Pseudo Review: RasPlex + Hifiberry And Some Serious Audio On The Cheap

 

rasplex hifiberry dacpluspro
That little green light is more than go-go, baby!

Can a non-audiophile still hear great audio? Can a music-lover of old music still get some jams through his/her head in these digital times without breaking the bank? Do those guys that spend all that money as “audiophiles” give you the creeps? Indeed. Money. Audio. How much you got?

Because I spend too much money on other expensive stuff, I’ve never really prioritised audio in my life–even though I love listening to music. I learned a long time ago that you don’t have to dish out huge sums of cash to hear good replicated music. That said, I can’t go more than a few days without listening to something that either soothes me, rocks me or moves me. A good drink and some Jazz while cooking is heaven. Am I wrong? And so. Unlike most young folk today, I can’t listen to music through headphones–whether in-ear or over-ear. If you see me out and about with Beckett, the killer pug, and I’ve always got earbuds stuck in my head–I’m listening to podcasts! The problem with headphones and earbuds is the feeling I get with so little space between my ears and what moves air. Headphones make music not only sound weird but feel weird, too. If that makes me old fashion, then get this. I have come to love today’s modern digital music consume-to-survive world. Even though I don’t buy much music anymore–and I can’t stand most all of the music made nowadays, I’m good. Reason? I have a digitised music library that contains everything I need. Whether it’s The Beatles (the greatest album ever is Abby Roads), Beethoven (9th!) or some esoteric Jazz, I’m good. Really good. Seriously. And that’s not all. For all practical purposes, dear worst-reader, I completely missed the CD revolution, too. I couldn’t afford the equipment back then. Since the 70s I have consumed music by borrowing, sharing or trading. In fact, till about fifteen years ago, I had never even owned a sound system with speakers. But I digress.

As digital music took over by the mid 90s–along with the Internetwebs–I was still catching up on the CD revolution. Of course, at least two-thirds of the CDs I have, were all acquired pre-owned or traded. Like in the days with cassettes and albums, digital music was made for sharing. For those who consider sharing piracy, first: fuck you. Second: I still have most of the CDs I ripped in a box in my basement. I never once downloaded anything from Napster–even though I admire greatly what they were trying to do. (Note: I will never buy anything Metallica for what that $hitty band did to young people who just wanted to share music.) I did make a few downloads from BitTorrent, though. (Note: it was all part of research!) Anyhoo. I have a nice digital library of music that spans most of the 20th century. Oh, and I have two version of that library. One version is in FLAC and the other, to appease me wife’s demand for media singularity and simplicity, is iTunes compatible.

Let’s move on to the pseudo-review, shall we?

As you’ll note in the pic above, I am currently using two streaming devices for our home media. For amplification (and in order to avoid those awful sound bars, which my wife wanted after I got rid of our AVR krapp) I’m using a TEAC A-HO1 integrated amp and DAC. Here’s a review of it. I got it last year after selling my hundred pound multi-channel AVR system, 7 speakers, and one 700 watt subwoofer. I’m not even gonna worst-write how little money I got for all that krapp–which says a lot about the state of the audio equipment industry. But get this. I would have almost given it away. If I ever have to wire up five, six or seven speakers again and then try to configure an AVR for a room… I’m gonna shoot myself with your gun.

Amp and sound.

The TEAC is connected to some really, really cool Audioengine P4 speakers (not pictured). We have a fairly small living room and I’ve never once regretted having these “bookshelf” speakers–which are actually in bookshelves that surround my flatscreen TV. They are fantastic speakers and I got them on a über-great-deal from shopping on the Interwebnets. They move the air more than enough to make sound very, very enjoyable.

Streaming boxes.

For iTunes we have the AppleTV(3) connected via HDMI to the TV. The optical-out of the TV is connected to the optical-in of the TEAC. This works fine–except for the fact that one is locked into the Apple world. Which also means no high-end audio and/or limited access to my own higher-end audio files. The ATV can’t play FLAC files.

Also connected to the TV via HDMI is my RaspberryPi 2 Model B+, and connected to that is a Hifiberry DAC+Pro. This is a bit more complicated than the ATV. The HDMI of the RaspberryPi also delivers audio to the TV, and, as with the ATV, the TV converts audio signals to the TEAC’s optical-in. Again, for simplicity, I have chosen not to use the ATV’s optical out–which does produce better audio than the TV. That said, we want something more than any of these optical options, don’t we?

Analogue Audio Galore.

