Soldiers Improvise a Solution from Predator

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Nike Mags from BTTF, ammo box from Predator... what's next?

In the movie Predator, Jesse Ventura’s character carries a M-134 Mini-gun, which he fed with a huge box strapped to his back. US soldiers with the 133rd Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan saw the movie and thought that such a box, while ridiculous for a minigun, might solve one of their own ammunition transportation problems. The Mk 48 machine gun is heavy and gunners have to carry their own ammunition. So Staff Sgt. Vincent Winkowski decided to build a back-mounted rig that would feed smoothly into his rifle:

So Winkowski grabbed an old ALICE (all-purpose lightweight individual carrying equipment) frame, welded two ammunition cans together — one atop the other after cutting the bottom out of the top can — and strapped the fused cans to the frame. To that he added a MOLLE (modular, lightweight load-carrying equipment) pouch to carry other equipment.

“We wondered why there wasn’t some type of dismounted (Common Remote Operating Weapons Station) that fed our machine guns instead of a mini-gun as portrayed in the movie,” Winkowski said. “So, I decided to try it using the feed chute assembly off of the vehicle CROWS. We glued a piece of wood from an ammo crate inside the ammo cans to create the decreased space necessary so the rounds would not fall in on each other.

Link -via TechCrunch | Image: Fox, 133rd Infantry Regiment

The great thing about priorities is that you can always go one higher – The Old New Thing – Site Home – MSDN Blogs

Serving at the Pleasure of the King

I enjoy my iPhone tremendously; I think it's the most important product Apple has ever created and one they were born to make. As a consumer who has waited far too long for the phone industry to get the swift kick in the ass it so richly deserved, I'm entirely on Apple's side here.

But as a software developer, I am deeply ambivalent about an Apple dominated future. Apple isn't shy about cultivating the experience around their new iOS products and the App Store. There are unusually strict, often mysterious rules around what software developers can and cannot do -- at least if they want entry into the App Store. And once you're in, the rules can and will change at any time. Apple has cracked down several times already:

The developers involved are contractually prevented from even discussing specifically what happened to them by the terms of the app store. Those frustrating, inconsistent, opaque App Store experiences led developers to coin parodies such as Apple's Three Laws of Developers.

  1. A developer may not injure Apple or, through inaction, allow Apple to come to harm.
  2. A developer must obey any orders given to it by Apple, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A developer must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

It is absolutely clear who is in charge when you submit an application to the App Store. Apple developers serve at the pleasure of the king.

Louis-xiv-painting

In Apple's defense, this is done in the name of protecting the consumers from malicious, slimy, or defective applications. Sort of like Nintendo's Seal of Approval, I guess.

The court of the king is a lucrative place to be, but equally dangerous. While upgrading my iPhone to iOS 5 – an excellent upgrade, by the way – I was surprised to discover the following blurb in the feature notes:

Safari Reader displays web articles sans ads or clutter so you can read without distractions. Reading List lets you save interesting articles to peruse later [like the popular Instapaper application], while iCloud keeps your list updated across all your devices.

Apple has since changed the page, but at the time I read it, there was a direct linked reference to Instapaper, the popular "save this webpage to read later" application which Reading List is a clone of. I distinctly remember this mention, because I was shocked that they would be so open and overt about replacing a beloved third-party application. Perhaps it made Apple uncomfortable too; maybe that's why they pulled the Instapaper text and link.

If Microsoft added a feature to Windows that duplicated a popular application's functionality, developers would be screaming bloody murder and rioting in the, er, blogs and web forums. But in the Mac world, if the king deems it necessary, then so it must be.

When iOS 5 and Lion ship, Apple will show a much larger percentage of iOS-device owners that saving web pages to read later is a useful workflow and can dramatically improve the way they read.

If Reading List gets widely adopted and millions of people start saving pages for later reading, a portion of those people will be interested in upgrading to a dedicated, deluxe app and service to serve their needs better. And they’ll quickly find Instapaper in the App Store.

I've met Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, and I like Marco. He's even been a guest on the Stack Exchange podcast. This is a nice, optimistic interpretation, but the reality is a little scarier. I'm struggling to understand why anyone would buy Instapaper when they can click a button in Safari and have that web page delivered to any of their Macs or iOS devices for later reading via iCloud.

Ah, but wait – what about offline support? Yes, that's something only Instapaper can deliver! Or can it?

A common scenario: an Instapaper customer is stocking up an iPad for a long flight. She syncs a bunch of movies and podcasts, downloads some magazines, and buys a few new games, leaving very little free space. Right before boarding, she remembers to download the newest issue of The Economist. This causes free space to fall below the threshold that triggers the [new iOS 5 space] cleaner, which — in the background, unbeknownst to her — deletes everything that was saved in Instapaper. Later in the flight, with no internet connectivity, she goes to launch Instapaper and finds it completely empty.

That's the problem with kings, you see. Their rule is absolute law, but they can be capricious, erratic, and impulsive. If you're lucky enough to live under the rule of a fair and generous king, then you'll do well. But historically speaking, monarchies have proven to be … unreliable.

