Like most people in America, I've recently found that I watch way too much television. Taking stock of what I watch, I've categorized the shows into a few groups. Here's a description of one of them.
Assholes Solving Mysteries
This genre kind of snuck up on me, but actually makes up a very large percentage of the things I watch. (Examples: HOUSE, PSYCH, CASTLE, BONES, MONK, SHERLOCK, ELEMENTARY. Interestingly, this category is almost entirely made up of single name titles when limited to those that air in the US.)
These shows are all very formulaic; the obnoxious detective (who can't relate well to mankind) manages to solve the mystery in 42 minutes flat, generally to the chagrin of the other characters in the show. There's a sort of SCOOBY DOO reveal in which the detective simultaneously details the elaborateness of the murder and gloats about being right and/or a genius. There are generally two classes of mystery:
The one in which we, the viewers, see the culprit committing the crime and then watch the detective solve it
The one where we don't know whodunit and then watch the detective solve it.
I call this second class "He's The Guy" mysteries, because careful viewers can pick up on telltale clues left by the production team. That guy you've never seen before but inexplicably has lines interacting with important characters? He's the guy. That teapot that the camera lingers on just a little too long in an establishing shot? It'll have fingerprints, and they'll prove that He's The Guy.
Astute readers/viewers will notice that 3 of my examples are directly based upon Sherlock Holmes, but set in a modern environment. (HOUSE being, in my humble opinion, the one that survived the transition most successfully.) Even the ones that aren't directly based on the works by the master of great asshole detectives himself -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- contain tropes he made great use of:
Genius mind turns to chemicals when idle (HOUSE, SHERLOCK, ELEMENTARY)
Genius has complicated relationship with inferior superiors (HOUSE, PSYCH, BONES, CASTLE)
Genius has contemporary so that he'll have someone to whom he'll explain the mystery's solution. (All of the above.)
I blame growing up with a MURDER SHE WROTE fan (that one based on Agatha Christie rather than Doyle) for my love of the 42 minute mystery, but I'm unsure why I â€“ and the rest of America â€“ gravitate toward preferring that their mysteries be solved by assholes.
Maybe that says more about our culture than we'd like.
In a fit of masochism, I decided that Iâ€™d carry only an iPhone 5 for some undefined period of time, to see how the other half lives. (Iâ€™ve previously done this with Windows Phone 7.5, and found the experience to be interesting and enjoyable.)
After 5 days with just iOS 6 on an iPhone 5, I have a few positive observations:
* iPhone 5 is a magnificent piece of hardware. It is easily the nicest phone I have ever held. Iâ€™ve used faster phones, phones with bigger screens, and phones with better operating systems, but from a whole package perspective, iPhone 5 is very, very nice.
* iOS6 is very nice. Iâ€™ve been mostly away from iOS for several years, and am pleased to say that the notification changes that iOS5 made are a huge improvement in usability.
* As one who is pretty firmly ensconced in Googleâ€™s ecosystem, I have to say that life with an iPhone is pretty significantly better these days with regards to getting done all the things I need to. Chrome, GMail, Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Voice and even Latitude â€œjust work.â€ Hats off to Google for doing this work, and hats off to Apple for not being a dick about letting them do it.
* I can say unquestionably that iOSâ€™s approach to multitasking here is far superior to Androidâ€™s in about 95% of cases. For nearly every app I use, having the state suspend and then wake back up on demand is sufficient, and battery life is indeed quite a bit better for normal usage as a result. (Of course there are some classes of app that just _have_ to run in the background, in which case Androidâ€™s mechanism is better, but Iâ€™ve yet to feel like I needed to have an app like that here in iOS Land.)
* Webapps on iOS are fantastic. This is easily the best platform Iâ€™ve encountered for making web applications seamlessly integrate into the â€œnativeâ€ experience.
As expected, I _do_ have some negative observations, but even I am surprised at how few they are:
* Inter-app communication is effectively impossible. If you want to, for instance, open a link a friend sent you in Chrome, it requires copy/paste gymnastics. If after seeing the link, you want to share it on Google+ or LinkedIn or myspace or Friendster, it also requires complicated copy/paste gymnastics. Androidâ€™s approach here is to allow any app to send content to any other app, fostering a much more interaction between users. iOSâ€™s seems to be focused more on making deals with Facebook and Twitter to foster more money changing hands.
* The app update cycle, while fostering the idea that developers release more polished functional apps in the first place, makes rapid iteration pretty impossible. Googleâ€™s iOS apps are some of the best around, but the fact that their Google+ client is at least 3 functionality releases behind Androidâ€™s seems pretty squarely to blame on the hassle of getting updates approved.
All in all, Iâ€™m pretty pleasantly surprised at how easily this die-hard Android (and Google experience) user has been able to transition into using iOS, and how little pain the transition has actually caused.
