Problems with Audible authorizations on Mac OS X?

Recently, after restoring backup from my Time Capsule, I ran into a problem where I’d have to reauthorize my Audible audio books every damn time I opened iTunes. Suspecting the usual culprit of problems on a Mac, messed up permissions (especially given the recent restore), I poked around and found the problem child. If you are having similar problems, I hope this might save you some time.

In Terminal, from an account with administrator priviledges, type the following:

sudo rm /Library/Preferences/com.audible.data.plist

It will ask you for an administrator password. Type it.

Now, after restarting iTunes, you should only have to reenter your Audible password one last time. Note that you have to be running from an administrator-level account for this to work. (Go to Users in System Preferences to enable your account as an Administrator, if need be. You can always switch it back to Standard once you’re done with the fix.)

Why unions tend towards self-destruction

As pointed out by Mish Shedlock, the public MTA union has brokered an 11% pay increase while municipalities across the country struggle to make ends meet. The callous disregard of public unions for their taxpaying “employers” is highlighted in this article by the candid comments of an Albany police union chief, who stated for the record that “If I’m the bad guy to the average citizen… and their taxes have go up to cover my raise, I’m very sorry about that, but I have to look out for myself and my membership.”

Given that most local and state government budgets are complete disasters, the only possible result of such union intransigence is massive layoffs. It’s already happening, in fact, as municipalities all over cut back on police and fire budgets. Some towns have even shuttered their police departments, relying on county sheriffs for protection.

Plot illustrating the steady decline in union membership over the past several decades.

It’s pretty clear that unions, far from providing job security to their members, more often price their members out of a job. One need only look at the massive decline in American union membership (see the included figure) to see proof of this. Union bosses get rich at the expense of the junior members, whose jobs are cut. But how is this possible? How can union presidents continue to get elected despite the fact that they are clearly pricing their members out of existence?

The answer, I think, is that unions are inherently self-destructing because of a survivorship bias in their member voting, exacerbated by union domination of the labor prices in certain fields. When union jobs are lost, those who are fired are likely to seek employment in other fields, as unions do everything they can to ensure that when a job is priced out of existence at one firm, it is priced out of existence at all firms. That’s why there are three (for now) US auto companies but only one union. If companies do it, it’s called price fixing. If labor does it, it’s called the United Autoworkers Union.

Intuitively, one would expect that any union boss so arrogant as to insist on pay raises unaffordable by the employer would get voted out by union members. However, if you lose your job you’re probably not going to sit around paying union dues, you’ll probably going to start looking into a lateral move into another trade. Or you might just give up looking for work or retire early. The point is this: the people who continue voting for the status quo union leadership are, by definition, those who have benefitted from union membership, not the millions of workers who have had to leave their chosen profession due to the union destroying their jobs.

Imagine a hospital which has such poor medical care that anybody who has more than a cold dies, but whose cafeteria serves fillet for every meal. Customer surveys of this hospital would be nearly unanimously positive; all the people who leave the hospital will have had a great time, but the corpses can’t complain. This pretty much describes what is happening at unions.

Review: Uppababy Vista Stroller 2009

There are a lot of things to love about this stroller. For me, the best thing is that it’s one of the few strollers designed for tall people. The handle extends to a reasonable length for a 6’4″ person. There is no through-axle, but instead an arch that gives plenty of space for your feet when walking. On other strollers I’d end up kicking the stroller when walking.

Another major point in favor of the Vista is that it allows for the baby to be rear-facing, even in the seat. This way you can talk to the little guy or girl while walking with them, and apparently research has shown this interaction to be important. I’m not sure it will ever make a difference in their development, in all honesty, but it’s just really nice to be able to see and interact your kid while you’re walking with them.

Unfortunately, there are a few major design flaws in this stroller. First, the front “suspension” is terribly designed. The spring is far too heavy, and it takes me putting my (considerable) weight on the stroller to even begin to compress the front springs. Given that the wheels are made of very hard foam, the result is that the ride is extremely harsh when the stroller is in rear-facing mode such that the baby’s weight (not to mention head) is over the front wheels. This isn’t a big deal on smooth surfaces, but my poor kid gets bounced around quite a bit on the brick sidewalks where we live. So much so that he was grabbing the sides of the stroller. It’s so bad that I have to avoid certain streets where we live. I certainly expected better engineering from such an expensive stroller.

Another design desision which I question is the fact that even at the most upright setting, the baby is declined at a 45 degree angle, making it hard for him/her to see out.

Finally, the construction is a rather low-quality in areas. For example, both our wheels wobble. In fact, the fit and finish on most of the stroller is a lacking, with rivets and attachments loose and a lot of play in everything. For example, the seat frame is in two halves, with the two aluminum parts attached to a plastic center bracket with cheap rivets. Those have come loose, and now the seat is starting to “recline” a bit on its own. All in all, a very disappointing experience to have with a stroller that cost this much. My personal guess is that when you buy this stroller, most of your money is going into paying Massachusetts taxes, as this company made the poor decision to base themselves in one of the most expensive states in the country in which to do business. (I know, I live here, too, unfortunately.)

After six months of use, the stroller continues to fall apart. The wheels have developed flat spots (so much for foam being more robust), and are getting more wobbly. The frame is becoming somewhat loose. Our rain cover cracked in the cold. Nothing that affects safety, I don’t believe, but it’s very frustrating to pay this much for a product so cheaply made and badly tested. This is a lot of expensive aluminum held together with very cheap plastic. Our baby seems to be mostly content with the stroller, but often strains to try to see out given the recline of the seat.

Mendeley: How NOT to run a beta preview program

One of the (many) influences Google has had on the software industry is the concept of the beta release as product. In some ways, this is a good idea, as it creates a community of early-adopters who can act as a massive beta testing community, giving the company feedback on real world use and making for an even more stable general release. The early adopters benefit from access to early technology, the public benefits from better software, and the company benefits from advance publicity and testing.

It can backfire if not done correctly, however, and Mendeley is providing a good object lesson in that. In theory, Mendeley is a killer app for people in academics. It is a cross-platform (including web), cloud-synced database for papers that handles citations and automatic import from all manner of online journals.

Unfortunately, the beta releases have been so bad that most of the word-of-mouth on Mendeley has been poor. Do a quick Google search on them and you’ll see a lot of complaining. In my experience, the software has tremendous potential but is so poorly implemented that it is currently unusable. Import of any paper with an accented letter in an author name, for example, fails. In my field, it seems half the people have umlauts in their name. Page numbers aren’t imported correctly, either, requiring the user to manually enter them. If you import a PDF for a paper already imported through other avenues, the software is happy to create duplicate entries. And so on…

After the frustration of importing their citation database from other software, only to find Mendeley too buggy to be usable, it’s likely many of the early users will not bother return for more punishment. So, what Mendeley is actually accomplishing with their beta program is the alienation of exactly the kind of people they are supposed to be winning over: technologically-minded members of their target audience. These are the people their collegues will to turn to when they are looking for citation software. Mendeley won’t be their answer.

Unfortunately for Mendeley, they may eventually have a great product, but when that final bug is fixed and they drop “beta” from the name, it may be a tree falling in a forest with nobody to hear.