It’s easy to get trampled if you aren’t looking.

A few short years ago everyone had a Nokia phone. I had a tiny little GSM phone that I bought when we lived in Boston and brought when we moved to Canada. Nokia owned the mobile phone space.

Then they just seemed to stop. No radical new ideas. No answers to new phones from other manufacturers.

They lost it all.

And today everyone is talking about Microsoft buying them:

REDMOND, Washington and ESPOO, Finland – Sept. 3, 2013 – Microsoft Corporation and Nokia Corporation today announced that the Boards of Directors for both companies have decided to enter into a transaction whereby Microsoft will purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents, and license and use Nokia’s mapping services.

One day companies seem to have it all, and be impervious to competition. That can change pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Or if you are paying attention but fail to admit the possibility that you might not be right this time.

Dark Patterns: Intentionally confusing the user.

My biggest pet peeve in interface design is the popup that says “Are you sure that you want to leave this page?” when I navigate away from a web page. I see this as mostly being used by sketchy advertisers. I chose to navigate away from the page; it isn’t up to you to question me.

Note to reputable web sites: Don’t ask this question. Just let me do what I have chosen to do.

My second biggest pet peeve are questions or UI elements that are designed to trick you into making a choice that you did not want to make. Apparently these have a name – Dark Patterns:

A dark pattern is a user interface carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not otherwise do, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills. Normally when you think of “bad design,” you think of the creator as being sloppy or lazy — but without ill intent. Dark patterns, on the other hand, are not mistakes. They’re carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind.

The article provides several excellent examples, but I am always reminded of the olden days when I used Windows and products like Norton and other bloatware would ask questions at install time in such an obtuse way as to get you to install them when you really didn’t want to.

If you are a reputable company with a good product, just ask the user a straightforward question. Otherwise it just seems like you’re trying to hide something.

The goal is to make driving painful.

Complete Streets” are all the rage in municipal planning these days:

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

[...]

Complete Streets are particularly prudent when more communities are tightening their budgets and looking to ensure long-term benefits from investments. An existing transportation budget can incorporate Complete Streets projects with little to no additional funding, accomplished through re-prioritizing projects and allocating funds to projects that improve overall mobility.

The City of Waterloo turned the four lane Davenport Road into a two lane complete street a couple of years ago. They must have missed the note about little to no additional funding because they spent about $4 million of federal stimulus money on it.

The road is now often jammed as cars wait behind buses, unable to pass. Rarely is a bicycle to be seen in the bike lanes.

When it as being done, and when I now use the road, I get the feeling that the real goal was to make it painful for drivers. Of course this is never explicitly stated, but why else would you build a two lane complete street that is bounded by two four lane roads?

Then I read the article Get on the Bus by  Matthew Yglesias in today’s National Post:

Of course the problem is people who drive cars won’t like it — the exact same reason that shiny new streetcar lines are often built to drive in mixed traffic. But public officials contemplating mass transit issues need to ask themselves what it is they’re trying to accomplish. If promoting more transit use, denser urban areas, and less air pollution is on the agenda, then annoying car drivers is a feature, not a bug.

It seems that I wasn’t all that far off in my thinking.

We’re off to see the Wizard.

Like me, you make have watched The Wizard of Oz hundreds of times, but just in case you aren’t yet an expert on the movie, here are 50 things you might now have known.

My favorite:

26. The shabby coat that Frank Morgan’s Professor Marvel/The Wiz wore was a thrift store find. It was discovered later that it used to belong to Oz author, L. Frank Baum (his name was sewn into the garment). Baum’s widow and tailor confirmed the find.

What are the odds?

It came from outer space.

Ancient Egyptian beads that is:

Some of the world’s earliest known iron artifacts — ancient Egyptian beads — came from outer space and were hammered out of meteorites, archaeologists say.

The beads, in the collection of the Petrie Museum of University College London, were hammered from pieces of meteorites rather than iron ore and predate the emergence of iron smelting by 2,000 years, they said.

Beads of the Gods, so to speak.

