The Cave "Only what you take with you"

Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 6: Ulterior Motives

"But which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?" (Source)

“But which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?” (Source)

“Always two there are […] A master and an apprentice.” –Yoda

Our phones are here to serve us (not the other way around). There shouldn’t be anything hidden from us. Is there a plot the overthrow the master? What is your “smart” phone designed to do, and whom does it serve? There’s too much misdirection and teeth pulling instead of providing what I want without giving it away to the enemy. Maybe my phone shouldn’t hold any information at all! I’m not going to play by the rules of my apprentice.

It is not smart to hide things from your master, and then tell him how he’s allowed (or not allowed) to access the information. Phone, don’t be dumb; you will be destroyed and replaced by a more obedient apprentice.


Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 5: Touch-heavy


"U can't touch this" Source

“U can’t touch this”[4] Source

“Touch-a touch-a touch-a touch me. I wanna be dirty.”[1] — Love, Your Dumb Phone

It’s not a problem with a dirty touch screen; that would be a stretch for an entire post. It’s a problem with the dirty power[2]: perhaps an even farther stretch. But, “I’m cold on a mission, so pull on back,”[4] and stretch yourself for a moment because your phone won’t stretch for you.

We’re constantly trying to stretch the battery life of our phones, but the phones keep demanding to be touched, which drains the battery. Phones have this “dirty power” over us, but maybe there are also some “spikes” in the power management of these dumb devices. The greatest feature is also the greatest flaw in the device. It is the fact that it has to be touched in order to react. Does it even react in the most effective way? What indication is there to let you know how the phone has been touched? Do the phone reduce the amount of touches in order so save battery power? If it is not smart enough to do so, then maybe it shouldn’t have a touch screen at all!

Auto-brightness. “Can’t touch this.”[4]
Lock screen. “Can’t touch this.”[4]
Phone clock. “Can’t touch this.”[4]

Yes, your phone has these things, but they never seem to work at the right time. Never mind that I have to turn on the screen to check the time. These things currently seem to follow one set of rules instead of knowing when to activate. So when you “move slide your rump,”[4] you still end up with the infamous butt dial, and the “Dammit, Janet![1] My battery is about to die” situation.

There are already developments in these areas, which indicate that the dumb phone is truly on its last legs. “So wave your hands in the air.”[4] But, seriously, let’s reduce the number of touches, “get your face off the screen”[3] and live your life.

“Stop. Hammer time!”[4]


[1] Song by Richard O’Brien
[2] Fartbarf is fun.
[3] Randall RossCommunity Leadership Summit 2014
[4] Excessively touched on “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer

Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 4: Nostalgia

Just like the good old days (Source)

Just like the good old days (Source)

There’s nothing good about the old days. They are just the old days. They have long gone, yet we long for fleeing feelings that cannot be recreated. Time should not be wasted in such a way.

“Dear Phone, stop wasting my time. You are designed out of dumbness.” Sometimes it’s not the thing that is dumb; it’s the people who are using it or creating it. The thing, by association, therefore cannot be smart.

One design flaw is that people can be crippled by nostalgia. We enjoy reminiscing in the past, but this is misguided emotion. “The word nostalgia is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning ‘pain, ache'”1

Pain? Smart things avoid pain. Yet we chase these feelings like a drug. So, we should be careful about the way that we create things because they may be based on false familiarity, erroneous ease, or dumb design. Just because something works the way it always has, doesn’t mean that it is the best way. We should be pushing for innovation towards effectiveness and away from stagnant convention.

Now there may not be danger in vinyl record simulation, but there is a problem with the way that we currently use our phones. If phone design starts serving these addictions, then we are moving backwards. Let’s not create for the people we were. Let’s create for the people that we are meant to be.

“Technology is supposed to be complicated … 1337 phr34k5 0n1y … Nobody should know (or wants to know) how it works, so let’s hide that … ” These are things of the past. Move on.

Remove the pain from our phones.



Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 3: Unintelligiable

R2-D2 is not dumb. But my phone is. “[It] talks in maths. [It] buzzes like a fridge. [It’s] like a detuned radio.”1

My phone has a communication problem. It beeps and boops, and sometimes screams to let me know that something is going on, but something is missing there. It’s all a bunch of noise. What exactly are you telling me, phone? Yes, there are some custom notifications to a certain degree, but normally they under the rules of a 3rd party. How do I know the difference between an emergency, an update, or an unimportant piece of information without constantly having to look at my phone? The answer is NOT a watch. In that case, maybe my phone shouldn’t have notifications at all!

