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? –

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

The Writing’s Never Done

laptop keyboardI don’t know how other bloggers are about this, but I am constantly editing my entries. Not just the recent ones either!

Sometimes I’ll be drawn to an older entry, read it and be dissatisfied with what I see. It’s easy to open the editor and see if I can rework it.

Sentences formed of typed letters seems so much more permanent and meaningful than sentences formed of spoken words. I have to give them the proper measure of respect. Anyway, with Google, et al, what I write could live forever. That’s a lot of responsibility.

If an entry is rushed, as the one before this one was, the result is even more frustrating.

There wasn’t a lot of time between coming home from riding and going to work. I wanted to chronicle some observations. It never got more than a cursory re-read.

“What was I thinking,” I asked myself a few minutes ago. It’s just been rewritten.

The power of the word processor is one of the most amazing and enabling features of the PC. Back when computers were science fiction, no one predicted word processing would be a killer app! Word processors work so well, it’s almost as if they’re encouraging you to revise your work.

Editing is what makes writing good.

Tech Support By Telephone

My sister called this morning. BIOS error message on her business PC! Should she reformat the drives?

Tonight my friend Farrell was on the phone. He’s moved to California. The cable installer made him remove his network before installing his service and now there’s nothing!

I’m not sure what’s happened with my sister’s problem, except to say the BIOS checks happen before the disk drives are in play. So, it’s unlikely her data was in jeopardy.

I’ll call her a little later to see.

Farrell just needed some hand holding. No – not in the Gayle/Oprah sense. He just needed someone to talk him through the problem.

Surprise – I read the manual while we spoke and fixed the problem.

However, in his defense, there are so many possible outcomes that manual reading probably doesn’t help those who don’t know what’s going on in the first place.

Here’s the real problem. In order to be versatile, computers have to be complex. I don’t think there’s a way to separate the two.

If all a computer did was run a spreadsheet… or play a game… or act as a word processor, life would be easier. But we want our computers to do all those things and often at the same time.

Last night I was transcoding video off a DVD, browsing the web and playing poker – all at once.

We don’t want PCs that are single task. We want robust machines that do whatever we want whenever we want it done. That means we need to step up and better understand how everything works.

Right. Even I don’t believe that’s likely, or even possible. By nature, people are unlikely to delve deeply into technical minutiae.

What we really all need is someone like me. Scary.

Why Do I Do It?

I called my friend Paul this afternoon. We spoke for a while and then, he asked me why? Why do I write this blog?

Damn. Good question. I’m not sure why.

As has been pointed out by other friends, most blogs are boring. And, even as a blogger, I don’t read other blogs.

A story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine said the average blog was written by someone my daughter’s age, who quickly lost interest. A 53 year old blogger is beyond unusual.

When I try and intellectualize the blog, I realize I like getting my point across. At the same time, I’m frustrated that I have to stifle myself. There’s a lot about my family and workplace and politics, that I don’t write. I am jealous of those unencumbered by the necessary obligations of gainful employment.

Boy, would I like to write about politics right now.

I attempt to post something here every day. I haven’t been 100% successful, but I’m close. There are times when I’ve written, but really didn’t have much (or anything to say). The discipline of writing every day is a good thing. So, I force myself.

I now know a little too much about my own writing. It is very difficult to write a lot without developing a distinctive style. Style sounds like a good thing in the abstract, until you understand there’s a predictability in distinctive style. There are catch phrases and techniques that I overuse – even though I try not to. I’d like to be different every day. But, by definition, I am me every day.

I take great pleasure in revising and rewriting my prose. This might be the greatest gift of modern computing – the easy ability to revisit what you’ve just written.

I remember the first time I saw a word processor, “Electric Pencil” for the TRS-80 Model I. It was installed on a computer with no printer, but I still sat in slack jawed amazement as the first word wrapped to the next line. It only took a few seconds to understood the power that was being unleashed.

More than once, since I’ve been blogging, someone has suggested I write a book. Here I’m doing paragraphs at a time. A book is pages and pages and pages. And, the more you write, the more organizational skills (not a strong point for me) come into play.

For the time being, it’s fun to write and then be read by the few hundred of you who pass by here every day. Considering how I dreaded writing as a student, it is remarkable that, today, I find writing so satisfying