Thursday, April 01, 2010

This Just Seems So Wrong

Monday, March 29, 2010

What do I think the iPad is/is not all about

  • It isn't a replacement for your Mac or PC. If you think it is, you'll be sadly disappointed. You still need a computer.
  • It is a replacement for 90% of the things 90% of the people do with computers. It will be a better, happy experience doing those things.
  • Apple is trying to create a new market, not destroy their current (lucrative) laptop market. While this might eat into sales of MacBook Airs and low end MacBooks, I see it cutting much more into the low end PC notebooks and netbooks. Ultimately, this will grow their overall sales.
  • It is a Kindle killer. While the Kindle arguably has a better display for a book reader, there aren't that many people out there who just want to read books.
  • Leg up on Android, RIM, Nokia, Microsoft and Palm. Apple gets to leverage iPhone apps, plus developers get access to two markets, one of which is already huge. The rest will be playing catch up for years to come.
  • Not so great for any software developers in the long term. Apple set the price point at $9.99 for each of the iWork apps. Other than very specific niches, how can other developers charge more? That includes Mac/PC developers and developers for other mobile platforms. A few will make a good living at it, but ultimately, it is bad for the masses of software developers.
  • What about camera, multitasking, Flash, etc. Most just won't care. If you are a developer with a Flash only web site, you are already locking out the 42 million iPhone users; how many developers can really afford that?
One more thing...

I want one. :-)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interface & Interaction Matter

For those who don't get what the iPad is all about (more on that in another post), let me tell you about a recent experience:

My home A/V setup is complicated to use. I have a TV with only two inputs, a DVD/VCR combo unit with only two inputs (and the VCR doesn't output on S-Video by design), a Wii, and a MacBook Pro that I sometimes want to hook up.

To watch TV: turn on the TV.

To watch a DVD: turn on the TV, set it to Video 1 (S-Video), Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to DVD mode.

To watch a tape: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode.

To play the Wii: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode, set the channel to Line 1, turn on the Wii.

To watch the Mac: turn on the TV, set it to Video 2, Turn on the DVD/VCR, set it to VCR mode, set it to Line 2, plug in the Mac.

To shut things off: shut each device off separately.

It worked, and being cheap^H^H^H^H^Hfrugal, I was happy.

And then the TV remote finally died. So I had to buy a new one. Over the years, I've heard good things about the Harmony remote, so I splurged AND got the cheapest model, the Logitech Harmony 510. Now, the Harmony remote is activity based; you program it with all the above steps, it turns on and off and sets the appropriate devices.

To watch TV: Press "Activities" followed by TV button.

To watch a DVD: Press "Activities" followed by the DVD button.

To watch a tape: Press "Activities" followed by the tape button.

To play the Wii: Press "Activities" followed by the Wii button. Then pick up the Wii controllers.

To watch the Mac: Press "Activities", followed by a next page button (only room for four activities on the main screen), followed by the Mac button. (I still have to hook it up because I'm too cheap^H^H^H^H^Hfrugal to buy a Mac Mini and wireless video isn't quite here yet.) Surprisingly, it also lets me control Front Row on my Mac directly from the remote.

To shut things off: Press the power button.

It turns out, I wasn't happy before.

I'm very happy now. It is now a real pleasure to do any of those activities, all because of the remote. Who knew?

I've had this inspiration before, where I realized I had put up with far too much frustration: the first time I hooked a Mac up to a network (1990), reading the Unix Hater's Handbook (1994), the first time I got wireless (1999), my first iPhone (2007).

When do I expect this to happen to me again? When I get an iPad.

Now, a friend of mine got my kids the Magic Wand remote. I'll have to learn how to use that one as well, if only for the cool Harry Potter factor.

