Friday, December 31, 2010

Samsung Focus Review

I've had not quite 24 hours to fool around with my new Samsung Focus. I haven't unlocked it or rooted the thing yet, just played around with it like your casual consumer. I'll comment on it's capabilities as a developer phone in a different post.


The primary purpose of the device is to make a phone call. It's clear many smart phone manufacturers forgot about that when they manufactured their devices. The Samsung Focus performs admirably in that regard. I had a 30 minute conversation with my Mom (a fellow technophile) who was impressed by the clarity of my voice. She said that it was almost indistinguishable that I was on speaker phone when I switched over to that setting.


I read about a dozen reviews on the phone before I bought one. One thing people consistently commented on was the plastic construction and how cheap the phone feels as a consequence. I don't wholly disagree with that assessment, however the phone is extremely light and thin. Truly, when the whole of the device is glass, any drop is likely to be catastrophic regardless of the case material.

When you pick yours up make sure the battery cover snaps on and off fitting together properly. Also, get the $5 a month insurance, especially if you're a developer. Rooting the device (of course) invalidates the warranty.


It has physical +/- Volume, Camera, and On/Off Screen lock buttons. It also has the usual WP7 Back, Home, and Search buttons, but these are touch sensitive positions toward the bottom of the handset. The buttons aren't great or bad and they seem to have enough stiffness to resist getting pressed accidentally. The WP7 buttons are responsive even with the inviso-screen protector on the face.

I'm glad they gave the camera a hardware button that's pressure sensitive. Press to focus, then a little harder to actually snap the picture. Software buttons for phone cameras are generally a bad plan. I wish they'd done the opposite with the volume buttons but I understand why they did relative to the WP7 OS.


Yep, it takes a picture and shoots video. I'm not a fan of devices that combine design elements. I don't think the world is a better place as a result of combining cameras with phones, mp3 players, and other devices. Being that I'm largely outvoted in that assessment, I can say with some confidence the Samsung Focus take a crappy picture and shoots similarly unfortunate video as compared to a real camera designed for the purpose.

Charging & Battery Life

I haven't had a chance to put the battery to the test. Getting the thing to charge was an adventure. Even after pulling the battery and a reboot, I can't get it to charge via USB. It seems to take a charge from the wall but it's very slow to charge. Hopefully this is just one of those initial glitches that goes away after a full charge and discharge.

I got the device with half a charge at 11:00 am or so yesterday. That charge allowed me to setup my contacts, install and play games, text and talk until about 9:00pm when I went to sleep. By then the phone was very low on power. When I awoke, the phone had only charged a very small amount off the USB cable plugged into my Mac. It took almost 2 hours to pull a full charge from the wall socket.


It played back my favorite Frank Sinatra tune, downloaded a game and allowed me to surf the Facebook App at the same time without any slowdown. I tried a bunch of different things to get the phone to bog or stutter. The only time it got sluggy was after my first factory reset when it was trying to sync all my email accounts, Live ID, and Facebook contacts at once while I was surfing in the browser.

Windows Phone 7 OS

Every app native to the WP7 operating system is gorgeous, responsive, easy to use and learn. From the perspective of someone who designs visuals for apps, Microsoft's Metro UI scheme is as beautiful as it is minimalist. If you don't like the way the media is displayed, side swiping or tapping the search key generally gives you alternatives. That being said, every app seems to have it's own means of navigating content.

The good thing is that relative to each app, the content is usually displayed in a way that showcases it and allows you to easily browse. The bad is that you have to mess with each app to learn how to use it. I think the benefits generally offset the drawbacks relative to the user interface.

I don't think it is any easier or harder to use than Android, WebOS or iOS. Aesthetically speaking, WP7 is far more attractive than it's competitors. WebOS and Android have the same ease of navigation but they look junkie and clunky by comparison. As a mobile computing OS for tablet style devices, iOS soundly defeats WP7. As a mobile gaming platform and an OS designed for a Cell Phone, WP7 soundly defeats iOS.

I had high hopes for Apple's Game Center, but it pales when compared to WP7's xBox Live game application. All my games are stored and accessed within that app so they aren't cluttering up the UI with icons, and all my achievements are tracked within the same app.

The People App is similarly useful. When I tap one of my contacts it pulls up their phone numbers, email addresses, what they posted on Facebook recently, and similar. I can link their Gmail and Facebook web presences together and add information that is then displayed all on one screen. I don't have to thumb through multiple apps to see what my friends are up to or send them email, text messages or a phone call.

WP7 was designed to run on a cellular device to facilitate it's operation as a means of communicating with others. It performs that task better than any other smartphone in my opinion.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Samsung Focus WP7

I've only had my new handset a couple of hours. Firing off a few observations.

Observation #1 - Setup is easy

If you have a Facebook and a Gmail account it's incredibly easy to populate your contact list, update phone numbers, and email addresses. If you don't, it'd be about the same degree of difficulty as any other smartphone.

I can easily link the contacts from my Gmail to my Facebook list and add phone numbers and email. For a particular contact I can link all this information together so that it displays together on the screen without having to switch apps or thumb between clients. WP7 organizes my data for me in an easily accessible way.

Observation #2 - Do it right the first time

If you have an xBox ID make sure you enter the information in correctly the first time. The only way to reset your Windows Live ID (that I could find) was to factory reset the phone and start over. Super cool being able to see my xBox stats, Avatar and so forth on my phone.

Observation #3 - Windows Phone 7 + Macintosh = Harmony

The WP7 Mac sync software works like a charm. I can drop pictures from my iPhoto or iTunes to my phone with relative ease. If you have a Mac and you're worried about not being able to sync your content to a WP7, you can rest easy from what I've seen so far.

So far it's just iPhoto and iTunes, no Contacts or Calendar events. (sad face)

Observation #4 - Gaming

As a gaming platform it has the potential to be superior in every way to Android or Apple because of xBox Live integration. Apple's Game Center looks tacky and useless next to WP7's xBox Live App. I've only played three games so far, but I'm sure I'll be downloading a lot more.

I can't wait to play Master & Student on it.

Observation #5 - UI

It isn't as cluttered as iOS or as junkie looking as Android. Every App I've used so far seems to conform to WP7's metro interface scheme. None of them have a single pixel of useless screen-hogging chrome.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Dangers of Opening Presents Early

My Wife and I had a bet about one of the gifts from her Father. She asserted that it was "just duct-tape" wrapped up in some newspaper. Knowing her father Jay like I do, I was just as certain this was not the case. On Christmas Eve she decided her one present would be the roll of duct tape.

Indeed, it was a roll of silvery tape as she had thought, but there was peculiar writing around it's circumference. It was clearly not Jay's handwriting and it appeared to be signed by "Red Green". The following morning, she opened her other gifts and discovered a first edition, and signed copy of the new Red Green book, with this photo inside the cover.

I guess I won the bet. It wasn't an ordinary roll of duct tape after all.

