Tom Insam

blech:

There’s actually a little irony there. When taxes make up a small part the cost of fuel, a 50% change in the price of crude will push up pump prices by roughly that amount. However, for Europeans (who typically see a large, but consistent, part of the price of a litre going to their governments), the same rises and falls are hidden under the flattening effect of that fixed price.

As a counter-example, here’s an interesting piece of research, also from the Economist:

We find strong and robust evidence that gasoline tax changes are associated with larger changes in gasoline consumption and vehicle choices than are commensurate changes in the tax-exclusive gasoline price.

I don’t know if this would still apply if the point of the policy was to maintain a consistent price. But it’s worth pointing out that the tax part of fuel prices is treated differently from the non-tax part.

Android and iOS are operating systems that run on computers. Granted, these computers are smaller than the ones you grew up with, but they’re still computers. And guess what? In many ways, they work like computers have in past — including the ability of accessing your other files. It’s a feature, not a bug.

-- MG Siegler - Prompts

I agree - phones are computers now. But we're still right to be annoyed over this, in the same way we were right to be annoyed over PathGate. Apps on my phone have the ability to go behind my back and take my (and other people's) personal data. Of course they can. It's a computer. They can do all sorts of things, and there are perfectly good and safe reasons to do all of them. This power can be used for evil! And it's not possible to tell in advance if a given application is going to do something evil.

But we're still right to be annoyed, because preventing this sort of thing was pretty much the entire premise of the app store review process. (That, and stopping iPhones bringing down the entire West Cost phone network, of course.) Apple promised to protect us from evil applications, and used this as justification for all sorts of stupid rejections that in no way made my iPhone experience safer.

I'm prepared to accept the trade off of a review process that sometimes stops good things if it'll also stop bad things. But it's not stopping the bad things. And it's not possible to stop the bad things. It probably stops a lot of them. But that's not the trade-off I was promised.

Pinterest

What this means:

  • You can’t pin photos marked as private
  • You can’t pin photos that are marked as being for adult audiences only
  • You can’t pin photos where the Flickr user has explicitly disabled sharing
  • Photos not in one of these three categories can be pinned.

-- Aaron Hockley

Pinterest is requiring sites to individually and explicitly opt-in to "this image is not available for public sharing". In fact, the way they are providing for you to do this isn't even something that individual photo owners could have done on their own - it had to be implemented at a Flickr-wide level, rather than by photo owners. This bothers me.

As the article points out, Flickr already had a "do not share this photo" setting on their site. Pinterest should have respected it. When the next social image sharing site turns up, do they get to invent their own "do not steal" meta tag that everyone has to implement as well?

instabackup

Inspired by a twitter conversation, I wrote an Instagram backup tool. It's a command-line tool. It'll store your auth token locally so you can run it unattended after the first run. It'll download incrementally, so you can cron it nightly.

Other backup tools for Instagram exist, and I really don't care, it's a 20 minute hack. The authentication step is a little weird (does OAuth2 really not have a pure desktop app flow?) but bearable. And it works for me. Let me know if it works for you.

I'm late on this. But from All Things D last week:

[..] soon, apps that use address book data will require explicit user permission to do so.

This doesn't fix the Thing That Actually Happened, it's just a sop to people who want to see more gratuitous security. Merely gating access to the Address book doesn't distinguish properly between Path's "We're going to send your entire address book to our servers and store it forever" friend finder, and Marco's "I just want to make sure a particular contact isn't already in your address book, and wouldn't dream of sending anything to my server" Read Later contact install process. Even post-fix, the Path blog post doesn't make it clear if they're still going to store my address book (assuming I send it to them again) for all time or not, or how much contact information they're sending.

This fix might even make things worse. The new version of Path shows a dialog box explaining roughly what they're going to do with your data before requesting address book access. Once Apple have a gate in the way, are they going to put up two redundant dialog boxes? Or will they drop the helpful one and leave up a single "Path wants access to your address book but I won't tell you why" confirmation?

It's not access to the data that needs guarding. It's what the apps do with the data. Of course, a technical solution to this problem is probably impossible. I'm just bitching.

Feedify

I built another thing. Feedify will make Atom feeds out of things that don't have feeds, because I like having feeds. Basically, I got bored of having to jab at 5 icons on my phone every time I wanted to do a sweep of "what my friends are doing" - I'd much rather just subscribe to feeds and my RSS reader can tell me about things.

Right now it'll make feeds out of Flickr and Instagram photo uploads of your friends. These were easy - they map directly to single API calls to the respective services (in the case of flickr, this leads to unavoidable disadvantages with the feed. But that's life). As and when I think of more things that are easy, I'll add them.

So yes. Feedify. Play with it.

Merging OSes

via Gruber,

Samsung to Merge Bada With Intel-Backed Tizen:

“We have an effort that will merge Bada and Tizen,” a Samsung spokesman confirmed.

Tizen (from the same article):

In September [2011] two Linux software groups, one backed by Samsung, and another by Intel, agreed to jointly develop Tizen, a new operating system for cellphones and other devices, by merging their LiMo and Meego platforms [..]

MeeGo (from wikipedia):

[..] announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2010 by Intel and Nokia in a joint press conference. The stated aim is to merge the efforts of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo former projects into one new common project.

I really don't see how it can fail.

Reversed Scrolling

After having used it for a few months, I'm gradually begining to think that the reversed scroll direction in MacOS is a bad thing. Or at least, an annoying thing.

Partially, this is because my cursor keys are now backwards - pushing down on my cursor key scrolls a web page in the opposite direction that dragging 2 fingers down on the trackpad does. Surely the same argument that applies to reversing the trackpad should have been applied to the cursor keys? Except that, of course, if there's an actual cursor on the screen, pressing down-cursor should move the cursor down the page, potentially scrolling the page up. It would be absurd to have the cursor keys reverse meaning just because there's a focussed text box on the page.

But mostly I think it's wrong because I'm having to use Windows for a few things recently and I'm hating the overhead of having to deal with both scrolling directions. Every time I try to scroll it feels like I go the wrong way. I find it hard to believe that Windows is ever going to change its default scroll direction, so thanks to Apple's change I'm forced to choose between two failure cases - either I use the Apple default and get confused every time I use Windows, or I use old-style scrolling and get confused every time I try to use someone else's computer, as well as being held hostage to Apple ever removing the option in a future version of the OS.

I was initially in the "you'll get used to it" camp. I did get used to it. I like using system defaults wherever possible, and adopting new conventions. I even prefer the new scrolling direction. And I don't mind differences that I don't have to deal with very frequently - for instance, the close window button under Windows is in a different corner and I can happily not care about that. But I scroll things all the time.