Archives for the month of: June, 2010

This report suggests a couple things. First, tablets will outsell notebooks by 2012. I would suggest that they’ll outsell starting in 2011 when Google’s offering hits the streets later this year.

The convenience and utility of tablets is strong and will only become stronger. As I said in a tweet the other day, when I got my iPad I fully expected my iPhone use to decrease but actually that hasn’t happened at all.

Instead, it’s the use of my MacBook Pro that has dived. I practically only turn it on for gaming at night and for syncing my iPhone and iPad in the morning. I’m writing and browsing  substantially more on my iPad.

Second, this graph:

This shows desktops in a slide and portables leveling out, which is interesting. It would seem from this report that people are preferring portability over fixed installations.

That makes sense. Laptops are increasing in power especially in one important area: Gaming. Anecdotally I’m seeing more ads for laptops aimed at gaming specifically than I have in the past. Fixed installations can be cheaper monetarily but the loss of convenience seems to be too high a price.

Besides

With OnLive playing on an iPad as seen in this video, no one will need to buy even so much as a laptop, right? Because it’s as good as all the hype?

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“Standard English” can be too constraining for the best communication. In order for the language to grow new things have to be used—especially when they’re correct in their use. If everyone reading a word knows what it means then there’s nothing wrong with using it, assuming it’s used correctly grammatically.

As you’ve probably heard by now, The New York Times style guide editor, Phil Corbett, has banned the use of the word tweet.

The rationale:

Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, “tweet” has not yet achieved the status of Standard English. And Standard English is what we should use in news articles.

He added that writers should prefer using established usage and ordinary words, instead of the most recent slang or catchphrases and that since not all people use the micro-blogging site, they may not be familiar with what a “tweet” refers to.

Ah. That’s the keyword: NYT readers not being familiar with established usage and Twitter. It was Craig Engler of the SyFy network that tweeted the following:

On Twitter the NY Times has about 2.5 million followers. According to Wikipedia, their daily print circulation is under 1 million. Hm…

Like I said at the top, if everyone who reads a word knows what it means then there’s nothing wrong with using it.

Let writers tweet!

I’ve heard this a few times:

I would buy [iPhone or iPad] if it wasn’t so closed.

What difference does it make to you in actual day-to-day use? Or is it a philosophical choice? There’s nothing wrong with the latter, I must emphasize, but there is something wrong in the posit that openness is intrinsically better.

It’s not. And no one cares. That is to say, users by and large don’t care—they want the device to work without opening the hood and as such openness isn’t a deciding factor.

Depending on how it’s done, things are better inside the walled garden. That’s the key word: depending. Apple is doing it right.

This is from a blog I stumbled across:

Many companies are now planning to compete in the tablet space currently solely occupied by the iPad. They’re planning to beat Apple by one-upping them, by adding features the iPad currently lacks, by being more “open” and more flexible. The problem is that no one is asking for this, no potential customers really care about “openness” or external USB ports on a tablet. People want things to work, work well, work quickly, and do the things they want it to do. Does the iPad do that? Yes. Is it fast, or more simply, fast enough? Yes. Does it have thousands of good apps available to download? Yes, and more are coming every day. Where are the gaps that a competitor hopes to fill? iPad customer satisfaction is at 91%. If a competitor wants to take down the iPad they have to beat 91%.

A good point. The full blog entry is here.

A corollary to the openness issue is that of user choice. We can see it play out even on the app level, particularly in the example of Twitterific, which I used for a long time (long in app years anyway).

Regarding user choice, another post from the aforementioned blog posits that developers should not include a metric ton of preferences with their apps and instead present a vision of what the best choices are and prevent them from being cocked up by prefs.

The visual example he gives of the difference between two versions of Twitteriffic is a fantastic illustration of this (before on left, after on right):

I can see his argument and agree. When I was discussing my e-reader reviews for the iPad and was discussing it with my wife and extolling the virtue of BNE’s ability to let you have any sort of theme you want, with micro-control of the colors used for individual elements, my wife instantly shot back:

But I don’t want to manage all that. I just want to sit down and read.

Me too, actually, now that you say it out loud like that. Whatever additional options you include is more things you have to manage. That’s more burden on you, the user. But I included this as a feature because even though I wouldn’t use that feature myself, surely lots of other people would?

Actually, maybe not.

