Monday, December 28, 2009
This makes a lot of sense, in the wake of certain publishers who have released their book publications as iPhone apps, rather than as PDFs, Kindle Books (.azw format), or .mobi (MobiPocket format). The advantage of this for Apple is that it leverages their current iPhone/iTunes Store momentum and infrastructure, while maintaining ease-of-use for customers. It does, however, mean more VHS/Betamax format wars for consumers.
No doubt Android (Google's smartphone OS) will be incorporating app-books into it's store soon, if it has not already. That, together with Google's recent eBook moves and it's ginormous search-engine audience, could be the beginning of a slow death of Amazon's initial raison d'etre. I foresee an Apple vs. Google fight to the death in most consumer information markets, including eBooks.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I'm sure there will be privacy concerns, which the company should address through a well-crafted and well-implemented user service agreement. But this really is technology that is long overdue, and is the implementation of e-signature technology that we've been expecting since the year 2000, when President Clinton signed that act into law.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Steel cage death match! Google Android vs. Apple iPhone! Only one winner: YOU, the consumer! Er, sorry. Flashed back to watching wrestling in the 1970s with my Grandpa Whaley.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This could be a perfect solution for my wife, who really only needs to surf the Web for 90% of her computer use. The rest of the time is work, which requires her to run Windows in a virtual machine on her Macbook (ugh). If we can do that on this tablet, life would be grand.
I'm thinking of flipping burgers on the weekends.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I was a Palm Treo 650 user for a couple of years, and had much love for Palm after they acquired the BeOS operating system, which later became the PalmOS. The Treo had many great things going for it out of the box, some of which have been missing even in the iPhone3G (though the new 3Gs covers 99% of them).
Sadly, Palm fiddled while it's market burned, spitting out new smartphones in quick succession- the Nokia N- line, dozens of Windows Mobile devices, the new Android-based PDAs, and of course, the iPhone. Now they are back, with what purports to be a great phone. Even better for all smartphone users (including us iPhonians) is the $99 all-you-can-eat plan from Sprint. Sprint's network ranks third in the U.S. behind Verizon and AT&T, but it appears that the combo of a sexy, functional new Palm smartphone, plus a (relatively) low monthly data plan is pressuring AT&T and others to reduce their prices, too. That competition is great for everyone.
Let's hope it's not too little, too late for Palm.
Friday, June 5, 2009
OK, I was wrong when I declared Google's mobile phone operating system Android to be DOA.
Like everything Google does, Android has improved. Google's "release it now, and improve it later" strategy has been effective for everything from it's venerable search engine to Gmail, Calendar, Picassa, Google Docs, Google Books, and all it's various Labs programs.
Now the hardware makers are stepping up. I am a hardcore Apple iPhonatic. But I love Google's apps, despite the occasional worrying cloud outage, I think Google rocks, and I trust them with my data, at least as much as I trust any ginormous corporation.
The one trump card that Apple currently holds for me is iTunes, and the associated iTunes store, which not only syncs my phone to my computer, but also connects to my TV. I could probably find ways around the TV, what with all of Netflix' hardware parnters, and other devices that stream data from my media computer to my tele, but buying and syncing music (especially podcasts) is a big deal for me.
Now, if Google opens a store to compete with iTunes, either partnering with or competing against Amazon, well, then, look out. I might just have to jump ship.
What would be a great store name for Google? How about "The G-Spot"?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I can imagine how useful a personal cellular router will be when my rug-rats are old enough to have their own laptops, and we are all in the family van, driving across the state to Mee-Maw's house.
No doubt by then kids will be born with the WiFi DNA gene built-in- a true "cellular" router.
(OK, don't quit my day job, I get it.)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
This is powerful stuff.
It turns the humble Web browser from a "portal", through which all applications must run, into a platform. Prism is based on technology created for Site-Specific Browsers, or SSBs.
