The IPad’s Not For Me

On virtually every other computer the software you use is a decision left solely to the user. Not on the iPad.

Tomorrow is iPad Saturday. I did not order one. I will not rush out and buy one. Though the concept of tablet computing seems very appealing, Apple’s modus operandi is stifling and backwards.

First the good news. I’ve grown more used to typing on my iPhone. A virtual keyboard isn’t as much of a problem as it once was (though it is decidedly nowhere near as good as a full tactile keyboard). With that in mind the idea of having a ‘slab’ of computer in my lap seems logical.

And, of course, the iPad is beautiful. Apple has perfected beauty in computing. They have no equal. There aren’t even pretenders!

My problem is I know what a computer can do (as do you). The iPad does not live up to modern expectation.

It cannot multitask. It cannot run any programs but those you download (usually purchase–but not always) from the iTunes Store–only the iTunes store. It has no camera. It is not a cellphone. Its battery isn’t replaceable.

When users clamored for Adobe Flash to be included on the iPhone, Apple said no. Too much battery strain. Too buggy and prone to crashing. Maybe, but that should be my choice. With the iPad “my choice” doesn’t exist unless it’s “their choice” first.

There are many who believe Apple doesn’t want Flash because it will allow downloadable apps to freely compete with those from the iTunes Store. That’s what I believe. That’s sad.

On virtually every other computer the software you use is a decision left solely to you. Not on the iPad. Because owners are dependent on the iTunes Store every installation has to be approved by them before it’s even considered by you! Apps have to be more than good. They have to be good and good for Apple.

Do I want a tablet computer? Yes. It seems a logical step.

I am willing to put up with a lot of these shortcoming on my iPhone because it’s main utility is being a phone. Right or wrong I am used to less choice with phones than with general computing devices.

It won’t be long before Asus or Dell or some other smart computer company releases their own tablet computer. Maybe it won’t be quite as pretty as the iPad, but it will be a lot more versatile. That’s when I’ll be ready to buy.

My Tech Support Question

It was all scary to Stef because it’s written in an obtuse way with lots of questions and comments that relate to arcane computing concepts

Stef called me at work this evening. For those of you not fathers, I’ll clue you in. It meant she wanted something. That’s fine. That’s what dad’s do.

Her iPod was throwing strange error messages via both iTunes and Windows Vista itself. The gods were not happy. She didn’t know what to do?

We arranged for it to be waiting for me accompanied by a piece of paper with her user name and password for iTunes–should I need it.

It was all scary to Stef because the messages were written in an obtuse way with lots of questions and comments that relate to arcane computing concepts. This is my wheelhouse, but for most people it might as well be written in Farsi.

Because Stef’s tunes are also on her laptop I wasn’t worried and the full restore is underway now. Why it crashed and burned is unimportant. It just needs to be fixed.

I do this stuff for a lot of my friends and family.

What I want to know is, what do people do who don’t have a Geoff do? I don’t know what Stef or a myriad of others I’ve helped would have done on their own?

Do people throw out devices like this because they’re physically fine but no longer operational?

Please let me know.

Video Editing Magic On My iPhone

It resides on the iPhone, so you edit with your fingers!

reeldirector-screen.jpgOK, this is very cool. No, more than cool it’s groundbreaking. The video attached to this entry is astounding for the mere fact it’s here–shot and edited on my iPhone. This isn’t a small incremental technological step–it’s a leap!

First let’s talk camera. The iPhone will never be confused for my DSLR, but it’s capable of photos meant to be used as Internet illustrators. The still and video camera performance is very good, especially when you consider the size.

Apple wisely put a wide angle lens on the iPhone. It is nearly the perfect focal length for a tiny camera because it allows you to be close while capturing a wide field. A wide angle lens also reduces shake.

Lots of phones have cameras. No need to be impressed yet.

The amazing part is an app I bought for $4.99. It is a video editor called ReelDirector. This is a simple editor with transitions and a font generator for titles. It resides on the iPhone, so you edit with your fingers!

One of our photographers at work said, “Ok, you can shoot and edit video on your phone…virtually putting me out of work!!”

