On these weird late nights, actual Apple customers sat on bar stools near the Genius Bar, waiting like worried pet owners for their sick machines to come out from the back, fully restored. We, the internet jackals, never mingled with those credit card-wielding V.I.P.’s, but I figured any sensible abuser felt just as grateful toward the Apple true believers as I did. It was their insatiable lust for each new iThis or iThat which provided for us all. Both Steve Jobs and the booty-shake dude would be out in the cold without them. In this one store, Jobs had given us a shimmering, utopian welfare state, where even those of us who would have had to sell blood to keep up with the iJoneses at least got to sample the glory. The idea being, I suspect, that we’d happily graduate to Apple loyalists whenever we got our shit together.

A couple of years later, I was getting my shit together in a Lower East Side homeless shelter by hustling iPod music and movies, among other things. Not bootlegging, just taking a slight fee for ripping files from fellow residents’ C.D.’s and DVD’s and transferring properly encoded copies to their portable devices. Booty-shake videos included. While ex-cons were hustling pills, cigarettes, and bootleg merch, the geeks were making side cash by simply transferring files for the computer illiterate. Things were changing. Physical media on discs were dying off while more feathery media like flash drives and something called The Cloud were becoming essential to people on the move.

Hustling the cloud: McDonald’s hot spots and the internet jackals of the Apple Store | Steven Boone | Capital New York