Apple, Leopard, and the hacker community …

There is an interesting dynamic that appears to be growing in the computer industry … and in society in general.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about it, and don’t want to be judgmental about it.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, but does seem to bring into question respect for intellectual property and the law.

Today I read this article, Hack Attack : Install Leopard on your PC in 3 easy steps! which describes how to install the new Apple operating system – Leopard – on a PC.  This would be all fine and dandy if Apple was selling Leopard for this purpose … but they are not.  Instead, it appears that once again some people have taken it upon themselves to reverse engineer the software, and create some patches, to allow it to be installed on non-Apple hardware.

Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for the challenge and proving ones skills, but there is something that just doesn’t sit ok with me about this.  Also, anyone that knows me understands that I am not a huge Apple fan, and have long questioned their proprietary lock-in hardware and world … but I fully respect their legal rights to what they have created.  Even the author of the article states “If you noticed I haven’t posted the links to the Torrent that contains the DVD image and the zip. Well I haven’t posted them because I am sure the lawyers over at Apple are going to sue the hell out of me.“  A full acknowledgment about the questionable nature of what is being done.

Over the last decade I have really had to do some soul searching about the issues of stealing music over the Internet … stealing videos … stealing software … and now stealing operating systems.  In the end, I just can not justify it.  I don’t do it, and do not believe it represents honesty and integrity when you steal.  Period.

What is sad to me is that somewhere within our society there seems to be a growing acceptance of stealing and theft of property and services.  People who want to argue and justify their stealing of MP3s over the Internet … stealing of movies … stealing of applications … and now others that want to distribute stolen copies of operating systems.  In some ways I just wish those who do choose to steal all of this content simply admitted that they are thieves … that they choose to steal from others and that they can create reasons and justifications that make it ok for them.
I’m not close to perfect … I also break the law.  I often exceed the speed limit when I am driving.  I don’t make excuses and try to justify my actions … I choose to speed at times.  Oh … and if I get caught?  The police officer is not an @$$hole for pulling me over … he’s doing his job, and I am being given the consequences of my actions.  I am the one that caused and created the ticket.
For all of the people out there that choose to steal … why not come clean and at least own that you are a thief, and accept the punishment if it ever comes your way.  Oh, and also … make sure to teach your children about this also.  I worry about the nation of thieves that we are creating … all with nice clean excuses and justifications.  At some point I believe that the example we are setting is going to come back and bite us.  It seems we are raising our children and younger generations with a distorted perspective of respect for intellectual property rights, when they are quickly moving into a world where we – as a country – are leaning harder and harder on revenues from intellectual property.

Less than 24 hours after the release of a new product representing the work of hundreds – if not thousands – of Apple employees … it’s already being given away across the Internet.  It will be interesting to watch this trend … and see where it goes.

Numbers on trucks …

Explosives!For quite a while now while driving, I’ve seen the square “hazard” signs on various tanker trucks and semis. These signs almost always have some number within them, and of course I realize that the numbers have to align with the load/freight that they are carrying.

In my driving boredom I began to wonder about what these numbers represent … time for Google. As I began to search I found a vendor who sells the DOT placards and then a reference to hazardous materials numbering. Well, this second site had an interesting set of pages that allow you to browse through the various numbers and identify the materials. At the bottom of one of them was the quote:

Data Source for our online 2004 ERG

This information was compiled from the 2004 Emergency Response Guidebook (2004 ERG) which is produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bingo! So the next search for ’emergency response guidebook’ took me to the US Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. And yes … they have a guide book and more! The Emergency Response Guidebook page has a whole slew of formats that you can download the lists of materials … and complete details about their numbering system. They have .PDF versions, and even PDA and PC software versions of their guides. When I didn’t see a Palm version I did a little more searching and found the WISER site. WISER is the Wireless Information System for First Responders, and it has a wide range of tools for looking up the materials, and also looking for how to deal with them. WISER has a Palm version of software I’m going to check out.

After finding what I was looking for, I was amazed at the numbering system, and the details explained in their guidebook … it’s interesting to see the amount of detail that can be extracted by just looking at the patterns of the numbers. (Check out the page numbered 20 in the PDF …)

Well … my driving boredom got me to spend an hour or so to learn something new … and maybe this is a new travel game in the car for vacation trips! “Ok kids … lets see who can find the most variety of hazardous materials between here and St. Louis!” or “Alright, on this part of our trip we want to find the truck carrying the most highly flammable liquid that reacts dangerously with water, emitting flammable gas!”

