You probably heard about the lost iPhone 4G incident from a couple weeks ago. The phone was found by an anonymous person, and then apparently sold by that person to Gizmodo for $5k. There was speculation about whether Gizmodo was breaking the law by knowingly buying stolen goods – a criminal offense.
The debate was mostly academic until last Friday, when police obtained a search warrant, broke down Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s door, and made off with several computers.
I don’t know much about the details of criminal law, and I know only a smattering of free speech law, but the warrant incident is an interesting one. It’s been particularly interesting reading the informed and not-so-informed comments on blogs over the last few days. From what I gather, there’s a journalist shield law which prevents search warrants from being issued to confiscate a journalist’s property. The rationale behind this law is for journalists to be able to protect the anonymity of their sources (an aspect of free speech). There is some question about whether the Gizmodo blogger is a journalist, but based on my general knowledge, I think that the answer is most likely that he is. Less clear is whether the warrant was issued validly if the police were investigating a felony. DF thinks that a journalist only loses their shield protection only if they are the target of the investigation. My common-sense check against this is to ask, if a murderer had sold the murder weapon to a journalist (gun, knife, whatever), would the shield law still protect the journalist from having to cough up the weapon? (I don’t know the answer to this, but it may affect your knee-jerk response to the question, and there have been a lot of knee-jerk responses in the blogosphere.)
My guess is that the DA will eventually drop the matter without laying charges. I think there is enough ambiguity over the issue, and too much of a spotlight for the DA to risk bringing a case it might lose – which only exacerbates public opinion which already hasn’tl looked too kindly on the very dramatic we-broke-down-your-door-and-searched-your-house-for-hours-while-you-were-out-at-dinner incident. But it would be interesting to see where this came out if it did go to trial.
Some other background points. My understanding is that this is a criminal investigation being undertaken by the police, who report to the district attorney (a government prosecutor) who then determines whether to charge someone with a crime.
As a criminal matter, Apple is not directly involved in this decision. While Apple may have referred the matter to the police, it is the DA who has the discretion whether or not to proceed with laying charges. Even if a crime may have been technically committed, police sometimes exercise discretion not to do anything about it (think about a waived speeding ticket). The DA will evaluate things like public policy (if this sort of behavior turns out to be illegal, bring charges against Gizmodo will send a message to people in similar circumstances of what they shouldn’t do), likelihood of success (the legal issue apparently isn’t cut and dried), etc.
If Apple wanted to sue for the original “theft”, they would probably do it under the tort of conversion as set out under California law. I had the requirements for conversion memorized less than 10 months ago, but I’ve totally forgotten them now.
Anyway, for a more informed opinion, this is what Jennifer Granick at the EFF had to say about it (she co-taught my Net Law class last year). It would be interesting if Chen turned around and sued the state (subject to any applicable immunity laws).
The UK apparently ranks 3 in the world, behind Russia and China, for societal surveillance. David Bond tried to disappear off the grid for as long as he could and hired a couple of private investigators, armed with only his name and photo, to hunt him down. A sort of PG-rated version of The Running Man (the book, not the movie), and also reminiscent of Wired writer Evan Ratliff’s attempt to go dark. The aim for Bond was to produce material for a documentary, but the experience drove him a little bit nutty in the process.
Before going on the run, he made 80 formal requests to government and commercial organisations for the information they held on him. He piled the replies on his floor, appalled by the level of detail. The owners of the databases knew who his friends were, which websites he’d been looking at, and where he had driven his car. One commercial organisation was even able to inform him that, on a particular day in November 2006, he had “sounded angry”. It was more than he knew himself.
Incidentally, he was tracked down quicker than Ratliff, but only because he went to see his pregnant wife who needed to go to the hospital.
Stuff like Facebook is not so bad, actually, because you still have control over what you disclose and how to disclose it. However, it’s the stuff that’s collected about you that you don’t know that is scary. Incidentally, that includes Facebook, which tracks virtually every mouseclick and thing you do on their site (and now with Open Graph, things you do on others’ sites as well). Their privacy team must be mighty busy, but it’s gotta be really interesting work as well.
The NY Times has an article on the improbably named Hotman Paris Hutapea, a high profile Indonesian lawyer:
In a country where bribes play an integral part in the legal system, where attorneys and judges usually hide part of their wealth to deflect unwanted attention, Mr. Hutapea has never denied gaming the system. On the contrary, he has reveled in his success by wearing fat diamond rings and carrying, until laws changed a couple of years ago, a gun in a hip holster. His office buildings here are adorned with signs that scream in big, bold letters: HOTMAN PARIS.
He is a regular on television gossip shows that link him to one starlet or another. Colleagues may prudently choose to drive conservative cars, to court at least. But Mr. Hutapea hops into his new red Ferrari California — the first one sold in Indonesia, for $630,000 — and parks it right in front of court buildings. To his critics, the car and its owner are a prime symbol of the cancer infecting the legal system; to Mr. Hutapea, the Ferrari amounts to an honest acknowledgment of the system’s imperfections.
“If I say I’m a clean lawyer, I’ll be a hypocrite, that’s all I can say,” he said. “And if other lawyers say they are clean, they will go to jail, they’ll go to hell.”
