Saturday, January 30, 2010

Geeks Man the Barricades over the Apple Tablet

Boy, the internet is awash with geeks vehemently opposed to the recently announced Apple iPad.

The consensus of critical geeks is "It's a not a real computer."

To that, I say "Exactly."

And that's why its going to be a huge success.  Not just the iPad, but some of the other tablets coming to market.

Update 2-1-2010 : iPads were also the subject of this week's Family Tech column.

Haven't those critics ever watched someone who is not enthralled with the very idea of technology try and use a computer?  They laugh at the stupid things people ask tech support, with out understanding everyone of those people is earnestly trying to benefit from their computer.  They just do not have the same desire to learn and experiment and play with technology like a geek does.  They just want the expensive device they bought with their hard earned money to work.  Over the years, their call has become rather plaintive and angry.

The tech industry has sadly failed those folks.

The iPad is not a computer.  It is the first Computer as Applicance.

A computer is complex.  So is our refrigerator.  But we don't have to spend hours learning to use it, or spend time on tech support when we want to store milk in addition to meat.  We don't have to buy a new app for our fridge because we want the light to come on when we open it.

The refrigerator is carefully designed to just work to cool our food.

Why shouldn't a computer be setup to just do the things we most commonly want to do, easily?

The amazing thing about the iPad and their ilk isn't that they exist, but that it has taken our industry 30 years to get here.

Tablets will let us easily buy and read books.  We can carry a library with us in a pound and a half.  Ask any 80 pound middle schooler who has to carry 20 pounds of books with them in the school day if that isn't a good idea.

Tablets will let you watch the videos you want.  No more watching "Jersey Shore" because that's the best thing on in some odd time period.  Watch the episodes of West Wing you missed when it first aired.

No need to go downstairs to your computer to check e-mail late at night.  Pick your iPad up off your nightstand and do it from under the covers.

The most ridiculous criticism I've read is the iPad does not run OS X but instead the iPhone OS.  Have those critics thought about how hard using a menu system would be on a touch pad?  A touch pad requires a OS built for it.  Like, say, the iPhone OS.  Or the Android OS--I can't wait to see the variety of tablets running under Android.

Another critic, programmer Alex Payne, lamented how he'd become a programmer because he had access to a computer as a kid, and kids raised with iPads wouldn't have that experience.

He's right when he criticizes the iPad for being closed.  But it is that closed environment and draconian App store that will keep this machine safe and considerably user friendly then an open computer.

Besides which, the iPad will not be the only tablet.  For the iPad that is like a Macintosh (that is closed), there will be tablet that is like a PC, open and a bit messy and a tweaker's delight.

Maye programmers who want to evangelize programming to the young should write an iPad application that teaches Logo programing.  Or a game that sneak in programming concepts?

Critics of the iPad seem to fear the Computer as Appliance will spell the deathnell of what we now regard as a regular computer.  A regular computer is a tinkers (like me) delight.  There is always something new you can do to tweak it to make it work better or look different.  There is always new free applications to discover that make every day like Christmas morning with something new and shiny.

Those open computers are not going to go away, as long as people want to buy them.

Radios became an appliance.  Radio production became a profession.  Yet there are still ham radio folks out there building their own equipment, and spending hours upon hours casting about the air waves with their only goal to do something neat that their community of fellow hams will acknowledge.  Computers, and computer geeks are much the same.

Geeks who never buy an iPad and vehemently oppose and almost violently speak against them, will benefit from iPads.  How?  They will have to spend less time helping their parents and friends who migrate to tablets and away from what they regard as vexing, unfriendly, even openly hostile computers.

Update 1/31/2010 9:30 AM EST : I found a great comparison of the known tablets on Gizmodo.

Update 1/31/2010 2:35 PM EST : Looks like the iPod wasn't well received either.

Update 1/31/2010 3:57 PM EST : I like this quote from TechCrunch Guest Blogger Ethan Nicholas:

(referring to the writer's not-computer-saavy mother) "There are millions upon millions of people just like her out there. They outnumber us. And they finally have a chance to become productive, self-sufficient computer users instead of constantly asking family members to fix their computers or, even worse, keeping the Geek Squad in business."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Send multiple text messages from Google Voice

Apparently Google Voice added a feature overnight allowing you to send the same text message to several people.  That's handy; I oven want to send the same one to wife and son.

When I click the SMS button on the main screen, and type a person's name, and select it, I then get a comma at the end of their phone number and the phone number field retains the focus so I an enter in another name or number.

