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Kindle Death Watch

March 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

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A few days ago I had setted in for the seat warming slog at my lady doctor with my portable literary sampling device when I noticed a spanking new hairline crack in the bezel at the corner of the screen. According to several e-reader message boards and a few threads on Amazon itself (the usual “LOL U STUPID CLUMSY” trolls notwithstanding), this is a known issue with my particular model, the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Some users said that the screen on their units had failed outright soon after developing the bezel cracks.

It is a fact of my life that my devices of choice will be afflicted with almost all known issues mostly after the warranty has comfortably expired, leading me to think that I should start being less careful with my things to make my disturbingly regular upgrade cycle a bit less expensive. It would, however, injure my pride to give an inch to the “U DROPPED IT LOL” club.

Several posters on the various boards said that Amazon customer service sometimes cut those with expired warranties a break, so I contacted the mother ship’s support to see what my options were. After a delightful email exchange with one woman and a phone call with another person who had a better command of English straightened out the exact terms, I had been offered a refurbished Kindle Paperwhite without advertising on the idling display (the one without “special offers,” which is where the confusion arose) for a decent discount. The other fact of my life is that every time I have bought something refurbished or second-hand it has cost me in the long run, so I’ll sit tight with my plasti-brick of a slightly ventilated 3G and review the possibilities again once upgrading becomes necessary.

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Mozilla’s recently appointed CEO Brendan Eich did an interview with c/net, and it reads like someone force-fed ELIZA open-source Kool-Aid, every political speech since Watergate and the remains of the Dot-Com Mission Statement Generator which, for all I know, was coded in JavaScript (RIP you hilarious but redundant piece of Internet history). The Guardian might have solved the mystery of Brendan Eich’s political leanings, though. Evidence suggests he may in fact be a libertarian.

Highlights of Brendan Eich’s interview include: threatening a world without Mozilla, “you have to tolerate my intolerance” repeatedly inferred using a truly staggering number of words each time, and the implication that Mozilla is the only company that wants to liberate users with its own mobile OS and totally unique cloud implementation.

I’m assuming this will be completely unlike Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Box, and Amazon Cloud Drive; or it will just have Mozilla’s statement on equality and inclusion preinstalled as the readme with every new account.

 

UPDATE: Well, that’s over, but since Mozilla has been engaging in the same kind of corporate PR and doublespeak as would befit a telecom giant since the start of this mess, we’ll never know what really happened internally. I would like to think that one or both people left on the board realised that someone who displays all the grace under pressure of a spoiled six-year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar just before dinner is going to be a liability as the public face of any company.

As per Brendan Eich’s empty threats, Mozilla has probably been damaged in some way by this whole debacle; and I am considering re-watching the entire Mad Max series to figure out how to go on living in this dread post-apocalyptic wasteland. Or, maybe, the sun will come up, Google will continue doing what Google does, Facebook will continue doing what Facebook does, and I’ll just do the things I’d rather put off. Today is another day.

I got to speed by more of Germany last week on a beautifully quiet DB inter-city train in a northwestern direction because of some supplied tickets to Hannover’s CeBIT, but the gods did not smile upon me and the Mr. enough to bump us up to the “breathe the same air as Steve Wozniak” tier. Being chiefly a trade show, CeBIT doesn’t have the anarchic unwashed masses feel of Berlin’s consumer-level electronics expo IFA (cruel irony: at IFA the hall with the washing machine displays was seriously off the hook).

In the first hall we entered at CeBIT there were a lot of brochures and nebulous slogans that promised grand and exciting things and almost seemed to hint at what the companies were actually doing, which gave me that 1998 dot-com mission statement feeling (noticeably absent: “mindshare,” which had been proven in that period of irrational exuberance to pay neither the rent nor Herman Miller); but now that we’ve figured out what we’re doing with this “Internet” thing the necessity of actually having a product to sell has been accepted and seems to be working.

This year’s dominant product model seems to be data management and networking, with some big data for the buzzword inclined. All of this grand technology on display will of course ultimately be used for the secure high speed enterprise-level encryption and transmission of cat videos. One booth was demonstrating “automated border security,” but I didn’t ask if the stock American model came with rotating gun turrets and speculum attachments.

There was a vendor’s hall which only registered buyers could enter so the Mr. and I couldn’t enjoy any new hardware smell at the Das Keyboard booth. We wandered down to the code-N hall which was obviously the exhibitors’ cheap seats at CeBIT, full of bored-looking Berlin startup employees seated behind folding tables. After a brief and surprisingly non-embarrassing homage to the Blue Man Group at the main stage we saw a talk on cryptocurrency, but afterwards the Mr. and I had no more of an understanding of what exactly cryptocurrency is supposed to do or be than before. The talk was in German, so on hearing the translated summary my understanding apparently should have been that cryptocurrency is needed even though its worth is still valued relative to the conventional markets it is supposed to exist apart from and render obsolete because it, um, transfers real fast.

