A Christmas Letter to Tim, Look back and Forward…

There are many many great developers working on OSX and iOS. The number of tools you can pick from is awesome. Better yet everyone can pick there favourite tools.

After listening to Episode 98 of the Mikes on Mics podcast it got me thinking of better ways of mixing the tools you like. I want the markdown tools from Byword the searching and replacing features (including REGEX) from BBEdit and the PDF tools from PDFPen. But that is still a little bit of a pain in the OS X environment with opening, closing, cutting and pasting. It is nearly impossible in the world of iOS.

I’m thinking there needs to be a way to integrate your best choices in tools and bring them into everything we do. While also allowing different Then it came to me.. we used to have something like that .. it was called OpenDoc. I think iOS might be a place that would see a comeback of OpenDoc.

It was, in part, a method of cross application communication, one of the major asks for iOS users.

Among it features included the concepts of Publish and Subscribe that would allow a user to blend capabilities from different products in a document centric view. Do you really think Apple wrote two bits of code; one for Numbers and another for the Tables in Pages? I don’t think so.

Currently Developers are required to register their applications entitlements as part of the Mac App store process. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a process where entitlements would announce publish and subscribe features.

OpenDoc also had another concept that would be interesting on iOS and possibly help user confusion over the current lack of a file system. OpenDoc was a document centric ideal that moved away from the application centric model which we have been living with for a long time.

This make even more sense if you had an ‘iCloud’ icon on the iPad or iPhone and all your documents were in there. You could then invoke the features of other installed apps without having to swap between screens.

Could you imagine a world where 1Password or Textexpander could ‘publish’ their features to Safari on the iPad? That could save a lot of cutting and pasting in my life.

But I can’t really make this happen, so all I can do is tell the guy that I’m pretty sure can….

My letter to Tim Cook:

Dear Mr Cook;

By way of a short introduction, I am a long time Apple user since my Dad bought our first Apple ][+ as a Christmas gift. Like many. I have lived through the ups and downs of Apple and its products and now celebrate the sucess that Apple has (again) achieved. My thanks to you and all the folks at Apple for the hard work to make these products happen.

As I move back and forth between my iPad, iPhone, iMac and Macbook Air I can’t help but think about the ways to get my tools to work better. I know many must have suggested unique ways to provide inter-application tools, especially on iOS.

I offer a suggestion, that is not unique and where Apple might be able to look backward to pull another idea out of its hertiage to bring forward new functionality. We used to have a tool that tried to merge features of various applications in a document centric view. It was called OpenDoc. This used the concept of Publish and Subscribe for developers to allow users to move between different data and tools within the same view. A capability similar to Publish and Subscribe would allow Applications to share features in a sandboxed environment like iOS. The features would be part of the entitelment declaraiton that are already being implmented for the App Store. The document centre would be within iCloud.

I think there are many novice user frustrations that could be solved by a big iCloud button somewhere in iOS 8 or 9 an all the documents created live there and the last though that you need to navigate around a file system to get back to what you were doing can go away.

Sincerly,
Bill Kempthorne

PS: This was written on my iPad and MacBook with ByWord and synced with iCloud.

Steve Jobs.. A book

I finished the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. It was interesting to compare the reality with some of the early reviews. I think many of the complaints were around the representation of the technology elements of Steve’s story. When certain annoucements were made, who came and went from Apple at when, that sort of thing. The technical errata for this biography is porbably best covered in John Siacusa’s Hypercritical Podcast #42 on the book.

It was clear to me that this was a biography, it was about the person not the technology so that might disappoint some. For those people, I recomment a copy of Triumph of the Nerds DVD. If you want the, behind the scenes of the history of Silcon Valley and the struggle for supremacy in the world of the personal computer.

For the book, as a biogrpahy, some may say that it might have been a little kind to the memory of a person known for his tyrannical approach to those around him. It did certainly focus on some of the kinder elements of his personality; the details of his family life and relationships with key people in his business life. The book also makes a great virtue iof his desire to build not only great products but a great company that will endure. He certainly accomplished that. For all the worry of a post-Jobs Apple they shouldn’t have bothered. If you take the stock price as any indication AAPL dipped slightly below $370 following Steve’s dealth. Less than a year later it reached over $670 and holds the record for the most valuable public company in history. So mission accomplished there..

But a better lesson from the book might be how Steve dealt with little things not how he created big things. I remember getting Steve’s first sick note in 2004 at Apple. It was almost inconsequential. Now I wish I’d kept a copy. It is my own little example that you don’t know how significant things are when you are in the middle of them. And in a way, Steve had a good strategy for not missing the important things; you treat every detail as important. He wasn’t some brilliant predictor of the future. His products that failed like the Mac G4 Cube and MobileMe are in there with the iMac and the iPhone. The book is a constant stream of fanatical focus and attention to detail both in sucess and failure. The good news is they tend to remember your sucesses and discount the failures, especially when the sucesses ultimately are so much bigger.

