Tag Archives: Apple

Holiday Tech

I’m probably the worst choice for writing this article, but my raving at the office about my kid’s new Xbox 360 landed me the task.

First let me say that Happy Action Theater for the Kinect is just plain fun for all ages. That is what I have raved about, is the fantastic sense of humor and imagination the makers at Double Fine demonstrate in this whimsical entertainment masterpiece. My kids love it, and I’ll admit floating around on a rock taking pot shots at them with my own fireball shooting hands is pretty entertaining too. As a bonus it appears that they are offering a free game until December 31st. I’ll be back in a minute.

Ok, so now that I got my anecdote off my chest, let’s move on to the future tech, as there are some neat developments. Firstly, let’s talk about phones, I will skip the iPhone for once, and jump right to Androids. Why? We’ve told you before, iPhones rarely offer anything to talk about. They are usually a quarter to a full 6 mos behind the other devices out there. Sure, they make some polished devices, but they don’t believe in “bleeding” edge, and probably could not even be called “cutting” edge. They rest safe and sound on the established tech, and for many this is a great thing.

For those of you who are “bleeders” here’s the scoop. 1920×1080 on a PHONE!! No joke, it’s for real. I remember when the first laptops came out that could do that resolution. They were monsters. Mac users remember when the Macs supported that, in fact I think it’s still maximum on the iMacs… but a phone!?!! Yes, the HTC DNA boasts 1920×1080, that’s FULL HD. Of course with a special cable you can plug this right into your HD TV via HDMI. That takes first place in my book, but be warned. There are rumors that many graphically demanding games perform poorly on this device because of the high resolution. I’ve seen figures as low as 25% of the frame rate. They call this bleeding edge for a reason.

Next up, 4G. There are three main flavors of this: lte, HSPA+, and Wi-Max. Of course, Apple again missed the boat, their iPhone 4 was NOT 4G at all. By the time the iPhone 5 was finally getting 5Mbits/s on LTE Androids were pushing 40Mbits/s. Even here in Podunk, 16Mbits/s is not rare, unless you own the newest iPhone. Sure it’s faster than 3G but as usual, slower than the new Droids, and more expensive too. Solution? Almost any new droid, HTC DNA above, if you don’t want to “bleed” quite so much, then try the Motorola Razr HD. Respectable at 720p.

Finally, if you are a conservative techie try anything old now. iPhone 5s are dirt cheap now. $127 at Walmart, now that is a reasonable price for old tech. Remember old tech, is tried and true. You are bound to have less trouble when the technology has been tested. Gen 3 iPads at $400 we could never recommend though. You can get a fully functional laptop for that price. Or for < $250 you could get a Chromebook. These represent a new way to think about computing, and “the Cloud” (despite its 70s hippy connotations) has some real promise for average users that just want don’t want to worry about the safety of their data. If you’re a power user you probably already caught Wozniak’s predictions that the cloud trend will reverse itself for power users. That NAND (solid state) technology is taking data centers by storm. If you haven’t have a look: Wozniak on Forbes.

So there you have it. Rumor has it that the XBox 720 is on the horizon, but Microsoft has claimed that the 360 is only half way through its life-cycle. Whatever the truth of that is the Xbox + Kinect bundle has been popping up dirt cheap. A colleague told me to chip in his 2 cents, and remind readers that the PS3 (Sony’s console) can play blu-ray discs (which XBox cannot) as well as offers a free online services whereas Microsoft charges for XBox live. As an XBox user there is no way I’ll be paying them for XBox live, which saves me on two levels. Of course the monthly fee, but also the temptation to purchase any multi-player title that requires said subscription.

4G, HD smart phones, and amazing deals on respectable last-generation technology like the iPhone 5 are all things to keep in mind. While I wouldn’t be too interested in a Chromebook myself, it does seem like it should be intriguing to non-power users looking for simplicity.

Have funny, and Happy 2013!

iPhone 5 predictions.