For a self-aware audience captive lunch is always an adventure, but the prices weren’t as bad as they could have been. After several menu comparisons we settled on a place offering a variety of dishes billing itself as “the culinary spirit of Hannover.” After getting crabbed at by the maitre d’ for attempting to sit at a booth designated for more people (as two other ladies were doing) we waited, were ignored, watched several waitstaff come out of the kitchen to survey the dining area before disappearing back down the stairs Punxsutawney Phil-like; and then piled out of there for the Bavarian place we had passed on the way in. The culinary spirit of Hannover as far as hall fifteen was concerned probably required a two-piece suit minimum but signs were not posted.

The servers at the Bavarian place were kind, attentive and got us some mean plates of food relatively quickly considering how incredibly packed the outdoor area was. As much as I’d like to hate on Bavaria as a whole for not having the sufficient good taste to hide some sad examples of xenophobia the Löwenbräu embassy has fed me at every tech conference I’ve been to in Germany so far and done so with a smile. I think for the next one the Mr. and I have agreed to save time and headaches by going straight for the spätzle, live polka, and half-liter Pepsis.

The research hall was an oddly mixed bag. The most notable example of robotics on display was a robot developed at a Swiss institute with a comedically oversized fiberglass fronted head and a skeletal 3D-printed body with the proportions of a ventriloquist’s dummy. Case-lit fetus-thing didn’t appear to have any real specialties in motor skills or conversation, but he was personable enough and loved to have his picture taken. The Mr.’s old employer gave a talk on the benefits of 3D imaging on ID cards, so if I understood a lick of German I might know what innovations I can look forward to in foreigner control. The old-timey computer publisher IDG had a mega-space that they seemed to be subletting to just about every company that couldn’t provide a Berlin address, thus rendering them ineligible for code-N. Hugo Boss had a booth with an absurd number of IT positions taped to the inside of the windows; and of course they were the best dressed bored-looking people there.

The teardown began about two hours before the conference was scheduled to end, and there were a surprising number of opportunities to buy futuristic-looking shelving at currently on fire prices. Since I didn’t see anyone glowing or walking on water I’ll assume I entirely missed seeing the Woz, but Segway polo seems like an extremely safe sport so next year might be a possibility.

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There was a dark time in the late 1990s when Apple Computer, Inc. was going to go out of business any minute now and the tech (save, famously, WIRED) and business presses were so fixated on this fact that the company name was widely reported as Beleaguered Apple Computer, Inc. (NASDAQ: BAPL). To be fair the company unquestionably had its share of problems, notably a revolving door of CEOs with leadership skills as hinky as the hardware they were overseeing (going from my PowerBook 190cs with the faulty ROM to the Performa 6320CD with the realllllly faulty ROM was an experience and a half); but there was just something so friendly and elegant about that mass of code quivering on its last legs known as System 7. It was fun. It didn’t seem to want me to hate it, or myself. I eventually jammed it full of so many UI mods that I became an expert at troubleshooting the Mac OS and hardware just to keep myself up and running for those all-nighter essays in university. The community, too, was something else. One of the great criticisms of the Mac OS was that there wasn’t much software for it, but that turned out to be a strength considering I could get everything I needed to done and when I ever had to email a developer with a problem I’d invariably get a friendly response directly from the programmer. We were the underdogs, and we shared this odd and immediate bond as we forged ahead with our beige boxes with the purple smiles as many told us to simply give up. We circled our wagons. We bled six colours as per the original Apple logo.

I felt a profound sense of relief when on December 20, 1996 it was announced that Apple had bought NeXT. I was an old time Apple ][+ user and knew even at my young age that the two Steves ran the Apple show and as an older end user I cried tears of relief into my ADB II keyboard because Steve Jobs was coming home.

Obviously, we know how Apple’s fortunes changed with the introduction of the iMac, sparking the design revolution that had us admiring the internals of most of our household appliances for a few years whether we wanted to or not; and later the introduction of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. I don’t think any of us who hung on through Apple’s worst troubles ever figured out when it would have been appropriate to say “I told you so” or who, exactly, to say it to, but it may not be that important considering how much the company has defined the nature and character of consumer electronics in the past decade.

When Steve Jobs died I feared that Apple would again lose its way, but although it isn’t the same company I loved those years ago, it hasn’t imploded, either. I’m ordering a new iMac to replace my end-of-life black plastic MacBook tomorrow.