blarg?

want

I bought a new bag.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t buy anything in the wintertime; I spend too much time indoors and it’s bad for my head. After a while I start believing that I should start having things that are nice, and maybe even – dare I say it – fancy, and when you’re a guy in the throes of middle-age that can end poorly.

As a side anecdote: my personal canonical example (is “headcanonical” a word?) comes from late winter about two years ago, when I mentioned to an old friend that I’d been (at 37, with two kids; painfully trite, I know) casually window-shopping for motorcycles. She’s known me forever, and her reply slid in flat between the ribs that special way only an old friend’s can.

“So did your dad ever hug you when you were a kid, or are you going to get one of the really loud ones?”

Painful wince, scene.

Gentlemen, having women in your life who will call you on your bullshit is invaluable. I’m not getting a motorbike.

Which, in fact, is great – all that cabin-fever stir-craziness ends in the spring, because what I really want, every year, isn’t fancy shoes or a motorcycle, it’s to get back on my bike. A few weeks of summer commutes has cemented it, too; I fly past a lot of expensive European metal on my ride in and your Porsche or Ducati doesn’t matter much if everyone in front of you is parked. But on a bike I can blow through traffic like the wind, and in rush hour traffic – and that’s most of the time, downtown – I’m far and away faster than anything else on the road.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: after a fair bit of screwing around trying to turn my venerable old laptop bag into the messenger bag I actually wanted, I’d decided I needed to solve the problem once and for all.

I’m partial to messenger bags as because of the kind of riding I tend towards is the “playing-in-traffic” kind, and for that you need any weight you’re carrying to sit as high on your back as possible. It’s hard to cinch the load on a backpack up over you, and the lateral stability on them is usually iffy. They’re just not meant for this kind of work. I love the look of Saddleback Leather’s bags – so beautiful, so utterly impractical – but when spring rolled around I had to own up to the fact that they’re not right thing. I’m the semi-mythical Scofflaw Cyclist that comes up whenever people talk about traffic, and I needed something for the aggro bike commuting I do every single day. So I laid out my criteria and broadened my search.

My needs turned out to be pretty straightfoward:

  • Waterproof for real. Not “resistant”; clean-it-with-a-hose waterproof.
  • Holds a 15″ laptop plus the usual nerd fixins’ plus two days’ clothing.
  • Replaceable straps – that is, the straps can’t be sewn in to the bag.
  • Quick-adjust straps. Gotta be able to cinch it down and step out of it easily.
  • Second support strap, ideally also quick-adjust.
  • Side pockets I can reach without opening the whole bag.
  • Little or no velcro, just because it annoys me.
  • Being able to clip stuff to the sides is a plus, and Molle webbing is nice and everything but
  • if the word “tactical” appears anywhere in the product’s page, close the tab. “Tactical” has become shorthand for “substandard gear aimed at the macho bullshit market”, so when you’re in the market for sturdy, dependable gear this is a huge timesaver. Remember: amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.

The replaceable straps part is really important. They’re generally the least-thought-out part of the bag, despite being the most important. Being able to either get them just right or replace them is a deal-breaker.

As beautiful as they are, the Saddleback bags – any leather bags – were disqualified early on, and the strap criteria ruled out all of Crumpler’s products. Maxpedition bags are solid, but they suffer from that mall-commando velcro-and-tiny-pockets-everywhere aesthetic that makes you look like a deflated Rob Leifield character, so that’s that. They’re like some of the better Targus bags, in that sense; all the ingredients of a great product are there, you can see them, but nobody with any taste cared enough about how they worked or fit together.

