The Future is Apps

For years everything ran on the web. Companies and commerce would set up a stall on the internet to inform customers and sell their wares.

Slowly the web is giving way to mobile phone apps. 

The mobile phone is widely used across the globe, with most phones using one of two major operating systems. Mobile phones apps are arguably easier to develop for and more reliable than developing for the web.

As a result, a growing number of interactions are happening with mobile phone apps. This isn’t new but has been growing for a number of years.

In my daily life, the first thing I will do in the morning is pull out my iPad and open the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube apps. Each of these apps provides a more responsive and interactive experience than the naked web. 

I still use the web for many news sites although often Twitter or an RSS app will be used in place of the news sites.

My most recent experience of the move to mobile apps was using YouTube’s Creator Studio app. Getting YouTube analytics isn’t easy on the iPhone because typing “youtube.com/analytics” in  Safari causes the YouTube app to open. A minor failure. Now with using the Creator Studio app, I have easy access to YouTube analytics with a much better user experience than using a mobile web page.

Apps are the future and on mobile devices with small screens HTML and the web won’t be missed.

#GOPdildo shows how different the US is

As someone living outside the United States, sometimes it is pretty hard to comprehend everything that happens there. 

The guns are crazy. The mass shootings and the tacit acceptance of them never end. Donald Trump and the apparent trainwreck that is the Republican party. The NRA buying politicians. As far as I can tell, most people outside the United States don't really understand the insane gun-nut culture that exists there.

#GOPdildo, the latest project from Matt Haughey of Metafilter, tries to highlight this insanity. He writes about it on Medium:

In the wake of most horrific news events, change takes place. We realize something in the system is broken and close the loopholes that make future events improbable or less likely. Yet with guns, we do nothing. No matter how high the body counts reach, we hear the same refrains: now’s not the time to talk about guns, if anything we need more guns in more places, and perhaps most famously the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

That there can be tens of thousands of deaths in the United States every year from guns is insane. Than nothing can be done about it because of the culture and the Second Amendment is criminal. 

Uber complains about regulation. In other news dog bites man.

In New Zealand, a review of the existing taxi and passenger transport rules was announced a few months ago. Some draft recommendations were released this week and a request for feedback. 

Taxis are fairly lightly regulated in New Zealand compared to the rest of the world. There is no restriction on the number of licenses or medallions available. 

To become a driver with the ability to carry paying passengers, a driver needs to obtain a P-endorsement on their driving license, which involves a Police check. There are a number of other requirements to become a taxi driver including local knowledge and the ability to speak English. 

Uber has got around the rules by acting as a private-hire service, which caters for setting a fixed-price in advance for a service provided. Uber doesn't quite fit within these rules but no one was too concerned. 

As a result of the review, the government is looking to cut back on the regulation, but retain several important parts of the law. Drivers must still have the P-endorsement, take a break from work every 7 hours and drive a mechanically-sound vehicle.

And yet Uber still complains. 

The P-endorsement involves a Police check, takes 6–8 weeks and costs about $1000. This is a significant outlay for a person looking to work for Uber. The New Zealand Government has decided that all drivers who carry paying passengers require this. 

The cost for the P-endorsement seems rather significant and I would like to see that reduced. But I wouldn't argue with the government needing to check drivers out themselves. Uber is a reputable company with stellar management and trustworthy drivers but the next company offering similar services might not be. 

I get the feeling that Uber would even complain about the requirement for drivers to have a driving license. 

 

Atlassian goes public with successful IPO

Atlassian is pretty well known in programming circles for creating Jira, along with several other tools. Personally, I used BitBucket, as an alternative to GitHub,  and SourceTree. 

They have just completed a successful IPO at a pretty decent valuation. Good to see successful tech life outside the Valley.

The IPO has created significant positive press for the company and hopefully will lead to future growth. They will need to grow a lot to justify their hefty valuation.

Will Apple have fixed my problems in OS X 10.11.2 and iOS 9.2? Probably not.

Apple has released what appear to be their usual bumper update, by releasing Mac OS X 10.11.2, iOS 9.2 and WatchOS 2.1 today. 