Is it possible to tell me who is contacting, by what means, the type of information, and deliver the message at an appropriate time and in an appropriate fashion?
Is it possible to communicate with my digital, social, and spacial environments and tell my when my ship’s hyperdrive has been deactivated BEFORE I attempt to make the jump to lightspeed?

A *smart* phone could do that.

Dumb phone, you can beep and boop all you want, but you’re not the phone I’m looking for. Into the garbage chute!


[1] Radio Head – Karma Police

Turning the Page with Cory Doctorow

I’m still buzzing from this morning. No, it’s not because of the “crystal meth”1; nor is it because of the amazing cold brew coffee2 that’s sitting in my fridge. I’m on a mental high from listening to a great mind. This morning I went to see Cory Doctorow at the Vancouver Writer’s Fest, and I’m a better person because of it.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t initially too keen on attending the Writer’s Fest, but I said to myself, “hey, this is Cory Doctorow.”
In fact, I’m not really that into books and reading much3… but this is Cory Doctorow.
And, I’m really not that entertained by copyright talk… but, hey, this is Cory Doctorow.

If it wasn’t obvious already, I’m a pretty big fan of Cory Doctorow. He’s kind of an Alchemist of the Internet Age, except that he’s not afraid to share his knowledge. I had followed him for a while on boingboing, and I was inspired enough to read Little Brother. (Before doing so, I thought I should read George Orwell’s 1984, and so I did … for the first time. Yes, I’m not very well-read… yet). Little Brother was so impressive that I continued to buy the audiobook of Homeland. I didn’t have to pay for it, but I chose to because I valued the author and his work, which completely supports Doctorow’s Laws for the Internet Age.

At the Vancouver Writer’s Fest, Cory Doctorow gave an overview of his new book, by eloquently summarizing three laws that he had come up with for the Internet Age. It was followed by a discussion on some of the values discussed in his writing. When asked about his views on “free and open source software,” Cory was quite excited to share Ubuntu with the crowd :)

The entire discussion was probably one of the best overviews of Internet freedom that I have ever heard, and having such a master-of-language deliver the message made it all the better. I was educated, entertained, and encouraged to read and write more freely. You might say that I have turned over a new page with regards to information.


I’m still buzzing.

If you get a chance to see Cory Doctorow during his current tour, then by all means do so, because, hey, it’s Cory Doctorow!



[1] Those who attended the event will get the inside joke.
[2] I learned about this from Cory Doctorow via Little Brother.
[3] Irlen Syndrome

Thank You Ubuntu: 10 Years Towards Freedom

I have just upgraded to Ubuntu 14.10 and the first thing that I wanted to do was thank Mark Shuttleworth, the Canonical team, and the rest of the Ubuntu community. You have turned my world on its head (and that’s a good thing).

10 years of Ubuntu is worth mentioning and celebrating. I have known and supported Ubuntu for 8 of those years (so far). To put things in context, outside of liking Star Wars and following my personal beliefs, there have been nearly no other things that I have participated in consecutively for that long.

Ubuntu has changed the way that I think about technology, and the way that I interact with people in my community. That’s right; Ubuntu is not just software. I learned this from one of my good friends that I met through Ubuntu. In addition to the new friendships that Ubuntu has fostered, it has also strengthened some of my older friendships.

Ubuntu is about learning, sharing, and growing together. And that’s why I look forward to the many more years to come. Congratulations, Ubuntu!

Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 2: Balderdash

Sometimes we need text so that we can document history, such as the death of our beloved smart phones. But, our phones are not smart; smart things do not fill themselves with nonsense. For some reason, the number of chatting, texting, mailing, talking channels is constantly increasing, which is also increasing the amount of “garbage information” that is entering our brains. Sometimes there is so much that I have to cut off myself off from the channels. Maybe my phone shouldn’t have a text function at all! It needs to be saved.

In a future post, I will discuss how we might mitigate this by adjusting our habits, but considering that all of these messages contain text, my smart phone should be able to consolidate, cross-reference, reply in-line, or find a way reduce the number of channels and the number of taps required to explain something.