I had a couple of strong choices, though. The last candidates to get cut were:

  • The Tom Bihn Ego/Superego, cut for the straps. It’s a nice bag and Tom Bihn sees a lot of love around the office, but bags that hang low off clips generally seem to be designed for casual cyclists and pedestrians.
  • I spent a very long time looking at Acronym’s Third Arm products – this one is just so close to perfect – but $1100 for a messenger bag indefensible lollerskates.
  • The MEC Velocio, a very strong contender particularly for the price, maxes out at a 13″ laptop and was cut for size & strap reasons.
  • Chrome’s Buran looks great and is well-reviewed, and the seatbelt-buckle strap is compelling. but falls down on the side pockets and removable strap questions. Chrome makes great bags in general, and the Buran was the last cut. [UPDATE: This was an error - the Buran has removable/adjustable straps that are equivalent to those on the Timbuk2 Especial, and if I were doing this again it would be a tossup; the Buran also meets my requirements.]

The winning candidate was the Timbuk2 Especial Cycling Messenger Bag, which is as close to perfect as I’ve seen. Sits high on the back. waterproof, the strap is great and the magnetic-clip latches are good enough that I find going back to the old kind pointlessly cumbersome now. Fits a lot if it has to, cinches down if it doesn’t, comfortable and lifts off the back a little bit to air out which is quite nice. This plus their extra 3Way phone case for the strap has been making me very happy for about a month now.

There are a few caveats::

  • I generally dislike velcro, but Timbuk2’s “silencer” straps aren’t worth it. A yard of velcro does the job for a fraction the price. If those straps had incorporated some extra molle-style gear loops I’d have jumped at them – some extra clip-in points under the flap would be welcome – but you’d need two sets to quiet this bag, so I wouldn’t bother.
  • I’ve replaced the stock support strap with $5 worth of straps and buckles from MEC so that I can loosen it up or cinch it down as easily as the main strap. This isn’t a big deal until you’ve got to wear a jacket, but it was worth it. Likewise I’ve added a small strap to the main buckle so that it’s easier to unlatch with gloves.

… but that’s not much, and the result is exactly what I wanted.

I’ve had this in the queue for a while, not sure why it didn’t get put up. Well, here it is.

Get a bottle of a good bourbon. I’m partial to Woodford Reserve, myself, but there’s clearly room for disagreement here. But if I said “good bourbon” and you thought “Wild Turkey” or “Jim Beam”, then good Lord, son. No. Turn off your computer, pack your bags and move out of the fraternity immediately. It’s time. Leave your sweatpants, jerseys and sportball caps behind; they are the things of children, and you know in your heart that you are no longer that child. Today is a new day; go forth, young man, and bro no more.

Once you’ve worked that whole life-change process through and secured the bourbon, get some really good whole-bean coffee.

As above, there’s room for disagreement. And likewise if you thought “Starbucks” then you’re due for a second spiritual-growth vision-quest where you come back knowing the difference between the bouquet of a fine wine and whatever’s left of a burning sneaker after you’ve put it out by pissing on it. You’ll have to work out the specifics there yourself but you get the idea. Just get it done.

Personally, I’m partial to a lightly-roasted north-African coffee; they tend to have a complex, floral flavor to them that I think offsets the rich, buttery taste of Woodford Reserve very nicely. If you’re partial to a bourbon with a brighter or sweeter taste, a Bulleit for example, they’ll pair well with something more robust that’s been roasted mid to dark. Experiment, is my advice; there’s lots here to love, and much science to be done to refine it.

The process is:

  • Measure out a little over half of a cup of coffee beans and a full cup of bourbon.
  • Pour the coffee beans directly back into the bottle, topping the bottle back off from the cup of bourbon.
  • Close the bottle back up and put it in a cool, dark cupboard.
  • Drink the leftover bourbon.

You’ll need to wait at least four or five days for that to properly infuse, maybe as much as a week, and don’t rush it; you’ll only be cheating your newly-grown-up-with-a-refined-palate-that-deserves-better self – but take it from me, you’ll be happy you did.

The Verge is running a question for their community: “You’ve Just Been Given Control of a Great Video Game Franchise!” What do you remake, and why?

I wrote this:

Now, I’m an inveterate Legend Of Zelda fan, but if you’re paying attention to the sociopolitical background noise in that series, it’s… well. Literary theorists call this sort of thing “problematic”, which an in-field shorthand for “inconsistent and, if you look carefully, kind of sadmaking.” Your role as a hero there is to ostensibly to gain the powers and tools you need to defeat Ganon, noted evil megalomaniac, and secure the safety of the Kingdom of Hyrule.

