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Again: Mobile Should Be Many semi-Independent Devices

Some reasons I believe that mobile devices should be split into individual, interoperable parts, instead of one, coupled device.

Edit (10 September 2013): You might like to look at a neat video, YouTube: Dave Hakkens: Phonebloks or the related website phonebloks.com for one designer’s proposal for a first-generation fragmented phone platform.

You see people complain or make fun of people taking pictures with a tablet. You should complain at the tablet makers, though. They are the ones you should make fun of. If the camera wants to dock with the device, fine. But there’s really little reason the camera should be built into the device, other than selling a package for more than the parts, and anti-capitalist barriers to entry.

So yeah, a non-ten-item list of becauses.

Because you can hand someone your camera without handing them your digital life. They can borrow your camera for a trip, and not take your movies and books with them.

Because you can change the data you wear to work and the data you wear after work, just like you change your clothes when you get home.

Because batteries run out, and even if they didn’t, sharing extra battery with a friend or stranger is better than hording it.

Because everyone’s priorities are different, and I don’t want the most megapixels, and you don’t want the physical keyboard, and…

Because the Internet of Things depends on not shoving a screen, speaker, and camera into every toaster, refrigerator, and coffeemaker.

Because it will be easier to add new sensors, for science!

Because holding up a large rectangle to position a tiny camera sensor is just no fun.

Because different photos and recordings require different sensors, lenses, mics, lights…

Because buying your mobile kit one piece at a time costs less, and that’s a more democratic model for spreading technology to everyone.

Because you can hand-me-down your old components to your kids, or trade with your coworkers for the parts that suit you better.

Because it takes the power away from the few companies that can afford to build the bundled equivalents, and gives it back to you.

Because who wants to buy a whole new device when the next generation wireless networks come out?

Because then it will come in your favorite color.

Because a single brick isn’t as wearable as separate parts.

Because it undermines silly arguments against things like tethering, when the radio isn’t integrated to just your device.

Because your preferences in computing should mean more than two brands or the plastic case you wrap around your device.

Because laptops have never been as buildable as desktops, and that’s been a shame.

Because functional capitalism depends on finding ways of competing on the smallest set of differences possible at once.

Because the camera sensor makers will compete on camera sensing abilities, and the processor makers on processing abilities, and so-on.

Because all the parts will compete on price.

Because having a backup shouldn’t mean having an entire, separate device.

Because it will spread at least basic literacy of what a device consists of to the masses.

Because it reminds us that we can do more working together than any superman could ever do by herself.

Because nobody lives a standard-issue life.

Because it’s your equipment, not theirs.

Because I can’t think of everything, and neither can they.

Do you have your own reasons that mobile devices should be split into their parts? Disagree? Feel free to comment!

Interchangeable Video Game Parts

The notion of reusable gaming worlds.

Often when I do play video games it will be on servers that use custom maps/worlds. These vary greatly in quality, from top notch to bottom of the barrel, but mostly the people loyal to the server do their own quality control and the better the server, the better the average quality is.

But the experience is still limited. Most of the maps are not open source. The assets generally cannot be migrated from game to game, particularly if the gaming engine is separate.

There’s a great opportunity for assets to be reused, improved, and evolved over time, to the point where whole, seamless worlds of assets could be constructed and used by many games.

I’m not talking about having a consistent world across multiple games, though that’s a possibility as well, but just sharing the world.

This already happens on a limited basis. As said, custom maps are used on a variety of servers, some of which have their own custom game modes. Other maps have been released by their authors for multiple games or multiple versions of the same game. Or multiple versions of the map, with variations.

High quality maps don’t come easy, they require a lot of exacting work. And then testing. Reworking. But the idea that there should be an equal number of high quality maps as there should be high quality games, to me doesn’t add up. My understanding is that the act of creating the game world is one of the most laborious parts of producing a game. Even dud games may have beautifully architected levels.

It just seems like a big shame to waste these levels, by having them used once or twice and never again.

Sound effects for films have been reused as long as they’ve existed. There are some famous ones, and others that are not famous but still recognizable if you listen. Point being that reuse doesn’t necessarily detract from the entertainment.

There are tangible benefits to reuse beyond the fun of the games. They help level the playing field for game design a bit, where at least some of the code for handling the maps is free and open. They give more designers an opportunity, as they can market themselves to a wide, inclusive gaming community at once, rather than one small niche of a particular game at a time.

