Monday, May 31, 2010

Pulse for iPad

Surf all my tech blogs, news sites, and the blogs of my friends and family in one app? Heck yes.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Still Waiting

60 Days - 2 Million iPads Sold

I already did my iPad 60 days later post, but in the wake of Apple's announcement, I looked around to see where the competition is. Even though I'm firmly in the Apple Camp right now, it wouldn't take much for me to switch. I'm pretty mercenary about gadgets and use whatever works best. A quick look around the internet does not fill me with hope that the iPad will have a significant competitor this year.

Some devices I've been watching:

Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Notebook -

Cancelled. This was the netbook that had the screen that popped out of the front. Apparently they're going to start over with scratch from Android. Goodbye Skylight OS.

Hewlett Packard Slate -

Cancelled. HP bought Palm, and are starting over from scratch with WebOS. Windows 7 got the boot this time.

Microsoft Courier -

Cancelled. I watched the mockup vids for this device. I would have probably bought one instead of an iPad if it was in the same price range. It looked awesome.

Asus Eee Pad -

Engadget got to lay hands on some show models. Neither of the two functioned which is bad, but they appeared well made and promising. Have to wonder if they'll still cling to having them run Windows 7.

MSI WindPad 100 -

"We noticed it take a few seconds for applications to launch, and the Wind Touch UI was incredibly sluggish." - Joanna Stern, Engadget.

Instant fail. The allure of these devices is the quickness of their operation.

Asus Eee Tablet -

It isn't a tablet computer. It is a digital notebook with a stylus sensitive touch screen sporting 2,450 dpi, 0.1 second page turns, on a back-lit TFT-LCD with 64 levels of grey. Sounds like a good e-Reader, but with a touchscreen operating at that resolution... writing on it would feel almost like paper. The vids I've watched make this something to lay hands on and try out. Don't know if I'll fork out the two or three benjamins they'll want for one, but I'm intrigued nonetheless.

Conclusion -

Tablet devices that want to compete need to have everything the iPad has or more. Every time I saw a video of someone reviewing one of these devices, they reached into their bag and held the iPad up to it side by side. Windows being cursor driven is never going to be as fast as the iPhone OS. Only Android or Skylight have a prayer. Unfortunately Skylight and Linux have the same problem, the lack of a developer base.

I think the only thing that'll really challenge the iPad is something roughly the same dimensions and weight, running Android. Everything else is simply going to fail when subject to a comparison. With Apple selling a million iPads a month, competitors lose time and market share quickly. Most claim they won't have anything by September. That's another 3-4 million iPads in the market, by the time they even have something on the shelf.

Really disheartening.

Friday, May 28, 2010

iPad - 60 Days Later

I've had my iPad roughly two months and haven't given much in the way of thought to why it has quickly become my mobile device of choice. Occasionally, I'll cross paths with someone online or in real life that'll question me about the merits of the iPad and why they should buy one. I feel like I never have a particularly good answer, and usually just pass mine over to them so they can see for themselves. In the aftermath of trying to do all kinds of crazy things with mine, I think I've only unlocked some of the reasons huddled behind the subtle appeal of the iPad.

1. Informal Mobile Computing

I timed the amount of time required to open my Macbook Pro, boot up, and load Pages so I can begin writing. It required almost 50 seconds to get the point where I could start typing, even with pages set to auto open at start up. The same task on an iPad (always on) requires less than 3 seconds. If I count up the dozens of times every week I feel obliged to jot down a few paragraphs for my book on whatever mobile device I'm carrying, that's a lot of time saved.

2. Not a Real Computer

When I pull out my iPad, most people have the same reaction a person would have checking their email on a smartphone. It isn't like pulling out a laptop, which can be awkward in most social situations. Pulling out my iPad to show someone a picture feels just like pulling out my wallet for the same purpose. It pops on, I share something with the person across from me, and bam it goes off again.

