Sunday, November 20, 2011

My favorite Siri responses so far...

Here's a short collection of one-liners that Siri has graced me with during the short time I've had to sit down and play with her:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Here's what the new cards from Apple's new Cards app look like

When Apple made their new Cards app available last week, I went ahead a cooked up a quick test card and sent it to my younger siblings. The whole process is extremely easy, and it shipped in no time. And the day it was to be delivered, sure enough my iPhone popped a notification letting me know.

The entire shipping time was about two days, and here's the result. The picture are a little crappy because they were taken in low light, but you can tell that the cards are nice while still being very inexpensive. And you can't beat custom-made, personalized cards conveniently shipped for you for only $3 bucks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So many podcasts, not enough time

I love podcasts. It's a great way to keep entertained while doing menial, repetitious tasks like doing the dishes, working out, or driving. But the time you take to do those things usually doesn't go over an hour or so, and then it's back to work.

With the growth spurt podcasts have had over the past couple of years, there are now more shows that I love than I know what to do with. There is never a time when I have to wait another week for my next favorite podcast to put out a new episode. Not only are there so many shows, but now many shows are on a three-a-week, if not daily, schedule. That's a lot of content! Now I just wish I had more time to listen to them.

All in all, this is a great thing. It's about time great, entertaining and/or smart, informative people have an audience without having to go through "suits" in the entertainment industry to have a voice and get themselves known.

Some of my favorite podcasts: This is my next (soon to be The Verge), MacWorld Podcast, Adam Carolla Show, WTF, The Joe Rogan Experience, G.I.O (Get it on), Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, SModCo Morning Show, Mohr Stories, The Nerdist, Having Sex (with Katie Morgan), etc...

The list gets longer than this actually.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My favorite feature of iOS 5

Safari on iOS 5 hasn't changed that much in terms of obvious new features. It's a little bit faster at loading a rendering pages, and with twitter now built right in to the system, sharing links and pages is now easier that ever. But my mostest favoritest feature is the Reader function, which intelligently consolidates the main text of a web page or story into a sleek, easy-to-read overlay. You can then adjust the size of text to your liking. All the ads are gone, the random spotting of miscellaneous tables, pictures and other junk also disappear. As someone who reads a lot of news on websites from my phone, the Reader function, which actually had its first appearance on the desktop, finds a perfect home as a new little button right in the address bar.

Here's some screenshots--a page of the NYT before and after:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Was the iPhone event disappointing?

You know, I'm having trouble deciding. It seemed so essential and obvious to me that the best device to run iOS 5 would be the iPhone 5. I mean, next year when we get iOS 6 (we will get iOS 6, right?), is it going to run on iPhone 5? Six on a 5--that may have a nice ring to it, or not. But alas, today at Apple's keynote we saw kinda what we all expected from the rumors, though our hopeful and optimistic attitudes nearly got the best of us. Since earlier today, I've had some time to purge my brain of the dreams of that super awesome-looking iPhone 5 mockup floating around the interwebs and take a good look at what the new iPhone 4S means for consumers and Apple.

Are consumers really missing out this year when the iPhone 4S has everything you could have expected from an iPhone 5? And just how important is a hardware redesign, then, when every feature is already there? Look at the feature set of the 4S: iOS 5 and all it's new features, faster, new super camera, 1080p video recording, a world phone with multiple carriers, the new Siri personal assistant (which looks fantastic, btw), and iCloud--the service all iOS 5 devices will sync to for backup, syncing and storage. This is all pretty impressive. The only thing missing? A pretty new package.

The biggest question is, does that really matter to people? Do consumers have to have new hardware to be truly excited about this product? It begs asking when the hypothetical iPhone 5 wouldn't do a single thing more effectively than the already gorgeous iPhone 4S design. I know I was disappointed. But for what real reason? I told myself I would not upgrade if they didn't change anything externally. But why does that matter so much? The point is that it does and doesn't matter at the same time. For starters, it didn't matter when they did this once before with the iPhone 3GS. It broke previous iPhone sales records. And what features did it gain sans a new look? The same thing that the 4S has received today: faster processor, improved camera and the new OS with voice command capabilities. What Apple needs to prove now is that this is enough for the iPhone 4S to make up for all the bad press the iPhone 4 design got with the antenna problems.

At least it sounds like they might have fixed that ol' bug that haunts every iPhone 4 today--the signal drop. Please let this new antenna be the end of that crap. Please?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Blogger App for iPhone

Gotta say, I've been waiting for this app for some time now, and now the guys and gals at Blogger and Google's mobile division have finally come through.

I actually am writing publishing this blog post from my iPhone 4 using the new blogger app, and so far it is living up to everything that a 1.0 release should be, even blowing away all previous third party app efforts, as notable as they were.

The blogger platform itself isn't the most sought after or most professional blogging service out there, but it satisfies the needs of most ametuers with something to say, doing so with style and a price tag that's hard to beat: free. So, Blogger has for the most part kept me content and blogging away. However, the weakest link in the chain has always been the mobile aspect of the platform, while not having a native mobile blogging app in this age of smartphones/multimedia powerhouses was almost a sin.

In that vein, because my thoughts usually come when I'm not at a computer, everything I write somehow always starts in some way on my iPhone. Searching the app store, only one app seemed worthy of doing some real Blogger-based mobile blogging. But now that app isn't available. It was called iBlogger. And that was the only one that seemed to actually save my posts. In trying out other apps, on more than one occasion I found that lengthy posts had vanished, leaving me distraught and angry.

That was when I thought about a switch to wordpress, the platform sworn by from professionals and amateurs alike. But, for my feeble brain, setting up a wordpress blog just seemed unnecessarily daunting and confusing. I like my simple Blogger accounts with little customization. There was something about the uniformity and dare I say conformity that appealed to me. That just left me waiting for a real mobile solution from Blogger. Which brings us here. After I had nearly forgotten about it altogether, today came this unexpected gift.

As far as the app's functionality, it's basic but entirely usable. After signing in to your Blogger account, you can switch between multiple blog accounts if you have them, and if you have blogs under differ blogger accounts, it doesn't take very long to switch between them.

Posts are easy to manage, and it seems that everything you write, including drafts, are all saved to the cloud, so you don't have to worry about losing posts if something happens to you phone, or if God forbid a bug in the app would misplace your text.

It's really easy to append photos to posts, but it seems that manually manipulating where they might end up in the layout isn't editable at this point. And visual editing seems to be out if the question, as fonts and colors of text only default to your blog's settings. You can, however, adjust what size you'd prefer your uploaded images, allowing full-resolution as well as many options to cut down sizes for quicker uploads.

As soon as you boot the app, you've started a new post. Give it a title and type away. It couldn't be much simpler. And when you're finished, just hit "Publish" in the top-right corner, and you're done. Then you can see your published posts an your blog in the viewer window. Just tap the big "B" at the main screen.

And that about wraps it up. Good job, Google and the guys at Blogger.

My new super simple iOS layout

Short and simple, here's how I recently set up my iPhone homescreen. It works, it's really clean, an believe or not makes my favorite apps really quickly accessible. In the top left, I have a folder of my most used apps, and in the dock I've kept only three apps. There's something about the one missing app (which for me would be the iPod) that makes the dock seem even more essential and cleaner. It's like clearing that worthless paperweight off your desk that would unnecessarily be taking up precious, limited space. So goodbye, iPod. You're always just a double-click of the home button away. Or right there in my "most used" folder. And of course all my other miscellaneous stuff is one page over and filed away in folders.

Take a look for yourself and see if this setup would work well for you too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thin(ner) MacBook Pros coming...

Had you any doubts? Apple has some ultra-thin MacBooks in the works, and this report from Cult of Mac says that there is at least a 15-inch model in the pipeline right now.

This would line up with my previous speculation that the current MacBook design would soon give way to smaller, MacBook Air-like designs.

