I started writing these “inverter” posts because many Bad Voltage episodes would raise topics that I felt deserved commentary. By the middle segment in this episode I was screaming at the computer.
So, good show.
First, whoever decided on the cover art gets some points. It references a groaner of a pun Jono makes that gets dropped in the Intro.
Second, also in the intro, we learn that Jeremy Garcia will not be on the show due to jury duty of all things. While I’ve always considered Jeremy one of the calmer and more reasoned members of the team, since this show clocks in at scant 52 minutes maybe he’s the one who drags things out. They did stumble a bit on the whole “… and now, Bad Voltage” line so I do look forward to Jeremy’s return.
Okay, the first segment concerns the “new” economy of begging. It kind of focuses on what we would call “crowdfunding“, but as Stuart points out, crowdfunding usually means that you get something in return. However, with sites like “GoFundMe” the term has been expanded to include outright begging, as in “Dear Internet, help, can you spare a dollar for a sandwich”. A quick perusal of the site with a search in my local area brings up a number of articles ranging from a person who was defrauded by a builder, to two women who want to go to the ACC tournament, to another woman who needs help finishing her Ph.D.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as the sucker/minute ratio remains high, but it is a bit different from crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter where the donors have a non-zero expectation of actually getting something. That is more along the lines of “new economy” than asking strangers to pay for your vacation.
So, let’s talk about those programs. I have to admit I don’t participate in them. Before you go and call me a cheapskate and a leech, I do donate a lot of money to local and free software causes, but I just don’t do it via these programs. I’ve participated in exactly two Indiegogo campaigns and one Kickstarter campaign. Let’s see how they went.
The first time was the Indiegogo campaign for the Ubuntu phone. While I am perfectly happy with my Android phone (more on that later) I support open source efforts and this seemed like a good thing. They were organized and they had realistic expectations for what it would cost. The campaign fell well short of their goal and my money was returned. All in all, I’m okay with that.
The next time was also on Indiegogo. It was for the Angel Sensor wearable health device. I have a keen interest in how my body is behaving as metrics are the key to making successful improvements. The problem is I don’t want to be sending my activity and sleep pattern information to some third party like Fitbit or Jawbone. I was very eager for an open source solution.
I’m still waiting.
Plagued by production problems and lack of communication, I have no idea if I’ll ever see the device on which I spent US$178. The one person I knew there is on “a well deserved leave”. Furthermore, I’m not sure if they are releasing the server and client code as open source, which I what I was lead to believe was the plan. Finally, the first app they wrote for it is for the iPhone of all things, which makes me think that their dedication to open source is a bit lacking. At this point in time I’ve written the whole thing off.
When the Mycroft project did the crowdfunding thing, I was sorely tempted to buy in, but my experience with Angel has made me cautious. I think a lot of technology-based projects severely underestimate what is needed to be successful. They aim low and then trumpet when their stretch goals are met, only to wake up later to the fact that it is going to be a lot harder to deliver than they thought, like the hangover after a big bender.
Please note that I’m not saying this will happen with Mycroft, I wish them all the luck in the world, it’s just that I’ll shell out a few extra ducats for the finished thing when it arrives rather than gamble.
Does anyone remember Diaspora? It was the open source, distributed Facebook. I thought the project was dead, but it is apparently still around, although the pressure of delivering on it is blamed for the suicide of one of the co-founders. Diaspora was one of the most successful Kickstarter projects at the time.
This isn’t to say that these things always fail. The “Exploding Kittens” project was phenomenal and while I haven’t played it I’ve given it as a gift and people say it is a lot of fun. This is where I think crowdfunding can shine – in creative projects where the sponsors have a huge amount of control over the product. I’ve heard of a number of successful movie, music and video projects that were crowdfunded without problems.
Which brings me to my one foray into Kickstarter. I’m a huge fan of the band De La Soul. To me they were the first nerdcore hip-hop group. When hip-hop seemed solely focused on “bitches ‘n hos,” De La Soul was delivering thoughtful, fun and energetic music. When they announced their Kickstarter for a new album, I signed up and ordered the album to be digitally delivered on a 1GB Posdnuos USB drive set for September delivery.
Well, it ain’t here. (grin)
I really don’t mind – I’d rather the album ship when it is ready (probably next Spring) than for them to release crap on time but I’m basically 0-3 on the whole crowdfunding thing.
I was thinking about this when the second segment started with Aq reviewing his new One Plus X (OPX) phone, giving it a 9 out of 10.
This is when I started yelling.
See, while I have zero experience with the OPX I bought a One Plus One (OPO) and I found One Plus to be one of the most horrible companies on the planet.
I was first introduced to the OPO by some friends in Germany. Here was a powerful phone in an attractive package at a reasonable price. It also ran open source software in the form of a version of Cyanogenmod, a packaged instance of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Finally, it was relatively inexpensive. Too good to be true?