Maybe not at all….

I haven’t downloaded Safari 5 yet because, oddly, I haven’t browsed at home on my Mac (been spending too much time on my iPad and iPhone). Anyhoo, when I do I’ll have access to the same thing that Firefox users have had since, what, 1900? Namely: extensions.

I’ve never been a fan of extensions for two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to maintain them.
  2. The browser should have such options natively.

I’m sure I’ll check out the scene to see what it’s about and all but I can’t really think of anything I need. Safari’s pretty robust, does a lot, is fast, and suits my needs fabulously well.

Oh, it also has an interface that’s superior to Firefox and Opera.

WWDC keynote was today and oodles of announcements, not the least of which the as-expected iPhone 4 announcement. But! There were things relevant to iPad and extant iPhone users too. Let’s get to them, shall we?

iBooks

In my review of e-readers for the iPad, I noted some things that were keeping iBooks from becoming the best e-reader over all the others by a wide margin. Three of them were improved bookmarking, viewing PDFs, and the store selection.

Here are the announced improvements to iBooks:

  • In first 65 days, people have downloaded over 5 million books onto their iPads. Five of the six biggest publishers say iBooks accounts for 22% of their e-book market.

22%, you say? The likelihood of a greater selection seems highly likely.

  • Ability to view and read PDF’s inside of iBooks.

Good deal. I’m quite anxious to see how my D&D books look in iBooks. There wasn’t any word about whether iBooks will support single column reading in landscape mode. If it does, it might not have been announced because it’s not really that big of a deal, but still it’s something that would improve PDF reading in particular.

  • New control to add bookmarks. Bookmark looks like little red ribbon and shows in the table of contents.

Excellent. I noted that bookmarking in iBooks was the worst in the industry and I’m glad it’s been fixed.

  • iBooks enhancements include in-line notes that look like post it notes.

Interesting. I don’t notate the books I read so I never even thought to evaluate the other e-readers on this topic. I’ll have to revise my review to account for that function.

  • Multiple devices

iBooks is coming out for iPhone (and iPod Touch maybe?) too and, like the Kindle, if you buy a book on any device it’s synced to all your devices, so you’ll have access to your material no matter what. What’s unclear is if this also applies to PDFs. I’m assuming it does.

Unified inbox

At very long last, a unified inbox. This can not come soon enough. Overdue!

Netflix

I wanted to call this out for special mention because this us utterly cool: Netflix is coming to the iPhone in addition to iPad and when you pause your movie on one device, it’ll be at that same point waiting for you when you watch it on an another device. I don’t even subscribe to Netflix and I’m impressed by this. Very keen.

Farmville

I don’t play it (I play We Rule instead) but there are oodles of people who’re glad to see Farmville come to the iPhone.

iPhone 4

OK, the biggest announcement: a new iPhone. Is it worth ditching my current iPhone?

Design

Thin, yes, but Apple-ish?

iPhone 4 has a new design—which I’m not an enormous fan of. When the whole Gizmodo thing happened, one of the reasons why I said it was either a hoax or a prototype was that the design did not feel like an Apple design.

I stand by that. It doesn’t look like an Apple iPhone to me. It looks boxy. I understand the edges are rounded but the flat boxy look still looks boxy to me. You can see the layers, they’re plain. My iPhone is rounded all over except for the screen.

9.3mm thin. Less than a centimeter. It’s the thinnest smartphone on the planet—they say—and sure, I’ll buy that. But that’s not a major concern of mine to be honest. But still. Wow. That’s really thin.

Glass on both sides. That’s really unexpected and a bit crazy. It makes some sense in that the glass they already use is scratch resistant (and is actual glass and not plastic) so this should make the iPhone 4 a lot more purse-durable. I’d still be too afraid to drop it into the purse I wear all the time without it being in a comfy sock. Actually, if I socked up the keys that’re in there, I could probably get away with just dumping the iPhone in there and being done with the whole idea of even the sock. Hmm.

Face Time

This is Apple’s new open standard for video chat. The number of video chats I’ve participated in in my lifetime is zero. I don’t even like talking on the iPhone and prefer using texts, so as you might imagine Face Time is not a big deal for me. I’m sure it is with other folks though.

