Archive for February, 2010

18
Feb
10

Bullshit

This is why you shouldn’t use any machine that you don’t control. Its not only the worst kind of spyware, but its an amazing breach of trust. After that, how could you trust any of these people with your children again? Who knows what kind of information they’ve harvested or if they like to watch kids getting dressed, undressed or fucking? I hope the family wins, and the school administration gets fired or, even better, prison time for that.

What this means is that I’ll never, ever accept a school-issued computer for my children. Frankly, I’ll never give them a machine that I don’t own and have all the rights to do whatever I please with.

15
Feb
10

Buzz Off!

Like most power users of the web, I find myself waist-deep in Google’s ecosystem. I have a bunch of Gmail accounts, I use YouTube, Reader, Voice, Calendar, Maps, Earth and of course, search. This hasn’t been too much of a problem for me, since its been mostly a symbiotic relationship. I get access to a bunch of free services, and Google gets user data that it can sell to advertisers. I just want to point out that of all web advertising, I find Google’s to be the least intrusive and by far the most tolerable. Hell, I didn’t even notice the Gmail ads until someone pointed out that they were there. I understand my relationship with Google, and its not one of vendor customer.

After this whole issue with Buzz, however, I’m seriously starting to rethink that relationship. Its not just the horrible privacy implications or the half-assed backtracking they’re doing, its the fact that they just decided to shove this new thing down our throats. I’m not worried about the privacy of my dssstrkl Google account, since its a public persona. Its not what I use to communicate with family, work or government. But that’s still not the point. I like using services that I find interesting. I’m not at all interested in having companies decide that I need to use what they tell me to use.

Additionally, while Google talks the talk about the open web, Google itself is notoriously closed. Letters became less interesting when I discovered that the real reason no one had made a great Gmail-optimized IMAP client is because Google won’t allow it. The Google Android apps are all closed source. In fact, none of Google’s web apps are truly open, and their TOS prohibit scraping. While I laugh at people who cry about how Apple is trying to become like Microsoft because of Flash or the App Store, I’m much more concerned about Google.

Google owns a bit too much of my web experience, especially the sensitive parts, like my email or physical location. I’ve turned off Buzz, which is useless and irritating, but for the first time, I’m thinking about the rest. I hate Google contacts and have to constantly fight with it. The fact that Google insists on controlling my contact list and is of the opinion that “People Who Email Me” is the same as “My Contacts” and gives little or no control drives me insane. Google’s lack of respect for my control over my contacts list is one of the reasons why I have no interest in Android. Regardless of what Google thinks, “People I Email” is not the same as “My Contacts,” and “People I Call” sure as hell isn’t the same, either.

Google really seems like they’re more and more interested in keeping me stuck in their ecosystem all the time. I’m not particularly interested in Google or its ecosystem. I just want good services that improve my web experience. Google’s insistence on control is starting to hurt that experience. I think it might be time to excise Google from everything but search (maybe even that). Its been a while since I’ve set up a personal server, but the hassle might definitely be worth it to get back control.

04
Feb
10

Storage

One of the memes about the iPad that’s both common and irritatingly stupid is the notion that the only good iPad is the most expensive one: 64 GB and 3G. Well, the second most irritating. The iPad = tampon is worse and makes me want to punch anyone who says that in the teeth. Anyway, back to storage. I’m not really sure where people got the idea that everyone has this huge library and so HAS to get the most storage possible on every single device they have. Its my contention that the 16GB version, and the wifi-only one at that, is good enough for most people.

Honestly, most people don’t have huge iTunes libraries. My mom and Claudia’s parents have tiny libraries. They didn’t catch the digital bug as much as I did, and have huge libraries of CDs and vinyl. Hell, my mom still has literally hundreds of Beta tapes that she never bothered to replace. My mom uses her iPod mainly as a mobile stereo to use around the house. Neither she nor Claudia’s parents were ever really into mobile music, and didn’t use Walkmans, Discmans and still don’t really see the need for an iPod, although Claudia’s mom bought an iPod Shuffle. That she doesn’t use. Claudia’s and my brothers have small libraries that are each around 10 GB.

