Archive for January, 2010
Walking through Times Square the other night, I saw what I can only assume is President Obama’s latest plan to reduce the federal deficit:
This ad cost the Weatherproof Jacket company twelve trillion dollars. (Kidding, of course)
Seriously, though, I was very surprised to see a sitting President appear in an ad for a product like this. I wonder if they needed (and received?) his permission to do this. And if not, I wonder what he thinks of them doing it. The clear implication here is that President Obama endorses Weatherproof jackets, and would recommend we all buy/wear one. Quite frankly, I think of the President (any president, not just Obama) as being above such things. And heaven forbid those jackets are made in some third-world sweatshop…
Googling around, all I find is the predictable political carping (the left: “he looks damn good in that jacket”; the right: “he’s a sellout for appearing in a jacket ad”), so my chances of finding out exactly how this came to be ae essentially nil.
Unless anyone reading this knows?!?
UPDATE: The sign has been removed, and replaced with a very clever alternative. Bravo, Weatherproof. Bravo.
I have been notified by the blogging authorities that I am in violation of Blog Law #865309, subsection 2, paragraph iii, which clearly states that anyone running an active blog on or about January 27, 2010 must post their thoughts on Apple’s new iPad product within 48 hours of Steve Jobs’ announcement or face severe ridicule in the tech-geek community. Because of my failure to do so, I have hereby been sentenced to provide tech support to my entire extended family at all hours of the day and night for the foreseeable future.
In posting this now, I am throwing myself on the mercy of the courts, in hopes of earning myself some time off for good behavior.
Now, where were we? Ah yes, the iPad. First of all: Wow. Wicked cool. Seriously. I mean, DAMN! You don’t get more Star Trek than that. Come on! Check out the picture to the right – those Personal Access Display Devices (or P.A.D.D.’s) they used on the show might as well have been iPads, and that was back in the early 90′s. As always, Apple gets props for turning science fiction into retail electronics. If the Blackberry was the Tricorder, than this thing is the P.A.D.D..
I suspect a lot of people will spend a lot of time (and a considerable amount of money) gawking at how cool it looks. But eventually, you need to turn it on and actually, you know, use it for something. On that score, at least for now, I’m still impressed. After all, who are we kidding? It’s a 10-inch iPhone/iPod Touch. All those people who insisted they were comfortable watching a full-length feature film on a 4.5″ x 2.5″ screen can finally admit that yes, a 9.6″ x 7.8″ is much, much nicer, thank you very much. Same goes for viewing pictures, playing video games and browsing the web. After all, that “pinch and spread” technology is very cool and all, but reading a content-rich web page would be much nicer if we didn’t have to do quite so much pinching.
There is a new wrinkle here in iBooks, and while the interface is Apple-style cool, there’s the little sticking point of eInk vs. LCD screen. As pretty as the iPad’s screen is, it can’t be as easy on the eyes as eInk, putting iPad at a disadvantage in the eReader category. I don’t think this is insurmountable, though. If people like what the iPad can do, they might accept a slightly inferior eBook reader to avoid buying (and carrying around) two devices. And, as I said in my review of the Amazon Kindle, the other eBook readers don’t even attempt to do what the iPad can do.
That said, if iBooks is the new wrinkle, then the new crease is the presence of content-entry apps, specifically the iWork suite and Mail. That keyboard that would pop up for texting/e-mailing on your iPhone is almost full-size now, and so Apple is placing a (small) bet that people will use the iPad to create content, not just to consume it. Here, I think they wade into dangerous territory. The “wow” factor will fade quickly when you have to get your presentation done, and if Keynote is much easier to use on the MacBook than it is on the iPad, people will revert back awfully quickly. Also, and I know I speak blasphemy here, there’s still the small problem of Microsoft Office’s 80% market share in this space. Those of us who haven’t entered Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field can still plug our iPods, iPod Touches, and iPhones into our Windows PC’s, but there’s no way we’re doing the budget spreadsheet in Numbers, and then sending it to our boss who expects Excel. If they want the iPad to truly replace the laptop, they’re going to need to reach out with the olive branch and get Microsoft to write iPad specific versions of those programs. (No, I’m not holding my breath).
Then there is the matter of what isn’t there. I’m surprised, for instance, that the iPad cannot function as a phone. If you’ve got 3G capability (optional), the iPhone OS, a microphone and speakers/a headphone jack, isn’t phone functionality just another app? Or is Apple suggesting that we buy (and carry around) an iPad and an iPhone? Dubious. Also, I’m reading where Safari for iPad doesn’t support Adobe Flash? Didn’t Steve Jobs tell us we’d have the “whole web in the palm of our hands?” This is kind of like the semi-secret “no, it doesn’t do cut & paste yet” thing with the original iPhones. I’m looking for a flash-enabled browser in the very near future. I’m sure other gotcha’s like this will dribble out once the iPad actually gets in the hands of users, but for now, those are the two that surprised me the most.
