I stopped by Best Buy on my way to the grocery store to have a quick look at the much lauded Apple ipad. My opinion summed up in one word:
- long battery life
- more portable then a typical laptop
- almost impossible to achieve a reasonably fast typing speed on it
- shiny (which results in fingerprints and glare)
- does nothing that my laptop can't do
- can't do a lot of things my laptop can do
- costs $150 more then the refurbished laptop I just bought
- closed platform
- wide-aspect movies look weird on a 4:3 screen
- back-lit screens are not ideal for reading books
- development work for the ipad must be done in Objective C
- less portable then a Motorola Droid or Nexus One (or even an iphone)
In other fail news:
A week ago, I got a big batch of images that needed to be resized and displayed on one of the websites that I manage. This required that I crop and resize each photo so that it be exactly the correct size to be displayed on the site, a time consuming and quite laborious task. So I figured I could probably whip up a script with Python and ImageMagick to help automate the process, with idea being that my program would allow the user to simply highlight the "relevant" area of an image and then the program would crop and resize it to the correct size.
I ended up having to use wxPython to do all the GUI type stuff, which meant I had to spend some time learning the ins and outs of GUI programming seeing as how my experience with that kind of stuff is fairly limited. So for the past week, I've been spending about an hour a day learning wxPython and knocking together a sort of program to make my life easier. Today, I looked at my image resizer program and realized I had created some of the most god-awful code ever seen by mankind. It was basically 100+ lines of uncommented and completely unintelligible spaghetti code.
I threw my monster out and did the cropping and resizing by hand, which ended up taking me less than an hour.
The inter-webs have been abuzz about the revelation of Apple's new ipad, and as always, I'm late to the blogging party. Now I'm no Apple fanboy, and I'm not particularly impressed by Apple's new slate. Personally I wouldn't buy it, but I'm sure there are tons of people out there that would love to own one. The one thing however, that has really been bugging me lately, is how so many people are proclaiming the ipad to be the Kindle killer, and that Amazon (and all other e-book reader makers) should just close up shop. Yes, the ipad is capable of providing so many more services then the Kindle, such as full web browsing, office programs, and movie playing capabilities, things that the Kindle cannot possibly offer. But Apple fans are forgetting that the reason that people buy Kindles and other e-book readers, is so that they can read books, and not browse the web.
E-ink, the display technology behind most e-book readers, is an amazing technology, and not just because of its superior battery life, but because reading it is like reading a newspaper. Anyone who has read plain text on a computer screen for hours at a time, knows that it is not a particularly fun experience. Back-lit screens are stressful on the eyes after long periods of time, whereas reading a good-old-fashioned paper book is a much easier experience. I own several e-books and I actually read Stephanie Meyer's God-awful Twilight book on my computer screen and it was not an experience that I want to repeat, not just because of the terribleness of the book but also because of how my eyes were starting to burn from staring at a back-lit screen for so long. Now I have a friend that says he likes to read books on his iphone for extended periods of time, and I'm fairly certain that hes either a freak of nature, or a bold faced liar. But aside from the scarce masochistic few who enjoy burning their retinas out staring at glowing boxes, most everybody else would rather read paper books.
E-ink has allowed for electronic reading devices that are easy and comfortable to read on. This is something that the multi-use ipad does not offer, and it is the reason that dedicated e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle aren't going anywhere just yet. I don't mean to imply that the ipad is doomed to failure, but rather that the ipad is a device meant to do many things and cannot compete with dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle.
I encountered today, what was quite possibly the most amusing advertisement for the weirdest product, that I have ever seen: the USB desktop humping dog. Yup, thats right, its a USB powered humping dog. Because they're just aren't enough useless USB powered objects today, we need another one that does nothing besides suck power and amuse viewers a wee tiny bit with strange sexual movements. The funny, funny banner advertisement, read:
USB gadgets aren't always useful. [Well actually, all of mine are.] Sometimes they're just beyond belief. [Yeah, no kidding.] But you've got to do something with your empty USB ports. [OK, I know modern computers come with a lot of USB ports, but who has ever said, "damn these USB ports, I just have to use 'em!"] This pint size version or our worringly popular [No kidding.] Humping Dog may not be the next best thing since sliced bread, but it's a lot funnier. [Too true, too true.]
