The long, slow death of an institution

From the New York Times comes word that the Los Angeles Times is continuing its long, slow decline into mediocrity:

The Los Angeles Times will announce long-rumored changes to its book review coverage next weekend, a spokeswoman for the paper said on Tuesday. According to a report in Publishers Weekly, next Sunday will be the last time the paper runs a stand-alone book review section.

As a native-born Angeleno, I've seen the L.A. Times at its best, and lately at its worst. I remember my dad always read Jack Smith's column, just as I never miss Steve Lopez's. But I'm watching it slowly decline into a mere shadow of its former self. They've killed the Religion section, the county-specific sections, and fired reporters. They tried to get rid of Al Martinez, who's kind of an institution at the Times. They've made the Sunday magazine monthly, and toyed with the idea of turning it over to the advertising staff. They've taken what was once a quality newspaper and emasculated it, and one wonders where the end is or what form it will take.

My wife and I subscribe, and at $44.40 every two months, it used to be a bargain. We'd probably pay twice that for a better newspaper. But with every cut they make, that $44.40 begins to look like less of a deal. Little by little, my favorite sections are being killed off, and I'm not so sure anymore why I'm subscribing. It would be more understandable if it was losing money, but it's not--it's just not profitable enough to suit the suits at the Tribune Co.

I tried the Kindle edition briefly, but it was so shoddily put together that I canceled my trial subscription. I get the New York Times every morning, and the difference in quality--both of the reporting and editing--is noticeable. Electronic distribution is the future of the newspaper industry; you'd think the L.A. Times would take it more seriously. But, apparently, they haven't figured that out yet.

Open and closed, Part III—Microblogging redux

Not terribly long ago, I said some extremely positive things about, a new microblogging service running on open-source software. At the time, I indicated I'd be making it my main microblog:

I'm moving to as my main status blog, and I'm asking my friends, family, and anyone who reads this to join me over there. At the very least, register an account there and get your preferred username while it's still relatively new and uncrowded. I'll still be posting my sutff at Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, etc. through the miracle of, but I'll be hanging out at

Sounded good at the time. Turns out, though, I let my enthusiasm get ahead of my common sense. While I still think points the way to where this type of service needs to go, I'm making Jaikumy home base for now. When all is said and done, is still very much in beta, and has a way to go before it's mature enough to rely on.

What happened? Well, yesterday they rolled out SMS posting (that's text messaging, to use the common term). Something happened, and's servers decided they didn't want to deliver the SMS messages I sent to the email address I was given (they're using an email address instead of a phone number or shortcode). This resulted in dozens of multiple error messages being sent to my phone, over and over again. All day. And all night. And well into today, for good measure.

This, coupled with a hiccup with the servers at, who also decided to send me multiple SMS failure messages, meant I got inundated with unwanted incoming text messages. This is exactly the sort of problem that one has to expect when rolling out a new service, but unfortunately it's also the sort of problem that can cost the recipient real money if it pushes him over the limit of what his mobile provider's calling plan allows. I'm still not sure why kept sending me messages--it was down almost all morning, and Evan, the developer, said only that it was "a terrible bug", but blamed it on my mobile provider, Verizon Wireless. Or maybe it was my phone. Yeah, that's it…

Gee, thanks. I'll just ring up Verizon and LG straightaway and get them to totally revamp their software architecture so I can post what I had for lunch on a website in beta. No problem.

Since I needed to make the ringing stop, I totally disabled my account, deleted my SMS information on once it came back online, adjusted my Verizon Wireless settings to reject practically all SMS messages, and spent the day with Twitter and Jaiku. And you know what? I had no problems. Both have US shortcodes, so I could post from my phone with no hassles. And Jaiku has a particularly appealing and well-thought-out interface (to my eye, anyway). I'd forgotten how much I liked it.

So, for the time being, here's the deal: if I'm in front of a computer, I'll crosspost through Otherwise, I'm sending SMS direct to Jaiku and Twitter. I really encourage you to post at Jaiku, since it's the only one that never gives me a problem, but I can't force anyone to do it, so I'll check in at Twitter from time to time. But if you want to join Jaiku, let me know. I've still got some invitations, and it'll be a great place to track me when I go on vacation in a few days. Ironically, it's the polar opposite of; it runs proprietary software and is owned by Google, so I've gone from completely open to as closed as you can get.