It has not been easy to trim the source video. Whether that’s an acquired trait remains to be seen. It can be done.

This editor doesn’t support b-roll, so no covering long sound bites. It also won’t pull music from your iPod library–a missing feature the developer blames on Apple and their iron fisted control over the entire iPhone experience.

The titling feature is only available for opening and closing credits. You can’t “font” someone speaking on-camera.

I can’t believe I’m finding fault because this app is magical. No one has ever considered so daunting a task in so small a box. Video editing is usually a sophisticated challenge with some software suites running many hundreds of dollars per copy and demanding “heavy iron” computers.

This video is hosted on Youtube, meaning the quality has been reduced a little. You can see a higher quality Youtube version here. It’s still not too bad. See for yourself.

Snow – The Vacation Ends Abruptly

Our landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow streaming by horizontally

I’m writing this from the kitchen table. We’re home after a reasonably uneventful jaunt across the country. Of course our biggest worry was weather–which as you see wasn’t too bad.

semi snowy backyard.jpg

Actually we had two worries.

  1. We were scared we’d be stranded out west
  2. We were also a little spooked about driving home in whatever would be falling

Helaine packed an abbreviated change of clothes in our carry-on. Obviously that wasn’t needed. Both flights left on-time.

Here’s a little sample of what we saw leaving Ontario, CA on our first flight. If you’ve never been out west it’s worth watching. These mountains aren’t as tall as the Rockies but the contrast between mountain and desert valley is stark.

There’s a lot of unexplainable ‘stuff’ as you fly out west. There are structures in the middle of nowhere, unpaved roads the width of an interstate and individual single circles of green. Near Las Vegas we also saw plenty of housing developments stopped in various stages of incomplete.

Our second flight was a lot longer (2,294 miles between Las Vegas and Windsor Locks) than the quick hop from Ontario with a smattering of desert and mountain early on. Mostly we flew with the shade down. Helaine tried to sleep. I took advantage of the video and audio capabilities of my iPhone. There’s an iPod inside!

In anticipation of this trip I bought a set of Bluetooth headphones (Motorola S805) from NewEgg. For around $30 I was wirelessly connected. Very convenient and I like the ‘full cup’ style. I see they’re now ‘on sale’ for $50.

On the way out west I watched The Hangover. I had nothing to watch on the way back, but fixed that at McCarran Airport downloading about an hour’s worth of video podcasts over the free WiFi.

“We’ve slowed down,” Helaine said three and a half hours into the flight. I hadn’t noticed, but 30 seconds later we started descending–slowly.

If you’ve never flown through snow you should know it’s bumpy! It wasn’t hurricane bumpy (I have experience flying through hurricanes) but still a little unnerving, especially when the pilot talked about the very low ceiling at Bradley.

The landing lights were on really early. That highlighted the snow which streamed by horizontally.

Our landing itself was uneventful! In fact it was exceptionally smooth. I’m sure the pilots were thinking about limited runway traction and extra stopping distance as they greased it in.

It was snowing lightly as we taxied to the gate. Mainly light to moderate snow continued as we drove south. The roads were wet, but snow free, until our last mile home.

Tomorrow it’s back to work. I’m not sure I’m ready.

The Long Trip Home – McCarran Airport

In other news, the first tweet I read upon landing was Gil Simmons’ engagement! That was a surprise to me.

Uneventful flight from Ontario. Our plane leaves at 2:00 PST. Hoping for land-able weather at Bradley tonight. More than likely we’ll be fine.

At the moment I’m taking advantage of the free WiFi here to download a few things to watch on my iPhone (which contains an iPod). Just podcasts and the like. Nothing special.

In other news, the first tweet I read upon landing was Gil Simmons’ engagement! That was a surprise to me. Of course I hardly ever see Gil with our schedules at opposite ends of the clock.

It’s impossible to remove yourself from the stream of information today.

Back to CT later tonight. Aloha.

A Thanksgiving Travel Tip

This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

empty bdl terminal.jpgAs we kick off Googlepalooza ’09 I have a Thanksgiving travel tip. Travel on Thanksgiving! The main terminal at Bradley International is empty. The flight should begin boarding in less than a half hour. There will be plenty of open seats.

Today the TSA agents were so bored they were frisking each other! OK, I made that up. They still had little to do.

I’m on the floor right now, plugged in at deserted and unmarked Gate 5. We leave from Southwest’s Gate 6, across the hall.

The pilot and copilot just wheeled their bags down the jetway to the plane. The pilot’s in his late 40s, graying, built like a linebacker. The co-pilot is youngvand doesn’t have nearly enough seniority to be off on Thanksgiving.

I mentioned this before on Facebook, but it bears repeating. This will be a flight totally staffed by people without enough seniority to get Thanksgiving off. Please don’t take your anger out on me!

It’s a different vibe at the airport today. There are no business travelers. There’s no one around with that smug frequent flier attitude feigning indifference There are fewer chin held BlackBerrys.

Before we got here we dropped the pup off in Higganum with the couple who bred her. Roxie will be well taken care of and have a lot of new friends by the time her vacation is over.

Stef and Helaine were both worried about their own high emotions, which is why we all went, but everything was OK.

They asked if they could call and check on the dog… every day.

baggage at the curb at BDL.jpgWe are substantial travelers. Our suitcases are packed full. They were weighed at home to assure compliance with the 50 pound limit. They still got the striped “HEAVY” tag. The planeside crew will know the “Schleping Foxes” are taking to the skies.

Especially in the cold months flight times vary with the weather. At the moment this flight is forecast to arrive nearly an hour early. We’ll be up at 40,000 feet. Head winds must be very light.

It’s only 49&#176 in Las Vegas now. That will change quickly. The desert sees wild temperature swings. It will be sunny and in the upper 60&#176s upon our arrival.

I’ve got a movie to watch and plenty of tunes on the iPod portion of the iPhone. I’m also carrying a set of Bluetooth headphones. Mostly I’d like to sleep.

Given half the chance I’d fall asleep right now. With only three hours of rest last night I’m really tired.

Webinar World

Is there something missing? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all.

I took my shower and got ready for work early because I had a webinar today. I shouldn’t be excited about this kind of stuff, but I am.

In this case the webinar was from a vendor with some lessons on how to display winter weather. You know, little tips and techniques.

A few years ago I flew to Madison, WI for this same type of lecture. Today it was at the kitchen table. Someone’s saving a lot of money.

The session was hosted on Webex who claims to have an iPod webinar app. I downloaded and tried it, but halfway through it stopped receiving one part of the presentation. It was also very difficult to see small on-screen text on the smaller screen iPhone.

So there’s now an iPhone app I have installed which will probably not be used again.

Is there something missing in webinar world? Yeah. There were probably a dozen others attending, but I had no contact with them at all. At a ‘press-the-flesh’ meeting there’s always time to talk, kvetch and learn from the other attendees.

A friend who was monitoring the session from the vendor’s side sent me a text message. “What would the 20 year ago Geoff think of Geoff today?”

He’d be impressed with the technology and it’s ubiquity. He be amazed by my laptop and iPhone and high speed Internet access–things I could only dream about 20 years ago (and believe me, I did dream about them).

There’s another session Thursday. I’ve already tipped off the guys I work with that this might be a good idea for them too.

It’s No iPhone–Should It Be?

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can.

google-phone.jpgTo quote Jimmy Carter (out of context), I have lust in my heart. I’ve been looking at pictures of the new T-Mobile Googlephone and lusting.

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can.

OK, I know, that’s not the real name but close enough.

There hasn’t been a buzz in the mainstream media like for the iPhone or iPod. It’s only Google, not Apple producing the software and HTC, a Taiwanese company you’ve probably never heard of, behind the hardware. My editor at PC Magazine IM’ed the headline on another editor’s story this afternoon: “The T-Mobile G1 Is No iPhone.”

And yet there’s still lust in my heart. Why?

Actually, it’s simple and it’s summarized in this short paragraph from Sascha Segan writing on Gearlog (where I also write).

“I found out today that forget video recording (which the G1 doesn’t do) – the G1 doesn’t even have a video player. No fear, HTC reps said, there’s already a third-party video player in the App Market, and it plays iPhone formatted videos beautifully!”

Open source! It’s the reason I expect nerdy geeky boys to write killer apps for the G1–because they can. If Google and T-Mobile don’t stand in their way (I expect Google to be more open to this than T-Mobile) this phone and others like it will create their own excitement and market. T-Mobile, don’t stand in their way.

Right now there’s a lot of grousing in the dev community as Apple stands in the way of perfectly good iPhone apps because… well, just because. That shouldn’t happen on an open platform like Android, the open source operating system under the G1’s skin.

This past weekend Helaine asked about a Verizon commercial we saw. They were selling some overpriced music service. “Why,” she asked? Probably because the deal was formulated according to marketing potential instead of user desire.

Open source answers to user desire.

I still have a year on my at&t contract (it’s officially all lower case letters even though it looks wrong). I have a year to lust after everything new. Then, I have to curb my lust and become practical.

On The Trail, Learning

Rollerbladers have the best bodies – period. Runners are next, though not close. Bikers often look like they’re just trying to coast to an ambulance.

I did 7.1 miles today in 37 minutes. I’m happy. I’ve learned a few things, now that I’ve been biking.

Make sure you’re sitting correctly, otherwise you can get off the bike with some parts numb.

I need pockets. I had to leave my wallet. I didn’t take water.

The cord from my iPod is too short. I couldn’t stand on the pedals at all.

Speaking of iPod – Dylan, Shangri-las, 60s Motown, Dion, Willie Nelson. What the hell was I thinking?

Rollerbladers have the best bodies – period. Runners are next, though not close. Bikers often look like they’re just trying to coast to an ambulance.

View Larger Map

Continue reading “On The Trail, Learning”

Drama In The Air

My flight to Chicago was relatively easy. I had the iPod for the first time and listened to a long interview with Bill Murray and This Week in Technology with Leo Laporte.

I love Leo. He’s been a trailblazer in tech. The show was rudderless. I still listened all the way through. I just wanted more meat and more structure.

About twenty minutes out of Chicago a flight attendant came on the PA. “Is there a doctor, nurse or medical person on the flight?”

That only happens in the movies, right?

About ten rows behind me a woman had suffered a seizure. As I’d later find out, she had medication with her. This must not have been a total surprise.

You would guess this sort of thing puts you to the head of the line for landing. We hit the ground, hit the brakes, did a 250 degree turn and pulled right to the terminal.

The door popped open and in rushed three Chicago Fire Department EMTs.

I can’t tell you how the woman is. She looked unconscious as they moved her off in a wheelchair.

Before we landed, the crew asked everyone to stay seated and not go to the overhead bins. The instructions were followed.

The Chicago-LAX passengers are starting to get on. It will be a full flight. I’ve moved back a row and taken a window seat. Maybe I’ll see some snowcapped mountains.

Next stop Los Angeles.

Almost Gone

I’m pretty much done packing. The plane leaves at noon.

I hope Stef doesn’t read this. I’m starting to pack like her. No, not clothes, but my stuff weighs more.

For Clicky, I’ve got the tripod and monopod, five lenses and a flash unit. Oh – there’s the Gorilla Pod too. I normally carry three batteries and charger plus 3.5 Gb in compact flash memory cards.

I’ve got a computer and cell phone plus cables for both. Ditto with a GPS unit. And, on top of that, there are the army of power plugs and power bugs.

Stef passed her old iPod down to me. I’ve downloaded enough podcasts to fly to Burma. The iPod travels with earbuds and a cable. Though pink, it is now hidden in a black rubber skin, lest anyone question my masculinity.

This is nuts. All this stuff. Even I can see that, but I’m obsessed. It’s an illness.

The weather has been horrendous out west. San Francisco had 60+ mph gusts on Friday. The system is moving down the coast, though it’s weakening. I expect the pilot will be forced to wrestle the plane to the ground as we land at LAX.

We will chase the Sun, flying west at about 500 mph. It’s a losing battle. The Sun’s faster and won’t be stopping at Midway.

Even with three time zones, the clock will read 4:30 PM when we put down.