The iPhone is selling below expectation, but that doesn’t mean much. Since when does expectation not follow an indefinite upward trend? Investors know that indefinite upward trends don’t exists. As usuall they limited their initial production batch. So they “sell-out” even when sales are below expectations. That’s just good marketing. 5,000,000 is a lot of phones.

The long-term determination of a post-Jobs Apple may not be their marketing. It definitely won’t be their screen tech. It most-likely won’t even be their processor. What it will probably be is their battery.

Apple has a long history of sealing batteries into their products almost as though they never expect this consumable part to ever wear out. A throwback to 15 years ago that has since been innovated out of everything right down to musical greeting cards. However, Apple is always thinking about the release cycle.

For the iPhone 4 the official cost of replacing your battery is $79 and up to 5 days (Apple Service Page). However, with most cell plans, the phone itself doesn’t even cost that much. So what will people do? They will buy the next one. Ingenious… but…

A big BUT, is that LTE (4G) is a battery burner. If Apple’s iPhone 5 battery is anywhere near as obsolete as some of the other components (like the screen tech, it’s still LCD instead of OLED which also happens to burn much more battery), then they will be disappointing users within a month or two of release when the charge capacity falls. Even under warranty a 5 day turnaround is no fun.

So come Thanksgiving time, keep an ear out for the news.

iSad? The passing of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs passed away this week. It was surprisingly difficult to come to grips with our feelings on this matter. We do not hide the fact that we are not Apple fans, however there were admirable qualities to Steve Jobs that we cannot deny. We broke our thoughts down to a few main characteristics of the man and his legacy:

1. Trend Setter
2. Business Sense
3. Clever

As we discussed these virtues, we worked through the second layer, what about these virtues made us dislike what Steve Jobs stood for, and the answer was simple, we did not like that the list above was not what those sold out to Apple would list, they would list something like:

1. Innovator
2. Visionary
3. Leader

This is the disparity. In fact in the wake of his passing we have seen claims that he invented everything from tablet computers to mp3 players. We have seen friends lament as though a dear friend has just passed away. We have seen hero worship in the highest form, and most of that goes back to the list of characteristics that he managed to convince those fans were true. That is why we (and others like us) cringe at the praise. It was deception, and many were happy to have the wool pulled over their eyes. Macs are trendy, true, but there is very little in the way of innovation to be found. From mice to touch screens to GUIs, none of these are inventions of Apple, they are assimilations.

So let’s recognize him for his incredible talent, but be honest about what his talent was. He was a fashion designer for gadgets. In a world notoriously lacking aesthetic savvy this turtleneck clad “Coco Chanel” convinced his customers to spend more for a label. It’s brilliant, and it is what fashion has been about for more than a century. My mom can tell you that her Windows computer “just works” … but she does not love Windows the way Apple users love their little Apple stickers. Steve Jobs masterfully created a brand that was loved by many, and that is a talent in itself.

We doubt that the PC vs. Mac war will end soon. The people who get things done on computers will usually admit that both tools will do the job. The most savvy can do more with PCs because their PCs have better specs than any Mac. We do not mind if you want a stylish Mac on your desk, they are prettier than any PC we’re aware of. What we mind is when we hear nonsense about security and reliability come up. When someone makes the generalization “it’s better”… The fact is not only are they not better, but they are worse in many ways. “It just works” another farce. Anyone with significant computer experience can list as many (if not more) ways that a Mac does NOT work, than a PC. My computing amateur friend put it quite nicely when he said: “I know I’ll pay more for less, and that you can do more with a PC than with a Mac, but I like these, they’re really nice.” … That’s what I call an informed decision. Steve Jobs was an artist, as any good fashion designer should be, he was a genius, but not in technology, in style. He deserves respect, but for the right reasons.

As for all of the disinformation and OTT hero worship I’ll leave you with this article: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3318250.html

We voiced months ago our opinion that for many a cult of personality has formed. Cohen (in his article above) does a good job describing our feelings on the matter. Now in his passing quotes are popping up like religious proverbs. Some are wrongly attributed, and others are so uncharacteristic of his actual life that they appear to also be incorrect. There is a real possibility that some spiritual icon is forming around this. I highly suggest a look at Cohen’s article and resisting any urge you have to bring about the, as Cohen says: “beatification of the blessed Jobs of Silicon Valley”.

Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO

This took nearly 2 years longer than we expected, however Steve Jobs has finally just resigned. Preliminary reports from back in January made it clear that his health problems were not a thing of the past, however the big test has arrived. Is Apple a cult of personality, and does the share lock down from today signal what will likely amount to a popping bubble?

Our guess is that P/E can be expected to drop to perhaps below $10 in coming weeks as a sign that Steve Jobs is Apple. If it manages to hold then perhaps there is more substance to this company than we’ve given them credit for. Whatever happens our condolences to Mr. Jobs. We hope him the best.

It was once said that Steve Jobs generated “A reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around…” (Bud Tribble working with Jobs in 1981). Unless he manages to pass on his deceptive powers to a disciple Apple should decline and ultimately vanish. However, while we are certainly no experts on the dark arts, it would seem with so many entranced with his spell that the padawan would not have to accomplish quite the feat that Jobs has. So it could happen. The opportunity is coming quickly for another guru to establish dominance. Be on the lookout.

 

HP, DELL, Microsoft

Some major changes this week on the PC front. While DELL announced a more conservative income outlook HP has announced that they will sell their PC unit altogether. While the market has weighed in with its opinion already, it is possible that they are wrong. Specifically about Microsoft & Dell. If HP feels that they will do better focusing on server equipment, they should do it. They do produce some of the most popular server equipment in the world. However, poking Dell or Microsoft for it is illogical. Dell is the second most popular PC builder at 25%, and when HP bows out Dell is well positioned to pick up their quarter and perhaps rise to well over 30-40%. Interestingly enough Apple still sits below a third of either of those two and really does not even qualify being beaten out by even Acer.

Finally there’s Microsoft. By far the most popular OS in the world. We recently ridiculed articles claiming that Windows dropping below 90% market share was newsworthy. It’s a fact, for every 10 computers sold in the world, 9 of them are Windows computers.

So make what you will of current news, however the fact remains, no matter how many “experts” bloviate their predictions about the future the present is the only thing sure. For now Microsoft and Windows 8 are still the biggest player in the business. Anyone who proceeds on the fictional laurels of delusions of visionary brilliance and attempts to operate a business without Windows will sentence their disciples to drastically degraded possibilities. That’s the current reality, and has been so for 20 years, when the only major player to compete with Windows was Novell. There are many who get by with Linux or OSX, but they do so at their own loss. NTFS remains the most flexible and powerful file system for networks to this day.

Windows users, don’t apologize for using the most advanced operating system in the world. That’s the present reality.

Google’s Monopoly

google desperateWe’ve discussed this before and will likely discuss it again. Google. Google is again being scrutinized concerning their business practices. Anyone who has worked hard to generate significant search engine optimization for a client will know that Google keeps it a moving target. Their motto is “Don’t be evil.” However that hardly qualifies as verifiable transparency and accountability. The idea is nice, but what happens when their income streams thin out? About 8 or so years ago well financed marketing managers were falling all over themselves to give Google money. A click for Mesothelioma was worth $75 or more. That’s just one click!

It sounds absurd and that’s what it was. It took a while for the executives to realize that their ROI was going to make them look quite silly. In fact, many remained in denial for years. They dreamed that they could just pay Google and get all the sales they wanted. They assumed that the lack of conversions (or actual sales) was a mistake of their staff and just tried again with a different “guy”. Like someone who paid too much for their car (or a Mac owner) they bragged to their friends about how great their hot rod is. Their friends jumped in too. However, when pay-per-click did not deliver much beyond bills, as the now proverbial “ad blindness” set in and clicks only kept getting more expensive the “fancy car” failed to deliver for many of the markets that patronized it. The inexperienced still rush to buy up their “keywords” in hopes of a marketing miracle. However, the only marketing miracle is that Google made a killing in a market that had the lifespan of a Great Dane.

