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The Geek’s Reading List; Week of November 14th 2014

Back to slow news flow in tech. Setting aside comments made by Obama regarding “net neutrality” and the hysterical reaction on all sides, nothing really happened of significance this past week. (Net neutrality itself is a fascinating and important subject but not really the sort of thing I can cover in detail on the GRL).

The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS

This is a very long, sometimes tedious, story about the training a London cab driver goes through before being allowed to ply their trade. Their depth of knowledge of London is quite remarkable and I have always been impressed by their professionalism. Of course, the problem is we are not only in the GPS era but the smartphone era as well. Drivers can be guided just as well with GPS and knowledge of the local sites are just a Google search away. Sad to say, in 10 years or less, “The Knowledge” will be history.

“McCabe had spent the last three years of his life thinking about London’s roads and landmarks, and how to navigate between them. In the process, he had logged more than 50,000 miles on motorbike and on foot, the equivalent of two circumnavigations of the Earth, nearly all within inner London’s dozen boroughs and the City of London financial district. He was studying to be a London taxi driver, devoting himself full-time to the challenge that would earn him a cabby’s “green badge” and put him behind the wheel of one of the city’s famous boxy black taxis.”

Lyft Begins Commuter Service for Adobe to Stripe

Lyft and Uber are characterized as emerging tech titans engaged in a battle to the death over ride service supremacy. They do provide a useful service which is in many cases a lot better than traditional taxis, however, that it probably more due to the lack of motivation for improvement in the previously well-protected taxi industry. Ultimately, of course, there are no true barriers to entry to the Uber/Lyft model – no “secret sauce” and nothing either can do which the other, or a new entrant cannot easily reproduce. At the end of the day, these are just car services and not worth the valuations investors are placing on them. Thanks to my son Ali for this article.

“Lyft Inc., the mobile ride-sharing application that competes with car-booking service Uber Technologies Inc., has partnered with 29 U.S. companies to start a commuter service. Under the program, dubbed Lyft for Work, companies including mobile-payments startup Stripe Inc. and software maker Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE:US) will give their employees credits to use Lyft to get to and from work, Chief Executive Officer Logan Green said in an interview. Companies can choose when to give out the credits so workers use the service at certain times, with Stripe only giving credits so people who work late can take rides home from the office after 7 p.m., he said.”


This article is an excerpt. You can subscribe to the full version of The Geek’s Reading List here.


The pitfalls and promise of and Project Loon

Rumors SpaceX would launch an LEOSat constellation for global Internet service caused a fair bit of excitement – at least for those who hadn’t heard of LEOSats when they we all the raged in the prior Internet bubble. In theory the idea makes sense, but in practice, well there are problems. LEOSats are inherently short-lived, and the reality of spacecraft is by the time the constellation is up and running it will be obsolete. This article provides some figures which suggest that Internet access in the developing world is moving at quite a pace which brings into question all such exotic schemes.

“Unfortunately, the understandable enthusiasm around these projects has totally outpaced their feasibility. The keystone components of each – exotic new airborne platforms to beam internet down upon the earth – are sheer technologist fantasy. Improving connectivity in the developing world is happening, and several “new billion” users are waiting to access the digital world – but very little of that will have anything to do with either Google or Facebook. Here’s why. It’s estimated that there will be three billion humans with internet access by the end of 2014. (That’s up from two billion in 2010 and and one billion in 2005 – the pace is accelerating.) For the majority of internet users today, and certainly going forward, fixed connections (PCs) are not the first or primary experience of internet connectivity – it’s mobile devices, primarily smartphones.”

Mac OS X Yosemite disables third-party SSD driver support

Aw shucks! It looks like an Apple security feature also happens to disable non-Apple Solid State Drives if you have the copious misfortune to upgrade your Apple OS, even if those SSDs worked perfectly well prior to the update. Go figure! Its almost like Apple prefers you pay them a sizable premium for their own branded SSDs. I figure if you are paying over a 100% premium for last year’s hardware in a new Apple laptop, why not?

“APPLE HAS QUIETLY DISABLED software driver support for third-party solid state disk (SSD) drives in Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite by default, leaving some unsuspecting Mac users with third-party SSDs as boot drives unable to boot their machines. Mac users who have Apple SSDs in their machines won’t notice, of course, but the change can present a vexing problem for professional Mac users like graphic designers and video editors who have Macs with third-party SSD drives installed and use the third-party Trim Enabler software driver.”

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