The Hifiberry is where the real magic happens. For less than a hundred Euros–the software, RasPlex, is free btw–the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic DAC. It actually converts and, where applicable, upscales audio and then delivers that as analog right and left stereo to the TEAC’s analog-in cinch ports. The Hifiberry DAC+ and “pro” designation means that it has the same type of chips used in high-end DACs. You can opt for a non “pro” version of the Hifiberry if you prefer to save a buck or three. But I couldn’t resist the gold cinch connectors! Nomatter.

Btw, I’ve had the RaspberryPi+Hifiberry for two years or so. I gave up on it when I first got it because I couldn’t get the drivers to work properly. Even though the HDMI of the Raspberry Pi spits out audio, it’s not half as good as what this thing spits out with the Hifiberry card attached. And so. The other day, while bored out of my early-retirement mind and while fiddling through a junk box of old gadgets, I decided to google whether or not they finally fixed the driver issue. Alas! They did. I re-installed the newest version of RasPlex on a 16GB micros SD card. I also had to fiddle with the config.txt file a bit. Then you have to tell RasPlex, using the UI, to route audio through the Hifiberry daughter card… Boom, baby! That little green light (pic above) lights up bright and shinny.

First test.

From a ripped blu-ray of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Raspberry Pi + Hifiberry streams from my Plex server via LAN crystal clear 1080p video including up (or is it down?) scaled DTS 5.1 audio to stereo and the TEAC releases what will make even an ageing grouch like me smile from ear to ear. Also. I’m really glad those boys at RasPlex got their software to the point that even I can set it up. Cool. Über cool.

Rant on.

-T

 

Pseudo Review: MacBook vs Macbook Air

three dollar bill apple logo (low res)

Gallantly playing the role of the über mindless consumer, spending the morning lazying around while on a short vacation, there’s always time to 1) practice typing and 2) blog something before we head out on our last full day around Flensburg’s Fjord. With that in mind, here’s my pseudo review of two Apple MacBooks I’ve had the pleasure of using lately.

MacBook.

First there’s the early 2016 Macbook (1,1 GHz Intel Core M3, 8/256GB). This is actually my better-half’s machine. Since she’s been using iOS more and more, and since we’re on the verge of getting her the new iPad Pro 10″, she’s letting me use it for the week. In fact, I left my MacBook Air at home for this trip and simply set up my own user account on her machine via iCloud and boom–I’m up running in my Apple universe. The thing that’s had me curious about this device since we purchased it last fall has been the M3 CPU performance and that darn skinny keyboard. Seriously. Skinny–and maybe even boney–is the only way I can describe it. But does it work?

The comparison.

My main work device is an early 2015 13″ MacBook Air (Core i7, 2,2 GHz, 8/256GB). I bought it through the Apple refurbish program almost two years ago. It was my second Macbook–the previous one being a mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro. The Air is simply the best portable computer I’ve ever used. The keyboard is smooth. The screen, even though it’s not a new fangled retina display–is excellent. The Processing power of the i7 is enough to do minor video processing–which is why I opted for the i7. Of course, the Air, compared to the new MacBook, does have all those ports. Needless to say, two USB 3 and one thunderbolt port make a difference in everyday use. In fact, hooking up a second monitor via the thunderbolt port turns the Air into a real desktop machine. Very impressive indeed.

Love?

Get this, dear worst-reader. After a week of use I’ve fallen in love with my wife’s 12″ MacBook. The retina display is nothing less than fabulous. I have it set to the highest display settings, which I always thought would make everything too small for my ageing eyes. Instead, it’s fantastic. Getting 2304 x 1440 pixels on a screen of this physical size–especially in such clarity–is amazing. I actually find myself squinting less with the MacBook display than on my Air. And then there’s that keyboard. Holly smokes! Ever sense I fiddled with this keyboard on the first edition of the MacBook, usually while visiting an Apple Store, I thought I would never be able to type on it. Prove me wrong, Mr. Jonny Ive! The skinny, no travel keys work great. It just takes a bit of getting used to. And before I forget. The newly developed trackpad is cool, too. It’s definitely more precise and sensitive than the trackpad on my Air.

Love can be short lived.

The only negatives I can find with  the MacBook is the M3 processor and the single USB-C port. Although it handles my tasks pretty well, it demands more of the user than my Air does. There’s lag when loading web pages, when moving between virtual desktops, even when activating the dock, which I usually keep hidden. Considering the physical size of the motherboard (pic below), it does make me wonder how long it’ll take for Apple to get this thing up to real world capability. Kinda reminds me of the first MacBook Air that Steve Jobs pulled out of a manilla envelope. What a slow pooper that thing was. But perhaps Apple isn’t even interested in that sort of thing. And I’m sure there are many users like me who don’t need the highest spec machines to get lots of work done. If Apple can make the smallest useable machine they can make–and it turns out like this? I’m good with it.

macbook motherboard
The rest of the space is for batteries. Whaaaa?

