Monday, March 23, 2009

Cloud Reliability

Building stable cloud services is a difficult thing. Even google is


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

iPhone 3.0

I wont re-state all the iPhone 3.0 features they announced today as others have done that well. But there are a few that to me were key that may not be highlighted by others:

MMS - I left everyone behind on Verizon when I broke my contract and joined AT&T just to get the iPhone. I imagine there are tons of others in that camp. They all send me MMS pictures which are too painful to try to access so I miss all those family pics. 

Voice Memos - An obvious oversight. I wonder though about them putting so many 3rd party guys (iTalk for example) out of business. Why?

Search - Across apps is nice but not needed to me, but within an app like Mail and Calendar its required.

And finally one that not too many are pointing out, I can finally send stuff from my address book on the iPhone to someone else. That was a major one for me.

Note that I didn't point out other things like Copy & Paste, Tethering and some others. They'll be nice but not as basic/fundamental.

Its great to have a phone thats so flexible that they can roll out serious updates like this and do it for free. While the iPhone is still not the best phone on the planet with dropped calls etc, it sure is my favorite electronic device.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sirius XM almost folded

I 'm on a roll. First I wrote about Apple and the DRM challenges forcing me to buy from Amazon MP3, a short while later Apple went DRM free. Then I wrote about XM radio and its flaws for me, and then they narrowly avoided bankruptcy. Perhaps if the Sirius fools han't done a $500M deal with Howard Stern and other questionable business practices they wouldn't have come so close to losing it all.

As with so many other things, companies need to study and learn their about their customers preferences, likes and dislikes etc and then work with a total focus on meeting the needs of those customers. I'm just one voice with my own set of preferences, but there are common things to learn and do if you study analyze and get to know your customers. Apple, Sirius and others, take note or perish.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is the mac a gaming platform?

Apple has come a long way with hardware and software and has made significant inroads in its ability to be a desktop system in business. I've been using Macs for work in small and large companies for the last 6 years and its been pretty rare that that's caused me grief (the major point being Exchange/Outlook support which I hope will be fixed in Snow Leopard)

I wish I could say Apple has made a lot of progress on the video game front, but the reality is that it hasn't. Despite having some leading edge Video cards like the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT that  I have in this MacPro and essentially the same Intel-based hardware, there are few games for the Mac. Why is that?

Part, I would say is that Apple has continually ignored the video game industry while MicroSoft with its "Games for Windows" drive and others has encouraged the PC as a gaming platform. So the company is not supportive. Thats a major point.

Next is that the hardware support for games is not complete. I recently spent a lot of time looking for a way to get 5.1 sound on my Mac for gaming. The issue is that you can't get that. Sure it can output 5.1 sound optically from DVDs etc, but generated sound from games cannot be piped over the optical output and you can't buy a card, USB device etc that does it in the current MacPro generations. Griffin Technology did make a FireWave product that outputs sound over FireWire to a device that gives you 5.1 sound output, but both FireWire and the FireWave have been discontinued. So there is no 5.1 sound support for games on the Mac. 

Along similar lines, if you really want the best bleeding edge video cards as they come out from vendors like Nvidia that offer "upgrade" programs so you can continually upgrade your card you're out of luck. The mac hardware lacks the specific power connectors that the current generation video cards require so Mac video cards end up being custom made for Apple. If you could make the power problem work your next issue would be the total lack of video diver support for the platform.

Ok you say, I can use my Mac HW and then run windows games in VMWare or Parallels. Well, no, you can't really, while some DirectX support has been added to the virtualization platforms, the performance and compatibility limit you to games that have fairly modest requirements.

Fine, then just play games under BootCamp and let Windows own the Mac hardware. Well, thats what I do, but you still wont have 5.1 sound or the latest video card. It does well and you can play Far Cry 2, Crysis, etc in this mode, but you wont have as good as an experience you get on a PC. And you're not running OSX and you've paid a premium for Mac HW to get less out of it.

If you're a serious gamer, don't buy a Mac. That's what Apple is telling us. My love of the OS (and dislike of the alternatives) is stronger than my need for the best video gaming experience but I long for the day when Apple either gets "with it" or legalizes the hackintosh.

My good friend recently sold me his MacPro (at a great price!) and went back to the PC. He's a serious gamer. He loves the Mac and hates Windows, but the gamer side of him won. 

Wii Fit

My daughter got a Wii fit for Christmas and i've been amazed with the device. While it looks like a simple slightly raised step platform they've dramatically changed the video game experience with the introduction of this wireless board. When you step on it it knows your weight, and where the weight is placed on the board. From there you can snow board, ski, do push ups, jog etc. While I don't think its a good substitute for a gym (and some are quite upset about it) I do think forcing some more movement into video gaming beyond just the fingers is a great idea. The fit, along with the Wii itself has innovated on the video game front and despite its very dated graphics capabilities it has continued to have a serious impact on the video gaming industry. If you have Wii and dont have a Wii fit, I'd suggest you get one. Not to get in shape, but to experience one more incremental step of progress in the video gaming industry.

iPhoto and Face and Place Recognition

With the latest iPhoto update Apple added two key new features: faces and places. In faces, iPhoto does a decent job of recognizing faces in pictures and then tries to match the patterns to find the people. You give it a few hints and it tries to find more of the same person. For years i've used keywords to identify key people so I can find pictures, say, with myself, my daughter and my wife in them. With faces in theory this is made more automatic. 

My experience though has been a little different. It did force me to tag more pictures and put some structure around the naming of pictures. The actual face similarity piece is about 50/50 in my experience. An odd side benefit I found is that I enjoyed the process and we actually had fun with the program guessing a completely wrong person for a given face. How could my friends face match my sister? Combine that with an OCD tendency and you can entertain yourself for hours matching faces and names. But in the long haul, given the lack of accuracy I don't think the addition added much value and you can't rely on it.

With Places, Apple goes through a lot of trouble to point out GPS camera support and that certainly works with the poor pictures that the iPhone takes. But if you go and stroll through Best Buy, the now defunct Circuit City, or Wal-Mart, how many GPS enabled cameras do you find on the shelves? Zero. None. So is this feature solely aimed at the poor pictures taken on camera phones? If so i'd argue that Apple and iPhoto isn't the place to store them but something more online, more accessible since these cheap shots have limited use and quality.

You can, after import, add location information to your pictures, and again thats another time sink for OCD people and it provides little long term photo management value.

Would I buy the update again knowing what I know now? Probably, I love iPhoto and want to have the latest updates. But if you're buying it for new features, think again.