Uh, that last one would be labeled “X323”, not to be confused with “339” which would be a “highly flammable liquid which can spontaneously lead to violent reaction” … see page 21 in your PDF.

Scratch …

This last week I spent some time checking up on some projects that I have been following over the last number of years. While looking at some projects that I was aware of, I came across one that I had not seen – Scratch. I have to admit that after playing with Scratch for a few days, and showing it to my son, nephew, and niece, I am thoroughly impressed.

Scratch is a project being worked on at MIT, with some affiliation with UCLA, and sponsored by a wide range of backers … and it is an impressive development tool … for kids! Their own website describes it as:

Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.

Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design.

Coupled with the Scratch language and environment, there is also a “social” site where Scratch users can upload programs and sample code, and download these same programs to then learn from them, modify them, and re-upload them.  I sat down and wrote my SpiroSprite program in maybe 10-15 minutes … and uploaded it to my Scratch account.
The environment and language is influenced by the Logo and Smalltalk languages, and presents a very simple, yet powerful way to learn login, event-driven programming, and create fun software.  From what I understand it is written in Squeak … which seems to be continuing to slowly gain momentum.

For anyone that wants to explore the concepts of programming, with or without their kids, I’d suggest downloading a copy of Scratch and beginning to experiment.  It’s really an impressive project!

Betting on the weather …

A friend of mine sent me a link to WeatherBill today. This is pretty wild. You can actually take out “contracts” to hedge against the weather. Almost like “weather-insurance” …

The site is pretty good … there is a tutorial/learning page, and then the actual quotes page. Hmmm … I can buy a contract for $854 for next Saturday if it rains more than 1″ of rain they’ll pay out $10,000!! They have a lot of examples of using this for golf courses or any range of businesses or events. Picnic insurance!

It seems that maybe someone will think about how to game this for some real income …

September … Cruise & Conferences … Carribean, New York, Chicago …

Wow … September came and went. There was just too much going on. I got back from my Caribbean Cruise – Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas – and it was already the 10th of September! The cruise was nice, however there was too much to do when I got back. I immediately got back into coding mode – I’m working on three different start-up ideas right now – and several contract development projects.

We completed our first cut at the Adobe Developer Desktop – an AIR application – that we built for Adobe. The intention is to create an extensible application in AIR that Adobe developers can use to track outstanding bugs and issues, report bugs to Adobe, and access other information quickly. It’s been fun, and we’re continuing to extend this application.

I also took off on the road for three conferences that were very interesting. The first two were in New York – the Millennials Conference, and then the Tweens Conference. The Millennials are people born from 1982 to 2000, and the Tweens are a subset of this group that were born from 1995 to 2000. Both conferences were impressive, and if you want to hear about some of the topics discussed we talked about it on one of our latest ITConversations podcasts – Technology Travels. The core thing that I realized is that our youngest generations growing up in America are becoming fully integrated into the Internet. To them … the Internet just *IS*. It has always been here for them … they are using it daily … it is an extension of who they are … their community already includes “close friends” that they have never met in person. It is extending their world.

I then went on to Adobe MAX 2007 in Chicago. I had gone last year, and so this was my second year seeing what Adobe is up to … and to me it is very impressive. Adobe announced and demonstrated a string of new products and projects … on top of the new Flex and AIR development foundation that has been growing. There were too many things to think about … but Adobe seems to have a lot of momentum, and is pushing hard to become a cross-platform solution for developers, corporations, and end-users. Some of the cool things that the showed and talked about:

  • – Open Source Projects built on Adobe Technologies
  • – more Open Source Flash
  • Red5 – the Open Source Flash Server
  • Spaz.AIR – a cross-platform twitter client written for AIR
  • Agile Agenda – an AIR Agile project management tool
  • Digimix – an amazing audio mixing application written for AIR (demo)
  • Buzzword – a truly impressive web-based Word Processor … Adobe bought these guys!
  • MTV Adobe AIR Challenge – developer contest
  • … and more.  I’ll post more in a future post …

One other thing that was really fun about New York and Chicago … mass transit.  In New York I stayed with a friend who doesn’t even own a car anymore.  It was actually fun to ride the trains and the metro … back and forth without ever having to sit in traffic.  Chicago was the same … I took the train from the airport to my hotel downtown.  Adobe ran buses from the hotels to the convention center.  It was nice to not rent a car …