3. Desktop Extension

Most people dislike the fact that the iPad can't stand alone as a computing device like a laptop. Aside from all the obvious problems with having a touchscreen device running a standard cursor driven OS, I like being able to sync my data to it without juggling flash drives and that there are lots of cloud storage options cross platforms. It is far simpler to get my data, media, and files stored on my iMac synced with my iPad, as compared to my Macbook Pro.

4. Simplicity

It can't do more than 1-2 things at a time. Being a creative professional requires tools that release you from distractions. I've probably typed more for my book on my iPad than my iMac as a consequence. My iMac can have all sorts of things running while I'm trying to write. iChat, Netflix, iTunes, browser windows open to web comics, social networking sites, and more can run at the same time on my iMac effortlessly. At most, my iPad will push notify from my chat client, play music, and allow me to write at the same time greatly reducing the temptation to goof off or get distracted from the task at hand.

5. Flexibility

Virtually everything I can do on my iMac can be done on my iPad. I can't run World of Warcraft or Adobe CS4. Basically stuff I need a cursor for, and prefer doing on my iMac anyway. In fact, there are things I like doing that can only be done on my iPad like iBooks (I dig the interface), Sketchbook Pro (with my thumb), and Space Station HD (drool).


It only took a little bribery to get Anders to pose for this picture.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Family Tradition

I'm new at this, but here goes. These are my new kicks. I think that's what you're supposed to say. Thanks G-Ma.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tech Support

I have always been a tech enthusiast, in the sense that my interest in computers and what they could be used for was a hobby. I've never taken a single computer class, or had a job where knowing much of the basic operations of a computer was necessary. It has never come naturally, and every bit of knowledge I've acquired about computers was hard won.

What has become increasingly clear is that technology is far more accessible to the average consumer. Duh. In 1999, I was virtually the only one I knew with a laptop, and I had to order it from out of town. Ten years later you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have one, and you can buy them in some of the same places you can get a loaf of bread. Governments around the world are grappling with a divide quickly occurring in almost every major culture. They all are wondering how to get more of their citizens online, faster, and safer.

This technology shift has been fifteen years in the making, coming like an avalanche. In 2007, I was pretty sure I could write my books, send my stuff out to publishers and eventually get... well, published. All it would take is patience and diligence. In 2010 I seriously question the merit of seeking a publisher. All the publishing tools and aggregators are accessible by anyone willing to learn how to use and deal with them. Anyone with a little money, some time, and a modicum of desire could write a book and publish it online.

The same thing is likely true of almost any would-be creative professional.

What about the banking institutions, publishing firms, network television, and all the balding old men that used to dictate to us the content we could distribute and consume? They also used to dictate the means by which we would do the same. The internet, every day, builds a new wall and tears it down again. And yet, they might still find a way to put one over on us as the young try to replace the old. Like life itself, the state of the internet today will change forever tomorrow.

HP wants to put it's newly acquired WebOS on your Printer.
Facebook wants to invade and broadcast every element of your online activities.
Apple wants to change the way people use the computer at the most fundamental level.
Google wants to do the same, only better, out of pure spite.
Asus thinks Netbooks are the short term future for mobile computing devices.

I used to tell people you don't need a computer, you can get by just fine without one. They are merely a convenience and not a necessity. I've lived to the precipice of the moment where I will actually have to eat those words. In every inquiry my wife has made about getting a good paying job at a library, she'd been told knowing a programming language (HTML, XML, etc) would help. In the creation and promotion of my books, I keep coming to the same conclusion. I'm going to be better off doing it online, and doing it myself, writing the code by hand or finding a program that will do it for me.

Learning to use a computer has become more than just a casual means to procure information. It is quickly becoming the substance of our culture, and knowing how to use a computer is as much part of a person's civic responsibility as garnering a drivers license or paying taxes. There will always be accountants and chauffeurs we can pay to handle things for us, but average joe citizen is always better off figuring these things out for themselves. Why pay someone to do what you can do for yourself?

Yeah, I think someone who wants to be a bus driver their entire life probably could do just that. They could probably slide through life never writing a line of code, opening a single email message, or backing up a single document. At least until they're replaced by some guy that can control an entire network of busses from his touchscreen tablet device. The future looms large, and I hope that there is a new computing revolution that brings everyone tech savvy and otherwise into the same world.