I've had a few annoying problems with Apple's software recently so I thought that I would list the issues here in the hope that some of them might have been resolved. But I'm guessing it is just wishful thinking that these might have been resolved (and Betteridge's law obviously applies too).

The current problems I'm experiencing are:

  • Airdrop: if there was ever a case of software over-promising and under-delivering, it is AirDrop. If I'm trying to send a file, URL or something else across the room AirDrop should be the solution. Instead, the list of devices is usually blank and AirDrop is rendered useless.
  • iCloud backup: Most of these problems started for me during the iOS 9 beta period but some might pre-date that. I've got so many problems here that I don't know where to start. Maybe a sub-list of the problems:
    • All of my devices should be backed-up by iCloud, no matter how much space it requires. By default, Apple give 5GB of space for free. Apple should provide enough space for all of my devices. I have paid hundreds of dollars each for the devices but Apple are going to nickel and dime me a over a few GBs of backup space.
    • The size of iCloud backups is not calculated correctly. When I look at the iCloud settings on a device (iPhone or iPad), I will be told that the next backup size is "0 bytes". This is clearly not true.
    • The size of my iCloud backups has grown over time and is now much bigger than the sum of the parts.The backup for my iPad is 6GB and the iPhone is 4GB. I've got no idea how that size has been determined because the breakdown of the backup that is shown on the device only seems to add to about 1GB for each device.
    • In frustration, I deleted the iCloud backups for all my devices and hoped to recreate them at a later date. iCloud now tells me that I am still using 1GB of iCloud for backups, even though I have no backups remaining.
  • Apple Mail on OS X: not a major problem but Apple Mail tells me I have 2000 unread emails. I only have 1200. The iCloud account sometimes thinks that I have 810 unread emails when in fact I have none because I don't really use the icloud.com account for email.

The release notes for the updates mention almost none of these problems. AirDrop was addressed but it has been addressed in the past and usually solves nothing.

Just in case you are wondering, I haven't raised any of these issues as bugs with Apple. Maybe I should, especially considering how much of a problem iCloud backup has been for me. 

I'm not really hopeful of any sort of improvement but maybe one day I'll get a pleasant surprise and be able to shorten this list.

Update: I deleted the iCloud backups and tried to create the backup for my iPad again. This took 4 days to complete and instead of being 1.0 GB as estimated, it was 10.9 GB. That's a pretty big failure. I'll try the iPhone backup soon and hope for better results.

Never let a good crisis go to waste

The Verge have published an article about possible law changes in France in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. There is the possibility of shutting down public wi-fi networks and shutting down TOR. 

This is based on an article from Le Monde but I can't read French well enough to understand it so I'm posting The Verge link.

These changes concern me greatly. The ban on wi-fi is a dramatic over-reaction to this tragedy.

130 people were killed and many more wounded in Paris in November 2015. Any sort of ban on wi-fi seems trivial in relation to that and especially to the families of the victims. However, as someone who has travelled widely and relied on public wi-fi this measure would inconvenience millions of people for probably very little increase in safety, and almost certainly an increase in surveillance. 

As is always the case after a terrorist attack, there are calls to do Something. Something must be done! Usually the people calling the loudest for something to be done are the security services. Their job would be so much easier if only they could listen in on every phone conversation and read every email.

France have already listened to their military who have said that Something must be bombed and Someone must pay for this. 

Just like the United States started two wars and rolled back civil liberties after the September 11 attacks, it looks like France might be going down the same path. 

These could just be proposals that end up going nowhere. But hopefully they find their rightful place in the bin sooner rather than later.

Dropbox shutting down Carousel and Mailbox

Really bad news announced by Dropbox today: they are shutting down Mailbox and Carousel.

There have been rumours floating around for a while that Dropbox is in trouble and I think this confirms it.

The company purchased Mailbox two and a half years ago, possibly paying $100 million. And now they're shutting it down.

If Dropbox really is in financial trouble, then it is good that they are trying to do something about it. But is this going to be enough?

