Smartphones need web apps not app store apps

via @andyi on flickr

I don't think you need to learn objective C, or the android environment in order to make useful smartphone applications. Html & javascript should be able to cover 90% (99%?) of the sorts of applications that are being written. I think it is actually a step backwards to force people with good ideas to have to write "close to the metal" (C) code, especially if you already know HTML and the concepts behind flash.

Take for instance this link:

It teaches you how to create a nice version of tetris that runs in your phone's web browser using html and javascript (iphone and android, maybe blackberry's, microsoft and PalmOS too?) . Not only is it touch friendly, but it works offline, and can even save your high scores on your phone (much of this is due to HTML5 stuff like manifest files and local data stores).

Jon Resig, the creator of JQuery (the wonderful and ubiquitous javascript library) has just released an alpha version of jquery mobile, which makes creating smartphone UIs easy. I believe this, and not objective C, is the future:

If you hone your skills in developing browser based solutions that are awesome on smartphones, then you are gaining long term valuable skills, as you can expect that pretty much all phones for the next 5 years will have browsers on them. Learning objective C or the android API is a higher risk investment of your time - who knows what phone will be hot next year?

If you need to access lower level hardware, like the accelerometer or the camera then you probably need some closer to the metal code. Then again, location aware browsers show me that these sorts of interfaces will be exposed more and more through the browser as time goes on. Maybe you are doing graphically intense 3D visualizations, then that needs hard core C, but again 3D optimized graphics libs for browsers are on their way. Finally, smartphone browser apps don't get you into the app store, which might or might not be a good thing (no approval process but no chance to hit the app store lottery and make money).

I Hate Farm Subsidies

Boll is Opening to Reveal the Cotton
Via @judybaxter on flickr

I just listened to an excellent Planet Money Podcast about cotton, cotton subsidies and a trade war between the US and Brazil. It interviewed Dahlin Hancock an American cotton farmer, as well as Brazilians and WTO people. It reminded me how much I hate American farm subsidies. Here's what I sent:

Thanks so much for the podcast on cotton and cotton subsidies. It was fascinating, and I loved how the story twisted and turned through the WTO process and showed how Brazil eventually found leverage despite the WTO having no power of enforcement. Great stuff.

But here is what I was disappointed not to hear:

* Mr Hancock, why do you need subsidies, and isn't that cheating? I mean, he was complaining about Brazil, but as far as I understand it, the American farmer gets paid extra because he can't otherwise compete with Brazil.

* What about African cotton farmers? It was only after Brazil became powerful and savvy enough to hire American lawyers that it had a chance to fight unfair subsidies. This leaves Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and many other developing countries with no voice. The result of the Brazil v US cotton war (the US now subsidizes Brazilian farmers too) only leaves an increasingly unfair playing field for everyone else. I mean not only do they have to fight already deflated American prices, but now the Brazilian industry has $150 million per year to subsidize itself with.

It seems to me that the result is a loss for the American taxpayer and a loss for developing countries. The only winners are Texan farmers, who should be in other industries (he dropped out of electrician school) but can't handle the extra training required. Is this actually a subsidy of under-education?

What a fascinating but grim story! More like it please!

American farm subsidies seem wrong to me. I love hearing my Grandpa talk about his boyhood days on the farm, but for America, those days are over. America is no longer a country of millions of farmers anymore. America has about as many computer programmers as we do farmers. For Americans, the future is about creativity, strategy, technology. Subsidizing those fields is a long term investment, and it can be done through education.

The only farming that the vast majority of Americans will ever do is in Farmville.

The next chance to kill farm subsidies is in 2012, when the farm bill comes up. How do we do it?