Most people I know live in relative terror of the internet, their own computers, and the programs they use everyday. There has to be a better way than every family or social group having a single wizard, a lone person tech savvy enough to operate a computer with confidence. I really don't know what the answer is, but most of the computing industry thinks it isn't a failing on the part of society or people as individuals. It is the way computers were designed in the first place.

Computers were built and designed to be used by the people who ... built and designed them. That's a pretty small percentage of the population. It's like every manufacture who makes jeans, only putting out a size that fits their CEO. What the heck are you going to do? You have to find a manufacturer that's close, then tweak the jeans so they'll sorta fit. I mean, what are you going to do? Wander around without any pants on? This is exactly how I felt every time I bought a computer up until very recently.

When I went into the Maclife store with my Dad and Grandmother to buy a couple of iMacs, there wasn't anyone sitting at the Macbook Pros, Macbooks, Mac Pros, or iMacs running a traditional desktop OS with a cursor driven interface. You had to wait in line if you wanted to play with an iPad though. No one asks me about my Macbook Pro when I open it up in a public place to work. When I layout my iPad and begin typing furiously on it for my book, total strangers wander up to me demanding to know what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

The tech world scoffed and made more than a few jokes about Apple referring to the iPad as "magical". To the very abundant and casual users of a 7-8 year old Dell laptop who happens across me using my iPad at a random coffee shop? Absolutely, their faces would be pretty much the same had I pulled a rabbit out of a hat. They know it isn't magic, but heck it didn't seem like it. That the device has an accelerometer and other contrivances that help re-orient the screen? Eyes bounce wide open like I'd made a jetliner disappear.

It is clear to me the direction the casual person who needs a computer for email, surfing the web, watching movies, and so forth is going to go. Then I found an article the other day a guy wrote on how he works his IT job carrying only his iPad. I don't think anyone has a crystal ball now that the standards of computing interface have been shattered, rewritten, burned down, and rewritten again.... all just in the first half of 2010.

I challenge anyone who reads this to learn to do something with their computer they couldn't do yesterday, and again tomorrow, and again, and again.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Don't write a book, any kind of book, unless you want to gaze into the substance of everything you are. If you're afraid of feeling utterly alone, having every anxiety and fear exposed, the measure of your relationships tested... don't even write that first page. If I've learned anything from the last ten days, it's that writing requires a certain level of remorselessness.

There are so many elements of my personal philosophy that I wanted to express in my book. These are the things that have torn apart my relationships with people I treasure, prevented me going into the occupation I would probably be most happy, and removed me from the establishment of my faith forever. These are also the things that I cannot deny. I've read a stack of books, from Neumann to Epictetus, trying to isolate my beliefs and attack them. Our beliefs only matter if they can be defended by logic, after being birthed of our feelings.

Every word I write feels like a nudge at my shoulder, like I'm firing an automatic weapon on full auto. Everything I believe flashing in the muzzle flare of my intent, with shell casings, like my ideas, being expended to wound the page. Writing something like this prepares a person to shed their creative blood, and to fight a completely different battle. Will what we believe also help us tell a good story? Will a story with the familiar contemporary issues we face every day create a connection with the reader?

My favorite books were all written long ago, usually in verse, and without remorse. Did John Milton, Tennyson, or Marcus Aurelius regret a single word they penned? I doubt it. They were obviously men who valued courage, virtue, and justice. Ayn Rand surely had no regrets at anything she wrote, fiction or non-fiction.

I've missed deadlines all over the place this week and I'll likely finish up 5k words behind. I'll have to press through into one of my usual days off to make up the difference. Time to quit feeling bad about it and just get it done. Every day I don't meet a deadline, it is another day I'll never get to live again. There are no "do-overs" in life. I could die anytime, and whatever I get done before then is all I'll achieve with my mortal perspective intact.