As shown by Apple's recently updated MacBook Airs, tremendous horsepower is possible in even the thinnest laptop designs. This report shows that the mid-2011 MacBook Airs rival last year's MacBook Pros, which is no easy feat (I happen to type on a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro now, and it's no slouch).

Current MacBook Pros carry a design that is almost three years old. It's about time for an update. But seeing as how the current design is already the best in its class, it's hard to fathom just what could be dramatically changed or improved. Well, it seems the old adage "thinner and lighter" will just never go away. At some point, making these notebooks thinner will be like trying to split paper.

Pundits are saying we might see these new models sometime this Fall. I'll be getting one, I'm sure. I dont' even have to see it to know.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In defense of LaunchPad...

LaunchPad icon
Lion. Mac App Store. LaunchPad—a new feature in Apple's latest OS upgrade for the Mac, offers users a grid view of all the applications on his or her system. It's Springboard from iOS, now harnessing your apps on the desktop. But a lot of folks have been disregarding this feature as very useful for the busy professional with tons of apps and no time for gestures. I say nay. The complaints: the gesture to access it is too confusing, apps get lost among mad app collections, and the whole idea seems pointless in the face of spotlight or other third party app-launching apps. I'm here to suggest why LaunchPad is an important and useful feature for both novice computer users and professionals alike.

Let's start with the one and only trackpad gesture to trigger LaunchPad. It's a four-fingered pinch. Up pops a iOS-looking grid with all your apps' icons. From here one can click something to launch it or move stuff around and categorize icons by putting them in folders. A click anywhere else that's not an icon will take you out of the LaunchPad, or you can reverse the gesture by spreading your fingers outward on the trackpad.

Now, the gesture itself might sound ridiculous in that it seems to require the utmost focus and human talent to execute, but it's easy as pie. Seriously. Only occasionally do I have to attempt the gesture twice to activate it. So, for those complaining. Just stop. By the way, you can setup a keyboard shortcut if you want. Just go to the keyboard preferences—it's the first option. And later on, I'm sure there will be some more options for LaunchPad, either by Apple or a third party.

Next, let's talk about these people with gobs and gobs of apps. Because some people have so many apps, they say LaunchPad is useless and confusing while having to sift through pages and pages of icons. Spotlight, they cite, is better at launching apps. It's true that Spotlight is a great tool for quickly launching apps, but it does require a click of that little magnifying glass in the corner and then a few pecks at the keyboard. If you're anything like me, I automatically reach two hands to the keyboard in search of those home keys every time I type something, all which takes time. But it's not all about the time it takes to launch apps either. The UI for LaunchPad is downright pretty. For novice users new to the Mac, I'm almost certain a large percentage of them would prefer the LaunchPad to almost anything else.

To those power users with a kazillion apps, let me suggest this. Organize only one page of icons to your liking, starting with only 10 to 15 apps. Don't' worry about throwing icons into folders and categorizing stuff and making a page full of folders all filled with crap. Let those bright and shiny 15 apps on your "home screen" be the category of "Most Used." There you go—LaunchPad is now cleaner and more useful. Let Spotlight or Quicksilver or whatever handle everything else.

Also, I don't know if you've actually used any of the fullscreen apps yet, but having to mouse-up for the menubar can be a pain, and that's just another step for you Spotlight launchers out there. In that situation, a four-finger pinch on the trackpad, and voila! Everything is at your fingertips.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mac App spotlight: Pulp

It's apps like this one that makes me wonder if I need my iPad.

Pulp, an app available on the Mac App Store, makes reading online news and blogs as enjoyable as if it were on the iPad. I love this app. Sure Pulp has an iPad counterpart, but I prefer the Mac version. Here's why:

For me, the iPad is nothing more than a nifty online news reader. I don't play games, I hardly use it for video consumption, and even as a musician I hardly use GarageBand on the iPad (I've got a MacBook Pro with Pro Tools 9). The only thing I use my iPad for is skimming through the list of daily tech blogs to satisfy my nerdy curiosity. Anything beyond that, and I'm reaching for my MacBook. And it's Mac apps like these that keep me away from my iPad, making it more and more useless everyday.

Because my MacBook-to-iPad usage ratio is something like 99-to-1, I can just about replace my favorite tablet. And I can do it with style. Pulp is a personalized eNewspaper comprised of all the blogs and RSS feeds I choose, all put together in a unique and gorgeous fashion. And unlike Zite and some other reading apps, you can directly input specific feeds that aren't well established—like... this one!

The user interface is just downright pretty, and the animations, such as the paper seeming to fold outward, are well executed and exemplify how small amounts movement and effects can add subtle style and flair.

You can also add articles to a reading list that pops out in a beautiful-looking wood drawer. There are many different customizable views and sizes, and you can even adjust fonts and other accessibility options.

Previously, the only Mac news reader with this functionality was an app called "Headlines." And, umm, not to be so rude, but it was butt-ugly.

So thank you, Pulp, for allowing me to seriously reconsider selling my iPad 2.

Check out Pulp on the Mac App Store. It's ten bucks, but well worth it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Anticipating the axing of optical drives

You want to talk about hunches. I've got one. Mac laptops will soon be optical drive free. It was an obvious removal when the MacBook Air came out. It needed to be thin. But now with the Internet turning more into the omni-present "Evernet" and with more and more software being distributed that way (Mac App Store), Apple has less reasons to keep a such a space-hogging component—not to mention relatively outdated technology—in its mobile systems.

Take, for example, Apple's recent software announcements. Final Cut Pro, Motion, Compressor, and OS X Lion. Any mentions of shipping this stuff on discs? Nope. They are Mac App Store only, so at least they say.

And that's just the cake. Here's the icing. The drives just take up so much damn space. If you open up the back of a MacBook Pro, you'll see that there just isn't anymore room to do what Apple always, always, always wants to do from a design standpoint, which is to make the next generation thinner and lighter. The optical drive takes up at least 20-percent of the internal guts of a 15-inch MacBook Pro, and probably even 30- to 35-percent of the regular MacBook. If any slimming down is going to happen, the only expendable part in the laptop is that of the optical drive.

And here's the cherry to top it all off. Beyond the size and weight improvements the MacBook or MacBook Pro would gain from a DVD-drive exorcism, just imagine the amount of battery life the product could gain. It would be astounding.

Right now seems a perfect time for Apple to come out and say something to the tune of, "Hey, we've got the Mac App Store for software and games, iTunes for music and movies, and you've got the Internet for just about any damn thing else you might could want from an optical drive. So, we've taken it out in order to ship you a thinner and lighter product with much better battery life."

If anything, at least the base model MacBook will see an update soon, and that seems like a perfect test-product to see how well the new, Superdive-less design is received.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another reason I love the Mac: ahead of the curve

With the next major release of the Mac operating system, OS X Lion, on the brink of release, I can’t help but realize how much I appreciate the new features coming to my laptop within a few weeks. And I can’t help but notice how archaic and behind the curve Windows seems to be in the same features.

I love the notion of OS X’s new computing paradigms coming in Lion: modal-style, full-screen computing, Auto Save and Resume functions, and Versions (not to mention the beautiful new interface animations and cleanliness). All these things seem like obvious functions of a modern OS, and the idea that our powerful computers have yet to adopt them almost seems silly. Especially now that computers are used by everybody (I mean just about freaking everybody), and not just geeks, means that it’s about time we switch our thinking about what a personal computer is and can be. Why the nerdy notions of “saving," “backing up," and organizing a “filesystem,” not to mention being relegated to the “window” paradigm? Let my computer and applications do all the managing and organizing and backing up of files. It’s smart enough, so why should I have to do it? Besides, regular people hardly feel like learning all that stuff anyway.