As things stand today, if someone were to buy me one as a gift, I’d gladly give it a permanent home in my laptop bag, where it would replace my (old and aging) iPod and probably also my Kindle. It would provide me with a good portable photo frame, video player and web browser, none of which I have today. I don’t think I’d use it for e-mail (except maybe an occasional one-off, blackberry style) and I’m pretty sure I’d never use the iWork apps. For those reasons, if I’m spending my own money, I’d probably save the $300 and buy an iPod Touch, which does OK as a photo frame, video player and web browser, and doesn’t make me pay for all that extra stuff I’d never use.
But that’s today. In the near future, I fully expect someone (be it Apple or a competitor) to take the ball from here and run with it. And if a similar device were to become available for less money, running the apps I’m used to using, and making it just as easy to create on a tablet as it is on a laptop, then I am so there.
One last thing: the name. There are two problems with it. The first is somewhat localized in the American northeast (specifically, Boston) where the word “iPad” and the word “iPod” sound way too similar for everyone’s liking. More globally, though, I join pretty much everyone in the world in wondering if there are any women who work in Apple’s marketing department. Or at least any men who might have remembered this from back in 2006:
Call me a curmudgeon, but some things just don’t need to change:
According to Gizmodo, the 75th anniversary edition of Monopoly not only features a round board (I’m sorry, “wedges” belong in Trivial Pursuit, not Monopoly), but it also features digital currency! Apparently, the gizmo in the middle keeps track of how much money you have, handles payments, gives you $200 for passing Go, etc.. Monopoly without Monopoly money? Are you freakin’ kidding me?
And while I’m at it, GET OFF MY LAWN!!
My, what a difference five years makes, huh?
Yeah – glad we avoided that whole mess this time around…
So what have we learned from this trip? That depsite being “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” Disney does not actually control the weather in Orlando, Florida (or, as my friend Adam posited, they do control the weather, but turned the thermostat down two weeks ago so they could restock all their ice cream fridges without running out). Also, we learned that if Mickey does, indeed, have teeth, they don’t chatter. And finally, the University of Pennsylvania Band can play in the cold, the wind and the rain – even simultaneously!
How cold was it? This cold:
Click on the frosted mouse ears above (or click here) to see 57 of the 400 pictures I took over six days. And be thankful I spared you all the video…
See ya’ real soon!
I hate it when this happens. I hate it when everyone gets all over someone who I fundamentally disagree with on most things, but does so in a disingenuous way. Because disingenuity, particularly in the form of partisan spin, is more repulsive to me than political disagreement. And so I find myself wanting to defend someone I don’t like.
Here, word for word, is what Rush Limbaugh said about Haiti (the audio, in case you don’t believe me, is here):
Rush Limbaugh: OK, back to the phones or to the phones. We’re going to start in Raleigh, NC. Justin, you’re first today. Great to have you with us. Hello.
Justin: Mega-Rush, baby, ditto. My question is, why did Obama, in the soundbyte you played earlier, when he’s talking about if you want to donate some money, you can go to whitehouse.gov to be directed…you know, to direct you how to do so. Why would…if I want to donate money to the Red Cross, why do I need to go to the whitehouse.gov page and . . .
RL: Exactly. Exactly. Would you trust that the money is going to go to Haiti?
RL: But would you trust that your name is going to end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes?
RL: Absolutely right.
J: That’s the point.
RL: Besides, we’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. Income Tax.
J: Rush, my mother was going to be on a missionary trip. She was gonna leave at 4:30 this morning to go to Haiti from our church.
RL: That’s another point too. Churches…
J: No government money, Rush.
RL: There are people – exactly right. There are people who do charitable work every day in Haiti. It’s not as though…like Debbie Wasserman Schultz – “It’s our fault.” Like Reverend Wright – “It’s our fault. There’s no excuse for such poverty when there’s a nation as rich as we are so close.” There are people that have been trying to save Haiti just as we’re trying to save Africa. You just can’t keep throwing money at it because the dictatorships there just take it all. They don’t spread it around. And even if they did, you’re not creating a permanent system where people can provide for themselves. It’s a simple matter of self-reliance. Nobody takes that approach down there because this has always been a country run by dictators – incompetent ones…
Now, call me crazy if you wish, but nothing in this exchange suggests to me that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t think private individuals like you and I should donate to Haiti. In fact, it seems pretty clear to me that the opinion he’s expressing is that people, like the caller’s mother, who go to Haiti and help the people directly, are being more effective than our government is being by sending our tax dollars to their government. He’s suggesting that the foreign aid the United States provides to Haiti doesn’t make it to the people who are suffering, and so the Haitian people are better served by private individuals, churches, and the so forth donating time (and, presumably, supplies?) directly to the people who need it.