And A great idea. I'm keeping my account (despite an earlier post), but I'm just a bit leery of relying on it. As it stands now, as a single provider, it's just as liable as Twitter to have scaling issues; the magic happens when other sites running the Laconica software crop up, and interoperability happens. We'll get there eventually, but we're not there yet. Meanwhile, Twitter has the community, and Jaiku has the aesthetics and feature set. Say what you will about the small-town atmosphere of, sometimes it's nice to have big-city conveniences.

Update (2008-07-23): After about 24 hours of no SMS fail messages from, I unblocked my SMS service with Verizon. A few minutes later, they started coming in again…so I re-blocked most SMS messages. I wonder how long it will take for this storm to pass?

Death of a victor

From the New York Timesthis morning comes word of the death of Bronislaw Geremek, a Polish Jew who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation and became one of the leaders of Poland's transition out of Communism:

In a lifetime of enormous achievement, Mr. Geremek's greatest contribution may have been as one of the leaders of the round-table negotiations that helped pave the way for elections in 1989 that eventually brought the Solidarity movement to power, initiating a peaceful end to Communist control of Poland.

This negotiated change of power provided a template for other countries in the Warsaw Pact and, in the years since, far beyond.

Twenty-seven years ago this month, I personally witnessed a portion of the exodus of Polish citizens during the brief flowering of liberty before Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law that fall. On a tourist bus, in transit across East Germany on the autobahn leading to Hamburg, I did not suspect that the families I saw in overloaded Polski-Fiats were but the first sign of a crack that would split apart the Soviet bloc and end Communism less than ten years later. As a child of the Cold War, it was something I never expected to see in my lifetime.

As Americans, we like to think that we "won" the Cold War under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. But without the bravery of men like Bronislaw Geremek, who had the courage to stand up to tyranny in whatever form it presented itself, we would still be facing Soviet troops across the Iron Curtain. His life stands as testimony to the fact that freedom cannot be imposed from without, it must be fought for from within.

Godspeed, Bronislaw.

Open and closed, Part II—Microblogging

Microblogging is one of those things that's hard to explain to the uninitiated, and doesn't really begin to make sense until you've used it for a while. It's like instant messaging, only public. It's like a bulletin board, only for short messages. It's a status update system. It's a very small blog. It's…well, it's hard to explain.

The granddaddy of the microblogs, of course, is Twitter. Twitter has been much in the news of late, not only for its random crashes and frequent unavailability, but also for its recent infusion of venture capital from the likes of Jeff Bezos. Twitter's popularity has spawned a multitude of competitors, all of whom have tried to differentiate themselves from Twitter by adding features.

Pownce, brought to you by Kevin Rose, the creator of, offers file transfer and the ability to send messages to selected groups of people.Jaiku, from a team in Finland, added the ability to follow RSS feeds and introduced threaded replies. It showed great potential until Googlebought it and made it invitation-only, which effectively killed whatever momentum it acquired after tech journalist and podcaster Leo Laportemade a well-publicized switch from Twitter, bringing with him his audience. There's Friendfeed, which also has RSS aggregation ability plus commenting, and the quirky Plurk.

What all of these services have in common is that they are silosâclosed systems, vertically integrated and walled off from the outside world. Twitter has taken some criticism for its frequent outagesâwhich have become so common that the "fail whale" image it displays at such times <span>has its own Wikipedia entry</span>_(Wikipedia entry deleted as of 2008-07-15) but all of them are potentially subject to the same issues of reliability. Just last week, though, a new competitor went public that has the potential to be radically disruptive.

The new entrant is, a Canadian offering that is based on an open-source microblogging platform known as Laconica. I'm no programmer, but as I understand it, the idea behind is that individuals or companies can download and install the Laconica software on a server and run their own microblog, and all these microblogs can interact with each other and with Suddenly, you're not in a silo, you're part of a distributed network of microblogs, and if one fails the others can go on undisturbed. This means, in theory at least, that the kind of scaling issues we've seen with Twitter won't be a factor. It also means that you can be on one service, and a friend can be on another, and you can still see their status updates and follow their posts.