That’s the thing. Most people only bother to collect or digitize the music that they really like and so have small libraries. Its only geeks and music junkies who have huge libraries. They simply don’t need a huge amount of storage. Here’s the other thing. I’m two feet in the digital packrat camp. I’m still interested in the 16GB iPad.

Why? Its simple. Apple doesn’t make an iPad that has enough storage for all my stuff. If I had my music, movies, audiobooks, iTunesU and podcasts, I have an iTunes library that approaches 200GB! My music alone is around 60GB for over 10,000 files. The only thing Apple makes that can hold all of that is (drum roll) a computer! I would go for the smaller iPad for the same reason why I went for the 16GB iPhone. If I can’t fit everything, then I’m just going to go for what I’ll need until I can hit my laptop again.

This is just my own anecdote, so YMMV. I listen to a lot of podcasts and barely catch up to all of them throughout the week. There’s a lot of music on my phone that I don’t listen to. I can usually get through the day with my podcasts and one or two playlists. I doubt that having an iPad will change my habit. The same is true for video.

How many movies can you watch in a day? I mean, in an average day, how much time is there to watch one, let alone several 90+ minutes movies? For me, its not too many, and honestly, its usually when I’m at home where my large TV and comfy chair live.

Then there’s the issue of the use case. The iPad is not going to replace my iPhone for the simple reason that one fits in my pocket and the other doesn’t. I’m not going to carry an iPad with me to the mall or on errands. When I take it out, its more likely than not going to be in my bag with my laptop anyway. So I don’t need to have the same stuff on each device. Nor do I have to take it all with me all the time. Apple knows this, which is why they’ve positioned the iPad the way they have.

02
Feb
10

Use Cases

There have been more than a few good and thoughtful articles about the iPad over the weekend (along with a lot of stupid garbage). I wasn’t planning on adding anything else until I actually got my hands on one, but something interesting happened: everyone asked me if they should get one. I remain the sole tech person for two extended families, so that question wasn’t as straightforward as one might think. This is why there are so many reactions to the iPad and why so many “alpha geeks” hate it and swear they’ll never buy one, and why there are so many who like it. The question lies entirely in how the individual uses their computer. For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to present the use cases of a few people and then my own.


My Fiance

Current Gear: My old 2002-era 12″ Powerbook, iPhone 3G, 80GB iPod Classic

That Powerbook is a hell of a workhorse. It got me through the end of college and two years into my first professional job until I got the first-gen Macbook Pro that I’m using now. Since I gave it to my fiance, she used it through grad school and wrote her 900+ page master’s thesis on it. Its still going, but its time to move on. I told to wait until the Core i5 Macbooks come out before upgrading.

Despite not being a power user in the traditional sense, when she’s working, she is most definitely a power user. She really has no use for an iPad that I can think of. When she’s working, she spreads out all of her reference materials around her, so a single e-reader really isn’t going to cut it. The rest of the time, she’s happy to either use her iPhone or just grab my laptop instead of digging hers out of its bag (since mine’s always out anyway).

Verdict: She doesn’t need (or want) an iPad.

My Mom

Current Gear: Last-gen 15″Powerbook G4, Original iPhone

I would tell my mom to get an iPad in a cold second if not for two things. First and foremost, she’s a writer. She writes every day and has two published novels, and is working on numbers three and four, as well as a screenplay. She also wants to start podcasting her novels and blogging. The iPad simply doesn’t have enough content creation chops yet to pull that off.