Jay Kent & Red Green ->

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notion Ink Adam

From reading their blog and watching the videos, this device could be a serious contender in the tablet market, particularly in enterprise. I don't see this being a person's first mobile computing device, as it looks marvelously complex. All those people who didn't buy an iPad because it wasn't driven by a cursor or festooned with ports will probably look hard at this device.

The most expensive one doesn't break $600. That's huge.

They claim it'll have 15 hours of battery life. At 1.6 pounds? This would be awesome... but I doubt it's true.

8GB Flash Memory. This seems low, but it has all sorts of ports to plug external storage into.

Transflective (65FPS) Screen. Wish you had a device that could deliver the iPad's multimedia experience and the Nook's readability? Allegedly, this device has screen technology at work that does just that. Color me skeptical.

Aesthetically, it's very hard edge and industrial looking. It looks like you could hold the thing, drive it with a small wireless mouse, and never have to wipe it down... and wipe down... and wipe it down... and... huhh

Link & Stinky Low-Quality Video:

Notion Ink

Friday, December 17, 2010

Indie Developers, Mobile Applications

When you're a kid, if you're lucky, you'll have your first experience building something with other people. Your crew will gather together with whatever they could find hanging around their father's workshop or their mother's sewing rooms. Then, in a quiet place you'll build that go cart, fort, or handful of wooden swords and have marvelous fun in the aftermath.

Indie Game Development is like that.

We aren't working out of a cubical farm or under the thumb of penny pinchers and bureaucrats worried about what the stock holders will think. We are our own audience, and we're creating something that is to entertain ourselves. To that end we must to know to the end of the project, it is for us to enjoy alone.

Indie Game Development is pure and completely ethical selfishness.

Our first fort wouldn't keep out the rain. Never could find four wheels the same size for that go-cart. Only the wooden sword my brother made of oak survived the fullness of our backyard battlefield. The memories I built are far more valuable to me.

Indie Game Development isn't perfect. Thank God for that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Accounting of Almost

I have so many things I've been working on since summer that are in the final phase. Literally a week devoted to one or the other would top off one thing or another. The process of building yourself up as a creative person amounts as much to one's portfolio as it does to their confidence in creating it.

I look at the false starts, the first drafts and the outlines and I desperately want to have a completed work. Objectively, fourteen months isn't long enough to have garnered the expertise to revise my own works. Literally, I want to be my own worst enemy and critic, but I lack the experience.

I acquired an Oxford Classical Dictionary from Trip Taylor's Booksellers. It's what I really needed to start approaching the very arcane writing style I approached in my first work. There is only so much Shakespeare and Tennyson one can read before you realize you'll have to coin your own phrases and words as they did to express yourself.

The weight of not being finished with my first or second book is a heavy burden made lighter by certain realizations. I'm a vastly better writer than I was even six months ago. Waiting was difficult, but the right choice. I was blessed to have other creative endeavors to occupy me during that time.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blue & Green

These two have been in my thoughts constantly since July. Did a quick sketch of them earlier to give me some perspective on some low-rez artwork I'm trying to pull together. The stuff for Blue is great.

Green deserves so much better than I've given him so far. Click to embiggen the image.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wikileaks vs. US Government

Let me say this out front. I think that Wikileak's unfiltered release of US Diplomatic Cables was deplorable, irresponsible and incredibly damaging to the country in which I live. I don't condone what they did in any sense. I think the power of the written word and the internet should always be used for good, and what Wikileaks did could be described as anything but.

That being said, I think the US Government response has been exactly what you'd expect from a group of people largely populated by old, out-of-touch white guys. Congressman Peter King (New York Republican), the guy supposed to be heading up Homeland Security has suggested we make Wikileaks a Terrorist Organization. Senator Joe Lieberman (Independent Democrat, CT) thinks we should look into prosecuting (for espionage?) the New York Times for publishing some of the same Diplomatic Cables.

I don't have to look at the pseudo-legalese behind what these two Government Officials are suggesting. What the New York Times and Wikileaks did is, like it or not, protected by the First Amendment. Read the Constitution, it couldn't be more clear. Neither organization conspired to acquire these documents, paid to have others do so, or were involved in the commission of the crime committed by whoever did leak those documents. If they did, let's see the proof.

(Update: Yes I'm aware Julian Assange is not a US Citizen and may not be privy to the same protections. I just don't think depriving him of what we consider basic rights is a good plan, legal or not.)

I understand that because Congressman King and Senator Lieberman head up committees responsible for Homeland security, they probably think they're just doing their jobs. That fact isn't lost on me, and I'll bet the pressure for them to act is unreal. Sarah Palin using those same Cables to criticize President Obama has probably lit a fire under everyone with anything to do with making sure such leaks don't happen.

Wikileaks was cooperating with many news affiliates, national and international when it leaked those documents. I wouldn't be surprised if a great deal of their funding came from the Associated Press and other high profile news agencies. Given the aggressive stance the US has taken, legitimate news organizations would certainly fund and foster proxy (not-for-profit) media outlets like Wikileaks for the purpose of generating news.

How much money and traction have international news agencies gotten out of this debacle? What's the phrase here? "Field day"?

The US Government needs to appeal to the people who elected it for accountability for those guilty of irresponsible journalism and make those same people "below" the diplomatic level understand why these leaks were bad. Most people, I don't think, fully understand what's at stake here. To that end, they should appeal to the common man's patriotism instead of acting like Big Brother. Finally, they should completely stop using words like "Terrorist" and "Espionage Act" in reference to organizations designed to protect and preserve the First Amendment. Deserved or not.

What would be more embarrassing than having those Diplomatic Cables leaked? Getting Julian Assange extradited to the US for trial on espionage crimes and giving him a win on a landmark First Amendment Case. The outcome for the US, according to diplomatic sources and anyone with a third grade reading level is uncertain. Prosecuting either the New York Times or Wikileak's Figure Head for terrorism or espionage is far from a sure thing. Given the way our own highest law is written, they could win by hiding behind the First Amendment.

Those are big dice I don't think our Government should even roll.

Obama and Friends should start acting like leaders instead of petty bureaucrats and appeal to the American people's patriotism and sense of right and wrong. Do I think my friends and family operating overseas on behalf of my Government were possibly endangered by what Wikileaks did?

Yes, I do. If I ever saw Julian Assange, I wouldn't say a word. A punch to the face would more accurately express my feelings for him and his actions.

Do I see a US Politician, at any level of governance, willing to represent my voice relative to the matter that isn't currently in full ass-covering mode? Someone who would appeal to me and my patriotism to take action and boycott those news agencies that supported Wikileaks?

No, I don't. I can't even hear them over all the sabre rattling.


Did some more thinking about it in the shower. The thing to do might be waiting to see if Sweden can extradite Julian Assange and see how that plays out. If he's a convicted sex offender, it at least precludes him from being a very good martyr for various anti-US causes, individuals, etc.

If Sweden can put a smudge on that worthless reprobate, I'd feel better about pulling him on charges in the US.

