Category Archives: Gadgets

Thoughts about the iPhone 4S

I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I fell for the iPhone 5 hype and was eagerly anticipating “Apple Day”.  Yep, I was one of the people who was part of the flood of people to Cnet’s live coverage of the Apple announcement.  About 45 minutes into the coverage is when I realized that there was not going to be an iPhone 5.  I couldn’t help but laugh at how foolish we had all been for falling for the rumors and crap coming from manufacturers in China.  I can’t say I was disappointed in the iPhone 4S itself.  It’s better than my current iPhone 3, though, I was hoping for a bigger screen and a sleeker design than the very square iPhone 4.  Consequently, in December when I’m eligible for an update, I will upgrade to the 4S.  Still I wonder when the mythical iPhone 5 will come out and whether I’m gonna have buyer’s remorse if it comes out in 2012.

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It’s Been a While Since I’ve Rambled

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in this blog.  I think this says a lot about the state of things.  In general, there’s not much to say, and, in general, there’s not much nice for me to say.

About a month ago while driving home from a night out at the movies, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Best Buy or Fry’s and wander the aisles.  My response was, “For what?”  That’s when we came to the sad realization that, beyond the iPad, there is nothing for gadget freaks and computer nerds to be excited about right now.  3D TV repulses me and there’s no reason to buy a new TV just because it has yellow pixels.  There are no new speed leaps in PC hardware and I already have a multitude of iPods and PC’s in various form factors.  Ironically, the next day, while listening to Marketplace on my local Public Radio station, one of the news stories was about how sales at Best Buy had fallen.  I guess my husband and my sentiments are widespread.  There’s nothing new and wonderful to aspire to purchase (except for an iPad) and we are only buying on necessity for the purpose of replacing  broken items.  Sadly enough, our non-functioning XBOX360 doesn’t rise to the level of necessity.  We are now watching Netflix VOD on the laptop that’s connected to our TV.

This realization brought about further thoughts about the current state of things.  There’s a push/pull conundrum with the jobs situation.  People are holding back on spending because they feel insecure about their jobs and finances and companies aren’t hiring because there’s not enough demand for produces and services.  I think though, that job and financial insecurity are only a  part of the demand problem.  I think a big part of the demand problem is that there’s nothing exciting and new for consumers to consume.  Why do I say this?  Well, because of Apple, of course.  Despite the downturn, they continue to churn out great products and they don’t seem to be having any problem selling them to cash strapped consumers.  And believe me, my unemployed-behind is saving my husband’s money for a Christmas iPad.

I’m tired of hearing companies whine that they won’t hire because there’s no demand for their offerings.  My response to that line of complaints is “what are you offering?”  If it’s not something new and exciting, regardless of state of the economy, demand will slump.  In good times and bad companies have create demand by innovating and coming up with great new products to drive consumption.  So, in other words, big companies are going to have to spend some of the money they are sitting on, hire some people, and offer some great new products and services in order to kick start demand and spark the economy.  At the same time, there has to be investment in innovative small companies to get new ideas out.

My Dad likes to say that the economy won’t  revive until some sort of phenomenal shift happens — something on scale of the Internet or the steam engine.  I’m not sure if I agree.  It seems to me that there are a lot of “little” things that can get done, too.  Interestingly enough to me, it seems like clean energy isn’t fueling people’s imaginations.   I thought the clean energy revolution would be a phenomenal shift, but it isn’t.  Why?  I think it’s because oil is very much ingrain in our worldwide psyche.  I’m not sure I understand this emotional attachment to oil, but despite the damage being done to the Gulf, I hear the tears in people’s voice as they talk about the spilled oil ruining the environment, while at the same time, ruining job prospects and a way of life in which oil and fishing are intertwined.  The same is true for families in the coal mining industry — it’s like coal mining is part of the family.  It’s weird to me — why love something that kills you and hurts everyone on the planet?    Also, I think oil and coal are tangible whereas solar, wind, nuclear, and the biological and chemical methods of energy generation seem abstract to most people.   I imagine “blue collar” workers don’t see how they fit into a world that they associate with hard science and engineering — though, it seems entirely ridiculous to me, but understandable since BP saw it fit to fire the very engineers and scientists that could have prevented or more reasonably responded to the Gulf oil spill.  (By the way “technicians,”  “engineers,” and “scientists”  are not interchangeable!)  Anyhow…it seems to me that our reliance on fossil fuels is emotional and until that emotional tie is cut, other forms of energy generation cannot rise in its place.  The “everyday worker” has to see how they fit into a new energy future before they will buy into it.    Making alternative energy seem more accessible is a good problem for marketers to solve…

On the other fronts…well,  inventing new ways to print money never got us anywhere.  Yet, “Wall Street innovation” will continue, driven by finding new ways to scam people without technically breaking the law…personally, I don’t need it…but I imagine the new legislation that just passed will fuel a whole new round of “Wall Street Innovation…”

On a personal front, I’m watching and participating in the electronic manga revolution.  I want to be more active in it.  I think, though,  this is one of those things in which the large companies have to reach out to the smaller companies and hobbyist groups to get things moving in the right direction for consumers.  I just hope lawyers and greed don’t blind folks such that we end up losing the current opportunity.