Of course, right now is the main user of the software, but there is a list on the Laconica website of other servers running Laconica,and there is no reason to think there won't be more. The Laconica software is open-source, so anyone can maintain or develop it, and then donate those changes back to the community. It's essentially the same model used by the Linux community and the popular browser Firefox, and it has been shown to work well.

The only fly in the ointment, if there is one, is the numbers. Right now, Twitter is still where the majority of users are, but the "cool kids"âthe developers, programmers, and open-source advocates who can see the potential of a distributed microblogging networkâare already moving towards (here's one example). In the first 24 hours it was public, registered over 8000 new users and posted more than 19,000 status updates. Clearly, the early adopters are interested. What is needed now is for regular users to adopt it as well.

So, I'm doing my part. I'm moving to as my main status blog, and I'm asking my friends, family, and anyone who reads this to join me over there. At the very least, register an account there and get your preferred username while it's still relatively new and uncrowded. I'll still be posting my sutff at Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, etc. through the miracle of, but I'll be hanging out at It isn't feature-complete yetâthings like an SMS gateway and direct messaging are still to come. But it's evolving rapidly, and so far shows impressive stability. The main developer is responsive, and the community (the Identi.cans?) is ever so congenial.

Won't you join me?

Open and closed, Part I(a)—iPocalypse

I can't move on to Part II without saying something about today's disastrous rollout of the 3G iPhone. Apple is normally very good at providing an excellent customer experience, but today provided a cautionary lesson to Apple in what _not_ to do.

For starters, it's been said, fairly in my opinion, that the Achilles heel of the iPhone is the linkup with AT&T. When we're talking about AT&T in this context, we're really talking about what used to be Cingular. The old AT&T Wireless was absorbed by Cingular a few years ago, and since then the former AT&T network has been obliterated in favor of the ex-Cingular GSM network, which was definitely not ready for prime time, at least not in my area—and their customer service was singularly (Cingularly?) bad.

For example, when I complained of bad reception, I was told that my office, which lays directly next to one of the two major highways between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is in a city of over 100,000 people within a broad valley, was in a "tough area." Gee, thanks.

Anyway, it looks like today's problems were caused not by AT&T, but by Apple itself. There are conflicting stories out there, but it appears that Apple's iTunes activation servers went downat a _very_ inconvenient time. Imagine standing in line for several hours, finally purchasing the phone, having your number ported over, and then not being able to activate the thing. Nice. The basic problem here is something that has served Apple very well up until now: Apple's insistence on controlling every aspect of the user experience. While this has allowed Apple to craft a consistent look and feel across multiple computing platforms, in this case it worked against them in a big way.

Most of the time, when you buy a GSM phone, it's a simple matter of taking the SIM card out of the old phone and putting it in the new one (or, in the case of a new customer, activating a new SIM card). In this case, an extra step was inserted into the process, because Apple does not want you to use the phone in ways that Uncle Steve disapproves of—and, apparently, because of concerns over unauthorized unlocking of the phone. Because the price of the iPhone is being subsidized by AT&T, AT&T wants to make sure you activate the phone on the AT&T network, and there is doubtless a contractual obligation on Apple's part to help ensure that this happens, and that iPhones are used only on AT&T's network. This, of course, is a losing battle.

There's an interesting corollary to the music industry here. The record companies would love it if everyone bought the same music over and over again. This is why they initially pushed so hard for digital-rights management (DRM). This led to Apple selling music files through the iTunes Music Store that were hobbled by DRM and were consequently unable to be played on anything but an approved iPod by the person who originally bought the music. Predictably, various methods were found to strip out the DRM from tracks purchased through the iTunes store, and ultimately the record companies were forced by consumer pressure to offer DRM-free tracks through other merchants. Like the record companies with their music, Apple and AT&T are following an outdated business model. Instead of locking down the iPhone six ways from Sunday, what Apple should do is fairly obvious, at least to me:

  1. Sell the iPhone as an unlocked and unsubsidized GSM phone. The initial iPhone proved that people were willing to spend large sums of money for an Apple-branded phone that just worked. Why not let them?
  2. Permit its use on any GSM network.
  3. Either sell it exclusively through Apple Stores, or offer it through multiple providers.
  4. Develop and market a CDMAversion of the iPhone that can be sold via Sprint and Verizon. In many areas of the USA, those are the most complete and reliable networks; why not take advantage of them? Palm and Blackberry manage to do both GSM and CDMA versions; why can't Apple?