Everything else feels less than epic, no matter what religion is doing the talking.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My childhood is hazy, but the things I remember clearly, disturb me greatly.

School when I was six and seven years old was difficult. The teachers mostly just wanted us to learn colors, our numbers 1-10, ABCs, and little else. I recall being asked one time to render a picture of the earth using crayons. I vividly remember looking around as the other kids merrily went about doing their best with blue and green crayons to draw the earth. I immediately questioned the merit of the exercise admitting that I had no idea what the earth looked like. The teacher assured me that it didn't matter. I refused to participate and ended up sitting in the corner the rest of the day.

When I moved the following year to Moscow, I went to McDonald Elementary.

The teachers at that school encouraged me to participate in the gifted and talented program. I served as the treasurer on the student council. A pair of teachers helped me overcome my dyslexia, and encouraged me to go to a writing summer program at the university. I made some incredible friends, and went on more field trips that I can count.

I remember fondly two school projects.

One was the building of a bridge out of toothpicks. We had a budget and were issued fake money to that end. The object was to build a bridge that could sustain a certain amount of weight, while staying within the budget. It was the first taste of resources management, and even as a 3rd grader, I loved it. We each got to take a role in the project, architect, accountant, purchaser, and builder. Teams of four. We had to work together and communicate effectively. The teacher served as the mock city council and had to approve our plans. We also had to account for all our expenditures and the time we spent building the bridge. We weren't assigned time specifically, so we had to stay focused during class and complete out assignments early to work on the bridge.

The winning team got coupons for some free popcorn at the next school movie showing.

The second was a puppet show. We had to write our own story, make the props, the stage, and do rehearsals. We had to consider the logistics of having puppeteers mingling under the stage, lighting, and had a limited number of materials. It was an incredible and memorable experience.

I learned more in the second through fifth grade than I did my entire middle and high school career.

Middle school was a terrifying experience. The gifted and talented program was tiny group of gifted kids, and home schooled students, something like five. There was no teacher there to help us with resources for projects. We just sat sadly in a tiny computer lab and traded war stories about how the other students delighted in tormenting us. I met one of my good friends in gym class that same year in the vice-principle's office, after he witnessed three of my classmates attacking me by the tennis courts. His account contradicted the gym teacher's account, a man who seemed to delight in watching smaller kids get bullied by bigger kids. A sadist.

High School was so stressful, I barely remember any of it. I remember clearly that dropping out seemed like the most logical option given all I'd gotten out of it so far. I have dozens of depressing stories, but the most telling is my Junior Year English class. My grades had plummeted since middle school, and I was stuck in the bottom barrel english class. It was me and a bunch of other no-hope kids with an extremely elderly teacher. I decided to make the best of it and worked closely with her on a paper. She looked over my drafts, and followed my progress through every step. I felt relieved when I turned it in, until the following day when she raked me over the coals for not turning in my paper.

I questioned her politely, but she could not recall seeing me work on it, and claimed I'd never submitted a draft. She then abruptly dismissed me to the vice-principle to be disciplined. When I asked her what I should tell him I did wrong, she said she'd use the intercom to converse with him on the matter. Upon arriving, the vice-principle was baffled as to why I was there. He called the teacher, who claimed to have no recollection of sending me to see him. That's when I was told she suffered from a neurological disorder, a brain fever he called it.

Every confidence I had remaining that anyone in the school district had my best interests at heart, quickly dissolved.

I'll skip the part where I mourned the whole situation and blamed myself for failing to succeed at school where so many others had excelled. I'll never really know why did so well in Moscow, and utterly failed in Boise. Likely, it is a matter far more complicated than any one, two, or ten reasons or circumstances. The more I contemplate all that happened, the less I blame myself.

I've had people tell me that I wasn't being challenged, that I was bored, and things would have been different if I'd only applied myself. All pretty much rubbish I'd say, in the wake of acquiring more of the human experience, than my school career. I'm no smarter than anyone else, it wasn't for a lack of desire to perform, and I was anything but bored most of the time.