Monday, October 06, 2008

iPhone Raisins

Just to provide a counterpoint to this article Sour Grapes: Missing the Point About Google Android and the G1:

1. Can you spot the contradiction: "The physical differences between this first Android phone and iPhone strike me as not a big deal." and "And unlike the iPhone, the G1 has -- like virtually every other battery-operated consumer electronics device except many from Apple -- a user-replaceable battery." In other words, when the physical differences are in favor of the iPhone, then it isn't a big deal to Mr. Weinstein. When the physical differences are in favor of the G1 (at least as far as he is concerned), then it is a big deal to Mr. Weinstein.

2. "There are an almost unlimited number of other methods that can be implemented to perform the same functions via the touchscreen." I agree. There are an almost unlimited number of crappy interfaces. But once people get used to a good interface, you'll have a hard time getting them to switch to a worse interface.

3. Speaking of the battery, we can rewrite "And unlike the iPhone, the G1 has -- like virtually every other battery-operated consumer electronics device except many from Apple -- a user-replaceable battery." as "And unlike the iPhone, the G1 has -- like the minority of MP3 players sold except many from Apple -- a user-replaceable battery." While consumers may complain about this, obviously it is really low on their selection criterion. And if it ever becomes an issue, Apple can change its design.

4. "Nobody in their right mind would suggest that we should need central approval to run applications on our PCs" Well, except almost every IT department in the world. While I don't agree with this mindset, it is ludicrous to say that people don't want control.

5. "Expensive required development environments don't make sense either anymore." Er, the iPhone development tools aren't expensive. The toolset is free; deployment on a device is $100.

6. "This isn't just a matter of being able to run applications developed by other parties, it also means that you can run applications on your phone that you write yourself." The battlecry of open source development. Sorry, I just don't have time to write everything I want to use.

7. "Does this mean that you're taking on additional responsibility when it comes to the potential for misbehaving software? Indeed, but just as with PCs this is a matter of individual responsibility and using good judgment in your selection of applications." Mr. Weinstein, exactly how am I supposed to "use good judgement" in selecting applications? Fancy splash screen? Study the source code? What should I do? What should my parents, who aren't programmers, do?

8. "But in the longer run, this is largely an irrelevant issue in comparison to the vastly superior applications development and deployment environment represented by the open source, ..." Yeah, it is so superior that, after only 17 years of being available, Linux is still #3 in popularity. Just like it was a decade ago. (I know, I know, like Zeno's Dichotomy Paradox, it gets closer and closer to overtaking the world every year.) But it will be different for consumer devices. Really. Magically. That is, if Mr. Weinstein is to be believed.

I do agree with Mr. Weinstein that

A) "Android is potentially such a positive development in the mobile communications industry." Competition is good.

B) "But the 'Android is dangerous' argument is the one that almost causes uncontrollable chuckling." That argument is just silly.

If you follow Mr. Weinstein's line of reasoning, Linux ought to be the dominant desktop OS and the iPod ought to be a minority MP3 player. Yet the opposite is true, and has been true for years. If Android and the G1 and its descendants are to take the market away from the iPhone, it'll have to be because of something that hasn't been presented here. IMHO, of course.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Friends and Family

Hmmm... since the (essence of the) Master is still alive, and the Doctor's daughter is still alive, wouldn't it be an interesting story if the Master convinced Jenny to join him in a crusade that (unwittedly to her) pits them against the Doctor?

Hey, I'm just saying (and if someone from the BBC does run with it, I'll give you the rights in exchange for being present during filming :-))...


Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Unknown Cylon

Okay, it probably isn't Dirk Benedict. :-)

My thoughts (before Revelations is aired, of course) are that it has to be

[drum roll]

Bill Adama.

Here is my line of reasoning:  in order to escape detection, the "final five" could not afford to be duplicated within the fleet.  Yet to survive, they all had to be associated with Galactica.  Only with Adama running the ship was there a reasonably good chance it would succeed.

Plus, it leaves a great unanswered question about Lee going into the mid-season finale.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Windows Safari

At WWDC 2007, Apple introduced Safari on Windows.  I assumed it was for doing that Sweet iPhone development of web applications.

