Hello from iPhone!

Sp A0118-1The complaints about the keyboard are greatly exaggerated. I have long approached Apple’s technology offerings with a kind of short-throw faith: if Apple offers guidance for “the right way” of approaching a feature, I try it that way for a while. With the iPhone’s text input, it didn’t even take even that long. Assume that the smart keyboard will more than likely get it right and just keep on typing.

Of course I cannot type as fast and typing with two thumbs instead of single index finger drops the accuracy by about half. Still, I’m entering text plenty fast for blogging from literally anywhere.

Next up, how to get long documents to display at readable sizes and widths on iPhone.

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Windows Vista is a Cutter!

Turns out, there’s an interesting—and dare I say, innovative—bug in Windows Vista’s speech generation and speech recognition software.

Seems that since the speech recognition is “speaker independent”, it will respond to indiscriminate voices and, if it recognizes commands, will follow through with them. Y’know, like half the Leather Community of San Francisco.

Anyhoo, it’s possible to make Windows Vista hurt itself:

In one scenario outlined by users an MP3 file of voice instructions was used to tell the PC to delete documents.

But Microsoft, of course, downplayed it:

[Microsoft Corp] has pointed out that in order for the flaw to be exploited the speech recognition feature would need to be activated and configured and both microphone and speakers would have to be switched on. “There are also additional barriers that would make an attack difficult” said a Microsoft security researcher.

So as long as you don’t use the highly-touted and marketed speech-recognition feature of Microsoft Vista, you’ll be fine!

Is this a joke? Wait, it is! A very, very old joke: “A man walks into a doctor and says, ‘Doc, it hurts when I do this. Doc replies: Well, don’t do that!”

Reminds me of a guy I used to work with back when I was doing Computational Biology back in Pittsburgh in 1991. He was one of the Junior IT guys and he heard my office mate (an awesome guy called Ryan) and I talking about the future of computers—wall-sized display and voice interaction. He walks by the office and said, “delete .!” I thought at the time he was being incredibly unimaginative. Turns out he was prophetic—because you can still find a DOS prompt on Windows and do a del . to your own files!

So anyway, you go out and buy that, ahem, very tony new PC so that you can have translucent windows and a 3D representation of a rolodex for your onscreen windows; you get a camera for it and a microphone (don’t they build these things into PCs yet?)—to say nothing of some kick-ass speakers to play back your ZuneTunes and the other music (the types that “Play for Sure”—and you’re all set to bark orders at your Windows Vista, but Microsoft tells you not to do that!

No solution offered, no indication that they’re working on a solution to it…just “say no”.

Well, actually, “say nothing”.

•••

In other news, Bill Gates called Apple, Inc. a liar. Even thought most Windows industry folks are saying that you need to upgrade your hardware in significant ways in order to get the “new”-fangled 3D and translucency effects in your Windows windows, Bill Gates says that Apple’s lying in this ad:

But Bill goes on:

I don’t know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don’t even get it. What are they trying to say? Does honesty matter in these things, or if you’re really cool, that means you get to be a lying person whenever you feel like it? There’s not even the slightest shred of truth to it.

First, Bill, get a sense of satire. Second, Principal Vernon, what would you know about “cool”? Besides baby-shit brown-green being the new black, of course.

And third? Pay attention to your users and care about what they need. If Apple’s superior in one way, it’s that. They pay attention to usability.

Or maybe, Bill Gates knows something about John Hodgman’s ass that the rest of us don’t?

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iPhone

Apple iPhone

<br/>

  • an iPod
  • an internet communicator
  • technically, a Mac!
  • not a tablet computer by any other name
  • a brand new something
  • something that finally makes me happy to be a cingular customer
  • misunderstood by status-quo-er’s
  • underestimated by provider-focused doofuses like Bill & Bill
  • a device whose negative hype apes the original iPod’s
  • something I must have. omg omg omg omg

Ok, it’s a phone, too. GoB knows how much restructuring Cingular had to do behind the scenes to allow the phone to send email and talk at the same time, to permit random-access voicemail and whatever else lurks beneath the sweet, sweet bonnet of this baby.

Funny thing is, it won’t replace any of the iPods I use, but I may listen to music more often. It will replace the totally crap phone I had to spend $300 on because stupid-ass Cingular doesn’t actually offer any cheapo phones without a contract and I’m not eligible for “an upgrade” until April 2007. Oh wait, June 2007 is after April 2007! Yeaaah, I totally lucked out on the timing of this thing.

