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Silicon Valley season three, episode five: Shut up, Richard!

Also, some tips on hard-drive disposal.


Welcome back to the Recode recap of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”! After last week’s failed prediction, you’d think I’d slink back to my lair, but it turns out I don’t actually have a lair. So I’m back to unpack this week’s episode the Recode way.

Just the facts: Richard took interim control over Pied Piper’s day-to-day operations and put the company into austerity mode. Unfortunately, his lingering fury at being dethroned from his CEO role led him to unknowingly run his mouth to a tech blogger. To halt the story, he found a better one: Big Head revealed how Gavin Belson scrubs the internet of negative mentions of him.

During the company’s fire sale, Dinesh accidentally sold his hard drive; Gilfoyle posed as a Geek Squad worker to destroy it. Laurie admitted she never should have un-CEOed Richard and reinstalled him. Erlich manipulated Big Head into creating a vanity project for him. And Jared is just frickin’ weird.

So let's unpack this:

Didn’t Big Head sign a major NDA?

Erlich’s new business venture, Bachmanity, depends on the $20 million severance Big Head got from Hooli. But let’s look back at that severance, back in this season’s first episode:

The most important aspect is the nondisclosure / nondisparagement clause, in which you agree not to say anything negative in the press, in public or in private, about Hooli or Gavin Belson. You will not discuss anything you did at Hooli, at all, in perpetuity, throughout the universe.

The $20 million hinges on that. I would say that CodeRag (no, it’s not a real publication; that’s an HBO-made site) definitely qualifies as “the public,” even if some might argue it doesn’t quite live up to “the press.” So I think what we’re looking at in a few episodes is Big Head getting totally wrecked by his actions in support of his old friend, with Erlich being a pretty satisfying ancillary casualty.

Really, the greater mystery here is why he’s not calling his company Bachman Big-Head Overdrive.

Stop saying Clinkle

What is Clinkle? It was a once-promising startup that was cloaked in mystery and secrecy for months. It had a 22-year-old wunderkind as CEO. It got $30 million in funding and created a weird commercial for itself. In the end, it turned out to be a money-transfer app like Venmo or Square, and it pretty much imploded.

What is Pied Piper? It’s a promising startup with a 26-year-old wunderkind as CEO. It got $5 million in funding for tech that nobody has really seen in action. It has a weird logo. And as of this episode, it looked like it was going to implode.

It’s not an unfair comparison.

Pop culture synchronicity

First of all, totally adorable: In praise of Richard being renamed Pied Piper CEO, Jared recites the beginning of the second stanza of of “O Captain! My Captain!”, a Walt Whitman poem written to eulogize Abraham Lincoln. Kinda dark! Like Richard is maybe a zombie president rising from the dead! Still really sweet, though.

But kind of funny that it aired the same weekend as this SNL sketch, since any reference to that poem necessarily references the 1989 literary bro-drama “Dead Poets Society.” Keep watching:

It’s also funny that the word “gallivanting” was bandied with such nonchalance, considering what happened about an hour earlier on "Game of Thrones":

HBO / Recode

And, of course, big fun for both H.L. Mencken fans out there.

The hardest of drives

Disposal of hard drives is a touchy subject for techies. In another bout of synchronicity, Tom Limoncelli, author of six books on computer system administration and a former Googler, just posted a rant about used hard disks on Facebook. Contacted by email, he said, “Erasing disks before they are disposed is a real issue. An easy way to get PR is to buy some used hard drives on eBay and write a security paper about all the info found: Credit card numbers, personal information and naked pictures.”

He recommends DBAN software to erase disks rather than going the Gilfoyle route: “Drilling a disk through the spindle does not erase the magnetic material, and there are services that can recover such things. Gilfoyle should have used a process that would have shattered the individual platters, not just break the spindle. The gold standard is to first erase it, then crush it — Google uses a wood-chipper.

Also useful for getting rid of Steve Buscemi.

See you guys next week, or earlier on Twitter!

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