Friday, December 3, 2010

iPad vs. MacBook Air

I've had a few people ask me via phone, comments to this blog, and email whether my MacBook Air would replace my iPad in my workflow. My mom is currently debating as to which she should purchase in the near future. It's a hard question given the MacBook Air possesses some key features of the iPad and vice versa.

I still think for the majority of folks, especially if you've already got a Mac, the iPad is the way to go. For everyday computing, checking email, web browsing, consuming content and playing games, the iPad wins. It just does. If you're a creative professional that works the back end of web design, visual and textual content, and similar you'll probably want a MacBook Air.

The iPad (64GB Wi-Fi Only $699 version)

This device has some features that make it almost unbeatable as a mobile computing device.

- 10 Hours of Battery Life
- Instant On (No Boot)
- Touch Screen Interface
- Large Selection of Quality Apps on the Cheap
- Best Email Browsing Experience of any mobile device (I've used)
- Beyond Portable

PlainText, Things, Sprite Something, Looptastic HD, iMockups and Instapaper are just a few apps I use regularly that wouldn't be the same on a standard Mac OSX Machine. Sketchbook Pro, Brushes, miniDraw HD, TouchUp, Filterstorm, Impression, and Diptic are all great visual creation apps that I've used and continue to use in my work.

After a successful wandering with my camera, I can easily hook up an SD card reader and pull the photos to my iPad, mess with them and store them until I get home. For consuming content on the go, via Netflix or iTunes the iPad is likewise unmatched for it's ability to store and summon what you want. Coupled with a ziplock bag, it a great companion in the bathtub.

The iPad is (for me) an indespensible tool and toy.

The Macbook Air 11.6 (64GB $999 version)

I think what Steve Jobs and others have said about the MacBook Air is more or less correct, it's the future of laptops. I think optical drives are on the way out, SSD's and downloadable media is on the way in. Yes, I had to use my iMac's optical drive (shared over the network) to load many of the programs now resident on my MacBook Air. I don't see optical drives disappearing from desktops anytime soon.

- Solid State Drive (Makes an otherwise slow computer quite capable)
- 5-7 hours of Battery Life
- Full Size Physical Keyboard + Multi-gesture Trackpad
- Instant On (from Sleep)
- Nimble enough to allow you to use Big Programs to handle Small Content
- Makes other Laptops, including it's 13.3 cousin, look like clunky junk

If I need to use Dreamweaver to mess with the website for Raging Rickshaw or alter a graphic for my Dad in Photoshop, my iPad cannot easily accomplish those tasks. When I need the functions my powerful iMac can provide while on the road? My MacBook Air can provide.

When I'm on the back end of a project and I'm doing a lot of editing, text formatting and arranging in Pages, the iPad version is just not up to speed yet (c'mon Apple!). You simply can't switch documents and edit text as quickly as you can with a full Mac OSX Machine equipped with a physical keyboard.

I store only audio content on my MacBook Air, just enough music to have something to listen to should I desire, and while it handles Netflix, Video and Audio like a champ, it's not as personable a device as the iPad. It runs Diablo 1 and Starcraft 1 like a champ, but there's not room on the SSD to have Starcraft 2 (20GB) or World of Warcraft (32GB) loaded and have room for much else.


Because of their size, I can carry them both in my tiny man-purse without a problem. However, I don't see my MacBook Air, for all it's wondrous portability, replacing my iPad for a few reasons:

1. App Store

Now, my position on this might change a little when the Lion OS is released. However, a Mac OS App Store would have to come a long way to achieve what the iOS App store has.

2. Battery Life

10 Hours? For a guy who carries a lot of anxiety about being caught somewhere without a mobile computing device to record ideas, doodles, and other information, the iPad is a great antidepressant.

3. Bathtub

I've tried to figure out a way to get my MacBook Air into a ziplock bag without impeding my ability to use the interface. The iPad is simply the best device for watching Netflix or doodling in Sketchbook Pro, while in a bathtub.

4. Unexpected Bonuses

What some people are beginning to figure out is that old ideas seem to work well with this new device. Here's one example:

The game Monkey Island is an oldie, but a goodie. I loved playing it on my friend's Amiga back in the day. To that end it was always really slow having to enter text and click with the mouse. The game was fun but laborious to play without a six pack of coke and a bag of gummy worms to make your limbs twitchy.

The revamped version of Monkey Island for the iPad is incredible. It's like the game was made for the iPad, years before the device reached the public. Also, like before, it keeps losing my saved games. It's nice to know some things never change.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MacBook Air 11.6 Review

As an early Christmas present, my wife acquired a MacBook Air for me. I'd been wanting one since they came out. I spent some time with both and decided to go with the $999 model as opposed to one with more ram or a bigger SSD.

I swung it open and loaded Sketchbook Pro 2010 using my iMac's optical drive. It worked like a charm and pretty soon I had my tablet drivers, Bean, Starcraft 1, and iWorks loaded on as well. I proceeded to open programs and as many windows as I could, a bit beyond what I would ever use at one time.

The tiny machine never stuttered, juggling as many as ten programs without any visible sluggishness. It switched between programs and loaded content as quickly as my MBP and in some cases more quickly. I could easily have Mail, iChat, Pages, and several windows in Safari open at once without suffering a hit to performance.

I decided to open up one of my book projects. My latest work is up to 101 pages, has graphics, and a great deal of formatting. It takes a couple of moments to open on my MacBook Pro, almost three "steamboats" of counting. It took about 1 and a half on my MacBook Air.

It'll piss you off when you realize how much of a bottleneck a standard hard drive is to the performance of a computer. My MacBook Pro should be twice as fast as my MacBook Air looking at their specifications. The SSD really does make that big of a difference.

Keyboard, trackpad, screen clarity and manufacture are all what you'd expect from Apple. The screen isn't covered in glass like a MacBook Pro, which I somewhat miss just for the protection it grants the screen. I thought the lack of a backlit keyboard would bug me, but I've been typing on that particular type of keyboard for 14 months. Light or dark, doesn't matter anymore.

I wouldn't recommend the 13.3 MBA to anyone unless they really need the SD Card Slot. The screen resolution and performance for the money isn't worth it having seen how well the $999 version performs first hand. The 11.6 defines portability because of how thin it is.

The only major drawback I've found is that the 11.6 MBA is like a half inch too wide to fit in most cases designed for an iPad or standard Netbook. There really aren't too many laptops out there that are the same size, thus not too many options for cases. Thank goodness for Waterfield Designs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's 3 AM

Black Friday looms large as I prepare to venture forth into a shopping nightmare. The promise of an Orange Julius throws much salve on my anxious mind wounds. I think it'll all work out. Maybe I'll find a decent bargain on a present or two still not checked off my list?

Hope. It keeps us going or makes us do dumb things. I'll find out which one as I slog through the mall with the other dregs of optimistic consumerism.