The Auto Save, Resume, and Versions features in Lion have much larger implications on personal computing than I think most people realize. And another reason I love the Mac is that Apple is the first to truly implement that stuff across the OS now, giving developers APIs to do the same thing in their apps. But this is not actually new for Apple. The iLife suite that comes on every Mac has been doing this for the past couple of years now, and obviously common productivity apps like iCal and Address Book never required the user to save changes.

But I wonder now, how long will it be until Windows follows suit? I see this simple idea being widely accepted very quickly. And the idea of having to save consistently and duplicate files to have different versions will seem archaic within a few years. Microsoft will probably adopt similar functions in applications sometime in the future.

But right now, they seem really focused on shoehorning Windows onto tablets to care about implementing that stuff. They might surprise me though. It’s happened before.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Everything that can be invented has been invented... maybe.

The patent office in 1899 told us that everything that can be invented has been invented. That was obviously patently false--if only they could have seen an iPhone. But now, as it may continue to seem, that it is hard to fathom any new inventions in our lives when it comes to personal electronics. Of course we could always reinvent the product categories we know and love now: our smartphones, laptops, mp3 players, tablets, etc. But what new personal electronic categories could there be?

Take, for instance, the iPad. Apple claims to have created a whole new class of device. And they'd be right. They essentially invented a whole new electronic device by reinventing a decades-old concept of the "tablet" computer. And now, we actually use them, and they have filled a void that consumers didn't even know they had. That's a fine example of killing off the stifling notion that we've already invented everything, as ludicrous as it may sound. But where do we go from here? What other needs could we have when it comes to the tech we carry from day to day? Specifically, what new category of devices need making? Or are we happy and problem-free now? Could this post use another pointless question?

Either way, I tell you, I'm still in the market for a good jetpack or magic carpet, but even that is something completely different...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quit whining about Final Cut Pro X

No happy FCP X
With the release of the completely revamped version of Apple's flagship video editing software, Final Cut Pro, long-time professionals in the industry are acting like old grumps: resistant to change, complaining, and come on Grandpa, let's hear about the good ol' days while we're at it.

This is Apple we're talking about here. You know, the company who's goal it is to reinvent industries ... On a very philosophical level, this company is looking to make it's products more useable, adaptable and affordable by amateurs or professionals alike. When more people can use and understand a product, that makes it more of a success, regardless of how much of it's predecessor it leaves behind.

The new version of Final Cut Pro is not, however, an iterative build upon it's previous self. It is an entirely new piece of software. And regardless of whether or not this release had been an iterative build on FCP 7 (FCP 8?), the entire application still needed a complete under-the-hood rewrite. Among the necessary improvements included making Final Cut completely 64-bit (not easy), adapting it to work with Grand Central Dispatch (OS X's way of managing computing tasks among CPU cores), and switching its user interface API from Carbon to Cocoa. With this type of exhaustive laundry list, why not go ahead and rethink the entire thing?

Using the application, one can see that it borrows heavily from the iMovie way of doing things. From its interface to the managing of projects and media—everything is very iMovie-esqe. This type of editing workflow makes this a very compelling app for "prosumer" users, not the mention the price. At 300 bucks, anybody that can afford a Mac can afford this software. That means that these very capable video tools are available and attainable by the masses, which I believe is Apple's primary goal: make tools available that accomplish what 90-percent of people do 90-percent of the time. The elite 10-percent that need super-duper editing rigs? Stick with what you've got for now. Just because FCP X doesn't fit your needs, it doesn't mean FCP 7 has quit working. You might not be able to buy new licenses, and that's probably an error on Apple's part. But I would still keep an eye on FCP X as Apple adds more features and addresses the complaints that people have of this 1.0 release. And that's just it. This is a 1.0 release (or a 10.0 release to be precise). It's a brand new product.

The biggest complaints for the new release include the lack of multi-camera support, no support for RED footage, and the inability to import older FCP projects. Many have likened this new version of Final Cut to the switch a few years ago from iMovie HD to iMovie '08. During the switch, some features were broken as Apple focused on the ground-up rewrite of the application and entire video-editing experience. Revolutionary or not, that process has taken a little time to get used to, but it has proved well for the app over the past few years. Final Cut Pro X will be the same way. So for those up in arms about this new release, don't use it. Stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.

It's very simple. You cannot expect this release to fit right in to your mega-studio workflow. If anything, Final Cut Pro users should be excited over the fact that their applications aren't just sitting still and withering—the transition will take time for super users while Apple adds features and quells complaints.

As some customers have already said, FCP X is like Apple's "Windows Vista" of the video editing world. And I have to agree. Sure Vista had its issues. But is anybody complaining now about Windows 7 (other than the usual crap that wrong with Windows)? It's a process, and sometimes the upheaval of the old is essential to making the new. Break it down and rebuild...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Androids hate batteries

Robots need juice. No, not from fruit (well, according to this video, that's a possibility), but juice in the form of a stream of negatively charged particles called electrons. Put simply, our more popular mobile robots--Android phones--need batteries, and lots of them.

It's no secret of the companies manufacturing Android devices and the customers that buy them that the battery life of even the newest phones may have you anxious every time you must leave the house and your precious wall outlets. Let's face it, the Android phones shipping today, with all their horsepower, have at most a battery life to the tune of 4-5 hours. And that's still a theoretical. Real-life battery runs are about 1.5 hours when doing something processor-intensive like playing a game.

Of course, some Android devices are better than others. I haven't been able to play with all of them, but it's safe to say that if you have a 4G Android phone, you're looking at maybe 2 hours of real-world talk time. That's a lot of (fruit) juice for a robot, especially if you plan on toting your robot friend on a long journey.

I look at this as a big problem for the future of Android phones in the face of ubiquitous 4G data and more powerful phone processors. And I feel this is an important discussion that is seemingly ignored by the media and those reviewing these products. Consumers looking for a new phone probably don't know about the energy problems plaguing these phones and are most often surprised when they realize that most of their day involves managing battery life.

Which leads to the next important point about user experience. The first thing a new Android user is told to do after buying their phone is to go on the Android store and purchase a task-killer app. As someone who spends most of the time on a iPhone, this just seems ridiculous. Not only do iPhones get spectacular battery life, but at no time does the user need to focus on managing background apps for the sake of battery life.

Not to sound like a iPhone snob, but when it comes down to what smartphone you'd feel most comfortable taking out and away from nearby energy sources, the iPhone wins hands-down. As a Nexus One owner and having extensively used various Droid devices as well as the Motorola Atrix, the future looks a little bleak for Android when battery technology has remained relatively idle and the new energy-hogging processors and 4G data bands look to chew your Android into a lifeless hunk of parts.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What is a "match" in iTunes Match?

iTunes Match is the first service of its kind. Slated to be released later this year, it will take your iTunes library, which is likely full of music ripped from CDs, and match those tracks to copies you can then download from the cloud to all your devices--for $24.99 per year.

That's all well and good, but seeing as how the battle between music label and pirate still wages, I wonder what in iTunes Match will be restricted once they actually flip the switch.

Obviously, the music industry doesn't want to make things any easier for thieves, and clearly, if you have tens of thousands of pirated songs in your library, no company in its right mind should ever give you legitimate copies of those songs for 25 bucks. So, it stands to ask, will there be any type of limitations on this new service?

Consider this: when you click "get info" on a song in your iTunes library, the summary tab shows what type of software was used to encode that track. Many pirated versions of songs will use third-party software and codecs that spit out numerous audio filetypes (LAME, FLAC, etc). But if you have used iTunes to rip a CD, it clearly states that iTunes took care of your cd-ripping duties and even shows which version of QuickTime was used in the process. So, iTunes Match--what exactly will qualify as a legitimate match? Only iTunes-encoded tracks? Or any ol' file type that gets stuck in your library?