It won’t replace any Mac I own, either, because it’s not intended to.

So it’s a great iPod but it’s an additional iPod. It’s a great OS X machine, but it’s an additional one. Wow. You think Apple might make some money with this thing? I know it will be making a lot from me.

I will also chuckle mightily when Bill Ray goes “duh” and Bill Gates gets a chin gets real—seriously, how can you claim that companies who provide both the hardware and the software are at a “huge disadvantage” when you’ve just come out with a hardware/software solution? Just because you got Zuned up the butt by your own foray into hardware/software products doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Check out Stephen Colbert. He’s awesome:

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Blogging at 70mph

I’m sitting in the back seat of a Chevy, tooling down I-280 towards work. It’s a makeshift carpool, and a temporary one. Soon I’ll be back to being green and taking CalTrain.

Regardless, here I am. It’s very foggy down here at the intersection of Route 92 and I-280. Crystal Springs Lake, a reservoir, is off to the right. The mountain range behind it is confluent with trees so large that it tricks the eye into thinking that the mountains are either smaller than they are, or closer than they are. It’s a strange effect.

The speed of the internet connection varies wildly while driving–especially up and down 280. Even though it basically rides mountaintops from San Francisco to the South Bay, the occasional valleys cause issues, as does the weird tower-switching thrash at a couple of points along the way.

Here’s what I got at a given moment near the Redwood City/Atherton exit:

There’s nowhere in my life I can’t have internet access if I want or need it. That’s more of a bad thing than a good thing, but I’m a nerd at heart—well, among other things—and I do it because I can. Maybe that just makes me intellectually hedonistic: gotta feed your head, man.

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Wakes on the Train

So yesterday a new gadget arrived, which marked several firsts for me:

  • I finally had some use for the extra cardslot on the side of a notebook computer (in the case of my MacBook Pro, it’s an ExpressCard slot (think of it as a much faster, much slimmer, much more user-friendly version of a PC/PCMCIA card slot)
  • I’m freakin’ surfin’ the web on Caltrain!

Here are a couple of pictures of it. One shows how small the card really is, and the other shows what it looks like plugged into a MacBook Pro (however, there’s a little flippy-antenna that is down in the image.

V640Unboxed

V640Macbook

I did a speed test on it from home last night. Not too shabby:

Picture 2

On the ride down (I’m still on Caltrain, 17 minutes into a 42-minute trip—my god, we’re at Hillsdale already!) and I expectedly lost the connection when going through a tunnel, but unlike a typical Airport (802.11a/b/g to you PC folks), it didn’t timeout before exiting the tunnel, which means the connection was only interrupted, not lost. [spins propeller beanie]

Complaints? Less time away from the internet. Oh, and it flashes a green LED once a second when connected (it’s red when it loses signal). I still won’t ever understand how PC folks deal with all the flashing telemetry on a typical laptop computer. Why do I need to know the disk is accessing data? If I really need to know, there’s a handy utility to check on it. Oh, and it fucks with the clean lines of a MacBook Pro. There’s a little black green-light-flashing carbuncle with a like-colored acrochordon glommed onto the side of an otherwise elegant and shiny MacBook Pro.

Picture 5 Still, it’s worth it to be able to look up techie questions on Cocoabuilder or VPN into work, or mount the Mac mini at home onto my Desktop.

But the coolest thing of all? Mac OS X lets you easily share your own internet connection with others. And since this MacBook Pro now has Gigabit ethernet, Airport Extreme, Bluetooth and EVDO communications [spins propeller beanie], all I have to do is click a checkbox and give the Airport network a name and in Free Love mode, anyone else who is working on a laptop (including you PC folks!) within the vicinity of my Airport signal can use my verizon wireless connection to check your email or surf the web—but if you abuse the signal by downloading larger porn movies during your morning commute, I’ll shut you down. I’m too busy downloading my own. (kidding Mom!) (kinda).

Picture 3

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dieBook G4

So, two nights ago, I got a strange message on my iBook stating that Mail.app couldn’t write to any of the mailboxes so I should make room on the volume my Home Folder is on. Except that there were still a few GBs left on it. So I logged out. And I noticed, while the machine was logging me out, that the glowring on the power adapter’s plug had flashed off and on. Not the typical behavior.