Squarespace crashes are so annoying

I’m not a regular writer here but I do try to write fairly regularly. One major problem I am having at the moment is the stability of the Squarespace web editor. 

I will write for about 5 minutes and the web page that I am using for the editor will crash. This seems to be an incompatibility between Squarespace and Safari but it is happening so often that it really is unusable. 

The Squarespace editor is a complicated bit of code and does amazing things given the limitations of web browsers. 

But a web app needs to be stable. It has taken a long time for me to trust the reliability of complex web apps and Squarespace is failing very badly at the moment.

Brain surgery. Are you serious?

I don't write much about myself here, preferring to write about technology and my opinions. Sometimes I write, and sometimes I'm quiet because I'm too busy or too lazy to write. 

This past week has been a little different. I'm not sure if I want to write this but I can always delete the post if I have second thoughts. Here goes.

I went to visit my father a couple of weeks ago. He seemed a little tired, despite always being vibrant and energetic until now. I didn't think much of it but had a call a few days later from Dad to say that he had been to a doctor and they thought he had had a stroke.

That's pretty worrying.

He was losing fine-control of his left hand and was having trouble spelling words in emails and text messages. Very worrying for a man who had seemed young to me until this point.  

The doctor referred my father to the hospital for a CT scan and further investigation. It seemed to be fairly routine. 

On the Tuesday morning we met with a doctor at the hospital who asked some questions and did some tests. He checked feeling and vision on the left and right sides of the body. He checked strength and feeling in the left and right arms and legs. Then Dad was sent off for a CT scan of the head.  

Until now I was assuming that the diagnosis was going to be stroke again. 

After the CT scan there was a bit of a wait and then we were back in to see the doctor. He seemed a little reticent to tell us what was going on and then came out with it. "Unfortunately it's not a stroke", he said.  

That was a surprise and a shock. I didn't really know what that meant. I hadn't really looked up what a stroke was, on Wikipedia or anywhere else. If it's not a stroke, what else could it be?

"We think it's a brain tumour."  

Hmmm. That's a shock. Where do you even start with that information?  

The doctor said they were going to try and admit my father that night and do some further tests in the next day or two. My healthy father was being admitted to hospital and I didn't really know what was happening. 

After a bit of a wait we were sent up to the ward and shown to a bed. I took a trip home to get a few things for him and came back. At this point Dad seemed to be fairly healthy and I was more worried about his boredom than his health. 

That was Tuesday. No worries. 

On Wednesday there was further testing. An MRI scan of the head and a CT scan of the torso. And a lot of waiting around. The medical history is that he had had a melanoma skin cancer cut out of his neck about three years ago. I hadn't been concerned about it at the time but the doctors all thought melanoma was the obvious cause of the current situation.  

The MRI scan showed just the single lump in the head. That was promising. There was talk from a doctor about going into surgery as soon as practicable. There was an outline of possible problems from surgery: lack of strength in the arm, and maybe in the leg. Death, obviously. That was a possible outcome too. Probably a few other things but those were the most important ones.

The CT scan of the torso was also done but I still haven't really heard the outcome of that. I think that the surgery wasn't going to go ahead if his torso was full of cancer. So it's probably OK. I guess. 

We were told that surgery was going to happen in the next few days. On Thursday I got a call from my sister that Dad was going into surgery. Now. He had about 15 minutes notice that he was heading in to surgery.  

With a lack of much information I was concerned about what was happening. I thought surgery was necessary and useful abut still a little risky, as with any operation. I spent most of that day in hospital waiting for some news. Waiting around in hospitals for news is hard.

I spent six hours waiting At some points I had company from family and friends which helped but it was still hard. Surgery took about three hours longer than I expected, maybe six hours in total. That seems serious. Waiting is hard, especially without news. 

Finally about 6pm we got in to see my father. I didn't know what to expect so the reality was always going to be a shock. In my opinion, I thought that mentally he was better than I expected and physically he was worse than I expected. He was feeling nauseous, tired and thirsty. Not surprising after general anaesthetic. We stayed about 15 minutes and that was about all he could manage. Six hours waiting for 15 minutes of time with Dad.  