My plane flies from Hartford to Los Angeles with that stop in Chicago. Somehow, I’ve gotten it in my head to post a blog entry from my airplane seat as the plane briefly empties while we are on the ground in Chicago. My cellphone will act as the modem, bringing the Internet to my laptop.

Now I’m worried I’ve forgotten something.

iPhone Arrives

OK – Let’s get this out of the way first – I want one.

If there’s been a product launch more hyped than today’s, I can’t remember it. Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and the world went nuts.

Everywhere I’ve looked, there have been stories. Jobs was on CNBC this afternoon and Nightline this evening. David Pogue, writing in the NY Times, bragged of spending an hour with him, though mostly ignoring Jobs to play with an iPhone.

When I first saw it, I said, “too big.” Maybe clunky is a better description. On the other hand, it’s quite slender. Jobs said it was thinner than the Motorola Q.

Will it fit in my pocket or will I have to wear a cellphone holster?

What makes Apple so special… what made the iPod such an amazing breakthrough product, is their understanding of the user interface. The iPod has the best user interface of any electronics device ever made – period.

If you don’t have one, ask anyone who does how long it took them to learn how to use it? Zero. An iPod’s operation is obvious the moment it’s in your hand. The word is, “intuitive.”

Attention to the man-machine interface is what Jobs promised, and then demonstrated.

There is one physical button on the iPhone. Everything else is done from the 3.5″ high resolution touch screen. Menus change as needed. The interface adapts.

There’s a 2 megapixel camera onboard, but no video. It’s Apple. Aren’t they the computer company known for video? That’s a glaring omission.

I watched 31:05 of Steve Jobs’ keynote speech&#185 from Mac World before hitting pause. I am not a Mac guy. Jobs isn’t my savior. I thought his first 20 minutes were top notch. Then, his presentation began to bore me.

I’m not 100% sure why I want one. The iPod music portion is wasted on me, though I’d enjoy the ability to watch podcasts. It’s something I already do on the computer.

I am attracted by the ‘smart’ phone and the ability to carry email and web browsing in my pocket.

I don’t see a computer as a burden, but a tool to help me leverage life. Currently, that tool is only available to me at home and work. There are lots of new uses I can see and probably more I can’t.

Did I mention it’s a fun toy?

&#185 – Around 3:00 AM I watched the remainder. He’s a great pitchman, but sometimes runs out of steam or gets overly “Silicon Valley geeky.” Even I can’t take that.

Blogging Pays Off

A few weeks ago I wrote about the PokerStars “Blogger’s Tournament.” Me, and a few thousand of my closest friends, were invited to play in a poker tournament just because we blog.

Well, actually that’s not true. There was a catch. I had to run a little icon that showed I was in.

The tournament got underway today at 4:00 PM. There were 2247 entries, though that number is misleading. A significant number who qualified never played. Their chips were just blinded off until they were out.

The top 54 places got paid. From 54 to 51 received a PokerStars jacket. I was hoping not to win that.

Then there were entries in a weekly tournament, Ipod Nanos, entries in a World Series of Poker Satellite tournament and one World Series of Poker entry. Don’t poo poo that – it’s worth $10,000 plus $2,000 PokerStars throws in.

I finished 19th of 2247 – not bad. For my efforts I get a $370 entry in a tournament July 16th. The top 150 finishers get a World Series of Poker entry plus $2,000.

If I play then anything like I played today, I’m going to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it’s tough to play like I played today. Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

Looking At Video On The Web

I will sit online and watch twenty minutes of a Photoshop tutorial or other narrowcast that interests me. I won’t sit for twenty minutes of a compilation of stories – some of which, by definition, appeal to me less than others.

As I wrote yesterday, with a house full of Helaine’s friends visiting, I spent a lot of looking at online video. It quickly became obvious there’s a lot right and a lot wrong as far as video goes.

I’m not talking about content. There will always be good and bad content. This is about structure, access and indexing.

While mulling over what I would write in this entry, I had breakfast and browsed the Sunday Times.

THE NEWS Yahoo said it was backing off from a plan to bring television-style programming like situation comedies and talk shows to the Internet.

