Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Genius?

While taking a bus to Anaheim,CA I had the chance to watch the recent Steve Jobs film starring Michael Fassbender, and written by Sorokin one of the best writers of his generation. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see this film in the theater I did have an entertaining 2 hours during the bus ride. I found it bizarre that I had lived through the pinnacle of Apple Inc. So I was interested in the narrative that Hollywood was going to portray and if it was going to deviate from my own having lived in the Silicon Valley most of my life. It surprises me to say that they took an interesting approach to the movie. They focused on his relationships with people from his co-founder Steve Wozniak, to his media handler Joanna Hoffman, and his daughter. Even though he is a driven man who has proved that his vision of personal computing does have space in the modern market. Steve Jobs has proved to me that people will pay a premium for products and for software services. For too long the industry only believed in the importance of business to business technology. Jobs vision was entirely based on the importance of personal computing. Which in fairness was not something many had predicted would envelop the world. What he understood more than most was that the most important thing is ease of use. From the Macintosh, iTunes, iPhone, and the iPad. He knew that people didn’t like the stylus pen and that the laymen wanted convenience. The techie wishes for customization and under the hood access. We actually like reading the source code/documentation. What Engineers sometimes forget is that for most what is important is that the technology works not how it works. This is what pushed Jobs he had a vision of how a device should work and he pushed his engineering teams to make this vision come true. Unfortunately, you need to wait for technology to catch up to your vision. Eventually, it did. Simplicity dominates over customizability. How many people actually partition their hard drives? Build their own computers? Crack open their laptop and play with the parts? Play around with robots or raspberry pi? Only the hobbyists, the future engineers, and inventors. Not the layman. In terms of the history of software history Bill Gates a better businessman than he was actually inventor, but in Gate’s defense, he was a coder at least.

But in the field of marketing, no one can rival what Jobs achieved. He sold his overpriced products based on the illusion of quality. The idea that even though the products inside the computer are the same as IBM machines that is not what matters the most. Anyone can jumble a bunch of parts together and make it a computer, but the design and care are what the consumer cares about. Apple cares. Jobs made Apple more than any company presented itself as an institution that was cool and hip. A company that is individualistic in nature. It is only now that he has long passed that I see the immense impact he had. Microsoft has tried to copy much of what Apple did but without success. Why? Their stores are configured the same, but the Apple stores are packed and the Microsoft can barely fill theirs. They missed on a trick and an important one also. The brand. The soul of a company.

So is Jobs a genius? Yes but not as an engineer. Not as a hardware engineer, or software programmer. Leave that for Alan Turning, Steve Waz, Linus Torvald, Dennis Ritchie, and many others who don’t get the big accolades. Computing isn’t sexy but business and marketing is.

Steve Jobs is a marketing genius with a vision of how technology should be consumed. And today this is still evident. Even his greatest detractors like myself cannot deny him that.

Even I had to buy a Mac after many years of denial because I wanted to develop on the iOS and other Mac platforms.

It still sucks though.

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CitizenFour

Recently I got around to watching the documentary CitizenFour. It’s about the first hours of Edward Snowden as he reached out to the press as well his first interactions with journalists of The Guardian. The movie evolves into recording his reactions to the initial release of classified information to the world and thus exposing the programs that exist to spy on the public. I believe people are captivated by not only what information he released to the public, but also him personally. What he did took courage. Many call him traitor now, and he is hated by many all over the world. People like to live in comfort and ease. For a man to forsake his life, wealth, lover, and family for his beliefs does take courage. Doesn’t matter if you think he is a traitor or not it takes conviction to do what you feel is necessary.

Yet I can’t help, but think he was bit naive when it come to trusting the press. As many already know the press has become a mouthpiece for the institution that is the state. You are fed the propaganda you want to believe, and proper facts and unbiased analysis are avoided. I am sure the intentions of The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. were pure and some journalists still believe in proper reporting. It is the self-preserving nature of those who are in power of the welfare state who need to make sure that anything that can threaten them be contained.

Computer guys tend not to be the most social, or fluid speakers for that matter. I believe that Snowden stuck with an ideology that existed in his head of what justice and freedom are. He ran with it as someone who believed in the principles of western democracy. If you have been reading my blog you are well aware of the themes I try to convey in my writing. One of those themes is the idea that western principles are decaying fast.

