Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Jesus Phone.

So last night Timi and I popped into the Apple Store at South Coast Plaza (bonus trivia: South Coast was the 4th Apple Store ever opened) to have a peek at the iPhone. A peek turned into a tour, a tour turned into an investigation, and before I knew it, it had been monopolizing one of the 9 or 10 floor models for over an hour. It's literally that good.

The Pros:
-The screen is gorgeous. The LCD is rated at 160PPI (pixels per inch). For a reference, your average laptop/desktop monitor screens are either 72 or 96PPI. This screen is a stunner - text is super crisp, videos and photos are beautiful and bright.

-The OS is super responsive. It was able to handle multiple things at the same time, and believe me, I taxed it; opening multiple internet windows, playing music, setting up a Bluetooth connection, sending emails and texts, all at the same time. Most of the time it performed beautifully (see why only "most of the time" in the Cons). The UI has a lot of little flair animations here and there (like when you send something to the trash, or create a new tab in the web browser) that really add to the polish and don't manage to be too in-your-face.

-Battery life looks like it might very well hold up just fine in real world situations. In the hour that I used it, what with running all of those tasks concurrently, the battery was still around 92-95%.

-The phone features are great. Timi and I initiated a conference call with 4 lines and each one came through clear - the phone didn't even flinch at adding that many lines. Looking at all the calls you have on hold and switching back and forth is really as easy as the demos indicate.

The Cons:
-EDGE. It's old, it's slow, pages take ages to render, YouTube is a gamble at times. For full-on internet use, I would stick to Wi-Fi. Personally, I'm gonna wait around until there's 3G support. AT&T has a 3G network in Orange County, so the network is already there. Now all that I need is the device to utilize it. I give it maybe 12-15 months before Apple rolls out a next-gen device.

-No Flash support. So much for the "real internet." Hopefully we'll see something in the future with a software update or something.

-The OS can lag. While most of the time it's a joy to use, there are times when it can stick. For instance, if too much is going on in the background and you rotate the screen to view it in landscape mode, it can lag anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds before the screen catches up and turns with you. Also, sometimes if you open up a new tab in the web browser and go off to do other things and assume it'll load the page in the background, you're going to come back only to find that a blank screen – you need to actually wait in the web app for the page to fully load. Minus one on the multitasking side of things.

-The keyboard is lacking. The software isn't necessarily as "smart" as touted by Apple. It only corrected my mistakes a couple times, and the remainder of the time it just kept the misspelling intact ("junk" kept as "jink"...I guess junk isn't a very common word as per the iPhone's dictionary). I suppose with practice (i.e. owning the thing) you'd get a lot better with it. This is, incidentally enough, not a phone that you're going to want to text with while driving, although I know that within the coming weeks we're gonna see some bozo get in an accident while trying to send email/messages while behind the wheel.

-Default ringtones aren't anything to write home about. Apparently, there might be a way to add your own songs as ringtones in the future as per some goodies found in the iTunes 7.3 update, but concrete info on that has yet to surface. Until then, no personalized ringtones for your contacts and no using songs for ringtones. Kind of a bummer.

I wouldn't let the cons hold anyone else back though (although they may be holding me back). There's no denying that this is definitely a watershed moment for Apple and that this device will see some serious market innovation within the US mobile sphere in relation to other manufacturers. It's not so much the hardware or any one feature that really makes is a remarkable device, but all of the features combined into such a nice little package that makes it so appealing, and I think sales in the next few months will echo that sentiment.

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posted by Jack Curry @ 2:50 PM | 1 Comments Links to this post  

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

college, technology and other musings

The notion of 4 years for an undergrad is completely obsolete. If I have to also be taking summer and intersession classes to meet this goal, it's technically not "4 years as in 8 semesters", but "4 years as you're going to have no free time at all." I think it's the intellectual equivalent of saying you're going to give me a house, and you give me the house but then you avail yourself to pooping on my lawn every 6 months or so. Gee, thanks.

In other news, Safari 3 was released as a beta to both Mac and Windows. On the Mac side, it promptly killed my Wikipedia widget (which has since been updated but still has issues) and still doesn't allow for Google Chat (more lawn pooping). Sooo it's back to 2.0.4 for me. Too much trouble, too little payoff in my opinion. And I had such high hopes for an updated WebKit frameworks without having to download the nightlies constantly.

On the Windows side, exploits were found within hours of the release (more of the same old same old for the Windows camp). I actually find that kind of disconcerting, even for a beta – you'd think that security, one of the biggest things that's touted by Jobs and the Kool-Aid drinking contingent, would've been one of the basic underlying principles of the design. After all, it was for the Mac version. Maybe slightly different frameworks or how it accesses the system or the calls that it makes is the cause for some inherent stability (i.e. could it be Windows's fault?). Or maybe they just needed a way to necessitate the ability of everyone (Mac and Windows programmers alike) to be able to build "apps" for the iPhone and it's "sweet" development platform (Web 2.0 and AJAX, hardly an SDK....I'm going to invoke lawn pooping once again).