But if you look a little closer, your role there is explicitly to restore the status quo ante of the Kingdom of Hyrule, power structure and all. The Royal Family stays Royal, the gods stay gods, the people stay the people. It’s a little… undemocratic.

The only time they’ve really deviated from that formula was in Majora’s Mask, which I don’t think strictly counts as a Legend Of Zelda game, despite being arguably the best game in that series.

The game I want puts a spin on that; a new Legend Of Zelda in which, through the curse of the wayward Skull Kid, Link wakes up to that realization and seeks out the Princess and Ganondorf, who have known the truth of the situation for centuries. The player retreads some of the older games, seeking out some of the less-used artefacts and people; large parts of the game played as Gandondorf and the Princess as the real villain of the whole thing, the divinely-backed King of Hyrule, marshals his forces and eventually the Gods themselves to stop you from dethroning him.

Roughly sketched, the trailer looks like this:

Fade in, to the sound of ZREO’s version of “Farewell Hyrule King”, from “WindWaker” In the old eight-bit Legend Of Zelda arcade font, the screen reads: “We’ve fought for centuries.”

Quick, pulsing cuts of Ganon’s introductory scene from A Link To The Past, Ocarina and
WindWaker

In the purple “Link To The Past” text style: “Over and over again.”

More fade-in-and-out cuts from the final fights in Ocarina, WindWaker and Twilight Princess.

“Ocarina of Time”-look: “Hundreds of years.”

We pan over the world maps from Link To The Past and WindWaker.

“WindWaker”-look: “Thousands of miles.”

Style: Twilight Princess. “.. and all that time, I’ve never lost.”

Music fades out, at the end of the slow part of Farewell Hyrule King, and closes
with the skittering-over-stone sound of a dungeon door closing.

“And all that time, I was wrong.”

Three heartbeat clips of Ganon’s face from different games.

“And now I have to go back.”

“Through the long years and distant lands.”

More clips of Link as he walks towards some of the iconic architecture of the series.

“To recover the ancient powers,”

“To summon my old enemy one last time.”

Style: Something new, light-grey on black, understated.

“To face the gods that have savaged our land,”

Slow pans around devastated landscapes, islands from the dark-worlds from A Link To The Past and Twilight Princess blurring into Hyrule. Broken ruins of the castles from various games.

“that Power, Wisdom and Courage might stand together at last,”

“… and set the people of Hyrule free.”

We now see Link walking into a small shrine, clearly built around the statue at its altar, a kneeling Ganon looking skyward. The Master Sword still embedded Excalibur-like in his skull; this is where he was last defeated, at the conclusion of Windwaker. Link brushes him off, as gently as an old friend, before putting two hands to the hilt of the sword and drawing it out. A thin shell of the stone crumbles away, and Ganon sags for a moment, and then rises.

He looks at the raised sword, and then to Link, and a voice that rumbles with scratching subsonic echoes asks, “You have woken me, here? Why?”

Link answers: “To end this. To give you everything you want.”

As previews of the gameplay, the trailer concludes with some exploration of canonical past environments by Link, but we also see Princess Zelda carrying a bow and a fine rapier, dressed as Shiek and creeping, Thief-style, through the rafters of Hyrule Castle at night, and Ganon parting a phalanx of armored pikemen with the same casual gesture you’d use to part a bead curtain.

Shortly we see Ganon, walking into Zelda’s room as she stands on her balcony, overlooking the kingdom. The princess knows he’s there, and doesn’t even turn around, smiling sadly. “Again, Ganon? And so soon?”. He shakes his head, and she turns around, looking quizzical as he replies “No, Princess, not this time. The Hero is Awake.”

“At last.”

A clip of Ganondorf, arm extended, levitating Zelda up to the back of an enormous arachnid creature, as she grabs on with one hand and pulls her rapier with the other. King of Hyrule snarling “You will not defile my kingdom” as an army of knights marches forward.