-- sent from my iPad mini. n_n

Friday, November 19, 2010

TSA in the USA

I'm not your typical traveler. I suffer from general anxiety disorder and so my reactions to the TSA's recently implemented security measures probably mess with me more than your average person. When my wife and I started talking about taking a flight to her SWIM program classes in Montana, I decided to do some looking around the intertoobs about the state of air travel. For me, it had been awhile.

Frankly, I'm more afraid of having to go through the TSA screening process than I am facing the prospect of being on a flight about to be hijacked. At least with terrorists I can take action, have recourse and some idea of their intentions. The TSA appears to have immunity and powers that regular law enforcement (with ten times the training) does not have. At least with terrorists, I can rip an armrest off my seat and try to cave in their skulls providing them independent oversight and myself some measure of recourse.

Is the hit to your civil liberties and dignity worth the false sense of security the TSA grants? 20 million air travelers this holiday season think so. Do those who sacrifice their liberty for security really deserve neither? I'm not really sure.

I think it really departs from being a privacy issue in the world we currently live in. We opt out of our privacy every time we activate the location services on our iOS device, log on to our Facebook Accounts, use Gmail, buy a car with GPS or Blog online about it. People relinquish their privacy all the time without giving it a second thought. I'm no different in that respect.

Even with all the reading and research I've done recently, the thing about the TSA's practices that bother me have little to do with the TSA. I think my overall disgust isn't with them or the way in which they do their jobs. Mostly, I can't believe I've inherited a world where such a thing is even necessary.

Politicians keep telling me and my fellow citizens that the military actions we've taken overseas is making for a safer America. 20 million people this holiday season are okay with the fact that our government has utterly failed to deliver on that promise. I'm not angry with the TSA, I'm angry at the people whose actions created the conditions whereby the existence of such an agency became necessary.

Take the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act that was adopted unanimously by the Senate's Judiciary Committee. It's not the stupidest thing to come out of our nation's capital in the last twelve months, but it's top 5. Do I think people should pirate and hack media for mass redistribution online to the detriment of the original creator? No.

Do I think this piece of legislation would have fixed the problem? It doesn't matter. Ultimately the outcome would be the US looking stupid as they tried to open foreign markets to homegrown and legit internet/online content and services. 40 of those foreign markets already engage in rampant online censorship. Censorship our government should allegedly oppose. Something about free speech being a part of our way of life. It's there somewhere, look it up.

Even if the legislation had worked (laugh, giggle, chortle, LoL, etc) we'd have ended up hurting our own case to aid legitimate online services entering foreign markets. Stupid? Self-defeating? Ill-conceived? I give you the majority of the United States Legislative Branch. There are so few people in the Senate and Congress with a clue, I'm terrified to see what they'll do next.

It's like watching someone throw gasoline and rage-virus infected baboons on a train wreck.

Thank God Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat from Oregon) had the sand to stand up and say no to COICA.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Being Average

I think there's a lot of what I do that amounts to being your average guy. I work hard doing what I do and I have my pastimes to fill in the gaps. The problem is that I don't want to be defined by those pastimes or have the work I do come from someone average. I'm beginning to feel like what I do isn't enough.

I write anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand words a day depending on the project, but I don't feel like I have set aside the time to read as much as I probably need to. I think it's time to admit I conquered my dyslexia where my writing is concerned, but I still struggle with reading. I think a good pair of glasses and some patience would do me wonders.

To that end I think I need to move some of what takes up my time down the line. I need to engage my time more authoritatively. Playing video games, scrolling through Facebook, reading online comics, and watching streaming video on Netflix each take up a very small amount of time and money depending on whether I really need to escape. Collectively, all the small things I do to recreate take up a lot of time that adds up.

This is especially true if your goals are lofty.

Some of what I do requires that I read a lot tech blogs, gadget sites, and other online resources and I've trained my mind to quickly absorb what I need while ignoring what I don't. Would it hurt my work if I cut the number of sites I read regularly in half? Probably not.

Then there is the time I spend preparing for my table top RPGs. 2 out of the three tables contribute directly to my work, while the third is Basic D&D run from a used Cyclopedia. I miss my box sets. This seems to be the most balanced situation. A two-thirds, one-third split of my energies.

I'm generally good at budgeting my time, but I give myself time off for completing tasks early instead of moving on to the next project. I'm either not challenging myself enough, or I sell myself short thinking I won't be able to do a particular thing without great difficulty.

It all adds up to something.

I need to make some difficult choices and make some changes in how I look at what I do both on... and off the clock.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Definitely a Hardware Guy

I gathered with a couple of my friends last night to play test the latest version of a game I'm working with others to develop for the Windows Phone 7 platform. One is a professional grade software tester while the other is a voracious consumer of video games across various platforms. Collaborating with people to collect feedback on the fruits of your own creativity is always a humbling experience. It also reminds you who you're going through all that trouble for.

The audience.

In designing the user interface for combat I read a lot of what other people had to say on the subject. You'd be surprised how few people blog about such things. Also, I went through and played dozens mobile games (paid and free) using my iPad and my iPod Touch. It became clear to me that certain games required an almost invisible interface while others needed carefully placed "buttonry". I was nervous about putting something I'd spent so much time perfecting in front of a real audience.

In the end, the interface got the thumbs up and it's starting to feel like the game is finally on the downward slope toward a finished product. The visuals themselves deserve a little polish, but the premise turned out to be sound. Marvelous is that feeling you've given a machine the ability to relate to people for a common goal, even if it was beating the tar out of bad guys composed of code and pixels.

It'll be hard to relinquish my old Motorola dumb-phone and even harder to begin the journey that is finding myself a Windows Phone 7. I've read lots of reviews of various models and they all seem to have their advantages and fatal flaws like any mobile product. No one device really stands out to me as "the one". It'll require going to every place I can find that has product and laying hands on as many WP7 devices as I can. I do love watching the salesperson squirm when I make the plastic squeak.

Pictured above is the testing station I set up for running the WP7 emulator.

If anyone ends up purchasing a WP7 device and has something to report, I'd like to hear about it. Drop me an email or post it to the comments.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Being a Village Technologist

Talk with a good friend today about technology made me realize that I know enough to know I know nothing. I'm a few lines of code, a couple websites, and many gadgets past the average tech level of most other people. That being said, most of the people I know who really know tech... I wouldn't let them buy gadgets for me.

My devices have become living extensions of myself, tools I use to shape my words and other works.

This week I talked with someone that really struggled to understand what I do. To sum it up, if you walked into an auditorium of people and asked them to raise their hand if they had a smart phone... many wouldn't raise their hand. Ask the same group if they have an iPhone and watch the hands go up. Most people don't think they are the same thing.

Likewise when I talk to people about technology, especially stuff in the mobile end of the pool, most people are utterly clueless. Blissfully so, as most mobile devices have no practical use to most people. Not in the sense that the device would pay for itself. I see people use dumb phones to text all the time. They aren't missing out on anything, up until they see someone playing Angry Birds or Chaos Rings.