Of course, for those who just can't wait for this eventuality to take place, there is an option. But then, if you read Part I, you already know that.

Open and closed, Part I

The last few weeks have seen a couple of announcements in the tech world: the launch of the new 3G iPhone from Apple, and a new round of investment in the popular but increasingly unreliable microblogging service Twitter. Each of these events has been discussed in the tech press, and the iPhone in particular is currently the subject of much hype and publicity,having gone on sale today.

Both of these things, however, have eclipsed a couple of developments that are, arguably, far more interesting and with much greater potential to shake up the established order. With all due respect to the iPhone, which has had a dramatic impact on the smartphone market, the new model is probably more accurately seen as an upgrade of the first-generation model than as something all-new—at least in terms of hardware. The new hardware features are GPS and 3G support (i.e., support for the GSM HSDPAprotocol, a mobile broadband standard). Unfortunately, GPS tends to drastically reduce battery life, and AT&T offers 3G access in only a limited number of areas. Because the new phone requires a much more expensive calling plan, and the other improvements to the new iPhone are software improvements that are available to current iPhone owners as a download, there has been some grumbling that upgrading to the new iPhone may not be worth it to current owners.

What the iPhone hype has obscured is the launch of a phone that, while not a direct competitor to the iPhone in any real sense, is at least a shot across the bow from an unlikely source. The OpenMoko group has introduced the Neo Freerunner, a touch-screen, tri-band unlocked GSM phone that bears more than a passing resemblance to a rounded-off iPhone. The potentially game-changing thing about the Freerunner is its open-source nature. While the iPhone runs a version of OS X, the Freerunner uses a mobile version of Linux—and unlike the iPhone, an owner can legally hack into its operating system, add programs to it, and generally alter it to his or her heart's content.

True, most people aren't interested in doing that to their mobile phone, but the emergence of the iPhone Dev Team showed that a fair number of people want the ability to customize their phone regardless of the manufacturer's wishes. Apple would prefer that this not happen, which is likely the reason why the new iPhone must be activated in-store rather than at home through iTunes, as was the case with the previous model. With the Freerunner, there is no such limitation, and the inclusion of a Linux-style package manager should make installation of new programs a breeze. The Freerunner is not an exact match for the iPhone feature-for-feature; for example, there is no camera, it doesn't support HSDPA, and you won't be using it to sync up to your iTunes library anytime soon.

Because it's an unlocked phone, not subsidized by a mobile operator such as AT&T, it's also more expensive. But for what it is, it's an extremely interesting peek into a world of much greater wireless freedom than we're used to. Lots of people must agree; as I write this, the GSM 900 version is sold out at the NeoMoko store. Coming up in Part II: Twitter and the world of microblogging, and a new open-source competitor.

Giving the people what they want

Listening to this week's episode of This Week in Tech, reference was made to the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"Now, I haven't seen the film in question. I can't speak to whatever argument it puts forth. I do, however, have a fairly good idea of the answer to the question posed in the title.

Folks, the electric car was killed by the public. I know that isn't the answer people want to hear. It's much more satisfying to blame General Motors and Toyota for killing off their electric cars (although Toyota receives kudos for its hybrid technology). The fact remains, however, that if enough people had wanted them, they'd still be producing them, because that's how free enterprise works. If there is demand, someone will fill that demand. If there is insufficient demand to profitably produce something, it's going to be killed off. Like it or not, that's how the world works.

Here's an example from another industry: when I worked for McDonald's (which I did for almost fifteen years, as a manager), there was a general outcry that McDonald's needed to produce healthier food. In response, the company replaced its soft-serve ice cream with frozen yogurt, introduced salads, developed a low-fat hamburger (the McLean Deluxe), and lowered the fat content of its milkshakes. And then… Sales tanked. People complained that the yogurt had an aftertaste (guess what, people, it's yogurt), that the shakes weren't rich enough, that the McLean was dry. The most popular dressings for the salads were bleu cheese and ranch.

