Family Legacy

The world so often surprises me. Just yesterday,
I went to piss at a Panera Bread, did it
the usual way: polite knock on the door;
locked it behind me, relieved;
washed my hands in the too cold water
by the soap thing that never works right
while the urinal flushed itself, a cake of disinfectant
eroding at the bottom.

Wash vigorously–used to work
at a hospital, you know–
so I had time to look around,
really take it in while my hands froze.
Paper towels where you should grasp firmly,
two hands, not one, and pull straight down,
but if it’s an emergency, I guess
you’re supposed to turn this wheel.

I thought, “Huh, emergency feed. When
do we need towels so bad?
Is everything such a damned rush
that we can’t just use two hands,
grasp firmly, pull? Follow the damn
pictures they made so even chinks
can do it?” I pulled, two hands,
and left.

Updated – Why Chrome Concerns Me

Google has recently announced their web browser, Google Chrome, and while a variety of bloggers and news sites have begun reporting on and hypothesizing about Google’s motivation and the browser’s functionality, nobody seems to have any negative concerns regarding Chrome other than its competition with Mozilla Firefox. Some have shared their concern that this will kill Firefox as well as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which is a fine concern to have, but one I think isn’t major. People who care more about privacy will look at Google’s continuous data mining and give Chrome a miss. Firefox will still be used, and it’s Open Source, so it’ll continue being developed (unless Google buys it…). But again, not my main issue.

My concern is where Google states that Chrome is more than a web browser. Rather, it’s “a modern platform for web pages and applications,” with the word application mentioned 5 times in three paragraphs there. While Mozilla Firefox uses Gecko as its application engine, Chrome will use Webkit (along with Safari and Konquerer), just as Google’s mobile operating system (Android) will use Webkit.

Application compatibility and development could certainly put a dent in Mozilla Firefox’s usage statistics, but more importantly, it sends up a red flag to me. I fear we’ll return to the lack of standardization that was a hallmark of the browser wars in the early to mid 90s. As webapps become more prevalent, I fear web developers will have to begin writing apps to be compatible with Gecko, Webkit, and Microsoft, and that’s simply ludicrous. We are finally achieving standardization when it comes to HTML, and with Javascript, PHP, and ASP we’ve got languages that are understood equally by all browsers.

With Google entering the browser wars and choosing Webkit, it appears that we are establishing a lack of standardization for the future, which bothers me. Moreover, as Google moves more towards web development, with their own web browser in place I fear that they will build something akin to Microsoft’s ActiveX, where their web applications will be even more advanced and powerful, but will require their web browser to achieve that full functionality. I am concerned that Chrome will encourage Google to create proprietary web applications.

Of course, they may stick to their creed of “Do No Evil,” and my concerns may be completely unfounded. But as Google gains more power and popularity, I wonder how far they can push the definition of “Good” before losing the favour of their users. Regardless, I’ll check out Chrome so I can support it, but I doubt I’ll be switching to it full time. I already give Google my email and contacts, but adding my browsing into that… I like to pretend to have at least a little bit of privacy.

Addendum:: Google Chrome is Open Source, as is Webkit, so it’s not like THE END OF THE WORLD if they develop stuff that’s Webkit-only. It would just make me a little sad, and be a step in the wrong direction, I would think. Unless Webkit became a standard (and I’m sure someone will make the argument that Mozilla could always switch from Gecko to Webkit), and no news or rumours have arisen yet that such a move is likely in the web development community… though with both Android and the iPhone using Webkit, it certainly wouldn’t be absurd for Webkit to become so prevalent it became a standard…

Regarding Privacy:: Another update, since I mentioned this earlier. Since I’m in meetings all day, I haven’t downloaded, installed, and tried Chrome yet, but CNet takes a closer look at the Terms of Service attached to Chrome. Of particular concern to me is:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services.

Since my own content is copylefted under Creative Commons, I don’t particularly like the idea of Google serving up my content in any sort of advertisement and potentially making money from it.


Our campus newspaper took a look at the dangers of social networking last week (just in case it hadn’t been done enough in the last few years by other media outlets) and noted that Spokeo seems to take Facebook’s propensity towards aggregation and turn it up to eleven. Curious about this site, I decided to make my own account and give it a try.

The long and short of it is that:

  1. It does pull together a somewhat creepy amount of information about your “friends,” and
  2. It requires all your login credentials.

You have to enter login information for every social networking site you wish it to pull data from. Spokeo claims that it do not store these credentials, rather using them to import what it needs that single time, but I have trouble believing that claim. Suffice it to say that I’ll be spending a portion of my day developing some brand new passwords and changing every account I own.

Even more interesting/startling is when you import friends from Facebook or Myspace and Spokeo then cross-references their email address against sites you may not even visit to see if your friends are on there. People who have shared their Facebook profile with me now are sharing their Flikr pages with me, they just don’t know it because they never told me about their Flikr page, Spokeo did.

It’s a net-stalker’s dream, and an intriguing site to be sure, but I can’t feel comfortable using it. As Spokeo points out in their disclaimers, they’re not pulling any information you don’t already have access to. I am technically able to get a person’s email address from Myspace, and then I could go myself to Flikr and look them up. The difference is that I didn’t and wouldn’t; the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. What’s more, the site does it all for me; it’s like having a site named Stalkers’R’Us that aggregates all public/state information on a person and hands it to you (address, phone number, birthdate, email/website addresses, SSN) without you having to do more than login and click “import.”

It’s novel, and I think the creators have done some good work. The site is classy, well-functioning, smooth… and the principle behind it isn’t necessarily bad. I’m just not comfortable with it.