Would I trade up?

As mentioned, my wife is in the process of going full iOS. She’s got her iPhone, her Apple Watch, her iPad–which she’ll be upgrading to the new iPad Pro w/ keyboard and pen when iOS 11 is released. Does that mean it was a waste to buy the MacBook? I’ve never seen her as a Mac user anyway–so I guess this was her trial machine. The real question is, would I trade my Air for her MacBook when the times comes? We certainly don’t need both machines. On the other hand, I’ve lost count of how many Macs I have at home right now. (At least four.) My off-the-cuff answer, if I’d take the Macbook after only a week of using it: hell yea! I would give up the power and speed of my Air for this little, skinny, boney MacBook. The screen is that good. And although my Air gets better battery life, the MacBook is not far behind. There’s just something about the whole package, this thing, like so many other Apple products, just fits. The screen, the keyboard, the trackpad, the weight, the screen! Did I mention that the audio it produces is phenomenal, too? Considering what Apple has done with its new MacBook Pros and that stupid touch pad, the MacBook seems like a fine alternative.

Cost?

In case you didn’t know: Macs are stupid expensive. The MacBook is waaaaay stupid (expensive). But allow me to say this as a long-time Mac user. Even though Apple is going to weird places right now, i.e. with pricing, touch bar on MacBook Pros, the Apple Watch, the newly announced iMac Pro (starting at $5k??????), etc., I’ve always found that if you know your needs and spec the machine accordingly, there’s no need to compete with specs and you don’t have to pay out the yin-yang for a more than decent work machine. The only problem is, you have to want to be in the Apple universe to really get the full benefit of these machines. Since I’m already deep in that universe, there’s no turning back now. Thumbs up for the 12″ Macbook.

Rant on.

-T

Announcement: iPhone 10th Anniversary Not A Celebration But Instead Reason To Admit Defeat. Or. The iPhone Represents How The Old Economy Won.

three dollar bill apple logo (low res)

The thing I remember most from Steve Jobs presentation of the iPhone ten years ago wasn’t the device itself. No. The thing I remember most were three words that he said: “Internet Communication Device.” Nothing else in that iconic corporate presentation remains with me. I don’t care how the thing looks, what colours it comes in, how the edges are designed or how they put the on/off switch exactly opposite of the volume switch (on the iPhone 6s) which means every time you try to adjust volume with one hand you also turn it off.

The concept of an internet communication device is as profound now as it was then. The difference being, Apple missed the boat on making it. With that in mind, I’m still waiting for an Internet Communication Device. I’m still yearning for it, too. I’m still dreaming, like in Star Trek, all I gotta do is tap my chest and I can place a call to anyone simply by saying their name. Put another way: building an internet communication device is as far off now as it was ten years ago. Put yet another way: we should be over and done with words like cellphone, phone network, AT&T, Verizon, GSM, signal strength, etc., etc. Yet we’re not. Instead we’re still stuck and hung out to dry by the old economy that has won the battle. The iPhone is the device that proves: old beats new. The new bows its head in submission. Old farts rule the world. Gee. Turning over in your grave, yet, Steve? No. Of course you’re not. You didn’t really know what you were doing when you claimed that the iPhone was something more than just an old economy toy. Or?

Was Jobs and his über arrogant company fully aware of the significance of the third denominator they/he had put into their gadget but have long since abandoned? It was a phone, it was an iPod–or a music player–and it was an internet communication device. The phone meant nothing to me. Since the advent of carry-around phones only one thing stands out about them (all). The cellular networks that they depend on are shit because they are ALL run by dinosaur companies that should die. Talk about a chain only being as strong as it weakest link!

As far as carry-around music players go, even though I have an extensive digital music library at home, the idear of lugging thousands of songs around with me is just stupid. Alone the misery of music through headphones–an extra frivolous cost to an already frivolously priced gadget–should motivate people to curb their music listening habits. Music, like wine, shouldn’t be consumed in a plastic cup at a baseball game in order to wash down a krappy hotdog. (Or should it?)

At the least, the phone and the iPod aspect of the iPhone should not be celebrated after an initial decade of extravagant nothingness. Like everything else in the tech industry iPhones are nothing more than widgets in the vastness of monopolies and corporate do-nothing humdrum of an old economy that won’t die. So little is innovation in a world where screens get smaller, cameras get fantastic-er and computing capabilities in handheld devices get super-er. Seriously. What is there to celebrate when, even after all the pageantry of gadgetry, we’re still stuck like a crumb in an old man’s beard that is being eyed by a distant seagull?

