Tag Archives: technology

Desktop No More

About two months ago, my iMac died. Five years ago, this would have been a huge inconvenience. In 2016, it became a mild irritation (mostly because I was making good progress on Jonathan Blow’s wonderful The Witness) and an opening to reconsider my personal technology stack.

Since my dad first lugged home an SE/30 in 1990, I’ve always been a desktop-Mac-as-my-primary kind of guy. That poor abused SE/30 gave way to a pokey Performa, and a very early G3/233 accompanied me to college. I scrapped and saved for a G4 Cube mid-way my junior year, but by graduation I was tired of having an external monitor. Thus began a solid 14 years of an iMac on my desk. Every major model (outside of the “gumdrop”) worked into my cycle, including the bizarre but quirky “white half sphere” with the articulating arm display.

Helping to reinforce this was the side effect of Apple’s Intel transition: through Boot Camp, I could now run Windows, and therefore could run Steam. A new avenue of gaming opened up, and my replacement iMacs were almost always BTO options to max out the graphics card and RAM. It wasn’t top tier gaming performance, and it certainly was a premium above building a separate gaming PC, but I always appreciated having a single computer.

But back to January: the iMac went kaput (likely a hard drive failure, undoubtedly related to my inability to heed a recall warning), and I instinctively went to the Apple Store to start pricing out a new model. And then thoughts started swirling in my head:

  1. Over the average week, I was using my iPad Air considerably more than my desktop.
  2. The things I was using the desktop for was mostly Windows gaming.
  3. The Retina iMac had increased the cost of the line generally, particular at the higher end
  4. The higher end would be needed, as the only place you can max out the graphics card is the very upper end of the line
  5. Even after my educational staff discount, I was still looking at about $3,000 for a like-for-like replacement.
  6. While I do have a work laptop available for business functions, I’d need something to not lose my oversized Steam library and want something for day-to-day computing.
  7. I refuse to use Windows as my primary OS. Just out of principle.

After some soul searching and some research, I’ve settled on a new approach: an iPad Pro 12″ for the non-gaming, and an Alienware Alpha for the gaming. (I was holding out until last week’s Apple Event to see if the lineup changes might’ve changed my plans, but they did not.) Combined, I saved about $1,300 versus the traditional iMac plan, and spares me a separate iPad upgrade later in the year.

Given how Apple is now trying to sell the iPad Pro as a viable laptop replacement, I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. Check back in a few months for the oh-so-thrilling results.

Mark Anbinder on the MacBook Air

Mark has penned an excellent post addressing concerns about the lack of Ethernet on the MacBook Air, specifically to how it relates to the environment on the main Cornell campus.

Here’s the crux:

> It’s worth noting that most laptop users EVEN NOW aren’t bothering to plug into wired Ethernet, even when they HAVE the requisite port on their laptops. I strongly suspect we’ve already seen a large chunk of the hit on Red Rover’s capacity from the shift to wireless, and Apple is just giving in to reality by leaving out a port no one is using.

From An Amazing Pain In The Neck To Fifth Grade

If I use the phrase “If it weren’t for my horse…”, I’d guess that a number of people I know could finish the sentence.

> When from behind me, a woman of 25 uttered the dumbest thing I’d ever heard in my life … She said, ‘If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.’ I’ll repeat that. I’ll repeat that because that’s the kind of sentence that when you hear it, your brain comes to a screeching halt. And the left hand side of the brain looks at the right hand side and goes, ‘It’s dark in here, and we may die.’ She said, ‘If it weren’t for my horse…’ as in, giddy up, giddy up, let’s go – ‘I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,’ a degree-granting institution. Don’t! Don’t think about that sentence for more than three minutes, or blood’ll shoot out your nose.

If you hadn’t heard it previously, the above bit is from Lewis Black’s The White Album. It may be his most iconic bit, if only for the sheer lunacy and Comedy Central’s insistence of replaying his standup specials as much as possible.

Today, the New York Times ran a fairly routine article about an email flood that occurred on a Homeland Security private network today. It generated over 2.2 million emails, and…wait, what’s this?

> John Polhemus, the plant security director at the Lanxess Corporation in Pittsburgh, said: “This has gone from an amazing pain in the neck to fifth grade. But that was my favorite grade.”

If you’ll excuse me, blood is shooting out my nose.

