Apple And HTC: Let The Suits Begin

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

apple-iphone-3g.jpgAs a geek these are exciting times. Smart phones like the iPhone, Androids and Microsoft’s still-to-be-seen efforts are putting major computing in your pocket. They’re powerful enough that I’ve sometimes been guilty of disregarding my dinner companions as I work the phone (actually everything but the phone).

Of course nothing like this happens in a vacuum. Everyone tries to protect their territory. There’s so much my iPhone can do, if only Steve Jobs would say yes!

Seriously, my phone is purposely crippled in many ways.

An example is the Dragon Dictation app. It does an amazing job of translating spoken words to text. Unfortunately Apple says it can’t speak directly to the email or SMS programs. In order to use DD you have to cut and paste.

Though approved by Apple this applet is hidden from the iPhone’s most powerful features. It’s not that the software can’t perform this task, it’s been prohibited from performing it!

By keeping programs like Dragon Dictation separated from other functions Apple has made a powerful feature nearly worthless. I love the app. I never use it!

This is totally Apple’s choice. They could let it happen tomorrow and I’m sure Dragon would have the updated software waiting.
This is just one in a series of arbitrary or puzzling decisions.

Some friends say I should just ‘jailbreak’ the phone–remove Apple’s grip with a simple unauthorized software download. Good idea, though jailbreaking alone will not make this particular software work as it should.

Maybe I own the iPhone, but only under a strict license which says what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t load into it. It’s as if your Ford was only allowed to use Ford gasoline and could only be repaired with Ford parts. Maybe you should only be able to chill GE water in your GE refrigerator.

Don’t get me wrong, this phone is killer. I love it. I am frustrated though because I can see what is being done to keep Apple as gatekeeper.

Now Apple is reaching out to keep competitors from competing. Yesterday they sued HTC, who makes smartphones under their own name and for others. This has to do with HTC’s phone that use Google’s Android operating system.

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” – Steve Jobs

Apple is enforcing its software patents. That itself is pretty controversial as software patents are a recent ‘innovation’ seemingly granted broadly and with little scrutiny. A software patent case is on its way to the Supreme Court right now.
Though companies with these patents say they are (and probably are) just protecting their investments in research and development, others say patents on software limit innovation.

It’s interesting to hear organizations perceived as liberal, like the Electronic Freedom Foundation use concepts normally reserved for the right.

Software innovation happens without government intervention. Virtually all of the technologies you use now were developed before software was widely viewed as patentable. The Web, email, your word processor and spreadsheet program, instant messaging, or even more technical features like the psychoacoustic encoding and Huffman compression underlying the MP3 standard—all of it was originally developed by enthusiastic programmers, many of whom have formed successful business around such software, none of whom asked the government for a monopoly. So if software authors have a proven track-record of innovation without patents, why force them to use patents? What is the gain from billions of dollars in patent litigation? – http://endsoftpatents.org/

None of this seems to be happening for our (my) benefit.

The Frustration Continues

In a few seconds you can find the 2nd male lead from an obscure 60s sitcom. Are there facts more esoteric or more well hidden?

Oh Google, you’re like a god to me.

No, seriously. For this and most other websites, Google controls who lives and dies. Isn’t that part of God’s job description?

Google drives the Internet. The percentage of Internet hits that can be directly credited to Google is mind boggling. Google has made finding the obscure simple.

The whole concept is Earth changing. Think about it. In a few seconds you can find the 2nd male lead from an obscure 60s sitcom. Are there facts more esoteric or more well hidden? Without Google (and to a much lesser extent, the other search engines), there’d be no way to find them.

Unfortunately, that means when you’re on Google’s shit list, you’ve got real Internet trouble.

Five months or so since hackers broke into this site, I still feel the results. My traffic is way off. Today is a good day and it’s about half of what it was.

I’m no more self absorbed and boring than I was five months ago. It’s got to be their fault!

Even today, Google’s webmaster tools tell me geofffox.com’s most important keywords are:

1. crack

2. serial

3. key

4. torrent

5. code

6. mp3

7. keygen

Those words have been gone since January!