The callus elements of his nature were part of the same strategy. The book cites muliple examples of; “that sucks”, “your doing it wrong”, “kill it and move on”. You focus on success and don’t spend 2 seconds wringing your hands over a failure. He probably had a good reason not to waste the time. As many have already noted, the years since his 2004 medical problems were probably his most productive. Successful products, financial results, and the progress of his family.

The bellwether is probably his Stanford commencement address Again, another important moment that only has context when viewed as history. It was almost his manefesto for the next 5 years.

The theme is very clear the two competing character traits. this rebel, hippie, minimalist buddist who doesn’t care about money, drives around with no license plates and parks wherever he wants and the maniacal driven capitalist, who demands perfection, and has a genius/shithead scale for all those around him.

So in the minimalist tradition.. Yeah it was a good book.

Rest in Peace Steve .. you made good stuff.

of Readability and TiVo, is Ad serving a right?

Listening to Mac Geek Gab #266. Dave Hamilton had a position on the new Reader function in Apple’s Safari browser which replicates the function of the Readability bookmark let that I’ve been using for a while and loving. He was very clear that he thought such tools “steal” from content providers comparing it to shoplifting and rejecting the idea that is was more like skipping commercials with Tivo. Personally I fall closer to the Tivo camp.

There have been many technology efforts to control the way in which an individual may use content. DRM is the most obvious one but there have been many protocol and regulatory changes that have attempts to accomplish this. The Broadcast Flag is one that keeps rattling around in my head and may be coming back in another form.

In the end this is attempts to create a technology solution to a people problem. On this I complexly agree with Dave – people think content is free and it isn’t. Unfortunately it has been the content providers that have pushed this point and get offended when if bites them. On one had they have been unable to gain a direct revenue model (consumer pays) and rely on a secondary revenue market (consumer watches, brands pay for ads, ads bias consumer behaviour, brands earn revenue).

Some providers have already questioned this model like this article from ReadWriteWeb;  “Financial Times Expects Direct Payments” I already pay (voluntarily) for many of my ‘free’ podcasts.

So back to the original discussion, is accepting Ads prior/along with content something viewers should expect to ‘give up’ to keep content free? The existence of RSS feeds have already seen this battle of full versus excerpted feeds. The Vancouver Sun does that with their feeds that combined with a slow loading website caused me to drop them from my feeds and resort to a Google News Alerts instead. Most sources are prepared to provide an RSS feed which allows viewing of content without viewing the entire page.

I think part of my view is shaped by the fact that Advertising is just Voodoo to me. I really can’t get past the idea that if everyone stopped advertising the market wouldn’t be much different from the way it is today. Probably pretty niave but that is what is at the heart of my attitude toward it.

No matter what technology you try, you may get the Ads to me, but you can’t make me care….

Living the iPad lifestyle, a couple more limiting cases

Last time I covered a couple of limitations of the iPad. Tris Hussey added another with his post on using the iPad, clearly nailing the issues of blog postings. I’m using my iPad to update this blog but it only works with the basic text entry, links, markup, graphics, and such are painful to non-existent. The WordPress application on the iPad seems broken. Cut and paste (like URLs) in the app doesn’t work for me. This includes the ability to use the iPads improved spelling correction features.

The spelling and cut and paste issues are a real limitation of using an iPad as a portable writing tool. It’s like the iPad should be made for blogging (a Twitter or longer microblogging) but justdoesnt deliver – yet.

That gets me back to the concept of text entry and content creation on the iPad. The keyboard (especially in landscape) is awesome and the predictive text is better than ever but….

There are two issues I personally run into on a regular basis and they are above and below the keyboard itself. When trying to touch type the letters themselves are okay but the space bar is a pain. I frequently miss it on the low (bezel) side and my words run together. This is a particular problem with my WordPress posts where the spell checker doesn’t work. This would be insanely frustrating for the average user.

The other is missing the keyboard to the high side which encroaches on the text arrea. Cashing my cursor to to the bottom of what I’m editing. Also a little maddening. Again this is something that is unique to the idea of an on screen touch keyboard.

Wow, this computer is Big, Living the iPad lifestyle….

This is my first post this week using my ‘regular’ computer. I really have had little use for either my desktop or laptop this week with the iPad. I was going to carry both laptop and iPad for a couple days to see – but the lighter bag on the walk to work was just too tempting.

I had one major need for a laptop last night when I was mixing a live blog with a IM Chat but even that I hung on to the iPad until the app switching just got silly. Any rational person would have switched about half and hour earlier. So there is your limiting case, can you replace your computer with an iPad – not exactly, can you massively downside your need for your computer – absolutely.