It may also help to keep old environments alive. I’ve not played the likes of Quake or Doom in years, but I still recall bits of their levels. While I doubt any risk of these games being lost forever, I also doubt they will be often adapted to new games except through a down-in-the-dirt recreation from the skybox in (or maybe from the spawn entities out?). It just seems like being able to pull up one of those worlds and stroll through could and should be as easy as something like Google Earth.

Business Doesn’t Want To

Ranting about when business decides being business is no longer its business. Focus is on the Six Strikes copyright enforcement scheme.

Today, an anti-pattern.

This coming week (24 February 2013) five major Internet providers will roll out their private enforcement of copyrights (EFF: Deeplinks: 14 February 2013: Don’t Be Fooled: “Six Strikes” Will Undoubtedly Harm Open Wireless).

Businesses are no longer interested in training workers, but instead relying on things like H1B to provide them with cookie-cut human capital.

Arm pilots and teachers instead of making real reforms to prevent violence.

The anti-pattern is businesses that push the work off to someone else. The Affordable Care Act sought to remedy a wholly dysfunctional health care system that was built by private interests failing to heed the give in give and take. The only people giving were (and are) the patients, the workers, and other businesses that provide them with insurance. People are paying NASA rates for common health care items, including simple pain relievers (for more look at Time: Healthland: 20 February 2013: Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us). That is, we’re pretending like aspirin are as rare in a hospital as they are on the International Space Station.

So the healthcare industry, as many others, push the work off onto an utterly broken US Congress. They dare the legislators to come and regulate them, and if they do, their lobbyists water down any solution.

That’s what the Copyright Armada is doing with this Six Strikes program. They’re pushing the work off on the ISPs, and when that inevitably turns into the head of a Gorgon, they’ll callously dare the congress to “fix it” by breaking it even more.

Congress, for its part, has long since given the drafting process over to lobbyists. They dare not write the laws themselves, for if they pass a bad law they can now blame it on the lobby that wrote it. How long before we can cut out the middleman and have industry hire some professionals from Hollywood to produce a farce in place of a real government. At least that would be entertaining.

But no, not these days. These days they would turn it into a “Reality” show, bringing in a bunch of poor saps who want to be rich and famous to argue over which mock Senator drank all the insert-name-of-sponsor.

Personal responsibility begins to mean whatever’s left after you pawn the rest off on some sucker.

But back to Six Strikes. The plan is that your phone company, cable company, whoever happens to also provide you access to the Internet, will watch your traffic. You visit this website? They’ll be watching. You download a copyrighted portion of a regulation (EFF: Press Release: 22 February 2013: Free Speech Battle Over Publication of Federal Law)? They’ll know.

And if (and only if) you download something that looks like it’s from someone that pays them off, they will punish you. They won’t ask for proof. No fair use defense. Doesn’t matter if it was an album you already owned but you don’t have the technical know-how to rip it. Doesn’t matter if it was a false positive. Maybe you can challenge it, for a fee likely as large as your monthly bill, which they keep even if they were wrong. But even that’s sketchy.

But if you’re a non-affiliated musician and someone downloads your album? Too bad. Even if you’re a major artist, the copyright holder, and you download a fan’s cover to check it out, you might get slapped.

We’re on track to an ever less-perfect world for information availability. Chilling Effects: 20 February 2013: Germans Unable to Watch Dashboard Cam Videos of Chelyabinsk Meteor talks about the recent swath of videos showing the recent meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia (Wikipedia: 2013 Russian meteor event), and how many Germans were blocked from watching the footage on sites like YouTube. Because the radio was on when the meteor blazed across the sky.

Those dirty scheming pirates! They planned that meteor just to try to let Germans listen to Russian radio. Shrug.

Either the Six Strikes will fail spectacularly and be scrapped, or they’ll double down. They’ll start blocking independent sites that they feel are contributing to copyright infringement. Then they block independent sites that link to those sites. Pretty soon, they just block any site that doesn’t pay. They’ll likely expand it until it does fail. It will fail.

There will be lawsuits from both false positives and those who aren’t protected by it. It may even serve as a basis for long-needed anti-trust actions against the ISPs. But it’s still sad. It’s sad business doesn’t want to be business anymore.