Today ï»¿on Google+, +Moon posted a really wonderful image of the lunar rover from the Apollo 17 mission, which had the effect of hundreds of amateur photo editors pointing out that the image is "fake." Mismatched shadows, bad coloring, etc. Standard fare.
This resulted in tons of well-meaning people calling those people idiots.
That resulted in _other_ well-meaning people calling the idiot-callers idiots.
_That_ resulted in me spending two hours figuring out for myself whether the photo is "fake" or not. [SPOILER: Turns out it's fake. (Seriously, it's "fake." Bear with me here...)]
Long story short: it's a panorama made up from multiple images. And the multiple images have all had their cross-hairs edited out to make it more attractive. And the color balances of many of the photos have been altered to make the panorama flow together more smoothly, and thus be more attractive.
Here's the "original" that +Moon posted:
(Click for bigger.)
I downloaded that, and then checked it out in GIMP. Yup. Shadows are mysteriously inconsistent. There are some tell-tale edit points all over the image.
So I then dragged that image into the search box on Google Image Search, and found some other copies of the photo, including higher-res versions. I downloaded those. Same story.
I then did a 'similar images' search and found a couple interesting things.
Firstly: a significantly wider version of the same shot:
Secondly: an even wider version without the uneven bottom cropped off:
(Click for bigger. _Way_ bigger.)
This photo clearly indicates two things:
1) that the image in question is a panorama stitched from multiple photos
2) that the astronaut taking it was simply standing in one spot and rotating around taking photos.
It explains the inconsistent shadows, as well as having the neat distinction of being assembled by a non-NASA amateur, from photos that are publicly available on the web. If you click through to Apollo 17 on The Apollo Archive you'll find a metric crap-ton of images like the following:
(Click for bigger. _Way_ bigger.)
You'll notice that this is the portion of the picture showing the lunar module and astronaut, with cross-hairs intact. If you were so inclined, you could download all those images and run them through whatever panorama software you have lying around and could end up with exactly the same compositions.
So, there you have it. I have absolutely no doubt that the scenario described in the photo happened as NASA claims it did, but I have proven that the photo _was_ very significantly edited in the process.
Turns out that everyone was right. And it's everyone that is the idiot.
My third attempt to become a Mac user in the last decade is now in full swing, and it appears I've finally done it. As promised, here's the story.
After 12 years of Linux exclusivity, I had a hardware failure and was stressing about researching new hardware. After 12 years of it, I've lost enthusiasm for dicking around trying to get simple shit working. Stuff like: my Wacom tablet, one shared desktop across two monitors, a Wacom tablet and shared desktop across two monitors concurrently, etc. It was at this point that D suggested just buying a PC from Costco, pre-assembled, pre-driver-sorted, and running an OS that might be slightly less likely to break itself every time there's an update. (Slightly.)
So I took the plunge and got a machine running Windows 7. Because so many of the applications I use are either webapps or open source, literally every application I needed to be productive was available to me on Windows 7 without any hassle. Ok, without too much hassle. OK, so it was a hassle. I had to get cygwin installed to make working in a terminal window useful, and then a whole host of things needed installed and configured to make my development environments semi-compatible so I didn't rip out all of my hair trying to adjust.
There was some minor pain, but every time I'd clicked the update button in Ubuntu at new release time I'd experienced more. So I felt pretty good about it.
Then one day, I needed to set up a Mac mini in the office to work on automating some aspects of our iPhone build system. It was like heaven. It already had all the unix tools I needed, making a hack like cygwin unnecessary. I didn't need to do anything to make it work like I expected. I made a mental note of this.
A few months later, the hard drive in my Dell laptop started having issues, which exacerbated some of my Windows 7 problems, resulting in me spending inordinate amounts of time rebooting and trying to get stuff working instead of just working. I got fed up and plugged my mouse, keyboard and monitor into the nearby Mac mini and spent the next couple days happily working with no issues whatsoever.
Then, on Black Friday, D and I ventured to the Apple Store, where I put aside years of anti-Apple sentiment and dropped way too much money on a 13" Macbook Pro.
This time, the switch was even easier. Sure, all my webapps and open source applications were available like they were on Windows 7, but now the operating system actually worked like I expected as well. Plus when I opened the lid it would instantly be usuable, which was a huge improvement over Windows 7.
Now, after several months, I've almost completely adjusted, and have never been happier with a computer. (Save maybe for the Google CR-48 ChromeOS laptop that I'm using to compose this blog post... but that's another story altogether. ) I'm sure I won't feel the same way when an OS upgrade is going to cost me $100 and cause a bunch of upgrade pains, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
[Disclaimer: Google has treated me very well over the last several years; I am decidedly 'pro-Google.' I'm also almost entirely 'anti-Microsoft.' However, this article is not about those things. I just want to admit my bias up front.]
