The Macalope Weekly: Can't we all get along?
Don’t you hate it when mom and dad fight? Sure you do. But you love it when pundits fight, right?! First this week, we’re not arguing about what’s wrong with tech journalism, we’re just arguing over who’s the problem. Then a CNet writer helps a company do a drive-by on Apple. Finally, sometimes even Apple pundits don’t agree.
Techo-pundit slap fight
MG Siegler has keyed up a self-righteous rant about the deplorable state of technology coverage and, well, who can argue with that? Let’s find out.
Content Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink (foul language alert)
What set Siegler off is a New York Times piece calling out the iOS app and social network Path for having been caught uploading iPhone users’ entire address books. Not fair, says Siegler, as other applications are still doing that (Path has deleted all user address book data). Then he launches into a tirade about low-information, time-and-pageview sensitive journalism; the Macalope brooks no argument on that topic, but it’s a bit odd, considering that Path really was doing something it shouldn’t have been.
Or maybe not that odd, according to Dan Lyons. As Lyons chimes in, Siegler and his ex-boss Michael Arrington (who Siegler defends for also attacking the Times piece) are both partners in CrunchFund, which invests in Path.
Oooh, a slap fight between serial jerk Michael Arrington and serial has-been Dan Lyons? There is not enough popcorn in the world.
Still, despite the questionable motives, the horny one agrees with Siegler’s basic point, which is practically the Macalope’s raison d’être.
The only thing I can offer is the advice to take everything you read in the technology press with a grain of salt. Perhaps several. The likelihood that at least part of it is nonsense is very strong. And stronger by the day.
Well, maybe not that last part. Is it really any worse than it’s ever been? It’s been ridiculous for years. The Macalope would argue that people are just noticing it more now. He hopes so, because he’s certainly tried to “raise awareness,” by which he means “call a bunch of people names.”
The Macalope’s not here to claim he’s perfect and above it all. He makes mistakes himself (see: last Saturday's column). The difference, he hopes, is that the Classic Mac head, the horns, and the hooves make it apparent that he takes himself less seriously than your Henry Blodgets and… well, pretty much everyone else in tech coverage.
He is proud to say that he has no idea what his traffic numbers are, other than decent enough that Macworld keeps dropping off bales full of sweet, crunchy alfalfa on his doorstep.
He’s a little uncertain where a tech journalism site gets alfalfa, but he doesn’t ask questions that he’s afraid to know the answers to.
“Hey, it fell offa truck, you know what I’m sayin’? Don’t you worry your furry little head about it! Just go back to writin’ the funny stuff and don’t be pokin’ your nose where it don’t belong.”
(Also of concern is why Macworld editorial director Jason Snell talks like a stereotypical Italian mobster, but that’s getting even further off the track.)
The point is, if there are just five of you out there reading and enjoying the Macalope’s particular brand of knee-jerk Apple fanboi religious zealotry LOL-ism, that’s OK.
The Macalope doesn’t know specifically what it’s like at ZDNet, or Gizmodo, or Angry Arnold’s Apple Bashing Supersite, but several years ago, when he was at CNet, it paid a base monthly fee with a bonus for traffic over a certain amount. He expects that’s not uncommon.
The Macalope frequently didn’t get the CNet bonus because he failed to FREEly embed traffic-jacking keywords when posting from his IPHONE WHITNEY HOUSTON BREADED CATS HOT COLLEGE NYMPHOMANIACS.
Anyway, if there really are only five of you reading this, maybe we should rent an apartment together somewhere if this gig ever falls through.
CNet’s Lance Whitney provides a great example of how tech journalists provide “balance” in a story.
While completely missing what’s really going on.
How iOS users are supposed to “take care” is not discussed.
Malware aimed at Google’s mobile OS surged to 13,000 samples at the end of last year from only 400 in June, an increase of 3,325 percent.
Wow! That’s a lot of percent! Shouldn’t that be in the title? No, we must spend almost half of the article finger-wagging at the company with the significantly more secure platform.