As it stands, most people see iTunes Match as a way for pirates to legitimize stolen music—a way to convert anything downloaded from the Internet into pure and true, music label-endorsed tracks, all for about 7 cents a day. I personally hope that's not the case. And given that this seems like a perfectly reasonable and easy way to do so, we'll just have to see how Apple handles this. Above all, I'm just amazed that Apple has been given the green light for this service in the first place.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

WWDC 2011 predictions

WWDC event poster
Another year. Another Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Does that make this year's event any less exciting? Nope. With wild speculation in-tow, here's a run down of things we may see at the event led by Steve Jobs this morning. Some of these things are obvious at this point, and others come solely from the depths of my imagination. First, the obvious stuff: Lion, iOS 5, and the strangely pre-announced new iCloud service.

First, Jobs will give us a run-down of all the anticipated features previously discussed and available on Apple's website about the new product (full-screen apps, LaunchPad, Mission Control, Auto Save and Versions, etc...), and also possibly demo some new features we have yet to see.

There is a lot of noise about Apple distributing Lion through the new Mac App Store. I'm behind this prediction 100-percent. For years, Apple has dreamt about a world where they can finally kick physical media to the curb. They will still have disks available, but I think they will offer OS X Lion through the Mac App Store sometime this month, if not today.

iOS 5:
Second, Jobs and his colleagues will show the next version of iOS, and I feel that this will take up most of the presentation. The first of their demos will be on the system integration of third-party Apps throughout the operating system. As some stories have pointed out, Twitter seems to be one of the first Apps to have been given this ability, and a spokesperson from Twitter will come out and talk about how they were contacted by Apple to try out this new API for development. Then Scott Forstall, the VP of iOS software, will explain how this new API will allow for developers to add integrated features throughout the OS for their applications if the user has the app installed on his or her device. However, I think that there should be an option for the user to turn this off if he or she desires.

Remember when third-party apps, cut-copy-paste, and multitasking didn't exist on the iPhone? Well, we screamed and screamed about them, and one at a time they were taken care of. One of the last core things we power-users scream about is iOS's really crappy notification system. This year, I think Apple is going to change that.

It's execution will resemble a drop-down menu from the top of the screen, kind of like a combination between the iOS multitasking UI and the Android notification system. It will store all of your recently received notifications in an un-intrusive list so you can review them at your discretion.

Also to be included, according to reports like this one, is the automatic downloading of app updates. A feature I hope can be turned off if wanted, devices will now automatically update installed apps without the user have to manually tap each update and get thrown to the home screen.

I feel like we might see some UI element and stock app updates as well. Although I am unsure of what that might include, the old widget apps that haven't been touched since the first iPhone are going to either be fully fleshed-out or eliminated or combined into one stock-weather-contacts app. Some reports are saying that the messaging app might be updated. Lastly, I hope but doubt they will include widgets or other glanceable information on the lock-screen or homescreen.

The child of iTunes + MobileMe. It's obvious that we can't carry our ever-growing music and video collections on these tiny devices. The answer to that is storing everything in the cloud. The cut off for storage on iOS devices is 64GB—a sizable but still very limited amount of space. Not to mention, we also use these devices for all kinds of productivity uses, so the ability to have easily available, all one's documents and files in a sort of permanent off-site backup accessible from anywhere is nearly essential nowadays.

Now all these things can actually already be reproduced using and number of different services: Amazon Music, Google's new Google Music beta service, and also things like DropBox and Go To My PC. But still, most of us use and are stuck on iTunes. iCloud, I think is more like a single-source consolidation of all these services that will be functional and easy to use.

How will it be executed though? If you look at the pictures of the iCloud icon, it looks much like an iOS app button. This is kind of hard to imagine, but what if the iCloud service will be consolidated into like an app for access on the iOS platform? The user could pop open the App and browse and stream whichever files or media he or she owns stored in the cloud. The same service will probably work similarly on the desktop too. But hey, I'm no cloud networking genius...

As far as new gadgets go, I actually do think that Apple will release an updated version of the MacBook Air to go along with the release of Lion. It may not even be announced at the event today, but at least be available within the next week or so.

No new iPhone. Having read story after story saying Apple will not announce a new iPhone until Fall, I have to say, I'm thoroughly convinced.

And that'll be it. Now I can't wait until later this afternoon to see just how wrong I, and everybody else, was.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Windows 8: First impressions

Windows 8 Screenshot
Hooray for Microsoft. Their view of a Windows 7 tablet world nearly had me worried. However, coming from the labs for a surprising public demo this week was a pre-release of Windows 8. Apparently, Ballmer wasn’t lying when he gave some precursory remarks about upcoming Windows releases last week.

Albeit an interesting new release, my take from the demo is nothing short of Microsoft's attempt to embrace the tablet world without forsaking the traditional, legacy operating environment and applications we’ve been used to for some twenty-five years now. Does it pull it off? Meaning, is it just regular-old Windows with a sketchy touch skin on top? And does it make more sense to combine the flexibility of the desktop into a tablet device rather than build a completely separate tablet OS altogether? We can only know when the final build is released, but for the time being, let’s explore this a little more.

Before today, we all knew that Microsoft was working to make Windows support ARM-based processors. With that only foreshadowing what was to come, it seemed that they still had not learned their lesson that desktop operating systems do not fit on small, touch-based devices. Windows, as it is today, is simply too clunky and cannot compete on a functional level with touch-based products like the iPad or any recent Android tablet.

However, it looks as if they are trying their damnedest to get the best of both worlds for future Windows products. That’s right. We can assume there will be no separate operating environment called the Windows Tab for the tablet, as Windows Phone is to the phone.

In the demos, however, Windows 8 does act like like Windows Phone—live tiles and all—but it may not necessarily be based on the same code. Instead, it seems to be a layered system, where Windows still runs underneath (hopefully with some much needed tweaking and slimming down), but in the forefront you see a “Start” screen like never before. While looking a little like Windows Media Center, tiles are scattered across the screen, just as in Windows Phone. In this UI, you can have news and social media tiles, widgets and other apps all displaying information so you don’t have to fire up each particular application to get what you want—a design feature touted heavily by Windows Phone marketing campaigns.

Again, the system does run a traditional Windows desktop underneath, but the entire OS is said to be completely redesigned for touch input. If you have used a HP TouchSmart PC with Windows 7, then you know exactly how important this is.

Other things of note is a completely new soft keyboard, which seems to work quite well, and also the ability to run touch apps right next to mouse and keyboard apps. It’s hard to tell without using the product whether or not this has any realistic use. But from a technology-advocate's standpoint, it's good to see that Microsoft isn't afraid to try something new, and I think this is a step in the right direction. Only time and money will tell if this is the answer consumers and professionals are looking for.

What kind of codename is Windows 8?

I mean, really? What is so secretive about a name that the entire tech world is already calling your unreleased product?

A walkthrough of the design features of the soon-to-be replacement for your Windows desktops... possibly your tablets?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is Steve Ballmer even aware of his own product roadmap?

Recently, CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer told an audience of developers that they planned on shipping the next Windows product in 2012. There he made the first public references to the next release, and he even referred to it as "Windows 8."

However, this report indicates that Microsoft as retracted Ballmer's statements, saying "There appears to be a misstatement... To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows."

Hmm. Steve Ballmer—a CEO and loose cannon? Apparently so.

This is troubling in a couple of ways. First, in the face of Apple releasing yet another major version of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion," this news eradicates the hope of Microsoft keeping a consistent and competitive release cycle. Second, what kind of shape is Microsoft in behind the curtains when its own CEO either doesn't know or doesn't have the authority to speak publicly about his own flagship products?

When I first heard the news about Windows 8, I was hopeful, excited, and even proud of Microsoft for keeping on its game to maintain a consistent Windows upgrade cycle. The current version of Windows, Windows 7, was first launched in October 2009, about a month after Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the competing Apple platform. However, with Apple looking to ship a brand new version of OS X this summer, Microsoft again trails behind in their releases.

