The Simpsons on Imigration

November 3rd 2017
October 15th 2017

USS Arizona Brothers

Thank you to all who have served our country. On this Veterans day, I want to share a deeply personal story about my family members and the sacrifices they made in World War II.

I hope we never forget the incredible sacrifice of brave men and women at Pearl Harbor. A lesser known fact is that 38 sets of brothers served together on the USS Arizona. Two of those men were my Great Uncles. The story of how one survived and the other died is almost unbelievable. Frankly, I’d have thought it little more than Family lore until I visited the USS Arizona Memorial.

Back in 1941, Stanley and Tony Czarnecki were stationed aboard the USS Arizona. Both Michigan boys were enjoying the first warm winter of their lives. Hawaii’s weather was beautiful, but Tony missed his new bride Dorothy. Having never seen grass in the Winter, Dorothy flew to Hawaii to visit her husband, quite an expense in the 1940s.

Stanley had been assigned shore leave the night of December 8th, which happened to be Dorothy’s last night in Hawaii. Stanley traded his leave to Tony so he could have one more night with his sweetheart. The next morning Imperial Japan dropped four 410-milimeter armor piercing bombs on USS Arizona. In all likelihood, Stanley had been killed instantly. …but that should have been Tony. Stanley was to have been on shore if not for a brotherly barter for a different night off.

Tony rushed to the harbor to lend a hand. Through a thick cloud of smoke, he saw his ship burning. Survivors on shore tell gut wrenching stories about how they couldn’t help shipmates; their Navy brothers. For Tony that feeling was all too real as he stood safely on shore. At some point, he realized traded his brother’s fate for his own. I can’t imagine the feeling and know he lived with the pain for the rest of his life. At the time, Tony sent a message home letting his parents know he was safe. I’m not sure if he could bear to tell them Stanley wasn’t.

The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the youngest son in the family lined up to join the war effort. Clarence, two years too young to join the military, lied about his age. Of course this was long before comprehensive background checks, and honestly, I’m not sure recruiters would have even cared. Two weeks later that boy was on his way to the Pacific where he experienced ship-to-ship combat. Fortunately, the only thing he lost was half his hearing. I never understood why I always had to yell at Grandpa until my Aunt explained he went deaf manning cannons and guns on destroyers.

I am honored to come from a family of such strong men. I could never have their courage, and it’s for that reason I owe them more than a simple debt of thanks. Unfortunately, I have nothing more to offer.

I hope this bit of history sticks in your memory and serves as a constant reminder many people have done far more for our country than most of us ever will. To to the active duty men and women who have done as much, if not more, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I may not be happy with the results of our last election, but I am overwhelmingly happy we have, and always will have free elections. Whether it’s a win or loss for your candidate, it’s a win for democracy, and that’s a win for everyone.

May peace be with all of us, here and abroad, and until it’s a reality. I hope we can approach conflicts with dignity, compassion, and most of all, respect.

I'm With Her

Steve Jobs Hated Function Keys

I can’t wait to get my hands on Apple’s new Touch Bar. Now a dynamic display replaces the function keys on top of MacBook Pro’s keyboard. The last time Apple shipped a keyboard without function keys was way back in 1984.

Steve Jobs didn’t like function keys and made sure they didn’t appear on Macintosh’s keyboard. A couple of years later Apple was in panic mode trying to stop the IBM PC from owning the entire computer market. Rather than making strategic decisions with a focus on Macintosh’s stellar user experience, strategists opted for half measures. Adding F-Keys to Apple’s keyboards would make them as businessy IBM’s, so that was a given. Obviously, that’s all the saving Apple would need. Somehow it didn’t work.

Steve didn’t sign many autographs, but Steve Jurvetson got lucky one day when he asked him to sign an Apple Extended Keyboard. What happened next is documented in Alan Deutschman’s The Second Coming of Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs said he’d do it, but only if first he could remove all the unnecessary keys that his successors had added in a foolish effort to make the Mac more like a Microsoft-Intel PC. He despised the long row of so-called function keys. […] So Steve Jobs pulled his car keys out of his pocket and began scooping into the computer keyboard, violently disgorging all the keys that offended him. “I’m changing the world one keyboard at a time”, he said with a straight face. Only then, when he had mutilated the apparatus, did he take a pen and scribble his autograph on it.

In time these keys pulled double duty with functions for the changing screen brightness, volume, and controlling music. Honestly, how many of you ever used them for their proper F-ing purpose?