Things that are making it easier,
Online services such as Google, Flickr(Yahoo) are totally usable on the iPad, including YouTube. There are apps that can do that too, but not the same need as on an iPhone.

I’ll start posting some of my iPad screens and explaining what is on them in the coming days. I’ve got about 100 apps on there right now (overkill I know). I expect that number to drop a bit as I have 6 weather apps, 5 book readers and a few other duplicates. Once I decide on the ones I like the others go.

A couple apps to just call out:
First Dan Bricklin’s NoteTaker is the bomb for writing – finger is fine but I use my Pogo Sketch Stylus (Sorry Steve!). Massive improvements for the iPad form factor and v3 looks like it will make my VGA dongle useful in meeting rooms.
Next, Elements the massive Periodic Table reference app with all the Gee-Wiz graphics. But the update this morning was 1.6GB?? That’s 10% of you entry level iPad storage. Well the Tom Lehrer intro music made my Dad laugh and was almost worth the $13 by itself.


iPad vs my last ‘First’ apple portable.

“Intended as a replacement for the Portable ….” in that case they were talking about the MacPortable a luggable portable computer from the late 1980s. In that case they were talking about the Powerbook 140 series. That was also my first laptop computer. I was thinking about that and came across the article describeing the 140 I came to the stark realization that the ipad was another “replacement”.

Take a look at the specs.

PowerBook 140
9.8″ 640×480 monochrome screen
8MB RAM (max)
80MB HD (max)
6.8lbs
2.25-11.25-9.3 inches
2-3 hrs battery

iPad
9.7″ 1024×768 touch screen
256MB RAM
64GB drive
1.6 lbs
0.5-9.56-7.47 inches
9-10 hrs battery

The screen size is the most obvious comparison and the reduced size is just a small sign of technology progress. If you split the PB140 in half to remove half of the laptops “clamshell” Then the are remarkably similar (20% less all the way around). Physical size changes are more limitedly by the users than the technology. Weight and battery life show the examples of technology progress. Like the iPad the Powerbook introduced a new form factor (maybe not a unique one). The PowerBook pushed the keyboard towards the back and added a palm rest and pointing device towards the front. Again, a change in the ergonomics for the user. Even the arguments over expandability is there; PCMCIA then and SD card slot today.

Living the iPad Lifestyle Day 3

And no, I’m not going to do a daily diary of iPad cool stuff but I need to keep writing to see how this is going to replace my Mac Book Pro for my walk around computing. I try and avoid doing anything remotely personal on my work machine. But I can’t leave my Internet addiction for 10 hours until I get home. So I’ve been toting my personal laptop to and from work every day.

So I’m going cold turkey on Monday morning with an iPad only day at work.

First the walk to work was considerably more comfortable without the extra few pounds of a laptop and the associated bits and pieces.

I chose to do a fresh sync with iTunes to my iPad so I needed to reconfigure all my applications on the iPad. (a sync of my iPhone backup would have brought all this over) So the names and passwords takes a little work but typing is so much easier that it is not a big problem. Only a few forgotten passwords.

Other than the significantly lighter tote, an interesting thing is the fact that I forget that I have a web browser. I think after a couple years of iPhone use i got used to special purpose applications for most things. YouTube, gmail, Google Reader, and other web apps are totally useable on the iPad.

The on screen keyboard takes a couple minutes to get the rhythm goings but after that it is not that much slower than my laptop keyboard.

The one limitation is the lack of a multiuser mode for sharing a iPad with friend and that seems to happen regularly.

The battery life is epic. As a portable device it beats everything I’ve ever owned short of a couple non-smart PCS cell phones I had. All day connected to WiFi and trying to push it whenever I though about it. From 6 AM to almost 7 PM I’ve gone through about half the battery power. Awesome.

The real punchline for the day is the snappiness of the device itself. I don’t doubt that other devices are faster but this just FEELS fast. Compared to my iPhone 3G is no contest but it even starts to feel faster than bringing up a application on my desktop (Mac or PC) or my laptop (Macbook Pro). The release of iPhone OS 4 will give the ipad even better capabilities but they better not loose any of this zippy feel that really defines the experience.

PS all this was written and edited on my iPad.

Living the iPad Lifestyle, Day 1

Well, a quick post at the end of a weekend. After a long day on Friday awaiting for the arrival of the iNvincivble-Pad, regular life intruded a bit with the weekend.

The iPad was a regular star of the weekend, the first challege was getting my hands on it. With a poker night with the guys on Friday night – the prize for going bust was you were the first person to get to go play with the iPad. As a result, winning the hand wasn’t as big a deal as you might imagine.

Likewise on Saturday various members of the family got their turns and I was dropping back to the iPhone.

iPad vs iPhone

I had avoided buying the Apple case sight unseen as I had gone through many trials with iPhone cases so I thought I would wait. One of the useful finds on Saturday was a new iPad case.

