Image [cc] Josh Bancroft

This morning, the American Library Association came out against the FBI’s attempt to order Apple to unlock an iPhone connected to the San Bernardino shooters, who murdered 14 people and injured another 22 back in December 2015. ALA’s Managing Director of the Office of Government Relations issued the following statement:

The only thing that could make last December’s attack in San Bernardino more horrible would be its use to profoundly erode the Constitution’s protection of our fundamental freedoms. Man­dated ‘back doors’ into encrypted systems cannot successfully be labelled ‘Bad Guys Keep Out.’  The only way to protect our data and, ultimately, our freedom is to fight any attempt by the courts and Congress to hack the Constitution.  ALA stands with Apple.

I also stand with Apple on this issue, and encourage my peer Law Librarians and Legal Information and Technical professionals to do the same. Librarians have always stood up for the rights of citizens against government intrusion. Long before there was a public uproar, or Edward Snowden, Librarians were pointing out and fighting the privacy breaches of the PATRIOT Act. It is time to stand up again and support the Constitution over the individual situation, regardless of the horror and tragedy surrounding the reason we wish to bend the rules.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, issued a response this week rejected the United States government’s request where he underlined the dangerous precedent this order would create:

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

It appears that the primary reason that the FBI is asking Apple to break the encryption and open the phone is one of convenience and cost. The government has not exhausted less intrusive methods of opening the shooter’s phone. Yes, it may cost more money and time to unlock the phone without Apple’s help, but it will cost far less in what this dangerous precedent creates if the Government successfully orders Apple to unlock that phone.

I stand with Apple.

Apple gets a lot of flack for creating a closed platform that economically locks its users into their products.  After all, if you’ve already spent $200K on iOS apps, why would you switch to Android or Windows phones or tablets and have to repurchase all of that software?  It’s a reasonable argument, but it totally misses the point.

I told this story at ILTA last year, so if you are one of the ten people who attended, feel free to skip ahead.  It was March 2012 and I was at the first round of the NCAA tournament.  I attended 4 basketball games over the course of about 10 hours and it was the day my new iPad was supposed to arrive. During every time-out I would check the delivery status on my iPhone.  Somewhere in the second half of the second game, I got an email saying the iPad had arrived.  I was excited, but at the same time I had hours of basketball to sit through (good problem to have), knowing my brand new iPad was sitting on the kitchen counter, neatly packaged and waiting to be turned on.  The anticipation was excruciating.

I got home well after midnight and ripped open the packaging.  I entered my iCloud credentials and chose to restore the device from an iCloud backup. The process was going to take a few hours, so I plugged it in and went to bed. In the morning I awoke excited to try out my brand new device.  I unlocked the screen, flipped through the pages, clicked on the camera app to check out the new camera and… nothing.  I didn’t feel anything.  I was kind of already bored with the new device. I went down to breakfast thinking something must be wrong with me. After all, I love new gadgets and this was the greatest gadget of all.

I have plenty of old gadgets that don’t work anymore and I can’t bring myself to get rid of them, they are piled up in closets and drawers, but my old iPad I handed to my wife without a second thought. Maybe I was growing up?  Maybe the allure of the gadget culture had finally passed me by. But during breakfast I picked up my new iPad and launched a couple of news apps, just as I always do.  Everything was just as I left it the day before on the old iPad.  That’s when I realized, this new device was still MY iPad.  It was the exact same iPad in a new shell, with an upgraded processor and a newer camera.  I wasn’t bored with a new device, I was simply using the same device in the same way I had been using it for years.  It was a tool, a friend, a constant companion.  Apple hadn’t locked me in economically, they had locked me in emotionally.  They had given me the gadget that would never go to the gadget graveyard, because it would never die.  It will probably outlive me.

I thought about my ILTA talk again on Monday evening, when I got home from a trip and realized I had left my iPad on the plane.  I logged into iCloud and put my iPad in lost mode.  If it happens to be turned on and walks past a Starbucks it will phone home and tell me where it is. My phone number will pop up on the screen and it will beg it’s current holder to send it home to me. I filled out the airline forms, and went back to the lost and found at LaGuardia.  I even called Atlanta and Pensacola, the airports that my plane was heading to next.  As of this writing, no one has seen my beloved iPad and it’s likely that we will never be reunited.