Now, I have no idea if he’s right about that, and I certainly wouldn’t take Rush Limbaugh at his word about anything. But I think it’s quite a leap to go from the above quote to “Rush Limbaugh [says] Don’t Donate to Haiti Victims,” which is the headline of the above-linked article.
Sadly, though, the public zeitgeist has been poured and hardened: Rush Limbaugh thinks we should just let the people of Haiti suffer. And, thanks to Pat Robertson’s preaching about “pacts with the devil” on the same day, the two men are now inextricably linked in every news article, suggesting that Limbaugh believes that Haitians are devil worshipers as well. To dispute this storyline is as foolhardy as spitting into the wind.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my face…
We’ve all been reading a lot lately about the mess that NBC late-night television has become. Most of the stories express pity for Conan O’Brien, who was promised The Tonight Show five years ago, and is now in danger of losing it after only seven months, never having had the chance to make it successful. Even Conan has been hard on himself, saying in last night’s monologue, “I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. . . unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.”
The story made me think back to the Class Day speech that Conan O’Brien gave at Harvard University in May of 2000. I wasn’t there, but someone sent me the text of it back in those halcyon Internet days when you sent anything you found moderately humorous to everyone in your e-mail address book, and you kept anything anyone sent you in a folder on your hard drive called “Funny E-mails.”
The text is after the cut. The video is on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2). It’s a funny speech, and the end of it provides the kind of inspirational message about making lemonade from life’s lemons that Conan probably needs to hear right now. And from his favorite Late Night talk show host…
Read the rest of this entry »
Two weeks ago, I got on a 7:45AM New Jersey Transit to New York City. Just then, power problems developed in the tunnel under the Hudson River, causing massive delays throughout the NJTransit system. Four hours later, when it became obvious that I was still at least an hour away from getting to my office, I gave up and came home. During the entire ordeal, the train conductors kept apologizing for the inconvenience while assuring us that they would pass on any new information as soon as they received it. Meanwhile, the passengers were on their blackberries, iPhones, and other mobile devices, receiving status updates from various websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and even NJTransit itself. Those who were disconnected were treated to a steady stream of information as passengers called out the latest updates to each other and recommended courses of action for folks with various intended destinations. At the time, we joked that the train conductor should get himself an iPhone so he could tell us more than what NJTransit was telling him.
Last week, I dropped a friend off at Continental Airlines’ Terminal C in Newark Liberty Airport about an hour before someone walked the wrong way through a security checkpoint, causing officials to evacuate the terminal. About 10,000 people crammed the check-in counters and baggage claim areas, waiting for the go-ahead to re-enter the terminal and get on their delayed (possibly even cancelled) flights. My friend gave interviews to Fox News and The Star Ledger, and even received update requests from a CNN reporter who had found his Twitter feed. As with the train delay above, no one at Newark Airport or Continental Airlines was making any announcements or providing the inconvenienced passengers with any further information.
The two incidents raise the following question in my mind: has information dissemination, particularly in the case of breaking news, broken down completely, or has it changed in a way that renders the old methods obsolete and unnecessary? Certainly, both NJTransit and Continental Airlines could have made repeated announcements over their public address systems and placed public relations people in the terminals to talk to passengers and the media, but these actions would likely have yielded repetitive and less accurate information than what the passengers were finding on their own. Which is worse? Not saying anything or repeating an unhelpful message over and over again? Perhaps we’ve reached a point where these organizations realize that the passengers are informing themselves and have chosen not to bother competing?
I’ll note that in both cases, passengers joked about the lack of information coming from official sources, but did not complain about a lack of information per se. Maybe all that’s missing is a shift in public perception, where people expect to find information on their own (or from their fellow passengers) rather than have it spoon-fed to them by “an official source?”
“Crowdsourcing,” like most everything else on the Internet, will really only get big when it gets small. Wikipedia became the gold standard for research by using the whole planet to (attempt to) catalog all of the world’s knowledge. Now, we’re creating mini-wikipedias for specific events, like a security concern at an airport terminal. Given time, familiarity, and a build-up of trust, this model could eventually out-pace the concept of “breaking news” from the larger news sources.
Before I say anything else, having just been reminded of the annual “first sentence of each month” meme, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who’s reading this is December, 2010 a happy Holiday Season!
There, now that we’ve taken care of our administrative tasks, Happy New Year to all! Here’s a ninety-second summary of how I spent my New Year’s:
I hope yours was just as full of friends and fun. Here’s to a great 2010…