The dumbing-down of the iCloud
Jun 24th, 2011 by scaredpoet


It’s kind of interesting, going back along the years in this blog, and seeing how technology-wise, I evolved from a total Apple hater to a complete Apple fanboy.  Unfortunately, some things have begun to irk me lately about some decisions at Apple, that may eventually cause the pendulum of my preferences to swing back again.

First is this whole business with Apple’s latest version of Final Cut Pro.  For veterans of the software, this latest release is a huge step backward. What’s wrong with it? Well… let’s let Team CoCo explain it to us…


As for me, I can sorta shrug at Final Cut Pro X, because I never really was a big FCP user.  As a holdover from my Microsoft-Windows-using days, my experience in video editing comes from using Adobe Premiere Pro.  Granted, I’ve got some gripes against Adobe too, particularly with their acquisition of certain historically-bad technologies, but at least Adobe has yet to really screw up their historically-good apps.  Yet.

What’s really chapping my hide though, is Apple’s decision to dumb down a rather useful cloud-based service that they’ve had for a few years now, Mobile Me.  Granted, the launch of this service was pretty damned disastrous.  But for those of us who stuck with it, it’s become a very useful way to store all kinds of files, sync up calendars, share photos, and make everything “just work.”  And just work it has…. up until now.

You see, it seems that although Mobile Me works great the way it is, Steve Jobs never quite got over the sting of his pride and joy being buggy and getting a little bad press when it was initially rolled out.  So much so that a mere name change isn’t enough.  And so, the reaction has been to take all of the most stable, useful features, and get rid of them…

So, that cloud file storage that every sane human being and even other companies think is a really useful feature that makes the Cloud something worth using?  Gone.  Photo sharing with others?  Gone.  Got a web page on your Mobile Me account?  Sorry, it’s gotta move too.

In their place?  Well… you can sync up the last 30 days or 1,000 photos between your iDevices, whichever is less.  And by “Documents in the Cloud,” Apple defines “Documents” as only those documents made by iWork or iLife.  Any other file made by other app doesn’t apply.

I love my iPhone.  I love my iPad.  I love my Macs.  But this makes no sense.  And it’s making my love my Apple shwag just a little bit less.

What irks me most about this change is that it seems to punish the very users Apple should be rewarding: those power users who use Apple stuff not because it’s chic or stylistic, but because they have powerful, useful features while still being easy to use.  I didn’t get a mac because it looked pretty; I got it because it permitted me to use widely used applications will still having a powerful UNIX interface under the hood.  I bought an iPhone not because it would make my experience with twitter overbearingly seamless, but because it did very useful smartphone functions without a lot of annoying puffery and glitz, and did it well.

And I used Mobile Me because it was nice to be able to take a file from work, drag it to an iDisk icon on the desktop, and have that file waiting for you on your computer at home, or your mobile device, without you even having to think much about it.  It was nice to be able to throw up a nice looking photo gallery that you could share with anyone, and even let them download a neat zip archive with your whole album at a single click if they wanted to.

And really, there’s no reason to NOT continue having these features… particularly since the users who use them were willing to pay for it.  But now. with a dumbed-down, less-useful but free version waiting in the wings, a user like me will be using iCloud a lot less, even though I won’t be required to pay for it.  In fact, I’m probably going to end up paying someone else to provide the service I want.  That’s less money in Apple’s pocket, and more money to their competitors.  How does that make any sense?


Daily Disaffirmations: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Murdoch’s Vision for iPad “Journalism”
Apr 15th, 2011 by scaredpoet

The “Carousel,” a feature for browsing content on The Daily


I don’t think anyone disagrees anymore at the notion that newspapers are probably going extinct within the next few years.  Aside from older generations who grew up with the traditional media, a greater number of mobile individuals are finding that their existing smart devices are giving them their news fix just fine.  And so, to survive, the traditional newspapers are trying to adapt.

The New York Times, one of the better heralded newspapers of its era, is going the paywall route.  In a nutshell, they will deliver the same thing they’ve delivered online for years, but now you’ll have to pay for it if you happen to read the website a lot.

Other ventures, however, are going the subscription model, but are trying to make it worth your while.  The Daily is one such venture, and I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on an iPad and try it out.