Per messages I see on Twitter, you can up to five recipients.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Text Messaging Comes of Age

Text messaging is not just for teens anymore.  It grew up in the last week as it raised millions for Haiti.  This week's Family Tech column is about all the varied uses of text messaging.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Google Voice Sweetness in Chrome

As I've said many times before, I am smitten with Google Voice.  In the last job, as an Account Representative, I used Chad Smith's excellent Google Voice Add-On for Firebox.  It allowed me to click on a phone number, say in, the CRM system, and that number would automatically call my Gizmo5 client and I could speak with my client using my computer headset.  It was an awesome part of my workflow.

That Add-On is the one of two things that keep me using Firefox.  The other is Firebug that I only need when doing Javascript programming; something I have not done much of recently.

Since being laid off I haven't really needed the click-to-dial capability so I've used Chrome almost 100% of the time.

Today, via TechMeme, I was alerted to an Official Chrome Google Voice Extension that gives me the click-to-dial capability in the Chrome Dev version Chrome.  (Update 1/25/2010 : Today's new release of the stable release of Chrome supports extensions that previously you had to have the Dev version got get.)

I am a happy camper.  Now Firefox is all but retired for normal use.  I didn't think that would ever happen, but then, I should have.  I'm not using anything I used 10 years ago and likely won't be using anything I'm using now 10 years from now.  Not in its current iteration anyway.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two hours of Questions and Answers on Evernote

Yesterday, Phil Libin, Evernote's CEO, pledged to answer all questions submitted on Twitter about Evernote, over a two hour period.

I made a PDF file of all the answers, stored of course, in an Evernote Public Notebook.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Evernote 3.5 Officially Released

Big news for my favorite tool.  Evernote 3.5 is now officially released.  I've been using the beta, but I'm anxious to see if there are any changes from the latest beta.  Downloading now.

Overall, lots of changes from 3.1.  See the full list at the Evernote blog post.

This will make it easier for them to add features, they have said in podcasts, so I think we'll see a lot of changes/improvements to Evernote in 2010.

Update: Seems zippier then my last beta.  And a couple new features.  Viewing Note info for one.

Syncing Documents to Google Docs

Yesterday, Google reached me in their roll out of being able to upload any kind of documents to Google Docs.  I posted previously about how their 25 cents per gigabyte per year was a potential game changer in this area.

CloudBerry Labs has told me they hope to build a tool to backup files to the Google space.  Today, PC World's David Coursey reviews Memeo Connect, a tool for syncing documents between your desktop and Google Docs.

Alas, you have to have a Google Apps Premier Edition for it to work.  That costs $50 annually, and Memeo is $9 per year per user.

I hope Google loosens up and allows these kind of programs to move files into my Google Space without the Premier version.  That $50 a year eliminates the primary advantage of using Google Docs--the free cost.  That would let someone bild a Dropbox type product to sync files to the Google space.  

I've wondered before why Google does not acquire Evernote.  And for that matter, Dropbox.  Both share Google's vision of storing information in the cloud.  Both Evernote and Dropbox would be great complements to Google's offerings.

Wi-Fi Flying more Grounded then not

Gizmodo's review of wi-fi by airlines is depressing.  Basically, fly Virgin, AirTran or Delta if you want to be connected.

Personally, I think flying is a good time to be disconnected.  I use the time to read, or to listen to podcasts or watch TV programs on my phone.

I've haven't flown much, so I am a season and half behind on Eureka.

Walt Mossberg on Evernote

Argueably the nation's leading tech journalist reviews Evernote.  Very favorably.

Walt Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recent Interesting Links

If you like the topics I generally cover in this blog, then you should know I often find Web pages about these topics that I do not necessarily blog about.

I do save them to my Public bookmarks page, an Evernote public notebook.

The entries are tagged, so you can easily find the ones of interest to you.  There is also an RSS feed for the page, so you can subscribe to it with your favorite blog reader.

There are tags for Evernote, Google Wave,  Android,  and many more.

Some recent links I've saved are :

A comparison of different online Google Voice iPhone/iPod push solutions - VoiceGrowl

Cell Phone Plans: The Ultimate Comparison

7 Ways Real Estate Appraisers Can Use Evernote

On how Google Wave surprisingly changed my life - This is so Meta

CES 2010: AR Drone from Parrot is a helicopter you can control with your iPhone : Shiny Shiny

This blog now in many languages

If you look in the upper right hand corner, you will see a drop down box listing many languages. Select one and this blog will be automatically translated.