Die, Foleo, Die

Palm CEO Ed Colligan announced today that the Palm Foleo is dead:

> In the course of the past several months, it has become clear that the right path for Palm is to offer a single, consistent user experience around this new platform design and a single focus for our platform development efforts. To that end, and after careful deliberation, I have decided to cancel the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration and focus all of our energies on delivering our next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market. We will, of course, continue to develop products in partnership with Microsoft on the Windows Mobile platform, but from our internal platform development perspective, we will focus on only one.

Kudos to Gruber for nailing the appropriate response:

> Everyone knew this thing was a turd except for Palm. Well, it looks like they’ve figured it out — but only after (a) announcing it; (b) blowing millions on developing it; and (c) its original ship date. The sooner you realize a mistake the better, but at this point it’s hard not to see the company as a joke. Credit, though, to Palm CEO Ed Colligan for making the announcement in his own voice on the company weblog, rather than hiding behind a mealy-mouthed press release.

Poor Business Move Of The Day

Wired has a [nice piece up](http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/15-08/ff_sheep?currentPage=1) showing the strange void in Second Life – where countless companies have gotten in at the ground floor to produce very little.

Stuck in the middle of the article is a paragraph discussing the performance issues that affect Second Life, and theres one thing sticking out like a sore thumb:

> Created by an underfunded startup using a physics engine that’s now years out of date, Second Life is made up of thousands of disconnected “regions” (read: processors), most of which remain invisible unless you explicitly search for them by name. Residents can reach these places only by teleporting into the void. And even the popular islands are never crowded, because each processor on Linden Lab’s servers can handle a maximum of only 70 avatars at a time; more than that and the service slows to a crawl, some avatars disappear, or the island simply vanishes. **”It’s really the software’s fault,” says Andrew Meadows, Linden Lab’s senior developer. “Way back when, we used to say, ‘This is not going to scale.'”**

I certainly appreciate candor and honesty in business people, but there’s a sharp division between “acknowledging a performance issue” and “admitting you knew your system was crap from the start.”

Adventures In Product Renaming

Back in March, Adobe was making lots of noise about a new piece of technology they were pushing then called Apollo. To avoid drowning you in buzzwords: Apollo lets you create desktop apps using web programming. Kind of neat.

But Apollo was always just a code name, and we were threatened told that the project would be renamed sometime later.

Today, Adobe [announced](http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/06/11/apollo/index.php) the official name: [AIR](http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air/).

This is problematic for handful of reasons.

One: “AIR” is a [fairly generic word](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_%28disambiguation%29). It’s the stuff we breathe. It’s a quality or manner. It can be a musical composition. It’s also a [terribly popular French electronic music act](http://www.intairnet.org/). Best of luck to Adobe as they try to [make page 1 on Google](http://www.google.com/search?q=air).

Two: Despite the acronym expanding to “Adobe Integrated Runtime”, it is being referred to repeated on the web page as “Adobe® AIR™”. That’s right: *Adobe Adobe Integrated Runtime*. Rolls off the tongue as easily as *automated teller machine machine*.

Three: I would argue calling it a *runtime*. Perhaps a *runtime enviroment*, like Java. But this is a geek quibble.

Finally: You would think “Adobe AIR” was a unique name. [It’s not.](http://www.adobeair.com/)

A golf clap for the renaming team. Brav-o.

It’s Pronounced “Folly-o”, Right?

Palm today announced the [Foleo](http://www.palm.com/us/products/mobilecompanion/foleo/), possibly the most awkwardly positioned tech product I’ve ever seen. Billed as the “world’s first mobile companion” – which translates to “costs as much as a smartphone but useless without one” – the Foleo is a 10″ sub-laptop that “helps you do more on the go”.

To find this product useful, you seemingly need to meet all of the following criteria:

* Have a smartphone, but be the sort of person who thinks the screen is too small to be really useful.
* Feel like you aren’t carrying enough devices in a day, so much so that a 10″ mini laptop will make you feel like a more complete person.
* Believe that Palm has enough direction to make a device like this work.
* Have $600 to burn – although there’s a $100 mail-in rebate as an “introductory offer”.

They’re advertising the Foleo on three primary aspects: email, attachments, and web. Again, we’re talking $600 for a device that just does those three things.