I know I was different from other kids. Far more detail oriented and predatory than most, with an overdeveloped sense of wrong and right. Like anyone with my wiring, I could shut off my ethics at will, compartmentalize them for my own purposes. When I went to school in Moscow, none of that mattered, and I never had to call upon my baser self.

When I felt like my classmates were my peers, and part of my team, it made all the difference in the world. When I felt like my teachers were truly my mentors, and we were all learning from each other, the task, whatever it was, always felt noble. The schools I attended in Boise weren't academic communities when I arrived, and they were further from the mark when I departed from them.

Things need to change.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reflecting on 05/11/10 -> 05/15/10

Writing 25,000 words in a week isn't really a new thing for me. In Courier 12 with 1" margins it translates roughly to 100 pages. When I had four tables, I wrote that and more between prep and recording notes and research for my novel. Turning my full attention toward a single project has really illuminated how quickly someone could write a novel. I genuinely thought it would be impossible for someone to write a decent work of fiction in a month. The closer I get to having actually done it, the more I ponder what I'll do next month.

I really want to finish the work on my RPG, and spend a lot of my time painting for that project. I have a number of pieces I've promised to friends and relatives that I need to complete as well.

Part of me thinks I should take my momentum and just start writing the second D&E novel. I think that juggling that task while trying to promote the first one would be seriously draining though. If everyone utterly hates the first one, spending my time writing a second one would probably be a waste of time. The anxiety that comes with pouring yourself into a creative work is high. I couldn't even take criticism from my wife the other night, I just felt utterly broken in the wake of it.

I need to make the time to view the DvDs my mom got me too. They are supposed to help people who want to make a living writing, but I know if I look at them I'll doubt everything I've done so far, possess a profound desire to throw it away, and start over.

Eye on the prize.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


My first Dreams & Echoes book is finally nearing completion, nine months in the making. I hope my second book doesn't take that long to write.

Monday - Typed and arranged 5,000 words from my notes, Chapter 1 complete
Tuesday - Typed and arranged 5,000 words from my notes, Chapter 2 complete

Hopefully Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are no different.

25,000 words this week, again the week of May 18th-22nd, and again the week of 25th-29th and the book should be completely written for edit.

The whole ordeal makes me wish sometimes I'd written the book in some sort of order, and that I had the ending decided on and written. The week of 25th and 29th will be difficult because I'll have no notes past 55,000-60,000 words, meaning the final 3-4 chapters will be written entirely with no command + c, command + v.

I think the last 15,000 words will pretty much write themselves when I get there. May 27th, 28th, and 29th are going to be magical, assuming I can stay on schedule and nothing unforeseen occurs. It'll be nice to take July and finish my RPG without distraction, then start D&E book 2 in August.

If I could crank out my D&E Book 1, my RPG books, and D&E book 2 all in 2010, that would be epic.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Had a long discussion with some friends today about family, the way it influences us, and the power it has to help, or harm us. Anyone we allow to get close to us, seems to gain this unseen power over us in exchange, as if being in our circle wasn't thanks enough. This power we have over each other is often exploited, and not always for the better. In all of me dealings, I deeply regret the moments I wasn't humble, open to the possibility to my own errors, and failings. Also, I regret the moments people I let get close to me, hurt me during those moments.

It goes without saying that everyone has a moment where they've taken advantage of someone else's generosity, and we all know someone who makes it a lifelong career. There are those people that love the role they've been given; the loser, the golden one, the protector, the brain, the one that wears funny socks. How we allow others to treat us and quantify us works into our identity as a social pry-bar in situations we'd like to see go our way. Thus, the source of all social awkwardness revealed? If only it was so easy.

In the end, I secretly treasure those people I've allowed close to me. There are some that have done me wrong, some that hate me, and some that value me in return. More than a few people that would probably like to sit firmly in the camp of enemies, are people I treasure the most in spite of their ire. The hardest thing in the world is to avoid those people you love, friends, family, or somewhere in between, because you know in your heart you have trouble denying them anything. Your love for them also serving as your undoing.

So it is the difficulty of dealing with difficult people.