This is another feature from Google.  It can be used on virtually any web page, not just Blogger pages like this one.  You can get it for your Web page.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Week's Family Tech - Google Earth

With the updated layer to Google Earth this week with the damage in Haiti, my planned column on Google Earth was timely.

CloudBerry Tools for Managing Online Data Storage

While researching my previous post, I discovered CloudBerry Lab's great set of tools for managing your own Amazon S3 data storage.  What's really exciting, is Cloud Lab has pledged to support Google's file storage soon.

Google recently announced file storage at 25 cents per gigabyte per year, seriously undermining Amazon S3's pricing.

Their CloudBerry Backup tool backups your data to your S3 Account.  Their CloudBerry Explorer acts like a File Manager for your S3 account, letting you see you see your files, move them, delete etc.  What's also nice is they have versions of Explorer for data storage services beyond S3 such as Sun, Nirvanix,  Azure Blob, and Diomede.

There is a free version of Explorer while a Pro version adding encryption, compression and other advantages is just $39.99.  Backup is only $29.99.  

I haven't tried it yet since I do not have an S3 account, but when they get their new version for Google, I'll give it a whirl.  They offer free versions to Bloggers, educators and non-profits.

Online Storage should take off in 2010

I mentioned in a recent post I was making note of the applications I currently use, the hardware my family uses, and various other things that I expect will improve or change in the next ten years.  It's been an interesting exercise and made me think about what will be changing, and how.

One inescapable reality I think is that online storage should really take off this year.

I am already a big user and advocate of Dropbox.  Basically Dropbox synchronizes a folder on my hard drive with on line storage.  Anytime I change or add a file to the folder (or a sub folder of it), the file moves up to the Cloud.  I can get the file from another computer, share folders with others, and see past versions of the file.  It is in one tool, storage, backup, synchronization, and sharing. 

So far the free 2 gigs it comes with is very useful, but it also comes with 50 and 100 gigabyte options for $10 and $20 a month respectively.

Services like Carbonite and Mozy let you backup your files automatically to the Cloud for about $5 a month.

The cheapest route is still to buy your own drives, but you have to worry about backing them up and plan for them to fail and worry about them being stolen.  Plus, setting up local storage so you can access it from your phone or other PC's can be challenging.

Many of these services store their data using Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service) service.  Amazon took their expertise at building network infrastructure, and started selling that as a service.  Mostly used by busiinesses, they offer Virtual Storage, Virtual Servers and even Virtual Databases.  

S3 is an affordable, reliable, managed storage facility.  It can be used directly by end-users or via applications that make use of it.

Google announced last week they would be extending the amount of storage you can buy for your Google Docs and e-mail to share.  The big change is that you will soon be able to upload files to Google Docs that are not compatible files (like Doc or XLS files), simply to store them.

The cost will only be 25 cents US  per gigabyte per year.

That is very aggressive pricing.  Dropbox is $1.98 a gigabyte a year.

S3 is $1.80 per gigabyte per year plus 10 cents per gigabyte transferred (although transfer is free until June 30th 201).

The best bet is still your own hard drive.  Assuming you buy a one terrabyte (1000 gigabytes) drive for $90 and get a five year life span out of it, the cost is 1.8 cents per gigabyte per year.  

Nothing precludes an individual from getting an S3 Account.  Although services like Dropbox make it easy to manage the space and provide collaboration and version control for you.  

It'll be interesting to see what Amazon does in response to Google's price move.

There is still a trust issue.  All it will take for online storage to fall flat, is one major security breach, or for a major storage company to discontinue its service without adequate time and tools for customers to move their data.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Keyboards for Phones

I'm surprised things like this are not more common.

As there are a growing number of people foregoing a land line for owning just a cell phone, I expect we will start seeing people who do not bother owning a desktop or laptop PC, but just use their phones.

Unless you are  doing serious processor stuff like editing videos, a cell phone could do a lot of what people want, only if it were not for the tiny keyboard.

Put your iPhone into a keyboard like this, and you can seriously generate e-mails, and write notes.  You could even produce documents and store them on the cloud and later print them out at the library, work, school or Fedex Office.

Pictured is the Ion iType (via RegHardware)

If rumors are true and Apple announces its iSlate Tablet computer later this month, and it is priced about $1000, would you buy one if you already owned a high end phone and a laptop?  It might be difficult to cost justify it if you already have a good laptop.