I haven't heard my mom get excited about anything for a long time. She's had interests, projects and endeavors. I've heard the tone in her voice that indicated something she saw or experienced intrigued her, but I'd almost forgotten what it sounded like to hear excitement. Yesterday, she told me she acquired an iPhone 4. Excitement.

She knew I'd understand.

About six months ago, I wrote something to the effect that I looked forward to the hub-bub of mobile tech to quiet down. I wanted a world where mobile technology ceased to be exciting and became common place so I could sit and write anywhere I wanted without attracting much of any attention. I think I still want those things, but I'll never stop being excited about mobile technology.

I know many people who have fettered themselves with devices and software that do not suit them or their needs. For some, an Asus Netbook running Linux with 8 gigs of flash memory would be sufficient. For others, they need thousands of dollars in hardware. I feel that way when it comes to smart phones, but I haven't had the chance to actually handle more than the emulator for WP7.

People are protective of their gadgets. My wife's iPod Touch and iMac both have many stories, stickers, and memories associated with them. Even when offered with the chance to upgrade, she will likely decline, using both until they die. I find that most people are that way, even with a device they don't like.

I'm far more mercenary. My devices stay in good shape not out of pride, but so they'll be easier to sell when I find something better. Given the trends in both desktop and mobile computing, I doubt I'll be trading up any time soon. Technological contentment does not suit me, and I read the tech blogs every day hoping that someone will break into the market with something that makes Microsoft, Apple, Google, and all the rest rethink the entire way they do things.

And yes, I still want a Courier.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

PlainText App

I finally found an app for my iPad that is ideal for just generating text. PlainText, a free app, is loaded with exactly the features I was looking for.

- Saves documents as .txt, formatting free for dropping into my book, blog or an email.
- Syncs automatically with DropBox and allows me to manage folders.
- Word count embedded in the copy/paste option.
- Unfettered, no frills typing experience.

The iPod version has ads, but they can be banished for 99 cents. I paid it more to support the folks who made the app than because they were bothersome.

The iPad version allows for quick document switching. This is ideal for my non-fiction works where I am constantly cutting and pasting stock text. I wish Apple's Pages app was as agile in this way.

If I don't want the file menu hanging around I can go to a fullscreen view where only the onscreen keyboard and the text are visible. I don't use it much, but it worked great with my Bluetooth keyboard as well.

I could see myself doing the majority of my text generation with this app, with Pages being reserved to view and edit documents, at least where my iPad was concerned.

For those of you familiar with Bean, this is as close to that typing experience as you can get on the iPad. While it lacks the ability to format text, I haven't found anything more ideal for just creating it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg's iPad

During a recent press conference Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg stated that the iPad wasn't mobile. Most of the tech blogs from Engadget to Mashable have puzzled over or poked fun at his comment. What makes me laugh is that while I don't agree with Mark about much, what he said makes some sense.

Yes, the iPad is running iOS like the iPhone and the iPod touch. Even so, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested that the iPad was a computer as opposed to a mobile device. As the lines between form factor separating one device from another gets blurry, the companies producing online content still have to make distinctions relative to how they reach people through those devices.

Where Facebook is concerned, the iPad is a computer with a browser. I think Mark was being pretty clear. Why then were so many tech pundits and gadget reviewers baffled? Look at who they work for.

Deciding to create an app to reach out to a form factor instead of making your content more viewable on mobile browsers is baffling to me. In most cases, these apps are not a better surfing experience to a web browser. The Ars Technica and Mashable Apps are subpar as compared to just poking through their sites on mobile Safari.

Apologizing for a web site that doesn't render well on a mobile browser with an app that does a worse job will only make your audience angry. You'd think this would be common sense. It's sad that Mr. Zuckerberg is the only one who has figured that out.

If someone told me I had to download a custom app on my desktop computer to view what should otherwise be web content, I'd assume it was a scam.

I have a web browser on my iPad. That is where I will be viewing the bulk of my web content. I don't think I'm alone. How is that hard for so many online entities to understand?

What about apps like Flipbook, Instapaper, or Netflix? Each is providing me an enhanced experience, something better than what my browser can provide. If every web content rendering app promised the same, I'd change my tune.

I think what Mark was trying to say is this: Facebook was born, made it's money, and prospered within the browser. Why would they leave the mall (the web) to sell their product put of their garage (an app)?

I wouldn't.

Apple Upside No Cake

The battle is over.

After nearly three hours on the phone with Apple the conclusion is that my credit card will not work and there is nothing they can or will do about it. Basically, I'll have to go around them somehow, link my pay pal account, use gift cards, etc. I don't think I'll be using any of those options.

I was really angry at first. I plotted how I would take my silent revenge by slowly banishing all things mobile Apple from my work flow. That hurts me more than it hurts them. I believe everything happens for a reason.

What is clear to me now, is that this is an opportunity. I've spent a lot of time looking at the paid apps for the iOS platform. My iTunes account itself isn't broken and I can still get free apps. Most are probably put out by developers not dissimilar to myself and my cohorts at Raging Rickshaw. It would do me good to look for alternatives to flashy paid apps.

I think what I will do is look for free apps that can do the job of the paid apps, or close. If I find a truly nice free app, I'll put up a short review on my blog and an iTunes link. It'll give me an excuse to write on my blog, help me in my own endeavors and hopefully save me some money in the long run.

It probably isn't possible to replace all my paid apps with free ones, but it might be fun and enlightening to try.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sitting in the Dark

I've poked a few pixels for my WP7 project lately and find myself looking back at everything I've put forward to that, and other projects. It is the things that I have had to do over and over, revise, iterate, and otherwise refine that stand out as the best works. I never seem to get things right the first time, and often, it takes five or six revisions for something to really shine.

I turned the brightness on my monitors down to about half and shut all the lights off in the house, save one in the family room. My wife's guinea pig is afraid of the dark. I'm writing this to take a break from another large document that nears completion of a strong second draft. It's discouraging to know that even after I've printed it for inspection tonight, I'll probably revisit the same project two or three more times.

Had a long conversation with a colleague about the frustration of dealing with someone who is just in love with writing or designing. The Dreamers who have a natural talent for creativity but no ability to refine what they do into something consumable by others. It's the idea of being a creative person that drives them, not the grim knowledge that comes with actually doing the work.

I envy and resent people who can create without cross-consulting with others and just conjure ideas. I have had to craft tools, devise methods, and have the humility to ask for help for the little of success I've enjoyed over the last thirteen months. I wish I could just create things while working inside a bubble.

I can't, but working in the dark helps.

Rest in Peace Lucy 2004-2010

As a family companion Lucy was nonpareil. She will be missed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Support Staff

There is something wrong with my little guinea pig Lucy. My wife and I think she may have suffered a stroke. From what my wife could find online, it's pretty rare for this type of animal to have this problem. All the symptoms match, which makes it hard to conclude anything else.

