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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

It Doesn’t Work

I love the Internet.

I wouldn’t write if it wasn’t for the Internet. The WYSIWYG editor and cut and paste and so forth made it exactly as easy as it had to be, or I wouldn’t do it. I’m hardly lazy, but I’m impatient.

The Internet doesn’t work. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s a cobbled together mess, and it was cobbled together by a very informal committee of persons who indulge their own bizarre tastes and wonder why everyone doesn’t want to run their own lives from the command line in Linux.

I don’t know, why doesn’t everyone smelt their own tin to use as solder for the circuit boards they’re making for themselves?

I try to keep up with the Internet, because it’s kinda my job now. So like a fool I downloaded Firefox 3 instead of waiting for its final release. And I woke up this morning, and Flash video is off my menu.

It’s a sort of encapsulation of the whole affair for me. It’s like the Interweb version of the low-flow toilet. I’m told about all the very important and cutting edge things that my toilet now does, because some addle-headed bureaucrat got a notion that we were running out of water everywhere, of all things. I’ve noticed however high-tech my toilet might be, there’s still a turd in there after I flush it. Seven times.

Flush, Flash, it’s all starting to look the same to me. It doesn’t work for no good reason. Flash video is the format for YouTube videos, and my little widget advertisement with the slideshow of tables over in the right hand column, and a lot of other stuff. And the current version of Flash doesn’t work with Firefox 3.

I’m not looking for advice on what to do here. I could expunge Flash from my hard drive, (make sure you don’t have applications open with Flash in their cache!) go to Adobe, find an older version of Flash, download and install it, reinstall Firefox 3, and it would probably all work. That’s a full time job for a long time, and I’ve got better things to do.

There is a great tech reckoning coming. I can feel it. The great mass of people are going to rise up and demand that the pasty, doughy, porn-addled, copyright infringement fetished, anonymity fascinated, Bill Gates-hatin’ dorks that bang on the Internet like a blind cobbler’s thumb stop fooling around and make the damn thing work. You’re all mechanics –bad ones — not CEOs. The sooner you’re making 35 grand in a cubicle out back and people that understand that the process is not the product are put in charge, the better off we’ll all be.

15 Responses

  1. Or you could go with the people who *already* understand that the process is not the product. IE works just fine for me … Flash and all.

  2. FF 3 is a beta and not all, or even most, extensions work with it or will for some months.

    Go back to FF 2. whatever and dump 3. That’s all.

    You did keep FF 2 right?

  3. As a professional, long-time programmer I run an entire blog on why software is crap, always has been and always will be. No arguments on that. And I have been arguing that software producers (at least commercial ones who do it for profit) shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind “No warranties express or implied” any more.

    However, I will argue with you on one thing and one thing only. You use a mechanics analogy, and that’s fine, I’ve used it myself in the past. Except here’s the thing – in this case you didn’t pay for the “car” you’re running. You didn’t pay for Firefox. Nor the Flash player. At some point in installing both you clicked through an agreement that basically said “No warranties express or implied” and said, “Whatever”, clicked OK and on you went. And now you whine because the thing you got for nothing doesn’t work. Hmmm…

    Software is crap, no doubt about it. Commercial software is just as crappy as free software, so my suggestion isn’t that you shouldn’t be using Firefox, either. It is simply that you often blog about how you are a mighty man better than us cube toilers because you work with your hands and know how to use a saw and build a house and how you do it all to make money because you sell things to people. And maybe you are better than me – I dunno, even though sometimes the ‘tude makes me want to quit reading your blog in spite of the general excellence of your writing.

    But you expect to get paid because of your effort, and even while you walk the fine line of price elasticity, you expect people to pay you for the quality of your work. That’s good. Remember that the next time you complain about the quality of something you got for nothing.

  4. Hi Anwyn- I have all the major browsers on my computer. I have to look at the webpages I make in all of them to make sure they don’t display funny. Firefox 2 played Flash OK, although it had compatability problems of its own, too.

    Gerard makes two errors, first he ignores:
    “I’m not looking for advice on what to do here.”
    Then he moves on to an assumption that I’d save FF2. Of course I didn’t. That would be wise. I’m not wise. I knew I was farting around with a half-built thing and did it anyway. I’m making an observation, not looking for sympathy here.

    But Jim’s comment bothered me, because I bothered him, and he’s pleasant. He misunderstood my intent, which is natural because I’m a bad writer.