I can easily see Web 3.0 applications using AJAX- the fancy code that enables drag-and-drop, desktop-like behavior on Web sites, like Gmail or Box.net- to turn Web applications into "Netware," similar to Apple's iTunes. Google Gears and Adobe's Flex are already moving in this direction.
Oh, yeah. This is mighty powerful ju-ju. Microsoft, Sun, Apple? You hear that?
Update: Good article on similar technologies here. Thanks to Tanya for the link.
Monday, May 4, 2009
No, wait... make that just plain "punked" iPhone.
Cube-dwelling colleague Eduardo Mena introduces his new "iPhony", which he used to gain access to iPhone Alley here at the office. Sneaky fox!
Upon second look, it's amazing that we were fooled by the dust-covered, doorless, AM/FM/Cassette tape boombox, state-of-the-art, circa 1981. And that phone- a prepaid Circuit City (r.i.p.) talkie, it's held on by Scotch tape!
Oh, how could we have been so blind?
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
I've used all versions of Windows, many versions of the Mac OS, and many other operating systems, including most flavors of Linux. As this article points out, they all have their pluses and minuses, and these days, switching between one and the other is not a really big deal. My main gripe against Windows was that I was always having to play Network Administrator at home, and I just don't have time for that.
A few years ago, I made a list (yes, I'm that type-A) of all the things that I do with a computer, like writing documents, doing my taxes, storing music, etc. Then, I made a list of all the programs (applications) I use to perform those tasks. Next, I made a list of all the file types that I use when using those programs (.doc, .xls, .html, etc.). Finally, I made a list of all the places I need to be able to access those files. I put all of that stuff in a spreadsheet grid, and checked off whether they could be done in Windows, Mac, or Linux, and with what applications.
It sounds complicated, but the idea was a simple one: what computer system and programs could I use most cheaply, reliably, effectively, that would be available wherever I need it?
With the advent of Gmail, Flikr, Google Docs, Ning, and other such services, the stuff I actually need or want to store on my computers at home has changed drastically. In fact, there is almost nothing that I want to store exclusively on my home comptuers. With secure lock-boxes in the cloud like Box.net or Amazon's S3, it makes much more sense to have at least a copy of your critical documents stored off-site, just like big companies do, in case of fire or other disaster.
Walking around with a portable computer in my palm has made the need for wireless access even more acute. I access and edit documents, photos, music, books, and Websites all the time, from everywhere. About the only thing I must have a home computer for is audio recording and video editing (I'm an actor, y'know!). But even that I would do online, if I could; sadly, that technology simply doesn't exist yet.
My impression is that our computers are becoming more "dumb terminals" to the cloud. Yes, it's cyclical, and we've been down this path before. But never have we had such a powerful mainframe as the Internet.
Is this true for you, too? What, if anything, do you HAVE to have on your home computers, and nowhere else?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Since I purchased my first-generation iPhone in 2006, (and my 3G phone last year) I have learned an awful lot about the device, and how to make it a productive part of my personal and business life. I can show you the same tips and tricks.
- printed maps
- business cards
- wallet photos
- to-do list
- voice recorder
- iPod (which had already replaced my radio, CDs, and other MP3 players)
- paperback books
- day planner
- laptop computer (for 95% of my travel)
- diet tracker
- time sheets
- phone (duh!)
- shopping list
- restaurant guides
- travel itinerary
- USB thumb drive
- expense tracker
- mileage log
- personal ID info (family SSNs, passwords, etc.)
- personal journal
- business receipts
- language guides.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Hardware APIs for the iPhone will enable all kinds of cool, useful, Star Trek-like devices, like the kind forecasted by this guy. And this device API may be useful for a little app that I'm writing, too. The Device is almost here.
Some highlights from the OS3 demo video:
- Spotlight Search across ALL apps on the entire phone, including:
- Search Email, and continue search back on the server, if result not found on the iPhone
- Cut, Copy, Paste across all apps
- Notes Sync
- Hardware APIs
- WiFi auto-login
- Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP)
- Anti-phishing and Auto Fill on Safari
- VPN on demand
- Peer networking via Bluetooth and Bonjour for auto-discovery (no pairing!)