I wasn't sure what to expect the next day. I thought that a bit of rest would lead to a big improvement. Or at least I hoped for a big improvement.  

I got in at about 9.45 am on the following day. As soon as I got into the room, it seemed like the spark of life was back. That was encouraging and still is.

It was a stressful week. Waiting around in hospitals isn't much fun.  

At this stage I'm not sure what's going to happen from here. I think there is going to be chemotherapy or radiotherapy but I'm still not sure. More waiting.

Two weeks ago I thought my father had had a stroke. One week ago there was brain surgery. Now he now longer has a tumour but I think there is a long process of recovery ahead.  

Not fun. 

"This never would've happened if Steve Jobs were still alive"

[I’m getting annoyed that the Squarespace editor keeps crashing in Safari. I was within seconds of posting an article about the open-sourcing of Swift by Apple when I lost the whole thing. Really annoying but not much I can do about it except complain.

Anyway…]

When Apple announced the intention to open-source Swift at WWDC in June 2015, it was the single announcement that got the biggest cheer from the developers in the room. There was a bigger cheer than the announcement of El Capitan. Bigger than iOS 9. Bigger even than Apple Music.

At the time I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about but having seen what Apple has released at Swift.org and on GitHub, I’m quite impressed.

The Swift team have created a public roadmap of where they intend to go with Swift 3 and the whole commit history is available. Considering how secretive Apple was during the Steve Jobs era this is a big change. A huge change.

Amazing stuff.

Time for Jimmy Iovine to be put on a shorter leash

Jimmy Iovine is obviously are smart guy, but with the latest fiasco on This Morning, and the disaster that the the Apple Music announcement at WWDC this year, maybe he shouldn't really be a public spokesman for Apple.

"I just thought of a problem, you know: girls are sitting around, you know, talking about boys. Or complaining about boys, you know, when they're heartbroken or whatever. And they need music for that, right? So it's hard to find the right music, you know. Not everybody has the right lists, or knows a DJ or something."

The dangers of risky investing

I have a number of interests, of which writing about technology is just one of them. One of these interests is finance and the economy so I thought I would share an article about that today. 

There are two main ways to invest in shares.

You can be long, which means buying shares and expecting the price to go up. This is the normal way for a long-term investor to trade, and in the worst case you will only lose the amount of money that you have put in.

Conversely, you can be short, where you are expecting the price to go down. This means that you borrow the shares, sell them and hope to buy them back at a later date for less than you sold them for.

Being short isn’t necessarily that risky most of the time, when prices only move by a few percent per day, however a recent case shows how risky it can be. 

Joe Campbell has just started a GoFundMe campaign after waking up this morning to find that his E-Trade account was $106,000 in the red.

This has been devastating for him, after having $37,000 yesterday and -$106,000 today, a total loss of over $140,000.

At the moment not only is my $37k gone, but I now owe Trade the negative balance of over $106k. I always knew I could blow up an account and I was financially able to “afford” to lose the $37k. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Etrade would NOT have some sort of stop or circuit breaker in place that would automatically cut a position if the account went to $0

This happened when a stock that he had been short in went up about 800% overnight. This is obviously an unlikely event, but unlikely things happen all the time. This is the premise of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan.

If you’re going to do risky things, at least be aware of all the risks. This man wasn’t fully aware he could lose more than 100% of his money and it has cost him dearly.

Update: looks like the GoFundMe page has disappeared but here is a MarketWatch article about it.

The iPad Pro: don't read the comments

My first rule of the internet is to never read the comments, although I break that rule more often than not. Occasionally comments can be insightful and interesting, but usually they are just reactionary and not well thought out.

Recently while reading reviews of the new iPad Pro I made the mistake of reading the comments. I’m going to share that experience with you.

The overwhelming reaction in the comments was “I don’t get it. Why not simply use a MacBook Air?” or “If it ran OS X I would buy it”.

To my mind, these comments show a real lack of imagination. As Henry Ford might have said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would said faster horses”. I believe that a competent user of an iPad should be as efficient for many tasks as a competent user of a laptop or desktop computer. This will obviously not be the case for all users all of the time.

