Category Archives: Technology

iPhone v1.1.1

Today I installed the 1.1.1 update of iPhone after reading many articles and blog posts about how it makes an iPhone a “brick” if you’ve hacked it to install or change things.

Lots of people look at the iPhone as a great device that can be hacked to do much more than it “officially” does. These individuals and groups have done some quite remarkable things with a singular goal in mind: Make the iPhone do more than it’s “supposed” to do. I find this kind of thinking exciting. The people who have provided software and hardware hacks to open it up to different carriers or to install new software are true entrepreneurs and they deserve every bit of credit they can get. Even though I have not chosen to try any of their options, their vision, ingenuity, and creativity deserves an enthusiastic two thumbs up and I congratulate them all.

I look at my iPhone slightly differently than the people in that group. I haven’t tried to hack it to do ANYTHING. I’ve lived with it from 1.0.0 to 1.0.1 to 1.0.2 to 1.1.1 (somebody please correct me if I’ve gotten those wrong). Because of my patience I feel as though I have benefited greatly. I do feel bad for those who have had their iPhones turned into paper weights. But I also feel reassured in that some of the things I have complained most about have been addressed – and most importantly, ARE being addressed by Apple.

Here are three things that bothered me about the iPhone.

1. Speakerphone volume.
2. Lack of a period key on the main keyboard.
3. Lack of ability to purchase and download music from iTunes.

Though Apple claims to have addressed these in the 1.1.1 release, I have to submit that I am still extremely disappointed in the volume of the speakerphone. Personally, i’ve noticed no difference (so far – I’ve only had one call). That thing needs to be TWICE as loud, not MARGINALLY louder. However, it’s a home run to note that the other two are now up and running. On my phone. Not one that I bought yesterday, but the iPhone I bought on June 29th, 2007.

Steve Jobs made a comment at MacWorld 2007. He had a photo of three “smart”phones up on his slide and talked about how it’s hard to add new features to those phones because you can’t add a key or reconfigure things because the devices have already shipped.

iPhone 1.1.1 is a classic (albeit small) example of what he was talking about. While I didn’t receive ALL the functionality that I had hoped for, I did receive SOME of it. And because of that, I am willing to be even more patient, knowing that Apple IS indeed making the effort to listen to customers and make the device better and better.

I therefore wait patiently for v1.2.0.

A Thought About Market Share

I read an article this morning that reminded me of a subject I wanted to blog about but forgot to. It has to do with the age-old battle between Macintosh OS X and Windows – particularly Vista at this point.

Many, many people make comments about Apple trying to gain market share and how it is (or is not) eating away at Windows. As this morning’s article proves, sometimes they discuss how Apple needs to do X, Y, and Z in order to beat Windows and talk about a 3% market share for Apple.

I look at things a little differently than pure competition. Consider the cars on the road today. You see tons and tons of Fords, Chevys, Toyotas, and Hondas. You see fewer BMWs, Mercedes, and Bentleys. But that doesn’t mean that BMWs, Mercedes, and Bentleys aren’t as good or wouldn’t provide a better driving experience for *everyone*. It just means that they’re at the higher end of the market, so fewer people own them.

I apply that view to Macintosh computers versus Windows computers. I didn’t used to, as many who read this will recall, but I think it’s just fine if Apple wants to go on making its higher-end software. I don’t believe it’s necessary for Apple to beat Windows. I don’t think they’d regret it if they did, but I also don’t believe it’s a requisite of Apple’s success. Just look at the differences in stock performance over the last five or six years. Apple is up (over six fold) and Microsoft is basically flat (up about a dollar or two). Obviously their stock prices are not a reflection solely of their computer operating systems, but it does tell an interesting story.

So, I present those who make it a point to discuss or criticize Apple’s lack of market share with this thought: isn’t it ok if the pursuit of raw market share isn’t the point?

Hmm. Quality instead of quantity. What an interesting thought.

Here’s the article:

Even in Fiction

I was recently directed to this passage from the book “The Book of the Dead” by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (page 85 of the soft cover), and I was amazed at how closely we could identify with it.

“She plugged in her laptop and booted it up. At the insistence of her husband, Bill, she had recently switched from a PC to a Mac, and now the boot-up process took a tenth the time – zero to sixty in 8.9 seconds instead of two and a half plodding minutes. It had been like trading up from a Ford Fiesta to a Mercedes SL. As she watched the Apple logo appear, she thought that at least one thing in her life was going right.”

Internet Explorer's Reign of Mediocrity

I saw this on today and I have to admit that I am one of the (apparently THOUSANDS) of people who are tired of having to tweak their standards-based code just so that IE 6 and 7 (MIcrosoft’s browsers which do NOT adhere to web standards) can display their web pages the way the developer or designer originally intended.

With IE’s reduced market share due to the success of Firefox, Safari, and Opera, combined with Microsoft’s several-year development cycle to release IE 7 – a browser that doesn’t even bring IE up to date with the competition – I think people are really just starting to say, “You know what? Screw you.” What do YOU think?

Please comment! Opinions are welcome.

I'm a Bit Disappointed

Today Steve Jobs announced that the price of the 8GB iPhone was going from $599 to $399.