Not that they need to keep up with Apple to maintain their market-share, but Apple sure puts them to shame in the number of major iterations of each company's desktop OS. If you remember, Windows XP, released in late 2001 rode a product life cycle of almost 6 years. Whereas Mac OS X in the same time had 4 major product iterations.

Again, with the very likely possibility of  OS X 10.7 "Lion" to launch next month, Windows users will have to wait at least another year before any tangible release dates start looming around.

Just as a side-note, with the wide dynamic of Windows users, I really just dawned on me that a large portion of Windows users, i.e., large businesses and IT professionals, may not be ready for or even want a new version of Windows. Having probably only recently finally gotten the ducks in a row with Windows 7, a new version only two or three years later may actually be a hassle. Just sayin'. But that speaks a lot about how Microsoft develops and deploys, and how their customers use, their products.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Radio will not survive the Internet streaming Internet radio
This morning on the drive to my favorite breakfast joint, I tried something I haven't done in months. I tried to listen to the radio. Scrolling through the many stations, I looked for anything to catch my attention—music, talk radio, anything.

We all know radio sucks. Anybody I ever talk to about it all say the same thing: "All the stations play the same old crap over and over again." This was never more apparent than this morning when all I heard was the same cheesy Madonna song, "Like a Prayer," again and another station, which seems to have Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" on freaking repeat. From there, still going along the FM dial, I passed at least three spanish stations, and everything else in between was commercials.

Hoping for something better in the AM world, I switched over only to immediately get an ear-full of Glenn Beck. Typically, he doesn't really bother me that much, but for some reason, his voice was simply too irritating to me this morning, and I wasn't really in the mood to be preached to. Switching around the spectrum, I found a couple more Spanish-speaking programs and more commercials, until I found the best thing I had heard all morning: a jazz station. How bad is it when jazz, also known as elevator music, is the best choice for one's car-ride entertainment?

The jazz lasted for about 30 seconds before I gave up.

I couldn't help but be amazed at what garbage this medium is now. This is it? This is the best that radio has to offer? Seriously?

If radio has any real hope of surviving, networks need to focus on excellent content and real professional radio personalities that can drive listenership. Just take Adam Carolla, for example. Recently, he decided to keep doing his free podcast than to take a 7-figure salary to start a new radio gig in his hometown of Los Angeles. That's saying a lot. Beyond just competing with a censorship-free satellite radio, now podcasting has made it to the mainstream of broadcasting that will eventually take over as the premiere medium for listening entertainment.

Never has that been more obvious than now. Look at Pandora, a personalized music service playing only the music you like. And Stitcher, a mobile application for streaming internet radio shows and podcasts over the Internet. This is the generation of ubiquitous, on-demand content—content that listeners choose and support.

Not to mention, most traditional radio stations are broadcasting their content over the Internet now, too.

Soon after this debacle in my car, I opened up the Stitcher app on my iPhone and loaded up one of my favorite new podcasts, Jay and Silent Bob Get Jobs, from S.I.R. (SModcast Internet Radio)—a show that wouldn't exist without the Internet and is completely void of network executives telling people what they can or cannot say or do in their show.

Goodbye radio. We will never speak again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We may someday have to explain to our grandkids about archaic things called "light switches"

Much like 2010, this year's Google I/O conference made quite a number of new announcements, some projects still under development, and some of which may never see the market. Though Google may seem like it is developing a lot of concept-only products, that still doesn't diminish the excitement us geeks enjoy when we hear news like this.

Google is looking to extend the Android operating system beyond the phones, tablets, and even the TVs it currently ships in. First, the Android Open Accessory platform, which is an open peripheral development protocol based entirely on USB, will allow Android devices to plug into any hardware from third party manufacturers. Second, and even more interesting, is a new project called Android@Home.

Android@Home is Google's new concept product for home automation. The only place you've ever really seen home automation is in movies, where the bad guy's underground layer can be operated with voice commands and/or from an exquisite-looking control panel. In real life, however, home automation has never seen mainstream adoption. Previously developed systems either weren't that great, or you'd had to be Donald Trump to afford anything like it.

To give you a taste of what Google is proposing, chew on this: light switches could soon be a thing of the past. Let's imagine the possibility of placing tiny radio receivers in light bulbs that respond to the electronic cues of the automation system—a system that of course can be operated by Google Voice and its advanced voice-recognition technology.

Pretty cool, right? But that begs the question: I know that technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but how hard is flipping a switch to begin with?

via [Engadget]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adam Carolla turns down 7-figure radio deal to continue his successful free podcast

Podcasting is an interesting new media outlet. Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon—comedians, radio personalities, professionals and amateurs alike—but no one knows where the format will lead or what implications it may have on the whole of the entertainment industry. Struggling with legitimacy in the face of traditional media, podcasting has yet to be seen as a great money-maker beyond modest advertising dollars and its uses as a practical marketing tool for artists and entertainers. But that hasn't stopped comedian podcaster Adam Carolla who has found a large, devoted audience.

While podcasts are inherently 100-percent free, how does a professional entertainer capitalize on this exciting new medium? That is the question facing Carolla, the voice of the number one downloaded comedy podcast on iTunes, The Adam Carolla Show.

Recently on his show, Adam revealed a surprising revelation about turning down a radio deal that had been in the works for over a year. Soon after Adam as well as many other top radio personalities were let go from their jobs in in early 2009, Adam and a couple of his old radio buddies decided to embark on the podcasting venture. From its start, the podcast steadily gained momentum. During that time, he was approached with a possible deal for his own syndicated radio show—one that included a guaranteed three-year, seven-figure salary in a time where Adam says, "Radio jobs are gone... You may as well be in the saddle-making industry." About a year later, the plans and paperwork were finally put in motion, and the radio gig looked like it was sitting on go. Recently, however, Adam was faced with an internal struggle on what to do with his successful podcast almost two years after its inception. Would he take guaranteed money and security of radio and possibly forsake his audience and the podcast format? Or would he continue what he had started and see what the future holds?

Since starting the podcast in August 2009, the show has garnered a large and loyal audience willing to support it. Adam cites a recent business deal with that made a profound impression upon him about his fans and the opportunities the podcast may hold in the future. Just by clicking on an banner on before they buy something, listeners have been supporting the podcast in droves.

Adam's decision to continue podcasting is step #1 in the paradigm shift from traditional media. Podcasts, in part, feed a pervasive hunger for more on-demand content, which in turn gives more power to consumers as well as producers of media and entertainment. As the podcast's sound engineer "Bald" Bryan said on the show after this revelation, "You know, years from now, this could be a watershed podcasting moment... 'A-list radio star turns his back on golden offering.'"

I agree. It's sort of a historical moment. As a fan of Adam myself, I'm proud of his decision, and I wish him all the best in the future.

In another one of his famous/infamous analogies, Adam sums his decision up in true, Ace-Man fashion: "It's like when a guy says, 'I like fat chicks.' You didn't walk past Uma Thurman to get to the fat chick. You're fat yourself, and that's about all you could pull at this party. But this is me parting the supermodels to get to you—the fat chick, the podcast listener."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motorola Xoom: quick, in-store review:

I know this is basically old news now, but I've had this video stored in my phone for over a month, and it was time to finally do something with it.

Hanging out in one of my favorite electronics retail stores, I finally got to play with the introductory Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet—the Motorola Xoom. After using it for a while, I can definitely understand the excitement surrounding the product, especially for people already using Android or who are just all-round, good ol' geeks. But it still has a lot of catching-up to do before it can truly be as mainstream and as competitive as the iPad 2. However, if you are intentionally looking up Xoom reviews, then you are most likely already a supergeek like me and will probably love it anyway.

