & A plans, and so forth. And yes historically this has always been part of industrialization process, think of America vis-a-vis the UK during the late 18th early 19th century but that was spontaneous, this is top down state led and on a totally different scale.
Is the Chinese military a monolithic perfectly formed hierarchically controlled entity?And what I like about this note is the reminder that even the PLA is full of several million Chinese people many of whom are pursuing their own dreams and schemes. Both perspectives are true, which makes the PLA hard enough for people in China to figure out, let alone outsiders.
My last stroll by the base on Xixi Rd. in Hangzhou was the usual blasting in and out by neon-camo paint job-pimped out Range Rovers of the top brass. Army personnel blasting around in camo pimpmobiles probably do lots of stuff the ruling faction doesn't know or like. I suppose there are are multiple factions involved with hacking. China could have a few Jack D. Ripper types.
Or, more than a few. I kinda think the hacking could be all sorts of stuff that's only slightly understood.
... and he goes on to list nearly a dozen programs, most of which I've used -- along with many others! He doesn't even get into such timeless classics as Lotus Agenda, the still-evolving Zoot, TheBrain, MindManager, OmniFocus, Scapple, Thinking Rock, and .... Wisest not to get me started.Keeping track of All the Things(™) isn't that difficult. Or at least it shouldn't be, but I find it nearly impossible.The problem for me isn't a lack of software, it's the abundance of great software. Here is a list of software I've used to keep track of all the digital detritus in my life:
While I love them all, I've whittled it down to 3 apps: Tinderbox, Evernote, and DEVONthink.He goes on to explain what those analogies mean. For the record, Tinderbox and DEVONthink are Mac-only; Evernote is trans-platform; plucky Zoot is Window-only; and Lotus Agenda runs on DOS! Of course, stay on the lookout for whatever David Allen and Intentional Software are cooking up.Tinderbox is my notebook. Evernote is my junk drawer. DEVONthink is my filing cabinet.
I, too, have worked at USPS and am now an executive in a Fortune 50 company. USPS had a speedy, efficient structure compared to the corporate bureaucracy I now experience. It's funny, the reactions I receive when I say I once worked at USPS. Most frequently, I receive condolences. I quickly object to that sentiment. Some of the smartest, most hardworking people I have ever met work for USPS in both management and craft jobs.The Vol de Nuit factor. Literary allusions from a reader:
Congress is the real villain here, but it's not surprising. A perfect example is the anthrax-crisis of 2001. In the midst of those terrible days when no one knew where or when the next deadly letter would arrive, the Congress of the United States ran out of DC for weeks. Postal workers came to work every day. Within 90 days of the crisis, USPS engineers were testing a new processing machine that would detect bio-hazards in the mailstream and wouldn't disburse deadly contaminents into the air at postal facilities every time the machine was cleaned. Four months later, USPS began delivering these new machines to processing centers.
I don't have any original thoughts of my own to add to the discussion about the postal service except to add that when it comes to romance and literary inspiration, post office beats electronic hands down. Just two piece of evidence will suffice:The Sneakernet Factor. Thanks to many readers who sent links to yet another great Randall Munroe xkcd entry, this one about the relative throughput capacities of the internet and physical transport systems.
(1) W.H. Auden's poem for the British post office in the 1930s, "Night Mail". [JF note: seriously, you won't regret clicking on the video below.]
(2) Antoine de Saint-Exupery's novels Courrier Sud (Southern Mail) and Night Flight about the dangers of delivering the air mail in the 1930s...which adds the romance of flight as well.
If anyone has written a great poem or novel about sending an email or text message...let me know.
I work at a small eCommerce company in Redlands, California and know from experience that the federal mail is superior to private couriers in almost every way that matters. They offer the best product at the best rate nine times out of ten. Compromising this service would be devastating to domestic commerce - particularly during the all-important Christmas season/fourth quarter....The security factor. A reader makes this basic point:
As a Constitutionally mandated service aren't talks of why we need the post office just a little bit moot or at the least self-serving (said with all respect) punditry? We're not even talking about an amendment. The original document tells Congress to make post offices and post roads. So isn't this more of a question of: do we have a good post system or a crappy one?
One great feature of "snail mail"..... privacy!!! No matter how much or what is done on computers, safety and privacy are not guaranteed!!.Right -- security can't be guaranteed in either medium. But it certainly is quicker, faster, easier, and more insidious to follow an electronic rather than a physical "paper trail."
I've long thought that the great opportunity for the USPS was to be the primary progenitor of the world-wide-web in the US. That is to say, the primary ISP and Email service provider; the roles now fulfilled by Comcast, Verizon, and Google. In the mid 90's, when home web access was all dial-up, the post office could have been as instrumental in bringing local web access to rural America as they did with postal access. And of course then, very few envisioned cloud storage / transfer services. USPS could have offered (at a time when no others were in the homeowner / retail space): Security, encryption, delivery confirmation, and SPAM / virus protection. The existing distributed nature of the USPS would have been perfect in terms of support and transition from 'snail' to electronic media.That's enough for now. Maybe this crisis will have the silver-lining effect of nudging people away from the reflexive denigration of postal employees, postal efficiency, and "snail mail." Not sure what we can do about "going postal," though.
