Saturday, 16 June 2012

Report: Google’s Chromebooks Account For Less Than .02% Of All Desktop Traffic

Google has been putting quite a bit of its weight behind its Chromebook initiative, but it’s been rather quiet about how well these browser-centric laptops have been selling. Judging from the latest data from online advertising firm Chitika, Chromebooks remain a novelty. Across Chitika’s network, just 0.019% of all traffic comes from ChromeOS. To put this into perspective, Sony’s PlayStation, which isn’t exactly a web browsing powerhouse, easily beats ChromeOS with a usage share of 0.042%.
This data, Chitika told us, includes all ChromeOS traffic from all ChromeOS versions currently in use (given that ChromeOS updates itself, we can safely assume that most users are currently using the most recent version, though). As usual, it’s worth remembering that this data only includes sites that use Chitika’s advertising service. The data was compiled between June 7 and June 13 and aggregates data from “hundreds of million impressions.”
As I noted in my Samsung Series 5 Chromebook review last week, the actual devices have greatly improved since the first generation. They do remain niche products, though, and don’t appeal to a mainstream audience (yet).

Earlier this week, Chitika’s also took a look at the tablet space. Here, unsurprisingly, the iPad dominates and is responsible for 91% of all web traffic to sites in Chitika’s network. What was somewhat surprising about this data, though, was that the Barnes & Noble Nook overtook the Kindle Fire in these stats, though the difference here is between two tablets that account for 0.85% and 0.71% of all traffic.

Top Facebook Exec Bret Taylor Leaving To Do His Own Thing, More Departures Could Follow

Screen Shot 2012-06-15 at 2.02.12 PM
And so it begins: Facebook CTO and platform guru Bret Taylor is leaving Facebook this summer, Kara Swisher is reporting, off to do a startup with Google App Engine founder Kevin Gibbs. Taylor confirmed the news in (of course) a Facebook update.
This is one of the first in a wave of Facebook departures we’re hearing, as a slew of older employees have hit their four year stock cliffs, and the 90 day IPO lockout fast approaches. According to a source, many Facebook employees including one other executive are already planning what to do next.
It makes sense. With the stock price low, additional RSUs granted to keep people sticking around won’t be nearly as good a retention mechanism.
I’ve also been hearing separately that due to the IPO fallout, Facebook is currently under a modified hiring freeze, with groups that were previously allotted slots for senior-level positions having had those slots reneged. Lower level deals and hires are still happening from what I’m hearing.
So is this a harbinger of a hiring sea change? Facebook has had a monopoly on the best and brightest engineering talent for the past couple of years and it’ll shake the Valley to its core if this is indeed the case.
Well, if the founder life isn’t for you future Facebook refugee, we hear Pinterest is hiring.

The Way Things Work

Magic, they call it. And indeed we may add an appendix to that old saw: any sufficiently advanced, or sufficiently obscure, technology is indistinguishable from magic.
You must know the story of the Mechanical Turk. How princes and tradesmen were amazed by this ingenious device’s ability to play chess intelligently. In an age of steam and brass hinges! Yet at the time thousands were fooled. Had they known a bit more about machines, they might have realized it was not just improbable, but impossible.
The Mechanical Turks of our day aren’t designed for entertainment, but to be bought and used, yet a similar goes into preventing the secrets of their operation from being questioned. In fact, we are already at a time where it is more or less impossible for one person to understand or question them. Apple may be ahead of the curve on this trend, but while it appears they’ve been leading the industry by the nose, they in turn are being led by the inexorable forward motion of technology. Open hardware advocates fight the good fight, and they fight it valiantly, but defeat is inevitable.
And what would victory be, exactly? A laptop you can repair in the comfort of your home? Sounds good, to be sure — but how deep does that capability really go? If your hard drive breaks or your RAM is corrupted, will you pull out a magnifying glass and correct the faulty sectors with your electron drill? Adjust the drive head in your billion-dollar repair toolshop out back? No, you’ll order a new drive, new RAM, a new screen.
RAM used to be pieces too, you know. In an excellent (so far) book about the origins of the computer, Turing’s Cathedral, the mechanical nature of early computing machines is presented for your humble contemplation. ENIAC, for instance, had 17,468 vacuum tubes, 1500 relays, and 500,000 hand-soldered joints. Operation was complicated, but mechanical: if you weren’t careful, you might get your finger caught in the RAM. If something broke, you needed a wrench. Now a stored bit takes up so little space that if it gets much smaller it will cease to be governed by Newtonian physics.
This is the real problem. Technology actually is approaching the magic point. You want to know how your laptop works. You can’t know. Even the people who made it don’t know. Apple has to call up LG or Sharp when it wants a high-density display. LG has to call Samsung when they want MLC flash storage. Samsung has to call NVIDIA when they want graphics cores. NVIDIA has to call ARM to make SoC architecture. Vertical integration is a thing of the past because no company can do it all. It took Intel five years and billions of dollars to develop just the processor your laptop runs today. The whole system is the culmination of a century of work by geniuses and specialists. Control over your hardware is the flimsiest of illusions. You only understand the snow frosting the top of the iceberg, and even then all you can do to fix it is pay for more.

Pennsylvania Public Defenders Rebel Against Crushing Caseloads

At half past 5 on a cold, cloudy April morning, Ed Olexa kneels by his front door, sorting through stacks of case files for the coming day's hearings. Olexa works as a public defender in Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, and he's quadruple-booked this morning, which means four clients are scheduled to appear at the same time before different judges.
"My choice last night was to watch 'American Idol' or get my files in order," he says.
Olexa represents nearly 120 clients at a time for the Luzerne County defender's office, the majority of them charged with felonies. It's a typical caseload for the office, which is one of the most troubled in the state, according to a 2011 report commissioned by the Pennsylvania legislature. The report excoriated the state system as a whole, calling it obsolete and ineffective, but singled out Luzerne as a place where inadequate training, funding and supervision of defenders contributed to a "shocking deterioration" in the quality of representation given to some poor people.
Public defenders are infamous as the workhorses of the legal system, charged by the courts with representing poor defendants in criminal matters ranging from misdemeanors to death penalty cases. The pay is low, the hours long and the turnover high. Complaints that they suffer from crushing caseloads and inadequate support staff can probably be heard in any courthouse in the country.