I got my first iPhone at the end of 2012. Even though I admired the look and design of the device from afar, the cost of it is just stupid. How much does stamped-out, glued components, made by slave hands in Asia cost! As far as cellphone usage goes, I used to buy cheap, regular cell phones (where the f’n battery lasted a week) and even today my new iPhone isn’t any better. And with that same iPhone I still use prepaid phone service–because of how much I hate cell phone providers. The contracts one has to sign with old economy corporations in order to afford a new-fangled, fancy smart phone is at best a cruel joke. Why do people put up with this shit? But that’s neither here nor there. My wife likes iPhones. When she gets one, she’s nice enough to buy one for me, too. Who am I deny her that pleasure?

But get this. Even though I can afford to pay around seven hundred dollars for a phone every few years, I still think they are frivolous, extremely overpriced, and have yet to meet my expectations of what/how technology should be. Indeed. There should be no celebration of the iPhone because its invention has only lead to convention. Fcuk Steve Jobs! Fcuk the iPhone! Fcuk closed eco-systems. Fcuk iTunes. Fcuk app developers. Fcuk all you well paid useless corporate minions that keep dinosaurs alive.

As usual, I’m off subject. My point of this post is to simply state that Apple has missed the boat when it comes to technology. We see this in 2016 and how the company is regressing with its products. The new MacBook Pro line of laptops is a joke. The AppleTV, probably the first product they’ve ever made where it got bigger instead of smaller, is also a joke. iPad sales are down because the iPad Pro creates an unnecessary product line in an already overpriced product line. The Apple Watch… Oh, the Apple Watch. You’ve got to be kidding me. Should I even mention the headphone jack issue in a device that was initially brought to market as a music device? Apple is not a technology company as much as it is a smart-ass, sell shit to suckers, fashion-marketing company–designed in superficial California. Btw, when is that earthquake gonna finally sink California?

What is an internet communication device? Simply put, it is a device that is not the iPhone, Apple and an eco-system that locks one into nothingness. At the time Jobs said those words while introducing the world to his new gadget, he was deep inside his distortion field. Either that or he was tripping on acid. Wait. Are they both the same thing? Nomatter. Obviously I can’t criticise the iPhone too much. It is part of the gazillions of dollars that Apple has in offshore accounts and lots of people use the device for crazy things like making films and taking pictures and and and. And that’s the only thing that matters anymore. I guess. But then again, like the Swedish pop band Abba once said: money money money in a rich man’s world.

Fail upwards.

Rant on.

-t

Prince v Metallica, Deposing The Middleman, Boxsets In Heaven

worst boxset

First A. This post is NSFW. First B. The window of opportunity has closed. We are screwed because moneyed interests are the new Gods of art, creativity and life. Or. I would really like to see a change in the music industrial complex now that Prince is gone.

Second. I am a child of two mothers. The first mother is the cold fucking war. And what a cold bitch she was. My second mother was the fucking music industry which, to this day, I wish I would have never suckled her teat.

Third. Not that it matters, but here are a few artists that disillusioned me in a grand way.

– Elvis (he never gave me a Cadillac and I met at least three of his illegitimate children and they were all assholes)
– Charlie Chaplin (communist bastard)
David Mamet (boy is this guy a loon in reality)
– Prince (I even refused to copy his box set–don’t see pic above)

Fourth. Not that it matters even more, here a list of artists that illusioned me.

– Elvis (because if god was a man (and she wasn’t) this is what he would sound like)
– Charlie Chaplin (you fucking communist)
– David Mamet (thank you mother may I have another)
– Prince (short guys need a break too sometimes)

Moving on.

It took a lot of years for me to be a able to afford music. Reason? Well, money, of course. I’m sure, like many others, in my youth I had to prioritise expenses. That meant that through my late teens to early adulthood the only music I ever owned was a few vinyl albums and a small collection of cassette tapes. Indeed, through this “ownership” I was able to enjoy Elvis, Kiss, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash, etc. The only way to listen to new music was to listen to radio or, get this, share with friends. Eventually listening to vinyl was replaced full-time by cassette tape. Reason? Friends. And. I couldn’t copy vinyl–in order to do something as simple as listen to music. And get this. I listened to cassette tapes until my late 30s–well into the 1990s. Reason? You guessed it. Money.