Quite simply, the interface is really, really "geeky." It's kind of like a Star Trek fan's wet-dream, with all kinds of buttons, sliders and controls galore. Or, if you prefer, probably a better comparison would be to the holographic-looking controls of the computer systems in the Matrix trilogy (remember that crazy white control room in The Matrix: Revolutions?). Either way, it's not inherently bad, but considering that this is Google's answer to the iPad makes it a little silly. I say that, because I doubt the general public and target market, which includes kids and grandparents, will want much to do with this if they perceive it as too "techy." That is something that the iPad has going for it, and Apple knows it quite well. And my little sister knows it too. At 8 years old, she uses an iPad with ease, and only on a few occasions has she ever asked for my help to figure something out. Just being as honest as possible, the Xoom, though extremely powerful and harnessing limitless potential, can and will be hard to satisfy such a dynamic range of consumers in the market for which this is to compete.

The biggest complaint I had is the color scheming of the OS and most applications. As is common with Android, almost everything is white text on a black background. And if having a glossy screen wasn't already bad enough, now everything glares so horribly that you constantly have a mirror image of yourself as you use it. Let me just say, this is a real misstep that is easily rectified. I mean, one of the first things taught in design classes is to avoid white-on-black as much as possible. It looks bad. It's hard to read. And here it permeates throughout most of the OS.

Other considerations:
I love Android's multitasking and notifications system, although I thought all the system functions in the little tray menu on the bottom seemed a little confusing. The widgets I thought also may be too small on the home screen, and although the user can customize how it looks, too many widgets can easily make everything really cramped and nearly useless when too much information is laid out in view.

The app selection from the Android Marketplace is ever-increasing, and it includes apps for most of the functions you could want in a phone. Obviously, it will take a little more time to get the types of more immersive app experiences made possible by the higher-resolution screen. Some estimates peg the selection of tablet-specfic apps to around 100. But beyond just numbers, one should hope for and expect some developers to come around and develop something that can compete with Apple's new apps iMovie and GarageBand for iPad. Just as Apple has set to making its own highly developed app experiences, I wonder if Google has anything like that up its sleeve. But, when you think about it, Apple has a long history of music and media appliction development. Google just kinda does web stuff. Not bad—that awesome native Gmail client on the Xoom—but it may be a long while before GarageBand has any competition on the Android side of world.

There are some excellent design decisions in this form. It was made to directly compete with the original iPad, which it does quite well. On the spec sheet, the Xoom seems to win: front and back cameras, a dual core processor, larger screen resolution, and a competitive battery life and app selection. But then there is the iPad 2, which kind of sucks the air right out of that spec sheet and makes it a level playing field. The only thing left to really differentiate the Xoom depends on Google and its Android tablet operating system. Honeycomb, as it stands today, has been said to be in a public beta-like mode of development, as Google has even hesitated to release its source code, thought to be for reasons of untidiness underneath the hood. In a rush to get the product to market, Android 3.0 needs to be around 3.5 in terms of manufacturer expectations and feature set and use to really appeal to the widest audience possible.

All in all—it's good, it's powerful, but your grandmother will scoff at it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The most conclusive evidence that MobileMe is set to evolve into iCloud

French technology site,, is the first to report findings in the latest developer build of Mac OS X Lion that show further evidence supporting claims of a revamped cloud service from Apple.

The curious hands at Consofmac found references in the system that suggest one can "upgrade from MobileMe to Castle." They go on to state that "Castle" is most likely the codename given to Apple's upcoming new cloud services thought to be announced sometime this year. Numerous reports suggest that Apple will name the service "iCloud," which may even allow users to store and stream their iTunes libraries from the cloud among different devices.

A company and online service recently announced that it has changed it's name from "iCloud" to "CloudMe." It doesn't take a forensics expert to realize that Apple has had their hands (and by "hands," I mean "lawyers") at trademarking the name for themselves. And interestingly enough, CloudMe took the liberty to flip-flop the name and take after its cloud-service cousin, MobileMe.

Apple is said to be putting the final touches on a huge data center in North Carolina, which represents an enormous and confident investment into cloud-based infrastructure. This step assumes Apple is gearing up for a future based on offering off-site services and storage solutions which may allow more mobility and flexibility in how people use data.

If you remember in December of 2009, Apple bought music streaming service Lala, which has fueled speculation on their plans to offer similar services for over a year. We may even see more direct competition to companies like Google and Amazon in terms of data services and online storage.

Add all these stories up, and you've got a clear picture of what to expect: iCloud, an iTunes-infused MobileMe.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Next-gen MacBooks to have new designs, will be released this summer with OS X Lion

I've been meaning to get to this story for a while now. MacBook Pros were refreshed just a couple of months ago, but already rumors have started about possible designs for the next generation.

Courtesy of
I was actually surprised that the last refresh didn't include any major redesigns. As much as I love and appreciate the awesome new horsepower Apple crammed into them, I really expected to see some kind of differentiation in physical design. When I look around my college campus, it seems that everybody has the exact same computer: sleek, silver clamshells with super-glossy screens. Consequently, laptop envy among classrooms and coffee shops has dwindled.

When I bought the first uni-body MacBook in late 2008, nearly everyday someone would comment on how awesome it looked. Though I've upgraded since then to a 15-inch and now to last gen's 17-inch, nobody cares. Not that I really need the attention (a single tear rolls down my cheek), but it does mean this: Apple, the novelty of your luscious laptop designs has worn off—time to come up with something else.

So, with the rumor mill already running, I thought I'd take this opportunity to speculate on what the next generation of MacBooks will offer (assuming they are redesigned, that is):
  • As far as a a case redesign goes, as always, you can expect thinner. Somehow, someway, I think the new MacBook Pros will approach 1st-gen MacBook Air thickness. Or at least, they will clock in somewhere in the middle between the thickness of the current 13-inch MacBook Air and the current 13-inch MacBook Pro.
  • They will retain the silver metal look and feel, but they may start using that super-duper alloy that was found in iPhone SIM card removal tools. Remember that?
  • Slightly bumped Sandy Bridge processor speeds and boosting graphics performance by opting for the AMD Radeon 6800 chips in the higher 15- and 17-inch models. Who knows what will happen with the Intel-only chipset in the 13-inch.
  • I'm probably going out on a limb here, but I think we'll soon see MacBook Pro models shipping with SSDs as a standard configuration. Or, even farther out on that limb is the possibility of MacBooks with no hard drive at all—that is, equipped with flash storage embedded on the logic board like the MacBook Air. Of course, that is nearly useless to working professionals that need large amounts of storage that only traditional hard drives can offer, but a boy can dream...
  • Now to go even farther out on a limb—so far that I endanger my own life—at least a few configurations of these MacBooks will not have CD drives. We all know it's going to happen; Steve Jobs and Apple hate CD drives. They are waning technologies. It'll be just like the floppy drive that didn't make it into the first iMacs. People will through rocks at Apple when they finally do this, but really... how often do you really use that stupid optical drive? It's slow and clunky and takes up an overwhelming amount of space in laptops, all while becoming increasingly more useless. I would much rather use that precious space for a second hard drive (which they make kits for), or just so Apple can make smaller, more portable laptop designs.
  • Sorry, went off on a tiny rant there, but my last prediction is that the white MacBook will be discontinued. I don't know the sales figures for the white model, but I'm willing to bet the MacBook is no longer the most popular Mac anymore. Most people are opting for the more capable 13-inch Pro. Either Apple will simply drop the price of the 13-inch Pro to $999, or an all new Pro-less design will fill its place. I'm just not seeing plastic in Apple's laptop future anymore.
  • The new models will be announced this summer at WWDC with the introduction and release of OS X Lion. How do I know this? I don't. Seems a little soon, but like I said before, a boy can dream...
Don't think this is what's going down this summer? I'd love to hear your opinions! Drop a comment or send me an email:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

White iPhone 4: it's finally here, brings with it the end of iPhone release predictability

Holding out for the white iPhone 4? Even though you had probably considered it vaporware by now, Apple says you can finally go out and get it tomorrow.