Fast forward a year.  Apple has shipped an SDK for iPhone.  Apple plans on making money on every for-profit app developed with the SDK.  Apple makes no money on free apps or web apps.

So, what the heck is Windows Safari really for?  Given that runs on a different OS which Apple doesn't own, it is probably the most expensive platform to port it to (compared with, say, iPhone).  Apple doesn't normally just give things away.  What is their secret plan?


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Soup of the Day

At work today:

Maybe the chicken was a vegetarian...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Principle of Conservation of Artery Hardening Restaurants

I guess to make up for Calvin's reopening, the Hoagie Hut in Highwood is closing.

There is still one remaining in Waukegan...

Calvin's is Back!

After a seventeen year hiatus (hey, that's how long it's been since I've lived in the Bay Area. Coincidence?), Calvin's Cheesesteaks is coming back! Read about it in the Merc.

I really, really wish I was living back in the Bay Area. I remember Calvin's quite fondly. I always stopped off just before catching a flight somewhere.

Besides the food, there was always the "find his next location" game, as he would close up w/o a word and move somewhere else. In my group of friends, I'm happy to say that I'm the one who accidentally found the Willow Glen location (I happened to be lost [er uh I mean exploring new road rallye territory].

So, when you make it over there, get me a Mushroom Pepper Steak Hoagie (I know better than to say "with everything"), or at least send me an XXL shirt (a poor substitute).

Friday, October 05, 2007

Translucent Menubar

Many folks have been critical of Apple's translucent menubar, slated for Mac OS X 10.5.

Personally, I don't think that they understand what it is for.

In my not so humble opinion, it is there to increase sales. Every Mac OS X release has made a change to the visual interface. For example, Tiger (10.4) added Spotlight to the menubar.

This way when the new, spiffy OS comes out, the former, previously adequate OS looks old and dated. Car manufacturers have been pulling this trick for years...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pieceless Puzzles

Gamewright's parent company Ceaco has a really, really cool idea:

I definitely have to get this for my kids. Heck, I wish that all their toys and games were this easy to clean up...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sun Smells the Coffee

[I know, it's been a long time...]
As a friend of mine pointed out, Jonathan Schwartz has announced that Sun Microsystems is retiring its SUNW stock symbol and replacing it with JAVA.

While some might think this is a silly move, I'm looking at it as a pretty shrewd one. Why? it is a great way for Sun to reinforce its Java brand. Think about it. Every news article will look something like:

Sun Microsystems (symbol: JAVA) announced today...

This kind of thing can be problematic for companies. A decade and a half ago there was this company making Macintosh computers, yet people didn't associate them with Apple.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject: I have not always been a fan of Sun technology. However, my opinion has changed, as both ZFS and DTrace look really, really cool...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Since voting is once again upon us, I'd like to reminisce about a previous election.

Way back when, Jack Ryan wanted to be a United States Senator. Then there was some kind of sex scandal, and he bowed out. The Illinois Republican Party, in its infinite wisdom, couldn't find any other worthy candidates in the entire state of Illinois, and decided to import Alan Keyes. Um, what were they thinking?!?

Now, I believe that Jack Ryan had a chance. He had a good chance. Why? Well, they forgot to take into account one thing: the Star Trek Male Nerd Vote, or the STMNV for short.

Let's take a look at the facts:

  1. He was married to Jeri Ryan, who played Six^H^H^HSeven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager. This is every STMN's fantasy.

  2. He divorced Jeri Ryan. This gives every STMN hope.

  3. A kinky sex scandal? Kinky? Sheesh, it didn't even involve tribbles.

Then again, given the stigma that George Ryan gave to his surname in Illinois, I'm not even sure that Irene Ryan, if she were still alive, could be elected here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes...

Kids say the darndest things...

Yesterday I found out that "Sweet Dreams" are made of "Fruit Snacks" and "Dream Cups".