A few days ago, a Google Blog post outlined some experimentation that Google did recently after discovering that some broken search results on Google were also showing up on Bing. The result? Google inserted some fake gibberish search queries in their database that return specific randomly chosen articles, some of which later returned the same result on Bing. Gibberish search queries that return the same random url on two different search engines seems to mean that one of them has to be looking at the results of the other.
Bing says: 'Nuh uh. That is not the case. Oh, and also: Google makes billions promoting spam." OK, that's helpful.
Later, in effort to address the bad PR resultant from the buzz around the issue, Bing responded making the claim that 'user data' is responsible for the common search results. The idea is that Bing promotes results that people are actually clicking on, and that the Bing Toolbar is doing some magicks to improve their search rankings. They say the reason that the gibberish queries show up in their results is just because Google engineers actually clicked the resultant links... and then the magick happened. A number of different factors are taken into account by the Bing Toolbar to influence how clicked links should affect Bing's search results, and apparently several of them only seem like they're just being copied directly from Google.
That's fine, but if the gibberish search terms aren't present in the urls Google randomly selected for their tests -- and they're not -- the only way Bing would have any knowledge of the queries is if the Bing Toolbar is recording not only the click, but the Google search queries used to find that link in the first place.
Bottom line: if Bing is populating their search database by indexing the results page a user got from doing a Google search, those results did in fact come "directly from Google" like Google claims. Whether or not there's anything wrong with collecting 'user data' about what information users search for (and find) on competing search engines is another issue entirely, but Google's claim here absolutely holds true.
Bing is using Google's search results to affect the results they return when users search Bing. And they need to come out and say it rather than denying it and then trying to change the subject to Google's spam-promotion business model.
Either the results came from Google or they didn't. (They did.)
That particular issue, however, is being completely overlooked by people who are now getting caught up in the 'OK, so what?' argument.
This blog post (from a Microsoft employee) essentially says: "Google stole a bunch of features that Bing had; that's no different than Bing stealing Google's results. Since they're both stealing, it's ok." I say there's a big difference between copying UI features and copying actual content, especially when the only reason anyone uses your service is to access that content. It's not the same thing at all.
In response to some of my Tweets, I've gotten links to a fairly well written article that purports to analyze the situation, which ultimately comes up with the same answer that the folks at Bing are saying: "they're not stealing from Google; it's just 'user data' responsible for the common search terms. Everybody does it. It's fine. Not stealing. Forget about it."
At this point it's pretty clear to me that because of the missing-the-point pro-Microsoft 'analysis' bloggers are doing, people now think the following things: "this is some big Google VS Microsoft issue," "Microsoft is just being attacked by Google for a PR stunt," "Google is just a big meanie."
Perhaps some (or all) of those things are true; even so, at the end of the day, the issue we're arguing is Google's claim that some of Bing's results are coming "directly from Google." That claim has been very effectively proven to be true. Yet Bing maintains that it's not -- and then talks about "making billions off of spam" to try to distract from the issue at hand.
If Bing wants to make the case that collecting 'user data' from all of a user's activity, including the searching they do on competing search engines (and the results the searches returned) is what they want to do and are doing, then I'd be fine with that. But instead they're just saying it's not happening. And that Google is a spam whore. Google may be a spam whore, but everything they've said in the last few days regarding this issue is demonstrably true. Bing, on the other hand, has opted for Jedi hand-waves.
I'll take an honest whore over an intellectually dishonest liar any day.
Hey Internet. Sorry to disturb you, but it's been quite a while, hasn't it. Sorry I haven't written, but there's been a lot keeping me busy.
How about a recap by way of quick reviews of a few of the gadgets I've acquired since last we spoke?
HTC EVO: Pretty nice Android phone, but too darn big for my tastes. The 4.3-inch display made for a device that was just too cumbersome to use as a phone, but not quite large enough to be a tablet. If you have big pockets, it's a nice choice.
Samsung Galaxy S Captivate: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Samsung screwed up the software so badly. Android 2.3 is just about out and Samsung still hasn't managed to release Android 2.2 for it yet. (It's a good thing some nice Samsung engineer leaked an early build of 2.2 about 3 months ago, or I'd be having serious 'behind-the-curve' withdrawals.) The 4.0-inch screen is a much nicer size than the HTC EVO's, making for a much more comfortable pocket phone, and easily my favorite of the various phone form factors I've used.
Sony Blu-ray GoogleTV box: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Sony screwed up the software so badly. The Blu-ray player application feels like it was made by a completely different team than the rest of the system, which makes sense, since Google didn't make that part. The one area that this device shines, incidentally, is actually the one everyone made fun of when it was first released: the remote control. People laughed, but I can honestly say it's the single greates remote control I've ever used. I really miss it after returning the whole package to the Sony store. If you don't care about Blu-ray, I say save $100 and get the Logitech.