They have an “invite” system in order to even buy the phone, but I managed to wrangle one. While I thought the phone was too big initially, I got used to it and soon I was telling everyone how great it was, just like Stuart does in his review.
But then things started to go sour. The upper half of the digitizer started acting up and so I opened a ticket with support. This is when One Plus started to lie and cheat, trying to wrangle out of the fact that they had a hardware problem. The problem has one topic on their forums that had 125 pages of posts before they closed it, and another that is at 305 pages as I write this. That’s 305 pages of pure horror stories.
So when I say lie, we all know that One Plus is a tiny Chinese firm, yet all of my support replies came from “different” people with traditionally English female names, like Kathy, Leah and Jessa. I think this was a tactic to make us more sympathetic to them since they knew they were going to provide crappy support.
When I say cheat, they refused to honor warranty support and kept asking me to perform a number of increasingly complex tasks culminating in disassembling my phone. When I refused, fearing I would damage it, they refused service, even when I offered to send it to them at my expense.
In my mind, One Plus is pure scum and no one should buy their products. I came extremely close to launching a class action lawsuit against them before I decided I had better things to do than to sue a company that won’t be around in five years.
Seriously, if I had to choose solely between an iPhone and a One Plus phone I’d grab the iPhone so fast I’d break my fingers. Finally, their new OxygenOS is closed source so you are up the same creek as if you had bought a Samsung or other closed Android phone.
So I’m screaming at the computer because I know Aq’s “9 out of 10” review will move people to consider buying one. Don’t! Aq has hooked up with the same skank that did me wrong, and while part of me wishes them well, I know it will end in misery.
But what are the options, you might ask. Samsung is expensive and closed, Google is getting more and more closed, and so perhaps One Plus is the least of the evils.
There are options, but Stuart’s will be pretty limited since he seems to have two huge prejudices. First, he expresses disdain for hold people who root their phones. This is odd, since I don’t think he’d have any issue with buying a laptop that shipped with Windows and putting Linux on it, and this is, after all, a podcast about things hackable. Second, he seems to dislike anyone with a “big” phone.
I love the alternative ROM crowd. These are the true AOSP disciples, and my favorite ROM is OmniROM. I love OmniROM so much that when I need a new phone I work backwards. I start with the list of officially supported OmniROM devices and make my choice from there. While I closely identify with the philosophy behind OmniROM (it was started as a fork from Cyanogenmod when they got tons of VC money and went evil), what I love are the options. You can choose just how many or how few applications you want from the Google ecosystem, which allows you to easily limit what to want to share (note that this is available with almost any alternative ROM), and they turn on a lot of things Google doesn’t, such as “shake to dismiss” in the alarm.
As for size, when I unpacked my OPO I thought the thing was huge. I was using an HTC One and it seemed tiny in comparison. It took me about two days to get used to it. When I replaced the OPO because they are huge douches (or whatever is Chinese for douche) I went with the Nexus 6. Now that is a huge phone, and I’m sure Aq will belittle it.
Know what? After about two days of using it, it felt normal. I love my Nexus 6 running OmniROM. The large screen allowed me to retire my Nexus 7 since I can comfortably watch videos on it when traveling. It has an amazing camera, is extremely fast and gets all the latest Android shiny. In fact, I was amazed that when the new Nexus phones came out I found myself asking myself why in the world would I switch? Plus the Nexus 6 still has wireless charging, which I’ve become used to.
I think Aq’s size issues stem from the fact that everyone thinks that if someone is using a phone bigger than the one they use, those people are crazy. If he spent a week with a Nexus 6, I’m sure his mind would change. Now, he’s given up freedom for a pretty face with a cheap price tag.
Now it seems like I’m picking on Stuart a lot, but I don’t mean to be mean. I love the guy and I want him to be happy, but that little tramp will only bring misery. Mark my words.
If One Plus did you wrong, let him know, but I think it is too late. As with every doomed relationship, when you are in it you can’t see it coming.
After the first two, the last segment was pretty conflict free. It concerns the US Department of Justice wanting to force Apple to unlock a phone. I thought this case raised a couple of interesting points.
First the reason they want to force Apple to do it instead of the owner is to avoid the issues of self-incrimination. I never really thought about that before, but it is good to know.
Second, the DoJ is using the logic that since Apple still owns the software on the phone, they should be able to unlock it. Most people (well, non-software people) don’t know or realize that they don’t own most of the software they use. They have just been granted a right to use it. Now Apple (and Google) are taking steps to encrypt phones so even they can’t unlock them. This case involved an older iPhone, but it does make the case for using free software and kudos to Apple for fighting the order.
While there may be a fine line as far as “ownership” is concerned, free and open source software is much more in the hands of the user (you don’t pay for it) so you may have additional protections against self-incrimination when you use it. I am not a lawyer, but it is fun to think about.
The show ended with a reminder that the next Live Voltage show will be at SCaLE in January. I also learned why Bryan missed our little post-show gathering last year – he went to bed.
And here I thought he hated me.