Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My iPhone Hype Contribution

Now that the dust has somewhat settled from the most hyped and anticipated product launch EVAH! EVAH!! EVAH!!!! (until the next one) I figgered I'd throw in my $ .02 about the iPhone.

No, I didn't buy one. Are you kidding? A guy who spends a week deliberating over whether to buy a $19.95 mouse? Besides, I'm allergic to cell phone contracts.

Briefly, I wanted to respond to a few of the iPhone criticisms I've seen bandied about.

1. The iPhone is too expensive.

I refer the reader to any tech magazine article about the launch of the iPod, circa autumn 2001. The common wisdom then was that the iPod was way too expensive, that Apple was entering a market already crowded with MP3 players, and that other players could provide the same features at a lower price point. Plus the iPod required the proprietary iTunes software, locking consumers out of the choice of which music player program they would run on their desktop PC. Who in their right mind, the pundits asked, would pay so much for a product they could get more cheaply elsewhere, especially with the accompanying software limitations?

I trust these critics have their answer by now. Honestly, why doesn't the tech industry have anything resembling a long-term memory? This was only six years ago! It's not like everyone who was alive when the iPod was launched has since died, and their hard-won lessons have been lost to history. Sheeesh.

2. The iPhone's memory capacity is too small.

This one does seem a bit baffling, as 8GB max is really kind of puny for a device that's supposed to hold all your music, play full-length movies, and also run different kinds of software. But I think it's only baffling for people who have no long-term memory and therefore can't understand the launch of the iPhone as part of a much longer strategic initiative by Apple.

My prediction is this: You may consider the iPhone as a "do everything" device, and for now, Apple may want you to consider the iPhone a "do everything" device, but I'm betting that this designation is only temporary. Along about Halloween, Apple will drop the "do everything" idea for iPhone and begin to position it as a "team player" with the as-yet-unannounced next generation of iPods.

You may want to carry one device that does everything, but why would Apple want you to do that? Considering how lucrative the iPod is, Apple's got to be concerned about it losing market share. Replacing your iPod with an iPhone maintains the status quo, but doesn't lead to net growth for Apple. Better to have a strategy where people will buy iPhones in addition to iPods, rather than instead of iPods. By limiting the capability of the iPhone, they reduce it's ability to undercut iPod sales, and they have an automatic market for a next-gen iPod.

These next-gen iPods will have huge storage capacity, very small size and speedy Bluetooth networking. They'll serve as the "offline storage" for your iPhone, wirelessly streaming your hundreds of movies and thousands of songs over to your iPhone for playback. You won't need a lot of storage on your iPhone, because storage will be handled by your (new) iPod.

The small capacity of the iPhone also provides an incentive to upgrade earlier, but that's just icing. I think Apple is counting on summertime sales of the iPhone to help drive Christmastime sales of a new crop of iPods.

3. The iPhone only works with AT&T and only uses the slow EDGE network

I think this one is just history overtaking Apple. Given their tendency to want to control every aspect of their product line, it must have been a long and difficult process deciding who would handle the "back end" connection to the iPhone. Given how torpid, corrupt and just generally awful American cell phone companies are, I imagine Apple's people walked away from many meetings holding their noses.

But short of becoming a cell phone carrier themselves, Apple had to get into bed with somebody. Cingular must have given them the best combination of terms, but required some compromises as well. I'm guessing "EDGE-only" was one of these. It IS a crowded market, and other, more proven vendors were already occupying the 3G space, and probably guarding it jealously. They sure weren't about to just roll over and show their bellies because Apple sat down at the table. It's likely that Cingular already had exclusivity contracts with one or more of them when Apple came calling. And then of course Cingular got bought by the saggy, reeking, hideous corpse-shell of old Ma Bell. (I wonder if Apple knew this deal was in the works when they were talking to Cingular.)

Anyway, I somehow find it a little comforting to know that even the mighty Apple, Inc.can't find a decent cell phone provider. I guess you just can't pull a princess out of a viper pit.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tastes Like Yellow

The place where I work offers a variety of sugary breakfast cerals in little boxes for their employees. (They also offer non-sugary ones, but who cares about those?)

This morning I chose a box of Kellogg's Corn Pops. On the box was this statement:

Big yellow taste...

Apparently, yellow is now a flavor.

How do you keep up with this stuff?

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's the simple things...

For some reason, I frequently find myself facing into the blizzard of choices offerred by our hyper-consumerist economy and coming away without a single snowflake on my tongue.

It's not that I'm picky. But I do have standards. (Is there a difference? Hmmm...) Actually, standards is too highfalutin' a word. I have criteria. But often I find a systematic application of those criteria results in a null set, no matter how many choices the marketplace would seem to offer at the outset.

Keyboards are a classic example. I'm looking for a new one now. The major criteria are: wireless, with a usable integrated pointing device (by which I mean a trackpad or a large trackball. Eraser-sticks and marble-sized trackballs just don't do it for me.) Those two criteria alone eliminate about 95% of the offerings I've seen.

But those two criteria aren't the only ones I have. For a keyboard to really hit the sweet spot, I want it to have certain other things. You'd think these would all be standard issue by now, but many manufacturers seem perfectly willing to throw away one or all of them in pursuit of... what? Hip design? Compactness? An uptick in the stock price of their subsidiary that makes wrist braces for carpal tunnel syndrome? Whatever, the minor criteria are:
  • Inverted-T arrow keys in a block by themselves
  • Ins-Del-Home-End-PgUp-PgDown keys in a block by themselves
  • Separate numeric keypad
  • A big Backspace key
  • An even bigger, backwards-L-shaped Enter key
I'm flexible on some of these. I can live without the big backspace and enter keys, and I'm willing to hunt around a bit for Home, End, etc. But nothing frustrates me more than not having the inverted-T, or having it embedded in a bunch of other keys so that you're always hitting something other than the arrow you want.

Actually, I've found nearly the perfect keyboard. It meets just about all the criteria and looks good to boot.

It's $280.

Needless to say I'm still looking. Did I mention that I'm also cheap?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Here Comes The Cudgel

If you've ever wondered what's it's like to be on the bottom side of Whack-A-Mole, you may get to find out if you plan on buying Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista - the next generation replacement for Windows XP.

Microsoft has been pushing in this direction for years, creating both a software environment and a regulatory environment that will let them bring down the hammer on people it thinks are pilfering its code. This item from the AP (via Yahoo!) describes how Vista will contain the most aggressive form of "piracy protection" yet, actually reaching into your computer and disabling the ability to save files, open files, browse the web, etc. if Microsoft, as judge, jury and hangman, decides you've violated their IP rights.

If you're a corporate-rights-uber-alles freak, you might even find this justifiable, if it weren't for one thing: this stuff doesn't work right. Heaven help you if it Microsoft flags your perfectly legit bought-and-paid-for copy of their OS as problematic. You'll be shuttled into a special kind of hell, composed of ritualistic round-robin finger pointing and long, long hold times.

Does Microsoft have a cogent, comprehensive policy in place behind the scenes to deal with the inevitable failures in their anti-piracy technology? No they do not. Why would they? In their minds, their technology doesn't fail, so if you are accused by it you must be guilty, and why should they waste their time helping the guilty, you no-good thief?
Either that, or you're an "aberration" that is statistically too insignficant to care about. After all, Bill Gates isn't the one who just spent six weeks writing that report that you now can't print the night before it's due.

Just in case you didn't already know it, none of this prevents "real" pirates from churning out counterfeit copies of Windows Vista. The sophisticated bogus CD factories in China and Malaysia will not grind to a halt thanks to this new tech. This hammer only hits the small guys.

Linux-Americans are looking smarter every day. :-P

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More News from the Firmament...

Another astronomy story that didn't get much mainstream press coverage.

NASA: "This one moon totally wailed into this other moon"

A small moon "totally wailed into" a larger moon in the Vega star system, according to NASA scientists. Despite the fact that both moons were airless, rocky bodies, the smaller moon "definitely f---ed up the bigger moon's sh-t" according to officials at the agency.

"This big-ass rocky moon was just cruising through the Vega system, totally minding it's own business," said Gregory "Dreads" Takahashi, an astronomer affiliated with the agency. "When all of a sudden - BAM!" Takahashi slapped the back of his fist into his palm to illustrate the celestial impact. "This littler moon comes up and just wails into the big one. Next thing I know, the two of them are rolling all over the Vega system, kicking up dust, totally f---ing each other up. I was like, whoa, what's up with that?"

Other scientists at the agency were similarly impressed. One characterized the impact as "bizarro and just like, totally out of nowhere" while another claimed it was "freakin' awesome."

Not all were surprised by the collision however. Astrophysicist Slater Wallace speculated that "the big moon was probably trying to get over on some of the little moon's asteroids or something and probably had it coming" while theoretical physicist Ng Lee observed that the collision was "entirely in keeping with Newtonian and Keplerian laws of planetary motion."

Read all about it...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rodent brains will eat our lunch

I'm a big supporter of science and scientific endeavors, and a major detractor of science's...detractors, I guess you could say. But I've been seeing a lot of stories lately that make me think either we're at the beginning of a really disturbing trend in science, or that old Mother Nature is working overtime on getting us to wipe ourselves out. Perhaps she's not happy with how quickly we're killing ourselves through stupidity, so she's started working harder on the other end of the spectrum.

Indulge me while I connect some dots.
  1. Scientists have long been working on linking brain cells to computers. In 1999, scientists in California developed an electronic neuron that communicates with lobster brains (using $7.50 worth of parts from Radio Shack. I kid you not.)

  2. Scientists in Germany and Canada have developed microchips that can interact with human brains.

  3. Not just newer chips, but newer types of brains are also part of the trend. F'rinstance, scientists in California have succeeded in creating mice that have human brain cells in their heads.

    I wonder if they name these mice. Do they give them names like Tennyson or Franklin?

  4. The final piece of the puzzle is the announcement that scientists have succeeded in growing a small rat brain from scratch and getting it to interact with a computer. And just how do the scientists verify that this "brain" is interacting with the computer? Do they have it blink some lights or sound a buzzer? No, they teach it how to pilot an F-22 jet fighter.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Am I the only one who finds it more than a wee bit disturbing?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A solution

With the holidays approaching, I was thinking lately about wish lists.

I've got one on Amazon, as I'm sure everybody capable of reading this does. I also have a few scattered around on various merchant sites I frequent (mostly 3-D model & software sites like DAZ3D and Renderosity.) But there are a number of other merchants I like, and they all have their own web sites, which may or may not include wish lists.

The problem is, suppose someone wants to buy me a present. How are they supposed to know where to go on the web to find things I might want other than those listed on Amazon?

I considered looking around for a gift registry website. My wife and I used one in the past ( for my daughter's baby shower.It worked well enough for that task, but it didn't have all the features of Amazon's list.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the perfect gift list app existed already -

In case you haven't heard about this free service, it's pretty much a public list of browser favorites or bookmarks. You can easily add favorite web addresses to this list, and not only can you annotate them and access them from anywhere, but others can see them too.

The most powerful feature of this service is the ability to tag each item on the list with one or more keywords. This makes searching, sorting and filtering the list trivially easy, and does away with all that nested-folder malarkey found in the browser's bookmark managment component.

Because you will wind up using many of the same tags that others use, this service also becomes a powerful way of sharing and rating websites. If you have three bookmarks that are tagged with the keyword "photoshop", chances are good you will be interested in sites other users have tagged with the keyword "photoshop." Chances are also good that you might be interested in other sites tagged by users whose lists of keywords are similar to yours.

I realized this is also the perfect medium for public wishlists. You can link directly to the product pages for items you are interested in, add a line or two of descriptive text, a la Amazon, and tag items using keywords. You might have keywords for the type of gift - clothes, software, tools, toys, etc. You might have keywords for your level of desire for the item in question - "liketohave" "lovetohave" "needtohave" "pleasepleaseplease" and so on. Your wishlist is in a simple-to-remember format: for example.

It seems like a good idea - the only problem I can see is that since all keywords are public, and are ranked according to usefulness, the main ones would quickly become meaningless. If everybody's wishlist had one or more "lovetohave" keywords, that might quickly become the most popular keyword on the service. But unlike "photoshop", the "lovetohave" keyword tells you nothing about the nature of the link or the person who posted it. So I suppose its possible this idea could pollute - or perhaps dilute is a better term - the pure concept.

I think I'll give it a try anyway. ;-)