Google is a lot slower than you’d think. Pages are indexed quickly (I have posted an entry and found it on Google 20 minutes later), but integrating data from a site into more complex search results takes time. And as its computers decide how to value what I’ve written, Google’s opinion of me reflects its mistaken belief I’m some sort of outlaw.

It might have been worse. Since the break-in this blog has been more finely tuned to reflect what Google expects from a valuable site. Over the long run, that should matter for something.

I’m not sure why traffic is important to me, but it is. My income from this site is pennies a day. Actually, revenue has fallen much faster than traffic, an understandable effect of fewer search engine referrals.

Bottom line, the whole hassle since January continues and continues to be frustrating.

April 1st At The Geeks

It is April Fools Day. We have Photoshop. Let the games begin!

My favorite, so far, today comes from the Geeks. Every day I get an emailed ad from these people. I seldom buy, but I always look. I, after all, am a geek. Most days I’d like to be buying what they’re selling.

I began to read today’s ad and immediately knew what it was. The problem is, the product described is getting very close to really existing. When it does, I want one!

No, actually, I want one now. And that’s no April Fools joke.

Presenting the Amazing GeekThing All-in-One Cell phone, PC/PDA, MP3/Video Player/Recorder, Talking GPS, Universal Remote & More!

The future is here NOW

Steffie Goes To College

Every life has milepost days. Yesterday was certainly one of them, as we took Steffie to college and helped her move into the dorm.

Make no mistake about it. This has affected me. But whatever I’m feeling pales in comparison to what Helaine and Steffie are feeling. I can claim to understand, but I can’t.

Our day started very early. It was supposed to start just early, but Helaine couldn’t sleep. When I woke up, a few hours before my scheduled time, she was already out of the shower.

We planned to leave the house at 7:30 and were pretty much on schedule.

If you’re reading this, waiting for the moment when the wheels fell off the wagon, you might as well stop now. This day went exceptionally smoothly. Nearly everything went as planned and the college was shockingly prepared and organized.

Is this my life we’re talking about?

The trip to Long Island took around two hours. There is a ferry available, but it only makes sense if you are going to far Eastern Long Island – not us. We headed down the Connecticut Turnpike which becomes the New England Thruway at the New York State line.

As we passed over the Throgs Neck Bridge, I realized that at some time Steffie would be making this trip on her own. I wanted to let her know about some tricky exiting.

An hour and a half into a two hour trip is too late to start. The best way is to let her drive it some time, with me in the passenger’s seat.

As we pulled on campus, a uniformed guard moved toward the car. Before Steffie went to her dorm, did she have her 700 number?

Sure, it was under a room and a half’s worth of stuff!

Steffie and I set out for the Student Center. This was actually a good thing, because she was able to get her student ID, which she would need for virtually everything else.

Next stop, the dorm. Steffie’s room is on the 6th floor of a 13 floor tower. The building is poured concrete, with some brick and cinder block. I would suppose if you’re going to build a structure to hold hundreds of 18-22 year olds, you’d want to make as little of it flammable as is possible.

The concrete looks like it was poured into wooden molds, so the grain pattern of the wood is still visible on the building’s exterior. I’m sure some architect somewhere will wince when he reads this, but I like that look. At least dull, drab concrete is given some modicum of texture.

Another campus cop, dressed like a park ranger, was near the dorm, directing traffic. He asked me if I could squeeze into a spot, which I did. The rear hatch of the Explorer was poised at the edge of the sidewalk. Perfect.

We walked inside where Steffie registered for the dorm, got a sticker added to her ID and a key for her room (don’t lose it – replacements are $150). Then we moved back outside for the surprise of the day.

The college had a small fleet of wheeled bright orange carts. Instead of hand carrying a car’s worth of stuff, we filled up the cart (twice) and rolled it to the elevator and then the sixth floor.

Steffie’s room was ‘prison modern’. It’s small room, with large window. The floors are some sort of easily cleaned, plastic derivative. There were two desks, each with a hutch, two dressers and two large standing hanging closets.

Near the door was the outlet for high speed Internet and telephone access. It, and the cable TV/phone jack, were the only real mistakes of the room. In order to bring the Internet to the desk across the room, you’d need to run the school supplied Ethernet cable across the floor… or go out and buy a fifty foot cable (which is what I did).