    He said:
    “It is simply that you often blog about how you are a mighty man better than us cube toilers because you work with your hands and know how to use a saw and build a house and how you do it all to make money because you sell things to people”

    I have never said anything of the kind, and wouldn’t.

    The idea that only people that make material goods are doing worthwhile things is a pet idea of the intelligentsia, not mine. No one in a ditch thinks like that. I certainly don’t. Making things with your hands is gratifying, it’s true, but so is writing a poem.

    You are making a fundamental mistake about the economics of free utilities on the Intertunnel. I’m not a consumer of free utilities, with no reason to expect them to work because I’m not charged for them. Mozilla was paid $65 million dollars in 2006 alone by Google to deliver users –ie: me –to them by making Google the default search box in their “free” browser. Everyone at Mozilla is being paid to make the browser, and attract as many people to use it as they can. ” I didn’t “get it for nothing.” My use of it was sold to third parties, by some second parties who all got paid. Not the same thing.

    My time and attention is valuable, and asking me to pay attention to you so a third party will pay for my and my friends’ aggregate attention is a business model. I didn’t think it up. My last paragraph was a warning that it’s part of a bizarro world business model that could very easily disintegrate just like the boom did a decade ago.

    I’ve employed a half dozen people at one time doing nothing but IT work to support other employees when I was a manager. It’s not like I don’t understand the concept of paying for ones and zeroes.

    My business is not me being a noble savage making furniture. I have a web-centered business. In a way, more web-centered than yours, even though your business is strictly ones and zeros. My website(s) is/are my product, and the furniture is what I sell to pay for it.

    There’s a reason they call them “utilities.” The Internet is a utility to me. But until it has the reliability of water coming out of the tap or electricity coming out of the wall plug, it’s a kindergarten-grade utility. That’s my only point.

    And happyacres is correct I guess, but then again, I was born old.

  5. I dunno, maybe I’m a grumpy old man, too. Except for the man part. And not that old, really. But probably at least grumpy.

    Whatever the case may be, I sincerly appreciated the apt comparasion between toilets which refuse to accept ones offerings (have one of those, too)and a whole myriad of computer things which are supposed to be so great but require so much work getting them to work that it seems it would be simpler to just work around the lack thereof.

    You may possibly be able to convince me it is better than the alternative, but you can’t make me enjoy it.

    I hate computers.

    I use them, but I hate them.

    Very, very much like I use “efficient” toilets.

  6. I’m sorry – I must’ve misinterpreted the last part of this. Anyway, I don’t want to argue about that, because I’m pleasant :o). You’re a good writer even though you like to pretend like you don’t know it and that’s why I read you. Some day I even plan on buying a table from you! So your business model is working.

    I will grant you your point about the Internet not being “free” in the terms you describe, and that it is now a utility to you and for most of us. Fair enough. I will make a few points in friendly conversation because this topic is actually something I think about a lot.

    1) The Internet is built on software, and software is crap (I know – it’s my business). Software has always been crap and IMHO always will be. So it follows that the Internet has also always been crap – or at least it became so once we decided we could do more with it then send text-based emails and argue over pointless stuff in newsgroups (blog comment threads substitute for that now :o). Now it’s all buggy software, incompatible browsers, ignored “standards”, viruses, worms, “drive by” infections, spoofing, sniffing, spam, identity theft and on and on. In every gold rush there are probably only 10% of the people trying to actually make it through honest prospecting with the rest being camp followers, con artists and thieves. Welcome to the Internet, a virtual Deadwood. So not to be contentious, but I think you would have noticed it was crap before choosing it as your business platform.

    2) Most “utilities” are monopolies or semi-monopolies with lots of gov’t control. Some would argue that is what it will take to make the Internet as reliable as clean water coming out of your tap. Maybe so. I don’t think I want that (yet), though, and something about some of what you’ve written in the past makes me think you don’t, either.

    3) At some low layer of the stack “the Internet” is as reliable as clean water coming out of your tap. Unless you have a crappy ISP you just turn your computer on and bits come out – and to stretch the analogy further they’re now coming out as if the pipe were a fire hose and yet you’re paying little more in inflation-adjusted terms than when it came out as a mere trickle.

    4) So the concern is whether they’re “clean” bits or not. No viruses came through? Good. No worms penetrated the firewall today? Excellent. What went wrong, then? Well, one sequence of bits, cleanly downloaded, suddenly didn’t work with another sequence of bits, also cleanly downloaded. Hmmm. Now, the one batch of bits was from one company and the other batch is from another company. Suddenly we see why the water analogy (and many other “utility” analogies) break down. Or maybe not.