Great danes have a short life span at about 8 years.
Great Dane’s life span is about 8 years

So the game is over, the hay day is exhausted, and Google is handing out vouchers for $75, $80, and $100 worth of free ad space. Sparky, our beloved but old Great Dane is spending most of his days sleeping on his mat and the vouchers amount to putting vitamins in his food. All they will do is allow the uninformed to discover for free how little value there is left in PPC advertising. After they’ve spent their $75 voucher and generated a few hundred clicks and maybe 2 or 3 conversions into something whose return amounts to ten or twenty bucks, then only fuzzy math will convince them to spend more. It’s an act of desperation that will mostly net folks that cannot use a calculator. There are some niches that this works in, but it is but a shadow of what it once was.

So where does that leave corporate Google and their motto “Don’t be evil?” It’s easy to do the right thing when the wind is blowing your way, but true character is only demonstrated when things get tough. It’s obvious there aren’t any Mac fans here, but one thing Steve did manage to do is create a sustainable fantasy. Google’s PPC fantasy was not sustainable. So what is Google doing to remain profitable? After all, “organic” search results don’t pay them, or at least they shouldn’t. The funny money valuations of “audience potential” are the stuff bubbles and bankruptcies are made of. Enter the FTC.

The Federal government, along with a lot of the more paranoid of us techie types, have our suspicions that Google’s “organic” results aren’t really as “organic” as they appear. You can believe what you’d like, but a company that built its business on scraping other people’s sites for content only to turn around and ban other sites that do the same thing citing “copyright” violations as their grounds sure doesn’t seem capable of not “being evil.” Press releases can say all kinds of things, but the cash cow was adWords and that dog just ain’t hunting. Android is great, and nobody really knows for sure, but on the face it seems to be open-source and royalty free. In fact there are rumors that Google has been paying manufacturers to use it. Yes, maybe 5 years ago Google could afford to have high standards, maybe they can for another 5 years. But, try to knock Wikipedia out of the top spot on a key term for your niche market, try to get about.com out of your way. About.com just so happens to run Google ads, Wikipedia, well while their is no obvious connection they are Google’s example of a “content is king” site. So it may well eat up so many SERPS simply as evidence in Google’s “don’t be evil” favor. If corps are paying for “organic” SERPS positions the connection will not be obvious. If Google is purposely burying their competition on top searches you can bet they will have some more obscure examples to show the Feds, and if they don’t now they will when the time comes.

What will the FTC find? It just depends on how deeply they dig, but Google is a corporation and they will do what they need to to keep the revenue coming. What will the FTC do if they do find impropriety? Well, here’s our guess, they will find a young man named Saddam Hussein and make him an honorary citizen of Detroit, then wink at him and tell him to “do the right thing.” In other words, it’s not likely any good will come of it. Sure Google is gaming the system. At least they have demonstrated a realization that there are limits to how much we will tolerate before giving Bing another chance. The government on the other hand seems to see no limit at all to how far they can manipulate. I say if Google wants to sell search engine positions let them. Just let the public know what they’re doing and let us decide how we deal with them. What we don’t need is “ObamaSearch 2011”.

Windows 8 Impressions

I began this article with plans to have at Microsoft for the same reasons I had at Apple on OSX Lion. Dragging desktop interfaces down to the level of mobile devices is an absurd strategy. However, Microsoft has been accused for years of lacking ingenuity. However upon reviewing the tidbits available on Windows 8 I’m quite certain that whatever may come while Steve Jobs is still implementing ideas he had 27 years ago (or so he claims with iCloud), Microsoft really seems to have some new ones. It might be time to get some stock in M$FT.