You can check out the vendor's website, and see the cool animated GIFs of the humping dogs. Perhaps most amusing of all behind the high-speed animated humping, is the vendor's statement that the dogs are "suitable for ages 16 yrs+."
In 1998, Apple Computers started selling a new version of their desktop computers, called the imac. The first imac had the CRT and all other components of the computer enclosed in a cool futuristic case, that came in various colors. I remember touring an Apple facility with my dad nine years ago (ASME offered their members tours of tech facilities) and hearing all the commercial hype about the new imac. They gave us some free toys and sat us in front of a projector to show us an imac commercial, which showed some imacs spinning across the screen, showing off their cool colors (because PCs were notorious for only coming in beige boxes back then) while an old Beetles song played in the background. Our guide also emphasized that the imac was simple to assemble and worked right out of the box, unlike a Windows PC. When I was a wee lad in grade school, I never could have guessed that the naming pattern for the imac would extend into just about all of Apple's products, and even into other companies.
I fell in love with the iphone after I first used it. When my friend jailbreaked his iphone and then let me try it out, I wanted it even more badly then before. And once Stevy Jobs dropped the price by two hundred dollars, it was starting to look really interesting.
But then I heard about the Google Phone.
Pretty much everything that was being said about the Google Phone was just a bunch of rumors, but what every tech blog on the planet was saying, the Google Phone was going to pwn the iphone in almost every way. Firstly, the OS would be Linux based (which would probably allow for easy third party applications to be written), it would have a digital camera, fairly large color screen, easy integration with all the online Google apps like Gmail, Gtalk, Google documents, calendar and all that good stuff. But best of all, it was going to be dirt cheap. Because supposedly, Google was going to give the phone away for very low prices (unlike the iphone and its initial price of $600 US) and would instead make money off of advertisement. Now if the only thing I would have to do for internet access anywhere and a nifty cool Linx-based phone that did everything but shave my sideburns, was to listen/read a few advertisements (and pay a hundred dollars initially), then I was all in.
Now just to clarify, offering free phone service is completely contrary to how the mobile phone industry currently functions. Most cellular service providers sell the service plan, and give you a phone for free. They're a bit like Gillete in that respect; free razors, but they request a newborn human child (for child labor, duh...) for every razor blade. Simply put, Gillete could either rape you once over the razor, or rape you every month for a pack of three blades (Ok, bad analogy, but you get the point). This is why I only shave once every three weeks; I may look pretty nasty at the end of three weeks, but in four years, Gillete has only managed to rape me once.
The point is, something like the rumored Google Phone would have the potential to change fundamently how the cellular industry works. Google could turn the industry on its head and give 'em all a good spankin'.
A few weeks ago, some blokes from Google came to the UCLA campus to give a workshop on how to interview and get a job at Google. They also gave a "tech talk" afterwards, telling us about all the cool stuff Google does. Obviously, they didn't release any big trade secrets during this tech talk. But of course, someone asks about the Google Phone. And the dude from Google responds teresely, "its just a rumor." That was the last and only think said about the Google Phone that whole night.
Of course, if I was working on some hi-tech phone that was going to rip the industry to shreds, thats exactly what I would say too. So his statement was pretty much meaningless from my standpoint.
But reccently, the tech blogs have pretty much reached the conclusion that the Google Phone is nothing but a rumor. What Google is really working on, is an Operating System and suite of applications for mobile phones. Which, from my standpoint, is pretty damn lame. Of course, whether or not Google decides to start offering free cellular service in return for advertisement is yet to be seen.