These seem to be the same sort of opinions that accompanied the release of the original iPad in 2010.

At present the iPad handles web browsing as well, or better, than a laptop. Email, word processing and spreadsheets are possible, using Microsoft Office or Apple’s iWork apps, especially with the help of a Bluetooth keyboard. Even photo editing is possible with the camera connection kit (remember that?) or iCloud Photo Library, although the limited storage space and lack of expandability might hamper that for some users.

I’m currently writing this article with a MacBook Pro, external monitor, keyboard and mouse. I could be just as efficient writing this same article with a keyboard and an iPad or iPad Pro. This obviously doesn’t apply to all tasks. A laptop might be better for some individual tasks, an iPad better for others. That advantage is just as likely to come from the available software as from the device form-factor.

Most of all MacOS has a windowing system and a file system, where I can group files from different applications in projects according to my needs.”

This is the universal refrain of the internet commenter. “I don’t understand why someone would like this, therefore it must be awful. And useless. And lame”.

The request for a file system and windows is widespread but to me it seems almost as necessary as demanding a purple computer. It’s useful but not the only solution.

There is demand for a file system because the user apparently wants to get work done and can see no other way. But the decades old idea of a file system is more and more something that gets in the way of work, even if you don’t realise it yet.

I find that I have so many files on my computer that traversing the directory structure is something that I do infrequently. When I’m looking for a particular file I will either search for it using system-wide search or find it in the list of recent files. A file system is something that helps to get work done but isn’t necessary if it’s replaced by something better. Arguably, the iPad file system hasn’t really replaced it with something better yet, but for many users it is good enough.

Apple has tried to hide some of the complexity of files, even on Mac OS. iTunes, Photos, Mail and many other Mac applications hide the complexity by using either packages) or libraries where the individual files are hidden away.

This is part of their solution. Users don’t need files, they just concentrate on work, while letting the files take care of themselves. It may not work in all cases but there are fewer exceptions.

is there is anything in IOS that handles citations and plugs into latex and Office? Sufficient to say, IOS has a LONG way to go even for college-level applications.

At the time of its release, I saw the original iPad as a revolutionary device and not just a big iPod Touch. I didn’t buy the original version but I did queue up on day 1 when the iPad 2 was announced. I don’t regret that decision.

I don’t see the new iPad Pro as revolutionary in the same way that I saw the original iPad as revolutionary. However, the original iPad was an exciting new device waiting for the software to make it outstanding. That’s definitely the case today with the iPad Pro.

There might not be iPad-based solutions for some particular specific problem today. For me that’s iOS development (Xcode) and video-editing (Final Cut Pro). That doesn’t mean there won’t be solutions tomorrow.

The iPad Pro hardware is a blank slate, waiting for developers to solve new and old problems with it. We’re in a software era and it is naive think that your particular problem can’t be solved by software.

iPad Pro conundrum

The iPad Pro was released last week, along with a whole bunch of cautiously positive reviews.

My impression from these reviews is that the hardware is solid but the software needs work. This includes tweaks required to iOS specifically for the iPad Pro as well as third-party software needing to take advantage of the larger screen.

Apple is a company that makes premium devices, and sells them for premium prices. The average selling price for generic computers is somewhere in the region of US$550 (I had links to back this up but lost them when my text editor crashed). Apple only sells one computer that is even close to that price level and Apple's average selling price for computers is about $1200. More than double the average for the market as a whole.

Until now, a tablet has usually been a computer with fewer input methods, reduced functionality and reduced performance when compared with a laptop or desktop. As a result of these compromises and restrictions I would normally expect a tablet to be cheaper than a computer. It is slower and less useful in many circumstances, although it does have the benefit of being more portable and touch-first.

The iPad Pro turns this usual calculus upside-down. The screen resolution is higher than on any of the portable Macs. The performance and even the size is comparable with many of the full-blown Macs. But so is the price.