Near the end, there is the passage: "Hop into bed. Turn out the light." If one is in bed, how can one turn out the lights?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More Birthday Gifts

Since that time of celebration of my existence here on earth is rapidly approaching, a number of folks have been wondering what to get me. Besides the lifetime gift mentioned in my previous entry, here are a few more ideas. Some of them are a little pricey for individuals; feel free to get together and get them for me in groups.

And so, without further ado, here is the list:

Remote Control Dalek

Better yet, get two, and we can have a Dalek War.

Actually, just about any of the Doctor Who characters on that page would make a fine gift. (Do coordinate with me, just in case I've already gotten any of this stuff for my munchkins.)

In case you want to go a little lower tech, an Inflatable Dalek works for me as well.

Don't worry; I am more than happy to figure out how to get this stuff imported to the good old U. S. of A.

Switching gears, every since seeing Altered States, the adverturous side of me has always wanted to experience a Sensory Deprivation Tank. What could possibly go wrong?

Moving on to the more mainstream ideas, something that would really help me while I'm exercising is a Video iPod. It's amazing that I've resisted getting an iPod for this long.

Oh, and believe it or not, I have no James Bond DVDs...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Birthday Gift #1: Vomit Comet

For those of you who can't decide what to get me for my birthday, I would love a ride on a Vomit Comet.

If you get me this gift you wouldn't have to give me anything else. Ever.

If a couple of you want to get together and get it for me as a group gift, that works too.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Won a Bike

A few weeks ago, I was surfing and came across Biketown USA. Write an essay in 50 words or less as to why a bicycle would change my life, and I could win one.

Hmmm... 50 bikes, 8 million people in the Chicagoland area, chances of winning: next to nil. Still, what the heck.

I haven't had a bicycle since my last one was stolen the day I moved to grad school. Just as I was seriously considering buying one, I got email saying "Congratulations; we picked your essay."

The cynical side of me then thinks "Is this legitimate?" After all, anyone can put up a web site (just like I'm doing here). I looked around, found a link to it on the City of Chicago web site. Cool!

Anyway, I won a Giant Cypress EX, complete with helmet, lock, computer, shorts (thankfully, not Spandex), sunglasses and water bottle.

Then I had to figure out how to get it home! Since I haven't ridden a bicycle in roughly 13 years, pedaling for 45 miles seemed a bit much. We barely got it into the back of our car. I need to get myself a car rack. Still, I'm not complaining...

Day 1: I road .75 miles, with a max speed of 13.3 mph.

Day 2: A bit more: 5.15 miles, with a max speed of 17 mph.

Keep on cycling!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Demetrio, are you out there?

In my last post, my old college buddy Demetrio said hello. Demetrio, if you are still out there, give me a way to contact you (such as a working email address) and we'll catch up on old times!

It seems wrong to use this as a message for just one person, so if there are any other old buddies of mine out there, let's catch up!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Place For Kids To Sit

This would be so cool for the little budding (or should I make the "butt-ing" pun?) artists to sit on.

Of course, once one has kids, one can no longer afford to buy this kind of stuff...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Three Birthdays Below OR Six Feet Under

[Yeah, I know it's been over a year since I last wrote anything *sigh*]

Lately, I've been watching Six Feet Under. While I certainly enjoy it, it has been a little weird. You see, I share the same birthday as the lead actor Peter Krause, so every once in a while I find myself thinking that this could have been my life.

I also share my birthday (although not the year) with the late John Nathan-Turner (heck, I even snuck in to his birthday party once at a convention, but that's another story...), so maybe I could have been the producer of Doctor Who.

And then there is William Goldman, who not only shares a birthday with me, but also grew up in the same city as me. Maybe I could have translated "The Princess Bride" from the original Morgenstern and known all the details of the Reunion Scene.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Father, Son and the Holy Force

Yes, I finally saw it yesterday: The One Man Star Wars Trilogy at the Apollo Theater Chicago.