First things first: The Daily is a very well-executed, visually-appealing app.  The design and delivery of the content takes full advantage of the iPad.  It’s visually appealing, the interactive features and graphics are very well executed, and from a design perspective, it’s exactly what modern media SHOULD be.  If newspaper companies could actually grasp the current technology like this app has and make some use of it, they probably wouldn’t be failing right now.

Unfortunately, for all the looks and polish, the actual content is utter rubbish.  Every news piece is heavy editorialized, and parrots Fox News (in fact, a lot of the articles pretty much attribute Fox News as their source).  Since this app is essentially Murdoch’s baby, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s going to be some right-leaning opinions, but the propaganda is EVERYWHERE.  News isn’t news in the Daily: it’s all editorialism, unabashed and unapologetic.

I can’t even recommend this app if your political views are right-leaning.  You’d basically be paying for a copy-and-paste of whatever blather is coming out of Fox News that day… something you probably already get, and probably at less of a cost than the subscription for this app’s content.  None of the pieces really bother to go in-depth.  The editors for The Daily are all about quantity, not quality.

Perhaps you are extremely affluent and hard-right-leaning, and don’t have time to read more than a half-screen of an article at a time.  So, maybe parting with an extra $40 a year for a subscription to this content is chump change.  That’s fine, that’s your decision…  just bear in mind that President Obama recently unveiled a government spending plan that would raise taxes for the top 2% of wealthy individuals.  Only, The Daily isn’t really interested in reporting THAT to you, because it was MORE interested in posting a video about Biden falling asleep during the budget speech.



So, I’m telling you now – for free, no less – something that The Daily won’t: you should save your money.


Apple’s vision of the iPhone/iPad… 23 years ago.
Aug 21st, 2010 by scaredpoet

Before cellular networks could even come close to providing high speed data. Before Color LCD and OLED screens were even close to being usable, much less common. Before touch screens were viable… Apple already had an idea of how these technologies would come together and change computing.

Considering the fine gadgets they’ve provided us with today, some people might not find this so amazing. But the interesting twist is this vision wasn’t dreamed up by Steve Jobs.

The year was 1987, and Jobs had actually been ousted by his own corporate board at Apple. At the helm was John Sculley, an individual Jobs had recruited to Apple from PepsiCo, ultimately clashed with, and ended up losing a battle for control of the company to. Unfortunately, Sculley didn’t turn out to be the management wunderkind the board believed him to be: his reign started a dark era at Apple where internal politics, aimless development projects and screwed up product lines may have nearly sent the company into bankruptcy.

And talk about narcissism! If you think Steve Jobs is eccentric, consider that Sculley wrote an autobiography, then made Apple buy a copy for every employee, to promote “excellence.”

But, one concept he DID come up with in 1987, and should probably at least get a little bit of credit for, is this tablet-like device… with a touch screen, integrated video conferencing and messaging, and access to a vast network of data that allows a user to search and retrieve all kinds of information.

Unfortunately with Jobs gone, there was no “i” in Apple at the time, and so it lacked a catchy name. Instead, this concept had the very un-cool title “Knowledge Navigator.” And while no tech conpany could build it in 1987, Sculley figured it would be commonplace around 2010, and even produced a video to demonstrate what it might look like.

For the record: I’m actually glad that current technology didn’t quite evolve this way. I’d be totally annoyed if my iPhone had this priggish, smug bowtied “assistant” constantly nagging me about my appointments and phone calls. And I also noticed something… the professor keeps this thing on his desk, and the thought never crosses his mind that this highly compact device can be picked up and taken with him. I guess nobody’s perfect.

The i of the retina: Part 2
Jun 25th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Last week, I began a little experiment to test out the veracity of Apple’s claims about one of the new iPhone 4’s most touted features: the Retina display.  In particular, the claim is: “the Retina display’s pixel density is so high, your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels.”

Well, after subjecting the previous iPhone model, the 3GS, to a little bit of optical testing, we here at the lab have managed to gain access to one of the new specimens and have repeated our tests.  And as promised, here are the results.

First, a general overview of the iPhone 4 screen:

Obviously the above image is a greatly scaled-down view.  To see the whole thing, you’ll want to click here (sorry, slow-internet users).  Right off the bat, you hold this phone in your hand and you see a HUGE improvement over the previous display.  For the most part, the 3GS screen isn’t that bad when you look at it alone.  It does a pretty good job of doing what it has to do to deliver a decent image.  But the iPhone 4… wow.  Just… wow.  It’s incredibly crisp, and puts the previous generation screens to total shame.