You see, people often say they want one thing, and then go out and spend their money on something else. While Mickey D's was introducing healthier options, people kept right on buying Big Macs and Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese. And when GM introduced the EV1, people kept right on buying Tahoes, and Silverados, and Yukons, and Hummers, and did so in ever-increasing numbers, because twenty years after the Arab oil embargo, people forgot that gasoline could get expensive and scarce. Sure, there were some people who wanted an electric car, but not enough to make it a profitable enterprise--and so GM, and the rest of the industry, gave people what they wanted, until even Cadillac, Lincoln, and Lexus started building huge, glitzy trucks.

So the next time you're tempted to blame the industry for its stupidity, take a look in your own driveway. If you're driving a full-size truck or SUV, and you're not a farmer--or if you don't live in an extreme climate--blame yourself instead. We only got what we asked for.

By any other name...

Note (2016-10-14): Since I first wrote this eight years ago, I have learned much more about the historic practice of jizya than I knew at the time, and this post no longer reflects my thinking.

From the New York Times this morning comes word that murdered Iraqi Chaldean Catholic archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose body was found in a shallow grave outside Mosul earlier this year, had been paying protection money to insurgents:

For more than 1,000 years, northern Iraq has been shared by people who for the most part believe and worship differently…Since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, Muslims in the Middle East permitted that diversity in part through a special tax on Jews and Christians. The tax was called a jizya--and that is the name with which the insurgents chose to cloak extortion, Mafia-style, from Christians…

Um, excuse me… How is what the insurgents did any different from the historic practice of jizya , except for the official sanction of the latter? Answer: it isn't any different. The New York Times doesn't go so far as to say so, but jizya is, and has always been, nothing more than legalized, sanctified extortion. It's a stain on Islam. Extortion is extortion. I'm just sayin'.

Small is beautiful

In the 1960s, when the cult of the big American car was at its zenith, Volkswagen published an advertisement with the headline, "Small is beautiful." It went on to talk about the benefits of a small car payment, small insurance, small repair bill, etc. In the last few days, I had an experience that convinced me that Volkswagens and Orthodoxy have something in common.

Frederica Mathewes-Green once wrote that "Orthodoxy works best when a priest knows his parishioners well, and can give them personal spiritual direction and visit in their homes a few times each year." I had occasion over the weekend to witness the truth of that statement. Yesterday, my wife and I accompanied a friend of mine--the first friend I made in the Orthodox church--to another parish in our area.

My friend--let's call him Stephen to protect everyone's anonymity--had chosen to leave the Greek Orthodox parish where we met following some unfortunate unpleasantness with several different people. Things were said, feelings were hurt, and Stephen decided that life was too short to keep banging his head against a wall (my description, not his). He attended a parish in a nearby city a couple times, but the distance was a problem. I'd had my own frustrations, unrelated to his (and perhaps the subject of a future post), and was also considering making a change, simply for a fresh start.

Fortunately, there was an OCA parish closer to both of us, with a priest whom Stephen had already met. Over coffee, we agreed we'd visit it together. The differences were remarkable. I'd driven past the church many times on my way home from work. It occupies a converted house, next to a used-car dealer in an undistinguished part of town. Once inside, though, there was an overwhelming impression of sanctity. We arrived during Hours (Orthros), to the sounds of the choir, harmonizing in tones inherited from the Russians who first brought Orthodoxy to America. The smell of the incense, the light of the candles, and the glint of sunlight off the gold of the icons brought one into the presence of another world. The priest and deacon, moving behind the iconostasis and preparing for the liturgy about to begin. Of course, all of this could be said of my usual parish, but the difference here was the scale. Whereas my usual parish occupied a converted military chapel, here we were in a space essentially the size of someone's living room (which it undoubtedly once was). There was an intimacy here with the divine; it was impossible to hide in the back pew and melt into the crowd. Indeed, there were no pews at all, save the benches along the back and sides. A few folding chairs were set up to the sides, but the central space was open, giving one a clear view to the iconostasis and making one feel immediately part of the liturgy. The liturgy itself was a revelation. It was conducted entirely in English, and for the first time I was able to understand everything that was said. Although the service books at my usual parish are bilingual--so non-Greeks and visitors can follow along with an English translation--and I have no objection to hearing Greek, there have been times when I have felt somewhat lost. Here, that was not an issue.

