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Just Another Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Published October 24, 2011

Need to know: Released just 19 days after his death, this biography tells the story of Steve Jobs. Jobs asked Isaacson specifically to write his life’s story and conducted over 40 interviews with the author. Isaacson also interviewed over 100 family members, friends, colleagues, friends, and enemies for the book. This is likely the most definitive biography of Steve Jobs that will ever be written.

Read if:

  1. You enjoy well written and well crafted biographies. This is as good as it gets in that respect. Isaacson is a tremendously well-respected biographer and he does the subject justice here.
  2. You enjoy pulling back the curtain to see how things at large corporations such as Apple and Pixar are done, and how some of the world’s great products came into being.
  3. You enjoy eccentric personalities. It would be hard to categorize Steve Jobs as a “normal” person. Few geniuses are “normal” and Jobs is no exception. From his bouts of rage to his strange eating habits, Jobs possessed interesting personality and that personality is at the forefront of Jobs’ story from childhood through his battle with cancer. Some biographies drag simply because the subject, no matter how historically important, just isn’t that interesting of a character. There is no such problem here. This isn’t Life by Keith Richards, but you will be entertained.

Don’t Read If:

  1. You hate biographies out of some strange principle.
  2. You are one of the five people in America (or much of the world for that matter) who does not currently or who has never owned any Apple product. I mean, even my parents have owned an iPod.
  3. You hate Apple products out of some strange principle.
  4. You prefer to imagine Steve Jobs as some form of deity. Steve Jobs was a genius, but that isn’t the same as being a good person. He didn’t make products because he wanted to make the world a better place. He made products out of a desire to make great products and to crush his competition. He would never be nominated for any husband or father lifetime achievement awards. He often treated his employees poorly. There are episodes in the biography that will make anyone who follows common social norms cringe and there are times when you will think “Steve Jobs was actually an asshole.” If you don’t want to ever think of Jobs as an asshole then stay away.

Final recommendation: I would recommend this biography to almost anyone. Some may be cold to the idea of a biography of a corporate CEO, but few CEOs have ever overseen products that reached individuals on such a personal level. If you own an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, then you also likely know how closely linked that device is to your everyday life. The stories of how those products came to be are fascinating in and of themselves. Add to that the portrait of Jobs personality as told through his own eyes and those around him, and I can promise you will come away from this biography entertained. You won’t regret reading.

Pete Townshend’s Misguided Attack on the “Digital Vampire”

Have to disagree with Pete on this one

In a recent lecture legendary guitarist Pete Townshend had the following to say about iTunes:

“Is there really any good reason why, just because iTunes exists in the wild west internet land of Facebook and Twitter, it can’t provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire, like a digital Northern Rock, for its enormous commission?”

The “services” that Townshend is referring to are services he claims traditional record labels and music publishers have provided to young acts in the past, such as editorial guidance and “creative nurture.” Leaving aside what you may think of iTunes as a software program (it is horrible!) or Apple in general, Townshend could not be more far off base in regard to the responsibility of digital storefronts to artists or the opportunities the digital marketplace provides for artists both young and old.

There is no denying that Apple is 800 pound gorilla in the world of digital music. iTunes accounts for 75% Read more…

Your iPod for $4 a day, Update

Yesterday, another employee of Foxconn Technology Group committed suicide.  This is the 10th suicide the electronics manufacturer has seen this year.  As mentioned here a few days ago, Foxconn is one of the leading contracted manufacturers for Apple, but the company also does a large amount of work for Nokia and Dell computers.  Anyway, Foxconn’s solution to the suicide problem is apparently to now make employees promise they will not kill themselves:

Workers have reportedly been told to sign letters promising not to kill themselves and even agree to be institutionalised if they appeared to be in an “abnormal mental or physical state for the protection of myself and others”.

So someone is supposed to stop short of suicide because they made a promise to the same company that has driven them to suicide in the first place???  Yep, sounds like a great plan….

Your iPod Made for $4 a Day…Enjoy!

Gizmodo has an interesting summary of a Southern Weekly undercover piece on Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, China.  Foxconn is one of Apple’s main manufacturing contractors, and is also a factory which has seen 9 suicide attempts (7 succesful) at its Chinese factory over the past half year.  To investigate, Southern Weekly sent a reporter undercover to work at the factory for 28 days.  He found that workers are forced to work nearly 24/7 with only quick breaks to eat or sleep.  All of this is done for roughly $130 a month ($4.33 a day).

Everyone knows Apple products are generally tremendous, but something has to be done about this kind of thing:

Another worker spoke about one of the favorite activities in the factory lines: He likes to drop stuff on the floor. Why? Workers spend achingly up to eight hours standing up, so they feel that squatting down to grab a fallen object is the most restful moment of their working day.

Makes that iPad seem a little less kick-ass, huh?

[Original article in Chinese for the bilingual here]

Obama iPhone App Bad For Democracy, Says Obama

In a commencement address to Hampton University on Sunday, President Obama said the following:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter, and with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Putting aside the ridiculous notion that the President doesn’t know how to operate an iPod (even Dubya knew how to use an iPod), this is a cheap and misguided attack against new forms of delivering and receiving information. Read more…

No Porn for You

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently sent an email which included the following:

we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and Android phone.

I’m sure this policy is intended to prevent kids from gaining access, but kids will always find porn.  Kids at my middle school would pass around floppy disks with assorted porn pictures on them (or so I hear, *wink*).  There is really nothing that will stand between a kid and porn.  Plus, anyone with an iPhone can access porn through Safari,  you know, the browser provided with the iPhone.  Hell, with all  of the sexting going on(oh to be born 15 years later) I’m not sure that kids even need porn anymore.  Who needs porn if the girl from science class is willing to send you a photo of her in nothing but a training bra.  However, if you do still feel the need for 3.5 inch porn, you will just have to settle for simulating masturbation on a fish.  Thank you, Apple.

And You Thought You Were Having a Bad Day

Last month, Apple Software Engineer Gray Powell was just out having a good time at a German beer place (mmmmm… German beer places).  At the end of the evening  he made the common mistake of leaving his cell phone at the bar.  Unfortunately, this cell phone happened to be the unreleased (and previously unannounced) next generation iPhone.  The phone was found and eventually turned over to Gizmodo, who then dissected the thing only to realize that they had “one of the biggest scoops in tech reporting history.”  So next time you wake up hungover to realize that your phone has been sitting in the toilet since your 4th (or 7th?) shot of tequila, just remember that you could be this guy.

Maybe this thing is cool………

I’ve had basically zero interest in the “big iTouch” since it was announced a few weeks ago, but I must say this app looks pretty cool:

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