As I held Lucy and tried to make her comfortable, I couldn't find something of what I needed to help her. I totally lost it. After practically tearing the house apart looking for what I needed, property damage included, I realized I'd lost all ability to be rational. As Lucy has gotten older, I've been slowly succumbing to the dread of having to bury another pet.

Monstrous am I when I give into despair.

Lucy is part of my support staff. Before her stroke, she listened to my problems, watched TV with me, and comforted me when I was distraught. When I look into her eyes now, it's like she isn't there. She's no longer ticklish, won't eat much, and drinks even less. When I set her down on the ground she wanders about weakly as if she doesn't recognize the house.

I hope she recovers. I don't know what I'll do if she doesn't.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Old Road, New Perspective

I keep glancing over at the two books I've written and wondering when I'm going to get around to finishing the second draft on either one. I've got plenty of other projects that might yield fruit to work on, but writing novels has always been my focus. I didn't realize what was holding me back until last night.


Before committing to writing a second draft on either one, I'd like to write several more first drafts. I have a lot of ideas for books and part of me wants to explore each one before I decide which one to take to the next level. When it comes to writing I'd put myself in the talented novice category. I think putting some more of my ideas on paper will give me some much needed practice as well.

You can never have too much perspective.

I keep circling back to my Storytelling Sciences project. It has been within the confines of that project most of my literary works, written or merely envisioned, have been birthed. I really need to finish that project as well. Going on six years of my life perfecting that table top RP system making sure it did more than simply entertain.

Here's to finishing things.

Using that format to design and world build has been more than just rewarding, it was a lot of fun too. I need to take it a step further and have a product running parallel to my primary works. Something that defines the process behind the process.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fruitless Struggles with Apple

I'll echo what I've seen posted about Apple around the net. I don't have to call tech support very often, but heaven help you if you do. I've been jerked around by a corporate entity before (I pay taxes too), but nothing like what you go through with Apple.

It all started when someone over seas hacked my GMail Account. I recommend checking the IP list often to see who else has managed to garner access. It's a free email service, and so is the security Google provides for your account. I think your password strength probably helps, but it's largely a placebo when dealing with hackers. Your only real defense is the sheer number of accounts Google maintains. Hacking them all takes time. Someday it'll be your turn too.

I set about taking that placebo and increasing the relative strength of all my passwords. When I changed my iTunes Password it prompted me to verify my Credit Card information. Depending on which device I used to try and fix the problem, I got a different error message. Moments later, I received email notification that my card has been charged twelve bucks for something I'd bought an hour before I tried changing my password.

Apparently, the problem wasn't with my card.

So I call tech support a couple of times. Both times I got a nice lady who lived in a far off land and only somewhat understood English. While I totally expected this to be the case, what they recommended to me seemed odd.

The nice lady sent me an email directing me to clear my payment information, and reenter it. I told her I'd already done that. She repeated herself like I hadn't said anything at all. I hung up and called back.

The next lady told me to use the services on Apple's site to have my password reset. I told her that was what caused the problem in the first place. She repeated herself like I hadn't said anything at all. I hung up and gave what she suggested a try.

The emails I received were from a "Stephanie" who's tone and work hours would change every email I got. They must have a lot of people named Stephanie working in their support department. She even emailed me on her day off.

None of the remedies offered by Stephanie, Stephanie, or Stephanie worked. She also sent me this bit here:

"I understand you've threatened legal action. While I am not Apple's legal representative and thus cannot address your claim, I would like very much to help you resolve the issues that are causing you concern, however they are out of my scope of support. Thank you for your understanding."

I had asked if I should contact the Federal Trade Commission about what I felt was deceptive business practices on their part. Not sure if that qualifies as legal action.

So called back the following morning and through some sort of mismatch in their phone system got a device tech who sounded local, continental US anyway. We were both baffled by how I'd reached him, but he happily took my information and "escalated" it to some supervisory level person who would email me in 24 hours. We hung up.

Looking online and talking to a few people within my own circle of friends, it is clear I'm not the only person this has happened to. A few people on Apple's own support forums reported it taking upwards of a year to correct. Given how integral iTunes is to Apple's devices, this is a pretty big deal.

I don't have a wallet full of different credit cards. Can you imagine driving to Best Buy to acquire a gift card every time you wanted to buy something with your brand new iPad? It would definitely make me think a little harder about my purchases, which is good for me.

Bad for Apple.

I miss tech support in the late 90's. I remember calling Toshiba's tech support in 1999 and getting someone's grandma back East. Most helpful tech support call I've made to date, and she said I was "a nice boy" at the end after I thanked her.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Things We Tell Ourselves

We all have a litany of things we tell ourselves, every day, to keep going forward. I stopped to gaze at my own list of things. We each act as a point of resonance for so many words. The things our parents told us, the quiet prayers we utter when we are in trouble, and doesn't everyone have a catchphrase?

Often it is a single word that prods us into acting. I think its easier to describe why you should call your mom than imparting the importance of brushing your teeth.

When I strip away all the things designed to delay remorse, fulfill earthy obligation, and appease the celestially intangible... little remains. Gathering those few things into a list was revealing. It makes me wonder what everyone else's list looks like.

Justice. I can see why some believe it exists without Gods or man. When we see it, no words are needed to describe it. People try to fetter it with temporal and eternal consequences, dress it up, and quantify it as a principle given form by words. Truly, it needs none of these things to exist. Even if mankind was wiped from the globe and the heavens were shattered, there would still be Justice.

Love. People use it as an excuse to define their behavior. They claim it as a strength, a weakness, a reason, and something you can find or lose. Like a sock or a pocket watch. Only very rarely have I seen it described for what it really is, and in each of those those instances... there were no words spoken.

Purpose. We all have one whether we choose to seek it, create words to quantify it, or deny it. It is inviolable, one of only a few facets that truly define a person, inescapable, and ever changing. Your purpose could change just by walking into another room, and yet you always have one... even if it is just to stand as a warning to others.

Everything else feels dispensable or contrived. There are the little things I whisper under my breath to muster motivation. Also, the silent prayers I utter before dealing with something uncomfortable. The pointless meanderings on Facebook just to access some fleeting digital connection with someone I might never talk to otherwise.

Words are practically free.

Can you really waste something that costs so little?

Can you crash your own pity party?

That's probably why Blogs were invented, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Down Time

The nature of what I do is supposed to be fun.

Looking back at my blogs, I'd always wanted to avoid making the part of writing I really enjoy into serious business. Some of the essence of what I've been doing lately has required that I cross that line, and my fears have been largely realized. I'm not having fun anymore.

When I sit down at my table top games, I feel like I can't switch gears. I'm cranky, far too serious, or I don't help to create the fun that table top RPGs and similar should provide. The line between my work and my down time activities has gotten blurry lately. This has led to a general dissatisfaction in both realms.

Even when I sit down and play a game on my iMac or my iPad, my mind is taking silent notes about the user interface, style, and over all experience of the game. It is hard for me to avoid being critical and allow a game, digital or otherwise, to just be a game right now. My free weights and my bike (stupid rain) seem to be the only means to escape my reality for the for the time being.