I've been trying to see this for a while. Winter of 2003 was when I first heard of it, but we couldn't get it together. Last month it snowed and snowed and snowed; the theater was incredibly generous and let us reschedule. Last night, it all came together.

The cast:

Charles Ross (Luke Skywalker)

Charles Ross (Han Solo)

Charles Ross (Princess Leia)

Charles Ross (Grand Moff Tarkin)

Charles Ross (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Charles Ross (C-3PO)

Charles Ross (R2-D2)

Charles Ross (Chewbacca)

Charles Ross (Uncle Owen)

Charles Ross (Aunt Beru)


Charles Ross (Red 2)

Charles Ross (Red 3)

Charles Ross (Gold Leader)

Charles Ross (X Wing Fighter)

Charles Ross (20th Century Fox Fanfare)

Charles Ross (London Symphony Orchestra)


Etc., etc. You get the idea. :-)

Minor annoyance: it was a little hard to hear some of the dialog. Then again, considering I (and just about everyone in the theater) know it by heart anyway, ...

SPOILERS BELOW (but only of the movies, not the play)

It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. From the Opening Credits to the Dance of the Death Star to the end of Anakin, it was laugh after laugh after laugh, and smile after smile after smile. It couldn't have been easy to condense six hours of film into and hour and fifteen minute play, but all of that hard work certainly paid off. And the sheer amount of energy and dedication it takes to perform all of those parts solo; it was wonderful, just wonderful.

I sum it up as follows: he made great fun of the movies, in the way that only someone who really loves and enjoys them can do.

I'd love to say more, but I really don't want to spoil it for those who might get a chance to see it. And if you are lucky enough to get a chance, go see it!

His next production: One Man Lord of the Rings.

After the show, he gave us all some advice: if you have a crazy dream, do what it takes and make it happen. Inspiration for us all.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Make Me Money

Yeah, I'm a sellout. I signed up for Google AdSense.

Hey, I have college funds to fund! It'll be interesting to see which earns less money, this or Upromise.

Besides, it is fun to see just what ads show up. Right now, it is all about St-r W-rs. Oh, wait, I don't want to say that, as it will skew the stats even more. What if I say George L-c-s? No, that won't work... And I'm going to the One "Man" show tonight, which I'm planning on writing up, oh noooooooo....

Music Downloading, Part Deux

Remember my very first Bits O' Wit article?

"Given the RIAA's relentless attack on the grannies and toddlers of the world, [...]"

It isn't just live grannies they go after, dead ones are fair game, too.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Prisoners & Pullman & Peons, Oh Boy

Today I was forwarded an interesting article by Philip Zimbardo, the guy who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment and testified for the defense of one of the court martialed soldiers from Abu Ghraib.

"It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis of both the situational and systematic forces operating on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little shop of horrors.'"

Don't get me wrong; what happened at Abu Ghraib still sickens me. But I hadn't thought of it from that point of view.

There is something to it. I have been on the receiving end at least twice, albeit in more innocuous settings.

The first time was in seventh grade, where we were doing a simulation of the 1894 Pullman Strike.

"In the 1880s George Pullman built the town of Pullman near Lake Calumet [by Chicago] to manufacture his famous railway sleeping cars. All buildings in the town were company owned and rented to workers, churches and stores."

To simulate this, our teacher divided the class into Workers and Bosses. I was one of the Workers, and we decided to strike. The next day, the Bosses took away our desks (since they owned the "town"). We Workers got angry. Very angry. By the end of that class period, the teacher had to end the game, as the Workers and Bosses were physically pushing each other around (not gently, either). And this was an honor's class!

The other time that comes to mind is playing The Great Dalmuti. Basically, if you are the bottom of the pecking order (also known as The Greater Peon), the rules are set up so that it is (a) very hard to escape that position and (b) you are stuck doing the menial tasks (such as collecting and shuffling the cards) for the Great Dalmuti.