- CalDAV and calendar subscription support
- Landscape keyboard on all major Apple apps
- Voice Memos
- Send photos, maps, vCards, audio files, and more via MMS.
Holy cow, this is big. Not just big for Mactards like me, but big for mobile computing, and the way we think about it. Think mobile:
- medical records
- fitness measuring
- password valut (already here)
- smart wallet (who needs credit cards???)
- car maintenance records
- car computer interface
- smart home controller
- mobile server that plugs into dumb terminal (keyboard, monitor, mouse and extra storage), either at home, work, hotel, or client site.
Remember Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's rant about developers? Guess what, Steve? Apple's got 'em.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
But if this post from March of 2008 is right, then Apple is waaaaaay ahead of me, complete with patents. So much the better. Now, if they would just hurry up and release it, I would buy it! This is the kind of useful, easy tech that really improves lifestyles. Not just pretty accessories, but functional (and pretty) accessories. And with the new iPhone OS 3.0 SDK out, I expect big things from iPhone apps in the months to come.
IBM missed the personal computer revolution, which Microsoft rode to dominance. Microsoft missed the Web browser revolution, but recovered in time to dominate again. Now a third platform- smart phones- is rapidly emerging as the new mainstream. Palm was there first, then Nokia, then Microsoft. But it is Apple who has (1) developed the sexy hardware that everyone wants (the iPhone), and (2) opened it up to third-party developers, the same way Microsoft did. It was those third-party developers that helped MS entrench itself in the PC world; but they have been slow to react to Apple's one-two-three punch of iTunes, iPhone, and App Store. And Apple continues to innovate rapidly, hardly giving competitors a chance to catch their breath.
If these patent rumors are true, it will be the straw that break's Android and WinMobile's backs.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
When you weren't looking, Google went and did something very sneaky, and veeeeerrrry cool.
If you've got an iPhone, or an Android-based phone, you can now edit your Google Spreadsheets. Not a lot, but some. And, as we all know, Google is like a locomotive: once they get rolling on a feature set, they just keep coming, and with a helluva lot of mass behind them.
I wonder what Steve Ballmer was doing while Google burned up the mobile phone world? Bill Gates wouldn't know, because he's banned Apple products in his house. (Seriously.)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When I was a musician, every studio engineer was upgrading their studio from plain ol' "CD quality," 16-bit, 44.1kHz sampling to 24-bit, 96kHz sampling. The result was something much, much closer to the smooth sound of freshly-pressed analog, with even more dynamic range. Assuming you had the audiophile speakers (and ears) to hear the difference.
MP3s were handy for portability, but the crushed dynamic range, loss of bass, and the "TSSHHHH-TSSSHHH-TSSSSHH" of cymbal sounds was just too much for us serious musicians. Harrumph.
Stanford University professor Jonathon Berger has been surveying his students for six years, to find out what audio signals they prefer: uncompressed 44.1kHz original, lossless AAC, or a variety of MP3 bit-rates: 128, 164, or 192.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I've really been wanting to do this for two years.
The instructions for jailbreaking your iPhone are getting simpler and more foolproof (in my case, idiot-proof), and Apple's factory reset provision makes it a safe bet if things go horribly wrong.
The apps listed in this teaser are exactly what might convince me to spend 30 minutes (I'm guessing) jailbreaking my baby:
- Use your iPhone as a 3G modem with your laptop.
- Record video using Cycorder.
- Unlock your iPhone installing a simple program, so you can use a pre-paid card when you go out on vacation instead of paying outrageous roaming charges.
- Follow speech turn-by-turn directions in a GPS program.
- Copy and paste (yes, copy and paste).