On the topic of the Mac, WWDC 07 was on Monday. It was one of the weakest keynotes I've ever been privy to. I watched the WWDC keynote from last year on Sunday to kind of refresh what was gone over, and was extremely disappointed on Monday when I saw that it was essentially a rehash of last year's content. Stacks were kind of cool, but we already have spring-loaded folders, so it's not like that's anything new (except a prettier package). But a transparent menu bar? "Dimensional" dock? COVER FLOW IN THE FINDER?!?!?

Allow me to express my discontent with that last point very quickly – I think CoverFlow, outside of the iPhone (where I think it has merit), is by far one of the most useless UIs that Apple has ever pushed. On a computer, it makes much more sense to just type in what you need or click on it with a mouse. Words work much better on a system that has been geared towards them for the past 40 years. People don't go "what did that document look like?" Rather they say "I remember this phrase/name in this document, let me search for it." Sherlock? A decent attempt. Spotlight? A big bundle of awesomeness rolled up in one big metatagging package. Organizing your documents with words and searching for them by such is a perfect marriage. Now they want to push a more visual agenda. Ok, fine by me. Making the icon a preview? Helpful. Adding in QuickLook? Kind of makes viewer applications like QuickTime and Preview/Acrobat redundant, but I'll buy it. CoverFlow? A superfluous, unnecessary, cutesie slideshow implementation that offers no real merit like the aforementioned features. This isn't a feature that offers real-world functionality, but is rather a feature for feature's sake.

And to end on a slightly dubious note, I wonder when the build released to developers on Monday will be hitting the torrent sites. Only a matter of time I suppose.

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posted by Jack Curry @ 12:01 PM | 2 Comments Links to this post  

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

compoooters - ala Mac

macs are by far the easiest form of technology to use - when i had a windows machine, most of my time was spent fixing the myriad of problems with the system - regedit, deleting corrupt DLLs, defragmenting the boot drive, and actually doing an entire format and reinstall every 3 or 4 months or so. macs, by comparison, are much easier to use and maintain. for the past year and a half i've had no problems whatsoever with the system or the OS and its components. i drive it pretty hard (as in 15 programs open at once, itunes going full blast, photoshop doing it's thing, the works) and a program may lock up every now and then, but nothing like a full-on system crashing event.

so when my file system became corrupt, it was both a shock and a huge inconvenience. when everything just works, you start to take it for granted.

it had nothing to do with the OS, but a program, perhaps you know of it: limewire? apparently, these p2p programs are written so hastily that how they interface with the system can be awkward. it may work for a time, but after a while, something's bound to go haywire. and it did.

how mac os organizes itself is like this: with a lot of information, sometimes it's not possible to put files that need each other right next to each other on the physical drive. i'm not talking in the same folder or something, i'm talking right next to each other on the hard drive platter itself. it's possible for sure, but sometimes something is already there and it'd be a pain to move it somewhere else on the drive. so, mac os sets up little things called sibling links, and what they do is point to the location of a necessary file that is somewhere else on the hard drive - this is for the operating system itself, not files that i have created. example: i execute a command (say, open dashboard to check movie times), then the system interprets the command, looks for the code to execute, and does it. but if there's a second part of the code that it needs to execute, but it's not near the first part, the system needs a way to find it quick in order to execute the command in a timely fashion. enter the sibling link. attached to the first string of code is a little pointer that says "part two of the execute code is at (x,y,z) on the hard drive" so the system can find the code quickly. and when it works, it works perfect. when it doesn't...

so what happened was, limewire, in the way it interfaced with the system, somehow interfered with these sibling links and messed them up. so when the system goes looking for the second part of the code to execute a command, it doesn't find it because the sibling link is pointing in the wrong place. what that means is, the system now has to search the entire drive in order to find the file. think of it as finding a needle in a haystack with a magnet the size of a credit card - it gets done, but it takes a hell of a long time. this means that every 30 seconds or so, the system would lock up for about a minute and a half. then i have another 30 seconds. then lock up again. kind of hard to work.

in short, i backed up, erased the drive and wrote over it with zeros (seven times actually), then reinstalled the OS and put my files back over. total time from realization of problem to resolution: about 12-14 hours. i'll be backing up my files every couple weeks after this.

didn't really make my weekend.

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posted by Jack Curry @ 8:26 PM | 0 Comments Links to this post  

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