BEHIND THE NEWS As advertising grows on the Internet, there is a market for content as well. But the content that seems to be working best is created by individual users and takes the form of short videos, shared photos, blogs and other small-scale efforts. The Hollywood approach, epitomized by Yahoo’s hiring of Lloyd Braun, the former chairman of ABC Entertainment, in 2004, is no longer in favor. There had been speculation that the shift in strategy would result in Mr. Braun’s leaving the company, but he vowed last week that he would stay.

Yahoo!’s&#185 corporate wisdom seems to be right on. Internet video is not watched the same way as mainstream over-the-air video.

As far as I can tell, that point is lost on the news divisions of the major broadcast networks. NBC and ABC both present ‘conventional’ newscasts online. I’m glad they do, as opposed to posting nothing, but they have extremely limited utility.

Internet video done right is sharply focused – one subject. For news, that means offering stories one-by-one.

I will sit online and watch twenty minutes of a Photoshop tutorial or other narrowcast that interests me. I won’t sit for twenty minutes of a compilation of stories – some of which, by definition, appeal to me less than others.

Technology does exist to make a newscast random access, so I can pick and choose what I want to see. I don’t see that technology widely used.

In the pre-remote era there were ‘specials’ and ‘variety shows’ on TV. They’re gone, victims of cost and easy viewer choice. I think the same fate awaits conventional TV newcasts re-purposed for the Internet (or web only newscasts presented in virtually the same format as their on-the-air siblibgs) .

It’s a new age, and content must adapt.

What seems to be in its infancy is a way to find what you’re looking for and a standardization of format. Why must we fight between Windows Media, Real, Quicktime and Flash. Isn’t there already one or two that are actually superior to the others?

That was painfully obvious when I followed a link for a Simpsons video that went to After I watched, and was on the site, I couldn’t do much but randomly traipse around.

Yes, there were categories to click, but it was non-intuitive and a hodge podge. I ended up going to pages that I hadn’t intended to visit.

The same goes for Itunes. It looks organized (and Itunes, after all, is an adjunct to the Ipod, with the world’s best designed user interface), but I had trouble finding what I wanted, or even knowing whether what I was clicking was audio or video! And why is it necessary for Itunes to run in its own application and not my browser?

There is not yet a ‘Google’ for video – and that includes Google’s video search though this ad implies they understand there’s a problem). We desperately need one. We’re early in the game. Someone will figure it out before long.

Addendum – As I finished writing this, I came across a link for the Natalie Portman video from last night’s Saturday Night Live. Though NBC will surely end up objecting to and stopping this improper use of their content by, isn’t this the way SNL should be presented on the Internet – a piece at a time?

&#185 – Am I writing that correctly? The corporate name ends with an exclamation point. It just doesn’t look right set in type.

Video To Go

Yesterday Apple made the announcement. They are releasing a new iPod. This one does video.

Tonight at dinner one of my co-workers wondered who would want it? Who would use it? Simply – why?

No one knows the answer, of course. But everyone knows there is going to be some sort of paradigm shift in how video gets distributed.

It’s probably the theater owners who are most worried in the short term. There have been rumblings about releasing DVDs the same day a movie goes into theatrical release. As it is, the window between the two releases has been shortened greatly over the last few years.

Next to be worried will be TV stations. In the short term this isn’t as much of a threat to us as theaters.

Having mobile video is one thing. Getting live or fresh content to it quickly is another. And, though that hurdle will be cleared at some point, not yet… certainly not cheaply yet.

With the iPod announcement came word that shows like Desperate Housewives would be made available for the iPod the day after network airing, sans commercials, and for $2&#185.

Distributing programs via television stations is an expensive proposition for the TV networks. I suppose if they could ditch us, they would today. Right now, we’re the only way they can get tonnage. Our local programming brings masses of people to their national programming. Individual cable channels don’t even come close.

That might not always be the case, but it is now.

Years ago, radio was primarily local stations playing network programming. As things changed, some radio stations flourished. Others died. It all depends on signal (now cable coverage) and the aggressiveness of the ownership in protecting their turf.

I’d like to think I work for aggressive owners.

&#185 – It’s really $1.99… and $1.99 is really $2. So shoot me.