Ironically, it is somewhat more traditionally Orthodox to use the vernacular in the service--the first Russian missionaries to Alaska assiduously translated the liturgy into the various native tongues, native languages are a required subject to this day in the Alaskan seminaries, and the Russian alphabet itself was devised so that the liturgy could be translated from Greek and written in the ancient Slavonic tongue. After the liturgy, there was an education hour followed by coffee hour, and here the beauty of a small parish made itself evident. In my usual parish, the priest is quite popular, extremely overworked, and usually quite stressed, and everyone wants a piece of him. The most one can hope for in coffee hour is a few quick words before he has to move on to the next person. Unless it's an urgent situation, anything more than that requires an appointment. Here, we were able to sit down and have lunch with the priest, and spent probably over an hour in conversation with him. He patiently answered questions, and was in no hurry to end our time together. It was exactly the kind of relationship I want to have with my priest, and it will never be possible in the parish I currently attend. That's where things currently stand. Stephen will undoubtedly be attending the new parish, and I'm probably going to do the same. It's not that things are so awful at my old parish (although there have been challenges), it's just that the new one feels so much more inviting--and, it has to be said, without the ethnic distractions of a parish and an archdiocese invested in promoting the culture of the old country. It may be small, but it feels like home. And small, in this case, is definitely beautiful.

Up in the cloud

Recently, I've been thinking about the changing nature of computing. This was occasioned by an email that showed up in my inbox informing me that there was a new version of NeoOfficeavailable (NeoOffice is a Mac port of the OpenOffice.orgproject). I've been a big fan of OpenOffice and its derivatives over the years; when I was in college at UCSB, I used it in preference to Microsoft Word, which had a nasty habit of crashing on my G3 iBook, and used it in Linux when I wrote my proseminar paper, which was effectively my senior thesis. Overall, I found it more stable, more customizable, and just plain more to my taste than the Microsoft product. I've kept current versions of it on all our computers, given it away to friends, and its free and open-source nature means I can do so legally without taking out a loan to pay for it. It opens corrupted Word files more reliably than Word does, reads old Word formats that the current version of Word doesn't want to know about, and its native format is the Open Document Format, which has been recognized as an ISO standard.

It's not perfect; until recent versions of NeoOffice, its user interface made it look like a Windows 98 app, early versions took forever to start up, and it's a bloody huge download. But overall I've been so happy with it that I haven't really considered other options--until now.

What's changed my mind is, as you might guess, Google Docs. I'd tried early versions of it, which had limited functionality, and had gone back to NeoOffice. Then I decided to move my email hosting. I signed up for Google Apps For Your Domain, which also gives you a variety of other services including Google Docs. I tried it again, and…I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much, in fact, that it's now my default word processor.

It does have its limitations. If you need mail merge and footnotes and adjustable letter spacing, you won't be happy. But if you want to write a letter, or a to-do list, or any other basic word processing function, it's in there--and your document is stored on Google's servers, securely, available to you anywhere you have an internet connection. This might be problematic if you don't have reliable Web access, but even there Google's engineers have figured out a solution--Google Gears, which gives you offline access. It can handle PDF files, and will import and export files in several formats. And it isn't just a word processor--Google Docs also does spreadsheets and presentations.

So now you have a free office suite, running in your browser, with documents accessible anywhere. Suddenly, a desktop application--particularly an expensive one--doesn't make as much sense as it did before. To be sure, there are lots of good ones out there--Word, WordPerfect, AbiWord, Mellel, OpenOffice, Pages, etc.--but increasingly, the question you have to ask is, _"why bother?"_

Indeed, that is becoming a question in many areas of computing. As it stands, you can do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, file backup, and a host of other things using web apps and web services. I'm a good example of what can be done--my email is hosted by Google, my photos are on Flickr, backed up to Amazon S3via JungleDisk, my check register is a Google spreadsheet, and my documents are mostly Google Docs (downloaded to my computer as ODF files and backed up to Amazon S3, just in case).

The upshot of all this is that you need less computer with which to do your everyday tasks. Why bother with a huge optical drive if almost everything you do is web-based? Thus, something like the Asus eeePC(on the low end) or the MacBook Air(on the high end) starts to look like a reasonable solution. Operating systems aren't even all that important anymore, since the web is cross-platform, so you have real choice there as well.

And the best part is, you never have to download and update an application ever again.