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
ToodleDo's otherwise excellent iPhone app and Web service, which replaced my ToDo app, which replaced my OmniFocus app, may have just been replaced.
Yes, I do get tired of spending time and energy to divine the "ultimate" app for my purposes. But some of that is just the cost of doing business, and my feeling is that the effort will pay off in the end with slightly increased productivity, and greatly increased peace of mind. Part of the appeal of these apps to me is the "external brain pack" factor, which allows me to quickly offload my vagrant thoughts onto a more permanent medium. That medium used to be a lined sticky note stuck inside my daily calendar/journal thingy. It was a good, flexible, and simple system, which has been surprisingly hard to beat. But it was also not traceable, and it was hard to track both new, unprocessed thoughts, and sorted "to dos" all in the same space. It became unwieldy after a while. Capturing new to dos electronically, with online sync, is a little more sterile, but a lot more scalable and reassuring.
The new service is still buggy, as you can see in the below photo, so I'd give it a month or two. But after that, look out.
OK, not totally. But their new, "offline" service allows you to use Gmail in your Web browser even when you are offline. It behaves just the way it normally would, according to a Google press release (cleverly disguised as a Google Labs blog post), by saving a snapshot of your last Gmail session in your computer's memory ("cache"). You can then do everything you are normally used to doing in Gmail, but your outgoing messages will be stored in the Outbox until you are re-connected to the Internet.
The new service uses Google "Gears", which is a browser plug-in that taps several Google application programming interfaces (APIs), in order to make your Web-based apps function like native desktop applications. So, you must install Gears to make offline Gmail go.
This raises a question for another post: how in the world is Google making any money from all this? Stay tuned...
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I simply MUST have one of these: Sega's new personal Love Trainer.
The very thought of a Japanese drill sergeant verbally kicking my ass into shape as I get busy is so appealing that I'm willing to spend any amount of money, even in the face of full-scale economic depression, to have one.
About the only thing that would be better is if R. Lee Ermey was the voice of The Love D.I.
"You call that fornication?! Hit it! Harder!! What's the matter, soldier? Do you want your mommy? Step aside, limp-dick. Let me show how a REAL Marine does it!"[Apologies to Stanley Kubrick.]
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Being the electronics consolidation junkie that I am, I became instantly infatuated. I am always looking for ways to simplify my device setups, whether it's recording studios, video taping and editing, home computer networks, or home theater. Our house isn't that big, so I try to maximize space, and simplify the command-and-control structure. This remote fits that bill. The forums say that the latest firmware even support AppleTV, which I love.
But all this power will cost you. At $250 for the penultimate version, I will probably need to take out a second mortgage to pay for the remote.
It may be worth it.
Forget the above remote. I'm holding out for this one. Thanks to Tracy for the heads-up.
Friday, January 16, 2009
[T]he ebook is software and I have little doubt that I’m right about this. There will be some people who are prepared to buy a Kindle (or the Sony equivalent) in order to have a device that’s purpose-built for reading books. But if you can get equivalent functionality from an iPhone or iPod, then you’re not going to be happy to pay over $300 for the Kindle just for the privilege of buying ebooks. If ebooks were difficult to read on the iPhone/iPod then Stanza would already be dead in the water, but that’s not the case.
There’s already a Beta version for Google Android and one will likely be developed for RIM. There are also versions for the Mac and Windows...
So for a time there were purpose-built wordprocessing devices, but it quickly became obvious that word processing was a software app, and the word-processing devices went the way of the dodo.
Amazon missed a golden opportunity to leverage both their brand and the popularity of the iPhone (and Google's Android, for that matter) by not launching an ebook reader application of their own. They could have totally pre-empted Stanza. But now they have allowed Stanza to get a significant market jump on them in the software e-reader market, one that may be too much to oevercome.
I think I'll stick with my iPhone and Stanza for a while, thanks, Amazon.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
ELance is a marketplace of tech professionals who take on contract jobs or projects. It is a great place for supplemental, or even full-time income for programmers. But for non-programmers, it is an outsourcing botana platter.