LED Flash

Finally. Other phones have enjoyed a flash and it’s about time the iPhone did. If you’ve seen, well, pretty much any D&D game photo I’ve ever taken you will note that most everything appears in silhouette. That’s got to change and this, oddly enough, is a major selling point for me.

Also, the LED flash can be kept on all the time to serve as a continuous light for HD video.

HD Video

iPhone 4 takes 720p HD video at 30 fps and, importantly, has iMovie for iPhone which will allow you to make sophisticated—for the situation—edits to your videos before you send them out. This is keen. I’ve taken videos with my iPhone before (in fact you may view all of them on my YouTube channel). But YouTube automatically downgrades the quality of the video so for me personally I’m not sure this feature has a lot of utility for me.

Retina Display

My current iPhone 3GS has 163 ppi (pixels per inch). iPhone 4 has 366 ppi and displays 960×420 with a 880:1 contrast ratio. Christ, that’s sharp. I said before (I think on my Twitter feed) that I feared the rumor that the resolution of the iPhone was going to dramatically increase. After all, if there are more pixels then what difference does it make on a touch interface on a screen that size? Would the interface be more difficult to precisely control since one’s fat finger is less than 366 ppi? Apparently not—it’s all about displaying things, not interfacing.

If you look at the Retina Display page on Apple’s site they have an explanation and demo of it. Alas, I’d have to see one in person and, ideally, look at my iPhone and the iPhone 4 side-by-side to determine whether the quality difference is significant enough to make me want to buy the phone.

But from this distance, wow, that’s a really sharp display.

Gyroscope

Crazy. iPhone 4 has a gyroscope in addition to the accelerometers found in current iPhones. Of course the first thing I thought of was game control. With a gyro added to the mix the amount of fine control we could have over games could be extraordinary. And awesome.

Conclusion

Lots of little things that I’m not quite sure adds up to a must-buy for me which is in contrast to all previous models of iPhone—I was totally in “gotta have” mode as soon as I heard about them.

The thing is, iPhone 4 includes features that I’m not really sure how often I’d use day-to-day. I don’t take videos very much so would I benefit from the HD video?

The flash would actually be very useful and compelling since I take photos all the time but is it worth getting a new iPhone for?

The display sounds like it would be super-gorgeous awesome but, um, I was about to say I’m using my iPad more than my iPhone now anyway but actually that’s not the truth. I keep my iPad on for dramatically longer stretches of time but I refer to my iPhone a lot more during the course of a day. When I turn on my iPad, it’s usually to settle in for a chunk of time, even if it’s for 15 minutes. So actually maybe the super-awesome display would make a big difference after all since I’m all the time using my iPhone.

I might be talking myself into it. Maybe not. I’ll have to think upon this matter.

And, importantly, I’ll have to hold one in my hand.

Splice is an example of a predictable thriller that’s interesting to watch because of the character study it emphasizes. Some things in the plot are proposed from almost the first scene and other things are telegraphed a mere half hour ahead, and by the end of Splice you’ll not have felt any of it was a particular surprise—but the film doesn’t suffer from it.

I enjoyed the film despite the predictability because I looked at Splice not as a horror film (it isn’t) but as a character study with a sci-fi McGuffin.

The story, as I saw it, is about two scientists and the lengths that they would go to for science’s sake. Of particular interest, to me, was how they kept re-drawing “the line” of how far it was for them to go in their experiments, and also how the characters traded being the line cop. One would draw the line while the other crossed it, and vice versa. I found this switching interesting and all the while we, the audience, could see that the line was slipping far from its original point.

I also liked how it felt small but had a Hollywood budget. There were, what, six sets to the film? Seven? And a small cast. The producers put all their money into special effects and it showed—they were fabulous indeed without being flashy or showy. Very well done and elegant.

As a bonus they don’t spend too much time on the McGuffin, meaning the genetic triple talk behind Dren (who you see in the movie poster above). Dren is another character in the film, sort of, but anyway the film dispenses with how Dren came about early on and then leaves all that behind, and rightfully so. Splice is about crossing lines.

It’s rare for sentence or paragraph to stop me cold and keep me from reading the rest.

But I must say I ran into one such paragraph just now in UFO Magazine:

Linda Moulton Howe? More internal dialogue! Verily, a segment of the ufological community would errantly propound a problematic Howe to dismiss Dolan and may even be justified to some discussible degree concerning method and process employed, perhaps. It could be that a lot of the aforementioned angst-precipitated results are because she will rush in where her detractors fear—or errantly sneer—to tread. The woman has stones; say what you will.