Of course, I was the Greater Peon. The first few rounds were okay, but as time went on my mood started sinking, and I was getting visibly angry when ordered to shuffle. It frustrated me, as I was getting angry at my friends, and I didn't really know why. It was just a game, right?

Subsequently, whenever we played, I noticed the same reaction in whomever was stuck as the Greater Peon.

Now, this is not an excuse for the evil that happened at Abu Ghraib; it is merely an explanation (and only a partial one at that, as our leaders should never, never have let it happened). But we have no chance of stomping it out until we understand it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Artistic Vision

Speaking of Star Wars...

For both the "Isn't that Special" Edition and the Star Wars Trilogy DVD, we have heard a lot about the changes being part of the "artistic vision" on how the movies should have been made, if the resources and technology had just been available at the time.

And yet, there is a fullscreen version available...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Snow Wars & The Three Little Pigs

I was all set to go see The One "Man" Star Wars Trilogy tonight. I had The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack on all day in my car. I even thought of a cool title for my review of it on this blog. But then it decided to snow. And snow. And snow.

Hmmm... The Empire Strikes Back... The opening scene was on a snow covered Hoth... It is snowing about as hard here as it did on Hoth... Coincedence? I think not.

A long time ago, in a grammar school far, far away, I put on my own one "man" play. Being absent the day partners were assigned and being inspired by Fractured Fairy Tales, I decided to put on a modern version of "The Three Little Pigs" (it was the only fairy tale book I could find around the house), with all the parts being played by myself; I would just change nametags.

In my version, the wolf was trying to kick his smoking habit, so he had to use an electric fan to blow down the houses. Imagine this little eighth grader sneaking a fairly large fan out of his house (I learned at a very early age that it is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission) and lugging it to school. Uphill, through the snow...

I got rave reviews from my teacher. She enjoyed it so much that she had me perform it for another class as well. If only I didn't go into software...

Anyway, did I mention that it is still snowing? Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


About eleven months ago, I heard about SpamALot coming to Chicago. I sent email to lots of friends and was we were going to get a large group of people together to go. It was a good plan; a noble plan.

And then I let nine months pass.

All that was left was limited view seating. And only two friends were willing to go along with this (thanks R & K!).

So, on a warm spring day in the middle of winter in Chicago, we went to the show!

The seats: we were sitting in the third row in the orchestra "look up their nostrils" section, far stage left. When they said "limited view seating", they weren't kidding. Still, ...

The show: excellent!

Even for those of us who can mouth every line of dialog while watching the movie, there are still many surprises. Many jokes are expanded upon. There are many more musical numbers. And, in my not so humble opinion, a far, far better ending. Heck, just having an ending is a surprise!

And for the few amongst us not well versed in the Python-esce humor (hi K!), it is still very enjoyable. The jokes are just bad, bad in campy, fun sort of way.

Camelot: it is still a silly place.

Without giving any real spoilers, let me just say:

1. The Lady of the Lake has an expanded role. (Hey, something has to fill the extra 45 minutes of so over the length of the movie.)

2. There are more religious overtones than in the movie. (I know, I know, unexpected in a play about the Cup of Christ.)

The cast: they are wonderful. Tim Curry makes an excellent king. And considering that he is nearly 60 (it has been 30 years since Rocky Horror), they are quite clever in in keeping his dancing appear energetic.

David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria were great, especially considering they had many roles, just like the original Pythons had. And their accents (even the occasional outrageous accent) were dead on. If there were a new Python troupe, they would fit right in.

The same high praise goes for the rest of the cast (you can go here to look them up).

The Playbill: well worth reading. It certainly had me laughing on the way home.

To sum it up, if I had a chance to go see this in another city, I would jump on it. Start Spreading the News...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Music Downloading: A Modest Proposal

Given the RIAA's relentless attack on the grannies and toddlers of the world, I was wondering what the legal standing is of someone downloading only music that they already own.

Not that I would even dare to suggest that anyone, let alone thousands or millions of people, go out and do this...