[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Mobile Computing - An Extended Metaphor
27 September 2013
[Smashy, again]

The problem with the phrase, "The future of computing is mobile," isn't "mobile," it's "computing."

You see, most people don't want a computer. What they want is a web-browser, an email client, a GPS, maybe a few games, a camera, and really, that's about it. (Oh, and maybe a phone.) In a general sense, they don't want to do computing. And there's nothing wrong with that, and I don't mean to imply that there is. There is nothing inherently virtuous in wanting to do computing.

The easiest way to give people the stuff that they want, however, is to take a computer, which is what a smart-phone is, and cripple it.

A computer is a multi-purpose tool. It is a Swiss pocketknife with an infinite number of attachments, even though almost everyone really just wants a knife blade or two, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, and sometimes a toothpick or pair of scissors. Vanishingly few people want that little spiky thing that's used to remove stones from horses' hooves or a flint for starting fires. Just as very few people want to actually run a web-server, or host an email list.

So, metaphorically speaking, the mobile computing companies sell you a Swiss Army Knife with all but a few of the attachments disabled - perhaps they break them off, or maybe they glue them down with a bit of not-particularly-strong glue. They know that it's cheaper to make a single model of Swiss Army Knife, glue down or break off a bunch of bits and charge you less than they would for the unbroken version. Which sounds backwards, at first glance. Until you realize that what they can then do is sell you each attachment individually.

So if I bought the knife, and decided I needed the horse hoof thingie I might be tempted to unglue it. Or if it was broken off, make my own and attach it - after all the basic structure of the knife is there and I paid for it, right?

Which brings us to jailbreaking various mobile devices. If the company has sold me a computer, why shouldn't I be able to use it as much or as little like a computer as I want? The answer, of course, is the EULA. Or rather, the answer is the revenue stream which the EULA is intended to ensure. Because in this day and age, consumables are where the money is. If you don't believe me price out printers - a few years back, we got a nice laser printer with a full load of toner ... for essentially the price of a full load of toner. That's right, the printer was more-or-less free, because they knew, as long as it kept working, I'd be buying toner. And they were always sure to remind me to use Their Genuine Brand. (The same is true of most single serving coffee-makers - the money is in the cartridges. But that's a bit off topic.)

All of which leads us, in turn, to a joke that was au courant in the late '80s in certain circles, which went like this: The Macintosh is proof that you can work on a computer all day, and still know nothing about computers. That's even more true today than it was then. These days you can spend every waking minute glued to some sort of computing device and still know nothing about computers.

Which is why there will always be technicians and engineers.

And all of that is just fine.


© 2013 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite