Saturday, November 27, 2010

Obsolete? Nope. My original iPhone dock still works.

So, I found my original iPhone dock, which was hide among some other old gadget stuff in an old shoe box. I looked at it closely and analyzed its dimensions. The light flicked on as I realized what I was holding: my years-old dock would come to life again!

Ever since I bought my iPhone 4, I have put off and put off having to buy again yet another dock for one of my iDevices. And the things is, Apple makes a universal dock, but even it has to be updated with new plastic dock pieces to fit your model. Because I only own a few devices, an original iPhone, an iPhone 3GS and now an iPhone 4, the universal dock never made sense to spend some $50+ dollars.

For the past few months, because I use my iPhone to tether all the time, my phone has been lying on its side next to my laptop about 90 percent of the time in the most inelegant, scratch-prone way.

Needeless to say, once the iPhone 4 slid right into my original iPhone dock, and I then heard that strange chirp the iPhones make when given USB life, I swelled with joy. Or, maybe I just said, "Cool," and smiled. 

Oh, the simple (geeky) things in life...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Geez, people... Haven't you heard these songs before?

Apparently, in one week alone, the Beatles have already sold about another two million songs and 450,000 albums. The top album in the U.S. was "Abbey Road."

Come on, people! Why the mad rush for music that's been out for more than thirty years?

I've already written a post previously about the welcome, yet "eh, who cares" news of The Beatles finding their way into the iTunes store. But now, I have to take a step back and either admit that I was wrong, or ask the more appropriate question, "what the hell is wrong with you people?"

We've had The Beatles on CDs for quite a while. But, what, the songs are all of a sudden brand new again because a new store just happened to stock 'em? You wouldn't go and buy re-buy your television just because the new Best Buy down the street started stocking it too. All I'm saying is that I seriously doubt even 5 percent of those albums sold went to people that had not already had another copy on some other medium. To me, that's just ridiculous.

Again, nothing against The Beatles -- of course they are legends and have made amazing music.

But if you had the CD laying around somewhere and still decided to spend money for a copy from iTunes, when in less than five minutes you could have ripped it just as well, then I am bewildered by that brand of thinking. By "brand of thinking," of course, I mean "retarded."

But maybe I'm over simplifying the nature of legendary music so easily accessible around the world and from a single place. What else did could one expect?

Via AppleInsider.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to touch a Lion: OS X

To be quite honest, I'm a little worried about Apple's position on touch in their desktop platform, OS X.

Currently, touch on OS X is employed using Apple's proprietary blend of gesture-based devices: the Magic TrackPad, Magic Mouse, and of course the MacBook trackpad. That's all great, but, looking toward the future, the point-and-click method of input, while effective at its job, is beginning to look a little antiquated in the face of touch-based devices like the iPad. I'd only hope that when the next thing comes around -- when we do figure out what the paradigm shift would be in desktop computing -- that Apple will be on top of it.

In the October 2010 keynote, Steve Jobs spoke a little about Apple's position on touch interfaces in the desktop/notebook category. He said basically that those vertical display orientations don't work well with extended use. "It gives great demo," Jobs claimed. But he then went on to describe the problems concerning arm fatigue and extended use problems associated with that design. "It's ergonomically terrible," he said.

That all makes sense, and I admire Apple's ability to deny the status-quo in desktop touch interfaces, and that's not what worries me. Instead, I'm curious about the integrity of their current interfaces for touch on OS X. The MacBook trackpad, Magic TrackPad and Magic Mouse are great devices, but they are in no way comparable to interacting with the touchscreen on the iPhone or iPad. Apple says the best way they've found to get touch on the Mac is not through the display, all which orient vertically, but rather through those horizontal devices they already ship.

I wanna touch me some OS X

While the trackpads and the Magic Mouse that Apple ship do make use of "gestures," they are not "touch" interfaces like touchscreen displays. The software in OS X is still based on a point-and-click mechanism of interaction. So, I guess the argument should be whether Apple should rewrite the desktop OS for fingers. Well, if you look at the recently previewed OS X Lion, they are already taking steps in that direction. With the LaunchPad, which uses the entire screen to display app icons, its use of folders like iOS 4, and also the introduction of more intuitive fullscreen apps (doing away with windows and the tiny toolbar controls), the desktop OS is gradually gaining the user interface necessary for finger-to-display interaction.

I wonder if the desktop OS, in its current form, will ever use touch as efficiently as any of the iOS or Android handsets on the market now. For example, straight from the horses mouth, check out this patent from Apple describing an iMac that has the capability to flip down horizontally, presumably to solve the whole "vertical orientation" problem.

My, how we've grown

Also, while always pondering the next best thing, I simply wonder when the traditional point-and-click style of desktop navigation will eventually go away. First there was command-line interfaces which included nothing but a black screen and a prompt. You would then enter commands to navigate and launch programs. From there, the paradigm shift in computing came with graphical user interfaces, or GUI. Xerox had initially invented GUI, but it wasn't until the Apple Lisa computer was released that it had made its way to the mass-market. From there, the Macintosh perfected the modern desktop operating system, and every other OS and software manufacturer, like Microsoft, jumped on the bandwagon.

More than thirty years later, we've since grown into our modern OS's and coincidentally seemingly grown too used to the same interfaces we use to interact with our data. It didn't take long to realize that command prompts were antiquated, but now we're slowly realizing that touch, along with wireless mobility, is the way of the future.

And in that aspect, the future is already here. With the introduction of the iPhone, we witnessed touch, wireless and mobile culminate with a product that not only revolutionized the cellular industry, but also energized new ideas and catalyzed a new category of mobile devices like the iPad. Tablet computing is the new rage, and we may see that form-factor take as the reigning personal device after the PC.

Bring it 'Back to the Mac'

I have to agree with Jobs on the iPad. There is something "magical" about it. The iPad brings a degree of intimacy with the internet and your digital content that other devices simply don't quite offer yet, all of which is because of the touch interface, its simplicity, design and ease of use. So, how do you bring some of that intimacy to the Mac? Laptops, in their current form, definitely don't work for vertical touch, because the displays are too flimsy and have no support for the pressure required someone to press against it. Hmmmm...

However, with the new MacBook Air, they've taken design cues from the iPad hardware, so I guess that's a good first step. It's easier to, say, just throw in flash storage rather than a hard drive, giving your laptop a new "instant on" feature resembling the iPad. But it's much more to try and reinvent the OS. Although OS X Lion seems to promote a more app-friendly, iPad-like experience with the new Mac App Store, the LaunchPad and fullscreen apps, in the meantime we're stuck with the Magic Mouse to provide our desktop "touch" experience.

We'll have to wait and see what the industry will make of this, because I certainly don't have the answers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Apple is big into teasers, big letdowns

Apple is big into teasers, and, to be honest, big letdowns.

The big banner on Apple's website claiming an unforgettable announcement about iTunes turned out to be nothing more than The Beatles finding their way into the iTunes Store.

Big whoop.

Although, it is great that when you now type in 'Beatles' in the iTunes Store, you actually get a result. And, while we love the music, the condescending minds hording the licensing that decided that The Beatles were too precious to be degraded by digital distribution -- have been silenced.

But I, as probably most other Beatles fans, already own all the albums, and had went about that horrible degrading process of ripping them into my iTunes library. To me and many others, no one really cared that the Beatles weren't in iTunes -- there are ways around that. But to Apple, it seems that the entire world had not one song to listen to if they didn't sell it.

After raising hoopla on their website with a teaser that said, "Tomorrow is just another day. You'll never forget," the tech blogs went crazy with rumors and possible announcements they would have made in regards to iTunes.

An apparently unforgettable iTunes annoucement

If you were like me, you were hoping for the overdue iTunes functionality to stream content from anywhere to your other iDevices. But it wouldn't have made sense for Apple to suddenly announce something that big a deal, seeing as how at neither of two very recent keynotes had Steve Jobs made even a nod to that possibility.

So, I'd say it was a moderate let down -- at least for the little hopeful minds like myself giddy over new Apple goodies.

Again, I'm glad The Beatles are now in iTunes, if only for the quelling of ridiculous notions from those behind the licensing that said "no" to digital. But geez, Apple, you guys are killing me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The inherent "disconnect" in internet communication.

You know what's strange? Every time I use FaceBook or even chat with someone else on the web, the next time I see that person I hesitate momentarily to wonder if that person actually responded or conversed with me online, like I had previously only been corresponding with some non-existent computer program somewhere off in nether-nether land.

But, to my surprise, as I later talk to said individual, they magically remember the conversation and seemingly think of it as no big whoop.

I think to myself: "Gosh, this is just weird." Because I carried on an entire conversation with a computer screen and a keyboard. It's a little odd and I guess takes some time to get used to more modern types of communication; that is, online services like FaceBook or Yahoo Instant Messenger, both of which I used quite often.

I guess the question is: when will the disconnect we experience through modern, internet-based forms of communication cease to be "weird?"

With online services like video chat and the newly released software from Apple called "FaceTime," which allows any Mac or iPhone 4 to carry on visual, person-to-person conversations, I can only assume that the time when not only VOIP (voice-over-internet-protocol), but also video chat becomes the norm, we'll always experience some form of disconnect from our fellow peers when it comes to telecommunication over the internet.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Samsung Galaxy Tab looks really good.

While we have been waiting on viable alternatives to the Apple iPad, as the newly announced Blackberry PlayBook has yet to reach market, the Samsung Galaxy Tab may have the ability to grab consumer attention and pull in some market share.

There are quite a few people out there that simply do not want to give in to Apple, the iPad, or even acknowledge that a device similar to the iPad, i.e. tablet devices, can be considered viable alternatives to traditional laptops. To those people, I say wake up and smell the greenbacks, because this new tablet market is thriving.

So what if Apple is the leader in all this again? Because they do so well and because they are, by some people, hated so much, that means demand is high and the market ready for other companies to step up their game and make something just as "magical." That's how technology gets better and how capitalism works. And it's all for you.

For example, Samsung's new tablet looks really good. I haven't used it yet, but this video shows just how usable and iPad-like the Galaxy Tab is:

The Galaxy Tab is supposed to be released over the course of next week from Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, all with their own separate data and pricing plans. It's confusing, so if you plan on getting one, make sure you do the math and figure out what works best for you before signing the contract for one of these things.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On the iPhone, pt2

Previously, I've spoken a little bit about the iPhone, its place in history and impact on modern communication, which can be found here. To get all my ideas out about the iPhone and why I’m a complete fanboy of the device (and to be honest, of most Apple products), I hope to expand a little here and possibly more down the line along the device’s evolution with this segment simply titled, “On the iPhone.”
Tech isn’t so “techy” anymore
You geeky son-of-a-bitch. Yeah, you know you love your phone. It’s okay; we do too. The thing is, tech isn’t so geeky anymore, so be proud of it. The 21st century Fonzie uses an iPhone -- style, fashion and social status today include both the devices you carry and the brands that define you. Are you a Mac or PC? Android or Blackberry? Playstation or Xbox?
Modern geekism, as I see it, has more to do with phones than anything, as phones are everyone's device and the most personal tech we own. And Apple, having always considered beauty and style in their products, are responsible for the new age of stylish gadgetry with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007.
Smartphones have evolved. Initially created for business professionals, the smartphone was nothing more than an excuse for guys in suits to carry around expensive, complicated-looking gadgets.
Well, that may be an exaggeration, but in all honesty, having used Windows Mobile devices from the early 2000s, I can vouch for smartphone uselessness beyond fancy contacts management a digital calendar. Mobile internet, which was finally starting to mature in devices like Blackberrys and the Palm Treo, was essentially still a baby. The Treo, Blackberry and a few Nokia products were certainly key devices in a pre-iPhone world, but until the platforms could be rethought and reinvented for use by mere mortals, nobody cared.
But why prop up the iPhone?

Well, because, if it wasn’t for the iPhone, your Motorola Droid simply wouldn't exist.
Android, Palm and now Windows Phone 7 -- platforms based on the touch-experience -- are all reaching full maturity and offer plenty competitive alternatives. But regardless of whether you believe the iPhone is still king or have instead found a better fit for you, no one can deny that Apple truly catalyzed a new generation of really personal, really smart mobile devices and software. Facing many obstacles, they created something so radically different and did it so well, that the iPhone introduction will go down as a historical upward shift in portable computing (not to mention that the MacWorld 2007 keynote given by Steve Jobs was awesome and sure to be talked about for decades among us Apple nerds. Gotta give kudos when kudos is due (what is a kudo, btw?)).
The iPhone’s backstory is really the most compelling part of its introduction. And though Jobs likes to claim revolution for the products he introduces, for the people that own iPhones, use them and love them, the overall consensus on whether or not the iPhone is truly revolutionary amounts to an assertive “hell yes.”
Read this piece from Wired magazine, The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry. This is the best piece I’ve found on the device, the landscape of the mobile industry and how it was flipped upside down in 2007.

It’s all about emotion

Talk with iPhone users. They love it. They make sure to use the word.
It’s just a phone -- an electronic gadget. So why the emotional connection? How can a person become so floored with a phone, of all things?

Well, making calls isn't it. The phone part of your iPhone doesn't make you fall in love. Especially if you have lots of dropped calls, sometimes you might be inclined to throw it across the room. However, the process of making the call, the fluidity and ease involved can overall make for a relatively enjoyable experience. That is what it's all about: the experience, the enjoyment one receives in its use with minimal frustrations.

Emotional connectivity with a phone comes in the sense that the device simply fulfills and need. Or more appropriately, it creates need, whereas technology, in its nature, broadens connectivity with the world by providing new avenues for information and entertainment, and then fulfills it. The iPhone platform, in form and function, exists to satisfy that need and, in turn, influences the "bond" a person will perceive from its use.

Just as an interesting side-note, we are only talking about a phone, in case we need to be reminded. We talk about the iPhone experience like one might talk about a religious experience. But I'm sure one's choice of technology might come close to a religion. They call 'em fanboys for a reason.

So, let's first discuss design. It's no secret that Apple has a great design team; they've won awards and sold enough product to prove it. Apple stuff is often described as "pretty" or even "beautiful." But why? It's nothing by a hunk of shiny metals and glass. To answer, you might look at these objects in comparison to what others manufacture. Take, for example, any slew of Nokia handsets or Windows Mobile phones from last year. Other than, in my opinion, the Palm Pre and a few HTC handsets which are on par with the iPhone as far as physical design, the iPhone trumps most in outward attractiveness. Being shiny certainly has an eye-catching allure and makes you wanna reach out and touch it -- or even lick it.

Handsets. You hold them -- yes, in your hand, if you had to guess. So, the feel of the device must conform to the hand or be ergonomically sound for constant touching and manipulation. The slickness of the iPhone (still speaking of the original) -- the rounded-off sides and smooth edges that fit nicely in the creases of one's fingers, the serene physicality of having only one button, the weight and feel of the device -- all adds to the proverbial "experience" we like to adorn it with.

Physical beauty is nice, and Apple has always made really nice hardware, but as Steve Jobs had said in The Wall Street Journal's D5 conference in 2007, he really considered Apple a software company more than anything. Software is what sets a company like Apple apart and drives the identity of their products. The software in the original iPhone was revolutionary (okay, I'll reuse the word). During the MacWorld 2007 keynote, Jobs threw the phrase "desktop-class applications" around to describe the new era of portable computing. The iPhone was the initiator and proof of that concept. Now with the App Store and over 300,000 (as of this writing) applications for iOS devices, uncertainty over software utility in the mobile space can be easily put to rest. However, while the capabilities are there, pure functionality of the iPhone is not what creates the bond between it and the user. Design, again, must creep into the conversation, because the way we see, feel and hear -- all ways we interact -- must, beyond all, be easy and fun to do. The designers at Apple have nearly perfected user interface design.

It works well. Like, for real. As long as the hardware is keeping up with the software (because the hardware should be able to handle what interface and general computations the applications need), the interface, its animated aspects, the types of buttons and controls, the graphics, the layout of information all in a tightly-wound, polished and responsive package make for a fluid and extremely satisfying experience.

It's late, and this post has run long. To be continued...