A smart phone does not walk itself into traffic because it needs to reply to so many messages. Poor phones.


Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 1: Unnecessary

The gig is up: our telephones aren’t smart, and they can’t save themselves. But, maybe you can!

By far, the dumbest feature of today’s “smart” phones is the phone itself. There is a growing number of people who never use their mobile devices to make calls. This begs the question of whether or not the feature should exist at all (or why even call them phones?). “How silly,” you say; of course, there are justified applications for calling someone who is in the middle of dinner or on a crowded train. However, there is a lack of control over (loco) this function.  Your phone doesn’t know how to suitably deal with and classify a call event (i.e. call-typing beyond known and unknown numbers) and this makes it both not smart, and not safe (for itself).

How many phones have been physically harmed due to phone-call malpractice?
They fly out your car window. They drop from your ear. They get thrown across the room. All because of the wrong call at the wrong time.

You can prevent this, and you can save the phone feature of your mobile device. You can have a say in how your mobile device is programmed.

Opt in to the Ubuntu project today, and SAVE OUR PHONES



Utopic Unicron[sic]

I was playing around with possible designs for a Utopic Unicorn t-shirt when an inevitable (and awesome) typo lead me to…

SVG version here.




On The Eve of War: Avaneya

The Forgotten War

Fair Use - Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars fans have been intrigued by recently discovered EditDroid footage from Return of the Jedi. In the video you will see unreleased (alternate) takes of the scene between Luke and Yoda on Dagobah. Until now this lost footage was never seen by the public… in fact, we didn’t even know it was lost! (

This has been a major find for the Star Wars community. However, in our own galaxy, there has also been missing visual data that many of us didn’t even know existed.




The Read[sic] Planet



In 1975 NASA successfully photographed the surface of Mars *from the surface* for the first time. What we might not have known was that the high-resolution photographic data were released into the public domain in 1995. Unfortunately, the raw data remained unread due to a lack of resources to develop software that could extract the images…

…until now.

So, an indie software company, Cartesian Theatre, created the forensic recovery software to extract the Mars mission data because, well, it needed to. Enter the Avaneya: Viking Lander Remastered DVD(VLR).

Cartesian’s main project, Avaneya (pronounced ‘av-an-EH-uh’), is a cerebral science fiction game that takes place on Mars in a region called Arcadia Planitia. In order to represent the Martian surface accurately, the designers and artists needed to recovery the Viking mission data, which contains the high-resolution images of the neighbouring region, Utopia Planitia. The Viking lander was the only one to visit the area of interest pertaining to Avaneya. Thus, the creation of VLR.

The VLR software was also designed to work especially with Ubuntu and is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Moreover, the Avaneya game will also be software libre and developed for the Ubuntu gaming experience.

Fighting Back

"We cannot teach anyone anything. We can only make them think."

“We cannot teach anyone anything. We can only make them think.”

When asked about the reason for starting the Avaneya project, the creators said, “the game we wanted to play doesn’t exist and we knew there was no point on waiting for the industry do it for us, so we knew we’d have to build it ourselves.” This approach should be encouraging for the Ubuntu community. We need not complain if we aren’t going to take action ourselves. I have been personally involved with Avaneya, so I have started to understand a bit about the development process. This is also a good exercise for us to do. Get to know developers and founders before throwing stones.

Cartesian Theatre has taken huge risks to maintain ethical computing and be innovative. It is difficult to stand up against “the industry” standards, and if we aren’t going to conform to these standards, then we ought to create better ones. We need these types of developments if we are going to make it to Mars.


If you like the Avaneya project, then consider donating to the project and/or join the mailing list. You can also purchase the VLR software ($15), which will help fund the project.

Jedi Mind Tricks

"...without [imagination] we go nowhere." --Carl Sagan

“…without [imagination] we go nowhere.” –Carl Sagan

The whole story of Avaneya is about learning from Earth’s mistakes, and rebooting humanity. Much of our current society has turned into a “consumption only” culture. We can do better. That’s why the VLR software is of interest; instead of releasing a bunch of images for the public to consume, we can be involved in the recovery process and also look at the source code. We should be encouraged to understand (if not contribute) to the processes of the things that we consume. This goes for film, software, and society. So, instead of being told what we are looking for, we can create what we really want. This is Ubuntu.