Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Home and Property Ownership Myth

People take great pride in the things they own. How many times do we hear 'it's mine' as a neighbor gleefully  shows us their paid off car or home?  For decades, part of what was known as "The American Dream" was to own a piece of land and the house that sat on it. To be beholden to none and self-sufficient. It's a great dream and one that many people have worked very hard to provide for themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, it's entirely false.

Home and land ownership, at least in the United States and other 'developed' countries in the West, is a complete myth. It's a myth that has been carefully cultivated and sculpted to deceive in order to keep people captured within the system,  but it's a myth nonetheless. And the thing that scares those who perpetuate the myth the most right now is that people are waking up to the lies they've been told.

Let me explain...

The concept of 'owning' something is actually pretty simple: it means that I have something that I have either paid for or have been given that cannot be taken away from me without fraud or force. If I go to the jewelry store and buy a diamond ring, I own it; it's mine. Sure, you can knock me over the head and steal it from me or you can trick me into giving it to you, but that doesn't change the ownership, just the possession. You possess the diamond ring, but you don't legitimately own it because it wasn't an honest gift, trade, or sale.

Now let's look at property ownership. Let's say I take my hard earned money and go and buy an acre of land and  build a house on it.  I pay for both the land and the house in full and no part of it is financed. Would you say I own my property? Most would and it would be a logical answer.  But I would posit that I do notown my land and, am instead, purchasing the right to use it for an indefinite amount of time. At some point, someone may decide that they have the right to come and take the land that I paid for in full away from me and there is, sadly, not much I can do about it.  The aggressor I'm speaking of is, of course, the government and the tool they use to justify the force (and some might say outright fraud) is taxes.

See, paying for my property doesn't really mean I can keep it forever. It means only that I can use it as long as I meet certain 'demands' set forth by my local, state, and federal government. If I violate those demands my land, the land I paid for, can be taken away.  It's kind of like the mafia saying you can keep your store as long as you pay them protection money. Except the government has bigger guns and can put you in jail.

So, in the end, I can't really say I own my property. If I am paying someone for the right to continue to use something then I don't own it, they do. So really, taken to its logical conclusion, even when you pay for your land in full, the government still owns it. You're just buying permission to use it.

Taxes are used almost daily to take away property from peaceful people.  These people aren't criminals or thugs, but may be those who've fallen on hard times and find that they simply can't meet the financial demands of the state anymore. It doesn't matter if those people have 'owned' their home or business for 50 years, it can be taken away from them with the simple stroke of a pen from a judge.

Of course, this ownership myth runs deeply througout the rest of our lives as well. It extends to our labor, our money, and even our time. There's really no part of our lives that the government hasn't exerted some measure of ownership over by fiat. You might ask 'how can they do that?'. It's simple. It's the same way the mafia 'can' do it: they are more powerful than you.

How can the do it? They out gun you. Why do they do it? Because they can.

How can we call ourselves a free society when private citizens right to ownership is so restricted? If you think about it, how much do you really own? By that, I mean how much do you possess that cannot be taken away from you if the government desires. Precious little, right? Is that in line with what you believe a free society should look like? Is it reasonable? Is it fair?

In the end, it's time for us to start rethinking the way we interact with and react to government claims of supremcy in our lives. As long as we continually allow them to assert more and more ownership over both ourselves and our property, the easier it will be to control us. And that's what it really comes down to: control. If you control my assets, my labor, my property, my healthcare, you control me.

Personally, that is not the kind of society I want to live in and I bet it's not the kind you want to live in either. The question, then, is what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why I'm avoiding the App Stores

For the last few years, I've avoided developing applications for the iPhone. I developed for the Mac, I developed for Windows, I developed for Linux and even Android and Windows Mobile. But I steadfastly refused to write a single line of code for the iPhone. Don't get me wrong, it's not because I hate the iPhone. In fact, I think it's a lovely device that offers developers like me an amazing income opportunity. I avoid the App Store for something more fundamental than that: freedom.

Apple is one of the most demanding companies to work with as a software developer. In their quest for the mythical 'perfect' user experience, they define almost where every pixel of your user interface should fall and impose arbitrary restrictions that change from time to time with little to no reasons given.