What if, there was a good keyboard for it, and a easel type stand that could hold it up like a laptop?  Then you could justify the cost and use it as a tablet in the field, but as a laptop in the home or office.

Update : After posting this, I am watching Leo Laporte's live coverage of CES on Twit Live.  He mentioned the Lenova new laptop coming later this year, where you can run Windows, then disconnect the screen and it acts as a tablet.  That may be the best of both worlds.

Update #2 - 01-09-2010 : Engadget reports some unfortunate details : "Unfortunately, because of the closed nature of most of the iPhone platform, you can't just start typing in any iPhone app; you have to type in the iType app and then copy and paste to the app you want. It's surely an annoyance, but if you're sick of the soft keyboard and need some relief, it's your best option for now."

Lenova IdeaPad U1 Hybrid via Pocket Lint

Ready for 2020

I've read so many blogs, and listened to a couple of podcasts recently talking about the tech progress of the last ten years.  All I can keep thinking, "What was it like tech wise in January 2000 for us?"  I can recall some things, like no wi-fi yet in the house.  I remember keeping surfaces free in my home office and internet connections handy for my wife & son to come down and plug in their laptops.  Beyond that my memory is imperfect.

So I just wrote a long entry in Evernote summarizing our current living situation,and then going heavily into the tech we are using.  What computers we have now, what Operating Systems we are using, our hard drive capacity, our cell phones, and the apps we are using (Evernote, Dropbox, Adobe Production Studio, Google Docs) etc.

Should make it interesting to look back in 2020.

Update: Minutes after posting, I was thinking that while I fully expect to be using Evernote in ten years, I've learned you cannot anticipate these things.  So I am going to put a copy of that Journal entry into my Dropbox, as a document at Google Docs, a text file on my PC and print out a copy and put with our important papers.  It should survive then to 2020, and as important, I should remember it exists if I keep seeing it in those places.

Recent Evernote News

Our friends at Evernote keep coming up with new things.  They have now released new versions of their Palm Pre, iPhone, and Android clients.

I had my first chance to play with any smartphone Evernote clients recently.  First was the Android version, and it didn't help quell my major Android lust.  The Mobile Web client I use on my Instinct is useful, but the user interface and audio notes in the Android client is wonderful.

There is also an iPod Touch hanging out at our house.  I'm eager to spend some time with the iPhone client on it.

Earlier today, Evernote via their Twitter account asked folks for their favorite Evernote tips.  As I write this they are flowing in all marked with the hashmark #evernotetips.  Or you can see only the ones Evernote has chosen to re-tweet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Copy your Cloud

More and more we live in the Clouds.  As we do more of our work with Cloud applications like Gmail, Google Docs, Zoho and socialize via Facebook and Twitter, we stand the real risk of losing data should one of those apps close down unexpectedly, or somehow crash.

Some of these services have their own ability to backup your data to your PC.  Google Docs has been very good about that with their one-click ability to download all your documents in one ZIP file.  Through their Data Liberation Front they have been very good about letting you have your data.

For those few that let you download your own data, it is only as reliable as your discipline of actually backing up your data.  For me, my intentions are better then my actions in that respect.  And for those that do not offer you your own data, you are just out of luck.

A new service will backup many of your Cloud Apps data for you, on regular intervals.  Many of our Apps have an API (a programming interface) available to developers.  This service uses the various API's to copy your data for you.

Backupify backups data a growing variety of services.  Currently they claim :

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Google Docs
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Basecamp
  • Wordpress
  • Delicious
  • Photobucket
  • Blogger
  • FriendFeed

The great news is if you sign-up with Backupify before January 31, 2010 the service will be free to you.

I've used this for a few weeks, and it says that it is backing up my data successfully.  I have looked at a few of the files, and some of my backed up Flickr photos.  I have not done done the ultimate test; have a system fail and recovered my lost data from a Backupify backup.  I have to go on a certain amount of faith it will work when needed.

There is also a trust issue.  You have to give Backupify your login credentials for each service.

Overall, the peace of mind of having my data backed up exceeds my anxiety about others having my credentials.


Android Growing

I've written in Family Tech that I want an Android phone as my next Smartphone.  For many reasons, I think it is the smart choice, and will be smarter still when my current contract expires in December 2010.

It's nice to see others are believing in Android.  A new survey says that 21% of those planning a smartphone purchase in the next 90 days, want an Android phone.

While 32% of those planned purchasers want an iPhone that is a fewer then before, while Android is growing.

And that's before today's Android announcement coming from Google today.

Sunday, January 3, 2010