'New' iPad Case

The MiFi, which provides connectivity for the iPad tucks nicely into the pocket on the right. But again there seemed to be the odd time the iPad was unavailable for one reason or another, leaving me with the iPad Mini as my productivity platform

Sub-Optimal iPad case configuration

Although I can’t complain much as it was my family who managed to find the case for a very non-Apple price point.

A very Non-Apple Price

$2.00 at the local Thrift Store….

Funny things happened on the way to the iPad ….

So I am obviously a mindless Apple fanboy who has fallen under the spell of Steve Jobs and his evil hordes in Cupertino and surrender my personal choice and freedom to their overpriced, locked in hardware and software.

Damn Straight!

Or as Maxwell Smart would say “and loving it”

I knew an iPad or something very close to it was on my shopping list for a while. I actually flirted with the idea of a Kindle or a Sony Reader. Actually tried the Sony out – didn’t get the job done. I current take my 13″ Macbook Pro back and forth to work with my MiFi for my personal use during the day. The same way I have a personal cell phone to go with my corporate Blackberry. While I can use the company stuff for personal items (within reason) I really chose not to. So the idea of something lighter and reasonably capable for that walk to and from work was really appealing.

But the killer application for me is as a information tool for my flying. I’ve been a private pilot for over 20 years. When I started they had something call A.I.P Canada – the regulations for all things flying in Canada. Updates would come regularly and you would have to take the old ones out and put the new pages in the binder. Likewise charts and airport information would get revised and you would throw out the old and stuff the new in your flight bag. hated that for so many reasons. Well the A.I.P got dropped and is now a PDF, and more of the supporting material is availible online or electronically.

So when this little box arrived, it was a happy day, for me and the several cubic feet of wood pulp I plan on saving each year.

As some have reported, it immediately feels a little heavy. Solid to be sure but it will be interesting to see how the fatigue factor might play into casual use. But that quibble aside for the moment the message with Apple products is clear. This is supposed to be an elegant experience. I nearly laughed at the instructions – both sides of it on a 3×5 card.

Here is the other side:

On startup you go through few questions, including syncing options. I have a fairly big library of music and podcasts so I’m always customizing that. But the only option is Sync (all) or not. Really need to be able to have a ‘custom’ but again that is neither simple or elegant so Apple leaves that out until you go into the options later.
I appears you can use your iPhone backup and use that to set up the iPad – interesting but not for me. Too bad, all the passwords, email set up, would have been nice start.


Given the recent Google ‘friction’ with Apple it is a little humorous to see a Google Terms of Service in the iTunes set up for your iPad


A couple more gratuitous unboxing shots

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Why Apple can afford to lose, they’ve been there before

Watching the Google smackdown at this weeks Google I/O was an interesting take on the technology world. I’ve got to admit I’m a little on the side of Kara Swisher on Google’s Laughable–But Not So Funny–Apple Tantrum. However these companies are all run by adults and you don’t get to this level of the game without a little thicker skin than most.

After thinking of some of the comments there are a couple things that are pretty good bets. First, Android as a platform could easily pass the iPhone OS. Second, Apple probably doesn’t care. Now they care a little to be sure. You don’t get to be Steve Jobs or Tim Cook or Jonathan Ives without passionately caring about things. I’ve been in the room when Tim Cook was kicking butts over what was important for Apple so I’ve felt it first hand.

Worse, many will compare the ‘fall of the iPhone’ with the fall of the Mac to the Windows juggernaut. Probably not a bad comparison actually. Apple was fighting IBM (famous 1984 ad), while Microsoft was slowly eating their lunch and they didn’t get focused again until it was too late.

But that is exactly why you can’t expect this time to be the same. Anyone think Steve Jobs forgot what that was like? Do you think anyone that has been with Apple for more than 6 or 8 years doesn’t remember what its like to be on the outside looking in?

Plus, I like Apple’s business model and I think there is no lack of focus. Their business model, like their products, is simple. They build something and sell it to you and make money at that.

Fundamentally Google doesn’t sell anything to the people that use their services. They sell those people to other companies. That is what an advertiser does and that is the business Google is in. They are the new century’s version of Mad Men.

And even if every critic is correct, Even if Apple business model collapses in the weight of a “free and open” onslaught, the next day – whoever is running Apple – is going to get the smartest people they can find and decide how they can make another awesome, magical, or revolutionary product.

In that way Apple has an advantage over Microsoft and Google; who have never really been beaten, and Yahoo and Palm; who have never really come back.

And if we are to speak logically, what better place to go than Mr Spock:

Captain Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott: …then we’re dead.
Captain Spock: I’ve been dead before.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – Quotes from Spock: IMDB