November 1st 2016
October 28th 2016

Apple Product Nouns

I’m not especially peevish, small things just happen to annoy me. Having spent my adult life immersed in Apple culture, I’m sensitive to product names.

Apple products are always referred to as proper nouns and never include an article like “the”. This clever bit of anthropomorphism makes iPhone feel like a friend, whereas the iPhone sounds like a soulless bundle of technology. I encourage you to watch iPod’s introduction wherein Steve Jobs never once says “The iPod”.

Ironically Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of product marketing, doesn’t adhere to the proper grammar on stage. That’s fine, and he’s getting the point across with or without the article, but pet peeves…

Let’s turn this into a drinking game! Down a shot every time Phil says “The MacBook” today.

October 26th 2016

Take one Gil and Call me in the Mourning

Let’s talk about Dr. Gil Amelio. Who, you ask? Don’t worry; you aren’t alone. I know people with Apple tattoos who can’t place the name.

Gil was the CEO of Apple from 1996 to 1997. Gil saved Apple almost by accident when he bought Steve Jobs’ company NeXT. To be clear, he just bought some software and got Steve Jobs as a “special advisor,” sort of like a free gift with purchase kind of thing.

Steve was a pretty efficient advisor to the CEO. For example, he advised Gil he was out of a job.

Even though he was painfully naive, Gil deserves some credit for writing the check that brought Steve back to Apple. As the old saying goes, nothing in life is guaranteed except death, taxes, and being upstaged by Steve Jobs.

The thing is, and I can’t stress this enough, literally everyone knew Gil was going to be replaced by Steve Jobs with the exception of Gil himself. Hell, his own wife saw it coming. How do we know this? Because he wrote a book about his time at Apple, and it’s fascinating.

Originally published in 1998, and long out of print, Gil’s book “On the Firing Line” it is a thorough account of all that was wrong with Apple in the 90s, not the least of which was Gil himself at times. Much of the book comes across as genuine, lots of it matches stories I’ve heard from old colleagues, and parts are just painfully folksy. At one point he recalls telling his wife “smile, sweetie, it’s the second best thing to do with your lips.” Out of respect for his wife, I’ll assume the first was kissing.

To be clear, I’m not setting out to write a hit piece here. Gil did some essential things. He hired Fred Anderson, the CFO who almost singlehandedly made sure Apple had the cash it needed to operate. Gil presided over an unprecedented renegotiation of Apple’s debt, supported by his personal relationship with investors who bet on his previous company when it was in the dumps. Though you may not know his name, every Apple product you touch exists in part because of Gil Amelio. The software that powers your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and literally every other Apple device is possible because Gil bought NeXT in 1997. History won’t remember Gil for these things. At best he was just that guy who was fired by Steve Jobs; at worst he was an ignorant bozo. Of course, the reality is anything but black and white.

Apple B.S. (Before Steve)

Believe it or not, Steve Jobs wasn’t the CEO of Apple from the very beginning. Most people know Steve was fired, and many assume he was in charge of Apple at some point. Not so. Steve always reported to someone else and was never truly in charge of Apple before he came back in 1998. This, friends, is how you can get fired from your own company.

John Scully was hired as Apple’s CEO after Steve made a now famous argument about soft drinks. Six years later Scully was pushed out in favor of Michael Spindler, the least discussed Apple CEO ever. If Spindler wanted to add some stability he failed. If he wanted to out-crazy Scully, he earned an A for effort. Were it not for Spindler’s weekly panic attacks and public meltdowns we may have never gotten to Gil. The course of history would have been altered if Spindler got his hands on a bottle of Xanax. No, seriously.

Ironically Gil was the only CEO with a technical background. He helped invent the CCD, the most important part of digital cameras. Scully came from Pepsi and was a marketing guy to the core. In all fairness, he conceived of the game changing Pepsi Challenge, a commercial where ordinary people tried Pepsi and Coke in a blind taste test. Amazingly every single person in the commercials preferred Pepsi. Every damn time! This was marketing in the 80s and Scully was the most ballyhooed marketer known to man. For some strange reason, this didn’t directly translate to running a technology company. Then there was Michael Spindler, and who the fuck knows what he did he wasn’t hyperventilating? He was known to work manic hours, an admirable trait as long as you have something to show for it. I can’t think of a single thing Spindler accomplished as CEO. When it came time to fire Spindler Gil was ready to take the helm. As a board member and successful turnaround artist the powers that be tapped him to be the new CEO. He couldn’t have been worse than Spindler so why the hell not? To his credit, Gil was well respected for fixing serious problems at National Semiconductor, a chip company that was running out of time and cash before he arrived. By all accounts, Gil had saved one company, and hopes were high that he could do the same for Apple. After all, National Semiconductor specialized in making components for manufacturers. Apple sold entire computers with specialized software to end users. Close enough (give or take, you know, everything).