Logitech GoogleTV box: hardware's cheaper than the Sony, but some of the software is better. The built in Harmony universal remote system is really slick, and being $100 cheaper than the sony is a nice perk. The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is way too big to make for a comfortable control device, but as we've been using a vintage SGI Indy keyboard on our various computer-television-hybrid devices for a number of years (have you ever seen then length of the cord on those SGI Indy keyboards?? Not sure why SGI thought they needed that long of a cord, but I for one am glad they made that decision.) it is a step up. GoogleTV has some pretty neat potential, but it's a real shame Google hasn't released the SDK for it yet, or, at the very least, just allowed access to the existing wealth of Android apps in the Android Market. Apps will be where the platform shines, so it seems kind of crazy that they're trying to sell them prior to that. I guess it has Twitter, so what more could people really want, right? Also, it's a shame all the TV networks have blocked the damn thing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that US carriers have the phone functionality disabled. (The one I've been using is unlocked and has full phone functionality, which is awesome. However, being a prototype, it's also got a really rickety housing that feels very fragile.) Darn fine device; great form factor. Goes great in my cargo pants, and after using it for a few minutes, using an iPad now feels like driving a boat. I'm not, however, completely sold on Android as a tablet OS just yet. This hasn't stopped me from using it all the damn time, I'm suspect that a web-based platform might make for a better experience.
ChromeOS: nice hardware but -- wait. I haven't actually seen hardware yet. But I've been running ChromeOS on one of my netbooks for a few months and really, really like it. I tend to use web-based services unless I absolutely have to use a native application, so a web-based OS is a natural fit for me. Combine that with yesterday's Chrome Webstore launch, and it's now an attractive platform for people who are far, far less nerdy than me. If you're having trouble imagining a web-based OS, take a look at the Chrome Webstore and install a few apps. Then imagine your computer is faster with longer battery life and not encumbered by nonsense like virus checkers and printer drivers; now you can start to imagine what ChromeOS is like.
Apple 13" Macbook Pro: really nice hardware, but it's a shame Apple screwed up the software. OS bitching aside, the Macbook Pro is easily the finest piece of computer hardware I've ever owned, and nearly a year of living with Windows 7 made making the switch to OSX far less painful than it would have been going straight from Linux. I'm not completely sold on OSX, but for my usage, it's pretty shocking how much more productive I am than I was on Windows. Having a real UNIX system under all that shiny bounciness is something I didn't realize I missed until I had it back. I think I may write a post about my (most recent) Mac switch instead of going into detail here, as this quick little post has gotten kind of out of hand.
Hopefully it won't be several months before we speak again. Don't be a stranger.
Remember back in January when I 'fixed' the cover of INXS's 'Kick' album cover?
Well, since then, people have been sending me feedback suggesting how I could have improved it further. Including, unbeknownst to me at the time, the actual album cover's creator, Nick Egan. (His suggestion for improving it was not to have modified it at all, naturally.)
Today, however, I got another email followed by what is quite possibly the best suggestion of them all via voicemail. I share them with you now:
Subject: YOU'RE A PRIZE GINGER CUNT, DUDE.
Who or what are you?
Opinions are a universal rite.
What you did deserves your balls kicking into your kidneys.
' I fixed it ' ? The most arrogant piece of shit I've ever read online in 16 years. Next time I'm over I'll come for a chat about poetry and music so I don't miss out on your wisdom. Saying shit like that with your phone number and address attached would get you bounced from here to FUCKING Spain where I'm from ... Dude. Don't get a life, give it up. Waste of food you cheeky prick.
Hope you fail in everything you do. You FUCKING Ginger Minge Tit .
Normal link for when the embed doesn't work.
Could somebody translate that for me? As an American, I can only pick out a few words...
What I did get out of it, however, is that I should keep my opinions to myself, rather than put them out on the Internet where people can plainly see that I was trying to be an idiot, as I do regularly. (Like all the times I solved global warming, the time I solved the inherent eruption of Mt. St. Helens, all the times I solved the fuel crisis, etc.)
It's kind of scary getting a (surprisingly polite) threatening voicemail message, but that scariness doesn't outweigh the irony of someone actually calling me to share his opinion regarding my not sharing my opinion.
Nick, it appears that my attempt to sound like a dumbass on the Internet has succeeded far better than I'd intended, which I truly regret. I really do hate that skateboard at the top, but that's just my opinion. 'Fixing' your album cover is purely in jest, however, and clearly falls under fair use / parody. As I think it's pretty clear by now that I'm just a dumbass and not intentionally trying to disrespect your or your work, I'd really appreciate it if you'd call off your goons. Thanks.