I can't believe I'm whining about sacrificing a little comfort so that I can do something I've always wanted to do.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Writing Books & WP7

I've done most of the prep work to rewrite my D&E and Amnesia book projects. While I don't lack for motivation, I do somewhat lack confidence right now. Everything I've done recently in that realm has been pretty sub-standard and not for lack of effort. When I'm in the zone, I can write thousands of words a day, day after day, for weeks. Not all of it is good, and I believe that in order to finish a book you'll spend a lot of that time writing badly to get your word count in.

My side project working with a good friend on a game for WP7 is capturing most of my time these days. We're trying to have something by the time Microsoft and their release partners unveil the thing in October and November. We won't have anything but a demo for foreign markets and we'll be rushing for a paid download release for the domestic release. That project is a long story in of itself and I've learned a lot about myself.

I'm not an artist, but I can fake it. My HTML skills and knowledge of Dreamweaver being novice at best, I managed to turn out a decent website. Out of it all, I think I've enjoyed designing the user interface the most. That's the buttons and controls in the game people will use to control and direct the flow of events from their perspective. I wish I could share some of the sketches I've done on here, but I'll have to wait until after release.

I think what I learned most, is that if given the time and resources I can do anything. I started out with absolutely none of the skills necessary to contribute to the WP7 project in late July of this year and have come to feel pretty confident on the subject. Microsoft's design manual is still a pre-release version, but every where there is a blank spot... I easily envision what will go there.

Back in July, I could have easily told my friend I lacked the skills to be involved. I think I said as much, but that I'd give it my best effort to provide whatever assistance I could. It wasn't confidence in myself that spurred me to help, but a deep feeling of friendship. I think my friend believes I did him a big favor getting involved, taking the time to provide nearly a hundred pieces of artwork in a short time to help get the ball rolling.

The truth?

He did me a favor giving me a chance to build confidence and develop skills relative to something I'm very passionate about. On his blog, my Uncle Lorin talked about the value of being persistent when offering to help others, and being gracious and open to accepting help. I think he'd agree, that sometimes asking for help... is the best way to help someone else.

The value of just feeling useful and needed isn't to be underestimated.

It makes me realize just how much I liked my previous employers and why I miss working there sometimes. I was often asked to fill gaps, roles, and positions where they needed someone they could count on to get the job done. I think I worked every department in the seven years I worked there.

Also, it makes me realize how isolated I've become working out of my home. It isn't for everyone, and if not for some semblance of a social life, it would probably be intolerable for me. Being your own source of motivation is difficult, and can be just as exhausting as having a boss you don't like. Eventually you run out of tricks, things to reward yourself with, and excuses. You just have to work because it is the task you set before yourself, and only your determination will see you through to the end.

Those are good moments in the aftermath. Regardless of who your boss is, that's the essence of satisfaction. Knowing you did something good and worthwhile for it's own sake, for yourself, by yourself.

One Nation Restoring Honor

If you liked or supported either of these rallies, please stop reading now. I'm only going to make you angry. If both rallies bothered or enraged you, proceed.

I've been seeing a lot of chatter about these two events, in the news, among my friends, and elsewhere. They both represent very vocal and potentially influential political movements in the country I live. I hear Sweden is nice.

At the head of the Restoring Honor Rally was Glenn Beck. He is one of the most skillful showmen of our age, and he's fairly influential in our country. If he has his way, the separation of church and state will be completely eroded and we'll all be using words like communism and socialism incorrectly with confidence.

This is kinda like being on Jeopardy.

Me: "Alex, I'll take 'Sacrilege' for $1000."

Alex Trebek: "Answer, Talking Head Epic Fail."

Me: "Oh! What is... Glenn Beck asking his radio audience to pray for him so that he can let "the spirit" talk through him at his non-religious rally?"

What Keith Olbermann had to say on the subject made me laugh. I don't like Keith, but this was pretty appropriate.

Now, looking at the One Nation rally, I see a bunch of people who are willing to head to Washington DC to petition the government to fight employment. Fine. They want the government to step in and fix the mortgage laws, fix the foreclosure rate, healthcare, and a whole list of other things. Okay. Most of what the rally was about? Yep, having the Government step in and fix [insert random social problem]. Hoo boy.

I am not a fan of having the government coming in and "fixing" social problems that could be easily fixed by people being anything but stupid with money and/or placing a higher value on themselves and their own abilities. Most of the problems they want the government to fix, start with a single person, a home, and finally a community at large. These problems aren't things a large government can do anything about. Lately, our government has tried to make up for that fact by throwing money at these problems. Money we don't really have.

The sorts of folks who showed up at the One Nation Rally are the kind Glenn Beck and Co. like to lump into the Communist/Socialist pile of stuff he doesn't like. Remember in Junior High when people would call anything they didn't like "gay", completely misusing the word? Yeah, same thing. I don't really like the One Nation platform either, but would someone please get Mr. Beck a dictionary or a semester's worth of High School civics class so he understands they aren't Communists?

Beck probably thinks The Mighty Thor as depicted by Marvel Comics... is Communist Propaganda because there's a magic hammer involved. The C in Comics... is the sickle of course. Then there's Thor's red cape... more not-so obvious symbolism. Diabolical!

The One Nation folks want a raise in the minimum wage. That pretty much precludes them being in the communist party. If you look at their platform, the One Nation folks don't even fall under the "socialist" tag. Yeah, they want a weird welfare state, but that isn't the same thing as engaging the socialist political/economic theory for all it's worth. Having your democratically elected government take other people's money away and give it directly to you in the form of convoluted social programs? Just because you think you're entitled?

That isn't socialism. It's just pathetic.

I'm at an age where I'd like to become more politically active, and have been giving social issues a lot of thought. In everything I write, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to both include and exclude my own beliefs depending on whether it helps tell a good story. In my own life I try to be objective and clinical about the beliefs I share, making sure I've got something more than a feeling.

I have a great deal of civic pride, and I love my country, but I have no idea where to put my support these days.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dating Advice and Engadget Geeks

Oops, accidentally posted a draft of this post, instead of just saving it. (-_-)

Leslie Sobon's (of AMD) blog post about winning the affections of a geek in five easy lessons made some noise on Engadget here recently. The whole thing is baffling to me as it was written mostly in jest, to be funny, as a piece of light reading. Why one of the Engadget writers would take such deep offense to it is confusing, and only got more so as I pondered the matter.


Engadget comes off sexist at times, particularly in a podcast I watched a month or two ago. The only one I ever watched, they made a really big deal out of having a woman from the staff, Laura June, come on stage to banter with the guys. Apparently, that was a first time thing. Near as I can tell she's an editor for Engadget now. When Engadget's head man was commenting on how none of them had formal writing training, Laura corrected him saying that she did (and she does). His response? "That's because you're a girl" or something similar.