I love the device. I bought one opening day. Didn’t even have to wait in any lines or anything. And in my opinion, it’s the best cell phone ever, period. I’m glad I own one, and it has never disappointed me.

But to drop the price by a third a mere 2 months after you release it is kind of a knee to the groin to all those who bought it before this morning. I would have absolutely no problem if they dropped it to $549 or even $499. But to drop it to $399 clearly shows, at least in my opinion, a steadfast desire on Apple’s part to make a premium off of the enthusiasts (of which you have to admit there are tons, and I’m happy to admit I’m one of them). In fact, I could live with a $399 price if they set it one year after launch. But this just happened too quickly.

Apple has dropped prices significantly on their products before, but (to my knowledge) never by such a percentage so fast after launch.

So I feel taken advantage of. And that feels pretty rotten. And it’s really unfortunate, I think, for those of us who decided to buy the iPhone right after launch.  I’ve purchased lots of Apple products over the past two years or so but, I’ll say it again, none of them has ever had such a significant price drop in a matter of weeks.

I’m glad the iPhone is only $399 now. That just means that even more people will be able to enjoy it, and they should – it’s an amazing device. But to quote South Park, “I’ve learned something today.” I think I’ll be a tad more patient before I buy Apple’s next big thing, particularly if the price seems on the high side (which I think everyone can agree the original iPhone prices were).

Xeon Price Cuts: Should I Wait?

According to the following article, Intel is scheduled to reduce prices on its Xeon processors on July 22nd. I was going to buy a Mac Pro in mid July to replace the PowerMac G5 that I just sold, but do you think I should wait a month or so and see if Apple will cut prices on their Mac Pros? Does anyone have an idea of how long it takes Apple to react to price cuts?

Four or Eight?

I bought my Power Mac G5 in January of 2006 – several months before the Intel processors were available in a desktop form factor. This was not intentional – no one knew when the Intel-based computers would hit the market.

In August I purchased a MacBook Pro, which was based on the Intel processor, and I was able to run Windows (for development purposes only) in either a Parallels instance or in Boot Camp. I even blogged about this in my old blog.

As my weekly trips to Redmond come to an end in May, I find myself wondering how I could sit here with my PowerMac (which is no slouch, mind you – 4 processors and 2 gigs of ram) but work on my laptop all day long just because I need to use Windows.

To that end, I have decided to sell my PowerMac (as well as a Dell Latitude D600 laptop that I gave up in favor of the MacBook Pro) and purchase an intel-based Mac Pro. The thing I’m struggling with is how many cores to get.

I’ve already decided the 3 GHz processors are a must, but could I possibly make use of 8 cores? I run Final Cut Studio for video and sound editing and production, and I plan to run two virtual machines concurrently throughout the day, but I just worry that I will regret not spending the extra money now ($700) to get twice the processing power.

Does anyone have much in the way of advice?

Living in Harmony

A living room in today’s world often consists of much more than just a television. TiVos, sound systems, game consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and things like Apple TV now grace the shelves of many entertainment systems.

One result of this is often a coffee table with four or five remote controls on it. Another result is confusion and frustration, particularly for those who are not necessarily technically proficient.

My coffee table had the following:

TiVo remote – used for TV power and watching television
TV remote – used to control aspect ratio and sleep timer
Stereo remote – used to control volume, power and mode
Cable remote – used to navigate and buy on demand programming
Apple TV remote – used to control Apple TV.

I was skeptical that all five of these could possibly be combined in to a single, easy to use remote control. At the suggestion of my pal Brad Wilson, however, I gave the Logitech Harmony 880 a try and I’m really glad I did. It replaced ALL of the remotes I mentioned and works perfectly now that it’s set up.

The remote comes with a rechargable battery, which is nice. It also has an accelerometer in it, which means the screen and button lights turn on when it is moved. The only problem I’ve had with it is the set up and configuration. Before I get to that, I will say this: I have been able to get the remote working exactly how I want. It just took a while to get there.

Logitech provides a web interface (through software provided in the box) to configure the remote, and requires you to create an account on their web site. Once this is complete, you can enter the manufacturer and model number of the devices in your living room. The software will attempt to find these devices and download the remote control codes for you. It will suggest button assignments and “activities” for you, but these suggestions often miss the mark.

Once you set up your devices in the software, you choose your “activities” to create. The software will suggest some activities for you based on the devices you selected. Mine only suggested two activities – watch TiVo and watch a DVD. Unfortunately, I had to create two “generic” activities to handle on-demand from my cable provider and Apple TV.

Once your devices and activities have been set up, it’s time to customize the buttons on the remote control for each activity. If I’m watching TiVo, for example, I don’t want the remote to send signals for Apple TV. Similarly, I want to assign the commands to the buttons I’m used to using. Because the Harmony 880 is laid out very much like a TiVo remote, it was important that things were in familiar places.

Something of note: The “Watch TiVo” activity it created for me would automatically turn off the TiVo machine when I switched to another activity or powered everything down. This is obviously foolish, because the nature of TiVo is to be always on to record programming you’ve selected no matter when it airs.

It took several tries to get the remote configured just the way I wanted it, and that’s unfortunate. I believe that to be a drawback of the software and the online site. Logitech should COMPLETELY overhaul this experience to make it more … well … Apple-like.