    Because where we’re really at is still in the early days of watching something become a utility, which we’ve really never gotten to see in our lifetimes – water, telephone and electricity were all pretty much in place by the time we were born. I guess cell phones and cable (or is it satellite?) TV count as recent comers. Anyway, at one time there were lots of competing phone systems that didn’t work together – you literally couldn’t make calls to anyone outside your phone system. Or look at electrical/phone plugs from around the world still. Back when I was a road warrior traveling overseas I had to carry a whole pouch of connectors, adapters and gadgets just to get electrons to flow in and out of my laptop. It took some time for such things to become standardized enough to ensure interoperability, at least within a single country. And part of the reason it took time is because competing companies didn’t want to give up their edge, especially if the “standard” was going to end up being a competitor’s. Every media “format war” we’ve seen since the Edison cylinder gave way to the 78RPM record is another example of the same issue.

    I say none of the above to excuse any of it. Today you were bitten by incompatibilities between two software products that should “just work” together, always. And I agree with you – they should “just work”. On behalf of software developers everywhere, I apologize. Like I said, all software is crap. And as a fellow software user, I feel your pain. It sucks. But this is the give and take that happens with every new technology. This is pure market competition working. Some things will win. Some will fail. In the mean time we get to live caught in the middle, wondering just what we should do?

    We could have gone for some “cram you in a box and we’ll protect you and provide you with everything you need” model, but that was called AOL and we know where they went. And guess what? AOL didn’t die – we abandoned them. All of us. Because we wanted to flee their coddling safety for that damned gold rush called the Internet. Instant messaging and mashups and “free” (pirated) music and movies and social networks where we can pretend to be somebody else and online games where we can pretend to kill somebody else and that holy grail of all of human history – on-demand porn delivered straight to our lap(top)s. All for “free”. We eagerly took to it all, even in the confusion of differing “standards” and incompatibilties and ongoing problems that sometimes shoots our machine dead. We’ve built our lives and businesses right on the main street of Deadwood. You, too, my friend.

    Watch out for yourself. It’s a dangerous world out there.


  7. Sippican makes one error that he assumes is my error: “first [Gerard] ignores: “I’m not looking for advice on what to do here.”

    If ever in the history of the world wide web (or BBS times or Usenet Times before and after the Great Renaming) there was a comment more carefully crafted to get advice than “I’m not looking for advice on what to do here.” I have never read it.

    To say :
    “I’m not looking for advice on what to do here.”

    Is to get it. In fact it is to ensure it. That said I want to assure everyone that I’m not looking for advice on whether or not what I just said was true.

  8. Hmm. So yes, they are getting paid, but I’m not so sure that, with that business model, they’re getting paid to deliver working software to *you*. A large portion of their clientele, and they know it, are beta-test geeks who will use their product from now till Kingdom Come precisely because it’s beta and they get to tell them what’s wrong with it and how they want it fixed and in most cases ignore it if they don’t fix it to their specs.

  9. And yeah, sorry, I fell into the no-advice trap as well, but I was responding to your pretty turn of phrase about process not being product to draw the comparison with the Gates Giant, not so much looking to actually tell you what to do.

  10. Don’t believe the SIPPICAN! The Sippican LIES!

    The Sippican used to spend thousands a month to be abused by a professional dominatrix in laytex and a carpenter’s apron who would tickle him with a table saw while telling him what a naughty woodworker he was.

    Now he gets the same stimulation for free right here on the internet.

    I suppose he’ll want me to tell all about the time I did that Power Tool pictorial for Penthouse using three Pets and a lot of Makita stuff, but I shall make him suffer!

  11. Funny thing is that I had the opposite experience. I upgraded to the new flash, IE’s flash stopped working. Firefox 2 and all other browsers work fine with flash. Of course I have that funny thing called Vista.

  12. Well, thanks everyone, but Gerard is right. I do lie. By the time you read the post, I’d already fixed it. My point is not that I can’t fix it, so it’s no good. Until the average person who is not interested in how it works can use the stuff without a hitch 99.9 percent of the time it’s a clown show.

    I’m not some Great Aunt who calls you up when she gets an e-mail and says: “I can’t open it!!” I get paid for my opinion about browsers now and again.

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