As I tried to log back in, I got a kernel panic. This is something sort of analogous to Windows’ Blue Screen of Death, and since I haven’t actually seen a kernel panic on any of my machines for several years, it took me a moment to realize the level at which things had gone south.

So I shut the iBook off, restarted it while holding down the ‘T’ key (for Target disk mode), which turns the whole machine into an external Fire Wire hard disk. I plugged it into my PowerMac and dragged my entire Home Folder off of it and onto the Mac mini’s 1TB drive. Success!

I tried just about everything I could think of, but the iBook kept failing.

Well, shit.

After much anxiety and stress yesterday, I burned my personal discount at work and ordered me a 2.0GHz 15” MacBook Pro. What’s interesting is that it’s fast enough and capacious enough in a stock configuration that not only do I not have to order extra RAM from somewhere else, but its speed is in the same ballpark as my PowerMac G5. Which I am selling.

So in a 15” package, I have a desktop replacement portable again. I’m really not able to comfortably afford it, but I also can’t afford to be without one.

Such is the life of a queek.

Our New Mac mini

Indextop20060228

Our new toy. Strange. It looks like a tin that might hold some fancy cookies; it looks like a stand-alone DVD player; it comes with a teensy remote control that has six buttons.

Frontrowremote20050228They managed to squeeze in an IR port in the front without messing with the minimalist front of the unit. The remote runs Front Row, which provides a unified interface to all our our music and our photos and porn home movies.

There are two CPU cores in it, with 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive (it’s a laptop-form-factor hard drive) and a DVD burner which is slot-loading and burns every type of blank DVD media known to humankind, including dual-layer).

The only monitor the mini is hooked up to is our HDTV; it makes less noise than the Comcast DVR does and actually fits under the TV next to the TV’s pedestal stand. Crazy.

And? It’s the very first Intel-based machine I’ve ever purchased!

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More than Half a Lifetime

Intromacjobs When I was a wee boy back in college, at the beginning of my Sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon University in 1983, I had just sold the TRS-80 computer, printer and floppy disk drives I had bought over the years prior. My computer buying had begun at the tender age of fourteen, when I got my mom to co-sign a bank loan for $600 so that I could buy a computer. I suppose that was also be beginning of my debt.

Money well-spent/well-borrowed, I say! After upgrading the BASIC ROMs on the computer, upgrading the memory—$99 for 16K of RAM—buying an “expansion interface”, an Epson Printer and 2 floppy disk drives to replace the already-past-its-limits cassette drive, and after acquiring several hundred dollars worth of software, I sold the whole mess in 1983 for about $2000.

Tandy Model1 System S1One day, when CMU had just opened their campus computer store—an unheard-of thing in those days—a few of us decided to check it out. Not much to see, just an office in the “new” office building on campus, painted cinder-block walls stock office desks. We looked at the price list and I had almost immediately decided on an IBM PC with 2 floppy drives and 16K of memory. Oh, and with the IBM display (monochrome, green characters on a black screen). This was going to clock in at around $1600. Fair enough, I figured. I was getting a 6MHz machine for less than I’d sold my 1.77MHz TRS-80.

As we turned to walk back out of the store/office, there on a desk sat a little beige machine with a mostly-white display. With one of those mouse-things attached to it (now, mice I had seen before, down in one of the quasi-subterranean floors of Warner/Science Hall….I wasn’t sure what they were for, but a small box with buttons attached to a strange-shaped computer workstation made quite an impression).

A paint program was running. I moved the mouse around and watched the cursor on the little screen follow. I clicked the button; it made a dot on the screen. I held the button down and moved the mouse, and an oval grew from the starting point!

I got the whole catastrophic beauty of this machine in less than a couple of minutes. And on February 7, 1984, just two weeks after the official introduction, I had one in my dorm room.

To this day, I have never regularly used a PC, never bought a PC for myself. I have, however, had upwards of a dozen different Macs.

Apple & the Mac have been significant yardsticks in how I measure the progress of my life, important memory-prods into very specific times in my past and quite a fine ongoing example of majority-minority patterns. In other words, I’ve learned a lot.

So, Happy 21st Birthday (January 24) to the Macintosh. Click on the young Steve Jobs above to watch a streaming video of the original introduction. You, of course, must have QuickTime installed on your machine—and shame on you if you don’t already.

I’m going to go spin the propeller on the little cap on my big head, and try like hell not to shudder when I think of what might not have been…