The other reason is that she’s learning the more geeky parts of computer use. While the whole point of the iPad is that its for people who don’t care to tinker, the fact that both my dad and myself are such tinkerers always made her feel a little left out. Since he died, she’s had to learn to figure things out, and every time she learns something new or fixes some problem, she feels great about it. She spent her entire adult life thinking that she was too dumb to use computers, but now she knows what we all do: We’re not dumb, computers are, and we need to beat them into shape. She’s really enjoying herself, and I’m not about to take that away from her.

Verdict: She needs a new computer right now, that Powerbook is ancient. She wants a new laptop, but I think a 21″ iMac would be a better fit. Maybe an iPad for Christmas…

The In-Laws

Current Gear: Original Macbook, Blackberry Curve, Moto dumbphone

Not only did I suggest that they get an iPad, I suggested that they each get one and just use the Macbook to sync them. They need to use email and the web, but simply aren’t that interested in using the computer. There really isn’t all that much to sync, either. They don’t have any videos, audiobooks, apps, or anything beyond a few hundred music files. A single 16GB WiFi-only iPad is almost overkill, let alone two. In fact, the only reason why I suggested two is so I can set up each one with their own email accounts and avoid that bit of confusion. Depending on how powerful the maps app is, they might even be able to use it to plan directions. Or just use the web app’s printable directions. Assuming that the iPad really is able to send print jobs, they would almost never need to use the Macbook at all beyond firmware updates.

Verdict: Hell yeah, get two!

There are others, like my brother who should get one or my fiance’s brother, who doesn’t need one. It really all depends on the usage. So, what about mine? Like I said, I like my workstation setup the same basic way wherever I am.

Like this:
IM002672.JPG

And this:
IM002744

And this:
My desk RM313

And so on.

Basically, I like using the Macbook Pro as my main screen and use the secondary display for supporting tasks, like Mail, Omnifocus, iTunes and Preview. The main display gets Safari, Excel, Pixelmator, Scrivener, Lightwave, Xcode and the like. While I might move stuff around in the process of working, that’s the basic setup. Even the shot with the microscope is like that. In that case, the main work was counting hundreds of vials, so the laptop became the secondary display.

I was at a coffee shop on Saturday, trying to get some work done. While I was waiting for our latte, Claudia moved our stuff from our first table to a better one by the window. She mentioned that by bag was pretty heavy, and you know what? She was right. My bag is pretty heavy. I have the MBP, a Wacom graphics tablet and a book. I really don’t need to carry the tablet around, but I realized that I could really use an iPad as my secondary display there. I actually have a lot of ebooks and pdf’s already, but moving my active windows out of the way is a real good way to destroy my workflow. I can use iBooks, Stanza, Papers as reference when I’m writing or coding, and I can use the Photos app for visual reference when I’m using Lightwave. Additionally, I can use the browser, email and whatever else on the iPad instead of the laptop. The question there is do I want the 3G version, or can I stick with WiFi only? I suppose that depends on whether or not I can get on AT&T’s WiFi network without buying a 3G plan. There are an assload of Starbucks in San Francisco, and it would keep some strain off the cell network, but I seriously doubt that it’ll work that way.

Anyway, there is no way that an iPad could be a laptop replacement for me. But as a portable second screen that will replace a bunch of heavy stuff in my bag? And all I need to carry is something like this?That’s tempting, very tempting. And that’s just for doing work on the run. Like I mentioned earlier, my laptop is pretty much always on and out. Sometimes that’s because I’m working, but a lot of times, its also just because I’m browsing the web. I don’t need my laptop for that. An iPad would be perfect for the times when I just want to sit back and read. Or when Claudia takes my laptop out of my hands again.

I don’t really understand all of the anger about the iPad. Once you think about it, there really is a niche for it. Its just that its a different niche for different people. For some people, there’s no need for it, for others, it really is a laptop replacement for other people, its a nifty supplement. For me, its both of those. I’m keeping my iPhone, I’m keeping my laptop (at least until I can get a Core i5!!!) and I’ll be using an iPad as my second monitor when I’m out and about.