Google I/O was amazing, and I'd like to share the most important things I took away from it. Well, except for the free Motorola Droid and Sprint EVO 4G that I took away from it -- I'm not sharing those. :)
The big news was Android 2.2, which in addition to amazing stuff like wirelessly streaming your iTunes library, also leverages a clever bit of behind the scenes magick that enables a 3x-5X speed increase on the same hardware running 2.1. They demoed this a few times with very dramatic results. It is way, way faster. This huge performance gain shatters one of the main reasons I've been maintaining that Flash on Android is simply not going to be usable; in fact, much to my chagrin, I have to report that Flash works very, very well on Android.
Speaking of Flash, there was a demo of what I believe to be the fabled "Flash killer" everyone has been hoping will come along to eventually put us out of our miseries. Many have tried (and failed) to come up with a Flash killer, but this time they have -- in my opinion -- actually done it. The surprising thing to me isn't that someone has managed to do it, but, rather, that it's Adobe themselves that are responsible. Adobe demoed the new integration between Illustrator and their new CSS-editing powerhouse version of Dreamweaver, effectively creating a very "Flash-like" experience of animating and interacting with elements using entirely open HTML5 and CSS based technology. In a couple minutes they created some remarkably interactive animated stuff with just a few clicks in Illustrator and Dreamweaver, outputting web content that will work in any modern browser without any annoying plugins/runtimes. Adobe has seen the benefit of making open tech take the place of proprietary black boxes, and are embracing it head on rather than fighting it off. Kudos, Adobe.
All that nerd stuff aside, the big exciting thing is GoogleTV. Many have tried to merge the web and television in the past, with downright comical results, so any additional attempts to achieve it are going to have to really 'wow' people. Google has now taken up the challenge, and I think they're really onto something.
Without going into too much detail, here's what they've done: searchable television. No more annoying guides showing you what's on right now; with GoogleTV, you can search for stuff to watch just like you search the Internet. You get a search bar, you type something into it, and you get results. Those results could be things that are on right now, they could be things that your DVR recorded for you, they could be things that are on in the future (and clicking them will make your DVR record them for you) or they could be things that are available to stream right now via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or any site that you can stream from in your computer's desktop browser. Because GoogleTV is a browser, complete with the Flash plugin required to view most of that streaming content today. In addition to watching television content like this, GoogleTV has access to the Android Market, giving you access to the same thousands of applications you can run on your Android phone -- on your TV.
There are a lot of other cool things that GoogleTV can do, but the main selling point is that you no longer have to care where your television comes from. It could be live TV, something from your DVR, something from Hulu -- it really doesn't matter, and you don't have to think about it. You just know you want to watch 30 Rock, so you simply type "30 Rock" into your fancy GoogleTV remote and get a list of episodes to watch.
There were many other exciting things, but many of them may still be too nerdy to be interesting to most people, so I'm just hitting the points I think people will care about. Android is now really, really fast and can deliver a fantastic Flash experience (if that sort of thing is your bag), which could be a viable alternative for those who want an iPhone/iPad but complain that they can't view Flash. GoogleTV may well change the way television is watched -- and maybe down the road be able to help shake up the control cable/satellite providers have over bundling content we don't want with the content we do.
The future is going to be awesome.
I've arrived safe and sound at the San Francisco Mariott Marquis, despite the city's valiant efforts to prevent my arrival by way of shifting one-way streets that've learned a trick or two from the Weeping Angels about reconfiguring when you look away.
The San Francisco Mariott Marquis doesn't have free Wi-Fi -- but that's only a minor inconvenience because Droid Does. Not sure how well Verizon is going to handle providing my only Internet access for a few days, but I guess we'll find out. At least I'll be over at I/O mos of the time, and there's supposed to be real Wi-Fi there.
Once I've relaxified a bit more I'm going to head over to the Marscipone Center to get my Google I/O registration stuff all taken care of before the rush, and I'll find out what the Wi-Fi situation will be.
I'm off to lovely San Francisco to take part in Google I/O. I was going to use the latest in technological innovations to embed a Google Wave here into which I could post live updates, but I couldn't figure out how. Sorry.
The Google Wave team is sure going to hear from me at I/O...
Anyway, i guess I'll be using Twitter / Buzz instead.
Last month's Mobile Portland meeting featured a panel discussion speculating on the upsides and downsides of the newly announced Apple iPad. I was there, and was contacted by iPadInsider.com to write them a guest-blogger recap to run on their site. I agreed.
It's now been a month and they've still not run it; the device may actually be available before they ever do. Assuming they do.
With that in mind, I've decided to just run it here. I worked too hard on it to just waste it.
The impending availability of the iPad has spawned a not-inconsiderable amount of excitement and speculation as to how we'll all be impacted by Apple's groundbreaking new device. In an attempt to address some of the speculation, February's Mobile Portland meeting gathered 5 experts from disparate fields -- fields that are pretty much universally expected to be significantly impacted by the iPad. Each expert took their turn speaking about their area of expertise for around 10 minutes, which was then followed by about half an hour of lively panel discussion fielding questions from the standing-room-only audience.