Carla White relates her success story in developing an iPhone application, like Nicholas. Except she did not program it. She outsourced it on ELance. Internet-based resource meeting places like ELance put big business concepts like outsourcing at the fingertips of your average Joe, a trend started by Kinko's (now FedEx Office) two decades ago. Moore's Law predicted ever-more powerful computers for less money each year, a fact which has democratized technology for both small businesses and individuals. The same is true with business processes, including outsourcing.
Nicholas Carr wrote a white paper for Harvard Business Review a few years back (now a book), in which he suggested that companies could no longer count technology- even proprietary technology- as a competitive advantage, because can and will be copied and improved upon by rivals. What matter more, he suggest, is ideas.
Actually making outsourcing work for you may be harder than ELance's blog suggests. There is still the considerable problem of managing the project, so that you get what you wanted. Information technology (IT) projects are notorious for running over time and budget, and not devliering what the users want in the end (read: Windows Vista). But if you can pull it off, ELance could be a perfect way to get your application built without having to spend months or years schooling up on programming.
Ironically, MIT professor and Web tech icon Philip Greenspun wrote that what is hard about developing Web-based applications is not mastering the technology involved, but coming up with an idea worth building.
So it is with all businesses, and all art, for that matter.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
How do you apply high-tech to winning football games? We've already seen improvements in equipment and stadiums, but the real technological advance in football has always come from innovative new play-calling, like the forward pass (football used to be a ground-only game, like rugby).
Piedmont, California high school coach Kurt Bryant has utilized an all-new formation, called the A-11 Offense, to allow greater play-calling flexibility, and give his under-sized team an edge over bigger, stronger, faster teams in the Bay Area. It's working.
Bryn Swartz asks in this excellent article whether the A-11 could seep into NFL playbooks. It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. I have always thought that Texas Tech Red Raider coach Mike Leach's "pass blitz" approach, a run-and-shoot on steroids, would be a great fit for the NFL. Peyton Manning is almost there already, after all.
But this new A-11 could take that idea even further than Leach did. The A-11 allows almost continuous, high-speed ball movement, which does not give the defense a chance to set and plan, but only to react and chase.
In a league that is always changing rules to allow teams to score more points in order to elevate the "excitement" factor (groan), the A-11 offense could be just the ticket.
Technology (from the Greek techne, meaning skill or art, and logia, meaning logic) is about the systematic application of knowledge to an art or skill. It is not about gadgets or hardware. In this case, it is about what businesses call process improvement. Kurt Bryant rejected the legacy process of staid old formations and play calling, and began thinking outside the tackle box.
Ironically, when the A-11 is run in a hurry-up, no huddle drill, it looks a lot like rugby! Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.
Friday, January 9, 2009
A few years back, one of my favorite tech gurus wrote a great essay called Mobile Phone as Home Computer. He referred to The Device, which would be essentially the "brains" of your computer system crammed into a mobile phone, which could then be plugged into various screens, keyboards, TVs, and other accessories, at home, at the office, in your car, and on the road.
Portable USB stick-drives on steroids, basically. With a phone.
Well, guess what? The NIMble, from Touch Revolution, looks very much like the precursor to Greenspun's device.
My wife has limited call for an actual computer, these days. Mostly what she needs is Web access. Her email is Web-based, and she refuses to us a local client to download it, preferring to log in each time (don't ask my why). With many of our photos stored, and even editable, online, what she really needs most is a Net-enabled terminal. If that terminal was also smart enough to run Google's Android, and provide additional functionality, like making phone calls, so much the better. NIMble fits that bill. Ditto for the kids.
The next step from here, and it does not seem like a leap, is for the NIMble to ship with a mobile phone handset that syncs data (music, GoogleDocs, contacts, calendars, and to-do lists) with the mobile phone. Right now, Google's mobile operating system is only missing an answer for the iTunes Store, but Amazon is working on that.