I'm not going to simply reiterate what you probably already know about the white iPhone 4 ordeal—that it was supposed to come out along with the black one last summer, that it kept getting delayed due to production issues, and that Apple made a few excuses here and there as to why it has taken so long to ship (well, I guess I just did). But I wanted to look at this release in terms of its sales forecast and what it means overall for iPhone release cycles.

Some analysts predict that the new white iPhone will boost Apple's handset sales by 1M–1.5M. Although I do agree there is a market for it—lots of people went as far as buying pre-release white iPhone parts overseas (an operation that was shut down and deemed illegal, if I remember correctly)—I still don't think we'll see a dramatic, if noticeable, sales increase. Two reasons: the iPhone 4 has already lost its newness. And I don't think novelty overshadows aging technology.

Which leads to my next point: a lot of folks thinking about buying an iPhone are probably considering waiting for the iPhone 5. Consequently, sales will plateau just before the summer, even if we see a short white iPhone sales boost. Traditionally Apple announces a new handset every summer at WWDC, but multiple media outlets (with all those reliable sources) are saying not to expect much until this Fall—a time usually reserved for iPods and iTunes-related stuff. Either way, this is the waning period for iPhone sales.

Overall, Apple is playing the cards right this hand. One thing consumers have had on their side is the predictability of a new iPhone each summer. By staggering iPhone releases this year—the Verizon iPhone 4 in February, the white iPhone 4 tomorrow, and the possible later release of the iPhone 5 this fall—Apple has effectively turned the tables back in its favor.

If you must have it, go get it. If you have that amazing virtue they call patience, wait for the 5.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The best tech podcast: This is my next Podcast

If you like technology, industry news, and like to laugh, then let me recommend a podcast. It's called This is my next Podcast. The name is odd, I know; it actually refers to an inside joke. But this is the best podcast you can find for your money (it's free). Trust me, you want to give this one a listen.

It features the gang that formerly ran the Engadget Podcast: Joshua Topolsky (seen often on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Paul Miller, Nilay Patel, and friends. Informative (sometimes) and entertaining (all the time), I look forward to these guys' ramblings every week. Topolsky, the head geek, is like the that quirky, yet funny friend you like to keep around because there's always something witty on the tip of his tongue. Patel always has an interesting point of view, seemingly able to make really technical stuff easy to understand and digest. And Miller, a little outspoken, attempts to be the logic of the bunch, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.

Regardless of some shortcomings, there isn't anything better. I've looked. That is until I start my own podcast...

Overall, listening to this podcast is kind of like being delivered a broken or neglected UPS package, but the delivery guy is super funny and cool. You'll look forward to each week just to see what that quirky delivery guy is going to say.

This is my next (website)
This is my next Podcast (iTunes link)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

AT&T squashes my tethering fun

I am a recent victim of AT&T's new campaign to squash unauthorized tethering. I say "victim" because I like to illogically whine and complain.

If you don't know, earlier iPhones came with an "unlimited" data plan, which could be grandfathered in even after device upgrades, like when coming from an iPhone 3G to an iPhone 4. Those people (including myself) tend to clutch onto that notion of "unlimited" with every ounce of his or her soul. Even more is that jailbroken iPhones in the US have been able to unofficially tether their Internet connection to other devices since the iPhone OS 3.0 software update in 2009. Well, that ride is over, as now AT&T has found me out and sent an ultimatum, like some others.

I'm not entirely sure how AT&T is choosing who to pick on, whether they are simply going down a list of unauthorized tether-ers, or if they are looking at power-users who use a large amount of data. I unfortunately fall in the latter category. As a broke college student living on my own, I have yet to buy at-home DSL or cable service. That's right; my main Internet connection is my phone.

Last month, I topped out at around 40 some-odd gigabytes of data consumption, and that's including only mild torrent downloading. Sure, I feel as though I have abused my power of the "unlimited" pass, possibly even slowing down another's mobile broadband in the process. But having the capabilities enabled with 3G tethering from AT&T has helped me out tremendously.

This month and 12 days into my billing cycle, I've used only 4GB so far, and it looks like it will decrease even more dramatically. A 4GB monthly tethering on AT&T right now costs $45.

I don't blame my network for their decision to cut me off. The unlimited plans are for phones only, because it's more difficult to rack up the sort of data that your laptop uses. Network problems or not, a customer has a plan of service agreed upon by both parties, and tethering is a luxury I've been getting for free behind Ma Bell's back. So I'm not mad for this termination. I look at it this way: when you were in school and you got caught eating candy, the teacher always said that if one person had candy, then the whole class should too. If I tether for free, the only way to fix it would be to let everyone tether for free... Oh wait, you know that's not a bad idea.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another reason I love the Mac: scrolling non-active windows

Sometimes when I'm trying to be productive (it happens, I'm sure) I like to have two windows open, going back and forth between them. I often use one window as a reference for another window, say, like when I am writing a paper and need to read something in the browser as a reference.

There comes a time, however, when I need to scroll down in that non-active browser window. On Microsoft Windows (all versions I've tried, including Windows 7), this is not as simple as it should be and can be really irritating if working for an extended period. The user must click on windows to make it active, and then he or she can scroll down using the scrollbars or the mouse wheel.

On a Mac, windows are not required to be active in order to interact with them. If I'm writing that paper and reading a PDF in another window, I just hover the mouse pointer over that window and scroll—no clicking required.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quick thought: iWork is old

If I'm counting correctly, Apple's last iteration of its productivity suite, iWork, is over 2-years-old.

That's really, really old for a major software company to have last put out a major update to one of its key products. The iWork we know today—which is mostly unchanged since January 2009—used to be named "iWork '09." Well, instead of actually releasing an update for the software, which by the way is missing tons of features (styles are still a mess) compared to the Swiss-Army-knife that is Microsoft Office, they have opted to just drop the "'09" from the name.

That's quite an update! At least the title doesn't scream "totally slacking on updating this thing" anymore. Go see for yourself. Open up the Mac App Store, and along the right-hand side you should see a link to the recently updated "iLife '11" suite of apps. Just below that, witness for yourself the '09-less "iWork" link.

Dude, really? And these 2-year-old apps go for $19.99 a piece—60 bucks for the suite?

Don't get me wrong, I love iWork. Because eventually I get exhausted just looking at all the switches and toggles and buttons and controls littering Microsoft Word. And the humble little Pages icon sits in my dock just waiting to save my confused noggin all the trouble.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mac OS X Beginnings: Cheetah (2001)

From and Wikipedia
Finally complete and fleshed-out, and taking suggestions by developers and users, Apple modified and implemented it's first official 10.0 OS release, codenamed "Cheetah" (the big-cat naming system for subsequent releases continues today). Cheetah was the culmination and refinement of brand new ideas—not just an overhaul an older OS—combining a Unix-like Darwin kernel (Google it) with features from NeXTSTEP and specific design elements from OS 9 (like, say, the Finder).

The Cheetah release gave Apple fanatics a new reason to love their computers. Re-invigorated after suffering through the 90s dark ages, Apple and its avid users got a glimpse at the light at the end of the the tunnel.

Release: Mac OS X 10.0 "Cheetah"

Features: first official stable release, completely different codebase from OS 9, new user interface, improved networking, added support for AirPort wireless technology, full PDF support and the ability to create PDFs from any application, the fully-feature Mail application, other essential apps like Address Book and TextEdit, and the Apple logo moved back to the upper left of the menubar.

Drawbacks: A newly-minted OS, the system still had many bugs to be squashed, the interface was criticized for being too slow, and there were a few key features missing like CD burning and DVD playback, which were both available in OS 9.