We close on a close up of Link, looking down briefly at the shield on his arm, emblazoned with the Crest of Hyrule. He smiles, tossing it to the ground and drawing the small Kokiri shortsword from his belt, Master Sword in his other hand. We pan back from that to see Link standing on a green hilltop, backs together with Princess Zelda, bow drawn and eyes narrowed, and Ganon, nodding to himself while his hands smoke with a green, burning-copper fire. As we pan further back, we see the hill surrounded at the base by thousands of soldiers, armored knights on horseback and snarling monsters in shining armor plate.

We fade out over the Crest of Hyrule and the title: “The Legend Of Zelda: Divine Kingdom”.

And then we fade to black.

I mean, sure. Almost pure fanservice, in a sense, but I think the idea’s got potential. The hard part is designing cooperative gameplay that makes sense for the very different character-roles involved, but I think that’s solvable.

Anyway, there you go.

Let’s say you wanted to design a laptop, preinstalled with Linux and for a linux-user audience. This is mostly my own notes about what I’d like, but I wouldn’t mind some feedback.

  • Pixel Qi screen 14″ inches if possible, for power and daylight readability.
  • Arm SOC (Tegra?)
  • User-replaceable battery and RAM.
  • Ideally, off-the-shelf batteries. Are cellphone batteries now good enough that you could line up four of them to power a laptop? Could be, could be…
  • Casing that was meant to be disassembled, insofar as possible. Not junk, but not triwing-five-point-torx screws, either.
  • Built-in software-defined-radio-usable chips, two of them, and significant antenna.
  • Bluetooth 4, usb3. Wifi, obviously.
  • HDMI out. It’d be nice to know if a chip existed that could support HDMI-out and the Pixel Qi screens, that sounds like the best of both worlds.
  • Nonjunk touchpad.

What am I missing? Anything else?

Dear Ubisoft –

I’m a longstanding fan of your work but like a lot of long-time gamers my life’s moving ahead. I’ve got a family now, but even so I’d like my kids to be able to share my hobbies as much as anyone who’s ever collected a stamp or oiled up a baseball glove. And I know I’ve asked you for some impractical things in the past – I know, I know, as much as my daughter has loved riding the fancy horse around in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, that adding penguins and giraffes might not be feasible – but hear me out here.

I really enjoy being able to play big, free-running open-worlds games with my daughter. She’s smart, attentive, and understands where things are and what we’re trying to do in these fictional spaces; it’s a joy as a parent to have her interested in my pastimes, for however long that lasts. But most of the games I play to unwind aren’t particularly content-appropriate for her, if I’m playing them strictly as intended.

Take the Assassin’s Creed series. Running, climbing, jumping into the water with a big splash and swimming, horseback riding… they’re all great; we can watch Ezio jump in and out of haystacks like a fool together all day. Looking at things, watching people go by, just watching the ebb and flow of the city, it’s terrific. Fist fights, sword fights, picking pockets and shanking people unexpectedly before you toss the body off a building, somewhat less so.

But there’s just a ton, a ton of wonderful architecture in those games, as you well know. Wonderfully detailed buildings and elaborate historical notes about people, places and events that are better than anything I’ve seen in any other game, and beautiful in their own right. Italian cities, a Rome and a Constantinople that I honestly believe would be wonderful to explore and learn about on their own in a stripped down, accommodating and non-violent game.

So let me rephrase that: if you do take away the aggro guards, the various threats, fights and malfeasances, and you keep the historical notes, artifacts and characters, what game do you have left?

I think you might, with some judicious writing, have “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego”, as set in the most beautiful rendition of the middle ages ever made.

All the parts are there – you’ve got the engine, you’ve got the world, you’ve got the art assets and the tools in the can already. I never want to say “just” when it comes to a software product – I know how dangerous that word is – but the temptation here is strong. But the opportunity here for a same-couch, cooperative game that kids can play with parents, puzzling things out and doing a bit of historical exploration in the process… Not only do I think that some great writing could tie it into and move along the series’ (great) ongoing narrative, but I think it could be a genuinely new, genuinely fun game in its own right.