You may remember that Hutapea was on the defense team for Schapelle Corby when she was busted for trafficking weed in Bali, 5 years ago.
I caught the IPL 2010 finals, which they streamed live this year on YouTube. I haven’t seen much cricket while I’ve been in the States, but apart from a reasonably entertaining match, I noticed a couple new technological innovations. The first is when the commentators started talking to Rudi Koertzen mid-over. Koertzen was the square leg umpire at the time. I don’t think any other sport has this, but it’s pretty cool.
The other cool thing is the introduction of Spidercam. Spidercam is basically a gyroscopically stabilised video camera which is strung up by four cables. The cables are attached to four corners of the field on very high pylons. By tightening or loosening each cable, the camera can travel anywhere on the field in three dimensions and shoot from any angle. There are some great shots of a close up of a batsman’s face, follwed by a slow pan out in a wide spiral until we see the entire field from the top. Pretty amazing technology, and makes for some awesome shots.
An interesting Vogue article on Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s impressive COO:
Zuckerberg says, “By the time I met Sheryl”—in 2007, on the way into a Christmas party hosted by former Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig—“I’d almost given up on finding a person who’d be good in the COO role. But it was immediately clear from the crispness of her answers and the intensity she had when she talked that she was the kind of person who could do this.” For the next half hour, the pair barely moved from the entryway. “I’d just walked into the party with my girlfriend, Sheryl was standing there with her husband, Dave, and people kept coming up to us and asking very superficial questions. And we were just like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK, that’s nice,’ ” Zuckerberg remembers. “I mean, I have much less social tact than she does.”
Sandberg recalls “having this intense conversation in the front hall about how you ‘scale’ an organization,” using the tech-world synonym for “managing runaway growth.” “And everyone’s coming up and asking: ‘Do you want a drink?’ or ‘I like your dress.’ And Mark and I are like, ‘We’re trying to talk here.’”
My company’s CEO also gets several mentions, for reasons that are obvious. I think she actually came to our office once, but I stupidly didn’t put two and two together. I only realized who she really was after she left.
I picked up a new 15″ Macbook Pro with the i7 chip a couple of days ago, upgrading from my current early-2008 model. The new model is a slick piece of machinery. The design hasn’t changed from the immediately preceding model, but the innards have been refreshed.
This thing is blazing fast, and I haven’t had any compatibility problems even though I run Windows 7 on it. There’s now even driver support for a right-mouse click, so the only-one-mouse-button problem is a thing of the past (the driver designates the lower right of the trackpad as a right mouse-button).
The only real gripe I have with this is the placement of the ports. All the ports are now crammed on to the left side of the chassis. The problem is that they’re too close together. If you stick a flash drive into a USB port, most of them will end up blocking the other port, and you lose it. Having the ports on the left is also problematic for connecting a corded USB laptop mouse – the cord has to stretch around the back of the machine for right-handers like me, and those cords aren’t long enough. My flatmate, who used to work in Sony’s laptop division, tells me that stacking the ports like that means that Apple only has to contend with putting one controller board in the chassis instead of splitting it up to the opposite sides, which saves on costs. But I wouldn’t have expected Apple to sacrifice cost for design.
Nonetheless, the unibody design is awesome. The thing feels pretty solid and reliable. My flatmate actually dropped his MBP on its rear left corner, near the power connected. The case dented pretty badly, but everything was still working, so it’s pretty durable.
The magsafe connector has been redesigned. The cord now emerges parallel to the chassis, instead of spouting straight out. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but now I think it actually makes sense.
The machine faintly vibrates when I rest my palms on the chassis, whereas my previous model didn’t. This is either because of the 7200rpm hard disk, or increased cooling – this model definitely runs cooler than my old one.
One last note – the hi-res screen is quite nice and sharp, but it also means that some stuff is starting to get a little too small to read comfortably.
Overall, an excellent product. If you use your computer a lot, paying the Apple tax for something like this is a good investment.
stuloh My new Macbook just arrived! :D
Last month a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”
The survey was a huge failure because of the following:
1. In Eastern Europe they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
2. In Western Europe they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.
3. In Africa they didn’t know what “food” meant.
4. In China they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.
5. In the Middle East they didn’t know what “solution” meant.
6. In South America they didn’t know what “please” meant.
7. In the USA they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.
8. In Australia they hung up as soon as they heard the Indian accent.
Thanks Mr Rivercrab.
“I think that’s the great thing about Glee. Old classics like this get rediscovered by teenagers.”
– comment on Youtube, referring to Madonna’s Vogue video.
“Old classics?” Ugh, I feel old. I was in primary school when that song came out and remember watching the music video on Video Hits. I was too young and thought it was a pretty weird clip. But now I think it’s pretty cool.
Quick notes on a few prominent companies in the news. Apple’s fiscal Q2 results were announced today: $13.5bn rev, net profit $3.07bn (up 90% year-on-year for the quarter), against analyst estimates of around $12bn. Almost 9m iPhones sold (more than any other quarter), Mac sales up by a third compared to Q2 2009, with iPod sales stable. Q2 doesn’t cover some big things that entered or will enter the pipeline this quarter: iPad (estimated 1m sold already, and this is pre-3G and international releases), iAd (some estimates put it at generating 8% of revenue, or several billion dollars), the Macbook Pro refresh, and the iPhone v4 refresh. Apple is clearly going on a tear.