By the mid-80s I was living here or there and trying to go to this college or that college and all the while being influenced, whether I liked it or not, by music. Music was everywhere. Once, while enjoying an evening out with a bimbo on a cheap date at some dive-bar, I asked her: “how is it we can listen to the music in here without paying for it but if I want to listen to it at home it costs me an arm and leg?” (I know. It’s a naive question. But go with it for now.) She didn’t understand my question. At the time I was in a second year economics course where the music industry and its profits was our topic of study. She was learning the science of space engineering–or something like that–which was kinda cool since I can claim to have spent some time at a college that produced two NASA astronauts.

The reason I asked such a question about music was because, other than fucking really smart college bimbos, I liked listening to music. Yet I couldn’t understand why, if music was everywhere, it was so expensive to have with me at home? Indeed, dear worst-reader, my bitterness at not having any money to afford the simple things in life (other than really cheap dates) started early. I guess being an American I was spoiled. (No duh!) I had to put gas into my car so that I could drive to work but I when I worked I didn’t earn enough to pay rent, gas, college and have the luxury of music at home? Seriously? I never liked the idea of music being a commodity. Obviously it wasn’t food or water but it was part of life. For that reason, I hated radio because it was more a bombardment of boredom and redundancy than it was a medium of artistry fucked by commerce.

Cassette tapes at the time cost somewhere between $5-$10 but you could get them real cheap used or, better yet, pay nothing by copying them from friends. Anyone out there remember those double cassette decks? Needless to say, by the time I skipped town on the freak show–i.e. jumped the ugly blossoming #americant ship of Reaganomics–I had a nice collection of cassette tapes with music from the 60s, 70s and even the confused 80s. Cassettes, btw, are the reason I prefer albums over singles. I feel as though, from the 70s on, certain musicians cultivated the album almost as though they were writing a novel. To me, buying singles is just stupid. Fucking Buddy Holly, bless is soul, is dead, man. I want an album that tells a whole story. But I digress.

By the time I was a young adult–scavenging through this consume to survive life–I had become so disillusioned with the bullshit of the music industry that I practically gave up on it. I was satisfied with my old collection of tapes–including a few tapes by Prince. When I moved to Europe in 1989, the only stuff I took with me, other than clothes and a bunch of used paperback books, were, among others, the Batman soundtrack.

Throughout the 90s I was working and traveling in Europe. During this time I entered into what I call my dead music years. That is, I can’t remember buying one album or artist during the whole period. By the late 90s, though, there was something happening that beckoned my return to music consumption. One cool thing about working and traveling around Europe was that jazz bars were usually pretty easy to find in all major cities. I fell in love with live jazz music whether in Stockholm, Madrid or Paris. Once the traveling started to wane (by the end of the 90s), I yearned for this music evermore. Having met some audiophiles here and there, I quickly had a collection of burned CDs of jazz galore. I think I got my first CD player and stereo system in 1999. Enough about my stingy music preferences.

Like I said, when it came to buying music–actually paying for it so I could listen to it while in the bathtub or jogging or fucking some bimbo–I was skewed. I gladly paid money to hear music live but when it came to the ridiculous cost of owning it and then having the means of actually playing it through a decent sound system–fuck that! By the turn of the millennial my skepticism and cynicism for the music industry was at a pinnacle. The music business was more of a scam than ever before. I mean, come on, here’s a question for ya, dear worst-reader: how often has music been paid for twice (if not more) as people moved from analog to digital? What? Never thought about that? The music industry certainly thought about it. Ka-ching!

Cassette tape was my favourite way of listening to music for more than twenty years. All the while, it never crossed my mind that I was in anyway duping a musician when I copied a cassette–or made one of those fancy compile tapes. Did I care that ultimately music was/is a business? Fuck no. It’s just fucking music and if you don’t play it so that people can listen to it, well, go make your money elsewhere. Do I espouse an arrogant point-of-view? Damn right I do. But I assure it’s no more arrogant than those rich middlemen or lame-ass “artists” that think getting out of bed requires a price paid. My point is, damn right I’m arrogant about how the music industry has screwed us (all). But as I write this, I stand by it. And in my re-awakened anger, I’m also getting ahead of myself.

Maybe a third of my cassette tape collection up to the point of giving up analog music around 2005 was copied music. That meant that well into the era of Compact Discs, I was still listening to analog music–most of which I paid for. As far as what I didn’t pay for (directly), I no longer copied cassette to cassette but CD to cassette. The itch of digital was there; the itch of convenience, as well. In the early 2000s I think I downloaded three songs from Napster. The mp3 quality at the time sucked. Then Apple bought SoundJam which they turned into the music greed monster iTunes. When Apple declared that one song download would cost .99c, I quickly started to hate Steve Jobs for changing the music industry the wrong way. Do you know how many .99c I would have to pay to download my music collection? In fact, the whole music industry, with the help of Jobs–as far as I’m concerned–is the first human endeavour to actually immortalise what should have been a dying middle-man, top-down driven industry where the price of an album or song is the same as it ever was (if not raised) yet the costs of distribution has been moved to almost nil. Indeed. The old-economy of music won. The rest of us lost.