I stopped by the Apple store on my way into the office yesterday and bought a newer iPad with a little more storage.  I plugged it in, entered my iCloud credentials, and chose to restore from an iCloud backup. By mid-afternoon my friend was back.  All of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that I have accumulated over 3 years of use were back exactly as they had been on Monday. As if I had never left it on the plane.

In similar situations in the past, with say a phone or blackberry, I may have considered the economic ramifications of purchasing another product.  Not this time.  I wasn’t purchasing another product, just a new portable vessel for the product I already have sitting out there in iCloud.

At the risk of being typecast as a kooky prophet of doom, I’m going to make another prediction that should prove to be about as popular as my last. Say goodbye to the World Wide Web. Sorry Sir Tim, it was great while it lasted, but it just couldn’t stand the test of time. Pish, you say. The web is the single greatest invention of all time. It has revolutionized everything from commerce, to government, to news gathering, to communications. It has changed the way we learn, the way we speak, the way we interact with each other. The web has created entirely new ways of thinking about the world around us. The web may have even ushered us into a post-human existence; external evolution at the speed of technology. All of this is true and more. I personally think it’s impossible to overstate the magnitude of change this invention has wrought upon us. And yet… ten years from now, December 20, 2020, the World Wide Web will be akin to AOL today. Sure, you’re Great Aunt in Peoria still uses it, but if her browser opens to a blank page, she thinks the internet is down. Ah! And therein lies the key. The browser. It’s the browser that is going away and with it the web. I believe the beginning of the end came in late 2001 with the release of a Mac OS application by Karelia Software called Watson. Watson was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. (OK, I was young and easily impressed, but it was really cool.) Watson gathered information directly from websites and presented it in a simple, easy to read format without requiring me to open a browser and dig through a web page. I could easily track Ebay auctions, buy from Amazon, or check movie listing and recipes all from within the Watson interface. Granted, the web wasn’t then what it is today, but for my money (and it did cost money), Watson was hands down a better interactive experience than using the web. It provided just the information I needed, without distractions, and in a format that I could easily navigate. And that’s why Watson, and Dan Wood, owner and lead developer of Karelia Software, are the household names they… are… today. Oh, I forgot. It didn’t happen that way. Watson was designed to be a companion application to the Mac OS search program called Sherlock, hence the name (please tell me I don’t need to explain that further). At the end of 2002 there was a minor scandal in the Mac community when the new version of Sherlock was released and it incorporated plugins that provided much of the functionality previously found in Watson. Watson hung on for a few years, but Dan finally gave in to the all powerful Jobs and retired Watson in 2004. And that’s why Sherlock is the universal application that everyone… No, unless you were a power Mac user in the early 2000s you’ve probably never heard of Sherlock either. Within a few years even Sherlock development had ended. The web had moved on, there were much better Web 2.0 interfaces and they now had video! The web-appliance concept seemed doomed to the dustbin of history. Until, July 11th, 2008, when Mr. Jobs triumphantly revealed the return of Sherlock in the guise of the iPhone App Store. Suddenly, the development world was all about web appliances. Stand alone apps that gave you instant and easy access to just the information you wanted without the need to log in every time and search for what you want. Just click on the icon and boom, there it is. Access to all the information without all the headache of a browser, which is ideal for a small mobile screen. Next month, however, Mr. Jobs is releasing the Mac App Store, basically the same concept as the iPhone App Store, but for Desktop Mac Apps. There has been a lot of speculation as to what kind of software will be available on the Mac App Store, and why developers will want to go through Apple for distribution, and share a large percentage of profits, when they can still go directly to the consumer. Presumably, you will still be able to install any compatible software on a Mac after the App Store is opened, unlike iOS. But the naysayers are again missing the point. It’s the “Mac App Store”, not the “Macintosh Software Depot”. It will do great business in games, utilities and simple apps. There will be some productivity apps, most notably Apple’s own office suite, but the Mac App Store will bring the App experience from the mobile handset to the desktop in a way that Dan Wood could only dream about in 2001. Mark my words, the App will kill the browser, just like video killed the radio star. In 10 years, your Great Aunt will still access FaceTwitterBook via her AOL browser, and you will laugh at how quaint she is as you fire up the FaceTwitterBook App on your ARI (Apple Retinal Implant, pat. pend. Steve, call me.) So here’s to Dan Wood, owner and lead developer of Karelia Software, the Killer of the Web, the Bane of Berners-Lee, and may I be the first to say it, the Father of the App! The question is not whether or not you need to develop an App, but rather, why haven’t you already hired Dan to do it for you?