You’d have to keep the horse, though. The horsey is important.

Please and thank you,

– Mike Hoye

Today, I asked the lazyweb: Where do you go for kitchen design ideas?

Good answers include:

  • The Kitchn’s, um, kitchen section. This is a niche in the Apartment Therapy ecosystem as far as I can tell, and it’s kind of neat but you quickly get a sense that their real audience is people who want to escape from suburbia to an apartment, rather than people who want to refinish the one they’re in; if you’re looking for radically rethought anything you’ll need to shop around. Some interesting stuff, I guess, but when I see an article on “small cool kitchens” and almost all of them are twice the size of ours, it’s hard to think that I live in the same country as their target market.
  • Via Adam Mcnamara, Design-Milk, Freshome and Home-Designing.com. Lots of excellent eye candy here, but like most of Adam’s tastes seem to lean heavily towards the BISUNK demographic: Billionaire International Supervillain, No Kids. Very pretty to look at, but largely no.
  • From a few people, Houzz. I’m exploring their iPad app as well; early signs there point to interesting, enough so that it’s the first advertising I’ve clicked on on purpose that I can remember. There’s just too much of it, though – I’ll keep looking, but I really want a better way to drill down into it. Sorting by square footage or rough layout or something would help a ton.
  • Finally, and likewise via a few people, the gold here seems to be a search for “kitchen reno” on Pinterest. This is actually the most interesting and useful of the bunch, just because it’s so uneven. There’s a ton of price, color and layout variety in there that just doesn’t exist in any of previous options. It’s actually nice to get a look at stuff that works on a limited space or dollar budget, or even just doesn’t work at all, when so many kitchen design sites amount to “look at what you can do with kitchen half again the size of your house and a budget of infinity”.

I should really do this sort of summary-of-Lazyweb-answers more often. It seems like a useful way to give back.

I own two French presses, I have a reasonably competent electric grinder and by and large that makes my morning coffee a pretty pleasant thing. I usually brew my coffee in the smaller of the two; as much as I love coffee I don’t have the time or inclination to drink an entire pot in one sitting, so that one stays on the shelf most of the time.

But when summer rolls around, it’s a different story; the larger bodum – similar to this dingus from Ikea, though I picked mine up at a yard sale for $2 – starts to get a lot of attention, because cold-brewed iced coffee is a great summer-morning drink.

It’s about as easy to make as anything could be. If you’ve got a decent grinder dial it down to a coarse grind, and in about a five to one ratio of cold water to coffee, mix it in the french press. Then put it, unpressed, in the fridge the night before you want to drink it. Throw it in while you’re making dinner, it should have a good 10-12 hours.

My fridge doesn’t have the vertical space to leave the unpressed plunger in, so that part stays on the counter; I’ve tried covering it with saran wrap or not, it doesn’t seem to make a difference that I can detect. Regardless, you push the plunger down in the morning, and you’re left with an uncomplicated, crisp cup of cold coffee with lots of flavor and very little of the bitterness and acidity that can ruin a mishandled bean.

There’s no accounting for taste, so some people still want to put milk and sugar into this, but I urge you to give it a try neat before you do; you’re not going to need to mask the bitterness of industrial-coffee here, or rush to drink it before it becomes unbearable. Be advised, though: that same lack of acidity makes it very easy to drink, and iced coffee is at least, and maybe more, caffeinated than standard drip coffee or espresso. So it’s very easy to get the jitters, if you’re not careful. Just pour it over some ice cubes and off you go.

It’s so easy, and so good.

At the November 24th, 2011 TTC Town Hall meeting, it was noted that:

The TTC has attempted to make incremental improvements as we provide new entrances / exits or elevators for step-free access. One of the recommendations made by the Customer Service Advisory Panel in 2010 focuses on improving signs and other customer information. We are working on a plan to do this but re-signing a station is an expensive proposition both in terms of the planning required, the material cost and implementation. We need better understanding of what priority customers give to improved way finding when balanced against things like an increase in service levels.