This goes against the notion of smaller less intrusive government, but the alternative notions of real web neutrality and widely available web access would have been the kinds of things that would have helped America in the global technology challenges. (Of course there would have been the prickly concern over how to handle the enormous amounts of porn...). And finally, since 9/11 & Google, we must assume that all email and web traffic is subject to monitoring and recording; so they could have had a head start on all that.
To me, this all goes along with the already deep levels of integration and regulatory relationships between the US Government and Broadcasters, Telecoms, and other public forms of media. Quite possibly the USPS would not have been a direct service provider but, rather, a facilitator, regulator, and equalizer to ensure all America had access to reasonable service levels at reasonable cost and that various public services were integrated into the web early on.
Too late now, I suppose. I wonder (and doubt) if Al Gore would have had the vision to pursue this approach had he been elected in 2000.
I can think of examples that both support and work against this "overall things are better" thesis. What's striking about the goods and bads of these new pressures on the software world is how they resemble what is happening to publishing, academia, journalism, and discourse in general. For now, offered as one more data point for the record.I'm a software engineer by education (CSC) and have been in the software world for 30 years now, 98% of the time working for companies that develop and sell software products (as opposed to consulting or IT)...I've been a CTO for the last 12 years.On the specifics of the author's example of "writing software today", the example he uses is really no different than software design 30 years ago, meaning that the simplest of capabilities has many details that must be addressed in order to make it function correctly in all situations as well as to provide the "quality" expected by its users. His specific example of UI design is stuff commonly dealt with since the advent of GUIs [Graphical User Interfaces, like Windows or MacOS]....The portion of the article (and part of Mark's bigger point) that is interesting to me and is definitely a change in the larger software market is that of the "App" (small, specialized applications generally targeted at the mobile computing market; typically either free or at extreme low cost (i.e. $0.99)). One of Mark's points is that there is so much cost to deliver even the smallest of features (even those which are minor/secondary) that it can make it extremely difficult to build a profitable business.So is this a good or bad thing? Someone could argue that this is "bad" and that Apple and gang have ruined things for the software market, even perhaps arguing that there will now be a whole set of software that will never be built and delivered because it can't be done profitably.However, the flipside can also be argued in several ways. There is of course the obvious advantage of now having a centralized delivery system connected with a huge potential set of buyers, enabling a company of any size (1 and above) to sell in large volume immediately with virtually no capital outlay. The accompanying downside of this is the challenge of having your offerings be discovered among the endless set of apps available. But beyond this basic level of the marketplace dynamics is the pressure it puts onto software organizations to build the right products.Ultimately, software products survive and thrive based on the real value that they provide their users. That "value" is wrapped up in many things, both obvious and subtle. Products with no real value come and go very quickly, or never really make it ever. Products which start well, but then go off track (either through bad vision or bad execution/engineering) fail as well, and the marketplace is very quick to choose, very unforgiving, and long on memory.I think that this is actually a good thing for the software business for these reasons: (1) product managers and software designers must be much more thoughtful in what they build and how they build it, being keenly focused on end user value, and (2) software engineers must be much more careful on the design and implementation of the system. In a sense, it drives software back to being "crafted" rather than just built. Ultimately it's a win/win: (1) the software community (individuals as well as teams) is forced to be much better at what it does; and (2) the value of software is pushed higher and higher, providing great impact on peoples lives.
The Sun: This works about as well as you'd imagine. If the plane is released close enough to the Sun to feel its atmosphere at all, it's vaporized in less than a second....
Jupiter: Our Cessna can't fly on Jupiter; the gravity is just too strong.... Starting from a friendly sea-level pressure, we'd accelerate through the tumbling winds into a 275 m/s (600 mph) downward glide deeper and deeper through the layers of ammonia ice and water ice until we and the aircraft were crushed. There's no surface to hit; Jupiter transitions smoothly from gas to solid as you sink deeper and deeper....
Uranus: Uranus is a strange, uniform bluish orb. There are high winds and it's bitterly cold. It's the friendliest of the gas giants to our Cessna, and you could probably fly for a little while. But given that it seems to be an almost completely featureless planet, why would you want to?
Neptune: If you're going to fly around one of the ice giants, Neptune (Motto: "The Slightly Bluer One") is probably a better choice than Uranus. It at least has some clouds to look at before you freeze to death or break apart from the turbulence.
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|Blind into Baghdad||Boiled-frog|
|Brave little USB||Budget|
|China Airborne||China Daily|
|China Menace||China Today|
|Copenhagen||Crisis of the press|
|Doing Business in China||Dreaming in Chinese|
|Going to hell|
|Ideas 2009||Ideas 2011|
|Obama||Obama in Asia|
|Occupy Wall Street||Olympics|
|Public health||Reader comment|
|Security Sanity||Security Theater|
|Self-pity and its discontents||Small Business|
|Volcano||Walk like an American|
|Wine||Year end pensee|
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