This morning, William Knott, a spokesman for the US Supreme Court, made a surprise announcement that the US Supreme Court will phase out releasing court opinions in PDF format and will begin releasing all Court materials to fit Apple’s new iPad format.  The multi-million dollar agreement between SCOTUS and Apple launches a new approach for the Court to push information to the public and at the same time generating much needed revenue to support the Federal Court System.  Knott justified the move by saying, “With the downturn in the economy, and the legislature’s refusal to adequately fund the Federal Courts, we’ve decided to look for additional funding through corporate sponsorships.”
Back in January, the Court handed down the Citizen United decision (Knott apologized that the decision is currently only available in the Court’s old PDF format), which ruled that corporations and labor unions could contribute to political campaigns.  Apparently, the Court has interpreted that decision not only for campaigns, but also for other governmental contributions, including itself.  “Hey, why should some schmoe congressman from New Jersey be able to take money from corporations or unions and the highest court in the land cannot?” asks William Knott.  “We’d be hypocrites if we said it was okay to contribute to politicians, and then tell those same corporations and unions that their ‘free speech rights’ end at the steps of this courthouse.”
In addition to the agreement with Apple, Knott also hinted that for the right price, the Court would be willing to sell ad space within the opinions themselves.  “My God, look at all the white-space that will be available in the iPad format,” Knott adds.  “I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but we are looking into the option of monetizing the Court’s opinions.  We’re just keeping our options open at this time.”  Knott assured us that the ads would be “tasteful” and would have absolutely no influence on the Court should any of the advertisers have matters brought before them. The ads, tentatively referred to as “CourtSense”, will be similar to the Google Adsense model in order to sell contextual ads within the opinions based not only on keywords within the opinions but the user’s own browsing habits and email content.  
When I asked William Knott why the Court thought that the public would not find the idea of the US Supreme Court taking money directly from corporations and unions as a “payoff”, Knott stood up and poked me in the chest and screamed, “Google does the same thing with its new Scholar website, and they don’t need to take taxpayer money to support their operations, do they??  Americans should be happy that their justice system doesn’t need to ask them anymore to shell out their hard-earned tax dollars to support the Courts.  By opening the Court to corporate money, tax dollars can be reallocated to building what Americans really want, and that’s more prisons!  So for America, it is a tremendous win-win.”
The new format should be rolled to Apple Retail Stores or decisions can be downloaded directly from iTunes at about the time we release our April Fool’s Day post in 2011.
[note: April Fools!]

I have been thinking about the new iPad.

Call me crazy, but I think it looks like a huge Etch-A-Sketch. I just want to shake it to see if it will clear the screen. Add two big round button in each of the bottom corners so I can scroll over the page. Is there an app for that?

Plus, aren’t you guys worried about that screen? Don’t you think it is going to get scratched up? And it is kind of big for when you are running down the runway to make that plane, juggling your iPad, your iPhone, your iPod and your one bag of luggage.

So you are just begging for a murse.

You do know what a murse is, right? It is the male equivalent of a purse.

All of you Apple types should be okay with that–you are a pretty liberal group, if I am any kind of judge.

Two more points about the iPad. When are they going to let us women have a go at these things? Don’t they realize how hard it is to use touch pads when you have acrylic nails? Come on you guys, let us have a seat at the testing table.

So you know what’s coming, right? a plug-in, retractable keyboard for the iPad.

And what’s this about not being Adobe-friendly (Market Place Media’s Apple Adobe at war over iPad)? I get that Stevie-o may become credited with being a visionary, swaying the tech marketplace to drink the HTML5 kool-aid. But I think that is being very David Koresh-like, Mr. Jobs. Now your messing with my shows. I like my Hulu and my Netflix.

Seems to me that you, Steven, are doing a bit of market manipulation through product design to move the economy you way … just sayin’.

So until I get a murse, a retractable keyboard and Adobe Flash, I won’t be getting an iPad.

Unless Mr. Jobs feels so inclined to give us 3 Geeks each one for testing purposes. But we are still waiting on those iPhones so I don’t guess it will be coming any time soon.