I had written an earlier post questioning the sensibility of Apple’s market cap taking over Microsoft’s when it was making half of Microsoft’s profits. With this strong showing, it is conceivable Apple will push up towards Microsoft-level profits, but if it hits it this year, I’ll be absolutely stunned. The market must be pricing in the growth potential over the next few years today. (Once this prospective growth is fully priced in, I wonder if a bubble will start to develop at that point?) Let’s see how Microsoft fares when it has its earnings call on Thursday.
Google also did well last quarter, but not well enough for investors who ensured that its stock price fell about 7% on announcement day. Google is fantastic at making (software) technology that works like magic. But they, and their hardware partners, can’t compete with Apple on one of the key reasons Apple does so well: industrial design. Industrial design simply isn’t Google’s ball of wax. However, it is an integral part of Apple’s branding. If you look at Android, it’s more fully featured than iPhone OS – but Android phones don’t have the same design cachet. If you look at MacOS X, it’s nice, but a lot of people think Windows 7 looks just as nice… but I believe MacOS is popular because the boxes it is installed in are popular. I speculate that proportionately more people install Windows on a Mac, than would install MacOS on a PC (if Apple decided to permit that one day). So Chrome OS is all nice and good, but if the devices that run it aren’t sexy enough, I’m not sure that Google is going to be competitive with Apple in the netbook-end of the market.
Turning now to the other big news of Goldman Sachs being sued by the SEC. When the suit was filed last Friday, Goldman’s stock price fell about 13%, shaving somewhere in the region of $10bn off its market cap. Reading through some peoples’ opinions of the worst-case scenario, Goldman is looking at anywhere from $100m to about $1bn in liabilities (whether in settlement payments or damages, including suits filed by other parties against them). There are also reputational effects as well, but I doubt they would have any impact.
As this BusinessWeek article says, GS is still going to be used by the people that count – clients and prospective employees. When I was an undergrad, I remember that among students there was this sense of an unofficial totem pole of professional services work, in decreasing order of desirability: private equity, i-banking, mgt consulting, law, and accounting/tech consulting/retail banking. Because private equity firms usually don’t hire fresh grads, that left i-banking as the most sought after industry for BCom students. At the top of that world was Goldman, followed by Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, and so on (incidentally, the order was pretty similar to the order of what banks were most vulnerable during the GFC). That was back in 2002. Goldman has since had a massively successful decade, so I can only imagine that its aura has multiplied during that time. GS also had a successful quarter, reporting $3.3bn in net income.
In any event, it seems to me that the market has largely overreacted to the news. It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next few months.
stuloh grammar question: "to take action against a user whom/who we think may be doing something"... who or whom??
Normally these videos are pretty decent, but this one is totally cringeworthy. So they obviously can’t rap. But they can’t proofread either: they misspelled the firm’s name at 0:37. They also seemed to have not-so-subtly ranked all the big Aussie firms into a Vault-style top 15 list. Hmmm…
stuloh The bid to name our trivia team "Glee Club" just failed. Boring people!
Written in a “Day in the Life” style, Gizmodo’s review:
News is like coffee to me. To wake up, every morning I hit snooze twice and on the third beep I kill the alarm and lie in bed checking email. Monday morning, I did the same on the iPad. Reading emails was far easier with everything laid out on two columns and with all that extra screen space. But my threshold for replying to notes was not improved. The keyboard does not feel natural, and this is not an input machine. I flagged those emails as things I'd have to revisit at my laptop, on my iPad with an external keyboard, or maybe even the iPhone, which I'm so used to that even the smaller layout seems better.
Very much a luxury lifestyle device.
…argh. Time to declare RSS bankruptcy and just clear it all? Maybe this wouldn’t happen if I had an iPad… HMM…
stuloh Glee! New Macbooks are finally out, time to upgrade. (And incidentally Glee is back on the air tonight)
stuloh Each time I come to NY I realize more and more how different it is from NorCal... but it's good in short doses
stuloh David Carson looks like Bill Murray
It seems that running barefoot changes the way you run into something that’s more natural and less damaging:
Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid “heel-striking,” and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.
Illusionists Penn & Teller show us how to putt a ball from under a foam cup, without touching the cup:
stuloh iPad spotted at work. It was only a matter of time!
It seems that making buying decisions when shopping is more an emotional exercise than a logical one.
I’m pretty focused when it comes to shopping at Costco. I like to buy orange juice and movie vouchers from there. The last time I went, I walked out with a 4-pack of Tropicana and a pack of dried mangoes. The dude at the exit who checks receipts looked up at me and said, “Whoaaaa! Two items! It’s a miracle!!!” which struck me as a little odd, but then I looked around and realized that everyone had a full trolley. And you know those Costco trolleys are jumbo-sized trolleys.
stuloh Temptation to get an iPad is building, despite all my previous remarks...