Mainly Positive Software News

Technology is our friend, except when it isn't.

Positive: Big summertime sale on "artisanal software" for the Mac, with logos above. This includes two programs I use all day every day, Scrivener and Tinderbox. Tinderbox is a powerful but complex acquired taste -- a taste I have acquired. Scrivener is an absolute no-brainer must-buy as a writing tool. But check 'em out for yourself.

Positive: An interestingly improved, and actually interesting, photo-management and -search system for photos on your own computer, from Google. Descriptions at Techcrunch here and here.

Negative: The latest twist on how the Chinese Great Firewall is being reinforced, in this case to re-thwart Wikipedia , in anticipation of tomorrow's anniversary of May 35th. [Look it up.]

Negative, though affecting fewer people. A reader complains about another dropped, niche-audience Google product. This reader says that he and his wife rely on simple, cheap mobile phones that handle text [SMS] messages and can't afford the higher hardware and service costs of fancier smart phones:
I know this is a useless cry into the void.  I'm sure that Google has the numbers to show that people just weren't using SMS search.  But both my wife and I used it A LOT.  And we are both really feeling it now that it's gone.  At least when they pulled the plug on Google Reader there were ample alternatives to turn to.  But for people without a web-enabled phone, SMS search was a critical tool. (You could even get turn by turn directions using SMS search.) And there really is no alternative. Not even a phone book.  Seriously. Stop by your nearest shop- pick one- and ask if you can use their phone book.

The problem with letting capitalism hold such dramatic sway over society is that there's no one looking out for the fewer of us.  Imagine what the landscape would have looked like had phone companies been allowed to build out only the profitable areas of the country.

Positive, again with niche impact. A very nice though still-in-development mapping app to help you choose your ideal beer and discover new ones you will like. More from Flowing Data and Fast Company, and thanks to reader DP.


Routine disclosure, for both Google items: Many of my friends work at Google, and so does one of my sons.
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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 is China Airborne. 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 U.S. 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 recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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