What he failed to understand is that people are networked in. They aren’t going to give up the ease of unencrypted email, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or Snapchat videos. People aren’t going to bother to create strong passwords or have 5-6 email accounts. Most people don’t even read the terms of service that all software companies force you to agree with. We live in a life of convenience, and luxury.

I once went to see a talk given by the legendary programmer, and activist Richard Stallman. I was hoping to get some technical insight of GNU, but instead became a political speech about promoting libertarianism and that the individual rights of citizens that are being corroded by modern software companies. He had a point, but he is mistaken on what the solution should be. He believes like many before in the need to get politically motivated. In my opinion, only economic collapses get most people motivated. He criticized that “we” tech people always look for a technical solution to the problem, but, in fact, we need to solve it as a political one. Well, I have to say I don’t see the change he keeps yearning for. I see more of the same. I bring up this point because I think Snowden indirectly did the same. He realized there was an issue, and pursued the traditional routes solving the problem. As you clearly see in a sense both have failed. They did have an impact and still do. Yet the sea hasn’t changed color, and we are still drowning in the decay that is the welfare state.
When I started learning about computers it started for the simple fact that I liked video games, and from there my world viewed kept expanding. I started to see the larger role that software and computers were partaking in society. Software is allowing people, and, more importantly, civilization rewrite the rules, and structure of the society. As I get older I realize that as a coder I don’t only have a responsibility to write programs that are technically correct, but that must also follow my morality, and ideology.

There is a battle between software that is closed, and those which are open. Only time will tell which one ends up winning the war. That battle may determine Snowden’s legacy ends up being.

 

The Rubber Duck

I like to talk to myself when I am alone. In my opinion, it helps me think, and problem solve much more organically. What I didn’t know is that this was actually a technique that engineers use to try to problem solve problems they are stuck on. It’s called rubber duck debugging. The logic is simple you talk to a rubber duck, or some type of object while you are debugging code you are having a problem with. What I find funny is that it’s something I’ve been doing myself since I was a young boy, but of course without the object. I sometimes get weird stares when I am out in the street when I let my habit slip, but I am beyond caring about such trivial matters.

What I’ve slowly realized is that I am not 100% socially adjusted to the mainstream society. I don’t pick up social cues as well as I should, and I have not been as considerate as I should have been to the people who actually take an interest in my life. I think, I deduce, I form opinions, and analyze. Yet I am not sure if I am always correct, but more importantly, I am not as sure of myself as I once was. I have pondered the idea that I am merely just wasting my time. Perhaps I haven’t lived and enjoyed life as I should have. There was always a plan, strategy, or something I could fall back on as I never did much spontaneously. Now I am not so sure anymore. Becoming too preoccupied with issues I had no control over.

Yet as I reflect I realize that even though I have lost many insights, and ignored certain aspects of my own individual world I must admit there are many other aspects of the world I have gained information about. My ego grew because I realized I knew much more than others. Not everything, but I could hold my own. When I was younger I wanted to show the people the true colors of this world. The world I saw. The cold reality. What I didn’t realize it was already too late for most. The indoctrination was complete as most people can’t accept they are living a farce. They live with the noble intention of working, enjoying entertainment, falling in love, and enjoying the gift of offspring.

Not me I had greater ambitions. Since I was a child I was fascinated with the world around me. At first, it was astronomy I was drawn to the idea of an infinite universe a world of possibility of distant planets, and stars. I also liked reading about dinosaurs mysterious beasts that existed before our time. When I got to see fossils for the first time I vividly remember the excitement and the joy of seeing them for the first time. Personally to the surprise of many I actually like going to museums and seeing all the exhibits I can but perhaps I should have exercised more patience at the time, but I was young and I didn’t know better. I still remember when I got really interested in technology which was mainly through video games, and the ability to enjoy worlds beyond my imagination. Thus, I began to see that I could imagine my own world and forge my own destiny. These events in my life molded me and became apart of my identity. The one I created for myself.