The first speaker was Small Society's Raven Zachary (http://twitter.com/ravenme, http://smallsociety.com/), who spent some time addressing what is currently known about when we'll be able to get our hands on the iPad -- which really isn't a whole lot:
"We don't know much; we don't have a ship date, we don't have a preorder date, and if you're outside the US, it's even worse."
Among the interesting facts presented in Raven's talk was the impact that iPhone (and iPod Touch) have had on the mobile market. He said there are over 75 million devices in the hands of users -- about 50% iPhone, about 50% iPod Touch. He also said that iPod Touch has been rapidly gaining on iPhone, and that there are two massive growth periods each year: back-to-school and Christmas. iPod Touches are expected to overtake iPhones this year, as more and more are getting into the hands of young people. Young people came up several times throughout the evening, and it's clear that the appeal of Apple's devices will continue to stay strong as each new generation gains buying power.
"iPad is a safe place to try out new publishing models, and the publishers are looking to experiment. Apple says 'we are safe,' and they're listening."
From what Jon had to say, publishers have already been trying to come up with new ways to deliver their products, and iPad promises to be a fairly win/win way to try out new methods.
Jon also spends time talking with people in the "mobile" industry as well as the publishing industry, and shared an amusing anecdote about the lack of discussion about iPad at Mobile World Congress this year.
"At MWC, not one person mentioned iPad. Then again, no one mentioned Palm, either, so I don't know if that really means anything."
Next up was James Keller, also from Small Society, (http://twitter.com/semaphoria, http://smallsociety.com/) who ran through some of the exciting new user interface / user experience changes the iPad has innovated. Amusingly, pretty much everything she had to show us came from the handful of photos and youtube videos taken by journalists on the day of Steve's presentation, so there's still quite a lot of speculation as to how certain things work, or even what they're for. One of the things that most stood out was how Apple is now taking advantage of the larger display, creating sort of 'split-screen' areas for showing menus, options and additional content without having to obscure the content at which you're looking. Pretty neat stuff.
She then went on to talk about how the introduction of the iPhone changed her life, creating what she referred to as her 'night-stand device.'
"I sleep next to my iPhone. The last thing I do before sleep is check my iPhone. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my iPhone."
James suggested that iPhone's impact her life could potentially be duplicated by the iPad as well. Whether iPad secures the coveted spot on James' night-stand is still up in the air, as well as just how useful it'll be as a device on which she can accomplish any work. One thing she's sure of, though: she can definitely see the appeal of iPad as a 'relaxation-time' device.
"It's the perfect weekend device, even from the perspective of a power user. I'm likely not going to be wire-framing on it, but when I'm watching a movie and doing a crossword? Heck yeah."
Then, coming back once again to the youth demographic, she pointed out what promises to be a pretty important demographic the iPad could potentially affect: students.
"I think the iPad has a huge potential school appeal; I walked around with a back-ache for years at college, and the thought of having all my books and notepads on a small device is awesome."
Chances are she's right; She can't be the only person sick of lugging books around. Someone in the audience suggested that he's heard that there are several pilot schools that are planning to issue an iPad to each student for that very reason. We've already seen schools requiring iPod Touches, so not only might not that be far from the truth, but it's also entirely possible that Apple could play a pretty huge part in the textbook industry in the near future if it's true.
"What the web used to represent was this sort of, 'window' into a different world. But all of a sudden the iPhone started booming and it has allowed for interaction with sites in ways that are far less boring. You can do a lot more now than just look through that window."
Chris talked about how having a device you can touch and pinch and rotate could make for really great interactive web experiences, as well as how iPad's always-on network connection and location-aware abilities could make for some really great gaming experiences.
"The gaming thing is where I'm starting to get most excited about the iPad. People are starting to tie in location sensitivity -- like playing Marco Polo with your friends on your iPad at the mall, for instance."
Chris also talked about the challenges of migrating from small-screen-based apps on the iPhone to the much larger resolution of iPad. He suggested that simply scaling up an app to fit the new resolution isn't enough, and that if a user is going to have a nice gorgeous screen, the developer needs to make their stuff look as good on it as possible.
"When we started seeing the iPad, people started asking us what the gaming experience is going to be like. New display challenges, having so much more space, etc. The key will be: don't just blow it up, use the best of what you have."
Up last was Dave Shanley from CrowdCompass (http://twitter.com/dshanley, http://www.crowdcompass.com/), who talked a bit about the history of the tablet PC, how it's failed in the past, and what Apple has been able to do differently to make it a possible success. Dave included a bunch of old pro-tablet quotes from Bill Gates that, out of context, seem to be extremely pro-iPad. Here's one the audience seemed pretty amused by:
"The tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available whenever you want it...It's a PC that is virtually without limits -- and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America. -- Bill Gates in 2001"
Then Dave took some time to address the common complaints regarding Apple's locked-down platform, suggesting that perhaps their approach isn't doomed to failure because of its lack of openness after all.