For most of my life I got to listen to a lot of music by ways other than compensating the middleman of comfortably contracted musicians. Does that make me a criminal? In the eyes of certain musicians, I am most definitely a criminal. In the eyes of misconstrued law making by government that is owned by moneyed interests, I am also most definitely a criminal. My response to being labelled a criminal, though, is thus: fuck you. With the recent passing of Prince, I feel compelled to say it again–but this time not out loud and not, out of respect, to him.

Allow me to interject a new fiend: Metallica.

I recall vividly Princes’ fight with the company he signed a contract with. This fight was so stupid that he even changed his name to a symbol in order to avoid that contract. Even though I was and will always be a big admirer of him and his music, he really lost me when he did this krapp. It’s not that I don’t think he deserves ownership of his music. Of course he does. But he, like so many other artists, signed it away. I suppose I could have some sympathy for him if he were an artist that came out of nothing. But his “career” started at a very young age. He was well schooled and learned in the industry by the time he signed with a record company. When that record company decided to sell boxsets of his music–because it was trying to greedily offset what it considered losses from internet downloads–he suddenly took a stand. A stand for what? As far as I’m concerned, the stand he took against his contract ruined his musical career. Or maybe he had already peaked. Whatever. He should/could have enjoyed his days but the bitterness ate him up from the inside. Or maybe not.

Of course, Prince is not alone. The other musician(s) I love to hate because of their reaction to file sharing, the Internet and modernity: Metallica. Talk about jerk-wads and greedy little cock-suckers that play their guitars and wave their long hair as though their dicks are their mouths! Since I won’t say it to Prince right now, this goes out to musicians who put their bank accounts before the ears of those who will listen. Fuck you Metallica for being the pricks you are when it comes to kids just wanting to listen to your music and don’t give a shit about what contract you signed with the devil to make you popular! Fuck you double!

One last thought. I hope Prince Roger Nelson sees the truth about the music industry and how it screwed not only him but everyone who deserves to admire his art without the coercion of greedy middlemen. And fuck Metallica thrice.

Rant on. -Tommi

How/Why Your Vote Doesn't Matter: Money Is (Above) The Law.

stained flag

Read some legislation this morn. I guess I woke up feeling patriotic. But that soon waned. Indeed. Get a load of this krapp. A couple of Senators–you know, those guys in government that are the dirty hands and unwashed feet of the corporate and military industrial complex–have drafted yet another useless bill that is supposed to prove they are where they are because of democracy. Or is it idiocracy? Nomatter. The bill starts out with this phrase:

No person or entity is above the law.

Now, I don’t know about you, dear worst-reader, but there is something akin to an oxymoron-thing going on here–the likes of which have been seen before. This is how the puppets running the freakshow that is (the current iteration of) #americant prove everyday how incompetent and inept they really are. Gee, which begs me to ask: who votes for these people?

“No person or entity is above the law?” WTF! Above the law, like, banks are obviously above the law? Or above the law, like, how the US Treasury can be plundered for war mongering and that plunder can be shifted so that the middle class–decimating it in the mean-time–pays for the plunder? Or how ’bout above the law when it comes to dumbass religious beliefs that suddenly can be turned around using fancy text (that is above #americants third grade level reading capacity) and thereby legislate reverse discrimination laws that allow really, really stupid white people to continue their hate (in the name of the law) of people who think and act differently?

Above the law = stfu and just go buy something (and if you can’t, stfu even more). Other interests are at work in your government. Or something like that.

Anywho. Two fourth grade level senators recently put together a bill that would help government deal with the reality of digital encryption. Keep in mind there are conflicting realities here. On the one side there is the all-powerful, authoritarianism of government (over people) that lies to us when it says that law enforcement is for our own protection. On the other side there is the fact that the digital economy of the future can’t function without strong encryption. I mean, come on. Almost every time you access a website where you want to buy something or register something encryption is used. To make legislation that enables the government to be above that encryption–in the name of law enforcement–is Orwellian at best and detrimental to the future (economy) at worst. And all this (effort on the part of inept politicians) just because Apple stood up to an arm of big brother–the FBI. Wow.

And so the lie goes: there are most definitely some above the law and there always will be. Inept third grade voters elect inept fourth grade politicians. And there we have it.