Having said that, we must get much better at not degrading the look and feel of our stations and trains with visual clutter such as handwritten signs. Such improvements should have little cost impact but can be difficult to ensure consistency. We are experimenting with a new “wrap” on the Davisville collector booth that we hope will balance our operational and customer needs and control some of the clutter on and in our booths.

Line Up

I took this a few weeks ago at Spadina Station during rush hour. It’s classic TTC signage: hastily assembled by TTC employees using all the resources they have at their disposal, which is usually the side of a cardboard box and a sharpie.

Noted accessibility author Joe Clark has written extensively on the subject, though as of early 2008 he has understandably abandoned that project. When an organization doesn’t even want to admit there’s a problem, what do you do?

A sign

I’ve said this a lot recently. When something is a priority for an organization, it has three things: a budget, a calendar and exactly one person responsible for it. Missing any one of those is a guarantee that whatever that organization says, its real priorities are elsewhere. So whatever the TTC’s management says about wayfinding and signage the budget they’ve actually allocated for all that is a pizza box, a broom handle and a sharpie. The person responsible for it is whoever happens to be there that day.

All the evidence suggests that there’s nobody at the TTC that anyone, inside or out, can call to say that signs are broken or missing or need to be printed. There’s no budget, no standards and nobody to ask about any of that and if there is, then boy howdy they’re not answering the phone.

That town hall comment above, as misguided as it is in many respects does get one thing exactly right: it can be inexpensive, but has to be consistent.

It’s impossible for me to blame the boots-on-the-ground TTC employees for this. Hand-scribbled signs like that are adorable; they make it look like the third-busiest transit system in North America is managed by some kids the TTC headhunted away from a lemonade stand, an image I love. And I’m not sure what else to expect, given that we’re looking at the best effort from well-meaning people without expertise, management support, goals, oversight or any guidelines at all, and a time and money budget of zero.

Back in 2003 Raymond Chen, noted Microsoftie and venerable author of the excellent Old New Thing blog, wrote a bit about the propensity programmers had for, and problems caused by, reverse-engineering Microsoft’s APIs and hooking into them in unapproved ways:

“For example, BOZOSLIVEHERE was originally the window procedure for the edit control, with the rather nondescript name of EditWndProc. Then some people who wanted to use the edit control window procedure decide that GetWindowLong(GWL_WNDPROC) was too much typing, so they linked to EditWndProc directly. Then when Windows 2.0 (I think) removed the need to export window procedures, we removed them all, only to find that programs stopped working. So we had to put them back, but they got goofy names as a way of scolding the programs that were doing these invalid things.”

He’s a pretty good writer, and this stuff makes for a good story, but this “too much typing” line is… uncharacteristically disingenuous of him; the other side of that story was told, to put it mildly, a little different.

The Microsoft of the day was the Microsoft that came to be known as the evil empire, and for good reason; the combination of a dominant market position, rapid growth across a growing number of markets and no compunction at all about using what their consulting and support arms had learned about your company to leverage their growth into your market segment was legitimate grounds for a healthy dose of fear.

If you wanted to sell software you used their compilers and their APIs to talk to their OS and you consulted their support when you had problems. So if they suddenly developed an interest in your market niche they had a pretty good idea what the shape of your business looked like already. And their ability to leverage that information was very real, so much so that Microsoft’s announcement that they had plans to eventually make a similar product was sometimes enough to run competitors out of business.

This era is where the term “FUD” comes from, also not for no reason.

Because Microsoft could, and would, run the full-court press on your market segment if they decided it was worth their while. Veterans of the technical wars of the day can vividly remember their surprise, walking through decompiled assembler to discover the reason their program’s performance was in the toilet was because going through the official, approved-for-general-consumption Win32 call meant nothing more or less than calling a delay loop before passing unchanged arguments into a private API. Not for any technical reason, but as a defensive posture; just to guarantee that you couldn’t build a product as well as Microsoft could on the off chance that they woke up one morning and decided they wanted your niche.