I finally understand now more than ever what I have always wanted. Power. The Power to forge my own destiny, and shift history in the path of my own vision. Most who dream as I do want to achieve this through wealth, and the power of the currency. I want to go beyond, and ascertain my goal within the limitless bounds of knowledge. It’s easy to kill and force others to do your bidding its even a greater victory to have others see your vision and become to believe in it as you do.

I repeat this story often to my close confidants, but I loved reading about King Arthur, Julius Cesar, and Alexander The Great. All men who conquered their enemies and brought peace to their respective kingdoms, and thus having lasting effects on human culture. The humorous part of this is all three of these men die tragic deaths. This hasn’t been lost on me either. I have realized that as we all know there are consequences to all actions. If we gained something of grandeur we must also give something in return. Nothing is free, and not everything can have a monetary value. We as individuals must balance the weights of our fate ourselves. Based on our own choices, desires, and principles.

Even if I never achieve much in my short life I will take solace in the fact that I was correct, and foresaw mankind’s destiny when others could not. The simplest form of power is knowledge, and only from there can one can construct something greater.

Catfish and Mandala Reaction

Recently I finished a book titled Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham. The basic premise of the novel is of a Vietnamese American man who was born in Vietnam, but later moved to the United States as a young boy as a war refugee with his family. In a journey of self-discovery, he bikes up the Seattle from San Jose, CA and afterward he takes a boat to Japan. Finally after leaving the island nation he arrives at his destination of Vietnam the place he had to flee as a child because of the war.

This novel is very personal which surprised me because he details not only his journey biking through Vietnam but also his journey of surviving in the states. He has to deal with the personal issues of being trapped between the land of his birth, and his adoptive nation. In America, the people are quick to remind him of his English accent, and his ethnic background. He must endure the racist ideology that because he is not white or black he is not American. It was this struggle of identity and his family trauma that forced him to quit his career, and leave to Asia. Yet when he arrived at the place of his birth he saw the scars of a nation that was once was at war. He saw the corruption in the streets, the prostitution at night, and the animosity towards the Việt Kiều (Vietnamese who live aboard). The author came across many war veterans and tourists who sought to understand this historic country. As he continued his travels he had a hard time understanding what made Vietnam so special. He began to understand the local people a lot more as his time there prolonged. The hatred towards him was not because he was American, but because they were jealous. That they were getting closer to the white man, to culture, education, and a way of life that was beyond daily drinking, and vice.

At the end he recognizes that he is Vietnamese, and comes to terms with his ancestry, and the war that forced him to leave his original home. Yet he realizes that through all the pain, and sacrifice he has a new home and it isn’t as bad as he thought it was and as more immigrants come in the coming decades he should offer a welcoming hand. The issues and anxieties he faces are going to be the same ones that others will face when they travel to America.

Final Thoughts:

This novel is what I consider a light read. It flows fairly well, and it’s really not that long in length. I wouldn’t recommend it per say, but it does have it’s placed. If you’re an immigrant or your family has ancestry whom are non-Caucasian I do recommend this book because many of the themes are universal towards the immigrant story. The other value I find with this novel is that you get a fairly decent insight into the country that is Vietnam. Granted the novel is a bit dated being written in the 1990’s and much has changed I presume, but you learn simple facts such as the national icon of the nation being a prostitute and other small details. These types of details can give you an insight that can’t easily be found in a history book.

Personal Insight:

I came across this book because I had previously read The Woman Warrior which is a novel with similar themes, but in a different writing style. I don’t usually come across too many Asian-American literature novels that specifically deal with the immigrant experience The Joy Luck Club is most probably the most famous in recent decades but beyond that novel there isn’t many with the same type of exposure. So I decided to give the novel a shot, and I don’t regret it.

Brotherhood problem?

This is a pretty hot topic in the anime community. My take is that it depends on the source material (manga) and its respective adaptation. I will say that in my opinion that most of the time manga is superior when it comes to storytelling since anime has a time requirement it must adhere to, but with anime action sequences can be properly visualized compared to a manga. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses.

I will say this don’t get hung up on these types of debates. If you can find a way to enjoy manga and its animated adaptation.

We anime fans are fairly spoiled in today’s market.