"Who will ultimately be successful may really come down to 'is the walled-garden approach better?' or perhaps 'is something a little bit more open the way to go?'"
"How open does it need to be to be successful? How much does openness really affect the user experience of the people buying it?"
Even people who're entirely a part of the "open is better" camp likely have to admit that Dave has a point here. Sure, geeks want to be able to use these devices in awesome ways, but, at the end of the day, most of the people purchasing them are best served with the simplicity and restrictiveness that Apple offers them. That idea brings us to the one statement that best summed up what everyone's experiences suggested, one that Dave Shanley really nailed:
"Who is the iPad built for? Who will buy it? I think fundamentally the answer is: 'not this crowd.'"
"On the other hand, what you think you want, and what you actually want at the end of the day may be two different things."
The murmur that went through the crowd after Dave said 'not this crowd,' really hit home that virtually everyone in the room was already thinking the same thing. Many people said it'd be great for their grandparents or their kids, but few present really seemed to be under the impression that iPad is really targeted to them.
During the Q&A, virtually every one of the panelists espoused an opinion that could be summed up thusly: "The iPad is really cool, and I want one -- but I'm not quite sure what I'm going to use it for." The general consensus, though, is that that's how people reacted to the iPhone and the iPod Touch as well. Surely the people who buy this thing are going to figure out what to do with it, and once they have, everyone else is going to want to do it too. Raven had this to say:
"When people go into an Apple store and touch one, it's going to be like 'oh my God, I have to have this,' and they'll have to then invent a justification to buy one."
There were a lot of great quotes from the panelists at the meeting (many of which you can read on Google Buzz from Feb 22nd, complete with horribly inaccurate panelist names) but the one with the most crowd reaction came from an audience member whose name I didn't catch.
"People are exhausted with multitasking. Even if it's just a magazine rack, you can really only look at one magazine at a time. Lack of multitasking on iPad is actually a plus."
To a large extent he's wrong -- Jason Grigsby responded to this with the classic example of needing to add up some numbers on a webpage, for instance -- but his point does fall in line quite well with what Dave Shanley had to say about the limited functionality inherent in Apple's products, and how that approach may be the best way to serve a majority of their customers.
The meeting concluded with a poll, during which somewhere around 90% of the people in attendance raised their hand to indicate that, based on everything discussed that evening, they fully intend to buy an iPad as soon as it's on sale. How we got from 'this device is not intended for anyone in this room' to 'pretty much everyone in this room is going to buy one' is a perplexing and amusing mystery, but there's no doubt that most will buy one. Just what they'll actually all do with them remains to be seen, however. We'll have to wait and see.
Whatever it is they do with them, though, we can bet it will be cool.
I spent about 5 minutes yesterday trying to craft a one-sentence short story for Twitter, but gave up. Turns out I needed another 40 minutes and a whole lot more sentences to transfer the noir-ish detective story from my brain into my Android phone. Here it is:
The steel grey of pre-dawn shatters into existence as the ringing of my phone rips me from my dreams.
"What?" I bark, as I fumble for my cigarettes. These days, the few dreams I have are my only solace from the grisly reality that makes up my life tracking down serial killers, and I hate having them cut shot.
"OK, I'm on it. I owe you one Kandinsky. Yes, another one. Put it on my tab."
After I cracked up last year during a particularly long -- and oddly personal -- string of victims from a certain cocky serial killer, the force made me take a year off to clear my head. Kandinsky has been giving me leads off the record so I can still try to catch the bastard in a, shall we say, "unofficial" capacity. Motherfucker messed with the wrong cop -- and now the cop ain't a cop no more. No more ethics rules. No more disciplinary hearings. That fucker is going to pay.
After finishing my cigarette and slamming a couple shots of bourbon -- my usual breakfast since I was a kid -- I grab my overcoat and head out to go sneak a peek at the latest murder scene. Lucky for me I'd passed out last night still wearing my clothes. If I believed in God, I'd thank him for this one small favor, but I don't, so I thank Jim Beam instead. Maybe that's just semantics.
I arrive on the scene even before the city dicks have had a chance to arrive, let alone to put up the crime tape, so I walk purposefully in and flash my library card at the building's security guard. I identify myself. He lets me in with no trouble, no idea that I'm telling a lie.
I can tell immediately, this is just like the others. There's no mistake; this is the same guy. Same MO, same calling card. He's taunting me. If I could just figure out the pattern...
The security guard tells me the frog's name was "Digg'em" and I don't find anything out of the ordinary in any of his belongings. From the yellowed clippings all over the walls, it seems the frog may have had some notoriety in the past, but I just can't see how it ties in. I pull out my notebook to add details and to see if anything from the other victims might shed some new light on things.
