The Fairphone—A Good Start at Ethical Hardware

Casey Johnson at Ars Technica (“Fairphone” looks to give power back to customers):

The “Fairphone,” a phone that purports to approach smartphone design in the most ethical way possible from every conceivable angle, opened for preorders last Friday. The phone uses only conflict-free resources wherever possible, it has an open design, and it is marketed in a transparent way to customers.

Starting small.  Android only, Europe only, and about $400.  As a product, it probably won’t have a huge impact in and of itself. Hopefully it will serve as a very successful proof-of-concept that we can do tech in a way that both respects everyone involved (trying to improve practices along the way) and is financially viable.

Fairphone

© Fairphone

Coins to Tunes

Mom found one just like Grandpa's bank!As a six year old, one of my favorite things about visiting my grandparents in their small, southern Illinois town was the thrill of splitting the pile of change from my grandfather’s piggy bank with my brother.  It wasn’t a piggy, actually, but a portly, tonsured monk, complete with fake fur for hair. The classic Friar Tuck, really.  I’m not sure if it was supposed to be an image of frugality or a critical commentary on medieval monks. But either way, we were glad that my grandfather was frugal so that we could feel a 6 year old’s version of gluttonousness.

We don’t have a piggy bank these days, but the change abounds.  Which is why I loved seeing Kelly Hodgkins short piece at TUAW.

You are probably familiar with the coin-counting service Coinstar, which offers cash in exchange for your loose coins. Instead of receiving a cash voucher next time you turn in change, select an iTunes gift certificate and you will receive a receipt with an iTunes redemption code.

The funds will be added to your Apple ID and you can use it to buy iOS Apps, OS X apps, music, movies and books. Coinstar waives the coin-counting fee with these gift certificates, so you will walk away with your full balance. The coin-counting service occasionally offers an iTunes promotion thatll give you an extra $10 when you redeem a minimum amount usually $40. You can find promotions on Coinstars Special Offers webpage or be alerted via email when you sign up for a Coinstar account.

I’ve never used Coinstar machines because they charge that fee. But this looks like a great way to put that change to good use while bringing back the thrill of the coin pile.

Putting the Horse Before the Cart: Music Technology and John Hampton Edition

I’m a big fan of the recording magazine Tape Op. It has been around about a decade and is all about DIY music. They were maker before maker was cool. (Plus, the physical mag is beautiful and U.S. subscriptions are free!)

A couple of months ago, they ran an interview with John Hampton, Grammy winning engineer and producer of folks like Alex Chilton, the Gin Blossoms, The White Stripes, Travis Tritt, and Jimmy Vaughn. Musing on his experience of working as an engineer vs. a producer, he remarked:

I was driving home one day from work and heard “Honky Tonk Women” on the radio for the very first time. I heard that cowbell and then Charlie [Watts] come in – I pulled over and rocked out to the whole thing. When I started working here I got engineer ears; I started nitpicking everything. Slowly, but surely, the nitpicking became the captain of that ship. After working in the studio for a while I heard “Honky Tonk Women” again and I thought, “That sounds like crap.” I had engineer ears now. Then it hit me one day that I used to love that song and now I don’t like it. Has the song changed? I’ve changed, not the song. So I slowly started what turned into a ten-year venture. I turned that boat around, falling back in love with music instead of in love with technology and how it gets put together. The only way that I’ve been able to do that is by making what I do, the engineering part of it, so easy that I can do it with my eyes shut. Its all in the background.

That should be the goal, right? Do what you do, not what the gadgets let you do.

Focus on life, not on the tools you use to live it.

Social Media, the Boston Marathon Bombings, and Believing Your Own Press

It has been a rough few days for folks in Boston and throughout the United States in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are affected by the tragedy.

As of this morning, the primary events have come to a close. The suspects have been apprehended, dead and alive. Now the reflection begins.

Among the things to drop, social media has been taking a beating this morning in the wake of widespread dissemination of names of people who were falsely identified as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. Alexis Madrigal did a great job trying–only somewhat successfully–to trace the complicated and twisting chain of events that led to Reddit and Twitter users to speculate about suspects and disseminate names of suspects now known to be false. From what Madrigal can find, two names were out in social media space: one posted to Reddit from someone who thought that they recognized a person from a phono, the other Tweeted by someone who overheard a name on a scanner. Neither was identified by law enforcement as a suspect. But as Madrigal puts it:

The next step in this information flow is the trickiest one. Here’s what I know. At 2:42am, Greg Hughes, who had been following the Tripathi speculation, tweeted, “This is the Internet’s test of ‘be right, not first’ with the reporting of this story. So far, people are doing a great job. #Watertown” Then, at 2:43am, he tweeted, “BPD has identified the names: Suspect 1: Mike Mulugeta. Suspect 2: Sunil Tripathi.”

All of a sudden, we have suspects.

Except they weren’t suspects. They weren’t involved. NBC eventually got the information right based on contacts with law enforcement. But by then, the info had been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times. It was, as Madrigal put, it “a full on frenzy.”

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Happy Easter and World Backup Day

‘Tis been a bit since I’ve posted. A bad cold, piles of papers, and lots of papal news have kept my attention elsewhere. Apologies. But I’ve been thinking about you a lot, and mulling over lots of questions.

But for today, let me wish all of you who celebrate it a blessed and happy Easter. Let me also wish all of you a happy World Backup Day! I couldn’t agree more with Steven Sande at The Unofficial Apple Weblog when he says:

If you haven’t yet lost data on your Mac or iOS device, you will. At some point, whether due to an accidental deletion, a physical glitch in your hardware, a disaster striking your home or office or the terrifying power of bored teenagers, you’ll find that some precious family photos or important documents are gone forever. You cant go back in time to retrieve that information, so make sure it is backed up now.

I’ve lost lots of data over the past 30 years, and I am pretty good at backing up. Always seems like drives crash just when I get comfortable. When it happens, I end up spending weeks trying to recreate what I’ve lost or find copies that I’ve stashed in different places. I’ve been able to get some stuff back by recovering drives, but resurrection of that kind is rare.

If you don’t have a good backup strategy, take a bit of time on Easter Monday and check out some of the tips and tricks that folks are offering. Lots of good advice to make your corner of the virtual world not quite so fleeting.

A Modest Proposal for Fanboys

Omar Gallaga at CNN dreams the impossible dream for Apple vs. Samsung: A Peace Treaty.

WHEREAS, the respective Parties, the Apple Fanboys also known as “Apple Fanbois,” “Fanb0yz,” “iPhoners” or simply “The Mac Faithful,” among many other names and the Samsung Fanboys also known as “Apple H4terz,” “Galaxians” or “Androiders” seek a lasting peace, both online and off, and…

WHEREAS, online forums, queues for new products and technology blogs have become polluted with smack talk, useless feature comparisons and Photoshopped ads meant to deride and belittle each others device preference, and… Apple vs. Samsung: Tale of two countries The Number: Samsung the new Apple?

WHEREAS both sets of Parties recognize that a competitive market is both critical and necessary for continued technological innovation to benefit all, especially early adopters…NOW, THEREFORE, the Parties agree to abide by the agreements herein, enumerated in the terms of the articles set forth below:…

Pretty humorous—which is really the only way to react to the absurd behavior out there.

via Shawn King at The Loop.

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