In memoriam — Ville Oksanen

Went through some terrible news today. Ville Oksanen, my long time friend and colleague, passed away. He was my call-to guy for anything possible that mattered over the past 15+ years. No matter what I was calling about I could always know his feedback comes with deep insight and the highest possible integrity.

Ville needs more than a quick obituary. To start with here’s something we got published in Helsingin Sanomat back in March 1999 when we were just 22-year-old nerdy students. I still consider this early piece kinda set the stage to everything that was to come in his life’s work.

My Tesla Model S

I am and have always been a car guy so how to put this thing into words? Let’s try a few combinations:
— The biggest revolution in cars during my lifetime
— The best car I have ever driven
— An insanely great car

I’ve had my Tesla Model S now for a few days and 300+ kms. It is the first car I have ever acquired new. It has pretty much all the options except performance and top end audio packages to keep the delivery time minimal and costs comparably reasonable. Thanks go to Miika at Auto Outlet to get this metallic red colored magical space car in a month from his reserve lot.

It all started when I realized a month or so back I can sell my trusted but ageing and pretty thirsty workhorse Porsche Cayenne in August. I know ordering a new popular car model will always take several months. So I went out and test drove all the latest BMW, Audi and Mercedes family wagons and SUVs. The cars I can see every morning and afternoon parked in the front of the upper middle class homes on our home street. The cars I’ve often rented during my trips to Germany. Boring. Just boring. BMW 5 series. BMW X5. Audi A6. Mercedes Shooting Brake. Well, Benz has a good name badge in there. I even test drove the new S. But said to Szaka during the test spin something like: “Well, this is nice. But it’s just another car.” I was not hyped. Because it really felt like that. Even Mercedes S class is just another car. No surprises anywhere. It is what you can expect.

While comparing these tested and tried options it just hit me I have totally forgotten one big thing. The brand name I always saw when driving on 880 in the Bay Area. For sure I had seen some of those early two seating Roadsters go fast and wondered who are the guys driving them. And I was aware Model S was in the pipeline, but it had a lot of issues before getting to the market. We had already moved back to Finland before they delivered. A quick update one night and the next morning I first went to Sports Car Center close by who advertised Tesla along with Auto Outlet. Turns out Sports had imported so far none and just copied the competition’s ads. One call, 15 minutes tense driving, and I meet with Miika. Right after kicking it down I just utter out something like “Wow. Okay, this is it, why don’t we just go back and do the paperwork.” This is how I bought my first new car. Less than 24 hours from the discovery it does exist to signing it home.

What is so amazing and revolutionary about this car it completed trashed my little kid “lists” of cars I’d like to own before I die. I have these lists written in my childhood, teens, 20s, early 30s consisting of the usual Ferrari Testarossas, Lamborghini Countachs, Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes and Porsche 911 Turbos I need to have in my garage one day. What has just happened is those lists kinda lost their relevance. Or at least I see them completely differently. I see those cars with engines that explode, with trannies full of greasy, moving parts, with spark plugs, gas tanks, regular maintenance and so forth as something like… A CRT at the time of LCD. A modem at the time of always on broadband. A landline at the time of mobile. You just don’t want to own a CRT, modem or landline anymore. The change Tesla brought with it is just huge, big, disruptive. Having Tesla today is kinda like having iPhone in 2007. It just kicks in and tells you this is what all cars must be like. Never in the car market have I seen or felt anything similar before. Ever.

Btw, hybrids are a really stinking, bad joke. I’ve always kinda known it and now I can finally argue it. Just give any ugly, slow, boring Prius owner a Tesla for a quick drive.

There’s an interesting political angle to Tesla as well. Right now the Finnish government gives you a 500 EUR per month credit for any new company lease under this program. I want to show this car to everyone interested. My message: when was the last time you had really fun in test driving a new car? Let’s face it. Getting a new Tesla is a no brainer. Period.

Sports in Pacific Northwest

Been this week in Seattle. Yesterday around 20K in Discovery Park. Three loops and beach stint around the lighthouse. Pretty nice scenery towards the ocean front. This morning just around 10K along the downtown shoreline pavements.

The biggest sports news around here must be Sonic’s failed NBA bid. I’ve always liked the name SuperSonics, it sounds so cool. I can’t believe how they lost the team in the first place. This is not a small town. — It was kinda adding to the tragedy to see Kevin Durant miss last night his equalizing jump shot at the final seconds of game 5 and see Oklahoma get out of the playoffs. How’s that for a fate?

We need a Ralph Nader for IP

I visited Rovaniemi over the weekend for another academic seminar. James Love — who started already in the 1970s as Ralph Nader’s aide — gave an energetic keynote on global intellectual property policy. Love knew practically everything about his subject…. thus I was left just wondering why the message does not sink in. Why there is so little if any impact on policy makers. Not from academics calling for balance or user rights, granted. But not even from experienced lobbyists like Love – except for a few hacks, as he called them. He remains a critic, an underdog. Why?

Perhaps the root of the problem is the ignorance of the general public. While the issues are there, they are not taken seriously because nobody knows about them.

Consumer rights were there but became real only after championed by Nader. Unsafe at Any Speed. Same goes for global warming. Al Gore and Inconvenient Truth. Who would take the role of star speaker for consumer interest IP? Love offered Stallman and Lessig but I had reservations for both.

A problem wih the current talks is always that the substance is broken into pieces. A separate hack here or there. You need good examples, but who would nail down the red line?

Little Brother

The flu returned for another two days. So I had time to read something, and I did Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (a hard copy via Amazon).

Quick review: I liked the overall scenery a lot, but I’m biased. San Francisco and all the relevant organizations from local newspaper publishers to EFF and the Swedish Pirate Party are familiar enough to me to be able to get in to the mood of his characters. I also liked the basic idea of figuring out what Patriot Act combined with a crazy government could mean in the extreme.

What I did not like was how unrealistic the story was, after all. One-dimensional security guys patrolling in the streets of SF and picking everyone from their homes who connect to some encrypted Xbox network. Teenagers running the whole show. Give me a break. It was all too present-day stuff, like a year or two from now. Also, while I’m definitely not an expert in writing good prose I’ve read much better flowing stuff than this. For some reason this book felt like not completely polished, a bit like a long blog post (occasional edit typos, sudden story-stopping wikipedia-level briefings on tech terms). I can pretty much side with those who have noted Doctorow is just reusing his blogs and personal preaching.

It’s always good to read topical books like this. However, maybe because of all these issues in the “implementation”, the main point of the book, that we should watch the watchers, did not sink in that effectively. Actually I’d say Doctorow’s first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was more enjoyable to read and will probably be his best novel ever. And in my opinion, his best work with a message is Content. It’s not a novel but a collection of columns and opt-eds.