So it really wasn’t about how long it took to type “GetWindowLong(GWL_WNDPROC)”; it was often the fact that, if you had to call that or something like it thirty-two thousand times and didn’t run that hack, your customer’s 386SX would spend twenty unresponsive minutes off in the weeds instead of fifteen seconds. Chen’s stories about having to reverse-engineer and accommodate poor programmer behavior are epic, and technically brilliant stories to be sure, but you should remember to read them in this light – these weren’t stupid programmers crawling up an unprotected stack for no reason. The Microsoft of the era just wasn’t a trustworthy collaborator. And for all the incredible, very-nearly-miraculous, brilliant work they’ve done maintaining backwards compatibility for applications doing horrible things, they brought an awful lot of that burden on themselves.

It took a protracted antitrust investigation, the long tenacity of free software and rise of the Web (with Mozilla keeping that torch lit through some long, dark years), Apple and later the primacy of mobile to really push Microsoft to the margins of relevancy where they are today. They’re still huge, they’re not all that evil anymore and they legitimately make some great products, but nobody really cares. They’re not making much of a mark on the things people do care about these days, mostly the social and mobile spaces. People aren’t afraid of them anymore because what matters changed, and developers and customers largely moved on.

That was a long time coming, too. But it’s starting to look like somebody’s getting ready to pick up that ball and run with it. A challenger appears!

This is just one example, but it’s really been part of a trend recently, and a good one to point to: take a look at this web-based Angry Birds demo, if you can. You might not be able to – it doesn’t work in Firefox – but the thing is, everything in there runs just fine in Firefox. Google has just decided that it won’t; not for any technical reason – they check some webkit-only CSS shim, it works fine in Safari – but just to keep it from working in competing browsers. Classier still, through the magic of view-source you can see that indignity bundled up in a <div id=”roadblock”> tag, a name I’d like to think gave somebody a moment’s pause, but I doubt it.

Larry Page said, back in the day, that Google wouldn’t put their own results ahead of other people’s because that would be bad for users, but that statement is apparently no longer operative. Likewise this 2009 statement from Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior VP, Product Management about open technology and open information:

Open technology includes open source, meaning we release and actively support code that helps grow the Internet, and open standards, meaning we adhere to accepted standards and, if none exist, work to create standards that improve the entire Internet (and not just benefit Google). Open information means that when we have information about users we use it to provide something that is valuable to them, we are transparent about what information we have about them, and we give them ultimate control over their information.

I’m ready to believe there’s still a lot of people at Google who really believe in this, and I’m sure that inside Google HQ they still have that kool-aid on tap. But those people are clearly not the ones at the helm anymore, and that’s going to have some broad repercussions – people who are using Gmail pseudonymously, for example, are well-advised to start planning a defensive migration, because that day’s coming.

But God knows to where you’d migrate to. The lunatic thing is that if you want the relative privacy of pseudonymous communication the way, back in the bad old days, you might have wanted basic computing functionality – that is, without kowtowing to an arbitrary, vaguely menacing megacorporation with arbitrary, vaguely menacing policies about your data – we might be getting back to the point where you need to rack your own box and learn how to roll it all yourself.

Dear Googlers: We’ve done this. It sucked. It was awful, a decade of near-total technical stagnation. It was WinCE 5.0 and Office 2003 and OSes with eight-year lifecycles and fucking Flash being the only way to deploy a new UI and everything interesting and promising and new pushed to the margins and excluded so that one company’s crown jewels stayed safe. And we might do it again, and it could be a tragedy or a farce or probably a bit of both. Trying to be more Apple than Apple and more Facebook than Facebook just means you’re trying to be less Google every single day.

It’s amazing, it is flat out astonishing, how much of the future depends on Google being the company that you, once upon a time, believed it could be. And you can still get there. To borrow a phrase, I’m not saying it’s too late for you, but the longer you wait, the closer you get to being Too Late.

But you need to do good. Saying you’re not evil isn’t good enough.