I am always amazed at the technology ancient civilizations possessed thousands of years ago.

This just in. Dog bites man.

In an amazing turn of events, a study commissioned by Bell and Telus confirms what they are saying in their Fair for Canada campaign:

A new survey has been released today, which was commissioned by Bell Canada and TELUS, that shows 81% of Canadians “preferred that neither foreign‐nor Canadian‐owned telecommunications companies are favoured in the upcoming government auction… If the government were to create an advantage in the marketplace in any industry, respondents prefer that the government favour Canadian (70%) over foreign‐owned companies. Only 2% prefer that foreign‐owned companies be given an advantage.”

Ok, I was kidding about the amazing part. Is anyone surprised that Bell and Telus released a survey that confirms what they want you to think?

Besides, Ben Klass puts to rest the notion that there is really any advantage for a foreign company that the Canadian ones didn’t get:

According to a recent article in the Financial Post, BCE currently holds license to 19% of Canadian radio frequencies designated for mobile use – that’s if you include the upcoming blocks of 700MHz in the total – or 29% if you don’t. Bell didn’t get most of that spectrum by paying market price, but through a ‘beauty contest’ – the government licensed mobile spectrum to Rogers, Bell, Telus and other regional providers such as MTS and SaskTel for pennies compared to market value.[1] You might call that “existing spectrum holdings previously subsidized by Canadian taxpayers,” something you’ve got in spades but would deny to your competition.

Just more propaganda. Nothing amazing.

The terrorists won.

Governments – of Britain in this case – are now using anti-terrorism laws against journalists who dare to tell you about what the people who claim to be protecting you against terrorists are doing to violate your privacy and your rights:

On Sunday, British authorities detained for nine hours the domestic partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian writer who met face to face in Hong Kong with Snowden and has written or co-authored many of the newspaper’s stories based on his material.

The Guardian reported, and UK authorities subsequently confirmed, that David Miranda, Greenwald’s Brazilian partner, was detained by British authorities under an anti-terrorism law as he was in transit from Berlin to Brazil and was changing planes at London’s Heathrow Airport.

One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.

The ‘leaks” aren’t about terrorist activities. They are about government-sanctioned security organizations ignoring the law and taking away your rights. This isn’t about fighting terrorism at all.

And today Groklaw – a site that helped to explain how the law affected technology – decided to shut down because privacy no longer exists:

I hope that makes it clear why I can’t continue. There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel.

Terrorists blew up a couple of buildings. Our own governments finished the job.

And the funniest thing is that they don’t see the problem. Or, perhaps for them, it isn’t a problem.

The stealth snowmobile.

In what would  seem to be a story tailor-made for The Onion, Canada is apparently testing a stealth snowmobile prototype:

The Canadian military has been secretly test-driving a $620,000 stealth snowmobile in its quest to quietly whisk troops on clandestine operations in the Arctic.

The Canadian Press has learned that soldiers have taken the new hybrid-electric snowmobile prototype on trial runs to evaluate features such as speed, noise level, battery endurance and acceleration.

Given that Canada’s north consists of a lot of flat frozen tundra, they may be able to minimize the sound, but I’m not sure just how they’ll hide from view.

Only in Canada.

Now that’s incentive!

BlackBerry is going to be sold this year. How can I be so sure? According to Business Insider, the CEO gets $56 million if it happens:

But what is interesting about Heins’ termination payout is how drastically it changed between 2012 and this year. Back in 2012, Heins would have gotten up to ~$21 million in a “double trigger” payout if the company had been acquired (a “change of control,” in boardroom lingo) and he had been terminated as CEO.

But in 2013, that payout suddenly became worth $56 million.

BlackBerry’s current market cap is about $5.47 billion. Even at a 50% premium for the shares (around $15 or so) it would be worth around $8 billion. That would make the CEO payout about 0.7 % of that total.

Now that’s a pretty powerful incentive for the CEO to make a sale happen this year, isn’t it? Odd, when you realize that he only gets about $9 million a year if it succeeds.