Tune in next Thursday at 9:41 AM for the next chapter: What’s Open, Doc? You can follow on Twitter, or subscribe RSS Feed, or send an angry e-mail (Gil).

The Next Big Thing is Already Fear

Trevor Noah reported on a mid-air Gallaxy 7 battery meltdown by drawing a conclusion that should embarrass every one of us:

This story right here is the definition of white privilege. You get on a plane and you have smoke coming out of your pocket, and then you whip out a device that looks like it’s going to blow up. You throw it on the ground and people look at you like ‘sir, are you OK? Are you OK? Oh my God you poor man, are you OK?’”

You know if that dude was middle eastern they would have tackled the shit out of him.

Muslims get kicked off planes for texting - they get kicked off for having working phones.

At first glance it’s a clever observation by a late night comedian but he’s spot-on. It’s not hard to imagine how people would have responded if the passenger – whose only offense was buying a Samsung phone – was Muslim.

August 30th 2016

Flush Headphone Jack

iPhone always had a headphone jack, not that it was easy to use at first. The jack was recessed in the aluminum back with just enough space to fit Apple’s standard earbuds. Many of us bought (and lost) dinky little extension cables just so we could use our favorite headphones. It sucked.

The curiously recessed jack went away with iPhone 3G to thunderous applause. Nobody clapped at the hardware beauty shots until Steve Jobs said “flush headphone jack”:

Sometimes you have to flush twice.

August 20th 2016
August 19th 2016
August 18th 2016
August 17th 2016
August 15th 2016

Ad It Up?

Tim Cook posted an open letter about privacy last fall with a few choice words for ad supported companies. Though it seemed to focus on Google (with a barely veiled shot at Gmail), Mark Zuckerberg decided to return fire in Time:

A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers.

It’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!

I understood the general argument right up until the last word. I don’t remember the last time Apple did anything “cheap”. Inexpensive, sure, but cheap? Of all the words…

It doesn’t take a genius to see Apple’s interest is against junking up the very thing that pulls in buckets of cash exactly as-is. The company has a history of mocking bloatware (and even stickers) in favor of discerning customers.

Amazingly, Apple almost cheapened things with ads in the late 90s. Ken Segall recounts a scuttled marketing idea for Mac OS 9 in his book Insanely Simple. Steve Jobs and the software team were toying with the idea of releasing the OS for free with a sixty-second commercial at boot. Customers would have the option to disable the video by paying the normal retail price. It’s not the world’s worst idea considering Mac OS 9’s importance to the future of Mac OS X, but still…

Obviously Apple never introduced advertisements at startup (to the surprise of no one). Segall thought was “way out of character” even for then-beleaguered Apple.

This seems like a ridiculous way to make money today. How often do you reboot your Mac? Never? A sixty-second video would inconvenience the average user a few minutes each month.

All uptime aside, the whole idea struck me as equal parts sacrilege and surreal. I’m reminded of this clever motivation from Steve Jobs in 1983:

Well, let’s say you can shave 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and thats 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that’s probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot ten seconds faster, you’ve saved a dozen lives. That’s really worth it, don’t you think?

Every major version of OS X has consistently improved boot time. Funny enough Apple doesn’t even charge for OS upgrades these days. As a matter of fact it’s a pretty good example of making things less expensive without making them “cheap.” Apparently free doesn’t have to ad up…

Trev Signature

The Journey is the Reward

Few have the opportunity to live their childhood dream, and being part of “beleaguered” Apple Computer was a fool’s wish. Today Apple is anything but a beleaguered computer company. I am honored to have been part of our tremendous success and couldn’t be more proud of everything we’ve accomplished over the past twelve years.

Today is my last day at Apple. I’m looking forward to retirement, my last vacation was in a previous life.

Thank you for making my dream a reality. The journey has been the reward of a lifetime.

- Trev

Happy Mac

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