I can't work with a company like that. I can't develop software for a company that seeks to control its users and developers to that degree. Apple has become the big bad boogyman that Microsoft once was and, unfortunately, it seems to be dragging the industry along with it.

App stores are the future on both the desktop and the mobile device. Users are quickly being trained that 'if it doesn't come from an app store, it's bad'. This is rather unfortunate for those of us who, for moral or philisophical reasons, want to avoid app stores while still offering our users great software. It's unfair to both users and developers.

For my part, I'm writing mostly web applications tailored to devices. Thanks to a plethora of open and (mostly) free tools, I can write web applications that look and perform almost no differently than native ones. Thanks to HTML5, mobile web developers are becoming first class citizens and we can eschew paying our tithes to the app stores. How long will this continue is anyone's guess. Companies want control of their users and the developer communities surrounding their devices. But, for right now, we've got it pretty good and it seems to be getting better.

So what can users and developers do? Ultimately, very little. Companies like Microsoft and Apple have shown they are willing to force users into specific models regardless of how unsightly and uncomfortable it might be. But user pushback might still have some value. In the end, web applications may never quite have the same access that native apps do and that's robbing the users of control of their device and the software that runs on it. Users should make it clear to device manufacturers that they want choice. There's nothing wrong with having an app store. But give users the freedom to install software from any source; not just the app store.

Users like you are the only hope the industry has of breaking this rush towards an app store run world. The only question is how hard are you willing to push back?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Will a lower Kinect price score new customers form Microsoft?

So Microsoft has decided to lower the price of their popular Kinect device from $199.99 to $109.99 in an effort to move more product and introduce new people and markets to this remarkable piece of hardware. I admit, the Kinect is pretty darn cool. And Microsoft has done an amazing job at getting the message out that 'the Kinect isn't just for playing games! You can use it in stuff like brain surgery'. That makes it even cooler. But is that cool enough to pull in new buyers at the lower price?

Not many, I predict.

At this point, pretty much everyone who owns an XBOX 360 has a Kinect. $199.99 wasn't too bad a price for what you got and the market seems pretty saturated. The real untapped (and growable) market is science and academics. Remember when I said above that the Kinect could be used in brain surgery? I wasn't kidding. Doctors have developed software to use the Kinect in various ways in the operating room and there are some pretty cool scientific uses outside of the medical community as well.

But here's the problem: academia and medicine (especially medical research) seems to be moving more and more towards Linux. The Kinect doesn't work with Linux. Yeah, there are a few hacky implementations that kinda-sorta get it to work but nobody doing serious research using Linux is going to get a Kinect. It's just not feasible.

So, in its true form, Microsoft is still alienating a whole segment of the market. These people don't care about price. Even if the Kinect were free they still wouldn't get one because it's a "Windows or Nothing" type of deal. With all the excitement around Microsoft seemingly embracing so much of open source and Linux, it's really sad to see them still clinging to the 'our way or the highway' mentality. It's time Microsoft wake up and realize that not everything has to be tied to Windows. The company could double their revenue tomorrow if they allowed more of their hardware to function on Linux or Mac. People want it, they just can't have it.

Shortly after the Soviet Union fell from Communism, there was a saying about the 'new' Russia: the new Russia looks a lot like the old Russia. Unfortunately, the same is true for the 'new' Microsoft. It sure looks a lot like the old one. And that, my friends, is really sad.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Want to send completely anonymous email? You need this!

I've been working on a little program for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android called AnonyMail. AnonyMail is not the most revolutionary software you'll ever find in your life. It's not going to shift any paradigms or change the face of any industries. But it does one thing really well: it allows you to send completely anonymous email.

Let's face it, there are many reasons why you might want to send anonymous email. Maybe you're a corporate or government whistleblower with a hot item to share or maybe you're just love struck and too shy to confess your feelings to your crush. Whatever your reasons, AnonyMail is probably for you.

Want to pick it up? Great! For a limited time you can get it for only $2.99 and it doesn't require any activation once you buy it. You can find out more about the program or purchase it by going to this website. And, as always, if you've got feedback for me, shoot me an email!