Adobe’s EPUB Standard (and some other comments)

Here is an article about how Barnes and Noble is backing Adobe’s EPUB standard.

Link

I’m happy to see content  providers getting behind this so there is device independent standard for e-books.

As for the jabs at Apple’s iTunes, well, iTunes isn’t completely locked down.  There are plenty of software programs available that remove Apple’s “wrapper” so users can play the music they purchased  on any device as an mp3.  I had to do this when my laptop crashed and the only copy of my music collection was on my iPod (it seems to me Apple can remedy this by making it easy to transfer songs from an iPod back onto a computer, rather than locking iPods with one device).  Depending upon Kindle’s success, I imagine some “Robin Hood” spirited programmer will “crack” that device as well (it may already have been done).  This really is beside the point, but I am a little tired of reporters feigning ignorance about the various ways to circumvent proprietary file formats and touting proprietary file formats as the key to having a successful digital distribution business model.  iTunes doesn’t have a lock on the market because their file format is proprietary.  They have a lock because their device is easy to use, it’s drop dead simple to buy music for iPod and iPhone devices, and the pricing structure for the music available is within reason.   Can you say Apple has had the same success with video entertainment via Apple TV? No … (in my estimation, it looks like Netflix is poised to dominate in this area due to the numerous deals they are making with TV and gaming console manufacturers.  It is very simple to watch Netflix movies on demand via my XBox360 with my existing Netflix account).   So far there is no clear winner on e-books or e-reading right now other than the personal computer and there are many PC manufacturers.   As for e-readers, I think it’s pointless to have a separate device outside of a laptop for e-reading.  Ultimately, I think this is a software play and not a device play.  I think Amazon recognizes this too, which is why they are making the Kindle software available for PCs the same as Apple did for iTunes.  This leaves box makers to struggle for margins as they try to one-up each other by driving device prices down.  My advice to the box makers is to multi-task existing laptops, minis,  and mobiles rather than wasting time and money on developing a separate e-reader device — unless, of course, that e-reader can be submerged underwater for tub-time reading.  Of course, tub-time computing would also be quite revolutionary …

Apple’s Magic Mouse — Multi-Touch Mouse

Here’s an image from Apple

Nice!  I think I’ll make a trip to my local Apple store to check out the new items.  I’m not a “Mac person” but I am very curious about the Magic Mouse and I want to see it and the new iMacs in action.  Now to wait for the PC version.  If it is truly multi-touch, then I think this is an excellent evolution of the mouse.  I would like to see something that goes even further for gaming.

Barnes and Noble’s E-Reader: “Nook”

Here’s an image from Engadget of the new Barnes and Noble E-reader.

It supposedly has a gray and white text display and a color multi-touch input display.  Nobody seems to have any details on the functionality.

Link to Engadget Article, which I think links back to the WSJ. Hahaha …

Link to NYT article which has more “speculation.”  According to this article, B&N has an agreement with Google for access to their library of public domain books in addition to the books sold at Barnes and Noble.

Link to Wired article which has even more speculation.  Apparently this e-reader is built on the Android OS.

I guess we’ll find out more about it very soon when it hits the market.  This may be candy that is too irresistible despite my impoverished state …

10/GUI — Meh …

My husband sent me video of the “10/Gui” multi-touch mouse replacement.

Link

Yay — put the touch interface physically on the user’s desk instead of in the screen.  The first thing that  came to mind watching the video is “nice”, but show me how you type accurately at keyboard speed.  And with that I’m at “meh.”  Also introduced in the video is the idea of a linear windows management system.  I immediately blanched on this idea.  I’ve never encountered the problem this guy described.  My windows always pop up where they were last opened or closed and I like having layers of different windows from which little pieces peek out so I can see what I’ve got open.  I also like arranging my PC desktop how I like — but then again I’m sitting in front of two very large flat panels, multi-tasking away as I translate and monitor my e-mail/RSS Feeds  …

This is not to say the concept is bad.  It’s just that having a huge touchpad below a traditional keyboard causes ergonomic issues of it’s own.  Basically, a keyboard and mouse are placed at the same distance in front of the user so the user is in a neutral position regardless of which device he or she is using.  Along this line I see a five-fingered multi-touch mouse  or an integrated keyboard/touch interface device instead.  I’ve seen the a keyboard/touch device on a PS3  where the keys on the keyboard can be used as the touch interface.  As for a flat touch keyboard, that allows for all kinds of modifications and customization based on application by pairing it with a screen underneath the surface.  People could create their own interfaces with a few “primitives,” which could have great possibilities for gaming, image editing, music making, and things like Bloomberg.  Manufacturers could make one keyboard for all languages.  In combination with haptics (or the likes), keyboard-like feedback could be provided, thereby creating a very familiar experience.

Personally, though, I’m very happy with the mouse.  A lot can be done with very little movement, plus mice are quite inexpensive and space friendly.