Is it like holding a sheet of paper in your hand, like Apple claims?  No, not exactly.  Paper still has a better crispness to it.  But, this screen is still pretty damned clear.  And at least to my eyesight, Apple is right: I couldn’t make out individual pixels.

But, what about our little friend, with the much bigger eye and the much better eyesight?

Well, he’s been waiting for this moment. 🙂

The lab was set up as before: the camera fitted with a 60mm macro lens, and mounted at the closest distance it would focus (0.2m).  And here’s what it saw:

Again, this is reduced.  Here’s the full size version.

Long story short: yes, the Canon with the nice macro lens can still see the pixels on the new display.  But, that doesn’t really tell us much.  How does the new display stack up to the old one?

Let’s compare.  Here’s a reduced-size, side-by-side image of the Calculator app icon on the 3GS (left), and the iPhone 4 retina display (right):

And here of course, is the full-size image.  But even from the reduced image, it’s blatantly evident: there’s a BIG improvement between the old display and the new.

To drive the point home, here’s a pixel-for-pixel closeup:

Apple’s hard technical figures are spot-on: there’s effectively a 4:1 pixel increase in the new display over the old one, and the resulting improvement is significant.  In fact, it’s actually pretty hard to go back to using the previous-gen display after playing with the new one for a while.

Realistically and objectively though, is this alone worth the upgrade?  For some people, I would argue yes, particualrly if you use your iPhone a lot.  The new display is easier on the eyes, and has a nice vibrance to it.

On the other hand, a casual user might get the same wow-factor from looking at the new screen but wouldn’t quite benefit that much.  At the very least, there aren’t any iPhone apps as of this writing that absolutely require the better screen.  Though, that may change in time.

I certainly would wait until after the current waiting-line hysteria has died down.  It should be clear to any reasonable that until the lines start to dwindle as the early adopters finally get their gadgets, the chances of getting one in the immediate future if you haven’t already are slim.

As with the previous screen test, a gallery of test pics can be viewed after the cut:

Read the rest of this entry »
A few words to the iPhone masses…
Jun 24th, 2010 by scaredpoet

If you’re out there standing in line for an iPhone, or freaking out over alleged iPhone 4 defects, I have a few things to say.

Don’t panic.

This is the fourth time this cyclical hysteria has happened. It never fails. In the end, the blog posts about it die off, the bloggers and “analysts” get bored and find some other shiny thing to speculate about whether x chip was manufactured incorrectly or not or whether x company did their launch right, no massive recall of “defective” iPhones ever occurs, and yet somehow the vast majority continue to use their iPhones just fine.  Life goes on.

Soon, there will be tales  of people who’ve exchanged their iPhone 4s a half-dozen times or more after finding some teensy quirk that drives them OCD-crazy, and don’t get the hint after the 9001st exchange that their expectations on hyper-perfection will simply not be realized. I guarantee it: this happens every time and ends up amounting to nothing. Though, it might take a bit longer this time around for exchange unit inventory to populate the stores.

I think the best advice anyone can give people who are waiting in line, obsessing over defects, or doing any of the other classic iPhone-launch-OCD behaviors, is to just relax, and chill a bit. All these lines that have formed, and most the complaints about network performance tend to ultimately rest on the fact that so many people are obsessing about this particular piece of expensive metal and glass. At the end of the day, it’s just not that important.

And if you’re one of those people who are about to fire back with “WELL FOR A $599 DEVICE IT BETTER BE PERFECT!!” – then you’re exactly the demographic I’m talking to. You’re parting with hundreds of dollars and you’re incredibly stressed over it. Is itworth $599 and all this hassle to not be happy?

It took me being separated from my iPhone – and having no mobile device to speak of – for a week and half to come to that realization. It’s amazing how being unplugged for a while resets your mindset, and helps you be way less stressed over things. The iPhone is an amazing tool and I still wouldn’t prefer to leave it behind, but I’m not not going to let it rule my life, nor will I deprive myself of sleep to stand in an outrageously long line and probably (not) get one.

Relax.  You’ll get your iPhone in good time.  There are more important things in life.

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