OK, then. This article classified as: Pass.

A new ereader for the iPad is now available: Stanza. I’ll add it to my reviews of ereaders (see below) at the earliest opportunity.

Stay tuned! 🙂

I read a lot of UFO stories via my subscription to UFO Magazine and by reading books, like the one I just finished: Captured! : The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience.

But do I believe in UFOs? Well, I want to believe. It would be so super fantastic that it’s beyond words. But a problem with the whole idea, the problem that keeps more people from taking it seriously I think, was put succinctly by famous UFO abductee Betty Hill when she answered why she decided to stop investigating UFOs entirely:

Because there are too many kooks in the UFO field.

It’s true. There are so many that if there is any legitimate information out there it’s being drowned out by absolute crazy—and it’s the crazy that gets the press, leaving the whole subject tarnished discouraging people from coming forward—and being identified as a kook.

There actually is a lot of evidence for UFOs out there—how strong it is is the central point of debate, I think. Unfortunately, there’s no direct evidence—read ships or bodies on public display—only indicators open to a different interpretation.

And there are multitudinous problems besides. One of my big sticklers is how eyewitness accounts tend to match strongly with technology available—or imagined to be realistic—at the time and as our civilization becomes more advanced, so do the UFOs themselves. Betty Hill described a star map (a map she would draw from memory and which would become a famous piece of evidence used to validate her story) that was shown to her on a physical piece of paper retrieved from a hole in the wall of the UFO. Hmm. Well, it could be true—far be it from me to tell space-faring aliens how to organize their 3D navigation equipment—and maybe it was a spare besides but, yeah, sounds unlikely. Paper was a well-known technology in the ’60s, but touch- or gesture-based electronic information retrieval less so. How close are we to having glasses-less 3D displays? How soon after that will the percentage of UFO abductee stories incorporate seeing that technology? Anyway, you get the idea.

So my stance is pretty much that until I can buy a ticket to see one in a museum I have to reserve final judgment—but meanwhile I will continue to read UFO stories and watch UFO movies.

But why read so much about UFOs? Oh, because They excite my imagination like no other genre. It doesn’t matter if the story is credible or horrifically outlandish and ridiculous, I’m all for hearing it.

Because what if even the craziest UFO story was actually true? Imagine that! The imaginary implications of that are staggering and I can’t help but want to think about what kind of world that would be. Aliens. Other civilizations: Why are they here? What’s their society like on their planet? How do their bodies work? What powers their ships? How did they crack FTL travel? What’s their language like? How do they communicate? Ten trillion questions all of them splendidly exciting. 🙂

Incidentally, the aforementioned book is exactly the kind of book I love. I bought it because I wanted to know the whole Betty and Barney Hill story. I remember the ’70s TV movie and have heard the story third hand lots of times,  but I wanted to once and for all learn the official account, as it were.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The whole thing is there in exhaustive detail and is well organized and written by two authors, one of them Stanton Friedman who’s as close to level headed as one comes in the field, and the other by a close relative to the Hills and who had unprecedented access to a wealth of information about the story and the Hills themselves.

But that’s not the whole reason why I read it. The real reward came early on. In the account, Betty and Barney were driving their car and turned off the highway onto a dirt road. There, the road was blocked by aliens standing in the road. Then…

He described men in the road who signaled him to stop by swinging their arms in a pendulum motion. His motor died and the men began to approach his car with a strange, nonhuman, side-to-side swaying gait.

Horrific! Scary! And what Betty later described about their eyes… Gah! Such a frightening story! Its imagery that will stick with me. Yay!

I suppose, for me, UFO stories are like campfire horror stories about a man with a hook for a hand, but the idea that just one of these stories could be literally true is wild, exciting, scary, and amazing—and that’s where I like my mind to go.

Yeah, not Project Gutenberg ones or anything!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Download the free Barnes & Noble ereader—you can follow the link in my review in my previous post!
  2. Go to a physical B&N store.
  3. Get a code.
  4. Download the book.

Here are the details you’ll need to know aforehand. It’s been going on for awhile now but I just heard about it.

Odd that BNE didn’t inform me of this—especially since it coats the library with ads. ANYway…