“While malicious applications on the iOS platform are limited in large part due to Apple’s closed application marketplace and stringent screening model, it does not necessarily make it fundamentally more secure,” Juniper said in its report. “For one, when a user ‘jailbreaks’ their device by removing the limitations on the operating system, the device can be susceptible to malicious applications downloaded from third-party sources.”
Yeah! Maybe that’s why Apple doesn’t support jailbreaking.
In fact, an iOS security flaw was discovered in November that allowed apps to download potentially malicious unsigned code. Apple patched the flaw with its iOS 5.0.1 update. And an app exploiting this type of flaw would’ve been rejected during Apple’s approval process. But the incident did show that even iOS isn’t invulnerable.
Of course it’s not invulnerable. It’s just so much less likely to be affected by malware than Android that to create false equivalencies between it and a platform exploding with malware is laughable.
What could possibly be driving this? What? Could? It? Be?
“This lack of software protection and a competitive security market leaves users with little protection if malware were ever to make it through Apple’s application vetting process,” Juniper noted.
Oh. “Little protection”. Really. The fact that Apple can remotely disable apps and provides timely updates that it delivers to all currently supported phones is “little” protection. That’s an interesting opinion.
“In the long run, this could create a false sense of security for Apple users and prove to be an even bigger risk than Android’s open model.”
Here’s the Macalope’s translation of Juniper’s report: “We are really, really mad that Apple won’t let us make antivirus software for iOS. Furious, really.”
Thaaat’s right. Juniper makes mobile antivirus and antimalware software.
What a coincidence!
According to the company’s report (PDF):
Apple prevents development of anti-malware applications for its devices, which limits the availability of a competitive security market for its platform. This means there is less innovation on security controls and no available protections for consumers against a potential malware outbreak.
This means Juniper does not make any money off of iOS.
As the Macalope has long said, the computer security industry has always struck him as being a bit like the mob: “This is a nice operating system you got here. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.”
Whitney, of course, does not mention Juniper’s motivation anywhere in his piece. Which is too bad, as that would have provided some actual balance.
Saturday Special: Merging ahead
Apple surprised us this week by releasing a developer preview of the next version of OS X, Mountain Lion.
And it’s not even our birthday! (Unless, of course, it is your birthday, in which case: Happy Birthday, please accept this developer preview of Mountain Lion.)
Several pundits have rushed to say that Apple is basically doing slowly what Microsoft hopes to do overnight with Windows 8. Like AllThingsD’s Ina Fried:
Ehhh, maybe sorta kinda, but not completely. At this point, what Apple’s doing is less about merging the two operating systems than it is about just making them consistent. Microsoft, on the other hand, is taking a vastly different approach—that of trying to shoehorn an elephant into a smart car.
The Macalope hopes the folks in Redmond have enough bacon grease.
While Apple pundits agree that what the company’s doing with Mountain Lion isn’t what Microsoft’s doing (gaw, as if!), some don’t agree on exactly what it is Apple’s doing.
Jim Dalrymple says:
If Apple were trying to make Mountain Lion more like iOS we would be touching the screen of our computers to interact with out apps instead of using the keyboard and mouse.
But Ben Brooks says:
The way I see it, Apple is trying to simplify OS X and bring to it some of the features from iOS that make sense. To that end Apple is very much making Mountain Lion more iOS like.
In the parlance of the Macalope’s pal Merlin Mann, this argument is about “the narcissism of small differences”. (Technically, Sigmund Freud may have said it first but the Macalope was unable to reach Dr. Freud before going to press.) What’s different in Mountain Lion is mostly in the application space, but at the same time, we did get inverted scrolling in Lion. Apple doesn’t want the same user experience on both mobile and desktop, but it does want them to be consistent. Microsoft wants them to be the same.
Which, as Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out, raises some questions.
There’s one question that Microsoft still hasn’t answered with respect to Windows 8, and I think it’s a key question. What problem does the Metro UI touch-interface solve on a desktop system that isn’t touch enabled?
Well, are we talking about the user’s problems or Microsoft’s? Because…
[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]