If da Goog were to partner up with record labels or movie studios (hey, why not? Apple did it in 2000, when it seemed crazy), then we could be very, very, close to Greenspun's Device, and then some.
Apple, are you listening?
One of the reasons I bought the iPhone was to consolidate my primary mobile tools: phone, full contacts database, calculator, calendar, notes, to-do list, maps, iPod, and to get wireless access to my email and a good (!) Web browser. The Treo did a pretty good job of that (for example, it never replaced my iPod or paper calendar and to-do list). The iPhone does it much better.
My friend Kai and I are both speakers. Sometimes, it is necessary to have an LCD projector, but they are bulky to carry when traveling. Even small ones get heavy when lugging around in an airport. If this phone/projector technology works, then it could, at the very least, lead to a micro-sized projector that is much easier to carry. At best, it could be incorporated into a smart phone that caters to speakers, trainers, and C-suite execs.
I doubt that that the iPhone would be able to incorporate projector technology and retain it's design aesthetic, unless maybe it used LED technology. Hmmm...
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I've been contemplating purchase of the Amazon Kindle e-reader, but I don't know if I like the idea of yet another device locking me into a proprietary format for my digital purchases.
This review looked fairly complete and honest to me, and I was wondering if anyone else has used the Kindle, and would mind sharing their experiences here in the comments?
Talk amongst yerselves.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard
And so is this:
Much of it very true. And yet, sadly, I would still rather use my Mac and iPhone than Windows and Linux (I've done all three for years). The pain of being a Windows system administrator at home is just too much to bear.
Maybe Windows 7 will change my mind.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I have long awaited the release of an official Apple device that would allow me to record, store, and share my digital media (photos, music, and movies) wirelessly with all of the TVs and computers in my house, and even sync to my iPhone, but without hogging up storage space on my family computer.
AppleTV? Nope. Apple's Time Capsule? Nope. ReadyNAS? Nope. (UPDATE: Things may have changed.) But now HP has released a version of their popular home media server that says it is Mac-friendly. We'll see.
http://www.drobo.com/Products/Index.html (with DroboShare)
[UPDATE: And here is another one!]
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I am a gadget freak, even for the stuff I have not bought or cannot afford. Watching the advancement (and sometimes, regression) of technology is fascinating to me. I am not a professional technology columnist or author, just an interested citizen.
Our home is Mac. My client's work sites are Windows. I am an artist- actor, writer, musician, and have made a living using those skills. I also have a consulting business for the last 15 years or so, mostly with clients who are entrenched in the corporate Windows world. So, I've used both platforms, and am comfortable with both. There are many things I like about each, and many things I don't. On balance, I prefer the Apple experience, even at a price premium. I have used regular cell phones and smart phones, including the Palm Treo 650 (running the Palm OS, formerly BeOS), and currently, Apple's iPhone. I use Google apps a lot.
I am a tongue-in-cheek Apple evangelist at work, and the resident "iPhone expert", to quote one manager. But I am not really a Mac zealot, as much as a zealot for any technology that is useful. For most of us, useful means "easy to use, and productive, and relatively cheap". These definitions vary by user, of course, but I'm in the tech industry, both as an artist and as a consultant; I work with computer programmers and computer programs every day, and I am constantly amazed at how little importance is given to the user experience in software.
And I don't just mean for your Grandma. I mean for computer geeks, too! There are lots of useful programs out there which are just soooo complicated to use that developers make mistakes with them. Often. A lot of them. Which means business users mistakes. Which means that you, the consumer, who buys stuff (electronics, financial services, cars, home loans, etc.) from these companies may also experience these mistakes, like problems getting a refund, getting your account hacked, or delivery of the wrong item, or to the wrong address.
So, just for fun, I'll chronicle my findings of technology that gets it right: useful, cheap, and easy to use. Feel free to disagree, or compare notes.