Sonny, the first victim, was some kind of bird. This initially seemed relevant, since the second victim was a toucan named Sam, but I spent weeks investigating the bird angle until the next victim turned up. It was a jungle cat named Tony. All that bird research wasted. Fuck.
The fourth victim was about three months after that; a little Irish guy nicknamed "Lucky." Then, six weeks later, a little bear with a sugar addiction. He had powdered sugar all around his nose and his stomach was filled with nothing but; it seems the killer may actually have done that poor little bear a favor by putting him out his misery. Still, favors or no, I'm going to take the fucker down.
Quite some time passed then, during which I went a little crazy. My drinking became a lot more pronounced. The chief kept telling me bourbon was not a balanced breakfast, that I should lay off it and have some cereal, juice, milk and toast instead. Cereal. Fuck that shit. My pop always said cereal was for faggots, so I never touch the stuff anymore.
I held myself together until after the discovery of the next victim, which, as it turns out, ended up being victims. Plural. Extremely plural.
See, some neighborhood parents began reporting their children missing. After a couple days of Amber Alerts and 'round-the-clock searching, some of the parents found a treehouse, labeled "Honeycomb Hideout," chock full of children. Dead children. That really got to me. Brought back painful memories from my own childhood. Billy. Jimmy. Ugh. I don't want to think about that...
That's when things started to get really bad for me. Probably four months passed without any more victims. I started cracking up. Then, mercifully, a report had come in. I had rushed to the scene to find the victim still alive. Barely. I tried to get him to tell me whatever he could about the guy that did this to him. Little guy had several priors for stealing cookies, and I think that made me a little rougher with him than I intended. Who knows, maybe it was just me going crazy.
In any case, he died in my arms, and the ME said it's possible that my violent shaking may have contributed to his death. The little bastard just wouldn't talk. I needed information, dammit.
In any case, that's when I went on suspension. Since then, I've been getting tips from Kandinsky whenever he can and have been burning through my father's life insurance payout as I try to track down the son of a bitch who has been toying with me.
I hear footsteps coming down the hall, and from the sound of it, it's the boys in blue. I get up and shove my notebook in my pocket, making a mental note to go over the contents again -- for the millionth time -- in hopes that I can try to figure out a pattern. And maybe try to figure out who is next.
The footsteps come around the corner just as I'm leaving the frog's apartment, and I try to hurry out unseen.
"Hey, you. Stop!"
Fuck. Not unseen. I sigh and turn around slowly, ending up face to face with the chief. He sees me and looks extremely angry.
"God dammit, Mikey," he yells at me. "How many times have I told you? You are off this case, off the force, even. You can't be here. You can't be playing vigilante. You can't act like a cop. Let it go."
He grabs my arm and drags me down the hallway.
"Look, I like you Mikey, so I'm not going to report this. But if you're seen here, you're going to cause me trouble. And if you cause me trouble, I'm going to have to report it. You gotta stop with this, man. Are you taking your meds?"
He could tell by my face that I'm not.
"Dammit, Mikey. You gotta get yourself together. I know you've had a rough life... hell, that shit from when you were a kid is enough to drive anyone craz-"
"I'm not crazy!" I yell as I grab him by the collar, breathing hard and shaking. Even I can see how crazy I look right now, so I let go and take two steps back with my hands in the air.
The chief looks both infuriated and sad as he shakes his head and and walks away. I walk out of the building and reach into my pocket for my flask, swallowing a long slug of bourbon. I grimace. My breathing begins to slow.
"Shit," I say to myself, not unaware that talking to oneself is one of the first signs of insanity.
"You gotta get yourself together Mikey." The chief had been telling me that for some time now. He's been right, though. I'm losing it. If I can catch that killer, though, losing my mind is really a small price to pay.
I pull out my notebook again. If I can just figure out a pattern... figure out who might be next...
"You can do this, Mikey." Me again. "Just keep looking. There is something there linking all these victims, you know it. You just have to figure out what it is. Look harder."
Out of all the bastards giving me shit these days, I think I'm the most irritating. I really get on my nerves.
"Fuck you, Mikey."
"Fuck me? No, Mikey, fuck you."
I laugh and put my notebook back in my pocket. I light a cigarette, walking off into the grey hoping that the nicotine will help give my brain the boost it needs to make the connection that I know is in there somewhere. If I can just make that connection I can figure out either the next victim or how I tie into the whole thing.
If I'm lucky, maybe I'll do it before it's too late.
I recently found some bizarre footage from the set of Predator 2, and have been trying to pass it off as being from the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film Predators, cuz I'm a jerk like that. Alexa suggested some minor changes that she thought might improve it, so I spent a few minutes figuring out how Windows Movie Maker works. (Easy to make something crappy, hard to make something nice.)
Here's the result, which I think you'll agree is a significant improvement.