MacStories Interviews: John Siracusa

FV: Document syncing is indeed another subject I wanted to touch upon. You’ve written (and talked) about how you use Dropbox to manage files, but you obviously covered the new iCloud document storage in your Mountain Lion review. You mentioned how “segregating” document storage by application won’t likely surprise users accustomed to the iOS model. More than a year after the launch of iCloud on iOS, do you believe a unification of document storage is something Apple should consider for iOS 7? Where would you draw the line between consistency and frustration caused by having documents separated by app, only “connected” by an “Open In” menu?

JS: I’m not sure the problem can be solved by simply improving communication between silos, but if Apple doesn’t do something, Dropbox will continue to eat its document-syncing lunch. It would be nice if the model Apple came up with for iCloud document management solved most people’s problems, but it doesn’t.

Dropbox is obviously tailored to people who already understand files and folders. It’s tempting to view it as a “nerd solution,” with Apple on the side of the novice users. Philosophically, I think that’s true. But practically speaking, even expert users often find themselves stumped by iCloud document sharing across iOS and OS X. Unfortunately for Apple, Share Happens™ for experts and novices alike. And when it does, iCloud is nobody’s friend.


Precisely! And you can add to that exact argument, Versions and the iCloud as default save location in Lion and Mountain Lion.

Something that was meant to be for a “virgin” user, that never actually existed, and for whom there will always be moments where his computing needs and workflow increases; and then, Apple’s current approach won’t just work and it will be an additional challenge for him. An useless additional challenge.

I recall the Oracle from “The Matrix” movies, and for anyone that perpetually tries to change this well established analogies and workflows, first think if the current model is so broken as you think; second, some day someone might come and devise a brilliant new system, but you’re not that someone.

If you saw the Matrix movies, you know Neo was actually the One. The purpose of the Oracle was to provide an additional mental barrier for Neo, if he was in deed the real One, he would overcome it just by being sure of himself. The same that thing should make most companies think and reflect if they need to drastically change the workflow of their clients (without any option!!) for something that, although not perfect, has been working really well the last decades. And on a basis that every schools in most countries teach students on to work on it!

Teaching IBM’s Watson the meaning of ‘OMG’

The biggest difficulty for Brown, as tutor to a machine, hasn’t been making Watson know more but making it understand subtlety, especially slang. “As humans, we don’t realize just how ambiguous our communication is,” he says.

Case in point: Two years ago, Brown attempted to teach Watson the Urban Dictionary. The popular website contains definitions for terms ranging from Internet abbreviations like OMG, short for “Oh, my God,” to slang such as “hot mess.”

But Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity — which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bullshit” in an answer to a researcher’s query.

Fortune Tech

Guy Kawasaki on Android

Use the best tool is probably the best “tech-philosophy” out there. I think a good deal of company managers forget that most people think like that and assume that consumers are some sort of “herd” you possess and that won’t go away, no matter what stupid decisions you make to screw them over.

I do disagree on Guy on his opinions on widgets and the rest of Android all-over-the-wall approach though. But i strongly feel that it’s basically a matter of personal preferences and focus, not exactly what’s better technological wise. I’m a strong minimalist / just want it to work effectively /no fuss kind of guy when it relates to my phone.

I will rather have a simple cheap phone that does what a phone should do really well than have a crappy cheap Android phone that might be a reasonable pocket computer but a lousy phone. I love general purpose “full computers” but for some items i just want them to work really, really well. No fuss! My brief experiences with iOS were perfect on that matter. My experiences with Android were everything but that.

I have no doubt that my “first” smartphone will be an Android, though. iPhone’s current prices are absurdly expensive for my very slim wallet, and even though i had some hopes for WebOS and Windows Phone 7 (and even Blackberry) they all managed to drop the ball one way or another, (( considering my ideal of a phone )) which is a damn shame. However every time i open up my browser on my carrier’s available smartphones, i never find a single phone that i simultaneously really want or can afford. Maybe Blackberry with its recent skydiving prices and it’s new BB10 OS will do that i strongly doubt it.

PS: For any marketing department out there that somehow want to influence “all of the 20 daily readers” this website has, i’m perfectly happy to receive a free sampling of your smartphone line for analysis! (wink wink)

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free

The problem? An underfunded school needed computers for the classroom. Budget? $0. Staff involved? Just one: Robert Litt, a sixth-grade teacher.


With the help of his local LUG, he got Linux up and running on his 18 donated machines. Suddenly, they were fast. They were clean. They worked well in the classroom. Robert was invigorated, as were his students. His principal saw how excited they all were, and decided to give Robert four hours of teaching leave per week to give him time to find more computers for a full lab for ASCEND. And so Robert became a “teacher on special assignment,” as he puts it.

Finding computers was less difficult than he originally anticipated. Most families and businesses have an old computer (or ten) sitting in storage. Robert began to call businesses and ask for donations of equipment they’d otherwise be sending for recycling. People were generally very receptive. Most people would rather their used computers do good than rot in a landfill or get shredded; they just don’t usually know how to get computers to where they are needed. “Underfunded schools are starving in the midst of plenty,” Robert explains. “Discarded computers are our nation’s most wasted educational resource.”

For old computers, specially old desktops, there’s nothing that comes close to Linux distros. They run on everything, they are fast, they are nimble on resources and they can give you a lot of simple free software for basically everything that you want to do.

I personally recommend and use Linux Mint. It’s not perfect but it’s a great OS, much easier to maintain than Windows and much, much safer too.

Thunderbolt & SSD

If Thunderbolt port has data flowing at 10 Gigabit per second and the current Serial ATA interface only outputs at 6 Gigabit per second, doesn’t that mean that is actually better to have my data on a external disk with Thunderbolt? ((granted that that hard disk has a Thunderbolt connector inside and not SATA->Thunderbolt converter))

So the better solution for the current Macbooks is to have a small SSD drive inside (64 or 128 GB) for system and apps and a larger standard disk outside for everything else?

It appears that by doing so you completely eliminate the hard disk bottleneck.

And can the next Macbooks generation come with Thunderbolt connector for everything inside?