Rant on. -Tommi

Links that motivated this post:

  1. For a simple clarification in all things-stupid in #americant law making | re/code
  2. Or you can read the bill yourself | draft legislation via scribe

At Odds With Our Government

three dollar bill apple logo (low res)

For posterity’s sake below is worst-writer’s transcription of Tim Cook’s tell-all, ask-all and all-around cute little keynote speech before he starts hocking gadgets to the world and thereby protecting the bottom line, March 2016. I’ve listened to this speech several times. Each time I listen it gets under my gander more and more. But enough of my anti-corpo cynicism. Or maybe not.

Thanks for joining us.

Blah. Blah. Krapp about selling a billion products. Blah Blah. More Corpo krapp. Blah. We’re the best in the universe. Blah Blah Blah. Amazing.

Before we get started today I’d like to address something. We built the iPhone for you. We know it is a deeply personal device. For many of us the iPhone is an extension of ourselves. About a month ago we asked American’s across the country to join in on a conversation. We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy. I’ve been humbled and am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support that we’ve received from Americans across the country and all walks of life. We didn’t expect to be in this position at odds with our own government but we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy. We owe it to our customers and to our country, this is an issue that impacts all of us and we will not shrink from this responsibility. -Tim Cook, Apple Inc.

Is this churchillian? I mean, does it motivate one to fight or believe (in something)? Is this profound? Will we take it with us through life’s trials and tribulations? Is it the mind of a sage? Perhaps such wisdom will save us someday. Or is this a new level of bullshit-pure never before heard? Is it a mind that makes a movie? I don’t know why this churns a feeling of hostile indifference in me. It’s the same feeling I get when I hear conspiracy theorist’s churn about how a flag can wave (or not wave) when supplanted on the moon. Even though some people think this little diddi by Tim Cook was worth every brief word, I profanely disagree. Fu*k! I think Tim Cook and Apple are shameful and out of order and the company should be punished for insubordination (to humanity). I also think it is an example of how low the corporate world can go–without even knowing it’s reached new lows. But that’s the world we live in, eh! That said, I also think the FBI should be disbanded and should have never been created in the first place. The NSA is just another krapp government agency and also deserves to be in the trash heap of authoritarian, war-mongering government history. These types of law & order and war-mongering institutions, set along side greed-mongering corporations, should be proof enough of the neo-feudalism that so many are confusing with fascism. Yet nothing happens. At beast, all the hordes of corpo automatons think is that the government is not the same as a private corporation. Really? Private corporations deserve to make money, they say. Government is there to protect us, they add. Etc., etc. In fact, in a healthy democracy, these entities, these institutions, would look quite different. And there we have it, eh, dear worst-reader? Do we live in a healthy, functioning democracy? But I digress. §As I worst-said here, Apple taking a position where it tries to protect its bottom line–and let’s face it, if Apple were to lose its ability to secure and encrypt its iPhones the ramifications on its bottom line would be horrendous–and thereby turning the government into the boogyman seems like a stretch at best and yelling fire in a crowded theatre at worst. Who does Apple and Tim Cook think they are? And let me reiterate one more time. I’m not defending the FBI or the government here. It’s just that the reaction to this cute little bullshit speech about Apple’s bottom line has opened a door of sympathy when a door of hostile disapproval should be ripped off its hinges. But I guess with all the dysfunction ruling our lives, it’s hard to see through the mirror of self annihilation. So let Apple continue to move jobs abroad, hide tax revenues from the American people, have the poor of the world make its products in sweatshops and covering it all up in rose-gold. Rant on. -Tommi

