Mimesis and Violence

All the reasons that Sprint is utterly unredeemable
January 30, 2008, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Mobile, Rants, Technology

I was gonna use this post to chronicle the ridiculous saga of my last month of interaction with Sprint and maybe get some catharsis, but I’m mostly over it. I say mostly because there are two elements of the experience that really stick with me.

Samsung M300

So I’m making the transition from sheltered college life to the real world. A friend of mine recently said that so many things change when you start to get a paycheck. It’s not that you have too much responsibility per se – I was responsible for plenty in college – it’s that you don’t get to choose many of those things for which you are responsible. Society chooses them for you and they largely involve transferring money from my bank account into various corporate coffers. BORING.

Now I have these loose monetary relationships with various corporations: Google, Sprint, my landlord, Time Warner, ConEd, etc. In the fallout of this Sprint debacle I’m primarily flummoxed by the way in which the incompetence of Sprint’s employees causes me to suffer in a very real way. I mean, I pay these people for a service. A service. I suppose I thought that meant they were suppose to serve me in exchange for my money. Instead, every time they make a stupid mistake or don’t know have to work their own billing system, I have to wait on hold for another hour or speak to a new incompetent representative in another idiotically segmented silo of the company or get charged for a phone I didn’t order and service I never received.

OK, so I’m not really over it, but what I’m vamping on right now is not so much about my personal struggle, but about how this experience with Sprint is emblematic of a greater trend of stupidness in how Sprint and other American companies relate to their customers.

Which brings me to the second element of the struggle that I’m stuck on. Ah the tie in…

So I finally got this new phone. It’s a Samsung M300. When I lost the old phone and ordered this one I was excited about two things: the camera and Bluetooth. The M300 is a little sleeker than the old phone, but the user interface is a good deal worse (which says a lot for a cell phone). I could probably live with it if Sprint hadn’t totally hobbled the phone just to force me to pay money for their terrible services.

The M300 spec says that the phone is capable of OBEX push over Bluetooth. For the uninitiated among my readers (all 4 of you), a phone with OBEX push has the ability to sync files with other Bluetooth capable devices. You could potentially sync your contacts to/from your computer, transfer photos from the phone’s camera onto other devices, and put mp3 files on your phone (and even use them as ring tones). But Sprint, in an effort to get me to pay for ring tones and for their contact syncing service, turned off OBEX push. In other words: I have to type in all my contacts by hand and I need to pay Sprint money in order to get pictures off the phone.

Ruminate on that one for a sec – Sprint deliberately sells their clients a phone that is worse leaving their factory than it was entering.

Why? Because Sprint has a huge investment in ring tones, because people will pay to get a picture once in a while, and because spending money on contact syncing service locks me in to their shitty service. If Sprint hosts my contacts on their server rather than letting me sync them with my computer then I’m more likely to stay with Sprint when my contract runs out. They want me between a rock and a hard place – Sprint wants me to have to choose between losing my contacts and leaving their network.

Remember, we pay these people money.

Lock-in is an excuse for abhorrent service and a way around caring about their customers, but it’s also just plain silly because the moment my contract ends I’m switching to a service that will give me a working phone.

iPhone Ad
January 19, 2008, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Art, Film, Internet, Technology, Video

by David Lynch.

Prophecy: Social Worms
January 12, 2008, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Facebook, Internet, Rants, Security, Technology

Ed Felten’s predictions for ’08 bring up the possibility of a privacy scandal around a Facebook app.

For my part, I have my own Facebook privacy scandal prediction:

Prediction: A social network (Facebook) will become the site of automated distributed social engineering. A hacker will exploit the fact that many individuals’ friend lists are visible in order to write a worm that constructs a plausible identity and tricks an individual into accepting a friend request from the false identity. Many vanity users will accept such requests and through them the worm will gain access to many of their friends (with the trust gained by the ‘you have X friends in common with so-and-so’ notice). Because of the distributed nature of the attack – because each false identity is created to target a small cluster of people – it will take a while to notice the scale of the problem. In that time much private data will be exposed.

It’s a pretty detailed prediction, but I’m fairly confident about it. Why? Because I’m pretty sure it has started to happen already.

Recently my former roommate Jon a friend request from a ‘dean extein’ [sic]. Dean had a slightly suspect profile: his hometown was ‘stanford.Google’, his profile picture was taken from a distance, there were no additional photos of him, he had very few friends, and the capitalization on his personal information was all screwy. But Jon is friends with a Brian and Josh Extein and so he assumed it was a relative that he’d met at some point and had forgotten. So Jon accepted the friend request.

In the next few days many of Jon’s friends got friend requests from ‘dean’, myself included. I ignored the request, but about 20 people accepted it: perhaps because they also know the Exteins or because having a friend or two in common with ‘dean’ made him seem like a safe notch in their Face-belt. Either way, ‘dean’ accrued about 30 friends in a little more than a week and then his profile disappeared. Moreover, as a Google employee I can tell you that no one by the name of ‘Dean Extein’ is employed at Google.


Great Puzzle Game
January 2, 2008, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Humor, Internet, Mathematics, Technology

Check this puzzle out: the goal is to connect 3 houses to water, gas, and electricity without any of the lines crossing. It’s kinda hard.

SuPuzzle Screenshot

See also: Kuratowski’s Theorem.