The marketing text is completely baffling as well. It’s hard to pick just one section that irks me, but:

> It connects wirelessly with your device to let you read and write longer emails and view attachments with ease. Think of it as the big screen and keyboard your smartphone has always wanted.

$600 for the ability to read and write longer emails. $600 to look at attachments. $600 for a big screen and keyboard. $600 for a crippled sub-notebook with 5 hours of battery life.

Palm is in a desperate fight to stay alive at this point. Palm OS has languished horribly, so much so that when I got my Treo at work last year, the only significant different from the Palm V I had back in 2000 was that the Treo had a color display. Worse, the company doesn’t seem to have anyone focused on application design – the Sidekick thrashes it up and down the street for usability. If a company can’t innovate within their own product line in over 6 years, I can’t find any enthusiasm as they try and invent a new class of devices.

If nothing else, Palm has made the iPhone look like a steal.

Jonathan Greene [has more on why this is a bad idea](http://www.atmasphere.net/wp/archives/2007/05/30/palm-foleo-will-be-a-serious-miss).

UPDATE: [NY1’s Tech Beat piece](http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=101&aid=70214) this morning (Thursday) is on the Foleo; a reporter from CNET really nails it:

“When you do a companion device you start to point out deficiencies in your current device and I think that’s a problem for Palm,” says David Carnoy of CNET.com.

Rub The Felt: Looking Back At ETech 2007

I’ve just spent the week in San Diego at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference – aka ETech 2007. The theme was the old Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

I came out to San Diego for two reasons. The first was intentional: my job has an underlying requirement that I be aware of what’s going on in the tech world, and I can’t think of a conference more targeted at that line of thinking than ETech. The second was unintentional: in the time since I booked my conference registration, I have burned out very hard on a serious personal project, and I grew to look forward to this time as a chance to reboot myself in terms of technological interests.

In both respects, I believe it was a success.

Continue reading Rub The Felt: Looking Back At ETech 2007

Good Konami

I have always been interested in games that cross between the virtual world and the real world. There’s something that really hooks onto me when there’s a connection to the world outside the console/network.

I recently picked up *Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops*; the first real Metal Gear game for the PSP (not that I minded the Acid series as a diversion). Despite playing like most Metal Gear Solid games, it doesn’t follow all the conventions – the most major diversion being that Snake has to recruit soldiers throughout the game to help accomplish his mission.

The primary method of “recruiting” is to knock out an enemy and then drag him back to your truck or other team members. This is certainly a workable method, but a little tedious depending on the level size.

While I was monkeying around in the menus, I noticed one labeled “RECRUIT”. The three options were:

* Access Point Scan
* GPS Scan
* Password

While the Password option is almost exactly what it sounds like, the other two are extremely cool:

The *GPS Scan* option requires the GPS add-on for the PSP, which just came out and thus I don’t have. But if you get said module, selecting this will show you locations you can go to with your PSP to acquire new soldiers. That’s right – you have to walk with your PSP to the right spot to acquire game resources. Essentially, you are participating in geocaching.

The *Access Point Scan* option does not require an add-on. The concept here is that every wireless router in the world “contains” a soldier. As you get your PSP closer to a wireless router you haven’t accessed before, the on-screen signal grows stronger. Once it reaches a certain strength, you receive the soldier. (If you can’t get close enough, it is possible to mash the Circle button to help “boost” the signal.)

Why is this cool? It’s [wardriving](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardriving) to acquire game resources – except since you’re not actually connecting to the router, there’s no legal grey area. The soldiers you receive from this scanning are (apparently) generated based on the MAC address of the router; I’d love to see if there’s a pattern to the types of soldiers based on router manufacturer or model. Beyond trying to crack the system – searching this city for wireless routers is just plain fun. It’s a mini-game that gives me another excuse to roam the city. I’ve already picked up eleven soldiers from the elevated stretch of the subway I ride every day – I can only think of the possibilities.

(I realize that, in many ways, this is essentially a modernized version of the [Barcode Battler](http://www.vidgame.net/misc/barcodebattler.htm). This isn’t a bad thing – the Barcode Battler concept was a good one, even if the execution was incredibly crappy. Yes, I owned one. Shut up.)

In closing – kudos to Konami for including two activities that I would’ve never thought to associate with gaming into MGO:PO.