Meltdown, Spectre, and everything else

For Wired, a meandering essay that uses the Meltdown and Spectre exploits to point out problems with how we think about the future:

Anything that seeks to reshape the infrastructure built by our past selves should deserve our most aggressive scrutiny, regulation, and suspicion. If backtracking overeager technology is already proving so catastrophic for the cheap chips in our laptops and phones, then we certainly have no hope of reversing its changes to our homes, cities, and oceans.

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Our New 64-Bit World

A new article for Wired about how a technical problem at YouTube related to the music video for “Gangnam Style” points to a whole new scope for the technology industry.

When “Gangnam Style” hit 2 billion views back in May, a record at the time, Google’s engineers noted that it might also soon overflow the limits of a 32-bit integer. That fix was as simple as changing the memory space allotted to that data point from 32 bit to 64 bit, which is actually a relatively small change. It didn’t actually “break YouTube’s code” in any meaningful sense, let alone “break the Internet.” What’s mind-boggling about all this, though, is that the number that was pushing those limits loosely correlates with a quantity of people.

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Apple + U2 album release

I wrote a very opinionated post for Wired about Apple’s recent decision to force downloads of the new U2 album on all iTunes users.

There’s a very simple reason why this is unprecedented, and that is because it doesn’t make any sense. Never before has such a major technology company also operated as publicist for a creative artist. The whole endeavor yearns desperately to be a landmark new innovation for the music industry, perhaps something along the lines of Radiohead’s legitimately earth-moving In Rainbows, which was self-released with variable pricing in 2007 and remains the gold standard against which music industry innovation is measured. But this is not In Rainbows, and as such should instead be remembered primarily as a monumental blunder by the tech industry.

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Update: At 1:30pm today I’m going to be a guest on CHQR AM 770 in Calgary to discuss this fiasco; listen here.

Twitter and Television

A few nights ago I stayed up late to start watching season 2 of House of Cards as soon as it premiered, and as you might expect, I freaked out when Frank Underwood immediately kills Zoe Barnes in the first episode, so I wrote an essay for Wired about the odd sensation of sharing a cultural experience like that via the internet despite the availability of video-on-demand services like Netflix.

Even in the middle of the night, I wasn’t alone. Both Netflix binges and traditional broadcast television are increasingly subject to an internet-based social halo surrounding fandom, and nobody wants to be the one who misses the party.

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