As I saw these colored tiles pop up on the screen I thought: “here we go again”… However, it really is not like anything we’ve had before. HTML5, javascript, running the desktop! This is very exciting. A: “Mosaic of Tiles… Tiles are better than icons for several reasons…” … I actually buy that. Snap an app, alt-tab. “Thumbs” keyboard… I’m sure the fan boys and “geniuses” we like to ridicule so much here will find a way to claim that these are all stolen from what would have been Steve Jobs’ intellectual property given enough time for him to come up with it (and perhaps will file a lawsuit to boot). I frankly don’t care. While OSX is releasing what amounts to service packs as “new products” Microsoft has been busy. By the time Apple has OSX service pack 4: Sea Horse, or Tiger Lily, or whatever they call it next, I just hope Windows can get some good Q/A done despite their bureaucratic tar pit. If a mobile OS has a chance at beating Android this is how it would be done. I’m just happy to have a win/win. In fact I may need to get to work on figuring out how to dual boot my phone!

Momentarily remove your robe of resistance to change and take a watch yourself, do you see what I see?




Brave Predictions

android and flashAdobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announced at the D9 conference yesterday that “Android will overtake iPad just like it did the iPhone.” You may remember roughly a year ago when we mentioned that Apple’s decision to block Adobe Flash on the Mac would prove fatal to it’s longevity, well perhaps that one thing will not, but the overall philosophy is what is unsustainable. Sure, it is possible for Toyota to sell vehicles with their hoods welded shut, in fact, given the right hype they could get off to a record start. I can see the advertisements now: Cool Car: “What’s that, your hood opens? That’s so yesterday.” … Geeky Old Car: “How do you expect a mechanic to fix you if they can’t get to your engine?” … Cool Car: “I don’t expect to need fixing.” … Nice gimmick, but who exactly are we fooling here?

So back to Android and to our tech-savvy audience. The platform is wide open and we have a lot of fun developing Droid apps. Currently we still prefer the old and reliable Eclipse environment. We combine that with DroidDraw (I personally prefer to just type type the XML and avoid the inconsistencies) for layouts and have slowly gotten brave enough to do significant testing in the emulator before putting it on our devices. There are daily arrivals of some great libraries on GitHub and most of these are OpenSource. We’d love to hear of anyone developing their mobile apps solely in Flash (or Flex) on AIR. We have a client looking for this and could not honestly claim any experience with it yet, but you can bet we’re on it. It has been possible for over a year now, but my concern is what happens with phones that don’t have Flash? Is it still too early to recommend this to clients?

Well, this article will have to remain a “to-be-continued”. Until we get a better feel for the potential. Narayen may be producing precisely the buzz he’d hoped to.

Quality Assurance

As the cost of Sony’s failure to recognize a dysfunctional development team reaches estimates of over $4 billion we hope that corporations all over the planet are taking note. Among the the other winners of the most dysfunctional quality assurance processes Amazon’s cloud is also near the top. Amazon’s low standards are evident at just a glance, however ugly doesn’t always mean insecure. Then there are Apple developers who are being sued for using Apple’s toolkit. Doing it the way Apple told them to now makes them liable to monetary damages? Brilliant.

Being positioned the way we are VeraciTek regularly gets calls from recruiters. Most of them Asian, and many of them quite confused about what we do here. So the phone rings an average of 3 times a day with job offers from corporations using head hunter agencies to supplement their workforce. It has proven quite revealing. Not only are these folks confused, but they are in mass production mode. We decided to make the most of these calls to try to gauge some details about what process these corporations think will provide them with quality services. The result has been astounding.

Firstly, as we already mentioned, these “recruiters” are in mass production mode. They talk fast, and they are looking for keywords. Without exception they fail to answer correctly even the most simple IT questions, and often have requirements that are impossible. When was the last time you met someone with 15 years of .NET programming experience?

Secondly, almost without exception, these corporations reject the possibility of telecommuting. They want a warm body in a cube. Despite the indisputable fact that the office environment is counterproductive in almost every way for highly skilled programmers. I suppose if they don’t know what you’re doing they can at least watch you doing it. We exhausted this angle because we thought there may be potential of injecting our services in place of such a role, however this is not an option in what claims to be a “tech savvy” environment. At least not yet.