Louis-xiv-convenience-store

I tend to agree with Marco that this is, in the big scheme of things, a minor technical problem. A private application cache not subject to iCloud syncing and space limitations would fix it. But it speaks volumes that Marco – a dedicated subject of the king – apparently had no idea this change was coming until it was on top of him. It's negatively impacting his Instapaper business and his customers. It's also concerning that this issue wasn't resolved or at least raised as a serious concern during the lengthy iOS 5 beta. Perhaps Apple's legendary secrecy is to blame. I honestly don't know.

As a consumer, I like that Apple is perfectly willing to throw its software developers under a bus to protect me (or, more cynically, Apple itself). But as a software developer, I'm not sure I can cope with that and I am unlikely to ever develop anything for an iOS device as a result. If you choose to deliver software in the Apple ecosystem, this is simply the tradeoff you've chosen to make. Apple developers serve at the pleasure of the king.

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New Time-Lapse Video Shows NYC in All Its Beauty and Glory

Fueled by voracious sharing among friends via blogs, Twitter and Facebook, time-lapse videos of big cities have become an Internet hit in recent years. They’ve become so popular because they show just how frenetic, impressive and, dare we say, cool, major cities often are — with people, cars, trains and more moving in a fast and often seamless pace. The best time-lapse videos of cities are strikingly beautiful with the speeded-up movement of the sun, clouds, water, lights, people and everything else bringing a sense of serenity and inspiration to many viewers. It’s also important to note that selecting the right theme music plays a key role in making a time-lapse video a success.

For your Friday enjoyment, we present the video below, which was filmed between May 2009 and September 2011 by Will Boisture and released earlier this week. The song accompanying the video is “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap.

Metropolis – A New York City Timelapse from Will Boisture on Vimeo.

If you’re looking for more time-lapse videos to watch, here are some others that we’ve featured on The Infrastructurist before:

Washington, D.C.

New York City

New York City (another one)

Paris, France

Charlotte, North Carolina

A subway yard in New York

Image: Flickr

The Rands Test

It's hard to pick a single best work by Joel Spolsky, but if I was forced to, I'd pick The Joel Test. It's his own, highly irresponsible, sloppy test to rate the quality of software, and when anyone asks me what is wrong with their team I usually start...

Why programs become territorial

“Can you ask Sam about that? Stacker is his domain”, “I’d rather let Josh look at the router, he wrote it”, “Jon is better versed in associations, send it to him”.

The natural progression of programs is towards the territorial. When a programmer has weaved an intricate web of considerable complexity, others are loathe to enter his lair and he is loathe for them to do so.

This is despite the fact that we all agree that it’s bad for programs to become territorial. When only one or a few people know how to work on something, you get bottlenecks where progress is stunted until the master is ready. You risk the hit-by-a-bus factor where nobody knows how the system works if the master leaves. You ensure the annoyance of stakeholders who can’t understand why another minion can’t fix his urgent problem.

But this problem can’t be solved with a slogan. You can proclaim that “we shouldn’t have territorial parts of our program” until you turn blue, but nothing is going to change until you accept the cost of avoidance.

The first step of acceptance is to recognize that sending someone fresh in to fix a single issue in a complex part of the code is expensive. It’s going to take Pratik five to ten times the effort to fix a single issue in Stacker that it’s going to take Sam. And the odds are that even that is not enough to appreciate the internal coherency of the system, which means that the fix is likely to be a butcher’s job, and Sam will have to rewrite it afterwards anyway.

To broaden the base of knowledge, you’re going to have to let someone else not only spend considerable effort getting up to speed. Then you’re going to have them deal with more than just a quick fix. Let them deal with a raft of issues and let them spend the time of the original creator to learn it all.

To do all that, they can’t do anything else at the same time. That feature you want do is now going to be pushed a few days or a a week out. Until you’re ready to delay things you really want done, it’s fruitless to bemoan that parts of the code base territorial.

Xbox 360 Teams Up With Entertainment Leaders to Transform TV (Microsoft)

Microsoft:
Xbox 360 Teams Up With Entertainment Leaders to Transform TV — AT&T, BBC, Comcast, HBO, Rogers, Telefónica, Televisa and Verizon are among providers rolling out new TV entertainment services on Xbox LIVE. — A new era in television begins this holiday where your entertainm...

Control Your Xbox with your Windows Phone Using the Xbox Companion App

Earlier today you probably spotted the big, big news from our pals over on the Xbox team. They’re bringing a new world of entertainment to your living room and making it faster, funner (yes, that’s right, funner) and easier to find. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend checking out the killer video...

ColaLife taps Coke’s distribution system to disperse health care products

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Genius.

To put a new twist on an old Coca-Cola slogan: ”Have and Coke and . . .some hydration salts?”
While many commercial products never find their way to all of the world’s countries, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t have Coca-Cola. The ubiquitous soft-drink, with its trademark re...

Stop ‘Schweddy Balls’ Effort Begins

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Ben and Jerry's needs to keep doing what they're doing. I'm sure that its a tasty ice cream!
by Mark Memmott
Saying that "the vulgar new flavor ha...