Designed In Ain't Made In #Americant

designed in aint made in

Upon his death (or joining Elvis) Steve Jobs left behind one of the most successful companies the world has ever known. Almost five years later Apple Inc. is still a behemoth of cash and profits. Which begs worst-moi to ask the following: is it me or does it feel like Apple is riding on laurels? Every event, like the one yesterday, brings with it a swath of news and debate that has never before existed for any company. There are rumours and speculation about Apple’s products and services months before these events take place. Apple pundits and tech journalist in and out of silicon valley seem to know exactly what to talk about–and talk they do. Yet, what about the customers? The what? §You know, it’s one thing to be a crazed biker and put a Harley tattoo on your arm showing your devotion to a brand. It’s another thing for a brand to create a rumour-industrial-complex where everyone is waiting to hear what’s next, what’s new, how much money can I throw at you. With that in mind, would I rather tattoo a pic of a Harley Davidson low-rider (with Pam Anderson on it) or an Apple logo on my ass? For one thing, even though Harley’s are based on totally outdated technology, people are devoted to them as though they’ve never been warned about golden calves. Coolness has that effect, eh! What? Am I claiming that Apple isn’t as cool as Harley Davidson and not worth the/a tattoo? No. I’m not worst-saying that. What I’m worst-saying is that the buyers of big and loud Harley’s know that the suits running that business can only fuck with them so much. Harley was/is as much a company made by its customers (just study up on what it means to “chop” something) as it was/is made by #americant. Plus, Harley’s can still be associated with Made-In America, baby. Apple Inc., on the other hand, is Designed in California. Even though I know exactly what designing something means, why Apple had to go there is a mystery. But then again, when one considers who runs the show these days, maybe it’s not such a mystery after all. With all the ageing and über-lucky college-grads running Apple–who look more and more like slimy used car salesmen that discovered GAP or Banana Republic after winning the lottery–it’s no wonder they have no qualms about fucking with customers till the cows come running–by design. Hence, your products are not made with blood, sweat and tears–in America. Anyone jump to his/her death from a Foxconn rooftop lately? §Let’s talk some reality here. We buy Apple products so that Apple can make them obsolete. Period. Which brings me to recycling and robots. I can’t believe Apple presents a recycling robot yesterday as though it’s corporate culture of lies and compulsive behaviourism are two different things. Take my word for it. I’ve been one of Apple’s sucker customers for most of my life and I’ve work in compulsive behaviourism, too. I’ve tried to treat an old Mac Classic and a Mac Colour Classic as though they were a ’57 panhead. But I ended up throwing both of them away as though one day I saw the light. Obviously I would never have done the same with a Harley. And there, perhaps, is the difference between brand loyalty and brand suckerism. In the tech world, for me at least, Apple is the best of the worst and far from the best of the best! Harley is not even a fucking motorcycle–it’s a Harley! But I’m off subject. §After giving up on the corporate career dream-nightmare (compulsive behaviourism) and thereby adjusting my life so that my only major expenses are buying mostly used or refurbished Apple products, I feel comfortable claiming that for the last few years Apple is the same as mediocrity. On top of that, Apple is still riding the luscious wave its hippy guru Jobs left it (laurels). Which begs the question–even though it was one of his last wishes that no one ask it: what would Steve do? More on that in a sec. §I’m even more comfortable saying that since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, with a slight uptick due to the iPad, Apple has delivered absolutely nothing worth mentioning in years. Now that it’s brought back the iPhone 5s in the form of the 5se, I’m shaking in my old biker boots. The light at the end of this tunnel is shinning at me with the hope of a digital alternative to my/a Apple future. Come on, Apple! You couldn’t at least redesign the new iPhone 5se? You know, make it thicker, stronger, more battery life? And that’s not all. Why is the new AppleTV bigger than the old one? Where is a new Mac Mini with discrete graphics! I’ve even read that the old 5s cases will fit the new 5se. What? Heck, my mind started putting together the irony of Apple’s new recycle robot and the same phone they’ve been making since 2012. I thought: wow, now we know what Apple is up to. “Recycle” is code for putting new guts in old phone with a bit of added bang-boom-shazaam. Ingenious–for profits? Disgusting–for innovation! Boring–for customers. But I digress. §I suspect Steve Jobs was an Ayn Rand loving neoliberal. If that’s true, what would his reaction be to where Apple is today? I bet he would shake the fucking house down. The confusion of products (Apple makes watch bands!), the mess of iTunes (Apple Music), and most Macs sold don’t even have discrete graphics, says everything–if you understand the issues that customers need to face in the digital economy. Graphic capability is the reason Macs survived at all–with or without Jobs return to the company. But I suppose all that is beyond most sucker customers. §Which brings me to the issue of Apple reacting to the government in its fight against the FBI while trying to sell laurels. The fact that Tim Cook even addressed the issue at the beginning of yesterday’s event blows my mind. Are you serious, Apple? I wonder if Steve Jobs would have made such a lame-ass speech as Tim Cook did yesterday. Even mentioning government while trying to sell gadgets at this level is mind-boggling to me. Is Apple to blame for that or is government, failed democracy, The Donald, or college grads who never learned to think for themselves? It would have been just as good if Tim Cook would have said nothing about one of the greediest human entities in history and its greed-fight with greed government over something as stupid as an iPhone 5c which was used by a greed religious nut. Which brings me to reality. §Tim Cook, you lucky dog–for there is nothing else to call the college grads that behave their way to the top and when they get there all they can muster is mediocrity, #americant, and a whole bunch of nothingness. It cannot be said enough, dear worst-reader, this world is run by these college grads, i.e. joksters and fools in well tailored casual outfits. So it’s no wonder that the angry Harley guys out there are finally getting their voice in/via The Donald. But, again, I digress. Rant on. -Tommi