Finally, the projects usually range from 4-12 months but they call them “full time” positions. We are stumped as to how they have come to the conclusion that if they just hire a programmer that in 4-12 months their project will be done. Who exactly made that estimate? We did get asked to be on a team of 5 meant to conquer a request in 3 months. The titles of each of these members were very specific too. “Web Designer, with CSS experience.”, “Senior C# .NET programmer with experience in the health care industry.”, “2 Junior C# .NET programmers”, and the cornerstone role, “.NET Business Analyst”. What is a .NET Business Analyst?

Now back to Sony. Where did they get their “talent”? How many of those developers where actually capable of the keywords they put on their resumes? Again, where is the brilliant young guy who told them months or even years ago that the process was not working? Wherever you are we’d like to meet you. You’re just the kind of developer we want working with us. As for the rest of that team happily averaging a line of code per week through the BNDP (bureaucratic nightmare development process), wonder where they are? Hopefully not building your company’s next killer app.

OSX Lion Preview Review

Here’s a quick summary of about 30 minutes with OSX Lion (© Apple):

1. Little “lights” under icons in dock were by default turned off in Lion (© Apple).
2. Smaller control buttons on the windows.
3. There is a new link in the dock called “launchpad” that makes your desktop look just like an iPhone/iPad (© Apple).
4. Address book looks like a book.
5. Strange sliding effect on finder view selector.
6. The finder’s (apple copyright lion Apple) left pane is now nearly identical to windows 7 explorer’s left pane.
7. The mail application looks quite different and again not in a good way.
8. Safari (© Apple) finally supports full screen.

In short, I may suggest some reservation when your desktop OS is modeling its “innovations” after a 4 year old mobile device. There are rumors of pending “multi-touch” capability but our touch-pad did not indicate any sign of it. If this is for touch screens they must be planning to tabletize their iMacs (© Apple) or something since it is obvious that touchscreens in a desktop formfactor are impractical. You think your carple tunnel is acting up now? Try holding your hand up in the air for long periods of “touch time”.

The beta is buggy and does not appear to behave correctly. It really looks like they may be attempting to create a 1 size fits all OS for all devices. Safari (© Apple) finally supports full screen. Something most other browsers have done for longer than we can remember. I used to use Netscape’s full screen mode, which means it’s definitely been around a while.

Those little lights in the doc that tells you the app is running are by default turned off. This could be a further hint at their plans to clamp down on mult-tasking the same way they have on their small devices. Windows 7’s “glass” box around the icon is synonymous with this. Exposé (© Apple) has a strange habit of overlapping the windows which seems to be a bug & dashboard (© Apple? If not, I’m sure they’ve tried to) looks different. The window comes from the side and is no longer transparent. Perhaps something not finalized.

Scrolling by default is backwards! Thankfully this can be fixed in mouse settings.
Apple (© Apple) is really in love with their own mobile OS, so much so that they are willing to deprecate their desktop OS features in favor of the mobile OS. Very counter-intuitive strategy. IMO.

However, last but not least, the most exciting change in OSX Lion (© Apple) so far! Drum roll please… Resizing windows from any side and as a special bonus, window animations! Welcome to the last decade Steve Jobs (© Apple).

So Apple (© Apple) manages to simultaneously salute the other OSes with some of their copycat enhancements while oddly moving toward what appears to be constraining a full computer to the input and formfactor limitations of a PDA. We can certainly cheer the prior.

As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than Ubuntu’s “jiggly” windows. Or as I like to refer to them, the Jiggy Windows… or as the song goes “na na na na na na, getting jiggy windows.” But, Apple (© Apple) has done well to take a clue from them. Once again we will certainly be astounded to see how Steve (© Apple) spins these imitations as innovations.

Credits: thanks to Apple (© Apple) for sending the Lion (© Apple) Preview DVD and thanks for making it the easiest yet to install on my 5 year old Dell.
And thank you Dell for making the M1710. An amazing machine.

Disclaimer: We are not sure that Apple (© Apple) has ©ed the word Lion (© Apple) however since we are aware (© Apple) of their (© Apple) propensity for lawsuits (© Apple) we figure it can’t hurt (© Apple) to © the heck out of this.