The 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Pro comes in at $949, but if you want to add in the keyboard cover and the pencil then you’re looking at paying just over $1200. For a tablet. That’s the price of a premium laptop, not just a premium tablet.

With that sort of pricing strategy, for many buyers the iPad may become the computer, rather than just a device that sits between the phone and the computer in size.

At $500 for an iPad a consumer might reasonably buy both as laptop and an iPad. At $1000+ that same consumer might decide just to own an iPad Pro.

This move towards the iPad Pro as the only “desktop” device won’t necessarily happen quickly but might be more obvious after a couple of iterations over the next couple of years as it become more powerful and useful. A good take on this is Horace Dediu’s video review.

If I didn’t need to use Xcode and Final Cut Pro, I’d certainly be tempted to try and move full-time from a laptop to an iPad Pro.

AnandTech reviews the iPhone 6s in great detail

AnandTech posted their review of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus yesterday. I haven't seen one of their reviews for a while but it always amazes me how much detail they go into, including details and assumptions about the processor design. 

This review really shows how much attention Apple pays to the details of processor design and how much having the scale to design and build their own chips has paid off. It also shows how far ahead of every other smartphone manufacturer their hardware is. 

In the 1990s people wondered how Microsoft would ever be eclipsed. It really feels like that today with Apple. With the amount of money that Apple has available to develop their future products, how can any competitor keep up, let alone catch up?

Apple’s silicon-making advantages

Great, if slightly long, article from Steve Cheney about the advantages that Apple has gained from doing their chip design in-house. 

Consider the audacity back in 2007 for Apple to believe it could pull this off. How would they ever make back the R&D to build out a team and pay for expensive silicon designs over the long run, never mind design comparative performing chips? Well today we know. Apple makes nearly 100% of the profit in the entire smartphone space.

It's amazing to think about the advances that Apple are making with their chips and how it is powering their lead in the mobile space. 

Uber might be ruthless, but so is the taxi industry

Good overview from Buzzfeed of the fight by Uber for permission to operate in Las Vegas. 

Uber might have an underhanded way of getting into markets, but the taxi industry is standing up for itself, not the public, in their push for regulation.

But tonight, for the first time, there were Uber cars among the limos and cabs. One picked up a fare at Caesars Palace and embarked on what would have been one of the first Uber rides in Vegas. But before it could leave the hotel roundabout, the Uber was cut off by two unmarked cars, sirens blaring. Two men burst out, ordered everyone out of the Uber, and told the driver to put his hands on the car’s hood. They were masked and wearing bulletproof vests.

It also surprises me how much pointless regulation there seems to be in the United States. I don't even understand what a "business licence" is, or why it might be necessary, other than for helping incumbents. 

As an aside, it surprises me every time I read a great article like this from Buzzfeed. I don't think their focus on click-bait has done them any favours. 

Internet commenters will survive the nuclear apocalypse. And then tell us it wasn't so bad.

There are a number of articles that bring out the ire of internet commenters. It would be hard to write an exhaustive list.

Any thing to do with feminism is one particular target. It’s all about ethics in … something.

Driving is another good one. Everyone else on the road is a bad driver, except the person writing the comment, obviously. And don’t even get them started on cyclists.

There are countless other topics that will cause people to express many, many strongly held opinions.

One example of strongly held opinions seems to be electric cars. Recently, the New Zealand government announced that the contract to supply cars used to transport MPs and ministers would again be given to BMW.

The Green Party put out a press release saying that the government should have considered the use of the Tesla Model S for this tender process. There are a number of problems with considering the Tesla for supply in New Zealand, primarily that Tesla isn’t even officially sold in the country.

Despite these very real challenges with the practicalities, I personally think the press release from the Green Party had some merit. The government should be leading the way in adopting green technology, even at some additional cost as long as that cost is minor and justifiable.

We’re probably not ready for Tesla to transport MPs just yet but maybe in the near future.

I read through the article and agreed with many of the points, and then I got to reading the comments.

It seems as if the commenters are questioning the sanity of anyone who would even consider an electric vehicle as a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. Anyone who voiced an opinion in support of the electric car was voted down for being a crazy leftie green.