I'd have to re-watch the whole thing again to remember exactly the conversation, but I remember it just seemed really off. If you like stereotypes, it seemed to showcase the challenges women probably face going into an industry largely dominated by guys who couldn't get a date to the junior prom. If you don't, it was still a really awkward moment on that particular podcast.

Engadget's angry rebuttal to Leslie Sobon was written by Laura June.

Leslie Sobon and Laura June couldn't be more different. Putting those two in a room paints a vivid picture in my mind. If you were to meet Leslie, I'd see her as professional, witty, and dressed in business casual. I envision Laura being totally different, showing up in a Slayer T-Shirt, probably wanting to talk about the Sims or compare xBox game libraries.

I'm not sure why Laura June spent so much time trashing what Leslie Sobon had to say, but I'd pay good money to watch the two box three rounds for charity.

Gear Fear

I really want a 27-30" Monitor that's 2560 x 1440 or larger for drawing in high resolution with Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop. Being able to have a 1920 x 1080 rendering with room for my tool bars around the sides would be wicked cool. So I did what I always do, and I went to the Apple site to see what their new monitor looks like. $999.00 seemed pretty cheap for a monitor that size and resolution, but Apple couldn't be cheaper... could they?

That just never happens.

Usually I end up settling for peripherals from some other company to save a buck. After some pretty extensive looking, I can't find a cheaper monitor than Apple's 27" Cinema Display, comparing Apples to Apples. Even Dell doesn't make a cheaper monitor, and they were the closest, at $1100. Could it be that Apple's new cinema display monitor happens to be the cheap option?

Mind boggling.

People complained about the iPad, saying that no one would pay $500+ for one. Looking at the devices to come out in the last quarter of this year, and first quarter of next, there a few that might give the iPad a run for it's money. Sort of. None of the slate devices I think have a shot, actually weigh in at a lower price. They're about the same, more, or require a data plan to work.

It used to be that if you bought Apple, you'd plan to pay more for a better piece of gear. What's going to happen to the market when buying Apple garners you the same quality with a price somewhere around what the other guys are charging? Dell, HP, and Samsung will all have a tablet device on the market soon, but are they watching Apple's other products and the price points for each?

Maclife is supposed to have the new Cinema Displays today. I can't wait to lay hands on one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

HP Slate for Interprise? Maybe?

35 Second Boot time vs. iPad's instant on? Fail.

CTRL-ALT-DEL button? Handy for when applications crash and you need to pull up Task Manager.

You have to hit a button to summon the keyboard? Fail.

The kid keeps saying "pretty fast", but I'm not seeing the speed of this device as it compares to the iPad, a Netbook, or a certain small turtle named Hicksey.


HP Slate as demoed in the video = Captain Fail at the helm of the Failboat to Fail City.

Palm Pad Please. Now. Go-go.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Macs versus PC Phenom

I stumbled into a Mac vs. PC argument the other night, at a gathering of people, where somehow I ended up as an impromptu speaker on technology. The beginning of the evening, it was just me and another gentleman doing what we always do when we're hanging out watching out wives do important stuff, talk about tech. Then we moved to the table for dinner.

The irony I suppose is that while I was checking my email looking for something from a friend on our Windows Phone 7 project, the subject of the iPad came up. Okay, not really irony, but it sounded good in my head. People are intensely curious and strangely... a little threatened by the device. The people with netbooks felt compelled to stand in the defense of their devices, proclaiming proudly that they did not need to even consider the iPad's form factor.

I agreed with them. Mostly. In my opinion the iPad only beats a netbook in two places... boot up time, and battery life. In those regards, it only does so by a slim margin depending on how much you use your device. What was interesting to me was that the conversation even came up?

Are other users of Apple as arrogant and intolerable as people claim? Am I part of the crowd that looks down their nose at people who "still" use Windows? Probably. I hope not, because I use Windows and the Mac OS in equal parts these days. Do I have my opinion about which one is better? Yeah, I got asked that at the gathering too.

I think the easiest way to describe the difference between Macs and PCs is by explaining the process required to delete a program. Roughly... it goes like this:


1. Click the Start Menu
2. Navigate to Control Panel
3. Click Uninstall Program
4. Click the Program you want to uninstall.
5. Let Windows know if you merely want to uninstall or attempt to repair the program.
6. Let Windows know you are sure of your selection.
7. Wait for process to complete.
8. Possibly restart machine.
9. Track down any shortcuts the uninstall process might have missed.
10. Delete any directories left behind, assuming there are no registry errors.

I probably left out a step or two.


1. Open your Applications folder.
2. Drag the Application you want to delete to the Trashcan.

That being said, one of the best computers I ever owned... was a Netbook running Windows XP. If you love Windows (or tolerate it with dignity) and want something small (with a physical keyboard), get a Netbook. Go ahead. You have my permission.

Then came the talk of cost. People often compare the $500 an iPad costs to the $250ish a netbook costs. Regular folks on the street, analysts, pretty much everyone. Most people consider only the cost to them at the time they purchase it, and don't think about the cost over time. I did some quicker thinking here than I did at the gathering.

Apple iPad: $500
Netbook: $250-$375 for a decent one.

Comparing the cost of those two devices this way is pretty simple, one is more than the other.

Both have free or nearly free software available for both platforms, but what happens when you look at comparable pay-for-use software? (Some rough numbers.)

Pages for iPad: $9.99
MS Word 2010 for your Netbook: $125

1st Person Shooter Game for iPad: $4.99
1st Person Shooter Game for Netbook: $49.99

Yep, that Netbook sure is cheaper, but only if you are running Linux and go all open source... and provide your own tech support... or have a relative like me who does it grudgingly for free.

Time is money.

Most people don't take notes, and even fewer folks take them digitally. I'm one of those fewer folks. As I've said in previous posts, my iPad blinks on 50-60 times a week, saving me an hour a week I would have spent watching a netbook boot up. As I've said before, instant on, and long battery life will eventually defeat all other considerations in the market place.

Most folks are impatient, and they don't want to spend a lot of time charging a device or worrying about battery life. Netbooks are catching up, and I've seen models that have a ten hour battery life... but most are scarcely more powerful or capable than the iPad. Yeah, you can set your netbook to sit in standby when you close the lid, throw it in the bag, and off you go.

I'd only do that if you have a solid state drive. Check the price of that... then compare your netbook to the iPad... which already has a SSD.

How is that Netbook cheaper again? Not sure that it is over the long term... even if you buy a bluetooth physical keyboard and a stand/case to pair up with your iPad. That's the trap though isn't it?

The iPad is probably cheaper, if you buy only what you need to make it a functional device. I don't know too many folks who have done that. I've bought over one hundred apps, but probably only regularly use fifteen or so. I've bought two cases, two bags, and a blue tooth keyboard. Was my iPad purchase cheaper than my Windows Netbook purchase?


My own argument makes sense... until I apply it to my own situation. Oops.

Getting to the point. Netbooks, iPads, Macs, PCs, and Linux? Choose what's right for you, gets the job done, and costs you what you're willing to pay for the privilege.