Price: $129 ($100 for an upgrade from public beta)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mac OS X Beginnings: Public Beta (2000)

Though having released the revolutionary iMac in 1998, which featured an entirely new approach to personal computer design, the hip, translucent all-in-one personal computers still featured Apple's then-aging OS 8 and eventually OS 9 software. Behind the scenes, however, Apple had been hard at work completely rethinking the modern desktop operating system. Incorporating the powerful technologies found in NeXTSTEP, Apple developed the what eventually became to be known as OS X.

Thanks to
In September of 2000, Steve Jobs stunned audiences with the flashy interface and new features of OS X. With a radically new user interface and software features like QuickTime and Sherlock, people began to look at Macs in a whole new light. The UI skin, called Aqua, did away with dull box-like controls, buttons and scrollbars. Window animations were a completely new experience. The dock created a much different way to quickly get at frequently used applications and documents. Overall, the idea behind OS X was to make everything simpler and easier.

Sure, the fresh, new Mac OS overhaul was buggy (many had said it was nearly unusable), but it was beta. Those that spent the $29.95 knew what they were getting into.

The weirdest thing though was the Apple logo placed in the middle of the top menubar... It was, however, changed back to the top left before the official release of Cheetah.

Release: Mac OS Public Beta

Features: First look at up-and-coming Mac innovations, completely new user interface, preemptive multitasking, memory protection, multiple users, Mail, QuickTime, MP3 software, Sherlock, Internet Explorer.

Price: $29.95

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mac OS X beginnings: NeXTSTEP

Now a decade after its first release, now’s the time for some nostalgic Mac OS X goodness. Let’s take a look at the Mac’s most far-reaching and advanced operating system from inception and infancy to its now very adult-like capabilities and features.

OS X beginnings: NeXTSTEP

NeXTSTEP screenshot thanks to
If you weren’t aware, the OS X Snow Leopard we know and love today was actually birthed from an operating system developed during the late-1980s to mid-1990s called NeXTSTEP. NeXTSTEP, from the Steve Jobs-owned company, NeXT, was an more modern multitasking operating system and well ahead of its time. However, bundled with capable though very expensive hardware, NeXTSTEP struggled to gain marketshare with competing “workstation” computers, and eventually Microsoft Windows became the preferred platform in both business and consumer markets.

Apple, then a competing company for Steve Jobs, also faced the same struggles. And by the mid- to late-1990s, Apple was desperate for a solution, as their main product line, the Macintosh, was no longer as competitive because of its aging, single-user and single-tasking operating system, OS 9.

An agreement was made. Apple bought NeXT, and with it all the advanced technologies within the NeXTSTEP operating system. With Steve Jobs back at Apple as an interim-CEO, and with NeXTSTEP in tow, Apple got to work on the next generation of OS called OS X. That’s “X” for “ten.”

Next post, we'll look at the brainchild of these efforts, OS X 10.0—aka Cheetah.

Here's a video of Steve Jobs demoing NeXTSTEP 3, the last major iteration of the operating system software:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Perspective: T-Mobile can be bought for $39B, Apple has over $50B in cash.

Pending all the necessary government approvals, AT&T announced today their plans to buy US GSM competitor T-Mobile for $39 billion. Without going into all the politics as to whether or not this is overall a good idea or benefit to consumers, I felt it was worth mentioning just what $39 billion dollars can actually purchase.

Though a follower of all things tech, I have a not-so-unique fascination with Apple, that company which sells those i-Thingies. Pretty much everyone is just as fascinated as I when Apple steals headlines for each shiny new toy. And one thing that most people know as of late is just how quickly Apple's cash reserves seem to continuously build. Last reports have their cash piles weighed in at a cool $51 billion. That's a heck of a lot of money. What drives journalists even crazier than the mind-boggling number alone is that nobody knows for sure what Apple plans to do with it. There have been some guesses; however, most of us sit and wait for them to take over the world.

But let's take another look at that number: $51 billion. In pure cash. No debt. A market valuation soon to pass Exxon to be the most valuable company in the world. And unlike the animosity most have toward Exxon, Apple and Steve Jobs have been named the most admired and loved company and CEO of last decade. What does all this mean? It means that that pile will continue to grow, and all the while Apple seems to have the highest restraint not to impulse-buy any thing they like, say, a leading wireless provider...

Of course, that's not their bag, being a carrier, but it does offer some perspective as to just what they're capable of doing with that money. Maybe they could buy Microsoft?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good times with the iPad 2

Continuing to explore the awesomeness that is the iPad, here's a video I shot a couple days ago using the new HD camera on the iPad 2. Then I edited, created transitions, added music, and exported the clip entirely in the new iMovie app:

I'm super impressed with iMovie's fluid and fast functionality. I'll post a video shortly to demo it's interface and speed. To give you an idea of how well it works: I own a 17" MacBook Pro with an 2.53 Intel i7 processor. The iMovie software on the iPad feels faster than that laptop when working with the same resolution and bit-rate video. That's saying a lot; it's a freaking tiny tablet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kids, GrandParents and those in between agree: the iPad rocks

The wait is finally over. I got one. The iPad 2 went on sale at 5 p.m. this past Friday, and I walked out of a local Apple reseller with a black 32 WiFi model at 5:20 p.m.

Twelfth in line, I had only been waiting for about an hour and a half, which is a very different story than our friends to the north. In New York City, a woman sold her spot at the front of the line at the Fifth Avenue Apple store for a cool $900. I don't think I could have sold my spot for anything over 20 bucks here in Georgia.

Either way, I've been using the iPad 2 consistently for the past 48 hours, and I must say, it's great. And it's not just great, it's GREAT (I know, I hear Tony The Tiger too). The only other way to describe it... well, I can't describe it. Nobody can truly "get it" until he or she tries one—and not just tinkering in the store kind of trying one. No, give it about three to four hours. Then, it all becomes obvious; reading news and websites, browsing, watching, learning, playing, discovering, app-ing (?), and getting immersed in content on the iPad 2 is a different and altogether better experience. Not that it takes time to learn, but in about that timeframe, using gestures and common UI functions across apps become second nature, and everything seems natural. Compared to using the keyboard and mouse and the seemingly "disconnected" screen, the more obvious touch-what-you-want interface is intuitive and will define our main personal computing devices for years to come.

I understand the hesitation, why the iPad's usefulness is in question. Hell, I passed on the first one, and not because I didn't have the money; I just didn't see how much use I had for it. Prior to standing in line with the other fanboys Friday, a family member asked me what I could do on the iPad that I couldn't already do on my iPhone or MacBook Pro. In all truthfulness I said "Nothing," to which she laughed at. I tried the explaination, to no avail, "It's not what you can do with it, but how you do it."

But later that evening I was able to show her. After a short demo, she and my grandfather were in disbelief. I showed her a few preloaded apps like PhotoBooth and video recording. Then I demoed how the videos and pics get loaded into an album that you can share or use as a standing picture frame. Next I showed her the internet, pulling up her own hearing aid business website in the Safari browser. A flash video that would normally play on the front page was missing, but that didn't stop her from admitting that website and text looked "unbelievably clear," even for those with dwindling eyesight. Lastly, touching the Maps icon on the home screen brought up a big green image of our United States. To pinpoint our location I tapped the icon in the top that looks like an paper airplane, and within seconds we were looking at a satellite image of our building. Now, you should be careful when showing the next feature to the elderly; their hearts may not be able to take it. I touched the icon for Street View. When the iPad zoomed down and allowed me to pan around and look at the entrance to our location, I heard my grandfather make a strange noise. It sounded like "Gugh!"

Put shortly, the iPad alters the perception of what a computer is. Previously complex and disconnected, traditional PC interaction has been revamped, re-imagined, redesigned, and revolutionized. Ask the millions of kids learning and playing games on it. Ask the college students with easy access to all the information in the world at their fingertips. Ask anyone with an insatiable reading habit who can take an entire library of books on the road. Ask my grandparents. If computers connected to the internet are windows to the outside world, then Apple is using the best darn glass cleaner there is.