The most frequently raised issue, obviously, was the range of the batteries. A Tesla Model S will apparently travel about 400 km (250 miles) on a fully charged battery. This may be a problem for a number of users of the vehicles but you would think that the range was 40 km rather than 400 after reading the comments.

It’s unclear what the usage patterns for these cars would be and whether it is practical to live with a 400 km range in all circumstances for transporting MPs. It’s possible that it’s not. Considering the widespread use of hybrid cars by taxi drivers, there is obviously some merit in exploring other options.

When I think about my car usage, which I accept is wholly different from a government limousine, most days I would drive less than 100 km, occasionally going as far as 200 km. Sometimes I will leave town on a longer trip but that might be a couple of times a year as anything further than that will be by plane.

Range anxiety seems to be an entirely overblown concept that might be a problem only very rarely for many drivers.

Is it a bubble? "You can answer that question for yourself"

Interesting article from Carole Cadwalladr, writing at the Guardian, about TechCrunch Disrupt 2015 and the San Francisco startup scene.

It's a good read and rather cynical about the whole scene and expectations for the future.

Out on the exhibition floor, I meet Marcus Hawkins, another Brit. He’s from Norfolk and has successfully run his own software company for a decade or so but he recently set up a new company, Patrolo, a business-to-business enterprise offering a website mistake-correction service. What are you disrupting, I ask him. He thinks for a moment. “King’s Lynn.”

We swap other bits of jargon we’ve picked up. Have you pivoted, I say, a piece of startup-ese I’d learned five minutes earlier. It means to change your business strategy rapidly. “I’ve pivoted so many times I’m practically facing backwards,” he says. “But it’s OK. I have a lot of runway left.” Which is the amount of time a startup has before the money runs out, he explains.

The article is probably a little too cynical, but it does carefully tread the line between poking fun and being informative.

24-hour media and the broken breaking news cycle

I've been a little disappointed with the quality of articles on two different topics that I have read this week. In my mind this comes from wanting to be first to publish and first to get page views.

This week Volkswagen caused a lot of trouble for themselves by admitting that they have been cheating on emissions tests. Unfortunately most of the articles on this topic that I read were a jumbled mess. There was a recall. Except there isn't one yet. There was cheating... but how? Every article I saw was light on facts or anything else I would want to know. I'm still unclear on what the story here is.

There isn't a lot of information that I want to know about the Volkswagen issue but almost every article I've seen has failed to answer my questions. They're probably not that difficult to answer but require work. And the 24-hour news cycle doesn't reward work. It rewards re-writing press releases and packaging tweets as news.

Apparently the Volkswagen cars knew when their emissions were being tested, but I want to know how the car knew. Seems like it should be a simple question to answer. Give me more depth than I'm currently getting. Please! I saw one article that mentioned that a garage will turn off the crash protection systems when doing emissions testing and the car uses that along with other information to change the emission settings. Or is it just that the wheels aren't turning, or the car isn't moving? Someone must know.

I also want to know what the change in the emissions system means. How can the engine software change the composition of the emissions? I haven't seen a good answer for that except for articles that describe AdBlue and the urea injection process. Except it appears that the engines affected here don't use AdBlue.

Lots of words written across the media but they so often seem to be churnalism rather than actual journalism.

The other news story that seems light on detail is about the price hike of Daraprim (better NYT link), manufactured by Turing Pharmaceuticals. There are many outraged headlines about a drug that is being increased from $US13.50 per pill to $US750.

This seems outrageous but without further information, how is the reader supposed to fully understand this?

My first question about this issue is why can't this drug simply be substituted by generics? This is a 62 year old drug which presumably should be outside patent protection by now. Presumably there are generic drugs that can be used instead of paying many times the original price. I haven't found a single article that describes to me why this can't happen. Is it a problem with the FDA or hospitals or where? Is this a problem only within the United States or is it international? I have seen no answers anywhere.

These two news stories highlight to me the failure of the 24-hour news cycle to inform the public. And surely if the media aren't informing the public then they aren't doing their job.