I thought Steffie had overpacked… and maybe she did… but she managed to squeeze everything into her half of the room. Once she put some photo montages and other personal touches on the wall, the room began to look homey.

While Helaine and Steffie fixed the living space, I tackled the electronics. Her computer quickly connected to the school’s network. Her two speakers and subwoofer sounded great on her desk.

At one time a student would pack up a small stereo system for a dorm room. There’s really no reason to do that anymore. Steffie’s laptop will serve as her stereo. It’s loaded with all the MP3’s that are in her iPod, and then some. Plus, it will play CDs.

All this time, while the unpacking and set up was going on, Steffie was alone. Her roommate, coming from Kansas, had not yet arrived. Half the room was warm and fuzzy. The other half was Cellblock-G sterile.

Being on the sixth floor and facing west, the room has a great view. The building in the center of this photo is North Shore Towers (where my friend Peter’s parents once lived), about eight miles away.

As the afternoon moved along, we realized there were a few items we had forgotten, so we headed out, looking for a ‘big box’ store to load up.

When I went to college, there was an old black and white TV in the common area in the basement. With its rabbit ears antenna, we could only get a few fuzzy signals. The was Boston’s Back Bay, where even a rooftop antenna brought ghostly signals and where cable wouldn’t be introduced for at least a decade or more.

Today, there is cable TV in each room! Steffie has multiple channels of HBO. Hey, we don’t have that at home!

We had decided to wait on getting her a TV until we got there. And, quite honestly, there wouldn’t have been room in the car.

First stop was Best Buy. It must have been a cold day in hell for me to walk in there, because Best Buy and I just don’t get along. I don’t want to go into the whole story, but my last trip to a Best Buy, much closer to home, ended with me screaming at the manager, “OK then, call the cops.”

We found an off brand 20″ TV for… Oh, go ahead, guess. I’m waiting.

The TV was $87.99. How is that humanly possible?

Forget the labor and parts. How can you ship a weighty box halfway around the world and build a Best Buy on the profit from this thing? I’m not sure how is possible. The TV has remote control and input jacks for a DVD and/or VCR.

The remote came with batteries!

We also picked up a little DVD player. Sure, the computer can play DVDs, but this is what she wanted… and again, it was dirt cheap. The DVD player was $31.99.

Here’s what I can’t figure out. How can this TV/DVD combination sell for less than the frames for my eyeglasses? There’s some disconnect here… or the ability to make a boatload of money producing cheap frames.

The TV fit nicely on top of Steffie’s dresser. The DVD player needed to be turned into one corner. It’s not optimal, but it will do. It’s a dorm room, after all.

Next stop for us was the theater for a lecture on fire safety. I had already given Steffie my own cautionary tale about fire alarms and dorms. It will go off often. She still needs to leave. She can’t take the chance it will always be a false alarm.

There was another paragraph here about the lecturer, his demeanor and his warmth. I have removed it because I don’t want to be sued. ‘Nuff said.

Evening was approaching and Steffie’s roommate was still a no show.

At the lobby of the dorm there was a short list of who wasn’t there. The list grew shorter as names were crossed off. Not this one. She was top of the list and still missing in action.

We went to a barbecue on the intramural field. There were previously warm hot dogs and cheeseburgers (with unmelted cheese on the burgers) and we ate away.

Time was running short. Helaine and I had to return to Connecticut. We didn’t want to leave Steffie before the roommate arrived, but we had no choice.

Our goodbyes were tearful. Steffie put on wide sunglasses, but tears still poured out. Helaine was no less emotional.

After being with Steffie virtually every day for 18 years, we would be separated. Helaine will be seeing her in a month. It will be longer for me.

If you would have asked me how Steffie would fare in college a year ago, I wouldn’t have had a ready, positive answer. It’s different now. This last year has seen her mature a lot.

She has said, and I believe her, that she’s ready for college and the college experience. I think she is.

It will be interesting to see how she ‘plays with others’. As an only child, Steffie has had her own bedroom, bathroom and playroom. Now she’ll be sharing a room with one girl and a bathroom with a floor of them.

There are so many things to learn in college. Classroom work is only one part of a very large experience.

Blogger’s note: Steffie’s roommate arrived, alone, right after we left. She had packed light with more being shipped over the next few days.